Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “regency romance”

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #55: Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

I’ve tried several times this year to love Georgette’s mysteries as much as I love her romances, but after listening to Sylvester on audio book on my way home for Christmas, I’ve decided it’s no use – there is a lightness in her romances that is missing from her mysteries. Sylvester was absolutely delightful. Plus, it was read by Richard Armitage! It’s not hard to love a book when it’s read to you by the king of the dwarves.

Phoebe Marlow is a budding author who wrote a book skewering several prominent members of the upper-class Ton after her first season in London. She is horrified when Sylvester, Duke of Sulford, shows up at her father’s house to supposedly make an offer for her hand. Sylvester has a reputation for being cold and arrogant, and she had made him the villain of her book (under a pseudonym, of course – genteel young ladies didn’t do such vulgar things as novel-writing). He needs a wife to run his estate, and Phoebe is unfortunately eligible.

Determined to marry only for love, Phoebe flees with her childhood friend Tom. They get stuck in an inn in a snowstorm, coincidentally alongside Sylvester and his hired man. Naturally, they all get to know each other, Phoebe learns to like and respect the man behind the villain, and they become friends as they both settle in London (Phoebe decides to move in with her grandmother, continuing her plan to run away even after she finds out Sylvester doesn’t want to marry her anyway).

The rest is pretty typical – budding love, misunderstandings keeping them apart, flirting and arguing – but the wonderfulness of Georgette’s writing makes even the most unexceptional story sing. The downside of the audio book was that I couldn’t flag pages for favorite quotes and words to look up, but it definitely made my road trip more fun.

Prolixity Julien’s #CBR4 Review #22 – A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long

I’ve started on reviews of many random novels and revisited the basic, and, I discovered, quite outdated romance tropes introduction from my first entry. But let’s be honest, I only wrote it because I was embarrassed about reading historical romance novels genre fiction, and wanted to be wry and self-basting. It’s one hundred and twenty books later and I know the current constructs, character types, and that the consummation devoutly to be wished occurs around page 200. I can explain which authors write the best love scenes and that the books range from fade-to-black to thisclosetoerotica. (Wikipedia tells me the when it is thisclosetoerotica, they call it “romantica” which sounds like an android sex worker who, for 5 dollars more, will tell you that she loves you.) None of this matters. What I like and don’t like in regard to the love scenes is of interest only to me, Mr. Julien, and the version of Daniel Craig that lives in my id. It would tell you more about my tastes and proclivities than about the genre; however, if YOU want to read this kind of book, I recommend not only reading the first couple of pages as you would any book, but also flipping forward to about page 200 when they get busy. Running into an off-putting love scene can derail the entire reading experience, so you should get a preview first. I once looked at a book by a major romance author and found the phrase “and sucking, and sucking, and sucking, and sucking”. That’s right, four “and suckings”. An apt description of the the writing as well.

Julie Anne Long’s A Notorious Countess Confesses continues her Pennyroyal Green series focused on the Redmond and Eversea families. In my review of What I Did for a Duke, I congratulated Long on pulling off a huge age difference. Her challenge this time is the character Malin and I enjoy referring to as “the hot vicar”. He is indeed very hot. Tall, broad-shouldered, hard-working, sincere. The novel setting is Regency (God, I hate the clothing), so it was church or military, and Adam Sylvaine ended up with a family living from his Eversea uncle. It means he need not have been chaste nor uptight, but simply a good man who ended up in an available profession, and one he turned out to be very well suited for*. The heroine is the Countess of the title, Evie. I did not realise until quite far into the book that the main characters were Adam and Eve. It is mostly forgivable and also indicative of Long’s tendency towards the quietly twee.

Evie supported her brothers and sisters by working as an actress, then a courtesan, although “there were only two”, and lastly she married an Earl who won the right to wed her in a poker game. When the story begins, she has just come out of mourning for the Earl and moved to the house he bequeathed to her in Pennyroyal Green. She has a scandalous reputation, just enough money, and a desire to start again. She falls for the hot vicar because, while he is drawn to her, he is so self-possessed and at ease with himself that he is immune to her attempts to charm him, and to the facades she wears as self-protection. He is a good man, albeit a preternaturally attractive and charming one, but this is romance fiction after all. Adam takes Evie under his wing to help her join local society and find friends. The local women are alternately horrified and deliciously shocked by her. Evie is able to build a new life and Adam is given a safe haven from the constant demands and burdens of being the (hot) vicar.

Despite the fact that I prefer more sardonic rake in my heroes, I LOVED 90% of this book and Julie Anne Long is on my auto-buy list. She always manages to balance fantastic sexual tension, sincere characters, and be funny. She is so good at the tension that the most intense scene in the book involves Adam kissing Evie on her shoulder. There were flames shooting off my Kindle. Long also pulls off a very clever running joke about embroidered pillows that crescendos with dueling Bible verses about licentiousness. So what went wrong? I overlooked the patronizing attitude towards the harried mother and the whole boots and breeches impossibility, but the ending was twee as fu*k. It started out swooningly-romantic and then kind of fell apart for me. Her last novel, How the Marquess Was Won, (she needs to fire whomever approves these titles) suffered the same fate: Fantastic romance undermined by trite plotting choices. Right up to that point though, it was wonderful: head and shoulders above the “and suckings” of the genre.

This review is also posted on my tiny little blog.

*Given that Julie Anne Long usually has a couple of enjoyably-detailed love scenes, part of me secretly hopes that some naive fool looking for “Christian romance” bought this because it was about a (hot) vicar, had her hair blown straight back, and will follow up with a horrified one star review on Amazon.

Bothari’s #CBR4 Review #18: Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

This was my favorite so far in the Cannonball Read. It was delightful, and it gives me a warm glow to know that there are two more books to enjoy.

Patricia C. Wrede (whose books I have loved since middle school) and Caroline Stevermer (new to me but will be exploring) played the Letter Game to create Cecilia and Kate, a pair of spunky and fearless cousins in the ‘regency romance’ era of a slightly alternate universe, where magic is real, but not often practiced by Young Ladies of Quality. Patricia and Caroline wrote the letters to each other in character as Cecy and Kate as a writing exercise (they describe it in the afterword), then discovered when they reached the end of the game that they’d written a book.

Kate has gone to London for her first Season, while Cecy is left behind in the countryside. Their letters start out fairly typically – who’s wearing what to which party, how overbearing their chaperoning aunts are, and oh, by the way, did you hear our own Sir Hilary got accepted to the Royal College of Wizards. Kate stumbles onto some magical weirdness in London, and Cecilia uses her budding magician tendencies to help in any way she can, sending protective charm bags or theories with nearly every post. Both girls meet infuriating but irresistible boys, worry about siblings falling under nefarious spells, find themselves entangled with evil wizards, and desperately wish they were not separated from each other.

The characters are wonderful, the writing is terrific, the magic is fun, and I may start annoying my friends and family by calling my car a curricle and my purse a reticule. This is one of those books that, upon finishing it, causes a happy sigh and good mood the rest of the day.

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