#529 Captain Black
by Elizabeth Hewitt (Mary Jeanne Abbott)
Published November 1984 by Signet Regency
Wealthy heiress Miss Catelyn Fitzsimon had blotted her copybook. She had had three Seasons to choose her own spouse but hadn't done so, so one day her aunt casually announced to her that she was expected to marry her Cousin Edward, whom she disliked. Her father found this alliance entirely reasonable as she had had ample time to make her own choice; he announced the betrothal and wedding date without Cat's consent. Cat rebelled by attempting to elope with another suitor but they were caught. Her suitor bailed and Cousin Edward then declined to marry her. As punishment Cat's furious father exiled her to Wales, far from London's brilliant social scene, to make a long visit with relatives, the Madocs of Madoc Hall.
The Madocs - Sir Thomas and his wife Elizabeth, their daughter Gwynne and their son Hu and his pregnant wife Isabella - weren't expecting her, but they made her welcome. Cat liked them all except Hu, whom she found dismissive toward her and to his wife Bella. She also met their nearest neighbors, Rhys Trefor and his charming younger brother Laurie. Rhys had inherited his estate Llanbryth in poor condition and all his thought and money was going to its restoration. It was expected that Rhys would offer for Gwynne as soon as his circumstances permitted.
The gossip of the neighborhood was about a dashing highwayman, Captain Black, lately operating in the area. One night, unable to sleep, Cat went for a walk toward the ruined gatehouse. Rhys had gone there to clean up the evidence of Hu's affair with Glynnis, a local woman, so that Bella wouldn't find out and be hurt by it, especially in her condition. In the dark Rhys recognized Cat by her voice but she did not recognize him. She believed at first that he was Captain Black, but he sounded too much like a gentleman. He kissed her. Cat was intrigued and there were further meetings, but Cat had made the mistake of telling the family about the first encounter, and Hu told the story around the neighborhood, so that there was gossip about Cat again. Cat did not (at first) know who the mysterious man in the gatehouse was, but a dangerous attraction developed between them.
There is nothing earthshakingly surprising in the plot of this shorter than usual Hewitt novel, but it shows her strength in characterization. None of it seemed contrived or exaggerated to me, just a well told tale demonstrating that family can be our strongest asset or weakest link, and sometimes both simultaneously. (Posted by Janice 12/20/21)
#528 The Wicked Stepdaughter
by Monette Cummings
Published January 1992 by Diamond Books
After his first wife died the Earl of Harmin remarried, hoping for a male heir. Martin did not prepare his eleven year old daughter Charlotte at all for his remarriage, and when he brought his young bride Sylvia home, Charlotte exploded that Sylvia was not her mama and never would be, and ran off. Thereafter she was publicly polite to Sylvia but spiteful in private. Sylvia tried but was never able to bridge the gap. Martin died after about two years of marriage, without any child with Sylvia.
Under the terms of Martin's will, Sylvia had control of Charlotte's money until she came of age or married, and only if Sylvia approved of her husband. Sylvia herself had an allowance from Martin's estate which would cease if she remarried. Charlotte was unaware of any of this. Charlotte was now seventeen, the same age as Sylvia when she married, very beautiful but very spoiled, and continually at war with her stepmother. It was Sylvia's task to guide Charlotte through her first season.
In London both make new acquaintances: Captain Hugo Lannon, on the lookout for a wealthy wife; Mr. Bennett Griffith, a friend of Lady Sefton; and Colin Waite, a young man much taken with Charlotte. In her hatred of Sylvia, Charlotte did not scruple to tell these gentlemen tales of how she was mistreated and how Sylvia might even be enriching herself at Charlotte's expense. Griffith took her tales of greed and maltreatment at face value at first, but when Sylvia's behavior did not bear them out, he began to wonder what the truth was and what he ought to do about it.
This is a very short novel, light on the regency ambiance except for some namedropping (Lady Caroline Lamb's red silk gown causes another dispute between Sylvia and Charlotte); it is written at such a young adult level that it doesn't seem "regency" to me, and it's got one of the corniest last lines I've read in a long time. It is mostly a tale of people going by what they're told without checking out the truth of things. I also couldn't quite work the ages out, which was disconcerting. Nevertheless I did finish it to see what would happen when Charlotte and reality met. (Posted by Janice 11/18/21)
#527 Requiem For A Rake
by Freda Michel
Published November 1980 by Fawcett Coventry (#80)
When she was five, Miss Christabel Brand's mother Lydia died by suicide. She could not be buried in hallowed ground, so her husband, the Vicar of St. Mark, buried her in the countryside outside Cheltenham at dawn; little Christabel held his hand while he read the burial service over her grave. He told Christabel that her mother had committed suicide because of the Duke of Valquesne and made her swear on her mother's grave to hate him forever. Then they left for a new life in York.
Years later Valquesne killed his man, Lord Winters, in a duel over Hortensia, Lady Winters. He had to get out of London quietly and quickly, so he decided to travel to York, not as the Duke of Valquesne but as plain Mr. Marius Gray.
One night Christabel (now seventeen and very pretty) came to his door alone, collecting contributions for the poor. Marius dragged her inside, kissed her, and was about to ravish her, but stopped. He had been expecting Hortensia, but this wasn't Hortensia. He shoved her out the door and sent his servant Sam after her with her cloak, cup of coins, and ten guineas for the insult. Sam came back with all these items, saying Christabel had thrown them at him, crying that she was not a whore. Marius set out to find her, salve his pride, make her take back the items, and possibly seduce her. After that things got complicated.
This is one of the oddest Coventries I've ever read. The style is ornate and filled with curlicues, reminding me of nothing so much as The Black Moth on crack. It has an amazing list of said-bookisms; "he vituperated", "he probed with due caution", "she overtured pleasantly" and (I swear) "he obdurated." It climaxes with a torture scene in the ruins of an ancient abbey which might be straight out of a Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee Hammer horror film; the villain even has an assistant named Grog. It's all just very... strange - and not very convincing. (Posted by Janice 10/27/21)
#526 The Drawing Master's Dilemma
by Carol Proctor
Published July 1990 by Signet Regency
Before he served in the wars in Belgium, Aubrey Tarrant, Viscount Herne had been a young man about town, known for his pranks. He had withdrawn from society since his return, spending most of his time on his art - he was a talented painter and sketch artist. The tenor of his days was disturbed when he received a summons from his mother to visit her, likely to meet yet another uninteresting prospective bride. On impulse, he decided to ignore the summons and go into the country; he would tell them all that he needed bucolic settings to inspire his art, and would perhaps look up some friends from his old regiment. As he rode alone in the Oxfordshire countryside, someone shot him from behind.
Aubrey awoke in a strange house while a doctor removed a ball from his shoulder. He was in the care of Miss Georgiana Chalford, the oldest and most sensible daughter of the local squire. He took a fever and had nightmares; Georgiana nursed him through these. When he began to recover, he also began to fall in love with Georgiana, but he hid his true identity, claiming to be a drawing master because he did not want to be accepted for his title alone. Georgiana's stepmother Letitia hired him to teach drawing to the younger girls and to do a family portrait. He also sketched the fossils Georgiana collected so that they could be submitted to an expert.
Letitia ruled the household with her terrible moods and her machinations, but nobody crossed her; they just evaded her whenever possible. Letty intended to marry her stepdaughters Georgiana and Charlotte to titled men regardless of their wishes. Georgiana's father Harry was no match for Letty in a mood and generally let her have her way. For Georgiana she had in mind Lord Marwood, a near neighbor, and she promoted his courtship at every opportunity, ordering Georgiana to encourage him. Marwood was smooth and handsome but had a bad reputation in the neighborhood, for good reason. Georgiana felt nothing but distaste for him, but she knew Letitia would never allow her to even think of marrying a mere drawing master.
There are many other characters, much skulduggery and many plots, counterplots and misunderstandings to be got through in this novel. After a time it became difficult to keep straight who was in a snit with whom and why. I finished it to find out how all would be wound up and whether all the loose ends would be tied up -- which I believe they were, except for the horse Sligo, left at an inn recovering from a strained fetlock. I wished him well; he was a noble beast. (Posted by Janice 9/12/21)
#525 An Unconventional Courtship
by Dorothy Mack
Published August 1987 by Signet Regency
Jason Vaughan, Earl of Altern had decided it was time to marry. He had met Miss Emerald Hardwicke, who was an acclaimed beauty, in the usual social settings and had decided she would do. The first step was a visit to Emerald at her family home, Bramble Hall. Soon after he arrived at Bramble Hall, he saw Emerald's other side, which was not so attractive; she was shallow and selfish.
