Tag Archives: Regency romance

Venetia by Georgette Heyer

Venetia was my first Georgette Heyer novel which seems odd given my love of the genre and the author’s lauded status in it. I did try to read it once before, but didn’t get very far. This time, I kept going and was well rewarded for my determination. Venetia, as much as almost any romance I’ve read, is about the heroine’s effort and insistence on choosing her own life. Much of the tension in the novel comes from Venetia saying, “I want this,” repeatedly and dealing with virtually everyone else in her life, including the man she loves, trying to tell her no. She is determined to choose her own freedom.

 “So far from being content, she had never imagined that this could be her ultimate destiny. She wanted to see what the rest of the world as like: marriage only interested her as the sole means of escape for a gently born maiden.”

Published in 1958, I wondered if Heyer was writing as much about the women of her own generation who had been given unprecedented independence and responsibility during World War II while the men in their lives were away and then compressed back into their old roles when peacetime returned, as she was about Venetia herself. With deceased parents, an absent and completely disinterested older brother off on The Continent, and a younger brother at home, Venetia has been running her family estate successfully for years. Beautiful, practical, and very bright, she meets the neighbouring estate’s own prodigal son when Lord Dameral returns after many years abroad. Significantly older than her and of leaden reputation, Venetia and her brother become fast friends with Dameral and he is soon a fixture on their lives.

A rake with profligate tendencies, Dameral enjoys his neighbours and is, of course, drawn to the wry and clever Venetia, but feels her social standing could not survive a deeper association. He’s not made of stone. He’s madly in love with her, but they remain friends and settle into that relationship; however, when her absentee brother sends home a shy wife and her harridan of a mother, Venetia’s life is turned upside-down and she is forced to find her own way. The book is largely her story, but Dameral appears regularly to be kindred and delightful. He’s a charming rogue, but a thoughtful and polite one. In him, Venetia sees a future she can embrace even as she knows there may be financial and social challenges. This is her life and her choice to make and she is the one who will make it, damn it!

“Well, my usurper is not very young, and not handsome, and certainly not virtuous: quite the reverse in fact. On the other hand, he is not a bore.”

Precisely and deftly written, just like Venetia herself, the novel felt as though I was reading something that was actually written in 1820 instead of set there. I have a degree in English literature and I mention that at this juncture because I was chagrined to discover that I found the prose style, so witty, so elegant, so historically appropriate, a bit formal and challenging when I started reading; for example, there was one short passage alone contained five new-to-me idioms for intoxication. Clearly, I was able to sort them out and, to my tremendous relief, fall into the flow of the prose, though never quite completely. Since this issue can only be helped by exposure and practice, please let me know which Georgette Heyer novel I should try next. As is often the case, I suspect I have tried a new author starting with her greatest work, but I am certainly willing to give her other books a try.

Venetia has been added to my list of classic romances on my shortened recommendations list. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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The Reluctant Bride Collection: To Catch a Spinster, To Tame a Dragon, To Wed the Widow, and To Tempt the Saint by Megan Bryce

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The four Reluctant Bride Collection novels,  jaunty in tone and virtually chaste, provided a great introduction to Megan Bryce’s work. Connected by theme, but not characters, each of the books in this Regency historical romance series tackles a female stereotype and features an unusual and fiercely independent heroine:

  1. To Catch a Spinster – The Frump
  2. To Tame a Dragon – The Virago
  3. To Wed the Widow – The Maneater
  4. To Tempt the Saint – The Manipulator

What I enjoyed most was that the women did not change over the course of their stories. They may grow emotionally, but their essential nature is not changed. Each one simply meets a man who is her ideal counterpart. Brava!

To Catch A Spinster

Olivia Blakesley is a self-proclaimed spinster and glad of it. Bookish,  disinterested in fashion, and plain, she has a large family, her passion for painting constellations, and leads a full life. She knows marriage would curtail her freedom and wants none of it; however, there is one aspect of that state she wants to experience and she has chosen Nathaniel Jenkins to perform the task. He is an older man, “Tall, but not too tall. Handsome, but not diabolically so,”,  suffering through his mother’s tedious parade of potential mates whose youth makes him uncomfortable. When Olivia proposes her own seduction, he refuses, agrees, and then finds himself desperately trying to convince her to marry him, despite promising her he would not when they planned their “transaction”. What can he offer that is worth her liberty?

