#300 The Hesitant Heir
by Georgina Grey
Published 1978 by Fawcett Crest
Lady Marianna lived happily at Burnham Hall with her father, the Duke of Worthington, and his widowed sister, Lady Lucy Mannering. The Duke was an enthusiastic medieval scholar and had hired a secretary, Mr. John Evans, recently of Cambridge, to assist him with the writing of a book on medieval architecture. Marianna and John became good friends, and Marianna had no plans for her life beyond remaining at the Hall and looking after her father and aunt. Nothing occurred to mar her contentment until her father suffered a mild heart attack, but he appeared to recover well from it.
Since no one ever had reason to oppose the Duke's will, his tendency to fall into a rage when crossed remained unknown until Annestonia, the Dowager Duchess of Darby, her foppish rake of a son George and two daughters descended upon the Hall. Annestonia (always short of money due to George's bad habits) had heard of the Duke's illness and wanted George to snag Marianna as his bride. When George was unwise enough to let on at dinner, the Duke fell into a rage, suffered a second attack and died on the spot.
Immediately inheritance questions arose. The Duke had counted on Marianna marrying and producing a son before he died, but she didn't. The entail was written in such a way that the estate would go Marianna if no male heir could be located in six months. Dirty dishes begin to pile up at the gates of Burnham Hall, but the one man who has the best claim to the title and estate is determined not to accept it, and Marianna doesn't know why.
As I understand it, it's an odd dukedom that can pass through the female line, but, putting that aside (if one can), this is an old fashioned entertaining read. I quite liked Gabrielle, a resourceful and charming French countess of uncertain years; tiens, but she has some of the funniest lines in the book. Also amusing are some copyediting errors -- among them, Annestonia's title unaccountably wavering between Duchess and Viscountess, and a horse that is pressed into a cantor (how uncomfortable for the cantor). Despite its glitches, it was a tale told skillfully enough to hold my interest to the end; had I bought this in 1978, I'd have felt I got my $1.50's worth. (Posted by Janice 3/24/12)
#299 Brighton Intrigue
by Emma Lange
Published 1989 by Signet
Damien de Villars, Marquess of Chatham and son of the Duke of Bourne, first set eyes upon Miss Ariane Bennington in the Mermaid Tavern, where she had come disguised as a boy. Damien knew immediately that Rie was a girl; he extracted her from the tavern before she got into trouble and escorted her home. Rie tells Damien that she had come to the tavern to try to get information about her missing brother Colin -- as had he.
Damien's father got him involved in war work because he realized that his idle and dissolute London life might be the death of him; the Duke knew that Damien needed something interesting to do. At the moment that something is tracking down a ring of spies; Colin had been working on the same matter. Damien sees that a spirited, intelligent, beautiful innocent like Rie would be excellent bait to attract the Comte de Triens, a French émigré suspected of being involved. Damien will take Rie to Brighton, where she will live with Mme Solange Crecy, and where she is to befriend Miss Mary Mowbray, whose father is thought to be working with Triens. In return he promises he will find Colin for her.
The ruse works; as soon as Rie begins to go about in Brighton, Triens, who collects beautiful objects, is enchanted by her, putting Damien in a difficult spot, because he has feelings for her himself.
I am afraid I found this book a tough slog. The characters seemed stock regency romance figures, and nothing in its plot surprised me either. The author's writing style doesn't grate on my nerves, but even a pleasant prose style can't make an uninteresting book worth recommending. (Posted by Janice 3/18/12)
#298 The Demon Rake
by Gayle Buck
Published 1986 by Signet
Widowed Lady Victoria March has been invited by her husband's father, Robert, Earl of March, to leave Portugal for a visit at the Crossing, to meet her late husband Charles's family. Victoria had not intended to go straight there, as Charles had been somewhat estranged from his family. However a coach accident, from which she is extricated by Lord Damion St. Claire aka The Demon Rake, forces her to go directly to the Crossing, where she meets with a mixed welcome. Victoria is shocked to learn that Lord Robert had died a few days previously. There is initial hostility from Damion, who believes she is some sort of camp follower who entrapped Charles into marriage; from Sir Aubrey St. Claire, Charles's uncle; and Mrs. Margaret Giddings, a lady of fashion with eyes for Damion. A kinder welcome comes from Lady Hortense, Damion's mother; from Evelyn St. Claire, Aubrey's son; and from his wife Lady Dorothea, who is Margaret's very pregnant sister.
As Damion, who succeeds as Earl of March, learns more of Victoria's background, he begins to change his mind and develops a powerful desire for her, as does Victoria for him. He is baffled when Victoria rejects him: an infamous clause in the late Earl's will would pay her handsomely if she became the next Countess of March and being thought a fortune hunter like Margaret is too much for her pride.
I found myself adrift on the sea of family relationships here; I could have done with a family tree. I could also have done with an explanation of how Sir Aubrey St. Claire, who states explicitly that he is the bastard son of the blacksmith's daughter, came by his title. I also thought the Demon Rake himself was a pain and much in need of some anger management training; true, he softens gradually but given his earlier attitude it didn't ring true to me.
There is one thing, however, at which Gayle Buck excels, and that is making it clear how miserable travel in 19th century England must have been, especially in the winter - cold, wet, muddy and chancy: it's a wonder they hadn't all died of pneumonia by page 50 (Posted by Janice 3/14/12)
#297 A Man Of Affairs
by Anne Barbour
Published 1999 by Signet, ebook reissue
Mr. Seth Lindow is the adopted son of the enormously wealthy and powerful Duke of Derwent; his father had been the Duke's sergeant in the army and had died saving the Duke's life. When young Seth's mother also died, the Duke took Seth into his household and had him raised with his own children. Seth received the education of a gentleman but has never been allowed to forget his low origins; his early adoration of the Duke has waned somewhat but he has been loyal to him and has managed all his affairs for some years.
The Duke's most pressing problem is his son and heir, Charles, Marquess of Belhaven. Bel is a wild care-for-nobody who drinks to excess, beats his servants and has generally raked his way through London, seducing and ruining even girls of his own class. The Duke is concerned that Bel will get himself killed one way or another before he can sire an heir, so he tasks Seth with finding his son a bride.
Seth begins his search for a girl of the right background who would be willing to marry Bel despite his reputation. One of the Season's diamonds, Miss Zoe Beckett, seems a good possibility; Zoe is ambitious for money and position, and she actually seems to like Bel. However, when the Duke decides that volatile Zoe won't do, but her quiet elder sister Eden will, there's trouble -- because Seth has fallen for Eden himself.
I think this is the only regency I've run across in which a rake's behavior is explained by mental illness; Bel isn't a rake because of innate bad character, license or a bad upbringing -- he's actually sick, and his apparent reform is due to his accidentally getting the right medicine (the author has appended a note explaining all this for doubters). I liked this story very much for its sympathetic hero and heroine, but also for this small bit of out of the common treatment of a subsidiary character. (Posted by Janice 3/1/12)
#296 The Emerald Necklace
by Diana Brown
Published 1981 by Signet
Lady Leonora Fordyce's father, the Earl of Castleford, had hit bottom with his gambling addiction; even if he sold his estate Briarsmere, he still wouldn't have enough money to pay his debts of honor. He had only one asset left, Lady Leonora herself, so he pressured her into marrying a wealthy bastard commoner, Etienne Lambert. Etienne had seen Leonora once and fallen in love at first sight, but he understood that she was young and he was a stranger, so he told her that he would wait until she was ready to be his wife in the physical sense.
Leonora had fancied another man, Francis Oliphant, for her husband; she disliked and resented Etienne on sight and hated the position her father's demands put her in. She rebelled by acting coldly toward Etienne, lapping up the gaiety of London life and spending his money right and left. Misinterpreted incidents on both their parts left each believing the worst of the other. Eventually their relationship became so hostile that Leonora left him for his Yorkshire estate Pelham, which was as far away from him as she could get.
However, once in Yorkshire, a new kind of life opened for Leonora and she was surprised to find that she genuinely enjoyed it. She made friends in the neighborhood, remodeled and restored the old house, and brought the land back into productive use. Soon she had no desire to leave Pelham and it appeared that a divorce was the only solution.
Like many regencies with very young heroines, this book can be viewed as a coming of age story as much as a romance. Leonora grows a great deal in self understanding in the course of the book. She doesn't understand herself, let alone her father; she also knows nothing about her forced husband and since the story is told in the first person, we find out about him as she does, which makes the misunderstandings between the couple more credible. I found it an engrossing read. (Posted by Janice 2/23/12)
#295 The Perfect Bride
by Sheila Walsh
Published 1994 by Signet
Miss Serena Mountford, 18, is the eldest daughter of Colonel Elliott Mountford, who has been killed in action and left little behind for his wife and children. Shortly before he died he spoke of a provision he had made: he had suggested a marriage between Serena and Cedric, Duke of Cornwell. As a child Cedric had had one illness after another and is thought by his mama and her doctors to be frail. As mama has no intention of leaving Masham, it is imperative that Cedric get a son as soon as possible; she sends her nephew Darcy, Earl of Lynton with a letter to invite Serena and her mother to Masham to see if they will suit. Serena knows her mother is useless and it's up to her to provide for her younger siblings.
When Serena meets Cedric, she knows she won't fall in love with him, but she likes him very well and thinks they can do quite well together. Cedric's mama has decreed that Serena shall stay at Masham until the wedding to be trained in the duties of a duchess. She sees quickly that mama intends to continue to rule the roost and there will be continual clashes of will between them. However Serena is falling for Darcy, despite his initial distrust of her as a moneygrubbing wench, and Cedric has gone head over heels at first sight for Miss Marianne Glenville. And there is a mystery to be solved: who are the men Serena sees riding out at midnight, and is someone really trying to murder Cedric?
I haven't run across a Sheila Walsh yet that wasn't at least readable, but this isn't one of her stronger efforts. The storyline and elements are too familiar; in fact the only unusual thing in it is Serena's mount Smoke, the transgender horse, who in several passages is he/him and other times she/her in the same sentence. I found myself hoping that wasn't just a copy editor's errors; a changeable horse would have added something different to this tale. (Posted by Janice 2/18/12)
#294 Miss Caroline's Deception
by Anne Douglas
Published 1995 by Signet
Caroline's husband Walter, Viscount Carroway seemed like a good match; he was nice looking and he said all the right things, so seventeen year old Caroline accepted him. He made her married life a living hell.
Obsessed with getting a male heir, he had chosen Caroline solely because she came from a family of good breeders. In five years he put her through several pregnancies, all resulting in miscarriages or stillbirths. He kept her a virtual prisoner in his London house, never allowing her clothes or society appropriate to her station, nor allowing her to recover from a previous pregnancy before trying to get her pregnant again.
When Caroline is six months gone with her fourth pregnancy, she overhears Walter tell his henchman James Fenland that if the bitch doesn't give him a living son this time, Fenland is to arrange her death so that he can find another bride. With her maid Dossie, Caroline flees the house secretly, headed for Durham and possible sanctuary with some people Dossie knows.
Dickon Richardson, Earl of Rycote and his older sister Ruth, Lady Stilton are also traveling to Durham for Christmas. Because Dickon must watch his resources, they intend to take the mail. At the coach office they see a thin, drab young woman, possibly ill, obviously very pregnant, alone except for her elderly servant, and both take pity on her. Caroline eventually admits that she is fleeing an abusive husband and refuses to give her true name; nevertheless the pair take her in.
Caroline loses this baby as well, but with good care, good food and fear at a distance, she recovers rapidly. A relationship grows between Dickon and Caroline, but she is a married woman, her husband is involved in serious crimes, his man is still searching for her and there seems no hope for a future for the two of them together.
We read many regencies in which the couple live happily ever after because the hero wouldn't dream of mistreating his lady in any way, such that it almost seems that the laws of the day against women are irrelevant. Once in a while it's good to have a novel which shows the other extreme: what might happen to a woman whose husband was a very bad man indeed. But this book is not a polemic nor a downer; it has a bit of mystery and adventure to it, as well as characters one can root for. I enjoyed it. However it does have a thorny premise which some may find too serious for their taste. (Posted by Janice 2/12/12)
#293 The Dutiful Duke
by Joan Overfield
Published 1994 by Avon
Bespectacled Miss Thomasina Pringle, a teacher at The Portnam Academy, an orphanage, is very fond of one of her pupils, a six year old girl called Amanda Perryvale. Little Amanda is believed to be a niece of Wyatt Perryvale, the Duke of Tilton, but attempts to contact him and interest him in his niece's situation have failed; his solicitor has refused contact. Nia is incensed by the Duke's neglect and when Amanda pines for a visit from him as her birthday gift, Nia resolves to confront him in person. She has promised her boss not to write to the Duke, nor to go to his house, but she hasn't promised not to dress as a prostitute and accost him outside.
