Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

oonlight and Mischief by Rhonda Woodward -- Regency Romance

After Lord Haverstone loses a fortune gambling, he is approached by a young tradesman's son, a Mr. Steven Thorncroft who offers up his sister and her dowry as a solution to Stone's gambling debt. Stone is surprised and a bit offended but decides the younger man amuses him and invites Steven and his sister to a house party on his estate come October. Mrs. Thorncroft is delighted with the invitation and is anxious to marry Mariah off to a peer and believes Stone may "come up to scratch." Mariah is furious and annoyed with her family but reluctantly joins her mother and two brothers at the house party, despite the fact that no formal invitation was issued. Stone had forgotten the invitation, but graciously allowed the Thorncrofts to stay, though hoping they'd leave early so he and his guests could have fun in the manner in which they were accustomed. When Mariah discovers her host in an embarrassing situation, they agree to be fully honest with one another and Mariah and Stone soon finds themselves sharing intimate secrets they've never shared with anyone else. She struggles to protest against her growing feelings for Stone and her realize her desire for independence. Mariah manages to stay true to herself and her desires and find happiness at last. I really admired Mariah for that and empathized with her dream of independence. The romance was very realistic and the characters actually got to know one another's dreams and desires. The writing was not up the the mark of Georgette Heyer or even some other copycats, but still good and the story interesting and enjoyable.

Mama's Disappointment by Judy Chirstenberry -- Regency Romance
Emma Chadwell is bullied and belittled by her step-mother who continually compares Emma to her beautiful step-sister Aurora. Mr. Fairchild is looking for a mother for his unruly 4 year old daughter, the product of his disastrous first marriage, and thinks Emma will fit the bill as she is the exact opposite of his first wife. Emma wants nothing more than to return home and continue managing the family's estates and tries to warn off Mr. Fairchild by being shy and sullen. He is persistent, however, because he doesn't require his wife to be charming or companionable,. Emma's greedy family readily accepts the match though she is against it. When her wastrel brother finds an heiress to marry, he makes it clear that Emma will not be wanted back home and she has no choice but to accept Mr. Fairchild's arrangement. Mr. Fairchild invites Emma and her step-mother to visit his home in the country and meet his mother and daughter. For moral support he brings along his friend Lord Atherton, the pretty young Miss Deborah Harris and her mother. Emma quickly endears herself to Mrs. Fairchild and little Melissa, makes friends with the other guests and becomes one of the family Richard doesn't exactly feel the same way and Emma despairs of ever being truly happy. The ending is predictable of course, but I didn't like it. Emma was so downtrodden that I could not like her. She didn't do anything to even try to make Richard care for her and pretty much let his mother direct their relationship. Richard was an unappealing hero with a hardened heart. He behaved rudely towards Emma for the entire book and was also incredibly cruel to his daughter who desperately wanted to be loved. Emma's step-mother and brother were stereotypical and the plot pretty much went nowhere. I would not recommend this book.

The Unsuitable Suitor by Marilyn Clay -- Regency Romance
The orphaned Fraser sisters, Katie 24, Minerva, 20 and Lucy, 16 are about to be turned out of their home after their father's death. Practical Miranda decides to head off to London to meet with the solicitors and prove ownership of the house. Sweet, pious Katie believes the Lord will provide and spoiled beauty Lucy is just dying to have a London Season. On the road to London, Lucky naively chats with a handsome London gentleman who turns out to be the rake who once randomly kissed Miranda at a party 5 years earlier. Miranda has never forgotten that kiss and never forgiven Lord Peterbloom for his wild ways and strives to keep her sister from harm. When things don't go as planned, the Fraser sisters take refuge with their wealthy estranged aunt and uncle. Aunt Isobel, Lady Heathrow decides to sponsor Lucy's come-out. Lucy becomes the toast of the town and sets her sights of Lord Peterbloom who is continually rescuing the sisters from mishap. Miranda struggles to get her home back from Peterbloom who now holds the deed and alternately worries about keeping her sister out of his clutches and wishing for the marriage so she and Katie can return home. Lord Peterbloom has reformed his wild ways but is not looking for a wife . . . or so he thinks, but he experiences strange sensations whenever Minerva is around and she can't help admiring his fine figure and keen mind. Though the story ends predictably, most of the story goes nowhere and takes too long to get to the point of conflict. Miranda is too high-strung and practical to be an appealing heroine and I felt that she obsessed over that kiss with Peterbloom five years ago and she was too unforgiving. Her sisters were equally stereotypical and annoying. Peterbloom seemed attracted to her spitfire nature but she came across as snappy and rude to me. Peterbloom is an appealing hero with intelligence and a good heart. Even he can't save this novel. It lacked appealing characters and excellent dialogue. I didn't really care for it that much but would recommend it for the less picky readers.

