Lady Wesley

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-03-18


I have enjoyed other Beaton books and audios but this narrator led me to abandon the effort.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-24-18

Good; not great

This was a very nice book. I liked the characters, the setting, and the plot. It did not, however, have the depth that I have come to prefer in HR.

Gildart Jackson narrated, and he is quite good. He is a bit weak on female characters, but his males are simply delicious.

I enjoyed the book, but I'm not likely to listen again.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 03-10-18

Heyer humor + Christiesque mystery

Georgette Heyer, best known for her Regency romances, also wrote several mysteries, and The Unfinished Clue was the first that I have read. Actually, I listened to the Audible audiobook, narrated by Ulli Birve, who also has narrated several other Heyer mysteries. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and plan to try some of the others.

Given that I am a big fan of Agatha Christie and that I also love house party settings, this book was right down my alley. It features an ill-assorted group of house guests, a victim that everyone hated, lots of red herrings, and a cool, calm Scotland Yard inspector, along with Heyer's trademark humor and sparkling dialogue. The reveal of the murderer was quite a surprise; I never saw it coming. There is a touch of romance, which really didn't add anything to the story.

For the first time, however, I noticed a problem with listening to a book rather than reading it. The "unfinished clue" of the title was a scrap of paper upon which the victim had scrawled "there." Or was it "they're?" Or was it "their?" I didn't know the answer until the end, although I don't believe that knowing would have helped me in the least to guess the identity of the murderer.

Ulli Birve's narration was a bit on the slow side, but her ability to voice the myriad characters was excellent. Like I said, I will try some of the other Heyer mysteries.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-10-18

A delightful blend of mystery and romance

When my friend Caz said that Lord Ryde is "a hero very much in the Lord Damerel mould," how could I resist? (For those not familiar with Georgette Heyer, Lord Damerel is the sexy hero of Venetia, one of Heyer's best romances. And if you like historical romance and aren't familiar with Heyer's books, you should be!)

So, I didn't resist, and I'm very glad. This audiobook was a delightful blend of mystery and romance, helped along by a very good narration from British actress Anna Bentinck. The romance is luscious, as is the hero. Moreover, there are clever humorous interludes, my favorite being Ryde's reactions as his run-down "bachelor establishment" is taken over by females, mostly servants, sent there to take care of Elinor after she is wounded by a gunshot. The gunshot is the centerpiece of the mystery but it also serves as a vehicle for throwing Ryde and Elinor into close proximity.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I'm sorry that it is the only historical romance written by this author. Under the name of Jodi Taylor, she has written a successful series of time-travel historical fiction (The Chronicles of St. Mary's). I don't really do time-travel, but perhaps I'll give this series a try. If Ms. Taylor ever decides to morph into Isabella Barclay again, I will definitely read the product of that endeavor.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-06-18

It's all just a little too easy

The heroine's alcohol abuse is an interesting concept, but her recovery is glossed over too lightly. Perhaps it is my personal experience with an alcoholic loved one that caused me to be dissatisfied. Two books that present more realistic alcoholic behavior are Carla Kelly's Reforming Lord Ragsdale and The Rake by Mary Jo Putney.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-11-17

Sian Phillips is wonderful

The audio version of this book, narrated by Sian Phillips, bumps it up to four stars for me. I liked all of the characters, but every Heyer fan should read (even better, listen) to this book just to become acquainted with Mrs. Floore, the immensely wealthy, admittedly vulgar grandmother who protects her granddaughter from the girl's social-climbing mother.

Lots of banter and zingers. Great fun.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 12-10-17

Excellent. Wish the whole series was available

Even though I dislike revenge plots, I finally got around to reading this one, which won the 2015 RITA for long historical romance.

Unlike some revenge-based stories, this one is cleverly done, as one would expect from such a talented author. The romance between Olivia and the duke builds gradually, and the cross-class nature of their relationship is not glossed over.

I thoroughly enjoyed this audiobook narrated by Alison Larkin. Now, on to the rest of the series!

Wait! Why isn't the rest of the series available on audio. Boo!

