The title: It Happened One Night
The author: Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro, Candice Hern
Publication: Avon, 2008
Got it from: Borders Buffalo
I bought this book on a whim because I liked the cover and the premise. Each of the four authors, well-known Regency writers, decided to write the same basic plot and see how it turned out differently. The plot: a man and a woman who've had some sort of relationship meet ten years later for a 24-hour period at an inn. Each author chose a different season to set it in.
Many people don't like anthologies because it doesn't give the characters time to develop a proper relationship. In this case, the problem is partially solved by giving the protagonists a shared history. (Plus, I actually like the short story format for romance because I don't like drawn-out angst and ridiculous subplots that seem like just filler). It's easy to see that these stories were written by professionals as the pacing and dialogue were superb.
Here's a breakdown of the stories:
The Fall of Rogue Gerrard by Stephanie Laurens
Lydia and Ro shared a passionate kiss when they were teenagers and he still hasn't gotten her out of his mind ten years later, even though he's a Duke of Slut, albeit a reformed one. They meet at an inn where Lydia is trying to retrieve a scandalous letter from a nearby "house party" (read: humpathon). Ro, who knows the host, is horrified that his precious virginal Lydia would see such scandalous goings-on and hatches a plan to pretend she's his mistress so they can snoop around the house.
This is definitely the most lighthearted of the bunch and there were some very funny moments. Overall, though, there was something squicky about the way Lydia was pretending to be Ro's mistress. She decides to throw caution into the wind and really play the part. Ro's uncomfortability with this underscores his past; he's okay with treating low women this way but not so much when the woman is "quality." Most Regencies have rakes as the hero, but as I've mentioned before I don't like having a whoring past rubbed in my face as a reader. Here, it definitely did.
Spellbound by Mary Balogh
Richard is involved in a carriage accident with a stagecoach and is stranded at a small town inn. By coincidence one of the passengers is his wife, Nora. They had eloped while very young and were separated the morning after their wedding by a big misunderstanding. Naturally a spring day in a small village will soften the hardest of hearts.
This story was very sweet, if not very memorable. (I should know. I read it in November and had to go back and skim-read it for this review). I really love the concept of a married couple being reunited after many years and finding they still love each other. The heroine had plenty of spunk and the hero was a sweetie. Fluffy bunnies for everyone!
Only You by Jacquie D'Alessandro (curse you and your impossible-to-spell name!)
Ethan was the stableboy at her father's estate. Cassie was his best friend. He loved her, she was too high above him and was devastated when she was married off to a rich old jerk. So he went off into the army, made some money and started an inn. Then along comes widow Cassie ten years later and lo and behold, they still want each other bad.
This was my favourite of the four. I made the mistake of reading reviews online and everyone seemed to despise this one the most. I say desist, all you haters! Anyone who doesn't love the stableboy who makes good to win the heart of his love and remains true to her after ten years is a hard-hearted wench. What's wrong, was Ethan not rogue enough for you? Did visions of The Great Gatsby cloud your judgement? Some people said that Cassie's abusive husband seemed contrived. In its defense, I would say that it probably happened in the Regency period, particularly with arranged marriages, more than people are comfortable with. I love how when Ethan finds out about it, he's all horrified and protective. Swoon. Excuse me while I adjust my corset.
From the Moment on by Candice Hern (nuts to you for getting that hideous Shania Twain song stuck in my head)
Sam, who is a captain of a ship, meets Willie, this former love of his life and a widowed duchess at an inn during a rainstorm. See, they were supposed to be married a long time ago when he got captured by a press gang and was forced to join the navy. The only thing that keeps him going in the memory of the night they had rolling around in her hayloft. Willie gets kicked out of her house (gee, whoever can guess the secret why?) and is forced to become a courtesan. They meet several times over the next few years. He's angry and bewildered that she chose such a life and she hates that he looks down on her.
Wow, people really didn't like this story. They say it's because they don't like how the heroine slept with so many men, but I'm guessing it's more to do with the fact she has no regrets whatsoever about her lifestyle. She was the high-priced courtesan of many wealthy and powerful men, her life was far better than it would be if she had been a common prostitute. Heck, she even marries one of the men and becomes a duchess. That, I didn't have a problem with. Also, people were horrified at the fact that the protagonists were over forty. Oh noes! How dare they not be young and ripe and virginal? I liked this story because it was different. No, it didn't "do it for me" (as one angry reader complained) but it was an unusual love story and I have to give props to the author for going out on a limb.