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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Review: The Villainous Viscount: Or the Curse of the Venn’s by Lucinda Elliott

The Villainous Viscount: Or the Curse of the Venn’s
by Lucinda Elliott
August 23, 2016
285 pages

An appreciative satire of the cliches of classical Gothic. 

When Clarissa Greendale inherits the fortune of disreputable uncle she hardly knows, she does not expect to find herself forced into marriage with an aristocratic fortune hunter and wild, brawling, debauched social outcast. Not only that, but her name featured some way down on the list of eligible heiresses he planned to court. Still, Clarinda has always found Harley Venn set off the most unmaidenly tinglings in her; that is one consolation...

Yet neither did Clarinda expect to inherit the legacy of a wrongdoing from half a century before. For the wicked if beguiling Lord Venn seems to have inherited a family curse, which, having dispatched the main perpetrators of the old crime, now moves on to their heirs, who are just as wild a set of rakes as their elders. There are rumours of violent deaths preceded by appearances from an inexorable hooded spectre, of inexplicable strikes of lightning, and of haunted mirrors.

The light-hearted Harley Venn dismisses all these as conjuring tricks. He even hires a drunken charlatan of a professional magician to prove it. 

Clarinda is far from sure that there is any rational explanation. Still, it would take more than an enforced marriage to an incorrigible pugilistic libertine or persecution from malevolent spectres to damage her steely nerves and sense of the ridiculous.

This lively Gothic comedy, written as a good natured satire of the cliches of classical Gothic, gives the reader a warm-hearted and courageous heroine, a rascally but beguiling anti-hero and an authentic historical background to the delightfully over-the-top adventures, a cast of wholly believable characters, an engaging love story and many chills on its way to its tumultuous conclusion.

The Villainous Viscount, a Regency Era paranormal romance tells the tale of a family curse set to destroy a tight-knit group of douche bros 1820s style. Ultimately, why should the reader care if a group of lecherous drunks is getting what they deserve? Well, two words: Harley Venn. Venn is the villainous viscount and for all his liabilities, he’s just so darn likable as the perfect, imperfect anti-hero. The accidental death of his close friend has Harley contemplating a more domesticated life. His dwindling bank account all but forces him to seek a wife with a fortune. With little more to offer than his devastating good looks, remarkable musical ability, and title, Venn sets out to find a wife. And, in an era of social restriction and repression, Clarinda Greendale has little recourse but to accept Venn’s offer of partnership. Together the pair must guard against the curse as those in Harley’s social circle are targeted by a malevolent phantom. 

I love the enriching benefits of historical fiction. The Villainous Viscount is a well-researched glimpse at the absurdity of 1820s English high society. Clarinda and Harley make a sweet pair once they move past one another’s surface qualities. They both stand to learn much from the other. And, of course, historical fiction cannot help but inject modern sensibilities into the storyline. Elliott raises questions of sexual equality and consent; ideas I’m certain would’ve been absolutely outlandish at this time. Clarinda ponders, “Perhaps all women, or none, are sluts, any more than men.” Later, she voices her frustration with the male/female power imbalance: “Still, I don’t see why the woman in the case always has to suffer the consequences, and never the man, she should blame the libertine, not one of his former victims. He had all the power after all.” While Clarinda is a little too virtuous for my tastes, her enlightenment makes her an interesting character.

The story of the curse itself was decent, but the relationship dynamics are what most held my interest. Overall a good read for fans of historical fiction.

Four Sheep

Bianca Greenwood

About the Author:
Lucinda Elliot - recently awarded the B.R.A.G medallion for outstanding fiction for 'That Scoundrel Emile Dubois' - loves writing Gothic style stories, which isn't surprising because she was brought up in a series of great old isolated houses which her parents were refurbishing (it wasn't so fashionable back then). After that, she lived, studied and worked in London for many years and now lives in Mid Wales with her family.
She loves writing about strong women to complement gugung-ho males.

Her interests include weight training and body shaping, and she was once a champion Sportsfighter, but apart from that her interests are quite geeky. Reading classic novels, conservation, gardening, and even names and their meanings (bring on the carrot juice). She loves a laugh above anything.

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