Thursday, April 12, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I Read This Week  . . .

Silent in the Sanctuary (Lady Julia Grey Mysteries 2) by Deanna Raybourn -- Historical Mystery/Romance

Lady Julia Grey has spent the last few months in Italy visiting with her brothers Lysander and Plum. When Lord March sends a summons to his children to return home for Christmas, Julia knows they must obey. She's worried that their father is upset over Lysander's marriage to the beautiful, hot-tempered Napolitana woman Violante. To soften the blow, Plum invites their friend, Alessandro, Count Fornacci to come to England for Christmas. Alessandro is delighted to spend more time in Lady Julia's company. Julia isn't sure how she feels about the younger man. Upon returning home they find not only the March family in residence but also Julia's poor relations elderly Aunt Dorcas and cousins Emma and Lucy, Lucy's betrothed Sir Cedric and his cousin/employee Henry Ludlow, the roguish new curate Lucian Snow. Also among the house guests are Nicholas Brisbane, newly elevated to the title of Viscount Wargrave and his beautiful, empty-headed fiance, Mrs. Charlotte King. Julia is stunned and hurt to see Brisbane again. He hasn't contacted her in months and now he's in her home. Julia leaves the hostessing to her sister Portia but turns to sleuthing again once she discovers the presence of an eerie ghost. Then, a house guest is murdered in the Sanctuary of Belmont Abbey and cousin Lucy confesses to the crime. Everyone is shocked, none more than Sir Cedric. Lord March commands Julia and Brisbane to work together to solve the mystery and acquit Lucy. A wicked villain tries to kill Lucy, Aunt Dorcas goes missing and Emma and a jewel thief is on the loose inside the Abbey. As Julia tries to find the clues that lead to the truth, she also uncovers evidence that her father and Brisbane have secrets they won't share. It angers her to be left out. She also believes that Brisbane's engagement is a sham since she's busy kissing Plum and Brisbane is prone to kissing Julia in dark corridors at night! Julia is determined not to let any man control her ever again. She figures out what she wants and how she has to get it and this includes Brisbane. The house guests are snowed in and Julia and Brisbane have until the snow melts before Scotland Yard steps in to solve the mystery or the March family will be disgraced and someone else may end up dead. This book is loaded with plots and subplots. The relationships are primary with the mystery coming second. I really didn't like Julia in this book. She was rude to her maid, cruel to her dog, unsympathetic to her poor cousins. Brisbane is still swoony and a bit brooding but less so than in the first book. He tries to keep his gothic secret at bay with hashish and there are some scenes of drug use. Brisbane's stubborn pride is starting to wear thin and I think he needs to just tell Julia how he feels because it's very obvious he cares. Julia too is annoyingly stubborn at times. She goes around collecting clues but in spite of her father's orders, her anger at Brisbane for keeping her out of his life propels her to search for answers without sharing information with him. A lot of disaster could have been avoided if they had confided in each other. The mysteries kept my attention for most of the book. The solving of the murder lacks action and suspense. It was rather a let down. The motive was really lame. The other mysteries are concluded too neatly and quickly. The real heart of the story is Julia's self-awareness but even that is told to the reader at the end. It is not as developed as in the first book. I mostly enjoyed the chemistry between Julia and Brisbane and her stubborn refusal to allow him to wallow in self-pity. I can't wait to find out what they get up to next. 

The Forgetful Lady : A Romance of Regency England by Jacqueline Diamond 

Lady Elizabeth Fairchild is a shy country bluestocking at heart. When her first Season was a disaster, she decided to adopt a new personality: bold, daring and witty. The gentlemen seem to like her new self but mostly as a friend. The one gentleman she loves, Lord Meridan, however, does not have any interest in her at all. At Meridan's fox hunt, Beth tries to impress him by riding a spirited horse. The event ends in disaster when Beth has a dangerous fall and loses her memory. At first Meridan is kind and caring but as Beth begins to recover, he quickly changes to cold and distant. Beth feels that Lord Meridan knows something about her which she can not remember. Beth is dragged off to London for her sister's first season where she becomes intimate with Mrs. Ariadne Sinclaire, a dashing widow who wants Lord Meridan for herself. As Ariadne becomes desperate to find a rich, young husband, she becomes more ruthless and Beth is the target of her anger. Only Sir Percy, a country neighbor remains faithful but his heart belongs to another who scorns him because he is without a fortune. Beth's heart is breaking over Lord Meridan's apparent refusal to believe the truth. Beth's family is furious with her for ruining their reputations. There doesn't seem to be any easy solution. This novel is too full of misunderstandings to appeal to me. The ending is rushed and unrealistic. I really liked Beth and could relate to being a shy bluestocking. I felt so sorry for her. However, I do not know what she ever saw in Lord Meridan in the first place. He's haughty and cruel and what Ariadne says to him about Beth in the end is true. There's no way this story could end happily. There are some mistakes in titles and styles that will make high sticklers not want to pick this one up. 

Rose White, Rose Red : A Romance of Georgian England by Daisy Vivian

The most exciting thing that ever happened to Blanche and Rosanna Montague is when a great bear of a boy came to their house injured, hungry and in need of refuge. He left before the girls got a chance to speak with him and so they dream of adventure still. Blanche is now sixteen and finished with school. She's been chosen to come to London to be a companion to her aunt Lady Sabella, an eccentric widow. Though Blanche's father is a scholar, her sees the value of giving his eldest daughter a chance to find a good husband. The husband Lady Sabella has in mind is her rakish nephew Lord Ravenspur. Blanche likes her aunt and takes to London society right away. She does not like Ravenspur. He dislikes country maidens and has an annoying tendency to tell her what to do. He brings out a bold argumentative side of Blanche she never knew existed. Meanwhile her sister Rosanna chafes at being stuck at school and so runs away wearing boys' clothing. Rosanna gets more of an adventure than she ever bargained for. Along the way she learns of the evil Earl King. The evil man has usurped the title of the MacQuahae, a Scottish lord and is hunting the man. Young Gareth McQuahae, the bear of a boy, is on the run too. He is assisted by Meg of Vinegar Yard, who wants to better herself. They become faithful friends of Lord Ravenspur who is dedicated to the Jacobite cause. Danger and adventure await all the young people when the Hanoverians close in on the Jacobites. The plot is very exciting and I couldn't put it down, however, the author assumes the reader knows English history and who and what the Jacobites are. I should know, but I didn't really remember so I would have liked more explanation. In this story characterization takes a back seat to plot though the characters are all well-drawn. I really liked and identified with Blanche. She grows and finds her true self in London and becomes a young lady who knows her own mind. Though she's young, I liked her and found her courage admirable. Rosanna is a fun character out of the Georgette Heyer canon. She seems much younger than she actually is though and her adventure seems to impossible that some may not like it. Meg is very street rat and some of her dialogue and descriptions may make some people uncomfortable. The author doesn't hold back about life in The Seven Dials but yet still manages to make the descriptions subtle enough not to be too graphic. Ravenspur is a great hero. I rather liked him and wish that his character could have been developed more. If you like Georgette Heyer's alpha heroes, you'll like Ravenspur. The romance is reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice but the ending is so rushed, the romance barely even gets off the ground. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story and want to know what happens to the characters next.

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