Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Not Unworthy Copy of the Real Thing

Reaching even farther back into my backlog reading agenda, we find Clare Darcy's A Regency Trio.  This book was given to me by Sarah Sp., to keep because I had recommended Clare Darcy to her and she *hated* the book.  In my defense, I had read about 9 pages of one book when I did the recommending (and made that clear to her), and shortly afterwards, I realized I may have been in a bit of a hurry.  I actually found these books at the Howard Country Library, where I went once or twice when I was working in Columbia, MD (so that would be January-July last year) - the name Darcy of course jumped out at me, and these books appear to be early imitators of Georgette Heyer, and thus worth a very definite try.  Unfortunately, I found the books terribly written - the dialogue unutterably bad, the plots ridiculous and anachronisms unbounding.  But since this is, of course, my favorite genre, I was not averse to taking Regency Trio, a three-in-one of her books, from Sarah Sp.  I did take it, I think last year some time, but of course wasn't in the biggest rush to read it.  S.b. didn't think it was that terrible though, and a.b.g enjoyed it, so I certainly did plan to read it at some point.  That point finally came this past week, when I finished all my library books and my borrowed book as well.

I was planning on waiting till I had finished all three books and then reviewing them all together, since I assume they will all be much the same, but, fortunately or unfortunately, I just took out two new books from the library and I need to move this one down my priority list.  I read the first one, so the first one will be the one reviewed now.  S.b. is of the opinion that this one is inferior to the other two, but I will have to leave that up in the air for now.  Meanwhile, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Cecily, or a  Lady of Quality.  Like I said, I found the writing (dialogue especially) terrible and extremely anachronistic in the two Clare Darcy books I read previously.  This one though, while it was painfully obviously a Georgette Heyer imitation, was very well done copy.  Each plot twist and each character had its exact counterpart in some Heyer novel, and many of the very sentences had their roots in my favorite Heyers, but overall the tone of the writing was so similar I'm not sure I could have differentiated easily.  (I pointed this out to abg, and she said she thought that her later books were better written, which is a plausible explanation).

The great deficiencies remaining are those of characterization and plot (such small nitpicks, those :)) The characters are mostly completely one-sided - likeable, but completely cliche and difficult to force out of their proscribed patterns of behavior.  The plot then becomes determined by those patterns, and thus less interesting (and less fun too).  What am I saying? Cecily is nice, but a bit of a nitwit - her escapades start out as Heyer-like, but they just go on beyond that, so that by the time she runs off to the theatre we are just like ergh! what is your problem? And Mr. Ranleigh is of course supremely cool, but so supremely cool it doesn't feel at all like he can unbend to be humbled by his love for Cecily - okay you know what I'm saying - those super cool ones are sometimes no fun at all when they're in love - that just takes away their coolness! GH handles it well, but we're not all GH.

I was reading some blog on Clare Darcy that made that very point - we're not all GH, so Clare Darcy needs to be judged on her own merits.  I'd say that's downright impossible, since her books are so much a copy of the great Gorgette's as to be almost an homage.  But of course, it is somewhat true since I do not in general judge books by whether they are as good as Georgette Heyer - that standard is rather a little too high.  And I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed Cecily.  Okay, maybe not thoroughly, but enough so that I was eager to keep on reading, at least for almost all of the book.  At one point, it got a *little* too long, and like I said, the characters were not quite totally likeable at all times in their appointed roles, but overall, I completely enjoyed the book.  I really didn't find it cringeworthy at all, all the more surprising, since I found the other two to be quite so.  Maybe I've gotten less critical, especially since Sarah Sp. *hated* these three, but whatever the reason, I am looking forward to getting back to the other two when I finish up my more pressing engagement :)

Verdict: 3.5/5

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