Tag: lancaster

Review: The Wicked Governess by Mary Lancaster

Posted November 13, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Mary Lancaster’s books are always entertaining, so I knew I’d enjoy this right from the start. There was less in the way of piracy and other shenanigans in this book, which is very much a plus for me, and the romance, while a little insta-lust, is still very well developed.

Here’s the premise: Caroline Grey, the governess at Braithwaite Castle in the previous book, is summarily dismissed for an alleged misdemeanour, finding work at the sinister Haven Hall instead. Her pupil is mute, but not physically, so it’s presumed there’s been some traumatic incident. Also at Haven Hall is the slightly bonkers aunt and the child’s darkly mysterious father, Javan Benedict. When Caroline arrives, the family is very reclusive, so needless to say, she attempts to draw them out into society. They are surprisingly willing (well, the book would be quite dull if they weren’t), and so they are, inch by reluctant inch, rehabilitated.

Caroline is a likable character, and although she’s the wicked governess of the title, there isn’t really anything wicked about her, except in the fevered imaginations of some Blackhaven residents. She does have some family issues, but they aren’t terribly dramatic.

Hero Javan, on the other hand, has a whole shedload of issues. We’re into Beauty and the Beast territory here, since he’s the wounded and scarred beast to Caroline’s beauty. I’m not a huge fan of the instant hots for each other scenario, but it’s something of a feature in Lancaster’s work, so I’m used to it by now. There’s also some fairly physical lusting and one graphic sex scene, so traditionalists beware.

There isn’t anything wildly original about the plot, and readers can work out almost from the start how it’s going to go, but it’s nicely done, as always, it feels believably Regency, and there’s enough action to sweep the plot along without overwhelming the romance. I liked Caroline a lot, and although I had less patience with Javan, I understood his reluctance to commit himself. Honourable mentions for Rosa, the mute daughter, who was a wonderful character in her own right, and the mischievous cousin, Richard. I hope we see more of him (and I’m likely to get my wish, because the author loves to bring in characters from previous books).

Great fun, and a nicely written book that fulfils all expectations of the series without becoming boring. Four stars.

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Review: The Wicked Marquis by Mary Lancaster

Posted November 13, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Every Mary Lancaster book is a cracking read, and this is no exception. A spirited heroine, an unusual but very hot hero, a one-look-across-a-crowded-room insta-love (although it was an orchard in this case), loads of passionate kisses and a whole heap of shenanigans of the smuggling/spies/thieves variety. It’s all very entertaining, and for those who enjoyed the first four books in the series, this is more of the same. For myself, I’d have liked a little bit of variety on the basic plot, and there were several loose threads left dangling, but it was still a great read.

Here’s the premise: Lady Serena Conway, sister to the Earl of Braithwaite, has been sent home from London to Blackhaven after the disgrace of jilting a dull but respectable baronet. Stuck at Braithwaite Castle with only her younger sisters and their governess for company, and strictly forbidden from venturing into society, she’s soon bored witless by her captivity. But then she spies an odd looking man from the window, entering the castle’s orchard. And naturally, she rushes out to find out who he is.
He turns out to be the impoverished Marquis of Tamar, although it’s some time before Serena learns who he is, and so we have the amusement of her thinking the scruffy painter who treats her with casual friendship will be shocked when he realises who she is, when in fact she’s shocked to discover he outranks her. But he’s wildly ineligible, being completely broke, and somewhat disreputable.

Needless to say, as is pretty usual with Mary Lancaster’s books, the two are magically drawn to each other from the start, and are soon sharing passionate kisses, described in some detail. But of course there’s always an obstacle, and Tamar’s past soon comes back to haunt them.

There are no fewer than three dramatic subplots – some mysterious goings on in the castle cellar, the theft of some of Tamar’s paintings and a bailiff who’s hanging around him, even though peers of the realm can’t be thrown into a debtor’s prison. The first comes to the boil quite early in the book, the second is very easily solved and the third seemed to fizzle out after the bailiff was given a bit of a talking to. Or maybe I missed a vital point, I don’t know. There were a couple of other dangling threads that puzzled me. One was the cheerful actress who helps Tamar out and seems to be there merely to throw Serena into a bout of jealousy, but he never seemed to explain it properly to her. Again, maybe I missed it. The other weird part was the collection of jewellery dumped on Tamar at an awkward moment. What was that all about? I clearly missed the point of that entirely. But then these books always have so much going on that it’s very easy to get swept up in the excitement and read so fast that details just whizz by.

The romance… I don’t know why, but it didn’t grab me. I’m not a big fan of insta-love, or of well-brought-up young ladies who immediately fall panting into the arms of the most unlikely characters, and somehow, despite the nicely drawn descriptions of Serena’s feelings (the author does this so well), somehow I wasn’t convinced. Perhaps it was because, compared to some of the previous Blackhaven heroines, Serena felt rather ordinary. Or perhaps there was so much else going on that the romance felt a bit rushed. Tamar, on the other hand, is rather a charmer, completely open about his admiration, and so swept up in his obsession that he has to paint her instantly, now, this very minute.

