Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in January 2016 Part V

What I Read in January 2016 Part V. . . 

Frost Fair Fiance by Mona Gedney--Regency Romance

Frost Fair Fiancé (Zebra Regency Romance)
The description on the back of the book is misleading. Elise MacGregor has always been the dutiful daughter and level headed one. When her father informs her that their neighbor, Mr. Robert Townsend, wishes to marry her, then Elise decides it is the right thing to do. Her younger sister Olivia is appalled. Marry such an old and dour man? Heavens, no! With her father's health failing and his property to be inherited by the first grandson, Elise knows she must marry Mr. Townsend to provide a home for herself and her sister and continue her father's line. The sisters are delighted to go to London to visit their aunt Ravinia Longfellow for the holidays and shop for Elise's trousseau. They enjoy a merry holiday with their big, chaotic family and Elise especially enjoys flirting with Mr. James Gray and kissing under the kissing bough. She decides the best thing to do is end her engagement. She has no wish to marry Mr. Townsend, a man she can not feel any passion for. She pays no attention to the snide comments of Mr. Walter Belvedere who believes Gray is giving Elise "Spanish coin" (false compliments). What does Mr. Belvedere know about relationships? He is anti-social and has spent the week in her aunt's home snowbound trying to escape to look at the late Mr. Longfellow's notebooks on the Ancient Roman occupation of Britain. When the snow stops, Elise finds herself in a pickle. With her father and Mr. Townsend on the way to London, she needs a fiance to spare herself the shame of calling off the engagement. Her aunt suggests a temporary "Frost Fair fiance" to squire her around until the ice melts and the fair is over.

This book took me by surprise. I hadn't expected to enjoy it as much as I did. There aren't any villains or any mystery or even obstacles to overcome. It's entirely character driven and I liked that very much. However, too much of the story is taken up with domestic Christmas activities. Charming and interesting as they are, and even sometimes funny, it was a bit too much and the plot didn't advance fast enough. The author did so much research and I truly appreciate that but I think she included too many details for one novel. The frost fair comes at the end. It sounds like a lot of fun and it based on the actual Frost Fair of 1814. I wish there had been more description of the Frost Fair.

At the same time though, all the domesticity actually advances the romance. It's very very subtle but there is some kissing. Don't expect grand sweeping passion but I did end up falling in love with the hero by the end of the book and swooning over his gestures.

This is one story where I liked the hero better than the heroine. Not at first though. I wondered if he was supposed to be on the Autism spectrum because he was so anti-social and blurted out whatever came into his head. I could actually identify with him more than the heroine. He was so much like me LOL! His character development is excellent and I really enjoyed watching him come out of his nerdy shell and become a part of the eccentric family. Elise is very young and she doesn't really know what she wants. I didn't see much character development with her and her interest in ancient history is mentioned but not developed. The story is all from her point-of-view but she isn't a well-developed character. The rest of the family kind of gets in the way of the romance. Even so, I just loved the extended Longfellow family. They're big, loud, crazy, eccentric and the kids are holy terrors but isn't that what most big families are like? It seemed like an extension of my own family chaos - I mean Christmas- celebration.

My only major complaint is with the cover. The artist clearly didn't do any sort of research and didn't even read the book! Elise wears an old-fashioned velvet, fur-lined cape, carries a muff and 19th century ice skates are not boot skates with modern blades!

Bookplate Special (A Booktown Mystery #3)Bookplate Special by Lorna Barrett--Cozy Mystery

