Friday, November 30, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

A Worthy Wife by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance

Miss Aurora Halle McPhee is a Bath miss of no importance. She's thrilled that the dashing, handsome Lieutenant Harland Podell has chosen to marry her. All Aurora's dreams seem to be coming soon but then the marriage is interrupted by someone who knows a secret about the groom. Kenyon Warriner, the Earl of Windham has just cause to prevent the wedding. Lieut. Podell is already married to Kenyon's sister! It seems Podell is a scoundrel who has left a trail of wives and broken hearts and taken fortunes. Kenyon assumes Aurora has been compromised and steps in to marry her himself. On their wedding night, he discovers just what he's gotten himself into. Aurora is an innocent young maiden with no interest in being married to him, so it seems. Aurora is nervous around the extremely attractive Earl. Can she ever live up to his expectations of her? The newlyweds settle in London to unravel the mystery of Aurora's birth and the reasons why Podell wished to marry her. Lady Anstruther-Jones is the source of gossip for the East India Company and her gossip comes with the most unusual of gifts. When Kenyon has to leave to rescue his brother from a French prison, he sends Aurora to his estate to deal with his moody sister and eccentric aunt. It's not easy for Aurora to take charge but she manages to do so amid a difficult situation. She makes some changes that result in a growing entourage of unusual companions. She can't wait for her husband to return home so they can pick up their married life right where they left off on their wedding night. In my opinion, this is not one of Ms. Metzger's best stories. I really liked the animals and the crazy secondary characters. They provided a lot of laugh out loud moments. The mystery plot hooked me and I couldn't put the book down until I discovered the truth. I pretty much guessed along the right lines but it was still a surprise. The marriage of convenience plot did not interest me at all. They're all the same! I kept groaning because Aurora and Kenyon didn't share their real feelings or talk to each other. I also didn't like the main characters. Aurora is so young and innocent in the beginning of the story that I couldn't stand her, but as the story goes on, she grows up a lot and I found myself cheering for her and really liking her. That caused a problem because I did not like Kenyon. He's lusty and has a hot temper. I can not forgive him for seducing his innocent bride on their wedding night. He went too far, in my opinion. Then he refused to trust her or believe in her. In my opinion, Aurora deserved better. This story is more sensual than her earlier novels and the animals don't play a starring role but are more in the background to cause havoc and complicate the plot more. If you like marriage of convenience plots and Georgette Heyer's comedies, then you might like this one too. For me, it wasn't good enough.

Wickham's Diary by Amanda Grange -- Austenesque

In this novella, the reader is given a glimpse into the world of George Wickham, the villain of Pride and Prejudice. Born to a father content to be a steward and a beautiful, spoiled mother, George is brought up to appreciate the finer things in life. His mother teaches him to be courteous to everyone he meets because you never know who will do you a favor. She encourages him to curry favor with old Mr. Darcy to get a Living (he'll have a fine house) or to marry an heiress (he has his sight set on Lady Anne de Bourgh). Then while George is at Cambridge, his beloved mother dies, he falls in with a bad crowd and the rest as they say, is history. The story concludes with his failed attempt to seduce Georgiana. The ending of the book came as a surprise since I was expecting more to the story. I was hoping for P&P from his point of view, painting himself as a tragic victim rather than a villain, but instead this story is a prequel. It doesn't reveal a whole lot about his life except that his mother resembled Lydia Bennet and he was always jealous of Fitzwilliam. The best moments were the interactions between the two boys and seeing how Fitzwilliam grew into the hero we all know and love. I'm not a huge fan of Grange's "telling" style of writing which combined with the lack of plot made this story doubly disappointing. It's a good one to get free from the library

Friday, November 23, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Rake's Redemption by Regina Scott -- Regency Inspirational Romance

