Friday, June 26, 2009

Nathanael Greene, a forgotten American Hero

Nathanael Greene, a forgotten American Hero

"We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again."

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Nathanael Greene Homestead in Coventry, Rhode Island. Our guide, Mr. Greg Mierka was incredibly knowledgeable and shared a wealth of information about this forgotten hero of the Revolutionary War. A big thank you to him for sharing all his knowledge.

Nathanael Greene was born in 1742 in Warwick, RI. As a young man he was sent to stay with his grandfather to work in the family iron forge. Shortly after joining the prosperous business, Greene had a house built on the property in 1770 and furnished it with numerous objects made in the family forge, in
cluding fireplace cranes in every fireplace. He also created a well-stocked library. Greene was an avid reader to make up for his lack of formal education. He was an amateur professional architchect and engineer and contributed to much of the design and layout of his home. There is a winter kitchen with a secret staircase leading to the servants' quarters upstairs so that the servants would not be seen in the main hall. The dining room was also situated next to the kitchen so the servants did not have to carry food down the long center hall.

In 1774, he married 19 year old Catherine Littlefield, to whom he was devoted and affectionately called "Caty."

Greene had an excellent understanding of military tactics and helped organize the local militia, known as the Kentish Guards.

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord and Bunker Hill/Breeds' Hill in 1775, George Washington came to inspect the American troops in Boston and was sadly disapointed in the lack of organization and noted that Nathanael Greene's troops were clean and well organized and from then on, became a close confidant of General Washington and was made Brigadier General in 1775 and became a two star Major General in 1776. He was second in command only to Washington and remained the only two star American General until the 20th century.

Greene was present at the famous crossing of the Delaware and Washington placed Greene in a separate boat to ensure that at least one of them would survive. Had Washington perished, Grenne would have been commander in chief.

In 1778, Greene was made Quartermaster General with the understanding that he would later be given a high command in the southern campaign. In 1780, Greene was appointed the command of the southern troops. He was instrumental in organizing the campaigns of Francis Marion (The Swamp Fox) and "Light Horse" Harry Lee. Greene contributed to American victory and became well-known for his excellent military strategy.

After the war, Greene was given Tory plantations in South Carolina and Georgia in appreciation for his defeat of General Cornwallis in Yorktown. Greene was faced with numerous war debts for the provisioning of his troops. He pledged his own personal fortune and family money to pay the debts.

Greene was said to be a humble and kind man, even dealing fairly with the British and traitor Benedict Arnold.

He retired to his plantation near Savannah, Georgia after the war with his wife and 5 surviving children where he died in June 1786 of sunstroke.

In 1792, Caty Greene became aquainted with Eli Whitney, who was tutoring her neighbor's children. It is believed that Caty Greene provided Whitney with inspiration and financial backing for the cotton gin, which was never acknowledged.

Mr. Greg Mierka believes that Nathanel Greene has been forgotten about due to his untimely death, while George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson went on to distinguished political careers and have reamined in the public memory. Greene should be remembered and honored as one of the greatest heros of the American Revolution.

A big thank you to Greg and Mary Mierka for showing us around and sharing their wonderful knowledge with us. If you read this and want to know more about women's rights, a subject on which I am quite knowledable or 19th century clothing or quilts (interests of mine), contact me (aupoohbear at hotmail).

The Nathanael Greene Homstead was a private family home until the death of his great-niece Margaret in 1899. It first opened as a museum in 1919 and is located at 50 Taft Street, Coventry, Rhode Island 02816 - 5314. The house is open to the public on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays April 1-October 31.

Learn more about Major General Nathanael Greene from the Providence Journal's excellent series of articles Rise and Fight Again

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Mr. Darcy's Dream by Elizabeth Aston -- Austenesque
In this l
atest book in the Mr. Darcy's Daughters series, 20 year old Phoebe Hawkins, daughter of Georgiana Darcy and a Sir Giles Hawkins, has found love in her second season. After a whirlwind night of dancing and falling in love, Mr. Stanhope informs Phoebe he is going to call on her father to ask leave to pay his addresses. Sir Giles is against the match for two reason: one, Mr. Stanhope and his family are Whigs while Sir Giles is a Tory. Whigs are thought to be immoral and they marry their own kind. The other reason Sir Giles objects is because Mr. Stanhope as a lady in keeping and a reputation as a rake. She is crushed by her father's decision but determined to see Mr. Stanhope again because she doesn't believe the gossip. Unfortunately, Phoebe happens to see the dashing Mrs. Vereker leaving Mr. Stanhope's apartments shattering all Phoebe's hopes and dreams. Phoebe knows just enough about unfaithfulness and the unhappiness it causes within families to know she does not want to be married to such a one as Mr. Stanhope. She is packed off to Pemberley where she meets with her cousin Louisa Bingley (daughter of Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley). Mr. Darcy has hired an up-and-coming young landscape architecht, High Drummond, to modernize the Pemberley grounds and to build a new, large greenhouse for the tropical plans Elizabeth has collected on her travels. Once the renovations are complete, Mr. Darcy is to hold a ball and leaves Phoebe in charge of all the arrangements. Phoebe and Louisa's only other companion is a Miss Verney, a French emigree, forced to work as a governess for Mr. Darcy's grandchildren. Phoebe dislikes and mistrusts Miss Verney, but lkike her parents, Louisa refuses to see bad in anyone. Meanwhile, Mr. Stanhope learns that Phoebe is in the country and dashes off to see his married sister who lives in the neighborhood. He senses unhappiness all around him with his sister, with Phoebe and the mysterious Miss Verney. Phoebe spends a lot of time and energy trying to avoid Mr. Stanhope while Louisa becomes closer to Mr. Drummond. George Warren steps in to try to make trouble but this time everyone is suspicious and determined he will not make trouble for the Darcys again. Everything cultminates at Mr. Darcy's ball where under the moonlight futures will be made and everything changes. This is another rewrite of Pride and Prejudice featuring the next generation. It was a little confusing to keep everyone straight and follow the plot. The mystery and villianry are hinted at and then dropped and then picked up again only to be resolved quickly and easily. The romances are predictable and come off as I hoped but there wasn't much of solid conclusion to Phoebe's story. Though of all Aston's spinoffs, this one comes closest to actually being a story that a 19th century lady could have written. I enjoyed it and am sad that it seems to be the last in the series.