To Tame a Dragon

“She swept from the room like a hurricane on a mission.”

This delightful entry was my favourite of the series, though I enjoyed all of them and when I revisited the To Catch A Spinster, I found myself pleased to be torn. Bryce’s writing is just such droll fun.

Jameson Pendrake, Earl of Nighting has, moments before the novel opens, jilted his fiancée. The reader meets him prostrate on a sofa nursing his recently assaulted wedding tackle. His best friend, Robin, is there making sympathetic noises; Robin’s sister, Amelia, is there also, but with  a no-nonsense approach and offering to defray the impending scandal. The trio have known each other virtually their entire lives with Robin and Jameson having been school friends and Amelia insisting on tagging along whenever the boys went on adventures.

Amelia is an emphatically capable woman, deliciously wry and practical in her approach to the world. Jameson is irreverent, fun, and naughty in that way that can be so tempting in a prospective suitor. Not that she has ever allowed herself to think of Jameson that way. He is too good-looking by half and his exuberance leads to a lot of scrapes. Winning and adorable, he’s also got a good head on his shoulders because he comes to the realisation that Amelia is the perfect woman for him, “He shook his head, imagining himself in the role of her husband and she of his wife. The rightness  of it filled him. The peace of it filled him. And what an adventure it would be. The fun of it.” Now all he has to do is convince her of that:

She sighed and took a small step away from him. “There are two problems, and you are both of them.”
“I usually am.”
“You usually are.”

Of course, she capitulates and they get married,  all that’s left is for them to stop quipping at each other long enough to admit their true feelings.

The next two Reluctant Bride books feature men named George Sinclair (sin) and George St. Clair (the saint) respectively. I appreciate this on two levels:

1. as a clever play on words
2. I think it highly likely that there were a lot more men named “George” and a lot fewer men named “Logan” in historical romance than authors like to admit to, so the realism of it pleases me.

To Wed the Widow

As is the way of things, I read these books out-of-order and To Wed the Widow was my first foray into Bryce’s catalogue. The so-called maneater of this collection is someone who has been widowed five times.  To misquote Oscar Wilde, “To lose one husband may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose five looks like carelessness.” No one thinks she murdered the men, but their tendency to parish whilst married to her does give society pause; moreover, she has observed successively, shockingly shorter mourning periods after each husband even though she looks fabulous in black.

Lady Haywood is just too perfectly scandalous and tempting for George Sinclair. The younger brother of an Earl whose marriage has produced four daughters, George has just returned from many happy years in India to do his duty by the familial line of succession. The Earl’s wife, a lovely woman, nearly died when her last child was born and her husband has vowed never to chance a pregnancy again. The Countess is not on board with this plan and seeks Lady Haywood’s help in remedying the situation. Everyone skirmishes their way through the book towards a happy ending in spite of the Earl’s preferences and Lady Haywood’s awful brother who keeps showing up to throw a wrench into the works.

To Tempt the Saint

Bryce maintained the same clever voice as in the preceding books in the series, but To Tempt the Saint had a more serious tone and content overall. Relatively speaking, I found it the least enjoyable of the group, despite the excellent portrayal of complex characters and relationships. To Wed the Widow had a sinner, To Tempt the Saint has the opposite. George St. Clair wants to be left alone to pursue his business interests. His family considers this vulgar and wants him marry a decent woman and go into the Church. It’s what younger sons do, after all.

Precipitated by scandalous events in her youth and working with her aunt and uncle,  Honora makes her living through betrothals. She becomes engaged and then forces the man’s hand into breaking the marriage contract. Suing for damages, as was the way of the era, she then moves on to a new location and another man. Like the con in a heist movie going for one last job, the trio feel they need just one more big score before they can retire. Choosing independence, even through illegal activities, Honora is in a race between getting caught and collapsing under the emotional toll of her own subterfuge.

Attending a lecture on steam power as a potential investment – her ill-gotten gains aren’t going to languish in those famous Regency Five Percents – Honora meets and annoys George St. Clair thus gaining his attention. Falling apart emotionally as a result of her machinations, she remains resolute that if she can tempt George, the reward will set her little family up for life.  He is, naturally, the first man she has set her cap for who sees the real her and this complication propels the story.

