Friday, March 12, 2010

What I've Read Lately

What I've Read Lately . . .

Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland -- Middle Grades/ YA  Austenesque Fiction 
12 year-
old Polly Madassa dreams of the days when Elizabeth Bennet walked the halls of Pemberley with Mr. Darcy and Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe (Anne of Green Gables) rambled down Lover's Lane. Polly lives and breathes her two favorite novels, even attempting to speak like a 19th century heroine. In the small seaside town where her parents own a bakery, Polly searches for real life Elizabeths, Darcys, Annes and Gilberts for her nearest and dearest. She also wants to regain the affections of her dearest sister and must deal with an unwanted suitor. Though things don't always go the way she planned, Polly never gives up until she sees the truth of the situation. Polly is a modern tween equivalent of Jane Austen's Emma. Like Emma, Polly is certain she is right and ignores what is right under her nose. I can really relate to Polly and her love of old-fashioned romances. I remember speaking and dressing like a 19th century heroine, too and that made Polly all the more of an appealing heroine. The other characters are real people who inhabit the real, modern world with problems of their own that many readers will be able to relate to. This is a sweet, charming novel that girls (and women) who dream of being Elizabeth and Anne will love.

ne's Lady by Evelyn Richardson -- Regency Romance
Lady Althea Beauchamp has always been the dutiful daughter her parents wanted and now, in her first Season, she finds her wishes at odds with her parents'. Her parents, of course, wish her to find a husband who with the perfec
t bloodlines, society connections and political connections. Althea wants nothing more than to return to the country and manage an estate. Her distaste for young gentlemen of the ton has earned her the nickname "Ice Princess." Althea is lonely and unhappy until she locks eyes with the cynical misogynist Gareth de Vere, Marquess of Harwood. Gareth dislikes Society functions and well-bred women. He is bullied by his scheming mother to attend her every wish and hates it. Gareth and Althea discover a shared passion for cards and in each other, a clever mind and excellent card partners. They discover they have more in common than just cards and become friends. Soon Althea is playing the card game of her life in order to accomplish her dreams and become the person she's always wanted to be. What she didn't count on was a certain handsome Bachelor Marquess intruding into her private world and her lack of power to resist him. Althea and Gareth are intelligent and have interesting back stories which allow them to share a common bond, which I really liked. As much as I liked the characters though, I found this story rather long and slow. There are detailed descriptions of card playing and estate management that really weren't necessary to move the plot along. I really liked Althea and hoped for her happiness almost as much as she wished for it. I wasn't crazy about the Marquess. He acts like a love-sick schoolboy turned crazy stalker! I also disliked that the Marquess frequents the boudoir of a certain opera dancer, even after meeting Althea. I found myself hoping that Althea would make a different choice than she did. Overall, this is a slightly above average Regency but I wouldn't give it more than 3 out of 5 stars or place it on my keeper shelf. It's a good one to get from your local library.

Breach of Promise by Elisabeth Fairchild -- Regency Romance
The hero, Philip Chalmondelay, Marquess of Chalmondelay, Earl of Rockford (name is not written correctly) flees on his wedding day after discovering the betrayal of his betrothed. He winds up in Chipping Camden, where he rents a manor house from Miss Susan Fairford and wishes to remain incognito by lying to her and everyone else. Susan is distrustful of her tenant and suspicious of strange men ever since her husband absconded on her wedding day stealing her fortune. Susan earns money through beekeeping. She trusts the bees more than she trusts men, at least until she meets Philip. Philip and Susan are physically attracted to one another, he lusts after her, they get to know each other better but she still doesn't trust him. Then Susan's ability to trust Philip is called into question when his past catches up to him. Susan is forced to confront her feelings for Philip and how much she's willing to trust her feelings and how far she's willing to go for them. This book is a bit too long and not much happens in the plot until halfway through and then it gets bogged down and some issues are left kind of unresolved. The whole plot is unbelievable. There is no good reason for Susan to believe that Philip was a villain after he had already pretty much told her he had had his heart broken. There was also no way that the action/ "secret" that precipitates Philip leaving Chipping Camden for London could have happened in that short amount of time. The story just doesn't ring true for me and I also disliked all the sensuality and lusting after each other. Sexual tension is OK as long as it's done right and this was not. It would rate somewhere between subtle and warm on All About Romance's scale. Sadly, this was another dud that I won't be reading ever again.

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett -- Adult Victorian Traditional Romance

This book, written by the author of A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, is an adult romance that set the pace for traditional romances by Georgette Heyer and other writers. The heroine, Emily Fox-Seton is very poor, but manages to get by on 20 pounds a year. She's not very bright, but she's good and kind and everyone loves to take advantage of her good nature. Lady Maria Bayne invites Emily to her house party in the country to assist with the duties of party planning and hosting. The guests include a widowed writer, an American heiress, the beautiful daughter of an impoverished Irish peer, Lady Agatha Slade and the widowed Marquis of Walderhurst, on the hunt for a new wife. Emily becomes invaluable to the hostess and befriends Lady Agatha and helps the younger girl bear her troubles. Emily catches the interest of the Marquis and soon becomes his bride! Emily loves her husband and he enjoys her company. Upon hearing of the Marquis's marriage, his black sheep heir, Osborne and his wife leave India and return to England to determine how to prevent the title from passing to Walderhusrst and Emily's prospective heir to their own. Kind Emily takes pity on Osborne's wife and tries to ease her burdens, but old hatreds die hard and the Osbornes may or may not be involved in a plot to take Emily's life. The plot is fairly typical though not predictable. It takes awhile for the story to get going and then it turns gothic. I didn't really like Emily because she was too kind and good and didn't stand up for herself, but I wanted her to have the happy ending she deserved. The Marquis is hardly in the book, but he seems like a decent fellow if you like dull heroes. If you've read and liked the traditional romances of Georgette Heyer, then you will probably enjoy this book.

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