Please understand this is a ‘special full’ review for a lovely anthology of which authors banded together to raise money for a very worthwhile charity. All the proceeds from this collection of Georgian and Regency stories will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
At RRM we do not ordinarily review anthologies or boxed sets of books. The time involved to review individual stories is too much to ask of my reviewers.
Reviewed by Suzy.
A Rose by Any Other by Giselle Marks.
Ms Marks has written a classic abduction story, full of danger, romance, and intrigue. The Earl of Chisolm is a tad arrogant and although he’s a man of high principle, he lives life to the full in discreet manner. Meanwhile, the heroine is pursued by the earl’s nephew, a young man who causes Rose more grief than pleasure. The earl is thoroughly disapproving of his nephew’s ambitions to wed Rose, and sparks soon fly when he sets out to pay Rose money to simply walk away from his nephew. Neither the earl or his nephew are aware Rose is not as they had imagined – good or bad. Rose has a past and a future that is going to turn the earl’s previously contented existence into a living nightmare when Rose goes missing, and his nephew is taught a lesson in never presume too much too soon. This is a lively and entertaining story.
A Fateful Connection by Elizabeth Bailey.
Ms Bailey’s story is a delightful ‘chance encounter’ tale of love at first sight from one set of eyes, and a case of embarrassment and exposure for another. While Clarice Ryde believes employment at a young ladies’ academy is more or less in the bag, her aspiration for independence is soon curtailed and she finds herself on the street with nowhere to go. And Gervais, Chevalier de Guise, has no home to call his own. He does have friends, something Clarice doesn’t until Gervais steps across her path. Life can seem oh so simple when in fact it is far more complicated for both Clarice and Gervais. Neither is aware of the other’s past. While not all happy endings are devoid of trial and tribulation along the way, there is a happy ending to this charming tale.
The Runaway Duchess by Francine Howarth.
Ms Howarth’s story starts after the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo when peace across Europe is assured and many British soldiers have returned home. While young ladies promenade, young officer bucks and swains dutifully give attention to female assets. But there are young women out and about in the City of Bath, of whom one aristocratic mother refers to as trollops. How amusing then that a trollop brings the wrath of his mother upon Randolph, Viscount Somerton’s head, while for Matjis de Boviere, the trollop leads to a chance encounter with a lady from his past. The cameos in which the two cousins, Matjis and Randolph, face embarrassment, wage bets, and conduct their lives, is highly amusing until a secondary tale of spies and intrigue begins to unfold. The eventual romance of it all sweeps the reader along, but then comes a twist in the tale and Matjis is every bit the hero when a secret is revealed on the very last page. Even with a satisfying end, I think there is more to this story to come. Perhaps within a second Chocolate House anthology.
Death at the Chocolate House by Susan Ruth
Ms Ruth gives us a murder mystery and a vast cast of characters. Some are amusing. Some are erudite. Some are plain stupid. This is a classic who-dunnit with a touch of Georgian farce. Magic lantern shows are all the rage in the City of Bath, and the Chocolate House is hosting one such occasion. With a lady called Fifi, an upright General, and a hard-nosed detective, Miss Marple and or Sherlock would have felt utterly at home in this story where a man enters the ladies cloakroom and falls dead at the feet of the heroine. There are questions. Who is he? Who killed him? Then comes the added complication of a snowstorm that blows more trouble forth and seals Bath from the outside world. Under siege within the Chocolate House tempers frey, hearts flutter, and the mystery surrounding the dead man deepens. It is solved in time, but even as the story reaches its close a mystery remains unsolved as a teaser of perhaps more to come. Who can know what the future holds in store for a reader?
A Pig-in-a-Poke by Jessica Schira.
Ms Schira gives us a charming young man of business and a head for figures, and Simon Harper has a second plus point. He’s gallant and a maiden in distress cannot be ignored. But while Letty Malleson may sound like a maiden in need of help, she is a force he had not thought to encounter. Simon soon wonders if he has bit off more than he can chew. Letty does slowly warm to his kindness and his intervention in her private affairs becomes acceptable. Unpleasantness involving a business transaction has left her shaking with rage while fearing for her livelihood. But Simon proves himself a good mediator, and Letty sees the virtue of good advice. Between them they set out to uncover truth from lies, but breaking and entering premises is a crime. What if they get caught in the act? There is that and much more, and Ms Schira leads the reader into a world of shady deals, and breath-stopping moments as love blooms and cheeks become flushed. This is a tale where the author understands all that a pig-in-a-poke entails.
A Little Chocolate in the Morning by David W. Wilkin.
Mr Wilkin’s character, Charles Watkins, is young man always with an eye to a pretty face. While his thoughts are very much his own he dreams of love and romance, but how to achieve it seems to escape him. He’s a reserved and refined gentleman, an aristocratic gentleman who has a serious eye to politics and his seat in the upper House of Parliament. Though what is a seat in the Lords, or the comforts of home, when his sisters are all married except one, and his mother harangues him over his responsibilities and the need to beget an heir? Life for Charles is content enough, or is it? Determined to get his sister wed and off his hands, perhaps then he can put his mind to the seeking of a comely wife. And then along comes Lady Caroline. The life Charles has viewed as comfortable and uncomplicated in a romantic sense, can never be as it was before he set eyes on Caroline. He must do something, but how and when?