Thursday, January 24, 2013
A Classic Wager!
As many of you know, I'm a diehard Loretta Chase fan. I think she conveys the wit and the elegance of the Regency better than nearly any other writer around at the moment. And she's one of the few modern writers who makes me think of the greatness of Georgette Heyer. There's a similar lightness of touch and sureness with the emotions, even if contained beneath properly Regency decorum.
I've already reviewed three of Loretta's wonderful books here, raves every one. LAST NIGHT'S SCANDAL, the classic LORD OF SCOUNDRELS and one of my favorite romances ever MR. IMPOSSIBLE featuring the gorgeous Rupert Carsington.
Before she began writing full-length Regency historicals brimming with sensuality and passion, Loretta had a career writing trad Regencies. Books in this genre are usually described as comedies of manners, but I don't think that nearly does justice to the half dozen lovely trad Regencies that Loretta wrote.
I have two particular favorites from among these early LCs. One is THE SANDALWOOD PRINCESS, a RITA winner from 1991, and the book I'm going to talk about today, the sublime KNAVES' WAGER from 1990. Later this year, I'll swing by and share my thoughts about THE SANDALWOOD PRINCESS which is a humdinger (suppose that basically encompasses my review!).
One of the things prompting this review is that Loretta's early books have just been re-released at a very competitive price of $2.99 as e-books. Here's the link for KNAVES' WAGER: http://www.amazon.com/Knaves-Wager-ebook/dp/B00A5OH1JY/ref=tmm_kin_title_0
One of the astonishing things about KNAVES' WAGER is quite how much story Loretta manages to pack into a short book. It's only 234 pages all up which is shorter than your average SuperRomance, although having said that, the print in my edition is quite small as are the margins. Still, it's a far cry from the 400 pages of the normal historical romance!
We get the stormy, passionate romance between the ton's Ice Queen, Mrs. Lilith Davenant, and notorious rake Julian Wyndhurst, the Marquess of Brandon. We also get a really sweet secondary romance between Lilith's niece Cecily Glenwood and Lord Robin Downs, Brandon's wayward nephew. In fact, it was because of this secondary romance that I turned to this book at this particular time. The third book in the Sons of Sin series has a secondary romance and I wanted to see how Loretta wove the two stories together here. Of course, I became utterly engrossed in the story and ended up paying no attention to anything technical at all! We also get a vivid crowd of secondary characters including Beau Brummell.
Against her better instincts, widow Lilith Davenant becomes engaged to rising political star (and prosy bore) Sir Thomas Bexley. Lilith is a woman of unsullied reputation who is considered something of a dragon when she launches her nieces upon society. Much to her astonishment, she attracts the notice of the dashing and dissolute Lord Brandon. Even more to her astonishment, Lilith who found no joy in her short marriage, finds herself attracted to the marquess. Not only is she engaged, she can't bring herself to trust this attractive, infamous man.
And she's right not to trust him. Little does she know that Julian has ulterior motives for his seduction of the virtuous widow. Julian's nephew is threatening to marry his mistress, the courtesan Elise, and Brandon and Elise have set up a wager where she will abandon Robin if Lilith comes to Brandon's bed.
So we have the classic Regency set-up of virtuous woman and bad boy who fall in love much against their will and their better judgement. Meanwhile, Cecily, who is far from the pretty airhead that people consider her, schemes both to get her aunt and Brandon together and to find her own happiness with Robin. Cecily was the inspiration for Cassie in MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION, if any of you have read that book. I love the twist that the sweet little debutante is actually the smartest player in the game.
Because this is a trad, there are no explicit love scenes but believe me, sexual tension bristles when Lilith and Brandon are together and there are some absolutely lovely kissing scenes. And you'll love the witty dialogue between these two clever, wary people who are falling in love in spite of themselves.
Seriously this is a treat, even if you think trad Regencies are too staid for you. It's funny and moving and sexy and has one of the loveliest proposal scenes that I've ever read. It's one of those books that makes you laugh and cry and sigh with that lovely romantic satisfaction when you get to the last page. Highly recommended and at $2.99, it's an absolute steal!
So are you a trad Regency fan? I've noticed that they've had a bit of a resurgence in digital publishing. What's your favorite bad boy/good girl historical romance? Is this a theme that appeals to you?