Some Enchanted Evening: pamelad reads romance

Talk2023 Category Challenge

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Some Enchanted Evening: pamelad reads romance

Edited: Oct 29, 2022, 12:42am

My historical romance addiction started with a re-read of Georgette Heyer and intensified during the pandemic lockdowns. I read so many, and they're so distinct from my other reading that they deserve their own thread.

Very happy to receive recommendations from fellow addicts, and here is the very useful bookfinder from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Edited: Jan 12, 5:14am

1. Damaged Dukes and Ailing Earls. Heroes with war injuries, deafness, blindness, dyslexia, melancholia, a family history of insanity.....

Scoundrel of My Heart by Lorraine Heath
The Duchess Hunt by Lorraine Heath
The Return of the Duke by Lorraine Heath
Every Rogue Has His Charm by Susanna Craig

Edited: Dec 14, 2022, 3:18pm

2. What Price for This Heroine? Heroines escaping evil fathers and guardians and depraved suitors. Heroines left destitute by fathers and brothers who gambled away the family fortune.

Never Less Than a Lady by Mary Jo Putney
Not Always a Saint by Mary Jo Putney

Edited: Dec 14, 2022, 3:51pm

3. Must We? Marriages of convenience.

Slightly Married by Mary Balogh
Salt Bride by Lucinda Brant

Edited: Dec 23, 2022, 4:07pm

4. Steamless I'm not keen on extensive, graphic sex scenes, so this is for G-rated romances.

The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews
Aurora by D. G. Rampton

Edited: Oct 30, 2022, 5:32pm

5. Fabulous Finds Entertaining books by authors I hadn't read before.

Edited: Jan 4, 5:27pm

6. Good for a Laugh , or at least a smile or two. Authors who don't take themselves too seriously.

Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase
Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

Edited: Jan 1, 5:48pm

7. Why did I Bother? I've read some real rubbish. It goes here. This is another public service.

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas Revolting heroine and boring hero spend most of the book in bed.
To All the Earls I've Loved Before by Fenna Edgewood Full of waffle.
A Duke's Sinful Arrangement by Sally Vixen Damaged duke refuses to fall in love and will sleep with a woman only once. Not really practicable, and very risky. Who'd go near him?

Edited: Nov 14, 2022, 4:24pm

Lord of Scoundrels I like the French cover best.

8. Reformed Rakes Make the Best Husbands

A Rogue's Downfall by Mary Balogh

Edited: Nov 14, 2022, 4:24pm

9. Hybrids Light mysteries with romance.

Edited: Nov 29, 2022, 3:37pm

Oct 28, 2022, 8:03pm

I like your categories! I will suggest as I am able.

Oct 28, 2022, 8:56pm

What a great theme!

Oct 28, 2022, 10:11pm

I'm looking forward to following along!

Oct 29, 2022, 12:31am

>12 LadyoftheLodge: >13 Tess_W: >14 DeltaQueen50: Welcome! If you like your romances frothy, there should be something here for you.

Oct 29, 2022, 6:43am

Happy to follow along. I'm working my way through Heyer's romances and hope to make more progress on those this year.

Oct 29, 2022, 7:55am

Great fun. Good luck!

Oct 29, 2022, 8:29am

I'm impressed by the public service efforts of this thread! Looking forward to following along.

Oct 29, 2022, 8:37am

I'm not a romance reader but I always enjoy reading your thoughtful reviews, so looking forward to following along. And now I have "Some Enchanted Evening" stuck in my head.

Oct 29, 2022, 9:01am

I always enjoy your reviews, thanks for the service!

Oct 29, 2022, 2:03pm

Generally I don't read romance but of course I'll be following along. I enjoyed your Georgette Heyer reviews and you may have made a convert except her books are hard to find. Happy reading!

Oct 29, 2022, 2:05pm

>21 VivienneR: I found a few at the huge book sale I attended a few weeks ago. I also have some on my Kindle, if you like to read ebooks.

Oct 29, 2022, 2:10pm

>22 LadyoftheLodge: Lucky find! I checked Kindle but hesitate paying $10 or more for a book that would probably be my last choice to read. Now if it was a mystery...

Oct 29, 2022, 7:24pm

>16 Helenliz: Enjoy Georgette!
>17 majkia: Thank you!
>18 NinieB: Thank you. I'm here to help!
>19 rabbitprincess: This original version by Giorgio Tozzi is so good!
>20 MissWatson: Thank you!
>21 VivienneR: Good luck with finding some affordable Georgette Heyers. I borrowed a lot of them on Overdrive and CloudLibrary. They're also available on the Open Library. The hourly borrow can be annoying, but there are so many interesting books there, some you can't find anywhere else.
>22 LadyoftheLodge: Good find!

Oct 29, 2022, 8:08pm

>23 VivienneR: Georgette Heyer wrote some mysteries too!

Oct 29, 2022, 10:57pm

I do love all the older romance covers - so dramatic!
My mum had all those old Georgette Heyers with the purple on the covers - I devoured them and have been meaning to reread some.

Oct 30, 2022, 3:23am

I am quite new to this genre, so I am looking forward to getting some BBs from this thread!
I an currently listening to my first Georgette Heyer novel, The Black Moth.

Oct 30, 2022, 5:03pm

>25 LadyoftheLodge: I liked her mysteries, but some of her contemporaries wrote better ones, whereas for romances she's unparallelled.
>26 JayneCM: If you add all the Georgette Heyers to your wish list, you could almost get it to 7000! They're worth moving to the top.
>27 MissBrangwen: I've enjoyed all the Heyers with a single name title: Frederica, Arabella, Venetia.

A non-Heyer recommendation is Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm.

Oct 30, 2022, 5:28pm

>29 pamelad: I will have to look and see how many my library has. I know they have reprinted a lot of them, not sure about all as she was such a prolific writer.

Oct 30, 2022, 5:51pm

Why wait for 2023?

4. Steamless

The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews

Julia Wychwood's awful parents are selfish hypochondriacs who inflict dangerous medical procedures on their daughter and treat her as though her only reason for being is to look after them. Poor Julia is anxious and withdrawn and hates the social grind of the ton's marriage market.

