What I've Read This Week . . .
The Baron and the Bluestocking by Joy Reed -- Regency Romance
After learning that her mother has spent their last penny, Elizabeth Watson discovers that an elderly man she never met has died and left her a large bequest. Mr. Lucius Atwater left Elizabeth the money because he so enjoyed a book she wrote on the Second Punic War (Ancient Rome). There are two conditions, however. The first: Elizabeth must use the money to write about ALL the Punic Wars, the second: Mr. Atwater's nephews may feel entitled to the money. Elizabeth feels uncomfortable taking money that rightfully belongs to someone else, but after meeting Mr. Atwater's disagreeable sister-in-law, Elizabeth changes her mind. Mrs. Atwater is determined to get the money for her wastrel son Gilbert and nothing will stop her, not even lying about her nephew Julius's view of the matter. Lord Julius Atwater has decided to remain neutral. He believes his uncle's will should be honored. He becomes fascinated with Elizabeth based on his aunt's description and when they finally meet, she exceeds all expectations. She makes him want to be a better man. However, Elizabeth wants nothing to do with Julius whom she believes is her enemy. She thinks his charming manner is a ploy to lure her into doing what he asks. Julius is determined to woo in spite his aunt's scheming. Elizabeth isn't too interested. She's more focused on thwarting Mrs. Atwater's plans and protecting herself from fortune hunters. As the toast of the town, Elizabeth can take her pick of men, or not, if she so chooses. She finds herself the object of attention of Lord Steinbridge, a wealthy Marquess but she can't stop thinking about Julius.
This story could have been told in 100 pages or so. Instead it drags on for 250 pages before reaching the inevitable conclusion. I wanted to like Elizabeth because she's a bluestocking but I couldn't like her. Her behavior is childish and immature. She is too old to be so naive. She also seemed to forget about condition #1 in her obsession with getting the better of Mrs. Atwater. Julius is also stupid and boring. Little of the story is told from his point of view so the reader does not get a good sense of who he is. There's some kissing, but no real chemistry between them. This is a fast, light read which may please fans who are looking for something a little different, but for me, it wasn't quite good enough.
Miss Miranda Drake is happy in the country living with her companion "Sammy" and writing Gothic novels for profit and fun. When her publisher has exciting news for her, Miranda decides to take her London cousins up on their offer to visit. Lucy Owens is making her comeout this Season and can't wait for Miranda to come and enjoy the delights of London with her. Her younger siblings, Diana and Giles, are also excited to have someone new in the house. The only person who does not seem thrilled to have Miranda and Sammy in town is Captain Jonathan Murray, an army friend of the Owens' older half-brother Charles. Jonathan is home on invalid leave and he has his reasons for disliking Miranda on sight and his feelings increase when he sees her in the company of a mysterious man accepting money before sneaking into the house. He'll be darned if he lets the sweet young Owens children be corrupted by this wicked woman and does his best to send Miranda packing. Though Miranda and Jon often quarrel, they can't help feel an attraction for one another. Jon is urged by Princess Esterhazy to take a different approach if he wants to win over Miranda. Meanwhile, Miranda is hard at work at her latest novel, featuring Jon as the hero or the villain - which is it? A serious misunderstanding between Jon and Miranda threatens to ruin Miranda's happiness as well as her writing. Miranda may have to compromise her ideals if she wants to be with Jon and he has some lessons to learn before he can find happiness. This is a pretty light, quick read though it's long for a Regency. The plot is very different from the usual light romantic fare and I felt the story suffered because of it. Jon's misunderstanding is REALLY unfounded and implausible. I couldn't stand him and felt he needed a good slap in the face. I really liked Miranda but I wish she had a bit more personality. The story is told from the omniscient (all-knowing) viewpoint which is unusual for this genre but it still doesn't make the story any more interesting or realistic. This is not one of my favorites. The description on the back of the book is a lot more interesting than the actual plot.
Crossed Hearts by Monette Cummings -- Regency Romance