Regency Content

Regency Retro Reads

Review 1-50

Alphabetical by Title

Abducted Heiress by Jasmine Cresswell

Amethyst Love by Rebecca Danton

Annabelle by Marion Chesney

Ardent Lady Amelia by Laura Matthews

Breath of Scandal by Jeanne Carmichael

Celebrated Miss Neville by Barbara Neil (Barbara Sherrod)

Charity's Gambit by Marcy Stewart

Cost Of Honor by Emma Lange

Dashing Widow by Carol Proctor

Deception Most Agreeable by Mary Butler

Double Deception by Elizabeth Law

Double Wager by Mary Balogh

Duke's Disappearance by Margaret Summerville

Dutiful Daughter by Vanessa Gray

Errant Earl by Marlene Suson

False Betrothal by Clarice Peters

Fickle Fortune Hunter by Amanda Scott

Fire Opals by Rebecca Danton

First Snowdrop by Mary Balogh

First Season by Jane Ashford

Gamester's Lady by Barbara Sherrod (Barbara Neil)

Hidden Inheritance by Emily Hendrickson

Husband for Christmas by Paula Tanner Girard

Incorrigible Rake by Sheila Walsh

Infamous Attachment by Helen Tucker

Lady Caro by Marlene Suson

Lady Hathaway's House Party by Jennie Gallant (Joan Smith)

Lady Jane's Ribbons by Sandra Heath

Lady in Silver by Rebecca Ward

Lady with a Black Umbrella by Mary Balogh

Learned Lady by Joan Overfield

Lord Wicked Wolf by Margaret Summerville

Megan by Norma Lee Clark

Miss Dalrymple's Virtue by Margaret Westhaven

Mourning Bride by Lucia Curzon AKA Ellen Fitzgerald

Promissory Note by Rebecca Ward

Rake's Quarry by Elizabeth Inman (Elizabeth Rehfeld)

Red Rose by Mary Balogh

Reluctant Bride by Cindy Holbrook

Reluctant Suitor by Megan Daniels

Ruby Heart by Rebecca Danton

Sealed Knot by Elizabeth Law

Sensible Cecily by Margaret Summerville

Speaking Likeness by Sheila Bishop

Torpid Duke by Pauline York

Unlikely Rivals by Megan Daniels

Unequal Match by Rachelle Edwards

Unlikely Attraction by Melinda McRae

Viscount's Revenge by Marion Chesney

Waltzing Widow by Gayle Buck

Wicked Wager by Margaret Summerville

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#50 The Ruby Heart

by Rebecca Danton

ISBN: 0449501124

Published 1980 by Fawcett Coventry

Miss Lesley Dalrymple had escaped the control of her vicious Uncle Hubert Stukely and his cunning wife Felicia when she came of age, but her younger sister Viola and her young orphaned nephew Sandy were not so lucky. Stukely is draining their fortune and abusing the child; Lesley sees evidence of missed meals and beatings with a riding crop. Stukely buys jewels for his wife which she gives to her lover; he seems unaware of their affair.

The law prevents Lesley from taking Sandy from the Stukelys, because under the will he is left to his uncle's guardianship until one of his cousins marries and provides a home. Lesley's brother is in the navy and not available. Lesley goes to an old friend, Burke Penhallow, for advice. The only solution that will work is for her to marry Burke so that he will have the legal standing to take Viola and Sandy away. Lesley thinks him a cad and a rake, but she marries him for Sandy's sake; however she insists on a marriage in name only. Burke wants a real marriage and has sincere remorse for the rakish ways that gave him such a bad reputation. Burke presents a necklace to Lesley --a distinctively styled ruby heart.

Lesley and Burke settle in together and form an uneasy but promising friendship. But bad Uncle Hubert is now broke and furious, and he sets in motion a plan to regain custody of Sandy -- and thereby access to Sandy's fortune.

Very entertaining, very old fashioned, in that there's a lot more plot and a lot less wandering around in people's heads as they marinate in their emotions. It's a different way of thinking; a man's control over his dependents and their property was practically absolute. Lesley was powerless to do anything to help Sandy by herself. There were no authorities who would have acted short of an outright murder. Shows how much better it is for women and children to have a rule of law than a rule of men. (Posted by Janice 5/14/08)

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#49 Fire Opals

by Rebecca Danton

ISBN: 0449231127

Published 1977 by Fawcett Crest

Charlotte Gordon is the daughter of a wealthy mill owner. She is in her second season and she often causes talk by the scrapes she becomes involved in with her younger brother Neville. Her father Fergus has taught her mill management but he wants her to marry into the aristocracy. It is his prime ambition, but he does really believe he knows what's best for her. He thinks marriage to the right man will settle her down (women need to be settled down).

Darcy Saltash, Marquis of Arundell, among others, offers for her and her father orders her to marry him. She doesn't like his cold arrogance or the way he mauled her about in the garden once ("By God I would like the taming of you" - women need to be tamed). She doesn't like his mistress, a divorcee names Mrs. Iris Holt who dresses all in black and drips venom to her. Darcy cannot marry Iris because the Prince of Wales has decreed he will not receive her, and Darcy is close to the court.

Charlotte does, however, like his little daughter Pamela by his first wife, now deceased. Darcy does not really court Charlotte; he gives her jewels and other gifts she doesn't really want and that sort of thing, but he is very proud and autocratic in his ways, and does nothing to befriend her or endear himself to her. He never tells her that he loves her.

Despite her objections the marriage goes through. Darcy takes her and Pamela north to Arundell, his principal seat. After a few days he consummates the marriage, against her will. She does not want to have sex with him. She does not believe he loves her, but only wants her for sex and an heir. He comes to her bed night after night and she eventually learns to enjoy and wish for the sex, but she still hates his autocratic ways, and Iris is always there to flaunt their relationship and drip poison in her ears. Darcy only says words of love to Charlotte in bed so she believes it is only desire that he feels for her.

Fitz Rockingham, an old rival, wounds Neville in a silly duel, and Darcy is furious that Charotte went to tend Neville at an inn without leaving proper word of where she was. Fitz begins sniffing after Charlotte, seeing that she is unhappily married and her husband is often absent with his mistress.

However Charlotte knows her duties and begins to take a special interest in the woolen mill Darcy owns. It is managed by a vile creep named Albert Botts, who uses child labor but underfeeds them, underclothes them and works them to death. Charlotte knows he steals the food and finds that he's also stealing the money. She turns an empty house on the estate into an orphanage dormitory for the children and sees that they are well clothed, well fed and work shorter hours, as is done in her father's mills. Botts (a pedophile by our standards) has his eye on 14 year old Martha so Charlotte makes her a maid in her own household. Charlotte's father Fergus comes up from London to see the recovering Neville; he sees her unhappiness and the deterioration in her health, and is shaken.

Another regency that couldn't be published today. Modern readers expect to be inside Darcy's head, but he's only seen from the outside. The Big Nonunderstanding comes from Darcy's pride; he won't explain himself but just issues orders. Sometimes the orders are nicely phrased and intended to please, and other times they are cold commands, but they are always orders, not requests. A modern woman would see this as an infringement on her own personal freedom (as does Charlotte, and she resents it, but in her era women had to make the best of it). Modern readers do not much admire this type of hero; his good qualities of intelligence, responsibility, bravery, etc. pale against his bad quality of "ownership" of his woman. I did enjoy it, however, as a sort of period piece of 70s British regencies; between sympathy for Charlotte and irritation at the mores of the era, it certainly wasn't boring. (Posted by Janice 5/8/08)

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#48 An Unlikely Attraction

by Melinda McRae

ISBN: 0451170636

Published 1991 by Signet

Lady Sophrina Teal was widowed when her husband William, who had run away with her best friend, was drowned. She did not want to live in the dower house so she took a small cottage nearby. One day she meets an enchanting little girl called Kate. Kate's father has left her in the country in the care of servants, without even a nurse or governess, and the little girl is terribly lonely. Sophrina has had no children from her marriage with William and she falls in love with Kate. She spends a lot of time with her, loving and teaching her, and introduces her to her cousins and grandmother (William's mother). Sophrina felt that the failure of her marriage must be her fault, and she is very relieved that Kate was born before she married William, as this shows it wasn't her deficiencies that made William leave her.

Kate's legal father is Ellis, Earl of Penhurst, but she is biologically the daughter of Sophrina's husband William , who had run off with Ellis's wife Lea. William and Lea had been lovers even before he married Sophrina. Ellis knows he has a duty toward the child but he doesn't know how to be a parent. At first he resents Kate's growing dependence on Sophrina, but eventually he falls in love with Sophina. They become lovers and are just about to be married when William reappears -- Lea's body was never found, but he had survived the wreck. It took him months to recover from his injuries and to make his way back to England.

William says he want Sophrina back as his wife, to bear his heirs, but Sophrina is determined never to go back to him. However divorce is difficult; William wants a boatload of cash for it, and the scandal would ruin Sophrina's reputation and Ellis's diplomatic career. It appears that this tenuously formed new family will be torn apart.

I think this book exists so that the author could go into all the ramifications of obtaining a divorce in regency England, and I found this section very interesting. I thought that emotionally its strongest point is Ellis's frustration at how to relate to this child who is his by law but not by blood, and its most moving moment is his realization that he loves Kate and it doesn't matter if her father was his hated rival and her mother his faithless wife -- she is Kate and that's enough. (Posted by Janice 5/3/08)

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#47 The Double Wager

by Mary Balogh

ISBN: 0451136179

Published 1985 by Signet

Miss Henrietta Tallant, a red haired freckled country hoyden, is goaded into a wager with her brother Giles and his friends that she will elicit a proposal from Marcus Devron, Duke of Eversleigh, the most standoffish eligible they can think of, within six weeks of her London debut. Marcus also makes a bet with the members of his old Knights of Freedom Club that he will find a bride within four weeks and marry her within six -- he has nobody in particular in mind at that point.

At her debut, Henry sees Marcus across the room and contrives to crash into him. The next day Marcus offers for her because she will "amuse" him. Henry marries him but has no idea what marriage will entail. Her younger twin brother and sister Philip and Penelope, and their governess Manny (whom Sir Peter Tallant, her eldest brother) has dismissed for not being strict enough, and their dog and foulmouthed parrot all move in with them as well.

Henry knows that Marcus calls her my love and is kind, considerate, companionable, generous and protective, but she doesn't know that he loves her. His heir presumptive, Oliver Cranshawe, plots with the widow Suzanne Broughton, his ex mistress, to ruin Henry -- Oliver out of spite and revenge and to prevent Marcus's having legitimate heirs, and Suzanne to get Marcus back. Meanwhile Henry's brother Giles needs L3,000 to pay his gambling debts, which Henry gets for him by borrowing it from Oliver. Marcus has warned her against Oliver and told her why, but she doesn't yet believe him. When Phil, Penny and Manny learn Henry is in trouble, they take to following her and they enlist Marcus's secretary James Ridley as well. Henry, however, has finally gotten Oliver's number, and she makes a revenge plan of her own.

This is a warm, funny and charming story of family, and a girl and a man who accidentally find they are with the only person for them. There are elements that are reminiscent of Heyer (for instance, the family name Tallant from Arabella, some of the relationship aspects of The Convenient Marriage, and the kids and the dog from Frederica), but these characters are all lovable on their own, and the ending has the heroine playing a much more active role than Heyer usually gives. Rating: total classic. (Posted by Janice 4/22/08)

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#46 A Dashing Widow

by Carol Proctor

ISBN: 0451170423

Published 1991 by Signet

Miss Annis Thurstan, her sister Elizabeth and their younger brother Laurie are stuck in Jamaica. They had gone there for Annis's marriage to Sir Richard Burham, but they were told Richard had been drowned at sea when going from Jamaica to Honduras on business. Their thieving cousin Ambrose controls their money as trustee until the girls are married. Annis decides to pose as Richard's widow to get control of their funds and give Elizabeth a season in London. Rather than taking up residence at their old home the Briers, they boldly go to Burham House in London. Annis, as the widowed Lady Burham, is courted by Don Alonzo Rodriguez de Vega, who says he wants to buy back some land in Honduras to please his dying father, and Walter Ulverstone, an old friend of Richard's.

Annis's sister Elizabeth is beautiful, but lost without her spectacles, which she does not wear in public. Her great love is books and learning, but the era forbids her an education -- the education in which her brother Laurie is not at all interested -- but she's not bitter about it, only wistful and eager to explore London's opportunities for knowledge. Since she can't see anything, she seems shy and cold to people who don't know her.

Walter begins as a suitor for Annis, more to help her for the sake of his old friendship for Richard than anything else. He gets Elizabeth to wear her glasses so that she behaves more like her true warm and friendly self, and falls in love with her. However in the meantime he has gotten himself engaged to Annis.

The parts about the family relations and the slow growth of the secondary romance between Elizabeth and Walter make the book memorable; the plot seems rather perfunctory, especially the ending. Nice differentiation of character between Annis (who is impatient with reading books but not an airhead or an idiot) and Elizabeth (who loves to read).

