Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why Shoot a Butler?

Title: Why Shoot a Butler?
Author: Georgette Heyer
Original Copyright: 1933
Copyright: 2009 (Sourcebooks); 329 pgs.
ISBN: 978-1-4022-1795-1
Series: N/A
Sensuality: N/A
Genre: Mystery

Summary: London barrister Frank Amberley is on his way to visit his uncle, Sir Humphrey Matthews, in the country. Opting to take his cousin Felicity's so-called "short cut", Frank gets lost and stumbles onto an interesting scene: a dead man in a car and a young woman standing in the road, claiming she didn't kill him. Frank believes she didn't murder the man despite the circumstances, but he's sure she knows more than she's telling. Revealing her presence at the scene of the crime to the local police would complicate things unnecessarily, so he omits the fact when he reports the murder and starts making his own inquiries.

Comments: I usually have a hard time reading mysteries because sometimes I figure out the clues faster than than the protagonist. Not so with this mystery. Frank keeps things to himself, so you really don't know what he's already discovered, and we have to guess what he's up to until the author lets us in on his secrets -- unless you're his Aunt Marion. Lady Matthews is apparently a lot shrewder than anyone would guess, and manages to figure out much of the mystery, though only person who knows that is Frank. She's my favorite character and Frank adores her. There was one character who's behavior made me think that perhaps this person was the culprit or, the very least, an accomplice. Since this book is a mystery, I don't want to go into too much detail about the characters and their actions, since I don't want to give anything away.

Being a barrister, Frank's familiar with crime in general, and motives, so he's not a complete amateur when it comes to mysteries. He's also abrasive and he has little respect for the investigative abilities of the local constabulary. And after seeing them at work, it's not surprising. I imagined Frank to be like those characters in the old black and white movies. In fact, since the book was written in the 30s, I could easily picture Cary Grant, or one of his contemporaries, playing the part. It made it easier for me to "get" the characters and I enjoyed the book more for it.

This was my first Heyer mystery and I really like it. I will definitely be reading her others.

Finished: 1 October 2010

Christina
(Note: Cross-posted from my blog)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Civil Contract


Civil Contract. Georgette Heyer. 1961/2009. Harlequin. 432 pages.

"The library at Fontley Priory, like most of the principal apartments in the sprawling building, looked to the south-east, commanding a prospect of informal gardens and a plantation of poplars, which acted as a wind-break and screened from view the monotony of the fen beyond."

Okay, so that first sentence doesn't even hint at what the story is about. And it offers little incentive to the reader. Fortunately, most readers need only hear Georgette Heyer's name to know that this may be a gem of a book. For those that aren't the "most" in the readers listed above, I'd like to think I'm doing my part. A Civil Contract is a satisfying read in a very gentle and subtle manner. I enjoyed it. Enjoyed the characters and the subtle complexities of its non-plot. This is a very human novel.

You're probably wondering, but what is it about??? Adam Deveril is a soldier whose father has just died. He's inherited a title--he's now Viscount Lynton--but he's also inherited an overwhelming debt. A debt that is due to negligence, gambling, and mismanagement. He's got a mother (Dowager is how she's referred to in the text), and two sisters Charlotte and Lydia. Charlotte is engaged to be married, so she's not one of his primary concerns. However, his mother and sister are. He's been advised that he should marry for money. He finds the idea repugnant. Especially at first. But even Lydia, his younger sister, knows that sacrifices are called for in this occasion. It is her discussions of how she needs to be marry an older man for his money to "rescue" the family, that has Adam pondering how much he's willing to do for his family.

The family home, Fontley, is at risk. All their property is at risk--most of their holdings are mortgaged already. And only their townhouse and Fontley remain. Adam feels that the honorable thing to do would be to sell everything they can and hope to break even. That is hope they have enough money to settle their debts. Whatever small amount may be left would be settled upon his sister for her dowry. He's not worried so much for himself, for his comfort. He knows that he can go soldiering again and live on his pay if need be.

Of course, this newly-discovered money problem does mean that he cannot marry his first love, his supposed one and only love Julia Oversley. They met when he was injured. She became enamored with a vision of a dashing, heroic soldier. He became enamored of her beauty and charm. The parents consented at the time, though Lord Oversley did feel they weren't well suited for one another. But now that he's poor and soon to be without a home, he knows the only honorable thing is to break the engagement. Oversley does agree with him. Julia's brokenhearted. Adam is melancholy but resolved that he's doing the right thing, the responsible thing.

Enter Jonathan Chawleigh. A very wealthy man, but not "genteel" or gentle bred. Oversley introduces the impoverished Adam to Chawleigh with the hopes that they can solve each other problems. Chawleigh has high hopes for his daughter, his only child, Jenny. He wants to see her marry a proper gentleman, a man with a title, a man with dignity and distinction. A man that is part of the ton. Adam is shocked at first, but the more he considers the idea, the more he comes to feel it would be doing the better thing for his family--his mother and sister. The couple does meet first. And Chawleigh was right, Jenny doesn't overwhelm men with her beauty and charm and grace. She's the opposite of Julia in a way. Shy. Intelligent. Meek. Forgiving. Generous. Unassuming. And practical. Above all else practical. For those that are familiar with it, think Proverbs 31. Jenny is the essence of a Proverbs 31 woman. So after meeting her, while not overwhelmed by her beauty, he sees that they could live together amicably. They'd "suit" each other. Neither is dishonest. She knows that her husband is in love with another woman. He knows that she knows he's in love with another woman. Yet this awkward situation somehow doesn't stay awkward. Not for long. She doesn't demand love. Her only hope--in the beginning--is for respect and dignity.

I loved Jenny. I did. I loved her father Jonathan. The scenes with him are just satisfyingly good. I loved Adam's aunt Lady Nassington. I loved Adam's sister Lydia. So many of the characters were just so wonderfully human, so thoroughly developed. I loved this quiet and gentle but always intelligent novel about marriage and love and family.

