Friday, October 18, 2013

What I've Read Recently Part II

What I've Read Recently Part II

The Best Intentions (Country House Party #2) by Candice Hern -- Regency Romance

Miles Strickland, the Earl of Prescott is furious with his sister Winifred. Winifred has written to inform her brother that she will be arriving for a month-long visit with two female cousins in tow: one a girl just out of the school room and the other her older, widowed sister. Miles can see through his sister's matchmaking plot and he has no intentions of marrying a young girl whose thoughts of matrimony undoubtedly include love and romance. Miles is done with all that. He buried his heart with his wife two years ago. If it weren't for his two young daughters and his need for an heir, Miles wouldn't even consider marriage. Hananh Fairbanks, a nineteen year old bluestocking, also has no interest in marriage. She would much rather study ancient architecture than attend a country house party with an eligible earl. Her sister Charlotte has other ideas. Charlotte, a young widow, has every intention of capturing the Earl and introducing her hoydenish sister into Society. However, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men... Hannah, determined to be herself, rebels against her sister's strict ladylike rules with very unexpected results.

This story is a must-read for Georgette Heyer fans. It's a true comedy of manners with well-drawn characters and a lively, entertaining plot. Miles is the perfect hero. He's rich, handsome, charming, a devoted dad, landlord and brother. What's not to love? Charlotte is an interesting character. I didn't really like her methods but yet I feel bad for her being a young widow in a society that isn't kind to women. I wish she had been fleshed out a bit more. The story is told primarily from the points-of-view of Hannah and Miles. It never gets inside Charlotte's head though from Hannah's thoughts we gain an understanding of what Charlotte is really like. Hannah is one of the best heroines I've come across. I was a bit nervous because she's so young but she's a very appealing heroine. I love that she studies ancient architecture and her passion and enthusiasm for the subject is almost catching. At any rate it provides some of the funniest moments in the book. I especially like that she's forthright and determined to be true to herself. Though I think she's a bit young to be married, I really enjoyed her story and found the romance believable. The plot made me giggle in many places, especially when Hannah forgot to act like a lady. The climactic moment had me breathless and amused at the same time. Hannah is just so much fun, you can't help falling in love with her. There's very little sensuality in this book and the romance is light and  clean. I haven't read A Garden Folly but this book stands on it's own because the events of the previous spring were explained. This book is almost one for the keeper shelf, but I will pass it along to someone else to enjoy. 

Expectations of Happiness by Rebecca Ann Collins -- Austenesque/ Sense & Sensibility Sequel

Seven years after Sense and Sensibility comes to an end, Elinor and Edward Ferrars are happily married with young sons, Margaret is a bluestocking and teaches at a young ladies' seminary and Marianne is a desperate housewife. Colonel Brandon is often gone to his estates in Ireland or to rescue Eliza from some new trouble or other and Marianne is bored. When Elinor discovers that Willoughby is back in the area and without his wife, she worries about her sister. Marianne makes some new friends who bring her into contact with Willoughby. She feels she's a little older and wiser now than she was but is thrilled to find someone who shares her interest in history and literature. Will she succumb to his charms once again? Elinor seems to think so and dreads a scandal. Meanwhile Margaret has the chance to go on a trip of a lifetime to France with a good friend. They're met by two young gentlemen who escort the ladies around. Margaret experiences love and heartache for the first time with one of her traveling companions. Mrs. Dashwood is experiencing changes of her own. When Lady Middleton dies unexpectedly, Mrs. Dashwood is called upon to run the household and finds she enjoys it very much. This book is supposed to be a sequel to Sense and Sensibility, but I didn't find the characters were very true to the original. Elinor becomes a worry-wort and imagines doom and gloom wherever she goes. She's always wringing her hands and weeping. I found her intensely annoying and lacking the sense she has in the original. Marianne resembles someone from a television soap opera. She was so forthright and open when she was younger, I don't know why she doesn't just talk to Colonel Brandon. She's a bit more mature than she was seven years ago but not a whole lot. I am not a fan of this sort of domestic drama plot. Margaret is a bluestocking and far too modern for the period. I'm not certain there were schools of that sort yet at that time, let alone ones that would employ such liberal ladies. The big question for her is: is she willing to risk everything for true love? I have mixed feelings about her love affair. On one hand, it's sweet and tender but on the other, it's weird and creepy. If you like brooding heroes and melodrama a la Jane Eyre, you might enjoy this romance. The romance is essentially clean but certain things are implied and referenced. I wanted to love Margaret for standing up for her beliefs but some of her decisions are just too unconventional for the period. I can't imagine there wouldn't be fallout or that Elinor wouldn't lecture. Mrs. Dashwood's subplot is essentially pointless and very predictable. She's the only character who matures and becomes more sensible. I liked the author's writing style though and how her gentle tone echoes Jane Austen without copying the period language exactly. I wouldn't recommend this sequel to Jane Austen lovers but as a stand alone novel it's not too bad.

