Recommended Regency Novels

Highly Recommended Novels & Novellas







Reviewed by M.J.Logue.
I do like a bit of Georgette Heyer - clean, neat, tidy, sweet romance in which decency triumphs over deceit, every time.
And "Cynthia" is very much like one of those old-fashioned romances.
A sparky heroine who disguises herself as a boy to save her heedless young sister's reputation. An Apollo of a hero with a bit of a past, but one that can be excused. A beautiful, silly, romantic young girl, a handsome stable boy who's not all he seems, a romantic flight. A family whose future is uncertain, held together by our heroine.
All the Heyer set pieces are there, and the author's skill is that she makes them seem new. This is not a modern Regency romance: it's very much of a style that Georgette Heyer would have recognised, where the most nudity our heroines encounter is Ted the stable-boy in his night-shirt, and even that's rather shocking. If sensuality is your thing, look elsewhere, for there's precious little physical encounters in "Cynthia" - and, I think, all the better for it, because the relationship between Cynthia and Julian is first and foremost one of friendship, camaraderie and mutual respect.
The relationship between flighty, romantic Amabel and her "stable boy" - or is he....? - is presented as based on mutual attraction, though, and at first I found that relationship much less convincing. I persevered, however, and I'm glad I did, because it becomes clear that there is a good reason for the author's portrayal of Ted initially as something of a lumpen clod. The suspicious fact of his poetry-reading on his days off, should have been a clue...
The language and style of the novel gives it very much the feel of a period-piece, somewhere between Jane Austen and Patrick O'Brian in its attempt to recreate the flavour of a bygone age - not just in speech, but in the author's narrative, which remains true to the language of the period. It does take a little bit of getting used to, and it does have something of a quaint rng, to begin with, but it bears perseverance.







This is a well-researched novel spanning the years 1803-1814-1815, thus it begins two years previous to the Battle of Trafalgar, and ending in the year the Napoleonic Wars finally draw to a close with the Battle of Waterloo.


Whilst this novel is a rather poignant tale of tragic loss, of hope, and that of a devastating truth, which in itself reveals the secret life of the heroine’s husband, there is more, so much more. For despite the heroine’s self-esteem is shattered in the face of shocking revelations, the courageous fortitude Olivia (heroine) portrays perfectly falls under the title The Murmur of Masks, as does a moment in time that awakens and arouses a sensual side Olivia has never known.



Whilst the novel remains true to the social mores and overt formal etiquette for widows during this period, Olivia nonetheless discovers essence of love, quite unexpectedly, and sadly cannot truly embrace it. Not only is there element of doubt it is true love, she has obligations besides that of herself to consider, thus one reckless indulgence, though memorable, remains but a treasured secret. The hero, likewise, has had to face disappointments along life’s path, until the day he is deemed fit enough to purchase a commission in the army, but Napoleon’s escape from Elba sets precedence for his putting a brave foot forward, commission or no commission. Here the more gritty elements of war surface, thus touching letters betwixt Olivia and Luke Fitzmaurice keep Olivia and the reader abreast of events as they unfold in the hours prior to the great battle. After the event the trauma of it all has taken its toll, and of course there is a Happy Ever After.



Throughout this novel the author seamlessly weaves historical facts into the tapestry of Olivia and Luke’s individual stories, by using history as a natural backdrop to the lives of her characters instead of displaying personal research as narrative infill. A lovely, lovely story.









Another treat read from Ms Kullmann, and loosely-linked to her previous novel The Murmur of Masks. Here we are given a delightful, almost but not quite, an ugly duckling story touching shades of Cinderella. After all, Lallie Grey’s future looks a tad bleak, her prospects mundane at best. But life’s path oft has unlikely twists and turns, not only for Lallie, none more so than for Hugo Tamrisk. Blighted by duty to beget a wife and provide the ubiquitous heir and a spare, he and Lallie seem the most unlikely to form a relationship of note, and as whispers abound with all manner of false notions, Lallie and Hugo find common ground until, amidst confusion and misinterpretations, all seems lost when their togetherness has just begun. The ultimate question - Who will cast aside pride and prejudice and concede first, which duly takes the reader through an emotional minefield of dashed dreams and heartfelt longing. A poignant and delightful Romance, dappled with historical detail thus providing good sense of time and place.






Reviewed by Francine.

This is a decidedly sweet Regency romance novella set post-Waterloo, in which the hero, Joscelin Lord Areley, is every bit a gallant man of honour, though falls somewhat confused when he unexpectedly encounters the widow of a fellow officer trudging a byway late one winter’s eve. The attractive waif like Eloise is a victim of the sad circumstance of war, her condition not the best of situations for a widow of no means. Whilst hope lingers in belief she has entitlement to part if not all her late husband’s estate and effects, her ultimate destination is the home of her husband’s brother, a duke, thus the scene is set for rejection, heartache, and dreadful humiliation. Of a kindly bent, Lord Areley provides assistance for Eloise as would her husband had roles been reversed, and had Areley acquired a wife and she likewise fallen to bad times.

But the charming nuance to this tale is the aged retired nursemaid to Lord Arely and Eloise’s late husband. Whilst the good lady shelters and nurtures Eloise, and muses over the regular comings and goings of his lordship, there abides the ever present consideration as to whether his lordship has compromised the widow and himself. But nothing is ever quite what it seems within romance stories, and a “Carpet of Snowdrops” is no different when the heroine recalls aspects from her past, in which compromise and companionship played a part in her present plight. Indeed, this is a rather charming sweet Regency read!                    









Reviewed by Francine


As this is the first book in series to do with the Allamont Sisters, Amy’s story nicely sets the tone for upcoming books, which are destined to feature each of her sister’s individual stories and romantic leanings. That said; Amy’s story stands-alone as a rather sweet tale of an elder sister who has always looked to her father for guidance, until his death, which leaves her bereft and shocked by the contents of his will. Ever faithful to his memory Amy finds it increasingly difficult, and at times, impossible to understand the sudden rebellious nature of her sisters. What is more, her mother’s indifference to the plight of her daughters confuses the poor lass. After all, her father’s strict upbringing of the sisters (in all 6) and his biblical bent seem lost in the mayhem that suddenly surrounds her. As for love and romance, where can that fit in with her life given the strict criteria laid down within her father’s will for the sisters’ individual inheritances?

