Book Review: The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons, #2) by Julia Quinn

Title: The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgertons, #2)
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 2000
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Historical romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

1814 promises to be another eventful season, but not, This Author believes, for Anthony Bridgerton, London’s most elusive bachelor, who has shown no indication that he plans to marry. And in all truth, why should he? When it comes to playing the consummate rake, nobody does it better…

–Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, April 1814

But this time the gossip columnists have it wrong. Anthony Bridgerton hasn’t just decided to marry–he’s even chosen a wife! The only obstacle is his intended’s older sister, Kate Sheffield–the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom. The spirited schemer is driving Anthony mad with her determination to stop the betrothal, but when he closes his eyes at night, Kate’s the woman haunting his increasingly erotic dreams…

Contrary to popular belief, Kate is quite sure that reformed rakes do not make the best husbands–and Anthony Bridgerton is the most wicked rogue of them all. Kate’s determined to protect her sister–but she fears her own heart is vulnerable. And when Anthony’s lips touch hers, she’s suddenly afraid she might not be able to resist the reprehensible rake herself…

Reading the Bridgertons series is such a fluffy, escapist treat, despite the fact that I’m not much of a romance reader, and some sections made me roll my eyes so hard that they hurt. But after watching the Netflix series, it’s hard not to want to keep going and read more, more, more.

The setting is Regency-era London. The Bridgertons are a large family, with eight children (named in alphabetical order, which the high society ton find amusing). Lady Bridgerton is a widow, and she’s determined to see all of her children settled into happy marriages. In the first book in the series, The Duke & I, daughter Daphne ends up quite blissfully married (to a Duke, obviously). Now it’s time for the the rest of her children to get paired off as well.

In The Viscount Who Loved Me, the focus shifts to Anthony Bridgerton, the oldest of the Bridgerton children and the head of the family since their father’s death eleven years earlier. Anthony has never truly gotten over losing his father, and through his grief and his devotion to his father, has somehow managed to convince himself that he won’t live longer than his father did. Now at age 29, he’s sure — even while acknowledging to himself that he’s not really being rational — that he’ll be dead within 10 years. Constantly aware of his impending date with death, Anthony has played the rake up to now, but wanting to leave behind his own legacy, has decided that it’s finally time to marry and have children.

One firm rule he’s sworn to keep to is not to marry for love. After all, despite his parents’ love match, love isn’t really a requirement for marriage at that time. He seeks a wife who’s pretty, pleasant, from a good family, and who’ll make a good mother. But love will not be a factor: His deep-seated fear is that if he loves his wife, the knowledge of his premature death will make his life too painful to bear. Again, not rational, but it’s what he believes.

Anthony decides that he’ll marry Edwina Sheffield, considered to be the diamond of the season. Edwina and her older half-sister Kate are both having their first season. They live with Mary, Kate’s stepmother and Edwina’s mother, but have little in the way of financial means since the death of their father. Not being able to afford the expense of two full London seasons, Kate has postponed her own debut until the practically spinster-ish age of 21, when Edwina would also be old enough to be out.

Kate is a wonderful character, devoted to Mary and Edwina, smart, and outspoken. She’s fiercely protective of Edwina, and Edwina has stated that she won’t marry without Kate’s approval of her potential husband. Kate doesn’t play games and doesn’t expect many suitors, especially since her own looks can’t (in her opinion) hold a candle to Edwina’s delicate, classically beautiful appearance. She knows that one of them must come out of the season married, and married well, in order to support the rest of their family, and assumes Edwina has a much better chance.

Because of Anthony’s reputation as a rake, Kate immediately rules him out as a husband for Edwina, especially after hearing him state that it’s okay for a man to maintain a mistress after marriage, so long as he doesn’t love his wife. She thinks badly of him and informs him that she won’t allow him to wed Edwina. The two engage in lots of bickering and heated exchanges, but over the course of their encounters, they both become aware of a spark between them.

I’m sure you can guess where this is headed! Sparks fly, and a potential scandal forces them into marriage, even while neither is wiling to admit their desire and unwanted feelings for one another.

A few random thoughts on things that stuck out to me while reading this book:

  • As in The Duke & I, the male love interest is flawed and carries emotional baggage. Like Simon, Anthony is damaged by the trauma he experienced earlier in his life, and this influences his attitude and emotions regarding love and marriage.
  • We can’t really be mad when the norms of a historical period don’t match our own, but certain things make me bonkers anyway. Like how Anthony at age 18 becomes the Viscount and head of the family, meaning (among other things) that all the Bridgerton properties — their London house and their country estate — belong to him and him alone. I get it, that’s how things worked then, but it makes me mad on Violet’s behalf (the mother of the Bridgertons) that she owns nothing and technically is dependent on Anthony.
  • Also, there’s the tired old sentiment that men who are rakes are daring and dashing and make desirable husbands. Their bad reputations (so long as they have money and social standing) seem to only make them more desirable. Whereas young women must be pure and virginal, and can be ruined by being alone with a man or exchanging a kiss. Stupid double standards.
  • When we first meet Edwina, I expected her to be the standard romance character of the beautiful but shallow girl who everyone falls in love with — so I was happy to discover that there’s a lot more to her. She’s a supportive sister and daughter, she loves to read and study philosophy, and her true desire in a husband is to marry a scholar with whom she can study and learn. How refreshing!
  • I had to laugh at the scene of Anthony and Kate’s scandalous encounter that drives them into marriage. Kate is stung by a bee, and Anthony becomes so frantic about it (an allergic reaction to a bee sting is what killed his father), that he decides to suck the venom from the site of the sting — just above her breast. Okay, I have never heard of someone sucking out a bee’s venom, and it just seemed ridiculous. Of course, the women who stumbled upon them in the midst of this ridiculousness didn’t know what had happened and of course it was highly scandalous behavior… but still, so silly.
  • In the first book, main character Daphne went into marriage with zero knowledge of sex, after a pre-wedding talk with her mother that conveyed absolutely no actual information. Here, Mary does better with “the talk” on the night before Kate’s wedding, but manages to leave Kate with certain impressions that are detrimental to her marriage.

As I mentioned, romance is not a typical genre for me, and so some of the language just makes me laugh. I don’t know how much of this also has to do with the book being written 20 years ago, but I’m guessing that a lot of it is just typical romance language, and the statements made by certain characters are true to the general portrayal of Regency-era gender roles. Some choice bits:

A taste of attitude:

Anthony leaned forward, his chin jutting out in a most menacing manner. “Women should not keep pets if they cannot control them.” “And men should not take women with pets for a walk in the park if they cannot control either,” she shot back.

Bridgerton chuckled. “The only reason to give up one’s mistress is if one happens to love one’s wife. And as I do not intend to choose a wife with whom I might fall in love, I see no reason to deny myself the pleasures of a lovely woman like you.”

“The talk””

“Men and women are very different,” Mary continued, as if that weren’t completely obvious, “and a man—even one who is faithful to his wife, which I’m sure the viscount will be to you—can find his pleasure with almost any woman.”

Which leads directly to Kate’s fears and insecurities:

But she’d been consoling herself with the memory of the desire she had felt—and she thought Anthony had felt—when she was in his arms. Now it seemed that this desire wasn’t even necessarily for her, but rather some primitive urge that every man felt for every woman. And Kate would never know if, when Anthony snuffed the candles and took her to bed, he closed his eyes . . . And pictured another woman’s face.

And then there’s the sexy-times, which I generally find hilarious:

She wouldn’t recognize the first prickles of desire, nor would she understand that slow, swirling heat in the core of her being. And that slow, swirling heat was there. He could see it in her face.

Kate gasped as his hands stole around to her backside and pressed her harshly against his arousal.

“You’ve never seen a naked man before, have you?” he murmured. She shook her head. “Good.” He leaned forward and plucked one of her slippers from her foot. “You’ll never see another.”

His hands slid to the top button of his trousers and unfastened it, but stopped there. She was still fully clothed, and still fully an innocent. She wasn’t yet ready to see the proof of his desire.

Kate’s eyes widened as he left the bed and stripped off the rest of his clothing. His body was perfection, his chest finely muscled, his arms and legs powerful, and his— “Oh, my God,” she gasped. He grinned. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

I’m not really mocking the book, just noting that romance language never fails to entertain me and make me giggle over scenes that aren’t meant to be funny. I’ve become very fond of the characters in the series (having watched the Netflix series definitely helps), and for sure I’ll be reading more.

That’s two Bridgerton siblings happily married — six more to go!

Book Review: The Duke & I (Bridgertons, #1) by Julia Quinn

Title: The Duke & I (Bridgertons, #1)
Author: Julia Quinn
Publisher: Avon
Publication date: 2000
Length: 433 pages
Genre: Historical romance
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

From New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn comes the first novel in the beloved Regency-set world of her charming, powerful Bridgerton family, now a series created by Shonda Rhimes for Netflix.

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable…but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…

After binge-watching Bridgerton on Netflix, how could I resist reading the book that inspired the series? I’m not a big romance reader, and when I do read romance, it tends to be contemporary. But giving into my Bridgerton obsession, I dove into The Duke & I, and finished it in one day!

First, for the TV viewers: No, this is not an integrated society as in the Netflix series. The Duke & I is pretty traditional Regency-era romance, dukes and earls and the gossip of the ton, very solidly white. (Not in my imagination, of course — once you’ve encountered the TV version of Simon Bassett, there’s no way you’ll ever envision him as anyone else!)

Back to the book: The Duke & I has a very traditional romance feel to it, and let’s keep in mind that it was originally published 20 years ago! Daphne Bridgerton is the 4th child of the large Bridgerton family, which very conveniently names its children alphabetically, so it’s easy to keep track of who’s who. The oldest daughter, Daphne is now in her second season out in society, and while she’s received marriage proposals, not a single one has appealed to her. Having grown up with three older brothers, Daphne is perhaps too comfortable with the males of the species, so she’s seen as a great girl and a good friend, but not a romantic prospect. (Men can be stupid.)

