by Madeleine Brent

**Kind of spoilery. a few things are revealed, but they won’t come as any surprise to a fan of this author***
What a wild ride this one was! And I believe this was my first reading. I find it hard to believe I could have missed this one, although it follows ”her” usual established plot outline and characters, and so is theoretically easy to conflate with other stories.

I believe structure-wise this is quite possibly her best book. Madeleine starts weaving her spell from the very first page, as usual. Our first person heroine-narrator had been captured and held as a wife, then the slave of an Afghanistani tribal chief, before being sold to a village doctor to whom she becomes his nurse and like a daughter. Of course, she is English and of gentle and wealthy birth, though she is now an orphan. Her “master” learns that she is to be sold to a cruel and mad rival leader and he enlists a mysterious peddler to try to get her to a British Outpost. **Spoiler**

The peddler, who turns out to be a British spy, is set up from this point to become the love interest, and the reader is all for it. He is a great character, and very similar to the many love interests in other Brent novels. A good 50 pages are spent with them on their journey and developing the relationship.**End Spoiler**

 They succeed, of course, and the rest of the book is spent on her adventures in England. When she gets to her family estate to claim her inheritance from her massacred parents, she finds she has been replaced by an impostor(!) She is cast out and is taken in by the clownish owner of a traveling Punch and Judy show and his gypsy girlfriend(!!) Before she is restored to her rightful birthright, 

**Spoiler**she learns her buddy, the puppeteer, is really a wealthy if eccentric English Lord, is taken in by his mother, is falsely accused of stealing, becomes the companion of a beautiful and benevolent lady, meets up with the peddler/spy again, tangles with a Rebecca de Winter type evil genius, and, of course, again usual in a M. Brent novel, she returns to her old stomping grounds on an exciting and benevolent mission. **End Spoiler**

 So many things happen to this girl, it is mind-boggling. What I have listed doesn’t even scratch the surface, but it flows together and makes sense.

I believe somewhere in the middle, the author changed her mind about the final fate of our heroine, Jemimah, and went in a completely different direction than what the reader was prepared for. I won’t say more, but I loved it! If this story had been written by someone else, I think that the shock of Jemimah being done out of her true identity and fortune would have taken up most of the focus of the plot. But Jemimah has so many other adventures and twists and turns in her life, that this actually gets put on the back burner. After all, she reasons, she is just lucky to be alive with shelter and food! I loved how completely justice is served, how Jemima is exonerated, and what a happy and exciting life she is set up for.

The Long Masquerade

by Madeleine Brent

When I first started The Long Masquerade, I felt sure that I had read it long long ago. But now that I’m finished I’m not so sure. The first part seemed vaguely familiar, but that was probably because it is so similar to the beginnings of her other novels. The bells it was ringing in my memory got fainter and fainter as the book went on. I could not figure out who her love interest was going to be until about the 70% mark. I was pretty sure it would be one guy because it would have followed the pattern set in all of her previous novels. Trying to avoid spoilers here. But I got to be as impatient with the character as Casey, our heroine, was. I hoped it would turn out to be the other guy. Other than that break from her usual pattern, The Long Masquerade will hold no surprises for the Madeleine Brent devotee. Adventure, mystery, and lovable characters abound, and you will wonder why you are so enthralled when all of her books follow the same template. It’s “her” writing, and her signature template, though pretty much unchanged throughout her novels, stands out so from other authors. Only the names and settings change. I will say that one of the twists, I did not see coming, but I had the other one I figured out from the beginning. When we finally reach the last page, we have not one or two, but four happy endings! Sigh.

Trigger warnings: domestic abuse kept thankfully very vague, and some unfortunate racial terms used towards the end. ***4 1/2 stars out of 5***

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

January 14, 2019

The Riddle of the Shipwrecked Spinster

By Patricia Veryan

I was a bit disappointed in this one. Piers Cranford didn’t have the charm or humor that his twin Perry did. He was very earnest and responsible. His love, Mary, was a little blah as well despite a promising beginning and a reveal that I didn’t see coming.

His estate has come under attack by means of sabotage and dirty tricks driving the Cranford family into severe financial straits. The main plot rests on the fact that his uncle, Sir Nugent, will not help him out with a loan until he rescues the family name by stepping into the breach left by a distant cousin who jilted his fiance. The whole thing is a lot more complicated, but it just didn’t make a whole lot of sense. A lot in this one did not make sense, including why our sensible heroine put herself into a hated enemy’s power necessitating a rescue near the end.

