Friday, August 28, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

anaging Female by Beth Bryan -- Traditional Regency

On their way to France to join their aunt, Miss Deborah Stormont and her brother Perry encounter Lord Auberon Crichton whose horse has thrown a shoe miles from anywhere. Deb decides they should take the man in their carriage as far as Dover. The siblings are running late and Deb worries about missing the boat. Beron decides to help the pair find their boat in thanks for assisting him. An accident befalls him and Deborah feels that it is in the man's best interest to bring him aboard the ship where she can take care of him. Once he awakes, Lord Crichton is angry at being shanghaied and fretful because he was on his way to propose marriage to a worthy young lady! On board the ship, the Stormonts are befriended by Freddie Wimpole, an old friend of Lord Crichton's. Freddie is also on the way to visit an aunt and happily accompanies the Stormonts to their aunt's estate. Beron meets with another accident and is laid up at the Stormonts' aunt's home until he heals. To make matters worse, his intended bride is also visiting the neighborhood and staying with close friends and doesn't seem at all interested in him! He also becomes friendly with Deborah and begins to understand her. Add to the guests an Oxford botanist who admires Deborah's skilled drawings of plant life and woos Deborah with a professional opportunity she can't pass up. The characters become involved in a mystery surrounding buried treasure and standing stones nearby. The story comes to a conclusion in the typical Georgette Heyer style, that is, with little emphasis on feelings and a quick romance wrap up. The plot was a little slow in the beginning but the mystery kept me turning the pages through to the conclusion. If you like traditional Regencies, then this one is for you.

An E
vening At Almack's: Four Captivating Stories of Love Among the Ton by Alice Holden , Donna Davidson, Teresa DesJardien Isobel Linton -- Regency Romance short stories

Four short stories about the Ton with crucial scenes taking place at Almack's. In "Katie and the Sea Captain," Katie has long loved Ryan and celebrates his return by riding her stallion out chasing a storm and painting it in oils. Upon her return home, she discovers Ryan disapproves of her behavior and encourages Katie's grandmother, a dowager Duchess to turn Katie into a lady and threatens to ruin Katie's brothers' ship building business if Katie doesn't cooperate. Alone and miserable in London, Katie waits four years for Ryan's returning, struggling with her feelings and torn between two worlds. Her only outlet is her painting. When Ryan finally returns, he seems different and distant and both Ryan and Katie must determine what their futures hold. "Scandalous" is a story of misunderstandings and desperation. After being in love and engaged for many years, it seems that Clara Northdon and Lord Travers have grown apart. When he cries off during an evening at Almacks, another lady steps in to try to catch him and resorts to desperate, scandalous behavior to trap Travers into marriage lest she and her family be turned out of Almacks. Only the friends of Lord Travers understand the true situation and come up with a scheme to make things right. My favorite story is "Lady of Intrigue" in which a young widow helps a former Bow Street Runner investigate a series of jewel disappearances involving a society lady. "A Last Waltz" stars a young country girl who is the subject of unwanted attentions from another lady's fiance. Sir Guy Trent, a Regency Buck, comes to Phillipa's rescue and is charmed by her innocent prattle. The jealous intended fiance of the unwanted suitor nearly ruins Phillipa's Season. Each of these stories about 1/4 the length of a novel which makes the plots resolved too quickly and little space for subtle character and plot development. None of the stories really impressed me as anything special. "Lady of Intrigue" was different and featured interesting characters. The other stories really show how difficult it was to be a woman at that time and have more serious undertones. If you're looking for something worthy of Georgette Heyer then skip this book but if you like the Regencies published by Zebra or Signet, then you might like this collection.

