Friday, August 27, 2010

The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance


A Rake by any other name is still a rake, no matter how handsome... or sexy. A Duke, on the other hand, an Earl, or a Marquis--now there's a suitable man to capture a girl's affections. A man and a marriage, that's on the cards, but what to do about all those dashing scoundrels?

Caught between family, intolerable longing, and impossibly tight corsets, the young ladies of the Regency era navigate the fashionable waters of High Society in the name of love and desire. Keeping one eye on thier reputations and the other on their fragile hearts, they cavort with devilish rogues who attempt to charm them out of their gowns and into impropriety--will any of them escape with their innocence intact?

A delightful collection of delicious treats!

Some people like anthologies... others do not.  Me?  I happen to love them because I always find a new author or two to add to my reading list!  I know... a blessing and a curse when looking at shelf space.  But what makes this book even better is that all the stories are brand new, and original - no reprints here! 

Below is a brief synopsis of each story - in published order - and to simplify rating 23 individual stories, I have rated them as follows... LOVED IT, ENJOYED IT, JUST OK, or DIDN'T LIKE IT.  At the moment, clicking on the author's name in the left blog column will NOT connect you to this anthology.  Rest assured, I will be fixing that.  So, here we go!!

Desperate Measures by Candice Hern (17 pages)- It's all planned... Philip will pose as Lydia's attentive love interest at the Erskine ball in a scheme to get the man she loves to notice her.  But when Philip doesn't show and Geoffrey steps in to help Lydia instead, can she hide the fact that Geoffrey was the man she was trying to make jealous to begin with? 

ENJOYED IT.  Thoroughly enjoyed this sweet story with, of course, a sweet happy ending. 

Upon a Midnight Clear by Anna Campbell (31 pages)- Sebastian Sinclair, Earl of Kinvarra comes to the aid of a coach that tumbled off a frosty road.  When the woman who emerges from the broken coach turns out to be his own wife travelling with another man, he's stunned but helps her get to safety.  But when the storm strands them at a roadside inn for the night, will they be able to tolerate each other in the morning? 

ENJOYED IT.  Rather predictable but a good read!  I wish it had been longer.

The Dashing Miss Langley by Amanda Grange (27 pages)- Annabelle Langley whisks her besotted niece, Caroline, away to the country hoping to cure her infatuation with the gardener's grandson.  But when they happen upon Daniel, the man Annabelle lost her heart to a year ago, will sparks have time to rekindle before Daniel walks away from her again? 

JUST OK.  Most of the story seemed devoured by Caroline's subplot so just when things were starting to actually move and get romancey, it came to an abrupt end.  And Annabelle (with her Amazonian figure) was a bit too eccentric and over the top for me at first, but her personality faded into something more likeable as the story progressed.  I also think Annabelle and Caroline's names would have better suited the characters if they had been swapped.

Cynders and Ashe by Elizabeth Boyle (33 pages)- Five years after meeting at a Masquerade, Ella Cynders reappears at the ball in which Lord Ashe must choose a bride. 

LOVED IT.  The story would have been a tad more enjoyable without the play on names, but it was still a sweet twist on the classic Cinderella tale.  I also love when a public display of affection seals the deal.

His Wicked Revenge by Vanessa Kelly (31 pages)- Captain Anthony Barnett is hell-bent on revenge when he blackmails his former lover, Marissa, into becoming his mistress.  But when they reconcile their past, could he maybe be the one asking for forgiveness?  

LOVED IT.  A lot of ground was covered in this story, but it didn't feel crammed full of fluff... it was just a great story, and one I wish was a full length novel.

Lady Invisible by Patricia Rice (23 pages)- Major Lucas Sumner returns from war and reclaims his daughter from his family.  But now he needs a sturdy wife to tame his wild child. 

ENJOYED IT.  Lucas had no knowledge of how to woo a woman, but when the perfect one shows up, she shows him that her wild side might just be the perfect match for him and his daughter. 

