Saturday, February 1, 2014

What I Read Last Week

What I Read Last Week . . .

Lady Eugenia's HolidayLady Eugenia's Holiday by Shirley Marks-- Regency Romance

Lady Eugenia Abbott has just missed her debut Season thanks to her older sister breaking off her engagement. When Lady Eugenia's eccentric great-aunt Rose arrives to whisk Eugenia away to Brighton for the summer, Eurgenia is thrilled to have some time to develop a bit of town bronze and practice flirting before her London Season in the fall. Unfortunately, she finds Brighton society with her aunt rather dull. Her aunt knows few young people and always wants to leave the party just as it's about to get interesting. Lady Eurgenia manages to find some new friends after all: the snobby Lady Penelope, also the daughter of an Earl; Miss Cynthia Penhurst and Mrs. Penhurt's protogee, an Austrian musician known as Franz Muller. Lady Penelope turns her aristocratic nose up at the foppish little musician but Lady Eugenia is quick to defend their amusing new friend. Her life changes forever during a breathtaking dance with a masked stranger at a masquerade ball. At last she has found her soul mate, but who is he? She discovers he's none other than the Duke of Rothford! Eugenia pursues Rothford, believing he feels the same way about her but each time she encounters him, he's cold and hot with her. She can't figure it out. During a visit to Lady Penelope's estate, Eugenia encounters a deadly secret and discovers that everything she thought she knew is not what it seems. When a mysterious man attempts to rescue her, she finds herself in just as much trouble as before.

The author of this book couldn't decide which plot device she wanted to use: fluffy love at first sight, suspense or marriage of convenience so she combined all three into one book. As such, the plot makes little sense. At first I found the book slow because nothing happened. After the first few slow chapters, the story becomes silly and I kept rolling my eyes at Eugenia. I probably would have felt the same way at 17. Then everything happened all at once and I couldn't put it down until I finished. This doesn't mean the story or writing was good though. I guessed at some of the secrets but it still came as a bit of a shock when secrets were revealed. The mystery is concluded too quickly and neatly. I kept waiting for something more gothic to happen. The characters are rather cardboard. Eugenia is a typical naive young girl who wants others to rescue her from whatever predicament she finds herself in. I didn't have much sympathy for her in the last third of the novel. I didn't understand why she was so upset. I can see why she would be a little angry but what happened was partly her fault and she got what she wanted. The villain is so shockingly evil without much of a story. Their motivation seems understandable but to actually act on it is bizarre. I can't believe that if something like that actually happened, the villains would get away with it. Aunt Rose is merely a background figure until the very end. I thought she would be an Auntie Mame type character but there's really nothing to her. She had potential but ended up disappointing. The only character I liked was Franz. He's so charming and funny. I wanted more of him but less of his atrocious accent and German phrases sprinkled in his speech.

I gave this book 2 stars because it captured my attention in the middle. I wouldn't recommend it to Georgette Heyer fans though. The Avalon Regency romances are just too silly for my exacting standards. They would be a good place to start for beginners and teens though. Don't read Georgette Heyer first or you'll be disappointed with everyone else! 

Eugenia by Clare Darcy -- Regency Romance

Eugenia has just finished school in Bath and is on her way to her guardian's estate when she is forced to stop at an inn due to bad weather. She discovers a young man she believes is her cousin Gerald also staying at the inn. He denies knowing her and then collapses. He is suffering from the after effects of a fever and Eugenia feels it's her duty to nurse him. The young man reveals he is her cousin but not Gerald. This cousin is Richard, the son of Eugenia's Uncle Charles.  To the family's knowledge, Uncle Charles never married. Richard is unsure whether he's illegitimate or not, his parents having died when he was a baby and their papers being lost in the chaos of the French Revolution. He's been living by his wits since he was 15 and is seeking work with horses. The doctor prescribes rest, but Richard is eager to leave. Eugenia has the perfect solution: Richard will come home with her and pretend to be Gerald until he's recovered. The family groom will keep Richard's secret and help him find a job. Richard reluctantly agrees but then comes to regret his decision when two Bow Street Runners arrive, along with Cousin Cecil, looking for Gerald who is wanted for highway robbery and murder! No amount of protesting from Eugenia can convince them Richard is not Gerald. Richard heads out into the world while Eugenia is taken to London for her Season. She becomes the toast of the ton but she wants nothing to do with young men. She wishes to marry her best friend's brother and settle down in the country together, just the three of them, forever. Eugenia concocts a plan that will help Richard and achieve her goal. Then Gerald turns up to complicate matters further. Eugenia is also determined to prove Richard's legitimacy so he can inherit her childhood home. Through the adventures that follow, Eugenia is sure she hasn't lost sight of her goal but when push comes to shove, can she really go through with her plan? 

This book is a fun romp in the manner of Georgette Heyer. The plot is a lot of fun. There's suspense but obviously you know in this sort of story what's going to happen at the end. It's predictable yet fresh and fun. I enjoyed following along on Eugenia's journey. The dialogue is witty and amusing. There's a lack of romance in the plot that may not appeal to everyone. Eugenia only understands her feelings at the end and I doubted the hero's feelings for her. They aren't alone together much to develop that relationship. I worry a bit about their future happiness. The kiss happens "off screen" so to speak, with the narrator turning away. It's implied what has just happened and how Eugenia feels. Though I had read this story before, I remembered very little of it and enjoyed discovering it again almost like it was the first time.

Eugenia is very young and silly but she's not stupid. She was raised like a boy and has no idea how to act like a lady. The plans she makes and adventures she has are things a young man might do. She doesn't really know any better and that makes her a charming and appealing heroine. She's a minx and will lead her husband a merry dance but she's a lot of fun. The only thing I didn't like was how she dealt with her feelings at the end but that's understandable given her age and lack of female companionship. I liked Richard but he's a bit too silent and brooding for me. There's hints of a deeper nature to his character but he's never fully allowed to show who he is. His character is a bit underdeveloped. Gerald is not at all appealing. He's an idiot and a care for nobody who is bound to disgrace himself and his family sooner than later. The secondary characters are all original and add more humor to the story.  I especially like Lady B.

I highly recommend this book to Georgette Heyer fans and those who like light, fun adventure novels with a dash of romance.

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