See No Love by Monette Cummings -- Regency Romance
Emily Harmon is extremely is so short-sighted, she can't see much of anything without spectacles, which her overbearing mother forbids her to wear in fear that Emily will never find a husband. When Emily makes her debut at court, she makes friends with Violet, the daughter of an Earl who invited Emily to a house party, hoping her brother will fall in love with Emily and forget about the mean Lady Isobel Darcy who is keeping company with their cousin Philip, the Duke of Durban. At the house party, poor Emily has a series of misadventures because of her poor eyesight and the hero must rescue her. Emily's accidents are told to the reader in a rather detached and summarized manner. I was expecting them to be really funny but instead they were rather sad because no one understands Emily's predicament and her mother believes that Emily could only see if she tried hard enough. I felt sorry for Emily and she didn't know how to laugh at herself so the reader does not get to laugh with her. She is also very young to be a romantic heroine and her romance comes out of the blue. This is a cute, light read but not my favorite.

The Incomparable Miss Brady by Sheila Walsh -- Regency Romance
Miss Clementina Brady from Baltimore, Maryland, USA arrives on the doorstep of the home of the Marquess of Cadogan expecting to reconcile with her estranged grandfather, instead, she learns her grandfather has died and a distant cousin has taken his place and the new Marquess has a very low opinion of Clementina, whom he labels as a managing female. That's fine with Clemmy, who doesn't care what others think of her. She's perfectly capable of taking care of herself and her younger brother Patrick. Clemmy and Patrick instantly adapt to life in London and Clemmy catches the eye of a dashing French comte whom the Marquess knows to be a fortune hunter.
Clemmy, Patrick and their aunt Seraphina head to Paris and take Parisian society by storm and experience the pleasures and dangers Paris has to offer. Used to managing her American grandfather's estates, Clemmy turns her energy into managing everyone else's lives but fails to notice that some events are beyond her control, including her own future. The Marquess is also in Paris and he suspects the Bradys are not as capable of looking after themselves as they seem and decides to keep an eye on them, just in case they need help and finds himself strangely drawn to his unusual cousin. This book started off wonderfully. I loved the interactions between Clemmy and the Marquess and Clemmy's determination to throw off convention and remain in control. Once the characters head to Paris, the story becomes more about everyone else than Clemmy. There were way too many characters to keep track of and too many titled characters to keep straight. I would have preferred more witty banter between Clemmy and Lord Cadogan instead of Clemmy's scrapes and adventures, that would have made for a much better story.

The Locked Garden by Gloria Whelan -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction
12 year old Verna and 6 year old Carlie move with their father and aunt to the grounds of a mental institution in northern Michigan. The year is 1900, and their father is a well-known psychiatrist who has radical ideas about the improvement of mental health. The children enjoying playing on the beautiful grounds and get to know the patients who are well enough to be outside and work, though Verna wonders about the patients in the locked ward and how they will ever get better by being locked up. Eleanor, who is recovering from depression, comes to work for the family and quickly endears herself to the children, causing tension in the household. When dour Aunt Maude becomes jealous, her actions nearly cause irreparable damage and it's up to Verna and Callie to try to help Eleanor free herself from her harsh father and inner demons. The ending happens rather abruptly and is too insightful to be from a child's point of view. I didn't feel this book was as well written as some of her previous novels for the same age group but I liked learning about the treatment of mental health patients at the turn-of-the-century.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Brighton Road by Susan Carroll -- Regency Romance
Gwenda Mary Vickers dreams of a handsome hero who will sweep her off her feet. So far, he hasn't appeared but in the meantime she writes gothic romance novels. When she accidentally overhears the toplofty Lord Ravenel's prosaic marriage proposal and subsequent rejection, she feels sorry for the gentleman and offers her advice to a very unwilling Lord Ravenel. He recognizes her name as being a member of an eccentric family and wants nothing to do with her and gives her a lecture in propriety, which Gwenda accepts cheerfully and Lord Ravenel hopes never to see Gwenda again. Soon he and Gwenda, along with her boot-chewing/cat-chasing dog embark on a wild adventure together and Lord Ravenel discovers what it means to have fun and Gwenda finds the lover she's always dreamed of. This is a great read! Though the writing isn't terribly wonderful and the story lacks the historical details of Georgette Heyer's wildest stories, the madcap adventures of Gwenda make for many laughs and a wonderful romantic adventure!

