#200 The Selfless Sister
by Shirley Kennedy
Published 2000 by Signet
Miss Lucinda Linley is the second oldest of seven sisters; she and her sister Henrietta are the only unmarried ones remaining. Their father Baron Linley had been able through careful management to dower all five of the married girls, but when the youngest, Henrietta, fell in love with Lord Carlton, there was not enough for two dowries, and Carlton would not marry her without it. Lucinda, already under pressure to marry a revolting local widower, offers to forego her half and to go to her Aunt Pernelia at Southfield as a companion instead. Her parents are iffy about letting her go, since there was a tragedy there many years ago and there are rumors about the place and the people.
Douglas Wyndham, Earl of Belington owns nearby Ravensbrook Manor, where he lives with his younger brother Alex. At Southfield, Lucinda immediately likes her Aunt Pernelia, who is recovering from a hip injury sustained in a fall. Pernelia's son Edgerton is a different kettle of fish -- a cold, nasty man who rules his cowed family absolutely. Lucinda learns quickly that according to Edgerton the first rule of Southfield is that you never have contact with any Belington, and the second rule of Southfield is that you never have contact with any Belington. She also learns that Edgerton's pretty daughter Alethea has broken this rule; she met and fell in love with Alex in London. When Lucinda meets Douglas, an instant attraction springs up between them, Edgerton goes ballistic, and the old tragedy threatens the happiness of a new generation.
This novel has a rather gothic mystery plot which requires a suspension of disbelief that I just couldn't give it. Lucinda and Douglas are attractive characters, and the author has a pleasant writing style, but the plot improbabilities were finally just too much for me. There is one memorable character, Douglas's mistress Madam Rose Clarisse de Soissons, who has made the capital error for a whore of falling in love with her client, but she's not in the book enough for me to recommend it. (Posted by Janice 9/12/10)
#199 The Colonel's Campaign
by Irene Saunders
Published 1990 by Signet
At 19 when she was still Miss Darnley, Arabella made a disastrous mistake: she trusted Sir Richard Barton, a con man and gambling addict. He got her drunk and tricked her into marrying him so he could get at her dowry, but her father withheld it. After that life for Arabella was a succession of bad experiences - living hand to mouth as Barton's fortunes varied, being forced to dress like a tart to lure victims to Barton's games, even the occasional beating as well. When Sir Richard got himself shot to death in a duel, Arabella, now 24, was not grief-stricken; she was relieved. It was a very different woman who emerged from her mourning period - one no longer a naive, headstrong innocent.
Miles Cavendish, Earl of Carrington had loved Arabella before her marriage, but he had not spoken; he had believed the stories that Arabella ran off with Richard for love and was a willing participant in his lifestyle. Miles did not know that actually Arabella had been growing to care for him when the whole Richard fiasco happened. He served under Wellington, attaining the rank of colonel; he received a bad leg wound which still gives him constant pain. He hopes that a new surgeon he has heard of in London can repair it. While Miles was away, his uncle Sir George Wetherby looked after his estate; Miles is very fond of his uncle and grateful for his help.
Miles had tried to visit Arabella during the year of mourning she spent with her husband's greedy and self-serving relations, but when he called, he was denied; Arabella was not told of his visits. Once out of mourning, Arabella goes to London to her aunt Lady Fitzwilliam, where she also reunites with her father. Miles follows her to London, where he hopes to find out the real truth of Arabella's old life, and perhaps win her at last, but his campaign may come to nothing as an old enemy bent on revenge has targeted Arabella.
I found this a moderately amusing read. I liked patient Miles, I thought Arabella's story was quite credible, and I liked the hints of the secondary romance between Miles's uncle and Arabella's aunt. I could have done without Mrs. Gordon and the stalker plot, as for me the growth of a solid relationship is all a romance really needs to make it a compelling read. (Posted by Janice 9/6/10)
by Leonora Blythe
Published 1979 by Fawcett
Lady Helene Ambel is bored with the London season. Her father understands her interest in serious social issues such as white slavery and forced prostitution, but her mother is bent on marrying her off to a suitable candidate as soon as possible; Lady Ambel had married her husband despite fancying herself in love with another man and holds that love is not necessary in marriage. Captain Robert Longford in particular would be unacceptable because of his rake's reputation.
Helene's good friend Miss Juliet Sweeny shares her interests; Juliet has been in love with Nicholas Dexter for ages, but Nicholas lost an arm in a riding accident and, feeling that he was no longer good enough for Juliet, took himself off to Paris, where he took up painting. Juliet is now being pressured by her family to accept the Earl of Radford, so that her father's gambling debts can be paid.
When Helene acts to help Juliet and Nicholas, she comes into contact more and more with Captain Longford, who is engaged in secret business of his own, but her actions also draw her to the attention of Radford, a vile and dangerous opponent.
This is an odd little book, one of the sort that probably leads people not familiar with regencies to think they're all Barbara Cartland level books. Reading through it I was hard put even to identify the year it was set in (Lord Wellington is mentioned, as is Lord Byron, yet the heroine powders her hair before attending a ball), and it's littered with what are either typos ("laying seige") or outright mistakes ("Waiter's" for "Watier's"). Throughout it's pretty cliched stuff, but it's a fast read and those who read mostly for action and plot might not find it as lame as I did. (Posted by Janice 9/2/10)
by Diana Delmore (Lois Stewart)
Published 1986 by Warner
Gervase Davenet, Earl of Ashbourne is informally betrothed to Lady Joscelyn Melling, a very proper widow, with plans to marry when her period of mourning is concluded. He is also juggling a soon to be ex-mistress, Lady Luisa Rosedale, who is not happy about being dismissed. His household is presided over by his middle-aged cousin Almeria. His already tangled female relationships are further complicated when he learns that he is the successor guardian to Miss Cassandra Mowbray, a considerable heiress.
Cassandra's father was a soldier, and she had followed the drum with him until his death in battle. The adventurous life suited her down to the ground, and she became self-reliant and independent to a degree which angers and dismays Gervase and horrifies the women. Once in London Cassandra's reckless good heart leads her to help the most unsuitable people - a former soldier, an abused maidservant, a widow in distress, and Gervase's cousin Rufus's actress ladylove. Every time Gervase tells Cassandra not to do something ever again, she finds a way to evade her promise, thus convincing Gervase that she needs a strong hand at the reins -- possibly his.
This is another of those series regencies in the great middle ground - a tale told well enough, but with so many elements familiar from Heyer and every other London-set regency that it's déjà vu all over again. The author's style is not particularly memorable, but it's not objectionable either. Mention is made of many events of 1814, which shows the author looked some stuff up, but they aren't integrated into the dialog in a natural way -- not research dumps, but not entirely organic either. I can't recommend this book particularly, but if there's nothing else left in the bombshelter to read, you could do worse. (Posted by Janice 8/28/10)
I actually like Cassandra, very much! Although there are plot elements reminiscent of Heyer (when isn't it in a Regency?) the style of writing is quite different as well as the dialog. I didn't notice anything sticking out as a less integral part of the story. It's true that Cassandra bores on quite a bit about the military actions but it fits with and illustrate her character as much more interested in military matters than gossip or fashion. While Ashbourne is a rather typical haughty Regency hero, Cassandra has a passion that is not that often met with, certainly more than any of Heyer's heroines. She's more a creature of impulse than truly obstinate and the one time she does do something out of spite she feels awful about it. I like her and think she'll do something to loosen up the stickish hero, which he needs no end! This is a comfort read of mine and I would recommend it even when it's not the last book in the bomb shelter! (Posted by yvonne 8/28/10)
The military stuff didn't bother me so much as the namedropping when they go to London social events such as the reception for the czar. It was not done in a natural way; the characters were telling each other things they already knew: clumsy exposition verging on research dump.
The writing style is competent, workmanlike, not grating - but not memorable or distinctive in any way.
Cassandra = Sophy's overseas experience + Serena's impulsiveness
Gervase = any guardian figure you care to mention
Rufus = any callow trapped younger brother from Heyer
Lady Rosedale = any castoff mistress from Heyer
and on & on
I thought it highly derivative, with very little real emotion to it. Maybe it might appeal to someone who reads only for humor or plot, but I require more. (Posted by Janice 8/28/10)
It's not the book I'd bring out of a burning house but it's well enough, I think. The name dropping, well, onlookers in a crowd often do that sort of thing, however repetitious or well known to their audience or boring it is. I've experienced it myself, which is one reason I avoid such events like the plague.
I read for humor, true, relaxation, characters and sense of place. Don't need and sometimes prefer not to have to deal with deep emotions. As to plot, I don't consider it that important as long as it's not too outlandish. I guess we have to agree to disagree on this one. (Posted by yvonne 8/28/10)
#196 The Dreadful Duke
by Barbara Hazard
ISBN: 0451401786, 9780709084617, 1847826687, 9781847826688
Published 1985 by Signet, reprinted in hardcover 2008 by Hale
William Fairhaven, Duke of Severn is a widower of 42. He married as was his duty and had five children with his first wife - three sons and two twin daughters. His sons are now young men; the older two are making their Grand Tour and the youngest is at Eton. Only his two daughters, the Ladies Anne (after her mother) and Amelia, 13, are still at home.
Severn did not love his wife but thought she seemed happy enough with her life; he has never fallen in love and thinks perhaps he's just not wired for that. His wife died when the twins were born, and, as Severn spent very little time at home, the children were all raised by servants, governesses and each other. Now that their brothers are out of the house, the girls have only each other for affection; their father is (from their point of view) handsome, stern, cold and absent, and they haven't seen any evidence of affection for them -- which is why they call him The Dreadful Duke.
When Severn learns that his daughters have driven off yet another governess, he returns home to lay down the law. As he arrives on a hot day in August, he sees them bathing in the lake on his property with an unknown woman whom he takes to be the next governess. She is not; she is Lady Juliet Manchester, newly returned from Louisiana, who lives with her brother Romeo, the local vicar. Rather than encouraging the girls in their outrageous (in Severn's view) behavior, she had found them already bathing and joined them in case they got in too deep as they can't swim.
Juliet has been the girls' only role model and friend of their own class since she came to live nearby. Severn sees her influence with his daughters and resents her advice at first, particularly since she has such good insights. As he spends more time in Juliet's company, he notices a mystery about her - although very attractive, she is still single at 31 and has a genuine antipathy towards men. No woman has ever reacted to him that way and the challenge of this puzzle is irresistible.
I found this a good read with credible characters. The author did a good job of showing the gradual thawing of Severn's emotions both towards his daughters and Juliet, so that when he finally learns her painful secret, he reacts very differently than he ever could have before. Many Barbara Hazard books I've read have been more on the rompish side, but this one has a more serious theme and a bit more depth than I was expecting. (Posted by Janice 8/18/10)
Interesting, Janice. Some books stay with you for a long time, don't they? It's been two decades but I remember borrowing this book at the local library way back when. Although the details have gone sketchy over time I do remember this as an absorbing read and a cut above the average Regency romance. Note: This is a standalone sequel to The Singular Miss Carrington. (Posted by yvonne 8/18/10)
#195 The Counterfeit Widow
by Dorothy Mack
Published 1996 by Signet
Miss Charity Leonard and her younger sister Prudence have just lost their mother after a long and painful illness. Charity had been sitting with her at the end; when she went upstairs to tell her sister, she found her stepfather Brendan Ryan trying to rape Prudence. Brendan had also harassed Charity in the past, but she had discouraged him with a riding crop, and he had moved on to Prudence instead. He had also used up the girls' portions so they are penniless.
The Leonard sisters have no other family to whom they can go; their mother had been estranged from her London family since her first marriage. Her mother's deathbed request to Charity was that pretty, gentle Prudence should have her chance to meet and marry an eligible young man of her choice, so, using L800 Brendan had got for selling his most promising colt, Charity secretly takes Prudence out of Ireland to Bath, and after a short stay there, to London. Since they have no older female relative to chaperone, Charity poses as the widowed Mrs. Robards. In the back of both their minds is the ugly possibility that Brendan might somehow find them again.
