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The two Regency era books I read for this week are more Historical than Regency. Neither one fits the fluff mold associated with the usual Regency Romance formula. Miss Leslie’s Secret by Jennifer Moore is not set in London, but in the Scottish Highlands. It doesn’t have anything to do with the ton, Almack’s, or society’s rules. Instead it deals with a sad injustice inflicted on hundreds of Scottish peasants. Haven Cross by Julie Daines hints at the mores of English society, but deals primarily with the plague of piracy that infected the Cornish coast during the same period the upper class was dressing fashionably and attending a plethora of social functions in more fashionable areas.
MISS LESLIE’S SECRET by Jennifer Moore
Conall Stewart was inducted into the British military to fight the French. After ten years of service, he is finally free to return home to the Scottish Highlands. His return isn’t the happy occasion he expects, but to the discovery that his family was expelled from their home while he was away, their home burnt, and the fields now lie waste. He begins a search for his family and while he searches, he rents a farm and small manor in a nearby village.
Three women once shared a secret. One died giving birth to a son under dire conditions as their homes and village burn at the command of the landowner. Aileen Leslie vows to the dying woman that she will raise Jamie as her own and keep him safe from his father, a violent cruel man suspected of criminal behavior. The two remaining women with the infant make their way to a distant village where they find crude shacks that become their homes.
One day Conall catches Jamie in the act of committing a petty theft and angrily marches him home to his mother. Thus begins a relationship between Conall and Aileen. Aileen continues to keep her secret concerning Jamie’s real parentage until Conall’s search for his family inadvertently tips off Jamie’s father to his whereabouts and places Jamie and Aileen in severe danger.
This story is rich in the customs and politics of the early 1800s in Scotland. Some readers may find the heavy use of a Scottish accent in the dialog difficult to understand or annoying, but it does add to a feel of authenticity. The characters are strong, determined, and do not shy away from doing whatever needs to be done. The extreme social rules of the Regency period are not in evidence in this story, but there is a strong commitment to family and friends, loyalty to their heritage, fierce independence, and a never give up determination. Not a lot of attention is giving to clothing other than whether or not their few wardrobe items are clean. The story begins with a devastating scene, then slows to an even pace, then toward the end speeds up similar to a high action novel. The romance elements of the book proceed well, but it is the history and action that make the book compelling.
Jennifer Moore has written a number of Regency novels thus far and has become a favorite of this genre’s fans, perhaps because she exposes aspects of the era beyond those of the formula Regency. She has a BA from the University of Utah. She and her husband live in northern Utah and are the parents of four boys.
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MISS LESLIE’S SECRET by Jennifer Moore, Published by Covenant Communications, Inc., 218 pages, soft cover $14.99. Also available on CD and for eReaders.
HAVEN CROSS by Julie Daines
Elaine Cardinham endures a silent three day coach journey to her family’s country home. Her parents aren’t speaking to each other following her father’s involvement in some sort of scandal in London. It’s been five years since she was last at Havencross in Cornwall. She left following her refusal of her lifelong friend’s marriage proposal which was followed almost immediately by her brother’s disappearance. Elaine blames herself for the loss and presumed death of her brother since he was carrying a message for her at the time of his disappearance. The one bright spot in her life is the proposal by an earl who followed her from London.
Not long after arriving home, Elaine once again meets Gareth Kemp and realizes her feelings for him haven’t changed, though she believes he no longer loves her, and she is betrothed to another man. Several murders have occurred in the years she has been gone, all attributed to the smugglers who plague the coast. Gareth’s father’s death is one of those murders. Gareth is determined to catch the smugglers who killed his father. Elaine meets a mysterious lady in one of the caves near her home and befriends two little boys who seem to have secrets of their own. The discovery of one more murder victim and threats against both Elaine’s and Gareth’s lives raise the tension level.
Daines’s characters deal with emotional problems that can afflict people of any time period. She draws a strong character in Elaine who attempts to run away from her problems by physically leaving and Gareth who tries to cover up his problems by emerging himself in finding his father’s murderer and shutting all else out. Both characters are realistic and likable, sometimes make mistakes, but are not lacking in courage. Most of the secondary characters fill their roles well, but Elaine’s parents are weak with insufficient explanation. The father’s withdrawal from life is overdone as is the mother’s childish anger. The earl and Gareth’s mother are strong secondary characters. The romance elements are handled well, but the strongest part of the story is the mystery involving the murders and smugglers. Regency Romance fans will enjoy the story, but action and historical readers won’t want to miss this one either.
Julie Daines grew up in Utah though she was born in Massachusetts. She studied in England for eighteen months. She’s married and the mother of four children.
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HAVEN CROSS by Julie Daines, published by Covenant Communications, Inc., 217 pages, soft cover $14.99. Also available on CD and for eReaders.