Saturday, June 26, 2010

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

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ornrose and the Rake by Geraldine Burrows -- Regency Romance
Miss Verity Thornrose is the last of a line of a respectable family who are known for their principles of reform and good works. Raised in the tradition of reform by her aunts, Faith, Hope and Charity, Verity believes it is her mission in life to help the unfortunate. Her determination brings her to rescue the pretty Irish girl Deidre from a life walking the streets. Deidre is young and high spirited and allows herself to be lured into going to a masquerade with her former employer's husband (who is the reason she's on the streets). Rushing to rescue Deidre, Verity finds herself denied admission to the masquerade because she can not pay the fee. The door attendant suggests that Verity ask one of the gentlemen lurking outside and Verity searches until she finds her Good Samaritan. Unbeknownst to Verity, her "Good Samaritan" is Alaric, the Earl of Brathmere, a notorious rake and libertine who has mistaken her for a Cyprian! Alaric is puzzled by this woman who dresses like a Quaker and speaks like she's Oxford education but yet stirs his passions. Verity manages to rescue her maid from a villain of the streets and depart with her virtue in tact. Alaric is asked to lend an air of superiority to his young debutante cousin's ball where he discovers Verity's true identity and sets out to seduce her. Verity insists on dragging Alaric into her plan for Good Works and Deidre finds herself in trouble again. A daring rescue by Alaric, Verity and her servants places Verity in great danger. Her self-righteous Puritan cousin Ocativian is determined to marry her and make her his Goodwife and together they will rid the world of demons, including Alaric. Alaric must reconcile himself to feelings he didn't know he had in order to get what he really wants. This is a long and complicated story. It seems to be a parody of 18th century Gothic novels with each chapter being titled with a clever description and the entire Thornrose family being named after virtues, including their animals. However, if the story was meant to be funny, it wasn't. I found Verity annoying and Alaric disgusting. The characters weren't well developed at all and behaved with a single-minded purpose and then just randomly developed passionate feelings. The villain was the most interesting character and he was totally crazy. I enjoyed the subplot about the maid Deidre more than I did the main romance. There are a few sensual scenes but they can be overlooked and not affect the plot of the novel. The story is told in third-person omniscient which makes it hard to follow all the characters as their story lines progress. I did really like the period details. It's obvious the author has done a lot of research on the time period and has a talent for recreating the nitty gritty details of life in the 19th century that don't often appear in romance novels. I don't think I'll be reading the sequel, Miss Sedgewick and the Spy.

A Lord For Olivia by June Calvin -- Regency Romance
Lord Edmund Debham returns from the wars to be denied his inheritance and cast out of the family by his cruel older brother. With nothing but a few coins, the clothes on his back and his trusty horse, Edmund wanders across England pondering his situation. He stops at a hedge tavern to rest and finds himself entering into a high stakes card game with a young gentleman with a large purse. Thinking to teach the young man a lesson, Edmund seeks to relieve Jason Ormhill of his purse, however, the more Jason drinks, the better he plays and Edmund ends up literally losing himself. The wager: Edmund stays a year on the Ormhill estate to learn land manage and he marries Jason's older sister Olivia. Jason is eager to travel and explore the world but feels duty bound to protect Olivia until she marries. Jason thinks Edmund would make his sister the perfect husband, but she has other ideas. Olivia Ormhill is a beautiful, intelligent woman who is more than capable of handling her own estate. Her father recognized her intelligence in his will, stating that she should have complete control over her own lands even after marriage. The catch is, she needs to marry a lord or the lands will default to her brother. Jason thinks Edmund is the perfect lord for Olivia but Olivia has no interest in marriage any longer. She had once been engaged and had her heart broken and no longer trusts men. She believes Edmund is a foolhardy gamester and fortune hunter and wants nothing to do with the wager. Another wager shows her a different side of Edmund, one she could learn to appreciate, but she still doesn't quite trust him. Her former fiance, Lord Corbright comes back into Olivia's life and wants to rekindle their romance. He seems sincere but Olivia isn't sure she can trust him either. She must discover the true nature of both men and decide where her heart lies and whether she will be able to find happiness in marriage. This is a bit of an unusual plot since the hero defies conventions. The heroine and the other characters are fairly stereotypical though and then in this character-driven story, the author introduces a villain to complicate the already complicated plot. The villain reminded me of William Walter Elliot from Persuasion so I was suspicious of his motives and thought Olivia was a bit of an idiot to even think about taking him back. The romance didn't really do anything for me. It developed nicely and realistically, but yet I don't feel that Olivia and Edmund spent enough time together (at least on page) to really have any chemistry. I liked the secondary romance much better and was even more interested in Jason's plot than Olivia and Edmund. This is an average, forgettable story and not one that makes me want to read any others by the author unless she publishes one about Jason! *High sticklers beware that I believe there are some inaccuracies in this story