Emerald's cousin, Cleone Hardwicke, lived there as a poor relation but pretty much ran the place, since Lord Brestwick was old and not interested in mundane details. Cleone ran the house, did Brestwick's correspondence, and kept him solvent; at times this meant balancing one need against another when funds were short, or problems arose with Emerald's brother Philip.
It wasn't long before Jason found Cleone much more appealing than Emerald -- but he had created expectations in Emerald, and, according to the rules of the day, Emerald would need to be the one who broke off the presumption, both as a matter of his honor and to keep Emerald from going ballistic at his defection.
I remember Dorothy Mack, aka Dorothy McKittrick, best as a skillful storyteller; even when she used timeworn story elements, she made them fresh and interesting. In this entry we have many things I first read in Georgette Heyer - among others, the spoiled and snotty beauty who regards every man as hers by right; the feckless younger brother who stages a holdup; characters reading Jane Austen; a visit to the Brighton Pavilion with leers from Prinny; the poor relation who makes herself useful because she can't stand to be beholden; a fake abduction that ends with a kiss in the phaeton. There was nothing new here, and I did find it a bit slow at times, but I liked the central characters and I was entertained. (Posted by Janice 9/1/21)
#524 The Cat's Bracelet
by Jessie Watson
Published June 1998 by Zebra
Mrs. Annabelle Makepeace, a young widow, and Mrs. Lillie Broadhurst met at an inn called The Rose Revived during a heavy storm. Belle was broke and on her way to a position as a companion; for a time she had lived on what her husband Gilbert left her but that was gone. The innkeeper told Belle to leave, saying there was no room left, but Lillie came to her rescue, offering to share her room. Lillie was also a widow, but of a slightly higher social set, and had money. She also had a cat, Filbert, one of a long line of Berts.
Lillie had been married young to Randolph, and she had lived a boring life in Burford, a country town, with him. He was a nice enough chap, but he had wanted to live quietly, and though she had a comfortable life with him, she had been very bored. Lillie liked town life and amusements, and she also wanted to travel. She suggested that she and Belle swap places (they looked much alike); Lillie would go on to Italy, and Belle would go to London. Lillie's maid Warner was to go with Belle as a guide. So was Filbert. Despite some misgivings, Belle agreed.
Lillie had told Belle about the Bracelet, a fabulously valuable piece of diamond jewelry which had been missing since one of the previous Bert cats, who had a habit of stealing and hiding things, hid it somewhere and it had never been found again.
In London Belle, now known as Mrs. Lillie Broadhurst, acquired a suitable wardrobe (lavish, to her) and took up gardening (which Lillie never liked). She met Lillie's cousin, Major Gore Lindley, who knew the real Lillie well, and he was immediately suspicious; he hadn't seen Lillie for a while, but he knew something was off. During her London stay Belle entered society, was befriended by Filbert and some relatives, searched for the Bracelet, encountered a nasty rival in Miss Maryanne Stockdale, and realized that she had fallen in love with a man who thought she was an opportunistic impostor.
This book is intended as a light comedy and it works on that level if not examined too closely. Gore is a little thickheaded at times and his back-and-forth about Belle is a bit hard to believe; I would expect a normal man with a military background to turn her over to the authorities immediately, rather than tolerate her impersonation. Miss Stockdale is a stereotypical Mean Girl but I hoped she'd get a lengthier comeuppance scene with her victim present. Filbert is a bit of a magical cat, but then aren't they all. All in all, an agreeable evening's light read. (Posted by Janice 8/18/21)
#523 A Regency Rose
by Miriam Lynch
Published March 1980 by Fawcett Coventry (#29)
It was a family heirloom, the rose pin - a delicate and beautiful blossom with a tiny diamond on each of its six pink shell-like petals and a honking great one in the center. When Miss Rosalind Bannestock's mother died, family tradition said the pin should have gone to her, because she had "Rose" in her name. However when her Uncle Charles finished settling her mother's affairs, he gave the pin to his daughter Corinna. Rosalind and her sister Harriet did not say anything because they and their brother Freddy, a budding reformist, were now effectively poor relations in their uncle's home, and they liked Corinna, who was a sweet-natured girl not at all like either of her parents.
Corinna was seemingly being courted by Sir Julian Wickstead, a nonpareil, and her mother Lady Mary was pressuring her to extract an offer from him, but Corinna was dragging her feet. Rosalind knew that her sister Harriet had fallen for Sir Julian and made a plan to bring Harriet to his notice. But after Rosalind's come-out ball (a pared-down affair) it was discovered that the rose pin was missing. Sir Charles suspected a servant, in particular one Molly, an old woman whom Freddy had brought in off the streets who had worked in the kitchens for a while and then suddenly vanished. Then Freddy went missing too and a ransom note was received. Many alarums and excursions transpire before it all gets sorted out.
I thought this an entertaining read, the sort of thing you finish to find out what happened and immediately forget. The writing style is a bit more on the formal side, and a few of the events struck me as somewhat improbable, but it was an acceptable evening's amusement. (Posted by Janice 7/3/21)
#522 The Orphan's Disguise
by Vanessa Gray
Published November 1986 by Signet Regency
After both her parents died, Miss Corliss Hewett lived with her half-brother Sir Ralph, who resembled their father in both looks and temperament. One morning, out of the blue, he told Corliss that she must leave Hewett Manor and go to her cousin Lady Dacre to live because he could not afford to keep her any longer. If she did not go voluntarily, he would put her on the stage by force. With no alternative, Corliss left, unescorted, because going to an unknown future with Lady Dacre (who might only be wishing for an unpaid maid) was preferable to staying. Before she left the house, Corliss got the garnet and opal brooch left her by her mother out of Ralph's desk drawer, but she didn't look at a letter there which would have explained all -- Ralph had offered for a well to do widow, and the widow had insisted that Corliss be gone from the house before she would marry him. Ralph wanted that money desperately to restore the estate and its lands.
During the stagecoach journey Corliss met Mrs. Garnett and her daughter Isabel. Isabel was traveling in disguise as her mother's maid because they didn't have the money to hire one. When Corliss badly sprained her ankle getting off the stage at a rest stop, the Garnetts took her in. Corliss gave them a false name (Meredith Havens, out of a novel) because she did not want to shame the family name. They took her for a maid at first because she had traveled alone and did not have nice clothes, but soon she felt like one of the family.
Mrs. Garnett's mother Lady Jarman, however, had a use in mind for Corliss. Mrs. Garnett had been returning from London on that coach because she had made a last visit to Mr. Ackley, the man of business for Colonel Douglas Renfrew, the heir to his grandfather's estate. Because grandfather had an aversion to marriage, the unentailed portion of the estate (all cash) would only go to Renfrew if he was unmarried (and not in a way to be married) at the time of transfer. The Garnett family, Renfrew's cousins, were broke and needed the money to educate the boys and provide portions for the girls. Lady Jarman proposed that Corliss (known to her as Meredith but renamed Corliss because that lady felt the name Meredith was too common) entice Renfrew into offering for her. An announcement in the papers would be enough to break the will; she wouldn't have to actually marry him. Complications ensued for all but particularly for Corliss and Renfrew, who had fallen in love.
At first glance this plot seemed so contrived to me that I might even have wallbanged it, but the author did a decent job of making it all seem not too unreasonable; she was careful to tie up all the threads flying about and most of the explanations seemed reasonable. It is a light entertainment which moves quickly, is written amusingly, and has credible central characters. If some bits make one go what? at the time, at least there won't be a quiz on it later. (Posted by Janice 6/10/21)
Note on the author: Vanessa Gray wrote contemporary romance under the name Jacqueline Aeby and rollicking old fashioned historicals as Jocelyn Carew. Byron says her first book was first published in 1969 and the last in 1990. She switched to regencies in 1977; I think they were all Signets.
