#350 The Blackmailed Bridegroom
by Dorothy Mack
ISBN: 0451127684, 0451203577, 9780451203571
Published February 1984 by Signet Regency. Reprinted 2001 together with The Luckless Elopement
Miss April Wendover believes Adam Harding deliberately ruined her father Sir Charles (who gamed away his fortune and committed suicide) and killed her brother Basil (who died because he ignored the slight wound he received in their duel and developed blood poisoning). Nine years later Adam (now Earl of Glenville and an important figure in government) and April (now impoverished) meet by accident at an inn and are seen by one of Adam's political rivals. April uses the incident to blackmail Adam into marrying her, so that she can bring out her beautiful but self-centered younger sister Diana. Adam does not consummate the marriage; he continues to see his mistress Molly (who has made the professional error of falling in love with her employer).
Adam gives April a makeover and they introduce Diana to society. As time goes on, they get to know each other a bit, and April begins to like him (Diana already adores him). Adam develops a suspicious cough which steadily worsens; April discovers that someone has switched the cigars Diana gave him as a gift for poisoned ones, and she is in the act of replacing them with good ones when he catches her and accuses her of being the poisoner. He becomes infuriated and rapes her to punish her. It is not a seduction; it is a violent and brutal rape (both characters recognize this fact). Afterwards she is left bloody from the loss of her virginity, bruised and sobbing on the floor. Adam carries her upstairs to her bed and leaves her.
April burns her bloody nightgown, contrives so that her devoted maid Mattie won't see her bruises, and tells no one. She and Adam continue the pretense of a successful society marriage, but it now seems there is no possibility their relationship could ever be anything but an empty facade.
I had very mixed feelings about this book. It is a compelling and well told tale with excellent characterizations, but a rapist is a rapist, and excess brandy and personal stress can't excuse it -- nothing can. Later on Adam says he's sorry, but (other than his wife cringing in fear from time to time), he pays no real penalty for what he did. In a romance written today I don't think the author could get away with having her heroine forgive her rapist or make excuses for him. It seems to me the contrived misunderstandings and mitigations which the author inserted can't outweigh Adam's evil act. The author has tried to soften and explain or excuse Adam's behavior, but it was what it was, and what it was wasn't something that can be romanticized away. I am quite puzzled that this otherwise solid author tried to do so. (Posted by Janice 5/11/13)
I hated, hated, hated that book! Ugh! It was a reality of life back then and I'm sure women that had to live with a rapist husband tried to find ways to deal with the situation but it's not Romantic! And this rape scene is particularly ugly, with the "hero" showing no remorse. He never really does discern how much wrong he did. I can understand the heroine a bit, as said, she had little choice but trying to forgive and forget, but there are no excuses to be found for the "hero". This is not simply a bit of coercion because Good Girls Don't Enjoy Sex, a preconception of a previous age; this was pure unadulterated cruelty from a dominant male to cow a helpless female. My heart wept for her as she sobbingly lies on the floor hugging her bruised body - while her husband looked on carelessly as he sipped his brandy. True hero material that. Yuck! (Posted by yvonne 5/11/13)
#349 The Jewelled Snuff-box
by Alice Chetwynd Ley
ISBN: 0345265942, 0345258096, 9780345258090, 0345258096, 9780345258090, 0708931146, 9780708931141
Published 1959 by Hale UK and Ballantine (USA), reprinted several times. Large print edition also available.
On the Dartford Road, Miss Jane Spencer Tarrant had to leave the coach and walk with the other passengers because the horses could not manage the hill in the worsening snow. Jane finds a gentleman lying unconscious in the ditch and looks after him when he is brought to the nearby inn. When the gentleman awakens, he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be where he was found, and the only possible clue is a gold snuffbox found under his body. When they arrive in London, Jane goes to her father's lawyer with the young man, hoping Mr. Sharratt can advise her, but to her surprise, the young man vanishes.
Jane's father was a naval captain who had married a lady against the wishes of her family; when her father was killed in action five years ago, no one paid the fees at Miss Leasowe's Select Young Ladies' Seminary, and so Jane left to become a governess. Mr. Sharratt has had word of a new position -- the Earl of Bordesley seeks a companion for his wife.
The Earl had fallen passionately in love with a beauty decades younger than he. When Jane meets her new employer, she knows her well -- she is Celia, one of the Mean Girls from Miss Leasowe's. Celia has not improved with the years; she married the Earl for position and wealth, and amuses herself by bullying servants and taking lovers. Her husband is jealous but Celia knows well how to manipulate him. Imagine Jane's dismay when one of Celia's followers, Sir Richard Carrisbrooke, turns out to be the man she rescued from the ditch -- she has fallen in love with him, but he doesn't remember her at all.
I liked this book very much. It is a cracking good tale, well paced, well told, with believable characters and plot twists that seem organic rather than arbitrary. Celia is a sharply etched portrait of a complete sociopath and I was rooting for the Earl to realize that he had finally had enough and kick her out on her nasty conniving butt. I would recommend it for those looking for an old fashioned good read. (Posted by Janice 4/25/13)
I completely endorse your view on this book, Janice. The main couple is very likeable and real; the hero in particular is more nuanced that often met with in older romances that often feel too 'Me Tarzan, you Jane' for my taste. Celia is, of course, plain awful, but then, she's meant to be. I found the denouement quite convincing although by the end of the book I did have an inkling on what was afoot. (Posted by yvonne 4/25/13)
#348 The Duke And Mrs. Douglas
by Donna Simpson
Published July 2004 by Zebra
The Duke of Alban is saddened by the King's deteriorating health and weary of dancing attendance on Prinny. Alban's wife Catherine had left him for a lover and then died in a boating accident some years before, and he had just dismissed his latest mistress Jacqueline when he found she was passing on pillow talk. Desiring fresh country air and a change, and realizing that it has been too long since he visited his beloved Aunt Eliza, he decides to go north to his hunting box, Boden House, in Yorkshire. Three friends more or less invite themselves along -- among them the Earl of Orkenay.
Alban's Aunt Eliza lives in Bodenthorpe Cottage nearby with her companion, Mrs. Kittie Douglas. Lady Eliza Burstead had never married, after someone in her past named Harry had left her to marry another. She had been a strong and vigorous woman and had loved Alban when his parents neglected him -- his father for diplomatic missions and his mother for London society. But she was also a proud woman, and she had not told him that she was losing her vision; it is Kittie who has been reading his letters to her and writing out her replies. Alban is horrified to find that Lady Eliza's vision is completely gone. He quickly comes to see that she loves Kittie like a daughter and is dependent upon her for company and comfort.
Alban also sees that Kittie, a widow, is beautiful and desirable. He thinks her unsuitable as a wife because of her station and unavailable as a mistress because that would hurt Lady Eliza. He also sees Kittie pursued by Orkenay and appearing to encourage him.
Kittie herself had fallen in love with the image of Alban in the letters, but when faced with the reality, her own dormant emotions awaken, and she must decide whether to take the passion she craves again, even if it means losing her sense of self-worth -- because neither Alban nor Orkenay have marriage in mind.
I like this novel for its solid characterizations. Alban, Kittie, Lady Eliza, Orkenay and other subsidiary characters I haven't mentioned are all distinct individuals with their own histories and problems; in particular the attitudes and comments of Kittie's own visiting friends add a bit of humor to this otherwise fairly serious novel. It's a good solid read and I'd recommend it. (Posted by Janice 4/19/13)
#347 The Avenging Maid
by Janis Susan May
Published December 1980 by Candlelight Regency (Special #625)
When news is received that her young brother Anthony has died at school, Miss Philippa Stanhope-Fredericks puts her grief aside to investigate St. Gregory's School. She has her own maid Maggie teach her the ways of life below stairs, and gives out that she is going to her old nurse to stay for a while. Calling herself Maggie she gets work as a scullery maid at the school.
But unbeknownst to Philippa, her father had sent his own investigator to the school. As history master Geraint Catton, Lord Paul Geraint Ludlowe is also investigating. Conditions at the school are appalling; the boys are half-starved and discipline is severe, with hired bullies as monitors and boys thrown into the punishment box for the slightest infraction. When the school is raided, the ringleader burns it down, trying to destroy the evidence and "Maggie", the witness who knows too much, as well. Philippa survives the fire, but Geraint draws an incorrect conclusion -- he believes she was one of the conspirators and his feelings for her turn from love to contempt.
This is an old fashioned sort of romance, full of melodrama and lots of plot. The style seems rather dated to me, and there are no unique elements in it. I finished it mostly to see how the plot would be resolved, but toward the end I found myself skimming. If I had found it on the beach of my desert island, I'd probably try to read it but I wouldn't be brokenhearted if the tide swept it away before I was done. (Posted by Janice 4/11/13)
#346 The Gallant Governess
by Pamela Frazier (aka Ellen Fitzgerald)
ISBN: 0425113280, 9780425113288
Published January 1989 by Berkley
Handsome, charming Mr. James Deering pursued Miss Claudia Barnett with honorable intentions -- because he couldn't get control of her dowry any other way. Young Claudia fell like a rock, but when Deering when to make his offer, Sir Adrian told him that he was ruined and Barnett Hold would have to be sold. Deering rode off without even seeing Claudia; she was disappointed but soon realized she had had a narrow escape. Not long afterward her father Sir Adrian died, and Claudia was left penniless. She went to her old governess Miss Dalton, who put her in the way of obtaining a position.
