|A Little Personal History to Begin, or, Why Is
a Middle-Aged Male Reviewing Regency Romances?
i was twenty (which was rather more than half my life ago) and stationed
at the Naval Shipyard at Norfolk, i read an article in a science-fiction
fanzine about Georgette Heyer, a british author of romances. The article
included a rather fractured but hilarious plot- summary of a book entitled
Sylvester; or, the Wicked Uncle. I, being bored, checked the Navy Exchange's
book racks and discovered a Heyer book entitled The Talisman Ring, read
it, and was hooked. ((It was some years later before i found a copy of
Sylvester, which proved to be even more gloriously silly and complex in
plot than the article i had read had implied...))
Anyway, having read every Regency or Georgian romance and all of the historical
novels the late Ms Heyer published (her mysteries are a different and, i'm
afraid, unfathomable, thing entirely), i came to the conclusion that she
basically wrote two types of Regency story: Romps and Sweets, as i called them.
Sweets were iminently readable, consisting primarily of relatively lowkey
action and devastatingly-drawn observations of society and drawing room
wit/comedy of manners writing (Bath Tangle, Arabella and The Unknown Ajax).
Romps had the comedy of manners, but usually also featured wilder elements,
such as gender swaps between brother and sister in order to hide in plain
sight (The Masqueraders), military officers taking over the opeation of a country tollgate on
a whim to discover where the missing gatekeeper is (The Toll-Gate), abductions of various
sorts for various purposes, smuggling and assorted other nefarious activities,
a young woman married to a man she'd never seen till fifteen minutes before
and then widowed less than an hour afterward (The Reluctant Widow), and murders, duels and fisticuffs
of various and sundry sorts (The Corinthian and Regency Buck). And love stories.
So what, you ask, does the foregoing have to do with
a review of a Kasey Michaels novel? Just that this is a Regency Romp that
is *almost* as good as one of Heyer's.
And *almost* as good as Georgette Heyer is readable indeed.
There are, in fact, familiar elements of Heyeresque plot scattered througout
this book -- and at least one neat little bit of dialog that my wife and
i are both sure is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Heyer's
These Old Shades, possibly the best of her romps.
Brady James, a typical Heyeresque heroic non-pareil, is attacked and thrown,
weighted, into the Thames to drown, barely escaping with his life.
Arranging with friends to fake his own funeral, he retreats to his country
house to recuperate and to plot the discovery and punishment of whoever tried
to do him in.
He suspects that the attack may have something to do with his enquiries into
the background of a Miss Regina Bliss, a young lady apparently incapable
of telling the truth when an outrageous lie will do better who was rescued
from the streets by friends of his in a previous book.
As he recuperates, he and Miss Bliss work out a scheme in which he will be
his own foppish distant cousin, newly returned from France with his inheritance
of Brady's title and estates and she will be his ward. Together, they will
discover his own attackers; and Miss Bliss, who has an agenda of her own,
will also look for revenge on old enemies of her own whom Brady knows nothing
And, as anyone can predict, though the path of True Love will hardly run
smooth, it will surely run.
Lots of fun, well worth the attention of anyone who likes Heyer and has run
out of her books.