Round Six of Buy, Borrow, or Bash features something unusual: two books that actually meet the five chili rating! Which book is the spiciest read for the month? Find out below.
There are spoilers in these reviews. To read the spoilers, highlight the invisible text.
Marion Chesney’s The Loves of Lord Granton (1997; Kindle edition, 2014)
Not many readers know that romance writer Marion Chesney is also best-selling mystery author M.C. Beaton. With The Loves of Lord Granton now re-issued under Marion Chesney’s other name, I wonder if her mystery fans will cross over and discover this work.
Is there anything in this text that will endear itself to mystery readers? I’m not sure.
In a sleepy village called Barton Sub Edge, the genteel but poor Hadleys have to toady to the local baronet, Sir Giles Crowne, who can take away the family living in a moment’s notice. Sir Giles has a stuck-up daughter, Annabelle, who couldn’t attract a husband during her first season in London. Out of desperation, the baronet invites slight acquaintances to visit. Annabelle’s concerned, though, that the gentlemen will be distracted by the Hadley sisters.
When the novel’s Prince Charming shows up, he’s not the upright citizen he ought to be. Lord Rupert Granton’s a scandal-ridden aristocrat and he visits Sir Giles because he’s bored with London. He’s initially bored with Barton Sub Edge too, until he meets the youngest Hadley daughter, the pretty but wayward Frederica.
Lord Granton shouldn’t even take notice of Frederica. As a sixteen-year old, she’s not yet “out,” and she’s kept in hand-me-down gowns and wears her hair down. Everyone thinks she’s odd because she reads too much and enjoys the outdoors, which is where Lord Rupert finds her.
An innocent friendship blossoms between the rake and the girl, as they share the same feelings of ennui with their social spheres. Social strictures frown upon their secret meetings, however, because Men and Women Can’t Be Friends. Every chat they have is fraught with fear of discovery. Frederica begins to think she’s a fool to sacrifice her reputation for a friend, while Lord Granton refuses to look beyond the surface of his feelings.
The Loves of Lord Granton is a quiet book and a fast read. I think of it as When Harry Met Sally… set in the Regency era. In its own way, it tries to answer that old question, “Can Men and Women Truly be Friends?” The answer is yes. Sort of.
For me, the book has a minor flaw: after it’s repeatedly mentioned that Lord Granton is attracted to Frederica’s innocence, the reader doesn’t get to see any consummation. The closed door scene we are given just doesn’t cut it. I know it’s a thoroughly traditional romance, I just feel that a passionate reversal of the beginning could have properly concluded the book.
heat meter: one chili final rating: borrow
Edmund Smyth, Visount Motton, enjoys a spot of amateur spying. He likes it so much that when his neighbor, an aristocratic artist named Clarence Widmore, dies under mysterious circumstances, Edmund breaks into the house to investigate. Was Clarence a French spy or was he involved in something more sinister?
Unfortunately for Edmund, Jane Parker-Roth catches him breaking in. They have a scuffle in the dark, share a passionate kiss, and break a plaster statue of Pan by accident. This leads to Jane finding a hidden clue and she’s excited to search for more.
Against his better judgment, Edmund allows Jane to tag along during his investigation. Their mad search all around London raises the eyebrows of high society, and rouses the attention of Clarence’s killers.
I read The Naked Viscount about a year ago. I thought it was hilarious so I gave its sequel, The Naked King, a try—I wish I hadn’t! Her other novels, too, have gotten spectacularly mixed reviews.
In any case, though, I still found The Naked Viscount funny. The language isn’t period perfect and the premise seems too raunchy to be historically possible. (Handcuffs, for instance, existed by mid-19th century, but probably not earlier than that. Rope bindings would have been more accurate for the time period.)
With a heavy suspension of disbelief, however, The Naked Viscount can be a fun romp. The heroine is spunky and the hero possesses both a graphic vocabulary and a graphic imagination. Where else can you find a historical romance where the hero and heroine bond over removable penises and pornography?
heat meter: five chilis (Why? For the orgies at the hellfire club, the handcuffs, and the indiscriminate use of aphrodisiacs)
final rating: buy (Especially If you want to pretend it’s a fanfiction sequel to Loretta Chase’s Lord Perfect. Somehow I like the idea of
Mrs. Parker-Roth Bathsheba Wingate painting a large nude of Mr. Parker-Roth Benedict Carsington that can be seen in a Harley Street gallery for Jane and Edmund Olivia and Peregrine to discover.)
Miranda Neville’s Confessions from an Arranged Marriage (2012)
Minerva Montrose is a political-minded young miss who dreams of making her mark on the world through her future husband. She wants to marry someone she can help propel to the top of the English government. She thinks she’s found her perfect mark in an ambitious Member of Parliament, and she’s eager to talk to him at parties.
Unfortunately, during one of these events, the drunken Lord Blakeney mistakes Minerva for another woman in a dark library. Minerva finds her reputation threatened when half the haute ton sees (or thinks they see) him under her skirts.
The Duke of Hampton, displeased with his heir for causing a scandal, forces the arranged marriage between the two strangers. Minerva takes some time to adjust to Lord Blakeney, who’s the antithesis of everything she wanted. Instead of the bookish, politically-minded mate she hoped to marry, she finds herself shackled to a jock who never cracks open a book.
Lord Blakeney takes time to adjust to Minerva, too. Like the hero of Julia Quinn’s The Lost Duke of Wyndham, Lord Blakeney secretly suffers from dyslexia. Yes, we have another dyslexic ducal heir on our hands. He’s been hiding his affliction by paying off blackmailers and using his retentive memory to absorb knowledge orally. But now that he’s married to an intelligent woman whom he’s beginning to care for, Lord Blakeney is terrified that Minerva will reject him once she knows the truth.
Confessions from an Arranged Marriage has the misfortune of reminding me of yet another book, Madeline Hunter’s The Charmer. If you happen to like that other novel’s preoccupation with Regency-era politics (rotten boroughs, patronage politics, and hunting out Napoleonic spies) then maybe this one will suit.
Even if this book reminds me of other romance novels, Confessions from an Arranged Marriage isn’t unoriginal or trite. It’s a perfectly decent book for a little light reading, and it tackles all its subplots with deftness.
heat meter: five chilis! (Why? For the multiple sex scenes, voyeurism, and that French duke that makes his royal mistress bark like a dog)
final rating: borrow