After the initial misunderstanding about her profession is resolved, Nia's tactics work. One look at little Amanda and Wyatt falls hopelessly in love -- in her he sees the face of his deceased younger brother Christopher. Wyatt brings Amanda into his home and engages Nia as her governess. He had quarreled years ago with Christopher, who died at the Battle of New Orleans, and knew nothing of Amanda's existence. When he questions his solicitor, he is told that Amanda is a bastard and this is just another scam to get money. But when Wyatt and Nia see Amanda being stalked through London's streets, they realize that there may be more to it than that.
This is the third in a loosely linked series (The Viscount's Vixen, Belle of the Ball, and A Proper Taming are the others), but it can be read independently. I found it moderately entertaining, if a trifle on the mushy side; for me it was carried mostly by the author's pleasant writing style. (Posted by Janice 2/7/12)
#292 Cherry Ripe
by Claudette Williams
Published 1988 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Shauna Elton, 21, is informed by her stepmama Lady Elton (of whom she is generally very fond) that her latest escapade, borrowing Lord Melville's stallion and racing it against Sir Peter in her walking clothes in Hyde Park in front of the ton, has put her beyond the pale. Princess Esterhazy has even refused her vouchers for Almack's. The only thing that will fend off a hideous scandal is an immediate marriage. Fortunately Lady Elton has a candidate in hand: Lord Damien Drummond has offered for her. Shauna has never met him but Lady Elton assures her that he is a tremendous catch and will treat her with respect.
Shauna is appalled by the idea of a marriage without love. Before Lord Drummond can make his formal offer, she rides off through London at night, heading for New Forest and the home of her old governess Polly Corbett. En route she is accosted by a group of street toughs and an unknown gentleman rescues her. He takes her to Polly, a few kisses in the coach being his reward.
Alas, Polly cannot keep Shauna because she is going to marry and go on honeymoon. As it happens, a position is open at Bromley Manor teaching two eight year old twins who have run off all their prior governesses. Giving her name as Shauna Corbett, she takes the job, only to find that not only are the Bromley kids half siblings of Lord Drummond, he is the gentleman who rescued her in London, whom she knew only as Damien.
At 138 pages, this romance is very short, very shallow and very slight, with not a single new thought in it. The best I can say for it is that it moves quickly. If you're looking for a half hour no brainer, it qualifies. If, however, you want something with a shred or two of verisimilitude, it's not a good choice. (Posted by Janice 2/3/12)
#291 The Unwilling Heiress
by Sandra Heath
Published 1981 by Signet
"Is -- is word out too that I'm your granddaughter?" His shrewd pale eyes studied her for a moment. "It may be, I don't know. Rumors will be mushrooming, no doubt it's even said you're the Prince Regent's offspring too by now. It's amazing how the rattle of teacups produces strange distortions. Tea must be an hallucinatory beverage." -- Sir Adam to Janine
Miss Janine Oldfield, daughter of the renowned (and slightly notorious) entertainer Peg Oldfield, has returned from Miss Tarrant's Academy for Young Ladies in Bath to rejoin her mother in London. At school Janine has been educated in the ways of the upper classes, but has never understood why, since all she desires is to follow her mother onstage. Peg's health is failing but she has one last duty to perform: she tells Janine that she is not an Oldfield and illegitimate but a Winterton, granddaughter of Sir Adam Winterton of Calworth in Yorkshire. She makes Janine promise that when she is gone, Janine will go to her grandfather, and gives her her marriage lines as proof of her legitimacy.
When Janine arrives unannounced at the enormous Calworth estate, she meets a mixed welcome. Her grandfather Sir Adam believes her story when shown her proof, but her Aunt Serena (Sir Adam's older sister) does not and hates Janine on sight because her stepson Richard Stuart, who manages Calworth, had been until then the most probable heir. Richard is not the viper his stepmama is, but he too distrusts Janine, thinks she's not fit to be a Winterton of Calworth, and is likely a slut into the bargain. Unfortunately for Janine, she fell in love with Richard on sight, but it seems unlikely that he will ever approve of her, let alone return her love.
There were points I wish the author had clarified. At one point Janine says she can inherit her grandfather's title, which I suppose is possible but highly unusual; Janine could inherit property if Sir Adam willed it to her, but not his title. The author doesn't explain how this might be true and never mentions it again, leaving me to wonder who, if anyone, was the true heir to the title. Who does or does not get the title, of course, has nothing to do with the central love story, and many would consider it a minor glitch, but it yanked me out of the story. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it never did. However, though not my favorite Heath, it's readable enough. (Posted by Janice 1/23/12)
#290 His Heart's Delight
by Mary Blayney
Published 2002 by Zebra
Miss Christiana Lambert has accompanied her lovely older sister Joanna to London for the Season. Joanna hopes to meet the right gentleman, but Christiana believes she already has; although no formal betrothal has been announced, she considers herself pledged to Richard Wilton, the son of a neighbor, now a soldier serving in Portugal.
Lord Morgan Braedon, second son of a marquis, has the reputation of being a rake and a gamester, but few people know the real truth; Morgan is struggling to gain independence from his domineering father. He has inherited a small property in Wales and his ambition is to live there, but the property is in poor shape; Morgan's gaming is not an addiction but the only means open to him to get the cash to restore the property, and though he is close to his goal, he hasn't reached it yet. His older half brother James, the heir, who does not want to marry to secure the succession, arrives in London with orders from the marquis that Morgan is to find a bride before the end of the season, or else.
Morgan is not willing to marry before he can live independently, and Christy desires a way to discourage potential London suitors. It seems that a faux courtship between the two would solve both their problems, or at least postpone the reckoning, but as their charade progresses, both find their feelings are much more deeply involved than they planned.
This is the first book in a series about the Braedon family. the others being His Last Lover, The Pleasure of His Company and The Captain's Mermaid (there was to be a fifth about Rhys, the youngest Braedon brother, but I can't find that it was ever published). I found this one somewhat slow moving, but the characters are amiable and Christy's growth in self knowledge was convincingly shown. I particularly liked the secondary romance between Joanna and her choice, Monksford, a man whom others dismiss as stodgy and uninteresting. I like the whole series for its focus on characterization and the author's pleasant prose style, but readers who want a more plot driven sort of story may find it slower than they like. (Posted by Janice 1/17/12)
#289 Lord Freddie's First Love
by Patricia Bray
Published 1999 by Zebra
George Harold Arthur Pennington, Viscount Frederick of Beechwood Park (known as Freddie) has just proposed marriage to Miss Sommersby, one of the Season's Incomparables, and she has roundly refused him because she is besotted with the fortune hunter Edward Farquhar. This is Freddie's thirteenth turndown and he finds it quite discouraging, since he knows he must marry and get an heir. Freddie had always thought he would eventually marry his neighbor and best friend Anne Webster, but some years previously she had gone off to Canada to visit her married sister Sarah and had remained there.
Freddie did not know it then, but Anne had been summoned home to New Biddeford by her father and has just arrived in England, accompanied by a little red-haired boy called Ian Webster. Unfortunately her father had died two weeks before she arrived; he left her nothing but he acknowledged Ian as his grandson and left him all his property, with Anne as co-trustee, so now it seems Anne and Ian must stay in England. The villagers and her own servants regard her with suspicion, thinking Ian must be her illegitimate son, and Freddie's steely mom sends Freddie over to tell that trollop to get out of the village. Freddie has no such intention; now that he's found her again, and no matter what Anne may or may not have done, he knows she is the only woman he wants to marry.
I found Freddie an interesting change from the supermacho heroes infesting so many recent regencies. He had lost his father at a very young age and been raised to do his duty, and he is so pleasant and conciliating by nature that others consider him weak and malleable, especially his manipulative mother. But Freddie has his sticking point, and it was fun to see his mother and her co-conspirators run smack into it. A pleasant, low key read; I would recommend it.
Note: Hero and heroine of A London Season are mentioned, but that is the only link between the two novels; they can be read independently. (Posted by Janice 1/9/12)
#288 The Lost Legacy
by Vanessa Gray
Published 1987 by Signet
"Gently moving into the stream of Mrs. Dalton's flowing conversation, he suggested, 'I hope, Cousin Elizabeth, that it will not be inconvenient for you to provide me with lodging? I do not quite like the look of the inn in the village!'
'Oh no! You must not consider the inn! Indeed we have the great bedroom made ready for you. You will not mind, of course, that my father died there?'
Refraining from observing that the bed must surely have been aired in recent weeks and not left as a shrine to the old man, he said only, 'I suspect there is not a bed in the kingdom in which someone has not died.'" -- Elizabeth fails to discourage Ivor from staying.
Four years ago Sir Ivor Bellamy and Miss Jessamine Dalton had been betrothed, but after a thundering row, the betrothal was ended. Jess went back to the country, where she lived with her widowed mama Elizabeth and younger siblings Althea, Silvester and Philip. In the intervening time neither Ivor nor Jess has found someone else, though Jess is being urged by her mama to marry good ol' Henry Hartwell, a boring but wealthy neighbor.
When her husband died, Elizabeth and her brood had been taken in by her father Sir Mumford Bellamy of Oakminster, but when that gentleman died as a result of his injuries in a chaise accident, Oakminster went to his heir, a distant cousin -- Ivor. Both Jess and Ivor still have strong feelings about each other; Ivor still wants her, though she infuriates him, but Jess's feelings have turned to bitter resentment and her mother's fears that when he takes possession of Oakminster Ivor will turn them all out into the road exacerbate her anger.
However, Ivor is all that is conciliating, and he has Oaklane, another house on the same estate, restored and prepared for the Daltons to live in. Once moved in, however, spooky doings -- strange noises and lights, unaccountable incidents with furniture, and a feeling of being watched -- frighten Jess. Is it the ghost of the "Italian countess" who once lived there, or something more contemporary and concrete?
This seemed an oddly structured story to me, as halfway through Jess and Ivor have an epiphany and realize they're meant for each other and after that the relatively uninteresting mystery subplot takes over. I enjoyed it for its Beatrice & Benedick exchanges and its general wit, but I don't think it's one of this author's best. (Posted by Janice 1/2/12)
#287 The Duke's Gambit
by Roberta Eckert
Published 1987 by Signet
Miss Andrea Howard first met Hamilton Calgry, Duke of Haverford when she came upon him forcing his attentions (as she thought) on her cousin Elizabeth, at which point Andrea broke it up by hitting Hamilton across the face with her riding crop. Andrea did not know it, but Hamilton had just chased off Elizabeth's beau Captain Whaite after catching the pair in a clandestine meeting.
Andrea's grandfather, Lord Clarington, is in failing health and wishes to provide for her future. With her grandfather's consent and approval, Hamilton offers for Andrea. Hamilton has been used to giving orders and being obeyed; he also has a low opinion of women, believing they are devious coldhearted opportunists, and his feelings for Andrea are confusing to him. For her part Andrea has fallen head over ears for him but her pride will not let her admit it to him absent a similar declaration from him.
The marriage goes through, and even though neither party has admitted to loving the other, Hamilton and Andrea begin to establish a certain camaraderie, aided by their compelling sexual relationship. This tenuous relationship is put to the test when Hamilton's old boss Lord Worth asks him to charm a gorgeous French spy into revealing her connections and Andrea sees him apparently pursuing a mistress in front of all London.
There is nothing new in this tale, with its devastatingly handsome Duke and his incredibly beautiful Duchess. Every element in it is so familiar that it would be easy to dismiss it. However I thought the author did a solid job of characterization on her hero and heroine, and that for me makes this novel a bit better than I had expected. (Posted by Janice 12/23/11)
#286 The Rake's Protegee / Indentured Innocence
by Barbara Hazard
Published 1985 by Signet
"Lord Quarles looked up from his snifter, a little bewildered. 'But what will you do with her later, Hawk? I mean, if you do turn her into a lady? What then? Mind you, I don't think you can pull it off, now!'
Lord Bredon stood up to pour them all another drink. He shrugged. 'I have no idea. Send her back here? Let her go? It is hardly important. Once she has won the wager for me, I do not care what becomes of her.'"
