Despite the in-story death necessary for the status of widowhood and underlying plot of mysterious treason and breached national security in a time of war, The Reluctant Widow
is one of Georgette Heyer's more lighthearted stories.
Elinor Rochdale's life first changed when her father took his own life and she was cast out of society and turned into a governess. She's not quite happy with her life, but it's enough for her. Luckily, change befalls her again when she enters the wrong carriage on the way to meet her new employer. And so she meets Lord Carlyon, who's in need of a lady to marry his horrid cousin. Said cousin expires in a drunken brawl, and so Elinor thus becomes the eponymous widow and mistress of a ramshackle manor filled with secret passages and even more secret documents.
One wouldn't imagine a cheerful romp under such circumstances, but so it is. Carlyon's irrepressible brother Nicky and his dog liven up the pages of what would have been a necessarily gloomy story, and soon bring out Elinor's own humorous snark. In fact, I'd have to say that Elinor is one of Heyer's best heroines, in her readiness to give as good as she gets in an intelligent and spirited manner. Her constant exasperation with Lord Carlyon's overbearing ways is a perfect balance to his almost deliberate attempts to needle her into a riposte. It's a pity their romance only takes shape and form at the very end of the book, but their repartee throughout the story is, though sparse, one of The Reluctant Widow
's chiefest delights.