Before I begin: Thank you, Malin, for the loan of these books. My Julie Anne Long collection was not going to complete itself.
These three historical romances are an early trilogy from one of the genre’s best writers. Good, but not great, one can feel Julie Anne Long picking up speed and confidence as one moves through the novels. The heroines of each of the three books are the daughters of a Member of Parliament and his beloved mistress. Although never married, their parents had an exclusive, long-term relationship until their father was murdered, their mother was accused of the crime and fled into exile, and a loving family friend took it upon himself to see to the welfare of the three little girls. It was the worst Tuesday ever. The sisters’ efforts to reunite and to bring their father’s murderer to justice is the through line of the trilogy.
Beauty and the Spy (Kit/Susannah)
Susannah is feeling a skooch squelched in her perfect life. Everything is fine, but she’s not really able to completely be herself. Don’t worry, complications are about to enter her life like whatever the Regency version of a Mack truck is. Her father dies, she is left penniless, subsequently fiance-less, and she has to move to a remote village to begin a life of genteel poverty. Fortunately, Kit is there conducting a wildlife survey on his estate. It’s a McGuffin within a McGuffin as Kit’s convenient presence is at the behest of his tired and protective father. Sparks fly, romance ensues, family secrets are discovered and create a through line for the next two books…
Ways to Be Wicked (Tom/Sylvie)
Ways to Be Wicked offered a pleasantly different take on the Regency era. Everyone actually works for a living – QUELLE HORREUR! – and no one looks askance at taking what opportunities for increased financial security may come.
Sylvie has just learned that she has a sister in England (Hint: It’s Susannah.) and runs away from her life as a Parisian ballet dancer/aristocrat’s mistress to find her family. She ends up working in an, um, gentleman’s theatre as one of a collection of young women whose job it is to wear diaphanous clothing, twirl, and exclaim “Whee!”. She’s not to happy about it, but the man who hired her, Tom, is meshuggah good-looking and fascinated by her. Sparks fly, romance ensues, family secrets are discovered and create a through line for the next book…
The Secret to Seduction (Rhys/Sabrina)
I don’t find the remnants of feudalism all that appealing, but they are very important to Rhys who is an aristocrat of some sort. An earl, I think. I can’t remember this book well. Sabrina is a vicar’s daughter and joins her friend as a house guest (It’s coming back to me.) at Rhys’s recently restored estate. She falls ill and has to stay behind, Rhys is a jerk who decides to compromise her as some sort of egotistical entertainment – Rhys does not start well, readers – they get caught in a MAJOR clinch, and end up in a marriage of convenience. (I remembered!) Rhys and Sabrina live separate lives for a bit, he shows up of an evening for procreative purposes, they find their way into a good marriage, then Rhys’s deep dark secret comes out and everything goes KABLOOEY! before being put back to rights. Note: The KABLOOEY! inducing plot twist is pretty darn good.
The Secret to Seduction wraps up the Three Sisters trilogy with a neat bow thus freeing Julie Anne Long to move on to her current Pennyroyal Green series. I have read all of her output and will now spend my time eagerly awaiting her next book. Unfortunately for the readers, but pleasantly for the author, Long’s publishing schedule is about one novel a year. She is a clever and fun writer with a deep and joyful love of sarcasm who pens entertaining and charming novels. Long’s most compelling work so far is What I Did for a Duke. In it, she pulls off a huge age difference and creates a fantastic hero. The heroine is pretty terrific, too, but he is magnificent. All of Long’s books have themes of vulnerability and the necessity of laying oneself bare in order to take a chance on creating genuine happiness for oneself. It’s a lovely thought and she does it so well. I like to keep her handy on my autobuy list.
A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.