Monday, February 27, 2012

Downton Abbey Season 2

Downton Abbey Season 2

Last night was Sunday. I went through Downton Abbey withdrawal as I am sure the rest of you dear readers did! Season 2 has drawn to a close and we must wait another year to visit with the Crawleys again. Season 2 was an action-packed season full of melodrama, well-drawn characters and amazing dialogue.

The highlights:
Lady Violet, as always gets the best lines. My favorites are:
"You are a lady, not Toad of Toad Hall."
It’s like living at a second rate hotel where the guests just keep arriving and no one seems to leave.
"Don't be defeatist dear, it's very middle class."
"I hate Greek tragedy. With all the drama happening off stage."
"Do you promise?"

Edith's journey
Finally, Lady Edith comes into her own and finds a purpose! Go TeamEdith!  

The war
As terrible and tragic as it was, I think they handled the war bits very well and the war scenes were so realistic. The Armistice scene was especially moving.

How could you not love him this season? In Season 1 he let Mary walk all over him and I didn't much like him, but he was much improved this season. Aside from his self-pitying moments and the ridiculous tingling scene and his miraculous recovery... um well he's nice to look at anyway, isn't he? Except when he's pale as a vampire with striking blue eyes.

Mary is much improved this season. The war really changed the family and for the better I think. I don't understand why anyone would care about a scandal 7 years old though. Her judgment regarding Sir Richard was a bit lacking. A hawker of newspaper scandal? Really Mary, even if you're desperate you can do better than that!

The Christmas episode
Best episode ever! So wonderful and swoonworthy! I loved it!

Low points

Thomas and O'Brien
Thomas is so nasty and he never learns. Just as I was about to feel sorry for him, he would do something horrible again. Dognapping is a terrible crime.

I have mixed feelings about O'Brien. She was kind to Lang and she seems to be growing a conscience but she still gossips freely with Her Ladyship and she is still out for herself and only herself. She just feels guilty because she nearly killed the Countess and caused Lady Grantham to lose the future heir.

Mr. Bates and Anna
I love them together. Why can't they be happy? Bates is too noble and he should have known better than to blackmail Vera in the first place. There's no way she would settle for a little bit when she could have the whole and create a scandal in the bargain. She simply had to go. Now the question remains: whodunnit?

P. Gordon
So is he or isn't he? Why did they just drop him? I felt sorry for Edith. She was grasping at her last chance for happiness. I believed him until Edith told him they would go looking for Peter Gordon and burned P. said they would find him. Then he disappeared instead of staying to stake his claim. I hope this comes up again in Season 3.

I was so disappointed in Sybil. I loved her in Season 1. I loved her when she became a nurse and I ended the season hating her. She gave up everything for a man. I didn't get the impression she really loved Branson, she just wanted adventure and to thumb her nose at her snobbish family. Ugh. He was no prize either. I felt he was pressuring her.

The Influenza
What a horrible disease in real life and only one casualty? Sir Richard needed to succumb to the 'flu. The Countess's illness was awful and there was no way she would be up and about that quickly. This topic leads to the #1 low point of the season:

REALLY? I don't think the Earl acted according to character at all. I suspected Jane for different reasons in the very beginning. I did not like this plot at all and it was really misplaced and out of character.

Other thoughts at large:
I didn't like Lavinia that much. She was too insipid. She would have been good for Season 1 Matthew, the solicitor determined to be himself but now he's changed so much. He's more worldly and damaged thanks to the war and he needs a wife who won't put up with his brooding nonsense and who is worldly enough to understand what he's been through. That being said, Lavinia didn't deserve to die.

William's death was very sad but I knew he was going to die in the war. He was too nice and too much of a simple country lad to survive the war. Plus his death gave Daisy a way out of her predicament. I'm glad she finally got some closure at the end though.

I was happy with the way the season ended and I shall read the UK reviews for Season 3 before I decide if I want to watch.

