#450 The Gamester's Daughter
by Dorothy Mack
Published March 1998 by Signet Regency
After Waterloo, Major Herbert and his daughter Claudia remained in Paris, where the Major opened a gaming club with his friend Captain Harry Marple. Claudia spends evenings at the club as an attraction for its patrons, but she is not for sale, though many assume that that is the case. In particular she has been dodging the attentions of a middle-aged rake, the Compte de Bouchardet.
Baron Pelham (Miles) is visiting Paris. He has just received word that his sister in India has sent her five children home to England and he is needed at Beechwood to take charge of them, since their great aunt Lady Powerby, obsessed with her imaginary ailments, will not bestir herself to look after them. On his last night in Paris, Miles's friend Louis Frenier suggests a visit to the club. When Miles enters he and Claudia notice each other instantly, but Miles assumes she is a prostitute, especially after she goes off with the Compte for a private game of piquet. Louis has told him that she is tout a fait respectable, but he can't believe that.
One night Claudia comes home from a party to find her father dying of stab wounds. The Major had gone to Captain Marple's to have it out about a client, Lord Selkirk, who was a known cheat. Marple had taken the Selkirk diamonds but the Major took them, intending to return them to Lord Selkirk. Marple sent thugs to the Major's rooms to get the diamonds back, but he had hidden them in his walking stick and they did not find them.
When the dust settles, Claudia returns to England. Her first thought is to return the diamonds to Lord Selkirk, and she is on her way to do so when she sees a teenage boy called Julian limping along the road due to a near miss curricle accident. She takes him up intending to drop him off at his home, but when they arrive they find the house in an uproar. It is Beechwood, where Miles's sister's children live the twins Julian and Susannah (16), George (at school), Roberta and Esther (9). Esther has broken her leg.
Someone needs to take charge, so Claudia does. She thinks to stay just until the doctor comes, and then just until Esther gets a bit better, but her stay keeps getting stretched out. In only a few days Claudia becomes essential to them all. When Miles arrives with Miss Ingham, the girl he is courting, and finds Claudia, the demimondaine from a Paris gambling club, running his house, friction ensues.
Dorothy Mack was good at writing "what will happen next" sorts of stories not terribly emotional, nor with especially new elements, but which generally hold one's attention to the end. Some aspects of this particular story seemed a bit improbable to me, but it was an agreeable way to spend an evening. Plus it has a character who actually says "Regrets will butter no parsnips", an expression that has amused me ever since David Tennant said something like it about Billie Piper on Top Gear. Maybe it's a Scots thing. (Posted by Janice 9/7/16)
A little side note: The earliest version in print of that saying is in John Clarke's Paroemiologia from 1639 where it's written "Faire words butter noe parsnips." Not sure when those fair words turned into regrets but the original is certainly old enough to appear in a Regency. Whether it was a common saying during the era I have no idea. (Posted by yvonne 9/7/16)
#449 The Gilded Knight
by Donna Simpson
Published February 2005 by Zebra
"I told him that there were good men in the world and bad men. Good men are not necessarily solvent men, and bad men may pay a better wage, but that one is always better off with a good man, even if one's pay is late." Charles's man Godfrey to Willie the potboy, who is considering a career as a valet.
During the winter of 1814 (the coldest in living memory), Sir Charles Blake is sent by his hypochondriacal elder brother George, the heir, to chivvy the widowed Lady Simmons (Nellwyn) out of Meadow House and off to the house in London which she had been left by her husband, Roald. Nell is reluctant to leave Meadow House; her daughter Delphine is sickly and she fears the bitter cold of the journey would risk her health.
Charles was born with a bad foot. His limp led to much bullying by his grandfather and his sons, and he has bad memories of childhood incidents in which he was blamed and caned for things his cousins did. Because of the lameness, his grandfather refused to buy him a commission as he did for his eldest son. His two cousins are now dead, so his older brother George has inherited. Charles is at loose ends; he has no property of his own, and he got his knighthood through a humiliating and silly incident with Prinny (who has since dumped him). He drinks and gambles too much in London, but he's a nice guy whose main problem is that he has not found a place to put his life.
Delphine and Willie the potboy become ill of a fever and they're all snowbound together at Meadow House. Delphine sees Charles and likens him to her "gilded knight" because of his golden hair. The gilded knight is a character in her favorite fairy tale, and when the light hits it at a certain angle, the statue of a knight on horseback in the garden reminds her of the tale. Charles thinks he's nobody's parfit gentil knight, but as he grows to know Nell and Delphine, he begins to wish he was.
I think this book would qualify as one of Yvonne's "summer" reads, except that it's set in the dead of winter. The characters we meet are all nice, normal people; the bad things that have happened to them have happened before we meet them, and their natures haven't been soured by their experiences. I like this novel because it's sweet, but not so sweet as to leave all reality behind. (Posted by Janice 8/4/16)
#448 A Very Proper Widow
by Laura Matthews
Published December 1982 by Signet Regency, ebook available.
Since her husband Frederick's death at Waterloo, Mrs. Vanessa Damery had lived at Cutsdean with her two young children, John and Catherine. She had taken over the management of the Cutsdean farm and lands when she found the former estate managers did not do the job, and she now runs the estate with the help of her own chosen manager, Paul Burford, a neighbor. Gradually she has been saddled with an assortment of Frederick's freeloading relations his mama Hortense, who refuses to move from the house of which she was once mistress; her brother Captain Lawrence; Frederick's cousins Louisa and Edward and their widowed mother Mrs. Mabel Curtiss; and William Oldcastle, Louisa's suitor for the past twelve years.
Frederick had named his cousin James Damery, Earl of Alvescot as co-trustee with Vanessa. Alvescot's solicitor advised him that some expenditures seemed extraordinary, so he went to Cutsdean determined to sort things out, assuming poor management and/or embezzlement. He was surprised to find that the estate was in good order, but perhaps Vanessa needed some assistance in some other areas -- her young son needed a man's influence, and someone had to get rid of all those inlaws battening on the estate.
The most pernicious problem was Edward, who had wrecked both their curricles at their first meeting, continually sponged off his mother and anyone else he could tap, and was actually blackmailing Captain Lawrence. The most puzzling problem was Louisa, who had been told that a proposal must follow being caught in a Compromising Position, but had not been told exactly how much clothing constituted such, and so left all clothing off altogether when searching for her intended's bedroom. Alvescot was quite equal to dealing with hangers-on, but could he convince Vanessa, whose years without Frederick had changed an unformed young lady into an independent and confident young woman, that she should marry him?
I am a sucker for what I think of as "women's problem" stories, and this is one of my favorites. Until Alvescot's advent Vanessa had been responsible for everything; she had grown into her position, she liked her autonomy and she wasn't interested in being "the little woman" for anybody. I liked the depiction of Alvescot's gradual growth of respect for her, and his realization that if he waded in and took over everything, he would lose her. All the characters are well realized; even some of the dim-witted ones have reasons for what they do. It's a satisfying read. (Posted by Janice 7/27/16)
Laura Matthews (actually Elizabeth Rotter), sometimes know as Elizabeth [Neff] Walker, is a favorite author of mine although this isn't a favorite book. Trying to analyze why I didn't like it as much as say The Seventh Suitor or The Aim of a Lady, I found several reasons.
The chief problem is all the nasty 'house guests' that clutter up the book. True, they are well drawn and true, they are an integral part of the story but, the time spent in develop these secondary characters is such that it infringed on the love story and the interaction between the lovers, or so it seemed to me. In fact, they spend more time musing about each other than actually get to know the other. Toward the end I started skipping through paragraphs on the estate biz and such that didn't actually forward the story.
Secondarily and not the least obstacle to my enjoyment, is just the surfeit of nasty people! Yes, unpleasant persons exist and it would be a bland story without them but, there's just too much of it. When I pick up a romance, I don't want a sociological study of the selfish or criminal mind, I want a love story. Call it escapism if you like but there are loads of nasty, selfish, uncaring people in this world and when reading I'd like to get a bit of a break from them - not become their intimate. (Posted by yvonne 7/27/16)
#447 The Tangled Web
by Barbara Hazard
Published April 1981 by Fawcett Coventry (#109)
When she was seventeen, lovely Ellen MacDonald had married the much older Marquess of Braxton as her parents commanded. Lady Winship had not loved her husband, but one did not set one's will up against one's parents in those days. They were not married long. She became pregnant on their honeymoon and he broke his neck hunting before he could find out that he did not have the male heir he had wanted, thus Braxton Hall went to his second cousin. When the new Marchioness caught the new Marquess kissing the Dowager Marchioness's hand a bit too fervently, she suggested Lady Winship might prefer to return to her family. Lady Winship took little Mariel to Scotland to her brother James's farm at Lochrae, and there Mariel had grown up, loving the farm and everything to do with it, and enjoying a great deal more freedom than most young ladies.
Mariel had no interest in marriage or the Season Lady Winship wanted for her, but when her uncle James pointed out that perhaps her mother would enjoy a trip to London, she agreed to the invitation from her mother's aunt Lady Carleton. The Honorable Algernon Carleton dropped by to do the pretty by his mother's guests, but when Algy saw Lady Winship, he fell head over heels for her, despite the difference in their ages, and bad poetry ensued. Algy's boon companion, Mr. George Barton, chafed at the time Algy's infaturation took away from his availability for being fleeced at cards. Algy's best friend, Mr. John Greeton, quietly admired Mariel, although he deplored her impulsive and embarrassing behavior. The Duke of Chatham had also fallen in love with Lady Winship, and was seen a great deal in her company, but Lady Winship believed he was interested in her daughter, and all of them thought Mariel's madcap escapades in London would ruin her one way or another.
This is one of of Barbara Hazard's earlier books, and I am sure all of our fair readers have noted the honking great title error; there are several other errors of title and form of address as well. In another instance, when Barbara Hazard reprinted an old novel with such errors, she was able to correct them. In the present book, they are minor glitches in an entertaining tale of crossed purposes, told with energy and humor, with little bits of observation creeping in here and there which keep things almost real. I enjoyed it. (Posted by Janice 6/22/16)
#446 The Resolute Runaway
by Charlotte Louise Dolan
Published February 1992 by Signet Regency. Also available in ebook.
While her brother Mark served in Wellington's forces, Miss Joanna Pettigrew lived with her Uncle Nehemiah Alderthorpe and his wife Zerelda. Joanna was treated as the ultimate poor relation, forced to be an unpaid servant, semi-starved and beaten. She did not tell Mark of the abuse; he was doing his duty, and he had promised that when he had made his fortune and the wars were over, he would make a home for them. Joanna's only acquaintance in the neighborhood was fickle, self-centered Miss Belinda Dillon. One day Belinda invited her to go with the Dillons to Brussels to join society there. When Joanna's uncle burned a long awaited letter from Mark in front of her, Joanna blew up and they threw her out. With nowhere else to turn, Joanna went to Brussels with Belinda.
When rumors of defeat at Waterloo engulfed Brussels, the Dillons ran away, leaving Joanna stranded; she had stayed with badly wounded Mark until he died and then helped to nurse the other wounded. A kind Irish wife who had nursed with her took her in, and eventually Mark's friend, Captain Nicholas Goldsborough, found her and escorted her back to England. When Nicholas saw what kind of people her uncle and aunt were, he took her to his sister Elizabeth, Duchess of Colthurst. Joanna fell in love with Nicholas, and he with her, but his behavior around her convinced her that to him she was only an obligation.
Also staying with Elizabeth was a young cousin, Miss Dorinda Donnithorne a headstrong young lady with no tolerance for being told what to do and much ingenuity for getting up to tricks. Alexander Mathers, Baron Glengarry had been pressured into a London season too. He also had zero interest in making a match until he saw Dorie, but Dorie thought him a gigantic lump of clumsy nothing. She preferred the flattery of the Earl of Blackstone, who decided Dorie would be easy to trick into becoming his prey. When Dorie disappears, it's up to this ill-assorted group to find and rescue her in time.
This novel loosely follows Joanna's experiences as an abused niece, then on her own in Brussels after the Dillons scarpered, then her return to England with Nicholas and a London season complicated by Dorie's crazy stunts. I found the first part, in Brussels, the most interesting, because it was the most focused on Joanna and her situation. It is a sequel to The Substitute Bridegroom, where Elizabeth's story was told and her brother Nicholas appeared as a supporting character. I like them both. (Posted by Janice 5/26/16)
Read my comments on The Resolute Runaway here.
For more books by this author see the special Charlotte Louise Dolan page. (Posted by yvonne 5/26/16)
#445 Miss Dower's Paragon
by Gayle Buck
ISBN: 0451173562, 9780451173560
Published July 1993 by Signet Regency
Miss Evelyn Dower of Bath had always fancied Mr. Peter Hawkins, and would gladly have accepted an offer from him, but when she actually received one, she turned him down flat. Evelyn had heard from her mother that Peter's grandmother Lady Pomerancy had ordered him to offer for her, and nothing in Peter's demeanor indicated that it was anything but an arranged marriage to him. Evelyn concluded that Peter did not love her, and it made her furious.
When she heard of Evelyn's rejection, Lady Pomerancy was amazed. She had raised and educated Peter from the age of five to behave with propriety and treat women with great respect, unlike other rackety members of the family. Peter was in love with Evelyn, but his unromantic manner prevented her from seeing it. Evelyn reacted by encouraging other suitors, but when she learned that Peter was subtly discouraging them from pursuing her, it was the outside of enough.
