Monday, April 12, 2010

Life After Betty

A little over a month ago we posted our first "Life After Betty" article. We asked our readers for suggestions for other authors that would be compatible with our philosophy of not going to "Brighton". Lots of great suggestions. A couple of weeks later, Betty Janet sent me a couple of books (Thank you, again! Or rather, dank u wel). I took both those books plus one Betty Keira loaned me on with me on vacation. What do all these books have in common? Hint: The word "Regency" appears on the cover of all of them. I don't plan on doing full reviews of these books(do you have any idea of the work/time involved in our reviews and awesome pictures???) - so get over it.

Lord Iverbrook's Heir by Carola Dunn.
Excerpt from the back cover: Selena tossed her flaxen curls defiantly. She was acting like a positive bird-wit! - quite unlike the independent young beauty who was used to managing both her farm and her family with the utmost aplomb. Why, no one had even batted an eye when she was named guardian of her young scamp of a nephew, the heir to the Iverbrook title. No one, that is, except the dashingly handsome Viscount Iverbrook, who hurried pell-mell from London to spirit the lad to the ancestral home of the viscount, a rather gloomy property where the friendliest creatures were his step-father's prize pigs!
I don't usually read historical romance (unless you count Jane Austen - which probably doesn't count) so I was a little at a disadvantage when it came to the Regency slang. Not that I didn't know what most of it referred to (light o' love, anyone?), but I would stumble (or giggle) whenever I came across one of the many, many anachronistic phrases...and there were a lot. Alright, it's time for some bullet points. First list - Things to like about this book:
  • Lord Iverbrook's stepfather was delightful. Evidently Carola Dunn had recently been reading P.G. Wodehouse - because step-dad reminded me forcefully of Lord Emsworth (of Blandings Castle) who was a noted pig fancier/breeder. Unfortunately he is a very minor character.
  • Selena was a strong female character. She was in charge of the farm, and took her responsibilities seriously. She had to be on hand to make sure everything was done properly - from harvesting the barley to castrating the bulls.

Sorry, that's about all I liked here. Our next list will be a tad longer. Things I didn't like:

  • Lord Iverbrook. Yes, we know he is the hero because he is recently back from Jamaica where he freed his slaves - because he's the Good Guy. What's one of the first things he does upon returning to London? Spends the afternoon with his old "light o' love". This indescretion comes back to haunt him again and again - as well it should (I don't have any patience for double standards). The first thing he suggests to Bel (light o' love) after spending the afternoon "getting a great deal more than kisses" is that they take a Brighton (seriously - I'm not making that up).
  • Herbal Medicine. Selena's mum is the local equivalent of Walgreens (drug store). She had a cure for everything and we are treated to an ingredient by ingredient breakdown of every stinkin' one of them.
  • Peter (Lord Iverbrook's 5 year old heir) goes missing at least twice. Selena's (heroine) default explanation of both disappearances it that Lord Iverbrook has kidnapped him. Which is not only not true, but there's no reason to suspect him.
  • Way too much Regency slang.

I could go on, but I won't. While there is no actual going to Brighton, there are veiled references (what's behind door #1? Brighton!)...I didn't like the double standard (as in, it's not only okay for Lord Iverbrook to have a mistress, it's expected).

Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. My only complaint about this book is that it really didn't need to be over 400 pages long. I also wasn't entirely sure who was supposed to be the hero until over half way through - and when I did, I couldn't make myself believe he was really "leading man" material. The heroine was fairly shallow - so he really didn't have to be super complex to be a good match for her. Going back to P.G.Wodehouse, this could almost be retitled "Bertie Wooster Finally Finds His Perfect Match." You want a bullet point or two? What I liked:

  • We get to watch the hero grow into a hero. Nice.
  • The bad guy doesn't inherit his uncle's fortune.
  • Lots of time (400+ pages) to see the main characters interact.
  • Lord Dolphington...I shouldn't have liked him, but I did. He is a very weak in the head person - who has to do whatever his mama tells him - until Kitty finds a way for him to marry the girl of his dreams.
  • No trips to Brighton.
  • Manageable amount of Regency slang.

