Thursday, December 12, 2013

What I've Read This Week Part I

What I've Read This Week Part I . . .
Friendship and Folly: The Merriweather Chronicles Book 1 by Meredith Alladay -- Regency Romance

This book is too long and complicated to fully explain the plot or lack thereof. I'll give a few highlights only. The heroine, Julia Parry, is the granddaughter of an Earl on her mother's side and the daughter of a former East India Company employee. Her family is very close and very pious. They don't believe in all the superficial goings on of the haut ton but when Julia's grandfather insists she have a Season, Julia doesn't demur. There are museums and things she wants to see in London. The whole family heads off to the metropolis, even the nursery and schoolroom children. They are accompanied by their semi-invalid friend Ann. The Parrys can do no wrong in Ann's eyes and she seems to be the omniscient narrator of the story. In London, the beautiful, kind-hearted Julia is beset upon by "Greenlings" young men of little or no substance who love her for the wrong reasons. They disappear as Julia begins to eschew the social whirl. A young, simple minded Irish baronet, Sir Warrington Lenox. Julia, taught to be nice to simple minded people, allows Sir Warrington to pay her court. She meets with the disapproval of his younger brother Mr. Lenox for no apparent reason. Ann assumes the younger brother disapproves of the elder marrying at all. She ascribes the motive of jealously; Mr. Lenox being angry at losing what he thought was his rightful place when his long lost brother returned. It could also be because Julia has no intentions of marrying his brother. Or it could be something else entirely because things aren't what they seem. Julia's younger sister Kitty is in despair at the idea of her sister leaving the family fold. HER ideal husband for Julia would be her grandfather's heir. This story takes FOREVER to get to the point. We're told Julia's entire family history before she is even introduced. Then we're told Julia is the heroine but she disappears from the story for several chapters. Various characters come and go and appear again so long after that I forgot who they were. I needed a family tree to keep them all straight. Many characters and situations don't serve much purpose and all and some of them are very very long winded. The narrator is also extremely long winded and steps away from the main plot to relate certain incidents happening elsewhere or in the past. The action is all summarized. I kept waiting for the plot to begin and it doesn't begin until about halfway through. There were several instances where I couldn't put the book down but it took me 4 days to read it because I kept falling asleep. Finally we learn that everything has been leading up to the romantic plot. It's a very subtle romance. I picked up on Julia's love interest right away though at first I thought perhaps he was going to end up as the love interest of another. It's obvious when Julia falls in love yet the romance plays off page for the most part. There's lots of meddling and misunderstandings that drove me crazy. The characters don't appear on page long enough to really get a good feel for them. We're told endlessly of this or that or what that character thinks but the story never gets inside anyone's head. The romance doesn't develop on page and more time is dedicated to other characters and plots than the romance. There's not even a kiss or even a real declaration of love. This was obviously intended to be some sort of Pride and Prejudice style story. The hero is very much a Darcy type. I kind of liked him at first but found him too noble and self-sacrificing towards the end. I found Julia too perfect and bland to be interesting. Ann had potential to be interesting but she comes across as sycophantic at first and then self-serving. Kitty is the most obnoxious character. She's too pious, too nervous and weepy and just so annoying! I really wanted to slap her. Mrs. Lenox is the most horrible unnatural mother. She's maybe supposed to be a Lady Katherine type but she's cruel and heartless. Even Lady Katherine could extol upon the virtues of her daughter. The only character I felt I knew and liked was Sir Warrington. Since this book is free on Amazon, I would recommend it to Jane Austen and Jude Morgan fans but I wouldn't pay for it. I do appreciate the author's attempts to publish the manuscript she found in her grandmother's trunk but this book is badly in need of Jane Austen's editor and that lady's wit and good sense. 

The Invention of Sarah Cummings (Avenue of Dreams 3) by Olivia Newport

Sarah Cummings is tired of being in service. Her father always promised her the world and she knows she deserves better. She's tried to find employment elsewhere but with the depression, it's hard to find work. She's stuck but she knows she's going to find her way out. When the opportunity comes to reinvent herself, she takes it. As Serena Cuthbert, a wealthy, independent young woman, Sarah befriends Lillie Wagner, who has recently moved to Chicago. As Serena, Sarah can move in high circles and meets the handsome Brad Townsend who seems to like her very much. Lillie is lonely and longs for a true friend and is thrilled she's found one in Serena. She can confide her feelings for her beau Paul Gunnison, her desire for more independence and her longing to do more to help the unfortunate orphans at St. Andrews. Sarah tries to discourage Lillie's interest in St. Andrews because the director, Simon Tewell has asked her to teach sewing to the older girls. The last thing Sarah wants is to go backwards but she reluctantly agrees.  Simon knows Sarah is hurting. She was a loved only child one day and an orphan the next. He believes she's longing for love and has only to accept God's love and then she may be more willing to accept Simon's love. It's not easy managing to be two people at once. Sarah is on the verge of getting everything she's ever wanted and she'll stop at nothing to get it. This book is interesting because is has a very unlikeable protagonist. I didn't care for Sarah any more than I did in the previous book. She's three years older and bit less stubborn but no less unlikeable. I admire her desire for a better life and her willingness to go after what she wants but not the way she executes her plan. I found her deception repugnant and was actually rooting for her to fail. I figured out what would happen in the end but still the book kept me guessing how it would turn out. The biggest failing of this novel is the relationship between Sarah and Simon. Simon loves Sarah but I'm not sure why and when she realized it. He can apparently see something in Sarah that I can't. I find it a little creepy because he's an employee at the orphanage and she was once an orphan. Simon is a man of compassion and deep Faith. He talks a lot about God's love but I felt that it was randomly tossed in the story and didn't really make sense in terms of the story. Sarah's revelation comes so quickly, it's kind of jarring. It doesn't connect up to Simon's plot very well either. The end of the novel felt really disjointed like it was a rough draft and something in the middle was missing. The period details are once again amazing but there's too much of the social whirl and too much commentary on the economic crisis and politics. I studied history and I remember some of what was happening at the time but found it boring and not super relevant to the story. There's so much mention of politics and Brad';s interest but it never really comes to a point. The author does a great job setting the stage but she seems to have difficulty executing her plots. I found Lillie's story more interesting, though she's wealthy. She's almost too kind and trusting but I liked her a lot. I didn't like Brad much from the start. He's very stereotypical. The Bannings seem to have softened a bit and have become more likeable. I also enjoyed seeing Lucy and Charlotte again and knowing how their lives have turned out three years later. I'm still puzzled as to why Lucy always gets her own way in her parents' home and how she's able to change her family's opinions but I like her a lot. I really learned a lot about 19th century Chicago from these books and I enjoyed the period details very much. The plots leave a little to be desired but they're not terrible and I think even non-Christians can read and enjoy the books. Christians looking for more of an Inspirational message or the importance of Faith will be disappointed.

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