Jasper Blunt, a hero of the Crimean War, has a reputation for brutality and licentiousness and has three illegitimate children living on his crumbling estate. He needs a wife with a big dowry and a family that takes no interest in her. Julia seems perfect, but she'd have to be desperate to accept his proposal.

I liked this, despite being a bit annoyed by the big secret that's obvious from the beginning, and the tedious misunderstandings that threaten to derail Jasper's and Julia's happy ending.

My favourite Mimi Matthews so far is The Matrimonial Advertisement.

Oct 31, 2022, 1:52am

>31 pamelad: I like this category as I too prefer my romance with less!

Oct 31, 2022, 5:18am

>29 pamelad: Thank you, I will have a look at Flowers from the Storm!

>31 pamelad: The Matrimonial Advertisement was the first book of this kind I read (or rather listened to), it was a BB from Christina_reads. I enjoyed it so much and it made me want to read more of this genre. I think I will get to The Belle of Belgrave Square sooner or later. Great review!

Oct 31, 2022, 12:12pm

I am SO on board for this challenge theme! I'll be eagerly checking in to see what you read. >31 pamelad: I had similar thoughts on The Belle of Belgrave Square; Jasper's big secrets were indeed obvious, but I liked the book anyway. I thought The Matrimonial Advertisement was a better version of the same basic plot idea.

Oct 31, 2022, 6:05pm

>34 christina_reads: A cheerful, well-written historical romance is so comforting to read. Your threads have supplied some really good ones!

I've added another category, 8. Reformed Rakes Make the Best Husbands There's likely to be some cross-over with the Damaged Dukes category, because some of these men have become rakes because of their tragic pasts.

A Rogue's Downfall by Mary Balogh fits into the new category. This is a collection of three novellas, each with the theme of a rake finding the one woman for whom he will give up his wicked ways. Balogh's rakes fit in the "whore with a heart of gold" category, and these stories are all quite similar. Pleasant enough.

Oct 31, 2022, 9:33pm

Great idea for a challenge although I'm not usually a reader of historical romance novels.

Edited: Nov 3, 2022, 2:28am

>36 dudes22: Welcome! If you can ignore your internal literary critic, Historical Romance Land can be a comforting place to escape to.

6. Good for a Laugh

Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase

The third book in The Dressmakers series, which is about the three Noirot sisters. Their lineage is aristocratic, but their parents were irresponsible adventurers and the sisters had to survive on the streets of Paris in the chaotic aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars 1832 cholera epidemic. They arrived in London penniless and set up a dressmaking salon. Leonie is the youngest sister, and with her two older sisters occupied elsewhere, is managing the business. While subtly touting for clients at a Boticelli exhibition she runs into the gorgeous Lord Lisburne, recently arrived from the continent to support his equally gorgeous aristocratic cousin, Lord Swanton, a poet. Lisburne and Swanton inadvertently create havoc in Leonie's well-ordered life.

No angst, no melodrama. Light, cheerful and amusing. It's not as exuberantly ridiculous as Don't Tempt Me and the characters don't have the depth of those in Lord of Scoundrels, but I enjoyed it.

Other writers I've liked, who don't usually take themselves too seriously, are Eloisa James and Laura Kinsale.

Edited: Nov 3, 2022, 2:27am

6. Good for a Laugh

Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

The first book in The Dressmakers series. Marcelline, a widow with a small daughter, is the oldest of the three Noirot sisters. She's in Paris, stalking the Duke of Clevedon who has been there for three years sowing wild oats. He and his family assume he will marry a beautiful young woman he has known since childhood, and Marcelline wants her as a client. From their first meeting, Marcelline and Clevedon are madly attracted to each other, but there are so many apparently insurmountable obstacles to a future between them that they deny feeling anything more than a passing infatuation. We shall see!

Nothing special, but I enjoyed it.

It's a stretch to describe The Dressmakers series as good for a laugh, but the books raise a smile or two, and they're cheerful. I'm trying to think of a new title for a broader category.

It's set around 1835, which is post-Regency. William is on the throne. Many members of Marcelline's family died in the 1832 cholera outbreak.

Nov 3, 2022, 7:37am

>37 pamelad: - I hope you don't think I was being critical. Who knows - I've probably read some and just didn't realize that they were historical romance. There's just so much to read!! I'll still be sticking around to see what's interesting.

Nov 3, 2022, 7:46am

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Nov 3, 2022, 4:33pm

>39 dudes22: Not all all! Just acknowledging that they're a guilty pleasure. If someone asks me what I'm reading, I'm more likely to volunteer The Colony and mention that it was on the Booker longlist than to say The Siren of Sussex.

Nov 3, 2022, 7:57pm

>41 pamelad: I get that! I don’t generally reveal that I am reading Countess by Christmas or The Brides of Bath.

Edited: Nov 5, 2022, 6:36pm

7. Why did I Bother?

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Last year I read the first two books in The Ravenals series and liked them, so I thought I'd enjoy Devil in Spring. The ghastly heroine is a collection of ailments and idiosyncracies. The boring hero is a characterless duke who is tediously perfect, and inexplicably attracted to the gruesome heroine. There are chapters of graphic sex scenes, and a sudden drama late in the book involving Irish anarchists, home office traitors and a narrowly averted bombing that would have destroyed the Prince of Wales and most of the haut tonthat appears to have been included to increase the page count.

Big disappointment.

And there's flatware!

Nov 6, 2022, 2:52am

7. Why did I Bother?

To All the Earls I've Loved Before by Fenna Edgewood

Sorry Willy and Julio. Fenna has let you down.

The characters behaved strangely for the sake of the plot. Sentimental, with too many steamy insertions, and really dull. Unnecessary misunderstandings keep the hero and heroine apart, despite their deep and instant love. I tried this author because her books are on Kindle Unlimited. There's a family of daughters and it looks as though each one will get her own book, but I won't be reading them.

The hero is a duke, as usual.

Edited: Nov 7, 2022, 6:42pm

I've abandoned a horde of Kindle Unlimited romances for bad writing. Rain thundering heavily? Unless you're making a tautology collection there's no need to continue.

I'll replace the abandoned category with another that will make itself known.

