As my ignominious devouring of romance novels continues and I present another one for review, I must start by making sure everyone bothering to read this is on the same page: There are two basic types of heroes in these books a) Laconic Warrior (usually a Laird or Cowboy) and b) Reformed Rakes Make the Best Husbands (titled and/or rich charming rake) as detailed in my first review. I prefer the Rakes by a mile. The books below are what I have read recently; I’m not counting them in my CBR total, but this is what I have been up (sunk) to:
Ransom – Julie Garwood – Laconic Warrior – predictable Garwood (which is not a bad thing, she’s reliable)
Honour’s Splendour – Julie Garwood – Laconic Warrior predictable Garwood
Prince Charming – Julie Garwood – Laconic Warrior, sub par Garwood
The Bride – Julie Garwood – Laconic Warrior – predictable Garwood
Once and Always – Judith McNaught –
Reformed Rakes Make the Best Husbands. Charming Cynical Bastard. Gorgeous Bastard. Asshole. Rapist.
Temptation and Surrender – Stephanie Laurens – Surprisingly graphic, thisclosetosmut, occasionally hot, but not romantic
An Ideal Bride – Stephanie Laurens – Surprisingly graphic: 20 page sex scenes, really? Nervous virgins do things like that? Really?
The Heir – Joanna Lindsey – Tepid, underwritten, and dull.
Oh, but then Amazon helped me discover Julia Quinn. She knows her way around a Reformed Rake, although, truthfully, they are more experienced charmers than genuinely rakish. I so don’t care. As is common with romance writers, Quinn created a series of books built around a family group, in this case the 8 Bridgerton children. Each is given their own book and, according to Amazon, the quality diminishes as one progresses through them. Last Friday, I picked up An Offer from a Gentleman (Bridgerton Family #3) about Benedict, and Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (Bridgerton Family #4) featuring Colin. I’d finished both of them by Saturday night. All of the family are described as having chestnut hair and wide mouths, and, although their eye colour varies, I choose to picture the men as all looking like a variation of this (but English and during the Regency):
I’ll give you a moment to collect yourself.
Now THESE are romance novels. Not the overwrought conflagration of sex scenes of Stephanie Laurens wherein everyone is on fire and ends up in the stars, or the tepid high school insufficiencies of Joanna Lindsey. Julia Quinn gets it right: There are no dramatic subplots just to fill pages; the writing is funny; the relationships are romantic; and there is playful banter. Oh, how I love the banter. The men are extremely attractive, and the women, well, the women are of the Wallflower/Why Didn’t Anyone Notice Me Sooner? variety. As a woman who never garnered much male attention, I relate to this type quite well because, in the real world, people don’t actually find it enchanting when you talk like a Gilmore Girl by way of Katharine Hepburn. Anyway, in An Offer from a Gentleman , Benedict (son #2) first meets Sophie Beckett (abused bastard daughter of the late Earl of Penwood) at a masked ball her stepmother has forbidden her to attend. She has to leave quickly and he doesn’t even find out her name. Left with only the mystery woman’s glove, Benedict spends months looking for, and dreaming of, the woman he met. Mercifully, the description of those months lasts just a couple of pages. Meanwhile, Sophie is a little busier as she is cast out of her home and must find work as a servant. Their paths cross again two years later when Benedict saves her from being attacked and then, conveniently, falls ill and she stays with him. All of these books contain these contrivances and, again, I so don’t care. They fall for each other all over again, but she will not reveal they have met before, and he cannot marry a woman of her station/origins. In between the meeting and the marrying, the reader gets delightful interplay between the characters, genuinely romantic descriptions of how they feel about one another, and some well-written love scenes (although at least one more would have been nice). This book was exactly what I was looking for. I may even have taken a reading break to run into the living room to yell at Mr. Julien, “OH MY GOD! I LOVE THIS BOOK!”
I have ordered Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton books 1 and 2 (Daphne, then Anthony) used from Amazon. If I’m going to read this stuff, the least I can do is only pay 1 cent, plus shipping, for it. Next up after Quinn is Lisa Kleypas’ The Devil in Winter. I’ve decided not to review any more of these books, but I can tell you that the Devil excerpts I’ve read on Amazon held the promise a genuine rakehell at last. (2019 Update: HA! HA! HA!)