Recent Reads: The School for Manners

My reading lately has not been going so well. I’m bouncing off a lot of well-reviewed books hard, and I’m retreating to fun and easy reads.

I’ve said before that I enjoy reading MC Beaton’s books because they take me about 70 minutes and therefore allow me to feel like I’m reading a lot, even if in wordcount I’m not really. I’d been reading Agatha Raisin and Hamish McBeth, but I picked up one of her Regencies lately and it was great fun, so I’ve recently blown through the whole School for Manners series.

It’s quite delightful, if not actually worth reviewing each book individually. The series is about spinster twins who have breeding but not money and who hit upon the idea of taking in Difficult Girls (ie, ones who have not gone off to be obediently married at a suitable age) and reforming them. Hijinks ensue, and with each book the twins’ personal lives grow a little more complicated even as they manage to make good matches for all the young things.

The characterisations are good; all six of the girls in the books are distinctly different people (the heroes are perhaps a bit more interchangeable, but still are pretty individualized), and the twins themselves are a riot of incompatibilities. One is gruff and not conventionally attractive, which is Beaton’s default female lead, but she’s also soft-hearted and has much more sense of humour and charm than, say, Agatha Raisin does. The other twin is silly and pretty, but with a core of steel, and overall they’re both delightful characters.

There are some romance convention things in the books that persist in making me twitch: the hero’s seizing of the heroine for a deep probing kiss Because He Can’t Help Himself, or to Teach Her A Lesson (That Goes Awry Because He Finds He Means It), that sort of thing (although I note that there is no Shaking Of The Heroine in these books, which I was really on guard against and was relieved and surprised to not encounter), but overall, those kinds of conventions are better-handled (ie, less likely to make me scream) in these books than in most.

These were written in the early 90s. I need to get a handful of modern comedy-of-manners (as opposed to smouldering sexy) Regencies to see if/how those conventions have changed, because while I can go for the Inevitable Kiss That Neither Party Can Resist, the whole machismo/dominant/controlling thing still squicks me and I kind of want to see if/how people have worked around it.

Anyway, super charming books, lots of fun to read, highly recommended even if you don’t typically read romance. Which I don’t. :)

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