A Hopeless Romantic

By Harriet Evans

I don’t really mind when heroines are unlikable at first. I enjoy a good redemption story. Laura starts out as not seeming very bright, despite having an interesting job which she is good at. Her fatal flaw is her self-deluded history of making every guy she is attracted to into a fairy tale hero and believing him to be the one true love of her life. Again and again. This is partly thanks to her aspiration of modeling her beloved confidant and grandmother Mary’s extremely happy second marriage. When her latest relationship with an engaged man predictably implodes and rains humiliation upon her, she is rightly ashamed of herself. Suspended from her job, she retreats to the bosom of her sweet family and joins them on vacation. She has finally been shocked into gaining insight and clarity into her past romantic foolishness and decides to turn over a new leaf. Step one:

She moved over to the bookshelf. Laura gulped. This was harder than she’d expected…Firm. Strong. Away with childish things….into the box went all her Nancy Mitford books. In went all her Mills & Boon romances. She hesitated over her Jane Austen collection. Surely that was proper English literature, she shouldn’t be throwing it away! You never read them for academic enjoyment, Laura Foster,…you read them because they make you swoon and sigh and have striding men wearing breeches in them. In they go. Finally, she reached up the top shelf of her bookcase. With shaking hands, she picked up her Georgette Heyer collection. She knew it had to be done, but, by God, it hurt. Tears came into her eyes. One by one, she dropped each book in the box, watched as they slammed onto each other, the pale colors of the old paperback covers gleaming up out of the box at her. It was torture.

Fate is cruel, however. No sooner does she turn over a new leaf, and is keeping herself fully grounded in reality, she meets a nice handsome estate manager with whom she has an instant rapport and attraction. And horrors! It is soon revealed that he is an incredibly wealthy and powerful nobleman, and, in fact, the third most eligible bachelor in all of England(after Harry and William). In fact, he is the embodiment of every girl’s romantic fantasy and fairy-tale hero. He is even has a damaged past. Will Laura fall into her old ways? Is she destined for heartbreak? Or has she learned her lesson too well, and thrown away the one chance with the man who really is the true love of her life? I found the last part of the book very romantic

In addition to the primary romance, there is a hint of a secondary romance or two, a few heart-tugging scenes, many very endearing and complex secondary characters, Family drama (more funny than serious), and Laura’s not always successful efforts to rehabilitate her relations with her friends, family, and job. These are hampered by her going too far in the other direction and becoming cynical and closed off. It won’t be a spoiler to reveal that she finally achieves balance. She does go back to Heyer’s Regency Buck, but assures her friend that she is also reading Trainspotting. As a Georgette Heyer devotee, I was delighted by the references to her.

She saw herself for once without pretense, not as a girl from some book in a crinoline, dipping low in a curtsey at a ball..or a new person who..brooked no argument, who let no one enter her life, who did not suffer weakness or fools. She was just—–herself.

I knew this book had a sequel when I started reading it. I am looking forward to spending more time with the delightful and not so delightful characters in this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

April 2, 2019

The Winter Bride

By Anne Gracie

For a modern Regency romance, this one was not half bad. I don’t remember why I picked this one up, especially since I had thought another book by this author was so absurd that I gave it one star and skipped through most of it in 2 hours. I think it was because someone on my Georgette Heyer Facebook group compared the hero of this one, Freddy, to Freddy of Cotillion Indeed the hero was the best thing about this book and did bear a passing resemblance to one of my favorite heroes.

Unfortunately, I am just about over romance novels that don’t bring anything more to the table than the romance. Here we have two protagonists who are dead set against getting married agreeing to a fake betrothal to keep people off their backs. This one suffers because the journey to the inevitable finally falling in love part and the entirely obvious from the beginning deep dark secret that the heroine harbors is pretty tedious.

But there were some bright spots. One was the heroine’s takedown and telling off of Freddy’s cruel and blind parents.

Damaris couldn’t believe it. Had they never reflected on what they’d done? “You two treated him like an assassin, when he was just a little boy who liked to play cricket with his brother. Twelve years old, and you pushed him out of the family…What kind of parents are you? You lost one son, but you threw the other away.”

