What I've Read This Week . . .
Smuggler's Summer by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romantic Comedy
Miss Octavia Gray is a Londoner born and bred. Her parents are reformers who would rather spend money on worthy causes than on a social life for their youngest daughter. Octavia longs for the countryside she's never seen and wishes for an adventure. Octavia's cousin Julia, a beautiful heiress, shares her wealth with Octavia whenever she can. Julia is kind and generous, almost to a fault. Julia's kindness lands her in trouble with her parents when she develops a tendre for the radical writer James Wynn, rejecting the hand of the most worthy Sir Tristram Deanbridge. Julia is banished to the country estate of friends for the summer and is miserable without company so she begs Octavia to join her. Octavia arrives on board a smugglers' ship and is stopped by a Customs Officer but she enjoys the adventure greatly. Julia and her maid give Octavia a make over, so she feels pretty and fashionable for the first time in her life. Joining the cousins and Julia's weak-willed aunt, is Sir Tristram, who happens to be the godson of the estate owner and grew up spending summers in the house and grounds. Sir Tristram leads the girls on an adventure to discover secret messages, lost treasure and hidden tunnels. Olivia enjoys the adventure and the company of Sir Trsitram, but Julia pines for James. Octavia tries to help Julia and push the girl into marrying Sir Tristram but finds herself falling for him instead. Add to her adventures a lovesick Lieutenant, a house party of dandies and members of the ton, a wounded smuggler and midnight adventures. Octavia has never had so much fun in her life (despite her tendre for one who loves another)! More description would give away the final zany adventures. The characters are all likable, even the smugglers, and Octavia is a character many women can relate to. The characters could be a bit more developed but the story is more plot driven and the plot is a good one. It made me giggle out loud several times and I enjoyed the adventure. It's written in an old-fashioned style without emphasis on physical attraction and obsession over feelings. This is a good read for Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer fans.
Before the Season Ends (Regency Inspirational Romance No. 1) by Linore Rose Burkard
Nineteen year old Ariana Forsythe is convinced that God has called her to marry a man of the church, and she sets her sights on the elderly vicar of her family's country parish. Not wishing her to marry a much older man, her parents send her off to London to stay with her father's wealthy sister. Ariana looks forward to seeing the sights of London but her aunt has grand plans for the beautiful girl and they include being the toast of the ton and marrying a wealthy peer. On a visit to a country estate, Ariana literally runs into one of the patronesses of Almacks and innocently offends her. Next, Ariana invokes the ire and the interest of The Paragon, Phillip Mornay. When Lady Worthington tries to cause a scandal involving Ariana and Mr. Mornay, he rises to the occasion to rescue the innocent young girl. Ariana gets caught up in a whirl of high society and even catches the eye of the Prince Regent. Even though she's enjoying herself, Ariana knows Mr. Mornay would not make a good husband, even if he were interested in her, for he is not a true Christian. Ariana prays for his soul and prays God will direct her to the right husband, one of true faith and good character. Mr. Mornay seems to fit the character requirement but a Mr. O'Brien fulfills the faith requirement. Ariana prays a lot more for guidance and help coming to a decision while preaching to the ones she loves and badgering them to become true Christians. I absolutely hate preachy books, preachy characters and people who try to beat others into believing what they believe and this book has them all. At first Ariana is charming and funny with lots of country innocence but the author ruins the book by making Ariana turn wishy-washy. Ariana prays constantly and quotes Scripture as she tries to figure out what to do. I can't relate to that. The story would have been a lot better if she had accepted that it was God's will to marry a kind and generous man who loves her and whom she loves back. It also would have made the story shorter. Mr. Mornay isn't all that likable either. The story never gets inside his head and the reader only learns about the events that shaped his life second hand, as Ariana learns them from someone else! He is also overbearing at times, wanting to protect Ariana but also demanding that he choose her clothes, forever! It's hard to like a character without knowing what he's thinking. Ariana's aunt is a stereotypical dowager of the ton, scheming matchmaker and demanding aunt who never listens to Ariana or cares what the girl thinks or feels. This story starts off well but deteriorates towards the last quarter of the novel. I wouldn't recommend this one except maybe to Christians. As far as Christian Regency romances go, I much prefer All the Tea in China by Jane Orcutt.
The Officer and the Lady by Dorothy Elbury -- Regency Romance
Abandoned by his father after his mother died giving birth to him, Matt Beresford spent a lonely childhood in England while his father remained in India. Upon reaching adulthood, Matt confronted his father who had returned to England, and was rejected again. However, Sir Matthew was able to provide his son with a useful contact at the East India Company and Matt traveled back to India where he has lived for the last nine years. Now he has come back to England to sort out the difficulties of his late father's will. It seems that unbeknowst to Matt, his father had remarried and had a second family which includes a son. Matt arrives to find a decaying estate, a corrupt estate agent and a family in turmoil. The backbone of the family is Miss Imogene Priestley, the niece of Matt's stepmother, who has given her personal fortune to save the family from ruin. Misunderstandings occur and Imo and Matt get off on the wrong foot. Sparks fly quickly and the pair continually argue with each other, though everyone can see that the pair are attracted to one another. Matt and Imo both have to overcome the past and set aside prejudices to help the Beresford family and discover how much they mean to one another. This is another copycat Pride and Prejudice done wrong. The book is a little lengthy but more time could have been spent in developing the characters. As it stands, all of the characters are stereotypical and the plot is cliched and predictable. The book isn't terrible but it isn't great either. For those keeping track, it's a clean read. There is some kissing and brief passages of how the characters feel, but nothing too bad.