#250 Wife Errant
by Joan Smith
Published 1992 by Fawcett Crest
Mrs. Louise Marchant has thrown her husband Lyle out of their Bath home on account of his infidelities and has instructed her man of business to set divorce proceedings in motion. Mrs. Marchant has no clear idea of the monetary or procedural aspects of obtaining a divorce, but she doesn't really want one; she wants to bring Lyle to heel and to force him to give up his affair with Mrs. Esmee Gardener, a sexy widow a dozen years younger than she.
The Marchants have three children - Henry, a schoolboy at Harrow, and two daughters. Tess, the elder, is not considered pretty; she's the practical one upon whom both self-centered parents have leaned in practical matters, and she's growing tired of their dependence. Dulcie, the youngest, is sweet and pretty in the blonde fashion of the day. Tess never had a season; first it was lack of money (though her papa bought a new carriage and horses), then her mama was ill after a miscarriage, and after that it was forgotten. Tess knows that the scandal of a divorce would taint Dulcie's chances for a good marriage; no one would want to ally with a family which had such a scandal. The obvious solution is to reunite her parents; to that end Tess schemes with their old neighbor Lord Anthony Revel to scotch the divorce and bring her parents back together.
Joan Smith writes light, fast romantic comedies which depend in great part on the banter between hero and heroine. Her books are like an hour of some fast moving TV comedy that one forgets immediately. On that basis, it's definitely not one of her best, but it's readable enough. (Posted by Janice 5/11/11)
I'm usually a fan of Smith's light comedies and had high hopes for this one. The old self-sacrificing plain daughter plot is stood on its ears when Tess decides it's time to stop being the martyr and force her irresponsible parents to grow up. Besides the awful parents, the characters in the book are mostly nice people; I particularly enjoyed the dowager Lady Revel and Tony isn't a bad hero. Unfortunately the story loses its way somehow and becomes even less than it could've been. Still, if you read for laughs like me it's not a total loss. (Posted by yvonne 5/11/11)
The Meddlesome Heiress
by Miranda Cameron
Published 1983 by Signet
Out of a desire for revenge on the family that had slighted him, wealthy businessman Sir Matthew Cunningham bought Brandon Castle, the home of the Sherburns. Sir Matthew allowed Giles Sherburn, the current Viscount Rotherford, and his family to remain at the Castle without disclosing the transfer; Giles was to act as his steward. However, both Sir Matthew and his son Andrew fell victim to a fever in India, leaving Miss Diantha Cunningham heiress to the Castle.
When Diantha arrives at the Castle, she finds a puzzling situation -- the Castle is filthy and rundown, despite the fact that there should have been ample funds from its lands to maintain it in proper condition. She also finds a gaggle of Sherburn relations living there, none of whom know about the sale and some of whom regard her as a meddling, managing cit's daughter beneath their touch. This ill assorted group includes Cassandra Wentlock (called Cassia), the Viscount's impulsive ward; Berthold Sherburn, his hotheaded younger brother; Mr. Fenwick; Baron Ninham, Cassia's uncle; and Lady Minerva Bolton, Giles's haughty great aunt. The party is augmented by Lady Mayberry and her daughter Lydia, who are on the catch for Giles; M. Eugene Bibelot, a French émigré; and later by Holt Eversleigh, the man Diantha believes has a true claim to the Viscountcy. Diantha has concealed the fact that she is the true owner of the Castle, and Giles dislikes her on sight. When several attempts on her life are made, it seems to Diantha that Giles is the likeliest suspect.
This novel is so crowded with characters, incidents, plots and subplots that little space is given to the development of the relationship between Diantha and Giles, unless you call Giles glowering at her and excoriating her whenever he speaks a reasonable way to show a bond developing. What with French spies, murder attempts, dowagers in spasms, hoaxes, oubliettes, putative heirs, financial misdoings, fops and gypsies abounding, it's quite difficult to keep track of, and to my mind not worth the effort, as none of the characters are very interesting or original. I can't recommend it except to those who like puzzle stories, and to them I would suggest: take notes, you're going to need them. (Posted by Janice 5/7/11)
#248 The Repentant Rebel
by Jane Ashford
Published 1984 by Signet
Miss Diana Gresham of Yorkshire, a considerable heiress via her deceased mother, had been kept close by her chilly father; she was not allowed to dress prettily or meet and mix with other young people of the neighborhood. She had had a few precious months at school but her father had removed her on the grounds that she was being corrupted by the company of a pack of empty headed females.
Therefore at 17 she was a sitting duck for the likes of Mr. Gerald Carshin, a man of fashion nearing the end of his youthful looks and desperate to catch an heiress. Diana agreed to elope with Gerald to Gretna Green and shared his bed at the inn because she believed his promises of marriage. However, when Gerald understood the exact terms of his intended bride's fortune (hers at marriage at coming of age at 18, or not until 25), he abandoned her without a word -- and stuck her with the inn and post charges as well.
The innkeeper's wife felt sorry for Diana and loaned her money to get back home. Upon arrival Diana learned that her father had died of an apoplexy the day before. Her housekeeper Mrs. Saunders had covered for her and no one knew of her disgrace. For the next seven years Diana lived with only Mrs. Saunders (who was no companion) until the latter's death. Diana was then completely alone in the world - wealthy but alone.
As she walked back from the burial, Diana was hailed by Amanda Trent, an old schoolfriend visiting her parents with her husband George, who had been wounded at Toulouse and invalided out. Amanda is surprised to learn that Diana has been stuck in Yorkshire all those years, and she has a famous notion: she, George and Diana will visit Bath. Amanda knows George is having a difficult recovery; he will benefit from access to news and the society of other wounded soldiers, and she will have Diana to bear her company -- and with any luck at all, she'll find Diana a husband.
Off these three go to Bath, where Diana meets many gentlemen, among them Captain Robert Wilton, with whom she falls in love. Unfortunately she also encounters Gerald again, still on the prowl for a fortune; he could ruin her publicly and privately and is spiteful enough to do just that.
I liked this book quite a bit for the bond that grows between the two women. Both women have issues - Diana's ruin and Amanda's three unsuccessful pregnancies - and both find support in each other's friendship. It's a story of maturation through experience and I couldn't help but root for all these people to be happy (except for the rat bastard Gerald, of course). (Posted by Janice 5/2/11)
#247 Miss Lockharte's Letters
by Barbara Metzger
Published 1998 by Fawcett Crest
"Dear Cousin Clarice, she wrote, I am dying and I never wore a silk gown."
Miss Rosellen Lockharte, a downtrodden teacher of penmanship at Miss Merrihew's Select Academy for Young Females of Distinction, believes she is dying of the influenza. In her fever she uses her last strength to write letters to all of the people who put her where she is. She writes to her Uncle Townsend, Baron Haverhill, whose offer of a season was cut short by his spiteful shrew of a daughter Clarice; to Clarice; to the redhaired braindead Heatherstone twins Timothy and Thomas, who had helped Clarice stage the incident that ruined Rosellen; to drunken Lieutenant Roland Dawe, who had been in on it; to clutchfisted Miss Merrihew and her lech of a brother the Reverend Mr. Merrihew; to a former student Vivian Baldour, now Countess of Comfrey, who left the school in a scandalous condition; to Lord Vance, Miss Merrihew's secret nighttime visitor; to Susan Alton, the only friend Rosellen had had there; and to Susan's brother Viscount Stanford (Wynn), who had summarily vetoed his sister's offer of a position, leaving Rosellen at Miss Merrihew's mercy. Rosellen offers her red mantle to a maidservant, Fanny, to see that the letters are posted; since she's dying of the flu, she won't be needing it anymore.
To her surprise, Rosellen's fever breaks and she is on the mend, with nothing but semi starvation and abuse to impede her recovery. However, it's too late to recall the letters; faithful Fanny had delivered them as instructed. Each recipient reacts as their character would dictate -- some with suspicion, some with guilt, some with fear of exposure, some (Wynn and Susan) with remorse -- and some with attempts on Rosellen's life.
I had forgotten how much physical abuse and injury Rosellen undergoes in this book -- besides the lack of proper nursing, she is hauled in an open cart to Brighton and back, pushed down three flights of stairs and has a large number of near misses. In any other hands this would not be funny and it would strain credulity as well. However this author is an expert at keeping all her eggs in the air; her humor does not pall or grow flat. This is one funny (and romantic) book still, even after several readings. I highly recommend it, and I'm really glad that it's now available inexpensively on ebook, along with many other classic Metzger titles. (Posted by Janice 4/26/11)
I like Metzger's writing style but her books are still somewhat hit and miss for me. This one I felt could have been better. The premise is fun, the heroine ticking off everyone that has been mean to her, although some of those slights were so minor I felt bringing them up years later were rather petty. Not sure why but I couldn't quite get into the romance between Wynn and Rosellen - maybe because I didn't particularly like them? Anyway, it's a fun read for an evening. (Posted by yvonne 4/26/11)
#246 The Perfect Fiancee
by Martha Jean Powers
Published 1989 by Fawcett Crest
Barely of age himself, Maxwell, Lord Kampford not only find himself the head of his household with a large estate to oversee and a younger brother at Eton, he also became the guardian of eleven year old Endurance Fraser. After arranging for a governess and setting up with his man of business to handle her inheritance, Max forgot all about her. After all, what had a young man in common with a female child? Until the day he received a letter reminding him that his ward was now twenty-one and it was high time for her come-out.
Endurance, or Amity as was her second name, couldn't wait to leave her home to see the world, well, London at least. Growing up on an isolated estate in the north with no company save the servants and her governess-companion, she longed for marriage and a family of her own. With Max's sponsorship, Lady Hester Grassmere to lend her countenance and the friendship of his intended bride, she trusted somebody would be willing to marry a tall, thin redhead even though she had little of her mother's divine blonde beauty.
We've already met Max two years earlier in The Gray Fox Wagers. Dev's happy marriage has done a lot to soften Max's view of marriage to the point he now thinks himself ready to take the plunge himself and who better than the calm and proper Honoria Waterston, who is surely the perfect fiancee and nothing like his exasperating ward with her lively zest for life and penchant for any stray animal in need of a home.
I very much enjoyed this book with its likable characters - you can't help but root for Max and Amity - and consider it better than the prequel. Don't let a few title errors deter you; this book is worth looking for. (Posted by yvonne 4/22/11)
#245 The Gray Fox Wagers
by Martha Jean Powers
Published 1988 by Fawcett Crest
Devereaux, Lord Havenhurst loved his old grandfather but when the old Duke insisted that he marry, he went too far. Dev had no wish to marry at all even if his grandfather in a moment of exasperation said he didn't care whether Dev married a lady or an actress as long as he married. Under the influence of drink, Dev decided that the Duke should get in full measure what he'd asked for - this very evening Dev would marry an actress.
Lady Jena Christie might have to work at the theater but she was certainly no actress. With her father having gambled away her inheritance, the only jobs she and her old nanny could get were as seamstresses at the theater. When Jena turned down the manager's insistent offer to tread the boards, she and her nanny were let go. The future looked more than bleak when fate delivered her into the hands of Lord Havenhurst.
I like Powers' writing style; her prose is excellent, her characters memorable and the book moves along at a quick pace. Unfortunately there are some rather glaring plot errors regarding special licenses and annulments (not an uncommon state of affairs) but if you can overlook them, as well as a few title screw-ups, you'll enjoy this book. (Posted by yvonne 4/19/11)
by Madeleine Robins
Published 1977 by Fawcett Crest
"My name is Calendar, sir, and my intentions are honorable. My family is good -- I am remotely in line to an earldom, which I am thankfully not likely to ascend to at any time. I have a good income, several seats, and drive a phaeton. And I intend to marry your daughter."
