Tag Archives: Pennyroyal Green

The Pennyroyal Green Series: The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long

Having read Julie Anne Long’s eleven book Regency romance Pennyroyal Green series, I am not really in a position to judge how this novel reads as a standalone, but as a long-awaited end to the series, I have but two syllables: BRAVO! Somehow The Legend of Lyon Redmond manages to be both epic in the way required of its buildup and personal in its sweet and believable love story. What’s more, Long successfully tied up every single loose end I could think of from the preceding books. I can’t imagine the planning and plotting involved.

As the two big fish in the small pond of Pennyroyal Green, Sussex, the Redmond and Eversea families are centuries-long rivals for fame and fortune.  They also share a legend that once in every generation, there will be a pair of star-crossed lovers in their rival folds. In the current generation, it is eldest son Lyon Redmond and eldest daughter Olivia Eversea. Like Romeo and Juliet, they spy each other across a crowded room and are instantly, overwhelmingly drawn to each other. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, they do not die owing to a Big Misunderstanding; however, when their secret relationship is discovered it ends with Lyon disappearing for five years. Nothing is known of his whereabouts or what on earth Olivia did to make him leave, so this thread of the missing son and the self-contained, possibly pining woman has woven through the first 10 books. Olivia and Lyon have had character development over the series, so when Olivia decided to moved on and take a suitor, readers knew their end was in sight.

The Legend of Lyon Redmond starts with Olivia preparing for her wedding to an incredibly patient man, Lord Landsdowne, and then flashes back and forth to her relationship with Lyon and the eventual final straw that drove him away.  I loved it. The juxtaposition of who they were then and are now was a great display of character development, particularly hers. Lyon may have gained a reputation as a mystery man, and possible pirate, but Olivia has been living under the weight of her role as a jilted woman, and consequently a matrimonial prize, for years and she has been worn down by it.

Long is always a funny, clever writer, but she sometimes leans towards the twee. That was not the case with The Legend of Lyon Redmond. What I found instead was that she seemed to be giving the historical romance genre and its tropes a big, enthusiastic kiss. I greeted so many of the events with a delighted “of course!” as Long used many standard romance turns, but the joy was in recognizing and embracing them while they were happening. They ALL work because the reader is in on the joke (such sounds of glee, I made), knows what is going on, and because the emotional connection between Lyon and Olivia is written so sincerely and is so completely understandable. Thank you, Julie Anne Long. The Legend of Lyon Redmond  was a long hoped-for gift wrapped with a beautiful bow.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations and a ranked order of the Pennyroyal Green series, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

Julie Anne Long’s Catalogue

HISTORICAL ROMANCES

Early Books:
The Runaway Duke – early work, dated
To Love a Thiefvery enjoyable

Three Sisters Trilogy: early series, fine
Beauty and the Spy
Ways to Be Wicked
The Secret to Seduction

Pennyroyal Green Series:
The Perils of Pleasure  – fun
Like No Other LoverDelightful, hot
Since the Surrender – fine, prostitution shouldn’t be funny
I Kissed an Earl – very popular
What I Did for a DukeCLASSIC, fantastic hero
How the Marquess Was Won – really good, but it fell apart
A Notorious Countess Confesses excellent
It Happened One Midnight very good, but somehow not memorable
Between the Devil and Ian Eversea – meh, more of the hero from What I Did for a Duke
It Started with a Scandal – enjoyable enough, but nothing special
The Legend of Lyon Redmond FANTASTIC, better if you read the series first

The Pennyroyal Green series ranked, numbers 1 and 2 are non-negotiable:

1. What I Did for a Duke
2. The Legend of Lyon Redmond
3. A Notorious Countess Confesses
4. It Happened One Midnight
5. Like No Other Lover
6. I Kissed an Earl
7. Between the Devil and Ian Eversea
8. It Started with a Scandal
9. The Perils of Pleasure
10. Since the Surrender
11. How the Marquess Was Won

The Pennyroyal Green Series: Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long

Tansy Danforth is isolated, orphaned, and looking to a family friend to help her both settle in a new country and, this is a historical romance after all, marry to gain access to her inheritance. Fortunately for Julie Anne Long fans, the friend is Alex Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge who, along with Genevieve his Duchess, is from Long’s classic romance pairing in What I Did for a Duke. Tansy is staying at the Eversea estate in Pennyroyal Green while she gets her footing. Her hero is Ian, the lone unmarried Eversea son and someone who has always been an entertaining addition to the novels.

