The Debutante's Dielmma
When I requested The Debutante's Dilemma from Carina Press via netgalley, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but the summary harkened back to the days of the Traditional Regency Romance, which I've missed desperately since Signet and Zebra cancelled the last two remaining imprints. I have a stack of un-read Trads that I turn to as palette cleansers - 11 made it onto my Top 100 Romances ballot - and with this one available digitally, couldn't wait to dive in.
In no way am I an expert in Trad Regencies, like Ellen Micheletti at AAR or my friends Cheryl Sneed or Myretta Robens from Pemberly, but after having read seventy or so in the last decade, I like to think I can "hear" a book written with a genuine Trad tone. I heard that tone in Elyse Mady's debut, although this is a most untraditional Trad Regency, something that doesn't become apparent immediately. But before I get ahead of myself, let me provide a brief synopsis:
Miss Cecilia Hastings is a diamond of the first water enjoying her First Season. Beautiful, intelligent, kind, and well-versed in all the feminine arts, two eligible men vie for her hand. Jeremy Battersley, the Earl of Henley, and Richard Huxley, the Duke of Wexford, fought together in Spain, and their friendship has lasted for twenty years, but both intelligent, handsome, and wealthy men are in love with Cecilia. At a crush during which Richard lets down his guard and allows Cecilia a glimpse of the depth of his feelings, Jeremy gives him the direct cut. Both are willing to forego their friendship in order to win Cecilia's hand, but she needs to know which man will give her the sort of passion she desires, the sort of passion her parents never experienced. And so she pens a letter to each, inviting them to a rendezvous to ask them for a real kiss.
I've left out some pertinent details, but until a moment at the previously-mentioned crush, the story reads as a strict Trad. And then a decidedly un-Trad-like word appears on the virtual page and I started to wonder just what I was reading. The narrative immediately returns to its Trad moorings, though, and it isn't until awhile later that it morphs from a Trad Regency into an Erotic Trad Regency.
Although the result is an untraditional Trad, it remained a surprisingly romantic read. That said, I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened had Mady written her story two ways, with the second following a traditional Trad path. I would have loved to have read it - more than I enjoyed this eroticized version - because I do so miss the Trad sub-genre. If the author, her editor, or her publisher gets wind of my assessment, I hope one day to read a true Traditional Regency Romance from Elise Mady because of her voice. My view may horrify most Trad lovers and/or readers who don't care for erotic romance, but there you have it.
The Debutante's Dilemma won't be released until November; I read an advance copy provided by the publisher.