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REVIEW: What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long

Dear Ms. Long:

I have had kind of an on-again, off-again relationship with your books. I adored Like No Other Lover but was pretty meh about The Perils of Pleasure. So when I saw What I Did For A Duke on NetGalley, I figured I'd give it a shot but had no particular expectations about the book (nor risks, thanks to the genius that is NetGalley). Which may be why I was swept off my feet so thoroughly by Genevieve and Alex, who were similarly surprised by the strength and depth of their feelings for one another. Like the lovers themselves, this book, What I Did For A Duke, was a passionate, witty, emotionally satisfying surprise.

What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne LongGenevieve Eversea has always been certain that she would marry her best friend, Lord Harry Osborne, and that her forever happiness would be secure. So when he informs her, at the beginning of one of her family's weekend house parties, that he intends to propose to their mutual friend, Millicent, Genevieve is completely unprepared for the crushing sense of loss and confusion she must cope with in the midst of this social gathering. To make it worse, no one, it seems, can see that something is drastically amiss with Genevieve, which is likely due to her habit of holding herself in tight control, especially as compared to her passionate, beautiful sister, Olivia, next to whom Genevieve seems much more serious and practical.

Except that Alexander Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge, can see what everyone else cannot, namely that Genevieve has suffered some terrible emotional blow and that said blow seems to have come from the direction of the affable, handsome Harry Osborne. Of course, Alex is paying the closest possible attention to Genevieve because she is his target of revenge against her brother Ian, who very recently cuckolded Alex and precipitated the end of his engagement to a lovely but apparently faithless woman. But in paying the closest possible attention to this woman virtually half his age, Alex is struck by something unexpected: Genevieve is not at all who others seem to believe she is. And in that moment of insight he realizes something even more astounding: he likes Miss Genevieve Eversea and is strongly attracted to her:

In truth, his eyes were on the stairs. He waited with the patience of a cat near a mouse hole for Genevieve Eversea to arrive.

He almost didn't recognize her when she did appear.

Her dress was a glossy silk of midnight blue, cut very low, and the "sleeves" – really scraps of net – clung to her pale, flawless shoulders, as though she'd tumbled down through clouds to get here and brought a few shreds of sky with her.

Her neck was long. Her collarbone had that smooth pristine temptation of a bank of new-fallen snow. It was interrupted only by a drop of a blue stone on a chain that pointed directly at quite confident cleavage, as if the owner knew full well it was splendid and was accustomed to exposing it. Her sleek dark hair was dressed up high and away from her face, and tiny diamanté sparks were scattered through in it. Her face beneath it was revealed in delicate simplicity. A smooth, pale, high forehead, etched cheekbones. Elegant as Wedgwood, set off by that dark, dark hair and those vivid eyes.

He stared.

He wasn't precisely . . . nonplussed. Still, this particular vision of Genevieve Eversea required reconciling with the quiet girl in the morning dress, the moor pony with the determined gait. As though they were not quite the same thing, or were perhaps variations of the same thing, like verb tenses. He felt a bit like a boy who needed to erase his morning lessons and begin again.

There are many images in this description that play again and again throughout the book. Genevieve and her passion for Alex are compared to celestial objects, often in conjunction with fire imagery (frex the height of the flames in the fireplace are a good gauge of Genevieve's desire). Colors play an important role in properly understanding emotional undercurrents and true feelings   – at one point Alex sends Genevieve an enormous "profusion of roses, the heads of which were nearly as pulsatingly crimson and large as actual hearts," a perfect match for the "urn stuffed full of astonishing flowers in a profusion of oranges and crimsons" Genevieve has "invented" in her embroidery (and which her mother mistakes for flowers her sister Olivia has received).   And the detail in which Alex renders Genevieve as she walks down the stairs parallels Genevieve's own love of art and the ongoing exchange (and eventual inside joke) she has with Alex on the differences between Veronese, Botticelli and Titian's portrayals of Venus and Mars:

"As a young man touring the Continent, I once looked at length at a painting called Venus and Mars by an Italian painter called Veronese. Do you know it? Venus is nude as the day she was born, and Mars is entirely clothed and down on his knees in front of her, and it looks as though Mars is about to give her a pleasuring. And there are cherubs hanging about. I looked at it for quite some time."

. . .

"Do you . . . know of a painter called Boticelli?" She sounded tentative.

"I do, in fact. But vaguely."

"I think he isn't rated highly enough. I enjoy his grace of line, the light infusing his subjects."

Moncrieffe knew a subtle thrill. He'd thrown out a temptation, a subtle invitation. She'd recognized it and taken it up. "And I have seen his Venus and Mars," he added. "Ironically, in it Venus is entirely clothed and Mars, the poor bastard, is sprawled looking as though she's just had her way with him and he's spent."

The subject of passion, and even more how it should render us "spent," is a subject in which Genevieve has had very little experience, but about which she finds her curiosity, well, inflamed. And Alex has lit the match. For example, early on Genevieve learns the difference between the kiss on the hand that Harry once offered her (and that she has cherished since as the height of passion) and a real kiss between a man and a woman:

"A proper kiss, Miss Eversea, should turn you inside out. It should . . . touch places in you that you didn't know existed, set them ablaze, until your entire being is hungry and wild. It should . . . hold a moment, I want to explain this as clearly as possible . . ." He tipped his head back and paused to consider, as though he were envisioning this and wanted to relate every detail correctly. "It should slice right down through you like a cutlass with a pleasure so devastating it's very nearly pain … It should make you do battle for control of your senses and your will. It should make you want to do things you'd never dreamed you'd want to do, and in that moment all of those things will make perfect sense. And it should herald, or at least promise, the most intense physical pleasure you've ever known, regardless of whether that promise is ever, ever fulfilled. It should, in fact . . . " he paused for effect " . . . haunt you for the rest of your life."

When I think about what happens in the book, the answer is both very much and very little. Very much occurs inside Genevieve, who is initially so overwhelmed at Harry’s news that she walks around in a fog, attempting to evade the very persistent and obtrusive Moncrieffe. And quite a bit happens around Genevieve and Moncrieffe, although it is the stuff of amusing, indulgent house parties, reminiscent of Like No Other Lover, for example. But in another sense, very little happens outside what is going on between Genevieve and Moncrieffe, who become closer once her secret is revealed and Moncrieffe proposes a neat little scheme by which to make Harry jealous. That scheme creates a perceived joint interest that turns, secondarily, into the shared pursuit of Genevieve’s education in passion, which Alex also proposes, and which, despite her best intentions, Genevieve cannot resist, even as she yearns for Harry’s love.

Consequently, the book develops a rhythm between socially restrained days and physically unrestrained nights, and as both Alex and Genevieve begin to yearn for the night (especially Genevieve, whose point of view much of the novel follows), so did I, because the it seems that is when everything real in the book occurs: Venus and Mars, pleasure and satiation, the passion of the color red (and Mars being the red planet, of course), the blazing fire, clandestine meetings after midnight, unbound hair and unbuttoned waistcoats, all the intimacies of mutually discovered and indulged passion, and the way that passion both reveals and is revealed by the combustible but compatible personalities of the two protagonists.

What I Did For A Duke is a probably a novel best described with its own prose, because so much of its pleasure is in the wit and the emotional resonance of Alex and Genevieve's interactions and reactions to each other (Jane has posted a wonderful example at Goodreads).   In a very real way, Genevieve is being seduced by Alex – by his carnality and the depth of his experience. But she is also being seduced by the part of herself she has never understood why or how to express:

He raised his brows, waiting with infinite, infinite, downright evil patience, unruffled. His eyes were dark and deep, as reflective in the sunlight as the polished toes of his boots. Like a body of water, where one couldn't tell whether you could wade safely through or step in and be swallowed whole by depth. She had the strangest sense he could absorb anything with those eyes and reflect back the same irony: a glare, a smile, a tragedy, a comedy.

But there was something about him . . . She was tempted to wade in. Just a little. It was the same temptation she'd succumbed to when he'd discussed-’just as deliberately-’Venus and Mars. Because he wasn't wrong. Because he was honest, and she liked it. Because he was relentless, and she admired it. Because she half hated him, but he didn't bore her.

