Saturday, October 13, 2012

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

Courtship and Curses by Marissa Doyle -- Young Adult Historical Fantasy/Regency Romance

Lady Sophie Rosier is not looking forward to her comeout this year 1815. She had always dreamed of being guided through her Season with her beloved Mama, but a recent illness took Sophie's Mama and little sister and left Sophie lame. Now Sophie is all alone. Papa has been too absorbed in his work at the War Office now that Napoleon is back on the throne and her Aunt Molly is only interested in plants. Aunt Isabel isn't much of a comfort either, being sour and strict. Sophie soon discovers that navigating the social waters of London are far more difficult when one is lame. Half the ton think Sophie is a hunchbacked half-wit and the other half pity her. The only one Sophie can really be herself with is Madame Amelie Carswell, the widow of Papa's old friend, recently arrived from India. Then Lord Woodbridge and his exuberant cousin Parthenope crash into Sophie's life (almost literally). Sophie adores the brash, crazy Parthenope right away but what about her handsome cousin? He seems to want to be Sophie's friend (or more...)  but could it be only that he pities her or wants to protect her? How can Sophie know if he's sincere? As if romantic problems weren't enough, Sophie soon realizes that a number of dangerous accidents were no accidents at all - they were targeted assassination attempts on members of the War Office. Sophie is certain because ... each accident bears traces of magic. Only Sophie can detect the magic and that's all she can do because her illness not only took her beloved relatives, it took her magic as well. With help from Parthenope (and just maybe Peregrine, Lord Woodbridge) Sophie sets out to get her magic back and find the traitor before it's too late. This book is a light, frothy fun Regency set romantic comedy with danger and magic thrown in. I liked Sophie and could empathize with her and some of her feelings. She's a tough girl and a bit difficult to get to know and really like because she's wary. She may not appeal to every reader. I enjoyed her growth and watching her become a woman. The lively Parthenope is great fun. She's outrageous and outspoken and has a pet parakeet that made me laugh out loud in a lot of places. She's wild and impetuous at times but a true and loyal friend. Readers of Bewitching Season will enjoy getting to know the twins' Mama when she was their age. James Leland also makes a cameo! My favorite character is Aunt Molly, the absentminded horticulturalist. She also provides a lot of comic relief and is a refreshing foil for Aunt Isabel, the typical Regency aunt. The plot is excellent. It wasn't too difficult to figure out who the villain was but the reader will have to pay attention to the clues because all of the story is from Sophie's point-of-view and none of it from the villain. That made it a bit more difficult to figure out. The choice of villain was rather cliched and I was sad to discover who it was. Even though I guessed the identity of the villain, I still couldn't put the novel down until I saw the plot through to the end. There's also a sweet romance plot woven throughout the story. Woodbridge is a wonderful hero. He's not too two-dimensional. He makes a lot of mistakes, he's proud and always arguing with his cousin. The descriptions of the setting and clothing worn are incredible! Marissa Doyle has done a lot of research and it shows. Even if I wasn't familiar with Regency London I would easily be able to picture everything, right down to Sophie's beautiful gowns. Those who loved Bewitching Season will love this one as well (or vice versa). Another fabulous novel from Marissa Doyle!

Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

It's 1585 and in Venice, daughters are valued by the worth they can bring in from their marriage. In order to catch a wealthy husband, a girl needs a good dowry. Laura della Scala's Papa can not provide for both his daughters so Laura is stuck in a dull and dreary convent while her older sister Beatrice prepares to marry the wealthy merchant Vincenzo. Laura adores her sister and hopes Beatrice will be happy in her upcoming marriage. When Laura is unexpectedly called home, she is surprised and hopeful but her dreams are dashed when she discovers her sister is dead. The lovely Beatrice drowned in a canal and now Laura must marry Vincenzo in her stead. Laura chafes against the restrictions placed on her by her greedy father. She'd much rather talk with the handsome artist than dance with smelly old men who leer at her. As her wedding day grows closer, Laura turns in desperation, to the only people who can help: a secret society of women called La Segreta. In exchange for their help, Laura must pay in a secret of her own. The only secret she knows could bring down the entire kingdom. Should she trust these women? What choice does she have in the matter? Soon Laura learns there are many secrets in Venice and no friends. La Segreta may not be what it seems and may have even played a role in her sister's death. Can she escape with her life? This book has lots of action packed adventure set against the beautiful backdrop of Venice. I couldn't put it down until I finished. There were a number of twists and turns in the plot, though I suspected some of them, some were so surprising and different that I never expected them at all. The ending is very abrupt and doesn't tie up loose ends. It leaves room for a sequel or a series of novels. The romance plot is a bit fairy tale-ish. I was hoping for a happy ending but it happened a little too quickly and neatly for me. It was maybe a bit unrealistic. The characters were not well drawn which leads to lack of motivation. I felt sorry for Laura and wanted her to have a happy ending but didn't feel she was very exciting or memorable. The lack of good characters and silly romance keep this book from being truly great.

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