Regency Content

Regency Retro Reads

Review 351 - 400

Accessible Aunt by Vanessa Gray

Advantageous Marriage by Alice Chetwynd Ley

Aunt Sophie's Diamonds by Joan Smith

Autumn Rose by Marjorie Farrell

Blackwood Bride by Jasmine Cresswell

Brilliant Alliance by Elizabeth Jackson

Certain Reputation by Emma Lange

Clandestine Betrothal by Alice Chetwynd Ley

Duke's Downfall by Jane Lynson

Eccentric Lady by Jane Lovelace (Dixie Lee McKeone)

Entanglement by Catherine Fellows

Fair Impostor by Marlene Suson

Forgotten Marriage by Ellen Fitzgerald

Fortunes Of The Heart by Marian Devon

Galatea's Revenge by Elizabeth Jackson

Harriet by Joan Mellows

Her Ladyship's Man by Joan Overfield

The Irresolute Rivals by Jane Ashford

Lady Margery's Intrigue by Marion Chesney (M C Beaton)

Lady Of Breeding by Delia Ellis

Lady Of Spirit by Edith Layton

Last Cotillion by Georgina Grey

Lord Dragoner's Wife by Lynn Kerstan

Lord Randal's Tiger by Elizabeth Chater

Lord Ware's Widow by Emily Hendrickson

Marriage Alliance by Mira Stables

Marriage Made On Earth by Sheila Bishop

Matter Of Duty by Sandra Heath

Midnight Clear by Lynn Kerstan

Miss Holland's Betrothal by Norma Lee Clark

Nabob's Ward by Evelyn Richardson

Not Quite A Lady by Sarah McCulloch

Perfect Match by Norma Lee Clark

Persistent Suitor by Phyllis Warady

Play Of Hearts by Corinna Cunliffe

Rogue's Lady by Marian Devon

Scandalous Bequest by April Kihlstrom

See No Love by Monette Cummings

Shy Young Denbury by Audrey Blanshard

Sporting Proposition by Elizabeth Hewitt

Strange And Ill-starred Marriage by Helen Tucker

Suitable Arrangement by Rebecca Ashley

Swynden Necklace by Mira Stables

Uncivil Servant by Marian Devon

Unlikely Chaperone by Dorothy Mack

Unwavering Miss Winslow by Emma Lange

Vengeful Viscount by Leigh Haskell

Wayward Heiress by Blanche Chenier

Willful Widow by Evelyn Richardson

Winter Duke by Louise Bergin

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#400 A Scandalous Bequest

by April Kihlstrom

ISBN: 0451152115

Published September 1982 by Signet Regency

Miss Felicity Lyford of Lyford Park was left with no money and few acceptable options after her father died. Her father had a gambling addiction, and though he had managed to make provision for his four sons (Richard got a preferment and John, Neil and Evelyn had their colors purchased), there was never any attention to Felicity's needs even before his death. It seemed that Felicity's only options were to seek employment (which Richard, her guardian, forbade) or live with Richard and his wife Sally in a Yorkshire parsonage -- until her godmother Lady Meecham made an unexpected visit.

After having met Richard, who isn't a bad sort, but has extremely strict notions of propriety, Lady Meecham declares that Felicity should not go to him but should have a come-out in London, as she had promised her mother, and she would pay for everything. There was a purpose behind Lady Meecham's offer: she had two nephews and she wanted Felicity to marry one of them. She has told them that she will name whichever of them marries Felicity as her heir. Felicity does not agree to the wedding part of the scheme, but she does want a chance to have some fun for once in her life, and that very day, before Lyford Park can be sold out from under her, she goes with Lady Meecham.

Lady Meecham's nephews are both sophisticated and handsome gentlemen of the ton, but they have very different natures. Lord Harry Eastcott is a spendthrift rake desperate for money; his cousin Sir Anthony Woodhall is the better man, but he is on the point of offering for the acclaimed beauty Miss Lucinda Carrington even though he is aware of her cold and grasping character. As Felicity moves through her Season, enjoying the first taste of admiration, popularity and fun she has ever had, Anthony begins to regret his understanding with Miss Carrington, and Harry grows more desperate for the money and willing to cross the line to get it.

I liked this book primarily for its solid characterizations in both the central and secondary characters. I understood Felicity's frustration, I sympathized with her brother Richard's conflict between his moral views and his feelings of duty and affection for his sister, and, after seeing Harry's mama Lady Eastcott (who lives at present under the genial protection of wealthy cit Mr. Matthews), I could see how Harry became what he was. The book's situations tended to be handled more for humor than for melodrama, and although the elements were mostly familiar, I found it an entertaining read. (Posted by Janice 11/14/14)

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#399 A Brilliant Alliance

by Elizabeth Jackson

ISBN: 0451175026, 9780451175021

Published 1993 by Signet

When Miss Caroline Wentworth's father died, it was found that he had, as the saying goes, brought an abbey to a grange. Caroline, her sister Julia and their mother were forced to sell not only Wyndham Priory, but the Wentworth jewels as well. The Priory was purchased by Mr. Robert Neville, known as The Nonpareil, a very wealthy man who already had several residences. Neville had known the house in the past and wanted to see it restored to its former beauty.

The family removed to the London townhouse so that Julia could have a Season in London before the town house had to be sold as well, after which they would have to live with Aunt Needham in Bath. Neither Julia (pretty, petted and spoiled) nor her mama (who grudged no effort for her children, as long as she didn't actually have to do anything) handled their change in fortune well; it was up to Caroline, the sensible one, to deal with every difficulty. For help she often turned to Mr. Bertram Lacey, a young man who had grown up near them and was particularly attached to Julia.

Caroline's own Season had been cut short by her father's illness, but she had in that time been much courted by Viscount Ridley. She had expected that Ridley would come to her in the country, but he didn't -- instead he swiftly married another wealthier young lady. Now, two years later, Ridley and she meet again; Ridley expects to pick up where he left off, and tells her that his wife had meant nothing to him. Caroline by now has his number, but her impulsive little sister Julia does not. When Julia impulsively "borrows" the Wentworth Diamonds (because every Wentworth deb has worn them at her presentation), it is up to Caroline to fix the situation, even at the price of her growing understanding with Neville.

On balance, I liked this book. True, it does have some situations familiar from Austen and Heyer, but Heyer used them differently and Austen never included a talking pig called Sal Atticus among her characters. This author's writing style is more complex than that in vogue now in romance, and I enjoyed the book on that level as well. Mama's letters and conversations are particularly brilliant bits of characterization; I imagine the author had a lot of fun writing those. (Posted by Janice 11/03/14)

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#398 Autumn Rose

by Marjorie Farrell

ISBN: 0451168747

Published January 1991 by Signet Regency

Lady Honora Margaret Ashton's mother died when she was 16, and her father the Marquess retreated into alcohol for some time. When he emerged it was to go to London, leaving Nora behind, and when he returned it was with a new young wife. Nora felt she had no one and was therefore a sitting duck for the blandishments of penniless Dillon Breen. When her father refused the match, Breen convinced Nora to elope with him to Scotland. They would be married there, he told her, and Nora, crazy in love, believed him. But once in Edinburgh, although Breen introduced her as his wife, he never quite got around to marrying her. After he was killed in a tavern brawl, Nora wrote to her father, asking to be taken back, but she never received a reply, so she took their young daughter Miranda and what little money she had managed to put aside and went south again.

Nora gave out that she was the widow of a Lieutenant Dillon, and she raised Miranda by herself, supporting them by novel writing. She hoped that Miranda would find a husband among the Hampstead artistic community they moved in and the truth of her birth would not have to be known, or wouldn't matter. When Miranda fell in love with Jeremy, Earl of Alverstone, Nora was horrified -- not because of Jeremy, whom she liked, but because Miranda's illegitimacy would make impossible for them to wed, and she would have to tell Miranda why.

Although she did not know of Miranda's birth, Jeremy's mother was horrified as well. She believed Miranda and Nora must be low life scheming adventuresses out to catch a rich title. So she dragooned a former suitor, Viscount Acland (Sam), into investigating the Dillons. When Sam met Nora, it was clear to him that whatever her present position, she had been raised as a gentlewoman. It was decided that rather than forbid the match, they would all wait and see if Jeremy's and Miranda's love would survive when they both found out what being a countess entailed. In the process, Nora and Sam developed their own relationship, but the past stood in the way.

I have always liked this book because of its characters -- so honorable, rational, kind and reasonable - even weak, spoiled Lavinia shows she can woman up and deal with things. However, there is one plot issue in the book: Scotland of this period recognized common law marriages; all that was required was a public statement or promise and cohabitation. Nora was "married" in Scotland and as I understand things, her child would have not been illegitimate. Not so in England, of course, but the characters do not seem to recognize this; Nora and the others believe that because there was no ceremony, she was never married and her daughter is illegitimate, period. I waited for the other shoe to drop and it never did. A line or two would have fixed this, but I didn't see one. Nevertheless it's a solid, satisfying read, and I recommend it. (Posted by Janice 10/29/14)

I will say that the 'unmarried mother' plot of the story always irritated me. Scottish marriages held up in England unless contested, which was rarely the case. For instance, Lady Jersey's mother, Sarah Child, was married to the 10th Earl of Westmorland in a runaway ceremony in Gretna Green. Their son John became the 11th Earl. Still, there was plenty of money in that case to sweeten the gossip, unlike for Honora, who was rather poor, so the stigma of the elopement would've clung to her even though she was legally married and her daughter legitimate. It was a silly plot twist since the story would've been the same anyway. Without money or connections and a daughter to support her case was pitiful enough already; no need to overdo it. If you can overlook that, not too difficult, it's indeed well written and a good read. (Posted by yvonne 10/29/14)

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#397 See No Love

by Monette Cummings

ISBN: 0802707386, 9780802707383, 0709025122, 9780709025122

Published 1983 by Walker and Company (US). Reprinted 1986 by Hale (UK)

The Honorable Miss Emily Harmon was born so myopic that she could only see objects clearly if she held them up to her face. All else was merely a blur to her. She didn't ask about it because she assumed it was the same for everybody, and those around her merely assumed she was an extraordinarily clumsy child, stumbling over things and unable to learn common skills such as riding and needlecraft. Emily grew into a very beautiful girl, and an intelligent one as well, since one of the few things she could do was read. One evening her father had dinner with a medical man, who spotted Emily's problem immediately, and advised Lord Harmon to buy her a pair of spectacles, which he did.

The spectacles opened up a whole new world of beauty to Emily; for the first time, she could see trees, flowers and people. However, Lady Harmon, a woman of limited intelligence but forceful character, was incensed; she had perfect vision herself and believed that if Emily would only try, she would be able to see as well as anyone. Lady Harmon also believed that if anybody saw Emily with spectacles, she would never find a husband, and she forbade Emily to wear her spectacles where anyone could see her. Emily was not to be seen reading either, lest someone think her a bluestocking.

Lady Harmon intended Emily to marry a title and so she was presented in London, and somehow made it through her Court Presentation without spectacles but without incident. The family was invited to a house party at Maidencourt, the home of Philip Leslie, Duke of Durban. Lady Harmon forbade Emily to bring her spectacles, but Emily hid them. Lady Harmon also instructed Emily to ensnare the Duke's nephew, Arthur Leslie, Viscount Stearnes. However the Viscount was not interested; he was in pursuit of Lady Isobel Darcy, who was in pursuit of the Duke himself. When Emily, forbidden to wear her spectacles in public, falls into one disastrous scrape after another, it falls to the Duke to see what's really going on.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I think I was supposed to find Emily's errors and accidents funny, and some of them are, but I could not laugh because I was too angry at her mother for bullying her and her father for not standing up for her immediately. Also, though it's a well thought out take on what it might be like in that time to suffer from a disability those around you don't understand or accept, it's not a very romantic tale. The Duke remains much too shadowy a figure to Emily and to the reader as well; we aren't shown a relationship growing between them, mostly because Emily can't see which one he is. But, though it's an odd tale, I did find it readable enough and would recommend it if the premise appeals. (Posted by Janice 10/21/14)

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#396 Galatea's Revenge

by Elizabeth Jackson

ISBN: 0451177290

Published August 1993 by Signet Regency

Miss Georgiana Oversham was raised at Holcolme Hall in Yorkshire by her Aunt and Uncle Sparlow. Her father, Mr. Geoffrey Oversham, had made his fortune in India and then married the daughter of a Yorkshire millowner, who died shortly after Georgiana's birth. The Overshams had repudiated Geoffrey and he never sought a reconciliation, but after his death his mother Lady Louisa wrote, offering Georgiana a Season in London.

Georgiana set off for Pemberton, the Oversham country home, with Miss Amelia Bucklebury, the rector's daughter, who was leaving to take up another governess position that she was not enthusiastic about. When post chaise damage stranded them at an inn, Georgiana decided to go on via the Mail; Miss Bucklebury was to return to Yorkshire when the chaise was repaired. Since a wealthy young heiress could not travel alone, but a governess could, the two swapped identities, and the confused inn staff switched the luggage.

Some way further on, they plucked Miss Cecilia Leroux (nee Nafferton) out of the snow, but it was clear that the Mail could go no further that night, so they sought shelter at the nearest house, a hunting box belonging to Lord Litchfield. When Litchfield and his guests Mr. Robert Utterby and Sir Oliver Townsend got a look at Miss Leroux, they knew immediately what her line of work was, but "Miss Bucklebury" declined their attentions and ate her dinner upstairs alone. In the morning Georgiana awoke to learn that there had been a break in the weather and the Mail had left without her; she had not been called because Sir Oliver desired to speak with her on business.

Sir Oliver's offer was not, as Georgiana anticipated, a position as his mistress. It seems that during a drunken evening, he had bragged to his friends that he could make any halfway suitable girl the Toast of London -- that he could even have such a girl accepted as his own cousin, Miss Georgiana Oversham of Yorkshire, by society and his own family. His friend Mr. Utterby bet his chestnuts that Sir Oliver's impostor would be found out. Georgiana was stunned to find that she was being asked to pose as herself -- and out of pique, she took him up on it. Once at Pemberton, Georgiana met her family -- Lady Louisa, Mrs. Clarice Oversham (the widow of her son), her sister Miss Amabel Ponsonby, Clarice's son by her first marriage, Frederick, Lord Nugent, and Freddy's best friend, the cat Burdick. Freddy was not bright, but he was kind, and Georgiana took an immediate liking to him, and saw to it that both of them escaped Clarice's schemes of marriage. When they removed to London, Georgiana became an instant success.