Once in London, pretty Prudence takes well, and soon has a slew of admirers, including Philip Walsh, a young relative of Kenton Marsh, Earl of Tyndale. Philip's ambitious mother Horatia is convinced that both girls are adventuresses up to no good; Tyndale agrees to look into the matter. He sees immediately that Prudence is uncomfortable talking about their lives before London, and one or two other oddities convince him that the girls are hiding something and living in uncertainty if not fear. Tyndale is more and more attracted to, and impressed by, Charity, but the secret he is convinced she is hiding stands between them.
I found this book an interesting enough read, if somewhat slow going at times, with a rather cliched resolution. I thought the best sections were those describing Tyndale's gradual change of heart as regards the possibility and nature of real love, and the conversations he has with himself and his friend as he considers what he had felt for his mistress compared to what he is beginning to feel for Charity. Not exactly a classic, but not a waste of time either. (Posted by Janice 8/7/10)
#194 Double Wedding
by Alix Melbourne
Published 1982 by Fawcett
Lord and Lady Abingdon had two identical twin daughters; when the marriage failed and they divorced, Lady Abingdon kept one twin (Mariotta) and 'Black Walter' the other (Diana). Mariotta lived in Bath, and Diana at Chalford Manor in the country; neither was told of the other's existence, yet each had a strange feeling that there was someone else.
In Bath Mariotta lived a very restricted life with her mama, who imbued her with good principles but rarely socialized with any but dull clergy. At Chalford Diana lived a more precarious existence, as Black Walter was a drunken spendthrift womanizing gamester, and though he saw to it that she was creditably dressed, he let Chalford itself was deteriorate badly and the bills went unpaid. The girls grew to be identical in appearance but with temperaments that varied because of their upbringing; Mariotta sparkled with repressed energy, while Diana had had to develop a crafty practicality beyond her years.
Through Mariotta's friend, Jack Campbell, the girls met and decided to change places secretly for a time, as each was heartily sick of the life she was leading -- Mariotta was dying of boredom, and Diana was ttired of the insecurity of life with her father, who was pressuring her to marry Lord Drew, a wealthy, supposedly elderly, neighbor. As the girls take up their roles, they find that the skills they learned in their previous are useful in handling their new existences. They also find that one girl's friend might become another girl's lover, and a certain wealthy lord might not seem 'too old' to a different girl.
I had a bit of difficulty finishing this book; I kept picking it up and putting it down, and each time I did, I had to flip back to refresh my memory as to who was being who when and where they were and why. The girls are the best developed characters, but they are sketchy at best, and there is a large cast of supporting characters who seem barely more than a name. As my preference is for character (rather than plot) driven stories, I can't recommend this one. (Posted by Janice 8/2/10)
#193 A Curious Courting
by Elizabeth Neff Walker / Laura Matthews
ISBN: 0449501159, 0451174879, 0786200952, 9780786200955
Published 1980 by Coventry
Mr. Gareth Rushton, an avid hunter who follows Assheton Smith, forms the notion of building himself a snug hunting box in Leicestershire. While staying with his friend Penrith, he inquires for a suitable piece of land in the same neighborhood. The land he has his eye on is owned by Miss Selina Easterly-Cummings of Shallbrook; it is a separate parcel which cuts a chunk out of the lands of her neighbor Lord Benedict.
Selina, who is 23, lives with her younger cousin Henry, now 16. When Henry was 11 he was badly injured in the coaching accident which killed his parents and sister. When Henry's guardian Lord Leyburn could not abide the sight of an injured boy who might never recover properly, Selina took over Henry's care and nursed him back to health. Henry is now the center of Selina's life and she is terrified that Lord Leyburn might take Henry away if she commits any sort of impropriety, or does not appear mature enough to have the charge of the boy. She therefore does not follow the fashions or pursue an active social life, though she is well liked and respected in the neighborhood.
Selina had had two bad experiences with men before she met Rushton. The first was when Lord Benedict tried to seduce her; he wanted her body but he also wanted that chunk of land as much or more. The second was when she saw her Bath suitor Mr. Haslett bidding farewell to his mistress one morning and heard him say that his coming marriage need not change their relationship whatsoever. Selina clashes instantly with Rushton; she clearly does not wish to be courted -- Rushton is determined to find out why that is, and perhaps to change her mind.
This is another good solid read from Walker/Matthews. I liked all the characters, Selina's problems were reasonable rather than contrived, and there are one or two very funny set pieces in it as well. I recommend it. (Posted by Janice 7/28/10)
#192 Set To Partners
by Patricia Ormsby
Published 1979 by Harlequin
Julien Robert Valentine Revel was nicknamed Sultan by his Peninsular comrades because he could have had a harem if he'd wanted one. Julien sold out of the Army when his uncle died, making him the ninth Earl of Clandon, and returned home to take up his responsibilities -- among them, securing the succession.
Julien's neighbor, Lady Ralston, has three daughters whom Julien has known all his life - Charlotte, Melissa & Penelope. Lady Ralston tells Julien that Charlotte had an understanding with Harry Taverner, but Harry died at Pampeluna, so Charlotte has accepted an offer from middleaged Lord Braybridge. Charlotte has let them believe that it doesn't matter to her now whom she marries and her two younger sisters must have their opportunities.
Julien is concerned because what he knows of Braybridge personally he doesn't much care for, and there are rumors that Braybridge's first wife (who had given him only female children) died under iffy circumstances. Lady Ralston cannot go to London herself, as she is bound for Yorkshire to dissuade Melissa from her attachment to a half pay naval officer, so she asks Julien to speak with Charlotte about Braybridge, and also to help Penelope through her first Season. Julien had been used to thinking of Charlotte as a younger sister, but his ideas change when they meet again in London.
This is an odd little book stylistically; some bits are quite fresh and clever, while a few seem straight out of the Barbara Cartland phrasebook. It's rather oldfashioned in style, as opposed to the accessible quick read style in use today (the author doesn't just write 'carriage', she uses 'cabriolet', 'phaeton', 'covered carriage' and the like. I don't suppose this matters greatly, and it certainly doesn't change the nature of the story any, but I appreciate her knowing that there's a difference that would paint a clearer picture for some readers - without sending other readers to the dictionary if they don't want to go. I don't know if Ms Ormsby knew these things anyway, or cribbed them all from Heyer, but I appreciate that she made an effort to create prose that doesn't leave me feeling she thinks I'm subliterate. The tale itself has no elements that are new to me, but I did enjoy it enough to finish it, which is more than I can say for a current best selling author who shall remain nameless, upon whom I wasted $7.99 last week. (Posted by Janice 7/20/10)
#191 The Willful Widow
by Irene Saunders
Published 1988 by Signet
Elizabeth's father was desperate for money to cover gambling debts and lifestyle, so he sold her into marriage with the much older Marquess of Dewsbury. Elizabeth was the Marquess's second wife, and the Marquess (not a nice man) treated her very badly; he was impotent and blamed her because she did not conceive. Fortunately for Elizabeth he died after three years, but in one last spiteful shot from the grave he referred to her in his will as his 'barren wife'. The legal weasel who prepared the will spread the tale; when Elizabeth returned to London she was called The Willful Widow.
While in London presenting Pamela, her stepdaughter, Elizabeth met David Beresford, Earl of Colchester. They were well on the way to falling in love when Colchester's mother told him about the rumors. Colchester had intended to ask Elizabeth to marry him, but when he learned she was unable to bear him heirs, he backed off. He wanted Elizabeth but he felt he had a duty to the earldom as the next in line had no interest in maintaining its properties and traditions. He asked Elizabeth to be his mistress and she refused.
At this point a lot of plot gets thrown in, as once the initial conflict between Elizabeth and Colchester is resolved, there wouldn't be much story left. The original misunderstanding does not last an unreasonable length of time and perhaps the book should have ended there; instead further misunderstandings arise and a murder plot is added as well. The second half of the book therefore drags and seems padded. The writer's style is reasonably pleasant but halfway through her tale became too contrived for me to recommend it. (Posted by Janice 7/12/10)
#190 A Rake's Reform
by Anne Barbour
ISBN: 0451190483, 9780709084693 (0709084692)
Published 1996 by Signet, reprinted in hardcover 2008 by Robert Hale
Charles Trent, Fifth Earl of Bythorne etc., was saddled with Miss Chloe Venable as his ward after her father, his good friend, died at Waterloo. Thorne's idea of fulfilling his obligation entails marrying the chit off to a suitable husband as soon as possible, so he can continue his series of affairs with London's louche ladies of ton unimpeded. Thorne is not a cruel or unfeeling man in general, but he does not take women seriously - he just takes them.
Chloe rebels at the idea of matrimony with Mr. John Wery, the very suitable but very dull young gentleman Thorne has chosen for her. She has been influenced by the ideas of the radical feminist Miss Hester Blayne, author of Women's Rights: An Apologia - now working on a followup volume, Women as an Underclass. When Chloe scarpers off, Thorne finds some evidence that she may have gone to Hester. When he confronts Hester over the whereabouts of his flighty ward, she is genuinely surprised and denies any knowledge of Chloe or her whereabouts -- but the young maid Hester's companion Larkie had hired that very morning drops the tea tray and betrays herself as the missing Chloe.
As his aunt has been unable to control Chloe's starts, Thorne offers to hire Hester to companion Chloe for three months in London for the enormous (to Hester) sum of £ 500. Hester, with visions of paying off the mortgage on her cottage and making life for her and Parkie a bit more comfortable, accepts. When Hester arrives in London, she finds some of her feminist beliefs about men challenged by her growing attraction to Thorne -- but he'll have to change his ideas about 'women's place' as well.
This is a charming, nicely paced romance with quite a thoughtful subtext to it. The characters are likeable and credible. I enjoyed the time I spent in their company. Many good authors like Anne Barbour (Barbara Yirka) couldn't find new publishers when Signet folded its regency line; I miss them. (Posted by Janice 5/7/10)
#189 Dancing On The Wind
by Sarah Chester (Marion Chesney)
Published 1988 by Tudor Publishing
Polly Jones was raised in Upper Batchett by the local wise woman, Meg Jones, under the impression that she was Meg's niece. Polly was let run wild; she was not taught skills to find employment though she was educated in the parish school. One day Meg went to visit Lady Lydia, the wife of the Earl of Meresly; when she returned she had choking marks around her throat and she died, saying to Polly only "My lady, I am sorry." At the funeral, Bertram Pargeter, Lady Lydia's discarded lover, sees Polly's distinctive violet eyes - so like those of Lady Lydia.
Polly soon learned that she was not Meg's niece, but a foundling and therefore had no right to remain in Meg's cottage. Polly went to Meresly in search of answers; she found no information but she lightfingered several objects which she sold for money to get to London. Once in London Polly was snabbled up by Mother Blanchard, a notorious brothelkeeper, who sold her to two men anxious to curry favor with the Marquess of Canonby; they dress her in beautiful clothes, put her in a gilded cage, and present her to the Marquess.
The Marquess does not believe in owning people, and he is a little sickened at the thought that this young girl has been bought for his pleasure. However when he catches her thieving, he throws her out. During her subsequent adventures (which are many), Polly repeatedly encounters the Marquess; he thinks her a thieving slut, yet he is attracted to her, not least because he realizes there is more to Polly than meets the eye.
I found this book great fun. Polly's adventures just rocket along, as she careers from one hair raising escapade to another. It's populated with Chesney's deftly drawn Georgian characters, high and low, who are not always moral nor noble, but who just burst with life. It's Chesney in great form. (Posted by Janice 6/29/10)
#188 Eliza / Miss Jonas's Boy
by Paula Allardyce / Charity Blackstock
Published Dell by 1972
In her day, the very wealthy Miss Perdita Jonas, 54, traveled the world adventuring amongst cannibals, sultans and maharajahs, but now (1793) she lives in London and occupies her time reading, wearing her odd foreign clothes and writing her memoirs. Perdy's closest friend is her neighbor, Francis, Marquis of Avenell, who, in his day, was notorious for his duels and love affairs; he is crippled by the rheumatics now, but he still retains his power and street smarts. The Marquis (who never married) lives with his illegitimate daughter Harriet, upon whom the Avenell nose sits unbecomingly; being plain, she occupies herself with good works.
