Sunday, April 13, 2014

What I've Read This Week Part III

What I've Read This Week Part III . . .

Leave it to PsmithLeave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Romantic Comedy

Eustace Psmith (he 'P' is silent, as in psychic and ptarmigan) is down and out. He quit the family fish business where he had been obliged to start from the bottom up. He hopes his friend Conrade Jackson will help but Jackson is not as wealthy as he appears because he's wife's stepfather is married to Lady Constance Threepwood, who holds the purse strings. Eve Halliday is also down and out. She turns to her friend Phyllis Jackson for support and Phyllis confides in her friend that her husband wants to buy a farm in Lincolnshire and he applied to her stepfather for a loan but her wicked stepmother, Lady Constance hates her and won't float the loan. Eve is outraged when she discovers that Phyllis' stepfather lives at Blandings Castle, the very place she has been engaged as librarian/cataloguer. Freddie Threepwood too is in need of money and applies to Joe Keeble. Uncle Joe is terribly upset about not being able to help Phyllis so Freddie hits upon the perfect scheme: steal Lady Constance's necklace and tell her she'll get a new one, then instead reset the stolen necklace so it looks new and use the money for the replacement to help the young people who need it. Psmith places an ad in the paper looking for work, not opposed to crime, just no fish and is approached by Freddie Threepwood about stealing Aunt Connie's diamond necklace. He would do it himself, but he's afraid he would mess up. Before Psmith can get any particulars, Freddie dashes off. When Psmith next encounters the Threepwood family, he finds himself sitting with Lord Emsworth who mistakes Psmith for a Canadian poet McTodd. Emsworth has invited McTodd to stay at Blandings Castle and unknown to Lord Emsworth, the man felt snubbed by the absentminded Earl so stormed off in a huff without taking his train ticket. There's nothing to do but for Psmith to travel to Blandings Castle. He loves the village, the castle grounds and most especially Eve, whom he had fallen in love with at first sight in London without knowing her name. Left to her own devices, Eve is all work and no play but Psmith is determined to cure her of that. Rounding out the guests is a dreamy poetess, a Miss Peevy. Then someone claiming to be McTodd shows up but is actually another imposter. Lady Constance's necklace actually does get stolen but who stole it and where did they put it? Baxter is determined to solve the mystery and rid Blandings Castle of the imposters.

This isn't the best Wodehouse story. The plot is almost identical to Something Fresh with the exception of Psmith. The story moves very slowly towards the inevitable screwball conclusion. The screwball scene is funny but not quite at the level of the later Blandings Castle novels. The scene where Baxter tries to prove all is nearly identical to the scene in Something Fresh but not as funny. I can tell from the pacing of this story that P.G. Wodehouse wrote for the stage. It lacks stage directions but otherwise this story reads like a play.

Psmith is a socialist who calls everyone Comrade (last name) which really annoyed me because it was hard enough to keep everyone straight as it is without having them called by one name. He thinks he's very clever and witty. His sense of humor is a bit too dry for me, I guess. I didn't like his lack of morals and his carefree attitude. His dialogue is off the wall crazy and very intellectual in a Wodehousian way. He stalks Eve to convince her they belong together al while lying to her. I didn't find him charming in the least bit. I did enjoy him in the screwball scene though. He was very clever and witty. I found Eve difficult to like too. We don't get to know much about her except that she's a loyal friend. I don't really get a sense of romance brewing on her end. She spends much of the book fending off Psmith and Freddie and going about the grounds with Psmith until the end when she finally has something to do. I didn't like Joe Keeble at all. He's too weak and unable to stand up to Constance. He's loving and kind but not strong.

The Threepwoods are some of my favorite literary characters now. Freddie Threepwood is a lovable idiot. He really doesn't have much in the old brain box. He seems to have traded detective novels for silent films. He has a love of the melodramatic all the same. I give up a lot of credit for remembering the plots of every film he's ever seen and how he can apply it to the situation at hand. Maybe he's not so stupid after all. He thinks he's in love with Eve and doesn't understand why she keeps rejecting him, other than money. He's so innocent and simple that I can't help but love him. Maybe the apple doesn't fall far from the tree because Lord Emsworth is incredibly absent-minded for most of this novel. He isn't in it very much, too preoccupied with his gardens to be interested in the goings-on inside the Castle. Lady Constance isn't in the story much either and Gallahad doesn't appear at all, unfortunately.

