I’ve been making my way through two shelves of Joan Smith books for quite some time (guaranteed fun reads), and the other day when I found one that I felt was truly outstanding, it occurred to me that it was a shame that few young people—who may not have been born in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s when Joan Smith was producing her delightful Regencies—have had the opportunity to read her work. (Note: Joan also wrote as Jennie Gallant; don’t overlook those titles when you come across them.)
Oh, you can find them in used bookstores, and nearly 70 of them can be found in the Kindle store for $3.99, not to mention on the Regency Reads web site for $5 a pop, but let’s face it, authors’ backlists don’t get the sort of promotion the newer titles do, and most younger people will probably never know what they missed.
So I decided to do my part in getting the word out. What sort of reader would appreciate Joan’s Regencies? Anyone who enjoys
- traditional, “sweet” Regencies. Her stories will never be outdated.
- spirited heroes and heroines with a sense of humor
- witty dialogue à la Georgette Heyer without the superfluous narrative found in other books
- three-dimensional, memorable secondary characters
- well-crafted plots and believable scenarios
- lively romps through Regency society in a variety of English locales
The Virgin and the Unicorn
This is the book that inspired me to write this post. I wrote this review for Amazon:
Miranda has known the Herscham family all her life; thus, she knows better than to set her cap for Lord Rotham, the oldest son, who has proven to be a ramshackle young man of the worst sort–not to mention the one who had played fast and loose with her older sister’s affections all those years ago. Miranda has been sent to stay with the Herschams, ostensibly because of her younger sister’s bout with the measles, but Miranda knows her parents are hoping she will make a match of it with Pavel, the younger Herscham son. It seems hopeless, though, since Pavel is only eighteen–the same as Miranda–and they’ve always been more like siblings.
Lord Rotham unexpectedly returns from his post at the Vienna Congress, and although he has a serious problem on his hands, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Miranda, who proves to be immune from his practiced charm. It gives him pause to realize how his antics of the past have tainted him in Miranda’s eyes, and this latest escapade of his–having stolen a valuable French tapestry from a cathedral on a lark–is not showing his character in any good light either. Still, there’s no keeping secrets in that household, especially after the tapestry is stolen and the servant left guarding it seriously wounded. Since this matter is likely to cause an international incident, somehow they have got to figure out who stole it and get it back again.
Rotham knows what he wants almost from the first, and even his affectionate parents see it before Miranda does. But how can she take this rogue seriously when he was the cause of her sister Trudie’s anguish in the past? No doubt he had cut quite a swathe through the great ladies at the Vienna Congress before returning home. And hadn’t she seen the looks he’d exchanged with the beautiful comtesse who was also lodging with the Hershams? No, Miranda is far too sensible to have her head turned by a gentleman with HIS track record.
And yet…is Miranda truly so cautious and staid herself? Perhaps the truth is that she’s been waiting for an opportunity to have an adventure herself…and who better but an experienced rogue–one who is feeling seriously remorseful of his misspent youth–to accompany her?
I love the characters, the close family relationships, the witty repartee, especially Pavel’s remark about the lump on Rotham’s forehead giving him the look of a unicorn, a reference to the famous tapestry of “The Virgin and the Unicorn”. (No need to worry; it was a minor injury that soon faded.) The implication being, of course, that Miranda was the virgin who had tamed the unicorn without really trying to; he had voluntarily laid his head in her lap in a gesture of eternal surrender.
Joan Smith is a talented author; it is to be hoped that her books will be released in ebook format for the enjoyment of newer readers, who do not often get the chance to read such delightful Regencies these days.
Who is Joan Smith and What’s She Up To These Days?
This is the bio you will find at the end of most of Joan Smith’s books and on web sites. (It’s dated, as Joan hasn’t published anything since 1998, as far as I can tell.)
Joan Smith is a graduate of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and the Ontario College of Education. She has taught French and English in high school and English in college. When she began writing, her interest in Jane Austen and Lord Byron led to her first choice of genre, the Regency, which she especially liked for its wit and humor. She is the author of over a hundred books, including Regencies, many with a background of mystery, for Fawcett and Walker, contemporary mysteries for Berkley, historical mysteries for Fawcett and St. Martin’s, romances for Silhouette, along with a few historicals and gothics. She has had books in the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild, been on Walden’s Bestseller list, had two Regencies selected for the Romantic Times ten best ever Regencies, and had one book condensed in a magazine. Her favorite travel destination is England, where she researches her books. Her hobbies are gardening, painting, sculpture and reading. She is married and has three children. A prolific writer, she is currently working on Regencies and various mysteries at her home in Georgetown, Ontario.
Update from Joan as of April 22, 2013:
The bio you have pretty well covers it. Still following the same interests, along with a keen interest in healthy cooking. I’m a widow now, enjoying time with the growing family of grandkids and great grandkids.
Have you read any of Joan’s books and if so, what do you like best about them?
Joan Smith Giveaway
In case you haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Joan’s books lately, I’m offering one lucky commenter the following six books from my Joan Smith collection. Do make sure you leave your email address in the comment so I can contact you if you happen to be the lucky winner.
The Barefoot Baroness (1992)
After one disastrous Season, Laura Harwood had no designs for snagging a husband. She hardly felt qualified to accompany her cousin, Olivia, Baroness Pilmore, to London for her debut.
However, Olivia’s fears of social failure proved unfounded—although meeting the Season’s social lion, Lord Hyatt, whose artistic talent was rivaled only by his masculine perfection, was a bit troubling.
His interest in painting Olivia’s portrait put Laura on her guard. Was it Olivia’s aesthetic countenance or her fortune that Hyatt found so appealing? Moreover, Laura found Hyatt’s attention to herself most disturbing. Alas, she knew it was simply a matter of time until he saw her for the provincial miss that she was.
The Royal Scamp (1989)
She had her pick of dashing gentlemen, but was one among them a common thief?
Naturally, eyebrows rose when Esther Lowden, a lady of quality, turned her family estate into a country inn. But business had never been better, thanks to the notorious highwayman whose midnight escapades encouraged fearful travelers to stay the evening.
Dabbed the “Royal Scamp,” he was rumored to be quite the gentleman, bestowing kisses on his more comely victims. Indeed, Esther suspected, he might even be one of the dashing new arrivals at Lowden Arms.
Well, no proper businesswoman would harbor a criminal. But which gentleman wore the mask of a highwayman…and which wore the face of love?
No one ever dreamed that Prudence Mallow, who wrote novels and was not London’s most ravishing beauty, would ever capture the heart of the dashing Lord Dammler. The fact that he wrote poetry was, of course, a bond with his beloved. But he cherished her most for her beauty of spirit and her lively intelligence.
Alas, one day Prue unexpectedly visits her fiancé at his home only to discover his former mistress prancing about in appallingly few clothes. Naturally this leads her to believe that Dammler has renewed his erstwhile erotic relationship.
And so Prue decides to get even—in a very novel manner.
Valerie was a lioness!
Tall, sandy-haired, with golden feline eyes. What better model could her eccentric aunt find for the heroine of her latest anonymous romance novel?
But the plot of life proved far richer than fiction. For when Valerie arrived at her aunt’s country estate, she suddenly found herself in the midst of high society séances and chicanery…where secret passages hid stolen jewels, where money changed hands as fast as Val changed gowns. And where distant French cousins and dashingly attractive, if poor, scholars, turned out to be as intangible as ghosts, as flimsy as certain “famous” fortunes, and as illusive and longed-for as love.
Tea & Scandal (1996)
There was much ado about something at Wildercliffe!
Exceedingly wealthy Lord Pargeter had married his housekeeper…then expired, leaving the woman an heiress. There was something havey-cavey about the whole business, especially when the woman’s niece, Jane Lonsdale, arrived unexpectedly from her teaching position at Miss Prism’s Academy.
Across the lake, neighbors at Swann Hall were most interested. Visiting acquaintance Lord Fenwick decided to investigate…and was very intrigued by Jane, whose past hinted deliciously of scandal and whose lovely face and lively spirit fascinated him even more.
As devilishly attractive as she found Lord Fenwick, Jane kept frantically busy trying to keep her past a secret and was not gullible enough to succumb to the charms of a man too curious about her for his intentions to be nobel!
Bath Scandal (1991)
How much mischief could anyone get into in Bath?
At the insistence of his high-minded fiancéer, Lord Southam had dispatched his unruly tomboy of a sister, Gillie, to an acquaintance in Bath. Mrs. Beatrice Searle, an elegant widow, could surely smooth the girl’s rough edges.
But when rumors of Gillie running free with a reckless gambler reached Southam, he wondered if Mrs. Searle was still the unexeptionable lady he knew years ago. Determined to see how matters stood, Southam was unprepared for the charming, beautiful, and somewhat fast-living Beatrice Searl. And with his wild oat-sowing days about to end, how could he ignore the charms of a merry widow?
