Regency Christmas Spirits
by Nancy Butler, Emma Jensen, Edith Layton, Barbara Metzger, and Andrea Pickens; regency/paranormal (2001)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 0-451-20438-7


Ah, Christmas. With the beautiful orchestral choral version of Oh Come, All Ye Faithful playing in the background, I snuggle down in the cold of night to enjoy tales of heartwarming romance.

Then come the ninnies, innocent nincompoops, and ignoramuses to put the ass in my PMS.

What's with Regency era heroines and their obsession with Daddy's big house? In Nancy Butler's The Merry Wanderer, Julia Fitzwater, the Lady of Obladay or Islay or something, is trying to maintain her big house left by her Daddy despite her tightened straits. There are lots of old valuable books in the basement library which she has no use for, in a house where only she, her brother, and an elderly servant lives. Can we say "sell that stupid house"?

No, Julia wants it all like it is. Twit. She cannot make her elderly servant do her shopping, but she can make the woman cook and clean a big house. Twit.

It takes a divine creature to love her. That I can understand. Robin, the faerie folk also known as Puck, tries to matchmake her, discovers that she has some magic Important Book in her cellar, tries to stop a bad guy from destroying all faerie folks, and falls in love with Julia.

So much things happening, and all Julia does is to stand there, stammering, "W-what is going on?"

Let us close the door on the nincompoop and her babysitter and move on to the much better The Wexford Carol by Emma Jensen.

Elizabeth Fitzhollis is a heroine. How do I know? She plays in the dirt, she doesn't do "silly lady stuff" like think about things. When her cousin Percy - who inherited everything after her Daddy croaked - sells her home to one Captain Jones, her idea of saving the house is to throw a big party. Let everyone show Captain Jones what a lovely house this is! Then he will grow a heart and let everybody be!

Never let a romance heroine run any organization. She will run it to the ground.

Luckily, Captain Jones is a scrooge who will thaw as our Pollyanna Peetwitter runs around, blinking and gasping like a goldfish in what passes for Romantic Innocence.

Still, they two make a charming and wholesome - if twitty and unoriginal - pair. I wouldn't trust them to handle my chinaware, but I wouldn't mind pitching my Salvation Army donation stand outside their house. I bet I'll get the pot filled with money in no time. Most importantly, I get this feeling that they'll be alright together, because their love is alright.

Not so with Edith Layton's High Spirits. Arabella Denton is carefree, she loves parties, and she wants to have fun - with the "innocent, charming, virtuous" way that makes her come off like a ten-year old Barbie. She falls for this guy Rupert who at first thought her a sweet lil' sisterly girlie, and then she wears some sexy dress, and Big Brother here starts undressing his Little Girlie in his eyes.

Then again, this story wouldn't be called High Spirits for no reason. Gin, anyone? There's enough to go around the People's Republic of China. (Yes, I come prepared.)

Barbara Metzger's The Christmas Curse. It's a story about a ghost and his equally ghostly lady. There's also a minor love story about the ghostly duo trying to matchmake their descendant with his true love. For almost half into the story, I have no idea who is supposed to fall in love. There are so many people meandering around doing things in "hee, hee, I'm a cute Regency cutie, innocent and saccharine!" way. When Nick and Amelia finally marry, I wonder why I never see that one coming.

The Christmas Curse is what happens when a full-length Regency novel is squashed into around 69 pages. Disembowelled character development and plot entrails ooze out in a most gruesome mess that will make even Clive Barker shriek in horror.

Andrea Pickens closes the show with A Gathering Of Gifts. By now I am fatigued by the incessant bombardment of psychotically sunny, upbeat, and thoughtfree 100% viscera and obligatia heroines that I turn the pages with more numbness than enthusiasm. This one has a supposedly opiniated and sunny Emma Pierson and surly soldier Noel Trumbull. Emma is the kind of heroine who would pertly and I suppose "charmingly" declares that she is an excellent rider even as the hero is picking her and her wounded horse from a ditch. And yes, Emma remains in character, in what I guess is the definition of "spirited" in the Regency Mediocorama Dictionary: psychotically perty.

Altogether now: I drum on a Regency girlie's head, barapam-pam-pam! I am a poor reader too, barapam-pam-pam! On my drum, barapam-pam-pam! Her head gives a hollow thunk with each barapam-pam-pam! As I beat my drum...

Rating: 68


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