Stuff & Nonsense: historical romance


Showing posts with label historical romance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical romance. Show all posts

12 April 2019

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer


Lady Serena Spenborough's papa has died and left her inheritance in a trust controlled by, of all people, her high-handed ex-fiancé (obviously, dear papa had harbored certain hopes!). Now of "reduced" means, Lady Serena and her (very) young step-mama take up residence in Bath where Serena becomes reacquainted with a man who had loved her long ago. Meanwhile, the ex-fiancé is up to shenanigans of his own with a terrified young thing just out of the schoolroom!

I must admit that, shockingly, I did not think this Heyer romance was all the crack. Ivo's behavior towards Emily, when he wanted her to jilt him, was rather reprehensible. Especially as he only became engaged to her because Serena had engaged herself to the Major! Not good ton, dahlings.

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2011)

23 March 2019

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer


Sir Waldo Hawkridge, a paragon of masculinity, comes down from town with his cousin, Lord Julian Lindeth, to turn a recently inherited ramshackle estate into an orphanage. Yes, he's rich, handsome, educated, and philanthropic -- no wonder the ladies are all a-twitter!

Being quite the catch, the two men are invited to various parties hosted by the local fashionable set. And so they make the acquaintance of the local Beauty, Tiffany Wield, and her wrangler Miss Ancilla Trent, a somber-minded young woman of impeccable breeding who is the perfect foil for Tiffany's spoilt and reckless ways.

Waldo and Ancilla fall in love from afar. Of course, there are obstacles in their inevitable path to matrimony (Tiffany Wield, for one), but everything works out as it ought to in the end.

All of Heyer's romances are enjoyable reads, but Nonesuch takes the cake. 'Pon rep, its witty repartee and use of cant make it one of the most enjoyable bags of moonshine I've read in a long time (well, since April Lady).

The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2009).

15 March 2019

April Lady by Georgette Heyer


Nell, a young bride still unused to her new wealth, finds she has overspent her quarterly allowance and has acquired a (to her) frightful debt. Desperate that her husband, Cadross, not know, she turns to her gamester brother. While her brother is skint, he does have a Cunning Plan.

Which fails. So he concocts another plan. Which does not go as ... planned. Meanwhile, Nell's behavior towards her husband becomes increasingly distant and formal. Cadross begins to think all his friends were right when they said Nell was marrying him for his money and title. And Nell (thanks to bad advice from her Mama) fears Cadross married her out of convenience and will never believe she loves him -- especially now that she is in debt up to her eyeballs.

And then there is Cadross's sister, Letitia! Pretty, headstrong Letitia who is up to no good with an upstanding young man of prospect but no position ... she will turn their love into something out of a horrid novel, see if she won't.

Oh, the silliness! Such a lovely bit of of escapism. A perfect dessert of a novel.

April Lady by Georgette Heyer (Sourcebooks, 2012)

04 June 2018

Let It Shine


Since the untimely death of her mother, Sofie has tried very hard to be a good girl. A church-going, law-abiding young lady. Nice. Quiet. Docile. Decidedly not someone who participates in sit-ins or falls in love with a white Jewish boxer. But there’s a fire burning deep inside Sofie and nice isn’t enough, anymore.

Let It Shine was as much a coming of age story as it was a romance. Sure, it was delightful to see Ivan and Sofie reconnect after years apart, discovering a love so tender and true that it made me a bit goofy. But, even better was watching Sofie come out of her "good girl" shell, fighting through others expectations to become the woman she was meant to be. Yes, Sofie was frequently scared of what might happen to her given the dangers of the era, but she kept going.

Let It Shine was not always an easy book to read -- there's simply no way a Civil Rights era romance wasn't going to make me cry or chew my thumb -- but it was a very rewarding, satisfying one.

Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole. CreateSpace, 2016.