Lady Imogene Devary wonders who the handsome stranger is who continues to call on her father, the Marquess of Widmere, and is constantly turned away. Who is he? Why won't her father see him? A fateful meeting at a ball introduces Lady Imogene to Vaughn Everard. Vaughn is intrigued by the bold young lady who skillfully ensures that every girl has a partner. He is surprised to discover that she is the daughter of his sworn enemy and thinks he can use her to get information about his uncle's last duel. Imogene is worried about her father's increasing distance and vows to help Vaughn get answers to his questions. She sees through his exterior mask to see the man within. She believes he is the one sent by God to marry her and rescue her family. She's not entirely convinced, however, because Vaughn has a reputation as a flirt. Vaughn soon discovers that the clues he has uncovered lead to an uncomfortable truth that could hurt the woman he's grown to care for. He had sworn vengeance but now he's uncertain. Imogene believes in him and that makes Vaughn want to believe in himself. Meanwhile, Samantha, Lady Everard is busy trying to navigate the social waters of her first season. Then there's the matter of Vaughn, so like her dear Papa and so dear to her heart. Will he ever come to love her? There's another gentleman who seems interested but Adele and Lady Claire don't seem to like him. How can she know if he's sincere? This book concludes the thrilling mystery of the Everard Legacy. I think it's the best in the bunch. Even though I figured out the villain right in the very first book, I liked how the clues sometimes didn't add up and sometimes they did. It made me want to skip ahead to find out. I love love loved the romance! I was in love with Vaughn before I read this book and now I love him even more. I was worried that the redemption theme would change him too dramatically, but it didn't. The inspirational message is more subtle than the previous books. I think the message about Faith is a bit forced into the story. He believes in her and she believes in him so he believes in himself which leads to finding Faith. If you cut out the Faith, the message is very similar to the one in The Unflappable Miss Fairchild and other stories featuring rakish heroes. As I mentioned before, I'm madly in love with Vaughn. He's hot-headed at times, flirty and a bit ridiculous but he's also loyal, caring, loving and kind. Imogene is my favorite of Regina Scott's Love Inspired heroines so far. She's intelligent, determined and a bit stubborn but also dreamy, loving and loyal. The only thing I didn't like about her is that she thinks God has a plan for her. I liked the brief cameos by the other Everards and learning what happens to them. As usual, Regina's love for the time period and extensive research pays off. The period details are lovely and the language and setting seem accurate. She doesn't try to copy Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer and she knows how to make her characters speak realistically and act realistically (mostly - Lady Widmere allows Imogene to be alone with Vaughn). I highly recommend this book to those who love a good rake story. You don't have to read the previous two, but it works better if you do. I think even those who have different beliefs will love this one too. A five star read!

Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Mystery 1) by Susan Ella MacNeal -- Historical Mystery

Maggie Hope has a degree in mathematics from Wellesley College where her aunt teaches and still she's only qualified as a typist. Maggie is furious with the mysoginistic attitudes at No. 10 but it's war time and everyone must do their bit. Maggie accepts a job as Winston Churchill's secretary, the previous one having recently been murdered. After very long and weary days at work, Maggie enjoys socializing with her house mates and their male friends. There's David who is a fun-loving pal and rated very very safe in taxis, probably queer; the handsome, fliratious Simon (Not Safe in Taxis), and the silent, stiff John who works at No. 10 (Maggie and John got off on the wrong foot ages ago). Maggie's work keeps her busy but not too busy to finally visit her parents' graves for the first time. She was raised in America and always had an excuse not to go but now there's a strong possibility London will be bombed and Maggie has an overwhelming urge to see the graves just once. A simple, innocent trip to the cemetery leads Maggie on a search for answers she never though she'd be asking. Her search leads to extreme danger she never expected. Maggie finds herself longing for the comfort of numbers and she struggles to deal with surprising and difficult news about the people in her life. Her talents could go a long way towards helping the British war effort, if only she were allowed to help. Meanwhile, a group of IRA sleeper agents are planning the downfall of Britain by forming an alliance with the Facists. Beautiful Claire hides a secret identity but knows the duplicity is all for a good cause. She's seen terrible things in her short life. She's also in love with Michael Murphy, a dangerous man who seeks revenge on the British. Together with Malcolm Pierce and other loyal Hitler supporters, they will bring about the destruction of British rule for good. This is a different sort of mystery than your typical "whodunnit." It's more of a thriller than a mystery. The story is told from the points of view of several characters so the reader knows who and what and why before the other characters but not the outcome. As a result of this type of story telling, I found that the plot moved very slowly for the first 2/3 of the book. There was a little mystery about Maggie but the main mystery didn't pick up until 2/3 of the way into the book and then it turns into a heart-pounding thriller. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way and a bunch of red herrings thrown into the plot to confuse the characters - and the reader. There's just too much going on in this story to keep track of. It's also very unrealistic that ALL of that would be going on at the same time surrounding one character. Some of the events truly border on  fantasy. I had a hard time getting to know the main characters or even liking them. Maggie loves numbers and I loathe and despise math and numbers and don't understand people who like them. I really couldn't like Maggie at all because she's so analytical and enjoys mathematical puzzles. (My worst nightmare). Her friends are largely stereotypes. My favorites are Chuck and Sarah, the two who have slightly more depth to their characters. Winston Churchill appears prominently in this book and when he's on page, his speeches are quoted at length. Too many of his speeches are used and too many words are his actual words. They don't really do anything to advance the plot. There's also a bit of a romance in the story. It's pretty obvious especially since some situations closely mirror Pride and Prejudice. I liked the romance and wish the mystery had been the more internal one and the romance more in the forefront. I also wish Maggie and her Aunt Edith actually talked about their issues instead of the reader reading letters that Maggie never seemed to get. The best part of the book is the period details. If you're not familiar with the clothing styles and designers of the day, like me, you'll have a hard time picturing that aspect but the rest of the details of war time London are amazing. I could easily imagine myself in 1939 London.  I wouldn't recommend this to those who are used to cozy mysteries. I would only recommend this book to those who like crime thrillers and hard boiled mysteries. I wasn't a huge fan of this novel and probably won't be reading the sequel.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Saved By Scandal by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance

Lord Galen Woodbridge has been jilted at the alter - twice - by the same lady. This time, Lady Floria has run off with a fortune hunter leaving Galen to nurse his wounded pride. Galen decides that an even bigger scandal will save him from the gossip mill. The only thing to do, he decides, is marry the lovely opera singer Margot Montclaire. He enlists the aid of his drunken clergyman friend "Skippy" Skidmore to purchase the special license and assumes all will be smooth sailing from there. Wrong. When he arrives at the singer's boarding house he can't get past the front door. First there's a growling mongrel, then an old crone and yet another old woman who won't even give Galen the time of day. Determined not to be thwarted in his scene, Galen continues his pursuit with bribes (including losing his gloves to the mutt, Ruff) until he meets Margot. To Galen's surprise and delight, Margot reveals she is a real lady, the daughter of a Baron who made a love match with a French singer and displeased his family. Galen and Margot lay all their cards on the table: she agrees to a provisional marriage in name only (for six months) and Galen agrees to provide a home for her sickly little brother Ansel, the dog, Margot's dresser Ella, rescue Ella's husband from jail and thwart Margot's wicked uncle from seizing Ansel's rightful property. Galen readily agrees and they are married three hours later. Galen is convinced he has done the right thing and that Margot will grow to love him in time. To prove his love for her, he rushes off to rescue the young Baron while Margot is left to finish her contract at the London theatre, charm the ton, plan a wedding party, deal with all the invitations and wedding gifts that arrive, and hire a new staff that isn't afraid of Ruff. Then Galen's hoydenish little sister arrives in town and another unexpected visitor arrives hot on her heels to further complicate matters. Will Galen ever return home? Can Margot live up to his expectations and rise to the occasion? This story is very different from the typical marriage of convenience plot. The plot follows more along the lines of a "sweet" style romance. The story has all the hallmarks of a classic Barbara Metzger book: a loyal animal companion, comic characters, a no-nonsense heroine and a sweet romance. The characters are all appealing, except, of course, for the villains. My favorite character was Ruff, the dog. He stole every scene he was in and is an integral part of the plot. Galen is a perfectly swoonworthy hero. His nickname, "Sir Galahad," suits him and if I were in Margot's situation I would have married him too. I would have married him even if I weren't in Margot's situation. Margot is beautiful and innocent but she's not spoiled and she's not a wilting flower. She's intelligent and strong and handles all the crazy situations thrown at her with good grace. Skippy is a great sidekick. He provides a lot of laugh out loud moments in the story. For those keeping track, there's very little sensuality in this story. Galen is attracted to Margot and there are some serious kissing scenes but the prose doesn't go beyond the fact that their clothes were rumpled.I loved this novel and recommend it to those who enjoy comedy of manners plots, screwball comedies and sweet romances.

