What I've Read This Week Part 2 . . .
It's four years after the events of Rose White, Rose Red and Meg is still devoted to Lady Sabella. Meg, now a young adult, knows how to use her street smarts and her newly developed Quality skills to ferret out information for the Jacobite cause. The cause is failing fast and danger lurks everywhere. Meg discovers two gentlemen who may be friends or enemies. One, Jared Allmonses is the younger son of an Earl come to London to become an actor. The other, Robert Dellanoy is more mysterious but believed to be the writer of treasonous pamphlets. Meg sets out to spy on the men while Dellanoy thinks he can use Meg as an experiment. Dellanoy teaches her to speak and act like a lady with Meg never letting on that she's already accomplished that task. She quickly develops a passion for acting and thinks about going into the theater. When Lady Sabella is forced to flee the country, Meg chooses to stay in London at Dellanoy's place which he has fled with his dragon of a housekeeper Phoenix keeping an eye on her. Meg becomes a star actress and catches the attention of an older gentleman known as Peregrine. Meg senses that Peregrine is up to no good and tries to be wary around him. he claims to be a Jacobite sympathizer but seems to have many enemies including Dellanoy. The innocent Jared tries his hand at writing and like everyone else falls in love with the beautiful Meg Angelus, Meg's stage name. Can he win her heart and convince her that he's the perfect husband for her? When Dellanoy returns Meg realizes she has developed an infatuation for him. Will she give up everything to be with him? One night of passion could have consequences that affect not only Meg but everyone around her. This book is a highly unconventional romance. It starts like My Fair Lady (Pygmallion) but then changes quickly into something else. It features grand sweeping passion, danger and marriage of true minds. Young Georgette Heyer probably would have enjoyed it but it just wasn't to my liking. I didn't care too much for any of the characters. They were boring and some of them made bad choices that I don't think they should have made. I missed the sparkling characters of the first novel and was hoping to learn more about Blanche and Rosanna. (They are briefly mentioned). My favorite character is Phoenix who has secrets and a big, kind heart.
Lady Emily Ashton is newly wed and newly widowed. Only a few months after her marriage to Lord Phillip Ashton, he has died on safari in Africa. Emily doesn't grieve for her husband for she barely knew him. She only married him to get away from her controlling mother. Emily had no interest in marriage and is enjoying her new found freedom though she's bored by the conventions of mourning. Her husbands friends come to call and pay their respects and tell Emily what a wonderful man Phillip was. The handsome Colin Hargreavs, Phillip's best friend, reveals that Phillip was actually in love with Emily and called her Kallista, the Greek name meaning "most beautiful." The elderly Lord Palmer shares news that Phillip was an collector of antiquities and passionate about the Greeks. Curious about this man she never knew, Emily sets out to learn more about him through the Ancient Greeks. She begins on a course of self-study reading Homer and learning Greek. She visits the British Museum, makes the acquaintance of a man who copies antiques for private patrons and develops her own passion for the Greeks. She heads off to Paris where she makes the acquaintance of some people her mother would consider most scandalous including Renoir. She's courted by Lord Palmer's eldest and most unconventional son Arthur and spars with Colin who tries to warn her from associating with certain people. Her interest in antiques leads her to discover that her husband was involved with a forgery ring. Exactly how involved she isn't sure but she's determined to solve the mystery of missing antiques. With the help of her best friend Ivy and new friends Cecile and Margaret, Emily hunts for clues. Emily knows she must learn the truth before she can decide what she wants out of life and find her happily ever after. Nothing much happens in the first half of the mystery. It's very slow moving and there's much quoting from translations of the Iliad and many discussions about antiques and Ancient Greeks. I enjoyed the Odyssey when I read in it grade school but haven't given Homer the intense amount of thought this novel requires. I skimmed over some of the discussion and most of the quotes. This novel also deals with Emily's awareness of the stifling Victorian conventions and her breaking the rules. She's very forward thinking for a woman in 1890 and her awareness seems forced. It doesn't seem believable for a woman raised in a strict Victorian household to want to defy convention. I liked the way Deanna Raybourn handles Lady Julia Grey's unconventionality better. By the end of the novel I had hoped to care for the characters but I just could not. I found Emily very cold and detached and a little creepy for falling in love with her dead husband. We're told constantly what a nice person Phillip was (by his friends) but his journal entries make him sound like a creep. He was a hunter and enjoyed the hunt and I got the impression he was infatuated with Emily because she refused all her other suitors. It was a game to him. He didn't know her at all and was in love with her beauty and an image he had built up in his head. If he stayed in London with Emily, they would have grown tired of each other quickly and Emily would have chafed under the conventional rules for aristocratic wives. The first person narration makes it difficult to know what other characters are thinking and feeling. The romance is not developed very well. The heroine and hero do not have any chemistry and I could care less if they get together or not. The plot also leaves a lot to be desired. Halfway through this novel something happens that made me exclaim "This is the stupidest novel ever if this is true!" I couldn't put the book down until I found out the truth. Fortunately the plot didn't head in an extraordinarily unrealistic direction. The ending is a bit anti-climatic. I expected more danger and less summarizing of events. I enjoyed Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the Grave much more, at least as far as romances go. I say skip this one despite numerous positive reviews on Amazon!