Reviews of The Imaginary Gentleman

The Spirit of Jane Austen lives on in the work of Australian novelist Helen Halstead, whose first book, A Private Performance, was written as a sequel to Pride and Prejudice.
Initially self-published, Halstead so nicely imitated the style and content of Austen that Random House quickly took her up. In this her second novel, Halstead has made clear her intention to pursue the Regency genre and set herself up as an antipodean Georgette Heyer.
The genre is not an easy one to conquer. Apart from being meticulous as far as historical detail is concerned, the writer needs to write in a mannerly way without annoying a modern audience. Austen’s characters may take half an hour to say “pass the butter please”, but within all the by-your-leaves and exquisite manners there lies a delicious and deadly wit.
Halstead’s mannered dialogue, which also contains plenty of barbs, is aided by firmly defined characters. Laura is 30, intelligent, attractive and independent. Laura’s sister Elspeth is a rich widow whose whimpering ways disguise her cupidity. The sisters clash to great effect. Laura meets her Mr. Darcy at the seaside resort of Lyme Regis, the setting of another literary retro novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman. When Laura’s beau mysteriously disappears, without Elspeth, as Laura’s sister, getting to meet him, she connives in the view that Laura has imagined the whole episode. That’s sisters for you.

Dianne Dempsey, The Age, Saturday, 18/11/2006.

Kay from The Victoriana Society of South Australia
Kay from The Victoriana Society
of South Australia

at the Adelaide launch of The Imaginary Gentleman

In 1806, Laura, at 30, meets Mr. Templeton who then vanishes, and no-one in the seaside town of Lyme admits to his existence.

Her brother and sister fear she has a mental illness and, to save her from disgrace, plot a convenient marriage for her.

Similar nuptial plans by a local family add complications, but Laura is determined to find her imaginary gentleman.

A lively mystery romance told with elegant charm.

Woman's Day

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