Posts Categorized: Birthday Regencies

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

March 4, 2017 Birthday Regencies, Review 0

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.

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Review: ‘The Mysterious Heir’ by Edith Layton

December 23, 2016 Birthday Regencies, Review 0

I got off on completely the wrong foot with this one, a 1984 book which is part of my birthday Regency list. The very first scene introduces the reader to a curmudgeonly gentleman, sitting huddled beside the fire with his very much needed walking stick, massaging his gammy leg (an old war wound) and railing at the rain. Naturally I assumed he was a very elderly gentleman, and took the young man, fair of form and face, who bounds in later, as the hero. Not so. The curmudgeon turns out to be thirty or so, an earl and indisputably the hero.

Then I was tripped up by the Earl having to meet three prospective heirs and choose one from amongst them. Excuse me? On what planet did any titled Regency gent get to choose his heir? He might leave his property where he liked (if it wasn’t entailed), but the title followed very strict rules. So I was struggling in the early chapters with both misdirection and historical blunders.

Neither of the main characters really grabbed me by the throat, so to speak. The Earl continues to act the curmudgeon for most of the book, and in his dealings with Elizabeth, the heroine, there’s an edge almost of violence sometimes, that really made me dislike him. He also treats her with unspeakable cruelty at the end, and no, not telling her what’s going on ‘for her own good’ is not an acceptable excuse. And she’s an idiot sometimes, but she probably had more of an excuse than he did.

However, there’s a lot to like about this book. There’s plenty of humour, there are some delightful minor characters, like Bev, the gay friend of the Earl, Anthony, one of the heirs, who is a huge fan of Napoleon, and another heir, Owen, a podgy foodaholic. The writing is excellent and the plot unfolded at a stately but enjoyable pace. The villains are idiotically obvious, but subtlety isn’t a prerequisite for this kind of book.

What saved everything for me was the development of the romance, which blossoms very, very slowly over the whole course of the book. I’m a sucker for a believable romance, and the author is skillful enough to infuse the whole thing with romantic fairydust which, in the end, outweighed the less likable aspects of their characters. And there was enough tension in some of the hero and heroine’s scenes to keep me avidly turning the pages. Four stars.

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Birthday Regencies

December 4, 2016 Birthday Regencies 0

I recently had a birthday, and my kind relatives treated me to Amazon gift cards. Naturally, I rushed to the Amazon Kindle store to buy as many books as I could with their largesse. Since I’m rereading Georgette Heyer at the moment, I thought it would be an interesting contrast to try something more recent for comparison. My tastes just now running to traditional rather than bodice-ripper, I searched particularly for that style, although it was difficult to find them – they tend to be well-buried amongst all those covers with flowing skirts and off-the-shoulder numbers. But here’s what I came up with, in three categories (prices in £ alongside):

1) Older books (pre-2001):

  • The Nomad Harp: Laura Matthews 2.67 1980
  • The Mysterious Heir: Edith Layton 3.85 1984
  • Brighton Road: Susan Carroll 2.20 1988
  • The Rake: Mary Jo Putney 4.02 1989
  • Cousin Cecilia: Joan Smith 2.99 1990
  • Lord of Scoundrels: Loretta Chase 3.99 1995
  • Reforming Lord Ragsdale: Carla Kelly 2.49 1995
  • One Night For Love: Mary Balogh 4.99 1999
  • A Summer To Remember: Mary Balogh 5.99 2002
  • The Viscount Who Loved Me: Julia Quinn 3.33 2000

2) More recent (2001-2012):

  • The Silent Governess: Julie Klassen 3.69 2010
  • The Kiss Of A Stranger: Sarah M Eden 1.09 2011
  • Edenbrooke: Julianne Donaldson 8.59 2012

3) The latest thing – the three bestsellers in the US on the day I looked:

  • The Duke’s Everburning Passion: Charlotte Stone 0.99
  • You’re The Rogue That I Want: Samantha Holt 3.27
  • Gaining the Gentleman: Eleanor Meyers 0.99

I’ve already made a start on The Nomad Harp, and I’ll review everything as I read them.

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