Book Review: “Boston Tangle: Regency Comes to America” by Judith Lown

Some years ago, I wrote about the difficulty I had finding “wholesome” romances. In reply to that post, I got an email from one of my readers, Judith Lown, saying that she writes “traditional” or “sweet” Regency romances that follow in the Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer mode: interesting, sophisticated characters, some with amusing foibles, engaging in the Regency era’s elaborate social dance, with the hero and heroine finding love by story’s end.

I immediately went looking and found Lown’s A Sensible Lady: A Traditional Regency Romance. It was a delightful book, and one I highly recommend.  My pleasure in A Sensible Lady meant that, when Lown wrote to tell me that a publishing company was re-releasing her first novel, A Match for Lady Constance, I immediately got myself a copy of that too, and was just as delighted with it.

Lown has now published her third novel, Boston Tangle: Regency Comes to America. Drusilla Fortesque, Boston Tangle’s leading lady, is familiar to readers of A Match for Lady Constance, but you don’t need to worry if you haven’t read that book first (although you’ll enjoy it if you do): Boston Tangle is a stand-alone novel.

The plot, of course, is Romance 101: Boy and girl are attracted to each other, various events impede their attraction, and it all turns out all right in the end. In more detail, Drusilla, feeling the pain of unrequited love, leaves England to stay with relatives in Boston. While keeping company with her cousin Ivy, who goes from duckling to swan, Drusilla meets two other interesting men — one American, one British — and then finds herself once again running into the one man she’d sought to avoid. It is a testament to Lown’s skill as a writer that, before the denouement, I never did figure out which of these three men would end up winning Drusilla’s heart and hand.

Apart from her adroit plotting, Lown offers two other things that make the book stand out. The first is her insights into the Beacon Hill world of Boston in the years after the War of 1812. Despite having battled each other for the second time in less than 30 years, England and America are natural trading and cultural partners, and often find themselves doing business together. One could say that they were then siblings with different characters, but sharing the same background.  Drusilla therefore discovers that the Beacon Hill world she’s entered is every bit as hidebound and snobby as the English society she left behind, yet it still has a social and economic freedom of movement utterly lacking in England. It’s fun to see the mannered Regency transported so gracefully to America.

The other thing Lown offers — and this is really the most important thing — is lovely writing. She manages to echo Jane Austen’s cadences, without being stultifying or slavish in her imitation. And while respecting Regency sensibilities, Lown manages to imbue Drusilla with a modern sensibility that never seems anachronistic. So often, when I read Regency romances written by someone other than Georgette Heyer, I keep cringing at awkward phrases or unseemly modernisms, both in speech or behavior. Lown never makes those mistakes. Her writing is true from beginning to end.

If you’re looking for a “sweet,” “traditional” Regency romance, I highly recommend Boston Tangle: Regency Comes to America. I read it with pleasure, not just because a friend wrote it, but because it is a genuinely delightful book and a welcome addition to the modern “Regency romance” canon.