And it was not just one short scene either. She wins every point quite a few times.

The other was Freddy’s refreshing reaction to Damaris’ drama of finally confessing why she can never marry.

“Well, I’m shocked,” said Freddy in as shocked a manner as he could conjure up. “Deeply shocked,” he repeated. “May I serve you some of this apple tart? It looks and smells delicious, doesn’t it?” “Apple tart?” she repeated blankly. “Didn’t you hear what I said?”

Poor Damaris. She sure got the wind taken out of her sails.

Anne Gracie is not a bad writer, but there is no wit despite the light pleasant easy tone. There are too many eye-rolling moments and cliches in character development and plot. She is very repetitive. The cutesy term “muffin” for ingenues trying to trap Freddy into marriage is repeated like 40 times in a book just a little over 300 pages long. It was distracting and annoying.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

April 17, 2019

Noble Satyr

by Lucinda Brant

Despite the Duke’s reputation with women, which was very true, her father judged him to be a man of principle and honor. As duke and head of his family, Roxton took his responsibilities to family and retainers very seriously. Her father added with a shrewd laugh that the nobleman’s blackened shell covered a multitude of decencies.

This is a successful homage, I believe, to Georgette Heyer’s great and beloved These Old Shades. Many elements of the plot are different, but the main characters are very comparable. The Duke of Roxton is not as omnipotent and invulnerable as Avon. But this threw some interesting and enjoyable aspects into his relationship with the Leonie character, played by Antonia. If you’ve ever wished for a peek behind Leonie’s and Avon’s bedroom door, a more intimate look at how their relationship and marriage might have played out, this is the book for you. Don’t expect a lot of clinical detail in the love-making, but for me, it was just enough.

Lucinda Brant is a very good writer and she apparently specializes in the Georgian time period which I think she captured beautifully. There is lots of detail and authenticity in her descriptions of the fashions, manners, culture and historical personages. It is not a great book overall like These Old Shades is but in many ways, such as the deeper dive into family and more sinister and threatening evil schemers (and the resulting suspense and tension), it improved upon the original. Lightning please don’t strike me. I am looking forward to reading the next novel in the series someday soon.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 12, 2020

The Parfit Knight

By Stella Riley

I hate to give such a well reviewed and beloved book 2 1/2 stars, but I was sadly quite disappointed in this one. I have a soft spot for loosely connected series, and I had high hopes for this first one as an introduction. It just didn’t work for me. Maybe it’s better on audio.

The book owes much to Georgette Heyer’s work. Of course, Heyer is the queen and in some way most authors who write romances set in this time period owe much to her. But this was way too much. The plot is very derivative and the characters are caricatures. Rosalind is a version of Venetia except blind. She is beautiful unaffected, forthright, and likes to banter. Her blindness is not a problem. It did not affect her well-adjusted and cheerful demeanor a bit. She’s so brave. Amberley is like Damerel except he is blond and laughs hysterically. A Lot. It’s kind of an idiosyncrasy of his showing off what we are told is his quirky sense of humor. Their relationship is similar to Damerel’s and Venetia’s too. They are in a world of their own away from London society, and they are soulmates immediately. Rosalind is lonely and friendless except for her servants and Dominic understands what she needs and fills that role. 10 minutes after they meet, he even kisses her on the lips, much to my consternation. When he reads a scary novel to her they sit next to each other on the couch and hold hands. Ack. He encourages her to walk outside and have a snowball fight. Awww. Once their meeting of the minds and hearts is established, of course they must be parted. Like in Venetia, our hero has an attack of conscience and they part ways. Rosalind is left confused and hurt and ends up in London having a season.

