Sunday, April 20, 2014

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Gabriella (Harlequin Regency Romance Series 2, #70)Gabriella by Brenda Hiatt -- Regency Romance

Gabriella Gordon wants nothing more than to stay in the country and continue to operate her father's veterinary surgery practice along with her younger brother. When Mrs. Gordon sells the practice, Gabriella is forced to give in to her older sister's invitation to come to Town for the Season. Gabriella arrives at a posting inn to discover a horribly mistreated horse. She decides to take on the miscreant who dared abuse an animal. She rudely interrupts the Duke of Ravenham in the middle of wooing a new mistress. He's furious at the interruption by this little serving wench with the turquoise blue eyes. He refuses to set her straight on the matter. Once in London, Gabriella sees her sister has not changed. She's still superficial and social climbing. Angela has burned a few bridges and is determined to use Gabriella to enhance her own social status. Angela introduces Gabriella to her friend and would-be lover Sir Frederick who is intrigued by the naive, outspoken Gabriella. While Brie is being brought out, The Duke of Ravenham must pay a debt and do a favor for the first man he sees. That man happens to be Angela's husband, the foppish and stupid Sir Seymour Platt, who decides Ravenham's favor will be to take up Gabriella. That way she is sure to be a success with the ton. Brie worries the arrogant man she remembers will humiliate her, but instead he introduces her to his sister Lady Elizabeth. The plan is a grand success and Brie attracts a number of suitors. Ravenham isn't what he appeared on first acquaintance and Brie comes to regard him as a friend, but how will he react when he finds out she's not an heiress as the gossips would have it? What will Ravenham think of Brie if he finds her out father was a veterinary surgeon? Brie knows one thing, she refuses to lie about who she is. Why does it hurt to think she may lose the friendship of the Duke of Ravenham? Little does she know, a new rumor circulating through the ton could do far more to ruin her reputation.

I wanted to like this book because of the animal rights theme. Like Brie, I am passionate about animal welfare, so I was intrigued by the story at first. Unfortunately the book bored me so much that I ended up skimming most of it. The plot reads as if written from a template. There's nothing really substantial in it. Brie doesn't meet Wilberforce or join the RSPCA (founded in 1824 but I have no idea what year the book is set). The animal rights thing is dropped and picked up again when the plot requires advancing. The story features the usual superficial activities of the Season but nothing to really pinpoint the exact year the story takes place. It's all very pleasant. A lot of the action is basically summarized and shortened in favor of endlessly boring cliched scenes and pointless dialogue. A key moment in the plot towards the end is told after it happens. The romance doesn't quite make it to being a full blown romance. The characters are not on page together a lot and when they are, we're told what they did. They start to become friends but they don't really connect though we're told they give each other speaking looks. It wasn't quite enough for me to root for them to get together. I didn't care whether they did or didn't end up together in the end. The author had a little bit of knowledge of the Regency era and either didn't know or didn't care about all the nuances of etiquette. Etiquette plays a large role in the story yet the hero and heroine end up on a first name basis! There's also a scene where the heroine, another young lady and some gentlemen are present for a momentous event. I don't think an unmarried girl would have been in the room, let alone in the room with gentlemen. I'll let it slide that the heroine was there but not Elizabeth. There's another scene with Elizabeth that I didn't feel was quite right. The language sounds very modern too.

The characters are just as boring as the plot. I liked Brie because of her love for animals and her desire to stay true to herself. I didn't like how she gave in to Angela so easily though and I found her very modern for a Regency heroine. Sometimes I didn't like the way she acted because it just wasn't even close to accurate. The other characters are largely superficial. I don't know much about Ravenham. His behavior in his initial scene is at odds with his behavior later on. He's supposed to be a Corinthian, but the only evidence of that is his teaching Brie how to drive. Apparently he's an excellent shot as well. He's the perfect paragon of a hero on the surface but we never get to dig beneath the surface to find out who he is and what he's feeling. I hated the misunderstanding because if she really was that close to Brie, he wouldn't have even considered it for a moment or wouldn't have cared. He took too long to get over himself. Elizabeth seems like an interesting character and a good friend for Brie. She's in the story more than her brother. I liked her because she was a good balance of ladylike and mischievous. There's a secondary hero who is another perfect paragon despite his tendency to gamble on anything. Another suitor is silly and too over the top. Angela is a beastly sister. If she were my sister we would have had some serious cat fights. I find it hard to believe she and Brie have the same parents. My sister and I are very different yet we have the same values more or less. The other villain is too stereotypical.

This is Brenda Hiatt's first Regency book so I'll forgive her for the boring plot and glaring historical errors. I may try another one of her older Regencies and see if it's any better. This one was just too cliched for me. 

