Monday, July 26, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Queen of the Big Time by Adriana Trigiani, read by Cassandra Campbell -- Adult historical fiction
The story opens in 1924 and fourteen-year-old Nella Castelluca dreams of leaving her family farm in the slate belt of Pennsylvania for the Italian-American village 3 miles away where she could go to high school. She becomes smitten with Renato Lanzaro, an older boy who is kind and charming. An opportunity arises for Nella to go to high school in Roseto and she's on her way to the big time. A terrible accident ends Nella's dreams of becoming a school teacher, instead she goes to work at the local blouse mill and works her way up the ladder of success. Along the way, she experiences the joys and heartaches of being part of a large, loving Italian family. She also experiences romantic love and learns what it means to really live. This is the story of Nella Castelluca's life from age fourteen to her death. It will make you laugh and cry along with the Castelluca's as they struggle through life. I mostly enjoyed the first third of the book when Nella was a teenager. It took a dramatic (or melodramatic) turn halfway through and became a little bit predictable. There was one major plot twist I didn't see coming that affected the final third of the novel. Trigiana excels at describing the landscape and lifestyle of the people of Delabole and Roseto, Pa. as well as the Italian village where Nella's family is from. The strength of this book lies in the character development. The book reads more like a memoir than a novel, telling the reader about key events in Nella's life, rather than one coherent plot with a rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. At times, the timeline jumps too quickly and the events summarized. Campell is a good narrator, pitching her voice differently for each character so that the listener can easily identify who is speaking. I loved her voice for Chetti the best and it's exactly how I would imagine a girl like Chetti to sound. This would be a good book for older teen readers. There's some romance but nothing terribly descriptive or at all racy. I think many women will be able to relate to Nella and her struggles to find her place in the world and enjoy reading about Nella.

Lady in the Briars by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance companion to The Black Sheep's Daughter
Rebecca Nuthall has lives most of her life with an abusive uncle. The day after her twenty-first birthday, she secretly leaves his house, vowing to never let another man have power over her. She takes a position as companion to an elderly relative to make her own way in the world. Lord John Danville, younger son of the Duke of Stafford, finds himself in hot water after a joke goes wrong. His father, tired of John's wild lifestyle, threatens to send John into exile. John wishes to go into Parliament on the Whig side, but first, his father promises to have John sent on a mission for the Diplomatic Corps. John's first stop on his journey is his brother Tom's home, where he encounters Rebecca hanging from a bridge in an attempt to rescue a little boy from drowning. John rescues Rebecca and thereafter feels protective of her. John's adventurous cousin Teresa arrives with her Diplomat husband Sir Andrew, and their little daughter Esperanza. John adores little Peri as well as his brother's two children and finds that Rebecca is also good with the little ones. He recommends Rebecca for the position of governess as John, Teresa and Sir Andrew leave on a spying mission for Russia. At first Rebecca is timid but soon finds herself enjoying the social life in St. Petersburg; she even catches the attention of a prince! John's protective instincts turn to love as the situation in St. Petersburg becomes dangerous for innocent Rebecca. John is willing to risk his life to save the woman he loves and convince her that not all men are like her uncle. This book is told mainly from John's point of view. His development from wild child to reliable man is very good and realistic. I liked John a lot. He isn't too high handed and his occasional flares of temper are justified. Rebecca is a very different sort of heroine. She has difficulty overcoming abuse and for most of the book she's very meek, though has strong opinions about right and wrong. Teresa is the best character in the novel. She's lively and fun and a really strong woman. She's a good role model for her daughter as well. When the true adventure happened, I couldn't put the book down. The rescue is accomplished in a daring but realistic manner. This is a pretty good book for those who enjoy traditional Regencies.