I wouldn't say that I liked A Civil Contract better than A Convenient Marriage. But it was so much better than April Lady!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Foundling


The Foundling. Georgette Heyer. 1948/2009. Sourcebooks. 439 pages.

When the young gentlemen strolling through the park with his gun on his shoulder and an elderly spaniel at his heels came within sight of the house it occurred to him that the hour must be farther advanced than he had supposed, for the sun had sunk below the great stone pile, and an autumnal mist was already creeping over the ground.

The Duke of Sale (Gilly) is twenty-four. But. He's never lived his own life, or made his own decisions. He's had an entourage for as long as he can remember. An entourage that is determined to keep him safe, healthy, and comfortable. An entourage that Gilly feels discourages his independence, his individuality. He's never known a day of freedom.

Until. His cousin Matthew shares his troubles--he is being blackmailed. And the Duke determines to "solve" this family problem all on his own. He'll do it by being nobody. Without "being" the Duke, without being the head of the family. No. He wants to see if he's capable of being a man. Of thinking and acting like a man.

Does he succeed? At over four-hundred pages, you can imagine he does. But this new freedom doesn't come without risks and challenges and mishaps. He'll pick up not one but two strangers along the way. One young man, Tom, who is foolish and prank-loving. And one young woman, Belinda, a foundling, he "rescues" from an "uncle" who doesn't have the best of intentions. Belinda will BELIEVE any man who offers her a purple dress, you see. Or a ring. She's as silly as silly can be. But Belinda is NOT the love interest of Gilly. (I was quite relieved!)

The Foundling is not my favorite Georgette Heyer. It is a bit too long. There were so many potential ending places in the last hundred pages. Places where one more paragraph could have nicely done the job. But. For whatever reason, this ending would not be rushed. I liked it, but didn't love it.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, August 16, 2010

April Lady


April Lady. Georgette Heyer. 1957/2005. Harlequin. 270 pages.

There was silence in the book-room, not the silence of intimacy but a silence fraught with tension.

April Lady is an enjoyable albeit predictable read. Our hero, Cardross, and our heroine, Nell, have been married over a year when the novel opens.

The book begins with an argument over money. The wife is being scolded by her husband for going over her quarterly allowance. It’s not that he’s not fabulously wealthy. He is. He just wants his wife to be able to account for the money he’s given her, for the unpaid bills that arrive at the house.

After the scolding, Nell is horrified to learn that she missed one bill. It is for a Chantilly lace dress. She can't possibly tell her husband the truth--the bill got buried in a drawer, forgotten. She can't possibly expect her husband to understand this circumstance. Perhaps her brother can help her...

Nell is keeping other secrets from her husband. She is lying about giving money to her brother, Dysart, to cover his gambling debts. She knows she is disobeying her husband by “supporting” her brother like this. But she can’t understand why her husband blames Dysart for being an addict. He should know that Dysart just can’t control himself when it comes to gambling and racing. Being unsure of her husband’s love (and respect), Nell spends much of her time afraid of her husband. She’s afraid to be honest with him, which is all that he is asking of her.

Both husband and wife are deceived. She is certain that he doesn’t love her, that their marriage is one of convenience not love. And he is certain that she doesn’t love him, that she married him for his money. (Her family is always in need of money since her father and brother are gambling addicts.) The reader is the only one who knows the truth: these two do love each other, and have loved each other from the beginning.

Is Nell as silly as she seems? Is Cardross as tyrannical and unforgiving? Will these two ever be completely honest with one another?

While I didn't love the plot of this one--at least as much as other Heyer novels I've read in the past--I did enjoy the characters. Particularly the "minor" characters. Nell has a sister-in-law, Letty, whose troubled love life steals the show, in a way. She's in love with a man, Jeremy Allandale, deemed "unsuitable" by her older brother. (Letty gets one of her many scoldings in the second chapter.) This love affair is "aided" by Letty's cousin, Selina Thorne, a young lady who has read too many novels. This romance provides my favorite scene of the novel!

Dysart, Nell's brother, and Mr. Hethersett, Cardross' cousin who has a way of being in the right place at the right time to aid Nell out of her messes, also add to the novel's charm.

One of the weaknesses of this novel, however, is Cardross. It's hard for the reader to fall in love with Cardross when he's only in a handful of scenes. (He spends most of the novel out of town on a trip.) Especially when most of those scenes show him scolding the women in his life. Are Letty and Nell silly? Yes. But still, that doesn't mean it's fun to read Cardross' condescending scoldings. (Or Dysart's scoldings for that matter!)

Also, I felt the romance between Cardross and Nell to be a little lacking. We're told that it was love at first sight. Yet we rarely see these two in the same room. And when they are in the same room, he's either scolding her or she's awkwardly avoiding him in conversation. These two are uncomfortable in their scenes together. Neither wants to be vulnerable. Neither wants to show too much.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beauvallet

Beauvallet. Georgette Heyer. 1929/2010. Sourcebooks. 301 pages.

The deck was in shambles.

Dona Dominica, the daughter of the former governor of Santiago, Don Manuel de Rada y Sylva, is on her way back to Spain--along with her dying father, when their ship the Santa Maria is boarded by English adventurers (pirates) led by the fearless El Beauvallet (Nicholas Beauvallet). The two are taken captive by Beauvallet and brought aboard his ship, Venture. But he promises--and it's not a promise without risk--to return these two safely to Spain. If anyone can land an English ship safely into a Spanish port during these hostile times it would have to be Beauvallet.

At first Dominica hates her captor. She refuses to admit to herself that he is a little charming, a little handsome. She flirts with the other men to drive him crazy. But. Soon she has to admit that there is an attraction between them. And she's shocked to hear him boast recklessly of his honorable intentions to make her an English woman before the year is out. Since she is his captive, you might think this would be easy. Just set sail for England instead of Spain. The lady seems willing enough. But Beauvallet wants the challenge. So he keeps his promise--his first promise--both father and daughter arrive safely in Spain. Beauvallet returns to England, to his family, to his Queen.

