Keepers and Throw Backs: How do you decide what books make the cut?

Recently, I had to manually download a book from Amazon and found that I have 293 books on my Kindle;  since last November! The downside to all this book bliss is that I can’t cull a library of e-books so I am stuck with them and all the others  I will purchase in the near future. Since I live approximately 75 miles from Nashville, Chattanooga, and Huntsville I’m a gas tank away from any decent book store (i.e. McKay), so my collection of e-books will only increase.  This however doesn’t stop me from buying the odd book from Wally World, and so grows my “hard copy” collection.McKay Chattanooga

I have never been too attached to the books I read and keep a bankers box ready for my throw backs. Actually, before my Kindle I kept very few of the books that I purchased because I have a used book store that I am in love with (this is no exaggeration) called McKay.  This has always been a bit of an adventure for me; once my bankers box is full I fill up my gas tank and head for Chattanooga (just because I used to live there). I spend the day filling my cart up with books while waiting on my golden ticket or yellow ticket as the case may be. With my box once again full I head of into the sunset, make a pit stop at Ankar’s Hoagies or Glen Gene Deli and head home over Mt. Eagle chomping at the bit to start reading. Sentimental much?

This is a ritual that I love; however, there are a few books that will never see the inside of that bankers box. I have the original Cynster series by Stephanie Laurnes,the Web series by Mary Balogh and the series that started this regency obsession with me The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn. These are all packed away in my trunk in order and come out every now and again when I’m feeling nostalgic. On the whole, most of my regencies will be taken to McKay and the cycle will start all over again!

However, there are a few more books that are even more special to me and have nothing to do with Regency Romance. First, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith I remember watching the 1945 film version on TCM when I was a young and found the book as an adult. I do not know why this book is not on the list for American Lit in high school; however, I’m glad it wasn’t because I would not have enjoyed it half as much. That brings me to Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns that I did have to read for my American Lit class in  high school. I still have that copy and it was well worn and loved  when I got it from my Aunt. That book means the world to me because it is the one tangible item of hers I have and now that she has passed I couldn’t even think of letting that book go. Finally, 1984 by George Orwell; I purchased this book my freshman year of college when I was gung ho about reading all the classics. I never finished all of those classics but I still read 1984 once a year because I love it. Out of all the books I have, these three books will go with me where ever I go.

In the end, I could cull my book collection down to three books that I can not live with out. What books make the I can’t live with out this book list for you, how do you decide which books to cull from your collection and are you like me and have a plethora of e-books that you are stuck with now?

The Walrus and The Ugly Duchess: Bullies and a Book Review

As an adult I look back on my high school career and have to admit I had it pretty good. I flew under the radar in a school where it was kinda cool to be smart (the valedictorian did our senior prank) and the jocks were in the AristoCATS (think Glee). I was a band geek, had good friends, and made decent grades; however, my sophomore year I had my first boyfriend and my first bully. This bully was menacingly handsome, a friend to said boyfriend, and most detrimental of all, gave me the name “The Walrus”.

Although this nickname never stuck with anyone except him, it did make an impact on my self-confidence and self-image. I truly hate to admit it, but in my mind I am still “The Walrus”; a name and experience like that doesn’t just leave once you graduate high school. This too handsome boy basically told me I was ugly and fat every day while I was dating his friend and after a while I began to believe him.  Today, I have a great boyfriend, a decent job, and I’m going back to school so I can have an even better job; but sometimes, out of the blue I think “The Walrus” and my world comes crashing down on me for a moment or two. So what does that have to do with a regency romance novel; well if that novel is The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James than everything.

The Ugly Duchess is the fourth book in the Fairy Tails series by Eloisa James and tells the story of the “ugly duckling” Theodora Saxby and the too handsome James Ryburn the future Duke of Ashbrook. As children they are best friends, confidants and as close as a brother and sister. However, they are not in fact brother and sister and this fact is driven home when the Duke forces a young James into marriage with Theo.

