Saturday, February 23, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Mr. Darcy Forever by Victoria Connelly -- Austenesque/ Contemporary Romance/Women's Fiction

Sarah and Mia Castle are sisters and the best of friends. They are complete opposites. Little sister Mia is messy, impulsive, romantic and dreams of being an actress. Older sister Sarah is neat, cautious and worries about everything. She uses her OCD to control her surroundings when things don't go her way. She springs for a magical dream vacation to celebrate Mia's 21st birthday at Barton Cottage, the Dashwoods cottage in the Emma Thompson/Ang Lee version of Sense and Sensibility. It's supposed to be a girls' week away from men and everything else wrong with their lives, but when handsome neighbor Alec rescues Mia from a fall, all their plans are forgotten. Three years later, the sisters are not speaking to each other. They haven't seen each other since not long after their vacation to Barton Cottage. Something happened that drove them apart. Sarah can't help but worry about her little sister so she decides to head to Bath for the Jane Austen Festival in hopes of reuniting with her sister. She's worried her sister won't want to see her, but with some encouragement from a new friend, she proceeds with her plan. Mia's life isn't going so well. Her dream of becoming an actress is becoming harder and harder to achieve. She's looking forward to this weekend in Bath with her good friend Shelley. Shelley fears Mia has changed and she's determined to get to the reason why. She also wants to play matchmaker for her handsome yet, older neighbor Gabe.  Mia fears she'll never find her Mr. Darcy. Has fiction ruined her for life? This story is a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility without the social etiquette of the original. Thus, it's an incredibly predictable, boring story about two obnoxious grown women acting like teenagers. I could easily figure out what was going to happen based on the plot of Sense and Sensibility and waiting for it to happen was like waiting for a disaster. None of the main characters are redeemable. Sarah's OCD is out of control and she doesn't even consider trying to get help. The only time she's not obsessive compulsive is when it's convenient to the plot, which I thought wasn't very accurate. . Her OCD keeps her from functioning like a normal human and it's both tragic and annoying to read about her quirks and obsessing over every possible thing that could go wrong. If she's really so OCD, I doubt she'd ever want to get married. Mia is even more silly and impulsive than Marianne and she behaves very very badly. I didn't like her behavior or anything else about her except she's a Janeite. The leading men are too perfect. They don't resemble the flawed Austen heroes at all, except for the obvious parallel to a character in Sense and Sensibility. The best part of this book was the descriptions of the festival and Bath. The festival sounds like a lot of fun and I wish more time had been spent on the activities rather than flashing back to past events just when the fun was about to start. This book is the weakest in the trilogy. You don't necessarily have to read the first two but if you plan to, read those first because this one contains spoilers. 

Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus -- Inspirational Regency Romance

Julia Witherington, daughter of a naval officer and newly minted baronet, has had a crush on her father's lieutenant William Ransome since she was 10. She's now seventeen and ready to marry, but when William doesn't propose, Julia is heartbroken. William refuses to take advantage of his patron's generosity and take Julia's dowry for his own. He's determined to make his own way in the world. Julia returns to her family's home in Jamaica, where she runs the plantation with precision. Thirteen years later, Julia is in England once more. Her life has changed dramatically in the passing years with the deaths of her twin brother and her mother and the subsequent move to England. Julia enjoys getting to know her father better but can't help but be jealous of his devotion to the Navy. She also does not like her chaperone, her aunt, Lady Pembroke, who doesn't approve of mere sailors. William Ransome, now a Captain, has returned to England now peace has come. While he waits for his ship to be refitted, her stays with family at the home his closest friend Collin, Captain Yates. Collin's wife Susan is Julia's dearest friend, and thus they are thrown together once again.  

If Julia doesn't marry by her 30th birthday next month, she'll receive her inheritance in full. Julia is determined to return to Jamaica and live her life freely, as she chooses. Julia's aunt has other ideas about Julia's fortune. She hatches a plan that is utterly disagreeable to Julia and threatens the honor of the Witherington name if Julia doesn't comply. With her father away on business, Julia turns to the only person she knows can help, William Ransome. Julia proposes a business arrangement marriage of convenience to her former love. He's not so sure he wants to be married. His devotion is to the Navy and nothing else, but yet, he can't help wanting to protect Julia. Julia is determined not to fall in love with William all over again. She feels he used her only to get close to her father, but she can't help but begin to feel the stirrings of her heart once again.

This story is a rewrite of Persuasion, my favorite Austen novel, so I couldn't wait to read it. Unfortunately, it didn't meet my expectations. The plot was full of gaping holes that didn't make much sense. Honor is overemphasized in the plot to a ridiculous degree. I didn't believe any of the reasons characters invoked honor to do something stupid. Julia is also of age and no one can force her to do anything. Even if rumors are spread, it's pretty obvious that soon everyone will know Julia was the wronged party so her actions are not justified. The romance was a bit hollow too. It's supposed to be a slow burn but never fully develops and is rushed at the end. It leaves room for development in the sequels, I suppose, but it wasn't the ending I hoped for. The characters are all pretty bland. Not one of them is memorable. Julia is whiny and easily persuadable. William is too stiff and they're both too proud. The villains are typical stock villains of this sort of novel. The only character I found interesting is Charlotte Ransome, William's headstrong sister. I didn't like her enough to want to read her book (#2 in the trilogy). It's pretty obvious what is going to happen. This is supposed to be an inspirational novel, but it's pretty tame on the religious end of things. The characters pray for guidance one in awhile but they take responsibility for their own actions, which pleased me. If you like this sort of novel, try Regina Scott's Everard Legacy and other inspirational novels instead.

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