Perdy has a friend in Miss Eliza Ashby, who lives with Perdy's brother Captain Thomas Jonas as a poor relation; she makes herself useful by running the household. Thomas is a vicious drunkard who has intimidated and maltreated his wife and children. He is also stony broke and desperate for money.
Harriet belongs to a committee of ladies who have undertaken to bring over from France children who were orphaned in the Revolution, and she convinces Miss Jonas to accept one of these, a boy. But when Perdy and Eliza go to meet the child, they find he is not a child -- he is the 20 year old Vicomte de Valmont (Serge), and the most beautiful young man either has ever seen.
When Thomas learns that Perdy, whose fortune he covets, has adopted a Frenchie boy, he immediately thinks that Perdy (whom he thinks of as a foolish old woman) will leave all her money to the boy -- money for which he is increasingly desperate to get hold of to stay out of debtors' prison -- and the lives of both Perdy and Serle are thereby placed in terrible danger.
This is an old fashioned sort of romance, in that the romance aspect is a rather minor part of things. It's an ensemble piece with several characters who are so well drawn they just about walk off the page. For me the most memorable is plain Harriet, who falls hard for Serge though she knows he would never look at her, and does something really amazing despite knowing she can never have what she most desires. It's a whacking great tale and I enjoyed every word of it. (Posted by Janice 6/19/10)
#187 Heartless Lord Harry
by Marjorie Farrell
Published 1993 by Signet
Henry Lifton, Marquess of Sidmouth and his best friend James Otley, Viscount Clitheroe have planned a walking tour in Yorkshire. Charming Harry is a returned soldier who was wounded in lung and knee at Badajoz; he wants the exercise to strengthen his knee. James has a more staid sort of personality; a sense of duty to family was drilled into him at an early age. The two friends met at school when James rescued Harry, the new boy, from getting pounded by some of the other boys.
A sudden snowstorm catches them unaware and they are rescued by Gabriel, a shepherd. They take shelter with the Richmond family, Gabriel's employers. Mr. Edmond Richmond and his wife Lady Elizabeth have three children; their son Gareth, recently married, lives in London. Their two daughters - pretty, practical Kate and ethereal beauty Lynette - still live at home. Mr. Richmond is a scholar studying ancient religious beliefs, and Lynette helps him with his work. Lynette seems as interested in their studies as her father, but Kate, who is very protective of Lynette, suspects that she lives behind a mask of remoteness; Lynette has no desire to meet eligibles or to marry.
Harry too lives behind a mask, that of the charming rake; his pursuit of women helps him suppress his terrible memories of the war. Lynette's remoteness hides a painful secret as well. When Harry kisses Lynette at a ball, and Lynette doesn't like it, a chain of events is set in motion which will lead to demons confronted, hearts awakened and futures decided.
This romance has a bit of darkness to it; there are matters discussed in it that you don't find in your fluffier romcoms, but there's nothing so gross as to offend. The four central characters are very well drawn, believable individuals. This book follows Lady Arden's Redemption in Farrell's loosely connected series, but it isn't really necessary to read them in order. Marjorie Farrell is one of my favorite regency authors, and I'm very sorry she seems to have quit writing. (Posted by Janice 6/16/10)
#186 The Suitable Suitor
by Alicia Farraday
Published 1992 by Harlequin
At two o'clock one morning, as he is returning from a London evening engagement, Lord Dake (Bredon) sustains an unexpected visit from his cousin Mr. Elliot Steele. Elliot has a problem: he has found a young woman and her stableboy companion asking to spend the night in his stables. Elliot does not know how to handle the situation; he fears that his overbearing mama will find out about it and be extremely angry, especially as she is promoting the engagement between him and one Miss Otterleigh, who shows promise of being just as disagreeable as his mama. Elliot is an intelligent and goodnatured young man, but he does not cross wills with his mama.
Bredon agrees to go back with Elliot and see the young woman; initially he suspects that she is no better than she should be, but when he meets her, he sees at once that she is Quality. She seems rather innocent and naïve, but she stands up to both men and refuses to tell them who her guardian is.
Miss Melody Maitland, just turned 18, has escaped from Mrs. Beehan's Academy for Young Ladies because her guardian Mr. Stanhope is pressuring her to choose a suitable husband from the candidates he presents. He is not an unkind guardian but his idea of 'suitable' runs to dull men thirty years older than Melody, and she sees her chances for future happiness lessening daily.
Melody looks up to Elliot (nobody in his own house does) and he is flattered into offering to take her to her Aunt Augusta in Yorkshire. Bredon washes his hands of the whole affair and stalks off, but has second thoughts; the next day he catches up with them just as they have been in a road accident caused by Melody wishing to rescue an injured dog. Against his better judgment, Bredon becomes ever more entangled in Melody's affairs, and Elliot finally begins to slip his mama's leash.
This is a 'road trip' story, and it's full of familiar characters and situations. It's one of those books which would not be of much interest were it not for the author's pleasing writing style and the warmth she infuses into her characterizations. It's in the great middle ground of books that are not particularly memorable but are nevertheless a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. (Posted by Janice 6/12/10)
#185 Man Of Honour
by Jane Ashford
Published 1981 by Warner
The Right Honourable Miss Laura Lindley was being escorted from the home of the aunts who had raised her to London by Mr. Eliot Crenshaw as per his mother's request, when the pair became stranded by a sudden snowstorm in a small rural inn without chaperonage. When the weather cleared enough for travel three days later, Laura knew that her aunts would throw hissy fits and Eliot knew that his only course as a man of honor was to marry her.
Eliot was not entirely averse to the notion. He had planned to marry some time or other, and Laura was pretty, intelligent and an earl's daughter; she would do as well as any. He doesn't believe in love matches, having seen too many of them come to grief.
Laura had longed to escape her aunts' close control to enjoy a London season and the chance to meet young men. Her younger sister Clarissa points out to her that if she does not marry Eliot, her aunts (who had indeed thrown fits) would never forget nor forgive the incident and both of them would never be let off the reservation again. Eliot and Laura marry, but Eliot says it is not to be a real marriage until they get to know each other, and they take Clarissa with them to London on what should have been their honeymoon.
There are lots of elements in this book that are reminiscent of similar ones in Georgette Heyer's novels -- Laura falls into a scrape very like Horry did; as Nell did, she has a correct but distant husband in whom she cannot confide; she visits a moneylender as Sophy did; she aids a girl fallen on hard times as Deb Grantham did. Eliot is very like one of Heyer's protective but abrupt heroes who will do anything for the woman he loves except be open with her. The supporting cast of foolish young men on the town, timid daughters, rescued maidens and worthy but inelgible suitors is familiar also. However in Ashford's book things don't happen the same way, and these characters have some surprises. I thought as I was reading it, particularly when I got to Laura's dealings with the Jewish moneylender (who is given a very different treatment than in Heyer), that the author was in some way saying, no, it should not have happened that way, it should have been this way. I thought it was a good read and I would recommend it as of interest to anyone who has read Heyer. (Posted by Janice 6/8/10)
#184 The Arrogant Lord Alistair/A Woman of Little Importance
by Sheila Walsh
ISBN: 0451166957, 0263772551
Published 1990 by Signet, UK edition published 1991 by Mills & Boon
Miss Charity Winyate had accompanied her beautiful sister Arianne and her young son Harry to Brussels, as Arianne's husband, Colonel Lord Edward Ashbourne, was assigned to Wellington's staff. Arianne was flighty and self-centered, and she would not forego the Duchess of Richmond's ball, even though she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy. That night Arianne went into labor and bore a premature daughter, but she lost too much blood and she died two days later. Her husband Ned's vaunted luck ran out and he died at Waterloo. Charity was left with a fragile infant girl and young Harry on her hands.
Back in England, Charity went to her father, but he had remarried a nasty grasping woman who clearly wanted her and the two children out of their house. Ned had been cast off by his father, the Duke of Orme, when he married Arianne, but, having no other resources for the children, Charity approached him.
The Duke, now a widower, had had three sons. His eldest had broken his neck in a curricle race and his middle son Ned had died in battle; only his youngest son, Lord Alistair Ashbourne, remained, and he and his father have a terrible relationship, even though until the advent of young Harry, Alistair would have been the Duke's heir.
Both Alistair and his father assume that Charity is out to use the children to feather her own nest. The Duke agrees to raise the children at one of his country properties in Surrey, but forbids Charity to have any further contact with them. However, Charity is invited to stay in the country not far from the children, and when she hears that the theories of the nurse hired to look after baby Emily have nearly killed the child, she can no longer obey the Duke's order to stay away, and Alistair will just have to make of that what he will - which, of course, he does.
Eventually the Duke and his son both see that Charity is not the grasping female they had assumed; many authors would have made Charity a Mary-Sue perfect angel, but Walsh does not make that mistake -- Charity is quite able to square up to her adversaries and can become as angry and sharp-tongued as Alistair or his father. In fact, everyone in this book is a little more rounded as a character than one might expect. The book doesn't have anything new or unusual in it, but it's a very well told tale which held my interest to the end. (Posted by Janice 6/3/10)
#183 The Dandy's Deception
by Philippa Castle (aka Marilyn M. Lowery)
Published 1989 by Warner Books
Pretty, blonde Ullainee Pollinger has come to London with her parents Baron and Lady Pollinger, to make a match. The entire family has come too - her half-brother Tom Levering, and her sisters Helena, Marion, Natasha and Alexa, who are still in the schoolroom.
Her father thinks to match her with someone who would invest in a business opportunity with him - a West Indies plantation run with slave labor - and to this end he persists in inviting the Earl of Saintsbury home to meet his family. Saintsbury has tried to avoid the Baron; he has zero interest in investing out of the country, let alone in a business involving slavery. However, when he meets Tom and Tom's friend Percy (nicknamed Jerry after the other young gentleman in Pierce Egan's book, which is their Bible) at a dogfight and deftly extracts them from their folly, he becomes curious and agrees to accept a dinner invitation at Tom's home that night, not knowing that the Baron is Tom's mother's second husband, and Tom lives with the Pollingers.
Because he dislikes the Baron and his wife, Saintsbury adopts foppish mannerisms which send the younger sisters into such giggles that they are dismissed from the dinner table. They have a name for him, 'Mop' -- an expression that had come to mean anyone who incurred their disfavor. Saintsbury is attracted to Ullainee, but there are ambiguous elements in their conversation, and he can't decide whether she is as innocent as she seems, or a willing tool in her father's plan to inveigle him into investing. In order to find out more, he decides to court her for a while -- in the character of a fop.
The chief delight of this book is Ullainee's sisters, whom Mop calls his Flowers, and who blossom under his influence, even if he is a dandy. I also enjoyed the style of the book; I thought Ms Castle must be laughing as she wrote it and I laughed too. A very pleasant romantic comedy of manners, and I would recommend it as a perfect 'comfort read'. (Posted by Janice 5/30/10)
Comfort read indeed! This is a favorite book of mine. I love this story about Mop, Ullainee and her siblings, not to mention Lady Pollinger and all other minor characters to be savored in this unusual tale. Take your time as there's many ins and outs in this book that are easily confusing if you hurry along. I definitely recommend it! (Posted by yvonne 5/30/10)
#182 Regency Rose
by Caroline Brooks (aka Rebecca Baldwin)
Published 1988 by Signet
Kathryn Vaughn, a foundling, is personal maid to Miss Caroline Stackwood, daughter of Sir Gunnet and Lady Stockwood of Stockwood Manor. Unknown to Lady Stockwood, an ambitious parvenu, Kate and Caroline are very close in age and are friends to a degree unusual in a mistress/servant relationship.
Kate is something of an idealistic dreamer; she fancies herself in love with Stephen, the son of the house. One early morning when she is out walking and indulging her daydreams, she meets a man calling himself Sam Allen whom she thinks is a poacher because of his clothes. A bit frightened at being alone with this possible ruffian, Kate feeds him a pack of lies as 'Lady Kathryn' to protect herself, but he only laughs at her.
