Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in March 2016 Part VI. . .

What I Read in March 2016 Part VI . . .

The Talisman RingThe Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer--Georgian Era Romantic Comedy

Sir Tristram Shield, attending his dying great-uncle Sylvester, learns of his uncle's rescue of Tristram's young French cousin, Eustacie, and Sylvester's plans for Tristram to marry the girl. It should be Tristram's cousin Ludovic Lavenham who marries the girl, but Ludiovic is a fugitive from the law and no one has seen or heard from him in years. He could be married or dead for all the family knows. Eustacie accepts the idea of a marriage of convenience until she learns that Tristram is not at all romantic and plans to keep her in dull Berkshire. She decides this is unacceptable and makes plans to run away. She gets no farther than the woods when she encounters a band of smugglers being chased by excise men. When one is shot, Eustacie finally gets the adventure she's been waiting for. With help from Sarah Thane, an independent spinster; Sarah's brother Sir Hugo, a justice of the peace; an innkeeper with a cellar full of fine French wine (duty free, of course), Eustacie endeavors to help the young man, who happens to be her cousin, and discover the mystery of the missing Talisman ring which will clear Ludovic's name.

I read this book once before. It was my second ever Heyer novel and I enjoyed it enough to keep reading her novels, but not enough to count it among my favorites. I feel the same way upon a second read. I think I would have liked this book more when I was younger and more silly and romantic like Eustacie. I figured out who the villain was pretty much from his introduction but that doesn't really matter because the characters figure it out pretty quickly too. What matters is the adventure of the plot. I found myself engaged enough to want to keep reading but not enough to feel breathless at the adventure and stay up all night reading. The plot moves along quickly enough and ends predictably. There are two romances in the making throughout the story. One I believed, but not sure it will last and the other I didn't quite buy. Near the end are some very funny scenes that nearly made me laugh out loud. I'm also not enamored with the Georgian setting. I just don't care for the fashions. This one is a little less descriptive than her Regencies. The story is typical of a Heyer mystery/romance which she wrote before she found Regency romances to be her big money maker.

I liked Tristram, for all he is unromantic. He's a sensible, mature man but he's also a sporting gentleman and can be heroic when the situation calls for it. He does have a sense of humor, but it's more ironic and subtle than Eustacie would like in a hero. Ludovic, on the other hand, is immature, rash and headstrong. He does something really stupid after he was told not to and walked right into a trap. He's so hot headed that he's eager to shoot off his pistol and enjoys showing off his prowess with a pistol. I do not think he is husband material just yet. He does want to clear his name, now his uncle is dead, and he has enough sense to know his days of adventure are probably over. He needs to grow up a bit or marry someone less silly than he is. I didn't like Basil very much. I'm not enamored with dandies and he doesn't even care enough about the architecture of his house to know anything about it. He is a very good actor though and I kind of admire him for his cool demeanor for most of the novel.Sir Hugo provides the comic relief. He's absent-minded and focused mainly on enjoying the excellent contents of the inn's cellar. Nye, the innkeeper and Clem, the groom also provide some lightness to the story, along with some bumbling Bow Street Runners.

The ladies are the stars of this novel. Eustacie is very young, volatile and silly. She's very much like Leonie in These Old Shades but a little more silly. She wants romance and adventure in her life and would have preferred to go to the guillotine and become a martyr or flee to Holland with her uncle than be in safe, boring England married to Tristram. Her biggest dream is to have a man ride "ventre a terre" to her deathbed. She's a quick thinker, I'll give her that, and she doesn't bat an eyelash when faced with danger or mayhem, but her schemes are rather silly. She needs parents to keep her from doing something stupid like running away to become a governess. She doesn't need a husband and especially not one as silly as she is. I liked Sarah Thane but I found her to be almost as silly as Eustacie. Sarah is romantic too and longs for adventure but she is more practical and thinks things through a little better than Eustacie. Her sense of humor is a little more fine tuned than Eustacie's and Sarah is mature enough to know the difference between romance in real life and romance in novels. Near the end of the book she does something stupid that could have led to serious injury or even death. I stopped admiring her after that but I liked the way she kept her cool and didn't lose her head, despite numerous adventures.

While I still prefer her Regencies, this one ranks as my top favorite of the Georgian novels.

Cordelia Underwood: Or, The Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath LeagueCordelia Underwood: Or, The Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League by Van Reid

In July 1896, 23 year-old Cordelia Underwood is bored. Most ladies her age are married or have a suitable position, but Cordelia is content to remain at home in Portland, Maine, except when there's nothing to do. Then a messenger comes, bringing a report of her Uncle Basil's death and the shocking news that Basil left Cordelia a parcel of land! She can barely remember her uncle, he was at sea all of her life and rarely came to visit. Why leave the land to Cordelia and not her brothers? She's pleased though, with the news. While visiting the wharf to pick up Basil's sea chest, Cordelia comes to the rescue of a portly, middle-aged man who nearly falls in the water trying to recover his hat. For all her effort, Cordelia nearly falls off the wharf herself until a handsome stranger pulls her to safety. Cordelia invites Mr. Watson to join her family on their 4th of July picnic outing at the fairgrounds; there is to be a balloon accession and other activities. Mr. Watson agrees and spends an enjoyable day despite dueling politicians and a mishap with the balloon. He makes the acquaintance of three gentlemen: Messers Ephram, Eagleton and Thump, who are quite taken with Mr. Watson. The characters separate and go on their own eventful journeys before being reunited for the exciting conclusion.

This story is very charming at times, reminiscent of Mark Twain at times, but it's very LONG. The book features three different plot lines that converge at the end and make it difficult to follow the plot. Actually there isn't a cohesive plot until the final third of the novel, then I stayed up too late reading and woke up too early to finish. I liked the stories individually as separate short stories but as a whole, this novel doesn't really work for me. I really liked the old yarns told by some of the characters; one of which is a ghost story, which doesn't have much bearing on the rest of the story. I also loved the animal scenes that were worthy of a writer like P.G. Wodehouse. The final third of the novel is an engaging mystery. I knew who "the boss" was but then it didn't seem possible. I didn't like how that plot came out at the end. It was a bit confusing as to "the boss'" involvement in the plot, what exactly were they hoping for from Cordelia and then the story wasn't really resolved. I was disappointed by the lack of resolution. There is also a bit of romance in the second half of the book. I wasn't thrilled by it and wasn't entirely surprised by how it turned out.

The characters are well drawn and interesting. I loved Ephram, Eagleton and Thump. They're not too bright but they mean well and they're funny and their journey is quite fun. I also really liked Mr. Watson and his sidekick, Sundry Moss. They're both intelligent, shrewd, brave and caring men. Cordelia is interesting but she disappears from large chunks of the story and her romantic plot is somewhat trite. I feel like the author didn't quite do her justice. She's witty and intelligent. A 23 year old unmarried woman with red hair and green eyes is very intriguing and I'd like to know more about her. Her parents are loving, kind people and I really enjoyed the family scenes. Aunt Delia is awesome and I admire her. Aunt Grace is a bit stern and stiff but she's a caring mother and aunt and she knows how to keep everyone from going crazy.

The villains are really cartoonish at times. Some are not very bright but that makes them funny. "The boss" is very intelligent and knows his game well. I was surprised at all the intrigue. He's an interesting villain. There are many many other characters in this story and they are quirky, original and fun.

I liked the story but didn't love it. It was way too long and disjointed for me. I wish it could have been a little trimmer.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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