Knave's Wager by Loretta Chase -- Regency Romance
Lilith Davenant has been in charge of her own life for the past five years since her rakeish husband died. She's lived simply, however, she is responsible for financing the come-outs of her nieces and thanks to some bad investments, is in need of money. She decides to accept Thomas Bexley. She doesn't live him, but she needs the money and Bexley will make a comfortable husband. On the road to London with her niece, Cecily, they rescue a victim of a carriage accident who turns out to be the Marquess of Brandon, the man whom Lilith believes ruined her husband. She refuses to see or acknowledge Brandon except through her man of business. The Marquess won't accept her refusal because he has made a wager with a lady of the demimonde that the Marquess can seduce the seemingly icy Lilith in exchange for the promise that the lady will give up all ideas of marriage to the Marquess's younger cousin. Meanwhile, Lilith's beautiful, outspoken young niece makes her impresses on Brandon's cousin. The book jacket promises the reader will fall in love with the hero before the heroine does, but this was not the case with me. I didn't even find him likable, nor Lilith either. The Marquess acted despicably through most of the book and Lilith responded to his flirtations though she was engaged to another man. The only character I really liked was Cecily because she spoke the truth even when it wasn't polite and she knew what she wanted and didn't stoop to any of the usual tricks to make a man fall in love with her. The book dragged on for the first 3/4 of the story and then I found myself more interested in Cecily and Robert than Lilith and Julian. This is not one I'm likely to read again or recommend.

The Impetuous Twin by Irene Saunders -- Regency Romance
Lady Georgina Forsythe can ride better and faster than her twin brother and prefers wearing his old clothes to gowns and getting her brother into scrapes. When their guardian, Lord Meridith, decides to buy William a pair of colors and a position in his regiment on the Continent, Georgina proposes she tag along as William's manservant in order to escape their cruel grandmother and poor estate. William reluctantly agrees and the twins head off to Portugal, where Gina is befriended by a Gypsy woman who sees through her disguise and persuades Gina to dress as a Gypsy camp follower. Unfortunately for Georgina, when it is discovered that William is living with a camp follower, Georgina's disguise gets her into trouble and makes Lord Meredith extremely angry. When he discovers who Gina really is, he sends her packing off to a lady friend in Lisbon where Georgina learns to act and dress like a lady. Then Lord Meredith decides to send Georgina back to England to stay with his mother for a time while he investigates the management of William's estates. While visiting the dowager Lady Meredith, Georgina builds family ties with Lord Meredith's mother, eldest niece, and young daughter. Lady Meredith decides to sponsor Gina's come-out and during the Season, Gina learns about family, danger and true love. I found Georgina very appealing as a heroine in a novel. She was spunky and smart; willing to learn but still be true to herself. I had problems with Lord Meredith and his temper and the romance seemed to kind of just happen and it was rather odd given the relationship between the two characters. There were also too many subplots that didn't appear until halfway through or more and then were wrapped up in the last few pages with very little action. I did like this book but I wouldn't choose it as one of my top favorites.

A Grand Design by Emma Jensen -- Regency Romance
Tall, redhaired and positively ancient at 26, Cate Buchanan does not dream of romance but of architecture! Living with her younger sister and two eccentric, artistic uncles, Cate has a plan to bring the family some money and all her sister the dream of marriage and her uncles the freedom to pursue their art, she has started an architectural firm with her uncles as the front for her unladylike occupation. Buchanan & Buchanan have been hired to renovate the home of the Marquess of Tregaraon, who has returned to London from eight years of self-imposed exile in Wales after a tragedy that has condemned him in the eyes of society forever. Cate tries to hide her true role in the business and avoid the man who once nearly seduced her. Cate's carefully laid plans start to crumble as the Marquess takes more and more interest in the renovations and seems to always be on hand to rescue her from the wicked man who once tried to seduce her. The Marquess seems drawn to Cate and she to him but someone is sending him mysterious messages that may ruin everything. The plot doesn't follow the traditional model very much and the backstories of the characters are revealed slowly over the course of the story, which I really liked. I have since discovered that this book is part of a series of novels featuring the same characters, so some of the backstory may have been revealed in a previous novel. This one stands well on it's own and is very well-written. The architectural theme makes it a bit different and provides some new historical details. I wasn't crazy about the Marquess, though he gets bonus points for having an adorable Corgi. The epilogue reveals the "what happens next" in a rather hurried manner leaving the reader to wonder how the problem of women's role in society was resolved or whether Cate doesn't care, not being one to focus on gossip. If you're looking for something different and like brooding gentlemen and heroines who dare to be different, pick this one up!

Friday, July 17, 2009

What I Read This Week

What I Read This Week . . .

The Damsels from Derbyshire by Ellen Fitzgerald -- Regency Romance
Lady Tabitha Spencer's first Season is marked by love and tragedy. She falls in love with the handsome, shy Lord Lovell only to be torn away from London when her father is cruelly murdered. Nine years later, Tabitha returns to London in charge of her spoiled, headstrong younger sister Laura. Tabitha's beauty and charm make her a great success in London, especially with Lionel, formerly Lord Lovell, now the Marquis of Ashton, who continually rescues Tabitha and Laura from danger. Tabitha also catches the eye of Lord Marlton, the cousin of the man who killed her father. Tabitha can not like Lord Marlton much and feels pressure to marry him from her spinster aunt who urgers her to choose a husband before the end of the Season. Tabitha can hardly think about herself for worrying what her bold sister might say or do next. The men have their own ideas about who Tabitha should marry and one of them won't take no for an answer! The plot of this book is pretty straightforward and predictable. The romance is fairly simple and sweet. Laura's antics, Aunt Ellen's plight as a spinster and the villain make for more depth in what would otherwise be a boring love story. I liked it quite a lot.

Town Tangle by Margaret Summerville -- Regency Romance
Lord Anthony St. John and his friend, the Honorable Mr. Fitzwalter are stranded overnight during a snowstorm at Selwyn Manor, the home of a curmudgeonly old country gentleman and his family, loquacious sister Lucinda, beautiful niece Camilla and spirited nephew Dick who aspires to Dandyism. While Mr. Fitzwalter is all that is amiable, Lord St. John is bored and annoyed with his hosts and can't wait to be rid of them. Unfortunately, Camilla overhears St. John and Fitzwalter sharing their opinions on her family and lets them know she doesn't appreciate their comments or wish to see them again. When Camilla's brother comes into his inheritance a few months later, she and Aunt Lucinda head to London to keep Dick from squandering his fortune. There Camilla becomes better acquainted with St. John and he even introduces her to his adored younger sister. Camilla begins to think fondly of him until he is frosty to her old friend, Charles MacNeil because Charles is the son of a butler. St. John makes amends to please Camilla until his sister falls in love with Charles and wishes to make an "unsuitable alliance." Nothing much really happens in the plot until the last few chapters. Though St. John bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Darcy (tall, dark, and hansome; friendly best friend; adoring younger sister; , haughty ways and occasional bad temper), he continually apologizes to Camilla and she forgives him. (Where's the fun in that?) Therefore, the story lacks the zinging dialogue that makes Lizzy and Darcy's romance so wonderful. I really liked the characters but I wish the plot followed the more conventional "they hate each other" route. It makes for a more interesting read.

Emily and the Dark Angel by Jo Beverley -- Regency Romance
Emily Grantwich has grown from a quiet, dutiful daughter to a mature and competent woman of 26. With Emily's brother missing in action and her father left invalided after a duel with a neighbor, she has taken on the role of estate manager and relishes it. On one seemingly innocuous Market Day in Melton Mowbry, Emily tries to take care to stay out of the way of the dashing young bucks who come there for hunting but finds herself literally falling into a dark and handsome man and being showered with Poudre de Violettes by a woman of easy virtue! After apologizing, introducing himself and helping Emily with a broken shoe, Piers Verderan goes on his way and Emily, greatly discomposed, both hopes and fears she'll never see him again. She finds herself seeing him sooner than she thinks when she discovers he is the son of the neighbor whom her father dueld over a land dispute! Emily tries to maintain a businesslike relationship with Ver, but she needs him in more ways than she can think, for when she fell into him in the street, she fell in love. Ver needs Emily to help anchor him and conquer past demons but rumors, friends and neighbors get in the way of romance as Emily decides whether she wants to remain the dutiful daughter she once was or live her own life with this dashing, reckless rake. There are several amusing scenes and some quirky characters to make this book delightful. Emily is very likeable and a character I think many women can relate to. I really enjoyed this book!

Warning: Though it was labeled "kisses
only" at All About Romance I wouldn't recommend it for those looking for a chaste romance. Much of the plot has to do Ver's past and Emily's growing feelings of sexual awakening. It isn't racy in any way though and not worse than many of Marion Chesney's novels.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

At the Sign of the Golden Pineapple by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance 
The intrepid heroine of this novel is Miss Henrietta Bascombe, the orphaned daughter of a country doctor who has recently received a small inheritance from one of her father's former patients. Instead of using it as a dowry or investing it to live comfortably, Henrietta wishes to go into trade and open a sweet shop in London! Along with two local girls and a former school teacher, Henrietta opens Bascombes sweet shop which quickly becomes popular with the young gentlemen wishing to look at the pretty shop girls. When the Earl of Carrisdowne learns that not only has his younger sister been pigging out on the shop's pastries, his younger brother and best friend have formed a tendre for two of the shop girls which, in his opinion, is entirely unsuitable! He intends to have the shop shut down but he quickly learns he's no match for Henrietta Bascome! She shocks her friends by decrying marriage and sticking to her plan no matter what happens.The plot follows Pride and Prejudice without being too much of a copycat. Henrietta is an intelligent and admirable heroine. She sticks to her guns and doesn't ever become silly. This is a wonderful novel and one of my favorite Regencies to date!

Sweet Masquerade by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
The Earl of Berham is 33, unwed and bored. His life turns upside down when he becomes guardian of 18 year old Freddie Armstrong, the grandson of his father's old friend. Freddie seems very weak and feminine and not at all someone the Earl wants in his life. The situation becomes tense when Freddie is introduced to the lady the Earl is courting and the lady and Freddie take an instant dislike to each other. When it is discovered that Freddie is actually Frederica, a girl who has been raised as a boy, the Earl packs Freddie off to a seminary recommended by his girlfriend. Unbeknowst to the Earl, the seminiary is actually a sort of prison for wayward girls where the proprietors extort money from the wealthy while abusing their children. No one counted on Freddie's wayward upbringing to help her escape from the dastardly seminary, let alone the Earl who was beginning to suspect his intended bride knew more than she let on. Freddie must learn to control her feelings and accept her future as a woman. The plot of this book isn't very interesting. The characters aren't likeable, not even Freddie, who I was expecting to be a tombiyish girl masquerading as a boy. Freddie had moments of spunkiness which I admired but she was very young and acted very immature for a heroine of a romantic novel. I disliked this book and felt it was one of Chesney's worst.

False Steps by Sandra Heath -- Regency Romance
Cassian Stratford, Marquess of Landsdowne has been sent to the small seaside town of Weymouth by Queen Charlotte, who believes her granddaughter, Princess Charlotte, has formed a tendre for Cassian. Enployed annotating the king's letters, Cassian is bored to death until he spies a beautiful, fashionably dressed, redheaded girl and her cat in the fish market. Intrigued by her beauty,Cassian is confused when the girl dons an old gray cloak and disappears in the warren of old streets. He follows her until he has an opportunity to make her aquaintance. They fall instantly in love but the lady continues to be mysterious. All Cassian knows is that her name is Miss Smith and she has a black and white cat. Miss Smith manages to elude him and return home to where her mother runs a lodging house. The fashionable clothes are cast offs from Winnifred "Freddie's" best friend Lavinia Thorogood, an heirhess who is staying at Mrs. Smith's lodging house while her father recovers from a carriage accident. Lavinia is shortly to be taken to London for the Season where negotiations for her marriage to a Lord Kerswell. Lavinina believes herself to be in love with a Byronic poet, a Mr. Andrew Beaumont and does not wish to go to London. Freddie dreams of a London season and waltzing with Lord Lansdale. The two girls accidentially overhear a conversation with Lord Lansdale and his friend, who is none other than Lord Kerswell, who is as excited about the prospect of marriage to Lavinia as she is to the idea of marriage to him. The girls overhear the men speak of Lord Kerswell's kept woman in a villa on the Holland estate. Lord Lansdale seems to think the lady is Kerswell's mistress, but Kerswell intimates that there is more to the story but refuses to speak of it. Lavinia is shocked and tells her father what she heard. He refuses to cancel the engagement based on speculation but promises that if any scandal comes to light, Lavinia will not have to marry Lord Kerswell. Lavinia decides to take Freddie to London with her so they can uncover Kerswell's secret. They travel in the company of a Mrs. Shaw, an army widow, whom Freddie suspects is not what she seems. The friends find themselves thrust into the London Season and in the company of Lord Byron, Lady Caroline Lamb and Lords Lansdale and Kerswell. Lansdale takes it upom himself to save the young ladies from danger and ruined reputations and help his friend on the path to happily ever after. I liked this story well enough but it wasn't the comedy of manners I enjoy. The mystery was well developed and kept me guessing. The details seemed well researcherd but sometimes the author steps out of the story to relate description or historic information which could have been better in narrative form. Real life historic figures play minor roles and even Jane Austen herself makes a cameo! The romances develop too quickly and are too unrealistic. Lavinia and Lord Kerswell were far more interesting than Cassian and Freddie. I recommend this book to cat fans and fans of Regency adventure novels. If you're looking for brilliant writing or sparkling wit look elsewhere.