Stephen is a gorgeous but rather weak young man who has been radicalized at Oxford. When his mother catches him in the conservatory with Kate, she fires Kate on the spot and turns her out of the house without a thought for what may become of her. But Kate's poacher acquaintance turns out to be newly returned Lord Llandath; he finds her trudging along the road, takes her up and offers to marry her. When Kate angrily refuses, he takes her to his old friend Maria Wallace, who offers her a career on the stage. Kate finds she has a natural talent for acting -- and Stephen and Llandath are her biggest fans.
This is quite an old fashioned regency comprised of two stories - Kate's life in the Stockwood household and her life on the stage. There is some deft characterization of Caroline and Stephen, and the parts about the acting life are interesting. However Llandath remains a rather shadowy figure; he is so enigmatic that no wonder Kate didn't believe he wanted to marry her. I found it a moderately interesting read, more for the ambience than for the central couple. (Posted by Janice 5/25/10)
#181 The Substitute Bridegroom
by Charlotte Louise Dolan
Published 1991 by Signet
Miss Elizabeth Goldsborough was the reigning beauty of her Season; she had received an offer from handsome Simon Bellgrave, the catch of the season. Her life changed radically when her face was disfigured by a flying piece of shrapnel from a collision during a curricle race at which she was an innocent bystander.
As a matter of honor, Simon would still have married her, but she saw his revulsion at the sight of her scarred face and released him from their engagement. Elizabeth had thought she loved Simon and was devastated also at the loss of the possibility of marriage and especially children. Her young brother Nicholas, in an attempt to put things right for her, went to Captain Darius St. John, who had been one of the drivers in the race, and proposed that since Elizabeth had been deprived of one husband by his act, Darius should offer for her.
Darius is a born and dedicated soldier, and a man of honor, but he has a very poor opinion of all women because his two sisters are meanspirited trollops, as is Amelia, the wife of his cousin Algernon, the current Duke of Colthurst. He tends to be suspicious of his growing feelings for Elizabeth and to believe the worst on little evidence. In short, Darius has no idea how nice a woman he married, and Elizabeth's hopes of a happy marriage seem destined to fail.
I like this novel particularly for its subsidiary characters -- it is unusual to find so many thoroughgoing bitches in one story; I can understand why Darius couldn't distinguish good from bad, as they are a very bad lot indeed. I also enjoyed Lady Leticia, a matchmaker as clever in her tactics as Wellington was in his. Charlotte Louise Dolan did nine regencies for Signet, and each one is worth seeking out. This is an author whom I miss very much. (Posted by Janice 5/21/10)
Read yvonne's comments here
#180 A Rake's Folly
by Claudette Williams
Published 1995 by Zebra Books
'The Sophy', Miss Sophia Egan of Egan Grange, has a number of problems on her plate. Her younger brother Ned, a spirited young lad born with a club foot, should by rights be off at Harrow, but their father fears his treatment by other boys there and has kept him at home with a series of ineffectual tutors, leaving Ned to get up to all sorts of mischief. After her mother's death, her father became somewhat of a recluse, shutting himself away in his library all day instead of handling more of his social and estate responsibilities.
One evening at one of the local assemblies, Sophy is being targeted by the local lech Lord Gravesby, a much older man, and her two young admirers Harry and Oscar, who fancy themselves rivals for her affections, haven't been sufficient to keep Gravesby from slobbering over her. Fortunately for Sophy, the Earl of Cortland is on hand to rescue her.
Chase has a bad rep in the neighborhood, as he had fought a duel with his elder brother, the previous earl, and then fled to India where he made a fortune; now 32, The Cortland Nabob is back in Nottinghamshire to take up his life and responsibilities as the new earl. Chase too has his problems; his brother's lovely but conniving and avaricious widow Lady Anne is on his trail, and Nathan Walker, the talented young architect Chase had hired to restore the house and gardens, has decided Sophy must be his bride. What with Luddites meeting secretly in Sherwood Forest, Lady Anne's attempts to trap him, and rumors of his past to deal with, Chase's courtship of Sophy will not be unimpeded.
This is another 'summer book' of country life, lovely scenery, likeable characters and menaces which, well, aren't really very menacing. The author skated over much of the real drama she had set up in favor of a sunnier approach; I found this disappointing as I felt she never really came to grips with the situations she had set up. I thought her story would have been much more interesting if she had dealt more fully with the implications of her premise; as it is, it's a pleasant but not very memorable one hour read. (Posted by Janice 5/17/10)
#179 An Inescapable Match
by Sylvia Andrew
Published 2003 by Harlequin
Hugo Perceval, son of Sir James Perceval of Perceval Hall, is a man who dislikes excessive emotion and values a calm, well-judged existence. He has known Miss Deborah Staunton since she was a child and though he is fond enough of her, he very much dislikes the scrapes she falls into and the chaos which seems to go wherever she does.
For her part, Deborah has been in love with Hugo forever, but she knows she's not his type. Besides that, she is an orphan with no money. She has come to Abbot Quincey to live with her mother's sister Lady Elizabeth, who had married a clergyman. Along the way she has picked up a parrot and a dog named Autolycus, and it is thus that Hugo finds her, stranded along the road to Lady Elizabeth's, encumbered by dog and parrot and wearing a straw hat much the worse for the dog's attentions.
Hugo had made a plan to settle in life at 30 and has come back to Abbott Quincey looking about him for a proper wife - someone (preferably a blonde) who would add comfort and harmony to his orderly, rational existence and never cause him the least degree of apprehension. But what Hugo thinks he wants is not what his grandmother, the Dowager Lady Perceval, thinks he needs. What Hugo needs is a little dark-haired slip of a girl who will lead him a merry dance - someone very like Deborah Staunton.
This book is part of the Steepwood Scandal series, and I could wish it had fewer random bits of plot from the overall arc thrown in, making me wonder if I had to remember these people or perhaps should be taking notes. The Steepwood stuff is just an annoying distraction as it has zero to do with the present story, nor did the addition of a mysterious stranger plot add anything useful. The book would have been tighter without these extraneous elements and would still have been a pleasant little tale of a man finding out what he really wants from life as opposed to what he thinks he wants. (Posted by Janice 5/13/10)
I agree with Janice about the unimportance of the Steepwood series bits. For my review see our Sylvia Adndrew page. (Posted by yvonne 5/13/10)
#178 Double Deception
by Patricia Oliver
Published 1997 by Signet
When Athena married Captain John Standish, neither family approved, but she loved John and followed the drum with him; their daughter Penelope was born in an army tent. After John was killed at Talavera, she and Penny returned to England, where they made their home in London with her aunt Mary. Athena's income from John's pension was limited; her father had remarried and was under her stepmother's thumb, and John's family had disowned him as well. Athena has no particular wish to remarry, but she wants Penny provided for, so when young Peregrine Steele, Viscount Fairmount, proposes, she accepts, even though at 19 he is several years younger than she at 28.
Perry is the only child of Sylvester Steele, Earl of St. Aubyn, whose much loved wife Adrienne died five years prior. When Perry brings his betrothed with Penny and Aunt Rose home to meet his family, Sylvester believes Athena must be a scheming fortune hunter; he offers her L3,000 to end the betrothal. Athena angrily refuses, so Sylvester hires a gorgeous actress to entice Perry and break up the betrothal. Matters deteriorate far beyond what Sylvester had intended, and he finds himself very attracted to the widow and very sorry for his deception as it seems about to cost him what he now most desires.
I wanted to like this book; I am a sucker for woman-with-a-serious-problem stories, as well as second chance romances, but I found it awfully slow going. My feeling was that the author ran out of story way before she ran out of pages to fill, because parts of it seemed to drag on forever. I have liked other Patricia Oliver titles, but I can't recommend this one. (Posted by Janice 5/10/10)
#177 Reforming Lord Ragsdale
by Carla Kelly
Published 1995 by Signet
John Staples, Lord Ragsdale is drunk and bored. Reading a missive from his dimwitted mistress, he realizes he's wearied of her no matter how accomplished she is in other areas. Looking at the pile of correspondence on his desk, he wishes he hadn't fired his secretary even though the man was stealing him blind. And the ultimate in dullness, now his mother had invited some American cousins to make their home with them for the season.
His cousins are no more amusing than John thought. But, along with his pretty but teary cousin Sally Claridge and her brother Robert, comes Emma Costello, their indentured Irish servant. If there's one thing Lord Ragsdale cannot bear it's the Irish. Things become rather sticky when he finds Cousin Robert, already a hardened gamester at the tender age of twenty, staking Emma in a card game. He now owns an Irish servant he knows not what to do with, but Emma has a daring plan of her own to get out of the indenture - she's going to reform Lord Ragsdale!
Above all this is a story of redemption. Both John and Emma are scarred people who carry a load of pain and guilt. They both need to learn to trust, to let go of their guilt and to soothe the pain. Their way there is not easy; the past must be laid to rest so they can once again look toward the future.
I like this book very much particularly for the characters that live and breathe on its pages. Although there are flashes of humor, this is not a light tale by any means, as we follow our hero and heroine into the depths of Newgate Prison or the darkest recesses of their minds, where they have stored away their most agonizing memories. An absorbing read. (Posted by yvonne 5/3/10)
#176 A Young Lady Of Fashion
by Mary Ann Gibbs
Published 1978 by Fawcett Crest
Sir William and Lady Chevening have been blessed with five children - three sons Vincent, Edward and Jasper, and two daughters, Maria and Elizabeth. Vincent is his mother's favorite, though he is wild, expensive and profligate. Jasper, a cornet in the 14th Light Dragoons, is young and hotheaded, is her second favorite. Edward, the middle son, who is quiet, reserved and just loaded with common sense and family loyalty is of little interest to her; she does not understand his interest in collecting art.
Miss Lucinda Crayne has made her home with her uncle Lord Crayne, a widower who left his heart in the grave with his 18 year old bride. Edward thought Lucinda sweet and unspoiled when she and her brother visited the Chevening family, but when he met her again later in London, she seemed to have lost that natural quality and become an artificial young lady of fashion. For her part, Lucinda does not understand why Edward and his family have acted as they have with regard to the insanely complicated set of circumstances the family find themselves in.
I realize all that is quite vague, but there really is no way to discuss this book without recapping the entire plot and Yvonne will kill me if I do that. Although it's a genre regency, this book is more an ensemble piece than a straightforward romance. It's the sort of thing that really only comes together at the end. If you like complicated period pieces (which I do), this one is worth looking for; if you are more interested in the hero/heroine relationship, then perhaps not, as they have to share the stage with a boatload of other characters, all with their own purposes and situations. (Posted by Janice 4/30/10)
Whatever Janice says, I'm really not quite that vicious! (Posted by yvonne 4/30/10)
#175 Lady Angel
by Roberta Eckert
Published 1990 by Signet
When she was a child, Lady Angel Harlan's mother created a great scandal by running off with an Italian count, and the scandal killed her father, Lord Chester Harlan. Angel has been raised by her mother's father, Lord Anton Stewart, Marquess of Farnham. She has recently left Witherspoon's Seminary for Young Ladies and is now home at Harlan Hall, about to go to London for her Season with her Aunt Mary Beth. Angel is a beautiful blue eyed blonde pocket Venus, and she has both spirit and intelligence, but she believes she will only be courted for the L20,000 dowry her grandfather will give her and that her mother's scandal will always follow her.
Once in London, Angel gets her Almacks vouchers and meets many eligible gentlemen, not all of whom are fortune-hunters. Ward Leighton, Marquess of Kendall rescues her from an embarrassing situation at a ball by neatly retrieving the slipper she had taken off to ease her sore toes. The Duke of Albrion also sees Angel and is enchanted by her, much to his own surprise.
I have to confess that at this point I was so exasperated with the author's constant title errors that I kinda gave up. Ward Leighton, Marquess of Kendall is constantly referred to as Lord Leighton. The Duke of Albrion is introduced as 'Duke of Albrion, Earl of Seaton, William Augustus Corners' and thereafter called Duke of Albrion, Duke of Seaton and (most often) Lord Corners. Angel's father is called Lord Stewart, not Lord Farnham.
