Flirtation & Folly: A Season in London (Book 1), by Elizabeth Rasche – A Review

Flirtation and Folly by Elizabeth Rasche 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:

Northanger Abbey is one of Jane Austen’s greatest gems, yet one of her most underrated novels. It is a coming-of-age tale of Catherine Morland, a comedy, a romance, and a commentary on the Regency-era literary scene. In all of that, it is both a down-to-earth study of real-life and a beautifully plotted promise that even the most mundane of circumstances hold a glimmer of heaven. In Elizabeth Rasche’s Regency debut, Flirtation & Folly, these same ingredients are bound together in the endearingly flawed, eternally hopeful heroine, Marianne Mowbrey.

Marianne Mowbrey is a dreamer. Fresh from the country to visit her aunt in London, she believes with all of her heart that she will become a heroine just like those in her favorite novels. As she soon discovers, wishing is not the same as getting. Under her aunt’s disapproving gaze, Marianne tries to learn the skills needed to be a society darling from her new “friends,” the beautiful yet mocking Stokes’ sisters.

No matter if day after day proceeded with the same rise and fall of expectations. For Marianne, the morning always burst with the fresh, flowering hope of the charming young lady she would become by eventide. (78)   

Robert Hearn arrives in London not knowing where he belongs anymore. Originally from Ireland yet raised in England, he has spent his adult years in India and beyond. All that is left of his home are memories of an idyllic childhood. With the desire to win his estate back from the hands of another, Robert has no time for social graces or flirtations. What slips past his guard, however, is a newfound friend who might be as lost as he.

The man’s face turned from the smooth flow of water to Marianne. The gaslight cast a haze around his figure that ought to have graced an angel, all golden and sparkling, but the expression on his face was far from angelic. It looked wretched and desperate. It was the same face she had seen earlier in the evening, only now it had been driven into a wild sorrow. (136)

Because of her social faux pas and her bizarre choice of dresses, Marianne soon begins to see her dreams float away. Yet it seems that the more she tries to win approval, the more she horribly fails. When an unlikely ally appears in the form of the much-too-honest-to-be-tactful Mr. Hearn, Marianne discovers that what she wants may not be what she’s wanted all along: to fit into society and its rules. What she may want—may need to truly live—is to stand out.

Flirtation & Folly is a Regency romance that kept me on my toes. With echoes of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (a novel easily in my top three favorite Austen novels) running alongside entirely original character and plot developments, this is a novel that contains both familiarity and surprises. Marianne and Robert had much to learn about who they were and their places in the world. Rather than detract from my experience, this added depth, and subtle beauty. Marianne’s observations of life in London were also fascinating, as they gave a look into daily life that’s often-left unseen in Regency romances. A footman’s mannerisms, the view of women as healers, the lower class of apothecaries, the physical toll unhealthy beauty creams had on hair and skin, the prejudice against people from Ireland—these and more were canvassed delicately but honestly.

As a coming-of-age novel, Flirtation & Folly carried this genre’s strengths and weaknesses. Marianne was identifiable, especially in her desire to both fit in and stand out at the same time. However, the way she did it was often exasperating. She spent many pages of the novel disillusioned about herself and about who she should go to for advice. Thankfully, Robert came onto the scene! He brought out Marianne’s honest, wild side, and their relationship was blunt and free from fake flirtation. This was something I enjoyed and was also sad over, as the romantic side of things was much less developed than I hoped. Their ending was rushed; ultimately, they deserved more pages spent on their relationship.

2021 has been a difficult year, but it has also been one of hope and self-reflection. With its honest look at the reality of mistakes and disappointments, Flirtation & Folly shows how joyous it is to overcome, how beautiful it is to find one’s own path, and how lovely it is to gain a hand in which to hold along the way. 