#521 Monday's Child
by Barbara Hazard
Published August 1993 by Fawcett Crest
The Dowager Viscountess Lacey, née Sarah Jennings, grew up the daughter of gentry; she loved farms, woods and country life. Her parents however were socially ambitious and Sarah's great beauty was a saleable item, so at seventeen she was forced into marriage with Roger, Viscount Lacey, a man thirty years older than she. It was an unhappy marriage; her husband regarded her as a display object and refused to give her children. After he died in a hunting accident, Sarah was pestered by Henry Lacey, the new viscount, who believed she would welcome an affair with a lusty specimen like him. So when Sarah received a summons from her parents to return home because her mother was ill, she returned to Three Oaks.
Sarah received a cool welcome from her mother, who had no fever and seemed robust, but kept to her bed, complaining that Sarah's younger brother Geoffrey never visited; Geoffrey had always been her favorite. She received a slightly warmer welcome from her father, until she refused his offer to manage her money for her. Sarah settled in and did what she could for her mother, but there was tension with her parents which she didn't quite understand.
It happened that Jaspar Howland, the new young Earl of Castleton and a neighbor, had also come home. The village gossips, Miss Withers (Miss Dye and Pry) and Miss Farnsworth (Miss Prim and Proper) had been following events avidly, but Sarah told them to make no matchmaking schemes. Sarah had no intention of remarrying; after her experience Sarah wanted no control by father or husband. Sarah also met Evan Lancaster again, the farmer she had loved but had had to put aside all thought of when her father forced her marriage.
Jaspar took an immediate fancy to Sarah and determined that he would have her for his countess. Jaspar had never been denied anything he wanted all his life and did not accept that she had no interest in him. Her parents urged Sarah to catch him, and one way or another she found it impossible to avoid his company. When her brother Geoffrey arrived home on a repairing lease, he too pressured Sarah to accept Jaspar; being the brother in law of an earl would advance his social standing in London and stave off his creditors. Jaspar continued his unwanted attentions and Geoffrey schemed to turn that to his advantage, while Sarah and Evan both longed for something that seemed as if it could never be.
I am a big Barbara Hazard fan; I think she was always readable and sometimes very good - an excellent storyteller and a skilled and straightforward prose artist. I liked the pace of this novel in which Sarah gradually realizes how vile her scheming family, how clueless Jaspar is, and how strong and principled Evan Lancaster is. I enjoyed the picture of the country life of farming and village gossip which lent Sarah and Evan's situation context and credibility. (Posted by Janice 5/26/21)
Note on the author: Starting out as a designer and artist, Barbara (Booth) Hazard didn't begin her career as a writer until her late forties. Barbara's first novel, Beth, was published in 1981, when she was fifty. During a writing career that spanned a full two decades, she wrote and published forty-eight books. She has won many awards as a historical romance author. As a trained musician (no end to this woman's talents ), she particularly cherished her appointment as Concertmaster of the Massachusetts All-State Orchestra in Symphony Hall, Boston.
#520 Franklin's Folly
by Georgina Grey
Published February 1980 by Fawcett Coventry (#23)
Lord Woodstone (James) had brought his mother and sister to Muir Hall, the country estate he was renting to pursue his interest in agriculture, because in London Miss Maria Woodstone had become known as a complete flirt, and her mother Lady Woodstone was unwilling or unable to control her behavior. In retaliation for being sequestered in the country, Lady Woodstone had brought her bosom bow Lady Knightly with them, hoping to further a match between James and her daughter Drusella.
Muir Hall was near the village of Thrumhill, home of Squire Eaton and his family. The Squire was a bluff, plainspoken man who was exasperated with his son Franklin, a young man of enthusiasms; his enthusiasm of the moment was astronomy, and he had zero interest in the more practical aspects of life. But recently Franklin had neglected his astronomy to hang around the gates of Muir Hall, hoping to catch sight of Maria Woodstone.
Franklin's sister Susan brought this to the attention of their mama, but that lady did not want to interfere: "It had been her experience, as she was fond of telling anyone who would listen, that people must make their own mistakes with as little interference as possible." Besides she didn't think Franklin would listen anyway. But the Squire felt Franklin's infatuation with Maria might do him some good by getting his mind off impracticalities like astronomy, and if Maria broke his heart, he might pay some attention to Miss Jane Dawson, a very good sort of girl who had had a tendre for him forever.
Susan had been resisting her feelings for James, with whom all meetings seemed to end in quarrels and disbelief on his part. However gossip had sprung up that Susan was being courted by Sir Rupert Knightly, who was oblivious to her denials of any interest in such a fine catch as he thought himself to be. This gossip was spread by Patience, servant to the two worst gossips in the village, who paid her extra for the really juicy stuff. When Franklin's crush Maria ran off with a soldier, and Sir Rupert impugned Susan's reputation, an uproar ensued that entangled everybody in the neighborhood.
This author is hit or miss for me, but I did like this one. It is short, fast, funny, well plotted and has many quotable lines. There's nothing new here and the characters are our stock regency figures, but it was an agreeable way to spend a couple of hours. (Posted by Janice 5/16/21)
#519 Visitor From Vienna
by Darrell Husted
Published December 1981 by Fawcett Coventry (#158)
"You are," he continued, "everything I have hoped to find in a woman. You are beautiful, you are lively, you are kind, and you ride damned well." (Sir Andrew to Catherine)
Miss Catherine Fothinby, 21, had lived with her uncle James since the death of her parents. Uncle James was a "gentleman of the world"; Catherine thoroughly enjoyed the sophisticated glamour of Vienna, where they had been present for the Congress -- the balls, the gowns, the flirtations, the color, the culture and the life of the city enchanted her. When they left Vienna Catherine had been expecting to have her Season in London, but Uncle James told her that he had been called back to the Continent on unspecified business, and she was to spend the summer with her cousins the Drews in Kent; he said she could not go with him because the "rigors of the journey" would be too much for her.
Uncle James arranged a companion, Miss Emily Braithwaite, to accompany Catherine on the journey to the Drews' home and to bear her company in the country. Emily was no companion for lively Catherine; Emily was quiet, self contained, lugubrious and never even read novels -- she thought Dr. Johnson the greatest authority in history. Her cousins the Drews neither knew nor cared anything about the outside world; the center of their lives was Towser, their large, enthusiastic and ill-trained dog. Catherine was used to gentlemen who knew how to conduct light flirtations and ladies who had little dogs like accessories and didn't talk about them. In short, within a day Catherine was bored out of her skull.
A ball had been announced at the home of Sir Andrew Tarleton, a neighbor. Catherine wore her best, a filmy white muslin gown over a pink petticoat, all the rage in London, but the people of the neighborhood were shocked; some even said she was trying to appear naked. Sir Andrew waltzed with her (he was a very accomplished dancer) but only Emily took the floor with them (she danced with Mr. Drake, whom Catherine had assumed was one of her own conquests). Catherine's good manners as a guest were challenged by her resentment at their condemnation of her behavior, which she believed was completely unjustified.
The one solace of being stuck in the country was that Catherine could ride more freely (ladies in London did not gallop). Sir Andrew was also a very good rider and each day he would bring Gallahad for Catherine. They would always ride out with Emily and Mr. Drake, but they'd leave them behind, being the better riders on better mounts. More gossip for the neighborhood.
Sir Andrew, a very direct country-mannered man, had fallen in love at first sight with Catherine. At first his clumsy, heavy compliments annoyed her, but then she realized that he was sincere and direct about his feelings for her - but she could not return them. Nevertheless they continued to ride out together. On one such ride Catherine encountered Mr. Berthold de Caze, who seemed to embody all the polish and sophistication Catherine had missed, and it was Catherine's turn to fall head over heels in love and suffer the consequences.
I have liked all of the Darrell Husted novels that have come in my way. They are *not* genre romances, and I think they probably disappoint readers looking for more conventional fare. Instead they are often coming of age stories, "the girl who learned better." Catherine arrives with one set of attitudes and values, learns that she had no idea what was really going on, and is a better person for her experiences by the end (rather like Emma Woodhouse). It's a novel of personal growth with some romantic elements, very well characterized, and I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 5/6/21)
#518 St. Martin's Summer
by Diana Brown
Published July 1982 by Signet Regency
When Mr. Trafford died, he left the family estate Westlands to his eldest daughter; whom he had trained after his only son Gerald had died. Josephina was the smart sister; she managed the estate and was interested in new farming methods such as seed drills and raising merino sheep for their wool. She was always short of funds; there were debts to pay, and there was little capital because her father had allowed her mother to overspend in order to avoid her endless complaints about having to live in the country, away from the delights of London, nice clothes and elegant society.
