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Regency Retro Reads

Review 451 - 459

Change Of Fortune by Sandra Heath

Cousin Harry by Paula Marshall

Cressida by Clare Darcy

Discarded Duke by Nancy Butler

Hearts Betrayed by Gayle Buck

Miss Philadelphia Smith by Charity Blackstock / Paula Allardyce

Reluctant Bride by Joan Smith

Second Match by Emma Lange

Wife For Warminster by Margaret Summerville

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#459 Hearts Betrayed

by Gayle Buck

ISBN: 0451168763

Published January 1991 by Signet Regency

Mademoiselle Michele du Bois, daughter of a Belgian gentleman and an English lady, had been born in Belgium and lived in Brussels with her parents during the war. She had fallen deeply in love with an English officer, and her spirits had been much affected when she received news of his death in battle. Her parents thought a visit to her aunt Lady Basinberry and her uncle Mr. Edwin Davenport in London might be good for her, and her cousin Lydia (Edwin's daughter) might benefit from a friend during the Season.

Lydia was a bit of a problem for her father because she had had the poor judgement (in his view) to fall in love with Captain Bernard Hughes. Bernard was known to be an officer of good character and he was crazy in love with Lydia, but her father wanted to look higher for a husband. He wanted her to marry Lord Randol (Anthony), and though he was a fond father, he was very insistent that Lydia encourage the wealthy viscount. Lydia did not have the strength to tell Anthony herself that she did not want to marry him. Matters were further complicated because Anthony was the English officer whom Michele had loved and thought lost at Waterloo. Meeting him again was a shock, but it was an even greater shock to find that Anthony hated her – he believed she had deserted him because of his wounds.

The Big Mis is a plot device that annoys many readers, since it depends on two people, despite ample opportunities, not having the five minute conversation that would resolve their issues. Many times also the plot point that is keeping the couple apart can seem contrived or even trivial. I think this book suffers from a bit of that, but with the poor communication system of that era, it's not totally implausible. Gayle Buck writes well and does good characterization; those qualities carried this book for me. It's a good read if Big Mis plots don't make you grind your teeth. (Posted by Janice 3/4/17)

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#458 The Discarded Duke

by Nancy Butler

ISBN: 0451206797

Published August 2002 by Signet

Ursula, Lady Roarke, widow of Sir Connor Roarke, had been left with the Roarke Stud and very little else when her kind but feckless husband died. It was imperative to move the horses by spring, because the land was entailed to Rory's cousin. To this end she had pursued an acquaintance with the Duke of Ardsley (Damien), ostensibly to sell the horses but with the real intention of marrying him. Ursula had conditioned that before the sale could be finalized, she must see Myrmion, the property Damien planned to use for horse breeding, to be certain it would be suitable for her Irish horses. They were on their way there when the journey was interrupted by a flock of sheep, a half-trained sheepdog and William Ridd, the duke's bailiff.

Will Ridd loved sheep and sheep farming. He had had worked for years to improve the yield and quality of the flocks' wool; his heart was in Myrmion, though he was just an employee, and now his boss, whom he had never even met, wanted to sweep away his hard work and put horses in place of his beloved sheep. As Ursula and Will came to know each other, they were strongly attracted, but Ursula had to marry for money to keep her horses, and Will (so far as anybody knew) would never have any.

The sitch is further complicated because years ago Damien had been in a way to falling in love with Miss Judith Coltrane, his childhood friend, but Damien's grandmama the Dowager Duchess had lectured him against marrying beneath his rank (Judith was a mere baronet's daughter) and scotched that. After his father's death Damien had avoided Myrmion because of its unhappy memories of the death of his brother. When he returned Judith was still unmarried, the chief lady of the district, and a very active and outspoken proponent of Will Ridd's sheep for the good they did the valley's economy. Damien's dearest old friend seemed bent on nothing more than taking him to school.

I like Nancy Butler's books in general, but I particularly like this book because all the situations and relationships in it (only a few of which are mentioned here) are so complicated and so well developed. It's a satisfying romance and its characters are fully rounded individuals; even its villain only did what was done out of perceived duty. It's also beautifully written. Highly recommended. (Posted by Janice 12/20/16)

Nancy Butler, or rather Nancy Hajeski, is one of my favorite Regency authors too. Although she's been busy, adapting Jane Austen's works into graphic novels (comics) is no easy matter, it's such a shame she no longer publish her own romances. Here is a good author that really deserves to have her books published, reprinted or at least available as ebooks but no such luck. Grab her back catalog where you find them - they're worth it. (Posted by yvonne 12/20/16)

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#437 Reluctant Bride

by Joan Smith

ISBN: 0449502724, 9780709079248, 0709079249

Published March 1982 by Fawcett [Coventry Romances #171] (US), reprinted by Robert Hale (UK). Ebook also available.