Society has made an impression on Theo, and it isWhen Beauty Tamed the Beast telling her that she looks too much like a boy. So, she concocts a plan in order to snare the man she thinks she wants and winds up married to James. All is well until the wedding when the papers giver her the moniker “The Ugly Duchess“. James is there for her and all would be well except the Duke comes back and Theo’s world comes crashing down around her. She orders both James and the Duke out of her life and takes the moniker to heart.

Seven years pass and on the verge of James being declared dead he comes back to claim  the one person he has always loved Theo or rather Daisy as he has always called her.

Theo is a character that many of us can relate to and Ms. James does a wonderful job at showing her struggle with the moniker society has given her. When she transforms into the swan Theo still has self doubt and at least somewhere in the back of her mind “The Ugly Duchess” still resides. When James comes back into her life she is forced to face these doubts head on. James, on the other hand, must face his guilty conscience that he has buried over the last seven years.

The only thing I did not particularly like about this book is that it crammed two parts into 385 pages. Personally, I think a book with two or more parts should only be used when the novel is at least 800 pages. This inevitably makes one part of the book seem rushed and in this case it was the second part. Aside from my personal preferences, I give this book a 4 out of 5 it was a great read and it certainly made an impression on me.

Free Book Alert

It’s four days until pay day and for all intents and purposes, I am as broke as California; does this stop me from reading, of course not. I just pull out my kindle and peruse the free books they have on offering and eventually I will find one worth reading. The “ramen noodle book” of choice this time is The Inconvenient Duchessby Christine Merrill.

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Found free at Amazon and B&N

This novel is about the repercussions of machinations the dying Duchess of Haughleigh has crafted over the years. She has done many wrong in her life including her sons; however, it is an old school friend that has forced her to face her soul in her remaining days. Marcus, the Duke of Haughleigh has promised to meet a girl whose governesses the Duchess had done some vague wrong to. The Duchess dies and the promise is all but forgotten until one rainy night Miranda shows up at his door dragging her suit case behind her.

Miranda has been sent to the Duke’s residence without a maid and the admonishment to keep her secrets close to her heart. She is to marry either the Duke, his brother or some other town worthy to keep her safe from a life unbefitting a lady. By showing up unescorted she has forced the Duke’s hand into marriage saving what little of her reputation was left.

This story has the usually miscommunications; in this case fueled by the Duke’s younger brother St. John. After the marriage Marcus leaves to investigate his new wife and the wrong done to her governess by his mother. While gone St. John begins to plant seeds of doubt and seduction into Miranda. Marcus comes home, St. John leaves and all is well with the world. The new couple begin to see their marriage as the start of their lives instead of the end of it. Of course, their new love is challenged when they meet St. John one last time.

This book was original published in 2006 and is Ms Merrill’s first novel. To say this novel is wonderful would be a lie but for a free book it was pretty good. Throughout this book, Miranda is referred to as “Lady Miranda” when her father was only a Sir; also St. John is never given the courtesy title of Lord. This is a personal pet peeve of mine, Ms.Merrill and her editor aught to know the correct title usage when writting a Regency romance considering this book is a Harlequin Historical romance. However, I can look past that and give it a 4 out of 5 simply for the fact that it is free and a decent read. Hope you enjoy!!

What Goes Around Comes Around

A few days ago I was bumming around Pinterest as I often do, and came across a couple of dresses that made me do a double take…Regency on the Runway? Then again, the empire waist has come and gone throughout time and this is the most recent interpretation on the style. These dresses imbue the decadence of the Regency ball gown.

     

For comparison here are a couple of Regency era ball gowns.

    

I am by far no fashionista; however, even my untrained eyes can see the similarities in these dresses: the deep v cut in the bodice, the use of metallic lace and thread, an overskirt that compliments the underskirt. Here is a snip-it from the January 1812 issue of  La Belle Assemblee: For gala dresses and the ball-room, the habiliments of the fair are yet more diversified; white and gold is still very prevalent, and lace gowns, both black and white, over various coloured satins: white satin, ornamented with a rich trimming of coqlelicot, with cornelian ornaments, for coral is now only worn in a morning, or to receive a small dinner party: pale pink gossamer satin, with pearl ornaments; and white crape and leno frocks for the younger part of the assembly, form the most prominent features in the annals of full dress. Humm…The description seems to apply for dresses 200 years later!