As I got the first three Reluctant Bride novels free on Bookbub, I had no objection to paying full price for To Tempt the Saint. I felt that I owed Megan Bryce the money and probably a gratuity.

I have also read a contemporary Megan Bryce novel, Some Like It Charming,  that I will get around to reviewing eventually. It was light, fun, and required slightly more willing suspension of disbelief than I was able to provide.

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 Survivors’ Club: Only a Kiss by Mary Balogh

The Survivors’ Club series has had a really good run and there is one more book to go that I will be reading when it becomes available, but Only a Kiss was a swing and a miss. I never really connected with it and, in particular, didn’t get a handle on the hero.

Before I start, let’s take a moment to enjoy the gorgeous and mostly accurate (!) cover.

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The Survivors’ Club series follows the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars for six men and one woman. They spent three years together recovering from their respective visible and invisible war wounds and now, several years out from their injuries, they are each moving on to the next phase of their life with relationships and families. Only a Kiss is book six and features the lone woman of the group, Imogen. She has been described repeatedly as seemingly made of “marble” and it’s an excellent characterization. She experienced profound loss and psychological trauma during the War and has coped with life by going through the motions, but placing strict limits on her participation in the world and on her emotions. Occupying a dower house in Cornwall, her life is turned upside-down when the Earl whose land she lives on has the temerity to move home.

Percival, called Percy, thank heavens, the Earl of Somesuch can tick off every single box on the “Fabulous Life of a Privileged Nineteenth Century Man” list:

√  rich as Croesus
√  titled
√  well-educated
√  beloved of his family
√  possessed of friends
√  charming
√  good with children
√  healthy
√  genuinely handsome and not just told so because of the preceding attributes

So why is he incapable of being polite to Imogen and why won’t that stray dog leave Percy alone? The answer to both questions is that they see him as he really is. Imogen’s view is self-protectively jaundiced, the canine’s is, as is the way of the species, pure, unadulterated love. He comes to terms with both over the course of the story. Percy has no horrible secret lingering in his psyche. He is a good man whose usefulness has yet to be discovered, happily floating along knowing he has everything in life and a little disappointed in himself to discover he is overwhelmingly bored. Imogen takes care of this issue as she inspires  bluntness in him and he asks questions no one else has dared about her wartime experiences.

Events in Only a Kiss proceed predictably apace as one would expect in a romance, but I didn’t feel particularly invested in either of the characters. I was pleased Imogen allowed herself to truly re-enter the world of the living, but didn’t necessarily see the excellent qualities in Percy I was supposed to. Weighed down by a non-glamourized smuggling subplot (Huzzah for repudiating organized crime!) the book was enjoyable by virtue of being written by Mary Balogh, but not up to the standard readers know her to be capable of, or of the two books immediately preceding Only a Kiss in the Survivors’ Club series.

When you get this far into a series, there are a lot of feet on the ground and, in this case, they all have titles in addition to their given names to keep track of. I can mostly manage to keep up, but if I were to start with Only a Kiss, I’m sure I would find it frustrating. On the other hand, Balogh has created overlapping social circles between her many books and it is always fun to get glimpses of favourite characters from this collection and her other works.

The Survivors’ Club:
The Proposal  (Hugo/Gwen) – pleasant
The Arrangement  (Vincent/Sophia) – very sweet, understated
The Escape (Benedict/Samantha) – meh
Only Enchanting (Flavian/Agnes) – Wonderful, read this one. Read it twice.
Only a Promise  (Ralph/Chloe) – very good
Only a Kiss (Percy/Imogen) – see above
Only Beloved – sweet

Balogh has another popular series, all titled with “Slightly”, and Slightly Dangerous is a classic of the genre.

I created a romance review template to amuse myself when discussing Balogh’s  Handful of Gold.

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 Dressmakers Series: Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase

Short Version: I adored the hero and heroine and can’t remember another time I liked both protagonists so much. The plot was very good, but not quite great, so read it for Clara and Oliver, their every moment together is a delight.

