What I've Read This Week . . . Part II
The Frog Earl by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance
Simon Hurst, Earl of Derwent, returns home from life in the navy prepared to take over duties as his father's heir from his late brother. His very proper father feels that Simon needs some town bronze and enlists the aid of Simon's cousin Gerald, Viscount Litton to show Simon the ways of the ton. Simon finds it difficult to adjust to life on land, until he falls in love. Just as he's about to pop the question, he accidentally overhears the lady speaking cruelly of him and calling him a frog. Dejected, Simon runs away to his Aunt Georgina, Lady Thompson's, estate to learn estate managing from her excellent bailiff. Simon decides to go icognito in hopes of finding a lady who will love him for himself. Simon comes across Mimi, the daughter of an Indian princess and English colonel, finishing for her lost bracelet. She promises him three rewards if he can rescue her bracelet: an invitation to dinner, a dance and a kiss! Simon rescues the bracelet but the independent Mimi has no intentions of providing him with a reward! Mimi is used to gentlemen fawning all over her because she is an heiress and she wants none of them. She'd rather pass her suitors on back to her friend Harriet, the lovely vicar's daughter, who had been the object of attention before Mimi arrived in England. The generous, well-meaning Mimi sets out of a project to scare her suitors away. Surprisingly, Simon Hurst can not be moved by Mimi's incorrigible behavior and accepts her for who she is, causing Mimi to rethink her decision not to marry. This Regency Romance is a bit different from the rest, being a retelling of The Frog Prince. Mimi's outrageous behavior made me giggle but other than that, I found the story slow and monotonous. The fairy tale makes the story rather contrived and too confined. If the story focused on just Mimi and Simon and cut out the subplot about Harriet, it would make a fine short fairy tale, but as is, it's a bit too long to be a fairy tale and a bit too short for a romance. The ending is rushed and rather boring and unromantic. I also think Mimi is very young and impulsive and needs to grow up a bit before she marries. Usually Dunn's heroines are older and more independent. This is not one of her better books.
Longing to get away from the city, Cornelia and Teo, now happily married, move to a Philadelphia suburb where everything is boring and picture perfect and children go to prep schools starting in Kindergarten. Their new neighbor Piper seems to take Cornelia into aversion for some reason and Cornelia grows lonely without a friend. She meets Lake, a single mom who works at a local restaurant and shares Cornelia's sense of humor, but every time Cornelia tries to get close to Lake, she shuts down. Dev, Lake's 13-year-old son is adjusting to life in the Philadelphia suburbs as well and also his new school for the gifted. Piper throws herself into caring for her best friend Elizabeth, who is dying of cancer, and making sure that Elizabeth's family is well taken care of. Piper is also dealing with the breakup of her marriage and the loss of the perfect lifestyle she has worked hard to accomplish. Cornelia, Piper and Dev tell their stories in alternating points of view and their lives become intertwined through loss, love and the revelation of secrets. Though Clare Hobbes does not have her own voice this time, she does appear in the story in a significant way and continues to be a part of Cornelia and Teo's lives. This book is far inferior to the first. I picked it up to find out what happened to Clare and she isn't even mentioned for the first 100 pages or so and doesn't appear until around page 140. Even Cornelia's story takes a back seat to Piper and Dev's. Piper is the main character of this book and the story is really about her transformation and letting go of old ideas and allowing herself to be free and happy. Her story by itself would have made an interesting novel but it doesn't gel with the other two narratives. Dev's story learning that smart and "odd" can equal "cool" and accepted is also interesting and inspirational for teenagers if removed from the rest of the narrative. Dev also begins searching for the father he never knew and trying to discover his mom's secrets. That plot is cliched and I figured it out almost right at the beginning of the story. Cornelia's plot includes a subplot about her little brother Toby that never really gets off the ground or finishes conclusively. Her story is also full of cliches and angst and she goes on being herself. I just couldn't like her as much in this story. She was boring and her story didn't grip me. I couldn't relate to her anymore. I hated Piper at first but once her story got going, I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to see what happened to her. She is a fine example of good characterization. There are too many characters in this story to keep track of and too many cliched plots. It also lacks the cute movie references of the first book. There are some, but they're sort of thrown in there without ties to the plot. I think the author would have done better if she had limited herself to writing about Piper and not made this a sequel at all. I don't recommend reading this one if you liked Love Walked In.
A Lord for Miss Larkin - Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance
Alison Larkin lives a shabby genteel life with her aunts and their dogs in an unfashionable part of London. Alison reads romance novels and dreams of having a lord fall at her feet, though she knows that's unlikely given her station. When her Aunt Zenobia returns from India a wealthy widow, she is determined to improve her family's living situation as well as given Alison a Season! Aunt Zenobia hires Lady Emma Grant to help Alison through her Season. Emma enlists the help of her family and friends, particularly Mr. Philip Trevelyan. Philip will do whatever Emma asks because he wishes to marry her, but he can not like associating with such a vulgar, impertinent girl. Aunt Zenobia asks her man of business, Mr. Ralph Osborne, to keep an an eye on Alison, with hopes that the two will make a match at the end of the Season. Emma kindly encourages Alison to be more friendly to Mr. Osborne, whom she highly regards, but Alison resents the intrusion. She much prefers the attentions of her dashing young suitors and Lord Fane, who seems very interested in her. Yet, it's only when she is with Philip that Alison feels like she can be herself. Philip is all that is kind and considerate, especially to her aunts and Alison isn't sure what to make of him. This is a pretty weak novel from Dunn. Alison is young and immature and has no business marrying anyone. Philip is a pale imitation of Mr. Darcy, but without any reasoning behind his behavior. The aunts and their dogs make the book worthwhile. They are not quite as zany as some of the other secondary characters in other Dunn novels, but they are sweet and funny at the same time. Dunn excels at character development and though Alison, Philip and Emma change, the characterization is a little weak and lacking in depth. The other characters are mostly unmemorable and flat. Even the villain can't be counted on to do the thing properly. This is the weakest of Dunn's novels that I have read so far.