‘Regency romances’ is one of my favorite reading genres and so far mostly the only kind of romance books I enjoy. I am all for light-hearted romance, full of witty banter and longing looks and regency manners. I prefer what is nowadays being called as ‘clean’ romances, without much of sex or sleaze and usually, this implies I am comfortable with classic love stories within which I infinitely prefer regency romances. This year I read four!
The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer
This was my first ever Georgette Heyer book after having heard of her for too long. Her writing apparently was inspired initially by Jane Austen, the diva of Regency Romances. Give me Austen any day for an engaging, yet lighthearted read about the tragedy-less uneventful lives of the upper class British during the Regency era :-). Anyway, having had great expectations after reading rave reviews for the book and the author, I was as the logic would go, disappointed. The language is quite ‘Regency’ for sure. My issue was with the characters. Mainly the protagonist Sophy who is funky, spunky and independent, doesn’t seem to be a Regency character considering the era and the life of women during it. She is quite manipulative without remorse. Somehow almost all the major characters seem more frivolous than the Regency characters I am used to. There are modern authors who have nicely replicated Regency era so I know it is achievable. I only thought that Georgette Heyer is overrated if one has to go by only this particular book. I think what the author did was to mix up Mansfield Park with Emma where Sophy was somewhat like Emma only less gentle and the Rivenhalls were less dramatic or tragic than the Bertrams. Also, of course, Both Mansfield Park, as well as Emma, are more serious books.
My rating was 2.5 stars rounded off to 2 on Goodreads. It probably could have been 3 stars if I hadn’t heard a lot about her all these years that had built up sort of an expectation.
After reading The Grand Sophy in fact I considered stopping reading Regency romances altogether because suddenly I couldn’t see the point of it that I had seen all these years. Sophy was the ultimate antidote apparently. Things changed when I got my Kindle later in the year and I discovered the joy of Kindle Unlimited which, discovering my reading history on Goodreads, suggested me some ‘Novel Abc (insert an actual regency era novel) variation’/s – as they are being called now. Back in the day, they used to be called fanfictions. There were and are loads of sites dedicated to the Regency fan fiction and I would check them out time to time. Some of them indeed had quality reading content. So it is some such authors who published their novels, stories and novellas. I read three last year and all of them were Pride and Prejudice variations. Let’s see how many this year brings.
- ‘The Darcys of Derbyshire: A Pride and Prejudice Variation’ by Abigail Reynolds – I have read her work on fan fiction sites earlier and I think her language fits my expectation of Regency language. Her characters too are consistent with what the original Pride and Prejudice. Her cleverness lies in the fact that she is able to create novel variations within the same plot (P&P) usually while remaining mostly true to the original Regency character. I have enjoyed her work – whatever I of it I have read. Most of it is better than the celebrated Georgette Heyer above going by Grand Sophy. Anyhow this is a novella and has a lucid backstory. It’s a diverting read, good for some absolutely light-hearted romance on the go. Though I found it out of character for such a taciturn and proud man such as Darcy to elaborate a backstory of his parents with such detail including their feelings etc to a woman with who he tried to share his own romantic feelings and was rejected just a few weeks back. I am sure he would eventually as we know the plot – but not so soon. I also don’t think that a man too concerned about proprieties will not suddenly flout Overall my 3 stars for the book.
- Did Darcy do it: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Sophie Lynbrook – I was intrigued by a P&P whodunnit. Usually, such outlandish ideas have lame endings but going by the rave reviews I felt like going for it since it was available on Kindle Unlimited. I am glad I did it. This author too is very much focused on sounding authentic regency and she has nicely built the intrigue. She has studied the facts about regency courtroom trials, imprisonment etc. Though its a murder mystery, it still is faithful to the basic concept of regency romances whereby there isn’t extreme angst involved, only light. At the same time, she has built up and nicely unraveled the mystery, provided explanations for the twists and involved some of the popular characters in detective work too. Overall I liked this diversion well. Better than the Darcys of Derbyshire, though, the idea in this story was even more outlandish than Darcy sharing a sentimental story with Elizabeth pretty soon after being rejected in the Abigail Reynolds’ work – somehow the fact that Darcy is accused of murder is gradually built up and at a point seems plausible thing to do given the circumstances in the plot. Which is all to the credit of the author. I gave it 4 stars rounded up from 3.5. Because it was an unexpected & pleasant surprise.
- Wild Goose Chase: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Sophie Lynbrook – Happy with the whodunnit, I decided to try one more of her novellas. This is as outlandish as the other where Darcy and Elizabeth chase Lydia and Wickham through Gretna Green and in the process fall in love. However to make this believable, author built a scenario whereby Elizabeth initially leaves with her uncle and aunt and Darcy joins them in the quest. Thus the question of propriety and chaperon etc is solved. I mean the author cleverly digresses from the original plot for short duration still trying to reflect the Regency society and lifestyle. Her style of writing is enjoyable. I personally do not prefer any sex or sleaze in Regency romances because it feels absolutely out of character. I like the author (her 2 works that I have read) for maintaining this, maintaining the language as well as making her digressions from the plot seem palatable and plausible. So again I felt it deserved 3.5 stars rounded off to 4 on Goodreads.
Let’s see what this year brings. I want to read across the genres so maybe not many from Regency romance genre.