I am not sure what to say about this book. It was a slog. It took me two weeks to finish it because I kept picking it up and putting it down. At some points I found myself in sympathy with the characters; at other times I was put off by Evelyn's petulance and Peter's thickheadedness. It's not funny enough to be a comedy, nor dramatic enough to be serious. It also suffers from odd phrases which may or may not be copy edit errors; at points it sounded like a little bit of Texas had crept in somehow. I have liked other books by this author, but this one was a dud for me. (Posted by Janice 5/20/16)
#444 First Season
by Anne Baldwin
Published July 1992 by Zebra Books
Squire and Mrs. Biddle's lovely daughter Laeticia longed for a Season in London; among other reasons, their Derbyshire district contained very few eligible young men. Her mother Edith had a sister, Henrietta, Lady Hardwick, who considered that Edith had married beneath the granddaughter of an earl, but she had a daughter, Sophie, who was also to be brought out that year, and so it was arranged that Letty should go to London and be brought out with her cousin. Letty had been left a fortune of £50,000 by her aunt on her father's side, and Lady Hardwick saw the advantage of allowing the Biddles to pay the expenses for the Season for all of them.
When Letty arrived in London, however, Lady Hardwick was taken aback; she had expected a horse-faced provincial whose fortune would be her only attraction, but Letty did not look like either of her parents she was enchantingly pretty. Her cousin Sophie formed an instant antipathy to Letty, for although she was a pretty blonde, she knew Letty cast her into the shade. Lady Hardwick had ambitions for Sophie to marry a title, and she did not like to see her daughter eclipsed, so she made sure that Letty was dressed fashionably, but not in the styles and colors that flattered her, while Sophie shone, and all on Letty's shilling.
Letty soon found that her polite but open country manners were not at all the thing in London, and she made many errors -- she ate all the neat's tongue at the Duchess's dinner, she spoke of "breeches", she went walking alone in a red cloak like a maid, she conversed across the table, she shopped on Bond Street in the afternoon when only the demimonde went there, and she refused to dance with Lord Satre at a ball but then danced with another gentleman. It was one thing after another, and if the ton did not notice by itself, there was Jules, Lord Wakeford to spread the tales to his good friend the Beau, who made her a subject of his wit, mocking her as "Letty Loppet". Her aunt gave her thundering scolds and spiteful Sophie was quick to turn Letty's gaffes to her own advantage. Instead of a pleasure, the Season Letty had looked forward to so much was turning out to be a painful disaster.
I liked this story of a young girl's painful acquisition of worldly and self-knowledge. Letty is a nice girl and her gradual growth of understanding is well described. Because I think that aspect is so well done, I can forgive the multiple title errors, although I find them curious, given that the author obviously spent quite a bit of time familiarizing herself with other aspects of life in 1803 London. (Posted by Janice 5/8/16)
#443 Georgina's Campaign
by Barbara Reeves
ISBN: 0802711855, 9780802711854, 0380719681, 9780380719686
First published 1991 by Walker, reprinted February 1993 by Avon.
Before he died at Corunna, Charlie Upcott made his best friend Hugh Redvers, Earl of Rotham, promise that he would help with the come-out of his sister Georgina. Charlie actually had two sisters: his younger half-sister Georgina by his father's second wife, and his full sister Lizzie. Georgina's mother Amelia had been quite wealthy and had taught Georgina from an early age all about money -- how to do the accounts, how to manage money, how to invest and increase it. Even though she's only seventeen, Georgina runs the family finances; her father Sir Owen is quite bookish and uninterested, and her sister Lizzie is beautiful but not brainy. Georgina doesn't think she's pretty and has decided never to marry because she does not want to turn control of her money over to someone else. She intends to become The Eccentric Miss Upcott and to use her money to hold fabulous salons and do good in the world.
Lizzie needs a Season, so Georgina brings her to London. While riding in the park (and galloping, against the ton's rules of behavior), Georgina encounters Lady Olivia Romsey, Rotham's aunt, and asks her help in getting Lizzie launched properly. Lady Romsey does not say so but she thinks perhaps she will do something for Georgina as well.
Rotham, conscious of his promise to his friend Charlie, visits his friend Lady Alice de Burgh to ask for her help establishing Georgie in London society. Halfway through his explanation, Ali mistakes Hugh's intent, and Hugh finds himself betrothed to her. Hugh must now find some way to extricate himself from the betrothal to Ali, and to contain Georgie's escapades as "Mr. George Bean" before the world finds out.
It may be that this is not my kind of book. It's meant, I think, to be a light-hearted farce, but even in a farce one has to be able to suspend one's disbelief, and I couldn't. I could not believe in Georgie the seventeen year old financial whiz and her antics with her friends, nor could I get a good idea of why a man like Rotham would fall for her. There are also a raft of very sketchy supporting characters who have little to distinguish them but have to be kept track of. This is one for those who don't demand any touch of realism to the goings-on. (Posted by Janice 4/30/16)
#442 Lord Of The Manor
by Jeanne Carmichael (Carol Quinto)
Published December 1994 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Althea Underwood was devoted to little Meredith, the daughter of her late cousin Deborah and Andrew Carlyle, Earl of Keswick. It had been an arranged marriage, but the couple did not suit; Deborah was timid by nature and terrified by Keswick's large, forceful presence and abrupt manner. Because his presence at Keswick Hall so distressed his pregnant wife, Keswick left and did not return for five years.
Thea liked her peaceful life at Keswick Hall, with Aunt Pysie for company and Meredith to love and guide. She was being courted by George Selwyn, Keswick's cousin, but she thought of him only as a pleasant gentleman, not a potential husband. It was Keswick who was apparently in search of a spouse; one day out of the blue he returned to the Hall and announced he was home to stay. Immediately the neighborhood began to buzz. The local lovelies began to vie for his attention, while local gossip Lady Penhallow delicately dropped hints that Thea's continued presence at the Hall was questionable, even though Aunt Pysie was there to chaperone. Also Keswick had public confrontations with a former friend, and Thea herself had her own run-ins with Keswick's irrritability and suspicion. When Keswick began having "accidents", Thea feared she knew who would be unjustly suspected.
I have always liked the late Carol Quinto's books, most of which were published under the Jeanne Carmichael name. She dealt in credible, usually pleasant, characters who gradually work out their differences in a sensible way, and her prose style was free of affectations and is simple and transparent and flows naturally. There are no new elements in this book, but I like her use of gentle, affectionate humor, focused here on Aunt Pysie's eccentricities. The mystery plotline is a little dopey, true; under the "who benefits?" rule, it's not very mysterious, but it doesn't get in the way of an entertaining hour's read. I can see why her books are comfort reads for many. (Posted by Janice 4/16/16)
€441 The Unofficial Suitor
by Charlotte Louise Dolan
ISBN: 0451173007, 9780451173003, 9781610847841, 1610847849
Published July 1992 by Signet Regency. Ebook also available.
Richard Hawke and his friend John Tuke have returned to England as very wealthy men, after having escaped slavery and made their fortunes in the Caribbean. Richard is tired of adventure and now wants to settle down and live the life of an English gentleman. Their friend Perry, recently Viscount Winthrop, has also returned but he now considers himself an American and intends to return to Kentucky after he has bought Irish horses. Perry's godmother Lady Letitia had been denied the adventure and travel she craved in her youth, and now exercises her talents by making matches and here are three prime candidates.
Geoffrey, Earl of Blackstone, also has an interest in matchmaking because he has hit bottom financially as well as morally. He has one asset left to sell: his sister, Lady Cassiopeia Anderby. When Cassie refuses to be marketed to the highest titled bidder, Geoffrey tells her that if she does not obey him, he will sell her to a merchant in Leeds instead, and he will sell her younger sister Persephone into white slavery. Cassie knows his threats are not idle, and she knows her stepmother Ellen is a broken reed who will not oppose Geoffrey's plans in fact Ellen cannot understand why Cassie would not want to make a rich marriage and live in luxury, even if it is a forced or abusive marriage. With nowhere else to go, Cassie agrees to leave Cornwall and go to London.
Once in London, Geoffrey presents his short list: three men who have seen Cassie and want her the ponderous Marquess of Fauxbridge, the shallow Earl of Rowcliff and the frugal Baron Atherston. But Richard has also met Cassie. Richard wants her for his wife, and no one is more capable of disposing of obstacles than Richard.
At 224 pages, it seems like this book would not be long enough to solve every character's matchup needs, yet Dolan does it, and she does it without sacrificing characterization. Though some characters don't get as much space as others, they aren't sketchy or shallow and one learns quite a bit about each of them. It's a bit of a juggling act, but a very entertaining read. (Posted by Janice 3/27/16)
Read yvonne's review available here.
#440 The Reluctant Abigail
by Miranda Cameron AKA Amanda Troy
ISBN: 0451131622, 9780451131621
Published September 1984 by Signet Regency
Disguised as a gypsy, Lady Gabriela Pennington of Croydon Hall danced to the strains of Andalusia at Lady Montague's masquerade ball and drew the attention of a Harlequin, who dragged her out onto the balcony and tried to kiss her. The Harlequin was plucked off Gabriela in time by Julius Alister Granville, Marquis of Wrotham. Gabriela had had a crush on Wrotham since her first season, but she had been an awkward schoolgirl then and he had mocked her. He did not recognize her as a lady in her gypsy guise and thought her the property of his friend Stanley Tirkell.
Stanley and Gabriela were great friends, but Stanley's sister Hester disliked her and always looked for scandal. Hester went to Gabriela's Aunt Carol, Lady Wintermeyer with the tale of old allegations against Wrotham, and both Aunt Carol and Gabriela believed them despite the source. But Lady Wintermeyer had another concern: her niece Alina, a silly but wealthy widow, was being pursued by Sir Willard Craig, a notorious fortune hunter. Lady Wintermeyer knew Alina would not listen to her, and so a scheme was born: Gabriela, in the role of maidservant Ella Penn, would go to Highland Manor and spy out the situation in secret, so as to prevent scandal.
While en route to Highland Manor in her maid's disguise, Gabriela intercepted an attempt to abduct Lady Oriana, Wrotham's sister. Later when, dressed as Lady Gabriela, she called on Wrotham to discuss Alina and the potential scandal, she found her disguise had worked too well Wrotham did not believe she was Lady Anybody; he thought her a conniving servant and gave her the boot. With an old enemy still after his sister, his cousin Alina playing her own games, and rumors and conflicting tales flying, Wrotham would be hard to convince of the truth.
This is one of the most difficult to finish regencies I've ever read. There is a large cast of characters, all haring off in different plot directions on the silliest pretexts. Since they are all very sketchy, it's hard to keep them straight, or to care what becomes of any of them. Gabriela's masquerade is particularly unconvincing; her duties are skimped over and she has permission and enough free time to take the mistress's mare out for a nice gallop every morning. The growth of the relationship between Wrotham and Gabriela is mostly accomplished by posing dramatically, yelling, rescuing, and storming about in general. If we didn't have a policy of not reviewing any regency we've been unable to finish, I would have bagged this one after a couple of chapters. I cannot recommend it. (Posted by Janice 3/19/16)
by Barbara Hazard
ISBN: 0449500799, 9780449500798, 0449213978, 9780449213971
Published August 1980 by Fawcett Coventry (#58)
On her way to London with her father the Reverend Edward Cummings to visit her aunt during the cold winter of 1813, Miss Elizabeth was forced to take shelter from a snowstorm at the Bird and Bottle Inn. A mixed bag of other travelers were stranded with them for several days. There was the Duke of Barrington with his Indian blood brother Albert; two handsome young twins, Anthony and Adolphus Allensworth; and Mrs Adelaide Orvis-Ryder (of The Orvis-Ryders) with her pretty daughter Leticia.
Barrington had been sent by King George's government to America on a diplomatic mission and was writing up his report when a crucial page containing military intelligence on the American forces went missing. Barrington suspected everyone and no one, and the inn was turned upside down in his search, but the missing page could not be found until Beth remembered that she had used it as a prop in the snow figure competition.
Beth already thought Barrington proud and arrogant, and being apparently suspected of treason did not improve her opinion of him, so when Barrington, who was now in love with her, tried to approach her, she would have none of him. Even when they had all arrived in London, Beth continued to reject him, and it was left to Albert to resolve the situation, in a manner common among his people but not at all the thing in London.
I am a sucker for a good snowbound story, and so I liked this short, fast entertainment. The hero and heroine are likeable and credible, as are the subsidiary characters, even the exaggeratedly awful Mrs. Orvis-Ryder. I was particularly amused at her maneuvers to discover which of the Allensworth twins is the older so as to nail him for her daughter before the roads clear up and the heir can escape her net. It's an amusing way to pass an evening. (Posted by Janice 3/7/16)
Can't say I'm a sucker for the winter theme but then I don't live in sunny California! The flakes are coming down here enough to make anyone snowbound - half a foot on the top of the bird feeder and no letup in sight. Still, despite that, I did like this story very much, grumpy hero notwithstanding. Especially the secondary characters were a joy. I do recommend it. (Posted by yvonne 3/7/16)
#438 An Immodest Proposal
by Dena Rhee
ISBN: 0440139805, 9780440139805
Published January 1982 by Candlelight Regency (Special #694)
Miss Phoebe Asher's mother had been sister to Harriet, Lady Wesley; her father had been a tutor. After their runaway marriage, Phoebe's family had cast off her mother, and now, with both parents dead, Phoebe has been a poor relation in Lady Wesley's family. Not only has Lady Wesley not brought Phoebe out, as should have been done, she has used her as governess and general dogsbody, and has appropriated the £ 200 per quarter that her Uncle William Zale had been paying for her maintenance. Phoebe knew nothing of this arrangement; when they met in London, Phoebe was just happy to meet her relative but Uncle William blew his stack at his sister's shabby treatment of Phoebe and removed her from Wesley House forthwith. He brought her to Zale House, arranged for a new wardrobe befitting his niece, and introduced her to society.