I have fond memories of Alexander Buzo's book, Tautology: I Don't Want to Sound Incredulous but I Can't Believe It, which is very funny. Some misery gave it one star. Perhaps I will give it a nostalgic five to even things up, despite having read it forty years ago and it not being in print.

Nov 7, 2022, 4:42pm

>45 pamelad: Laughing here!

Edited: Nov 7, 2022, 6:57pm

>46 LadyoftheLodge:

I've given Buzo's book five stars and located a library copy. Looking forward to indulging my nostalgia for the past (2) by reading this timeless classic (3).

Nov 7, 2022, 8:43pm

>45 pamelad: Hysterical!

Nov 13, 2022, 4:27am

Another tautology, the title of an email I received from Qatar Airways: Rediscover the world again.

Nov 14, 2022, 3:56pm

I'm dropping a star and look forward to following your romances. I haven't read much romance in recent years because there are so many out there and I have a hard time choosing! Heyer I loved, I read most of them years ago but I'm probably due for a reread!

Edited: Nov 14, 2022, 4:26pm

>50 clue: Welcome!

I'm adding a category for hybrids, books like Sheri Cobb South's John Pickett series and perhaps Karen Charlton's Detective Lavender series, which are light mysteries that feature ongoing will they, won't they romances between the main characters. Romantic suspense like Mary Stewart's books would fit in too. They're usually Steamless.

Nov 14, 2022, 10:26pm

Not much of a romance reader, but following hoping to be inspired to read the large collection I have.

Nov 15, 2022, 7:33am

I also like historical romance and Steamless. Great themes.

Nov 15, 2022, 3:32pm

>52 lowelibrary: I hope you find something - an easy read on a rainy day, total escapism.

>53 mnleona: When they're too steamy I feel like a voyeur and skip those bits, so it's good to know which books are safe to read!

Nov 16, 2022, 1:22pm

>54 pamelad: Well stated. I do the same thing if there are steamy bits. Sometimes those scenes feel as if they were dropped in from nowhere and don’t add to the story at all.

Edited: Nov 19, 2022, 4:51pm

3. Father Was a Gambler

A Christmas Affair to Remember by Mia Vincy

Sylvia has been left almost destitute by the death of her charming, selfish husband, who was a reckless, self-deceiving conman. She is struggling to support herself by making and selling medicinal cordials and has become friendly with a customer who has invited her to a Christmas house party. There she meets Isaac, who went to sea at ten years old and has had very little to do with women. Sylvia is about to marry a miserable hypochondriac just to have somewhere to live and enough to eat, while Isaac wants to find a wife but has never even successfully kissed a woman. An affair would suit them both. Sylvia will have some happiness and excitement before marrying a man who wants nursemaid rather than a wife, and Isaac will get the experience he needs to court a wife and make her happy. Sylvia is seven years older than Isaac, and not at all the woman he is looking for, so they do not contemplate falling in love.

It's not steamless, given the theme, but neither is it a detailed "how-to" manual with pages of graphic detail. Light and cheerful with a lively writing style.

This longish novella is free for subscribers to Mia Vincy's newsletter, which I am because she's Australian and living in Victoria. It is part of the Longhope Abbey series, and a few of the characters from the other books make an appearance, so it's probably best to read them first. The first one, A Wicked Kind of Husband was a bit of a mess, but had potential so I read the others, which I liked more.

A Dangerous Kind of Lady is on sale for about $1.

Edited: Nov 26, 2022, 4:43pm

10. Everything Else

I've created a new category for books that don't quite fit into the existing ones. Might re-jig the categories later on.

A Day for Love by Mary Balogh

Three novellas, all taking place on Valentine's Day. Not quite long enough to introduce the unlikely potential couple, have them fall in love, and marry them off. (Can't find the touchstone, so will try to fix it later. Fixed.)

A Fool Again by Eloisa James

Genevieve's elderly husband has just died, and his peculiar will has given her almost no choice but to marry his business partner, Lucius Felton. Fortunately, Genevieve finds him very attractive, but unfortunately, he's a cold fish. Genevieve's father forced the marriage with the old man because he'd apprehended his daughter on the way to Gretna Green with the highly unsuitable Tobias Darby, who subsequently fled to India. Now that Genevieve is free, Tobias is back.

Another novella, but almost long enough to be a novel. Will Genevieve and Tobias end up together, or will misunderstandings keep them apart?

I read these because these two books because they're on Overdrive and their writers are fairly reliable. OK, but I wouldn't bother if they weren't free.

What I'd really like to find is an author I haven't come across before who has written lots of entertaining, grammatical books, all of them available on Overdrive or CloudLibrary. I might even have to branch out into a different time period. Mediaeval has never really appealed, but perhaps it's worth a try.

Nov 26, 2022, 5:05pm

>57 pamelad: Sounds like a good category.

Nov 29, 2022, 3:34pm

10. Everything Else

Midnight Pleasures by Eloisa James

The heroine is madly attracted to hero but rejects him because she doesn't want a husband she loves. Her parents' disastrous marriage has led her to believe that her father's extreme philandering is the norm, so she becomes engaged to a good-natured thick wit, but the rejected hero refuses to accept defeat. The pair are driven apart by the usual tedious misunderstandings, mis-hearings and lack of communication that stand in for the plot in second-rate romances. There is a secondary plot that involves spying, but it seems like filler.

Eloisa James is hit or miss. This is one of her misses, but the writing is OK, so it doesn't belong in the Why Did I Bother category.

>58 mnleona: It's turning out to be very useful.

Nov 30, 2022, 12:48am

I just decided to finally get Kindle Unlimited as it is two months for free at the moment. There are a TON of Regency romances!

Nov 30, 2022, 3:35pm

>60 JayneCM: A lot of them aren't worth reading, which didn't stop me. I quite liked Clare Darcy and Alice Chetwynd Ley who wrote Georgette Heyer knock-offs and Seeing Miss Heartstone by Nichole Van, all of which are fairly steamless.

Kindle Unlimited is better for vintage crime than for romance: Anthony Berkeley, Dorothy Bowers, E C R Lorac, Shelley Smith, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Hilda Lawrence.


