Saturday, May 23, 2015

What I Read in December Part XII. . .

What I Read in December Part XII . . .

The Mischief of the Mistletoe (Pink Carnation, #7)The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig--Austenesque/Regency Christmas/Regency cozy mystery

Miss Arabella Dempsey has been living with her Aunt Osborne since the death of her mother some years ago. Her wealthy aunt gave her the best of everything, including a London season, but Arabella remained a wallflower until she met the charming Captain Musgrave. Now Captain Musgrave is her new uncle and Arabella is left out in the cold (almost literally) since her aunt's imprudent marriage to a younger man. Arabella has a sickly clergyman father and three younger sisters to care for. She's determined to see her sisters' future secured by taking a place as a teacher at a young ladies' seminary. Her friend, Miss Jane Austen, warns against it, but Arabella thinks it will be fine. She didn't bargain for literally running into a gentleman nicknamed Turnip; finding mysterious messages inside Christmas puddings; lively teenage girls; midnight intruders and perhaps spies! If Arabella had known all that, would she have accepted the position? If she hadn't, she never would have met Reginald "Turnip" Fitzhugh, not the brightest star of the beau monde but an all-around nice gentleman. Though they have met before, Turnip does not remember Arabella, but after their first unusual reunion, he's determined never to forget her name. When a mysterious message shows up in the Christmas pudding his little sister Sally pushed at him, he and Arabella find themselves faced with the possibility of tracking down spies and traitors. Arabella is convinced this is all a prank or much ado about nothing but Turnip, having some experience in the matter, believes Arabella to be in danger. As the Christmas season goes on, Turnip and Arabella get to know each other better than they ever did in a London ballroom and Turnip is determined to keep Arabella safely by his side for as long as possible - maybe even forever.

This volume of the Pink Carnation series appears to be more of a spin-off. I haven't read the others by a handy list of characters in the back cleared up any questions I had after finishing the novel. The plot was inspired by Jane Austen's unfinished novel The Watsons. In this book, Arabella is the eldest and the plot veers wildly from what Jane Austen intended. Jane herself appears as a character in the novel, which I did not like. Her presence seemed superfluous and her dialogue was copied from letters and other writings which is immediately recognizable to any dedicated Janeite. The story didn't have to be The Watsons. It stands on it's own just fine.

The characters really make this novel superior to most Regencies and even cozy mysteries. Even the supporting characters are great. I fully expected to hate Sally and her "most particular" friends and dismiss them as annoying teenage girls, but I truly grew to love them in the midnight intruder scene. I especially liked Lizzie. They made me laugh. Miss Climpson is only in one scene and she steals it with her absurd dialogue.

The main characters are stellar too. Turnip is a beta hero. He's bumbling, forgetful and fond of shockingly garish clothing but he's a loyal friend and a true gentleman. I wouldn't want to marry him but I enjoyed him immensely. He's so funny and charming the way he is. I like his sense of humor and how Arabella shares the same sense of the absurd. I love his Shakespeare references (or thingamummy, what's her name? Macwhatsit?). Arabella is a great heroine and I really liked her character development. She starts off as a wallflower whom no one remembers and ends up a heroine. I liked her journey very much and wanted her to succeed and be happy. I also like that she's intelligent and capable of handling any situation without vapors.

The plot resembles a cozy mystery though there's no murder. I could NOT put this book down. The rollicking mystery plot had me guessing at every turn. I was rather surprised at the villain. I guessed that person had something to do with it but never did it cross my mind how much or who the villain would turn out to be. There are any number of red herrings to complicate matters. The romance is awesome! It's sweet with a little bit of checking out each others' figures. There are a few kissing scenes that are perfectly clean. The romance develops nicely over a short period of time and concludes with a comical scene that will please the reader. The story plays out like a comedy of manners nearly in the style of Georgette Heyer. I nitpicked the inaccurate language (not period/American) and inaccuracies. If you like the idea of Georgette Heyer but struggle with the language, try this novel instead. If you love Heyer's beta heroes, you must read this book. 

Bonfire Night (Lady Julia Grey, #5.7)Bonfire Night (Lady Julia Gray 5.7) by Deanna Raybourn-- Victorian Mystery novella

In this last (sob) Lady Julia novella, a London solicitor shows up after dinner one night to inform Brisbane he has inherited an old country estate in thanks for a service to a lady. In order to take possession of the estate, they have to be in residence every cross-quarter day to collect the rents. That means the Brisbanes have to be in residence for Bonfire night in a few days time. Nicholas and Julia, accompanied by Plum, Portia, the children and their nannies, head off to the country for a quiet retreat. Or not. Their sleep is interrupted by strange ghostly noises: moaning and clanking and interviews with the staff and villagers bring up more ghostly tales. Brisbane is certain the ghosts are nothing more than a local prank and he is determined to get to the bottom of it. When he solves the mystery, it could have disastrous change his and Julia's lives forever.

Deanna Raybourn confirmed on her blog that she isn't writing any more new Lady Julia mysteries unless a TV or movie production company takes an interest. (hello PBS and BBC are you listening?) *sniff* *sob* This is a very short novella which takes a different turn than the rest of the mysteries. The ending was too rushed. The mystery is solved pretty quickly and I felt like not enough time was spent wrapping up. I was surprised by what was behind the haunting. I never guessed at all. This is a good story to read on Halloween because of the ghostly content. As usual, Julia alludes to some "interesting interludes" between her and her husband but nothing is described. I don't think this was a fitting send-off to such beloved characters. I want more! There are some cute extras on the author's website but it's not enough. I hope her next Victorian mystery series is as much fun as this one was.

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