All well and good, but there was a complication. Uncle William's best friend was the notorious and wealthy Mr. Bartholomew Harwood. Before they understood that Phoebe was not of the servant class, both men had admired her, but Bart became strongly enamored of Phoebe and planned to make her his mistress. When Bart found out Phoebe's real status out of reach for dalliance -- he was enraged. He had been humiliated and betrayed by another woman and he thought all women were alike faithless and opportunistic. He had wanted Phoebe badly and had believed that she would have easily come to him as his mistress. For her part, Phoebe was both attracted and repelled by Bart, and very confused by her feelings for him. When they are forced to meet each other in society, gossip starts to fly.
Decades ago it seems to me that very many series romances had a Bad Boy hero a selfish, arrogant, wealthy pig who is reformed by True Love. I've always hated that trope because said pig rarely has a true change of heart; he's not sorry for how he may have mistreated other women before, and one feels that if he didn't need the heroine, he'd go right on doing the same crummy things as always. In this book there are two such men; both Bart and William thought Phoebe as a mere servant was fair game, whereas Phoebe the young lady of good family was not. They don't make the ethical leap to realizing that no woman of any class should be mistreated or exploited, although Bart does mumble something about being sorry for some of the things he's done. This is period correct to some degree, but I can't like it in a hero. As for Phoebe, she's so innocent and nice that she seems to have little personality at all. There are issues raised in this book which could have been explored and I was left shaking my head at their omission. However, except for a few Americanisms which crept in, it's competently written with a bit of humor, and it won't ruffle anybody's feathers. It's one for those who like Barbara Cartland style cotton candy, I guess. (Posted by Janice 2/20/16)
#437 The Byram Succession
by Mira Stables
ISBN: 0449235580, 9780449235584, 0708939449, 9780708939444, 0709154038, 9780709154037
Published 1976 by Fawcett Crest (US) and Hale (UK). Large print also available
Miss Albertine Newton, the most beautiful girl of the Season, knew her own value. Not for Tina a mere Sir for a husband; she knew she was born to grace a nobler establishment. Mrs. Newton was unable to control her daughter's vanity and ambition; she rather agreed that Tina would be able to marry well, and she was also in the habit of giving in so as to avoid outbursts. When Tina learned that her cousin Miss Alethea Forester was to come to them in London, she was not at all concerned that her country mouse cousin might outshine her, but it did gall her that Thea had inherited a fortune.
Tina had targeted Damon, Lord Skirlaugh, now heir to the Duke of Byram, and she worked assiduously to engineer a meeting. However, to her surprise, Thea had already met that gentleman on the road to London when both stopped to aid a young man with a badly injured horse. Tina did not think it important that Thea was intelligent, well informed, friendly, kind, and the sort of girl people liked. What was all that next to her extraordinary beauty? But she did intend to have Skirlaugh, and was willing to go to great lengths to get him, even if someone got hurt in the process.
Back in the day, my mother liked to listen to "her programs" not for the romance or the silly, saggy, soap opera suspense plots, but to hear the bad lady get her "comeuppance". Most of the dramatic energy comes from Tina's plotting, and I expected some kind of scene in which she was confronted with the consequences of her actions, but there isn't one. We don't see her get her just deserts; all that happens offscreen. Without that, what remains is a pleasant, well written romance, but not, I think, one of this author's best. (Posted by Janice 2/12/16)
What I enjoy most about Stables is her use of language. She writes such easy flowing prose that in my opinion in overshadows defects in the plot department. Also, she somehow often ends up giving her minor characters more personality than the romantic couple. This one was rather popular in its day, quite a few reprints were made at both sides of the Atlantic. I agree with Janice this not being one of Stables' best yet still readable and by far better researched than much of today's paperthin historical wallpaper. (Posted by yvonne 2/12/16)
#436 Borrowed Plumes
by Roseleen Milne
ISBN: 0451081137, 9780451081131, 0698108280, 9780698108288, 0340217413, 9780340217412, 0340236787, 9780340236789
Published 1977 by Hodder and Stoughton (UK). This edition July 1978 by Signet Regency (US). Audio book also available.
German - Liebe auf Schloß Monksford, ISBN: 3442261023 9783442261024
Twenty years ago Miss Constance Osborne's papa had purchased the estate of Monksford from the Chievelys, who were then at a low ebb financially. Adrian Noel Musgrave Vernon, the present Earl of Chievely, had grown up at Monksford and now that the family was wealthy again, he wished to buy it back. Connie's uncle Sir Maurice Pinchbeck thought she should sell; Monksford was rapidly falling apart without sufficient funds to maintain it. But to Connie the notion was anathema as was the proposed buyer, whose reputation as a bedhopper and a womanizing dissolute was well known to her. Connie was further enraged to learn that she was the subject of a bet: the Earl reckoned to marry her to get Monksford.
In a fine fury Connie took Firebrand out to gallop off her feelings, but when she took him over the fence into the little used Old Drive, a carriage was coming. The horses reared and the driver was thrown into the ditch. The driver was Noel; he awoke inside the house with a fractured leg and Connie in attendance. Connie did not know who he was (though Uncle Maurice did), and so he told her his name was Mr. Noel Musgrave, so that he could try to win her over, hoping to be loved for himself, not for his title and wealth.
Noel then learned that the Earl of Chievely had been invited to spend Christmas at Monksford. A difficult situation, so Noel consulted his man Benson. Benson reminded him that he had a cousin, Mr. Sibbald, a weak chinned young clergyman in Wivelsham, and so Sibbie was summoned to impersonate the Earl. As the Earl, Sibbie was targeted by Mrs. Drinker, a force of nature from Louisiana, who was determined to secure a title for her daughter, despite Lizzy-Mae's preference for a horse-loving preacher boy back home. After that, things got worse.
I had mixed feelings about this book. The deception element was old even when Ms. Milne wrote this book, so I never quite bought that Noel couldn't just tell Connie who he was and wait for the storm to abate. However, without the masquerade, the comedy of Sibbie's panicked attempts to evade the notice of his superior Bishop Rumbelow would be lost. I did enjoy the comic style in which the book was written; it has many quotable lines in it. It is humor in an old-fashioned style, quite different from the simplified prose in style today. I wound up liking it overall. (Posted by Janice 2/7/16)
#435 The Moonlighters / Gentleman Rogue
by Paula Allardyce AKA Charity Blackstock
Published 1966 by Hodder and Stoughton (UK) and 1975 by Dell (US).
The family of Miss Frances Morley of St. Barbary expected her to make a good marriage ("good" being defined as "wealthy"), and were in daily expectation of an offer from the Marquis of Standish, but Fran was one of the wild ones, and she did not like the Marquis. For his part, the Marquis was obsessed with collecting beautiful objects; he did not love her, but Fran would slot nicely into his collection, as would her dowry, a valuable bracelet that had belonged to Gabrielle d'Estrees, the mistress of Henry of Navarre.
One morning Fran interrupted her mother's soliloquy on the Marquis's desirable qualities as a husband to talk of a shocking case in the newspaper: a nine year old climbing boy called Jonah was to be hanged for stealing two small silver ornaments, but he had escaped prison. Willie Dalgleish, a Bow Street runner, was searching the town for him. Fran's family saw no reason for people of their station to be interested in the fate of a common little thief, but Fran's sympathies were engaged, and when she later found Jonah hiding in a shed in the garden, she was determined to get him away.
Mr. Thomas Strickland, an author, also saw the slight movement below that disclosed the boy's presence in the Morley garden, so when Fran brought the boy to him because Dalgleish was suspicious, he agreed to help her. Fran felt instinctively that she could trust Strickland, even though she feared he might be the notorious highwayman called the Moonlighter, and might be more interested in an ancient whore's golden bracelet than he was in her.
This novel is set in 1762, before efforts to regulate and reform chimney sweeping got any momentum, and this book contains a good portrait of what must have been a common thing master sweeps buying boys off the parish, setting them to dangerous work, starving or otherwise ill treating them until they were used up, and then discarding them (if they had survived). There are two villains in this story - the Moonlighter and Mr. Grimble and it's satisfying to see them get their just deserts. The romance is charming, the central couple are likeable, and I've always liked this author's witty but straightforward style, but I like most that this author chose to add a bit of substance to what could have been a cotton candy book. (Posted by Janice 1/23/16)
About the Author: A rose is still a rose... Ursula Torday (1912 1997) was also known as Paula Allardyce, Charity Blackstock, Lee Blackstock and Charlotte Keppel. She was a prolific British romance, gothic and mystery writer. During and after WWII she was involved with helping Jewish refugee children, which later inspired several of her novels.
Note: Not to be confused with Gentleman Rogue written by Barbara Neil, which is a completely different book. (Posted by yvonne 1/23/16)
#434 A Lasting Attachment
by Elizabeth Hewitt
ISBN: 0451159144, 9780451159144
Published April 1989 by Signet Regency
Captain Galen DeVere had left England after a rupture with his family. His father had been a nasty tempered man who died of an apoplexy, and his older brother Robert, the current Baron DeVere, was engaged in drinking himself to death. Galen had prospered in the US and was now a well to do shipowner. A letter from his sister Eugenia advised him that Robert's end was near and Galen knew he must return to England.
Miss Emily Hampton was the daughter of Mr. David Hampton of Philadelphia, who had scandalously eloped with Lady Regina Harcourt when her family forbade the match. It was a very happy marriage for both -- the sort that Emily wanted for herself. Since her mother's death Emily had been living with her aunt, Mrs. Armitage. An invitation from England to visit Aunt Dorothea (Lady Laelard), her mother's sister, arrived. At first Emily was uninterested in going; she had no particular wish to know the British side of her family after their treatment of her mother, and war between the US and Britain was looming. But her Aunt Armitage convinced her, and it remained only to seek passage, which was found on the Devon, a ship owned by Captain DeVere.
When first they met, Emily did not care overmuch for Galen's attitude, but she was conscious of a very strong pull of attraction. For his part, Galen thought her insipid and uninteresting, but his feelings changed upon further acquaintance and he was strongly attracted to her despite misgivings. Aboard the Devon Emily often clashed with Galen, particularly over her pursuit by Mr. Jeremy Cooke, a fortune hunter.
Near the Madeira Islands a terrible storm wrecked the Devon and because of Cooke's clumsy interference, Emily and Galen were separated from the rest of the passengers and crew. After a time their lifeboat landed on a small uninhabited island, and eventually a passing fishing boat rescued them and brought them to Madeira. They then found passage to Lisbon and thence to England. In London Emily met her other aunt, Lady Caroline Antrop, her mother's youngest sister, to whom she told the true facts of the shipwreck.
Because they had been alone together for several days, and if that became known her reputation would be ruined, Galen proposed to Emily, but she roundly turned him down; although he had shown he desired her, he had made no mention of love, and her own feelings about him were confusing. Emily believed that none of the few people who were aware of the facts would make them known but she reckoned without the spite of Jeremy Cooke. Just as Emily is coming to realize that her feelings for Galen are more than simple desire, the ambition of her pretty cousin Amanda Laelard and the well-intentioned but ill-advised interference of her Aunt Caroline may put Galen out of her reach forever.
This is another solid read from Elizabeth Hewitt. It makes good use of the strained relations, both personal and national, between Americans and British in 1812, and is an adventure story as much as a love story. As I would expect from this author, the characters are individualized and their actions are credible in the circumstances. Here is another classic regency author who deserves reprinting or ebook editions. (Posted by Janice 1/5/16)
My favorite Hewitt that I have reread many times. It is also on my Comfort Read list. I like the author's sense of period as well as her easy prose. The setting is an intrinsic part of the story - it is hard to imagine how it could happen at any other time in history than it does. The characters are well drawn, believable and act in character as well. There is lots of real rather than artificial drama, to which the relationship between Galen and Emily contribute not a little. I warmly recommend it of course! (Posted by yvonne 1/5/16)
#433 Lady Valiant
by Freda Michel
ISBN: 0449501949, 9780449501948
Published July 1981 by Fawcett Coventry #124
Lady Aureol Somerville fled her father's home to escape a forced marriage. Her father had given her a choice of three suitors (two more than most other girls get, as he pointed out), but she fancied none of them; instead, using the name of Letty Cartwright and the attire of a maidservant, she hopped the coach to Carlisle, seeking a place to hide until she came of age. During the journey the other passengers told fearsome tales of the Black Baron of Falcondene Abbey, suspected of murder and worse. Aureol leapt out of the coach and lost herself in the mists, eventually making her way to Falcondene and securing a position as a maidservant. The Black Baron's reputation made keeping staff difficult; there were only his steward, Joshua Clegg, who hoisted Aureol through a window and saved her from the dogs; a footman; a drunken cook; the cook's brutish son; and Polly Biddle, a housemaid who became Aureol's friend.
Draco Dressler, the Black Baron, was known to perform hideous experiments in his locked laboratory in the bottom of the old stone pile, and several maids had gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Draco's manner did nothing to discourage this view in the neighborhood. Despite his reputation, his cousin and heir Eustace Dressler paid a visit, bringing with him his man-hungry sister Agatha, both of them keen to get their hands on the Baron's fortune. Aureol's cover was blown when her father the Earl of Trafford, despite his gout flare-up, traced her to Falcondene. The Earl brought her three repellent suitors with him and told them that he who succeeded in abducting her would have her as his bride. When Aureol's friend Polly also went missing, Aureol found that there were worse things than evil Barons, greedy relations and feckless suitors stalking the halls of Falcondene.
I didn't quite know what to make of this Georgian-set (1762) romance at first. It is written in quite a high flown style which sounded to me like The Black Moth on crack, and it seemed to have every possible gothic clichι stuffed into it. But I read on and realized, when Aureol evaded one of her persistent suitors by setting his wig on fire with her candle, that the author must have been giggling as she wrote it, and I wound up rather liking it. (Posted by Janice 12/15/15)
#432 Stranger Within The Gates
by Mira Stables
ISBN: 0709150520, 9780709150527, 0449234029, 0708933017, 9780708933015
Published 1976 by Hale (UK) and Fawcett Crest (US) Large print also available.
