Smugglers, Dragons, and an Unusual Heroine

Jun 17, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Nice descriptions, decent style.

Cons:Slow, and never really catches fire.

The Bottom Line: Good for a very rainy day, and there is simply nothing else; otherwise, find another novel.

Every now and then I tuck a romance into my shopping basket at the local Barnes & Noble. Nine times out of ten, it's a historical, since I have fun picking out the history in between sessions of wooing (ahem) between the main leads.

And this one caught my eye. Jo Beverley has been crafting some pretty decent Regency novels. (For those of you who are curious, the Regency period is about 1793 to 1820, covering the period more or less, when George III's son, the Prince Regent, was running England for his slighty batty dad) It's also a particular writing style, best exemplifed by the novels of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, with exquisite manner, sly humor, and little or no amourous nookie until that marriage license is signed. I was fully prepared to curl up with a good pot of tea, and a plate of crumpets and enjoy myself.

And, my friends, this novel disappointed. It took me three days, not three hours, to wade through this one. Oh, the romance and imagry is steamy enough, the history and setting are perfectly crafted, we've got tension and complications aplenty between the two main characters, but on the whole, this one was a complete bore. But the reader is held at arm's length it seems from the main characters; both of them are so stiff-necked and unseeing of the others that it made me wonder if this was a romance, or a thinly disguised lust-o-rama?

Susan Clyst (or Kerslake) is the illegitimate daughter of a gentlewoman and a smuggling captain. Along with her brother, David, she helps to manage a smuggling ring, importing tea, silk and lace under the noses of the government soldiers stationed on the coast to stop such nefarious trade. For her cover, she's also the housekeeper at Crag Wyvern, appearing staid and respectable despite her shady anecedents. When the old earl dies, and her father is exiled to Australia, she has trouble on her hands, coping with the smuggling gang, the arrival of the new earl, and a would be suitor who isn't too polite in his wooing.

And Conn, the new earl, just happens to be a long-ago lover of Susan's, the two of them having consummated their passion in a wild teen-age frenzy more than a decade ago. Returning from the ravages of Waterloo, and the spanish campaigns, he's haunted by the death of a friend, and the memories of the old earl's madness and the general gloominess of this new estate. Of course, he and Susan are attracted to each other once again, and there's complications, induenndo, and renewed passion.

And that's what attracted me to this one, it had a heroine who was not a simpering virgin, a male lead that had some maturity and brains to him, and plenty of entanglements to keep my mind occupied. Unfortunately, we never really get to know these two characters. Perhaps it's my familiarity with history, or that I've simply read too many books!

So -- I recommend this novel, and I don't. If you're looking for something that's a cut above most romances, and you like plenty of suspense, then go ahead and give this one a try. If you're looking for something more in the vein of Austen or Heyer, then I would suggest something else.

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