12 March 2018

The Lark


Furrowed Middlebrow, a new imprint for Dean Street Press, as reprinted a slew of fabulous works by neglected, now lesser-known British women novelists and memoirists. These books largely describe women's lives and culture in early 20th century Britain and probably feel out of fashion for being too "domestic," but as this is exactly the kind of fiction I eat up with a spoon, I am over the moon.

After downloading five Furrowed Middlebrow releases to my Kindle, I decided to start with Nesbit's The Lark. I mean? How could I not? 1919, two capable young women recently from the school room discover their guardian has lost all their money and then done a bunk, leaving them with a country cottage and a wee bit of money to get buy on... it sounded completely charming and fun. A lark, indeed.

And it was. Jane and Lucilla Quested were charming, embraceable characters who had a grand little adventure as genteel business women before finding love and settling down to become good wives and mothers. They engaged with a patchwork of interesting characters taken from varied classes and backgrounds and the entire thing read as a cheerful, "can do" slice of life.

Be warned -- The Lark was by no means a realistic treatment of the economic difficulties faced by single, genteelly impoverished young women in the aftermath of WWI. However, it was a kind, optimistic book in which even the meanest characters were not so very mean and everything worked out well in the end. In other words, precisely what I needed to reading on a dreary March day in 2018.

If you enjoy Montgomery's The Blue Castle or Lovelace's later Betsy-Tacy books, I think The Lark will appeal to you as they all share a similar spirit and time.

I always thought of Edith Nesbit as a children's author -- Five Children & It, The Railway Children, etc -- but it turns out she wrote quite a few novels for adults and I look forward to reading more of them. Middlebrow has only reprinted this one, but others (The Red House, for example) are available for Kindle.

The Lark by Edith Nesbit. Dean Street Press, 2017.

15 January 2018

No Other Duke Will Do


After Anne Stuart’s Never Kiss a Rake, I knew I wanted a quiet, sensible romance. Something sweet and fun, centered on two people who talk to each other like sensible adults (with, yes, some quiet, gentle ribbing and flirtation thrown in for good measure), listen to each other, and fall in love in very real way. And that’s precisely what I found in Burrowes’ No Other Duke Will Do. No frustrating misunderstandings due to a lack of clear communication. No dark secrets. No masquerades.

I enjoyed the small domestic details of Elizabeth and Julian’s romance -- Elizabeth gave Julian the supportive and loving friendship he didn’t know he was missing while Julian showed Elizabeth how verrry good a good man could be. She mended his waistcoat, befriended his siblings, and helped sort out his runaway house party. He brought her flowers and pillows to increase her bookish comfort and generally showed her that she was both desired and beloved. It was all very sweet and nice.

Of course, there had to be some obstacle standing in the way of True Love. In this case, the obstacle was a thirty-thousand volume library which, while of little presumed value, had impoverished the dukedom to such a point it was impossible Julian should marry anyone anytime soon. There was also the so irritating (but probably completely correct) Lucas Sherbourne, who saw no point to the aristocracy and would have dearly loved to chop down Julian’s woods and put in a colliery to improve the local economy.

The whole "there’s nothing of value in this library!" schtick irritated me to know end. I was, like, really? How have you not had anyone who knows books in to value your collection? And then, of course, my suspicions re: value of books were proved correct and Sherbourne kind-of made friends with Julian (and, more importantly, Elizabeth’s sister Charlotte) and it was just a complete Happy Ever After. Hooray.

Books, kissing, friendship ... it’s all good.

No Other Duke Will Do is the third book in Burrowes’s Windham Brides series, but made perfect sense on its own. Yes, the scandal in Elizabeth’s past and the various relationships between characters would probably have been clearer had I read the preceding books, but I got the gist of it and that was enough for me. While I could go back and catch up with Megan and Anwen, I’m more likely to steam ahead and read Charlotte’s story in A Rogue of Her Own as I really want to see how Burrowes will turn Lucas Sherbourne into a romantic hero. He was such an ass in No Other Duke Will Do that my mind boggles at the very idea! (But, if any woman could bring him up to scratch, it would be Charlotte).

