Friday, January 22, 2016

What I Read in February 2015 Part VIII...

What I Read in February 2015 Part VIII ...

Three Graces by Jane Ashford-- Regency Romance

The Three Graces

Three sisters named after the Three Graces of Greek Myth: Aglaea, Euphrosyne, and Thalia were raised by their eccentric aunt who hated men and loved cats. Their aunt let them study whatever they wanted so Thalia studied Latin and Greek; Euphie, music; while Aggie keeps her younger sisters happy with her sweetness. Then their aunt dies and their world is upended. Each must make her own way in the world. Aggie heads to Hampshire to become a nursery governess to the charming Wellfleet children. Their mother, Anne, is all that is good and kind and takes Aggie under her wing as a younger sister, with matchmaking plans up her sleeve. Thalia heads to Bath to become a school mistress, wasting her intelligence teaching literature to bored young ladies most of whom could care less about poetry. The youngest sister Euphie finds a home as a companion to elderly Lady Fanshawe where her cat battles with Lady Fanshawe's pug. Lady Fanshawe treats Euphie more like a daughter, allowing the girl to practice her music, buy new clothes and go out into society. Euphie relishes each new experience. She wishes that the haughty Lord Fanshawe would behave in public as he does in the privacy of his mother's home. Her dearest wish, however, is to have her sisters with her. She's never been away from them and misses their love and guidance. An unexpected event occurs to change their lives forever, bringing them closer to the secret dreams they held dear.

This is a pleasant enough story. There's nothing really wrong with it but I feel like each sister deserved her own novel. As is, the stories are too short to be believable and to do justice to the characters. I wanted to like Thalia best because she's a bluestocking but she wasn't developed enough and wasted her talent. Her plot is very very similar to Anne of the Island or more closer to Anne of Avonlea the miniseries. Lady Agnes is Jen Pringle and Mary Deming is Emaline Harris. Euphie's story is the most fleshed out and the most interesting of the three. I enjoyed the antics of Nero and Pug but could tell the author is a fan of cats and not a dog lover. Some of the characters' actions towards Pug were downright cruel which made me not like them very much. My sympathies were with Pug. The last section feels rushed and the predictable endings rather anticlimactic.

This is a nice, pleasant sort of read. It took me two nights to read it and it didn't interfere with my sleep. The original version of the book is very sweet. There are maybe three kisses and that's it for romance. I can not say whether the book has been revised.

Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer-- Historical Mystery

Barrister Frank Amberley tries a shortcut to his uncle's county house and becomes totally lost. He stops to ask a young lady for directions and noticing her distress, he looks carefully and finds a sports car with a corpse behind the wheel. Though the girl has a gun, she maintains her innocence. Frank heads off to the police station to report the murder but leaves the young woman out of it. The police are baffled by the crime and the Sargent, looking for a promotion, enlists Frank's help. Frank feels that the murder is only a small piece of the puzzles and tries to stay one step ahead of the police. As he encounters the young woman again in the most unlikely places, he wishes she would confide in him. Shirley Brown has no good reason to trust Frank. She wants to but she can't. She has a lot to worry about. Besides the murder, there's her brother's predilection for drink and a missing clue to uncover. Meanwhile Frank's cousin Felicity's friend Joan is supposed to be celebrating her engagement but her brother's newly inherited estate feels creepy and strange. Brother Basil feels is too and all eyes are on his valet, Collins, for it was the old family butler Dawson who was killed.

This plot is full of cliches and I thought I had it all figured out right away. Then, as a testament to Georgette Heyer's writing skills, I changed my mind and was dead certain I was wrong. There was no way I could put this book down. I stayed up too late and woke up early because I couldn't sleep without finishing it. The plot gets complicated at the end but in all is great fun. There's a light romance playing out subtly in the background. I suspected it was going to happen but it's not what you would call a traditional courtship!

The absolute best part of this book is the characters. Heyer once again created a memorable cast of characters. My favorite is Lady Matthews who seems as fluffy headed as her daughter but is quite perceptive. I have no idea how she knew what she knew. Frank is a complex character. He's a cool, logical barrister on the outside and inside he's apparently passionate. I didn't really like the way he continually teased and taunted Shirley and the police but the police deserved it. I don't know how many towns have such bumbling police forces but Georgette Heyer takes the cake in creating goofy characters. I enjoyed them all and they provide comic relief. I liked Shirley and felt bad for her. At first I wasn't sure what to make of her but as I got to know her, I liked her spirit. Collins is a sufficiently creepy valet and other characters kept me guessing.

This is Georgette Heyer's best mystery I have read so far.

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