But Dominica has not been forgotten. And a few months later, Beauvallet is ready to pursue his lady. To woo her in Spain. With England and Spain so very, very close to war--how can an Englishman, a pirate, a dreaded pirate, safely enter Spain? He has boasted that he will find a way...

Meanwhile, Dominica's father dies and she is taken into her aunt's family. Her aunt!!! Oh what a character Dona Beatrice is! She's a strong, strong woman with a mind of her own. She has a way of bullying all the men in her life including her son, Don Diego. She has determined that he will marry--must marry--Dominica.

Beauvallet is an exciting and dramatic historical romance set in the Elizabethan era. Beauvallet is a bold adventurer who will risk it all to win his lady love. With his faithful companion, Joshua Dimmock, by his side, Beauvallet is ready for any challenge. The book had action, adventure, drama, and romance. I enjoyed Beauvallet very much!

The opening chapters of Beauvallet definitely reminded me of The Sea Hawk, a 1940 film starring Errol Flynn.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Question #2

Which Georgette Heyer novel would you recommend to a newbie? Why? Are there any novels you wouldn't recommend?

My answer: Is it strange that I'd want to recommend a 'good' one instead of a 'great' one? Of course, that would all be subjective, wouldn't it?! I think some of her novels are more accessible than others. (For example, some take three or four chapters to introduce--really introduce--the main characters.) I think I would recommend The Black Moth or These Old Shades or The Convenient Marriage.

I wouldn't recommend The Toll Gate.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Book Review: Georgette Heyer's Regency World

Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester
400 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks reissue (August 1, 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1402241369
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:


Immerse yourself in the resplendent glow of Regency England and the world of Georgette Heyer...


From the fascinating slang, the elegant fashions, the precise ways the bon ton ate, drank, danced, and flirted, to the shocking real life scandals of the day, Georgette Heyer's Regency World takes you behind the scenes of Heyer's captivating novels.


As much fun to read as Heyer's own novels, beautifully illustrated, and meticulously researched, Jennifer Kloester's essential guide brings the world of the Regency to life for Heyer fans and Jane Austen fans alike.

At first glance, readers may get excited that this could be a piece of literature focused on something regarding Georgette Heyer. This is definitely not a biography of Heyer, but more of an inside look at the culture of the Regency period in which famed author Georgette Heyer wrote of. From the styles of clothes and the dances that were acceptable to the period, to references to Heyer's novels and to the Prince Regent, this is an intelligent look at the Regency period that gives the novels of Jane Austen and Heyer a lot more context.

I am a huge fan of Georgette Heyer for the way that her writing style makes me laugh and for the silly situations that Heyer put her characters in. I have only read one Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice) and about six or seven of Heyer's Regencies. Heyer is touted as the Queen of Regency, and I would not disagree there. This reissue of Georgette Heyer's Regency World is a wonderful companion to Heyer's Regencies and I appreciate the amount of research the author must have done in order to put something like this together. Not entirely entertaining such as a Heyer regency, this goes into encyclopedia-like detail about anything and everything Regency related and what it was like to be gentleman or a lady at that time, and I must say, I would much prefer to be a gentleman. The life of a lady was a lot more restricted, unless of course she was lucky enough to become a widow and then she could enjoy herself (after a responsible period of mourning, of course!). Yet, what was amazing to me was that wives were also 'allowed' to have affairs once she provided her husband with an heir. And never expect a man to be faithful.. why, that is unheard of!! I found much of the information written to be very interesting and enlightening, especially the references to the actual people of the Regency period such as Beau Brummel and the Royal family, and the medicinal habits which make me cringe.

Once upon a time I was whimsically wishing that I were a grand lady riding in a phaeton in Hyde Park during promenade hour, but after reading this tell-all of the Regency Period, I am pretty much happy to have my own voice as a married woman as I am definitely demanding fidelity from my husband! I cannot imagine what it must be like to witness the privileged folks out dancing and partying their lives away, while the common folks struggled to put bread on their table. And all one had to do to be privileged was to be born in that family, and there was zero requirement to be intelligent or charitable or to have a job. The job of the privileged was to honor the code, unwritten and written, of the privileged.
"It was acceptable to offer one's snuff-box to the company but not to ask for a pinch of snuff from anyone else."
 "During the Season it was essential to be seen in Hyde Park during the Promenade hour of 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm."
This was an interesting read for me as a casual Regency fan, though I suspect that those more familiar with the period may find this work old news, though there are quaint line drawings which also add some life to the text. Absolutely everything was covered, from the fashions to the carriages to the houses to the dances.. I will set this book right up on the Heyer bookshelf and may even have to refer to its glossary and Who's Who section for my next Heyer read; if you are a Heyer reader this should go along with your Regencies as well. You can get the zoom in/preview feature of this work on Amazon here by clicking on the image of the book.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Question #1

Which Georgette Heyer novel did you read first? What was your first impression?

My answer: My first Heyer novel was Regency Buck. I remember loving it at the time. I'd never read anything like it before. One of the things I loved about "discovering" Georgette Heyer was learning that she was a family-favorite. I wish my mom had recommended her sooner!

I'd love to hear your answers! You can share your responses in the comment section!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Venetia


Venetia. Georgette Heyer. 1958/2009. Harlequin. 368 pages.

Venetia. Georgette Heyer. Read by Richard Armitage. 2010. Naxos AudioBooks. Abridged. 4 hours, 48 minutes.

"A fox got in amongst the hens last night, and ravished our best layer," remarked Miss Lanyon. "A great-grandmother, too! You'd think he would be ashamed!" Receiving no answer, she continued in an altered voice: "Indeed, you would! It is a great deal too bad. What is to be done?"
I love Georgette Heyer. I do. I just love her. Most of her books leave me feeling happy, satisfied. Some more than others. But still, it is always difficult for me to name one book as my favorite. Or even two or three books as my favorites. Just when I think I've found it--the perfect Heyer--I read another and change my mind again. Such is the case with Venetia. I absolutely loved this one.

