Regency Content

Regency Retro Reads

Review 451 - 484

Change Of Fortune by Sandra Heath

Choice Of Cousins by April Kihlstrom

Cousin Harry by Paula Marshall

Cressida by Clare Darcy

Dear Deceiver by Elizabeth Lynch

Devil's Bargain by Marlene Suson

Discarded Duke by Nancy Butler

Double Dealers by Helen Tucker

Eligible Bride by Janice Bennett

Five-minute Marriage by Joan Aiken

Fortune Hunter by Elizabeth Hewitt

Gambler's Daughter by Irene Saunders

Gentleman's Choice by Dorothea Donley

Hearts Betrayed by Gayle Buck

House At Bell Orchard by Sylvia Thorpe

Kate And The Marquess by Sheila Walsh

Lady Jane by Norma Lee Clark

Lady Molly by Katherine Talbot (Katherine Ashton)

Lord Buckingham's Bride by Sandra Heath

Mally by Sandra Heath

Mallory by Norma Lee Clark

Miss Drayton's Crusade by Elizabeth Barron

Miss Haycroft's Suitors by Emily Hendrickson

Miss Philadelphia Smith by Charity Blackstock / Paula Allardyce

Miss Ryder's Memoirs by Laura Matthews

Much Obliged by Jessica Benson

Poor Relation by Cathryn Huntington Chadwick / Kate Huntington

Reluctant Bride by Joan Smith

Second Match by Emma Lange

Simon's Waif by Mira Stables

Summer At Dorne by Mira Stables

Tempting Sarah by Gayle Buck

Wife For Warminster by Margaret Summerville

Wilderness Walk by Sheila Bishop






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#484 The Double Dealers

by Helen Tucker

ISBN: 0449502694

Published February 1982 by Fawcett Coventry #168

Translations:
Finnish - Vehkeilijä, ISBN 9516111696, 9789516111691

Todd Wendover was dancing with a gorgeous redhead, Miss Angela Barlow, at his 28th birthday ball, and raising her expectations. It was Todd's practice to dance with every pretty girl he could; he lived a life of bachelor pleasure in London. His father Lord Wendover then told Todd that he was expected to marry Miss Rozelle Kendall (Rosie) under an arrangement made with her parents, and that he would cut off his allowance if Todd didn't comply. Todd was horrified at the idea of giving up his bachelor existence, so he asked Angela to pretend to be engaged to him so that he wouldn't be able to offer for Rosie (whom he had never seen). Angela agreed -- with no intention of repudiating the engagement when the time came.

Rosie had no desire to be married to a louche lad like Todd, so when he presented himself to make his offer, she and her sister Vi created a convincing disguise - a very fat lady, drably dressed, with wild, weird hair. The disguise worked and Todd left, unbetrothed, as soon as he could. However, Todd's parents had asked the Kendalls to stay with them in the country. There Rosie met a charming neighbor, Lord Jeffrey Markham, and as their acquaintance deepened, Rosie was even less willing to marry Todd as her father Osbert wished. When Angela descended upon them to further her pursuit of Todd, and Todd came up with a famous scheme to get money and avoid marrying anybody, schemes were hatched all round.

This is a very short, reasonably funny farce to fill a vacant hour. I thought its strongest point was the character of Todd Wendover, a shallow, conniving, weak-willed idiot, a perfect example of a rich kid with no real life purpose, controlled by his dependence on his father's money. I was glad he didn't turn out to to be the hero, but it was hard to see why a sensible, good-hearted young man like Jeffrey Markham would be his friend. There are some forms of address that seemed iffy to me and I thought it "too American" in that the characters are called Todd, Jeff, etc., immediately, leaving me to wonder what their titles and their parents' titles really were (which is important in a regency because it tells the reader the characters' standing in their society). Overall, it's a minor piece, though fast moving, and perhaps that was its purpose - light as Chinese food and forgotten just as quickly. (Posted by Janice 9/11/18)


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Simon's Waif

by Mira Stables

ISBN: 0709181752, 0449502074, 0708997597, 9780708997598

Published 1980 by Robert Hale Ltd. (UK) and September 1981 by Fawcett Coventry #136 (US). Large print also available.

When out strolling in the grounds of his country home Furzedown, Mr. Simon Warhurst came across two local boys poaching fish from his stream. A third youth with a pug dog was passing; the pug stole one of the fish and one of the lads threw the dog into the stream. The pug's owner dived in after it, and Simon fished them both out. Surprise, it was a young girl - unconscious, semi-starved and in a high fever. Simon took her back to the house and put her into the care of Mrs. Bedford, the housekeeper.

Mrs. Bedford recognized her; she was Miss Harriet Pendeniston, the granddaughter of Colonel Pendeniston, a neighbor. When his son married to disoblige him, the Colonel had refused to receive his pregnant widow, who then went to live at the family farm nearby. There was money for Harriet's education but nothing more. After her mother died, her grandfather Johnson, a mean man, sent her to London to work for the Cushings as a governess and all purpose drudge. Her only friend there was the pug Mandy.

When the butler tried to rape her, Harriet was not believed, so she ran away. She took a suit of boy's clothes and left money for them, but she stole the pug, since Mrs. Cushing had said it should be killed for giving the alarm. As a young child Harriet had known Mrs. Bedford as Auntie Bee and had been on her way back to her.

Thinking her still a child, Simon took Harriet in. Under care and with decent food, Harriet recovered from the fever. She adored Simon as her rescuer and god, but Simon still thought of her as much younger than she actually was. But Harriet's idyll could not last forever -- Simon's sister Mrs. Pauncefoot arrived, took in the situation, and realized It Would Not Do and Something Had To Be Done.

I like Mira Stables's books. She's a great storyteller. Her tales just rocket along, with one thing after another, and I find myself accepting the most unlikely melodramatic elements because she's so much fun. She doesn't do deep characterization, but she surely knows how to keep me turning the pages. (Posted by Janice 8/27/18)


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#482 Lady Jane

by Norma Lee Clark

ISBN: 0449201635, 978 0802706997, 978 0449201633

Published 1982 by Walker and Company. Reprinted by Fawcett, November 1983. Ebook also available.

Translations:
Dutch - Lady Jane, ISBN 906879003X, 9789068790030

Young Jane Coombes was a sunny natured but low ranking maid in the Montmorency household. Her duties including maiding the spoiled daughter of the house, Lady Sarah. One night Jane was tempted to try on a pretty sheer pink robe that belonged to Lady Sarah; she had never seen anything so beautiful. Lady Sarah's brother Lord Jaspar Montmorency, then 18, saw her, touched her and awakened her to the idea of sexual pleasure.

