Porterfield, James D. Dining by Rail: The History and the Recipes of America’s Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine.

NY: St. Martin, 1993.

Folks of my generation, those born during World War II, are just about the last to have any memories of railroad passenger travel before AmTrak took over the lines and traveling any distance by train became like traveling by Greyhound bus — only less comfortable. My grandfather was a lifelong railroad man, the third generation of them on both sides in that family. Though he began as a mechanic, he eventually became a manager for the Pennsylvania, and that meant he possessed a railroad pass good anywhere in the country.

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Published in: on 29 September 2011 at 8:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heyer, Georgette. Regency Buck.

London: Heinemann, 1935.

Not all of Heyer’s humorous romances set in Regency England follow the same pattern — there are notably original exceptions like Grand Sophy — but, like any successful franchise, most of them do adhere to a more or less predictable underlying formula. The most common aspect of this is that whatever irritating and unpleasantly egotistical male the heroine first runs into is going to end up being her Prince Charming. In some of her books, including this one, that outcome is decidedly less convincing than in others.

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Published in: on 27 September 2011 at 10:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heyer, Georgette. Bath Tangle.

NY: Putnam, 1955.

The story opens around 1816 with two young women trying to deal with the recent sudden death of the Earl of Spenborough — the most important male in both their lives. As the strong-minded only child of an earl, and a very wealthy woman besides, Lady Serena functioned not only as her father’s hostess and estate manager but as his substitute son. Athletic and filled with energy on all occasions, as well as an avid follower of the political scene, she’s the complete opposite of Lady Fanny, the young widow (a trophy wife younger than Serena), who is far more ladylike in the approved way.

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Published in: on 25 September 2011 at 8:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Heyer, Georgette. Venetia.

NY: Putnam, 1958.

Between 1921 and 1972, in addition to a number of mysteries and other less-remembered works, Heyer turned out nearly three dozen historical romances set in the Regency era — the second decade of the 19th century, during the close of the generation-long war with France. Naturally, though none of them is terrible, some of them are rather better than others. I’ve read most of them over the years, and I put this delightfully complex story among the top three or four.

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Published in: on 22 September 2011 at 6:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Vinding, Niels. The Viking Discovery of America, 985 to 1008: The Greenland Norse and Their Voyages to Newfoundland.

Lewiston, NY: Edward Mellen Press, 2005.

When I was a freshman in college, a friend gave me a copy of Michael Boland’s newly-published book, They All Discovered America. I’d read about the supposed voyage by Leif Erikson to the New World but Boland took the position that the Norse Icelandic Greenlanders (who were not “vikings,” a completely inaccurate label, being only a job description and not an ethnic or national designation) were only one group among many. He made interesting cases for the Phoenicians, Romans, Irish, Portuguese, Venetians, Chinese, Africans, and Arabs, not to mention English fishermen from Bristol. (I’ll ignore the Eurocentric issue of whether one can “discover” a continent already filled with native inhabitants.)

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Heyer, Georgette. The Reluctant Widow.

NY: Putnam, 1946.

It’s around 1812 and Elinor Rochdale is a young woman of good family but straitened circumstances. At twenty-six, she has spent six years earning her way as a governess and she’s now on her way to a new, not vey promising situation down in Sussex. At the stage stop, however, she somehow gets in the wrong carriage and finds herself carried out into the countryside to a sprawling and rather dilapidated residence where she is awaited by Lord Carlyon, who was expecting the arrival of a wife-by-mail for his dissipated cousin, Eustace Cheviot. (It’s all reminiscent of the plot of a musical comedy.)

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Published in: on 17 September 2011 at 6:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Kress, Nancy. Beggars Ride.

NY: Tor, 1996.

Beggars in Spain, the first volume in this trilogy, deservedly won a number of awards in both its short and long forms, and the sequel, Beggars and Choosers, was also excellent. This conclusion, however, while it does its assigned job of wrapping everything up (more or less), is not nearly as convincing.

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Sansom, C. J. Revelation.

NY: Viking. 2008.

This fourth novel about the adventures of Matthew Shardlake, barrister in Tudor London, is well up to the high standard set by its predecessors — and yet it’s somewhat different from what came before. Shardlake’s earlier investigations were involved directly with politics, first working for Thomas Cromwell, then becoming involved in the aftermath of the revolt in the North. This story, though, is more like a modern police procedural, dealing as it does with a serial killer.

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Published in: on 13 September 2011 at 2:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heyer, Georgette. The Quiet Gentleman.

NY: Putnam, 1951.

Light-hearted romances (“romance” in the original, literary sense) are sometimes sneered at because they aren’t Dostoevsky or Tolstoy, but not every good, readable novel has to be — or even should aspire to be — great literature. Heyer was the master of the Regency-period historical (she basically invented the genre) and her books stay in print decade after decade.

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Heyer, Georgette. Cotillion.

NY: Putnam, 1953.

It’s circa 1816 in England and the Hon. Mr. Penicuik, persuaded by gout and poor digestion that he’s on his last legs, is making his will. His considerable fortune will go to his adopted daughter, Kitty Charing — on the proviso that she agree to marry one of his great-nephews; otherwise, it all goes to the Foundling Hospital and no one else gets anything. There are six young men to be considered:

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Published in: on 7 September 2011 at 5:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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