Sources of Joan’s Books
The Belgrave House (her non-Regency titles)
Regency Reads (Regency and Georgian titles)
Joan Smith: The Canadian Georgette Heyer
Romance Wiki (Joan’s Silhouette titles)
Many thanks to Peggy, Carola Dunn, and others from the Regency Yahoo Forum and the Mary Balogh Fan Forum for the great leads they passed on, and to Neff Rotter of Belgrave House for contacting Joan and getting a brief update on her for this post.
BTW, Joan: I was a French/English teacher also for a lot of years!
Although I grew up in the 70s, I didn’t get into reading historical romance until fairly recently, and while there are authors writing now that I enjoy, sometimes I like to search out older titles, when writers seemed to be more about the story and the romantic tension than about how to get the H/h into bed. (And don’t get me wrong – I like a bit of spice as much as the next woman, it’s just that sometimes, I’d rather read about the journey than the destination!) It’s great that Belgrave House is putting out so many older regencies, and that Intermix are publishing older Signets, but there are some really good authors whose books are difficult to find and/or really expensive second-hand that I’d love to see bringing out their backlists electronically. (Charlotte Louise Dolan, Nancy Butler, Cindy Covington, to name but three).
I do agree,Caz! There were real consequences for young gently-born girls who had premarital sex, and most were closely chaperoned to prevent it. I really dislike heroes who deliberately take advantage of such girls without any idea of commitment or concern for her welfare. These are cads, not heroes, and I generally will not finish the book when I find one of these.
Even if the heroine is a widow, like in a novel I’m working on right now, the story has to be more about the relationship than the sex. But maybe that’s just me.
I love historical romance & I was definitely born then tho not quite up to reading quite yet. Maybe Enid Blyton books 🙂 I have to admit to never having heard of Joan or come across her books before.
Why did she stop writing? Her books sound great.
She was a very prolific author in her day. I think she just decided to move on, i.e., spend time with her family, etc. She’s in her mid-70’s, I think.
Unfortunately, some authors stopped writing when publishers eliminated the traditional Regencies from their lineups. Some of them went on to write the longer ones with great success, but some seem to have completely disappeared off the radar. I’d like to track some of them down for future spotlights!
I have enjoyed Ms Smith’s writings because her characters are people I would like to get to know.
I grew up during the 50’s and 60’s and did read romances, but I’d never heard of her. Tweeted.
I started reading Regencies as a high school student back in the 70s–mostly Georgette Heyer and Barbara Cartland. I’d love to read some of Joan Smith’s books-the plots are like true Regencies!
Joan Smith was one of my favorite authors back in the day when traditional Regencies were more popular. I especially love her humor and her eccentric secondary characters. Among my favorites: Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds; Sweet and Twenty; Perdita; Imprudent Lady (I see you have the sequel to this, Reprise, listed among your giveaway books. Also a very good book, but Imprudent Lady was better, IMO.) Really, everything she wrote was wonderful. Now that you’ve pricked my memories, I need to go back to my shelf of her books and start rereading again. Thanks for providing this update to what’s happening with her these days!
For almost a year now, I have been on a Traditional Regency kick. While for two decades, I read mainly historicals and contemporaries, it wasn’t until I read my first Joan Wolf nearly a year ago, that I discovered trads. And OMGosh, I simply can’t get enough of them. I’ve been seeking witty trads in used bookstores, in the library, on Amazon, from friends’ collections, and any place else I can lay my hands on them. I was introduced to Joan Smith earlier this year by a Regency author with the story “Imprudent Lady.” And I fell in love with Joan’s writing. With Heyeresque style she effortlessly evokes the Regency era. I’d love to spend more time in her world. Thank you for the opportunity to read more of her.
keirasoleore @ hotmail.com
I’ve read couple of Joan’s book and I must admit I tried to search out some more but never came across any. Really glad to know she has written loads and was quite prolific. I hope she does decides to write some more regency, really love those traditional ones. I think they perfectly capture the essence of the period.
I enjoy many traditional Regency authors and have the books to prove it (50 shelves of Regenices). I just counted and I have 79 Joan Smith paperbacks and some on my Nook! My favorites are FRIENDS AND LOVERS (Jennie Gallant), LOVE’S HARBINGER, A COUNTRY WOOING, PERDITA, and LOVERS’ VOWS. Other favorite authors are Mary Balogh, Marian Devon, Mary Jo Putney, Fiona Hill, Carola Dunn, Candice Hern, Marjorie Farrell, Wilma Counts, Dorothy Mack, Laura Matthews, Barbara Metzger, Eizabeth Mansfield, Emma Lange, Lois Menzel, Paricia Oliver, Mary Jo Putney, Sheila Walsh, Evelyn Richardson, Joan Wolf, and Georgette Heyer. Happy reading!
