Month: July 2018

Review: The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

Posted July 25, 2018 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 2 Comments

A delight from start to finish. A hero and heroine who are both sensible, reasonable people, a young buck who manages to be perfectly gentlemanly, a ‘villain’ who still manages to be sympathetic despite his total selfishness, and a plot that rattles along nicely without any eye-rolling moments. What could possibly go wrong? Well, I’ll come to that.

The premise: to the disgust of his less well-heeled relatives, Sir Waldo Hawkridge has inherited a run-down property in Yorkshire from the reclusive Joseph Calver. To the delight of the locals, Sir Waldo, known as the Nonesuch for his sporting abilities, arrives to inspect the property, with his cousin Julian, Lord Lindeth, in tow. Julian’s escaping the efforts of his fond mother to see him rise to stellar heights in London society. He, however, prefers a quiet country life.

The locals are determined to make the most of these unexpected arrivals, and launch a season of outings and parties and general gaiety, with the less than subtle intention of securing one or both of the gentlemen for one of the local girls. Julian is instantly smitten by the devastatingly beautiful Tiffany Wield, while Waldo is drawn to her cool, composed and oh-so-elegant governess-companion, Ancilla Trent.

And so begins the dance. Waldo and Ancilla both, in their different ways, contrive to keep Julian out of Tiffany’s clutches, Ancilla by playing on Tiffany’s self-interest, and Waldo by manoeuvring Tiffany to show her worst, self-centred, temper-tantrum self in front of Julian. And this goes along so swimmingly that Tiffany decides to run away and recruits the equally self-centred cousin Laurence to her cause, a mistake of huge (and very entertaining) proportions.

All of this is delightful, and our two principals are merrily falling in love and on the brink of their happy ending, but naturally this wouldn’t be a Regency romance if two rational adults simply fell in love and got married, and so we come to the inevitable obstacle. Surely it can’t be…? But it is. Once again a perfectly decent story is mucked up with The Great Misunderstanding, of the sort that could easily be sorted out in two minutes if the hero and heroine just talked to each other.

Which is disappointing, but luckily the hero is a sensible man who doesn’t storm off in a huff or (as in some books) immediately betroth himself to some hideously unsuitable person. Instead, he keeps asking the heroine ‘Why not?’ every time she refuses him, by which means the matter is eventually resolved. Thank heavens for sensible heroes!

Despite the annoyance of The Great Misunderstanding, the rest of the book was overwhelmingly enjoyable, and it was all cleared up quickly so I’m not going to knock off a star. Plus I rather liked Waldo – one of the better heroes, I think. So, five stars.


Review: The Youngest Dowager by Louise Allen

Posted July 13, 2018 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I’m not at all sure what to make of this one. On the one hand, I devoured it with relish, storming through the pages at a rate of knots. On the other hand, it has a number of aspects that make me roll my eyes so hard my head is spinning.

The premise is excellent. Marissa was married at seventeen to the much older Earl of Longminster at the command of her father. He was a cold and controlling man, and she can hardly believe that she’s now free. The new earl, Marcus, newly arrived from the West Indies, is very like his predecessor in looks, but not in personality. The two are drawn together, but she’s reluctant to get involved. He thinks her coldness towards him is because she’s still in love with her husband, and she thinks that all men are like her late husband. So far, so interesting.

But the plot soon becomes implausible, and in places downright preposterous. Marissa can hardly turn round without bumping into Marcus, usually at a moment when her secretly passionate nature is to the fore and she’s doing something hoydenish, and frequently when they’re alone. Almost at once, he’s claiming a passionate kiss and (surprise!) she responds to him. And then backs away hastily, remembering that he’s a man and therefore The Enemy.

This back and forth goes on for pretty much the whole book, with the encounters getting more and more ridiculous. Would you believe that a very proper Regency lady, a countess, no less, goes riding secretly at night, astride, naturally, and then goes skinny-dipping in the sea? No? Nor would I, but so it is. And would you believe that her secret ride is observed by the earl, who immediately summons his horse and chases after her, even stripping off and dashing into the sea to rescue her, gallant hero that he is? Well, he thought she was trying to kill herself. Of course he did. And he needed to console her pretty thoroughly after rescuing her. Of course he did. My eyes were rolling pretty hard at this point.

But you know what? It was a great scene anyway, and I loved it. The author is a terrific writer, however wacky the plot, and the story just carried me along. I had a lot of sympathy for Marissa, who had had a pretty horrible life and was naturally finding it a bit difficult to put herself in the power of another man. Marcus I found more difficult to like. He veered about too randomly for my liking, grabbing kisses at the most inappropriate times, and in a fairly domineering way, deciding that he’ll marry Marissa seemingly out of the blue, getting mad at her, displaying a violent temper and then bantering with her in a light-hearted manner completely out of keeping with his previous moods. He just didn’t make much sense to me.

And yet somehow, in all this hot mess of contradictions and misunderstandings and wrong assumptions on both sides, even including that tired old cliche, the mistress that’s in his past but the heroine doesn’t know that… sigh… it all works and I really enjoyed the romance. The sex scenes are hot (and fairly graphic, so if you’re not into that, steer clear), there’s real chemistry between the hero and heroine, and there was definitely emotional depth to it as Marcus discovers just what sort of a husband his predecessor was, and Marissa gradually learns to trust him and open up a bit. There are some fairly minor side plots, and the wayward sister (another tired old cliche) is pretty silly, but it was the main romance that made the book for me.

Even the several times my pedant-o-meter went off didn’t spoil my enjoyment. Drapes instead of curtains, for instance, or Marcus being called an Honourable (I spent ages trying to figure out a way to make him so before finally giving it up as an error). I wasn’t comfortable with all the ladies being in full mourning for over a year, either, because the Regency was far more flexible about that, but none of this spoilt my enjoyment, and the book was so well written and so accurate in most other respects, that I gave the author a pass. And she got a shed-load of brownie points for a couple of beautifully correct introduction scenes (most authors are far too casual about it; proper introductions were hugely important in Regency society).

A great read for those who like a spicier Regency, but the implausibilities keep it to four stars.