Since Georgiana had the beauty and manners of a lady, the deception (which she and Oliver were both beginning to regret) was working well until Utterby, by now desperate for funds, schemed to ruin Georgiana in society, while Oliver wondered how he could have fallen so deeply in love with a fraud. If not for a chance encounter with a certain eccentric Lady Brunswick, perhaps the puzzle could never have been solved.

It's rather a complicated setup, and it depended upon some pretty tricky footwork to establish this premise, but once that was out of the way, I enjoyed this book. Freddy is particularly appealing to me; he is a kind man who likes animals and has always really had a calling to the church, but his ambitious mama would never have permitted that. Miss Ponsonby, whose jealousy festers, is also very well drawn. And who could dislike the cat Burdick? This is another of those regencies which I enjoy as much for the subsidiary characters as for the central love story. (Posted by Janice 10/14/14)

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A Certain Reputation

by Emma Lange

ISBN: 0451183983

Published April 1995 by Signet Regency

The first time Trevelyan de Montforte, Duke of Buckingham, laid eyes on the beautiful Mrs. Anne de Montforte, she was wearing only a satin robe and accepting money from a handsome young man leaving her rooms at dawn. Anne was the widow of Trev's cousin Peter, and it was his Uncle John who had told him that Anne was a conniving whore who had gotten pregnant and inveigled Peter into marrying her. When Anne and her two young children, Nell and Alex, returned to England from Italy after Peter's death, Uncle John declared that she was unfit to raise his grandson and heir, and set Trev to find grounds to take the boy away from her.

Trev was not entirely convinced that his uncle was correct in his obsession, but when he saw that exchange, he was persuaded that there was some truth in it. He did not know that Anne was in her robe because she had spent the night nursing her Aunt Hetty through an asthma attack, and the young man was her cousin, Robin Godfrey, who was giving her some money to tide her over so that she wouldn't have to find work. Trev relays his uncle's terms to Anne, which include sending Alex to live with his grandfather when he is six, with only yearly holidays with his mother; when Anne finds that completely unacceptable, he invites her to visit his home, Sisley, and stay there for the summer while she decides.

Once at Sisley, Anne and Trev develop a strong attraction to each other. Trev sees evidence in Ann's behavior that whatever she may have done, she did not do it from a base motive. But it will take a precipitating incident with Alex for the truth of Anne's marriage to emerge.

As yvonne and I have both noted, Emma Lange is hit or miss for us, but for me, this one was a hit. It's written with energy and the strong emotions in it seem genuine. True, it does depend on The Big Mis for its plot, and, as in all such plots, it may seem that if the characters had sat down for twenty minutes and calmly told their stories to each other, they could have found the truth early on and saved themselves a lot of grief. However, people don't act like that in real life either, so I don’t have a problem with that aspect. I found it a good solid read. (Posted by Janice 9/23/14)

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#394 The Duke's Downfall

by Jane Lynson

ISBN: 0449217256

Published April 1992 by Fawcett Crest

When Lady Elizabeth Keaton's father died, her toadeating mushroom cousin Julian Dameron became the new Earl of Clymore and head of the family (which he never let anyone forget). Unfortunately for Julian, he inherited the title and estates, but her father left the money to Betsy. Julian therefore made it his business to ensure that Betsy married no one other than him, but her grandmother the Dowager Countess wrung a promise out of Julian that Betsy should go to her in London for a time to make a match of her own. Betsy and her pet, the enormous Irish wolfhound Brian Boru, went to stay with Lady Clymore. Betsy was an impulsive bluestocking who had no wish to marry and have her person and fortune come under any man's control, particularly a creep like Julian.

Charles Earnshaw would have preferred to be a scholar and pursue his scientific interests, but fate made him Duke of Braxton. He has avoided some of the drawbacks of his position by cultivating an eccentric reputation and is known to some as "His Dottiness". Part of his duties entailed riding herd on his younger brother Teddy. Charles met Betsy when Boru caused a traffic incident and in trying to help, Betsy tore his coat sleeve. Compounding his dislike, Teddy told Charles that he had fallen for Betsy, so Charles made it his business to scotch that attachment, but chaos followed -- a torn gown, a bop on the head with the Ovid Betsy carries in her reticule, a scrawny orphan called Davey with a terrier called Scraps, more public disasters with Boru, as well as Julian's continual scheming to get control of Betsy's wealth.

This is a very slight, very short novel intended as a madcap comedy romp, but I have read too many, I suppose, and plot and characters were all too familiar -- and not only from other regencies; a major comic scene was taken directly from the movie Bringing Up Baby. I doubt if it was a theft; it was probably an homage, but whichever, it was too much for me. This book might suit lovers of madcap comedy prepared to overlook much in search of a laugh, but it held no surprises and it didn't make me laugh. I can't recommend it. (Posted by Janice 9/12/14)

Note: Book is copyrighted to Lynn Smith. Fawcett lists her other then available titles as "Captain Rakehill" Byron says she also wrote as Lynn Michaels and Paula Christopher.

It's actually Captain Rakehell and I own it. As with the one reviewed, not a great loss to literature if you haven't read it. Can't recommend that one either. Not sure what put me off. It's supposed to be a romp as well but the 'funny incidents' weren't all that funny and I never did come to care for any of the characters. Since I am one of those "willing to overlook much for a laugh" I think, based on previous experience with this author, I give it a miss. (Posted by yvonne 9/12/14)

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#393 The Swynden Necklace

by Mira Stables

ISBN: 0449232700, 9780449232705, 1853897949, 9781853897948, 0709143168, 9780709143161, 0552107190, 9780552107198

Published 1974 by Hale (UK) and Fawcett Crest (US). Large print also available.

Miss Honoria Fenton (and her mama) had come to live with their "Aunt Thomasine" (really a sort of cousin) after her clergyman father died. In Mrs. Fenton's mind, all must give way to the needs and prospects of her son Percy, and so there had been no thought of a Season for Honor, who was now twenty-three. That changed when Honor received a surprising bequest from her godmother (also called Honoria), in the form of a stunning diamond necklace known as the Luck of the Swyndens, which she had received from her husband, the Marquess of Melborne. The bequest also included a house in Beaufort Square and £500 for a suitable wardrobe, so that Honor could have a Season in Bath -- over the objections of her mama, who felt that the necklace should be sold and the proceeds used to fund Percy's education.

One day shortly after they had come to Beaufort Square, Honor walked out by herself (it seemed safe enough in Bath) and wound up in the wrong place at the wrong moment. She was in a fair way to being abducted into prostitution by the notorious Mrs. Grummage, when an unknown gentleman rescued her. He introduced himself as Mr. Jocelyn, and was soon a favorite, especially since he knew all about how to go on in Bath. Honor found him very attractive, but when he told them he was acting as an agent of the current Marquess of Melborne to pursue purchase of the necklace, which was considered an heirloom of the family, she was miffed -- not knowing that Mr. Jocelyn and the Marquess were one and the same.

This is a Georgian-set light piece with some appealing secondary characters; I particularly liked Honor's little brother Percy, who has no interest in the education and prospects his mama dreams of for him, but just wants to fix clocks and fiddle with machinery. As often happens, the subsidiary characters are more vivid and better individualized than the central pair, whom I thought pretty standard (spunky, pretty young miss and annoying, masterful hero), but there was some mild humor and quite a bit of the feel of Bath in Georgian times, which I did appreciate. I rate it an okay if old-fashioned time-passer. (Posted by Janice 9/5/14)

I have to be honest: I had problems with this book. The hero's actions throughout are not those you expect of a grown man - the pretense grows stale fast - nor can I at all understand the ending, which I assume I'm supposed to find romantic but struck me as both anachronistic and plain silly. It's not a badly written book, in fact, stylewise it's quite good and it has (as Janice said) a great sense of place, unfortunately I don't think the dumb plot sufficiently makes up for it. (Posted by yvonne 9/5/14)

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#392 Miss Holland's Betrothal

by Norma Lee Clark

ISBN: 0451144856

Published August 1986 by Signet Regency

Miss Isabelle Holland met Captain William Perronet aboard his ship as they made the crossing from France to England. William rescued Isabelle from an embarrassing encounter with an ardent but non-English speaking suitor, but his blunt manners and evident amusement at the incident offended her.

Isabelle's father was a professional gambler and Isabelle had traveled with him happily enough as a girl, but now that she had become a young lady, she had begun giving thought to her future. She wanted to go to England (which she had never seen) and find an English home and an English husband. Her father was a younger son of Sir Walter Holland, and one of his brothers had married a fortune founded in the brewery trade. Mrs. Nathaniel Holland was a bit on the vulgar side, but a woman of great kindness and good nature. She and her husband welcomed Isabelle and began introducing her to their friends and taking her about London.

Soon Isabelle was noticed by Lady Bromley, whose nephew Adrian, Marquess of Sutterton, was in desperate need for money. Adrian was handsome and charming and knew to a nicety how to make women fall for him, and soon he schmoozed Isabelle into believing that he loved her. However, somehow rumor had gotten about that Isabelle was wealthier than she was, and when Adrian found out that rumor lied, he dumped her, just as she was finding out what he was really like -- without boundaries and selfish to the core.

Isabelle needed time to sort out her emotions, and so she went on a visit to William's sister Liz in the country. William had sold his ship and purchased an estate in the same neighborhood. He had long since decided Isabelle was the only woman for him and was chafing at the bit to pursue his courtship in his blunt and direct way. It would take all Liz's considerable understanding of male and female thinking to keep William from moving too quickly and ruining things.

Like most of the Clark novels I have read, this one is fairly serious but laced with humor. I particularly enjoyed the scene at the office of Mr. Holland's man of business, when Adrian finds out that his intended bride is only worth a measly
£5,000. What I found most interesting about this book is the extent to which the women manage the men - the aunt who manages her louche nephew's fortune-hunting, and the sister who manages her brother's courtship so that he doesn't become too impatient and ruin his chances. These women do not have the rights under the law which we moderns rely on, but they wield such personal influence that their legal status is almost irrelevant. It is a romance, but it is also an interesting study of how clever women coped in that era. (Posted by Janice 8/16/14)

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#391 The Vengeful Viscount

by Leigh Haskell

ISBN: 0451167945, 9780451167941

Published November 1990 by Signet Regency

When her uncle Octavius died under embarrassing circumstances, Lady Felicity Bellwood's father Augustus became the ninth Earl of Bellwood. Felicity's mother had died long ago, and her father, though very fond of his daughter, had not seen to a proper upbringing for her -- or so thought Octavius's widow Harriet when she descended upon Bellwood House. Felicity had not been trained in feminine arts and wiles needed to make a grand marriage; she had not even been sent to a proper young ladies' seminary but had been allowed to read everything in her father's library and even to ride astride like a man sometimes. Clearly Aunt Harriet had her work cut out, to whip this beautiful but opinionated bluestocking into shape for her debut.

Felicity had had a glimpse of Justin Havilland, Viscount Pentclair, at Octavius's funeral. Some months later Justin came with Felicity's brother Peter to Bellwood House as a guest, sharing the family interest in horse breeding. Felicity found in Justin the one person she had met so far whom she could have a conversation with -- someone who didn't shut her down for having a different opinion (or any opinion at all), someone who seemed on the same intellectual level as she was herself. But Justin had a grudge from the past and until that was resolved, there was no possibility of a relationship between them.

I had mixed feelings about this book. I liked the solid characterization of Felicity, and the odd sharp bit of character observation here and there. Though it's a fast read, it's carefully written. However, the revenge plot seems a bit silly -- something not well thought out and not really necessary to the story but just stuck in there in an unconvincing (to me) manner; the story doesn't need any false drama. But, other than that, it seemed a pleasant tale of two people finding out that they are well suited. (Posted by Janice 8/2/14)

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#390 Lady Of Spirit

by Edith Layton

ISBN: 0451145178, 9780451145178

Published October 1986 by Signet Regency

When a thoughtless act by young Lord Theodore Malverne lost Miss Victoria Dawkins her position as a governess in the Colfax household, she found herself alone in London with very little money to live on while she sought another position (which would be hard to come by because Mrs. Colfax refused to give her a character). Some weeks later, when Colin Haverford, Earl of Clune got the story out of his feckless cousin, he went in search of Victoria. Victoria was by this time living at Mrs. Rogers's rooming house in one of the lowest slums of London and going hungry, trying to make her precious coins last, when she was befriended by the Johnson children - Alfie, Bobby, Sally and Baby.

Cole had not been raised to be the Earl; the old Earl had had three sons in line before him, but Proud Harry got shot by a jealous husband, Wicked John (drunk as usual) fell into the Thames and was drowned, and Secretive Maxmillian had a falling out with one of his lovers, who ran him through before his father could find out about the relationship.

Cole traced Victoria to the rooming house and was very surprised to learn that she was not the old bit that young Theo (who thought all governesses were old) had described to him, but a lovely young woman. Cole had no interest in ever getting married, so he offered her a position as his mistress, and Victoria told him to get lost.

Because of his background Cole's values were a bit different from aristocratic norms; he was concerned about such things as what might become of an unjustly dismissed servant, and he thought it nobody's business if he took in four slum children to give them a better life. Cole got Victoria a job as governess to the Ludlows, who lived in the Old Manor, near his estate at High Wyvern Hall, but she was not well treated there, and eventually she came to Wyvern. While Cole told guests hair raising stories of the ghosts of High Wyvern Hall, Victoria listened but thought nothing about it - and did not mention the pale young lady and the big black dog who seemed to appear and vanish now and then. Only Baby ever learned the truth about the lady, and he was much too young to tell.

I've always liked this tale. I don’t find it particularly realistic, but the author has reasonably credible explanations for Cole's unusual behavior. The children are charming but not glurgey, Cole's change of heart builds believably, and the supernatural elements are more grace notes than plot devices (despite what the back cover blurb says). One character, Miss Comfort, is more complex than one might expect, and very memorable. The book may be a bit talky for modern readers, but I like the author's humorous turn of phrase. It's a comfort read for me. (Posted by Janice 7/22/14)

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#389 The Nabob's Ward

by Evelyn Richardson

ISBN: 0451170881, 9781610845502, 1610845501

Published November 1991 by Signet Regency. Also available as ebook.