Another regency that couldn't be published today as hero and heroine are not actually together until very late in the book, and there's no onscreen sex. (Posted by Janice 4/16/08)

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#45 The Errant Earl

by Marlene Suson

ISBN: 0449216373

Published 1989 by Fawcett

Rakish younger son and man of fashion Scott (Lieutenant Colonel Scott Kendall) grew up with Kit and was very fond of her as a girl, but when she came to London for her debut, he didn't recognize her. She acted shy around him because she was afraid to let him see in her eyes that she already loved him, and the clothes she was given made her look awkward and dumpy. Scott is in love with the incomparable Amaryllis, but she married his older brother Roland. Scott married Kit, they had a disastrous wedding night because he was drunk, and Kit had overheard him tell Amaryllis that he would love her forever. The next day Scott left; he fought with Wellington's armies and distinguished himself. He also matured considerably as a human being.

While he was gone, he almost never heard from his wife, nor she from him; their letters were lost with the ships that carried them. He did learn that his older brother Roland had died in a hunting accident and he was now the Earl. When he returns from the wars after six years, all he wants is to have a comfortable marriage with children with Kit, but Kit hates him.

Kit (who now calls herself Laura because being called by her old pet name brings back unhappy memories) misinterpreted things he wrote to her. Scott didn't get her letters, including the one telling him of her pregnancy, or the one announcing the birth of their son Jonathan. When Scott arrives home he is stunned to find the little boy fishing in his private spot is his own son. He finds that Laura hates him, his sister Clissy backs her up, his son rejects him, and a personal enemy of his, Lord Nicholas Black, is clearly bent on seducing Laura away from him. Laura still believes that he loves Amaryllis and will never love her.

A lesser author would have had characters alleged to have matured still behaving in the same noncommunicative way, so as to drag out the Big Misunderstanding as long as possible. Instead, Scott and Laura talk things out, bit by bit, and once they both know about the missing letters, they cease blaming each other for not communicating. A lesser author might have Scott take until the final pages to find out what a nasty piece of work Amaryllis really is, but Scott reads the ledgers as soon as he gets home and finds out right away. A lesser author would have used the son's danger just to reconcile the couple, but this author uses it to teach the son a valuable life lesson about the meaning of fear.

I like Marlene Suson's style in these shorter Fawcett regencies better than her more recent Avon historicals. I've read/reread two of these recently and they were both engrossing stories. (Posted by Janice 4/15/08)

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#44 The Unlikely Rivals

by Megan Daniel

ISBN: 0451110765

Published 1981 by Signet

Saskia's mother, Cornelia van Houten, a widow, writes gothics under the name of Cornelia Crawley, and provides the income for their household. The family - eldest daughter Saskia, her beautiful sister Trix, their bookish brother Neil, the mischievous twins William and Mina, their loyal Dutch housekeeper Jannie, and Rembrandt the bulldog - live in reasonable comfort on their slight means mostly due to Saskia's good management. Saskia's ambitions are all for her younger sister Trix, who is as beautiful as she is goodhearted. Saskia's only suitor is the repellent Reverend Kneighley, who takes it for granted that Saskia will marry him and consider herself fortunate to do so.

One day Saskia receives a letter from Hester, Lady Eccles, an aunt she's never met, summoning her to Bath for a visit. Saskia goes, traveling in unaccustomed luxury thanks to her wealthy aunt, and learns that Lady Hester, a sort of regency Auntie Mame, has returned to England to stay. Hester has decided to settle the question of who should inherit her enormous fortune by means of a contest between Saskia and Derek Rowbridge, her distant cousin.

Derek had been a naval lieutenant, now on half pay. When he returned home he found his father had left nothing but gambling debts. He has been gaming to get the money to pay them off, for the sake of the family honor, and has been living as frugally as Saskia and her family. Lady Hester instructs them that the first to arrange the purchase of her old home Rowbridge House from the mysterious Mr. Banks will be the winner.

As they compete to be the winner of Lady Hester's contest, their initial antipathy turns to attraction, but Saskia thinks Derek wants Trix, and Derek thinks Saskia wants Captain Durrant, his captain and friend.

I found this book a bit lighter in tone than The Reluctant Suitor, but just as much fun,particularly the excerpts from the in-progress works of "Cornelia Crawley". I would recommend it to anyone who likes regencies in the lighter style of Georgette Heyer. (Posted by Janice 4/8/08)

This is one of my favorite stories, one I often dig out when down with a cold; it's such a comfortable read. The story is a celebration of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice that the hero and heroine are familiar with. Like Saskia says, they're just like the Bennetts except that two are boys - and they do have a prosy rector just like Mr. Collins. However, this is no remake of Austen's classic, rather it's a homage. The city of Bath and the countryside surrounding it also play a part in the story.

Saskia is bright and down to earth and, as the one practical person in the family, has cared for her mother and siblings from an early age. She's at her wit's end wondering how to give her beautiful sister a season, her genius brother his education and a proper governess for her younger siblings, when her outrageous great-aunt Hester comes back from the Orient and gives them all the opportunity Saskia had prayed for. But first she has to defeat her cousin in a contest.

I like how the story shifts between the two protagonists, letting us see the budding attraction grow within the two. It's a well rounded story with a well drawn supporting cast, a determined heroine and a masterful hero. A recommended read. (Posted by yvonne 4/9/08)

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#43 Amethyst Love

by Rebecca Danton

ISBN: 0449234002

Published 1977 by Fawcett

Miss Valerie Gray's parents had died, and the estate had had to be sold to cover her father's and her brother's debts, mostly gambling. Her brother Clarence was an officer in Wellington's army of the Peninsula. Valerie was left with absolutely nothing to live on, and was forced to go to her meanspirited cousin Mrs. Job Bloomer, who made her work as a governess and nursery maid to her six children. Valerie dreams that one day her brother will return to England and take her away from this dreadful life of all toil and no affection, but instead she receives a visit from Major Malcolm Villiers, second son of the Earl of Arundel. Malcolm had met Valerie some years previously, when she was still Miss Gray of Gray Court, and was a friend of Clarence. He has come to tell Valerie that Clarence died in battle. He sees Valerie's situation and when odious Mrs. Bloomer doesn't want to let her off to attend her brother's burial, he offers to marry her. Valerie agrees. He has brought along a huge heart-shaped amethyst ring, part of the family jewels; amethyst for “steadiness and all that”.

Malcolm takes Valerie to Arundel, where she meets his warm and loving family -- the Earl, who loves his gardens, the Countess, and his older brother Eustace. She also meets Eustace's fiancee, Deirdre -- beautiful and perfect, blinding the gentlemen, but hard and selfish to the core. From the beginning Deirdre is resentful and slighting toward Valerie. Malcolm and Valerie are married and Malcolm leaves again to rejoin his regiment. But Malcolm's friend unwisely tells Valerie the true story of how Malcolm came to offer for her -- he and Clarence's friends diced for her, and the loser had to marry her. Valerie is crushed and leaves to be a governess to Mrs. Fitzhugh.

Valerie leaves the Fitzhughs when she is informed that Eustace, the heir, has died. Eustace had a weak chest and racketing around London to meet Deirdre's demands for social life caused his death from a fever. Not long afterwards Malcolm is brought home wounded and very ill; Valerie nurses him back to health. Now that Malcolm is the heir, Deirdre plays on Valerie's insecurities and does everything she can to ingratiate herself with Malcolm and cause a divorce. Will Malcolm and the rest of the family ever catch on to Deirdre's game before she drives Malcolm to divorce? Will Valerie ever tell Malcolm she's pregnant?

I liked this story because the family dynamics seemed so realistic to me. Malcolm's family is lovable and loving but in some ways weak and flawed. Valerie doesn't know Malcolm loves her but he feels that she's too intellectual for him to keep up with. Valerie thinks Malcolm, who had been a bit of a rake before marriage, is in love with Deirdre and would rather have married that witch; she doesn't know that Malcolm thinks of Deirdre as an amusing kid sister. If the earl or his countess could have asserted themselves more, maybe Eustace wouldn't have died. People often don't know what they should have done at the time. Malcolm is a bit out of the ordinary as a regency romance hero; he yells at Valerie when he gets frustrated, he thinks that their good relationship in bed should tell her everything, he doesn't see what Deirdre is up to with her continual criticisms of Valerie, and he's not an intellectual type in general, but is a good and brave officer and loyal to his family.

Another good regency which wouldn't be published today; too much space is given to subsidiary characters, there's no murders or spies, and the story plays out at a slower pace than is allowed now. (Posted by Janice 3/13/08)

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#42 The Cost Of Honor

by Emma Lange

ISBN: 0451151887

Published 1988 by Signet

Christopher St. Charles, Earl of Hartford, is staying with a friend at a country inn. The friend says he wants a girl that night even if his servant has to drug one for him. The servant does just that, but there is a mistake in the rooms and she winds up with Christopher -- only she's not a serving wench/whore, she's the vicar's daughter. Miss Juliet Barre had been bringing one of her remedies to the lady who owned the inn; she was poorly dressed and the servant mistook her for one of the maids and drugged her tea.

Christopher could tell she was still a virgin, but in her drugged state she didn't fight him. "With consummate skill he accepted the unspoken invitation and made her a woman."

Almost threw the book across the room at that point. What a pig. Made her a woman, indeed -- what was she before, a tree? a sofa? Continued only because Lange has a good mid reputation.

Book is basically Patient Griselda. How much garbage will Juliet endure before her husband decides she's worthy? The encounter has left her pregnant, and her husband sends her back to the country to be out of the way while he continues his affairs. He doesn't even notice when she's ill during the first trimester.

I finished this book to see if he ever realized how unworthy a person he is compared to his nice little wife, or if he went on believing he is better than she is. I was left with the lasting puzzle of why the author thought I should like this hero despite his consummate self-centeredness. I absolve the heroine of staying with him; in her era, she had little other choice. (Posted by Janice 03/11/08)

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#41 Lady Caro

by Marlene Suson (Joan Sweeney)

ISBN: 0449212157

Published 1988 by Fawcett

Lady Caroline Kelsie is 17; her father, an ailing widower, wants to see her married before he dies. Her aunt Olive favors her two beautiful but awful daughters, and does her best to see that Caro does not show to advantage, criticizing her cruelly and unfairly to everyone at every possible opportunity. Caro is also very reluctant to give up her tomboyish ways.

Ashley's stuffy elder brother was killed by catching pneumonia after a (staged) accident, and now his father the Earl of Bourne is pressuring him to marry and secure the succession, lest it go to Henry Neel, a cousin neither of them likes. Ashley has learned that the same one-eared man who was seen coming out of the stables the day of the "accident" has been meeting with Henry at a slum tavern. Ashley has gone to the Kelsie estate as part of a house party and he first sees Caro climbing a tree.

Ashley is in love with Estelle, Lady Roxley; he had asked her to marry him but she had married a wealthier man and when she had had three sons by him, she sought her pleasures with Ashley, with the intention of marrying him when her much older husband passed. Ashley does not see her selfish and calculating side, only her great beauty.

When Caro's father has another attack after a fight with her aunt, Caro agrees to marry Ashley. Ashley marries to please his father and because he likes Caro and doesn't want to see her fall totally under her vicious aunt's control if her father dies. At first he stays with her at her home, without consummating the marriage, until her father is better, and then they remove to London, where Ashley's mother dresses Caro appropriately so that her gamine looks are appreciated. But Caro overhears Ashley appearing to confirm his love for Estelle, and believes that despite his tender care of her, she will never really have her husband's love.

This is a short, light fast read. It's not written in a complex style, but it isn't dumbed down either. It doesn't have historical references,yet it doesn't seem out of period, as the characters behave appropriately for the times. There is one mistake, which is probably a proofreader's error (anecdote for antidote). (Posted by Janice 2/29/08)

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#40 Lady with a Black Umbrella

by Mary Balogh

ISBN: 0451162226

Published 1989 by Signet

Miss Daisy Morrison, a managing female, regards herself as firmly on the shelf at 25, and devotes herself to finding a good match for her younger sister Rose. While traveling from Bath to London, she sees Giles Fairhaven, Viscount Kincade, being assaulted by three thugs as he is waiting for his curricle to be brought around. After a card game with "Mr. Martin" and a night of pleasure with Bessie the barmaid, he awoke to find his purse had been stolen; he was unable to pay his shot, let alone his gambling debts. The landlord does not believe his promise to send the money back when he gets home to London; Giles could have dealt with two bullies but the third attacked him from behind. Daisy runs downstairs barefoot in her night gown, and when the landlord shrugs at the attack, she wades in with her black umbrella and sends them packing. To add to Giles's humiliation, after he has left she also pays what he owes, not forgetting Bessie the barmaid.

Daisy sees nothing unusual or embarrassing in what she has done. She never does. Rose does, but Daisy never does.

Giles returns to London to find that the whole story, including paying Bessie, is all over the ton and he is the subject of much "wit" among his friends. Only his brother Arthur, a vicar, praises Daisy for her courage and character. Giles sees Daisy and Rose on the street and Daisy asks him to call on her at the Pulteney. The girls have found that the uncle they expected to stay with is out of the country and they have no other relatives or acquaintance in London. Instead of giving her a piece of his mind, Giles finds himself inviting her to stay with his cousin Lady Hetty, who will bring her out.

