Thursday, December 30, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Darcys Give a Ball : A Gentle Joke Jane Austen Style by Elizabeth Newark -- Austenesque Fiction
Charlotte Collins has been married to Mr. Collins of Pride and Prejudice for 25 years and born him five living children. The family lives at Longbourn and Charlotte does the best she can to cope with the life she chose. Most of her children take after their father, but the youngest boy and youngest girl are promising. Jonathan is a quiet, studious fellow who studies bugs and Eliza is a plain, but cheerful girl with a sense of humor. On his way home from Oxford, Henry Darcy, younger son of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, stops at Longbourn to see his mother's childhood home and meet the cousins he has never seen. Henry, ever the romantic, is instantly smitten with the charming Eliza who likes books, cats, bugs and of course, Henry. The Darcys are shocked by Henry's interest in a Collins and his younger sister Juliet's tendre from an unsuitable gentlemen. Whatever is one to do when one's children insist on forming unsuitable romantic alliances? Why, throw a ball and introduce them to new people, of course! The Darcy's ball serves as a stage for the offspring of Austen's most memorable characters to fall in and out of love and experience all the thrills and danger that young people enjoy so much. Spoiled Juliet Darcy especially needs a lesson in behavior from her cousin Eliza before it's too late and she ruins the Darcy name forever. This is a lighthearted, fluffy, amusing book which reads like fan fiction. I enjoyed it as a piece of fan fiction and recommend others do the same. Do not try to analyze the timeline or be shocked at the characterization of Elizabeth or you will not like this book. Look elsewhere for quality historical fiction and enjoy this "gentle joke."

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly -- Young Adult Fiction
Andi Alpers lives with her artist mother in contemporary Brooklyn, is a genius,  attends a prestigious prep school and is musically talented. Andi is also deeply troubled. Her little brother died two years ago and Andi blames herself. Andi's father walked out and her mother, unable to cope with her grief, has gone crazy. Andi feels the burdens of grief and guilt and drowns her troubles in drugs (legal and otherwise) and music. Music is her saving grace and the only thing she shows an interest in, but even that isn't enough to keep her from giving up. When her father discovers Andi's problems, he sends her mother to a hospital and whisks Andi off to Paris for winter break where he insists she work on her senior thesis. While her father, a geneticist, and their host, a famous historian, set out to solve the mystery of little Prince Louis-Charles, son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who is said to have died a horrible, lonely death locked inside a prison tower. Andi makes a deal with her father that she will finish her thesis outline on the influence of 18th century composer Amadé Malhbeau to current rock musicians by Sunday if her father will let her return home. When all seems hopeless and Andi is about to give up again, she makes friends with some Paris musicians. She is especially drawn to the rapper Virgil whose words, love of music and kindness go a long way to helping Andi. Andi also becomes absorbed in a secret diary she found locked in an antique guitar case which tells the incredible story of a remarkable young woman during the French Revolution who did all she could to survive and then gave up her own safety to try to rescue the little prince. Alexandrine's story parallels Andi's own and she Andi feels connected to the her and to the boy, who was the same age as her brother when he died. The 18th century comes alive for Andi in unexpected ways and she discovers important things about herself and being a survivor. This book is more about Andi and her issues than it is a historical novel. It does cover the French Revolution but not the way I expected. Reading Alex's diary alongside Andi is a poorly executed plot device. It's a little slow and though I was dying to find out what happened to Alex, I thought the story would have worked better if Alex's narrative alternated with Andi's as part of the overall story. The last 1/3 of the book is a little strange but I don't really have problems with the plot. My biggest problem is that the story gets rather political and draws parallels between the past and present. I would have left an intelligent reader to draw their own parallels and take away what they wanted from the book. The writing is mostly good but the lengthy sections of lyrics are off-putting and slow down the narrative.  This is definitely a book for older teens/young adults and those who may be able to relate to Andi.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

image © Heinemann 1950
The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer -- Georgian Romance

