Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Love in the Clouds by Barbara Cartland -- Victorian Romance/Adventure

Miss Chandra Wardell's father is a renowned Sanskrit scholar who has translated and written on numerous works from Asia. Since the death of her mother, Chandra has helped her father with his work and taken care of him. Now, he is offered the opportunity of a lifetime when Lord Frome asks Mr. Wardell to join him in Nepal to search for the sacred Lotus Manuscript in a Buddhist Monastery. The opportunity could not have come at a better time, for they really need the money. However, Chandra's father is not in good health and Chandra doesn't know whether she should want him to go or not. When her father suffers a setback and has to remain in Europe, Chandra takes her father's place to confront the woman-hating Lord Frome and join him in his quest. At first Lord Frome is angry and doubts Chandra's ability. He hasn't time to send her back and wait for another assistant for he is only allowed in Nepal for a certain amount of time. Chandra joins Lord Frome on the dangerous journey through India over the mountains into Nepal. She is determined to keep up and not give Lord Frome any cause for regretting allowing her to join him. She also has a secret quest. A precious emerald was once taken and Chandra is charged with the task of returning it safely to the monastery where it belongs. Upon arriving in Nepal, the pair must pose as husband and wife for propriety's sake. Neither is happy with the arrangement. She  loves the thrill of the hunt for ancient manuscripts, something she shares with Lord Frome. As they enter Nepalese society, Chandra grows to love the country and the people and appreciate the hidden depths of her travel companion as well. The plot speeds along to a predictable conclusion. The historical and geographical details and well-researched and well-developed. The romance is rather corny and I wanted more adventure and danger. I liked the hero and heroine together. The character development of Lord Frome could have been drawn out a bit more but I learned to like him the same time Chandra did. I especially liked the chapters set in the archive and the ethical questions raised about taking manuscripts from a library to share with the public when it seems like they're not being used. As an archivist, I disagree with Chandra and Lord Frome but I think their attitudes reflect those of the British upper class in the Victorian age. I recommend this book for those who want a romance novel set in a different location than the usual London drawing rooms and ball rooms. 

Imperial Splendour by Barbara Cartland -- Napoleonic era Romance
Blake, Duke of Welminster is in St. Petersburg on a diplomatic mission trying to learn what Napoleon and his army are up to. No one seems to know for sure. Lord old friend Princess Sonia invites him to visit and meet her lovely daughter Tania. She hopes that Tania will become an English Duchess one day but Blake enjoys his bachelor life too much. He's far more interested in the charms of the lovely Russian spy Katherina Bragation, alias "The Naked Angel." While visiting Princess Sonia he is suddenly and mysteriously captivated by a young ballet dancer Zoia.  She is the daughter of a famous French composer and since her mother's death, somewhat of an outcast in society. A Grand Duke has labeled her the "Ice Princess" because she will not succumb to seduction but seems to know the depths of her heart. He feels he has been bewitched and doesn't know what is happening to him but he knows that he feels a strong connection to young Zoia that he can't explain. Zoia feels the connection too, for only Blake has ever known what her Papa's music has meant. When the French advance on St. Petersburg, Zoia is sent home to Moscow and Blake is determined to be with her despite the battle raging near Moscow. Zoia knows she wants to be with Blake too but her Papa cautions her that men like him don't belong with girls like her. True love has to find a way to overcome all obstacles. This is a sappy, sentimental novel with a doe-eyed, innocent heroine who falls in love with a man of the world. I can't stand those plots so needless to say, I didn't like this book too much. It was also too short and there was TOO much history. Too much history, you ask? Is there such a thing? Normally I would say no but I prefer it when an author weaves the history seamlessly into the story or puts it into an author's note rather than stepping out of the plot. The inclusion of real letters that have no bearing on the plot is also not necessary. I wouldn't recommend Ms. Cartland's novels to modern audiences unless of course you like that sort of plot. If you like Eva Ibbotson's adult romances, you'll love Ms. Cartland's novels. (Or vice versa).

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