Miss Elizabeth Braden lived in pinched comfort with her Aunt Maisie at Westgate Hall, not far from Bath. They had to be careful with money because a series of disastrous bailiffs had drastically reduced the income which the estate should have yielded. Brother Jeremy, the heir, was at Oxford, with tuition looming; they owed on the mortgage, and they owed the local merchants too. They were so short on cash that Lizzie was considering selling her one remaining substantial asset, an antique diamond necklace said to have come into the family because Queen Elizabeth had had a crush on Sir Eldridge Braden. Her uncle Weston Braden had been interested in buying the necklace for £5,000.

Lizzie, her aunt and the pug Mitzi were on their way to Uncle Weston's in their rickety carriage when a stylish gentleman played hunt the squirrel behind them and caused an accident. Maisie's ankle was injured, so the group adjourned to the Rose and Thistle to meet the doctor. Lizzie had been carrying the necklace in her reticule, and in the confusion, the diamonds went missing. Angry about the accident, Lizzie immediately accused Sir Edmund Blount, the driver of the other carriage, of theft. Sir Edmund felt somewhat responsible for the loss of the necklace and his honor required him to help Lizzie get it back. Lizzie and he set forth together to find the thief, ranging up and down the countryside, bickering and storming at each other all the way.

This is another of Joan Smith's road stories, told in the first person by Lizzie. It's fast moving and filled with her usual clever banter, but it seems to me that I've read too many of these and they're too similar. It is readable and competently done, but for me, it's been done too often. It's an agreeable time passer but, like Chinese food, it's gone an hour later. (Posted by Janice 12/6/16)

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#456 Miss Philadelphia Smith

by Charity Blackstock / Paula Allardyce

ISBN: 0553197568, 9780553197563, 0340214562, 9780340214565, 0698108116, 9780698108110

Originally published 1977 by Hodder & Stoughton (UK) and Bantam (US), reprinted several times, reviewed edition 1984 by Golden Apple Publishers. Audio book also available.

In 1746 Montagu Road in London had dwellings on both sides of the road. The modest earlier cottages were on the even numbered side, and the later upscale houses were on the odd side. Persons from opposite sides of the road did not meet socially.

Miss Philadelphia Smith and her widowed mother lived in No. 22. Philly was engaged to a schoolmaster called Jamie Sinclair, but they did not have enough money to marry. Philly had an older sister, Charlotte, but upwardly mobile Charlotte was married to a tea merchant, so it fell to Philly to be her invalid mother's sole and constant caregiver (their one servant Lucy being lazy and useless).

Across the road at No. 23 lived Mr. Thomas Atherton. Philly's late father would have disapproved of Mr. Atherton, as he lived a thoroughly dissolute life, drinking and gaming in low places, and entertaining his mistress Miss Emma Slade overnight. Philly saw him through the window and wondered about him. Atherton noticed Philly as well; he had just had another thundering row with Emma, and Philly's pure beauty appealed to him.

Philly had wished that something would happen to her, and one day it did. Jamie announced that he had taken a position bear-leading a young man on the Grand Tour and he would be gone for six months, and Philly broke off the engagement. That same day her mother died, and her servant Lucy refused to stay in a house with a dead body in it, so Philly was left alone. Atherton came to the rescue, arranging all the details, and Philly fell a little in love with him because he seemed so kind. She didn't really understand that his only interest in her was seduction.

In the days that followed, Philly learned she had an inheritance from her mother; Emma learned about Atherton's interest in Philly; Philly's sister Charlotte learned about the money; and Atherton's very bad friend Ferdy turned against Atherton and planned revenge on him - using Philly.

The cover of this book says it's a regency romance, but it's not; it's set in 1746. It's not a boy meets girl formula romance either, but rather a tale of mismatings along the lines of A Midsummer Night's Dream (frequently referred to in the book; it's the only play Philly has ever seen acted), or Heyer's Bath Tangle. It's written in an older style, and it's about a broader, more colorful and various age, in which characters don't act as we might, and that makes it a very interesting tale. I liked it a lot. (Posted by Janice 11/23/16)

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#455 Cressida

by Clare Darcy

ISBN: 0708816495, 9780708816493, 0451082877, 9780451082879, 0816166064, 9780816166060, 035404317X, 9780354043175

Published 1977 in hardcover by Walker, paperback 1978 by Signet, large print and audio book also available.

