Monday, January 6, 2014

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

Springtime Pleasures (A Love for every Season) by Sandra Schwab -- Regency Historical Romance

Carlotta Stanton and her friend Emma-Lee have just finished at St. Cuthbert's Academy for Young Ladies, a most exceptional school where they learn to hunt wild boards and make the best of all possible worlds. Along the way to London they are beset by highwaymen which shocks Charlie greatly. She can't believe that such a thing would happen in England, yet Charlie is looking forward to living in London and experiencing all the excitement the metropolis has to offer. She finds London difficult to understand. First, she isn't allowed to associate with Emma-Lee because of Emma-Le''s background in Trade. Then, Charlie is deemed too tall to be fashionable and the topics of conversation she enjoys, like fishing and wild boards, are not considered suitable for young ladies. Charlie writes to her friend Emma-Lee of her difficulties and her friend writes back words of encouragement and advice along with her own trials of being forced to entertain the most boring suitors. Then Charlie makes a new friend, Lady Isabella, a young lady confined to a wheeled chair. The two girls become fast friends as Isabella helps Charlie navigate the social waters. Isabella's older brother,
George Augustus Griffin, Viscount Chanderley, is also in Town for the Season. He has been given orders by his very proper father to find a suitable bride and NOT disgrace or disappoint the family. The Earl will never forgive Chanderley for the carriage accident that killed the heir and crippled Isabella. As a result of his father's disapproval, Chaderley feels responsible for the accident and weighted down by the expectations placed upon him. When he meets his sister's new friend, he discovers an unusual young lady with mesmerizing green eyes. Charlie takes an interest in her friend's brother and is determined to prove to him that he's not the scapegrace his parents believe he is. Charlie brings the joy back to Chanderley's life, but how can he marry her when she's not what his parents expect of a future Countess? Neither can he take her innocence, no matter how tempting she is or how willing. 

This story was simply preposterous. First, the author acknowledges that there were no highwaymen or wild boards in England in 1817 so I assumed this was a parody of sorts, perhaps a female Candide,  so I went along with it. I loved Charlie at first. She's awkward and funny and always putting her foot in her mouth. She's admirable because she's true to herself and doesn't let anyone change her. Halfway through I stopped liking her. She seemed to change from naive, innocent girl to worldly woman and then back to naive girl again. I didn't like the worldly Charlie. It didn't suit her character. I liked Chanderley at first because like Charlie, I felt bad for him. He didn't deserve all the censure heaped on him by his disapproving parents. His character is a bit underdeveloped though. Other than his tragic past, his kindness and his physical attributes I don't feel we know that much about him.
By the end of the book, I felt Chanderley should have solved his problem himself and stood up for himself and the woman he loves. Charlie is attracted to him for first his physical attributes and then his kindness but she doesn't know any men other than her uncle and the few so-called gentlemen she has danced with. It seemed like a stronger connection on Chanderley's side than on Charlie's. There are some make-out scenes and one graphic love scene which I skipped. I hate that sort of thing when it doesn't make sense for the characters. Charlie doesn't know what a Courtesan is but she suddenly becomes all worldly three-quarters of the way through the novel. She chooses to give up her innocence when it was very risky to do so. Though I suppose we're to believe that it wouldn't matter if she had an illegitimate child because of her decision of what to do with her life. It didn't make sense for the characters. Chanderley is trying hard to live up to his parents' expectations and allowing a girl to seduce him isn't going to help.

The supporting characters in this novel are well developed. Isabella grows and becomes more self-confident. I really liked her and her story. I didn't believe her mother would allow her out with Charlie though, or even out without her companion. That didn't ring true to me. Apparently her mother isn't chaperoning her to social events either or paying attention which doesn't make sense for such a controlling family but I liked Isabella's subplot enough to attempt to overlook the inaccuracies. I also really liked Boo. I liked him better than Chaderley. He's sweet, kind and caring. He stands up for his family no matter what and tries to help his cousin work through his issues. I thought he needed more of a subplot. The "Crocodile" turned out to be an interesting character. There's not much about her when she first appears randomly on the scene and I would have liked more backstory like why they call her the Crocodile and why she's so formidable. When her backstory finally comes out it reveals a seedier side of Regency life not many people know about. It's quite shocking and possibly the most realistic thing about the novel. I enjoyed her character and wished she appeared in the story sooner.

Now, for why I really didn't like this story. In the author's note she acknowledges that she wrote the book first and then did research and discovered that wild boards had been hunted to extinction in the Middle Ages and the law had cracked down on highwaymen. I don't understand how one can write a novel that way and PUBLISH it! The author also seems to have a cursory knowledge of Regency Society and how it works. She knows the social rules well enough but not forms of address or language or she doesn't care. No one used the word "kid" to refer to a human in 1817 and hullo doesn't appear in usage until the telephone. Also, a blunderbuss is a huge old-fashioned weapon that can't be put in a reticule or even a small portmanteau! They were out of use by the Regency era. The average person wouldn't carry one around for protection. Charlie should try a pistol next time. I didn't understand why highwaymen were accosting people in public parks in broad daylight. That simply doesn't make any sense. I also noticed quite a lot of typos/word choice errors in the Kindle edition. All of that combined with the sensual and sexual content ruined the book for me. It had a promising beginning but ended up disappointing. I'm glad the book was free so I didn't waste my money. I will not be reading more by this author.

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