Because he spoke to her the way no one else had ever spoken to her, which meant he saw her in a way no one else saw her.

Yes, this is an old Romance trope: the big, bad, dark duke who introduces and instructs the young, innocent heroine in passion and love. And the book is a celebration of that grand passion and the “luminous” wonder of its surprise and its bloom. But Long plays with the trope just enough to make the reader see it differently, too (since so much in this novel is about double meanings and seeing familiar things in a new way). Alex has the requisite bad reputation, with the obligatory rumor that he murdered his first wife and kills men for fun, but the truth is more interesting. He is a a jaded gambler who claims he never loses and a man who enjoys getting revenge and who has learned that trading on his reputation can give him the kind of solitude and power he enjoys. But he is not shut down emotionally or irrationally and recklessly cruel, as so many of these hero-types are.

Genevieve is young and somewhat innocent, but she is not learning something completely new with Alex; she is merely allowing herself to express and channel what she has always protected and constrained in herself. Further, she is incredibly smart and stubborn, a young woman with strong ideas about how life should work and the focus to achieve what she envisions. And as Genevieve and Alex become closer, the revenge plot that had initiated their meeting is abandoned, leaving room for a much more interesting conflict to arise, which I will not reveal here to avoid spoilers, but which readers will most likely have guessed far before Alex or Genevieve had a clue (hint: it involves Harry), but still works quite well in escalating the emotional tension. And despite my initial qualms about the age difference between Alex and Genevieve, I soon came around to all the reasons these two were perfect for each other and a great match, in both the romantic and competitive senses of the word.

When things in this novel work, there is a virtual conflagration of emotions and images and words – not a full realization of the kiss Alex describes to Genevieve, but a good facsimile. What did not really work for me were all the reminders that What I Did For A Duke is part of a series and therefore other characters whose books are written and unwritten need a certain level of attention in the text, even when their presence detracted from what I had hoped would be a substantially longer epilogue. The other thing I find with Long's prose is that its floridity does not always work for me, and there were passages in this book that felt a bit overwritten to me (along with a few scenes that seemed somewhat gratuitous, like a scene of blind man's bluff that struck me as intended to illustrate the difference between Harry and Alex that was already clearly visible). Overall, though, What I Did For A Duke was a real pleasure to read. A-

~Janet aka Robin

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isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

88 Comments

  1. Elyssa Papa
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 11:28:48

    I love this book so much and your review highlights everything I cherish about WIDFAD. I am still blown away by the book, and just how JAL constructs thing is simply amazing. I’m so glad you liked it, too!!!

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  2. SonomaLass
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 11:52:08

    Terrific review of a wonderful book. You’re right about so much here! What especially resonates with my experience of the book is the fresh use of familiar romance themes and devices — older experienced hero with young virginal heroine, revenge plot with the sister as the price, jaded/damaged hero determined that he can never love again, heroine who thinks she’s in love with the wrong Mister Right — all done before, which adds to the pleasure for me of reading them done so well, with unique twists and takes. Add that to good writing, especially scenes of passion and of wit (and often BOTH), and a plot where I honestly wasn’t sure sometimes how we’d get where we obviously needed to be, and I would give it an A as well.

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  3. Sunita
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 11:56:54

    I have never hopped on the JAL bandwagon, the anachronisms have just been too much for me. But the positive chorus over this book is so deafening that I have to try again.

    Great review, Robin!

    A quick question: is the word “irony” used correctly in that last quote? I don’t understand what it means there. Maybe there’s an earlier sentence that makes it clearer.

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  4. GrowlyCub
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 12:20:17

    @Sunita:

    Yeah, my one foray into JAL led to one of my more virulent twitter outbreaks about anachronisms, incorrect word choices, incorrect grammar and implausible setups, but like you, I’ve been tempted by all the positive buzz for this one. Good thing that I have too many other books, because I’m sure I’d be disappointed if I read it.

    Robin, is that misspelling of Botticelli a typo or is it like that in the book?

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  5. BethanyA
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 12:22:55

    I just read the 3rd book (previous one) in the series, “I Kissed an Earl” and it was one of my best romances I’ve read this year. I had to wait until last month because I got it through Paperback Book Swap. It is really good to know that the 4th is just as fabulous.

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  6. Heller
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 12:49:09

    I just finished this book a few hours ago. I’m still smiling. It was lovely and a book, I know, that I’ll revisit again and again. What a great review of it. I wished for a longer epilogue as well.

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  7. Jen X
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 12:58:26

    Lovely review. I knew I was going to buy a copy already but now I’m just anticipating it more.

    I just finished reading the sample via Kindle and it has one of the best opening scenes ever. I can tell that I’m gonna love Alex already.

    LIKE NO OTHER LOVER has been my favorite so far but we’ll see if WIDFAD topples it.

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  8. Robin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 13:34:38

    @Sunita: It refers, I think, to the context of the description I quoted, which is that the duke has openly asked Genevieve about Harry breaking her heart and then the kiss on her hand (she tells him that Harry has kissed her and he forces her to declare the body part he kissed). He is acting on the surface as if the whole thing is a game, even though his eyes betray sympathy for her. Which is what I read to be the irony. However, the section is sooooo long, I could not include what comes before it without using my whole review up with quotes (as it is, I used quite a bit of textual language, and still I feel like I haven’t shared enough of the book).

    Also, re. anachronisms, I actually think Long is often over-criticized in this regard. Not that there are NOT anachronisms, but I’ve had long debates with people about particular examples that IMO are NOT anachronistic, even though they are not Romance staples (and sometimes I think she uses secondary definitions of words, too). And when I see authors like Heyer, Beverley etc. held up as contrasting exemplars of historical accuracy, I cringe and wince, because IMO all hist Rom has anachronistic language and imagery, and the oft-lionized authors are no exception (how many Heyer-created historical inaccuracies have become the standard for historical accuracy in Rom, I wonder?). IMO it all comes down to how enjoyable the book is as a whole, as to whether the reader finds that the inaccuracies/anachronisms outweigh a book’s other available pleasures. In Long’s case, when one of her books works for me, I can ignore those things that might otherwise annoy me. Especially since IMO they’re not often details central to characterization and plot.

    But if you don’t share the other pleasures of Long’s work, this book may not work for you. I’ve certainly got a list of books that others have loved but I just could not get into because of historical or craft issues that have prevented me from suspending disbelief long enough to immerse myself in the story. As I said, I’m hit and miss with Long’s books, but I so loved the imagery, passion, and unexpected tenderness of this book that I might have been able to ignore a red corvette blazing through the middle of the book, lol.

    @GrowlyCub: It is misspelled in the book, and I actually made a mental note last night to double check the spelling, but then promptly forgot to do so. Hopefully someone caught the mistake before the final version of the book, but I need to change my own misspelling, so thank you for the reminder.

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  9. Janine
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 13:44:07

    Great review of a wonderful book. I think this is unquestionably one of Long’s best, maybe even the best.

    I agree with your grade, though I think I’m generally fonder of Long’s books than you have been. I have yet to read her first two, but of the others, I wouldn’t grade any of them below a B-.

    Have you read I Kissed an Earl yet? The beginning was on the weaker side, but I thought the second half was amazing.

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  10. Janine
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 13:48:43

    Forgot to add, I loved the celestial imagery you mentioned, and the references to the gods. I also loved the motif of the clock chiming midnight, especially in combination with the age difference, Alex’s losses in the past, and the time limit placed on Alex and Genevieve’s relationship by the duration of his visit to her home. Oh, and I loved the last line!

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  11. TKF
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 14:12:10

    @GrowlyCub: @Sunita:

    I’m with you both on this one. JAL’s very loose grasp on history made me give up on her books (I also couldn’t get past the pedo hero of her debut, which everyone on the planet but me seems to have loved).

    And this book doesn't sound at all appealing, but then I'm not a fan of large age gaps between the hero and heroine (no matter how historically correct it might be). All too often, it makes the power dynamics of the relationship far too one-sided for my liking.