In the meantime, while we suffer withdrawal, have some fun!
Print out Vulture's Downton Abbey Paper Dolls
Too funny!

Or trade these Vanity Fair Downton Abbey Trading Cards with your friends. Totally spot on!

Take this quiz from London's Daily Mail if you dare. Even I couldn't answer every question correctly.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . . 

His Saving Grace by Julia Parks -- Regency Romance

Adam Havenhurst is the newly appointed vicar in Pixley, near his older brother, the Earl of Foxworth's, hunting lodge. Adam is looking forward to striking out on his own and repenting for his past life of dissipation. When he encounters a local school teacher, Grace Edgewood, he is instantly attracted to her. He decides she will be a temptation but as a vicar he will try to resist such a temptation. Grace is struck dumb by the handsome vicar. Confident and capable, she's never reacted this way to a man before. What a lot of bother! With her older friend and co-teacher Margaret in love with Grace's uncle and a bunch of silly schoolgirls on hand, Grace should have enough of romance. Grace decides to throw herself into her teaching. The subjects taught at her progressive school are rather unusual. They include Greek, Latin, swimming (*gasp*) and possibly soon fencing (The horrors). When the villagers begin to gossip about Grace's reputation based on her curriculum, Adam feels the need to intervene. Unfortunately, his attraction to Grace causes him to open his mouth and insert his foot. It seems that he will never get her to love him, especially not once his rakish brother and meddling mother arrive. Grace is furious with Adam for telling her what not to do and she's determined to teach him a lesson on love that he'll never forget. I really really wanted to like this book. Grace's school sounds amazing. I would love to have attended a school like that if I were a 19th century girl. I thought any teacher of such a school would automatically be an appealing heroine. Instead I found Grace annoying. She's quarrelsome and stubborn and she's also really lacking in common sense for a teacher. I hated the way she handled the situation with Adam and the Earl. Her actions made her vastly unappealing. I did not much like Adam either. One minute he's lustful and the next he's priggish. His reactions are based on his emotions and never once does he display any sense. I finally liked him for a moment near the end. I did not understand what the heroine saw in the hero. He never revealed his true self to her. The secondary characters are far more interesting, especially Grace's two big brothers. I would recommend this to those who like more passionate romances and not to those who like the Georgette Heyer style.

Small Acts of Amazing Courage by Gloria Whelan -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

It's 1919, and Rosalind James' father, a  British civil servant is ready to return home to his family in India. He's mentioned sending her to school in England but hasn't yet because ever since Rosy's brother died away at school, Rosy's mother has kept her close. Her mother's over-protectiveness has had many benefits for Rosalind. Her rebellious spirit has been allowed to flourish and form a friendship with her nanny's daughter Isha who takes Rosalind to the local bazaar where Isha's husband has a carpet stall. There Rosalind overhears some talk about a man named Ghandi who speaks of freeing India from British rule. Rosy is curious and interested in this unusual man who refuses to fight. She cultivates a friendship with the radical college student Max Nelson. Max encourages Rosalind's interest in the Indian freedom movement and causes her to think about her own freedom from her father's strict rules. Then, at the urging of Isha, Rosalind does the unthinkable and breaks a million rules, finally trying her father's patience enough to banish her to England. A difficult and interesting voyage leaves Rosalind a bit older and wiser so that she's ready to face her formidable Aunt Ethyl who pinches pennies and tyrannizes over sweet Aunt Louise. Rosalind and Louise's stories parallel the Indian freedom movement and Rosalind is able to use the lessons she's learned in India to help fight for another kind of freedom. This is another winner from the amazing Gloria Whelan. Her depiction of India brings the country immediately into my mind though I know very little about it. She incorporates the language and the history seamlessly into the plot. Rosalind is such an appealing character. She's on the cusp of womanhood and treated like a child, much like India. As she grows and learns, she is able to make sense of what she's been told and figure out what she wants. I really admire her courage. This is a fabulous coming-of-age story that anyone 10 and over would enjoy!

