Tag Archive | Regency Romance Reviews

RRRS: The Silent Governess and A Castaway in Cornwall

For contemporary writers of Regency Romance, Julie Klassen is my favorite. Borrowed The Silent Governess from the library. Not too bad of a read, but it ended with me wishing it had been set at the girl’s school her mother runs in the end. As with many of her books, I was more into a lot of the minor characters, like Croome, than the leads, but the leads weren’t bad, either. Olivia Keene is the governess in question, and through a series of coincidences ends up working at Brightwell Manor where Lord Bradley lives. Bradley alternates between being cruel and kind, fighting a constant chip on his shoulder, a fear that people will find out a family secret. Because the story begins with Olivia’s great talent in mathematics, I expected that to be fleshed further, but that wasn’t the case. Only in parts where the plot needed it, was attention called to her skills. Lord Brightwell, Bradley’s father, really impressed me at the end and now I want a whole story about him and Bradley’s cousin Felix and how he’s made into a proper lord. Would be a good tale.

As for A Castaway in Corwall, again my expectations just didn’t match the book. Unfortunately, I have read Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier in the past few years, which deals with Cornwall, wreckers, shipwrecks and the like, and although that story was mostly dreadful, few can beat the atmospheric writing of du Maurier, and so I was constantly comparing the two and thought it could have used more wreckers and smugglers. It was very interesting, though, to have a different perspective on the Nalopeonic wars and having characters be on the side of the new republic rather than on the side of the British or the royalists, per say. As the island of Jersey is brought up right away, I was hoping the tale would take us there, and it did, but then I just had the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society in my head, so again, comparing the books. Again, more of the minor characters caught my attention, but there was something a bit reckless about both Laura and Alexander, and they had rather good kissing scenes.

Now I am learning more about Napoleon by reading The Murder of Napoleon by Ben Weider and David Hapgood.

My favorites by Klassen still are: The Innkeepers of Ivy Hill series, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Apothecary’s Daughter.

RRR: The Fifth Kiss

Sometimes everything in stories comes together to make a great “show,” if you will, and The Fifth Kiss did just that. I found it highly entertaining, and alternating between being infuriating and delightful, which is what a good romance should be. Yes, yes, we women like the drama. It’s exciting, it’s where we often find our adventure. This was a standout among what I’ve read from the mystery box last summer so far. I’ve got about fifteen novels left. This one is written by Elizabeth Mansfield, who had a short story in the Christmas compilation with somewhat similar characters. She likes bookish girls, or Bluestockings, as they were called back then.

First and foremost, The Fifth Kiss would be easily adapted to TV, a show or a miniseries. That was the appeal to me, I could see it as a show, a successful one at that. Not only does it start out with our heroine, Olivia, shocked–shocked I tell you!–but throughout the tale we get to be upset and exasperated along with her as she finds out that the hero, Miles Strickland, Earl of Langley, is all too often right. We meet many other interesting characters, and have a really cool second romance later in the book. Several characters are there waiting to be further developed, and there could be several subplots added to the main story. Olivia is at first someone we like, and then don’t like, as we realize that Miles is correct, she interferes when she should not, but then we, along with him, come to love her again, as she’s such a dear with her niece and nephew and is really very good at running a household. Many relationships abound throughout the book, not just romantic ones, but those of father to daughter, brother to sister, father to son, masters to servants, and the like. Social and political commentary is also woven throughout the story and could be expanded upon in a show.

I was pleasantly surprised to find I liked our hero by the end. So many of these stories seem to think it’s a desirable thing for a man of that time to have a lot of experience sleeping around before he finds “the one” and gets married. In this one, we are shown a different view of infidelity and just what that means. It is sobering to remember that two people are always involved. We so often think a man or wife just goes out to cheat on their own, and sometimes that is the case, but sometimes it is that their spouses have left them or retreated from them in some way. Doesn’t make cheating or infidelity right, of course, but it puts things into perspective: Neither is it right for spouses to cut their partners out of a piece or pieces of their lives. A marriage is two lives wholly shared, much more than any other relationship. Someday I hope to experience that also, but, for now I have the tacky romances.

This one wasn’t so tacky, really, the cringiest part was when Olivia Matthews takes it upon herself to get some kissing experience and it was just hard to believe she’s quite that dumb, but some people are. Mansfield got the descriptions right, the strange experience when someone has more emotion or ardor than you do. It’s sort of a disembodying thing, and of course sad for the other person to be kissing you so ardently with no response, but it happens. Unrequited love, unrequited attraction, such a great disappointment, not evil exactly, but it’s always something that seems like it should not be, a great wrongness in the world. However, a couple of the men in this story press on when they should not, forcing their physical attentions on the hapless Miss Matthews. No matter how sorry I may be for them, it just isn’t right. Olivia bears up well, though really doesn’t seem to understand the danger she sometimes puts herself in.

