#150 Cleopatra's Carpet
by Sarah Carlisle
Published 1979 by Fawcett
Miss Louisa Bardoff is popularly thought of as plump, plain and sensible, but she is clever and kind, and so she is universally liked. It has been understood from birth that she would marry Tommy Colville, the son of a neighboring family, but no announcement has been made. Lord and Lady Bardoff have brought Louisa to London for her Season, which she will share with her friend Miss Susan Lauderdale; Susan and her mother, Lady Bardoff's oldest friend, make their home with the Bardoffs.
Susan has fallen in love with John Howorthy, and although there should be no objection to such a match, they have run afoul of a longstanding feud between Lady Howorthy and Lady Bardoff. The ladies do not speak and Susan and John can't even court, let alone marry, until this feud (the origins of which are unknown) is unravelled.
Lord Francis Geffrey, who is perhaps a decade older than Louisa and her friends, first meets her at a ball, and he's impressed by her cleverness and presence of mind as she heads off a social disaster by keeping the two feuding ladies from meeting. As Louisa, Tommy and the others plot to discover the cause of the feud and bring John and Susan together, Geffrey suspects an intrigue between Louisa and John, and he's quite surprised to find that the idea pains him very much since he is falling in love with Louisa himself.
I liked this short light romantic comedy, which has no high drama and no odious villains, but just a group of sensible people sorting things out. True, there's nothing new in it, but it's nicely paced and a very pleasant way to spend an hour. (Posted by Janice 11/29/09)
I also enjoyed this book very well. It's nice to read about 'normal' people for a change, eccentric maybe but still people that you wouldn't mind as next door neighbors. Carlisle writes charming, funny books and this one, set during a lovely summer, feels particularly nice to snuggle up with on a cold autumn. A great comfort read! (Posted by yvonne 11/29/09)
#149 A Debt Of Honour
by Diana Brown
Published 1982 by Signet
Insanely wealthy Lord Peter Chalmsforth is asked by his mother to derail his younger brother Gerald's romance with a girl rumored to be unsuitable. Gerald is at present staying with his boon companion Sir Neill Guthrie at Culross Abbey in the fen country, because of a prize fight to be held nearby, so Chalmsforth leaves London to go there.
When Chalmsforth arrives he is shown into the library, where he finds a beautiful young woman in a shabby dress. He assumes she must be the professional of whom he's heard Gerald is enamored, and he makes her an offer of his own – he asks her what her price is for one night with him. The young woman promptly slaps his face. To his mortification, Chalmsforth finds that she is not a lightskirt, she's Miss Fiona Guthrie, Neill's sister. He apologizes immediately, and, now curious about Fiona, accepts her brother's invitation to visit for a few days. He finds Fiona to be a very intelligent young woman with advanced ideas on women's education and place in the world, and a love of history; she particularly admires Mary Queen of Scots, who had once stayed at Culross Abbey.
Fiona loves the shabby historic old abbey and until then she has managed to make ends meet despite her brother's gamester ways. Shortly after Chalmsforth's visit, however, Neill tells her that he once again has a debt he cannot repay – the enormous sum of £7,000, which he had borrowed from a moneylender in order to repay the Earl of Newlyn after a disastrous night's gambling. Fiona, fearing her beloved abbey will be lost, recalls Chalmsforth's offer; she goes to London to tell him that her price for one night with him is £7,000.
At this point I, who have read so many recent regencies in which the heroine did become the hero's mistress, was apprehensive, since the author had spent so much time exploring Chalmsforth's ideas of personal honor and the code of behavior appropriate to a gentleman, and Fiona's as well, since she contends to him that codes of honorable behavior are not just for men. I was pleased to read on and see that the author didn't take the cheezy modern way out.
In tone this book is in the old fashioned historical romance tradition which takes time to develop characters and locales, rather than in the modern style which depends on lots of hero/heroine dialog, lots of detailed sex scenes, more modern language and a shorter, faster writing style. I liked its comparative density and slower pace. I don't often find this much complexity in style these days and I miss it. (Posted by Janice 11/24/09)
#148 A Nabob's Daughter
by Janet Edmonds
ISBN: 0373303564, 0263140032, 0373312172
Published 1993 by Harlequin
Miss India Leigh has been responsible for her 14 year old brother Richard since both of their parents died. India is beautiful, intelligent and a considerable heiress; she had not lacked for suitors, but found no one to interest her in Bangladore. Her brother Richard is a sensible boy, but since their return to London, he had been getting up to some mischief, so India, worried about what that might lead to, has taken a house far from Town in the Fens.
India finds, however, that there is just as much trouble to be found in East Anglia, which is prime smuggling territory; her neighbor Lord Edward Bardolph of Old Fen Hall, a widower, calls to complain that his 16 year old son Bartram is being led into scrapes by Richard. Edward notices India's beauty but finds her 'impertinent'; he is influenced by memories of his wife, who was dissatisfied with life in the country.
Bartram has his heart set on the sea; he's not unintelligent so much as utterly disinterested in anything that doesn't bear directly on sailing, the Navy, etc. Richard, by contrast, wants to farm, but he understands that becoming educated will only help him in his chosen occupation. Even though Bartram is two years older, it is Richard who is the voice of reason in their adventures. When they suspect Farmer Huggate of being involved in smuggling spies as well as illegal goods, and the adults do not seem to take the situation seriously, the boys decide to act on their own. When they go missing, India and Edward must act together to find them.
This book reminds me of Georgette Heyer, both in tone and because it gives so much space to the men's activities and adventures. However it's a bit longer than usual so there's plenty of room to trace the growing attraction between India and Edward. I thought it had a good sense of place, and I liked it as an old fashioned atmospheric adventure story with romance, but I think that readers looking for a more modern intensely hero/heroine focused relationship story may find it not to their taste. (Posted by Janice 11/19/09)
#147 False Pretenses
by Isobel Linton
Published 1996 by Zebra
Lady Mary Hamilton is on the run from her greedy stepfather Sir Barton Ayleston, who has schemed to marry her off to his weakling son Gervase so as to get his paws on the family fortune of the Earls of Hamilton and eventually the title as well via a recreation. She has come to London with her friend Mrs. Fanny Simpson, and her plan is to hide in plain sight as a servant in the household of the Duke of Serratt. If Lady Mary can remain undetected for the remaining weeks until her 21st birthday, she will control her fortune and need no longer fear Sir Barton.
The night of her arrival at Serratt House, Charles, the Duke, catches a glimpse of her outside under a lamppost and hears her silvery laughter. Charles knows he must marry some time soon; he has been pursued relentlessly by Lady Adelaide Henchart, who seems the most suitable candidate; he is not aware of her spiteful temperament, nor of her greed for his wealth and position. When Charles finds out that the girl he saw that night is employed in his household, he begins to have idle fancies about her and soon he can't get her out of his mind. A duke can't marry a housemaid, so he offers her carte blanche, and gets roundly slapped by outraged Mary.
Mary had understood that as a housemaid she would have to work hard, but even so, the dawn to dusk labor involved is exhausting, her roommate's hostility is endless, and she is involved through no fault of her own in unfortunate incidents. Nevertheless, Charles's mother the Dowager Duchess is impressed by her and makes her the personal maid of their young ward Lady Diana, who is soon to make her debut. However, when Mary is found with one of the Hamilton jewels, she is suspected of being a thief or a lightskirt, and with Sir Barton and Gervase hot on her trail, she is in danger of losing her refuge -- and Charles as well.
At first I thought the idea of an earl's daughter successfully masquerading as a housemaid was pretty lame, but the author showed so much knowledge and understanding of upstairs vs downstairs dynamics that it all seemed pretty credible. This book is written in a slightly old-fashioned style which has more in common with Georgette Heyer than, say, Julia Quinn. I liked it. (Posted by Janice 11/15/09)
#146 An Unlikely Guardian
by Carol Proctor
Published 1990 by Signet
Evelyn Lovelace, Earl of Sinamor, as his name indicates, had grown up without love in his life. His gentle mother died when he was born, and his father the old Earl despised him, even accusing him of being a bastard, though the family resemblance was plain to see. When he couldn't take any more of it, Lovelace ran away and bought himself a pair of colors. He was wounded in the leg and eventually sold his commission, by which time his father had died and he was now Earl of Sinamor.
Sinamor is amazed to return home one day to find two females in mourning awaiting him. Miss Phillipa Raithby and her companion have travelled down from Yorkshire, bringing with them a letter written by her father Harry, Sinamor's old army friend, not long before he died. The letter informs Sinamor that Harry has appointed him guardian to his 17 year old daughter.
Phillipa has lived in Yorkshire all her life, and the only thing she really cares about is her horses; she is a shabby outspoken hoyden. Sinamor turns her over to his cousin Winifred, who has five sons but no daughter and rather likes the idea of having a young girl to fuss over. Phillipa has very little desire to shine in London and resents having things decided for her, but she tries hard to learn all the new skills of dancing and deportment. She makes many friends in London, but she is targeted by a dissolute fortune hunter who needs her money -- and by Sinamor's ex-mistress, who has seen Sinamor's growing feelings for Phillipa and wants revenge for being discarded.
Back in the good old days, I could count on going by my local Waldenbooks around the first of every month and picking up three or four new regencies. Signet had classic writers like Mary Balogh, Edith Layton and Carla Kelly, and they also had a number of writers not quite up to that level but who always turned in a good read. Carol Proctor is one such writer. There's nothing new in this book, but the story is well told, the characters are likeable, I didn't spot any historical gaffes, and I liked her writing style. An enjoyable read. (Posted by Janice 11/10/09)
Certainly a well told story although the masterful hero seems somewhat dated. I think Phillipa is the arch-typical feisty heroine before they became as common in Regencies as fallen leaves in autumn. Her lack of education stems from neglect rather than lack of application, but I can't quite believe her ineptitude as an artist can be explained by her never in her life seen any paintings or drawing. I found the constant bickering between the hero and heroine a tad tedious at the end but otherwise I recommend it. I've read much worse! (Posted by yvonne 11/10/09)
#145 The Paragon Bride
by Leigh Haskell
Published 1989 by Signet
Since the death of her missionary parents in India, Miss Emmaline Hazlett has lived in the village of Bevindale with her stingy Uncle Markham, a clergyman in name but not in spirit. Uncle Markham has wasted no money or attention on his ward. Her only use to him is as a commodity he can marry off to the highest bidder, who is thus far a lunking local sheep farmer named Will Cooper.
Uncle Markham travels to London for one of his few indulgences, a particular blend of tea, and he allows Emmaline to go along with him on one such trip. Emmaline is disappointed at not being allowed even to see anything of the city or its fascinating shops, and on impulse, in a tiny spark of rebellion, she buys a small cluster of red cherries from a street vendor to trim her awful gray bonnet.
Lady Minerva, Dowager Countess Langdon, has read the tea leaves that very morning, and they inform her that the perfect bride for her fashionisto grandson Cedric will appear to them that afternoon; as a sign they will see a dove nibbling cherries. Lady Minerva believes that males of her line tend to die early and she is anxious to see Cecil married and producing an heir. To that end she dragoons Cecil and her nephew Nicolas Ransom to accompany her to Hyde Park. In the street they see Emmaline in her dove gray bonnet with its brave little decoration of cherries, and Lady Minerva declares she has found the paragon bride for Cecil.
Lady Minerva cleverly plays to Uncle Markham's greed and pretty much buys Emmaline from him, on the pretext that her health is frail and she needs a companion. Emmaline has no idea of her real purpose. To her amazement, she is treated as a guest rather than an employee, given a beautiful room and sumptuous new clothes, and taken by Lady Minerva to most important parties of the season. Cedric and Emmaline are friendly enough, but there is an instantaneous attraction between Emmaline and Nicolas. Nicolas knows that courting Emmaline openly will put her in terrible danger, as he has a maddened enemy sworn to punish him and make him suffer. His confusing and contradictory behavior towards her puzzles Emmaline greatly and she determines to find out what is at the root of it.
This is a well written, nicely plotted and paced novel; it's the sort of thing I admire for craftsmanship rather than because it evoked any sort of emotional reaction in me, because it didn't. I enjoyed the flashes of humor in Lady Minerva's maneuvering, and it had one or two memorably phrased paragraphs. It falls in that great gray area of 'not really absorbing but not a waste of time either' books. (Posted by Janice 11/06/09)
#144 Madcap Johnny
by Jeanne Carmichael
Published 1993 by Harlequin
Miss Diana Talbot and her widowed mother Violet make their home with Violet's mother, Lady Throckmorton, a redoubtable grande dame of uncertain temper. Diana can deal with her grandmother's sharp tongue, but Violet, whose temperament is much more gentle, finds it a difficult situation. Diana's grandmother is pressuring her to marry, and Lord Brownlow seems a suitable candidate, The ladies do not know what the gentlemen know -- Brownlow is really a louche fortune hunter.
While in Calais waiting to return to England, Diana meets Lord Johnny Drayton, called 'Madcap Johnny' for his exploits. Johnny has been in France on business; he is the covert operative for the British known as the Black Domino. Diana has fallen for the daring Black Domino, who gave her a black rose, but she takes Johnny for the lightweight indolent lord he poses as publicly. How curious that seemingly frivolous Johnny should rouse a prickle of attraction in her, and Brownlow, whom she believes to be the Domino, should do so many things which don't seem to be Domino-ish, and leave her cold and uncomfortable.
This book hasn't anything particularly unusual or novel about it, and its plot is pretty routine and rather cliched. In an author with a less pleasant style, I probably wouldn't have finished it. If you like them on the slight side, this is a pleasant hour's read, despite its overfamiliarity. (Posted by Janice 11/02/09)
#143 The Lonely Earl
by Vanessa Gray
Published 1978 by Signet
Miss Faustina Kennet lives in Devon with her widowed father, James Kennett, 5th Baron Egmont. Faustina had had two London seasons with her Aunt Louisa (sister of Faustina's mother) but had not found any gentleman she wished to marry, much to her aunt's hysterical anger, but she is quite happy with her father's company, as he is with hers.
Faustina had known the current Earl of Pendarvis, Hugh Crale, when he lived at home, and thought him a kind young man. Hugh, however, had quarreled with his father when the latter remarried; Hugh's stepmother influenced his father against him in favor of Vincent, her son and Hugh's half brother. Hugh flung off to live abroad, where he met and married a dancer who bore him a daughter, Lady Althea, now a child of six. It was not a happy marriage; Hugh was disillusioned when his bride's loving behavior before marriage rapidly degenerated into shrill selfishness after, and he did not mourn when she died.
