I had the pleasure of meeting Gail at the Regency dance event on Dec. 13th so now I will review her books on my blog!
A Perilous Journey
Julian Rafferty deRaymond, Earl of Brinton is captivated by the striking pair of blue-green eyes of a youth at a country inn. He's certain that though the youth is dressed as a boy, he is a really a she. Brinton is curious about the youth and "his"/her traveling companion and bets his friend the pair are headed to Scotland to elope, though why the thought of that makes him upset, he can't say. Soon Brinton finds himself entangled in the affairs of a pair of adventurous 19-year-old orphaned twins Gillian and Gilbey Kentwell. Gillian is fleeing her wicked uncle who insists on marrying her off to an elderly neighbor and Gilbey is along to make sure his sister makes it safely to their aunt's in Scotland. Brinton gets more than he bargained for when his curiosity pushes him to help the twins. Soon they are being chased by Bow Street Runners, sleeping in the woods, fighting off danger and falling in love. There's a little twist at the end that makes the plot not a total cliche. The characters are likable, and though Gilly is young, I admire her spirit and determination. Brinton is an admirable hero with no obvious flaws. He's even selfless, demanding nothing from the Kentwells, not even from Gillian, though he loves her very much. I don't believe in love at first sight, he seemed to really get to know Gilly over the week they spend together. I'm a little more dubious about her feelings for him. I'm not fond of the teenage girl with absent father falls in love with authoritarian man plot but this one seemed believable. There is a little bit of sensuality, enough to please romance lovers but not too much to turn off those of us who want to enjoy the story and the history.
The Persistent Earl
Lady Phoebe Brodfield has been hiding in her kindly sister and brother-in-law's London townhouse since the sudden and tragic death of her husband eighteen months ago. Phoebe was hurt dreadfully by the gossip surrounding her husband's death and is content to play nursemaid and governess to her sister's children. Major John Allen Jameson, Earl of Devenham was wounded at Waterloo after barely recovering from a previous injury. His London lodgings are no place for a sick man so his old friend, Phoebe's brother-in-law Sir Edward Allington, offers room in his home for the Earl and Phoebe as nurse. Lord Devenham has a notorious reputation as a rake and at first his charming, flirtatious manner unnerves Phoebe and she tries to deny her physical attraction to the man, but as she nurses him back to health, she discovers that he has a kind nature that lies hidden underneath his rakish manner. A wicked villain threatens Phoebe and the Earl sees it as his duty to protect her from harm. The two gradually break down each defenses and get to know the truth behind the public image. Phoebe, still hurting from her husband's untimely death, needs the Earl to help her heal and he needs her to learn to love. This story is rather darker and a lot more melancholy than A Perilous Journey, but it's very well-written. The dialogue is natural and the story unfolds slowly. The romance was romantic without being overpowering or corny and the relationship between the two principles was incredibly believable. I figured out the villain and the big secret right away so the reveal came as no surprise but Eastwood's character development is very effective in moving the plot along so I was willing to forgive the obvious villain. I really enjoyed this novel as a departure from my usual comedic fare. I recommend it to Regency lovers and especially fans of Patricia Veryan.
The Captain's Dilemma
The beautiful Merissa Pritchard isn't content to do things as proper young ladies should. While out wandering the country one September afternoon, she comes across two men hidden in an old, ruined mill. The men are French and have escaped from a nearby prison. Merissa fears for her safety but is allowed to return safely home. Merissa can't help thinking and worrying about the poor Frenchmen and hoping for their safety. While attempting to steal food, Captain Alexandre Valmont is shot in the shoulder. Merissa discovers the helpless and feverish Captain and endeavors to assist him. In return, the Captain declares he will give Merissa an insight into the nature of men. As Merissa gets to know the Captain, they discover shared interests and a shared passion. Their friendship is in peril of being discovered and Merissa's family on the verge of being sent to prison. Additionally, because the Captain is French, marriage between them would be forbidden, even if the Captain were not an escaped prisoner. Merissa's stuffy, proprietary boyfriend Harlan Gatesby also poses a threat to the Captain. Merissa tries to deny her passion but wonders what would happen if the Captain were to return her feelings. This story about star-crossed lovers is the most solemn of Eastwood's novels. It also focuses almost entirely on the passionate feelings of Marissa and the Captain. I couldn't see an easy solution to the dilemma and felt the relationship was doomed. When a solution arises, it seems kind of implausible and poses too many questions. I liked this novel the least of Eastwood's books. I found it slow and too sad for my tastes.
The Magnificent Marquess
When the dashing Reinhart Maycott, Marquess of Milbourne comes to dinner with his old schoolmate's family, the last thing Miss Mariah Parbury wants to do is attract attention and bring down the wrath of her mother and husband-hunting older sister. Unlike her family, Mariah is interested in the Marquess because of his wealth of knowledge gained by spending most of his life in India. Mariah is anxious to learn more about India and the Marquess. Soon, egged on by her friend Harriet Pritchard (little sister in The Captain's Dilemma), Mariah is flouting conventions to risk discovering more aboout the Magnificent Marquess and his past. Ren can't help but be charmed by the pretty, lively and intelligent Mariah but he has a dark secret that prevents him from following his heart. This book is more of a traditional Regency with a lot more romance. This is still a "clean" Regency but contains passages about physical attraction and feelings. I guessed the villain early on but I wasn't positive and I was dying to know so I couldn't put this down. Some critics say the villain didn't have a motive and I would amend that comment to say the villain didn't have much of a plausible motive, but who knows what drives the criminally insane? I liked the principal characters and how they were both intelligent and intellectual and drawn to each other's minds. The details and description of India were incredible and it's obvious that it well-researched. My biggest beef is with the cat. Is she a cheetah or a leopard? They aren't the same! .This isn't Eastwood's best novel but it's not terrible. I would recommend it to those who crave details and like intellectual characters.
