Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in April 2016 Part VI . . .

What I Read in April 2016 Part VI . . .

The Paisley ButterflyThe Paisley Butterfly by Phyllis Taylor Pianka--Regency Romance

Lady Margaret Batterby Spence was forced upon her parents' deaths to fend for herself. She opened a bookshop and is happy with the way her life turned out. She sells books and rents space to scholars of ancient languages. A handsome stranger comes into her shop and her life one day, teasing and joking and he becomes a frequent visitor and Margaret's friend. Then a scandal nearly causes Margaret to spend the rest of her days in prison but someone intervened on her behalf. She is informed the Duke of Waldenspire wants to hire her. Margaret is outraged! She wants to return to her beloved bookshop, not become who knows what to a mysterious Duke! The proposition is above board, with the Duke's Mama in residence. Margaret has no choice but to accept his offer to catalog his family's collection of priceless butterfly themed artifacts but she is livid that her "friend" from the bookshop is actually a Duke and responsible for her current career path. The Duchess has other plans for Margaret which don't include slaving away. She relaunches Margaret into the ton where she makes the acquaintance of a handsome, devilish Italian Count. The Duke is outraged by Margaret's behavior and association with the Count but the way she sees it, he's informally betrothed to another and she is merely an employee, therefore, he can not dictate her behavior. She's determined to forge her own path in life whether it is alone or with the Count or with the Duke, if a miracle happened and the Duke fell in love with her.

It is a pity this book had to be a conventional romance. I quite liked the premise: a bookseller/museum curator heroine- right up my alley! However, I ended up REALLY hating this book. I loved Margaret. She's fiercely independent and very intelligent. She doesn't behave stupidly not even when she's in love. She makes a few blunders but is otherwise a strong heroine. I absolutely loathed the Duke. First, he doesn't seem to take anything seriously and he plants a kiss on Margaret in a case of mistaken identity. This establishes his character as a rake - except he's not. He's an alpha male who is constantly jealous of Margaret for spending time with another man, yet he is informally betrothed and flirts with other women. He's not very nice to Margaret. He is good to his mother and was kind to hire Margaret but then again he was the agent of her destruction. He values his family history and he loves his family's shipping business. I just hated his behavior and almost every interaction with Margaret is beastly. He's like an animal claiming his territory. UGH! He nearly rapes Margaret which sunk him even lower in my opinion and I wasn't thrilled with Margaret's response.

The supporting characters include the Duchess who is a nice old lady but she's scheming behind her son's back and Margaret doesn't realize it. She has a little romantic plot of her own that is sweet. There's Jordice, Peter's informal fiance, who is either really stupid or really catty - either way, a flat character. Count Dantoni, a charming rake who wants to repent but doesn't/can't and Margaret's maid Corinne provides the comic relief. She's feisty and outspoken, knows what she wants and isn't awed by working in a Duke's household.

Content warning:  There's one makeout scene (skin) and TWO near rape scenes. 
I really wanted to like this book but I just couldn't.

Legion's LadiesLegion's Ladies by Judith A. Lansdowne--Regency Romance

Jocelyn Elders, the Earl of Wright, known as Legion, demon, devil or barbarian, depending on his enemy. Josh doesn't much care for propriety or what people think of him, but he has a soft spot where ladies in distress are concerned. He's been rescuing his featherbrained sister Jenny her whole life. Now it seems Jenny, the Duchess of Ware has been abducted. Josh rushes to her estate to assure himself of his young nephew's safety and to begin searching for his widowed sister. Her home has been invaded by Mr. Martin Howard, the local vicar and co-guardian of the young Duke, who despises Josh. Accompanying Howard is his sister, Eleanor, a favorite adult friend of little Jessamyn. While Josh is off searching for his sister, Willowset receives more company: Josh's secretary, Mrs. Mary Hampton, his mistress Lily Lipton and his lawyer Mr. Paxton. After Josh finds the motive for his sister's abduction, he's prepared to dismiss it out of hand. Then he receives a death threat and finds he can only confide in sensible Eleanor. Eleanor doesn't know why he trusts her but she doesn't trust the way she feels when Josh is around. When he's nearly killed in a fall, it's Eleanor who can calm him. It becomes clear that Eleanor represents peace and goodness, things Josh is sadly needing in his life. Can the obstacles between them be overcome if he survives his injuries?

