Reviews by Readers

Vittoria Cottage by Kristi

Anna And her Daughters by Susan M.

Vittoria Cottage was published in August of 1949, and concerns the fortunes of Caroline Armstrong Dering, a widow living in the village of Ashbridge. The main thread of the book is her slowly developing relationship with Mr. Robert Shepperton, himself a widower with one young son in America. Caroline has three children, her adored son James, who returns from fighting in Malay during the book, her daughter Leda and her daughter Bobbie. This family is (at least to me)somehow easy to confuse with Esther Musgrave's three daughters and stepson,though the differences are many. Caroline's sister Harriet also falls for Robert, but when she realizes Caroline loves him, she nudges him in that direction. Leda is engaged to neighbor Sir Michael Ware's son Derek, for a time. And James Dering is in love with Derek's sister, Rhoda, an artist who believes she will never marry but devote herself to art. Other major players in this book are Comfort Podbury, who adores Caroline, and learns to deal with her thyroid problem, and Sue Podbury Widgeon and her husband Jim who become parents. It is a small circle of people in a small village setting. It could sound like Jane Austen's idea, but Austen would never have dealt with the character of Comfort Podbury.

Anna and Her Daughters is actually told through the eyes of Jane, the second daughter. Anna is a 40ish society matron in London whose husband dies unexpectedly and because of finances moves back to her childhood home, Ryddleton, in Scotland. The move is disappointing to Jane who must give up her dream of going to Oxford, but it is devastating to the other daughters Helen and Rosalie who resent leaving the whirl of London society. In Scotland Helen leaves almost immediately for the balls and beaux that Edinburgh can provide, but Rosalie and Jane find their true vocations; Jane learns that she is at heart an author and Rosalie discovers a gift for caring for children. Anna feels completely at home in Ryddleton and thrives on everyday domestic duties and friendships. Is there romance? Well of course. The dashing Ronnie is introduced early in the story and affects each of the sisters lives in a different way. Anna also finds love and comfort. Secondary characters include the crusty enigmatic Mrs. Millard and accommodating cousin Andrew. It is not characteristic for D. E. Stevenson's characters to travel much outside Great Britain, but there are portions of Anna and Her Daughters set in both Europe and Africa. It is the safe and comforting community of Ryddleton, though, gives Jane, her mother and her sister Rosalie the opportunity for new beginnings.

Smouldering Fire by Joy

Bel Lamington by Kristi

Smouldering Fire was DES's sixth book, published by Herbert Jenkins in 1935 when she was 43 and was one of the author's favourites among her own books. One can identify several themes that were to emerge again and again in her work.

Its plot rotates around the custody of the child of divorced parents. There is a wicked father (yes, I do mean wicked) and a loving mother who puts her child before all things including her new love.

This is the first of DES's books to have a very strong Highland setting, where clan loyalty to the chief, second sight and the isolation and poverty of a Scottish farming community are greatly emphasized. The scene of this unusual love-story is laid in London and in the Western Highlands. In the romantic atmosphere of loch, mountain and ruined castle, a score of characters with vivid and arresting personalities are thrown together.

The plot thickens, there is a mystery - with an unexpected solution - while the newly rich London stockbroker and his amiable wife provide plenty of scope for the sly humour which we look for from D.E. Stevenson's pen.

My copy of Bel Lamington is from 1961 and says First Edition. It's published by Holt, Rinehart and Winston. I notice the price was $3.95. Here is the blurb from the dustjacket:

"In this, her newest novel, the beloved author of The Tall Stranger and S till Glides the Stream introduces one of her most memorable heroines - Bel Lamington, a gentle country girl who comes to live alone in the huge, anonymous city of London. Bel, orphaned at the age of three, had shared a house with her Aunt Beatrice in the sleepy Sussex village of Southmere for a long as she could remember - and had grown to love the place with all her heart. When her aunt died, and their cottage was sold, Bel had to leave Southmere with its happy memories and take a position as a typist with a London shipping firm. Bel liked her job, but the city for all its noise and activity, was a lonely place, especially when one was shy about going out and making friends. Then the unexpected arrived -in the form of Mark Desborough, a charming young painter who literally "dropped in" on Bel's roof-garden one spring afternoon. But when Mark abruptly went off to Italy for an indefinite stay, the bottom of Bel's bright new world dropped out. To make matters worse, she was seen lunching with James Copping, son of one of the firm's partners - a harmless indiscretion that, ultimately, cost her her job. Seeking consolation the only way she knew, Bel journeyed to Scotland. It was there she discovered some truths about herself and others, and the fact that one cannot run away from the 'right man' by hiding at 'the back of beyond.'