Baxter was his usual annoying self, trying to rule the Castle and set everything on the straight and narrow. He goes from being a minor character to being a major one at the end. He isn't as crazy as Lord Emsworth makes him out to be but maybe craziness rubbed off on him. The best characters are two who would spoil the plot if I said who they were. Their dialogue is pure cheese and very funny. They came as a real surprise to me and while I didn't find them very appealing as people, as characters in a comedy, they were great. Only P.G. Wodehouse could write characters like that.

I've noticed P.G. Wodehouse had a formula and stuck to it. It gets kind of repetitive after awhile. This isn't my favorite Wodehouse novel and I would have been fine not reading it except I wanted to know about Baxter and the flower pots.

Charms and Chocolate Chips (A Magical Bakery Mystery, #3)Charms and Chocolate Chips by Bailey Cates -- Paranormal Cozy Mystery

It's been four months since the events of Samhain when Katie Lightfoot learned her true destiny. She's keeping busy with the bakery, book club, volunteering with Georgia Wildlife Refuge and "going steady" with the right man. The GWR is trying to save a local swamp where there may have been sightings of an extinct species of bat. Katie is shocked when one of the GWR employees is murdered. Autumn was found with an origami maroon bat in her hand and Katie senses something wrong with it. She's determined to leave the investigating to Detective Quinn, but when first Katie's friend Wren is threatened and then Katie herself, she decides to take matters into her own hands. She has to rely on help from some unexpected people. Meanwhile business at the bakery is a bit slow and Lucy is trying to figure out how to help people; Cookie is ignoring Katie and Bianca is looking for love again and may have found it in the eccentric professor living in the swamp Katie is trying to save.

The subject of this mystery is interesting because it involves environmental protection, something I'm interest in. I liked the sound of GWR and their work. I liked learning how a non-profit operates and their struggles to stay afloat. The mystery itself was a bit lacking. The murder happens very randomly in the beginning of the book and it didn't take me long to figure out who did it despite the red herrings. Why was a lot more complicated than first guess. The final confrontation didn't make any sense. I read it twice to figure out what had happened and still didn't get it. There is a lot of magical jargon I didn't understand and wasn't explained. I was confused as to what had happened and why. Katie also doesn't understand her power and no one is explaining to to her, let alone the reader. This contributed to my confusion.

The other parts of the story were somewhat interesting. As always I like seeing behind the scenes at the bakery but there weren't many scenes there. There wasn't a lot about the other ladies of the coven. I still can't tell them apart based on their dialogue. Katie finally chose to date one of her two potential boyfriends. I understand her choice but don't necessarily agree with it. It seems like she chose the wrong man. She tries too hard to justify the relationship and please everyone, yet she seems to be holding back a bit. Her romance is perfectly clean. Her guy spends the night to be with her when she's scared, but it's more platonic than anything. I liked her unexpected visitor and how their story progressed. Katie's personal confrontation was realistic but then resolved too quickly. I thought the other person's reaction was natural to start with and they should have needed more time. I also liked the explanation of Imbolic and how they celebrate it but the rest of the magical stuff had me lost. As always, Mungo steals every scene he's in. I just love him!

This is a nice, quick read for something different.

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

The Affair at the Inn by Kate Douglas Wiggin, Mary Findlater, Jane Findlater, Allan McAulay --Historical Romance

A group of very different travelers meet at a country inn in Dartmoor in England. There's the lively American girl Virginia Pomeroy and her semi-invalid, hypochondriac mother; an older woman, Mrs. MacGill and her companion Cecilia Evesham. Rounding out the little group is Sir Archibald Maxwell Mackenzie. It's very dull and gloomy in Dartmoor and the travelers are the only ones at the inn. Mrs. Pomeroy and Mrs. MacGill are happy to stay indoors and complain about their various (often imagined) ailments. Sir Archibald Maxwell Mackenzie only cares about his motorcar. Virginia is determined to get a ride in the motor and sets out to charm Sir Archibald. He fears her exuberance and energy. He knows little about women and cares even less about them. Over the course of two weeks the characters get to know each other and have adventures together.

