Saturday, May 08, 2010

Weekend Romance Reading

Sometimes you just feel like a little light reading. My brain has been in need of some relaxation this week, and this is what I've read -- 2 romance novels by 2 authors I greatly enjoy. The kind of romance novels I like are mostly historical, especially Regency. Both of these authors started out with novels set in that era, which is how I got hooked on them years ago. But it is amazing what you can learn from Regency novels: every time I watch Jeopardy there are numerous answers I know because of my Regency reading. For absolute detail and precision, you must read Georgette Heyer. But these two modern novelists are pretty fun, too.

1. Burning Lamp / Amanda Quick

This is the second in Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle's newest trilogy in the Arcane Society novels. The Arcane Society started with an alchemist way back in Newton's time, and is made up of families who have unusual psychic gifts -- such as reading auras, having enhanced psychic abilities, etc. They are always infighting, leading to lots of drama through the centuries, and somehow the men working for them are always diamonds in the rough - tall, dark, handsome and powerful. This particular novel is set in Victorian years, the most entertaining Arcane era for me. We have murderous villains, unprecedented psychic powers, mad scientists, and of course, True Love.

2. A Secret Affair / Mary Balogh

Mary Balogh, though born & raised in Wales, has lived in Saskatchewan for years. As a fellow Saskatchewanian I feel that I really need to read her vast output of romance novels ;) This one I received courtesy of Random House, and the perfect timing is greatly appreciated!

This latest contribution is one in a series about a specific family in Regency/Georgian England (even if the cover is a bit skanky for the era). Each individual gets their own story, and in this one we hear the love story of Constantine Huxtable, the black sheep of the family. As always Balogh's writing is very emotional: though both Constantine and his love interest the Duchess of Dunbarton seem cold and aloof, they are both really soft-hearted social reformers, and they love children. I do get a little tired of the notion that a man is really worth loving because he gets along with children, but, I know there are many people for whom that idea resonates.

The story proceeds along expected lines, but having read all the other books in this series, I am aware of the history behind it, which really fills out some of the characterization. Balogh is very good at drawing motivations and desires of the characters and making the stories more than just a formulaic fill-in-the-blanks. And even in 'just' a romance novel, there are moments of wisdom to be shared -- as when Constantine ponders his recent rude behaviour:

Perhaps one of the worst of his sins, a very recent one, had been his denial of all that he knew to be true of human nature. All people -- all -- were a complex product of their heritage, their environment, their upbringing and education and cumulative experiences of life as well as of a basic character and personality with which they were born. Everyone was a rose but even more complex than a mere flower. Everyone was made up of infinitely layered petals. And everyone had something indescribably precious at the heart of their being.

No one was shallow. Not really.

Now isn't that a more poetic way of saying that there's more than meets the eye in every person? A good lesson to be reminded of, a lesson in empathy. And so two good reads to relax and yet engage the brain this cold and rainy weekend.


  1. I really, really have to read Arcane Society books. You definitely have spiked my interest. And I definitely agree on Heyer. I just discovered her last year and she's awesome.

  2. Reading romance novels can be a bit hit or miss, I think, so it's good to have a recommendation - I like the look of the Arcane Society one.

  3. Both books look like being well worth a look, thanks for the review.


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