Friday, October 24, 2014
Arabella Met a Black Sheep!
As you can probably tell from the illustration, I've been digging into the Heyer back catalogue again. But before I get into the nitty-gritty of the review, I've got an announcement to make.
After five years doing Second Helping reviews here on the Romance Dish and working with the lovely PJ and Andrea, I'm hanging up my ballet slippers. At least in the medium term.
These days I find I'm not reading nearly as much romance as I used to and when I do, it's catching up with tried-and-true authors who I've already reviewed several times here. So in the interests of freshness, I'm taking a break.
Thank you so much to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment or, even better, a recommendation. I've picked up some of my favorite authors through books mentioned on this blog and for that you'll always have my gratitude. I'd also like to thank PJ and Andrea for giving me such a wonderful forum for my opinions and a chance to talk about books I love with like-minded people. Always a buzz!
So this is my last actual review. Next month, I'm going to do a greatest hits piece about the books I've reviewed that you really, really have to read. And then my last spot in December will be a bit of a look back and a look forward for me personally.
It seems really appropriate to end my Second Helping column with a couple of lovely Georgette Heyers. As regulars know, I've been gradually re-reading GH's work and sharing my thoughts here. Another thing I'm eternally grateful to the Dishes for is that they got me involved on this project. I'd forgotten just how enchanting these books are! It's also given me a chance to revisit old favorites and find new ones. Both of the books today fall into the second category. I don't remember them as particularly outstanding, but I loved both revisiting them as a lady of a certain, ahem, age!
BLACK SHEEP (1966) is an absolute hoot with some of the best dialogue I've ever read. I think the neighbors were worried that I'd lost my mind, I laughed so loudly at this one. I'm absolutely shocked that it didn't make my top 10 last time I read the Heyers but it certainly would now.
The plot has a lot of GH's familiar tropes. The older, self-assured woman who falls in love despite herself. The harum-scarum niece and her amours. Annoying relatives. A complicated and improbable plot. And wit - LOTS of wit.
Abigail Wendover has settled into a comfortable if dull life in Bath with her hypochondriac/invalid sister Selina but life changes irrevocably when her niece Fanny falls into the hands of a fortune hunter. Even more disruptive to her calm routine, the fortune hunter's uncle arrives and turns out to be an attractive man who sets her heart beating much too fast, especially if she really is the dedicated spinster she claims.
Miles Calverleigh is the Black Sheep of the title. As a youth, his family exiled him to India when he kept getting into scrapes and now he's returned as a rich man with no respect for the occasional sillinesses of society. So we've got the good girl and the bad boy and fireworks ensue! Great fun.
Lovely Arabella Tallant embarks on her first season with only her spectacular looks to recommend her - until she takes umbrage at the arrogance of super-rich ton darling Robert Beaumaris and claims to be an heiress. False gossip about Arabella's huge fortune make her the target of every marriage-minded man in society. Mr. Beaumaris finds himself caught up in all the hijinks and, despite himself, enchanted by the headstrong and good-hearted vicar's daughter. Add in Arabella's reckless brother visiting London under a false identity and a cast of memorable and eccentric characters, and you have a recipe for a riproaring farce with a very nice romantic ending.
Both of these books are on the lighter end of the spectrum and are sure to brighten even the gloomiest day. Highly recommended.
So seeing these both fall firmly into the romantic comedy genre, do you have a favorite romantic comedy? Historal or contemporary? What's the last book that had you giggling out loud?