What could her father have been thinking to set forth such a cruel schedule of events, when one sister already has her heart set on her life partner, and another with fanciful notions to do with a man who is more than a little enamoured with Amy, herself. Life for Amy is one of adhering as best she can to her father’s gambit for the future stability of their individual lives, but she soon discovers demure meekness and self-sacrifice can be unbearably painful. So too, another finds himself facing a sacrifice he cannot bear, and with a little cunning he attempts to resolve his and Amy’s dilemma, but not without heart-in-mouth realisation that it could all go terribly wrong. Be assured there is an HEA to this story, a touch of mystery, a shocking revelation, and all in all, it’s a delightful read.










Reviewed by Fran

This is the type of novel that is truly a rare find, where the author affords deep and thrilling insight to the hero’s psyche. Hence, devoid of emotion; lacking communicative skills of worth, and duly retaining an impenetrable shield about his person, the Duke of Stanthorpe, as vulnerable as he is callous, is edging toward a dark place. As plots go the novel is a pleasantly differing approach to the theme of arranged marriages, in which a duke’s two younger brothers are to select a wife from the Earl of Malverne’s five daughters, and while life for his brothers is suddenly that of uncertainty all round the duke remains impervious to their needs and sentiments.

Of an imperious persona and given to traits of OCD the duke suffers a deeply crippling cerebral malady, which gives rise to his preference for a reclusive existence. His brothers are the very opposite, extrovert and socially adept for all eventualities and willingly protect him in situations where necessary, until the day the youngest of the five daughters tests Shael’s resolve to remain a gentleman and desist in putting her across his knee for a good spanking.

Nelle is borne of a reckless hoyden persona, which is viewed as unlikely to gain her a husband of means, thus several ruinous acts inevitably lead to the Earl’s sister taking command of Nelle with a strong whip hand. Despite near imprisonment and dreadful abuse Nelle learns greater sense of cunning, and despite erection of thorn-laden metaphorical hedges and real-time mental anguish she scales the duke’s walls, but will he succumb or retreat into his dark chambers? A final note: the book is in essay format but in no way does that detract from an excellent story.







 



Reviewed by Francine.





Make no mistake, this is a Jane Austen follow-on novel. Subsequently, if you’ve ever wondered what happened to Miss Jane Fairfax, the rather reserved young lady from Jane Austen’s novel “Emma” then look no further.  Jane is now Mrs. Frank Churchill, and finds herself suddenly widowed in strange circumstances. Worse, soon embroiled in the dark seedy world of criminals, she meets and supports a young woman one wouldn’t ordinarily sup tea with whilst in polite company. What is more, with her life seemingly under threat from unknowns, Jane places her life and that of a child in the hands of a decidedly affable Bow Street Runner.









Caleb Armitage is a man well accustomed to the dark netherworld of crime, and duly packs a punch in the name of the law, more so when protecting a true lady from hard-nosed criminals. Needless to say, this novel has the ubiquitous twists and turns one would expect from a crime novel, and of course, the conclusion, although not wholly unexpected, it does shed light on Jane as a woman of inner steel in the face of adversity. Ah, but did we not see a glimmer of that within the novel Emma, when Emma herself looked upon Miss Jane Fairfax as a competitor for Mr. Knightley’s affections? Miss Fairfax smiled sweetly back then, and likewise in this, her own story, she carries on as though nothing untoward had occurred even when all the odds are stacked against a happy conclusion. Death of a Fop is a delightful and entertaining read.             














Reviewed by Francine:




This is a lovely and rather unusual tale of a woman who has few choices in life, and while Aster Tanner prefers honest pay for honest work she is well aware of the life that may have become her lot had she taken another path to monetary gain. Set prior to Napoleon’s first defeat and exile to the Island of Elba, English agents of the crown are engaged in spying missions behind enemy lines

Aster is a familiar sight on the streets of Regency England and always accompanied by her little dog, and to the casual eye she would never pass muster as an enemy agent. But Captain Mcintyre, of the Second Dragoons, views her position as secretary-cum-aide to a cryptographer as not only unusual, but downright dangerous. Her femininity is distracting and somewhat enticing, and what in the devil is a woman doing working for a cryptographer who poses as a mere army supply officer? Mcintyre sets out to unravel the mystery of Aster, and duly expects to unveil an enemy agent with a little romancing. Then comes the dreadful news of a murder, the threat of kidnap, and suddenly Mcintyre’s heart is at odds with his head. When Aster goes missing can a little dog then save the day, unravel a greater mystery, and prevent Mcintyre from losing his credibility as a true hero? Ah well, buy the book and find out.  Beware though: from the outset this novel reads in the vein of a Traditional Regency with a sweet flavour, but it does have sensual love scenes.









For Love of Captain Jack



Reviewed by Nigella (a maritime historian)



For Love of Captain Jack bears all the hallmarks of Thomas Hardy’s fabulously rich dialogue and prose that has for two centuries enthralled readers of English countryside fiction.  And here we have historical dialogue commensurate with counties surrounding Dorset and vital for nuance of the Regency. I remember when ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ was obligatory reading for school children. I remember groaning as did chums of mine but the characters were so lifelike and vibrant they remained unforgettable as have the characters in ‘Tess of the d'urbervilles’.  Astoundingly Ms Howarth has captured that very same Wessex language Jane Austen and Hardy would recognise as theirs. What struck me most is the women folk in this novel enchant the reader with witty quips and outlandish gossip that is so reminiscent of the Pride & Prejudice Bennett clan. Where Mr Darcy was the cause of uproar in Ms Austen's tome,  it is the report of a murder most foul that strikes a blow to the peaceful and idyllic lives of Ms Howarth's gossips who soon turn to speculation and ponder as one might expect from a good old whodunit? Murders farther afield add to the mix for a thoroughly engrossing murder mystery.  More to the point the local naval hero becomes suspect number one as dark elements come to light in the neighbourhood of Port Seaton. The novel's hero is a lifelike naval officer of the Regency era and so long as the villain proves impossible to pinpoint any hope of Jack Trevellian's reprieve dwindles. This a grand whodunit with red herrings  and miniscule clues that may or may not unveil the murderer.  The eventual uncloaking of the villain is totally unexpected and had me on the edge of my seat fearing another death would prevent the coming of a happy ever after. Fear not, there is a happy ending and this is a rollicking good murder mystery with a deeply engrossing romance.