Out of all the ball gowns and wedding dresses the world has seen Princes Charlotte’s wedding dress (Jane Austin’s World has a great post on this) is one of the most decadent. It was described by La Belle Assemblee :”The manteau was of silver tissue lined with white satin, with a border of embroidery to answer that on the dress, and fastened in front with a splendid diamond ornament. Such was the bridal dress”

Of course, I could not resist searching the interweb for more modern and not so modern Regency style. For example, the maxi dress and all of its interpretations can be found anywhere at all price points. I own at least five of these jersey dresses in every imaginable color and prints. They remind me of the simple muslin day dress  of the Regency era.

    

For comparison here are a couple of Regency era day dresses.

  

There are no overt similarities in these dresses; however, they are all very simple dresses with a high waist line. Here is a snip- it from Ackermann’s Repository regarding the photo below: “Walking Dress [standing]— Robe of White Indian muslin, with Spanish vest and Flemish skirt, ornamented at the bottom, bosom, and sleeves with needlework, or appliquéd lace; antique cuffs, pointed collar, fastened in the center of the throat with a topaz broach. Bonnet á la Mary Queen of Scots, composed of intertwined crape and straw, and lined throughout with rose-coloured sarsnet; the extremity of the crown finished with Vandyke scallops in white satin, the edges terminated with straw; a small bouquet of autumnal flowers in front, blended with bows of white satin ribbon, and tied under the chin with the same. French tippet of leopard skin shag. Shoes and gloves of rose-coloured kid.

Candice Hern has a wonderful collection of Regency fashion on her website.

These are three dresses are from around 1912; amazingly, they could  fit right in, either now or the Regency era. It is fascinating to me how fashion reinvents itself yet stays so similar.

    

Unfortunately,  men’s clothing has not seen the same renewal and revival as women’s clothing has over the last 200 years. I don’t understand how the handle bar mustache can come back and yet men’s Regency fashion has not.  We need more men in tight breeches and cravats. *Sigh* Oh well, I shall just end this post with some Regency era eye candy!!

  

 

 

Warning: This post is a cliche or at the very least a trope

If you do a web search for romance novel clichés the interweb will spit back pages and pages of blog posts devoted to the topic. They are all the same; a breakdown of common clichés found in romance novels, often with witty descriptions of said clichés and all the reasons why they should no longer be used and author blogs often devoted to avoiding the “cliché pit fall”. In fact, the fact that I am writing this post is rather a cliché itself.

So, why all the antipathy towards the cliché?  This is something I asked myself as I began writing this post. Whatever the genre, there are only so many plot lines to go around; but these tropes are what make genre fiction what it is. For this reason, in regards to genre fiction, cliché snobs irritate me.  It is the responsibility of the author to transform these clichés into something worth reading.  I don’t know about you, but when I pick up my newest “Duke marries actress and they live happily ever after” book I am not looking for the next great American novel. This, I think is the answer to my question; too many readers want to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. These books are for pure entertainment; they don’t, as a rule, contribute to society in any meaningful way.

I for one like the predictability of a Regency romance novel; after all, I named this blog Wonderfully Vapid Romance for a reason. When I get home from work I want to open up a book that is an old friend that I know well and doesn’t mind if I make a fool out of myself in front of it. To me, romance novels are relaxation and an escape from my rather boring job as a medical file clerk. I want to select the trope that suites my mood, and thoroughly enjoy the cliché.

My ingredients for a good romance novel are: An alpha male, a relatable heroine, insert desired trope here, 2.5 sex scenes, a happily ever after ending and bonus points for an epilogue showing the happy couple with two kids, one on the way and a dog playing in the background. I will admit some of these books are not worth the paper they are printed on; however; every now and again I find one worth its weight in gold and the vast majority fall somewhere in the middle.