One night in 1803, the four men known collectively as Satan's Rakes were drinking the evening away at Cawfell, a hunting box belonging to their leader, Anthony Hawkins, Earl of Bredon, The four were rusticating there because one of their number, William Ashton, had killed his man in a duel and it wasn't advisable to return to London as yet. The men got into a discussion of nature vs. nurture, which resulted in a £1,000 wager: Hawk would undertake to turn a young girl of low birth into someone who could fool the ton into believing she was a lady born. Hawk bought his butler's illegitimate niece Annie, a child of eleven, and mailed her off to the vicar who held the living for one of his northern estates.
Seven years later, Miss Anne Ainsworth is not recognizable as the beaten and half starved bastard niece of Hawk's butler. Under the care of Vicar Nettles and his wife, by whom she is loved as a daughter, Anne has become a sweet-natured, intelligent and very beautiful young woman. Will Ashton, Hawk's emissary, falls for her immediately and fears what Hawk will do with Anne once his wager is won -- and he is right to do so because Hawk believes that having bought Anne, he owns her and has every right to make her his mistress and cast her aside when he's finished with her.
I found it difficult to get interested in this book; I don't think it's aged well. Hawk, the ostensible hero, is such a self centered misogynistic creep that it is impossible for me to believe that he'd ever feel real love for anyone except himself, let alone be changed by it into a better man. Anne is such a Mary Sue Sparklebutt supersweet piece of perfection that I can't believe in her either. The author did her best to convince me that a happy ending together was possible for these two, but I remain unpersuaded and pretty much uninterested in their fate. (Posted by Janice 12/6/11)
That's my gripe with some of Hazard's books as well. Her heroes aren't always that heroic! Sometimes, I don't know, it's like she'd decided who's the hero at the start, so even if he turns out to be a total rat she clings to that. Seems to me it would've made a better romance if she'd allowed the friend of the hero to marry the heroine as he actually loved her. Would've been a neat twist to the more traditional Pygmalion ending as well! Besides, except for providing a somewhat better environment, the hero hadn't much to do with how well the girl turned out anyway, did he? (Posted by yvonne 12/6/11)
It's very dated. In the early 80s they were still fighting the battle of "good girls don't do it so real men must be forceful so it won't seem that the girl is a slut" and it shows; I see many heroes of that era in regencies as nothing more than bullies, really, forcing their decisions on the heroines.
The excuses made for Hawk's misogyny (uninterested neglectful mother, mean nanny, cold governess, then fiancee jilting him in the midst of the ceremony) just sound lame; he has four examples of women and that gives him license to assume that all other women are bad as well? And it was so long ago. Get over it!
Then too, if he hadn't been painted as such a jerk, then she wouldn't have to be a Mary Sue whose sparkling joy, purity, yada yada changes his heart. I am wondering if that was as much a cliche then as it seems to me now.
I think with this type of self-centered petulant hero, there is no true love, there's only "I need this woman so whatever I do for her is really only for my own sake so I will have what I need -- and I, not she, will decide what she needs". No altruism at all, no free will for the heroine.
Toward the end he does leave her with her adoptive parents but so much stupid selfish behavior had gone on before then that I didn't find his transformation believable. As you say, it would have been a better book if the beta guy (Will) had won her instead. Not that I would stick Will, who seems a nice guy, with such an inhumanly perfect bride
This book has high marks from many reviewers and I do agree it is entertainingly written, but I don't think its hero is exactly romantic. He doesn't have one tenth the charm of the Duke of Avon And it is supposed to be a romance! (Posted by Janice 12/6/11)
Yeah, seems dated to me too. Still, there's a line between good girls don't do that so the hero seduces her and good girls don't do that so have her raped. Some of the older romances (not just Regencies either) didn't make the distinction. I grew up with old-fashioned girls don't parents but forced sex is an instant turnoff, always have been, so I wonder who's idea it was that force was a good alternative? No woman I can think of would wish to be raped.
And whatever excuse the guy has, a rat is always a rat. OTOH, the Pollyanna type heroine is so irritating that maybe she deserves a guy like that as her mate? (Posted by yvonne 12/6/11)
The thing with the foricible seduction/overcome by his lusty manliness sort of fantasy in the 70s-80s romances was that if the heroine, a good girl (and good girls don't have sex for pleasure outside of marriage, or in it for that matter) had to have an excuse for giving in, or she'd be considered a slut, so we have these overbearing heroes triggering a submission response.
They went through that in the movies in the 20s-40s with all the Valentino, Clark Gable sort of heroes who would grab the heroine, kiss her hard, and then shove her away, to show they were overcome by their passion for her. That used to make me uncomfortable, now I just laugh at how silly it looks - did anybody ever think that sort of rough mauling would be fun?
Yes, that's my view too - in general a rat continues to be a rat. Do you think if we lined up these rat heroes and smacked them upside the head, we could rearranged their brain cells and fix their broken empathy connection? Because that's what's missing: something in their brains is defective and they have no empathy, or they wouldn't do the things some of them do. (Posted by Janice 12/6/11)
#285 An Improper Companion
by April Kihlstrom
Published 1983 by Signet
Miss Heather Wade had been at school for as long as she could remember, lately at Mrs. Gilwen's School for Young Ladies in London. On her eighteenth birthday Mrs. Gilwen informed her that she was the bastard daughter of a woman who had died in childbirth and an anonymous father who had paid her fees and given her minimal support otherwise. Her father had ceased to pay her fees and Mrs. Gilwen offered to allow Heather to remain at the school she hated as an unpaid teacher.
In her way, Heather was quite sheltered and green. Stunned, she left Mrs. Gilwen's house and found an employment agency where she applied for a position as a companion. Unfortunately for Heather, she had strayed into the wrong sort of agency, and no one she met along the way set her straight about the nature of her duties. She was provided with clothing and stage fare to the estate of Sir Leslie Kinwell, with a letter to give to her employer. She arrived late at night but, to her surprise, instead of a servant's room, she was given luxurious accommodations. Sometime during the night she awoke to find a naked drunken stranger in her room, and although she fought back, he raped her. (The book is written in first person and spares us a detailed graphic rape scene; Heather has fainted sometime during the proceedings.)
The next morning Sir Leslie, her rapist, read the letter that she had brought. He had once been jilted at the altar and had a bitterness against women, and so he had been in the habit of ordering up whores from London to satisfy his needs, and was enraged to find that he had been sent a provable innocent (the bloody sheets had told their tale). In a rage he flung off to London and returned with a special license. Pointing out to Heather that she was ruined and had no alternative, he married her that same day. Afterwards, despite the very worst of beginnings, bitter Leslie and angry Heather are forced to go through the motions and pretend to outsiders that theirs is a normal marriage.
This book dates from the early 1980s, a time when there were many romances in which the "hero" took the heroine by force or against her will, and we were supposed to accept that as proof of the depth of his passion for her. Balderdash, of course; it proves nothing of the sort, and most modern romance readers find the notion thoroughly repellent. This author knows that; she has not done a book that glamorizes rape or makes it okay. Instead she has written a book that says "Okay, heroine, you are now in this situation, what are you going to do about it? What can you do about it?" In this book, Heather grows up fast, and in that sense it's as much a coming of age story as anything else. I thought it was a worthwhile read, but I would not suggest it to anyone who would have difficulty with its premise. (Posted by Janice 11/30/11)
I have to say that this book has more realism than many purported historical romances. Back in Regency times it was not unknown for a woman to have to marry her rapist. Whether she could ever love such a man, or he turn into a man worthy of love, I leave open to the reader but, it certainly wasn't an unknown situation. Also, Heather's life was to be the wife of a rich man, however much he repulsed her, rather than a life of complete drudgery. Which would you choose? Since nothing can make me personally warm to a man who forces a woman however drunk he might be, I cannot truly consider this in the light of a true romance, regardless of how realistic the situation. The books is well written though and Kihlstrom did what she could with her premise but I found the ending a bit too fairy tale nice. (Posted by yvonne 11/30/11)
#284 The American Bride
by Megan Daniel
Published 1983 by Signet
Miss Abigail Dawson's father, a wealthy American tradesman, has arranged a marriage for her with Reginald Olney, Earl of Longford. All her life Abby, a much loved girl, has dreamed of London -- the balls, the society, the sophisticated life she has read about -- and she is quite willing to marry Longford, even though she has never met him. Her father has chosen Longford based on an interview and one dinner and believes Longford will be a good husband for his Abby. With her maid Betsey and her groom Jacob, Abby will voyage to London on the Abby Ann, the pride of her father's Red Bird Line.
Returning to England on the same ship is her father's employee Mr. Charles Lydiard, with instructions to put Abby in the way of things in England, since he is English. Charles could have told Abby and her father a thing or two about Longford's character because it was Longford's seduction of his fiancée Daisy Hollings which had sent him out of England in search of experience and adventure. Charles blamed Longford entirely for Daisy's fall from grace, not realizing that Daisy was actually very willing; the life Charles offered her seemed boring compared to the bright lights of London that Longford offered. Charles is quite bitter about the breakup and thinks all women are alike - false, artificial and scheming.
During their voyage Charles tutors Abby in London manners. Abby loves Charles, and Charles loves her, but it's against his will to trust a female; he defends his weak spot by trying to turn her into exactly the artificial sort of girl he dislikes. Once in London, Abby stays at Longford House to be trained by Longford's steely grandmother to enter society. Abby is increasingly unhappy at the idea of marrying Longford, for whom she has a growing antipathy, but Longford is desperate for Mr. Dawson's money and is determined that, by fair means or foul, the marriage will take place.
I had mixed feelings about this book. I grew impatient with both hero and heroine, both of whom are improbably good at denying the obvious, and I felt that the resolution, which occurs through a goddess ex machina intervention, was unsatisfying. However it is pleasantly written and I did stay interested enough to finish it. (Posted by Janice 11/26/11)
#283 The Notorious Marquess
by Marlene Suson
Published 1988 by Fawcett Crest
Lady Annabella Smythe, 29, was in a bit of a bind. She had lived with her father, the Earl of Chilton, in the West Indies for several years. When her father died, he had left all his unentailed fortune, which was substantial, to Belle, but two of the trustees he had appointed (his brother and their man of business) had died, leaving all to the control of Belle's younger half brother Fred. Greedy Fred refused to give her any of her money and exiled her to Moorlands, a distant semi-deserted Northern property. Belle believes her only chance of breaking the trust is to locate her cousin Jean-Louis in France and to ask him to act for her, since as a lone unmarried woman, she had little legal recourse of her own. However, without funds she cannot travel to France, nor can she do so alone.
Belle's good friend Mrs. Claire Potter is also in a bind. Claire, a widow, has a position with the notorious Marquess of Ellerton (Jason) as governess to his younger sister Rachel. Jason has a terrible reputation (twenty years before he had refused to marry the Season's Incomparable who was allegedly with child by him) but he has been kind to Claire; he has allowed her invalid mother to live with them and has provided whatever was needed for her care. However Jason intends to travel to France to see to his affairs there and he intends to take Rachel (a spoiled and unhappy handful). Claire would have to travel with them but her mother has taken a fever and Claire doesn't want to leave her.
It seems a perfect solution -- in Claire's place "Miss Anna Smith" will travel to France with Jason and Rachel. No one has recognized the thin spinster dressed in rusty black as the vibrant Lady Belle, and no one in France, except Jean Louis (if he can be found) will know her there. But it all goes awry for Belle; as she gets to know Jason better, she learns the one thing he won't tolerate in a woman is deceit -- and she has deceived him, bigtime.
Marlene Suson did a number of short traditional regencies which, even if they lacked much novelty, were generally pretty entertaining, as is this one. There's nothing groundbreaking in it, and there are one or two stylistic things that gave me pause, but I thought the central characters' actions and motivations were well explained, and I found it a nice relaxing evening's read. (Posted by Janice 11/19/11)
#282 The Ghost And Lady Alice
by Marion Chesney
ISBN: 0449216985, 0727846973
Published 1982 by Fawcett Crest, reprinted 1994 by Severn House
"'Who are you?' asked the Duke.
'Scullery maid an please Your Grace,' whispered Alice.
'I' faith, but you are extremely dirty and ragged even for a scullery maid.'
Alice blushed. 'Tain't my fault,' she said and then, rallying, 'At least I'm alive.'"