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  12. Kirsten
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 14:22:12

    buying it now! thanks, Robin

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  13. Sunita
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 15:46:54

    Thanks, Robin, that makes sense. I couldn’t imagine you choosing a passage to highlight which included wrong word usage, but I was having trouble parsing it.

    Our long discussions (starting years and years ago at AAR) have led me to the realization that there is no such thing as real historical accuracy in romance novels. There’s a spectrum, and some people get more of the details and characterizations “right,” while others are essentially modern characters in historical dress. Both can be enjoyable, the latter especially when the romantic relationship is really well depicted. That will overcome all kinds of historical howlers for me.

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  14. Sunita
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 15:49:10

    @TKF: I don’t mind big age differences, in fact I sometimes really like the way authors deal with them. In JAL’s first book I was done in by the “wee Becca” thing.

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  15. Karenmc
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 15:52:35

    I’ve read all of JAL’s books, and the only two I really had problems with are the very first, The Runaway Duke, which reads like a first effort, and Since the Surrender, because marionettes creep me out and I didn’t find the H/H all that appealing. Otherwise, I really love her prose, and haven’t noticed any glaring anachronisms (when I DO notice them, I sometimes can’t finish a book).

    As for a big age difference, good writing of interesting characters can make that moot. Carla Kelly certainly did that in Marrying the Royal Marine.

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  16. Dishonor
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 16:51:35

    Really excited about this one. I adored I Kissed an Earl, and I can’t wait to read WIDFAD.

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  17. Vi
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 17:29:08

    @GrowlyCub Botticelli is spelled correctly and incorrectly throughout the book. I just checked.

    I originally heard about this book via Jane on Twitter. I’m happy that I bought the book and will re-read it again and again. One of the most humorous parts are where Alex and Genevieve both torture Ian about how Alex might choose to avenge the insult done by Ian.

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  18. Isobel Carr
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 17:34:16

    Our long discussions (starting years and years ago at AAR) have led me to the realization that there is no such thing as real historical accuracy in romance novels.

    *Ouch*

    I know how hard my friends and I strive to get stuff right (everything from the big picture mores and legalities to the minutia of clothing, food, and horsemanship). And I think this same charge could be equally leveled against all historical fiction, regardless of genre (I know I've seen some mind-blowing errors in literary historical fiction over the years).

    Do we pick the outliers as our main characters? Of course we do, but that's true in all fiction IMO.

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  19. Laura
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 17:39:18

    I actually love May/December pairings if they’re done well and the heroine isn’t cringingly naive, to the point where I feel she ought to be sent straight back to the nursery. What is the age difference in this one?

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  20. Janine
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 18:05:32

    @Laura: Genevieve is twenty or so I think, and I believe Alex is thirty-nine.

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  21. Robin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 18:06:45

    @Sunita: This is much of why I think we need to sift the vocabulary to one of “authenticity” rather than accuracy. Or perhaps it’s that we need to determine what accuracy should encompass, because writing back into the past will necessitate anachronisms.

    In terms of authenticity — does the author get the overall ethos of a period right — I’m not sure where I’d put Long. I have a difficult time with Regency romances generally, in fact, and a much better grasp for either the end of the 18th C or the Victorian period. In fact, I think part of my issue is that I feel the Regency was sort of invented by genre Romance (or maybe by Heyer, who has fed heavily into the genre). It’s so much more of a significant period in the genre than in actual history that I’m not sure how much of what’s determined to be “accurate” is truly historically accurate and how much is judged so against so-called better examples within the genre. Certainly I feel I can discern “lite” history, but I’m not sure I’d classify Long as “lite” (although she’s definitely lighter than, say, those old Curtis Regencies or some of the Balogh categories I’ve read).

    Then there’s the question of the category v. the single title — in some ways the Regency feels to me solidly linked with the category, and I wonder how many single title Regencies would really be judged “accurate” against those categories. Any thoughts on that?

    @Janine: It was really, really difficult for me to refrain from talking about the significance of time in the novel, but if I did so, I’d feel compelled to reveal those lovely little details about Alex, and they were such a dear surprise to me, I didn’t want to ruin it for anyone else. So suffice it to say I agree with you!

    @Vi: One of my favorite moments is when Alex goes back to his room in the middle of the night and pounds on Ian’s door, hearing the crash from within. Ian deserved all of that and more, IMO.

    @Laura: It’s almost 20 years. Genevieve is 20 and Alex is said to be almost 40. So I’d say maybe 18 or 19 years.

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  22. Isobel Carr
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 19:30:40

    @Robin:

    This is much of why I think we need to sift [shift?] the vocabulary to one of “authenticity” rather than accuracy

    I’ll buy that. For me, what’s of paramount importance is that we’re on solid ground for factual things like is the plot legally possible, are the foods they eating period, is the clothing mostly correct, etc. Screw that stuff up, esp if it’s necessary for the plot, and I’m annoyed.

    I’ll give a pass to slight anachronisms. Can’t expect authors to look up every word they use, but some really should stick out (like when I saw “surreal” used in a Regency). And no one can know everything (I learn new stuff all the time, because I never stop conducting research).

    And then there’s the whole, do you buy into the world building aspect, which is what I think you’re getting at, where it isn’t about facts or anachronisms, but about *feel* and interpretation. This one is simply going to be a matter of personal taste. Either you buy it, or you don’t.

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  23. Sunita
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 20:18:13

    *Ouch*

    I know how hard my friends and I strive to get stuff right (everything from the big picture mores and legalities to the minutia of clothing, food, and horsemanship). And I think this same charge could be equally leveled against all historical fiction, regardless of genre (I know I've seen some mind-blowing errors in literary historical fiction over the years).

    As the rest of my comment indicated, I think that there are definitely authors who get many of the small and large historical details correct. I certainly don’t think historical romance is necessarily worse than historical fiction in this regard; honestly, it would not occur to me to make that comparison.

    For me, what's of paramount importance is that we're on solid ground for factual things like is the plot legally possible, are the foods they eating period, is the clothing mostly correct, etc.

    Here we part company. I would prefer that these aspects are correctly depicted, especially if the information is relatively straightforward to obtain. But I don’t understand why it is okay to get the clothing right but leave politics, for example, completely out of it. So many authors write about the aristocracy, e.g., Dukes & Earls who sit in the House of Lords, during periods of intense political activity. But that life is rarely incorporated into their stories, much less their personalities.

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  24. Sunita
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 20:26:31

    I think part of my issue is that I feel the Regency was sort of invented by genre Romance (or maybe by Heyer, who has fed heavily into the genre). It's so much more of a significant period in the genre than in actual history …

    If you’re talking about “the Regency” in a literary sense, then maybe. But it was a fascinating and critical time in social and political development. It’s just a shame more authors don’t use the richness of the context to locate their stories.

    Things that happened during the Regency (expanded to include the few years before it):

    The Inclosure Act of 1805
    The Luddite movement
    Trevithick’s development of the steam engine
    Cornwallis’ Permanent Settlement in Bengal (which regularized the East India Company’s revenue)
    The War of 1812
    The Napoleonic Wars
    The Peterloo Massacre
    The assassination of PM Percival
    The Corn Laws

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  25. Robin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 20:31:23

    @Isobel Carr: Actually, I think the world building is — at least in part — about facts and anachronisms (i.e. accuracy). But for me authenticity is both a bigger and more ambitious concept (did the author make it feel *real*?) and yet also less, well, impossible to achieve than total 100% accuracy, which, as I said, is IMO unattainable, in large part because we are looking in at another place and time from the outside.

    Beyond that, for me, at least, there are certain types of accuracy I’m more interested in — historical facts, wars and the like, dress, food, manners, etc. — than others. I look stuff up all the time when I’m reading historicals, although there are also things I’ve become inured to over time in reading the genre. As you said, this is largely about personal taste, but I think there is a substantial measure of accuracy that is possible in historical Rom and that it can figure in to the overall sense of authenticity experienced (or not) by the reader.

