Monday, January 6, 2014

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

Making Waves: A Novel (lake Manawa Summers 1) by Lorna Seilstad -- Inspirational Historical Romance

Marguerite Westing is looking forward to a summer at Lake Manawa, Iowa where all the fashionable people are gathering this summer in 1895. Her mother dreads the prospect of camping in tents but Marguerite welcomes the change for it means keeping her personal maid and friend Lilly and getting away from her persistent, boring suitor Roger Gordon. When Marguerite sets eyes on the lake, she falls in love with the water immediately. She also falls in the water and is rescued by sailor and boat maker Trip Andrews. Marguerite is drawn to the water and drawn to Trip, despite his somewhat taciturn nature. She just HAS to have sailing lessons - the only problem is, ladies don't sail. She comes up with a plan of action that will give her exactly what she wants while still maintaining a sense of propriety. So what if she has to tell some little white lies to get it? God will understand, won't He? Certainly He wants things to go Marguerite's way, right? If so, then why doesn't he make Roger go away for Roger does NOT understand Marguerite's curiosity and lively nature. Trip understands Marguerite perfectly. Trip can't help being drawn into Marguerite's orbit. They share a love of God but how can he love her when he can't stand liars? He doesn't have time to involve himself in the life of a flighty young lady. Ever since his mother left he's been working hard to live up to his stern father's expectations and that includes winning the upcoming regatta. That means no distractions! When Marguerite and Trip discover a shocking Westing family secret, they grow even closer but Trip feels the Westings need to stop lying and look to God to guide them. Marguerite is beginning to think God has another path in store for her than the one she wants and that includes sacrificing herself to save her family. How can she live a vanilla life when she's a strawberry girl?

 I had a really hard time getting though this book. Right from the beginning I hated the characters. Marguerite is spoiled and immature. Her father is the cause of all her problems because he promises her the world. I'm sure I was like Marguerite when I was a teenager but that doesn't make her an appealing heroine. She sends up quick prayers for silly things like a lightning strike to hit Roger so she doesn't have to face the problem of rejecting him. It takes Trip to set her right but I didn't like him either. He's a very hard young man exactly like the father he fears and respects. He jumps to conclusions and doesn't ask questions. He improves by story's end but I wasn't too interested in him. He just didn't do anything for me. His unwavering opinions were a real turn-off. Most of the other characters were all stock characters: the indulgent father; the mother who wants what's best for her daughter and the villain who seeks to posses a beautiful woman like a piece of art at any cost. The story would have been better without knowing what the villain was thinking and planning. The dialogue was terrible and didn't sound period. Marguerite is a woman ahead of her time and she has potential to be more interesting once she matures but this story makes her out to be incredibly annoying and bratty. The plot was very slow moving with too many descriptions of the art of sailing. I liked the lake setting and the interesting historical tidbits thrown in. The author's note explains what is real. I also think the story would have been better not as an Inspirational story. I skipped revival meeting passages and skimmed discussions of what God wants, etc. etc. I don't think the message was all that heavy handed and it didn't really come through in the end. I believe change has to be internal because the character recognizes something is wrong with their behavior and understands the need to change and I think this is more of what happened in this particular novel so the Inspirational bits were unnecessary. I think other people might like this book, especially Christian readers close to Marguerite's age. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Mrs. Jeffries Stalks the Hunter by Emily Brightwell -- Victorian Mystery

Mr. Parkington will do anything to marry into aristocracy including selling his only daughter. Miss Beatrice Parkington refuses to marry the despicable Edmund Leggett. She is well aware that a young woman is stalking Mr. Leggett and Beatrice is convinced the other woman is his cast off mistress or someone her fiance wronged. She thinks the stalker is her ticket out of the marriage. When Mr. Leggett turns up dead following his engagement party and the stalker disappears, the coppers are after the stalker but Inspector Witherspoon is aware that this case may be more complicated than it seems. He and Inspector Barnes start investigating and find the usual: broke aristocrat; greedy parvenu; unhappy wife and dumped mistress. There's also the cousin who inherits the title. Could one of them have done it? None of the clues seem to add up and even Mrs. Jeffries and the staff can't figure it out. Writing down notes doesn't help Mrs. Jeffries any more than not. Things just don't add up. Will this case ever be solved? This mystery was a real puzzle. I was just as perplexed as the characters until the final clue was dropped. The clue was obvious when it finally appeared but no one could have ever guessed it. I had something completely different in mind for that character! Beatrice is a strong and wonderful woman. I would have liked more character development but she's a minor character. She seems interesting and I liked how her character worked in the issues of changing roles for women. I also liked how the conversations between the characters revealed just how much Victorian society had changed in the last 50 years or less. The facts were seamlessly woven into the story as part of the plot instead of dumped in like the conversations about Jack the Ripper or the descriptions of Ruth being a radical. The narrative ties up a loose end from Sweeps the Chimney and tells us what happened in the aftermath of that story. I think future books will tie up that remaining loose end as well. This is one of the better mysteries in the series because it all comes together nicely.

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