Once upon a time a dazed young girl was hustled into the servants' area at Wadham Hall, the seat of the Tenth Duke of Haversham. She knew nothing about her past, only that the name Alice Lovesey was written on a note pinned to the rags she wore. For the next seven years Alice was the scullery maid, the lowest of the low in the servants' ranking; she worked and slept in the kitchen, never seeing anything else of life. A bad master makes bad servants, and the Tenth Duke was one such; when he berated a servant, the punishment eventually worked its way down to Alice.
One night after another unearned beating, something in Alice woke up again, and she dared to venture out of the scullery into the main part of the house, which she had never before seen. She wandered into the Banqueting Hall, where there hung a portrait of Gervase, the Eighth Duke, who had died in a hunting accident in 1751. He had a reputation of being a rakehell and a wastrel, but seemed to Alice to have a kind face. She suddenly remembered that she wasn't allowed to be there; she'd be beaten and most likely accused of theft as well. She looked at the painting and cried out "Oh, I wish you was here now, sir" and Odd's fish! Stap me vitals! there he was, dressed as in the portrait, thoroughly alive, and every bit the rake he once was.
I think this is my favorite Chesney. I like the mixture of fairy tale romance and gritty realism, of power used well or for evil, of characters who are realistically meanspirited or unexpectedly kind. I also like the fact that the author didn't waste pages of convoluted explanations of how such a ghost might exist; he just is. It's a short, fast moving book: a little bit These Old Shades, a little bit paranormal, a little bit gutter realism -- oddly touching, very romantic and lots of fun. (Posted by Janice 11/10/11)
Without giving spoilers, I must say this book has a rather different ending than is commonly met with. Not that I minded. Both Alice and her ghost are likable characters but, since it is a Chesney, there are quite a number of unpleasant or stupid or downright cruel people in it. So if to you fairytale means sweet and light then this is not a story you will enjoy. Otherwise it certainly is a Regency fairytale more than anything else and with quite a bit of magic in it. It's well written, in turns funny and dramatic, fast paced and with lots of action. I liked it.
Note: The book title is misleading since Alice is by no means a Lady Alice, a title that belongs to the daughter of an aristocrat. (Posted by yvonne 11/10/11)
#281 The Baron And The Bookseller
by June Calvin
Published 1994 by Signet
For some time Miss Gwynneth Dunlevvy as "Miss Allen" had conducted a clandestine correspondence with Stuart Hamilton, Baron Langley. Miss Allen was the author of some very fine poetical verses which Langley admired and in their letters the two exchanged literary and philosophical views, particularly about the legalities of marriage; Langley's mother was very badly treated by his father and Gwynneth had been dumped when her fiance's father objected to her connection with trade, so both had strong views on the subject. In Langley's letters Gwynneth believed she had found a kindred soul despite his suggestively flirtatious manner. In her precarious position, Gwynneth had to be particularly careful about her reputation. When Langley turned up unexpectedly at the shop one morning, she told him that Miss Allen used her shop as a mail drop and refused to tell him where to find his fair correspondent -- and he stole a kiss.
Gwynneth's late father had been the son of an earl, but when he went into trade as a bookseller, his family threw him off and Gwynneth has no contact with them. Since her father's death, Gwynneth and her loyal clerk Ezekial had run the shop. Mr. Dunlevvy had also published a journal of opinion, the Guilford Register, and when he died Gwynneth had closed it down and let the staff go, but unknown to her someone had continued it -- with increasingly scurrilous content. Sir Miles Barlow arrives to investigate charges of sedition, intending to use the threat of imprisonment to get Gwynneth to be his mistress, and the cherry on the cake will be that he will score one off his old school enemy Langley as well -- unless Langley can solve the puzzle of Gwynneth and her secrets first.
This novel seems surprisingly modern in that it turns on two people coming to know each other through letters rather than in person encounters -- just as we moderns use the internet, only slower. I was a little surprised that Langley went on believing that another person was his Miss Allen despite all the readily apparent evidence that she wasn't. I found him mostly interesting for his unusual (for the day) opposition to marriage, out of concern for women trapped in the power of bad husbands like his own father -- which was contrasted with Gwynneth's understanding that sex outside of marriage for her could ruin her life. Gwynneth's reluctance to end her imposture became puzzling after a while as well -- but if heroes and heroines were all perfectly logical, then their stories would be pretty boring stuff. (Posted by Janice 11/3/11)
#280 Brighton Road
by Susan Carroll
ISBN: 0449213900, 9780449213902, 0449149242, 9780449149249
Published 1988 by Fawcett Crest, reprinted together with Sugar Rose 1994 by Ballantine
"Making love? Dear Heavens! Is that what you thought you were doing? Oh no, my dear Lord Ravenel! I regret to tell you, but you were doing everything absolutely all wrong."
Gwenda Wickers was stuck in the most boring inn parlor waiting for her carriage to be fixed. While waiting she was accidentally caught eavesdropping on Lord Ravenel's less than impassioned proposal to Miss Carruthers. Not that embarrassment would stop Gwenda when her help was called for. Clearly Lord Ravenel needed her to set him right and after two broken engagements - and writing several Gothic romances - she was well qualified to offer advice. Too bad Lord Ravenel was less than pleased with her help.
Desmond Treverly, Baron Ravenel, was far from thrilled to meet one of the crazy Wickers, nor did being turned down by the lady of his choice or having to turn off his insolent groom improve his temper. Then his old valet became ill and stuck them, too, overnight at the White Hart. Morning brought not solace but new problems and forced Desmond to not only be grateful to Miss Wickers - he also realized she was as green as her eyes and no more fitted to travel to Brighton on her own than a newborn kitten.
This is an old favorite of mine. Ravenel of the over-starched cravats and stiff propriety seems hardly hero material, particularly not as a match for the harum-scarum but delightful Gwenda with her impulsive nature and head filled with visions of the passionate Italian noblemen peopling her novels. Yet through the trials and tribulations of their journey to Brighton, he finds life offering more enjoyment when unbending a little, while she begins to appreciate that maybe there is something to be said for a bit of propriety after all. This could have been just another romp but, under Carroll's skillful handling, it becomes a charming tale of two people who, however different, together are a near perfect match. (Posted by yvonne 10/29/11)
#279 The Disobedient Daughter
by Barbara Hazard
Published 1982 by Signet
"[The Lamberts] were healthy and robust, honest, dependable, trustworthy, upright, respectable, serious, determined, opinionated, and self-righteously convinced that their way of life was the only conceivably proper way to live; in short they were dull."
Miss Janet Rose Lambert was as unlike the rest of her family as she could be; she was dark-haired and waiflike, but worse yet, she was intelligent and artistic. Her domineering mother considered that a little skill at the piano was an acceptable ladylike accomplishment, but one to be used only to land an acceptable husband and discarded thereafter for domestic duties. Janet was forbidden training beyond the basics; her teacher was dismissed and she was forbidden to acquire new music. Secretly she continued to practice the music she had and began to compose her own. She had seen her two older sisters forced into marriages which enhanced the Lambert image (their personal happiness or lack of it being irrelevant) and knew the same fate awaited her.
When she was sixteen, Anthony Northridge, then Marquess of Hallowsfield, made a visit to the Lambert home at Aylesford Grange. The only bright spot in his visit was the discovery that little Janet had great musical talent. Janet fell head over heels for Tony -- the only person other than her teacher ever to praise or encourage her playing. When Tony left he promised to send her some new music from London, but his father became ill just then and the promise went out of his mind.
Two years later Janet had grown into a very lovely young woman, albeit not in the approved Lambert style. Their equally prosy and proper neighbor Ernest, Lord Sanders fell in love with her on sight, and unfortunately for Janet, her mother approved his suit and ordered her to accept. Janet had no hope of resisting her mother, who wasn't above the use of the switch and the leather belt to enforce her steely will; however she did manage to convince her betrothed to put off the marriage until May to allow her to visit London for brideclothes appropriate to the bride of a Sanders.
Once in London, Janet loves the concerts, salons and art exhibits she is exposed to for the first time. She meets Tony, now Duke of Stour, again, and her old feelings return in force. Tony knows of her betrothal and is repelled by the Lambertness of it all, but he is slow to realize he ought to take action. But his aunt Lady Ralston has seen how right these two are for each other and makes her own plans to bring them together.
One thing Barbara Hazard is really good at is developing unpleasant characters. Lady Lambert's treatment of her daughters is truly sadism couched in oh so proper language, and Janet's fiancé Lord Sanders is a wifebeater in the making. Some readers used to the current convention that hero and heroine must be together throughout the whole book may find this novel lacking, because they're not; however my only disappointment was that nobody beat the stuffing out of Janet's mother and her fiancé -- and his nasty mother as well. (Posted by Janice 10/24/11)
#278 Seducing Sybilla
by Madeleine Conway
Published 2003 by Zebra Regency
Since the death of their parents, Miss Sybilla Smethwick and her sister, the widowed Lady Honoria, have lived quietly and contentedly in Stourbridge with Honoria's little son George, pursuing their interests in engineering and drafting, as taught to them by their father. Lady Honoria's brief marriage to Lord Harry Swaffam was cut short by his death at Badajoz; now, some years later, the ladies are planning to visit the scene of Harry's last days in Spain and plan also to meet leading scientific lights elsewhere in Europe.
Augustus Swaffam, Ninth Earl of Ampthill, is newly returned to England. Augustus had gone to India and made the fortune that will enable him to remedy his late father's neglect of his estates and correct some of that dissolute peer's injustices; the old earl was a very bad man. As things stand, George is Augustus's heir; Augustus will inspect the kid and if he's acceptable, he'll acknowledge him and bring him into the family fold.
When Augustus calls upon the ladies, he finds them much more interested in their projected travels than in being taken up by the Swaffam family. Nevertheless he prevails upon them to visit his estate, where his mother, a depressed and invalidish lady whose main pleasure is the company of Cousin Carey Swaffam and his on dits, lives. When George is brought to Swaffam Park, a series of apparent attempts on his life begin, and Augustus, Sybilla and Honoria must cooperate and trust one another if the little boy's life is not to be lost.
This is a very intelligent regency. Even when the characters are excited or overwrought, they act like responsible adults, not selfindulgent petulant moderns[ the sisters are the absolute antithesis of all those exasperating TSTL heroines we've all run into before. The hero's no dummy either, and he takes his earling seriously; this is a mature man who thinks about all his responsibilities and tries to use his power for the best. There's no real mystery, since we know the culprit from the very beginning, but this novel doesn't need that sort of contrived suspense; it's a very satisfying read as it is. (Posted by Janice 10/21/11)
#277 The Black Widow
by Charlotte Louise Dolan
Published 1992 by Signet
Demetrius Baineton, Lord Thorverton, is quite content living quietly in Devon raising hunters. He had tried to win Lady Anne Hemsworth (the heroine of Three Lords for Lady Anne), but she married his neighbor; ever since he has held her as an ideal whom no other lady has ever matched.
Demetrius has a much younger brother, Collier, who, prevented from buying his colors by their mother, has taken to raising hell in London. Lady Thorverton, a true drama queen, summons Demetrius to London to extricate his brother from his latest folly: Collier appears to be interested in the notorious 'Black Widow'. Demetrius reckons to make a fast trip to London, sort out his brother's situation, and be back to his beloved horses inside a week.
Miss Meribe Prestwich is once again enduring another hellish London Season. Ever since several of her suitors met with fatal accidents, London's wits have dubbed her the 'Black Widow', after the spider that mates and then eats its mate. Not that Meribe, a very pretty and sweet girl, has ever mated, let alone eaten anyone - nevertheless the label has stuck and the young men at Almacks mock her and only dance with her on a dare. Her sister Hester's spiteful, cutting remarks increase her misery. When Demetrius sees the situation and Meribe's suffering, his chivalric instincts kick in and he determines to help Meribe defeat the alleged curse. Neither of them is aware that the curse is not a collection of coincidences but a plan by one determined person to ensure that Meribe does not marry.
I had mixed feelings about this book. It's hard to dislike a book which is so pleasantly written and whose main characters (except for the villains, of course) are people one would like for friends. However it takes Demetrius & Co. such an inexplicably long time to figure out what's really going on that I began to lose patience with them; I didn't feel that stupidity of that magnitude was sufficiently explained. I also noted one or two possible period errors. But the book is such a comfortable read that I pretty much forgave all that in the end. (Posted by Janice 10/17/11)
For my review of The Black Widow see the Charlotte Louise Dolan page. (Posted by yvonne 10/17/11)
#276 Mutual Consent
by Gayle Buck
Published 1991 by Signet
Miss Barbara Cribbage is the daughter of a merchant with an obsession: he wants to be accepted into the ton. To this end he had used his wealth to get a blue blooded wife, but her family, though willing for her to marry an awful man for the cash, was not willing to accept her husband and immediately cast her off. Babs was raised at home until she was ten when her unhappy mother died, and was then given into the charge of her mother's sister, Lady Azaela Turowne, where she was given the upbringing of a lady, until she was seventeen, and therefore of an age to be of use to her father.