Darcy and Anne: It Is a Truth Universally Acknowledged That Lady Catherine Will Never Find a Husband for Anne by Judith Brocklehurst -- Austenesque 
 When Mr. Darcy takes Elizabeth Bennet to be his wife, his formidable aunt Lady Catherine deBurgh refuses to speak to him ever again. That promises lasts only a few short months. Unable to find a husband for her daughter Anne in their limited country society, Lady Catherine is determined that Darcy and Elizabeth be responsible for finding a husband for Anne. During the journey calamity strikes and Lady Catherine is stuck ill and injured. Anne must make decisions for herself for the first time in her life, including heading to the spa town of Burley where Lady Catherine can get a doctor. The kind doctor notices Anne's poor health and understands the cause. He takes away her medications, removing Anne's last claim to being unable to do anything for herself. She writes to the Darcy cousins to be rescued but in the meantime she makes the acquaintance of the Caldwells, a kind family who knew Anne's father. Edmund Caldwell encourages Anne to think about the wider world and important social issues. Anne finds herself disagreeing with her mother's opinion! Just as she begins to know the Caldwells, Anne is whisked away to Pemberley where she is immediately accepted into the family fold. She finds love and acceptance with her Pemberley family and even finds love. Alas, her suitor is ineligible in her mother's eyes and as Lady Catherine recovers, it's clear she's lost none of her overbearing, haughty ways. Can Anne learn to stand on her own two feet? Does she have the courage to defy her mother and what will happen if she does? The title of the story is very misleading. The story is all about Anne and her coming into her own. Darcy plays a minor role and he's happily married to Elizabeth. I really liked the character development. It seems plausible that away from her mother Anne might thrive, especially in a kind and loving environment. I liked watching her bloom and I think any young girl leaving home for the first time can easily relate.The other characters behave true to how they are portrayed in Pride and Prejudice, except Darcy. Darcy has learned to laugh and tease very quickly! The Bennets make appearances and are still the same annoying family as ever. Colonel Fitzwilliam appears briefly and has a surprising plot of his own. I didn't quite like his plot and didn't find it really believable. Lady Catherine, is of course the most true to the original or perhaps even more snobby than ever.  The romantic plot was sweet and somewhat predictable though I never could have guessed what Lady Catherine does to stand in the way of her daughter's happiness. There were many entanglements in the plot that left me wondering what would happen next. As such, the last quarter of the novel was very rushed and that was where the actual plot kicked in. It could have stood some more development instead of just telling us what happened. This story is written in a tone similar to Jane Austen though the writing is nowhere near as polished or witty. The romance is clean and sweet. This is a cute sequel to Pride and Prejudice and worth a read if you want to know what may have happened to Anne. The Kindle edition has a lot of problems with spacing that made it difficult to read at some points. Find a copy of the print edition instead. 

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