The text is full of annoyances - said bookisms ('she bantered') and homophones ('while I chase and catch a query'). The author's style is simple and straightforward, or, if you've lost faith as I have, flat and banal. I presume Angel wound up with Ward, but life is too short to suffer through the remaining 160 pages to verify that. I can't recommend this book. (Posted by Janice 4/22/10)
#174 A Prior Attachment
by Dorothy Mack
Published 1989 by Signet
Lady Gemma Monteith, only daughter to The Duke of Carlyle, was looking forward to a wonderful summer with her best friend Lucy Delevan when disaster struck, or so Gemma thought. Ignoring Gemma's prior attachment to Captain George Godwin, the duke was bent on arranging a match between her and her friend's brother John.
The duke's expensive lifestyle made finding Gemma a rich husband not only expedient but imperative. Who better than a Nobody like Mr. Delevan who, to ally himself with the noble house of Carlyle, could be depended on to pay through his nose for the privilege? Or so the duke thought. But John had in fact come to Monteith Hall under something of duress. It was the elder Mr. Delevan who held the ambition, while John, a rising barrister in his own right, couldn't care less. That is, until he met Gemma.
And if that wasn't enough to cut up Gemma's peace, they were also to have the 'honor' of entertaining the duke's sister Lady Sophronia and her daughter, the beauteous but catty Coralee. Then Captain Godwin returned home, bringing with him his friend Oliver Barton, and suddenly, accompanied by expeditions, balls and picnics, the summer didn't seem quite as boring.
This is a charming story without any real villains or disasters, yet filled with human insights and the pains often accompanying the transition from teenager to young adult. The characters are all well drawn even when lightly sketched, the chemistry between them believable, and the secondary love story quite as interesting as that of the heroine, at times even more so. It's another of those books with summer captured between its covers. (Posted by yvonne 4/19/10)
by Margaret Mayhew
Published 2005 by Severn House
At 24 Lord Nicholas Strickland is enjoying a not unusual life for a young man on the town -- he is handsome and witty, but he is frequently drunk and apparently irresistible to women of all stations. As a second son of an earl, he has felt no need to marry for the sake of an heir, as his stuffy brother Edwin and his conniving, acquisitive wife Maria have already got that covered.
Nicholas is the favored nephew of Lady Augusta Fairfax; he stayed often at her estate Maplethorpe when he was growing up and loves the old place. Imagine his dismay when his aunt tells him that he is far too rackety for her taste, and he must either marry by the time he turns 25, or lose the promised inheritance of Maplethorpe. However Nicholas thinks no woman would ever say no to him (as none have so far) and assumes he has only to ask to find an eager bride.
Lady Fairfax's leading candidate is Miss Charlotte Craven (Lottie), whom Nicholas knew slightly as a child; he thought her 'a little mouse'. Grown up Lottie is 'too tall'; she hasn't any interest in marrying and regards her marital prospects as pretty weak anyway. Her best friend is amiable, plump Miss Amelia Beauclerc, whose ambitious mama calls her fat and regards her as a failure and a burden. Both girls are somewhat dreading the ordeal of a London Season.
When Nicholas, with his friend Captain Clive Young, calls on Lottie, she and Amelia have just finished being dragged for a walk by the dog Marmaduke. Lottie, annoyed by his arrogance, affronts Nicholas by saying she does not remember him. Nicholas vows he will not marry this rampaging hoyden, but the other choices on his aunt's short list seem even worse.
During their call, Captain Young notices quiet Amelia and later at a ball, he dances with her. Amelia's mother discovers that the Captain, although an honorable man and a decorated officer, is only the third son of a baronet and therefore quite ineligible; she forbids Amelia to see him again. Maria extracts Lady Fairfax's forced marriage plan for Nicholas from her companion Miss Snetttisham and sees an opportunity to add Maplethorpe to their holdings by discrediting him. Amelia's mother does her best to force Amelia into an unwanted marriage. Lottie continues to resist all pressure to marry Nicholas. Marmaduke continues to cause havoc.
I had read one other regency by this author and not thought much of it, but I found this one a bit more to my taste. It has no new or original elements that I can see, but it is lively and fast moving and the characters are likeable. I wouldn't suggest a search for it, but if you run across it, it's quite a pleasant way to pass an hour. (Posted by Janice 4/16/10)
Note: Although concentrating on historical romances published 1999 or earlier, the golden age of the traditional Regency novel, we may at times review newer novels that we believe our readers may enjoy. Margaret Mayhew's Quadrille is such a book. It's a traditional Regency in the best sense of the word.
#172 The Phantom Garden
by Sheila Bishop
Published 1974 by Fawcett Crest
As this book opens, Charles FitzRoy Stannard has come to Vauxhall to hear Miss Celia Greenwood sing and to ask her to become his mistress. Stannard is the grandson of Charles FitzRoy, Duke of Crediton, a bastard son of Charles II by a courtesan named Kate Brereton. He is a wealthy, but not ostentatious, man, interested in the arts; he is prepared to be generous to Celia and to provide for her even after he tires of her. To his surprise, Celia refuses him.
At first Stannard is furious at this slight to his consequence, but a few days' thought calms his mood, and he agrees to be part of a country house party at which Celia will also be present. As he spends more time in her company, he falls even more deeply in love with her, to the point of offering marriage, which she also refuses. He can see she is troubled by some secret and he becomes very curious as to what it is. In the course of his investigations many of his attitudes toward women and the servant class are challenged and changed.
As I have come to expect from Bishop, this Georgian (1773) romantic mystery contains some very shrewd character observation. The hero doesn't seem like a particularly admirable person at first, but his experiences are a wakeup call to him and his changes of attitude are gradual and well shown. Money is at the ultimate root of it all, of course, but the villain is not the usual piece of cardboard but a striking, fully rounded character. Some may feel that the book is long on investigation and short on romance, and it doesn't have any sex scenes whatsoever, but I found it an absorbing read. (Posted by Janice 4/12/10)
#171 Bluestocking / Last Gentleman Standing
by Jane Ashford
ISBN: 0446905097, 9781492655275
Published 1980 by Warner Books, reprinted in Doubleday Romance Library. Reprinted again by Sourcebooks Casablanca as Last Gentleman Standing. The later also available as ebook.
Swedish - Falska Avsikter, ISBN 9904831300
"I was just a bit decomposed, and only for a moment, you know, out of surprise ... I must have seemed quite fictive to your watchdog." -- Cousin Lavinia, upon meeting the dog Growser
At the age of 24, Miss Elisabeth Elham, a teacher at Miss Creedy's Select Seminary for Young Ladies at Bath, found herself the heiress to her miserly uncle Anthony Elham, who chose her because she had never asked him for money (she had known it would be no use). Her inheritance included a house in London, a country estate called Willowmere and a boatload of cash.
Elham had deliberately excluded Elisabeth's two teenage cousins Anthony and Belinda Brinmore because they had asked for support; after their parents died, leaving them destitute, they had found a home with their uncle Brinmore, but he had a large family of his own and his resources were stretched rather thin. Elisabeth decides to invite Tony, Belinda and Tony's irrepressible dog Growser to live with her. Her solicitor Mr. Tilling points out that it won't do for a young woman to live in London without an older lady to lend her countenance, so Elisabeth invites Cousin Lavinia to live with them as well.
When Elisabeth goes down to Willowmere to inspect the property, she finds that as with her London house, her uncle hadn't spent a groat on it and the property has gone to rack and ruin. She meets a neighbor, Derek Wincannon, but she has so much on her mind and so little thought of meeting men, that when his mother Viscountess Larenby calls on her in London, she doesn't even remember the incident at first. As Elisabeth, Tony and Belinda begin to move in London society, they find new friends, and it becomes difficult - and dangerous - to tell real friends from false ones.
The title of the book is a bit of a puzzle, because two of the characters are educated young women, but neither is really a bluestocking. I liked the book because I liked the characters -- as Yvonne has said, sometimes you just want to settle down in the company of old friends, or people who would be your old friends if you knew them. I particularly liked Cousin Lavinia, whose wonderful malapropisms concealed a considerable shrewdness and a caring heart. I also liked the clever contrast made of two fortune hunters who pursue Elisabeth, one of whom is a good egg who deserved his own book. The plot of this book is nothing new, but plot is the least consideration in a good romance -- it's all in the journey; if it weren't, we'd only read them once. (Posted by Janice 4/9/10)
#170 In My Lady's Chamber
by Elizabeth Neff Walker / Laura Matthews
ISBN: 0449502147, 0451176502
Published 1981 by Fawcett (as Neff Walker), reissued 1993 by Signet (as Matthews)
Some years ago Miss Theodosia Tremere and Marcus Williams, Viscount Steyne, had met and fallen in love. Theodosia was then living with her vicar father, who was a selfish man who did not value her as he should have, but she felt it her duty to continue to care for him. This angered Marc, who felt that she should have been very willing to marry him instead and be loved and cherished by him. When her father died, he left most of the money to go to a church building project in his name, leaving very little for Theodosia to live on. Theodosia had told Marc he must wait, but when he did not come after her father died, she took a position as governess in the Heythrop household.
Theodosia at least lucked out in her position at Charton Court, as Lord and Lady Eastwick and their family treated her as one of them. Lord Eastwick was off doing something diplomatic in America when one of the children, little three year old Katie, died. The surviving children - Edward, Charlotte, Eleanor, John, Thomas and Amy - have been low in spirits since Katie's death, so Theodosia thinks to help them by giving them a summer project: finding the Heythrop treasure, the secret of which had been lost hundreds of years ago.
Meanwhile in London Marc's older widowed sister is being courted by James Heythrop, Lord Eastwick's younger brother, a thoroughgoing scoundrel who wants Ruth for her money. When Marc journeys with James down to James's estate, ostensibly to be shown that James is an eligible suitor, they stay at Charton Court, and Marc is astonished to see Theodosia there. With James on the prowl for the treasure, the children matchmaking, and Marc still angry at her over their past, Theodosia will be hard put to sort it all out.
I usually think of Laura Matthews's books as being on the serious side, but, even though this one has themes of duty and sticking to one's convictions, it's also a very pleasant summertime story, neatly balanced between romance and family. Except for James, there's not a scoundrel in it. Also, even in 1981, the author could have gone over the top with its passionate aspects, but she doesn't. I found it a delight. (Posted by Janice 4/3/10)
#169 Rivals Of Fortune
by Jane Ashford
Published 1981 by Warner
Miss Joanna Rowntree, 18, had assumed she would marry her neighbor Peter Finley; they had grown up together and it was assumed by all that they would wed. However in London Peter met and married Miss Adrienne Denby. Joanna is horrified to learn that Peter is bringing his bride back home immediately; as she confides to her mother and her best friend Selina, she will not know how to act.
Into this crise du coeur come two new gentlemen. Mr. Jonathan Erland has inherited a neighboring estate from his miser uncle and after ten years in Canada has come to settle there. He would like to restore the estate, but his uncle left him only the property and no cash to do much for it. The new Mrs. Denby (a snotty lady in the mold of Mrs. Elton) has brought her brother, Sir Rollin Denby, with her and the now henpecked Peter. Sir Rollin is fashionable, flirtatious and dazzling to Joanna, whereas Jonathan seems rustic and ordinary by comparison.
Joanna's father is a scholarly type, completely wrapped up in his work, and when he learns that Jonathan is willing to have the ruins of an old Abbey on his property excavated, he immediately enlists his other son Gerald (down from Oxford) and Jonathan in the project. There have always been rumors of a great treasure hidden somewhere on the property. Joanna's younger brother Frederick is fascinated by the hunt -- as is Sir Rollin, who is long on lifestyle but desperately short of the ready.
This is another coming of age story, as Joanna learns, in a normal and gradual sort of way, what is real and lasting in a relationship vs what is based only on superficial considerations. If you're looking for something super dramatic and emotional, this isn't it. Up until the final clinch, it doesn't even have any sex in it, except for one kiss from the wrong guy. I don't think a current author could have gotten away with that. The author was, however, quite good at describing the teenage angst and petty rivalries of her characters; I did wonder whatever happened to Joanna's petulant pal Selina and whether she was ever sent off to school to lose those 'missish airs'. (Posted by Janice 3/23/10)
Like Janice pointed out to me, I love books about summer and this is one of them! Joanna is a bit of a dreamer, with a lively imagination coupled with a streak of practicality utterly lacking in her scholarly father or enthusiastic younger brother. She's young and inexperienced rather than stupid and the rural setting is a nice change of pace to the London high society setting that's been done ad nauseum. I liked this description of an archaeological dig, although not very typical of the era yet fun in it's way. It would be another century before the sense of place would matter as much to historians as costly artifacts. A very enjoyable undemanding read; a perfect book for a lazy day. (Posted by yvonne 3/23/10)
#168 Petronella's Waterloo
by Sally James
Published 1980 by Fawcett
Miss Petronella Fanshawe, 18, has been living with her Aunt Deeping and her two peevish daughters Corinna and Amaryllis since the death of her army father. It is not a happy arrangement as her aunt dislikes her intensely and Petra, a spirited girl, generally fires back.
