Author: Mary Kingswood

Review: ‘An Inheritance for the Birds’ by Linda Banche

Posted April 28, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This is a sweet little story, with loads of quirky charm. When an elderly lady dies, her will sets up a contest for her estate between her two likely inheritors: her great-nephew, Kit Winnington, and her companion, Angela Stratton. All they have to do is to keep the old lady’s pet ducks happy, with the winner being determined by the solicitor administering the will. Since both are poor enough for the inheritance to be an attractive proposition, the battle is underway.

This is a delightful premise, and the contest, as it unfolds, doesn’t disappoint. The protagonists are suitably hostile towards each other, while (naturally) each finding the other remarkably desirable, the ducks have plenty of character of their own while providing much of the comic relief, and there’s an array of eccentric friends and neighbours on hand to provide plenty of complications.

It’s quite short, so the conclusion is reached all too soon. My only objection is that the friends and neighbours are a little too silly for words, so the story loses the opportunity for any subtlety. And as for the prospect of any man of the era removing his shirt to work when ladies might happen upon him, and said ladies falling upon him with glee, and even touching him, while he’s in such a state of undress – no, just no. But the tale is so charming in every other way, that it would be churlish to complain too much. An enjoyable four stars.

Tags:


Film review: Northanger Abbey (TV, 2007)

Posted April 20, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

It’s years since I’ve read the book, so I watched this with more or less fresh eyes, as a casual viewer, and I have no idea at all how closely it adheres to the book. Not very, probably, given the sexytimes between Isabella Thorpe and the dashing if callous Captain Tilney, and the somewhat raunchy dreams of Catherine Morland. I found them pretty implausible but whatever.

I’m going to be honest and say that this film left me unmoved. It wasn’t bad, exactly, but it just wasn’t convincing, somehow. None of the characters felt quite right for their roles and even the costumes grated on me, for some unfathomable reason (usually these days the accuracy is spot-on and there’s a proper adjustment for rank and character, but these just didn’t do it for me). Even the romance fell flat, which was really disappointing.

Now it’s not that there was anything wrong with it at all, and there were elements that I loved – Catherine’s dreams, for instance, full of dashing heroes and wildly romantic moments. But somehow, overall it was just ho-hum. If I have to account for it, I’d say that it failed to provide me with the full immersion-in-the-Regency experience – in other words, although it was well done, I could never forget I was watching actors in costumes on film sets. Very sad.

Tags:


Review: ‘Mistaken Kiss’ by Kathleen Baldwin

Posted April 5, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

A Bookbub free download.

This is an oddball one. The start is delicious. Willa is the sister of a clergyman, steeped in the logical and philosophical debates of her brother and his friend, Sir Daniel Braeburn. When her brother realises that she is growing up (and Willa’s breasts have a great deal to do with this observation, to very amusing effect), he decides that she should marry his fusty friend, so that the three of them can go on exactly as before. Willa isn’t completely unwilling, but she feels that they only way to determine whether she and Sir Daniel would suit is to kiss him.

This she sets out to do, but being very short-sighted, and having to remove her spectacles before undertaking the deed, she ends up kissing the wrong man, Alexander Braeburn, the brother of Sir Daniel. Naturally, the passionate kiss she shares with him turns everything upside down. And from there on, the game is to get the two together. To spin things out (because obviously two young people instantly attracted to each other and with no obstacles to marriage cannot be tolerated in a Regency romance), Willa is whisked off to London by batty Aunt Honore, who puts her in all sorts of near-compromising situations in order to raise the protective instincts of her reluctant swain.

And… that’s about it, really. There are some side plots involving her friend and his, which are pretty silly, but no worse than most Regencies, the writing is good, the two main characters are lovely, and there’s some nice business with the horse breeding which the hero is involved with. Oh yes, and it’s laugh-out-loud funny. My main concern is that the frivolous side plots so quickly twist from amusing to serious. The boating incident, for instance, which was very funny initially, and I loved that the heroine deduced what was going on and got herself out of the boat, but then the whole escapade veered off into near-tragedy, a startling change of tone. And the batty aunt was quite dangerous, I thought, in getting Willa into some quite dodgy situations. I didn’t find her funny at all.

But overall, an entertaining and enjoyable read with a nice romance, a little spoiled by the abrupt changes of tone. Four stars.

Tags:


‘Hope’ is now available… and the series draws to a conclusion!