The part about the story that got to me was Olivia’s moral outrage, which ended up being misplaced, and her interference. Sometimes we–often, but not always, women–see a wrongness and think we have to, we must correct it. Really, we should wait and see first if anyone is asking us to interfere, yes, even if God is asking us to interfere. Most of the time not only is it not our place, but also there’s always more to story that we don’t know, and our interference will only make things worse, especially if it’s not wanted. In this case, the true moral wrongness was a wife cutting a husband out of her life, perhaps with the intention of saving him from pain, but giving him more pain in the process. Olivia is humbled and a bit bewildered. She really doesn’t understand what a marriage relationship is or means. And she really does not understand men, but fortunately, she grows up through out the story and comes to understand how to deal with them and bring out the best in them, well, at least in one of them. That was very great to read.

The Fifth Kiss is one that may stay on my shelves, though it’s no Jane Austen, so time will tell. There are actually six kisses or series of kisses in the novel, and it is the fifth one which makes our hero realize he loves Olivia. He finds it horrid to find her in the arms of another man, even if her feelings for the man are stone cold. So, nothing especially magic with a fifth kiss, just that it was the turning point in the romance of the story.

Reviews: House of Salt and Sorrows/Christmas at Wickly

What fun it is in this modern era when there are so many wonderful retellings of the old fairy tales. These books are a treat to read, though sometimes they miss the mark. House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin Craig has so much going for it, and although I really enjoyed it, I’m not sure I recommend it. The story has a maritime setting on a series of islands, the salt, the sea, etc., but it didn’t really become nautical in the sense of being really firmly set in a world of ships and sailing. The twelve girls are all daughters of a wealthy landowner/governer of the island chain and have little to do with actual sailing trips, fishing, and the like. It could have gone much farther in the world of the sea, and also the quasi-Greek mythological religion the world follows. Still, what was there was adequate for the story. Our heroine is one of the 12 sisters. She’s in the middle and her name is Annaleigh.

Twelve main characters plus any additional ones are tough to keep track of, but in this tale, four of the sisters are already dead at the beginning of the story. Wisely the author groups the rest of the sisters, making them easier to remember. The story has a lot of stops and starts and never really flowed well, but the ghostly figures in the beginning didn’t prepare me for the end. Although the story ended happy, the incident in the lighthouse was just…icky, for lack of a better word. Icky, and for no apparent reason. There was just a lot of gore and grossness at the end, which ended up being too much for me. The actual adaptation of the Grimm tale was mostly in the latter half, and it was when their father finally made the wager that whoever figured out the mystery of how his daughters wore out their shoes every night would gain his estate, that I realized how uneven the story was.

Where it went wrong was the world building, something I, too, have trouble with. The stuff on their immediate region was good, but a full description of the world was lacking, or perhaps it was too blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. The ickiness related to one of the deities in another province who was not detailed nearly enough, and that’s why it just doesn’t fit at the end. Also, I expected fairies in the story, that is, I expected them to be the villains, and was disappointed in that.

All in all it’s an adequate retelling, but it could have been so much more. I did enjoy the use of Fisher, but I also didn’t think the character really got his due, either. The romantic hero was very appealing, but we didn’t get to know him that well. Fairy tales are hard to retell in some ways, because they are short and often have very blank characters. Sometime this bleeds into the longer adaptations. Also the dancing was severely lacking. I wanted more time at the balls and there just seemed to be a lot of Annaleigh thinking, which is of course what young women often do, but it doesn’t drive stories along very well.

Craig did a good job of portraying an estate constantly in mourning. The behaviors of many characters can be excused largely due to the tragedies they’ve experienced, so it’s not a wonder in that sense that it takes people a long time to realize something is amiss. The ultimate villain at the end…meh. I suppose the lesson is you never get what you want no matter how clever a deal you make, especially if it’s a deal with a devil. Not a bad story, but I wouldn’t recommend it, and I’ve read a better adaptation of the fairy tale at some point in my life and hopefully one of these days I’ll remember the title.

