Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Terrific Trads

I was one of those readers who went into mourning back in 2005 when Zebra and Signet announced that they were ceasing publication of traditional Regencies. Even though I was reading fewer by that time, my love for the subgenre was steady. Trads that I reread until pages pulled loose and covers grew tattered adorned my keeper shelves in significant numbers. So I greeted with enthusiasm announcements that some of my favorite authors were reissuing some of my favorite trads. I’m still not sure why Dell began Mary Balogh’s reissues with her Web trilogy, which is near the bottom of my list of Balogh books I reread, but I was pleased to have shiny new copies of The Ideal Wife, A Precious Jewel, Dark Angel/Lord Carew’s Bride (a twofer—and the latter my very favorite Balogh trad), and A Christmas Promise. The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet (another twofer—and the first is another favorite) is scheduled to be reissued in September 2011, followed by A Christmas Bride/ A Christmas Beau and A Promise of Spring/The Temporary Wife in 2012 and The Counterfeit Betrothal/The Notorious Rake in 2013. I’m sure I’ll buy copies of all of them, but I’m especially pleased that A Promise of Spring is included. It’s connected to the Web trilogy, but I liked it much better.

As with Balogh, I started reading Jo Beverley’s books with her first one, Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed, in 1988. I loved all six of her trads, and after fifteen to twenty years of rereading, they were all tattered and needed replacing. Thanks to NAL’s reissues, beginning with Lovers and Ladies, which included The Fortune Hunter and Deirdre and Don Juan, in 2008, and following with Lord Wraybourne’s Betrothed in 2009 and with The Stanforth Secrets, The Stolen Bride, and Emily and the Dark Angel (one of the best trads ever written IMO) in 2010, a complete set of Beverley’s trads is now easily available. If only they’d reissue “If Fancy Be the Food of Love” and Jo Bev would write the Daffodil Dandy’s story . . .

Ebooks are a great boon to lovers of the trad Regency. Rare paperback copies of coveted trads have been expensive; ebooks are making them affordable. For instance, Candice Hern has recently made available ebooks of three of her trads: A Proper Companion, An Affair of Honor, and A Change of Heart. Paperback copies of these books could cost from $55 to $129, but the ebooks are selling at Amazon and Smashwords for $2.99. I’m still waiting for my favorite Hern trad, Miss Lacey’s Last Fling. More bargains can be found at Regency Reads where ecopies of such hard-to-find trads as Mary Jo Putney’s Carousel of Hearts, Barbara Metzger’s Snowdrops and Scandalbroth, Joan Wolf’s Her Lordship’s Mistress, and dozens of others are available for $5.00.

Even when used copies are available at bargain or moderate prices, given a choice, most readers would choose a reissued book. I’m thankful for the trads that are being reissued in print or electronic formats, but there are so many more I’d like to see added to the list. Here’s a list of the trads I’d most like to see made newly available (in alphabetical order by author):

1. The Devil’s Delilah by Loretta Chase

Before Lord of Scoundrels, this author wrote some marvelous trads. This one is the one I love best. I adore this sort of screwball comedy Regency style featuring a heroine with a scandalous father and a heart-stealing, beta hero who is one of my all-time favorites.

2. Allegra by Clare Darcy
Darcy was the first Regency romance writer I read after Georgette Heyer. Between 1971 and 1982, she published fourteen trads, all titled with the heroine’s name. Allegra is my favorite and the one I most want, although I’d be happy to see them all reissued. It’s very much in the style of Heyer with an independent, impoverished heroine and a pre-Waterloo Brussels setting.

3. Love’s Reward by Jean Ross Ewing
You may know Ewing better as Julia Ross, but before she wrote passionate, complex, historically accurate European historicals as Ross, she wrote passionate, complex, historically accurate trads as Ewing. Love’s Reward, a Rita winner, is the last in her six-book Rewards series. It includes mystery, political intrigue, and a marriage to the wrong brother.

4. Gallant Waif by Anne Gracie
This is the first book I read by Gracie, and as much as I love her other books, it remains my favorite, one of those books that I return to again and again for comfort and joy as a reader and for inspiration and instruction as a writer. Kate is an invincible heroine, Jack is a tortured hero who has multiple reasons for retreating from the world, and if that’s not enough, this book contains my favorite ballroom scene ever.

5. The Country Gentleman by Fiona Hill
If you’re tired of dukes and dances, you can’t do better than The Country Gentleman which features a heroine forced to leave London when she loses her fortune and the man she has loved for a decade and a farmer hero. The book has humor (especially the fish-out-of-water variety), great dialogue, and a love story that develops through interaction and character growth.

6. The Lady’s Companion by Carla Kelly
This Rita winner is one of the few Carla Kelly’s trads missing from my collection. Somehow it was lost during a move. Used copies range from $25-$95. It’s a wonderful story, one that turns some romance conventions on their head. The hero is Welsh, a former army sergeant turned baliff, far below the heroine’s father in social terms, but immeasurably his superior in character. The old lady whom the heroine serves as companion is neither a martinet nor an empty-headed fool; instead, she is intelligent, courageous, and interesting, and she proves a good friend to the heroine. I’d love to see all of Kelly’s pre-Harlequin trads reissued, but this one tops my list.

7. The Unwavering Miss Winslow by Emma Lange
This book is a wonderful example of how a skilled writer can use even the generally trite and irritating to advantage. Jessica Winslow’s great beauty is the cause of all her misfortunes—and they are many, and a Big Misunderstanding lies at the heart of the story, but despite two strikes, Lange hits a homerun. She makes her heroine endearing and shows the H/H as reasonable people who learn to understand and trust one another.