Daisy continues to create incidents that embarrass Giles, and continues to scoff at the talk she creates. Giles, who would like to wring her neck, instead winds up inadvertently compromising her, and they agree on a temporary betrothal to save Daisy's reputation and ensure that Rose is not adversely affected. But even that doesn't keep Daisy from trying to rescue people, always with the best of intentions but always with unforeseen results.

This is one of Balogh's few farces. Most of the humor comes from Daisy's single mindedness vs Giles's exasperation, and it isn't over the top. I liked Daisy; she's blind as a bat about what her sister really wants out of life, but she isn't so blind that she can't change her mind once new information penetrates her hard head. She doesn't think she's pretty because she compares herself to Rose. She doesn't read much; she gets distracted planning for those she loves. She rushes in, but not completely blindly; she thinks she can handle situations and has reasons for what she does. She's kind, self reliant and courageous. Giles, despite his complaints, could have done a lot worse (Posted by Janice 2/28/08)

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#39 The Reluctant Suitor

by Megan Daniel

ISBN: 0451096711

Published 1981 by Signet

When Geoffrey Curwen, Viscount Morpeth busts up his curricle, and walks to the nearest house to beg a night's shelter. It turns out that a girl he had known back home in Kent, Miss Heather St. Vincent, is living there in virtual poverty in a rundown estate with few servants and none of the clothes and amenities a young woman of her class should have. Heather's half brother the Earl of Stonington will inherit her entire £250,000 fortune if Heather remains unmarried at the age of 21, and she's only a month away from her birthday now. She is in the custody of Miss Honoria Stapleton, who stands to receive a hefty payoff from Stonington if Heather remains unmarried.

When Geoff realizes the unfairness of her circumstances, he is horrified, and cudgels his brains to come up with a solution for her. He's not terribly bright -- a hero cast in the mold of Lord Sheringham or one of PG Wodehouse's young men. He dismisses the idea of marrying Heather himself (although her enormous fortune would solve his debt problems forever), and hits on the idea of taking her to his mother, Lady Morpeth, in London. His mom could bring her out and find a husband for her easily, as Heather is "taking" as well as wealthy. Meanwhile Lady Morpeth herself has long been courted by Sir William Longchamps, who decides to take a hand as well.

This is a clever and amusing tale very much in the Georgette Heyer tradition. Another regency that couldn't get published today as there is no graphic sex in it and it's way too carefully written. (Posted by Janice 2/26/08)

I, too, enjoyed this story although maybe not quite as much as you, Janice. I guess I felt too much like shaking the hero! The step brother is a truly nasty bit and the custodian cousin not much better, although she's at least desperate enough in her own way to not have much choice. Thank goodness for maid Betsy and her swain! (Posted by yvonne 1/24/11)

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#38 The Dutiful Daughter

by Vanessa Gray

ISBN: 0-8934-0327-X, 0-451-09017-9 (0451090179)

Published 1980 by Signet

Chloe lives at Rothwell Manor with her indolent stepmother, Lady Rothwell, her stepbrother Edward (20 but now head of the family) and her two younger stepsisters Lydia (17, dead set on her London season) and Sophy (13, intelligent but an unattractive sneak). Chloe's mother was the first Lady Rothwell, and her father died some five years previously. Since that time Lady Rothwell has stuck Chloe with running the household and does nothing but complain and criticize. Edward is a bit overwhelmed by his new position as Lord Rothwell, and he's a bit of a pompous fathead, but he is conscientiously trying to fulfill his duties. Everyone in the family selfishly uses Chloe to one degree or another.

Chloe had had a partial Season, but had to return home when her father died. The family's finances were in poor shape; Edward, who inherited at 15, has been working hard to recover, and in another two years he will be able to send Lydia to London for a Season. The interest on Chloe's own inheritance from her mother has formed part of the family's support (though Edward very correctly has not tapped the principal). When Chloe receives the inheritance of her uncle's property out of the blue, Lady Rothwell especially schemes to keep the money in her side of the family, and Lydia sees it as a way of getting her Season *now*.

Chloe realizes her family is not always very nice to her but they are all she has and she loves them. It seems natural to her that what belongs to her should benefit them.

As Chloe is mulling this over, her childhood best friend Richard, who has returned home from London, finds her at the bridge where they used to meet. Richard had been expected to offer for one of the girls on his short list, but as soon as he sees Chloe again, he realizes that he doesn't want anybody else for his wife. When he goes to make his offer in form, he finds the news of her inheritance has begun to draw fortune hunters from all over. Chloe doesn't care for any of them but Lady Rothwell's pressure is relentless. Will Richard convince Chloe he loves her? Will he ever find the right moment to propose? Will Chloe's eyes finally be opened to the true nature of her family?

Old fashioned well written regency with very well drawn subsidiary characters. Lady Rothwell, Lydia the selfish beauty, Sophy the sneaking conniver, and Edward the pompous but at last honest head of the family are not likeable but very well done. Though the book has its comic aspects, it is quite serious at heart. (Posted by Janice 2/8/08)

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#37 The First Snowdrop

by Mary Balogh

ISBN: 0-451-14593-3 (0451145933)

Published 1986 by Signet

Miss Anne Parrish was living with her brother Bruce on their rundown estate, which they had been forced to sell; they were to leave the next morning. Anne had become dull and overweight under the loss in war of the man she expected to marry and her brother Bruce's dour nature.

One snowy night Alexander, Viscount Merrick demanded shelter from the weather. Anne was alone in the house, her brother having gone off to visit the vicar. Because of her dowdy dress, dumpy body and shy manner, Alex believed she was a maid and treated her as such, including making rude & arrogant demands and attempting to get her to go to bed with him. In the morning Bruce returned with the vicar and found that they had spent the night in the house without chaperonage. Bruce and the vicar demanded that Alex marry Anne.

Alex was enraged by the situation, but he proposed, expecting to be turned down. Instead Anne accepted, hoping that he meant the charming things he said when he proposed. After the ceremony and a wedding night that was surprisingly fulfilling for both, Alex dumped Anne at his shabby estate Redlands and returned to London to resume his former way of life. Anne was heartbroken at his rejection, but she followed his orders and remained at Redlands, turning the shabby old house and grounds into a place of warmth and beauty. After Alex deserted her, Anne was depressed and lost a great deal of the weight, and the ministrations of her talented maid Bella completed her transformation into a very pretty young woman.

Alex had refused all her requests to leave Redlands, but an invitation arrived from Alex's grandparents, the Duke and Duchess of Portland, to attend their anniversary house party...

Alex is far from a perfect hero, but if he were different, there would be no obstacles to overcome and it would be a boring book. Instead it's a moving classic of redemption -- a man who learns that instead of being betrayed by honor & custom, he's been given the greatest gift he could possibly receive. Total classic. (Posted by Janice 1/28/08)

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#36 The Incorrigible Rake

by Sheila Walsh

ISBN: 0-451-13194-0 (0451131940)

Published 1984 by Signet

Miss Charis Winslade and her brother Tristam live with their housekeeper companion Mrs. Emily MacGrath in London. Both their parents are now deceased. While he lived, their father had taken them about with him on his diplomatic travels. Tristam is secretary to Lord Rowby, who has been posted to Brussels after the Congress of Vienna. Charis, Emily and their maid Meg go with him.

Major Daniel Hammond of the 95th Rifles fell in love with Charis at first sight, and offers for her, but she refuses, uncertain of her own feelings and influenced by tales of his rakish reputation with women; he too goes to Brussels.

In Brussels Charis gains a reputation, as well as a bit of income, from her portraits. Their apartments are in a grand house belonging to the Latours, who have fallen on hard times. Tristam falls in love with their daughter Celestine, a fragile enchanting young vision.

This book covers the same events and time frame as Heyer's An Infamous Army and Gayle Buck's The Waltzing Widow, but I did not find it as entertaining or as convincing. Somewhere around the middle it became one incident after another, and it ends with the heroine falling peacefully asleep as the hero rides off to the Battle of Waterloo; she has some sort of epiphany that he will not be injured and nods happily off. I flat out don't believe a real soldier's fiancee could do that.

I can recommend this as a fast, reasonably well written, not boring read, but I wouldn't call it a keeper. (Posted by Janice 1/14/08)

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#35 The Wicked Wager

by Margaret Summerville

ISBN: 0-451-14705-7 (0451147057)

Published 1987 by Signet

Lady Olivia Dunbar had said no to so many fortune hunters she was known as Lady Nolivia. Tired of her sister-in-law Lucasta's matchmaking, Olivia declares she'll marry the very next man to cross the threshold. Her surprise is great when not a well known London gentleman but the reclusive Monk Ramsey enters the room. Spurred by his disinterest Olivia's friends bet on whether even she could touch the Monk's heart. Pursuing the elusive Baron Ramsey through unfashionable London, not to mention the British Museum, proves to be loads of fun. But Lucasta has other plans for Olivia who escapes with her friends to Northumberland where Olivia meets Lord Ramsey again. Is it just the wager or has the monkish baron really touched the cynical heiress heart?

There's something very appealing about this book. Olivia and Gervase Ramsey are not cookie-cut characters but seem to live and breathe through the pages. This is a story about looking past the obvious to the heart within. The hero is a very unusual hero, a scholar with a burning interest in the age of chivalry that also in part live his fantasy. Olivia is the seemingly society bell with a mind that, before Gervase, has not been challenged. I consider this book a little known gem well worth looking for. (Posted by yvonne 12/12/07)

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#34 A Speaking Likeness

by Sheila Bishop

ISBN: 0091270901, 0449027791, 0552106593, 0449212335, 0708921973

Published 1976 by Hurst & Blackett

When the widowed Diana Pentland returns from seeing her lawyer, she discovers a young, unmarried girl in birth pangs on her doorstep. Feeling compassion she takes the girl in and help her. But Diana, who is already wondering how she will be able to support herself and her daughter on a small legacy, cannot figure out what to do with the girl. She is obviously of good family, and somebody must be looking for her.

Great is her surprise when she is contacted by the lawyers of the girl's seducer and asked if she wants to bring up the child as her own. The girl remains incognito and so does the benefactor, dubbed by Diana as the Noble Client. The allowance she receives will be enough for all three of them to live quietly in a small country dwelling.

Live seems to have settled into a steady rhythm when the sudden proposal of Diana's neighbor makes her an offer. Feeling uncomfortable with the new situation, she decides to take a holiday and goes to stay with the rector's in laws. Her astonishment is great when she meet the owner of the nearby castle as this young man is the spitting image of her own stepson right down to his misformed little finger. Has she now stumbled on the vile seducer or are there yet other secrets lurking in the shadows and demanding answer?

I like this book very much, it's a riveting read and the persons are most well drawn. This author can be somewhat uneven but I recommend A Speaking Likeness without reservations. (Posted by yvonne 10/27/07)

Diana, the widow of a soldier and the mother of Susannah, has been left almost penniless, so when she rescues the very pregnant "Eliza", and an anonymous benefactor offers to pay her an allowance if she will raise the boy infant as her own son, she accepts that offer from the mysterious Mr. Wood. The mother, who has never revealed her identity nor that of the father, vanishes, and Diana comes to love Hob as her own. Hob has a hereditary marker; one of his little fingers has only two joints. Diana accidentally comes into contact with a family that must be related to Hob because several of them have the same finger oddity. As Diana figures out the mystery of who is related to who and how, she and Mr Wood (now known to her to be Lord Grove) fall in love.

Good story of intricate family relationships. Mature, self-possessed, rational hero and heroine. Couldn't get published now (hero and heroine don't meet soon enough; no deep POV; too many characters; not closely focused on the romance between hero and heroine). (Posted by Janice 12/11/07)

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#33 Mourning Bride

by Lucia Curzon AKA Ellen Fitzgerald

ISBN: 0515056251

Published 1982 by Berkley/Jove

Charis, Lady de L'Isle, lost her young husband Arthur at Talavera. She had loved him intensely and after his death she withdrew from life. Eight years later she is chaperoning her pretty niece Belinda, but not thinking of marrying again, even though she's only 25 and the people around her think it's time she moved on.

Sir Clayton Roche, a spendthrift rat, makes a bet with Mr. Ernest Pomfret that he can waltz with her, and he does so through a bit of a trick. Having baited the hook, he then bets Ernest that he can take her wedding ring from her (because Ernest, who becomes increasingly troubled about the disrespect of it, wouldn't bet that he could seduce her).

Meanwhile Sir Gideon Parre, a widower himself, is seemingly pursuing Belinda, but when Charis accidentally gets caught in an undertow while bathing at Brighton, he rescues her. He is afraid that she may have wanted to drown herself out of grief. When Roche pretends that Belinda is in trouble and gets Charis to go with him to an inn, where he tries to rape her, Gideon rescues her again. Charis has fallen in love with Gideon, but believes that he loves Belinda, because Gideon has (with Belinda's connivance) been using the excuse of courting her to spend time with Charis, knowing that Charis would have avoided him if she had known that he was actually falling in love with her.

