Monday, April 29, 2013

Seriously Sick Series

The heir
One could fall in lust with this cover
based on the intimation of
chest hair alone!
And I mean "sick" in the most flattering, Urban Dictionary definition of the word.

One of the hardest things in writing a series, is to please the loyal readers who have been following all along in the previous books, giving "what's happening now" for favorite characters from those books, while at the same time, not boring a new reader to tears with those details.

Another test is whether the books can be read out of sequence.

Grace Burrowes does these things beautifully. (Probably why she keeps hitting the New York Times Best-Seller list.)

There are to be eight books (plus at least two novellas) in her Regency Romance series about the Windham family. I've read them in this order (links are to my GoodReads reviews):

So the only two I’ve not yet read are Book 4, The Virtuoso, and Book 8, Lady Jenny's Christmas Portrait, which has not yet been released. I do plan to enjoy them both.

Ms. Burrowes has created an imaginary Duke of Morelands, his Duchess, and a very large family - 8 adult children, plus two ghosts.

Lady Louisa's Christmas KnightEach book features the story of the romance of one son or daughter, but also includes family interactions, servants and other secondary characters, horses - who generally have names and personalities, children. One would think that by the time we got Book 7, there would be no room left for Lady Eve.

Yet despite the appearance and help of her parents, all her siblings, and their spouses, in Book Seven, Lady Eve and her decoy-turned-husband, Lucas Denning, have a full and satisfying romance, without being squeezed off the pages. How?

Part of me is still trying to figure that out.

What each book does not have:
  • An info-dump in the first chapter or two devoted to “here’s what happened in the last book.” There may be allusions to other storylines, sprinkled in lightly, and the weaving in of secondary characters from previous or upcoming books, but they don’t bog down the current book, nor are they teasers.
  • Flawless heroes and heroines. Sometimes the women are not pure as the driven snow. Sometimes the men are afraid of thunder. Strict formulas of when the hero and heroine come together and break apart are not obeyed.
  • Laura Ashley syndrome. There’s just enough description in each scene to give an impression - we don’t see that the color of the throw pillows matches the cushions on the fainting couch  matches the curtains, trimmed with lace.

What each book in the series has:
    Lady Maggie's Secret Scandal
  • A strong, smart, likeable hero and heroine - generally both hiding secrets.
  • Gobs of humor.
  • Secondary characters who introduce themselves and pique our curiosity for the next book(s), but know their place and don’t try to take over.
  • Names for characters that are unique to the time and sound hilarious to a modern ear: Percival, Esther, Gayle, Bartholomew, Magdalene, Wilberforce.
  • Critters (generally horses, could be dogs or cats or something else) with amusing names and personalities. I must admit, Herodotus the mule, and Lady Ophelia the breeding sow, are two of my favorites.
  • Great sexual tension and sex scenes that are both hot and often tender.
  • Insecurity. Based on each heroine’s backstory, the reader is not sure how she will react upon learning the hero’s secret - and vice-versa.
  • The heroines and heroes all have their own unique scents, favorite treats and beverages.
  • Past sorrows and traumas. There are two dead Windham brothers, and they are talked about and much missed by the current lead hero or heroine in every book.
  • Each Windham sibling (and spouse) has a particular strength or talent. Gayle, The Heir, and Maggie, are astute financial managers. Jenny creates naughty lingerie. Eve and Devlin understand horse training. Emma is a baker. Anna arranges flowers. Val plays the piano.
  • Children. Whether in the womb or already underfoot, kids are very much a part of each novel.

Lady Eve's Indiscretion (The Duke's Daughters, #4) (Windham, #7)Even though Regency Romance is "not my thing," (my favorite reads are women's fiction and sci-fi/fantasy) I have tremendously enjoyed these books. Because regardless of what corset or cowboy hat you dress somebody in, human beings are human beings.

We all behave the same way (with minor eccentricities). We all want to be loved/admired and desired.

Mostly loved.

We all get caught up in the same family and romantic dramas, the same exhilaration and misunderstandings.

And we all want a happy ending (at least, *I* do).

Have you read any Grace Burrowes?
Which are your favorites?
Do you have a series to recommend?