Friday, June 25, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week: Part II

The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette (Young Royals) by Carolyn Meyer -- YA Historical Fiction
Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna von Habsburg-Lothringen is the youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. The Empress has many rules for Maria who will one day be the Queen of France. Maria chafes under the strict rules of her mother and does her best to ignore them when she can, but that becomes increasingly difficult after her betrothal to Prince Louis-Auguste of France. Upon her marriage to the dauphin, at the age of fourteen, Marie Antoinette, as she is now known, tries to do her best to follow the rules. For young Marie, life in the French court is vastly different from life back home in Austria. It is more elegant and elaborate, there is no privacy and there are enemies everywhere. Even worse is her husband, a young, awkward teenage boy with no interest in doing his duty to produce an heir to the throne. Marie struggles to win the affections of her husband, his grandfather and the rest of the court while still being true to herself. It's not always easy and sometimes a girl just has to break the rules to stay sane and happy. When the old King dies, Marie Antoinette finds herself in a position of wealth and power and is only too happy to promote her own interests away from the prying eyes of the court. She prefers to live a "simple" life in the country at her very own pleasure palace, the only place where she can truly be herself. This novel imagines Marie Antoinette's thoughts and feelings as she struggles to grow from young princess to adult Queen. Marie Antoinette tells her story through to their failed escape attempt and hands the quill over to her daughter who fills the reader in on her thoughts and feelings about the turmoil of the French Revolution. The author creates the perfect voice for Marie Antoinette: spoiled and naive but never cruel. She was a victim of the royal system: brought up to enjoy her position and wealth and taught nothing of the outside world. She was a young girl married to a young boy, neither of whom were competent enough to lead or understand why the peasants were so angry. I liked the little ways in which the dauphine tried to rebel and sort of felt sorry for her but she still comes across as an empty headed spoiled child even though she never actually said "Let them eat cake." This is a good addition to the Young Royals series and is written for a slightly older than the books about the Tudors. The writing is better than In Mozart's Shadow but perhaps not quite equal to her earliest books. Still, fans of Meyer's earlier works won't be disappointed in this one.