Other parts seem to be lifted from These Old Shades and Devil’s Cub . Amberley shoots a highwayman and leaves him in the road like Vidal. But since he is actually a nice decent guy and not a savage, he does see that the corpse is cleaned up off the road. Oh. They are both named Dominic. His mother is just like Leonie. Rosalind’s brother Phillip and Amberley’s main antagonist owes a lot to Frederick Comyn. Except Phillip wreaks a lot more havoc and is really clueless, not just pompous and conventional. But I really can’t blame him too badly as everyone lies to him by omission and commission. Without him, there wouldn’t have been any melodrama. Everyone has the villain’s number except him, so the villain would be powerless without him being a tool. Rockcliffe, Amberley’s omniscient friend, is another Duke of Avon. There are echoes of lots of other scenes we’ve seen before in Heyer, like instead of the Heyer dog that won’t mind his manners, we have a parrot who curses. But I won’t belabor the point.

The one character that really caught my interest was Isabelle, who was her brother’s fiance and sister to the evil villain. She also was one character who seemed to be an original creation. She had some unexpected facets and was not a pale substitute for a Heyer creation. My only problem with her was that she was too sensible and likable to end up with Phillip.

I hope Stella Riley intended this to be a homage to Heyer. If she did, it was a good homage. She lifted plots and characters, but couldn’t manage the sparkling wit, and the deft and original characterizations, not to mention the smooth weaving of historical detail and culture into the background. But I think I would have preferred to just re-read a Georgette Heyer novel. I’ll round up though, because strange as it may seem, I’m kind of curious to see what she does with the Duke of Avon in new set of circumstances. **2 1/2 out of 5 stars**

June 1, 2021

High Society in the Regency Period 1788-1830

By Venetia Murray

My interest in this entertaining history stems from my love for Georgette Heyer and some of her followers’ novels. It really illuminates that the Regency world of Georgette Heyer was indeed her version of that period of history: a much gentler, sanitized, and proper version. So many things in her portrayal of that time were very accurate, but it was the aspects of those times that she skirted around, ignored, or romanticized that interested me much more.

The most surprising thing I learned was how the ton wore their emotions on their sleeve. Apparently, it was not uncommon for men to publicly burst into tears and weep and wail when they were frustrated or angry. Venetia Murray supports this with numerous references in letters and other contemporary accounts. It is pretty obvious that Georgette imbued the Regency period with the “stiff upper lip” values of her generation.

Gluttony is another thing that GH did touch on in passing, but is explored in detail here. 2 or 3 or more enormous steaks at one sitting, conservatively, for example. The obsession with sauces and gastronomy and gourmet meals was amazing. Menus with literally over a hundred dishes. The extravagance and the waste in all areas of daily life. The over-indulgence in drink. Murray writes that it was common, indeed, fashionable for certain segments of male high society to be drunk, or tipsy all day long. High society as a whole were bored or idle all of the time. Meals were often the highlight of their day and would last for hours and hours.

And the immorality, of course. Discreet or not, married lovers and mistresses were not shunned and neither were courtesans. They were known and accepted in the highest levels of society.
It is much easier to understand and be sympathetic to the Victorian mindset as being a reaction and rejection of the ways of Regency England after reading this book.

The choices of illustration are curious. All of the plates are caricatures, cartoons, and drawings. I wish she had chosen more realistic portraits of some of the interesting people she discussed.

Yes, Georgette Heyer did romanticize and ignore some certain truths about high society while being very historically true in most things. Frankly, I’m glad she did!**4 out of 5 stars**

June 20, 2017

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World

by Jennifer Kloester

Terrifically entertaining and interesting guide to the Regency World of Georgette Heyer. Kloester goes into just enough depth on such topics as Clothing, Sport, The Wars, A typical day in a bachelor’s or a Debutante’s life, The Royal Family, etc. to both enlighten the Heyer fan, and to remind them of what they already know. It’s not for the serious historian or sociologist. She keeps it light and entertaining. As she goes from topic to topic, she adeptly and smoothly weaves in illustrations and examples from Heyer’s own novels. There are line drawings throughout on, for example, carriages, bonnets, underclothes, architecture, the leading figures of the day. One of the highlights are her appendices. The one on the cant or slang of the day is particularly entertaining and handy. I started out intending to just skip around and read the parts that particularly interested me, but I ended up reading the whole thing, cover to cover. **5 out of 5 stars**

