Tag: ley

Review: An Eligible Gentleman by Alice Chetwynd Ley (1983)

Posted April 7, 2022 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This is a meringue book – light, very digestible and sweet enough, but ultimately not meaty enough to be filling. I’m writing this a few days after finishing it and already I’m struggling to remember what I liked about it.

Here’s the premise: Frederick is that staple of Regency romances, the eligible but confirmed bachelor who has no wish at all to marry and settle down. His mother [*], however, has other ideas. She and her sister Ianthe, Lady Chalgrove, plan to marry Frederick to Ianthe’s daughter Phoebe (yes, a cousin marriage, so if this bothers you, best avoid this book). Lady Eversley is to bring Phoebe to London for the season, where she hopes cousinly feelings will blossom into something warmer. She persuades Frederick to accompany her to collect Phoebe. But Phoebe is in love with someone else and has no desire at all to marry Frederick, so her friend and local hoyden Eleanor Denham (Nell) sets about a cunning plan to make Frederick look like a bad match. Not understanding her motives, but knowing that her story is nonsense, Frederick takes Nell in great dislike. And when she, too, goes to London, the stage is set for a great deal of misunderstanding.

To be honest, this book made very little impression on me. Neither the events in London nor any romantic moments stayed with me, and I don’t feel inclined to reread to remind myself. However, it was very digestible, and I certainly enjoyed reading it, although I got a bit muddled with who was supposed to pair off with whom. A pleasant four star read.

[*] The lady actually died earlier in the series! This didn’t bother me in the slightest because I didn’t notice, but I saw it pointed out in a review and went off to check.


Review: A Season At Brighton by Alice Chetwynd Ley (1971)

Posted April 7, 2022 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

The third book in this series picks up another few years further on, and follows the rejected suitor from the previous book, Lord Pamyngton, and a new family, the Denhams, who have an abundance of daughters to be married off. Heroine Catherine (Katie) first meets Lord Pamyngton when she is in dire straits, having run away from home and fallen into the clutches of a none too respectable man. Lord Pamyngton rescues her, and discovers to his surprise that he himself is blamed for her predicament. Keeping his identity a secret to learn more of this situation, she confides in him and is later mortified to realise who he is, and that he practised such subterfuge on her.

So begins, rather awkwardly, their acquaintanceship, although I have to confess that it seems odd they never met before when they are close neighbours and the viscount even bears a family resemblance to his parents. But I’m always prepared to allow a book its initial premise, however unlikely, so let it pass.

The story then shifts to Brighton, where the married sister lives and where Lord Pamyngton has also gone, and once again Katie gets herself into scrapes of one sort or another, whether more from innocence or foolishness, it’s hard to say. I’m not a great fan of heroines who do incredibly stupid things (like running away and forgetting to take any money, for instance), and Katie is particularly stupid in that way. However, given the era in which it was written and the influence of Georgette Heyer, who loved to have her very young heroines scampering about the countryside, I suppose it works.

It’s fortunate that our hero, Lord Pamyngton, is sensible enough both to know his own mind and also to know Katie’s proclivity for getting into scrapes, so he helpfully keeps watch over her, enabling him to be on hand to rescue her with rather more plausibility than is usual in this kind of tale. The plot unravels in a fairly predictable and melodramatic way, but the writing is as amusing as ever and I enjoyed it all enough to give it four stars.


Review: The Toast of the Town by Alice Chetwynd Ley (1968)

Posted April 7, 2022 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

Another pleasantly undemanding read, light-hearted and very much in the Regency romp style of Georgette Heyer. This follows on from The Clandestine Betrothal, and although it isn’t essential to have read the previous book, it does make it a little more enjoyable to have some understanding of the background.

Here’s the premise: it’s four years after Hugh Eversley married Susan Fyfield, and they’re in anticipation of their second child. Hugh’s lively sister, Georgiana, an old school friend of Susan’s, is now twenty-one, the eponymous toast of the town, and has already turned down six different suitors. She’s a restless spirit, and Susan is sure that all she needs is a husband and children to settle her down. Accordingly, she has filled their house with guests to try to get Georgiana successfully paired off. Among the eligibles are Lord Pamyngton, a gentlemanly but dull viscount, and Henry Curshawe, brother to George Eversley’s very boring betrothed.

Georgiana is bored by this dull house party. She doesn’t like any of the Curshawes, and doesn’t take Lord Pamyngton’s gentle pursuit of her seriously. But one day she decides to take out Hugh’s curricle and matched pair for a spin, and her high spirits get her into trouble, throwing her (literally!) into the path of perhaps the one man who’s unimpressed by the very beautiful Miss Eversley, Dr John Hume. He ticks her off soundly and when she retaliates in kind, the stage is set for each of them to deeply dislike the other. So much so, that when the youngest Eversley brother, Freddy, challenges Georgiana to make the doctor fall in love with her, she accepts at once.

