Saturday, March 18, 2017

What I Read in May 2016 Part XI . . .

What I Read in May 2016 Part XI. . .

Quick ServiceQuick Service by P.G. Wodehouse--Historical Fiction/Romantic Comedy

Beatice Chavender's portrait, painted by Joss Weatherby, which she gave to her sister-in-law, Mabel Steptoe, causes a lot of problems in this comedy. Lord Holbeton wants his guardian, J.B. Duff, to hand over some money so he can marry Mrs. Steptoe's poor relation, Sally Fairmile. Joss wants to be made Art Director of Duff's ham company but is fired by an irritable Duff instead. After Joss discovers Sally trying to extract money from Duff, he falls madly in love and forms plans to be with Sally. Duff wants nothing more than Mrs. Chavender's portrait, but having a past history with her and an intense dislike of women, he's reluctant to approach her. He hits on the perfect solution- to steal the portrait! His early attempts thwarted, J.B. Duff remains determined and finds that any number of people are willing to steal the portrait in exchange for money.

This is a typical Wodehouse comedy.This book doesn't come close to the level of comedy in the Blandings Castle series. It lacks that screwball moment. There's one that's shown a little bit but doesn't reach the highest level of Wodehouse's ability. There's another potential screwball moment that is told after the fact. That was very disappointing.

This story does not feature any of his regular characters but they are all types he used in other stories. Joss is a younger version of Uncle Fred spreading "sweetness and light" everywhere. I found him a little too perky and cheerful. He's not quite an idiot like Freddy Threepwood. He certainly can be shrewd when he wants to be but he doesn't seem to take anything seriously. His storyline is predictable but yet fun and charming.

Sally is unlike typical Wodehousian heroines. She's not "hard boiled." She's a poor relation and searching for her happily ever after. She is kind and knows how to handle men without being conniving or overly motherly.

The Steptoes were a bit unusual, being American. Mrs. Steptoe is a tartar to some degree but being American, she lacks the social cache to be as haughty as Lord Emsworth's sisters in the Blandings Castle series. She doesn't seem like much of a nice person though. Mabel is a social climber and she's willing to step on anyone who gets in her way, including her relatives. She bullies her husband. Howard Steptoe really surprised me. He adds an extra comedic touch to the story.

The butler, Chibnall, is not a likable butler. He's nosy, he gossips and he isn't very considerate of his fiance. He constantly dismisses her interest in thrillers but has his own guilty pleasures and is jealous of every man she meets. However, he does listen to her concerns and fears while jumping to his own conclusions. Jeevs he is not.

This is a fun story that doesn't require much brain power to enjoy - just what I needed!

The Black MaskThe Black Mask by Cynthia Bailey Pratt--Regency Romance

When Rose Spenser inherits a set of ruby jewels from her godfather in India, she sees the perfect opportunity to help her brother pay his gambling debts and follow his heart. She believes that if she allows the ton to think her worthless jewels are priceless the mysterious thief known as "The Black Mask" will come to her and she'll have an adventure and romance for a lifetime. Meanwhile, Sir Niles Alardyce seems to be paying Rose a lot of attention. She finds him a puzzle she can't figure out - one minute he's passionate and open and the next he acts like an icicle. Niles knows that if Rose could only know the real him she would love him as much as he loves her. Before he can share his true self there is a task he must do but he can't seem to stay away from Rose. If she should discover his secret, she will probably hate him and he'll lose her forever. Was any man ever in such a pickle?

The premise of this story is completely ridiculous. I found it hard to believe that a man running around dressed like Zoro could remain incognito. Surely someone would recognize him? OK so Superman/Clark Kent gets away with a lot less than The Black Mask but still... Towards the end of the book I realized how he was able to keep his identity a secret and so the plot of the Black Mask made more sense. We also don't know why he is doing what he does until the end and it seems silly to stop with vengeance. Wouldn't the villains figure out who was after them? It would seem a little obvious.

I also didn't buy the romance at all. First Rose is infatuated with The Black Mask character and then she's into a mysterious man and finally Sir Niles. (This is not a spoiler for anyone who reads this genre). How it happens is a bit of a mystery to me. He's a nice, kind man but a bit aloof with strangers. He's even a bit aloof with the reader despite half the story being from his POV. I never felt like I got to know him and Rose knew even less about him.

I liked Rose well enough but I thought she was rather silly about her Black Mask fantasy and how she approached the solution to her problem.

The gambling brother plot is overused in this genre. At least this brother had a good reason for gambling.

This story was just so-so for me and I'm glad it was only 25 cents at the library book sale.

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