Reading,  Regency

Read a Regency!!!! (part 2)


A week ago, I challenged all brave people to read five highly-recommended Regencies (that is, highly recommended “traditional” Regencies). I know you’re all hugely busy this time of year, but if any of you have any progress to report, I’d love to hear it! Megan, Nicole, Janet, Todd, and Laurie all accepted the challenge, in whole or in part — and who knows, maybe we have some more willing readers, lurking about!

Megan has already talked about one book she’s read (thanks, Megan!) How about the rest of you? Which books have you chosen? Have you read any yet? What are you liking about what you read?

For more suggestions of what Regencies count as “highly recommended” — here’s a list of all the Regencies that have won the prestigious Rita Award:

2005 — A Passionate Endeavor by Sophia Nash
2004 — Prospero’s Daughter by Nancy Butler
2003 — A Debt To Delia by Barbara Metzger
2002 — Much Obliged by Jessica Benson
2001 — A Grand Design by Emma Jensen
2000 — The Rake’s Retreat by Nancy Butler
1999 — His Grace Endures by Emma Jensen
1998 — Love’s Reward by Jean R. Ewing
1997 — The Lady’s Companion by Carla Kelly
1996 — Gwen’s Christmas Ghost by Lynn Kerstan and Alicia Rasley
1995 — Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand by Carla Kelly
1994 — Deirdre and Don Juan by Jo Beverley
1993 — An Unwilling Bride by Jo Beverley
1992 — Emily and the Dark Angel by Jo Beverley
1991 — The Sandalwood Princess by Loretta Chase
1990 — The Rake and the Reformer by Mary Jo Putney
1989 — Brighton Road by Susan Carroll
1988 — Sugar Rose by Susan Carroll
1987 — Lord Abberley’s Nemesis by Amanda Scott
1986 — The Beauty’s Daughter by Monette Cummings
1985 — The Lurid Lady Lockport by Kasey Michaels


Have you read any of these? Which did you particularly like? Are there books by some of these authors that you like better than the ones which actually won the Rita? Are there any other Regencies you’d particularly recommend for beginning Regency readers? Please share! All opinions welcome!

Cara
Cara King — www.caraking.com
My Lady Gamester — out now from Signet Regency!

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Amanda McCabe
16 years ago

I love The Sandalwood Princess! It’s probably my favorite trad (or at least right up there). And I’ve been reading random Regency Christmas novellas all week, does that count for the challenge?

Cara King
16 years ago

Sure, Amanda — the novellas are great! I own every Signet Christmas anthology ever (though some are in storage) — and I should really start reading this year’s soon.

By the way, you’re the only one of us six who’ve ever written a Regency Christmas novella… Tell me, was it very exciting to be asked to write one? Was it tricky writing the shorter length?

Cara

Elena Greene
16 years ago

Well, I didn’t sign up for the challenge, and as you all are sick of hearing by now, the week was spent less fun ways…

However, I’m copying all these lists and planning to treat myself after the holiday rush is past.

Elena 🙂

Megan Frampton
16 years ago

I’ve read a bunch of those you listed, Cara, and have more of them on my shelf as yet unread. One of my favorites is Deirdre and Don Juan by Jo Beverley–the hero is so insanely charming.

I find it hard to read in the same genre for more than a book or two, and I’m being swept up in the holiday chaos, so the next book I read will likely not be a Regency (although, like Amanda, I’ve been reading the Christmas anthologies). I think I need to read a book where certain relatives are given their just desserts. . .

Amanda McCabe
16 years ago

LOL! If you find that book, Megan, let me know. I’d also like to engage in some vicarious relative comeuppance. And I also really liked Deirdre and Don Juan, as well as Beverley’s Emily and the Dark Angel. I still laugh when I think about the hero’s ex-mistress throwing the box of violet powder at him and hitting the poor, unsuspecting heroine instead. 🙂

As for writing the novellas, it WAS very exciting to be asked. It made me feel like maybe someone besides my grandmother was interested in reading my stuff, since I was “invited” to write them, but it was a bit intimidating to think of my story in such close proximity to ones by, say, Metzger and Layton. The shorter length was a fun challenge (had to cut out any subplots, extra characters, etc), as was writing the story in August, when snow and carols were the furthest thing from my mind!