One of Heyer's early Georgians, this book takes place after the Battle of Bunker Hill. The story opens with the proud Winwood family rejoicing over the Earl of Rule's proposal to Elizabeth. Rule is wealthy and the Winwoods have lost their money to gambling debts owing to the "Fatal Tendency" of the Lords Winwood (late father and son). However, Elizabeth is unhappy because she wishes to marry a mere soldier. Charlotte, the middle sister, refuses to take her sister's place and sacrifice herself to marriage. Youngest sister, Horatia, known as Horry, is willing to do whatever it takes to see her sister happy and that includes marrying Lord Rule even if she has to propose to him herself. Young, stammering Horry manages to capture the attention of the Earl and finding her charming, he agrees to her terms of marriage: 1) Rule will help Elizabeth's soldier and 2) Neither Horry nor Rule will interfere with each other once married. Horry didn't count on falling in love with the Earl and hating his mistress. The spirited Horry decides to befriend the dangerous Lord Lethbridge, after her friends and family tell her not to, because she hopes to make the normally placid Lord Rule jealous. Horry, being afflicted with the Fatal Tendency, very much wants to gamble with Lethbridge but when he names his terms, Horry finds the stakes are higher than she was prepared to deal with. Lord Rule's meddling cousin and heir also tries to make trouble between the married couple and Rule is constantly obliged to pull Horry's ne'er do-well brother out of debt. Will Rule get tired of the drama and divorce Horry or will he rouse himself to rescue her and value her as he should? This is not one of Heyer's better novels, in my opinion. Having already read April Lady and Friday's Child, the plot felt tired and the dialogue less charming and witty and more silly. The Georgian fashions are described in meticulous detail but are difficult to follow for someone who isn't familiar with all the French fashions. The plot picks up about 3/4 of the way through the book and I found the last chapter amusing. Until then, I found the book slow and uninteresting and the dialogue terrible. Lord Rule is kind of intriguing because he's quiet and isn't active in many of his scenes. Horry seemed liked she'd be charming but I found her stammering made her dialogue difficult to read and I just didn't like her behavior from the time she was married until the very end. I'm not fond of stories about marriages of convenience to begin with though or teenage heroines. If you prefer the screwball comedy of The Grand Sophy or Frederica or the grown-up romance of Venetia, then skip this one. If you loved Friday's Child, April Lady or Cotillion then you will probably enjoy this as well.

 © Heinemann, Australia 1951
The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer -- Regency Romance

Gervase, the Seventh Earl of St. Erth returns to his ancestral home after successfully surviving the wars much to the dismay of his ambitious step-mother and spoiled half-brother Martin. His cousin and agent, Theo, is pleased to see Ger as is Druscilla Morville, a neighbor and sometimes companion to Ger's step-mother. Ger is quiet and doesn't fight back, therefore his step-mother thinks she can continue to rule the household with an iron fist and send the Earl running for one of his other properties. She hasn't counted on the fact that Gervase didn't survive the war by being weak. He fights back with quiet dignity and a witty manner that wins Druscilla's heart as she attempts to rescue him from someone who may wish to kill him. Gervase, however, doesn't see any cause for alarm and he's quite taken with his beautiful neighbor, Marianne Bolderwood. Both Martin and Ger's friend, Lord Ulverston are both charmed by the pretty coquette and handle their infatuations quite differently. As Gervase and Martin clash over property, authority and ladies, Ger begins to think Martin may be trying to kill him after all and there may be more to the plain Miss Morville than her lack of good looks. This novel has everything to please Heyer's fans: excitement, mystery and romance. Though Gervase is quiet, he's no less dashing and charming than the Corinthians or Bucks. He's very bright and his witty sense of humor is sophisticated, funny and charming. My favorite character is Druscilla.  I adore her parents and wish I could know them and I like her for being practical and sensible. The rest of the characters are fairly stereotypical and the plot is classic Heyer. It's too bad everyone else copied her because the plot does feel a bit cliched but Heyer was such a great writer that she could plan red herrings and make things seem different from what they are. This is a great traditional Regency novel from the master of the genre!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What I've Read This Week

 What I've Read This Week . . .