One pleasant afternoon in September, 1829 Mr. Robert Develyn was on his way to Saxondene, the property he had inherited from his father, the Earl of Finmore. After his divorce, he had chosen to travel and pursue his archaeological adventuring, and had recently returned to England. He was unaccompanied as he approached the south gate, since he had chosen to road test Rustic, his new horse. Robert had known the estate was run down but he expected to be met promptly by a gatekeeper; instead he had to wait until a slim figure appeared, and after a sharp exchange of words, opened the gate for him.
The figure at the gate was Miss Francesca Thornish, then dressed in the male clothing she used when working with horses. When Francesca was 17, a fortune hunter called Hugh O'Malley had drugged and kidnapped her. Francesca awoke on the packet boat to Dublin, but while sneaking off the boat, she met the Earl of Finmore. Her aunts would not have received her again after such a scandal, so Finmore offered her marriage (which she declined); he then took her to Italy for singing lessons, and gave her South Gates, the lodge house at Saxondene, to live in, with a couple called the Hornbys to look after her. He befriended Francesca and taught her many things, especially fencing, but (despite local opinion) she was never his mistress. He had died not long ago.
Robert had a daughter, Robin, by his unhappy marriage. Robin was in the care of her aunts and in the charge of a forbidding governess, Miss Tilbert. The governess was cleverly routed and Robert took Robin to live with him at Saxondene. Robin and Francesca took to each other immediately.
The new earl, Wilfred, was Robert's older brother, and a different sort of man altogether. Wilfred did not believe that Francesca was not someone's doxy, and he also believed that the colt Merlin which his father had bred with Francesca and given to her, was property of the estate. He meant to get the animal back, if he could, and if he couldn't, to see that Francesca never had the good of him again.
This is a fast, entertaining read, oriented toward plot and story, with good characterization. I had the feeling reading it that the author knew the English countryside and the customs of the day; she seems to understand that what Francesca did and how she lived under the old Earl's protection were an aberration for the times. I liked the old Earl, who seemed to have been a good judge of character and had an occasional penchant for rescuing people. I like this author's straightforward, unmannered prose style as well; like many authors of this era, her writing is nicely crafted and doesn't get in the way of the story. (Posted by Janice 12/5/15)
#430 The Courting Of Jenny Bright
by Sandra Heath
Published June, 1980 by Signet Regency
Jenny Bright was born and raised at Birdbrook in Gloucestershire. She was the sister of Giles Bright, who was forester to Sir Hugh Collingbourne. Jenny worked at the London house as maid to Carola, Lady Collingbourne; her Aunt Gussie Pinchcombe was housekeeper there. Jenny could read, and had learned the manners and speech of the quality from Lady Carola, whom she liked and respected. She was a valued servant; she had a special way with laundering and pinning the lace that adorned the cuffs of Lady Carola's husband Sir Hugh. Alas for Jenny, she had fallen in love with Sir Hugh the moment she saw him, but she kept that secret; no one knew but her aunt, who worried about her and counseled her against such foolishness.
One night Jenny heard a noise, and when she came out of her attic room to check on it, her bare feet encountered a trail of tiny glittering beads which she recognized as from a shawl belonging to Lady Carola. Jenny followed the trail out to the summerhouse, where she found Lady Carola dying of poison. Jenny screamed, the Watch came, and she was dragged off to spend the night in prison, where she met a kind whore called Dolly Simpson, who looked after her and kept the other prisoners from raping her. In the morning, when another servant backed up Jenny's story, Sir Hugh came for her and she was set free.
Sir Hugh and his wife had been estranged because he knew that while he was away at the wars, she had taken a lover. Her pregnancy was the reason for her suicide. When Jenny asked to attend his wife's funeral, Sir Hugh told her to wear Carola's clothes and he flaunted her there as his mistress, using Jenny to show the ton that his wife and her infidelity mattered not to him. Sir Hugh then told Jenny to pack up his wife's things to be sent back to her father. Jenny's employment was then at an end so she went back to her brother at Birdbrook until she could find another position.
When Sir Hugh returned to his estate, he desired his wife's things to be cleared from her rooms there as well, and Jenny went up to the house to do that. When Sir Hugh asked Jenny to wear one of Carola's gowns for him, Jenny did it, and an affair began between them an affair that resulted in pregnancy, danger and scandal for Jenny.
This is one of my favorite Sandra Heath titles for several reasons. It's not your usual tea-drinking swank-about-London-in-silks romance; Jenny is a real servant and the story is told mostly from a servant's viewpoint, not that of a lady. There's a nice sense of country beliefs (the ginger beer bee; controversy over smallpox "imminization"; wassailing the apple trees; Jenny tossing a pressed violet love charm and bay leaves for resurrection on Lady Carola's coffin). Jenny's friends are people of her own class, and she runs into her share of predatory males. There is a complex tangle of motives and interactions. Jenny suffers painful consequences of her actions this is, I think, the only regency I've ever run across in which the heroine aborts any child, let alone the hero's. What with Jenny's abortion and Sir Hugh's bad behavior (not sufficiently apologized for, I think), I can't recommend this book to anybody looking for a nice little regency love story, but I did find it compelling and memorable myself. (Posted by Janice 11/9/15)
#429 Lady Hawk's Folly
by Amanda Scott
Published January 1985 by Signet Regency
Lady Margaret Hazeldell (Mollie) had wed Gavin Colporter, Marquess of Hawkstone (Hawk) when she was nineteen. She had been strongly attracted to Hawk, feeling he would add some adventure to her life, but after a brief few weeks together Hawk took himself off to the wars, parking Mollie at Hawkstone Towers with his irascible father, his younger brother Ramsay and his Aunt Biddy for company. Hawk was gone for four years. He seldom wrote home, and only returned when Wellington told him he ought to.
During Hawk's absence, Mollie got on as well as anyone could with the old marquess, and when he died, she took over the management of Hawkstone. She was never unfaithful, but she contrived to do other scandalous things, such as riding astride and attending a prize fight. Hawk's censorious and confrontational Aunt Trixie was not slow to report these things.
After four years, picking up on a marriage that had barely begun was difficult for both Hawk and Mollie. Although they had an exciting physical relationship right away, there were clashes over estate management when Hawk took over and Mollie felt excluded. Once they removed to London for the Season, Mollie attracted an amorous half-Russian prince, Ramsay fell into gaming scrapes, and there were rumors of spies flying about including the Russian and the French emigre who had led Ramsay into gaming debts. More importantly, Mollie can't figure out why Hawk has behaved as he has and whether he ever loved her.
This book is available for Kindle, and for those not familiar with the plethora of regency era names dropped in it, the wiki access feature will be a great benefit. Hawk is very involved in wartime politics and ton society, so it seemed to me that everybody of note from Brummel to Harriette Wilson makes an appearance somewhere along the way. I thought it another example of the plot (spies) getting in the way of the story (answers and reconciliation). I've read much about these historical figures and so I wasn't puzzled by who they were, but it seemed odd how often they popped in and out, and characters would gossip about them in what seemed an unnatural way to me. Not an infodump, but a distraction. (Posted by Janice 10/25/15)
# 428 Mr. Mcallister Sets His Cap
by Laura Paquet
Published March 2003 by Zebra Regency
Emily Wallace, Viscountess Tuncliffe felt a strong sense of relief when her husband Simon met his accidental end. Her parents had arranged the match and Emily went through with it, though she did not like Simon. Her five year marriage to him was a miserable one; Simon drank and cheated, blew through his fortune and her dowry, bullied her and denigrated her talent as a painter in oils. Worst of all, she failed to conceive and he convinced her that it was her fault. Emily was left with a small widow's portion and the belief that she was a failure as a woman and should never marry again.
In the two years since Simon's death Emily had made stays with various relatives, but now she wishes to settle in London and make a home out of Simon's dilapidated town house. The house would need repairs and refurbishment before it was habitable, but her sister Clara knew of an up and coming architect, Mr. Duncan McAllister, who had done a nice conservatory for them at Stonecourt.
Emily's budget is quite limited, but she has always longed for a painting studio. At their first meeting Duncan (a widower) is impressed with Emily's paintings and offers to add a studio to the proposed commission if in exchange she will paint his little daughter Susannah. The painting is completed and the remodeling is going well, as is a growing attraction between Emily and Duncan, until strange rumors about Duncan's work begin to circulate in London and threaten to destroy his career.
This is what I think of as a "sweet" regency. It has nothing to do with the presence or absence of graphic sexual material and everything to do with the nature of the characters. Duncan and Emily and everyone but the villain are nice, decent people who have no dark side despite their issues (a woman's past of abuse, a man's grief for a beloved wife). Even the villain isn't evil, just crazy. It's a restful tale that won't keep you awake at night and might provide you with a pleasant afternoon's reading. (Posted by Janice 10/14/15)
# 427 The Ice Maiden
by Elizabeth Hewitt
Published June 1988 by Signet Regency
Miss Cassandra Tilton had become known in London society as the Ice Maiden because she had ended two ostensibly unexceptionable betrothals. She had good reason she had not loved Lord Hallerby, though he loved her, and though she and Ned Tarkington had been wildly in love, she could not endure his repeated infidelities. When Sir Matthew Bourne asked Cass for her hand, she accepted because although she was not in love with him (nor he with her), she believed they could have a stable, successful marriage based chiefly on friendship. Cass's family her waspish older sister Sarah (Countess of Fareland), her brother Harry (Lord Tilton) and his wife Livy accepted her decision (though Sarah was not slow to toss in some caustic remarks about Cass's previous scandals) and began to plan the betrothal ball.
Most of the gentlemen of Cass's acquaintance were involved in government and diplomacy, and because Lord Adrian Searle, newly returned from duties with the Portuguese court in Brazil, had dined that night with some of them, they brought him along to Cass's ball. Searle was the most perfectly gorgeous male Cass had ever beheld, and she felt a jolt the moment she saw him, but she was determined not to become involved with him, nor to break her betrothal to Matthew, even though she knew he had a mistress whom he would not give up even after they were married. But despite her resolution, Cass couldn't stay away from Searle, nor he from her. In a small closed power group in which sex and advancement are intertwined, public image is everything and even murder may be an acceptable strategy.
I found this an engrossing novel, once I got the characters straightened out and knew who was related to whom, who was having an affair with whom, and why. A great deal of government and amorous business was done at regency social affairs and women could be quite useful by promoting contacts and connections, one way or another; this maneuvering and its attendant hypocrisy is well shown. I admired the way the author wove in all the criss-crossing relationships of other characters without burying the main thread -- the growth of a true and lasting bond between Adrian and Cass. I think Elizabeth Hewitt is a classic regency author and this book is a good example of why that is so. (Posted by Janice 9/29/15)
# 426 Lord Barry's Dream House
by Emily Hendrickson
Published February 1996 by Signet Regency
When his son proved uninterested, the Earl of Hamilton taught his daughter Lady Juliana all he knew about architecture. Because she was a girl, there could be no thought of her studying architecture in Italy, but from the time she was a child, Juliana had followed her father around, learning to sketch, plan, design and construct. At the time of his death, the Earl had a commission to design and build a house for Edmund, Lord Barry on his nearby country estate. Juliana is determined to complete the project as a memorial to her father.
Edmund had been away at his Jamaican plantations, and Juliana had not informed him of her father's death. When he returned he was surprised to find a woman in charge and extremely doubtful of her ability. Juliana's problems were compounded by a dastardly rival, Sir Phineas Forsythe, who was eager to take the commission away from her and was not averse to playing dirty to get it. Worse, her beloved sister Kitty had fallen in love with Forsythe's son Peregrine, and Juliana was falling too -- for her stuffy, conventional client.
I have been unhappy with the amount of regency trivia and detail in some of this author's books; it has seemed to me that the information was stuffed in because the author couldn't resist the opportunity, without regard to whether it furthered the story or not. However this book is about a lady architect totally involved in her project, and so the cornices, plastering, brick pointing and whatnot are relevant and don't seem like so much of an intrusion. I was somewhat taken aback at the resolution of Juliana's problems with Sir Phineas; it seemed too convenient and what little plot there is in the book seemed to be just tossed away. I didn't find the development of the romance particularly compelling either, but I did think the book was readable if you like this sort of thing. (Posted by Janice 9/24/15)
# 425 A Matchmaker's Christmas
by Donna Simpson
Published October 2002 by Zebra
Ten years ago, after her family lost its money and she had been jobless and destitute, Miss Beatrice Copland, 39, obtained a position as companion to a Yorkshire widow, Lady Elizabeth Bournard. Beatrice got on very well with her employer, and now she runs the household for her. Lady Bournard relies on her more and more, as her health is beginning to fail at last. Though an attractive woman, Elizabeth had never married; twenty years ago she had had a disastrous season in London, when she fell in love with Sir David Chappell, a married man, and tragedy ensued. She has been happy to bury herself in the north and to put the past behind her.
Perhaps realizing that this was to be her last Christmas, Lady Bournard decides to host a Christmas house party and do a bit of matchmaking. To that end she invites widowed Sir David, who happens to be her godson; Mr. Mark Rowland, a poor young vicar, to pair with Miss Verity Allen, a wild Canadian girl who had refused a highly eligible offer because the man beat his dog; and Lady Silvia Hampton, who had rebelled against her parents for wishing her to marry an inferior. Fate adds a stranded stranger, Lord Vaughan, to the mix. Lady Bournaud's matches go awry as the participants refuse to fall in love with the correct person, and Beatrice is shaken to the core, because Sir David is the married man she fell in love with long ago and he doesn't remember her at all.
