Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Strickly some Regency books reviewed

I was in the middle of reading Helen Keller's first autobiography when I stalled out. It's a really good book, but I'd just hit a depressing section. Y'see, at the age of 11 (or perhaps 12), Helen was hauled before a court of inquiry at her school on the charge of plagiarism  For a story she'd written (not for school) when she was 8. Eight years old. At that point she'd only recently been beginning to learn words and how the English language was structured.

And yes, she ultimately discovered that a friend had read her a story about a year before, but she'd been so concentrated on learning the words and phrases of it that she didn't consciously recall the actual story. (She was a KID!) That is, until she was inspired to write a story as a personal gift to an adult friend about the changing seasons. He had it published (it never says if it was with or without her permission) and sure enough, people wrote in to say it was a close copy of another story.

The trial traumatized Helen. She swore it hadn't been done with any intention of plagiarism, and then confessed from her adult point of view that she often had problems sorting out original ideas from ones she had read, because (justifiably) she was in her own head so deeply and so much.

So I decided to take a break and searched for lighter fare. Jackpot! I came up with two fabulous summer reads that I hope you'll enjoy as well. They're not only Regencies by the same author, but make up a 2-volume series though both are stand-alones. There's one character they have in common, and he's dead when both begin. He's the guy bequeathing the castles.

When I was a kid I made the mistake of reading three of my favorite books, those in the "Witch World" series by Andre Norton (the only ones that had come out to that point), in one weekend. After that I have had a difficult if not impossible time of making it through any other Norton book. Ecch!

Once I read a slew of Leigh Greenwood books and discovered that he wrote all his sex scenes the same way, down to the same dialogue. (A lot of romance writers do this, I've found. Guess it saves time?) They were good books, and if you didn't read them in a row you'd never notice. Still, I stopped buying his stuff.

But now and then I still read several books by the same author in a row.

book cover for Romancing the Duke
Here we have Romancing the Duke, vol. 1 of "Castles Ever After," (2014) by Tessa Dare.

Izzy Goodnight is an almost penniless orphan who has had a castle bequeathed to her by someone who only recently became her godfather. She arrives fainting from hunger to the crumbling estate, to be dragged out of the rain by the castle's owner, the recently-blinded and overly proud Ransom Vane, Duke of Rothbury. Both obviously have different ideas about to whom the castle legally belongs. We soon discover that someone in the duke's employ has been embezzling—but who?

The story is complicated by a very funny use of cosplayers. You see, Izzy's dad had written an extremely popular series of medieval melodrama. Izzy gets tons of letters from fans wondering how things had turned out after the cliffhanger that was never finished because of Izzy's father's sudden demise. (And of course, dear ol' dad had never changed his will to provide her with support after he died.) Some of the fans dress up as the characters and travel to fan fairs to join others in reenacting the stories.

A lot of snarky fun ensues. And yet there's plenty of heart-tugging emotions to be explored as well.

After finishing that I decided to put caution to the wind and ordered the next book: Say Yes to the Marquess (2014), whose cover shows our heroine in dishabille for some ungodly reason.

This time our heroine, Clio Whitmore, has some money of her own, but a lot more is tied up with her dowry. She's been engaged to Piers Brandon, the Marquess of Granville, but as soon as he popped the ring on her finger he told her they had to wait to get married until he finished some foreign business.

That was eight years ago. Since then Clio has become the laughingstock of society, as "Miss Wait-More." It doesn't help that when she finally decides to legally end the betrothal, she has to do so through Piers' power-of-attorney brother, the once-champion fighter Rafe Brandon, who has been in love with her forever.

There's a host of crazy characters, including a sister and brother-in-law you'll want to throttle, and a cute but old doggie. The plot takes twists and turns as we dig deeper into our h/h's psyches and both discover that they're stronger than they thought they were.

Ms. Dare writes in a similar style to one of my favorite writers, Julia Quinn. Who doesn't love Julia? I don't want to give anything away plot-wise, so I'll leave this review at that. Both books are quite reasonably priced in their e-forms. I just wish the Avon formatters would provide more of an indent at the beginning of their paragraphs! If you have a vacation you have yet to take this year (or even if you don't), be sure to take one or both books along.

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