Emma and Knightley: Perfect Happiness in Highbury: A Sequel to Jane Austen's Emma by Rebecca Billington -- Austenesque

Emma Woodhouse and George Knightley have been married for about a year and everything has been perfectly happy and peaceful. Then tragic news arrives that upends the society at Highbury. Emma comes into some knowledge she should share with Knightley but can't seem to find a spare moment. Then more terrible news arrives that further divides Emma and her beloved husband. Emma heads off to London where she makes a new friend and discovers strength she didn't know she had. She worries about Knightley, always running between London and Highbury, seeming to keep secrets from her.  Once returned to Highbury, Emma is restless. The initial tragedy has further consequences in Highbury and Emma longs to share her feelings with her husband, but he is often distant, treating her like a child. Meanwhile, the whole of Highbury awaits the long delayed arrival of the much-lauded Suckings (Mrs. Selina Suckling is the sister of Mrs. Elton and mistress of Maple Grove). Emma wonders if life will ever be the same again and if she wants it to be. How can she reconcile her marriage and find perfect happiness? This very long sequel to Jane Austen's Emma follows many of the conventions of a marriage of convenience novel.  The plot drags on and on without any change in character. I knew what Emma's problem was and the solution to it and I kept waiting for her to realize it and act on it but Emma remains just as spoiled, childish and snobby as she ever was until the end of the novel, some 500 pages later. Knightley is just as dull and enigmatic as he is in the original novel. I liked Miss Bates a lot. She gets to be the heroine of her own subtle yet predictable, plot. The events of the story are a bit too Gothic and melodramatic to please me. I did not like Emma's new friend Philomena. At first I did, many of her views are in line with mine, but by the end, she made some decisions that even though I suspected would happen, I didn't agree with and neither did Emma. Rev. Tidmarsh annoyed me, always speaking in Latin, but he provided a bit of comic relief with his somewhat absent-minded nature. I also really liked the visitors who appear at the end and would love to know more about them and their story. They were far more interesting than Emma and Knightley's story. Even though I didn't like the plot much, I found Emma and Knightley's relationship realistic and true to character. Harriet's story too seemed realistic and true to her nature. Some of the other characters I am not sure are really true to the story. I'd like to think that one person was not intended to be so bad yet I can can readily imagine that character's relationship with another character from Emma not working out happily. One thing I liked about this book is that the author adequately captures the tone of Jane Austen's writing. The e-book has many typos that made reading a little difficult. I wouldn't recommend this book to any true Janeite.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

The Autumn Rose by Fiona Hill -- Regency Romance

Lady Caroline Wythe has come, with her chaperone, to London to stay with her sister-in-law's brother Lord Seabury, his cantankerous father and silly young cousin Amy. Caro feels a bit lost and in need of an ally, and decides upon Lord Romby, Lord Seabury's father, to be her new friend. She is appalled at his account of treatment at the hands of his son and declares Lord Seabury to be a hateful man. Lord Romby's sister, lady Beatrice, takes an interest in bringing out Caro, but Caro is too old, too tall and too thin. Lady Beatrice decides to cultivate an eccentric persona for Caroline. Caroline quickly attracts the attention of eligible gentlemen, and some ineligible like her neighbor Lord Mockabee. Even Lord Seabury seems to take an interest in her though he has been long promises to Lady Susan Manning. Soon Caroline has her hands full fighting with Amy, denying suitors and discovering that she has been quick to make assumptions about people. When Amy creates chaos, Caro feels guilty so she must find a way to right the wrongs she feels she has created. I liked and admired Caroline for not wanting to marry and for trying to do the right thing. The rest of the characters are flat and unappealing. Amy is like every other bratty young teenage girl, one gentleman is a true villain and the other is so impossibly good he is rather annoying. The plot moves along slowly until the last few chapters and then it wraps up too quickly. The romance is a bit unsatisfying if you like courtship and waltzing into love. The romance is more of a friendship and a true meeting of the minds type. I read this book at least once before, possibly twice, and I am sad to say it did not stick in my memory. The plot will probably be promptly forgotten again when I return the book to the library.