Reviewer notes:

Ms Howarth has a literary style and cadence that may take a little getting used to. And if you haven’t read a Thomas Hardy novel give him a go. You won't regret it.    


This is no longer available as a single novella - it is now listed as The Trevellians of New-Lyn in which all three of the Trevellian novellas are in one book!   






Reviewed by Francine.


Dangerous Secrets is a romance set within 1820, the last year of the Regency era, the very year the Regent became King George IV. It could be said, diehard fans of the Regency era concentrate too much attention in respect of the mores and social constructs of a short era that was, in actual fact, merely part of a greater whole: the Georgian period. Therefore, I admire Caroline Warfield for casting aside the more ubiquitous settings of London and Bath, and for venturing to foreign shores.


Set within the city of Rome, the author weaves a tale of compassion, intrigue and unbidden romance. Whilst the heroine selflessly has the best interests of her brother’s child at heart, foreign laws and guardianship of a child can prove daunting, more especially when paperwork and all else is subject to the language of the land and the influence of the Italian side of the child’s family. Fortunately, Nora Haley encounters an English officer fluent in Italian, and Major James Heyworth is in need of hard cash. Striking a business transaction is one thing, forging a temporary betrothal another, but falling in love is not part of the deal, and Major James Heyworth is far from what he seems. Has Nora trusted in the wrong man, and will her hopes and dreams be shattered? Read this delightful novel and find out for yourselves.






 

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Reviewed by Francine.

Alethea is a traditional Austenesque Regency tale, in which chance encounters lead to love and romance for the two cousins. Of course, there are trials and tribulations along the way for both, and while Alethea is a somewhat headstrong young lady, Eleanor is older and more reserved. Both being borne to the genteel existence of a countryside abode  Alethea is utterly naive in the ways of aristocrats who take liberties at will with unsuspecting females. But once she’s introduced to the possibilities that infamous Almack’s can afford her, the world is suddenly her oyster.




Warned that one man is best not trifled with, for it would seem he delights in trifling with young ladies hearts, Alethea’s heart is soon suffering from romantic flutters whilst she remains utterly determined to resist any notion of surrender to his charms. But another, by far more dangerous man is soon taking more than he deserves and trouble suddenly abounds with the mere mention of his title. After all, mystery and intrigue is all very well until it comes too close for comfort. And while Alethea stands up to the bounder as a true heroine should, he nonetheless wreaks unknowing revenge that may well destroy any hope of happiness for her future. And there I shall leave you in suspense, for I thoroughly enjoyed Alethea’s initiation from innocent country girl to that of a young socialite caught up in the darker side of London Society. All the while, Eleanor, sweetly misguided into the belief she’s destined for spinsterhood, discovers otherwise! A lovely, lovely story.






This book is not just a Regency Romance, but also has elements of Mystery as well, hence the Agents of Change series that it is the first of. I will take a look then at how both of these elements play out and balance. For those of you who know my work, sex has little place in my own regency romances, for they are what are termed Sweet. My stories end with a kiss on or near the last paragraph of the last scene.

I give this caveat as Ms. Quinton has a different style than my own. And this leads you to know without too much of a spoiler, that there will be, sex. The Duke of our story is the 10th Duke of Stonebridge. We open with a brief prologue like scene shortly after the death of the 9th Duke when our hero is still at school in Eton. Here we meet another character, Middleburg.

We don't meet our Hero's best friend, the Marquess of Dansbury. (Note that our hero is a Duke and his BFF is a Marquess. The two highest ranks of the ladder of Nobility.)

As we continue our exploration, we meet our Heroine Grace, who by her own observation is as Graceless as they come. We also learn that she has come to her uncle's a year ago. That this family (the Earl of Swindon-just one rung below that of Marquess) has pinned its hopes on their eldest daughter marrying the Duke of Stonebridge. We quickly learn to like our heroine who has spirit, an understanding of her life, and of the lives of those around her. She has courage and pluck.

Grace of course is given many, many thoughts and actions that we equate to how a young woman of the 21st century would act and feel. She is friends with the servants. Not just treats them with civility, but has learned their names and has them all loving her. She, since her father was in trade as a bookseller, believes that she should open a dress shop... She is the granddaughter of a Baron. She is living in the household of an Earl. Austen would have looked upon this woman as a Jane Fairfax and everyone might think she should find a position as a governess, or companion. She even has an adequate dowry of 1755.51 pounds. (Now there I had to put aside my look at this as a romance reviewer hat. Sorry Ms. Quentin but my history hat could not ignore your mistakes and I feel I must impart this. Quentin mentioned this more than once and used it as a plot device. First the bookshop selling for close to a million pounds in todays money seems a great deal for a man in trade to have amassed. Then no person in England at the time would use a fraction to discuss money. Perhaps 1755 pounds 6s, thruppence, or similar.)

At this point I had crossed the point of whether the story worked. As a mystery it does not. Our heroes seem to be on the track of a group of Whigs not against murder and mayhem of their Tory opponents. To the point that Fox and North would aid in the plots to further their cause of the demise of Pitt the Younger, and by extension persons important to our hero and heroine. The inclusion of some elements to make this historical, aids the scene and setting. However our investigators are trying to look at a matter that is 16 years old. I think even if Sherlock Holmes were born 100 years before his fictitious appearance, he would be challenged with Regency Science and investigative techniques to unravel the mystery that had laid dormant for so long. One that at the end is unresolved so the mystery wafts away and that half of our story has become secondary to the other focus, romance.