Miss Althea Ervine's father Sir George has struck her name out of the family Bible (again) for scolding his son and heir Merrit for riding his hunter through their 80 year old gardener's beloved roses. Ally, having had enough for a while, leaves Hook Well in a borrowed dress to visit her sister Maria, Lady Bevan in London. On the way Ally's post chaise is forced off the road by a madman driving a curricle in the other direction. Ally arrives at her sister's, annoyed and much disheveled, to find that Maria and her husband Sir Francis have a deteriorating marriage, mostly because of Francis's gaming proclivities.
The madman in the curricle was Sir Tracy Calendar; he was, at the time of the incident, engaged in winning a wager. Once Ally is suitably outfitted, she meets several eligible young men, among them Tracy. Also among her admirers is Edward Pendarly. Edward is engaged to Georgiana Laverham, a wealthy young lady, but the betrothal has not yet become common knowledge. Georgiana had fallen victim to the measles, and while she was ill and unavailable, Edward had begun a flirtation with Ally. Ally, a managing miss, now has two projects in hand: heal the breach between Maria and Francis, and help Georgiana teach Edward a lesson. Tracy has his own project in mind: convincing Ally to marry him.
I admit to mixed feelings about this book. Its style and atmosphere seem modeled after Georgette Heyer, and ordinarily I would have been distracted by that; however the lively dialog between Tracy and Ally and the outrageous supporting case carried it for me. It's a genuine comedy of manners and it's quite well done. I think fans of Heyer would appreciate it. (Posted by Janice 4/15/11)
#243 Felon's Fancy
by Sarah Westleigh
ISBN: 0263794105, 0373303629
Published 1995 by Mills & Boon / Harlequin
The Honorable Hero Langage was informed one 1818 morning that her father, Baron Polhembury, had arranged a marriage between her and Drew Calloner, Earl of Calverstock, to pay his debts. Hero has heard nothing good about the Earl; he is known to be a former felon returned from Australia, but her alcoholic father, generally a weak man, insists that she will be wed to him and her hopes for love in her marriage are irrelevant. Hero is unwilling not least because she had met a pleasant gentleman in the village that morning who helped her retrieve a basket of plums.
To her surprise, the former felon and the charming gentleman are one and the same, but his attitude has changed enormously. Hero does not know it, but Drew overheard a conversation between her and her maid Matty in which she said that marrying a convict who was the son of a common woman was beneath her. Unfortunately he did not hear Matty set her straight immediately afterwards. Once married, their relationship becomes an emotional seesaw; each has fallen in love with the other but neither will admit it and both have much to learn.
There's nothing new here, just a story of a marriage ostensibly made for convenience which is actually a love match. Nevertheless it's a pleasant enough read. However, people who hate romantic conflicts based on misunderstandings might become impatient with it, since if Drew had ever told Hero why he did whatever he did, or Hero had told Drew that she didn't really care about his past, they could have arrived at their eventual understanding a lot sooner. (Posted by Janice 4/11/11)
#242 Lord Carrisford's Mistress / Caroline
by Jasmine Cresswell
ISBN: 0449503038, 0263740374, 0816150435
Published 1980 by. This edition 1982 by Fawcett
Swedish - Caroline: En Bricka I Maktspelet, ISBN 9902058299
German - Lockende Glut, ISBN 3404103602
Finnish - Caroline Ja Mahtien Taistelu, ISBN 9518545510
Miss Caroline Adams, 25, a stunning beauty, lives with her stepmama, the Comtesse de la Riviere, where she is a strong inducement to the gentlemen of London to visit the Comtesse's gaming house. The Comtesse had been married to Caroline's father, Major Adams, but when he died she resumed her former title and let public awareness of her relationship to Caroline fade away. Also living in the house is the Comtesse's son by her first marriage, Philippe de la Riviere. Caroline's favors are, as far as the gentlemen know, available for the right price; however, thus far Caroline (who has Puritan ancestors) has evaded or refused outright all such offers.
Caroline is quite fond of her stepmama, but one day, to her shock and dismay, the Comtesse tells her that, since she hasn't married, she must accept an offer soon; if she doesn't, the Comtesse will turn her out on the street. The Comtesse gives as an excuse that she cannot afford to keep her any longer. Caroline desperately tries to find decent employment, but her efforts are unsuccessful, and, with nowhere else to go, the next Saturday morning she finds herself climbing into Lord Carrisford's carriage for the sum of £7,000, plus food, clothing, jewels and housing - in Carrisford's London house. The servants are outraged that a whore should be under Carrisford's roof and treat her with coldness and scorn, without ever crossing the line that might cause complaint.
Carrisford has seen her in the gaming rooms and absolutely believes she is what he has been told she is -- a courtesan hanging out for the highest possible price. He first learns he may have been misinformed when she threatens him with a pistol on what should have been their first night together. But Carrisford had another purpose besides lust in buying Caroline -- she is a link to Philippe, and Philippe is suspected of being a Napoleonic sympathizer.
The cover of this paperback is mislabeled as a Georgian; it's not, it's set in 1809. It seems rather more cliched than The Abducted Heiress, the other vintage Cresswell I read for this site; there's a lot of tooth gritting self mastery on Carrisford's part, and Caroline seems oddly passive at some points. The book also doesn't have any subsidiary characters of particular interest, except perhaps Carrisford's own mama. I rate it as in the great middle ground - not good enough to recommend nor bad enough to avoid. (Posted by Janice 4/7/11)
#241 The Notorious Widow
by Judy Christenberry (AKA Judith Stafford)
Published 1988 by Pageant Books
Mrs. Alison Montgomery had been accused of murdering her husband Edward and thrown into Newgate to await trial. Allie had made friends with Mavis Thompson, a servant jailed for theft by a vindictive employer. Edward's older half brother John Montgomery, Earl of Norwich, found them and removed both young women to his home in London, with the help of Mr. Timothy Browning, his man of business.
Edward had married Allie for her money, and it was a legally valid marriage; he got the money, but there was no announcement and Allie was kept close. He was actually caught in the toils of Lady Amabel Courtney; the plan was that he would divorce Allie, keep the money and marry Lady Amabel. But he was murdered, Allie was accused, and Lady Amabel went about in low-cut mourning, giving out that she was his fiancée.
Norwich, more and more drawn to his half brother's pretty, gentle widow, resolves to clear Allie of murder charges. Browning has fallen for Mavis and she for him, but she believes he can only want her as a mistress, because his practice would suffer if he married a servant girl. No one's dreams can come true, however, until the true killers are unmasked.
This is Judy Christenberry's first published novel. It shows a love for the regency genre; I found echoes of Heyer in it, but, alas, a few of Cartland as well. At this point in her career, the author's prose didn't flow as smoothly as in her later books, her dialog is sometimes a bit stilted, and there are minor period errors (paying for tea at Claridge's with a handful of pound notes). Alas, however, one honking great error underlies this plot: under the marriage laws of the day, a man could marry his deceased brother's widow (if he could find a clergyman willing to perform the ceremony), but such a marriage would violate the laws of consanguinuity and would have been voidable; if challenged the marriage could be voided and all the offspring made illegitimate. Both Norwich and Allie would have known this, but neither ever considers it (Allie worries only that Norwich would be marrying a cit's daughter, outside his class). However, to be fair, when Christenberry wrote this book, there was no internet and no sources to be consulted instantly at the click of a mouse. So, overall, E for effort, but her later regencies are so much better done. (Posted by Janice 4/3/11)
#240 The Village Spinster
by Laura Matthews
Published 1993 by Signet
Miss Clarissa Driscoll, formerly of Pennhurst Hall, had lost her home at her father's death; after the estate was sold to cover his gambling debts, she was left with only enough to purchase a small cottage in Pennwick. She has lived there for several years with her maid Meg, giving dancing and deportment lessons to young people of the neighborhood to supplement her limited funds. Clarissa is only 27, but she has given up thought of marriage since she came down in the world, and has assumed her caps.
Clarissa is quite fond of two of her young pupils, Lady Aria Barrington and the Hon. William Barrington, who are younger step-siblings of Alexander Barrington, Earl of Kinsford. Kinsford lives mostly in London, as he has an interest in politics. He had left Aria and William with their mother, the Dowager Countess, under the impression that she could guide them, but when he returns home it is borne in upon him that she does not. He is suspicious of the influence that Clarissa has with Aria and William (who ought to be in school but has been sent down). He is also doubtful of the propriety of a single woman living alone, but Clarissa has assured him that she has a companion, Miss Lorelia Snolgrass, who happens to be away upon a visit.
When Aria, a neck or nothing rider, takes a fall, the nearest place to carry her is Clarissa's cottage, where she recuperates, bringing Kinsford into frequent contact with Clarissa. Kinsford finds hints of mystery about Clarissa - what is her relationship to young Mr. Thraling, a frequent visitor seen kissing her hand, where is the elusive Miss Snolgrass and where did the dog Max come from?
This is a short read with some light humor about mostly pleasant characters with just enough fools and eccentrics to garnish the plot. It is without the high drama I associate with some other Laura Matthews titles. I wouldn't call it memorable, but I think most readers looking for something relaxing would appreciate it. (Posted by Janice 3/29/11)
I recently read this one as well. Nice, I guess to sum it up in one word. I found the characters quite charming, for the most part, and the rural setting appealing. The plot is a bit thin here and there but I have certainly read worse. It was a pleasant surprise to come across a story with a hero that behaved like a man for a chance, showing normal adult restraint and respect for the heroine, rather than a hormone crazed prize stallion. Or a teenage boy! Where do they get the idea the adult male is an always on sex machine? (Posted by yvonne 3/29/11)
#239 The Worth Inheritance
by Elizabeth Hewitt (pseudonym of Mary Jean Abbott)
Published 1986 by Signet
Lady Philippa Worth, called Pip by her family, and her younger brother, Sir Aubery Worth, make their home in London with their aunt Charlotte. Their father's will tied up their inheritance with trustees; to discourage fortune hunters, Pip was left a relatively small amount. Pip has been in love with Lord Francis Glennon, a younger son, and has considered herself promised to him for several years, but the attachment was a secret, at his request. Now Pip learns that Francis is apparently pursuing their lovely cousin Miss Lianna Carteret, a considerable heiress, who likes him well enough but has no wish to marry him. Pip agrees to help her young cousin discourage Francis, and in the process teach him a lesson he'll not forget.
Francis had written to Lia that she should meet him at Lady MacReath's masquerade ball. Pip goes in Lia's place, but forgets the exact meeting place; while wandering the rose garden in search of Francis, she is nabbed by a stranger, hustled into a closed carriage and carried off into the night. Miles from London, they arrive at a snug house which has obviously been prepared for a romantic tryst, and there Pip gets her first look at her abductor: not Francis, but his older brother Crispin Glennon, Marquess of Carnavon. Pip should have been in the box garden, not the rose garden, and known rake Crispin should have met one Molly Matlock instead.
As it is too late to get back to London in time to save Pip's reputation, a betrothal is arranged, and now two very angry people must go through with a wedding neither of them wants.
There's nothing new about this premise; we've all read any number of mistaken abduction plots before. However, Elizabeth Hewitt is quite a good writer, so the story seems fresh and the main characters are interesting. Though I have liked other of her books better, this held my attention and I didn't mind the echoes of other stories in it. (Posted by Janice 3/19/11)
#238 Lord Barton's Honour
by Elizabeth Michaels
Published 1993 by Harlequin
While returning from France on the Cumberland Rover with his friend Charles Wendover, William, Lord Barton finds Miss Amanda Stratton stowed away in his cabin; she is alone, frightened and seasick (with disastrous consequences for his beaver). Worse, four roistering London acquaintances see Bart and Amanda together there. Doing the gentlemanly thing (in part because Amanda is the granddaughter of a family friend), Bart tells them to watch their mouths because she is his fiancee, even though he believes it's a setup that she engineered in order to hook a rich husband. Amanda tells Bart that she was running from a marriage which her uncle Cecil Stratton, who is her guardian, had arranged with the vicious and dissipated Vicomte DeValme. DeValme has decided he needs an heir, but even the most ambitious families will not tolerate him; an innocent like Amanda would be a piquant treat for the jaded palate of l'Ange Infame, as he is called, and her uncle's debts give him leverage.