In What I Did for a Duke, Ian was the story catalyst when he was found in whatever state is the razor’s edge of in flagrante delicto with Alex’s soon-to-be erstwhile fiance. Alex planned a retaliatory ruination of Ian’s sister Genevieve and, of course, fell in love with her instead. As an added bonus to the falling in love, Alex took the opportunity to torment a well-deserving Ian for his sins. Rakish to the degree that he shows very poor judgement and behaves selfishly, Ian needs someone to lead him a merry chase to help get him back on track as the person he manages to be in other aspects of his life. Enter Tansy and Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.

Tansy is the woman who stories like to tell us women hate. She is beautiful. She steals all the male attention. She feigns confusion and claims incompetence to flatter and soothe. (Okay, I admit I do loathe that in men and in women.) She flirts endlessly, shamelessly, but not really as subtly as she thinks she does. Instead of being cold or calculating, Tansy is desperately lonely and doing her best to garner attention, even superficial attention, to take the edge off her isolation. This is not to say that she can’t be a bit annoying. It’s a habit she needs to break. Tansy is young, she has had too many bad things happen in her life, and she is doing her best. Ian sees through the flirtation inasmuch as he recognizes it as an act, but it takes longer for him to truly see Tansy. Long shows the reader Tansy’s real self through her interactions with her guardian and the people most would consider inconsequential in their world. When Ian and Tansy genuinely see each other, they, of course, find their match.

Julie Anne Long seldom disappoints and she does not do so here, nor does she truly succeed. She is one of the best writers in the historical romance business and I always eagerly anticipate her new releases. As one would expect, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea is wry and frequently laugh out loud funny. She balances character development and sincere romance with a consistently droll tone which is a fine accomplishment indeed. From a thematic perspective, I’ve realised that a lot of Long’s protagonists are people trying to figure out how to be in control in world where they have little to none. Even those who seemingly have power or choice are not immune to loss, life, and the struggle to manage it. Only when they surrender the masks or efforts for control do they have the opportunity to build something more. It’s a lovely through-line for her books.

I don’t know if I’ve been too subtle about it, but What I Did for a Duke is delightful and a classic of the genre. If you are a romance fan and have not yet read it, do yourself a favour and snap it up at the same time as you buy Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

The Pennyroyal Green Series: It Happened One Midnight by Julie Anne Long

This is the part I wrote before I read the book which is, as one might expect should one be paying attention to both me and such things, a historical romance novel and which, as one might expect of someone who often takes longer to write the reviews than read the book, has been copiously revised since.

It Happened One Midnight is a new release from someone on my autobuy list and as such makes me very, very happy.  There are authors for whom I will pay full price and whose books I order in advance for Kindle. In order of quality with one being “magnificent” and 5 being “You show promise, Caroline,”, and no one being anything less than very good indeed, they are:

  1. The Monarch, Courtney Milan, who happens to have a book coming out on July 15th.
  2. Julie Anne Long – DING! DING! DING!
  3. Tessa Dare released a delightful book two weeks ago called Any Duchess Will Do
  4. Sarah MacLean whose next book comes out in November.
  5. Caroline Linden who has a new book out on July 30th.

This is the part I wrote while reading the book…

Julie Anne Long is the second best author in historical romance and while that may seem like damning with faint praise, the simple fact is that Courtney Milan is genre-defyingly good; HOWEVER, to give credit where it is due, Julie Anne Long is an extremely clever writer and is actually funnier than Milan. She creates entertaining conversation, well-rounded characters, and magnificent smolder. Her current series, which will be at least 10 books if I am adding correctly, is built around the fictional Sussex town of Pennyroyal Green and features the Eversea and Redmond families. This time it is Jonathon Redmond’s turn and, to be honest, I wasn’t that excited about his story. He hadn’t made much of an impression in previous appearances. I. Was. Wrong. I’m 25% of the way through It Happened One Midnight and it is laugh out loud funny.

