Monthly Archives:: February 2018

Review: ‘The Nobody’ by Diane Farr

February 14, 2018 Review 0

An utterly delightful book, that I loved from start to weepy finish. Caitlin is the older sister who goes along for the ride on her prettier younger sister’s debut season in London. Nothing much is expected of Caitlin, and she isn’t even presented at court (the family couldn’t afford two court dresses, which made me very sad for her), and when her sister is off curtsying to the Queen, Caitlin is at a musical evening with her new friend, overhearing herself described by a snobbish lady of the ton as a nobody.

Humiliated and upset, Caitlin makes a run for home through the dark streets of London. She witnesses a man running away from a group of thugs, and finds herself unceremoniously pulled into a passionate kiss so that he can evade his pursuers. They part, after a lively discussion of the proprieties pertaining to the unusual situation, without either knowing who the other is. But it isn’t long before they find out, and Caitlin realises she’s been kissed by the brother of her new friend, a man who is betrothed to the snobbish lady who insulted her.

Now all this is fairly implausible, but very entertaining. The banter between the two is lively and witty, especially so on his side, and we can see exactly where this is going. Except that Richard Kilverton is betrothed, and a Regency gentleman does not, under any circumstances, cry off from a betrothal. So the rest of the book is, naturally, focused on him trying to persuade the lady to cry off, instead.

Which leads me to my main, possibly only, grumble about this book. I can let Richard off that snatched kiss at the beginning, which was a desperate measure of self-preservation, and a pretty innovative one, it has to be said. But he then proceeds to pay an inordinate amount of attention to Caitlin, including (but not limited to) dancing the waltz with her (twice! On one night!) and sneaking out onto a terrace to kiss her rather thoroughly. Given that he’s engaged to someone else, this is very ungentlemanly behaviour, and would be unforgivable… except that he really is incredibly charming and delightful, and it’s very hard to be cross with him.

Needless to say, with a bit of sleight of hand, everything comes right, and the subplot turned out to have an unexpected ending, and I enjoyed the whole unlikely story so much that I can’t give it less than five stars.

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Review: ‘The Difficult Life of a Regency Spinster: Belinda’ by Susan Speers

February 2, 2018 Review 0

I loved the first book in this series, Abigail, and immediately plunged into this one, which featured one of the intriguing side characters from the first book. Sadly, it is nothing like as resounding a success as the first one. Large parts of the plot are, not to put too fine a point on it, a hot mess.

Here’s the premise: Belinda is the epitome of a poor relation. She’s passed around from one branch of the family to another, as she might be useful. Eventually, she washes up in London, at the home of elderly Millicent Anstruther, to whom Belinda is to act as companion. Millicent, we are given to understand, is a dragon, who chews up companions and spits them out.

And here is the first of several problems. Millicent is a little brusque, but she’s never less than kind to Belinda. She gives her light secretarial duties, fits her out in stylish clothes and takes her along to every grand society event. The hostile person in the family is Millicent’s niece Fleur, who fits neatly into the spoilt, wilful but beautiful debutante category. She treats Belinda as a servant and is unfailingly rude to her. Millicent, the supposed dragon, ticks her off for these insults, of course, pointing out that Belinda is family.

The central plot revolves around a collection of archaeological artifacts, which Fleur and scholar Edward Fortescue, a friend of Belinda’s from book 1, are cataloguing. This is where everything unravels, because very little of this made much sense to me. I found it impossible to believe that the honour of the family hinged entirely on the collection, and there were so many coincidences and lucky breaks as to defy credibility. I’m still not sure who set the fires, or what became of the visits to His Grace and the Earl, which Millicent’s brothers were to undertake. Nor could I believe for one moment that spoilt, selfish Fleur, surrounded by titled suitors, would run away with a penniless man. Hot mess, the whole lot of it.

And here’s a complaint that I don’t often have to make these days — this book was riddled with typos. Not so much spelling errors, but missing or extraneous words, poor punctuation and even a wrong name (Millicent is called Mildred at one point). This is so disappointing, because the first book was very much cleaner in this respect, and it’s so sad when a fine writer’s work is let down in this way.

But the main romance was lovely. The hero was a delightful character that I was rooting for all the way, Belinda’s growing feelings were perfectly understandable and the misunderstandings between them actually made some sense. All their scenes shimmered with romantic fairy dust, even when Belinda herself wasn’t aware of it, there was no gratuitous sex scene this time (unlike the first book), and the ending was delightful. So, despite the hot mess (which may just be my brain not working well) and the typos, I’m going to give this three stars and hope for better in book 3, Cecily.

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Review: ‘The Difficult Life of a Regency Spinster: Abigail’ by Susan Speers

February 2, 2018 Review 0

A delightful book that almost made it to five stars. This is the first of a series focusing on Regency spinsters, those not born to great beauty or wealth or connections, who must eke out an existence as best they can. Miss Abigail Grey is a little-regarded step-daughter of her mother’s second husband, and, with her mother long-dead, has a difficult future ahead of her. But when she accompanies her wilful half-sister to a house party for the Marquess of Southey to choose a bride, Abigail recognises him as the impoverished soldier she rejected seven years earlier. There’s never any doubt as to where this is going, but the journey is entrancing.

I liked the Marquess very much, a sensible, thoughtful man, doing his duty at his aunt’s behest. A lesser writer would have had him rushing into a betrothal with the half-sister before realising his mistake, but no, he courts Abigail very determinedly, if discreetly, and never allows himself to be drawn in by the young ladies vying for his hand, or their scheming mamas. And Abigail behaves with (mostly) propriety, and has good reason for continuing to resist the marquess. And thereby lies a minor grumble – it surely wouldn’t have been too difficult for her to explain to him the reason for her refusal. It would have saved a great deal of difficulty.

The other characters are lightly sketched in, but I’ve been pleased to learn that some of them turn up later in the series. I didn’t detect any historical inaccuracies, and the writing avoided the pitfall of anachronistic manners or dialogue. Some aspects felt very Heyer-like (the wilful young ingenue and the callow youth, for instance, and perhaps the marquess falls into the world-weary older man role so beloved of Heyer, although happily without rakish tendencies). In almost all respects the book was the greatest pleasure to read.

The exception, and the reason for the loss of a star, is the gratuitous sex scene in the conservatory. I have no problem with sex in a Regency romance, but this felt utterly out of character for both parties. I would have loved a detailed proposal scene at this point, with the marquess spelling out how his feelings have deepened over the years since their brief earlier meeting, and how well-suited they were. Passion can be expressed just as well in words as in horizontal action.

Apart from this blip, the book was well-nigh perfect for me, I inhaled it in a day, and am going straight on to Belinda. Four stars.

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