Sunday, October 21, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Edenbrook (A Proper Romance) by Julianne Donaldson -- Regency Romance

Seventeen-year-old Marianne Daventry hates living in Bath. Snce the death of her mother in a tragic riding accident, Marianne's father has been living in France nursing his grief while Marianne was sent off to live with her cantankerous grandmother in Bath. Marianne longs for the country and escape from her fish-lipped, bad poetry-writing suitor. Relief comes when her twin sister Cecily writes from London (where she has been enjoying the Season) to invite Marianne to a country house party at the home of one of their mother's old friends, Lady Caroline Wyndham. Cecily has her sights set on the baronet, brother of her dear friend Louisa Wyndham. Marianne knows she can't compete with her sister, for whatever Cecily wants, she gets. Marianne is happy just to be going back to the country. The journey to Kent is far more dangerous that Marianne had ever dreamed. Along the way she meets a haughty young man with whom she matches rudeness with rudeness, learns to laugh at herself and then finally witty, flirtatious banter. The young man, Phillip, rescues Marianne when she doesn't feel it is necessary when she's surely to never see him again. He turns up again in an unexpected location. Marianne is confused about her feelings for Phillip.  Phillip is kind but also flirtatious and when he turns out not to be who she expected, she feels betrayed. Gentlemen try to court Marianne, but she's simply not interested.Her sister continues her ruthless, and scandalous quest, to marry a rich man leaving Marianne far behind. Their kind hosts try to help things along but Marianne remains confused. Could it be possible that Phillip and Marianne are more alike than she realized? Could he possibly favor her as a friend or maybe even more? Will Marianne ever get the happy ending she deserves? She must search her soul to find out what she truly wants and then discover how to get it. At first this book reads like an average pale imitation of a Georgette Heyer novel with more modern language. There's actually more depth to the story than Heyer usually included in her novels. This depth is what saves the novel from being just a lukewarm copy. The story lacks of the language and many of the period details that make Georgette Heyer's books so appealing. This story does contain beautiful descriptions of the English countryside though and an English estate, which I really enjoyed. The characters are mostly so-so to start with but the major characters develop nicely. Marianne is too self-denying. She truly lacked self-confidence which made her unappealing at first. Her backstory explains why she is the way she is and her character develops and grows throughout the novel. I liked her enough to want to root for her but if I were her, I would have scratched out my sister's eyes long since. I'm the elder sister though so I can't identify with Marianne's feelings of second place. Phillip is a fairy-tale hero. He's similar to the Georgette Heyer's sporting heroes. He's perfect and his whole family is perfect. In short, the Wyndhams lack depth. I would have liked more backstory or seen events unfold from Phillip's point-of-view. The plot is slow to begin with but picks up once Marianne is on her way to Kent. There were several plot twists; most I didn't see coming at all. Some of them are really rather unbelievable, especially Cecily's reaction at the end. That happened too quickly also. The plot is helped by Marianne's relationship to her absentee father and her relationship with her grandmother. These relationships keep the story from following the typical Regency plot. The romance, is as usual, obvious, but it develops wonderfully. I loved seeing the two characters get to know each other and really let their true selves shine, especially Marianne. There are some funny, lighthearted moments, especially when the secondary characters appear. My biggest complaint is the timeline of the novel. It takes place in Summer 1816, one year after Napoleon is vanquished yet Phillip went on a Grand Tour and Papa has been living in France for 14 months. I would have set the story a little later to make those plot points work. This book reads like a young adult novel and is similar to the old Signet and Zebra Regencies. If you like those, you're bound to like this one. Side note: My other complaint has to do with the review blurbs on the back of the book: they're all by the wives of New York Times bestselling authors. Why not reviews from NYT bestselling romance authors or even women who are bestselling authors? It seemed such an odd, out-of-place thing.

The FitzOsbornes at War (Montmaray Journals) by Michelle Cooper -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

In this long-awaited final (and huge) volume of Sophie's journals, Great Britain is at war, the FitzOsbournes have to adapt to changes and grow up. This story deals with the tragedies of war. It provides a very honest and accurate portrayal (sometimes too accurate when the dialogue comes right out of the mouths of real life people and history books) of WWII. It's horribly sad and tragic - one of the most depressing books I've read. However, as a story about the FitzOsbornes, it does an excellent job bringing the characters into adulthood. As with the previous two books, Sophie records everything in her journal: from rationing, air raids, her fears for her loved ones, war work and romance. She asks a lot of heavy questions and finally they make sense for a woman in her twenties to ask when I felt previously that a young teen wouldn't be thinking and asking about such heavy subjects. I liked her development in this book as she becomes an adult. She learns her strengths, her value and her heart. Her romance happens far too randomly. I didn't see it coming and when it happens, it's just sort of plunked in. The other characters who develop the most are Julia and Toby. Veronica, Simon and Henry don't really change much. Veronica remains my favorite character. Spoiler (highlight the next sentence): Another favorite character dies in the novel and I gasped when the news arrived. I was depressed for the rest of the novel. There's so much going on in this book that I think it should have been two books. The conclusion to the FitzOsbornes quest to reclaim Montmaray doesn't happen until the last few pages and it's over so suddenly. I felt it was anti-climatic. I loved the descriptions of the island nation in the first book and wanted more of Montmaray than of Great Britain. The epilogue tells what happened after the war. It's somewhat confusing and ambiguous in parts. A family tree shows all Fitzosbornes from 1850-1955 further adding to what happens next and explaining the part I found confusing. I still think that part is a bit bizarre. This book is definitely for young adults and not for teens. There are graphic depictions of war atrocities, war injuries, death and a love scene that was somewhat descriptive and not necessary to describe what was happening. The book also contains one night stands, pregnancy, and abortion. I was so thoroughly sad and depressed after reading this book that my next read will be something light and fluffy with no sort of plot. Any suggestions?

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