The one thing that I did like was that many of our friends from the previous two series, The Jewelled Man, and The Golden Chronicles, make appearances in this one or are at least mentioned. Some play important roles. It is the only reason why I would recommend it. **3 stars out 4**

This is the last, or should I say latest Patricia Veryan that I have re-read and reviewed. I Probably, at some point, will finish the Riddle series with Deplorable Dandy, but first, I intend to re-read some of the Sanguinet series. I say some because a few of them I did not enjoy at all, but read out of loyalty and to not be left out of some of the connections between her books. Life is too short. If her books were on Kindle, I would read them sooner. Although I treasure my paper books, they are inconvenient to read and I love the features that my paperwhite has. My intention is to start before summer begins.

September 5, 2020

The Riddle of the Reluctant Rake

By Patricia Veryan

“I believe I am innocent, Mama. I cannot prove it. At the moment. But … it would have been nice if one or two of you could have stood by me.”

“Your arm! Oh, mercy, I shall swoon! No – I haven’t the time!”

After reading the first two in her ‘Riddle” series, I was not anxious to read the last two books. I was very disappointed in Jack Vespa’s adventures and kind of thought Patricia had lost her magic. 20 years later, I decided to finish reading all of her books at last (after reading her earlier books several time each.) I am happy to report that #3 in the series largely restores Veryan’s magic in my eyes.

It’s not the best book she ever wrote but it is very good. It contains all of the ingredients Patricia is known for and does so well. A cracking good duel, an exciting ride ventre a terre across the English countryside on a mission of life or death, A maligned and humiliated hero searching to restore his good name, Loyal friends who alone support him, etc. etc. This book, like some of her best, features some good humor, a load of Interesting and amusing characters, a likable love interest, a good who-dun-it and why, and some truly hiss-worthy villains. As always her hero has to hit bottom before things start to look up. This occurs at about the 40% mark, and it is truly painful. Veryan is adept at raising her heroes from near dead in the water before they emerge triumphant. Once Hastings Adair gets some important allies, the book becomes very enjoyable. I can only endure so much pain and frustration!
This book has lots of action and adventure, a nice romance, Political machinations, and many characters that I’d love to meet again but probably won’t in the last two books in the series I have yet to read. Oh, and we have a nice shout out to Camille Damon the hero of one of her first novels, Love’s Duet His story will follow a year later, in 1815. I love the way she ties all of her books together and puts them in the same universe. I know the next book, The Riddle of the Shipwrecked Spinster features at least 2 old friends from the Golden Chronicles, The Cranford Twins. So cool. **4 out of 5 stars**

August 9, 2020

The Mandarin of Mayfair

by Patricia Veryan

***In this last volume of the series many mysteries are revealed. This review contains spoilers but I have included a warning when these parts come up***

The Tales of the Jeweled Man series comes to a rousing, fitting, and satisfying conclusion with the Mandarin of Mayfair. Patricia puts our hero through the usual unbearable torture and suffering and considerable violence before he has finally suffered enough to expiate past wrongs. In this case however, part of the dues he has to pay, at least in the guilty amends he makes to Jamie, is humorous and justified. Veryan ties everything together by reaching back to threads in her first books. 

**Spoiler** Patricia revisits her first book in The Golden ChroniclesPractice to Deceive, to provide the identity of one of the traitorous ruling council. I hope you were paying attention way back 12 books ago! We also have the reappearance of her first hero, Quentin Chandler, up to his usual foolish and reckless tricks. She also brings in happenings in the prequel, The Wagered Widow (one of my favorites), to explain the motivations of another one of traitors. **end spoiler**

This is should be a five star book, but I must take away half a star, because of the unwarranted and controlling (disguised as protective) behavior of August Falcon towards his sister Katrina. His opposition to the sweet relationship between she and Jamie Morris throughout the series is just absurd. Oh, he tells a sad story of his grandmother’s tragic marriage, but it’s not enough justification. His Grandmother’s tragedy has nothing to do with Katrina and Jamie. He refuses to listen to Gwen’s common sense, and it generated feelings of exasperation and even hostility towards him on my part. ”The Smallest Rossiter” says it best: “ Four lives ruined: four chances for happiness shattered, only for the sake of your selfish and foolish would-be nobility!” But he stubbornly insists on guaranteeing the ruination of four lives in order to prevent the dubious possibility of the ruination four lives. Totally nonsensical.

On the other hand, I do honor Patricia for introducing the difficult theme of racism in this series. I like how even in the final scene of triumph in front of King and the elite of England, she shows that the Falcons and their spouses will always have to deal with it. It doesn’t just fade into the background. It remains an issue. His fear of the Ton’s racism and it’s effect on their future happiness also prevents him from proposing to Gwen.

