Thursday, July 3, 2014

What I Read in May Part I

What I Read in May Part I . . .

Sweet LavenderSweet Lavender by Margaret Evans Porter -- Regency Romance
Damon Lovell, Marquis of Elston is enjoying living a rakish life in London. When he receives a summons from his cousin Roger's wife Louisa begging him to come to her father's estate, he would normally ignore the missive. Since since two of her brothers are on leave from the army, he's willing to go to the country to see his old friends. Louisa's younger sister, Lady Beryl Kinnard, is in a pickle. She's lived a sheltered country life with her doting Papa and on her one opportunity to go away, she formed an attachment to a Mr. Peter Yeates. Beryl's Papa is furious because the young man's grandfather is in trade. Beryl's siblings try to help but their father is too stubborn. Damon enters the household prepared to be bored and make his leave quickly. Instead he finds a beautiful, unsophisticated young lady who captures his heart. Damon knows she can never be his, even if she did not belong to another, for he is not the marrying kind. He's cursed with a terrible family history and knows he could never be faithful to one woman for very long. He refuses to make Beryl's life miserable by marrying her. Beryl enjoys flirting with the wicked rake. He soon sets her heart fluttering, but she's engaged to someone else. She tries to convince herself that her feelings are natural, given Peter's long absence and infrequent letters. Other, well-meaning persons, think otherwise and see what's happening between the rake and the innocent girl. Damon remains stubbornly convinced Beryl will be better off with Yeates.

This story is a companion to Road to Ruin and Jubilee Year. It can be read as a stand-alone but works better if you know the stories behind the minor characters. The story catches us up with Damon's friends and relatives : Dominic and Nerissa and Jonathan and Mira. I was happy to see that though Jonathan and Mira have their ups and downs, they're happy together. I was worried about them at the end of their book. Dominic and Nerissa are the same as always, with some major changes to their lives. I didn't like the characterization of Miranda. She's changed from the way she used to be. She reveals some surprising news which is a little random but sweet. We also find out what happens to Georgiana from Road to Ruin. I was a bit disappointed in her and what happens. I was hoping for something better.
Damon hasn't changed much. He's still a cynical rake. I don't see what his family history has to do with anything. It's sad and I can see it's scarred him but it doesn't mean he will turn out like his father. He gets bored easily because no one he's met has ever captured his attention. He fails to realize this and I never really got the sense that he reforms or grows at all. There's very little depth to his character. He almost makes a decision that I thought was kind of gross. He doesn't though and I was relieved.

There are a host of new characters as well. I liked Charlotte for all she's town-bred and sophisticated. She's happy being a spinster, which I appreciate. She knows her own mind and she believes in plain speaking. I would have liked to have her story in a separate novel. The villain is a little too stereotypical and doesn't enter the picture until late in the novel. I loved the lively, caring Kinnard family. Beryl is the exception. She's just a little too good for me. Damon thinks she's a hoyden, but she's not really. She's a dutiful daughter and enjoys country pursuits. She's very innocent, which is supposed to make her refreshing but I found her rather boring. She's stronger than Fanny Price and she knows how to speak up when she wants to. Having 5 older brothers has made her more of a minx than most young girls. The Earl is a doting father and a country squire at heart. He has a temper but he loves his children and wants them to be happy. Sid's story is a little random and quick. Tracy's story is underdeveloped and happens too fast. I loved Cedric, the enterprising young author of romance novels. He adds some comedy to the story in a subtle way. He introduces us to two some new characters: Miss Austen, Miss Jane Austen and Miss Martha LeFroy. The author did an excellent job researching Jane Austen. Though her authorship wasn't widely known at the time, her brother Henry apparently was so proud of her, he blabbed to his banking clients. The author is careful to make Jane speak mostly words she actually said. The story randomly jumps into her head though and I didn't really like that part. Her train of thought doesn't really go anywhere, unless we're supposed to think of Fanny Price and Henry Crawford?

The romance is unconvincing. Damon flirts with the innocent young Beryl, taking advantage of her. She's not unwilling but she is very innocent and believes his attention means he's interested in marriage. He insists he's not. I don't really get why she loves him. There's a possibility for caring about him but the romance is shallow. I don't see why Damon loves Beryl either except that we're supposed to believe he likes her because she's so innocent and refreshing. The last chapter was much needed but I think it was too soon and should have been set later. Damon and Beryl just don't convince me as a couple. There are some kissing scenes and one near seduction scene. Nothing goes too far. There's the usual talk of mistresses and such. 

Lord Atherton's WardLord Atherton's Ward by Fenella J. Miller -- Regency Romance

Sarah and Jane Ellison have recently been orphaned and Sarah has had the care of the house and the estate. Jane feels Sarah is doing too much and needs time to be free, so she feels relieved when they finally hear from their guardian, Lord Atherton. Their guardian commands them to move in with his mother and sisters and then they will go to London for the Season. Sarah is furious. She has no intentions of obeying orders. She's not about to let her guardian bully her into submission. When Lord Atherton discovers his orders have not been carried out, he's furious. He rushes off to rebuke his wards only to discover they've gone away. He finally tracks them down and unleashed his anger upon Sarah. Sarah lets her temper get the better of her and they engage in a battle of wills.

This novella wasn't worth the time it took to read. I nearly gave up after a few pages but stuck with it in hopes it would get better. The hero is a colossal um ... donkey... who nearly physically abuses the heroine. Then he instantly realizes she's the one he wants to marry. It doesn't stop his authoritative manner and I loathed him from start to finish. I liked the spirited Sarah and probably would behave just like her in the same situation. I also liked the outspoken maid, Mary. The minor characters are foils for the major characters and don't serve much purpose in the story except to advance the plot at the end.

The plot was more or less pointless except for a thrilling sequence. It had potential to then become a marriage of convenience novel but it suddenly stops after the wedding. All was resolved a little too quickly. The story was too short to develop the characters or the plot.

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