I love all of those too, Rebecca! Several are on my list for future spotlights on Susana’s Parlour. It would be nice if the shorter traditional sub-genre would come back, but I’m doing my best to get the word out about these oldies-but-goodies available in digital form.
I’m going to do a spotlight on Joan Vincent soon—I met her at Romantic Times in Kansas City last week and she’s writing again. But who else would you recommend? There’s certainly a lot to choose from!
Oh, I also met Mary Jo Putney, but she’s not writing Regencies anymore. Still, I’m sure some of her older Regencies are out there, so she’s a good possibility.
I would love to receive these books. So funny, I was just wondering about some of the excellent Signet authors of Regencies and where they are now. I found some excellent Biblical fiction by Joan Wolf. email@example.com
My favorite of Joan Smith’s books is “Winter Wedding”. The heroine is a relation of a noted family and makes her way thru other people’s house parties. The hero keeps missing her by weeks of her visit when he finally is at the same house party as she is. I was happy when it came out in ebook.
I haven’t had the pleasure of reading Joan’s books. During the 70’s I was raising my 7 children and was lucky I could read my mail. 🙂 I would absolutely love to read these books. Thank you so much for bringing her back here at your blog and introducing her and her writing.And the opportunity to win. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms.
Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com
Congrats to Ferdous, who is the randomly chosen winner of the Joan Smith books! I’ll be contacting her shortly. Thanks to all the readers and commenters!
I have all of Joan Smith’s regency books which I collected in the 60’s and 70’s. If you want a good laugh in a light regency by Joan Smith, read “Babe”. it is funny.
I wrote personally to Ms Smith some years ago and received a personal letter from her. As she wrote then, she did not ‘go’ for erotic writing and preferred to write light novels (novellas).
They are charming and always have a laugh somewhere in the book
I love Joan Smith, too! It bothers me when she is confused with the other Joan Smith of England, who is also an author. Some sites list the works of both in their Joan Smith bibliographies!
What I’d like to know is how to get the three latest books she’s written about the Berkeley Brigade. I can only find Kindle editions. What gives?
I don’t think Joan has written any books lately.
But she has! They are: Let’s Talk of Murder (2012)
To Mourn a Murder (2012)
Murder at Newstead Abbey (2013)
You’re right! But the later ones don’t seem to be available in print. Too expensive, perhaps? Lots of readers going digital, so the print books don’t sell as well. But I’m just guessing.
I had no idea she was still writing! It seemed to me from her message that she was retired from writing and enjoying her family. But I see how I made the mistake!
That’s what I’m talking about. I can only find them for sale as Kindle books. And I have no idea how to find out about them otherwise. I read all the Berkeley Brigade series, so naturally I’d like the next three. If you, or anybody knows about these, please let me know. Thanks.
I’ve been on a Joan Smith reading kick recently, and a random google (trying to find an authoritative and chronological bibliography, among other things) ended up leading me here! So delightful to find other readers who still read Joan Smith — I am forever recommending her to people! My favorites, FWIW, are Sweet and Twenty (I love love LOVE that book), Imprudent Lady, Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds, Perdita, Talk of the Town, Rose Trelawney, and Escapade…
I’ve never seen a book by Joan Smith named SWEET AND TWENTY. I’ve read the others. Also, I recently discovered that more of her books are on Kindle ONLY. I just read the last three of the Berkeley Brigade series.
I began reading regencies back in the late 1970’s when a British friend of mine gave me a couple of her daughter’s Georgette Heyer books. I discovered Joan Smith shortly after. In my prejudiced opinion, I believe Joan Smith comes closest to Heyer for a great regency in the pack. Thanks for the update on her–I haven’t seen a title newer than the late 1990’s. I hope she’ll give us some more of her regencies. The newer ones by other authors are too much about sex for my taste. I’ve had plenty of experience with sex, consider it a deeply personal act and relationship, and don’t particularly care to read about it. Joan’s clever dialogue and characterization is much more to my taste.
Hi Jane! Glad to find another Joan Smith fan! Apparently she is still writing, but in the mystery genre. You might check out Amazon for them. There ARE sweet, traditional Regencies still being written, though. I write for the Blush Cotillion line at Ellora’s Cave-nothing but kisses there! You might check out some of those as well!
I think you (some of you) are mixing the Joan Smiths. The English one writes mystery; the Canadian one wrote Regencies but with some mystery regencies. I wrote to Ms Smith about twenty years ago and got a personal answer. I judged her to be close to my age at that time and I was in my 60’s then. I still have all my Joan Smith regencies and if anyone would like a list of those I have, please write to me.
I would also like to add one of my very favorites by Joan Smith. “Venetia” is the name of the book.