Hugh dislikes the child as a reminder of his folly in marrying her mother, and has relegated her to the care of a negligent governess. When Faustina helps get Althea down from the tree where the child had climbed to see into the stables, she is appalled at the frosty disinterest Hugh shows in the child, and lets fly her opinion of him and his coldness. Each time they meet thereafter, Faustina and Hugh rub each other the wrong way, and her dislike of him grows. For his part, Hugh would like to forget all about her, but he can't.
I liked this novel for its richly textured family dynamics (there are many characters and relationships I haven't mentioned) and its shrewd character observation. I also liked the portrait of two contrasting fathers - Lord Egmont, who loves, cherishes and respects his daughter, and Pendarvis, who dislikes his own little daughter for no fault of her own and thinks his duty is done to her as long as she is housed, fed and cared for by his servants. Fortunately Faustina kicks his butt often enough and hard enough to change his behavior, and I enjoyed seeing her do it. Defects? There is (I am pretty sure) at least one title error, and there's a minor spy plot, but the author wisely didn't allow it to interfere with the real story here. (Posted by Janice 10/30/09)
#142 The Vicar's Daughter
by Eva Rutland
Published 1990 by Harlequin
Miss Christina Frame, the vicar's daughter, first meets Domenic Rogers Winston, Lord Stanhope when he nearly runs her down on a narrow country lane while she is out doing the parish duties her ailing father is unable to perform. When she returns home (chilled and soaked), she learns that her father is much worse; the doctor tells her that his lungs are affected and he must go to a warmer climate if he is to have any hope of recovery.
Christina goes for help to the Earl of Aylesbury; she doesn't know it, but he's the father of the man who caused the accident. The Earl has long been concerned about his son's wild ways and the gossip he's causing, and thinks marriage is the solution. He tells Christina that he will send her father to Majorca to recuperate – but only if she agrees to marry his son. He doesn't mean it – he would have helped his old friend the vicar anyway – but he doesn't tell Christina that. His son sees marriage as a way of preserving his freedom to do as he pleases; nobody can expect him to marry one of his ladybirds if he's already married.
In a space of a day or so, Christina's father is on his way to Majorca and Christina is made Viscountess Stanhope. Her mother is long dead and she has no sisters, so her friend Mrs. Mercival tells her about her 'marital duties' – that all men are not like her gentle father, that they are lustful beasts but it is her duty to endure. On their wedding night, Domenic finds Christina face down sobbing on the bed, a victim not only of the fears her friend has raised but a thundering case of the grippe. Domenic leaves her to recover in London while he goes off on a visit of pleasure.
When Domenic returns, he finds his London home wondrously improved, but he also finds Christina scrubbing the hearth in an old dress, and he is angry because he thinks she doesn't know how to behave as a viscountess should. She is forever rescuing children, training the cook and generally helping unfortunates, some of whom lead her into dangerous situations. Domenic hasn't yet realized it, but he is falling in love with his own virgin wife.
There's nothing new in this tale, though it's pleasantly enough told. It does leave one glaring loose end which I found annoying – Domenic never does learn that his father blackmailed Christina into marrying him, but then he's painted as a pretty hotheaded guy who probably wouldn't have listened anyway. He is shown as a person in transition from an oblivious self-centered nature to a more socially conscious one, because of Christina's influence, and he turns out to be more likeable than I would have thought. (Posted by Janice 10/25/09)
#141 Heir Apparent
by Petra Nash
Published 1992 by Harlequin
Miss Mary Hadfield has just learned that her only brother, Giles, has died under iffy circumstances. Her father’s pride is tied up in being Hadfield of Hadfield Priory; he had no value whatever for any of his daughters, only for Giles, the heir, but Giles was an opium addict and died of an overdose which may not have been accidental.
At the news of Giles’s death, Mr. Hadfield took to his bed, physically and mentally ill with grief, selfishness, and some secret he has kept from the family. The heir apparent is now a cousin whom he detests. That cousin had two sons; the elder of them left home years ago and is thought dead, but the younger, Jason, is in the neighborhood. Jason is a godlike gorgeous young man who professes an attraction for Mary, and on paper he’d be a good match, especially as Mary would be able to stay in her home at the Priory. However it is the mysterious stranger ‘Lazarus’ whom Mary trusts instinctively and to whom she turns to for aid in discovering the exact circumstances of Giles’s death.
This is quite an old fashioned sort of book, with stylistic echoes of Jane Austen – indeed, if Jane had written a book with a missing heir plot and a few intense kisses, the language might have sounded very much like this. The attitudes are authentic 19th century -- the heroine doesn’t turn into Mary Hadfield, Kickass Girl Detective; instead she asks a man she trusts to do the investigating while she stays home and, as the only remaining single daughter, puts her own feelings aside and does her duty toward her father, despite his self-centeredness and lack of affection for her. Despite the obviousness of its plot, I liked it. (Posted by Janice 10/20/09)
#140 The Sandalwood Fan
by Diana Brown
Published 1984 by Signet
Widowed Penelope had been married off at 17 to Josiah Bransom, a man more than twice her age. The world believes it was an ideal marriage because even several years after his death, she has not put off her mourning clothes nor gone much into society. In reality Penelope was trapped in a miserable marriage which still gives her nightmares; Josiah was a vicious hypocrite who inflicted many little cruelties and despised her because she never got pregnant. Penelope's mourning is a false picture forced upon her by the terms of Josiah's will, which requires that she play the part of the dutiful grieving widow or lose the moderate sum allotted to her. Penelope doesn't care about her restrictions much, as she never wants to remarry and have to endure such nights again.
Against the wishes of her husband's nephew Edward Bransom, who is his executor, heir and enforcer, Penelope has come to London with her beautiful younger sister Melissa Woodard (Missy). They are staying with Lady Halstead, whose daughter Emmeline is also making her debut.
Lord Charles Mortimer had fallen for Georgina, but when she married Lord Philby Staverton instead, he borrowed money from Trueblood, a neighbor, and went off to the wars. He didn't care whether he lived or died, but not only did he survive, he became 'England's Hero' and was granted a £ 20,000 annuity by a grateful government. One morning when Penelope has gone early to the park to paint, she sees a man beating a young girl and wades in to stop him. Charles sees this and intervenes to protect her. The girl, Meg, is the drunken bully's daughter. Charles gives her a coin and Penelope gives her a paper with her address, telling Meg to come to her if things get bad again.
Edward has eyes for Missy, but Missy has fallen in love with Charles's friend Colonel Bullerton. Edward blames Penelope and plans a revenge which will punish Penelope and gain him her annuity. Meg's father wants her back to fund his gin habits. Trueblood has a convoluted plan of his own. Georgina is pushing Charles for marriage. Penelope, whose growing love for Charles has made her come alive at last, must somehow evade all the traps set for her.
This is a tale of crisscrossed motives and complicated circumstances. The deck was truly stacked against Penelope, what with her indifferent father, her weak brother, her mean, amoral husband, her suspicious lover Charles and her wish to prevent Missy from ever experiencing similar suffering. I admired this heroine, who, with steady grace and courage, did the best she could, especially given the law of the day. On a stylistic level, there are one or two places where the book approaches 'research dump', but not to a point that pulled me out of the story. My interest was held to the very end. (Posted by Janice 10/17/09)
#139 The Reckless Gambler
by Vanessa Gray
Published 1985 by Signet
Ever since the death of her parents when she was quite young, Miss Caroline Finlay has lived with her grandfather, Sir Egbert Finlay. Although he has a genuine fondness for his granddaughter, Sir Egbert is very strict, allowing her little freedom and demanding her constant attendance. Carrie has had only one friend in the district, Bertrand Carteret, the younger brother of Lord Julian Carteret, who owns the neighboring estate.
One summer day when Carrie has escaped for a few hours, she is standing in a stream with her skirts rucked up, watching fish, when she is seen by a man on the bridge. She thinks him the new Carteret gamekeeper; she doesn't know he is Lord Julian come home for a while, nor does she know that Julian has fallen head over heel in love at first sight.
When Carrie's godmother taxes Sir Egbert with not having given Carrie a chance to meet young men, he decides to deal with the problem summarily by betrothing her to a man of his choice, rather than allowing her to leave him to go off and have a Season. Sir Egbert arranges the betrothal and the papers are all signed, but when Carrie is called down to be told, she is horrified at losing any prospect of freedom and passing from her grandfather's control to a stranger's before she's had any fun at all, particularly when she has always fancied that she cared for her betrothed's brother Bertrand. She reacts with revulsion. Julian is hurt, but, being older, he understands quite a bit of her feelings; he wangles her grandfather into keeping the betrothal secret until Carrie has a bit of town bronze, but he does not tell her that he loves her.
Once in London and staying with her godmother, Carrie has all the excitement and entertainments she could wish, but her godmother has let her go about with a questionable cousin, and Julian is too busy with his work to escort her. Julian has a problem: he works in the admiralty, and on the eve of a possible sea invasion by Napoleon, information about the British fleet's disposition is being leaked and he doesn't know how. Inexperienced Carrie, without enough proper guidance by her godmother, falls into a scrape -- she gambles beyond her means and thus becomes vulnerable to her shady cousin's machinations.
I liked this book because it seemed grounded in good characterizations. Carrie isn't stupid, but she's very young and her grandfather has kept her so close that she's had no opportunity before London to learn how the world works. Carrie's grandfather isn't mean, but he's self-centered enough to think that what's convenient for him is also best for her. Julian might seem an indifferent lover, but the work he is doing really is vital to England's survival and the author lets us see how important it is to him and why he can't dance attendance on his beloved. When any character makes a choice of what to say (or not) to whom and when, the author explains why it happened that way, and the explanations seem credible to me. If all the other regency writers had stopped using the 'spies in high society' plotline after this book, I think it would have been a good thing, as it's done well enough here. (Posted by Janice 10/13/09)
#138 A Debt Of Honor
by Mollie Ashton
Published 1983 by Harlequin
Miss Jamaica de Bowen's father was a sea captain who gave her that name because her eyes were the same color as the island's sea. Jamie's mother is a widow who has remarried; Oliver Canwood, her new husband, is a lovable but financially inept gentleman who has lost the family money, including Jamie's dowry and that of her younger sister Kitty, in unlucky investments. All that remains is riding on one last investment, a cotton shipment due next year; the Canwoods, and all the de Bowens, badly need money.
Jamie's Aunt Kate (the Duchess of Camberleigh, a de Bowen by marriage) gave both girls a season, but only Kitty (a shallower sort) found a husband; Jamie was far too particular. Jamie has refused a second season and has told her aunt she'd rather become a governess if she can't marry a man she loves and respects. Her aunt is horrified, but agrees to help her find a position on the condition that if Oliver's investment fails, Jamie will repair the family fortunes by marrying the Marquis of Clare, a man more than twice her age whom Jamie finds absolutely repellent. So Jamie will have at least a few months of comparative freedom before her fate is sealed, one way or the other.
Aunt Kate finds Jamie a job with Mr. & Mrs. John Greville. The Grevilles have two children of their own, Richard and Sarah; Caroline, the third child in the household, is being raised by them because her own father, Charles, Earl of Dorrington, can't stand the sight of her - she is a living reminder of his wife's multiple infidelities - and when Jamie defies his orders about little Carrie, he is enraged.
While she is with the Grevilles as governess, Jamie is pursued by charming and likeable Andrew MacFarland, who is bent on her eventual seduction. Charles, bitter about his previous wife, intends never to love and trust again, and is in search of a quiet, plain woman for breeding purposes to continue his line, but he's also strongly drawn to Jamie. The situation is further complicated because Charles believes Andrew to be Carrie's real father.
I have seldom come across a book which contains this many howling clunkers yet is such an enjoyable read. Charles, the current Earl of Dorrington is the younger brother of Mr. Greville, who was disinherited by their father for marrying an actress. I don't know of any circumstances under which Charles could have become earl if John were still living; their father could disinherit John from unentailed property, but not the title or entailed property that went with it. Charles calls the Duchess 'Lady Camberleigh'; it's not credible that an earl would not know the proper form of address for a duchess. As in the other Ashton I've read, our heroine goes walking in London unaccompanied, which a young lady of her class would not have done, being beneath her dignity and unsafe as well. But I liked all the characters (whatever their names and relationships should have been) and I found this a very entertaining read. I'd much rather read one like this which engages my emotions and holds my interest than something dry and boring that gets the technical points right. (Posted by Janice 10/7/09)
#137 The Reluctant Cyprian
by Diana Campbell
Published 1983 by Signet
Miss Julia Brandon, an orphan, had lived with her Aunt Sophia until the old lady died, as a poor relation and an unpaid servant. Her aunt left her estate to her but the house was mortgaged and there were other debts to clear; after the house was sold all Julie had left was £ 5. Julie has a cousin, Louisa Linley, living in London, so she goes there, hoping to be taken in or at least to stay there until she can find a position. Julie has one skill: she can draw and paint. Louisa's terrifying housekeeper Mrs. Skinner tells Julie that Louisa has gone to the Argyle Rooms and Julie goes to find her there, not knowing that Louisa is a courtesan, the notorious Red Fawn, and it's the night of the Cyprians Ball.
Mr. Nicholas Stafford, a former naval captain, finds Julie there in her shabby clothes and thinks she's a whore like Louisa. It happens he needs one to muddy up his cousin Oliver's too pure reputation so that his uncle, the Earl of Arlington, who believes Nick is a wastrel and rake, will find that Oliver's character is no better than his own. They are to travel to Bath, with ‘Aunt Emily’ Fitch, Nick’s deceased father's former mistress, posing as chaperone. Julie agrees to pose as a lady painter there to paint Arlington’s portrait and to use the opportunity to compromise Oliver. Nick expects to marry Miss Georgina Vernon, and both he and Julie try to disregard the instant attraction between them.
I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, the author has a fairly good sense of humor, likeable characters and pleasant style. On the other hand, the plot is very contrived even for a romp. Also the author doesn’t show much understanding of social customs of the era (at a picnic Wyatt, who is thought by all to be Nick’s servant, eats with the Earl and his guests) and some things just make no sense at all (Nick tells Mrs. Fitch to order new gowns for Julie and her for their masquerade; they order gowns, shoes, hats and gloves, but no new underthings; in hilly Bath all travel in carriages rather than walking or calling for sedan chairs). For me the weak elements in the book outweigh the good ones and I can’t recommend it. (Posted by Janice 9/28/09)
by Caroline Arnett
Published 1977 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Theodora Minturn, a junior mistress at Miss Whitwell's school in Bath, learns that she is a beneficiary under the will of Lord Stanford of Ardsley Hall -- a will with some highly unusual provisions. The late Lord Stanford had wished to see the Hall once again filled with family and children, and so he instructed that (aside from a modest annuity to each) his two co-heirs must marry (not necessarily to each other) within six months or forfeit their share. In lieu of marrying, if they find the lost Zamora emeralds, which are said to be hidden somewhere at Ardsley, they will keep their bequest. If they fail, the lawyer will seek out the next two heirs and make them the same offer. During the six months, she and her co-heir will have the use of Ardsley Hall and a London house.