After this, things hum along nicely, and I really enjoyed the banter between the two, plus Georgiana’s ingenious attempts to entrap the good doctor into a declaration. But of course things don’t quite go to plan, and Georgiana has to suffer a great deal before she begins to understand her own heart and reaches her happy ending. The other members of her family as well as her two suitors act as facilitators or obstacles along the way.

I did have a couple of grumbles. One is Georgiana’s brother George (and what sort of family has a George and a Georgiana, anyway?). George is betrothed to the World’s Dullest Girl ™ and seems to have a very cavalier attitude towards her, looking forward to the time when they’ll be married so that he doesn’t have to pay her much attention, for instance. I kept expecting him to see the light and realise that she was the WDG ™, but he never did. George was rather sweet in The Clandestine Betrothal, so it was a sad comedown for him.

The other grumble was the good doctor’s cousin, who’s perfectly qualified to be a doctor’s wife, is desperately in love with him, the whole family expects them to marry and he ends up chasing after the entirely unsuitable and above his station Miss Eversley. And poor Anne isn’t even given the sop of a secondary romance to heal her broken heart. There was a throwaway line about her being young and meeting someone else in the future, and that’s all the thought she gets. I was very sad on her behalf. Georgiana’s other suitor, the gentlemanly Lord Pamyngton, gets his moment of glory in the next book, so his broken heart will be mended.

All in all, an enjoyable read in the old-fashioned style. A solid four stars.


Review: A Clandestine Betrothal by Alice Chetwynd Ley (1967)

Posted April 7, 2022 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This was an unexpected delight. I’ve seen Alice Chetwynd Ley’s books bobbing around for a while now, but this is the first time I’ve read anything of hers. It’s a fairly slight story, but given its age (55!) it’s worn remarkably well. Ley’s writing career overlapped with that of the great Georgette Heyer, so it’s inevitable that her writing is heavily redolent of Heyer, but it’s none the worse for that.

Here’s the premise: Susan Fyfield is, at seventeen, finally leaving school. But what does her future hold? She’s an orphan, although a wealthy one, and dependent on her aunt’s kindness for a home. She knows very well what she would like her future to hold – one Hugh Eversley, dashing older brother of her best friend, Georgiana Eversley. She’s heard everything Georgiana can tell her of Hugh, and glimpsed him once or twice. She even stole away from school to see him when she heard he was to visit a house nearby, and was very embarrassed when she was discovered hiding in the shrubbery, whereupon he very kindly drove her back to the school.

But when Susan returns to her aunt’s home and finds out that her gloating cousin Cynthia is triumphantly betrothed, she takes a step too far – she tells them that she’s secretly betrothed. And when Hugh takes pity on her at his sister’s ball, and Susan gets a bit tipsy, she blurts out her most secret dream to her aunt – that her betrothed is in fact Hugh Eversley himself. The aunt doesn’t entirely believe her, but she feels she’s going to have to confront Mr Eversley herself to make sure of the truth, so Susan naturally feels she has to rush round to his lodgings to warn him. Whereupon he takes pity on her again and suggests going along with the secret betrothal for a while.

So far, so not very believable. He’s a leader of society, a notorious rake (aren’t they all?) and determined avoider of matrimony, and she’s a chit of a girl barely out of the schoolroom. To be honest, pretty much everything up to this point becomes a matter of conscious suspension of disbelief. Not so much Susan’s daydreams and childish impulsiveness, because she’s very immature, as young girls leading sheltered lives tended to be in those days, but that a man like Hugh Eversley would take any interest whatsoever in her defies credibility. And yet… despite the rakishness and society gloss, he’s actually a very nice man at heart, who sees Susan’s vulnerability and wants to spare her more pain. And of course, he’s only twenty-seven himself, so not exactly the jaded older man so beloved of Heyer. A ten year age gap isn’t at all unusual in the Regency, so it’s quite easy to believe that he’s attracted to her right from the start, while telling himself he’s just taking a brotherly interest in his sister’s friend.

From this point, anyway, the plots runs on swimmingly, with the discovery that Susan isn’t her aunt’s niece after all, but a foundling of some sort, and the story becomes largely about finding out just who she is and why she was handed over to her ‘aunt’ at all. Needless to say, it’s Hugh who beetles about trying to find answers and discovering along the way that he’s very much in love, without quite knowing what to do about it.

The author neatly sidesteps some of the hackneyed plot devices so beloved of Regency romances. So Susan runs away, but to a very safe harbour, and (apart from that brief visit to Hugh’s lodgings, which would have been quite beyond the pale) is never unchaperoned with Hugh. She even grows up visibly, which makes Hugh’s feelings even more credible. And Hugh? Ah, I do love me a sensible hero. I wasn’t much enamoured of his continued pursuit of the actress, and although this sort of comes right in the end, I would still have liked him to acknowledge the wrongness of loving one woman while chasing another, however platonic the chase might have been.

Like all Regencies of the era, it’s short on passion and long on mannerly restraint, but the writing is impeccable, the Regency atmosphere is faultless and the book is dripping with charm. I only knocked a star off for a degree of incredulity in the early chapters and that lack of passion. Four stars.