This is a nicely done piece about two young couples sorting themselves out and two older people coming together to reconcile their pasts. Lady Bournard still mourns her Francois, and so the traditional Christmas jollity is tinged with a bit of melancholy. On a hot July afternoon, it's refreshing to spend an afternoon in snowy Yorkshire with a group of likable, intelligent characters. (Posted by Janice 9/7/15)
# 424 The Duke's Ward
by Samantha Lester
Published ctober 1980 by Dell Candlelight #612
"A tinge of color came into Nigel's face. "You try my senses, girl," he said. "What heinous crime have I committed that you are so disposed to barb me?" the Duke of Essler, about to spank Miss Griffith and discover that she wears no chemise
When her father died, Miss Anastasia Griffith learned some new things: the farm at Brensloe she loved was not her father's property, but that of the Duke of Essler, and her father (who was a distant cousin and had done the old duke service on two occasions) had promised her to the protection of the duke until she married. When the duke (Nigel) arrives to bring Stacey and her companion Cora to his mother in London, Stacey agrees on the condition that if she does the Season and lands a husband as instructed, she may return to live at the farm.
Much of Stacey's resentment fades when she meets Nigel's mama and is swept up in preparations for her entry into society, but there's a fly in the ointment: the unexpected arrival of a beautiful and sophisticated French lady whom Nigel had known apparently quite well when he served in Wellington's army. Now that Napoleon is safely ensconced on the island of Elba, and the wars are seemingly over, Madame Colette du Bois has come to London clearly intending to become the next duchess. But the duchess, who has decided that Stacey is perfect for her son, is fly to Colette's marriage schemes. However there's more than one conspiracy at stake here; Nigel believes that Napoleon will try to escape Elba and Colette's presence in London may not be coincidental.
The most remarkable thing about this book is the odd style it's written in, a sort of arch formality which I generally only see in bad high fantasy fan fiction. The story itself is completely predictable, the characters are cardboard stereotypes, and the dialog is giggle-inducing. I can't recommend this book on its merits but I did laugh a lot while I read it. (Posted by Janice 8/30/15)
# 423 The Misfit Marquess
by Teresa DesJardien
Published September 1999 by Signet Regency
Miss Elizabeth Barron eloped with a scoundrel, one Radford Barnes, not only to leave a home made unhappy by a shrewish stepmama but also to give her sister Lorraine a better chance to bring her reluctant suitor up to scratch with the addition of her portion to Lorraine's. She married Barnes and lived with him for a month, but when her courses came on and she denied him her bed for a few days, he spent his nights with a bottle. His charming facade slipped and the whole ugly truth came out: they were not legally married it had been a sham ceremony, and he had intended all along to ruin her and then blackmail her father to keep it secret.
Elizabeth grabbed a horse and galloped off into the night. She passed by the scene of a great fire, where a man grabbed at her horse and she was injured in the struggle. Another man tried to rob her of the signet ring on her finger but ran off when rescuers saw her.
The house that burned was an asylum for the insane and most of the occupants perished in the fire. Elizabeth, unconscious, was assumed to be an inmate, and was taken to the home of Gideon Whitbury, Marquess of Greyleigh. When she awakened, Elizabeth let the error stand because she feared Barnes was on her trail to get back her only proof, his ring, and that the ensuing scandal would taint her sister's chances.
Elizabeth's worst injury was a badly cut heel where the horse had clipped her, and it would be some weeks before she would be able to travel. During her stay Elizabeth learned that Gideon's mother had been mentally ill from the beginning of her marriage and his father's bitter rage made her worsen and gradually withdraw. Gideon had cared for her until her death. He had sent his two younger brothers Sebastian and Benjamin off to live their independent lives, and he had staffed his house with servants who were considered unemployable a pregnant maid, a one-legged valet, a footman missing two fingers. He is a puzzle to Elizabeth because he is clearly a man of great compassion, yet he claims to feel hollow and empty inside, and he wonders if the madness that claimed his mother lies in wait for him as well.
I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I thought Gideon was interesting; he'd lived a difficult life, trapped by his responsibilities to his mother and his position. I liked Elizabeth's realization that however much she now despised her faux husband, her brief experience with him had left her with sexual feelings that were new to her and that she'd have to deal with. On the other hand, the plot seemed somewhat melodramatic and contrived; for instance, it seemed odd that Elizabeth's father and sister, who aren't said to be bad or selfish people, don't seem concerned with whatever became of her. However the central couple's characterizations are solid and the author's prose does not grate, so I can recommend the book for those qualities. It has a sequel, The Bartered Bridegroom, which is brother Benjamin's story. (Posted by Janice 8/17/15)
I know what you mean, Janice. I, too, thought the plot rather farfetched; melodramatic is a very good word for it! I see the problem though: How do you get these two damaged people together? A little more ingenuity might've done it. I found the central couple likeable and appreciated they had to deal with their problems and insecurities, not simply the standard Love Conquers All deal. As you said, her families uninterest in her fate is not dealt with at all although maybe understandable for the age; Mr Collins (in Pride & Prejudice) considered Lydia to be counted as one dead in a similiar situation. What I didn't understand is why Elizabeth's reaction to the disinterest by her father and sister isn't even mentioned.
This is the first part of a trilogy, The Bartered Bridegroom (Benjamin's story) and The Reluctant Smuggler (Sebastian) the other two. Of these I found Ben's story charming with a somewhat implausible plot - again - and Seb's pretty much a huge clichι so never finished it. I like her style of writing though and she's also a decent storyteller; it's just such a shame her plots can't live up to it. I've read quite a few DesJardien and plot development seems a recurring problem for her. (Posted by yvonne 8/17/15)
# 422 Mistress Of Astington
by Sylvia Thorpe
Published November 1983 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Hebe Cullingworth kept house for her brother Felix, a dedicated scholar who had always been in frail health. Felix became a friend of Sir Hugo Roxwell, an elderly fellow scholar. When he fulfilled his lifelong wish to visit Italy and Greece with Sir Hugo, Hebe went along with him to look after him. Felix made his tour but died in Italy, leaving Hebe at twenty-three alone in a foreign country.
Sir Hugo agreed that she could not stay on in his house without her brother, and he needed someone to run his household so that he would not be troubled by mundane considerations, so he proposed a marriage in name only. As Lady Roxwell, Hebe had clothes, servants and wealth, but her husband would not socialize and she had no friends and nothing to do. She was surprised to learn that Sir Hugo is guardian to his great nephew Sir Clement Roxwell (now at Oxford) and his younger siblings - Barbary, Sybilla, Hugo, Charles and James, and two twin girls, Katharine and Jane -but he takes no interest in them. Their home is Astington Park in Gloucestershire.
Mr. Geoffrey Fernhurst, a visitor from England, sized up the situation and pursued Hebe. Hebe fell in love with him and kissed him in the garden, but they were seen by Sir Hugo's jealous valet Murslowe. Murslowe told Sir Hugo, who assumed they were lovers and berated her. Murslowe told her that Fernhurst wanted to elope with her and would meet her outside the gate at midnight, but that night an illness that Sir Hugo had ignored came to a crisis, Sir Hugo died, and Hebe did not keep the rendezvous.
As the widowed Lady Roxwell, Hebe was free, but she still had nothing to do with her life, and she felt a responsibility for the Roxwell children. After Sir Hugo's death the guardianship had passed to a neighbor, Lord Hendreth (Blaise), who took no interest either, and their elderly governess could not control them, especially willful Barbary. At Astington Park Hebe finds a role and a purpose.
At their first meeting Hebe is angry at Hendreth because of his neglect of his wards, and he is startled to see a pretty, elegant young woman, obviously a lady, and much younger than he had expected. At every subsequent meeting, Hebe and Hendreth clash, so when gossip begins about Hendreth and Barbary, and an old enemy returns, Hebe feels that she is alone again.
I had mixed feelings about this book. I was drawn into Hebe's story of her life with her brother and her marriage, and I thought the self-centered Sir Hugo an insightful portrait but when the novel moves to Astington Park and Hebe meets Hendreth, the clash between the two became too reminiscent of similar pairings in Heyer where the gentleman woos his lady by yelling at her about anything and everything. I can understand why Hebe didn't know Hendreth loved her because I couldn't see a sign of it myself. Nevertheless I did find it entertaining enough to finish. (Posted by Janice 8/8/15)
# 421 A Servant Of Quality
by Eileen Jackson
ISBN: 0451155823, 9780451155825, 0263122379, 9780263122374
Published July 1988 by Signet Regency (US) and 1989 by Mills & Boon (UK)
French - Une étrange soubrette, ISBN 2280806142, 9782280806145
Lady Sophia Clavering is just seventeen and an orphan. She has been raised by a neighbor, Lady Fothergill, with that widowed lady's son, Sir Edwin, whom she thinks of as a brother. But now her guardian Mr. Plerivale and Lady Fothergill are pressuring her to marry Edwin and have the business settled. Edwin is still at Oxford, and the London Season Sophia longed for would have to be postponed for at least two years, and would not be nearly as much fun if she were already a married lady. There seems no way out except to run away to London, where surely her distant cousin Lady Stoneyhurst must take her in.
Sophia has participated in theatricals, so she hits the costumes chest for a cloak and pomade a baton to hide her perfect skin. She takes a servant's gown and mob cap, pads her form and walks with a shuffle when being watched. She is not far into her journey to London in the freezing winter weather when ruffians steal her money and jewelry, and we meet her at an inn, staring at a plate of food she cannot pay for. In a gesture of kindness to an ugly lower class woman, a gentleman buys her meal and gives her half a sovereign for the journey.
It happens that the gentleman, Viscount Ramsey (Hugo), has a sister called Charlotte who is Sophia's age, and he is searching for her because she has run off from a country house party because she was embarrassed over an incident in which a man she had fancied turned out to be wearing a wig, even though he was only twenty-four. Ramsey has a rakish reputation; he avoids marriageable girls and confines his interests to the pros. When he has a curricle accident on the icy road, Ramsey heads for the nearest inn, and there he finds his sister and her retinue all except for her personal maid, who had eloped with a very handsome pot-boy. Impossible for Charlotte to exist without a personal maid, so she has engaged "Susan" the same woman Ramsey had fed at the inn.
Once in London, Sophia gets a fast course in the life and labor of a servant, and since the shutters are up on Lady Stoneyhurst's house, she must continue the masquerade for a time. When Lady Stoneyhurst returns, the maid Susan vanishes and Lady Sophia Clavering enters London society. Now the problem is how to avoid being recognized by those who had seen her in disguise especially an upwardly mobile servant couple and how to scotch the scandalous rumors that are flying, not only about her but about her new friend Charlotte.
Eileen Jackson is hit or miss for me, but I found this one a well told tale. I liked the contrast between Sophia, who is intelligent, learns from her life errors and shows true remorse for the distress she has caused, and Charlotte, who will have a teen queen mentality as long as she lives. I liked Ramsey, a gruff, impatient man, yet one who can be kind to such insignificant persons as an ugly traveling wench or his sister's timid companion. There is one tiny loose end one deserving character who does not find her mate but perhaps that was for another book never written. (Posted by Janice 7/29/15)
# 420 The Impetuous Heiress
by Jane Ashford
Published June 1984 by Signet Regency
When Lady Alicia Alston, London's Ice Queen, met Ian MacClain, Earl of Cairnyllan, at the Perdon Abbey house party, there was such an instantaneous attraction between them that when they found themselves separated from the hunt, she welcomed his passionate kisses, thinking that they were the prelude to an offer of marriage. To her astonishment, instead of an offer of marriage, Ian and his sister Lady Marianne left the house party the next day without a word.
When Alicia met Ian again in London, he told her why; he castigated her as a wanton for her "London ways" as shown by her behavior with him. Ian was the son of Beau Alexander, a rake and a wastrel whose many infidelities and unkindnesses had made their mother miserable, and he feared that his sister might be led astray by Alicia (even though Alicia was no wanton and had an impeccable reputation amongst the ton). Ian wanted nothing more than to stay away from Alicia; he could barely be civil to her unless they were talking about horses. It was her fault that his sister seemed to have become Lord Robert Devere's latest flirt and even his mother had taken up with an old suitor. They'd all been so happy up in Scotland before they came south and Alicia came into their lives. What had gone wrong?
It must be really difficult to write a romance with hero and heroine who are both alphas. It would be so easy to make one or the other of them obnoxious or threatening. I liked this short novel because I thought Ian likeable despite his prejudices (which were grounded in his desire to protect his family), and Alicia likeable because she didn't turn into a shrew when she met opposition and disappointment. Ian's gradual realization that his protectiveness is actually stifling his family's happiness is well drawn. I hope they'll be happy, and I hope also that this book is included in the author's republishing schedule. (Posted by Janice 7/16/15)
# 419 A Temporary Betrothal
by Dorothy Mack
ISBN: 0451184696, 9780451184696
Published May 1995 by Signet
The day of her fifteenth birthday, Miss Belinda Melville's father unexpectedly returned from London with a new wife. Melinda saw that her new stepmama Louisa was a nice lady, but it was her birthday and her father seemed to have forgotten about her. She went out for a walk to nurse her mood and met a god: Captain Anthony Wainright seemed to her a golden Apollo. In the space of five minutes, Wainright gave Belinda her first kiss, called her 'flower face', and rode off out of her life, leaving her hopelessly smitten.
Five years later, after Belinda had nursed her beloved grandmother through her final illness, she was offered a chance to visit her cousin Deirdre, Lady Archer. Deirdre had said that she was pregnant and her husband had government business in London, so the plan was that Belinda would keep Deirdre company, have a change of scene and gain a little social experience.
When she arrived at Archer Hall, Belinda found that the situation was not what she expected. Beautiful, charming Deirdre was the same self-centered girl she remembered; marriage to a good but older man had not improved her character at all. She had married Lord Archer for money and position only, and she was in active pursuit of another man. Belinda was astonished to find that the other man was her Apollo, who was utterly besotted with Deirdre. Deirdre had asked Belinda to visit only to prevent Lord Archer's sister Lady Ilchester from descending upon her and thrusting a spoke in her wheel.