Nov 30, 2022, 4:05pm

4. Steamless

A Lady's Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin

Winner! Good writing, humour, well-drawn, appealing characters. Kitty Talbot, the eldest of five sisters, has just been jilted by her rich fiancé. She doesn't love him, or even like him very much, but needs his money. Her parents died of typhoid, leaving the girls with an enormous mortgage payment due in a few months and no way of paying it. Kitty calls on an old friend of her mother for help. The retired "actress", who has re-invented herself as a respectable widow, invites Kitty to London and requests that she bring her prettiest sister. Charlotte, the vague and boring intellectual, is certainly not Kitty's favourite sister, but she is the prettiest, and has the advantage of having spent a couple of years at a school for young ladies. Through Charlotte Kitty meets the de Lacey family and launches a ruthless campaign to marry the younger son, Archie. But Archie's older brother James, Lord Radcliffe, who has been hiding from the world on his country estate since he returned from Waterloo, descends on London determined to save his brother from the fortune-hunting parvenu.

Nov 30, 2022, 4:08pm

>62 pamelad: I really liked that one too! I think I saw that Irwin is coming out with another book sometime in 2023, and if so, I'll definitely be reading it!

Dec 1, 2022, 1:26pm

>62 pamelad: Oh, this one sounds very enticing!

Dec 2, 2022, 1:37am

>61 pamelad: I did see there were a lot of vintage mysteries on KU, including lots of the Agatha Christies that my library doesn't have.

Dec 2, 2022, 12:12pm

>65 JayneCM: There are some audio books on You Tube by Agatha Christie.

Edited: Dec 4, 2022, 5:49am

I might have to re-jig the categories because too many books are going into

10. Everything Else

The Wild Child by Mary Jo Putney is the first book in The Bride Trilogy. It features my least favourite type of heroine, the whimsical, ethereal sprite. Her name is Meriel, perhaps to recall Ariel in The Tempest? Meriel's parents were murdered, along with many others, when an Indian castle was besieged by bandits and set alight. The five-year-old Meriel was saved and taken to a harem. After a year she was returned to her English uncles. She does not speak, and flits around in the flowers in a distracted way so that her relatives believe she is simple, and perhaps insane. Even so, an uncle has arranged a possible betrothal to Kyle, the heir of the Renbournes, because if he died her other uncle would put her in an asylum, so a husband could protect her. Kyle has been invited to spend a few weeks on Meriel's estate to get to know her, but he has an important duty that cannot be postponed, so he sends his identical twin brother Domenic, in his place.

This was far too long and, as I mentioned, has a revolting heroine. However, by the end of the book she has undergone a total personality change. There are some interesting bits about mental asylums and how easy it was to incarcerate an inconvenient wife. I'm trying to think of the title of a book written by an American journalist who faked a mental illness in order to expose the treatment of women in asylums and will add it here when I find it.

Ten Days in a Mad-House by Nelly Bly - well worth reading. Briefly reviewed here.

The China Bride by Mary Jo Putney is the second book in The Bride Trilogy, and features Kyle from the first book. He's in China and has met a Eurasian woman who is masquerading as a man and destined to become his bride, but not for long because it appears he is going to be executed, or at least everyone will think so. You can't really kill off the hero. Sounds exciting, but it's not at all. So very long and dull that I had to give up on it.

To Catch an Heiress by Julia Quinn

Pros: Light, breezy and amusing.
Cons: The characters speak contemporary, colloquial American and I just can't bear it!

Edited: Dec 4, 2022, 5:52am

2. What Price for This Heroine?

Never Less Than a Lady by Mary Jo Putney

Julia was married at sixteen to an evil, violent man. He died during a drunken attack on his wife, and his father, an earl, blames Julia as does her own father, a duke, who has disowned her. She is living incognito and supporting herself as a midwife when her father-in-law's paid thugs abduct her. Fortunately, Major Randall, who had met Julia in the first book of the Lost Lords series, is in the vicinity. I haven't read the first book because it sounds too ludicrous, not in an amusing way because Putney doesn't have a sense of humour.

Randall proposes marriage to Julia in order to protect her from the earl, even though she thinks she is barren and has been so turned off by her husband's violence that she doesn't want to marry again.

There are lots of Putney’s books on Overdrive, but I'm not much of a Putney fan. Too gushy, too sentimental, too long, too dull. Too many evil men, and women who need protection from them.

Dec 4, 2022, 8:34pm

2. What Price for This Heroine?

Not Always a Saint by Mary Jo Putney

I wasn't going to read another, but this was on my Kindle. It must have been a Daily deal or a freebie. The story is not quite identical to Never Less Than a Lady, but close enough. The heroine is married at sixteen to an evil, violent man. When it seems that her past will catch up with her, she marries the hero for protection.

Edited: Dec 5, 2022, 4:58pm

10. Everything Else

Not Quite a Wife by Mary Jo Putney

The sixth book in The Lost Lords series, preceding Not Always a Saint and featuring the saint's saintly sister Laurel. At seventeen Laurel married an earl, saw a side of his character she couldn't deal with, and left. For ten years she has been living with her saintly brother, managing a free clinic and a home for battered women. (She's sitting in the office doing the accounts and wondering why England doesn't have decimal currency. As if!) Battered women are a recurring theme in Putney's books.

Laurel is too holy for my liking and talks too much about her faith. The plot is more than usually ridiculous. The hero, James, Lord Kirkland, suffering a malaria attack, is robbed, beaten and left unconscious in an alley. Good Samaritans deliver him to the free clinic where he is treated by his estranged wife. In his delirium he forgets that he and Laurel are estranged, and she misses him, so they have a quickie in the surgery. James doesn't remember and Laurel doesn't tell him, but she ends up pregnant.

I keep reading these because they're available, which is not a good enough reason. Perhaps I should clean the windows instead.

Dec 6, 2022, 5:41am

>70 pamelad: Clean windows are overrated! :)

Dec 6, 2022, 4:33pm

>70 pamelad: Yes! Better to change genres than to clean windows. Another Mary Jo Putney and I might contemplate cleaning the oven!

Dec 9, 2022, 4:42pm

10. Everything Else

Ruined by the Reckless Viscount by Sophia James

The hero kidnaps the heroine, thinking she is someone else. The resulting scandal destroys her hopes of marriage, and she isolates herself in the country where she becomes a renowned painter, under a male name. The viscount was almost killed by the heroine's father and, after a slow recovery, left for America, so he has no idea that he has destroyed the heroine's life. The heroine wants to know more about her abductor, so she dresses as a man to paint his portrait.

