Monday, March 18, 2013

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

Counterfeit Kisses by Sandra Heath -- Regency Romance

Sir Gareth Carew, passing time at his club while awaiting orders for his next government assignment, intently watches a card game between the notorious Duke of Exton and the young Stephen Holland, a youth fresh from the country.  The men are both vying for the favors of Fleur Fitzgerald, who is currently gracing the younger man's bed - for a price. She demands the ruby tiara that has been in the Holland family for centuries, for she believes the tiara belongs to the Fitzgeralds. When a drunk Stephen loses the tiara to the Duke, he's dismayed and worried what his twin sister will think. Gareth helps Stephen home and must put up with verbal abuse from the young man and his sister for his pains. Three years later, a widowed Susannah Holland Leighton is returning to London from her home in Bengal with her Indian servant and pet monkey, Chatterjee. She's determined to find the tiara and get it back before Exton sells it. A chance meeting with Jane, Duchess of Exton, reunites her with Gareth. Susannah is thrilled to be able to enact revenge on both the perpetrators of her brother's destruction. Before she can bring down Carew, however, she must pretend to be his long lost childhood sweetheart, a job which gets easier with every kiss. An invitation to the Duke of Exton's country home provides Susannah with the excuse she needs to retrieve the tiara, but not everything goes as planned and a series of adventures will bring her closer to what she really wants.

I do not know what possessed me to read this book. It must have been the promise of an amusing animal companion. Even with Chatterjee, I really couldn't like this book very much. First, the hero and heroine have no basis for a romance other than physical attraction. She's a lonely widow, I understand why an attractive, fit, male with a whiff of danger would be appealing, but I did not find him an interesting hero. The story is told from the third person omniscient, making it difficult to know what the characters are thinking and feeling without being told. This makes for a difficult time understanding the characters. The secondary romantic pairing are so juvenile and ridiculous that I had a hard time being convinced to believe in them. The plot premise has potential to be a screwball comedy like Georgette Heyer or Barbara Metzger, but for me, it never really got there. It was very silly and unbelievable. In the first place, I gather than gentlemen took cheating at cards as a serious offense, so why didn't Carew say something, especially after the tiara was lost? I am certain he could won a duel easily and he was leaving soon for St. Petersburg anyway so he would have been able to flee the country quickly. Was it that he was worried he would loose his government post if he fought a duel? We don't know. The plot gets crazier and more unbelievable as it goes on. I figured out quickly who the man in the woods was. Yet I couldn't put the book down. I stayed up far too late. I did not even like Chatterjee, whom I found annoying and spoiled. He should have been left free in India where he belongs and never made into a pet. The best part of this novel is the descriptions of life in India and Indian customs. The other best part is the descriptions of the clothes worn. It's obvious the author did research, though I can't say as to whether her description of life in India at the beginning of the 19th century is correct. I would not recommend this story to those who appreciate a well-written, believable story. 

The Irish Rogue by Emma Jensen -- Regency Romance

Ailis O'Neill is perfectly happy living life as a Dublin spinster. She's more at home in the country than in the drawing rooms but Dublin provides her lively mind with something to do. She's passionate about the Irish cause and teaches English to Irish peasants and paints pictures of Irish wildlife. Her dreams are filled with the mysterious romantic An Cu, an Irish Robin Hood figure. When her brother, Eammon, decides to run for parliament, some London gentlemen come calling to consider him. Ailis loathes these pompous, arrogant English Tories and worries they'll turn her brother into one of them. Christor Moore, Lord Clane has returned to Dublin in search of An Cu, but not the real An Cu, an impostor who is making a mess of things and angering the local nobility and gentry. Only Christor knows that he is the true An Cu. He's instantly attracted to the well-endowed, shrewish Ailis. He longs to have her and can't understand her hatred of him. He's never been rejected by a lady before. What can he do to make her his?

This book had great promise but failed to live up to it's potential. I loved the heroine. She is fiercely independent, smart, witty and passionate. I could easily identify with her and I think if I were a 19th century Irish gentry woman, I would be a lot like her. The hero has potential to be great. Like the heroine, he's deeply passionate and caring. He starts to bear his soul to her and I can see why they would love each other, but then the book derails from there. Christor acts like a gorilla around Ailis. He's driven by lust not love and his realization that he is in love comes way too late and too sudden to make up for his lustful urges. The book would have been much much better if the author had been able to develop the romance instead of the physical urgings of her characters. This story is not exactly clean as Christor frequently thinks about what he wants to do with Ailis and there's a make-out scene that has no business being in the book. It doesn't serve to move the story along and can be skipped easily. The plot about An Cu was very interesting. I liked the idea of an Irish Robin Hood a lot and I kept trying to guess who the impostor was. I guessed completely wrong. The reveal was a bit shocking and it was also lacking in a real motive and resolution. The conclusion of the novel feels rushed because too much time was spent on Christor's urges. The mystery kept me interested but not interested enough to devour this book in one night. It took me three nights because I couldn't get over the lack of plot. The secondary characters also have potential to be great but lack any real sort of characterization. Anne is way too an indulgent mother and her children, especially Ailis, do not act within the acceptable bounds of proproiety. I liked the local color of Dublin and the inclusion of the importance of Gaelic into the plot, but the book needs a glossary because I don't speak Gaelic and found many of the phrases impossible to pronounce. I know enough to know the heroine's name is said Aylish and that's about it. 

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