Tuesday, 13 November 2018

All for Love by Jane Aiken Hodge

All for Love was originally published as Savannah Purchase in 1971 and seems to have been out of print for a little while. I'm very glad that Agora Books have brought it back, and kindly allowed me a copy via Netgalley, because it was a real romp of a read - I stayed up late and then finished it in one blissful gulp this morning, as part of my mini Aikenfest.

Juliet and Josephine are cousins so alike that they've often, in childhood, swapped roles. They've been apart for some years, though both have moved to Savannah from France, where both had been involved in the French-English war that saw Napoleon exiled to St Helena. As their story begins their circumstances are very different - Juliet has just lost her father and is living in miserable poverty, while Josephine has married a wealthy landowner, Hyde Purchis. (This is in fact the third book in a Purchis family saga but since, I think, it introduces Juliet and Josephine as new characters, can perfectly well be read as a standalone.)

Josephine, we learn, was rescued by her husband from an unspecified-but-dire situation in France where they conducted a mariage de convenance. Thus she has little compunction about persuading her cousin to take her place while she sets off on a wild scheme to rescue her hero Napoleon. Juliet reluctantly allows herself to be drawn into this plot on condition that she will be able to return to France to start a new life. Once in the Purchis household, of course, she faces a series of challenges, since however alike the cousins look, it is impossible to predict all eventualities. Josephine's wayward habits and extravagance contrast with Juliet's quiet and caring manners, though at times she manages a bravura performance as her selfish cousin. How it all plays out I leave the reader to discover (you know I don't like plot summaries!)

Having just read and reviewed Maulever Hall, a typically English Regency bit of gothic fun, I enjoyed the shift to Southern Gothic in All for Love. It's a sort of Georgette Heyer-meets-Anya Seton kind of book. Some years ago I re-read Dragonwyck, which I had remembered from my teens as a dark and brooding sort of affair, and on re-acquaintance was struck by how much the hot southern sun kept intruding to lighten the atmosphere. It's the same here - to my surprise I almost wanted more histrionics. Perhaps you can't do Southern Gothic without vampires? But that notwithstanding, I enjoyed All for Love very much, and boy, but I'm loving some of the Agora reprints - through them I've discovered such writers George Bellairs and Richard Hull, filled some Allingham gaps, and have a feast of Jane Aiken Hodge's books still to come. In fact, I have a feeling that their list is going to keep me pretty busy for the next 12 months or so, and use up most of my book budget. Thank goodness for the Crime Classics Review Club!


  1. Thank goodness for the Crime Classics Review Club!

    Indeed! After reading your review, I went straight to NetGalley and got the book. I can hardly keep up with all the good things Agora Books are publishing.

    1. It's great fun, though I did spot that the cover uses the same image as a recent reissue of Thirkell's Ankle Deep!