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Book Review: The House of Hardie by Anne Melville

The House of Hardie is the first book in a series by Anne Melville and tells the story of two sets of siblings from different classes, who meet in Oxford and whose lives quickly become entangled.

Midge and Gordon Hardie have grown up as the children of a wine merchant. But their lot in life, to inherit The House of Hardie, is not what they have in mind. Midge wants more than her mundane life – she craves intrigue and luxury. Gordon wants nothing more than a life of adventure.

Meanwhile, Lucy and Archie Yates, the grandchildren of the Marquess of Ross, have everything they could ever need. But they too yearn for different lives.

But as the two families meet in Oxford, they find their dreams don’t always come true. At least not in the way they planned.

I hadn’t read any Anne Melville books before this one but was intrigued by the promise of adventure. There was just enough here to keep me happy, with two journeys bookending more domestic and academic scenes set in Oxford and on the Marquess of Ross’s estate. That said, there is flirtation and romance between young people, so it could be argued that some misadventure may feature.

Of the characters, Midge Hardie held my interest the most throughout. I felt frustrated on her behalf by the limitations imposed upon her academic pursuits, while admiring her diligence and commitment to them. She works with what little she has in terms of her freedom of movement and association within society and the small boundaries of her Oxford world. In her own small way, she’s a pioneer.

I admired Midge’s brother, Gordon, for his early spirit and how he stayed true to his goal of future adventures but he almost lost my sympathy when it came to matters of the heart. Lucy is an interesting character, talented but entirely wasted on her grandfather’s estate; I questioned her motives but admired her all the same for her naivety and bravery. Archie seemed the least forward-looking of the quartet; a sad product of the times and his upbringing, and too weak or lazy to do much about it.

I would have liked more depth and detail in places but this first book is a gentle introduction to The Family Hardie series. Anne Melville’s The House of Hardie is an enjoyable historical novel, with some interesting characters, that fulfilled my need for some travel and adventure.

The House of Hardie by Anne Melville was first published in 1987 and is the first in The Hardie Family series. It’s now been published by Agora Books, part of Peters, Fraser + Dunlop, one of the longest established literary and talent agencies in London, and is available as an ebook and in paperback. You can buy it from Amazon UK.

Anne Melville was the pseudonym of Margaret Edith Newman, 1926 – 1998. Over the course of her career she published fifty-five novels in romance, mystery, historical fiction and children’s.

My thanks to the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley

Comments

BookerTalk
Reply

A reasonable story idea but that book cover does it no favours. It’s so dull – feel like I’ve seen that kind of image so many times on other books.

kath
Reply

I think it does what the publisher wants, it’s instantly recognisable as historical fiction. I didn’t pay it much attention because I read the ebook but, on a paperback, I might have preferred to see the House of Hardie wine merchants shop front featured on the cover, possibly with an errand boy running in front of it to create some movement or sense of the journeys that are embarked upon by the characters.

BookerTalk
Reply

That cover art would have been more appealing to me also -giving me some good context and period detail.

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