What I've Read This Week . . .Valentines by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romances
"Bald Lies" begins with three gentlemen in the prime of their lives meet at their Club to drink away their worries. They each have problems: one has a wife who is rumored to be carrying on a flirtation or worse with another man; another, a young fop, is in need of money and the last has a secret problem he doesn't dare to confess to anyone: he's losing his hair! The solution is to repair to the country to a house party to try to solve their problems by finding wives for the two bachelors. Audrina, the daughter of a vicar, is content to be the companion to her beautiful younger cousin Carrie. However, her uncle is a miser who desires nothing more than marrying his daughter to a title. The titled gentleman he has in mind is old and smelly and Dree's cousin does not wish to marry him. When Audrina discovers that two wealthy bachelors have come to the country, she hatches a plan to marry her cousin to Maxim, the Earl of Blanford. Max feels he's too old and too lacking in hair (despite a hair piece) for the young woman. There's a certain minx who has caught his eye but she seems intent on pushing her cousin at him. All they do is argue. How can true love persevere if the lady can not see what is in front of her nose?
This story is sweet but short. It's too short. The romance suffers as a result. There's too much telling and very little showing. It's funny and cute though. The romance content is very low - kisses only and barely that. There's no real dog in this story either but there's a joke about a poodle.
In "The Last Valentine", a lonely young woman is buried in the country after a failed elopement. It's been four years of tedium and being watched by a stuffy old chaperone. When Martine discovers a love letter outside her door, at first she thinks it was misdirected but then when more notes and gifts arrive, she's convinced it's her old lover Digby returned to her. She's determined not to let him go this time.
This story is sweet and tender. The tone is darker than Metzger usually writes. The story is bittersweet. There's an interesting twist at the end but I sort of saw it coming. I really liked Martine and felt very bad for her. I liked how she blossomed as she realized she was loved. I was disappointed there wasn't a dog in this story but only a cat. Content warning: There's a mention of making love and how Martine felt about it.
The final story "Love and Tenderness" involves a young married couple. On their wedding night, the heroine panics when she discovers a ghost in the room! Misunderstanding, Lee, the Viscount Maitland, leaves his bride not willing to force her to do anything she doesn't wish to do. Senta DOES wish to continue the honeymoon but Lee won't listen. Senta learns she is the only one who can see the ghost. He can't remember who he is and doesn't know why he's there. All he knows is that his name is sort of like a vegetable and he was a king of a rock. Then Sir Percival, as Senta dubs her new friend, discovers that Maitland is being blackmailed. Maitland's brother Michael was a soldier with Wellington's Army and supposedly turned traitor and sold information to the French and then killed himself. The Army officially declared an accidental death but the blackmailer knows the truth. Determined to stop this nonsense once and for all, Lee heads off to London to try to find the blackmailers ... and obtain an annulment. When Sir Percival informs Senta of what has happened, she is determined to take matters into her own hands to solve the mystery and prove to her husband that she loves him, even if it means associating with a grizzled old soldier servant, a fallen woman, a baby and an old hound dog.
This story is darker than Metzger's usual romances but it also contains a lot of humor, especially from the ghost. It took me a lot longer than it should have to figure out who the ghost was. There's no explanation of who he is or what he's doing there. His identity becomes obvious as the story goes on. It's a little TOO obvious and very annoying. It feels really weird to have him in the story. I got very tired of the constant hints. The story would have been far more interesting without the ghost. The mystery kept me really interested. It surprised me a bit how it all unfolded. It was worth putting in a full length novel and developing more. There was a secondary romance that should have been fleshed out more. The dog plays a minor role in the story. I didn't like the marriage plot. I hate supposed marriages of convenience. They always involve a silly misunderstanding. The last bit of the story is stupid and unnecessary. Why? It doesn't do anything for the plot. It's not even explained.
The story isn't squeaky clean. The h/h are married and the reader is in bed with them but they don't get very far. There's some sensuality and some parts that may make readers uncomfortable but nothing is super graphic. It's clean but not kisses only.
This book was free on openlibrary.org and it was worth the time spent reading it but not worth paying for.