This was nothing special, but quite readable and shows some attention to historical detail. Sophia James is from New Zealand.

Dec 9, 2022, 5:21pm

10. Everything Else

Slightly Married and Slightly Wicked by Mary Balogh are the first two books in the Bedwyn series, and possibly the best. I'd borrowed the rest of the series from the Open Library, but these two weren't available. Ebooks of the series aren't available in Australia, which is a shame because in paper copies the print just keeps getting smaller. Anyway, these paperbacks, which were fortunately available in a library not too far from home, encouraged me to break in my newish prescription reading glasses which I'd used without enthusiasm for a chapter months ago, then abandoned.

Slightly Married is about Aidan, the second Bedwyn son, heir to his brother, the childless duke. Aidan, an army colonel who fought at Waterloo, swore to a dying comrade that he would protect the man's sister. When Aidan arrives at the woman's estate, he finds that she is about to lose her home unless she marries within a week, so he proposes a marriage of convenience on the understanding that after the wedding they never see one another again. All very unlikely, but this is a romance novel! I enjoyed it.

Slightly Wicked is about Rannulf, the third Bedwyn son. On his way to his grandmother's house he comes across Judith, who has been stranded, with her fellow stage passengers, when a wheel came off the stage. She is on her way to be an unpaid companion at the house of an unpleasant aunt and, pretending to be an actress, has a fling with Rannulf so she will have something to look back on during the rest of her miserable life. Both she and Rannulf are using false names so are unlikely to meet again, but in romance land that's not a possibility. The awful aunt is the mother of a vain, empty-headed twerp who lives near Rannulf's grandmother, who is desperate for Rannulf to marry soon. I enjoyed this one too.

Edited: Dec 14, 2022, 3:35pm

I could do with a Marriage of Convenience category, so might combine the What Price for This Heroine and Father was a Gambler categories. Thinking of a new title.

3. Must We? is for marriages of convenience. Slightly Married fits here.

Dec 14, 2022, 3:50pm

3. Must We?

Salt Bride by Lucinda Brant begins with a marriage of convenience. The heroine needs to marry so that her step-brother can get control of his fortune. The unwilling hero promised the heroine's father years ago that he would marry her and hopes she will release him from the obligation. They were once in love, but a psychopathic sister-in-law kept them apart.

This one is Georgian. The writing is OK (apart from a couple of jarring incidences of "play nice") and the hero and heroine deserve a happy ending, but I'm not a psychopath fan. I prefer froth.

It's free on Kindle.

Dec 15, 2022, 5:39pm

>75 pamelad: I love a marriage of convenience plot, so I approve of your new category. :) Glad you're enjoying the Bedwyn books!

Dec 18, 2022, 7:03pm

Stopping by with best wishes for your 2023 reading! While I do not typically read romance, I do enjoy your reviews (especially for the books that fit the Why did I Bother? category).

Dec 18, 2022, 8:38pm

>78 lkernagh: Welcome! The Why Did I Bother reviews are definitely the easiest and most entertaining to write. Being fair and positive is much more of an effort.

Edited: Dec 19, 2022, 4:01pm

3. Must We?

I'm including forced marriages, e.g. hero compromises heroine and must make amends, in this marriage of convenience category.

Now that I've broken in the reading glasses, I'm finding print copies of books that aren't available as ebooks, or are too expensive. (I can't afford to buy too many $12 ebooks at the rate I read). I've started a Mary Balogh series from the nineties, The Four Horsemen, and have read the first two. The four horsemen are comrades from a cavalry regiment that fought at Waterloo. They all sold out at the same time.

Indiscreet by Mary Balogh

The beautiful, mysterious young widow, Catherine Winters, has been living for five years in a small cottage in the village adjoining the estate of Claude Adams, twin brother of Rex, Viscount Rawleigh. When Catherine smiles at the viscount, mistaking him for Claude, he thinks she is signalling her interest in an affair. His relentless pursuit compromises the reputation that she has tried so hard to establish.

I enjoyed this, though I wish that Balogh's editors would remove the many repetitions.

Unforgiven by Mary Balogh

At the end of Indiscreet another of the horsemen, Kenneth Woodfall, Earl of Haverford, receives a letter that gives him no choice but to marry a woman he has known since childhood, but who is now an enemy. If they hate one another, how on earth did she become pregnant to him? When Moira Hayes escaped a ball and fled into a snowstorm, she took shelter in a huntsman's shed where she was found by Kenneth. He convinced her that they needed to "make love" in order to keep warm! Kenneth and Moira were once in love, despite their families being enemies for generations, but each of them believes that the other has betrayed them. Until their recent meeting, they had not seen one another for 8 years.

Can Moira and Kenneth overcome this unrealistic plot and rediscover their love?

I quite enjoyed this, despite the annoying plot. Miscommunications and misunderstandings keep the hero and heroine apart. Tiresome.

Dec 20, 2022, 3:44pm

10. Everything Else

Irresistible by Mary Balogh is the third book in The Four Horsemen series and marries off the remaining two horsemen, Nathaniel Gascoigne and Eden, Lord Pelham. The romance between Eden and Nathaniel's ward, Lavinia, is an amusing sub-plot, with the main romance between Nathaniel and the widow, Sophie Armitage.

Sophie is an old friend from campaign days when she followed the drum with her husband Walter. Theirs was an unsuccessful marriage, for a secret reason that is obvious from the beginning, and Sophie sees herself as dowdy and undesirable. Walter died performing an act of bravery which gave him such posthumous fame that Sophie was rewarded with a house and a pension, but Sophie is being blackmailed because of Walter's secret life. She has secretly (so many secrets!) loved Nathaniel for years so offers to be his lover.

The blackmailer and Sophie's lack of confidence postpone Nathaniel's and Sophie's happy ending. Tiresome miscommunications again! Even so, I enjoyed Irresistible.

I hope it's not too much of a spoiler to tell you that there's a happy ending!