Regency Christmas Wishes by Barbara Metzger, Emma Jensen, Sandra Heath, Edith Layton and Carla Kelly -- Regency Romance 

This volume of Regency Christmas-themed novellas includes "The Lucky Coin" by Barbara Metzger, "Following Yonder Star" by Emma Jensen, "The Merry Magpie" by Sandra Heath, "Best Wishes" by Edith Layton and" Let Nothing You Dismay" by Carla Kelly.

In "The Lucky Coin," Sir Adam Standish is down-on-his-luck through no fault of his own. He needs a loan or a miracle to help him save his beloved estate. After confiding his woes to a stranger on the stage, the stranger gives Adam a lucky coin. At first there's nothing very lucky about the coin, but then Adam meets his Christmas Angel, a beautiful young woman who inspires him to protect her from a villain. Then Adam finds that his lucky coin may help him save the estate after all but will it win him his true love? Barbara Metzger is one of my favorite authors in the genre and this story is no exception. It's light, fluffy and improbable but a good read. I especially enjoyed this story and consider it my favorite of the collection.

"Following Yonder Star" is slightly more serious. Eight years ago, Gareth Blackwell, the younger son of an Irish Earl, went off to sea and hasn't returned to Ireland since. Eight years ago, Alice was left with a broken heart when Gareth went away. Now she cares for his family home and looks after her spoiled younger sister, now the Countess of Kilcullen. Gareth returns, reluctantly, after his brother's death, to await the birth of his brother's child. Should the child prove to be a girl, then Gareth is the new Earl, a role which he does not relish. Gareth finds Alice older and less feisty than she was but still beautiful and loving. In helping Alice with her duties, he comes to care for her even more. Alice discovers that Gareth has grown into a solid, caring man and she is determined to show him the value of their home. I liked this story because it feels like a rewrite of Persuasion and a well-done one at that. Gareth and Alice are nicely rounded characters who seem mostly realistic. Alice is a bit saintly, like Anne Eliot, but not in an obnoxious way. The secondary characters are a bit stereotypical but provide the comic relief. If you like more substance in your romance stories and love Persuasion, this is the best pick for you.

"The Merry Magpie" is an even more serious story featuring an estranged married couple.  Sir Charles Neville married his childhood sweetheart while his friends were still busy sowing their wild oats. A slight feeling of jealously led to weakness which led to his taking a mistress. He thought he could hide his misdeed from his beloved wife, but her aunt's pet magpie uncovered the secret and Charles was banished from his wife's family home. Now, six years later, Charles has returned from India more mature and wiser and ready to make amends. He wonders whether he'll be welcome at Marchgrove Park and if his beloved Juliet will take him back. Juliet's scheming aunt and her tipsy magpie interfere sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. This is one of the weaker stories in the collection. I fail to understand Charles's excuse for cheating on his wife. I commend Juliet's actions because usually in Regency stories, the wife is supposed to accept her that her husband has strayed. However, Juliet's reaction is very modern and I'm not sure it's entirely accurate. I felt sorry for her and wished more of the story had been from her point of view. The magpie character is silly and doesn't add much to the plot other than the initial disaster. I neither loved nor hated this story. It just isn't my favorite.

"Best Wishes" is a similar story about a married couple experiencing their first discord. Pamela, Lady Rexford refuses to attend a Christmas house party at the home of her husband's former mistress.  Jonathan wants to introduce Pamela to more people from Society and what better way than to attend a house party, however, Pamela is jealous of her husband's past relationship and has heard a lot of gossip about the hostess and her guests. Pamela wishes to return home to her family for the holidays and resents that Jonathan accepted an invitation without considering her wishes or consulting her. Jonathan doesn't want to visit Pamela's family where he will be an outsider. Finally, the couple decides to compromise and spend half the week with the Fanshawes and half with Pamela's family. When the time comes, neither is as happy as they believe they should be and continuously quarrel and make up. The story is very repetitive and slow moving. I had a hard time getting through this one and consider it my least favorite.