Once upon a time in India a little girl desirous of an adventure escaped her ayah and ran off outside the army compound to climb her favorite banyan tree, from which she could see the village and the whole countryside. There she discovered the Hon. Brian Brandon lying on the ground with a massive hangover. Brian and his Sprite spent a magical afternoon talking in the banyan tree, and she helped him make a decision to leave the army.

Ten years later Brian was the Earl of Aldringham, back in England, wealthy from his Indian trading days with a friend called Ned Wolvercote. Ned had become ill and had died in India, and he had made Brian ward to his niece, Lady Georgiana Southcote -- Brian's Sprite of long ago.

After her parents' death of the fever, Georgie had been taken in by Ned and had learned his trading business, but political turmoil made it unwise for her to remain in India. Ned sent her to her aunt Lady Debenham and charged Brian with control of her finances.

Georgie makes friends with Brian's sister Lizzy immediately, but her independent habits and intellectual interests are a source of dismay to her aunt. However when a spiteful remark by one of the beauties pursuing Brian strikes home, Georgie decides that a visit to Madame Celeste wouldn't be such a bad idea after all. Brian, who had been thinking of her as some sort of little sister, found that his feelings weren't brotherly at all, and that enraged his scheming mistress Lady Wyndham, who was determined to have him and his fortune.

This is a pleasant story with good characterization, some interesting Indian flavor, and no false melodrama. Nothing much happens, really, except the hero's dawning realization that Georgie is that rare woman he can talk to. Since so little happens, I found it a bit slow going at times, but it was worth the ride. (Posted by Janice 6/26/14)

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#388 An Advantageous Marriage

by Alice Chetwynd Ley

ISBN: 0345272102, 9780345272102, 0709162618, 9780709162612, 0745114113, 9780745114118, 0745155677, 9780745155678, 1864276584, 9781864276589

Published March 1978 by Ballantine Books. Large print and audio book also available.

Miss Eugenia Turville (Ginny), a wealthy heiress, Yorkshire born and bred, had been invited south to spend a few weeks at the Turville family home, Lydeard Hall, before continuing to her godmother in London to make her debut. As she was waiting with her maid Nancy at the local inn, she accidentally overhead a conversation between (among others) her cousin Francis and a neighbor, Sir Peter Martyn, who had once been engaged to Francis's beautiful sister Lucilla, but she had dumped him to marry a 70 year old with cash.

Lady Turville hopes to add Ginny's fortune to theirs and expects Francis or his younger brother Aubrey to wed her - it doesn't matter which one. Aubrey doesn't wish to wed anybody but a certain sweet ninnyhammer he has secretly fallen for (secret because he's afraid to tell his mother). Francis, who is feeling the pinch of his mother's ambition, jokes that the last time he saw Ginny, she was a roly poly infant, and calls her the "Yorkshire Pudding". Ginny is mortified and instantly resolves to get her own back.

Ginny's first words to Lady Turville when they meet are "Eh, don't put yourself in a taking, ma'am", and her broad Yorkshire accent and forthright manner are all that Lady Turville feared. Nevertheless, there's a fortune at stake (not that the Turvilles need it, all are comfortably off). One by one, however, the gentlemen learn that the country bumpkin manner is just a pose, and that there is a clever, beautiful and very desirable young lady behind them. Ginny is more and more attracted to Sir Peter (and he to her), until Lucilla, now conveniently widowed, returns home and decides to pick up with Peter from where she dumped him four years ago. Ginny has a clever, focused and somewhat ruthless rival.

For the first few pages, I found this tale a bit hard to get into, and the bit with the Yorkshire accent made me fear that it would just be a gender switch on The Unknown Ajax. However after that the characters became individuals and I became quite interested in what happened to them. I did however have a small disappointment at the end because I had hoped (as one generally does) for a confrontation/resolution scene between Ginny and her rival, and it didn't take place. I must see if there's a followup book; Francis needs his own story. I would recommend this book and this author in general to those who enjoy the older, more leisurely and textured style of romance storytelling. (Posted by Janice 6/17/14)

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#387 The Unwavering Miss Winslow

by Emma Lange

ISBN: 0451161440

Published September 1989 by Signet Regency

When Miss Jessica Winslow's father, a soldier, died, he left his family very little, and so his widow married Mr. Godfrey. When her drunken stepfather began to notice her maturing beauty, it was clear that Jess had to leave. She went to her mother's cousin in London, Lady Sarah Renwick, but Sally did not move in the first circles; her house was filled with young blades and one of them, Edward Stafford, was seen to kiss Jess in public. The kiss was against Jess's will, but Ned's older brother Justin Stafford, Earl of Roxham knew Sally's reputation and believed his brother's account; he tossed Jess a purse of gold to pay her off, and Jess was ruined.

With a letter from the vicar where she had once lived, Jess got a companion job, and when her employer was so ill as to need a nurse instead, she recommended her for a post with Lady Beatrice Carstairs at Bleithewood, Roxham's country seat. At Bleithewood Jess was soon liked and respected by everyone, but her beauty continued to draw unwelcome admiration. Jess only wanted to keep a low profile, but she was pursued by young Viscount Avensley and the vicar Mr. Headley. When Roxham came home and found Jess there, he assumed she was there to snare a wealthy husband and warned her that if she got out of line, he'd turn her off on the spot. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he knew an adventuress when he saw one.

Many readers complain about the "Big Mis" as a plot device. Usually I don't have a problem with that, because people misunderstand other people continually and are always making snap judgments on the slightest or most slanted of evidence. However, a reasonable person changes his opinion when new information comes to light. Our hero Roxham is not reasonable; despite the testimony and regard of everyone at Bleithewood and the behavior he observes himself, he hangs on to his misconceptions about Jess's character far longer than any reasonable man would. It takes him a very long time to think of even questioning his rackety brother's story. Jess puts up with all this with nobility, desperation and dignity, but Roxham is such an arrogant jerk that I could not like him nor believe in him as any kind of a romantic hero. Jess deserved better. (Posted by Janice 6/9/14)

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#386 The Accessible Aunt

by Vanessa Gray

ISBN: 0451126777, 9780451126771, 0792712358, 9780792712350

Published January 1984 by Signet Regency. Large print also available.

"Celina had not been caught so off balance since the Prince Regent, now King George IV, had run his fat hand down her back." -- Celina reacts to Jervis's first proposal

Miss Celina Forsyth's father had left her a lifetime lease on the Dower House of Forsyth Park, and she had been living there in tolerable contentment with a distant cousin for company. Celina had had two seasons in London but had not had any offers she wished to accept. Her brother Lord Forsyth (Edmund) has Forsyth Hall, where he lives firmly under the thumb of his petulant wife Eleanor; they have five girls and two young boys. All are used to turning to Celina for help and agreement whenever it suits them, without regard to her peace; since she is a spinster of twenty-six, it does not occur to any of them that she might mind.

Two of the daughters are now old enough to wed. The eldest, Lydia, is very beautiful and had attracted several admirers in London but none had come up to scratch, possibly because Lydia, though sweet-natured, is a none-too-bright watering pot, and her mother's discussion of marital duties, while not explicit enough to be understood, has put her off the idea of marrying altogether. The second sister Nelly, a self centered miss inclined to fits of high drama, has decided that nothing must stand in the way of her marriage to Captain Henry Gordon -- but Eleanor has decreed that Nelly may not marry until Lydia does. This fiat has thrown the household into stormy chaos.

Lady Gaunt (Aunt Tibby), a redoubtable old lady, makes her annual visit to Forsyth Hall. She is fond of Celina and schemes to help her; if Celina married, her family would not be able to harass her. To that end she summons her nephew, Jervis Blaine, Marquess of Wroxton to visit her, planning to make a match between him and Celina. The plan is off to a rocky start when Celina is knocked into the shrubbery by Jervis's curricle coming up the drive. The plan goes further awry when Eleanor decides that Jervis would be an excellent match for Lydia, Celina is hounded by a thickheaded suitor who can't believe that any woman would not be grateful for his offer, and Nelly begins staging Incidents.

Sometimes I find a vintage regency interesting as much (if not more) for its secondary characters as for the central couple, and this is one of those. These are not stock figures; Edmund, Eleanor, Nelly and even lachrymose Lydia are fully rounded individuals. I did wish there had been more information about Nelly's intended because I wanted to know if he was aware of her ruthless, obsessive way of thinking (what Nelly thinks she needs, Nelly will get any way she can), and what might happen if Nelly should find marriage to him a disappointment in some way. I liked the author's clever showing that children often inherit their parents' emotional natures. (Posted by Janice 5/26/14)

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#385 A Sporting Proposition

by Elizabeth Hewitt

ISBN: 0451161068

Published July 1983 by Signet Regency

Ancilla Martin's husband Jack had been army mad and had died in battle. After his death Ancilla left Littlelands Manor to live in a cottage on the edge of the estate with only her faithful maid Sally and a pittance to live on. Ancilla had understood that before he died Jack had bought the cottage for her just in case, but there was no deed to be found. When Ancilla received notice from the solicitor for the heir, George Martin, that Littlelands (including her cottage) were to be sold and she must vacate, she was desperate. Hoping it was some sort of misunderstanding that could easily be set right if she spoke with George personally, she set out for London with Sally, but bad weather forced them to stop over at an inn, where she encountered Baron Langley (Devin).

Ancilla had known Devin before, when she was still married to Jack, since his estate Fairfield Park neighbored Littlelands, and there had been an attraction between them even then, but Ancilla's principles had never let it develop into anything further. Devin was still strongly attracted to her, but he liked her as well; they shared a love of horses and racing. The two spent that night together, and Ancilla believed he meant marriage, but Devin had in mind something more like friends with benefits. In the morning he had gone, leaving £50 pounds tucked under her hairbrush (there was also a note but it was on the back of an old list and got chucked into the fire by mistake). Devin knew of her financial problems and so he had offered a loan, but Ancilla (without that note) thought it was payment for services rendered. She tucked the roll of soft in her reticule, tabled her rage, and continued her journey to London.

Once in London, Ancilla called on George to discuss the cottage. At first George denied the obligation, but after his friend Sir Robert Purcell, who was also present, took him aside for a word, he returned with a different tale. It would, he said, take some time to do the paperwork on the cottage, and in the meantime, Ancilla should stay with him and enjoy what London had to offer; he would make all proper by inviting his sister Mrs. Vera Cummings to stay also, and he would see that she had pin money and a proper wardrobe to enter society. Ancilla accepted his story, not knowing that Purcell had told George that his markers would be forgiven if he and his sister helped induce Ancilla come to him as his mistress. It seemed that circumstances were conspiring to make Ancilla the whore of one man or the other.

It may seem to some readers that Ancilla was naïve a bit longer than reasonable, but sometimes it's difficult to believe that some people could actually do the bad things they do, so I don't have a problem with that. I do think the horse racing setting was rather sketchy and got in the way of the change of heart theme, as did the murders plot, and I was sorry that the one subsidiary character I liked turned out to have dunnit. Nevertheless I thought it an entertaining read. (Posted by Janice 5/20/14)

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#384 The Winter Duke

by Louise Bergin

ISBN: 0451214722, 9780451214720

Published April 2005 by Signet Regency

When his elder brother George (who was only twenty five) died in a riding accident, John Penhope became the Duke of Winterbourne. John had not been brought up as the heir, and he had been quite happy with the life he had chosen as a scholar of the classics; he found the wealth and responsibility of his new rank a crushing burden which he longed to escape.

Miss Lydia Grenville had been raised knowing it was her duty to marry well. She had had her Season in London but had not found a husband; she had not liked any of the gentlemen who offered for her, and her fond parents had not made her accept any of them, though their disappointment was patent.

Just as John longed to escape the endless business of his ducal responsibilities, Lydia loved to escape the atmosphere of rebuke in her home.

Whenever possible Lydia escaped to the woods with her sketch pad, and one morning when she had strayed onto Winterbourne land, John encountered her there. It was a magic moment for both of them, a moment outside of the weight of others' expectations, when they could both be themselves, but John lied -- he told Lydia he was the duke's secretary, Alexander Penhope.

Of course it was not long until Lydia found out who "Alexander" really was. Lydia, already miffed, was pressured to attract the duke and brought out all the artificial airs and graces she had been taught; John was convinced that she wanted him for his position, not for himself. A promising love affair was further endangered when John's ward Fanny started gossip that ruined Lydia, and someone took a shot at John in the woods.

I give this book points for showing a bit of what being socially ruined really meant in one's life, but I think some of the incidents (bodily tossing a duke down the front steps) seem a bit unrealistic -- nor does the book need the assassination subplot. I do appreciate that the author gives reasons for all the characters to act as they do; they are more than plot contrivances. So, although it doesn't exactly "feel right", I liked it anyway. (Posted by Janice 5/7/14)

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#383 Entanglement

by Catherine Fellows

ISBN: 0449240797, 0340227842, 9780340227848, 0708912818, 9780708912812, 0708912818, 9780708912812

Published simultaneously 1979 by Hodder and Stoughton (UK edition) and Fawcett Crest (US edition). Also available in large print and as audio book.

Lord and Lady Clavendon live in London, in a happy second marriage for both of them. Lord Clavendon has a son and heir, Anthony Pedmore, by his first wife, and Lady Clavendon has two daughters, Jane and Victoria, by her first husband. Lady Clavendon's niece, Miss Ellen Farrell, is staying with them while her parents are traveling abroad. Lord Clavendon inherited unexpectedly when his two brothers died in what seemed natural circumstances at the time, but one of the widows, Elizabeth, is spreading rumors that he murdered them.

Lady Clavendon has long hoped that her daughter Jane and her husband's son Anthony would make a match of it. Unfortunately for her plans, Anthony is infatuated with his mistress, Miss Fanny Bishop, and Jane has a tendre for Mr. Randal Beresford, a gentleman she met while she was away at school in Bath. Randal, however, seems much more interested in the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the two late Lord Clavendons than he is in Jane.

Fanny is quite an acquisitive wench and the expense of her establishment has caused Anthony to exceed his allowance. His father has said he would increase his allowance if he married, so Anthony asks Ellen to pretend to be engaged to him until he can sell a hunter and get his finances straightened out, and Ellen agrees even though she cannot like deceiving Lord Clavendon. Events take a more serious turn when reckless driver Anthony is injured in a curricle crash, which upon investigation does not appear to be an accident at all, and Ellen thinks Randal may be involved.