As I started with, I am not one to cause my tale to be that of a bodice ripper. This though should fall into that category. To be a good bodice ripper, we establish rapport with our POV character. We want to be that person and have the bodice ripping done to them, or be doing the ripping. Ms. Quentin I think titillates adequately along these lines. The Duke looks hunky enough times, Grace has her loins hunger for him enough as well that they should consummate. However the Duke has spent so much time thinking of the social issue (like a Mr Darcy regarding the Bennets) that he would never violate Grace. Though historically again, the Duke would not think so much as he had I fear, since far too many examples abound that were a Duke truly enamored of a woman from any class or background, they would do as they wished. (Right-Historian Hat off.)

I can give a thumbs up for those who would like to take this on for the Romance. I can place our heroes as the men Ms Quentin writes them and praises them to be suspending my disbelief by turning my eye from history and absorbing the tale. Though should those who look closer at history and mysteries, I give caution.

You can find this at Amazon US

Reviewed by David



Reviewed by Katie:


I absolutely enjoyed Lord Somerton's Heir. In this romantic mystery, Sebastian Alder survived Waterloo, barely. As he recovers, a woman appears to inform him that now, he is Lord Somerton. Removed to better chambers and an increased hope of actual recovery, he finds the legacy a great deal more trouble than it seemed to be worth.


"The Somerton inheritance was a tainted privilege. In some ways he was no better off than he would have been if he had remained a penniless officer of the line on half pay. At least then he only had his siblings and himself to worry about. Now he had a household and an estate, all claiming pennies from a purse that looked decidedly the worse for wear.... Where had it all gone and how, in God's name, was he expected to restore the family fortunes?

He had thought the matter through in the tedious hours in the coach and decided that if he thought of the task ahead as being akin to a sudden promotion to Colonel of a regiment, it did not seem so daunting."



Sebastian meets the new family, assumes his new responsibility and intends to make provisions for his brother and sister. As soon as he untangles the financial mess Anthony Kingsley left behind. There are hanger's on, wise granny, an aunt and dozens of cousins, plus tenants, retainers and servants to assess and get to know. Always near by, ready to offer assistance or subtle guidance, is Isabel. He sees her wounds, the grief she struggles beneath and that she is trying to reach beyond the sorrows and anger. Through Sebastian's eyes we observe Isabel's healing steps, stumbles and set backs. It was an interesting perspective because generally the socks are on the other foot.



This story is slightly Gothic in tone, the writing smooth and gently reflective. There was an old-fashioned pace I really enjoyed. There was no rush of the romance, the story or the ending. The dialog kept you in the period without effort or cliches. Characters were believable, though slowly revealed. Personally I like that but others may find the bits and pieces revelation too old skool. Secondary characters weren't two dimensional though the villains were both over the top once their disguises were stripped away. I was disappointed by the second villain's big reveal. For all the realism it brought to the story, I felt manipulated and a wee bit resentful.



I liked Sebastian, his siblings and Isabel. I appreciated how the tragic past was handled as part of the story, not a cudgel to wallow in and create more angst. They were the Ordinary Folks we all think we are until trials come our way and we learn not only is there more to us, but less as well. Confronting their own failings, they have compassion for other's. Mostly, it was absolutely wonderful to read an Awakening Story that wasn't all about the sexual attraction or trumped up conflicts that reduce hero and heroine to argumentative banter based on misunderstandings. They were cautious with each other, kind to themselves even. Taking time, giving support and space as needed, Sebastian and Isabel's story advanced even as the mysteries, debts and confusions mounted to a larger pile.



I had a bit of difficulty with the last couple chapters of this book. It tied up "too neatly" for me. I like a bit of conflict left hanging, things to work through together in happily ever after land. In fairness, the financial situation is probably Huge Enough, not to mention the "secret" Sebastian has chosen to keep. I believe that will come back to bite them both in the end. Of course, it could simply be the fact I seldom like epilogues and this one was a bit too sweet for me. That said, I did enjoy 98.7% of the book, the writing style, characterizations, and well-handles story line. Definitely will look for other works by this author. I recommend Lord Somerton's Heir for when you're in a Traditional mood, looking for a meatier story with a gentle romance.










Reviewed by Katie

The Duke of Malchester, Devon Howard, was thirty-two, twice a widower, shrouded in gossip and suspicion regarding the deaths of his previous wives, his treatment of servants and his libertine ways.  At seventeen, Liliana was literally auctioned off and married to the highest bidder. It was no wonder she was afraid to entrust her body, mind or heart to a man she met a month prior to the wedding.  The nuptial night, while exciting, wasn’t enough to convince her to lower her guard and so, Liliana clung to her dignity, residing at Calder Hall, a duchess in name only.  For three years, Devon roamed who knows where with an entourage that included his mistress.  His absences were long, his visits short and pleasant enough, so long as she kept her distance.

When her beloved grandfather dies, things come to the point between them.  Devon presses for her admission that they could be more than married in name only.  She agrees but only if he removes his mistress from their home and his life, permanently.  Surprisingly (not), his mistress objects to this and sets in motion a plan to ruin Devon and Liliana’s newborn happiness.  Secrets are thrust into the light of day; tragedy is dressed in silks and lies, while sorrow hides behind parties and titles, altogether creating a compelling tale that makes you shudder and gasp right along with the characters.

This was not a comfortable story but it was a most excellent read!  With the feel of a traditional gothic, written in a style well aware of the modern reader, the author never forgets the values and mores of the times. Neither can you.  Her atmospheric tone is perfect; lush and a bit bawdy, which suits the Duke very well indeed.  The dismal facts of family life that saw children living entirely separate from their parents until they could be of use, and the reality of arranged marriages seldom being more than tolerable, are facts historical readers and writers know yet are seldom willing to accept beyond the plot device or back story. 

Ms. Howarth doesn’t back up to these realities, she wields them with empathetic skill.  I swear I could hear her sighs in the dark corridors and possibly felt her restraining hand when I wanted to smack her hero for being a - well, an ass.  She doesn’t apologize for a hero that genuinely believes a woman wasn’t really his mistress so long as he didn’t penetrate her vagina.  Neither is she ashamed of a heroine that allows the past to be put aside because she wants a future that means something more than disdainful distance and loneliness.  That Devon and Liliana go from physical passion to emotional friendship while proclaiming love rang with realistic emphasis on the way things were, and sometimes still are.  As they spent time together without the entourage and distrust between them, you could see the happily ever after to be, and yes, the squabbles as well.