"Let Nothing You Dismay," the final story in the collection, is very unique. Lord Trevor Chase is a London barrister who insists on staying in London for the holiday to take a deposition. His solicitor is loathe to leave Lord Trevor alone but has family to visit. Lord Trevor makes a desperate wish on a star for someone to save him and thus begins the story. The heroine, Miss Cecilia Ambrose was born to unknown parents in Egypt and raised by a family of missionary philanthropists. In England she feels out-of-place and mostly sticks to Miss Dupree's Select Academy for Young Ladies in Bath where she is a teacher. This Christmas, Cecilia has been asked to escort one of her pupils, Lady Lucinda Chase, back to her home. Cecilia wishes to have a chat with Lucy's mother about Lucy's depressed behavior since learning of her older sister's engagement. After that, Cecilia thinks she will return to Bath. However, a family emergency requires Cecilia to stay and help Lord Trevor to care for his nieces and nephews. Cecilia is in awe of Lord Trevor, the famous barrister who takes on sordid cases that make exciting news stories. Cecilia isn't shy about telling Lord Trevor what she thinks of him, and he finds her a refreshing and intriguing companion. A house fire forces the family to move to the Dower House, where it is hoped the children will stop squabbling and mend their ways. Something draws Cecilia and Lord Trevor to confide each others' deepest secrets to each other. Lord Trevor reveals how he came to be the black sheep of his family by representing underprivileged children and the mistake he made in his past that haunts him to this day. As Christmas moves closer, Lord Trevor withdraws from the family and the children elect Cecilia to help draw him out and keep him from his demons. This story is darker and more serious than any of the others but no less romantic. Carla Kelly always creates interesting heroines and Cecilia is no exception. The romance is believable and sweet but there is first the hurdle of past demons to battle and that plot is what really makes the story. The writing is excellent and thought the message is a bit corny, it's not as heavy handed as some other holiday stories in the genre. This is an absolute must-read for fans of more serious, mature romances. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jane!

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

Today is the anniversary of Jane Austen's birthday. Happy Birthday, Jane! Thanks for bringing us readers such joy with your witty and wonderful books! We are forever grateful to your parents for bringing you into this word and teaching you the pleasures of a good book.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn -- Regency Historical

Annabel Winslow is visiting her grandparents in London in order to find a wealthy husband to save her family from poverty. Her grandfather wants to marry her off to his friend the fat, grotesque, elderly Earl of Newbury. Annabel's grandmother is philosophical and points out the Earl is likely to die, leaving Annabel a wealthy widow. The Earl desires Annabel for her full chest and large hips he is certain signify her ability to provide him with the heir he so desires. His current heir, Sebastian Grey is a notorious rake and not on speaking terms with his uncle. Sebastian Grey, home from the wars, spends his nights reliving the horror of war and his days eating his beloved cousins Edward and Harry out of house and home. He also has a secret: he writes Gothic romance novels to pass the time and make a bit of money. No one suspects him of being the popular female author and Sebastian would like to keep it that way. A chance encounter between Annabel and Sebastian awakens Annabel to her dreadful fate. She's charmed by the roguish but poetic Sebastian and he finds himself opening up a bit to her and provides her with the passionate kiss she desires before being forced into a loveless marriage. They part without learning each other's names, however, until Harry's wife Olivia takes Annabel and her cousin Louisa under her wing. As Sebastian and Annabel encounter each other, they become the talk of the town as Sebastian's charming ways catch the notice of the ton. Lord Newbury seems to give up on Annabel, causing her to have mixed feelings. When Sebastian pretends to court Annabel to repair her reputation, the Earl decides not to let her go without a fight. Annabel becomes caught up in a love triangle and torn between fulfilling the passion that burns in her heart or doing her duty to help her family. The story plays out slowly and drags on forever, coming to a ridiculous conclusion. I felt sorry for Annabel and wanted her to find happiness but not quite in the way it happens. The passion in this story is way overblown but the steamy parts can be skipped because they don't move the plot forward. The plot is wrapped up too neatly with no good reason for the villain to withdraw. None of the characters learned anything or grew as a result of the plot. The language is modern and makes the book all that less appealing. Olivia is a great character and I almost want to read her story but I didn't like the way the book was written so I probably won't. Skip this book if you like well-written, fun, witty books.