No Other Duke Will Do by Grace Burrowes. Forever/Hachette Book Group, 2017.

08 January 2018

Never Kiss a Rake


After the Russell sisters’ father dies in a carriage accident, whilst attempting to flee the country with embezzled funds, they find themselves friendless and in greatly reduced circumstances. Unwilling to accept their father’s presumed perfidy, Bryony -- the eldest sister -- decides to masquerade as a housekeeper in order to infiltrate the home of one of their father’s business partners and discover the truth.

Of course, the Earl of Kilmartyn quickly suspects his new housekeeper, Mrs. Greaves, is more than she appears to be and determines to get the truth from her. Also, to get up her skirts. Because this pox-marked, prim, and prickly woman is totally, inexplicably hot. Way hotter than his impossibly beautiful, but duplicitous blackmailing wife. It’s clear Bryony is a virgin, though, and Kilmartyn is a gentleman so he just can’t “fuck the hell out of her, hard and fast, as he desperately needed to do.” No, he has to woo her.

It’s a hard thing, being a gentleman of principles.

To me, there was no real romantic connection between Kilmartyn and Bryony -- he clearly wanted her and she clearly had feelings for him and they did have, apparently, really hot sex after he de-virgined her. But love? Eh.

And the ending ... well, it didn’t make a lot of sense. The villain -- who threatens Byrony with necrophilia and might have an interest in pederasty and, well, just needed a monocle and twirlable mustache to complete the whole over-the-top Evil Guy ensemble -- did not really explain who he was, why he was fucking Kilmartyn's wife, why he hated Kilmartyn, and why he killed Bryony’s father. It’s clear he did some of it because of a flippin’ country house, which is sheer bonkers when you realize the house would have come to him, anyway, when Bryony’s dad died of old age. But why he slept with Kilmartyn’s wife when he clearly hated and despised her, and why he hated Kilmartyn so much ... I don’t really know. Anyway, I’m sure he appears in the next two books -- starring the two younger Russell sisters and the other business partners -- and I’ll eventually learn his story in its entirety. Were I to read them.

But I don’t think I care to. In hindsight, I realize I would have preferred far less Upstairs shenanigans and more Downstairs adventures in housekeeping. Indeed, if someone would write me a fanfic about the romance between Mrs. Patmore Mrs. Harkins and Mr. Molesley Mr. Collins with some lavish descriptions of baking and general housewifery chucked in for good measure, I’d be over the moon.

Never Kiss a Rake by Anne Stuart. Montlake Romance, 2013.

17 April 2015

Tainted Angel


During the Napoleonic war the British government recruits toothsome young women as “angels” -- special agents who seduce information from the unwitting enemy. Vidia's mission is to spy on a very wealthy man who has the power sink the British economy. But soon Vidia’s colleagues suspect she’s double-crossing them and working for Brodie. And, maybe, she is. Or isn’t. It’s, frankly, impossible to tell as everyone engages in a very dangerous (and, at times, quite sexy) game of cat-and-mouse.

Loaded Tainted Angel onto my Kindle before going on holiday and it turned out to be just the sort of read I needed to get me through a five hour flight. Tainted Angel is a fun, romantic romp through Regency London with lots of cross-and-double-cross cloak-and-dagger type espionage. I wasn’t always sure what was going on --the author sees fit to let you figure out things as you go and Vidia isn’t the most forthcoming protagonist when it comes to her past adventures -- but I found I didn’t care very much. Eventually, I would know what Vida was up to and all would be well. In the meantime, I just enjoyed the journey.

I greatly enjoyed Vidia’s interaction with her maid, Maisie, and only wish there was more of it. The Dokes’s surprise twist was great fun and I hope she gets a book of her own ... if this is going to be a series and I have absolutely no reason to think that! (I know, I’m anti-series only until it suits me not to be). Indeed, nearly all of the characters were delightful -- even the villains, whoever they might be.