Mr. Cribbage has haunted gaming dens looking for the right sort of opportunity: a man with a title and the entrée into society that he craves to whom he can sell his daughter. He finds such a man in Marcus, Earl of Chatworth. Marcus is already deep in debt and has just lost £10,000 to a card cheat; Cribbage buys up all his mortgages, debts and vowels. A bargain is struck, Babs is sold for payment of the groom's debts, and the marriage goes forward, but not before Babs and Marcus secretly make an agreement of their own: Marcus will marry Babs, thus protecting her from the father she hates and fears, while Babs will fill the role of Countess of Chatworth and Marcus will have her money. As Marcus already had a gorgeous mistress, the widowed Lady Elizabeth Cartier, he had had no desire to wed, and his anger at being forced is barely contained under a veneer of icy civility. Babs may have gone from one awful situation into another, with no choice left but to make the best of it.
Although the premise (arranged marriage between a cit's daughter and a nobleman) may be reminiscent of Heyer's A Civil Contract, this is quite a different book. As I read it, I wondered if the author realized what a truly mixed bag her hero was. Marcus is coldly enraged at his situation, and often takes his anger out on his bride for no fault of her own; he knows she's not to blame but he does it anyway. His only redeeming virtue seems to be that he has a genuine affection for his invalid mother. Babs, who has been raised in a hard school, has courage and backbone despite her fears, and she needs all of it to deal with this bullying boor. But it's a romance and Babs comes to love him, and for the life of me, I can't understand why; he's such a mean guy. Well written and a good read, though, but only if you like lots of angst.(Posted by Janice 10/13/11)
#275 The Cassandra Knot
by Rebecca Baldwin
Published 1979 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Cassandra Russell, 19, a very wealthy orphan, is in the charge of her aunt Lady Gunneston, who schemes to get her wealth by marrying her to her son, Devonshire Gunneston. So that Cassie will not attract any rival suitors, her guardian dresses her in unattractive clothes, while her own daughter Selene is given every advantage. At their joint come-out, Cassie slips a note into the hand of her childhood friend, Edward Talbot, Duke of Woodland, pleading for a meeting.
Edward has returned from the wars to take up his duties, but he is a threadbare duke; his predecessors gambled the money away and his estates are impoverished. When he keeps the rendezvous, Cassie tells him of her aunt's plans and he learns a little of the brutal pressure Cassie has endured. Cassie knows that Edward has no money; she begs him to marry her and solve both their problems -- she will escape being forced into marriage with Dishonorable Devon, and Edward will have the money he needs to restore his estates. He agrees. When her aunt is told that they are to be married, she flies into a rage and throws Cassie out of the house.
Edward takes Cassie to his grandmother the Dowager Duchess, a shrewd lady who has long had Lady Gunneston's number, and the marriage takes place immediately. Since Cassie has always loved Edward and Edward has noticed that Cassie cleans up nicely, nothing should stand in the way of their eventually making their bargain marriage into a love match, but there are complications: Edward has a mistress, the dashing widow Lady Chantry; a jewel thief is on the loose; and Cassie herself is forever getting into 'knots' just as she did as a child.
I am very fond of a good marriage of convenience story, whether it has anything new in it or not, but apparently the author didn't think this theme was enough to sustain a book length romance. The whole jewel thief plot is added almost as an afterthought, and there isn't much, if any, preparation for it; once you learn there is a villain, it's no secret who it has to be. I think the author would have done better to stick with her initial story of the growth of a relationship which begins under stress. As it is, it's competently written but nothing special. (Posted by Janice 10/1/11)
#274 The Innocent Deceiver
by Vanessa Gray
Published 1980 by Signet
During her Season in London, lively Miss Fenella Morland had fallen in with Caro Lamb and her wild crowd, and her godmother Lady Dorton, with whom she is staying, is concerned that Fenella's reputation will be tainted by the association. Fenella agrees to behave more circumspectly, but one evening at Vauxhall Gardens Caro beckons to her and before she knows what's happening, she is involved in an altercation between Byron and Caro and is knocked to the ground. A mysterious masked gentleman rescues her and sends her home safely in his coach. Fenella would have liked to thank him but she doesn't know his name and hasn't even seen his face.
Gervase Wakeford, Earl of Huntley, has newly returned, unscathed, from the Peninsular Wars, to take up his responsibilities to family and estates. His mother, Lady Huntley, a supremely self-centered and stupid woman, disdains Gervase (she had actually hoped he would die in the wars) and dotes upon his younger brother Hereward. Hereward knows his mother has been able to draw upon Gervase's wealth pretty much at will while Gervase was away and has used her preference for him to support his own lifestyle; whenever he wanted money, Hereward would have his mother request funds from the trustee and get it from her. Now that the trusteeship has expired, Hereward and Lady Huntley both fear that their funding will be much reduced.
It was Gervase who rescued Fenella at Vauxhall that night, and he was thoroughly smitten. He wants to marry Fenella, but there are obstacles: his awful mother, his dashing but good-for- nothing brother (who has even taken up highway robbery), pressure on Fenella to marry him for advantage, but most of all Fenella's impression of him as kind but dull, stiff and stodgy -- not at all the sort of man she could ever love.
Although this book has superficial similarities to Heyer's The Quiet Gentleman (a hero named Gervase who returns unhurt from the wars to a less than kind family welcome), its story takes quite a different path. There's also a nice subsidiary romance between Fenella's Aunt Kitty and Tom Prentice, the man she would have married but for parental interference. I enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 9/27/11)
by Claudette Williams
Published 1978 by Fawcett Crest
Lady Myriah, nearing 21, is in her third Season, and she is bored, bored, bored. Her father Lord Whitney is becoming increasingly insistent that she accept an offer; he's tired of her escapades, including visits to gaming halls and her friendship with Lord Byron. But Myriah is determined to marry only for love and none of the suitors she has attracted has stirred her at all.
When her father catches her kissing a fortune hunter, Lord Roland Keyes, in the garden, he declares her compromised and insists on announcing her betrothal to Keyes that very evening. Myriah sees that he means it so she steals away to the stables, convinces her loyal groom Tabson to saddle up her stallion Silkie, and rides off to her grandfather Lord Guildford in Northiam, with the loyal Tabby accompanying her.
En route they come across a wounded young man, William Wimborne; Myriah saves him from bleeding to death and they take him to Wimborne Towers. Myriah remains for a few days to nurse Billy and to evade her father, who will be hot on her trail. Wimborne Towers is actually the home of Lord Christopher Wimborne, who returns unexpectedly early from London to find Myriah in his bed. Myriah has finally met the man who can stir her senses.
This is an old fashioned romantic adventure, and it is what it is: you have to be prepared to put up with improbabilities, period goofs, extravagant behavior and a marked lack of realism. It was an early book for this author, which may account for all the Cartland style ... and ! infesting the text. Later in her career the author dropped many of the irritating stylistic mannerisms and got a bit more emotional validity into her characters. This book is reasonably entertaining if you like this sort of thing, but I don't think it's worth seeking out. (Posted by Janice 9/24/11)
#272 Lord Margrave's Deception
by Diana Campbell
Published 1982 by Signet
When her Oxford don father died, Miss Miranda Russell went to her cousins Thomas and Martha Cavendish, where she served for the next five years as an unpaid governess to their ghastly children. Miranda became so desperate for an alternative that when she read an ad in The Times, "London gentleman seeks governess. Qualified ladies will please respond with fullest particulars", she applied, exaggerating her qualifications somewhat. She received a civil reply signed Anthony Bartlett, instructing her to meet him at the Knight and Dragon Inn in Horsham.
The gentleman who met her was not called Bartlett; he was actually Anthony Barham, Earl of Margrave, and he was not seeking a governess but a young lady to pose as his wife, in order to deflect pursuit by Jeanne, Comtesse de Chavannes, a lady with whom he had enjoyed an agreeable connection while he served in Wellington's Army in France. This lady believes Anthony would have married her had she not already been encumbered with an elderly husband, but, newly widowed and broke, she intends to nail him now.
Anthony proposes that Miranda pretend to be his wife during the Comtesse's visit to London; afterwards his "wife" will retire to the country due to ill health and eventually pass on. For her services, he will pay Miranda handsomely, furnish her with new clothes and everything she will need to carry off the deception, and help her to establish herself in a new life elsewhere when the imposture is ended. Miranda agrees, but she finds it's not as easy as Anthony made it all sound, what with having to fool the Comtesse, Anthony's mother, her own curious maid Cassy, her awful cousins, and Anthony's rumored mistress Mary Ann Stephens, aka Signorina Savino -- while resisting her growing feelings for Anthony.
This is a lighthearted comic piece -- I was in the mood for something silly so it worked for me. I particularly enjoyed Anthony's deftness at changing the subject or misdirecting attention when it suited him, and I can see why Miranda was attracted to and infuriated by him in equal measure. If you can get past the premise that any earl would ever hire a wife, temporary or otherwise, then all that follows makes some sort of sense. (Posted by Janice 9/18/11)
I thought the plot sounded familiar and indeed I've read this book too! I didn't have any problem with the crazy plot as after all it is a romance and it beats another just as unlikely spy story hands down. But as Janice said, if you buy that then the rest of the book makes perfect sense. The sad truth is, may impoverished women back in Regency times were caught in this situation of unpaid drudge to a thankless family and no Lord Margrave to the rescue.
As to the story itself, I liked it. Anthony was in turns charming and infuriating and still likable enough to fall in love with. Amanda is a strong woman pushed to the limit by her situation and Anthony offers her what she needs the most - escape. Published in the golden age when Regencies were witty and fun rather than hot and steamy. Sigh! (Posted by yvonne 9/18/11)
#271 The Eligible Miss Elliott
by Victoria Hinshaw
Published 2003 by Zebra
Miss Rosalind Elliott has reason to be wary of fortune hunters; she is the daughter of a baron, and although at his death the barony went to a distant cousin, Fosswell Manor and substantial invested wealth went to Rosalind, an only child. Currently Rosalind makes her home in Bath with her grandmother, Lady Rotherford. Rosalind loves Lady Rotherford dearly and is happy enough keeping her company and looking after Pip and Popsy, her pet spaniels. The only concern marring their contentment is an old feud between Lady Rotherford and her former best friend, Lady Isildine.
At the studio of the artist who has been engaged to paint the dogs, Rosalind meets Captain Philip Chadwell, Lady Isildine's nephew. Philip has recently retired from the navy, and as soon as he can settle his aunt in Bath and find a school for his spoiled young half sister Charlotte, he intends to buy a small estate somewhere near the sea, using his considerable prize money. Rosalind believes that her grandmother and Lady Isildine are secretly very unhappy over the old bitter feud, and she convinces Philip to help her bring the old ladies back together. Their plans necessitate many unobtrusive meetings, and soon both have fallen in love, but Philip has an old scandal in his past, and, since he hasn't flaunted his wealth, rumors arise that he may be just another fortune hunter.
This book is a reasonably pleasant fast summer read, with pleasant characters, pleasant events and some low key pleasant humor. In fact, it's a bit too pleasant for my taste; I thought it could have done with a bit more drama and it has several points that might have been explored to add some interest. I give it a mild recommendation, if you are in the mood for an easygoing, soothing sort of read. (Posted by Janice 9/13/11)
#270 Lady Nell
by Sandra Mireles
ISBN: 0440146755, 9780440146759, 0792703308, 9780792703303, 0792703405, 9780792703402
Published 1981 by Dell Candlelight, large print edition 1990 by Curley
When she was sixteen, Lady Mary Elinor Russell (Nell), daughter of the wealthy Duke of Devbridge, was ordered by her father (whose health was failing) into an arranged marriage with Andrew Merriweather, a younger son of the Earl of Melford. Immediately after the ceremony, which was private, Nell was packed back off to Miss Simpson's Academy and Andrew, considered too wild by his father, was sent off to India. After her school years, Nell lived quietly in the country with her father until his death, while Andrew made a success in India and seldom, if ever, gave a thought to his bride.