Once back in London, Bart hastily marries Amanda; she is reluctant but Chas, who has stood her friend, persuades her. After a wedding night together during which he declines to consummate the marriage, Bart immediately posts off to his estates to inform his grandmother, abandoning Amanda to the mercies of the ton, his former mistress, his surly servants, her Uncle Cecil -- and l'Ange Infame, who is now dangerously angry and not at all deterred from his revenge by the fact of her marriage.
This is a short, slight tale of romantic adventure. With its vengeful dissipated villain plotting heroine's ruin, and its hero's Errol Flynn style rescue, it reminded me of Barbara Cartland -- except that it's much better written. It's a sort of by the numbers piece, but the author's writing style carried it for me and I didn't leave it unfinished, though I did giggle at it from time to time. (Posted by Janice 3/13/11)
#237 The Girl In The Gatehouse
by Julie Klassen
Published January 2011 by Bethany House
Miss Mariah Aubrey was sent away by her father after she was seduced by Crawford, a man she believed she was in love with and had reason to believe would marry her. Her mother and sister were unhappy to be parted from her but could not change her father's mind; he was convinced that Mariah's presence would contaminate her sister's chances at a good marriage. Mariah went with her companion Miss Susan Dixon to live in the gatehouse on a property owned by her elderly aunt.
When her aunt dies, she leaves a trunk of personal belongings to Mariah, but the property goes to her nasty gamester stepson Prin-Hallsey, whose first act is to demand £20 per quarter rent for the gatehouse. Mariah has barely enough of an allowance from her father to subsist on as it is, and raising such a sum seems impossible. She has, however, written a novel, which her brother Henry agrees to help her get published, in defiance of her father's orders that no one in the family should have contact with her.
Having extracted as much cash from the property as he can, Prin-Hallsey rents it to Captain Matthew Bryant, a naval man newly returned from the wars who wishes to use his prize money to buy a country home that he hopes his parents will share with him and that will convince Isabella, the girl who turned him down, that he would be a good match after all. Matthew and Mariah meet from time to time and a bond begins to form, but Mariah worries that that bond will shatter when Matthew learns the full truth about her past.
I adore trad regencies with their large casts of characters, their literate language, their period ambiance and their depictions of relationships with depth and meaning, and I often mourn when I go into a bookstore that there are hardly any being published nowadays; it seems that publishers won’t do a regency romance unless the hero and heroine are banging someone or other by page ten. It gets tiresome. So I mention this book because, although it's being marketed as an inspirational, it's really more of a trad regency than anything else. It's not a disguised polemic; characters mention God and morality, forgiveness and redemption and such, but no more than people really might have done in that era. I think our fair readers might enjoy it. (Posted by Janice 3/8/11)
Note: This is a newly published novel, not a retro read, but with a traditional Regency flavor we think our readers may enjoy.
#236 An Infamous Bargain
by Marlene Suson
Published 1986 by Fawcett Crest
Lord Vaughn was so distraught after the death of his beloved wife that he committed the capital error of being trapped into marriage with Fanny Igles, a woman of unparalleled nastiness and vulgarity. The second Lady Vaughn is feared and disliked by her three stepchildren -- Arabella, her twin Bromley and her younger sister Beth. Not only is Lady Vaughn a liar and schemer, she is a gamester and spendthrift as well, and has brought Lord Vaughn's finances to near ruin. She cares nothing for the two girls and plots to sell them both into advantageous marriages for her profit -- Arabella with Lord Estes Howard, the heir to the Earl of Woodthorpe, and Beth to Rufus Dobbs, a brutish cit eager to marry up.
Arabella's sister Beth had had scarlet fever and her health had been delicate ever since. Beth had fallen in love with a penniless Army officer, Justin Keats. When Justin tried to see Beth one last time before shipping out to join Wellington's army, Lady Vaughn refused him and told him that Beth didn't love him. Beth became genuinely ill at the idea of Justin going off without knowing the truth, and desperately wanted to get a letter to him, to the point where Arabella feared for her life.
As Brom was not around, Arabella set off through midnight London and across Hounslow Heath to deliver Beth's letter, which is how she met a magnetic, dangerous stranger who saved her from being robbed and worse by Big Bart Bailey and his henchman Squint. This stranger helped her again by extricating Brom from a lightskirt's scam, but never told Arabella his name. He is actually Damon Howard, the eldest son of the Earl of Woodthorpe and therefore Este's half brother, and he is widely believed to be illegitimate. Though wealthy and much loved by his father, wild tales of Damon's conduct abound and he is scorned by many -- especially Lady Vaughn -- as 'the bastard'.
I have liked many of Marlene Suson's regencies, both old and recent, but I wasn't impressed by this one; it seemed by the numbers stuff. None of the characters seemed quite real to me, and the villainess, Lady Vaughn, was so over the top that she became a caricature of a wicked stepmama. The book doesn't have much emotional depth, but it does have a lot of plot packed into its 213 pages, and might be an okay read on that level. (Posted by Janice 3/4/11)
#235 Prescott's Lady
by Clarice Peters
Published 1990 by Harlequin
Three years ago Lady Eleanor Whiting threw over her fiance, Lord Peter Prescott, underscoring her displeasure by sending his ring back to him wrapped in a bit of muslin. She had seen him in a public embrace with his longtime mistress, the fascinating Aimee Martine. Unfortunately for Prescott, he received this missive at his club, and was the butt of much humor as a result. Despite this humiliation, Prescott has never stopped wanting Eleanor as his wife.
Eleanor's brother Andrew is married to Julia. Julia was addicted to gaming before she married Andrew and in debt even then; she never told him about her problem and continued her gaming until now she is in way over her head. Desperate to pay her debts, Julia decides to sell some heirloom jewelry and turns to Mr. Edward Cassidy to act as her agent, not knowing that he is keeping half the proceeds.
Lady Lavinia Vyne, Eleanor's aunt, has a distant cousin staying with her for the season, Miss Maria Whiting. Maria has no fortune but Lavinia has put it about that she does, so as to attract suitors; she tells Maria that there's no reason to correct this impression until after the wedding. Maria is disturbed by the deception but believes that Cassidy, the man she loves, is indifferent to her fortune. He's not; in fact his circumstances, especially his gaming debts, are now so dire that only marriage to a wealthy girl or the death of his rich uncle can save him -- either or both of which he would have no scruples about arranging.
And there are many others; every character in this tangled tale has his or her own problems, circumstances and desires, and most of them base their actions on insufficient data. It's a bit of a task to keep in mind who is related to whom, who said what to whom, and who overheard it and leaped to the wrong conclusion. If I'm honest, I lost track and nearly lost interest halfway through. Except perhaps for hardheaded Aimee, the characterizations are so superficial that I felt I had little reference point, and one character's eventual change of heart was not convincing. However, as a plot driven comedy, one could do worse; at least the writing style didn't make my teeth ache. (Posted by Janice 2/28/11)
#234 A Different Face
by Joan Mellows
Published 1979 by Fawcett Crest
As she is out walking in London one day, a pretty young woman cannons into Miss Anthea Langham. The young lady is Miss Georgina Barrett, who has been in the care of her uncle Humphrey and his unsympathetic wife Hannah ever since her father dropped her off two years ago and then vanished. Georgina pleads with Thea to pretend to her uncle and aunt, who were chasing her, that they know each other. Thea befriends Georgina and learns that she is not being mistreated; she is just frustrated at being kept close without entertainment, and with no news of her father.
When Georgina's father Miles Barrett arrives in London, he consults Thea as to how best to handle the gossip that his sudden reappearance will cause. Miles had floundered emotionally after his wife died, developing a rakish reputation, and had gone out of the country.
By chance Georgina catches a glimpse of a striking young man in London, and meets him again in the country near Miles's estate. Jeremy Tregannan makes Thea uneasy; he appears to be a gentleman but he is very vague about his background. Meanwhile Luddite conspirators are fanning the flames of discontent in the district; Miles and Thea learn that Tregannan may be involved with the Luddites, and Georgina is most definitely involved with Tregannan.
This is an odd little book; the first part makes it seem as though it will be about Miles's disappearance and how that affects Georgina's prospects and the growing relationship between Miles and Thea, but then it drops that and becomes a romantic suspense adventure with spies, plots and counterplots. It's an interesting story on the plot level, but it seems to me to be very short on romance. I did finish it, but I can't recommend it to anyone who is looking for a story about relationships. (Posted by Janice 2/22/11)
#233 Octavia, or The Trials Of A Romantic Novelist
by Paula Allardyce/Charity Blackstock
First published 1965 by Hodder & Stoughton, UK; this edition 1977 by Dell
"At this Octavia burst into a quite unladylike shout of fury, and hammered at papa's kindly shoulder. 'Clever!' she cried. 'Clever! Oh, Papa, don't you see that is the worst thing of all? Few men can endure a plain wife, unless she is rich, but if she's clever into the bargain --"
Miss Octavia Brown, 25, is the youngest of eight daughters of the Reverend Matthew Brown. Octavia is living in London with her sister Charlotte Marston; Charlotte acts slightingly toward her, but acknowledges that Aunt Octavia is much better with the children, particularly her nine year old son Harold. All of Octavia's other sisters are married, except for her twin sister Julia, who is engaged to Mr. Rupert Headley. Rupert has a bad temper and already at 22 habitually drinks to excess.
Philippe, Marquis de Sarrazin, is a frequent visitor to the house and a favorite with the children. He lost an eye fighting the revolutionaries in France and wears a rakish patch. Octavia fell in love with him a long time ago, but he has never been other than friendly with her. Each night she writes him a long letter full of her love and the concerns of her day, and each night she tears it into little bits lest someone see it.
To stave off boredom and loneliness, Octavia has written a novel, Society Merry-go-Round, by a Young Gentleman of Quality. She modelled the hero on Philippe made more perfect, but she changed his coloring and left off the patch so that he wouldn't be recognized. She made Rupert the villain, but she gave him an eyepatch because she couldn't bear to leave any part of Phillipe out of the book, and she also gave him a wife and two children.
Octavia had thought when the book was published no one would recognize the characters in it, let alone take them seriously, but Mr Fanshawe, a mean gossip who lives to create scandal, has taken it up, and soon everyone knows that Octavia wrote it, and everyone thinks the villain is based on Philippe because of the patch, but also because he too is a widower with two dead children -- a fact Octavia did not learn until after the book was published.
I know that by now we've all read a zillion 'young lady writes scandalous novel' regencies, but this one is several cuts above the usual. This author has a very shrewd eye for character; hers are very real people. Octavia's scandalous novel is not played for comedy here; these people react according to their characters, and it's not always pretty, but it feels very real. It's written in the more literate style of older books and I enjoyed every well chosen word. (Posted by Janice 2/18/11)
#232 The Diamond Waterfall / Cousins of a Kind
by Sheila Walsh
ISBN: 0451128753, 0263751082, 9780263751086
Published 1984 by Signet, 1985 by Mills & Boon as Cousins of a Kind
After her father's death, Miss Theodora Radlett of Philadelphia was summoned by her grandfather Viscount Radlett to come to him at Shallowford, his English estate. As Theo had signed her letter advising Lord Radlett of his son John's death 'Theo', he had assumed she was male, and therefore the heir. When he learns that Theo is a young lady, his anger brings on a serious health crisis. When Theo nursed him through the worst of it, he changed his feelings about her -- and his will as well, as to the unentailed portion of his property, which was considerable.