Josephina had two sisters, Prudence (a Jane Bennet type who hoped to marry Charles Carew, a vicar) and Amelia (more of a Lydia Bennet type who, like her mother, was wild to live in London). Under the terms of her father's will somehow Josephina had to come up with £5,000 portions for her sisters when they married. Josephina loved the estate and the work she did there but no one but Prudence understood or appreciated her efforts.
Conniston Avery Glendenning, Sixth Earl of Venables had unexpectedly inherited the title after the death of his elder brother in a hunting accident. Conn now owned the neighboring estate of Venarvon, currently being run by a shifty, thieving bailiff called Farnsworth. Josephina met Conn when she went to consult him about an incident in which Will, a poor neighbor with a pregnant wife, was caught with two rabbits on Venarvon grounds and feared prosecution for poaching. Conn agreed to forget about the rabbits, and he fired Farnsworth when he had inspected the estate and had had a look at the books. Farnsworth blamed his firing on Josephina's meddling and his hatred for her festered.
Conn had never been short of the company of women; he preferred relationships with bored married ladies, and he had one such, Lady Eliza Coningsby, and her husband as guests at Venarvon. But when he met Josephina, it was different; he fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. But Josephina knew of his past with women and didn't believe in him. There was a strong attraction between the two of them which she had never felt before, and she was humiliated to think she might be like his mistresses.
I liked this solid, complex tale of a conscientious sister scrabbling to hold on to the family estate while doing what she could for her sisters and sacrificing much on their behalf, and the change of attitude toward relationships in a wealthy, jaded man when he finds at last a woman who means something to him. I enjoyed the ins and outs of country society and the details of country life. I even learned a few things about sheep. I would recommend it. (Posted by Janice 4/23/21)
#517 The Contentious Countess
by Irene Saunders
Published April 1992 by Signet Regency
The Earl of Denby married the wrong sister. He had a satisfying relationship with his mistress Mrs. Alice Whitehead, but he realized that he had neglected his duties to his estates because of his involvement in politics (the proposed Corn Bill in particular) and a woman's touch was needed. He had to marry sometime, so why not one of the Grenville girls, maybe Martha? There was Martha - young, popular, vivacious and beautiful - and there was her sister, Melanie - older, intelligent and also attractive, but much in the background because she was not a candle to the sun of her sister. Denby got their names mixed up; he thought Martha was a Melanie type, and Melanie more of a Martha. He approached their father Lord Somerfield thinking to offer for the the younger girl but there was a misunderstanding, and before it could be corrected the ambitious Lady Somerfield had sent the announcement in to the Post and it was too late to correct the situation without scandal. But, on the other hand, it didn't make much difference; one was as suitable as the other.
As it turned out, Denby had had a narrow escape; Martha was spoiled and selfish and only after his wealth; she accused Melanie of deliberately stealing him and threw a major tantrum on the staircase. Martha also made sure that Melanie knew about Mrs. Whitehead. Two days before the wedding Denby had visited Mrs. Whitehead and ended the relationship, leaving her with a generous settlement. But because of the spite and gossip of her sister, as well as that of her brother Michael, Melanie went on thinking that Denby still had a mistress.
Nevertheless the wedding went forward and Denby and his bride left on their wedding trip, a tour of his estates. Neither really enjoyed their wedding night; both seemed to feel it was something that had to be got over with -- and the barbs aimed at Melanie about Mrs. Whitehouse had never stopped.
Melanie began her life as Lady Denby as she meant to go on; she turned out Denby's study at Denby Downs without permission, forcing him to work in his bedroom. Then she turned out his bedroom as well. Denby was at first angry; he expected his countess to do as she was bid and leave his things alone, but Melanie meant to establish her position. As Denby got to know his bride, he came to respect her intelligence and enjoy her company, and that improved their intimate life. However, his work took him away from Melanie too often, and left her vulnerable to the spite of her younger sister and the selfishness of her brother Michael.
The business about marrying the wrong sister may seem a little odd, but I thought it credible given the dynamics of the Grenville family. What follows is a pretty solid "period of adjustment" tale as both partners find out who exactly it is they have married and decide what their lives together ought to be like. It is not a tale of two lovers in a bottle; family issues and Denby's work play a substantial role. It's a bit slow perhaps but it's a good study of views of marriage in a time long ago - a time when members of that class had to schedule time to be together and the servants always knew everything. (Posted by Janice 4/9/21)
#516 Prospect Lane
by Sarah Nichols / Lee Hays
Published November 1980 by Pinnacle Books
Miss Georgene Dryden, a member of the Religious Society of Friends, was a sincere and conscientious teacher at their London charity school. Her mother had died a year ago, leaving Georgene a small legacy; Georgene lived frugally on the interest and her salary from the Foundation. The school had little coal during the winter and offered greasy gruel for the midday meal; it had thirty-seven unmotivated students from the poorest section of London.
Mrs. Hortense Jamison was Georgene's boss; she was keen to raise money for the school and to that end brought visitors from time to time. On one particular day she brought with her a handsome, fashionable gentleman. It was Georgene's bad luck that two of her students got into a fight in the presence of the gentleman; he soon sorted them out but the incident resulted in Georgene being fired.
Mrs. Jamison was zealous in pursuit of donations for the good work and often called on Lady Chamberley in Prospect Lane with that intention. During one such call she learned that the companion to Lady Chamberley's daughter Lucy had had to be dismissed and her mother was in search of a replacement. Lucy had been in fragile health as a child; now that she was about to enter society, a young woman of good character to act as her friend and companion was needed. Mrs. Jamison recommended Georgene, and Georgene got the job.
At first Lucy and Georgene got on well, and Georgene enjoyed the improvement in her style of living -- the new clothes, the fine meals, the opportunity for new experiences -- although she often found it difficult to quiet her Quaker conscience as to her pleasure in these things. Georgene was also troubled by another matter: she had gradually discovered that Lucy was sometimes deceptive. Lucy was now in robust health but she had learned to conceal that in order to manipulate people, and she was very skilled at fainting gracefully whenever that was useful. During their Brighton sojourn Lucy had also struck up a flirtation with two military gentlemen, and Georgene knew that Lucy's mother would not approve, since there was a longstanding expectation that Mr. Courtney Waring would offer for Lucy as soon as she was well enough to marry. The young ladies were often in Mr. Waring's company, and that was awkward for Georgene because he was the gentleman visitor who had gotten her fired.
This is a short, fast read which I thought showed signs of hasty writing and research. Georgene's school seems straight out of Oliver Twist; Courtney wears boots to a ball (this book was written before Jeremy Northam did that in Emma); Lady Chamberley's set is referred to as gentry; dance cards are used at a regency era ball; Prinny calls Beau Brummell 'Beau' rather than George or even Brummell, and Courtney picks at his lobster bisque (an odd expression to use of a soup). But the worst flaw to me was that Georgene's awareness of Lucy's duplicity should have provoked a showdown, but it never did, and that was disappointing. (Posted by Janice 3/29/21)
#515 Miss Lacey's Last Fling
by Candice Hern
Published February 2001 by Signet Regency. E-book also available
Miss Rosalind Lacey had lost her mother to a mysterious illness when she was fourteen, and thereafter she had run things at Wycombe Manor and raised her younger brothers and sisters; her father Sir Edmund Lacey had little by little left all the responsibility to her. At 26 she was now regarded as a confirmed spinster by her family, so when she announced that she was going to London for the Season, they were astonished. Her sister Ursula was particularly against her going because she was so useful at home, but Sir Edmund backed Rosie up and said she should have her holiday. That very day Rosie left for London on a visit to her Aunt Fanny -- Lady Parkhurst, Sir Edmund's sister.
What Rosie had told no one was that she believed she did not have long to live. She had noticed that she also had the symptoms her mama had had - bad headaches - and the local doctor had confirmed her fears. Rosie was determined to have some fun before it was too late, and she had even made a list of all the things she wanted to do in London -- dancing until dawn, watching a prize fight, driving in the park, and being kissed until her toes curled. Aunt Fanny, a lively widow, understood perfectly, and within a very short time Miss Rosalind (as she was called in London) had a modish wardrobe and a very pretty new hairstyle, and began to turn heads.
