Monday

The Reluctant Heart by Lois Stewart and The Forgotten Bride by Lillian Marsh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, VI


August 7, 2017
And then sometime things in storage just make you sneeze.

A long, long, long time ago I read a book. I'm sure you've all experience flitting memories of a scene or a plot, but you just can't remember what book they belong to. Now, I have been searching for a long time for a book and I could only remember the following things: it was an historical romance, the hero is disappointed in love and becomes very drunk. In his drunken state he marries a young woman he doesn't know at an inn. In the morning he awakes, assumes the woman is a prostitute, leaves some coin and returns home. Years later he is about to be married, when a woman shows up with his child, his signet ring and the marriage lines. And, that was all I remembered - not the author, the title or anything. Then just recently I came across a website which has plotlines of lots and lots of Regency romance books. Not only that, but they are categorized. Rubbing my chin I clicked on the "children" category and low and behold I found two books. Either could be the one I sought. The one was The Reluctant Heart (1994) by Lois Stewart and the other one was The Forgotten Bride (1983) by Lillian Marsh. I did a little bit of investigation into the authors, Lois Stewart, aka Diana Delmore, appears to have written between 1983-1996 and then nothing. Lillian Marsh appears to have written only two books and then nothing.

As it turned out the Lillian Marsh book was the one I had been remembering allll of those years. As it also turns out, I'm not sure why this book stuck in my memory because I really cannot recommend it. Everyone who reads a lot eventually has things which are called "pet peeves," things that irritate us, things that press our hot buttons. Over the years some of us have even compiled a list of these "things" (some of us make lists). I will not say much about the Lillian Marsh book except to say it had at least nine of my triggers whereas the book by Lois Stewart had only one of my triggers. After all those years, I found I cannot recommend either books.
 

Triggers, pet peeves in these two books:
"I’m not good enough" syndrome
All women are bad because of "her"
Hero not catching on to the really EVIL woman and sometimes totally overlooking the heroine because of it.
Long separations, and usually the hero has slept around and the heroine has not. Of course, there was never a woman quite like her...he really tried to forget her, but he couldn't.
Adultery.
Parading around an evil woman to make wife jealous.
Sleeping with other women to forget.
Overreacting, jealous.
Revenge.
Never able to forgive, no matter how nice the other person is.

See, not everything out of storage was a treasure.


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality:  Pffffffft

The Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, V

August 7, 2017
Another light-hearted story by Mary Balogh - that's two now.

http://www.marybalogh.com/
I will have to say I didn't find The Famous Heroine as funny as the Black Umbrella because it also has one of my pet peeves in it. The hero just cannot forget that other woman he
loved, even when the one in his arms is his perfect match. So, it took me a while to like Francis because he was still mooning over Samantha. By the way, Samantha was the heroine from Lord Carew's Bride. Both books are connected to the Stapleton-Downs stories. Just so you know, Mary Balogh's website has a break-down of all her connected books so you don't get lost. This book was released in 1996 and has been re-released as part of a 2-in-1 book with The Plumed Bonnet.

Cora Downes is a heroine - and I mean that in every sense of the way. She saved the young son of a duke from drowning. Now the grandmother of said child is so grateful that she has brought Cora to London as a reward. She thinks that being part of society is a great honor. Here's the thing: Cora is sort of accident prone and the saving of the young boy didn't really happen quite the way everyone thinks. In fact, he didn't really need to be saved, but oh well - now society has a heroine.

Cora is not comfortable hanging with the elite people. She doesn't fit in. When she meets our hero, Lord Francis Kneller, she is wearing shoes which are too small because everyone knows men like women with small feet. But now her feet hurt and she's tripping over everything. Francis saves her from embarrassment and she's ever so grateful. She feels perfectly safe with Francis and she jumps to the conclusion that Francis is a gay man. You see Francis wears brightly colored clothes, is sarcastic and has lots of female friends. She becomes very protective of him, especially when she thinks someone is slighting his character.

Francis on the other hand thinks Cora is amusing. She is just the distraction he needs to get over his boo-hoo heart. He is drawn to her, but that leads to two compromising scenes - the first one they survive, the second one forces them into wedlock. I liked Cora a lot. She's accident prone and has a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. She is also similar to the heroine from Black Umbrella because she is constantly saving things or maybe I should say she gets credit for saving things - poodles, horses, the Prince.