Thea's co-heir is Myles Chilcot, Lord Deveron, and they dislike each other on sight; however the terms of the will constrain them to share the Hall. Thea further annoys Myles by having a wall erected through the center of the entrance, so that they can't cross over to the other's half. Myles has been courting Miss Cordelia Albury, a pushy Incomparable who can't wait to get her claws on the hall for a bit of redecorating -- or to search for the legendary emeralds.
Thea, with her companion Mrs. Susan Farraby, enjoys her new lifestyle, which includes nice clothes and London entertainments. She is guided by the advice of a new acquaintance, Laurent Brainerd, Lord Bourne, who understands London's ways. He, like most people, expects Thea to make a push to marry Myles as the solution to both their problems, but Thea is in no hurry to marry anybody, having a romantic streak in her practical managing makeup.
Here's another book which wouldn't be published in this form today. Hero and heroine don't spend all their time together, and for some time there's some uncertainty as to who the actual hero is. There's no sex. It has many subsidiary characters, lots of conversation and social doings. It's not so much a romance as it is a mystery (those emeralds) and a coming of age story for Thea. It even has some paranormal elements like an old gothic. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but you have to be in the mood for an old fashioned tale told in a fashion that's out of style now. (Posted by Janice 9/19/09)
#135 A Reluctant Heart
by Lois Stewart
Published 1994 by Zebra
Although at 16 she was a bit young, vicar's daughter Miss Zoe Bennett attended her first ball at Merefield Park, the home of Melicent, the new Lady Stratton. While there she met and was dazzled by Jerrold Layton, the second son of the Earl of Woodforde. Jerrold plied Zoe with champagne (which she had never had before) until she was drunk too. When Jerrold said he wanted to make love to her, she thought he meant marriage, and Jerrold, by then quite drunk, said it was a capital notion, and so they eloped to Gretna Green and were married by a clergyman there, Zoe having retained enough idea of what was proper to insist on a clergyman instead of an 'over the anvil' wedding.
In the morning, Zoe awoke next to a now sober Jerrold, but Jerrold had no idea who she was; he thought she was a whore and offered to pay her. Zoe, angry and hurt, took the money and fled home, taking her marriage lines with her. Zoe could not bear to tell her father and disgrace him, so she went to Cousin Augusta in Bristol. When she discovered she was pregnant, her cousin helped her think up a story, and she became Mrs. David Manning, the widow of an American ship's captain sadly lost at sea. When her cousin died she moved back home to live with her brother Edmund, now rector in her father's place, and became a well paid and sought after portrait artist. Only Edmund and she know the truth about her son Philip's parentage.
In the meantime Jerrold's father had died, and his scheming cousin Oliver had Davenant, a tool of his, manufacture a quarrel with Jerrold's older brother Trevor, now the earl; they dueled and Davenant shot Trevor dead. Jerrold was now the Earl, and needed to have an heir or see it all go to Oliver, whom he despises; the problem is, he had the mumps as an adult, and he now believes he is sterile. When he sees six year old Philip, the image of himself and his brother at that age, he puts two and two together and realizes that he must be Philip's father and that Philip, if legitimate, is his only heir.
When Zoe tells him that they had been legally married, Jerrold insists that she take up her role as Countess of Woodforde and raise little Lord Silverbridge with him as a family. Zoe agrees though she still burns with resentment; she will go through the motions publicly, but in private theirs is to remain a marriage in name only. An uneasy friendship develops between them, but enemies endanger their fragile new family relationship.
I wouldn't say this book was padded, exactly, but it seemed to me reading it that it suffered from too many London society events which don't advance the story much and seem to be there only so that the author can drop in famous regency people. It's not what I'd call a research dump, but it does slow things down, making it seem padded. I think also that having the hero take so long to figure out the villainy that's made so obvious to the reader makes him somewhat less than a rocket scientist. If you are into regency high society doings, this may be of interest, but I can't give it a recommendation for much of anything else. (Posted by Janice 9/14/09)
After closing the cover I remembered this book for one reason in particular - the in my opinion totally ridiculous and stupid decision made by the heroine of getting on her high horses, running away and then, when finding herself pregnant, still refusing to contact her lawful wedded husband. If the hero is no rocket scientist then the heroine is a perferct match for him. Being 16 can only excuse so much. I was too irritated with spending time with these two dimwits to take much note of anything else. Like Janice I can't recommend it although not for the slow plot but the sheer idiocy of the main couple. (Posted by yvonne 9/14/09)
#134 The Reluctant Heroine
by Dawn Lindsey
Published 1993 by Signet
Miss Regina Alderstock’s mother remarried after her diplomat husband’s death to a Spanish gentleman and died some years thereafter. She might have gone back to England then and found a home with some relative, but she elected to stay on in Burgos with her stepsister Conchita and her stepfather Don Ottavio, even though the town was occupied by the French. Her stepbrother Filipe has left university to fight with the Spanish resistance. With her stepfather ill, Reggie is the mainstay of the household. Reggie is English, but her stepfather’s position and the interest of Monsieur de Thierry, the French commandant of the town, have kept her safe thus far.
On one ordinary day in June 1812, as Reggie is out doing the marketing, she sees a Spanish peasant badly injured when he pushes a little boy out of the way of a load of falling logs. When Reggie sees his face, she knows he is no peasant. He is in fact Major Adam Canfield, a British spy sent into Burgos to assess the town’s defenses. Reggie has him brought to her home to have his injuries tended and a friendship, or something more, develops between them. Adam knows the dangers and hardships women with the army or in a war zone would be risking, and he wants her safely back in England -- but Reggie has patriotic feelings too and strongly wishes to do her part in winning the war.
I like this book as much as an adventure story as a romance. The relationship between Reggie and Adam grows and deepens in a natural way as each learns more about the other. The descriptions of Reggie’s wartime experiences seem very realistic to me. The elements of romance and adventure are pretty well balanced in this book; it’s one of my favorites. (Posted by Janice 9/1/09)
#133 The Bar Sinister
by Sheila Simonson
Published 1987 by Zebra
Captain Richard Falk should more properly be addressed as Sir Richard Fouke, as he is legally a younger son of the Duke of Newsham. However, he is not the Duke's biological son, but the offspring of an affair between the Duchess and Lord Powys.
Richard and his half-siblings were raised in a separate establishment, and Richard, without knowing why, had always been told to stay away when the Duke and Duchess came to visit. One day on a dare Richard came to greet his father the Duke, and the enraged Duke beat the boy up, breaking an arm and several ribs. Richard was summarily sent off to live with Parson Freeman, out of the Duke's sight, still unconscious from the beating that nearly killed him. Since that time Richard has not seen his mother or his siblings and wants nothing to do with any of them; he has even had his name legally changed.
Richard now augments his army pay by writing satiric novels about the adventures of Don Alphonso, a highborn proud and stupid Spaniard. While serving in the Peninsula he had met and married Dona Isabel, the daughter of a Spanish hidalgo, by whom he has two small children, Amy and Tom. After Dona Isabel died, Richard had to make other arrangements for his children.
Mrs. Emily Foster, a widow with a young son of her own (Matt), is looking for something to do to bring in some money so that she won't be a charge on her family. Richard arranges to leave his children with while he goes back to the wars. But Napoleon's forces are not Richard's only enemies; the old Duke (thought to be a madman) has died, but his enmity, enhanced by greed, lives on in the new Duke and his brother Lord George. Not only is Richard's life in danger, but his children's lives as well -- and the life of anyone who befriends him as Emily has.
I really liked this novel and I can see why so many consider it a classic. Richard and Emily, the central characters are decent and honorable people, and there's a great cast of subsidiary characters, especially Richard's sister Lady Sarah and her husband Robin, and Richard's doomed friend Tom Conway. This is a rich, absorbing novel with a great deal of period flavor. These are not the 21st century people in funny old clothes that I find in so many recent regencies. I was left with the feeling that these people really did live and breathe in regency England. I can't recommend it too highly. (Posted by Janice 8/27/09)
Sheila Simonson is a very talented author that wrote way too few Regencies. Her Cousinly Connexion is perhaps my personal favorite but Bar Sinister is a compelling read and you cannot but root for the characters. Perhaps not quite as action-packed as some modern books, and the hero and heroine do spend a lot of time apart as well, the characters are so complex and so well drawn, very lifelike indeed, that I did not care. Like Janice, this is a book I unhesitatingly recommend!
Note: This book is somewhat linked to Lady Elizabeth's Comet and Love And Folly but the connection is so slight the book can easily be read as a stand alone. (Posted by yvonne 8/27/09)
#132 A London Season
by Joan Wolf
Published 1981 by Signet
When she was six, both of Lady Jane Fitzmaurice's parents died in a boating accident (neither could swim). Her guardianship passed to her mother's brother, Edward Stanton, Marquis of Rayleigh, who was 26 at the time. Jane had not been close to her parents (as with many highborn families of the time, she hardly knew them), but she was frightened to leave her home in Ireland and her greatest comforts there, her pony and her freedom in riding.
As it happens, the Marquis was an easygoing young man, and he had one of the best racing and breeding studs in England. He had no idea what a young orphan girl might need, so he bought her two ponies. He had no way of knowing that this would be precisely the best way to comfort this child. David Chance, a neighbor boy a year older than Jane, was hired to help exercise the ponies. He and Jane became best friends immediately, when Jane showed her ease on horseback and her joy in riding. As the years wore on, Jane and David became true friends, as unquestionedly necessary to each other as breathing.
Jane endured the attempts to teach her all the things a young lady was supposed to know; as long as she had her riding and David's friendship, she put up with it all with a fairly good grace, though she would put her foot down at what she considered unnecessary or impertinent interference with her ways. She had discovered oil painting at Miss Farner's Select Academy in Bath, and so she even found a London season tolerable because there she could see private collections with paintings by the masters.
David came a little faster to adulthood than Jane. He rose to head trainer for the Marquis and he also grew into a very beautiful young man. He had been targeted by a married lady of the ton out for an affaire and he realized that his feelings for Jane were much more than friendship. In London, Jane attracted the interest of Julian Wrexham, considered the catch of the season, but Jane had no interest in him, or any other man than David. However she knows she would never be permitted to marry David -- because he's illegitimate and she's the daughter of an earl.
I think by now Joan Wolf must have done as many books with horses in them as Dick Francis, and I like that though she clearly loves horses, she doesn't anthropomorphize them. In this book she tells her story in a linear, uncomplicated style; she doesn't go in for that flossy, over the top, heavy breathing style of romance writing which is so common these days. Even fairly common plot twists work well when you just tell the story. I recommend this one -- but only if you don't dislike horses (Posted by Janice 8/10/09)
#131 A Noble Ambition
by Elizabeth Albright
Published 1993 by Zebra
Miss Susan Phillips and her younger brother and sister are the children of a wastrel younger son who had fled to America. Since their parents' death they have lived with their Aunt Henrietta. Aunt Henry has been hoping that their wealthy uncle Sir Peter Phillips would invite Susan to London for a Season. When Sir Peter's invitation arrives, he writes that his friend Lord Carlton, who is at present staying with friends in Virginia, will arrange travel for Susan.
Lord Carlton (Charles) had caught a fever while serving in the Peninsular Campaign, and it happens that he has a recurrence and is unable to visit Susan's family and make arrangements in person, so he sends a weasely solicitor, Mr. Simmons, with a letter to Susan, with instructions to report back to him. Simmons is offended by Carlton's manner and resolves to make whatever mischief he can. He tells Susan that Carlton is proud and high-handed, and then he tells Carlton that Susan is a wanton, wink wink.
When their ship leaves Boston, neither Charles nor Susan is aware of the other's presence on board. Carlton has just been jilted by the English beauty he had offered for; his batman Elliott tells his master that having sex with the pretty serving maid aboard ship will cure his bad mood. Charles, very drunk, stumbles into a darkened room where Susan has gone to get over her seasickness, and thinks she's the maid. Susan protests at first but is Swept Away. She stops protesting and struggling and allows herself to be taken. When Charles returns to his own cabin, he finds the maid waiting there and he realizes that she wasn't the virgin he just had, and he has no idea who the real girl was.
Susan confides in her new shipboard friend Alicia. She won't tell her uncle and she'll deal with the reaction of whoever she marries when she has to. However, she turns up pregnant, and things just get worse from there.
I had big problems with this book. Even before the Swept Away stuff, things were so vague that I was annoyed. I don't think the book ever said where Susan was living in America, and I found it very odd that Charles could be staying on a plantation in Virginia and nary a mention of slaves or slavery (his friend urges him to get a piece of land in Virginia where the folks are real nice - I wondered if that included those nice dark skinned ones who did all the work for nothing). I wondered how many women went to sea as serving maids (this is the first I've heard of). I wondered how much of a rocket scientist a man would have to be to discover which young girl among the few passengers on board was the one he raped. After that it seemed to me one cliche plot element piled on another. The best thing I can say about the book is that the author has a fairly inoffensive prose style. Other than that, if I were stuck on a desert island with this my only book to read -- I'd throw it in the ocean. (Posted by Janice 8/5/09)
#130 Lady In Disguise
by Jacqueline Diamond
Published 1983 by Walker & Co
Richard, Marquis of Lansdon, bored by the London scene, is asked by his relatively penniless best friend Henry Smythe to accompany him on a visit to his home is Suffolk. Henry is being pressured to marry Miss Fanny Rupper, a wealthy but unappealing local lady, and wants a little protection and company during his visit. As an inducement Henry mentions that Miss Charlotte Tarlock will be there -- Charlotte is an acclaimed beauty and an heiress whom Richard admires. Richard thinks Charlotte would do very well for his marchioness (as does her mother), but there's a problem - there's a family understanding that he will marry his mother's best friend's daughter, 'the most easily forgotten girl I have ever encountered'. Richard saw her once four years ago when she was a plump hoydenish 15 year old and can't even remember her Christian name.
This forgettable girl is Lady Victoria Courtney, and she has just learned that her father the Earl has married a woman she's never met. The new Countess of Courtney has a daughter -- Charlotte Tarlock, who is thought to be as good as betrothed to Richard, the man Victoria has secretly loved ever since their disastrous meeting when she was 15.
