SHANNON DONNELLY – Barely Proper. Zebra, paperback original. First printing, December 2003. Cool Gus Publishing, softcover, October 2013.

SHANNON DONNELLY Barely Proper.

   On the surface, this is nothing more than just another Regency romance. When you investigate, however, you will find that there is a murder committed in Chapter One – a duel at dawn in which the second party arrives early and finds the first party had arrived even earlier, and he is already dead.

   Found holding the murder weapon in his hand, Terrance Winslow [the party of the second part] makes his escape, but not without fracturing his leg in the attempt. He is found by Sylvain Harwood, whom he has known since childhood. No longer the thin and gawky girl he once knew, she is now somehow different. Her figure is different. She has attractive curves that somehow were not there before.

   Aha, you say. When it gets down to it, this is just another Regency romance. Well, yes and no. While the “solving the mystery” aspect is definitely mired in second place, neither do all Regency romances have a Bow Street Runner as a significant (if not prominent) character, and this one does – although acting largely in his own interests – mixed in with the usual misunderstandings and other romantic pitfalls so intricately inherent in the genre.

   One other comment. Regency romances all took place in England, more or less in the ten-year-period between 1811 and 1820. If you took all of the Regencies ever written and published and tried to fit them all into that one tiny sliver of time, you’d never be able to do it.

– April 2004


[UPDATE] 03-13-14. In one way this review, in case you may be wondering, is yes, a filler while I spend a bigger chunk of my spare time getting IRS material ready to take to our accountant on Monday. On the other hand, the novel is a mystery, as I was careful to point out when I originally wrote the review.

   What I don’t remember is why I read the book in the first place. I may have come across the book at a local library sale and before offering it for sale on Amazon, I’m guessing, the blurb on the back cover may have tempted me into giving it a try.

   The category of Regency romances, per se, is dead. They were extremely common at one time beginning with Georgette Heyer reprints from Ace back in the 1960s or so. Why did the category die out? The simple answer is that the books were too chaste. See David Vineyard’s review of the Lora Leigh book posted here a week or so ago. Sizzlers like this are what readers of romance fiction seem to want now, to the exclusion of all else.