Saturday, July 30, 2011

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

A Season of Surprises by Rebecca Ashley -- Regency Romance

Miss Julia Weston is on the shelf and happy about it. She would far rather write her observations of Society in her journals and hunt for a husband, but her Aunt Sophie has other ideas. Sophie decides that Julia and the Marquess of Brandon would make a fine couple and wrangles an invitation to his country home from his aunt, Lady Sayde. There's only one problem - Julia can't stand Lord Brandon! She thinks he's rude, condescending and insufferable. Their few previous meetings have not been enjoyable at all. Also attending the house party are the beautiful Vanessa and her matronly sister, the sweet but dim-witted Christy and her title-hunting mother. The visit is a disaster from the start. Lord Brandon has eyes only for Vanessa, Lady Sayde appears to be senile and enjoys singling out Julia with her outrageous comments and Julia overhears Lord Brandon accuse her of being a spy! Julia would pack her bags and leave at once if it were not for the kind librarian, Mr. Brixham. To make matters worse, Julia's friend Lord Anthony Devon shows up and becomes friendly with Lord Brandon and sides with him against her friendship with Mr. Brixham. Julia is determined to show Lord Brandon that she's her own woman and far superior to Vanessa. Why should she care what he thinks? There's no chance she will ever marry such an arrogant man! This story is told entirely from Julia's viewpoint and the romance is a bit lacking in the courtship department. She is an unusual, modern character and one with whom I could easily identify. I could see myself acting just like Julia in the same situation. I do wish that the story was also told from Lord Brandon's point-of-view because we never really get to know the real him. It's hard to tell what he's thinking and feeling when all the reader knows is Julia's impressions of him. Lady Sayde and Anthony provide comic relief while the other young ladies are fairly stereotypical characters. The plot drags a bit in the middle and finishes up too quickly and randomly. I had hoped for more character development before the story came to a close. I liked it well enough but it doesn't hold a candle to Georgette Heyer's similar plots. It is a nice light read and perfectly clean. There are exactly three kisses and nothing else beyond kissing.

Water Song : A Retelling of "The Frog Prince" (Once Upon a Time) by Suzanne Weyn -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Miss Emma Winthrop, a proper English young lady, has found herself on the Western front of the Great War (WWI). Trapped in her family's country home in Belgium with only two old caretakers for company, Emma is at a loss. She dreams of her father to come and take her home. When she receives a shocking letter from her crush, she can only think to rid herself of the picture she placed in her locket by tossing it down the well. However, the locket was a family heirloom and contains something more precious than photographs. Jack Verde is an American wanderer, signed on to fight for the British. Separated from his unit, he struggles to survive the deadly poison gas the Germans have unleashed on the allies. Jack knows the only way to survive is to hold his breath. Luckily for him, he's a champion swimmer and has Louisiana magic on his side. Struggling to rescue a young soldier from his unit, he finds himself blindly stumbling towards safety, which he finds in the bottom of a well. When Emma discovers Jack at the bottom of the well, she thinks him an ugly frog, but learns that he can retrieve her locket for her. Unfortunately, they're captured by the Germans and held prisoner in her home. Jack promises to get her locket if she will give him a kiss. Horrified at the idea, Jack amends his demands to friendship. Emma promises, hoping to be rid of Jack and of the Germans soon and get home to England. With a little help from his mother's spirit, Jack learns to have courage and faith in love. As battle rages on and more Germans take over the manor, Emma and Jack find their lives in danger. They have to trust each other in order to survive. This is a realistic retelling of a little-known fairy tale. The details of World War I are incredibly realistic. The plot is fast paced and danger filled. I couldn't put it down. The ending is a bit rushed, especially the epilogue. I think there should have been a sequel to develop the characters and their relationship a bit better but overall this is a really interesting novel that will appeal to teens and adults.

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