'I Will' by Lisa Kleypas is the story of a dissolute about-to-be Earl and a virtuous woman. Andrew, Lord Drake has a lifestyle of drinking, gambling and women. He is about to be disinherited by his father who is on his deathbed. Andrew comes up with the idea of appearing to be under the influence of a good woman, to regain his inheritance. That would be Caroline Hargreaves, whose brother Cade is a friend of Andrew's. A friend that is becoming a carbon copy of Andrew, to the dismay of his sister. And so a bargain is struck that will change the life of all participants.
In Lisa Cach's 'Puddings, Pastries and Thou', Vivian Ambrose is a poor relation whose penny pinching and miserly patron has died, and the burden of her care has moved to distant cousin's. She's no happier to be a hungry burden than her cousin is to have her, and Vivian plans to marry as soon as she can find someone willing to take her. She'd have done it earlier but she was kept essentially as a servant by her now dead aunt. Richard Brent visits his sister's neighbours for a Christmas dinner and meets Vivian. He's a man with a past that not many women overlook, but in each other he and Vivian find what they need. A sweet and funny story, whose title is very apt.
'Union' by Claudia Dain, Clarissa Walingford is not exactly thrilled to be old enough to be in search of a husband, but she knows her duty and what is expected of her by her family. But she doesn't want to marry an Englishman - she wants an Irish husband if she has to have one. At the time of the troubles in Ireland, this isn't a popular ambition. Henry Wakefield, Lord of Montwyn aka Beau is looking for a wife. And it is soon clear to each that they want the other. Then her brothers begin to meddle.
The final in the quartet is 'All I Want' by Lynsay Sands, in which Prudence Prescott's gambling father is about to land them in debtors prison. Stephen, Lord Stocton owns Ballard's, one of gambling houses that her father spends so much time in. There are no women allowed in Ballard's, so Prudence must think of other ways to enter and approach her father. General hilarity results in usual Sands fashion as Prudence worms her way into Stephen's heart.
Each story is a typical example of Regency Romance. All four are talented romantic authors. I'm conflicted by one element however - I like that the length makes the stories are easy to read, but I feel cheated at the necessary short (and often unconvincing) time scales for the romance. Here my favourites were definitely 'Puddings' because of Vivian's eating habits, and 'All I Want' by Sands when I pictured the situations the two got into. Comedy works well in short stories and both authors are skilful at wielding it.