Thursday, January 28, 2016

What I Read in April 2015 Part II

What I Read in April 2015 Part II ...

Captain Cupid Calls the Shots

Captain Cupid Calls the Shots by Elisabeth Fairchild--Regency Romance

Captain Alexander Shelbourne aka "Cupid" returns to England with his friends weary of war and trying to battle the voices in his head. While his friend Val takes comfort in the bottle and his other friend Oscar in finishing, Cupid just wants to settle down into a comfortable life. When he arrives in the village with Val and Oscar, he is intrigued by the mysterious Miss Penny Foster, the one whom Val calls "tough-me-not." Val claims Penny let him touch her all too easily and she allowed him to seduce her. Cupid isn't so sure Val is telling the truth but if he is, perhaps Miss Foster will open up for him too. Of course his intentions are honorable... aren't they? Penny is raising a young girl, Felicity, about 5 years old, born just after Val left for the Continent. Could there be some truth to Val's boasts? When he's paired with Penny for a quaint Valentine's Day custom, he tries to get to know her better. She remains a bit of a mystery and Val is determined to solve the mystery. Penny Foster has spent her life the subject of ill rumors and gossip in the village. Her mother ran off with Gypsies and she herself bore an illegitimate child. Penny doesn't put a stop to the rumors for it may jeopardize all she holds dear, however, her Valentine's wish is to have the world's eyes opened to who she really is. When she finds herself falling for the gallant ex-soldier she places her trust in him. What happens when he finds out the truth?

Wow this story is really depressing. It deals with many difficult topics that showcase the seedier side of the Regency era: PTSD, alcoholism, postpartum depression, illegitimacy, infidelity, what happens to "strumpets", death in childbirth, death of a child, gossip, innuendo, farming problems and legal issues. Woosh. I think the story could have focused on one or two of the issues. It's just all a bit too much. I cried a bit towards the end but that doesn't mean I enjoyed the plot. I did not at all like the "romance." It's built largely on lust and physical attraction. The hero thinks some pretty dirty thoughts about the heroine and it went a bit too far at times. His thoughts really turned me off the romance. Without it, if the characters had built a trusting friendship over time, the story would have worked better. The hero and heroine both need someone to trust and to help them overcome their issues. The best part of the book was the local wedding customs but that goes on too long and is irrelevant to the story.

Alex aka Cupid is a complex character. He was a sharpshooter during the war and suffers from PTSD. He just wants a calm and quiet life. It's been too long since he has been with a woman or something because he's just too eager for Penny. He half believes his friend's disgusting boasts and village rumors, even after falling in love. His heart sort of tells him one thing but his head another. The misunderstanding is stupid and a little communication would have been nice. For these reasons I could not like him all that much. I liked him infinitely better than Val, who is a disgusting libertine BEFORE the war and worse after since he deals with his PTSD through drinking himself to death. Oscar is a better friend. He's quiet and observant. He helps direct the action where it needs to go when the plot gets too tedious.

Penny is nearly as annoying as the male characters. She's too self- sacrificing for no good reason at all. She allows gossip to flourish and keeps to herself which only encourages gossip. She has a bizarre obsession with a 16th century noblewoman, Lady Anne, whom she thinks of as a hero, a saint and a godlike figure. She sends up prayers to Lady Anne. Why? I don't know. She starts to fall in love with Alex, only the second man to ever kiss her, for no good reason. She trusts him before he earns that trust and mistrusts him when she should have faith in him. She doesn't communicate with him very well either. There's too much lusting going on for the romance to properly develop.

This story wasn't really my cup of tea.

For those wondering ... spoilers ahead:
Penny has no legal right to Felicity and even if she was the girl's biological mother, she still wouldn't have a legal right to her own child. Everyone would consider it right that the child go with the father. That is unfortunately the way the law worked at the time. I think Val wanted Felicity to punish Penny for not letting his disgusting self touch her.

The one thing that doesn't make sense is why does he call her "touch-me-not" when he thinks he had sex with her?

The Unlikely RivalsThe Unlikely Rivals by Megan Daniel-- Regency Romance

Saskia Van Hooten has enough to do looking after her romance novelist mother and 4 younger siblings so when her eccentric great-aunt demands Saskia come to Bath, Saskia goes reluctantly, hoping her aunt will make Saskia her heir. Derek Rowbridge spent his life at sea fighting the French and now a half-pay officer, he has little money to pay off his father and grandfather's enormous gambling debts. He's not afraid of hard work, but when he receives a summons from a previously unknown great-aunt, he has hopes for some money coming his way. When he encounters Saskia at an inn on the road to Bath, he feels self-conscious about his shabbiness and thinks Saskia is haughty. She thinks he's a rudesby for noticing her noticing him and he insulted the Dutch besides! Sparks fly when they discover they share the same eccentric great-aunt. Their aunt, who has traveled the world and outlived three husbands, is bored in Bath and wants the young people to go sleuthing and discover how she can purchase Rowbridge Manor, her family's ancestral home. The house was purchases years ago by a mysterious Mr. Banks who refuses to sell. Saskia's hands are full escorting her sister Beatrix, the new belle of Bath and crossing verbal swords with Derek whenever they meet. Yet when Derek begins paying a lot of attention to Trix, Saskia feels strange. What can this feeling be? When Derek's Captain pays court to Saskia, he finds himself facing an enemy worse than the French - jealousy. Saskia could never marry a penniless man like Derek so he should just set his feelings aside and hope to win his aunt's money.

This is a really cute story. I borrowed it from and I am glad I did. The writing style is very good. It flows smoothly and the plot goes along at a good pace. It's super predictable but even so, I wanted to know how it turned out and stayed up late to finish. There are a lot of Pride and Prejudice references and a clergyman who rivals Mr. Collins in absurdity. What I especially like about the story is Saskia's Dutch heritage. Though I was unfamiliar with many of the terms, the inclusion of Dutch phrases, pet names and foods made the story so real.

The characters are near to being top-notch. I'm not sure they're long-lasting memorable but I enjoyed them. I loved Saskia's cozy, crazy family. They were all so unique and yet they love each other. Trix is a little too Jane Bennet kind for me but she's sweet and I wouldn't want to exclude her from the plot. Saskia is a tart-tongued, outspoken young lady who compares herself to Elizabeth Bennet. She's not quite as nice as Elizabeth. She's proud and headstrong at times. I liked her though despite her faults. They made her seem more real and gave the romance some spark. Derek is also proud and honorable. He's a little stuffy at first but he has a sense of humor and he's very kind. I especially loved the eccentric aunt. She was quite a surprise and very funny though she has a bit of a cruel sense of humor. I also loved Cornelia, Saskia's mother, who writes romance novels to support the family. She's a little vague but funny. Jannie, the Dutch housekeeper, has a small role but I liked her immensely. She adds warmth and heart to the story and provides Saskia with a mother figure. The fact she speaks only Dutch makes the family unit seem more realistic and more cozy because they use Dutch pet names with Jannie. Opa is a bit of a stock character. Nothing about him surprised me at all except for the initial introduction.

This is one of the better early Regencies and an unknown one. I highly recommend it to those who like classic Regency love stories, Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to say thank you for this series of posts. I'm finding some new-to-me authors!


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