Monday, July 1, 2013

What I've Read This Week: Austenesque Edition

What I've Read This Week: Austenesque Edition . . .

Murder on the Bride's Side by Tracy Kiely -- Austenesque Contemporary Mystery

Elizabeth's best friend Bridget is marrying the love of her life, Colin, at their family's home in Virginia. Bridget's opinionated grandmother predicts death and Bridget can't help feeling nervous that something bad is going to happen. The family feels extreme animosity towards Bridget's uncle Randy's second wife Roni, a scheming, greedy witch. When Roni ends up dead, no one is truly upset or really surprised, but when the police lay the blame on one of the family, Bridget enlists Elizabeth's aid in solving the mystery. Elizabeth is anxious, but wants to help Bridget's cousin Harry, who she once had a crush on. It will also help her get back at Peter who is spending a bit too much time with the wedding planner, his old girlfriend. Will Elizabeth solve the mystery before the police convict Harry? This mystery is a take on Sense and Sensibility but it doesn't much resemble the original. Bridget represents sensibility and Elizabeth sense, though that's not saying much. The plot has many many twists and turns and I think even if I wrote down all the clues, there's no way I could have solved it. I couldn't put the book down and read way too late to finish it. I don't know how Elizabeth figured it out. The ending was a bit unsatisfactory. I don't want to spoil the whodunnit but it came as a big surprise to me. The final reveal was unconventional and didn't make a lot of sense. I enjoyed the story though the characters were all unlikeable and unrealistic. It seems like they were picked from a cast of two-dimensional characters.Also, things are wrapped up a bit too neatly and happily ever after to be realistic. I would have liked more development of Elizabeth and Peter's relationship. They've been dating for 8 months and she's pretty sure she loves him and he's THE ONE - how the heck did that happen?! Elizabeth quote extensively from Jane Austen's novel and the movie version of Sense and Sensibility along with a few other movie references I didn't always recognize. (Love the Cary Grant reference though). I would recommend this series to those who like contemporary adaptations of Jane Austen's novels and those who like light mysteries.

Murder Most Persuasive by Tracy Kiely -- Austenesque Contemporary Mystery

Elizabeth Parker is having a rough time. She's staying with her smug sister Kit in the jungle room from hell while her apartment is renovated; she hates her job; Peter has been traveling a lot for work and to top it off, her Uncle Martin (Aunt Winnie's older brother) just died. Martin's grieving family includes Elizabeth's cousins, close in age to her sister: Regina, Frances and Ann, as well as his second wife Bonnie. Bonnie, a Gone With the Wind quoting fluff head decides to head off to a spa retreat to relax after selling the family's summer home, leaving Ann in charge of cataloging and distributing Uncle Martin's things. When a body is discovered in the foundation of the pool at the family's old home, it turns out to be the missing former employee who was believed to have embezzled a large sum of money from the family business eight years ago. The man had been like a son to Uncle Martin and was engaged to Regina at the time, so naturally the family comes under suspicion. The investigation brings Detective Joe Muldoon back into Ann's life after she broke her engagement with him on the advice of her mother's friend. Ann still has feelings for Joe, but his partner wants to see Ann convicted of the crime. Joe is tough but he doesn't believe Ann is a murderer. Ann ropes Elizabeth into helping her solve the crime and keep in touch with Joe. Despite Peter's cautioning her not to play Nancy Drew, Elizabeth steps into the role pretty easily but investigating gets harder when her jealous sister Kit tries to play CSI. By the end of the book, family secrets are revealed and everyone discovers that what they thought they knew, turned out not to be true. Meanwhile, Peter wants to take their relationship to the next level and Elizabeth isn't sure she's ready. 

This mystery is a take on Persuasion. It's more direct than any of the other mysteries in the series. The family is closely modeled on the Eliots which makes none of them likable except Ann. They're all pretty much direct copies of their original counterparts except that a few characters are combined to create Ann Elliot's cousin William Walter. I liked the way the story paralleled the original but the original is a love story and this is a mystery. The love story takes a back seat so it's not really developed on page. I would have liked a bit more of the relationship between Ann and Joe to echo Ann and Frederick's. The mystery kept me guessing and guessing. I honestly couldn't figure out "whodunnit." The reveal was a surprise because the motive just wasn't realistic. The author tried to hard to match the original plot but it just seems far fetched in today's world. I don't know how Elizabeth figured it out. She seems to have some kind of super memory even though things keep fleeing out of reach. I have an excellent memory and couldn't remember the minute details she did. That too felt unrealistic. The story was similar to Murder of the Bride's Side since it revolves around a family close to Elizabeth and a wicked stepmother. The story kept me reading when I had other things to do with my life. It has a lot of funny moments; I like Elizabeth's snarky sense of humor, however, it lacks the beautiful language and social satire of Jane Austen's original. If you love Persuasion and enjoy a good mystery, you will like this one. 

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