A Scandalous Publication by Sandra Heath -- Regency Romance
Outspoken and bookish, Miss Charlotte Wyndham is still unmarried at 23 and now her father has died leaving Charlotte and her mother with immense debts which require them to sell their home and move to London. The buyer is Sir Maxim Talgarth, who is rumored to be kin to the devil! To make matters worse, Max is involved in a liaison with Charlotte's bitter rival, Lady Judith Taynton. Both Max and Charlotte provoke each other with harsh words and they hope never to see each other again. In London, Charlotte overhears a private conversation between Judith and her cousin Miss Sylvia Parkstone, whose sister was once married to Max Talgarth. Sylvia accuses Max of killing her sister and ruining and killing Charlotte's father as well. Sylvia loathes Max with a passion and befriends Charlotte to ensure Charlotte understands what a wicked person Max is. Charlotte decides to vent her anger by writing a private, never to be published expose novel about Max. However, Max goes out of his way to ensure that Charlotte knows and believes the truth about him and Charlotte doesn't know what to think at first; she can't deny her growing attraction for Max but she doesn't want to betry her friendship with Sylvia. Past actions become regrettable when secrets become public and threaten to ruin Charlotte's happiness. The story is well-developed and progresses fairly well. The writing is polished but not to the caliber of Georgette Heyer or Jane Austen, but much better than False Steps. I thought Charlotte's book should have featured more into the story and come into play earlier. I liked the concept of an outspoken and bookish heroine but Charlotte comes off as mean and nasty at times. Her early exchanges with Max are mean and angry and not wity. I enjoyed this book though and I would recommend it to those who like Pride and Prejudice style romances.

The Scandalous Lady Wright by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance

Emma was married very young to a respected Minister of Parliament who is privately a cruel and brutal man. One magical dance with the Comte St. Juste angers her husband and finds Emmma locked in her room with the threat of being whipped in front of the servants in the morning. During the night, a shot rings out and the next morning, Lord Wright is found dead in his locked study with Emma's fan lying beside him. Tongues start wagging about murder and fingers point at Emma as the murderess. The kind Comte takes an interest in solving the murder and helping free Emma. This is a typical murder mystery romance for the most part but it has an overall sad tone to it that I can not like. The only really funny parts come at the very end and they're not enough to make up for this dark story.

1776 by David McCullough
Non-Fiction isn't really my thing, but I was curious about this book after having visiting the Nathanel Greene Homestead. The book recounts the Revolutionary War battles in New York and New Jersey during the crucial year which culminated in Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware. McCullough doesn't write in such an engaging manner that the book held my attention. He uses too many block quotes from primary sources. I prefer reading the primary sources without the analytical comment.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

Henrietta by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance  
Twenty-six year old Henrietta Sandford is the unmarried sister of a country vicar. Her brother takes every opportunity to remind her how much she owes him and to bully Henrietta. Henrietta falls instantly in love with Lord Reckford, a handsome Corinthian when he visits a country assembly and pays Henrietta more attention than the local beauty. When a hitherto unknown great-aunt leaves Henrietta a fortune, Henrietta sets out for London accompanied by her eccentric elderly friend Miss Mattie Scattersworth and declares her intentions of marrying Lord Reckford. London society snubs Henrietta and she thinks about returning to the country when Lord Reckford discovers her prescence in London and takes her under his wing. Henrietta's happiness is marred by the fact that she seems to be going mad! Lord Reckford believes her sanity and is determined to figure out who is playing jokes on Henrietta. The joke turns deadly and Henrietta's life is in danger. She must rescue herself and her companion and figure out how to win Lord Reckford's hand in marriage before the story reaches the usual conclusion. Henrietta is an admirable character. She is charming and spirited and doesn't act like a debutnate, despite the fact that she is experiencing her first Season. Her companion provides the comic relief with wild romantic fantasies. However, I'm not a fan of gothic stories or mysteries and this one was both. It was not my favorite Chesney novel.

