Last week I squeezed in a trip to the library on the way to picking up my kids at their aikido class. When I got to the library, I had 11 books waiting for me on the reservation shelf. I swished them through the barcode at the self-checkout station and was back on my way to aikido. Total elapsed time: 9 minutes. I think parking took the longest.
So I got two nice piles, one from Loretta Chase and one from Judith McNaught; the latest release from Deborah Smith (just started that one today), and a fantasy trilogy from Roberta Gellis. Oh, and I owe them 10¢. Which I could pay online if I want.
I’ve been reading Loretta Chase now since Not Quite a Lady came out last year. The Carsington brothers are fun (Miss Wonderful, Lord Perfect, Mr. Impossible) but I really really loved The Last Hellion and Captives of the Night. CotN is a direct sequel of The Lion’s Daughter, while The Last Hellion has only a small intersection with a couple of characters.
There are certain constants in Regency romance. You can pretty much expect mention of Almack’s, balls, routs, eccentric dowagers, and descriptions of ballgowns. At some point, the heroine is going to need to navigate the ton.
Loretta Chase is different. High society still factors, but the heroines operate mostly outside of society. They are career women ahead of their time; some by necessity, others by passion. They are less protected & more mature than your typical regency deb, and therefore, to my mind, far more interesting. The heroes’ reactions to them range from hilarious to truly moving. Chase’s heroines just seem more... participatory in their stories. They are right alongside the heroes, scrapping through adventures with bad guys, foraging for clues in locations both exotic and low-brow, and contributing plenty of brainpower to the plot.
As they say, death is easy; comedy is hard. Something about the diction and voicing of historicals makes it even harder to achieve, as far as I’m concerned, so the fact that Chase can make me laugh out loud in an empty room is doubly impressive. Here’s a snip from The Last Hellion that completely cracked me up:
setting: a dicey neighborhood in London, 1828. "He" is our hero, a well-dressed duke.
He fell to his knees. "Sweet Aurora, behold me prostrate before you-"
"That isn't prostrate," she said reproachfully. "Truly prostrate is out flat, face down--"
"Bung upwards, she means, Your Grace," a tart called out.
"I should do anything for my goddess," he said above the male segment of the audience's raucous suggestions of various acts he might perform in his present position. He would kill them all later, he decided.
Overall, my favorite so far has to be Captives of the Night (though the title is a bit more gag-worthy than usual). The heroine is smart and ballsy and takes no crap from anyone, and the redemption of the hero is a story that gracefully twines together with the mystery plot in a flawless pied à deux of pacing. Andrea’s fave is Mr. Impossible, which asks the question, what if the alpha hero is cute and strong and everything, but just not that...well... smart? The answer may surprise you.
I like the recent offerings too – Chase continues to write heroines that really go for what they want, whether society approves or not, and I love that.