8. Kidnap Confusion by Judith Nelson
How many romances have you read with a heroine whose kidnapping makes you cringe. In this book Nelson upends the kidnapping trope when two young brothers and their groom kidnap the eminently practical and capable Miss Margaret Tolliver, having mistaken her for their eldest brother’s mistress. It’s a comedy of errors that ends in a touching HEA. The proposal scenes alone would send KC soaring to the top of my favorite trads list. Nelson is another author who wrote a number of trads on my keeper shelves, but this one is special, one of my go-tos when I need to laugh.

9. A Royal Escapade by Alicia Rasley
Maybe you know Alicia Rasley for her workshops or the excellent writing instruction she provides on her web site, or perhaps you visit her Edittorrent blog. But back in the 90s, she was best known for her traditional regencies. A Royal Escapade is my favorite. Trads generally won praise for their historical accuracy, and one of the delights of this book is the way Radley weaves historical details and people into her fiction. Her Wellington is a more human-sized character than the one romance readers are accustomed to encountering, and her princess heroine is closer to historical princesses caught up in arranged marriages and burdensome responsibilities than to fairy tale princesses with magic at hand.

10. The Sergeant Major’s Daughter by Sheila Walsh
Frederica and The Grand Sophy are the Heyers I’ve reread most often, so it’s no surprise that this tale of another independent, competent, “managing” heroine is one for which I have a deep affection. Felicity Vale, who spent much of her life following the drum with her parents, is also a heroine with a social conscience and, even rarer, with the determination to add practical action to admirable ideals and change the aristocratic hero’s views in the process.

Are you a fan of traditional Regencies? What are your favorite trads? What books do you long to see reissued in print or electronic formats?


Manda Collins said...

I love your list, Janga! I mentioned Sheila Walsh just the other day when someone asked for trad recs. I would add Edith Layton to your list as well. Her Lord of Dishonor is one of my all time favorites!

So glad to see so many of my old favorites are being reissued. A whole world of readers will now know how wonderful these authors are.

Janga said...

Thanks, Manda. And I agree that Lady Layton should be on the list. The Lord of Dishonor is a great choice, but The Duke's Wager might edge it out on my list. Layton wrote some great Christmas novellas for those Regency Christmas anthologies too, and The Game of Love has one of my favorite heroes--Arden Lyons. Gotta love that name!

Anonymous said...

I love traditional Regencies too, and when I was going through some "keeper" boxes the other day, I came across an original Emily and the Dark Angel, so I set it aside to re-read.

I love all of Barbara Metzger's trads, and Kasey Michaels/Michelle Kasey were big favorites of mine too. I adore the madcap adventures and witty banter, so I have lots of their books saved as keepers. :)


Janga said...

Donna, I'm afraid to try rereading my original copy of Emily and the Dark Angel. I fear it would fall to pieces in my hands. That's why I'm elated to have a new copy.

Those old Kasey Michaels romps are great. Just thinking of titles like The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane makes me smile. I loved her Maggie Kelly books too and the Romney Marsh books.

irisheyes said...

Mary Balogh's were the first traditional regencies I sampled and I was definitely hooked. When you look at the multitude of these books in Used Book Stores it blows your mind. Until picking up Mary Balogh's I never realized what treasures were in store for me.

Slowly I've ventured out and tried new-to-me regency authors. My recent acquisitions have all been Carla Kellys. So, any of her re-releases are very welcome. And I know there are a few of Mary Balogh's I have yet to track down.

You've given me an awesome list to work my way through, as always, Janga. Thanks!

Victoria Janssen said...

Awesome list. Your fave Carla Kelly is one of my two faves, I can never decide which is better - A LADY'S COMPANION or SUMMER CAMPAIGN. Or ONE GOOD TURN. *ahem*

Janga said...

Irish, Balogh wrote 36 Signet Regencies between 1985 and 1997 plus a half dozen Signet Super regencies, several Jove Regencies, and all those novellas for various holiday anthologies. I've read every one--most of them several times. I think she must be the most prolific of the Regency writers. I know only Nora outnumbers her among my keepers. You chose a great one as your introduction to the genre.

And wouldn't you love to have available electronic copies of all those Carla Kelly books?

Janga said...

Oh, One Good Turn! That's another of my favorites too, Victoria, and Nez is one of my favorite redeemed heroes. I do think readers need Libby's London Merchant to see the full character. Mrs. Drew Plays Her Hand is yet another favorite. In fact, I don't think I've ever met a Carla Kelly book I didn't like. :)

quantum said...

I started with modern romance authors after finding Eloisa James on-line. Then my evolution mirrored Irish after discovering the wonderful Mary Balogh!

Another great list to guide me .... thanks Janga

I'm currently reading M J Putney's Guardian series and enjoying it a lot. I love the way that we meet Bonnie Prince Charlie, the drink loving charismatic Stuart pretender. Not quite Regency of course but I believe that Putney started out with trad regencies. If they are as good as her fantasy I'm gonna try some soon.

Any recs to add to 'Carousel of Hearts' ?

Janga said...

Q, I'm a huge MJP fan--whatever she writes. One of her few contemporaries (The Apiral Path), one of her fantasy romances (The Marriage Spell), and several of her historicals are on my all-time 100 list. My favorites of her trads are The Rake and the Reformer and The Bargain. The latter has just been reissued with a gorgeous new cover, and I believe more ebooks will be added soon.