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Hi Anna! Okay, first things first. Thank you so very much for being a part of our little family here for the past five years. I can't begin to express how much I appreciated your enthusiasm for our fledgling blogging venture five years ago and your willingness to jump in and help. The fact that you continued to write Second Helpings each and every month - in the midst of a very busy writing schedule of your own - for FIVE YEARS was more than I ever could have anticipated. You , my friend, are a treasure and I thank you.ReplyDelete
PJ, as you know, I'd walk over burning coals for you so writing a few reviews hardly counts in the balance! LOL! Thank you so much for having me as your guest here. I'll really miss it - it's been such fun to talk books with everyone here.Delete
Anna, your columns have been so enjoyable to read! And thank you for the reviews of GH - these are two of my favorites. I only read Black Sheep for the first time last year and really loved it. And Arabella has always been one of my favorites. Arabella is a hilarious heroine, even if she doesn't mean to be. The rescue of the dog and the sweep are priceless, as is the way she puts Mr. B through his paces. And I love Mr. B's staff! And who could forget Leaky Peg?! PS. My previous comment disappeared, so if it shows up, I apologize for the double posting! Good luck with all your other work, lady!ReplyDelete
Vanessa, I loved the conversations about the eels in Black Sheep (you'll have to read it to find out what I mean, people!). It's just brilliant. And Miles was a darling. It took me a few chapters to build up a great liking for Arabella but by the time it finished, I'd decided it was an absolute classic. Thanks for checking out the reviews - it really has been so wonderful sharing my thoughts with such a lovely lot of like-minded people.Delete
One of these days I'm going to have to just carve out some time and go on a Heyer reading marathon.Delete
You WILL! :-)Delete
I love Black Sheep! Miles Caverleigh is one of my favourite Heyer characters, and I love the banter between him and Abigail.ReplyDelete
Helena, I love how the dialogue in Black Sheep shows you that Miles and Abigail are made for each other - it's just so beautifully and subtly done. Nobody else gets her - although they all think they do. And along comes this man everyone thinks is completely unsuitable and he's just RIGHT!Delete
along comes this man everyone thinks is completely unsuitable and he's just RIGHT!Delete
Funny how that happens, isn't it? ;-)
At first I was going to scream "NO! You can't go!" but now that PJ reminds us so graciously, we have had your generous and lovely blogs for far longer than we had a right to hope for. I can't wait to hear what you're up to though...ReplyDelete
Kristan Higgins is the author who makes me giggle every time. In public. In church when I shouldn't even be reading the book, but whatever. I do remember a string of books by Cindy Holbrook (I think that was her name) and she had some sweet Regency books like The Actress and the Country Gentleman (or some such)--and they were hilarious. Very screwball comedy.
Helly, I'm sad to go too but it's reached a point where I've struggled to come up with something fresh and new every month. As I said to PJ, I'm not handing in a permanent resignation. It's more of a long sabbatical. Thanks so much for being such a lovely part of my visits here - I really will miss everyone.Delete
Yeah, Kristan's stuff is funny, isn't it? Someone else who makes me laugh (and cry) is Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I think her stuff is absolutely wonderful.
Sharing the Higgins love here. She never fails to leave me laughing!Delete
Oh, Anna, I will miss your monthly posts. I always looked forward to them, knowing I would have recommendations for new books or an opportunity to share books I loved. Thank you for all the years of “Second Helpings.”ReplyDelete
I reread at least a couple of Heyers every year. Most recently I have reread several of her mysteries. They too have those flashes of humor. I love Black Sheep and Arabella is one of my favorites, in part because the Tallant family is a rare intact, loving, functional family.
I adored Connie Brockway’s The Songbird’s Seduction! It made me smile, giggle, chortle, and even guffaw a few times. On the contemporary side, I’m with Hellie on Kristan Higgins. In Your Dreams evoked lots of laughter. I remember those Cindy Holbrook books too, Hellie. Lord Sayer’s Ghost was a good one, but Judith Nelson’s Kidnap Confusion is my all-time favorite Regency reread for laughing.
Janga, seriously, you've been my go-to girl for books since I started here. You put me onto writers like Julia Spencer-Fleming (who features next month) who I'd never have come across otherwise. Thank you so much! I've got The Songbird's Seduction on my radar - love Connie Brockway. Must check out the Cindy Holbrooks. In trad Regencies, I recently discovered M.C. Beaton/Marion Chesney and her books always give me a good giggle.Delete
Right there with you, Janga! I'm hoping that Anna won't be a complete stranger and will show up occasionally to check in via the comments. :)Delete
Oh, as if I'd forget you, my dear!!!!Delete
Ring in the Holiday by Katie Lane, I reading this right now and it is very cute!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Quilt Lady! I'll check it out! This time of year, a good laugh is always welcome amongst all the craziness!Delete
Thanks for the recommendation, Quilt Lady! I have that one on my Kindle.Delete
Oh, you will be missed!!! I hate to admit I've not read Georgette Heyer - I KNOW. I really do plan on doing so.ReplyDelete
Catslady, give Black Sheep a go or perhaps Faro's Daughter which I thought was wonderful. Both are reasonably short so if you find they're not your thing, you're not tied up for hours on end. Thanks for swinging by the blog so often to share your thoughts. I really will miss coming here every month!Delete
Catslady, don't worry about being lonely in the non-Heyer corner. I'm right there with you! One of these days, maybe both of us will finally dip our toes in the water. ;-)Delete
As Hellie and Janga have both mentioned, Kristan Higgins always tickles my funny bone. A couple other contemporary authors who have me grinning, chuckling and, sometimes, full-out belly laughing are Tracy Brogan and Debbie Mason. Mason's Christmas, Colorado series is filled with quirky characters and some wonderful humor.ReplyDelete
A historical author who inserts some wonderful humor in her books is Tessa Dare.