Thomasina (which is apparently not pronounced Tamsin as I had been gulled into believing and I still think I’m right) “Tommy” de Ballesteros is the illegitimate daughter of a displaced Spanish princess or some such. I’m not really clear on that yet. She moves within Society, but is not precisely of it. She supports herself and does good works of the more than slightly dangerous variety. Confident, rich and rakish Jonathon Redmond is the youngest of four children and his controlling and obscenely wealthy father is about to cut him off without a penny. It’s something Isaiah Redmond does quite often: cuts children off, drives them away, and forbids their delightful, but inappropriate, wives entry to the family homes. Things of that nature. In this case, Jonathon has shown some prowess with investments, although he is between profits at present, and hoped his father would help him invest in a colour printing press, the first of its kind in England. Isaiah says, “No. I want you to get married in the next six months to an appropriate rich woman with a title or lose your inheritance. Your mother will put it about that you are available. I’m cutting off your allowance.” Now Jonathon needs an investor and/or a suitable wife. Tommy needs to create some security for herself and would very much appreciate it if people would stop assuming that she is a courtesan.

Back to reading, but first something for you to do while you are waiting. I have reviewed two of Long’s books and I recommend both of them very highly: A Notorious Countess Confesses and What I Did for a Duke which is a classic.

After devouring It Happened One Midnight

Julie Anne Long’s best work features truly swoonworthy heroes and vibrant heroines. Jonathon and Tommy are great both together and individually.  Long gives them time to grow and opportunities for the reader to see how they fit together.This was an engaging, winsome and satisfying read. The subplots involve poignant exploration of nineteenth century social issues and the nature of family. Long continues to be in great form and avoided the twee pitfalls of her last book, but not all of the editing issues which is a very minor quibble.  I emphatically recommend It Happened One Midnight.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

The Pennyroyal Green Series: A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

I’ve started on reviews of many random novels and revisited the basic, and, I discovered, quite outdated romance tropes introduction from my first entry. But let’s be honest, I only wrote it because I was embarrassed about reading historical romance novels genre fiction, and wanted to be wry and self-basting. It’s one hundred and twenty books later and I know the current constructs, character types, and that the consummation devoutly to be wished occurs around page 200. I can explain which authors write the best love scenes and that the books range from fade-to-black to thisclosetoerotica. (Wikipedia tells me the when it is thisclosetoerotica, they call it “romantica” which sounds like an android sex worker who, for 5 dollars more, will tell you that she loves you.) None of this matters. What I like and don’t like in regard to the love scenes is of interest only to me, Mr. Julien, and the version of Daniel Craig that lives in my id. It would tell you more about my tastes and proclivities than about the genre; however, if YOU want to read this kind of book, I recommend not only reading the first couple of pages as you would any book, but also flipping forward to about page 200 when they get busy. Running into an off-putting love scene can derail the entire reading experience, so you should get a preview first. I once looked at a book by a major romance author and found the phrase “and sucking, and sucking, and sucking, and sucking”. That’s right, four “and suckings”. An apt description of the writing, as well.

Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses continues her Pennyroyal Green series focused on the Redmond and Eversea families. In my review of What I Did for a Duke, I congratulated Long on pulling off a huge age difference. Her challenge this time is the character Malin and I enjoy referring to as “the hot vicar”. He is indeed very hot: tall, literally and metaphorically broad-shouldered, hard-working, sincere. The novel setting is Regency (God, I hate the clothing), so it was church or military, and Adam Sylvaine ended up with a family living from his Eversea uncle. It means he need not have been chaste nor uptight, but simply a good man who ended up in an available profession, and one he turned out to be very well suited for*. The heroine is the Countess of the title, Evie. I did not realise until quite far into the book that the main characters were Adam and Eve. It is mostly forgivable and also indicative of Long’s tendency towards the quietly twee.

Evie supported her brothers and sisters by working as an actress, then a courtesan, although “there were only two”, and lastly she married an Earl who won the right to wed her in a poker game. When the story begins, she has just come out of mourning for the Earl and moved to the house he bequeathed to her in Pennyroyal Green. She has a scandalous reputation, just enough money, and a desire to start again. She falls for the hot vicar because, while he is drawn to her, he is so self-possessed and at ease with himself that he is immune to her attempts to charm him, and to the facades she wears as self-protection. He is a good man, albeit a preternaturally attractive and charming one, but this is romance fiction after all. Adam takes Evie under his wing to help her join local society and find friends. The local women are alternately horrified and deliciously shocked by her. Evie is able to build a new life and Adam is given a safe haven from the constant demands and burdens of being the (hot) vicar.