This was an entertaining read, both for the wit and the cleverly rigged clockwork plot. It is after the style of Heyer, and some of the characters are quite reminiscent of hers, but they have such clever dialog that I can forgive that. It is, however, not a very romantic romance, in that Ellen and Randal don't spend much time together and the development of their relationship is more a matter of decreasing antagonism than increasing affection. Those looking for an intense emotional experience might find it lacking, but I liked it well enough. (Posted by Janice 5/2/14)

I read this book for the first time a few months back and thought I recalled it perfectly well, except for Ellen's love story. Upon rereading it held no surprises; it was as I remembered. I paid particular attention to Ellen's story this time but have to agree with Janice - it's so slight it for obvious reasons held no place in my memory! However, if we set aside the romantic aspects (or lack of them), the book as a whole is a funny read in well written, fast flowing prose. As an amusing visit with some nice people whom know how to entangle their otherwise simple lives I can recommend it. (Posted by yvonne 5/2/14)

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#382 The Perfect Match

by Norma Lee Clark

ISBN: 0451124839

Published September 1983 by Signet Regency

The Misses Armytage live happily at Elmdene Grange near Upper Chyppen with their widowed father. When their mother lay dying, she placed her infant Meriel in ten year old Sydney's arms, and ever since Sydney has been as much mother as sister. Meriel is now seventeen and jawdroppingly lovely, as well as genuinely sweet and talented; a bit otherworldly at times but not at all stupid. Sydney is twenty-seven and unmarried, and except for a brief, almost forgotten, romance with her sister's tutor, she's never really thought about it.

Suitable young men in their little country village are few, if any, until the arrival of Sir Max Westbrook, who has taken a house in the neighborhood. Sir Max brings a guest, Morgan Leighton -- the young man who romanced Sydney ten years ago, then left for London when he received an unexpected inheritance, after which Sydney never heard from him again.

Max is drawn to Sydney but finds that there may have been more to Sydney's past acquaintance with Morgan than he knows. Sydney thinks Max would be a good husband for Meriel despite the difference in ages, but when Meriel returns from a visit to her godmother in Bath, she has other plans. Egotistical Morgan wants to bring Sydney to heel again, and village irritant Miss Arabella Cole does not intend to be upstaged by anyone.

This is a funny, gentle comedy of several couples sorting themselves out -- no great melodrama, just time spent with pleasant people you'd like to have as friends, and enough sand in the mix with Morgan and Arabella to keep it grounded in reality. I like this author's sharp eye for personality quirks, and it doesn't hurt that she was clearly a great fan of Austen and Heyer. I give this a strong recommendation. (Posted by Janice 4/24/14)

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#381 Her Ladyship's Man

by Joan [E.] Overfield

ISBN: 0449218384, 9780449218389

Published April 1990 by Fawcett Crest

"'I have already given you my word,' she reminded him, surprised by the sternness in his voice. 'I have read enough Gothics to know that midnight rendezvous are dangerous things; you may rest assured that I have no desire to play the heroine.'" -- Lady Melanie to Andrew when he orders her to be careful

The British spymaster known only as Sir had a new assignment for one of his most trusted agents, Captain Andrew Davies Merrick. The Earl of Terrington had recently returned from Washington, and one of the secret documents entrusted to him has gone missing. Suspicion has fallen upon the Earl and his assistant, Mr. Barrymore, but proof is needed and the leak must be plugged. It has been arranged that the Earl and his lovely violet-eyed minx of a daughter, Lady Melanie Crawford, will be borrowing the London house belonging to the Duke of Wakefield; after training by the Duke's butler, Andrew will pose as the replacement butler Davies.

Lady Melanie is not that keen on a London season -- she feels that at 23 she is too old for that -- but she knows something is bothering her father, and when she finds out what it is, she readily agrees to go through with a season (under the aegis of her grandmother Lady Charlotte Abbington) so as to provide time and opportunity to discover the traitor's identity. Her companion, Miss Evingale, a devotee of the Gothic novel, is immediately suspicious of the bogus butler because he so resembles the sort of hero found in her favorite tales, and she makes a fan of such novels and a co-conspirator of Lady Charlotte. Most of the servants are also aware of Andrew's real purpose. Even Prinny knows. Andrew's task is complicated because he has fallen for Melanie and she for him.

This is the second book in a three book series anchored by the spymaster Sir, the other books being The Journals of Lady X and Bride's Leap. I found it rather formulaic, although I give the author points for providing a villain with credible motives, even though it seemed an awfully long time before he was collared, and for injecting some humor with the ladies' devotion to Gothics (they know all the plot points). The only bit of ongoing interest in it for me is whether the identity of spymaster Sir would ever be revealed (it wasn't, in this installment). (Posted by Janice 4/15/14)

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#380 Marriage Alliance

by Mira Stables

ISBN: 0709146485, 9780709146483, 0449231429, 9780449231425, 0708932495, 9780708932490

Published 1975 by Hale (IK) and Fawcett Crest (US). Large print also available

Baron Blayden was short of funds, as usual, and his only untapped asset was his unmarried son Marcus. Therefore Lord Blayden forced his son to marry Miss Fleur Pennington, an heiress, by telling Marcus that if he refused, his invalid sister Deborah would be wed to Maxwell, a three-time widower notorious for his vices.

Fleur had no choice in the marriage either; her grandfather was obsessed with having a titled grandson, which she was to provide. Fleur's father had married a French lady, whom old Mr. Pennington had driven off after his death. Fleur lived with her grandfather thereafter, and had had no contact with her mother for years. As a child she had been taught the ballet by her Maman, and she still practiced every day.

When Marcus met slim and waiflike Fleur, he thought her still almost a child; he told her that they should get to know each other for a time before making theirs a real marriage. While they were honeymooning at Blayden, the news of Napoleon's escape reached them, and Marcus hied off to France to serve his country; he was fluent in French and had a talent for gathering information. When he did not return after Waterloo, Fleur went to her grandfather. After her grandfather died of an apoplexy brought on by learning that she was not pregnant yet, she found her mother's letters that had been kept from her. With no word from Marcus, she went to her mother and stepfather in London, where, as the masked Goddess Flora, she took up dancing with her stepfather's troupe at Rockstone's gaming club -- which is where Marcus found her when he returned from France and, enraged, abducted her to teach her a lesson.

I can't like this book; its attitudes seem very dated to me. Fleur is hopelessly winsome, charming, waiflike, innocent and perfect. Even worse, Marcus, despite all the mitigations the author put forward for his cruel, manipulative, self-centered behavior, isn't my idea of a hero. He never really learns better and he suffers no real consequences for the way he treats Fleur. His delay in returning from France was because he was ill after being kicked in the head by a mule. I was disappointed that the mule didn't make a more thorough job of it. The book is, however, well written as these things go, and readers who don't mind these tropes which annoy me may well find it entertaining. (Posted by Janice 4/9/14)

About the author: Mira Stables Gyte (married Cook) was a mother of five and a rather prolific British writer. She had a spate of romances published in the 70's and early 80's, mostly for the Corgi imprint. This book is dedicated "For Tom and Molly Gyte." (Posted by yvonne 4/9/14)

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#379 The Forgotten Marriage

by Ellen Fitzgerald

ISBN: 0451142241, 9780451142245

Published April 1986 by Signet Regency

The Honorable Barbara Barrington had been courted by Lucian, Viscount Morley, but when she thought she could land the Duke of Pryde, she broke off with Lucian. Nursing a broken heart, Lucian went off to Brussels to rejoin the army, but there a strange thing happened: Lucian found that absence did not make his heart grow fonder -- rather the reverse. His infatuation with Barbara faded away.

In Brussels he was billeted with a local family, where he met Miss Alicia Delacre, who was also living there with her father and brother Timothy. Her father had fled to Brussels where the living was cheaper and his creditors and gaming debts could not follow him. Lucian and Alicia fell deeply in love and were married June 11, 1815. Lucian escorted Alicia to the Duchess of Richmond's ball and that night rode off to war. He did not return after the battle; Alicia searched for him but found nothing, and believed herself a widow -- until a letter from her friend Octavia advised her that Lucian was alive, back in England and betrothed to Barbara.

The Duke of Pryde had not, after all, come up to scratch (his mama had been against such a match), so when Lucian returned, Barbara held him to his promise. Lucian had been wounded in leg and head; he had lost his memory of the last two years and believed himself still betrothed to Barbara.

When Alicia arrived, Lucian did not recognize her, and Barbara, in a rage, argued that Alicia's proofs of the marriage were fraudulent and Alicia must be an opportunistic whore. But Alicia had her marriage lines, she had the signet ring Lucian had always worn and had assumed lost in battle, and she had the testimony of a credible witness. Barbara then convinced Lucian to take Alicia north to Morley Abbey, his Yorkshire estate, where a winter alone in a rundown unoccupied property far from London's social life would surely convince Alicia to accept the offer of £10,000 for an annulment. Barbara was surprised and displeased when Lucian elected to stay in Yorkshire with Alicia.

Alicia loved the Abbey on sight and began to make it a comfortable home, as well as making friends - and an admirer - in the neighborhood. Faced with the possibility that her angry, sullen husband would never regain his memories, Alicia resolved that spoiled, vindictive Barbara should not have him, and went to war, in her own way, for Lucian's love.

One can generally count on Ellen Fitzgerald (who also wrote as Pamela Frazier, Lucia Curzon, Zabrina Faire and Florence Stevenson) for a well told tale with credible characters and events and a reasonable amount of feeling for the period. I did feel it had a rather convenient resolution (if one bonk on the head makes a man sick, another bonk will surely cure him), but the characters, particularly the subsidiary ones, were interesting and I read on to find out what happened to them. I liked it, but now that I know what happened, I doubt I'd reread it. (Posted by Janice 4/1/14)

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#378 The Shy Young Denbury

by Audrey Blanshard

ISBN: 0449236668, 0709158289, 9780709158288, 0708928358, 9780708928356

Published 1977 by Hale (UK edition) and Fawcett Crest (US edition). Large print also available.

"He had, amongst his other wild pursuits, been a hard rider to hounds and typically had broken his neck, out of season, exercising his own pack in solitary style; the fatal outcome was not altogether a surprise to those about him as he had consumed four bottles of port before he set out, and the horse had imbibed one as well." -- On the circumstances of Hubert Parfitt's demise

The Denburys' youngest daughter Almeria (called Merry) was a bit of a failure in her mother's eyes. While Merry's older sisters were married (Cordelia) or betrothed (Theodosia), Merry was pale, shy and bookish and had failed her first season. It was therefore clear that the best she could hope for was Mr. Jonathan Tiffen and life in a country parsonage, and her mother ordered Merry to accept him when he offered. Merry, however, had a gigantic crush on "Old Harry", a rakish gentlemen she had seen but never been introduced to; she did not even know his real name.

His real name was Captain Sir Henry Cedric Jasper Chirton. Harry had sold his commission after being wounded, and had been living a life of leisure in London ever since, with his best friend Major the Hon. Crispin Maunby for company. Crispin is a younger son of an earl and on half pay since Waterloo, but he can't go home because a certain Miss Venables appears to be expecting an offer from him.

Merry could not endure the idea of a boring life as a parson's wife and believed that from her reading she was pretty wise in the ways of rakes. She decided that a rake like Harry would never offer her marriage, but he just might offer her carte blanche. When she fell ill and overheard the doctor say she had only two years left to live, her resolution was strengthened: she would go for it. Merry did not know that Harry had just inherited Scantleby Hall, his rackety godfather Hubert Parfitt's estate, and is now shopping for a wife, not a mistress.

This is a fast, funny read, very light hearted, with considerable wit. I also give the author points for sending me to the dictionary to look up "thrasonic" and "brawn" (as a food, and it doesn't sound appealing). I enjoyed it and would recommend it to readers who are looking for a cheerful evening's read. (Posted by Janice 3/24/14)

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#377 Fortunes Of The Heart

by Marian Devon

ISBN: 0449215962

Published July 1989 by Fawcett Crest

"You know better than that, Mary Anne. A man may do just as he chooses, but a woman must at all times be discreet." -- Lady Cunliffe to her sister Mary Anne

The beautiful but dowerless Hawtry sisters, Sydney and Mary Anne, had been schooled to make advantageous marriages. When Sydney came up from the country, she captivated and married Lt. General Sir Maxwell Cunliffe, but they had little time together before he was called back to the wars, and his last sight of Sydney was of her resembling a 'baby hippo', since she was pregnant with their daughter Savannah. What Max did not know was that Sydney had not married him for his fame and fortune; she had fallen head over ears for him the first time she saw him. If all Sydney wanted from Max was a luxurious London life, well, he had his longtime mistress Mrs. Edleston to console him.

Mary Anne had had her own disasters. She had broken with Captain Anthony Rodes, her lifelong love, gotten herself betrothed to wealthy Lord Littlecote and then cried off, intending to get Anthony back somehow. She descended upon Sydney in London and learned three things right away: Anthony had unexpectedly come into a fortune (and he'd never believe her rekindled interest was anything but cream-pot love); he was now betrothed to Lady Barbara Kennet; and Sydney had lost a naked painting of herself to Max's bitter cousin Lord Linley Mortlock, which he intends to use to humiliate Max and break up their marriage. Mary Anne decides it's up to her to sort all this out: repair her sister's marriage, get that painting back, and get Anthony back too.

This short, lighthearted novel is set during the summer of 1814 when the "Peace Celebrations" drew foreign dignitaries to London and many lavish entertainments were thrown. When not bickering and scoring off each other, the characters attend several of these events. There is no sense that a year later Napoleon would return to power and England would be at war again. Such things have no place in a comedy, I suppose. Although the dialog and the plot were fast and funny, I was left wondering where they would all be next year and hoping little Savannah would not lose her daddy. Recommended for an hour's enjoyment if your temperament is less gloomy than mine. (Posted by Janice 3/18/14)

Well, if we're to be gloom and doom merchants we might as well contemplate the fact that it's almost as likely her mother died in childbed or Savannah herself succumbed to a then untreatable illness than a high ranking officer died in Waterloo. Mortality rates were extremely high in all cases, you know.