Wishing for Tomorrow: The Sequel to A Little Princess by Hilary McKay and Nick Maland
Life at Miss Minchin's school is dull and dreary until Sara Crewe arrives. The little girls, led by Lottie, are fascinated by Sara's stories and Ermengarde finds a friend for the first time. Then Sarah loses all her material possessions and is banished to the attic, but never stops acting like a princess. Ermengarde treasures Sara's friendship while being secretly jealous of Sara's growing friendship with Becky. When the magic comes, Ermengarde hopes Sara will share, but then Sara goes away with the Indian gentleman and life at Miss Minchin's becomes more unbearable than ever. Miss Minchin's health rapidly declines, Lottie becomes even more unruly, Lavinia develops a passion for learning thanks to their new neighbor, and poor Ermengarde is even more lonely than ever. Presiding over the school is Alice, the new maid from the country, with strange ideas about the benefits of fresh air and teaching children to work. Meanwhile, Sara and Becky are enjoying themselves by the seaside. Sara sends letters and gifts back to the school, but Ermengarde remains miserable and writes letters to Sara that she never sends. It takes an unexpected visitor and a serious crisis for Ermengarde to realize how selfish she has been. This is a slow moving companion to the lovely early 20th century classic. The first half of the book simply recounts the events of the original before continuing on with what happens next. There isn't much plot, just a series of endless, repetitive days wherein Ermengarde sulks, Lottie behaves badly and Lavinia teaches herself something new. The characterization is also rather weak. The characters don't really grow, they just sort of exist as flat, two-dimensional stereotypes of adolescent girls. I had hoped to see what happens next for Sara and Becky, but they only appear in letters and briefly at the end. The illustrations are too modern in style for a Victorian book and didn't add anything to the story. I would skip this book if you're a fan of the original.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week Part I . . .

Twin Peril by Susannah Carleton -- Regency Romance
This book is a companion to A Rake's Redem
ption and the final volume in The Six series. Michael Winslow, the Duke of Fairfax is being pressured by his grandmother to choose a Duchess. Michael, a shy, scholarly man, would rather have a wife and companion than choose a bride for her family and wealth. Michael has one lady in mind for his bride, Lady Deborah Woodhurst. Deborah also likes Michael for his own sake rather than his title. He is kind and shares her interest in music, but she isn't sure he can tell her apart from her twin Diana. Diana is counting on the fact that Fairfax can't tell her from her sister because she's out to catch the highest peer with the greatest wealth for her husband and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Deborah wonders how she and her sister can have such different outlooks on life and dreams of finding a man who will love her for herself. Michael must reveal the man behind the ducal mask if he wants to earn the love of Lady Deborah. This is a nice, sweet story that takes place at the same time as A Rake's Redemption. Michael is a too-good-to-be-true hero who is kind and shy but able to stand up for himself. Deborah is an interesting young woman but she doesn't really stand out as being anything exceptional. There are some interesting descriptions of music and musical instruments woven into the plot and I would have liked to have "seen" an actual performance from members of The Six or at least the performance from Deborah and Fairfax. The ending was a bit rushed because it takes place at the same time as A Rake's Redemption. I liked the sweet relationship between Deborah and Michael but was confused by Diana's behavior. When she was first introduced in The Marriage Campaign, she seemed nice enough but then she became rude and mean without any sort of explanation. Though some of the scenes are from her point of view, she doesn't really reveal why she's such a witch. My other complaint is about the series as a whole: the heroes (with the exception of George) always want to protect and cherish the heroines and none of the heroes want to marry Tina, who is a hoyden. Tina is my favorite member of The Six and I hoped she would find someone who would like her for her impulsive behavior. I recommended this series to those who like sweet, quiet Regency romances. 