PJ, I haven't read either Tracy Brogan or Debbie Mason. Clearly I need to!Delete
Arabella was one of my Heyer favoritesReplyDelete
Dianna, took me a little while to warm to it, but once I did, I absolutely loved it!Delete
Awww It has been great having you review here Anna! It's great to see reviews from authors.ReplyDelete
And I'm glad you reviewed Arabella. I have the book on my shelf and haven't gotten a chance to read it yet.
As for romance comedy novels.....I haven't read one in a while too.
Ki, thanks so much for swinging by the blog! Give Arabella a go - as I said, it's a little slow at the start but it's defintely worth perservering. So glad you've enjoyed the reviews!Delete
Anna, your posts here at TRD have been witty and fun. You have given me new authors to check out as well as treasured authors to try. Take care, and hugs! You will still be at RB, though, right?ReplyDelete
Deb, I'm definitely still at RBs. I'm finishing up at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs at the end of the year too - been there since 2006! Thanks for saying such nice things about the posts. It's been lovely sharing beloved books here.Delete
Noooo! Just when I'm finding you AND you love my favorite Heyers. *Sniff*ReplyDelete
Oh, Beth, now I feel bad! Some of my older reviews are no longer available but some are. Let me see what I can find.Delete
Beth, all of Anna's posts here should be available through our archives in the right sidebar (24th of each month) or by searching on Anna Campbell or Second Helping. There are plenty of wonderful posts just waiting for you!Delete
Thank you! I didn't realize they were archived. That helps.Delete
Beth, I've never recommended a book here that I haven't loved so if you're short of reading material, be my guest! :-)Delete
Beth, search this blog on Heyer and Anna Campbell and you'll get up a whole stack of my backlist reviews! So glad you enjoy my take on the great Georgette!ReplyDelete
Anna I'm going to miss your posts. Just PLEASE don't take a break from writing your books!!!ReplyDelete
I do love some comedy in my romance, but it takes a lot to make me laugh or even giggle out loud... I am one of the few who haven't read Heyer. She's on my 'one day' wish list.
Glenda, give GH a go. If nothing else, she's largely responsible for the worldwide popularity of Regency-set romances like mine. Oh, and I'm definitely not giving up writing!Delete
Georgette Heyer is someone I have never read. I hadn't really heard much about her until a new library director took over where I worked. The few Heyer's we did have, were deleted because they hadn't been read in such a long time.The first thing she did was order the complete set. The fresh new covers did helping attracting readers. She considered Heyer and Austen the best writers ever and wasn't interested in trying any of the newer romance authors.ReplyDelete
I will have to try thee two books. I enjoy a good read with humor, wit, and chaos thrown in.
I am sorry you will be leaving the Romance Dish. I enjoy hearing about the older books and the authors you have discovered. Hopefully you won't stay away for too long.Take care, happy writing.
Thanks so much, Pat, for being such a stalwart commenter. I've loved the way so many people have swung by again and again to share their thoughts and recommendations. I've also loved the chance to bring older books to people's attentions. How interesting about the Heyers falling out of fashion. She's perennially popular over here in Australia. By the way, you should suggest to your librarian to try a few of the best modern ones. I think something like Lord of Scoundrels or Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase can easily stand up to comparison with Heyer.Delete
When I worked there, I ordered most of the romance. She had never even heard of Nora Roberts or any other current author. She felt the genre began and ended with her two favorites. I honestly don't know what she is reading now. It was funny that the other employees said they would never lower themselves to reading romance. They were all mystery and suspense readers. The were reading J.D. Robb, Linda Howard, Lisa Gardner, Spencer-Fleming, and cozy mysteries among other things. They obviously didn't really know what romance was.Delete
Pat, how ironic that all those authors you mention are writing strong romantic plots along with their mystery and suspense. As you say, they clearly had no idea what constituted a romance.Delete