A Regency Romance Review

Continuing with the A Regency Holiday book of five Regency romances, story four was actually quite good. I wish it was a longer story. Judith Nelson is the writer, and was excited to find that one of her longer novels was in the surprise bag I bought last summer. Christmas at Wickly stars the Earl of Wickham, who is in his thirties, and a twenty-eight year old heroine who believes herself firmly on the shelf. She’s not wrong, in that day and age women often married in their late teens, but Miss Worthington lives fully up to her name and her humor and capableness convince the earl that she’s the one for him. All this is planned in advance by a wily grandma who wants to see their family’s inheritance continue and not go on to lesser family members. In her eyes, it is essential the earl marry and start having children as soon as possible. She’s not wrong, but I’m also glad that she wants him to truly be in love.

The romance is quiet, just two people spending a lot of time together and falling in love while doing it. Somehow the love surprises both sexes and Nelson makes it exciting to both of them, as well as sweet to read. They are both total dorks and also snobs after a fashion. It will be great to see what she does with a longer story. The story outlines four key points for a good match: Humor, companionship, similar perspectives and/or temperament, and time together to make the relationship happen. As Wickham dismisses the other, younger women one by one, I just think of Austen’s Mr. Knightley proclaiming that “men of sense don’t want silly wives.” In this story, that’s true, although our hero quite sillily makes a habit of stealing mistletoe so he’s not forced to kiss anyone under it. It’s hard to imagine societal rules so strict one couldn’t refuse a kiss, but I suppose if a gentleman is faced with having to refuse a lady, he would just rather avoid the situation altogether. And that’s rather gentlemanly of him, even if it also makes him silly.

RRR and musings

The time has come for another Regency Romance Review. Not sure I’ve made much of a dent in the box I bought last summer, but onward I will go. This one I meant to finish and review in December, but Christmastime always gets so busy, and then there was January, and then my Dad passed away, and then, then. There’s always an “and then.”

A Regency Holiday, “Delightful and Heartwarming Christmas Stories by Five Acclaimed Regency Authors,” published by Jove Regency Romance in 1991. This is likely the most recent one from the batch. As I don’t particularly care for short stories and read them sporadically, it’s taking awhile for me to get through this. Two stories yet to go, but some quick reviews on the first three:

The Girl with Airs: This one stars a Scottish laird and although he was described as being very handsome, he favors lightskirts or loose women, and talks in dialect. I have been to Scotland. It’s beautiful and the language and accents are all great. However, the way the Scottish dialect looks written down has always looked like baby talk to me, and thus it’s always difficult for me to take the characters talking the dialect seriously. Had the same trouble trying to read Outlander. Fortunately the “girl with airs” was taken in by the accent and the actually very smart laird who ended up wooing her. Written by Elizabeth Mansfield, which is interesting, because the box actually contains one or two of her novels. I plan to read her The Fifth Kiss next. Why does it take the couple five kisses? If you don’t know in the first kiss, maybe it’s not really love. Just kidding.

Proof in the Pudding: Although it’s maybe not the best choice to base a story around the guy who didn’t get the girl, this was amusing. Humans are so, so clueless, and sometimes reading or watching stories about people even more clueless than us can bring us real joy. Really. The ending was funny, but not realistic, and way too contrived. Probably the lovers don’t care, because at least they got together. Poor Virgil Clive lost not only a possible bride, but also a tasty pudding, a valuable coin, and what little what left of his dignity. By Monette Cummings.

A Christmas Spirit: By Sarah Eagle. My favorite part was the title pages which says, “in memory of my grandfather, Edwin John Hawkes, Sr., who was always Father Christmas.” Seriously, that warmed my heart. This story had real potential and would be better as a full length novel. The young Earl of Denham Abbey is plagued with annoying relatives, sudden visitors, and a ghost who likes to play cupid. The beginning where a girl is stuck there in bad weather reminded me a bit of the Princess and the Pea, and I started to wonder if I should write a retelling of that fairy tale, but found that there have been, so, so, so many remakes and rewrites already. Anyway, the sudden kiss was romantic, but really, does this ever happen in real life? Perhaps not in the time of Me Too and COVID, but there still may be some brave men that throw caution to the wind. The earl was a bit of an absent minded professor type who got his girl because she’d been in love with him for oh, so many years. Girls, sometimes waiting for love works, at least in stories.

Christmas at Wickly: I really like the writing so far in this one and it has a spunky grandma who is going to trap her grandson, the Earl of Wickham, into marrying and settling down. By Judith Nelson, who also may have another novel in this stack I have.