The next morning when Jane was found out, she was tossed out on the street, with no one to turn to. When the Montmorency butler Leach offered her shelter with his sister, she accepted. But Leach was a very bad man who beat and raped her, and his sister Lizzie turned a blind eye. Jane fled the house and a friend found her a place at Larkwoods, the Devon home of Lady Payton and her son Sebastian, the baron. Sebastian had been crippled in a riding accident as a child; his legs never grew and he had severe pain which was gradually wearing him down. He tutored Jane, teaching her to read good books and to speak without her Cockney accent, while Lady Payton taught her upper class manners. Sebastian married Jane and they had a son, Clinton.

After the deaths of Sebastian and his mother, Jane remained at Larkwoods with little Clinton (now Baron Payton), until Lady Stanfield visited her and urged her to return to London and enter society, where Jane met Jaspar again. But Leach is in London too, and he will make Jane his victim again if he can.

This is an early Norma Lee Clark novel. It does not have any of the humor of her later books; it seems old fashioned and melodramatic, more in the style of historical romances of the 1970s and prior; more soap than substance, more plot than point. It's reasonably entertaining but she did much better later. (Posted by Janice 8/18/18)


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#481 A Choice Of Cousins

by April Kihlstrom

ISBN: 0451113470, 0451154339, 9780451154330

Published February 1982 by Signet Regency

Edward Fambrough, Seventh Earl of Danver had a problem -- he had learned from his mother that his young cousin and ward Tom Haverstock was infatuated with pretty, flirtatious Miss Kitty Farthingham. Edward would have allowed the match if he thought her suitable, despite Tom's youth. Unfortunately it was just after he had had a row with his dismissed mistress that he sighted Miss Farthingham with Tom outside a shop, only it was the wrong Miss Farthingham -- it was her cousin Sara. Danver quarreled with her as he drove her home, so Sara did not correct his error, but said she'd do what she pleased about Tom.

The next time Danver saw Sara it was at Lady Haverstock's ball. He waltzed with her, and though they were still angry with each other about the mistaken identity episode, they also found things to laugh about together. Ordinarily that would be the beginning of a beautiful relationship, but there were roadblocks -- Kitty was still a scandal magnet, Tom was still convinced that Kitty was the one for him, Danver was half persuaded that Kitty's brother, Major Charles Farthingham, was carrying on with Sara, and his mother Cressilia, Lady Danver, had no intention of giving up the reins at Swinford Abbey to any but a bride she had chosen herself.

This is quite a short novel, which is fortunate since there isn't much story to it, but I found it quite readable. The pacing is good, the characters are well drawn, and their attitudes seem reasonable enough under the circumstances. While it is true that five minutes' honest discussion with everybody in one room would have straightened everything out, sometimes life isn't like that, and fiction needn't be either. (Posted by Janice 8/7/18)


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#480 Dear Deceiver

by Elizabeth Lynch

ISBN: 0380780461

Published July 1995 by Avon Books

Clarissa Harcourt, Dowager Duchess of Belfort, at 24 had been widowed for a year. She had escaped a limited life as companion to her Aunt Dorothea and her pugs by her marriage to Robert Harcourt, Duke of Belfort. Although the age disparity was great, she had been genuinely fond of her husband and it was a real marriage, though no children resulted. After his death she was lost for a while; she fell in with fast company and her reputation suffered. Anne, Lady Talmadge befriended her and helped her repair her reputation somewhat, but Richard Harcourt, the new duke, encouraged the rumors. He wanted Clarissa and had nearly raped her when he caught her alone.

Clarissa had to stay on at Belfort House, where Richard also lived, because her husband's will stated that she could not get control of her funds until 18 months after his death. In the meantime she had her loyal maid Martha for support, and she locked her bedroom door at night. Once again her friend Anne came to the rescue; she had a sister who owned Metcalfe Farm in faraway Yorkshire, now vacant. Anne made the arrangements and Clarissa went there under the name of Mrs. Wyndham (her maiden name), with Martha.

Sir Jeremy Sutcliffe of Thornbeck House, a widower, studied Roman history and had been working on a book for some years. He spent half his days working on his history and the other half with his bailiff, so that his young daughter Susannah got little of his time. Susannah had only Nurse, who called her a daughter of Delilah, and a governess, Miss Harte, who rigorously enforced notions of proper behavior and the importance of Turning Out Well. Susannah sneaked off whenever she could.

On one particular day, Susannah was hurt that no one had remembered that it was her ninth birthday, and she took off on one of her rambles. She was caught in a sudden bad snowstorm and Clarissa found her half frozen on her doorstep. Jeremy met Clarissa when she was going for the doctor, dressed in old clothes as a man. Sparks of irritation flew at first but as they got better acquainted, an attraction began – but Richard was still searching for Clarissa, and thanks to a word dropped by his latest possession, the kitchen maid Tansy, eventually he found her.

There is absolutely nothing new in this book, and yet I finished it. It flows smoothly, and the characters are so understandable and so well depicted, that I didn't care that it held no surprises and even had a couple of threads that were dropped. It is unusual too in that it has a pretty cover that illustrates a scene from the story and actually gets the details right. Elizabeth Lynch only wrote this one regency, and I wonder why she didn't do more. I would have bought them, if only for her smooth writing style. (Posted by Janice 7/21/18)


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#479 Much Obliged

by Jessica Benson

ISBN: 0821767836, 9780821767832, 0821778005, 9780821778005

Published April 2001 by Zebra Books, reprinted several times. Ebook also available.

Translations:
Japanese - 秘密の賭けは伯爵とともに, ISBN 9784775514863, 4775514865

To make ends meet, Miss Adelaide Winstead wrote a popular boxing column for the Morning Post under the name of Anonymous. The columns were read as much for the bits of gossip in them as for the boxing match accounts. Addie did it for the money as much as love of the pugilistic sciences; her father had been an expert on boxing and a close friend of John "Gentleman" Jackson, and had taught Addie well, but he had been no such expert on investments and had lost a great deal of money in a Lapland tea plantation scheme. Addie's little family of her Aunt Honoria and her younger sister Justine were therefore short on funds. So Addie talked Jackson into allowing her to watch the bouts in his salon, disguised as a maid. The plan worked well until one morning a drunken Raymond Walters accosted Addie on the street, assuming from her maid's disguise that she was for hire.

During one such session Addie observed that John Fitzwilliam, Fourth Earl of Claremont, was one of the worst boxers she'd ever seen. Their parents had proposed a match when they were children, and Honoria had been hoping Fitz would finally ask Addie to wed, but he hadn't done so, mostly because he had an amazingly skilled mistress called Bella in his employ. Fitz meant to marry Addie, eventually, someday or other. Just not now.