Tainted Angel by Anne Cleeland (SourceBooks, 2013). AZW file.

03 April 2015

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet


The Pursuit of Mary Bennet is set three years after the events detailed in Pride and Prejudice. Mingle's Mary is a good deal different from the priggish, pedantic girl Austen too-briefly described in Pride and Prejudice and the change is a little surprising at first, but makes sense if you accept Mingle's premise that, with the absence of the older married sisters, Mr. Bennet has more time to spend improving his younger daughters. Also that Mary, having seen the happiness attained by her older sisters, has become more aware of of her own character flaws and actively worked to smooth them over.

I was willing to accept both suppositions and embrace this improved Mary. I was glad to see her with Jane at High Tor, enjoying the gentle attentions of Mr. Henry Walsh, even if silly Kitty did keep getting in the way. However, the baby craziness in the second half really put me off, because it was so unexpected and, well, a bit creepy. Poor lonely and unlovable Mary! Don't be another Lady Edith!

The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride & Prejudice Novel by Pamela Mingle (William Morrow, 2013)

07 November 2014

A Mad, Wicked Folly


After engaging in some simply scandalous behavior in France, artsy Victoria Darling is sent home in disgrace. Appalled by her hoydenish behavior, her parents try to explain to Vicky why her behavior and desires are so terribly wrong. They're not written as ogres and, while they break her heart, they clearly believe they're doing it for her own good. Basically, this statement by her father sums it all up:

I know you have ideas for your future, but I must say that further schooling is quite out of the question. A girl’s duty in life is to be a pretty and entertaining wife to her husband. She should not outshine him in knowledge lest she show him up among his peers. Advanced study is harmful to women as it makes them discontent and unfit for lives as wives and mothers. You are quite a pretty girl, so your prospects are much more promising than Louisa Dowd’s anyhow, poor thing. She is but a plain girl, and education is the only option for her.

Of course, Vicky longs to be more than a pretty, entertaining wife. She wants to be a proper artist and study at the Royal Academy. But her father would never grant permission (or pay tuition) and, as an unmarried miss, she has no voice or funds of her own. But maybe the man her parents so clearly desire her to marry (her family has new money, his family has title and ton) will allow her ...

What a romp! Ohh, yes, A Mad, Wicked Folly frequently made me angry because the limited sphere historically allowed women is ANGRIFYING and the novel does not downplay that at all -- the arrests, the forced-feedings, the appalling lack of public sentiment is all there. A Mad, Wicked Folly is essentially a select history of British suffragette movement wrapped up in pretty ribbons of artistic yearning and class-crossing love. All in all, a highly enjoyable read and I look forward to its sequel -- set during WWI, yay! -- whenever it comes out.

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller (Viking, 2014)

25 May 2014

The Bar Sinister


Presently revolted passersby in the vicinity of Cavendish Square could observe a plump, middle-aged gentleman and a woman old enough to know better embracing in a carriage in broad daylight, a clear instance of the decay of modern manners.

Emily Foster, a gently-bred widow, takes in the children of an army officer so that her child might not grow up alone. Emily and Captain Falk are not at their best when they meet and each makes a poor impression on the other. There is no doubt, however, that both care for the children deeply and, as the years pass, Emily and Richard form a tentative friendship through the letters they exchange about the children. That each thinks the friendship is one-sided is a bit of a problem, but they're separated by geographic and class boundaries anyway so it doesn't really signify ...

Richard Falk is the bastard son of the Duchess of Newsham and some dude she ran away with because her husband, the Duke, was an out-and-out bounder. The Duke is dead now and the inheritance neatly sorted out amongst the legitimate heirs ... and yet strange accidents befall Richard wherever he goes. He is quite certain at least one of the late Duke's children is out to kill him. But why? The Duke never recognized him. Falk even changed his name so there could be no connection. So why keep trying to kill him? And are the children endangered by their patrimony?