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-24-17

Just listening to Alex Wyndham say

"The Wicked Cousin" as the book begins is worth an Audible credit. Seriously, though, this is a wonderful story, with intriguing characters, luscious romance, and a bit of adventure. Alex Wyndham's performance is, once again, superb.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 10-20-17

A lovely romance narrated by a master of the art

Not a lot happens in this book. There is no adventure or mystery or nasty villains. The romance is the story, and a lovely story it is.

The esteemed writer Laura Kinsale recommended this book to me, and I'm so delighted that she picked Elizabeth Kingston to pair with Nicholas Boulton. He is utterly brilliant, and his performances of Ms. Kinsale's books are without equal.

I shall now move on to Mr. Boulton's narrations of Ms. Kingston's Welsh Blades romances. Any book that he narrates is worth listening to.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-09-17

Lucinda Brant & Alex Wyndham never disappoint

The author/narrator team of Lucinda Brant and Alex Wyndham has produced another winner. And the Roxton Family Saga continues, with the Autumn 2017 release of Satyr's Son, the story of Henri-Antoine Hesham, the beloved younger son of Antonia and her Monseigneur. I have it on good authority that he is indeed his father's son!

Lucinda Brant's fifth volume in the Roxton Family Saga is every bit as good as the four novels that preceded it, and they were all solid five-star reads in my opinion. Historical romance series featuring large families and covering a sizable period of time are one of my favorites, and the Roxton books fill that bill. The series begins in Paris in 1745, moves to Georgian England, and covers nearly thirty years, during which the expected births, deaths, love affairs, marriages, and babies occur.

Proud Mary opens in 1777 and features Lady Mary Cavendish, widow of Sir Gerald Cavendish, Bt., who has been dead for two years. Sir Gerald and Lady Mary were minor characters in the earlier books, where we learned that Gerald was a conceited bag of hot air who was shunned by Polite Society, disliked by his neighbors, and cruel to his wife and daughter. Lady Mary was completely under his thumb, which is not surprising since she grew up with a domineering snob of a mother, the Countess of Strathsay.

Sir Gerald was both impressed and envious that Mary was the daughter of an earl, a great-granddaughter of King Charles II, and a cousin to the Duchess of Roxton. Indeed, beginning when she was twelve, Mary had spent the happiest years of her life living at Roxton's estate as a member of the family. When she returned to her mother, Lady Strathsay drilled into Mary's head that women of her station had a higher calling than their inferiors, that she must precisely follow the rigid rules of society, and that she owed a duty to her noble lineage to marry well and produce sons. Mary was so browbeaten and miserable that she accepted an arranged marriage to Sir Gerald.

Now Sir Gerald is dead, leaving Mary with a nice estate (for her lifetime), Abbeywood, and a mountain of debts. In a final act of maliciousness, Gerald named the local squire, Christopher Bryce, as co-guardian, with the Duke of Roxton, of Mary's daughter Theodora. “Teddy,” as she is known to all is a ten-year-old tomboy who likes nothing better than riding and hiking the wilds of Gloucestershire. She has no desire to visit London or her Roxton cousins at their palatial estate, Treat. Indeed, although Teddy is ignorant of it, Squire Bryce has followed Sir Gerald's command to forbid Teddy from leaving Abbeywood, other than her yearly visit to her grandmother in Cheltenham. She adores her “Uncle Christopher,” and he clearly returns the feeling. Seeing the sweet interplay between them is the first hint that Christopher has a heart beneath his overly sober exterior.

Christopher is charged with running Abbeywood and helping retire the debts that Gerald left behind. He is a strict administrator, and Mary chafes under his budgetary restraints, as well as his refusal to allow Teddy to meet the rest of her family. Mary politely loathes him, and while he is punctiliously correct toward Mary, he has quietly been in love with her since he returned to Gloucestershire eight years ago.

Christopher's years away from home are a mystery to Mary and the rest of their neighbors, and Christopher knows that his shameful secrets from that time would horrify a gentle lady such as Mary. For reasons unknown, he left suddenly for the Continent at the age of eighteen and cut himself off entirely from his parents. More than a decade later, he returned home to nurse his dying mother and brought his blind Aunt Kate to live with him. Unbeknownst to everyone, he also has done a bit of spying for England's Spymaster General, Lord Shrewsbury, and to that end he had befriended Sir Gerald, whom Shrewsbury suspected of selling secrets to the French.

