Poor Lady Mablethorpe is having a bout of the vapors. Her innocent, young, soon-to-be wealthy son has announced his intention to marry the beautiful tPoor Lady Mablethorpe is having a bout of the vapors. Her innocent, young, soon-to-be wealthy son has announced his intention to marry the beautiful twenty-five-year-old Deborah Grantham. The only difficulty? Miss Grantham is the niece of Lady Bellingham, the owner of a gambling establishment. And, even worse, Miss Grantham actually presides over the gaming tables--flirting with the gentlemen and playing them off one another in the hopes of driving them to leave even more of their wealth behind.
The distraught mama enlists the aid of her nephew, Max Ravenscar, to, at best, persuade young Lord Mablethorpe of his folly and put an end to the love affair or, if necessary (heavens she hopes not as she reaches for her vinaigrette), to buy off the shameless hussy at any cost. Mablethorpe is thoroughly besotted and there is no hope of changing his mind, so Ravenscar meets with Miss Grantham to try and make a deal. But--inexplicably--Deb Grantham refuses the more than handsome offer of 20,000 pounds and is thoroughly insulted by the insinuation that she would take advantage of an innocent. She determines to make Ravenscar pay for his injustices to her....and she and Ravenscar are plunged headlong into a battle of wits and wills to see who will get the better of whom.
Georgette Heyer was the queen of the Regency Romance. She did her research well and the reader is completely immersed in the age from the first sentence to the last. The conversations are pitch perfect and the descriptions of the gaming house, Vauxhall, and the Park (where everyone who's anyone goes to be seen) are delightfully on target. Despite the fact that historical romances tend to run in a somewhat formulaic manner to brooding, pompous, I'm-going-to-be-a bachelor-forever-so-there Heroes and strong-willed, feisty Heroines and even though the two declare throughout the book how much they despise each other, so we all know what will inevitably happen--despite all that, Heyer writes fantastic stories with characters that keep you reading for the fun of it. Her books have it all: witty dialogue, the life and doings of the ton, creditable characters that are some sometimes a bit larger-than-life (but not too, too much larger), a great concern with social standing which always, always puts a twist on the romance in question. She's my go-to author for historical romances and I love reading her books.
Rather than post what would probably come across as a rant (and possibly get my review deleted...), let me just say: This book is just incredibly notRather than post what would probably come across as a rant (and possibly get my review deleted...), let me just say: This book is just incredibly not my thing. If this sort of thing is your thing, then more power to you and you'll probably love it. I just can't.
I'll be posting my complete reaction on my blog....more
Aaron's Serpent by Emily Thorn (1962) just barely misses my arbitrary cut-off for vintage mysteries. Labeled as an "Avalon Romance-Mystery," it's an iAaron's Serpent by Emily Thorn (1962) just barely misses my arbitrary cut-off for vintage mysteries. Labeled as an "Avalon Romance-Mystery," it's an interesting little book. I originally grabbed it up because I noticed that it had an academic setting, but I didn't focus on the actual name of the institution in question--Camelot College--until I finally reached it in my TBR stacks. Yes, Ms. Thorn has managed to put together a mystery with all the trappings of Arthurian legend. Presiding at Camelot College, we have President Arthur Pendragon and his lovely wife, Gwen. President Pendragon has a half-sister Fay Morgan and a young protégé named Lance Lake (who also happens to be in love with the president's wife). We mustn't forget Elaine (Andrews) who is in love with Lance and John Mordred, the much disliked Camelot professor, who conveniently dies at Kin---er, President Pendragon's Fellowship House round table dinner. Conveniently, that is for Gwen and Lance two of Mordred's objects of blackmail. Other Arthurian characters roam in and out of the story....but when I got about half way through I suddenly wondered: But where is Merlin? Never fear, Merlin appears as a famous lawyer turned criminal investigator who helps Lieutenant Garth of the police get to the bottom of the mystery. My only explanation for the title (which strikes me as most definitely not Arthurian) is that someone at Avalon books thought Murder at the Round Table might be just a little over-the-top.
