What I Read This Weekend . . .
Angel by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance
Lady Evangelina "Angel" Brand has just turned down her 18th proposal of marriage. She had hoped to marry someone who loved her for herself and not for her fortune or her beautiful face. About to turn 19, Angel decides to make one last attempt to secure a husband whom she can love. When invited to visit her aunt, vicar uncle and spinster cousin in the Lakes District for the summer, Angel decides to go in disguise, as plain Miss Evelyn "Lyn" Brent/Brand. Angel takes an active interest in local society, planning to find husbands for her cousin Catherine (a shocking bluestocking and "old maid" at 24!) as well as for Lady Elizabeth Markham. Lady Elizabeth is shy and timid and misses her older brother who ran away from home to join the army. Lord Dominic had a terrible falling out with their father, Lord Griesdale, leaving Elizabeth alone to deal with her bullying, mean tempered father. The young ladies make the acquaintance of Lady Elizabeth's cousin, Sir Gregory, who sees through Angel's disguise and quotes Shakespeare with Catherine. Several other eligible (and ineligible) suitors present themselves while Angel meddles and schemes to sort out everyone else's lives. There's also a mystery to be solved as someone is trying to kill one of the gentlemen. Finally, she must look to her own happiness and decide what she's going to do to promote her own marriage plans. This is a light, sweet romantic comedy as is typical from Dunn. Angel is a very flawed heroine but I couldn't help but like her because she meant well and her adventures were very funny. She has some modern ideas but she's not a 20th century heroine. The story is realistic for the time period, as far as over-the-top romantic comedies go and the plot kept me turning the pages to see what Angel would do next. The other characters were not so well-developed, except for Elizabeth, on whom Angel is a positive influence. Catherine is a little boring and I would like to know more about her, being a bluestocking spinster myself. I loved the romantic pairings and each lady ended up with the gentlemen who was right for her. Some might find the treatment of the character Herbert, the "half-wit" distasteful and it is so, but the attitudes of the characters reflect the attitudes of the day. The romances develop with gentle, mild teasing and meeting of like minds; there's no grand passions in this book and that's fine with me. This isn't the best Regency romantic comedy I've read but I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to fans of Georgette Heyer and those who like clean Regencies.
Black Sheep's Daughter by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance
Prequel to Lady in the Briars
Sir Andrew Graylin arrives in the jungle of Costa Rica on a diplomatic mission to Lord Edward (Don Eduardo) Danville's coffee plantation and is met by gunshots - from a lady no less! The lady, Teresa Danville, is the daughter of Lord Edward, a crack shot and has just saved Andrew's life! He's unsure of what to think of the beautiful, hoydenish daughter of an exiled Englishman and his Spanish wife. Andrew has ample opportunity to get to know Teresa on the journey back to England, where she and her youngest bother will go to meet the family they never knew. Marco wishes to be a scholar and Teresa longs to learn how to become a lady. During the journey, she's taken under the wing of Lady Parr and her daughter Muriel. Muriel is everything an English girl should be, and everything Teresa is not. Teresa can't help but be a little bit jealous, especially since Muriel is betrothed to Andrew! Along the way, the ship has a run-in with a slaver and Teresa's courage rises to the occasion, inuring the wrath of the slave ship captain and earning the admiration of the slaves she has helped rescue. England proves to be a greater challenge than even Teresa is prepared for. In London strict rules, a mischievous cousin, a villain and even her talking parrot nearly cause her downfall. Through it all, her heart remains attached to a certain Englishman with a love of adventure and travel. However, he belongs to another and is unaware of her feelings. Finally, a dangerous adventure will reveal hidden truths and change Teresa's life for better or for worse. This is a very different Regency set novel. The first two chapters take place in Costa Rica and contain incredibly detailed descriptions of the flora and fauna. I could imagine myself right in the middle of the jungle thanks to the fabulous description. The next few chapters take place at sea and contain action, adventure and tutelage in the behavior of the haut ton. Even the English-set part of the novel contains more liveliness and adventure than a typical novel of the ton. Teresa is an energetic and engaging heroine. She's a free spirit but learns to compromise and outwardly follow the dictates of society without sacrificing who she is, an accomplishment I greatly admire. Andrew has his moments of stuffiness but underneath he's a good guy. John Danville is a typical young rakehell and certainly must be friends with many of the other young gentlemen in Regency novels, just as his brother is equally stereotypical in the opposite manner. My most favorite character, however, is Gayo, the talking parrot who swears in multiple languages. I found myself giggling through all his scenes. I enjoyed this adventure a lot and found that though it's a bit different from the typical Regency set novel, in this case, different is better.