Tricia Miles has a problem. Her college roommate Pammy Fredericks has been staying with Tricia for two weeks - more like freeloading - and Tricia has had enough. It's not so much the freeloading but the breech of trust that bothers Tricia - that and the fact that Pammy singlehandedly annoyed and chased away customers. Pammy assures Tricia that she has hooked up with some locals and will have some place to go. Tricia feels bad that Pammy alienated her family and has very few friends but is relieved Pammy won't be out on the streets. The next time Tricia sees Pammy is at the dedication of the new food pantry where former playboy turned philanthropist Stuart Page is giving a speech. Pammy tries to crash the event but is hauled away by Page's entourage. Pammy stops by her sister Angelica's cafe for a bite to eat and listens to her sister gloat about her wonderful new hire - none other than Pammy Fredericks. Tricia is not thrilled but Angelica needs the help and Pammy has food prep experience. Then Tricia is shocked to discover Pammy face down in a garbage can behind Angelica's cafe. Fortunately for Tricia, the police don't suspect her this time. Deputy Baker is kind and sympathetic but doesn't seem to be making a lot of headway with the case. Tricia is receiving mysterious phone calls about a missing book or possible diary that is the clue to the mystery. There's also someone smashing pumpkins on Main Street and the mystery of who shot at Tricia's window to solve. Meanwhile, her love life is in the dumpster with Russ planning to leave the state and return to city living and her business is booming but she has employee problems. Tricia decides to focus on the mystery of Pammy's death and seek justice for her friend.

Book 2 was checked out so I skipped ahead to 3. There are hints about what happened in the first two mysteries but no major spoilers. There is a LOT going on in this novel. There is way way too much extraneous plot and even some of the clues in the mystery are told in too much detail. First there's animal adoption/pet care, which I'm all for (though I'm not a cat person) but it has zero relevance to the mystery or main characters. Then there's "freegans" which I had never heard of or would have labeled dumpster divers. These people believe in reducing waste and carbon footprints by searching out free food in dumpsters behind stores. This squicks Tricia out big time and I don't entirely blame her but I felt her attitude was a bit condescending towards these people. It's no wonder they didn't really want to talk to outsiders. Then there's the whole former playboy turned philanthropist mystery. He's clearly loosely based on Ted Kennedy. That made me a bit uncomfortable and I wouldn't be too happy with the author for bringing up that old story if I were the family. Finally, there's birth defects and adoption, not to mention the personal lives of the characters and too much about Angelica's new business ventures.

The central mystery was engaging. I had to keep listening to the story to find out what happened to Pammy and why.At first it seemed easy to guess but I figured Tricia's guess was way too simple and there had to be more to it than that. I was right. I never guessed who the murderer was or why. Actually the thought crossed my mind but I couldn't find a motive and I didn't want it to be that person. I did guess one vital clue before Tricia did and I thought I guessed who the shooter was. I was very upset at the reveal and how it all happened and why. It changes the lives of several characters in the story in a very big way. It also made clear that there were certain plot elements that were not at all relevant to the story and characters who didn't need to be in the story.

This book also introduces a new love triangle for Tricia. I didn't really care for the romance aspect of the book. In fact, I don't even like Tricia and I thought at one point "No wonder she can't hold on to a relationship." Her attitude towards the other characters was often rude, condescending, petty and childish. She didn't even support her supposed-boyfriend by reading his paper! I didn't see a need for her to investigate the mystery on her own, especially when she was told not to. She gets offended at the slightest little thing and it made me not like her much. She also thinks she's a brilliant detective just because she reads and sells mysteries. Russ doesn't get much page time but I felt sympathy for him because Tricia was horrible and overreacted. Deputy Baker is a softer, kinder man than Tricia is used to dealing with. He has more of a sense of humor than she does but I do not see these two as a couple at all. I felt bad for Pammy because she reminded me of my uncle's college roommate in some ways. Pammy was not a very likable person overall but she had some positive aspects to her character that Angelica saw and Tricia did not, despite years of knowing each other. I found Angelica a little more annoying in this book than the first one but I like her better than Tricia. She's more compassionate than her older sister and she's better with people. I liked Bob better in this book than the first and I don't think Tricia gives him enough of a fair chance though she claims she's trying for her sister's sake. Franny is a kind and caring woman who doesn't belong in this story at all. She seems very sweet and I liked her best of all. Ginny, Tricia's employee, has more page time here. She seems likable enough though she whines a lot and she doesn't show any character growth in the story when she should at least have some reactions to what happens to her in the story. Mr. Everett is still very sweet as is Grace and they deserve all the happiness they can get - away from Tricia and her crazy mystery obsession!

The audio book narrator was good but not great. She pitched her voice differently for male and female characters but that was about it. I couldn't tell by her voice who was supposed to be speaking.

I love Booktown and wish it was real but it's a shame the characters in this series are not more likable.

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