Several years later, Claudia (now calling herself Miss Barnes in order to avoid the shame of her father's financial ruin) is asked by her current employers, Lord and Lady Crozier, to accompany their eldest daughter Eliza to London for her come-out, where they are to stay with Eliza's great aunt Miss Harriet Crozier. Eliza is amazingly beautiful, but she is a vicious little witch who enjoys inflicting petty cruelties to persons not in a position to fight back. For some reason, however, Claudia seems to have a bit of influence on Eliza (or so her parents think).
Once in London, Eliza enters the social whirl from which Claudia, no longer Miss Barnett of Barnett Hold, is excluded; she must sit on the sidelines with the chaperones. Claudia meets Eliza's cousin Sir Richard Neville, a kind and honorable man who shows Claudia some attention and courtesy despite Eliza's spite. It is not long until Deering, now Lord Lowther, and again in search of a fortune, targets Eliza. Claudia must decide whether to tell Sir Richard and Miss Harriet about the true character of Eliza's suitor, since if she discloses what she knows, she will also have to disclose the deception she has been practicing herself.
I enjoyed this short novel mostly on the plot level. I was intrigued by the heroine's situation, and I read on to see what would happen to her and whether retribution would find Deering and Eliza in a satisfying manner (as it did). There are one or two funny bits in it as well. In the main it's not a particularly new or memorable book but it was a fast read that held my attention. (Posted by Janice 4/4/13)
#345 Lady Elizabeth's Comet
by Sheila Simonson
ISBN: 0802708374, 9780802708373, 0446300365, 9780446300360, 9781601740465, 1601740468
Published 1985 by Walker, reprinted 1986 by Warner. Available as e-book also.
Lady Elizabeth Conway lives in the Dower House at Brecon, home of the Earls of Clanross, with two of her several sisters, the terrible teen twins Maggie and Jean. Elizabeth is twenty-eight and has had offers, which she refused, both out of lack of interest in her suitors and passion for her astronomical studies. One of her suitors, Viscount Bevis, is particularly persistent, and though Elizabeth likes him and is somewhat attracted to him, thus far she has refused all of his offers of marriage.
In due course her father's heir, Thomas Conway, a distant second cousin who unexpectedly became the new Earl of Clanross, presents himself. At first Elizabeth is not impressed with him; he seems a dry, gray, stiff stick of a man. Later she learns that his appearance is because he suffered terrible shrapnel wounds in his arm and back; he barely survived and is in constant pain. Nevertheless he tries to fulfill his new responsibilities as head of the Clanross family and initially there are clashes over Elizabeth's arrangements for her sisters, among other things. Their relationship especially improves when Elizabeth discovers, that unlike her constant suitor Bevis, Clanross not only does not object to her studies, he admires and supports her in them.
This is another of Sheila Simonson's loosely connected regency series, the other titles being The Bar Sinister, Love and Folly and A Cousinly Connexion. It's a little difficult to say in what order these books should be read and they don't seem to have been published in any sort of order. About all I see from a short look-through is that the order is probably The Bar Sinister, Lady Elizabeth's Comet (or maybe A Cousinly Connexion) and Love and Folly (set in 1820) the last. On the other hand, it's not really necessary; they can all be read as standalones. They are all stories of family and family connections, and of the Napoleonic Wars and their aftermath, with decent, honorable heroes and intelligent heroines. The focus is not narrowed to the central couple, and there is a large cast of characters who appear in some or all of the books; they are not simple linear tales. This one is written in first person. Some readers may not care for their complexity, but I found them all engrossing and entertaining. (Posted by Janice 3/31/13)
As Janice said, Lady Elizabeth's Comet is written in first person, something I'm usually not that keen on but, here it works. Lady Elizabeth is a new character but Tom Conway has already made a brief appearance in The Bar Sinister, and both he and Elizabeth have substantial parts in the sequel Love and Folly. This is a great read with lots of atmosphere, with a mature hero and heroine behaving as real people, rather than as stupid idiots to forward the plot or mere paper cutouts masquerading as interesting characters. I love Sheila Simonson's writing style and only regret she didn't write more than four Regencies, which are all on my keeper shelf. Highly recommended! (Posted by yvonne 3/31/13)
#344 French Leave
by Maggie MacKeever
Published August 1988 by Fawcett Regency
Barbary Dennison, nee Williamson, had married for love, but the relationship foundered on misunderstandings and immaturity and her husband Conor left for the continent with an opera dancer, leaving Barbary with no funds. Barbary thought herself in love with Lord Grafton, but just as she was about to hit him up for a loan, that gentleman informed her that he was to be married. Using the proceeds from pawning Lord Grafton's watch, which she had purloined during his last visit, Barbary fled England for the continent to escape her debts, accompanied by her one remaining servant, Tibble.
While on the road to Paris, the diligence was held up and one of the brigands forced a packet of documents on Barbary. When she arrived in Paris, Barbary went to her cousin, Mlle Amabel Foliot (Mab). Although Mab was a few years older, she and Barbary were otherwise extremely similar in appearance. Mab's father had been an artist and Mab earned her bread by posing for an artist's studio. One day Eduoard, Duc de Gascoigne insisted on escorting Mab home, hoping to make her his petite amie, but when he tried to kiss her, Mab hit him with the chocolate pot. Edouard wakes up without his memory, and confusion ensues as Barbary, Conor, Mab and Edouard sort themselves out amidst Jacobins, French police, artists and grasping landladies.
This is a short fast little farce which only works if one doesn't expect much in the way of credibility or characterization. It is very competently written, for what it is, but it's all plot and confusion, like a carefully staged play. I didn't care what happened to anybody in it and I didn't believe a word of it. (Posted by Janice 3/22/13)
#343 The Bellwood Treasure
by Lillian Lincoln (aka Barbara Hazard)
ISBN: 0449211878, 9780449211878
Published February 1987 by Fawcett Regency
Viscount Dorset (Robert) shares Dorset Hall in Kent with his uncle Lord Nigel Partington and Nigel's town beau son Fitzallen. Despite the fact that his uncle and cousin are living in luxury in Robert's home, he is often the target of criticism and disparagement from both of these gentlemen with regard to his size (over six feet tall), clumsiness, lack of interest in dress and preoccupation with his lands and farming, but Robert deflects their jibes and disregards them.
News reaches Dorset Hall that the neighboring estate of Bellwood has a new owner. Robert has the first look at the new owner of Bellwood, Miss Arden Grey, and her cousin Lady Margaret Summers, but he fails to impress, as he has stopped to help get a cart out of the mud and has fallen into it. Arden calls him The Mud Man.
Arden, an American, had come to England to take up her inheritance after her father died and her mother remarried. She is dismayed by the disintegrating pile that is Bellwood but resolves to set it to rights and make it her home, and Robert, being a good neighbor, sends her his men to repair the house and his cats to deal with its rodent population.
Soon Robert is falling in love with Arden, but she sees him only as a big brother. Arden wants a different sort of husband - passionate and commanding - and it does not seem that Robert, with his laid back ways, would ever do.
I found this a light entertaining read with some good characterizations and a solid secondary romance. There were one or two loose ends and I do believe the plot occasionally got in the way of the story, but I enjoyed it for its characters and its country setting. I wouldn't say it was particularly memorable, but it held my interest to the end. (Posted by Janice 2/20/13)
#342 A Lady Of Fortune
by Blanche Chenier
Published as #25, February 1980 by Fawcett Coventry
German - Zauberhafte Harriet (Patricia Bezaubernde romantische Liebesromane) OCLC: 74591814 (ISBN not available)
"If only men were honest when they proposed to me!" Harriet cried.
"If only one of them would say, Miss Ashley, I adore your fortune!
May I marry it? I would at least have some respect for him." Miss Harriet Ashley, orphaned at the age of five, was raised by the seven guardians appointed to manage her fortune. Now eighteen years old, she lives in London and is the target of every fortune hunter with entry to the ton. Before she became ill with consumption (from which she is recovering), she was plump and thought herself so plain that none of her suitors could possibly want her for herself. When Harriet tells one of her trustees, Sir Benjamin Harding, that she intends to marry only for love, his response goads Harriet into setting a wager: she will live for three months in the modest fashion of a shop clerk or maid. If she wins, he will not object to her plan; if she loses, she will accept his candidate for her husband.
Harriet gives out that she is going to Devon to recover from her illness, and soon, with Sir Benjamin's help, she is established in rooms at 9 New Millman Street, where no one knows that she is a wealthy heiress. Among the lodgers in the house are two men who pique Harriet's interest. One is Mr. John Bellingham, who is in London to pursue compensation from the government for wrongs he suffered while he was in Russia on business. The other is Mr. William Grey, who admits to Harriet that every night he goes "hunting" for a rich wife.