Henry asks Richard for a tiny favor - to meet his actress mistress Anna Semple when she arrives at the local inn. Henry has promised Anna a country holiday, but he has to return to town on business. Anna meets Victoria en route to her father's and rescues her from a kidnap attempt by a set of rogues who target young girls for sale to brothels. Anna liked her actress life but she always really wanted a husband, home and children, and when she meets an old friend she accepts his proposal immediately. When Victoria arrives at Ipswich, Richard meets her and mistakes her for Anna, and Victoria, in a fit of pique, allows Richard's mistake to stand. Soon Victoria is so tangled in her own deception that it seems impossible that she will ever extricate herself without hurting her new and much loved stepsister Charlotte and/or losing Richard forever.
And that's only the half of it. Or not even the half of it. This book has many threads as the several couples sort themselves out, and at times I felt I should be making notes and drawing lines to keep them all straight. It also requires a certain suspension of disbelief. However it was worth it for the snappy dialog (Miss Fanny Rupper's in particular) and I wound up liking it. I think it would appeal to those who like witty turns of phrase and tangled comedy of manners plots, if not so much to those who like a story of deeply felt emotion. (Posted by Janice 7/31/09)
#129 An Independent Lady
by Julia Byrne
ISBN: 0263819191, 0373511531, 0263836673
Published 1999 by Mills & Boon, reprinted 2001 by Harlequin (US edition)
Mrs. Amaris Chantry, a widow, is very grateful to have found an agreeable post at Hawkridge Manor, as companion to the grandmother of Marcus Rothwell, the present Earl. With no family after her mother's death and down to her last shilling in Bath, she had fainted in front of Lady Hawkridge, and had been taken in by that kind but seemingly vague lady. Amy has experience of bad times; she and her mother had lived in the poorhouse. Amy's only jobs before Lady Hawkridge had been as a servant, although her mother, a lady, had taught her proper manners and breeding.
As Amy sits in the library each morning attending to her ladyship's correspondence, she studies a portrait of Marcus hung there. The likeness was painted fourteen years before, just after his accession to the title at about twenty, and radiates remarkable strength and arrogance for such a young man. Amy is fascinated with the painting.
When Marc hears in London that his grandmother has taken in yet another lame duck, in a series of lame ducks out to fleece her, he thinks Amy must be another of that ilk, and he returns to Hawkridge to sort things out. As soon as he sees Amy, he is powerfully attracted to her, and he also realizes that she's frightened of something and she's hiding a secret. As soon as Amy sees Marc, she realizes that the portrait of the young man only hinted at the powerful character of the mature man. Driven distracted by his desire for her, Marc promises himself that he will have her and he will discover her all her secrets.
This book began as an odd mixture of lust and humor which didn't seem to me to flow together well. It's one of those books that has the hero turning aside to hide an erection whenever he encounters the heroine, and after a while that just seems silly. I'm not a complete expert on male anatomy, but I haven't observed that men have that much difficulty controlling their responses (indeed, if one goes by TV ads, they have the opposite problem). However, as I read on, I grew to like Marc, Amy, and Marc's deceptively vague granny. Amy had real problems - not only was she illegitimate, but she had a living husband who was a criminal. I wish the author had done more with those issues; it feels instead that they were swept aside so we could get to the love scenes and the happy ending. For me the unreality of that put the book at the mildly enjoyable but easily forgotten level. (Posted by Janice 7/27/09)
I know what you mean about the book changing, Janice. I loved the setup of the story, the nutty grandma and the old biddies. I thought I was in for a delightful romp, silly male "troubles" and all. Then it becomes another type of book that didn't particularly appeal to me. I felt it was two different stories smashed together into one. Such a shame as it had potential to be so much that it isn't. Oh well. They can't all be winners! (Posted by yvonne 7/27/09)
#128 Sweet Remembrance
by Judy Christenberry AKA Judith Stafford
Published 1992 by Diamond Books
Miss Georgiana Denbigh lives contentedly in the country with her father, Alistair, a fiftyish widowed country gentleman. Georgie's best friends are Miss Tabitha Twickenham and Tabby's companion, Mrs. Anne Hansen, a pretty army widow of forty. Georgie's father manages the estate, but he is more interested in working on his botany book. Georgie and Tabby both hope that when Anne agrees to illustrate Alistair's book, a romance will blossom.
Georgie's brother Nathaniel, back from the wars and tired of London's matchmaking scene, decides to go home and rusticate for a bit. Nathaniel is accompanied on his visit by his best friend, Lord Chesterton (Jason), who is also fleeing matchmaking schemes. Jason had stayed with the Denbighs ten years ago, and has fond memories of Georgie as an engaging child of eight (the 'sweet remembrance' of the title). Georgie hero worshipped Jason in those long ago days, but hasn't seen him since. When they meet again, Jason still thinks of adorable little Georgie as a child, but she's eighteen now, she has the emotions of an adult woman, and she's fallen for Jason.
Tabby has her own problems; her vulgar, blustering cit father has no affection for her, and browbeats and belittles her. He had tried to marry her off in London, but it didn't go well, so he sent her back to the country with Anne. Tabby lives in terror of his return; he makes Anne uncomfortable as well with his pursuit of her.
Twickenham hates the country and has neglected his estate, which he has left to the management of a drunken incompetent. After an incident involving the manager's disrespect to Tabby, Twickenham offers Nathaniel a deal -- if Nathaniel will take his unwanted daughter off his hands, Twickenham will give him the estate as her dowry. This would leave Twickenham free to press Anne to marry him (he hasn't taken no for an answer). Tabby is mortified at the offer because she's fallen in love with Nathaniel and for her it would be her dream, if Nathaniel loved her -- but he doesn't.
This is a short, fast, sweet read with a certain charm, though it seems to me the author isn't terribly familiar with country life (she doesn't seem to know much about horses for instance). There's nothing new here in this story of three couples matching themselves up, but it's told pleasantly enough, if a trifle blandly for my taste. There's no real villain, except for the disagreeable Mr. Twickenham, but at least there are no spies in it either, which is a relief. (Posted by Janice 7/20/09)
#127 Imprudent Lady
by Joan Smith
Published 1978 by Walker
Prudence Mallow was well named, or so the joke went. That is, until she met Lord Dammler, the marquis turned poet who had taken the Ton by storm with his verses on swashbuckling and derring-do. Prudence was an author of rather sensible novels, focusing on her restricted middle class life with her eccentric uncle and timid mother - her books were nothing at all like the world traveling Dammler's exotic tales of licentiousness and debauchery.
While Prudence tumbled into love with the marquis on reading his poetry, and even more so on actually meeting his splendid self, Lord Dammler thought her a mouse of a girl and gave her novels away - unread - to his cousin. But he soon learns that there is more to Prudence than he first thought. Her wit and sense of humor capture his attention and the two of them become fast friends. As Prudence becomes a minor success, her person attracts the particular attention of Mr. Seville, whose enormous fortune makes him acceptable, and the learned Dr. Ashington - much to the dismay of the marquis, who cannot approve of the attentions of either.
A lover of the Regency is bound to make the connection between Prudence, Dammler and two well known literary persons of the era. The characters are obviously very loosely based on those of Jane Austen and Lord Byron respectively. Like Austen, Prudence works on a small, domestic canvas and writes about what she knows, while Dammler's Cantos From Abroad are clearly inspired by Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. However the personalities of Prudence and Dammler have little in common with either Austen or Byron.
The supporting cast of minor characters also deserves mentioning, particularly Uncle Clarence, a minor amateur painter, who's fully convinced he's the best painter of any era, and Cousin Hetta, who creates more mischief than she's aware of. A few lightly sketched historic personages flitter through the story as well. Although the purists will notice a few errors and anachronisms, these are easily overlooked in an otherwise fast paced and well written novel. I warmly recommend this delightfully amusing book. (Posted by yvonne 7/13/09)
#126 A Hero's Welcome
by Judith Stafford (aka Judy Christenberry)
Published 1991 by Harlequin
Diana, Lady Rossley met her husband Richard when he fished her out of the Thames. Her father had blown his brains out, leaving her nothing, and she had no one and nowhere to go, so in a fit of despondency she tried to drown herself. But Richard had his own problems. His spoiled and flagrantly unfaithful wife Alicia had run off with her lover and died abroad, leaving him with a three year old daughter Melanie to raise. (His aunt Lady Hanson was still living and could well have supported a child, but he doesn't seem to have thought of that solution.) Richard solves both their problems by marrying Diana and leaving immediately to return to the war, telling Diana he does not expect to return.
A year later, when the book begins, Richard has survived the war, more or less in one piece except for a bad wound in his left arm, and has been sent home. Richard has had four years to brood about his first marriage to Melly's mother and the public cuckoldings he endured; he thinks 'they're all alike', thus he is very suspicious of Diana and expects the worst. Instead he returns to Rossley House to find a pleasant, smoothly run household, a delightful, happy young daughter, and an unknown wife who is beloved by all - his friends, his aunt, his first wife's mother, and even the servants adore her. Richard's convictions about the false nature of women are now at war with his growing love and respect for his not-yet-wife Diana.
Diana is possibly the most tactful young woman I've ever read of, and I can only say, I hope bitter, overbearing Richard is worthy of her. I fear he isn't; who could be? I found myself more interested in the subsidiary romance; Robert, one of Richard's friends, limps so badly from his wounds that he feels that Clare, who had been the season's incomparable, could never love him. I found it a bit harder to stay interested in this book, as compared to some other Judith Stafford favorites (The Lemon Cake, Cupid and the Vicar); it moves at a slower pace, and I'm a bit impatient with the Patient Griselda myth (a wife who is made to suffer to prove her love, while her lord doesn't have to prove a darn thing). I wound up liking it after all, in large part because the author's prose style and gentle humor appeal to me. (Posted by Janice 7/10/09)
I, too, generally enjoy Stafford's books very much but this one, unfortunately, is nowhere near the fun of the rest of her production. Neither Richard nor Diana interested me much as characters, Richard in particular is a dead bore, and their love story is so slight it's hardly noticeable. I didn't find the patient wife theme half as tiresome as the ridiculous spy plot introduced in chapter 5. There's absolutely nothing new in this story, although I think it covers most clichés of the genre quite nicely. Good prose though and it does have a very happy end - the book is finally over! (Posted by yvonne 7/10/09)
#125 A Lady Of Property
by Vanessa Gray
Published 1988 by Signet
Miss Charlotte Forester (Lottie) is the eldest of three daughters of widowed Lady Forester. Lottie is the plain one, her next sister Carrie is the beautiful but spoiled one, and her youngest sister Amanda is the sympathetic but timid one. Lady Forester harbors some prejudice against Lottie because she resembles her grandmother Amelia, with whom Lady Forester never got on. Lottie's looks are out of fashion too; she is slim rather than curvy, and she bears a white streak in her auburn hair -- a remnant of a childhood injury received when Carrie threw a horseshoe at her on purpose.
Lottie has therefore been raised to feel she is unattractive and a Season would be wasted on her, but Carrie (though she has a vile temper and is mean to the servants) is a perfect golden beauty just in the fashionable mode and ought to have a Season as she is bound to marry well. Lottie does have an ace in the hole; her grandmother Amelia had made Lottie the sole heir to her isolated estate, Pomfret Priory; Lottie thinks of going to live there, if there is no other way to escape.
A friend of Lady Forester's advises her that Mr. Marcus North is looking for a bride, and since his property adjoins Pomfret, Lottie is ordered to meet and accept him. Marcus has his own insecurities; he can't see why any of the ton's pretty women would want him, and he's being manipulated into offering for Annabelle, a girl he doesn't want or like. He agrees to meet Lottie, but she has run off to her old governess, Miss Delia Wythe, rather than meet him, and so Marcus decides to continue on north to his country home.
Lottie arrives at her old governess's cottage to find her friend, Miss Delia Wythe, disabled by an attack of sciatica, and with no real room for a guest. Miss Wythe was supposed to take up a new position as governess to an invalid five year old girl, but cannot until she's better, so she proposes that Lottie hide by going in her stead. As Miss Delia Wythe, Governess, Lottie finds that her new position is untenable -- her employer's vicious, vindictive, brutal lech of a stepson, Sir Albin Drysdale, has targeted her. Lottie must escape once again, this time in the company of 'Sebastian', a chance-met acquaintance -- Marcus in disguise.
This is an odd little story, another of the sort that couldn't be published today because it doesn't fit the current 'rules' -- hero and heroine don't spend the entire book together, they're not screwing each other by Chapter 2, and there's a very large cast of subsidiary characters who come and go. It's a tricky problem -- what does a young lady do when she is not content to let others determine her future for her? I kept turning pages to find out what Lottie would do next and how she would do it within the constraints of that era. I wouldn't call it a deeply felt book, but it moves fast and was pretty entertaining. (Posted by Janice 7/6/09)
#124 The Duke's Revenge
by Marlene Suson
Published 1987 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Alyssa Eliot is the daughter of her mother's first marriage to the son of Lord Eliot, who died young. Her mother Fanny (a paragon of vulgarity) agreed readily to give her infant daughter up to her grandfather to raise. By her second marriage to a wealthy merchant, Elias Raff, also now deceased, she had another daughter, Rosina, who bids fair to be as silly, vain, cunning and stupid as her mother. Alyssa, having been raised as Miss Eliot of Ormandy Park, is every bit a genuine lady, and as different from her mother and half sister as chalk and cheese. Her grandfather had been loath to lose her; he had not given her a Season and such suitors as she met had been discouraged, so Alyssa is now 25 and still unmarried.
Alyssa was not kept from knowing her mother and sister, as Lord Eliot felt one or two weeks a year in their company would teach her more than forbidding contact would do. This time, however, her mother (widowed again) has begged Alyssa to stay on and help her straighten out her tangled finances. Alyssa felt duty bound to do so, and this caused a breach between her and her loving but fierce grandfather. While staying with her mother and sister in London, she is Miss Raff, rather than Miss Eliot.
Jeremy Carstair, the young (19) Marquess of Stanwood, met Alyssa at the home of an old friend of hers, and fell headlong into calf love. He wants to marry her, but Alyssa realizes that he is much too young to marry yet, particularly to a woman six years older than he. In order to avoid hurting his feelings, Alyssa says she will not say no but asks that the betrothal be kept secret for a year. Alyssa thinks that, given time, Jeremy's passion will fade -- and she may just help the process along by acting like a total pain when with him.
