Sunday, March 6, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . . 

The Last Full Measure by Ann Rinaldi -- Young Adult Historical Fiction
Tacy Stryker is the spoiled youngest daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Stryker of Gettsyburg, PA, formerly of Virginia. Tacy's world was upended when her father and older brothers went off to join the Union Troops leaving her youngest brother, David, in charge of Tacy and her mother. David is being eaten up inside because he can't fight like the others due to a twisted leg. It's not easy being a teenage girl during the Civil War. Tacy laments the loss of her caring, kind brother she was close to before the war. She fears for her father and oldest brothers and now the Rebels are marching into town and she's afraid they'll take away her best friend Marvelous and sell Marvelous into slavery. Tacy does the best she can to get through the difficulties of the Battle of Gettysburg and deal with her family's personal problems as well. She tries to play matchmaker for her brother David and keep calm in the face of the battle. When it's all over and the bloody soldiers come staggering back through town, Tacy finally understands David's feelings of frustration and realizes there's something they can do to help. The conclusion is powerful and shocking. This is one of Ann Rinaldi's better novels but not up to the level of her earliest works in the 1990s. Tacy is a typical Ann Rinaldi bratty teenager and reminded me a lot of Harriet in The Letter Writer and Juliet in Juliet's Moon. I didn't dislike Tacy but I didn't really like her either. David is an interesting and complex character who might be more at home in an adult novel. I know the events of Gettysburg and have read other novels about the battle, but unlike others, Ann Rianaldi wanted to show how one family got through the tough times. This is more of an introspective novel than a plot-driven one. The ending is a bit summarized but not as badly as some of her previous recent novels. I liked it and would recommend it to young adults in their mid-teens who have an interest in social history.

The Irredeemable Miss Renfield by Regina Scott -- Regency Romance
Leslie Petersbourough, the charming sidekick in The Unflappable Miss Fairchild, is back in his own novel. Now that he's inherited the titled of Marquis of Hastings, his godmother Lady Agnes De Guis, has made him promise to marry a woman of her choosing. Les refuses to allow his aunt to play matchmaker but agrees to give some thought to marriage. Lady Agnes chooses Cleopatra Renfield, her goddaughter, as Leslie's bride. Cleo's older sisters want her to make an "advantageous" marriage, but if their own marriages are anything to go by, Cleo wants none of it. She is interested in the dashing Major Cutter. Her major rival, Elsie Watkins, is a former schoolmate who has a shocking secret that only Cleo knows. When Cleo learns that her godmother wants to marry her off to her childhood playmate, Leslie Petersbourough, she decides to talk Leslie into creating enough mischief to give her sisters a disgust of him. Leslie agrees to go along with Cleo's crazy plan but didn't anticipate his physical attraction to the woman his little pal has become. Cleo leads Les on a merry dance but learns that it's difficult to toe the line between shocking her sisters and shocking Society. By the time Les realizes the depth of his emotions for Cleo, it may be too late for Major Cutter also has an eye on Cleo and his motive may not be entirely innocent. Leslie has to decide how far he's willing to go to keep up the charade and Cleo gets a lesson in love and courtship she'll never forget. This is another light, fun novel. It's not quite as light as Miss Fairchild, but still fun. I liked Cleo well-enough though she is rather young and innocent and doesn't really understand the rules. Leslie is charming and a lot of fun. Though it seems like the romance could be resolved right away, it gets drawn out and ends up better and more interesting for the length of time it takes. The secondary characters are complex and interesting. My favorite character is Hector, the talking parrot, who made me howl with laughter. Fans of Regina's other novels and Zebra and Signet sweet Regencies will love this one.

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