Simon, the new Duke of Hastings, is the epitome of eligible bachelors, and “ambitious mamas” are continuously throwing their marriageable daughters at him. Simon is very good friends with Daphne’s oldest brother Anthony, and when he encounters Daphne dealing with an insistent suitor, he’s happy to come to her aid. The two form an agreement: By pretending to be courting, Simon will avoid the mamas, and Daphne will become instantly more alluring to other men, who will now appreciate her more after seeing Simon’s interest. (Again, men can be stupid).

Of course, their fake relationship leads to real feelings, but there’s a catch. Simon has sworn never to marry or have children, as a sort of posthumous revenge on his abusive father who treated Simon horribly and only cared about the continuation of the Basset family line. Simon has sworn to deny his late father’s ultimate goal by letting the family name die with him. Daphne, on the other hand, having grown up in a large, loving family, yearns for a family of her own.

After a compromising encounter, a duel, threats by her brothers, and all sorts of drama, Daphne and Simon do end up marrying. But while their honeymoon is a blissful sexual awakening for Daphne, all is not wine and roses. Simon has told Daphne that he can’t have children, but when she discovers that his “can’t” really means “won’t”, their young marriage in on the brink of collapse.

Okay, so anyone who’s interested in the book or in the TV series knows that there a major controversy about Daphne’s action and the issue of consent. So, I’ll throw up a big spoiler alert before going further.

SPOILERS AHEAD!!

He shifted restlessly, and Daphne felt the strangest, most intoxicating surge of power. He was in her control, she realized. He was asleep, and probably still more than a little bit drunk, and she could do whatever she wanted with him. She could have whatever she wanted.

The most controversial scene in the book is one in which Simon comes home very drunk, after the two have had a major falling out. Daphne gets a very belated lesson on how babies are actually made, and realizes that Simon has been pulling out when they have sex in order to make sure she doesn’t become pregnant. Daphne initiates sex, and Simon, though drunk, is a willing participant, until they get close to climax, at which point Daphne does not let him pull out as usual. He feels betrayed, and leaves her.

The TV version takes away the issue of Simon being drunk, but does still have Daphne take control of the situation so that Simon can’t pull out when he wants to. Again, he feels betrayed.

If you look on Goodreads or elsewhere, there’s a lot of discussion about whether Daphne raped Simon in this scene. I have mixed feelings. The sex act itself is consensual. You could argue that Simon was too drunk to consent, but in the context of their marriage, which has included a lot of very enthusiastic sex up to this point, I think it’s hard to make the case that Simon was not a willing participant.

Was she right to force him to finish inside her? Well, no, she did take away his choice there. But I think it’s a more nuanced situation.

Daphne was utterly and completely ignorant about sex prior to her marriage. She had absolutely no idea about the specifics of having babies, other than knowing that it happens during marriage. Daphne’s mother Violet comes to give her “the talk” the night before the wedding, and completely fails to give her any actual, specific information. No mention of body parts or anatomy, no discussion of how it all works, and nothing about how babies are made.

It’s only a housemaid’s random comment about “seed” and a “womb” that lead Daphne to start piecing things together, and to understand that Simon is choosing to “spill” his seed outside her (ugh, romance euphemisms). She feel betrayed by Simon, who let her believe that he was physically unable to father children, rather than explaining anything to her with honesty. And Simon absolutely knew that Daphne was clueless about how it all worked — he does a very good job of introducing her to sexual pleasure, but deliberately doesn’t explain things to her that would work against his own intentions.

So, yes, Daphne is wrong to do what she did — but Simon is wrong too, and Daphne’s mother essentially created the potential for this conflict by allowing her daughter to enter marriage with no knowledge about “the marital act” whatsoever.

END SPOILERS

Beyond all that, however, I can’t deny that The Duke & I was a compelling and enjoyable read. The characters are lots of fun, especially Daphne’s older brothers, who are fiercely protective and also very funny.

As I mentioned, I’m not much of a romance reader, and some of the descriptions and language are a bit over the top for me:

His face was quite simply perfection. It took only a moment to realize that he put all of Michelangelo’s statues to shame.

Her legs snaked around his, pulling him ever closer to the cradle of her femininity.

LOL. Cradle of femininity? That’s definitely a new one for me!

Still, there’s no denying I enjoyed this book, problematic issues aside. There’s a lot of fault to go around, and also, this book was written 20 years ago. I’d hope that a writer today would make different choices about how to depict Daphne and Simon’s key conflict.

As a fan of the TV version, I missed all of the non-Daphne, non-Simon plot elements concerning Eloise, the brothers, etc. But, as far as I can tell, these plots are all addressed in other books in the Bridgertons series. Eight books, eight siblings… each gets their own story!

Will I continue reading the Bridgertons books? Well… who am I kidding? Of course I will! As much as this isn’t my preferred genre, I do love the characters and want to read more about them. Onward!

Book Review: To Have and To Hoax by Martha Waters

Title: To Have and To Hoax
Author: Martha Waters
Publisher: Atria
Publication date: April 7, 2020
Length: 367 pages
Genre: Historical fiction/romance
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In this fresh and hilarious historical rom-com, an estranged husband and wife in Regency England feign accidents and illness in an attempt to gain attention—and maybe just win each other back in the process.

Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.

Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?

With charm, wit, and heart in spades, To Have and to Hoax is a fresh and eminently entertaining romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory and Julia Quinn. 

Needing a light-hearted read this week, I turned to an ARC that’s been on my to-read list since earlier this year. To Have and To Hoax by Martha Waters perfectly fit my mood, giving me a nice little break from reality by means of a Regency romance and a battle of wits.

Violet and James were a true love match, falling in love at first sight during Violet’s first season out in society, and marrying within four weeks of meeting. They enjoyed a loving, passionate first year together, and when they quarreled, they fought hard and then made up even harder.

But one year into their marriage, there was an argument that struck to the very core of their relationship and their trust in one another. In the four years since, Violet and James have lived in stony silence, neither willing to forgive or ask forgiveness, avoiding each other as much as possible.

This cold war stand-off is disturbed when Violet receives word that James has been gravely injured — although James has no idea that his friend has sent for Violet. When they meet, and Violet sees that James is both recovered and surprised that she’d been notified, years of anger boil to the surface.

In a game of one-up-manship, Violet decides to feign illness and make James suffer. He, in turn, sees through her game and treats her as an invalid, confining her to a sick room and making her miserable. When she suspects that he he knows the truth, he escalates matters by publicly flirting with another woman, yet Violet manages to turn even that scandalous situation to her own advantage.

Through it all, it’s absolutely clear that Violet and James still love one another, and just need a breakthrough (or a good shaking) to finally talk about their grievances and put them behind for good. There are plenty of fights, heavy doses of flirtation and teasing, a few good dances, proddings from friends, and some rather naughty encounters too.

It’s all great fun. Chapters alternate between Violet and James’s points of view, so we’re treated to both sides of the great divide between them and can see just how badly they’ve misunderstood and reacted to one another — but we also become aware well before the characters do that the love and passion between Violet and James are still there beneath the surface, just waiting to come out.

As a historical romance, To Have and To Hoax is very entertaining, and I was mostly convinced by the Regency society norms, manners, and settings. There are a few moments where more modern terminology jarred me out of the story (for example, a moment when Violet has thoughts about men’s “emotional intelligence”), but overall, I enjoyed this read.

A follow-up book featuring two secondary characters from To Have and To Hoax is due out in 2021 (To Love and To Loathe), and I will certainly want to read that too. Meanwhile, for a light romantic reading escape, check out To Have and To Hoax.

Shelf Control #211: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories, #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories, #1)
Author: Mary Robinette Kowal
Published: 2010
Length: 306 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The fantasy novel you’ve always wished Jane Austen had written

Shades of Milk and Honey is exactly what we could expect from Jane Austen if she had been a fantasy writer: Pride and Prejudice meets Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is an intimate portrait of a woman, Jane, and her quest for love in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality.

Jane and her sister Melody vie for the attentions of eligible men, and while Jane’s skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face. When Jane realizes that one of Melody’s suitors is set on taking advantage of her sister for the sake of her dowry, she pushes her skills to the limit of what her body can withstand in order to set things right—and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
 

How and when I got it:

I bought all five books in the series last year at my favorite local bookstore. They look so perfect together!

Why I want to read it:

True confession: I’ve actually read this book! But I read it back in 2010 when it first came out, having borrowed it from the library, and somehow didn’t become aware of the rest of the series until a few years had passed by. And while I remember liking the book a lot, I don’t remember any of the details (except for the basics — Jane Austen with magic!). In any case, reading the whole Glamourist Histories series has been on my to-do list for a couple of years now, and I really do want to make it happen in 2020. But to do that, I’ll need to start at the beginning, so that’s why a re-read is making a rare appearance as a Shelf Control book!

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #185: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTitle: Cotillion
Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 1953
Length: 355 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The three great-nephews of irascible Mr. Matthew Penicuik know better than to ignore his summons, especially when it concerns the bestowal of his fortune. The wily old gentleman has hatched a freakish plan for his Country-bred stepdaughter’s future: his fortune will be lovely Catherine Charing’s dowry if she married one of his great-nephews. To spirited Kitty, the conditions of her guardian’s will before she could inherit a tuppence were intolerable.

In spite of the unwelcome attentions of greedy suitors, who are scrambling for her hand, Kitty is not wholly averse, but only if the right cousin proposes. Unfortunately, Kitty during her secluded life pining, has set her heart on handsome and virile Jack Westruther, a confirmed rake. Jack, who is well aware of her attachment, however, made it quite clear that he would marry her only when he had sown his last wild oat and seems to have no inclination to marry her anytime soon. But Kitty has other ideas… and anxious to hasten matters she devises a plan. Kitty convinces modest and carefree cousin Frederick Standen to pose as her fiance, hoping thereby to make Jack jealous and to see a little more of the world than her isolated life on her great-uncle’s estate has afforded her.