There is a pretty funny scene when Cora is surprised when Francis actually wants her in bed. They talk circles around each other for a while until it dawns on Francis just what Cora thinks - pretty amusing. By the way, he doesn't change how he dresses. This is pretty close to being a screw-ball comedy, and I would have liked it so much better if Francis would have stopped the Samantha/Cora comparisons sooner.

And, once again we have another recommendation for an old Mary Balogh's book.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, IV

August 7, 2017
Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover.

http://www.marybalogh.com/
The Plumed Bonnet is another 2-in-1 re releases of Ms. Balogh's traditional regency. First published in 1996, it is connected to the Stapleton-Downs series. This is a story of
misconception and misunderstanding. While the story has a strong beginning it is a tad bit slow in the middle but comes to a satisfying ending. The hero of the books is Alistair, Duke of Bridgewater, and he has had a strong presence in some of the previous books. He's the guy in the background handing out wise advice, which he does not follow in his own book. As the story begins he is ruminating about the fate of his friends who were all trapped into marriage. He observes that even though they all appear to be perfectly happy, he isn't about to let anything like that happen to him. No sir, he's going to be on his toes and not fall into any kind of trap. Famous last words.

As his coach travels along his eyes are drawn to woman standing along the side of the road. She is dressed in a fuchsia colored cloak and on her head is a plumed pink bonnet. He instantly jumps to the conclusion that she is a "bird of paradise". For all of you who have never read a Regency novel and are not familiar with that particular cant, a "bird of paradise" is a woman of easy virtue. Now, whether that term is real slang from Regency times or a term invented by the great Georgette Heyer is something which can be debated at a later date. But for now Alistair thinks she's a bird of paradise and he's eager to enjoy her "favors." Well, the supposed bird is our heroine Stephanie Gray and she has run into a bit of trouble.

Stephanie has inherited a fortune - sort of. She needs to claim that fortune and in order to do that she quit her governess job (which she hated), packed her valise of all her worldly goods, put most of her money in that valise, climbed on board a public coach and headed toward her fortune. Well, on the way she ran into some less than honest folk and everything in her valise was stolen. So, she decided to walk - what else could she do? Along the way, she ran into some "show-folk" who lent her some stage clothes - hence the outlandish ensemble. She is ever so grateful for the ride from the nice gentleman. Really grateful, for he saved her life. She proceeds to tell him her story.

I found the carriage ride scene quite fascinating. Stephanie is perfectly honest with Alistair, she tells him almost her entire story, all about her inheritance and how she was robbed, etc. But here's what Alistair hears: blah, blah, blah. All the time she is telling him the truth, he is thinking she's making the entire story up. He is bound and determined to not believe her and that is because he wants her to be something other than what she is. They travel together a couple of nights; he even shows up in the bedroom thinking to have his way with her. She on the other hand thinks he just lost his way; for a kind, fine, gentleman like him would never think of seducing her.

When they arrive at her soon-to-be inherited estate she warns him that his presence may be taken the wrong way. She suggests to him that he should just drop her off and she will walk the rest of the way. But Alistair is still stubborn and he wants to see her squirm out of the lies he thinks she's still creating. He wants to see just how far she'll go. He pooh poohs her and walks right into the marriage trap he was trying to avoid. Unlike a lot of Romanceland books, Alistair does not hold Stephanie responsible for the mistake. He knows it's his own stubbornness that has landed him at the altar and he takes it very calmly. It is also at this point that Stephanie finds out that he isn't a Mr. but a duke. Appearances can be deceiving; Stephanie isn't a strumpet and Alistair isn't a Mr. That particular misunderstanding is cleared up. Then the story journeys down another path and here is where some heavy-duty angst takes over.

The next portion revolves around Stephanie being sooooo grateful to Alistair that she does everything she can to change. She attempts to change into the perfect duchess thanks to some heavy-handed lessons from Alistair's mother. Alistair spends a great deal of time saying the wrong thing to Stephanie which only makes her even more determined to be perfect. When she is eventually the perfect duchess, Alistair realizes that maybe that isn't what he really wants; but how to change her back to the woman he realizes he fell in love with. This is a story filled with some pretty complex people and it takes Alistair and Stephanie a while to realize that neither one of them has to change to be perfect for each other.