The Pirate Captain's Daughter by Eve Bunting -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

Fifteen-year-old Catherine has grown up very isolated on a Caribbean island. Her mother, a proper Bostonian, had run away with a dashing naval officer, and left her family and friends far behind. Catherine's father has a dark secret - he's actually a pirate captain! Catherine finds her father's job mysterious and thrilling. She longs to join him at sea and have an adventure. After Catherine's mother dies, her father comes home to take her away. It is not safe at home for someone is searching for something that belongs to Catherine's father and he won't tell her what. Catherine decides to disguise herself as a boy and join her father's crew. Her father forbids her to reveal her gender for pirates are a superstitious lot and fear having a woman on board. Being a pirate is not as much fun as Catherine thought it would be. The crew are bloodthirsty, rude, crude and ruthless. Even her loving, gentle father is stern and doesn't shy away from doling out justice. Her only true friend is a young sailor named William, who had a kind heart. However, despite her father's best efforts to keep her safe, the villain or villains who tried to rob Catherine's home are on the ship and still searching. They'll stop at nothing - not even murder - to get what they want. The plot moves along at a fast pace, ending abruptly without resolution. There isn't much substance in between. Catherine is very naive and doesn't know the first thing about pirate life or even being a boy. She longs for adventure, which I can relate to, but she seems a little stupid. I did not find her a strong or empathetic character. I felt sorry for her that she lost the safety of her world but it was her choice to stay with the pirates. The story is a bit too bloodthirsty and gruesome for me. It focuses more on those aspects of pirate life than the character's internal journey.This book is intended for teens. The depiction of pirate life is pretty brutal and bloodthirsty and not very Disney-fied, however, the writing is very simple, more like a middle grades novel than young adult. I did not enjoy this book as much as Pirates by Celia Rees. It's nowhere near as entertaining as the Pirates of the Caribbean movies though more historically accurate. If you are a slow reader or know a young person who might not be ready for Celia Rees or the Bloody Jack adventures, then I recommend this book. If you are an adult reader looking for a great book, pass on this one.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What I've Read This Weekend

What I've Read This Weekend . . .

A Noble Deception by Sara Blayne -- Regency Romance

Lucille Emily Powell, the eldest child of the Earl of Bancroft, is outraged. The new Duke of Lathrop, her neighbor and godmother's nephew, is coming back to his abandoned castle to look her over as a marriage prospect. Lucy has no desire to be a "brood mare" to sire his heirs. She is content to remain an independent, free spinster but dreams of publishing gothic romance novels. She's already written a few stories which she shares with her younger sisters. While reading one of her stories in a tower in Lathrop Castle, she and her sisters encounter ghostly noises. Frightened, her sisters run off but Lucy knows it's only her little brothers playing a trick on their sisters. She decides to do them a fright in turn but instead discovers a man coming out of the shadows towards her. Instead of being scared like any proper heroine, Lucy quickly makes the acquaintance of the man informing him of her views on marriage. The man claims to be Phillip Carmichael, the Duke of Lathrop's steward. He is lately come from the Peninsula and is new at his job. Lucy offers her assistance and friendship. Philip and Lucy ride, fish, discuss Lucy's novels and Lucy learns the finer points of dueling. Lucy also discovers that she's not so indifferent to men as she would like to be. Alas, she believes Philip loves another and even if he didn't, she stubbornly refuses to marry. Philip, enchanted by the innocent, wild redhaired beauty dreams of more than friendship, but he has a secret and when he reveals it to Lucy he's certain she'll never forgive him. Having read the other books about the Powell family, I became enchanted with their lively, loving nature. I especially liked Lucy. I can easily relate to her desire to remain free and independent, however, I think it's an unrealistic dream for her time. Lucy is a very modern woman in a nineteenth century novel. I was willing to overlook that because she's such a great character and the romance is very sweet. I especially like novels where the characters become friends before falling in love and this one is a great example. The friendship and romance develops beautifully and realistically. Lucy maintains her fiery spirit throughout and doesn't give up her dreams, she just opens her mind and heart to share her dreams with someone who loves her. I knew Phillip's secret, having read the other books in the series, but I enjoyed the story anyway. This first book is the best in the series and one for the keeper shelf. 

Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer -- Historical Fiction/Romance

Once upon a time near Great Fittledean in Sussex, a Sir Thomas Jettan loved his home so much the locals nicknamed it "Jettan's Pride." Sir Thomas' two sons however, did not take much interest in their father's pride and joy. Upon Sir Thomas' death, Sir Maurice feels the need to settle down and beget an heir. His brother Tom disagrees. After sewing some wild oats, Maurice fulfills the family legend by settling down to live happily ever after. His son Philip grows up playing with the other children of the great families and has an undying devotion to his country home. Much to his father's dismay, Philip doesn't want to sew his wild oats or become polished in any way shape or form. That is, he refuses until the beautiful Cleone returns from school. Philip falls head over heels in love with his childhood friend and is determined to marry her. Another local, Henry Bancroft, also returns and captivates Cleone with his sophisticated airs and flattery. Cleone is so captivated she rejects Philip's offer of marriage and at the insistence of Sir Maurice, sends Philip packing to London and Paris to acquire the necessary air of sophistication. He succeeds beyond anyone's wildest dreams, let alone Cleone's. Philip is a much sought after young man. Jealous, Clo is determine to earn her own sophistication in London, a plot which may backfire when she too becomes too popular for her own good. This Georgian era set novel is one of Georgette Heyer's earliest works published as "The Transformation of Philip Jettan" under the pseudonym Stella Martin. I would not have wanted to attach my name to this work either if I were her. This is possibly her worst novel ever. The writing style is simplistic but peppered with mostly unintelligible French phrases. The plot doesn't flow very smoothly. The relationships don't feel natural or even interesting. It's a classic misunderstanding plot that works fine in short stories. Most of the novel is dedicated to the transformation of Philip and even that is greatly rushed. The heroine is one of the worst sorts who flirts and gets angry at the man she loves for no good reason. The novel finally concludes with some outdated ideas about male/female power and thought process which I did not like at all! Most of Heyer's other heroines are not so awful. There are also brief appearances by a black page named Sambo (the novel was written around 1930) who utters his lines in appalling dialect. I'm surprised this novel has endured for so long. I would not recommend it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer -- Historical fiction/ romance

An early novel set in the Georgian period, this one follows in the tradition of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Robin and Prudence are fleeing arrest following the failed Jacobite rebellion. Their father has sent them to London to hide out for awhile until he can come for them. Robin and Pru are well versed in the various con arts for they have spent their lives following their father from one mad scheme to another. This latest scheme as the siblings dressed in drag. Robin becomes Miss Kate Merriot and Pru is Mr. Peter Merriot. On the way to London they rescue Miss Letitia Grayson from being abducted by Gregory Markham. Peter gets the better of Markham while Kate spirits young Letty away. In London the siblings take up residence with Lady Lowestoft, a friend of the family who knows their secret. The siblings take London by storm and no one is the wiser of their true secrets, except maybe Sir Anthony Fanshawe, a large, sleepy-eyed gentleman who is friends with Letty's father. Then my lord, the siblings' father turns up in London with the greatest possible con of all - he claims to be the heir of the recently deceased Viscount Barham! Prudence despairs of ever turning respectable and fears they will all end up in the gallows when all is set and done. I don't wish to spoil the story for you. It starts slow and is a bit confusing but picks up rapidly. The plot is full of twists and turns - some I guessed and others I didn't. The setting is vivid with descriptive details about the fashions, the customs and the story is peppered with period language. The two main characters are immensely sympathetic and engaging. This is a fun romp of a novel and it's easy to see how Heyer developed her style into the witty Regency romances we all love.

