A shooting party at the Earl of Witton’s remote country house is a high treat for champion shot Patricia Merton—until unexpected guests turn the social atmosphere dangerously sour.
That’s not Pat’s biggest problem. She’s visiting her old friend, the Earl’s heir Jimmy Yoxall—but she wants to spend a lot more time with Jimmy’s fiancée. The irrepressible Miss Fenella Carruth, with her laughing eyes and lush curves, is the most glorious woman Pat’s ever met, and it quickly becomes impossible to remember why she needs to stay at arm’s length.
But while the women’s attraction grows, the tensions at Rodington Court get worse. Affairs, secrets, betrayals, and blackmail come to light. And when a body is discovered with a knife between the shoulderblades, it’s going to take Pat and Fen’s combined talents to prevent the murderer destroying all their lives.
Thank you very much to KJ Charles for providing a copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review.
“How many country house murders do you think we’re likely to encounter?”
I’ve been a fan of KJ Charles’ work since (checks Goodreads) 2014 when I read the first book in her A Charm of Magpies series, The Magpie Lord. I’ve read all of her books since that first one and have been patiently waiting for Charles to release a full-length f/f romance novel … and the book gods delivered!
Proper English is a wonderfully fun and still pretty violent Agatha-Christie-type murder mystery (because, let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be a KJ Charles novel without at least one murder) with remarkable, badass characters and a gorgeous romance. I had a smile on my face pretty much the entirety of my reading experience, and I never wanted this gem of a book to end.
Proper English is the origin story of my two favourite sapphics, Pat and Fen, from Charles’ Think of England. While you don’t need to read Think of England to understand Proper English, I still highly recommend that you do because it’s just marvellous. In Think of England, Pat and Fen are already in an established relationship (and quite skilled in solving murder mysteries), and very quickly grew to be fan favourites. In Proper English, we get to see how our gun-toting lesbian and sweet-tempered lesbian met.
Patricia Merton is a practicable and rational woman. She has spent a good portion of her life managing her and her brothers’ ancestral home, but now that one of her brothers is married, she finds herself adrift and stumped as to what she’s going to do with the rest of her life. Pat accepts an invitation to a shooting party with her brother Bill, hosted by their childhood friend Jimmy, as one last hurrah before Jimmy is to be married. But Pat’s quiet shooting holiday is soon disrupted when Jimmy’s fiancée Fenella is invited too, as well as Jimmy’s parents, his sister and horrible brother-in-law, godsister, and a man who may or may not be having an affair with Jimmy’s sister — nightmarish for someone as introverted as Pat.
However, Pat’s dread soon evaporates as she grows closer to Jimmy’s beautiful fiancé, Fen, who quickly charms almost everyone in the country house. Fen is absolutely adorable. I loved her in Think of England and I loved her even more in this novel. She’s so sweet and lovely, but all she wants in life is to have one person see her, to take her seriously, and to take notice in her interests. She’s so used to being someone who cares for others and goes out of her way to make other people comfortable, and yet no one makes the same considerations for her. Until she meets Pat.
“It’s just, if they aren’t going to see me anyway, I’d rather they ignored me for an act than for the real thing.” […]
“I don’t understand how anyone could not see you,” Pat said again. “I don’t see how they couldn’t look. I don’t see how they could stop.”
I love the contrast between Pat, Fen and Miss Singh, Jimmy’s godsister, in how they perform their femininity. Pat can be quite mannish sometimes, but she’s never judgemental of other women, and sometimes just wants to be adored and noticed as a woman. Sometimes with characters who aren’t into “girly” things, there’s a tendency for them to be quite sexist but Charles doesn’t descend into that stereotype. Pat appreciates how all women have their differences and acknowledges that there is no one definition of a strong woman — Pat is physically capable, Fen is generous and loving, and Miss Singh is staunch in her convictions and beliefs.
Proper English is very easily one of my all-time favourite KJ Charles novels. I know I say that about a lot of her books, especially her most recent standalones, but it’s true! This book has everything I want in a novel and more: badass sapphic women saving the day, sad gays hiding their Secret Romance™, and an appreciation for large bosoms. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t read Proper English!