Foibles and imperfections are brutally exposed and though we cringe the characters do not even flinch. They’re bold and gritty, hopeful and yes, aware they’re not always at their best when all is said and done; however no one gives up or bemoans cruel fate (yippee!).  They resolve to make amends where possible and carry on, regardless.  The use of jealousy to arouse interest is seldom a maneuver I can tolerate.  _But_ … in this case, it suited both the characters and the situation.  When they began talking, sharing their thoughts without the affectations of pride, confessing loneliness and hurts, I let go of my long standing prejudice against the machination.  Whether another author could’ve managed that I am not sure, certainly none before has done so.

The secondary characters, both the living and dead, were as intriguing and reflective of the times, as coarse in their own way as the awakening couple.  The historical details were devastatingly accurate.  There is no glossy coating here, this is a mature man, thrice married, that lives as men of wealth and position did. Liliana is no fool, only young, and without familiar support or anyone to lean on but her maid, she does what women did; find a way to make things work.  Not only did the writing hold my interest but also my admiration for a convincing honesty weaving a wonderful historically gothic tale.  I am already squeezing my budget for more of Ms. Howarth’s books! 










Reviewed by Katie


 “Oh, what good is a libertine if he won’t toy with your sister’s affections and then ruthlessly drop her!” … “I’m a bachelor, not a libertine.”  And so begins the Regency romp of the Harlow Hoyden, Miss Emma Harlow, and her Most Trusted Ally, Alexander, the Duke of Trent.  Yes, it’s another tale of twins but our author boldly proclaims her usage of the current clichĂ© with a dollop of comfort that made me laugh out loud.  “Don’t look so horrified, my dear. Lavinia and I are twins. What good is an adventure about twins without a case of mistaken identity?” 


Amidst a subplot of Napoleonic intrigue, our hoyden is determined to end the betrothal of her twin sister to the utterly unsuitable fiancĂ©, Sir Windbag, uh, Windbourne.  Despite a dance card that is generally empty and few willing to acknowledge her beyond the cautiously distant nod any hoyden deserves, Emma plots a course with two minor complications.  Number one, she doesn’t actually know any libertines, personally.  Number two, convincing one to turn her sister from the Windbag, without breaking her heart or ruining her reputation.  For while Emma is quite content to live on the fringe of her family’s good name, she knows her sister would not find this at all comfortable.


Oh, and one other tiny detail hadn’t occurred to her.  Resolved never to marry - what heroine worth the title in our modern tropes of fiction isn’t - Emma also never expected to find her own affections engaged.  Fortunately, she’s full of schemes to handle that difficulty as well.


Alexander, at first persuaded by her pursuit of a list of libertines, then by her sister’s enjoyable friendship, eventually agrees with Emma.  Lavinia deserves so much better than Windbag.  He sets about showing Lavinia her worth and knocks holes in Emma’s schemes to remain indifferent by also engaging her admiration for his plotting.  When Lavinia figures out what’s going on, she doesn’t fly off the handle or sink in to despair, she begins her own machinations.  With the duke’s assistance, she gently stirs the cauldron to disguise her design to unite Emma and Alexander.


Everyone is doing all this for each other’s own good, so that makes it all right, or it does in the end, refreshingly without protracted angst. 


I confess, like Emma, I wanted Alexander and Lavinia to end up together.  They had common interest and an easy going friendship that gave me hope.  Unfortunately, they had no spark.  So completely was this demonstrated, that I gave up my foolish hopes, just as Emma did.  But I think it broke my heart a bit.


Obviously, the secondary characters have substance and our sympathy from the very beginning.  Aside from the abrupt injury to the brother and his miraculous recovery, I felt the novel was not only well paced but also well written. The dialog was witty, both internal and external, and there was no chance for dust to land on anything. There are a few phrases that plucked at my ear but nothing that destroyed the energy of the story. Though the novel has a breathless feel, the romance was not rushed.


Most of all, I admired Ms. Messina’s not ignoring the facts of propriety, though I do think she stretched them a bit, even for a romp. Emma was tolerated, not embraced by society, and though her family was personally indulgent, they were at times, very embarrassed and acknowledged this.  She never became a Mary Sue, winning everyone over, reigning as queen of the drawing room as well as the curricle race.  I doubt even the duke of Trent will be able to make some of her exploits acceptable. I’m so very, oh so very glad of that.


A life spent facing the consequences of Emma’s actions is just what Alexander deserves.  I mean, come on, the man wooed by mothers, courted by fathers and nearly smothered by debutants, still has time for dancers and mistresses and charming widows.  He also had time to develop his prowess in the manly sports, not to mention his benevolent attention to his tenants, the poor and his nephew - the hayseed from the country.  Yet he was led by his fascination for Emma from one scrape after another and loved every minute, finally realized it was her, not the novelty of it all, that he loved.  Quite how they’ll ever settle down I can’t imagine.  For Emma, that’s precisely what she wanted as well, freedom to live fully with a good friend.  Learning that friend could also be a lover and a husband is what prevented her from being just another hoyden with a twin and it is what makes this book a keeper.










Two Peas in a Pod 

Reviewed by Katie

This is a charming Regency for Valentine’s week.  The brothers Coldwell are both struggling to reacquaint themselves not only with family, but just who they are and what direction to take with their lives, post war.  Though neither is excited by their elder sister’s machinations for matrimony, the inevitable happens and they are besotted and yes, confused by hopes, doubts and possibilities.  But after a declaration of one of the misses that she could never consider the elder, the brothers hatch a plan that makes their sister’s look tame.  The farce that follows is amusing yet handled with care. 





Normally stories of twins exchanging identities makes me cringe but Mr. Wilkin pulls it off with the feel of a Shakespearean comedy laced with enough reality to prevent it from becoming too ridiculous.  He deftly uses the truth of scars unseen and facts of life at the time to balance the humor and what could have been cruelty on the part of the brothers.  The ladies, not to be outdone, plot a counter attack that even Wellington could never have imagined.  Beatrice and Benedict would have danced at the weddings in perfect charity.



