Monthly Archives:: December 2015

Georgette Heyer Regency Romance #1: ‘Regency Buck’

December 7, 2015 Georgette Heyer, Regency romances, Review 2

This is the first stage in my attempt to read (or reread) all of Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances in the correct order. This was first published in 1935, and it shows. The writing style is high-flown Jane Austen, the backdrops are authentically drawn from the era, complete with famous characters, and the plot is squeezed in amongst all that historical accuracy. The characters have to play second fiddle, and the book suffers for it.

Judith Taverner and her brother Perry are orphans, seemingly abandoned by the guardian appointed by their father, the Earl of Worth. Undaunted, they set off for London to track down the Earl and establish themselves. And on the way there, they bump into (literally!) a most unpleasant character, haughty and supercilious, who treats them like dirt. And guess who their guardian turns out to be?

This was rather good fun, if you can overcome a natural distaste for a heroine who stubbornly does everything she’s told not to do, and a hero who arrogantly manipulates his wards without ever bothering to explain his reasoning. But the side characters were entertaining, the dialogue sparkled with wit and the mystery element of the plot was nicely done, even if there was never the slightest doubt in my mind about what was going on, and why, and by whom.

For fans of historical detail, there’s a veritable deluge of it here. If you want an exact description of the Prince Regent’s outlandish Brighton Pavilion, or a list of the coaching inns between London and Brighton, or the various shops and lending libraries for the well-heeled, or the types of snuff in use, look no further. And several famous people, including the Prince Regent himself and various of his brothers, play small but significant roles in the story. To my mind, so much regurgitated research got between me and the story, and by the end I was skipping the seemingly endless descriptions of furnishings and decoration.

The author has obviously been inspired by Jane Austen, specifically Pride and Prejudice, and I noticed many turns of phrase lifted almost wholesale from there, not to mention certain elements of the plot (the hasty journey to London to track down a missing character, for instance, very redolent of Mr Bennet haring off after Lydia, although in this case with no justification whatsoever). It made the prose a little heavy at times, but still readable.

On the whole, I quite enjoyed the story, and the characters didn’t bother me as much as they did some readers (there are some very disparaging reviews). However, it failed in two respects. The first is the time-honoured one: there would have been no plot at all if the main characters had just talked to each other. The argument for secrecy was never well-made, and the worst thing the hero did to the heroine (to my mind) was to allow her to think her brother was dead. That was cruel and unforgivable, and far worse than the snatched kiss or his consistent rudeness (because – aristocracy; arrogance goes with the territory).

The second failure was the romance. I don’t ask much of a book like this, because the journey is more important than the destination, but there should at least be a conviction in the reader that these two are meant for each other. And honestly, I never felt that here. They argued constantly, and not just sniping but quite forceful battles, and even their romantic rapprochement degenerated into an argument in double-quick time. I’m always happy to see two intelligent, spirited, self-confident souls get together, but this pair veered too far into the arrogant, self-willed and plain bloody-minded. I can’t imagine how they will manage as a married couple.

So despite this being an enjoyable read, well-written and set very much in the era, it still merits only three stars.

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A big 99c promotion (5/6 Dec only) and a writing update

December 5, 2015 Publishing/marketing, Ramblings, Regency romances, The Fire Mages' Daughter 2

Winter is upon us!

I love living in Scotland, but there are a few disadvantages. The first snowfall of the winter hit us about a week ago. There’s been snow on the mountains already, but this was the first time it was all the way down to sea level. It wasn’t a big fall here, but enough to give a good covering, and the cold weather meant it stayed for a few days. Happily, it’s all gone now, but I’m sure there’ll be more to come.

I love the snow, but only when I can sit inside a warm house and watch it through the window. I hate to be out driving in it! Lots of Scots escape to the sun in the winter, sometimes for three months, and I can see why: the long nights, gloomy mornings and days when it just never seems to get properly light can get you down. But that’s what whisky was invented for (and vitamin D tablets!). And you can’t have those wonderful endless summer evenings without also getting the winter gloom.

And for those of you lapping up the sun in the southern hemisphere – enjoy!

Lots of cheap fantasy and sci-fi!

Once again, author Patty Jansen is hosting a group 99c promotion at her website.

PattysDecPromo

There are 84 authors taking part, and it’s a great opportunity to try out some new authors at very low cost. These prices are only for 5th and 6th December, so don’t delay. Quite a few of the books are in Kindle Unlimited, too, for those of you who have a subscription.

What do I recommend? I’ve enjoyed Patty’s own book, The Ambassador, a great all-action sci-fi. Angela Holder’s White Blood is an unusual stand-alone fantasy, featuring that unsung heroine of many great families, the wet-nurse. And Kyra Halland’s speculative romance Sarya’s Song is one that I really loved: great fantasy with a great romance, too.

And if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of my own most recent book, The Magic Mines of Asharim, it’s in the promo, too. Just 99c, or equivalent. Click here to see all the deals.

News of The Fire Mages’ Daughter and The Dragon’s Egg

This is on schedule for release on January 15th. The final edits are now complete, and the book is out with my wonderful proofreader, Lin, and several ARC readers. This is a sequel to The Fire Mages, but it can be read without any knowledge of the previous book. You can still pre-order for 99c. And there might well be a third book to complete the story – The Second God. However, that’s unlikely to be out before the end of 2016.