Squire Bryce was portrayed as dour and tyrannical in the previous Roxton book Dair Devil, which led me to have some skepticism about his suitability as a hero in this book. Ms. Brant, however, cleverly allows the reader to discover the real Christopher at the same time that Mary does. They begin to have forthright conversations, and along with Mary we learn that Christopher is an honorable man, with strong principles but also strong emotions, which he keeps deeply hidden. Christopher grows more deeply in love with Mary, but knowing that she is an aristocrat and he is the son of nobody, he accepts that there can never be anything between them. He also comes to realize that Gerald had lied and exaggerated about virtually everything – even claiming that Roxton was Teddy's true father. Gerald was no spy, Christopher decides, and so the hunt must continue.

Mary feels an attraction to Christopher, but she does not consider him as a possible mate even though she is desperately lonely. When speaking of her cousin Antonia, recently remarried after the old Duke's death, Mary considered her own situation. She was thirty years old and had never been in love or been loved by a worthy man. She had never shared a passionate kiss with any man, nor had the selfish Sir Gerald ever shown her pleasure in the marriage bed. She loves her daughter with all her heart but hopes she still has the capacity to love a man. Since her mother was insisting that it was Mary's duty to her family to marry again, perhaps she would find love with a new husband.

When Teddy announces one evening that there is a ghost in the house, Christopher and Mary join forces to discover tangible evidence of an intruder and set out to detect his true identity. His unmasking turns their little world upside down and threatens to bring an end to their budding romance, for the ghost is actually the man whom Mary once hoped to marry. I won't disclose more, as I think the clever twists and turns of this story should not be spoiled.

Mary and Christopher make a lovely couple, and all of my misgivings about him melted away. In fact, by the time Mary realizes that she has fallen in love with him, I was a little bit in love too. It was wonderful to watch Mary fall for him, always fighting her mother's little voice in her head pointing out his unsuitability for an earl's daughter. Equally wonderful was watching Mary gain confidence in herself and fighting to overcome the years of being denigrated and bullied by her mother and her husband. Christopher, for his part, gradually and with great reluctance reveals his past to a shocked Mary, expecting at every turn that she will turn away from him in disgust. Of course, she does not.

I always feel a bit like a time traveler when reading one of Ms. Brant's books. Using her impeccable research, she creates such an authentic 18th-century world, and employing her wonderful imagination, she writes multi-layered stories with intricate plots. These talents are put to particularly good use in Proud Mary. I think that we 21st-century readers often have a difficult time appreciating the class-based strictures of the past, and many authors who write cross-class romances downplay the difficulties that would have faced the duke who married his housekeeper, for example. Ms. Brant does not fall into the trap of making things easy for Mary and Christopher, however, and I felt a better understanding of how oppressive, yet widely accepted, the class structure was. It helps here that Mary's Roxton relations were accepting of their relationship, but then we have seen in earlier books that they are somewhat non-conformist and powerful enough to do as they please.

As Christopher and Mary work toward their happily ever after, we get to see all of her extended family – Cousin Antonia, formerly the Dowager Duchess of Roxton and now the Duchess of Kinross; her lusciously sexy husband, Jonathan; her son Julian, now the duke, his wife, Deb, and their growing brood of adorable children; and her schoolboy younger son Henri-Antoine and his pal Jack Cavendish, who will succeed to Sir Gerald's title upon reaching his majority. Besides her Roxton relatives, we also see Mary's brother Dair, now the Earl of Strathsay, and his wife, Rory, and of course, Mary and Dair's mother, Lady Strathsay. They, along with young Teddy, all play a role in bringing Christopher and Mary together – well, except for Mary's mother, who is appalled by the mismatch. One of my favorite scenes was when Mary tells her mother what's what.

Ms. Brant has said that her next book will be Henri-Antoine's story, but dare we hope that someday there is one pairing Teddy and Jack? I suppose that I am looking for ways for the Roxton Family Saga to continue for a long time. I will add that while Proud Mary can be read as a standalone, there is much more pleasure to be had by reading the series in order and learning to know and love this family as much as I and many other readers have. Each book has been a joy to read, and I cannot recommend them highly enough.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful