Frisky Regency

The Amorous Education of Celia Seaton is a book as good as its title, a terrific addition to Miranda Neville’s Burgundy Club series. These books feature characters who are unique and likable; combined with Neville’s talent at putting a special twist on familiar romance devices and her sparkling sense of humor, the result is a very entertaining book.

Celia herself is delightful as a character. Already the victim of some classic romance backstory (orphaned, left penniless, forced to work as a governess, dumped by her fiancĂ© because of false rumors), she begins the book kidnapped and being deprived of her clothes. Left alone, she escapes in her shift, but she is soon joined by Tarquin Compton, the man who ruined her society debut. Knocked unconscious and robbed, Tarquin comes to with a case of amnesia. Celia takes her revenge by telling him that he’s an aspiring clergyman named Terrence Fish, to whom she is engaged. They travel together through the Yorkshire countryside, trying to find a friend of the Seaton family whom Celia hopes will help her.

Of course Tarquin’s memory returns, but in the interim he and Celia have fallen for each other. Neither will admit it, naturally, until they have some more adventures and drive each other a bit more crazy. There’s a suspense plot behind Celia’s kidnapping, and she has to prove that she can be a success in high society. That’s all carried out pretty well, but it’s not what makes this book special. No, it’s the humor, the chemistry, the liveliness, and the genuine warmth of emotion that kept me up reading this book into the wee hours.

A lot of the humor comes from the literary device of the “book within a book” — in this case, a piece of 18th-century erotica about the sexual adventures of a young man. Celia reads the book, which Tarquin has acquired for his collection, and it arouses (heh) her curiosity, among other things. As Neville points out in her author’s note, using a book to give sexual knowledge to a virginal heroine is a familiar device, and here the author chose an actual period text, which she quotes to great comic effect. It’s this kind of thing, a fresh or funny take on familiar elements of romance that I found so charming about this novel.

I also enjoyed the country setting, particularly the places and people of Yorkshire. In addition, it was fun to revisit characters from the earlier books in the series, especially Lady Diana’s family (delightful eccentrics). I’m counting on romances for at least two of these secondary characters eventually. I don’t think one has to have read the earlier books to appreciate this one, but I believe fans of the first two will find this a worthy sequel.


Social Media for Social Good

I am proud to be part of Limecello’s effort to raise money for Save the Children in response to the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

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    TBR Challenge Review: Classic Beauty & the Beast

    Lord of Scoundrels (1995) has been in my TBR pile for years; it was one of the first books recommended to me when I started reading romance. (I’m pretty sure the first recommendation came from Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell, although others soon followed.) I read and enjoyed other books by Loretta Chase, but for some reason, I put this one off. But since this month’s challenge theme is fairytale stories, and this is very much Beauty and the Beast, I finally got around to it. (Although technically I didn’t read my TBR copy; I am recuperating from wrist surgery and can’t yet manage print books, so I snagged the discounted e-book for this review.)

    The beauty character, Jessica, is more than just beautiful — she is intelligent, self-sufficient, practical and a good shot. She has a lot of experience with boys, having helped to raise many in her family, which gives her excellent insights about men. She isn’t afraid to take on the very intimidating Marquess of Dain in order to safeguard her interests and those of her family.

    Dain, our beast, has renounced love of any kind after a miserable childhood without it. He is selfish to a fault and disdainful of other people, and he is not about to let Jessica claim victory once they have clashed. Chase gives the reader a lot from Dain’s point of view early on and throughout the novel; I never found him unsympathetic, even at his most beastly. Jessica attracts him, but he believes she must find him repulsive. I felt for him even when he pushed her away, and I could do that because I knew Jessica was strong enough to handle whatever he threw at her.

    Dain is in way over his head emotionally with Jessica, while she is out if her depth physically. She can’t resist her sexual attraction to him, and her pragmatic responses to that realization are endearing. I just loved Jessica, and I was rooting hard for Dain to learn how to love her, too.

    The best surprise out of this book was how funny it was. Dain and Jessica are well-matched banterers, both used to being the smartest person in the room and to using wit to prove it. The humor gives them a connection, because they each appreciate each other’s wit even when they are the target, and those encounters provide fabulous counterpoint to the emotionally charged process of overcoming Dain’s past. I enjoyed every page of this book, and I can imagine reading it again and again. WIN.

    Catch and Release Day

    Catch Me, by Lorelei Brown, is available TODAY from Carina Press. Congratulations, Lorelei, on another sexy romance set in American history.

    Catch Me was a terrific vacation read. I read this in one long sitting, in front of a coal fire on a rainy day in Scotland. It was short enough to enjoy in one day, but it was quite a rollercoaster of action and emotion.

    The story caught me up right away — a woman bank robber (not an accomplice or girlfriend, but the actual “mastermind”) is unusual, and I enjoyed the intertwined humor and desperation of Maggie’s situation. I liked how much of the story focused around the main characters together, learning about each other, fighting their situationally inappropriate attraction to each other, wrestling with their value and priorities as they learned respect for each other. While there’s a lot of focus on the sexual attraction between the two (and that’s not a complaint!), there’s much more than that going on. I felt at times that Dean had a little too much back story for this length of novel, but otherwise the balance between his point of view and Maggie’s was very enjoyable.

    Not all romances manage to erect convincing obstacles to the main characters being together; I’ve read a couple recently where a simple honest conversation about feelings would clear up most of the problems. In this book, that’s not the case; the two characters are committed to courses of action that seemingly cannot be reconciled for most of the story. But neither does the author slip out of that with a contrived or deus ex machina ending — the happy ending comes at a price, which makes it all the more rewarding.

    I laughed a lot at this book. The author finds lots of humor in the situation she’s set up. That humor can shift quickly to hot sexual tension, too. And events late in the book (no spoilers) made me cry, which I think was only partly due to connecting with my own personal grief. Definitely a worthwhile reading experience.