One head that was turned was that of Mr. Max Davenant, younger brother of the Earl of Blythe (and also the son of Aunt Fanny's favorite lover back in the day). At 36 Max had been on the town for a long time -- so long that he had become bored with everything, to the point where he was thinking about ending it all, as his friend Freddie Moresby had done. He even carried Freddie's last note about with him. Rosalind's energy, her zest for life and her hunger for experience enchanted him, but the morning after their night together, she was gone, and Max didn't know why -- but he knew he was in love for the first time in his life.
I can think of many stories with the same premise -- Hazel Flagg aka Nothing Sacred; Mary Jo Putney's One Perfect Rose; Barbara Metzger's Miss Lockharte's Letters -- a character's belief that he or she has run out of time and must snatch at life before it's all over -- but this one has always stuck in my mind. It's very well paced, full of London fun and gig, and yet with a very good grasp of what family dynamics are like. It's one of my favorite rereads. (Posted by Janice 3/15/21)
#514 Infamous Isabelle
by Margaret Summerville AKA Barbara & Pamela Wilson
Published June 1980 by Dell Candlelight Regency (Special #580)
Early one morning the Earl of Biddleton (Lucius) was peacefully reading his newspaper when his widowed older sister Lydia, Lady Ambrose, broke in upon his solitude with a demand that he do something to detach her son Cuthburt from Lady Isabelle Clairemont, a designing hussy who was scheming to marry him for the money. It was well known that said hussy's family were all to pieces because of the gambling habit of Isabelle's father, the Duke of Fothingham. Lucius agreed to visit Isabelle, but the meeting did not go well. Isabelle was incensed at his opinion of her and told him flatly that it was all true, everything he had heard about her.
The next time Lucius met Isabelle it was at Lady Dumbreck's party. He danced with her and told her again to lay off Cuthburt. Isabelle was furious and told him she'd marry whomever she liked. (She had already turned away one suitor and was about to turn away another.) Others told Lucius that Isabelle was a delightful girl, but he was not convinced.
Cuthburt had other problems besides his mother's displeasure; he had large gambling debts to Tilden, a rough character, which he could not then pay. Cuthburt decided to leave town with Isabelle's brother for Fothingham, the Clairemont country estate. Simpson, Lady Ambrose's butler, saw Cuthburt being picked up in a coach with the Fothingham crest on it. Lady Ambrose had passed Isabelle's coach in the street, and she leapt to the conclusion that Cuthburt had eloped with her. She sent Lucius riding ventre a terre in pursuit.
When Lucius caught up with Isabelle's coach, he was mistaken for a highwayman, the coach overturned and Jock the coachman nearly shot Lucius by mistake. The weather was awful and getting worse, the coach was broken, Jock had ridden away for help, and Isabelle chose that moment to tell Lucius that she had been tricking him all along; she never had any intention of marrying Cuthburt. She called Lucius a self righteous, bigoted, conceited old fossil, and she threw in his best friend Rolly as another suitor on her string. Fireworks ensued, and they weren't all from the lightning, as a disastrous storm cracked over their heads and began to flood the countryside - and a real robber appeared as well.
That's just the first 75 pages or so; there is much story filling this small novel, and quite a few characters to keep track of. It's mostly comprised of sprightly plot, with a nice balance between humor and drama; however the central story, that of Lucius and Isabelle changing their minds about each other, isn't neglected. I thought it was a lot of fun. (Posted by Janice 3/11/21)
#513 Marriage By Bequest
by Elisabeth Carey
ISBN: ISBN: 0449502651
Published February 1982 by Fawcett Coventry
The Earl of Venning (Justin Denham) was tasked with the executorship of his late Aunt Agatha's will. Aunt Agatha had desired to reform her dissolute son, the Marquess of Lothan; to that end she had willed the Marquess £20,000 - £10,000 at her death and another £10,000 if the Marquess married an acceptable girl within three months of her death. Two months remained before the deadline. The Marquess, always in debt, accepted the condition and began to look for a suitable bride.
At the same time, the Misses Grey had lost their widowed mother and were left practically destitute. Lucinda, the beautiful one, nineteen and eager for the high life in London, meant to use the money from the sale of her mother's house to fund her husband hunting campaign. Her plain but intelligent and commonsensical sister Melissa, seventeen, got nothing but the choice of one piece of her mother's jewelry; because her beauty was an investment, Lucinda got the cash. Lucinda went in silks while Melissa went in plain black stuff gowns. After Lucinda married, Melissa was expected to find a position as a governess or companion.
One day while walking in the park the Marquess and Lucinda encountered one another. Melissa, walking a little way behind, was mistaken for Lucinda's maid and Lucinda let the error stand. In subsequent meetings the Marquess thought Lucinda would do very well for his marriage scheme and Lucinda was eager for a title; she accepted the Marquess immediately.
The Earl had seen the state of things and felt a desire to help Melissa. It transpired that he was a good friend of Lady Nelham, who was the girls' aunt, and he helped arrange a home for Melissa with her as a companion. Lady Nelham's first act was to get Melissa a decent wardrobe and hairstyle, which revealed the girl to be, although not a diamond like her sister, quite pretty in her own right -- and the Earl noticed. Things seemed to be working out better for Melissa, until she overheard something she shouldn't have and became entangled in plots and mysteries.
This book is set in the late 1750s; the Earl's younger brother Captain Edward Denham had served with Forbes in Canada; in Bath Beau Nash, though quite an old man, is still on the social scene; and William Pitt the Elder plays a role. However it's not unlike a regency in manners and customs. Spies, abductions, makeovers, spoiled sister vs. plain sister -- all those are common. It is an easy, fast read - the sort of thing you finish to find out what happened and then completely forget. I didn't find a new thought in it, but it was well paced and not completely improbable.
(Posted by Janice 2/1/21)
#512 The Vixen's Revenge / The Lady and the Pirate
by Paula Allardyce (Charity Blackstock)
ISBN: 0872166074, 9780872166073
First published (UK) by Ward, Lock & Co. 1957. US edition published March, 1980 by Playboy Press
Miss Mary Vernon, the daughter of a clergyman, lived with her father and younger sister Nan in Derby. The year was 1745; the Pretender's son and his army were approaching Derby and anti-Jacobite feeling was strong there. Her father had been suspected of being involved in Jacobite treason; he had been put in the pillory and they nailed his ears to the board. A letter had been found in a drawer of his desk that "said enough to hang us all", but Mary believed it had been planted. Mr. Vernon was old and ill from his days in the pillory; he had been defrocked and had no church anymore. There was little left to live upon, so Mary decided to find a position.
As Mary was walking down by the river, thinking the situation over, her cousin Horace Briarcliffe accosted her and demanded a kiss. Suddenly a dark rider on a black horse shot past them and knocked Horace into the river. The man was Lord Ventnor of Wardwick Hall, said to be a Jacobite and a pirate, if not a murderer. Aunt Briarcliffe believed he was behind the pillorying and must be a popish sympathizer because he refused to wear a peruke.
It transpired that Ventnor's stepmother was inquiring for a young woman to act as her companion, to read to her and do as she was bid. Mary took the job, thinking that if Ventnor had been behind her father's disgrace, she might find some evidence of that. At Wardwick Hall Mary found that what she had supposed would be a frail little old lady was instead a massive, brawling, vulgar woman who continually warred with Ventnor and her own weak son Nicholas. An attraction grew between Mary and Ventnor which neither wished to acknowledge, while the possibility of rebellion and war hung in the air.
I enjoyed this sprightly old fashioned historical. Ordinarily it would annoy me if hero and heroine did little but yell and keep secrets from each other, but that was counterbalanced by what I learned about the Jacobite controversy and the importance of whether or not a man wore a wig like a proper Christian gentleman ought. I also appreciated the author's careful prose, written at a more complex level than is common lately. Here's another vintage author who should be on ebook. (Posted by Janice 1/12/21)
#511 The Steadfast Heart
by Nora Hampton
ISBN: 0449237729, 9780449237724
Published 1978 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Anne Turner lived with her widowed father, the rector of a rural parish, until his failing health made it necessary for him to retire. He found a home with a friend in the village, but there was no place for Anne and no money, so she was forced to seek employment, and she found a place as companion to Mrs. Emily Shaw of Oakley Grange. When she mentioned her employer's name to Mr. Anthony Carthew, a fellow passenger on the coach to Bramley, he warned her against Jonas Read, the servant who was to meet her, called her employer "an old witch" and meant that, and told her to avoid the old ruined tower on Mrs. Shaw's lands. He also told her that if she needed help, she should come to him at Hawley Manor, his adjoining estate.