The Kissing Bough: The last one is written by Martha Powers and has chapters split up by kisses. Ends in a fifth kiss. Ok, so what is it about fifth kisses? Is this some sort of thing, a milestone in a relationship or romance? Were fifth kisses special in the Regency era for some reason? No idea, but readers, if any of you are in new relationships, pay attention to your fifth kiss. Maybe it opens a door to another dimension where 2020 is a good year.

Some musings. So my dad died about a month ago and I miss him so much. I know I’ll see him again in heaven, but some days the tears just come and there’s nothing I can do about it. Fortunately, God has blessed me and my mom and siblings with wonderful family and friends who have surrounded us with our love. Life has felt a bit surreal this past month, and the best part has been all the wonderful hugs from people, something I’ve missed so, so much lately. Human contact and skinship is key to health. In our own pain, God has also showed us how many others are hurting. So many who have recently or not so recently lost spouses, family friends, loved ones, and dear ones. It makes me pay more attention now, to others who are hurting in the same way.

It is so awesome how God works. How unexpected he is, and how surprising. God is definitely romantic in his ways. Today he answered a prayer that I didn’t even realize I asked. He knew, he just knew that I wanted an opportunity to make an in person apology to someone, and he made that happen! The timing was perfect. God’s perfect timing.

Another one, and this is a little gross, so sorry if you’re squeamish, but I had this tiny cyst on me, this little hole in my skin for over twenty years, and suddenly in January it got infected and and horror show gross. I was so, so sure I would have to have surgery on it or something, but lo and behold after packing and bandaids for a few weeks, it’s almost all healed! And now there will be no hole at all. Why did this happen and heal now? God was showing me his power, and the power of our God-given bodies to heal, even after such a long time. It’s pretty great. That taught me it’s never too late to heal, and we should never give up on it. We don’t have to be stuck in one bad spot all our lives. God can help us and circumstances change for the better.

RRR: Marriage by Decree

Can a man really be forced into marriage? This is a key question posed in Marriage by Decree, the Signet Regency Romance by Ellen Fitzgerald. Published in 1988 and part of Signet’s Romantic Interludes, this is only one of a few that Fitzgerald wrote for Signet. The story wasn’t half bad, but I didn’t find it to be a keeper, as the magic just wasn’t there.

Back to the question: Can a man, or a woman, for that matter, be forced into marriage? Certainly in some cultures, yes. In the Britain of the Regency Era, though, it was a lot easier for a man to escape an unwanted marriage than a woman. They simply had more resources, especially legal ones, to avoid it. However, this isn’t really what the author refers to in the story. What she’s talking about is the nature of manhood, primarily man’s purposeful pursuance of romance. Basically, it works like this: The man pursues, the women succumb. Don’t believe me as now women are so liberated? Women, try chasing and winning a man who doesn’t want you. Time and time again, you will find it just doesn’t work, but with the tables reversed, women often give in and/or are won over and it all works splendidly. And that is actually very romantic.

In Marriage by Decree, two people are decreed by royalty, aka, the government, to get married. Scandal being the reason. Alice Osborne, our heroine, is an American this time, and not too fond of the British due to the Revolutionary War and its following skirmishes and battles. Alice’s father, Charles, is more optimistic about improving relations between the two countries, and has agreed to be a diplomat to London at the request of the President, who in 1815 would have been James Madison. As they travel by ship to England, Alice is openly scornful of anyone on the ship who looks as if they might be a British soldier.

Deep down, though, Alice is a good soul, and during a storm on the sea, saves one of those soldiers from being washed overboard. This part I thought could have used more description. Help came too quickly, though the way some women can scream, would definitely garner immediate attention. At any rate, despite holding him fast and screaming, Alice doesn’t do much, it’s one of the sailors who gets the solider below deck. Despite that fact, tall, dark, and handsome Robert Saint-Aubyn is overwhelmed with gratitude for the pretty red-headed eighteen-year-old. The lesson, here, ladies is to assist handsome men when they are in dire need as they will be extremely grateful and will perhaps even want to marry you.

Despite what would normally be a turning point for someone, Alice is still scornful of Robert, though attracted. Definitely attracted. Sadly, he already has a fiancee, something Alice’s friend Phoebe bemoans, as she has been instantly smitten. When they arrive in England, Alice and Phoebe part ways, as Phoebe’s going to live in Scotland. The Osbornes settle in London and Alice is able to meet Richard’s fiancee, Janet. At first, Janet seems quite helpful to the women who saved her fiancee’s life, but the “help” soon grates on Alice, who as an American is used to more freedom.