Petra goes to Lady Sheldon to apply for a position as governess so that she will not have to live with her, but Lady Sheldon's brother Lucian scotches the arrangement on the grounds of Petra's youth and the risk of having her in the house with Richard, Lady Sheldon's husband's younger brother, who is susceptible to blondes.
Petra amuses Lucian by spouting a pack of lies about her invalid parents and ten starving siblings, but what she doesn't know is that Lucian is really Lord Claverton and he knows all about her because Mr. Wing, who left her an inheritance, was his uncle. Lucian has been thinking of marrying and settling down, and Petra appeals to him.
Petra, however, is tough to discourage, and she finds another position with the DeCourcy family. Madame DeCourcy, nee Fairfax, had married a French émigré who has proved an abusive husband; he blames her for having produced three girls instead of a male heir, and despite her failing health, he intends to go on putting her through pregnancies until she either gives him an heir or dies. Early in her stay with the DeCourcys, Petra observes a suspicious visitor; although giving out that he is a Bourbon supporter, DeCourcy is actually a Bonapartist who is planning an assassination attempt on the Duke of Wellington.
Usually I'd be groaning about *another* spy plot, but I didn't object in this book because it seems organic to the story, not just some arbitrary complications between sex scenes as is so often true in current historicals. This is a rather short book, but it moves fast, I liked its impulsive heroine, and I found it an entertaining read. (Posted by Janice 3/15/10)
#167 Red Jack's Daughter
by Edith Layton
Published 1984 by Signet
Miss Jessica Eastwood is a soldier's daughter. Her father 'Red Jack' loved his 'little soldier' dearly, but he couldn't stay away from his military life. Jess lived for his visits and wanted nothing more than to look after him once he finally retired. But Red Jack was killed at Vitoria, and Jess's Oak Hill home went to her Cousin Cribb and his nasty wife Mathilda.
Jess was advised that her father had left her a legacy but that she must visit his London lawyer to find out about it. Sir Selby (Ollie), her father's old friend, insists that she stay with his good friend Lady Grantham. Both of them believe Jess's only possible provision must come from marriage, so Lady Grantham takes on the task of introducing Jess to Society. Jess has absolutely no interest in any such thing; she has been raised with direct manners nearer those of a gentleman than a young lady. She much prefers to be an invisible observer rather than the center of attention.
Jess's first appearance is at Lady Swanson's ball, where she horrifies Lady Grantham by declining to dance with her nephew, Alexander, Lord Leith. Despite receiving the cut direct from Jess, Alex feels he owes Ollie and he resolves to bring Jess into fashion. "It would be, he thought momentarily, an amusing expedition, a vastly amusing diversion, this getting an officer and a gentleman into proper petticoats."
This is really more of a coming of age novel than a romance per se, since the main focus is on Jess as she finds out more about her family, her father, her legacy, the way of the world and her own self. The characters are dimensional, the events are interesting and plausible, and there is Layton's slyly humorous style to enjoy. I can therefore overlook what is probably that annoying 'Sir Lastname' error -- I suspect Sir Selby's full name is Sir Oliver Selby, not Sir Selby Oliver -- because I like the rest of the book so much. (Posted by Janice 3/11/10)
#166 Lady Aurelia's Bequest
by Sheila Walsh
Published 1987 by Signet
Miss Cordelia Darcy of Williamsburg, Virginia lives with her maternal aunt, Miss Hetty Ryan. When she was four, her father, an English lord, had killed his man in a duel and been forced to flee with his wife to America. His feckless lordship continued his philandering ways until he got himself killed in another duel, and his wife soon followed, leaving Cordelia to the care of her mother's family. Now Cordelia has learned that Lady Aurelia Arlinton, who had arranged her father's escape, has died and left her a legacy -- some money and her house in London, with the stipulation that Cordelia must live in it for one year to make the legacy permanent.
Cordelia and her aunt sail for England. It is 1811 and there are rumors of a coming war with Britain over the British practice of taking sailors from American ships under an often specious claim that they were British deserters. On board the Monmouth, Cordelia meets Drew Harvey, a handsome young Philadelphian, whom she likes immediately. The ship is intercepted and Drew is impressed; as he is taken away, he gives Cordelia a packet of papers to be delivered in London.
Once in London, Cordelia and her aunt begin to make friends and to move in society. Francis, Earl of Wyndham, is one of Lady Arlinton's executors; he expects to find a grasping adventuress in Cordelia, and the evasions she is forced into to protect Drew further his suspicions. But Cordelia befriends his beloved sister Evalina, whose mother has planned a grand season which terrifies her, and Francis finds his attitude gradually changing -- he is beginning to be very much attracted to this forthright American girl.
It's not often I find a regency that shows much knowledge of or interest in America of the same period; this one has quite a bit of history worked into its story, and it's done without research dumping or lengthy exposition. There's a nice sense of people living in uncertain times; this author knows that we may know how it all turned out, but her characters didn't. A believable tale, well told. (Posted by Janice 3/4/10)
#165 Honora Clare
by Sheila Bishop
Published 1981 by Fawcett Coventry
At her father's death, Walbury, where Miss Honora Clare had lived all her 24 years, went to her smarmy cousin Sydney, who urged her to make her home with them, chiefly so that his grasping wife Euphemia would have an unpaid governess for their children. The idea of living with them was insupportable, but the only property left to Honora was a bit of money and two houses in Bath. With Miss Lucy Fielder, the governess Euphemia has just fired for possessing a copy of The Rights of Women, Honora goes to Bath to inspect the two houses.
Honora decides to use her money to remodel the houses and make them into a seminary for young ladies. Lucy and she find it difficult to attract pupils and wind up with a group of girls who for various reasons are 'difficult', including incorrigible Nancy, epileptic Evelina who 'goes off', courtesan's daughter Corisande, and three sisters whose parents have fled to India for debt.
One of their girls, Sally, has been placed there because the aunt she was left with has married. Marcus Colvin, Sally's father, has just returned from abroad; he has heard and believed slighting remarks about Honora and her school from a Mrs. Porcheston, and he wishes to remove Sally, particularly after witnessing some incidents which seem to show the school in a bad light. For her part, Honora dislikes Marcus on sight, not only because of his scathing opinion of her, but because he seems to be ungentlemanly and vulgar.
This book is as much about a young woman maturing by taking charge of her life, running a school and dealing with its crises while staving off financial disaster, as it is a romance. It contains some shrewd character observation and parts of it are very funny indeed. I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 2/28/10)
#164 An Unreasonable Match
by Sylvia Andrew
Published 2002 by Harlequin
"A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well as she can." -- Jane Austen
At 17 Miss Hester Perceval, fresh from school and burning with a desire to improve the world, came to London for her Season. Hester found that London society did not care to hear opinions on politics or social issues from a young miss, or indeed, from any woman at all. Her outspoken ways led to one embarrassing incident after another and she was mocked by her brothers' friends.
Her disastrous Season culminated at the Duchess of Sutherland's ball when she was nearly raped by Lord Canford, who had pretended to be interested in her mind so as to get her alone. Hester's brother broke in on them and prevented the rape, but Lord Dungarran, who was also a witness to the incident, railed at her for her behavior and slapped her to bring her out of hysterics. This was the last straw of humiliation for Hester, who had a crush on Dungarran; she was sent back to the country in disgrace.
Now, seven years later, Hester's mother prevails upon her to return to London, saying that marriage is the only comfortable way of life for a woman and Hester must have another try, even though the last thing Hester wants is a husband. Hester had laboriously rebuilt her self esteem, in part by following her interest in mathematics and cryptography, and under a male name (Euclid) had been in correspondence with 'Zeno', whom she had come to regard as a kindred soul. Out of her pain she had also written a scathing satire of London life, but she had put it away with no intention of ever publishing it.
Once in London, Hester hides her spirited intelligence from all the eligibles thrown in her path, so that Dungarran at first thinks she's as dull and insipid a girl as he ever met. However, when Hester finds out that Dungarran is Zeno, and Dungarran finds out that Hester is Euclid, they team up to decode documents for the War Office, and they realize that each of them never really knew the other at all.
This is part of the Steepwood Scandal series, but it's got nothing in particular to do with it, except for some names dropped in and to provide a reason for the Percevals to return home, leaving Hester with Dungarran's aunt. This annoyed me as it damages the present story by stopping it dead for two pages of irrelevant information. Other than that, I found it a mildly enjoyable read with a bit more depth than usual, but no surprises. (Posted by Janice 2/23/10)
For my comments on this book see the Sylvia Andrew page. I want only to add that I've reread it many times and it remains a favorite book of mine. (Posted by yvonne 2/23/10)
#163 Miss Davenport's Christmas
by Marion Chesney
Published 1993 by Fawcett Crest
The Misses Davenport (Gillian, called Jilly, and Amanda, called Mandy) have been raised in the most depressing manner imaginable. Their parents, Puritans from Yorkshire, had put them into the care of Abigail Biggs, a dragon of a maid who caned them, locked them in cupboards and never let them be alone together, so that the two girls barely knew each other even though they had been raised together.
To get them away from the pernicious influence of a regiment encamped nearby, their parents took them off to London, but a smallpox epidemic there created a dilemma: they could not take them back to Yorkshire for fear of army corruption, nor could they risk infection by staying in London. A distant cousin, Sir John Harrington, offered a solution: he and his wife would have the girls to visit over Christmas, and their parents would return home.
Because the Harringtons made their first visit while dressed drably and wrapped up thoroughly due to having bad colds, and denied that they ever celebrated that pagan holiday Christmas, the Davenports allow the visit, thinking Jilly and Mandy would be as closely trammeled as at home. However the Harringtons were appalled at the girls' joyless frightened faces and dowdy clothes and Lady Harrington in particular is determined to give them a wonderful time.
At the inn where Sir John was to meet them, Abigail falls ill of a fever and is sent back to Yorkshire. For the first time in their lives, Jilly and Mandy have a taste of freedom. Daringly they decide to dine in the public room, where they are noticed by Lord Ranger Marden and Lord Paul Fremont, two former soldiers also making a stay in the neighborhood.
Ranger and Paul are staying with Colonel and Mrs. Tenby, who also have two spoiled London beauties staying with them. These two, Harriet and Lucinda, have targeted the two gentlemen, and are incredulous and jealous at the popularity of the Harringtons' lovely ingenuous guests. Amidst the full out Christmas celebrations at the Harringtons, they plot to get the gentlemen back -- and ruin the first real Christmas the Davenport girls have ever known.
I don't know why this book isn't called 'The Misses Davenports' Christmas', since Mandy and Jilly are equally important in it. Be that as it may, the real fun comes from seeing Lady Harrington square off against Mrs. Tenby to protect Jilly and Mandy, whom she has come to regard almost as her own daughters. Lots of Christmas lore too -- and I don't care if it's all 100% factually accurate or not, it sounds like lots of fun, just like this short little Christmas bonbon of a book. It is not, however, for those who demand intense hero/heroine relationships or deep point of view, because Chesney has never dealt in that, and I for one am grateful, because I like her style just the way it is. (Posted by 2/17/10)
#162 Cupid's Calendar
by Norma Lee Clark
Published 1992 by Signet
Lady Ursula Liddiard had had her season in London but hadn't met anyone she fancied, except for Lord Henry Somerville, but he was infatuated with a Miss Chaist at the time and took no notice of Ursula. When Ursula's mother (a real piece of work) fell ill, Ursula was the only person she would allow near her and so Ursula spent the next five years of her life doing her duty. Now with her mother gone, at 25 Ursula is free at last, so she goes to her old Bath school friend India on a long hoped-for visit.
