Friday, January 3, 2014

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Mr. Forster's Fortune by Lizzie Church -- Regency Romance

On the way to Bath, a snowstorm forces Lady Cecily Seymour and her fellow coach passengers to put up at an inn. She spies a handsome young man she wishes to know better but he remains elusive until she joins her relatives in Bath. In Bath, Cecily enjoys shopping for new clothes since her period of mourning for her parents will soon be over. Her frivolous aunt drags Cecily out to call on the most fashionable elite of Bath which includes a Mrs. Franklin. Mrs. Franklin has a sister, Lady Barnham, who happens to be the mother of Mr. Forster, the young man Cecily was so intrigued by at the inn. Cecily becomes friendly with Miss Forster and through her, meets her brother. Cecily hopes he is a man of character as well. Her family wishes her to marry her boring cousin Alfred, yet she can't help but be attracted to the charming, handsome Mr. Forster. Robert Forster and his cousin Tom Franklin are happy to be young men about town yet Robert wishes for more intimacy with his father and more responsibility. He will get his wish soon enough as his sickly father desires to see his family cared for before his death. Once Lord Barnham takes his son into his confidence, there's no other solution for Mr. Forster but to marry. Who he shall marry is up to him. He'll do the right thing no matter what he decides but should he choose his own happiness or the happiness of his family? This quiet little Regency book takes a bit to get started. At first the heroine and hero both seem immature and shallow. I didn't like either of them very much and I was disgusted by the hero's behavior. Halfway through, the story changes and takes a more solemn tone. The story then describes a lot of the seedier aspects of Regency society as the plot moves forward. I found the story from that point on more interesting than the beginning. The characters show more depth and the plot is more interesting. It's different from the standard plots most authors follow but in a good way. The romance develops quickly, yet it's slow paced. It seems based on shallow pretenses but develops into a more once the characters get to know each other. It's a sweet, slow romance. There's nothing more than kisses. I really liked the hero for the most part, except in the beginning and during the misunderstanding. The heroine is rather underdeveloped and I don't know really anything about her except that she's rich, pretty, sweet, and a bit lively. She longs for more than her circumscribed life but she seems to ignore that longing in favor of romance which I didn't like. I could see the romance being the basis for a longer novel or shortening the beginning and then making the story advance a few years before the h/h come together. I found the ending just a bit too rushed for my taste. The author has done extensive research on the Regency era. The descriptions of Bath are excellent but sometimes the research shows up in a forced manner. There are constant references to the streets and where locations the characters are at any given moment, one major stand-out of a fashion trend that clearly comes from a cartoon of the period. I love research and period details and I liked the attention to detail but sometimes it was a bit too much.  My criticism with the story is largely with the writing. The story is told in a rather detached manner. The characters never really come to life nor are they memorable in any way. We're told how Cecily is feeling at any given moment and what she's thinking but it doesn't really show through in the story. The character interaction is bland and the dialogue pointless. I think the author was trying to write in the style of Jane Austen without mimicking it exactly, which I appreciate, but I found the writing style a bit too slow for bedtime reading. I liked the story though. It was free on Amazon the day I bought it so I was nervous about the quality but it was worth the time I spent reading it. The story is better than average and the writing quality is better in the authors more recent novels, she will definitely be one worth reading.  I would recommend it to those who like Jane Austen and some of the slower Regency set novels. 

Courting Trouble by Nonnie St. George -- Regency Romance

This follow-up to The Ideal Bride focuses on the Duke of St. Fell. St. Fell is handsome, titled, and a rake. He has several younger brothers to support (all rakes) and needs to marry a fortune. When his friend, Gabriel St. Carr, introduces him to the wealthy porcelain artist Joseph Swann, St. Fell finds his intended heiress. Swann has two beautiful daughters who have just come to London for the first time. Swann wants his grandson to be a Duke and settles on his eldest, Arabella, for St. Fell. St. Fell thinks all he needs is for Arabella to set eyes on him for her to fall at his feet. He doesn't count on Miss Arabella Swann to lead him a merry dance. Arabella is five and twenty and never been kissed. She's unromantic and refuses to read the silly Minerva Press romances his younger sister and Aunt Ophelia devour. Her sister Diana has fallen head over heels in love with Lord Belcraven, a gawky, penniless ex-soldier. Arabella is convinced Diana is merely infatuated and once she meets Belcraven's formidable aunts she'll change her mind. Diana has a mind of her own and it includes getting her sister married off so she can marry her beloved. When Arabella meets the Duke of St. Fell, she's physically attracted to him but feels it's a mere infatuation. He's arrogant, unromantic and insufferable and she will not marry him... at least not until he declares his undying love for her. Enter Lord Stonehaven, a war hero and rake who writes poetry and remembers Arabella's favorite things. How can St. Fell compete with that? It will be easy if Arabella would just admit she's in love. 

This book is so dreadful I don't even know where to begin. The story takes place during the events of The Ideal Bride but in the first book, Swann says he doesn't believe in marrying his daughter to a Duke, not yet. He seems to be bluffing because he does a 180 degree turn in this book. He spends most of the book either chasing rakes with his walking stick or being drunk. The other adult characters aren't much better. The aunts and St. Fell's mother provide a lot of the humor but the humor is based on innuendo. The main characters are entirely unlikeable. Arabella is a very human heroine and I wanted to like her. She eats bon-bons, cusses (in her head) and turns her nose up at romance novels. Unfortunately, she's also really annoying and immature. For some reason she longs to be a rake and she spends most of the book lusting after St. Fell. St. Fell is irritating. He is so insufferably arrogant. He's almost never serious and like Arabella, I felt like kicking him and throwing books at him. I also wanted to smack him. He annoyed me so much. The romance, if you call it that, consists of two attractive people lusting after each other, wanting to be alone in a dark corner together. Arabella seems to want something she really wouldn't understand. Diana's story is far more interesting. Though she reads silly romances, she's a practical girl who knows what she wants and goes after it; at least in the beginning. By the end I was disappointed in her too. This book makes fun of romance novels both in the Regency era and current bodice rippers but it's not a whole lot better. There's a lot of panting, drooling and bawdy humor. I really didn't like this book and wouldn't recommend it to those who like intelligent, well-written, sweet romances.

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