Tag Archives: regency

Never Rescue a Rogue by Virginia Heath

Standard
Never Rescue a Rogue by Virginia Heath

Heath. Virginia. Never Rescue a Rogue. Merriwell Sisters #2. Griffin, 2023. ISBN 978-1250787781 $16.99

****

Opposites attract in this British regency romance with notes of intrigue and mystery that has revealing hidden identities and relationships at the heart of it. Rakish Giles Sinclair is by all appearances doing his best to disappoint his father the Duke with his lavish, immoral lifestyle–while secretly making sound business deals and investments and doing right by his servants and tenants. Diana Merriwell is a confirmed spinster more interested in chasing a tidbit for her popular gossip column–while secretly undercover as a expose journalist. Their witty banter of putdowns is totally flirtation veiled as disdain, and when the Duke unexpectedly dies just as he’s about to announce his impending engagement, Giles fears his lineage will be exposed for a lie. Diana gets involved in helping him to prove his identity and of course, they fall for one another–but must resist!

The writing is juicy: rich with details of period etiquette, clothing and food, and the reparte is fast and satisfying. The book stands alone but seems to move the story of the first in the series forward. There are many funny and poignant moments, strong character development (including of secondary characters), and a darn good action story to boot.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #NeverRescueARogue from #NetGalley.

An Improbable Season by Rosalyn Eves

Standard
An Improbable Season by Rosalyn Eves

Eves, Rosalyn. An Improbable Season. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023. 352 pp. ISBN 978-0374390181. $19.99

***

Marketed as a Bridgerton read-alike because it’s set in the Regency era, An Improbable Season focuses on the London debut of two sisters and their cousin, only one of whom actually seems interested in settling down and marrying. Admirably, one is looking for the intellectual heart of the city, and I had trouble from the beginning keeping the characters–defined as the scientist, the poet and the one who wants a family–or their beaus–straight and had to keep flipping back (even though details were conveyed through diary entries, field notes, and actions) to remind myself who was who. While chapters alternate in focus, the narrative voice and point of view is the same throughout. I would have much rather read a stand-alone novel about the romances of each protagonist in a three-part series, which would have left more time and space for nuanced character development, and more complete world-building.

For the record, Thalia Aubrey is an aspiring poet and has ignored the affections of family friend Mr. Hetherbridge for years, falling for the rakiest rake, Mr. Darby; Kalliope, the sweet one who loves parties second only to family is accidentally caught with Hetherbridge in the gardens with a ripped dress and the two are forced into a betrothal as Kalli navigates and attraction to and attention from a Mr. Salisbury, who seems to love her awkwardness; cousin Charist Elphinstone, a scientist and naturalist who has a fondness for insects and feminism, plans only to observe the Season and then engages in a battle of wits and wills with the Indian-born style maker Mr. Leveson, who becomes her love interest.

As the three young ladies arrive in London, details of the journey or preparations for the Season are omitted, launching right into visiting other women and girls, with nary an eligible bachelor in sight, quickly remedied once the parade of calling cards begins. There is drama, and gossip, etiquette to be learned, and dancing late into the night, but also hurt feelings, soul searching, sneaking around, and finally, solidarity.

Much knowledge is simply assumed, with period details, London locations, and terms are mostly undefined (bluestocking, Gretna Green, Almacks, modiste, nabobs, milliner); careful readers will be able to figure out some references with context, and while I had fun looking up the various punches served, a few more sensory details would have been gracious. The excellent author’s note at the end fills in some of the blanks and addresses British colonization and women of science of the time period. The inclusion of a person of colonized India ancestry educated in Britain and struggling to find his place in the world was a welcome addition.

I will say the courtship scenes are tame but full of sensual details, and the endings/beau that each young lady ended up with was … well, improbable. Which makes me think either I really didn’t read carefully, that some details were just red herrings, or there was a goal by the author, a long time reader of Regency romances, to meet the expectation set by the title.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TheImprobableSeason from #NetGalley.

After Dark with the Duke (Palace of Rogues #4) by Julie Ann Long

Standard
After Dark with the Duke (Palace of Rogues #4) by Julie Ann Long

Long, Julie Ann. After Dark with the Duke. (Palace of Rogues #4).Avon, 2021. ISBN 978-0063045095 384 pp. $8.99

****

Marianna Wylde had pulled herself up from by her high-heeled bootstraps to pursue a career in the opera, but scandal forces her into hiding when perceived lovers engage in a duel over her, and one emerges quite wounded. Fallen from grace, called a harlot in the papers, and facing a growing mob outside her apartment, she escapes and finds refuge at The Grand Palace on the Thames, where the celebrated war hero and widow General James Duncan Blackmore the Duke of Valkirk has retired to write his memoirs (and half-heartedly look for a new wife).

Based on preconceived notions, the two butt heads until their insults reach a peak that results in the hostesses forcing an apology from the Duke. He also agrees to make amends by teaching Italian to Marianna, who until now has only learned it by ear for her productions. They get to know one another’s histories and traumas, catch feelings, and of course, finally give in to their simmering passions and a series of late-night trysts ensue.

Marianna is also planning a one-night only benefit concert to pay for her accomodations and thank her generous benefactors, but as on the outs with society as she is, it’s unclear if anyone will purchase tickets and attend. Meanwhile, she is also seeking her next gig (a subplot about whether she is to play a lobster or a mermaid for an open in Paris is delightful). The duke, convinced they come from two different worlds, asks her to allow him to make “arrangements” for her (translation: be his mistress, with all expenses covered, which for Marianna translates to sex for money) and a rift occurs, just before the concert. Will they resolve things and get a HEA?

Set in the Regency period, the writing is luscious–beautifully detailed, with period allusions and vocabulary and turns of phrase. The description of the concert is particularly excellent, from the detailed set to the maid arranging the guests by color and moving them around to fit her fancy, while they wonder if it’s due to some unknown social hierarchy. Supporting characters such as Dot the maid come to life off the page. The flirtation that takes place across two languages is rich and wonderful, and the love scenes are sensual, consensual and unapologetically shameless. Themes of honor, reputation, and judgement carry through the story.

This is the fourth book in the Palace of Rogues series, and while past incidents are alluded to, reading in order is not required.

I received an advance reader’s review copy of #AfterDarkWithTheDuke from#NetGalley