So, stop harping on the romance novel cliché, they have been around since Jane Austin published her second book and probably longer! Instead read from another genre or grab a classic novel; this will work until the realization hits you that even a classic has its clichés.

Diamond’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend or Her Worst Enemy

Have you ever picked up a book and thought to yourself, “This sounds ridiculous, but it’s the best book here so I will give it a try anyway “. This has happened to me several times over the years. I will take the book home set it down, flip it over and read the back cover. Then I will ignore it, come back to it and read a page only to set it down again. Finally, after a day of hemming and hawing, I sit down and begin to read. Suddenly, I’m gobsmacked…how could I have wasted the day away without reading any of this book! Then I realize its 3 a.m. and I have read about 75% of the book in one sitting. Well, that is the exact experience I had with When You Give A Duke A Diamond by Shana Galen.

I purchased this book,thinking at the very least it will be something for me to read (because I’m never without something to read!). I’m not one to critisize the use of a cliché; however, I got burned with the courtesan and lord plot in All Afternoon with a Scandalous Marquess by Alexandra Hawkins. Thus, all my hemming and hawing over this book; yes, I’m guilty of prejudging the cliché as gimmick. But sometimes the cliché works.

When You Give a Duke a Diamond is the first book in the Jewels of the Ton series by Shana Galen. Ms. Galen introduses The Three Diamonds: Lily the Countess of Charm, Fallon the Marchioness of Mystery and finally, Juliette the Duchess of Dalliance. All three are supposedly under the protection of the Earl of Sinclair or rather the Earl of Sin. The Three Diamonds have taken the Ton by storm and gossip abounds; especially about Juliette and the Duke of Pelham a.k.a the Dangerous Duke.

Juliette has tired of the glittery life and is ready to find her second or make that third chance at a new life. She survived and divorced an abusive husband with the help of the Earl of Sin and no longer wants to live of his chairty; all she truly wants is her own family to love.

The Duke of Pelham is a regemented, autocratic self contained DUKE. He is not his own person he is a Duke ; that is who he has been trained from birth to be. The lessons have literally been beaten into him by his father. He is in London for Parliament and to finalize his betrothal to Lady Elizabeth. Unbeknownst to him Lady Elizabeth has a gambling problem and this will soon turn his world up side down.

Lady Elizabeth’s collision with the underbelly of London brings the Duchess of Dalliance and the Duke of Pelham together on a hunt for, what else: diamonds. With her life being threatened Juliette seeks out the Duke of Pelham and begins to unravel his ordered, staid life.

For me at least, this is a 4 out of 5 star book. Ms. Galen does a wonderful job at creating both tension and humor while maintaining the development of her characters. But don’t take my word for it, go out and read it yourself.

Supersizers Go Regency: Would You Like Some Gout With That?

Supersizers Go Regency: The Dandy and the Spinster

 

Late at night, I often find myself watching the Cooking Channel; luckily for me I found this gem of a show Supersizers Go on one of those late night cooking show binges . This series originally appeared on the BBC in 2009 and follows Giles Coren a food critic and journalist and comedian Sue Perkins on their journey through the history of British cuisine. Of course being the Regency geek that I am I couldn’t wait to chance upon it one night at 1:00 am so I scoured the interwebs or rather YouTube and got my Regency Era food fix.

In this episode Giles and Sue are brother and sister, landed gentry. Giles has an inheritance of  £50,000, equivalent to £2.5 million today, is a dandy and on his way to both debtor’s prison and gout (The disease of Kings). Sue, on the other hand is on her way to a much more dire fate: becoming an Ape Leader… Oh, the woes of a poor relation and spinster sister! I have to say that Giles is very dashing as a Regency Era dandy.