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  26. Robin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 20:48:27

    @Sunita: I was referring to the Regency as it’s portrayed in the genre, but you bring up an interesting point. The Regency was a nine year period within the larger Georgian era, inclusive of the War of 1812, the Corn Laws, the Luddites,and Perceval’s assassination. None of which I can remember seeing represented in a Romance novel (if you have any recs here, I’d love to have them). In fact, if I had to base my sense of the Regency entirely on Romance novels it would consist of a gluttonous, half-crazy, spendthrift despot, as well as myriad assemblies at Almack’s and gazillions of drinks at White’s, with a splash of Beau Brummel and lots of pretty dresses and incompetent/absent chaperones. I know I’m sarcastically and dismissively exaggerating there, but not by as much as I’d like.

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  27. GrowlyCub
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 21:12:53

    @Robin:

    The only thing that I cannot recall seeing mentioned or dealt with in detail is Perceval’s assassination. I think being relatively new to the genre has you at a disadvantage with regard to these issues, especially in light of the fact that romance lite is definitely more well-represented these days than it used to be.

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  28. SonomaLass
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 21:14:53

    I love Sunita’s list! I want romance novels (or historical fiction) about all of those except the Napoleonic Wars. Not that I mind the war, but that’s the one thing I see referenced a lot in the genre already, often with spies. (I don’t mind spies either, I hasten to add, but they’re hardly as under-represented as Luddites, steam engines or the Corn Laws.) I’m thinking I DID read a book recently that had a plot dealing with the Inclosure Act, but I can’t remember which one. Maybe someone else will remember for me.

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  29. Janine
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 21:25:14

    I’ve definitely seen the War of 1812 and the Corn Laws referenced in regency-set romances, though it was a long time ago and I no longer recall which books. I’ve also seen the East India Company referenced in 1980s and early 1990s romances, I think. The Napoleonic Wars have been depicted without resorting to spies in Balogh’s Slightly Tempted and Putney’s Shattered Rainbows. And one of Pam Rosenthal’s books (I want to say Almost a Gentleman, which is the only book of hers I didn’t care for) referenced the Inclosure Acts.

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  30. Robin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 21:35:46

    @GrowlyCub: That may very well be, although I’d had this convo with some seasoned readers, too. As I said, I’d love some recs that feature political issues more strongly (not just as a passing mention).

    @Janine: Oh, I think the East India Company is pretty well-represented in the genre, at least in my own experience with it. And I think you’re right about the Rosenthal, especially since David is pretty engaged in farming, IIRC.

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  31. SonomaLass
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 21:40:20

    @Janine,you are right about the Rosenthal, although that’s not the book I’m thinking of. And certainly there are a lot (A LOT) of romances that deal with soldiers rather than spies in this period

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  32. Robin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:07:28

    @SonomaLass: Carla Kelly and Barbara Metzger come to mind immediately.

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  33. Janine
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:21:00

    @SonomaLass: Yes, I know there are a lot of books that deal with soliders rather than spies but i was trying to think of some that were actually set partly during the battles and that depicted that life not as backstory after the fact. There are more of those than I mentioned but I haven’t actually read that many.

    @Robin: Yes, how could I forget Carla Kelly. Have you read Miss Whittier Makes a List? Such a vivid depiction of a battle at sea, as well as a book that deals with the impressing of sailors by the British Navy.

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  34. Robin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:24:42

    @Janine: No, that’s one of those Kelly books that has just been tooooo expensive for me to acquire. I’ll pay a decent amount for a coveted used book, but that one regularly goes for more than $20!

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  35. Sunita
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:26:28

    Perceval’s assassination is key to the plot of a Marion Chesney romance (I can’t remember the title offhand but I have it somewhere).

    I would still like these events to be integrated into the stories. I’ve been reading romances for decades and I still don’t think most of them do it. But I agree that even referencing social and political events of a given year would be a step beyond what many Regencies are doing these days.

    Heyer was decidedly apolitical in her novels, by which I mean that political events other than the Napoleonic War were backdrops rather than motivating factors for the plot and the characterizations. There’s no reason to follow her lead in that.

    One of Mary Balogh’s Wales-set historicals has the Deborah riots as a key component. It’s one of the best incorporations of a real-life event into a romance novel that I’ve read. I also think the way she incorporates the effects of Waterloo into the third of the “I” trilogy (Irresistable, etc.) is very well done. So to me, she’s an example of an author who sometimes makes mistakes on historical details, but at other times integrates a major historical event into her fictional narrative accurately and effectively.

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  36. Sunita
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:27:36

    I miss the edit function. That should be “Irresistible.”

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  37. Robin
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 22:44:52

    @Sunita: If you remember the name of that Chesney, would you let me know?

    I have enjoyed a number of the Balogh categories, but I was so frustrated by The Secret Pearl so much I’ve not pursued her other single titles.

    I adore the Laura London categories, but they’re very apolitical, as well.

    This convo has got me thinking about Edith Layton’s Fire-Flower, too. While not Regency (it’s Restoration, IIRC), that book was pretty saturated in political issues, and this discussion is putting me in the mood for a re-read.

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  38. Janine
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 23:43:28

    One of Mary Balogh's Wales-set historicals has the Deborah riots as a key component.

    Longing, I believe. I agree it incorporated politics into the story really well.

    I have enjoyed a number of the Balogh categories, but I was so frustrated by The Secret Pearl so much I've not pursued her other single titles.

    The Secret Pearl was incredibly frustrating to me as well but some of her other single titles are much better IMO.

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  39. SonomaLass
    Feb 22, 2011 @ 23:49:50

    Okay, now I really want to read Longing. But I’m still making myself crazy trying to remember what book it was.

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  40. Tweets that mention REVIEW: What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 01:57:51

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by freedarkromance, Julie Anne Long. Julie Anne Long said: Thx so much! :) RT @SonomaLass Happy release day & congrats on terrific review at @dearauthor by @redrobinreader http://tinyurl.com/4ou9xyx [...]

  41. FiaQ
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 05:18:02

    @Sunita:
    Those historical events you listed are usually categorised as Georgian.

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  42. GrowlyCub
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 07:20:40

    Lol, I love The Secret Pearl and I hated – can’t tell you how much I *hated* – The Fire Flower. Way to go, last thing the hero does on his deathbed is moon over the other woman. I wanted to burn that book, I get physically ill just thinking about it…

    Different strokes. :)

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  43. Sunita
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 08:07:32

    @FiaQ: Oh I know, I was using the romance novel timeline for them, i.e., if they’re before 1800 they’re Georgian, if they’re 1800-1820 they’re Regency. I was cheating w/the Permanent Settlement, but it does mark a shift in the EIC’s fortunes in India, so post Corwallis Code an author can write a different type of hero career in Bengal.

    My point was simply that in many Regency historicals politics pretty much vanishes except as an aside, or as an explanation for why the army hero had to go somewhere, and yet both domestic and international politics, even Court politics, were every bit as salient as they were before and after that period. And when you read memoirs, etc. written contemporaneously, they incorporate it.

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  44. Caroline
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 09:05:00

    Just for the record, it’s hard to include turbulent political events in a romance novel. Every time I have tried to do so–and I have, many times–the editor tells me to cut that part down, be more concise, and remember it’s a *romance* novel I’m supposed to be writing, not a political thriller. Meaning, write more about the hero and heroine’s interaction and less about the uproar over George IV’s attempts to divorce his wife, or the Cato St. conspiracy, or whatever. I suspect that insisting on including more current events in a novel would get the book labelled historical fiction instead of historical romance.

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  45. Janine
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 09:23:55

    @GrowlyCub: I couldn’t finish The Fireflower because the heroine’s precarious position in the hero’s life upset me so much.

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  46. Isobel Carr
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 09:59:15

    For me, what's of paramount importance is that we're on solid ground for factual things like is the plot legally possible, are the foods they eating period, is the clothing mostly correct, etc.

    Here we part company. I would prefer that these aspects are correctly depicted, especially if the information is relatively straightforward to obtain. But I don't understand why it is okay to get the clothing right but leave politics, for example, completely out of it.

    I don't think we part company at all. I didn't say, or mean to imply, that it is ok to forget about the *real* work that is happening (I just didn't make an exhaustive list of everything that's important). I simply meant that I think having a legally possible plot is on the first tier of importance, above say, getting the clothes right (which is my own, personal fetish) or not screwing up and using a Victorian word.