Janet sends a harridan of a woman to be a companion to Alice, but the woman proves to be overly strict, causing Alice to react poorly, leaving the house secretively to meet men she barely knows, much to her father’s horror. Of course he responds by making her prison even tighter around her. It is not without reason that Alice should have a chaperone everywhere she goes, the streets of London aren’t always safe, men do have sinister motives, and young women are very naive. However, Alice is more naive than most, and that grated on me during the story. She is so loathing of Britain in the beginning, yet how quickly a handsome stranger persuades her throw caution to the winds.

Soon Alice finds herself in truly dire straights. The handsome fiend, a womanizer named Lord Winston, helps her escape her house in the dead of night and take her hours away to the whorehouse of a French emigre. Alice’s stupidity doesn’t end there: She allows the Lord to ply her with enough alcohol to make her drunk and lead her upstairs to “rest.”

In comes our hero, Robert, who has not forgotten Alice and keeps talking about her life-saving heroics to Janet, who is obviously quite jealous by this time. Turns out Lord Winston is a friend of Janet’s and they have both plotted together to ruin Alice. Winston will sleep with Alice and leave her, allowing her to fall out of all good society. When Robert hears of this he goes into knight errant mode and immediately takes off to rescue Alice, with barely a thought for Janet in the process. After the rescue, the pair find it slow-going to get back to London and have to stop at an inn at which there is only one room left. When Robert drops her at home, the servants hear him speaking of their adventures and scandal ensues. So much so that the Prince Regent himself, a friend of Robert’s, decrees that Robert and Alice must marry even though they did not sleep together. Janet leaves Robert and he caves, agreeing to marry Alice.

At first it seems as if the two may make the best of things with this unwanted marriage, but after arriving at Robert’s estate called The Towers (Wives and Daughters! So have to read that again), he takes off for days, deserting his new bride. Alice despairs, thinking she will never find happiness with a man who was forced to marry her. But her servant wisely says that no man can truly be forced into marriage. On some level, Robert did in fact want to marry her. Robert himself struggles with this reality. He finds himself needing some time to get over Janet, who has stupidly eloped with Lord Winston, but when he returns is resolute, and also horrified to find that Alice has been riding out with Tim, one of the stable hands–not romantically, of course, but servants will talk. He is at once afraid that all women are like Janet, but soon finds that Alice wants to be true to him, it’s just that she needs some help.

Here’s a lesson for the men: It’s not logical and if they try, women can fight against the mentality, but if a women doesn’t have some kind of connection with her man for a few days, she may become anxious. This is entirely due to the nature of women. We want to please men and we want reassurance we are accepted. If we don’t think we’re accepted, we may determine to find out how to get accepted, to be pleasing, change our clothes, or hair, even behavior. We really are very anxious to please. A women who doesn’t hear from her partner in a few days will be much, much more anxious than a man will. A man will logically think she’s just busy. A woman will illogically think there must be something wrong. Men in relationships, help yourselves out here: Don’t leave your woman hanging for too long. Connect with her as much as you can and reassure her that she is the one you want. Yeah, it’s annoying, but it will save you so much time and energy in the long run.

This illogical anxiety is Alice’s state of mind and she just doesn’t have the maturity to realize it for what it is. Her servant helps her the most by telling her that Robert wouldn’t have married her if he hadn’t wanted to do it. Neither prince or country could make him. Robert comes back and proves that this is true. He soundly beds his wife and makes her incandescently happy.

The last half of the story I didn’t find super interesting. The villainess Janet rises again, being as she’s one of those people who think if they aren’t happy, no one should be happy, and it just gets over the top, what with Alice getting kidnapped by an angry ex-soldier and held hostage. It was just too, too much, although the contemplating of the mood between America and Britain at the time I did find interesting. It’s not something we think a lot about today. Not a bad story, not bad writing, but forgettable. Nothing really stood out about it to me, except the intriguing question from above.

We are in different times today, and in many countries it’s not likely one would be forced into marriage. I think it likely few of either sex today would allow themselves to be forced into a marriage they didn’t want. Men sometimes say that women trap them into marriage by getting pregnant, but I think it’s just something they say to avoid the fact it was their choice to sleep with the woman and also their choice to marry her. It’s takes both a man and a woman to make a baby. It just does, and it’s silly to blame another person for choices one freely makes. So, can a man be forced into marriage? Can a woman? Do babies force marriage? It is a true kindness and goodness to a child if his parents are married, but our current society doesn’t make it mandatory. I think the answer is that no, neither sex is forced, not these days. If they get married, it’s because on some level they want to either be married to that person, or to just be married.

