The Elsingham Portrait

Rated 3.80/5 based on 11 reviews
Modern day librarian, Kathryn Hendrix, is taken back to the year 1775 to occupy the life of Lady Elsingham. More

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Published by Chater Publishing
Words: 54,900
Language: English
ISBN: 9781466114074
About Elizabeth Chater

Elizabeth Chater was the author of more than 24 novels and countless short stories. She received a B.A. from the University of British Columbia and an M.A. from San Diego State University, and joined the faculty of the latter in 1963 where she began a lifelong friendship with science fiction author Greg Bear. She was honored with The Distinguished Teacher award in 1969, and was awarded Outstanding Professor of the Year in 1977. After receiving her Professor Emeritus, she embarked on a new career as a novelist with Richard Curtis as her agent. In the 1950s and 60s she published short stories in Fantastic Universe Magazine and The Saint Mystery Magazine, and she won the Publisher's Weekly short story contest in 1975. She went on to publish 22 romance novels over an 8 year period. She also wrote under the pen names Lee Chater, Lee Chaytor, and Lisa Moore. For more information, please visit

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Review by: Tracey on Oct. 06, 2012 :
One of the literary devices I’m always a complete sucker for is the character plucked from her own time and dropped, clueless, into another, whether through straightforward time travel (if there is such a thing) or some kind of sorcery. It’s the latter in The Elsingham Portrait – apparently – and lots of fun. I won this book through LibraryThing’s Member Giveaways – thank you to the publisher and LT.

Kathryn Hendrix is having a bad day. Her boyfriend invited her to lunch, and she has been sitting at their table alone for over an hour, the rosy dreams she started out with of engagement rings and white weddings and an escape from her dreary, dreary life have begun to whiff away into nothing. Humiliation finally wins out over optimism, and she catches a bus to go home to her dreary apartment, only to see from the height of the bus just why her man never showed up: he is otherwise engaged. With someone much prettier and better dressed than Kathryn. With some thoughts of trying to reach him, she hurries off the bus, but it’s too late. And it starts to rain. And she left her umbrella somewhere. And she had jumped through a few hoops to be granted the time off from her dreary, underpaid job as a NYC librarian in order to meet Don … Crushed, unable to go back to work and face the coworkers who will certainly be expecting her to show up with a diamond, she takes shelter in what turns out to be an art gallery.

The focal point of the gallery’s collection is a stunning painting of a stunning woman in a golden gown. Kathryn looks into the painted eyes … and suddenly finds herself transported back to the time of the painting, 1775, and into the woman in the painting, the evil (or much-maligned) Lady Nadine Elsingham. Things do not go uphill from here.

Kathryn’s struggles to find help from someone, anyone, are largely realistic. Everyone around her believes that either Lady Nadine is up to something new, or she’s gone mad, or possibly both, and without any real proof of who she is and where (and when) she’s from Kathryn begins to have suspicions of her own about her sanity. She starts out by talking about the revolt about to happen in the Colonies – but since it hasn’t happened yet it doesn’t exactly serve as proof. Here the author missed a big step, for me: Kathryn asks the date, and is told that it is April 18, 1775, and I squeaked a little:

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

I guess Kathryn doesn’t know her Longfellow, though, because instead of giving a similar squeak she begins talking about Lexington and Concord on April 19. Which meets with deep skepticism. It’s a tricky situation; anything she says which can’t be verified counts as raving; anything which can be verified counts as witchcraft – and either way she could end up slapped into Bedlam. Her strange accent is considered a trick; her lack of recognition for people around her is considered deceit; her apparent change of demeanor from cold and cutting to warm and innocently bewildered is considered bait for some new trap she’s setting. She can’t really win.

There are two things which – please be warned – may be spoiler-y which bothered me a little:

First, and less spoilerific, is Kathryn’s deep desire to return to her own time. In a way, I suppose, it bucks expectations: she has gone from being a somewhat plain and impoverished girl trapped in a somewhat dead-end boring job who has just been jilted … to being a gorgeous and wealthy woman, waited on hand and foot and married to a thrillingly handsome man. But she fights like mad to return home. It isn’t equal rights or sanitation or modern(ish) medicine or frustration with 18th century clothing, or even concern for the original owner of her current body that seems to drive her – it’s simply that she elsewhere and feels she needs to return. It never seems to occur to her until very late in the book that it might be a fine thing to begin to settle where and when she is.