Venetia is a woman (25) living with her younger brother, Aubrey (17), and being courted by two equally unsatisfying gentlemen of the neighborhood, Edward Yardley and Oswald Denny. The Lanyon siblings do have an older brother, Conway. But he is in the army, and he hasn't been at Undershaw in years. Venetia and Aubrey do not miss him at all. Life is fairly routine for the two. Until. Lord Damerel ("The Wicked Baron") returns to his estate.

The two meet when she is trespassing on his land. He has no idea who she is. But she has a fairly good idea who he is. Especially after he kisses her! Yes, he kisses her.
"Who are you?" he demanded abruptly. "I took you for a village maiden--probably one of my tenants."
"Did you indeed? Well, if that is the way you mean to conduct yourself amongst the village maidens you won't win much liking here!"
"No, no, the danger is that I might win too much!" he retorted. "Who are you? Or should I first present myself to you? I'm Damerel, you know."
"Yes, so I supposed, at the outset of our delightful acquaintance. Later, of course, I was sure of it."
"Oh, oh--! My reputation, Iago, my reputation!" he exclaimed laughing again. "Fair Fatality, you are the most unusual female I have encountered in all my thirty-eight years!"
"You can't think how deeply flattered I am!" she assured him. "I daresay my head would be quite turned if I didn't suspect that amongst so many a dozen or so may have slipped from your memory."
"More like a hundred! Am I never to learn your name? I shall, you know, whether you tell me or no!" (33)
He intends to know her better while he's in the neighborhood. Venetia doesn't need a Lady Denny to tell her that would be unwise. But. When her brother, Aubrey, has a riding accident and is saved by none other than Damerel...well, she can't help getting to know him much, much better. And soon they become great friends. Of course, it's a friendship with always a hint of something more...

Lord Damerel isn't the only newcomer to the neighborhood. Soon Venetia and Aubrey welcome TWO very unexpected house guests. Conway has gotten married--her name is Charlotte. And Charlotte and her mother have come to stay at Undershaw. And the mother is quite the character. How long can Venetia stand to share a home with such a woman? Venetia begins to think about her options...and wishing it was more socially acceptable for her to set up her own home.

What did I love about this one? Everything! I loved the characters. I loved the main characters: Venetia, Aubrey, and Lord Damerel. I loved the minor characters too! Edward Yardley, Oswald Denny, Charlotte Lanyon, Mrs. Scorrier, etc. I loved the dialogue--the conversations. They were so well done! So exciting. Whether Venetia was having a heated argument with Mrs. Scorrier or flirting with Lord Damerel, there was just something about this one. So many memorable scenes. I think it would make a WONDERFUL movie.

The romance. Venetia and Lord Damerel make a great couple. There is such chemistry from the start! Every scene with these two is satisfying! It was a joy reading this one.
He released her hands, but only to pull her into his arms. "When you smile at me like that, it's all holiday with me! O God, I love you to the edge of madness, Venetia, but I'm not mad yet--not so mad that I don't know how disastrous it might be to you--to us both! You don't realize what an advantage I should be taking of your innocence!" He broke off suddenly, jerking up his head as the door opening on to the passage from the ante-room slammed. (221)
Venetia is a Georgette Heyer romance that does not follow her usual pattern.

The audiobook! Wow, wow, wow! I LOVED listening to Venetia. I did read the book first, so I would be familiar with the story, the characters. But then I listened to this one. And it was so very satisfying! I didn't think it was possible for me to love Lord Damerel more than I already did...but hearing the part read by Richard Armitage...wow!!! He does such a wonderful job with all the characters!

In other news:

The Convenient Marriage is the next Georgette Heyer audiobook to be narrated by Richard Armitage. It releases in August 2010.


In August, Austenprose will be celebrating Georgette Heyer! The month long celebration includes: "thirty-four book reviews of her romance novels, guest blogs, interviews of Heyer enthusiast from the blog-o-sphere, academia and publishing and tons of great giveaways." The schedule can be found here.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

The Toll Gate


The Toll Gate. Georgette Heyer. 1954. Harlequin. 304 pages.

The Sixth Earl of Saltash glanced round the immense dining-table, and was conscious of a glow of satisfaction.

Georgette Heyer can have some rather off-topic openings, in my humble opinion, often it isn't until the second, third, or even fourth chapter until the reader can discern who the main characters are. Her books often start with a large cast of characters, focus in on a handful towards the middle, and then begin to gradually expand back into a larger cast as all the small details begin to create a bigger picture.

The Toll Gate was an enjoyable Heyer experience for many reasons. It is part love story, part mystery. The main character is a retired soldier (still young), a Captain John (Jack) Staple. He's one of many family members called to celebrate the engagement of the "Sixth Earl of Saltash" in the first chapter. However, not being the sociable sort--at least not among his family--he departs the weekend-celebration early. His destination is to ride to visit his friend, a Mr. Babbacombe. But having a rather later start than he'd planned originally, AND having taken a shortcut off the main road AND having been delayed/confused by the storms, he soon finds himself lost.

He comes to a toll-house late at night. He finds it manned by a young boy. A very young boy--a frightened child--named Ben. He learns that Ben's father, Bream is the last name, the official keeper of the gate is away. He told his son that he'd be back in a few hours, but then never returned.

Jack--a rather tall and brave and strong man--has pity on this boy and agrees to stay with him (and protect him) until his father returns.

So, Jack adopts Bream's station and becomes the temporary keeper of the toll-gate. He meets quite a few people. But the thing that changes his life forever is that he meets the tall and splendid Miss Stornaway. She is the Squire's daughter--his only child--but the property is being entailed away. Henry Stornaway--the lady's cousin--will inherit it all when the old man dies. An event that seems all too close at hand for the spirited and one-of-a-kind heroine.

And then the mystery starts to unfold...

I enjoyed this one. I enjoyed the character development. And the story was interesting. This was more adventure, more mystery than romance. If you're looking for wooing scenes in parlours and parks, parties, and country dances then this isn't the Heyer for you.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sprig Muslin


Sprig Muslin. Georgette Heyer. 1956/2009. Harlequin. 288 pages.