At Shallowford Theo meets the rest of the family - Lord Radlett's grandnephew Benedict, recently returned from India; Vincent 'Beau' Radlett, the heir presumptive to the title and entail; Selina, widow of Lord Radlett's elder son Geoffrey; Selina's teenage son Aubrey by her first marriage; and Minta, Lord Radlett's sister. In London, where Lord Radlett sends Theo to make her debut, she meets the Comte de Varron, a penniless French cousin in search of the Diamond Waterfall. The Comte believes the famed necklace rightfully belongs to him and that Lord Radlett or someone in the family knows where it is. As Theo's initially negative impression of Benedict begins to change to strong attraction, Beau and the Comte make their own less happy schemes for the new heiress's future.
I am a sucker for these family gathering stories that Heyer did so well in The Quiet Gentleman, Cotillion, The Unknown Ajax and The Talisman Ring. It's always fun to see the head of the family make his plans for his descendants' futures only to have them more or less overthrown as the characters do what they darn well please. I cannot say that this Walsh title is on the same level as Heyer, but it's a good read. (Posted by Jaince 2/13/11)
#231 Turn Of The Cards
by Georgina Grey
Published 1979 by Fawcett Crest
'Well, I am sorry, I'm sure, that you find us such a trouble, Mama,' Winifred said fretfully, still examining herself in the mirror. 'I'm sure that we always try to please you, although sometimes I think you would not be satisfied if I were the Angel Gibralta.'
Miss Catharine Marlow, late of Miss Reasoner's Academy for Young Ladies, is staying with her aunt, Lady Crawford, for the London Season. Cathy's father Captain Marlow has a gambling addiction and cannot afford to give her a proper home, so Lady Crawford struck a deal with her brother to keep Cathy until her daughter Winifred is settled. Her aunt thinks Mr. Dawson, a widower with three impossible children, a good enough match for Cathy, but Cathy dreams instead of living with her father and making a comfortable home for him.
As a poor relation, Cathy's assigned task is to whip her airhead cousin Winifred into proper debutante shape so as to attract a noble husband wealthy enough to satisfy her mama's ambitions. Winnie has had the good taste to be attracted to a very nice young man, Sir Matthew Reardon, but he is poor and therefore ineligible. His friend, Lord John Lynford, would be much more suitable, but John has fallen for Cathy. Cathy does not know it, but a turn of the cards changed her life once before, and learning the truth about that incident may destroy her new hopes forever.
I thought this book had a bit more depth to it than the run of the mill trad regency. It had a philosophical point to explore: what would constitute so major a character flaw as to rule out an otherwise perfect pairing? Can so major a flaw ever be forgiven? But it's not all serious; there are some nice light comedy scenes as Cathy swiftly sorts out Mr. Dawson's household, and Winnie discovers she can stand up to her mother's will, or at least evade it. I enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 2/6/11)
#230 The Duke's Daughter
by Melinda McRae
Published 1991 by Signet
Somerset Graham, Earl of Wentworth, had set out to visit his friend Knowlton, driving himself alone in his curricle. Unfortunately the bad weather did not hold off long enough and Somers found himself having to seek shelter at a cottage just outside Chedford. The cottage was inhabited only by three women - a maid Sally; Miss Emily Camberly, a companion; and a third young woman who would not give her full name but wished to be called only Miss Elizabeth. They are snowed in, and Somers sprains his ankle and must extend his stay.
Somers (who had asked to be called Mr. Wentworth) eventually discovers that 'Miss Elizabeth' is Lady Elizabeth Granford, daughter of the Duke of Harcourt, and that she has been sent into exile in the country because she had well and truly ruined herself. Six years ago she had fallen in love with and run off with a man who had turned out to be married; after she was recovered, her father provided for her but cut off all contact, and Elizabeth has neither seen nor heard from her family since that time.
Somers likes Elizabeth and wishes to repay her kindness by healing the breach with her family and bringing her back into society, with his mother's help, but there is much more to Elizabeth's story than she told him initially, and at every new discovery Somers's belief system is tested against his growing love for her.
At first I was inclined to groan at this book, on the grounds that it must be the zillionth 'snowbound' regency I've read, but as it progressed I grew more engrossed in Elizabeth's situation. Elizabeth's ruin wasn't a cliched matter of false gossip -- it had severe consequences for her life, and those consequences didn't seem out of line with what might actually have occurred in such a situation. Somers's attitudes at times seemed a little too good to be true, but this is a romance, and romances are written about exceptional men, not ordinary ones. I wound up liking the book quite a bit and thinking it a good solid read, particularly for a first novel.
The book has a loosely connected sequel, A Highly Respectable Widow; the hero of that book is Knowlton, the friend Somers had set out to visit. (Posted by Janice 2/1/11)
#229 Fair Fatality
by Maggie MacKeever
Published 1980 by Fawcett Coventry
Miss Sara Valentine, a young lady of limited means, is employed by Gloriana, Dowager Duchess of Blackwood, as companion and general dogsbody (her duties actually include a dog, the revolting Pekinese Confucious). Sara has been tasked with riding herd on her employer's recently widowed niece, Lady Easterling (Jaisy).
Stunningly lovely and now extremely wealthy, Jaisy had been married to a man old enough to be her grandfather, but they got on amazingly well and he taught her an enormous amount about horses, boxing, cockfighting and other masculine pursuits. Unfortunately he taught her nothing about how to go on in society; the most improper cant erupts from Jaisy's lovely lips every time she opens them, but she has no intention of behaving better because she believes her beauty alone (never mind the money) will get her the man of her choice. Sara cannot sway her; Jaisy won't listen even to her brother Jevon Rutherford.
Jaisy's choice has fallen on Christopher Carruthers, Viscount Carlin, society's most dashing bachelor, but he dislikes her on sight. Meanwhile the Duchess has her own plans for Jaisy's next marriage; the old gorgon means to keep Jaisy's money in the family by marrying her off to a poor relation, Arthur Kingscote. Arthur doesn't want to marry Jaisy, but he (along with most people) is terrified of the Duchess. Meanwhile Jevon has fallen for Sara, but it won't be an easy courtship by any means.
I had mixed feelings about this book. On the positive side, it was obviously meant as a romantic comedy of manners, and there are sections which are pretty funny. On the not-so-much side, the style the author used in this book is clearly drawn from Heyer, especially her use of regency cant, and sometimes the author (or her proofreader) got it wrong ('wisty cantors' occurs twice). I also couldn't understand why Jaisy, Sara and Jevon continually referred to the Duchess as Gloriana rather than 'the Duchess'; using her first name seemed very odd. However, oblivious Jaisy is an original creation, with her tunnel vision notion of her own worth but oddly kind heart, and I enjoyed the book mostly for her sake. (Posted by Janice 1/27/11)
#228 A Lady of Fashion
by Rebecca Baldwin
Published 1994 by Harper
Audrey, Lady Wellford, is playing the role of the merry widow to the hilt. Rich, beautiful and with a decade-younger war hero at her gilded toenails, she has all a woman could wish for. Lord Wellford hadn't only been kind in his lifetime; at his passing, some eight years earlier, he made Audrey a very wealthy lady indeed. If the Polite World called her fast, Audrey didn't care, as long as she could go where she wanted, see whom she liked and do whatever took her fancy -- until the evening she returned from a party and found her house invaded by a practically forgotten niece.
Like Audrey, her niece Susan is to be sacrificed on the altar of Family Duty through marriage with the old old old Lord Merlin, who only wanted a malleable young girl for breeding purposes and couldn't have cared less what she thought or felt. When Susan refused, her loving parents locked her into her room to exist on water and bread, while constantly haranguing her for her lack of filial obedience. Luckily for Susan, she had two spirited brothers who helped her get away and find sanctuary with her dashing Aunt. Thus Audrey, who thought respectability overrated and propriety boring, had to transform herself into a suitable chaperon to launch her debutante niece. Nobody thought she could do it but she would show them!
This is something unusual -- the story of an adult woman, thirty-five if a day and sophisticated in the bargain. In most Regencies she would be the cliche villainess, what with her lovers and all, but instead she's the rather reluctant although charming heroine. I liked this book for the people in it, who are Baldwin's own, rather than the plot, which owes quite a bit to Heyer's Faro's Daughter. Still an enjoyable way to spend an evening. (Posted by yvonne 1/24/11)
#227 The Errant Bridegroom
by Vanessa Gray
Published 1986 by Signet
Miss Corinna Darley, 23, had her Season in London cut short when her mother, the second wife of Sir Rupert Morland, died after a short illness. Sir Rupert himself lost his life a couple of years later when he set the wrong horse at the wrong jump and got himself killed. During her short time in London, Corinna once glimpsed Justin Farrington across a ballroom; though nothing came of it, his image has stayed with her ever since.
Sir Rupert had also been married before, and left a daughter, Almira, slightly younger than Corinna. Corinna had been in charge of the household after her mother's death, and now she has charge of Almira, aided by Mrs. Emma Sanford, Almira's governess/companion. Miss Almira Morland is a handful: as wealthy as she is lovely, and as lovely as she is self-willed.
During their year of mourning for Sir Rupert, Almira has secretly encouraged -- and been encouraged by -- an ambitious local lad, Jack Hardie, and the rumors have begun to fly. Corinna and Emma are trying to work out some way of defusing the situation with Jack when Almira is summoned to join her paternal aunt, the Duchesse de Carignac, in Vienna. The Duchesse is distantly related to Justin, now Lord Lonsdale, and she manipulates him into escorting Almira's party to Vienna by threatening to damage his young cousin Francis's reputation. Justin has fallen for Corinna, but the Duchesse, with visions of using his influence and money to regain her husband's ancestral French lands, intends that he shall marry Almira.
This book was occasionally frustrating to me because it seemed as though the central story of the book (the characters and their various relationships) was made secondary to historical events, particularly once the cast reaches Vienna, where the Congress of 1814 was then taking place. Much as I like to know the author has done a bit of reading about events in the real world, they sometimes manifest as infodumps which stop a story dead in its tracks, and there's a bit of that here, with posed speeches by various dignitaries from time to time. However the very credible characterizations - sensible Emma, petulant Almira and vile scheming Duchesse -- made it worthwhile. (Posted by Janice 1/20/11)
by Clarice Peters
Published 1983 by Fawcett Crest
The Curtis family had never been rich, to which the habits of the head of the household contributed not a little. Mr. Curtis, who had during his lifetime alienated his relatives through his ingrained habits of either quarreling with or borrowing money from them, left his family in reduced circumstances. Pamela, the oldest daughter, had married an impecunious younger son, while Samantha, the middle and most practical of his daughters had kept the family afloat by the judicious selling off of their possessions, until now there were very little left of value. And if that wasn't enough, there's also the youngest sister Miranda, now eighteen and as beautiful as she could stare, with no prospects in sight. And then Lady Kendall dies, leaving Samantha a £ 10,000 legacy.
With money in her pocket, Samantha decides to take Miranda to London for the season, hoping to find her a husband. Inviting themselves to stay with their cousin William, a most determined bachelor who lives in London, they set out on their journey. Their surprise is great when, upon arrival, they find him not only holding a party but having engaged one of the Season's reigning beauties, Freida Horick, to be his hostess. Miss Horick is not amused. Then William arrives to greet them and he is not at all what Samantha expected.
