What I've Read This Week . . .
The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer -- Historical Fiction
Harry Smith, Brigade Major on the Duke of Wellington's staff is a lucky devil. He's survived more than any one man has a right to despite his hot head. He's a "come on!" officer, leading the men fearlessly into battle. After the seize of Badajos, the French have destroyed the town leaving a wake of rapine. Harry is disgusted, especially when two Spanish ladies ask for help from English officers. The ladies have nothing except the clothes on their backs. The older lady fears for the safety of her young sister who has just left the convent. When Harry takes one look at Juana, it's love at first sight. Juana is pretty, young and vivacious. All the men adore her but she has eyes only for Harry. Harry decides that the best thing to do is marry Juana and the young lady readily agrees. She isn't content to be sent back to England with the other officers' wives nor does she wish to FOLLOW the drum - no - Juana insists on riding right alongside Harry wherever he marches and she'll be there waiting when he returns. Sparks often fly between the hot headed young married couple, especially when Juana becomes jealous, but through it all, she's by his side with her faithful horse Tiny and a menagerie of other pets, officers and staff. This book is more of a history than a novel. Much of it is taken from Harry Smith's autobiography. Both Harry and Juana were real people and this is their story. The story, if you can call it that, moves very very slowly. There isn't really much of a traditional plot. Much of this book describes the endless marches and battles with the French and other matters of war. It's basically a summary of Harry's war activities. What stands out is the dialogue, as witty as usual and some of it real. Harry and Juana's relationship provides the comic relief in this war story. I skimmed a lot of the graphic battle scenes, especially with Waterloo. Heyer doesn't spare her reader any of the bloody details. I would recommend this one for the most dedicated military history buffs and those who are determined to read every Georgette Heyer novel.
Miss Prestwick's Crusade by Anne Barbour -- Regency Romance
Miss Helen Prestwick has journeyed from her home in Portugal to England to crusade for her newborn nephew William to take his rightful place as the Earl of Camberwell. She is convinced that William's father's cousin will not want to give up the title and wealth he has inherited. When she, along with the baby and her duenna, show up at Camberwell Castle, they are welcomed by Edward if not his aunt and cousin. Edward Beresford is a quiet, scholarly gentleman who never wished to become Earl. When he sees the beautiful Helen, he is instantly smitten and invites her to stay while he investigates baby William's claim to the title. When he learns that Helen is an art expert and her father is a noted art dealer, he invites Helen to stay and catalog the family's collection of art and objects d'art. Helen is suspicious of the faux Earl's motives. Surely he can't be as nice as he seems. Edward's Aunt Emily (William's grandmother) and cousin Artemis are kind if a bit silly but Aunt Emily's brother Stamford Welladay positively loathes Helen and mistrusts her every move. As Helen and Edward become close friends, the friendship threatens to turn into something deeper. Helen feels she must put a stop to that before her dark secrets become known and Edward turns from her forever. meanwhile, come of the treasures seem to have gone missing and Helen is certain she'll take the blame. Can she trust Edward to do what is right and fair or will he turn Helen, Miss Barnstaple and baby William out onto the street? The plot of this book is fairly simplistic and very predictable. It moves along very slowly since the hero and heroine pretty much fall in love and first sight and become friends quickly. The plot actually gets a lot better AFTER the kiss/misunderstanding plot point. (This is not a spoiler). I liked that the hero and heroine became friends based on mutual scholarly interests and respect. I liked Helen because she is mature and responsible. I also liked how she is flawed and has issues that prevent her from achieving happiness. I did not like how long it takes her to get over those issues because it made the story repetitive and a bit boring. I wanted to love her but by the end of the story I felt she was too self-sacrificing and a bit annoying because of it. I did like how the hero comes to broaden his thinking and realize what he has done wrong. The quiet hero makes a change from the usual rakes but personally I love to read about rakes and spirited heroines because it makes for a better story. My biggest pet peeve about this book is the dialogue. The characters often utter "um" and "uh" which is realistic but difficult to read. The romance is clean but a bit more sensual than chaste kisses. The hero dwells a bit on how the heroine looks and how she makes him feel. This story would have made a better short story or novella. If you like improbable stories, clean slightly sensual romances, quiet heroes and art, I highly recommend this book. I found this book a bit too slow and repetitive for my enjoyment. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. I bought it for 50 cents at a library book sale and it was worth the price but this one will not be staying on my bookshelf.