Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On-dits, reticules and phaetons

If you know what all three of those words mean, than we have a couple of new novels just for you. Regency romances are a very common genre, but it's hard to find ones that are well-written and historically reasonable. These two fit the bill:
Georgette Heyer, who was born in 1902, is the next best thing to Jane Austen. Frederica is far and away one of her best books. A down-to-earth heroine, an attractive hero with a sense of humor, and two engaging boys all combine to produce a story with some wonderful dialogue and amusing situations. Frederica is a capable young woman caring for her younger brothers and sisters and attempting to launch her gorgeous younger sister - Charis - into society on a shoestring budget. Lord Alverstoke is the distant cousin who agrees to pave their way into the haut ton as a means of amusing himself at the expense of his demanding sisters (who have young girls of their own to launch). I'm not a huge fan of precocious children in novels (authors have a tendency to make them a bit too pert), but Frederica's young brothers are realistic, well-rounded characters and their interactions with Alverstoke are some of the most amusing parts of the novel. Originally written in 1965, this is a perfect choice for someone looking for a gentle read.
The Edge of Impropriety is a brand-new novel by Pam Rosenthal. The sex scenes, of which there are quite a few, are moderately graphic, but Rosenthal has done a good job of putting them in a reasonable context for the time period. (Apparently, you can't publish a romance novel these days without graphic sex, and it's very difficult to avoid making the characters seem like time-travelers, rather than true products of their era). Lady Gorham is a dashing widow with a precarious position in society - a position she maintains by writing society novels and a position that is threatened by secrets from her past: secrets she is paying a blackmailer to keep hidden. Jasper Hedges is a scholar and younger son of a baronet who is still smarting from an unhappy love affair, and miserable that he has been unable to claim the son that resulted from that brief alliance. He and Lady Gorham agree to become lovers for the duration of the Season - purely for the sex - but things become complicated when their feelings become more romantic. There is a nice side-story of Jasper's nephew and his love-life, a story that is much more reminiscent of Georgette Heyer than the steamier main plot. The various plot lines will definitely keep you interested, and the characters are likeable and not one-dimensional.

1 comment:

Ruth Axtell Morren said...

I must try Frederica. It's one of Heyer's I haven't read. I've been rereading a lot of hers lately. My favorite by far is The Nonesuch--with two "well-matched" individuals, mature adults with a sense of humor.
I read Rosenthal's book and enjoyed it very much. I believe it is a Victorian, not a regency. But it was well-researched, and I agree, the secondary romance was more interesting than the main one. There's something about having a relationship consummated from the get-go that somehow takes something away from the romantic tension necessary to keep a reader's full interest.
The place to find historicals without graphic sex are in the inspirational genre.