When Fitz's best friend Drew Mannering proposes to Addie's sister Justine, Addie and Fitz begin to see more of each other. During a visit to Vauxhall Gardens, Walters (drunk again) recognizes Addie and calls her a doxy. Fitz calls him out, and, knowing that Fitz is a crack shot, Walters chooses fists as his weapons. Addie gets herself engaged to Mr. Wallace Raines, a thoroughgoing hypochondriac who believes one is what one eats, and the consumption of poultry will make ladies volatile. Wallace has finally got his mama's approval to propose to Addie, but Jackson has a plan: Fitz must train for the duel with someone, and who better than Addie?

Usually I'm not much on the lighter sort of regency that was a staple of the Zebra line, but this was an exception. I actually laughed at many bits in this, my favorite being the scene when Wallace gets down on his knees and begs Addie to give up chicken as his mama will no longer countenance their match if Addie falls victim to "poultry instability". I thought it a very successful comedy. (Posted by Janice 6/5/18)


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#478 Miss Haycroft's Suitors

by Emily Hendrickson

ISBN: 0451198344

Published September 1999 by Signet Books

Justin Fairfax, Earl of Rochford first met Miss Anne Haycroft when she fell asleep at a fashionable wedding. Her maid Dolly had been set to spy on her, so she had sneaked into the church alone to evade her. So he kissed her. But when he saw the tears on her cheeks, Justin questioned her about her circumstances. Anne told him that her Uncle Cosmo controlled her fortune and was trying to force her into an arranged marriage; he had even told her to order a wedding dress, groom unknown. When Justin heard the names of the men her uncle was considering for her, he decided to help her.

After taking the measure of Lord Alington, the frontrunner, at Lady Chalfont's musicale, Justin decided Anne must absolutely not be forced into marrying him; Alington was obsessed with her but only as the perfect piece for his collection. Anne told Justin that her birthday was approaching and she would be free of her uncle's guardianship after that. The next morning she stole out and met Justin, who took her to his Aunt Mary's house. Together the three made a plan to give out that Anne had other suitors and was already betrothed to someone else. But Alington and Uncle Cosmo saw through their ruse, and then the frightening attempts to abduct Anne began.

I had difficulty accepting the premise of this novel; while I could accept that Justin had feelings for Anne immediately and his natural chivalry prompted him to try to help her, I thought making up false fiancés was just silly, not the sort of thing an allegedly sensible man would do. Having Anne leave Aunt Mary's to go to crowded social events where Alington could snatch her was even sillier. Also, this author has a particular stylistic habit that gets on my nerves: she overuses the word 'most' – everything is most this, most that. It got so I was waiting for the next 'most' to drop. I did finish the book to find out what happened, but I think it's one of the author's weaker entries. I found the author's afterword the most interesting thing about it. (Posted by Janice 5/21/18)


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#477 The Wilderness Walk

by Sheila Bishop

ISBN: 0708922759, 9780708922750, 0091100100, 9780091100100, 0099055309, 9780099055303, 9780441888665

First published 1972 by Hurst & Blackett (UK) and 1973 by Ace Books (US). Large print also available.

Lord Francis Aubrey, "that morose little man", was uncle and trustee to Jack, the young Marquess of Eltham. Jack was a bit of a handful; he had promised his mistress Miss Ada Gainey (the youngest of the "Golden Gaineys") a house, but his uncle wouldn't advance him the funds, so Jack took her to his country estate, Hoyle Park, for the summer, where there was a cottage empty in the Wilderness Walk. Francis went down also to keep an eye on Jack. Francis was not well liked in general because of his manner, and he was even suspected of misappropriating Jack's funds.

Miss Caroline Pryor was staying nearby at Maitland Farm with her married sister Lavinia and her children. Lavinia did not want to leave London but her stuffed shirt husband Arthur insisted. Lavinia had once been engaged to Francis but he made her uncomfortable and she broke off the match on the grounds that her father's bank had failed. Francis didn't object.

Caroline gradually develops a promising friendship with Francis, which is put to the test when Ada goes missing and an anonymous article is published in London asserting that Francis murdered her.

I liked this short tale with its tidy mystery plot. It has some unusual elements -– a family of beautiful whores who are devoted to each other and for whom that way of life is ordinary and natural to them, and a hero who is not well liked and is an inch shorter than his lady. Bishop is witty and her characterizations are always a bit different and more dimensional than one might expect. A short but satisfying read. (Posted by Janice 5/11/18)


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#476 Summer At Dorne

by Mira Stables

ISBN: 070915979X, 9780709159797, 0449502821, 9780449502822, 1842623222, 9781842623220

Published 1977 by Hale (UK), this edition April 1982 by Fawcett Coventry Books, USA (Coventry #181). Large print also available

At the death of her father, the Earl of Hilsborough, Lady Chantal Delaney was left a considerable heiress. The title went to her cousin, not a bad fellow, but his brother Giffard Delaney had plans for her future: he would marry her for the money and the pleasure of breaking her to harness. To that end he had tried to break her spirit by semi-starvation and the dismissal of all her old servants at Delaney Court, except for her old nurse Hepsie. If she did not agree to marry him, he would quietly continue to spread rumors about her mental condition and have her committed, and gain control of her fortune that way.

Hepsie, though ill, helped Chantal plan an escape. Chantal would avoid her jailers by creeping out of the house at night and leaving the estate grounds by the least expected way – a climb down the face of the quarry that formed one of the estate's boundaries. She would then make her way to her father's attorney in London. All went well until Chantal hit a patch of scree and fell into water at the bottom. She woke up in a gypsy van with a dog called Jester, being driven by an artistic gentleman who did not give her his name.

Dominic Merriden at first thought Chantal a willful schoolgirl on an escapade, than a spoiled society lady, but when he heard Chantal's tale in full, he took her to their house at Claverton, where she met his older brother Oliver, half blind and crippled from war wounds, and their mother. Together they made a plan to keep Chantal safe from her cousin until her affairs could be untangled: they would go to Dorne, the family's island castle in Scotland. Cousin Giffard would not be able to trace Chantal there, they thought. But they were wrong about that; Giffard was searching for Chantal and it was only a matter of time until he would find her.

Mira Stables is one of my favorite vintage regency authors for romantic adventure. I liked Dominic, a second son who secretly supports charities and loves his brother Oliver so much that he willingly shoulders much of the heir's work when he could have had a brilliant career of his own. Chantal seemed at first a typical feisty heroine, but she shows brains and courage of her own. And who could not like Jester the hound? It may be a one-time read, but it's an entertaining way to spend an evening. (Posted by Janice 5/3/18)


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#475 The Poor Relation

by Cathryn Huntington Chadwick (Kate Huntington)

ISBN: 821729039

Published February 1990 by Zebra Books

The Honorable Miss Melanie Verelst was the first of Viscount Shallcross's two daughters to wed. Her mother Arabella, a former actress and a shrewd, determined and manipulative mother, wanted all her children to marry well so that she could bully one of them into letting her stay in London and continue the lifestyle she had become accustomed to since marrying Lord Shallcross.

