Monday, January 25, 2016

What I Read in June 2015 Part II

What I Read in June 2015 Part II ...

Athena's Conquest by Catherine Blair-- Regency Romance

Athena's Conquest
The back of the book is misleading. I expected a traditional Regency story where the hero and heroine solve a mystery. This is not that kind of a story - it's more straight up romance. Athena Montgomery and her sister Cassiopeia are in Bath staying with their cantankerous aunt Montgomery and to give Cass the Season she has longed for. Cass has no shortage of suitors but Athena is determined to remain a spinster, no matter what the gossips say about her being too young to be a chaperone. She's perfectly content to be on the shelf. When she runs into Dominic Solage in a bookstore, she finds him arrogant and rude. When he's introduced to the sisters in the ballroom, she finds him flirtatious and insincere. She's happier in the company of her new friends Miss Sophia and Mr. Charles Wellborne - or so she thinks anyway. Dominique is acting as courrier and adviser to Lord Falk of the Foreign Office. He is working with the government to rout some scoundrels who came up with a 19th century version of a Ponzi scheme. Dominique tries to remain inconspicuous but in Bath that is hard to do. With rumors about Bonaparte escaping Elba flying around, it's no wonder everyone thinks Dominique is a French spy! He finds himself in a difficult spot when he becomes enchanted with a certain bluestocking spinster with a sharp tongue. Technically, he works for her uncle, Lord Castlereagh, who would not be pleased that one of his employees seeks to court his niece. Dominique must continue the charade of being a frivolous Frenchman and hide his true feelings or all will be lost. Finally, when it seems as if he and his love have come to an understanding, something happens that threatens to destroy his future happiness.

The back of the book gives away the fact there is a villain in this story. If not for that, the villain would seem to come out of thin air. There are clues that certain people are not who they say they are but readers who are not familiar with the time period might miss them. The plot moves pretty slowly and goes nowhere fast. The end is very rushed. I didn't quite buy the romance. The characters don't really know each other that well and he hasn't been honest about his identity. There are also quite a number of historical etiquette errors. Athena wanders around Bath without a chaperone (this is addressed in the story),  she speaks to people she hasn't been introduced to and immediately makes friends with someone who lives in the Westgate Buildings. Anyone who has read Persuasion knows that someone living in the Royal Crescent would not associate with someone living in the Westgate Buildings. The Westgate Buildings were near the slums at that time. The biggest error I can not forgive is housebreaking. Housebreaking was punishable by death. Period. No questions asked. Of course connections to people in high places would probably help absolve someone of the crime but it was still extraordinary risky to try. I HIGHLY doubt that person would keep their door unlocked and unguarded by servants.

I wanted to love Athena because she's a bluestocking spinster like me. I liked that she's brainy but she's pretty naive about the rules. She's more of modern heroine running around Regency Bath. She should be older if she's going to claim she's on the shelf. She sounds like she's in her late 20s at least. 24 isn't quite on the shelf. I did not like how Athena thinks she's beyond caring about the rules and the numerous rules she breaks. I also didn't like how she was physically attracted to the hero but didn't really know anything about him, yet she comes to rely on him to help her in a crisis. Dominic is not a great hero. A few parts of the story are from his point-of-view but not enough to really get to know him. He poses as a fashionable fribble and a flirt and I really did not like his dishonesty. Of course he wasn't allowed to say what he was doing in Bath but he made a blunder and at that point he should have told Athena what was going on and swore her to secrecy. He's just too flirtatious for me. I wanted to smack Athena's sister with the silly name. She's young and silly, not to mention fickle. I wasn't crazy about the Wellborne's either. Charles came across as too slick and does some unforgivable things. Sophia is too bold and too eager to break the rules. Like Athena, she's too modern.

The two characters I did like were Auntie Montie and Lord Falk. Two peas in a pod, they added some much-needed comedy to the story. I enjoyed their little feud and I'd love a sequel to know what happens to them after the end of the book.

KittyKitty by Catherine E. Chapman--Austenesque/Regency Romance novella

Kitty Lewis and her sister Clara join their parents and elder sister in Bath where Lucinda is staying to find a husband. Mrs. Lewis has hopes for the dashing Captain Northwood and Clara is eager to come out to society. Only shy, bookish Kitty is dreading the season.

Why are they in Bath to find husbands? What year is it? Bath went from fashionable spa town in the Georgian era to place of pretentious people, invalids and those needing to save money by the end of the period. The Lewises resemble the Bennets minus Lizzie and Lydia so perhaps they're pretentious. Mrs. Lewis certainly resembles Mrs. Bennet but not quite as flighty. Kitty resembles Mary but she is shy rather than pedantic. I liked her a lot and could relate to her, except for when she broke the rules of etiquette in the end. The author didn't even point out that Kitty was breaking the rules. However, it was nice to see a shy, bookish heroine in a romance story for a change. I've been wanting to read about a shy, bookish heroine for a long time. Clara is an idiot much like Kitty Bennet and she also breaks the rules of etiquette. The outcome of the story is predictable. There's nothing else to the story and very little period detail. The writing style is OK but nothing out of the ordinary.

This story is best appreciated by newcomers to the genre, those who haven't yet read the incomparable Georgette Heyer or those who struggle with the unfamiliar language and terms of the period. Also, if your favorite Bennet sister is Mary or you want to read about a shy heroine for a change, read this story.

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