Her plan takes her to visit Freddy’s family in London, where her kith and kin embroil her in their romantic troubles, sprinkling witty banter with Parisian phrases. Cousin Lord Foster Dolphinton has fallen for a merchant’s daughter in conflict with his mother. Meanwhile, her French cousin, Camille, a professional gambler, try to win the heart of beautiful Olivia Broughty, in turn the object of cousin Jack’s dishonorable intentions. Resourceful cousin Freddie turned out to be more of a man than Kitty anticipated. And when Kitty’s generous heart leads to all sorts of unintended troubles, there is only one man who can rescue her from more than one dreadful fix and pick up the pieces of her plotting. Now, Kitty herself wonders who is really right for her….

How and when I got it:

I went on a bit of a Heyer buying binge in 2017.

Why I want to read it:

Georgette Heyer is one of those authors that I heard people talk about for years before actually reading anything by her. When my book group read one of her books back in 2017, I could see what all the fuss what about. Her books are sweet and light and romantic, full of period detail and tons of escapades involving marriage and courtship, rakes and ladies, scandals and scheming. Cotillion is one of the ones that I bought in a buying binge after I’d read a few more of her books. I think I read 5 or 6 that first year, and haven’t gone back yet for more… but I do intend to, especially since I have another 10 or so on my shelf.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Or do you have other Georgette Heyer books to recommend?

Please share your thoughts!

__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Book Review: A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

 

Can the wrong bride become the perfect wife?

Adam Deveril, the new Viscount Lynton, is madly in love with the beautiful Julia Oversley. But he has returned from the Peninsular War to find his family on the brink of ruin and his ancestral home mortgaged to the hilt. He has little choice when he is introduced to Mr. Jonathan Chawleigh, a City man of apparently unlimited wealth and no social ambitions for himself-but with his eyes firmly fixed on a suitable match for his only daughter, the quiet and decidedly plain Jenny Chawleigh.

Another great addition to my Georgette Heyer library! Considering that I only read this amazing author for the first time last year, I’ve quickly become a fan.

A Civil Contract is quite fun. Poor Adam, whose father the Fifth Viscount was a gambler and a flagrant spender, is left to deal with overpowering debts upon his father’s death. The family faces financial ruin, including the lost of their beloved country home. What’s more, there is no possible way for Adam to marry his beloved Julia, as he has no means to support her, and even if she claims to be ready to live with Adam in poverty, would never be allowed by her parents to do so.

For a titled gentleman with money problems, there’s really just one acceptable solution: He must marry an heiress. Jenny Chawleigh is the respectable daughter of a very rich merchant whose only aim in life is to see his beloved girl elevated into the upper crust of society. Mr. Chawleigh is able to settle the Lynton debts, and Adam is able to provide Jenny with a title. They’re a mismatched pair, but Jenny’s sweetness and calm competence pave the way for the two of them to begin their married life together.

Of course, Adam never quite gets over his passion for Julia, but Jenny is clever enough to be able to take the drama out of the foiled romance, and she and Adam settle into a pleasant and companionable relationship. It takes the course of the novel for Adam and Jenny to truly develop into a strong couple, but it’s oodles of fun to see them getting there.

The novel contrasts the drama of young, ardent love with the steadiness and support of more mature married affection, and comes down decidedly on the side of the latter. While it irked me that Adam never actually contradicts Jenny when she says she’s not pretty, he treats her with respect, with appreciation, and with affection. Over time, it’s their shared interests, their little jokes, and their alignment in the important things that show that they’re actually well suited after all.

There are plenty of funny moments, especially all the scenes of Adam and Mr. Chawleigh butting heads. Jenny’s father is crass and blunt, but he’s mad about his daughter, and shows his love by buying her the best of everything, even when the best is gaudy, over the top, and simply not what truly elegant people would do. Adam is dignified, born and bred to the upper crust, and it’s constantly amusing to see his reactions to Mr. Chawleigh’s effusiveness. (The bathtub he installs for Jenny is hilarious — I won’t say more than that, but you really need to read about it to appreciate it.)

I love Heyer’s Regency romances, with their depictions of the social classes and the minutiae involved in playing the games of the nobility and gentry. The only downside for me in A Civil Contract were the overlong descriptions of the war against Napoleon — yes, the war is very much on Adam’s mind and has an impact on his fortunes, but I had a hard time keeping my mind from wandering whenever we strayed back into politics and war news.

Of course, if you’ve read and enjoyed other books by Georgette Heyer, this is another excellent one to pick up. It’s sweet and entertaining, and I found it refreshing to read a Heyer book with such a simple and unpretentious heroine.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: A Civil Contract
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication date: 1961
Length: 422 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Purchased

**Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Take A Peek Book Review: The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

When the most eligible Earl of Rule offers for the hand of the Beauty of the Winwood Family, he has no notion of the distress he causes his intended. Miss Lizzie Winwood is promised to the impoverished Edward Heron but the Earl of Rule wants her as his wife. Lizzie’s sister Horatia conceives a dazzling plan to avert a nuptial disaster, and offers herself instead.

When Horatia married the powerful Earl of Rule, she was only saving her sister from a loveless match, rescuing her family fortune, and providing herself with a life of ease. Hers was a marriage made not in heaven but in the coolly logical mind of a very self-possessed young lady. Everyone knows she’s no beauty, but she’ll do her best to keep out of the Earl’s way and make him a good wife.