The Piano Tutor by Anthea Lawson (18 pages)- Viscountess Merrowstone has just packed away her last black dress when a handsome referral appears in place of the regular piano tutor.

LOVED IT.  A bit lacking in the 'getting to know you' part but a delightful and satisfying quickie read!  I'm new to Ms. Lawson's writing but will be adding her immediately to my shopping list.

Stolen by Emma Wildes (27 pages)- Lady Sabrina Pearson enlists her life-long best friend, Stephen, to help her steal , err, take back something that rightfully belongs to her.  But on the trip home, Stephen has a plot to steal something as well... her heart.

LOVED IT.  A sweet, steamy story about the bond of childhood friendship that has grown and matured into love.  

Her Gentleman Thief by Robyn DeHart (20 pages)- On the eve of her wedding, Annalise's coach is stopped by a highwayman.  But when she pleads with him to save her from an arranged marriage, could it be that the thief learns a thing or two about love?

LOVED IT.  Very heavy on the introspective side but I really wished this story had been longer.

The Weatherly's Ball by Christie Kelley (23 pages)- Five years ago, Lady Tessa Townson was ruined by the man she loved when he left to go to war.  Believing he was dead, she can't believe her eyes when she sees him again.  A lot has changed over the past five years... but then again, maybe one thing hasn't. 

ENJOYED IT... but I got mad at the hero because I thought his plan with Georgiana was just beyond cruel.  Really, I did enjoy this story... I just wanted to kick him in the tookus.

The Panchamaabhuta by Leah Ball (29 pages)- Francis' rare and valuable ring becomes a prize to be sought by a thief.  But could he be after another prize as well? 

DIDN'T LIKE IT.  When I can't pronounce a title, I get frustrated enough. But this story made me roll my eyes... I'm sorry but trying to steal back your own possession from a thief (no matter how handsome or tanned he may be) does not justify sleeping with him.  I struggled through this one.

Angelique by Margo Maguire (22 pages)- Miss Angelique Drummond inherits after her father dies, but for some reason he left her funds under the control of her former fiancé.

ENJOYED IT but... real close to being JUST OK.  The story was fine, but nothing special.  My big gripe was the ending... it felt like a magical dusting of pixie dust suddenly fell over the whole misunderstanding and everything became peaches and roses and teddy bears and the promised happy ending.  

Like None Other by Caroline Linden (24 pages)- Widowed Emma Bowen and a retired sea captain share pleasant conversations over their shared garden wall.  But Captain Phineas Quentin is enchanted by Emma and wants more than just friendship between neighbors.  Could it be she does too?

LOVED IT.  Loved it, loved it, loved it!  My favorite in this anthology so far and oh, how I didn't want it to end!  A sweet, romantic story by an author I am ashamed to admit I have yet to read.  I'm off to pluck one of her books from my TBR shelf.

The Catch of the Season by Shirley Kennedy (28 pages)- Miss Julia Winslow receives a proposal from Lord Melton, the catch of the season, but Julia isn't impressed when his kiss feels like "kissing a piece of paper." Going home to the country to think things over, she meets his ne'er-do-well brother and wonders if his kiss could be any different.

ENJOYED IT.  Good story!  Julia's mother was almost too much for me but her grandmother was a hoot.  And Robert was charming, giving the story a sweet happy ending.   

French Intuition by Delilah Marvelle (22 pages)- Lady Gwendolyn Redford reconnects with her estranged husband by playing a bedroom game to rekindle their romance.

DIDN'T LIKE IT.  This story didn't do anything for me but I think it needed a lot more than 22 pages to tell it well.  This was simply the wife using seduction to convince her husband that she wasn't having an affair with another man.  Unfortunately, I didn't really see any romance in it, and I highly doubt that one bedroom game would be the defining moment in fixing an estranged marriage headed for divorce.