The Wicked Marquis by Marnie Ellingson -- Regency Romance
Miss Esme Leonardo, daughter of an Englishwoman and Italian opera singer, returns to England to live with her relatives after the death of her father. She quickly becomes close with her cousins Drusilla, Hope and Constance and their brother Kit. Kit is in love with a kind young lady whom he is not allowed to marry because his uncle wishes him to marry the most proper daughter of their neighbor in order to obtain a piece of land. Kit's cousin, the wicked Marquis of Locklynde has also forbidden Kit from marrying without permission. Local gossip has it that the Marquis has been living a dissipated life all over Europe and probably won't live very long, therefore Kit will soon become the next Marquis of Locklynde. The seemingly proper young lady, Lydia Milliman, is determined to marry Kit solely for the expectation of his title! Esme decides to find a better husband for Lydia Milliman but Lydia still holds out hope of a title. In order to push Lydia into the arms of Sir John Wittimore, Esme tells Lydia the first thing that pops into her head, the wicked Marquis is engaged to be married - to Esme! When the Marquis returns to England and discovers Esme's lie, he is naturally angry but curiously, he chooses to go along with the scheme and behaves like a proper gentleman. Esme is so busy arranging the lives of everyone around her, she fails to notice that she has tumbled into romance! Esme is a charming and delightful character whose adventures in matchmaking are quite funny. The Marquis is not a well-developed character but he is a good foil for Esme. This book is a must for fans of Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy! It's one of the most Heyeresque Regencies I've read and one of the best I've ever read.

The Earl and the Heriess by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance 
Miss Noelle Armstrong, her brother Winston, Viscount Stirling and beautiful younger sister Ferne were left with very little after the death of their ambassador father. Since their mother's death they have had to retrench even more. It comes as a great surprise when Noelle is left a legacy by the crotchety great-aunt who raised her mother. Nellie decides to take her siblings off to London for a Season. The Armstrongs head off to London with their father's redoubtable valet, a spinster aunt and their beloved Maltese puppies. Nellie hits on a scheme to sell the puppies as companions to the ton in hopes of receiving introductions into Society. Nellie clashes with the Justin, the Earl of Wrenthe when he wishes to buy a puppy for his mistress. The Armstrong girls are soon inadvertently involved in scandals and schemes and the Earl happens to be right in the middle of things. He dislikes the interruption to his business but can't get a certain pair of green eyes and a little white puppy out of his head! This is another great novel worthy of Georgette Heyer! The characters are well-developed, likable and their adventures are quite funny. I recommend this book for fans of Georgette Heyer's Frederica.

Tilly by Marion Chesney -- Edwardian Romance
Frumpy tomboy The Honorable Matilda has been treated as a son for her whole life. She enjoys the hunt and does not dream of romance. She does entertain thoughts of becoming friends with the handsome Phillip, Marquess of Heppleford, a most eligible bachelor. When Tilly's father dies leaving her penniless, she becomes the hired companion of Lady Aileen who treats Tilly cruelly, referring to Tilly as "the Beast." Phillip learns that his eccentric late father left a will stipulating that Phillip will only inherit if he marries within two months of his father's death. Time is running out and Phillip feels sorry for Tilly and charms her into agreeing to marry him as a purely business relationship. Tilly readily agrees, being in love with the handsome Marquess, but without really understanding the arrangement. Phillip rushes off to his French courtesan leaving Tilly alone in England to weather the gossip. With help from her French maid, Tilly transforms into a fashionable lady. When Phillip returns to England after learning about a later will, he discovers his wife is the toast of the countryside and even his own best friend is in love with her. Tilly only has eyes for Phillip and she wants to win his heart. His sneaky cousin and snobby aunts try to interfere and nearly ruin the fledgling relationship. The plot moves slowly towards the usual end. I felt very sorry for Tilly and found her annoying for much of the book. None of the other characters are likable and the story just isn't as funny as Chesney's Regencies.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Spinster and the Wastrel by Louise Bergin -- Regency Romance
Miss Annette Courtney is the impoverished spinster daughter of the former vicar. Her life has been dedicated to doing good works and hounding the notoriously stingy Sir Nigel Montfort for money to improve the lives of the poor. When Sir Nigel dies and the will is read, Annette learns that Sir Nigel left all his wealth to her! Sir Nigel's nephew, Gerard is left with the estate but no money to run it. Gerard is angry with his late uncle who had little love for the boy he raised or the man that Gerard has become. What's worse is that Sir Nigel, believing his nephew to be a wastrel, libeled him to Annette. Annette wishes to open a school for the village children, secretly hoping it will fill a void in her heart. Unbeknowst to Annette, Gerard has had to live by his wits, his charm and his luck his whole life and has always longed to be part of society. When he learned his uncle died, he visited a moneylender in order to celebrate. The celebrations was premature and now Gerard is in debt and the moneylender is hounding him for money. Gerard also wants to do what's best for his tenants but needs Annette's money and she stubbornly refuses to give up the money without a fight. As they get to know each other, Annette and Gerard become friends and share an attraction to one another but pride and money matters nearly keep them apart. The story moves very slowly towards the usual conclusion without much plot. I wanted to like Annette because she is a bluestocking but she was too self-righteous and I found her annoying. Gerard is a charming hero once the reader gets to know him. I would recommend this one for fans of Christian romance and those interested in reform.