This is an oddly structured novel in that it begins as a light romance but then takes a sudden left turn into the historical events surrounding the assassination of the prime minister Mr. Perceval and the trial of his killer (with Mr. Garrow for the Crown), and then picks up the romance plot again. There are other odd notes as well; Harriet lives in her London house without an older lady as chaperone/companion; she and her friend walk out in the streets of London without maid or footman to accompany them; and Harriet has tuberculosis but no one seems to find that particularly worrisome. I found the book absorbing enough to finish, but I don't think it jelled very well; the tone of the romance and history threads is too disparate. (Posted by Janice 2/15/13)
#341 A Doubting Lady
by Dorothea Donley
ISBN: 0821762192, 9780821762196
Published June 1999 by Zebra Regency
Miss Dia Carlisle lives with her widowed mother in a three room suite in a modest but respectable boarding house at No. 2 Langham Court in London. The late Mr. Carlisle was a man of good family who had only a small patrimony and earned a living for his little family as a crammer, tutoring in the classics. Mrs. Carlisle was a sweet, pretty ninnyhammer, so it was her father who gave Dia her education, her principles and her good common sense. Now that he is gone, it is Dia who manages her mother and their small income. But despite Dia's best efforts, money has run short, so she takes her prized gold bracelet to Hendrick's to sell it. When the jeweler offers her less than she was hoping for, an unknown gentleman steps forward and gives her fifty pounds for it.
Francis Dubois Milne, Viscount Knollton had been struck by Dia's beauty and pretty ways, but it was clear that Dia was neither of the sophisticated upper class nor a woman of the lower classes available for a price, and therefore dalliance with her would be out of the question. Nevertheless Knollton, who was bored with the usual parade of ton misses, grew more and more intrigued with Dia, and began to create opportunities to see her -- always in the most proper fashion. Despite his care, one Lord Springborn sees them together and starts spreading gossip about Knollton's new unknown -- prompting Dia's numerous supporters at No. 2 Langham Court, his own servants and even his stepmama Lady Knollton and the lofty Mrs. Drummond-Burrell to take a hand. Some hope to promote a match, others view that with misgiving, but all hope to protect Dia from heartbreak.
I liked this pleasant little tale of two people from different classes slowly falling in love, with their friends looking on, sometimes aiding, sometimes hindering, but always with Dia's and Knollton's best interests at heart. I think in its way it gives a better picture of regency life than most current regencies. Its middle class characters are reasonably comfortable but they aren't drowning in material goods and they do not take them for granted. Many of the characters attend church services as a natural and normal part of their lives, and I often wonder why this is omitted by so many authors now; it's as if because church-going is not part of their lives, they forget to include it in the lives of their regency characters. It seemed to me that this author liked all her characters and was interested in their lives, which she portrays with sweet affection and quiet humor, and so I liked them too. (Posted by Janice 2/2/13)
#340 A London Season
by Patricia Bray
Published October 1997 by Zebra
Hebrew - Aviv be-London, OCLC Number 41946373 (ISBN unknown)
While Miss Jane Sedgwick's father had been alive, he, his wife Lady Alice and their nine children had lived modestly but comfortably in the country at their Yorkshire estate. When her husband died, Lady Alice hired a steward who was either incompetent or dishonest; he fled when a full accounting was requested. The family was reduced to selling off farm land, renting out the manor house and living in the cottage, and it fell upon Jane to disentangle the financial mess. Even with all the economies Jane can make, they can barely afford the quarterly mortgage payments; schooling for the boys as would befit the grandsons of a duke is out of the question. It seems the only solution is for Jane to go to London to find a wealthy husband.
Jane's aunt never liked her prettier sister, and it took the direct orders (and carte blanche for clothes for her and Jane for the season) of her husband Lord Barton to induce her to extend an invitation to Jane for a London Season. Though she feels a complete country bumpkin, Jane accepts.
Once in London, Jane meets Lord Barton's nephew Matthew Kingsley, Viscount Glendale and commits the gaucherie of making herself known to him before her aunt has her properly kitted out to meet Society. Matthew has a poor opinion of women because he has been jilted, but out of liking for Jane and dislike for his aunt, he begins to try to help Jane make a success in London.
However, when Jane's deception about her family's true circumstances starts to come to light, Matthew sees her as a fortune hunter, and he makes a foolish bet with his best friend Freddie. News of the bet gets about and immediately the good impression Jane had made in London is dashed and she is shunned. As Matthew learns the truth, he regrets the bet, and must figure out how to fix things.
I like "what can she do?" stories, and this is a pretty good one. I liked seeing how Jane coped with one disaster after another, at home and in London, with grace and resolution. Matthew's change of heart was handled in a natural manner, without melodrama. There are several good subsidiary characters as well. Matthew's friend Freddie is the hero of Lord Freddie's First Love, but otherwise this is a standalone. There is nothing outstandingly new in this tale, but it's a pleasant one which those who enjoy family life tales as I do might enjoy. (Posted by Janice 1/27/13)
#339 A Fine Gentleman
by Laura Matthews
ISBN: 0451198727,9780451198723, 0708943934, 9780708943939
Published November 1999 by Signet Regency (Penguin). Large print edition published 2001 by Ulverscroft, ebook format also available.
Richard Winslow, Viscount Hartville is as fond of his mama as he is exasperated at her transparent attempts to interest him in marrying. To this end Lady Hartville has invited another candidate, a distant cousin called Caroline Carruthers, to make a visit of unspecified length, ostensibly to be company for her. Hartville is not impressed by Miss Carruthers; he thinks her angelic and insipid.
Only a few days after Miss Carruthers arrives, a pretty little girl called Wilhelmina is dropped off at Berwick Hall. Willy is only four, doesn't know her full name, and comes with only one clue to her identity: a locket she wears around her neck with her mama's miniature in it. She knows only that she can't stay with JoJo and Molly, the couple who had been caring for her, and so she has been sent to Hartville to look after -- and she has the look of a Carruthers. Aware that people think he must be the father, and because Lady Hartville and Caroline won't have it any other way, Hartville takes Willy in until the mystery of her parentage and situation can be resolved.
As Hartville comes to know Caroline, whose true spirit begins to show itself in her support and care of Willy, he sees that she's not the milk and water miss he had thought her. Caroline, however, is not interested in him; she thinks herself in love with her feckless brother Jeremy's great good friend Giles Markingham and believes that Giles intends to make her an offer. Giles does so intend, but it's not the kind of offer Caroline would ever accept.
This is a pleasant story of two people overcoming their negative first impressions of each other, with a bit of mystery thrown in. It has some fairly serious aspects, but it's not dark, and there are one or two very funny scenes before its plot is all wrapped up (and very tidily too). I liked it. (Posted by Janice 1/20/13)
I enjoyed this book too. Caroline and Richard are normal people, acting and behaving in the main as normal people do and facing normal problems to overcome, rather than the thumped up ones we often see and which only makes me want to slap some sense into the characters: There's nothing of the usually sensible heroine who sees a light on the beach and decides to go investigating - in her nightclothes yet. I particularly like that we have here a strong heroine who's not feisty as in the now common stubborn, argumentative, bold way that's sooo tiring! Caroline has moral strength and integrity; life has cut her a rough deal yet she refuses to act the victim. I liked that!
Author Laura Matthews could almost be said to specialize in domestic novels, as I guess we might call this interaction between people in a more or less closed setting, and often with rural aspects. With a few exceptions (The Ardent Lady Amelia springs to mind) there are no spies or major adventures in her books but rather the natural development of falling in love. Often her characters, particularly her heroines, show a lot of personal growth from the moment the walk onto our stage until we close the covers. This one is not different. Caroline normally lives in London, although the whole book takes place around Lord Hartville's country estate, and she has to learn the difference between love and infatuation, as well as mentally deal with her own less than wonderful childhood. Nice change of pace after overindulging on Almack's and the London Season. (Posted by yvonne 1/20/13)
#338 A Dedicated Scoundrel
by Anne Barbour
ISBN: 0451192540, 9780451192547, 9780709083481, 0709083483
Published June 1997 by Signet Regency (Penguin), Reprinted 2008 by Hale (UK). Also available in ebook format
Lord Justin Belforte was the second son of the Duke of Sheffield. Justin reminded his father of his second wife Amelie, whom he had loved with great passion but against his judgment, resulting in a miserable union and a wretched childhood for Justin, who was always compared unfavorably to his perfect elder brother St. John. After an incident in which Justin misbehaved at college again, the duke shut his doors to his rebellious son. Justin joined the military and while on campaign in Portugal was suspected of treason in the escape of a French general. A body was found that was identified as Justin by a handkerchief; Justin returned secretly to London, with the world believing him dead.
Justin set out to prove his innocence and identify the true traitor, but London was too hot for him, so he sought a bolthole in the country. On his way to Longbarrow, a lesser property of his father, Justin rescued a lady and her dog from a collapsing shack, and was whacked on the head when the shack collapsed on him.
The lady was Miss Catherine Meade, who lived at Winter's Keep with her grandmother Lady Jane Winter and her friend Mariah. When he awoke in their care, Justin had amnesia. The amnesia quickly resolved itself but he allowed the ladies to go on believing he did not know his identity, so that he could pursue his investigations into the matter of his alleged treason -- and woo Catherine as well. But Catherine is not an easy woman to win; she has her own painful past to deal with.
