Thursday, July 3, 2014

What I Read in May Part V

What I Read in May Part V . . .

Quiet Meg (Regency Trilogy, #1)Quiet Meg by Sherry Lynn Ferguson -- Regency Romance

Charles Cabot is a landscape architect. He has more commissions than he has time for, but he couldn't help but accept one from his old school friend Bertram Lawrence. The Lawrence's estate is going to be a bit of a challenge because everyone wants something different. Sir Eustance, Bertram's father, is confined to a wheeled chair and Charles has grand plans to make the grounds more accessible, which pleases the old man. He manages to convince Bertram to accept the changes and Bertram's little sister Lucy, about to have her come-out, appears to be infatuated with him. Charles wants nothing to do with the spoiled beauty. He is, however, intrigued by the one member of the family he has never met: Miss Margaret Lawrence. She seems to share his passion for landscape design for the kitchen garden she designed for Cook is incredible. When he learns that Meg has been the victim of harassment by the wealthy and powerful Earl of Sutcliffe, her plight brings out his protective instincts. Then he finally sees Margaret and tumbles head first into love. He knows he shouldn't, for the last man who dared to love Meg paid dearly for it. At last Meg returns home from living in seclusion with her elderly aunt. She's disconcerted by having a stranger in the house, especially one so handsome and clever. She can't help being attracted to him, though she's terrified of what will happen if Mr. Cabot returns her feelings. She can only hope that Lord Sutcliffe has forgotten her. Alas, it seems that he has not and is still determined to possess her at any cost.

This story is vastly different from any other Regency I've ever read. It more closely resembles Phantom of the Opera. (Yes, girls, the Phantom is a psycho maniac murderer determined to have Christine). The plot takes many different turns which differ from Phantom. Phantom is of course a crime novel with a Gothic plot but the basic idea is the same. I stayed up long past my usual cut off time finishing this book. This story is also unique because the story opens with the hero's point-of-view and the heroine is discussed, but doesn't appear, for a couple chapters. The story is truly unpredictable. The plot moves in a different direction than the one I thought it should go in but I think my way would not have solved the problem. I didn't like the romance so much. It begins with love at first sight, which I don't like. The love between the hero and heroine grows as they get to know each other, but they spend a lot of time misunderstanding each other and arguing for no reason. I didn't really feel that they shared enough of a connection but of course I rooted for them because of the wicked villain determined to destroy their lives.

I wasn't crazy about Meg. She's a regular Helen of Troy. Men fall in love with her as soon as they see her. She's a little meek but that's due to her circumstances. She's terrified and wants to keep a low profile. I certainly empathized with her and felt she deserved happiness, but I didn't exactly relate to her or love her. Charles is actually similar to Meg. He's handsome and a bit quiet. He's passionate about what he does and seems to enjoy it. He's also not so secretly related to half the nobility in Europe. I don't really get why he has to protect someone he doesn't know. He's a little too noble for my liking.

The secondary characters are wonderful. I liked the Lawrence family, with the exception of Lucy. Lucy's fault is being young and silly. She talks too much too. Sir Lawrence is a doting father. He adores his children and wants to protect his eldest daughter. He doesn't wallow in pity for being an invalid. He doesn't have a tyrannical temper because of his condition either. He cares about his estate and is a moral man. I'd want him for my father! Louisa is a realistic big sister. Instead of being social climbing and snobby like most older sisters, she married for love and she has a good relationship with her siblings. Bertram is a bit of an idiot but he cares about his sister very much. They tease each other as siblings often do but it's never mean or malicious. Charles' Grandmere is delightful! She's very wise and knows what her grandsons are thinking before they do. She's a bit spirited and not a haughty grande dame. Charles' cousins, Hayden and David, add some humor to the story. Hayden is an atypical dandy and I liked that about him. David is very clever and must have been an excellent soldier. I'd like to know how the Marquis became such an expert on women and David needs a bit more backstory too. The villain is particularly nasty. He's well beyond the typical villain who wishes to possess the heroine as an object. Unlike Erik in Phantom of the Opera, he doesn't have a backstory. We don't know why he's the way he is. He just likes toying with Meg and doesn't like to be thwarted. he enjoys the hunt and playing with his prey. He must not be right in the head to be so cruel. He's truly a maniac who doesn't deserve any sympathy.

An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency EnglandAn Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England by Venetia Murray -- Non-Fiction

This book provides a look into the lives of the haunt ton (upper ten thousand) in the Regency era. There are chapters on "An Impolite Society," "Bucks, Beaux and 'Pinks of the Ton'", "'The Seventh Heaven of the Fashionable World'," "Relative Values: The Cost of Living," "London: The Most Prosperous City in Europe," "From the Seaside Resorts to the Northern Meeting," "'The Mistress Had a Better Deal Than a Wife'," "Clubs and Taverns: Gambling and Gluttony," "The Age of Indulgence," "The Pursuit of Pleasure," "Charades and Epigrams: The Country House," "Fashion, Manners and Mores: The New Liberalism," and "On the Eve of Reform." The author quotes extensively from primary sources of the period which is great. I always want to know the source and if something is accurate. Ever wondered where Georgette Heyer found all that slang? In a book called The True History of Tom and Jerry; or the Day and Night Scenes of Life in London first published in 1820. The author also differentiates between the late Georgian, the Regency and the late Regency periods. Each one had their own set of rules or lack thereof. Some of the entertainments in London in the Georgian era sound like fun but the Regency society was too hedonistic for me. There was a whole lot of shocking behavior going on until middle class religious morality caught up with everyone.

Georgette Heyer could have and should have written this book. It's a source book for many Regency romance authors. I would caution against making it the only source, however, because the focus is on the ton. You will find a bit about the Corn Laws, the recession following the end of the Napoleonic wars and a mention of the Peterloo Massacre. There's also not much in the way of critical thinking about the primary sources. The author does acknowledge that a source is biased once in awhile and she does state that the mistresses she talks about weren't ordinary prostitutes but middle and upper class women who chose that life. She also never mentions Beau Brummel's syphilis and how it affected his life in exile. She writes about his life as if he were perfectly normal, which was not the case. (No mention of disease in general). If you're looking for a light read to understanding the history behind the novels, then definitely read it. I learned a few things and I've been reading Regency novels and blogs for several years now. I would also read What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew From Fox Hunting to Whist the Facts of Daily Life in 19th-Century England by Daniel Pool, Jane Austen's England by Lesley Adkins and (if you are an adult and not squeamish about disease) Beau Brummell The Ultimate Man of Style by Ian Kelly

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