Thursday, April 15, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Third Sister: A Continuation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility by Julia Barrett
The central character of this novel is Miss Margaret Dashwood, now seventeen and the right age to have suitors, yet there are no eligible young men available in Devonshire and Margaret spends most of her time playing nursemaid to the unruly Middleton children. She sees her sisters infrequently and longs for the happiness they have discovered. Visitors to Barton Park bring a new friend for Margaret and a potential suitor. Though Margaret longs to accept Mr. DuPlessy's flirtations, she can't help but remain cautious in light of what happened to Marianne. A trip to Brighton brings more new friends and another potential suitor for Margaret. She must determine whether sense or sensibility will win out. Meanwhile, Elinor and Edward Ferrars deal with domestic drama when Edward's mother pays an unexpected call and Marianne and Col. Brandon grow ever fonder of each other and try to help their family and friends the best they can. This is a slow moving novel that is supposed to be in the tradition of Jane Austen, yet I couldn't get into it. The plot borrows from Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion but doesn't come close to matching the charm and liveliness of the originals. Margaret never fully develops as a character and she comes across as boring and weak. There are too many subplots and too many new characters to keep track of that I found myself getting confused. I do not recommend reading this sequel.

My Lady Nightingale by Evelyn Richardson -- Regency Romance
Lord Christian Hatherleigh returns home battle weary after five years fighting in the Penninsula, looking forward to seeing his family again but feeling as if all beauty and ideals have gone out of the world. On a visit to his brother's townhouse, Christian overhears a beautiful lady's voice singing opera as he's never heard it before. Christian is intrigued by the voice and accidentally intrudes on the lady's vocal practice session. Lady Isobel de Montargis, daughter of French emigrees, is governess to Christian's beloved young nieces. At first Isobel is angry at the interruption, then alarmed by Christian's charming manner. In Isbobel, Christian sees a saviour, one who has lifted him from a place of darkness and brought back the light. In order to thank her, he decides to help advance her musical career, a favor which Isobel is reluctant to accept. Isobel is determined she will advance her career on her own without help from anyone. Christian uses his connections to get Isobel the opportunity to study with a great master and though she is grateful for the opportunity, she is angry at Christian's interference. Though she is grateful for his help, she stubbornly refuses to admit that Christian's attention means anything to her. Her dreams are on the verge of coming true, but soon, she faces greater obstacles to her happiness than her own stubborn pride, and she may loose all she holds dear, including love. This is a very well-written novel. The plot unfolds slowly, though the character's backgrounds are revealed early on. There is also a unique family drama subplot and a heartbreaking scene towards the end that had me practically in tears.I sobel and Christian become friends and he respects and admires her rather than lusts after her. He truly wants to help her career and slowly realizes he loves her as the story progresses. Isobel is a really admirable character. Like all of Richardson's heroines, she's proud and independent but I feel that she is the best developed. I couldn't help but fall in love with Christian myself. He's deeper than your typical rakish hero but still gets tongue tied with the woman he loves. He understands Isobel and understands what's best for her versus his personal interests. All of the above combine to create Richardson's very best novel. As usual, Richardson includes almost too much historical background information, but it doesn't affect the plot. Also, her heroes tend to turn into stalkers and Christian is not exception but he's slightly less creepy than some of the others. There are a few unrealistic points, like Isobel wanting to be an opera singer in the first place, but if you don't quibble and accept the story, you won't be disappointed.

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