As Lewis Carroll’s Alice so aptly points out, What is the use of a book‚Ä¶without pictures or conversations? Welcome to RA Crossroads, where books, movies, music, and other media converge, and whole-collection reader’s advisory service goes where it may. In this column, some truly bad music and the delights of the Regency lead me down a winding path.
Quinn, Julia. A Night Like This. Avon. (Smythe-Smith Quartet, Bk. 2). 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780062072900. pap. $7.99. F
With her last two books Quinn has begun to follow a family who played a cameo role in her beloved Bridgerton novels. The Smythe-Smiths are renowned for their lack of musical talent, displayed to the polite endurance of the social elite each year in a concert that has become a running joke in Quinn’s universe. In her latest Regency-era romance, Quinn introduces the head of this clan, the Earl of Winstead, Daniel Smythe-Smith, who has been living in exile as a result of a badly managed duel. When he is finally allowed to return to England, he encounters Anne Wynter, who is hiding out as governess to his cousins in order to avoid the sadistic plans of a minor figure in the gentry. The two slowly (Daniel more quickly than Anne) fall in love through a courtship that has flashes of the best of Quinn’s work (The Viscount Who Loved Me, When He Was Wicked, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, and It’s in His Kiss). The novel is fun, gentle, witty, and light, while Daniel’s determination to court and protect Anne is charming. The first Smythe-Smith novel is Just Like Heaven, but readers don’t have to read the two in order.
Heyer, Georgette. The Grand Sophy. Sourcebooks. 2009. 348p. ISBN 9781402218941. pap. $13.99. F
Heyer, who nicely bridges the formal world of Jane Austen and the modern sensibilities of Quinn, offers readers a detailed Regency world with books full of wit, charm, and fun. Her focus, like Quinn’s, is on the steps of courtship, and also like Quinn, Heyer excels at crafting conversations and memorable scenes. All of her skills combine in this near-perfect Regency. When Sophy is taken in by her aunt, she finds herself in the midst of a household that needs fixing. She saves all of her cousins from one sorry fate or another and pits her will against her tyrant cousin, Charles Rivenhall, whom, as fate would have it, she slowly begins to love. However, in order for that to be resolved as she desires, Sophy must first free him from his affianced state.
Quick, Amanda. Scandal. Bantam. 1991. 352p. ISBN 9780553289329. pap. $7.99. F
Before Quick began writing about the paranormal world of the Arcane Society and Lantern Street, she wrote charming and fun Regency-era romances that make grand next reads for Quinn fans. The best of these is the story of Emily Faringdon and the Earl of Blade. Emily lives for poetry (which she writes very badly) and on the side makes investments for her feckless father and brothers (which she does very well). Blade, whose family was ruined by Emily’s father, seduces her into marriage, intent on revenge. But soon he is caught up in the sheer wonder that is Emily and begins to neglect most of his plans. Light, witty, and conjuring Quinn’s well-crafted scenes and descriptions, the novel should delight romance readers. Quick also writes under the name Jayne Ann Krentz, and some of her other titles, such as Perfect Partners, would also make good matches in terms of wit and courtship.
Laurens, Stephanie. Devil’s Bride. Avon. 1998. 400p. ISBN 9780380794560. pap. $7.99. F
Like Quinn, Laurens invented a Regency-era family and has been writing about its exploits for years. In this first book in the series, she introduces the Cynsters, headed by Devil, the Duke of St. Ives, and his would-be wife, Honoria Wetherby. When they first meet, as they care for a mortally wounded young man, the two bristle at each other’s demeanor. As the relationship develops, their tempers are tested and tried, especially as Honoria refuses to give ground. While Laurens differs from Quinn in that wit and repartee are not her focus, and her books are steamier than most of Quinn’s, through a shared focus on family, the importance of emotional connection, and the steps of courtship, the two authors have plenty of appeal elements in common. Advisors should note that there are a number of other Regency writers, and while all are not read-alikes for Quinn, fans of the genre might also be pointed to Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Carla Kelly, Barbara Metzger, Jo Beverley, Julie Garwood, Catherine Coulter, Lisa Kleypas, Julia London, Johanna Lindsey, Anne Gracie, Judith McNaught, Mary Jo Putney, Lauren Willig, Laura London, and Liz Carlyle.
Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. Match Me If You Can. Avon. 2006. 416p. ISBN 9780060734565. pap. $7.99. F
Contemporary romance writer Phillips has a long-running series of works loosely connected through the theme of football. In this sixth book in the collection, Annabelle Granger bets her matchmaking business on getting superstar sports agent Heath Champion a wife. But Heath, busy with business, is a very hard case. Annabelle exhausts herself babysitting his star athletes and matching him with a bevy of Chicago beauties, only to find that he is hardly paying attention. What is a matchmaker to do? Sharing with Quinn the same sense of charm and sweetness, this fun, witty, and sexy contemporary offers much to enjoy to Regency-era fans willing to cross the time line.
Crusie, Jennifer & Bob Mayer. Agnes and the Hitman. St. Martin’s. 2008. 432p. ISBN 9780312363055. pap. $7.99. F
Crusie is known for her humor and wit and thus makes for a good pairing with Quinn for fans of contemporary romances. In books like Bet Me and Welcome to Temptation, she showcases tender and funny courtships, large measures of wit, and a sexy but gentle sensibility. In this partnership with action writer Mayer, she keeps the fun courtship, ups the zany quotient, and adds in a bit of mafia and Southern shenanigans. Agnes is a cook in trouble‚ first someone tries to take her dog, and then they come for her house. Good thing a sexy hit man shows up to keep things in line. Fans of Quinn who enjoy the glee that underscores much of her writing should find Crusie grand company.
Kloester, Jennifer. Georgette Heyer’s Regency World. Sourcebooks. 2010. 400p. ISBN 9781402241369. pap. $14.99. F
Regency romance fans who become interested in the details of the time period will find Kloester’s book a treasure trove of social, cultural, and historical detail. Everything from the strict rules of society, to what estate living was like, to the intricacies of the Season is explained. Also included is a helpful list of who was who during the era. While the book is designed to explore Heyer’s world, it offers any reader of historical Regency-era romance (including Quinn, Quick, and Laurens) a lushly detailed view of the period.
Erickson, Carolly. Our Tempestuous Day: A History of Regency England. Avon. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780380813346. pap. $. 16.99. F
Readers of Regency-era romances are often interested in the backdrop of history that is frequently used only as wallpaper in the novels. For these readers, books such as Erickson’s social history make good companion reading. Offering a portrait of the era, Erickson explores the cultural, political, and economic history of age. While she includes segments on the glamour and personalities of the wealthy, she also addresses the impact of the war with France, the shocking poverty of the time, and the rapid social change that boiled beneath the glitz. Strongly narrative and descriptive, her accessible history is a pleasure to read. Pair it with Venetia Murray’s An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England.
Quinn, Julia. The Viscount Who Loved Me: The 2nd Epilogue. HarperCollins. 2007. ISBN 9780061472718. $1.99. F
Because the Bridgerton books are so beloved, Quinn has written second epilogs for many of the novels and plans to publish all eight in an e-collection due out this November (with a paperback edition following approximately six months later). Among those currently available is the second epilog for The Viscount Who Loved Me, in which there is a rematch to the epic Pall Mall game (an event at the center of the original novel). The audio edition is a treat, read with great glee and wonderful pacing and intonation by Kevan Brighting. Pair his reading of Kate and Anthony’s battle with Simon Prebble’s reading of Stephanie Laurens’s The Promise in a Kiss, the story of Devil Cynster’s strong-willed parents. Prebble shares with Brighting a similar inflection, reading rhythm, and intonation and infuses the battle between Sebastian Cynster and Helena, the Comtesse d’Lisle, with a perfect mix of tension and gentleness.
Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Naxos. 2007. ISBN 9789626344361. $47.98. F
When it comes to modern-day romance novels, Julia Quinn is heir to much of the sensibility of Jane Austen. For listeners who want Austen at her romantic best, suggest Juliet Stevenson’s reading of the story of Anne Elliot, the disparaged youngest daughter of a baronet, and her long-pined-for love, Captain Wentworth, a highly successful naval officer. Stevenson narrates the novel with a lovely reading voice, sharp characterizations, and superb pacing. Pair it with Josephine Bailey’s brilliantly paced and intonated reading of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Listeners will find early traces of the quick wit and exchanges of many of Quinn’s characters in the battles between Jane and Rochester.