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Long Version: Looking forward to Clara’s book in Loretta Chase’s Dressmaker’s Series, I was not disappointed. You have to love it when it feels like a book was written with you in mind. Dukes Prefer Blondes featured a Nick and Nora Charles style courtship but, as it is a historical romance, in the Regency. Chase uses the narrative structure incredibly effectively to both maintain the brittle, consciously closed-off outward appearances of the main characters while still sharing their true feelings and the effect they have on one another. All books with an omniscient narrator can do this, but this genre really lends itself to it, and few novels have done it quite so well as Dukes Prefer Blondes.

Clara is beautiful and rich which is hard to feel sorry for, but she is also considered the top marital prize of her season and her time as a trophy is wearing on her. Men pursue and propose to her, but only for the potential notoriety of being the man who gains her acquiescence. They don’t really see her; they talk at Clara, not to her. She is “wrapped in cotton wool” and stifled in every attempt to assert, not even her independence, but her brainpower and energies in anything other than the most safe and stultifying activities. Her mother is very concerned about social status and any notion of womanhood which maintains it, so Clara is allowed to participate in charity work and her efforts bring her into contact with an impoverished young woman looking for her missing brother. When Clara needs someone to help her locate the boy, she is brought to barrister Oliver “Raven” Radford.

Having embraced a nickname originally intended as an insult, Raven is the cousin of a duke and the son of a younger son who made good practicing law. He’s not touched by scandal, but his family is, though they don’t care – at least not until he falls for Lady Clara. A man of searing intellect and deficient in tact, he is startled and fascinated by the goddess who has appeared before him and appears to have wits on par with her beauty, not that he will admit that out loud, although occasionally his powerful reaction to his magnificent equal overwhelms him long enough for some imprudent physical contact. Raven helps Clara out and she plagues him until he marries her. He knows they are a bad match on paper, as deeply as he may want her, but he cannot resist and she does not play fair. In the end, they find a surprising way forward and Clara gets the freedom she hoped for, but not in the form she expected.

The sub-plots about Raven’s contentious relationship with London’s underworld did not work as well for me as the love story, but as long as Raven and Clara were in the same room, I didn’t need anything else. Dukes Prefer Blondes had all the smart banter I love and managed to convey true depth of emotion without any flowery speeches and dramatic declarations which would make people trained not to express emotion uncomfortable.You want to read this book, you’ll want to re-read it, too. I have added Dukes Prefer Blondes to my streamlined recommendations list to make sure as many people know that as possible.

Also by Loretta Chase – I’ve read twelve of her books, but only reviewed two:
Lord of Scoundrels – CLASSIC!
Silk Is for Seduction

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

Beau Crusoe by Carla Kelly

My list of unread novels from Carla Kelly’s Regency romance catalog is ever dwindling. I have as much faith that I will get to all of them eventually as Kelly herself does in the innate goodness of people. Beau Crusoe, like Libby’s London Merchant, goes in a different direction from many romances and it was pleasing to read something a little bit different and from such a skilled and experienced author.

From Amazon: Stranded alone on a desert island, he had lived to tell the tale. A triumphant return to the ton saw James Trevenen hailed as Beau Crusoe—a gentleman of spirit, verve and action. But only he knew the true cost of his survival! Susannah Park had been shunned by Society. She lived content with her calm existence—until Beau Crusoe determinedly cut up her peace! The beautiful widow wanted to help him heal the wounds of the past—but what secrets was this glorious man hiding?

After years living alone and tracking the local fauna to keep himself sane, James is back in civilization, (Regency England) and an unwilling national celebrity. He is understandably traumatized by his experiences, moreso than the reader learns initially, and in possession of a few eccentricities as a result. When asked to present a paper on his island’s crabs to a zoological society, James needs a place to stay and lands at the house of an odd, isolated family. One of the daughters of the house, a widow with a young son, works as an illustrator for a friend of the family and the man who is James’ host, if not his hotelier. He gives James a To Do list:

  1. Get rid of the toucans living in the front hall of Susannah’s family home
  2. Do something about Susannah’s awful sister
  3. Marry Susannah

Accomplishing all three tasks, the first by simply leaving the front door open, James forms a bond with Susannah and her young son. Desperately lonely and intermittently haunted, James’s embrace of an instant family feels logical as does Susannah’s longing for adventure and making good her chance for escape. Her decision to marry for love created a family scandal that no one, particularly her sister, will let her live down.

Beau Crusoe suffers from a bit of saviour syndrome, though James himself doesn’t, and everyone must be very glad he’s there to put everything to rights. Because Kelly is such a good writer and I was reading this off-kilter romance with absorption, it wasn’t really a problem, just something I noticed. The overall tone of the novel might be from what people are accustomed to, but with Kelly’s usual sincerity and lovely prose style, I simply appreciated what she was doing and that it succeeded so well.

My summary of Carla Kelly’s catalogue 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 Survivors’ Club: Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

Oh, Mary Balogh, reading one of your Regency romances is like slipping into a warm bath. Comfortable, always enjoyable and relaxing, you are so wonderfully consistent in your heartfelt stories about broken people finding a kindred spirit to fit their pieces to.

Only a Promise is book six in Balogh’s current series, Survivors’ Club, and one I greatly enjoyed. The full series, so far, is as follows –

The Survivors’ Club Series:
The Proposal (Hugo/Gwen) – pleasant
The Arrangement (Vincent/Sophia) – very sweet, understated
The Escape (Benedict/Samantha) – meh
Only Enchanting (Flavian/Agnes) – Wonderful, read this one. Read it twice.
Only a Promise (Ralph/Chloe) – very good
Only a Kiss (Percy/Imogen) – meh
Only Beloved – sweet

As is the way of things for women in all but certain parts of the modern era, Chloe Muirhead is a victim of circumstances beyond her control. Blessed with the kind of vibrant good looks and vivid red hair that have made men tell her she looks like an elite courtesan (much like that time someone told me, “You have a really nice voice, you should be a phone sex operator”) and a trio of family scandals, Chloe has made not one, but two precipitous departures from London matchmaking seasons. Settled into spinsterhood as the companion of an elderly family friend, it’s not an unhappy arrangement, but neither is it one in which she is particularly content. It will do.

Ralph (which I know is pronounced “Rafe”, but I have to constantly correctly myself) Stockwood is one of the survivors of the series name. He went to war at eighteen with three of his closest friends and came back alone, horribly wounded, and with deep-seated guilt for both his role in convincing his friends to buy commissions and for not dying with them. His recovery was slow and fraught with suicide attempts, but many years on he is once again functioning, although not fully emotionally connected to his life. Like Chloe, Ralph is largely going through the motions, although he is more obviously weighed down by his demons.

When Ralph’s elderly grandmother, and Chloe’s host, summons him for a Your Grandfather Is Ancient, You Need to Marry and Produce an Heir to the Dukedom discussion, Chloe takes a wonderfully bold step. She knows Ralph isn’t looking for a love match and she wants a home and family. She proposes to him. He refuses, then reconsiders. Lickety split, Chloe and Ralph are married, the duke dies, and the two of them are thrust into a new world.  Not only are they negotiating the terms of their relationship, one they had agreed would not go beyond mutual respect and politeness, but also how they’ll function in their public roles.

Ralph is a very closed off character, a polite and dutiful automaton. He’s not cold per se, just distant and unengaged. His unfurling takes time and Balogh gives it to him. Weeks pass instead of the usually compressed timelines in these novels and that’s one more reason Balogh is very good at what she does: People heal slowly. Chloe is likeable, relentlessly capable, and practical, but she has issues eating at her as well and has one fantastic, and I felt realistic, freak out that relieves her character from being too ideal. She’s strong, but she’s not invulnerable. The quietly stalwart and encouraging way Chloe and Ralph support each other confirms how well they match as a couple.

Of the Survivors’ Club series, I enjoyed this book and Only Enchanting the most. Only a Promise did reference a lot of characters from Balogh’s other series and that gave me mixed feelings as I both wanted a visit with the Duke and Duchess of Bewcastle (CLASSIC!) and had trouble keeping everyone straight. There are enough characters in this series to keep track off without bringing in guest stars. I am on my library waiting list for the next book, Only a Kiss, and would buy it immediately if Balogh’s publisher caught up to the rest of the romance world and lowered their prices for e-copies of their authors’ works.

Also by Mary Balogh is A Handful of Gold  for which I created a romance review template.