y Lady Inkeeper by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance
Lyndell Markham is bored with society. At the grand old age of 24 she has lost faith in men and decided never to marry, unless she finds a man who can truly capture her heart. A shocking letter from her wastrel stepbrother Jasper Riddley reveals that he has been involved in running a backwater country inn, smuggling, highway robbery and someone has been committing treason at his inn and wants him dead. Jasper has gone into hiding and begs Lyndell to take care of things. Though exasperated by her relative's spinelessness, Lyndell seizes the chance for adventure. She disguises herself as Jasper Riddley's frumpy middle-aged spinster sister turned innkeeper in hopes of catching a spy. Lyndell enlists the aid of trusted servants to help her run the inn. Lyndell didn't expect to encounter a savage dog, a shy stable boy, and a bar maid who serves guests more than just food and drinks. Nor did she count on playing chaperon to a beautiful dimwitted heiress fleeing an arranged marriage to a rakish Marquis and neither lady ever expected the Marquis of Cheyene to show up at the inn! After returning from the wars two months ago, Cheyne has been living life to the fullest: drinking, gambling, consorting with demireps and even dueling with his own cousin! However, Cheyene has one last bit of business that the war office has asked him to take care of. This business takes Cheyne and his cousin Willie to a certain inn where he encounters a stuffy spinster, a beautiful maid and a dazzling damsel who may or may not be the woman for him, depending on what he's interested in. This mad cap adventure brings Lyndell more danger and excitement that she ever bargained for as well as new feelings she's never encountered before. This novel is a hybrid of a traditional Regency and romantic comedy. I love romantic comedies and I enjoyed this one a lot. Metzger's heroines are always independent and appealing to the modern reader, even if they probably aren't very realistic for their time. Lyndell fits the bill for an engaging heroine and even Cheyne is likable and charming for all he's a rake and I couldn't help but root for the unlikely pair. The secondary characters were amusing and good foils for the primary characters, though they were rather stereotypical for the genre. This book is funny and romantic and a little bit sensual without going overboard. It's definitely one to read.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Agency: A Spy in the House

 What I've Read This Week

The Agency 1: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee -- YA Historical Fiction/Mystery
Orphaned at an early age, Mary Lang was left to fend for herself in the streets of Victorian London through thieving. At the age of 12, she was caught and sentenced to hang, until a kind stranger stepped in. Mary is given a lady's education that will prepare her for any of the occupations open to women at that time. Not satisfied with the idea of marriage or in any of the career options open to her, Mary's teachers take her into their confidence to enlist her as the newest member of The Agency, a female spy organization. Mary's quick wits and feistiness make her the perfect candidate for the dangerous job of spy. Under a false name, Mary assumes the roll of demure companion to the spoiled beauty Angelica Thorold, daughter of a wealthy merchant. Mr. Thorold is suspected of shady business dealings and it's up to Mary to listen and learn all she can. Not content to sit idly by, Mary takes it upon herself to get more involved. Soon she's deep into a web of secrets and lies, assisted by a handsome, arrogant young businessman who always seems to bring out the worst in her. Mary is a plucky and intelligent heroine. She's a tomboy, yet she understands the restrictions placed on her and publicly refuses to break the bounds of propriety. I admire the author for creating a heroine who is both likable and realistic. The mysteries are cleverly planned and the clues so subtly planted that even I couldn't figure them out. There's also humor and a hint of romance in addition to the adventure, which make for a great read. My only complaints are that Mary's education and training are rushed right through and I would like to have seen what kind of spy training she was given. The writing is also a little simplistic and lacks the period language of similar books like Mairelon the Magician (by Patricia C. Wrede). I look forward to reading the next in the series when it is released. Fans of the Bloody Jack adventures by L.A. Meyer, Mairelon the Magician, 19th century fanatics and mystery lovers will all enjoy this book!

Monday, June 14, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Birds of a Feather by Allison Lane -- Regency Romance
Joanna Patterson, a homely vicar's daughter, has been hired as companion to Miss Harriet Wicksfield to act as chaperon for Harriet's first season, screen Harriet's suitors and keep Lady Wicksfield from over-spending her budget. All this is a tall order for a daydreamer like Joanna, but she prides herself on her intelligence and interest in helping others. Joanna's interests lead her into disaster as she continually crashes into Lord Sedgewick Wylie. Sedge is a dandy and a leader of the ton who prides himself on his perfect public appearance. Whenever he encounters Joanna, he meets with disaster. Joanna becomes tongue-tied around the arrogant lord and he believes her to be a brainless idiot. Joanna strikes up a friendship with Sedge's brother Reggie, Lord Ellisham and work together to find Harriet the perfect husband. Sedge is certain that Joanna is a desperate fortune hunter out to ruin his brother and their family. Sedge is determined to separate them, yet can't help but be attracted to Joanna's womanly figure. A public scandal and unhealthy family relationships create a lot of drama and nearly prevent these birds of a feather from realizing they belong together. The hero and heroine of this novel are truly not birds of a feather. Sedge is a rude, arrogant, selfish, snobby, pig who is nothing but cruel to Joanna. Joanna begins to understand that Sedge has a hidden side to him that's vastly different from his public persona but the story from his point of view does not develop his character sufficiently to really understand him or like him. This book is a sequel to a Bird in Hand, which I did not read. Perhaps if I had, I would understand Sedge's anger better but the story should really be able to stand on its' own. I liked Reggie much better and he would have made a better husband for Joanna. I was more interested in poor Harriet's fate than what happened between Joanna and Sedge. Needless to say, I did not like this book and won't be looking for the prequel.