I kept waiting for Falk's mother or sister to turn out to be a Machiavellian mastermind so-innocently sitting in a vast web of conspiracy, but they turn out to be exactly as written -- the nice, if perhaps misguided, members of the family. Alas, the bad 'uns are also exactly as written. A trifle disappointing as Simonson has created so many engaging and dynamic characters that it doesn't seem right the wicked parties should so clearly be BAD MEN.

Bar Sinister serves as a prequel of sorts to Lady Elizabeth's Comet in that several of its secondary characters are significant to the plot of Lady Elizabeth's Comet. While Bar Sinister was published first, I read Lady Elizabeth's Comet first and found the novels worked fine read in that order. Indeed, it's probably better to read Lady Elizabeth's Comet first, because you approach it with no preconceived notions about how nice Tom Conway may be.

Overall, The Bar Sinister is well-written Regency with a smattering of yearning and a dash of derring-do. If you like your Regencies slow to simmer, people with mature adults, full of Napoleonic detail, slightly gothick, and only tangentially related to London and the ton then The Bar Sinister is good pick.

The Bar Sinister: A Romance of Regency England by Sheila Simonson (Walker & Company, 1986)

18 May 2014

Caroline and Julia


After Caroline's no-good wastrel of a father dies, leaving his family all but penniless, she and her mother try to make the best of it by closing up the estate and making their home in its kitchen. Unbothered by greater society, they spend a few relatively happy years together before Caroline's mother also dies. With no family or friends to aide her, Caroline determines to go to London to see her mother's dearest friend, now a famous actress, and find a way to get on in the world.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in England, Caroline's Uncle Chandos dies leaving his fortune not to his suspiciously charming nephew and grasping sister-in-law, but to fair Caroline. Clearly, something must be done about that.

Overall, Caroline and Julia is a delightful romp just as much about Caroline and Julia's deepening friendship as her blossoming love for a young lord (who pens the most dreadful poetry). I worried at first that Darcy would fling Caroline and Neville together as they are cousins and their marriage would make things very tidy, story-wise. And also very undramatic!

Happily, Caroline doesn't fall in love with her cousin (Neville and she become great friends) and makes a much more age and temperament appropriate match. As does Julia, of course, because even thirtyish widows-turned-actress deserve a handsome, wealthy, self-aware and age-appropriate husband.

Clare Darcy is the pseudonym of deceased American author, Mary Deasy, who published more than a dozen Regency novels under that name. Happily, my library owns three others and I shall give them a try. Unhappily, age and use have rendered them excessively unattractive-looking and rather icky-to-the-touch. As they are not particularly famous or “important” genre-wise, my best hope is someone like Uncial Press releases them as eBooks ...

Caroline and Julia: A Novel of Regency England by Clare Darcy (Walker & Company, 1982)

09 May 2014

Lady Elizabeth’s Comet


Lady Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of a recently deceased earl of Clanross, is quite infatuated with astronomy. While she knows she should marry at some point (she's nearly thirty!) and assume her ordained place in society, Elizabeth really would much rather discover a comet. Besides, any man who marries her would surely expect her to give up her astronomical-leanings and blue-stocking ways.

And then the new Lord Clanross arrives to take over the family estate and their personalities clash rather terribly. Total surprise there, I'm sure. Fortunately, the new Lord Clanross requires Elizabeth's help and the more time they spend in each other's company the more sympathetic they become toward one another. And that's all pretty fine, because maybe Elizabeth has found a man who wants an astronomer as much as he wants a wife.

Really, Lady Elizabeth's Comet is quite modern in its treatment of marriage and womanhood. Elizabeth, while not particularly feminine or maternal and in so many ways completely unorthodox in her behaviors, completely buys into the idea she cannot be the "right kind of woman" and an astronomer ... and so, well, she's decided she'll simply never marry. It's Clanross, who never had any expectation of the earldom, who is the feminist and proponent of personal freedom within the structure of Regency marriage. It's rather delightful. Reader, I would have married him.