Judith Lansdowne is fast becoming one of my favorite Regency romance authors. She has a knack of writing historically plausible stories with complex characters and intriguing plots. This story has more substance than your average traditional Regency romance. It's more a story about Josh and his personal demons and those who wish to harm him. I really liked the way his story was hinted at and came out only towards the end. The love story is a little lacking in romance but I enjoyed the way the characters came to know each other and trust each other. The misunderstanding was predictable and painful for the reader to know in advance. It was the weakest part of the story. There is a bit of violence in the story. The romance is clean except for the first scene where Josh is with his mistress though nothing happens between them except a bath. There's also talk of mistresses and rape.

I love Judith Lansdowne's complicated heroes. Josh is no exception. He has PTSD from childhood trauma which is only known by those close to him. He doesn't let many people get close for fear of losing them. He was raised as a "barbarian" without a mother's influence and guidance. It sounds like his father also had some trauma from the key incident in Josh's life and responded by teaching his children not to be genteel or missish. Josh may have a hot temper but he's a super softy on the inside. He's certainly very chivalrous where women are concerned. He adores his little sister and does his best to look after her. He fights for the rights of marginalized people in the House of Lords and has earned a radical reputation. He's clearly a man of great passion and feeling which doesn't always manifest itself appropriately. At first I was prepared to hate him because he was shown with his mistress in the first scene but once I got into the story and learned more about him, I grew to really like him. While I didn't fall in love with him, I can see why Eleanor does and why some readers probably would too.

Eleanor doesn't have much to do and she's not as complicated as Josh. I wish she had a backstory but she's sensible, kind and caring. She's the opposite of Josh in temperament but she shares his compassion and caring for others. To Josh, she represents the peace and tranquility he longs for. I liked her. Eleanor is a stark contrast to Josh's sister Jenny. Jenny is beautiful but doesn't have much common sense. She is not a very good mother to her young son and like her brother, she is very passionate. However, he passion is misdirected towards a foppish Italian Marquis, whom she believes is her true love. She does have hidden depths that seem a little far-fetched but I love her response to crisis.

Rev. Howard is a complex character. At first I really hated him because he was so horrid to Josh. He seemed to think Josh was the anti-Christ or something but there was no evidence of that in the story. He doesn't look past Josh's hot temper to see the wounded soul and Josh can't see past Howard's stiff-rumped speeches to understand where Rev. Howard is coming from.

The secondary characters are quirky and fun. There's the foppish Italian, the Marquis di Roche, who wants to marry Jenny. He surprised me and Josh. The Italian provides the comic relief as does little Jessamyn "Jessie" the Duke of Ware. At 5 years old he longs to be a highwayman and adores his fun Uncle Josh! He does not take too kindly to an invasion of the nursery by a little girl but she knows the same fun games he learned from Uncle Josh. The kids are cute and act like real children though I'm fairly certain my nieces and nephews (ages 2-7) speak better than Jessie. Then there's Lily and Mary, the two other women closest to Josh after his sister. Lily has a backstory that isn't described in depth but it's enough to get to know her. Her story is a bit unrealistic. I was prepared to hate her but she surprised me, like many other characters in this story. The other woman in Josh's life is his secretary Mary. She has a tragic backstory and it shows how difficult life was for women at that time. I felt a lot of compassion for her and what she has been through.

The villains were less cartoonish than average and a little scary.

I really liked this book and I hope to read more of Judith Lansdowne's Regencies in the future.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave comments and or suggestions for QNPoohBear, the modern bluestocking.