Bething's Folly by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance
Lord Alexander Carleton is a bachelor Corinthian who has no interest in marriage, until a summons from his father, the Duke of Carlyle, reveals the Duke's ill health will prevent him from knowing his son's wife and heirs unless Alex weds soon. Alex promises and his mother sets out looking for a suitable bride for her son. Alex despises all the young debutantes, until a chance encounter in his father's library introduces him to Miss Elizabeth Bething. Elizabeth is outspoken and unaffected; she is also the owner of a racing stable! Alex is captivated by Elizabeth and sets out to woo her with the help of his best friend. Elizabeth prefers horses to men and has even less interest in marriage than Alex does until her guardian withdraws her horse from an upcoming race. The horse is Elizabeth's hope for her stable and for her future happiness. Wanting to help Elizabeth, Alex proposes to Elizabeth so her horse can race until his name and not "disgrace" Elizabeth's uncle. Elizabeth believes the marriage is one of convenience and a misunderstanding on their wedding night drives Alex and Elizabeth apart until those they love face danger. I have mixed feelings about this book. The first 100 pages were funny and sweet. If you took Elizabeth, removed her horses and replaced them with the dog rescue plot of Primrose Lane, add a dash of bluestockingness, then you'd have me as a Regency heroine! Needless to say, I really liked Elizabeth and could relate a lot to her. I did not like Carleton very much. He started off bad, got better while wooing Elizabeth and turned into a colossal jerk on their wedding night. I hate marriage of convenience misunderstanding plots and the last 70 pages of this book were no exception. The book should have continued as a comedy of manners. The author should not have changed direction 3/4 of the way through the story. The misunderstanding plot just didn't make sense given the first part of the story. My advice is read the first 100 pages and then skip ahead to the last page or imagine what you think would happen to Elizabeth and Carleton.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

A Rake's Redemption by Susannah Carleton (Book 4 of "The Six")-- Regency Romance
Theo Middleford, Viscount Dunnley has a reputation as a rake. Sure he has a healthy appreciation for the pleasures that women can provide, but he never dallies with innocents or married women. After an incident with a so-called widow, he decides to give up willing widows which means he needs to find a wife. He wants a wife who is not just a hostess or a "brood-mare," but someone who will be a friend and companion as well as a lover. He doesn't have far to look, being fond of the new wives of his cousin George and George's friend Elston. Theo decides to look more closely at Beth and Karla's friends and decides to pursue Lady Sarah Mallory, the reserved Welsh beauty. He understands that Sarah's musical talent shows that she has a passionate nature underneath her reserve. Already in her second Season, Sarah vows to find a husband before the end of the Season, which is a rather daunting task for someone who is shy. When Dunnley begins to pay attention to her, Sarah feels nervous and quivery and doesn't understand why she feels so disconcerted around him. Sarah also receives attention, of the wrong sort from "Nasty Ned" Simpson, which makes her afraid. Dunnley is all that is kind and considerate, helping rescue Sarah from unwanted attention. Dunnley feels he can better protect Sarah if they are married or at least betrothed, but the problem is breaking down Sarah's reserve and convincing her they belong together. This is a sweet romance story that's a little on the short side. I liked Sarah and could relate to her reserve, but sometimes the author made Sarah a bit too melodramatic with her reactions. I was also confused as to how the cool, reserved Sarah of previous books turned into the shy, nervous Sarah of this book. I wouldn't label Dunnley as a rake. He behaves more like his cousins than a typical Regency rake. He's someone I could see any sensible girl falling in love with. I like the way the relationship between Dunnley and Sarah develops. I think it's very realistic. I loved the family reunion scene though it was kind of long and unnecessary. This is a quick read and the kind of book that makes you feel warm and happy inside. It isn't entirely necessary to have read the previous books in the series, but it would help.