A Suitable Gentleman by Sara Bennett (19 pages)- Clarinda Howitt meets James Quentin on the street one blustery day and there is a spark of mutual attraction.  However, Clarinda has resigned herself to be a martyr, caring for her hypochondriac aunt, and seeking a good match for her younger sister.  But could it be that there is more to James than meets the eye?  And could that eye be on Clarinda?

JUST OK.  This is a good example of a short-story casualty.  Adding ten more pages could have made this story great, but instead it felt half baked, then microwaved.  I also got frustrated hearing Clarinda say she wasn't a martyr even though you are constantly reminded that she is.  Really, she had no hope for herself and that just made me want to give her a satin-slippered kick in the drawers. 

Gretna Green by Sharon Page (29 pages)- Reformed childhood gang members reunite when a Bow Street Runner interviews his former lover who is now a dressmaker that secretly helps young ladies escape forced marriages.  

ENJOYED IT.  A nice original story by an author I have never read before.  Ms. Page has me intrigued.

Little Miss Independent by Julia Templeton (24 pages)- Adelaide Bruce has grown up over the past five years and battle-scarred Naval Captain Lord Drayton takes notice.  But with all of society judging his appearance, could it be that Adelaide, his best friend's sister, sees the man for who he truly is? 

LOVED IT.  This was a charming Beauty and the Beast kind of story PLUS you had the whole "forbidden fruit" thing going on.  My first story by Julia Templeton, who typically pens erotic romance.  I'd love to see a full-length novel in the historical romance genre.

The Devil's Bargain by Deborah Raleigh (26 pages)- Lord Spaulding crashes a party hosted by the woman who married then abandonded him exactly one year ago.  Amelia is still bitter with resentment but could it be her husband valued more than just her dowry after all? 

JUST OK... Nothing special and the story ended as predicted.  This is the third story in this anthology involving a misunderstanding that led to a married couple leading separate lives.  I really hope there are no more.

Kindred Souls by Barbara Metzger (18 pages)- Paving way for a marriage to Millie Cole's dowry, Earl Stourbridge arranges with her father to send away the only man Millie ever loved.  But seven years later, Ted returns and learns that Millie had stood the earl up at the altar and has been living an impovershed life, banished to the country ever since.  Now that Ted's back to take on the role as Viscount, is there a chance that Millie still has feelings for him?

JUST OK.  I really wanted to see this story work but honestly, it felt like this was a bunch of excerpts plucked from a larger book and put together to form a short story.  It was hard to follow at times and the writing seemed a bit scattered.  Even writing this mini-review, I had to go back and re-read a lot just to refresh my memory of the flow and events.  Part One needed to be a stronger foundation for the rest of the story, but instead it teased the reader about too many things we didn't know yet which ended up making this story confusing and hard to get into. 

Remember by Michele Ann Young (24 pages)- Madame Beauchere has claws firmly clasped around the young Lord Graves because marriage to his fortune would enable her to free her father from debtor's prison.  But when Graves' family asks Gerard, the Duke of Hawksworth, to intervene before things go further, could it be that some old flames never quite die?

ENJOYED IT.  This, like the story before it, was a case of "meddling fathers" resulting in yet another misunderstanding.  Not my favorite type of plot, but this one was still a good read!

Moonlight by Carolyn Jewel (26 pages)- Alec, the Earl of Dane, hosts a ball with the help of his lifelong friend Philippa, but afterwards the two reminisce and talk openly and honestly about her upcoming marriage to Captain Bancroft.  Could it be the moonlight has other things in mind for Alec and Philippa?

LOVED IT.  Loved it, loved it, loved it!  Beautifully written, wonderfully passionate, and incredibly sensual.  Curl up in a cozy chair, suspend belief for an hour and watch these two people fall in love in one moonlit night.  I would have loved this to be a full-length novel.

An Invitation to Scandal by Lorraine Heath ( pages)- Nicholas, the Earl of Harteley, receives an invitation for a private dinner hosted by a young Miss Arianna Vernon.  Expecting much more from this clandestine meeting, she stuns him when she offers to pay off his inherited debts in exchange for marriage.