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

Spindle Cove Series: Lord Dashwood Missed Out by Tessa Dare

I have an addition to the Things That Occur to Me While Reading Historical Romance Novels:

LUST IS IMPERVIOUS TO COLD.

Never mind all those times people in these books get down to their skivvies in drafty old manor houses, lust’s powers are even greater than I supposed. How else could a person wearing a linen shift and corset while standing barefoot in a snow squall be aware of anything than the fact that she is bitterly cold? But I have gotten ahead of myself. First an explanation:

Elinora, having written a popular pamphlet reminding women that they don’t need marriage to have value, is on her way to Spindle Cove. Tessa Dare fans know it as the setting of her highly entertaining series of the same name and a hive of unusual, outcast, and delightful young women. Waylaid by coach schedules and finding herself riding in a carriage with the man who rejected her years before, she and the very subject of her pamphlet (“Lord Ashwood Missed Out”) end up needing to spend the night alone together in a shepherd’s hut to last out a winter storm. They have quite a bit to sort through these two and part of it leads Nora following Dash out into the snow scantily clad. Fortunately, they make it back inside and under the covers with reasonable alacrity. Events proceed apace from there.

Being a Spindle Cove novella, the reader gets to visit with Dare’s previous characters – Griff and Pauline; Thorne and Kate; Colin and Minerva; and Bram and Susanna – who  are caught up in  Nora’s impending visit and sexual one-upmanship amongst themselves. More importantly, we get to see Minerva’s sister, Charlotte, who is going to have a book of her own. Huzzah!

Lord Dashwood Missed Out is not a particularly strong novella. My battle with Dare’s insistence that I not only willingly suspend my disbelief, but club it into submission continues. It’s not just that some events are historically questionable, but that they are questionable full stop. I didn’t feel like I ever really connected with the characters, particularly Dash, and as a whole the plot seemed haphazardly joined together. Dare does have a charming novella called The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright which I suggest you read instead.

A complete summary of Tessa Dare’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.

Forever Betrothed, Never the Bride by Christi Caldwell

Christi Caldwell is a historical romance author I have been meaning to try for a while and the free copy of Forever Betrothed, Never the Bride helped with that considerably.

Pledged to each other as children, Lady Emmaline Fitzhugh and Lord Drake have spent virtually no time together and she is sick and tired of it. Relegated to the sidelines of her own life, Emmaline learns of Drake’s return to London and decides it is time to GET ON WITH IT ALREADY! She doesn’t really question the validity of the match chosen by their parents, she naively believes that she and Drake just need a chance to spend time together and they will naturally fit. What with it being a romance novel, that is precisely what happens and both of them find what they need in each other.

A chance encounter in the street opens the book and proves Emmaline’s mettle as a partner and as a person, but Drake is ready to dismiss her and return to his life of mistresses and routs; however, he has an interfering friend who likes Emmaline and feels she will be good for him. Working in cahoots, Emmaline is assisted in frequently showing up and surprising Drake at social events. He finds himself annoyed and increasingly intrigued by her omnipresence. When he gives in to his feelings, things almost proceed apace, but there is that pesky little matter of the lingering trauma from his wartime experiences. Afraid of what he might be capable and in spite of his feelings for her, Drake makes a valiant and ultimately doomed effort to push Emmaline away.

Forever Betrothed, Never the Bride was a better than average romance and I will seek out more Christi Caldwell books – it seems to me that I have one called A Marquess for Christmas or some such lingering on my Kindle – but I will be borrowing her books rather than buying them for now. Even so, it’s nice to have a new author for my B-list and the promise of a large catalogue to fall back on in a pinch.

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: 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.

 

Libby’s London Merchant and One Good Turn by Carla Kelly

Libby’s London Merchant and One Good Turn  are connected novels and more lovely, consistent, sincere stories from Carla Kelly. Clearly, I am going to read and find something to enjoy in every Regency romance novel in her catalog. This time, my attention was again captured by Kelly’s consistent strengths and minor imperfections (the enjoyable prose; the successful historical setting; her belief in the inherent goodness of people and its power to improve lives; her fascination with military history; and, her ability to create truly dastardly villains and then redeem them too easily), as well as the very first time I read a romance and wasn’t sure which man the heroine was going to end up with. Spoilers necessarily follow.

Libby’s London Merchant Continue reading