A Regency Valentine by Jo Beverly, Carola Dunn, Ellen Fitzgerald, and Sheila Simonson -- Regency Romance

Instead of the typical short story/novella anthology, this book is a novel featuring chapters written by each of the authors. Kitty Grey frames the novel with her story of a middle-aged widow, Mrs. Cressida Trent, who agrees to host four young ladies in her home in Valentine Parva, Lincoln. Mrs. Trent knows what it is like to be young and dreaming of love. In her youth she fell in love with the serious young Marquess of Chelmly, but his family disapproved and managed to warn Cressida off. Juno, a young bluestocking, only wants to be left alone to read improving works and Mary Wollstonecraft. Secretly though, Juno is lonely and longs for romance and adventure just like the novels her cook reads. When she is invited to stay with Mrs. Trent Juno eagerly agrees but when she discovers the other three fashionable women in residence she begins to feel a bit insecure. A bit of Valentine's Day fun may allow her to dream of romance but will anyone ever love her? Shy Philomena Ware and her older sister Aquila are visiting their relative since the death of their father some months ago. They've traveled across Europe just ahead of Napoleon and braved the insults of snobby relatives. Now at Valentine Parva they can relax and enjoy the company. Philo would rather spend time breeding her canaries than speak to the other young ladies. She also enjoys the company of five-year-old Toby Trent who is eager to meet the wizard who has come to stay in the woods. Will the wizard be able to cast a spell on Philo to make her find her true love?  Philo's sister Aquila hides her feelings well and seems very cold. Not many people have ever been kind to her family, but she meets one who seems to care. Can she trust her own heart and more important can she trust the gentleman? Katherine has grown up all alone with only her severe Aunt Serena to take charge of her upbringing until her Aunt Blanche swoops in and gives Katherine the Cinderella life she's always dreamed of.  Finally, Mrs. Trent is free to focus on her own feelings for her past love and dream that he loves her. Can life truly be a fairy tale?  The story is very much a fairy tale but I enjoyed it a lot. Most of the stories are rushed though in order to fit them all in. Philo's is the most developed and the one I liked the best. I can relate to her shyness and I think I could fall in love with Robin myself (despite the name *ahem*). I also liked Juno a lot and I think I would be a bluestocking just like her. Katherine's story comes at the end after being alluded to in previous stories. I think it should have come after Juno's story because I kept feeling like I had missed it though I know I had read the whole book thus far. The light, fun novel is perfect for a rainy day or any other day when real life is too dull.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer -- Historical Fiction/Romance

This novel is a sweeping history of the Battle of Waterloo with romance secondary to the plot. Lady Worth nee Judith Taverner and her family are in Brussels to celebrate the end of the long fight against Napoleon. Lady Worth hopes her kind brother-in-law Colonel Charles Audley will fall in love with her protogee Miss Lucy Devenish. The minute Charles lays eyes on the dashing widow Lady Barbara Childe he can think of no one else. Lady Barbara is the granddaughter of Dominic from Devil's Club. She has all of his fiery personality and essentially nothing of her grandmother except perhaps stubbornness. The beautiful widow having married once to please her family is determined to never again submit. So she flirts and teases leaving a trail of broken hearts behind. Charles is patient and lets Barbara come to him. The couple finally become engaged but Barbara remains the same. She goes too far and Charles can not like it. A terrible quarrel on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo threatens to destroy Charles if he can survive what is to come. Heyer's forte was historical research and it really shines through in this book. The last 1/3 of the novel consists of a detailed play by play description of the Battle of Waterloo complete with troop movements and every gory death exactly as it occurred. What happens to the characters during the battle is blended in with the real-life events and will keep the reader turning pages until the fictional history is resolved. Lady Barbara is entirely unlikeable in most of the novel. She's the feminine version of her grandfather and instead of shooting people she breaks hearts and causes young men to kill themselves. Lovely. We're told she's spoiled and didn't have a soft feminine influence to curb her wild nature but that doesn't excuse her bad behavior because she's perfectly aware of what she's doing. She has a slow revelation and improves upon acquaintance. We're told Charles is the best brother and he's so good and kind but his characterization is rather passive in this book. He falls in love at first set and lets the lady walk all over him. That doesn't make for a very good romance but by the end of the book I felt for the characters and wanted them to be together. I skimmed most of the battle action. It's very very detailed and extremely gory. I mainly wanted to know what happened to Charles. A minor subplot involving Lucy Devenish is also worked into this history of Waterloo. I liked the fictional parts of the book better than the real life depiction of the battle. I had a hard time keeping track of the real people that figured into the story but remembered the other characters from Regency Buck and Devil's Club so I felt more invested in their story. Different people have different reactions to this book so I won't say if I would recommend it or not but if you read Regency Buck and Devil's Club and want to know what happens next, then I would read the first half of the novel and skim the battle parts. Do not skip the battle parts all together because there are some scenes with fictional characters that are important to the story.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Bucaneers