My Lady Gamester by Cara King -- Regency Romance
Richard Stanton has recently come home from the wars and inherited the title Earl of Stoke after the deaths of his father and older brother. He wasn't bred for the role and isn't used to civilian life. He has difficulty controlling his younger brother's actions and fears that Edmund will end up a hardened gamester like their father was before them. One night when Stoke enters a private drawing room gaming club to extricate his brother from the clutches of a card sharp, he encounters a beautiful green-eyed, gold-haired lady holding her own against said card sharp. Stoke is enchanted by the lady and feels the need to protect her and sits down to cards with her in the hopes that she'll lose and learn her lesson. Instead of losing, she wins quite a bit of money from the bewildered Stoke. What Stoke doesn't know is that Miss Atalanta James is a card sharp herself. Five years ago her father lost everything in one card game with the previous Earl of Stoke and two other gentlemen of the ton; a card game in which the other gentlemen cheated. The loss precipitated Atalanta's father's decline and subsequent death. With their mother run off with a younger, wealthy man, Atalanta takes on the responsibility of caring for her younger stepbrother and half-sister. Atalanta and her younger sister are unhappy living with cruel relatives who blame the children for the family's loss of money. Atalanta and Stoke become friends, sharing intimate details of their lives and hopes and dreams. Stoke tries to apologize for his father's win, but he doesn't know the whole truth or that Atalanta plans to ruin her father's enemies, avenge his death and provide for her family's future. As her feelings for Stoke develop, she wrestles with her conscience and shares her plans with him. Both Atalanta and Stoke must weigh family pride against doing the right thing before they can come to an understanding. Both Atalanta and Stoke's stories are revealed slowly over the course of the novel which makes their behavior believable and understandable. All the good characters are developed and easy to like and the bad are stereotypical villains. The plot kept me turning the pages until the conclusion. This is a good, well-crafted novel.

Rake's Ransom by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance
Seventeen-year-old Jacelyn Trevaine has been indulged by her scholarly father and allowed to run wild and free. She is a dedicated animal lover and continually runs afoul of the local Squire whose passion is fox hunting. The Squire informs Jacey's father that she needs to be controlled and her father promises to think about Jacey's future a little more. The Squire has a party of London friends and relatives coming for a hunting party and to ensure that Jacey doesn't ruin his party, he arrests and jails her dog as a public nuisance. Angry, Jacey decides to fight blackmail with blackmail and decides to kidnap Squire Bostwick's nephew, Lord Arthur Parkhurt, a London dandy. The plan goes off without a hitch, or so Jacey thinks, until she learns that she has kidnapped the wrong man! The man shut up alone with Jacey is Leigh, the Earl of Claibourne, just returned from the wars and a notorious rake! With a kiss to ruin her reputation and inspire previously unknown feelings, Jacey is in a real pickle when the rest of the Squire's party discover what Jacey has done. The Squire pressures Lord Trevaine to force Claibourne to marry the girl. Claibourne is willing for he needs money to run his estate and has truly been captivated by Jacey's unschooled manners, but Trevaine doesn't want to push his daughter into anything she doesn't want. Jacey agrees to a pre-betrothal promise from Claibourne and a London Season co-sponsored her her aunt, Claibourne and his elderly aunt. Jacey takes London by storm and charms her way into society but there's only one man she wants and she believes he doesn't love her. Meanwhile, Leigh's uncle, left crippled and bitter over an old family feud, is determined to prevent Leigh from ever marrying so his own son will have the title as well as fortune. Leigh's cousin Percy isn't very bright but he's determined to succeed with rather unexpected results. A series of adventures brings the novel to the inevitable conclusion. Too much time is spent on Leigh's uncle's revenge so the ending happens very abruptly leaving me wondering "Is that all?" The beginning of the novel is funny and Jacey is a great character but I lost interest early on when it became one of those misunderstanding plots. Still, the familiar plot is better than most of it's kind because of spunky Jacey and her adventures. There are some passages of passionate kissing and descriptions of Jacey's feelings that may not please fans of traditional Regencies. Overall, this book is not a bad read.