**Spoiler**For some reason, when Gwen finally proposes to him, all doubt and fear is magically wiped away and we have our completely happy ending. I was like, “Huh? Is that all she had to do?.” Should have done that 50 pages ago, Gwen.**end spoiler**

 Of course even if the satisfactory resolution of their romance is a foregone conclusion, I was delighted that Veryan did surprise me with a few happy and unforeseen twists and happenings. One thing for sure: In order to fully appreciate Patricia’s books, they simply must be read in order!

In conclusion, in the immortal words of Jamie Morris, “Tis’ a lazy dog that leans it’s head against the wall to bark.” Never forget that!
Final rating: ****4 1/2 stars****

October 2, 2018

Never Doubt I Love

by Patricia Veryan

I remember not being overly impressed with this one, although I apparently did give it 5 stars. But upon the re-read, it is now one of my favorites. I didn’t remember a whole lot about it so there were plenty of surprises and suspense along the way.

I loved Zoe. She was just such a normal girl. It made me both fear for her and like her all the more. Piers was very lovable as well: What a relief to have an uncomplicated hero. Most of the time for me, a little angst goes a long way. The romance between them was sweet and did have some tension. They went from hostility to friendship in a believable and delightful way. Of course, I knew where it was going but how would true love finally be revealed?
**bit of a spoiler**
The characterization of Clara Buttershaw was just a treat. She goes from comical (Veryan’s version of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, and to me, just as brilliant a portrayal) to scary and sinister. The other villainess(s)are not scary or comical, but I viewed them with suspicion and unease from the beginning.

There were plenty of thrills and chills, Suspense, humor, and one of the better romances. Also, the setting stayed put. Sometimes parts of her road adventure novels get a bit tiresome. It barreled to a rousing climax that really paid off. In addition, it had a lot of participation by our beloved continuing heroes and heroines, though I wish Gwen Rossiter had played a role. I am relieved that people in high places are taking Rossiter’s group and their conspiracy theory seriously. It finishes with some loose ends getting tied up, a little tragedy, and an endearing and very romantic proposal. I will be going forward right away to the conclusion of our saga, The Mandarin of Mayfair. I can’t believe I don’t remember who the squire is!**5 out of 5 stars**

Rating: 5 out of 5.

September 27, 2018

The Toll-Gate

by Georgette Heyer

Secret Caves! Hidden Gold! Treasure Chests! Stolen Gold in Treasure Chests hidden in a Secret Cave! No, it’s not The Hardy Boys or Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, it’s The Toll Gate by Georgette Heyer. And let’s add in a Bow-street Runner, a Highwayman, a bed-ridden grumpy grandfather to a Damsel in Distress*, and a kind, strong, and brave ex-soldier looking to solve a mystery, capture some bad guys, and save both a scared little boy and that previously mentioned damsel. What we have here is a rousing adventure story that actually would appeal to The Hardy Boys audience. (Do boys and girls still read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew? Or is it just baby boomers trying to re-capture their childhood?)

The romance is of secondary importance to the adventure and the humorous supporting characters. There is no development of the relationship or the typical learning to get past mutual antagonism or misunderstanding. This is not a social comedy. It is love at first sight for them both and they are married within, I think, a week, if that. Not an argument or conflict to be had. It is a very simple and uncomplicated love story.

I listened to this on audio read by Daniel Hill. He did a fine job and added to the excitement of the story. I also appreciated the fact that he didn’t give Nell phony girly girl inflections (much) as many male readers seem compelled to do with women characters. He does well with the thieves cant and obscure idiom of the rougher classes of the times. It’s kind of like a secret language which is as likely to frustrate a reader as enthrall them. I honestly think Heyer decided to write a novel that she could throw in every abstruse piece of vernacular she could find in her authentic language playbook.***3 1/2 stars**

* the Damsel is in Distress but she doesn’t think so and is fully capable of saving herself from a fate worse than death. But Jack, our knight in shining armor, does rescue her from an uncertain future and probable poverty and hardship. Much to the reader’s relief. Because Nell is great.

April 28, 2021

A Shadow’s Bliss

by Patricia Veryan

Shadow’s Bliss was the first Patricia Veryan that I read and the one that got me hooked. In re-reading it, I can see why I was so enthralled, even though I came in in the middle of a series. To be honest, looking back, I was kind of mystified as to why I was so captivated when I did not understand the half of what was going on! But I get it now. I was not used to such heart pounding adventure and suspense. Such evil villains and such noble good heroes who suffered so terribly and were so redeemed. It was a revelation. It took me back to the days of my youth with The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Count of Monte Cristo. Of course now, I appreciate the book on a different level. Veryan always puts her heroes through the mill to atone for past sins or, it must be said, sometimes just for the drama. In the reread, which I am finally doing in chronological order, I now appreciate the slow building development of character and relationship of Gwen, August and Jamie and the rest of the crew. When I first read this, I was intrigued by their characters and couldn’t wait to read more, but from the beginning. Parts of the plot entailing the conspiracy which must have mystified me back then, now are adding up to a much anticipated solution and climax.