One more thing for women: Women’s anxiety over her man. It’s a thing, we do have this, but if you are married to a good man, or even a bad one, remember that he chose to do it. He chose you instead of all the others out there. There should be some security in that. And often if he’s not in touch or not around much, he truly is busy. He’s dealing with work or projects he has to get done. Men, I would like to say the reverse is true, but it’s not a great sign if your woman is not in touch with you. Working women are in fact forced into single focus man mode while on the job, so that’s an exception there, but otherwise it’s generally not in the nature of a woman to stay disconnected from you. We crave those connections constantly.

Alright, and that’s my Regency Romance advice for today! What do you think? Do you think that’s true about men and women or am I just spinning yarns of worlds here? Too many romances going to my head, perhaps?

Up next week, a review of Missing: The Other Side, a ghostly tale perfect for Halloween.

Monday’s Child: RRR

Another Regency Romance Review this week. Although there was a bit of tackiness in Monday’s Child by Barbara Hazard, it is a book I enjoyed and one that I’m likely to keep to read again. The romance was heartwarming.

A Fawcett Crest Book published by Ballantine Books in 1993, Monday’s Child was definitely a more modern story than the other two I reviewed. Although there was some nonsense of force against women, it didn’t, thankfully, come from the romantic hero. Hazard’s writing style was a bit in the vein of Julie Klassan, so maybe that’s why I liked it so well. The main character, Sarah Lacey, was very likable and that helped also.

This is another story which tries to imply what a curse it is for a woman to be beautiful. I’m sure in real life there are downsides to having a pretty face, but it’s kind of like Brad Pitt or someone like that claiming to have been a nerd in high school. No one really believes it. And maybe that is the real curse to being blessed with good looks: It’s really hard for regular people to believe the good looks truly give a person difficulty.

For Sarah Lacey, her curse isn’t so much her looks as it is her family. They remind me of the father and oldest daughter in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, always grasping for more wealth, class, and titles, and refusing to be content with their own class and station in life. This is not to say that people can’t strive after wealth, they certainly can, but this isn’t the way to go about it: Practically selling off one’s daughter instead of working hard with one’s property, in this case a farm, which is already wealth beyond measure for many around the world. The Lacey family is contrasted nicely by the humble and productive farmer Evan Lancaster. Though in his own humbleness, he doesn’t realize what a catch he actually is.

A young earl in the neighborhood takes a fancy to Sarah’s pretty face and insists that they will be married. He is younger than her and refuses to take no for an answer. Add a bizarre suggestion of kidnapping into the mix by Sarah’s rake of a brother, and events in the novel strain credulity. Young men certainly do have wild ideas, but it’s really, really hard to believe that this young earl would have actually kidnapped Sarah and held her hostage until she agreed to marry him or slept with him, or both. It’s a case of trying to make a character into too much of a villain. His insistence despite Sarah’s wishes and clear disinterest in him is really enough, and I was disappointed in that whole part of the story, even though it was funny how Sarah thwarted the young earl’s efforts.

The best part of this book was the love story between old friends. Sarah and Evan have long been friends and long been in love with each other, and finally they both realize it and understand that no one else will do. Friends falling in love are some of my favorite romances. It’s so sweet to see them slowly realize, wait I love this person! In addition to that, Hazard did well with the minor characters included and also made the village of Sutton Cross come alive. Old biddies gossiping over tea are a must, as are holiday events, balls, and the like. This book was a joy to read compared to the other two and has me excited to read more. Oh, “Monday’s child is fair of face.” That’s where the title comes from, a poem the book says was “quoted by A. E. Bray, Traditions of Devonshire.” The original author must be unknown.

The Abandoned Bride: RRR

Welcome to another tacky Regency Romance review!

The Abandoned Bride by Edith Layton is a Signet Regency Romance published in 1985. Ms. Layton wrote several romances for Signet, and although I find her writing much better than RR#1 I read previously, she’s no storyteller.

With a title perhaps more suited to a gothic romance, we are introduced to the beautiful Julia on a secretive night. She’s run away no the north to be married to a man we suppose to be her true love. Something happens and they don’t get married. Julia is taken away by another gentleman in the dead of night and we see her again years later where she goes through job after job as a companion and governess. Young Julia is simply too beautiful for her own good. Any male, even baby males, fall for her, apparently. Aside from the creep factor of that, what could be actually a funny curse for our heroine is much forgotten the rest of the story.