I liked this short form regency. I thought the author did a good job of showing the confusion Charis felt when she started to come back to life emotionally, and how she did not recognize Gideon's interest because she was not yet ready to. The subsidiary characters are well drawn -- Charis's uncle is singlemindedly locked onto his research subject, Sir Walter Raleigh, and wants Charis to encourage a man who is an authority on Raleigh, but he does genuinely care for her even though he uses her and treats her as a convenience. Sir Clayton is a sharp portrait of a totally self-centered man grown desperate for money to pay his debts and maintain his image, one who thinks it's OK to rape a woman he "loves" as long as he marries her afterwards.

I have read several Ellen Fitzgerald books over the years, and enjoyed them too, but until I looked her up I didn't know she had written so many books under so many names. I think I will enjoy tracking down some of her other titles. (Posted by Janice 8/29/07)

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#32 The Viscount's Revenge

by Marion Chesney

ISBN: 0451125630, 072784184X, 075050157X

Published 1983 by Signet, reprinted 1991 by Severn, large print edition Magna Print.

Twins Amanda and Richard Colby live with their Aunt Matilda Pettifor in Fox End, a rundown house in the country which Arthur Cogswell, an old friend of their father, had lent them, together with a small allowance to live on. At "Uncle" Arthur's death, however, they were left the cottage, but no money. They have been raised believing that they were gentry and therefore should not work for hire, but Amanda has been doing most of the housework and Richard and she have both hunted for good. Neither she nor Richard participate in the social life of the neighborhood because neither has suitable clothing for calls, dancing, etc. Neither one is grown up; Aunt Matilda wasn't much of an influence and they have no friends other than themselves.

Now, with no more money coming in, Amanda gets the idea of taking to the High Toby. They hock Amanda's last jewel, a gold locket from her mother, for the money to buy clothes to go to a local assembly. At the ball Amanda meets Lord Hawksborough (Charles), who is on a visit with his mother, staying with an Earl whose awful food has given him such indigestion that by the end of the evening he can barely be civil, and Amanda overhears him complain about how boring the evening was. Since that included dancing and supper with her, she is hurt and angry. Suddenly robbery seems like a good revenge. Amanda and Richard hold up the coach and rob them of a box of jewels. As they flee, Charles takes a shot at Amanda on her donkey and just barely misses killing her.

Amanda and Richard are horrified at what they've done and they bury the loot and the evidence in the stable. In the meantime their aunt has called in a favor and gotten them an invitation to visit with a London family -- Charles's. Amanda and Richard, sick with fear, want to give the loot back -- but how, without revealing the whole?

Charles is engaged to Lady Mary, and believes she loves him, but is immediately attracted to Amanda. His sister Susan has been told all her life by her mother that she's ugly, clumsy, etc., and is doing her best to be obnoxious to them both -- except Richard sees more to her than she shows around her mom.

A fast read with some very funny scenes, as when Amanda tries to flirt with Charles, but has no knowledge of flirtation other than what she's read in novels and naively supposes that the sort of compliments men pay to women would be the right things for a woman to say to a man, and tells him that he has a fine leg and his eyes are like sixpences.

I like the little touches Chesney brings to subsidiary characters -- Lady Mary reveals herself to Charles as a greedy miss who never cared for him, despite her protestations, with just two words - "How much?" when he promises her a generous settlement to agree to ending their betrothal. We all knew she was a bitch, but until that moment, he didn't. (Posted by Janice 8/22/07)

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#31 Deception So Agreeable

by Mary Butler

ISBN: 0-373-31009-9 (0373310099)

Published 1986 by Harlequin

Lord Nicholas Devlin is out to show a friend a surefire ploy for seducing young women -- he asks the girl to marry him, knowing that she will turn him down on the grounds of short acquaintance or whatever, but it will make quite an impression on her and make it easy to ingratiate himself later on. Lady Bradamant Mount-Aubin figures out that it's a ploy and to his horror, she accepts him, and sets events in motion to make the engagement so public that he's trapped by his own device.

Devlin is the younger son of the Duke of Chance. His dying demented father hates him and hated his older brother Charlie as well. Charlie escaped to India, where he married happily and had several children. Then Charlie died of a mysterious fever; his wife, who was ill with the same "fever", recovered, though she lost the male child she was carrying at the time. Now she is returning to England with her five surviving children.

The book starts out as a comedy of manners, then takes a left turn as these family problems appear, and Devlin and Lady Brad (who are by now married) are subjected to murder attempts. The motive and identity of the plotter isn't much of a mystery to anybody but them -- there's really only one person it could be.

Lady Brad is not a passive heroine; on their wedding night, Nick the accomplished rake says "Brad--I'm nervous, scared" and Brad replies, "I'm not" Later she gets kidnapped and escapes by using her wits; she pretends to the kidnappers that she's a Cockney maid, and promises to help them kidnap the real Lady Brad if they cut her in. Meanwhile Nick is sitting home worrying.

As Joe Bob Briggs would say, too much plot, it got in the way of the story. I didn't find it deep on the emotional level, but it was an okay time passer, it had its funny bits, and it was interesting enough to finish. (Posted by Janice 8/19/07)

I recall this book very well and I enjoyed it a lot. Brad is a slightly mature heroine who, due to an unexpected inheritance, gets to have her debut at a shockingly advanced age. She has a lot of experience of rakes, not on personal basis but as the former governess to many a heiress courted by the desolute. She thinks she has heard every sweet talking scheme there is to make woman give up her virtue. It's amazing what you learn from the sidelines. Brad has always had a soft spot for Nick, whom she considers not as bad as he's been painted, so is keenly disappointed that when the chips are down he behaves as badly as any other roue.

I agree with Janice; the book feels quite a bit like two stories inexpertly spliced together, one about the rake that got his comeupans and the other a romantic suspense. Either plot on its own could have made a nice story, together they feel quite confusing and neither got its due. Still, I have it on my keeper shelf and occasionally reread the opening chapters with enjoyment. I so LOVE how Brad leads Nick along! (Posted by yvonne 8/19/07)

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#30 An Unequal Match

by Rachelle Edwards

ISBN: 0709139934, 0449209504, 0708950825

Published 1974 by Hale, reprinted 1986 by Fawcett, large print edition by Leicester 1997

When the story opens, Miss Verena Barrington is 16. Verena's father Lorne is a drunken ex-actor whose looks, spoiled by smallpox, keep him from getting work. Her mother was a lady, but she died several years ago. Her father has spent every last penny on gambling and alcohol and they are living in a tenement basement with rats. Verena has hocked the last thing she had to buy food, which her father ate most of, even though Verena is painfully thin and on the verge of starvation herself. Her father tells her that he can collect a gambling debt and make her a lady, as he promised her mother. Verena is hungry, humiliated, and out of ideas.

The new Marquis of Strafford's father and older brother were rakehells, killed together in a curricle accident. Justin is trying to pull things together and has sold off his own property to pay debts. Lorne goes to Justin with an IOU in his father's hand showing that his father had gambled away Strafford Priory and tells him that the debt will be forgiven if Justin will marry Verena. Justin is unimpressed by Verena and repelled by the whole thing but it's the only way to keep the Priory; he marries Verena and leaves her immediately after the wedding to travel in Europe. While he's gone his Aunt Harriet takes Verena under her wing; some good food, a little instruction and some new clothes, and Verena becomes the toast of London. Justin returns from France to find a beautiful young woman in place of the starved waif he rejected, and what's more, she has a suitor willing to marry her, and he reacts like the dog Oscar when he's had his bone snatched from under his snout.

There's nothing at all new or remarkable about this book. It's competently written, it doesn't have any mistakes, it's not too modern, it's readable -- but it's dull because I've seen all these elements too many times before. I knew what would happen. I read on, hoping something would be different about it, but there wasn't anything. When I had finished it, I was sorry I hadn't spent the time on something else. At least it was short.

The book is mislabeled regency; it's really a Georgian as it takes place before the French Revolution. Also whoever wrote the back cover blurb misspelled the hero's name. So I guess Fawcett didn't spend a lot of time on it either. (Posted by Janice 8/16/07)

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#29 False Betrothal

by Clarice Peters

ISBN: 0-449-20513-4, 0-263-76108-8, 0-263-11804-5 (0449205134)

Published by Fawcett, 1984, reissued by Mills & Boon 1988

Mr. Leigh Denning takes shelter overnight during a violent rainstorm at the home of Miss Alexa Eiseley. Alexa had been closing up the house prior to leaving for Bath, and no servants remained in the house. No harm should have come of it, but in the morning as Leigh was taking leave of Alexa, Mrs. Nettles saw them and she told her sister Mrs. Borthwick, and the two tabbies had a field day spreading gossip that Alexa had spent the night with Sebastian, Earl of Winslow. Leigh was mistaken for his uncle Sebby because Leigh aped his uncle's fashions and was wearing a many-caped driving coat of similar design to Sebby's.

Sebby and Alexa have been good friends for years, but neither one has a particular desire to marry anybody, let alone the other. However, with Alexa's reputation compromised, Sebby feels he should save her, so he comes up with the idea of a false betrothal; since he was the one identified in the gossip, it should be with him rather than Leigh. Alexa agrees with the understanding that when the gossip dies down they will quietly break it off.

Unfortunately for Alexa and Sebby, everyone -- Alexa's brother George, his wife Maria, Sebby's sister Lady Rowena and his mother Lady Winslow -- are so delighted with the supposed match that the engagement takes on a life of its own, and before they know it Lady Winslow is pressing for a date and has their wedding half planned. Sebby finds it particularly impossible to tell his mother, who thinks Alexa is a paragon and just the woman she would most wish to be her daughter in law, that the betrothal is a hoax. But if it really is just a hoax, then why does Sebby feel so out of temper whenever another man comes near Alexa?

This is a very pleasant light comedy of two stubborn people being lovingly maneuvered into realizing that they're right for each other. Nice supporting characters, nice regency feel. It's another Chinese food read (quickly forgotten), but I enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 8/10/07)

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#28 Hidden Inheritance

by Emily Hendrickson

ISBN: 0-451-15837-7, 0-7090-8190-1, 1-8461-7858-4 (0451158377)

Published by Signet, 1989, reissued hardcover 2006, large print 2007

Miss Vanessa Tarleton has good experience as a needlewoman; she mended and restored the valuable antique tapestries at her father's estate until he gambled away their fortune. After her father's death, she knows that if she stays with her aunt Agatha, she'll be an unpaid housekeeper and drudge 24/7/365. She has to find a paying job.

Nicholas, the Earl of Stone, hires her to travel to Yorkshire to repair the tapestries. He is in the process of restoring his house to what it should be, but he has to be careful about money in doing so.

Nicholas has a younger sister, Lady Juliana, and he hasn't quite noticed that the girl is growing up. His neighbor, the widow Hewit, has him in her sights and is catty and condescending to Juliana, putting her in unflattering gowns and interfering with the servants to overfeed her.

Juliana is unhappy, overweight and spotty; she asks Vanessa's help in improving her appearance because she has a crush on Nicholas's friend Sir Harry, who still thinks of her as a kid when he notices her at all. At first Nicholas forbids "quackery" (Vanessa has recipes for skin lotions and weightloss teas) but Juliana, Vanessa and Katie the maid conspire and work on these things secretly. Vanessa even convinces Nicholas to let Juliana have a new wardrobe of more appropriate clothes.

Vanessa, when not occupied with meddling, works on the tapestries and notices some odd hard lumps in them. Odd kind of trapunto, she thinks. She also notices that the housekeeper Mrs. Murdoch seems antagonistic for no particular reason, and seems to have some small cash enterprises going of her own.

Nicholas (if he's a rake, he's the most staid and least lustful rake I've ever read about) finds himself attracted to Vanessa, and more & more respectful of her character, temper, dignity and kindness, despite the snide remarks of his wannabe girlfriend Mrs. Hewit.

This was the most interesting Emily Hendrickson regency I've ever read. The characters in this book are a little less cardboardish, the research dumping is not as intrusive, and the style seems a little smoother -- plus I'm a sucker for any story that starts out with a heroine who's broke and has to do something on her own to rescue herself. This heroine is neither feisty nor stupid; she just has backbone and dignity, and I quite liked her. However, at no point did I feel that there was any strong emotion between her and the hero; the text tells me that there is, but I didn't *feel* it.

I would give this a mild recommendation, particularly to those who enjoy period trivia. (Not that I don't; I just don't like books where it takes over.) (Posted by Janice 8/8/07)

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#27 First Season

by Jane Ashford

ISBN: 0-451-12678-5 (0451126785)

Published by Signet, 1984

I had vague memories of having read it before back in the day, but nothing specific except that it was "good".

Anabel, Lady Wyndham is a young widow with three children. She had never had a season; her father had arranged a marriage for her with Sir Ralph Wyndham. She had been fond of her husband and content enough in the marriage, managing her household and her three children William, Nicholas and Susan. Except for household and childrearing matters, Anabel has never been encouraged or allowed to do her own thinking or make any decisions for herself; the men in her life, first her father and then Ralph, made all the arrangements.

At the urging of her mother Lady Goring, Anabel and her family have come to stay with her and Anabel's young cousin Georgina in London. Anabel is still a young and beautiful woman, and Lady Goring thinks it's time she thought about remarrying. Georgina is a "problem", however; she only likes two things -- candy and novels.