The Family Greene by Ann Rinaldi -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction
The family Greene referred to in the title is that of General Nathanael Greene, second-in-command to George Washington during the American Revolution. (see my post about my visit to his home). The first half of the book is told from the point-of-view of a young woman named Catherine Littlefield. Caty, as she was called, is a spoiled, wealthy girl growing up up on Block Island, an island off the coast of Rhode Island. Her mother died when she was young so when it comes time for her to learn to be a young lady, she is sent to live with her Aunt Catherine Greene to learn all the things she knows to become accomplished. Aunt Catherine, who was once rumored to have had an affair with Benjamin Franklin, teaches Caty the art of flirtation. She informs Caty that flirtation is the only form of power women have over men and there's a way to do it right that will get a lady what she wants. Caty catches the eye of an older, kind relative of her uncle's, named Nathanael Greene. Caty and Nathanael become friends as he helps guide her on her journey to adulthood. They marry once Caty is of age and soon he has defied his faith and joined General Washington in the conflict against the British. After the war, Cornelia Greene, daughter of Caty and Nathanael, takes over the narrative. She loves her father and their life on a South Carolina plantation, but her world changes when her spiteful older sister informs Cornelia that Cornelia was conceived at Valley Forge where their mother had carried on a flirtation with General Anthony Wayne, therefore Nathanael Greene is not Cornelia's father. Cornelia is shattered by the news and confronts General Wayne. Her tells her that respect for her mother is more important than the truth and refuses to tell her. The secret worries Cornelia for the rest of her teen years, as does her mother's behavior, which grows increasingly cruel to her children and more flirtatious with her gentlemen friends. General Wayne takes Cornelia in hand and treats her like a daughter to show her how to grow up to be an intelligent and respectful adult. The plot concludes at the end of Wayne's life when Cornelia finally receives the answer to her question. The story is about an internal struggle with no external struggle to mirror it and therefore, the book lacks the depth and excitement of Rinaldi's early works. There's no action to move the plot along and many of the events are summarized and the rest is dialogue. I didn't feel anything for the characters, despite the ties to my home state. If anything, I couldn't stand Caty and found Cornelia a bit bratty. I wouldn't recommend this book to Rinaldi's adult fans.

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Regency Christmas Courtship by Barbara Metzger, Edith Layton, Andrea Pickens, Nancy Butler and Gayle Buck -- Regency Romance Christmas novellas

This Christmas collection contains five Regency-set Christmas stories. The strongest stories are the first three "Wooing the Wolf", "The Dogstar" and "Lost and Found." In the first, Margaret Todd, a lady's companion, takes in her two orphaned nieces for the holidays. Not having anywhere else to go, they move in next door to Wolfram House as the owner is not in residence. The servants of Wolfram House enjoy the Christmas spirit with the two little girls much more than John, Viscount Wolfram is enjoying his holidays. Having grown bored with his latest mistress, Wolf tries to end the relationship, but the lady reacts violently and Wolf's face and pride are wounded. Arriving home with his tail between his legs, Wolf discovers the holiday cheer happening in his home and roars. Capable Margaret handles the situation well and John can't help but be charmed by her beauty and sensible nature so he allows her and her wards to stay on. Young Katherine and Alexandra love their new home and wish to stay there with their beloved aunt forever, so borrowing a pamphlet on courtship from Wolf's desk, they set to work trying to woo the Viscount for their aunt. In doing so, the girls create chaos and wreak havoc on Wolf's orderly life. By Christmas, he's at his wit's end and all hope of a marriage seems lost, but the girls have one last scheme in mind and Wolf finds himself charmed beyond his wildest imaginings.