Mrs. Wetherby was delighted to receive a morning call from her only surviving brother, but for the first half hour of his visit she was granted no opportunity to do more than exchange a few commonplaces with him over the heads of her vociferous offspring.

Sprig Muslin is an enjoyable Georgette Heyer novel. It's easily accessible, which isn't always the case, and it's a quick action-packed read. What kind of action? Well, more comedy than drama. And by action, I don't mean explosions.

The hero of Sprig Muslin is Sir Gareth Ludlow. Gareth is the brother who is visiting his sister, Mrs. Wetherby. He's there to say that he's going to propose marriage to a woman, Lady Hester. It's all planned out. He's gotten the father's permission, etc. But his sister is shocked. Her brother could have anybody, anybody. Why would he seek out a spinster (she's in her late twenties) who's so boring? (From his sister's position that is. Gareth doesn't find her boring at all. He finds her smart.) His sister thinks the match is unfair. Unfair to him. She knows that her brother has never quite recovered from the death of his fiancee seven years (is it seven?) before. But he's convinced that the time is right, that the girl is right.

However, somewhere along the way--on his way to visit the girls' family on their estate in the country--he happens to "rescue" a young damsel in distress, Amanda. Amanda "Smith." Her stories and tall tales outnumber the hairs on her head. He knows she's under seventeen. He knows that she is running away from home. But he doesn't know who she belongs to...(her name, her home, her situation, etc.) or what to do with her. She's determined to find employment--a chambermaid, a maid, a dairy maid, a governess, etc. All this in an attempt to prove she's "mature" and ready to get married to her soldier-love, Neil.

So he takes her with him. He brings this strange girl with a mind all her own with him on his journey to propose to Lady Hester. Her family is more than a little confused and unsettled about the affair. They think it is an affair--that he's brought his mistress along with him. A Mr. Fabian Theale is Hester's uncle, I believe. It is his notion that the young miss is Ludlow's mistress. That she is that sort sort of "lady." That she is his for the taking if he can steal her right out from under Gareth.

Amanda doesn't know much about Theale except that he's old and a bit fat. But she does see him as serving her immediate needs. She needs transportation and a way to sneak out of this new situation. And Theale is more than willing to oblige. Of course, he hasn't any idea that she's good at manipulating and bamboozling those around her. A girl fond of novels. A girl with a vivid imagination. A silly, very gullible, unthinking girl.

He does propose. And she does listen to him calmly. But she knows that he is not in love with her. And while for many spinsters of that age, the thought of marrying anyone, of having a chance to have a home of their own and children of their own, might tempt them to marry for convenience or companionship...she's not ready to settle for that yet. She doesn't want to be a convenient companion. She knows he likes her. As a friend. As a listener. As a sympathetic, angelic companion. But he doesn't love her. Doesn't want her. Doesn't need her as a soul mate, as a lover.

The morning after the proposal, Sir Gareth wakes up to find that Amanda has given him the slip. That she is off with Theale. And he knows that Theale is not a proper companion for a young girl. That he's a very improper one. So off he goes to give them chase. He must "rescue" Amanda.

Amanda doesn't need rescuing so much from others as from herself. She's prone to getting in and out and in and out and in and out of trouble and messes galore. And no one is EVER going to boss her around.

This is a funny, fast-paced, never-ending chase to the altar. But just who will end up saying I do....

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bath Tangle


Bath Tangle. Georgette Heyer. 1955/2009. Harlequin. 336 pages.

Two ladies were seated in the library at Milverley Park, the younger, whose cap and superabundance of crape proclaimed the widow, beside a table upon which reposed a Prayer Book; the elder, a Titian-haired beauty of some twenty-five summers, in one of the deep window-embrasures that overlooked the park.

I wish I could say that I loved this one, but I can't. I just liked it. Perhaps if I hadn't just read Black Sheep or Sylvester, I would be more enthusiastic about Bath Tangle. But while I enjoyed many of the characters in Bath Tangle--our two heroines Serena, the daughter, and Fanny, the stepmother--I just didn't love the story, the plot. I felt the characters never got a good chance to shine. Our hero, the Marquis of Rotherham--and for once I prefer the title to his real name, Ivo--could have been great. There were a few chapters where I thought he was. What kept this one from being great, in my opinion, is that Rotherham was an absent hero, for the most part. And while Serena and Rotherham had great chemistry while they were together, they spent most of the book apart. Each being engaged to another. So though I enjoyed the last two or three chapters, I can't say I loved this one.

So what is it about? Serena and Fanny are mourning. Serena's lost her father--who spoiled her a bit--and Fanny's lost her husband. The two women decide to stay together, to live together. And eventually the two decide to spend part of the year in Bath. Rotherham is the man her father named as a guardian of sorts. He is the man in charge of Serena's finances. He is the man who must give his consent for her to marry. But you should know that Ivo and Serena don't get along. They were at one time close, they were engaged to be married in fact. But she called off their wedding just months before the big day. So now she's a bit concerned as to what this might mean...especially when an old love (Hector) reenters her life.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, June 25, 2010

Black Sheep


Black Sheep. Georgette Heyer. 1966/2008. Sourcebooks. 280 pages.

A little before eight o'clock, at the close of a damp autumn day, a post-chaise entered Bath, on the London Road, and presently drew up outside a house in Sydney Place.

Abigail (Abby) Wendover and Selena Wendover are the two aunts responsible for raising their young niece, Fanny, a young lady who is just getting ready to come out in society. When the novel opens, Abby has just returned to Bath from visiting some of her brothers and sisters. So she has missed the early stages of Fanny's young love. Fanny has fallen in forever-and-ever love with Stacy Calverleigh, a man with a bit of a reputation.

While no one can deny that he comes from a good family, it's also undeniable that since Stacy has come of age, the family's financial standing has continued to fall. He desperately needs to marry money if he's going to "save" the family home and keep up appearances--living a certain lifestyle.

Fanny may be young, but she'll inherit a great deal of money when she comes of age. Enough to tempt young Calverleigh. That's how Abby and her brother, James, see it anyway. Selena, well, she's easily charmed. And Stacy has a way of making her think the best of him. Abby fears that Stacy may convince Fanny to elope with him.

