Friday, August 8, 2014

What I've Read This Week

What I Read in July . . .

Moonlight Masquerade (London Encounters #1)Moonlight Masquerade by Ruth Axtell -- Inspirational Regency Romance

This story of romance and intrigue is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. Rees Phillips is on loan from his job as a lowly clerk in the Foreign Office to the Home Office. He has been sent to spy on the young widow, Lady Exham, nee Celine de Beaumont. If he can find proof she's a French Bonapartist spy, he'll achieve a promotion and finally be able to marry. The problem is, Lady Wexham is very very beautiful and very kind. Can he keep his mind on his job and fight his growing attraction to his employer? Lady Celine Wexham is enjoying life as a young widow. Her marriage to a much older man was a disaster and she has no intentions of marrying again. She's been bored with her society life, so when a friend asked her to pass along information, she jumped at the chance. She has a cause she believes in and is willing to risk all to help. She suspects her new butler is not all he appears to be and that they are engaged in a cat and mouse game. She comes to care for this mysterious and handsome. Is it possible to do one's duty to God and country but also love the enemy? Who will come out ahead?

The first and last few chapters of this book are intriguing, but as it took me three nights to finish this book, it just wasn't compelling enough to really grip me. The middle of the book stalls the action to turn into a preachy moral tale debating religion and philosophy. I'm not sure what that's about since I skipped those discussions. They just didn't interest me. Despite the modern language (no one said "hello" in 1813), the period details in this novel are incredible! The author has done an excellent job researching the Regency era and incorporating little ordinary details into her story. She never stops to explain history or objects, something I am very grateful for. A novice to the genre probably should start with another book that's less descriptive, but as a long-time Regency fanatic, I loved the descriptive details. The intrigue in the story kept me wondering what would happen, especially 2/3 of the way through when the plot really picks up. The story is both too long and too short. The middle section is too long and the romantic plot should have been wrapped up in less words and more actions without an epilogue. The epilogue is too slow.

The characters in this novel are hit and miss. I absolutely adored Celine. She's brave, kind, and democratic - everything I admire in a heroine. I loved her so much and I wanted her to be happy. I think her fear at the end was a little out of place. It doesn't take much logic, despite the prevailing beliefs of the day. (Celine's fear is the historically correct opinion). I would have liked an epilogue that tells the reader what happens a few years later. Gaspard, the French chef, is also a good character. He's more than the typical temperamental French chef who usually appears in these novels.

The miss characters are Valentine, the stereotypical ladies' maid and of course Rees, our hero. Rees is a stuffy bore. He's 31, which was middle aged at the time, and never even kissed a woman. That's extraordinarily unlikely given the time period. He spends too much time wondering what God wants, trying to please God and praying. He's just too stiff, boring and religious for me. It seems like the author went away too out of her way to create the anti-rake hero. He improves dramatically in the epilogue, enough to make the ending sweet, but I can't understand what Celine sees in him. He makes a nice change from the rakes but I love the Corinthians with rakish reputations. "I'd like it if he COULD be wicked, but wouldn't," to quote Anne Shirley.

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