The plot moves at a pretty slow pace. There are a couple of episodes of adventure but otherwise the story is mainly the internal thoughts of the characters. Each of them relates the same scene from their personal point-of-view to give us a complete picture of what happened. Sir Archibald is the only one who really has any sort of deep thoughts or feelings. The story didn't really capture my attention.

Each of the authors wrote for a different character. The best known author, Kate Douglas Wiggin, wrote the part of Virginia Pomeroy. Virginia is young and full of high spirits. She's bored which makes her rather annoying in her behavior towards Sir Archibald and his motor. She's very wealthy and hasn't had many difficulties in her young life which gives her a sunny outlook. Mrs. Pomeroy isn't a main character but she seems to be in poor health and also a hypochondriac. She's not on page very often so she manages not to be as annoying as Mrs. MacGill.
Cecilia on the other hand, is burdened with the care of a crotchety old woman and has been made old before her time. She suffers from her own very real health problems and an employer who is too selfish to care about anyone else. Cecilia seemed the most interesting character. She shows a little bit of change for the better as the story progresses, but her story is cut short because she's not the main character. Mrs. MacGill is a selfish, mean spirited, awful old woman. She's always sticking her nose in and correcting what she sees as the improper behavior of the young people. In HER day, young ladies didn't act like Virginia. She's so self-absorbed she knows and cares nothing at all about where the Pomeroys are from and where they are going. She has no sympathy for her companion and is demanding and difficult. Sir Archibald is the opposite of a romantic hero. He's shy and stiff and sometimes a bit rude. Out of all the characters, he's the only one who exhibits any growth.

The first edition of the book contains some lovely mezzotint drawings by Martin Justice. They don't fit my image of the characters but the pictures of Virginia really show off the fashionable clothing styles of the day!

What I've Read This Week Part II

What I've Read This Week Part II . . .

Lady PamelaLady Pamela by Clare Darcy -- Regency Romance

Lady Pamela Frayne has been managing her Grandpapa's household on her own for two years now, so when Grandpapa gets in a state about a despatch missing from his Foreign Office box, Lady Pamela decides to take matters into her own hands. Grandpapa, Lord Nevans, fears Lady Pamela's brother, Viscount Wynstanley (Wyn) stole the document and gave it to his disreputable friend Cedric Mansell. Pamela is certain her brother had nothing to do with it but a shadow of a doubt remains so there's nothing to do but go after Wyn and follow him to Whiston Castle. In February. In a snow storm. Lady Pamela is unable to obtain a vehicle to take to Whiston Castle, but upon spying a public coach she absolutely insists on riding in it along the Bath Road to Marlborough despite the coachman's assurance that they will likely overturn. Such a thing comes to pass and so Lady Pamela is stuck at a country inn with an infuriating man known as Carlin. He appears to be a gentleman come down in the world and reduced to working as a coachman. He dares say no to Lady Pamela's schemes! Alas for Carlin, Lady Pamela finds a way to Whiston Castle after all and when next she sees the man, he's calling himself Lord Devan and is accepted as a guest at Whiston Castle! Danger and intrigue are afoot as Lady Pamela plans her next move. With the help of Carlin/Lord Devan and her brother Wyn, she manages to escape back to London. Grandpapa is unwell so Lady Pamela feels she can not consult him on her next move. Much to her dismay, Carlin/Lord Devan arrives in London to infuriate her and help her steal back the despatch, much to the dismay of her long suffering fiance Lord Babcoke, a most proper gentleman who dislikes making a fuss more than he dislikes Pamela's not so seemly behavior!

This story could almost be another Georgette Heyer novel. The plot is more mystery than romance, and very predictable, but it had enough going to make me want to keep reading to find how just how things got to the inevitable conclusion. The writing style is similar to Georgette Heyer and there is a lot of period slang in the novel. The language isn't too difficult to figure out from the context and it's used more sparingly than in Georgette Heyer's books. The plot pacing is very good until the end when it could have used a little more time to develop the romance.

