Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sheila Bishop: Honora Clare

Honora Clare was published in March 1981 by Fawcett under their Coventry Romance line #101. It is the story of Honora who is left with two houses in Bath after the death of her father. She decides to open a boarding school for young ladies with these buildings and never realizes that her young ladies could lead her to love and romance!

This is what I would call a typical illustration of Allan Kass for a regency story. His early regency pictures were elegant with the couple always emphasized and the other details always true to the time period. This cover is pretty and set outside in Bath, probably in a park, and shows our couple sharing a moment together. Her purple day dress is simple and her necklace and bracelets are typically Kass. Our hero is handsome in bottle green jacket and buff trousers. I like the rotunda building and swans!

Bath is a beautiful city set on the river Avon in England and a treat to visit. It was built by John Wood and his son, architects who designed the Georgian buildings and town layout. Some of the famous places are the Circus, Royal Crescent, Laura Place, Pulteney Bridge, Bath Abbey, and the Roman Baths. It is an easy city to walk and has many shops, sights, and restaurants. In the 1800's it was considered a place for invalids who took advantage of the baths and water.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sheila Bishop: Consequences

Consequences was published by Fawcett in September 1981 under the Coventry line #137. It is set in Georgian England (late 1790's) and is the story of Lavinia, who is depressed after the death of her fourth child and finds that intrigues involving both her marriage and the country are brewing.

Allan Kass creates a beautiful illustration with our couple in an outdoor setting. Note the beautiful gazebo and fountain. The heroine's dress has a Georgian style with a full skirt and long sleeves. Our hero is dressed in a typical style of a full coated jacket and knee breeches with stockings. His hair is long, unpowdered, and in a queue.

The Georgian time period spanned the reigns of George 1 through George 4 (1714-1830). This was a great era of change, from social, such as the abolition of slavery, to political, such as the losing of the American Colonies and the revolution in France. It was also a great time for the arts, architecture, and music.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Juliette Benzoni: Marianne and the Privateer

Marianne and the Privateer was published by Berkley in April 1975. This is another story in the saga of Marianne who is rescued from a deadly fire by her only true love, privateer Jason Beaufort. This story in intense as they are drawn apart once again and he is charged with murder and treason.

Allan Kass paints another illustration that is a departure from his elegant regency covers. We see our couple on the high seas with the heroine being threatened (?) by the hero. She holds a sword either in anticipation of an attack by the ship in the background or by the hero, himself! She is dressed in gyspy garb; note her hoop earrings and torn skirt. The hero is scruffy and not Kass's usual elegant hero! He carries a pistol and also wears an earring! I love the background with the ship, turbulent water, and sunset or sunrise!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Juliette Benzoni: Marianne

Marianne by Juliette Benzoni was published by Berkley in February 1975. This is the story of Marianne and her adventures from her birth in revolutionary France, to her marriage in England, to her return to France to serve Napoleon Bonaparte! Marianne is a story reminiscent of books like Angelique!

Allan Kass draws an illustration that is a slight departure from his regency romance covers! It shows the couple in an embrace that is reminiscent of a true historical romance! The heroine is beautiful in a yellowish-green gown while the hero is resplendent in uniform. Note the mysterious note, chest, and knife on the table. The opulent bed or chaise in the background gives us a clue to the hero's intent!
I was excited to find this cover and see that Allan did a few books that were different from his elegant regency illustrations.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Anne Barbour: A Talent for Trouble

A Talent for Trouble was published by Signet in August 1992. Author Anne Barbour writes a tale about an artist named Talitha who is in London for her first season. Witty Viscount Chelmsfold is penning a satire of society and wants Talitha to illustrate his work. What happens when the shy debutante and sarcastic lord work together is the plot of this novel.

Allan Kass paints a unique picture for this cover. He captures our heroine artist at her easel with the tools of her trade nearby. She is dressed in a yellow day gown and most noticeable are her locket and titian hair! The hero stands in the background: is he looking at the easel or her?? It's a very colorful illustration that captures the heart of this book.

The author makes a note that this novel is based very loosely on Life in London by Pierce Egan, which was an adventure story set during regency times about Tom and Jerry! Yes, those names are now part of our culture with the cartoon inspired by this work!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Anne Barbour: Kate and the Soldier

Kate and the Soldier was published by Signet in May 1993. Anne Barbour writes a story about Kate, who is glad that her childhood love, David, is back from the Napoleonic Wars. She still admires him but will a penniless soldier fall in love with an heiress?

