Georgette Heyer is best known for her witty and charming Regency romances, but she is also responsible for a handful of mystery novels. On occasion, mystery would find its way into her romances, embroiling her well-born heroes and heroines in adventures that were alternately chilling and hilarious. In The Reluctant Widow, Elinor Rochdale, a young woman of good birth but straitened circumstances, sets out to accept a position as a governess and ends up plunged into a tangle of foreign intrigue instead.
Elinor's adventure begins when she inadvertently mistakes the carriage waiting at the coach stop for one sent by her prospective employer, Mrs. Macclesfield. She finds herself carried to the estate of one Ned Carlyon, who Elinor mistakes for Mr. Macclesfield. Carlyon, meanwhile, believes Elinor to be the young woman he hired to marry his dying cousin, Eustace Cheviot, in order to avoid inheriting Cheviot's estate himself. Somehow, Elinor is talked into marrying Eustace on his deathbed and thus becomes a widow almost as soon as the ring is on her finger. What starts out as a simple business arrangement soon becomes much more complicated as housebreakers, uninvited guests, a shocking murder, missing government papers, and a dog named Bouncer all contribute to this lively, frequently hilarious tale of mistaken identities, foreign espionage, and unexpected love set during the Napoleonic Wars.