Melanie was lovely but spoiled and a dyed in the wool drama queen. She had talked of her plans for marrying her cousin Captain Mark Verelst so much that when he returned on leave, Mark (the poor relation) felt in honor he'd have to marry her, but fortunately Arabella had arranged a match with wealthy Lord Windom for Melanie. Melanie got to play her scene of love tragically lost so convincingly that her sister Kate, who loved Mark, was convinced it was true, and what with one thing and another, all Mark's attempts to woo Kate went nowhere, until a sudden tragedy changed things radically.

Cathryn Huntington Chadwick, aka Kate Huntington, is one of my favorite "light" regency authors. I like her wit and writing style, especially her sense of pacing. This is not a story of the Big Misunderstanding; rather it is a tale of many small misinterpretations that add up to chaos in the characters' lives. Ordinarily I'd be impatient with these people for not straightening their affairs out sooner, but she makes it all sound not only plausible but inevitable. I enjoyed the ride.

There is a sequel, A Cruel Deception, which continues the Verelsts' tale. (Posted by Janice 4/18/18)


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#474 Lord Buckingham's Bride

by Sandra Heath

ISBN: 0451169573, 9780709080916, 0709080913

Published May 1991 by Signet Regency. Ebook also available.

Translations:
German - Lord Buckinghams Braut, OCLC 552288802

Arrangements were made for Miss Alison Clearwell, 18, to journey to St. Petersburg to spend six months with her Uncle Thomas and his wife Natalia. Miss Wright, the proprietress of the seminary at which Alison had stayed while her father was in Jamaica, engaged a Mrs. Taylor to chaperone her, but that lady ran off with a baron in Stockholm and left Alison alone. The Duchess of Albemarle's captain had looked after her, but that ship burned and sank in the harbor at Stockholm, along with all of Alison's possessions. Captain Merryvale sent the seaman Billy with Alison to an inn thought to be respectable, where she might stay the night before taking passage on the Pavlovsk to St. Petersburg.

The inn was occupied by a party of roistering Russian officers, and Alison caught the eye of one of them, Prince Nikolai Ivanovich Naryshky. Naryshky was drunk and meant to have her, by force if necessary. He tried the door but Billy had warned her to wedge it shut – so then he tried the balcony. He was inside her room and about to rape her when Francis, Lord Buckingham heard her cries and pulled Naryshky off her. Buckingham stayed the night in her room to make sure the Russian didn't return. Naryshky was the enemy of both of them from that time on.

Buckingham was in St. Petersburg ostensibly to purchase a blood colt from Czar Alexander, but in reality he was carrying documents to be given to the czar – proof of a plot to depose him and put Napoleon on the throne. To preserve Alison's reputation from scandal spread by a Mrs. Fairfax-Gunn, he gave out that he and Alison were very much in love and in St. Petersburg to be married. But Alison knew that Buckingham was engaged to her best friend, Lady Pamela Linsey, and could not reconcile her growing feelings for Buckingham with her duty to her friend.

This novel is one I read to find out what would happen next. It's plot rather than emotion driven, and there's a lot of plot, what with lords, spies, czars, mistresses, rapists, blackmailed henchmen, fearful wives, kidnappings, fainting heroines fearful of thunder, a dwarf, a silent black servant and a lynx named Khan. But I was in the mood for a no-brainer, and it's not all confined to drinking tea in London; St. Petersburg in 1802 is an interesting setting. I did find the writing style a bit stiff and the central couple's emotions were more told than felt, but Heath is a solid storyteller and it held my interest to the end. (Posted by Janice 4/8/18)


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#473 The House At Bell Orchard

by Sylvia Thorpe

ISBN: 0449500063

First published 1962 by Hurst & Blackett. This edition published December 1979 by Fawcett Coventry (#9)

Sir Piers Wychwood caught his first glimpse of Miss Charmian Tallant as she was leaving Colonel Fenshawe's ball. Charmian had been staying in London with the Fenshawes, friends of her father. Mr. Brownhill, the magistrate, had just brought her the news that her father had committed suicide and she was about to return home with his escort. Piers could not forget the sight of her white and grief-stricken face.

The Fenshawes owned a house called Bell Orchard not far from Piers's home Wychwood Chase, and Piers had gone to school and made the Grand Tour with Harry, the older son, a bluff and hot tempered man; the younger son, Miles, is a London man of fashion and beneath the town polish, a nasty piece of work. Bewildered and grieving, Charmian is induced to go with their stepmother Lady Lavinia to Bell Orchard for her mourning.

Once he has her safely isolated at Bell Orchard, Colonel Fenshawe tells Charmian "the truth" about her father's death -- that he had spent his entire fortune to support the Jacobite cause and that Fenshawe was the go-between for the funds. There is a veiled threat if Charmian ever tells anyone; the Colonel and his sons are Jacobites too. Charmian does not know that the real plan is to wed her to a Fenshawe (she is still an heiress through her uncle) and keep her from putting two and two together about their activities. The Fenshawes are not Jacobites out of loyalty to the cause; they're in it for the money, and they're not above smuggling and murder to cash in.

Sylvia Thorpe's novels are short, fast reads, plot driven, with lots of action and old fashioned romance. This one is set in 1744, a bit outside our period, but not terribly different from her regencies. By modern tastes, its young heroine is not assertive enough and its hero is not rakish or tortured enough, nor are we in their thoughts very much. But sometimes I don't want deep character development; I just want a cracking good page turner like this one. (Posted by Janice 2/10/18)


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#472 The Fortune Hunter

by Elizabeth Hewitt

ISBN: 0451125614

Published November 1983 by Signet Regency

"Trouble alive, trouble dead" – that was Constance, Marchioness of Hartfield. Jonathan Hartfield was believed to have married Constance, the daughter of the Duke of Gillane, solely for her money. Jonathan's father had been willing to bet on anything and had lost Caster Priory and brought the family to complete ruin. In actuality, Jonathan had married Constance as much for love, but her infidelities had put an end to that, and they had lived separately, he at the duke's properties and she in London.

At her sister Letty's betrothal ball, Miss Tessa Bellamy had inadvertently overheard a quarrel between the Hartfields and learned that Constance was pregnant by her affair with Sir Richard Cassidy. Because Jonathan wished to spare the Duke and avoid this disgrace for Constance, Tessa kept the secret. When Constance died of an overdose of laudanum, her maid gossiped to the Duke, who became convinced that Jonathan had poisoned her and had him charged with murder. When things became difficult, Mr. Bellamy hid Jonathan in his house. Tessa found Jonathan and met him secretly at night; they talked and she fell in love with him, but the morning after they had made love, Jonathan was gone. When Tessa turned up pregnant, she went to him in Newgate and her clergyman cousin Colin married them.