Pretty Polly by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Beautiful, spoiled Mrs. Charlotte Manners, a wealthy widow, wants to ensnare the Duke of Denbeigh. Years ago, when he was a mere younger son, he proposed and she refused because she believed fortune was better than a title. Now she has fortune, Mrs. Manners wants a title and she is determined to be a Duchess and believes once the Duke sees her, he will be instantly smitten. The Duke has no plans to come to London for the Season, but Mrs. Manners thinks she can make him come by writing him wonderfully witty letters. Unfortunately, Mrs. Manners is neither witty nor clever, having always gotten by on her looks. She decides to bring an old schoolmate, Verity, daughter of a country lawyer, to town to write to the Duke. Verity quickly realizes she's being used by her old friend but Charlotte knows how to play on Verity's kindness and sensitivity to convince her to stay. Charity takes charge of Charlotte's pets, a dog, a cat and an unusual parrot and becomes noted in London for her kindness. Verity writes to the Duke of her visit to London and he is quite taken with the charming letter writer, whom he believes is Charlotte Manners. When the Duke shows no signs of appearing in London, Charlotte decides to settle for any gentleman with a fortune and title but every time a suitor comes to propose, he runs out the door never to be seen again. Unbeknownst to the ladies, the parrot can mimic their voices and repeats entire private conversations, revealing distasteful honest truths about Charlotte Manners and Verity. Verity falls in love with the Duke through his letters and when he finally does come to London, he quickly suspects the author of the letters is not Charlotte and the path to romance seems clear enough. However, jealousy rears it's ugly head and Charlotte destroys Verity's chance for happiness. It's up to Pretty Polly to save the day! I really liked this story because it was about an older, intelligent heroine and not some silly debutante. I also like the idea of courtship through letters and actually getting to know a person before marrying them. The parrot provided some comedic moments and served as an unusual plot device. This is one of Chesney's best.

My Lords, My Ladies and Marjorie by Marion Chesney -- Edwardian Romance c. 1907
A different time period, similar story. Seventeen year old Marjorie Montmorency-James lives in a backwater country village with her middle-class grandmother. There are no men at all in their village and Marjorie dreams of a nameless, faceless man to fall in love with. When she sees a picture of Lord Philip Cavendish in a picture in the newspaper, she falls madly in love with him and is determined her grandmother should give her a London Season so she may have a chance to see him in thr flesh. Marjorie's dreams come true when her grandmother asks an old friend for help launching Marjorie and that friend happens to be an old friend of Lord Philip's mother! At first Marjorie can't believe her good luck, but she is very young and nervous among her betters and tries desperately to mimic the behavi
or of the aristocratic young ladies. Lord Philip's childhood friend Hermione is intensely jealous of Marjorie and angry as Marjorie's too-acurate mimicry of Hermione's biting wit, so she sets out to destroy Marjorie's chances with Lord Philip and invites the other young aristocrats to have some fun at Marjorie's expense. Hermione's practical jokes go too far and the joke turns out to be nearly deadly for Marjorie. Marjorie manages to find true love and happiness in the end from a very unexpected person. I really didn't like this book. The only character I found likeable is the Marquess and he is such a paragon of virtue he is as cliched as that statement. I felt bad for Marjorie in the beginning but her naivity and stupidity brought on the rest. I would only recommend this if you're looking for something different from all the typical Regency romances.

The Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison -- YA fantasy
This wonderful fairy tale is a companion to The Princess and the Hound. After Prince George uses his magic to switch back the princess and the hound to their rightful bodies, Prince George and Marit go on their way to happily ever after, but what about the hound? The hound that was a princess forms an odd pack of two with the bear who was a man and a king, despite the lac of ability to communicate. The hound feels that only the bear understands how it feels to be two things at once and will do anything to keep her bear and their home safe. The hound discovers a strange wild cat man who spreads his evil unmagic, destroying the forest and all that lives in it. He will destroy the world and every living thing if there is no one to stop him. Prince George is unable to help, so the bear decides to take it upon himself to confront the wild man who is said to be the only one who can stop the umagic; the same wild man who turned him into a bear. The hound refuses to be left behind even after the bear takes measures to ensure her safety. Together, the two go on an incredibly dangerous journey up a mountain to the wild man and back in time to the moment when King Richon was made a bear. It's up to Richon and the hound to right the wrongs of the past and prevent the wild cat man from destorying the world. This is a beautifully written story filled with rich details, exciting adventure and a budding romance. I enjoyed it even more than the first book. I think the story flows more smoothly and the adventure is more coherent and exciting. I really liked the emotional turmoil of the bear and the hound who both knew what it was like to have been human and animal and only they could understand each other which made their relationship deeper and more meaningful. I want to know what happens to Prince George and Marit now!

Friday, June 19, 2009

What I've Read This Week *updated*

What I've Read This Week

Daphne: Six Sisters 4 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Beautiful, vain, cool Daphne, the middle Armitage sister is determined to marry a man of her own choosing. On a visit to London she meets a Mr. Cyril Archer, who is also beautiful and cool, and decides they would suit. However, Daphne's vanity and coolness are really a facade to mask her worries about her future and her family. She has learned that beautiful people are left alone and not expected to think so she puts on her mask and returns home. Upon Daphne's return home, she learns her father is preoccupied with trying to waylay the bishop who is arriving to demand the vicar give up the hunt by digging a ditch in the middle of the road. Daphne fears her father will be hanged if the bishop discovers her father's treachery and she attempts to stop the bishop but fears it is too late when she discovers an overturned carriage in the road. She rushes to the carriage and discovers a semi-conscious man and believing him to be the bishop, she confesses and asks for his blessing and is shocked when he kisses her! The man turns out to be the extremely wealthy Mr. Simon Garfield who was arriving to visit friends nearby. When Reverend Armitage discovers Mr. Garfield, he insists on the gentleman's recovering in the vicarage in hopes that Mr. Garfield will keep quiet about the incident. Daphne fears their strong, handsome guest and pretends to be crazy in order to keep him away, which has exactly the opposite effect! Mr. Garfield sees through Daphne's charade and is intrigued. He helps Daphne's father keep his horses and hounds in exchange for getting to know Daphne better. He believes she will quickly become like all the other women he knows and soon bore him, but he doesn't know Daphne at all and doesn't count on her continuing attempt to drive him away. Daphne returns to London to visit Lady Godolphin, who is having her own romantic troubles, and is thrown often into the company of Simon Garfield and is confused about her feelings for him. Meanwhile, Daphne worries about her sullen maid Betty and her sister Annabelle's marital troubles. There are many tears and many laughs before this story reaches the predictable conclusion. This story is much better written than than previous two and has more substance while still retaining the humor and romance. This is my favorite after Minerva.

Diana the Huntress: Six Sisters 4 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Diana is the 5th of the six sisters and wants nothing to do with men other than to be one. She loves to ride and hunt and has her father's permission to hunt with the pack as long as she dresses like a man. Unfortunately, her father's friend, Squire Radford, discovers her disguise and lectures the Rev. Armitage on the impropriety of allowing his daughter to hunt. Diana, scared and upset, dashes off on her horse through a storm and seeks shelter at the mansion of Lord Charles Dantry, a gentleman who has recently returned to the country and moved to the neighborhood. Diana feels her disguise will prevent any improper behavior on the part of Lord Charles, but she remains uneasy around him. He offers to show young "David" around London for a week and Diana feels that is the opportunity for freedom she has always desired. Rev. Armitage decides it's time to send Diana to Lady Godolphin in London for a Season. Diana rebels and dons her manly disguise once more to escape into the hitherto unknown gentleman's world of London where she discovers that being a man is not as much fun as she thought. After her adventures as a member of the opposite sex, Diana returns to womanhood and finds herself being courted by a Mr. Jack Emberton, who is kind and pleasing. Lord Charles Dantry is concerned with Diana's attentions to Mr. Emberton and determined to remain in her life! Diana is scared and conflicted by the different types of attention and the feelings she has for both men. Her father fears Diana's exploits will be discovered and attempts to interfere in her life. Tragedy brings Diana home where she must discover what will truly make her happy. I liked Diana and sympathized with her desire for freedom but somehow I didn't enjoy this story as much as I wanted to. I did love Diana's reaction to her first kiss, which was exactly how I hoped all of her sisters would act! There is very little humor in this story and not enough Lady Godolphin. It's not one of my favorites but it is well-written and has more substance than the first three.