Of the other characters, there are quite a few popping up from the earlier books. It’s not necessary to have read them, but it would have been handy to have a little guide to remind me. The Dowager Countess was the usual type, fairly stiff and a bit domineering. Serena’s brother Braithwaite was an interesting character, although his switch from dead against the marriage to let’s-call-the-banns was breathtakingly swift. I loved the reason for it though (which I won’t spoil the surprise by mentioning). And I loved the children, and long-suffering Miss Grey, their governess.

Another rattling good yarn in this series. Four stars, and since the next book is about the governess, I’m going to have to go straight on to that.

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Review: The Wicked Husband by Mary Lancaster

Posted June 20, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 5 Comments

Yet another cracking read from Mary Lancaster. There are a lot of familiar themes here – a rake reformed, an elopement, the downtrodden poor relation who’s been in love with the hero for years, a former mistress and a whole heap of duels. In other hands these could be tired old cliches, but the author makes everything fresh and fun.

Here’s the premise: Willa Blake is the aforementioned downtrodden poor relation, treated as an unpaid servant and subject to routine humiliation from her cousin Ralph. And this is how she bumps into the hero, for Lord Daxton (Dax) is in the middle of a monumental gaming session with Ralph, who’s losing badly. He sends for Willa to bring him a purse of money, and then insists she stay and watch, while all around there are wild, drunken men and borderline anarchy. It’s not a place any gently brought up young lady should be. Our hero Dax recognises Willa and despite being roaring drunk, chivalrously wants to protect her. When he’s won even the extra money from Ralph, he takes Willa away from the scene and somehow decides he’ll marry her. They end up heading straight for the border, being married over the anvil at Gretna and heading for home. Whereupon Dax, having been up gambling for three nights straight, falls into a sound sleep. When he wakes up, he’s a bit hazy about what happened…

I really liked Dax. Rakes are always charmers but they can also be selfish beasts, too, and Dax epitomises the type. Once he’s been reminded that he’s married, he decides he quite likes it and squires Willa about town, buying her new clothes and enjoying showing her off to everyone. But of course there are wobbly moments too, and he’s somewhat tested when both his former mistress and his mother turn up, determined to have the marriage annulled. Fortunately Willa is a delightfully pragmatic bride, not at all phased by his hungover rages. Of course, knowing that he only married her on a whim, she can’t possibly tell him that she’s been in love with him for years, so she suffers in silence through all the shenanigans going on on the background, including was it three duels? Good grief.

I have to say that I wasn’t entirely convinced that Dax would manage to stay contented and faithful for the rest of his life, but that’s the universal problem with rakes – do they ever truly reform? I could very easily believe, though, that he himself believes it at that moment. He intends to be faithful, so perhaps he’ll manage it.

My only grumble on historical accuracy grounds is that, despite all the talk of an annulment, it was incredibly difficult to get one in the Regency, and since one of the characters actually explains the point, I was a bit confused as to why it was even an issue. Beyond that, the writing is pretty accurate to the period. There is some lusting and a small amount of graphic sex, for those who are concerned about that.

As so often in this series, Mary Lancaster has created a likable but slightly bad-boy hero, a demure and downtrodden heroine and a fun, if implausible, adventure in the background. It’s an entertaining romp, very funny and highly recommended. Five stars.

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Review: The Wicked Rebel by Mary Lancaster

Posted April 16, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Mary Lancaster has rapidly become one of my favourite authors, with her witty and jolly romps in the emerging spa town of Blackhaven. This is the third in the series, and continues the trend of likable heroines, sexy and slightly bad-boy heroes, and a nicely crafted plot.

Here’s the premise: Lady Arabella Niven is the last remaining unmarried daughter of a duke, a gentle soul who would love to retreat to an isolated cottage somewhere and write books, but is being pushed into marriage to a portly old gentleman very much against her will. Her health is uncertain so she’s been sent to Blackhaven to take the waters, along with two aunts who fuss and fret her half to death. In a bid to find just an hour or two’s freedom from harassment, she takes a small rowing boat out into the bay where she spots a man apparently drowning. Rowing fearlessly to the rescue, the man emerges, totally naked, from the water and climbs into her boat. And so begins a most unlikely romance between a duke’s daughter and a smuggler. Or free trader, as Alban likes to call himself.

The author is not one to leave a romance to build slowly, so there’s an instant attraction between the two, and a dilemma for both of them. Can she walk away from the pressure of her family’s expectations? Can he, as an outlaw, risk an entanglement with such a high-ranking lady? And there’s a certain amount of family history lurking in the background. It’s problematic. And as they gradually try to determine what they want from the future, the past catches up with them and puts various people in jeopardy.

This is another fun read, with no real surprises along the way, and a certain amount of stupidity on the part of both hero and heroine (him in leaving two defenceless children in the care of people who have already proved they can’t be trusted, and her in allowing herself to be manipulated, even when she knows very clearly what she wants). But (surprise!) it all works out happily in the end, the bad guys get their comeuppance, our romantic pair get together and everybody else gets put in their place.