Lady Pamela is crazy. She's somewhat young, being one-and-twenty, but she thinks being the head of household gives her wisdom beyond her years. Not so. She's headstrong and impulsive which leads her into some wild escapades and crazy scrapes. She doesn't take no for an answer and no one even bothers to tell her no, except a certain person. Despite her faults, I found her enchanting. She's a delightful character who provides a lot of laughs. The only thing I found really unbelievable about her is her naivety when it came to a certain person's identity. It was perfectly obvious to me but she's more innocent than she realizes and took what she saw at face value. Lord Babcoke is an unsuitable suitor for Pamela. He was pretty much tricked into offering for her because she decided to fall in love with him when she was 15. It's clear he doesn't approve of her behavior but neither does he try to correct it. He's so weak-willed, he's unable to stand up to any woman who dominates him. I didn't like that about him but he exhibits character growth which I did like. That leads to one of the funniest parts of the book. He is in danger of becoming another Lord Whiston whose wife is so domineering, he doesn't have any independence. Carlin/Lord Devan is a Corinthian/alpha hero. We don't know much about him personally except that he likes to get into scrapes as much as Lady Pamela does. Unlike Pamela, he knows how to proceed carefully and when to stop and how to get help if the situation is serious. He actually stops to think. His dialogue is witty and amusing. If we knew more about him, I think I could love him. 

Wyn is a typical young man about town. He is afraid of his tyrannical grandfather and his sister but he does know how to stand up for himself on occasion and he cares about his sister a lot. The villains are fairly stereotypical villains but one has some character traits that make him more unique. The Whiston family round out the major characters. They're a pretty colorful family but each one is a superficial character type rather than a fully fleshed out character.

I really enjoyed this story in spite of having read it once before. I didn't really remember anything about it so I'm giving it 4 stars because it obviously isn't all that memorable.

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week Part I . . .

A Proper Companion (Regency Rakes, #1)A Proper Companion by Candice Hern -- Regency Romance

Twenty-six years ago, an enceinte Lady Gwendolyn, daughter of the Earl of Pentwick, climbed out her bedroom window to elope with the unsuitable Walter Townsend. She was disowned by her family for her transgression, but happy enough with her husband and only daughter by her side. After her death, her husband lost his heart, his fortune, and finally, his life. Now their daughter Emily is companion to Countess Bradleigh and prefers to keep in the background. Lady Bradleigh is a kind employer and a good friend to Emily. She's a doting Grandmama but fiercely protective of her family and friends, so when she discovers through the newspaper that her grandson Robert, Lord Bradleigh, is to marry the very young and empty-headed Miss Augusta Windhurst. Worst of all, Lady Windhurst is an encroaching mushroom who would NOT be a welcome addition to the family. Dear Robert would be better off with someone more mature and sensible... like Emily! Lady Bradleigh then delves into a matchmaking scheme of grand proportions. She has to not only get her grandson to see her companion's worth, she has to make Miss Windhurst cry off. For that, Lady Bradleigh needs to visit London for the first time in many years. She endeavors to bring Emily Out into Society despite the young lady's protests. Lady Bradleigh's loyalties will be tested time and again as her wayward grandson sticks to his engagement promise. Emily's strength is tested as she faces suitors and villains and finds herself increasingly drawn to the irresistible, rakish Lord Bradleigh.

Take all your Regency cliches and put them in one novel and you have the plot of this book. I found it very formulaic and not all that interesting. The only time I enjoyed the plot was when Lady Bradleigh was on page scheming. The rest of the time I found myself rolling my eyes and skipping passages about the characters' physical attributes hoping to find some sort of redeeming factor in this novel. Sadly, I found none. The author includes way too many period details. I love period details but I don't need a description of every fashion plate, every piece of drawing room furniture, etc. etc. Emily is interested in politics and classical literature, yet those conversations are glossed over. The conclusion to the "romance" is too quick.