Hartfield stood his trial and was acquitted, without having to tell of Constance's disgrace, and he and Tessa took up their married life together. But the jealousy and spite of Tessa's sister and the ongoing enmity of the Duke of Gillane began to drive a wedge between them that seemed insurmountable.

This tale is interesting because it doesn't stop when Jonathan is acquitted; it goes on to follow what happened in the aftermath. It may be a bit hard to credit Tessa's loyalty to her diva sister Letty, who will go to any lengths to be the center of attention, I also found it difficult to understand how Letty got to be that awful, when her mother seems fairly normal and her father is a very intelligent, kind and perceptive man. But family is family, I guess, and I found this a solid tale that held my interest to the end. (Posted by Janice 12/30/17)

You put the finger on what bothered me about this book, Janice. Usually Hewitt is a reread for me - A Lasting Attachment is on my Comfort Read list - but this story I've only read once and never picked up again. Not because it's not worthy of a second perusal but because Tessa's Cinderella complex turned me off. If she'd shown less loyalty to her snotty sister, that dame would've created less problems for Tessa herself and everyone else too. Besides, family or no family, catering to nasty people is what I don't hold with. (Posted by yvonne 12/30/17)


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#471 The Gambler's Daughter

by Irene Saunders

ISBN: 0451163338

Published January 1990 by Signet Regency

Sir Edward Danville had three daughters; the eldest, Elizabeth (whose story is told in The Willful Widow) is now happily married to David Beresford, Earl of Colchester. Sir Edward had had no affection for his children, he regarded his daughters as assets to be marketed to the highest bidder; he wanted the money to fund his gambling addiction. Lady Danville was no help to her children; she had given up long ago and now cared only for her dress allowance. Sir Edward has two lovely twin girls left, Louise and Sylvia, and he has plans for them, but Colchester has supported and protected the girls; when he wed Elizabeth, he made Danville sign a paper saying that the twins should be allowed to marry men of their choice.

Louise has just been married to Timothy Fotheringham and has left on her wedding trip to Paris, and now Sylvia must make a life independent of her twin, with whom she had shared everything. Sylvia is attracted to a young country doctor, Tom Radcliff, but she knows that her father would never permit her to marry someone he couldn't milk for huge marriage settlements. Sylvia goes to "Aunt" Lavinia for the London season, and Tom follows, hoping to spend more time with her, but strange rumors arise about Sylvia's character; she is said to have been seen several times at a sleazy gambling den, playing piquet for high stakes and dressed to show more skin than any lady should.

If the author had stuck to the themes of loneliness, lack of personal freedom, women as property and the inability to marry where one wished, I would have found this book of some interest, but it seemed to me that every time she got near a dramatic theme, she shied away from it and went for some cliched plot element instead. For those who must read volume two if they've been hooked into volume one, it may be worth it to have Sylvia's story, but otherwise I cannot recommend it. (Posted by Janice 12/19/17)


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#470 The Five-minute Marriage

by Joan Aiken

ISBN: 0385129904, 1509877495, 9781509877492, 149264126X, 9781492641261, 9781492641254, 1492641251, 0816166498 9780816166497, 0446846821, 9780446846820 (OCLC: 220069357)

Published 1978 by Doubleday & Co. Inc. Reprinted several times. Audiobook and large text also available.

Translations:
Italian - L'eredità Contesa, ISBN unknown

Miss Philadelphia Elaine Carteret lived with her invalid mama in lodgings in Soho above the shop of the Misses Baggott. Her mama, the daughter of Viscount Bollington, had been disinherited and her papa, a Navy captain, had left nothing. Delphie supported both of them while her mama refused to accept their lack of fortune and lived in a dream world, planning great balls and receptions for their re-entry into society. Delphie had written to her mother's family for assistance but had been refused and accused of being an imposter.

Delphie did have one helpful friend and would-be suitor, a merchant, Mr. Jos. Browty, whose daughter was her student. She talked about their situation with him and he suggested she pay a personal visit to Lord Bollington and "beard the old put in his den". Mr. Browty lent Delphie his carriage and horses, Miss Jenny Baggott was enlisted to accompany her, and off they went to Chase Place. When they arrived, they learned that Lord Bollington was very ill, and the principal heir, Mr. Gareth Lancelot Penistone, was convinced that she was an adventuress; the family had been supporting the "real" Elaine Carteret (his fiancée) for years.

It is believed that Lord Bollington is dying, and his dying wish is to see Gareth married to Elaine; it is his way of bringing two branches of the family back together again after the unfortunate duel which made him the heir. Mr. Mordred Fitzjohn, Gareth's illegitimate cousin, suggests that Delphie and Gareth go through a mock marriage ceremony before Lord Bollington, in return for which they will settle a £300 annuity on her mother. Delphie reluctantly agrees. But, surprise! the officiating cleric really was The Suffragan Bishop of Bengal, the marriage was real, Lord Bollington got better, and now Gareth and Delphie are legally married – but she still finds him repellent and he still thinks she's an imposter.

There's a lot of family setup in this novel and I confess I found parts of it difficult to follow, sorting out all the relationships and who did what to whom, when and why; I could have done with a family tree. People have compared Joan Aiken to Georgette Heyer, but I saw just as much Dickensian influence; Mr. Browty may be a form of Mr. Chawleigh, but Gareth's poetical brother in law Palgrave, perpetually in the Marshalsea, is surely a Dickensian type. Overall, I thought it was more entertaining than I did when I first read it back in the day, because I know more about how regency England worked now than I did then. I thought the best bits were the letters, done in period style. I did think the resolution was a bit melodramatic, and I cannot now easily accept heroes who are drunk out of their skulls, but maybe that's just me. (Posted by Janice 10/24/17)

Well, you've hit on one of my rereads, Janice. Like you, I had a hard time following all the ins and outs the first time, which is why this book is worth a second (or tenth ) reread. I'm not fond of drunks but this was an one off for the hero; it would've been different if he was a drunkard and not just a guy that took a glass too many once in a blue moon. I cut him some slack for that and as he's otherwise a nice guy, I allow him to be a flawed human. I particularly recommend this author to readers who want a bit of story to set their teeth into and not just a bit of sexy fluff. (Posted by yvonne 10/24/17)

About the author: Joan Delano Aiken was born September 4, 1924 in Rye, Sussex (England) and spent most of her life there. She came from a literary family; her father was the US poet Conrad Aiken and her stepfather UK novelist Martin Armstrong. She started her career as a librarian but, as her sister Jane Aiken Hodge, gave it up to concentrate on being a full time author. She's better know for her childrens stories yet her romances are well worth seeking out. She died January 4, 2004, at the age of 79. For more information on Joan Aiken, see for instance her obituary in The Guardian.


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#469 Tempting Sarah

by Gayle Buck

ISBN: 0451194667 (OCLC 777839962)

Published March 1998 by Signet Regency. ebook also available.

