Tag: darcy

Review: Eugenia by Clare Darcy (1977) [Trad]

Posted August 13, 2021 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I’ve been hearing for so long that Clare Darcy was one of the best of the old-school Regency authors, but finally a bunch of her books are out on Kindle, and I can say it myself – yep, she’s definitely one of the best. This is very much in the Georgette Heyer style of a romp, the pages filled with wildly eccentric (but very funny) characters, an over-the-top (but very funny) plot and a great deal of stylish (but very funny) writing. Did I like it? I loved it!

Here’s the premise: Miss Eugenia Liddiard is leaving Miss Bascom’s Select Academy for Young Ladies in Bath to return to her guardian’s estate. The Earl of Chandross inherited her three years earlier when her father died, whereupon she became just another indigent relation dependent on his lordship, and living at Mere. But now Eugenia is old enough to be fired off into society, to marry and no longer be a charge on her guardian. She has a much more comfortable plan of her own, however. She will marry the neighbour from her old home in Kent, Tom Rowntree, since he’s a childhood playmate, they get on like a house on fire and he’s the brother of her best friend. But on the journey from Bath, she has an unexpected encounter with a previously unsuspected cousin, Richard Liddiard, who’s too ill to resist being scooped up in one of Eugenia’s daring schemes – he’s the spitting image of another cousin, Gerry, so she’ll take him to Mere to recuperate, where he’ll pretend to be Gerry. Which plan goes along swimmingly until Bow Street Runners arrive, looking for Gerry to arrest him for killing a man in a highway robbery gone wrong.

Eugenia is delightfully creative, however, so she devises one plan after another to keep Richard safe from the law, and Gerry, too, when he turns up, not hesitating to involve her friend (Tom’s sister, Muffet), her old nurse and coachman, Tom and his family, and the glorious Lady Brassborough, an actress and all-round strumpet gone more or less respectable, having married one of her many admirers. Here’s a glimpse of her style: ‘Upstairs in her bedchamber Lady Brassborough, […]was being assisted by Hortense, her ancient dresser, into a toilette that was warranted to astound all beholders, consisting of a crimson brocade gown, a turban of crimson satin shot with gold and embellished with a plume of curled ostrich feathers, a tinsel shawl, spangled Spanish slippers, and the Pontowski emeralds, which mounted her majestic bosom in heavy splendour to fall in an unbelievable cascade to her non-existent waist.’

The finale to these shenanigans is so wonderful, I’m not going to spoil it by revealing any of the details. Suffice it to say that Heyer herself could not have concocted anything more perfect. Or perfectly absurd, perhaps. Now, a great many reviews lament that Clare Darcy is not Georgette Heyer, despite some similarities, which is obviously true. Like Jane Austen, Heyer is incomparable and anyone who reads this book expecting to find a faithful imitation of Heyer will be disappointed. But Darcy has her own magnificent style, and although she was clearly influenced by Heyer (as many authors were), she very much puts her own stamp on her own creation.

The romance suffers, as many of the era do, from subservience to the needs of the over-active plot, and from the lack of the hero’s perspective. Nevertheless, the hero is not the overbearing, domineering sort (and all the better for it), and their final denouement is managed with determination, if not a great deal of finesse on his side. But thank heavens for a couple who know their own minds and don’t have to be cajoled into a betrothal, or, which is worse, have their own feelings pointed out to them.

I really enjoyed this, and will be looking out for more by Clare Darcy. Highly recommended for traditionalists. Five stars.

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Review: ‘The Earl And The Girl From The Abbey’ by Regina Darcy

Posted November 25, 2016 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I keep seeing Regina Darcy’s books popping up in the bestseller lists, so eventually I had to try one of them. I found it a frustrating read. On the one hand, the story is an appealing one, the main characters are likable and there are fewer historical errors than usual in many modern Regencies. On the other hand, there were innumerable minor errors, mostly punctuation, which made me very twitchy, and the story was just too short for any real character development. Amazon judges it to be 61 pages long, but the book ends at 76% of that, the rest being taken up with chapters of other books. That’s barely more than short story length.

Let’s get the historical errors out of the way first. The younger son of an earl is not a lord, not even when he’s the heir presumptive. He’s the Honourable Mr Davenport (in this case). Then there’s the Earl managing to re-outfit himself by popping into a tailor and coming out fully supplied. Nope. The making of gentlemen’s clothing was a long-drawn-out business involving selecting materials, measuring and multiple fittings, which would have taken weeks to complete. But these are minor matters, which only pedants like me care about.

More concerning is the implausibility of the romance. He needs to marry an heiress, she wants to meet a man she can fall in love with. They meet once at a dinner, have one conversation and that’s it. They’re in love and he immediately sets off to meet Aunty (or possibly Auntie, depending on which page you’re on), the Abbess of the local abbey, to ask permission to marry her niece. Not that she needs permission, being of age and all, but still. And then we’re into a whole implausible scandal, with a villain so obvious it’s impossible to miss. A dramatic finale and {drumroll} that’s it. All done and dusted.

Now, it would be possible to build this into a full-length novel, with some deeper character development. I would have liked to see more of our abbey-raised heroine encountering the peculiarities of Regency society. I’d have liked to see some serious rivals for her hand (since she’s an heiress) so that our hero has to work to win her over. I’d have liked, at the least, a nod towards a slower courtship. A paragraph or two describing how he visits more and more often, so that their love develops more naturally, would have been enough.

So for me, this wasn’t a wholly satisfactory story but then I’m a self-confessed pedant. It’s clear from some passages that the author has a flair for writing Regency. With a little more time taken to develop the characters and their relationships, and a thorough editing pass, this would be a good, if short, read. Three stars.

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