Sunday, April 6, 2014

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

Lady Hilary's HalloweenLady Hilary's Halloween by Anne Barbour -- Regency Romance

Lady Hilary Merton is a twenty-four-year-old spinster and happy to stay that way. She's far too interested in excavating the Roman villa on the estate next to her father's. She hopes the new owner, Mr. James Wincannon, will be agreeable and allow her to work with him. James has been hunted by every woman he's ever met. He tries to avoid social functions where women are present because he has no intentions of being trapped into an unwanted marriage. He suspects this wide-eyed chit, Hilary, of being just another flattering, marriage-minded young lady. He tries to quell her pretensions by being as rude as possible. She returns his rudeness with her temper. Circumstances force them into each others company when after a terrible thunder and lightning storm, a strange man steps out of the swirling mists. The man is convinced he is a Roman soldier, Rufus Maximus from 1700 years ago when the Romans colonized what is now Britain. Hilary is convinced the man is telling the truth but she needs James' help in figuring out what to do. More proficient in Latin and Roman history than Hilary, James is reluctant to believe the man's tale, but eventually is convinced. Now the problem is how to get him back and what to do with him in the meantime? Hilary is also determined to get James to socialize. She's convinced he could use a good wife just as much as he is convinced he isn't interested in marriage. Why then does he insist on kissing her? Why does her heart ache when she thinks of him married to someone else?

A lot of this story requires suspension of disbelief. Once I got past the ridiculous plot, I actually enjoyed the story. I liked the Roman history worked into the story. I know a little bit about the Roman invasion of Great Britain. I was especially interested when Rufus talked about Aqaue Sulis and James mentioned the recent (1818) history of Bath. I had the pleasure of visiting the Roman Baths Museum last September so I knew a bit of the background going into this story. I learned a lot about Roman history, more than I did on a trip to Italy. The book also weaves in the history of science. One character is a "mad scientist" type who tries to understand lightning. I liked learning science in this way though some of the explanations went over my head. I also liked the different approaches the hero and heroine take. James is an historian. He likes facts. Hilary is more of an anthropologist. She likes to imagine stories about the people, about what they were like and how they felt. Their differing viewpoints affect the way they treat Rufus.

The plot kept me wondering how/if they would get Rufus back. The epilogue is a little too cheesy and unnecessary but it wraps things up. I'd still like to know how Dorcas really is and how she's involved in Rufus' time travel adventures.

The romance works for me despite the fact James is very rude to Hilary for most of the book. They actually sit down and talk and she understands his feelings on the subject of women but doesn't stop trying to change his mind. Every time he gets close to her, he gets scared and backs off. I think this is a natural reaction based on his past experiences, yet I felt that there was too much of this going on and that the story would have been better as a novella. The plot just didn't really sustain itself the whole way through. James' behavior gets a little tiring.

I especially liked Hilary. She's a bluestocking spinster with a dog, and has no interest in romance. She's also hot-tempered and speaks her mind. Exactly the kind of heroine I love! James is not such a great character. I kept thinking up awful names to call him for most of the book, yet I did sort of understand why he hated women and felt sorry for him. He didn't know many women other than his mother and an occasional light skirt and had every reason to believe women were out for the main chance. He does acknowledge that he doesn't blame them for trying but he's not about to be caught. He's very rude to Hilary, but she can handle him and they exchange a lot of heated words. Some of his rudeness is a cover because he's scared of falling in love and how his life might change. He's a bit rude to Rufus as well and that stems from his view of history and archeology. Hilary is much better at reading people and dealing with them than James. Rufus Maximus is an incredibly silly character barely more than a caricature. At times he's more three-dimension, when he talks about his wife and his family and future plans. A lot of his dialogue is so downright silly I had to giggle. Hilary's dog is her companion and chaperone. I just loved him. Even though he is very big and menacing looking, he's merely protective of Hilary and then James and just wants his belly rubbed in return. 

This a kisses only romance though there is a tiny bit of sensuality. The hero starts to unbutton the heroine's dress, their bodies are pressed together and they feel chemistry but the sensuality is subtle and James always stops before he goes too far and they keep their physical feelings mostly to themselves.

This is a cute, fluffy sort of read. It was a nice bedtime story.

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