Emily Goes to Exeter by Marion Chesney (aka MC Beaton) fulfills the category “Book Published in the Twentieth Century” for the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge. I cheated a bit here. I read the eBook which was published in 2018 by Rosetta Books. The original publication date (all paper) was September 1991 by St. Martin’s Press. I binge-bought many of Ms. Chesney/Beaton’s old romances when she passed away last February. I hope you all will indulge me on this one.
Emily Goes to Exeter is a regency romance about a traveling matchmaker. I was very confused when I started the book because the main character’s name is Hannah Pym. She is the head housekeeper in a gentleman’s home and she loves to watch the Exeter coach thunder past. The gentleman dies at the start of the story, leaving Hannah out of a job and unsure where to go next. A substantial legacy from her former employer makes travel now possible. She jumps at the chance to see more of the world, starting with that crazy, quick coach to Exeter.
Most romance books (and this is kinda one) start with the couple. Yes, the novel was written in the 90s, but we should still expect a book titled Emily Goes to Exeter to star Emily, not Hannah. I finally understood that Hannah was the matchmaker when I took a closer look at the novel on Amazon and Goodreads. I thought perhaps I’d gotten a weird copy because there was no Emily in the first quarter of the tale.
Hannah Pym is an impressive character. She’s middle-aged, super-efficient, and good at getting couples to hook up. I totally empathized with her. Because she’s a strong woman (and a former servant pretending to be a lady), she acts boldly and makes things happen. She’s practical, smart, and understands her world completely. When the coach becomes stranded in a huge snowstorm, she takes charge, and no one questions her. I love it.
The love matches didn’t quite do it for me. The story rotated point of view without breaking (Head Hopping for you writers out there). I didn’t feel deep connections to the couples who ended up together. In fact, I didn’t see much love to create a happy ending for one set. (Yes, there was a happy ending but not our Hannah.) I don’t know if that makes a good romance.
The story was engaging, the characters fun and funny, but not my favorite romance. Ms. Chesney wrote some amazing cozy mysteries as MC Beaton—fun, whimsical, and at times downright silly. This novel had some of those elements and kept me reading. Honestly, if they’d name the book just The Traveling Matchmaker—A trip to Exeter, I would have bought the entire thing easier. Regardless, I’ll read the rest of the series seeing it’s Ms. Chesney and cute, short romances.
I give Emily Goes to Exeter by Marion Chesney Four Flying Coaches.