The characters are dreadful. Lord Bradleigh is a libertine. He admits that some of his reputation is based on gossip that he doesn't discourage because he hasn't wanted to be the target of matchmaking mamas. He confines his amorous exploits to matrons, widows and an occasional opera dancer, yet throughout the story he is continually frustrated because his engagement is hindering his usual way of life! He has decided to be a dutiful fiance but once the business of getting an heir is over, he'll resume his usual way of life and as long as Augusta is discreet, she can carry on with whomever she likes. This is the only way of life he has ever known. He grew up in a society that accepts such things, however, he discovers that middle class morality has crept up into the ton and his soon-to-be bride and her family will expect him to be a pattern card of propriety! He chafes against the idea and lusts after Emily. He flirts with her and wants her physically and feels anger towards any other man who wants her for himself. He doesn't really exhibit much growth by the end of the novel except realizing his own feelings. I guess we are to infer that now he has fallen in love, he will be a faithful husband? He also has a violent temper and uses his fists when he is angry. Needless to say, Lord Bradleigh is one rake I do not love.

Emily is a Mary Sue character or a Fanny Price with slightly more gumption. Actually, she's quite a lot like Jane Eyre. She's kind and caring; a good friend and excellent companion. She's too proud to accept charity and feels uncomfortable when Lady Bradleigh buys her new clothes and introduces her to Society. She is able to easily pacify the temperamental cook and is friendly to everyone she meets. Emily sticks to her convictions and chooses styles that she feels comfortable wearing and will suit her best. She can't help but be attracted to the seductive Lord Bradleigh but she's so sweet she can only see his good qualities. He's very close to his family members and loves his grandmother very much, he's caring and considerate and eager to help protect Emily against her enemies. She knows he's a rake and she knows he's engaged, but she can't help but fall in love with him. When she encounters the villain, her response is to cry. I would have been angry and defended myself. I did like that she is able to hold her head high in the face of gossip and she keeps a cool head when confronted with danger.

The two characters I liked best were Lady Bradleigh and Lottie, the maid. Both characters speak their minds and help direct the action. Lady Bradleigh is a kind-hearted lady but she can be the grande dame when she wants to be. She's a fun character, always meddling and manipulating so subtly that only those she has confided in know what she's up to. I liked that she wasn't your usual elderly dragon. Lottie is a young girl from the country so she doesn't have the airs that London servants do. She adds a lot of humor to the story. I also liked Anatole the temperamental French cook mainly because he was funny. His plot comes way out of nowhere and deserved a bit more explanation but it was cute.

The villains were so stereotypical. I guessed the motive even before they were introduced because the plot device has been used too often in these sorts of novels. The villains are truly despicable. One is the worst sort of villain. Both are rather weak and defeated too easily. I didn't like the way they were dealt with.

Technically the story is kisses only but there's a near seduction scene where the hero fondles the heroine's breast and also a shocking near ravishment scene that I did not like one bit.

Monday, April 7, 2014

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

The Husband Campaign (The Master Matchmakers, #3)The Husband Campaign by Regina Scott -- Inspirational Regency Romance

Lady Amelia Jacoby has an argument with her mother and dashes away on her horse. She ends up crying herself to sleep in a little used stable, where she is discovered by the owner, John, Lord Hascot. John is shy and socially awkward. He knows little about women and a lot about horses. He thinks he'll just leave the lady alone and no one will be the wiser, but when a terrible thunder storm spooks the horses and wakes the lady, John is stuck comforting them both. Though nothing happens, John knows he must offer for her. His offer is soundly rejected. Amelia has no intentions of marrying anyone she doesn't love and she doesn't care what the ton thinks of her. She actually relishes the idea that no one of consequence will ever offer for her. Amelia's parents, the Marquess and Marchioness of Wesworth have other ideas. Lord Wesworth desires nothing more than Lord Hascot's horses. John refuses to sell to anyone who will not treat his horses with the care and respect they deserve. They are his friends, his children, his life; not ornaments to be collected or beasts to be ordered about. Against his instincts, John finds himself accepting Lord Weworth's offer of Amelia. Amelia is reluctant to wed the quiet young Baron but she doesn't have much choice. She hopes at least she will have children to care for and keep her company during the lonely days and nights her husband spends with his beloved horses. When she learns her husband has no intentions of making the marriage a real one, she becomes determined to campaign for his love. John is hesitant to open up to Amelia. He has difficulty finding the words and he fears that a Society beauty like Amelia will not care for him as he is. He loved once, only to have his heart broken and he fears to love again. Can these two unhappy souls find their way to each other?