Frederica in Fashion: Six Sisters 6 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Little Frederica is 17 now and is the most plain and bookish of her sisters. She is about to finish her time at a young ladies' seminary and refuses to return home where her father wishes to take the maid as his new wife! Frederica is determined to conquer her shyness and control her own life. She decides to take a position as a maid at the wealthy Duke's
of Pembury's estate. When she stops for refreshments at an inn, she makes the aquaintance of the Duke and surprises him by being impertinent and uninterested in him as a titled peer or a man. Frederica is determined he shall not know of her deception when she enters his household, but she doesn't count on the Duke's perception or that his houseguests would include his demanding ex-mistress and Lady Godolphin! When Frederica's masquerade is discovered, the Duke and Lady Godolphin champion Frederica and insist she come to London for a Season. Frederica's sisters, all happily married, are determined to marry off their little sister and conspire to choose her husband for her. Frederica may not be beautiful but she seems to have caught the eye of the Duke of Pembery and his ex-mistress and an old enemy conspire to bring down the Armitage girls once and for all. Meanwhile, Frederica's father has his own romantic drama, as does Lady Godolphin. Frederica finally has an adventure worthy of a heroine in a romance novel, finds her courage and wins the love of her life. All is resolved neatly in the end. This story had it's funny moments involving the vicar and Lady Godolphin. The plot was resolved too quickly and neatly and could have used one more chapter to tie things up slowly. This was a good read and one of the better books in the series.

The Dreadful Debutante by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Mira Markham has always tried to be the son her father never had. She enjoys dressing like a boy, riding, fishing and hunting. Her childhood was spent in company with their neighbor, Lord Charles Devere who treated Mira as a best friend. Now Lord Charles is back from the wars and in town for the Season and Mrs. Markham has decided to bring Mira and her beautiful, ladylike sister Drusilla to London for a Season. Balls and parties and gowns aren't Mira's idea of fun but she doesn't mind as long as she can see Lord Charles again. She believes that it will be just like old times now that Lord Charles is back, but when she disguises herself as a boy and seeks him out at his lodgings, he is sadly disapointing and disapointed in Mira for not acting ladylike. Even worse for Mira, is the fact that Lord Charles is instantly smitten with her sister. The two sisters compete for attention and Mira ruins her reputation by pushing her sister into a fountain. Confined to the house as punishment, Mira longs for freedom and grabs her chance while everyone else is away. Once again disguised as a boy, she heads out into fashionable London and ends up becoming friends with the Marquess of Grantley who encourages her secret hoydenish behavior and discourages her attracion to Lord Charles. Soon, scandal errupts and the only way to save Mira's reputation is for the Marquess and Mira to become engaged. Feelings and hurt pride get in the way before true love prevails. I liked Mira and her tomboy activities and I feel sorry for women of that time period but the story itself was pretty weak and insubstantial. The characters were stereotypical and mostly unlikeable. I did learn to like and appreciate Mira's sister but her transformation was too quick and unrealistic. This book just isn't as charming as Chesney's series books.

The Perfect Gentleman by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Lord Andrew Childe is perfect in every way, from his impeccible clothes to his correct behavior. He does the right thing for offering marriage to Miss Ann Worthy, whom he thinks will make an excellent bride due to her advanced age of 28 and her lack of emotion and for her correct behavior. Lord Andrew's calm life is shattered when his mother, the Duchess of Parkworth, takes in beautiful, orphaned Penelope Mortimor, a country squire's daughter. Lord Andrew realizes that his mother has taken Penelope for a Season because the young lady's beauty will quite outshine her rivals. However, no one counted on the fact that Penelope does not want to be married and only wishes for a cottage near her former home! Penelope is outspoken and intelligent enough to make her wishes known when suitors come calling. Lord Andrew often finds himself in Penelope's company having wild adventures thanks to her poor eyesight! Miss Worthy becomes increasingly jealous of the attention her fiance pays to Penelope and Miss Worthy's rejected suitor tries to bring about an end to the engagement. Little did he suspect that Lord Andrew's perfect countenance was crumbling with every encounter with Penelope. Lord Andrew attempts to be correct but feelings and emotions win out in the end. I really liked this book. It was loosely based on Pride and Prejudice without being a copycat. Penelope was intelligent and witty and I really related to her. The romance got a little too "warm" towards the end but it didn't get too graphic. I highly recommend this book to fans of Pride and Prejudice.

Miss Fiona's Fancy by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Miss Fiona Grant is the daughter of a Scottish nobleman with a passion for gambling. She has lived her entire life in the Highlands of Scotland until her 19th birthday. Fiona's Papa decides to repair the family fortunes by coming to London and studying for the English bar and if that doesn't work, marry Fiona off to the wealthiest gentleman she takes a fancy to. Fiona learns that the Marquess of Clevenden is the most eligible bachelor of the ton, even if he is a trifle old at 37, and he is determined not to marry. Gambling fever runs through Fiona's veins and rears its' ugly head when she learns of the Marquess and Fiona bets three young ladies 3,000 pounds each that she can make the Marquess propose to her! The Marquess seems to fall for the bait but Fiona's illegitimate cousin Lizzie is determined to ruin the game. The Marquess goes along with the game and finds himself enchanted by Fiona and falling in love. However, he has to make Fiona love him, something he never dreamed he'd have to do! The Marquess teaches Fiona about growing up and falling in love, but the three silly friends and one determined cousin may ruin everything. The plot was silly and not all that interesting. There were some fairly steamy love scenes that seemed out of place and didn't add to the story. This was not one of Chesney's best novels.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week

