Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart

>> Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I read Nine Coaches Waiting, by Mary Stewart last week, but I completely forgot to write my comments about it.

The opulence and history surrounding Linda Martin at ChateÂu Valmy are all part of some wondrous, ecstatic dream. But there is a palpable terror crouching in the shadows. And then an accident that is no accident nearly kills the young English nanny's innocent, nine-year-old charge.

This is not "chance" -- this is something planned...and deadly.
Ooohh, this was really good romantic suspense. Just the type I like, I'd give this a B+.

I especially appreciated the way Stewart developed the suspense. Little by little, we start getting the sense that something is not quite right. Then, things start to happen, but we still can't be sure of what's goine on; just like Linda, maybe we suspect a little bit, but never know. And the setting, as always with Stewart, was good and helped this sense of something hidden in those idyllic surroundings. It was also very, very plausible, and I found myself really interested in what exactly was going on.

Unlike the heroine in my last Stewart, I really liked Linda. She was a terribly strong, smart and honourable heroine. When she needed to take action, she didn't stand there wringing her hands and whining that it wasn't fair. She simply thought of the best course of action in order to achieve her objective and did it!. Even though she was destroyed by the possibility that the man she loved was a murderer, she pulled herself together and did what she had to do to save Philippe's life.

And about her suspicions of Raoul, well, I usually get irritated by heroines who needlessly and with no reason mistrust the hero, but I thought this was simply not the case here. It was reasonable that she suspected Raoul. I mean, she didn't really know the guy. She did have a gut feeling that he was ok, but she recognized that she couldn't risk Philippe's life on that. Were her instincts right or wrong? I'm not saying, and I confess I didn't know until the very end of the book (lucky I didn't allow myself to end-peek!), but I believe she was right in not following them, whatever the outcome.

In fact, to me, the main weakness of the book was the love story. First of all, it was much too fast, and so unequal that it just didn't ring too true to me. My reaction to Raoul's proposal was not so much "oh, how romantic", but "what game is this guy playing?". It was all too rushed, both Linda falling in love with him and he with her, plus, it felt a bit unequal for my tastes. He a sophisticated playboy, she an unworldly governess, depending on his family for her salary. She confessing her love, he not doing so, and she saying she was willing to accept whatever he gave her. Anyway, of course, this "weakness" ended up being tied to a strength, IMO, which was that until the end I didn't know who Linda could trust, whether Raoul was in it or not.

And BTW, Philippe was adorable, so serious and solemn, and I loved to see him start to let loose a little bit. I confess I usually don't enjoy reading about children in my romances (or my romantic suspense *g*), but there are always exceptions.

The ending was pretty nice, starting with the fact that there was no final confrontation at gunpoint between the heroine and the villains. I'm tired of those. And of course, the conclusion to the love story was pretty good.

So, an engaging narrator, interesting cast of characters, fascinating plot, wonderfully done setting and the perfect writing style for the story on the plus side, while on the negative only that I didn't completely buy the romance. Pretty positive balance!


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