Miranda's Mistake by Jenna Mindel -- Regency Romance
Prequel to Kiss of the Highwayman and Miss Whitlow's Turn Miranda, Lady Crandle, agrees to leave the comfort of London and travel to the country to help her dearest friend Lady Beatrice Rothwell entertain a house party during the Quorn hunt. The real purpose of the house party is to bring eligible gentlemen to the notice of Lady Beatrice's daughter, Artemis, who refuses a London Season. Artemis is a tall, gawky tomboy who prefers horses to men but Miranda sees more to Artemis than meets the eye and is determined to help the young lady gain confidence in herself and find the love match she deserves. Lord Rothwell's first choice of a husband for his daughter is the handsome Evan Langley, Earl of Ashbourne. Evan arrives at the house party eager to find a wife and mother for his future heirs. He does not expect to run into Miranda, the woman who jilted him seven years earlier. Miranda is not prepared for the emotions that seeing Evan again brings out in her. He is bitter and angry at her for choosing to marry a man three times her age just for his wealth and title. Evan knows little about the true reasons for Miranda's decision and the regret she feels. Evan is determined to punish Miranda for breaking his heart while she is determined to win his love once again and prevent young Artemis from making the same mistake she did. This story is the best of the three, but it's not fabulous. Evan is a very bitter and angry man and I couldn't understand why he couldn't just accept Miranda's reason for jilting him and let her go. I also couldn't understand his reasons for not wanting to accept Miranda's love a second time. Miranda is one of those typical widows who was trapped in an unhappy marriage but she doesn't weep or whine about it, for which I admire her. She realizes she made a mistake and recognizes her true feelings for Evan, which is a little unusual for this genre but a nice change. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness throughout the story and I think it could have worked as a comedy of manners rather than a tragedy of unfulfilled passion.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

A Twist of Fate by Susannah Carleton -- Regency Romance 
David Winterbrook, brother of George from A Scandalous Journey, becomes lost in the middle of a snowstorm in unfamiliar territory. He stops to assist a lady whose cart is stuck in a ditch and is struck by the thunderbolt of love that is a family tradition. The lady, Madeline Graves, is a young widow who lives nearby and offers the comfort of her fire to David while he waits out the storm. The storm turns into a blizzard, leaving David stuck at Lynn's house for weeks. At first Lynn is cautious of David. All of her experiences with men have been negative thus far, especially her marriage to a bully who left her hard of hearing and lacking in desire. David is everything a gentleman should be: he's polite, kind, a good listener and he also experienced a troubled marriage. However, all of David's charms may not be enough to convince Lynn to be his wife. First, she must overcome the memories of her past in order to get what she wants most. This is an unusual plot for a Regency. It's quiet and the dramatic tension is all about Lynn's feelings and overcoming her past. Readers may be put off by the subtle sensuality in this book though. Some of it was sweet and made sense for the plot but some of it was unnecessary. My biggest complaint is that there is too much repetitive dialogue revolving around Lynn's issues. If you liked A Scandalous Journey and want to know what happens to Lord David and little Isabelle, then read this book. If you're looking for something different and haven't read A Scandalous Journey, this book provides enough information that it works as a standalone.