Allan Kass creates a scene from the book where our couple is treasure hunting. It's interesting to see our heroine holding a shovel. Note the dirt on her dress! The hero holds a lantern and they both are intent in hunting for something! This is a unique and interesting cover!

Many places in Britain still have Roman ruins that are even now being excavated. Also, people hid jewels, money, and gold when England's Civil War, under Oliver Cromwell, broke out. Some older houses and estates still haven't given up their secrets!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Anne Barbour: A Dedicated Scoundrel

The next author in the Allan Kass series of illustrations is Anne Barbour. She wrote quite a few books for Signet, but 3 were illustrated by Allan. A Dedicated Scoundrel was published in June 1997 and is the story of Catherine who meets a smooth stranger and realizes that he's not what he seems. She distrusts men after being cast aside by a faithless suitor and fears that Mr. Smith is such a man.

Allan Kass illustrates this book with a picture of our couple standing near an estate. The heroine is dressed in a simple morning dress with a coordinating shawl. Her hair is down, which would suggest very early morning or a clandestine meeting with our hero. He is dressed very informally; maybe wearing the clothes of a servant. Note the horse: was our hero riding him? It's an intriguing cover and one of Allan's last ones since he retired in 1998.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mary Balogh: The Wood Nymph

The Wood Nymph is the last book that Allan Kass illustrated for Mary Balogh. It was published by Signet in January 1987. This story is about Lady Helen Wade, who is attracted to William Mainwaring in spite of his rakish lifestyle. When he accosts her repeatedly, she asks him to leave her alone. What happens after this is classic Balogh storytelling!

Allan Kass paints our couple in a wooded setting. It is beautiful and cool. They are both dressed informally: she without a hat and him without a jacket. Her golden dress is pretty with lace trim at the sleeves and a russet sash. Note her bangle bracelets and hoop earrings! It doesn't seem to be an unwanted embrace. I love the small stream in the background with the trees and brush nearby. The talent of illustrators lies in producing what the author envisioned and I believe that Allan Kass was consistent in painting beautiful covers that portrayed a scene from the story that the author was telling.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mary Balogh: The Ungrateful Governess

The Ungrateful Governess was published by Signet in October 1988 and is the story of Jessica Moore, governess. The Earl of Rutherford is interested in making her his mistress, but she resists. He takes her to stay with his grandmother and comes to realize that he is in love with her. But can he marry a servant? That is his dilemma.

Allan Kass painted an outdoor scene for this book with our couple skating on a pond. I love her deep purple coat and gloves that blend so well with her red hair! Our hero is handsome in cherry red! It is a beautiful day with the sun setting in the distance. A romantic setting to tell someone that you love them!

Mary Balogh has become one of the leading romance authors. She currently has 4 new books out for publication and is famous for her Bedwyn series. Mary was raised in Wales and moved to Canada, where she lives with her family. Previously, she was a teacher. She has a website at where you can find all of her titles with pictures and excerpts.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mary Balogh: An Unacceptable Offer

An Unacceptable Offer was published by Signet in May 1988 authored by Mary Balogh. It is the story of Viscount Fairfax, who is a widower with 2 girls. He really isn't looking for another wife, but meets Jane Matthews, who is incredulous that he proposes and even more astounded when she responds, "no"! What happens when the handsome Lord and plain Jane realize that they are meant for each other is the plot of this story.

This is a gorgeous Allan Kass illustration with a very simple setting that frames our couple. Note her beautiful day dress with the accent rose at her waist. It almost looks like a nightgown! Our hero is dressed in formal wear and seems to be reassuring our heroine. I like the play of light on the wall in the background as our couple looks out the window onto a formal park setting.

Mary Balogh: The Temporary Wife

The Temporary Wife was published in May 1997 by Signet. Mary Balogh writes a story about Lord Anthony, who is jaded by London life and has an ill father. To thwart his parent's marriage plans for him, Lord Anthony places an ad for a governess, hoping to find a quiet, biddable woman to marry and take to his father! When he meets Charity, he finds that she is the perfect woman to carry out this charade. What happens when he finds out she is perfect for him is the plot of this story!!

Allan Kass paints a pretty picture with our couple outside at dusk near a rotunda building that has a party inside. She wears an evening dress while our hero is dressed in formal evening wear. Note her beautiful pearls around her neck and in her ears! The setting is gorgeous with the flowers, pond, and building. I especially love the reflection in the water. This is one of Allan's last illustrations and he did so many for Mary Balogh, so I'm glad that he did this book also.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mary Balogh: Snow Angel

Snow Angel was published by Signet in June 1991. It is another hard to find book by Mary Balogh and about the widowed Lady Rosamund who knew a tender love from her older husband. Sparks fly when the Earl of Wetherby rescues her from a winter accident and she stays in a secluded house with him. What happens during that intimate interlude and afterwards when they meet at a houseparty is the plot of this regency by Mary Balogh!

