I found it interesting to read these two very different Regency historicals back-to-back and found myself comparing and contrasting the two. So rather than try and write a traditional review of Truly Yours I'm going to talk a little about RegencyWorld as it is used in each book.
Like many romance readers of a certain age, I was introduced to the Regency era by reading Georgette Heyer in my teens. I have a small collection of her books and over the years I have re-read my favorites many times over, such as The Grand Sophy or Frederica. There was a part of my life when I didn't read much romance (although I loved when books in other genres had romantic elements in them) until I discovered Mary Balogh. From there I found other authors (like Barbara Metzger) and for several years I'd say that 90% of the romance I read was set in the Regency era.
There's a certain comfort in returning to this world again and again. Authors don't have to do a whole lot of world-building--in a way that's been done already by other authors writing in this subgenre before them. Names like Sally Jersey or Prinny; places like Almack's, Grosvener Square, and the Rotten Row are the same from one book to the next. And thanks to readers' groups on the Internet I learned who out-ranks an Earl, how an entail works, and what a young society girl really would or wouldn't do. All of these things were mysteries to me as a 17-year old American girl, but that didn't stop me from enjoying Heyer's books. Now I like to think that I "get" it when I'm reading Regencies and it does matter to me how well the author uses the Regency world for her story. FOR ME, the Regency world has to be more than a backdrop for the story; the Regency world has to govern the way the characters act. If the author doesn't get that, then it's a major fail in my eyes. I guess that makes me a bit of a snob, but there you have it.
Barbara Metzger has been writing Regencies successfully for over 20 years. She has a unique voice and a wonderful sense of humor. I continue to seek out her backlist and I'm delighted that more and more of them are now available as ebooks. From time to time her books have even had a small touch of the paranormal--before it became fashionable to do so. In Truly Yours, the hero comes from a family where all of the males are able to discern whether someone is telling the truth. This book is the first in a series of 3; each hero is one of the males in this family. At the request of his mother, Viscount Rexford goes to the aid of Amanda Carville who has been accused of a murder she did not commit. When Rex is able to talk to her, he knows right away that she is indeed innocent and he sets about finding the real murderer. As the story opens, Amanda is in prison, living in appalling conditions. Rex uses his rank and status to remove her from prison and take her to the family home. Unfortunately, his mother is in Bath and with no respectable female currently residing in the house, there is no one to chaperone Amanda. Even though she's sick, all of the characters (except Rex of course!) insist that he'll have to marry Amanda because she's been compromised. This becomes an important plot point--because such a circumstance would have really been important in that era. Metzger uses the mores of the time as a significant part of the conflict in the book.
In a similar way, I think relative newcomer Anne Mallory also uses the mores of that time quite successfully in her latest book. In this book, part of the conflict revolves around the place in society that illigitimate sons had/didn't have. This book has the hero, Sebastian, taking part in a competition that frankly reminded me a bit of many reality TV shows, like Survivor. Obviously, reality TV would be anachronistic for any historical, but Mallory takes this mythical contest she created and gives us realistic characters who are fully aware that power and status are held by those who are not only wealthy, but titled. Sebastian is offered an opportunity to receive wealth, a title, and an aristocratic bride if he wins the competition. There are several other contestants, who, like Sebastian, are the bastard sons of the men arranging the competition. The rest of the contestants are younger sons who, as "spares" are often beneath the notice of their own fathers. One of those spares is Sebastian's half brother, Benedict. Their father, a duke, is a rather dispicable figure, who manipulates his sons by pitting them against one another. Throughout the book, we are given opportunities to see how society operated in that era. Society's dictates help drive the plot and I think Mallory did a fabulous job of using the era to drive her story. Near the end, Sebastian has a conversation with the heroine, Caroline, where she points out that for a woman, being a bastard daughter is a great deal different than being a bastard son. I loved it.
These are really two very different books. TY is much lighter in the sensuality than TBP. The plot of TY revolves around the murder mystery while the plot of TBP revolves around the contest and Sebastian's drive to win the things he's always been denied. TY is much lighter period and a fairly typical Metzger book. This is only the 3rd Mallory book I've read and had Gwen not been so enthusiastic, I probably would have skipped it. I'm glad I didn't.
When I read TY, I was in comfort zone with an author who is tried and true. When I read TBP I was in that comfortable Regency world, but reading something that was much more subtle, was full of sexual tension, and much more emotional. Both were highly enjoyable, as different as night and day, yet as familiar as can be, because I still love Regency World.