The Devil's Paintbox by Victoria McKernan -- YA Historical Fiction
Set in 1865, this book is part prairie survival story, part Oregon Trail story and part settling of the Pacific Northwest and all quality historical fiction. Teenagers Aiden and Maddie Lynch are the only survivors of their once numerous family. Their parents tried hard to escape famine in Ireland only to meet more difficulties in America. Now Aiden and Maddie have barely survived a difficult winter and are near death themselves. They make the aquaintance of one Jefferson J. Jackson, a wagon guide on the Oregon Trail looking for recruits to work in a logging camp out west in Seattle. He allows the two teens to join the wagon train west and Aiden will work off their debt in the logging camps. The trail is long and difficult and not without danger and some people are more friendly than others. Friendly Maddie becomes friendly with the young doctor, Carlos Perez and tries to help him escape his demons and discover what it takes to become a doctor. Aiden befriends some Nez Perce Indians along the way and learns to appreciate them and their way of life. The traveles soon discover first hand how dangerous western travel is and how tragedy can occur in a single instant and the prospect of a better life doesn't seem so exciting. When smallpox, the devil's paintbox, threatens Aiden's Indian friends, he must rediscover his heart, come to grips with his emotions and decide whether to help his friends. This is a long and serious book and not for younger readers. The author does not hold back from the harsh realities of life in the 19th century. The writing is rich and detailed and the story is gritty and gripping. This is a wonderful coming-of-age story that should not be missed by teens and adults!

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith -- YA Historical Fiction
Ida Mae Jones has always dreamed of flying, but in 1940s Louisiana girls don't fly, especially not "colored" girls like Ida Mae. Ida Mae is expected to stay home and work on the family's strawberry farm and do her part to help the war effort while men like her brother are off fighting in World War II. Ida Mae continues to dream of flying and is frustrated and feeling helpless until her little brother shows her a newspaper clipping of lady pilots called WASP (Women's Air Force Service Pilots) and changes her life forever. Ida Mae wants to be a WASP though her mother doesn't approve. Ida Mae also knows that she won't be accepted if it's known that she's "colored" and she must make the difficult decision to "pass" as white in order to accomplish her dreams. This is a wonderful story about a young woman facing double discrimination and her inner struggle to have a meaningful life and stay true to herself. The first person naration is particular effective in internalizing Ida Mae's struggle with her identity and the reader experiences all of her emotions in this thrilling story. This is a must read for older kids, teens and adults.

atch of the Season by Regina Scott -- Regency Romanc 
Allison Munroe has been looking forward to her debut season her whole life and now her sister is happily married to a country Squire, it's her turn to make her come out. Finally, she thinks her family will take her seriously instead of treating her like a child and she tries to curb her forthright nature and be the proper young lady that gentlemen expect her to be. Before the season even starts she catches the eye of a rich Marquis who desires to make her his bride, unbeknownst to her. When her childhood tormenter shows up in London with his brother, now her sister's husband, Allison can't stop thinking about how handsome he has become and how fun and exciting he is compared to the Marquis. Unfortunately, Allison's mother detests Geoffrey and adores the Marquis. Geoffrey is banished from London after nearly ruining Allison's come out and he is determined to win her heart and hand in marriage. When Allison returns home after the Season with the Marquis, Geoffrey becomes more determined than ever to marry Allison and engages in a rivalry with the Marquis. Allison must figure out whom she loves and take control of her own life. The story is very drawn out and I missed actually seeing Allison's Season. After her come out ball, the story moves forward and we only hear about what happened during the Season. The Marquis starts off rather bland but once in the country, his character changes and develops and I liked him better. I thought Geoffrey acted like a spoiled brat and as much as we were told Allison was forthright and original, she spent much of the novel dithering and whining about how cruel her mother was and her character was never really developed. This seems to be a follow up to (a) previous novel(s) which I have not read. I think I would have liked the story better if I had known the characters more. This isn't a good stand-alone book.

Minerva: Six Sisters 1 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Rev. Charles Armitage, a country vicar, loves nothing more than hunting and hounds but alas for him, more mundane problems face him when a series of poor farming techniques and bad harvests, a wife who continually seeks "treatments" for her "spasms" combined with his excess of spending to create financial difficulties. The Reverend realizes he can send his daughters to London to marry and chooses his eldest, Minerva, to visit a distant relative for her come-out. Prim, proper Minerva takes an instant dislike to London manners while on a trip to a nearby village with her Papa. She is insulted by so-called ladies and literally runs into a fashionable gentleman, Lord Sylvester Comfrey. When Miranda arrives in London, she discovers her elderly chaperone, Lady Godolphin, is also on the hunt for a husband (#4) or at the very least a gentleman to warm her bed. Miranda runs afoul of London Society with her moralizing, preachy manners and verges on the edge of social ruin. Lord Sylvester takes her under his wing to ensure her success, little dreaming of the results. Meanwhile, Minerva's next youngest sister Annabelle attracts her own suitor whom her family does not approve and her normally indulgent Papa must take a stand. This is a true comedy of manners romance novel with many hilarous encounters between Minerva and Lord Sylvester and risque malapropisms from Minerva's chaperone. I loved this novel right up until the last few chapters when Minerva makes a decision that is totally out of character and the author goes a little too far in describing what happens. I think I will enjoy this series best of all the Chesney series' I have read so far!