Personally I like the insouciant attitude, the "peace forever" feel that permeated the air at the time that this author manage to capture so well. From contemporary records we know that people in general believed the war was finally over. It was only some far seeing military experts that expressed concern over Napoleon's possible return to power. The average citizen were not about to listen to some Domesday prophets. Seems to me, from the vantage point of history, that the mad gaiety then was very like that of the roaring 20s after WWI ended. Nobody then would've thought that two decades later the world be plunged into an even worse war.

The hippo comment threw me a bit though as it felt completely anachronistic. Not that people were unaware of the existence of hippos but they were not so well known that a person would use that reference back then.

For my take on the book see the
Marian Devon page. (Posted by yvonne 3/18/14)

I've never heard of hippos being in the Tower Menagerie, but there were books by African travelers around so I don't think we can rule out that someone might have thought of that analogy. But perhaps a cow would have been more likely

I am aware of the history you mention, but we and the author see it all in hindsight; we know what happened next -- so it's odd to me to see no trace of foreshadowing in the book. This is probably not something that would bother a casual reader who isn't that into the period, so I wouldn't say it was a flaw -- just a curious point to me.

As for the deaths - think of all the people who have died in regencies just for the setup - so that we could have widows and widowers, orphaned heroines and convenient inheritances! (Posted by Janice 3/18/14)

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#376 The Irresolute Rivals

by Jane Ashford

ISBN: 0451135199, 9780451135193

Published February 1985 by Signet Regency

Miss Georgina Goring, 29, daughter of Lady Goring, had had her one Season in London, but she did not enjoy it much and nothing came of it. She enjoyed living in the country, with her novels, her household tasks and the society of her neighbors. Nevertheless, when Miss Susan Wyndham's aunt fell ill and Georgina was asked to see Susan through her first Season, she undertook to do so.

It was not an easy task, since Susan was an energetic, inventive girl who was used to being the center of attention and getting her way; she did not realize that her brother Sir William and the rest of her family gave in to her because they feared her unbridled rages. In London Susan expected to be the center of attention as she had been at home, but she was only one of many pretty, wealthy girls. With her ego already smarting from this, Susan fell into a fury when she met Lady Marianne MacClain at a ball -- not only was Lady Marianne a beautiful redhead too, she was wearing nearly the same gown as Susan. It required all of Baron Ellerton's social skills to prevent an explosive display of Susan's temper.

Susan sees that engaging Ellerton's attention would enhance her popularity, but Lady Marianne seems a rival. When one of Susan's schemes (involving the cat Daisy) to make it seem that Ellerton is interested in her ends in disaster for Ellerton, Georgina becomes his nurse to make up for her charge's behavior.

This shortish novel is a sequel to
First Season, but it is not necessary to read them in order. It is mostly a story of two couples sorting themselves out, partly because of and partly in spite of Susan's actions. I found this mildly interesting, although some of the situations the author treated humorously seem anything but to me. Susan isn't a very likeable girl, and I was left wondering if I was supposed to believe she'd mature out of her unthinking fits of anger and develop some impulse control in time. It's my belief she won't, so I'd like to see what became of her, and whether she and the cat Daisy broke any more legs and heads, or even hearts, as her career progressed. (Posted by Janice 3/11/14)

Well, I liked this book. It seemed a bit rushed at times, what with all these people and their 'intrigues' and what not, so some incidents that should have received more development is pretty much left hanging. Rather non-stop happenings, whether amusing or not I leave to the reader to decide. I enjoyed it but didn't find it that humorous. Too much heartbreak for that, I thought. Daisy is a menace but no more so than his owner (yes, Daisy is a tom!), while big Growser put his sizable paw in to further muddy the waters, much to the discomfiture of his owner. This was one book that benefitted from a reread as I could finally sort out all the characters! (Posted by yvonne 3/11/14)

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#375 Play Of Hearts

by Corinna Cunliffe

ISBN: 0451141156, 9780451141156

Published February 1986 by Signet Regency

Finnish -Sydänten taistelu, ISBN 9516111378, 9789516111370

Miss Perdita Chase was the daughter of Edmund Wycoller, an actor, and a lady who had married to disoblige her family. When she was a child, her mother died and her father agreed that she should be raised by her uncle Matthew Chase for the advantages, including a settled home, which her uncle could give her. Matthew Chase's second wife had a daughter, Jane, by a previous marriage, and Perdita and Jane grew up like sisters. Two brothers, Jeremy and Christopher Dole, who lived on a neighboring estate, were special friends. Perdita had for years nursed a secret love for Jeremy, but Jeremy thought she favored Christopher, who was closer to her in age.

One day as Perdita and her pet dog Frolic were out walking, an old enemy of Jane's father mistook her for Jane and kidnapped her for ransom and revenge. Jeremy and his servant Clamp used some of the skills they had learned during the war to track the kidnappers and rescue Perdita. Unfortunately Jeremy was seen by Mrs. Banistre-Brewster, a notorious gossip, coming out of Perdita's room at the inn where they had gone to recover. Jeremy was put on the spot, and so to save Perdita's reputation, he said they were married.

Thus began a marriage based on misunderstanding and noncommunication, with Jeremy believing that Perdita loved his brother, and Perdita believing that Jeremy had no interest in her and only married her because the situation forced him to as a gentleman. As the couple drift ever further apart, Perdita becomes a popular young bride in London, Jeremy becomes ever more jealous, Perdita takes up playwriting, and Jeremy believes she is conducting an affair right under his nose -- not knowing that the man he suspects is Perdita's own father.

This is an old fashioned rather melodramatic novel and at times I found it difficult to remain interested. None of the characters really came off the paper for me, but I read on to see how the author would resolve the plot and whether what appeared like dropped threads would be picked up again. People who like the longer, wordier old style of traditional regency -- the sort that doesn’t demand an intense emotional response from the reader -- may find this interesting. I didn't dislike it but it was rather slow going at times. (Posted by Janice 3/4/14)

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#374 The Willful Widow

by Evelyn Richardson

ISBN: 0451178696, 9780451178695

Published January 1994 by Signet Regency. Ebook also available (Belgrave House)

One London morning, at the hideously early hour of nine, the Earl of Winterbourne descended upon his younger brother, Lord Justin St. Clair, with an urgent problem: Reginald, the earl's son and heir, had fallen in love with an unsuitable woman and, his father feared, was on the point of offering her marriage. Although Justin disliked his dull brother and equally dull nephew, he undertook to discover in what danger Reginald stood and detach him if necessary.

The lady in question was Lady Diana Hatherill, widow of the late Ferdie, Viscount Hatherill, but though she had been left short of money due to her feckless father, the Marquess of Buckland, and her amiable but equally feckless spouse, she was by no means an adventuress; she had no intention of marrying Reginald for his money, or anything else. With her Aunt Seraphina, Diana was learning to manage, invest and increase her own funds, and enjoying all that London had to offer in the way of intellectual and artistic life.

Aunt Seraphina had had great happiness in her own marriage; her husband had been her intellectual equal and a kind and loving man as well. She hoped Diana might find the same kind of happiness in a second marriage, with a man on her own level -- a man like Justin perhaps -- if the two can ever be brought to realize that.

The style of this book is noticeably influenced by that of the 18th century; the prose is nicely crafted and paced, and the author shows great familiarity with the intellectual life of the Regency era. However, as I read on through the author's very carefully written sentences, I kept hoping for something to happen, and nothing much ever did. I can recommend this book to those looking for a read that immerses them in the cultural life of the period, but I can't recommend it to readers looking for an intense emotional experience. (Posted by Janice 2/26/14)

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#373 Lord Dragoner's Wife

by Lynn Kerstan

ISBN: 04511198611, 9780451198617, 1611942969, 9781611942965

Published October 1999 by Signet Regency. Ebook also available (Bell Bridge Books).

Lady Dragoner (nee Miss Delilah Bening, a merchant's daughter) married Charles Everett, Viscount Dragoner, because she fell in love with him -- while surveilling possible impoverished gentlemen who might trade a title for wealth, she had seen him perform a random act of kindness for an unknown lady in the park, and that tiny unimportant action tipped the balance. Captain Lord Dragoner turned up bitter, alone and drunk for the wedding and left for France the morning after to take up spying for Wellington, under the guise of a disgraced officer hated by his fellow officers.

Delia did not see him again for six years. During that time she wrote him but he pretty much ignored her letters and never replied. When he finally turned up again in London in July 1814, he found that Delia's business acumen had restored his fortune. Delia wanted a life with him and children born of love, but Dragoner wanted a divorce. He told her so, and returned to France. Imagine his surprise to encounter Delia again in Paris -- in his house, at the social events he frequents, and speaking straightforwardly about which French gentleman she will choose as her lover to provide Dragoner with grounds for that divorce.

Dragoner was brought up by two selfish spendthrift parents who had no affection for him, used him as a decoy, then abandoned him when they scarpered town to avoid debts, pressured him to marry and then took all that money too, leaving him with self esteem of approximately zero. His education came from reading, especially Shakespeare. Delia can quote Shakespeare as well. I am a sucker for iambic pentameter so I enjoyed this aspect of the novel very much. I also liked that it is set at a very specific moment in time, the runup to Waterloo; we know who won that war, but the characters couldn’t, and the author shows that confusion and conflict of loyalties well. This is a very well written trad regency with an engrossing story, a bad boy worth redeeming and a lady quite capable of rising to every exigency. I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 2/18/14)

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#372 Not Quite A Lady

by Sara/Sarah McCulloch

ISBN: 0552114839, 9780552114837, 0449501620, 9780449501627, 0859975150, 9780859975155

Published 1980 by Corgi (UK edition) and 1981 by Fawcett Coventry. Large print edition also available.

In her usual energetic fashion, Sophie, Lady Sutton descends upon her brother Matt much too early one morning. Mr. Matthew Vail (popularly known as Mad Matt, partly because he sustained a head injury in the late unpleasantness and partly because of his present lifestyle) must immediately go down to Deverell's in Berkshire and reconcile with his nasty cousin Martin. There has been bad blood for years between Matt and Martin because of an old love affair that ended tragically. As things stand now, Matt would be Martin's heir and would get his lands, but Sophie fears Martin will leave his money to someone else.

It transpires that Martin is not terminally ill - it's just a broken leg - but the accident has put him in mind of his mortality, and he's decided to marry. His chosen bride is his heretofore unknown ward, Angel, 17, who was left with him by her father some years ago. Matt's first impression of Angel is that she is still a child, since she's on the slight side and has been spending most of her time running wild at Deverell's (which is in a very rundown state). Understandably Angel does not want to marry Martin, a man twice her age and with an evil temper to boot, but when she asks Matt to take her with him, even going so far as to offer herself to him, he refuses and leaves. Angel runs off after him, there's an accident, and she stays to nurse him through a bout of fever.

Angel winds up in the care of Matt's other sister Augusta, who is to kit her out for society and find her a husband. Angel does well enough to attract Gussie's stepson Piers Davenant as a suitor, but Angel wants no part of Piers, who seems a mere boy to her; she's fallen in love with Matt, who has several reasons for not wanting to marry and thinks he's much too old for her anyway.

Sara McCulloch is a pen name of young adult novelist Jean Ure. This appears to be her only regency. In equal parts I liked this novel and was exasperated by it. It has a very good cast of subsidiary characters, and the dialog has zip to it. However, I would have liked some clarification on some things about Matt's backstory and Angel's identity, but I never got it. It's a lively tale though and certainly held my interest. (Posted by Janice 2/11/14)

I believe this is the only one of McCulloch's Regencies that were published in USA. However, in the years 1980-83 she had five novels, including this one, printed in Corgi's A Georgian Romance line. The other four are A Most Insistent Lady, Merely A Gentleman, A Lady For Ludovic and A Perfect Gentleman. (Posted by yvonne 2/11/14)

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#371 A Matter Of Duty

by Sandra Heath

ISBN: 0451153359,: 9780451153357, 9780709080886, 0709080883

Published March 1988 by Signet Regency, reprinted 2007 by Robert Hale. Ebook also available.

German - Lady Louisas geheimste Sehnsucht, ISBN unknown

Miss Louisa Cherington, 22, governess to young Emma at Lawrence Park, was dismissed out of hand by Anne, Lady Lawrence, when that lady discovered that her lover Captain Geoffrey Lawrence was pursuing her seduction. Lady Lawrence was Emma's stepmama and had driven a wedge between Emma and her father Sir Ashley. Louisa was actually a wellborn young lady, but her brother Tom had squandered the fortune he inherited, so Louisa had to find employment; Tom never let on in London that he even had a sister.

Tom accused Lord Rowe of cheating at cards, and Rowe challenged him to a duel. Before the duel, Tom told his second, Lord Christopher Highclare, about his sister and extracted a promise from Kit to marry Louisa if something happened to him. Tom managed to hit Rowe in the arm, but Rowe was more accurate and Tom died.

Kit felt honorbound to marry Louisa, which infuriated his mistress, Thea, Lady Rowe, sister of Captain Lawrence. Kit had thought himself genuinely in love with Thea and would have married her if she left Rowe, until the night he overheard her through the wall and learned what a conniving chienne she really was. Louisa was made aware of Kit's affair but not that it was over, nor did it seem so when Thea took every opportunity to make it look like Kit was still her lover. When the anonymous gift of a locket arrives on Louisa's wedding day, making Kit suspicious of her virtue, the marriage is off to a very rocky start.

This is a plot-packed novel, as we have not one but two vindictive beauties, a lecherous hussar, two suspicious husbands, a feckless brother and an innocent bride, as well as a lonely child left in limbo, and it's a bit difficult to keep them all straight. What with all the plot contortions and the yachting stuff, it seemed to me that the story of the growth of a relationship between Kit and Louisa often took a back seat. However, if you can keep it all straight, it's an entertaining read that picks up steam as it goes. (Posted by Janice 2/3/14)

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#370 The Fair Impostor

by Marlene Suson

ISBN: 0380764725, 9780380764723

Published August 1992 by Avon Books

French - Une Belle Intrigante, ISBN 2265051233, 9782265051232

German - Eine Fast Perfekte Lady, ISBN unknown

Chinese - 美麗喬裝者 (Mei li qiao zhuang zhe), ISBN 9577160301, 9789577160300

Miss Sally Marlowe, the leading lady of the Walcott Strolling Players, was in full stage makeup as Cleopatra when she first encountered Sir Garth Taymor (recently returned from eight years in Brazil) and gave his sister Rowena a piece of her mind when that obnoxious young lady sneered at her as a bumpkin. When the performance (one of Sally's best) was over, Walcott told her that she was so talented that she ought to seek her fortune with the Theatre Royal in Bath, and gave her a blue velvet costume cloak as a parting gift.