With Deirdre publicly and obviously favoring Captain Wainright, it was only a matter of time until someone caught them together. Lady Ilchester (who had descended anyway because of the rumors she was hearing) saw Wainright kissing Deirdre in her bedroom, but Belinda, out of her sense of family loyalty, lied and said it was her, not Deirdre. To save her brother's honor and reputation, Lady Ilchester forced a marriage between Belinda and Wainright. The thing was done, Wainright rode off to the wars again, and Belinda was left to sort out what would become of her life.
Dorothy Mack can usually be depended upon for an engrossing tale, and this certainly held my attention to the end. That said, the hero is problematic for me; the author has characters saying repeatedly what a good officer and honorable gentleman he is, yet he is bent on seducing the wife of another man -- a man he likes and respects. I am supposed to accept that this is an aberration for him, that he was "swept away", and to believe that by the end he has changed back to the man he was before he met Deirdre. These two abrupt turns were too difficult for me to accept. Other than that, it's a well written, absorbing read. (Posted by Janice 7/8/15)
# 418 Lissa
by Mira Stables
ISBN: 0709140185, 9780709140184, 0449241386, 9780449241387, 0708951813, 9780708951811, 7089518132, 9787089518138
Published 1974 by Hale (UK) and Fawcett Crest (US).
At the age of three the child called Lissa had been placed by a lawyer with a village woman, Mrs. Wayburn, under mysterious circumstances. The lawyer, Mr. Whitehead, had not disclosed the little girl's story, but payments for her keep had arrived regularly, and there had been mysterious gifts, including a beautiful French doll. Suddenly the payments stopped and Mr. Whitehead had no information as to why. Most people in the village believed she must be some rich man's by-blow. Lissa went on living with her Nanty, thinking a position in some household would be her best fate.
Jervase, Viscount Shackleford was in hot water with his grandfather, the Marquis of Wrelf, over a noisy love affair with one Millicent Girling, caused, in the Marquis's opinion, by Jervase's lack of experience of women. Jervase was sent off to one of the smaller properties, Shackleford Place, to learn estate management and have an affair or two with willing village wenches to get that sort of thing out of his system.
When Jervase arrived at Shackleford, where his frail younger sister Lady Mary lived with her governess Miss Parminter, his first object was to improve his sister's health. It was arranged that Lissa should come to live with them as a sort of companion to Lady Mary, to help improve her spirits. Lissa shared Mary's lessons, walked with her and learned to ride with her, while Jervase himself worked with her every evening to improve her accent.
Jervase did not indulge in the affairs his grandfather had recommended; instead he took his work at Shackleford quite seriously, and he fell in love with Lissa. Jervase was quite serious about wanting Lissa as his wife. When the Marquis met Lissa, he too liked her and wished to help her somehow -- but not at the price of having an unknown, possibly illegitimate, girl as his grandson's bride.
This is another good solid tale from this author, who can generally be expected to write a strong story with a few twists to it, peopled by likeable, un-sleazy characters. Perhaps Lissa is a little too perfect and Jervase a little too noble, but in these crummy times, I can live with that. (Posted by Janice 6/22/15)
# 417 Phyllida
by Irene Northan
ISBN: 0709155166, 9780709155164, 0449234592, 9780449234594, 0708941257, 9780708941256
Published 1976 by Hale (UK) and Fawcett Crest (US). Large print also available.
Miss Phyllida Barton, 18, had lived with her curmudgeonly grandfather, Sir Walter Barton, who had refused to educate her or take her to London for a season because she was dark as a gypsy and a maypole. Instead he arranged a betrothal with a middle-aged business associate, Mr. Richard Compton, whom Phyllida thought a cold stick. By chance a week before the wedding date, Phyllida met Lieutenant Gerard Lacey and fell in love at first sight with him. Gerard had no money so the only option seemed to be an elopement. Phyllida used her last money to get to the rendezvous, but Gerard never showed instead Richard came for her. Her grandfather cast her off and the only solution was marriage to Richard.
When Phyllida came to Furze House as a bride, she often found herself in conflict with her new husband. Richard was alternately cool and kind to her, and he had a bad habit of ordering her around and telling her only as much as he wished to. Phyllida benefited from the things he ordered her to do (lessons to make up for her lack of education, a suitable wardrobe and such) but Phyllida was angered at having them forced on her willy-nilly. When Lieutenant Lacey reappeared in her life, and there were mysterious goings-on at Furze House, Phyllida did not know which man to trust.
This is a bit out of our period, since it's Georgian, set sometime after those treacherous and silly American colonists rebelled, but the essential relationship problem appears in many regencies: a husband who doesn't communicate his feelings (or much of anything else) and a wife who is left in the dark, not knowing what to think, and so makes rash decisions based on anger and lack of information. The one curious point is that nowhere is it even mentioned whether the couple is sleeping together, and if so, how that's affecting the relationship; if it weren't for Richard's Aunt Rouse frequently asking if Phyllida is pregnant yet, there would be no clue as to whether they had an intimate life or not. Given Phyllida's rather innocent-sounding passion for Gerard, it seems like something's missing somewhere. The cover's hard to explain as well, since it depicts a man in military uniform, though it's the rival who's the soldier and the hero who's a civilian. I can't give the love story in this book a strong recommendation, but I did find some of its other elements out of the common, and the history was interesting as well. (Posted by Janice 5/17/15)
# 416 Isabella
by Loretta Chase
ISBN: 0802709753, 9780802709752, 1560540109, 9781560540106, 9781617508516, 1617508519
Published 1987 by Walker, reprinted 2003 by Signet/Penguin. Large print also available.
"You have worried Lord Hartleigh terribly. You see? He is so distraught that he forgets his manners and blusters at ladies." Isabella to Hartleigh's ward Lucy after she escaped her 'govermiss'.
At twenty-six Isabella will do the season, not as an overage debutante but as the de facto chaperone for her younger cousins - her indolent mother being too exhausted to bother. It's not as if Isabella is an antidote. In fact, she's fairly attractive and well off besides, the later being a problem since she wants to be married for herself not money.
Basil Trevelyan is one of those fortune hunters who no sooner sets eyes on Isabella than he decides she is The Answer to His Prayer. To Lucy she is the Perfect Mother. And what is she to Lord Hartleigh? He isn't sure but he'd rather spend his time with her than any of the suitable brides on his aunt's list, yet marriage...
I like this story very much. All the characters are well rounded and believable; even the 'villain' has "a decent heart somewhere" as one character expresses it. The tale moves at a clipping pace too and the prose has a very good flow to it as well. For a first book this one is truly amazing. (Posted by yvonne 5/8/15)
# 415 The Country Cousins
by Dinah Dean
ISBN: 0373902037, 9780373302031, 0263754235 9780263754230
Published 1986 by Harlequin Books, US (Harlequin Historical #3) and Mills & Boon, UK (Masquerade historical).
"'Your papa', Mrs. Barnes replied, giving her a very straight look, 'has no rigid opinions on family matters. His inclinations are capable of amelioration by reasonable persuasion. You will find,' she added with less formality, 'that the majority of men can be brought to see reason by the application of a little intelligent argument!' -- Caroline's mother, discussing the possibility of Caroline's making a match with an eligible country gentleman
Miss Caroline Barnes of Stepney was the daughter of a cit who had married a woman of the landed classes. Her mother's sister had married Lord Hartwell; the disparity of station had caused a rupture between the sisters. Lord Hartwell and his wife had been traveling in France at the time of the Peace of Amiens and had been interned by the French when hostilities resumed. Their daughter Julia had been staying with a Lady Stavely, but when it was borne in upon her half brother, Mr. Robert Hartwell, that Lady Staveley was not a fit person to have charge of Julia (the precipitating incident was Julia's abortive elopement with a fortune hunter), some other disposition had to be made. Hartwell decided to ask Caroline to come to Canons Grange for a visit, in the hope that having some company and some guidance from a young lady closer to her in age might modify Julia's drama queen behavior.
Caroline agreed to the visit with the proviso that she might return at any time if it didn't work out. Once at Canons Grange, she quickly learned how to deal with Julia, but understanding Hartwell was a different problem. Incidents occurred which seemed to cast him in a bad light -- was he a responsible son, running his father's estates in Lord Hartwell's absence, or was he a smuggler -- or worse, a French agent? Life in the Essex countryside was turning out not to be as calm and placid as it was cracked up to be.
This is a very enjoyable classic traditional regency, with just enough edge to it to keep it from being bland. There's a real villain, a real adult hero and heroine, and a deal of common sense on most of the characters' parts. Even the dog Horatio comes through pretty well. It's a favorite of mine, and it's a shame it's never been republished. (Posted by Janice 4/28/15)
I consider Dinah Dean, who also wrote as Jane Hunt and Marjorie May, a very good author. Her Russian series in particular has gathered much acclaim. However, sad to say, The Country Cousins isn't her finest hour. For me it's too reminiscent of A Country Gentleman, the prequel to this one; I hear its echoes on almost every page. In fact, I had to reread this one before commenting as the two stories kept intermingling in memory.
Unfortunately, although Caroline is rather like Lucinda (from A Country Gentleman) in some ways, I never warmed to this hero, who's constant super critical quelling attitude towards his sister really grated on me. The young sister, just seventeen, could do nothing right, ever. And when she tried doing something, he made sarcastic remarks comparing her unfavorably with others. Is it any wonder the girl hardly wanted to do anything? I don't think so!
Here is where the author shows her own age because Julia is a pretty average teenager. It's not right to expect her to act like a dowager! Also, it seems rather odd that a twenty year old (Caroline) should be considered enough of a chaperone for her. Yes, we're told Caroline comes as company for Julia and goodness knows the poor girl needs it! but there should be an older woman in residence as well. Two young girls couldn't live together with a grown man in this way, not in the upper classes they couldn't. It wouldn't be suitable.
Anyway, the lack of chaperone is a minor matter. The unpleasant hero isn't. Unlike some I have a hard time liking a book, no matter how well written it is, when I don't enjoy visiting with the majority of the characters peopling it. From beginning to end I felt Caroline could do much better than this ironic stick in the mud. Sorry, Janice, but there it is! (Posted by yvonne 4/28/15)
# 414 Meddlesome Miranda
by Jane Ashford
ISBN: 0451158067, 9780451158062
Published January 1989 by Signet Regency
Miss Miranda Dennison, 17, has come on a visit to her sister Rosalind, who has married Philip, Baron Highdene of Clairvon Abbey in the wilds of Northumberland. Miranda notices right away that Rosalind is often ill and trying to hide it, and that Philip is brooding and withdrawn, but neither of them will talk to her about things, and she is left to draw her own conclusions. Since Miranda loves novels like The Black Abbott, at first her conclusions are as melodramatic as they are incorrect.
Philip's old friend Alan Creighton, an ex soldier, is also a guest at Clairvon, and he's not easy for Miranda to get on with either. Between his upbringing and his years away at war, Alan has spent little time in the company of ladies. Eventually Miranda learns some truths Rosalind is sick because she is in the first months of pregnancy, and Philip is gloomy and withdrawn because he is worried about her safety with good reason, as a new kind of criminal, ex-soldiers turned ruffian, has moved in on the traditional smuggling trade in the area and they have threatened Philip's family.
This is one of Ashford's shorter, lighter pieces, and at first I thought it was no more than another riff on Northanger Abbey, but it makes different points. It could be viewed as a variation on The Big Mis, in which nobody tells anybody anything and everybody goes off half cocked in all different directions, and on that level alone it's entertaining. However, what I really liked about it was that the author showed that sometimes keeping women in ignorance of what was going on was not done to keep them ground down in ignorance and bondage, but to protect them from a really rough world because their men loved them and were genuinely terrified that something bad might happen to them. It also showed that when women want to know something, they can generally outflank their men and find out anyway. I liked it. (Posted by Janice 4/17/15)
# 413 Mask Of White Satin
by Barbara Neil / Barbara Sherrod
ISBN: 0373311877, 9780373311873, 0263827275 9780263827279
Published December 1992 by Harlequin (Regency #87)
French - Le masque de satin blanc, ISBN 2280021218, 9782280021210
Miss Cassandra Vickery, the proper and demure daughter of the Rev. and Mrs. Vickery, had a secret life: she painted. Many young ladies were taught drawing, of course, and could sketch flowers or interesting ruins on demand (as could Cassandra), but because she secretly longed for an escape from the humdrum life of Pilkingdown Rectory, she painted her daydreams of the adventures of Marietta, a beautiful mermaid who rescued handsome sailors from disaster. She kept her paintings secret because she was afraid of ridicule.
No one ever saw Marietta until one day Cassandra's sister Julia hurried to tell Cassandra the exciting news that the two highly eligible nephews of the Marquess of Cantywell, Lord Marcheek and his cousin Mr. James Bradford, had arrived in the neighborhood. On the way back to the vicarage Marcheek's reckless driving nearly tossed both girls into the ditch and Cassandra's portfolio was knocked into the water. Mr. Bradford (at the cost of a nice pair of boots) waded in and retrieved the floating pasteboards and was intrigued at what he saw; he had some knowledge and appreciation of art and recognized their originality and spirit. Marcheek had decided to visit his uncle the Marquess to avoid a meeting with an irate husband; he is a cheerful but inveterate philanderer and Julia immediately takes his eye. When the Marquess decides to throw a masked ball at his estate, Bradford knows that Marcheek will not keep the line, as does Cassandra. Bradford decides the only way to dissuade Julia from ruining herself is to take Marcheek's place, wearing Marcheek's mask of white satin, and that encounter leads to others involving midnight meetings in the folly, clandestine art evaluations, and the chaperonage of the Marquess's redoubtable housekeeper Mrs. Clapshew, armed with of her bags of white flour.