June 13, 2017

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

Faro’s Daughter

By Georgette Heyer

I really enjoyed Laura Paton’s reading of Faro’s Daughter. Except for not incorporating Lucius Kennet’s Irish accent, it was perfect. A very funny novel with many of Heyer’s stock characters which although not unique to this work, does not make them any less enjoyable. Quintessential Mark I hero, Ravenscar; Callow and besotted young noble, Mablethorpe, whose developing love for the weak-minded but sweet ingénue, Phoebe makes a man of him; Spoiled and selfish brother, Kit; and, not one, but two, mustache-twirling villains. Only our heroine, Deb Grantham, seems to be unique to this novel. She is of the highest integrity, kindhearted and generous, practical, brave, and wise. She even has a flair for broad comedy. Even so, she behaves so nonsensically and stupidly at times, and is so unfair to our hero, that it is downright frustrating. Of course, if she didn’t go on her headlong quest for revenge against Max Ravenscar, there would be no plot. You see, he had the unbelievable temerity to insult her by offering her money to release her young nephew from her thrall. There is no reason for him to know she is a stellar character who would never stoop to entrap a young nobleman into marriage. But instead of setting him straight, she overreacts and does everything in her power to make him believe she is just as black as she has painted herself. She is somewhat similar to Venetia (she has a very hot temper as well), but without her innocence and sheltered background. She does run a gaming hell, after all. **4 out of 5 stars**

April 26, 2017

Behold, Here’s Poison

By Georgette Heyer

I Listened to the audible edition last month after reading it multiple times years ago. I mis-remembered who the murderer was, so it was a surprise. The character of sharp-tongued, witty, cynical Randall is the main attraction in this book. The reader did a good job of conveying his “amiable snake” personality. A little over the top at first, but settled down just enough later. Randall is very much a modern version of the author’s Duke of Avon from her beloved These Old Shades. He was as entertaining as ever, although part of the initial attraction on first read was the delightful surprise when he made a match with Stella, who was not as appealing as I remembered, and certainly does not have the strong personality and intelligence to stand up to Randall. I fear he will grow bored with her sooner rather than later. This is a typical English country house murder-mystery. And the mystery, both the method and the murderer, is top notch. It is set in the 1930’s and written in the 1930’s, so it is awash with authentic period detail, customs, manners, and attitudes. As such, it should be a delight to those who might be attracted to those times. **3 stars out of 5**

November 20, 2016


By Georgette Heyer

Heyer’s books need no more encomiums. I will only add a few random thoughts. Venetia is probably one of her most admirable and charming heroines and Damerel one of her most romantic heroes. The book itself is probably one of the most romantic. The romance takes center stage here. Venetia and Damerel are lost in love and experience more romance, joy and heartache on the page than any other of her novels. In many of her novels one needs to imagine and read between the lines and much is only implied. What struck me most were the development of the secondary characters. Each one of them was priceless and well crafted, whether hilarious (Aunt Hendred, Nurse, the Steeples, Oswald, and Charlotte for example.) or maddening: (Edward, and Mrs. Scourrier.) Or just there (but with distinct and detailed personalities): the Dennys and Mr. Hendred, and the servants.
The one complaint about this one is Heyer’s over use of the affectionate terms, “Stoopid”, and “My dear Friend” or “dearest friend” It kind of made me roll my eyes after awhile.
***Edit*** There is one thing that really bothers me if I think about it too hard. And that is Damerel’s behavior with Venetia in the woods during what turns out to be a “meet cute.” However, he genuinely assaulted her. It was only when he realized that she was not what she appeared (his tenant and thus in his power, and powerless) that he stopped. She was in real danger. thank God she had the ability to quote poetry. What really bugs me is that many readers take Lord Worth of Regency Buck into dislike because of his behavior on the road to Judith, yet give Damerel a free pass. Damerel’s behavior is so so much worse.**5 out of 5 stars**

March 5, 2017