A Spinster's Luck by Rhonda Woodward -- Regency Romance
Orphaned at the age of sixteen, Celia went to live with the young widowed Duchess of Harbrooke in the role of companion and governess to the Duchess's two young boys. Despite protests from the Duchess's brother, the Duke of Severly, Celia proves to be an excellent governess and a true friend for Imogene. The Duke spies Celia playing with his nephews one day and instantly struck by her beauty. He makes every effort to be kind to her, despite Celia's apprehension. Celia's life takes an unexpected turn when the Duchess's old beau returns and encourages her to go to London for the Season. When an old friend dies, Celia's life changes again and she gets swept away in the current of the haut ton. The Duke enjoys Celia's transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, yet believes he has no intentions of getting married any time soon. Someone from the Duke's past tries to prevent Celia from getting close to Severly and Celia must decide whether she will spend her life in spinsterhood and loneliness or swallow her pride and surrender to love. This is not the best book in the series. It's a little slow in the beginning and I just didn't feel anything for the main characters. The plot development is a little weak because the basis for the antagonism between Celia and Severly is quite pointless after the first few chapters. I enjoyed Imo and her romance much more and would have preferred her to be the main character. I also really liked the Duke of Westlake but found Severly and Celia boring. This is a sweet Regency and if you liked the others by this author, then you will like this one. Moonlight and Mischief remains my personal favorite of Woodward's novels.

Miss Hartwell's Dilemma by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance
Miss Amaryllis Hartwell's Papa created a scandal and left Amaryllis to fend for herself. With the help of her godmother, aunt and former governess, Amaryllis runs a successful school for young ladies. Two new pupils, the innocent Isabel Winterborne, daughter of the rakish Lord Daniel Winterborne, and the incorrigible Louisa, niece of Lord Bertram Pomeroy, bring romance to Amaryllis's quiet life. Lord Pomeroy, the suitor she left behind, is determined to marry her and Lord Daniel comes across as hot-tempered and rude. Through Isabel, Amaryllis learns to see another side of Lord Daniel. The vicar is courting Miss Tisdale aided by Amaryllis and her aunt Eugenia, who scheme to remove the vicar from his sister's control. A mysterious stranger lurking about provides more drama and excitement in Amaryllis's life and is unwittingly the key to her happiness. The characters in this novel are fully fleshed out and very interesting. I would like to inhabit their world and know them. Some of the Winterborne family drama bears a strong resemblance to Susannah Carleton's Winterbrook clan, but sufficiently different enough to add suspense and drama to the plot. This is a sweet Regency along the lines of Georgette Heyer so the romance develops slowly and unobtrusively. The dramatic scene is concluded too easily and quickly and the very end is very Heyeresque. I enjoyed this novel but it isn't one of the very best.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Sandition : Jane Austen's Unfinished Masterpiece
Completed By Juliette Shapiro

Jane Austen wrote this fragment of a novel in the few months before her death. It has been completed by several Austen enthusiasts. This version is by Juliette Shapiro.

The small seaside town of Sandition is without a doctor preventing it from becoming a fashionable resort for invalids and hypochondriacs. Mr. and Mrs. Parker of Sandition head off to Willingdon in search of a doctor to bring to Sandition. Upon arrival, their carriage meets with an accident and Mr. Parker's foot is strained. It seems that his injury was in vain, for the Parkers have come to the wrong place and one without a doctor! However, they are taken in by they Heywoods, a local gentry family and return to Sandition with Charlotte, the eldest Heywood daughter still at home. Mr. Parker sings the praises of the inhabitants of the small town he loves and Charlotte is eager to meet them. Her unbiased eye reveals that Sandition's residents are not as pleasant as they seem. The most prominent resident is Lady Denham, a wealthy, elderly, miserly woman who is quick to judge. She has survived two husbands and the young relatives of those husbands hover around her hoping to be rewarded with her fortune. Also in hopes of some good fortune is Lady Denham's companion, Clara Brereton, a sober minded young lady. Chief among the fortune hunters is Sir Edward Denham who praises Charlotte's beauty and spouts poetry in her ear, giving her a disgust of the flirtatious young man. The Parkers are kindly and well-meaning and soon Charlotte becomes well-acquainted with Mr. Parker's eccentric family of hypochondriacs. Only one among them shares Charlotte's sarcasm and sense of humor at the ridiculousness of the characters who make up the residents of Sanditon. All through the summer flirtations and love affairs happen, misunderstands occur and hearts are broken and before the season is over, Charlotte's life will change in ways she never expected. Austen's story is told with her usual sly, subtle humor and if she had been given the time to fully develop the story, the characters would have been as memorable as Lizzie Bennet, Lady Catherine and Mr. Woodhouse. Shapiro captures Austen's style well enough so that it isn't obvious where she picks up the thread of the narrative. The minor characters are every bit as quirky and funny as Austen imagined them. The story is rather lacking in action though. Most of the events are told by the narrator and things happen without the heroine being an active part of the story. There's almost no romance and certainly not the grand passion of Lizzie and Darcy or the quiet pining of Elinor Dashwood. The story spends too much time on the secondary characters and then the author rushes through the end to wrap up Charlotte's story before tying up lose ends with the other minor characters. I would have stopped at the end of Charlotte' s story. The rest made it took long and I lost interest. There were also too many characters to keep track of. The novel isn't bad, it's hard to live up to Jane Austen's reputation and I think Shapiro does a credible job with the material she had to work with. I would recommend this above the tawdry sequels and adaptations and even some of the other Austen adaptations. I have not yet read any other versions of Sanditon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What I've Read This Week . . .