Soon after Abby returns home, Miles Calverleigh arrives. He's the "black sheep" of the Calverleigh family. (He's been in India for years.) He has come to Bath quite unaware that his nephew, Stacy, has been there.

Can Abby convince Miles to intervene? Will Miles see his young nephew's affair as being any of his concern? After all, he has never met the boy.

What starts out as "concern" for Fanny and Stacy, develops into something more--much much more. Has Abby found love at last? Will her sister, Selena, let Abby go?

I loved this one. I did. I loved Abby. I loved Miles. I loved the way these two clicked right from the start. I loved the banter the two share. I loved the way that neither really denies the attraction. How Abby doesn't necessarily fight the attraction she feels for Miles. She likes spending time with him. She likes his company. And she isn't one of those to say, well, what will the neighbors think. (Now, Abby, does care a little about what her family thinks.) Miles is unlike so many of the other men that Abby has known. But she likes him just the way he is. I loved how these two accept one another as is. These two are oh-so-compatible.

I would definitely recommend Black Sheep.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sylvester


Sylvester: Or the Wicked Uncle. Georgette Heyer. 1957/2009. Harlequin. 368 pages.

and

Sylvester: Or the Wicked Uncle. Georgette Heyer. Read by Richard Armitage. Naxos Audio Books. 4 hours and 51 minutes.

Sylvester stood in the window of his breakfast parlour, leaning his hands on the ledge, and gazing out upon a fair prospect.

I loved this one. I loved, loved, loved it. Of course, I expected to love it. It is Georgette Heyer after all. So what is this historical romance about? It's about the sometimes-arrogant Duke of Salford. Sylvester Raynes. When the novel opens, Sylvester is having a cozy little chat with his mother. Telling her how he feels it's time to get married. He has certain things he is looking for in a wife. And he's got five women on his list that might just do. Unfortunately, love and romance don't enter into it, for him. His mother does set him right on that account at least:

'Thank you, I have heard enough to be able to give you my advice!' interrupted his mother. 'Don't make an offer for any one of them! You are not in love!'
'In love! No, of course I am not. Is that so necessary?
'Most necessary, my dear! Don't, I beg you, offer marriage where you can't offer love as well!' (13)
Sylvester then goes to see his godmother. Maybe her advice will be more useful, more practical than his mother's.
'Now, if you were only a fairy godmother, ma'am, you would wave your wand, and so conjure up exactly the bride I want!' (31)
She can't wave her wand, but she can send him to meet her granddaughter, Phoebe Marlow. The way she phrases this suggestion irritates him, still, he is in need of a wife. And she might just do after all. He had teased his mother earlier saying,
'What could be more romantic than to marry the girl who was betrothed to me in her cradle?' (22)
So off he goes to meet Miss Marlow. But his mother was right to suspect that it might not be that easy. That the girl might need to be wooed. That her son shouldn't assume that any woman would swoon and say yes to his proposal.
'My dear, has it not occurred to you that you might find yourself rebuffed?'
His brow cleared. 'Is that all? No, no, Mama, I shan't be rebuffed!'
'So sure, Sylvester?'
'Of course I'm sure, Mama! Oh, not of Miss Marlow! For anything I know, her affections may be engaged already.'
'Or she might take you in dislike,' suggested the Duchess.
'Take me in dislike? Why should she?' he asked, surprised. (22)
That conversation ends with him boasting, "Well, Mama, you said yourself that I make love charmingly!" and "I'm not hard to swallow, you know."

So who is Phoebe Marlow? She's a young woman who doesn't welcome the idea of Duke Salford coming to offer for her. The two met very briefly in London--so briefly that Sylvester doesn't even remember--and her first impression of him wasn't the greatest. In fact, Sylvester's eyebrows inspired her to write him into the novel she was writing. As the villain, Count Ugolino. (Many of her characters were inspired by people she met during her London season.) So to learn that this man is on his way to see her, to ask her to marry him, is a bit of a shock. To make matters worse, her novel is to be published! Does Sylvester read many novels? Will he recognize himself? What's she to do? Is there a way she can escape this awkward predicament? But of course! But it's not without its risk!

Sylvester and Phoebe challenge one another. And the tension between the two is just about perfect. If you like that sort of romance--think Beatrice and Benedick, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, and Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Sylvester is all about overcoming BAD first impressions.

I love Heyer. I love her style. I love her wit. I love her characters. And there are so many characters to love in Sylvester. If you haven't read her before, you might consider starting with Sylvester.

The audio book. I have nothing but good to say about Naxos' production of Sylvester. It is narrated by Richard Armitage. And he does such a wonderful job with it! He brings the characters--both male and female--to life. It was easy for me to follow the story--to know who was speaking at any given time. (That's not always easy to do with just one narrator.) There is just enough drama to keep it lively. It is abridged. But there is still so much to love! I would definitely recommend this one! (And in case you're curious, you can find it on audible.com).

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cotillion

Cotillion Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book I have been wanting to read for awhile. It seems to be a favorite for Georgette Heyer fans and now I can see why!

As is typical for me with Regency novels, this started out slow. There always seems to be a learning curve while I move myself back in time, figure out who the characters are and what their titles mean, and adjust my head to the antiquated language and slang. But by the end I was turning pages so fast and I had to force myself to go to bed. I couldn't wait to see how it all ended and I was not disappointed.

Kitty Charing is the ward of a grouchy old man who has decided that she will inherit his fortune if she chooses one of his great-grandnephews to marry. Kitty is horrified by the proposal and is desperate to get away to London so she can figure out what to do with her life. But in order to do so, she convinces Freddy Standen (one of the nephews) to agree to a sham engagement. While in London, Kitty is exposed to a world of fashion, frivolity, and nobles behaving badly. She makes new friends and finds old family, but everyone seems to want something that they can't have. As the heroine, Kitty tries to set it all to rights, and in the process she figures out her own heart as well.

