Eloisa James: MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU

Much Ado About You by Eloisa James
Essex Sisters #1
Avon 2005
387 pages
4/5 stars

Although a bit slow to start, this first book in a series does a really good job introducing the main players in the series and is a pleasant read. I would say I like this series better than Desperate Duchesses, and here’s why.

The Essex sisters series – of which I have previously read the third and fourth ones – focuses on the four sisters whose father, in his will, has decreed that their guardian is to be the Duke of Holbrook. The poor, drunk duke expect four little girls and instead receives four young women, all but one old enough to marry, and, well, you can guess the rest.

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Mary Balogh: SLIGHTLY TEMPTED

Slightly Tempted by Mary Balogh
Bedwyn Family Saga #4
Piatkus 2004
386 pages
4/5 stars

I’m now officially done with the Bedwyn books. I would say I feel hollow, except I don’t, because I’m just going to reread the lot, and then reread them again. So you know. Not really a loss.

Let me preface by saying that I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s not my favourite – that will always be number 3, Slightly Scandalous – but this definitely comes up to top three. Although I have a reason for docking one star from my review, this book has the tenderest relationship between hero and heroine that I’ve ever seen.

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Jennifer Kloester: GEORGETTE HEYER – THE BIOGRAPHY OF A BESTSELLER

Georgette Heyer: The Biography of A Bestseller by Jennifer Kloester
Arrow Books 2011
394 pages (plus appendices)
5/5 stars

I don’t usually read biographies, but there are exceptions. Georgette Heyer is one of them: I’d previously read Jane Aiken Hodge’s The Private World of Georgette Heyer (1984), but it took me some time to finally pick up Kloester’s work. Kloester is the leading expert in Heyer and her Regency world, and the author of another work on Heyer’s writing, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World (2005).

For those for whom the name Georgette Heyer (1902–1974) rings no bells, she is the author of a number of titles including contemporary fiction, detective novels, short stories, and historical novels. She is best known for her twenty-two Regency-set romances, and she is considered to be the mother of that subgenre. Her novels have crucially shaped the way Regencies are still written today, and her novels continue to sell steadily.

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Katharine Ashe: I MARRIED THE DUKE

I Married the Duke by Katharine Ashe
The Prince Catchers #1
Avon 2013
363 pages
5/5 stars

I forget why I decided to give Ashe a try – I probably saw an interview somewhere or someone summarised the plot of one of her books. This particular title, however, I got because this series is what the library has. I’m always a little apprehensive when I pick up a new author, and the first couple of chapters had me suspicious. But boy oh boy, did I get into it towards the end! Well worth it, let me tell you.

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Maya Rodale: LADY BRIDGET’S DIARY

Lady Bridget’s Diary by Maya Rodale
Keeping Up with the Cavendishes #1
Avon 2016
361 pages
5/5 stars

This first book in Rodale’s new series introduces the Cavendish family: the three girls and the son, who has just inherited an English dukedom. Their arrival in London creates speculation and stir because, like the heroine of Eloisa James’s latest novel, this family, and therefore the heroine of this novel, are American.

You can also tell by the title that there is definitely a Bridget Jones connection here. While I’m not hugely into very light romance, Rodale hits exactly the right tone and right balance of fun and serious for me!

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On Austen’s LADY SUSAN

Okay so!

A little something different today!

I recently read Jane Austen’s short epistolary piece, Lady Susan, and boy, I liked it! Five out of five stars, was vastly entertained, what fun, deliciously scandalous!

They speculate it was written about 1794, and didn’t see publication until 1871, for some reason or other. It offers a snippet of the lives of the beautiful widow Lady Susan, her poor daughter Frederica, her friend Mrs Johnson, and several other characters, letter-writing ones being Mrs Vernon (the wife of Lady Susan’s brother in law), her brother Reginald de Courcy, and their parents. Behind the scenes, we are also told something of Lady Susan’s lover, Lord Manwaring,, and his wife and daughter.

This all may sound very confusing, and it is, at first. Here, I stopped reading after the fifth letter and drew a diagram (it’s actually missing a dotted line but oh well):

susanmap

Lady Susan is delightful, and I’m just pleased to have read it. It’s more worldly than Austen’s other novels – yes, even more than Mansfield Park – and, it seems to me and as Margaret Drabble points out in the introduction of the Wordsworth edition I have, probably owes something to Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s famous epistolary work of schemes and sex, Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782).* As soon as you get the characters straightened in your head, the story becomes highly entertaining, and the way Austen conveys the story through several different people writing letters is superb; it is deft and clever, with no overlaps, and with very relatable feelings.

I recommend it very, very warmly. It’s very short, maybe 60 pages, and makes excellent reading in-between books.

The reason I finally read it that there is a movie coming out. Yup! As far as I know, this is the first adaptation of Lady Susan – quite annoyingly titled Love & Friendship after another longer and better known piece of Austen’s juvenilia – and boy, it looks gorgeous! Watch the trailer HERE! (Costumes! Pretty people! Wit! Fun!)

There are no words for how much I’m looking forward to seeing this! It’s been in the works for quite a while, but is finally coming out this year. Hooray for new Austen adaptations!

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*I highly recommend Dangerous Liaisons! It’s a very decent book, and there is also a fantastic adaptation from 1988, based on the stage version of the novel, starring Glen Close as Marquise de Merteuil, John Malkovich as Vicomte de Valmont, Michelle Pfeiffer as Madame de Tourvel, Uma Thurman as Cecile de Volanges, and Keanu Reeves as Le Chevalier Danceny! Directed by Stephen Frears, too! (There are other adaptations, but this is seriously the best one.)