May B : A Novel by Caroline Starr Rose -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction

This novel in verse gets inside the head of Mavis Elizabeth Betterly, May B. May lives on the Kansas prairie with her parents and beloved brother. She dreams of being a teacher one day but everyone says she can't because she has difficulty reading. Her dreams are ruined when Papa hires her out to a neighbor, Mr. Oblinger, to help his new eastern bride settle in. May doesn't want to leave home but she has no choice. The Oblingers' sod house is not as nice or clean as May's family home and Mrs. O is rude and whiny. Mrs. O hates the prairie. She can't see the beauty in it the way May can. Then one day May finds herself all alone in the cabin. The winter is coming and it's sure to be cold. She must stay strong if she is to survive. I don't usually care for novels in verse because they're quick reads. I loved pioneer stories when I was a young girl so I chose to read this one despite the easy level. I found that I rather enjoyed this novel. May is a strong and courageous heroine. She has a learning disability but she doesn't let it stop her even when the odds are against her. The descriptions of life on the prairie are incredibly detailed and I felt like I was right there with May. I couldn't put the book down until I found out what happened to May. This is a great read for Laura Ingalls fans. It adds another dimension to the story of pioneer life and what it was like to be a child at that time.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What I Read Last Week

What I Read Last Week . . .

Ace of Hearts by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance

Alexander Chalfont Endicott, Earl of Carde, nicknamed Ace, has found himself unwittingly engaged to three separate young ladies at the same time. Not wanting to marry any of them, Alex flees to the country to locate his late step-mother's relations and fulfill a promise he made to his dying father 13 years ago. At that time, Alex's young step-mother and her young daughter were involved in a coaching accident. Lady Carde was killed and the girl, Lottie, disappeared along with the hired guard. Alex's father believed little Lottie still lived and Alex does too. He realizes it's time to do his duty and find out what happened to his sister once and for all. When Eleanor Sloane's brother rushes off who knows where unexpectedly, he warns her there is a rake in the village and not to talk to anyone, especially not strangers. Nell, no green girl, dismisses her brother's warnings to visit the tenants, discovering a disastrous situation and acquiring a pet goose. When said goose encounters Alex, the results are instantaneous chaos. Alex becomes wounded and can not be moved, so Nell and her eccentric Aunt Hazel (and Aunt Hazel's ghosts) are left alone with Alex. Nell can't help but be attracted to the man who was her childhood savior but knows she isn't his usual type. Alex finds Nell highly attractive indeed and is torn between his responsibilities as lord and master and his desires. If only Nell's brother would come home and answer Alex's questions so Alex could get on his way to the task at hand before proving to Nell just how much he desires her. This story is not up to Barbara Metzger's usual standards. It's far more sensual than her typical Regency romance. Whether or not it's clean depends on your definition. While there isn't a love scene per se, there is a scene with Alex and his mistress. The focus in on how Alex was feeling at the time and the importance of the conversation. Most of this book is taken over by boring descriptions of how much the characters are physically attracted to each other. I can see why they fall in love without the physical desires. I can not see this couple suiting though. I found Nell to be far too selfless and self-denying to be an appealing heroine. She constantly doubts herself, her feelings and the hero's feelings. She feels that way for a reason, which is part of the plot. I found all that drama too repetitive and slow. Ace isn't much of a rake or an appealing hero. He's different from the usual cocky, confident hero and I liked the change but he didn't take action soon enough. I was more interested in the mystery which gets dropped and doesn't pick up until 3/4 of the way through the book. The ending feels rushed and there's no real closure. An epilogue tells the reader what happened next and what didn't happen, setting the stage for the sequel. This story also lacks Metzger's usual witty dialogue and comedic style. There weren't enough scenes with animals. The best scenes in the entire book featured the goose, Wellington. I will not be reading the next two books in the series. I do not care enough about what happens next. 