    Sadly, not all editors are open to plots that are mired in the minutia of historical politics (I once had an editor slice out an entire subplot because, as she scribbled next to it “Who cares, get back to the romance!”). I find it fascinating, but that doesn't mean readers do. *wink* I think Jo Beverley has done a good job of showing how important court was in her Malloren series.

    Another thing most of us tend to skirt around is the importance of religion, but Austen didn't harp on this either, so I don't feel too guilty.

    My point was simply that in many Regency historicals politics pretty much vanishes except as an aside, or as an explanation for why the army hero had to go somewhere, and yet both domestic and international politics, even Court politics, were every bit as salient as they were before and after that period. And when you read memoirs, etc. written contemporaneously, they incorporate it.

    Getting politics and real life people/events into the book can be a REALLY hard sell. Which I think is sad, but it's true. Editors usually don't want you to explain who Beau Brummell is, but I used Lady Worsley in my most recent book and had to fight to keep the reference in there (and her infamous divorce would have been VERY much known to all the people in my books).

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  47. Sunita
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 11:04:16

    Just for the record, it's hard to include turbulent political events in a romance novel. Every time I have tried to do so-and I have, many times-the editor tells me to cut that part down, be more concise, and remember it's a *romance* novel I'm supposed to be writing, not a political thriller.

    That’s sad to hear, but given the type of books which get published nowadays, not that surprising, I guess. I wonder if Mary Balogh could get Longing published today?

    I’m less interested in having specific political events described than having the political and economic issues of the day inform characters’ personalities and lives. We don’t see Dukes and Earls paying attention to their estates, or worrying about social unrest, either.

    Sadly, not all editors are open to plots that are mired in the minutia of historical politics (I once had an editor slice out an entire subplot because, as she scribbled next to it “Who cares, get back to the romance!”).

    I can’t really blame her; minutia *are* boring. I’m just dumbfounded that an entire subgenre overwhelmingly uses as heroes explicitly political actors (which is what many aristocrats in late 18th/early and mid-19th century England were) and strips off a huge chunk of their identity.

    Compare this omission to cowboy heroes, who ride fence, round up cattle, feed their livestock, etc. in the course of their day. Or billionaires, who have professional meetings and takeover plots and rivals. Aristocrats are just seen as the idle rich, which is bizarre. Not that those didn’t exist, but we wouldn’t characterize people who shirked their responsibilities in other fields as heroes. I suppose this goes back to Heyer again.

    I think Jo Beverley has done a good job of showing how important court was in her Malloren series.

    Agreed. And I believe some readers find the political stuff boring, which supports your point. I don’t at all mean to put this all on authors, readers are clearly preferring some types of books over others.

    I leafed through my copy of Creevey’s memoirs and a 1907 bio of one of the Gunning sisters to make sure I wasn’t imagining the integration of political issues. They both refer to them, not in terms of educating the reader about politics, but just as part of the daily lives of the characters. That’s really what I’m talking about.

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  48. FiaQ
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 11:39:44

    @Sunita:

    I want to respond to this before I get sucked back into what I’m supposed to be doing, so excuse typos, grammar cock ups, Engrish, etc.

    Oh I know, I was using the romance novel timeline for them, i.e., if they're before 1800 they're Georgian, if they're 1800-1820 they're Regency.

    1800? How odd. This is how it’s usually laid out:

    Georgian era – 1714-1830
    (or 1837 if we include the useless Regent’s equally useless brother William IV’s reign)

    Regency era – 1812-1820
    This is only for the arts, fashion and some aspects of English social history. (Some include architecture and certain military conflicts, but most don’t.)

    Everything else including politics are filed under the Georgian era.

    Still, 1800 as a starting point for the Rom genre’s Regency time line? Such an odd choice. I wonder why that year was chosen?

    My point was simply that in many Regency historicals politics pretty much vanishes [...]

    Yeah, but the ironic thing is, that’s what the Regency era is.

    The Regent and most of the nobility were all about spending money on fashion, the arts; drinking, eating, dancing at balls, and other lavish activities. All this at tenants and tax payers’ expense.

    Not only this, he and his lot ignored the economical and socio-political state of the country, i.e. economic depression, people at home and overseas were dying – from wars, riots, crime and unemployment – and many more.

    They received criticisms and demands to tone it down, but as you know, they refused. Hence the celebration when the Regent finally passed away.

    The Regency era holds little importance – since it’s generally seen as a self-indulgent and useless period, politics-wise – whereas the Georgian era (as well as the Victorian era) is all about history, politics, social reforms, wars, media, literature, technology, journalism, and some other aspects of social history.

    My history uni teacher once described the Regency era itself as (am paraspeaking here) “an overdressed, petulant child with a houseful of expensive and pretty toys, a tray of inedibly rich sweets, and a kennel of starving chained dogs.” Ouch.

    The Regency era *does* offer a bit to history, but only in fashion, the arts and blah blah. It’s a matter of focus, really, isn’t it? (I hope this makes sense.)

    Anyroad. Yeah, the Regency-era historical genre is actually doing a fairly accurate portrayal of the era. :D

    As a reader, it does explain why I have such an aversion to Regency-era historical romances. Knowing that the nobility is, fictional or not, having a good time at the expense of this country. *shudder* Nope. Not for me, thanks! :D

    I do want to say this: I do understand, respect and support authors and readers’ love for this genre, though.

    Sorry, Robin, for derailing this thread.

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  49. FiaQ
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 11:44:47

    “Anyroad. Yeah, the Regency-era historical genre is actually doing a fairly accurate portrayal of the era. :D”

    Need to clarify that.

    Anyroad. Yeah, the Regency-era historical genre is actually doing a fairly accurate portrayal of the era from the Regent and his lot’s POV. :D

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  50. Sunita
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 12:19:24

    @FiaQ: I was using 1800 arbitrarily, not the Regency writers. You and I have both been involved in the debate over what the time frame should be. I was taking the middle ground (between the 1790-1830 and 1812-1820 sides). Sorry to be confusing!

    Yeah, the Regency-era historical genre is actually doing a fairly accurate portrayal of the era from the Regent and his lot's POV. :D

    Yeah, but there were other aristocrats who weren’t an idle & shiftless lot. And since Regency-set historicals don’t limit themselves to the Regent’s set, I really don’t get it. Again, I can only explain it through the belief that Regency=Heyer.

    I guess I wouldn’t entirely agree w/your uni teacher. There was a fair bit of substantive social, economic, and political development happening during the Regency, and some members of the set were part of that.

    Adding a book to those that integrate social & economic issues of the time while still having a great romance: Miss Wonderful, by Loretta Chase.

    And now, back to the JAL comments! Sorry, Robin, for the derailment.

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  51. Robin
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 12:23:17

    I won’t have a chance to really engage in this discussion until later, but I do want to say that there’s no derailment here — fascinating conversation and one I wish we had more often, so please carry on!

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  52. Lynn S.
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 12:35:18

    There is no winning for losing on the authenticity/accuracy debate and I have the tread marks to prove it.

    The Pennyroyal Series is in my TBR pile and your review makes me want to bump it to the top. I bought this title last night and I’ll check my ebook on the Botticelli spelling issue when I get in front of my home computer tonight.

    @Sunita: The Balogh book featuring the Rebecca Riots is Truly

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  53. Sunita
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 12:46:17

    @Lynn S.: Ack, thank you! (redfaced) Deborah, where did that come from? I’ve only read that book 3 times *and* researched scholarly work on those riots. I do get Balogh’s Wales book titles mixed up, though.

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  54. Lynn S.
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 15:43:09

    @Sunita: I got a kick out of Deborah, especially after the raging history debate that was going on over at SBTB earlier this week. Deborah/Rebecca, they’re both biblical. Close enough for me. If the accuracy police are monitoring this communication, I am joking and would request not to be taken to task, please.

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  55. Janine
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 17:12:38

    @Lynn S.:

    Sorry I got the Balogh book wrong. Longing is set in Wales and has a Chartist demonstration that turns into a riot, and I haven’t read Truly, which is why I thought it was Longing.

