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review 2017-10-06 11:16
A gripping book about twelve extraordinary women
What Regency Women Did For Us - Rachel Knowles

I received a copy of this paperback from Pen & Sword History and I freely chose to review the book.

This is another great book by Pen & Sword that are quickly becoming one of my favourite publishing companies for non-fiction books.

This small volume is packed with information. After a brief introduction that sets the Regency period, particularly how life was for women at the time, the book discusses the lives of twelve women who played an important role in the UK during that period. As the author comments, they were not the only women of note at the time, but they did make a significant difference to Britain, and a difference that survives to this day. They come from all walks of life, their professions or interests are diverse, some were married and had children but half of them never married, and I must confess that although I knew some of them, I had never heard of the others. And I learned a great deal by reading this book even about the ones I was somewhat familiar with.

By now, you must be wondering who these twelve women are.

Chapter 1 is dedicated to Eleanor Coade, whom the author calls ‘the king’s stone maker’, a business woman who took charge of the artificial stone manufactory that bore her name and was very good at creating a high quality product and also at marketing. I had never realised that many of the statues, garden sculptures, and facades of buildings I have visited were made using her stone.

Chapter 2 introduces us to Caroline Herschel, who always keen to assist her brother, became an astronomer of note in her own right (and she discovered many comets).

Sarah Siddons, the actress that lifted the reputation of actresses and well known for her tragic roles, is discussed in chapter 3.

Marie Tussaud, of Madame Tussaud’s fame, is the subject of chapter 4. And although I was familiar with the wax museum, I discovered I didn’t know much about this fascinating woman.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to Mary Parminter, mountaineer, traveller, and benefactress to other women.

Writer and mother of historical fiction Maria Edgeworth is discussed in chapter 6.

In chapter 7 we learn about Jane Marcet, a woman so eager to learn and to help others learn, that she wrote the chemistry for dummies of the period, so that women and people who had not had access to much formal education could understand the subject. She used the format of a dialogue between female students and teacher and also provided examples of experiments that could easily be done at home. Faraday gave her credit for his early steps in science and she was very well regarded and a best-seller of the time.

Chapter 8 is taken up by Sarah Guppy, who was an amateur engineer and although did not always get credit for her inventions she truly deserves to be in this book.

Jane Austen is the subject of chapter 9. Although she died during the period, the author chose to include her. She is probably the most famous woman in the book, and the one I knew more about, but I learned some new things and her chapter is a good introduction to readers who are not familiar with her life, works, and period.

Harriot Mellon had an awful childhood but she went on to become and actress and eventually a banker, and her private bank exists to this day. And her legacy, that found its way into many charitable causes, has also endured.

Elizabeth Fry is perhaps best known for having been on the back of the £5 note for a while. I read about her when I studied Criminology, as she was a big prison reformer, but I did not know about her role in creating a training school for nurses well before Florence Nightingale, and her life is fascinating. She was a truly passionate and generous woman, always devoted to improving the lives of others.

The last woman the author chooses to include is Mary Anning. She was from humble origins but became a great fossilist and her fossils are still on display in many museums today.

Knowles has chosen a fantastic group of women to write about. Her writing style is fluid, easy to follow, and includes both information about the personal lives of these women and about their contributions to the period. These brief biographical chapters are a good introduction to anybody who wants to get some idea about what women’s lives were like at the time, whilst at the same time providing a glimpse into what made these twelve women extraordinary. Their intelligence, their determination, and their passion shine through in those few pages. I must confess I would be happy to read a whole book on any and all of these women.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in women’s history or looking for an introduction into the Regency Period that looks more closely at the role women played. It is a gripping read and I hope it will go some way to help these women get the attention they deserve.

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review 2015-03-18 14:09
A Slight Miscalculation: A Half Moon House Short Story (Half Moon House Series Book 3) - Deb Marlowe

Short story at 25 pages. It was solidly written and the characters were likeable. It was major league insta-love though. I do have another story (longer length novella) from the series and look forward to reading the entire set. 3 stars.

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review 2015-03-15 12:29
Just a Kiss (It's In His Kiss) - Ally Broadfield

This was a well written category romance set in Regency England. I liked and rooted for both H/h. It is novella length, but there was more showing than telling, so the story felt more fleshed out. There was nothing new or twist on the Regency category romance, so a solid 3 stars. I would be interested in reading more works from the author.

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review 2014-12-23 00:10
Holiday Anthology
A Very Scandalous Holiday - Nancy Fraser,Crista McHugh,Amber Lin,Sophia Garrett

Summary (in italics) and Review:

Entangled Publishing presents... A Very Scandalous Holiday Anthology. Four very spirited vignettes of holidays past. 