4 out of 5 Stars 

  • Flirtation & Folly: A Season in London (Book 1), by Elizabeth Rasche
  • Quills & Quartos Publishing (September 4, 2020)
  • Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook (326) pages
  • ISBN: 978-1951033583

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Disclosure of Material Connection: We purchased a copy of this book for our own enjoyment. We only review or recommend products we have read or used and believe will be a good match for our readers. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cover image courtesy of Quills & Quartos Publishing © 2020; text Katie Patchell © 2021, Austenprose.com

Georgana’s Secret: (Proper Romance Regency), by Arlem Hawks – A Review

Georgana's Secret by Arlem Hawks 2021From the desk of Katie Patchell:

Captain Frederick Wentworth: bold, self-confident, and passionate. At fifteen, I thought him boring, far preferring Mr. Darcy’s distant, sophisticated persona. Now at twenty-five, I find that Wentworth, Jane Austen’s final hero, has captured my attention. As I sit here and type this, I ask myself ‘What’s changed?’ For one, Wentworth has energy–vibrancy–that leaps off every page. There is no brooding silence or long caution with him. A man of action, he strides through life with a joie de vivre and a strong sense of compassion for those he encounters. Now that I look at this list, I wonder at my ability to ignore this very worthy hero for years! Before I crack open my copy of Persuasion for a re-read, let me introduce you to a novel starring Captain Wentworth’s equal in character and bravery. In Georgana’s Secret, Arlem Hawks’ debut Regency novel, readers meet a hero and heroine bound irrevocably to each other and the sea’s mercurial waves.

Dominic Payton loves the ocean. It is his life, career, and passion. Despite his mother’s growing pressure to look for a wife, he knows that few women would be willing to live an unconventional, often dangerous life on a Navy frigate. To care for his single mother–and because life isn’t worth living away from the sea–Dominic accepts a promotion to become HMS Deborah’s newest lieutenant. Under the guarded eye of Captain Woodall, Dominic begins to prove his knowledge and skill. Yet it is the role of friend that quickly becomes the most challenging; George Taylor, Captain Woodall’s skittish young cabin boy, is greatly in need of a confidante…and pugilistic mentor.

Georgana Woodhull has a secret. Three years ago she vanished from Society and her abusive grandmother’s power. While Society at large believes her to be locked within the shadows of her ancestral home, she instead treads the boards of the HMS Deborah as a lowly, stoop-shouldered cabin boy for her father. The dark humor at her situation hasn’t escaped her–before her mother’s death three years prior, the sea ruled her dreams. It was a wild freedom that ever called to her. Now, all she longs for is a fresh start on land. Continue reading

School for Love: The Hapgoods of Bramleigh (Book 3), by Christina Dudley – #BookReview, #RegencyRomance, #HistoricalRomance, #TraditionalRegency, @CNDudley

School for Love, by Christina Dudley 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:

Besides their prominent place on many Regency fans’ bookshelves, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Georgette Heyer’s Frederica have another trait in common: Their plots revolve around a group of loud, lovable, and independent people who have the good fortune to call each other ‘family.’ While our lively Elizabeth Bennet might complain (if given the chance for an interview) about her claustrophobic world, the charm and humor of Pride and Prejudice would be lost without the rest of the Bennet clan. Despite the familial meddling in these two great works, the heroines and heroes find love and, perhaps equal in worth, readers enjoy hours of amusement at their antics. Since 2013’s release of The Naturalist, Christina Dudley has followed in the footsteps of Austen and Heyer in her series, “The Hapgoods of Bramleigh Hall.” School for Love, her latest installment, continues the story of the eccentric Hapgoods and their hilariously romantic escapades.

As an unmarried member of a small community, Rosemary DeWitt has long worn the label of spinster. It isn’t that she’s afraid of marriage; rather, she refuses to marry a man who desires her solely for her wealth. As Rosemary busies herself by championing the right of education for her village’s young women, she hides her growing sense of discontent, only showing her free-spirited side to her parents and brothers. That is until a solemn-faced, sparkling-eyed visitor arrives in town.