From a poor family, Julia has little option but to work. She is innocent and virtuous, so hasn’t the wile to take advantage of her obvious appeal to the male sex. Just before being terminated from yet another position, Julia is visited by Lord Nicholas Daventry, also called Baron Stafford. He is the uncle of Robin, the man she was supposed to marry, the man who abandoned her. Although he is often referred to as “old Nick,” Baron Stafford isn’t really that much older than Robin, but as is usual in these romances, is almost a decade older than Julia. Nick has been trying to track Julia down in the hopes of reuniting her with his nephew and finding out just what happened the night they were supposed to get married. Exactly why this is his problem, was never really clear to me–family duty, I guess–but it seems inconceivable (that word doesn’t mean what you think it means) to me that Nick would have no inkling that Robin is actually gay.

Yes, that is the big reveal, which in the Regency era would have likely been shocking, and in 1985 perhaps a little surprising as well. Of course, this being a modern work by a modern author who doesn’t seem to understand that no conflict and no stakes mean really no story, this is much, much glossed over in the ending. Both Julia and Nick barely raise their eyebrows at Robin’s confession, and although it’s admirable they so easily forgive him for what he’s put them through, especially Julia, it’s sad that the gravity of such a lie is treated so superficially. In Britain back in the day, one could be hanged for living the homosexual lifestyle, and although I don’t agree with the lifestyle, the politically correct glossing over it does a disservice to both the sin, as it was considered at that time, and also to the very great risk that Robin is taking in living the way he wants. It also treats all of Julia’s hardships as nothing, which is a slap in the face to womenkind. It is no small thing for a gay man to daly with a woman with whom he cannot fulfill a romance–all her hopes, dream, and desires deserve to have a serious chance, no matter how virginal she may be. To his credit, Robin himself realizes this, but solves the problem by abandoning Julia to a rather heartless society and leaving her with the idea that she’s somehow at fault.

For stories that deal with this subject with more of the gravity it deserves, I recommend The Object of My Affection starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd, very PC, but also more realistic in the dilemma, and also the Korean drama Coffee Prince (aka The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince) starring Gong Yoo and Yoon Eun Hye. Both works are better because they delve into just how bad it is to pretend to be someone you are not, and also to delude oneself about the person you are in love with.

But, back to the RRR. Layton’s writing is good, with many turns of phrase signaling that she has far more in her than trade paperback romances. However, it’s all wasted on a mundane story with almost no conflict. True, the leads don’t get along at first, but they plod along, hanging out in Europe hoping to come across Robin. This goes on for months, months and months, and we are introduced to a great many superficial things about Regency society, including political intrigue that goes nowhere. At no point do we truly fear for either Julie, Nick, or even Robin. Basically, it’s a waste of a book, which is sad.

I’m not really sure why in these romances it’s so important that the woman be a virgin. Usually she’s fairly young, so maybe that explains it, but inexplicably the romantic hero is the opposite, or alluded or rumored to be. Okay, women don’t want embarrassed, fumbling men, I get that, but neither do we want libertines who have slept with half of the female population. These stories are fantasy, though, and I supposed some women do dream about taming a bad boy or wild man when no other woman could. Sadly, Nick is neither, although initially he is angry enough with Julia to hit her. What is with the Regency era hitting of the women? I have trouble believing that in any society this really would have been ok, but even today there are societies in which it is ok. Since Nick isn’t a bad man, he’s surprised at himself, but again, it all seems stupid because he’s a smart man who after so many years surely would have figured out Robin’s inclinations. If Julia really was some beautiful femme fatale, well, now that would have been a lot more interesting.

So far the supposed heroes of these romances are anything but, nor are they outright bad boys. No offense to my fellow females, but men who write romances often get it better. I love the Victorian romances written by Madeleine Brent (Peter O’Donnell), as example. And who can forget the hilarious line from Jack Nicholson’s romance writer in As Good As It Gets: In answer to “how do you write women so well?”: “I think of a man and take away reason and accountability.” It’s a funny line because it’s somewhat true, loathe as we are to admit it. Take The Abandoned Bride as one example, there’s little reason or accountability in the whole story. I like to think men’s gift to women is helping them operate under more reason and accountability, whereas one of our gifts to them is helping them see beyond their single focus: There’s something uniquely female in the way that Jane Austen and Agatha Christie showcase the strangeness and humor of both society and the human heart.

This is not to say that women have no reason and accountability, but our reasons and how we are accountable are far different than men’s reason and accountability. The closest the two come together are in the work place, for in it women are often forced into single focus mode, a male way of operating and thinking. Too much single focus, and often other details and a bigger picture is missed. The second closest is perhaps the world of social media, in which men are forced to take feelings as fact. This isn’t a diss on women, just the acknowledgement that for many women our feelings are the facts. Many times the two coincide–women’s intuition is a thing–but often they also do not.