A Loyal Companion by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance
Sonia Ra
ndolph, called Sunny by her loved ones, has always been the apple of her father, the Squire's eye. Unlike her proper elder sister, Sonia loves to romp about the country visiting the tenants and lighting up her father's life. Her maternal grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Atterbury, thinks Sonia is a hoyden and is determined Sunny will make a match worthy of the family name so when Sunny's oldest brother marries and sets up his nursery and Sunny's father decides to remarry as well, Sunny is sent off to London for her come-out. In London, despite her grandmother's best intentions, Sunny remains her usual cheery and kind self. Always at her side loving her and protecting her is her faithful dog Fitz. Fitz gets lost and causes a chain of events resulting in a broken leg. Major Darius Conover, the Earl of Warebourne, brings Fitz home and mends the broken leg. Fitz is cheerful company for Darius' three young nieces, recently orphaned and left to his care. When Fitz is well enough to find his way home, he introduces Sunny and the Major. Sunny instantly feels sorry for the wounded war hero and tries to befriend him. Unfortunately, her most prominent suitor, Lord Ansel Berke, brings up an old scandal about his sister and Conover which had resulted in Conover's being shunned by polite society. Sunny doesn't believe the old scandal and continues to see Conover, growing ever closer to him and his nieces but old scandals die hard and the path to Sunny's future happiness is bumpy. Through it all, her dog Fitz narrates the story, contemplates the odd mating behavior of humans and tries to help Sunny find her life mate. Fitz is an intelligent dog who questions philosophical issues such as whether there is a heaven, why humans only worship one god, and of course, human social behavior. I'm a huge dog lover and I am all for literate dogs but Fitz is well read in Greek and Roman literature, which I am not, so I found it hard to follow and hard to relate Sunny's story to Fitz's favorite stories. A third person omniscient narrator shares the telling of the story with Fitz which is a little confusing. Sunny is a fun heroine, much like Jacey in Rake's Ransom. I think the two of them should get together and take London by storm! Darius isn't very well developed and I never got a sense of why Sunny loved him other than her instinct to take care of him. The ending drags on way too long but ends satisfactorily.

On the Way to Gretna Green by Marian Devon -- Regency Romance
Twenty-seven year old spinster Claudia Wentworth interrupts a late-night debauched bachelor card game to demand that Lord Thornton provide her with assistance or conveyance to catch her niece and his younger brother who have eloped to Gretna Greene. Thronton takes Claudia in his barouche but quickly hands her the reins while he falls asleep! That is the beginning of their adventures which continue in London where Claudia and her sister have come to stay with Thornton's merry, matchmaking aunt. Claudia must confront her feelings for her former fiancee, decide whether or not to publish her novel and figure out the exasperating behavior of Lord Thornton. That's enough to drive any girl crazy, but Claudia remains mainly steady and calm through it all and doesn't let go of her good sense. She is a very likable heroine. Thorn is a rather unconventional hero but he's very funny and kind in a teasing sort of way. I found him rather appealing and laughed at his unusual approach to dealing with Claudia. This is a fun, light comedy of manners romance bound to please fans of Jane Austen and traditional Regency comedy/romance novels.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard -- Teen Regency Romance
On a school trip to England, Callie is miserable and humiliated and determined to impress the mean girls by buying a pair of real prada shoes. Unfortunately for Callie, the shoes are too big and she trips and hits her head. When she wakes up, she is disoriented and confused because the bustle of London is nowhere to be seen, only trees and grass everywhere! She makes her way to a grand mansion where she is welcomed by a young lady named Emily who believes Callie is her American cousin Rebecca. Confused and scared, Callie goes along with it and pretends to be Rebecca, but her very modern opinions earn the displeasure of Alex, the Duke of Harksbury whose home she is visiting and his mother Victoria. Callie is determined to help Emily escape an unwanted marriage and turns Regency Society on its' head. She also can't help but find Alex nice to look at, even if he is arrogant. The longer Callie stays, she learns there are good points to Regency society and that people may be more than they seem. She also can't ignore the way Alex is beginning to look at her with something other than disdain! Callie gains confidence in herself which will help her do the right thing even if it means alienating her new friends. This is a light, fun read, just perfect for summer. At first I had to keep reminding myself that Callie is just a kid and not a historian and has no idea of the rules of society. I can't say that I wouldn't be tempted to speak out and I admire Callie for having the courage to stick to her convictions. The ending is a tad silly but I enjoyed this book a lot.

