Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Memories Schmemories: The Clergyman's Daughter by Julia Jeffries, 1982

Memories Schmemories: The Clergyman's Daughter by Julia Jeffries, 1982; reissued in 1996

Greetings again from SidneyKay!

You may ask, what is Memories Schmemories. Well, I have an answer for you. At Kay's Blog I review historical romance novels, and there are occasions I have nothing to read. Yes, it's true! Sometimes I'm in between orders, or sick of the same ol' same ol, or standing there looking at my TBR pile and nothing jumps out at me. So, what I've been doing is jumping into my Wayback Machine and rereading some of my old treasures. In the process of rereading these old stories I find that occasionally my memory has played tricks on me... sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I call these my Memories Schmemories books. Usually these books fall into the out-of-print category and since the advent of the ereader, I have noticed that some smart people are releasing these books in digital formatting, which is a good thing. And let me say this about some of those old books: not all of those old books are bodice rippers; there are actually quite a lot of gems out there. You just have to take the bad with the good, the same as you do now.

In my memory, I have always had a fondness for a small little book called The Clergyman's Daughter. Written in 1982, it is one of two so-called 'traditional' Regency books written by Julia Jeffries. It also won the RWA's Gold Medallion award for Best Category Historical. As far as I know Julia Jeffries, aka Lynda Ward, wrote only two historical romances, which is our loss. She did write a number of Harlequin super romances, but seems to have vanished off the radar. I wish she had continued her historical books; she had the makings of a very talented author.

Now, because I had this fond memory of The Clergyman's Daughter, I approached this book with some trepidation... you just never know what you're going to find. Well, what I found was what should have been a large book crammed into a small book formatting, 217 pages. There were wonderfully descriptive moments, poignant moments and some jarring moments. And if you think that old 'traditional' Regency books are prim and proper, think again - the hero in this book just oozes sensuality. Raeburn, the hero, is one of those big, bulky, all-muscles, sexy guys. He is a typical old-fashioned Romanceland alpha male. He's overbearing and always right, and he is quick to misunderstand situations and yell out nasty names. I tried to look at him with two different sets of eyes, with the eyes of 1982 and the eyes of 2011. With my 1982 eyes, I would have found him a refreshing change from all the namby-pamby heroes that were in other books. With my 2011 eyes, I would find his reaction and brutally a tad bit offsetting. He is very close to being an Anne Stuart hero. Regardless of some his actions, I found his character to be mesmerizing and the story he eventually entrusts to the heroine about his step-mother is well-written and very poignant.

We now come to Jessica, the heroine. Jessica is actually Raeborn's sister-in-law. She was married to his step-brother. I hear voices out there shouting historical accuracy! Historical Accuracy! So, before I continue, here's the scoop. Evidently, you could marry your brother-in-law prior to 1835 in England. It was just that these marriages could be voided easily. Then a law was passed in 1835 that made marriages contracted after 1835 void; if you were married before 1835 you could wipe the sweat off of your brow and give a sigh of relief. It wasn't until 1907 that this law was overturned and you could marry your deceased wife's sister, then in 1921 you could marry your deceased brother's wife. Evidently England was the only place to have this law, because people were constantly running to Europe to get married and my ancestors here in the United States didn't see any problem with it, which probably explains a lot. And there is your history lesson for the day. Back to Jessica.

We get to see more of the inner workings of her mind as she maneuvers from holding a grudge against Raeborn's family to finally accepting and even loving them. There didn't seem to be much building of romance between the two main characters, even though they reside in the same house throughout most all of the book. They are attracted to each other from the very beginning, however, we don't really get to see that because the story begins after she has run away and after she has married his brother - borne a child - become widow. When I first met Jessica, I felt she was a bit of a doormat, although she does develop some claws and she isn't afraid to use them. However, she protects people just a little too much for my tastes which leads to a very disturbing scene. I do love that her character isn't afraid to admit that she has the hots for Raeburn!

There are some well-written secondary characters in here, especially his sister Claire and Jessica's companion Willa Brown. There are also a number of nasty people in this story - the snobbish fiancee Daphne (who reminded me of Caroline Bingley, and I was forced to ask - can't men really see through these type of women?). There was the fat brother and the creepy yellow-eyed satirist... and in 1982 yellow-eyes is a villain, not some hunk who changes into a wolf.

After I was done with this book, I was glad that I reread it. I still consider it a gem and wish that Julie Jeffries had continued with her career. And for those of you who are afraid to dip your toes in the Wayback Machine, don't be. There are some great out-of-print books out there that are being released to digital. Maybe you're like me and have boxes of these stories in your closet. Here are some others I'd recommend: Anne Stuart's The Houseparty, and The Demon Count; Patricia Ryan's Silken Threads, Candice Proctor's Whispers of Heaven; Mary Balogh's Promise of Spring.

Do you have a forgotten book you remember fondly? Have you reread it? Does it hold up over time? How have your tastes changed?

So, romance lovers, dust off those old volumes and enjoy some forgotten gems for yourself!

Rating: I'd give this a B rating. Sensuality: Actually quite warm.

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