This is what I'd call a good solid read. Although there is a very solid mystery plot with a good deal of adventure and military detail, it doesn't get in the way of the real story -- Justin and Catherine both coming to terms with their pasts, learning the truth, abandoning their self deceptions and forming a true and lasting love for each other. I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 1/16/13)
#337 An Irresistible Pursuit
by Rebecca Robbins
Published August 1995 by Avon
Miss Phoebe Lawton was very certain of one thing: she never wanted to marry. Her late father had been a very selfish man who made promises he never kept and had spent every shilling of her late mother's fortune before he died. Phoebe would have been penniless if not for her maternal aunt, Miss Hepsibah Snood, an independent-minded spinster who left Phoebe her entire fortune. Phoebe had endured several Seasons in London and had refused all offers she received, preferring to live with her paid companion, Miss Mathilde Stoat.
Phoebe's passion is Ancient Egyptian artifacts, in particular a piece currently on display at the London Metropolitan Museum called the Eye of Horus, made of ruby, sapphire and black diamond. The Eye had been found by Sir Malcolm Forbes at the tomb of Setet II, a Dynasty IV pharaoh, and he had donated it to the Museum. When Phoebe tries to purchase the Eye from the Museum to add to her collection, she is turned down -- as was Malcolm when he made a similar offer. Both independently decide that if they can't buy the Eye, they will burgle it. Phoebe wants the Eye for her antiquities collection, but Malcolm wants it because he believes that the curse inscribed on the back of the Eye is real and the Eye must be destroyed before more people die.
I know this book is intended to be a lightweight piece of romantic comedy fluff, but it is so riddled with false notes and outright errors that I found it impossible. It seemed to me that the author was as little familiar with Regency era customs as she was with ancient Egyptian history, culture and jewelry, nor did I find the central couple credible or even interesting. Since this book was written in 1995, when access to the internet was no longer a Big Deal, and there were still lots of libraries with real books in them, there's no excuse for the nonsense. I cannot recommend this book on any level. (Posted by Janice 1/9/13)
#336 The Unwelcome Suitor
by Marjorie DeBoer
Published August 1984 by Signet Regency (Penguin)
Miss Elena Tyndale, daughter of Sir John and Lady Tyndale of Tyndale Green, visited Cheltenham Spa under the aegis of the Duke and Duchess of Malvern, where she met the Duchess's nephew, Captain Rodney Farnesworth. Besotted by Farnesworth, Elena ran off to Gretna Green with him and they were married. Five days later she was a widow. Farnesworth had been killed in an apparent tavern brawl; with his dying breath he blamed a fellow officer, "that damned McLean".
When Elena returned home, mourning her husband, her parents hushed up the scandal and had the marriage annulled. After some months Elena's mother told her that it was time to begin looking for another husband; Elena was to go to her aunt Lady Cunnington in London for the come-out she had never had; she was to pretend the whole thing never happened.
Now in London, presenting herself as an unmarried young lady, Elena is courted by Lawrence McLean, now Viscount Harcourt -- the man her husband had named as his killer. There was, of course, another side to the story, and Elena comes to understand that Lawrence (who has fallen in love with her) is not the villain her husband had made him seem. Unfortunately there is a real villain on the scene -- Lawrence's mother wants him to marry a different girl and so she spreads rumors that Elena is no better than she should be and that she had been away from London for eight months not because she was mourning a husband but because she was pregnant with a bastard child.
I liked this book primarily because of its craft -- there were several twists to the plot and they were well paced. It held my interest on the plot level, but I can't say that I was ever drawn into it emotionally -- which, in a romance, is a weakness. It was an entertaining enough read but not the sort of thing that sticks with me, except for the character of Lawrence's mama, one of those mothers-in-law (to be) from hell who are darn near as ubiquitous in regencies as Dukes, mistresses and spies. (Posted by Janice 12/21/12)
#335 The Earl's Season
by Emma Lange
ISBN: 0451191242, 9780451191243
Published May 1997 by Signet Regency (Penguin)
Lady Juliana Whitfield is the wealthy twenty-five year old widow of a rich man who acquired his fortune through trade and his title through lending money to Prinny. Baron Whitfield was old enough to be her grandfather, and at seventeen she had been forced to marry him by her wastrel father and sadistic half brother, who beat her savagely when she tried to evade the marriage (being careful not to mar her highly marketable beauty). Her husband used also to beat her and kept her in the country away from society or friends. He gave her music, books and nice clothes and let her ride, but otherwise she was a virtual prisoner. He never let her see anybody her own age and her only friend was her maid Randall. She had no children by him, though it was a real marriage in that sense.
Fanny, Juliana's old school friend, is lonely without her husband Lord Charles, who is on a diplomatic mission to Egypt, and so she has invited Juliana to London for the Season. Because she had never had a Season in London, thanks to her father and her husband, Juliana is very happy to stay with Fanny and experience the balls and other entertainments of the Season, all of which are new to her.
It transpires that actually Fanny has been plotting; she would like Juliana to marry her brother Alex, the Earl of Hampton. However, Alex resents being manipulated, and Juliana has no intention of ever remarrying (or even taking a lover) because she doesn't ever want to be in any man's power again. Alex at first thinks Juliana is no better than a whore who sold her beauty to an old man to get his money, but little by little the true story of Juliana's background emerges and his estimation of the lady begins to change.
I found this book quite readable, even though at times Juliana's complete victimization by father, brother and husband strained my sense of disbelief; I found it a bit much that every man who had authority over her in her early life was that much of a beast, though I suppose we could find examples in history. How Juliana withstood such treatment for so long without having her spirit crushed or going mad didn't seem well explained to me, but I suppose if she weren't exceptional, she wouldn't be the heroine. The ending seemed rushed to me, as the hero's dispatch of the villains occurs entirely offscreen, which seems rather unsatisfying. Nevertheless the book held my interest and I would recommend it if you like "woman with a huge problem" themed books. (Posted by Janice 12/11/12)
#334 The Elusive Countess
by Elizabeth Barron
Published October 1987 by Warner Books
Back in the day Queen Elizabeth I created the earldom of Beresford, and since she saw no reason whatsoever not to pass titles to females, Horatia Rosaline Fleming's father the Earl could not prevent his only child from becoming Countess of Beresford in her own right upon his death, even though he hated the idea that he would not be followed by a son. So he did what was (to him) the next best thing: he had her cousin Oliver Prescott raised at Beresford Castle as if he were the heir and with the expectation that Rosaline would marry him.
Had Oliver been a decent human being, it wouldn't have been a bad plan, but Oliver was a sadistic creep who even strangled her kitten. Within days of the Earl's death he tried to force Rosaline to agree to the marriage by attempting to rape her, and Rosaline stabbed him with the little silver dagger she had learned to carry at all times. Oliver was only wounded so Rosaline fled alone into the night, taking nothing but her jewels.
It was a dark and stormy night upon Exmoor and Rosaline would have died of exposure if not for a timely rescue by an unknown gentleman, who found a shepherd's hut where they sheltered that night. Her rescuer did not seem like a creep, and he took every care of her, but Rosaline knew that Oliver would set agents on her trail and thought he was one of them, so she bolted in the morning. For his part, her rescuer thought she was some lady's maid who had absconded with her mistress's jewels. Rosaline made her way to the nearest town, where she was invited to join a theatrical company (she had inherited her actress mother's talent and beauty).
Her performance was seen by Francis, Lord Kenmore; he desired her immediately as his mistress, but he was a genuine theatre aficionado also, so he invited her to join him at his estate Luxford House to take the role of Kate Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer. Kenmore promised to be good, but from the beginning he pursued his plans for seduction, and Kate did not discourage him enough because she hoped for his help in dealing with Oliver. It was a most uncomfortable situation for Kate, what with Kenmore's advances, pursuit by her cousin, and the recognition that her host's bespectacled secretary Richard Courtenay was the unknown gentleman who had rescued her at Exmoor.
This is an interesting book because it shows the change in fiction fashion; it is a much more melodramatic tale along the lines of some florid 1940s movie with Rhonda Fleming or some other flashy redhead striking attitudes and George Sanders as the suave would-be seducer Kenmore doing all but twirling a moustache. The depth of characterization is not what we would expect today and there's last minute rescues and a deal of talk about honor and virtue. The ending is not dramatically satisfying because it has to function also as the setup for the next book, An Amicable Arrangement, of which Kenmore is the hero. I'm not really interested in this style of storytelling but I did at least finish it. (Posted by Janice 12/7/12)
#333 Sweet Doro
by Dixie Lee McKeone
Published September 1989 by Harlequin (Regency Romance #9)
Spanish - El corazón nunca olvida, ISBN 8439620209, 9788439620204
At 18 Dorothea was much in love with a certain young man, but she was forced into marrying the much older Baron of Linsterhope by her greedy brother. At first her husband was kind and considerate to Doro, and she loved his two grandchildren Tom, 4, and Farrie, 2, immediately. However, a few months after the marriage, the baron had a stroke which caused a personality shift, and for the last ten years of his life he ruled all their lives from his chamber. He became meanspirited and clutchfisted and even after his death Doro, Farrie and Tom lived with chipped china, mended clothes and a skeleton staff at Marvale because all the money, even Doro's jointure, was tied up until Tom reached 21.