“She had already, to her embarrassment found him a compelling man, but seeing his habitually somber features thus transformed made her breath stop. Why–it was better that the man only smiled rarely. Because, when he did do so, she supposed all the world would come to a tumbling halt as she had, transfixed… ‘Ah,’ she said to herself. ‘So Lionel does not get his winning ways only from his mother.’ This thought was followed by ‘whatever you do, do not reach out and touch the man again!'” (Location 1704)

A widower fresh from thirteen years in a loveless marriage, Hugh Hapgood struggles to be a good father to his three young children. While visiting his son, Lionel, who is in turn visiting his Hapgood cousins in Bramleigh, Hugh is surprised to find that his son has formed an instant attachment to the striking Miss Rosemary DeWitt. Miss DeWitt’s intelligence, conversation, and friendship soon capture Hugh’s thoughts and respect in a way that no Society Beauty has accomplished yet. Unfortunately for his goals of singlehood, she has also captured the fascination of his very wily, very tenacious children. As Rosemary and Hugh navigate the wilds of childish mayhem and compromising situations, they discover that no one is too old to find love…or too young to matchmake. Continue reading

A Castaway in Cornwall, by Julie Klassen – A Review   

A Castaway in Cornwall by Julie Klassen 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell:  

In this holiday season, acclaimed novelist, Julie Klassen, returns to the Regency world with her latest historical romance, A Castaway in Cornwall. Featuring dangerous wreckers, shifty smugglers, and mysterious strangers, readers may well detect a similar refrain to the haunting melody that is Daphne du Maurier’s classic, Jamaica Inn. Readers brace yourselves: prepare to be transported outside of the lights and glare of the 21st century to an old-world bathed in mists and deafened by the roaring of the sea. Prepare to meet a heroine who, against all odds, bravely fights to reclaim what the ocean has stolen.

“Sometimes I wonder how I ended up here in Cornwall, so far from my childhood home. I feel like a castaway, set adrift on the tide…” 

Laura Callaway has lived along Cornwall’s unpredictably beautiful shores since the reported death of her parents while en route to the Isle of Jersey years ago. With no closure from her own loss, Laura combs the shores for items to save from greedy locals in order to return them to the families of loved ones who have perished in shipwrecks. When a man washes up on the shore one fateful night, half-alive, by instinct Laura spares him from a wrecker’s death blow. Little does she know that this man isn’t the only survivor of the wreck, and this final survivor will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

“In a haze of confusion, Alex had seen the blurred image of a red-haired woman bending over him, her windblown hair falling around her lovely face, her eyes as dark as the depths. He’d thought the legend of the mermaid had invaded his dreams. Now he knew the woman was real…” 

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The Gentleman and the Thief: Proper Romance Victorian, by Sarah M. Eden—A Review

The Gentleman and the Thief by Sarah M Eden 2020From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

Readers, beware: The Dread Penny Society is back in town. Their mission this time? Justice.

In September 2019, acclaimed Regency author, Sarah M. Eden, published her first book in the “Dread Penny Society” series. Titled The Lady and the Highwayman, this novel is a tongue-in-cheek – albeit romantic – take on the classic highwayman legends. Her latest addition to the series, The Gentleman and the Thief, no longer features a dashing highwayman, yet these new heroes equally hide their true selves amongst the shadows.

“For the poor and infirm, the hopeless and voiceless, we do not relent. We do not forget. We are the Dread Penny Society.” (Location 1582) 

Hollis Darby: Gentleman, man about town, and member of a secret society. Now in his thirties, he is more than satisfied with his work as a writer of children’s fiction. He even finds fulfillment in his other passion — helping to give hope to those living on the streets in his city. What Hollis lacks is a partner in crime, or at least, his brand of it. When he meets the enchanting Miss Newport, he is dazzled by her confidence, music skills, and kindness. Above all, he feels as if they are kindred spirits. Little does he know just how similar they are.