nger Lickin' Fifteen : a Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich -- murder mystery
Stephanie Plum is back in this new adventure and this time Lula takes center stage when she witnesses a decapitation and becomes the target of the murderers. She and Grandma Mazur enter a barbecue contest sponsored by the decapitated celebrity chef. Meanwhile, Stephanie returns to Rangeman to help Ranger solve a series of break-ins at the homes of his highest profile clients in exchange for helping Stephanie catch her FTAs . . . and maybe more if Stephanie hadn't sworn off men. Lula and Grandma really shine in this story and their adventures in barbecuing had me laughing out loud. There are also the usual car chases, car explosions and misadventures in apprehension. This is one of the better Plum novels.

Miss Whitlow's Turn by Jenna Mindel -- Regency Romance
Harriet Whitlow has turned down every suitor her father has picked out for her in the last two seasons. Now she's on her last chance and her father wants her to marry the new Earl of Grafton, a most proper gentleman who wants a proper well-bred woman to bear his heirs. Harriet wants only to marry the rake George Clasby, whom she has had a crush on since her first season. She believes he needs her, with some help from God, to reform. George has grown bored with his flings with society matrons and has decided to look for a wife. Because of his reputation, many doors are closed to him so he decides to befriend Harriet who bears a lot of influence in society. Her father disapproves of George but is willing to allow George to call as a friend as long as he doesn't break Harriet's heart. Harriet doesn't want George as a friend and decides to take matters into her own hands to disgust Grantham and make George interested. This book is nowhere near as funny as it sounds. Harriet is dull and sanctimonious. She is very religious and makes her viewpoints known. She needs the assistance of alcohol to become bold enough to make the first move. . Harriet and George don't have any chemistry and I didn't care one way or another whether they got together or not. This is an all together boring novel with dull, unlikeable characters. I wouldn't recommend it for those who love romance and historical details.

The Marriage List by Dorothy McFalls -- Regency Romance
Feeling miserable and sorry for himself after a severe injury at the Battle of Salamanca, Radford, Viscount Evers decides it's time to listen to his mother and find a wife who will bear his heirs. Radford and his friend Lord Nathan Wynter make a list of all the qualities Radford requires in a wife. Feelings and emotions don't enter the list . . . at least not until he meets Miss May Sheffers who storms into his home with her friend Lady Iona Newbury. May and her elderly, infirm aunt are about to be evicted from their home which happens to be owned by Lord Evers. May is a follower of Mary Wollstonecraft and believes she can easily handle the situation without a man's help. She tries to explain how her parents are missing in South America and her uncle has ordered the courts to seize May's money, but Lord Evers doesn't want to listen and doesn't care. May storms out of his home in a rage, loathing Lord Evers but certain she can help herself and her aunt. To complicate matters, May's Uncle Sires wants to marry May off to a man old enough to be her grandfather and take Aunt Winnie home with him in order for her to have the best care. May considers the marriage if only for her aunt's sake but she would prefer to be an independent lady. Her future is further confused by subsequent meetings with and growing attraction to Lord Evers, who woos May with his roguish charm and tender kisses all while courting Iona's sister, the beautiful Lady Lilian Newbury! Radford and May try to remain friends but both feel trapped by the circumstances of their birth and Radford is determined to protect May at all costs. This is a rather complicated story and not a light, fun read. There is a lot of unhappiness before the characters can finally be happy. I'm not really sure I liked the book. The writing is good except for when the author tells us what the characters are feeling (a little more subtly would be nice) and the epilogue is also poorly written. I really admired May who was determined not to rely on any man. Lady Iona is also admirable and the gentlemen are charming. The plot was interesting and kept me reading until the end. I would recommend this to those who like more serious minded stories than comedy of manners.

