Thursday, March 20, 2014

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week  . . .

His Impassioned Proposal (Bridgethorpe Brides, #1)His Impassioned Proposal by Aileen Fish -- Regency Romance novella

Stephen Lumley has returned from the wars scarred in body and scarred in spirit. He arrives at Bridgethorpe to see his family only to learn that his parents perished in a devastating fire the day before. He had hoped to marry the beautiful Jane Marwick, his childhood friend and neighbor, but now has has nothing to offer. His depression makes him drink too much and when Jane finds him having a pity party for one in his uncle's study, she is not amused. Jane tries to make Stephen be sensible and see how much he means to her, but he's too far in his cups and ends up offending Jane. Jane is devastated. She realizes she may have made Stephen into a hero of her imagination. She has held on to his memory for too long and rejected all other suitors. She now resigns herself to finding any husband that will suit. Stephen, realizing his mistake (with the help of his cousins), knows he has an uphill battle to win Jane's heart. Something is holding her back and he's determined to overcome whatever it is and be the husband of her dreams. It may be an uphill battle, but he knows she's the one for him.

This novella introduces characters that will appear later in the series. I liked the Lumley family very much, especially the silly, spunky Hannah. They're all such a loving family and rally around Stephen, yet they're comfortable enough with each other to tell it like it is. Stephen needs to hear that. He's a wounded soul who needs to get back to as normal a life as possible. He's an admirable man and I liked him. I just didn't love him. Jane is sensible and kind. She has scruples and I admire them. I would probably feel the same way and fear the same things in her situation. She seems like a nice girl, but there's no chemistry between she and Stephen. They knew each other as children but there's really nothing that suggests they're in love or why. The story is just too short to build a relationship naturally. Months go by without any plot and suddenly Stephen is his old self trying to woo Jane. I liked the inclusion of the politics of the time but it felt a bit out of place in such a short book. I think the story deserved more than it was given. It is similar to a Carla Kelly plot and could have made a nice full length novel. I liked it well enough but not enough to want to read David's story or any more about the Lumleys. 

The English Witch (Trevelyan Family, #2)The English Witch by Loretta Chase -- Regency Romance

Alexandra Ashmore is known as "The English Witch" all over Albania where her intense green eyes bewitch every man around. Alexandra's archeologist Papa barely notices. He wants her to marry the son of a his man of business, a wealthy wool merchant. Alexandra finds Randolph Burnham extremely boring. She writes an impassioned plea to her godmother, Lady Bertram, back in London for help. Lady Bertram dispatches her wayward nephew Basil Trevelyan to rescue Alexandra. Basil has spent three wretched years in India paying his debts and making a profit. He travels to Greece where he receives his Aunt Clem's letter. When he arrives in Albania to discover that Alexandra has been kidnapped by one of her would-be Albanian suitors. Basil dashes in to rescue the lady, only to be bewitched himself! There's nothing to do but fake an engagement in order to persuade Alexandra's Papa to allow her to return to London instead of hurrying her off to Yorkshire to be married. In London, Alexandra is the guest of Lady Bertram and her friend Lady Maria Deverell. Basil plays least in sight trying to return to his libertine ways. Enter William Farrington, Marquess of Arden, a long time friend of Basil's and Bail's equal in debauchery. Will takes one look at Alexandra and knows he has to posses her. His "aged parent" is after him to marry so there's nothing to it but to woo and win Alexandra. Then Alexandra is invited to a house party at Lord Hartleigh's, along with Will, his sister Jess and of course, Basil. Also in attendance are a number of unmarried young ladies falling prey to Basil's flirtatious charm. Why should that annoy Alexandra so much? Why can't she seem to succumb to Will's charm? Further complications ensue when her father arrives determined to marry her off to Randolph no matter what. Alexandra may have to sacrifice her dreams of love in order to save her family from scandal.

This book starts off really strong. The Albanian setting is very unique. The description is excellent. It sounds as if the author did her research, but she could have written any old thing and it would have sounded right. The dialogue between the heroine and hero is witty. The second section of the novel copies the plot of Isabella more or less. The third section is a comedy of errors worthy of Shakespeare. I liked the first and third sections the best. They were more unique and amusing than the middle part. The middle part sort of drags on a bit too long. The way Alexandra's problems are solved is predictable, but funny. There are a few surprises along the way though. My biggest complaint is that the romance is quick off the ground with a true connection but then the witty dialogue gives way to kissing and longing. We're told how the characters feel and how they can be comfortable with each other and why they're good for each other but most of the showing from the middle forward is in the form of physical attraction.

I loved the characters in this novel. I disliked Basil in Isabella but he feels some remorse for what he did and in this story, he gets a taste of his own medicine. It's vastly amusing to watch Basil be out-raked by his friend. His jealously is very telling of his feelings for Isabella; feelings which take a long time to acknowledge. He tries to go back to his old ways but finds he can't which is very telling. He discovers that he wants to be with someone with whom he can argue and have lively conversation. This says a lot about his character and how he has changed. Alexandra is intelligent and level headed. She's confident and manipulative in her own way. Yet, she doesn't see why all these men fall in love with her. She turns into a watering pot in the middle of the story and doesn't stop. I disliked that about her but I did admire her independence in wanting to solve her problems on her own. The chemistry between the hero and heroine sizzles. There are a few scenes with rather more intense kissing than I would have liked. The heroine nearly allows herself to be seduced. I thought she was going to give in and that would have solved her problems, sort of.

The secondary characters are very good also. Will takes the place of the rake character. He's just like Basil used to be. I didn't like him much but he does make Alexandra's internal dialogue a bit funny as she contemplates his courtship techniques. His sister Jess sounds like a great character. She's very level headed. I didn't quite understand why the gentleman with the title goes by his name when Basil is known as Trev. The best characters are Maria and Aunt Clem. I loved Maria in Isabella and here she has an even greater role. She rouses herself from her chaise lounge to attend her daughter's house party. She's still languid and finds anything too fatiguing but yet behind her facade, she's a skilled manipulator. I knew exactly what she and Aunt Clem/Lady Bertram were up to. It should have been obvious to at least Isabella, but it wasn't. They're very funny in a sly, subtle sort of way. I think they'll set their sights on matchmaking for Will and Jess now. It was great to catch up with Isabella and Hartleigh and their family. Little Lucy is now 10 and just as chatty as ever. She's a great gossip and will be a matchmaker when she grows up. Uncle Henry also appears in this novel, as skilled as ever at manipulating business affairs as well as personal affairs. I love the Deverell-Latham-Trevelyan family and want more of them!

Though this book is a sequel to Isabella, it can be read on it's own. I think Georgette Heyer would approve of the characters and most of the plot. She wouldn't like the intense kissing scenes, though, from what I've read about Loretta Chase's newer books, this is pretty tame.

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