Cara King
16 years ago

I bet you played a lot of Christmas music that August, Amanda, to get in the mood! 🙂

When I compiled the Rita list, I found it really interesting… Lots of my favorite authors on it, of course, but often the books they won for weren’t my favorite books of theirs. For example, I loved Beverley’s “Dierdre and Don Juan,” but I think her “Stanforth Secrets” and “An Arranged Marriage” made even more of an impact on me. And though I think Metzger’s “A Debt to Delia” was a wonderful book, a perfect combination of humor and emotion, and of course well deserving of the Rita, there were plenty of other Metzger Regencies that I loved just as much (or even more)…

Cara

Nicole
16 years ago

I’ve already read Megan’s A Singular Lady (and blogged about it) and also Lord Stanhope’s Proposal by Jessica Benson. Now I’m onto Viscount Vagabond by Loretta Chase. And Dedication by Mullany is, I think, probably next.

Like Megan, I find it hard to read too many of the same genre in a row, so I’ve read some others in between.

Todd
16 years ago

Well, I’ve started a Regency by a famous author: DEDICATION, by one Janet Mullany. Though I gather that this was not as, well, traditional a Regency as some. 🙂 I’m trying to kill, or at least wound, two birds with one stone by catching up on Books By Bloggers as well…

My rate of reading has been low recently because for some reason I started reading enormously long books. And grading a hundred-twenty-some-odd final exams. Don’t know what I was thinking. I should have made all the questions True/False. 🙂

I’ve read a number of the books from your first list (though not a majority), but actually relatively few of the Rita winners. So I clearly have my work cut out for me.

Todd-who-would-rather-read-than-work

Janet Mullany
16 years ago

Reporting in:

Well, let’s not even get into the issue of availability…I went on a trip to the library and could find NONE of the greatest hits on the shelves. The implications of this are not too good, but let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. So I ended up grabbing anything that claimed to be a regency, both in the library and in the library secondhand bookshop, including a Christmas anthology (with most of the big names) that I started reading on the commute today.

Of the two unrecommended reads I had, #1 was a marriage of convenience story between a rake and an innocent, with several guest appearances by Lady Jersey. The heroine morphed into the usual sex goddess/society diva/ravishing beauty, while the hero (and the writer) searched around for Conflict! More Conflict! No, I am not naming names. I have to lunch in this town again… It was mostly harmless. Everyone was very nice, apart from the villain who ended badly, boo hiss.

#2 was by an Acclaimed Writer and had a joke that didn’t really go anywhere and rambled around and I got bored.

On the xmas anthology–oh, everyone’s very Nice. I mean, there’s a surfeit of Niceness (well, heck, what did I expect from a Christmas anthology? Murder neath the mistletoe, mayhem in the servants’ hall, fornication beneath the boughs of greenery? I seriously doubt I’ll ever be invited to write a novella for a Christmas anthology). I’m not knocking Niceness; it’s very, um, nice in real life, but I think it’s extremely difficult to do well. And we all know it’s so much more fun to write bad boys and naughty girls.

Am I falling in love? No, I’m just suffering from my usual bewilderment about what the subgenre is, or claims to be. I still think Heyer, whom I read and loved, but don’t want to re-read fearing disillusion, tied the bow on this particular box of goodies long ago.

Janet, keeping an open mind.

Cara King
16 years ago

Well, I’m glad you’re keeping an open mind, Janet! 🙂 It’s too bad you don’t have good used bookstores in your neck of the woods — those really help. I have some great ones near me, and I can pretty much go buy any book I want.

There are a lot of bad Regencies out there, just as there are lots of bad books in any genre. (I just finished an atrocious post-apocalyptic children’s book which was really a Libertarian tract in disguise…and not much of a disguise either…and the writer couldn’t even WRITE…) That’s why I recommended reading “recommended” Regencies, only to be foiled (in your case) by your sad lack of excellent libraries & used bookstores! Grrrr… 🙁

BTW, Heyer always holds up for me — but I know what you mean about being afraid to read the books for fear you wouldn’t like them as well…. I haven’t read Tolkien for years for that reason! 🙂 (Don’t slap me, Elena!)

I wouldn’t say Heyer tied the bow on the genre at all — you are, after all, going by a few books which are mediocre at best! Heyer was great, but other authors did other things with the genre too…

Joan Smith brought politics into the mix, and wrote heroines who were as strong and witty as the heroes (Heyer’s heroes always had to be a bit “stronger” than the heroines — old fashioned tastes)…

Metzger introduced farce into the genre, and her own brand of comic prose….