Her Perfect Earl by Bethany Brooks -- Regency Romance
Miss Esmerelda Fortune (yes, that's her unfortunate name) is an impoverished gentlewoman and a scholar who dreams of opening a school for young ladies to study the classics. She hopes to complete a study of ancient Greek women and win a scholarship prize from Oxford, but first she needs to locate a manuscript in the Earl of Ashford's private library. Esmie takes a position as governess for the Earl's five unruly children in order to search for the manuscript. She quickly realizes the children desperately want their father's love and attention and Esmie is determined to make him love the children. (Sound of Music anyone?) The perfectly imperfect Esmie runs afoul of the perfect Earl when he catches her snooping around his private library, a place where he can go to be alone and forget about the demands of being an Earl. Esmie manages to steal the manuscript while the Earl is busy courting his second wife, the daughter of a wealthy cit. When the manuscript goes missing, Esmie is determined to find it and return it and once again runs into the Earl during her late night wanderings. The pair soon share intimate moments and secrets in the dark. In the daylight, they are determined to get the other out of their heads and focus on their tasks but find it difficult to hide their growing attraction for one another. The children are determined to keep their Miss Esmie and prevent their father from providing them with a wicked step-mother. This story seems like it would be a comedy of manners in the Pride and Prejudice tradition but it's more complicated and serious. I greatly admired Esmie for the most part though she makes a monumental decision that could have changed her life forever and I felt it was out of character and didn't care for two particular scenes. The writing is very good for the most part. There is a bonus epilogue on the author's website which doesn't really add anything to the story but if you want to know what happens to the children, then it's worth a read. I wouldn't recommend this to fans if light Regency or traditional Regency where the hero and heroine share a kiss at the end. This one falls under the category of "sweet sensuality" on the All About Romance scale.

The Heroines: A Novel by Eileen Favorite -- Adult Fiction
Thirteen-year-old Penny Entwhistle's mother runs an inn near Prairie Bluff, Illinois. The inn guests come from all over - including works of literary fiction! Some notable guests have included Scarlett O'Hara, Hester Prynne and Madame Bovary. In 1974, the summer Penny is 13 is marked with change. Penny is in the throes of adolescent angst and jealous of the attention her mother gives the literary guests and angry at her mother for not doing anything to change the stories. When a dashing, determined man on horseback comes riding across the prairie looking for the latest inn guest, Penny finds herself becoming a heroine when the villain abducts her and she ends up in a mental institution for trying to tell outsiders about the heroines.
I thought this story would be about the heroines but it's really about Penny and and her current situation with flashbacks to her interactions with literary guests and revelations about Penny's father. I didn't like the first-person past-tense narration because it was difficult to follow what was happening in 1974 and what was in Penny's past and future. I was also not familiar with all of the heroines and their stories so found it difficult to keep up with Penny's thoughts about them. I didn't really care for this book very much. Modern fiction isn't really my area of interest.

The Good Land by Loula Grace Erdman -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction
It has been more than ten years since the Pierce family of The Wind Blows Free settled in the Texas panhandle. Life has been good for the Pierces except for the youngest, Carolyn, who feels that her problems are important yet no one seems to care. Carolyn frets because her family treat her like a baby and feels left out of the family adventures; she's afraid to start high school in Amarillo in the fall and only she knows why her older sister Katie feels so blue after returning home from finishing school. Carolyn makes new friends, helps her sister and learns what it means to be truly grown up in this charming third book in the Texas Panhandle series. Carolyn is an appealing heroine and any adolescent girl can relate to her. These books should truly be classics, like the Little House series and I hope that now they're back in print, they will continue to be read by a new generation of girls.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I Read Last Week . . .

A Gypsy At Almack's by Chloe Chesire -- Regency Romance
Lucy St-Clair is not a typical Regency miss. She's 21, stout with a big bossom, bookish and enjoys discussing things young ladies shouldn't be interested in or know about. Three Seasons ago she came to London to stay with her godmamma to be brought out but did not succeed in finding a husband. N
ow her parents want her to come home so they can send her younger sisters to be brought out. In one last attempt to find Lucy a husband, her godmamma, Tabitha, asks her dissipated, confirmed bachelor brother Ernest, Lord Rune to attend some of the events of the Season in order to bring Lucy into fashion. When Lucy discovers the plan she is angry and decides to make Lord Rune dislike her. She nearly succeeds until she opens her mouth to sing and then he becomes interested in her remarkable talent and she falls madly in love with him. The more time they spend together, the more Lord Rune enjoys their discussions and Lucy's frank openness but he's certain he's not interested in her. Ernest's notice of Lucy succeeds a little too well for his taste and his pride nearly prevents the happy ending Lucy dreams of. I enjoyed this book quite a lot. I could really relate to Lucy. I think the author must have had me in mind when describing Lucy! Lucy is a refreshing change from simpering misses and hoydenish heroines. She is who she is and nothing is going to change that. Lord Rune at first does not seem like the idea hero but he and Lucy get along well together and I think they're perfect for each other. I highly recommend this book for those who prefer story over romance.