Edited: Dec 23, 2022, 5:17pm

4. Steamless

Aurora by D. G. Rampton

Aurora and her brother Percy, a missing marquess, are on their way to London when Aurora holds up the hero. A start like that takes a lot of getting over, and I didn't quite manage it. The heroine is modelled on The Grand Sophy, but her behaviour is unbelievable because the author lacks Georgette Heyer's lightness and her familiarity with Regency mores.

I found out, on finishing this book, that the author has re-written Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South for a modern American audience, which demonstrates her appalling lack of taste. Here it is on Amazon. How arrogant! How exploitative! How crass!

Dec 23, 2022, 10:32pm

>82 pamelad: I had read that and couldn't believe it, though I don't know why. Its pushed me to a rereading of North and South in 2023 which I've been meaning to do for years!

Dec 26, 2022, 1:03am

>83 clue: I suppose it's marketing, but I thought the author's comments on the shortcomings of the original and on the ways that her re-write improved it demonstrated her questionable literary taste. As for the Dickens complaint, well he was a competitor, and not known for brevity himself! I'm glad you re-read North and South and think I will too.

Edited: Dec 26, 2022, 1:45am

1. Damaged Dukes and Ailing Earls

Scoundrel of My Heart, The Duchess Hunt and The Return of the Duke by Lorraine Heath comprise the Once Upon a Dukedom trilogy.

Scoundrel of My Heart Griffith Stanwick is a duke's spare, ignored by his father who was interested only in his heir, Marcus. Griff is in love with Kathryn, whose grandmother has left her a cottage, but only if she marries a peer, so Griff is ineligible. Plus, he's a gambler, and Kathryn doesn't like them. Unfortunately she's very much attracted to Griff, despite his short-comings and, when his father is hanged for treason for plotting to kill Queen Victoria she sticks by him, though now he believes he is not good enough for her. Another complication is that she's being courted by a duke whom Griffith wants her to marry.

The Duchess Hunt The duke from book one is still looking for a bride. He believes he has no love to offer, so wants a woman who won't love him. What he hasn't realised is that he is in love with his secretary.

The Return of the Duke Marcus lives in the shadows. He is trying to find his father's co-conspirators and bring them to justice so that he can restore the family honour. His investigations lead him to a woman who was thought to be his father's mistress. You can probably guess most of the rest, but might be surprised when the widowed Queen Victoria turns up as a character accompanied by John Brown with whom she waltzes at a ball despite being in deep mourning for Prince Albert.

I was looking for mindless escapism, and this series delivered. All three couples are instantly lust-struck, which is not my favourite thing, but is to be expected in Lorraine Heath's books. Her main advantage is that her writing is grammatical and easy to read though, from time to time, people say "It's complicated," eat "baked goods" (pies, do you think? It's an oddly general term.) and live in "town homes".

Dec 27, 2022, 9:31am

Hope you have a great year of reading!

Dec 27, 2022, 3:48pm

>82 pamelad: I got all excited for a minute, thinking that Rampton had done a modern retelling of North and South (which I would 100% read). But then I clicked the Amazon link and realized the error of my ways. Appalling!

Edited: Dec 29, 2022, 5:57pm

>86 thornton37814: Thank you.

>87 christina_reads: Appalling is right!

2. What Price for This Heroine

Beauty Tempts the Beast by Lorraine Heath is the last book in the Sins for All Seasons series. The heroine, Althea, is the sister of Marcus and Griffith Stanwick from the Once Upon a Dukedom trilogy, and the hero, Benjamin (Beast) Trewlove is an orphan who was fortunate enough to be left with a woman who nurtured the children left in her care and made them into a family.

Since her family's estate was confiscated by the crown, Althea has been working in a tavern and living in a slum. Benjamin, aka Beast, is a rich man, having earned enough working as a labourer on the docks to buy his first ship (!) and ploughing the profits into his shipping business. He lives in a brothel because he wants to protect the women who work there (!) and to help them find other work. Beast employs Althea to train the women in ladylike behaviour. Because Althea has decided that life as a courtesan would give her more independence than she had as a daughter or would have as a wife, she persuades Beast to train her in seduction.

I've come across a useful romance classification - closed door vs open door. Heath's books are too open door so I skipped bits. But there are lots of Heath's books on Overdrive, so I read a few more.

10. Everything else

When a Duke Loves a Woman by Lorraine Heath

Gillie Trewlove runs a tavern. One night she finds a man, who turns out to be a duke, being robbed and stabbed. She turns away the attackers and nurses the duke back to health. Their love can never be because dukes cannot marry tavern keepers, and anyway, Gillie doesn't want to give up her independence. This book is just as silly as it sounds.

I appreciate Heath's efforts to use British English and am highly amused by the women whose knees turn to jam. Jelly in that context is not jam: it's the quivering refrigerated dessert set with gelatine.

Edited: Jan 1, 5:36pm

10. Everything else

Two more from Lorraine Heath's Sins for All Seasons series: The Scoundrel in Her Bed and The Duchess in His Bed.

Finn and Aiden have the same father, an evil earl with multiple mistresses, and were born within six months of each other, so they're even closer than the other orphans in the Trewlove family. Finn fell in love with an earl's daughter who, ten years on, is the woman who ran away from the duke in When a Duke Loves a Woman. I skipped the chapters about their youthful love affair, and the open-door bits as well, but half a book was enough. Similarly, in Aiden's story, where he falls in love with a widowed Duchess, I skipped the open-door bits which were the majority of the book. So now I've caught up on the lives of all but two Trewlove orphans and am happy to assume that, as with the others, all will end well for them.

4. Steamless

One from The Elizabeth Chater Regency Romance Collection: Gamester. I'd forgotten the two Elizabeth Chater books I'd read and given two stars to. All the characters in this story are annoying, and the writing is bland, so it can have two stars as well and I won't read the rest.

Dec 31, 2022, 1:27pm

>89 pamelad: Bummer! That was a freebee on Amazon and I just downloaded it.

Edited: Jan 1, 5:36pm

>90 LadyoftheLodge: You might like it more than I did. I've read too many romances in a row and am a bit jaded.

I've changed its category to Steamless.

Edited: Jan 1, 5:52pm

7. Why Did I Bother?

A Duke's Sinful Arrangement by Sally Vixen

I read this because it's free on Amazon Prime, which is not a good enough reason. The duke only ever sleeps with a woman once because he was hurt in the past and doesn't want to fall in love. The widowed Sophia is looking for excitement. Will the duke break his rule?