(I know! After all that talk about not reading historical romances anymore, what have I been doing? Reading them! Enjoying them! Egg on my face, yes? I've also been reading "serious" nonfiction like Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness ... I just find them much harder to talk about).

Lady Elizabeth's Comet: A Romance of Regency England by Sheila Simonson (Walker & Company, 1985)

30 March 2014

Your Wicked Ways


Helene had a shrewd feeling that she would be besieged with morning callers. No staid matron could chop off all her hair, put on a flagrantly outrageous gown, and disappear from a ballroom with the Earl of Mayne, without every single female acquaintance she had in the world -- and several whom she did not -- developing a burning ambition to take tea at her house.

Your Wicked Ways is the fourth book in Eloisa James's Duchess Quartet. I haven't read the other three, but Your Wicked Ways seemed to stand well enough on its own. James provided just enough background for Helene's besties (heroines of prior novels) for me to understand why they're all friends, but not so much as to make me feel she was padding out Your Wicked Ways by rehashing prior novels (this can be a problem in series).

I know I was very grumpy about historical romances a few months ago and said I would stop reading them, but ... I changed my mind after James mentioned this novel during the "Steamy Stories -- Bestselling Romance and Erotica Authors" at the Big Book Getaway. A funny but sexy novel about a woman so in want of a child that she would move in with her husband and his mistress to get one? Yes, please!

And I was not disappointed. Your Wicked Ways was, apparently, the tasty romantic candyfloss I'd been secretly yearning for and (aside from the outdoor sexytimes which, briefly, made me what to put the novel aside because sexytimes do not belong outdoors) I gobbled it up in ninety minutes. Seriously. That's one and a half lunch breaks. And I was eating while I read it.

I think Your Wicked Ways is the first historical romance I've read where the male romantic lead is terrible at sex (even his mistress mocks him). Obviously, like real human beings, he gets better with practice and is pretty hot stuff by the end of the novel. And that was quite refreshing, you know, because Romantic Heroes are always Masters of the Sexyverse and the heroine's first time with the hero is always Totes Awesome.

Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James (Avon, 2004)

28 March 2014

A Cousinly Connexion


At eighteen Jane Ash fell in love with Edward Wincanton, an ensign in the Royal Navy. The youngest son of a local squire, Wincanton did not seem to Jane's father a suitable match for his only daughter. After some thought, for he was inclined to indulge her, Mr. Ash refused his consent to the match. Jane wept. Ensign Wincanton, his leave up, returned to his ship. Life went on.

Unlike several of her favourite heroines, Jane did not go into a decline, or join the Navy in the guise of a cabin boy, or sit mindless in a ruined tower twining jonquils into her tangled locks. As she was a sensible girl and fond of her father and brothers, she very soon entered again into their ordinary country pursuits. If she occasionally sighed without apparent cause or read the naval news with more eagerness than might have been expected in a female of tender years, her family were careful to take no notice.

A Cousinly Connexion was leant to me by a coworker who enjoys Georgette Heyer's Regency romances ever more than I do. She said it was a charming, thoroughly old-school Regency and she was right. A Cousinly Connexion is a sweet and rather delightful read. The novel begins with a nod to Persuasion and goes on to nicely subvert a few common Regency romance tropes in the form of The Absent Father, The Tulip, etc.

Simonson has a good grasp of Regency culture and history and I felt fully immersed in the time and the place. The characters, too, seemed born to the age -- a nice change from the many historical romance novels I've read where it seems the author thought it was good enough to put thoroughly contemporary people in period dress and let them fling themselves at each other. It never is (unless you've written something like Austenland, but that's a very different kind of romance).

Simsonson wrote five Regency romances and, while they're hard to find in print (my library system owns a paltry two), they are all available as ebooks from Uncial Press. Huzzah.

