Thursday, January 28, 2016

What I Read in April 2015 Part IV

What I Read in April 2015 Part IV ...

Mrs. Jeffries and the One Who Got Away by Emily Brightwell -- Victorian Mystery
Mrs. Jeffries and the One Who Got Away (Mrs. Jeffries, #33)
Inspector Witherspoon is surprised to be called to another district for a consultation. When he arrives at Highgate Cemetery to see the murder victim he is shocked to discover they had crossed paths before. The victim claiming to be Mrs. Robinson, a respectable boarding house owner, is actually Edith Durant, a clever and devious murderer and the one who got away. Mrs. Jeffries and friends are faced with a moral dilemma: do they hunt for the killer or do they let personal feelings get in the way?

I really liked the idea of this novel. It bugged me that there were loose ends to be tied up. They were all tied up at the end. I also liked the ethical dilemma the characters faced. The book has a slight Christian bent so of course Inspector Witherspoon and Mrs. Jeffries decide to do the right thing. I didn't guess who the murderer was until pretty late in the book. I was surprised no one had thought of it but then again I didn't remember all the fine details of the characters' back stories and Mrs. Jeffries sort of did. There are actually two mysteries to solve in this novel and one I thought I had figured out but I was partly off a bit but overall I figured them both out. There's less humor in this book and more serious content about ethical questions, depression and some minor violence.

As always the characters are delightful. I was proud of Inspector Witherspoon in this novel. He's really come into his own. Phyllis also has developed a lot since her introduction. Luty Belle remains my favorite character for her hysterically inaccurate "Wild West" attitudes. 

Dinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes inspired by the novels of Jane AustenDinner with Mr. Darcy: Recipes inspired by the novels of Jane Austen by Pen Vogler

This cookbook is more than a cookbook. It's a social history, commentary on Jane Austen's novels and a cookbook. I appreciate the author including the original period recipes as well as modern adaptations. I also really like how she includes meals for different times of the day AND social classes as well as the history behind it. The full color photos are stunning. I can't wait to try out some of the recipes as soon as our oven is fixed! I may upgrade to 5 stars if the recipes are easy enough to follow.

Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread (Jane Austen Takes the South, #3)Persuasion, Captain Wentworth and Cracklin' Cornbread by Mary Jane Hathaway

Ever since Lucy Crawford's Mama died, Lucy's life has become a futile struggle to keep the family home that dates back to the late 1860s. Though her family is old and proud, they have all the privileged and none of the wealth. The debt collectors are calling non-stop and Lucy's father only seems to care about his golf game and her younger sister spends money like it grows on trees. When her Aunt Olympia announces the Tupelo Free Clinic is looking for a new home, the obvious solution is to rent out part of the house to the clinic. Lucy has mixed feelings. If it was just the clinic she would be fine but her old flame Jem Chevy, now Dr. Jeremiah Chevy, has returned to town to work at the clinic. Ten years ago Lucy and Jem bonded over poetry, literature, history and spent a wonderful summer together, then facing family disapproval, Lucy dumped Jem. How can she face him again? How can she ever get over him if he's always around? Jem has returned to his hometown to give back. The child of an unwed teenage dropout, Jem knows how it feels to struggle just to survive. Nothing he went through as a child prepared him for the heartbreak of Lucy's rejection. He's tried to move on but she's always there in his heart. How can he forgive her and move on if he can't forget her?

This is another beautiful entry in the Jane Austen Takes the South series. It's almost a direct parallel of the original but it works. I found it interesting that the race issue was also a factor in the break-up. I applaud the author for opening my eyes to the existence of proud, old-money Black families. It was an unusual twist to the story I didn't expect. A lot of time is spent on Jem's background but not much on Lucy's family except for the present generation. I'd love to know more about her family story and how her ancestors survived Jim Crow and thrived to become prominent citizens. I was also surprised religion played a factor in the story as well. I come from a heavy Catholic area and the thought never occurred to me that there were places that had a very small Catholic minority and that minority were not treated well by the majority. Is any of that even realistic in this day and age? The way Lucy's Aunt Octavia carried on, I kept thinking the story was set in the 60s. The romantic plot felt realistic and I liked knowing why they fell in love, which dear Jane Austen never bothered to share with her readers. The pacing was pretty good but the plot lacked the pivotal action of the original. It could have been there since it was hinted at more than once but it wasn't so the story felt a little flat without it. That's my only major complaint. The Mr. Eliot character got dropped along the way and I felt that was a little unresolved. Another character is also left on the chopping block which also left me a little disappointed in the conclusion. I loved seeing Rebecca again and her super awesome Jane Austen wedding. Rebecca is Lucy's cousin and ties the three stories together as Shelby and Caroline make cameos as bridesmaids. The Christian content is very very minimal and worked into the story unobtrusively. Lucy and Jem are strong in their faiths but don't go preaching to others or relying on God to show them the way. Towards the end Lucy sends up a few quick prayers. Jem recites grace at dinner but it's only summarized.

Lucy is an interesting character. Like Anne, I think she was a bit too self-denying. She didn't think so because her father felt she was being disrespectful for telling him off about not paying the bills. Umm what? What century is this? Lucy also spends a lot of time trying to respect her family's wishes but also trying to do the right thing. As a result she's kind of wearied and old before her time, like Anne. On the other hand she's intelligent, has a lot of common sense and is caring towards her sisters who don't deserve it. I can see some modern readers not liking Lucy but I think she's in a tough spot. She's torn between duty and desire and apparently in the South they still think it's the 1860s and duty wins.

Jem is a perfect hero. He's worked his way up from the trailer park, is now a doctor and giving back to his community. He understands and doesn't pass judgment on any of his patients because he's been there. There's only one scene where I felt he acted out of character where the author tried to stick too close to the original. Jem is not vain, proud or selfish like my beloved Wentworth claims to be. Jem loves poetry, literature and history. Any family should be PROUD to have their daughter marry him. I can see how he feels hurt at Lucy's rejection and how being around her brings back old, unhappy feelings as well as the flame that burns inside him. He handles himself very well considering the circumstances.

My favorite characters were Dr. and Mrs. Stroud. They are the updated versions of Admiral and Mrs. Croft in the original. They have the same kind of loving relationship and unlike the original, Theresa actually befriends Lucy and acts as a mentor. Plus, Theresa is a Janeite and introduces Lucy to Jane Austen through Persuasion. I disagree though, Persuasion does have humor. Mary Musgrove and Sir Walter's humbris, his toadying to Lady Dalrymple are all supposed to be funny. Dr. Stroud gets a little too gory for me but I love his passion for the Civil War and he inspires that passion in others.

The characters who don't work are Paulette and Regan. Is anyone REALLY that stupid? They were complete stereotypes and Regan was rather superfluous. Since there's no real action scene, they're not necessary except to make Lucy look even better but she's fine on her own. Lucy's father annoyed me. I can tolerate Sir Walter because he reminds me of my own dad but Mr. Crawford was just blind and he wasn't even in the plot at all. He just passes through. I couldn't stand Aunt Octavia either because she's deliberately cruel and snobby. She hurt Lucy and can't even see it. The reverse racism idea was an interesting concept but the social snobbery just made me want to yell at her.

This series keeps getting better and better!

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