Friday, December 20, 2013

What I've Read This Week Part I

What I've Read This Week Part I . . .

The Wife Campaign (Master Matchmakers 2) by Regina Scott -- Inspirational Regency Romance

This story is set in the same world as Regina Scott's Zebra Regencies. Ruby mentions characters from the previous novels. The Barnsley School is in Mistletoe Kittens and La Petite Four. It's mentioned in The Irredeemable Miss Renfield, Utterly Devoted, and Secrets and SensibilitiesThere are no major spoilers for those books.

Miss Ruby Hollingsford is furious at her father for tricking her into a trip to Derbyshire. She thought they were going on business but her father reveals they're to attend a house party given by the Earl of Danning. Ruby has no use for the snobby nobs and even less interest in marriage. Whitfield Calder has come to Fern Lodge to fish and enjoy the peace and quiet and visit with his cousin Charles. 99% of his time is given over to duty and only on his rare fishing outings can he be free to relax. He has no interest in marriage at this time which is why his old friend and valet Peter Quimby has organized this house party unbeknowst to Whit. Whit is dismayed to find his holiday interrupted by two marriage-minded misses and their scheming parents. The guests include the bluestocking Henrietta Stokley-Trent and her parents plus Lady Amelia Jacoby and her mother, Miss Hollingsford and her father. Whit is at loose ends and has no idea how to go on but with Ruby by his side, he thinks he can manage a house party and find time to escape the eager parents and fish. He discovers that his flirtatious cousin is a good distraction but perhaps a little too friendly with one of the guests. Whit finds in Ruby a true friend and companion. He thinks she would make the perfect Countess, but he has always dreamed of a marriage built on love, such as the one his parents shared. Their relationship is hampered by a series of strange accidents and Ruby suspects someone is trying to kill Whit. He refuses to believe any wrong of his guests. As Whit struggles to figure out his feelings, Ruby must learn to trust before she can figure out the Lord's path for her. 

This story is a lot more overtly Christian than the previous Love Inspired titles. You can't ignore or take out the Christian content. There are times when the events of the plot mirror the spiritual journey and some metaphors for Faith. Ruby questions whether God oversees the affairs of nations or whether God takes an interest in individuals. I really didn't like that very much not being Christian. The story would have pleased me more if the trust issue were solely secular. It's been done before. Also, the story goes on way too long partly because of the Christian element and partly because of the mystery plot. Congratulations Regina, you ALMOST wrote a book without a villain! I would have liked the story better without the mystery plot. The mystery slows down the plot too much. The mystery doesn't even begin until more than halfway through the book. I was left wondering who the villain was and when that part would happen. The villain serves a purpose but I think the characters could have worked things out on their own. So please, next time, listen to your editor and write a straight romance! Also, the epilogue isn't necessary. It sets the stage for the next story but I think we can figure that out on our own. The story is excellent otherwise. As usual, Regina Scott has created memorable characters and develops a wonderful relationship between them. I loved Ruby. She's a kick you-know-what character. She's no Society miss, she's had a tough life and knows how to protect herself. She seems a lot older than she really is because of her difficult past. I really admired her strength and I felt her insecurities were justified given her experiences. I did NOT like Whit. He's sooo boring! His whole life, since the age of 15, has been about duty. He's very proper and correct. I prefer a bit more spark in my heroes but I can see most women falling in love with Whit. The relationship develops nicely for a time but then I just wanted to bang their heads together. Their dancing around their feelings gets annoying about 1/2-3/4 of the way through. There are a couple of kisses but nothing more. I liked the story despite my feelings about the Christian content and the unnecessary mystery. I learned a lot about the seedier side of Regency London and about Derbyshire. There's an interesting side plot about the mineral Blue John that I liked too. I would recommend this novel mainly to Christian romance readers. This one is a good place to start for those wishing to get into the Love Inspired line. It's the second of a new series but reads as a stand alone. 

Mrs. Jeffries Pleads Her Case by Emily Brightwell -- Victorian Mystery

The servants are brooding because there hasn't been a murder to solve in awhile. Then, the Chief Inspector calls in Inspector Witherspoon to investigate a death that had been ruled a suicide. The Chief Inspector's old nanny, now a landlady, is convinced her tenant would never kill himself. As a favor to her, the Chief Inspector promises to reopen the case. Inspector Witherspoon discovers the investigation was hastily concluded, thanks to his nemesis Inspector Nivens. Why would a brilliant engineer kill himself at the peak of his career? Was it a suicide or was there a more sinister motive? The Inspector's staff investigate and discover many details about the company the deceased worked for. The lower classes are reluctant to speak to the "coppers" but with Mrs. Jeffries and staff on the case, the mystery will soon be solved. Smythe and Betsy are eager to begin their married lives yet reluctant to leave off investigating. Will this be the end of the road for the lovebirds? There are other romances blooming on the horizon and the staff at Upper Edmonton Gardens won't be left out. This mystery was difficult to figure out. The outcome didn't really make a lot of sense. I was surprised at whodunnit. Like Mrs. Jeffries, I had my suspicions, but I ended up being wrong. There are some period details in this story: industry, women's rights, and the inner workings of the Victorian police force. Were Victorians really that dumb? There's a lot of things happening in this story that require a suspension of disbelief. I'm glad others are finally in on the secret. It doesn't make sense for the servants to be on their own. I also liked the little bit of romance. I want more of the Inspector and Ruth!

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