There has long been rumors that there was a love affair between Lance and Gwen back when he attended Camelot College. But Gwen married the young president, Arthur Pendragon, and Lance left town to seek his fortune and leaving his own worshipper behind in Elaine Andrews. Several years later, Lance is a lawyer and he returns to Camelot. His friend Arthur welcomes him back with open arms and intends or Lance to join the faculty of the college. A dinner is arranged to announce the plan...but before Arthur can even begin his welcome speech, John Mordred, head of the chemical engineering department, has died from the taste a of poison apple. Mordred has few friends around the table and the police later find that he had a little black book of possible blackmail victims. Did one of them do him in? Was Gwen foolish enough to kill him at her own dinner table? Many of the townspeople--including the prosecuting attorney think so. But there's that annoying little thing called proof. Lt. Garth doesn't believe that Arthur's beautiful wife has stooped to murder--but it will take all of his attention (a bit hard when one is distracted by the lovely Elaine) and some help from the famous Merlin before he can prove whether he's right.
I can't say that this was an incredibly intricate mystery. And I'm not sure that it falls into the vintage fair play mode. But it's a lot of fun trying to match up all the players to characters from the Arthurian legend. One keeps wondering, will Thorne use (insert Arthurian character)...."Of course, she does." It's a nice read--more for the references than anything. But a pleasant diversion from the "have-to" books I've been reading for a few of my challenges. Three stars for a light, fun read.
She wasn't looking for love..Her beauty rivaled only by her sensibility, Venetia Lanyon is nearly resigned to spinsterhood, From the back of the book:
She wasn't looking for love..Her beauty rivaled only by her sensibility, Venetia Lanyon is nearly resigned to spinsterhood, thanks to the enormous amount of responsibility she inherited with a Yorkshire estate, an ivalid brother and the lackluster efforts of two wearisomely persistent suitors. Then she meets her neighbor, the infamous lord Damerel, a charming rake shunned by polite society--exactly the type of man that a woman of quality should stay away from.
He wasn't looking for redemption...Though his scandalous past and deepest secrets give Venetia every reason to mistrust him, a rogue always gets what he wants....
Georgette Heyer writes really fine Regency Romances. Her books have it all: witty dialogue, the life and doings of the ton, creditable characters that are some sometimes a bit larger-than-life (but not too, too much larger), a great concern with social standing which always, always puts a twist on the romance in question. Venetia has all that and more....a frank sexuality that runs through every encounter between Venetia and her rake. Note the word frank, which is entirely different from blatant. For blatant, Heyer is not. There is nothing beyond kissing going on here and the scenes between Venetia and Lord Damerel fairly smoulder with the unspoken. And she does represent the mores of the time quite openly--and makes clear what kind of position a young woman who has made herself appear fast or, dare we say it, wonton may find herself in. Reputation is the coin of the realm when it comes to being marriageable--which of course is a girl's primary concern.
Venetia Lanyon is viewed as an innocent by her acquaintances (I can't really call them friends, because none of them seem to know her very well). She is a young woman of twenty-five who has been kept secluded in the country, never brought out into society, and only the company of a scholarly, invalid brother and two very dull suitors and various martronly women to "brighten" her days. Everything she knows about life she had learned from the books she has read and one would think her very naive and unworldy as a consequence. But, when meeting Lord Damerel, her family's neighbor and a notorious rake, for the first time she seems well aware of what and with whom she is dealing. In fact, Venetia is the most self-possessed and assured character in the book.
Venetia is a very complex character and may seem to be a bit too self-possessed for the time period. But Heyer gives us a very plausible back-story to give truth to her situation. She has, it is true, been buried in the country by a father who apparently wanted to be alone with his grief after her mother's death. But, once her father died and her elder brother took off with the army, Venetia is left to manage the estate and oversee the care of her younger brother. This allows her to be far more independent than most young women of the time. What is astonishing is not so much that she is independent and independently-minded, but that those who have supposedly known her from birth don't really understand her character.
Naturally, the course of true love cannot run straight (lest we not have a story) and everyone, including the rake himself, throws stumbling blocks of conventionality in the path. But Venetia is having none of that. When plans go awry, she simply comes up with better ones. Because, contrary to what the back of the book says...an intelligent and determined woman always gets what she wants.
Heyer, as always, has done her research well and writes the period like she was born then. Her characterizations are superb--you love Venetia and her rake as well as her touchy younger brother and her devoted Nurse. You will also love to hate Conway's (Venetia's elder brother) horrible mother-in-law and will be just as exasperated with Venetia's lackluster suitor's as she is. And that's because Heyer makes her characters real. A very enjoyable Regency Romance--picked up primarily for the Getting Lost in a Comfortable Book Challenge, but fulfilling several others as well. Four stars.