What I Read This Weekend . . .
Contagion by Joanne Dahme -- Young Adult Historical Fiction
A Lady of Qualities by Meredith Leigh (aka Daisy Vivian) -- Regency Romance
Sabrina Fairchild wants nothing more than to ride her beloved horse all day long and avoid the trappings of the social whirl. Her younger sister Posey dreams happily of romance and hopes to marry their neighbor Gerry Afton, while Aunt Alice deplores Sabrina's bluestocking ways. Papa is a military man and almost never home so the upbringing of the girls is left to their maternal aunt who local gossips say wishes to marry Colonel Fairchild. When a Mr. John Lawlor arrives the lives of the Fairchild sisters and Mrs. Cunningham will never be the same again. Not only is he an infuriating know-it-all, Mr. Lawlor is a factor for the family's estates in Devon and Cornwall - estates that belong to Sabrina and Posey's new step-mother! When the new Mrs. Fairchild arrives on the scene she is not at all what the girls were expecting. Phoebe Fairchild is very bright and lively and it seems that she and Aunt Alice were old school chums. Phoebe stirs up excitement in their sleepy country village with her eccentric ways and fascinating friends. Even Sabrina is somewhat drawn to the raffish Polish Prince Kozlowska and his wife Fanny, a former actress, is most amusing. Also interesting is Gerry's pal Phillip Quarles who seems to know Phoebe from Brussels. Posey is far more interested in their new step-brother Raymond, a dreamy artistic type. Before the end of the novel, secrets will out and the entire countryside will be set on it's ear. This book really has very little plot and it comes crashing to a halt without much resolution either. It's difficult to describe more than I just have. The characters are well-drawn. I adore Sabrina and I would be just like her were I a Regency era young lady. Phoebe has surprising depths and I felt a bit sorry for her. I also felt really bad for Aunt Alice who loses her place after 17 years of mothering and keeping house for the Fairchilds and especially bad for Fanny who is just trying to get by the only way she knows how. Lawlor is a bit of a mystery. He appears a lot early on and then mostly is kept in the background. Gerry is the typical amusing brother/friend boy next door who isn't ready to grow up. He provides a lot of comic relief. There are some rake characters as well to round out the typical Regency cast of characters. The secrets exposed at the end aren't really surprising. I thought one was common knowledge because it was mentioned earlier in the book. Because there's no plot, this book was very slow moving and I was able to put it down halfway through and start again later without wishing to finish it. The story had potential. It could have been a cute comedy of manners but I think it got away from the author due to too many plots and characters.