Not to like?:

  • I first tried to read this very late at night and couldn't follow the character's names (too tired). My bad. In my defense, there are a lot of names and relations to each other to straighten out in the first few pages.
  • Did I mention it was 400+ pages? I don't mind reading long books, but this is a pretty fluffy book - 400 pages seems a bit more of an investment of time than I generally want to spend with fluffiness.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. Would I read other books by Georgette Heyer? Sure, but only when I have extra reading time.

The Byram Succession by Mira Stables

Everyone thought she was the poor relation - but Cousin Albert was leaving his money to her, not her cousin - Albertine (*snort* Albertine *snort*).

Back cover:
Ravishing beautiful Albertine Newton had everything except Cousin Albert's huge inheritance. That was left to her mousy country cousin Alethea. And now Alethea was coming to London for her first season. Albertine wasn't worried about any social competition - no one ever outshone her. Now suddenly she found that little Alethea had blossomed into a lovely and spirited young woman. Someone who enchanted the very eligible Damon Skirlaugh, the Duke of Byram's heir. Alethea didn't believe Damon's interest in her was romantic, Albertine was afraid it was - but she was determined to put a stop to it...

I thoroughly enjoyed this foray into Regency period romance. What I liked (yes, bullets again):

  • minimal use of Regency slang. Thank you, Mira Stables.
  • did you see the word "mousey" on the back cover? How very Betty Neels of her.
  • thoroughly unpleasant cousin Albertine. I loved that her plots and plans never worked to her advantage...especially her grand finale - which totally backfires on her and results in Alethea and Damon spending the night together (not at Brighton).
  • I loved that Albertine was named after her rich cousin, as a ploy to inherit...which doesn't work out, but then she's stuck with the name "Albertine".

I don't have any bullet points for things I didn't like. I found this a fun read and would love to find "The Swyndon Necklace" that is referred to on the front cover.


  1. I have all the Mira Stables (all, even the obscure ones I didn't even know existed until recently). I would be prepared to loan them . . . I think. (They are treasured books; I wrote about four of them here).

    But you have to own your own copy of High Garth. Lovely book -- one of my top ten of all romances ever. Yes, right up there with Fate is Remarkable.

  2. I'm looking forward to having another author to collect...I'm already watching for Essie Summers, now I get to keep an eye out for Mira Stables.

    I do love to hunt for books.

  3. Barbara here--
    Ahh, a few of my favorite authors. I love Georgette Heyer, but Cotillion is NOT one of my fave's--maybe you should try Black Sheep or Lady of Quality or The Grand Sophy. If you can track down any Clare Darcy regency romances, I think you would enjoy them. Mira Stables--yes!! Carola Dunn, not so much. Avoid most post-1990 regencies, they go to Brighton quite frequently. Ms Heyer (who really invented the genre)would be appalled.

  4. Betty Magdalen: I just ordered High Garth (used, from Amazon)...looking forward to reading it!

    The Zombie Bride highly recommends Heyer's Devil's Cub...she said she would loan it to me. I think I need to remind her.

  5. You really should read These Old Shades before Devil's Cub. I know that people divide into two groups, with the larger group preferring Devil's Cub. I personally prefer These Old Shades -- I just enjoy the story more. (Rather like preferring a Three Musketeers adventure to a Marx Brothers movie.)

    But as the very title, Devil's Cub, refers to the Duke of Avon (hero of These Old Shades), I do think reading them in order is a good idea.

    Also, if you don't like High Garth, I'll personally reimburse the purchase price. That's a Money Back guarantee.

  6. Now I really can't wait to read High Garth!

    Thanks for the heads up on These Old Shades (sounds like the mini blinds in my old house ;0)). I do like to read books in order. I read that there is a third book in the series..Infamous Army?