An Affair of InterestAn Affair of Interest by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance

Miss Syndey Lattimore is managing her household on her grandfather's army half-pay pension. She has grand plans to take her sister Winnie to London for a Season where the beautiful Winnie will find a wealthy, devoted husband willing to care for the rest of the family. Sydney has saved some money from the household budget and from helping local farmers with their accounts. She plans to sacrifice her dowry as well. Syndey's ailing grandfather has no choice but to agree to the plan. Sydney didn't anticipate the expense of a Season not just for Winnie, but for her as well. She has to find money somewhere to tide them over until Winnie's suitor comes up to scratch. Forrest Mainwaring, Viscount Ware, ex-Navy officer wants nothing to do with women or marriage. Not to say that he's a monk but... he's seen enough of marriage to know that it's not for him. His parents are happily separated and enjoy throwing bits of crockery and china at each other whenever they meet. He's content to live in the Dower House with his one-eyed hunting dog while his mother and her awful, yappy Pekingese dogs live at Mayne Chance. Forrest's mother summons him to go to London and extract his brother Brennan from whatever scrape he's fallen into this time. His task leads him on a violent spree of dealing with cardsharps and the unscrupulous money lenders known as O. Randall and Associates. Just as Forrest has dealt with the money lenders, a female walks in. Forrest despairs of dealing with this woman, probably a dowager judging from her mourning. He tries politely to send her on her way but dash it all, the dowager is actually a young chit of a girl without sense or reason! Sydney is momentarily shocked at facing a half naked savage with knives and guns and blood everywhere, but she quickly regains her composure facing the supposed money lender with her usual stubbornness. Forrest is entirely undone by her red-gold curls, he has no choice but to give her 1000 pounds (which she tries to refuse) and kiss her! Syndey is able to hold her own and determined not to be beholden to the moneylender for anything! She concocts one new scheme after another and Forrest is always there chasing after her to save her reputation. Why he's going through so much trouble for a senseless girl he really doesn't know... Meanwhile, O. Randall and Associates plot their revenge.

This book features so many things I dislike: a silly young heroine, an alpha hero (when paired with a young heroine), blood, stock characters and some historical inaccuracies, but Barbara Metzger is such a skilled writer that I end up loving almost everything she writes just because it's funny. The plot is culled from the standard Regency canon, including some of her own novels, but she puts a unique spin on it by infusing the plot with her trademark screwball style. Sydney is crazy. She comes up with one harebrained scheme after another. She has the same idea as Frederica but she doesn't have a patron because her aunt is too cheap and has a daughter of her own to bring out. Sydney will not admit defeat nor can she really for her family really is desperately poor. I don't blame her for trying to find ways to help her family, but she went about it all wrong. She's constantly in a bumblebroth on the verge of ruining her reputation. Her exploits are crazy yet very very funny. Forrest is a Corinthian/rake/alpha hero. I don't like alpha heroes paired with young heroines. Forrest comes across as a misogynist in the beginning but he's also a rake and the two seem at odds with each other. He's constantly blowing up at Sydney for her antics and then kissing her. He's a good person at heart who cares for his family but I just didn't really warm up to him very much. With another heroine I think he could be delightful but I think he's too old and alpha for Sydney. The other characters are simple stock characters. Winnifred is Charis from Frederica, Brennan is a typical young man about town, Baron Scoville is the typical suitor and the villains are bumbling, cartoonish fools straight out of The Three Stooges. The Duke and Duchess are annoying with their constant arguing and throwing things, yet they began to appeal to me, first for the comedic aspect and then because I saw them for their true selves and how their son's personality came to develop.

First I'll talk about the negatives of this book. There are a few inaccuracies such as one big one involving a scheme of Sydney's that could never happen because it was scientifically impossible at that time. Also, Forrest asks Sydney to call him by his name which I don't think he would do. The romance didn't really do anything for me. Sydney needs a father not a husband. The secondary romance develops off page and very quickly so that it's hard to remember it's happening. There's a lot of kissing, innuendo and some sensuality in this book. It's not a whole lot more than in any of her other early books but it was a little more than sweet. The conclusion to the romance is not very satisfactory. I was hoping for a little more. I was disappointed the dogs were a part of the plot but not really characters. Nelson is dropped after his introduction and the Pekes are only in the background.

Now, for the positive. The writing is what makes this book so delightful and saves it from being a dud. I kept cringing waiting for Syndey's next bumblebroth yet laughing at her scrapes. I even laughed at the villains, who were meant to be funny rather than taken seriously. I had a hard time putting the book down, wondering what Sydney would do next and how it would all turn out. I like a good, screwball comedy story, especially before going to sleep at night. This one fit the bill. If you like her other books, you'll enjoy this one.

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