I'm rather glad that Signet is reprinting some of the earlier works of a few of the more noteworthy Regency-era romance writers. And that they're actually issuing them in form of two-for-one packages, is just the icing on top of the cake. This time around, Signet has reissued "A Splendid Indiscretion" (one of my favourite Regencies) & "The Grand Passion."
In "A Splendid Indiscretion," pretty and good hearted Ada Suurringham is everything that a doting uncle could wish for in a niece -- if only she didn't have this propensity to be constantly woolgathering, and for forever falling into one muddle or the other because of her daydreaming. Always the foil for her more beautiful and self-abosrbed cousin, Cordelia, Ada had thought that she had gotten rather used to remaining in the background and being the subject of a lot of eye rolling. But when Ada's godmother, Viscountess Millineaux, issues an invitation for either Ada or Cordelia, to visit her and be launched into London Society, Ada's uncle is determined that Ada should be the one to go. What follows is a wonderfully humorous romp as Ada stoically makes for London, only to end up working in her godmother's house as a librarian's assistant instead of staying on as an hounoured guest. But that would be nothing if it were not for the fact that Ada has managed to fall in love with her godmother's son, the sophisticated and urbane, Ivor. Is it too much to hope that Ivor would look past her muddle-headedness and fall in love with her instead of the prefect Cornelia? (5 stars)
In "The Grand Passion," Tess Brownlow has decided to marry her childhood playmate, Jeremy Beringer, even though she's not passionately in love with him. But when Jeremy dies in a coaching accident, all Tess can do thirst to avenge his death. And when she discovers the identity of the "gentleman" who so thoughtlessly caused Jeremy's death, she meticulously sets out to make the man pay. What Tess never counted on, however, was how Matthew Lotherwood, the Marquis of Bradbourne would awaken in her the passionate feelings that Jeremy never did. Should Tess go on with her plan of revenge, or embrace this chance to have a grand passion... (4 1/2 stars)
I feel in love with "A Splendid Indiscretion" the first time I read it, and even now, almost 20 years later, it is still one of my favourite novels and still brings a smile to my face. It is one of those charming and well written humourous tales that one can read and reread over the years without fearing that it will become stale or boring. On the other hand, my feelings about "The Grand Passion" have changed quite dramatically over the years. I didn't really like it all that much the first time I read it, and stayed away from rereading it over the years. But when I reread it a few days ago, I must say that I changed my outlook quite a bit. It is a very well written novel, and the manner in which Elizabeth Mansfield handles the whole thorny issue of revenge is one of the best I've ever read. I'm still not all that enamoured with the book, but I will note that it is, like "A Splendid Indiscretion" and a host of other Mansfield gems, a very well written and highly polished novel. The only reservation I have with "The Grand Passion" is that I still don't buy Matthew Lotherwood's sudden capitulation at the end of the novel. It just felt too rushed. He goes from cold fury, disillusionment and pain at how Tess has schemed to hurt him to completely giving in and forgiving her after just one impassioned speech from her. And while I know that Matthew would have forgiven her eventually and acknowledged that he still did love the totally single-minded, passionate and high-handed Tess, I didn't think that Mansfield made a good enough case for why it happened so very quickly one page from the end of the novel. On the whole, though, both these books are gems. And if you've found lately that the more recently published Regency-era romances have not quite come up to par, and that they lack the polish, wit and effervesce that one expects from a Regency, I'd recommend you check out some of these wonderful reprints.