I like Peters' unsentimental writing style. Her characters are fun and although the book isn't by any means laugh a minute, there's plenty of wit and lighthearted banter. I do enjoy a good conversation and Peters delivers. True, there are some inconsistencies in the sub plot about Samantha's distant relation but nothing that significantly affects the outcome and it doesn't detracts from the story. If you enjoy well written, fast paced stories without buckets of agony, then this is the book for you! (Posted by yvonne 1/17/11)
#225 The Substitute Bride
by Dorothy Mack
Published 1977 by Dell, Candlelight Regency #225
Miss Angelica Wayne, affectionately called 'Devil' by her cousin Billy, had grown up with him, and after the death of his mother, she was mistress of Wroxham Court. When Billy married Charlotte, Angel of course turned over management of the household to her, but there was friction between the two ladies and Angel has spent a good deal of her time holding her tongue at jealous Charlotte's remarks. Angel has a small annuity until she marries, but it isn't enough to enable her to live in a reasonable style, so she decides to go out for a governess.
As it happened, Giles Weston, Viscount Desmond, an old friend of Billy's, has such a position; he is a widower with a young daughter, Jenny. His sister Lydia is to make her come-out but her Aunt Minerva is crippled by arthritis, though still sharp as a tack, and therefore unable to take her about. Giles is engaged to Lady Barbara Darlington, and until they are married, he also needs someone to chaperone Lydia in society. Angel is offered the position and she accepts.
Once in London, Angel finds Jenny to be a precocious delight, Aunt Minerva to be a shrewd but kind lady bravely bearing her pain, and Lydia high spirited but unspoiled. Angel's duties would be a breeze were it not for Lady Barbara's spiteful jibes and the mercurial behavior of her employer Giles -- kind and thoughtful at one moment, cold and closed off the next.
This is a very calm sort of book, without much real conflict except for the machinations of some of the ladies. It should be a bit dull, I suppose, because there's nothing in it I haven't read a zillion times before, but I liked the characters enough to finish it. Not a classic, but not a waste of time either. (Posted by Janice 1/14/11)
#224 The Queen Bee
by Barbara Hazard
Published 1988 by Signet
It was love at first sight for Edward Willoughby, Viscount Trumbull and Miss Meryl Lancaster; within three weeks of his treading upon her hem at the Bath Assemblies, he had made his offer and she had accepted. Edward would have married his Merry in Bath, but he wished her to meet his mother and sister, so he brought Merry to their London home. When they arrived Merry mistook the charming, beautiful and youthful little lady who met them at the door for Edward's sister, but this lady was actually his mother Gloriana Regina, Viscountess Trumbull.
Edward and his sister Jane both adore their enchanting Maman, and at first Merry does too, for Gloriana (still the toast of London despite having two grown children) seems kind, affectionate and thoughtful. But as their acquaintanceship progresses, Merry becomes uncomfortably conscious of oddities in her future mama-in-law's behavior -- incredibly, it begins to seem to her that fragile, charming, ever youthful Gloriana is set on preventing Edward from marrying her and will say or do whatever it takes to divide them.
This book is quite a good character study of a woman whose power in life has always been through looks and charm and who is therefore desperate to hang on to her youth and beauty. Several people (her dresser Miss Farewell, to whom Gloriana is one more step in her professional career; Edward's cousin Jason, the man Jane has always loved) know Gloriana's manipulative, utterly self centered nature, but her two children don't, until the events of the story open their eyes. The author did not resolve things by some melodramatic scene in which Gloriana is either offed or gets her comeuppance publicly; instead she wisely showed the strength of the attachment between Edward and Merry ultimately defeating all his Maman's machinations. A satisfying read -- and the description of Miss Farewell's beauty program, which would exhaust a Marine, is not to be missed. (Posted by Janice 1/10/11)
#223 Bath Intrigue
by Sheila Walsh
ISBN: 0451142578, 9780451142573, 0712616314, 9780712616317, 1853899593,
Published 1986 by Signet, audio and large print editions also available
After her grandfather, Sir Edwin Grant died, Perdita found herself the sole beneficiary of his fortune, much to the consternation of her cousin Bertram Tillot. Bertram was a gamester and a wastrel, whom Sir Edwin felt he'd financially assisted enough in his living years; to continue supporting him after his own demise was more than could be expected of any man. Bertram's solution to his financial embarrassment was to propose to Perdita, an offer she found easy to decline.
Wild with anger, Bertram went to London, where he eagerly shared his view with one and all that Perdita was hanging out for an offer from Sir Edwin's old friend and neighbor, The Duke of Anderley. When the Marquess St Ive, the Duke's estranged son, heard the rumor, he knew the time had come to visit his father. Finding Perdita and the Duke together, holding hands, he knew that for once the gossip spoke true.
I liked this story. Walsh is a good story teller and there's never a dull moment. Since it's a romance, naturally it has a happy ending but the way there is where the fun is. All the characters are well rounded and seem to breathe from the pages; and even the predictable has an unpredictable twist to it. There are some minor loose ends at the closing of the tale - we never do get to hear the story about the Duke's second marriage - but none of them affects the outcome. It's fast paced and with some humor although not a romp. I'd recommend it. (Posted by yvonne 1/6/11)
I've now finished the book, and it was an entertaining light read. I don't have anything to add to your review, though - I think you about nailed it. (Posted by Janice 1/6/11)
#222 The Golden Thistle
by Janet Louise Roberts
ISBN: 044003048, 0440130484
Published 1973 by Dell, reissued 1986.
Lady Pamela Ilchester, 22, has traveled to Rome with her sister and her husband, where the man to whom Pamela has been engaged for nearly five years is currently stationed with the Diplomacy. Pamela has known Lord Douglas Kinnair, the Earl of Fitzroy, since she was a child. When her parents died Douglas gave his word that he would take care of her, thus the engagement, but he has shown little interest in her otherwise. For her part, Pamela idolized the brave young officer and romanticized him, going so far as to have a tiny golden thistle made to wear unseen as a talisman.
Having met again in Rome, however, both Pamela and Douglas see things a bit differently. Douglas is very unsympathetic, especially compared to Carlo da Ponte, a young Italian freedom fighter. Pamela finds that her idol seems to have no feeling for her beyond an absolute intention to keep his word; instead he seems strongly attracted to an Italian beauty, Beata Vanza. Pamela picks up hints that Beata may already be his mistress, that he will continue to have mistresses even after they're married, and that she must expect and accept that. The marriage is unavoidable, Douglas has begun to notice that Pamela is no longer a child, and Pamela feels well and truly trapped.
My copy of this book has one of those wonderful old Barbara Cartland style covers, with a simpering heroine who is a dead ringer for Mary Kate Olsen, and a red haired hero with a 'stache who appears to be swallowing a burp. Indeed, if this had been the first regency I ever picked up, I probably wouldn't have read another, because it's full of attitudes that really tick me off, then and now. Several times Douglas attempts to subdue Pamela's objections by immobilizing her against her will and kissing her into submission. Pamela accuses him of being a bully, and she's right, but in the cliches of half a century ago, we are supposed to think that it's a sign of passionate devotion rather than bad character -- after all, he didn't actually rape her; he was a gentleman and stopped in time. Halfway through I was wishing that she'd kick him in the smallclothes and dump the body in the Adriatic, but, alas, that didn't happen. (Posted by Janice 1/1/11)
#221 The Fourth Season
by Anne Douglas
Published 1995 by Signet Regency
Robert Farnsworth, Earl of Burlingham and heir to a marquisate, is living in London on the edge of ruin. His family's once prosperous country estate is rundown and his aging parents no longer live in their old style. Rob has even sold Fleet House, the family's London mansion and now lives in a tiny house in Grosvenor Row with only a cook, a former pugilist manservant, a groom from the workhouse and the cat Caterine Purr. Rob's past excesses are catching up with him and the situation is made worse by a rumor being spread that one evening at Almack's he insulted Mrs. Drummond Burrell before falling down drunk at her feet. Rob's only hope is to marry a wealthy girl -- soon.
One possibility is Lady Elizabeth Fortescue, who is assumed to have a large fortune. In fact Bets and her mother, the Dowager Countess of Stanbourne, are living hand to mouth too; Lady Stanbourne's allowance from her husband's estate has mysteriously diminished over the years and the ladies are put to all sorts of shifts to conceal their poverty. This is the fourth and last possible Season for Bets; she also must marry money soon. Rob and Bets like each other immediately and Bets decides to help Rob find out who spread the rumor, but each has been so successful at faking prosperity that the other hasn't picked up on the clues. Discovering the truth may put an end to their growing relationship.
Anne Douglas did two regencies for Signet (the other being Miss Caroline's Deception), and they were both pleasant reads. The characters in this book are so nice it's impossible not to like them, but one can wonder why it took them so long to get their acts together and find out why they were both having monetary difficulties. I liked the author's quiet humor, especially the two suitor proposal scene toward the end of the book. I think this book would appeal most to those who like low key, lightly funny regencies. (Posted by Janice 12/18/10)
Like me. Pass it on! (Posted by yvonne 12/18/10)
#220 A Christmas Gambol
by Joan Smith
Published 1996 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Cecily Caldwell of Elmdale in Kent has just finished reading Chaos is Come Again and has pronounced it a wallbanger -- a silly, sentimental, extravagant gothic whose violet-eyed heroine Eugenie Beaureport seems utterly ridiculous. Cissie is an unpublished author herself, but her book, Georgianna, inspired by Pride and Prejudice, is drawn from real life. Cissie longs to submit it to a real London publisher, but there seems no likelihood of that.
Cissie's best friend Meg is now Lady Fairly of London, and her brother, Lord Montaigne, a rising man in the House, is the anonymous author of Chaos; he had written the book while laid up with a broken ankle the previous spring. When Monty realizes that 'it would not do' for him to become known as the author of a rubbishy gothic (however popular), he decides to find someone to pose as the author, and Meg's friend Cissie is an ideal choice to play the part. Cissie agrees to the scheme because she wants to visit London for research for her next book and she'll have an opportunity to meet the publisher John Murray. Once in London, Cissie (when not doing her research into London life) sorts out her friend Meg's tottering marriage, fends off a philandering duke, and meets the model for Eugenie -- the woman Monty once wanted to marry.
The book's title probably had more to do with scheduling than content, since there's little of Christmas in it (it doesn't even get a mention until page 117). Like most Joan Smith regencies, it is fast and funny, but rather modern in tone, and it's got the odd anachronism here and there (no thermos bottles in regency England). It's a pleasant way to pass an hour or two as long as you don't take it seriously, and that, I think, was the author's intent. (Posted by Janice 12/12/10)
For those who haven't read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, you can download an etext copy from Project Gutenberg. And you're right about the thermos, Janice. From Wiki: "The vacuum flask was invented by Scottish physicist and chemist Sir James Dewar in 1892 and is sometimes referred to as a Dewar flask after its inventor. The first vacuum flasks for commercial use were made in 1904 when a German company, Thermos GmbH, was formed." (Posted by yvonne 12/12/10)
#219 Yuletide Match
by Margaret Westhaven
Published 1993 by Signet
Miss Caroline Percival is a baron's daughter forced to earn her living as a governess. Her mother was crippled in the same accident that killed Baron Percival and was unable to keep Caroline; her tiny income would not stretch that far. Caroline went to live with cousins at twelve, then became a lady's companion, and now is employed by the greedy Brangleys as governess to their three nasty children. There is another child in the household, Harriet Deauville, who is a cousin placed there by her guardian after the death of the child's parents. Caroline loves little Harriet dearly.
One day while fighting off the advances of Lord Evan Marchton, Mrs. Brangley accuses her of enticing him and fires her. Lord Marchton's wealthy older half brother Guy Constant is Harriet's guardian. Guy hasn't given the little girl any thought whatsoever beyond placing her with the Brangleys and overseeing her finances; he has never even seen her. When Caroline leaves the Brangleys to go to her mother in Bath, Harriet runs away to her guardian. Guy is appalled to see Harriet's shabby hand me downs but returns her to the Brangleys, still thinking that is best for the child.