The Rake's Mistake
After a three year banishment in the West Indies for scandalizing his family, Archer Everett Drake, Lord Ramsdale, returns to England to take up the mantle of responsibility. While out with a friend, he is captivated by a lady's laugh and when he learns the laugh belongs to the scandalous widow Lady Wetherall. Archer decides she will make the perfect mistress and sets out on a campaign to woo her, starting with taking her wayward stepson under his wing. Daphne, Lady Wetherall, has long been the subject of gossip among the ton since the days she posed as an artist's model for her father. Daphne is secure in the knowledge that she is innocent and is hurt by the rumors and tries to lives a quiet life in her late husband's home. She loves to paint and hopes to be accepted by the Royal Academy, but something is missing from her painting and she isn't sure what. Enter Archer, who takes Daphne sailing and helps her discover passion. When a new scandal and a dangerous enemy threatens Daphne, Archer discovers that Daphne means more to him than he realized - in short - she'd make the perfect wife! Archer is an avid sailor and the book is full of details about the construction of boats and sailing methods of the time. There are also excellent details on painting. Though there is definitely chemistry between the the two principles and many descriptions of how the characters feel, but I feel the period details overwhelm the plot and the romance sort of gets shoved aside. The plot wraps up quickly and perhaps the author should have spent more time developing the relationship between the characters and less on descriptions of sailing.
The Lady From Spain
A mysterious young lady in Spanish dress calling herself Doña Sofia Christina Ynez Alomar checks into a small country inn, watched avidly by Lieutenant Major Jeremy Hazelton, Lord Danebridge, in Wiltshire on government business. Is the woman calling herself Doña Sofia Christina Ynez Alomar a spy? Jeremy is determined to find out. Doña Alomar is really an Englishwoman, Falcarrah "Falcon" Sophia Colburne, returning to England after growing up following her father's regiment on the Continent. Her father was disinherited for marrying an Irishwoman and made the army his career until he and Falcon's mother were brutally murdered and Falcon left for dead. She has endured many hardships up until now and is determined to seek revenge on those who killed her family. Falcon doesn't expect that her greatest challenge will be to resist Lord Danebridge, who so charmingly offers his assistance as Falcon's plans go awry. Falcon discovers she has much to learn about pity, revenge, jealously and of course love. The plot of the novel moves along realistically and is full of wonderful historical details about life in the army. Though Falcon's life was rough and the details are unpleasant, I felt a lot of sympathy for her and hoped that she would find her place in the end. Jeremy is charming but we don't really learn much about him except for a few personal details. Much dialogue seems to happen outside of the plot and the ending is a little pointless. The villain and motive were so incredible obvious that I was surprised no one realized it.
An Unlikely Hero
Lord Gilbey Kentwell, twin brother of Gillian in A Perilous Journey, has just completed three years at Cambridge and is academically brilliant but has difficultly in social situations. His close friend, Nicholas St. Aldwyn, the Marquess of Edmonton has helped Gilbey considerably, which is why Gilbey has such difficulty saying no to an invitation to a house party at Lord Edmonton's family's country home in honor of Nicholas's two sisters, twins Vivian and Venetia. Since their come out, the twins have earned a reputation for refusing all suitors and putting the men through all sorts of tests. Gilbey is certain he doesn't want to face them, especially since his rank and fortune are too meager to be of interest to the twins' father, but Gilbey feels he owes Nicholas and heads off to the house party, hoping to be inconspicuous. Things don't go according to plan however, and Gilbey is struck by the twins' great beauty and Venetia's teasing smile. Venetia has her own plans for her and her sister, which don't include marriage without love. She is doubtful that she and her sister will find suitable husbands in the party guests. What the gentlemen don't know, however, is that Venetia has reasons for her actions. Vivian has a secret and a blackmailer wants to expose the secret or force Venetia into marriage. To add to their problems, someone is writing the twins bad poetry! Gilbey finds Venetia both interesting and exasperating but sees through her mask. He longs to help her but she's not sure she wants help, though she finds herself attracted to the young Viscount. Venetia soon realizes that Gilbey will make a perfect husband - for her sister and endeavors to arrange matters to her satisfaction. However, Vivian has some strong opinions of her own, as does Gilbey, which complicate the matter of a happily-ever-after for all of them. This is a more lighthearted comedy of manners with a hint of traditional Regency plot. I could relate to Gilbey and felt sorry for him many times as he tries to figure out what he wants. My favorite character is the strong-willed Venetia. She's a strong female character and doesn't suffer from the usual trite romance novel conventions. This is a nice, light read and I would definitely recommend it.
Overall, I enjoyed Eastwood's books. They are well-researched and well-written. She is especially strong at setting a scene with period details and her stories are not too overpowered by romance. Her weakness is her villains and plausible motives and realistic scenarios but otherwise very good. It's a shame her books are now out of print.