The Bucaneers

by Edith Wharton

Being curious about Lady Grantham, an American heiress who married an English Earl on OBS' Downton Abbey, I picked up Edith's Whaton's last novel The Bucaneers. This novel and PBS mini-series (which I watched at the same time as reading the book) is about women like Cora, Lady Grantham. The story opens in Saratoga (or Newport in the mini-series) in the 1870s where new money people congregate in the summer months because they were not welcome in Newport. The heroine is dreamy sixteen-year-old Annabel "Nan" St. George. Nan is a bit jealous of her older sister Virginia and friends Lizzie and Mabel Elmsworth for being "out" and able to attend parties and balls, though the invitations are not forthcoming due to the lack of eligible men. Nan is befriended by the dashing Conchita Closson. Conchita was raised in Brazil and is now doing a season in Saratoga with her mother, step-father and brother. The Clossons are not generally accepted in polite society for their shocking behavior. Mrs. Closson is rumored to be a divorcee who smokes cigars and Conchita smokes cigarettes, dances with her skirts hiked up and behaves loudly and brashly. Mrs. St. George hires an English governess, Laura Testvalley, to come and refine Nan to keep the girl away from Conchita's influence. However, Mr. St. George has business dealings with Mr. Closson and needs the women to cultivate a friendship. At first Nan is resistant to the idea of having a governess, but the passionate Italian-Englishwoman shares her kind heart and love of romantic poetry and art with her young pupil. Miss Testvalley isn't the only English person in Saratoga. Richard Marable, a younger son of the Marquess of Brightleasea (you must pronounce it "Brittlesee") is also in Saratgoa. His head is quickly turned by the vivacious Conchita and soon a wedding is in the works. Dick Marable helps Conchita's friends orchestrate a scheme that will get them invited to rub elbows with the most select people. Unfortunately, the result is a practical joke that goes wrong and the St. George and Ellmsworth girls are snubbed. Miss Testvalley suggests the girls go to London for a season. The girls will acquire some much-needed social cachet and perhaps even find husbands.

The rest of the book takes place in England where the girls succeed beyond Miss Testvalley's wildest dreams. With the help of Miss Testvalley's American friend, Miss March, and Conchita, now Lady Richard Marable, the girls are introduced to the most eligible gentlemen including Dick's older brother Lord Seadown and Ushant, the Duke of Tintagel. They also meet an ineligible gentleman, Guy Thwarte, who needs a fortune and fast. Only Guy understands dreamy Annabel and her deep interest in life beyond material objects. Yet even Annabel gets caught up in the gaiety of life in England. The young women quickly discover that life is not a fairy tale. The old dowagers look down on the forward, free-speaking Americans, the gentlemen are not always what they seem and money is always always an issue. 

The novel remained uncompleted at Edith Wharton's death. I read a version completed by Marion Mainwaring based on Wharton's original synopsis. The book was adapted for television by BBC and aired on PBS's Masterpiece Theater in 1995-1996.