Sally had already been mistaken once for Garth's missing fiancee, Lady Serena Keith, but had dismissed the incident. At the inn in Aveton, Sally is turned away because she is an actress, and is nearly abducted by rowdies outside until Serena's brother, Thorley, Earl of Wycombe (Thor), comes to her rescue. Thor takes Sally home to his wife Emma, where he finds Garth waiting. Garth is furious because he doesn't believe the excuse of measles that has kept him from seeing his betrothed for a month. He would like to get out of the betrothal now that he has become reacquainted with Serena, but as a man of honor he can't cry off himself; Serena would have to do that.

It transpires that Serena isn't really upstairs recovering from the measles -- she's run off, and Thor doesn't know where she is, though he suspects Serena's meddling friend Netta Bridger is involved. Thor needs Serena to marry Garth because the old earl borrowed a lot of money from Garth's father Sir Malcolm and Thor can't repay it, but if Serena marries Garth, the debts will be forgiven. Sir Malcolm was a social climber and wanted his son to marry up. To keep Emma from being embarrassed, Sally plays along, and a deception is born.

If you're following all this, you will likely have concluded that this is purely a plot-driven romp, and a fairly contrived one at that. I found myself skimming to find out what happened, but I did not find myself emotionally drawn in at any point. The book is fast moving and has a clever twist or two, but it's not a good choice if you're looking for a strong romance with some emotional depth. (Posted by Janice 1/26/14)

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#369 Lord Ware's Widow

by Emily Hendrickson

ISBN: 0451192079

Published November 1997 by Signet. Also available in ebook.

"Affronted by this nasty little barb, one that had obviously included her, Georgiana turned to give the newcomers a frosty look from beneath the brim of her simple but becoming cottage bonnet trimmed with pink roses that matched the pink of her muslin gown." (p. 118)

Georgiana, Dowager Marchioness of Ware, 20, lives quietly at the Dower House with her friend and companion, Miss Elspeth Pettibone, and her staunch defender, the cat Bel. Georgiana never had a Season; her uncle had forced her into marriage at 17, but her husband had died on their wedding night. Elspeth had been a governess for the new Lord Ware's children until he had summarily dismissed her without a character when she wouldn't grant him sexual favors. Georgiana too had been the object of his attentions and has a broken little finger to show for it. She has been importuned so often that she believes all gentlemen regard widows as fair game.

At Lady Kenyon's house party, her first real entry into society, Georgiana meets Lady Kenyon's nephew, Jason Ainsley, Lord Thornbury. He seems to like her, treats her with courtesy, and genuinely respects her skill at drawing. However, just as she is beginning to think that here at last is a gentleman who can be trusted, she overhears a half-drunk conversation between him and his friend Lord Musgrave, and learns that Thornbury had targeted her for seduction all along and is pretty smug about his progress. Thornbury is just like all the others.

Georgiana decides to leave Lady Kenyon's without delay. She and Elspeth decide to visit Sidmouth, which is smaller and quieter than Bath or Brighton. When Thornbury learns that Georgiana has left without a word, he too decides to leave; he and Musgrave will inspect some property of his that he hasn't checked on recently. By coincidence, his property is in the Sidmouth area. By now Thornbury's intentions for Georgiana have mutated from seduction to marriage, but it will be difficult to convince Georgiana of that.

Ordinarily I am a sucker for "change of heart" stories, but it seems to me that in this book the author doesn't seem really interested in her characters so much as she is in bits of regency trivia. There are subplots of a secondary romance between Elspeth and Musgrave and a smuggling ring active in the area, but with so many dramatic possibilities available, instead we get a seaside tour of Sidmouth -- sea bathing, souvenirs, evening parties, tea parties and fan purchases, with details of ladies' costumes dropped in odd places. This lack of real feeling, together with the author's odd stop-and-go style, made this book a real chore to finish. I can't recommend it -- instead I'd heartily recommend the author's very useful compendium of regency lore, The Regency Reference Book, as in the sample at the end of this book; it's got the same fascinating factual information without the burden of a story. (Posted by Janice 1/20/14)

I, too, had problems with this book, not the least the oddness of the main couple. Like you, Janice, I like change of heart stories but I want there to be a reason for the change. Here it's as if Jason wakes up one day and decides seducing her isn't that cool after all. The author decided her hero had a change of heart and presto! he does. There are several such instances where the characters say and do things 'just because'. Also, the smuggle sub plot is in no way organic to the story and worse, I found the dialogue stilted, even wooden, which is never fun. So, no recommendation from me either. (Posted by yvonne 1/20/14)

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#368 The Blackwood Bride

by Jasmine Cresswell

ISBN: 0373300883, 9780373300884, 0709179685, 9780709179689, 0373312199, 9780373312191, 0373312199, 9780373312191

Published 1980 by Masquerade Historical (Harlequin). Reprinted 1995 by Harlequin in the anthology Rakes and Rascals

Swedish - Ladyns hemlighet ISBN 917600368X
Finnish - Blackwoodin morsian, ISBN 951854350X, 9789518543506
French - Il était presque trop tard, ISBN 2862598879, 9782862598871

"It was not to be expected that Lady Angela Thorpe would lightly accept the loss of Viscount Blackwood. Blessed with a body to rival Venus, the face of an angel, and the soul of a moneylender, Lady Angela had found in the Viscount her perfect mate."

Viscount Blackwood was enraged to learn that he had to marry within one year or lose most of his inheritance to his depressing cousin Frederick Babbington. Blackwood was besotted with his mistress, Lady Angela Thorpe, and would have instantly married her, but his father's will also said it had to be anyone but her. After considerable time drinking with his two friends the Honourable Jasper Clarke and Sir Anthony Browne, he came up with a plan: he would visit a workhouse, select a bride from among the dying and marry her. He'd tell the workhouse staff that he was engaged upon a mission of charity; he knew that for a coin or two, they'd turn their backs on any irregularity. He'd be a widower almost immediately, free to marry Lady Angela, and he'd have fulfilled the conditions of the will.

The day before Blackwood made his plan, starved and abused Miss Sarah Jane Smith was thrown into the Thames to drown. She was found the next morning and taken to St. Katherine's, where she lay in a high fever, not expected to live. She seemed perfect. She would be tended at his home and would thus not die cold, hungry and alone in the stinking confines of the workhouse. Sarah and another old woman were removed from St. Katherine's, and Everett and Sarah were married, with Jasper and Tony as witnesses.

To Blackwood's surprise, Sarah did not die; the fever broke and under his mother's care, her health improved rapidly. It became clear to Blackwood that his bride was no drab from the slums, but had had a genteel upbringing. Blackwood questioned her, and made inquiries, but learned little. Meanwhile, under the Dowager Viscountess Blackwood's aegis, Sarah entered society, and the man who wanted her dead found her again.

This is an old fashioned read, a cracking good plot-driven tale with a mean bastard hero, an even colder villain, and a heroine who can definitely take care of herself -- enlivened by a neat turn of phrase here and there from the author. I liked it. (Posted by Janice 1/11/14)

I've liked all Cresswell books that have come in my way so Janice's review intrigued me to buy Rakes and Rascals, which contains both this story and The Abducted Heiress.

When first introduced Blackwood really is a bit of the villain himself, what with his dastardly plot to thwart his father's wishes, cold nature and all. He does have a couple of redeeming qualms though and his companions are too nice to cry friends with an out and out blackguard, so eventually he hangs onto the hero label - just. It's very much a plot driven story yet with a heart. I liked it. (Posted by yvonne 3/18/14)

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#367 A Midnight Clear

by Lynn Kerstan

ISBN: 0449227707, 9780449227701, 1611942152, 9781611942156

Published November 1997 by Fawcett Crest. Also available as ebook (Bellebooks)

Lady Eudora Swann was in search of someone to help her complete the manuscript of her memoirs and Miss Jane Ryder was out of a job and down on her luck. Jane's last name was that of her father, Lord Ryder, but her father had never been married to her mother; when he got one of the maids pregnant, he gave her a cottage on the estate to live in, and Jane had grown up there. She had taken lessons with her father's legitimate children, but was otherwise not treated as one of his children; he made no other provision for her, and when her mother died, she was on her own. Her life had made her a sapient and resourceful young woman, and those qualities appealed to Lady Eudora.

Charles Everett, Lord Fallon was eager to stop the publication of Scandalbroth. Unlike recent Lords Fallon, whose peccadilloes formed a large part of Lady Eudora's book, he wanted to be respectable and restore the family reputation. Lady Eudora made a deal with him: if he would allow Jane access to family papers at Wilvercote, the dilapidated family estate, so as to include material on the Fallons for another, less bawdy, history also in progress, she would hold publication of Scandalbroth and might withdraw it altogether. The upshot of it was that Charles and Jane spent Christmas snowed in at Wolvercote but hardly alone: there were also a young boy, a mysterious female infant and a goat.

Ordinarily I am a sucker for a good Christmas romance, and this one has many elements I enjoyed -- master plotter Lady Eudora, resolute Jane who refused to be a victim of her birth, a hero who is a pain and knows it, and the whole Christmas atmosphere. It's quite short and contains some nice turns of acerbic humor, but it has a rather contrived plot and I wouldn't call it Kerstan's best book. However if you're in the right mood, and can endure the goo goo ga ga baby dialog, it may well serve. (Posted by Janice 12/18/13)

I couldn't. Endure the goo goo stuff, that is. In fact, I felt there was no reason whatever to introduce the baby into the story! Before that it was going places with the relationship between the reluctant hero and his unsuspecting heroine. After that it was too much about the baby and hardly any romantic development between our couple. In my view the baby ruined what could have been a great story. The weakness comes with the infantry, sorry. Even though I liked the couple very much, and Lady Eudora is a fantastic old lady, I can't truly recommend it.

Note: This book is a stand alone sequel to Francesca's Rake. (Posted by yvonne 12/18/13)

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#366 The Unlikely Chaperone

by Dorothy Mack

ISBN: 0451168933, 9780451168931

Published February 1991 by Signet Regency

When word reached Robert Trent, Marquess of Malvern, that his much loved young sister Lady Marielle was dying of a fever contracted by wandering around in the rain mourning a love that could never be, he sped to her side. On her deathbed Marielle called for "Lee", and Malvern, grieved and angry, set out to find him and call him to account.

Lee proved to be Leander Farrish, at present staying with his sisters in London for the Season. Three of the Farrish girls, notably the incredibly beautiful Aprhodite (Didi), are making their debut under the chaperonage of their older half sister, Alexandra. Malvern is unfavorably impressed with Alexandra, however, when he overhears her using language more fit for a fishwife than a lady.

When Malvern hears Leander's side of things, he loses his wrath. He has been feeling for some time that his life is empty, and Didi's beauty is stunning. He decides to get to know her better, with a view to marriage. Vain, narcissistic, self-centered Didi has targeted him as well, as the catch of the season. When Malvern's eyes are opened and he discovers that he really prefers Alexandra, the situation becomes very complicated indeed.

I've read many regencies with this basic plot of older sister who puts aside her own emotions to shepherd younger siblings through the Season, and I think this is one of the better examples. All the characters are individualized, and all are sympathetic, except, of course, for Didi, who is reminiscent of Heyer's Beautiful Miss Wield but even more ruthless and singleminded. The ending may seem a bit flat to some, since Didi does not suffer any real consequences for her behavior, except marriage to a decent if poor young man whose life she will probably wreck. I found it an entertaining read. (Posted by Janice 12/10/13)

I have mixed feelings about this book. It begins as a rather Gothic revenge story, then the hero, who's a reasonable man, changes his mind and it becomes more of a proper romance that turns into a farce by the introduction of the very 'odd' relative that suddenly shows up. Except for the plot/theme roaming every which way it's well written and, like Janice said, the characters are more than just cardboard cutouts. Do I recommend it? I'm not sure. (Posted by yvonne 12/10/13)

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#365 A Marriage Made On Earth

by Sheila Bishop

ISBN: 0263770818, 9780263770810

Published 1990 by Masquerade Historical (Mills & Boon)

French - Une Amie trop parfaite, ISBN 2280020831, 9782280020831

Miss Pamela Stonebridge first met her future husband, Richard Cressinder, Lord Blaise, when he nearly ran her down as he was driving up to her home to offer for her. Richard had received a saber slash down his face at Waterloo, and though he had recovered well from his wounds, a scar that made him look like he was scowling marred one side of his face, so Pamela's first impression of him was quite unpleasant.

Pamela's father had lost most of the family fortune when a bank he had invested in failed, and could only give her £1,000 -- too little to interest suitors in London. Pamela's mother had been a bosom bow of Richard's great aunt and originally the aunt had intended to leave her money to her friend's child, but when she left it to Richard instead, he felt bound in honor to offer for Pamela.

What with Pamela's father in poor health and fretting over her future, the marriage was rushed through, before bride and groom had had any time to get to know each other. At seventeen suddenly Pamela had become mistress of Mallowdown, the Cressinder family home. Believing that country-bred Pamela was very young and would not know how to go on, Richard enlisted the help of his neighbor and close friend, Mrs. Decima Strang, to mould and guide his bride. Richard had grown up in family chaos and valued Decima's home as an island of order and civility.

At first resentful Pamela thought that Richard and Decima might be lovers -- there had been rumors of this -- but soon she learned that Decima was not her rival in that sense. It was actually much worse than that: Richard believed that Decima was a paragon without flaw, and that Pamela's rapidly growing dislike of her was based on envy. Pamela was forced to compete against The Woman Who Does Everything Perfectly in order to win her husband's respect.

