A few things that you are guaranteed when you pick up a Georgette Heyer novel of any kind are unique characters and a fast-paced plot. I have yet to find a Heyer that doesn't deliver on these elements. Cousin Kate is a gothic novel that has a lot of family tension and a somewhat suspenseful plot but, ultimately, I'm not sure if it quite delivers.
Kate is a young twenty-something who has lost both her parents and must find her own way in the world. She fails as a governess (by no fault of her own) and returns to live with her nurse. Though her nurse is entirely devoted to her, she worries that Kate will be forced to more drastic measures to support herself and so she contacts Kate's father's half-sister to see if some of her family will take her in. Surprisingly, this aunt shows up almost immediately and offers to take Kate back to the home she shares with her titled, elderly husband and her nineteen year old son. After some time spent in the home, Kate starts to become suspicious about the real situation in the household and her aunt's motives for bringing her there.
The characters are well-formed and some are similar to her mystery characters in that they are pleasantly unpleasant. However, this story builds slowly and while you wait for something grand to happen, there are only small occurrences that are a little disappointing. Then, all of a sudden, there is a climax that comes out of nowhere and is just as quickly dismissed by those involved. I still enjoyed this book and it was entertaining but I wished it would have been a bit more -- a bit more forceful, a bit darker, a bit more, well, gothic.
Still waiting to hear from the rich distant relative,
Buy Cousin Kate on Amazon or find it at your local library.