Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What I Read in July 2015 Part I

What I Read in July 2015 Part I ...

Patricia Brent, Spinster by Herbert Jenkins  --Historical Fiction/Edwardian Romance

This novel was originally published in 1918 when a woman in her 20s was considered a spinster. Fed up with the gossips at her boarding house, Patricia Brent makes up a fictional fiance to shut them all up. When the old catty gossips follow her to the location of her "date," Patricia is stuck. Seeing an available young soldier sitting alone, she seizes the opportunity to extend her lie a little longer. Peter Bowen is enchanted with Patricia and her tall tale. He would love to make it a reality but after their first meeting, she avoids him like the plague. Embarrassed by her lie and too proud to accept what she believes is Peter's pity, Patricia tries her hardest to keep away from Peter. Then Peter gets his sister involved and no one is a match for Tan's intelligence and enthusiasm. 

 This is a cute story in the vein of Jane Austen in terms of social satire. The writing style isn't as elegant or witty as Jane Austen but it is subtly funny in parts. The plot goes on a little too long and the courtship a little too one-sided. You really have to accept the idea of love at first sight for this to work. 

I felt sorry for Patricia because I understand how she feels. Not married? How come? Don't you want to get married? To hear this and bear with it day after day is more than any mortal can bear. I completely get Patricia's motive for lying to her housemates. She had my sympathy and understanding the entire book even though I was rooting for Peter to win her over.  Peter is the least developed of all the secondary characters. Some of the story is from his point-of-view but it doesn't really get inside his head and tell us what he's feeling. He's hurt by Patricia's rejection of him but it isn't completely clear why he's so in love with her when all she does is spurn him. The other characters say that the more he's thwarted, the more he wants something. That doesn't sound like a good basis for a relationship to me, but somehow it works and I wanted him to succeed. 

 The secondary characters are vastly appealing. The spiteful old gossips are typical of the Victorian period when women had nothing better to do than talk about past glories and long dead high-placed relatives. My personal favorite character is her boss' father-in-law. A former builder, this widowed gentleman has money and charm aplenty. He's so kind and very funny. He reminded me of a nicer version of Eliza Doolittle's father in My Fair Lady. Peter's sister Tan is also a favorite. She is intelligent, beautiful, witty and an all around good person. She and Peter are very close and she handles the slighting of her brother very well. Her friend Peggy is also delightful. She's very charming.

 Content: Kisses only, an air raid/bomb drops on a nearby street but the characters are isolated from the bloodhshed. There are some veiled mentions of PTSD and some wounded soldiers in a hospital setting. Until the last third, you barely know what year it is.

The Harlow Hoyden: A Regency RomanceThe Harlow Hoyden: A Regency Romance by Lynn Messina--Regency Romance

Miss Emma Harlow will do anything for her twin sister Lavinia, including stealing a priceless orchid from a Duke's conservatory- right under his very nose! Of course she had assumed he was the country cousin, but still, she stole a Duke's orchid and he wasn't at all upset about it. Emma decides that Alex Keswick, Seventh Duke of Trent is exactly the right person to help her with her PLAN. Emma has a plan to rid her sister Lavinia of her odious fiance, Sir Windbourne. Emma can't stand the old windbag and she hates the idea of losing her sister and having her sister lose her identity in marriage. Lavinia dreams of having children some day while Emma decries the married state. She plans to have Trent seduce her sister into breaking off her engagement to Sir "Windbag." Trent categorically refuses. He may be a rake but he doesn't trifle with innocents. If he won't agree to her plan, Emma will find another libertine - one who may have less of a conscience than Alex. Alex reluctantly agrees to court Vinnie but he can't keep his eyes or his hands off Emma. Emma has high hopes for a match between Vinnie and Trent, despite her own feelings on the matter. They are slow to come together so Emma decides to find something on Windbag that will cause Vinnie to break off her engagement once and for all. Little does she dream that her investigation will yield surprising results - in more ways than one.

The plot of this story is largely interesting - if not original. The addition of an added mystery plot saved the book from tedium. The faux romance between Vinnie and Trent went on way too long and was boring. The romance is very hot and steamy with lots of passionate kisses, touching and a love scene that comes at the right moment for those characters. I found the mystery plot really unbelievable. I would think that Mr. Harlow or at least Roger would investigate the man their daughter/sister is engaged to! I also really disliked the morning after misunderstanding. It's such a common trope but I liked the way it was resolved.

Normally I can't stand crazy heroines and Emma takes the cake in craziness but she was charming and I couldn't help but like her. I felt bad for her that she had such a terrible childhood that it ruined her views on marriage. I happen to agree with her beliefs that given the time period, marriage was a bad deal for many women, especially those like Lavinia who made marriages of convenience. Emma's schemes and scrapes never failed to astonish me. I kept wondering what she would do next. She's a very modern girl running around Regency England. She's not the kind of girl that every reader will like. Lavinia is a better period heroine. She's correct in her behavior but she's still lively and has horticultural interests that most women didn't think about. She is a devoted, caring sister for all the right reasons so I fail to see why she would attach herself to someone her twin sister felt so strongly was a bad match. A little communication between them would have been nice and communication with Roger would have been better but then the romance plot wouldn't have advanced.

The hero is kind of disgusting at first, he can't stick to one mistress at a time, or maybe he's lying. He is an honorable rake who cares deeply for the people he chooses to love and who would do anything to keep his beloved safe. He is considerate and caring towards Vinnie though he isn't attracted to her. He does some wonderful things for her and they could have a happy marriage if they wanted to, or at least if passion didn't get in the way. Alex is the one with a level head trying to keep Emma out of trouble for safety's sake and not because she isn't behaving as a young maiden should.

Sir Waldo "Windbag" is worse than Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is an idiot and Sir Waldo isn't quite that silly. His motives are so transparent I guessed right away what he was up to. It's so obvious that I kept groaning in frustration as Emma took the difficult course with him instead of the logical one. The ending of his plot surprised me a lot and I don't really think I liked it. There are a couple of minor characters who add more comic relief to the story. There is also Sarah, Mrs. Roger Harlow, sister-in-law to the twins. She is kind and level-headed and very much in love with her husband. I would have liked her story a bit more than this one.

Content: Steamy make out scenes and one somewhat graphic love scene. 

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