Anne's duties as Mrs. Shaw's companion included constant attendance, presence at meals, fetching and carrying, enduring bad temper and running errands. On one of these errands, Anne mistook the path back and found herself at the old ruined tower, called the Folly. Anne was drawn to a ring on the door, but when she touched it, the sense of cold was so overpowering that she ran away. Anne learned that Mrs. Shaw walked to the Folly nightly escorted by Jonas Read, where she would enter and chant spells.
Mrs. Shaw did have family -- two married grandsons, one of whom had a beautiful and fashionable daughter, Isabella. The two families visited Oakley Grange every year on her birthday. Mrs. Shaw hoped for a match between Isabella and Carthew which would reunite the two estates. Carthew seemed to be of Isabella's court -- and Anne, who had fallen in love with him, seemed no match for Isabella or the strange forces at work at Oakley Grange.
This book is labelled Victorian but I can't see any reason to date it to any particular era - it might as well be Georgian or Regency. There are no references at all to events, styles, entertainments or conditions of any particular era; people travel by coach with no mention of the existence of trains, and the cover even shows our heroine wearing a regency style gown. It's an odd little book; it ought to be a gothic, but it's not really because the gothic elements are never explained; it ought to be a romance but little time is spent on the relationship between Carthew and Anne. Back in the day I used to read paperback gothics by the score; this author is not on the level of Norah Lofts or Dorothy Eden, but despite its odd timeless feeling, I did enjoy it. I would have considered my $1.75 well enough spent even if it didn't have a good dog in it. (Posted by Janice 12/28/20)
#510 Kissing Cousins
by Diana Campbell
Published May 1986 by Signet Books
After Miss Cecily Osborne's parents died, she was raised by her uncle Sir Frederick Osborne at Osborne Hall in Derbyshire. Uncle Frederick's wife and he had had a savage disagreement and Lady Osborne went off to live in London. Uncle Frederick was terribly frugal and spent as little as possible on Cecily; she had the barest minimum allowance of £5 per quarter for clothing, and her only dinner gown, a yellow disaster, was terribly out of fashion and much too short. She did not even have a proper riding habit; she had had an old dress cut and reseamed down the center of the skirt so that she could ride astride.
Cecily dreamed of escape to London. She believed that if she asked her uncle to allow her to marry Dennis Drummond, the local innkeeper's son, Uncle Frederick would explode, forbid the match and allow her to go to her aunt. One day her cousin Stephen, Viscount Trowbridge, arrived unexpectedly at Osborne Hall to bring Cecily to London for a come-out. Stephen used to be lighthearted, but since inheriting he had become dull and severe, and Cecily could no longer like him. It seemed that the only thing to do was to continue with her original plan of marrying Drummond, so she eloped with him. Stephen put two and two together and traced them to an inn where they were waiting for the coach to Gretna Green. Stephen paid Drummond (who was on the point of raping Cecily by then) £500 to disappear, and told Cecily that they had to be married immediately to save her honor.
Instead of the fairytale wedding at St. George's that Cecily had daydreamed about, they were married from the home of the clerk at the inn; Cecily's slippers pinched and gave her blisters, and Stephen forbade her ever to wear her riding costume again. At the wedding supper Cecily left her slippers under the dining room table, and later when Stephen tried to embrace his bride, he stepped on her bare foot, thus provoking another lecture on what Cecily could and could not do, which turned his previously willing bride to a pillar of ice.
In London Cecily made a friend, Stephen's sister Lucy, an eccentric writer, thought unattractive, who lived in a world of dreams. She also met an enemy, Lady Shawcross (Priscilla), a married beauty, who told Cecily that even if Stephen was married to her, it made no difference - he was still Priscilla's property. Cecily also learned that she was an heiress, and began to suspect that Stephen had married her for the money.
Diana Campbell wrote several light comedies for Signet, and this one is similar in tone to the others I've read so far. Like the others I've read, there are oddities in behavior (Cecily walks alone in London without a footman or maid; she dresses herself and does her own hair even when she has become the Viscountess Trowbridge; the dinners are simple with few courses and only one dessert; there are few servants yet Stephen is apparently well to pass) and a few title usages that seem iffy. The tale is meant to be a light comedy and perhaps I refine too much on small oddities, but though I finished it, I found it more silly than satisfying. (Posted by Janice 12/7/20)
#509 A Hasty Marriage
by Rachelle Edwards
Published November 1978 by Fawcett Crest
Miss Drina Alcott was a poor relation in the household of her uncle Sir Arthur Lythe. Drina was useful to Lady Lythe to fetch and carry, and to their daughter Louisa (whom she loved) as a companion during her first London season. Louisa had fallen in love with Lord Harborough and hoped for an offer any day now. Drina was resigned to returning to her dreary life at Rington Manor when Louisa married.
The Earl of Arundale (Simon) had been unlucky in love some years ago and mistrusted women. His best friend Sir Francis Petley had married a French girl called Helene not long before. It was a love match on both sides, but Francis had a feeling that something was wrong, so he asked Simon to try to find out what was going on. At a country house party at Southways Simon was in the process of checking up on Helene at night when a noise was heard in the corridor. Simon ducked into what he thought was an unoccupied room, but it was Drina's bedchamber, and when Louisa screamed, he was caught by Sir Arthur and his wife. Simon did the honorable thing and married Drina, but told her it was to be a marriage in name only.
Once out from under Lady Lythe's thumb, Drina settled into life as the Countess of Arundale. She ran the household well, she interested herself in her husband's racing stables, and with Helene's help became a fashionable London hostess. Simon grew to think this marriage wasn't such a bad thing after all, but the mystery of what was troubling his friend's wife remained.
This is a short fast read. Its plot held my interest long enough to finish it, although I thought the characters didn't always seem natural and the resolution was rather odd for a romance (no spoilers, but it involves head-bopping). My copy has a cover with Drinna cowering under the bedcovers and Simon standing by the bed with a sword - very like a scene in the book except for the sword. Whoever owned this copy before me kindly marked out several errors in the text, so perhaps it was a hasty job all around. I passed an hour with it and have already forgotten most of it. (Posted by Janice 10/8/20)
#508 The Sleeping Heiress
by Phyllis Taylor Pianka
ISBN: 0440175518, 9780440175513, 0792701798 9780792701798, 079270178X 9780792701781
Published January 1980 by Dell Candlelight (Regency Special #543). Large print also available
German - Ein Herz entdeckt die Liebe, ISBN unknown
After her mother deserted her father to return to her life in the theatre, the Earl of Concord sent their five year old daughter Lady Amy Dorset off to St. Catherine's Academy for Young Ladies, where she was dressed in gray gowns and a cap to cover her flaming red hair. The Earl wished Amy to lead a strictly disciplined life; under Mrs. Dupreen, the headmistress, Amy changed from a lively, spirited, happy child to a little gray mouse. One morning she was summoned to Mrs. Dupreen's office, where she was introduced to Lady Charlotte Winford. She learned that her father the Earl had died and she was now the ward of his friend the Duke of Winford. His son Lord Jason Winford would, with Lady Charlotte, take her to London and supervise her debut.
After being suitably outfitted, Amy was plunged into the social whirl of 1811 London; she met Beau Brummel, attended the Prince's famous Carlton House fete (where she noted a dead fish floating in the streams of water flowing from the silver fountain on the Prince's table) and visited Vauxhall, where they dined on "powdered beef." As Amy gained confidence and became more self-aware, she often clashed with her guardian Jason. There was a strong attraction between them from the beginning, but Amy had been told that he was engaged to Lady Elizabeth Warrington. Amy had many admirers, who all knew something she didn't: rather than being penniless as she had believed, Amy was the heiress to the Earl's considerable fortune.
The Dell Candlelight line published what people now call "sweet" or "clean" regencies, and this one is, I think, pretty typical of them. For emotional punch it relies on dramatic incidents in which Amy angers Jason by putting herself in danger, thus rousing his passions and causing him to sulk a great deal. Pianka was a better craftswoman than Barbara Cartland, so there are no lisping, fainting heroines and no dot dot dot elisions, but it's cut from the same pattern. (Posted by Janice 7/4/20)
#507 Tomorrow Comes The Sun
by Elizabeth Renier (Betty D. Baker)
ISBN: 0090977203, 9780090977208, 044181655X
Published 1969 by Hurst & Blackett (UK) Ace (US). Ebook also available.