In Dogstar, a lonely little boy travels to London for the holidays and picks up a stray dog along the way. Upon arriving in London, he's met with two adults who wish him to spend the holidays: his mother's old school friend Miss Laura Lockwood and his late father's friend Viscount Falconer. The imperious Viscount doesn't want Alex's dog and clashes with Laura about where Alex should spend his holidays. Laura's kindness wins out and Alex heads home with her to her lodgings. Alex doesn't care that Laura is very poor, he's happy to have a place to belong and his dog by his side. Sebastian, Viscount Falconer unbends a bit and agrees to spend time with Alex and Miss Lockwood sightseeing. The dog Pompey tags along and it becomes apparent that this is no ordinary dog when he charms everyone he meets, including the beats at the menagerie. Sebastian enjoys the time spent with Laura and Alex and is reluctant to let them go, however, he gets the wrong impression about Laura's background and offers her an indecent proposal, which she promptly refuses. It seems like Alex is about to return to his lonely life but Pompey does his best to provide Alex with the merriest Christmas ever. Both stories feature strong, independent heroines who are realistic and easy to relate to. The heroes are both rather snobby and rude but have kind hearts underneath. The children are cute without being obnoxious and both stories are heartwarming.

In "Lost and Found," Lord Nicholas Moreton's father demands his presence in London for Christmas where Nicholas will pay court to an influential foreign count's niece. Seething with resentment, Nicholas heads to Town in the midst of a snowstorm. He's forced to spend the night at an obscure country inn and rest his lame horse. Lady Anna Federova is also staying at the inn on her way to London to answer a summons from her uncle who wishes her to marry the Englishman he's chosen for her. The high-spirited Anna doesn't wish to marry a man she doesn't know or love though she has little choice in the matter. When she encounters Nicholas, she sees another arrogant man like her uncle and tries to knock the young man down off his high horse.
When his horse does not recover in time, Nicholas is forced to accept a ride from Anna. As the snow picks up, the journey becomes more dangerous and Nicholas and Anna have to work together to save themselves. During their journey, Anna gets to see the real Nicholas and realizes he is a kind, sensitive young man and Nicholas learns how to lighten up through Anna's teasing. However, the two are promised to others and dread their return to London. They must hope for a Christmas miracle to save them from their fates. Ignoring the obvious plot, the story is really good. I liked that the characters get to know one another well and that Nicholas is not a typical indolent alpha male hero. The story gets rather corny towards the end which took away some of my enjoyment.

The last two stories are too short to be completely believable or interesting. In "Christmas With Dora Davenport," the impoverished Elnora Nesbitt has been writing firebrand, radical articles to support herself, her mother and her aunt. However, Elnora's radical articles are not as popular as her domestic column she wrote previously. Elnora's wealthy suitor's mother is a great fan of Elnora's "Dora Davenport" articles and is dying to spend the holidays at Elnora's country home. The problem is that Elnora is not very domestic and their home has recently been vacated by a scoundrel of a tenant who left the home in shambles. Encouraged by her cousin August, Elnora and her family head back to the country to try to salvage their estate and win over Elnora's suitor. August promises to send help and come as soon as his visitor is well and able to travel. Help arrives in the guide of a Welsh sailor and friend of August's. Lieutenant Gowan Merthyr is kind, considerate, encouraging and makes Elnora's heart beat faster. He is, however, not a wealthy man. Elnora has a dilemma: whether to sacrifice her happiness in order to save her family or give in to her heart. That is, is the gentleman is willing... The results are predictable and because of the length of the story, not very believable. It would have been a better full-length novel with space to fully develop the characters and have them get to know one another better.

