"I think it is fair to say that while no-one is ever going to mistake... Meeke’s writing for great literature, she certainly does keep you turning the pages."
– Blogger Liz at A Course of Steady Reading
This time, I’m reviewing Stratagems Defeated (1811), a four-volume effort by Mrs. Meeke, a prolific authoress who wrote for Minerva Press, a publishing house that specialized in knock-off gothic novels and other sensational fare. It seems her works were a guilty pleasure for the British statesman Thomas Babington Macaulay; he read them avidly, but surreptitiously noted their titles in his journal in Greek.
Mrs. Meeke may have been a stepsister to the successful authors Frances Burney and Sarah Harriet Burney, but she didn’t use the Burney name on her title pages. Instead she published under the pseudonym “Gabrielli,” a name which connotes Italian exoticism. Stratagems Defeated features a wily Sicilian priest and not one, but two people held prisoner by someone trying to force them into marriage, but it is not a gothic novel. Neither is it a tender romance-- the female love interest doesn’t even show up until the final volume, and there are no impediments to keep hero and heroine apart once they meet. In fact, by the time they meet, the hero is the most ridiculously eligible bachelor in the United Kingdom.