A Little Personal History to Begin, or, Why Is a Middle-Aged Male Reviewing Rgency Romances?
When i was twenty (which was rather more than half my life ago) and stationed at the Naval Shipyard at Norfolk, i read an article in a science-fiction fanzine about Georgette Heyer, a british author of romances. The article included a rather fractured but hilarious plot-summary of a book entitled "Sylvester, or, the Wicked Uncle." I, being bored, checked the Navy Exchange's book racks and discovered a Hayer book entitled "The Talisman Ring", read it, and was hooked. ((It was some years later before i found a copy of "Sylvester", which proved to be even more gloriously silly and complex in plot than the article i had read had implied...))
Anyway, having read every Regency or Georgian romance and all of the historical novels the late Ms Heyer published (her mysteries are a different and, i'm afraind, unfathomable, thing entirely), i came to the conclusion that she basically wrote two types of story: Romps and Sweets, as i called them.
Sweets were iminently readable, consisting primarily of relatively lowkey action and devastatingly-drawn observations of society and drawing room wit/comedy of manners writing.
Romps had the comedy of manner, but usually also featured wilder elements, such as gender swaps between brother and sister in order to hide in plain sight, military officers taking over the opeation of a country tollgate on a whim to discover where the missing gatekeeper is, abductions of various sorts for various purposes, smuggling and various other nafarious activities, a young woman married to a man she'd never seen till fifteen minutes before and thenm widowed less than an hour afterward, and murders, duels and fisticuffs of various and sundry sorts. And love stories.
So what, you ask, does that have to do with a review of a Kasey Michaels novel? Just that this is a Regency Romp that is *almost* as good as one of Heyer's.
And *almost* as good as Georgette Heyer is readable indeed.
There are, in fact, familiar elements of Heyeresque plot scattered througout this book -- and at least one neat little bit of dialog that my wife and i are both sure is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Heyer's "These Old Shades", possibly the best of her romps.
Brady James, a typical Heyeresque heroic non-pareil, is attacked and thrown, weighted, into the Thames to drown, barely escaping with his life.
Arranging with friends to fake his own funeral, he retreats to his country house to recuperate and to plot the discovery and punishment of whoever tried to do him in.
He suspects that the attack may have something to do with his enquiries into the background of a Miss Regina Bliss, a young lady apparently incapable of telling the truth when an outrageous lie will do better who was rescued from the streets by friends of his in a previous book.
As he recuperates, he and Miss Bliss work out a scheme in which he will be his own foppish distant cousin, newly returned from France with his inheritance of Brady's title and estates and she will be his ward. Together, they will discover his own attackers; and Miss Bliss, who has an agenda of her own, will also look for revenge on old enemies of her own whom Brady knows nothing of.
And, as anyone can predict, though the path of True Love will hardly run smooth, it will happen.
Lots of fun, well worth the attention of anyone who likes Heyer and has run out of her books.