No Place for a Dame
By Connie Brockway
December 1, 2013
Giles Dalton, the Marquis of Strand, has returned to Killylea, his home in Cornwall, with a prospective bride and father-in-law in tow. He has no illusions about the integrity of either, but he has accepted the marriage, thinking that at least it will provide the necessary heir. He finds himself wondering what his sophisticated, mercenary bride-to-be will think of his father’s protégée, Avery Quinn, for whom Giles has inherited responsibility. Giles knows Avery is a genius, but even so he is unprepared for her plan to rid him and Killylea of his unworthy fiancée. When Avery makes her appearance in disguise, the fiancée, who is repulsed by anyone who lacks the appearance of normality, can’t quit Giles and Killylea fast enough.
Avery Quinn is the daughter of the former gamekeeper at Killylea. Educated according to her phenomenal intelligence and far beyond her station, as payment for her father’s saving the life of the old marquess, Avery has become a woman without a neat label that boxes her into an easy classification. The class into which she was born mandates an unbridgeable social gap between her and the world to which Giles belongs. Her knowledge and interests create a gap perhaps even greater between her and the world of her birth. Giles accepts his father’s command that he look after Avery, but Avery yearns to be independent. She has a plan that will fulfill one of her dreams as a scientist and provide her with the means to continue her research independent of support from Giles. The only catch is that the annual Hipparchus medal and attendant monetary award granted by the Royal Astrological society is given to the man who makes “the most significant contribution to astronomical study in the preceding year.”
Avery believes that the favor she has done Giles in ridding him of his unsuitable bride deserves a favor in return. The favor she asks is that he support her masquerade as a man so that she can gain membership into the astrological society. She is confident that once she is a member and able to submit her research concerning her discovery of a new comet that her work will earn the award on its own merits.
Giles has his doubts that the curvaceous Avery will be able to persuade anyone that she is a male, but he agrees to her daring scheme. He has his own reasons for being in London since his friend Jack Seward and Jack’s wife Anne have disappeared. Giles fears for their safety and is prepared to use all the contacts he developed during his years as an agent for a covert government organization to discover what happened to them. He tries with varying degrees of success to juggle keeping an eye on Avery with his search for the Sewards, but Avery can’t seem to abide by his rules for the unobtrusive, plump, pigeon-shaped Mr. Avery Quinn, boy genius. Giles has trouble following his own rules concerning the exasperating, brilliant, all too tempting Avery, who is busily uncovering Giles’s secrets and laying claim to his elusive heart.
I’ve been waiting for Giles’s story since I first read All Through the Night (Jack and Anne’s story) in 1997. (I read Promise Me Heaven, the book in which Giles is introduced, later.) No Place for a Dame was worth the sixteen-year wait. Even as a long-time Brockway fan, I was amazed by her ability to make this an audacious romp, a chick-in-pants tale that is original and captivating enough to rank with Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders as among the very best such stories, while at the same time allowing Giles to retain something of the dark edge he needed to stay true to his character.
I love No Place for a Dame! I love the relationship between Giles and Avery. The conversations between them are a delight. They challenge each other in a way that makes for wonderful dialogue, and it is clear to the reader that this couple enjoys the time they spend together. They make each other laugh, they share interests, and they grow in their understanding of one another. The reader can easily see them growing old together, still finding one another interesting and exciting after decades together.
One of my favorite scenes is the runaway curricle. Not only is it a marvelously funny scene, but it also serves a purpose beyond amusing the reader. Brockway uses it to reveal important things about Avery and Giles and to show how their relationship is changing. That’s great writing, my friends. But that is what I expect from a Connie Brockway book. From the opening page to the practically perfect epilogue, I knew I was reading vintage Brockway—smart, emotionally satisfying, and addictive. By the time I finished, I knew I wanted to read this book again—and soon.
You don’t have to have been waiting sixteen years for Giles’s story to love this book. I think you will find that it is a gem to cherish whether it is your first encounter with Giles Dalton, the Marquis of Strand, or even your first book by Connie Brockway. I highly recommend that you grab a copy of No Place for a Dame ASAP. And I know some of you are going to be so hooked that you want to read Promise Me Heaven and All Through the Night as well. Lucky for you, Montlake recently reissued them both.
And if you are interested in more Connie Brockway recommendations, I have a list.
Sometime a highly anticipated book fails to meet expectations; sometimes they exceed them. What’s the last book you read that left you thinking that the book was even better than your highest expectations?