Italian - Cressida, ISBN unknown
Finnish - Unelma eilisestä, ISBN 9512314762, 9789512314768
Dutch - Cressida, ISBN 9060104366, 9789060104361
German - Cressida und der charmante Abenteurer, ISBN 3499158272, 9783499158278

When she was eighteen Miss Cressida Calverton had been engaged for a week to Captain Deverell Rossiter, but after a thundering row, he called it off. The incident was known to very few. Dev went off to Portugal and the wars, and Cressy, who had inherited a fortune from her Great Aunt Estella, went to London, where she established herself in Mount Street and invited Lady Constance Havener to live with her and lend her countenance. Lady Con had married the most handsome man of his time, but he had left her little at his death, so the arrangement was convenient for both. At twenty-six Cressy is an acknowledged fashion leader who has turned down more than one offer of marriage. It is thought that she will eventually accept her most recent suitor, Lord Langmere.

Lady Con has a cousin whose daughter, Miss Kitty Chevenix, is to come to London to be brought out. She was to stay with her aunt Mrs. Mills, but she has written to Lady Con that her aunt is ill and unable to receive her, and asks if she might therefore stay with Lady Con instead. It is a very proper letter and Kitty seems a proper and demure young miss, so Cressy and Lady Con befriend her.

At the time Dev blew Cressy off, he was not a wealthy man, but he made his fortune upon 'Change by returning to England immediately after Waterloo and buying into the Funds before news of the victory became known. With his friend Captain Miles Harries, he has returned to London. Although Cressy would like to avoid him, it is not possible, and every time they meet, they clash, particularly after demure Miss Chevenix targets Dev for his wealth. When Cressy learns that her Aunt Estella conspired with others to break up her engagement to Dev by leaving her fortune to her on condition that she did not marry Dev, fireworks ensue.

The back cover blurb on this book calls Clare Darcy "the heiress to Georgette Heyer". If that's another way of saying her work is much influenced by Heyer, I would agree. The Cressy/Rossiter relationship is very reminiscent of the Ivo/Serena relationship in Bath Tangle, and many turns of phrase and her general tone echo Heyer. The late Mary Deasy wrote fourteen regency romances, all very Heyeresque. I do not mean to suggest that they are plagiarisms by any means; I would say rather that they are homages, like fan fiction. This particular one held my interest long enough to finish it, but it did not have the sparkle and energy of Heyer when she was on her best game. (Posted by Janice 11/13/16)

Clare Darcy is one of my comfort read authors and this title made it to my Comfort Read page ahead of the others. I like the ambiance, the secondary characters are well drawn and I even enjoy the hero and heroine - when they're not together. Disappointment in love is all well and good but there is a point when hurt and resentment indubitably crosses the line into childishness and they do. Luckily the rest of the story makes up for it. I like it. (Posted by yvonne 11/13/16)

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#454 A Second Match

by Emma Lange

ISBN: 0451177371

Published November 1993 by Signet Regency

Mrs. Gwendolyn Tarrant had found a wellpaid harbor as companion to Lady Chumleigh of Wensley Hall. Although the daughter of Baron Llandower, she had wed and been widowed by an older man, a farmer, after her scumbag father, obsessed with gambling, had lost everything and scarpered, leaving her with four younger siblings to support. Lady Chumleigh paid well and Gwen was able to send money to her cousin, who had taken the children in. She had dreams of saving enough to start a hat shop in the town and reunite her family.

That was before Gwen rode out one day to meet her father (who wanted the last unsold Prideaux heirloom, a diamond brooch, which Gwen gave him, thinking she'd never see it again). In need of a good gallop after the meeting, Gwen gave Sir Adolphus his head but found herself pursued and scooped off her horse's back into the arms of Lucian Montfort, Marquess of Warrick, who thought she was being run away with. Warrick was not known as the most desirable man in the realm for nothing; Gwen felt an immediate attraction to him, but, given her prior experience with men, she neither wished to be anyone's mistress nor to marry again.

For his part, Warrick did not quite know what to make of the lovely Mrs. Tarrant. She had the bearing, grace, courage and manners of a fine lady, and she was a favorite of his aunt, Lady Chumleigh, but she was a mere farmer's widow working as a companion, and thus beneath him in station. Yet he wanted her, and he knew she wanted him as well – but when she appeared complicit in an attempted theft, he thought her a scheming jade fit only prison, or his bed.

