Saturday, November 17, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Saved By Scandal by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance

Lord Galen Woodbridge has been jilted at the alter - twice - by the same lady. This time, Lady Floria has run off with a fortune hunter leaving Galen to nurse his wounded pride. Galen decides that an even bigger scandal will save him from the gossip mill. The only thing to do, he decides, is marry the lovely opera singer Margot Montclaire. He enlists the aid of his drunken clergyman friend "Skippy" Skidmore to purchase the special license and assumes all will be smooth sailing from there. Wrong. When he arrives at the singer's boarding house he can't get past the front door. First there's a growling mongrel, then an old crone and yet another old woman who won't even give Galen the time of day. Determined not to be thwarted in his scene, Galen continues his pursuit with bribes (including losing his gloves to the mutt, Ruff) until he meets Margot. To Galen's surprise and delight, Margot reveals she is a real lady, the daughter of a Baron who made a love match with a French singer and displeased his family. Galen and Margot lay all their cards on the table: she agrees to a provisional marriage in name only (for six months) and Galen agrees to provide a home for her sickly little brother Ansel, the dog, Margot's dresser Ella, rescue Ella's husband from jail and thwart Margot's wicked uncle from seizing Ansel's rightful property. Galen readily agrees and they are married three hours later. Galen is convinced he has done the right thing and that Margot will grow to love him in time. To prove his love for her, he rushes off to rescue the young Baron while Margot is left to finish her contract at the London theatre, charm the ton, plan a wedding party, deal with all the invitations and wedding gifts that arrive, and hire a new staff that isn't afraid of Ruff. Then Galen's hoydenish little sister arrives in town and another unexpected visitor arrives hot on her heels to further complicate matters. Will Galen ever return home? Can Margot live up to his expectations and rise to the occasion? This story is very different from the typical marriage of convenience plot. The plot follows more along the lines of a "sweet" style romance. The story has all the hallmarks of a classic Barbara Metzger book: a loyal animal companion, comic characters, a no-nonsense heroine and a sweet romance. The characters are all appealing, except, of course, for the villains. My favorite character was Ruff, the dog. He stole every scene he was in and is an integral part of the plot. Galen is a perfectly swoonworthy hero. His nickname, "Sir Galahad," suits him and if I were in Margot's situation I would have married him too. I would have married him even if I weren't in Margot's situation. Margot is beautiful and innocent but she's not spoiled and she's not a wilting flower. She's intelligent and strong and handles all the crazy situations thrown at her with good grace. Skippy is a great sidekick. He provides a lot of laugh out loud moments in the story. For those keeping track, there's very little sensuality in this story. Galen is attracted to Margot and there are some serious kissing scenes but the prose doesn't go beyond the fact that their clothes were rumpled.I loved this novel and recommend it to those who enjoy comedy of manners plots, screwball comedies and sweet romances.

Emma and Knightley: Perfect Happiness in Highbury: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Emma by Rebecca Billington -- Austenesque

Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley have been married for about a year and everything has been perfectly happy and peaceful. Then tragic news arrives that upends the society at Highbury. Emma comes into some knowledge she should share with Knightley but can't seem to find a spare moment. Then more terrible news arrives that further divides Emma and her beloved husband. Emma heads off to London where she makes a new friend and discovers strength she didn't know she had. She worries about Knightley, always running between London and Highbury, seeming to keep secrets from her.  Once returned to Highbury, Emma is restless. The initial tragedy has further consequences in Highbury and Emma longs to share her feelings with her husband, but he is often distant, treating her like a child. Meanwhile, the whole of Highbury awaits the long delayed arrival of the much-lauded Suckings (Mrs. Selina Suckling is the sister of Mrs. Elton and mistress of Maple Grove). Emma wonders if life will ever be the same again and if she wants it to be. How can she reconcile her marriage and find perfect happiness? This very long sequel to Jane Austen's Emma follows many of the conventions of a marriage of convenience novel.  The plot drags on and on without any change in character. I knew what Emma's problem was and the solution to it and I kept waiting for her to realize it and act on it but Emma remains just as spoiled, childish and snobby as she ever was until the end of the novel, some 500 pages later. Knightley is just as dull and enigmatic as he is in the original novel. I liked Miss Bates a lot. She gets to be the heroine of her own subtle yet predictable, plot. The events of the story are a bit too Gothic and melodramatic to please me. I did not like Emma's new friend Philomena. At first I did, many of her views are in line with mine, but by the end, she made some decisions that even though I suspected would happen, I didn't agree with and neither did Emma. Rev. Tidmarsh annoyed me, always speaking in Latin, but he provided a bit of comic relief with his somewhat absent-minded nature. I also really liked the visitors who appear at the end and would love to know more about them and their story. They were far more interesting than Emma and Knightley's story. Even though I didn't like the plot much, I found Emma and Knightley's relationship realistic and true to character. Harriet's story too seemed realistic and true to her nature. Some of the other characters I am not sure are really true to the story. I'd like to think that one person was not intended to be so bad yet I can can readily imagine that character's relationship with another character from Emma not working out happily. One thing I liked about this book is that the author adequately captures the tone of Jane Austen's writing. The e-book has many typos that made reading a little difficult. I wouldn't recommend this book to any true Janeite.

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