Rose of Nancemellin

Published by St Martin's Press and Piatkus 2001

She could impersonate her aristocratic mistress to perfection. It was both her undoing and her liberation. Headstrong Rose Tremayne knows right from the start that she won’t last long as lady's maid to snobbish Lady Carclew of Nancemellin House. One day, when ‘the cat’ is away, she dresses-up in her mistress’s clothes. Then a half-drowned yachtsman, Louis Redmile-Smith is washed ashore. Revived, he falls in love with Rose, assuming her to be the daughter of the house. She is a gifted enough mimic — and sufficiently in love with him — to carry it off. Her deception is discovered and she is sacked. Louis, suddenly bankrupt, is unable to marry her or help. She joins a down-at-heel strolling theatre but is quickly propelled toward the London stage, which she takes by storm. But the long road back to Nancemellin, and Louis, is beset with many an adventure.

  • Publishers Weekly wrote: Prolific Macdonald’s evocative yet over-long historical novel of theater life, set in London and America in the 1910s, is part Cinderella part Pygmalion. Spirited and intelligent Rose Tremayne is a Cornwall [sic] housemaid whose self-education and uncanny talent for mimicry provide her with the essential tools for a successful career on the stage. Despite an early connection with Louis Redmile-Smith, a man from the more privileged side of the tracks, when tough times come, unconventional Rose opts for taking a chance on her own. As she conquers first Drury Lane and then America, her and Louis’s seesawing fortunes keep them apart. As many other men become interested, the question arises: is Louis really the man for her? None of the contenders for Rose’s heart, including Louis, is so compelling as to make the reader root for one over the other. In fact, the focus here is on Rose's career rather than the potential romances. The budding actress’s struggle to win fame and fortune is sufficiently compelling, though asides detailing the plots of plays, operas, and comedic skits prove trying for the reader. Rose is both energetic and pleasant enough to succeed in a leading role but she does commit one grave act of unfaithfulness that will make some wonder if she deserves a happily-ever-after.
  • Kirkus wrote: Macdonald’s 30th doorstopper proves once again that a born storyteller can rise above genre clichés by sheer dint of good humor and a wealth of passions. … Genuine fun.
  • He is every bit as bad as Dickens — Martin Seymour-Smith
Rose of Nancemellin

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