A Cousinly Connexion by Sheila Simonson (Amazon Digital Services, Kindle Edition)

17 January 2014

A Change of Heart


Ah, sweet Mary, he thought as he looked down into her big hazel eyes. She was going to provide him the means to dig himself out of the quagmire of debts he had inherited. He was sincerely grateful to her and would attempt -- he really would attempt -- to be an accommodating husband. He was fond of her, after all, regardless of the fact that she in no way represented the sort of woman he preferred. At least, he thought as he pulled the diminutive bundle in his arms closer, she was not completely unattractive to him.

A charming but unattractive spinster befriends a naughty rake in search of a wife and offers to help him find the perfect bride. And she does bring him miss after miss, but none take as they all have one fatal flaw -- they're not rich. But it's not the spinster's fault as the rake never told her he must have a rich wife. And why hasn't he told he this? Because he doesn't want to be seen as a pitiful fortune hunter. (Perfectly fine to be a debauched rake, of course). Also, the rake finds himself growing increasingly fond of the spinster (and the spinster of the rake, conveniently). The spinster is the perfect friend and could be the perfect wife, if only she were rich ...

You see where this is going, right? She'll turn out of be quite rich. He'll marry her for the money. She'll think it's out of friendship and mutual understanding. She'll discover The Terrible Truth. There will be Suffering and Reconciliation and Love.

And the story does fall along those lines, but ... it's actually not bad. Predictable, but also kind-of cute and funny in places. I enjoyed the secondary romance that blossomed between Mrs. Bannister and Mr. Maitland and watching Spinster Mary interact with Jack's family as they were all quite interesting and rather lovely characters.

However, I did not really warm to Jack the Rake. He treated her quite shabbily as both a friend and a fiance and, one more than one occasion, he nearly ruined the novel for me. I guess he's so used to turning his charms on a woman and having her bend to his every whim that he thinks he can get away with being an ass? Because he is quite frequently an ass. Even visualizing him as Hugh Laurie (an actor that was born to play a Regency Rake if any man ever was) did not help and that's my surefire way to stop hatin' on a rakish lead.

I think I'm simply going to stop reading romances for a while. After all, there are many other genres to try. I've never read a Western ...

A Change of Heart by Candice Hern (Signet, 1995)

25 November 2013

The Best Intentions


She knew it was wrong, but she could not help it. He was just about the most wonderful man she'd ever met.
She had to go careening into a footman and fall on her bum in front of this perfect man.
What a silly cow she was for believing the magic of the evening could last.
She wanted to die.

Recently, I noticed many of Candice Hern's older Signet Regency romances have been repackaged with rather attractive covers and I have been sorely tempted to purchase them. I am, however, mercilessly miserly these days, and have resorted to getting the much less attractive 1990s mass market paperbacks from the library. And, in the case of The Best Intentions, a good thing, too, because I'd be rather angry to have spent $8.09 on this ... piffle.

Two sisters -- Charlotte, the Hot Older Widow, and Hannah, the Awkward Nerdy Chit -- are visiting with the Earl of Strickland's family. A widower, the (somewhat starchy) Earl is in want of a wife and mother for his two young daughters. Undoubtedly, Charlotte would make a fine match. But, of course, the Earl finds that the more time he spends with Hannah, the more he enjoys her awkward, nerdy charms. She's funny, smart, has fine eyes and clearly likes his daughters. And his daughters clearly like her back. Indeed, the Earl finds he only thinks about Hot Charlotte when she's in front of him, all husky whispers and practiced, womanly charm ...

And, you know, I would have been fine with Awkward Nerdy Chit marries Starchy Earl and destarchifies him, but the difference in ages rather ruined the sweetness of their budding romance for me. Also, the sudden introduction of the Elopement Misunderstanding at the end of the book just added unnecessary drama as it did nothing to move the plot along that couldn't have been done without it. I think I was supposed to find it funny and sweet, but it just made me regret reading that far.

While I've read other Regencies by Hern and enjoyed them (seriously, she's much better than this), The Best Intentions was a bitter disappointment.