Posted April 4, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in The Daughters of Allamont Hall / 0 Comments

Click to buyThe final book in The Daughters of Allamont Hall series is now available at all Amazons, and you can discover just what happened to the two missing brothers, Ernest and Frank, and what Mama has been up to! I hope there will be a few surprises along the way and that you find the conclusion satisfying. Click the image to buy for just $2.99 – but hurry! That’s a special new release price. And for a few days only, you can get Amy completely FREE, and buy Belle for just 99c (or equivalent). All the books are also free to subscribers in the Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime programs.

For me this is the end of an eighteen month adventure, starting from an idea that came to me when I was a passenger on a long, boring car journey, and finishing with the final tally of six novels and a novella. I’ve had the most amazing fun getting to know these characters and their world, and bringing each sister her happy ever after. Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

But of course this isn’t the end of the Allamont sisters and their large extended family, so watch out for Sons of the Marquess, coming later this year. There will be a FREE prequel novella, The Earl of Deveron, coming this summer (or winter, if you live in the southern hemisphere!), and then book 1 of the series, Lord Reginald, will be released around September or October. You can read a sneak preview at the end of Hope. And for those wondering when Cousin Mary will find lasting happiness, rest assured it won’t be long; she and Daniel Merton will be important characters in the new series.

Happy reading!

Tags:


Review: ‘Cousin Cecilia’ by Joan Smith

Posted March 15, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This is a lovely traditional Regency, focused on social niceties and marriage prospects and not much else. Anyone looking for high action or sex scenes or intrigue should look elsewhere. But for anyone who’s a fan of Georgette Heyer, this is a good substitute.

The premise is that the heroine, the eponymous Cecilia, is unmarried herself but an expert matchmaker, brought in to ensure that her cousins’ suitors get to the point of a declaration. She finds they’ve been led astray by recently returned widower Lord Wickham, so she sets out to charm him in order to arrange matters to her satisfaction. So far so good, and of course it’s no surprise that the initial flirtation between the two turns to something else.

With all Regencies of this type, there are two aspects that both have to work well for the book to be an overall success. One is the romp element, the side plots and minor characters and mishaps that drive the story forward, provide the amusement and throw the main characters into increasingly difficult encounters. This side of the story is fairly lightweight, but the characters are well-sketched and the mishaps are suitably entertaining. Cecilia’s efforts to bring her three provincial charges to a proper degree of self-esteem are nicely done, and I liked that the girls tended to lapse as soon as her back was turned. I liked, too, the very confined setting. Although the book ends up in London at the height of the season, most of it is set in one small town, and this aspect reminded me of Pride and Prejudice.

The romance is quite nicely developed, a slow-burn rather than insta-love or (worse) nothing at all until the last chapter. But here we see how a society flirtation gradually deepens and turns to serious love. However, I had a real problem with the character of Lord Wickham. He’s framed at the start as the villain of the piece, a worldly and dissolute man who leads the young suitors of the cousins by taking them to gambling dens and entertaining them to drunken parties at his home. He’s a very aloof, unfriendly man, we’re told, who never socialises and is rarely seen.

And naturally, the first time our heroine ventures out of the house, who should she bump into but this reclusive man, walking about town like anyone else, and perfectly willing to be sociable and charming, and even requesting permission to call upon her the next day. Just like any regular fellow. This pattern is repeated endlessly. Far from being a dissolute man leading the youngsters astray, he turns out to be a quiet and well educated, not to say learned, man, and it’s not really clear to me why he ever had a bad reputation. This is a theme of quite a few Regencies, in fact, that the supposed rake or black sheep turns out to be perfectly respectable after all.

And so the romance gets under way, and, given that both parties are intelligent, articulate people of independent means and both free to marry, it becomes increasingly difficult to contrive reasons why they shouldn’t progress smoothly to the altar. So the author falls back on the time-honoured strategy – the misunderstanding. He thinks she’s looking only for a practical marriage of convenience. She’s insulted by his unromantic proposal. And then they go to London and things get very silly indeed. I know Regencies are required to have a degree of silliness, with the two lovers at cross-purposes, but this was far too long-drawn-out for my taste.

However, overall the story was an enjoyable traditional Regency, historically sound and with characters who were believably of the era. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and only the above-mentioned flakiness in the plot keeps it to fours stars.