Allan Kass creates a cover with our couple at the scene of the accident. Note how the hero is helping with the broken wheel while she looks on. I love all of the colors in this picture along with the action of this cover. The hero wears a dark green greatcoat while our heroine is cheery in a red cape with hood, that compliments her dark hair. Note the interior of the coach, which looks as if it has room for 2 inside and a coachman and rider outside. A carriage like this one would be expensive to purchase and maintain, since it was drawn by at least 2 horses.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mary Balogh: Secrets of the Heart

Secrets of the Heart was published by Signet in April 1988 and was one of their "Super Regencies". They started publishing longer stories under this line. This cover was a reprint of an earlier version and with a tiny picture by Allan Kass. I'm pretty sure that it's an original painting and not a cover done for another book. Of course, it's small and shows a head shot of our couple. ** Edit** I realized that this cover's headshot is the same as the illustration for Norma Lee Clark's Cupid's Calendar! Recycling at its best!

Secrets of the Heart is a story of love lost and then found. Sarah is married to the Duke of Cranwell, but their love is tested after their marriage by her secret past. It looks as if their marriage ends before it really begins, but later, in Bath, they meet again and wonder if they should pursue a formal separation and divorce, when cupid strikes our pair again!

Some of Signet's most popular authors wrote for the Super Regency line: Edith Layton, Barbara Allister, and Mary Balogh are the few that come to mind. I believe that this was the beginning of the regency historical romance. Authors were able to pen a longer story line and add some plots that they couldn't in the shorter regencies. Nowadays, thin regencies are only published by Harlequin, but many authors who began in the regency genre are writing books set in regency times in the thicker historical romances.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mary Balogh: Red Rose

Red Rose was written by Mary Balogh and published by Signet in March 1986. Rosalind Dacey is an outspoken, sharp tongued woman and her guardian, the Earl of Raymore, is determined to marry her off. What happens when a suitable suitor enters the scene is the plot of this story!

Allan Kass draws an interesting picture with our heroine in a rose colored dress, which was an affectation that women with special flower names would wear. Sometimes they would design their whole wardrobe around a certain color. She is an elegant, dark beauty! Note her beautiful hair color!! It's interesting to see the room in which our couple stands; it's elegantly furnished. The only questionable piece is the lamp which looks electric. Candles were used to light rooms because electricity usage hadn't been invented.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Mary Balogh: A Precious Jewel

A Precious Jewel was published in June 1993 by Signet. Mary Balogh pens a heart wrenching tale of a young lady who, because of poverty, chooses a life of prostitution. Sir Gerald, a customer of hers, likes her and asks her to become his mistress, something he said he'd never have. What happens when the knight and the mistress fall in love?

Allan Kass paints a picture of our couple near a pond on an estate. She is dressed in a summery yellow afternoon dress with a little trim while our hero is complimentary in purple and gold. Note her short brown hair, which would have been unusual at that time. The park beyond just beckons for a walk and you can almost hear the frogs croaking in the pond!

Life was hard for women during this time and many would marry anyone in order to escape poverty or drudgery. Remember Pride and Prejudice where Lizzy's friend, Charlotte Lucas, marries the vicar as a way to provide for herself and her family. Churches and private charities were doing their part to end this cycle of abuse against women because many were tricked into prostitution from fake job offers and "madams" who would meet country coaches to find innocent girls to exploit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mary Balogh: A Masked Deception

A Masked Deception is the book that started it least with Mary Balogh because it was her first book! Signet published it in February 1985 and it a very creative story about a young bride, who is married to a man in an arranged marriage, seduces him into loving her by disguising herself!

Allan Kass drew a magnificent cover with our heroine looking saucily back at the hero. She is in costume as a lady of the 17th century with her beautifully detailed gown and powdered hairdo. I love the purple/yellow combination. Her mask is creative with the ostrich feathers! Our hero is dashing in male garb from the same era. Note the ornate detail of his coat. Even the couple in the background wears costumes and masks! It is one of Allan's most beautiful illustrations and a great one for a new author! Balogh must have been ecstatic when she saw this cover!!