What I've Read This Week . . .

Smuggler's Summer by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romantic Comedy
Miss Octavia Gray is a Londoner born and bred. Her parents are reformers who would rather spend money on worthy causes than on a social life for their youngest daughter. Octavia longs for the countryside she's never seen and wishes for an adventure. Octavia's cousin Julia, a beautiful heiress, shares her wealth with Octavia whenever she can. Julia is kind and generous, almost to a fault. Julia's kindness lands her in trouble with her parents when she develops a tendre for the radical writer James Wynn, rejecting the hand of the most worthy Sir Tristram Deanbridge. Julia is banished to the country estate of friends for the summer and is miserable without company so she begs Octavia to join her. Octavia arrives on board a smugglers' ship and is stopped by a Customs Officer but she enjoys the adventure greatly. Julia and her maid give Octavia a make over, so she feels pretty and fashionable for the first time in her life. Joining the cousins and Julia's weak-willed aunt, is Sir Tristram, who happens to be the godson of the estate owner and grew up spending summers in the house and grounds. Sir Tristram leads the girls on an adventure to discover secret messages, lost treasure and hidden tunnels. Olivia enjoys the adventure and the company of Sir Trsitram, but Julia pines for James. Octavia tries to help Julia and push the girl into marrying Sir Tristram but finds herself falling for him instead. Add to her adventures a lovesick Lieutenant, a house party of dandies and members of the ton, a wounded smuggler and midnight adventures. Octavia has never had so much fun in her life (despite her tendre for one who loves another)! More description would give away the final zany adventures. The characters are all likable, even the smugglers, and Octavia is a character many women can relate to. The characters could be a bit more developed but the story is more plot driven and the plot is a good one. It made me giggle out loud several times and I enjoyed the adventure. It's written in an old-fashioned style without emphasis on physical attraction and obsession over feelings. This is a good read for Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer fans.

Before the Season Ends (Regency Inspirational Romance No. 1) by Linore Rose Burkard
Nineteen year old Ariana Forsythe is convinced that God has called her to marry a man of the church, and she sets her sights on the elderly vicar of her family's country parish. Not wishing her to marry a much older man, her parents send her off to London to stay with her father's wealthy sister. Ariana looks forward to seeing the sights of London but her aunt has grand plans for the beautiful girl and they include being the toast of the ton and marrying a wealthy peer. On a visit to a country estate, Ariana literally runs into one of the patronesses of Almacks and innocently offends her. Next, Ariana invokes the ire and the interest of The Paragon, Phillip Mornay. When Lady Worthington tries to cause a scandal involving Ariana and Mr. Mornay, he rises to the occasion to rescue the innocent young girl. Ariana gets caught up in a whirl of high society and even catches the eye of the Prince Regent. Even though she's enjoying herself, Ariana knows Mr. Mornay would not make a good husband, even if he were interested in her, for he is not a true Christian. Ariana prays for his soul and prays God will direct her to the right husband, one of true faith and good character. Mr. Mornay seems to fit the character requirement but a Mr. O'Brien fulfills the faith requirement. Ariana prays a lot more for guidance and help coming to a decision while preaching to the ones she loves and badgering them to become true Christians. I absolutely hate preachy books, preachy characters and people who try to beat others into believing what they believe and this book has them all. At first Ariana is charming and funny with lots of country innocence but the author ruins the book by making Ariana turn wishy-washy. Ariana prays constantly and quotes Scripture as she tries to figure out what to do. I can't relate to that. The story would have been a lot better if she had accepted that it was God's will to marry a kind and generous man who loves her and whom she loves back. It also would have made the story shorter. Mr. Mornay isn't all that likable either. The story never gets inside his head and the reader only learns about the events that shaped his life second hand, as Ariana learns them from someone else! He is also overbearing at times, wanting to protect Ariana but also demanding that he choose her clothes, forever! It's hard to like a character without knowing what he's thinking. Ariana's aunt is a stereotypical dowager of the ton, scheming matchmaker and demanding aunt who never listens to Ariana or cares what the girl thinks or feels. This story starts off well but deteriorates towards the last quarter of the novel. I wouldn't recommend this one except maybe to Christians. As far as Christian Regency romances go, I much prefer All the Tea in China by Jane Orcutt.