Usually I hate marriage of convenience novels but I ended up really liking this one. It was different and sweet. The plot is engaging despite the lack of murderers and traitors. Though this is an Inspirational novel, there isn't a lot of Christian content and the message isn't at all heavy handed. It's very similar to Regina Scott's older books for Zebra. It's slightly darker in tone. The main characters are both psychologically damaged and in need of each other. They have to learn to trust each other and care about each other before they can be together. This isn't an easy task given the characters' back stories. Neither had a particularly happy upbringing and Amelia's parents continue to be horrible and interfere with her life. After her marriage, Amelia thinks she's becoming a new person, but I think she was really just becoming the person she was all along. Unhindered by her beastly parents, she's free to speak her mind. In her own home she can take control and finally become an adult. She could be a Mary Sue (or Fanny Price) because she's so sweet and kind and good, but I didn't see her that way. She's also strong and can be outspoken when she wants to be. She fights hard for what she wants. She displays brief moments of temper and impatience with those she considers rude. I really liked her and her journey. The way she blossoms and learns to stand up for herself is wonderful. At first I did not like John. I wanted to because he's shy, socially awkward and loves animals more than people, but I found his brooding to be completely unfounded. He has no reason to neglect his wife. I kept wondering what was wrong with him! Perhaps it's a difference in the male/female way of thinking that he couldn't see how Amelia was lonely and suffering? Then a quarter of the way into the book, he reveals his reasons for brooding. He was once bitten and is now twice shy. He is afraid of being hurt again. With his horses, he knows where he stands and they wouldn't deliberately hurt him. I can understand that but I still think he treated Amelia badly. He was also quite clueless about why Magnum didn't like Amelia. I don't know much about horses but I figured it out right away. Once he realized he could trust Amelia and began to open up, of course I liked him much better. I think at first he thought of her like one of his horses who was being mistreated so of course he had to rescue her, but once she was at Hollyoak Farm, he panicked. He wasn't so off the mark though, Amelia is a lot like a combination of two of his favorite female horses, the wounded, proud Contessa and the fiery Fiernza. The relationship develops slowly and quietly. It's paced just right and doesn't go too fast or drag on with too many misunderstandings the way marriage of convenience plots usually do.

There are also secondary humans in the story, in addition to the horses, who are the main secondary characters. The villains are largely stock characters culled from the standard book of Regency villains. They show a tiny bit of depth but not a whole lot. I didn't like any of them or feel anything except annoyance at them. I wished they would disappear from the story and let the h/h have their HEA more quickly. The servants don't play a large role in this book but I liked the outspoken Turner and her unwavering devotion to Amelia. She offers up a little nudge when needed. Hennessey too takes a minor role in directing the love affair and the vet, Marcus Fletcher, offers his unasked for opinions. The servants aren't funny the way I expected them to be though. Only Dorcas offers some comic relief. Rounding out the secondary characters are a grande dame Duchess, Lady Bellington and her daughter, Lady Prudence. Lady Bellington would get along with Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Prudence is an amusing hypochondriac. Her chronic, scientifically named diseases made me chuckle. I didn't find her manipulative, merely wanting attention and felt a bit sorry for her.

There was a bit too much about horses and horse training in this novel. If it was dogs, I would have listened with rapt attention, but I'm not a big fan of horses. I also noticed some small errors. A vet would be titled Mr. not Dr. and sugar cubes didn't exist yet. Sugar came in loaves and had to be broken off into lumps. I'm sure the author knows that and the publisher chose to make it the more familiar cube instead of lump.