he Beauty's Daughter by Monette Cummings -- Regency Romance
The beautiful and charming Lady Alice has a court of admirers in London where she lives the life of a young widow by pretending to be 31 years old. Lady Alice is really closer to 40 and she has a 22 year old daughter who Lady Alice would prefer didn't exist and shows no love for. Priscilla Holladay was sent away to school at the age of 8 after the death of her beloved father and stayed on as a teacher until ill health forced the kind headmistress to close the school forever. Priscilla joins her mother in London, hoping that absence made her mother's heart grow fonder. However, she discovers that far from wanting her, Lady Alice wants to ship Priscilla off to a dreaded great-aunt in the country forever! Instead, Lady Alice discovers she can put Priscilla's education to good use and "employ" Priscilla as her secretary. She also puts Priscilla to work doing menial tasks for free. Priscilla's life changes forever during a brief meeting with one of her mother's beaux, a Mr. Sean O'Rourke, who kindly chats with Priscilla about farming. Though Priscilla lost her heart, she knows her mother is fond of Mr. O'Rourke and Priscilla believes he will marry Lady Alice so Priscilla endeavors to stay out of the way. A fateful houseparty in the country brings Priscilla to notice in an unexpected and not very pleasant way. Finally, Priscilla takes control of her own destiny and finally learns what it means to have somebody love her. The plot is very slow moving and nothing much really happens. There's very little chemistry between the romantic leads and Priscilla is very innocent and sheltered. Lady Alice is the true villain of the story and she's so dreadful, it's hard to feel sorry for her when things don't go her way. I wasn't crazy about this book and wouldn't recommend it.

The Wind Blows Free by Loula Grace Eardman -- Middle Grades/Family Historical Fiction
First published in 1957, this is the story of the pioneering Pierce family who move from East Texas to the Texas Panhandle in the 1890s where Mr. Pierce has taken a homestead and begun farming. Fourteen-year-old Melinda is reluctant to leave her family and friends behind in the city. She is promised that in a year and a half she can return to her grandmother in East Texas to attend the young ladies' academy where her mother went. Life in the Panhandle is difficult. Their nearest neighbors are a dirty, unkempt, illiterate family whom Melinda is reluctant to associate with. She'd rather associate with the proper Kennedys, especially teenage nephew Dennis who loves to read as much as she does. Melinda soon learns to appreciate the wide open country and blowing wind and to enjoy the company of her neighbors. When the time comes to return home, Melinda must make a difficult decision. This is a great story for families! It reminded me a lot of the Little House series and deals with many of the same issues. The tone is a little preachy at points but overall, the story is well-written and worth a read for those who have devoured all of the Little House books a million times!

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street (audio) by Jeanne Birdsall -- Middle Grades Fiction

The Penderwicks are back in this amusing sequel. Their father's sister arrives bringing presents and a letter for Daddy from Mommy written before Mommy's death. In her letter, Mommy urges Daddy to date again. This news sisters the Penderwick sisters into a tailspin. Dreading a stepmother, they come up with operation Save Daddy to turn him off dating forever. Their plan almost s
ucceeds, but who is the mysterious Marianne Dashwood their Daddy continues to date without introducing her to his family? Meanwhile, the sisters befriend the new neighbor next door, a young widow and mother of a toddler who is a professor at the same university as Mr. Penderwick. Each of the sisters also has her own worries and adventures before the story reaches its' predictable conclusion. I enjoyed listening to this book a lot. The narrator pitches her voice differently for each character and is especially effective as the male characters and young Batty. The adventures of the Penderwicks were a little sad but mostly funny. I liked this one much more than the first and especially loved the literary references.