Not until Horatia was deep in dangerous intrigue with her husband’s vengeful rival, the dashing and arrogant Lord Lethbridge, did she suddenly find — to her own tremulous surprise — she had fallen deeply in love with the man she had married for money. But was it too late, now that she was but a heartbeat away from betraying both him and herself? And then, Sir Robert, sets out to ruin her reputation…

The Earl of Rule has found just the wife he wants, unbeknownst to Horatia, the Earl is enchanted by her. There’s simply no way he’s going to let her get into trouble. Overcoming some misguided help from Horatia’s harebrained brother and a hired highwayman, the Earl routs his old enemy, and wins over his young wife, gifting her with a love that she never thought she could expect.

My Thoughts:

Georgette Heyer’s books may be something of an acquired taste. I know a bunch of readers and bloggers who are absolutely devoted to her works. As for me, I tried her books for the first time just last year, and found them awfully fun, if a bit overly obsessed with fashion, hair styles, and all things upper class.

The Convenient Marriage is an intensely silly book, in which the headstrong 17-year-old Horatia decides to pursue a marriage of convenience with the much older Earl of Rule, sparing her older sister the obligation of marrying someone she doesn’t love in order to rescue her respectable family from their brother’s gambling debts. Rule appears initially amused by Horatia’s boldness, and basically takes a “why not?” approach to trading sisters. Horatia vows to keep out of Rule’s way, enabling the handsome, desirable rake to continue carrying on with his mistress.

Things become complicated when Horatia becomes the talk of the town, and even more complicated when the Earl’s old enemy decides to take revenge on him by ruining his wife. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. The most entertaining portions of the story have to do with Horatia’s brother’s madcap schemes to save her reputation and punish the wrong-doers — his antics are silly, drunken escapades that are totally ridiculous yet also terrifically funny.

The Convenient Marriage doesn’t offer much in the way of character depth — both Horatia and Rule’s inner lives and motivations remain murky throughout — but it’s a lot of fun, and worth reading for the social manipulations and games (as well as the descriptions of the truly outrageous hairstyles and diamond-encrusted shoes).

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Convenient Marriage
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablance
Publication date: 2009 (originally published 1934)
Length: 322 pages
Genre: Historical romance
Source: Purchased

**Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Audiobook Review: Venetia by Georgette Heyer


A young lady of beauty and intelligence facing an unbearable choice…

Venetia Lanyon is one of Georgette Heyer’s most memorable heroines. Beautiful, capable, and independent minded, her life on the family’s estate in the countryside is somewhat circumscribed. Then a chance encounter with her rakish neighbor opens up a whole new world for Venetia. Lord Damerel has built his life on his dangerous reputation, and when he meets Venetia, he has nothing to offer and everything to regret. As Venetia’s well-meaning family steps in to protect her from potential ruin, Venetia must find the wherewithal to take charge of her own destiny, or lose her one chance at happiness…

That’s it. It’s official. I’m a Georgette Heyer fangirl.

Venetia may well be my favorite Georgette Heyer book yet. It’s sweet, funny, clever, light, and adorable — in short, fluff, but super enjoyable fluff that’s perfectly entertaining without being cloying.

Venetia herself is a marvelous main character. She’s a bit unusual for a Regency romance heroine. At age 25 and unmarried, she’s perilously close to being “on the shelf”, but doesn’t seem particularly bothered by this. Venetia has lived all her life on her father’s country estate, more or less isolated from anything approaching society. Her father was a recluse, and her mother died when she was young. Ever since her father’s death some years earlier, Venetia lives at Undershaw with her younger brother Aubrey, running the estate until her other brother Conway returns from his military service and takes up the reins as heir.

Venetia and Aubrey are comfortable and happy. Aubrey is a budding scholar with his nose constantly in a book or ten, and at age 17, is soon to be off to Cambridge. While Venetia has two devoted suitors, she’s not in love with either, and is perfectly content to think of a future in which she sets up a household for herself and Aubrey and keeps things running for him while he’s busy with his studies.

This all changes, however, when the absentee lord of the neighboring estate returns home. Lord Damerel has a horrible reputation as a rake who once seduced and ran off with a married woman — and even though this happened nearly 20 years ago, he’s still not considered fit for decent society. He seems to enjoy his bad-boy status and his wild social life, though, and doesn’t exhibit any indication of wishing to reform

But then he meets Venetia! After a brief and sexually charged chance meeting, Venetia can’t shake thoughts of the devilish man next door, but doesn’t expect to see him again, as he never spends much time at his estate. Fate (or something) intervenes — Aubrey, who has a weak leg from a congenital hip problem, is thrown from his horse and injured, and is brought to Damerel’s estate, the closest shelter, for treatment. It’s clear that Aubrey needs to remain still and undisturbed in order to recuperate, and Damerel is a surprisingly generous and gracious host, insisting on caring for Aubrey for as long as needed.

Despite the disapproval of Venetia’s friends and would-be beaux, she becomes a daily visitor to Damerel’s estate, keeping company with Aubrey — but also becoming fast friends with Damerel. The friendship is a surprise and a delight for both of them. They discover that they can talk honestly and openly with one another in a way that they can’t with anyone else. They sit and talk for hours, and find themselves kindred spirits.