Tom is now 20; the young Baron Linsterhope will gain control of his fortune soon, which means that even in Yorkshire Captain Sharps have targeted him. Doro decides to use a recent small inheritance from a cousin to take both her charges to London, in hopes that town life will teach them to tell fortune hunters from genuine friends.
The man Doro had fancied back then, Garreth Amberson, now Viscount Tolver, had never married. He is guardian to young Charles Landruth, Marquess of Ridgeley, and is also worried about his charge's lack of experience. When Garreth and Doro meet again in London, they both believe that a friendship between the four young people (the fourth is Lady Amelia Easterling, a childhood friend of Charlie's) will make things easier for them when they go into society. The plan works very well -- except that Doro has never forgotten Garreth and is falling in love with him all over again.
There is nothing new in this tale of young lovers now grown into responsible adults rediscovering the feelings that once brought them together, but it's pleasantly told, with no spies, crazies, murderers or whores to muck it up with false melodrama. It's just a pleasant hour with some nice, normal people for once. I enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 11/26/12)
I've read this one too and was a bit disappointed, mainly because McKeone's other Regencies, especially Daughters Four, are so much more charming. I guess I simply never warmed up to Doro and Garreth. Lighter fare is fine by me but somehow these people didn't much interest me. Maybe because there are too many of them! (Posted by yvonne 11/26/12)
#332 Summer Masquerade
by Blanche Chenier
Published 1978 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Isabella Makepeace and her two best friends Sophia and Harriet are enjoying all that London has to offer in the summer of 1811. Among the gentlemen Isabella has met is Lord Orgrave and, impressed by his air of fashion, she believes herself in love with him, although her two friends do not like him much and consider him a shallow social climber. One evening Isabella sneaks out alone to attend a masquerade at the King's Theatre, where she sees, and is seen by, Mrs. Melesina Browne, a seductive widow. The masquerade proves to be much rowdier than Isabella had anticipated, but a mysterious masked stranger extracts her from the situation and sees her home.
The next day during a Mock Hunt, Melesina follows Isabella and whips her horse unseen; though a very good rider, Isabella is thrown. The same mysterious stranger finds her unconscious and takes her back to his home to recover. When she awakens, her rescuer introduces himself as the Marquis of Claremont. Because she is concussed and temporarily blind, Isabella cannot see the long scar which disfigures his face, nor can she recall how she came to be injured.
As Isabella comes to know the Marquis better, she begins to realize that her feelings have changed. The infatuation she had for Lord Orgrave has worn off, just as that gentleman has decided that she is good enough for him to marry after all, because she has now been noticed by the Prince Regent. Orgrave begins to pursue her in earnest, while Melesina weaves her own plots for reasons of her own.
I had mixed feelings about this book, even allowing for its age. At first it seems a set piece in which the heroine and her friends (curiously unattended by escorts, chaperones or parents, mostly) flit about London and are present at several well known historical events such as Prinny's Carlton House Fete with the river down the dinner table with real fish in it. Then it takes a left turn into melodrama with attacks, secrets, kidnappings, scars, black widows and the like, to which the story of Isabella growing up and transferring her emotions from an unworthy man to a better one takes second place. I found it an okay read on the what-happens-next level, but I did not find it emotionally engaging or even particularly believable. (Posted by Janice 11/20/12)
#331 Miss Mouse
by Mira Stables
ISBN: 070918414X, 9780709184140, 0449501787, 9780449501788, 085046918X, 9780850469189
Published 1980 by Hale, US edition 1981 by Fawcett Coventry. Large print edition also available
After Mr. Hugh Ashley's death in a hunting accident, it was found that his fortune had all been dissipated in rash speculations and bad luck with blood stock investments; all his holdings had to be sold and his children were left with nothing. With her sister Bridget already married and her brother Dominic given a home and education by his godfather, Miss Graine Ashley sought her livelihood as a governess. Because of her pretty looks, Graine had lost her last two positions -- at one of them the son of the house mooned after her and at the next the men of the house were fine but the guests were another thing altogether.
Therefore when she applied to the Earl of Valminster, Graine used greasepaint, padding, caps, a velvet mole and a fake limp so as to avoid inappropriate advances. His lordship was guardian to one nephew, Benedict, and had his sister's three children also staying at Valminster while their parents were abroad. Benedict's behavior in particular was a problem and a bad influence on the other children.
Graine dealt expeditiously with Benedict's attempts to drive her off (which involved a white mouse, glue on her seat and the ever popular Haunting of the Portrait Gallery) and before long she had won over the children. With her common sense, calm good judgment and pleasant manner, Graine soon became well liked and respected by everyone at Valminster, from the Earl down to the servants.
When she saved the two youngest children from a flash flood and her makeup washed off, everyone saw that there was a very pretty woman under the unattractive facade. Lady Elizabeth, the Earl's sister, thought the pair would suit very well, but it seemed no match could be made -- the Earl thought that at 37 he was too old for Graine, and Graine thought that, though his equal in birth, she was now too far below him in station.
I quite liked this easygoing story of family life peopled with decent responsible adults living ordinary decent lives. There are no spies, no villains and no phony melodrama, and the love story develops slowly and naturally. Since it's written in the older style, there's also no fear of characters saying okay or no way! -- the author's prose is clear and straightforward without being oversimplified. Some might consider it a tad on the bland side, but I enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 11/12/12)
#330 In For A Penny
by Margaret Westhaven
Published March 1988 by Warner Books
Much to everyone's amazement, Miss Penelope Lacey became an heiress when her great aunt Griselda, Lady Lullworth left her entire fortune to her, to be in her sole control when she reached the age of 25. Pen had lived with her Aunt and Uncle Fenshaw and their son Ferdie since her parents died and was thought of and treated as a daughter of the house.
The whole neighborhood knew that Pen had always had a terrible crush on their neighbor, Sir Edward Marchmont, but though Ned was fond of her, the Marchmont estate was falling into ruin and Ned needed to marry money. As soon as he heard the news of Pen's windfall, it seemed to Ned that his problems were solved - he could marry a girl who was crazy about him and have enough to restore his property as well. He quickly went to Pen and made his offer in form, but because he did it so clumsily, Pen believed it was only her money he wanted, roundly turned him down and decamped for Bath shortly thereafter.
Ned, who had by then realized that he was in love with Pen, decided the only way to convince her that he wasn't after her fortune would be to get a fortune of his own somehow, but his only saleable asset, the Marchmont rubies (a particularly hideous parure), was entailed. Nevertheless Ned sold the rubies in London and used the money to fix the roof of Marchmont Hall and make some investments, and then set about trying to win Pen back.
I have read too many light short regencies in a row, I think, because it's gotten so that after 30 pages or so I want to text every bufflehead in the cast in ten words or less what they ought to do so we can have an end to this silliness. So I am probably not the best audience for this particular book. I found myself picking it up and putting it down many times before I was done. That said, it is a pleasant and well written romp, and if someone is in the mood for a spirited trifle, it might suit very well. (Posted by Janice 11/6/12)
#329 Diamonds And The Arrogant Rake
by Anne Hillary (AKA Andrea Edwards)
Published March 1982 by Dell Candlelight Regency
Since his return from the army three years ago, Lord Alex Waring, eldest son of the duke of Herriad, has had a penchant for scandalous behavior which his father deplores. Previous strategies not having worked, the duke threatens to change his will; he cannot change the disposition of the entailed property, but he can and will leave everything else to Alex's Cousin Elizabeth unless Alex marries and settles down by September -- even though the duke has always disliked Elizabeth and her mother intensely. Alex is angered by this ultimatum and decides to marry to spite his father, and how better to do that than by marrying Cousin Elizabeth?
Alex appears at the door of Miss Elizabeth Corbett, spinster, and causes quite a flutter in the dovecote, because Libby has secretly been selling off the diamonds in a necklace belonging to her mother to keep them from starving. When her mother reveals that the necklace isn't really hers but belongs to the duke, Libby assumes Alex has come to recover it and the substitution of some of its stones with paste will surely come to light. When Alex, still intent on confounding his father, proposes marriage, Libby is stunned -- but she agrees because perhaps that way she will be able to conceal her theft of the stones. But Libby does not know the true facts and things don't work out as she expects.
Prolific contemporary series author Andrea Edwards wrote several regencies under the name of Anne Hillary. I have considerable respect for someone who does her job -- meets deadlines, fulfills publisher requirements, and generally behaves in a professional manner -- but other than that, I cannot find anything to admire in this book. The characters are two dimensional stereotypes, the prose is simplified banal stuff, the plot is pure formula, and there are too many false notes in things like title customs and terms not perfectly understood by the author (even allowing for the greater difficulty of researching details pre-internet). It reads very much as if the author read a couple of regencies and thought writing one would be a slam dunk schedule-filler. Perhaps that was true, but writing a *good* regency clearly isn't that easy. (Posted by Janice 10/31/12)
#328 The General's Granddaughter
by Dorothy Mack
Published May 1990 by Signet Regency
Miss Sarah Ridgemont, with her nurse and friend Lottie Miller, runs a hat shop in London under the name of Sarah of Boston. Sarah's father Gerald had quarreled with his father because he would not marry a girl of Sir Hector's choosing and had gone to America with his bride. Sarah's mother never really recovered from the birth of her second child, Richard, and died there. Gerald returned to England with Sarah and Richard; after his death the provision left to Sarah was insufficient to keep them and provide for Richard's future, hence Sarah's career in trade.