The final story in the collection, "Christmas Cheer," is about a young bride, Lady Hallcroft, who worries her husband doesn't love her and misses her large, loving family. When her husband asks her to plan a lavish holiday house party, she agrees, though is nervous because it's her first time acting as hostess and her husband will not even tell her who his guests are. Lady Hallcroft grows angry. She little suspects her husband has a pleasant surprise in store for her and seethes with resentment until she meets her husband's old tartar of an aunt and discovers what the Christmas season is really about. I hate stories about newlyweds and I hate misunderstanding plots. The surprise was so obvious that I couldn't stand that Lady Hallcroft did not figure it out. This story was the weakest in an another wise very good collection of holiday stories.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Georgette Heyer's Regency World

Georgette Heyer's Regency World
by Jennifer Kloester

This is a handy reference book for fans of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen and the Regency era. Each chapter covers an aspect of Regency society: clothing, transportation, etiquette, health care and more. She uses examples from Heyer's novels and appendices provide a list of slang words, biographies of Regency people and a timeline. The book is illustrated with small line drawings done from 19th century illustrations. The book could have benefited from full-color or at least larger illustrations. Though I knew most of the information included in the book from reading the novels and reading blogs, I found it useful and learned a few new things. I especially liked the glossary, biographies and timeline.

Despite a few historical inaccuracies, Jennifer Kloester nicely compiles all the information from Heyer's novels into one book. I plan to keep this book on my night stand next time I read Heyer so I can look up what a tilbury looks like or the dates of events mentioned in the book, etc.

I recommend this book primarily to first-time Regency readers and not so much to the long-time reader.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Legend of the King: The Squire's Tales by Gerald Morris -- Children's/Young Adult Fantasy
This final installment of the Squire's Tales has Mordred and his mother, Morgause causing strife within Camelot. Many of the characters from previous novels appear in an attempt to save or destroy Camelot. The magical folk watch the struggle but try not to get involved. They have a tough decision to make as the age of the faery folk ends and the age of ignorance begins. The story sticks true to the common legend of King Arthur and is told from multiple points-of-view. I found the multiple POV distracting and had a hard time remembering who all the characters were. Luckily, there's a nice reference section in the back that provides brief biographies on the characters. This story is pretty grim and lacked Morris's trademark tongue-in-cheek humor. I don't think he should have tried to finish the sags but let the earlier stories stand on their own. There are shades of Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter which were a bit over done but the writing is good and the story kept me turning the page in hopes of a different ending. If you've read the rest of the series and want to finish or if you're a big King Arthur fan (I'm not) then you'll probably love this book.

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George -- Young Adult Fairy Tale
In this companion to Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess Poppy has to leave her beloved Westphalin for an extended stay in Breton as part of a royal exchange to promote peace in Ionia. Poppy enjoys the social life and her new friends, but is adamant that she does NOT dance. She does, however, knit, play cards (shocking!) , ride horses (badly) and swear like a sailor. Prince Christian of Danelaw is also sent to Breton to find a suitable bride. Though he doesn't want to marry right now, he sees the trip as the adventure he's always longed for. He enjoys the refreshing company of Princess Poppy and tries to avoid the matchmaking schemes of the Bretoner King. Eleanora was once a spoiled, wealthy daughter of an aristocrat until her father's death left her penniless. Now calling herself Ellen, she's employed as a maid. Poor Ellen can't seem to do anything right and after losing several positions she comes to work at the home of Poppy's hosts. When a mysterious woman, The Corley, appears, calling herself Eleanora's godmother and promising to restore the girl to her rightful position, Eleanora readily accepts the help of her godmother. Soon she's the belle of the ball, enchanting Prince Christian and the only young men. Poppy is one of the only people who can see there's dark magic afoot. She has to set aside her pride and fear of dark magic to try to save Eleanora and Christian before it's too late. This is a dark retelling of Cinderella. (Disney take notes because this is how the story should be told.) There's danger, adventure and romance enough to please older children, teens and adults. The story is well-written and I enjoyed it much more than Princess of the Midnight Ball. Poppy is a realistic and appealing character who has flaws, is vulnerable at times and proactive in trying to save the day. Eleanora is a well-developed character who grows and changes and my opinion of her changes too. Christian is rather two-dimensional and I would have liked more of the story from his point of view. My only complaint is that the book is just a bit too short and the climax of the story is resolved a little too quickly. I especially like Poppy's decision at the end which is realistic for her age and sweet. I highly recommend this book, even for those who haven't read the first.