The Sommers sisters, Sarah and Margaret, had been invited by their maternal grandmother, Lady Alverley, to come to her in London and make their come-outs. Sarah is the elder at nineteen, petite and sensible; Margaret is two years younger, full of energy and excitement. Their mother had died not long after Margaret was out of leading strings and they lived in the country with their absent-minded scholar father. Lady Alverley had never forgiven her daughter for the scandal caused by her elopement with a nobody when a brilliant marriage had been expected of her.

En route to London in bitter winter weather, their coach broke an axle. Luckily Lord Gilbert Eustace came along and conveyed them to an inn where they hired a chaise the next day to finish their journey. Lord Eustace was much taken with Margaret and became one of her first beaux as the sisters did the Season under their strict grandmother's aegis. Margaret's lively charm reminded Eustace of Miss Vivian Leander, to whom he had been betrothed when she died in an accident. Lady Alverley hoped for a match between Eustace and Margaret, but Sarah didn't; Margaret did not seem interested in Eustace as a husband, but Sarah was.

This is an odd sort of novel; nothing much happens in it and there is no real villain. The girls hit the shops and attend endless entertainments; Lady Alverley schemes and bullies when necessary; various beaux make their offers and are refused. It's not until Chapter Seventeen that any sort of plot appears. I did appreciate the author's depiction of the way fear of public scandal ruled Lady Alverley's life and how ruthless she could be in scheming to avoid it. The endless social rounds were worth slogging through for her alone. (Posted by Janice 9/27/17)


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#468 Mallory

by Norma Lee Clark

ISBN: 0449236080

Published 1978 by Fawcett Crest Books

When Miss Mallory Tolgarth's father died, almost all his property went for debt, leaving his wife and two daughters insufficient income to live on, so Mallory, who had been well liked during her Season and had received but declined two very eligible offers, went for a governess. Her mother's wide acquaintance secured her a good position with the Holloways, but when they decided to go to the continent, Mallory did not follow; she did not want to leave her mother and her sister Caro.

Her next employer was Mr. Charles Portman, who offered her £125 a year to take charge of his two younger sisters, Sophia and Augusta. He had been much away from Linbury straightening out his own family's affairs after the death of his father. When Mallory arrived, she found that the girls, who were identical twins, had been left in the care of servants who loved them but were not in a position to control their behavior. The girls had been let run wild and did not want a governess; they had driven off several previous ones. Mallory's first task was to gain their trust so that she could begin to show them what two lovely sixteen year olds would need to know to go on in society. Civilizing the girls wasn't easy, but Mallory was making progress until Charles threw a spanner in the works by returning to Linbury with his betrothed in tow, the beautiful, spoiled and spiteful Miss Letitia Coverly, who would not permit anyone to spoil the picture she wished to present.

This is an early, quite short novel by Norma Lee Clark, who was once Woody Allen's secretary. There's nothing much new about it; the characters are rather thin and it lacks her usual humor. It feels like a trial piece. It has a sequel, Sophia and Augusta, in which the twins pull the old switcheroo, which is a bit more interesting. It is readable but not one of her best. (Posted by Janice 8/20/17)

Being devastatingly frank: I have it, I've read it, I don't remember a thing about it - even after reading Janice' review - except it wasn't awful. It may well be because it's an early book and the author was still feeling her way. Her later books are much better. As for this one, 'not particularly memorable' pretty much sums it up. (Posted by yvonne 8/20/17)


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#467 Lady Molly

by Katherine Talbot (Katherine Ashton)

ISBN: 0446356654

Published April 1983 by Warner Books

When she was eighteen, Lady Mary Sophronia Drayton, daughter of the Duke of Chattam, fell in love with handsome and charming Sir Marius Wadman, and became betrothed to him. For the next four years Sir Marius was contentedly established in Jamaica, where he owns a plantation with six hundred slaves to operate it (he believes that despite Mr. Wilberforce's efforts, slavery will never be abolished). Lady Molly has written to him faithfully, once a week. He wrote once in a while. Now Sir Marius has returned to London, where Molly's sophisticated older sister Juliana, Lady Rich lives.

Molly's father has tasked her with planning a country house party at Seekings Castle over Christmas. Juliana would like to have amateur theatricals, so Molly gets the best of the best: she pays Major Costigan of the Theatre Royal handsomely to have the new play by Templeton Blaine before it can open in London. Molly doesn't realize it, but Juliana intends to play the lead, with Sir Marius as her co-star, on and off stage.

Among the house party guests is Mr. Oliver Brougham (Kit), who startles Molly at their first meeting by telling her that one day he will marry her. Kit is nephew and heir to the Earl of Annesley, a strict Methodist who disapproves of private theatricals, so Kit is keeping a secret of his own.

This is a very short (156 pages), cleverly written comedy in which Lady Molly grows up a bit and learns that people are not always what they seem, or what she would wish them to be, but the world goes on anyway. It has some Easter eggs in it for us regency buffs; gossipy Mr. Creevey is a guest at the house party, and Mrs. Rawdon Crawley attends an evening party in London, where her shocking relationship with Lord Steyne is a topic of conversation. I particularly enjoyed the history of the Dukes of Chattam with which the book begins, though I had to hit Google to translate the Horace quotes in the exchange between Elizabeth I and the duke of her era. Katherine Talbot aka Katherine Ashton wrote three books for Warner Regency, and I wish she had done more. (Posted by Janice 8/6/17)


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#466 Miss Drayton's Crusade

by Elizabeth Barron

ISBN: 0446301728

Published December 1986 by Warner Books

Lady Sarah Metcalfe, sister of the Earl of Carsdale, and Miss Melissa Drayton, daughter of the Reverend Henry Drayton, became best friends at the Surrey seminary they both attended. Sarah is enthusiastic and excitable, while Melly is more the managing sort. Sarah sent Melly an invitation to stay at Carsdale Abbey in Yorkshire; Melly was reluctant to leave her father and her disabled mother at first, but they wanted her to make the visit.

As soon as she arrived at Carsdale Abbey, Melly realized there was a great deal that Sarah hadn't told her about her brother Adrian. For one thing, he had lost his right arm at Waterloo, and had withdrawn into bitterness and isolation, refusing to try to learn to cope left-handed. For another, Sarah was in love with Martin Wingate, whom Adrian considered an unsuitable match for an earl's wealthy sister; although Martin was well born, he had no money. Melly determined to go on one of her "crusades" – she would bring Adrian back to the world, and while she was at it, she would help her friend Sarah get the husband she wanted.