Balogh and Beverley made the way safe for sexy Regencies, and wrote about tragedy and scandal as well as beautifully rich detail about everyday Regency life…

Kelly has no fear of the traumatic side of life, the gritty details and the realistic side of the period…

Sheila Simonson wrote books that probably bear more resemblance to Austen than to Heyer… Her characters get to know each other slowly, as real people, and there are no romance cliches here… I think she’s also the first author to have a Regency hero with a drug addiction problem…

Oh, there are lots of great authors, who used elements that Heyer never did! Heyer’s books are great (often fantastic), and no one will ever be another Heyer, but the Regency genre is much broader than Heyer too…

Cara

Todd
16 years ago

Janet,

There are plenty of Regencies out there where things are not “nice” at all. I read one series by Patricia Veryan–actually Georgian rather than Regency, but not that different in style from her Regencies–where the heroes were tortured in rather a literal sense. And Carla Kelly’s ONE GOOD TURN is not even a little bit nice. To take just two examples.

Heyer wrote marvelous comic novels, but the two books of hers that I’ve read which attempt to be more serious are my two least favorite of her novels: THE RELUCTANT WIDOW and A CIVIL CONTRACT. The latter, in particular, felt so dreary that I almost couldn’t stand to finish it; and in the former the romance is so perfunctory as to barely exist. I know both of these books have their defenders, but they don’t work for me. If I wanted a serious Regency, I’d look to authors other than Heyer.

Anyway, it’s too bad that you’ve got such a limited selection to choose from. Have you tried looking into interlibrary loan? It’s not perfect–a lot of libraries don’t properly catalog their paperbacks, which makes it hard to request them–but it might be a way of branching out.

Todd-who-is-still-reading-your-book-even-though-it-isn’t-by-Heyer

Pam Rosenthal
16 years ago

My list of things I’ve already got to read is too long to allow me to take the challenge, but I do want to read more Carla Kelly someday.

Not just because she’s a trad Regency author (for I’m afraid that I’m still not sure which virtues you’re commending in this challenge, Cara). And not because she’s curious and knowledgable about what was happening outside the gates of the park and east of Regent Street (though she won my heart by it and I hope this will also recommend her to you, Janet).

But because I got true pleasure out of how well-shaped and sort of dancelike the novel I read was. The plot revelations seemed to me to redraw the world in a kind and comic form (not ha-ha comic, you know, the other, more important kind). I felt a kind of happiness as I turned the pages and watched the story rotate and reshape itself in its space — it’s what I want from romance and escapism. Somehow the historical scope seemed like part of the pleasure — odd, to use the word “scope” in relation to such a little book, odd and very touching. I came away delighted, surprised, instructed, and exhilerated.

I don’t know enough about the trad regency as a whole to know how Kelly fits into the sub-genre.

But if anyone is able to see what I’m getting at, I’d be curious if any other trad authors do something similar.

Pam

Cara King
16 years ago

I’m not sure if I missed where you said it, Pam, but which Carla Kelly book was it? (Knowing might help one answer your last question!)

Cara

Pam Rosenthal
16 years ago

oops, I rewrote that part. The book I read was Miss Minton Speaks Her Mind. Another which I started and didn’t like at all was one where papa gambles himself and heroine into destitution, she makes her plucky way to the country to take a job as a companion to some eccentric old lady, there’s this really cute steward or gamekeeper or something, and I began to feel like Mrs. Giggles.

But Miss Minton had a wonderful awareness of England as a society on the brink of huge change, a scope that reached to America, and a deft form.

Pam

Elena Greene
16 years ago

I’ll have to look out for that Carla Kelly, Pam.

Janet, your experience is why I (please, nobody crucify me for this!) quit reading Regencies for a while. I was busy, and didn’t have time to seek out the best authors, and books picked at random were not bad, but not unique enough to be impressive. Meanwhile I was missing out on some gems…

BTW I don’t think this is an issue just with trads.

Elena

Cara King
16 years ago

Two books come to mind, Pam, are Sheila Simonson’s LADY ELIZABETH’S COMET, and Jo Beverley’s THE STANFORTH SECRETS. I’m sure there are many others, but those are what popped into my head! They’re both well-written and involving, with some wit, and also full of the richness of true period detail (not detail like what a reticule looked like, but the real texture of everyday life.)

Cara

Cara King
16 years ago

Elena, I agree, it’s not a thing just with trads. For one thing, if one reads only one genre (or, especially, subgenre) for too long, one can easily get burnt out.

For another thing, as I said earlier, there are plenty of mediocre and weak books in any genre! I’ve read some truly atrocious science fiction, some unbearable fantasty books, and some celebrated literary/general fiction which I swear only got published because the publisher was temporarily staffed by pod people with no concept of truth or reality or art…

Cara

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