Because marriages were still arranged during regency times, a woman had to be crafty in order to gain her husband's love. Some were lucky to find it, and others had to work for it. Many just gave in and after having an "heir and spare" would go on to take lovers. In that time, affairs were common as long as you didn't get caught. Divorce was very rare and extremely expensive and embarrassing for those involved. This doesn't make it right, and luckily most regency romances have happy endings!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mary Balogh: The Last Waltz

The Last Waltz was published by Signet in November 1998. This would make it one of the last books that Allan Kass illustrated and also one of the last Signets from Mary Balogh. This story is about Lady Christina and her struggles turning over her home, Thornwood, to the new owner, Sir Gerard, a past love of hers.

It's sad that Allan Kass quit illustrating in 1998. He mentioned in a letter to me that Signet had asked him to take a pay decrease and that the demands of illustrating regency romances were getting silly. One cover he turned down was to have a pig on the cover! He wanted to keep them elegant and refined.

This cover is interesting because our couple is waltzing and the hero has his back turned away from us. It's Christmas, and you can see the decorations on the fireplace mantel. Our heroine wears a festive green dress and pearls in her hair. This is an amazing piece of art for someone who was 80 years old!

Christmas during regency times was a celebration of family and friends. It was usually celebrated from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, which was a celebration of Christ's manifestation to the Gentiles and held on January 6th. Christmas trees were not used and didn't become in vogue until Victorian times.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mary Balogh: Lady with a Black Umbrella

Lady with a Black Umbrella was published in September 1989 by Signet for author Mary Balogh. It is a humorous story about Daisy, who considers herself too old to wed, but intends to find her younger sister a spouse. Unfortunately, Daisy falls in love with the perfect groom for her sister!

Allan Kass creates a vivid and interesting picture for this cover! Of course, the black umbrella is close at hand and looks as if it's been used to knock the men who are running away from the inn. Our heroine has beautiful chestnut hair and is wearing a simple sky blue gown. The hero has on an olive green caped greatcoat with a wide collar and buttons. Note the inn sign, probably named the Swan. In ancient England, few people could read, so the pub signs were usually pictures! It looks like a cozy place to visit!

Travel during regency times was convenient, considering the road system. The wealthy would have their own horses stabled at coaching inns for their personal use. Inns were well known and usually served a neat meal. Some were cleaner than others and frequently people carried their own sheets! Rich people usually had their own transportation, but those less endowed rode the stagecoach or hired a post chaise to convey them. Frequently postilions were hired to keep the traveling party safe.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Ideal Wife

The Ideal Wife was published by Signet in October 1991 and written by Mary Balogh. Mary Balogh writes an interesting tale of a new Earl being pushed into marriage by his relatives when he meets a poor distant relative named Abigail. She seems the answer to the matchmakers, but she has a secret. What happens next is regency romance that only Balogh can write!

Allan Kass paints a beautiful cover of our couple waltzing. Note her magnificent ball dress to befit a countess! I like the sewn on jewels on her sleeves and the gold brocade trim. I like that it's different colors, too. Note the couple behind them: the man's uniform and the high feather plume in the lady's hair! Also, the ballroom is simply elegant with a wedgwood blue theme.

I think it's interesting that sometimes Allan painted couples by themselves, with just furniture or gardens to set a scene, and other covers have more people on them as a setting. This cover is beautiful and could have stood alone with just our hero and heroine, but having the second couple dancing gives the cover a different feel. Allan mentioned in a letter that it was funny because after he moved to Montana, he had hoped to paint western themed covers, but he got "New England Churches" instead!! Those of us who love regency romances are glad that the publishers gave those books to him to paint!!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Gift of Daisies

A Gift of Daisies was published by Signet in February 1989 and written by Mary Balogh. This story is unique in the fact that the hero is the Reverend David Gower, soon to be vicar. He is in London staying with a cousin while looking for a good woman to be his wife, but he is attracted to the young, lively Rachel Palmer. She, however, is searching London for a perfect match! Could these two unlikely people end up together?

Allan Kass paints a cover that takes in both the title of the book and the profession of the hero with the heroine carrying daisies while the church is in the background. It's a beautiful scene in a garden. Maybe he was sitting on the bench reading when she walked up?
I also love his vicar's garb while she wears a cheery striped spring dress! The differences in their outfits signify their differences in status.

In upper class families, the oldest son inherited the estate, while any other sons went into vocations like the army, church, and law; sometimes whether they wanted this job or not! Our hero seems to have a sincere calling for the church, but most unmarried women didn't look for a vicar to marry because he would not have a large income. Some vicars would add to their income by taking on more than one parish or by having an independent income or inheritance.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mary Balogh: Gentle Conquest

Gentle Conquest was published by Signet in December 1987. Mary Balogh writes a story about Georgiana Barton who marries Lord Ralph Chartleigh, a man that her parents picked out for her. He was not the dashing suitor she herself would have picked and how she plans to change him after their marriage is the plot of this story.

