Cluny and Clancy of the Cluny and Clancy Traveling Shakespearean Players have come to Coltrane House in Lincolnshire to entertain August Coltrane and his guests at a Christmas party. (The storyís setting is solid in its geography but vague in time. Its exact time period is never set-it could be anytime in the eighteenth or early nineteenth century.) Their intended audience, however, turns out not to be a group of discerning drama enthusiasts but rather a licentious mix of members of the aristocracy and the demimondaine.
While seeking refuge from the unruly company, they come upon a young boy and his charge, a female infant. Cluny and Clancy learn that the children are Jack and Meredith Fairfax (Merry), Augustís son and ward. The two actors are appalled to see the deprivation Jack and Merry have endured. Rather than escape Coltrane House at the first possible opportunity, they resolve to stay and protect the two children. They assemble a group of out-of-work actors to run the house and educate the children.
This unconventional arrangement is most successful. Jack and Merry, who are devoted to one another, thrive under the loving attention of their odd mentors. They only have to endure infrequent visits from Awful August and his dissolute companions. As he grows to young manhood, however, Jack begins to notice that during those visits the high-stakes gambling and growing mountain of Augustís debts are leading to his fatherís stripping Coltrane House of its possessions. Jack invents the Forfeit Man to rob carriages leaving the house and thereby redeem the lost items.
His father, however, sets a trap which snares Jack, Merry, and a young neighbor friend. In order to escape the hangman, Jack agrees to the plan devised by Henry Sherlock, Augustís steward. He will marry Merry which will free her dowry for Augustís use. Furthermore, in return for her safety, Jack will immediately depart England.
Five years pass. August dies. Jack returns to England from America where, with the assistance of Wulitpallat, a Lenni Lenape Indian called ĎWalterí, he has made his fortune. He has doubts that Henry Sherlock has been the protector of the estate and Merry that everyone else believes.
Cluny and Clancy have recently died although their ghosts still inhabit Coltrane House, a fact which is a comfort to Merry. As Mrs. Jack Coltrane, she has been the owner of the estate although she has left its management in the sole hands of Henry Sherlock. Her devotion to Jack has turned to hatred with the years of his neglect. When he shows up at the house, she vows to kill him.
Jack proposes that they have the marriage annulled and Merry move to London into a magnificent townhouse he has purchased. Merry is determined that she will not leave the only home sheís ever known. Jack is equally determined that he will assume his proper place as the head of Coltrane House. As the two begin to live uncomfortably under the same roof, more difficulties arise. The Forfeit Man is riding again, and debts threaten the title of Coltane House.
Waiting for You is divided into five parts. The first part is lively and entertaining with appealing characters, and I was all set to enjoy a few pleasurable hours of reading. With the start of the second part, however, the story undergoes a major shift in tone. Two of the most likable characters, Cluny and Clancy, become bumbling caricatures of their mortal selves; Walter, a character of questionable historical authenticity shows up; and the hero and heroine embark on a marathon series of illogical arguments.
Moreover, the romance didnít work for me. The attraction between Jack and Merry seems based more on their love of real estate than love for one another. The only reason they donít go their separate ways from early in the second part is neither is willing to relinquish their rights to the family home. I am well aware that property rights have been the foundation of many a marriage through the centuries. I just prefer my romantic heroes and heroines to care more for each other than the roof over their heads.
Itís regrettable that the promise of the first part of Waiting for You wasnít sustained. If I were to base my rating on the beginning, it would deserve a strong recommendation. But taken as a whole, it is fails to rise above the merely acceptable.