Swedish - Vad mitt hjärta begär, ISBN 91-32-30826-4, 91-32-42475-2
Miss Clarissa Conway (Crissa) and her younger sister Henrietta (Hetty) lived with their lawyer father Thomas, a cold and plotting sort of man. Hetty was a widow and she was pregnant; her husband Lieutenant Peter Stanhope had been killed in action at sea. Unknown to his daughters, Thomas Conway had arranged advantageous marriages for both of them and he was furious when he found out about the marriage and Hetty's condition, the more so because Hetty had been his favorite; Crissa was too uppity. He told Crissa that he was sending both of them away to his sister Clara at Grimstone House at Dartmoor, where Hetty would have her child. He said that it would be best if the child died, but if it lived it was to be taken away and placed with some family. Crissa and Hetty were to say nothing of the marriage or the baby, and the arranged marriages would go forward.
On their way to Grimstone House Crissa, Hetty and their loyal maid Phoebe encountered a train of French prisoners being marched to a new prison. They also encountered Dr. Paul Leland, who roughly ordered them out of his way as he tried to pass their coach to reach a fallen prisoner. When Leland argued with Crissa, Hetty burst out her hatred of all French; they had killed her husband.
Once arrived at Grimstone, Crissa immediately clashed with Aunt Clara, who was more awful even than they had feared. Aunt Clara ordered Crissa around, criticized her for being too fashionable, and said she was too much like her mother. Given the way Aunt Clara ran Grimstone House and all their lives, Crissa feared that she was deliberately trying to make Hetty miscarry. Only three people stood the girls' friends: Phoebe, Dr. Leland and Armanc de Beauvoir, a French officer billeted at Grimstone. But would that be enough to save them?
In tone this is a rather old fashioned melodramatic historical romance, concentrating more on the plight of French prisoners of war in England than the romance between Crissa and Leland. There is one oddity - sometimes de Beauvoir's first name is Armanc, other times it's Armand. The resolution of the family conflict didn't convince me as being genuine or likely, but, other than that, it was a competently told tale with an interesting setting. I place this one in the great middle ground - good enough to finish but not a keeper. (Posted by Janice 6/6/20)
#506 An Elegant Education
by Meredith Leigh/Daisy Vivian
ISBN: 0802709745, 0802709745, 9780802709745
Published 1987 by Walker and Company
After their parents' deaths, Miss Briony Mitchem and her artist brother Redmond were left with Mitchem House on their hands and no way to maintain it, so Briony turned the house into the Mitchem Academy, a finishing school for young ladies. She ran the academy and Redmond taught art. The academy was quite successful, and after a few years Briony felt she was entitled to a holiday. She was closing the academy for the summer when she was induced to postpone her holiday to accept two special charges.
Miss Anne Barstow was the daughter of a wealthy businessman from the north; she was intelligent and lovely, but she didn't dress well and she had a voice like a crow and a rural dialect. Mr. Barstow wished Anne to be trained to hold her own with the swells of London. Count von Ahlden had brought Princess Isabella of Schleswig-Holstein-Gundorp-Thoningen for a makeover. Isabella was fat and had bad skin and an intractable temper, but she was to marry Duke Rudolph of Berengaria and she had to be prepared for that position. Barstow and von Ahlden offered Briony an enormous sum of money to "improve" the girls, and she accepted because she needed the money to pay Redmond's gambling debts.
Briony hired two stage veterans, Mr. and Mrs. Biddy, to assist her. Mr. Biddy drilled the girls in speech and deportment, and Mrs. Biddy, a genius with a needle, brought them into fashion. Under Briony's regimen, the girls were making great progress, until Isabella was kidnapped from a country fair and had to be found before the politics of several countries collided.
Meredith Leigh was a pen name of Bruce Kenyon, who also wrote romances as Daisy Vivian, and was said to write in other genres under other names. This novel is less like a romance than an adventure story, and it's a case study for "show, don't tell"; the author says that the characters have feelings for each other, but I never felt that they did at any point. A prime requirement of a romance is that it should arouse some feeling in the reader; this book fails on that level. It has some amusing humor and a few clever plot twists, but that's all. (Posted by Janice 5/23/20)
I've read this book too but didn't find it quite as lacking in emotion as you did. Still, not wanting to be sexist here but, this type of emotional restraint seems to be somewhat common among male authors. I do agree the story is first and foremost plot driven; it really isn't much of a romance. I did find the brogue of one of the characters rather irritating but then, written dialects usually are. As a whole I liked it, enjoying his prose and writing style in particular. Well, no surprise there as I must have every Regency novel Leigh/Vivian/Keynon wrote! (Posted by yvonne 5/23/20)
#505 The Varleigh Medallion
by Sylvia Thorpe
ISBN: 0449239004, 9780449239001, 0893402451, 9780893402457, 0091363004, 9780091363000, 0552112534, 9780552112536,
Published 1979 by Hurst & Blackett (UK) and Fawcett Crest (US). Large print also available
Danish - Varleigh medaljonen, ISBN 8775296837, 9788775296835
Miss Dione Mallory (Dee) had been de facto head of the Mallory family since her soldier father's death. Her mother and her sister Cecilia were diffident and indecisive, and her other sister Edwina, although she had moxie, was not of an age to cope as yet. Her little brother Theo had been ill and his health was an ongoing concern. The family had been living with Aunt Amelia Winton as poor relations, and her son Eustace, a pompous prig, had made it clear that he might condescend to marry Dee and she should consider herself lucky to receive such a fine offer.
It was therefore something of a gift from the gods that Mr. Jonathan Mallory, an elderly cousin, left Garth House in Brambledon to Theo in his will. At Dee's urging the Mallorys left London for Garth House. Near the end of their journey, with Theo ill from the carriage travel, Dee requested a carriage from the landlord at the Royal George, but he refused because it was clear to him from their shabby clothes that the Mallorys were poor nobodies. Luckily for them, Sir Greydon Varleigh of Rushbourne Abbey intervened and shamed the landlord into arranging for a carriage. Grey was surprised to learn that their destination was Garth House.
When they arrived at Garth House, they discovered that the house was not as Mrs. Mallory had remembered -- it was a rundown filthy shambles, and the servants were lazy, dirty and disrespectful. Dee went to war with the dirt and the servants to make the house habitable. When Theo said he heard noises in the night, like the tapping of an old man's cane, rational, matter of fact Dee dismissed his fears. But Molly the servant girl said she had heard them too.
It transpires that Grey had left London in the middle of the Season because his agent had found the Varleigh Medallion missing from its box in the strong-room, along with a lot of cash. The Medallion, a hefty hunk of gem-studded gold, was the "luck of the Varleighs" -- according to family legend, an Aztec prince had given it as a reward to the seafaring first Varleigh, allegedly for saving his life (but nobody really knew). The likeliest candidate for the thief was scoundrelly Oliver Varleigh, Grey's cousin. As Dee made a life at Garth House for the family, Grey searched the district for Oliver and the Medallion, Theo got up to more mischief, and a nosy neighbor, Mrs. Elverbury, took notice of the growing friendship between Dee and Grey.
I am a sucker for "inherits a falling down creepy old house" stories, as well as "heroine responsible for her problematical family" tales, so I was predisposed to like this book, and my faith paid off. There is nothing new in this story, but it is a fast paced, entertaining read, with likeable characters and a touch of humor. Sylvia Thorpe is one of my favorite storytellers and this one is a good example of why that is so. (Posted by Janice 4/30/20)
#504 Willed To Wed
by Wilma Counts
Published September 1999 by Zebra Regency. Also available on ebook
Major Matthew Cameron, newly Seventh Earl of Markholme, and Miss Sarah Matthilde Longbourne were maneuvered into a marriage of convenience by their grandfathers, who had wanted to combine the two properties of Markholme and Rosemont. Matthew needed the funds that would come with their marriage to restore Markholme; Sarah needed the marriage to retain Rosemont. Sarah had expected to marry Robert Cameron, her gentle friend and the Sixth Earl, but he had drowned in a boating accident. She had liked Robert and had thought they could have a comfortable marriage based on mutual affection and respect, if not passion.
