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Review: "Margaret's Rematch" by Farida Mestek

Margaret's Rematch, originally published here in 2010, has recently gone through a small rewrite and acquired a new cover! It is available in the ebook catalog. Our review and interview with author Farida Mestek follows.

In order to do a proper review of Margaret’s Rematch I had to overcome a huge case of language envy. I’m accustomed to being jealous of writers who produce entire novels and demonstrate an easy facility for the language, but I acknowledge that a large percentage of English speakers have a better command of its written word than I. Farida Mestek, author of Margaret’s Rematch, raises my language envy to a new level, for her native language is not English but Russian. Farida is from the Ukraine. She has done a remarkable job of presenting an Austen-style novel that reflects not only a good understanding of plot development but also the ability to mimic a proper English lady’s writing style. This fact raises her accomplishment from excellent to outstanding. With that in mind, I present my review.

Some books offer the reader a roller coaster ride, with ups and down, twists and turns and not a few panics. Some books offer a game of hide-and-seek, constantly changing the rules just when you think you have figured out the plot’s trajectory. Some books, and indeed the most enjoyable, offer a comfortable predictability, where you can guess the ending, perhaps from the first sentence, but hold your interest by taking you on a n enjoyable journey from here to there. Margaret’s Rematch belongs to the third type of novel, serving up a healthy dose of conflict, but allowing the story to meander gently and pleasantly toward its goal.

The conflict comes in the form of character development. Will Margaret gain any measure of respectability in her brother-in-law’s eyes? Will Catherine’s rumormongering destroy any inroads Margaret has made toward reconciling with him? Will that unfortunate and all-too-public scandal involving Margaret, Mr. Linton and Linton’s fiancée sully Margaret’s reputation so badly that no one will have her? And who is Catharine’s mystery man, the man to whom she claims to be engaged?

The first chapter sets the stage as James Westfield, who was married to Margaret’s late sister Isabella, contemplates his complete antipathy toward Margaret even as he journeys to London to take her away from a life that has become too scandalous for his tastes. Returning to his home, Northbrook Hall, the two have little to say to each other, with past hurts and conflicts seething beneath the surface.

In spite of their awkward start, Margaret’s ability to enchant Mr. Westfield’s son, charm his mother, and befriend his sister pave the road toward a more cordial relationship between Mr. Westfield and Margaret. Margaret grows to like the country and enjoy the serenity of her stay at Northbrook Hall. But her tranquility is shattered by the arrival of two reminders of her London life: Clifford Stockley and his conniving sister Catharine.

If you are looking for a romance peppered with heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods, Margaret’s Rematch is not for you. However if a mature, quiet romance with an interesting psychological angle is more your style, read and enjoy.

The following is an interview with author Farida:

Where are you from and what is your native language?

I'm from Ukraine, Odessa. My native language is Russian. It's Ukrainian as well, but as Odessa is situated in the south of Ukraine - pro-Russian part of the country - I grew up speaking Russian.

Where did you find your inspiration for writing Margaret’s Rematch?

I am a very big Jane Austen fan. Having read her books for the umpteenth time I wondered if there were similar books written by modern authors. What I found in their place was a Regency romance market overstuffed with titled rakes and their mistresses. I realized that unless I wanted to read a book to my liking I would just have to write it myself.

Is this your first novel? If not, what else have you written?

After Margaret’s Rematch, I have completed two more Regency-set stories one of which is going to be published this summer. The story, though set in Regency, is in quite a different key from Margaret’s Rematch as it has at its core the blossoming feelings of mutual affection between two men.

In your novel appear two characters, a woman named Catharine and a man named Linton. These names are reminiscent of Wuthering Heights. Coincidence or deliberate?

Oh, it was a pure coincidence! I had no idea, really. But now I would love to reread Wuthering Heights.

Did you have a real life location that was the inspiration for Northbrook Hall, or was it a figment of your imagination?

Well, part of it was a figment of my imagination, but Margaret’s favourite spot with the lake and willows is quite a real place. In fact, it was after I saw the place that I decided that Margaret would just love it.

Catharine is by far the most interesting character in the novel, in spite of Margaret’s antipathy toward her. Where did you find the inspiration for Catharine?

For Margaret’s antagonist I needed someone I personally would dislike greatly and I cast around for all the unpleasant girls and women that I ever had to come into contact with. But I am very lucky in that the characters themselves come and find me, telling me their stories and insisting that I should write them so I don’t have to look far for inspiration. I love to watch and study people around me and borrow their most pronounced qualities and traits for my characters.

Where do you think Catharine comes by her need for gossip and intrigue?

She is trying to make her way by the only means available to her: she is neither pretty nor wealthy, but she has enough cunning and lack of morals about her to use gossip and intrigue in order to get what she wants.

When you started Margaret’s Rematch did you have a clear picture of where it was headed, or did you let the novel write itself?

I always make an outline of the story I am about to write. Of course, while writing I deviated greatly from its original plan, but despite all the alterations that I’ve made whenever I looked into the outline (and it happened very rarely) it kept me on track.


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