Saturday, February 22, 2014

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

GwendolenGwendolen by Clare Darcy -- Regency Romance

The Quarters sisters are as different as can be. There's practical and romantic Gwendolen; beautiful, biddable Jane and headstrong Campaspe. The one thing they have in common is the need for a wealthy husband. With Gwendolen promised to Naval Captain Harry Belville and Campaspe engaged to a young Lieutenant, it's up to Jane to go to London and make a brilliant match. Jane succeeds beyond everyone's expectations when she catches the eye of the Marquess of Lyndale. So what if he's had a checkered past in northern Africa - he's a Marquess! Naturally Mrs. Quarters and her sister are over the moon. Jane is not, however. She's torn between duty and desire. Her heart belongs to a young French emigre who works as a Duke's secretary. When the Marquess arrives in Gloucestershire he shakes everything up. He's kind and considerate to Jane and puts up with Cammie's outrageous behavior but with Gwendolen, he's always at daggers drawn. When her Captain returns, she finds she no longer sees him the dashing hero of her girlhood dreams. What should she do? Then Gwendolen catches the attention of the dandyfied younger son of a Duke. She's certain he is going to make her a proposal but will it be a proper one or an improper? She knows how to answer the latter but what about the former? It's not as if she loves someone else...

This charming story reads like Georgette Heyer light. It has all the elements of a comedy of manners and the romance goes round and round like a cotillion or a carousel. The plot is predictable yet getting there is the fun part. There's hardly any central romance in the story. It quietly plays out in the background and the perceptive reader can pick up on it but the characters are in the dark until the end. At the end there are two kisses and a passionate embrace with almost no feeling. I would have liked a bit more obvious wooing on the hero's behalf. He does something very grand that makes his intentions somewhat obvious but no one seems to understand what's happening and he makes a mull of it. Then he tries something else even more grand and manages to mess that up too. It makes for some funny moments as the characters realize what's happening.

All three sisters are very different but that makes it nice for the reader because each person can relate to a different sister. I identify with Gwen. Practical and romantic at the same time, I really liked her. At first she seemed a little silly and immature but when it really mattered, she showed she was capable of making intelligent decisions and taking care of herself. She's no shrinking violet! Cammie is the most annoying of the three. She's the obnoxious little sister who needs a firm, guiding hand. Unfortunately, Mr. Quarters, like Mr. Bennet, has little interest in his daughters and Mrs. Q is a silly woman. Cammie is like Horatia in Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage. Cammie's behavior would put her beyond the pale in London but fortunately she's in Gloucestershire and she learns her lesson in the end, I hope. Jane is the least developed sister. Like her famous namesake in Pride and Prejudice, she's quiet, beautiful and dutiful. That last makes her either hard to like or sympathetic. I felt bad for the position she was in but more for the fact that her father didn't care about her. If he had, she could have asked for his help instead of trying to be the heroine of a tragic romance. 

The gentlemen in the story are also all very different. Lieutenant Fairhall is young and hotheaded. He reacts to Cammie's behavior in an immature way showing his age. Alain is hardly in the story and doesn't have any dialogue but he seems just like Jane and therefore, a perfect match. Lord Wilfred Boulting is a typical rogue/dandy. He's charming when he wants to be and he thinks he's dashing but he's actually quite boring and silly. He doesn't have much edge to him. Lyndale is the most developed of the three but he's really only a hasty sketch. He's charming, gallant and a bit roguish. We know what he's done or rumored to have done in his past but not much else about him besides his fortune. He seems like a care for nobody but he isn't. He's the quiet sort of beta hero similar to the Earl of Rule in The Convenient Marriage. I'd like to know more about him but I liked his interactions with Gwendolyn. The dialogue is witty enough to be interesting though not quite at the level of Georgette Heyer. I recommend this book to Georgette Heyer fans or anyone from their mid-teens on to adult.

notes on content: There are several references to a harem without really explaining what a harem actually is and one character asks another character to run away without being married.

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