Tag: darcy

Review: Lady Pamela by Clare Darcy (1975)

Posted July 9, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I’m going to be honest, this one didn’t really do it for me. It had its moments (mainly to do with the rather wonderful hero, Carlin), but I never came to like the headstrong heroine, who consistently barges into any situation that would really be better left to those more suited to it. And being a novella, it was too short to go into greater depth, which might have made her more likeable. Still, not a bad little story, on the whole, and at least there were consequences to her actions.

Here’s the premise: Lady Pamela Frayne can’t resist getting involved in whatever outrageous escapade takes her fancy, so when her rackety brother seems to have filched a valuable government document from their grandfather to sell to offset his gaming debts, Lady Pamela dives into the fray to rescue him from disaster. Making her way to the country house where she thinks the document may have ended up, she’s delayed by snow, and no postilions will turn out to take her on the final stage. Fortuitously, a regular stage coach comes through, driven by an eccentric coachman called Carlin who’s determined to press on regardless. Lady P has found her transport. Needless to say, they come to grief and are forced to improvise once again. But the inn where they end up also contains a woman with a broken leg who just happened to be on her way to take up a position as lady’s maid at the very house Lady P is headed for. So off Lady P goes to pretend to be the lady’s maid and see what she can find out. The oddball coachman, meanwhile, is intrigued enough to follow her there and get involved in her scheming (and to rescue her when things go amiss).

When they realise the document isn’t there, they head back to London, where the consequences of Lady P’s outrageous behaviour upsets her very upright fiance, Lord Babcoke, and the entire ton. And so the plot runs on fairly predictable rails to the inevitable conclusion. Lady P is fairly stupid, and as heroines go I’m not at all enamoured of the type who hurls herself willy-nilly into any situation regardless of the consequences.

Carlin I liked much better as the devil-may-care nobleman. Being reckless seems to sit much better on a hero than on a heroine (in Regency times, anyway). My only grumble with him is that he struts around telling Lady P (and the world!) that he’s going to marry her when she’s still betrothed to Lord Babcoke, and although it’s a spectacularly ill-suited pairing, it’s very rude to announce your intentions before the engagement is officially over. And I do prefer it if the hero actually asks the heroine first. However, that’s par for the course for books of this age, whose original readership perhaps preferred a domineering kind of hero. We modern readers prefer our heroines to be treated respectfully, and as something more than a man’s rightfully property (even if they actually were, of course, two hundred years ago).

A silly plot, a very silly heroine and redeemed only by a fun hero, so only three stars, but I’ve enjoyed others by Clare Darcy much better than this, so I’ll put it down as an unusual blip.


Review: Elyza by Clare Darcy (1976)

Posted July 9, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This was really quirky in some ways, but it was still a lot of fun. It’s necessary to suspend all critical faculties, however, for none of it makes a great deal of sense, but if you can go with the flow, it’s highly readable.

Here’s the premise: Elyza Leigh is that staple of the Regency romance, a girl making her debut in the season who’s being pushed into marrying a worthy but deadly dull man. Rather than submit, she dresses in boys clothes and runs away (yes, we’re deep into Cliche-land here), in an attempt to get to her aunt in Bath, but after a night at an inn, her purse has been stolen and she can’t pay her shot. Happily, a random stranger comes to her aid, the fabulously wealthy Cleve Redmayne, newly returned from India, who’s hoping to make his debut in English society – and find a beauty he spotted briefly two years before. He sees Elyza as someone who can help him. She’s in society herself, so she knows everyone, doesn’t she? And since they both appear to be heading to Bath, where his lost love is also heading, he believes, they can join forces.

Now Redmayne (I refuse to call him Cleve; I’m sure that’s a typo, because the blurb has him as Clive, but no matter) is not worldly wise to the ways of England, so before long the pair, aided and abetted by Redmayne’s vast retinue, are enjoying a country fair and getting into all sorts of difficulties of the reputation-ruining variety. Along the way, they pick up bouncy Nicholas Crawfurd (another odd name) who is also ripe for any lark. Redmayne and Crawfurd aren’t in the least bothered by Elyza’s boy’s clothes, but when Colonel Hanley turns up, sent by Elyza’s London chaperone to retrieve her, they realise just what a mess she is in.

Now, Redmayne is one of those magical McGuffin characters, who is so fabulously rich and surrounded by so many efficient and willing servants, that he’s able to solve any problem. In an instant, he has devised a cunning plan to get Elyza safely back to London, reputation intact. Crawfurd and the Colonel are sworn to secrecy, and all goes according to plan. Redmayne is actually a fascinating character, because he’s supremely self-confident (and with some justification) and yet at the same time he’s quite different from the usual run of Regency heroes. There’s something off-kilter about him, his assurance mixed with over-the-top displays of wealth and a slightly wobbly grasp of social protocol. He is a little too good at everything for my taste (what can I say, I like a beta hero myself).

The plot takes a dramatic swerve here, because somehow, for reasons I missed, Elyza and crew are going to Brighton for the summer, and Redmayne is also going, abandoning his previous plan as soon as he discovers from Elyza that a certain young lady by the name of Corinna Mayfield will also be there. Redmayne saw her briefly two years before and has been passionately in love with her ever since. Now that he’s rich, he intends to sweep her off her elegantly shod feet and waft her away to the altar. The bouncy Mr Crawfurd comes along for the ride, and so what seemed to be a road trip to Bath becomes a seaside holiday, featuring an appearance by no less a personage than the Prince Regent himself. Naturally, Elyza’s deadly dull suitor, Sir Edward Mottram, is also on hand to make the dreaded proposal.

This was written in the heyday of Georgette Heyer and it’s highly influenced by her work. The wheeling out of Prinny and other historical figures, for instance, and the detailed description of the Brighton Pavilion are very Heyer, and the whole plot is infused with the sort of unlikely happenstances and fairytale events and characters that make it more of a romp than a romance. There’s a silly subplot involving a villain that Elyza deals with very badly, there’s a even sillier duel and then the inevitable kidnapping (what is it with Regencies and kidnappings?). The main romance is fairly unconvincing, but that’s par for the course for books of this age, so I won’t complain too much. It’s funny, and I can forgive a book a great deal if it makes me laugh.

The writing is fine, and my only complaint is that the book seems to have been digitised with a character reader and not properly proofread, because every once in a while there’s a word mid-sentence that makes no sense at all. Sometimes it’s possible to work out what it should be but not always. Other than that, the book is a light-hearted read, true to its vintage. Don’t expect depth or rounded characters or even a plot that makes much sense but it’s hugely fun and I enjoyed it tremendously. Five stars.


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.


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.