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  56. Lynn S.
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 17:46:30

    @Robin: The Botticelli/Boticelli spelling made it all the way to print.

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  57. Bronte
    Feb 24, 2011 @ 06:13:21

    @SonomaLass: It wasn’t one of Elizabeth Hoyts books was it? I seem to recall something about the enclosure acts there, maybe in Wicked Intentions.

    I loved this book. It was the first of this author’s that I read and this review intrigued me so I went and bought it and devoured it within a few hours – a sure sign that something has caught my attention.

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  58. Keira Soleore
    Feb 24, 2011 @ 18:59:54

    @FiaQ:

    Regency era – 1812-1820

    Actually the Regency period began on February 6, 1811 when Prinny took the vows in the Abbey. The night before, both the houses passed the Regency Act that allowed him to become Regent.

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  59. Just Wondering
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 13:33:36

    I enjoyed the book. Alex and Genevieve were good together. Especially enjoyed Alex tormenting Ian and Gen some jabs in.

    One scene could have been rather funny if it hadn’t been confusing. Something got left out. They were eating breakfast, Alex scowled at Ian just because it was fun.  Ian missed his mouth due to nerves, “by an inch” with a bite of eggs, the eggs dripped down his chin, but somehow wound all over Harry, Olivia, and Millicent creating a mess of great proportions to clean up. Um, how did that happen when it dribbled down Ian’s chin?

    The age difference would have squicked me out if Gen had been immature, but she and Alex clicked. They referred to Alex as being a contemporary of their father. but with the ages of Gen’s older siblings would have put her father in his late fifties. Not close.

    Maybe someone can clear up the use of titles in the book. Harry was referred to as Lord Harry without him being the son of a duke or marquee, but in line to inherit his uncle’s viscountcy. 
    Then there was Millicent who was at times called Lady Blenkenship which led me to believe she was a 20 year old widow. At times she was called Lady Millicent. That kind of ambiguous stuff can throw me off a story a bit. Confusion as to Harry’s entitlement and Millicent’s status.

    I still liked the book.

    I haven’t read all the comments, so my questions might already be answered.

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  60. Robin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 14:43:29

    First, I’m so glad that some of you have since read the book and enjoyed it. I know it’s not perfect, but I was so excited to read a book that did such a good job of evoking the emotional and physical passion of its protagonists, and IMO when Long is in her groove, she does that really well.

    @Just Wondering: I have NO idea about the titles and addresses – TBH I most often assume the author probably has them wrong and move on, because I don’t know the correct usage myself and because I see their usage criticized in so many books. I know that’s not a good way to go, but I’m afraid I couldn’t enjoy quite a few books if I was more attentive to that. Which doesn’t mean I’m saying the correct form DOESN’T matter, only that I’m not in a position to know authoritatively what is and isn’t correct.

    As for the breakfast scene, the language in my text is “bounced off his chin,” creating a “confetti” of eggs that “showered” the other two sitting nearby. Is yours different?

    As for the age thing, the line I think you’re referring to is this one: “And when the duke was more a contemporary of her father than of Harry,” which I read to suggest that Alex is closer to her father’s age than Harry’s. I think there’s another scene where this is discussed, but I don’t remember where it is. IIRC (and I may not), someone makes it clear that her father is quite older than Alex, who I’m guessing is 39.

    @Lynn S.: Thank you for checking. I wonder why that is, although the other day I was trying to do a find and replace in a Word doc and it only replaced some of the words that needed replacing. Maybe something similar happened with this ms? Although spell check definitely flagged it in my own Word doc of the review.

    @Sunita and @FiaQ: I hope this kind of discussion continues, because I remain so conflicted about how the Regency is being used in Romance. My own historical knowledge of the first 20 years of the 19th C is much stronger on the American side, so it’s even more of a challenge for me to feel historically grounded in Regency Rom. I’m also struck by the times a book set in, say, early Victorian times is mistakenly identified as Regency (or books set in the early years of the 19th C, before 1811). All that just adds to my confusion.

    I have to say, though, that I find some of these issues to be present in Victorian-set Romances, too. In fact, I recently read a hysterical piece by Janet Mullany that characterized the positives and negatives of each period in history, and her take on the Victorians seemed to be that there wasn’t much good about the era. And while it was funny, I also felt — for like the hundredth time — that there are many, many false impressions and assumptions about Victorian England floating through Rom as if they were fact. And since my grounding in Victorian social attitudes is much stronger than in other periods, that makes me a little but (more) nuts.

    @Isobel Carr:

    Another thing most of us tend to skirt around is the importance of religion, but Austen didn't harp on this either, so I don't feel too guilty.

    I know I’m probably taking this in a direction you did not intend, and I’m not responding to you, per se, but just want to comment on another thing that I wonder about re. Rom’s perceived debt to Austen.

    First let me admit that I don’t really share the Austen-mania (sorry, Sarah F.!), nor would I categorize the book as genre Romance. But beyond that, I think one of the issues I have is that Austen wasn’t writing historical fiction — she was writing a contemporary comedy of manners that happens to have strong romantic threads (and since Comedy and Romance share a few significant elements, this isn’t too surprising, IMO). But even if we take Austen as an exemplar for historical Romance, because she was writing a contemporary-set novel, her anticipated readership would have an entire social, cultural, political, economic, and religious context that, say, readers would not have had if she was writing historical fiction.

    So IMO when authors take on earlier historical periods, there is an additional obligation in the world building to supply some of that context that contemporary readers necessarily lack (which is, I know, technically impossible to pull off perfectly, but this is where we get into the debates about how much is enough, etc.). I think this is one of the reasons I love reading historical Romance that incorporates different aspects of the society in which the book is set — that is, I get the sense that the world I’m reading about is multi-dimensional and I get to see how some of those dimensions shape the characters (i.e. the characters seem to grow out of the setting rather than feeling pasted on). I want to feel that these people are both a product of their time and yet extraordinary in the way that all Romance protagonists are, to some degree (which doesn’t necessarily mean rich or politically powerful).

    Ultimately, though, I think this kind of subtle integration of different historical facets is difficult to achieve, which is why readers will sometimes complain of an encyclopedic feel to the history. But when it all comes together and the characters move in sync with their historical context, oh, it is sooooooo wonderful, IMO, a rich, layered reading experience for which I am always greedily searching. Which doesn’t mean that books that don’t get there can’t be lovely. But as a reader, I always want more, lol.

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  61. Lynn S.
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:37:38

    @Robin: The spelling problem is interesting. I have Works on my computer and it auto corrects improper spellings one time and simply redlines them the next. Since it was obvious to you and other people in the comments, you'd like to think a manual proofreading would have caught it. Not as bad as the error in The Lady Most Likely where the character of Carolyn morphs into Caroline in several places, one time within a two paragraph space.

    Possible recommendation for you in Sweet and Twenty by Joan Smith. Luddites, yes. Corn laws, yes. They aren't given depth of coverage but are mentioned and discussed in political terms and as to their relative ability or inability to curry favor. Delightful comedy where the romance plays out against the backdrop of a political campaign in the provinces and the shenanigans skirt the edge of farce at times. I have a major love for this book. Can I tempt you with the thought of a character named “Leaky Peg”?

    Sunita, if you ever think of the Chesney title that features Perceval's assassination I’d like to know too.

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  62. Robin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 18:51:56

    @Lynn S.: There’s another thing that bothered me in the last scene before the epilogue. When Genevieve and Alex are talking, there’s a mention of love and then something like ‘that’s the first mention of love between them,’ even though it had been used between them in the same conversation previously. I must have read over that scene five times trying to figure out if it was an editing error or I was missing something, lol. I *think* it’s an error but it’s possible I’m densely missing something there. ;D

    Thank you for the Smith rec. I have several of her books but have not read them, so I will make sure to look for Sweet and Twenty — love the idea of a character named Leaky Peg!

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  63. Just Wondering
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 20:42:06

    @Robin: “As for the breakfast scene, the language in my text is “bounced off his chin,” creating a “confetti” of eggs that “showered” the other two sitting nearby. Is yours different?”