This was my in-person's book club pick for this month. While I certainly enjoyed reading it, I don't really think it's a book that will generate a lot of discussion. Still, I'm happy that I got an excuse to move it up my TBR list. I definitely recommend this one.

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Civil Contract


I had no clue about ‘A Civil Contract’ when I took it from the library. I was shocked to find a completely different treat awaiting me. It was not the customary elopements or falling in love matters but the convenient marriage axiom where the relationship follows the fulfillment of a bargain on both the sides. Heyer spins the tale with the parody of Adam on the brink of financial ruin with only a handsome face to recommend be paired opposite the unsightly but moneyed Jennifer. Adam who is head over ears in love with Julia marries jenny in anticipation of straightening out his pitiful circumstances.
The convenience marriage discomfits Adam in the early days where his father-in-law persists on showering them with extravagant gifts. But a few days time suffices to explicate the aptness of his decision and soon learns to enjoy jenny’s company. Jenny is levelheaded and sympathizes with her situation being only too palpable to give her any anticipation for a love match. The way Julia faints at the house party would have unnerved any woman, but she deals the situation with tact. She dons the role of a caring mother, an ideal wife and a pleasing daughter. She doesn’t cringe away from the thought that Adam would never love her the way he does Julia, but she secures his affection and confidence. Adam may hold his heart for Julia, but those little pleasures, he would share only with his wife. She beguiles in proffering happiness around her family as if there is no tomorrow. A Civil Contract is more of a divergence from smooth sailing lifestyles. It brings to our notice some of life’s practicalities and how we should look at it. Contract is a tranquil and matured novel that teaches values like love and sacrifice and every minute of your read benefits you.
I first thought this book was a mistake. But when I began composing this review, I realized the specialty of it and I decided not to resist multiplicity. Heyer continues to give a variety in the story she weaves.
 A marriage of convenience can at times be the best suited during hardships despite the melancholy it could possibly create.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Penhallow

Penhallow Cover
Cross-posted from BookLust.

Penhallow, by Georgette Heyer, was my choice for this month's Classics Circuit.  When I heard that Heyer was this month's choice, I literally squealed with excitement as she is one of my favorite authors.  I love to read her for when I am in the mood for a light, happy and fun story.

Penhallow is not light, happy or fun.  It was a very difficult book for me to read and, much as it pains me to say it... I did not enjoy it.  I think it was well written, but the story was hard for me to connect to.  (On a side note, this is one of the reasons I no longer give ratings to books on my blog- how do you rate a well-written book with a storyline you disliked?)

Penhallow takes place in the English countryside, like all Heyer's mysteries.  Adam Penhallow is a horrible autocratic man who keeps his many children (legitimate and illegitimate) close to him, ruling every aspect of their lives with an iron will.  They are all terrified of him, and they all hate each other.  Their lives revolve around horses, getting into massive arguments with one another (and their spouses, significant others, the maids, etc.), sponging off their father, and generally hating their lives.

The murder mystery is a little different than the usual fare because the murder doesn't occur until 2/3rds of the way through the book, and the readers know who did it and why.  The remainder of the story is the fallout from this murder and how it affects everyone's future.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Black Moth


The Black Moth. Georgette Heyer. 1921/2009. Sourcebooks. 355 pages.

Prologue: Clad in his customary black and silver, with raven hair unpowdered and elaborately dressed, diamonds on his fingers and in his cravet, Hugh Tracy Clare Belmanoir, Duke of Andover, sat at the escritoire in the library of his town house, writing.

Chapter one: Chadber was the name of the host, florid of countenance, portly of person, and of manner pompous and urbane.


Loved this one. I had my doubts--I'm not sure why--but I ended up just loving it. Why did I have doubts? Well, for some reason I thought that since this was Georgette Heyer's first novel it would perhaps be clumsy or awkward. Not quite as good as the others that I've come to love. Is it her best work? Probably not. But it's good. It's fun. It's fun in a dashing kind of way.

The characters. So many to love, so many to love to hate. Jack Carstares, Earl of Wyndam, our proper hero. Richard, his younger brother with a secret. Lavinia, Richard's wife, the woman I ended up loving to hate! Tracy, Lavinia's "devil" of a brother who thinks kidnapping is the way to get your heart's desire. Diane, the lovely woman adored by two men--one a highwayman, one a kidnapper. Miles, a good friend who has always believed in his friend no matter what. And so many more!

The writing. So much to love. It's detailed, but not in a heavy way. More in a witty kind of way. Take this description of Lavinia, "She was ever thus -- not two minutes the same." For those readers who mind the details, you'll find much to appreciate! I found it richly detailed and the world depicted by Heyer was just fascinating.

This book is loosely connected with These Old Shades.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Devil's Cub



His excesses had banished him from the country yet he could not put her away from his mind. What could he do but take her for his companion. It all lay in the hands of the leading lady to devise a plan to preclude an abduction that could ruin the repute of her injudicious sister. But her obligation doesn’t cease with this. She also takes on the mission of taming the male shrew and managing him.

If only he were real and all mine......

Dominique, the marquis of Vidal accredited for his scandalous reputation as a rake disgraces the family with yet another brawl. Of all the allegations, his new uproar had the effect of producing an ill fate to his name. Accordingly his parents ship him off to France, rather than confronting the ramification if he is anywhere in the vicinity. But his journey would be fragmentary without any distractions, he convinces Sophia to accompany him. Fortunately for Sophia, Mary intercepts his plan and goes instead regardless of what turn would Dominique’s fury take. Desperate as she may be, her fortitude never once fail her, she shoots at him with a pistol.
 
Vidal, who had never expected even a speck of virtue in any of his indulgences , offers for marriage in vain to silence the scandal that would arise therewith. Mary refuses the offer as she is absolutely aware that the intention is purely circumstantial and there being no foundation for love; even though she is in greatly in love with him. The shot having made its effect defers their departure by a few days in the course of which he becomes extremely cordial; as soon as he appreciates her insidiousness he forms an attachment for her. 