However, the payment habits of her customers being what they are, Sarah can barely make ends meet, so she determines to approach her grandfather, not intending to ask anything for herself but only that Sir Hector fund Richard's education. It is winter, Sarah has barely recovered from a bad attack of the influenza, and the coach journey exhausts her so that when she reaches Beech Hill and is assumed to be the new housekeeper they were expecting, she lets the mistake stand.
Sir Hector's neighbor and good friend Mark Trebeque, Viscount Eversley had handled the hiring arrangements, and is suspicious at once, but Sir Hector accepts Sarah once he has had a bit of her famous custard. When confronted, Sarah tells Mark her story and he insists that she tell her grandfather the truth immediately, but whenever Sarah tries, Sir Hector's man turns her away on the grounds that his master is too ill to see her.
Due to the state of Sir Hector's health, the rest of the family has been summoned home - his other son Horace and his wife and two sons Cecil and William, and his arrogant daughter Adelaide, Lady Townsend and her daughter Arabella and son Vincent, Lord Townsend. When it is revealed that Sir Hector had known immediately who Sarah must be - she is the image of his late wife - Sarah must tread carefully amongst a cat's cradle of complex family suspicions, rivalries and stratagems.
I liked this tale of a group of disparate relations stuck in a country house waiting to see who inherits what and plotting and scheming for advantage. I was keen to see how it would all be sorted out. This novel emphasizes family dynamics more than the romantic relationship that develops between Sarah and Mark, and some may find that disappointing, but there was enough going on with everybody else to hold my interest to the end. (Posted by Janice 10/25/12)
#327 A Monstrous Secret
by Rebecca Ward
ISBN: 0449286991, 9780449286999
Published May 1996 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Melinda Weatherby and her loyal former nurse Miss Poll had found their way to a relatively stable position as employees of Augustus Proctor, headmaster and owner of the Proctor School for Young Ladies. After Melinda's parents died, she had been raised by her cousin Arthur and his then wife, a Russian lady called Zenobie, but when Arthur died and Zenobie remarried, the money stopped -- hence Melinda's career as a teacher. Arthur had been Zenobie's second of four husbands, the last of whom had left her as the widowed Lady Darlington.
On the day she had a final disagreement with the revolting Mr. Proctor, Melinda received a letter from Zenobie, saying she was lonely and ill and begging her to come to her in Dorset, to the house by Lake Kendle left her by Lord Darlington. When Melinda arrives, she learns that Zenobie was more lonely than ill, though she does have a heart condition of some kind and should be careful not to overexert herself.
Lord Anthony Hartford had served as a British agent, part of an intelligence group called Calworth's Circle, and had hoped to be done with all that, but his old boss pressures him into searching for French agents known to be after plans to the Subaqua, an experimental submarine being developed by Zenobie's neighbor, Sir Rupert Blyminster. Because of Zenobie's background (her third husband had been a villainous Frenchman) she is the chief suspect, and it doesn't help her case that she has Sir Rupert head over heels for her and letting secret details slip at dinner. Melinda is left torn between her love for her aunt and her growing attraction to Anthony.
Once in a while I'll be reading one of these fast paced plot driven romp things, thinking it's business as usual, when something brings me up short -- some insight or clever observation that resonates for me. In this book it occurs on page 59, when Melinda muses that Anthony is witty and amusing, but what really impresses her is that he listens to her, as if her thoughts matter to him. I have been reading so many more recent regencies in which the primary -- indeed, the only -- bond is a sexual one that this brief note that there is more to a romantic relationship than sex seemed touching and almost quaint. (Posted by Janice 10/18/12)
#326 The Unromantic Lady
by Penelope Stratton
ISBN: 0449223868, 9780449223864, 0709059906, 9780709059905, 0708938361, 9780708938362, 1859032249, 9781859032244
Published March 1996 by Fawcett Crest. UK edition published 1997 by Robert Hale. Large print edition published 1997 by Ulverscroft. Audio recording also available.
Lady Gracebourne despaired of finding a husband for her niece, Miss Diantha Halstow. Diantha was intelligent, beautiful and rich, but her wealth came from her grandfather, the banker Oliver Halstow, and was thus tainted by trade. Even so, Diantha could have attracted many a suitor if she hadn't been so particular. Diantha did not believe in love. Her parents had been in love when they married but their love did not survive for long. Since Alva and Blair Halstow had married against both families' wishes, Blair's father disinherited him and there was no money. Alva's bitterness, which she freely expressed to her daughter, poisoned Diantha's view of men. She did intend to marry, for the extra freedoms she would enjoy as a married woman, but never for love.
Rexford Lytham, Earl Chartridge, had unexpectedly inherited his title, plus a vast financial disaster, from his uncle. Rex had a reasonable competence of his own but it would have been a drop in the bucket when it came to settling the estate's debts. His only alternatives were to sell off all the Chartridge properties (which would barely cover the debts, as well as committing his tenants to an uncertain future) or to marry money. Rex does not trust women because of a disastrous betrayal in his youth and does not wish to marry, but letting the Chartridge properties go, with all their dependents, isn't acceptable either.
Rex and Diantha discuss it all and agree to marry. Diantha especially never supposed that the physical side of their marriage would be so intense. Sex with Rex is exciting and fulfilling, but outside the bedroom things are different. Rex and Diantha talk and laugh together freely and fit in well in their new roles at Chartridge, but Rex does not stay with Diantha to sleep and even great sex doesn't seem to bridge the gulf -- nor allow either one of them to admit that, against their beliefs, they've fallen in love with each other.
I'm a sucker for marriage of convenience stories, and this is a solid one. It has a nice set of subsidiary characters with their own problems to work through, and a good sense of time (1814) and place. It's fairly serious, but there's a bit of humor here and there to contrast. The only weak point for me was that I thought Rex should have Got Over It somewhat sooner in his life than he did, but if he hadn't, likely none of it would have happened at all. (Posted by Janice 10/15/12)
#325 Oh Miranda!
by Joan Smith
Ebook only. Published 2001 by Belgrave House. Reissued 2010 by Amazon.
Lady Wetherby (Miranda), now 30, has been widowed for two years, her husband John having died in a riding accident. The marriage was childless and left Miranda with a modest provision. She has been continuing her quiet life in the country, enlivened only by her friendship with her neighbor, Mrs. Hazard, also a widow, with a 25 year old single daughter, Dorothy. Mrs. Hazard is enormously wealthy as her late husband founded a patent medicine business which she still owns; she is unabashedly vulgar but also very kind and far from stupid.
Mrs. Hazard has decided it is time to find Dorothy a husband. To that end she decides to call herself Mrs. Ffloukes-Hazard (so as not to associate herself with her husband's very famous nostrums. which include pills for restless kiddies with a tiny bit of laudanum to settle them), and to take her daughter for a visit to London, where she hopes to snag her a title. She invites Miranda along as a sort of advisor, to show them how to go on. Miranda believes that her real role will be to rein in and smooth over Mrs. Hazard's excesses, but to her surprise, when Mrs. Hazard launches into a detailed explanation of her wealth and how it was gained, the ladies and gentlemen of the ton are not repelled - on the contrary, all that wealth and the possibility of getting their hands on it carry the day, and Mrs. Hazard is declared an Original.
At their very first evening amongst the ton, Miranda attracts the attention of Lord Bolton (Maxwell), a younger son who had joined the army and unexpectedly inherited. Miranda is quite attracted to Max, and he makes his interest in her clear (despite Mrs. Hazard's belief that he really wants Dorothy), but oh! Miranda - does Max want her as mistress or wife?
This is the last book I can find by Joan Smith and I'm really sorry her long run seems to be ended. I always knew what I was getting with a Joan Smith title - a comedy of manners that skates along at high speed, with lots of sharp observation, skimming over some things but paying plentiful attention to any characters with comic potential. She does not focus tightly on the central romantic relationship and occasionally her characterizations may seem sketchy and her denouements a bit abrupt, but she's so much fun that it doesn't matter, at least not to me. (Posted by Janice 10/9/12)
Note: At this time only available in ebook format.
#324 Julia's Portion
by Ellen Fitzgerald
Published April 1988 by Signet
Julia (her mother's unfavorite child) was married off at 17 to a man who raped her on their wedding night and left her alone thereafter -- until he and two friends staged a scenario which gave him grounds for divorce, in a scam to keep Julia's dowry money. Sent back home in disgrace, reviled by her mother, her older siblings and their spouses, for the next few years Julia lived isolated with her parents. During the last two years of his life, she became her father's companion and a good relationship developed between them. Julia read the financial papers to him and learned about finance, and with her shrewd suggestions, the family fortunes were increased substantially.
