Sunday, July 10, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Incognito by Suzanne Allain -- Regency Romance

Years ago, Lady Smithfrield and an old friend, the Duchess of Alford, planned a match between their eldest children but with the death of the Duchess, Lady Smithfield assumed the match was off. Lady Smithfield and her two daughters have had to economize since the death of her husband. Lady Smithfield is laboring under the misapprehension that they are quite poor and is out to find a wealthy husband for her beautiful eldest daughter Lydia. Then the Duke writes to say the match is still on and his son will be visiting shortly to meet Lydia and see if they suit. Lady Smithfield is delighted and can't wait to brag to all her friends. Lydia is less than thrilled for her heart belongs to the vicar though she is unsure of his feelings. Ever the dutiful daughter, Lydia feels she must be a martyr and sacrifice herself. Her more practical younger sister Emily decides that her sister would never make a good Duchess and should marry the vicar before the Marquess of Wesleigh arrives and then the Marquess can marry Emily instead. Emily longs for a life beyond their sleepy village even if it means marrying an unknown Marquess to do it. Alexander Eaton, Lord Wesleigh enjoys his bachelor life in London but his father is fed him with Alexander's youthful exploits. When informs Alexander of his betrothal to Lydia, Alexander is furious at being treated like a child. Finally he decides to head to Stonehurst incognito to determine whether Miss Smithfield can love him for himself. Posing as a penniless curate, Alexander befriends the spirited Emily and helps her with her matchmaking scheme. Unexpected complications arise and Alexander is certain he's found his true love but fears she can never love him. This book is in the style of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and readers of those two wonderful authors will recognize many of the characters, dialogue and even plot elements of this book. I also really liked the main characters. Emily is a bit too outspoken to really truly be from the Regency era though. Alex is a great romantic hero, very different from the usual rakes. The secondary characters are all stock characters. Lady Smithfield is a copy of Mrs. Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. The story is told rather than shown and it reads like fan fiction. I enjoyed the plot, which was amusing in parts and the book isn't bad for a first novel but don't expect this to be mistaken for another Georgette Heyer novel.

Without Warning Ellen's Story 1914-1918 by Dennis Hamley -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Sixteen-year-old Ellen Wilkins is a working class girl living in a small English village at the outbreak of World War I. Her brother enthusiastically enlists and the family must learn to cope without his wages. Ellen seeks employment from retired Col. Cripps, a former war hero. Her father resents the fact that she has to ask for a job from a "toff" but Ellen finds the Colonel kind and sympathetic. Though he is unable to offer her a job, their meeting changes Ellen's life forever. As the war drags on and tragedy strikes, Ellen learns how to cope and realizes what she wants out of life. She has to find the courage to leave behind the world she knows and enter a new and vastly different one. This is a coming-of-age novel told in the first person. It reads almost like a diary because the action is told to the reader by Ellen. My biggest complaint with the novel is that the story is told more than shown. It reads like a history lesson in places where it departs from Ellen's main storyline. The plot is interesting but gets rather melodramatic at times. I found myself rooting for Ellen though and couldn't put the book down. The story holds nothing back as far as the atrocities of war and is a bit gruesome. I do not recommend this book for younger readers and those who might be sensitive. I would recommend it to high school history teachers and to those who liked Remembrance by Theresa Breslin.

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