I recommend this story.


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

Lady with a Black Umbrella by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, III

August 7, 2018
Yes, This is a Funny Mary Balogh!

http://www.marybalogh.com/
Lady with a Black Umbrella by Mary Balogh is one of my all-time favorite Balogh books.  Why? It's funny. Yes, Mary Balogh did write a fun, light-hearted book. This book proves that she can write more than just angst, I just wish she'd do it more often. This is another Signet book, written in 1989 and just recently re-released. It is not connected to any of her other novels.
 
Our hero, Giles, Viscount Kincade, is having a bad day. Not only did he lose some money in a card game, but sometime during the night he was robbed. Now, he doesn't have the blunt to pay his gambling debt, the bill from the innkeeper or the oh-so-charming barmaid who he spent the night with. He has promised to pay everything he owes on his return to London and they all have begrudgingly accepted his word. However, he is totally embarrassed. You see, dignity is very important to this man and that is too bad because he is about to meet someone who will make him lose his dignity over and over again - Daisy Morrison.

Daisy Morrison is also staying at the inn with her younger sister and she is watching the view of the inn's yard from her window. She notices something which the oblivious Giles fails to. There are three men approaching him from different sides and they appear to be up to no good. This thinking proves to be true when the three men start beating Giles up. Well, what’s a girl to do? She rushes to the rescue, along with her curlers, disappearing freckle cream, nightgown and trusty umbrella. She is incensed and proceeds to whack the crap out of the three attackers. Giles is not necessarily grateful to his savior. In fact, he is just a tad bit afraid of the wild eyed woman - but he thanks her. He and his black eye get in his carriage and head back to London, hoping to leave all the embarrassing moments behind him. God forbid that any of his London friends should find out.

One of Giles’ problems is that he left Daisy behind to her own devices. You see, Daisy likes to help others. She must! She must! She must right wrongs! She doesn't care who she must help, she is oblivious to the niceties of society. She is also oblivious to the havoc she creates. Daisy is a delightful heroine. I found her humorous. She is not a TSTL heroine, and just because she is innocent to the things going on around her doesn't mean she’s written as a farce. Some people may find her irritating, but I believe Ms. Balogh did a wonderful job of writing a very refreshing heroine. When Giles left he didn't know that Daisy was still going to help him. She pays his gambling debt, the innkeeper and even the lady of the evening for him. Then Daisy and her sister leave the inn and journey on their way to London unaware of how angry Giles will be when he finds out what she's done.


Indeed, it doesn't take long for stuff to hit any nearby fan. Giles has sent his man to pay his debt, but the man returns and hesitantly tells Giles that everything has been paid - even the barmaid's inflated fees. In the meantime Daisy, who is 25, has brought her 19 year old sister to London. Daisy believes she will make a wonderful chaperon for her beautiful sister. This is another example of Daisy's manner of thinking. She wants only the best for her sister, so she wants to introduce her to society in London. Even though they are wealthy, they really don't know anyone - so when Giles shows up to confront her, Daisy sees this as a perfect opportunity to introduce her sister. Before Giles knows what is happening, he has promised that his aunt will introduce both Daisy and her sister to society. Of course, Daisy doesn't see the need for herself but she's willing to go through with it - and, besides that wouldn't Giles make a perfect husband for her sister. Giles never has a chance; Daisy is a whirl-wind. It's a lot of fun watching Daisy right wrongs, save dogs, save prostitutes, and thwart kidnappers.

All of it was great fun, but along with the fun is Ms. Balogh's trademark slow-building of a love story between our two protagonists. This is a rare light-hearted Mary Balogh book and I highly recommend it.


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage or Memories Schmemories, II

August 7, 2017
"Get me a Bromide, and Put Some Gin in It!" - The Women, 1939 

http://www.marybalogh.com/
Now on to A Promise of Spring by Mary Balogh. Originally written in 1990, A Promise of Spring is connected to her Web trilogy. It has also been re-released with The Temporary Wife as part of a package.