The Taming of Annabelle: Six Sisters 2 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Annabelle Armitage, the beautiful and spoiled younger sister of Minerva, is intensely jealous of her sister's success. She feels certain that Minerva has martyred herself on the altar of marriage and that Lord Sylvester can not possibly love Minerva but surely could love Annabelle instead. During a house party given by Lord Sylvester's parents Annabelle embarrasses herself and learns how much Sylvester and Minerva care for each other, however, she is determined to make her sister jealous and eventually land Sylvester for herself. Peter, the Marquess of Brabington, returns from the wars a hero and in ill health. He allows his feelings for Annabelle to overcome his better judgement and proposes to Annabelle. Heady with triumph, Annabelle insists on marrying Peter on the same day as Minerva, but her plan to trump Minerva backfires and very nearly ends her marriage before it even really begins. Helped along by Rev. Armitage and the squire, Peter tries to teach Annabelle a lesson in love and happiness but a wicked rake is courting Annabelle and his wicked schemes may prevent Annabelle from growing up and achieving the happiness she's always dreamed of. I didn't like this book as well as most of Chesney's others. Annabelle is very young and acts like a typical bratty teenager. I dislike stories about marital misunderstandings to begin with and I couldn't really come to like Annabelle or care about her very much. There are some amusing moments involving Annabelle's father trying to protect his daughter which prevent the book from being a complete dud. 

Deirdre and Desire: Six Sisters 3 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
With his two eldest daughters married and off to Paris to join the peace celebrations, Rev. Armitage has become excessivly vain and is in need of funds again to buy more hounds for his famous kennel. What better way to raise money than to marry off a beautiful daughter? This time, the vicar decides on an arranged marriage for his middle daughter Deirdre to Lord Harry Desire (yes, Chesney actually called her hero Desire) who needs to marry in order to inherit his uncle's fortune. Unfortunately for her papa, Deidre is a hopeless romantic who refuses to marry without love! Deirdre is known as the clever one in the family and she is certain she will know when she's in love and that her infatuation with her father's enemy Guy Wentwater is love and what she feels for Lord Harry is not. Deiredre thinks Lord Harry is lazy and not very bright though he has a knack of knowing exactly what she has been planning and a way of rescuing her that produces wanton feelings! Deirdre must learn to grow up as she falls in love, gets her heart broken and falls in love again while old enemies threaten to ruin her family. I didn't like Deirdre much better than Annabelle. Though she believed she was clever and had a reputation for being a bluestocking, she was just a silly, naive teenager like her sister and her adventures didn't really interest me much. Lord Harry was far more interesting and there was a story that should have been developed more. I did like knowing what happened to Minerva and Annabelle though and they and their husbands make cameo appearances. There are a few funny moments involving secondary characters but overall, this book was fairly boring. The next sister Daphne is mentioned quite a lot in this story as being vain and there are hints at her story to come.

John Adams

John Adams

After waiting over a year, I finally got to see the whole John Adams mini series from HBO. I enjoyed this look at one of the founding fathers. Despite being quite knowledgeable about early American history and living in New England almost my whole life, I have never visited the Adams homestead or knew much about John Adams. I enjoyed getting to know him but he came across as kind of unbending and a blustery fool. He believed so firmly that he was right and everyone else was wrong, it made him a lot of political enemies and I disliked that aspect of his character. It seems that at times John Adams did not enjoy his political career and that Abigail was more motivated to be in the political sphere than John. I liked him better once he retired from public life in his old age. I really admired Abigail and the way she was able to counsel her husband on his political career, raise and family and take care of a farm pretty much on her own. (Surely they had servants?) She must have been an incredibly intelligent and strong woman. I liked Abigail much more than John.

The visuals were very realistic and incredibly detailed. They really portrayed colonial America as a gritty and difficult place to live. The scenes of Boston during the Boston Massacre with streets covered in snow and the water pump frozen over were particularly effective. I also thought a scene involving smallpox inoculation was disgustingly detailed. Some of the matte paintings in the background looked fake but the foreground always looked real and I believed the scenes were actually shot in Philadelphia and in the New England countryside until I saw the making of featurette which explained how they built almost all the sets from scratch. I liked seeing how the landscape and buildings changed over the course of Adams' life, especially Washington, DC which was my home for a few years. 18th century Europe was an incredible contrast to America and the European visuals were very stunning!

