Month: February 2019

Review: Lord Blackwell’s Rude Awakening by Julie Tetel Andresen

Posted February 17, 2019 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This was a surprising book. I picked it up because it looked like an interesting plot, a pragmatic marriage of convenience between two people from adjoining estates whose circumstances had recently changed. It turned out to be a whole heap of slightly kinky sex, so if discipline and light bondage isn’t your thing – avoid! And then, oddly, the sex was more or less abandoned to focus on more intellectual matters and the burgeoning relationship (outside of the bedroom) between the protagonists. Their conversations sometimes felt like some kind of verbal ping-pong. I have to confess that I’m not at all sure what the author was trying to achieve here, but whatever it was, it whizzed over my head.

As for the characters, I liked Charlotte very much. She felt like someone I would enjoy knowing, and her huge range of friends and acquaintances, despite rarely leaving the vicinity of her home, felt very realistic to me. Max I cordially disliked. I hated the way he treated his bride, hated his arrogance, and didn’t find his conversion to besotted husband at all believable. I also didn’t find him the least bit attractive. Despite being told how handsome and so forth he is, there was no charm there, and frankly he felt like a world-weary and selfish older man.

The book is well written, although there were a few historical inaccuracies. The author falls into the usual trap of assuming a wedding will be a showy affair, but Regency weddings were generally pretty low key. The bride would just wear her best dress of the moment, rather than a special wedding dress, and certainly not an heirloom dress from a generation ago! But at least it wasn’t white. And no one would ever kiss in public, and certainly not in church, that would be unthinkable. The hero would be very unlikely to drink a single malt (whisky was under all sorts of restrictions at the time, and brandy was the more usual tipple). I somehow don’t think a Regency character would worry about ‘staying on task’.

The oddness of the book keeps it to three stars for me, but it’s an interesting attempt at something out of the usual style of Regencies. I recommend it to anyone who likes something a little different and doesn’t mind the mild kinkiness. It’s a brave and well-crafted attempt at originality, and I enjoyed it despite its quirks.

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Review: The Earl’s Dilemma by Emily Larkin

Posted February 2, 2019 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This is a book of two halves. The first half is perfect. No, really – absolutely perfect, hitting all the right notes. I laughed, I cried, I gasped, I laughed some more. It was wonderful. The second half, not so much.

Let’s start with the premise, which is usually one that has me rolling my eyes in disbelief – a man must marry before a certain date in order to gain his inheritance. If he doesn’t, he loses it. Yes, that old chestnut. As a rule, the reason for this is specious, at best, and the man in question promptly runs off and proposes to the most improbable person imaginable, who even more improbably accepts him. Even Georgette Heyer had trouble making characters like this sensible (see Friday’s Child, although Heyer’s humour allows her to get away with it, just). But here, the circumstances make it more understandable, and the hero, James, while determined to secure his inheritance, at leasts sets out to marry someone suitable, the sister of his best friend, someone he’s known for years and regards as a comfortable friend.

The heroine, Kate, unfortunately overhears him talking about his plans and his lack of love for her, so although she’s been in love with him for years, she turns him down (another Heyer plot, Sprig Muslin). Instead, she offers to find him a bride, and this part of the book is deliciously funny. Every candidate, James discovers, has some fatal flaw – too tall, too short, too thin, too plump, too much of a chatterbox, too painfully shy, too silly… As he dismisses every possibility, he realises what is wrong with all of them – they are not Kate.

But then Kate comes up with a candidate who is perfect in every way – beautiful, intelligent, sensible. James concedes that she would make a perfect wife, but unfortunately Kate’s brother Harry thinks so too… Oops. This could have turned into a silly Bath Tangle-esque muddle of mismatched pairs, but the characters are sensible people who recognise the problem and behave with maturity, talking their way out of trouble. This is awesome.

However, with the way now clear for the two main characters to realise their love for each other, the author settles for that time-worn obstacle, the misunderstanding. Even though James declares his love for Kate, she refuses to believe him and turns him away, he gets angry and thus we come to part two of the book which is all about sex. We get chapter after chapter of (essentially) foreplay as James decides that the only way to win Kate over is to seduce her. To be honest, the endless I-love-you, I-don’t-believe-you back and forth, and the long-drawn-out seduction got very tedious. I’m OK with the idea that Regency people were just as passionate as modern folk, but the era was all about restraint and using clever conversation to convey emotions. Having dealt with their problems so sensibly in the first half, it was disappointing that common sense went out of the window in the second half. I so wanted James to convince Kate with words, not by ripping her clothes off. But the one sex scene is tastefully done, if implausible.

Apart from this, the book is beautifully written and historically accurate down to the last detail, and I highly recommend it for those who don’t mind a bit of sex in their Regency. For me, the long-drawn-out and unlikely resolution keeps things to four stars.

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