I love stories that contain more than one romance.  That family and friends - the kind we all want to be and have - do not live their life in an isolated story line used to translate well to the written tale.  It is a fact of modern fiction that we expect One Great Hero and One Awesome Heroine per story with nods to the secondary characters that might have their own book, later, if sales are good.  I’m not sure if that’s due to reader preference or the fear of writers and publishers.  Either way, I am always delighted to find an author willing to flesh out a well crafted story of more than one couple, especially when they make me laugh!



For several generations, we’ve been romanced in fiction by wonderful authors explaining their view of how women believe men think and feel.  Mr. Wilkin provides a generous glimpse of a man’s perspective in a formulaic genre that is quite consistent with the literature of the era while mindful of his modern audience.  I can only hope more men are as bold and more women alert to the subtle differences in perspective that remind us all just how romantic the differences can be.  This is definitely a *keeper* for my bookshelf.







Reviewed by Katie



This was the most delightfully unique Regency I’ve read in years.  It was like being tucked in the corner of a drawing room and observing the lives of friends.  The emerging tenderness between Katherine and Brian provides affirmation of both an intense intimate life but also, as both characters acknowledge, an emotional and mental accord that twines between them like ivy on a cottage.  The book is entirely free of the recent trend in romances to hurl the hero and heroine into adversarial straightjackets so the resolution is a strain to declare a happy ending.  However, this is no two dimensional facsimile of the hay-day of Regency publishing either. 






Katherine is a formidable woman, made so by life, her own will and her late father’s fortune.  She is not crusading or rebelling; she desires to be something more than expectations might grant and is determined to do so in a way society will accept.   Shunned by a family unknown to her and then the society of India where her father had not only made his fortune but also a difference, Katherine understands the narrow paths allowed to her and though there are moments she frets, she does not falter.  She plans, prepares and progresses without becoming an anti-heroine, more than once I found myself thinking:  Yes, that’s how it was done.






Brian is equally formidable with enough genuine humility to prevent him from being a Beta Hero.  In a wonderful turn of the tables, we observe the man economizing and stretching every penny to keep soles on his shoes.  The details of a man’s existence are just the right amount of fact and reflection without bogging you down.  Even better, Brian does not turn to the gambling hells, wild speculation or indifference while raking his way through the muslin company.  He genuinely cares for others and their good opinion of him does matter.  It was refreshing to find a group of male friends not based on school or some gruesome trial of life but because they enjoyed each other’s company.  He is a man to be admired and Katherine not only sees this, she acknowledges it in the most forthright manner.






Both are resolved to survive without violating their honor or the rules of society they are glad to dwell in even as the work to change it for the better, not just for themselves but others as well.  Her blunt proposal nearly knocks those re-soled shoes off his feet and from then on, you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for the explosion that never actually comes, except in the matter of life common to all mankind.  Well, all right, that and a few ironic twists of fate that can only be found in fiction.  You are not the least sorry to skip the fireworks of misunderstandings and foolishness so common in this genre.  These characters are too well-educated from their years of deprivation.  It is a glorious treat to have characters that have actually learned and willingly applied those lessons from the life they’ve lived. It is even better that when they make stupid mistakes, they don’t give up; they keep trying until matters are once more as they should be.






I could easily see this as a weekly installment such as Gaskell’s work.  But instead of the over blow cliff hanger required by the press of the time, our author leaves us with the subtle anticipation ending each chapter so you do in fact pause and savor before turning the digital page. It is not written in a faux historical style but the flavor of each word is crisply intended to provoke the tone of the era.  I was not shocked to discover at the end of this wonderful read that D. W. Wilkins is a mister, only surprised.   I did laugh at myself for making notes about the masculine detail that was charming and the lack of endless feminine wardrobe descriptions that was a precious gift.  The romance was as delicately handled as the historical details and I confess to a sigh or two as I read.  This is definitely a *keeper* for my bookshelf. 






If you are looking for a Classic Regency with characters that you genuinely empathize with while enjoying their foibles and falderal, this is a book I earnestly recommend.








 




Reviewed by Charlotte.
Scandalous Whisper is synonymous with everything ardent fans of Jane Austen expect from a traditional Regency romance. The narrative is stylish. The dialogue is eloquent. There are characters whose foibles are endearing and at times irritating. The heroine’s mother is not unalike Elizabeth Bennet’s mother in Pride and Prejudice. Similarly ambitious for her daughter’s advancement in society Mrs Napier is a mother typical of Jane Austen’s world. She's silly and vain and Mrs Napier cannot see the folly of fawning to the Earl of Kilder. His manners in public are without fault when in private he’s a bully. Christina’s twin brother James is little better and James and Simon Kilder plot to compromise Christina and force her into marriage. Poor Christina lives in fear of both and thanks her good fortune for the return of her elder brother from war. As a hero at the Battle of Waterloo, Julian resumes his role as her champion and sadly a rift soon develops between mother and son causing dreadful disharmony. The tipping point for Christina is the homecoming of Lord Devonish. He’s a true officer and gentleman and wins her heart with kindness. Here's where a butterfly incident is magical and the prose poetic at the time of the first kiss between them. I liked Lord Devonish's sister, and she becomes Christina’s secret ally. Egged on by the reckless Alathea, Christina then risks her reputation in pursuit of happiness. In the meanwhile her hopes and dreams are dashed when Lord Devonish and Julian are recalled to their regiment. Bereft Christina can’t understand why Lord Devonish has deserted her. I don’t wish to spoil the story for other readers and will only say the end to this love story brought me to tears. Scandalous Whisper is most definitely a five star Regency romance. 






Reviewed by Fran


1812, England:

Annabelle Lady Marchant has seemingly acquired psychic foresight, but is it a gift or a curse? Foresight is one thing, to fail in predicting the course of imminent murder another, thus the sceptics have seized the day and Annabelle is no longer the belle of London society. Nonetheless, the widow of the deceased, undaunted by gossip, has sought Annabelle's help in setting free a restless spirit within her Cheshire home. Her son, Rufus Earl of Terrance, faced with the dire task of proving himself innocent of having murdered his father, is already en route to Cheshire. So too, is Annabelle.