The Officer and the Lady by Dorothy Elbury -- Regency Romance
Abandoned by his father after his mother died giving birth to him, Matt Beresford spent a lonely childhood in England while his father remained in India. Upon reaching adulthood, Matt confronted his father who had returned to England, and was rejected again. However, Sir Matthew was able to provide his son with a useful contact at the East India Company and Matt traveled back to India where he has lived for the last nine years. Now he has come back to England to sort out the difficulties of his late father's will. It seems that unbeknowst to Matt, his father had remarried and had a second family which includes a son. Matt arrives to find a decaying estate, a corrupt estate agent and a family in turmoil. The backbone of the family is Miss Imogene Priestley, the niece of Matt's stepmother, who has given her personal fortune to save the family from ruin. Misunderstandings occur and Imo and Matt get off on the wrong foot. Sparks fly quickly and the pair continually argue with each other, though everyone can see that the pair are attracted to one another. Matt and Imo both have to overcome the past and set aside prejudices to help the Beresford family and discover how much they mean to one another. This is another copycat Pride and Prejudice done wrong. The book is a little lengthy but more time could have been spent in developing the characters. As it stands, all of the characters are stereotypical and the plot is cliched and predictable. The book isn't terrible but it isn't great either. For those keeping track, it's a clean read. There is some kissing and brief passages of how the characters feel, but nothing too bad.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What I Read This Weekend: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

What I Read This Weekend

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean -- Regency Historical

Though I think Sarah is super cool and nice, this review will be honest and unbiased.

At the age of 18, Lady Callpurnia Hartwell is too plump and plain to be of interest to anyone except fortune hunters, bored and old men. She's had enough humiliation during her first Season to last a lifetime and she's fed up. Callie runs away to the garden where she encounters the dashing, dangerous and very very charming Marquess of Ralston. Ralston tries to boost Callie's self-confidence with a few kind words which cause Callie to fall hopelessly in love. Ten years later, and firmly on the shelf, Callie is still dreaming of love. It doesn't help that her little sister has made a magnificent and loving match while Callie sits with the spinsters and wears lace caps. Longing for adventure, Callie makes a list of things she'd love to do, things proper young ladies aren't supposed to do. She decides to start with "be kissed passionately" and seeks out Ralston to accomplish her goals. In return, Ralston enlists Callie's aid in helping his newly discovered Italian half-sister come out into English Society. Soon Callie is overcome with the passion she's always longed for but still yearns for the heart of the one she loves. I am sorry to say that I found the plot mostly unrealistic and uninteresting. I fail to see how an intelligent girl like Callie would allow Ralston to take advantage of her without any declarations of love. I understand her attraction to him and longing to be with him, but I would think that it would make her feel worse that he doesn't love her. I couldn't like Callie until 2/3 of the way through the book when she reacts the way I thought she should have reacted a lot earlier. Ralston is a typical alpha male rake. He's stubborn and authoritative at times. He is so worried about his sister's reputation but doesn't stop to consider what his seduction of her sponsor will do to that reputation. Also, he's a total idiot not to realize that Callie loves him and not to understand what he feels for her. I felt the book was fairly boring and annoying until nearly the end when Callie and Ralston finally talk about their feelings. Even though I'm not crazy about Callie and Ralston, they are well-developed and eventually became more realistic and human. The secondary characters were far more entertaining and interesting. Callie's little sister Mariana made me giggle and Ralston's little sister Juliana is more my kind of heroine, outspoken and tough. Both girls, and Ralston's brother Nick are not typical stock characters relegated to the background. Even the opera singer defies stereotype. It's a refreshing change for the heroine to have girlfriends to talk to.