The Original Miss Honeyford by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance  
Miss Honaria Honeyford, Honey to her friends, is the son her father always wanted. She can discuss politics, ride, hunt, shoot swear and smoke as well as any man. When a new beauty moved to their country village and all Honey's male pals pay court to Amy Wetherall, Honey's father realizes the disservice he has done his daughter raising her as a boy. SirEdmund sends Honey off to London to be brought out by her aunt and find a suitable husband to return home and help run the estate. Along the way, Honey rejects conventions and travels without a chaperon. She makes the acquaintance of Lord Alistair Stewart, an elegant lazy fop, who has a habit of helping Honey out of dangerous predicaments. Honey takes an instant dislike to Lord Alistair and he to her, but neither can ignore the strange dreams and feelings the other arouses in them. In London, Honey struggles to obey her aunt, who wishes to teach Honey how to behave like a real lady. The handsome, charming Lord Channington arrives on the scene and treats Honey with all the respect and admiration she desires. Unbeknowst to Honey, Lord Channington is a notorious seducer who ruins young ladies and he is intent on making Honey his next victim! Honey must decide whether to accept Lord Channington's attentions or Lord Alistair's help and once again Lord Alistair must come to Honey's rescue. Honey is one of the best literary heroines. She is an intelligent prop-feminist way ahead of her time. I felt sorry for her as she struggled with the unfair rules for women. She was able to stay true to herself and find happiness in the end. I really enjoyed this novel.

The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer -- Regency Romance
Sir Richard Wyndham, a noted Corinthian, has reached his 29th year without ever seriously thinking about marriage. Now his mother and sister are pressuring him into offering for the woman his father promised him too in childhood. Not being too keen on the idea of marriage or helping the lady's family out of debt, Richard heads to White's and gets exceedingly drunk before planning his marriage proposal the next day. One the way home, a youth drops out of a window into his arms. The youth turns out to be a girl, 17 year old Pen Creed who is running away from her aunt's in order to escape an unwanted marriage. Drunk and bored, Richard offers to help Pen return to her old home to find her childhood sweetheart who Pen believes will rescue her by proposing marriage. Soon Richard is accompanying Pen, dressed as a boy, on a madcap adventure through the English countryside where they make the acquaintance of a thief, solve a mystery, witness a murder and assist in an elopement! By the time the adventure comes to an end, Richard realizes he's never had more fun in his life and he doesn't want the fun to end! Pen is young and innocent and doesn't really understand the position she's placed Richard in. Luckily for them both, their real feelings are revealed at the end and presumably the adventures will continue for a lifetime. I had mixed feelings about the ending. Like all Heyer novels, the ending happens very suddenly and ends abruptly leaving the reader wondering what happens next. In this case, I didn't think Pen and Richard should get together. I felt Pen was just too young and naive to think about marriage. However, I really enjoyed the crazy adventure while it lasted!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Banishment : The Daughters of Mannerling 1 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
The Beverleys, sir William, LadyBeverley and their six beautiful daughters, love their grand 17th century mansion more than life itself. The Beverleys are so proud of their home, their pride is overbearing to the point of obsession and they consider everyone else to be beneath them, which is the reason why eldest daughter Isabella is still unattached after a Season in London. When Sir William gambles away Mannerling and all its' contents, the Beverleys are forced to downsize and move to a small home nearby with only a few servants hired from the village. Sir William considers this a temporary setback and is determined that Isabella should wed Mannerling's new owner, a Mr. Judd. Isabella will do anything to get Mannerling back so she is happy to oblidge her family and attract Mr. Judd. However, as Isabella becomes friendly with the handsome Irish Viscount Lord Fitzpatrick and his aunt, Mrs. Kennedy, some of her haughty airs begin to evaporate and she is conflicted in her feelings about Mannerling and for Lord Fitzpatrick. All she knows is that her family is counting on her to restore them to Mannerling. I found it hard to get into this book at first because the Beverleys were so unlikeable. Once Isabella began to thaw, I liked her and felt sorry for her and the terrible position her family put her in. The rest of her family remained unlikeable. The romance was believable and Lord Fitzpatrick is a very human character. There are some lighthearted moment involving the servants but nothing that is laugh out loud funny.

The Intrigue : The Daughters of Mannerling 2 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance Jessica Beverley is convinced that she can do what Isabella could not, bring the family back to Mannerling. Sadly, Sir William dies of illness before Jessica puts her plan into action. Lady Beverley hires an elderly governess to re-school the girls in what she consideres polite behavior so that Jessica may charm Mr. Harry Devers, the son of Mannerlings newest owners. Instead, Miss Trumble teaches the girls Latin and Greek, history and literature, and things that will occupy their minds and make them think less of Mannerling. Miss Trumble seems through Jessica's plan and thinks she can make Jessica see reason but doesn't count on the pressure from the other sisters and her mother. Jessica thinks she can remain strong and tries to ignore her growing attachment to Harry's professor cousin, Robert Sommerville. Jessica learns the hard way that doing what her family thinks is right isn't always the right thing and that true love doesn't only happen in novels. The plot of this book is almost exactly the same as the first in the series. The ending is a little silly. The only character I really like is Miss Trumble and I was hoping she would be the one to find true love in the end.