This is a sweet, tender, heartwarming love story. I recommend it to everyone who wants more substance with their romance, and Mr. Thornton lovers, as the hero is modeled a bit on Richard Armitage. (The picture on the cover is supposed to look like him, but I don't see it. Brooding John Hascot and Brooding John Thornton are sort of similar though.)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

Lady Hilary's HalloweenLady Hilary's Halloween by Anne Barbour -- Regency Romance

Lady Hilary Merton is a twenty-four-year-old spinster and happy to stay that way. She's far too interested in excavating the Roman villa on the estate next to her father's. She hopes the new owner, Mr. James Wincannon, will be agreeable and allow her to work with him. James has been hunted by every woman he's ever met. He tries to avoid social functions where women are present because he has no intentions of being trapped into an unwanted marriage. He suspects this wide-eyed chit, Hilary, of being just another flattering, marriage-minded young lady. He tries to quell her pretensions by being as rude as possible. She returns his rudeness with her temper. Circumstances force them into each others company when after a terrible thunder and lightning storm, a strange man steps out of the swirling mists. The man is convinced he is a Roman soldier, Rufus Maximus from 1700 years ago when the Romans colonized what is now Britain. Hilary is convinced the man is telling the truth but she needs James' help in figuring out what to do. More proficient in Latin and Roman history than Hilary, James is reluctant to believe the man's tale, but eventually is convinced. Now the problem is how to get him back and what to do with him in the meantime? Hilary is also determined to get James to socialize. She's convinced he could use a good wife just as much as he is convinced he isn't interested in marriage. Why then does he insist on kissing her? Why does her heart ache when she thinks of him married to someone else?

A lot of this story requires suspension of disbelief. Once I got past the ridiculous plot, I actually enjoyed the story. I liked the Roman history worked into the story. I know a little bit about the Roman invasion of Great Britain. I was especially interested when Rufus talked about Aqaue Sulis and James mentioned the recent (1818) history of Bath. I had the pleasure of visiting the Roman Baths Museum last September so I knew a bit of the background going into this story. I learned a lot about Roman history, more than I did on a trip to Italy. The book also weaves in the history of science. One character is a "mad scientist" type who tries to understand lightning. I liked learning science in this way though some of the explanations went over my head. I also liked the different approaches the hero and heroine take. James is an historian. He likes facts. Hilary is more of an anthropologist. She likes to imagine stories about the people, about what they were like and how they felt. Their differing viewpoints affect the way they treat Rufus.

The plot kept me wondering how/if they would get Rufus back. The epilogue is a little too cheesy and unnecessary but it wraps things up. I'd still like to know how Dorcas really is and how she's involved in Rufus' time travel adventures.

The romance works for me despite the fact James is very rude to Hilary for most of the book. They actually sit down and talk and she understands his feelings on the subject of women but doesn't stop trying to change his mind. Every time he gets close to her, he gets scared and backs off. I think this is a natural reaction based on his past experiences, yet I felt that there was too much of this going on and that the story would have been better as a novella. The plot just didn't really sustain itself the whole way through. James' behavior gets a little tiring.

I especially liked Hilary. She's a bluestocking spinster with a dog, and has no interest in romance. She's also hot-tempered and speaks her mind. Exactly the kind of heroine I love! James is not such a great character. I kept thinking up awful names to call him for most of the book, yet I did sort of understand why he hated women and felt sorry for him. He didn't know many women other than his mother and an occasional light skirt and had every reason to believe women were out for the main chance. He does acknowledge that he doesn't blame them for trying but he's not about to be caught. He's very rude to Hilary, but she can handle him and they exchange a lot of heated words. Some of his rudeness is a cover because he's scared of falling in love and how his life might change. He's a bit rude to Rufus as well and that stems from his view of history and archeology. Hilary is much better at reading people and dealing with them than James. Rufus Maximus is an incredibly silly character barely more than a caricature. At times he's more three-dimension, when he talks about his wife and his family and future plans. A lot of his dialogue is so downright silly I had to giggle. Hilary's dog is her companion and chaperone. I just loved him. Even though he is very big and menacing looking, he's merely protective of Hilary and then James and just wants his belly rubbed in return. 

This a kisses only romance though there is a tiny bit of sensuality. The hero starts to unbutton the heroine's dress, their bodies are pressed together and they feel chemistry but the sensuality is subtle and James always stops before he goes too far and they keep their physical feelings mostly to themselves.