The costumes were incredible. The clothing really suited each character/historical figure and the clothing styles changed appropriately over time. The only complaint there was baby Thomas who wore pants instead of a short dress. John and Abigail age over 50 years and the makeup was very well done. John's teeth were particularly amazing as they became yellowed and blakened by old age and too many cigars. They were pretty gruesome to look at and I'm sure they were probably not as gross as teeth must have been in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The acting was excellent. Paul Giamatti was great and really adapted and became Adams. He didn't quite wow me in the beginning but he was especially wonderful as aging and elderly Adams. Laura Linney was also very good as the always patient but emotionally strong and intelligent Abigail. Sarah Polley deserves special recognition for portraying daughter Abigail Adams Smith and undergoing a mastectomy without anesthesia! I didn't like Jefferson so much. He wasn't as engaging as the Jefferson I met in Colonial Williamsburg. I also thought Washington seemed kind of mild but it made him human.

My biggest complaint was the timeline. When the time frame advanced, it wasn't very clear when the events were taking place. The on-screen historical facts explained when some of the events happened and the timeline of the movie didn't always seem to follow what happened in real life. The best example of that being the Adams children; Nabby and Johnny (John Quincy) were toddlers during the Boston Massacre and Charles was born later that year after the death of baby Susannah. In this production, Abigail, Johnny and Charles were young children about 10, 9, and 6. I can understand the necessity of using older children for this type of production though.
My second big complaint was the odd accents of many of the characters. Abigail and Nabby seemed to have a sort of English accent and many other people had what sounded to me like English or Irish accents. I thought Thomas Jefferson should have a nice Virginia drawl, which is the way Colonial Williamsburg's Jefferson speaks.

Other quibbles include not seeing my "friend" from Colonial Williamsburg Peyton Randolph as the president of the First Contintential Congress. I also did not see Samuel Ward, Rhode Island's delegate to the Continential Congress who died in March 1776! I read his diary and was curious to see what he looked like. I did like seeing Stephen Hopkins who I have also "met" at his home in Providence. No one knows what Hopkins looked like as he was a Quaker and never had a portriat painted so it was fun to put a face to a name.

I enjoyed watching this life story of one of our founding fathers. I learned a lot about the founding of our country and the lessons taught in grade school came back when I heard some of the political discussion and I also knew some of the events from primary sources I have looked at. I would like to see a similar series about Thomas Jefferson, if they could delicately handle the issue of slavery and Jefferson's supposed relationship with Sally Hemings, his slave.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Miser of Mayfair: A House For the Season 1 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Another series by Chesney about down-on-their-luck characters. This time, the series revolves around the servants of the town house 67 Clarges Street: the comic butler Rainbird, ladylike housekeeper Mrs. Middleton, wild Scotch cook Angus MacGregor, beautiful Housemaid Alice, Chambermaid Jenny, little Scullery Maid Lizzie and young Pot Boy Dave. The house is said to be cursed and the servants are cheated and blackmailed out of their money by the Duke's wicked agent Palmer and have since become a little family because of the hardships they share. They hope and pray the house will be let and good times will come again. Their prayers are answered when miserly Mr. Jamie Sinclair of Edinburgh, Scotland dies and leaves his beautiful ward to his brother Roderick with no money for her keep. When Mr. Roderick Sinclair realizes he can marry this girl off to the highest bidder, he sells his meager possessions and heads off to London to 67 Clarges Street. A spring storm forces the mail coach to stop at the home of a gentleman, Mr. Pardon, where Mr. Sinclair must protect his sweet but unintelligent ward from their predatory host. Fiona meets the notorious misogynist the Earl of Harrington and charms him with her simple speech and beautiful looks. Once in London, Mr. Sinclair poses as a miser in order to make the ton think Fiona is an heiress. Her looks and reported fortune make her the toast of the town and popular with the gentlemen. However, the only man for Fiona is the Earl of Harrington and she confides her secrets to the amiable butler who helps her win her heart's desire. This book had a darker tone than most of Chesney's other novels. I really couldn't care for any of the characters because they all seemed so stereotypical and two dimensional. The story ends happily and predictably with a dramatic adventure followed by a wedding which resolved the story a little too quickly and neatly. This is not my favorite Chesney novel.

Plain Jane: A House For the Season 2 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Poor Jane Hart has the misfortune to be the younger sister of the stunningly beautiful Euphemia who their pushy mother feels will be sure to take the ton by storm during the Season. Jane doesn't mind not having a come out as long as she holds hope of seeing her hero, Lord Tregarthan again. The servants at 67 Clarges street must learn to deal with the tightfisted and bossy Mrs. Hart and get to know her French lady's maid. Jane befriends the servants with her kindness and mild mannered nature and learns the gossip about the house's curse. Soon she becomes involved with solving the murder of the young and beautiful Clara, a previous tenant assisted by Lord Tregarthan, whom Jane is in love with despite his appearance as a fribble. Things aren't always what they seem but Jane is determined to solve the murder and win her love's hand in marriage. The mystery part of the story was a true mystery to me; I didn't figure it out before the plot was revealed. The rest of the story didn't interest me too much. Jane was too sweet and innocent and kind to be interesting and Lord Tregarthan cam across as an empty-headed fashion plate. Jane's family members were awful and her mother and father kind of reminded me of the Bennets in Pride and Prejudice. I will read the rest of the series but it's not as fun as School for Manners.