Have I mentioned before that Mary Balogh is the queen of angst? Now when I say that I don't mean the kind of angst where the hero has a scar on his face and he can never luv another. No, Ms. Balogh's angst is based on her characters’ insecurities. So, in a lot of her stories there is a plethora of internal thoughts buzzing through our characters’ heads. The Promise of Spring is filled with these thoughts, so be prepared to be bombarded with some heavy-duty contemplation.

The main contemplation in this story revolves around age difference - 10 years in fact. What's the big deal, you may ask. Well, it's the heroine Grace Howard who is older than the hero Peregrine Lampman. That means that there are alllll kinds of insecurities to think about. By the way Peregrine is one of the nicest beta guys ever - almost toooo nice, but more on that later.

Grace Howard is the sister of Abbotsford village pastor Paul. She's a quiet woman, does her duty, cleans his house, and keeps to herself. She sits in the corner sewing when Paul's best friend Peregrine comes to visit. Peregrine is Mr. Sunshine, everyone loves him. He's charming, charming, charming - there just isn't anyone who can find a bad thing to say about Peregrine. Then one day Paul is killed while saving a child, and Grace is left all alone and lost. Everyone in the village was trying to figure out what to do about Grace - and, I do mean everyone. But, before any of their plans could be put into action, Peregrine asks her to marry him. You see he's a nice guy and Paul was his best friend, so it's the least he can do. He proposes; at first Grace turns him down, then thinks better of it. But before she accepts she tells him her secret. The reason she is living in Abbotsford is because earlier in her life she gave birth to a child out of wedlock. Her child died and she and Paul broke with their family and left to live out their lives in the small village. She also tells Peregrine that the father of the child died. Here's comes Mr. Nice Guy again - he indicates that this won't be a problem.

They marry and begin a quiet life, in the quiet little village - she tends the garden and sews and he reads in his little corner. The only fly in the ointment is Grace occasionally wonders if Peregrine will continue to want her after a while. They grow together, they become friends and they have a great sex life. Well, we all know that this bucolic life cannot continue. Grace has finally worked up enough nerve to write her family that Paul has died. She doesn't expect any kind of reply, so imagine her surprise and concern when she gets one which invites her and Peregrine for a visit. Well, the little gray cells just start chattering away - not only hers but Peregrine’s as well. She worries how long Peregrine will be interested in her and, he worries how long he can keep her interested in him. She's sooooo old she can't compete with the younger women and he's sooooo much younger he can't compete with the more sophisticated men. After some thinking, they decide to make the step into Grace's past and try to mend some fences. So more thinking and angst.

Are you keeping count? We have the age difference angst, Grace and Perry's, so that two angstssss', now we have the family angst which would be the father, another brother and the sister-in-law (allll of them guilt-ridden). But the best angst is about to happen - guess who isn't dead? Oops, did Grace tell a little white lie? Gareth, the guy who impregnated Grace alllll those years ago is still alive and now he's the Viscount Sandersford. Guess what else, he still wants Grace. Hey that's not all, Grace doesn't tell Perry that Gareth is the guy, but he finds out anyway. So we have alllll kinds of angst – the “age thing”, the “family thing”, the “old lover”, the “why didn't she say anything”, the “why isn't Perry saying anything”, the “should I leave Perry”, “should I go with Gareth”. There was so much angst going on my ears started to ring. Even with Ms. Balogh’s gentle cohesive writing all of that stuff was a little tooooo much.

Perry, super beta man. I mentioned before that Perry was one of the nicest guys ever and I like nice guys in romance books. But Perry needed to be just a little bit more aggressive. Ms. Balogh wrote him as a pretty passive guy; so passive he doesn't do anything when he figures out who Gareth is. Even when Gareth becomes this extra pushy, obsessive guy, Perry remains passive. He lets Grace make up her own mind, afraid all the time that she will choose overbearing Gareth over him. As always with Ms. Balogh, her words are clear and Perry's actions are clear, it's just that I wished that Ms. Balogh had written him saying something - anything to Grace. Perry does eventually confront Gareth, but Gareth doesn't really care. This was just such a small part in the book, but it weakened the story for me.