This is a cute, fluffy sort of read. It was a nice bedtime story.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Heavy WeatherHeavy Weather by P.G. Wodehouse -- Historical Romantic Comedy

This story takes place immediately after the events of Summer Lightning. The plot is very similar. Monty Bodkin, nephew of Sir Gregory Parsloe is in need of a job. He briefly held a job as assistant editor of a children's magazine, but was fired for trying to spice it up a bit. Though he's wealthy, he wants to marry a middle class heiress and her father won't approve until Monty holds down a job for a year. Ronnie still wants to marry Sue Brown and Sue loves him with all her heart, but when she learns that her former fiance, Monty Bodkin is coming to Blandings as Lord Emsworth's secretary, she panics. She thinks if Ronnie knows about the former engagement, he will become insanely jealous and break Sue's heart. While Ronnie is away, Sue heads up to London to explain to Monty. Unbeknown to the former love birds, they're spotted by Lady Julia Fish, who then heads to Blandings to pour doubts and poison in Ronnie's ear. A jealous Ronnie breaks up with Sue, who is dreadfully unhappy. Meanwhile Pilbeam is still lurking trying to steal Gallahad's manuscript. Monty's former boss, Lord Tilbury also arrives searching for the manuscript. He has a signed contract and has given Gallahad an advance already so the book MUST be published. Lady Julia and Lady Constance are at odds over what to do. Lady Julia could care less about the book and Lady Constance wants it destroyed. All Lord Emsworth cares about is his pig. He's convinced young Bodkin (Sir Gregory's nephew) has come to steal the Empress, when actually Monty is after the manuscript, for if he finds it, he can get his job back. Monty fears that with all the would-be-thieves, his manuscript isn't safe so he passes it along to Beach. Beach worries that he will be forced to hand it over in the name of duty. Before you know it, the manuscript gets hidden, passed around, and hidden again in the most unlikely location. What happens to the manuscript is a complete and total surprise and something so wacky, only P.G. Wodehouse could have written it.

This story is pure comic genius. Though the plot is mostly the same as the previous book, it amps the comedy up a LOT. Right away I was interested in the whereabouts of the manuscript, who had it and where it would end up. The plot is very much like "Who's on first?" in the zany manner in which it plays out. I giggled a lot in the last few chapters. The writing is top notch. I love the slang words they used at the time "potty" for crazy and "poop" which is essentially the same as the more vulgar word used today. I really enjoyed the final outcome of the plot which had me in stitches.

I just love dear, sweet Lord Emsworth. He's so absent-minded/one track mind that he's endearing. I feel so bad for him having so many domineering sisters telling him what to do and what to think. I also love Gally though his constant reminiscing could be annoying if one is a character in the novel and forced to listen to him. He's very sweet and kind to Sue and is her only ally in the family. I really like Sue. She's so kind, good-natured and uncomplicated. I have no idea why she loves Ronnie. She should find someone better. I also liked Monty. He isn't very bright, like Freddie, but he's kind and happy. He tries his best even though his best is really bad. He just wants to get married to the girl he loves. I feel sorry for the long-suffering Beach. He's torn between duty and desire. He feels loyalty to the family, but the family is divided, and his personal loyalties lie with a certain faction but his profession demands his loyalty to everyone. His health problems return thanks to all the stress. He's also amusing though unintentionally on his part. His thoughts and acts are part of the comic plot. The best character in the whole novel though, is The Empress of Blandings. Yes, she's a pig, and no, she's not a special pig, just a rather large one, but she made me laugh and laugh.

Ronnie is still not a likeable guy. His insecurities and jealously make him tiresome and just not appealing. Constance is a Grande Dame of the sort played by Maggie Smith. She has more speaking parts in this book than in the last. She's not very nice but she's a typical Victorian-minded upper class woman of her time. Julia, on the other hand, is a cool customer. She's nasty for the sake of being nasty. She doesn't care about the family or about her son, she just cares about herself and her own reputation. She's a terrible mother and a worse sister. If Gallahad can be believed, she was a horrible brat as a child. Pilbeam is even more sneaky and nasty than ever. He stoops really low in this book. Lord Tilbury can't be faulted for wanting to publish the book, but he isn't very likeable. He has his own motives for wanting the book published and how to get what he wants. Nothing is too devious or too low for him.

This book is part of the Blandings Castle series but can be read as a stand alone.