I like this author because of her witty dialog and her clever turn of phrase, in a style one doesn't often see anymore. This book can be read as just such a light confection, but every once in a while there's a turn of plot or character which shows me that the author very well understands that actions have consequences, and things can catch up with people. I enjoyed it on both those levels. (Posted by Janice 4/9/15)
I liked this book as well. It's fun without being too outrι. A charming story with mostly likable characters, especially the main couple.
As an artist myself I could sympathize with Cassie and her uncertainty about how good an artist she really was. Self-doubt is the invariable lot of creative people. I also enjoyed the author's exploration of her characters' inner life, which in this case take on a life of its own. We all have it although writers and artists to a heightened degree, with the added benefit of the tools to share some of that inner life with others. Not sure though how well fanciful mermaid pictures would've gone over during the Regency no matter how fresh, original or well done but it's a minor point. (Posted by yvonne 4/9/15)
# 412 Regency Miss
by Alix Melbourne
ISBN: 0449236501, 9780449236505
Published 1978 by Fawcett Crest
One night in 1806 a young lady asked a gentleman she found at an inn to relieve her of her virginity. The gentleman, who had been drinking steadily to blot out his own problems, agreed. The lady insisted on darkness to conceal their identities, but she did notice a certain ring with an uncut emerald on the gentleman's hand. Five hours later, as she was leaving, he asked her why she had done it, and she said "I do not wish to be like other women of my class: a virgin before marriage, and a whore afterwards."
Seven years later, Miss Alicia Tierney's father had died and she was chafing under the strain of having to live with her brother William and his wife, when an unexpected inheritance set her free of them. With her devoted maid Jellicoe, Alicia hied off to London, where she brought herself into fashion, met many new people, and was courted as much for her person as her money. She even bought her own house in Curzon Street and proceeded to live an independent life, with a new friend, Miss Charlotte Marlowe, for company and countenance. All seemed to be going well, until two things happened: Alicia allowed herself to be drawn into a pretended engagement with Lord Nicholas Fane, and one night at a masque ball she saw the emerald ring again with no idea whatever who wore it or what might happen if the wearer learned that they had met before.
Aside from the central story of Alicia and Nick, there is a lot of other stuff going on in this novel spies, artists, duels, deceptons, rivalries, suitors and other couples and each time I picked it up again it took a while to get back into it and remember who everyone was. However it was worth the effort; I like the author's style and I was curious to see how all would eventually be sorted. I would recommend it to readers who like more complex, intertwined narratives. (Posted by Janice 3/31/15)
# 411 No Impediment
by Mira Stables
ISBN: 0709175566, 9780709175568, 0552115592, 9780552115599, 0449500802, 9780449500804, 0745155634, 9780745155630, 0745113877,9780745113876
First published 1979 By Hale/Corgy (UK). US edition published August 1980 by Fawcett Coventry (#59). Reprinted 1991 by Chivers Press. Large print also available.
Since she was seven, Miss Philippa Langley, an orphan, had lived with her uncle and aunt, the Merchistons, and their children, Richard (Dickon) and Lucinda (Cindy). Her Uncle Philip was a country doctor and although Pippa was a considerable heiress, what with having assumed the responsibility of running the household and caring for her young cousins after her aunt died, Pippa had never gone beyond the confines of their country neighborhood, except for her time at school. Now at 22 Pippa is finding that life comfortable but somewhat dull.
Quentin Cresswell, newly Marquess of Merland, met Pippa as she came after Cindy, who wanted a peek at the then closed grand ballroom of Merland during a Public Day. He had been trying to sneak out of his own house, having had enough for the moment of his new responsibilities. Quentin had inherited unexpectedly after his cousin Edmund died in a hunting accident; he had had a competence of his own, had enjoyed his town life, and had little taste for pomp and circumstance. Quentin heard Pippa's name as "Miss Pipper" and assumed she was Cindy's governess; he enjoyed their conversation but thought it no more than a pleasing interlude.
A few months later Quentin himself took a header off his hunter Ragamuffin, and was found by Dickon. He was carried to Dr. Merchiston's on a gate, unconscious, with a bruised head and a broken collarbone. When he awoke, he found his "Miss Pipper" was the doctor's niece, and on impulse he gave his real name but did not tell her his rank. Her uncle did know however, and permitted Quentin to remain with them until he recovered so that he could avoid his awful aunt, the Dowager Marchioness, until he was better. Pippa discovered this when Lady Merland descended upon Doctor's Grange, intent on depressing any pretensions Pippa might have to marriage with her nephew. Lady Merland intended that role for Flora, her young and controllable relative; she had fought her removal to the Dower House and fully intended to return to Merland as its de facto mistress.
Pippa was furious at Quentin's deception; she had cared for him as a patient and treated him much like her cousin Dickon. But Lady Merland wasn't finished; she began spreading vicious tales about Pippa. Quentin realized that a quiet and quick marriage was the only alternative, and so they were married. By now Pippa was very much in love with her husband, but he tended to regard her as good old Pippa, until his artist mother took her in hand and turned her into a smashing success in London -- and suddenly her baffled husband couldn't get near her.
If that were all there were to this novel, I wouldn't have liked it as much as I did, but there were other complications to hold my interest, and I've always liked this author's prose style -- pleasant, unobtrusive and without annoying mannerisms. It's a nice hour's read. (Posted by Janice 3/12/15)
# 410 A Mistress To The Regent
by Helen Tucker
ISBN: 0449500276, 9780449500279
Published February 1980 by Coventry Romances (#24)
Miss Selina Bryand, an orphan, was quite the most beautiful girl in London. She had spent three years at Miss Travis's Select Academy for Females, after which she had made her home in London with her aunt Daisy and Daisy's husband Flavian Curtis. Selina did not know that Flavian had no money of his own; everything he owned had come to him by gambling at cards, including the house in Half Moon Street where they lived (even Daisy did not know that). She did know they were short on money, because there were no servants in the house, though Flavian pretended to callers that by coincidence they were all out on errands.
From the time he saw his grown niece, Flavian had decided that Selina's extreme beauty would be the thing that restored his fortunes. Selina would marry a wealthy man and Flavian and Daisy would always be looked after. Selina did manage to attract the interest of young Carlo Moraldo, but Carlo's uncle, the famous portraitist Mr. Aldo Barelli, scotched the match with the news that Carlo had a long-standing betrothal in Italy. When plans to marry Selina to Carlo fell through, Flavian knew that no one else would offer marriage to a dowerless girl, no matter how beautiful but a wealthy man might well offer her carte blanche. Selina felt very much in debt to her aunt and uncle and reluctantly fell in with their plan, which, given Flavian's nature, flew high: he would make her the mistress of no less than the Regent himself.
Aldo is requested by the Prince to paint a portrait of Selina (preferably naked) as the first step in her seduction. However being in the Prince's company convinces Selina that the last thing in the world she can bring herself to do is become his mistress; Prinny disgusts her. And though she doesn't know it, Aldo feels the same way -- it must never happen.
I disremember ever seeing another regency romance with a young lady pursuing Prinny with the goal of becoming his mistress. The Prince Regent doesn't cut a very good figure in this novel; he is in his late fifties, corpulent, lecherous and badly dressed since Brummel's departure, and used to getting his own way by whatever means necessary. To Prinny's credit, the author does mention that he is noted for having good taste in art and architecture, but it's not enough to save his reputation. Except for Selina and Prinny, the characters in this tale are rather sketchy, but for a fast short read with an interesting premise, I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 3/5/15)
# 409 A Regency Scandal
by Alice Chetwynd Ley
ISBN: 0345260082, 9780345260086
Published February 1979 by Ballantine Books
In 1789 Neville Stratton, then Viscount Shaldon and heir to the fifth Earl of Alvington, fell passionately in love with a commoner, Miss Dorinda Lathom. Marriage was the only way Neville could get Dorinda into bed, so he married her secretly, using his family name but not his title. Neville did not tell Dorinda or her widowed mother that he had a title, even when Dorinda became pregnant.
Neville's father was pressuring him to marry Miss Maria Cottesford, but for months Neville put him off; he was a weak young man and could not tell his domineering father that he was already married. Dorinda had a difficult pregnancy and died in childbirth. When she learned Neville's real status, Mrs. Lathom blew up at him. She took the baby boy (who was not expected to survive) and left the neighborhood. Neville breathed a sigh of relief and went forward with the marriage to Maria. Except for Neville's good friend and confidant Edward Lydney, no one knew anything about the secret marriage, let alone the infant heir.
Maria, a sensible and intelligent girl, had fallen in love with Neville, but that soon wore off when she learned what kind of man he really was. She bore him a son, Anthony, before she died in 1805. The old earl died, Neville became the new Earl of Alvington, and Anthony was Viscount Shaldon. Anthony was a different sort of person than his father; he grew up at Alvington, he loved the estate and got on well with neighboring families, but he did not get on with his weak and meanspirited father. Eventually he took up a life in London and only visited when necessary.
Flash forward to 1816. After another bitter quarrel with Anthony, Neville decided to trace his first son, thinking to use the information to force Anthony to obey him. He set Lydney's secretary Bertram Durrant to trace Mrs. Lathom and the baby. Durrant had formed a secret passion for Miss Cynthia Lydney, his employer's daughter and the bride selected by Neville for Anthony. Cynthia, however, was a lady born with the soul of a courtesan, intent on enjoying all the pleasures of London including her father's secretary.
Miss Helen Somerby, one of the circle of neighborhood friends who had grown up with Anthony, hears hints that Durrant is onto something that might harm Anthony somehow. At first Anthony doesn't take her warnings seriously, but when a young man of similar age with exactly the same shade of auburn hair as all the Strattons is seen repeatedly with Durrant, he realizes there may be something to it and he must discover the truth.
At 474 pages this book is a lot longer than the average regency romance. Nowadays when there's this much material, the author gets a series out of it with a different hero and heroine in each volume, but when this was written, longer novels with many tangled plot threads and a large cast of important characters were in vogue. Mostly I like the more complex style because it can show how characters' lives are interwoven, but in this case, I wish Ley had split it up. Dozens of similar characters appear, and it's hard to remember who they all are and what their relationships are, and whether they're going to be important or not. I can't decide whether the author was going for epic, or was being paid by the word, but I can say it was quite a slog for me, particularly since for the first two hundred pages or so of the book, there was nobody in it I could like. (Posted by Janice 2/23/15)
# 408 The Marriage Masque
by Catherine Fellows
ISBN: 440-05425, 0340179864, 9780340179864, 034019913X, 9780340199138, 0708914578, 9780708914571
Published July 1974 by Dell. Large print and audio book also available.
Swedish - I Danses Virvlar, ISBN 91-32-30829-9
German - Der Traum von einer groίen Liebe, ISBN unknown
Miss Jessica Ross, 30, is possessed of a comfortable fortune which makes it possible for her to live as she wishes. When she had had her London season, she did not attract many suitors; because she was then rather on the plump side, her mother sent her home in favor of her younger sister Ursula, who quickly landed the wealthy but miserly Mr. Prendergast. Jessica happily retired to the country, where she ran her home and pursued her artistic interests. She is at present visiting her aunt, Lady Sellick, in London, who is recovering from a broken leg.
Colonel Sir Robert Malin and his daughter Rebecca do not get on. Robert has a poor opinion of women in general because his deceased wife Elaine was a slut; he does not even believe that Rebecca is his blood daughter as she has red hair as did one of his wife's lovers. Robert is angry because Rebecca has received an advantageous offer from a neighbor, Mr. Julian Wearing, and she refuses to accept it. Julian is a nice young man of solid character, but he's country dull, and Rebecca craves a season in London.
Lady Sellick agrees to receive Rebecca for a visit. Since her leg still troubles her too much to attend balls and whatnot, Jessica will handle the chaperonage duties. Rebecca is very young and very green, and her first scrape is to fall into a serious infatuation with a known fortune hunter, Mr. Fabian Hislop, further incensing her father. It will take a great deal of tact, humor and clever maneuvering by Jessica to make sure that Rebecca doesn't marry the wrong man, that Robert accepts the truth about his daughter, and that he doesn't marry the wrong person either.
Catherine Fellows wrote very much in the same witty style as Georgette Heyer, and often used some of the same types of characters. Jessica is a managing heroine like Miss Sophia Stanton-Lacey, but I found her stratagems entertaining enough not to mind the similarity. There is no high melodrama here; this novel is light, witty and fast-moving. It is easy to see why her books are comfort reads for many. (Posted by Janice 2/18/15)
Funny the book reminds you in whole of Heyer and Jessica of Sophy. My impression is nothing at all like it. It's witty, true, but more a British witty rather than a particular Heyer type witty. Nor do I see many similarities between Jessica and Sophy. Being 'managing' isn't enough since their styles are so different. Sophy simply bulldoze anyone that stands in the way of her view of what's the best solution to everything. Jessica is much more subtle AND she acknowledges that others have rights too.
I like this story. It's amusing without being slapstick and, thank goodness, not a spy or duke in sight! An aside, it's one Regency translated into Swedish (historical romance - we don't have a Regency sub-genre here) and I first read it in that language; my acquaintance with the English original is of a much more recent date. (Posted by yvonne 2/18/15)
That's interesting. To me she was very much like Sophy; an alpha managing female, plotting (in a benign way) to bring about the best outcome for people she likes. I agree that the book is written in a bit more of a drawing room comedy manner, but Sophy shows considerable wit in her conversations as well. I disagree that Jessica is more subtle than Sophy; less, in fact, as she tells people her strategies. I don't have the impression from Sophy that she believes other people don't have rights -- both Sophy and Jessica maneuver people into making the decisions that are best for them, but neither of them has any real power over the individuals they are trying to help. (Posted by Janice 2/18/15)
# 407 Mama's Disappointment
by Judy Christenberry (Judith Stafford)
Published 1991 by Walker and Company
Miss Emma Chadwell lived her life as a disappointment to her vulgar stepmother, forever being compared to her perfect stepsister Aurora, who had enchanted the ton and married perfectly, and taking a back seat to her spendthrift brother Charley, even though it was Emma whose shrewd management provided the funds for Charley's fun. Mrs. Chadwell (as stupid as she is meanspirited) dressed Emma in the clothes and hairstyle which suited golden Aurora, and held that it was Emma's fault that she did not look well in them. Thanks to Mrs. Chadwell, Emma is now enduring a second, equally miserable Season, and longing to get back to the country and her work at the estate.