The kids hate London; they have a governess instead of their mama giving them their lessons, they are not allowed to go out of the house alone and they can't go riding or play as they used to do, because life in London is so different. Their only consolation (aside from Susan's rescue cat Daisy) is that their neighbor Christopher Hanford has also come to London. Christopher has been quietly in love with Anabel for years; since her husband's death, he's become her most trusted friend, her 911, and the kids love "Uncle Christopher" -- but she has never thought of him in the light of a possible mate.

In London Anabel meets Sir Charles Norbury and drifts into an engagement with him. I love this character; he is so well drawn, possibly the most self-centered man in England. Anabel loves her children, but he'd like to pack them all off to school; for him they're just in the way. Anabel feels a physical reaction to him that she never felt for her husband and she doesn't know what to make of it. He always says the right things, and he can elicit her surrender response by his skill, but he can't completely conceal the fact that it will always be All About Him. What Anabel might want or need from him is irrelevant to him; she should think herself lucky that he chose her and gratefully accept what he can offer, as should the rest of the universe.

Christopher sees all this and is very hurt by it. Georgina sees Christopher and becomes infatuated with him. Anabel starts to see Norbury for what he is. The kids, especially Susan the strongwilled, decide to meddle.

This is an extremely well written book -- all the characters are distinct individuals, even the kids and the cat -- yet it's done with a marvelous economy of words. There is a gentle wry undertone throughout; the comedy scenes aren't overdone and the serious ones are thoughtful, not heavyhanded. She does a great deal with just a few words.

Classic, highly recommended. (Posted Janice by 8/5/07)

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#26 A Husband for Christmas

by Paula Tanner Girard

ISBN: 0-8217-5814-4

Published by Zebra, 1997

This is the third in a series (Charade of Hearts and A Father for Christmas) but it reads like a standalone; if I ever read the others, I don't recall them.

Lady Caroline Cavendish, bored with her position as The Incomparable, meets a pleasant if clumsy old gentleman, the Earl of Blackmere, at Almack's one evening. Some time ago Caroline was robbed by the notorious Bandit King, who stole her money but sent her a precious black pearl in return, which she wears on a chain around her neck. The Earl seems to recognize this jewel. Lady Sefton writes Caroline the next day that she has made quite a conquest in the eccentric old gentleman, who is begging permission to call upon her. He proves quite interested in her father's library and Caroline comes to look forward to having tea with him daily as he works on his self-appointed task of cataloging the collection.

Lady Caroline decides to visit her old nurse in the country for a few days, with her companion and maid, Mlle Suzette. During the journey they find that the hamper in the carriage contains not refreshments but a very wet baby girl, Poppy. Poppy's mother is dying of a fever and her brother Tommy, who does odd jobs in the stables, overheard the landlady conspiring to sell little Poppy to a broker who buys toddlers to be raised until they are old enough to be of interest to London's pedophile nobs. Tommy took Poppy to the stables and left her in the carriage, but when he returned home, his mother and her tiny savings in the china teapot were both gone. Caroline has no idea whose the baby is but takes her in as her ward. Poppy loves to play peekaboo; Tommy had taught her to hide when anybody came around their tenement rooms. One day in the park Poppy runs off and is fished out of the drink by Mr. Kendale, a self-made shipping magnate with the same very green eyes as the Earl.

This was a pleasant read, rather like a Judith Lansdowne, in that all the characters are pretty nice, except for the odd villain or two, and their eccentricities are interesting. Caroline begins to grow from a spoiled and self-centered young lady typical of her class to someone with broader sympathies. I liked the sly humor in the way her companion Suzette gets her to do what she wants her to. There is one honking great mistake at the very end, but this is set in RegencyLand and I guess it can be forgiven in a comedy. (Posted by Janice 8/4/07)

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#25 Annabelle

by Marion Chesney

ISBN: 0-70-882035-2, 0-312-91365-6

Published by Macdonald Futura, St. Martin's Press

Miss Annabelle Quennell is the daughter of a poor country cleric, the rector of Hazeldean. Her father is quite nice and does genuinely care for her happiness, but her forceful mother believes that "the only thing we have in the bank is one beautiful daughter", so Annabelle must be sent to London to make a great match so that husbands can also be found for her three plainer sisters. Her godmother, Lady Emmeline, the Dowager Marchioness of Eversley, has invited her and even had a London wardrobe made up for her in advance. Annabelle has been raised with strict notions of duty and obedience, and though she will miss her country home, she goes. The morning she leaves, the old gypsy woman Meg asks to read her palm. Annabelle knows that it's all an act, but the old woman falls into a genuine trance and makes a prophecy that she will face danger.

Upon arrival in London, Annabelle finds Lady Emmeline to be a grotesque old woman trying to look and act 30 years younger. Lady Emmeline has a suitor in mind for Annabelle, Captain Jimmy MacDonald. Jimmy is very popular with his drunken, wagering crowd, and in general thought to be a fine figure of a man. Annabelle wears the first of the gowns Lady Emmeline has had made up for her to the opera, and they assure her that she looks exactly as she should, but Annabelle thinks the neckline is way too low; no wonder people, including Lord Sylvester Varleigh, are staring at her. Varleigh has a mistress, Lady Jane Cherle, who aspires to marry him. Jimmy aspires to Lady Emmeline's fortune.

There was a raucous, boorish side to regency social life; it was never the fairy tale that many authors portray. Think of all those painted people in the background in "Princess Caraboo" -- they hardly ever turn up in other authors' books, but they're in Chesney. If you're in the mood for a deep point of view romance focused on hero and heroine, she's not a good choice. If you're in the mood for something short that just rockets along, skating over angst and humor alike, she's good at that. I like the color and acerbic humor that she brought to regencies. Very satisfying ending as well. (Posted by Janice 7/27/07)

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#24 The Promissory Note

by Rebecca Ward

ISBN: 0-517-01002-X

Published by Random House, 1989

The ladies of Lattimer House were left penniless when Sir Henry died in a hunting accident the previous fall. Gratiana, Lady Lattimer, and her two daughters Rosalys (the smart one) and Daphne (the pretty one) are down to two servants, a cook and an elderly butler who are too old or too loyal to go elsewhere. Their man of business has told them there's nothing left to do except sell the house before it's foreclosed on. They have been selling off jewelry and other items to keep the household going, but there's very little left. Gratiana and Daphne have not taken it very well; it's Rosalys who has the gumption to bargain with tradesmen and do the maid's work.

Lady Lattimer, however, has a couple of aces left. One is her pretty daughter Daphne, who ought to marry well, and the other is a Promissory Note, in which her late husband and his best hunting buddy the Duke of Kedwell made an agreement for a marriage between daughter and son. The Duke had two sons by two marriages; the first, the current Duke, is already married, but Major Connor St. Cyr (Viscount Dracourt, or Drax to his friends) is available.

When Rosalyn takes her grandmother's pearl ear-bobs to the butcher to trade for meat to feed St. Cyr, who is expected the next day, a boorish dandy mistakes her for a maidservant and attempts to molest her. A heroic young man dressed as a groom and speaking with a heavy Yorkshire accent pulls the dandy off her and dumps him in the mud.

Later that day when St. Cyr arrives Rosalyn is surprised to see that he's the same man who aided her. However he's clumsy and slightly dopey, tipping over chairs and spilling vases -- not the sort of man Daphne would want at all. Ros of course quickly sees that it's a pose.

I can almost hear those of you who have read this far chanting "Unknown Ajax! Unknown Ajax!", and there's reason for that, what with all the Yorkshire accent and pretending to be clumsy and dopey stuff. However, the family setup is quite different from Ajax and the book is a light comedy focused on the two leads rather than a novel about family dynamics. So I would class it as an homage rather than anything more sinister. An pleasant enough read (if the title error doesn't put you off), but nothing I would urge anyone not to miss. (Posted by Janice 7/22/07)

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#23 Miss Dalrymple's Virtue

by Margaret Westhaven

ISBN: 0-373-31021-8

Published by Harlequin, 1988

Miss Sophia Dalrymple, the daughter of a country clergyman, is an authoress in search of a patron to help her get her novels published. She and her father, who believes in her talent, have written all their relatives and connections, trying to get someone to use his influence, but to no avail. At breakfast one morning Sophia jokes with her father that she has only one thing left to sell to get patronage -- her virtue.

The Marquis of Carrisbrooke (Charles) has a minor property adjoining the vicarage, where his widowed sister Lady Amarantha Burroughs and her daughter Echo ( a beautiful but emptyheaded young lady with an amazing appetite) live. Several years ago Sophia had seen Charles -- she had been up a tree stealing plums from his orchard -- but he doesn't recall the incident as he had thought her just some young country girl. Since that time Sophia has daydreamed about him and has put him (or aspects of him) into her books.

Charles is visiting his sister; to kill an empty morning, he decides to pay a duty call on the vicar. He takes a short cut through the vicarage garden and finds Sophia there. Sophia tells him that she is a writer and that to get his patronage she is willing to have an affair with him. Charles thinks it's pretty funny and strings her along (I don't think we're supposed to believe he really means it).

He takes one of her manuscripts to his sister for an opinion and, somewhat to his surprise, she tells him it's very good. They invite Sophia to visit London with them so that she can enjoy the success of her book, which is to be pubished by Mr Murray as "By a Lady". Echo blurts out the secret of her authorship and Sophia becomes a minor celebrity, but many people notice the resemblance between her hero and Charles. Just as things are going well, and Charles is coming to realize that he would like to marry Sophia, her father's revolting curate shows up to throw a spanner in the works.

This is a lighthearted comedy perfect for summer reading. It's like Chinese food -- I am sure I didn't remember it five minutes after I read it the first time and I likely won't this time either -- and even though there's nothing really new about it, it's a very pleasant read. (Posted by Janice 7/16/07)

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#22 The Sealed Knot

by Elizabeth Law

ISBN: 0802710859, 0792711688

Published 1989 by Walker, large print edition Curley 1992

This is stated to be the beginning of a Sparrow and Simon series, but there don't seem to be any other titles and this is the last published book by Elizabeth Law or her pseudonyms.

Miss Sparrow Harvey meets Mr. Simon Adair when he sees her surreptitiously tossing food out a ballroom window to a mudlark, Lancelot Higgindrop. Sparrow's improvident father has just broken his leg and the household is out of cash as his business investments (mostly racing) are at a low ebb. Marie Sinclair offers Sparrow L100 to go to Scotland and find out why a man calling himself Adam Stuart abruptly left her and did not write. Sparrow goes to Craig Bothwell, where the elderly Sir Alasdair and Lady Agnes Stuart live; Lance follows. Sir Alasdair and Lady Agnes have one remaining grandson, a young boy named Peter, who is being tutored by Charles Roe. Sparrow also sees Simon hanging around with a mysterious lady named Aglae; Sparrow is suspicious of this lady's morals and her plumed hats. Charles is very charming and flirtatious with Sparrow, but he seems to have a touch of weakness about him. There is some mystery about him or what is going on at Craig Bothwell.

Quietly funny, charming, and had an actual plot. I'm sorry Law apparently never did more books with these characters. I wonder what became of her. (Posted by Janice 7/19/07)

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#21 Red Rose

by Mary Balogh

ISBN: 0-451-14157-1

Published by Signet, 1986

Cousins Miss Rosalind Dacey and Lady Sylvia Marsh became wards of the new Earl of Raymore (Edward) after the death of Sylvie's father. He summons them to London with the intention of marrying them off as quickly as possible to put an end to this annoying responsibility. Edward has had several painfully bad experiences with key women in his life and neither likes nor trusts females.

Sylvie, a sunny perfect little blonde who falls in and out of love easily, looks forward to her debut and all the clothes, balls, flirting, etc., but Rosalind, a more complex woman, would much rather have stayed behind at Raymore Hall. Rosalind has a bad limp; she broke her leg as a 5 year old and it wasn't set properly so that now one leg is shorter than the other. She doesn't want fashionable clothes or a season; she just wants to be left alone in the country, where she can walk and ride in peace. The solace of her life is her music; she is a gifted pianist and singer.

Sylvie is happy in London and "takes" immediately, but Rosalind and Edward dislike each other on sight. Rosalind hates being ordered around as much as Edward hates having his will questioned. Sylvie accepts Lord Standen because it will be such a brilliant match that will please everyone, though she really likes his younger brother Nigel Broome better.

Rosalind receives an offer from Sir Bernard Crawleigh, who sees beyond the clothes Rosalind chooses that disguise her voluptuous figure and who can tease her and make her laugh and even dance with him. Meanwhile Edward, who loves music, has begun to listen to Rosalind's daily solitary sessions in the music room, and hearing her play and sing, especially Burns's "Red Rose", begins to crack his distrust of the feelings he has begun to have for her. Rosalind is beginning to have her own misgivings about her engagement to Crawleigh; how can she be so indifferent to Crawleigh's lovemaking when Edward's mere presence is enough to make her feel intensely aware?