Erin's Gift by Nancy Fraser:

Chicago 1920, Widower, Seth Harrison, has no intention of falling in love again but will he be able to resist the sweetness of his son's nanny, Erin O'Mara - his sister's best friend? 


Oh, jazz age - more stories should be set in this time period. I liked this story a lot...up until that last chapter when it was wrapped up too easily and in a hurry. But a raid on a speakeasy and the resulting arrest is the cute meet that makes this historian happy. 3.5 stars.


An Eternity of You by Sophia Garrett

England 1833, The Duke of Sharrington left Rebecca with more than a broken heart six years ago - he left her with a son. He's rekindled their passion with his return, but it will take a Christmas miracle to earn her heart.


There were good parts to this book - class distinction was the main obstacle and Rebecca's work as a country doctor was a nice change. However, Andrew was too perfect - he said all the right things, got mad (and then even) with the villain (vanilla villain) and did countless random acts of kindness. He felt artificial to me. Rebecca was a good character, the kids were alright. This book was aptly titled....I felt it went on a little too long for a short story. 3.5 stars.


 Letters at Christmas by Amber Lin

England, late Regency, After three years at sea, Captain Hale Prescott has the means to marry the love of his life and his best friend's sister. Sidony Harbeck, however, might never speak to him again. Despite their whispered adolescent promises, he never wrote her a single letter... at least none he ever sent. 


This was a decent, if underwhelming story that started the book. I liked the story and characters, but it was predictable. I even liked  the sex scenes in her and his respective bedchambers - they were emotional and hot, but I found the oral sex scene in the sleigh on their ride in the country a little much for a Regency romance (I could see the oral sex in the jazz age story or the WWII story, not Regency England and not in public place). 3.0 stars


Eight Tiny Flames by Crista McHugh

1944 Ardennes, WWII, Lt. Ruth Mencher has always secretly admired Capt. Joseph Klein, but it takes the lighting of a Hanukkah candle to uncover the spark of mutual attraction. Each night awakens a new facet of their relationship, but as the Battle of the Bulge begins, the approaching Nazi forces threaten to tear them apart.  


This story is why I picked up the anthology in the first book. A Hanukkah romance story - and a damn fine one at that. Freaking loved this story, and I hate 99.9% of military romances. Ruth is a kick-ass heroine and Joe is no slouch either. The secondary characters are a little under-developed, as the story is so focused on the couple in their private moments celebrating their holiday. And the sex scene was really well done. Seriously, I hope this author/publisher sells the story a part from the anthology so that everyone has the opportunity to read it. Yeah, that is my squeeing over here, don't mind me. 5 stars. 


Overall: 3.75 stars (rounded up to 4 stars).

I would recommend on the strength of jazz age and WWII stories; the Regency stories aren't bad, but they don't wow either.

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review 2014-10-30 22:56
Persuasion - Gillian Beer, Jane Austen

Well, this is where I wish I paid more attention in my English Lit. classes.  Then I could use this review to wax lyrical (or at least literate) about the exposition, the rising action, the climax and the ultimate resolution of Anne Elliot's story in Persuasion.  Unfortunately, I didn't pay attention in class (or attend class very often) so here I am floundering for a way to adequately discuss one of Jane Austen's finest.  (Does this make me a cautionary tale?)


I'm going to start by saying I still like Pride & Prejudice better.  I've heard many people describe Persuasion as Austen's most mature work - which makes sense because it was also her last - and I can definitely see the truth in that.  But Persuasion lacks the humour, the lightness, of her earlier works, although it still retains all of the bite.


If Miss Austen wrote from life she lacked any positive parental role models.  In every book of hers I've read, at least one parent was vapid, shallow, vain, neurotic, dyspeptic, a hypochondriac or a combination of any of the aforementioned.  I'd argue it's the single uniting factor in all her work (although I've yet to read her juvenilia or Sanditon).  Anne Elliot gets the rawest deal of all of JA's MC's - her family has no affection for her at all.  She is the Cinderella in their lives: useful only for propping them up when they're down, being the person applied to for attentiveness, while never receiving any attention or affection in return.


Thank goodness for Lady Russell; only Lady Russell persuaded Anne to cut off her engagement to the man she loved 8 1/2 years ago because his prospects were not guaranteed.  Now that man is back and he's rich.  He might also be a tiny bit bitter about having his heart broken all those years ago.


I enjoyed the story; I definitely liked it more than Emma (sorry mom) and probably more than Northanger Abbey.  Maybe.  It's a more staid, more serious work than the others.  What little frivolity there is ends in disaster and is used to illustrate a defect in character.  As I prefer characters who "dearly love to laugh", Elizabeth Bennett holds pride of place on my favorite Austen list - but Persuasion and Anne Elliot aren't far behind.




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