The manner in which Annabelle and Rufus happen to cross paths sets precedence for friction and future altercation, and he's damned if he'll have the psychic witch under his roof. What is more, the earl, rightly or wrongly, has acquired a rather unsavoury title from amidst his estate workers and estate tenants. Steadfast in standing her ground, Annabelle determines his behaviour as outlandish and crude, and all rather amusing when she and his mother outsmart him. As time passes the sparks between Annabelle and Rufus become less prone to scorching each other's pride and prejudices, and instead fires of the heart burn with equal measure. Even as love takes hold neither is willing to concede defeat in either of their individual quests. Spirits of the dead are all the while revealing hidden truths with unsettling frequency, until the villain is finally unmasked. A beastly Scandal is a delightful tale involving murder, mystery and paranormal elements that are sometimes amusing and often heart-rending.







Book 1 The Bath Series

Reviewed by Charlotte 

I confess I am a historical romance novel junkie and the cover image of Infamous Rival caught my eye because it instantly declared these ladies (depicted) are of the Regency era. I was sold on the cover and as soon as I read the first few pages I was hooked. It is a short novel but a bit more than a novella.

Here are my thoughts on the novel.

Infamous Rival is an intelligent Regency murder mystery. It has witty repartee, danger, oodles of fear and simmering sensuality. The characters are strong, vibrant and Lady Georgette Beaumont is adorable. Although she is a titled grandee she is soon living in dread of the man who ruined her reputation with scandalous lies. Adam Brockenbury is a dangerous anti hero. He's a notorious gambler, and he and his cousin Eliza are engaged in a dark and damaging relationship, which errs gothic and creepy.

The hero on the other hand is Edwin Brockenbury (lawyer) and borne of impeccable manners he's a charmer, and a chance meeting with a woman of high status masquerading as a nobody of any consequence intrigues him, as he in turn intrigues her. Forced to share a hired coach they cannot ignore one another, and until such time as his name is revealed the journey from London to Bath passes in amicable contentment. However, it is a frosty night, the roads are treacherous and an incident arises, an incident that is the catalyst to untold events that will draw Edwin and Georgette into the realms of murder and mystery. Love inevitably develops between the hero and heroine, and touching moments arise along with intense passion, which draws them ever closer. Edwin, although a lawyer by profession, he sets out to unravel a mysterious death that occurred in the past, while murders in the present threaten Georgette’s very existence and that of an old enemy of hers, the Marquess of Rantchester. There is a sensual love scene, although explicit, it is so beautifully word crafted it leaves one gasping in awe of the author's skill for writing what is essentially an erotic episode that has none of the crudeness associated with erotic novels,

Author notes: This is a murder mystery and it would be unfair to reveal more than I already have, and I do highly recommend this book to lovers of Regency romances and murder mysteries. What I liked best about this novel was the author's use of archaic language [old English grammar] depicting Regency England, very much in the vein of Georgette Heyer , but the author never for one minute forgets this is the 21st century and those of us who are not of the Regency era. It is available through all Amazon's online sources as a ebook. Enjoy!













The Dark Marquis – Book 2 The Bath Series





Reviewed by Suzy.






A well written intelligent Regency Romance. It was a refreshing change to read a romance where the opening scene is missing the usual angst driven heroine bleating and berating the hero. Ms Howarth instead focuses reader attention with a duel at dawn and a chilling outcome. The hero survives his injury as he must for the story to continue. The death of his opponent however is totally unexpected. The action-packed scene sets the pace for further macabre deaths leading to a deeply disturbing murder mystery, with several of the leading characters as the prime suspects. All have committed vile deeds in the past. Heartfelt defence put forth failed to exonerate their actions. Although the heroine [Estelle] has a feisty nature she’s loveable and vulnerable as all women were to the rules and regulations of Regency society. Mistresses within the haut ton conducted themselves in discreet manner. Mistresses from the lower order of the ton crossed the divide at their peril. Estelle has no title. Lady Caroline does. One is a lady, the other not. They both want the same man. I did like the Marquis of Rantchester. His love for Estelle touches the heart in so many ways and I forgave him his one misdemeanour while in company with Caroline as does Estelle. He redeems himself with true heroic gallantry and the seductive Lady Caroline meets with a suitably humbling end. Without a shadow of doubt I rate this Regency Murder mystery a five star read all the way from beginning to end. The characters are strong. The plot is tightly woven. The murders are cleverly linked leading to a surprise villain and the romance is enduring. The language of the narrative is unique in portrayal of Regency England 1819.  
















Her Grace in Disgrace by Claudia Harbaugh


Reviewed by Charlotte.


Her Grace in Disgrace is a first-class debut novel bearing elements of literary merit. The dialogue is crisp, the prose Austenesque in style. However there are inevitable downsides with omniscient head-hopping and a larger than average cast of peripheral characters. Throughout the convoluted storyline it becomes abundantly clear characters are destined to star in future books. The opening chapter starts well in lending reader sympathy to the recently widowed heroine. Her downfall during the reading of her late departed’s will is heart-rending, until it is later revealed her status as duchess came to fruition by feminine guile. From that point onward I quite disliked Isobel. She never really redeemed herself in my eyes, not even as a miraculously reformed benefactor to downfallen widows. Her scheming ways and blatant abuse of her would-be suitor and close friend Lord Saybrooke, simply damned her. I kept hoping and praying a nice girl would steal his heart and spirit him out of Isobel’s reach. Alas the sick fool lost all sense of reason in a fit of jealousy and succumbed to the inevitable. Needless to say my heart lay entirely with Lord Saybrooke, and may God save his soul from ruination at Isobel’s hands. Reviewer asides - There are many individual stories within this novel and really impossible to review each in turn. However, if you are inclined to multi-layered novels and a self-indulgent protagonist then Isobel is for you. I despised her. For all that said ‘Her Grace in Disgrace’ is a very good read.