Her father understood his other children quite well and knew Julia could expect no kind home with any of them, so he told her that he would see her all right financially. Julia assumed this meant a few thousand pounds to enable her to live independently (after her painful experience of men and marriage, she wanted nothing further to do with intimacy). However, when the family descended for the funeral and the reading of the will, Julia received an astonishing fifty thousand pounds, and they were enraged. Julia had unwisely told them that she planned to remove to Brighton after the funeral, so they locked her in her room, planning to keep her imprisoned until she signed over control of that fifty thousand pounds to them. But her cousin David and her clever man of business Mr. Soames smuggled her out and away to Brighton to begin a new life.
Because of her seclusion and lack of experience, Julia at 25 was a little bit unworldly and still green as grass. Because her disgrace was known, she assumed she was unapproachable, and because no one in her daily life ever told her so, she was unaware how pretty she was. When she was caught abroad without her maid and accosted, she fled into the sea to escape and would have drowned if Richard Neville, Earl of Aylsford hadn't rescued her.
Richard too had an arranged betrothal with a neighbor girl he grew up with in Cornwall, and he was on his way to claim his bride Diana, and Julia perforce accompanied him on the yacht. Diana had been a wilful child and because of her great beauty, had grown up unchecked - a Beautiful Miss Wield, but with an added mean streak which puts Julia's very life at risk.
This is a short, fast read, more plot than substance. What especially weakens it for me is that whenever the author got near a really meaty dramatic situation - Julia's disgrace, her family's vile and greedy treatment of her - it's dropped for another melodramatic plot incident, and one of the two final confrontations takes place entirely offscreen. The book ends with an epilogue in which everyone seems to get a happy ending, even Diana the Bitch (well, it was what Diana would consider happy). I can recommend it as a one hour plot level amusement but not as a study of human emotions with any depth to it. (Posted by Janice 9/30/12)
#323 Lady Barbara
by Claudette Williams
ISBN: 0449212807, 9780449212806
Published 1989 by Fawcett Crest
The first thing Lady Barbara Saunders learns about Lord John Connwood is that with his ginger and gray hair he is quite a striking gentleman, and the second thing she learns from her married best friend Donna is that he's all but betrothed to Lady Sarah Grey - he is expected to offer for her as soon as her mourning ends. Bee and Donna are both horse and hunting mad, as are Bee's father the Earl of Saunders, Donna's husband Robby and Connwood as well. All prefer the country life and it seems odd that Lady Sarah, who prefers town life, would wish to marry Connwood, but it is said to be a match of family and fortune, not affection.
Connwood and Bee hit it off wonderfully well, but Bee is not yet out and Connwood is semi-promised, so it appears that little will ever come of their acquaintance, until Connwood's very young neighbor Sir Thomas Holland is found to be in danger from the machinations of the next in line for his fortune and Lady Sarah is found to be secretly enamored of another man, and the pair must join efforts to avoid disaster.
Back in the day, when I picked up one of these short series Fawcetts, I generally knew what I was getting: an hour's romp a la Scarecrow & Mrs. King, where there was a lot of fun to be had as long as you didn't ask too many questions about whether this or that could ever really happen, because you knew the answer would be no, it couldn't. The cover for this particular book falls nicely into that class; that horse as painted probably couldn't even stand up, and the heroine is wearing a dress which isn't regency, Victorian, Georgian, Edwardian or western, but an ugly mixture of them all - the sort of cover that makes one wonder what the what? What was the artist thinking? Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book for what it was - a pleasant no brainer that required nothing of me but to keep turning the pages. (Posted by Janice 9/20/12)
#322 The Last Waltz
by Dorothy Mack
Published 1986 by Signet
Due to the recent death of her father, Miss Adrienne Castle is stranded in Brussels with her younger brothers, army-mad Luc and bookish Jean-Paul. She is fortunate to have Miss Anthea Beckworth, a distant relation cast off by her family, to companion her; Becky really runs their small family. Matthew Castle had been a charming, improvident gambler; he left the family very little, and even that is running out. They don't have the funds to return to England, so Adrienne, who is a good piquet player, decides to go in disguise to a gaming house and win the money. Becky has misgivings about the scheme, but helps her disguise herself in a made over blonde wig.
At first Adrienne wins, but her luck does not hold and on her third night she is accosted when leaving the gaming house. Dominic Norcross, Colonel Lord Creighton, rescues her and escorts her home, but she evades him when they near her rooms so that he won't see where she lives nor learn who she is. After Adrienne's near escape Becky realizes that this scheme won't fadge, and she writes to Lady Creighton, Matthew's cousin - and Dominic's mother - for help. Lady Creighton deputizes Dominic to look after them, and when Jean-Paul falls ill with rheumatic fever, the family moves into Dominic's house (against Adrienne's wishes) so that the boy can have proper care.
Dominic's fiancée, Lady Tremayne (Pamela), a beautiful scheming widow, does not care one bit for the idea of a pretty young girl under Dominic's care;. Her loose screw brother Sir Ralph Morrison becomes worried that Pamela's spite will jeopardize her engagement, engineered by the pair of them to get their hands on Dominic's wealth.
This is another novel which takes place in Brussels on the eve of Waterloo. Although several characters, especially Dominic, are military men, there seems very little concern about the final confrontation that people knew was coming, and the battle itself does not occupy much space. It is mostly a story of nice girl vs. wicked fiancée, and a man's gradual recognition that the woman he got himself engaged to is not the one he loves, let alone a nice person. There are one or two Waterloo-set tales I would rate higher, but this one, although there's nothing new in it, is a good solid read (Posted by Janice 9/14/12)
#321 The Rake's Retreat
by Nancy Butler
Published 1999 by Signet
Miss Lovelace Wellesley, nee Potter, ingénue star of Wellesley's Wandering Minstrels, out for a nice walk outside a country inn, witnesses an argument ending in a murder in the nearby woods. Lovelace runs away from the scene and sprains her ankle in a rabbit hole.
Mr. Beecham Bryce has a well deserved reputation as a rake -- so bad his father has disinherited him. Nevertheless, while his father is in Barbados for his health, he is looking after Bryce Prospect, the family estate. Bryce is out riding the cow pasture checking on milk fever when he finds Lovelace. He hears her story and doesn't quite believe it, so he takes her back to the scene of the fight to look for evidence.
Lady Jemima Vale, temporarily free of the incessant demands for attention of her brother, the famed poet Lord Troy, had been sketching ineptly in the wood when Bryce and Lovelace returned. Blood at the scene convinces Bryce that Lovelace did witness a real event. Since Lovelace's parents had thought her napping in the wagon and left the inn without her, Bryce can't leave her there by herself, and so she becomes Bryce's guest, with Jemima and Troy to lend propriety.
Jemima is convinced that no one could possibly be interested in a 29 year old spinster, but Bryce is; breaking through her defenses and teaching her about physical pleasure is, after all, what rakes like Bryce do best. But first he's got to solve many puzzles, not only the murder but also who's been in the library at midnight, making inroads into his brandy and nicking books out of his porn stash.
I liked all the characters in this book, but I particularly liked the portraits of Lovelace the drama queen and Troy, a man fully wrapped up in appreciation of his own genius. This book has an intense and well realized hero/heroine relationship but it's not the whole story. I didn't even mind the French spies. (Posted by Janice 9/10/12)
#320 The Impulsive Governess
by Barbara Allister
Published 1993 by Signet
For years Lady Frederica Montgomery had thought she was in love with (and destined for) her neighbor Henry, but when her self-centered younger sister Ernestine snabbled him instead, Frederica was heartbroken (she thought) and humiliated. Frederica ran away from home and became a governess, cutting all contact with her family.
When her employer moved away and her first position ended, Frederica went to her own old governess, Miss Violet Witherspoon. Violet was in despair; she had been denied employment because she was 'too old'. Frederica interviewed with Lucien Devereaux, Lord Forestal, and both she and Violet were hired to ride herd on Luc's four young cousins and wards.
The children, Diana (16 and set on her presentation), Hester (14 and bookish), Thomas (12) and Belinda (at 4 still really a baby) had driven off prior governesses, but they find that the frog-in-the-bed trick doesn't work on Frederica. Eventually Frederica and Violet establish a good relationship with the children, helping to fill the emotional void left by the deaths of their parents and Luc's frequent
absences. Luc loves the kids but duty calls and he must spy for the War Office. Attempts are made on his life and in one of them Frederica is collateral damage, being wounded in the shoulder. Violet, a much more conventional woman, has been secretly keeping Frederica's brother, Viscount Bassett (George), informed as to Frederica's whereabouts. George descends upon his sister and demands Luc and she marry, but traitors are still out there and if they have their way, Frederica may become a widow before she's been a wife.
I had mixed feelings about this book. It's competently written, and I can't point to anything really wrong with it, but I didn't feel all the elements (family story, spy story, change of heart story) came together somehow. Even though the author spent some time explaining why Frederica ran away, I didn't find that very convincing. I would recommend this book only to those who are suckers for family and governess tales, as I am -- only just not this one. (Posted by Janice 8/30/12)
#319 The Dangerous Dandy
by Carol Proctor
Published 1993 by Signet
Miss Sarah Baxter, beautiful daughter of a wealthy merchant, has fallen in love with Alan Grenfell, a soldier now serving with Wellington on the Peninsula, with whom she has been exchanging letters. Her proud and loving but socially ambitious parents are unaware of her feelings, and wish her to marry a title.