Usually I'm a sucker for tales of good women overwhelmed by circumstance, and I did admire Gwen's courage and persistence, but I was somewhat put off by Warrick's arrogance and hotheadedness; these qualities humanized his utter physical perfection, but after a while all the storming around, acid conversations, rigid self control and such got a bit tedious. However, Emma Lange writes good prose and her subsidiary characters were more dimensional than most, so I remained interested enough to finish the book, though I was left doubting that the happy couple will ever get rid of Lord Llandower (last seen playing cards with Lady Chumleigh). (Posted by Janice 10/31/16)

Book copyrighted to Melinda Kelly

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#453 Cousin Harry

by Paula Marshall

ISBN: 0263130460, 9780263130461, 0263775836, 0373311966, 0750512377, 9780750512374

Published February 1991 by Mills & Boon (UK) and April 1993 by Harlequin Regency Romance #96 (US). Large print also available.

French - Le gentelman arrogant, ISBN 2280021064, 9782280021067

"... except that then, at the very last moment, as she lay open and willing for him to take her -- only then reason gasped suddenly in her ear, as it lay dying, almost dead, killed by passion, What are you doing? You are a virgin; how will he feel when he discovers that? For he thinks quite otherwise and in your wantonness you have done nothing to undeceive him. And, more prosaically, What will it do to the carpet?" -- Cousin Harry, having second thoughts.

When he returned from the wars, Gilbert Alexander Ashburn, Seventh Earl of Templestowe, was appalled to find that his grandfather had left Racquette to his cousin Mr. Gilbert Ashburn. Grandfather had had a fit of pique at Alex's refusal to return home upon command and marry Arabella Temple, and had left the unentailed Templestowe lands and fortune to a cousin Alex barely knew. And then things got worse – gentle Gilly Ashburn had died, and since he died after inheriting, everything went to his wife Harriet. It was not to be borne.

When Alex met the widow Ashburn, he had been convinced that she was a scheming harpy who had married Gilly, who was by then an invalid, for his money and position. Her good reputation and seeming innocence must be a well-enacted pose. Despite his misgivings, he found himself falling in love with her. It would take a great deal of new information about Harry, as well as a plot by his old enemy Nun'ster, to change his mind – but he would have her either way.

I like Paula Marshall for her writing style, which is very intelligent, and not the thin oversimplified stuff I see so much of now. However I had some difficulty liking her hero as well as she does; he does a great deal of tooth gritting and stopping just in time. Indeed, there were times when it seemed poor Harry's only choice was which "gentleman" -- hero or villain – she'd prefer to be raped by. It seemed odd to me that Alex, who was a good and trusted officer, would leap to conclusions in his personal affairs without getting better intelligence first. But one character – Arabella's complaisant (within limits) husband Harrendene – carried the story for me; his remarks were always on point and often very funny. (Posted by Janice 9/28/16)

I'm not quite sure what to say here. I like Harry, she's an interesting heroine, yet to me the real hero of the story is Gilly, who died before the opening chapter. Alex, in looks his double, isn't half the man except in the most physical sense. As a romance it didn't score that high for me but, Harry and the secondary characters are such that I enjoyed the story anyway. It's well written, excellent prose and moves along at a fair clip but, if you want a hero to fall in love with, this isn't it. (Posted by yvonne 9/28/16)

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#452 A Change Of Fortune

by Sandra Heath

ISBN: 0451138546

Published October 1985 by Signet Regency

Miss Leonie Conyngham was enjoying her last term at Miss Hart's Seminary for Young Ladies in London, of which Countess Lieven was patroness, and looking forward to a brilliant London Season, when word was received that her wealthy father Richard had died of a fever in India. Even worse for Leonie, he had been accused of fraud and lost all his wealth. Still worse, she was being stalked by Rupert Allingham, Duke of Thornbury after he saw her walking in the park. In the space of a morning, Leonie went from riches to rags, and with no other family to go to, she accepted a position as teacher at Miss Hart's (much to Rupert's satisfaction because he could get entree there).

