Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What I've Read This Week

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

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Christmas Wishes by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romantic Comedy

Miss Juneclaire Beaumont has lost her father to the Terror and her mother to despair and now lives as a poor relation with her greedy, penny-pinching aunt, uncle and wayward cousins. She's lonely and friendless except for Pansy. When Juneclaire's aunt threatens Pansy, Juneclaire will do whatever it takes to save her small, lame friend, including running off to London and going into service. The journey is more difficult than she realizes, until she runs into the Merritt Jordan, Earl of St. Cloud. The Earl, alias Satan St. Cloud is an angry young man. He was returning home to a set of grasping relatives when he was set upon by highwaymen and robbed of nearly all his possessions. When he comes upon Juneclaire, he decides to get into the Christmas spirit and offer help to the damsel in distress. Juneclaire is unsure of his motives at first, but unaware of his dangerous reputation, she quickly surmises he is an honorable gentleman. The Earl is captivated by the charming, innocent young woman with a big heart. When a crisis imperils Juneclaire's reputation, St. Cloud gladly offers for her hand but the lady runs off leaving Pansy in his care. St. Cloud is determined to find and marry Justine for only she can bring him the happiness he craves, but first he has to deal with his greedy relatives, strong-minded grandmother, weak-willed mother and... the family ghost. This is another amusing romp by one of the best in the business. There are several different story lines that make up the plot of this novel. Each one could have been it's own book and the first few chapters would have made a sweet novella. Though there is a lot going on, the plot moves along quickly despite being nearly 300 pages long. As usual, the story is populated by quirky characters who really make the story. My favorites are Pansy and Aunt Florrie. I preferred the secondary characters to the primary ones. St. Cloud is not my ideal hero. He has anger management issues and his exploits in London are legendary. Juneclaire is charmingly naive and childlike. She should not be marrying anyone, let alone someone like St. Cloud. I really identified with her love of animals and desire to protect them. Despite the fact that I didn't care so much for the characters, I really enjoyed the story and there were some twists that kept me reading long past when I had promised myself I'd stop. There is slightly more than kissing towards the end but nothing is really described and the characters are interrupted before they go too far. I highly recommend this book for fans of Metzger's other Regencies and those who like the comedy of manners Regencies.

A Christmas Kiss by Elizabeth Mansfield -- Regency Romance

When Miss Evalyn Pennington, a penniless governess, is accosted by her employer's besotted son Geoffrey, Evalyn is turned off without a character. Her only choice is to go to a distant relative in London and hope to find a position. Geoffrey's friends are aghast at his treatment of Miss Pennington and hit upon the perfect solution. Jamie Everard will ask his father, the Earl of Gyllford and his Aunt Clarissa to invite Miss Pennington home for the holidays. Once Aunt Clarissa meets Evalyn, she will be able to recommend  a new place for the governess. Jamie, with his best friend Reggie, convince Evalyn to go along with their plan even hiring her an abigail to make everything proper. Other guests are invited to Gyllford Manor for Christmas as well, including the Covingstons, a family with a pretty teenage daughter and a pair of lively twins and Gervaise, Lady Clarissa Steele's longtime friend and beau. Also invited is Miss Sally Trevelyan, a scheming woman determined to catch the widowed Earl. Sally has a difficult job ahead for the widower refuses to be caught. He is still grieving over the death of his wife many years ago. When Evalyn arrives she is made to feel welcome and a part of the festivities, for all she tries to stay in the nursery with the twins. Phllip, the Earl, wonders what his son's intentions are towards Miss Pennington and believes the pair to be engaged. If that is so, then why does Jamie spend all his time with the lovely young Marianne? As Philip tries his hardest to be a good host, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Evalyn and she to him. Then he suddenly withdraws and turns his attentions towards Sally. Hurt, Evalyn tries to run away and when Phllip realizes the truth, it may be too late. This story is much longer than the typical Signet Regency. It would have made a far better short story. As it stands, it's too long and slow. The characters are all so stereotypical, with the exception of Philip, it's almost painful. Evalyn is too perfect and good so I did not like her much. Phillip is an original character but he's also too good and kind to be realistic.  Though predictability is a hallmark of the genre, this one is incredibly predictable and full of cliches. My favorite part of the story was the description of the Christmas celebration. What could have been a heartwarming short story is here a rather slow, predictable, fluffy novel. It's not bad just not really my style.

Winter Wonderland by Elizabeth Mansfield-- Regency Romance

Included in the same volume as A Christmas Kiss.
At age 19, Barnaby Traherne attended his first ever ball. A shy, gawky youth, used to being petted and protected by his much older brothers and sister-in-law, he is awkward in social situations. When his eye catches the reigning beauty, Miranda Pardew, Barnaby is determined to be introduced despite his sister-in-law's worries. Miranda, a hardened flirt, makes mincemeat out of young Barnaby without even learning his name. Needless to say, Barnaby will never ever forget his first ball. Eleven years later, Miranda is an impoverished widow who is being displaced from her home by her late husband's greedy relatives. After less than a day, Miranda realizes she is not welcome in her own home and applies for a position as a governess in the home of a Mrs. Terrance Traherne. Barnaby, heading to his brother Terrance's home for Christmas, is no longer the shy youth he once was. In fact, some ladies find him downright formidable. Certainly the impertinent gentleman who dares insult the young lady traveling on the stage with them finds Barnaby formidable. The highway men who rob the stage also find Barnaby a worthy opponent though he is no match for their pistols. Circumstances force Barnaby and Miranda together. He instantly recognizes her but she has no notion of his identity. Barnaby refuses to acknowledge the fact that they are acquainted, confusing Miranda who senses that Barnaby acts as if she had once done him an injury. Once safely arrives at Terrance's house, Miranda takes charge of Barnaby's three nephews, the youngest who is shy and timid like his uncle was before him. Miranda and Barnaby clash over child rearing as he continues to hold a grudge. His sisters-in-law have matchmaking on their minds with different brides in mind. His eldest sister-in-law believes Barnaby needs a shy, modest bride like Miss Olivia Ponsonby. Poor Livy can hardly say two words to this strange gentleman. Delia, Mrs. Terrance, learns of Miranda's past treachery and discovers a growing attraction between her brother and her governess. First Barnaby has to learn to be a man and then he must forgive Miranda. Can he find it in his heart to do so during this joyous season? This story is better written than the previous one. The characters are vastly different from the common Regency novel types. I really liked the focus on the younger son and his journey to manhood, except that it made him VERY unlikable. He's angry and acts like a complete jerk towards Miranda and I could not like his behavior. Miranda is a well-developed character and I really liked her and wished she had a better hero. I also liked the lively, loving Traherne family. It's a refreshing change from the usual distant Regency family. The children were charming except for lisping Jamie who I thought was rather bratty. The epilogue is mostly unnecessary and what happens there to tie in earlier events should have been part of the action of the main plot. This is a slightly above average novel that is a good, quick read.

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