There are numerous differences between the mini-series and the book as there usually are. In this case I believe the mini-series is better because it explains a lot more of the social and political nuances and exactly what the term "bucaneers" means. It illuminates the differences between the loud "new money" Americans and the staidness of traditional upper class English life. Even the villains come across as sympathetic once the viewer understands exactly what their lives have been like and how dependent they are upon the rules that govern society. Also, the book is filled with lengthy internal monologues that slow the story down considerably. Plus the mini-series has fabulous costumes (though the ladies spent a lot of time in their undergarments) and beautiful scenery. I recommend doing what I did and reading Part I of the book, then watching episode 1, and then returning to the book and then the DVD. Both the book and the miniseries are much better when taken together. I got a much better understanding of the nuances of the story that way. I think that those who like Edith Wharton, Elizabeth Gaskell and other nineteenth and early twentieth century novelists will enjoy this story too.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Devil's Club by Georgette Heyer -- Historical Romance

Dominic, The Marquess of Vidal aka "Devil's Club" is the son of Justin and Leonie, the Duke and Duchess of Avon featured in These Old Shades. Dominic has all the devilish tendencies of his father along with his mother's temper which makes him one of the most wicked men in all of London. He shoots a man in an impromptu duel and is compelled to flee the country by his father. Vidal refuses to go alone. He decides to take along Miss Sophia Challoner, the spoiled, beautiful daughter of a Cit. Sophia's elder sister Mary gets wind of the plot and determined to save her sister's reputation, she interferes, finding herself the one abducted instead. At first she thinks she can escape easily and be home before anyone outside the family finds out but she doesn't reckon with Vidal's dangerous temper and his desire for revenge. She also discovers that though hot tempered, the Marquess is not quite the devil she at first feared. He places Mary in the care of his headstrong cousin Julianna Marling, in Paris to prevent a mesalliance, a matter which complicates the plot considerably when Julianna's strait-laced beau turns up. Back in London, Mrs. Challoner is determined to make trouble and the Duchess plans to stop her. Leonie, with her rakehell brother-in-law Rupert in tow, heads off to France in search of her son before the Duke discovers the trouble. The Duchess's good intentions may backfire and hurt her son more than help him if he can't put his vices to good use for a change. Though this book features characters from These Old Shades, it isn't necessary to have read These Old Shades. It's a very predictable story, yet it doesn't make much sense. There's no particular good reason for the characters to fall in love. Dominic is far more ruthless than ever his father was and deserves the sobriquet Devil even more than Justin. He's both the hero and the villain of the book though I could not see him in the hero role. He's a cold-blooded killer with a hot temper and very little empathy for anyone other than himself. I really liked and admired Mary for the way she handled the situation. Heyer excelled at writing the anti-heroine who refused to faint or fall into the vapors when the going gets tough. Mary is no exception. Instead of hysterics, there's a vastly funny scene which I will not spoil here. The characters don't sparkle and come to life as they did in These Old Shades, though Mary would become the model for future heroines .The book is full of period detail though slightly less so than These Old Shades. Heyer provides just enough to give a sense of the time period but not too much to overwhelm. 