This is a sizzling, steamy romance novel. The reader inhabits Callie's body and sometimes Ralston's head and the action is very detailed. The steamy scenes can be skipped though they contribute to the character development. The first 180 pages are not too graphic, but then the characters give in to desire and the action heats up. If you're not interested in graphic love scenes, stop reading as Callie begins her fencing adventure and pick up again in the last few pages of the novel.

I look forward to Sarah's next YA novel. She's a good writer when she doesn't get carried away writing X-rated content. The story could have been a lot better if Callie and Ralston had spent more time getting to know one other intellectually rather than physically. I think I'll search for spoilers for her next adult novels rather than try to read the whole thing. I prefer my romantic tension of the Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer variety with well-written plots and characters where the reader's imagination can take her as far as she wants to go.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Only the Good Spy Young : Gallagher Girls 4 by Ally Carter
Cammie spends junior year winter break in London with Bex and her super cool spy parents but the trip is anything but a vacation. Cammie is hiding from the mysterious Circle of Cavan who are trying to kidnap her. A surprising encounter with one of her trusted teachers changes everything. Now Cammie doesn't know who to trust or to believe but she's certain she can count on her friends. They decide to take matters into their own hands to solve the secrets of the Circle. With a little help from Zack, Cammie faces a life or death situation, learns a few things about the history of her allies and the Circle and finds that the answers aren't always easy to find or understand. The basic plot outline resembles Harry Potter which gives away some of the surprises, but not all. The adventure is still edge-of-your-seat breathtaking and I found myself on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next. At least one of the plot twists came as a bit of a surprise and shock to me though I suspected something similar. This book is rather scarier than the previous ones as Cammie is now seriously in danger. There is a little bit of cutesy boy/girl stuff to provide relief from the tension and I like that. The book comes to a satisfying conclusion that doesn't leave me wanting more yet provides more questions to be answered in future books. This is another great adventure for the Gallagher Girls and a good, quick summer read.

The Incomparable Cassandra by Laura Paquet -- Regency Romance
Lady Cassandra Blythe is an Incomparable but she's also intelligent and a playwright, which is why she remains unwed at the advanced age of 24. She enjoys the social activities of London and her witty friends and isn't too concerned with finding a mate for herself. In contrast, her older brother has been happily wed for ten years to the lovely Elinor. Sadly, Elinor has been estranged from her only brother Benjamin Rowland, Earl of Winchfield, since her elopement with Cassandra's brother. Elinor has extended an olive branch to her brother and he has finally decided to come to London in search of a wife. Recently recovered from a broken heart, Benjamin Rowland, Earl of Winchfield is in search of a wife. The Earl's duties were thrust on him at a young age and he would like nothing better than to stay in the country and study ants, however, he is an Earl and knows his duty. He is in search of a quiet, biddable wife, certainly not an Incomparable like Lady Cassandra. At first Cassandra and Ben don't get along; he thinks she's sharp-tongued and she finds him boring and stuffy. As they come to know each other better, Cassandra and Ben learn that each has hidden qualities and deeper emotions than what is present on the surface. This is a quiet, sweet romance that is quite different from the typical Regency plot. It could be described as a reverse Pride and Prejudice with a dash of Emma. It's a refreshing change to read about a hero who is not a rake. At first, like Cassandra, I found Ben boring and too mild but the character development in this novel is so good that I learned to appreciate his good qualities just as Cassandra does. The plot develops nicely at a good pace to make the story realistic and a very good read. I enjoyed this one quite a lot.