Mr. Richard Fairfax has a small daughter, Melissa, from a previous very unhappy marriage. Melissa lives with Richard's mother, who cannot control the unhappy little girl's tantrums and misbehavior. Richard therefore decides to marry - a marriage of convenience - so as to give Melissa a mother. His choice lights on Emma -- a girl like that will not lead him a dance like his first wife, and once having immured Emma in the country with Melissa, he can return to his town pleasures unimpeded.
Mrs. Chadwell and her son are absolutely thrilled at the scheme because the marriage settlements will cure their financial woes, and they pressure Emma into accepting. After meeting the little girl (who likes Miss Emma right away), Emma accepts for her sake -- and because she cannot live with her stepmother anymore and Charley's wealthy fiancee Miss Stokie has told her outright that she will have no home with Charley if she refuses. Emma's options have dwindled to marrying Richard or finding employment.
I suspect this is intended as a relatively light regency and we are not intended to look too closely at it, but even so, it's awfully convenient in some respects: Melissa takes to Emma immediately, so that there can be no issue there, and Mrs. Fairfax (first shown as being unable to raise Melissa) somehow befriends Emma and becomes her staunch supporter (not the actions of a weak woman). And then there is the use of anachronistic and too-American expressions which pulled me up short, such as "okay", "a lot" and "sort of." On balance, I thought it a shallow, cliched piece and I cannot recommend it. Whether as Judy Christenberry or Judith Stafford, this author has done much better books than this. (Posted by Janice 2/12/15)
#406 The Nonpareil
by Dawn Lindsey
Published February 1986 by Signet
Finnish - Vaarallisia suhteita, ISBN 9516111629, 9789516111622
Since the death of her parents, Miss Philadelphia Ainsley had lived with her Aunt Chloe and Uncle Jos Coates and her three cousins, Lydia, Lettice and Prudence. Aunt Chloe was a kind hearted if lax parent and allowed Lydia and Letty to treat Phila as a poor relation; only Priddy, the youngest and very outspoken Coates, stood Phila's friend. While Uncle Jos stayed behind to run his manufactory, Aunt Chloe and the girls came to London so that Lydia and Letty could find husbands.
Phila's chief object for her affections was her brother, Derrick. Derry had finished Cambridge and had a job in a solicitor's office, but he was army mad; though he was trying, he could not save enough money to buy a commission. When Phila learned that Derry had been gaming and had lost the astonishing sum of £200 to Mr. Havelocke James, she secretly visited that gentleman to ask that Derry's debt be forgiven. James told her he had never had any intention of collecting the money. He saw at once that Phila was gently bred; on the one hand, he admired her spunk and devotion to her brother, but on the other, she had no business running around London unescorted and unsupervised.
James had once been engaged to a willful young woman who took his horses out alone without permission and broke her neck. Since then he had lived behind an urbane faηade and believed he was over the age of strong feelings; he was even contemplating a sensible marriage with Lady Antonia Burke. But Phila continued to fly to her brother's aid, and at every subsequent encounter she outraged James even more by her lack of caution or concern for her safety, and a polished gentleman who thought he had no feelings left discovered that he was coming back to life again.
There aren't any new elements in this tale, and it's clear that the author is a Heyer fan (as am I), but I didn't mind. I liked its characters, particularly Corny Naseby, Priddy and Aunt Chloe, and I thought it quite engrossing -- what I think of as a good solid read. (Posted by Janice 1/28/15)
I enjoyed this story as well. Phila drew me a little nuts now and then, my sympathies were firmly with poor James in this one, but there's so much good in the book that I was able to overlook that. The secondary characters were deftly drawn and more than made up for it. At least Phila behaved like a young girl might, impulsive and heedless of consequences, which many teenage heroines don't. The plot similarities must be overlooked or we have to toss most Regency romances in the wall - the majority owe their existence to Heyer anyway. I liked this book a lot and have reread it more than once. (Posted by yvonne 1/28/15)
# 405 Pippa
by Megan O'Connor / Norma Lee Clark
ISBN: 0440168252, 0451150457, 9780451150455
Published April 1980 by Dell Candlelight Regency Special #563. Reissued 1987 by Signet as by Norma Lee Clark.
Orphaned Miss Phillippa Cranville, 17, lives at Ayleforth Hall in the charge of her aunt, Miss Emma Cranville. Her guardian, Sir James Seymour-Croft, has taken little interest in her and has only visited three times in her life. Aunt Emma, a woman of rigidity and pretension, has not permitted Pippa to mix with other families in the neighborhood because they aren't good enough for a Cranville; Pippa's only friend is a stableboy named Jem.
One morning Pippa sees a letter from Sir James to her aunt informing her that he is bringing Mr. Robert Danston, a prospective suitor, to visit. Pippa knows her aunt always brings about whatever she wants to have happen, so she collects some boy's clothing, inveigles Jem into buying her a £5 horse, and runs off, intending to return once her suitor is gone.
Pippa does not know that Sir James had no intention of forcing a match, but merely thought it would be a good idea for the two young people to meet nor does she know that two days after the letter was written, he died of a stroke, and it is his son Sir Anthony who makes the visit. When Tony finds Pippa gone, and her aunt seemingly unconcerned, he goes in search of her. He finds her staying (as a boy) with a Lady Barstowe and her daughter Melissa.
Tony brings Pippa back to Ayleforth and proposes that she should go to Bath to gain some experience in society, but Aunt Emma refuses to go, so Pippa becomes a guest there of Lady Barstowe. Once in Bath, Pippa meets the mysterious Mr. Peregrine Strangeways, a man who has no memories, and Mr. Sidney Otway, a fortune hunter, but it is Tony who comes to mean something to her which is unfortunate, because Tony has begun to withdraw and Pippa doesn't know why.
This is an early book by Norma Lee Clark, under the name of Megan O'Connor, and I didn't find it as engaging as her later Signets under her own name. It's definitely on the sweet side, which makes it rather improbable for me. It is not a bad book, but it's not my thing. (Posted by Janice 12/23/14)
# 404 The Hero Returns
by Catherine Blair
Published December 1999 by Zebra Regency
Miss Amelia Harrow had been in love with Hunter, Viscount Westhaven, since she was a girl. Eventually Hunter noticed that Millie was grown up, and just before he rode off to the wars, he told her that when he returned, if she was still of the same mind, they could be married. Three years later Hunter returned, a changed man, haunted by his experiences in the war. He had sustained only an arm wound, but he felt guilty because he had survived when so many of his men had died.
Millie knew he had changed but since he wouldn't talk about it much, she didn't know why or how or what she should do. Hunter renewed his offer and they were married. Rather than a wedding trip, he and Millie went to Crownhaven, the family estate which his brother Thomas had managed during his absence. Once there, Hunter's behavior confused Millie; he was occasionally kind or passionate, but other times he became cold and withdrawn, and would disappear back to London with little notice and no reason given other than "business". Left alone at Crownhaven, Millie tried to make a life for herself; she learned estate management, befriended the tenants and even tried to get on with Hunter's haughty, critical mother. But Millie knew that unless she could find a way through the wall Hunter had erected around himself, there was no hope of the close relationship she had wanted so badly.
I found this period of adjustment novel very engrossing. Hunter's problems as a returning veteran expected to just get over it all and be "normal" resonate very strongly today. Millie's growth from hero worshipping young girl to strong and compassionate adult woman gained my sympathy as well. These are two characters I can like without reservation. I recommend it as a good solid read. (Posted by Janice 12/15/14)
# 403 A Country Girl
by Darrell Husted
ISBN: 0445041862, 0893402400, 9780893402402
Published March 1978 by Popular Library, large print edition 1980 by Curley/Magna Print.
Miss Louise Engleston lived with her father and her younger brother Charles at Twelve Elms in Sussex. Every year her father would make the journey to London on business, and each time he returned he seemed worried and dejected, but he would never talk about the reason. Eventually he fell ill of a stroke, and that year he was unable to make the trip, so he sent Charlie instead. When nothing was heard from Charlie for three months, he sent Louise. They did not know that they had not heard from Charlie because he had fallen into the toils of the town's most expensive courtesan, Mlle Cleo de Merivange (nee Sadie Mudd), and he had spent the money he was to pay over to discharge his errand on an emerald bracelet for Cleo.
When she reached London, Louise expected to be met by her Aunt Hartshord, but through a mix-up she was met by Henry Trevenaugh, Duke of Wickenshire, and taken to the home of his aunt, the Duchess of Bledrough. When the misunderstanding was sorted, the Duchess insisted that Louise remain as her guest. The Duchess was not being kind; she was interested in having a new toy -- a new outlet for her talents.
Overnight Louise was transformed from a simple country miss to a ravishing young beauty fit to appear at the Prince Regent's famous celebration at Carlton House. Amidst all the wonders of flowing fountains with silver and gold fish in them, dining and dancing, Louise met Lord Castleton. Castleton's cold will frightened her when he spoke of breaking her to bridle -- all the more when Castleton told her she would marry him whether she wanted to or not because not only did he have a hold over her father, he had one over Charlie as well.
This is a fairly straightforward and fast moving tale (it takes place over the space of a mere five days or so), told in a plain style with dialog and attitudes that have the sound of the early 19th century to them. Since Louise attends the Prince's fete (as do enough other regency heroes and heroines to account for the vast crowd historically present), we can date it to June 1811, and it does have quite a bit more feel of the era than many regencies do. There is much more emphasis on story than emotion or sex, but characters are deftly drawn, and we all know the mechanics of what Cleo did for a living by now surely. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to readers who like this style of writing. (Posted by Janice 12/10/14)
# 402 Rogue's Delight
by Elizabeth Jackson
Published July 1995 by Signet Regency
Miss Susan Winston, daughter of the late General John Winston, was on her way to the port of Bordeaux with her companion Miss Pennyfeather, the owl Minerva and assorted other passengers, when the coach was stopped and a mysterious man on horseback asked them to take up a strange man and get him to Bordeaux where he would be met. The man was wounded and barely conscious. When the French stopped the coach looking for a fugitive, Susan gave a brilliant performance as the embarrassed sister of a drunken wretch, and the French let them pass.
The drunken wretch in question was actually Desmond Wyndham, Viscount Everly, who had been in France as a British agent. When Des learned that Susan was going to a dotty aunt as a companion, he offered to take her to his sister's in London, where she would be introduced to society, after which he would marry her. It would be a marriage of convenience, and he thought he was too old for her, but he thought it would be a better fate than life as a poor relation. Des was done with love since Clarissa Constable, the woman he had wanted to marry years ago, had dumped him for a richer man.
Once at Lord and Lady Wibberley's in London, Susan made a friend of Lord Byron, and that made her socially. It also made her some enemies -- Lady Caroline Lamb was jealous over Byron; the widowed Contessa d'Abruzzi, who had come back to take up with Des where Miss Constable had left off, saw a rival; and Des's cousin and heir Cosmo Canby saw Des's title slipping from his grasp. Susan's ruin would neatly solve their problems.
Usually I prefer historical personages not to be important secondary characters in regency romances, because too often the known facts of their lives are warped to fit the plot. I don't think that was the case here. The author used these characters cleverly and in character, and she didn't stray too far from the actual events in their lives; in particular she described well the dynamics of the Byron/Caro relationship. As in her other books, there are echoes of Austen and Heyer in this tale, but they are homages, not imitations -- Easter eggs for regency freaks. I can only find that she did three books; I wish there had been more. (Posted by Janice 12/4/14)
# 401 A Rival Heir
by Laura Matthews
Published January 2002 by Signet Regency. Large print and ebook editions also available.
Miss Helen Armstrong, an orphan with no funds, has made her home with her cantankerous aunt, Miss Rosemarie Longstreet, at Longstreet Manor in Westmorland for the past ten years. Nell was believed to be illegitimate; her mother, Rosemarie's sister Margaret, had run off with her lover and it was not known when, where or if they were married. When they died Nell lived with her bitter grandfather, and when he passed, she was expected to stay with Rosemarie for the rest of her aunt's life. She was not treated as a beloved niece, nor as an employee (she received a paltry five guinea allowance); neither was her future in any way secured, as it had long been understood that Aunt Longstreet's fortune was to go to her godson, Sir Hugh Nowlin. Nell has accepted the situation as it is and has become an amazingly tactful, loyal and undemanding niece; it is Nell who runs the household and serves as a buffer between Rosemarie and the neighborhood.
Rosemarie had suffered a disappointment in her youth; the man she was betrothed to, Lord Westwick, had fallen deeply in love with another girl and had married her, without telling Rosemarie about it first. Rosemarie had not been in love with Lord Westwick (nor he with her), but he was quite a catch and his abrupt departure humiliated her. Since then she has avoided society and has forced that life on Nell as well. However, after Lord Westwick was widowed, Rosemarie took a sudden notion to visit Bath and take the waters for her gout -- but her real purpose was to exact vengeance for the humiliation of her youth. As Nell is exposed to the delights of Bath -- new friends, bookstores, assemblies, the Pump Room, a new green gown, and the company of Sir Hugh -- impossible daydreams of happiness begin to form in her mind, but there seems little reason to hope her situation might ever change, thanks to Rosemarie's lust for revenge.
This is a short, relatively sunny Laura Matthews title with a very likeable heroine and an odd turn of events at the end which I found very funny (Rosemarie is sort of hoist by her own petard). There's also a nice sense of what a visit to Bath might be like. I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 11/24/14)
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!