This is a classic, not to be missed. I've probably read this one a dozen times over the years and it has as much emotional impact now as it did the first time I read it. Used copies are getting pricey; I hope this one's on Balogh's list for reprinting so everybody can read it. (Posted by Janice 7/15/07)

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#20 An Infamous Attachment

by Helen Tucker

ISBN: 0-449-50072-1

Published by Fawcett, 1980

Miss Linnet Douglas had very little left to her when her parents died, so she has left Scotland behind to live with her distant cousins Lord and Lady Renfrow (Chester and Anabel) in London. Lord Renfrow, a strongwilled and somewhat bullheaded man, decides that he can dispose of two problems at once -- Linnet will need a husband and it's time his nephew and heir Jarvis Renfrow left off his wild ways and settled down. Having little money, Linnet travels alone by stage from Scotland; the other passengers are the mysterious Mr. Kenneth Murdoch and a Mrs Faison and her maid. Mrs. Faison is insatiably curious about her fellow passengers, and when they stop at an inn, she sees Murdoch coming in and out of Linnet's rooms (he had brought her a tray of food because she was exhausted and feeling a bit ill from the stagecoach ride).

In London Linnet settles in with the Renfrows and they seem to like her very well. They give a reception to introduce her to society; Chester sees it as a step towards announcing an engagement to Jarvis. But Mrs. Faison has told Anabel's sister Ailsa a scandalous version of Linnet's behavior on the journey down to London. Chester then tells Murdoch he has to marry Linnet, but Murdoch absolutely refuses. To Anabel's dismay, Chester accuses Linnet of being an immoral woman and throws her out of the house. Murdoch feels somewhat responsible for what happened; if he had sent a maid with that tray, the old bat would have had nothing concrete to report. With nowhere to go and no money, Linnet has no choice but to accept Murdoch's offer to let her stay in a suite of rooms (currently unoccupied) that he has in Russell Square. Linnet is not Murdoch's mistress but of course everyone thinks she must be.

Chester tells Jarvis that the marriage is off, and tries to force him to marry his airhead niece Juliet (Ailsa's daughter) instead, threatening to disinherit him if Jarvis doesn't obey. Jarvis has by this time begun to like Linnet very well and to be very tired of his uncle's demands. Linnet's feelings begin to transfer from Murdoch to Jarvis. Anabel finally gets a backbone. All ends well.

This is an old fashioned trad. The author wasn't as up on the era as one could wish, and makes several errors -- Anabel is afraid of "germs" being brought into the house; Chester threatens to disinherit Jarvis from the title as well as his money; villains are pursued by "the police", Anabel and Linnet shop for new clothes and go from shop to shop buying ready-made gowns for Linnet; they take the carriage but they don't take a maid, so Linnet is left to walk back to the carriage alone when Anabel goes off alone somewhere else. Usually mistakes like that would irritate me to the point that the book would be a wallbanger, but I kept reading to find out what would happen, or possibly just because the book was short

I can't recommend hunting this one out, because of the errors, but it was an OK timepasser. (Posted by Janice 7/14/07)

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#19 Sensible Cecily

by Margaret Summerville

ISBN: 0-440-17908-4

Published by Dell, 1980

After the death of her parents and her Aunt Sophie, Miss Cecily Camden went to live with the family of her aunt, Lady Throxton. Lord and Lady Throxton have a daughter, Lady Prunella Throckmorton, who is very attached to bonbons and her two spaniels Tutti and Fru Fru. Cecily is considered no competition for Prunella, since Cecily is several years older and has that unfortunate red hair. Lord Higglesby-Smythe, a shy somewhat bookish sort, is in love with Prunella, but she isn't interested; her sights are set on more exciting suitors.

The Marquis of Ashford (Geoffrey) is plagued with two hopeless nephews -- Reginald Stonecipher, a dandy, and Sir Chesterfield Willoughby, a boor who borrows Ashford's horses without permission. Reggie and his mother Arabella have come to believe that the Stonecipher fortune is gone; Albert Stonecipher manufactures Stonecipher's Boot Blacking, but Beau Brummel has praised Bingham's, and now Stonecipher's brand is completely exploded. Reggie decides he must marry an heiress, and he and his equally silly friend Jeeters Crimpson form a plan to pursue Prunella. For reasons of his own, the Marquis decides to sponsor Reggie and Jeeters into society. Ashford meets Cecily as well, and thinks what a nice girl, but nothing more.

All persons assemble for a hunting party at Lord and Lady Throxton's country estate. The company is so appalling that Ashford has begun to really notice Cecily, since she is one of the very few sensible persons present. Reginald and Jeeters continue their pursuit of Prunella; they have gone so far as to get Reggie a dog (Black/Spot) to win Prunella's sympathy; unfortunately the dog hates him. Ashford becomes more and more exasperated with the whole business, and his only consolation is Cecily's company.

This book is lots of fun. Cecily and Geoffrey are quite sympathetic, but it's the subsidiary characters that make this one. Reggie and Jeeters are in the mold of PG Wodehouse's young men, and there's a priceless elopement scene that made me laugh out loud as Reggie and the dog Spot (or Blackie) finally lose it. Worth looking for. (Posted by Janice 7/13/07)

It's rather amazing how differently two people can view the same book. I'm generally a fan of Summerville's writing but Sensible Cecily leaves me cold. I find the dialogue stilted and uninteresting, too much explaining compared to showing, the young men unappealing in the extreme and getting way more room in the book than I enjoy, perhaps because I don't find them funny but tiresome? The portrait of Beau Brummel, supposedly a friend of Ashford, is unconvincingly drawn and I doubt a man renown for his wit would constantly utter such platitudes! This book commits the ultimate crime - it bores me! (Posted by yvonne 10/31/08)

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#18 Lord Wicked Wolf

by Margaret Summerville

ISBN: 0-440-14996-7

Published by Dell, 1982

Miss Cassandra Covington, an impoverished young lady, was governess to Mary and Belinda, children of Sir Alec and Lady Strathmore. Being neither fish nor fowl, she has only one friend there, the housekeeper Hester Hedgepath, a fan of anything naval. Cassandra meets Caliban, a mastiff belonging to Fulke Wolverham, who (the dog) is considered dangerous to all but his master, yet Cassandra can control him with ease, and in this way she becomes acquainted with "Lord Wicked Wolf", a guest of the Strathmores known for his foul temper and blunt manners. Unfortunately Fulke's ex-mistress, Lady St Albans, is also a guest, and between her spite and the unwelcome advances of the son of the house, Cassandra is deemed unsuitable and thrown out on her ear.

When her best friend Hester learns of this, she proposes that she combine her savings with Cassandra's small inheritance so that they can go to Brighton where Cassandra can pose as a well-off young lady and find a husband. They carry out their plan and soon Miss Covington is the sensation of Brighton, meeting many eligibles, whom Hester details in a ledger which they may study to find the best candidate. Hester would like Cassandra to choose Admiral Sir Horace Wibberley, but Cassandra thinks he's quite too old for her, and the Admiral thinks Hester is a fine figure of a woman and astonishingly knowledgeable about naval matters since she agrees with him on everything. Cassandra has never believed that Fulke is as bad as rumor has painted him, and Fulke finds himself in love for the first time in his life.

This was a very pleasant way to pass an hour. It has a light humorous tone to it which reminds me of Marion Chesney, except it doesn't have her sharp satiric edge. Worth looking for. (Posted by Janice 7/12/07)

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#17 Double Deception

by Elizabeth Law

ISBN: 0-8027-0950-8, 0-8217-2825-3

Published by Walker, 1987

Anne Sinclair and Anna Sayle are BFFs at Miss Turnbull's Academy. Anne is a wealthy heiress whose uncle Buckfast mailed her off to school and hasn't paid much attention to her since; now he has sent for her to join him in Yorkshire in preparation for her comeout. Anna Sayle is a charity pupil of unknown antecedents who feels she should take up a position rather than continuing at the academy, where she has been a sort of general helper for the past few years. Anne the heiress is the more forceful of the two, and Anna the poor girl is the prettier.

Neither one of the girls wishes to go into the situation immediately facing them without a summer of freedom first. Anne wants time to write a book before she is put on the marriage mart, and Anna longs for a little gaiety before she fades into a servant. Anne has the daring idea that they should switch places for the summer; Anne will go to France to be a sewing woman at the home of the de Lanuits, and Anna will go to Yorkshire posing as Anne. Since no one there has seen Anne since the age of 8 and no one has ever seen Anna, it ought to work.

On the way to France Anne meets an attractive young physician from Quebec. She arrives in France to find a household in disarray. The baroness took up the role of invalid after the birth of their second child and the baron, denied his wife, took up with floozies in Paris. The children have had a series of governesses, all seduced by the baron and packed off; the household is not being managed and the servants do the minimum.

Meanwhile up in Yorkshire Anna is being showered with attention and new clothes, and is finding that Uncle Buckfast isn't quite the cold uncaring ogre Anne had led her to expect, while Uncle Buckfast is finding his "niece" all too attractive.

I liked this book very much; it is a very old fashioned type of book that probably would be unpublishable today, as it depends on nuance, a bit of humor, and the patient growth of relationships -- as opposed to the last two historicals I read in which the lead characters were banging each other by page 50. (Posted by Janice 7/1/07)

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#16 The Ardent Lady Amelia

by Laura Matthews

ISBN: 0-451-12770-6

Published by Signet, 1984

It was unexpectedly light; I usually think of Laura Matthews's books as being concerned with more serious themes and situations, or themes handled more seriously.

Amelia is the Earl of Welsford's younger sister. She is intelligent and energetic, the sort of person who needs something to do in life besides enjoy herself. Her brother Peter is involved in war work, in that he keeps his ears open and reports anything suspicious to the authorities. Amelia wanted to help too and has been flirting with men at social occasions for whatever information she can pick up.

Peter's friend Lord Verwood (Alexander) was wounded in the knee and has given up his commission, but he too is doing work for the War Office. Verwood is not (he thinks) facile in social graces, and has a sardonic sense of humor. Amelia thinks Verwood is a bit shifty and isn't sure he is who he says he is. Both gentlemen try to dissuade Amelia from information gathering as they're afraid she'll get herself in trouble.

In the course of the social round they have met one M. Chartier, a young French emigre who has just brought his lovely and ingenuous sister Veronique to London; Peter falls for her. Amelia is suspicious of Chartier, and the gentleman are also interested in finding out if he's a French agent or just another emigre. Meanwhile, Amelia, who has gradually come to believe in Verwood and has fallen in love with him, learns that her belief in him was founded on a lie he had told her when they were first acquainted.

There are two major comic set pieces -- one when Amelia visits a woman whom she has brought out of London poverty to live on their estate, and finds that the woman (who has a certain demeanor and suspiciously red hair) complains, isn't appreciative, wants things, doesn't want to work and generally hates it there, and another when Peter and Verwood stage a moonlight spy hunt to satisfy Amelia's desire to be in on the game, and Amelia learns quickly that she really doesn't want to be running around in the dark in men's clothes getting shot at. Amelia loves Verwood and agrees to marry him, and he promises that she will find an outlet for her energies when he goes into politics.

Amelia does have a real problem -- what does an intelligent, energetic young woman do when she feels bored and useless and unimportant in the world? -- but it's handled more as comedy. The author treads a fine line between mocking Amelia and sympathizing with her. At the end I was left wondering if what Verwood can offer will satisfy an active spirit like Amelia's forever. (Posted by Janice 6/30/07)

Laura Matthews is a favorite author of mine and I recently read this book as well. I enjoyed the premise and some of it is rather funny and, on a deeper level, also rather sad. Amelia is a character with little self-awareness and her views of herself and those around her are quite distorted. For instance, Amelia, thinking she's subtly questioning those she meet, put the pressure on people and is totally oblivious to their startled reactions. Hardly top spying material!

I had a lot of sympathy for this heroine, felt her frustration, but could not see a real solution for her. In a way this character is a person born in the wrong century and there is no helping that. Like Janice I wondered if marriage to Alexander will be enough for her. Still, after saying that, Matthews knows how to tell a story and it's an enjoyable read. (Posted by yvonne 7/1/07)

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#15 A Breath of Scandal

by Jeanne Carmichael

ISBN: 0-449-22372-8

Published by Fawcett, 1995

Miss Candace Stafford's Mom ran away with another man and died abroad when Candace was a child. Her aunt Emily and uncle Jonathan Trent, a country vicar, took her in and treated her as their own, but there was always that breath of scandal in her background. She has lived with them and their two daughters Thomasina and Theresa in a country backwater ever since, doing good works and trying to live down her mother's past. Her brother Rob is off in the army somewhere and isn't a part of her life. Her only chance for a marriage appears to be Jasper Fairgood, a mama's boy.

Harry Reynald is the younger brother of Damian, Earl of Doncaster. Harry owes the Duke of Cardiff a gaming debt of 6,000 pounds; the duke forges Harry's vowel to read 60,000 pounds and presents it to Damian. Damian promises to settle the debt within 30 days and takes off to find his missing brother; Damian travels as a plain mister under his middle names, Edward Croyden.