LOVED IT.  Strong story complete with Ms. Heath's trademark darker undertones.  A fine story to end this great anthology.

Overall, I was very pleased with this anthology.  I was introduced to a handful of new authors who I have added to my reading list, and as you can see, most stories rated very positive with me.  Here's how my ratings tallied:

LOVED IT:  9        ENJOYED IT:  8         JUST OK:  4          DIDN'T LIKE:  2

Not bad at all, in my opinion!  My personal favorites, you ask? Like None Other by Caroline Linden, Moonlight by Carolyn Jewel, Little Miss Independent by Julia Templeton and The Piano Tutor by Anthea Lawson.

My rating for the entire book of stories:  8 - Definitely on my keeper shelf

Somewhere My Love


I recently had the privilege to review a book for Romancing-The-Book.com and I felt that it had enough historical romancey goodness to include here at Historical Romance Book Reviews...

Beth Trissel's debut is a riveting blend of romance and intrigue with light paranormal tones that grab hold of you on page one and won’t let you go.

Somewhere My Love introduces us to Julia Morrow, an English girl on summer break, who has arranged to work as a tour guide at Foxleigh, a historical home situated along the James River in Virginia. During her introductory tour, Julia learns that Foxleigh has been home to the Wentworth family for eight generations and is now managed by William Wentworth. But Julia is stunned to see that William bears a striking resemblance to an old portrait of Cole Wentworth, a handsome man pictured in his late twenties. Drawn to the portrait of Cole, Julia is overwhelmed by feelings that she somehow knows Will, even Cole… but can’t explain it.

There’s definitely something about Julia, and Will wonders if the decision to have her work and live at the house for the summer was a mistake. Not only does she boggle his mind with her innocent charm, but her inexplicable admiration for Cole truly makes him wonder if she’s cuckoo for cocoa puffs. After all, Cole’s been dead two hundred years. But when Julia’s dreams become vivid and Will starts recalling memories that place him in Cole’s shoes—err, boots—so many years ago, comparing notes may help them discover the truth of what really happened on the fateful night of Cole’s death. But could it be that the events that happened so long ago may foretell events still yet to come? And is it possible that a love from the past could get a second chance to live in the present?

Somewhere My Love weaves a beautiful historical romance with a contemporary story creating a mystery with a pleasant dash of the paranormal. Catch all that? Sure to please readers of all those genres, fans of the Regency period will enjoy the little details of Colonial Virginia when Julia and Will’s recollections take them to the turn of the nineteenth century. And as everyone at Foxleigh prepares for the annual Midsummer’s Eve Ball, scenes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet come to life at the hand of Will’s eccentric grandmother, lovingly referred to as the Queen Mother.

A colorful supporting cast of characters helps bring these stories (past and present) to life, and though there is no quiz at the end, keeping track of all the players can become a bit of memory game, especially when they take on the added roles from Hamlet. In addition, I found all the rehearsal scenes to be a tad overkill, eating up a big chunk of the second half of the book when I would have preferred a more tightly wrapped up ending. Unfortunately, the reader is left with a few unanswered questions even with the added bonus of a very short, but sweet, epilogue.

While this fast-paced story was complex with many layers of twists and turns, I did find the writing style to be overly-simplistic and lacking. It is rather unfortunate for a story with such a strong plot and steady flow to be weakened by this, but for a debut novel there is the hope that the author’s writing will mature into something that doesn’t feel plucked from a shelf of teen fiction. I also shake my fist at Ms. Trissel’s editor for not knowing that Jane Austen’s name isn’t spelled like Austin, Texas.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this story overall and recommend this book as a pleasant read. And for anyone wary or new to paranormal stories, I would encourage you to give Somewhere My Love a try as a light introduction to the genre. This book is the first in Ms. Trissel’s Somewhere series.

My rating:  6 - It was a pleasant read