Rupert's friend Sir Guy de Lacey was betrothed to the fascinating beauty Lady Imogen Longhurst, but Imogen's character did not accord with her lovely face; she was a cold and calculating woman. First on her list was getting shut of "the child" – Sir Guy's orphaned niece, Stella de Lacey. Stella loved her uncle dearly and was on to Imogen's game, but she was only twelve and her uncle wouldn't listen to anything against Imogen. Guy placed Stella at Miss Hart's, telling her that she would not be allowed to return home until she could behave to Imogen, and so Stella came under Leonie's care. Leonie comes under question through the machinations of Imogen and her coterie, as she tries to protect Stella and stay out of Thornbury's clutches, while resisting her growing feelings for Guy.

This is quite a plot-heavy story and you may want to make notes as to who's screwing who over for what reason at any given time, because there are lots of candidates I haven't mentioned. Seldom does one see so many vindictive bitches and sociopathic rakes arrayed against one poor innocent heroine. What carried this novel for me was the wealth of cleverly integrated regency lore. The scene of Miss Nadia Benckendorff, Countess Lieven's vile but probably fictional cousin, driving her blue velvet troika through London during the Fell Winter of 1814, will stay in my memory. I can forgive the convenient last page ending because of little bits like that. (Posted by Janice 9/19/16)

I know what you mean with plot heavy, Janice. I read this one several times before I sorted out everyone. Like you I enjoyed the sense of place and time. The story is set in the winter of 1813-14, make no mistake about that. Unlike many authors, Heath avoids making her book an info dump or a Manual to Regency Living rather than a romance. It is a romance, truly, even though there are much else going on at the same time. I did find the ending a bit of a cop out, especially the very last pages but, overall I liked it and would recommend it. (Posted by yvonne 9/19/16)

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#451 A Wife For Warminster

by Margaret Summerville

ISBN: 0451169751

Published June 1991 by Signet Regency

When Miss Elizabeth Newmarch, 23, was abruptly let go from Miss Lockwood's Academy for Young Ladies, she visited her late father's solicitor Mr. Woodridge, seeking guidance and perhaps a lead on a new position. Jeremy Sherwood, his young clerk, fell in love at first sight. Mr. Woodridge advised her of a position as companion available with Lady Honora Trevor, who took to her immediately and hired her on the spot.

Lady Honora was aunt to the Earl of Warminster, a noted yachtsman and earl about town. She was concerned that the Earl had not yet married, as he preferred lightskirts to ladies. She decided to find a wife for him; to this end she investigated many potential brides and instructed Elizabeth to record her findings in a little leather notebook. On one of his infrequent visits (Warminster did not like being nagged about his single state), Lady Honora braced him with her plan, and he gave her a list of the qualities his bride must possess, which Elizabeth duly recorded: she must be the loveliest girl in the kingdom, have impeccable lineage, be wealthy, and not above twenty years old.

Warminster had an old enemy, Sir Henry Raunton. When they were at Eton, Raunton had bullied the younger Warminster, and as adults they continued to dislike one another. Outwardly Raunton was charming but inwardly he seethed; he looked for ways to one-up Warminster and was not above spreading vicious rumors. When Lady Honora settled on Lady Georgina Bartley, who had all the qualities Warminster had listed (brains not being on the list), and Warminster made her father an offer, Raunton decided to take her away from him. He was convinced that Elizabeth was Warminster's mistress and he'd take her away as well -- just as Elizabeth and Warminster were discovering how attracted they were to each other, list or no list.

I liked this book mostly for its style of humor – sly and dry. There's not a great deal of emotional intensity to the romance in it, but there's enough to tell a story. I particularly liked the author's way with her subsidiary characters – lovestruck Jeremy, spiteful Raunton, singleminded Lady Honora. I wouldn't call it a particularly memorable read, but it's an entertaining one. (Posted by Janice 9/12/16)

I enjoyed this book as well, in fact, it's one of my comfort reads. The rather slow pace suits the summer theme ideally and even the 'villain' is more foul than dangerous. I particularly liked the eccentric Lady Honora, who considers her pet a more reliable judge of character than herself - not that I can quite disagree with that! Elizabeth and Warminster generate enough sparks off each other to make the story fun without going overboard; at the end of the tale we can actually believe in a happy outcome. All in all the characters felt quite human and not simply plot devices. I'd recommend it. (Posted by yvonne 9/12/16)

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The opinions expressed in these reviews are solely those of the named reviewer. No free books, money, curricles with matched pairs, Godiva chocolates, hot guys' phone numbers or any other form of consideration has been received in connection with these reviews from any author, publisher or other entity anywhere in the universe. Whatsoever. - But if any hot guys should happen to read this, feel free to make us an offer!

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