Sarah's best friend is Miss Eglantyne Adstock (Egg). Egg's cousin is Everard, Lord Drakefield, known as The Black Dandy for his custom of always dressing in black. Drakefield inherited impoverished estates and needs a wealthy wife to restore his properties and fund the research of his friend Johnson. As the Love of His Life has married a rich old man and is now Lady Fernbury, it doesn't matter much to him who his bride is. A match is proposed. Both parties are aware that neither is in love with the other, but neither knows the other's secrets.
Sarah cannot refuse outright because her parents would "kill her with kindness" until she eventually gave in. Her only hope is to get Drakefield to withdraw from the match by behaving as a vulgar embarrassment, especially in public. She orders gowns in color that are too bright, always with yellow accessories, but to her amazement, when she is on the arm of the Earl of Drakefield, instead of being shunned, she sets a new fashion and soon every deb in London has swapped her white gloves for yellow.
Sarah is successful in delaying the wedding for a few weeks; she and Drakefield get to know each other better and discover a strong attraction. Egg gets to know Sarah's feckless twin brother Bertie as well. Grenfell writes increasingly warm letters to Sarah with mysterious hints of rumors she should ignore. Drakefield fends off the advances of Lady Fernbury, a conniving lady who wants to have her bit of crumpet and eat it too. And so on.
There's nothing really wrong with this book. It's pleasant enough, and nicely written, but as the tale progressed, I found myself less and less interested in its central characters until by the end I didn't really care whether they sorted themselves out or not. The only exception is Bertie's good friend Mr. Arthur Sheephouse, known as Sheepnose - a kind young man with good instincts who bears jokes and slights on his name and appearance with rare grace. I would so much rather have spent my time reading about Sheepnose meeting a lady who would appreciate him properly, but I was disappointed; it didn't happen. (Posted by Janice 8/25/12)
#318 The Bluestocking On His Knee
by Regina Scott
Published 1999 by Zebra
Miss Eugennia Welch, a heiress with £40,000, lives in London with her companion Miss Martha Tinsdale, and up until recently she has been quite content to pursue her various (if transient) intellectual enthusiasms with little or no thought of love or marriage. Jenny is well known to be a bluestocking.
Mr. Kevin Whattling is a noted Corinthian who has lost his fortune and is deeply in debt, both through his own doing and that of his deceased brother Robbie. Kevin has no practical means of repairing his fortunes other than marrying a rich woman, and with that in mind he begins to court Jenny, helped and/or hindered by his two best friends, Giles and Sir Nigel.
Kevin is not really a wastrel by nature; he and his brother had been led into ruin by George Safton, a very bad sort who specializes in luring wealthy young men into gambling and other excesses and skillfully fleecing them. Kevin knows now that Safton is bad news, and may even have had a role in the death of his brother Robbie, and wants nothing further to do with him once his debts are paid. However Safton has no intention of letting Kevin out of his clutches, as he needs him for entrée into ton circles where the hunting is best. If Kevin does marry Jenny, he'll be free of Safton, and Safton cannot allow that to happen.
I liked this book pretty well; it's a pleasant light piece which flows smoothly and has a nice humorous touch. I particularly liked Giles and Sir Nigel, even though I've seen their type many times before. If you're looking for gritty realism, it wouldn't be a good choice, but if you want to relax with some nice, funny people and enjoy an untaxing read on some summer's day, I think this book is a good choice. (Posted by Janice 8/15/12)
I've read this one too, Janice, and I agree about its light nature. As a switch the fortune hunter is actually a nice guy, not the least a dissolute rake or gambler, who ends up loving the woman he needs to set his money problems to rights. Or, as the wife of former British Prime Minister Disraeli said when he admitted to have married her for her fortune: "Ah! but if you had to do it again, you would do it for love!" (Posted by yvonne 8/15/12)
Our heroine was fortunate that Kevin both liked and loved her. Even if she was a little plump -- and what that meant in the regency is anybody's guess, since the painted ladies I've seen were either wraithlike waifs or decidedly on the rounded side
Regina Scott is hit or miss for me, but this one seemed to flow more smoothly than most. I find gentle humor intermixed into semi serious stuff wears much better than exaggerated or slapstick stuff.
Both Safton and Kevin were fortune hunters in their way; the difference is that Kevin was willing to give something back in exchange, whereas Safton was the rip off & run type.
Adam in A Civil Contract is another Nice Guy fortune hunter. I liked that Heyer didn't solve his problems with some deus ex machina discovery of a fortune in jewels in the old oak tree or a heretofore unknown auntie (as if everyone in the ton didn't know exactly who their relations were ten generations back!) leaving him her fortune. He had to work things out the hard way - like real people do (Posted by Janice 8/15/12)
#317 Endure My Heart
by Joan Smith
ISBN: 0449500519, 9780449500514, 9780709079200, 0709079206
Published 1980 by Fawcett. Reprinted 2006 by Robert Hale. Also available as ebook.
Miss Mabel Anderson of Fern Bank, 18, and her bookish older brother Andrew lost their home when father died leaving massive debts, mostly gaming. They came away with only a horse, a gig, a few mementoes and Andrew's Greek and Latin books. The local "squarson", Squire Porson (chief beneficiary of her father's lack of gaming luck) assumed Mab would have no choice but to marry him, but fortunately Andrew was able to take orders and Porson gave him the living because he was too lazy to perform the duties himself.
With her old governess to companion her, Mab and Andrew took up residence in the rectory of the Salford village church. Mab became a helper in the village dame school, whose mistress was often ailing. Salford was a known smuggling area; the people of the area were very poor and the "gentlemen" paid well. When Mab agrees to let the school be used to store brandy kegs overnight, she is drawn into smuggling trade and when "Miss Thyme", the head of the local group retires, she becomes its leader as "Miss Sage". Mab loves the excitement, the extra money, and believes that although breaking the King's law, she is helping poor people who would otherwise not always have food on their tables.
The Crown has had an inept revenue officer on site who has produced no results, so a new undercover officer is sent. Colonel Sir Stamford Wicklow, posing as Mr. Williams, a shop clerk, takes up the pursuit of the smugglers, while the village girls take up the pursuit of Mr. Williams. Mab is puzzled by his attentions at first. She knows his true identity, she knows he has a fiancee in London, and she's aware that he may only want information from her. However, as their acquaintanceship progresses, Mab wonders whether she'd rather be Miss Sage or Lady Wicklow - if Wicklow doesn't catch her out first.
This tale is a first person narrative. It's as much an old fashioned adventure story with clever tricks and last minute escapes as it is a romance. Mab has a humorous turn of phrase, but it's not intended as a comedy. My interest was held as Mab worked herself in deeper and deeper, and I wanted to see how she'd eventually extricate herself (since it's a genre romance, I knew she would). I suppose it would be considered a bit old fashioned these days, but I quite enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 8/10/12)
#316 The Poet And The Paragon
by Rita Boucher
ISBN: 0451195787, 9780451195784
Published 1999 by Signet
When she was 17, Miss Rebecca Creighton was left standing at the altar by Oliver Rowley, son of the powerful Earl of Elmont. Ollie's father had sought to tame his son with an arranged marriage, but Ollie had bolted. He joined the army with his best friend from school, Sir Michael Fairgrove.
Rebecca, shamed and already believing she had no personal attractions, especially compared to her lovely stepsister Sarah, took up her pen and ten years later is a well known author of improving tracts which sell like hotcakes because they are also ripping yarns. Unwisely, Rebecca doesn't concern herself with the business end of being an author; that is left to her father's friend Reverend Silas Haverhill. Now, with her stepmother Lydia's inability to resist a pretty bonnet and Sarah's Season to cover, Rebecca is devastated when Haverhill tells her all the money is gone.
Haverhill also arranges speaking engagements for Rebecca, at which her tracts are sold. Although there is unrest in London, Haverhill has Rebecca speak at a church near Covent Garden, where an outburst from an angry man in the audience threatens to start a riot. Rebecca speaks to him with such empathy that it seems trouble can be avoided, but Haverhill opens his big mouth and a full scale riot breaks out. Michael, who had been watching from the back, extracts Rebecca and, with the help of friends, gets her home through the dangerous streets. It is a magic night for both of them, but both believe they have no future together, for impoverished Rebecca has accepted Oliver's renewed offer of marriage, and Michael cannot betray his friend.
I liked this book primarily because I like the author's easy flowing style, her mild humor and her pleasant characters - Rebecca, Michael, Ollie, Sarah, Michael's former mistress and even the dog Maximillian. There isn't anything terribly original about the storyline, but I don't read for that so much as for the characters and relationships. I only wish the author had seen fit to include some passages from Rebecca's latest epic, Cathy of Covent Garden, although I am pretty happy that she did not include much of Michael's poetry - I can see why that wasn't selling. (Posted by Janice 8/5/12)