Very risky behaviour on the duke's part. Stay away, Sophia.

This was the last romance of 2022. I hope to make it the last entry in the Why Did I Bother? category.

Edited: Jan 5, 4:16pm

Normally I'm very frugal with the stars for romances, but now that they have their own category they could do with their own rating system. I'll compare like with like and rate them on the basis of how much I enjoyed them. I don't think I can give a romance five stars, but who knows?

5 stars - reserved for something absolutely exceptional

4 - 4.5 stars - hugely entertaining; witty; authentic historical detail

3 - 3.5 stars - entertaining and well-written, but missing something

2 - 2.5 stars - readable

.5 - 1.5 - not worth finishing

I'm taking points off for: anachronisms; Americanisms; bad grammar; unfunny humour; incorrect vocabulary; too informal a register; depravity and violence; too much sex; lack of, or incorrect, historical detail; excessive, gooey sentimentality; preachiness.

Edited: Jan 4, 5:10pm

10. Everything else

Nice Earls Do by Susanna Craig

This Regency romance novella is the prequel to new series, Goode's Guide to Misconduct. It provides the background to the setting up of Goode's Guide.

Kit, Lord Stallbridge, a bachelor, has to set up a nursery for his brother’s orphaned children, so his housekeeper contacts Mrs Goode, of the “Guide to Housekeeping” for advice. Tabetha, the pseudo Mrs Goode, widowed after twenty unhappy years of marriage, arrives at Kit’s estate with her male secretary, Oliver, in order to oversee the nursery renovations. She is shocked to find that Kit is an old friend, the man she would have married had her father not forced her to marry nasty Lord Manwaring.

The novella is too short to establish any depth of character for Kit, Tabetha and Oliver or to give more than an inkling of their back stories, but all three are kind, generous people who deserve a happy ending. A cheerful, angst-free read.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC.

Thinking of adding a second chance romance category.

Jan 5, 10:06am

>93 pamelad: Interesting post (especially the criteria for taking off points)!

Jan 5, 4:14pm

>95 MissBrangwen: Adding more. Points off for sentimentality and preachiness!

Jan 5, 11:00pm

8. Reformed Rakes Make the Best Husbands

The Lady Knows Best by Susanna Craig is the first book in the new series, Goode's Guide to Misconduct.

Daphne is the second-youngest member of the Burke family from the Rogues and Rebels series and is overshadowed by her brilliant siblings. When Lady Stallbridge offers her the advice column in Mrs Goode's magazine for independent young women, Daphne assumes the offer was made because of her family connections but takes it on with enthusiasm all the same. In her very first column she advises a young woman, betrothed against her will to a rake, to break the engagement. On meeting the rejected fiance, Miles, Viscount Deveraux, who has wagered that he will be married by the end of the season, Daphne is attracted despite herself, but plans use the experience for an instructional pamphlet on identifying and resisting the attractions of a rake. In order to spend time with Deveraux, and to prevent him from revealing her role on the magazine, she offers to marry him herself, fully determined to humiliate him by breaking the engagement.

I've read all the Burke family books and, unfortunately, Daphne is the least interesting sibling. Miles doesn't stand out either. Sterling qualities lurk beneath his rakish facade, and it doesn't take long for Miles and Daphne to recognise each other's worth. We need more backstory for these two so that we can become more engaged with their romance.

Overall, this was a cheerful, entertaining read, with pleasant characters and not a lot of drama. It ends with hints of a romance between two other characters we've met in this book: Miles's reliable friend and a frizzy-haired ironical illustrator. I'm already interested, but the character I really want to find out more about is Oliver, the stepson of Lady Stallbridge and the original Mrs Goode.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC.

Jan 6, 9:34am

>97 pamelad: I hate/love how some romance novels may not be that great, but the secondary characters are intriguing enough that they lure you into reading the sequel!

Jan 6, 3:50pm

>98 christina_reads: I read that this book was available on NetGalley, so I joined up, but writing fair and balanced reviews is a bit of a trial.

Edited: Jan 7, 12:38pm

>97 pamelad: Found and acquired the ARC on NetGalley! Thanks for the review.

I have found that sometimes publishers like shorter reviews too. I once posted a review that I felt was incomplete and went back to change it, only to find that the publisher had already used it, even though it was so short. I also looked at some of the reviews posted by other reviewers and found that some are very short, maybe a sentence or two, but I do not think those are fair and honest reviews.

Jan 7, 3:24pm

>100 LadyoftheLodge: It isn't steamless. I left a few criticisms out of my review because I didn't want to be negative!

Jan 7, 3:49pm

Good luck with your 2023 reading! I'm hoping to read a few Georgette Heyers myself this year. I like both her romances and her mysteries.

Edited: Jan 11, 5:26pm

>102 mathgirl40: You can't beat Georgette Heyer for historical romances.

The Runaway Viscount by Darcy Burke

The widowed Juliana Sheldon and the bachelor Lucas Trask, Viscount Audlington, spend a passionate night together in a snowbound inn, but she wakes the next morning to find that he has left. Two years later they meet again at a house party organised by the matchmaking Lord and Lady Cosford. Juliana has neither forgotten nor forgiven Lucas, so she sets out to torment him and make him jealous. Lucas regrets leaving Juliana the way he did and thinks of her often, so he is determined to renew their liaison. Marriage does not seem a possibility to either Lucas or Juliana but, as well as the enormous lust they feel for one another, they enjoy each other's company.

This short book is written in bland, simple language using a narrow vocabulary. There's a lot of sex, not a lot of plot, and not much tension.

Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC.

Edited: Jan 12, 5:14am

1. Damaged Dukes and Ailing Earls

Every Rogue Has His Charm by Susanna Craig

Maximilien Grant, Lord Chesleigh is heir to a duke, his grandfather, who is a truly vicious old man. Maximilien is so very damaged that when he begins to fall in love with Caro, the woman he married to save from ruin, he abandons her for her own good and resumes his job as a spy. On the death of the old duke Maxim returns to England. He plans to drop in on his wife just to check she's OK, but circumstances result in him staying a good deal longer.