When Sarah actually met Matthew, there was a frisson of attraction between them, but Sarah did not find him very agreeable at first. As they both planned new projects for their combined estates, he challenged her right to manage and make decisions, as she had done for her grandfather while he lived. They clashed over something else as well - Annalisa, now the Countess of Poindexter by her marriage to an older man, was pressuring Matthew to revive their old relationship, and to that end she fomented jealousy over an alleged relationship between her cousin Ridgely and Sarah. Matthew, having been wounded by the greed of one woman before, was fertile ground for insinuations that Sarah could not be trusted.
This is a solid marriage of convenience/period of adjustment novel. It has familiar plot elements, but it's not about the plot; it's about two well-meaning people trying to make a go of things despite their own misunderstandings, their separate pasts and the meddling of others. Outside events - the Peninsular Wars, the Frost Fair and the coming war in Belgium play a role as well. It's not what I'd call exciting - it did take me a week or so to finish, as I kept picking it up and putting it down - but it is rational and satisfying. (Posted by Janice 4/21/20)
#503 The Pink Parasol
by Sheila Walsh
Published March 1991 by Signet Regency. Ebook also available.
The charming, feckless Earl of Camden had four daughters: Ladies Cecily (the eldest), Bella (the boldest), Cassie (the beauty) and Mary (who at six had never yet spoken). He also had a mistress and a gambling addiction. He lived his louche life in London while Lady Camden and their daughters lived in the country at his rundown estate Churston. Lady Camden had given up on life and taken to her couch, leaving her responsibilities to the governess Miss Gilbert. Cecy was the eldest daughter; she had always known that it would be up to her to secure the family's fortunes by making a brilliant match. Happily her godmother Lady Wigmore offered to give her a Season in London, and she talked her nephew Mr. Marcus Anstruther (said to rival Brummell in social power) into helping to launch Cecy.
London life was a whirl of outings, parties, balls and such, for which Cecy's country wardrobe was woefully inadequate, so Lady Wigmore overrode her objections and outfitted her from head to toe. Marcus went along as counsel. As they were about to leave the modiste's, Cecy's eye fell upon a beautiful pink silk parasol, but she refused to order it; it seemed an imposition on top of all the clothes Lady Wigmore had already bought her. While Cecy wasn't looking, Marcus bought the parasol and later presented it to her. It was just the thing to set off her new ensembles, and soon Cecy became known as "the girl with the parasol."
But as Cecy was enjoying her London Season (and developing a tendre for Marcus), things took a darker turn. She learned that her father was much worse off than she had known -- in fact he had lost everything at cards with Mr. Jack Elliston, a known gull-groper. There was nothing at all left for the family. Cecy was asked by her father to marry Elliston, who would then pay his debts, and told by Elliston that if she did not, he would call in the debts and ruin them all. Elliston would have been repugnant even if Cecy hadn't by this time fallen deeply in love with Marcus -- who seemed still to treat her as a mere child.
Sheila Walsh has long been a favorite author of mine; I don't think I've ever read a boring book by her. Although this one contains so many familiar elements, and its resolution is a bit abrupt and rather a rabbit out of a hat, it's well paced and the characters are likeable and occasionally witty. There's nothing new in it, but it's a very pleasant read. (Posted by Janice 2/16/20)
Walsh is a favorite writer for me as well. I had mixed feelings about this book though. To me it felt like two stories somewhat awkwardly combined into one. Besides, I'm not big on the Cinderella theme at the best of times and this version of it didn't make me change my mind. Still readable but not one of the author's best, in my opinion. (Posted by yvonne 2/16/20)
#502 A Chance Encounter
by Emily Hendrickson
Published June 1998 by Signet Regency
Miss Felicia Brook met William, Lord Chessyre when a carriage accident outside his gates killed her aunt and mortally injured her uncle. Her uncle's last words were that Felicia had been cheated. William took her in and made the necessary arrangements; his sweet but somewhat vague-seeming aunt Lady Emma, who lived at Chessyre with him, befriended Felicia.
The title and all the property passed to Felicia's cousin Basil, who was a greedy lech, and his sister Wilhelmina was a vixen who would have made Felicia's life miserable. Under her father's will Felicia had been left without a penny to bless herself with, but the idea of living with Basil and Willa as a poor relation was insupportable. Lady Emma solved the problem: Felicia must come to her as a companion when she went to London. Felicia learned that Lady Emma had loved Lord Pelham for more than twenty years, but he was always off on his world travels, and it came to nothing -- but now that he was back in London, Lady Emma planned to land him at last.
Once in London, while William pursued inquiries about that will in which a father known to dote upon his daughter had left her nothing, Felicia became involved with Mrs. Anne Damer, who had inherited Strawberry Hill from Horace Walpole. Mrs. Damer was a well known sculptress, and Lord Pelham was to sit for her. Lady Emma wished Felicia to form one of the house party and do what she could to further the match with Pelham. Mrs. Damer planned to present theatricals at Christmas, and Felicia was to help with costumes and such. William liked the idea because it would take Felicia outside of London, in case Basil had some idea of including Felicia in the series of "accidental" deaths of witnesses and others affected by the late Lord Brook's will.
The play chosen was an adaptation by William's cousin and heir Stephen of The Castle of Otranto, and just as in Mansfield Park, working on the play afforded many opportunities for couples to meet and mingle. From Felicia's point of view, the chief problem was that Stephen had run into Basil and had invited him to the house party because Basil would be perfect as Friar Jerome -- and Basil had plans of his own.
I do not think of Emily Hendrickson as a romantic author; to me her writing lacks emotional energy and her characters seem to lack presence and dimension. However, she is the absolute queen of regency trivia, and this book is no exception; this book has a better exploration of Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto than I ever heard in university. I can't recommend it as a romance but I can recommend the author's knowledge of regency lore. (Posted by Janice 12/20/19)
#501 The Irish Earl
by Patricia Bray
Published March 2000 by Zebra Regency
As Lady Felicity Winterbourne, called The Ice Princess, and her escort Sir Percy Lambeth were leaving the New Theater after an indifferent performance of Hamlet, she saw a beggar, a soldier who had lost an arm, but she had no money with her. She asked Sir Percy for a crown, but before he could find one, another gentleman had given the soldier some coins. The gentleman crossed glances with her and something passed between them, as if he had judged her and found her wanting. During the next few days, she watched for another glimpse of the gentleman, and she found him again at Almack's. He was Gerald FitzDesmond, Earl of Kilgarvan, and it was well known that he didn't have a feather to fly with and was in London in search of a wealthy bride.
Felicity was the daughter of a duke who had indulged his fancy to see the world and had taken him with her on his travels. She had seen quite a bit of the world but had never felt that she belonged anywhere. Her father had been her anchor; now he was gone, but he had left her all the money outright, not tied up in trust. Financially she would be the answer to Kilgarvan's prayers, but he knew she would not be a biddable wife.
Kilgarvan needed money badly, not so much for himself as to save his Irish lands and heritage. His grandfather had built Arlyn Court, but his father, though not a bad man, was a terrible investor, and all the schemes that were to bring prosperity to his estate and people had failed. The land was heavily mortgaged and some had even been sold off; the people lived in dire poverty. It was up to Kilgarvan to save them.
On impulse, Felicity asked Kilgarvan to marry her. Kilgarvan presented himself the next morning at Rutland House and made a formal offer to the new duke. As Felicity had said, her uncle was happy to have her off his hands; Felicity's independence did not please his wife. Kilgarvan told Felicity that this was to be a marriage of mutual respect and friendship -- a marriage of convenience; he would not marry her if she had formed a tendre for him because one-sided relationships did not work. Felicity assured him that she felt the same way, and they were married. It should have been a rational arrangement, but it wasn't, because Kilgarvan had two concerns -- it galled him that Felicity had kept control of her fortune and he had to apply to her whenever he wanted funds -- and she might have wanted a husband if she was already pregnant by another man. For her part, Felicity was unprepared for the depth of the poverty she found on Kilgarvan's lands and she had begun to develop feelings for this husband who had only wanted her money.
This is a solid period of adjustment novel with likeable, honorable characters who are often at odds until their understanding of each other grows. It's also a tale of loyalty rewarded -- its hero is willing to sacrifice his personal happiness to rescue the people who depend upon him, and they understand and appreciate his sacrifice. It is a story that made me root for the hero and heroine to resolve their differences not only for their own happiness but also for that of their Irish friends. A good read. (Posted by Janice 11/14/19)
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!