Frederica Bertram is only tempted by the pending marriage proposal of the tedious Mr. Dunster because she considers it her last chance to leave her parents’ roof. Unlike her younger sister Amelia, she no longer fantasizes about romantic adventure. But then the scandalous trouser-wearing, duel-fighting, husband-discarding Viscountess Norland moves into their quiet neighborhood bringing the libertine Lord Peregrine in her wake.
We can recognize several of Austen’s stock characters in the cast: the near-spinster protagonist, the feckless and irresponsible younger sister, the boring suitor, the charming libertine, the sardonically distant father. Viscountess Norland, on the other hand, is the epitome of the lesfic historical romantic lead with her mannish dress and habits, her mysterious and shady past, and the way she disrupts the lives she enters like a whirlwind.
The Writing Style
Davies has a solid command of the historical prose style, despite an occasional stiffness. The story is highly readable and quick-paced. And if the events of the climax are somewhat predictable that comes with the genre territory.
If you’re looking for books that provide a Georgette Heyer feel but with same-sex romance, Frederica And The Viscountess should be a solid addition to your reading list.
There were some details of the historic set-up that showed blind spots. The ultimate resolution of the romantic arrangements should have been obvious to all involved and not required a brilliant flash of insight on the part of Norland’s maid. Norland’s deep back-story also felt a bit modern in its motivations, as if readers couldn’t be expected to sympathize otherwise.
If you like Regency romance, you definitely want to read this book. And if you aren’t sure if you like Regency romance but want to test the waters, this is one of several books that might convince you to join the club.
Excerpt from Frederica And The Viscountess by Barbara Davies
She realised she was finding the Viscountess’s company surprisingly congenial, for all it was disconcerting. Much more congenial than Chaloner’s. Though the conversation did occasionally verge on the improper, she felt easy with her. She wondered if this indicated a flaw in her own character, a want of morals perhaps. She wished she could talk to someone about it, but there was only her father, and somehow she didn’t think—
“You are far, far away, Frederica.”
Awareness of her surroundings came back with a rush. “I beg your pardon, your ladyship. I did not mean—”
“And we are back to ‘your ladyship.’ ” The tone was frosty.
Frederica’s cheeks warmed. “Joanna.” She regarded Joanna intently and relaxed. “But you are teasing me.”
“I am,” agreed the Viscountess, giving her a brilliant smile.
They resumed their walk, and Frederica cast a sidelong glance at Joanna. “Is it true you once fought a duel?”
Joanna missed a step. “Yes, it is true.”
Her eyes widened. She had imagined it to be exaggeration.
“I took a bullet for my pains.” The Viscountess indicated her right shoulder with a gloved hand. “It was a year ago, in Paris. The wound still aches when the weather is damp.”
“And your opponent?”
“De Livry? Dead as a doornail.”
For a few paces, there was a sombre silence.
“Did he deserve it?” asked Frederica at last.
“Yes.” Joanna gave her a rueful smile. “But I would say that, would I not?”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781934452486
- Publisher: Bedazzled Ink
- Barbara Davies Online
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