The Rebellious Twin by Shirley Kennedy -- Regency Romance
Clarinda and Clarissa Capelle are identical twins. No one, not even their parents, can tell them apart, a fact which always surprises Clarinda because she and her sister are complete opposites in personality. Clarinda loves riding her horse astride at breakneck speed and caring for the horses on a neighboring estate with her best friend Sara Sophia, a girl of unknown heritage. Clarissa, on the other hand, is content to be identical to her sister and eager for them to marry a set of identical twins and live together for the rest of their lives. When Clarinda's parents discover her secret horse-related activities, they furiously threaten to sell her horse and send her to her grandfather's estate in north Wales if she doesn't behave and marry Lord Sufton, a bland, unintelligent man Clarinda despises. Clarinda would rather die than do any of those things but is willing to consider her options before making a decision. Meanwhile, Robert, Lord Stormont, Earl of Marsett wins Hollyridge Manor, the estate next to that of Lord Capelle's, in a lucky card game. As the elderly former owner returns home, he suffers a fatal heart attack, but not before blurting out to Clarissa (whom he thinks is Clarinda) that Sara Sophia has a secret past which will bring her untold riches and happiness. Providing Clarissa with a clue and a set of old keys, the old man dies without realizing he was speaking to the wrong twin. Selfish Clarissa decides to keep the secret to herself and solve the mystery and perhaps use it to her advantage. Clarinda, upset with her parents' decree, gallops out on her horse just as Robert and his dog are inspecting the estate. Robert's dog causes an accident which brings Clarinda and Robert together and the confirmed bachelor is instantly smitten and wants to help Clarinda. The lady is not so willing at first but can not ignore the strong chemistry between them. Her twin also can not ignore her sister's new feelings and sets out on a plot to destroy her sister and win the handsome Lord for herself. The plot is fairly predictable and almost Cinderellaesque. I found this book utterly painful to read because of the incredibly obvious foreshadowing. I stuck with it and still didn't like it. I find it hard to believe that parents would not be able to tell their twins apart and would treat their children in such a way. The Capelle family is utterly horrid and I wanted to rip Rissa's hair out. Clarinda isn't all together likable either. She meekly accepts her sister's torments without telling anyone, yet her sister routinely tattles on her. I like that Clarinda at least can hold her own with the odious overbearing Robert. Their romance is unbelievable and I do not believe he really loves her because if he did, he would not have reacted the way he did while Rissa was interfering. Sara Sophia's love story is more charming and interesting though she's too self-sacrificing for me to really be fond of her. This book has some subtle sensuality thrown in which makes the characters behave improperly and is entirely unnecessary and unbelievable at the moments the scenes occur. I would recommend skipping this one unless you have a desire to read EVERY book in the genre.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

A Splendid Indescretion by Elizabeth Mansfield -- Regency Romance
Ada Surringham is a dreamer with her head in the clouds. Her abstraction often results in exasperation on the part of her uncle/guardian when he can't find what he's looking for or falls on something Ada has dropped. When Ada's aunt and smug cousin Cornelia come to gloat that Ada's godmother has written to invite one of the girls to London and surely it must be Cornelia, Ada's uncle realizes that a Season in London would be beneficial for shy Ada. After quarreling with his sister, her orders Ada off to London to beat Cornelia. Meanwhile, Ivor Griffith, Viscount Mullineaux is on his way to his late grandfather's estate in Wales to catalog the library when he is accosted by his former lover who demands he run away to France with her. Though he denies the lady, her husband chases after Griff attempting to force a duel which leads Griff running for his life into a private parlour of a coaching inn where he meets Ada, who is forced to spend the night due to a coaching accident. As the irate husband approaches, Griff passionately kisses Ada as if his life depends on it (and it does). Ada has never experienced kisses like this before and enjoys the searing passion. The incident blows over and Ada believes she'll never see the gentleman again, but they encounter one another later that evening in an unexpected way which leaves them both dreaming of the other. When Ada arrives at her godmother's, her original plans go awry and a case of mistaken identity leads her in a new direction. Her godmother happens to be Lady Mullineaux, the mother of the mysterious gentleman who kissed her in the inn. Though Ada can not get the man out of her head, she is convinced she would never make a suitable wife for anyone. She is determined to show everyone that she is not so shatterbrained as she seems, only she is but everyone finds her charming anyway. I also think Ada is very charming and I can relate to being absentminded, however, I do not like Griff. He is too overbearing and hot tempered for a sweet girl like Ada. Their romance was entirely unbelievable. There wasn't much development in their story or character development for Griff and therefore, the story fails, in my opinion and I just couldn't like it. I also felt the language was too modern to really feel like a period piece. The screwball comedy scene towards the end saved the book from being truly dreadful. This is is a short, quick read for those who like lighthearted comedies.