However, when Jeremy's father Richard, the Duke of Carlyle, gets wind of Jeremy's desire to marry 'Miss Raff', he assumes she must be an adventuress out to snare wealth and a title. Richard himself (now 36) had been married off at 16 to a minor princess who was several years older than he; she had mocked him, betrayed him and broken his heart before she died. Although he has had numerous affairs, he's never considered remarrying; he is devoted to his son Jeremy and his frail daughter Ellen. After a disastrous encounter with Mrs. Raff and her daughter Rosina at Vauxhall, Richard assumes the other daughter must be cut from the same pattern and is determined to make sure Jeremy never marries Alyssa, by fair means or foul. However, when he actually meets Alyssa, he's baffled -- how can this beautiful, elegant, witty, intelligent woman be the same golddigger who has snared his naive young son Jeremy?
I liked Alyssa; she had tremendous integrity and presence of mind. I liked Richard; although some of his actions marked him as just another arrogant p****, his genuine love for his two children and his fear for their welfare redeemed him. Other than that, I don't see much in this tale to recommend it; it's competently told and it moves at a cracking pace, but all this Beatrice & Benedick stuff is getting old with me. So I'd say, worth reading if you like the storyline, but maybe not worth chasing down. (Posted by Janice 6/30/09)
#123 A Lady Of Letters
by Jacqueline Diamond
Published 1986 by Warner Books
Miss Marianne Arnet is the daughter of a French gentleman and an English lady. Her father's business took him to the Continent, and her mother went with him; they left their child at first with their cousins the Sloans. When the Sloan parents died, Marianne moved to her maternal grandfather Lord Marlow's country residence, where she lives now with her Aunt Edith Marlow and her two daughters, haughty beautiful Lucinda and mousy timid Jane. Lucinda has been out for two years, but Jane is to make her come-out this Season, and Marianne is to come out with her.
Marianne has a secret, however; she writes poetry as 'Mata'; her cousin Will Sloan, a London painter, sees to its publication and forwards any letters for 'Mata' to her. As Mata, Marianne has been corresponding with a kindred soul who signs himself only 'J'. Marianne looks forward to her London visit not least because she can finally meet the mysterious 'J'.
But Marianne's dreams are rudely shattered when Lord Marlow receives a letter from Jeremy Hanbridge, Marquess of Whitestone. Whitestone had been in the army and had seen many of his men die as a result of information provided by spies. In his letter Whitestone accuses Marianne's parents of being traitors spying for Napoleon and claims that Marianne must be helping them; therefore if Marianne comes to London, he will see that she is shunned by the ton -- along with her family. Lucinda explodes at the potential ruin of her season -- and because she has targeted Whitestone as her future husband.
Marianne proposes that she go instead to her cousin Will and his wife and pose as Will's sister Marianne Sloan. But she has seen the handwriting on that infamous letter and recognized it -- it is that of her secret correspondent 'J'.
Once in London in Will's house, Marianne meets Miss Fritzella Crane, an unusual lady living in the attic. Fritzella believes she has had many past lives; each room is furnished like one of them. With Fritzella's help Marianne decides to have her revenge on Whitestone. She already has three identities - Marianne Arnet, Marianne Sloan and Mata; she will appear in so many outrageous guises to Whitestone that he will be completely confused, and when he finally learns who she is, he won't be able to claim to the ton that he was deceived because he will have known all along that she was not what she appeared.
There's a lot of stuff going on in this short novel -- spies, counterspies, masquerades, even a prostitute rehab project -- but it all comes to a coherent ending somehow, and the characters, particularly Fritzella, have warmth and energy. There are one or two things that seem odd to me - Jane wears bright red to her debut ball, and Mr. Trimble takes snuff there that is described as a white powder. Coke at the Marlow ball? I shouldn't think so. But the only really painful thing in the book is Mata's poetry; it's really not very good. Other than those bits, a pleasant read. (Posted by Janice 6/19/09)
by Jennie Gallant AKA Joan Smith
Published 1980 by Fawcett Coventry
Dressed in filth and tatters, Lady Celeste Imogene Marie Auge Fawthrop has escaped from Revolutionary France and made her way back to her father Lord Harlock in London. Her mother had become estranged from her husband, and gone to France some years ago, taking her daughter and her son Edouard with her. It's been five years since Harlock has had any news of them, and at the moment his daughter returns, he is discussing the likelihood of their survival with his much younger friend Lord Degan, and concluding that they must have perished. Degan understands the courage and resourcefulness her escape demanded of her and admires her beauty (she cleans up well and she makes all those proper English misses seem really dull), but cannot countenance her outspoken manners and lack of regard for English propriety.
Sally, also called Minou by her French relation Henry Merigot (formerly Comte de Verais), has brought with her the news that her mother and brother are still alive. Some few aristos have survived by being taken in at an insane asylum in Paris; the proprietor has an in with the authorities and as long as he is paid well and they are bribed well, his "patients" are left alone by the revolutionaries. However the money runs out at the end of July, and Marie and Edouard must be rescued before then or they will join the thousands slaughtered by Madame Guillotine.
Lord Harlock (the kind of man who takes no for an answer) asks the British authorities to arrange a rescue party, but they hem & haw & delay. Minou and Henri realize that they cannot wait -- they must stage a rescue themselves. They leave for Paris, and Degan (who barely speaks French and that with an English accent) follows, outraged that Minou would go off alone with his rival Henri and scared for her safety.
This is as much a story of change in attitudes as it is of high adventure. Degan wants Minou to conform to English norms, to show propriety and self control at all times, and it makes him very angry when she won't, because a great deal of his outrage comes from a fear that she doesn't really understand how unsafe the world is, even in England. His journey is to learn to be a little looser and more adventurous himself, and to realize that controlling and browbeating a woman even to protect her will only drive her away in the end. Minou has to learn not to yank his chain so often
I think this is a book men and other people who like adventure fiction would enjoy, since it's mostly a road trip with danger and hair-raising adventures along the way. It has flashes of Joan Smith type humor, but it's not like her regency comedies. It would make a good movie. (Posted by Janice 6/13/09)
Note: This is a Georgian romance and predating the Regency period. However, since Joan Smith is a well known Regency author, we felt it suitable to include this book, although not strictly a Regency. (Posted by yvonne 6/13/09)
#121 Fleeting Fancy
by Rosemary Edghill
Published 1992 by Fawcett Crest
Primula Greetwell is pretty, rich and well connected, yet unmarried at twenty-six. It seems a mystery but Primula has a secret. Ten years ago she met, fell in love with and married John Cunningham. Except that there was no John Cunningham but the Viscount Severn and no marriage but a sham ceremony. Only the honeymoon was real. By a fluke of luck, or so it seemed, her parents were kept in the dark about the particulars of the lost weeks and, loving their daughter very much, didn't throw her out as some would, yet there was no comeout and no talk of marriage. Until one day the Earl of Malhythe visited and offered Primula a suitable marriage partner - his oldest son, the Viscount Severn.
Viscount Severn had, for somebody so young, a long and illustrious career as a rake, topped by his seduction and sham marriage to Miss Greetwell. When he refused his father's request to make the sham marriage a real one, he was banished to India. The following ten years made the Viscount think that marriage was a small price to pay to be allowed to return to his beloved England. He agrees to marry the bride his father has picked out for him, sight unseen, just to be allowed to return. John may have forgotten Primula but his father had not.
This is a favorite book of mine and one I recommend warmly. Rosemary Edghill is an excellent writer, her characters live and breathe on the pages and you can't help yourself caring about them. Interwoven with the main plot is a secondary story line which is almost as appealing. These are skillfully intertwined to create an absorbing tale. The book is full of well drawn characters - quite a large cast, really, and the story repays rereading. This is mainly a story of redemption but without moralizing. Edghill is sympathetic to her flawed characters and so are we. A book well worth searching out! (Posted by yvonne 6/8/09)
My problem with the book was that the 'hero' was a self-centered rat, the sort who, if he lived today, would be hanging out in clubs, targeting girls and dropping rufies in their drinks. I just didn't buy that he'd grow anything like a conscience, ever, or care for anybody more than he did for himself. It made me hard to accept him as a hero, even a flawed one, even in a comedy. But I did think it an absorbing read at the time and I still have a copy around somewhere. (Posted by Janice 6/8/09)
I think it is always possible for a person to change. Shipping him to India, stripping him of all his privilege of riches and rank, to make his own way and also to see true cruelty in all its goriness, yes, I believe it COULD have a profound effect on a person, even a spoilt, selfish one as that of the hero. Suddenly he was on the receiving end of the abuse, at the bottom of the food chain so to speak, and I can see it shaking him up and make him understand, because he's not stupid, that his actions also would hurt others and thus develop a conscience in his adulthood. Maybe not probable but in my book definitely possible. (Posted by yvonne 6/8/09)
#120 The Cynic
by Elizabeth Michaels
Published 1992 by Harlequin
Miss Margaret Sutton, 25, was kept close in the country by her miser father until his death; he feared she would be kidnapped for ransom or marry a fortune hunter, so she was never permitted to have a Season. Now, orphaned and extremely wealthy, she has come to stay with her aunt Lady Sally Carstairs to do the Season. Lady Carstairs worries that outspoken, hot tempered Meg will be shunned by the ton if she doesn't observe the strictest propriety - which doesn't include stalking off at Almack's when Lord Wrendale, ‘The Cynic', incurs her ire by also lecturing her on having a care about getting herself into iffy situations.
Johnny Trevore, 20, has a pretty older mistress, Mrs. Patsy Billington, and Johnny's mother Lavinia is afraid he might actually marry her, so she puts continual pressure on Johnny to find a proper bride. Johnny's uncle Lord Wrendale knows Johnny doesn't want to marry anybody as yet, but he is unable to get Lavinia to lay off. Meg and Johnny collude to give out that they are betrothed, so as to get her aunt and his mum off their backs.
Roger Marden, who appears to be a nice young man, befriends Meg. In reality he is desperate for money, and he's not a nice man at all; he was Patsy's protector for a year and he still strikes fear into her. Roger will have Meg and her money, by fair means or foul, unless Patsy, Johnny and The Cynic can stop him.
I liked this short little trad. All the elements are familiar, true, but the characters are appealing and it moves along at a good clip. I liked that even Patsy, a demimondaine widow, is shown with some sympathy, and not as some scheming greedy harpy, and I liked that she got her own happy ending. My copy is unusual for a regency in that it has a very pretty cover painting which shows the lead characters in a genuine scene from the book - fortyish Lord Wrendale with a touch of silver at his temples kneeling with white roses, and Meg with her red curls receiving his offer. This book is a little bit unusual and I'd recommend it if you like this sort of thing. (Posted by Janice 6/4/09)
#119 The Raven Sisters
by Dorothy Mack
Published 1977 by Candlelight Regency Special
Miss Elizabeth Raven and her younger sister Carina are on their way to London with their Aunt Silverdown for Carina’s debut. Their mother is dead; their father Matthew, who has remained behind at Ravenshill, is a gamester whose gambling addiction has ruined the family. Elizabeth is a considerable heiress through a legacy from her grandfather, but Carina is not; Elizabeth now has access to the income from her inheritance and it’s her money that is financing their Season and Carina’s come-out. Elizabeth had had a season the year before but curtailed it when Carina caught the influenza.
Elizabeth is tall, blonde and an Incomparable; she is blessed with a sweet nature and an inner reservoir of courage and will, but she is somewhat reserved and few see this side of her. Carina is her opposite -- tiny, auburn haired, daring, outspoken and frequently outrageous.
Their coach is held up on Hounslow Heath, and they are rescued by Mr. Gavin Delawney. with a bit of help from daring Carina, who whaps the highwayman with her umbrella and disarms him. Aunt Silverdown faints and the robber escapes, without the loot. Gavin sees Elizabeth and is stunned by her beauty, but he puts Carina down as a hoydenish child.
In London Gavin and his friend Sir Edward Lynton haunt the Green Street house of the now wildly popular Raven sisters. Gavin spends considerable time with Carina, but he treats her like a little sister. Elizabeth hides her feelings for Lynton even from her sister, while fending off the advances of the Earl of Edgemere, a man with a mean streak who is desperate to marry an heiress.
There’s nothing new in this book; it’s a pleasant story of two sisters and their future husbands sorting themselves out. The writing style is a little old-fashionedly romantic -- not enough to put me off, but enough to mark it as an older book. It’s a comfortable read, but I didn’t find it especially remarkable, and so I was puzzled to find it on several Desert Island Keeper lists. Although I liked the characters, and it’s certainly competently written, I can’t rate it as highly as that. (Posted by Janice 5/30/09)
#118 Song for a Lady
by Jacqueline Diamond
Published 1983 by Walker Publishing
If not for a twist of fate, Lady Deborah Martin would be much pampered and spoilt as the youngest daughter of the Earl of Selverton. Unfortunately for Deborah, the half-Italian second Lady Selverton had found life in England insupportable and had run away home to Italy with her son's tutor, taking her young daughter with her. A flu epidemic that took the life of both Lady Selverton and her lover served to reunite Deborah with her far from loving family.
Deborah, the image of her dead mother, is a constant reminder to Lord Selverton of his wife's disgraceful behavior and a constant source for unkindness from her older half sisters, Lady Elaine and Clare. While Clare is simply foolish, Elaine is vicious and plots Deborah's downfall. During a house party to which Lord Foxborough, the man Elaine intends to marry, becomes interested in Deborah, a misunderstanding gives Elaine the chance to rid herself of her sister once and for all.
Palmed off to become the companion of their widowed cousin Melanie, Lady Winterset, a truly miserable time of Deborah's life ensues. Melanie, who married an older man for his money, is determined to make a better match this time and whom better to marry than Lord Foxborough? But the Marquis proves maddeningly elusive, Clare seems intent on making a cake of herself over a handsome face, and to complicate matters further, Melanie learns some distressing facts about Deborah that may bring all her scheming to naught. With the help of her not so dear cousin Elaine, Melanie sets out to right the world to her liking.
This story seemed more than a little familiar and no wonder. This is the old fairytale Cinderella, lightly disguised in Regency clothing. Deborah is the much set upon heroine, her sister Elaine and Lady Winterset play the parts of wicked stepmother and jealous sister to perfection, with the Marquis of Foxborough is cast as Prince Charming.