India is now married to Robert Youngreaves, Earl of Swanson. She is expecting her first child, and her marriage is a very happy one, the only cloud being the presence of her arrogant mother in law, who has refused to move to the Dower House and interferes continually with India's management of her household. India does not complain and has thus far kept much of the unpleasantness caused by the Dowager's meddling away from Robert's notice.
While en route to Swan Court, Ursula sees Henry again at an inn, but he doesn't recognize her. On the road again, Ursula finds Henry's horse with a broken leg and Henry lying in the road unconscious with a gash in his head from hitting a rock as he fell. Ursula takes him up and brings him to Swan Court to recover.
The Dowager had had a different bride in mind for Robert - her niece, Miss Blanche Vernon. Blanche is very beautiful but she is also spiteful, selfish, manipulative and inconsiderate, and at 26 she has not made the brilliant match she feels is her due. Blanche descends on the household, and when she learns that there are two highly eligible gentlemen in the neighborhood (Henry and a handsome young neighbor, Sir Tarquin Rochdale, who has also fallen for Ursula), this desperate-to-marry shrew seems impossible to dislodge. Her lies and the Dowager's meddling may spoil Ursula's chances with Henry forever.
Back in the day, Norma Lee Clark was Woody Allen's secretary, and she learned a thing or two from him about comedy of character (or perhaps he from her!). The scenes in which Robert has had enough of his mother, and his mother has had enough of Blanche, are sly and wonderful. This is as much a book about two reasonable, nice people having to deal with unreasonable not-nice people, and doing so with grace, dignity and respect for family obligation, as it is a romance between two people who might have been together all along if Cupid's calendar hadn't gone awry. I liked it very much. (Posted by Janice 2/14/10)
by Jane Ashford
Published 1980 by Warner
Miss Gwendeline Gregory, 18, had grown up at Brooklands, the country seat of her father, Baron Gregory. Her parents saw her rarely, preferring to spend their time in London, where her mother Annabella was a reigning beauty. Three months ago both of them had been killed in a carriage accident, and now Brooklands is to be sold for debts, leaving Gwendeline with no money and nowhere to go. On her last morning at home, she receives a visit from Alex St. Audley, the Earl of Merryn.
Merryn is quite startled to find that Annabella's daughter was not, as she had led him to believe, a very young girl, but a young lady on the verge of her come-out. He tells Gwendeline that an anonymous group of her parents' friends is aware of her situation and has made provision for her -- L1,000 per year and a small house in London.
With her former governess Miss Brown, Gwendeline travels to London, where she is welcomed by the Earl's mother (an authoress) into their home, and soon she is enjoying all the London social scene has to offer. But Gwendeline is troubled by whispers, things not quite said out loud, about her mother, and the attentions of one of her mother's former admirers, Mortimer Blane, whom she dislikes without really knowing why.
When Gwendeline and Merryn, out with a riding party, cross paths with Blane, who has kidnapped a maidservant off the street with rape in mind, fists fly, but not before Blane has shouted that Gwendeline's mother was mistress to half the men in London - including Merryn. Gwendeline flees London with Miss Brown, horrified at what she has heard about her mother and the man she is coming to love herself.
At 300-odd pages, this book is somewhat longer than the usual trad regency, and though it doesn't drag, it could do with a bit of shortening. I liked the author's portrait of this heroine; she begins as a naïve, sheltered girl with no particular accomplishments or abilities, but she finds unexpected talent, courage and a streak of common sense as she is tested by events. I found the hero and the villain somewhat less dimensionally drawn, but it was a good read anyway. (Posted by Janice 2/10/10)
#160 Lady Meg's Gamble
by Martha Schroeder
Published 1998 by Fawcett Crest
The Earl of Enfield left the management of his Hedgemere estate to his daughter, Lady Margaret Enfield, while he partied in London on the rents extracted from his overburdened tenants. Meg's mother died when she was three, and she has lived at Hedgemere ever since with her companion and former governness Miss Annis Fairchild. Meg never acquired the accomplishments of a typical young lady of her class; she was thrust early into a bailiff's role, and found she had a great talent for it,. When her father died, Meg learned that the Earl left her nothing, and had mortgaged Hedgemere to the max as well, so that the home and land she loves will be sold out from under her if she can't find the money somehow.
Captain James Sheridan has the money – a lot of it, his accumulated prize money from the wars against Napoleon. Now that peace has broken out, James wants to find a home in England. Because he is the bastard son of the Duke of Kettering and is estranged from that family, he has nowhere to go. James feels the stigma of his illegitimacy keenly and despite the respect in which all who know him well hold him, he is very sensitive about it.
Their common friend Sir Gerald Mattingly suggests that Meg and James marry; his money will save the property which both will make their home. However, for the marriage to succeed, each will have to make adjustments – Meg must learn to share authority, and James must lose some of his old bitterness. Complicating matters further, Annis has been in love with Gerald for years, and when Gerald comes to respond at last, his well meaning mother Lady Mattingly objects to a match between a country vicar's daughter and her diplomat son.
This is a nice short little romance about several likeable people sorting out their destinies. The author doesn't waste a lot of space on endless graphic repetitive sex scenes; she does not by any means ignore the power of the physical attraction between James and Meg, but she mainly uses her pages to show them striving to know each other and to communicate with and trust each other. Since I already know what goes where and why, I'd much rather learn about the other aspects of a couple's relationship, and so I found this a good read. (Posted by Janice 2/2/10)
#159 Lord Rivington's Lady
by Eileen Jackson
ISBN: 0802705332, 0816165963, 0451076125, 9780802705334
Published 1976 by Walker & Co., reissued 1977 by Signet, large print edition available.
Miss Georgina Havard lives with her family at Havard Hall in vastly reduced circumstances since her father, now deceased, had squandered his fortune. Georgina is interested in the works of Mrs Wollstonecraft; she doesn't want to marry to survive and has dreams of studying medicine. One day she and her maid are returning from the village, taking a short cut across the neighboring Kennerley estate, when a handsome aristocratic stranger accosts them. Because Georgina is dressed as a countrywoman at the time, he takes her for a maidservant and steals a kiss. Georgina is mortified; she knows her sullen servant Elise will spread the tale in the servants' hall and it will be all over the county in a trice.
Georgina's mother and her nearest sister Penelope have never accepted their poverty. Georgina's mother spoils pretty Penelope and schemes for her to make a great match; however she despairs of Georgina, who will not present herself at her best and try to attract a wealthy suitor. At a dinner at the Kennerleys, Georgina meets that stranger again; he is the staggeringly wealthy Alexander, Earl of Rivington. Georgina is goaded into expressing her radical views to the company, to the dismay of her mother and sister.
Peregrine, their elder brother, returns from Oxford with startling news: he has won L3,000 in the lottery - enough to pay for a London season. In London Alexander and Georgina encounter each other several times and each time Georgina does something embarrassing -- tear her hem, rescue a starving girl and continue her outspoken ways. Seemingly the more she learns about Alexander, the more despicable he appears, and when he proposes marriage, she is enraged.
This is not a novel of the Big Misunderstanding, but of several Medium-sized Misunderstandings deliberately allowed to stand for no real reason I can see other than as useless torment for the heroine. The hero is in the old fashioned enigmatic arrogant mold; we're supposed to think the distress he causes by allowing Georgina's mistakes about him to stand is okay because he truly loves her. To my mind, that's the last way someone who loved someone ought to behave, so I didn't much like him. It was entertaining enough to finish but I can't really recommend it. (Posted by Janice 1/19/10)
#158 Regency Charade
by Margaret Mayhew
ISBN: 0802709125, 0449213706
Published 1986 by Walker & Co.
Miss Katherine Spencer, 22, lives rather frugally at Kielder Castle in Northumberland with her nine year old brother, Sir William Spencer. The Castle has been in the family since 1332, but no longer, as Kate learns when Mr. Richard Drew arrives. Richard tells Kate that her dissolute and irresponsible elder brother Sir Harry gambled the castle away the night before he got himself killed in a curricle race. Richard has the deeds and the IOU in Harry's own hand.
Kate has a little bit of money and she might take a cottage for William and herself somewhere, but she loves the tatty old castle, and it's William's heritage, so she decides to fight for it. She plans with her best friend Letty Lorrimer to drive Richard out; between them they will make the castle so miserable to live in that Richard will sell it back to Kate at a price she can afford. The girls set out with broken windows, roof holes, awful food and even hauntings to do just that, but Richard, who thinks Kate is very attractive, is enjoying the situation very much and proving impossible to dislodge.
This is a pleasant fast read without one new element in it; indeed, it has one scene that seems to have been cobbled together from Avon's meeting with Mary Challoner in Devil's Cub mixed with bits from Freddy Standen's conversations with his father in Cotillion. If I had never read any other regencies before this one, I'd probably think better of it, but as it is, it's all a bit too familiar. (Posted by Janice 1/12/10)
#157 The Day-dreaming Lady
by Jacqueline Diamond
Published 1985 by Walker & Co
Four years ago Lady Sarah Rowdon, only child of the Earl and Countess of Rowdon, had declined an offer of marriage from then Captain Kenneth Link, on the orders of her parents. Sarah loved Kenneth but he was comparatively poor, and her parents demanded that she marry money. Her father had gambled away his inheritance, her mother's portion and her own dowry, but Sarah knows nothing of his addiction; they have told her the money was all lost in bad investments. Sarah continues to trust and believe in her parents. She endures their criticism and bad humor chiefly by imagining herself a heroine; she lapses into daydreams to escape.
Four years later, desperate for money and having no better target in sight, Sarah's parents have ordered her to bring someone up to scratch before the month is out or see her father in debtor's prison. The likeliest candidate is Sir Lindsay Manx; however, when her mother learns that Kenneth is now Marquess of Broadmoor, she orders Sarah to put off Sir Lindsay and reattach Kenneth. At Almacks her mother orders her to swoon into Kenneth's arms; Sarah intends to disobey, but, lost in a daydream, she careens into Kenneth and instead of fainting gracefully in his arms, she sends them both crashing to the floor. Kenneth believes Sarah when she tells him of her daydreaming habits, but gossip begins flying, and he can't decide whether she is a heartless golddigger who once dumped him because he had no money, or an artless and trusting young lady, as his instincts tell him she is.
This is a fast moving fast read about the effects of gossip and the machinations of various characters who use it to further their ends. It doesn't seem to be deeply felt, and the characters are all rather shadowy, but it's carefully plotted, witty, and has some pretty sharp observation here and there. Recommended, but only if you really, really like comedy of manners. (Posted by Janice 1/6/10)
by Sheila Bishop
Published 1982 by Fawcett Crest
Gently bred, lovely Rosalba Carlow (nee York) had been married to Edgar Carlow for a few months, during which time she learned his true character (awful – he was a gamester and a con man, among other things). Her mother died when she was 17, and since then she had been living with Mr. Chalkey, the rector, and his wife; they had taken her in out of duty, but life with them was very dull. When Edgar offered for her, she could see the Chalkeys were relieved to have her off their hands, not least because their own two daughters were so much plainer.
In London Carlow and his cohort Robinson set out to fleece Sir Augustus Rainham, a foolish, louche young lord. They locked Gus in the bedroom with Rosalba, intending blackmail and extortion, but when Rosalba yelled out the truth to Hugh Rainham, Gus's cousin, the plot fell through. Carlow beat Rosalba severely and then left London with everything of value, leaving her alone without a penny.
Hugh realized that Rosalba had had no part in the plot; he felt sorry for her and gave her some money to go back home (as she told him), but Rosalba had nowhere to go, so she found a room in Spitalfields and work in a china painting factory – always fearing that Carlow would find her again. When she heard that a gentleman had been asking for her at her lodgings, she panicked and fled into the night. Street thieves stole her bundle with her money in it, and when another man yelled at her from a carriage, she ran blindly into an alley, with the man following her.
