by Jenny Brown
384 pages, Avon 2010
Review by Maria Bustillos
I first reviewed an excerpt of this book on the old Authonomy website a few years ago and FINALLY got to read the ending today. Ms. Brown, I am happy to report, does not disappoint. Lord Lightning is a superb example of the romantic novelist’s art from start to finish. I had no doubt after reading that first bit that this book would find a publisher, and here it is!—in properly produced bodice-ripping format complete with half-clad lover in a steamy clinch, and gold lettering against a starry sky.
The most common faults of the modern Regency romance are two. The first is that Regency English is quite tricky to get right. It is not enough to have everybody going on about Gambling Hells and Rakes and Strumpets and whatnot. There are a lot of details in the language itself to get right. This author has done her homework here. One does not require one hundred percent accuracy in a book written for the modern reader, but there are none of the howlers that so commonly present themselves in a work of this kind.
The second defect commonly found in Regency romances is a boring, run-of-the-mill hero. Just as lesser writers content themselves with sprinkling a few Regency phrases around in order to evoke the language, so do they imagine that a title, a bit of Mechlin lace and a coach and four swift horses will suffice to set off the charms of the Regency hero. Ms. Brown’s Lord Hartwood possesses all of these, naturally, but he has also an interesting and believably tormented character; most of all, he has real wit, the gift that cannot be faked; no matter how often a weak writer may insist that his hero is witty, only a genuine display of that rare quality will ever persuade the reader.
The heroine of Lord Lightning is an astrologer, Eliza Farrell. Hers too is an original and arresting character with authentic Regency charm. Ms. Brown’s loyalty to Jane Austen is evident in Eliza Farrell—in her unconventionality, and in her fatalistic, clear-eyed penetration into how things really are, rather than how we might like them to be. The crowning touch of inventiveness here is the thorough treatment of astrology. Ms. Brown’s expertise is manifested in exquisitely accurate (but never boring) detail. Even the star-crossed lovers’ astrological charts are real ones, with the time and place of birth and notes for each provided in an appendix.
Lord Lightning features all the hair’s-breadth escapes, steamy love scenes and third-act revelations any Regency fan could desire. In particular I will heartily recommend this book to anyone who wishes to write a fine scene of carnal knowledge. It really is the sexiest thing I’ve read in ages. Somebody ought to give a copy to Jonathan Franzen, actually.
En bref, a smashing book. Highly recommended.