It's an older book and it shows. The hero is hardly present and the reader is left wondering when the heroine could have seen enough of him to fall in love with anything beyond his favorable person. It also has some very unpleasant characters, particularly sister Elaine, who is a nasty piece of business, but not the saving grace of humor. The ending is highly improbable and not at all in keeping with the rest of the story. Regretfully, this book has nothing new to add to the fairytale. Although not badly written, it is entirely forgettable and will only serve as a momentary distraction. (Posted by yvonne 5/26/09)
#117 The Righteous Rakehell
by Gayle Buck
Published 1988 by Signet
Justin Avery, Viscount of Kenelm had just broken up with bird-witted but gorgeous Lady Charlotte Albion, whose marriage he had saved by having an affair with her (he had told her husband that she turned to him out of loneliness, and Lord Albion cosily confided in return that he thought he was too old for her and believed that she had been forced into the marriage).
On his way home from Watier's, where this interesting conversation had taken place, Justin was attacked by footpads. Lady Catherine Talbot, her brother Christopher and her father Lord Talbot found him unconscious in the street; they couldn't stay because they were on their way to a smuggling run, so they took him with them. The Talbots are engaged in smuggling because Lord Talbot had run the family fortunes into the ground through a gambling addiction, which he has overcome.
After their smuggling adventure, Justin stayed with them at Ravensclaw for a few days. Upon returning to London, he was summoned by his father, the Earl of Kenelm, who had heard of the Albion affair. The Earl tells Justin that his days of scandal must end and he must announce his engagement to marry before his brother William (away on his Grand Tour) returns to England in a few week, or be stricken from the family Bible and turned out of his inheritance. Furious and afraid, Justin storms out, but he knows he must bow to the Earl's order and marry -- but he intends to choose a lady who will know her place and won't interfere with his pleasures.
Justin bethinks himself of Lady Cat. When he stayed at Ravensclaw, he had liked her, admired her intelligence and thought her attractive. He asks her father for her hand, but Lord Talbot tells him it's up to Cat. Justin proposes to Cat; at first she's thrilled, but when he says that it will be a marriage of convenience, she becomes furious. Because she's in love with Justin, she tells her father that she has accepted but will end the engagement if she can't win his love -- and then she sets out to teach this arrogant young lord a thing or two about love.
This is an entertaining tale, if you can put aside the notion that Justin's father had some control (short of murdering his eldest son) over who would inherit the title, and the (to me) improbability of a cuckolded husband practically becoming his rival's best friend. However, it has one of the oddest, most illogical endings I've ever come across, and I'm almost tempted to do spoilers to discuss it. The timing's off, or something's missing. (Posted by Janice 5/20/09)
#116 Mlle. Cecie
by Sarah Carlisle
Published 1980 by Coventry
Cecilia Penrith, the daughter of loving parents Lord and Lady Penrith of Cornwall, is about to embark on her first Season. Cecie has grown up with Mr. Peter Pendyne, a distant cousin about seven years older than she. Peter is quite fond of her and has always treated her as a sort of little sister. For her part, Cecie is very attached to Peter, and when it appears to her that he is dangerously involved in smuggling, she determines to confront him and dissuade him if she can, particularly since Major Thompson, a guest of her father’s, is also suspicious of Peter.
To this end she sneaks onto Peter’s yacht the Mary Ann and falls asleep in his cabin. She wakes up to find that the ship is off the French coast and being shot at by a French patrol ship. Peter takes it pretty well, but he can’t carry her back to Cornwall immediately because the yacht needs extensive repairs, and he has his own agenda while in France. Posing as brother and sister, the pair are taken to Paris to meet with Talleyrand and become “guests” of the Empire. Cecie has a choice to make -- between her loyalty to her homeland and her loyalty to her dear cousin Peter, who now appears to be a spy for the French.
This short light novel is much more of an adventure story in the style of a 1940s swashbuckler movie than it is a romance. There isn’t an overt growth of a sexual relationship between Cecie and Peter, so much as a gradual realization that their old friendship has taken on a new dimension. I liked the inclusion of historical figures (Talleyrand, Napoleon, Empress Josephine) as they had something to do; it wasn’t just a walkon. The whole was a fast moving tale with a nice humorous touch and I liked it. (Posted by Janice 5/16/09)
#115 The Reluctant Guardian
by Jo Manning
Published 1999 by Regency Press
Mr. Matthew Martin of Alresford Hall, a widower, has two countrybred daughters, Mary and Sally. The sisters are staying with him near London, but he has made no attempt to bring them into society. Nor has their cousin, Colonel Sir Isaac Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, although they are neighbors in the country and he has always known them. In fact he has avoided contact with them until one morning it is forced upon him when he receives a letter from his mother.
Isaac and his mother, who is called Madam, do not get along; she is a selfish, spiteful, overbearing old woman with a vicious tongue. Madam encloses a letter from Mary advising that her father has vanished, taking a few clothes and leaving 100 guineas for them in the harpsichord drawer. Madam hopes that Isaac will send both girls home, as Alresford is very near Wivenhoe and she'll have them as unpaid companions to kick around.
Isaac and his friend Jamie Fraser visit the Martin girls at their Chelsea house, and Isaac tells Mary that in her uncle's unexplained absence he is their guardian and he can't permit them to live unprotected. Mary protests that she and Sally (with whom Jamie is much taken) are doing just fine, thank you very much, and do not need his interference as their father will most certainly return any time now. Isaac is angered by her defiance and longs to turn her over his knee for a salutary spanking. Isaac locates the girls' former governess, Mrs. Emma Davenport, and that lady agrees to have the girls come to her and to shepherd them through the rest of the London season.
Matthew does indeed reappear after a time, very much in love, and he has a new bride with him. Unfortunately the new Mrs. Martin is Dot Scofield, a well known prostitute; she and her brutal hulking brother Bart were running a con game when Martin unexpectedly proposed to her and Dot saw a way out of her life with Bart -- even though she had a husband still living. When Isaac exposes her background and the faux marriage is broken up, Bart is enraged and vows vengeance on all of them, including the Martin girls.
I liked this novel very much. It had a great deal of regency flavor without overwhelming the story and becoming a research dump. The characters are likeable and interesting, and they behave in a way that's appropriate for the era. The author based her story on a real series of letter, and there's a note in the back explaining what elements she altered. It may seem a little old fashioned to some readers, but I think it's well worth looking for. (Posted by Janice 5/12/09)
#114 A Lady's Point Of View
by Jacqueline Diamond
Published 1989 by Harlequin
Miss Margaret Linley (Meg) and her younger sister Angela are in London with their widowed mother Lady Mary Linley to find husbands. Although Meg and Angela do not know the full extent of their financial problems, it is clear to both that they must make good marriages. Angela is a little beauty, and though Meg is well enough looking, she has a Fatal Flaw: she's terribly nearsighted. Her mother believes that admitting to any physical deficiency whatsoever would kill Meg's chances of marrying well, and has forbidden her to wear spectacles or use a glass, leaving Meg virtually blind. She does have one good friend, Helen Cockerell, in whom she has confided.
Meg's vision is so poor that one evening at Almack's she cuts Beau Brummel dead by mistake, and causes such a sensation that she must leave London lest she spoil her sister's chances. Her mother expects her to go north to her prosy cousins the Barkers, but en route she is accidentally mistaken for a governess expected to take up a position supervising the orphaned niece and nephew of Lord Bryn.
Andrew Harwood Davis, Marquess of Bryn has custody of 5 year old Tom and 7 year old Vanessa, who have gone through three governesses already in the 18 months they've been with him. Bryn was wounded in the war, and his trusted servant Harry was killed getting him off the battlefield; Bryn feels a deep sense of guilt over Harry's death. In general Bryn takes his responsibilities very seriously, and so he has decided to find a wife - not for love but for suitability. He has settled on Miss Germaine Geraint, a very forthright, horse loving sort of girl, but finds he likes the new governess (now using his mother's lorgnette) very well.
Back in London, Angela finds herself falling for Helen's brother Edward, a rather stuffy sort of young man; Lady Cynthia Darnet, a conniving widow, has plans to land Bryn herself and plots with Sir Manfred to ruin Meg; and Germaine turns out to be an unexpectedly likeable girl who doesn't want to marry for position. In fact, just about all of the characters in this book are likeable; the only surprise is that it takes them all so long to sort themselves out.
Jacqueline Diamond is mostly known for her contemporaries; I see only four other regencies from her, all fairly early in her career. This one doesn't have a great deal of regency feel to it, but neither did I find any wallbanger-class errors (though I did wonder if a deb would wear cherry red to Almack's). It's an amiable tale and a pleasant read. (Posted by Janice 5/8/09)
I like Diamond's Regencies very well. Maybe she doesn't have a Regency voice, if we with that mean a Georgette Heyer sort of voice, but as Janice said, there's nothing in it that's wrong for the era and, well, I like that she doesn't sound like a Heyer wannabe! There's not a ton of slang to learn, there are no odd colors to lend 'flavor' but maybe that just make her books more accessible to the general reading public. I, for one, wish she's written more Regencies but cherish the ones I got.
I much enjoyed this totally fanciful plot idea, about the half blind heroine that makes such a Fatal Mistake, decides to accept what life's throwing her, and ends up loving the result! It's nice to read a story without villains hiding behind every curtain and two spies under the bed. It makes for a nice change of pace and if it takes the characters time to sort themselves out, I didn't mind, nor was I bored. Personally I think the slower pace allowed time for creating more well rounded characters. Diamond is an excellent writer and there's a flow to her prose that appeals very much to me. (Posted by yvonne 5/8/09)
#113 The Viscount's Lady
by Margaret Summerville
Published 1979 by Pocket Books
Cedric Hardcastle, Viscount Stansbury is what we today would call a nerd. Tall, thin, awkward Ceddie's passion is ancient history, and he is the despair of his parents, Their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Chelmsford, because he won't live the life of a typical London gentleman with fine home, parties, sports, gaming and smart clothes. His house is shabby, as are his clothes, and he prefers the company of the dog Horatio to that of the ton. He's actually working on a book about Nero, and worse yet, because of a bad childhood experience with a horse that threw him and then bit him badly, he's terrified of horses. Why can't he be more like his younger brother Lord Peter, the perfect young man about town?
Cedric had studied in Prussia with the renowned Herr Professor Schnifflegruber. He subscribed to the Professor's theory that the legend of the Icenian Nero, in which Queen Boadicea rode into a Roman temple, cursed their gods and urged her people to revolt, and a temple statue of Nero fell, breaking its arm, is a myth. Mr. Augustus Halkyard of the village of Picklesworth has lately acquired a statue which may be the very statue of the legend, and Cedric and his secretary Thornridge go there for a look at it. Mr. Halkyard also has a beautiful red-haired unmarried daughter, Boadicea.
Neville Grimthorpe, a crude brute of a man from whom Augustus leases the Halkyard home, has courted Boa, mostly by telling her that he will marry her whether she wants it or not. Not everyone sees Grimthorpe's true nature, but Boa does, and she immediately prefers Cedric's company. For his part, Cedric is charmed by this beautiful and clever young lady who is fluent in Latin and German and aids her father in his studies.
To avoid Grimthorpe, Boa goes on a visit to London, but Grimthorpe follows, and a previously betrothed German prince targets her as a possibility for an upper class mistress as well. Now that Cedric is in love for the first time, can he change his ways in time to save his Boa from a dreadful fate?
Doing light comedy is tricky; it's difficult to keep all those balls airborne, but I felt this book succeeded. It was fun to watch Ceddie fall in love and find there is something worth changing his life for, just a little bit. Despite what others thought, he always had a kind heart and a backbone. Except for the revolting Grimthorpe, all the characters have their charm. I quite enjoyed this book and would recommend it to readers who like lighter fare. (Posted by Janice 5/4/09)
by Sandra Wilson (Sandra Heath)
Published 1980 by Fawcett
Jessica Durleigh had done the unforgivable. Two years ago she had fallen in love, thrown caution to the wind, jilted her fiancé Francis Varangian and eloped with her best friend's husband. Now her lover, Philip Woodville, is dead and has left her ill provided for. The legacy to her consists of a small cottage bordering the Varangian estate, and she is bound by Philip's will to inhabit it for two years before she can sell. Her stay will not be easy, as she's now shunned by the local society for her immoral ways, and actively disliked by the Woodville family, yet it's her one choice; that or complete destitution. The only one still friendly is, surprisingly enough, Francis Varangian.
Life in the small town of Henbury is however less than calm and sedate than expected. There's a smuggling ring operating in the area and Philip's older brother Nicholas as well as Francis seem to be involved. Or are they? The mail coach has been robbed too and there are poachers out en masse. Jessica must also cope with the dislike that her beloved Philip is held in my everybody, except her and his doting mother. There's also the issue of the source of Philip's income. Then there's her old childhood friend Jamie Pike that's surely too well educated and intelligent to be a common sheepherder and who's way of life becomes another worry to the already beset Jessica.
This story has some problems in the realism department, the historical canvas is Regencyland, rather than a historical time and place. The smuggling theme has been done to death these days of course, which wasn't the case when this book was written, so I tried to overlook it. The writing itself flows well, the characters are rather sketchy but recognizable, yet never able to fully engage the reader and I daresay they and their story will be forgotten the moment you close the book. Although not worth searching out, if you should stumble over it, well, it's a nice way to while away an hour or two.
Further investigation about this author (Thanks, Janice!) shows that Sandra Wilson is in fact also Sandra Heath, author of numerous Regencies! This is one of her earliest Regencies and not as polished or well researched as her later books. (Posted by yvonne 4/26/09)
#111 Men Were Deceivers Ever
by Gwyneth Moore / Patricia Veryan
ISBN: 0373311168, 0727845411
Published 1989 by Harlequin, reprinted 1993 by Seven Oaks
Miss Helena Hammond, her brothers Rostyn, Kayne and Emmet, and innumerable cats, live with their widowed mother. Neither of their parents had much sense about money, as their father had managed to lose their fortune in bad investments before he died, and his widow has kept afloat by borrowing from family, and eventually from moneylenders, on the strength of Helena's expected marriage to the gorgeous Captain Lord Robert Eastleigh.
Lord Robert and his schoolmate Lieutenant Peter Cliveden were both part of Wellington's Peninsular forces, as were Helena's brothers Rostyn and Kayne. Kayne came home uninjured, and Peter came home with a leg wound, but Rostyn was more gravely injured; his spine was injured and he is not expected to walk again. Robert, however, was thought to have been killed. Helena had been terribly in love with Robert and believed him to be all that was honorable; she was so in love with him that she disregarded many little signs and whispers that he was not the noble character she thought him. When it gets about that her fiance is dead, the truth about her mother's financial idiocy comes out, and poverty and ruin stare the family in the face.