The Wicked Godmother: A House For the Season 3 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Twenty-five year old country beauty Harriet Metcalf is made godmother to the eighteen-year-old twins of Sir Benjamin Hayner, a neighbor and close friend. Harriet takes the twins off the London for the Season to stay at 67 Clarges Street and hopes to find husbands for the twins. She thinks she's found suitable matches in the Marquess of Huntingdon and his friend, Lord Vere, but the gentlemen may have interest elsewhere that Harriet did not expect, especially since every time she meets the Marquess, disaster lies in the way and quarrels ensue. Harriet can't ignore the strange feelings she has for the Marquess any more than she can ignore the nasty gossip about her spreading around town. She turns to the servants for help and they are only too happy to make things right for the kind and generous tenant they have grown to care for. I liked this book best of the series so far. Harriet was a little too sweet and naive for my tastes, but I liked the Marquess. He was a nicely rounded character with motives behind his rakishness. I also liked how this story stuck mainly to the romance/comedy of manners plot than veering off into an adventure.

Rake's Progress: A House For the Season 4 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
67 Clarges Street is let for the season by Lord Guy Carlton, who, upon returning from the wars, decides to sample all London has to offer in the way of debauchery. After a wild night of partying, the servants are shocked at their new master's level of dissipation and feel what he needs is a good woman to help him settle down. Help comes in the form of Miss Esther Jones, a strict spinster in charge of two younger siblings. Miss Jones meets Lizzie, the scullery maid, by chance, and learns of Rainbird's school for servants which piques her interest and cultivates her friendship with Rainbird. Miss Jones learns to see servants as more than just appendages to the household and she soon comes to value Rainbird's advice. Rainbird and the servants of 67 Clarges take it upon themselves to thrust their master and Miss Jones together at every opportunity. They also have to deal with their mistrust of Lord Guy's Spanish manservant, Manuel, with unexpected results. Miss Jones is repulsed by Lord Guy at first, but learns to trust his judgment on matters of Society. Soon Miss Jones is launched upon Society and Lord Guy must help her out of trouble with predictable results. This story started off shockingly with Lord Guy and his wild, disgusting party, but he redeemed himself after I learned he was suffering from what we would call PTSD. The story turned me off again at the end when the author chose to include a make out scene and a bedroom scene in which Lord Guy did not act like a gentleman in love and Esther Jones turned missish again. In between the beginning and the end was a good story.

The Adventuress: A House For the Season 5 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
The servants of 67 Clarges Street need one more Season before they can escape and buy the pub they've always dreamed of and hope the very rich Earl of Fleetwood will take the house, however, upon inspection he decides not to take the house. The servants hope for a kind and generous tenant, and fear their hopes are in vain when Miss Emily Goodenough and her uncle move in. Miss Emily seems clutch-fisted and a bit top-lofty, and the servants, fearing they won't earn enough money this Season, try to drive the Goodenoughs away. Unfortunately, their scheme goes awry when Lord Fleetwood shows up to inspect the house again and makes the acquaintance of Miss Goodenough. The servants felt sorry for what they had done when they sense that beneath her tough facade, Miss Goodenough is scared and vulnerable. Helped along by the servants at 67 Clarges and Lord Fleetwood, the Goodenoughs are launched into Society and achieve their wildest dreams, but they have secrets and so does the earl and true love may not be good enough to overcome past prejudices. All comes right in the end and true love prevails. This story is a true romance with real and honest characters who exhibit real human emotions. The last quarter of the book seemed like it was going to go too far off on a wild adventure into cliche land, but it didn't and the ending was very realistic and touching. There was also a bit of humor in this story, which I always enjoy. This is the best of all Chesney's books so far.

Rainbird's Revegnge: A House For the Season 6 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
The servants at 67 Clarges St. dream of getting revenge on the cheating agent Palmer and open their own pub. They have just enough money and need the perfect opportunity to enact their scheme when the Duke of Pelham finally shows up to take residence at the previously forgotten 67 Clarges. Also living on Clarges Street is the beautiful, but vain, Jenny Sutherland, come from the country with her maiden aunt who thinks Jenny lacks town bronze. Jenny feels certain she has only to take her pick from any available gentleman and he'll fall at her feet, however, her hopes for the Season are dashed when the Duke of Pelham takes Jenny in instant dislike for being too sure of herself. Jenny also dislikes the Duke for his haughtiness and sets out to prove that she can easily charm any other man. Meanwhile, the servants at 67 Clarges are changing and growing along with their hopes and dreams. None has the courage to tell any of the others what they really hope will happen in the future and Rainbird must find the perfect opportunity to expose Palmer or they will be chained to servitude forever. Much of the story is dedicated to the servants, leaving little time to develop the characters of Jenny and the Duke (who doesn't seem to have a first name). As a consequence, their story progressed too quickly and ended too neatly. The servants' plot was more interesting but had a bittersweet ending I wasn't expecting. This final volume in the series feels rather flat to be a conclusion and I was a little disapointed.

Overall, this series wasn't as good as School for Manners or even Traveling Matchmaker. It lacked the humor and warmth of the other two and seemed more along the lines of the traditional Regency novels which focus more on adventure than romance.