Reviewed by Charlotte.
The Book’s Premise:
Did you love the wit and elevated dialogue of Pride and Prejudice, yet always wish you got to see Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy have it off? Set in England in the early 1800's, with hoydens, lords and rakes, this is the witty and sexy regency romance you have been waiting for...
London-hating dreamer, Lydia Norwood, has failed spectacularly as a débutante. Now an encoretante whose family has lost a fortune, Lydia discovers that the beau monde is hard on a nouveau riche social climber, particularly one who is no longer riche and only wants to climb trees. Lydia must stave off the effrontery of rogue lords and conniving competitors long enough to make a good match, or else incur society's scorn by earning her own money. Falling for the unattainable Lord Aldley is a distraction she cannot afford. But they share such an enchanted history, how can her heart resist?
The tragically virtuous Earl of Aldley is tired of ambitious families hurling debutantes at his head, but cannot hide in France forever. He returns to London to seek out the mysterious tree-climbing girl who once saved him from a scheming chit, and finds more than he bargained for. Abductions, seductions, trickery and injury all endanger Lydia, but Lord Aldley's heart is imperiled beyond rescue. He has only just found her; will he lose her forever to his enemy, his best friend, or his own dangerous mistake?
First off the premise and title reveal almost all the major plot points including one or two plot spoilers. Though why Jane Austen’s wit and elevated dialogue in Pride and Prejudice gets a mention I know not after reading Three Abductions and An Earl.
Apart from the revealing premise the story started well with a little intrigue, and it progressed at a steady pace with amusing asides and character introductions. Though it slowed a great deal and required a good many chapters until the scenes were set for envy, conflict, and disreputable intrigue. Even so, the way Earl Aldley and Lydia Norwood hedged around each other with words and secret thoughts was mildly amusing to begin with. All the while the sub-characters Tilly and Rutherford (for this reader at any rate), more than edged ahead of the hero and heroine and they did thank God carry the plot forward after the first abduction took place. Here Rutherford took the lead role as the wounded hero and Lydia had every reason to be grateful to him.
Things then turned silly when Lydia revealed bluestocking dreams of going into trade, which became an ancillary thread amidst a lengthy period of comings and goings and spiteful rumours and female rivalry escalated. Funnier still Aldley who at the start is a well travelled aristocrat turned into a lovesick whimpering puppy panting and wagging his tail every time he gets close to Lydia, and then abduction two happens and the end result is a carriage accident.
Poor bedridden Lydia is then confused while the earl resides in limbo land not knowing if he can have a place in her life, and to the sidelines Rutherford and Tilly making out in the sick room brought me to tears because believe me the second half of the book is as funny as the premise promises even though it takes a long time to plough the farce and reap the sinful harvest of lustful hopes and dreams.
At 20 plus Kindle pages per chapter it’s a long slow read with 58 chapters in all. While the first half of the book has a good literary edge with formal permutations relevant to on dit [they say] and pen rép [error] — the second half falls away to a more relaxed style and strangely less formality all told.
What I liked best about this sweet novella was the way the author threw London’s seasoned soirées out of the carriage window. Instead a bleak Cumbrian landscape is where the heroine’s story opens the door on her life. It was a nice change to meet a heroine who cringed in expectation of a forced second season of attendance at soirees in the City of London. And thank goodness Ms Lower avoided a popular and ludicrous plot of young suitors on wild chargers in Hyde Park in pursuit of rebellious heroines. Wise move Ms Lower to steer away from that old trope, and her version of an elopement plot has a refreshing twist to it as well. Poor Sophie is a country girl at heart, and destined as wife to the local vicar’s son. I say poor Sophie because I was rooting for excitement to explode into her life. And Sophie’s dismal prospects then turn for the better when a young man rocks up on her doorstep asking for help. Enter the hero Jeremy who has two companions stranded in a coach and its bogged down in mud and snow. Better still it’s Christmas and with a runaway couple heading for Gretna Green a cottage in the middle of nowhere is suddenly a godsend. And within a short while and seasonal charity Sophie’s little haven of tranquillity becomes a hotbed of lusty dreams, joyous cheer, and budding romance. Oh what a lovely time is had by all. But all good things must come to an end and it does. Poor Sophie is left pondering what if? And after a little heartache and soul searching that what if comes full circle and Sophie has her happy ending. I did like this story very much. It’s simple. It’s sweet. It’s a charming yuletide tale. Well done Ms Lower. Cumbria is a bleak place.
As shape shifter romances go A Devilish Slumber ticks all the boxes for a dark mysterious and magical plot and I would have liked it better if it had had a Victorian setting as the whole story seems Dickensian from start to finish and ill fitting as a Regency romance. The story worked fairly well when I let my imagination run with Victorian overtones, though fast paced it isn’t. Rating it a Dickens style tome seems a more appropriate description because the plot gets bogged down a lot with domestic stuff. And while the Regency backdrop didn’t work for me it might be okay for other readers who are happy if the Prince Regent gets a mention and other things allude to that period. The fantasy of it all with the added spice and a changeling coven and a murder mystery, made it a fascinating read and the book stands alone as the first in a series.
With hindsight I’m not sure the romance angle added all that much to the story, and I wish I hadn’t guessed the outcome from reading the highlighted passage at the very beginning of the book.
The Book's Premise.
Autumn 1763. Career diplomat Alec Halsey has been elevated to a marquessate he doesn't want and Polite Society believes he doesn't deserve. And with the suspicion he murdered his brother still lingering in London drawing rooms, returning to London after seven months in seclusion might well be a mistake. So when a nobody vicar drops dead beside him at a party-political dinner, and his rabble-rousing uncle Plantagenet is bashed and left for dead in a laneway, Alec’s foreboding deepens. Uncovering the vicar's true identity, Alec suspects the man was poisoned. But who would want a seemingly harmless man of God murdered, and why?
Lucinda Brant’s Alec Halsey mysteries explore the darker side of her deliciously romantic 18th century world. Along with trademark wit and high drama there are deeper subplots and even quirkier characters that will have you shuddering and laughing in equal measure!
My Review of Lucinda Brant's novel.
It has a long list of 5 star ratings at Amazon and sort of lived up to expectations.
My grumps with this book were few all told.
Number one the character dialogue at vital moments was too long winded.
And secondly there was a lot of irritating author intrusion.
Ms Brant kept prompting with reminders of previous chapters. That was unnecessary and insulting as though the author thought a reader wouldn't remember what had happened earlier in the novel. The plot is really not at all that complicated and was easy to follow and I don't think the author has quite got a handle on writing suspense novels. The plot was a little too predictable and short on convincing red-herrings. My rating is 4 stars and that's generous because the author does do a good job at describing clothes and characters.
Recommendation. It's a non taxing brain read for a lazy weekend and although I think a little overrated on star quality plot wise, the historical value was there twofold.