Terrific fun, lots of humour, a great romance. Lady Arabella in particular is beautifully drawn, a woman who is too timid to stand up to her domineering family openly, but smart enough to thwart their will in a thousand quietly subversive ways. She knows very well what she doesn’t want (an enforced marriage to an uncongenial man) but it isn’t until she meets Alban that she discovers what she actually wants, and the backbone to reach out and take it. I liked her very much. She totally deserves a hot bloke like Alban. There’s a fair amount of lusting and passionate kissing, and one sex scene. Five stars.

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Review: The Wicked Lady by Mary Lancaster

Posted April 16, 2020 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 1 Comment

This was such a lot of fun. There’s nothing more entertaining than watching the most unlikely couple imaginable fight against their inevitable destiny, and these two are incredibly unlikely. She’s a widow with a scandalous reputation and he’s a curate – how can it possibly work? Yet as is the way of these things, naturally they’re instantly drawn to each other.

Here’s the premise: Kate Crowmore has just escaped from a horrible marriage, which sounds like good news, right? But the scandal surrounding the circumstances of her husband’s death has destroyed her reputation. Head high, she’s decamped from gossipy London to quieter Blackhaven, where she hopes she won’t be quite so ostracised. A small town in the north is also a good place to evade whoever’s trying to kill her. The last thing she needs is a romantic interest, but Tristram Grant is charming and irresistible. There’s only one problem – he’s a clergyman, and a curate at that – the lowest of the low.

So the stage is set for the Odd Couple, and their early interchanges are delicious, the spark between them obvious, and the banter scintillating. But this is not just a romance, because of the aforementioned person trying to kill Kate, and while Tristram’s more than willing to do what he can to help out, things are complicated by the arrival of assorted relations, some friendly, some not so much. So, as in the previous book in the series, there’s a lot of running, hiding, fighting off villains and trying to work out who’s on who’s side. And all the time, Kate and Tristram are lusting after each other, and Kate’s refusing to consider the possibility of a second marriage.

The way the romance unfolds isn’t in the least original, but it’s beautifully done, a mixture of funny and dramatic and sad, with two well-drawn characters that the reader is rooting for right from the start. The author has a very solid grip on Regency mores, so even my over-sensitive pedant-o-meter was only triggered once, by a rather cavalier treatment of a special licence (I’m quite sure that’s not legal!), but it didn’t matter a bit. It would be helpful to have read the first book, since a number of characters pop up here, but it’s not essential. For those looking for a sex-free read, this is one to avoid, since there’s lots of lusting and some graphic details towards the end. But for anyone who doesn’t mind that, this is great fun and highly recommended. Five stars.

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Review: The Wicked Baron by Mary Lancaster

Posted September 20, 2019 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 1 Comment

This was a whole lot of fun – well written, plausible, with some great characters and (hooray!) set away from the usual Regency hotspots of London and Bath. And funny. I do like a book that makes me laugh.

Here’s the premise: Gillie Muir is struggling to make ends meet after her father’s death. Genteel card parties and some cooperation with the local smugglers mean she’s just holding on, but it’s difficult and she’s gradually being ostracised by good society. But newly-fashionable spa town Blackhaven in Cumberland attracts some odd characters, and when Lord Wickenden (known as the Wicked Baron) arrives, Gillie’s world is torn apart. In an echo of Heyer’s ‘Faro’s Daughter’, the baron has arrived to detach Gillie from a suitor whose mother thinks him unsuitable. He needn’t have bothered, for Gillie has no interest in the suitor. The wicked baron is another matter, however…

There’s a lot going on in the background here, what with the smuggling and some other undercover business (trying to avoid spoilers here) and various romantic entanglements. The heart of the book, however, is Gillie and Lord Wickenden. He starts by trying to bed her directly, then tries to woo her more subtly and ends up entirely entangled in her affairs and revealing a much more generous nature. Gillie, on the other hand, falls instantly in love and that can only end badly… can’t it? I confess to astonishment at the number of inventive ways and places and situations the baron exploited to steal a kiss from Gillie, but it felt completely in character for him, and I totally understand why Gillie fell for him.

The ending is suitably dramatic and my only complaint is that, even when our hero and heroine have reached what appears to be an unshakable accommodation, the author throws up yet more bumps on their road to a HEA. I felt Gillie was being pretty silly at the end there, and in fact her judgement was a bit suspect in other ways, too. However, she’s a fine independent lady and a good match for the wicked baron, so I forgive her.

The historical accuracy is almost impeccable, apart from a few trivial errors. For those who like their Regencies totally sex-free, there is one tasteful but graphic sex scene and a certain amount of impassioned kissing and general lusting.

I loved this book, and since I had the smarts to pick up the first four books of the series as a box set, I’ve got plenty more of Mary Lancaster’s work to enjoy. Highly recommended. Five stars.

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