This novel is not a romance in the sense of a courtship story, but a "period of adjustment" piece and a coming of age story for Pamela. Pamela has to learn how to handle outside influences in her marriage, just as Richard has to learn that Decima is not what she seems. There is a mysterious death in the novel, but it's not a cliched whodunnit sort of mystery; I liked the way the author used the process of solving the puzzle to contribute to Pamela's growth as an adult. I have always liked Sheila Bishop's smooth, literate prose as well. I liked this novel and would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 11/30/13)

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#364 Lord Randal's Tiger

by Elizabeth Chater

ISBN: 0449501825

Published May 1981 by Fawcett Coventry #114, Also available in ebook format

Lord Randal Beresford first met diminutive Miss Chloe Keith in the stables at the inn where her drunken half brother Reggie, having lost all his own money, was about to gamble away hers as well. Chloe was gifted with a very unusual affinity for horses. When she spoke to them, it was as if they understood her, and even the most difficult beast trusted her. She made friends with Lord Randal's pair Thunder and Lightning immediately. Lord Randal took her on as a tiger; slight of stature, in tiger's livery Chloe could pass as a lad.

At a horse fair Chloe bought a huge black stallion from the local Squire for a pound; the man had so tormented the animal that he was thought to be untameable, but Chloe found the steel spikes under his saddle that were driving him mad with pain. Chloe named the stallion Amigo and took him with her to Mrs. Janet MacLeod's Kindlewick farm, where she hoped to establish a business training horses and offering riding lessons to London children. Janet's nephew Roderick McLeod, a Scots giant, took one look at Amigo's wounds and believed Chloe was the culprit. As time passed, Rod's anger abated and began to turn to attraction, but Chloe had become enchanted with Astley's equestrian shows, and her ambitions for Amigo, now the Prince of Clowns, came in conflict with Rod's own plans for her future. Meanwhile Lord Randal was experiencing romantic problems of his own.

I have liked several of this author's regencies, but this one did not please as much. The horse/human bond verging on telepathy seemed too fantastic for credibility; the abrupt Scots hero did not appeal, nor did the child-woman heroine Chloe. I thought also that Lord Randal was picked up and then dropped, and his romance with Lady Barbara seemed to come from nowhere. On top of that, the style of this one verges on twee. Now that Chater is back in ebook form, I would suggest that Miss Cayley's Unicorn is a much more pleasing title to try. (Posted by Janice 11/17/13)

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#363 A Lady Of Breeding

by Delia Ellis

ISBN: 0449220028

Published September 1991 by Fawcett Crest

Alexander Carne, Earl of Sheldon, 35, sought a governess for his young niece Mary, whom he had brought to live at his country estate of Arunfold. Since her parents' death, little Mary had been wan and depressed and other governesses had not stayed. Orphaned Miss Lucy Tiversley, 19, though the daughter of a Viscount, thought of herself as a red-haired freckled beanpole and resolved not to sponge off her godparents any longer. Lucy applied for the job; she was indeed accomplished and Sheldon hired her. He decided to drive her down to Arunfold himself in his curricle, but the groom was injured in an accident, the weather changed and they were forced to shelter unchaperoned in a deserted barn overnight.

Sheldon knew that marriage was the only option to save Lucy's reputation; Lucy was neither high enough to weather the gossip nor low enough to be paid off. Lucy, however, was not at all willing, partly because she thought it was silly in her circumstances to worry about being ruined and partly because she had by then found that Sheldon had an ambitious mistress, Valentine D'Averne. Sheldon insisted his family honor was at stake, therefore whether he was too old or not, Lucy must marry him, even if it is a marriage in name only. On his wedding day Sheldon left his new Countess to settle in at Arunford with Mary and returned to his mistress's home to continue his visit. Left at Arunford, Lucy finds a bullied child, a vicious housekeeper, a smitten neighbor and unexpected friends, and when he returns, Sheldon begins to find his unwanted bride more appealing than he first thought.

There's nothing new about this regency - familiar elements of social climbing mistress with scheming brother; ugly duckling heroine; lonely child; chivalrous rival and so forth. However the characters are likeable and the dialog is sprightly; I especially appreciated the Earl's cool humor. There are one or two slight twists to the plot which were out of the common as well. It was an entertaining read, though I would have wallbanged it if the kitten Smudge had died. (Posted by Janice 11/4/13)

I quite liked this one as well. There are some elements in it that made me roll my eyes, especially Lucy being hired in the first place, with the curricle trip a good second. But, as you said, Janice, it had a few neat unexpected plot twists. The characters are in general well drawn and, for the most part, likeable. (Posted by yvonne 11/4/13)

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#362 The Wayward Heiress

by Blanche Chenier

ISBN: 0373311370, 9780373311378

Published November 1990 by Harlequin Regency Romance (#37)

French - Amour et Fantaisie, ISBN 2280021722, 9782280021722

Miss Emma Armstead, an orphaned heiress, first met Charles, the Ninth Earl of Brandford, when she slid down the banister at the Houghton Academy for Young Ladies and kicked his sister Lady Marcella in the ankle. Charles was outraged at her hoydenish behavior, but Marcella was delighted; Charles had brought her to the Academy to cure her of a tendre for Mr. Louis de Troyes and now, because of the incident, she won't have to stay there.

Marcella and Emma become fast friends immediately, and Lady Brandford invites her to make a stay with them in London. Charles reacts by immediately proposing to the wrong woman, Miss Lavinia Smythe, much to his mama's alarm, as she knows Lavinia is not right for Charles. Lavinia still loves Lord John Druce, an army friend of Charles's still on active service, but is done waiting around for him because people were mocking her for being on the shelf.

Once in London, Emma's string of unfortunate incidents continues -- she is seen buying muffins for ragamuffins, and falls out an open window. Never mind that Emma might have died of a fall on the pointed iron railings -- her nether limbs were exposed, causing Lavinia to be overcome and faint from the unconscionable impropriety of it all. To cap it off, Emma is seen kissing Louis, who had rescued her, in thanks.

Just as it appears that Emma, Marcella and Lavinia may be in a way to sort out their various romantic entanglements, John is taken prisoner, so Emma hares off to France to rescue him from prison, Charles goes after her, and somehow a donkey gets involved.

There is no point in looking for verisimilitude in a romantic adventure comedy, so if one can keep a tight grip on one's sense of disbelief, the proceedings are pretty entertaining. I'm not certain this one made much sense by the end, but it was light, fast and funny, and I did enjoy it. (Posted by Janice 10/22/13)

For once you're more charitable than I, Janice! Besides disbelief we also have to do without a coherent plot. I thought it an okay romp until they went to France to rescue John, which sort of changed the story from romance to adventure. Sort of. Or what there was of it. I agree it had its moments but in the end I found it too exasperating and too over the top silly. (Posted by yvonne 10/22/13)

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#361 An Uncivil Servant

by Marian Devon

ISBN: 0449221598, 9780449221594

Published January 1994 by Fawcett Crest

Lady Lavinia Pickering was feeling restless and bored, a dangerous state for that energetic lady. She decided that what she and her two best friends, Mrs. Jane Abingdon and Mrs. Adelaide Oliver, needed was a new project. Lavinia proposed the formation of the Pickering Club, for the purpose of experiencing the stimulation of travel.

Lord Jeremy Pickering, Lavinia's nephew, was in search of new experiences himself. When he saw Lavinia's shapely new maidservant Kitty turning out the Yellow Bedchamber, he meant to steal a kiss, but Kitty doused his ardor with a bucket of scrub water. When Lavinia found them, far from firing the new maidservant out of hand, instead she gave her a most effective lesson in disabling a male attacker, using Jeremy as her subject.

When Jeremy first heard Kitty's cultured tones, he knew that, whoever she was, she wasn't a servant. As indeed she was not; Catherine Fairclough had been forced into marrying nasty Lord Monkhouse, but she bolted as soon as the ceremony was over and seemingly vanished. When Lavinia saw Catherine at the employment office, she hired her immediately, no questions asked, feeling that eventually Catherine would trust her with her story.

The trivial objections of Jane and Abbie were put aside, and the newly constituted Pickering Club set off for Bath by public coach, wearing unusual but practical costumes specially designed by Lavinia. With them went Catherine, now promoted from maid to Miss Pickering, a distant cousin, and in pursuit went Jeremy and Catherine's enraged bridegroom. Jeremy was falling in love with Catherine, but Lord Monkhouse was already in love with her fortune and meant to find her and consummate the marriage as soon as possible, by force if necessary.

At 188 pages, this is a short little book, but it's a rollicking comedy with some nifty comic creations in steely-willed Lavinia, plump Jane and fainting Abbie. I liked its touches of Pickwickian humor, and because it is funny, I can forgive the "a marriage wasn't legal until it was consummated" nonsense. Ordinarily I think a comic novel can't be too short, but I think this one could have benefitted from being a bit longer, so as to have more of the Club's adventures. (Posted by Janice 10/15/13)

It's really bad that so many authors get caught in the consummation trap when, as in this story, a legitimate reason for annulment (coercion) already exists. But it's a common faulty fact in historical novels. Else I thought the book an absolute laugh fest. Read my review here! (Posted by yvonne 10/15/13)

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#360 A Suitable Arrangement

by Rebecca Ashley

ISBN: 0449211851

Published May 1987 by Fawcett Crest

When Mrs. Catherine Marshall was still Miss Duberry, Lord Wellesly fell in love with her and made her an offer, but Katie chose Frederick Marshall instead. Marshall was a wastrel who ran through all the money and got himself killed in a quarrel over a lightskirt. Katie had to sell everything to cover his debts; she is now penniless, and with her younger sister Madeline to ride herd on as well.

Katie and Madeline are on their way to Aunt Ada's, where Katie hopes they will be taken in; with Madeline in her aunt's charge, Katie will seek employment. Thanks to Madeline's desire for a stroll in a field near an inn enroute, their stagecoach departs without them, but Madeline cadges a ride off a private vehicle also stopped at that inn. That coach brings them to the home of Lord Belham. Belham has a friend staying with him, advising him on avoiding ruin for debt. To Katie's horror, that friend is Lord Wellesly. Wellesly is still piqued about her rejection years ago, and he thinks Katie tarnished by the scandal attached to her husband, so he makes her an offer he thinks she cannot refuse -- an offer that isn't marriage.

This is a short read at 155 pages, and that's just as well, because it's really not very well done. It doesn't have a story so much as a series of incidents. More importantly for me, there are too many mistakes in it that show unfamiliarity with the regency period, or even common sense: "the lead 'orse" throws a shoe and the driver fixes it on the road as if it were some sort of flat tire rather than something that needs a blacksmith's attention; a coachman brings two unexpected female guests to his master's house without explanation; Katie and Madeline stay in a bachelor's home with another male guest and no older lady to lend them countenance, yet Belham's betrothed, Lady Anne, invites them to meet local society; one of the Belham grooms is called a "stable hand"; Katie and Wellesly spend a night in a inn with no thought to Katie's reputation. If this were this author's first regency, I could forgive much of the silliness, but it isn't - she had published half a dozen before this one. I would think even people who've never read a regency before in their lives would find some of these things very unlikely indeed. (Posted by Janice 9/19/13)

I must agree with you, Janice - this is a very odd book. I have several books by Ashley, which are, if not top notch writing, at least somewhat enjoyable. This book is not only riddled by historical anachronisms, the almost nonexistent plot doesn't help either, but the unlikeable characters set the seal on it as a prime contender for my worst read list. It may come as a surprise but I do not recommend this book! (Posted by yvonne 9/19/13)

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#359 Aunt Sophie's Diamonds

by Joan Smith

ISBN: 0449233782

Published January 1977 by Fawcett Crest

When wealthy, eccentric and tightfisted Sophronia Tewksbury lay dying, her family was summoned to Swallowcourt to await her passing and hear her will read. Those summoned included Miss Bliss, her companion; nephew Captain Jonathan Tewksbury, heir to rundown Swallowcourt; Miss Luanne (Loo) Beresford and Mr. Gabriel Beresford, niece and nephew; and sister Mrs. Marcia Milmont, a widow with a young daughter, "my little Claudia", who accompanied her.

Claudia was not, in fact, so little anymore; she was twenty-four years old. Claudia's age was an embarrassment to her mother, who still fancied herself as the belle of London; accordingly Claudia had been raised by her grandparents. Although her grandfather was fond of her and taught her to play chess like a master, he lived under the cat's paw; her grandmother was "Quakerish", and life with her was dull gowns, duty, submission and daily readings from the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress. Claudia's only break was a two week visit to her mother in London, which Mrs. Milmont would schedule when town was empty of her tonnish friends. When Sophie's neighbor and co-executor Sir Hillary Thoreau understood the extent of Claudia's neglect, he was appalled.

The terms of Aunt Sophie's will proved problematic for her heirs. Sophie left instructions that each person was to choose one item from her fabulous jewels, but the most valuable piece, the fabulous Tewksbury Diamonds, were to be buried with her -- fifty thousand pounds in the cold ground. The balance of her will was to be made known after one year, or when certain conditions known only to the executors were fulfilled.

Sophie's heirs immediately lay various schemes to get the diamonds. The executors know all of them will make some kind of attempt to dig up the body and get them. Claudia enters into Loo's schemes with great gusto; they're the first adventure she's ever had in her life. Hillary is falling for the newly energized Claudia, but how to convince a girl who's been trained from birth to think herself too unimportant ever to interest any man?

Ordinarily I'm not much on rompish regencies, but even I like this one; it's an example of the form at its most entertaining. The characters are funny and interesting, their scheming is nonstop, and it just rockets along. It's 253 pages, a bit longer than the usual light regency, but it never flags. It's a favorite reread of mine. (Posted by Janice 9/2/13)

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#358 Lady Margery's Intrigue

by Marion Chesney (M C Beaton)

ISBN: 078389614X, 9780783896144, 0449500535, 9780449500538, 0708818234, 9780708818237, 0449216594, 9780449216590

Published 1980 by Fawcett Coventry, this edition reprinted 1988 by Fawcett Crest. Also available in large print and ebook format.

Swedish - Lady Margerys bedrägeri, ISBN 9132423993, 9789132423994
German - Skandal um Lady Margery, ISBN unknown

Lady Margery Quennell lived at Chelmswood, the family home, with her aunt Lady Amelia Carroll, while her father the Earl lived it up in London. Margery loved the shabby old place; she endured unsuccessful Seasons in London each year at her father's request so that she could return to Chelmswood and be comfortable again. During her most recent visit, she met Charles, Marquess of Edgecombe at a ball, where she made the terrible social error of answering his questions with a too accurate guess about his past.

