Tag Archives: regency romance

Review of The Haunting of a Duke (Dark Regency #1), by Chasity Bowlin

I picked up a copy of The Haunting of a Duke (by Chasity Bowlin) from Amazon. It was free at the time and still free when I posted this review.

Description from Goodreads:
Communing with spirits has been both gift and curse to Emme Walters. Now it’s made her a killer’s target.

Emme knows why the Dowager Duchess of Briarleigh invited her to a house party–to investigate whether the duke, Rhys Brammel, murdered his wife years ago. But Emme never imagined she would fall in love with the brooding duke. Branded by society as a possible killer, Rhys is suspicious of Emme and her alleged “gift.”

Then a late night encounter creates awareness of her other, more attractive, aspects. When Emme’s life is threatened, Rhys becomes her protector. Emme and Rhys find passion and peril as they join forces to solve the mysteries at Briarleigh.

She made him believe in spirits, but can she make him believe in love?

Mechanically the writing here is fine, if painfully repetitive with certain phrases. But the whole plot, every single aspect of it is just so cliched and overused I can’t give it any more. There is literally no aspect of this plot I couldn’t have predicted just by thinking about what motive you see most often in this sort of book and which of the characters were described to match the most common idea of villainy. Plus, it could do with more editing. I mean, the epilogue appears twice in the Kindle copy, so….

I had to just skim the sex scenes as they were so unexceptional and, to me, annoying. I find sex scenes that continuously focus on how “innocent” and “untried” and “untutored” and “inexperienced” the woman is, as well as ones that might as well just be a grocery list of which body parts the man lusts over boring to the extreme. Plus, I found it disturbing how often she couldn’t identify her own feelings. I will give her credit for at least being willing to accept her own desires once she finally identified them and she never pulled the common, “What’s happening to my body” schtick when she lost her virginity.

All in all, I keep trying to like Regency Romance and every once in a while I encounter one I do, which encourages me to keep trying. But this is a pretty classic example of why I generally don’t like the genre, even if paranormal aspects were thrown in.

Review of Claiming Mister Kemp, by Emily Larkin

I received a copy of Claiming Mister Kemp, by Emily Larkin from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Lucas Kemp’s twin sister died last year. He’s put aside his mourning clothes, but not his heartache. If Lucas ever needed a friend, it’s now—and who should walk in his door but Lieutenant Thomas Matlock… 

Lucas and Tom are more than just best friends; they’ve been in love with each other for years. In love with each other—and pretending not to know it. 

But this time, Tom’s not going to ignore the attraction between them. This time, he’s going to push the issue. 

He’s going to teach Lucas how to laugh again—and he’s going to take Lucas as his lover…

I thought this was ok, not great but not bad either. It’s a 4th book in a series that I haven’t read and it stood alone, but felt more like book 3.5 than 4. Both men are side characters from the previous book and there are several characters that I could tell were cameos even without reading the other books. It just didn’t feel particularly fleshed out, even if the writing was very pretty.

I was also uncomfortable with how the relationship started. I understood Tom’s seize the day attitude, but I really thought he was too aggressive, pushing Lucas even when he was actively saying no. I did appreciate the presence of bisexuals and the fact that sex didn’t have to be penetrative to be satisfying and loving. So often ‘romances’ culminate with penetrative sex, as if it’s the only real kind of sex and somehow marks a relationship out as real.

From what I understand of the other books in the series, they are fantasy. But there is no evidence of magic here. It’s a fairly straight forward historical romance. I did get tired of Lucas’ constant fretting. I understood it, but from the reading perspective, it got old. Lastly, I thought given all that emotional turmoil, Lucas seemed to get over it awful quickly, once the time came.

Review of Sweet Disorder (Lively St. Lemeston #1), by Rose Lerner

Sweet DisorderI bought a copy of Sweet Disorder, by Rose Lerner.

Description from Goodreads:
Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he’s lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings.

But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.

One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town’s by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl’s son, she can’t. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe’s last-ditch defense against her sister’s ruin is her vote—and her hand.

Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they’ll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty…or love.

I keep wanting to love Regency romance (so I keep trying them), there are so many out there, but every time I read one I’m reminded that this isn’t a genre that really works for me. Having said that, I liked this a lot more than most.

I liked that it was focused on middle-class people and small political machinations. I liked that Pheobe was given a lot of agency and that she was plump but still described as attractive. I liked a lot of the small ah-ha moments the book allows—the entrapment of manliness being as damaging as the rigid rules of femininity, the way men can coerce women into sex by playing on their socially engrained need to please without it being force but still be wrong, a real discussion between women about sex being enjoyable, etc. I liked that there were quite a lot of modern ideas discussed without it feeling anachronistic (often a particular pet peeve of mine). I liked that the characters, even the side characters, were almost all well developed.

There were aspects I didn’t like too, but few of them originated in this being Regency. I disliked the evil mothers. I didn’t understand why Pheobe’s was so horrible and I thought Nick’s held echoes of ‘you can’t have it all.’ While I appreciated that a mother was allowed to be as absent as a father, I also felt like it was one more message of ‘if you want to succeed in a career you can’t also succeed as a mother.’ Women can and do do both. Thank goodness Moon had a positive mother or I might have thought mothers villainized in general.

I didn’t think the person who caused the whole mess was adequately punished either. This wasn’t his story and I understand that, but I felt he was a shadow even in the reveal.

All in all, for being a genre I don’t love, I found myself charmed by this novel. Or rather not as viscerally put off by it as I am with most Regencies and that is saying a lot for it.