    “It missed his mouth by an inch, bounced off his chin, and a confetti of scrambled eggs showered Harry and Millicent and Olivia”. It would have been remotely plausible to “shower” someone if he had spewed them from his mouth to across the table onto the women or onto Harry who was next to him unless all three of them were sitting on Ians lap. “Maidservants swarmed the table..” to clean up the huge mess of one forkful of eggs? Messing four people? Big fork. I couldn’t get a visual on the scene since it didn’t ring true. I really thought my book was missing something. Maybe I’m missing something or just trying to apply some physics to Ian’s egg dribbling.

    I think proper form of address is just as important as dress and food and manners. It is manners. It’s about aristocrats. Just saying. I don’t like to be thrown out of a book wondering if a duke is addressing her as a widow or a married lady in one scene, and then addressing her like an unmarried young lady in the next.

    Eggs aside, this book has been my favorite in the series because of the chemistry between Alex and Gen. Well written and had some depth to it.

    I reread the last scene before the epilogue you were talking about when they mentioned love for the first time. I thought the same as you. It did say “perhaps for the first time”. Perhaps there was a confetti of egg at that point.

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  64. Robin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 22:37:06

    @Just Wondering: I agree with you about the titles; it’s just that because I’m not well-versed, I can’t judge. It’s probably a sad thing I assume they’re most of the time wrong, though.

    As for the confetti of eggs, I agree that the jumping up is probably exaggerated, but I think the maids fluttering is all about competing for the duke’s approval, not about the size of the mess.

    I got more hung up on words and phrases. Like shrapnel is used at one point and the word seemed too modern in its use. But even those little trip ups could not dim for me the loveliness of the relationship.

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  65. Sunita
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 23:04:24

    @Robin: I just finished this. I totally agree on the relationship. Really well done. I had no problem with the age difference. JAL didn’t pretend they were the same age, and she used the gap to very good effect.

    The historical material and language is just bad. No one behaves in an era-appropriate way, there is the title stuff, and the language is just way off. I was finding anachronistic words every few pages.

    As I read this I kept having to remind myself that it was intended to be set in the late Regency, because the mistakes in the language and the behavior kept smacking me in the face. But the relationship was so compelling that I just decided to pretend it was set in some alternate Englandia.

    To me this book is a great example of the stupidity of insisting that books be set in “the Regency.” Set the book 80-100 years later and the tone and language would be much less problematic.

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  66. Robin
    Feb 25, 2011 @ 23:24:11

    @Sunita: I agree about the language, but that just bothers me much less than it did when I started reading hist Rom. Because no one, IMO, writes like true Regency authors did. And it still felt to me much less offensive than a lot of the other Regency set Rom I’ve read.

    I wonder if you and I would disagree on some of the behavior stuff…I’m thinking maybe (although I was very grateful no one went in disguise to a gaming hell!). Still, totally agree with you about the weirdness of the Regency fixation. Although that goes back to my original argument about how whacked I think that becomes in Rom anyway.

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  67. Sunita
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 00:29:15

    @Robin: I agree with much of your comment at 2/25 1:33 pm, especially your extremely important point about the difference between writing contemporaneously and writing about a historical period.

    My problem with the language isn’t that it isn’t like the writing of the period. My problem is that it pulls me out of the story unless I consciously think of it as a fake world. Which I don’t think is supposed to be the point of a “historical” romance.

    We may not disagree on the behavior stuff that much. I’m not talking about the hero and heroine’s behavior but rather the way social life, the village, and the families are depicted. The Everseas have bewigged footmen but the cook (?) serves breakfast and coffee to the upstairs lot in the kitchen. For a family that owns a big chunk of Sussex, the lack of a butler seems odd. Sometimes there are many servants, sometimes there are none (the Duke has no valet). Everyone goes down the pub for a drink with the whole village, including the unmarried young women, who drink pints there. The Everseas are considered comparable to aristocrats but seem to behave much more like Victorian bourgeoisie. Etc. etc.

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  68. Robin
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 01:01:30

    @Sunita: I have developed a certain . . . expectation (or lack thereof) for Avon historicals. I agree with you, totally, that Long’s books don’t fall into the historically accurate/richly drawn world building category. But neither, IMO, do they strike me as totally history lite (Quinn is always my point of reference here). I’ve been searching for a fantastic critique of Long’s use of dialects that Rosina Lippi did some years ago, but it seems she has killed her old blog and I cannot find the post anymore. Too bad, because Lippi is a linguist and hits on some of the same issues you do around social class differences, but she does it from the perspective of character speech instead of behavior.

    I also have a theory about the weird servant issue, and that is I think servants only appear when they engage directly in a scene (the maids at the table and the footmen who carry the bouquet to Genevieve’s room) for comedic or dramatic effect, even if it’s not accurate (I’m trying to think, too, if there’s a difference between Long’s Avon books and her Warner ones, but I just haven’t compared them closely enough). And yes, even I looked askance at a lot of this, and I definitely agree re the Everseas and a more Victorian sensibility (although I think Long helped herself a bit by making them overtly, admittedly eccentric). But I also think these lapses bother me less than they do you, because I tend to be less educated about the English Regency and because I often find the central relationship in Long’s books compelling enough to read past a lot of the stuff I do (and don’t) peripherally notice.

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  69. Elise Logan
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 10:30:32

    On the recommendation here, I went and bought WIDFAD and read it immediately. Loved it. Thank you very much for the enjoyable read.

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  70. Janine
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 15:56:25

    @Sunita:

    The Everseas have bewigged footmen but the cook (?) serves breakfast and coffee to the upstairs lot in the kitchen. For a family that owns a big chunk of Sussex, the lack of a butler seems odd. Sometimes there are many servants, sometimes there are none (the Duke has no valet). Everyone goes down the pub for a drink with the whole village, including the unmarried young women, who drink pints there. The Everseas are considered comparable to aristocrats but seem to behave much more like Victorian bourgeoisie. Etc. etc.

    I noticed some of these issues as well. I am not very educated about the Regency but even so I still find myself occasionally wondering just how far off the mark Long is when I read her books.

    However, I’ve still enjoyed some of her books tremendously (Beauty and the Spy, The Secret to Seduction, I Kissed an Earl and this book were all A- reads for me) and none of the ones I enjoyed less were truly bad.

    I think for me a lot of it comes down to how engaged her writing feels, to the interest I have in her characters, and to some of the loveliness of her turns of phrase. Even when I feel at a remove from one of her stories, as with Ways to be Wicked or Like No Other Lover I still admire the language. Anachronistic or not, it’s lyrical to my ear.

    I also agree with Robin that there are much more egregious books out there when it comes to linguistic anachronisms. After Angela’s (lazaraspaste’s) recent A- review of Mallory’s One Night is Never Enough, I downloaded a Kindle sample of the previous historical romance in the series, The Seven Secrets of Seduction, which Jane had highly recommended last year. Well, I couldn’t even get through the first chapter where the hero and heroine talked about what they referred to as a “sex manual.” Even with all of Long’s anachronisms, I can’t imagine her using that term in a book.

    So I guess I’d say that with anachronisms it’s a matter of degree, of the reader’s perspective and knowledge of the era, but also of the author’s strengths.

    If a book is otherwise well-written enough, and if the anachronisms don’t hit me in the face in every paragraph, I can enjoy it despite those niggles.

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  71. Isobel Carr
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 18:05:06

    So IMO when authors take on earlier historical periods, there is an additional obligation in the world building to supply some of that context that contemporary readers necessarily lack … I think this is one of the reasons I love reading historical Romance that incorporates different aspects of the society in which the book is set -’ that is, I get the sense that the world I'm reading about is multi-dimensional and I get to see how some of those dimensions shape the characters

    I love this too, which is why I tend to have my books set not so much in the glittering ballrooms of London, but in the countryside where these people really lived and among the sporting set (gives me more than dancing to write about).

    My new series is all about younger sons, so how they make their way in the world has to be included. They don’t have fortunes and titles, just bills and few ways of paying them . . . it’s been a blast to deal with men who had to scrape their sh*t together and DO something to make the world go round.