The Deception : The Daughters of Mannerling 3 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Third sister Abigail believes she has left the dream of Mannerling behind and relishes discussing military matters with the handsome Lord Burfield, who has befriended her. When the rakish son of the Mannerling owners, Harry Devers, is injured in a riding accident, Abigail's twin Rachel nurses Harry back to health and believing him to be misunderstood, she agrees to marry him. Harry's aim is to present himself as respectable until the wedding, then push out his parents and live his life the way he wants. Unfortunately for Rachel, Harry can't stick to his promises and becomes too forward in his advances before the wedding, which scares the innocent young Rachel. Abigail, beliveing she can make Harry do what she wants, proposes to change places with her twin and marry Harry instead so they can have Mannerling back. Abigail promises she won't consumate the marriage for awhile until she tells Harry the truth and they become properly wed. However, Harry has other plans which end up sending Abigail fleeing from him and innocently landing in bed with Lord Burfield. Scandal and drama interefere before the happy ending can occur. I liked this book better than the first two but it dragged on way too long.

The Folly : The Daughters of Mannerling 4 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Mannerling has been sold and Rachel accepts that she'll no longer live there again, but feels the need to wander the grounds once more to say goodbye. Tresspassing on the property, she meets the two young children of the new owner, Mr. Charles Blackwood, and learns of the neglet and cruelty the children have suffered under the rule of their governess. When Charles discovers Rachel with his children he is angry but she refuses to leave until she tells him how badly his children have been treated. Realizing that Rachel was right, Charles decides to employ the inestimable Miss Trumble as his children's new governess. The children begin attending lessons with Miss Trumble and the Beverley girls and Rachel and Charles become friendly. Rachel is embarassed by the machinations of her mother, who plans to marry General Blackwood, Charles's father, who has eyes only for Miss Trumble. Their friendship is also thereatened by Mannerling's beautiful, dashing houseguest Minerva, who is hoping for a proposal of marriage from Charles. Rachel finds a new suitor in a Mr. Cater, a West Indian plantation owner. Miss Trumble is suspicious of Mr. Cater and believes Mannerling is cursed and she fears for her girls and her own safety when the story takes a dramatic gothic turn. The characters in this story were not very well developed and the story ended too neatly and quickly. I liked this story best of the series so far. Rachel was the most likeable of all the Beverley daughters.

The Romance : The Daughters of Mannerling 5 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Belinda Beverley wants Mannerling back in the family and she's determined to succeed where her sisters failed and marry the new owner of Mannerling, the young Lord St. Clair. In London for the Season, Belinda pretends to be the kind of silly young miss that Lord St. Clair admires, but when St. Clair's friend, Lord Gyre, sees through her mask and makes her feel guilty, she begins to regret her actions. However, she is being pushed towards St. Clair by her mother and when they attend a house party at Mannerling, the evil demons of the house take over. The romance plot was sweet but the gothic melodrama took over and overshadowed the romance which I didn't like.

The Homecoming : The Daughters of Mannerling 6 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Little Lizzie is now 19 and content with her life without Mannerling. The house has a strage pull though and she tresspasses once more to say goodbye to the house and is caught and soundly scolded by the Duke of Severnshire. The Duke comes to call when he discovers that the incomparable Miss Trumble is actually his aunt! Lizzie and the Duke cross verbal swords because Lizzie feels the Duke is too old and stuffy. She prefers the company of his young secretary, Peter Bond and the two quickly become good friends, sharing their dreams of love. Peter wishes to marry the daughter of a country squire from back home but as a servant, he isn't allowed to marry and the Duke doesn't even believe in love. A house party at Mannerling brings Lizzie, Miss Trumble, the Duke, Peter, Peter's beloved and some other young ladies together and the pull of the house is too great for some of the guests to resist. Meanwhile, Lizzie no longer feels the house and becomes friendlier with the Duke, but still pointing out all his faults. Her mother is determined to make a match between Lizzie and the Duke but Lizzie is determined to marry for true love. The plot moves forward quickly and finishes predictably with a rather shocking scene witnessed by Miss Trumble. The last chapter is an epilogue 10 years later which resolves nothing and only adds more to the gothic plot. The book would have been better without it. I usually enjoy love stories based on Pride and Prejudice but like Lizzie, I thought the Duke was too old and snobby to be interesting. This series lacked the humor and charm which make Chesney's other books so enjoyable. I'm not a fan of gothic romances or supernatural stories in general and this series would have been better without it.