Despite the fact that I prefer more sardonic rake in my heroes, I LOVED 90% of this book and Julie Anne Long is on my auto-buy list. She always manages to balance fantastic sexual tension, sincere characters, and be funny. She is so good at the tension that the most intense scene in the book involves Adam kissing Evie on her shoulder. There were flames shooting off my Kindle. Long also pulls off a very clever running joke about embroidered pillows that crescendos with dueling Bible verses about licentiousness. So what went wrong with that last 10%? I overlooked the patronizing attitude towards the harried mother, and the whole boots and breeches impossibility, but the ending was TWEE AS FU*K. It started out swooningly-romantic and then kind of fell apart for me. Her last novel, How the Marquess Was Won, (she needs to fire whomever approves these titles) suffered the same fate: Fantastic romance undermined by trite plotting choices. Right up to that point though, it was wonderful, and head and shoulders above the “and suckings” of the genre.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful which includes the aforementioned observations.

*Given that Julie Anne Long usually has a couple of enjoyably detailed love scenes, part of me secretly hopes that some naive fool looking for “Christian romance” bought this because it was about a (hot) vicar, had her hair blown straight back, and will follow up with a horrified one star review on Amazon.

The Pennyroyal Green Series: What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long

I’m still reading historical romance novels and I keep a list of them as though tracking such things makes it any less ignoble. I call it The Shameful Tally. I also track the heroes’ names (Alex and Sebastian being the most popular), and the books so awful that I gave up on them.

What I Did for a Duke is from Julie Anne Long’s “Pennyroyal Green” series about the Redmond and Eversea families. She has set herself up quite nicely for a large group of interconnected novels as is a standard practice in this genre. It gives the reader a chance to revisit their favourite characters and is something I particularly like; so much so that I must confess, I have even bought a book only because I knew I’d get to see “Sebastian and Evie” (Lisa Kleypas The Devil in Winter) again. I adore them. I will buy any book they are in. Publishers are smart and I am easily led. From this Julie Anne Long series, I’ve also read How the Marquess Was Won. That book was so good, so good, oh Sweet Fancy Moses that is romantic, wait, is this high school?, oh, now, it’s all fallen apart, RATS! By the way, if you think these titles are bad, Long has a book called I Kissed an Earl that is waiting for me on my Kindle. As if the cover art weren’t embarrassing enough, these titles add insult to ignominy.

I’ve sampled about 2 dozen writers and you’ve got to give a writer credit where it is due: If you can pull off an almost 20 year age difference and make it not only palatable but irrelevant, you are on the right track. What I Did for a Duke pairs 20 year old Genevieve Eversea with “almost forty” (a phrase often and lovingly repeated) Alex Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge. He is a widower out for revenge against Genevieve’s brother, Colin, for attempting to bed the Duke’s fiancée. Over the course of a house party, Alex sets out to seduce and leave Genevieve, but, pleasantly enough, the revenge plot is called off when this young woman figures it out, and is far lovelier and more attractive than Alex had anticipated. She’s bright and banters well. He’s charming and kind of autocratic. Tra la la. They get married. YAY!

There is nothing new here which is good because I am not looking for anything new, just fresh. It’s nice to see a standard revenge plot dismantled, but the real reason that this book works is simple: Julie Anne Long is very funny and she writes great smolder. That’s all it takes really; in fact, if you can pull off the funny, you don’t necessarily need the smolder, and, yes, she is that funny. [There was more here, but I’ve redacted the original pointlessly scathing review details.]

Edited April 17, 2013: I now consider Julie Anne Long one of the best romance writers currently publishing. Lisa Kleypas really skewed the curve for a while there when I was starting out with this phase. I bought this book as well as almost everything else Long has published, and she is on my autobuy list.

Edited October 1, 2013: What a bitchy review. So bitchy, this is the second time I have edited something that only I will see. What I Did for a Duke is a CLASSIC and I couldn’t see it at the time. The hero, Alex, is in the pantheon of great heroes. There are some issues with the structure, but the fact  is that in addition to the overall charm, humour, and delicious smolder, there is a two or three chapter section in the middle of the book that is simply magnificent. It features the hero and heroine having the kind of conversation that people falling in love have. The dialogue is honest and beautifully written, but what truly elevates it is the silences. There are long pauses during which the characters think and the reader follows their emotions to their conclusion. It’s just superlative and because it, and the rest of the book, are true to the emotional lives of the characters, Long accomplishes what every romance writer sets out to do.

A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.