The Best Intentions by Candice Hern (Signet, 1999)

13 August 2013

Top 10 Tuesday: Favorite Bath Romances


This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a bit of a free-for-all as we're to list our top ten favorite books in X setting (where X can be anywhere, anywhen). As it's my fourteenth wedding anniversary today and The Husband is English, here are my favorite 10 14 romantic novels set in Bath! Or The Bath, if you read any Chesney.
  1. A Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer
  2. A Proper Companion by Candice Hern
  3. An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan
  4. Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer
  5. Belinda Goes to Bath by Marion Chesney
  6. Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
  7. Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
  8. Evelina by Fanny Burney
  9. Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer
  10. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  11. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  12. Slightly Scandalous by Mary Balogh
  13. The Marriage List by Dorothy McFalls
  14. The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig

09 August 2013

Keeping the Castle



I sighed. When would I learn to speak with a tactful tongue? There went another one. I kept forgetting how ridiculously sensitive and illogical men were. He assumed that his fortune would buy a beauty; I assumed that my beauty would procure me a rich husband. It seemed much the same to me, but evidently what was permissible in a man was not in a woman.

Ah well. There was yet time; I was but seventeen.

Althea needs to marry well to keep up the crumbling folly of a castle built by her great-grandfather, and to support her widowed mother, young brother, and two wealthy but parsimonious step-sisters. Luckily, Lord Boring and his (annoying/rude/infuriating ... we all know where this is going, right?) cousin/business manager, Mr. Fredericks, come to live nearby and suddenly life in Lesser Hoo is full of new possibilities. If only Althea’s two fabulously rich (and fabulously horrible) stepsisters don’t muck things up. And the castle doesn’t fall down before she can get married. And Mr. Fredericks, that jumped-up nobody, would stop being so annoying.

Delightful novel! Hilarious novel! Adorable novel! Stuffed with enough funny/sweet/romantic incidents to make any lover of light Regencies swoon, but not larded with unnecessary verbiage or plot points. Unlike some other Austen/Heyer homages I’ve read lately , I never felt as if I was reading my way through a checklist of Regency romance must haves -- the novel certainly owes a great deal to Austen and Heyer, but it feels more like a love letter to the two than something written to Make All the Monies.

And, oh! The character names! Such excellent and utterly ridiculous names -- Lord Boring, The Marquis of Bumbershook, Mr. Godalming (which I always read as Mr. Goddamning), Miss Sneech, and Greengages the butler.

Keeping the Castle: A Tale of Romances, Riches, and Real Estate by Patrice Kindl (Viking, 2012)

31 May 2013

Belinda Goes to Bath

Marion Chesney's romances always confuse me because I feel they should be older than they are. Belinda Goes to Bath, for example, was published in 1991! Looking at the rather unfortunate cover art, I was expecting something from the 70s or early 80s.

His cheekbones & jaw are ridiculous

Wish I'd read this edition!

Belinda Goes to Bath is the second in Chesney's The Travelling Matchmaker series. While I have not read the first novel, Emily Goes to Exeter, I don't feel I missed anything as Belinda is fairly self-explanatory.

Miss Hannah Pym, once a housekeeper but now a lady of independent means, travels via stagecoach to "The Bath" in search of new experiences. She hopes her companions will be interesting ... and is not disappointed for she shares her coach with a seemingly mismatched miserable married couple as well as an outspoken (and not-classically-beautiful-but-compelling) heiress and her dour companion. And the coachman is a drunkard who falls asleep and dumps the coach into a river. In the middle of winter, no less. Luckily, they all find themselves rescued by a marquess ... And that's when Miss Hannah Pym proves her name as the Travelling Matchmaker.

Belinda Goes to Bath is a comfortable sort of historical romance -- quite predictable but still pleasant. The kind of novel you don't need to give your full attention in order to follow or enjoy.

Belinda Goes to Bath by Marion Chesney (St. Martin's Press, 1991)