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The Ambitious Stepmother (Countess Ashby 3) Paperback – 4 Aug 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; paperback edition (4 Aug. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007134274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007134274
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 745,442 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

FIDELIS MORGAN was born in a red gypsy caravan, Kiomi Romani, in an orchard halfway between Stonehenge and Woodhenge.

Her parents, just arrived from Liverpool, believed in education in the widest sense, and enjoyed picking up waifs and strays. Once the family moved to a house it was not only crammed with animals (cats, dogs, chickens, geese, goats and foxes) but an endless stream of eccentric characters: boisterous painters who picked up women in the street to pose nude in the living room, musicians who battered away on milk bottles, the disgraced son of a local Earl, an Irish builder who had won and lost a million three times over and a bearded man who wore her mother's underwear and did the cleaning while Mae West records played. There was even a famous cat-burglar, who was proudly paraded at school sports day.
Fidelis survived school, despite being jeered at for her northern accent, and being expelled a number of times.

During her school holidays she spent most of the time living in Paris where her mother sometimes worked as a painter on the Butte, Montmartre. Fidelis regularly earned enough money painting clowns and playing the guitar.

She gained an honours degree at Birmingham University, where she contributed to some important research on Restoration Theatre. Her finals papers were on Restoration London and the world of the 17th century theatre, which led to her writing the ground-breaking book THE FEMALE WITS, which rediscovered the long lost women playwrights of the Restoration and brought those lost plays to light for the first time in 300 years. She followed up with numerous scholarly anthologies and biographies of people and works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including A WOMAN OF NO CHARACTER, and The WELL-KNOWN TROUBLEMAKER. Fidelis has lectured at universities across the world, from Stanford University to the University of Utrecht.

Fidelis also works as a professional actor. Her screen appearances include Jeeves and Wooster, As Time Goes By, Mr Majeika, Dead Gorgeous, Big Women and Never Let Me Go. She has played leading roles by Brecht, Chekhov, Wilde, Coward, Lorca, Orton, Shaw, Genet, Goldoni, Massinger & Schiller, in companies like West Yorkshire Playhouse, Nottingham Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman, Paines Plough and particularly the Glasgow Citizens, where her work won her a Best Actress nomination in The Observer.

As a playwright, Fidelis's adaptation of Samuel Richardson's PAMELA won her a nomination as Most Promising Playwright, and was described in The Guardian as "a new eighteenth century play", while her adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's HANGOVER SQUARE played for an extended run at the Lyric Hammersmith, where it acquired cult status, and wa revived to great acclaim at the Finborough Theatre.

Her four murder mysteries, featuring The Countess Ashby dela Zouche and her maid Alpiew, are acclaimed throughout the world and have not only been translated into many languages but are the subject of a critical academic study.

She has a new short story collection TRIPLE SHORTS and a modern novel, MURDER QUADRILLE available for Kindle and download to computers.

"FIDELIS MORGAN - This uniquely creative, stylish, multi-gifted woman" - Plays International

Product Description


‘Fidelis Morgan’s tale of love and greed and alchemy in 1699 is a heady compound of wit, wisdom and wildness. It’s an unsentimental warts-and-all portrait that reeks of authenticity, written with a brio that reflects the age’
Val McDermid

‘Hilarious 17th century romp, which combines an authentic slice of history with a tantalising storyline. An authority on the era, Morgan has created an inventive book which wears its learning lightly. Colourful turns of phrase and witty descriptions – leave you with a keen sense of the period’ Daily Mail

‘A lusty, audacious historical romp …all the bawdiness of London at the turn of the 18th century is brought to life’ Maxim Jakubowski, Guardian

‘Thigh-slapping, exclamatory stuff … loudly, lustily, enthusiastically done’ Literary Review

‘The perfect autumn read’ Marie Claire

From the Publisher

A rollicking good read, with a highly appealing central character.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Dec. 2002
Format: Hardcover
All I want to know is 'will there be more?' This is the third in Fidelis Morgan's highly original seventeenth century detective series - not a seedy Glaswegian detective in sight! Her heroine is a down-at-heel aristocrat and her over-endowed serving maid - the comic potential of this pair is well-served in this, the naughtiest of the trilogy - I had to put the book down to bellow with laughter in parts - the double-entendres come thick and fast in this one - surely all those TV and film developers must be beating a path to Morgan's door? Those great theatrical dames of a certain age would give back their DBEs to play this part. The plot, as usual, is complex and the violence is surprisingly gory, but the laughs are never far behind the poisonings and the perfidy. Alpiew and Ashby De La Zouche find themselves in France at the court of Saint Germain as minders to the stepdaughter of Mrs Franklyn-Green but no sooner have they set foot on foreign soil than they are set upon by footpads ... or are they? Crime writers take note, you don't have to write about a sleazeball detective with a polystyrene cup of lukewarm coffee to keep your readers guessing.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on 28 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I missed the usual London setting of this series of novels but I still enjoyed the plot. This is easy reading for those of us who like a historical novel but are overwhelmed at times by the seriousness of some authors.

However, I think that the author is in danger of reflecting Restoration comedies too fully in the names she chooses for her characters. A little more overt history and a little less slapstick probably wouldn't go amiss.

Stop-press - I've just read Hallie Rubenhold's first novel and I'd really recommend it over this book. It's better researched and I felt like it was an easy read but that I'd learned a lot about the history of the period when I wasn't looking!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Anastasia and Alpiew go to France 3 Sept. 2011
By Jody - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the third outing for the Countess Ashby de la Zouche and the intrepid Alpiew, the setting moves to the French court of the exiled King James. Anastasia and Alpiew have been hired to escort young Virgina to the exiled court to find her a husband. As the story progresses, they are robbed by highwaymen, Virginia has a secret agenda, and no one at the court is exactly who he or she appears to be. Because of their penurious condition, Anastasia is banished to the attics and Alpiew to the kitchens, where life suddenly becomes much more interesting--and dangerous.

Fidelis Morgan has hit Anastasia and Alpiew's stride with this one. There are some laugh out loud moments: the Countess inadvertently invents Bechamel sauce, and the would-be novelist Isabel Murdo-McTavish, in search of the perfect title for her book, proposes "Gone with the Wind" and "War and Peace." As always, real characters drift in and out of the story, and Anastasia and Alpiew find themselves in the company of the Man in the Iron Mask in the Bastille and grouse about the King's fondness for peas to an incognito Louis the XIV.

This is a light-hearted series for all it doesn't gloss over the real discomfort and physical unpleasantness of 17th and early 18th century life. Ms. Morgan doesn't hesitate to describe the filthy streets of her setting or the dubious personal hygiene of her characters, but the contrast makes Anastasia's and Alpiew's antics that much more credible. As always, the loose ends are tied up, and the chapter headings having to do with 17th century cooking are fascinating. (Larks tongues, anyone?).
really good read!!! 16 May 2014
By Dawn Ventre - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been reading this series and the third book has been just as intriguing as the first 2. Great mystery series!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I was disappointed with this book 18 July 2013
By redhot - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read the first two books about the duchess, I was looking forward to more or the same. The plot dragged along the characters were confusing; in fact I couldn't finish the book.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great buy 1 Jan. 2013
By teacup49 - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was pleased to get the last book of this series at a great price! Love this author and recommend it to others
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