  7. Barbara here
    Infamous Army is mostly about the Battle of Waterloo. But the heroine is the grand-daughter of Dominic and Mary, the hero and heroine of Devil's Cub. I'm in the love These Old Shades most school, tho' Devil's Cub is a lovely romp. (Any book where the heroine shoots the hero to defend her virtue scores major points.)
    Infamous Army is also a sequel of sorts to Regency Buck, in that the hero of Infamous Army is the brother of the hero of Regency Buck.

  8. Dear Betty Debbie, Betty Janet here. And Cotillion is one of my top THREE Heyers :) My only complaint is that the opening scene where Kitty finds out what a toad her guardian is drags on too long. I personally would not have cut another word except the first chapter or so.

    You said: "My only complaint about this book is that it really didn't need to be over 400 pages long. I also wasn't entirely sure who was supposed to be the hero until over half way through - and when I did, I couldn't make myself believe he was really "leading man" material. The heroine was fairly shallow - so he really didn't have to be super complex to be a good match for her."

    I loved, love and will always love that Freddy is not typical leading man material. But he became a hero through his love for Kitty and his sensible, slight selfish solutions for everyone's problems. Jack, the rake cousin, spent most of the book trying to persuade Olivia to set up a Brighton*esque love nest with him. He truly was a rake and up close and personal, not that appealing. Kitty was shallow? Are you mixing her up haha with Freddy's sister. I thought Kitty was astute and a fabulous, innately good dresser (much to Freddy's pleasure since he was pretty natty himself). Agreed, she was no intellectual but she was also nobody's fool and I predict an amazingly happy marriage for Freddy and Kitty. Almost (are you listening Betty Magdalen?) ... a perfect book. Sigh.

    As for your next Heyer, hmmmmm, I would suggest Frederica or The Grand Sophy. Lot of humour in both, and Frederica is an unusual heroine. A very managing sort!

  9. I did come to love Freddy by the end of the book (see bullet point number one) I know I compared him to Bertie Wooster - but that is somewhat in the nature of a compliment. I love Bertie Wooster, but have never imagined him mature enough to get married. Now I can.

  10. Anyone that Hugh Laurie has played is okay by me.

    Okay, so These Old Shades takes place in 1760-1780 sometime. Devil's Cub is approximately 30 years later, but we know that the fashions have made that shift from tight bodice, full skirts to tiny bodice, Empire waist, slight skirts. So closer to 1810 than 1790.

    And Waterloo was 1815.

    How precisely did Dominic and Mary manage to have not only children but grandchildren between 1800 and 1815?

    I don't think Cotillion (which I read a bazillion years ago) is going to make my short list of "perfect books." I do love These Old Shades, though.

  11. I went down to my local library on Tuesday...they had a copy of "These Old Shades" on the shelf. Needless to say, I picked it up - and finished reading it last night. Delightful story, fun characters. I'm not usually sold by Hero/Heroine with 20 year age differences, but Miss Heyer made it completely plausible. She also managed to make me believe that the "reformed rake" was truly reformed...and that's saying something.

    My only problem (and I'll admit that it's my problem) is that I kept getting distracted by the hero's sartorial splendor. Not that his clothing/accessories were out of place, I just don't read enough of this particular genre to lightly dismiss things like men tottering about on red heels and carrying delicately painted chicken skin fans.

    Yes, I will be keeping an eye out for the sequels.

  12. I didn't mind Avon's accessorizing his outfits to within an inch of their lives -- it's all so delightful contrasting with his alpha male hero persona. Because, in another era and context, he's kicking butt & taking names!

  13. Carola Dunn is not always a big favorite of mine, but I do really like Midsummer Masque if you track that one down.

    And I love Georgette Heyer! Venetia is a big favorite of mine, though it's obvious that the hero spent some serious time in Brighton before retiring to the country and meeting the heroine. Heroine is nobody's fool, though.

  14. Blasted blogger: I had such a great comment. OK, trying again. Read Heartless by Mary Balogh -- warning, quite a bit of Brighton. But the Duke is a Georgian gorgeous to*die*for guy complete with red heels (do they ever go out of style) and so on and so forth! And he's intensely masculine.