    Not that I can be sure that what I’m doing is really what you’re talking about or is anything that you’ll like, LOL! But I really am trying to push the envelope a bit.

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  72. Accuracy, Authenticity, and World-Building in Historical Romance | VacuousMinx
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 11:05:27

    [...] review of Julie Anne Long’s latest Pennyroyal Green book stimulated a lively discussion of accuracy [...]

  73. Sunita
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 11:57:26

    @Janine:

    Even when I feel at a remove from one of her stories, as with Ways to be Wicked or Like No Other Lover I still admire the language. Anachronistic or not, it's lyrical to my ear.

    I know just what you mean. I love the way Anne Stuart’s characters think, and the way their internal monologues are structured. I just blow past all the stuff that would bother me in books which didn’t draw me in as thoroughly.

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  74. Janine
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 12:06:12

    @Sunita: It’s interesting you should mention Stuart. She’s the only author I can think of whose contemporaries I prefer to her historicals because of the language. I love love love Stuart’s spare writing style but find it so much more well-suited to contemporaries that I hesitate to read her historicals.

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  75. Janine
    Feb 27, 2011 @ 12:22:58

    For anyone who would like to continue this conversation, Sunita posted a great post on this topic at her new blog, Vacuous Minx.

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  76. Dear Author Recommends for March | Dear Author
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 10:01:51

    [...] love for Julie Anne Long’s What I Did for a Duke.  It was originally picked up off NetGalley by Robin who proceeded to tell the rest of us (Janine, Jennie and I) how awesome it was and truly, it was a [...]

  77. Lynn S.
    Mar 12, 2011 @ 23:10:35

    I know I’m late, but this was an interesting enough read that I wanted to share my thoughts. This is the first book by Julie Anne Long that I’ve read and she has one of the most idiosyncratic writing styles I’ve encountered. Is she always like this? The prose was all over the place. She had moments of lyricism throughout the book but, more often, it felt wordy. The adverbs were fighting with the similes for overuse but the similes didn’t stand a chance. There was odd phrasing, awkward continuity (They’re in the kitchen. No, they’re in the dining room. No, they’re in the kitchen again), the title misuse was bad enough to be obvious, and I don’t mean to be whingey but I’m not a fan of random slang thrown in merely for effect. Although Genevieve’s speech and thoughts were modern from time to time, I didn’t find the book overly modern in tone except for the single word sentences and the contraction usage. The accuracy issues didn’t effect my enjoyment of the book as the mood of the book set it firmly in an imaginary corner of Sussex; you know you’re in an imaginary world when a forkful of eggs have propulsive powers. There was noticeable repetition in the narrative that didn’t appear to have a purpose. It worked to better effect when used in Genevieve’s thoughts and speech where it came across as a character trait and did emphasize her turmoil, but it would sometimes migrate to other characters. Perhaps Long is simply very, very fond of palilogia.

    All this being said, there was a good deal that I enjoyed and once I got past the first couple of chapters the style wasn’t as jarring. Genevieve and Moncrieffe, individually and as a couple, were beautifully drawn and Long made masterful use of the tension between them. Reading about them was pure pleasure. I appreciated the singular focus of the book and admire the way she conveyed Moncrieffe's grief. I enjoyed her use of the seasons and the contrasts of dark and light, night and day. The extended metaphor of the earth and the heavens was skillfully done; the gravity, the birds, the celestial imagery, the wind, Genevieve tugging at the grass–all building upon each other to show Genevieve’s internal struggle and growth, and the whirlwind nature of the romance also worked well with this theme. I loved the comparison of adult conversation to coffee and I’m glad I was intrigued enough by your review and the comments to read the book now. If someone could rein Long in, she has a strong artistic presence and the makings of a very good author.

    I will add my voice to the chorus of “where was the editor” and agree with you that the “you love me” conversation that occurred just before the epilogue was awkwardly written, maybe “only” was the word they had never heard before.

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  78. Robin
    Mar 17, 2011 @ 20:56:59

    @Lynn S.: Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I’ve been thinking about your sense that Long is “wordy,” because I agree with you, and yet in a book like this or Like No Other Lover (my other favorite Pennyroyal Green book), it doesn’t bother me, because I think as often as Long overshoots on the lyricism, she scores, and when she scores, it’s really quite lovely.

    I have to tell you that I’m not all that sentimental in my reading tastes, but the exchange Genevieve and Alex have about his past (the one in which he reveals his grief), I felt there was a true poignancy in the writing I don’t see as often as I’d like in the genre. There is also a beautiful scene like that in Like No Other Lover, where the heroine is noticing a spider on her windowsill (I quoted it here in a comment on Jennie’s review: http://is.gd/8UDHLa), initiating a lovely reflection on the interrelated nature of things and on loneliness and longing. I so love those moments that I wonder how well an editor could tame the excess without taking away some of that emotional and lyrical magic.

    Also, I think if I was reading the book in final, rather than ARC form, I’d be much harder on the obvious copyediting errors. But since I never know how much of that will be corrected, I have become more conscious of not picking at it when I’m not reading a final copy of a book. Although clearly it seems more often than not that things are NOT fixed in the final copy, and maybe I need to comment on things with a certain proviso regarding the unfinished status of the book.

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  79. Lynn S.
    Mar 18, 2011 @ 09:33:45

    The more I think about the wordiness issue, the more I can say that the overuse of adverbs was the main problem I had. It's something I would expect from bad category fiction, along with the exclamation points, and to see it in a work that otherwise has so much going for it in terms of style and artistry is frustrating. A good editor should be able to enhance what is there, not interfere. I'd much rather deal with the quirks though than lose the beautiful qualities to an overzealous grammar queen.

    You're intriguing me with the reference to Like No Other Lover. I intend to read more of her books as an author who can give you telling details like Moncrieffe's nacre buttons and who uses such a delicate touch in portraying grief that it never lapses into the maudlin is an author to pursue. I'll be interested to see how her writing evolves over the coming years.

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  80. CrankyOtter
    Apr 05, 2011 @ 15:27:44

    I don’t have problems with anachronism or titles and introductions – I don’t know that stuff well and don’t care to be an expert – but I do have a problem with words that don’t mean what she thinks they mean. Someone needs to remove JAL’s every use of the words “irony” and “sarcasm” because she uses them all the time and almost never correctly. I started keeping count in her latest (IKAE?) and found 3 instances where I felt she had used either correctly. The other 400 or so uses were both superfluous and wrong. I would really enjoy her books more if these words were just flat out removed. Does this bother anyone else or do I need to be schooled in tertiary and quaternary definitions of those words?

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  81. How I stopped reading Agency books without even noticing | VacuousMinx
    Apr 22, 2011 @ 08:10:53

    [...] review at Dear Author (so I didn’t pay to read them) and two I purchased. Of the latter two, one came highly recommended by reader-friends I trust, and the other was by a favorite [...]

  82. Janine’s Best of 2011 List - Dear Author
    Dec 06, 2011 @ 19:02:14

    [...] What I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long (reviewed by Janet/Robin) [...]

  83. Jennie’s Best of 2011 List - Dear Author
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 10:01:37

    [...] What I Did for a Duke, Julie Ann Long, A-, (Janet’s review) [...]

  84. Daily Deals: It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, 2 historicals, and a South African mystery
    Sep 11, 2012 @ 14:02:26

    [...] book that captured and drug me into the Pennyroyal Green series. Robin aka Janet wrote a fabulous review of the book:  ”Yes, this is an old Romance trope: the big, bad, dark duke who introduces and instructs [...]

  85. Reading What You Know (aka The Great Pet Peeve)
    Nov 05, 2013 @ 07:39:07

    […] Long is often criticized for her misuse of titles and for breaking some of the class protocols. For those readers who do not […]

  86. Angie
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 07:48:32

    Oh, bother. Sorry, I followed a link here and then forgot it was an old post. [hides under keyboard]

    ReplyReply

  87. Jane
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 08:08:51

    @Angie – we love when our old posts get new comments!

    ReplyReply

  88. carla
    Mar 10, 2014 @ 00:42:52

    great goods from you, i actually like what you’ve acquired here. good job!

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    ReplyReply

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