Candace has run across Harry in the woods near her home, after he's been shot in the shoulder by Cardiff's thugs; Cardiff wants Harry dead so that no one can dispute the larger amount of the IOU. She takes him to a gamekeeper's hut, tends his wound, brings him food and agrees to sell his emerald ring for him to get him funds. When "Mr Croyden" arrives in the village, he knows Harry is in the area and he sees that Candace knows something about it. Candace won't trust him with Harry's whereabouts; he hasn't disclosed that he is Harry's brother and Harry has also said he doesn't want his brother to know where he is.

To me the most memorable part of this book is the background portrait of two of the subsidiary characters, Emily and Jonathan Trent. Jonathan is described as a short, slender, bald little man, remarkable only for his kind and intelligent eyes and his devotion to his calling. Emily had had a season in her day and surprised many by choosing him over handsomer and richer men. They are very happy together. The other characters in the book seem nowhere near as real as these two.

One gaffe noted - a neighbor, Sir Bonamy Bakersfield, is referred to as Sir Bakersfield. I laughed more at this than anything else as Bakersfield is a California town originally renowned for country music and two kinds of weather - hot and hotter.

If I recall correctly, Carol Quinto aka Jeanne Carmichael died some years ago. Another enjoyable writer gone. (Posted by Janice 06/24/07)

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#14 Megan

by Norma Lee Clark

ISBN: 0-449-50005-5

Published by Fawcett Coventry, 1979

Miss Megan Watkins, 17, is the very pretty daughter of a country vicar. Her mother had a London season in her youth, and she would like Megan to be exposed to a wider range of choices of men, so when Aunt Soames invites Megan to come to London as a guest to companion her very beautiful daughter Diane during the season, Megan accepts. The lure for country mouse Megan is not balls or parties; it's the opportunity to visit bookstores and meet and talk with writers and poets. Megan is genuinely grateful and eager to be of use to her aunt and her spoiled cousin. People are drawn to Megan because of her freshness, kindness and openness.

Cousin Diane has her eye on Lord Atherton and it suits her purpose that Megan forms a fast friendship with his sister Jane, a rather plain but very likable girl. Megan overhears some personal remarks by Sir Morely Edgecumbe about herself (not on the level of a Brandon Davis but still pretty disgusting things to say about a young and innocent girl), and so she's concerned when Edgecumbe pursues her friend Jane, who has never had an admirer before. Jane knows her brother does not approve of Edgecumbe but she doesn't know the particulars and so does not know to avoid him.

Megan has made a friend of Mr. Horace Parks, the noted author of The Castle of Otreto, and between them they foil Edgecumbe's plan to revenge himself on Jane's brother by causing bad gossip about Jane.

This is a nice restful book about a very nice girl with very nice friends; even spoiled Cousin Diane finds her match. There's no great drama and there's a lot of dry gentle humor. It's mostly a story of three couples sorting themselves out. (Posted by Janice 06/20/07)

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#13 Gamester's Lady

by Barbara Sherrod (aka Barbara Neil)

ISBN: 0-451-17930-7

Published by Signet, 1994

Miss Miranda Troy has gone through many interests. Her current passion is "improving"; having seen Blaise Castle's famous grounds by Mr. Repton, she means to study landscaping and redo the grounds at her family's country estate. Her father is alarmed at the potential expense, her mother is alarmed that yet another enthusiasm will keep Miranda from ever making the effort to make a match, and both think the house & grounds are just fine the way they are. Miranda agrees to visit London with her mother if she may use the visit to further her studies. Lady Troy hopes to make a match between Miranda and her friend Mrs. Tabitha Hastings's son Charles, and they go to stay at Mrs. Hastings's house in London. Miranda already dislikes the idea of meeting Charles.

Mr. Charles Hastings is a noted gamester. He has reason to believe that Lord Everard is way too lucky at cards, and sets himself to discover how Everard does it. He exposes Everard by winning his ring (a "shiner", which Everard used to read the cards as he dealt them). One night after leaving his mother's house, Charles is attacked and nearly beaten to death. Miranda sees the attack from her window, calls out and the thugs take off. She brings Charles inside and hides him in her bedroom until he is recovered enough from his head wound to leave under his own power. As she practices this deception upon her mother and Mrs. Hastings, Miranda feels worse and worse about it -- between hating the lying, fearing detection and fighting a growing attraction to Charles, she feels awful. Everard's thugs are still watching the house so Charles disguises himself as a woman in order to escape undetected.

Each chapter begins with either a selection from Miranda's journal or Charles's book on gambling.

I have always liked Sherrod/Neil books for their quiet, dry wit; this is one of her more lighthearted ones. Charles is interesting because you rarely see a male character who is this genuinely fond of his mother without being a fool or a mama's boy; Sylvester is the only other one who comes to mind at the moment. Miranda is interesting because these days you rarely see characters who genuinely feel bad about lying to others or deceiving their parents. It's a different mindset.

A nice fun read, very trad. No huge laughs, but many little smiles. (Posted by Janice 06/17/07)

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#12 The Learned Lady

by Joan Overfield

ISBN: 0-380-78005-4

Published by Avon, 1996

Today I read The Learned Lady by Joan Overfield, an Avon trad regency from 1996, one of the ones with the very pretty watercolor covers.

Miss Penelope Grantham is a serious scientist, but because the Royal Society does not allow women to present there, she has used the name of her brother Ulysses. The Society has been pressing her to come to London and present her research but she's been stalling them off on account of the no female speakers rule; however now they insist and her 50 pounds per year grant is in jeopardy.

Daniel Warfield emigrated to America after his father Lord Burlington cast him out. When he returns to England he learns that not only has his father passed, but his two elder brothers as well, under what seems to him to be suspicious circumstances. He is now in fact Lord Burlington, though his younger brother Andrew now has the title because everybody thought Daniel was dead.

Penelope needs a beard for her scientific presentations (her real brother Ulysses is too "eccentric" to serve), and Daniel needs entree into the ton to pursue his investigation into his brothers' deaths. Penelope's mother thinks Penelope needs a husband. All three descend on London to pursue their varied ends.

I foundit a charming trad, pleasantly written, with pleasant characters. I wouldn't call it a memorable book, exactly, but it's a good read. I particularly enjoyed Penelope's appearance at a Royal Society meeting. (Posted by Janice 06/15/07)

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#11 Lady Hathaway's House Party

by Jennie Gallant (AKA Joan Smith)

ISBN: 0-449-50020-9

Published by Fawsett January 1980

The Duke and Duchess of Avondale (Oliver and Belle) had only been married a month when an estrangement developed between them. Ollie was very rich; he showered Belle with gifts but (typical guy) didn't understand that she didn't want "things" -- what she wanted was to feel a sense of intimate connection with him. The gifts actually annoyed her; she was a simple country girl and felt the jewels and gowns were over the top. She didn't understand that he was trying to please her; she thought he was saying that she was stupid and "unpolished". He had turned her over to his cousin, one Lady Hasborough, to show her how to go on in London, but Lady H was a spiteful woman who convinced Belle that Ollie was being unfaithful to her with his cousin's wife Honey. Belle went home to her father Sir Donald for a visit and never returned.

Now a year later Ollie's cousin Kay, Lady Hathaway, a widow, is making up a house party. When she believes that Ollie won't come, she invites Belle, who arrives with Arnold Henderson. Arnold has been following her around at home, safe in the knowledge that she's married and he'll never be called upon to make good his statements about wanting to marry her. And then Ollie shows up too.

What with a French chef who has migraines, an Italian soprano who speaks no English and goes in for extreme decolletage, and either arctic chill or flaming rows between the estranged couple, it looks like the house party will be a disaster -- except to Lady Dempster, a notorious gossip who will eavesdrop and brew as much scandalbroth as she can.

This book didn't have to be a regency; it could as well have been set any time before WW II. Country house parties have never exactly come into my line so I enjoyed the parts about Kay planning hers and trying to avert disasters. It seemed very "English".

The parts where Belle and Ollie work out their eventual reconciliation -- by talking, not by having sex immediately -- were good too. It was a lack of communication fostered in part by their lifestyle, as was the case in Bella by Barbara Neil, another classic about an estranged married couple. Belle and Ollie didn't spend enough time together to get to know each other and find out each other's likes and interests; instead they had stayed in London and not even done things together very much. At the end they're headed for Belwood, Ollie's home, to begin their marriage again with a real honeymoon. Recommended. (Posted by Janice 01/25/07)

This is a favorite book of mine as well. I really like the development of the relationship and that it's not a Big Misunderstanding that could have been cleared up in ten minutes flat if they talked about it but about a marriage going wrong because of different expectations. This book perfectly illustrates how two people that love each other still need a period of adjustment when beginning their life together. This book has its lighter moments but generally it's a serious book. Warmly recommended. (Posted by yvonne 02/05/07)

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#10 The Reluctant Bride

by Cindy Holbrook

ISBN: 0-8217-6062-9

Published by Zebra January 1999

I'm almost finished with Cindy Holbrook's THE RELUCTANT BRIDE, a December 1998 Zebra regency. This is the first long Holbrook I've read, and I picked it up because some on the list have mentioned her favorably.

Those of you who like comic romps will probably like this better than I did. The heroine is very ingenuous and immature; she's starting to annoy me, as it doesn't seem she'll mature or change any. The other characters are mostly stereotypes -- the drunken father, the mothers who manipulate by threatening to faint, the commericial-minded mistresses, the knowing servants content with their position, the dashing but sensitive French emigre gambler, and so on. This may be unfair, since the books is meant as a light frothy comedy. Maybe I'm just not in the mood.

There are also a number of things that just don't sound right. One of the mothers resorts to "Heartsworn" - a maker's name of hartshorn? Hero is the Marquis of Wyndam, but introduces himself as "Alex Rothmier" instead of "Wyndam". People start calling each other by their first names immediately after being introduced to each other.

The only character I really like so far is the heroine's quiet sister Mary, who has fallen in love with the penniless French gambler. I will finish the book to see what happens to her.

If you like fast paced romps, this might be for you. If you're looking for something with more substance and some verisimilitude, then probably not. (Posted by Janice 01/16/07)

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#9 The Waltzing Widow

by Gayle Buck

ISBN: 0-451-16737-6

Published by Signet June 1991

Lady Mary Spence married Sir Roger against her parents' wishes; Viscount and Viscountess Catlin had wanted her to make a brilliant society marriage, but she had fallen in love with a somewhat older country gentleman. She defied her parents and they cut her off. Her husband died only a few years after they married, and she's devoted her life to raising her two children, William (an ensign in the army) and Abigail. Abigail show s signs of becoming a bit spoiled as she has frequently stayed with her grandmother in town and has become infected with her grandparents' ideas of a grand marriage. In all this time, Mary (who is 34 at the opening of the story) hasn't been interested in any other man.

Partly in order to keep her daughter from being completely spoiled into a younger version of her grandmother, Mary decides to skip the London season she has promised to Abigail, and instead to take her to Brussels, where much of society has flocked since Napoleon's defeat. She also wishes to be near her son, who is stationed there.

Lord Robert Kenmare is attracted to the lovely widow, but Mary at first thinks of him only as a suitable suitor for her daughter. Lord Robert's sister Cecily, who is very pregnant, is married to an army man, and is staying in the house Kenmare has rented in Brussels. Mary and her group move in with them, partly because Kenmare is worried about their safety and partly to bear Cecily company.

This book takes place at the same time and place as An Infamous Army; Mary et al attend several historical events that Heyer's characters went to, including the Duchess of Richmond's ball, and meet some of the same historical characters (Mr. Creevey, the Duke of Wellington). Although some of their experiences are similar, the characters and storyline are quite different; a lot of history but a lot more romance, I'd say.

I found it an absorbing read and would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 01/02/07)

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#8 The Fickle Fortune Hunter

by Amanda Scott

ISBN: 0-451-17731-2

Published by Signet September 1993

The cover's routine, and although it has elements mentioned in the book, they're not depicted as they were described. However the book is very good.

Lord Edward Crawley, Ninth Baron Crawley (Ned) inherited before he was ready to run an estate. He has dissipated much of his fortune, and though he's been told that his estates could support him and his sister if he worked at it, he has decided that the only way to repair his fortunes is for him and/or his sister Belinda to make a wealthy marriage. By accident he learns of a beautiful heiress, Miss Theodosia Adlam, whose portrait is to be painted by one of his best friends, Sir Richard Vyne. An hour in Theo's company convinces him that she's a spoiled, selfish beauty and he'd never want to marry her -- but Theo's older sister Felicia is just as rich. Felicia is far from unattractive herself, but she has let Theo cast her into the shade and has become the go-to person for her whole family -- her father, who only loves wine and art objects; her mother, who deals with every small crisis by pulling a faint; her niece and two nephews, whose parents dumped them on her and took off for India; her aunt, who speaks in aphorisms; Theo; and every household crisis that occurs. In short, she's a bit like Heyer's Frederica, except that Felicia's parents, who should have been handling this stuff, are still alive.

There are three love stories in this book; I suppose nowadays they'd be stretched into a three book series. Ned's good friend Dickon (Vyne, the painter) has a stormy relationship with his subject Theo, and his other best friend Peregrine, Lord Dawlish (Mongrel) thinks Ned is pushing his sister into a loveless marriage for the money. But even in this shorter book the personalities are well developed and it doesn't feel like the secondary two have been slighted. It's also loaded with regency atmosphere, without being a research dump.

