TBR Two-Fer--Two Barbara Metzger classics

When Signet was still publishing traditional Regencies, they would occasionally reissue two older titles in a combined volume. It was a great way for newer readers to acquire classic books from favorite authors. I picked up a few of these back in 2005 and 2006 and this is one I never got around to reading. This particular duo was reissued in 2006. I love Barbara Metzger’s old Regencies. Like Mary Balogh and Carla Kelly, Metzger has a unique voice. Unlike the other two authors, though, Metzger’s books tend to be much lighter. When I want a dash of humor, I can usually count on a Metzger. Her dialogue sparkles and her books are easy to read.

This duo consists of Rake’s Ransom, originally published in 1986, and A Loyal Companion, originally published in 1992. Interestingly, the stories are very similar (other duet reissues I have don’t have stories that mirror one another as much as this book does). Both books include:

  • A young heroine, raised in the country, spoiled by her widowed father, and given free reign to do as she pleases.

  • An older hero, titled, who has served in the Army in the Peninsula Wars.

  • A dog (well, all of Metzger's books have a dog that serves as a notable character).

  • A forced London season (the heroine, being a bit of a hoyden, would rather stay with her father in the country).

  • A villain who provides the conflict and some degree of comic relief.

Given how similar the two books are, I’m not sure it was such a great idea to read them back-to-back. I was just feeling too much deja vu when reading ALC to enjoy it as much as I might have had I put some time between the two of them. But that said, there are some notable differences:

In RR, heroine Jacelyn accidentally finds herself in a compromising situation with the hero Leigh. For Leigh it’s love at first sight and he insists on a “pretend” engagement, fully determined to see it become a real engagement and marriage.

In ALC, Sonia, a girl who rescues strays, finds herself sent to London for a season where she meets Darius. Darius is an outcast (i.e. stray) from society because of a past scandal. He’s guardian to his 3 young nieces and Sonia sees to it that he’s restored to society.

ALC is well-known among traditional Regency fans because each chapter has a section written from the POV of the dog. Yes, the dog. And in the beginning it works. But the dog takes up so much of the center stage that there is little opportunity to see the relationship between Sonia and Darius develop. The dog tells much of the story, breaking the cardinal “show, don’t tell” rule. This wasn’t so bad in the beginning of the book, but at the end when the tension is building it got in the way. Thus, because the story felt repetitive, and the dog part became annoying, I wasn’t so fond of TLC.

I loved RR, though. Jacelyn is 17-18 years old and she acts that way. Many of her actions are impulsive and immature. Leigh is 28-33 (can’t remember and don’t want to try and find out) and he realizes that he needs to take it slow with Jacelyn. I really thought the characterizations were accurate, and it made me realize how often I read books where the 17-year old heroine somehow has the maturity of a 30-year old woman. I loved that Leigh falls for Jacelyn right away, uses terms of endearment that he really means, but doesn’t push himself on Jacelyn until she’s ready for him. There’s lots of dialogue between the two of them and you can see their relationship grow and develop. You even see Jacelyn grow up as she learns to live within society’s expectations and recognizes that she no longer has the personal freedom she enjoyed sheltered away on her father’s estate. This one I can definitely recommend.

I have Barbara Metzger’s last 2 books sitting on my TBR pile, one of which was published this past summer. After reading this month's TBR I have to go find those 2 books.


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