Lady Lambert, the much married mother of both Guy and Evan, is also in Bath, on the hunt for another husband. When Guy unexpectedly meets Caroline at the Pump Room with an unidentified invalid lady, and Caroline says she has a matter of business to discuss with him, he assumes at first she is an adventuress bent on extorting money from him, but when all she asks is to be allowed to send a Christmas letter to little Harriet that the Brangley's can't intercept, his opinion is challenged. Not so his louche brother Evan, who continues to make Caroline's life miserable with insults and advances.
This is a pleasant, fairly light Christmas romance; bad people and bad situations in it are played mostly for humor. I enjoyed it on that level, but I was disappointed that although Guy was aware of his half brother Evan's ongoing injurious behavior toward Caroline and others, he never so much as drew his claret, and at the end he even promises to help Evan financially, when he really should have had the little creep shanghaied. (Posted by Janice 12/8/10)
#218 Reclaiming Lord Rockleigh
by Nancy Butler
Published 2001 by Signet
Lord Rockleigh Conniston, third son of the Duke of Barrisford, is a byword in London for his drinking, gambling and mistresses, but it is his flirtation with opium which truly worries his best friend Mr. Stanley Flemish. Roc's oldest brother has been brought up to be the heir, his second brother chose an army career, and Roc was intended for either the church or the law, but neither interested him and he has spent his adult life on the town, living an aimless life of increasingly dangerous pleasures.
Miss Mercy Tatlock is a journalist; her father runs The Tiptree Trumpet, which has published her article accusing Roc of using his country estate to train young boys for white slavery. Mercy had seen boys in rags going in, and boys with nice manners and clean clothes coming out, and no one really knows what goes on inside the house. Roc's slander lawsuit will ruin Mercy's father unless she can convince him to drop it.
I had mixed feelings about this particular book. I admire Nancy Butler's writing and truly regret that she isn't writing regencies anymore. However, though I liked the characters and thought the milieu was interesting, I found myself struggling to finish the book. I did wonder at the attitude toward one character who damn near killed the hero yet seems to get a pass. Other than that, there's nothing wrong with the book that I can put a finger on, but it did not consistently hold my interest. (Posted by Janice 12/3/10)
#217 Lord Gilmore's Bride / A Fine Silk Purse
by Sheila Walsh
ISBN: 0451086007, 9780451135223, 0893403113, 9780893403119, 0099204800, 9780099204800, 0091347602, 9780091347604
Published 1979 by Signet. UK edition publish 1978 by Hurst & Blackett, large print editions available.
One night, while riding home after a card party at a neighboring estate where all had imbibed more than was good for them, Viscount Gilmore (Theo), his cousin Adam Carvray and their friend Sir Roger Hammell come upon a party of gypsies on Gilmore's land. The gypsies are celebrating a wedding, and the three gentlemen remain for the celebration, becoming even drunker. Theo has been under pressure from his stepmother to marry a girl he has no interest in and decides to marry the gypsy girl Pilar who dances for them.
Pilar is not welcome in the gypsy tribe. Her mother was a Spanish gypsy but her father was gorgio; all Pilar knows about him is what her mother told her, that he was an English lord, and so far as Pilar knows, they were not married. The gypsies, especially the leader's wife, are happy to be rid of Pilar. Theo pays for her with a stallion and carries her off to church where Mr. Dunwoody, who holds the living by Theo's gift, is persuaded to marry them, with Adam and Ham as witnesses.
The next morning Theo awakens with a thundering headache and no memory of the previous night or his impulsive marriage. However the marriage is valid (Pilar asked for and hid her marriage lines just in case), so he and his friends spend the next few months training Pilar in her new role of Viscountess. Back in London Theo's mistress Mrs. Verney schemes to get him back and Francis Stavely, a neighbor who has seen something interesting about Pilar, weaves his own plans for personal revenge with Pilar as his instrument.
No date is stated for this tale, but it is filled with references to Georgian personalities and events, one of which (the first Derby) pins it to 1780. The elements are familiar, but it's a fastmoving colorful read which I enjoyed, and I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 11/28/10)
#216 King Of Hearts
by Katherine Kingsley
Published 1993 by Signet
"It was a damned shame his mother had raised him to be a gentleman. It played havoc with one's loins."
Miss Hannah Janes, her butler Galsworthy and her young half-brother Miles are down to their last options. Hannah's mother Selina had fallen in love with a footman; her father Lord Delaware shot the footman dead and threw her out. Selina left with Galsworthy, the footman's father; he found her a husband in time for Hannah to be born in wedlock. However after her elderly husband's death Selina fell on hard times; she became the mistress of the Earl of Blakesford, a nasty old devil, and bore him an illegitimate son, Miles.
After Selina's death, Hannah, Miles and Galsworthy had nothing. Hannah went to the Earl for help; he offered to pay Miles's school fees and let her live at Longthorpe as his housekeeper. Hannah and her little family use the last of their coins to stay at an inn on the way there, where Hannah meets a young and handsome gentleman, one Peter Frazier of Kingston, Jamaica. In a moment out of time they kiss each other in the inn's garden.
The next day Hannah walks the ten miles to Longthorpe, to find that the old earl has died and the new one is the man she kissed in the garden. Peter immediately acknowledges Miles's claim on him (if the old earl had married Miles's mother, Miles would be the new earl instead of Peter, a distant cousin), and invites them all to live at Longthorpe. The attraction between Peter and Hannah deepens, but Peter has been told by the family attorney that unless he marries a woman approved by the trustee, he won't get the cash inheritance he needs to restore the estate's lands and right the wrongs done by the previous earl -- and it appears that the circumstances of Hannah's birth rule her out.
This book is a sequel to A Natural Attachment; Seaton and Eliza, hero and heroine of that book, appear again as subsidiary characters, as does spiteful Pamela Chandler, still hunting a rich husband. Overall I found the book an absorbing read, with likeable, credible characters and nice touches of humor, although somewhere around the middle it seemed to me that the secrets and misunderstandings between the characters had gone on a bit too long. (Posted by Janice 11/25/10)
by Norma Lee Clark
Published 1980 by Fawcett Coventry
Fanny Talbott, now 35, fell in love with Jack Fairfield nearly 20 years ago, but he married her lively, beautiful cousin Sarah. Fanny kept her feelings to herself and morphed into everyone's favorite spinster aunt, genuinely loved by her sisters and friends and reasonably content with her situation. Fanny was far from being an antidote, but she was a bit shy, and next to her cousin and her beautiful sisters she didn't show to advantage. She had offers of marriage but her suitors were more interested in her fortune than in her, and she would not marry without love.
Sarah and Jack had several children, but both of them played around and only the eldest, Alex, is certainly Jack's son. Sarah died in a racing accident a year ago, and Jack is finding single parenthood difficult, particularly as it cuts into his raking time. Fanny's sister Caroline, thinking to find happiness for both Fanny and Jack (and unaware of Jack's rakish proclivities) suggests to Jack that Fanny would be the perfect wife for him. But when Jack offers, Fanny sees that he is not offering out of love for her, as she had dreamed, but for convenience, and she refuses at first. Fanny's old friend Lord Roger Kensley, Earl of Kensboro, who has always known about Jack's affairs, is angry at the pain Fanny feels, but a change of heart must begin with Fanny herself.
This is another satisfying read from Norma Lee Clark, Woody Allen's old secretary. Fanny Talbott is a heroine I can admire, and watching her deal with the wrenching worldview changes she faces. It's nice to read a regency romance about adults -- they're not that common. Recommended. (Posted by Janice 11/21/10)
#214 An Infamous Fiasco
by Susan Michaels AKA Dawn Aldridge Poore
Published 1989 by Warner Books
Lady Frances Martin, eldest daughter of the late Earl of Wykeham, is an avid amateur archaeologist. Frances's father had been keen to sire an heir, and had gone through several wives to get one, but unfortunately all the males perished in infancy; Frances has charge of her five younger sisters from his two other wives. The title and estate went to a distant cousin in America, whom her father always referred to as the 'damned rebel whelp', so Frankie has moved her sisters and herself to the Dower House while they wait for the new earl to manifest -- and besides it's closer to her excavation site.
One day as Frankie is tramping home from her excavation, she sees a man she takes to be a poacher and accidentally wounds him as he is about to shoot at one of the Earl of Wykeham's deer. The man is not a poacher; he is Jefferson, the new earl, and Frankie has shot the 'damned rebel whelp' in the lung. Frankie, her childhood crush Harry and the local doctor David fight to save the earl's life. Both men want to marry Frankie, but Frankie absolutely can't envision a life with any man who doesn't take her antiquarian pursuits seriously.
This book is apparently Dawn Aldridge Poore's first regency; she later wrote many regencies for Zebra and as Juliet Leigh. It's not a bad book. It's told in first person and sounds a bit too modern, but the characters are credible enough and there's a nice humorous touch. It's a pleasant way to pass an hour. (Posted by Janice 11/14/10)
#213 The Fortescue Diamond
by Monique Ellis
Published 1994 by Zebra
Lord Harry Beckenham went to war with a dream in his heart of marriage to the ethereally beautiful Miss Gwendolyn Fortescue, to whom he was betrothed; he had gone so far as to make a will in her favor in case he didn't return. But Harry survived, though he was scarred and lost an arm in a sniper attack. Now that he has returned nothing must stand in the way of his marriage to the divine Gwendolyn -- not even his sister Louisa, who has patiently run his estate Marleybourne in his absence. Lady Fortescue, the Diamond's mother, has decreed that Louisa must be wedded and bedded before Harry can marry Gwendolyn, on the grounds that no home can have two mistresses.
Louisa loves her brother dearly but knows he is so besotted with the Diamond that he believes everything she and her mother tell him, so, rather than going to the Fortescues to meet the dismal candidates Lady Fortescue has selected, she hies off to her Aunt Daphne in London. On the way to her aunt's she is involved in a coach accident caused by a callow youth, and she is helped out of the wreck by a man she believes is a groom, as his coach has no crest and he is plainly dressed. The man mocks her woolen stockings (of which he has had a pretty good view in her overturned coach) and Louisa takes him in dislike.
Louisa tells Aunt Daphne all, and her aunt agrees that Harry's (or rather, the Diamond's mother's) plans for her are outrageous and presumptuous: Louisa is no country drab who must accept whatever marriage her brother's future mama in law may propose. Louisa is to have a proper come-out and meet some men she can like, and she does: a circle of Harry's old army friends. Amongst the usual floral tributes, every morning Louisa receives an exquisite bouquet, without a card, but tied with a silk stocking. Louisa learns there is more to her mysterious suitor than meets the eye. She also learns that Harry's infatuation has more serious and dangerous aspects than she could ever have imagined.
This is the first novel in a loose series of four, the others being Delacey's Angel, The Lady and the Spy and The Marquess Lends a Hand. It is part mystery and part romance, and neither aspect is slighted. It's a real page-turner with credible characters, and it held my interest to the end. (Posted by Janice 11/10/10)
#212 No Hint Of Scandal
by Sheila Bishop
ISBN: 0441583563, 9780441583560, 0091069505, 9780091069506, 0090044002, 9780090044009, 0708936806, 9780708936801
Published 1971 by Ace Books, large print edition also available
Miss Harriet Piper lives with her grandfather in the Dower House (rented) of Wardley Hall. The Hall is the home of the Capel family, currently headed by Sir Richard Capel, a widower with three children and high standards of honor and morality. Richard has two younger brothers: Theo, who holds the living on the Capel lands and is married to Louisa; and Verney, who has just ended his army career because of a scandalous affair with another officer's wife. Plumpish, immature Harriet has had a crush on Verney since she was eight, but Verney has never noticed her at all in that way.