The man who had followed her was Hugh. Since Rosalba was legally married to Carlow, he could not offer her marriage; she became his mistress. As his mistress, and now very much in love with him, she lived with him openly under the name of Mrs. York, always fearing that he might tire of her – or that Carlow might someday return.
As often happened, the editors for the Coventry series were asleep at the switch, since they labeled this book 'regency' even though it's set in 1769. However, except for clothing details and some minor references, there isn't much that wouldn't fit a regency romance as well. There's a bit of mystery in this tale, and a clever solution by Hugh, along with some astute insights into the necessity of good communication between lovers. I recommend it. (Posted by Janice 1/2/10)
#155 The Headstrong Ward
by Jane Ashford
Published 1983 by Signet
Finally emancipated from the exclusive Bath seminary both have attended, Lady Anne Tremayne and her best friend Arabella Castleton set out for London, Arabella to go home and Anne to acquire a new wardrobe. Having lost her parents at an early age, Anne was brought up by Lady Wrenley, together with her own three sons, Charles, Laurence and Edward. When Lady Wrenley died, Anne was packed off to school and hated it. She's vowed to avenge herself on the unfeeling Charles, now Viscount Wrenley, and the first step is to stun him with her grownup looks.
Coming home, she soon finds her ideas about revenge rather childish as there's clearly something not right in the relationship between the three brothers. They're obviously not happy and, on top of it all, Laurence has become engaged to an unpleasant girl nobody likes and who's moreover bent on ruining Anne's best friend! Somehow she must enlist the most unwilling Charles in a scheme to extricate Laurence from his engagement, while detering Edward from undoing them all, coping with the most unusual chaperon in Town and keeping Augustus, her pet parrot, from killing the kitchen cat.
I like this story a lot. It's funny yet with a serious side. If you want deep angst you're not going to find it in this book. Charles is the reluctant yet intriguing hero, Anne a heroine with a large heart and ready compassion which results in her trying to help people she cares about, rather than the - almost cliché - beaten dog or horse that populate too many novels. Except for Laurence's terrible fiancée, the characters are likable, nice people who are pleasant to relax with for a few hours. A perfect comfort read. (Posted by yvonne 12/19/09)
Charles Debenham, Viscount Wrenley succeeded to his father's dignities at the age of sixteen, along with responsibilities he didn't want and for which he wasn't prepared. The oldest of three brothers, he had grown up with Lady Anne Tremayne, who lived with them after her parents died. Anne had tried to get the boys' attention by running wild and equalling them at every outdoor pursuit; she rides, shoots and hunts as well as any boy. When her godmother Lady Wrenley died, Charles packed Anne, then fourteen, off to school, to learn manners. Anne had remained there ever since, without a single visit from Charles or holiday with the family; she feels much resentment towards Charles particularly for having abandoned her there.
Anne is now nineteen and Charles knows she must come to London to be brought out. Anne is not considered pretty but her time at school has softened her manners somewhat and Charles notices she has something better than mere prettiness -- she has presence. Anne's first thoughts are of finally getting revenge on Charles for the years of being ignored by him, but when she meets his brothers Laurence (a clergyman) and Edward (an officer in the Horse Guards), she sees that there are other situations needing her attention even more.
For about the first third of this book, I thought it very derivative; it seemed to me to be a mix of elements in Georgette Heyer -- the guardian stuck with a ward he doesn't want (Regency Buck), the strongwilled girl who thinks she knows what's best for other people (The Grand Sophy), the three brothers so disparate in temperament yet with strong family feeling (The Reluctant Widow), and so on. However, after a while the characters seemed to individuate somewhat and the book took on a bit of personality of its own. I think most of its energy comes from subsidiary characters - Anne's eccentric chaperone Mariah; that truly nasty piece of work Lydia Branwell; and Lydia's mother, the bishop's wife, a woman so overwhelmed by the two stronger personalities in her family that she almost forgets she has a backbone of her own. I would recommend the book for these characters; otherwise I think it's pretty slight. (Posted by Janice 1/1/10)
#154 Widow Aubrey
by Sarah Carlisle
Published 1978 by Fawcett Crest
Mrs. Caroline Aubrey, 21, has returned from America to her grandmother, the Dowager Countess of Mecklin after the death of her elderly husband, who owned a plantation on an island off Georgia. Before that Caroline had lived with her father on a Virginia plantation, but after he died only marriage to Aubrey had kept her out of the hands of Jonathan Featherton, a vicious neighbor. When Aubrey died, Caroline had to sell up again, so she has arrived back in England with only her old nurse Linny, a freedwoman. Though Aubrey had treated Caroline well enough, not subjecting her to his vicious habits, she felt she was a prisoner in a cage, just another possession.
When her father lost all their money, the Dowager had sent for Caroline's young sister Madeline, but not Caroline, as she was no longer a child. Maddie, however, is now almost 18 and in love with Lord Brenley (Anthony), but the Dowager fears that his father Lord Moiseford, a man of strong views, will quash the romance because of her family's wild reputation.
The Dowager feels that if Caroline marries their neighbor, the very eligible Robert Mallon, Marquess of Challonly, Lord Moiseford will accept Maddie's marrying Anthony. Robert has fallen for Caroline, and though she has feelings for him, after her previous experience of marriage, she has zero desire to be in a husband's power again. However Featherton has followed her to England; he was thwarted of his prey once before and means to have her, no matter what.
I found this a curious book. I wonder if it would be published in this form today; there is a passage in which Caroline counters Lord Moiseford's condemnation of slavery in America by pointing out that the Irish landlords or the English landlords who had enclosed their lands and driven tenant farmers off to starve are no better; at least, she says, American slave owners had a motive to see that their labor force was fed and housed. That was probably much closer to the views of 19th century people, but I don't think that any defense of slavery on any grounds would go over well today. As a romance, it's a moderately entertaining read, but not particularly memorable except for its oddities. (Posted by Janice 12/16/09)
I go with the not particularly memorable as well. It's been a while since I read it and to be truthful I can't remember a thing about it! Not even Janice review served to jog my memory. Sorry. (Posted by yvonne 12/16/09)
#153 The Noble Impostor
by Mollie Ashton
Published 1984 by Signet
Miss Caroline Verity Fox, almost 21, is the daughter of Josiah Cox, a northern mill owner. Josiah had married (for love) into the Strathmore family, who are of the ton. Verity, as she is called at home, is interested in reform, as she has inherited a social conscience from her Quaker father. One day she hears that Mr. Leigh Hunt will be speaking at Denning, a nearby village. With her maid Sarah (and over Sarah's objections), Verity goes to hear him, but before his speech even begins, a mounted hussar sweeps her up and deposits her back in her carriage, despite her indignation.
Uncle George and Aunt Maria (Lord and Lady Strathmore) have traveled to Verity's home to demand that she go with them to London to share a Season with her cousin Laura. With them has traveled a rakish Frenchman, Etienne de Roncy; de Roncy is one of Les Chasseurs du Roi, a volunteer society which tries to trace aristocrats who fled France during the Terror and restore them to their families. Against her inclinations Verity goes to London with them; Aunt Maria insists she be called Caroline there, as Verity is an unfashionably Quakerish name.
Laura is a lovely young girl who is bent on enjoying her season to the full; she has the attention span of a gnat for men and tumbles in and out of love every few days. Many young men call upon the girls: among them, seductive de Roncy, tedious Mr. Bennington-Jones -- and Patrick Tarkington, the hussar who carried Verity off that day in Denning. Patrick is ostensibly there to court known heiress Laura, but he can't keep away from Verity. His background is unknown, he has several secrets about him, and he has nothing but his army pay and his gambling winnings, but Verity can't help being drawn to him -- and something about him seems oddly familiar to de Roncy.
This is quite an old fashioned book in some respects, but I liked it because I liked the characters, especially the hero - a passionate and kind-hearted man who did something few other men of his day would have done (be responsible for his mistress's child). I also liked the intelligent, determined heroine and her affectionate and far from dullwitted father. There are some things that seem like period errors to me (store bought envelopes being used in 1820; Verity walking or taking cabs alone in London), but they don't spoil the story. I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 12/11/09)
I, too, liked this story. Yes, there are period errors and at times I found the descriptions a tad tedious but those are minor drawbacks in an otherwise good book. I particularly liked Verity's father and even her Stratmore relatives come across as rather nice people, who's actions stem more from concern for their niece than abject snobbery. These nuanced portraits of the characters, none being entirely wile and not saintly good, is what stayed with me after closing the book. Very well done, I thought. (Posted by yvonne 12/12/09)
#152 All's Fair
by Donna Bell
Published 1990 by Jove
Lady Priscilla Calvert (Prissy), 23, lives in London with her brother George, Duke of Moulton; their mother is still living but since her husband's death she's taken up a role as an invalid and remains at the ducal seat. Prissy is beautiful, wilful and wealthy in her own right; her father had spoiled her by treating her like another son and telling her she should have been the heir. Her fiery nature is, however, tempered by a genuine love for her brother, and she is given to spontaneous acts of kindness towards the unfortunate.
Wealthy Sir Colin Dearden (Cully to his friends) is a friend of George's; he had been a soldier but had sold out. He would like to settle down, and is in London seeking a suitable bride. He is attracted to Prissy but appalled at her hot temper; when he meets meek, pretty Miss Catherine Ballard, he decides to offer for her, unaware that Catherine is in love with Edward Crandall, who is comparatively poor. When war breaks out again, Dearden buys back his major's commission and goes to Brussels with the army. Prissy follows with George, and George falls for Tess Greystone, who has gone to Brussels because her brothers are in Wellington's army.
This is an odd book; it begins as a relatively silly story of jealousies, misunderstandings, rivals in love and such; then the scene transfers to Brussels for a serious account of the Battle of Waterloo, and then it goes back to being a relatively lightweight London romance again. Some of it is clearly influenced by Heyer's An Infamous Army, right down to the tempestuous redhaired heroine. I have liked some of Donna Bell's books but I can't recommend this one except for the Waterloo parts, which are kind of a rehash anyway. It's not a badly written book; it's just unnecessary. (Posted by Janice 12/07/09)
#151 The Damsels From Derbyshire
by Ellen Fitzgerald
Published 1992 by Walker & Co
Beautiful Lady Tabitha came to London for her season when she was 18, but on a disastrous night at the theater, she saw her father shot to death by a romantic rival who then shot himself. Her father's scandalous death ended her season; after his funeral she went back home to Derbyshire with her Aunt Ellen Parry, where it was one thing after another – her mother's descent into a fatal decline, marriages and lying-ins of her siblings, and handling the wildness of her younger sister Laura, who at 15 tried to run off with a penniless young man. While she was in London, Tabitha had fallen in love with Lord Lionel Lovell, and he seemed to care for her as well, but after she returned home, he did not write or attempt to visit, and eventually she heard that he had married someone else.
Now at 27, with her aunt hectoring her about being at her last prayers, Tabitha has brought Laura to London for her season. Laura is as headstrong, tactless and impulsive as ever, and Tabitha and Aunt Ellen are not always able to control her wild starts. Tabitha meets Lord Lovell (now Lord Ashton and a widower) again, but Laura assumes he is interested in her. Aunt Parry continues to tell Tabitha that in a year or two she will be too old to begin childbearing, and she must find someone soon or wind up like her – an aging spinster with no home or family of her own. Tabitha is courted by repellent Lord Marlton, who will not be discouraged; she dreams of a life with Ashton, but he remains silent, leaving her to wonder if she will lose him all over again.
This is a very short, very slight little book, with nothing new to recommend it, except that it's nicely written and reasonably entertaining. The only character who seemed quite real to me was Aunt Ellen, with her worries about being forever shuttled back and forth to be the useful poor relation and never having a home of her own. Ellen Fitzgerald wrote scads of books under several names – Zabrina Faire, Florence Stevenson, Lucia Curzon, Zandra Colt and Pamela Frazier – I thought this was just about middling for her. (Posted by Janice 12/03/09)
The opinions expressed in these reviews are solely those of the named reviewer. No free books, money, curricles with matched pairs, Godiva chocolates, hot guys' phone numbers or any other form of consideration has been received in connection with these reviews from any author, publisher or other entity anywhere in the universe. Whatsoever. - But if any hot guys should happen to read this, feel free to make us an offer!