This short novel is a pleasant tale of likeable characters. It seemed to me that most of the opportunities for depth and drama were overlooked; Adrian's despair at losing his ability to paint and his worry that without his arm he was only "half a man" seemed rather skimmed over to me. Melly is cheery company but whether someone in his situation can be jollied out of a deep depression so quickly seems doubtful to me. But I did enjoy the cameo by Mr. Turner, who had been Adrian's artistic mentor, and the rest of the read was pleasant enough. (Posted by Janice 7/26/17)


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#465 Devil's Bargain

by Marlene Suson

ISBN: 0380764709

Published February 1992 by Avon Books

Miss Portia Euston (Tia) is the little-valued daughter of a self-important, self-centered Shakespeare scholar. Her father is working on his magnum opus; money is short because he spends much of it to buy the books he deems essential to his great work. The house is shabby because he has snabbled all the best things left to furnish his study to his utmost comfort. Tia is expected to stay home, run his house and look after her brothers, but when she learns not only that her father thinks frail Freddie is a nuisance and intends to send him to sea as soon as he's old enough, but that he won't buy army-mad Antony a commission either, she's had enough.

The wealthy Duke of Castleton (Marc) thinks all women are mercenary and untrustworthy because he believes his father and brother were led to their deaths by faithless women. But Marc needs an heir, so he offers Tia a marriage of convenience; he stipulates that he may have outside interests, but she may not. Love will play no part in their relationship. Marc's first surprise about Tia's character comes when he asks what she would like as a betrothal gift, and Tia says to have her little brother Freddie live with them. Marc agrees but asks again, can he not buy her something? Tia says she wants a pair of colors for her brother Antony.

They are married and the honeymoon goes well; Tia falls in love with Marc, and Marc seems to be softening his attitude toward her and women in general. But villainy is afoot; Marc has two enemies and one of them is planning mischief and is likely responsible for the setup in which his beloved brother Paul died. Marc does not explain the situation to Tia; her aunt Lady Mobry and his own observations tell him that Tia can't keep a secret – her every thought and feeling is written on her face. But Marc has underestimated Tia's tenacity.

There's nothing new about this book, and this hero's rationale for not being frank with his wife (and thus putting her at risk – a la Worth in Regency Buck) is not very convincing. However it is well plotted, smoothly written, and has a few little surprises to it. It's not a memorable book, but it was an agreeable way to pass an hour. (Posted by Janice 7/19/17)


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#464 Mally

by Sandra Heath

ISBN: 0451093429

Published August 1980 by Signet Regency

Marigold, called Mally, had been married to Daniel St. Aubrey for eight years, until his death from wounds received at the Battle of Vimiero. It has been two years and Mally is now betrothed to Sir Christopher Carlyon, who is keen to set a date for the wedding, but Mally cannot quite get Daniel out of her mind. When Mally returns from an evening party with Chris, she learns that her mother, who is of a nervous temperament, has left her home in Llangwyn and come to London. Mrs. Berrisford is very frightened due to a robbery and murder which the town has blamed on a black servant of Richard Varrender, the new owner of Castell Melyn. Worse, Mally's sister Maria has gone missing, and Maria's carefully arranged betrothal to Thomas Clevely is in jeopardy if his formidable mama finds out, since Maria has been seeing (horrors!) an American.

Mally hires an investigator to trace Maria, but the trail goes cold. Mally accepts an invitation from Richard to stay at Castell Melyn, together with Chris and her determined rival, Lady Annabel Murchison. As the search for Maria develops, a cross rivalry develops as well – Chris wants Mally, Annabel wants Chris, Richard wants Mally, and Mally isn't sure what she wants anymore.

There's a lot of plot to this one, and that held my interest more than anything else. Although there are three romances involved, the personalities are so different that it wasn't hard to keep it all straight. There are a few gothic touches; the locals believe in the ghost of Lady Jacquetta while the enlightened city dwellers think that's rubbish. Sandra Heath is particularly good at a sense of place; her countryside folk aren't vague, they are specifically of their locale, and they don't think or act like city folk of that era. I wouldn't rate this one as one of Heath's more "romantic" romances, but it was a good story that kept me turning pages into the night. (Posted by Janice 7/7/17)


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#463 Gentleman's Choice

by Dorothea Donley

ISBN: 0821752391

Published February 1996 by Zebra Books

Miss Verena Congreve, eldest daughter of Sir Charles and Lady Congreve, had taken London by storm when her ambitious mama brought her Out in London. Lady Congreve believed Verena's stunning beauty (quite like her mama in her youth) and sweet nature (not shared by her mama) were guaranteed to snag a highborn lord; she would not permit Verena's strong attachment to Mr. David Melchant, the second son of a neighboring family, to affect her plans for social glory.

The Earl of Lorrigan had fallen for Verena in London, but before making her the offer that would have thrilled her mama, he thought it proper to speak to her father first. One morning while out riding, Helena (called Nelly), the middle sister, met this gentleman as he inquired for directions to Pleasantries. Nelly was not thought of any importance by her mama, because, although she was pretty, she was not the beauty Verena was, and she was much more interested in estate matters and the concerns of her friends in the neighborhood than she was in casting out lures. Nelly preferred to spend time with her father, who valued her as a companion and right hand.

Shortly thereafter Lady Congreve and Verena returned from London, ostensibly for a rest from Verena's scintillating season, and three other suitors descended upon Pleasantries as well. Nelly became very much occupied in arranging household matters, smoothing things over, aiding her friends, supporting her sister and evading her mother's demands – so much so that Nelly didn't notice that if Lorrigan was truly pursuing her sister, he was going about it very oddly, by spending so much time with her instead.

There's no other way to put it: Donley's characters are nice. Not sugary, faux nice, but nice in a genuine, credible, normal way. There is no false melodrama; things work out pretty much as sensible people would work them out in real life. There is a geniality and light, subtle humor to her books which I like very much. I'd like to go stay at Pleasantries too (as long as Lady Congreve was back in London). (Posted by Janice 5/21/17)


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#462 An Eligible Bride

by Janice Bennett

ISBN: 0821727168

Published September 1989 by Zebra Books

In order to make ends meet while their father was serving in the Peninsula, Miss Helena Carstairs and her sisters did fine embroidery for Madame Suzette, a modiste in York. One day as Helena was delivering their latest completed piece, the Duke of Halliford entered the shop with his then mistress Julia and his friend Mr. Frederick Ashfield. Julia demanded the gown be modeled, so Helena obliged, to Suzette's dismay. As Helena left the shop, she was accosted by Ashfield, who thought she was but a village shopgirl and therefore available. Suzette rescued her by yanking her back into the shop, and Helena said nothing to her brother Adrian as he drove them home. When they read the mail they had picked up, a letter from Colonel Ramsey told them that their father had been killed in action.