Not long after Verney returns home, a beautiful young woman and her companion move into nearby Bell Cottage. Miss Julia Johnson captivates the entire neighborhood, particularly Richard, but Verney detects something iffy about her and begins to suspect that she is an adventuress out to snag a rich husband in Richard. Harriet likes Julia for her warmth with Richard and his children, but Theo's shrewish wife Louisa has taken Julia in strong dislike. Verney and Harriet are thrown together in their attempts to save Richard from pain and the family from scandal.
This is a shortish novel with credible characters and setting, and revelations all round at the end. None of the characters has all the pieces of the puzzle and so misconceptions abound, but all of the characters have reason to do what they do; none of it seems arbitrary or forced. It's another solid read from this unjustly forgotten author, and worth looking for. (Posted by Janice 11/04/10)
#211 Elizabeth And The Major
by Lynn Collum
ISBN: 0821757121, 9780821757123
Published 1997 by Zebra
The exceedingly rich Esmé Langley has decided to select an heir among her less well off female relations. To that purpose she invites three candidates; the chosen one to forthwith live with her as her companion and then inherit her fortune. The three candidates are Juliet Powers, Imogene Shelton and Myra Bradford. Elizabeth of the title is close friends with Juliet, whom she has been made to accompany as Juliet's mother cannot go, while the Major is Imogene's older brother Roderick, who is escorting her.
When Esmé's closest male relative, the splendidly handsome Sir Gordon Mondell, finds out that his cousin is about to bestow her fortune on anyone but his own peerless self, he rushes to protect his interests. Assisted by his faithful valet Ryland, he decides, one way or the other, to cut out the young ladies from the race for the money.
Although the book is plot rather than character driven, the plot isn't that well thought out but wanders this way and that without real purpose. The story also suffers from an overabundance of minor characters who are nearly all given as much of an introduction as the main ditto, speak a line or two, and then disappear from view. In fact, the book feels more like a long line of cameos without much of a storyline to hold them together. At a little over 200 pages, the whole becomes like a detailed synopsis where the real story has gone missing. I couldn't learn to care for the hero and heroine since I didn't get to spend enough time with them to care.
This was my first time reading Collum and I must admit to be less than impressed. The prose itself is good and the story does move along; unfortunately it's not enough to make up for its flaws. I'm sorry, but I cannot recommend it. (Posted by yvonne 10/30/10)
#210 The Best Intentions
by Candice Hern
Published 1999 by Signet
Miles Prescott, Earl of Strickland, is a widower with two young daughters, Caro and Amy, and perhaps a touch of OCD. He deeply loved his wife Amelia; he misses her so much that he often visits the chapel at St Biddulph's where she rests and speaks to her to tell her about the girls' growing up and work out his thoughts there (he knows it's one-sided; he's not expecting a reply). He has come to a decision: he doesn't want another wife but the girls need a mother and for their sake he ought to consider remarrying.
Miles's sister Winifred has a candidate in mind: Charlotte, Lady Abingdon, a very attractive young widow who is also desirous of remarrying. Charlotte has a younger half sister, Miss Hannah Fairbanks, who is her opposite in just about everything; where Charlotte is beautiful, sexy, sophisticated, worldly, flirtatious and at home in the high life, Hannah is thought plain, clumsy and socially inept, and her interest in intellectual matters (she is crazy about early Saxon architecture) is seen as a handicap to marrying her off. Hannah accompanies Charlotte on their visit to Miles's home Epping Hall, with strict instructions not to screw things up for Charlotte, but Hannah's warmth and genuineness win over Miles's children immediately, and Miles begins to have doubts about his plan to remarry -- he may have the wrong woman in mind.
This book is a 'comfort read' for me. I really like Miles; his enduring love for his first wife Amelia is touching and very real -- I know myself what it's like to talk to people who aren't there anymore. I appreciate his conversations with his dead wife the more because in so many books the previous wife is only a plot contrivance and the hero is just supposed to get over it so the next sex scene can take place. This author understands what real grief and loss are like; a new love may come, but the old one is always there. Even the secondary characters are real people: Charlotte may adopt a false manner around men, and in the hands of a lesser author, she would have been simply a bitch, but we see that this is the way she's learned to cope in the world and there's more than one side to her. Hannah herself is a delight; I can easily understand why the kids and their father fall for her. *Highly* recommended. (Posted by Janice 10/26/10)
#209 The Reluctant Rake
by Jane Ashford
Published 1987 by Signet
Miss Julia Devere and Sir Richard Beckwith are betrothed. Julia has been raised by kind but very proper parents; she knows she is expected to marry, she likes Richard and thinks he's nice and easy to be with, but she has no idea of strong feelings or the darker aspects of sexual feeling - her parents are very kind and easygoing and have told her nothing at all about such things.
One night Richard goes to the Chaos Club and buys Bess Malone, a young Irish girl being sold to the highest bidder that night, for £ 2,000. He beats out one Lord Fenton, an older man of vicious habits, for the prize, and Fenton now hates him and resolves to get the girl back and have his revenge. Richard had gone there solely because he had heard talk about Fenton's treatment of women; he was happy in his engagement and didn't want Bess for himself. To his amazement, Bess is angry at him for rescuing her; she had arranged the sale as her escape from a life of drudgery and probably getting raped for nothing.
Richard finds lodgings for Bess and brings in Mrs. Hanlon, the wife of an old servant, to live with her, but Bess rebels and leaves, only to come back when she learns the gentleman she had trusted her £ 1,000 share with had lost it all gaming. Michael Shea, Mrs. Hanlon's nephew, understands Bess because they come from the same background -- having nothing but their wits and talents to make their way in the world.
In the meantime an enraged Fenton makes sure that Julia hears of Richard's supposed mistress, and it comes as a severe shock to her. As confirmation, she sees Richard in the street with Bess; Richard is shaking Bess in irritation, but to Julia it looks like an embrace. For the first time she feels strong emotion - she is jealous! She cannot discuss it with Richard and breaks their betrothal without explanation.
Then Bess is abducted by Fenton. Michael, Richard and Richard's younger brother Thomas try to trace her, but before she can be found, Fenton has drugged, beaten and raped her. Michael knows all this and does not falter - he still wants to marry her. Michael and Richard rescue Bess and bring her to Julia's country home to recuperate. While there, Fenton's thugs snatch Julia, thinking she's Bess, and Richard and Michael must rescue her before it's too late.
There is a scene in this book during the rescue when Richard finds his kidnapped fiancee naked and about to be raped. In a current regency, there would have been several pages devoted to how Richard felt at his first sight of his fiancee naked, and how she would have felt being naked in front of him, as if we readers were unable to grasp the shock and drama of it. Ashford lets us read between the lines and use our imagination. The characters never refer to the scene in those terms. In a book that's mostly about incomplete communication, I'm glad she trusted her readers and didn't feel she had to spell everything out. (Posted by Janice 10/22/10)
#208 Fallen Angel
by Charlotte Louise Dolan
ISBN: 0451175018, 9780451175014, 0816159475, 9780816159475
Published 1993 by Signet. Large print edition published 1994 by Thorndike.
"There was an even longer pause, then Miss Jolliffe made another effort. 'Have you ever had any particular interest in sheep?'"
Gabriel Rainsford, Seventh Earl of Sherington is held by the Rainsford family to be a bastard impostor. Although he is the legal heir, he is not the son of the Sixth Earl but of that vile and vicious man's countess and an unknown lover. Gabriel was sent to sea in the merchant marine at the age of eight; with the help of an inheritance from an unknown relative, he made his fortune. With the old Earl and his older brother dead, he has returned to London, only to be braced by his Aunt Lady Ottillia Cudmore to host the entire family at Sherington Close for Christmas, as has always been the custom. To his aunt's fury, Gabriel refuses, and with the ever stronger hints from his mistress Mrs. Eleanor Downes that she hopes for not a diamond bracelet but a wedding ring for Christmas, he makes a bolt alone for his furthest property, in Northumberland.
Miss Verity Jolliffe, plain and too tall, is en route to her sister's for Christmas; Stranded at the local inn, she is unable to rent a conveyance for the last six miles of her journey because of a stable fire. When she finds that Gabriel will pass near her sister's, Verity begs a ride from him. Gabriel is at first suspicious that Verity will be another of those wheedling, whining, manipulative women who seem to infest his world, but she is very different.
As he grows to know her, Gabriel decides she would be the perfect wife and mother of his heir - she is a rational, plain spoken lady and though it would not be a love match, she would be much better off as his Countess than shuttling between her two sisters to be their drudge. He thinks he can easily convince her to marry him, but what he doesn't know is that spinster Verity fell madly in love with him at first sight but can't believe a man like Gabriel would ever want anything other than friendship from a woman like her.
Charlotte Louise Dolan is a comfort read for me; she tells absorbing tales grounded in character and emotion, rather than throwing in spies, murders, conspiracies and other way too familiar plot elements. It is refreshing to find a romance that's peopled with credible characters growing emotionally and finding real love. (Posted by Janice 10/18/10)
#207 A Time To Love
by Elizabeth Chater
ISBN: 0-449-21030-8, 9780449210307
Published 1986 by Fawcett
Moira Lovelace was twenty-four, the offspring of a misalliance between the younger son of a baronet and his French chef's daughter, and the unofficial caretaker of her unworldly parents. While Moira was running an errand, a fire broke out in their little cottage that took the lives of her parents. The fire left her destitute, with only the clothes she had on her back and three pounds in her reticule.
As the shock of her bereavement wore off, she realized she couldn't stay forever with her far from affluent hosts; the rector of the tiny village and his loving wife. When applied to, her father's relatives offered to set her up, for room and board only, as companion to an aged relative. A careless invitation, from a distant cousin on her mother's side, gave Moira the chance to start over and she took it.
The setting of this book and its characters is the story of those at the fringes of the upper class. Moira is the granddaughter of a baronet, true, but her parents' poverty, more than her mother's background, severely limits her chances to wed. Her mother's cousin has married a merchant and is certainly rich enough to belong but, as one of the nouveau riche, lacks the antecedents to become one of them. I like the realistic way the author deals with these issues. This isn't a Cinderella story, with a fairy godmother waving her magic wand to solve all problems, yet the happy ending, and there is one, satisfies without being cloyingly sweet. I recommend it. (Posted by yvonne 10/15/10)
#206 An Eligible Connection
by Elsie Lee
ISBN: 0-440-02821-0, 44002821095, 0859970027, 9780859970020, 0850468353, 9780850468359
Published 1974 by Chivers Press, Bath. Reprinted 1975 by Dell, large print edition 1979 by Lythway Press.
Miss Fanny Cherill, nearly 17, is lonely and bored. She is in London with her parents because her sister, Miss Almina Cherill, the Dark Incomparable, is in her second Season. Her father, the Honorable Edgar Cherill, and her mother are increasingly anxious that Almy marry a rich man; money is tight because Edgar lost a lot of money in a bad investment and is gaming away the rest of the family funds trying to win it back. While Almy is being expensively gowned and sent to one social event after another, Fanny, who is not 'out', must stay home alone; even Miss Bolting, the girls' governess, has been let go, and their country home Cherley has been closed up, for economy's sake.
One night, as all the family are out for the evening, a servant accidentally starts a fire. Fanny is trapped in her room and calls for help through the window. Lord Charles Waterbury, out on the town that evening, climbs the ivy through the window to rescue her, just as Fanny learns that the fire is minor and under control. Charles takes Fanny (who is slight of stature) to be much younger than she is and thinks he's in the nursery. While they wait for things to quiet down so that Charles can leave unobtrusively, Fanny tells him of her dull life, so Charles promises to take her to a balloon ascension. Fanny meets Charles secretly several times. Charles likes her very much for her freshness, candor and common sense, but still thinks she's like a cute kid sister -- while Fanny has fallen in love. When the truth comes out and the possible scandal threatens Almy's pursuit of the wealthy Duke of Wyvern, Fanny is in big trouble with her parents, until an unforeseen event changes everything.