Guest Review by Francine.
In Charlotte, the author takes us beyond Pride & Prejudice and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's trials and tribulations, to that of Mr. Collins, a thoroughly despicable creature, whom, as a character in Jane Austen's classic P&P was in all honesty her party piece. Mr. Collins appeared as a larger than life toadying and lecherous would-be suitor to Elizabeth Bennet, and one could almost hear his shuddering intakes of breath (sucked between teeth) and as a reader paid witness to drool at the side of his mouth.


I'm not sure how, but Ms Aminadra shines new light on Mr. Collins and one wonders if it was possible to have sorely misunderstood Jane Austen's previous characterisation of Collins in P&P as an obsequious and vile tongued manipulator. Charlotte, however, remains reasonably true to her original characterisation: seeking sense of direction and a house all her own, and views marriage with Mr. Collins a necessity at the outset. Likewise, as in P&P, Lady Catherine de Bourgh is true to character, and then comes the twist as Charlotte rallies strength to rebel and Mr. Collins ever the submissive to his patroness Lady de Bourgh suddenly becomes beholden to Mr. Darcy.


As a novel this is a fun read and highly amusing, though I'm not sure the Mr. Darcy of Austen's P&P would readily have paid court to Collins. Nevertheless, this is not an Austen novel, this is what amounts to a spin-off and "what might have been" had Jane Austen written a sequel to P&P. A fun read!


Also reviewed by David:

Those of us authors who write Regency Romances often also tackle the canon of Jane Austen and try to take her creations and add our own twist to them. This falls into a few groups, one that take the historical Jane and use her in their story, others who take her creations and are exceedingly true to them, as best they can, or take those characters beyond the short few paragraphs she left us at the end of her stories. I have done so and by so doing have put on paper my thoughts on how those characters would change. Ms. Aminadra has done so as well, using as her heroine, Charlotte Collins nee Lucas.

We are all familiar with the tale of Pride and Prejudice, and the farcical Mr. Collins whom Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Bennet both make fun of, though Lizzy for the sake of her friendship with Charlotte, when visiting and actually meeting the esteemed Patroness, understand more of what is in the nature of Mr. Collins. But that is the canon, and as Ms Aminadra weaves her tale, she has to embellish the few lines of what we guess will happen to the Collins'.

Charlotte of course is caught in the middle with what will occur post Pride and Prejudice as she will one day be the Lady of Longbourn and we know Mrs. Bennet the mother of her BFF is assured that she will be turned out right quick. Not that Mrs. Bennet should think that this is now as dire as it was before. From all the movies we have seen, Directors have chosen to show us that ten Longbourns could fit into any Pemberly and a room certainly could be found for her there, or at Netherfield. Yet back in Mertyn, one can be sure that Mrs. Bennet has something to say about Mrs Collins, the daughter of Lady Lucas who still is one of her closest friends, and rivals for attention in that neighborhood.

From this Ms. Aminadra is able to relate to us that Charlotte Collins has complexities, as well as from the Canon's reveal that Charlotte was never one to think she would wed for love. That clearly puts her on the quest to find love. And while Jane Austen left us with several ladies still in need of marrying at the end of Pride and Prejudice, of the men, their is but one, Colonel Fitzwilliam (discounting Denny and other men of the Militia Regiment we hardly met)

Close in approximation to reading one of Jane's works, we sometimes leave the POV of the women and see inside such men as Mr. Collins, or the Colonel. That is a depth Jane did not give us, but it adds to the brushed that Ms Aminadra paints this canvas with.

Here we are taken to a part of time, (though the idea that the Colonel and other officers could leave the theater of war easily is perhaps something that wasn't researched as well as it could have been) in the latest stages of the Peninsula Campaign years, (Wellington being referred to as Duke which came after that was over) that I believe the author means to be about 1812 to 1813. Shortly after Lizzy has accepted the marriage proposal of Darcy.

Charlotte, our hero is faced with trials that aid her to grow, and to have Mr. Collins see his life afresh, for now he is more than the client of Lady Catherine, but a husband, and as all married couples hope, to perhaps one day be a father as well. Yet there must be conflict and here Ms Aminadra adds lacquer to her painting, adding depth and dimension and perhaps a modern way of thinking of flirtation and dalliance that puts her on a part that causes change from the canon at a more accelerated pace, and even a different pace than those last few paragraphs in Pride and Prejudice might have allowed.

Some of these changes a reader will either enjoy very much. some elements that are added may cause the reader to feel that the characters have progressed much as they should. Other readers fearing that any change to the themes of characterization that Austen left us with is sacrosanct may have difficulty here. My favorite Lady Catherine, is the one of Edna May Oliver in the Olivier/Garson version of P&P where at the very end we see Lady Catherine telling Darcy to go offer for Lizzy is just the challenge he will need. Huxley changed Austen's intention in that 1940 screen classic, but I think it adds to the mystique.

Charlotte is a worthy read and should be explored by those who like all P&P sequels, and I am interested to see where Ms Aminadra is able to take us with her Austenesque work as well.

Available at Amazon US or Amazon UK

Reviewed by David






Guest Review by Fran
A delightful Sweet Romance.



This is a delightful Regency romance, in which Lady Violet Flowers believes her imperfections contribute to lack of offers to walk out with young gentlemen. A brave soul nonetheless and of caring disposition, Violet has no qualms about jumping in to a river to save a child from drowning and triumphantly returns the girl safe to her father. Ellis Viscount Haverlane, supposedly in deep mourning for his late beloved wife displays immense gratitude toward her. Needless to say, Violet's wet gown clinging to her contours fails to pass unnoticed by his lordship, despite his having a mistress in the wings. And so, it can be said this particular incident is where the Lady's Fate is set in motion. Both Ellis and Violet's crossing of paths will take them on a journey of discovery neither anticipates nor fully understands. And, while heartache and tears, in Violet's case tear her apart and set her to flight, utter despair and furious moods plague Viscount Haverlane whilst he engages in battle to be rid of a possessive mistress. Can Violet and Ellis ever find happiness, or will Violet wed another suitor now that she's blossomed into a slender temptress?


Available at Amazon .com & Amazon .co.uk