A Grand Passion by Elizabeth Mansfield -- Regency Romance
Tess Bronlow has reached the grand old age of 23 without ever having experienced a Grand Passion, so she decides to accept the proposal of her best friend, Jeremy Beringer. Ever the romantic, Jeremy brings Tess flowers every day, even in winter and so on the day before his wedding, he traveled to find greenhouse flowers just for Tess. On her wedding day, Tess learns that Jeremy was killed in a coaching accident caused by a Corinthian who insisted on driving the coach through the snow along icy roads. Tess is devastated and vows revenge on the man who caused the accident. She travels to London to visit her newly married cousin Julia and makes certain that she is introduced to Matthew Lotherwood, the Marquis of Bradboune, the man whom she believes killed Jeremy. Tess plans to make Matt fall madly in love with her and then teach him what loss really means. Her plot doesn't go quite as planned when she finds herself in the throes of a Grand Passion! Still, Tess is bent on revenge and is even willing to risk breaking her heart again just to avenge Jeremy's death. There is a major major problem with this plot and that is a case of mistaken identity which should never have happened given the use of titles and names in Regency England. If you accept the mistake and go on with the story, it's not terrible but not great either. Mansfield's other major problem in this novel is character development. The reader never gets too deep inside Matt's head and the story is told mainly from Tess's point of view. Matt's actions and reactions happen very abruptly without real development. He's bewitched by Tess'a alter ego, Sidoney, but I'm not clear why he loves her. Matt is so kind and sweet and he matures throughout the novel, even though his maturity is rather sudden. Tess is incredibly unlikable. She's so twisted to desire revenge and doesn't let go even though it's obvious that Matt isn't the monster she thinks he is. The ending was strange and I don't agree with the way Tess handles the consequences of her bahvior. She comes across as rather cowardly and Matt has every right to be angry. Despite the problems and lack of comedic moments, I felt this was a better story than the previous one but not one to reread or keep.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

A Debt to Delia by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance
Lying wounded on the battlefield, Major Lord Tyverne is certain that his life is over, until a dashing young soldier on a large, white horse rescues Ty from certain death. After fighting for his life on the battlefield, Ty then has to fight to keep his wounded arm and the subsequent infection from poor medical treatment. When he recovers, he is shocked to learn the the young soldier who saved his life was killed in battle. Ty promised the young man he'd return the favor and save someone else's life, but he isn't quite sure how to go about doing that until he reads the young man's private correspondence. Known as Lieutenant George Croft on the battlefield, he was a young baronet with a sister who is obviously in trouble (or, Ty believes, In Trouble). Ty takes it upon himself to inherit the young Lieutenant's family problems, in addition to inheriting the angry tempered horse that saved his life. After a long, and difficult ride, Ty arrives at Faircroft and proposes marriage to George's sister, Delia. Believing that Ty is a drunken stranger, Celia angrily refuses his proposal, until she realizes that the man is dangerously ill. Celia brings Ty into her home to care for, along with other other dependents. When she learns Ty's reason for coming, she refuses his marriage proposal. She will marry for love or not at all, even though she's desperate for a way to support herself and her dependents. She also faces a threat from her cousin, who has inherited George's title and lands. Cousin Clarence wishes to marry Delia off to an old reprobate so he can be rid of her and claim his inheritance. Delia stands her ground and is determined to not give in. As he gets to know Delia, Ty realizes what a confident and intelligent woman she is, though she persists in thinking he's an arrogant idiot. After some misunderstandings about the nature of Delia's trouble and her reasons for demanding her brother return home immediately, Ty is faced with a dilemma: whether to do the right thing or turn his back on the people who have been kind to him. The decision isn't easy and it helps him better understand his own feelings and make plans for not only his future, but Delia's as well. He also tries to sort out his wayward younger brother and wrestles with his feelings towards his overbearing father while Delia worries about her future and the futures of those she loves. The two must overcome numerous issues, including stubbornness and pride to learn where their hearts lie. This book is a departure from Metzger's light, comedy of manners plots; it's more somber and serious in tone, though there are moments where her flair for humor show through. I found the story a little too long and complicated to really interest me. It starts off really slow and doesn't pick up until about the halfway point and even then, it continues on at a slower pace than her other novels. Delia is a very modern heroine and very sensible. She can cope with anything that comes her way and keeps her head in a crisis. I greatly admire Delia and I would hope that I would have the courage she did faced with such difficulties. Ty is a little bland for a hero. He's almost too good. He's handsome, wealthy and honorable, all excellent qualities for a flesh and blood person, but make for a lackluster plot. Ty and Delia also lacked the chemistry that makes Lizzie and Darcy so memorable. It seems like Metzger wanted to try something different but didn't quite know how to make it work. If you're not a fan of drawing room comedies than you might want to try this one, for it wasn't bad, despite my feelings.