Peter had met Helena when he brought her younger brother Emmet home from school after a stagecoach accident, and fell in love with her at first sight. He proposes to Helena, but Helena tells him that she will never love again, and he says that's all right because he has a mistress whom he loves and theirs will be a mariage de convenance only. However, what Peter does not tell Helena is that he knows that Robert is alive, and when, after they're married, Helena finds out that Peter knew and didn't tell her, the liking she has begun to feel for Peter turns to rage at his deception.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It's very well written (if a bit stiffly here and there), and has nice touches of humor, but it's very much in the manner of 1930s movies like The Scarlet Pimpernel, in which the heroine is desired by all for her beauty alone and the dashing adventurous hero never tells her a damn thing, expecting her to take everything on faith alone. If Peter had ever told Helena one tenth of the truth about Robert, she would likely have shunned her former fiance and been free to appreciate her husband. He demanded that she trust him, but he wouldn't trust her. I know I'm supposed to think it's all very romantic, but it seems terribly silly to me. I can recommend this book to readers who like books like Heyer's The Black Moth, as it's just buckled full of swash, but I can't recommend it for having grounded, believable characters. (Posted by Janice 4/22/09)
Patricia Veryan, who published several of her Regencies under the nom de plume Gwyneth Moore, is a favorite author of mine. I love her way with words and am quickly drawn into her stories; Men Were Deceivers Ever is no exception. Having said that, I must admit that, although still better than many books on the market these days, this is not one of my favorite Veryans. Janice nicked it when she mentions the swashbuckling, as this story is really much more an adventure mystery than a romance.
In the romance department this tale is not one of literature's shining lights, although I don't agree with Janice on the reason! People in love sometimes do the silliest things and have the weirdest ideas of what it means to trust another. I may roll my eyes at how stupid the characters are, by not really talking to each other, yet I still consider them believable. The lack of romance is in the lack of time the two main characters spend together! Affection and trust can't grow when they are so rarely together. We are seldom given more than a glimpse of Peter and Helena interacting with each other, while lots of time is spent on them interacting with those around them. This, in my opinion, is the real downfall of the story. It may be a Regency but it ain't no Romance! (Posted by yvonne 4/22/09)
by Catherine Moorhouse (Dorothea Jensen & Catherine R. Allen)
Published 1983 by Dell
Miss Dorothea Sandham is an orphan, living in Bath as a poor relation with her meanspirited cousin Miss Grayson and a revolting pug named Clarissa. Thea's life with Miss Grayson has left her verbally abused, pale, badly dressed and underfed.
Miss Grayson learns that a relation of hers, Sir Tate Bancroft, has just lost his bride in childbirth, and hies herself off to Bancroft Hall, on the pretext of paying a condolence call, but with the real intention of "helping" Sir Tate by moving in and taking over. She takes Thea and Clarissa with her.
Clarissa immediately runs off and Thea finds her in the midst of a romantic encounter with a dirty mongrel dog. Thea also finds Sir Tate, very drunk, sitting on a bench in the garden. Tate had loved his beautiful perfect Portuguese bride Mathilde, whom he had married after she had helped rescue him when he was found wandering wounded in Portugal. He only wants to get back to the Peninsula so he can get himself killed too.
When Thea learns that though Mathilde died, the baby lived, she is incensed at Tate's seeming lack of concern. Miss Whitesley, who had been Tate's nurse, has been caring for the infant, but she is torn between seeing to the baby and joining Tate's twin sister Adriana, who is about to give birth herself in London.
On the spot, Tate proposes a marriage of convenience - Thea will stay and look after the nameless infant and he can get on with getting himself killed. Thea welcomes the chance of escape from Miss Grayson, but what really tips the balance is that she has fallen in love with the baby and is determined that the infant will survive and thrive.
The marriage takes place, Tate departs, Miss Whitesley leaves for London, and Thea settles in; she adopts the mongrel and calls him Lovelace (Clarissa's lover in the Richardson novel). The baby (now named Martha) thrives under Thea's love and care, the servants like her, and with time and good food, her own health improves. Except for the arrival of Senhora Seraphim, a prickly woman sent by Mathilde's parents to nanny the child, things run smoothly.
Adriana invites Thea to London to get acquainted and to have a friend of her own age there during her confinement; her own husband Nick is also serving overseas with Tate. Complications arise when Tate returns, bringing with him a beautiful Portuguese "widow", and finds, instead of a poor skinny beaten down servant, a very pretty young woman who has become his sister's best friend, and has a French comte sniffing after her.
On the plot level, this is one of those books that only works because the hero is an idiot longer than everyone else; all the other characters know Thea is a better match for Tate than pretty childlike Mathilde, let alone the scheming "widow" he comes back with. I did enjoy this book; I liked Thea, Adriana and all the other characters, and wanted to know how it would all come out. True, the book is quite dated, and reads more like something written in the 60s than the 80s, but it held my interest by its focus on the ladies' lives and adventures in the Ton and at home. It appears to be the second in a series, Adriana being the first. I find only one other book by this author (Louisa) and it doesn't appear to be related to either Adriana or Dorothea. Too bad, because there was at least one character in Dorothea who sorely needed his own romance. (Posted by Janice 4/18/09)
#109 The Thoroughly Compromised Bride
by Catherine Reynolds
Published 1991 by Harlequin
Is there a place more dangerous than the rugged mountains of Carpathia, the snows of Russia in winter, the arid sands of the Sahara or the raging seas of the stormy North Atlantic? Absolutely. It's the library at midnight. I am astonished that regency governesses did not have their female charges embroidering samplers with Do Not Go Into the Library at Midnight in scary red letters.
In this book, our heroine, Miss Elizabeth Ashton, a guest at Lady Langley's country house party, not only goes into the library at midnight -- she goes right through it and out to the summerhouse, where a rake awaits an assignation with another woman, and the expected happens. Elizabeth resists at first, but she is Swept Away and loses her virtue. Afterwards the man asks who she is so he can make things right (whatever that might entail), but Elizabeth runs back to the house without telling him. The next morning she and her father leave. Elizabeth resolves to say nothing, ever, and never to marry because her husband would know she wasn't a virgin.
Seven years later Elizabeth, still unmarried, has been living with her malapropish Aunt Emily in Bath; her father had died in the interim and the estate had passed to a cousin. Elizabeth is the despair of her aunt because she insists she never wants to be married, and indeed, she's never met anyone who tempted her to consider marriage - especially not the fatuous Lord Broxton who has been a persistent suitor.
Lady Langley's rakish brother, Mr. Charles Carlyle, is in Bath also, escorting his niece, who is making her debut. As his sister and Elizabeth's aunt are old friends, he and Elizabeth meet and become friends. The two ladies think they'd be perfect for each other and scheme to make a match. Since Charles was the man Elizabeth made love with in the summerhouse that night, and neither of them recognizes the other now, will their attraction survive when each learns the other's secret?
It's clear the author read and loved Georgette Heyer's regencies. Charles is very like Miles Calverleigh or Sir Waldo Hawkridge, and Elizabeth could be any of Georgette's firm-minded heroines (except for the part about losing her virginity in the summerhouse). There's nothing new in this tale, and quite a bit that's awfully familiar to me, but it's a pleasant enough hour's read. (Posted by Janice 4/7/09)
I, too, have read this book and my problem has always been the forced seduction in the summerhouse at the beginning, and for several reasons. First, I can't believe in the swept away notion. Let's face it, if either one of us, mature and experienced women that we are, would suddenly be accosted by a stranger in a dark summerhouse we thought deserted - I don't think swept away would be the outcome. Major heart attack from the fright more likely! I know I would fight as one possessed the moment he tried to touch me! There would be no doubt in anyone's mind that I wasn't willing. So why she wasn't scared out of her wits, well, that goes beyond belief.
Second, I don't buy that Charles couldn't find out who the woman was. Being an older sister myself I know what I'd said to Charles and although I may not have mentioned hoping he'd fall in love with my friend, I'd certainly rake him over the coals for failing to meet them! Besides, this was a house party and, even though guests departed when expected, I just don't believe it wasn't brought up in conversation. The number of topics being rather limited and mostly what people did was talk. It's possible it could be this way but hardly probable!
Otherwise the book is well written, the characters believable and well rounded, the plot not too outlandish, and, if you can discount the summerhouse scene, quite a nice, summery read, I think. (Posted by yvonne 4/7/09)
Contains possible spoilers
Charles didn't know she had been at the house party. He never saw her there (except for the summerhouse). The week's visit was up and she and her father were already planning to leave early the next morning, so it wasn't a sudden unplanned departure. Charles had not been there until that night; he had been trailing a married woman who was one of the other guests. Lady Langley (his sister) had invited him hoping he would like Elizabeth and was annoyed with him .
The woman he was supposed to meet didn't come because her husband took too long to fall asleep. His first thought was it must have been one of the maids - he could ask more direct questions of them. Later on he does say that he has been searching for her. I supposed he felt that he couldn't go up to upperclass women and say hi, did I have virgin sex with you by mistake?
After they meet again Elizabeth figures out who it was first, when she learns that he had been there that night; she and he have it out in the summerhouse again. By this time Charles had fallen in love with her, and she with him - but he had also told her that no man wants to take another man's leavings.
At first I thought it a bit unsual that Elizabeth could have kept it from her father - he might not have known exactly what happened, but he should have been aware that something had changed. But then I look back at my own family and I realize that people are sometimes really good at keeping secrets, especially from the people they love, and that other people are not as observant as we often think.
I did think the "seduction" was borderline. It was a rape, really, even though not a forcible one - he didn't beat her up, but he didn't let her go when she first asked either. He used her body's own responses to get her to do something she wouldn't have volunteered for, and I don't think that's romantic; I think it's despicable.
I have never much believed in Swept Away, either as a realistic possibility or as a literary device for excusing iffy behavior. I think the author may have wanted to write a book about hypocrisy, but she also wanted to write a romance, and the two may not be very compatible
The book's problem for me is that rape in the summerhouse as a means of hero and heroine meeting "cute" doesn't work in a light, comedy of manners sort of book as I think this one is supposed to be. It does work in a more serious book of the kind Mary Balogh or Jo Beverley do.
Charles is only reconciled to Elizabeth's previous sexual experience because it was only with him. I know that's very typical and human, but a truly great man would make the leap to forgiving her if it had been someone else. Maybe it's too much to ask, biology being what it is. (Posted by Janice 4/15/09)
#108 The Reluctant Viscountess
by Jasmine Cresswell
ISBN: 0709192037, 0263743454, 0449503135
Published 1981 by Hale, reprinted by Ballantine and Harlequin/Mills & Boon
Swedish - En Lady Med Krut, ISBN 9902058299
Finnish - Vastahakoinen Kreivitär, ISBN 9518546010
"Lady Abbott could not recall the precise occasion on which she first suspected that her younger daughter was destined to be clever. Adrienne had scarcely left the schoolroom, however, before the accumulated suspicions developed into fully-fledged forebodings."
Thus begins the story of Adrienne Abbott and her struggles in a society that rewards beauty over brains and well educated means knowing how to dance exquisitely and not reading Greek. Or so Adrienne's mother thought. If there were clever people in society then Adrienne never got to meet them. Yet the only career for a woman was to marry and her only choices were rather inane young men in puce waistcoats.
James, Viscount Cravensleigh was certainly no mother's idea of a good husband, although his prospects as the heir to an earldom and £ 20,000 a year still made him eligible. A gambler of rakish disposition, he was more at home in the boudoirs than at Almack's and more suited to the roll of passionate lover than steady helpmate. Unfortunately for the Viscount, his last gambling loss was so immense he had to mortgage his estate. And now his father had bought up the debt and was calling it in - unless James found himself a good girl to marry.
I like this book for the gentle humor but in particular for the characters. There's a lot of affection in this story, yet the people keep driving each other to despair simply because they all want different things. Adrienne's practical but not clever mother has only the one goal - to marry off Adrienne well. Adrienne herself is different without being feisty and only wants to find a man to love. James, who's rakish ways are a direct result of a painful past and even his determined father only wants James to marry because he believes it will benefit his son. Recommended. (Posted by yvonne 4/26/11)
#107 Delightful Deception
by Nancy Lawrence
Published 1990 by Zebra
Miss Charmian Crewe had lived in Dorsetshire with her father; since his death nearly a year ago, she had stayed on alone at the manor, as her only other living relative, her fathers sister, had eloped to France long ago and Charmian was not in contact with her. Her godmother Lady Rennie (Adela), who had come out with her mother, invites her to London for the Season.
Adela has her own scheme in inviting Charmian -- for too long her younger brother Leo Warrington, Earl of Wexford, has evaded his responsibility to continue the line. She thinks her old friend's daughter would be a perfect match for Leo. Miss Crewe, however, proves to be an unbiddable girl; she has come to visit London but has no intention of marrying. She is much too firm in her wishes; rather than casting off her blacks, she insists on observing proper mourning for her father, which means no ball gowns and no dancing. She won't even let her hair be restyled. Nevertheless Adela lets it be known that Charmian is her candidate for countess.
Leo had paid marked attentions to Miss Caroline Stratton last season, but hadn't offered; however Miss Stratton expects an offer and so her father has told his cronies. Word circulates about the two candidates and bets are entered at Watier's. When Leo learns of it he is very angry; he goes to his current mistress Lady Melgrave for a one-last-timer before leaving town, and has to escape out the window when her husband returns, tearing his clothes and losing his coat.
When Charmian hears of the bets, she is hurt and angry, and she bolts London for Paris to join her aunt, her only other possible source of caring and comfort. Charmian’s coachman has caught the influenza, so when she sees the disheveled Leo in the street, she takes him for a servant and hires him on the spot. Leo continues to conceal his identity as he escorts her to Paris. In Paris Napoleon's rise makes it necessary for them to flee again, and again Leo serves as her escort. Charmian battles her growing attraction and reliance on Leo, and Leo battles his feelings for her as well.
I had mixed feelings about this book. It was Nancy Lawrence's first published book, so I was prepared to make allowances, but it was so stiffly written in the beginning, and there were so many instances of phrases that didn't sound right (“cut bait” for ‘get to the point’, instead of “cut line”; “make the pretty” instead of ‘do the pretty’; “of exceptionable birth” instead of ‘unexceptional’) that it nearly became a wallbanger. However, I did read on, and it got better. The central characters are all imperfect but likable, the adventures are credible, and some of the dialog is very sharp. I can't recommend searching for this one, but if you run across it, it's not a waste of time either. Faint praise, I know, but there you are. (Posted by Janice 3/30/09)
#106 The Cockermouth Mail
by Dinah Dean
Published 1989 by Harlequin
Miss Dorcas Minster is on her way to take up a position as governess to the family of Sir Marmaduke Partridge near the village of Cockermouth in the north of England, near the Lake District. Dorcas is penniless since her father, Sir John Minster, ran through his fortune and committed suicide four years previously; some years before her mother had left Sir John for another man and Dorcas hasn't heard from her since. She has but a few shillings to her name, which might last until she reaches the Partridges if all goes well - which it doesn't.