I also was enthralled with the sheer romance. Oh My Goodness. The tortured, unworthy, and misunderstood hero utterly worshiping the angelic lady of the manor. Her passionate response to his devotion despite the disparity of their stations in life. Such Love and romance. Yes, sometimes it was a bit over the top, But I enjoyed the ride. And the Villains! Could anyone be more evil and contemptible than Hibbard Green(first encountered in Love Alters Not)? Unless it is the good Jennifer’s craven and selfish father? He and her brother are partially redeemed at a the end, but are you kidding me? Could any hero be more strong, noble and heroic than “the village idiot,” our Jack? As I read more Veryans the answer turned out to be yes. As noble but not more noble.

Now that I read this with the whole story in perspective I can only wonder at Patricia Veryan’s command of all of the threads in her extended story from the Golden Chronicles to the Jeweled Man and even on to the Sanguinet series. She must have been a genius at outlining and organization. That’s all there is to it.

I wish I could end it at that, but to be frank, one aspect that really did jar me was how Jack did not remember his own twin sons until the last bit. He was all about his father, and had glimpses of memory of the shipwreck, but did not even remember that he was a father until the last of the fog had finally cleared? In my opinion, especially considering the large part the boys played in Ask Me No Questions, Veryan should have had some memories peek through of his boys. **5 out of 5 stars**

Rating: 5 out of 5.

September 27, 2018

Ask Me No Questions

by Patricia Veryan

I bumped this up a star since my first read. Reading these in order has really added to my appreciation the all of the novels, for the most part. I save my 3 star ratings for Veryans that really were not up to snuff. And this was quite good. I remember thinking Gordon was a bit of a stick in the mud, but this was not my impression this time around. Ruth was still a little mild and fairly unremarkable despite the fact that she had an unusual background and an actual profession. She has had to make her own way in the world after the death of her father and the disappearance of her widowed sea captain brother whose two sons she is caring for. But I liked her. I liked the progression of the Jeweled Man mystery and the appearances of our continuing characters: August Falcon, Jamie, Gwen, and Katrina. This was not as humorous as some of the entries, and the adventure and danger didn’t seem quite as urgent or threatening. But frankly this was a relief. Veryan can really put her characters (and her readers) through the mill. Gordon’s entanglement with the evil Nadia was fairly short lived, thanks to August Falcon setting her up to show her true colors. After she snared him again, she let him go again with scarcely a fight.  Although this might be counted as a flaw by some, after some of the nail-bitingly painful relationship problems some of our previous heroes had to go through, this was a plus for me. The set up to the next in the series, my personal sentimental favorite and the first Veryan I ever read, A Shadow’s Bliss, has me strongly anticipating it. I am pretty sure it will live up to my memories. **4 stars out of 5**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

August 7, 2018

Had We Never Loved

by Patricia Veryan

This was never one of my favorites and had I not been on a mission to read all of the Veryans in Chronological order, I probably would not have re-read it. I was never that enthralled with Tio Glendenning or Amy Consett and I pretty much skipped through the parts with them together. I did enjoy the parts with Falcon and Jamie. The ride to the coast was nail-biting. Veryan really knows how to write exciting action scenes whether it is a duel, or a chase, or a showdown between the forces of good and evil. One of the things I remembered about this one was the tense scene at the Bowers-Malden estate when they thought they could not produce the Comyn pin which would prove the family innocent of treason. It just was not as good as I remembered! Nothing as good as the confrontation scene in Practice to Deceive and the courtroom scene in Love Alters not. I thought Amy running away at the end and then returning was dumb pointless other than to torture poor Tio (as if he needed to go through anymore misery.) I really could not overlook the fact that Tio Glendenning fought for the Jacobite cause and became involved in the lists and treasure and then came home which put the lives and reputation of his family at great risk. Not to mention his good friends (see Love Alters Not). And then all he can do is feel terrible and say he is sorry he never meant it. He is far from the only Jacobite in Veryan’s series’ but it was different with them. They had the decency to be Scottish, or to run away to France to protect their families. Well, we’ll just draw a veil over this one. 3 stars for Tio’s Dad, his stepmother, the brief appearances of Falcon and Jamie, the ride to Dover, the appearance of Hilary Broadbent, Amy saving the day, and leading to the next one in this superb series. **3 stars out of 5**

June 3, 2018