Tags:


Review: ‘You’re The Rogue That I Want’ by Samantha Holt

Posted March 4, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Birthday Regencies, Review / 0 Comments

When I had some Amazon tokens for my last birthday, I decided to buy some recommended traditional Regency romances, partly as research for my own Regencies, but also because I just like to read that style. But for comparison I also bought the top three bestsellers on Amazon on the day. This is one of those top three, so we can safely say this is the type of book that a great many people enjoy reading.

So let’s get one thing clear right from the start – this is not a Regency romance. Sure, there are references to pelisses and bonnets, breeches and mail coaches, and so on, but with only minor tweaks the whole story could be lifted and replanted in almost any era from late Victorian onwards. I can see it as a very successful contemporary romance. But not Regency. There is nothing at all in the characters’ behaviour or attitudes that speaks of that era.

So here’s the premise. The hero, Red, is the wealthy Earl of Redmere, whose hobby is smuggling. The heroine, Hannah, is a twenty-year-old who’s travelled alone from Hampshire to meet Red to persuade him to cross to France to collect a priceless historical artifact. And ‘travelled alone’ is not here a euphemism for ‘accompanied only by a lady’s maid, coachman, postilion and two footmen’ – she supposedly took the public coach. Alone, and no, she’s not a housemaid or governess, she’s supposed to be well-to-do. So my eyes are already rolling pretty hard at this point.

Our hero refuses, naturally, but changes his mind because reasons. At this point, I expected an adventure, with a trip to France and all that, but no, Red sends his crew off to France, and the next thing the boat is returning with the artifact. Then the heroine wants him to take her to London. He refuses, then changes his mind, because reasons. And off they go to London, abandoning the coach and accompanying servants pretty quickly because reasons.

And it becomes obvious from this point on that the reasons are actually to ensure that the hero and heroine are thrown together in a series of carefully staged vignettes of gradually rising sexual tension, strung into something vaguely resembling a narrative. Our heroic pair enjoy a night at a deserted inn, share a room at various inns and at one point are almost drowned crossing a river, which lucky escape causes them to kiss passionately on reaching dry land. Of course it does. And eventually all this increasing steaminess leads to the natural conclusion, whereupon our virgin heroine unleashes her capacity for multiple orgasms. Of course she does.

Now, there’s nothing at all wrong with any of this. In a contemporary romance it would be unexceptional, and even in a Regency it’s fine if the plot scaffolding is a little less flimsy than it is here. You can see how little the author is concerned with the background by her treatment of the priceless artifact. It’s described mostly just as a stone, and we learn later that it’s a mini-Rosetta stone, showing the same text in two previously undeciphered scripts. At first it takes two men to lift it off the boat. Later, the hero manages to cart it about while also carrying other luggage. Later still, he drops it rather painfully onto his foot. But the author never bothers to describe it. I imagined it as being stone-like, that is round, until it was described as being propped up against a wall. Only then did I realise that it was a slab or tablet shape. But we’re never given any indication of the dimensions, because at bottom it’s just a plot device.

Some other minor grumbles. Whisky. Repeat after me: whisky has no ‘e’ in it, not in Regency-era England. Lots of modern language (’the boss of me’? Really?). A hefty dose of typos, especially towards the end, as if the proofreader just gave up at some point. But the author’s done some research, especially into travel times, and I was delighted that, when new clothes were needed, they didn’t just pop into a shop and emerge fully kitted out again. But so much was out of kilter for a Regency novel that these details couldn’t redeem it for me. And then the ending – oh dear. After building up so nicely to the climax (so to speak), the author spoiled it all by tossing in one of those stupid moments where everything could have been resolved by a two minute chat, but no, the hero has to be all noble, for the heroine’s own good. Bleagh.

At this stage, I should point out once again that this was one of the three bestselling Regency romances on Amazon when I bought it. It’s still highly ranked, and has a 4.5 review average (which is stunningly good). Which means my poor opinion of it is shared by – well, probably nobody. If you don’t mind a fairly non-authentic Regency, with a strong focus on the main characters having the hots for each other, and not a lot else, then I commend this book to you. In fact, anyone who’s not me would probably enjoy this book enormously, and I’m just an eccentric pedant to grumble about it. On the plus side, I read it to the end, didn’t skip much and (looking on the bright side) all that eye-rolling is probably good for my facial muscles. Or something. Three stars.

Tags: