Thursday, February 16, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer -- Historical fiction/ romance

An early novel set in the Georgian period, this one follows in the tradition of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Robin and Prudence are fleeing arrest following the failed Jacobite rebellion. Their father has sent them to London to hide out for awhile until he can come for them. Robin and Pru are well versed in the various con arts for they have spent their lives following their father from one mad scheme to another. This latest scheme as the siblings dressed in drag. Robin becomes Miss Kate Merriot and Pru is Mr. Peter Merriot. On the way to London they rescue Miss Letitia Grayson from being abducted by Gregory Markham. Peter gets the better of Markham while Kate spirits young Letty away. In London the siblings take up residence with Lady Lowestoft, a friend of the family who knows their secret. The siblings take London by storm and no one is the wiser of their true secrets, except maybe Sir Anthony Fanshawe, a large, sleepy-eyed gentleman who is friends with Letty's father. Then my lord, the siblings' father turns up in London with the greatest possible con of all - he claims to be the heir of the recently deceased Viscount Barham! Prudence despairs of ever turning respectable and fears they will all end up in the gallows when all is set and done. I don't wish to spoil the story for you. It starts slow and is a bit confusing but picks up rapidly. The plot is full of twists and turns - some I guessed and others I didn't. The setting is vivid with descriptive details about the fashions, the customs and the story is peppered with period language. The two main characters are immensely sympathetic and engaging. This is a fun romp of a novel and it's easy to see how Heyer developed her style into the witty Regency romances we all love.

A Regency Valentine by Jo Beverly, Carola Dunn, Ellen Fitzgerald, and Sheila Simonson -- Regency Romance

Instead of the typical short story/novella anthology, this book is a novel featuring chapters written by each of the authors. Kitty Grey frames the novel with her story of a middle-aged widow, Mrs. Cressida Trent, who agrees to host four young ladies in her home in Valentine Parva, Lincoln. Mrs. Trent knows what it is like to be young and dreaming of love. In her youth she fell in love with the serious young Marquess of Chelmly, but his family disapproved and managed to warn Cressida off. Juno, a young bluestocking, only wants to be left alone to read improving works and Mary Wollstonecraft. Secretly though, Juno is lonely and longs for romance and adventure just like the novels her cook reads. When she is invited to stay with Mrs. Trent Juno eagerly agrees but when she discovers the other three fashionable women in residence she begins to feel a bit insecure. A bit of Valentine's Day fun may allow her to dream of romance but will anyone ever love her? Shy Philomena Ware and her older sister Aquila are visiting their relative since the death of their father some months ago. They've traveled across Europe just ahead of Napoleon and braved the insults of snobby relatives. Now at Valentine Parva they can relax and enjoy the company. Philo would rather spend time breeding her canaries than speak to the other young ladies. She also enjoys the company of five-year-old Toby Trent who is eager to meet the wizard who has come to stay in the woods. Will the wizard be able to cast a spell on Philo to make her find her true love?  Philo's sister Aquila hides her feelings well and seems very cold. Not many people have ever been kind to her family, but she meets one who seems to care. Can she trust her own heart and more important can she trust the gentleman? Katherine has grown up all alone with only her severe Aunt Serena to take charge of her upbringing until her Aunt Blanche swoops in and gives Katherine the Cinderella life she's always dreamed of.  Finally, Mrs. Trent is free to focus on her own feelings for her past love and dream that he loves her. Can life truly be a fairy tale?  The story is very much a fairy tale but I enjoyed it a lot. Most of the stories are rushed though in order to fit them all in. Philo's is the most developed and the one I liked the best. I can relate to her shyness and I think I could fall in love with Robin myself (despite the name *ahem*). I also liked Juno a lot and I think I would be a bluestocking just like her. Katherine's story comes at the end after being alluded to in previous stories. I think it should have come after Juno's story because I kept feeling like I had missed it though I know I had read the whole book thus far. The light, fun novel is perfect for a rainy day or any other day when real life is too dull.

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