The complication, once they start to realize that what they feel goes beyond friendship, is that Damerel’s past has left him with a truly scandalous reputation. Venetia, on the other hand, is a virtuous girl who’s never been anywhere or done anything. Her aunt and uncle hope to arrange a suitable match for her with a respectable gentleman, but Venetia has other plans. Unfortunately for her, Damerel is so in love with her that he doesn’t want to ruin her, and decides to give her up rather than tarnish her in the eyes of society.

Oh, what fun! This business about reputations and scandal and — good gracious — what will everyone think? is just all so quaint and charming. Making a good match is really all that matters for a girl at that time, but Venetia is just rebel enough to not particularly care. She has money from her father’s bequest, enough to live comfortably without needing a wealthy husband to provide for her. She’s learned about life from books and is confident about her own abilities. She’s a devoted sister and a protector for Aubrey, has a good head for business as demonstrated by her management of Undershaw for many years, and feels that she’d be much happier living as a spinster than being trapped in a marriage that bores her to tears.

It’s refreshing to see a Regency heroine who knows her own mind so clearly. Venetia is never rude, not even when provoked, but she’s also no doormat. She’s honest with herself, understands what she truly desires, and is quite capable of scheming to get things to go her way. I was incredibly amused by her solution to her problems with Damerel, and her charming approach to manipulating those around her so that her plan is sure to be successful is just brilliant.

Once again, I simply loved the audiobook version of a Georgette Heyer novel. Phyllida Nash is a wonderful narrator, perfectly capturing the different tones and voices of the various characters. Not every female audiobook narrator can pull off a man’s voice with conviction, but Phyllida Nash is terrific, making Damerel growly and insinuating and absolutely rakish, while Venetia comes across as both innocent and clever.  Such fun!

I will say that the language in Georgette Heyer books can be a challenge at times, as she uses a lot of expressions and terms that are no longer used or not used in the same way, and it can be a bit of a puzzle trying to figure out the context. I do love how Venetia uses the term “idiotish” quite often (Damerel finds this amusing as well), and she and Aubry call each other “stoopid” with a certain degree of affection. I was thrown, though, early on in the book when Venetia is thinking about what she knows of Damerel’s reputation, and recalls how he was last in the country when he hosted an orgy at his estate a year or so prior to the current time in the book. An orgy??? I’m assuming the author is using the word in its older meaning, a drunken party with sexual excesses, rather than as what today’s pop culture would consider an orgy. Still, it’s rather startling toward the end of the book (spoiler ahead!) when Venetia tells Damerel that she doesn’t expect him to give up his orgies, and he asks her if she’d like to preside over them. Oh my.

I only “met” Georgette Heyer this year, but Venetia is now the 4th of her books that I’ve read, and it’s splendid. Like Arabella (review), Venetia would be a good starting point for anyone who hasn’t read Georgette Heyer before. It’s full of the style and wit and sheer silliness that makes her books so delightful.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Venetia
Author: Georgette Heyer
Narrator: Phyllida Nash
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication date: Originally published 1949
Length (print): 375 pages
Length (audiobook): 12 hours, 36 minutes
Genre: Regency romance
Source: Purchased

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Return of Thursday Quotables! Spotlight on Venetia by Georgette Heyer

quotation-marks4

Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

Blogger’s note: Thank you, kind readers, for putting up with my summertime slacking! Now that it’s September, there will be no further excuses — Thursday Quotables is back! After taking a summer break, I’m back on track and will be sticking with my normal weekly posting schedule. Please join me whenever you have a great quotable to share!

My Thursday Quotable for this week:

 Venetia by Georgette Heyer
(originally published 1958 )

I am on a roll this year with Georgette Heyer! Venetia is my 4th book by this wonderful author, and it’s just delightful. I’m listening to the audiobook (with excellent narration by Phyllida Nash), and loving every moment. I still have quite a ways to go, but thought I’d share this passage, which is interesting to me because it does not represent the main character’s opinion, but rather shows the viewpoint of an older woman who’s trying to explain men (and their infidelities) to the lovely (and more progressive) Venetia:

“Men, my love, are different from us,” she had said once, “even the best of them! I tell you this because I hold it to be very wrong to rear girls in the belief that the face men show to the females they respect is their only one. I daresay, if we were to see them watching some horrid vulgar prize-fight, or in company with women of a certain class, we shouldn’t recognise our own husbands and brothers. I am sure we should think them disgusting! Which, in some ways, they are, only it would be unjust to blame them for what they can’t help. One ought rather to be thankful that any affairs they may have amongst what they call the muslin company don’t change their true affection in the least. Indeed, I fancy affection plays no part in such adventures. So odd! — for we, you know, could scarcely indulge in them with no more effect on our lives than if we had been choosing a new hat. But so it is with men! Which is why it has been most truly said that while your husband continues to show you tenderness you have no cause for complaint, and would be a zany to fall into despair only because of what to him was a mere peccadillo. ‘Never seek to pry into what does not concern you, but rather look in the opposite direction!’ was what my dear mother told me, and very good advice I have found it.

