Sunday, January 9, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week

 cover art by Arthur Barbosa © Heinemann, Australia 1954
The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer
Unable to endure his stuffy cousin's engagement party more than one night and tired of his mother and sister's matchmaking schemes, Captain John Staple sets out for his friend's hunting box. Much to his dismay, he gets a late start, his horse loses a shoe on the moors and he takes a wrong turn and ends up in the middle of nowhere, Derbyshire in a rain storm. Finding a toll-gate, John demands entry to the pike, hoping to spend the night in the nearest town. The gate is opened by a ten-year-old boy, wet, cold and afraid. Ben's father, the toll keeper, has disappeared and Ben doesn't know where he is or when he will return. John, wet and tired and also intensely curious, decides to spend the night until Mr. Brean returns. Mr. Brean has not returned by morning and John, always up for an adventure, takes on the role of toll-keeper. One of his first customers is Miss Nell Stornaway, the Squire's granddaughter. Suddenly, John's reasons for staying increase. Miss Nell is not a young miss nor is she missish. She's taken over the management of the estate from her ill grandfather and cares for the old man as he lays dying. Now her cousin and grandfather's heir, Henry and his sleezy friend Nat Coate are staying at the Manor and Nell is sure they're up to no good. John wonders if Henry Stornaway's arrival has anything to do with the mysterious disappearance of the toll-keeper and if so, what is the connection. With the help of a highwayman with a heart of gold, John sets out to solve the mystery and protect Miss Nell with all his heart and body. This is an unconventional novel for Heyer. The hero doesn't even appear until the second page and he doesn't speak until page 6. There are kisses in the middle of the book and more romance than most of her other novels. (I'm not complaining though, I enjoy a good, sweet romance). The plot reads like a copycat for the first half but the last half sparkles with her usual wit and intelligence. Only Heyer could create such quirky characters and infuse humor into a mystery plot. John is a great hero, he's an alpha hero but he's not arrogant or angry and never loses his temper. Nell is one of my favorite heroines. She's strong, intelligent and capable of taking care of herself. The romance is a bit unbelievable given the time frame it happens in but I like the couple together and think they'll suit very well. Nell has just the right temperament to deal with John. I adored the secondary romance which made me giggle a lot. The mystery is impossible to solve and kept me turning the page far too late into the night. I can't believe I hadn't read this one before because now it's one of my favorites! 

Young Master Darcy : A Lesson in Honor by Pamela Aidan -- Austenesque Fiction

This novella by the Wytherngate Press writer of the fabulous Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman chronicles takes the reader back in time to December 1797 when Fitzwilliam Darcy was just 13 years old. Young Master Darcy is looking forward to the winter holidays after his first term at Eton. He can't wait to see his family again and spend Christmas at Pemberley and is looking forward to learning how to drive a team of horses in the summer. Upon his arrival at Erewhile House in London, he learns the devastating news that his mother is ill and dying. Lady Anne refuses to allow her illness to dampen the holiday spirits and insists on celebrating as always. Fitz tries to summon the courage to face the future with good spirits, but it isn't always easy. He escapes for a long gallop on his horse to rid himself of his turbulent emotions and comes across a group of village children practicing a Mummer's play. Entranced by their lively fun, and a girl with twinkling, dark, witty eyes, Fitz can't help but join in the fun. When his cousins arrive at Pemberley for Christmas, the children provide entertainment for Lady Anne and the other adults that no one will ever forget, but Darcy wonders whether he'll be able to keep his promise to his new friends too. He needs to confide in his cousin Richard Fitzwilliam for help. As Christmas grows closer, Fitz worries about pleasing his family and his friends at the same time and learns exactly what it means to be a Darcy. This book is another wonderful chronicle in the life of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Pamela Aidan makes his world come alive with descriptive details and fully internalizes Darcy's feelings. As with her previous books, I really feel like I am there inside Darcy's head as he grows up. I'm thrilled this has been published at last, after reading the first two chapters online years ago, I've been dying to finish it. My only complaint is that it's too short and I can't wait for the next installment!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.