Friday, December 10, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn -- Regency Historical

Annabel Winslow is visiting her grandparents in London in order to find a wealthy husband to save her family from poverty. Her grandfather wants to marry her off to his friend the fat, grotesque, elderly Earl of Newbury. Annabel's grandmother is philosophical and points out the Earl is likely to die, leaving Annabel a wealthy widow. The Earl desires Annabel for her full chest and large hips he is certain signify her ability to provide him with the heir he so desires. His current heir, Sebastian Grey is a notorious rake and not on speaking terms with his uncle. Sebastian Grey, home from the wars, spends his nights reliving the horror of war and his days eating his beloved cousins Edward and Harry out of house and home. He also has a secret: he writes Gothic romance novels to pass the time and make a bit of money. No one suspects him of being the popular female author and Sebastian would like to keep it that way. A chance encounter between Annabel and Sebastian awakens Annabel to her dreadful fate. She's charmed by the roguish but poetic Sebastian and he finds himself opening up a bit to her and provides her with the passionate kiss she desires before being forced into a loveless marriage. They part without learning each other's names, however, until Harry's wife Olivia takes Annabel and her cousin Louisa under her wing. As Sebastian and Annabel encounter each other, they become the talk of the town as Sebastian's charming ways catch the notice of the ton. Lord Newbury seems to give up on Annabel, causing her to have mixed feelings. When Sebastian pretends to court Annabel to repair her reputation, the Earl decides not to let her go without a fight. Annabel becomes caught up in a love triangle and torn between fulfilling the passion that burns in her heart or doing her duty to help her family. The story plays out slowly and drags on forever, coming to a ridiculous conclusion. I felt sorry for Annabel and wanted her to find happiness but not quite in the way it happens. The passion in this story is way overblown but the steamy parts can be skipped because they don't move the plot forward. The plot is wrapped up too neatly with no good reason for the villain to withdraw. None of the characters learned anything or grew as a result of the plot. The language is modern and makes the book all that less appealing. Olivia is a great character and I almost want to read her story but I didn't like the way the book was written so I probably won't. Skip this book if you like well-written, fun, witty books.

The Family Greene by Ann Rinaldi -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction
The family Greene referred to in the title is that of General Nathanael Greene, second-in-command to George Washington during the American Revolution. (see my post about my visit to his home). The first half of the book is told from the point-of-view of a young woman named Catherine Littlefield. Caty, as she was called, is a spoiled, wealthy girl growing up up on Block Island, an island off the coast of Rhode Island. Her mother died when she was young so when it comes time for her to learn to be a young lady, she is sent to live with her Aunt Catherine Greene to learn all the things she knows to become accomplished. Aunt Catherine, who was once rumored to have had an affair with Benjamin Franklin, teaches Caty the art of flirtation. She informs Caty that flirtation is the only form of power women have over men and there's a way to do it right that will get a lady what she wants. Caty catches the eye of an older, kind relative of her uncle's, named Nathanael Greene. Caty and Nathanael become friends as he helps guide her on her journey to adulthood. They marry once Caty is of age and soon he has defied his faith and joined General Washington in the conflict against the British. After the war, Cornelia Greene, daughter of Caty and Nathanael, takes over the narrative. She loves her father and their life on a South Carolina plantation, but her world changes when her spiteful older sister informs Cornelia that Cornelia was conceived at Valley Forge where their mother had carried on a flirtation with General Anthony Wayne, therefore Nathanael Greene is not Cornelia's father. Cornelia is shattered by the news and confronts General Wayne. Her tells her that respect for her mother is more important than the truth and refuses to tell her. The secret worries Cornelia for the rest of her teen years, as does her mother's behavior, which grows increasingly cruel to her children and more flirtatious with her gentlemen friends. General Wayne takes Cornelia in hand and treats her like a daughter to show her how to grow up to be an intelligent and respectful adult. The plot concludes at the end of Wayne's life when Cornelia finally receives the answer to her question. The story is about an internal struggle with no external struggle to mirror it and therefore, the book lacks the depth and excitement of Rinaldi's early works. There's no action to move the plot along and many of the events are summarized and the rest is dialogue. I didn't feel anything for the characters, despite the ties to my home state. If anything, I couldn't stand Caty and found Cornelia a bit bratty. I wouldn't recommend this book to Rinaldi's adult fans.

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