What I Read This Weekend . . .
A Lady's Lament by Rebecca Ashley -- Regency Romance
Miss Cynthia Thornbury has carefully tended to her estate these last six years. She wants desperately to buy the neighboring estate to improve it, unfortunately, the new owner, Giles Blenhurst, seems to prefer the "rustic charm" of the place and refuses to sell. Not only that, he seems to refuse to take her offer seriously. How rude of him! Cynthia has been a prim and proper spinster and is well-qualified to care for more land. Giles tries to flirt with Cynthiaand he both irritates and intrigues her. She comes to rely on him for help dealing with her wayward teenage brother and Cynthia's thoughts turn to her first (and only) Season when she was young and gay. Cynthia finds herself wanting to be that girl again. Her relationship with Giles is starting to cause gossip among the neighbors and Cynthia refuses to be gossiped about. Secrets from the past begin to threaten Cynthia's hopes for future happiness. This book is a pale imitation of a Georgette Heyer with more sightly more sensuality. The reader does not really get to know the characters beyond what appears on the surface. This is very much Cynthia's story and not at all about Giles. None of the story is from his point of view and there's very little development of the relationship between him and Cynthia. The story isn't terrible but it's not that great. If you've already read Georgette Heyer than skip this one. If you're new to the genre and want something shorter and less well-written than Heyer, read this instead.
Cannons at Dawn: The Second Diary of Abigail Jane Stewart (Dear America) by Kristiana Gregory -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction
This story picks up six months after The Winter of the Red Snow in 1779 with Abby and her family living in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Her papa has joined the Continental Army to fight for freedom. He's a cobbler by trade and no longer young. Abby worries for his safety. When their home is burned in a terrible accident, the Stewart women and children have no choice but to leave Valley Forge and travel Philadelphia to be with family. The journey is difficult and dangerous and the Stewarts do not find what they expected. While Abby's older sister Elisabeth finds a reason to stay, Mrs. Stewart, Abby, Sally and little Johnny must leave Philadelphia and follow the army. Another difficult winter is on the way and Abby worries about being the oldest child at home and prays the war will end soon. The Stewarts soon bond with other camp followers and soldiers, including the handsome Willie Campbell, a blacksmith's son. As the months pass, Abby matures and grows into a woman who is capable of caring for her family through the most difficult times. I would put this book in the Young Adult category, rather than Middle Grades. Gregory spares nothing from her details about the difficult conditions of army life in the 1770s. There's also quite a bit of romance, including some marriages and births which may not interest younger readers. I love this series because of the wonderful, realistic historical details and this book is no exception. I really felt for Abby's family and turned the pages wondering what would happen. The secondary characters are richly drawn as well and I cared a lot about them and hoped they would survive the brutal years of the war. This is another excellent book from one of my favorite historical fiction authors. I'm so pleased that Scholastic has brought back the series for a new generation.