You may think I didn't like this book, but you’d be wrong. I did like it. It wasn't the most comfortable book to read and there are some things I would have changed if I'd written it - but I didn't. There was a lot of quiet angst that this couple went through to find their HEA. When I finished reading this book I felt drained. I do give it a recommendation, but just remember it may not be your cup of tea and you might need a gallon of wine to help you get through it. This is a great example of Mary Balogh's strong writing.


Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Warm/Hot

The Temporary Wife by Mary Balogh, Look What's in Storage aka Memories Schmemories, I

August 7, 2017
My brain hurts.

http://www.marybalogh.com/
 

I will put out a warning to all my little Petunias - don't glom Mary Balogh. I should know better, I've been reading Ms. Balogh for years, ever since she wrote her first novel for Signet.
But silly me, I discovered some of her early Signets have been turned into electronic books – so, what the hey! It was time to reread!!! Did I go to the library storage area? Did I go to ye' ol' book shelf and pull out my paperbacks? That would be too economical of me - I ordered the electronic copies. And, now I have reread five of her books in a roll. Yes! Five. In. A. Roll. My brain hurts. In case you have never read a Mary Balogh book you should know that you are required to use those little brain cells when you read. You have to feel along with all the characters. It is a requirement! A Mary Balogh book is an experience. A Mary Balogh book is always character-driven, full of emotions and plenty of angst. Are all of them winners? She's written over 60 books, so what would be your guess? She's a very popular writer, been around for a long time and everyone has their favorite Mary Balogh book. Also, not so favorite. And, you are not allowed to skip words, because each one of her words is important to the storyline. So, yes, my brain is overtaxed right now - but it will get over it. Let's take a look at the stories that I reread, starting with The Temporary Wife.

The Temporary Wife was first published in 1997 and has been recently republished along with another of her early books The Promise of Spring. The Temporary Wife is not part of a series or connected to any other book. The Promise of Spring is connected to her Web trilogy.

The Temporary Wife, starring Anthony Earheart, Marquess of Staunton, as our hero and Charity Duncan as our heroine. Anthony has advertised for a governess. Here's the thing, he doesn't have any children. Well, why has he advertised for a governess? Here is how Anthony thinks. He thinks that governesses are desperate, meek, unattractive women - just the kind of woman his father would hate. So, what better way to seek revenge on his father than to marry a perfect doormat of a woman and drag her kicking and screaming to the family estate. He thinks the only way to get this kind of wife is to advertise for a governess and then tell her it's actually a wife job she's interviewing for. Sounds logical to me. But poor Anthony hasn't had too much luck finding a woman gruesome enough or desperate enough to fall in with his plans. Enter Charity Duncan.

Charity needs a job. She wants her family to have a nice comfortable life. But Charity has had problems keeping a job. She's either too pretty or too outspoken so her brother suggests she tone her next interview down a bit. Which she does. Anthony offers her the job of not a governess but a wife. Oh yes, he intends to pension her off after he's had his revenge. Charity is a little surprised, but after a few moments she accepts - sort of. She ups the amount of pension. Poor Anthony, even when confronted with a woman who barters for more money he doesn't have a clue that's she's not as meek as she appears. He thinks he is just imagining the gleam in her eye. If only these guys would read romance novels, they'd know.

Anyway, Anthony is expecting a marriage of convenience. He's expecting to drag his mousy wife to his family estates, irritate his family, especially his father, and leave. It isn't long before Anthony figures out that his wife isn't what he expected her to be. Once he figures out that she's not what he anticipated, he still finds a way to use her against his father. Let me tell you, his father was a hard person to like, in fact I never warmed to him. Anthony's father is a cruel man who also sees a chance to use Charity. So Charity is caught in the middle of these two men who are trying to hurt each other. However, Charity is no martyr. She ever so subtlety maneuvers Anthony's dysfunctional family back together again. There is even a reconciliation between father and son. And, through all of this family quagmire Anthony and Charity fall in love.

The Temporary Wife is one of Mary Balogh's better books. It's an emotional journey for Anthony and Charity and we get to watch from the sidelines as all of it slowly develops. I highly recommend this one.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality:Warm/Hot