Back in the 60s and 70s, Elsie Lee wrote gothics, contemporaries and a handful of regencies. While her regencies are clearly modelled on Georgette Heyer, and she uses some of the same character types and language, they are different; they are true romances rather than comedy of manners. Ordinarily authors who sound too derivative of Heyer annoy me, but though I think Lee borrowed style and tone from Heyer, her characters are her own, and I like her few regencies very much anyway. (Posted by Janice 10/10/10)
#205 My Lady Domino
by Sandra Heath
Published 1983 by Signet
Once upon a time, Miss Adele Russell had been the pampered daughter of Bath's most prominent banker, betrothed to David Latimer, Earl of Blaisdon, with every luxury and indulgence at her command. Now her father is discredited and dead, killed in the fire that destroyed their home Beech Park. Adele has taken refuge with her old nurse, Cat Rogers, and works as a counter girl in Cat's haberdashery.
One morning her father's former clerk Frederick Repton (now Sir Frederick) visits her; Adele knows it was Repton who, with his co-conspirator the Duke of Bellingham, embezzled money from her father's bank and then murdered him, concealing his death with the fire. Repton warns her to keep her wrongs to herself and not do anything to jeopardize his ambitions, or he will ruin her friend Cat.
David is being pursued by the Duke's daughter Euphemia, Marchioness of Haydon, a beautiful but meanhearted widow. Euphemia also warns off Adele; the warning is not necessary because Adele is very bitter about the way David dumped her.
Suddenly a longing arises in Adele to have just one more dazzling evening at a ball -- a taste of the old life she had taken for granted. Adele finds an invitation to the Duchess of Bellingham's masquerade ball celebrating Wellington's victories, and in a domino and gown that had belonged to her long dead mother, Cinderella is off to the ball, where 'My Lady Domino' will encounter the mysterious 'Sir Mask' -- and her old love David.
I don't read Sandra Heath for plot or romance, although she does just fine with those aspects. What I like about her books is that she gives a real sense of time and place by incorporating many tiny details of customs and surroundings. She doesn't stop the story dead with a research dump; the details are woven seamlessly into the narrative, much the way Stephen King does in his novels, so that regency Bath itself becomes a character in this novel. She gives her characters a context in which they live and move, which is absent from so many current day 'wallpaper historicals'. (Posted by Janice 10/2/10)
I've read this story too, some time ago though. Heath is a good writer; I like her style and agree that her sense of place is excellent. I liked Adele's uncomplaining attitude in the face of her difficulties and the way she had to deal with the real issues in life rather than having a fairy godmother swing a magic wand, sort of. I do wonder though where Heath finds all the human flotsam and jetsam that populate her books? I'd surely read her more often if it wasn't for the unpleasant taste left in my mouth after having to associate with some of the uglier characters that are such an integral part of her stories. Not that such people don't exist. I'd probably find it less depressing if they only lived between the covers of a novel. I'm a sissy, I know! (Posted by yvonne 10/2/10)
Yes, you are a big sissy She puts in the full range of human characters, as does Marion Chesney, which is one reason I like them both so much. However, unlike real life, the villains do get their comeuppance in the end; it gives one something to look forward to.
I don't mean to knock comfort reads; we all have them and we have them because we need them! Mine tend to be a little saltier, I guess. I think I need that touch of grit to make it feel real. (Posted by Janice 10/2/10)
#204 An Uncommon Miss
by Melissa Lynn Jones
Published 1993 by Zebra
Miss Rachel Doune, heiress, lives in Ayrshire, Scotland with her grandfather Ian Creagh, who had risen from coal miner to coal magnate. Her parents died in an inn fire when she was three and her grandfather raised her with the help of an English governess. Creagh is convinced that when he goes, marriage to a titled gentleman is the best protection for Rachel. To this end he orders her to London with orders to find a husband by June or receive a bare competence of L200 in his will. Rachel believes him because he has exaggerated a relatively minor illness to the point of seeming at death's door.
As she arrives in London, Rachel hears faint screams from a closed carriage in the street and dragoons the nearest man handy to help her rescue the victim, Flora, a young maidservant of lecherous Lord Ripley. The nearest man handy is Marcus Kinsworth, Marquis of Tynsdale; after he disposes of Ripley, Marcus takes Rachel for a lightskirt because of her unladylike forward behavior and steals a kiss.
Once at the London house, Rachel finds a slovenly staff, and the woman hired to bring her into society is a vulgar common woman who couldn't possibly know anyone of use. She visits the Potter Domestic Registry to replace the entire staff, where she finds an aspiring gentleman's gentleman, an Indian cook, a couple with cats, and a replacement companion.
The companion gives her name at first as Susan Worth, but she is really Lady Susan Kinsworth. Susan is the younger at 37 of Marcus's two elder sisters, and she has been living with the other sister, Livia, Lady Cleeves. Lydia is a extravagant whiner who sees no reason why her spinster sister with the limp should not 'help' her in gratitude for a home. During the course of their London season, Rachel gets a new best friend, Susan gets a makeover and an admirer, and Marcus becomes more and more convinced that Rachel is some sort of scheming harpy out to fake her way into high society.
I liked the first half of this book for its story of new experiences for Rachel and Susan and for its light humor. However, it's 304 pages long, and somewhere around the middle my interest began to flag. Marcus's initial misapprehension about Rachel seems lame (never mind nastily arrogant) and the circumstances which allow him to continue in his mistaken belief felt more and more contrived. Humor is the most difficult kind of fiction to sustain; I think that at a shorter length, this book might well have been a favorite read for many, but I think it really ought to lose about a hundred pages. (Posted by Janice 9/29/10)
#203 The Devil's Own Luck
by Petra Nash
Published 1989 by Mills & Boon
Miss Sarah Northcott, 22, lives with her father in Ostend, where she supplements their meager income by teaching at a school for young ladies. Her father Matthew was a younger son of Lord Northcott, who disowned him when he married Sarah's mother, an Italian dancer; Sarah resembles her mother. One afternoon Sarah accompanied one of her spoiled charges and the school's owner to Bruges, where Madame sent her to buy lace for the girl's gown. On the way back to the hotel, Sarah heard cries for help from a young lady who was being harassed by some street boys. Miss Emily Yarcombe, a wealthy cit's daughter, had been out hoping to meet her young man, Lieutenant Charles Dulverston. Sarah waded in and rescued Emily, but a gentleman watching did nothing to aid them.
Anthony St. Ervan, Marquis of Berrington, the gentleman who had been watching, had mistaken Emily for a prostitute, but if she had been in serious danger, he would have helped her, and so he tells an angry Sarah, but she takes him in dislike. Having restored Emily to her mama, a wealthy cit's widow, Sarah is dismayed to find that she has missed her ride back to Ostend, and she has no money to buy a room for the night. Anthony takes her home to her father back to Ostend in his carriage.
When Emily tells her mama about Sarah , the upwardly mobile Mrs. Yarcombe engineers a meeting with Matthew and marries him after a short courtship. It is a marriage of convenience, his connections for her money. The new blended family return to England, where Matthew learns that his older brother has died and he is now the heir. He returns to Northcott Hall, leaving Sarah and her new sister Emily in London. Emily's mama has planned a Season for her, hoping she will attract a titled suitor like Anthony, but Emily is loyal to her Charles, and mama's target Anthony is becoming interested in Sarah.
This book, set in 1853, could well be a regency but for minor details such as traveling by train rather than coach, gowns with tiny waists and voluminous skirts and casual mention of a couple of historical events. The impoverished upper class girl, the ambitious stepmama, the gamester younger son, the handy loyal servants, the whores of Covent Garden, the ton balls, parties and flirtations might fit any decade of the 19th century. Nevertheless, even though it was all pretty familiar, I thought it an entertaining read with likeable characters, and I thought the author did a good job of showing Anthony's evolution from a bored and cynical man to one capable of falling in love and risking something of himself. (Posted by Janice 9/25/10)
#202 The Marchington Scandal
by Jane Ashford
Published 1982 by Signet
Miss Katharine Daltry, now 27, had followed the drum in India with her father General Daltry and her fiance Robert. Robert was killed in action and when her father also passed away, she returned to London, where she now lives with her fortyish cousin Mary, a vicar's daughter. Although Katharine is out of mourning and could reenter society and attend the Season's glittering balls, she is disinclined to do so. While in India she developed an interest in oil painting; she much prefers to spend her mornings painting and her afternoons with a few congenial friends. During her Season years ago, she had received an offer of marriage from Lord Oliver Stonenden which she had summarily rejected because she saw him as arrogant, pompous and self-centered. Oliver was stunned; he knew he was a prime catch - why would any young woman refuse him?
Katharine's cousin Elinor has married Tom Marchington, a young country gentleman of 20 who has brought her to London as Elinor has always longed to go to ton parties. It is the first visit for both of them, and both are green as grass. One morning Elinor comes to Katharine in considerable distress; Tom has fallen under the spell of Elise, Countess Standen. Katharine agrees to try to help Elinor detach her husband from the seductive Elise, and asks her friend Tony Tillston to dance attendance on Elinor so as to make Tony jealous.
Tony knows about Katharine's oil painting and takes her to one of Sir Thomas Lawrence's salons; however without her knowledge he also brings several of her canvases. Sir Thomas is impressed with her work, but one Winstead, a yellow journalist hanger on, writes an article claiming that Katharine couldn't have painted those pictures because women just aren't that smart. In general Katharine doesn't care much what people think of her, but the accusation that she has lied makes her furious. Oliver offers to have her do a portrait of him to prove the truth. Oliver is also working on Katharine's other problem by deftly cutting Tom out with Countess Standen. Katharine can't imagine why Oliver, whom she rejected so firmly five years ago, should show up so often, let alone take the trouble to help her.
I like this author's style. True, she uses elements in Austen (the rejected suitor of Pride & Prejudice) and Heyer (Tom is reminiscent of Peregrine Taverner, Elinor resembles his little wife Harriet, and the Countess Standen draws men like a magnet, very like Lady Barbara Childe), but she does something fresh with them. A good read. (Posted by Janice 9/22/10)
#201 Lord John's Lady
by Gayle Buck
Published 1988 by Signet
Miss Sophia Wyndham is the daughter of an English father and a Russian mother. After the death of her father, she and her mother returned to St. Petersburg; since her mother's death she has lived with her mother's sister, Princess Elizaveta Kirov. The Kirovs are a powerful family and Elizaveta is determined to marry Sophia to the family's advantage, but when Sophia meets Prince Tarkovich, her intended groom, she is appalled; he is an enormous repellent lech who demands that she be fattened up to please him.
Lord John Stokes, undersecretary to the British Ambassador, sees Sophia's plight and helps her escape to her uncle and aunt in London. When not being seasick on the voyage, Sophia falls in love with John, but he does not return her interest. Sophia's large, sentimental and somewhat barbaric cousin Prince Mikhail Kirov (Mischa) follows her to England, intending to uphold the family honor by returning her to Russia for the marriage. As fierce and fearsome as Mischa may be at times, he has a sense of honor and is fond of his little cousin, but his friend, the Comte de Chaleur, is cunning and means to get Sophia alone and make her his mistress, by force if necessary. As John and his pal Freddy pursue Sophia from London through France to rescue her, John finds his feelings have changed and he's not indifferent to Sophia at all.
What with crazed Russian princes, Cossacks, French nuns, Russian dwarves, voluptuous countesses, duels, swordfights and lots of riding ventre a terre, this book is filled with incident. The author has a nice touch with subsidiary characters; Mischa's servant Fedor is particularly memorable. I thought it was lots of old fashioned adventure fun, though perhaps not to be taken very seriously. (Posted by Janice 9/18/10)
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!