Yeah, no. But thanks anyway, Lady Denny.

And I do love the use of the word “zany” as a noun — I think I need to start using it in conversation.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1391px-quotation_marks_svg1

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Audiobook Review: Arabella by Georgette Heyer


To Arabella Tallant, the eldest daughter of a penniless country clergyman, the invitation to stay with her London godmother was like the key to heaven, for in addition to living in the glamorous city, Arabella might even find a suitable husband there. Armed with beauty, virtue and a benevolent godmother, the impetuous but impoverished Arabella embarked on her first London season with her mother’s wish in mind: snare a rich husband.

Impetuosity is Arabella’s only fault. When fate cast her in the path of arrogant, socially prominent Robert Beaumaris, who accused her of being another petty female after his wealth, the proud, headstrong ingenue made a most startling claim — she was an heiress! Suddenly Arabella found herself the talk of the town and pursued by every amorous fortune hunter in London and some of the most eligible young men of the day.

But only one caught Arabella’s fancy: Mr Beaumaris, the handsome and dedicated bachelor. She should know better than to allow herself to be provoked by nonpareil Beau. That gentleman, however, although a most artful matrimonial dodger, badly underestimated his seemingly naive adversary… But would her deceitful charade destroy her one chance for true love…?

I think Georgette Heyer will now be my go-to author for when I need something to lighten the mood. Because Arabella is absolutely delightful, and listening to the audiobook was the perfect antidote for a major, crabby funk.

Arabella has a wonderfully rom-com feel to it. Arabella overhears Mr. Beaumaris making a snide remark about girls looking for money coming up with excuses to cross paths with him, and she is so offended that she’s being lumped in with fortune-hunters (when it was really a carriage mishap that brought her to his doorstep) that she impetuously declares herself to be “the” Miss Tallant — you know, the fabulously rich Miss Tallant. Oh my.

Before she knows it, Arabella is the center of the London season, as every son of distinguished but cash-poor family seems to suddenly be in love with the dear girl. She’s turning down marriage proposals left and right, and meanwhile feels increasingly guilty that her spur-of-the-moment lie has become the accepted truth. So how can she ever say yes to a proposal knowing she does so under false pretenses? And given the butterflies she’s feeling over Mr. Beaumaris, how can she force herself to confess the truth to him and lose his respect and affection?

What a tangled web we weave…

The story may be a trifle predictable — yes, we all know where this love story will end up — but it’s such fun to see how we get there. Mr. Beaumaris is the epitome of fashionable society. All the young men hoping for society standing copy his style, his manners, even his sardonic little tweaks to propriety (for example, after he wears a dandelion in his buttonhole, suddenly all the young men flood London florists with demands for dandelions). He’s known in town as “the nonpareil”, and his presence at any gathering automatically lends it cachet. It’s entertaining to watch people fall all over themselves to interact with Mr. Beaumaris, and the reader (listener) catches on long before Arabella does that he’s both fond of her and is onto her little secret.

There’s a dark cloud in Arabella, as Arabella’s younger brother comes to London as well and tries to live the high life. As he indulges in high fashion, parties, gambling, and gaming houses, he falls into such extreme debt that he sees either death or enlistment as his only options. This is a light-hearted novel, so obviously things work out (I won’t say how), but it’s touch and go for a while there, and I honestly worried about him.

I occasionally had a little twinge of discomfort about Arabella’s relationship with Mr. Beaumaris. She’s seventeen, and he’s a very sophisticated and polished thirty. Not an unimaginable age difference, but there are times where it seems that what he loves about her most is her innocent youth and naivete, and there were a few times where it teetered on the edge of creeper-ness for me.

Now I’m making it sound weird, and it’s really not. Overall, I found Arabella utterly charming, and loved the main character as well as the depictions of all the silly upper class foolery that makes up high society and the London season.

As for the audiobook, it’s a wonderful listen. Narrator Phyllida Nash nails Arabella’s innocence and enthusiasm, as well as Mr. Beaumaris’s haughtiness and dry humor. The only two difficulties with listening to the audiobook are 1) the author uses a lot of terminology related to society matters, fashion, types of carriages, and so on, many of which I wasn’t familiar with — but it’s hard to stop to figure out while listening to an audiobook (especially when said listening is happening while driving a car), and 2) at some point the pace got frustrating for me. Arabella isn’t exactly a suspense novel, but as Arabella gets more and more snared by her made-up story and torn between her feelings for Mr. Beaumaris, her urgent need to help her brother, and her wish for honesty, I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next — but I had to, since my listening time was parceled out between my drives to and from work.

Arabella would be a great point of entry for anyone considering giving Georgette Heyer a try for the first time, and it’s certain to please anyone who’s already enjoyed some of her books. As for me, I will definitely seek out more Georgette Heyer novels, especially when I find myself in need of a bit of cheering up.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Arabella
Author: Georgette Heyer
Narrator: Phyllida Nash
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication date: Originally published 1949
Length (print): 312 pages
Length (audiobook): 10 hours, 43 minutes
Genre: Regency romance
Source: Purchased

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save