Captain Carstairs had never paid much attention to his affairs, which were in chaos. Until matters were cleared up, the cottage was to be sold and the Carstairs family – Helena, Adrian (17), Gussie and Lizzie – were all to go to their Uncle Henry Carstairs. They found Uncle Henry to be a weak and foolish wannabe dandy, and his wife to be a tightfisted bully. Helena was to be sent out as a governess/companion, Adrian placed as a clerk (instead of the Oxford education he had been working toward), and the girls brought up for employment; in the meanwhile it was clear that they would be treated as unpaid servants. Fortunately for them, Halliford intervened.

It happened that his younger brother, Lord Richard Chatham, had been badly wounded at the same battle; the Captain had died saving Richard's life. Carstairs had left a will naming Richard his executor, but with Richard still recovering from the loss of his leg, Halliford went to see them instead. Faced with the horror of the aunt and uncle, Halliford invited the Carstairs brood to Champfors, one of his lesser properties, where Richard was staying with their aunt Lady Elvira. Helena was reluctant to impose, but Halliford said that their company would improve Richard's spirits.

Halliford had never intended to marry, because he thought that all women saw in him was his money and position, but Richard's injury changed that; it appeared that Richard likely would not marry and provide an heir. Helena would be an undemanding choice, he thought, but Helena had fallen in love with him and her pride was hurt when she overhead remarks about "little country nobodies", and she was terrified of what might happen if the Ashfield incident ever came to his ears.

At 446 pages this is double the size of the usual regency, and I can't say the length improved it. The fashion now is to pad out books with plenty of nuts and bolts sex scenes, but that wasn't done then in traditional regency lines. Instead this one is padded with many scenes of days in the country and Helena running off in fits of tears. There is a sweet secondary romance between Richard and Chloe, the vicar's daughter, who has always loved him, and some attention is given to Richard's acceptance of and recovery from his injury. There are two further books in the sequence (A Tempting Miss and A Logical Lady), following the fates of the sisters Gussie and Lizzie. Overall I'd rate this one as restful with occasional touches of silly. (Posted by Janice 5/11/17)

There are actually four books in the series; brother Adrian's story is in A Lady's Champion.

Personally I liked Gussie's story best. Helena I just found too teary tiresome for words. But then, I never was much for lachrymose heroines anyhow. And was it really necessary to pad it so much with those awful relatives of theirs? Still, it sort of work as a setup for the series as several characters waltz through the other books. Although, friend Ashfield changed so considerably between book one and two that it's hardly the same person. In fact, I simply pretend he isn't. Not a big stretch, that. (Posted by yvonne 5/11/17)


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#461 Kate And The Marquess

by Sheila Walsh

ISBN: 0451190254

Published August 1997 by Signet Regency

The Dowager Marchioness St. Clair had been best friends with Lady Elizabeth Welby when they were young, and they had kept up a correspondence after Elizabeth defied her parents and married Dr. Patrick Sheridan, a poor Irish physician, and went to Ireland to live happily there with him. Lady St. Clair was godmother to their eldest daughter Kathleen Alicia (Kate), and, since her father had cast her off without contact, Elizabeth asked her to have Kate for a visit because eligibles in their own neighborhood were slim pickings.

Thus it happened that Kate was out in the Home Wood playing with Lady St. Clair's two grandchildren, Freddie and Roseanne, when their father Blaise, Sixth Marquess of St. Clair, unexpectedly swept up in his curricle (driving to an inch) and nearly ran over Freddie, who was chasing his puppy Cormac across the path at that moment. When Blaise flew out at Kate for not watching the children better, she told him to have more of a care for his horses.

Blaise, still angry at how close he had come to a serious accident, unloaded his ire on the Dowager, who set him straight as to who Kate was and why she was there. But dinner was uncomfortable, and Lady St. Clair's companion Miss Priddy, who was herself of a nervous temperament since being accidentally locked in the family chapel overnight, was much affected.

Blaise had been devoted to his lovely wife Lucinda and was heartbroken when she died in bearing Roseanne. The pain of her loss was so severe that he had decided never to risk that much again, and so although there had been many affairs in his life since her death, there had never been a moment when he considered remarrying – and if he did, it certainly wouldn't be an outspoken, unconventional young woman like Kate.

I liked this tale because I liked the characters. There are absolutely no new elements in the book, but the threads are skillfully woven, and the author's prose flows pleasantly. There are a couple of loose ends – I was left wondering if Blaise's friend the Honorable Gervase Merivale would find someone for himself, and what actually happened to Miss Priddy in the chapel that night that so changed her nature. But it's a cheery evening's read. (Posted by Janice 5/1/17)

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book. Walsh is a very good storyteller but this one left me rather cold, however sad the hero's plight. I also thought the ending beyond lame. However, I've read much worse although this book isn't up to the author's normal standard. And I, too, would like to know what happened to Priddy, Janice! Maybe too Gothic for the author? (Posted by yvonne 5/1/17)


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#460 Miss Ryder's Memoirs

by Laura Matthews

ISBN: 0451155459, 9780451155450

Published September 1988 by Signet Regency. Ebook also available.

Miss Catherine Ryder first made the acquaintance of Sir John Meddows when he saw her swimming naked in a secluded pond in the woods of Hastings, the family estate. Sir John was on his way to visit the family, bearing a letter of introduction from Catherine's brother Robert, ostensibly to check out the blood horses at the Hinchly farm to buy a pair for Robert's phaeton.

Robert was heir to the elderly Earl of Stonebridge, who punishes the Ryders by writing letters to the Times whenever they do something to displease him. When Mrs. Ryder was having her Season, she had banded together with two other girls to disguise their lack of funds by trading gowns with each other. She was the dawn courier who carried the gowns to the other girls; she was caught at it, and the Earl wrote one of his letters. The ton laughed at her, but Mr. Ryder stood buff and married her anyway, much to the Earl's displeasure. Robert stays in London to keep the Earl's ire in check and prevent scandal, but it is thought that the stigma clings to Catherine and her sister Amanda. Worse, since their father's death, their mama has seemingly become cloudy in her mind – she converses with ghosts.

On his way to Hastings, Sir John had been held up and robbed by a highwayman, and he is determined to apprehend the criminal. Catherine is equally determined to solve the mystery, as well as stave off her nasty, greedy Cousin Bret's attempts to wed Amanda, conceal Mama's mental aberrations, and with Sir John's help, find out what love and sex are all about.

This is a short, rompish comedy, told in the first person. Catherine's language is not quite what a young lady of that era would have used, but neither is it excessively modern. The characters are all very nice, except for Cousin Bret, but he is doomed to fail so he doesn't matter. It is an agreeable time-passer, but I think I prefer this author's more substantial books. (Posted by Janice 4/13/17)

It's been years since I read this one but I recall it as rather amusing at the time. Unfortunately, I'm unable to refresh my memory as I once lent out this book many years ago and never got it back. At least I still vaguely remember the book so it might be worth checking out! (Posted by yvonne 4/13/17)


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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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#457 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.

Translations:
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.

Translations:
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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Disclaimer

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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