2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2006
A Regency Trio is a compendium of three books by Clare Darcy: Cecily, Georgina and Lydia. All three have similarities in terms of writing style, age of hero, age of heroine etc.
Our heroine, Cecily, finds herself acting on the stage as a result of blackmail/low funds in order to support her family, and her beauty attracts many of the audience, including Mr Ranleigh who is a distant relative.
Ranleigh finds himself helping Cecily out by setting her up as a governess in the house of one of his relatives, but unfortunately some of her admirers from the stage follow her to try to charm her - presumably into becoming their mistresses. Cecily's handling of these situations isn't exactly optimal and she ends up running away back to the theatre and finding herself once again a blackmail target and once again Mr Ranleigh has to ride to the rescue, this time in a more permanent way.
This book was well-written and the setting and dialogue was good for the Regency period. A few Americanisms slipped through the editing process but overall this was one of the better American-authored regencies that I have read. However, I found the characterisation a bit flat - people acted and reacted but I didn't really ever understand their inner motivations. People seemed to fall in love/lust with Cecily because of her looks (I doubt it was her intelligence or conversation as she seemed a bit dull to me) and I never really understood why Mr Ranleigh fell in love with her - she was just a pain in the neck for him. So only four stars for this book for me as I believe it could have been much better.
Unusually for this genre, Georgina is mostly set in Ireland.
Georgina, after rejecting a suitable offer of marriage from Mr Smallwood, goes to visit some Irish relatives to get away from her overbearing grandmother and weak mother. The Irish family, the Quinlevans, have to leave their home as it has passed to Mr Shannon, husband of their relative Nuala who died in somewhat suspicious circumstances. Georgina hasn't escaped matrimonial plans by going to Ireland as Mrs Quinlevan is hoping that Georgina will make a match with her son, Brandon.
Mr Shannon makes his appearance and all the plans go awry - he is ostracised by the neighbours and yet over time Brandon and Georgina find themselves liking him and trying to work on his behalf to make him socially acceptable. We learn that Mr Shannon didn't particularly like his wife Nuala and their marriage only lasted two years before her death. Georgina finds herself in company with Mr Shannon and wanting to spend more time with him against all the advice of her relatives. She is courted by some of the important people and yet can't bring herself to fully become part of their social circle which requires that she ignore Mr Shannon.
The ending is no great surprise, the only difference being that we are offered hints of a mystery - why did Mr Shannon marry Nuala? why doesn't he grieve her death? did she die mysteriously? - that aren't really answered. I never understood why he fell in love with Georgina, or she with him, and why his previously appalling track record with his wife didn't seem to have any influence on her decision.
Setting, language and tone of the book were generally good, although Georgina persuading a relative to take her off to Ireland without her family knowing seemed remarkably unlikely, and the book was a reasonable read, but it's not as good as a Georgette Heyer novel. Still, worth getting hold of if you like this genre of book.
Lydia was definitely the best of the three books and was also the shortest. The central character in this book isn't a quiet, wishy-washy girl but is instead a lively, intelligent and witty girl far more in the tradition of Sophy Stanton-Lacy from Heyer's books. She, like Sophy, also tries to help arrange the love lives of those around her.
Lydia, her brother Bayard and her grandmother have fallen on hard times and leave their home in America to come to London to try to make a marriage to restore their fortunes. They meet a distant relative, Viscount Northover, and he and Lydia have some lively conversation and argument which is great fun for both of them. Northover explains that he isn't a marrying man so Lydia treats him in an avuncular way as she and her brother launch themselves into the season.
Things aren't quite as easy as they had hoped, for although Lydia could probably marry a rich man to make her family's fortune, she can't quite bring herself to do it. Her brother falls in love with a penniless young girl and so the requirement for them to make their fortune becomes much more urgent, leading to some drastic steps. Lord Northover's background presence helping Lydia, including helping paying her grandmother's gambling debts, is a consistent theme throughout the book.
What I liked about this book compared to the two others I've ready by Clare Darcy is that, in this case, I could understand why the hero and heroine fell in love. They are evidently well matched and their verbal sparring was enjoyable to read.