Thursday, March 28, 2013

What I Read Last Weekend

What I Read Last Weekend . . .

Regency Christmas Spirits by Nancy Butler, Emma Jensen, Edith Layton, Barbara Metzger, Andrea Pickens

Nancy Butler takes the spirit theme literally in A Merry Wanderer. A mischievous spirit is sent to earth to ensure the safety of a rare and precious book that has the means to destroy the faerey world. His attempts to find the book bring him in contact with the beautiful Julia, Lady of Islay. An impoverished spinster caring for her younger brother, Julia has little time or inclination for preserving the treasures of her father's vault. The mania for rare books and manuscripts led to her father's death and bankrupted the family, so naturally Julia feels animosity towards the vault. At first she dislikes and mistrusts Robin, but when her obnoxious relative comes to call with dire news on Christmas, Robin helps her battle her cousin and maintain the holiday spirit. A wicked villain is trying to destroy the faery realm and Robin has to choose between his love for his home and his growing love for Julia.
I'm not really into the whole paranormal romance thing, but Robin Goodfellow is my favorite sprite so I got over my disinterest quickly. The romance develops nicely from friendship with some sensuality. There's one major kissing scene that I didn't like, otherwise the romance is fine. I liked Robin a lot. He's charming and funny and a bit naughty at times. Julia is harder to like. She's prickly but she's frustrated because she loves her home and her brother and doesn't want to lose it. She learns to relax a bit and let love in. I especially loved the vault. As a special collections librarian, a place like that is a dream come true!

The Wexford Carol by Emma Jensen is another story about an impoverished spinster trying to save her family home. Miss Elizabeth Fitzhollis is working desperately hard to save her family home and the loyal servants still at her disposal. When her horrible cousin brings Yuletide tidings that Hollymore has been sold to a Duke who plans to raze the old manor house, Elizabeth is dismayed. Yet, she refuses to give up. When the new owner's land manager, Lawrence Jones, shows up, Elizabeth is determined to make him see the beauty in the place. Captain Lord Rhys Edward-Jones is just home from many years in the Navy. He can't believe his brother wants him to stay in this crumbling ruin with a sharp-tongued spinster even though that lady has lovely curves. Rhys's nephew tags along and quite enjoys himself. He's determined to bring Christmas spirits to Elizabeth and his uncle. It won't be easy because of their respective prejudices and Rhys's hardened heart, but those closest to them can see what's happening and work hard to ensure there's love under the mistletoe this holiday season.
 The plot is interesting and at times, funny. I loved Elizabeth. She's a very tough heroine and her devotion to her family home is touching, but even I had to admit that it was time to let go. Rhys is an interesting hero if you like the brooding type. I would have liked more of his back story. This story follows The Irish Rogue so there may be more about Rhys in other books. More back story would help me to understand why Rhys has such a hard heart and why he's very unpleasant at first. I liked this story the best of them all.

High Spirits by Edith Layton features a shy heroine, Arabella, who has no interest in the delights of the Season. All she wants to do is go home, but her stepmama won't allow it. Arabella's brother pledges his moral support and offers a bit of Dutch courage to his sister. Soon Arabella is the belle of the ton and all due to the spirits. The hero is sent by his aunt to find out Arabella's intentions towards his younger cousin. He expects a jade and instead finds a sweet, compassionate girl who inspires him to search for a wife. Rupert watches Arabella and discovers that she exhibits a different personality by night than by day. She must be playing a game with him! When he learns of her secret, he's determined to show Arabella what could be in store for her and make her see herself as he sees her.
This story is vaugely Christmas Carol-esque and rather depressing. I'd never read about an alcoholic heroine before and I'm not interested in reading about another one. Of course there's a moral to the story. The moral is very heavy handed and I just didn't like this story. As for the romance, the getting to know you stage is mentioned in passing. There's not much of a romance until the end. I would have liked more early interaction between the hero and heroine. This was my least favorite story in the collection.

The Christmas Curse by Barbara Metzger begins with an ancient curse condemning Sir Olnic and Lady Edryth to a lifetime of wandering the ether unless their heir finds her ladyship's ring and places it on the finger of his beloved. The ghosts can only become corporeal at Yultide and they are determined to make the most of it. When the ghosts frighten the carriage of two elderly ladies, the ladies are forced to stay at Worth Keep. Oliver Nicholson, Baron Worth, has returned to his ancestral home weary and battle scarred (both physically and emotionally). He doesn't believe in ghosts and is not amused that he's been saddled with two houseguests. He needs an unmarried lady to play chaperone and enlists the aid of his late best friend's cousin, the poor widow Amelia Merriot, much to the dismay of her autocratic aunt. Amelia enjoys feeling needed and she comes to know the Baron and fears she's in danger of losing her heart. Nick discovers that he likes the way his household is run with a lady in residence and begins to think of asking Amelia for a marriage of convenience. If the spirits have any say about it, the pair will not be falling in love and do all they can to prevent the match while also trying to coerce Amelia's dog into finding the cursed wedding ring.
This story isn't quite as zany as her usual. The dog only plays a secondary role and it's the ghosts who play comic relief in this story. I did not like the crude, bawdy humor exhibited by the ghosts. I also did not like how the getting to know each other stage was glossed over in summary. With it, the romance would have been more interesting and believable. I liked Amelia a lot. She's a heroine who knows her own mind and isn't afraid of anything. Nick is a brooding hero. His back story adds an extra dimension to this story which I liked. This was my second favorite story.

A Gathering of Gifts is about a spoiled brat appropriately named Emma, who injured herself and ends up on the couch of the new neighbor, Noel Trumbull, the new Lord Kirtland. Though he has a (new) title, he is not rich and Emma is certain to be bored in this modest home. She orders her cousin Charles to visit often to amuse her. Soon Emma is charmed by Noel's sweet nephew and enjoys gossiping about fashion with Noel's recently widowed sister Anne. Helping prepare the cottage for Christmas brings cheer to Emma's convalescence. If only Noel didn't think her a nuisance and despise her. Noel is not happy having such a spoiled girl on his hands. He's determined not to let any member of his household give in to her whims. He finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her beauty and spirited personality but there's no way a grand lady like her could ever come to care for an old soldier like him.
The heroine of this story, like her namesake, is hard to like. She's very much like Gwendolen in Daniel Deronda, but still wealthy. She turns into a watering pot and a stutterer around the hero which I found highly annoying. The romance develops quickly and is partly based on physical attraction. Noel has a brief back story that explains his character. He's kind and considerate but becomes grouchy with Emma. She learns a lesson and becomes more likeable by the end, but I am not truly convinced by the romance. This story is good but not great.

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