Allan Kass illustrates a tender moment in the life of our couple as they walk through a walled garden. They are dressed in morning informal dress. Note how her dress blends in with the scenery and the touch of the garden with the rose at her waist. The hero tenderly holds her close as they walk.

Regency dress imitated the Greek mode during the 1810's. Lord Elgin had brought back Greek statues and tablets back to England and this influenced the style of dress with clean, straight lines and little trim or embellishment. Mens dress was influenced greatly by Beau Brummell, who advocated no wigs, bathing daily, and clean linen!

Allan Kass lived in Montana during the time that he created book illustrations and used the townspeople and ski bums as models! I hope that some of them have seen their likeness in some of these covers!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mary Balogh: The First Snowdrop

The First Snowdrop was published in September 1986 by Signet and written by Mary Balogh. Alexander Stewart marries Anne Parrish in haste and leaves her to resume his hedonistic life in London. The twist and turns of their relationship are the plot of this book.

Allan Kass creates a striking room for our couple. I can't tell if there is a great window or a picture in the background with the lake and pagoda. The heroine seems to be imploring the hero for something. She is dressed in a fine golden yellow that sets off her auburn hair. Note her bracelets and earrings. Our hero is stark in a black jacket and beige trousers. He wears an ornamental watch fob on his waist. The room is simply, but elegantly furnished with an Aubusson carpet and extra chairs. This could be a dining room; note the ornate chandelier.

I am fortunate to have 2 of Allan's paintings in my possession and the originals are so beautiful that it's hard to express their loveliness. One of the reasons I love book covers is that it is an inexpensive way to "own" art! Unfortunately, publishers have gone the way of photoshop and canned pictures to illustrate books nowadays and it is a shame. Hopefully others will appreciate the great illustrators and their work of the 1970's-1990's!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mary Balogh: The Famous Heroine

The Famous Heroine is another Signet regency by Mary Balogh and was published in June 1996. This book is about Cora Downes, a merchant's daughter, who becomes the darling of the ton when she saves a duke's son from drowning. Lord Francis Kneller is intrigued with her and what happens when they need to marry is the plot of this story.

Mary Balogh enjoys having continuing characters in her books, and Lord Francis is a minor character in a few of them. Check her website at to see how books connect.

Allan Kass paints a cute illustration with our couple outside in a London park. Note her cheery yellow outfit that compliments his bluish purple jacket! The orange trim compliments her dress. I like the shaggy dog in the background!

At this time, it would have been very unusual for a merchant's daughter to marry into high society unless she had money. Most aristocrats knew what was expected to their families and would marry within their class. England was still a class driven society during the regency. In this story, Cora is accepted by the Duchess, who plans to marry her to a gentleman.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mary Balogh: The Double Wager

The Double Wager was published by Signet in June 1985 and written by Mary Balogh. Allan Kass illustrated a beautiful cover with our couple in a curricle. A curricle was a light, 2 wheeled vehicle driven by 2 horses. Our hero takes the heroine for a ride in the park. Couples could be alone while driving without a chaperone. Allan's work shows a small lake with swans in the park with another couple strolling. Note her afternoon dress and matching accessories. Our hero wears a riding coat with stiff driving gloves to protect his hands.

Interesting wagers are the plot of this story as our heroine looks to marry during the season. The fun is what happens when our hero is also wagering on love!

Betting and wagers were a large part of regency life. Everyone from the Prince down wagered. Many fortunes were lost at cards and horse racing, lotteries, and personal wagers were also popular among gamblers. Ladies were usually discreet, but still played cards and placed wagers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mary Balogh: A Counterfeit Betrothal

A Counterfeit Betrothal was published by Signet in June 1992 and is another hard to find book by Mary Balogh. Allan Kass paints a beautiful cover with our couple outside in a garden. Our heroine looks as if she has been cutting daffodils for an arrangement. Note the flowers all around her and the beautiful periwinkle color of her dress. The hero gazes up at her in a friendly manner. It's a simple, but very colorful and serene setting.

Lady Sophia isn't interested in marrying but she is trying to bring her separated parents back together again. She plots with Lord Francis to enter a pretend engagement in order to accomplish this task!

Divorce was rare during regency times and very hard and costly to get. Couples who didn't get along many times separated and lived apart until they reconciled or one died. In a time where a lot of marriages were arranged, it's amazing that many marriages stayed together!