As he slipped from view, Ana opened her violin case. It was the perfect excuse and the perfect pretense. She opened the small compartment where she stored her rosin and her polishing cloth. She tucked underneath them what she’d come to this musicale for and had, by a near miracle, managed to secure: a single silver bracelet. (Location 251)

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A Haunting at Havenwood: Seasons of Change (Book 6), by Sally Britton—A Review

From the desk of Katie Patchell:

It’s that time of year again: when days shorten, and the once-warm breeze transforms into a blustery wind. Now is the season where, regardless of uncertain global events, we settle into the familiar routines of planning family holidays and awaiting the ghostly specters that rise from book’s pages (or knock on the door, asking for chocolate) around All Hallow’s Eve. While telling Dickensian spooky stories around a fire may be a tradition from the past, the thrill of meeting ephemeral visitors is an experience that isn’t solely possessed by Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge. Regency novelist Sally Britton has created her latest tale — A Haunting at Havenwood — as an homage to all things Gothic, mysterious, and romantic.

“For the first time, Louisa had an opportunity to make up her own mind. The idea both thrilled and unsettled her.” (Chapter 6, Location 864)

Louisa Banner’s life changed three years ago when her loving father died, leaving her solely to her mother’s cuttingly ambitious care. It is turned on its axis, however, when Louisa is calmly told that they have no money left. As a result, she is to live with her father’s aunt, a woman she has never met. It isn’t being virtually penniless that hurts Louisa; her pain is because her mother has unemotionally and secretly planned her removal from their home for weeks. On arriving at her great-aunt’s doorstep, Louisa is faced with an unexpected recipe for happiness featuring three entirely unlooked-for ingredients. They are: one very lovable great-aunt, one intriguing buried treasure, and one mysterious gentleman named Erasmus who Louisa feels is, quite possibly and against all her no-nonsense ideas, a ghost.

“It is only once in a lifetime, if at all, that a man meets someone who changes everything.” (Chapter 17, Location 2436)

Continue reading

In the Shadow of Croft Towers: A Novel, by Abigail Wilson — A Review

Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail WIlson 2019

From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

The highwayman: A mysterious figure riding on cloudless nights, a man whose purpose goes beyond treasure for wealth’s sake. There’s something about the highwayman that captures our imagination and has done so for centuries. Is it his inevitable strength and beauty (if he’s the novel’s hero)? Is it because he’s misunderstood by those who know him within the pages, so our sympathy reaches out? Or is it because he’s a figure in the vein of Robin Hood, a romantic symbol of a freer, wilder, more dangerous age? In Abigail Wilson’s 2019 debut, In the Shadow of Croft Towers, a masked highwayman appears once again, this time with gray eyes narrowed in laughter behind his mask, and a quest in his heart for something stronger than diamonds but as insubstantial as the mist: The truth. 

“I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had never learned the truth. I wouldn’t have set off as I did for Croft Towers. I never would have met him.” (1)

Sybil Delafield is well-educated but an orphan, and in a world tailored for men, her opportunities to make a way for herself are limited. When her mysterious benefactor’s funds run out and a strange message arrives to seek answers about her parentage at the unknown Croft Towers, Sybil sees no reason to decline the seemingly random offer to work as companion to the owner of the very same Croft Towers. In fact, she welcomes it. Even a highwayman – especially one smokey-eyed, confusing specimen who refuses to harm or steal anything from the carriage yet makes them all stand in the rain as he searches for something – cannot stop her from finding out once and for all who her parents are.

Unfortunately for Sybil, more questions – not answers – materialize at Croft Towers. Why is it that the charming Mr. Cantrell attaches himself to her, despite her low status? What is the secret that tortures Mrs. Chalcroft and why does she ask Sybil to deliver secret letters under cover of darkness? And why, oh why, does Sybil find herself in the same house with her employer’s moody godson, the man who only she knows is the highwayman?

When rumors of a traitor to the Crown swirl around the foundations of Croft Towers, Sybil must decide who to trust in a house where everyone has their own hidden past that they’d risk everything to protect. In the process, she might even find out who she is and where she came from…if she manages to stay alive, that is. Continue reading