The Dragon’s Egg is progressing, although more slowly than I would like. This book has threads connecting it to several earlier books, so I have to stop now and again to make sure I’ve got all the references correct. And there are multiple points of view, which makes it very different from anything I’ve written before. The Plains of Kallanash had two point of view characters, but since then, every book has had just one main character. Jumping from one to another isn’t as easy as it sounds! But if the writing is challenging, the story is working out well.

Regency romance – oh my!

Work is underway on my latest project – a Regency romance series of 6 books. I say ‘work’, but it’s huge fun, so it doesn’t feel like work at all! It’s very different from my fantasy writing, though – not just in writing style (rather formal, sort-of Jane Austen), but also in the need for historical accuracy. In fantasy, I can just make stuff up. Meals, clothing, local religions and other customs – it can be whatever I want. Not so with the Regency. I was about to write a scene where the characters have afternoon tea when I thought to check – and nope, that didn’t start until 1840, and the Regency era is (very roughly) 1800-1820. Progress is being made, but I don’t expect to have anything ready for release until late in 2016.

 

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Regency romance review: ‘Two Corinthians’ by Carola Dunn

December 4, 2015 Review 0

I love a good Regency romance, but I find it difficult to find any that aren’t dreadfully silly, and historically inaccurate to boot. I don’t expect every last detail to be perfect, but some things are terribly easy to check, like correct forms of address for the aristocracy, and it’s a great irritant when the author hasn’t even bothered. However, I have no such complaints here. There is a great deal of detail of clothing, and the language is riddled with contemporary cant, but it all felt very authentic. And while there is an outbreak of silliness at the end, it was forgivable.

The two Corinthians (men about town) of the title are George Winterbourne and Bertram Pomeroy. Bertram having lost the love of his life to George’s brother, is urged by his ailing father to marry soon. The suggestion is the elder Miss Sutton, Claire, eccentric and spinsterish at twenty eight, but suitable. George, meanwhile, becomes entangled with Claire and her lively younger sister, Lizzie, by chance, and enters into a pact with Lizzie: he will pretend to woo her to stop her dragonish mother from berating her.

So George is pretending to court Lizzie and Bertram is reluctantly courting Claire, and… well, we can see where this is going, can’t we? But even if the resolution is predictable, that’s not a fault in a book like this. It’s more about the journey than the destination, and here the journey is entertaining and unfolds gently and rather sweetly, with good behaviour on all sides.

There’s not much action, so those looking for highwaymen or pirates or spies should move swiftly on. Nor are there any outbreaks of uncontrollable lust. If you like Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, then this book is just the ticket. A pleasant, gentle read. Four stars.

A footnote: I didn’t realise it, but this book is actually a sequel to Miss Hartwell’s Dilemma. It made things a little confusing early on as the author skated rapidly over the backstory, but I soon got the hang of it. However, it’s probably a more enjoyable read if approached in the correct order.

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Mystery review: ‘The Incident at Fives Castle’ by Clara Benson

December 1, 2015 Review 0

The fifth twenties murder mystery in the Angela Marchmont series, this time set in a Scottish castle at Hogmanay, where a murder takes place while the occupants are cut off by snow. And wouldn’t you know it, but Angela is the one to discover the body (again).

This one was great fun. Spies, a missing scientist, hidden documents, secret meetings and lots of rushing about in the snow. And a whole ocean full of red herrings. I didn’t guess this one at all, but it didn’t matter, it was great fun watching the story unfold, Angela beetle about being helpful and Freddy get his nose (or his ear!) into everything. Since the American Ambassador was one of those present, we also learned a little bit more about Angela’s past, which, far from being illuminating, actually makes her even more mysterious. I’d love to know more about the not-spoken-of Mr Marchmont. I’d begun to think he was just a convenient fiction, but seemingly not.

Living in Scotland myself gives me the opportunity to chuckle at the author’s mistakes. It’s obvious Clara Benson never spent a Hogmanay in the Highlands. Even supposing Angela’s Bentley managed to make the border by mid-afternoon (a feat which would be quite impressive even today, with reliable cars and motorways, unless she lived a long way north already), its arrival at the castle in the Cairngorms before it was fully dark would be nothing short of miraculous. The sun sets at 3pm at that time of year, and the castle would be several hours’ drive north of the border. But it really doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t impact the plot at all.

The charm of these books is in the period setting, and the lives of the wealthy upper classes, very reminiscent of vintage Agatha Christie. There must be an army of servants, both indoor and outdoor, but they rarely get a mention, apart from Angela’s chauffeur and lady’s maid, and one or two references to the ‘men’ deployed to remove a fallen tree and clear snow. And it was wonderful how, in the midst of murder, political disaster and general mayhem, everyone still felt it necessary to dress for dinner and sit around in the drawing room making polite conversation about the weather. It reminded me of (I think) Murder on the Orient Express where one character is looking for some of the others and is told: it’s four o’clock, naturally the English passengers are all in the restaurant car having tea.

A light but very enjoyable read. A good four stars.

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