The Stanbroke Girls by Fiona Hill -- Regency Romance

Lord Marchmont has new desire to ever marry even though the title will die out and the estate pass to a scoundrel cousin. His sister, Lady Emilia, is just as determined to see her brother married (though she has no interest in marriage for herself). She chooses Lady Elizabeth Stanbroke to be her brother's brides. Lady Elizabeth jokingly tells her younger sister and best friend Amy that she intends to marry Lord Marchmont. When Lord Marchmont meets Lady Elizabeth, he is struck by her wittiness, intelligence and sense. Good Lord, could he be falling in love at last? Elizabeth is preoccupied with the love lives of her sister Isabella and friend Amy. Isabella, a young, romantic girl, has found herself the heroine of a Sir Walter Scott novel and Lord Marchmont's cousin, Sir Jeffrey the hero. Isabella KNOWS Jeffrey loves her as much as she loves him and is determined to be with him whatever the cost. Meanwhile, Amy Lewis is pining away for Elizabeth and Isabella's brother Charlie. Charlie is a young man with more fashion sense than common sense. He is oblivious to poor Amy's feelings while he runs after a more fashionable lady. When Isabella upends everyone's lives, she causes a scandal that may just result in happily ever after for everyone. I read this book long ago but forgot everything about it until I picked it up again. It's not a typical Regency romance plot by any means. The hero and heroine of the story are largely on the periphery while secondary characters take center stage. The romance is a very quiet meeting of like minds sort. I would have liked to have seen more development of that relationship and less space dedicated to silly Isabella and Amy. I admire heroines like Elizabeth who are intelligent and speak their minds. I despise silly little girls like Isabella and am not fond of girls like Amy either. Thus, I found this book very difficult to get through. Some of the dialogue is funny but mostly the book is slow and short on action and romance. The period details are excellent and lovers of the period will enjoy the descriptions of clothing, etiquette and all other aspects of Regency life. Unfortunately, the story isn't memorable enough to keep. I've already forgotten this book only a few days after I finished it. 

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read Lately . . .

Dear Readers, my apologies for the lack of reviews recently. I have been too busy to share my thoughts with you. Please accept these multiple reviews a little late than never!

An Acceptable Arrangement by Jeanne Savery -- Regency Romance

Lord John wants to find a bride but not one of the giggling misses his overbearing mother keeps throwing at him; so he enlists the help of his trusty butler, Tuttles. Miss Phillida Morgan, spinster, has come to London to to stay with her great-aunt. Educated and at the advanced age of 24, Phillida expects to be a companion but her lively aunt has other ideas. Lady Brookhaven wants to launch Phillida on Society and find her a husband. Phillida decides to take matters into her own hands and find herself a husband so that her mother can safely remarry without worrying about Phillida. Phillida enlists the aid of her abigail, Flint. What the upstairs folks don't know is that servants get together to gossip about their employers! Flint and Tuttles reach the agreement that Phillida and Lord John are perfect for each other, but how to make them see that without the opposite effect? When Phillida and Lord John actually meet, the best laid plans seem to go awry. Will the course of true love ever run smooth? This book could have been a real gem in the hands of a master like Georgette Heyer or even a comic genius like Barbara Metzger. Instead, most of the plot is slow, boring and repetitive. It takes an unexpected twist towards the end that livens things up a bit. The characters were really interesting and could have been wonderful and memorable if they had been fleshed out a bit more. I love bluestockings like Phillida but all she does is mope and whine about how Lord John couldn't possibly love her. Lord John appears to suffer from PTSD and survivor's guilt but that's hardly dealt with in the story. The servants are amusing and provide some chuckling and a subplot of their own. This book was not the lighthearted, funny romp I expected it to be and I had a hard time finishing it. It's not among the top tier of Regencies.

For Myself Alone by Shannon Winslow -- Austenesque Regency Romance

Miss Josephine Walker does not expect to marry. She is content to stay at home in the country writing children's stories and confiding in her diary. There are no worthy gentlemen in her corner of the country and she doesn't have much to tempt them with. That all changes when she unexpectedly inherits a fortune from her late uncle. Then Josephine becomes the most sought after girl in the county, a fact which she can not stand. Her parents, older brothers and true friends, Agnes and Agnes's intended husband Arthur, stand by her and support her wishes to be loved for herself alone. An opportunity for love comes on a visit to Bath where Jo meets the handsome, charming Richard Pierce. Jo is deliriously happy, but when situations change, she has the opportunity to find out exactly who loves her for herself alone. This novel is supposed to be a "what if" Jane Austen had lived to complete another novel but is not based on any of the major 6 plots in the Austen canon, however, I did not find this one to be at all in the style of Jane Austen. For one thing, it was too slow. The plot took forever to develop so that the ending was very rushed. The action of the story was largely summarized and lacked Jane Austen's witty dialogue. The ending is largely predictable for readers of the genre, but there are a few twists and red herrings which I greatly appreciated. The characters are dull and unmemorable. The relationships develop randomly without good reason. I could not understand why someone with such a big heart like Josephine would be friends with someone so shallow as Agnes. The only character I liked was Arthur and I felt very sorry for him. I was hoping for light, bright and sparking but this book was too slow to fit the bill. Readers who enjoy clean, Austenesque fiction written in a somewhat period style might enjoy this one. For me, the book was entirely unmemorable and I have forgotten most of it already. Later on I shall give it another try and see if I like it better but my first impression was not entirely enthusiastic. 


