The Wicked Marquis // by Marnie Ellingson

Thrift stores are rather awesome, and not just because you can get gently used clothes and furniture on the cheap.  They also tend to have a corner devoted to various types of media, with books, VHS tapes, battered DVDs, and scratched CDs all piled together.  I love rummaging through thrift store books, because sometimes, under the Readers’ Digest condensed versions and scads of romance paperbacks with scantily clad heroes and heroines in fond embrace – I find a little treasure.  And one of those, purchased for a quarter a few years ago, is The Wicked Marquis.

//published 1982//

This isn’t a book of high adventure or intensity, but it’s a fabulous go-to for a happy, relaxing, funny little story.  This definitely has echoes of Georgette Heyer, with a strong-minded but lovable heroine who is determined to rescue her cousin from a marriage of convenience (but no love), and in doing so, embroils herself with the Wicked Marquis himself.  It’s one of those wonderful little stories where there isn’t really a villain, where misunderstandings are minimal, and where you know that everything will come together in the end for a happy ending.

Esme is a wonderful protagonist.  She is intelligent, interesting, and contented with her lot in life.  She isn’t afraid to stand up for the people she loves, but never comes across as obnoxious or ridiculous.  And despite the fact that she is adventurous and not particularly fussed about all of the societal regulations, she’s still feminine and even girly at times, enjoying a good chat about clothes and handsome young men.

All in all, I definitely recommend The Wicked Marquis, with a strong 4/5 rating.  And despite the fact that I’ve owned this book for several years and have read it several times, this was the first time that I bothered to find out if Ellingson wrote anything else.  I did find one of her books on eBay secondhand, and hope to read Unwilling Bride soon, although not in public, as the cover is absolutely ridiculous.

I mean seriously?!

Charity Girl

by Georgette Heyer

published 1970

3486146   Alrighty, first things first:  Is this cover creepy, or is this cover creepy?  I mean, seriously.  Everything about the girl in this picture is completely disturbing, and (surprise) not at all like what happened in the book.  (You know, it’s bad enough that movies destroy good books without the covers getting in on the game).

Anyway.  So life has been crazy per usual.  If you want to know what I’ve been doing with my life, feel free to check out the house blog…  my kitchen is currently very much under construction!

Today I’m off work.  A really bad head cold is giving me the excuse I need to hang out on my bed surrounded by my computer, books, and a cat.  I’m slowly getting caught up on emails and reading people’s blogs, and am already planning my post-lunch nap.  A head cold is really only a pain when you have to leave your house.

So – on to Charity Girl.  I’m slowly working my way through all of Heyer’s regency tales, and Charity Girl was a new read for me.  While it was a fine little story, it’s not my new favorite or anything.  A pretty solid 3/5.  The characters are likable but not memorable, and it lacks that witty dialogue that so often makes Heyer’s books delightful.

Lord Desford aka Ashley Carrington (probably aka something else…  I mean, really, why does everyone in the Regency period have to have fifteen names apiece?  I understand the technically why, but it certainly can make a story  hard to follow at times, sheesh) has a very good life.  Well off, good looking, kind, with loving parents, a nice home, a pleasant family, and, of course, the prospect of the earldom heading his way sometime in the future.  Although Desford’s parents hoped he would marry his friend and neighbor, Henrietta Silverdale, even that danger was navigated, leaving them both still single yet good friends, just the way they claim to like it.

Well, in our story (which picks up a few years after the avoided marriage), Desford heads off to visit an aunt.  While there, the family attends a party at a neighboring estate.  During the party, Desford happens to come across Cherry Steane.  Abandoned by her family, Cherry is living one step above a servant with her aunt and cousins.  Though a lovely young lady, she suffers the fate of most poor relations – love and money are showered on her cousins, but Cherry will never even get a Season.

Desford is sympathetic towards her plight, but knows of no real way to be of assistance.  (This conversation, by the way, takes place through the stair railings, hence the creepy cover picture.)  Next day, however, as he is driving back to London, whom does Des discover walking along the road??  Yep, Miss Cherry, who has run away from home.  By agreeing to give Cherry a lift to London to meet up with her grandpa (who, by all accounts, is a miserly rapscallion), Desford finds himself entangled in Cherry’s drama.  Her grandpa isn’t home, so Cherry ends up at Henrietta’s while Desford dashes about the countryside seeking Cherry’s missing grandpapa.

The story is, frankly, a bit slow.  It’s rather obvious that Desford and Henrietta are going to end up together, despite their earlier-aborted courtship, yet we don’t get much of an opportunity to see the development of that relationship, or the realization that they want to be more than friends after all.  Cherry is a bit too innocent to be interesting, and while there are a few funny scenes here and there, the whole story feels a bit impractical.

Also, while Heye’s use of Regency slang/terms is often what makes her stories enjoyable, she does sometimes go a bit over the top, and this book was stuffed with “cant” phrases –

“…if my lord ain’t cut his stick I’m a bag-pudding!  Which I ain’t!”

“You may not be a bag-pudding, but you’re one of the worst surly-boots it has ever been my ill-fortune to encounter!  …  I know very well what made you turn knaggy …”

Or –

“I am neither a noddicock nor a souse-crown, young man …  I perceived, in the twinkling of a bedpost, that he was under orders to fob me off! …  Do not be mislead into thinking that because I am not, thank God, a muckworm, I am lobcock!”

While entertaining read in short spurts, this book seemed to have more than its fair share of slang (maybe because the book focused more on a man than a woman?), which sometimes bogged me down a big.  Plus, reading any Heyer book makes me spout phrases like “I say, doing it a bit too brown!” in my general conversation, which can be awkward.

In the end, while I felt that Desford and Henrietta would, as they say, deal well together, I was disappointed in the overall lack of a love story, especially since the two main players had been separated throughout the majority of the book.  While the story was fun, it was a bit too fluffy, even for Heyer, to become a favorite.

Bath Tangle

004

by Georgette Heyer

Published 1955

Whoa, a picture of the book!?  Madness!

It had been a while since I’d picked up a Heyer novel.  Recently, I added every book she’s ever written on my TBR (yeah, we don’t want to talk about the length of the TBR, or the fact that I add more books than I read to it every week).  While her Regency books are rarely innovative, they are super relaxing, and often entertaining.

Bath Tangle was quite typical, really, with everyone ending up engaged to the wrong someone, but magically coming together just right by the end.  One of the things that I enjoy about Heyer’s novels is that there is rarely a villain, or even someone you dislike.  Serena, the heroine, was delightfully imperfect.  Fanny, her mother-in-law (and also her junior by a few years… welcome to the Regency era lol), was as sweet and adorable as she could be.  The gentlemen were great fun and oh so gentlemanly (mostly).  Overall, Bath Tangle was all froth and bubbles, but in a happy, contented kind of way.  While this wasn’t a favorite read, like Friday’s Childit was still a great deal of fun and an easy 4/5.