Eight years later Andrew had returned to London and was enjoying its many pleasures, still without a thought for his wife. In the interim his father and elder brother had died in an accident, and Andrew was now Earl of Melford. Nell, however, had decided it was high time she emerged from her country seclusion and took her place as Countess of Melford in London society. Andrew is not best pleased at her sudden appearance in his life, and the couple seek counsel from his aunt Lady Rochdale, who agrees to help them fend off potential gossip. The first move in her plan is that Andrew and Nell be remarried more publicly, so a second ceremony is held at Melford House uniting Nell, who is angry at her husband's neglect, with Andrew, who is annoyed at his wife's temerity at coming to London before he got around to summoning her -- not an auspicious beginning for any relationship.
This is another of those books in the great middle ground, not so badly written that they're unendurable, yet with nothing new or of particular interest in them. Oridnarily I like marriage of convenience stories, in which two very disparate individuals are thrown together and have to create some sort of sustainable emotional bond out of their situation, but this one seemed flat and overly familiar. I didn't find it emotionally engaging at any point, and I can't recommend it unless you find it lying on a bus seat and there's nothing else to read. This author published this single regency and went on to writing inspirational commentary books; I suspect those have more real feeling in them than this does. (Posted by Janice 8/9/11)
#269 The Temporary Bride
by Julie Tetel [Andresen]
ISBN: 0373312059, 9780373312054
Published 1993 by Harlequin, also published as ebook 2011 by Kindle
Helen Denville had grown tired of her situation as a grateful poor relation. Deciding to at least be paid for the privilege of being constantly at somebody's beck and call, she had accepted a position as governess/companion to an infirm widow with a ten year old son. But first she would spend ten days visiting her own old governess.
Stopping to change coaches, she is to her amazement accosted by a total stranger, who, when she refuses to follow him, makes off with her luggage. Before she knows it she's thrust into a private parlor where she confronts another stranger, this time apparently a gentleman, who insists on searching through her valise. At first Helen demures but Richard Darcy is a highly persuasive gentleman and she finally consents. Helen's surprise is even greater than his when the opening of the bag doesn't display her own meager wardrobe but the clothes of an unknown woman. Even stranger is that the clothes could not possibly belong to any of her fellow passengers, yet of a certainty this is the bag handed down to her. That's when Mr. Darcy makes his most startling suggestion yet.
Although not without flaw, I liked this story. The denouement is rather contrived, making part of the plot more than a little unconvincing, yet the growing relationship between Helen and Richard makes the story a good read nonetheless. The rural England setting makes a nice change of pace to all the Season in London Regencies out there. Although fairly lighthearted, this is not really a romp. Not a bad book to while away a rainy afternoon. (Posted by yvonne 9/3/11)
#268 Lover's Knot
by Janet Templeton
ISBN: 0449503097, 9780449503096, 0385172095, 9780385172097
Published 1982 by Fawcett Coventry
The Misses Waynflete, Honoria and Berenice, live with their widowed mama in London. Berenice has fallen for Reginald Goodburn, an Army officer, and they are betrothed. However one day while walking out together, Berenice and Goodwin are met by Clive, Lord Denby, and Denby tells Goodwin in almost so many words that Berenice has been the chere amie of another man. It is a lie but Goodwin cries off because of it, word spreads and Berenice's reputation is severely damaged.
Berenice tells Honoria what Denby did, and Honoria confronts him on the steps of the Old Palace, demanding that he retract his slander; Denby refuses. Honoria departs in a rage, intent on finding some means of revenge, but Denby, impressed by her combination of loyalty and intelligence, decides to court her.
I had a great deal of difficulty finishing this book. It is intended to be a lighthearted farce, but the language is so stilted, dated and arch that it was difficult for me to stick with it, such that when Denby finally revealed why he did what he did, I didn't much care (and it was lame anyway). Also, it is set in 1812, but some of the expressions ('wait upon' for 'call upon', for instance) seem anachronistic, and I still have no idea what a 'livid cravat' could be. I can't recommend it. (Posted by Janice 8/30/11)
#267 Camilla's Conscience
by Sandra Heath / Sarah Stanley
Published 1995 by Signet, reprinted 2008 by Hale as by Sarah Stanley
Lady Camilla Summerton, 35 and recently widowed, has tired of life in the country. She had married Lord Harry Summerton when she was 20 and had lived with him in reasonable content (although increasingly toward the end she had had to ignore things), but Harry had been killed in a riding accident. Bitter Camilla blames Harry's death on the Earl of Ennismount (Dominic), who had been his best friend, believing that somehow Dom should have discouraged Harry from riding that particular horse. Her feelings are all the more intense because from the beginning she had been strongly attracted to Dom and the day before Harry died she had almost given in to her feelings. (Stay out of the library at midnight, avoid the dark walks at Vauxhall Gardens, and for God's sake avoid any Chinese pagodas.)
Once arrived in London, Camilla becomes entangled in a Diplomatic Situation: her best friend Lady Elizabeth Oxforth has a brother, Lord William de Marne, and that brother has fallen in love with Mlle. Sophie Arenberg, popularly supposed to be an illegitimate daughter of Czar Alexander. The Grand Duchess Catherine is bent on a dynastic marriage to Prince Ludwig of Prussia; there is no way she would approve Sophie's marriage to William and he is ordered to Scotland on pain of losing his inheritance if he disobeys. Not for nothing has Sophie lived at the Winter Palace; she has acquired the Romanov arrogance and some skill at intriguing for what she wants. Camilla and Dom are thrown together when they are compelled to escort Sophie to Camilla's home for a visit which it is hoped will separate the young lovers for good, and their own feelings for each other resurface.
I had mixed feelings about this book. I thought it began rather slowly and bogged down quite a bit whenever politics and Sophie (a sad but tiresome chit) took center stage, but I found the story of Camilla and Dom learning each other's truths and resolving their differences entertaining enough to hold my interest. (Posted by Janice 8/26/11)
#266 My Dear Jenny
by Madeleine Robins
ISBN: 0449500411, 9780449500415
Published 1980 by Fawcett
Miss Iphigenia Prydd, called Genia, lives with her Aunt and Uncle Winchell. Her aunt, a very indolent woman, has piled many tasks and responsibilities on Genia; many another young woman might complain or rebel, but Genia has been brought up to believe that her poverty and plain looks will keep anyone from ever making her an offer, and her expectations are very low. Bidden to attend a friend's wedding in London, Genia's journey is interrupted when she is quarantined at an inn because the innkeeper's son has measles. Also stuck at the inn are a young couple who pass themselves off as brother and sister; a boring cleric; and two other gentlemen, Mr. Peter Teverley and his cousin Domenic. In short order Peter and Genia find that the young lady is really Miss Emily Pellering; she is with Mr. Adrian Ratherscombe, a fortune hunter who pressured Emmy to elope with him, but she is having second thoughts. Peter and Genia use the time at the inn to scotch the elopement.
When the quarantine ends, Emmy returns home; since the wedding is long over, Genia goes with her as a guest of the family. Disillusioned with Ratherscombe, Emmy's fancy fixes on Peter, even though Domenic is very attentive. Genia, whom Peter (when not calling her Prydd) has dubbed Jenny, has fallen in love with him, but the idea that he (or any man) might fall in love with her doesn't seem at all reasonable to her. Jenny must deal with Emmy's growing pains and the hostility of Domenic's mother Lady Teeve, as she remains fixed on her idea of an independent if loveless future.
Nothing much happens in this book, other than a number of balls, visits, gown purchases, tea drinkings, grande dame confrontations, nonfatal fisticuffs, the odd runaway horse, and one very nice person learning to give herself a proper value. I liked Jenny very much, I enjoyed her verbal jousting with Peter, and I smiled when at the end, much to her surprise, she got her guy after all. (Posted by Jamice 8/21/11)
#265 A Moment Of Madness
by Barbara Allister
Published 1993 by Signet
Ten years ago Miss Georgiana Carrington had had a Season with her aunt Mrs. Gardiner, but had not taken; she was gawky, shy and way too tall. Mr. Charles Edward Harcourt had been the one bright spot; he had danced with her and she had dreamed about him, but when she overhead that he was to be married, she fled back to the country, where she has lived ever since. They meet again during a fire at an inn when Charles helps Georgiana and the maid get Mrs. Gardiner out. Charles doesn't recognize Georgiana now that she's older and considerably filled out; when he overhears the Quaker coachman call Georgiana 'mistress', he thinks she's married. He admires her cool head in the emergency, as well as her physical assets; drawn by a powerful attraction, they spend the night together.
Georgiana and her party leave the next morning without seeing Charles again. Georgiana has only memories of their time together, until a few weeks later when she realizes she is about to have a permanent reminder: she's pregnant. She confides in her sister Lynette and they concoct a plan: Georgiana will pose as a recent widow and go to Harrogate to have the baby, while her aunt, who is not to be told, goes back with Lynette on the pretext that one of the children is ill. Georgiana and her newly hired companion Mrs. Thomas, who has been told the widow story, establish themselves in Harrogate, and the deception seems to be going well, until Charles unexpectedly reappears. Their feelings reignite, but Georgiana still believes he's married, and he believes she's carrying her nonexistent husband's child.
I have read so many regencies in which the heroine has sex with nary a consequence that the news that Georgiana was pregnant came as almost as much of a surprise to me as it did to her. So I give the author points for follow through on her premise. That said, I found many of the characters no more than mere names, and parts of the book rather slow going. However I found the author's writing style pleasant enough, and I did finish it, mostly to see how the central pair would resolve their situation. I can't give it a strong recommendation, but if the storyline appeals, you could do worse. (Posted by Janice 8/17/11)
#264 Holiday In Bath
by Laura Matthews
ISBN: 0446947415, 0786245239, 0446357626, 9780446357623
Published 1981 by Warner, also available as ebook
Miss Trelenny Storwood, 18, is expected to marry the Honorable Cranford Ashwicke, son of Lord Chessels; Lord Chessels (an abusive parent) is pushing for the marriage because it will reunite the Storwood and Ashwicke properties, which were split up when the Abbey was dissolved. Trelenny is young and headstrong; she longs to see something of life before she is tied down by marriage, but her father's weak heart makes travel out of the question. Also Cranford is ten years older than she, seems always to be criticizing her behavior and lack of the usual feminine accomplishments, and keeps boring on about Roman antiquities. For his part, though Cranford is indifferent to his father's demands, he does intend to marry her, but he hasn't asked her yet; he thinks her a 'silly child' and reckons the 'ungrateful imp' would turn him down; still he bails her out of scrapes and he does listen to her.
Trelenny's wish to get away comes true when Cousin Filkins, lecherous and short of the ready as always, descends on them. On his last visit when she was 13, Filkins made Trelenny's life miserable with his leers and personal remarks, but now he escalates to the point where Trelenny locks her door at night. Trelenny does not tell her mother because she doesn't want to upset her father. Eventually Cranford comes upon Filkins trying to rape Trelenny in the rose garden, and when they tell Mrs. Storwood, she reveals that Filkins had been after her in the past as well. London is out of the question, but Mrs. Storwood has an old friend in Bath; escorted by Cranford, Trelenny and her mother will visit her, and in that way they will evade Filkins without having to upset her father.
Once in Bath, Trelenny becomes a modest success and is pursued by a fortune hunter, her mother meets an old beau, and Cranford encounters a predatory married woman bent on rekindling their old affair. It proves to be an enlightening visit for all parties.
This is another 'summer book' for yvonne, I think; the characters' problems aren't terribly serious (or the serious ones they do have, like an abusive parent, aren't a focus), the characters are engaging, and it's fun to see Trelenny get a taste of the wider world and realize that Cranford isn't as hard and stuffy as she thought, while Cranford realizes that Trelenny isn't as dumb as he thought. It's a pleasant way to pass an afternoon, although I was left wishing some of the more serious points that were raised had been addressed; they are 'loose ends' for me. (Posted by Janice 8/13/11)
I have read this book (surprise!) and like you I thought it quite lightweight; Matthews has written more absorbing books than this one. Having said that, I still enjoyed the ins and outs of the story. I did find the heroines unusual name a bit tough going though. (Posted by yvonne 8/13/11)
#263 A Streak Of Luck
by Ellen Fitzgerald
Published 1987 by Signet
Sir Harry Villiers fell in love at first sight with Miriam Medina and she with him. They were married despite the disapproval of her family, who were Jews; she was cast off by them and mourned as dead. Sir Harry and Miriam had one child, a daughter, Rachel, who was the center of Harry's life after Miriam's death -- until many years later when he met Samantha.
