Review by DivaBetty
TOMORROW IS MINE By Rebecca James (pen name of Canadian playwright Jim Clavell)
Backstory: I got this book from the library when I was in high school, having read all the Victoria Holts and Jane Aiken Hodges in stock and yearning for historical romance/suspense. May I bandy about a local redneckism? Because whooo boy howdy! that is one hell of a book.
Finally scored my own copy (inscribed, natch) from Alibris.com for $8.
Here's the rationale for my review--despite the fact it's hard to find and you will have to force your library to order it or shell out hard cash online to get a copy, it is by far and away one of my favorite books ever ever ever!
I've been reading it every year since I was fifteen. It doesn't diminish--no amount of maturity or life experience render it silly or quaint or otherwise less than I originally thought it. In short, it is my cup of tea.
Eleanor Locke grows up on the family hacienda, orphaned as an infant by her Mexican mother and English father (who was disowned by crotchety rich dude dad Simeon Locke for marrying the hot senorita instead of foreclosing on her ranch which he was sent there to do). She's really tall, plain, loyal, and outspoken and an excellent horsewoman. She adores the hacienda's managers Tomas and Inez who have raised her as one of their own and trained her to run a household and manage a large cattle ranch. Word comes that her wealthy grandfather has died and the terms of his will are both inconvenient and nasty.
His fortune will go to Eleanor in its entirety if she marries a 'gentleman of property' within one year of his death (it took like nine months for the lawyers to get affairs in order and go to Mexico by ship so it's pretty urgent) or else all of his estate is to be liquidated and given to an obscure church, including the hacienda which is to be sold and all employees turned out and never rehired.
To save her beloved home and adoptive family, Eleanor has to go to England and land a landed gentleman, knowing that the only possible suitors would be callous fortune hunters since she is neither beautiful nor a genteel lady of the ton. With neither looks nor family to recommend her, Eleanor travels angrily to London with Dominic and Ada Chumbley, her grandfather's attorney and his wife (who is just as much the lawyer as her sweet but bumbling husband). She meets a hot doctor, Gordon, on the ship, but he has no property so she can't marry him to solve her problems despite being infatuated with him. Ada buys their way in with Lady Monica--a bankrupt gargoyle bitch of an aristocrat to get Eleanor invited to the right balls. Unflattering clothes are purchased which have to have 12-inch swags of nonmatching material tacked onto the hem because Eleanor's so tall. It's difficult to get anyone to talk to her because she's so pissed off about having to do this and would like to basically dig up Grandpa Locke and set fire to the vindictive old bastard. Still, she pursues it out of necessity.
Out for a walk at dawn, she barges into a commotion surrounding a gorgeous but wild stallion who has been forfeited in a bet by a ruined gambler. She charges up, scolds the drunken gentlemen for mishandling the horse and offers to buy it. She gets laughed at and derided and storms off but eventually wins the horse at a hand of cards at that night's ball. The scene where she and gambling rake Javis de Courcey cut cards for the horse is priceless.
You see where this is going--she has to marry him because she wants her inheritance and he is down to nothing but Mallory Court--the family coast property that's perilously close to Napoleonic France with the threat of invasion looming larger every day. He agrees to stay married to her for a year and then give her a divorce if she'll pay his outstanding debts, even offering a marriage in name only which is a relief to her because she thinks he's a stuck up gambling jackass. Eleanor ends up at tumbledown Mallory Court with rude servants who won't listen to her and finds out that Javis' madman godfather lives there along with his "ward"--a twelve year old French girl named Cricket. Also she finds out that his wife died last year when someone (probably him) threw her histrionic ass off a cliff.
No one wants her there. She hears his dead wife's ghost playing the harp at night, then finds the case locked when she checks it. She's isolated, he's drunk a lot, and she starts to fear for her life, realizing that if she dies he gets all her money and no tacky divorce. Never mind that he tries to talk to her and get her on his side, or that he rather shyly brings her a huge stack of leather boxes which contain generations of de Courcey family jewels because she is his wife and he wants her to have them. They're suspicious of each other but oh is he ever the hot rakish lord who does some smuggling with the French and has a penchant for taking in strays (his godfather, Cricket, some old maiden aunts)!
Gordon shows back up as the new town doctor and she's all happy to see him. They meet clandestinely, he brings her to a cottage and begs for her help because he is keeping a refugee alive--Liane, Javis's dead wife's sister whom he cast out after Amelie's death. Liane is gorgeous and frail and Eleanor moves her in to the Court just as everyone's arriving for the holiday house party. This makes Javis mad as hell and confrontations ensue and the "accidents" start happening to Eleanor a lot more often.
There's also someone signalling the French from the locked tower on the coast at night, which means someone's a spy!
There's cloak and dagger business, lots of romance, and a really good twist at the end.
Love it. Full marks. A+, All possible strips of bacon.