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Regency Reviews - Regencies rated Fair



The Reckless Gambler
by
Vanessa Gray
Signet, August 1985

ISBN: 0-451-13764-7

Reviewed 4/11/01

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Vanessa Gray

The Reckless Gambler

by Vanessa Gray


Rating: fair

    Miss Caroline Finlay is wading in a stream, unwittingly exposing her shapely limbs, when she encounters a man whom she assumes is her elusive neighbor's new gamekeeper. She is surprised to discover that he is in fact her neighbor, Mr. Julian Carteret, elder brother of her childhood friend and intended husband Bertrand. She is even more shocked when Julian arranges with her grandfather to become engaged to her just a few days later. Before she knows what has happened, she has been spirited away to London to be near her fiancé.

    As it happens, however, Julian is too busy trying to ferret out a spy selling secrets to Napoleon to spend time with his fiancée. Carrie revels in her newfound freedom from the drudgery of life in her grandfather's house but is more than a little miffed at being first coerced and then ignored by her betrothed. She is taken to a gaming establishment by her cousin, and soon what began as an enjoyable pastime becomes a burden as she finds herself increasingly in debt. She determines not to turn to Julian for help and instead tries to extricate herself but only ends up digging herself in deeper.

    There are two main problems with this book: the heroine and the hero. Carrie is stubborn and childish, and it is difficult to portray this type of heroine as likable. Initially Gray does a good job of showing Carrie's naiveté and why she wants to "kick over the traces." But then, just as Carrie realizes the foolishness of her behavior and decides to stop gambling, her friend Bertrand tells her she should stop, so she continues just to spite him. From that point on I felt that Carrie got what she deserved.

    I can't say I disliked Julian; in fact I don't know a thing about him. After the first promising scene when he is smitten with Carrie he vanishes from the book. Granted, his failure to dance attendance on Carrie is fundamental to the plot, but he needed to be kept involved in the story somehow. In his few brief appearances he is strangely detached. When Bertrand comes to warn him that there may be a problem, Julian retreats behind an aloof facade, fearing he will be hurt as he was at Carrie's reaction to his proposal. Perhaps he doesn't understand women, he muses. (Well, we do have this strange preference to receiving our marriage proposals directly rather than being informed about them by a third party; and of course we like to be at least acquainted with, not to mention in love with, our intended husbands!) He later visits Carrie to find out what's wrong but leaves after a halfhearted and unsuccessful attempt. He rallies at the end, prying some of the truth out of her but not enough to spare her the obligatory abduction, from which he naturally rescues her. But it was too little too late.

    This book was a great disappointment to me. I have enjoyed Vanessa Gray's books in the past and consider her one of the finer early Regency writers. I suggest that readers wishing to explore her works begin with The Accessible Aunt or The Errant Bridegroom, both excellent Regencies.

 

Fortune's Smile
by 
Mary Linn Roby
Warner, 1978

ISBN: 0-446-82925-0

Reviewed 7/9/01

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Mary Linn Roby

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Regencies featuring
Politics & Social Issues

Fortune's Smile

by Mary Linn Roby


Rating: fair

    Pamela Pominder is embarrassed by her mama's pushing behavior. Pamela had been quite content living in a small village near the coastal town of Southampton where her father has a successful shipping business, but her mama insisted that she accompany her flighty sister to London for a Season. Despite the family's background in trade Mrs. Pominder is determined to make a splash. At a ball, Pamela encounters Arthur Ellingham, an earl's son who disdains the shallow trappings of society and declares that he would rather be taking part in the blockade against Napoleon. The pair agree that they are of a like mind and the stage seems to be set for a budding romance, but numerous events occur to distract them.

    And I do mean numerous! There are so many subplots that the main romance is overwhelmed. In fact, I only cite Pamela and Arthur's romance as primary because the jacket copy does. Here follows just a sampling of the convoluted lives and loves of the Pominder family:

    Pamela's father has unwisely let go of more than 50% of his company and learns that the shares are being purchased by a mysterious American named Appleby. Appleby catches the eye of Mrs. Pominder's sister, who has a tendency toward forming obsessive attachments to unavailable men. Appleby in turn falls in love with Arthur's sister Hortense, who in turn loves the clergyman's son Owen, who in turn loves Pamela. Mr. Pominder's brother Guy wants to be an MP but cannot now afford to purchase a rotten borough and so decides to stand for a seat in Southampton. To win the votes of local businessmen he must hide his true beliefs about improving the lot of workers, which diminishes him in the eyes of the woman he loves. Pamela's brother James falls in with bad company and is abducted; he gets amnesia and falls in love with the woman who nurses him. Pamela's spoiled sister Susan becomes engaged to a much older man whose dashing young son tries to show his father Susan's conniving nature by convincing her to elope with him, but the plan backfires when Susan and Oliver are forced to marry. And to make matters more confusing, both Arthur and his father are referred to as Lord Ellingham while Oliver and his father are called Lord Merriam.

   Parts of this book are quite interesting. I particularly found Guy's involvement in politics and the plight of workers to be an intriguing aspect of early 19th century society that is not often explored in Regencies. If Guy's story -- or in fact any single one of the stories -- had been predominant the book would have had more impact both as a romance and as a cohesive whole. As it stands it is more like an unusually short family saga than a romance. Nearly everyone is matched up in the end but so little time is devoted to any of them as to be ultimately unsatisfying.
 


 
 
 
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