Another disastrous season behind her, Margery was happy to be back at Chelmswood again, until her father returned home unannounced -- with a new bride. Desdemona, the new Countess of Chelmsford, was a horror: half the Earl's age, greedy and vulgar. She demanded Margery's one piece of good jewelry, a diamond and ruby necklace that came to her from her mother, and set about wheedling her husband into getting Margery and Amelia out of her life.

When she learned that her father had gambled and spent everything on Desdemona, such that Chelmswood would have to be sold to pay his debts, Margery sold the necklace and used the proceeds to set herself up in London. She vowed to marry the first man who asked her, as long as he was prepared to save her home. She had three candidates in mind, all friends of the Marquess: The Hon. Toby Sanderson, a country squire type; Peregrine, Viscount Swanley, a pleasant ineffectual chap who wrote poetry in secret; and Mr. Freddie Jamieson, handsome but rarely sober or anything close to it. In short order she had received offers of marriage from all three, and the Marquess was convinced he had to save his friends from a designing harpy.

I have always liked Marion Chesney because she has a sneaky, acerbic sense of humor, and she does not turn a blind eye to the weaknesses and foibles of the age. None of her characters is perfect, and few of them, including heroes and heroines, are completely sympathetic. They are, however, very funny and very real. I laughed at Margery's stratagems for getting noticed by her candidates and the scene in which her father decides he's finally had enough of Dessie, and I smiled when even Amelia got her guy. Yvonne has her comfort reads, and so do I! (Posted by Janice 8/14/13)

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#357 The Clandestine Betrothal

by Alice Chetwynd Ley

ISBN: 0856173959, 9780856173950, 0552098620, 9780552098625, 034525726X, 0893401153, 9780893401153, OCLC-59028609

Published 1967 by Robert Hale, reissued by White Lion Publishers, Corgi and Ballantine Books. Large print and audio editions also available.

One fine May morning The Honorable Hugh Eversley was strolling through the grounds of Strawberry Hill with its owner and his friend Horry Walpole (noted author of The Castle of Otranto), when Beau sensed they were being watched from the nearby woods. The culprit was soon found; she was Miss Susan Fyfield, a pupil at Miss Fanchington's Seminary and a classmate of Beau's sister Georgy. Susan gave out that she had come to see the famous estate, but the truth was that she had an enormous crush on Beau, and when she heard he would be in the neighborhood, she could not pass by a chance of seeing her idol.

Beau is a leader of society; the next time Susan meets him she is staying in London with her Aunt Fyfield and her cousin Cynthia. At his sister Georgy's come-out party, Beau obliges her by taking notice of her young friend, but at supper Susan has her first experience with champagne, and, alas, it goes to her head -- on the way home she tells her aunt and cousin that she is secretly betrothed to Beau. The next morning, when she's sober, Susan tells them it was all a hum (Susan had been a bit jealous of Cynthia queening it about when she became engaged), but they don't quite believe her because of the marked attentions Beau had paid to her.

At first Beau is indulgent and amused at Susan's crush on him; he sees his attempts to help her socially as extracting a charming youngster from a scrape. He believes Susan's infatuation will wear off soon enough -- but as moonstruck Susan's crush fades, Beau finds that his has only begun.

This is the first of a trilogy called the Eversley trilogy, the other titles being The Toast of the Town (Georgy's story) and A Season in Brighton (featuring one of Georgy's suitors). A little mystery is provided with the search to establish Susan's real identity, and one aspect of that I found a bit iffy though it was explained well enough. It was a straightforward tale, pleasantly told with flashes of humor, and I enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 8/6/13)

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#356 The Last Cotillion

by Georgina Grey

ISBN: 0449500780

Published August 1980 by Fawcett Crest

One London night young Mr. Roger Irving, out with a party of friends, made a drunken bet about a phaeton race. Roger did not have a phaeton of his own, so he appropriated one belonging to Lord Buckleigh, which he smashed up. Buckleigh, who is not a nice man, loves to cause unhappiness. He threatens Roger's older sister Olivia, saying that if she does not allow his attentions, he will have Roger prosecuted for theft and thrown into Newgate.

Buckleigh has a history of pursuing young women and then dumping them publicly so that he can enjoy their humiliation. He is currently pursuing Miss Matilda Hastings, whom he does intend to marry, but he is enjoying making Matilda unhappy by his apparent pursuit of Olivia. Matilda's brother Sir Robert Hastings and Olivia must work together to foil Buckleigh and save Matilda from making a terrible error.

Although there are couples forming relationships in this book, its theme is really growing up and discovering that some things in the world have a dark side; much is made of the change Olivia feels when she learns Buckleigh's secret and must somehow come to terms with cynicism and loss of innocence. As a drama it's a bit lacking as the villain's comeuppance takes place offscreen and we don't get the satisfaction of seeing someone beat the stuffing out of him. Nevertheless I found it an interesting read for its heroine's growth process. (Posted by Janice 7/18/13)

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#355 Harriet

by Joan Mellows

ISBN: 0449232093, 0893402087, 9780893402082

Published 1977 by Fawcett Crest, large print edition also available.

German - Skandal und Liebe, ISBN: 3442261163, 9783442261161

Harriet, Lady Frome had first looked after her father, Sir Timothy Catesby; then, when her irresponsible brother Geoffrey inherited, she looked after him; then she looked after her frail husband, Lord Frome, until his death; then it was Miss Selina Markham, one of Geoffrey's flirts who took it too seriously. Now, with all these responsibilities resolved, for the first time Harriet is free -- and completely lost.

So Harriet set about learning to enjoy herself. In the course of pursuing her new independent life (Geoffrey having fled to the Continent), she visits her friends Anne and Edward Keithley, and at that house party she meets Hugh De Brandon. There are whispers about Mr. De Brandon; he had had an unhappy marriage and it is said that perhaps his wife committed suicide because of it. Tongues begin to wag when Harriet and he have a spirited conversation about Mansfield Park (neither of them likes Fanny) and the gossips take note.

Harriet learns that Hugh has a young daughter, Amelia, who has been left in the country in the care of her governess. Amelia has been ill ever since the death of her mother -- hysteria, sleepwalking and bouts of paralysis. The child is unable or unwilling to tell anyone what she fears. Harriet's interest in little Amelia brings her into closer contact with Hugh, and she is often in conflict with him, although her feelings for him are growing.

This book is a sequel to
Friends at Knoll House, and most of that book's characters reappear and develop further; they are not simply walk-ons. It is a romance, but it is also a complicated story of family relationships. Although it may not be strictly necessary to read Friends first, I think it would be helpful in appreciating why Harriet and Geoffrey are what they are, and what the history of their friends the Keithleys is. (Posted by Janice 7/5/13)

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#354 Eccentric Lady

by Jane Lovelace (Dixie Lee McKeone)

ISBN: 0446352985

Published February 1989 by Warner Books

Lady Elizabeth Anne Haughton-Marshall has no interest in a London season or in finding a husband. Beth is deeply interested in managing the three farms she inherited from her father, which she had helped him manage; in particular she is developing an improved variety of laying hen and awaiting the birth of her favorite mare's foal. However, her uncle and trustee Lord Farling is of a different mind; he tells her that unless she agrees to go to London, he will see to it that she never has control of her farms again.

Beth will need a lady to live with her in London, and so her uncle employs an old acquaintance, Miss Jane Westcott. In London, longing for her farms, Beth feels caged and hounded; she reacts by telling enormous lies, but to her surprise, the ton is amused by her taradiddles and accepts her as an eccentric. When she talks to George III of farming, and then, when she is called the Hen Herder, dresses in chicken colors and walks two leashed chickens in the park at the promenade hour, even Mr. Brummell is captivated.

One gentleman, however, is unimpressed - Steven Hepsford, Marquis of Alspeth resents Beth's influence over his impressionable nephew Jonathan Thorpe. Alspeth has good reason to be concerned about Jonathan, since that young man has fallen under the spell of one Major Cable, a scheming ivory-turner. Beth considers herself honor-bound not to reveal Jonathan's confidences to his uncle, but neither can she see him ruin himself without making a push to rescue him.

I am not the world's greatest fan of lighter regencies; for me there is often too much unreality about them and the humor falls flat. This book, however, is an exception. I did laugh at Beth and her chickens, and I found her encounter with Farmer George quite poignant. The other elements of the story are rather predictable, but not unreasonable, and the tale flows smoothly. I would recommend this book to readers who like lighter fare. (Posted by Janice 6/12/13)

Ah, Janice, you've stumbled on one of my favorite comfort reads! I've relieved many an hour sick in bed with this easy to read and amusing book. Eccentric Lady is both witty and funny, something a Regency romance should be if at all possible! I enjoyed Beth but her chaperone, who has decided to be a Dragon but strongly puts Beth in mind of a little ruffled hen, is as delightful a secondary character as you will find. There's nothing Earth-shaking in this short read, just a fast paced tale in well written prose. I recommend it, of course!

Note on the author: Dixie [Lee] McKeone, who died in 2007, wrote a handful of Regencies; two for Warner as Jane Lovelace and the rest for Harlequin as Dixie Lee McKeone. She also wrote contemporary romance, science fiction and childrens books as Dixie Lee, Dixie McKeone or Lee McKeone. (Posted by yvonne 6/12/13)

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#353 A Strange And Ill-starred Marriage

by Helen Tucker

ISBN: 0449235351

Published 1978 by Fawcett

It took only a few years for Sir Gerard Egmont to run through his inheritance and he was desperate for money. To that end he sold his sister, Jocelyn, into marriage with Sir Rolf Caradoc. Sir Rolf was a bad tempered, dissolute man who had an evil reputation in the neighborhood. He was obsessed with getting an heir so that his brother Edward could never inherit Caradoc Court, but no decent family would have him as a husband for their daughter; Sir Gerard's father had already denied him once when Jocelyn was younger.

Jocelyn had no money and no place to go and Gerard played on her feelings, so she agreed to the marriage. Edward assumed she had married Rolf willingly for his money and disliked her on sight. On her wedding night, Jocelyn could not endure the thought of Rolf, and decided that she had fulfilled her promise to Gerard by going through with the ceremony but had never promised to live with Rolf, so she bolted into the woods. Rolf came after her and injured his back and leg in a fall from his horse, and Jocelyn was reprieved temporarily. With Rolf confined to his room, Jocelyn becomes better acquainted with Edward, and learns that there is a mystery behind events at Caradoc Court which they must solve.

This is an odd sort of regency romance; I thought it had more the tone of an old fashioned gothic suspense. There are one or two period oddities in it as well. Though it was a pleasant enough time passer, as a regency romance it seems rather vague and I wouldn't recommend it except to readers who like very old fashioned plot driven stories with rather passive heroines. (Posted by Janice 6/3/13)

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#352 The Rogue's Lady

by Marian Devon

ISBN: 0449216683

Published June 1995 by Fawcett Regency

Miss Alexandria Linnell, formerly of Rose Hall and now a poor relation, had thought herself in love with Sir Oliver Linnell, but when her father was ruined, Alexandria wound up as companion to Lady Augusta, and Oliver offered instead for Lady Amelia Fielding because he needed to marry money.

The Honorable Henry Romney, son (or not) of the Earl of Woolridge from his marriage to Lydia Flynn, a gorgeous but faithless lady from Ireland, is under pressure to offer for Lady Amelia's even less attractive sister. To rid himself of the burden of everyone's expectations, and to annoy his relations as much as possible, Harry proposes a marriage of convenience to Alex. Alex is unsure at first, but after a disastrous morning when Oliver is caught kissing her and she is blamed for it, she and Harry elope to Gretna Green, where they are married. Alex spends her wedding night alone until one Mr. Stanley Roker, a gamester with whom Harry spent the evening instead of her, attacks Harry and Alex bashes Harry with her candlestick by mistake.

Not in the best of tempers, Harry conveys Alex to London the next morning; after presenting her to his family, he dumps her at his house in Grosvenor Square and resumes his old ways, including living with his mistress, a flashy redhead called Gwen Brady. Alex is determined to stick to the letter and spirit of their agreement, but her efforts to do so find no favor with her rackety spouse.

I can see why so many people consider this book a comfort read. It's funny, fast moving, well characterized and filled with sharp dialog. Its premise owes a little to Heyer's Friday's Child, I think, but the author takes it in a more broadly comic direction. I liked it. (Posted by Janice 5/25/13)

For yvonne's review of this book and all other Marian Devon titles click here

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#351 The Persistent Suitor

by Phyllis Warady

ISBN: 0821749129, 9780821749128

Published April 1995 by Zebra Regency. Also available as ebook.

Mr. Archibald Brainridge, 24, badly dipped due to his gambling addiction, left London for the family home, Brainridge Hall. Archie's father was mad for hunting and poured every groat he could wring from the Hall into his hunting box in Leicestershire. He appointed Archie the estate's new bailiff, and Archie found a new passion in farming, but he still has no money to improve the estate or to marry.

Archie visits his godfather the Earl of Chandos in London, and the old gentleman proposes to settle Archie's debts and make him an adequate allowance if Archie does two things: abstain from all wagering for one year, and marry to provide an heir.

Archie's choice is Miss Isabella Cox, but Bella has her own problems. Bella's father was also a gamester and left her penniless. Archie proposed to Bella, but she turned him down roundly because, after her experience of her father, she did not want to be married to a gamester. When unwanted attentions from the slimy heir of Cox Hall drive Bella from her home, she goes to her aunt Hermione, Lady Ponsonby, in London, who welcomes her and refuses to allow her to find a position as a companion as Bella had planned; instead she outfits her and sees that she meets people.

However, Hermione, a widow, also has problems with an unwanted suitor. She had been an Incomparable in her day but does not go about in society anymore because of her 'little weakness'. Malcolm Grandison, Lord Ponsonby's business partner, has always wanted Hermione and would use what he knows to blackmail Hermione into marrying him. And Archie hasn't given up on Bella either.

This tale is another mixed bag. On the one hand, the characters are lively and engaging, and it's well plotted and paced. On the other, it also suffers from clumsy exposition, often awkward dialog, and one or two odd incidents that strained my sense of disbelief. Such serious material as it does include (gambling, mental illness) is used for humor, which also rendered it less than credible for me. Still, it was entertaining enough to finish, so I give it a mild recommendation if you like lighter fare. (Posted by Janice 5/19/13)

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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!

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