Just Hungry wrote a great review on this episode including the list of food below; 5000 calories worth of food a day (so much food, at the very least scroll down and take a gander of Giles in hot pink rollers):

List of food and drink consumed in this episode

Breakfast

  • Toasted Bread
  • Turtalong (bread rolls looking like mini-bagels)
  • Seed cake
  • Marmelade
  • Jam
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Tea (they were complaining about the weakness of the tea…it seems Sue Perkins prefers “builder’s strength” dark tea)

Dinner

Taken any time between 11AM and 2PM

First Course:

  • Mackerel broiled with Herbs
  • Roast Beef (very very well cooked)
  • Yorkshire Pudding
  • Spinach
  • Wow-wow Sauce (sauce made with gherkins, onions and port)
  • Port
  • Sherry

Second Course:

  • Jugged Hare (cut up bunny mixed with herbs and steam-cooked in a jug for three hours)
  • Potted Venison
  • Beetroot Pancakes
  • Asparagus
  • Trifle
  • German Wines
  • Port

Supper

By fashionable candlelight, around 10PM

  • Cold roast beef
  • Sweetbreads
  • Apple Pie
  • English Rarebit (cheese on port-soaked toast)
  • Stewed Celery
  • Port
  • Sherry

Giles’ breakfast in bed, as the Prince Regent ate

Hot pink rollers. The trials of being a dandy.

  • A big Meat Pie with 2-3 pigeons and beef
  • Champagne
  • Port
  • Moselle
  • Claret
  • Laudanum to kill the pain

(The Prince Regent suffered from gout and became morbidly obese. His nickname in the press was the Prince of Whales.)

Taking the waters at Bath

  • Spring water to treat whatever ails you
  • Ice cream (flavors include brown bread, parmesan, cinnamon, pumpkin, cardamon, nutmeg, tea)

Luncheon at the Inn

On the way to London (Luncheon, also called Noonshine, was the precursor to lunch)

  • Stilton Cheese with optional maggots
  • Cheddar Cheese with cheese mites
  • Cold Meats
  • Cucumber Salad
  • Lobster
  • Asparagus
  • Bread
  • Cider

A Patriotic Beef Steak Supper with members of the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks

  • Beef Steaks
  • Shallots
  • Beetroot
  • Baked Potato
  • Cheese on Toast
  • Mustard
  • Port
  • Stout

Dinner a la Marie-Antoine Carême

First Course:

  • Potage de Bisque à la Régence
  • Pain de Volaille
  • Champagne
  • Sherry

Second Course:

  • Bure de Sanglier en Galatine (a stuffed and dressed boar’s head, with jellies and deep fried cockscombs)
  • Bâtelets à la Royale
  • Saumon à la Rothschild (salmon poached in champagne with truffles)
  • Chartreuse
  • More Champagne

Dessert:

  • Pièce Montée (an elaborate sugary centerpiece)
  • Strawberry Soufflé
  • Meringues
  • Marzipan Fruit
  • Vol-au-Vents à la Neslé (a savory puff pastry pie, with a surprise inside of cockerel’s testicles, an aphrodesiac)
  • Even more Champagne

Byron’s Breakfast before a duel

Apparently Byron was a bullemic and anorexic obsessed with this weight.

  • Tea mixed with a raw egg

Gambling snack

Where Giles gambles away his family fortune

  • Sandwiches (meat in between slices of bread, invented by hardened gambler Lord Sandwich)

Giles in Debtors’ Prison

  • A Cheshire Pork Pie, brought in by Sue (to last for several days)
  • Port

Ball to celebrate the Coronation (1821)

Desperately seeking Sue or Sue seeking Desperately

Preliminaries:

  • Sue massages her head with raw eggs and gives herself a brandy-milk-lemon facial, then rinses her hair with rum

Ball Supper:

To start:

  • Brandy and claret punch
  • White Soup (soup with mutton, veal, bacon, almonds, macaroni)

Main:

  • Hare Cake in Jelly
  • Chicken Hogs Tongues
  • Petit Pasties of Veal
  • Collared Beef
  • Pyramids of Crayfish (in jelly)
  • Asparagus
  • Sandwiches
  • Artichoke Bottoms
  • Trifles
  • Sweetmeats
  • Champagne
  • Claret
  • Sherry
  • Hock
  • Port

Dessert:

  • Selection of ices