The new Lady Villiers is very beautiful, but shallow, virulently anti-Semitic and extremely jealous of Rachel, upon whom she has visited many slights, even going so far as to remove her from the beautiful rooms Rachel had occupied since she was a child. Samantha is now pregnant and Sir Harry realizes the only hope for Rachel's happiness is to get her out of the house by finding her a husband, but with Samantha's seemingly artless anti-Semitic barbs driving off their friends, chances seem slim. Rachel's only friends in the neighborhood are Anne-Marie, Countess de Lascelles, and her cousin Victor, a musician; he coaches Rachel, who has a marvelous voice.
One evening Sir Harry plays piquet at Brook's with Gervais Fenton, Lord Sayre. Gervais is known for his luck, but in this game he loses all to Sir Harry -- his money, his stable, even his home. Gervais is ready to pay, but Sir Harry asks him to visit to meet his daughter Rachel; if Rachel is willing, their marriage will cancel the entire debt and he will even include Rachel's dowry. To Gervais paying his debt by signing over his property is a matter of honor; nevertheless Sir Harry is so persuasive in describing Rachel's unhappy situation that Gervais agrees to meet her at least -- and it's love at first sight all over again, until Samantha's malevolence and the spite of two 'gentlemen' who had lost money to Gervais in other games converge to ruin their happiness.
I can't recommend this book to everyone because it has some difficult material in it. Its anti-Semitic villainess is so unpleasant that it's hard for me to understand why anybody would put up with her. I can only think that if she hadn't lucked out and gotten pregnant quickly, Sir Harry would have kicked her out on her nasty butt, because he was at heart a nice man, and he learned quickly what a cold, mean nature dwelt beneath the pretty exterior and proper demeanor. He doesn't agree with her and he doesn't like her slurs on Rachel's mother, whom he loved devotedly; I don't see how he could possibly have gone on loving Samantha once he knew what she was. If you're looking for a pleasant tale of romantic courtship, this isn't it; however if you like books with strong credible conflicts which leave you with food for thought, I think this book will be of interest. (Posted by Janice 8/8/11)
#262 The Scapegrace
by Sylvia Thorpe
ISBN: 0449234789, 0091088305, 0090051203, 0552104795, 1863850627
Published 1971 by Hurst & Blackett; American edition published 1975 by Fawcett Crest. Audio book also available
Miss Melinda Westcott, a penniless American orphan, arrives in London to meet her mother's family. Melinda's mother, a Courtenay, was cast off when she jilted the man the family wanted her to marry in favor of a lowly tutor and then fled with him to Virginia. At Maristone House she meets the new Earl of Maristone (Tristram), his cousin Freddy Courtenay and his two hostile aunts, Mrs. Courtenay and Lady Charlotte, who are still outraged at her mother's rebellion. Melinda reacts to the aunts' cold hostility by firing back that she wants nothing more than an opportunity to find a position and support herself. Tristram acknowledges a responsibility for Melinda's welfare, and when the aunts volunteer to 'help' Melinda by sending her as companion to an elderly relation in the country, he agrees, having no idea what a wretched situation it is -- Melinda is used as an unpaid drudge by a nasty old woman, and the aunts knew it would be that way and loved the idea.
Freddy lets the real situation slip; a very angry Tristram retrieves Melinda, takes her back to London and confronts the aunts. Goaded by their disapproval, Tristram places Melinda with Lady Hetherington, a good friend of her mother, and tells the aunts that he will stand the nonsense to bring her out in style under that lady's aegis. The aunts are enraged at being outmaneuvered and Tristram is goaded into making a wager that he can see Melinda married before her cousin Sophie Courtenay. However Melinda has concealed a secret about her past that may wreck everything.
This is an old fashioned trad regency, very much in the style of Heyer -- and it borrows some phrases and character types from her as well. However it's an interesting light tale and it's not so derivative as to be annoying. It's a nice light read for times when you want a new book that's already familiar and so no effort to follow (which I do want, sometimes). (Posted by Janice 8/1/11)
#261 Crimson Deception
by Therese Alderton
Published 1986 by Zebra Regency
Mrs. Delia Amory, a widow, her daughter Katherine and their orphaned cousin Priscilla Townsend have lived at crumbing Whitfield for several years. Mrs. Amory's husband had been Uncle Edwin's younger brother; he had offered them a home not so much from family feeling but because their presence meant he did not need to hire more servants. However Uncle Edwin has died recently and the ladies have had to make plans for their future, since the new owner, the Earl of Tarrington, is expected soon to take possession of the property.
When the Earl (Vane) arrives with his mother and sister, he is offended both by the dilapidated condition of the house and Katherine's determination to take a position, with her mother and cousin, as housekeepers and governesses to Colonel Dawson, a widower with nine children, who had been a good friend of Captain Amory. Vane as a distant cousin feels that employment would be a disgrace to the family, and that Katherine is ill suited for that life.
Katherine's sharp eyes note signs in the Vane's carriage and clothing that he may be short on funds, but Vane insists that they stay and proposes to make some provision for them. Katherine is annoyed at Vane for setting her desire for independence at naught, but she's also attracted to him. All at Whitfield is not what it seems on the surface: Vane has secret business in the area, Katherine is bedeviled by a persistent suitor, Priscilla seems crossed in love, and even Mrs. Amory is concealing something.
I found this book a bit slow moving, and I still can't see why it's entitled 'Crimson Deception'; there's deception enough in the book but it doesn't have anything to do with crimson. The book is written in the older, more formal style, and some characters (Lord Knolland, the boy Ted, Bilgrove the Runner) are very similar to characters in Heyer. It does have some mild humor, mostly carried by Lord Knolland, an inept suitor. Overall it falls in that great middle ground of books that aren't terrible but aren't very interesting either. (Posted by Janice 7/26/11)
#260 The Whitbourne Legacy
by Marjorie DeBoer
Published 1985 by Signet
Miss Rosalyn Archer lives with her grandfather Lord Clifton at Torview in Devonshire, with her sisters Olivia and Evelyn; their brother Gordon mostly resides in London. Olivia, the eldest, is married but had fled home after a disastrous abusive marriage to a drunken sea captain, and doesn't know whether he is alive or dead. Evie, the youngest at 16, dreams of a visit to London and a Season.
Rosalyn, however, has resigned herself to being a spinster; she had had an illness which paralyzed her legs for a time and left her with a weakness in her legs and a weak ankle. Since the illness Olivia and the doctor have warned her against exertions such as riding, walking outside or dancing, and particularly against marriage and the dangers of childbirth, as it might bring on the paralysis again. Rosalyn had begun to think of herself as having permanent limitations and her restricted life has become habit.
After an eight months' absence, Gordon returns home, bringing with him a visitor chance met in London, Mr. Worth Forrester, an American. Worth has come to England to seek information about his family; his father Daniel had gone to America after a thundering row with his father, and Worth believes there may be a Devon connection. Rosalyn, who is interested in local genealogy, agrees to help him, and they find a connection to Lord Whitbourne, the current marquis. As Rosalyn's health improves under Worth's influence, a bond of love grows between them, but all is uncertain until Worth can determine his own future.
I enjoyed this book; it's a good read, with its credible family dynamics, its breath of fresh air hero and its heroine discovering that the assumptions of other people ought not to be allowed to rule her life. Sadly, it does contain one thundering error in its premise: the notion that someone can be disinherited from a title -- and it's an unnecessary error, since the 'lost heir' plot would work quite well without it. But it doesn't spoil the book; its real story is Rosalyn's return to life from a sort of emotional limbo when she meets a man she can love. (Posted by Janice 7/14/11)
#259 My Lady's Deception
by Linda Walker
Published 1990 by Zebra Books
Lady Jane Marlingforthe must marry well. Since the death of her father, Thrate House, the family home in Cornwall, has had to be sold. Jane, her younger brother Sir Edgar (Ned) and twelve year old sister Livia (Livvy) had very little money, but there was enough to fund Jane's bright idea: a deception in which she would pose as Miss Ariadne Montcrief of Northumberland in order to snag a wealthy husband. Ned will pose as her footman Nettles, Livvy will pose as her trainee maid Lizzie, and their old governess Priddy will pose as her mother. After a short stay in London to outfit Jane as befits her station, they take a house in Wixton, Essex, a small coastal village, to begin the hunt.
All Charles de la Marre wants to do is finish writing his memoirs of his war experiences while his memories are fresh, but his duties as Earl of Leith prevent him from having time to work on them. Charles asks his younger brother Stephen, who is actually interested in estate matters, to take care of things while he goes to some quiet, out of the way place - Wixton - to work on his book. Accompanied only by his man Cheever, Charles rides off as plain Mr. Florian Fotheringay, author. On the way Charles rescues Mrs. Mary and Miss Sylvia Churchill, who are being pursued by Reginald Flood, a swindling lech who claims to be engaged to Mary while hitting on Sylvie. Until their affairs can be sorted out, Charles proposes that they pose as his family -- Mary as his mother Mrs. Fotheringay and Silvie as his sister Georgianna.
In tiny Wixton's limited society, Jane soon meets Charles, but thinks him cold, arrogant and dull, compared to Mr. Hector Corydon, a handsome con man posing as an unmarried gentleman promoting a scheme to make tiny Wixton into a fashionable beach resort. Ned falls for Sylvie, but cannot woo her as a footman. Livvy, who reads gothic romances, cannot restrain her imagination and behaves in a most unservantlike manner.
This book is a bit confusing to read, because characters are referred to by both their real and false names, and there are a lot of them; at one point even the author got confused and called Georgianna Sylvie in dialog. There is some humor in Livvy's frequent slips, and the plot is tied up neatly enough at the end, but overall I didn't find much to recommend in it. (Posted by Janice 7/5/11)
Sounds somewhat like a poor remake of Sommerville's The Dukes Disappearance. (Posted by yvonne 7/5/11)
#258 The Infamous Earl
by Margaret Summerville
Published 1997 by Signet
Miss Georgiana Morley has fallen in love with Lord Thomas Jeffreys, but her father, Sir Arthur Morley, won't permit a marriage; not only is Thomas a fortune hunter, he's the nephew of Sir Francis Pelham, a man her father hates. Georgiana gets a famous notion: if she can convince her father that she's in love with an even worse man, he will look more kindly upon Thomas. Georgiana has met Richard Augustus Fitzmorris, Earl of Dunraven, and his dog Macduff in the Park; Dunraven, with his scandalous reputation for affairs and a duel, will do nicely.
At first Georgiana's plan goes well; her father is incensed that she would even consider that vile Dunraven. However, Dunraven saves the life of Sir Arthur's favorite horse, Demon Dancer, and Georgiana's father starts to see Dunraven as a desirable son in law, until several unfortunate incidents occur: the brawl at the ball, an alleged love child, and those embarrassing moments when Dunraven's passions overwhelm him and he's found kissing Georgiana. Meanwhile Georgiana has discovered that her feelings for Thomas were a passing infatuation and she really wants to marry Dunraven, but her dad is going to be a tough nut to crack.
I had mixed feelings about this book. Dunraven is quite nice to other people in a offhand sort of way, but his main emotion toward Georgiana seems to be simple lust; true, he is prepared to marry her, but he doesn't seem to be interested in her as a person. Perhaps this is because there isn't very much to Georgiana other than her looks. To me it meant that neither was very interesting in a romantic pair. What saved the book for me was Dunraven's genial, sponging best friend Buckthorne, who carries the humor of the book; I think a novel about him and the redoubtable Mrs. Buckthorne, who seems to have his number, might be much more interesting. (Posted by Janice 6/25/11)
I've just finished this book and have no idea how to review it. Not only is The Infamous Earl stilted and the plot commonplace as well as more than apparent; the characters aren't helping! The younger sister (14!) is a blabbermouth and yet the heroine keeps telling her secrets, which of course become common knowledge, causing all kinds of problems. That's nothing to the father of the heroine, who was driving me nuts. All through the book he's like yes, no, yes, no, yes, no about the hero marrying his daughter. I guess it's meant to create tension but by the third time her father forbids the match it's just silly. Not that a father shouldn't have reservations as the hero is far from heroic but still, I expected her excessively strong minded and stubborn father (author's words, not mine) to not be swayed by every scrap of gossip reaching him.
I think you put your finger on real trouble with the story though, when you said there's little to Georgiana. She's a cardboard figure standing in as love interest and never really comes alive. Neither is there much conversation between her and Dunraven, only the merest commonplace and a few I love yous. There's absolutely nothing more to connect this couple than physical attraction, which is not uncommon in real life either but makes for a chancy relationship and a very dull book! (Posted by yvonne 6/25/11)
I agree. Once Dunraven's initial hots wear off, will his interest in Georgiana fade too? Will she be left keeping the home fires burning while he hies off periodically to London for a fresh affair? Or will the nice guy side of him prevail? Will he stay in the country with his wife and kids, being a good husband, father & neighbor? It could go either way.
A better question is, will Georgiana ever develop an adult personality? Some women are late developers - what will she be like at thirty? I know, it's a romcom, and we're not supposed to ask these questions, but in the better books, the author gives you an indication of what she thinks will become of them. (Posted by Janice 6/25/11)
#257 Miss Cordelia Harling
by Darrell Husted
Published 1978 by Popular Library
In the summer of 1811, Miss Cordelia Harling, then 15, was sent with a newly hired governess to Aylesford in Kent, a minor property of her widowed mother. Her mother and her older sister Imogen went to Cornwall, but Cordelia did not go with them because she had been quite ill that winter in London and it was thought that the Cornish climate was too harsh for her health. Immediately upon arrival, two things happened: Cordelia found Lord Philip Dorn, the poet son of the previous owner, still staying in the house, and the governess eloped, leaving Cordelia alone except for Philip and the servants.
Cordelia soon finds that Philip is involved in a complex love/hate relationship with Lady Anne Dassington, who lives at the nearby estate of Belford with her father, the Earl of Dassington, and her brother, James, Viscount Bronington. Also resident at Belford is Mrs. Margaret Pendleton, a beautiful and cultured woman who is scandalously under the Earl's protection. As young Cordelia becomes more and more enraptured with Philip, she is more and more disturbed by his strange relationship with Anne, but in her youth and inexperience she cannot discern the true nature of the relationships among all these people.
First off, even though this book was marketed by Popular Library as a romance, it is not a romance of the 'boy meets girl, boy has sex with girl, eventually boy marries girl' sort -- nor is it intended to be. It is much more a coming of age story done as an old fashioned romantic drama, the sort of thing the BBC would do to perfection (I'm casting it in my head already). It is quite a good reworking of several elements (Philip and Anne are clearly suggested by Byron and Caro Lamb, for instance), but, although Cordelia does meet the man she will eventually marry, the story isn't about their romance. However it was a good old fashioned read and I enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 6/19/11)
#256 Rakehell's Widow
by Sandra Heath / Sandra Wilson
ISBN: 0451129709, 9780709083733, 0709083734, 9781847825216, 1847825214
Published 1984 by Signet. Reprinted 2008 by Robert Hale, large print edition also available
Everybody said Alabeth made a horrid mistake when she jilted the elderly duke to elope with the rakish Robert Manvers. Before long he returned to his gambling, aided and abetted by his best friend Sir Piers Castleton. But now Robert has been dead for two years, killed in a duel to defend his honor at cards, with faithful Piers at his side. Now here was her father, on the eve of setting off on a diplomatic mission to foreign lands, demanding her chaperonage for her sister's first season. Only the promise that Piers would be out of the country could make Alabeth return to society.
Alabeth is more than a little apprehensive and not feeling much better after an accidental encounter with Piers on her way to London and his assurance to be in town for the season. It doesn't get better when she finds out her silly sister is head over heels in love with Piers while totally ignoring the man her father wants her to marry. What with a hostile and romantic sister, a seductive Polish count who's a dead ringer for her dead husband, and her sister's disgruntled suitor, Alabeth soon longs for her home in the country and wonders if she can bring either herself or her sister off safely without heartbreak and scandal.
This is a rather dark story about people that are not quite what they seem and where understanding of self is a hard lesson to learn indeed. The ending is somewhat abrupt but otherwise a quite absorbing tale. It's a book that certainly deserved to be reprinted. (Posted by yvonne 6/10/11)
#255 A Gentleman's Daughter
by By Isobel Linton
Published 1995 by Zebra Books
"'Tain't no more than the truth, miss. That girl will get herself and all of us in a peck of trouble with her silly foolishness, you just mark my words. She's too pretty by half, and too rich by half, and too pigeon-witted to tie up her own laces. She ain't got no pa nor brother here in London to look out for her, neither. That's a deadly combination, Miss Pamela -- you just mark my words if it ain't'" -- Pamela's maid Helen Fraley, who has also come to London to husband-hunt
Miss Pamela Stone and her cousin Miss Victorine Wells, both 17, have been brought to London for their first Season by Lady Charlton, Victorine's mother. Victorine is an heiress and a perfect blonde Diamond, a little silly and self-centered; Pamela is a pretty brownette with a bit less instant appeal and no portion, but much more intelligence and good sense. During their first visit to Almacks, the young ladies are introduced to two brothers, sons of the Earl of Cleremont. The elder, Viscount St. Clare, is tall, dark, handsome, charming, wealthy, married and a practiced seducer. The younger, Mr. John Whyte, is also very attractive, but he is completely different from his elder brother: he is sincere, single, conscientious, honorable, and broke.
John falls in love with Pamela, and is loved in return, but silly innocent Victorine is targeted for seduction by the vile viscount and his co-conspirator wife Marguerite. Both girls are invited to visit Haverford, the Earl's home, and Lady Charlton accepts, pleased at their apparent social success. However her certainty that nothing bad could possibly happen to her charges at such an important and well attended house party proves to be incorrect.
At first I was a little impatient with this book, thinking it would be just another tea-drinkin' regency, albeit very elegantly written -- but gradually matters take a much darker turn and the urgency really builds. Without so much as an indecorous phrase, the author shows the depths of sexual depravity to which two men with great wealth, charm and power but no conscience whatever can descend, with the connivance of those who serve such desires for love or money. She also shows how to write a book with dark content without making it some sort of posh rape fantasy that panders to readers. Although there is pleasant wit in this book, it is not a romantic comedy -- so much so that when a happy ending materialized, I almost didn't believe it possible. (Posted by Janice 6/6/11)
#254 Contrary Lovers
by Clarice Peters
Published 1988 by Harlequin
Davida Cooper is at her wit's end. It's not enough that they're practically destitute and living precariously on the sale of her widowed mother's jewelry, now Lady Aldyth's discovered gambling and is rapidly plunging her family into ever deeper debt. What is needed is a rich husband for Lady Aldyth to take care of her and her debts. But how do you play matchmaker to your own mother?
Lord Lyall, the only son of the Earl of Exley, is certainly not anyone's idea of good husband material. Although he realizes he must marry some day, it comes as a terrible shock to him when he finds himself betrothed to an unknown lady. The Earl and his very good friend 'Cutter' Cooper had, on the birth of Cooper's daughter, drawn up a marriage contract between her and the earl's son. And now, he tells Lord Lyall, Miss Cooper has decided to enforce the contract!
Ready to buy her off, Lyall sets off to Upper Wimpole Street to tell the designing harpy what he thinks of her. Nothing had prepared him for Davida! With the marriage contract hanging over him like the sword of Damocles, he unwillingly sets out to help her find a husband for her mother. That this necessitates his spending much time in Miss Cooper's company cannot be helped.
This story, although not exactly a romp, is pure comedy. Except for nasty Cousin Henry, the characters (and they are quite a few) are nice people whom it's no hardship to spend time with. It's a bonbon type of book; enjoyable while you read it but forgotten as soon as you close the covers and return it to the shelf. (Posted by yvonne 5/30/11)
#253 The Reluctant Heir
by Shirley Callander
Published 1992 by Diamond Books
Marcus, Viscount Darnsborough has inherited a Situation along with his titles and lands: he finds himself the unwilling guardian to the five Coningsby sisters, the children of the previous viscount. An unusual provision in the entailment has divided the ancestral home between entailed and unentailed portions, so that the girls own an unentailed wing. They have removed there pending Marcus's arrival, and intend to augment their funds by opening a school for refined young ladies, to his instant disapproval.
The band of young ladies ranges in age from 20 to 14 and consists of twins Karenza and Sapphira, Cressidia, Drusilla and Arabella. Karenza meets Marcus in the woods, where she has gone berrying in an old gown, and her dog startles his horse. As penalty for being thrown off, and having the impression from her clothing and lack of company that she is a village miss and therefore fair game, he steals a kiss from her. Karenza roundly smacks him one, and thus when they meet formally later, their relationship gets off to an iffy beginning.
Meanwhile Cressidia has found a wounded young man in the woods and has him brought home. When he comes to his senses, he has amnesia and doesn't even know his name. Cressidia recites names until he recognizes one - Jonathan.
I must confess that, even though I was stuck in a doctor's office with nothing else to read except last month's In Style, I gave up on this book about halfway through. Nothing in it seemed new or fresh, none of the characters intrigued me, and it seemed that too many elements and situations were borrowed from Georgette Heyer - without borrowing her deft hand with pacing, dialog and characterization. I set it aside unfinished. (Posted by Janice 5/26/11)
#252 An Affair Of Honor
by Candice Hern
Published 1996 by Signet. Also available as ebook.
Miss Margaret Ashburton had not enjoyed her Season in London; she was six feet tall, gawky, unflatteringly dressed and ginger. She returned home to Thornhill, where she lived with her Gram and her brother Sir Terrence, and became completely absorbed in their horse breeding farm. Meg is unaware that in the subsequent six years she has grown into her body and has become a stunningly beautiful woman.
When Colin Herriot, Viscount Sedgewick has a curricle accident not far from Thornhill, sustaining a head wound and a broken leg, Meg and Terrence bring him to their home to recuperate. Meg had met Sedge in London and fallen instantly in love with him, but he didn't know she was alive; he only danced with her because he is kind to wallflowers. However, as Meg nurses Sedge back to health, he falls head over heels for his Angel. When Sedge tries to ask Meg to marry him, he screws up his proposal so badly that she (beset with her own imagined inadequacies) thinks he only wants her for his mistress. At first Meg is horrified and insulted, but as time wears on, she begins to feel that even a carte blanche existence would be preferable to living without him.
This book is the third in a series of loosely connected novels about a group of pleasure-seeking young gentlemen, the first two being A Proper Companion and A Change of Heart, but each can be read as a standalone. I had a mixed reaction to this one. On the one hand, it's very well written, with a nice turn of phrase and extremely likeable characters whose emotional processes are convincingly described. On the other hand, its genial hero seems braindead dumb -- five suspicious accidents and he still doesn't understand that someone somewhere wishes him ill. Not that the identity of the culprit is any secret to the reader (although it is to all the characters); under the principle of cherchez le buck, there is only one person it could be. So I think readers who insist on a rational plot will be disappointed in this book, but those who like warmhearted characters one can root for may like it despite its flaws. (Posted by Janice 5/19/11)
#251 A Scandalous Courtship
by Barbara Reeves
ISBN: 0802712584, 0380721511, 9780380721511
Published 1993 by Walker. Reprinted 1994 by Avon Books
When Evan Ryder met Virina Baret during his service on the Peninsula, she was the young wife of his fellow officer. Hers had been a whirlwind romance in her first season that ended in the elopement with a younger son no older or richer than herself. Six years later, Evan is the Earl of Maitland, and Virina, now widowed, is lost, or that is what her domineering grandfather tells him. Evan, who fell head over heels in love with Virina, has spent the last three years - ever since he heard she was back in England - searching for her. To no avail as there's not a trace of her to be found.
Virina is in fact in London and has several excellent reasons to live incognito. Together with some distant cousins she's set up a catering business and is doing good trade among the Nouveau Riche, who are thrilled to do business with the highborn Mrs Baret, who, whispers tell, is the estranged granddaughter of a Marquis. On the map there may be three miles between Holborn and Mayfair but in real life it's two different worlds.
Although Virina knows that by engaging in trade she has in fact eschewed her place in society, she is proud of what she has accomplished in merely a few years. She hopes her business will stay in vogue for just another year and then she can retire. That's when fate steps in and Virina is thrown into the company of her peers again.
I liked this book quite a lot. This isn't your average Big Misunderstanding story; there are real issues separating Evan and Virina. Both have personal issues they need to overcome to be able to not just love but trust each other and make a successful marriage. Reeves is an excellent writer, her prose is good, her characters believable and her own. I recommend it. (Posted by yvonne 5/16/11)
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!