The second thing (more spoileriferous), in two words: How? And – Why? Kathryn never learns the mechanism by which she was booted back two centuries, and therefore neither does the reader. Did it indeed have something to do with the evil witchy woman who apparently never left Nadine’s side, and the strange drug she would dose her charge with? Was it a spell? Or simply some bizarre Twilight Zone-esque swapping out of two women discontented with their lots? I would have loved to have seen at least a glimpse of Nadine’s fate; did she indeed swap with Kathryn and find herself dowdy and confused in a bewildering world of noise and speed, or did Kathryn just vanish (or collapse, an empty shell) and Nadine wisp out into the ether? In fact, I would love to see a companion book to The Elsingham Portrait, telling her story – free of the constraints of her day, in the era of mini-skirts and free love, her strong personality would have a blast, and free of the evil influence of the Donner woman she might turn out to be a decent human being. (In fact, I would love to completely steal this whole idea. Maybe someday after I’ve written the other eleventy-one ideas floating around in various states of completion…)
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Henk-Jan van der Klis on April 16, 2012 : (no rating)
This is the second book I read from the author Elizabeth Chater. I didn’t like the first one, Bait for the Tiger that much. I was a bit reluctant to read this one, but The Elsingham Portrait surprised me positively. At first, the story didn’t get a hold of me. But after a while, I became interested and read the novel with growing appreciation.
The story is about Kathryn Hendrix, who expects a proposal of marriage from her friend Don. The same day he stands her up for a luncheon date and Kathryn is very embarrassed, she shelters in a gallery from rain. There she sees the Elsingham Portrait. A portrait of Nadine Elsingham, not a very attractive lady, married to Lord Elsingham. Then it happens: Kathryn and Nadine trade places. Kathryn goes back to the year 1773. Needless to say that is somewhat of a culture schock for Kathryn as well as well as the people who surrounded Nadine.
At one point Kathryn finds an ally in her caretaker Bennet and flees to the hometown of Elsingham Manor when there is talk of put her in Bedlam, a hospital for the mentally ill.
Then her old caretaker, Donner tracks her down. Mrs Donner is an evil woman, who knows how to charm the well-intentioned people. Of course, Lord John Elsingham comes to his senses in time and rescues Kathryn just in time. And as there is nothing and no one for Kathryn in the 21st century, she decides to spend the rest of her life in the 18th century.
As I said, it took me a while to like the book. But the story gets more interesting when the switch to the 18th century takes place. Then, an exciting story starts to develop with a few implausible facts/events. Then again, this often makes a story enjoyable to read.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: cathy moore on March 27, 2012 :
While mildly entertaining, the plot of this book has a simplistic bent. The main character is whisked 200 years into the past by looking at a portrait? No explanation is ever given as to the how or why. What happened to the woman whose body she now inhabits? Too many loose ends.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Huibert-Jan Lekkerkerk on March 10, 2012 :
Normally this type of book would be outside my 'comfort zone' being declared as a romance. I was triggered however by the fact that the main person is shifted towards the end of the 18th century. I was not disappointed by this book. Though it does not go deep in any way, it is an entertaining read that should keep you occupied for a few hours (at most).
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Kathy Kempa on March 08, 2012 :
The story line carries the day. There is a bit of suspense, although the antagonists are clearly defined. Probably the biggest disappointment is that none of the characters have any depth or development.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: monroe905 on March 06, 2012 :
The Elsingham Portrait was quite an enjoyable book. I was interested in the time travel plot of the book and, like the main character, wondered what became of the woman she "replaced". Not really a romance, more of a mystery or suspense novel. I was drawn in quickly and finished the book in a couple of days. Definite recommendation.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: anne mitchem on March 06, 2012 :
I received this member's give away book. I loved it - It is a feel good book with intrigue, romance and a happy ending. Perfect for a mid winter read! Thank you for sharing it with me!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Okalona Zatan on March 04, 2012 :
I really enjoyed this book. The beginning was a little slow for my taste but it really picked up after the main character was established. I loved the fact that it is a "period piece" set in colonial times. A very good and a quick read.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: dana nelms on Feb. 26, 2012 :
i absolutely could not stop reading this book!! i loved it!! great job Elizabeth Chater!!
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Anrednesse on Feb. 21, 2012 :
It would be unfair to reduce the description of this story to "a romance". While not a deep or soul-searching novel by any means, it is a delightful read. A young girl in 1970s New York, spurned by the man she loves, wanders into a gallery and is transported to 1770s England into the body of a married, cuckolding woman. The story that unfolds is one of suspense and intrigue, with a bit of romance thrown in. This quick read will have you rooting for the heroine as she navigates a different time period and various obstacles thrown her way as she fights to save her wits and her life.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

Review by: Jerry Leigh on Jan. 25, 2012 :
This is such a riveting story of Kathryn Hendrix who time travels to the eighteenth century where she is trapped and thought crazy by everyone including her handsome husband. She has gained beauty and wealth in Lady Elsingham's body but how will she retain her sanity is what keeps us reading.
(reviewed the day of purchase)

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