A Regency Christmas IX by Sandra Heath, Carla Kelly, Edith Layton, Amanda McCabe, Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance
This book of holiday themed tales by well-known Regency authors offers five novellas in one volume. In Layton's "The Amiable Miser," a young lady enjoys her work in her thrifty cousin's bookshop but dreams of romance. When a regular customer sends her nephews to choose a new book for her, Joy's whole world changes. "A Home for Hannah" by Barbara Metzger is another departure from her typical light hearted style. Young Hannah has been raised in a "school" for girls for all of her six years and is about to be turned out onto the streets for not paying her bill. Gregory Bellington, Viscount Byson, is about to propose to an heiress in order to save the family home when Hannah appears in his life and turns his world upside down and leads him to the greatest happiness he has ever known. In "Partridge in a Pear Tree," the eccentric Harriet, Lady Kirkwood comes up with a clever idea to decide who gets her personal fortune : the money will go to whichever of her relatives comes up with the most original way of locating the first seven of the items from the old song "12 Days of Christmas." With a little help from each other, Aunt Harriet and the kindness of strangers, two down-on-their-luck cousins find more happiness than they had ever dreamed was possible. "The Solid Silver Chess Set" features an elf needing to redeem his reputation and two young lovers made miserable through misunderstandings. The three main characters find they can help each other get what they most desire. Lastly, in "No Room at the Inn," a young lady discovers that she's not an Earl's daughter and must travel to a farm to live with the grandmother she never met. A snow storm forces her traveling party to stop at the home of her former crush. The guests and the host help each other heal from old wounds and find love and happiness again. All of these stories are what one could consider heartwarming, given the time of year they are set. I found them to be too sentimental and corny for my tastes. The length precludes the authors from fully developing their characters and creating realistic plots. My favorite is "Partridge in a Pear Tree." It's clever and funny and realistic. My least favorite is "The Solid Silver Chess Set." The story would be a lot better without the elf, but even so I found the behavior of the heroine unrealistic. If you like heartwarming tales, especially Christmas ones, then I would recommend reading this volume.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What I Read Last Week

What I Read Last Week . . .

Writing Jane Austen by Elizabeth Aston -- Austenesque
Victorian scholar turned novelist Georgina Jackson has one critically acclaimed novel under her belt, yet no one has read it! She needs to write a bestseller in order to have enough money to stay in England. Her demanding agent declares that Georgina has been tapped for the biggest project in history. A rare fragment of a manuscript from a nineteenth century author has been uncovered and Georgina's publisher demands she complete the novel. Gina is convinced she can't complete this novel for many reasons: Gina knows nothing about Jane Austen; she's never even read the novels (gasps and faints!) and she's convinced that Jane Austen is not realistic enough for her tastes. As Gina tries to escape her autocratic publisher and agent, she immerses herself in Jane Austen's world and discovers the variety of Janeites who flock to England in search of the world of their favorite author. With encouragement from her wonderful housemate Henry LeFroy and his teenage sister Maud, Gina reluctantly sits down to complete Love and Friendship with surprising results.

This is a cute, light read fo
r die-hard Jane Austen fans. There are many many references to people from Austen's life and times and various Regency figures flit in and out of Gina's life. I laughed out loud at some of the more obvious references. There are also Harry Potter references that make the novel even more amusing. I could really relate to Gina! I'm a procrastinator and a chapter one writer. (Actually, I'm worse; I haven't even gotten that far!) and I could totally feel Gina's panic at trying to copy the style of the incomparable Austen! The secondary characters are great too. I was really interested in Maud's story because she is an interesting and realistic teenage misfit. Henry isn't very well developed, but he is a typical sweet romantic hero. Anna adds another dimension to the plot and together, the housemates form the family that Gina needs.

This novel doesn't follow the conventions of typical chick lit/romance novels which is both good and bad. My complaints are that Gina takes way too long to sit down and write that the ending of this book is rushed. The romance plot comes out of nowhere even though I saw it coming from the first page. There isn't really any dramatic conflict. The conflict comes from Gina's writer's block and procrastination. Some of the Austenesque references are a little too coincidental and may bother some readers. Overall though, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it for all die-hard Janeites who don't take themselves too seriously.