A way out this dilemma presents in form of her friend Juliana. She elopes with Comyn, Juliana’s heart broken lover, and a man of undeniable verbal skills. Vidal, by the time so deep in love with Mary, repairs to Dijon at once to conciliate with her. Their wedding receives approbation from everyone except Leonie. Mary leaves in search of a respectable position. But her being unescorted lays her in the open to an excess of disrespect.

At this precise moment, she stumbles upon a gentleman in whom she discerns a familiarity, pours her desolation into him. Vidal who had followed her into the inn is equally shocked to see his father (Avon) beside Mary.

Her tenacity and intrepidity prepares her for all the personal risks involved and only the selfless Mary could commit herself to this task. She remains perspicacious all through the story exhibiting prudence at stopping a duel by pouring water over the combatants and also running a thick cloth through the swords. Her profound knowledge and perceptivity empowers her role in the plot and proves beyond doubt the she is the predilection for Vidal.

Dominique captivates every heart by being a crack shot, a notable whip and a gamester and his performance is at its best even when he is disguised; although his being a little callous casts a shadow on his perfections. He is as nonchalant as his mother before and there is a want of acuity in most of the affairs.
There is no scrape in which his ire has not publicly landed him in trouble. It is also Avon’s smartness that pulls him out of his recent blunder. His behavior is that of a 4 year old than a 24yr old and the need to tame him becomes apparent inasmuch as the job becomes Mary. Electrified by her charm, Vidal falls in love with her intensely enough to make his existence empty without her.

The appearance of Leonie, Avon and Rupert enliven the picture with old memories. Passing years has reduced Avon’s balefulness by no more than alleviating his rakishness. The relationship between the father and son is again so mysterious, yet a thorough understanding is there between them; every conversation has its irony.

Devil’s cub is an impelling paperback with outstanding blend of persona intermingled with humor and romance in favor of irrefutable magnetism towards its fans.

These Old Shades

“Desolation might make a man fiendish” applies to the count when he makes life for both himself and his family all the more miserable and the mere contemplation that his only daughter is in employment with the duke whom he had reviled all his life is beyond forbearance. If death could only placate the public disgrace… 
 
The first in the series of the Alastair trilogy is the taster of romance, comedy, action and adventure encompassed in one course. TOS is a picture perfect comedy set against the backdrop of pre-regency and post-Jacobite rebellion. The entr’acte of the story spectacles with Leonie dissembling as Justin’s (Avon) page, giving an opportunity for Avon to reprise his arch enemy, the comte de saint vire. It is unbeknownst to the world that comte is Leonie’s father and on unearthing this singularly significant information, Justin manipulates a strategy that would result in the acquaintance of the truth with the society and also right Leonie in the eyes of the world.
 
Sinsyne, from a page she ameliorates to a position of a ward where she gets launched into the society with a great deal of success. In the mean while, the Comte taking desperate attempts in shielding the truth, in one situation, intimidates Leonie to a situation accentuating debase and infamy; that in cognizance of which she is driven to the folly of leaving the duke’s shelter. This being rendered fallow, his predicament leaves him with no option but to kidnap her. Nevertheless, Leonie’s intellect should not be underestimated; no sooner than being said she slips out of his hold and returns to her monsignor. The Comte envisages a stiff counter in Avon who has expedited obtaining of the proof than the former had expected. A society gathering is what Avon needs to hyperventilate the already disheveled Comte constraining him to shoot himself at the countess’s outburst of the truth. Leonie is righted, but the only missing piece in the wholesome happiness is her fallacy to have fallen below Avon’s standards; in the belief of their union being unbefitting ,her confusion is only momentary to last long, ends in their nuptials.
 
TOS is a hilarious and a preeminent fiction portraying the best of the hero and heroine along with a laudable supporting cast. Justin (aka devil, as Tracy Belmonair  from TBM) essays the role of an outlandish hero with a shady past and an evil smirched reputation (satanas); whose thoughts and principles are practically outside the comprehensions and capability of any normal person. From the start till the end he remains to be on dictating terms, unfathomable and versatile and acts a sculpture lacking emotion and expression. He is quite composed until he sets eyes on Leonie, his complete opposite. The counterpart of Avon, she is quick-tempered, pertinacious, and unruly and to top it, tongue lashing, but the way she twists Avon around her little finger, as Rupert puts it, is pretty on her part. She has a childlike reverence for Avon that purges him of all his flagitiousness. She seems to be the one person Justin would die to please, love and laugh with. Thus the notorious rake redeems in the passionate love making of Leonie. Their love is quite subtle while it expels his one time fascination for Jennifer (Diana Beuleigh). 
 
The incorrigible Rupert (Andrew), the fussy Fanny (Lavinia) and the convivial Merrivales ( supposedly to be jack carstares of TBM) who assist in the plan also add to the story though the best is the Comte who is bad enough to swap his daughter for the sake of the title and his death serves the good purpose of restoring what he impounded from her. His mania for title mists up his vision over the honorable where it shatters his whole family for nothing. His conscience suffers no pang over the unjustifiable sin he had committed and he isn’t anxious to reconcile Leonie even during the last few minutes before he chooses death. Sardonically, it is ignominy and not remorse that drives him to such measures. 
TOS is purported to be the resurrection of TBM from the villain's part. The characters of her first novel reappear under different names and enchant us with more humor. Tracy (Justin in TOS), duc of andover falls in love with Diana Beuleigh (jennifer), but is unsuccessful in winning her heart which is already lost to jack. 
In an attempt to force her hand, he kidnaps her from under Jack’s(lover of Diana, merrivale in TOS) nose.This gives a likely explanation for the unspoken understanding between jenny and Avon in TOS. He knows he has lost her to jack/merrivale, but not until he meets the titian hair beauty(leonie) that he realizes he is not entirely vanished in fate. I especially like Heyer's concern in setting up Tracy in some way or another so that victory appears on both sides.  By bringing Leonie, she has brought life not only to tracy/avon but also to those who deeply felt for Tracy's ill fortune (like I did).
TOS is one of my evergreen favorites as no one but Heyer could cook up a story as sweet and exciting as this.