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

In 1906 New York girls like Prudence Galewski are brought up to either work for a living or marry well. Prudence's classmates at Miss Browning's School For Young Ladies are excited about their job placements in department stores or swooning over their latest beaux. Pru wants more than that. She wants to find out what causes death and stop it. She loves helping her mother, a midwife, but the job doesn't earn much money. Pru's father went missing during the Spanish-American War and while they wait for him to return, Pru and her Marm need money. Pru has the opportunity to work as an assistant to the head epidemiologist at the Bureau of Health and Sanitation. Mr. Soper, Pru's boss, is investigating an outbreak of Typhoid Fever in New York. As Pru helps him uncover the mystery of the disease's origin, Mr. Soper begins to think that the disease is being transmitted by a healthy carrier. The trail leads to one Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant who cooks for wealthy families. If they can get Mary to understand the situation and submit to testing, Mr. Soper could solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the time. When the press gets word of Mary's situation, the papers dramatically embellish the story and threaten to destroy everything Mr. Soper and Prudence have worked towards. Along the way, Prudence meets a lady doctor and discovers that others share her passion and that passion can lead to an actual medical degree. Prudence carefully notes everything in her diary, including her pain at missing her best friend, her longing for her father to return and her growing awareness of her feelings for Mr. Soper. This novel, told in first person diary format, deals with the history of medical knowledge and the shocking story of "Typhoid Mary." I'm not particularly interested in medicine so I found it hard to relate to Pru and her excitement at the knowledge she was learning. Some of her diagrams are a bit too much for the squeamish like myself. I did enjoy the mystery and the race to find the Typhoid carrier. The name Typhoid Mary is well-known but the true story is not. The true story of Mary Mallon is very upsetting by modern standards and I found myself sympathizing more with Mary than with Mr. Soper. Mr. Soper is entirely too cold and detached from human feeling. Pru begins to question his attitude but she questions it more because she is worried she isn't cut out to be a doctor rather than from empathy towards Mary. I thought there could have been a kinder solution but when dealing with historical facts I suppose an author must be true to history. Prudence's awakening romantic feelings were out of place in this story and felt tossed in for no good reason. I kept reading mostly because I was interested to learn what happened to Pru's father. The resolution to that story line is heartbreaking and the moral is a bit heavy-handed. I didn't love this novel but I didn't hate it either. I would recommend this book mostly to young adults interested in medical knowledge.

Selling Hope by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

It's May 1906 and 13-year-old Hope McDaniels is on the road again traveling with her father and their second-rate vaudeville show. Hope's father Nick is a magician with a love for Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau and a dislike of modern invention. Hope is is willing assistant and she also tells fortunes on the side with the help of Crooked-Eye Jane. Hope is tired of the vaudeville circuit. She longs for a real home and financial security. As the troupe heads into Chicago, Hope overhears the company manager discussing who should be let go. Nick is on the list of possibilities for his incessant gabbing to the audience. Hope is thrilled and terrified at the same time. At long last she'll have a proper home, which she hasn't had since the death of her mother years ago. She worries about how they will live until her father finds a new job. Clever and resourceful Hope discovers the solution in Chicago as mass hysteria over the approaching Halley's Comet rages through the city. With the help of a fellow troupe member Buster Keaton, Hope hits upon the idea of selling anti-comet pills. Hope worries about what Buster wants out of their partnership, not wanting to share her earnings. It seems that Buster wants a friend. Having a friend is new to Hope but she discovers that good friends are worth having, especially when they're as charming as Buster. As earth speeds closer to the Comet and people fear the end of the world is near, Hope begins to realize that she can bring hope to people despite misgivings about her con. Her father too discovers how to capitalize on the coming comet and Hope learns an important lesson on the concept of home. This is a cute little story about an event that few people know about. I think everyone in modern times can relate to mass hysteria and everyone needs a little hope in their lives. The way the author handles the idea of hope, linking it to her character, Hope, is very clever. The message is a little heavy handed but I like the way the final few scenes were played out. The setting of the story is absolutely marvelous. I loved getting to know the vaudeville performers and they really come to life. Many of them were real people. The author puts words in their mouths and describes their actions and feelings so vividly, it's hard to believe she wasn't a vaudeville performer in 1910. I especially love the way the story is written in first person. Hope is the type of kid usually found in novels of the Great Depression but she's more interesting being from an earlier time that is less familiar. Hope's voice is authentic to the period - including liberal use of the word Huck as an expletive! Hope also adds to the narrative by inserting her own wisecracks and observations on vaudeville life in 1910. This is a charming story that will appeal to readers young and old!