I enjoyed this one. Spies, treachery, attempted murder, a wicked father. There's a truly nauseating epilogue, but that's par for the course. I liked Caro and Maxim, and I'm always pleased when a damaged duke finds the one woman who can fix him. There's another romance going on as well between the spies who are watching Maxim, a sub-romance between the sub-spies.

This was the only Susanna Craig book I hadn't read. I preferred it to The Lady Knows Best.

Jan 12, 10:56am

>104 pamelad: Ooh, that one does sound fun! I am enjoying the Love and Let Spy series...nothing groundbreaking, but reasonably enjoyable. Next up for me is Better Off Wed.

Jan 12, 2:52pm

>105 christina_reads: And they're literate! I often give up on romances because of grammatical errors on page 1. I liked Better Off Wed.

Jan 15, 12:19am

8. Reformed Rakes Make the Best Husbands

Four Christmas Kisses: A Scandal in Mayfair by Anna Campbell
Her Christmas Earl by Anna Campbell (Novella)

I like Anna Campbell because her writing is lively and cheerful, and she's Australian. The first book is quite short. Anthea Bryars finds a very attractive unconscious man in the snow, on the point of freezing to death. She manages to get him back to the manor house she shares with her three younger step-sisters and her governess. They're about to lose their home because it has been inherited by Wicked Cousin Christopher, whose solicitor has notified them that they must leave. When the patient, the anonymous cousin, wakes up, he hears the girls talking about him, so he decides to pretend amnesia for a while.

A pleasant, predictable little story.

The second book won prizes. Philippa Sanders is inadvertently locked in a dressing room with a wickedly attractive rake, Lord Erskine. He's not a bad man at heart, so when they're discovered he offers to marry her. Another pleasant, predictable little story.

10. Everything Else

A Grosvenor Square Christmas by Shana Galen and three others.

Four short stories, linked by the annual Christmas party held by the matchmaking widow, the Dowager Countess of Winterson. This is a Kindle freebie.

Jan 16, 5:10pm

>107 pamelad: Thanks for the tip! I found A Grosvenor Square Christmas and downloaded it.

Jan 17, 1:32am

1. Damaged Dukes and Ailing Earls

Heartless by Mary Balogh

Lucas Kendrick duelled with his brother, who had seduced and married Lucas's betrothed. Lucas shot his brother by mistake and his father threw him out without a penny. Now, ten years later, after Lucas has made a fortune in Paris, his father and brother are dead and he is the Duke of Harndon. Family problems and his responsibilities to the dukedom have brought Lucas back to England where, unwilling to face his ex-fiancee on his own, he marries Lady Anna Marlowe who is almost on the shelf because she has been looking after her younger brother and sisters. Lucas tells Anna he has no heart and acts as though he doesn't. Anna has a terrible secret involving a man who is obsessed with her.

I enjoyed this despite the ludicrous plot.

Silent Melody by Mary Balogh

The sequel to Heartless. Ashley, brother of Luke, loved Anna's deaf-mute sister, Emily, in a brotherly way. She was only only fifteen. So, when Emily kisses him goodbye on his departure for India, he is taken aback by his feelings for her and feels so uneasy that he puts her out of his mind for the whole seven years he is away. He marries and has a child, but a tragedy befalls them, and he returns to England alone, a sad and damaged man. Ashley and Emily behave quite oddly for the sake of the plot.

As does Heartless, the plot of Silent Melody turns on a wicked wife and an obsessed stalker, but I enjoyed it too, though both books were a little too dark and melodramatic for my taste. They're Georgian, not Regency, and there are lots of descriptions of clothes.

Jan 17, 12:21pm

>109 pamelad: Oh no - a romance novel with a ludicrous plot!?! (slips book onto TBR list)

Jan 17, 3:34pm

>110 dreamweaver529: So far, my favourite piece of ludicrousness is in one of Jo Beverley's books, where the hero and heroine are trapped in a cellar and going for it in a coffin. He's her brother-in-law but doesn't recognise her because she's wearing a mask. I think it's Something Wicked.

Jan 17, 3:36pm

>111 pamelad: Haha, thanks for that laugh! I needed it today. And I have so many questions...

Jan 17, 3:44pm

>112 christina_reads: It's even better. In the cellar with them is the stolen Stone of Scone, an oblong block of red sandstone that has been used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland, which is about to be shipped to France.

Jan 17, 3:57pm

>113 pamelad: I mean, it makes at least as much sense as the coffin.

Jan 17, 4:02pm

>112 christina_reads: Ditto that! I could imagine the movie in my mind . . .

Jan 17, 4:11pm

10. Everything Else

Web of Love by Mary Balogh

Ellen Simpson loves her much older husband, but after he dies at Waterloo, she falls in love with his friend, Lord Dominic Eden, whom she has nursed back to health. Appalled by what she sees as her disloyalty to her husband, Ellen sends him away. There's a sub-plot involving Dominic's sister, Madeline, who also falls in love with a soldier she's nursed. Madeline is very irritating, unlike Ellen who is almost perfect.

I enjoyed this and was relieved that there were no evil people in it.

Must change some categories. Fabulous Finds is empty and there might not be many more candidates for Good for a Laugh. Thinking of a Second Chance category for widows, widowers, lovers who were separated years ago and have found each other again.

Jan 18, 4:22pm

>115 LadyoftheLodge: It's part of the Mallorens series, so a TV miniseries could be a very good thing. Much more drama than Bridgerton!

I much preferred the first series of Bridgerton to the second, and don't hold out much hope for the third. The book was a bit dull, and Colin didn't impress me much. But I'm hoping to be proved wrong.

Edited: Jan 20, 5:25pm

3. Must We?

Under the Wishing Star by Diane Farr

This isn't quite a marriage of convenience because the hero, Malcolm Chase, and heroine, Natalie Whittaker, are in love with one another but due to misunderstandings (yawn) are unwilling to declare themselves. They meet when Natalie befriends Malcolm's daughter, and their friendship grows as Natalie takes on the position of unofficial governess. Natalie lives with her horrible half-brother and his ghastly wife, so she is in dire need of something useful to do that will get her out of the house.

This was a pleasant little romance, a bit too tidy and sentimental for my taste.