What I've Read This Weekend . . .
Lucille Emily Powell, the eldest child of the Earl of Bancroft, is outraged. The new Duke of Lathrop, her neighbor and godmother's nephew, is coming back to his abandoned castle to look her over as a marriage prospect. Lucy has no desire to be a "brood mare" to sire his heirs. She is content to remain an independent, free spinster but dreams of publishing gothic romance novels. She's already written a few stories which she shares with her younger sisters. While reading one of her stories in a tower in Lathrop Castle, she and her sisters encounter ghostly noises. Frightened, her sisters run off but Lucy knows it's only her little brothers playing a trick on their sisters. She decides to do them a fright in turn but instead discovers a man coming out of the shadows towards her. Instead of being scared like any proper heroine, Lucy quickly makes the acquaintance of the man informing him of her views on marriage. The man claims to be Phillip Carmichael, the Duke of Lathrop's steward. He is lately come from the Peninsula and is new at his job. Lucy offers her assistance and friendship. Philip and Lucy ride, fish, discuss Lucy's novels and Lucy learns the finer points of dueling. Lucy also discovers that she's not so indifferent to men as she would like to be. Alas, she believes Philip loves another and even if he didn't, she stubbornly refuses to marry. Philip, enchanted by the innocent, wild redhaired beauty dreams of more than friendship, but he has a secret and when he reveals it to Lucy he's certain she'll never forgive him. Having read the other books about the Powell family, I became enchanted with their lively, loving nature. I especially liked Lucy. I can easily relate to her desire to remain free and independent, however, I think it's an unrealistic dream for her time. Lucy is a very modern woman in a nineteenth century novel. I was willing to overlook that because she's such a great character and the romance is very sweet. I especially like novels where the characters become friends before falling in love and this one is a great example. The friendship and romance develops beautifully and realistically. Lucy maintains her fiery spirit throughout and doesn't give up her dreams, she just opens her mind and heart to share her dreams with someone who loves her. I knew Phillip's secret, having read the other books in the series, but I enjoyed the story anyway. This first book is the best in the series and one for the keeper shelf.
Once upon a time near Great Fittledean in Sussex, a Sir Thomas Jettan loved his home so much the locals nicknamed it "Jettan's Pride." Sir Thomas' two sons however, did not take much interest in their father's pride and joy. Upon Sir Thomas' death, Sir Maurice feels the need to settle down and beget an heir. His brother Tom disagrees. After sewing some wild oats, Maurice fulfills the family legend by settling down to live happily ever after. His son Philip grows up playing with the other children of the great families and has an undying devotion to his country home. Much to his father's dismay, Philip doesn't want to sew his wild oats or become polished in any way shape or form. That is, he refuses until the beautiful Cleone returns from school. Philip falls head over heels in love with his childhood friend and is determined to marry her. Another local, Henry Bancroft, also returns and captivates Cleone with his sophisticated airs and flattery. Cleone is so captivated she rejects Philip's offer of marriage and at the insistence of Sir Maurice, sends Philip packing to London and Paris to acquire the necessary air of sophistication. He succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams, let alone Cleone's. Philip is a much sought after young man. Jealous, Clo is determine to earn her own sophistication in London, a plot which may backfire when she too becomes too popular for her own good. This Georgian era set novel is one of Georgette Heyer's earliest works published as "The Transformation of Philip Jettan" under the pseudonym Stella Martin. I would not have wanted to attach my name to this work either if I were her. This is possibly her worst novel ever. The writing style is simplistic but peppered with mostly unintelligible French phrases. The plot doesn't flow very smoothly. The relationships don't feel natural or even interesting. It's a classic misunderstanding plot that works fine in short stories. Most of the novel is dedicated to the transformation of Philip and even that is greatly rushed. The heroine is one of the worst sorts who flirts and gets angry at the man she loves for no good reason. The novel finally concludes with some outdated ideas about male/female power and thought process which I did not like at all! Most of Heyer's other heroines are not so awful. There are also brief appearances by a black page named Sambo (the novel was written around 1930) who utters his lines in appalling dialect. I'm surprised this novel has endured for so long. I would not recommend it.