In conclusion, here is my question: Without stakes, without reason and accountability, can there truly be a romance? Can there even be a story? Is the the lack of both these things the reason why paperback romances, rom coms, and the like are so heavily derided by both sexes? Food for thought.

The Scandalous Season: RRR

Regency Romance Review, book 1: The Scandalous Season by Nina Pykare

Published by Dell’s A Candlelight Regency Special, #501, 1979.

First off, I made it through the book, whew! The story was sadly rather tedious and it wasn’t clear what made it “special” as opposed to just Candlelight, but Dell appears to have Candlelight Romances and Candlelight Regency Romance Specials, so maybe that’s the difference.

Young, innocent Rebecca Stratford agrees to follow her father’s dying wish and marry Richard, the Marquess of Burlingame. From the beginning of the story, the couple is already in love with each other, though insisting that their marriage is in name only. This is somewhat due to the marriage being arranged and also due to the age gap. Richard is not keen to force himself on so young a woman, a point in his favor. He’s about thirty and she’s younger, but it never clarifies how young on purpose. She may be a teenager. Burlingame I kept reading as Burlingham.

From the start, the story was rather cringe and laughable. Over used words like sardonic, schoolroom miss and country miss abound, as do a plethora of points to tick off on norms and colloquial sayings of the day. The atmosphere was bad, just see-through, a skeleton Regency setting.

Exactly why Rebecca loves Richard at the beginning is not clear. She is a poor girl who luckily married into wealth, but her husband is so overbearing and tyrannical that she’s terrified of him most of the time. At one point he even spanks her. Totally different from modern times when we are even reluctant to spank our own children, this scene was hard to stomach. Rebecca did disobey his orders, but like many men, Richard did not fully explain the reason for his orders. This is convenient for the story, but also connects to real life. Men so often have plans and things they simply do not explain to their women, either because they don’t think they have to, but in a larger picture, because they don’t understand that they have to. Many things are obvious to men as men and women as women, and neither sex truly understands that you really do have to explain or spell things out. The opposite sex doesn’t automatically get it. They just don’t.

Although Rebecca doesn’t like being treated like a child, she continues to act like one, and although clearly her husband desires her, even at the end, she was just this hysterical childlike woman, not a match for him. It is supposed that she will grow into her role as wife. Not sure what to make of the fear factor. Most men I know today, at least what I know of them, are not tyrants with their wives. In fact, often it’s the opposite, where the wives have the upper hand. Anyway, the men I know are very kind and loving to their women and so, so far from Richard Burlingame, that I don’t really see how he’s that great of a catch.

Richard is handsome, tall, broad shouldered, and rich. Many times over is it described how broad his shoulders are, how his legs fit well into his pants, etc. Later on, he is shown to have some kindness, but even to the end, Rebecca is ruled by her fear of his anger. This doesn’t seem like a healthy relationship. Richard also is used to bedding other women and it’s doubtful that in a year or two he will not go back to this habit. He has all the power in the marriage at this time, and although we want to believe love conquers all, old habits die hard. The odds are simply not in Rebecca’s favor.

Despite all of that, although scandal was much alluded to, this wasn’t a smutty romance, and the scant love scenes were kisses only. The big reason the two love each other is simply that they are physically attracted to each other and are married. Can’t fault that too much, I suppose that’s often how it really is with couples, but romances are fun to read because they often “earn” each other’s love. Here, it wasn’t earned, but truthfully love isn’t earned, simply given, so there’s that. The ending was more nonsensical and abrupt than the beginning. Smuggling was thrown in for, well, no real reason, and Rebecca hysterically throws herself upon the scene because she loves her husband. Somehow the fact that he’s sent her info fainting hysterics makes Richard realize how much he loves her. This is a very strange relationship.

Some cuteness at the end:

“I expect that I shall be quite a nuisance to you now. Literally living in your pocket.”

“In that case, Robert, I suspect we shall both be nuisances. Can a wife be said to live in her husband’s pocket?”

Lovely and tacky at the same time.

Other updates: Currently liking and reading both The Man in the Iron Mask by Dumas and Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Hardy. Rewatching K-drama You Are All Surrounded starring Lee Seung Gi. Next one I review will probably be Oh My Baby starring the never aging awesome actress Jang Nara. Appears to be a remake of Three Men and a Baby with Tom Selleck, a movie I’ve always liked.