Sir Richard Severall, a soldier awaiting his discharge, and his batman servant, Jem, are also passengers on the Cockermouth Mail. Sir Richard lost a kneecap while serving in the Peninsula and therefore has a leg that cant be relied on; he is going to his sister's for Christmas. Also aboard are Mr. Tupper, a man of business; and Mr. Petts, whose occupation is unknown. The December weather is cold and snowy; there's a coach accident and these travelers, along with Mr. Black, possibly a thief taker, and Mr. Kirby, a rakish young man, are stranded at the Nag's Head inn over Christmas.
Sir Richard likes Dorcas immediately; he's troubled about her because she's broke, and there are hints that her situation with the Partridges won't be a desirable one. Dorcas is confused about his interest in her - is he sincere, or does he think her a loose woman because she let him kiss her? Mr. Kirby finds Dorcas very attractive also; Sir Richard thinks marriage would be the solution to Dorcas's future, if she wanted Kirby, but is that what Kirby offers?
This is one of my favorite old-fashioned regencies, and (I think) the best snowbound-at-the-inn story ever. Dorcas and Sir Richard are just nice people; she faces her unpleasant future with courage and dignity, and he is an old fashioned altruistic hero of the kind one can look up to. There's a lot of local detail and the supporting characters are colorful and individualized. I've never been on a stagecoach journey through the mountains in the north of England, so I can't say whether the book has mistakes in it -- I can say, however, that if there are mistakes, they don't matter at all to me because everything else is darn near perfect. (Posted by Janice 3/24/09)
#105 Mary Ashe
by Barbara Sherrod (AKA Barbara Neil)
Published 1987 by Warner
Miss Mary Ashe has been labeled "eccentric" by the doyens of Burwash society, because she has let it be known that at 26 she wishes to be a spinster. The ladies find her forthright manner, too-black hair and sparkling dark eyes suspect as well.
Mary has been living contentedly with her father Squire Ashe, whom she loves very much, but she will be a considerable heiress when her father passes. Although her slightly younger neighbor Theo Granger has been begging her to marry him for a long time, and the whole neighborhood thinks she ought to snap him up, she can only love him as a good friend. Mary has had run-ins with fortune-hunters in the past and has become quite cynical about the motives of anyone who might seek her as a bride; she keeps mementoes of these incidents and rereads them when her resolution wavers.
Her father, however, has it brought home to him that his daughter will be alone when he is gone, and he sets his heart on her marrying someone. To that end he consults his neighbor Mrs. Chattaburty, and she undertakes to find a suitable husband for Mary. The man she finds is Lord Hugo Mallory, Earl of Loudon, Marquis of Lales-Allen -- an impoverished military man who inherited unexpectedly. Hugo would much rather be back with Wellington, but he needs the marriage settlements to pay the enormous debts his father and brother left.
The introductions are made, the Squire approves, and Mary likes Hugo very much -- only no one has told her that Hugo needs a wealthy bride, and when she finds out, she and her father are locked in stubborn opposition. Complications ensue when Mary's friend Emily falls for Theo, the fascinating Charlotta, Lady Melrose (wife of Binky) appears as a rival for Hugo, and a slimy toad called Grisby thinks to get the upper hand over Hugo by buying up his debts.
I think my favorite Barbara Sherrod/Neil remains Bella, because it is so touching, but I liked this comedy very well too. It's a very trad trad, which means instead of meaningless repetitive sex scenes, it has memorable characters, period flavor and lots of witty dialog (the exchanges between Hugo and any debt collector he happens to encounter are wonderful). Well worth looking for if you like this sort of book. (Posted by Janice 3/15/09)
Barbara Sherrod (Neil) is a favorite author of mine so when I found Janice reviewing this one I dug out my copy as well. I was surprised I had never reread this title, as I have done so frequently with her other books. When I hit chapter 4 I knew why. Mary Ashe is trying to protect herself from getting her heart broken, yet again, by a fortune hunter, but the person that finally does break her heart is none other than her own beloved father. The cruel actions of Squire Ashe, when twarted of his fondest wish, are such that I cannot accept that he ever truly loved his daughter. This is when the book, in my opinion, turns from amusing farce to heartbreak. It's not a bad book, don't get me wrong; it's well written and the characters are delightfully well drawn, particularly the granit faced Mrs Chattaburty. If you can overlook the selfish and cruel actions of Squire Ashe, the rest of the book is very amusing. I'm sorry that I couldn't. (Posted by yvonne 3/15/09)
What I like about Sherrod is that she avoids stereotypes. She could have made the father an out and out villain, or she could have stuck in a big bleeding heart repentance & forgiveness scene by him at the end, but she didn't; she made him more like a real person, who could maintain a certain stance on his position that would hurt him deeply, yet be unwilling to compromise or change. That's not deliberate cruelty; it's not like he beat her up or threw her out and refused to support her or acknowledge her existence.
I think it should be remembered also that it takes two to dance this particular tango, and Mary was just as guilty of it as her father was. I think the author meant to show that stubbornness is a family trait amongst the Ashes. Neither one of them would make the sacrifice of apologizing and humbling themselves to get back in good with the other, and both of them loved each other and were hurt by the estrangement.
Sherrod's books generally do contain a very serious element amidst the humor; Bella is in some respects a very humorous book until you get to the end and realize what the problem was that was keeping the couple apart, and then it's very poignant.
I think Sherrod understands that humor is the flip side of the coin of pain. Lesser writers are lesser to me because they don't know this, or at least they don't acknowledge it. (Posted by Janice 3/15/09)
#104 An Artful Lady
by Sabina Clark (aka Marianne Willman)
Published 1981 by Jove
Sara Roche, 29, is a young widow living on Green Dolphin Street in London with her 40ish Aunt Augusta. Gussie has some money and Sara supplements it by painting portraits in oils. Sarah's husband Jerome died in a duel two years ago, but she has never put off her blacks nor rejoined Society.
Sara's issue is that she and her husband made love once before their marriage, and though no one knew about it, Jerome brooded over this. His guilt over his behavior spoiled their marriage, as he blamed himself and Sara as well, and viewed any approach by her as a sign of wantonness. Eventually he got himself killed in a duel over some imaginary slight. Sara now believes that any gentleman would have a distaste for any lady who appeared too ardent, and she has closed her mind to any idea of falling in love again or finding another husband.
Edward, Earl of Ramsey comes to Sara to speak to her about something else, but winds up sitting for his portrait, and becomes very attracted to the pretty widow. He assumes that an American, Mr. Christopher Ames, who seems to hang out with the widow entirely too much, is his rival; however Ames has a daughter to bring out and finds Gussie very much more to his taste. Mixing with Society again and admitting Ames's attentions have brought Gussie out of her invalid's pose; can Edward's growing attraction change Sara's thinking?
I think this book was intended as light comedy of the sort intended to pass an hour pleasantly and be forgotten immediately. At that point in her career, I would speculate that Willman knew very little about the regency milieu, or she wouldn't have had the butler refer to her hero as a "gentry mort". Where the book fails worst, though, is that there doesn't seem to be much real emotion in it. I can forgive a boatload of weaknesses in a novel if I am emotionally engaged in it, but I never was in this one, not for a moment. (Posted by Janice 3/12/09)
#103 Misfit Match
by Sydney Ann Clary
Published 1989 by Harlequin
Miss Catherine Carr has lived with her aunt Lady Carr as governess to her two younger daughters, where she is pretty much an unpaid servant, slave to the selfishness and bad temper of the family. The eldest daughter Barbara is of marriageable age and had been betrothed to Marcus, Earl of Barrington, who is serving on Wellington’s staff. Barbara doesn’t love Marcus; she has a passion for the rakish but comparatively impoverished Lord Robert March.
Marcus had been one of the handsomest men in London, but a French sabre slash put paid to that; the same slash partially disabled his left arm as well and he has been invalided out of the army. Marcus didn’t mind the facial scar so much as losing his ability to serve in the army, but Barbara is shocked and repelled when she sees it, and her rejection wounds and angers Marcus further.
Meanwhile Catherine has been ordered to marry a disgusting lech of a tradesman because her aunt owes him money. Feeling that anything would be better than that, Catherine drops out of her bedroom window into Marcus’s arms. Marcus is quite drunk at the time and in his sodden state he takes Catherine to his house and proposes marriage - that would solve his problem (a desire for revenge) and hers (she really has nowhere at all to go). Marcus hadn’t known she existed - he had been so besotted with Barbara that he didn’t notice the half-starved girl in the background. The better Marcus gets to know Catherine, the more he likes and respects her, but what he doesn’t know is that he’s been her ideal since she first saw him. Catherine’s one great hope is to have his love. However Lady Carr is still scheming to get Marcus’s money -- one way or another.
I am a sucker for poor relation stories, so I found this a nice little one hour read. There’s nothing new about it, and this plot (return of the disfigured hero) has been done a jillion times, as has the spy subplot, but the story moves fast and makes emotional sense. I thought the author’s style was a bit stilted, I can’t recommend that you search for it, but it’s not a waste of time if you happen to run across it. (Posted by Janice 3/7/09)
#102 A Mind Of Her Own
by Anne MacNeill (aka Maura Seger)
Published 1983 by Signet
Lady Courtney Davies, Marchioness, is the 18 year old bride of Lord Nigel Davies, 32. Nigel is perfect in every way - rich, handsome, athletic and a skilled lover. Courtney, however, is beginning to feel something is missing in their relationship. Nigel is aware that Courtney is more perceptive and intelligent than the usual deb, but all he wants of his bride is that she be beautiful and loving; what she thinks about serious matters, if she thinks at all, seems to be irrelevant, perhaps even annoying, to him.
Courtney has been kept sheltered and tremendously innocent of the darker side of life that regency London held in abundance. She is, however, open to ideas about woman's place in the scheme of things, but she shares these thoughts only with her best friend Sara, with whom she also secretly shares daring books by dangerous writers such as Mary Shelley -- daring because they are not only entertainment but have ideas in them.
One day, coming out of the lending library, Courtney rescues Peggy, a starved 12 year old who is terrified of men, and takes her into her home. To her horror, she learns that the bully who was after Peggy had bought her for a brothel. She questions Nigel and learns that there are "gentlemen" who prefer to lie with children. Courtney develops an interest in reform work in the East End, gets kidnapped into a bordello, purchased for 600 guineas, rescued, and winds up a witness to the Manchester riots. Nigel learns that there's much more to her than her beauty, and develops an appreciation for her character as well as her body.
As a romance the book wasn't very interesting. There seemed to be some feeling that perfect sex is the same thing as making love. Some of the plot seemed to me to be sketchy and melodramatic, but I can't really say it was totally implausible. The only totally implausible thing to me was the utter godlike physical perfection of the hero. It was hard for me to see him as a human being. Tonally, there seemed an odd juxtaposition of the parts about social ills (which are written with some energy) and the parts about the sex life of the couple (which seemed like stock scenes to me).
There are also frequent false notes in the text which indicate to me that though the author researched some history for the book, she didn't really know the milieu (the coachman drives "hacks"; Prinny calls Nigel "old bean"). The author is also a bit vague about titles (hero is sometimes "Lord Nigel" and other times "Sir Nigel"). Some of the language for the lovemaking scenes is so fuchsia froufrou corny and cliched that it made me giggle ("Returning her swiftly to her back, he penetrated the depths of her womanhood in a single thrust.") Because of these aspects, this book, written in 1983, seems much more dated to me than many written much earlier. I can recommend it for the good intentions of its storyline, but I can't say it's well written. (Posted by Janice 3/4/09)
#101: A Most Exceptional Quest
by Sarah Westleigh
ISBN: 0263780597, 0263817075
Published 1993 by Mills & Boon, reprinted in The Regency Collection, Vol.1
Mrs. Davinia (Vinny) Darling, a two years' widow, is staying with her parents near Tor Bay, when her brother Percy introduces her to "Mr. John Smith". Mr. Smith is an Army officer lately returned from the Peninsula; he had suffered a head injury and had lost his memory of his entire life before he woke up in the care of Portuguese peasants a week after the siege at Badajoz. His other injuries are healing, and as he is too healthy to belong in hospital yet his own home is unknown, Vinny's parents ask him to stay on as their guest to continue his recovery. Vinny is initially rather suspicious of this man - clearly a gentleman by his manners and education, yet with a background completely unknown. For his part, Mr. Smith is instantly attracted to the pretty and charming young widow.
Percy invites Mr. Smith to join him and his sister when they return to London, where perhaps someone will recognize him, or more information can be discovered, or he may recognize someone or something. As Vinny gets to know Mr. Smith, she finds herself very attracted to him, but the mystery of his identity and background causes as much friction as attraction, and, to Vinny, until that mystery is resolved, any thought of a real relationship is out of the question.
I found this book a difficult read -- it is so stilted in parts (particularly in the hero's speeches) that it annoyed me at times, and it moves very slowly. There's nothing wrong with the storyline, or the eventual resolution, and there are no historical gaffes that I noted -- but the whole is very stodgy, and I can't really recommend it. (Posted by Janice 2/28/09)
Unfortunately, I have to agree with Janice and not recommend this book but not for the same reason! For me the stumbling block wasn't boredom but the exceedingly odd ideas this story proposes regarding social behavior. I find it strange that the hero, however much attracted to the heroine at first sight, would behave in such unacceptable manners. When left alone for a few moments with the daughter of the house, whom he just met for the first time that day and who isn't in any way encouraging, he can find nothing better to do than to kiss her? She then, rightly, tells him he's either a rake or no gentleman. He berates her for not welcoming him into the family! Upon hearing which SHE knows she's behaving badly?!? It's the hero that's behaving badly! Even in our day and age would most men, however tempted, control their basic instincts in such a situation. I find it inconceivable that Davinia doesn't instantly go to her father and put her problem before him. I cannot believe that ANY father would welcome a stranger into his household, who cannot refrain from physically accost his daughter, when left alone for a few moments with her in an easily accessible room of the house, and her parents, as well as brother, in close proximity. If you can look past the caddish behavior of the hero and the heroine's weird ideas of proper behavior, then maybe you could enjoy this book. I couldn't! (Posted by yvonne 2/28/09)