It hasn't got much of a plot -- only Ned and Felicia maturing a bit and coming to understand each other better -- but it doesn't need more. The pleasure comes from knowing the characters. Worth looking for. (Posted by Janice 12/16/06)

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#7 The Duke's Disappearance

by Margaret Summerville

ISBN: 0-451-13521-0

Published by Signet April 1985

This is a book about mistaken identity and then some. Let me present our heroine, the lovely Lady Julia Granby, rich as can be. Before her marriage she was a heiress in her own right that married a rich man. As a widow she's hotly pursued relentlessly by every fortune hunter in England. No dandy with more money than taste could possibly resist such a price. To escape she decides to hide away somewhere as Mrs Nobody Special. Enter our hero, the eminently rich Duke of Wayland, that has just broken his engagement with a silly society miss after catching her in flagrante with a well know rake. Now HE decides to hide out as Mr Nobody In Particular. Unbeknownst to both, their personal servants are in love with each other and by their trickery hero and heroine end up in the same restricted neighborhood, both pretending to be not that well off. The premise sounds stupid but it works, the book is great fun and I liked it a lot. (Posted by yvonne 12/01/06)

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#6 Lady Jane's Ribbons

by Sandra Heath

ISBN: 0-451-14704-9

Published by Signet February 1987

Lady Jane Derwent was engaged to Lord Lewis Ardensley, but when he betrayed her by taking a gorgeous duchess as his mistress, she gave him back his ring. Her brother Henry is coaching-mad and his obsession with coaching is about to lose him his fiancee Blanche to the money-hungry Duke of Dursley by his neglect of her. Lady Jane decides to teach her brother a lesson by financing a rival coach to beat him and his rival in a no holds barred race from London to Brighton. This throws her back into frequent contact with Lewis. Her wonderful Aunt Agatha (once the Duke of Wellington's lover) decides to take a hand in events.

This is kind of an old fashioned regency in that as much attention is given to the coaching culture as to the love story. I liked the characters and I thought all the coaching stuff was really interesting and gave the book a lot of flavor. (Posted by Janice 11/24/06)

I've read this book several times and find it grows on you with every read. The love story is rather low key but deals with serious personal issues, such as how a person's view of themselves and/or previous experiences shape their thoughts and actions. I liked how Heath examined the breakup of the engagement and pointed to the real reason for their problems, which wasn't infidelity as such but lack of trust and communication, preconceived notions, pride, insecurities etc. These are key elements that can make or break any relationship, then and now, and I thought the author handled it very well. It's really a story about personal growth more than anything else and it will stay with you after you close the covers. The book is rather somber in tone and, as was usual in Signets back then, no sex. Sandra Heath is an excellent writer and her prose flawless. I give this story a total of 4 stars out of 5, particularly for character development. (Posted by yvonne 11/25/06)

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#5 The Torpid Duke

by Pauline York

ISBN: 0-373-31012-9

Published by Harlequin September 1986

After taking care of her family since she was seventeen Miranda Waincourt needs a break. The invitation from her cousin Tess to her country house party is heaven sent. Little does Miranda know that Tess is out to teach three of the ton's most elusive bachelors, The Three Unconquerables, a lesson in love and hopefully land at least one of them in parson's mousetrap!

Except for a short story this is York's only Regency. This story has always been a favorite of mine. The main characters are charming, the supporting cast no less so, and all well drawn. The prose is excellent, the plot and the story moves along at a clipping pace. Although we have the necessary "meeting at midnight in the library" scene, as is de rigour in country house party books, it's told with originality and verve. If you love horses you'll particularly like this story. The three bachelors are all worthy candidates of any woman's hand, there's lots of laughter but still a serious undertone. I wish more Regencies were like this one! (Posted by yvonne 11/14/06)

I too liked all three of the Unconquerables; one thing I found interesting was that she didn't make all three physically perfect fantasy figures, but did make them all different and all likable. If there was ever a book that cried out for series treatment, it's this one -- I would very much like to know if the other two ever found their soulmates.

This book is 20 years old and it's written more in the drier style of a Georgette Heyer than in the hyperemotional deep POV style that's more popular today. Lots of emphasis on witty Beatrice and Benedick style exchanges -- must have been quite challenging to write.

I don't think an author today could call her hero "torpid" -- not only does it not sound heroic, a lot of readers (and editors) would probably have to look it up.

I'm finding that going back thru my shelf of used Harlequin regencies that I really miss this series, almost as much as I miss the Signets. For one thing, they used a lot of British trad writers and their books have a different flavor to them which I like very much.

Worth picking up if you can find it and you like very trad trads. (Posted by Janice 11/21/06)

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#4 The Celebrated Miss Neville

by Barbara Neil (AKA Barbara Sherrod)

ISBN: 0-373-31130-3

Published by Harlequin July 1990

Sir Rowan Heath wants his friend Mr Anthony Omsett to come with him to a party at the home of Lord Perrot, a man who is known to have a secret store of superior port, but Tony is bogged down preparing material for the next issue of his magazine. Rowan offers to help him get through the work by dashing off a snarky review of a new book of poetry by Miss Calvinia Nutter, and he is able to write his review in record time because he doesn't bother to read the book. At the party he meets Miss Catherine Neville, who is staying with Lord and Lady Perrot and learns that she is the author. Rowan gives Tony a new review to print but Tony screws up and prints the wrong review. Catherine has come to love Rowan; how to win her back after she learns the truth? In the meanwhile, Lord Byron has decided that an affair with an English lady (Catherine) would be much more amusing than one with the demi-reps and dancers he has been favoring. (Lord Byron is a real character in the book, not just a walk-on.)

This is the sort of regency that couldn't get published nowadays. It is a romance with genuine feeling to it, but the feeling isn't overstated, and there are no sex scenes. It's written in a very precise and witty style, but it couldn't be published as mainstream because it has too much romance in it.

If you like witty writing on the order of Oscar Wilde, Georgette Heyer or PG Wodehouse, this book is worth seeking out. It's not as somber as Bella (my alltime Barbara Neil favorite), but it's the sort of book that rewards multiple readings. (Posted by Janice 11/08/06)

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#3 Charity's Gambit

by Marcy Stewart

ISBN: 0-8217-4537-9

Published by Zebra July 1994

Charity is a gentrywoman trying to support herself and her family as a piano teacher after her father disappearance on a trip. She's contemplating marriage as a means to provide for her family, not hoping for love since her childhood sweetheart died, when she encounters a stranger in the woods. He literally falls for her, dropping down out of a tree right in front of her very feet! They meet again in London where she goes as a sort of companion to her best friend, and to further her plans to find a husband. There she meets her stranger again, as well as his friend, a handsome rich Viscount. But life is never as straight forward as it seems and with villainous servants, a hero with secrets and a heroine that must marry decently, there are enough elements to stir the pot.

I enjoyed this charming book. I tumbled onto the mystery almost from the start but it's not as central or important as the author tries to make it, it is a love story after all and in that department it delivers quite well. I was astonished to learn that this was Stewart's debut novel as it's much better than the regular run off the mill stuff. The characters are likable, the plot fairly plausible or at least possible, few irritating errors either in logic or details. It was mildly amusing rather than hilarious, occasioning a smile now and then rather than guffaws. An all around pleasant experience!

Special note: The book is as nice as it's cover, which is an original and actually based on a scene in the story. (Posted by yvonne 11/02/06)

Byron lists these titles by Marcy Stewart. I have some of them marked "read", but no notes and no memory of them -- which means they weren't awful and were probably pretty good BYRON for Marcy Stewart A BRIDE FOR LORD BEAUMONT 4/2000. THE BRIDEGROOM AND THE BABY 6/1999. CHARITY's GAMBIT 4/1994. [1-Charity's Gambit] DARBY's ANGEL 7/1996. THE DARING MISS LASSITER 5/2001. »» THE ENCHANTED BRIDE 5/1998. (in My Darling Bride) A FAMILY IN THE MAKING 7/2000. Steeple Hill: Love Inspired. A FAMILY MAN 7/1999. Steeple Hill: Love Inspired. FLOWERS FOR THE BRIDE 5/1995. »» A HALO FOR MR. DEVLIN 8/1997. (in Seductive & Scandalous) »» AN INDEFINITE WEDDING 5/1995. (in Flowers for the Bride) »» LADY CONSTANCE WINS 5/1996. (in Lords & Ladies) LADY SCANDAL 8/1998. LORD MERLYN's MAGIC 10/1995. MY DARLING BRIDE 5/1998. MY LORD FOOTMAN 3/1995. [2-Charity's Gambit] SEDUCTIVE AND SCANDALOUS 8/1997. THE VISCOUNT TAKES A WIFE 5/1997. (Posted by Janice 11/04/06)

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#2 Lady in Silver

by Rebecca Ward

ISBN: 0-449-21805-8

Published by Fawsett Crest August 1990

Miss Suzanna Campion and her uncle Dickon live on a rundown estate which Dickon (a bit of a con artist) wants to turn into a sort of 19th century bed & breakfast, on the strength of tales of buried treasure and a ghost who may or may not be appearing there. Suzanna doesn't like the idea but she loves the old place and her old animals and her old servants and can't think of any other better means of keeping her home. The Earl of Brandmere, horrified at the news that his sister plans to descend upon his household with her five hellions (whom she thinks merely "spirited"), agrees to visit the estate with his friend Peter, who is in pursuit of a noted beauty. The beauty has her eye on the wealthy Earl and recognizes a possible rival in Suzanna.

Some of the elements are pretty familiar, but I thought it a light enjoyable read with likeable characters (Peter, the kids and the kids' mom in particular) and a good deal of humor. (Posted by Janice 10/25/06)

I like Ward's style a lot and she writes interesting books with well drawn characters but wouldn't recommend them for humor alone as it's rather lowkey and sometimes overwhelmed by the angst. This was a more than acceptable read although not as good as 'Fair Fortune' which continues as my favorite of hers. (Posted by yvonne 11/30/06)

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#1 The Rake's Quarry

by Elizabeth Inman (AKA Elizabeth Rehfeld)

ISBN: 0-8217-4755-X

Published by Zebra February 1995

I finished The Rake's Quarry last night -- in fact I stayed up reading to do it.

It's an interesting book for several reasons, and I doubt if it would have been published in this form today. It's one of those old longer form Zebra regencies, and it's the only title by this author that Byron lists. It has sexual situations but no graphic sexual material beyond some hot kisses. I suspect a modern editor would demand longer and more explicit mating scenes, even though that wouldn't add much, in my view, as the author shows the characters' interaction and growth in intimacy in other ways. It has a fairly melodramatic premise. -- hero Burton Horne, a wealthy enterpreneur and scandalous rake, seeks revenge upon the family that ruined his grandfather. He's been looking for the way to do it for a long time and believes he's finally found what he needs in a bit of medieval research. Heroine Elaine Bayworth, Countess of Wicksteed (yes, a countess in her own right with a title inherited from her mother) is attracted to Burton, but believes she loves another man with whom she could have a good marriage, so she makes plans to marry Alex, Lord Nice Guy. The first third of the book develops these characters and relationships. Burton carries out his plan to ruin Elaine by showing up at the wedding with an ancient agreement between the two families which allows him droit de seigneur over her.

Alex, the bishop and everyone present believe the document is legal and binding and are sort of stunned into inaction as Burton sweeps Elaine up on his black charger and takes off with her into the beginnings of a snowstorm. Burton's intention is what you might call forcible seduction, but he finds he can't go through with it, and after being snowbound with Elaine for several days, he returns her to her home intact and unharmed. Elaine is not a wuss and has tried to escape but the weather has made that impossible. Burton thinks that since nothing happened, and Alex and bride's family have his word and hers for that, that should be the end of it. No harm, no foul. Not so with Alex -- he is humiliated, his mom drips poison into his ears, the town is abuzz with scandal, and he demands an annulment. Elaine is ruined with a capital R, so she leaves London to return to her father's house, where the neighborhood finds out and makes life hideous for her there as well. Burton is out of town and doesn't hear of this for some time, and when he does, he realizes how important she is to him so he offers her marriage to un-blacken her name. The document comes up again, in a different wording, to ameliorate the situation, and, without going into a lot of detail, there is a happy ending for the couple.

With the greater length, this book has scope for subsidiary characters, and, without being a research dump, it has a lot of odd historical bits here and there. The writing style is good, there's some humor here and there, and there's a pretty good feel for period and setting as well. The revenge thing is a bit melodramatic, but it's convincingly written. "Horne" is pretty close to "Horner", but I can live with that ;)

I enjoyed it. I think the readers on the list who like historical minutiae would enjoy it, and I'd love to see comments later if anyone else runs across it. (Posted by Janice 09/22/06)

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The opinions expressed in these reviews are solely those of the named reviewer. No free books, money, curricles with matched pairs, Godiva chocolates, hot guys' phone numbers or any other form of consideration has been received in connection with these reviews from any author, publisher or other entity anywhere in the universe. Whatsoever. - But if any hot guys should happen to read this, feel free to make us an offer!

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