Mad Maria's Daughter by Patricia Rice -- Regency Romance
Daphne Templeton's mother was lovely, charming and quite mad. (Maria Templeton seems to have suffered from what we would call bipolar disorder). Several years ago, Daphne's mother drove a carriage off a cliff in a carefully planned suicide. Unfortunately, there was a witness and now the whole of the ton knows about Mad Maria. Daphne has spent the last four years in London, trying to prove she is not like her mother, being dependent on relatives who don't care for her and hoping to find a husband who will love her for herself. After an incident involving throwing a beverage over the head of her unlucky suitor, Daphne is exile from London. She heads to the country to stay with her eccentric old aunt. Along the way, her carriage is held up by a dashing highwayman who kidnaps her. Daphne loses her temper and assaults the kidnapper with her parasol and her tongue! The highwayman is intrigued by this woman who doesn't swoon or run away from him. He leaves her unharmed, taking only a few coins and a valuable ring and helping her find her way to safety. Soon Daphne hears all about the local Robin Hood highwayman and his band of brigands. She's not sure what to think of it all and is even more confused when she meets the handsome viscount Gordon Griffin, who bears a strong resemblance to her highwayman. Daphne becomes involved in a tangle of events involving her highwayman, whom she can't stop thinking about, the viscount, an army captain and a murderous villain. Throw in some family drama and you have one crazy story. My first impression of the book was not favorable, it sounded so silly and I wasn't sure what was going on, but then I got into it. There are a number of twists and turns that I didn't see coming and some I did and a couple of funny scenes too. In the end, I found myself enjoying the story more than I thought I would. Daphne is an all too human heroine. She has her faults and her vulnerabilities but her true self shines through. The gentlemen were rather stereotypical and one was over-the-top annoyingly kind. This is a very modern story with people not behaving according to the proprieties of the day but I like those kinds of stories. My biggest complaint is that there were too many points of view and I kept having to go back and figure out who was thinking. Also the book is too long. The last chapter isn't really necessary. The ending of the previous chapter was cute and made me laugh. This story involves some slightly more than subtle sensuality (make-out scene) but nothing bad and it can be ignored if you really don't like that kind of thing. This is a fun read and worth the effort to unknot the tangle of story lines.

The Genuine Article by Patricia Rice -- Regency Romance
Lady Marian and her sister Jessica are headed to London for the Season to find rich husbands or else they and their mother will lose their home. Determined to be the one to sacrifice herself on the matrimonial alter so that young Jessica will have more time to chose, Marian intends to hide her sharp tongue and independent mind under a mask of simpering femininity. Her resolve is tested during a top at an inn when a rude gentleman mistakes her for a servant and she rebounds with some harsh words of her own. In London, Marian makes a conquest of the young Lord Darley who is tired of his mother and sisters controlling him and is in search of a biddable wife. Marian likes him well enough but then Darley's misogynistic best friend comes to Town and Marian discovers that he is none other than the rude man from the inn. She must convince Richard Monatgue that she's the right woman for his best friend. He is determined to prove that she's the wrong woman and willing to use any means necessary to prove his point. Richard becomes involved in Marian's personal family problems which become his own when his roguish valet steals something of value that belongs to Marian and the quest to help Marian's family leads to a trip to a crumbling old estate, a phantom Marquess and lots of passion. This book is steamier than the other and the make out scenes can not be ignored because what follows is part of the plot. There is not relation to any of the characters or events in Mad Maria's Daughter so I am unsure as to why the publisher chose to include them both in one volume. None of the characters in The Genuine Article are likable. I agree with Marian's initial assessment of Richard and they really don't get to know each other except for making out a lot. Marian is not a very likable heroine either. I understand why she had to find a rich husband and why she felt the need to act like an idiot to do it but I don't agree with her methods. Jessica and Darley are too meek and mild to even be remotely interesting. I didn't care for this story and I'll recommend it to those who prefer the emphasis on making out than actual interesting characters and plot.