by Rosalyn

I think there are a couple of interesting themes in her books:

1) The bad sister:
- Sarah's cottage
- The Young Clementina
- Anna and her Daughters
- Katherine Wentworth (and) The Marriage of Katherine

2) The heroine who ends up taking care of someone else's neglected child (overlaps with #1):
-Sarah's cottage
-The Young Clementina
-Anna and her Daughters
-The House on the Cliff

3) Controlling parents/family
-Five Windows
-Listening Valley
-the Mrs. Tim books (alluded to)
-Katherine Wentworth (Gerald's father)

4) Lying men/importance of honesty
-Young Mrs. Savage
- The Tall Stranger
- The House on the Cliff
- Spring Magic
-Bel Lamington


DES Heroines--Shrinking Violets or Amazons?

by Rosalyn

I've been thinking about Bel Lamington and other DES heroines (and just reread The Blue Sapphire ) and I've noticed something about them. DES's Heroines seem (mostly) to fit into two categories: Shrinking Violets and Amazons (these are pretty broad generalizations). I picture the SV's as being characters that DES identified with, and the Amazons being ones that she admired, but didn't identify with as much. SV's are not necessarily shy, or incompetent, by any means, but are less self-assured. The Amazons are outgoing go-getters. Here's my conception of the two groups; maybe you can think of more:

Shrinking Violets

Bel Lamington
Julia Harburn ( The Blue Sapphire )
Francis ( Spring Magic )
Dinah Savage ( The Young Mrs. Savage )
Mrs. Tim
Caroline Dering( Vittoria Cottage )
Katherine Wentworth
Antonia ( Listening Valley )
Nell Ayrton
Miss Buncle

Rhoda Ware ( Music in the Hills )
Barbie France
Phil MacAslan
Celia Dunne ( Celia's House )
Some of the sisters from The Four Graces
Susan Morven ( Mrs. Tim Flies Home )
Nell ( The Tall Stranger )
Louise Armstrong

DES Men--In and Out of Suits

by Susan D.
A while ago I was picturing some of the DES menfolk, inspired by the unappealing picture on the cover of Kate Hardy (Fontana paperback) where the man (presumably Walter) is inappropriately dressed in a suit. It occurred to me that very few DES men are suit wearers in their jobs. And those that are are the ones I don't care much for: (Ronnie in The House on the Cliff , Ellis Brownlee from Bel Lamington ).

The "Out of Suits":







Highland Clan Chieftain

Rory MacRynne

Charlotte Fairlie


Dane Worthington

The English Air

Iain MacAslan

Smouldering Fire

of Leisure

Garth Wisden

Divorced from Reality

George Ferrier

Green Money

Charles Reede(r)

Sarah Morris Remembers,

Sarah's Cottage







Freedom Fighter

Franz Hyde

The English Air


Will Headfort

The Tall Stranger


Arthur Abbott

Miss Buncle series

Kit Stone

Rochester's Wife

Sam Abbott

Miss Buncle series

Mark Dunne

Celia's House


Gerald Burleigh Brown

Gerald and Elizabeth

Henry Ogylvie Smith

Winter and Rough Weather

Stephen Brett

The Blue Sapphire

Naval Officer

Tom Ayrton

Amberwell, Summerhills


Adam Southey

Crooked Adam

Guthrie Louden

Mrs. Tim series


William Single

The Four Graces

Henry Buckland

The Tall Stranger


John Darnley

Miss Bun the Baker's Daughter

Army Officer

Roger Ayrton

Amberwell, Summerhills


David Kirk

Five Windows

Tony Morley

Mrs. Tim series


James Dering Johnston

Vittoria Cottage Series

Guy Tarleton

Spring Magic

Archie Chevis Cobbe

Two Mrs. Abbotts, Four

Roderick Herd

The Four Graces


Will Hastie

Still Glides the Stream

Walter Stack

Kate Hardy

The "Suits":








Ronnie Leighton

The House on the Cliff


Alec Drummond

Fletcher's End

Alex Maclaren

Katherine Wentworth

Business man

Malcolm Armstrong

Young Mrs. Savage

Ellis Brownlee

Bel Lamington

From my memory, there seems to be a complete lack of clergymen as the love interest (unlike in Jane Austen, where clergymen abound). The one who isn't a father (Mr. Grace, Mr. Kirk, Mr. Morris) is Reggie Stephenson, a secondary character in Fletcher's End.

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