Friday, November 2, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Ardent Apparitions by Ellen Fitzgerald -- Regency Romance

Lady Arabella is sent to the wilds of Yorkshire to visit a great-great aunt she's never met while her beloved Papa goes on a diplomatic mission to Paris. At first Arabella wants to stay in London but once she sees the gothic old castle and discovers the family ghosts, she decides the adventure is worth having. There's also her handsome cousin Sir Francis, who is very charming but wishes to exorcise the ghosts. The ghosts do not take too kindly to the idea of being banished and hatch up some schemes of their own. The plot is a bit silly and a bit gothic. It gets a bit bizarre at the end and goes in a different direction than what I expected. The description on the jacket is a bit misleading. The romance is more of a whimper than a grand passion. It's barely there. I can not tell what the characters see in each other besides good looks. The romance just never really develops. It's not a paranormal romance though it does feature several lively ghosts. The ghosts are more developed than the human characters. Each ghost has a back story and a distinctive personality. Their stories are a bit cliched but make for fun reading. The humans are bland and two-dimensional. I couldn't feel anything for any of them. The writing style is a bit awkward and old-fashioned. It feels very forced and doesn't flow smoothly as if it came from the pen of Jane Austen or Emily Bronte. Warning to the modern reader: the story contains some negative depictions of Canada's and the First Nations. The attitudes reflect the attitudes of the time but are very different from modern opinions. Overall, I think this is a light, fun read, good for Halloween.

Dark Destiny (Dark Mirror 3) by M.J. Putney -- Young Adult Historical Fantasy/ Romance

While still in 1940, Allarde has a premonition that Napoleon is about to invade Britain. When Mrs. Rainford can't find evidence to the contrary in history books, the Irregulars know they need to return home NOW. They arrived back in 1804 to discover their magical wards severely compromised and Napoleon planning to invade Britain. Tori, Allarde, Cynthia, Jack and Elspeth are needed to stop to the invasion. This time they are up against the dangerous unknown weapon of magic. Meanwhile, in 1940, Rebecca Weiss has been staying with the Rainfords to develop her magical powers. She's looking forward to getting back to school to study non-magical subjects which will help her on her quest to become a doctor. She realizes her dream is to become a psychologist. She learns she can enter minds and help redirect their thoughts in order to heal. Rebecca's newly discovered talent is much needed in 1804. Will she have the courage to step through the mirror and head into danger? She must, for the Irregulars saved her life, but is she a powerful enough mageling to do what they ask? She also must deal with Nick Rainford's growing attraction. She's Jewish and he's not so she's certain that they can never be together, but Nick is persistent. Can they find a way after all? Allarde must also face the truth that what he is about to do will sever him from his family and his estate forever. Tori is determined to stay by his side no matter what. The plot of this story is similar to the first book with starts and stops. There are several chapters with major action and then a thrilling ending. Then there are periods where nothing happens, followed by a brief period of action and a startling conclusion. The first action sequence is more dangerous and exciting than the second, which ends rather abruptly. I didn't like the way the Irregulars got out of trouble at the end. It's a story about magic and what happened didn't exactly fit. I would have liked one continuous plot with all the characters starting at the same place and time working together to save the day rather than the back and forth start and stop action. The slow parts of the book deal with Allarde's relationship with his father and their estate. All of that should have come at the end. The conclusion to that plot is a bit corny and very predictable. I also wanted more of a conclusion with Tori's family and an epilogue to find out what happens in the 19th century. The war with Napoleon lasted a long time and I wonder if Tori, Allarde, Cynthia and Elspeth will stay at Lackland until then or leave once they come of age. The romances are still very intense and there's one more new romance to add to it. I like Jack and Cynthia the best and wish their story was more developed. I also liked Nick and Rachel and how she was able to teach him about Judaism. Tori and Allarde are the ultimate hopeless romantic's dream couple. I think teenage girls will like them the best. This series is best appreciated by teen girls who may not want the complexity of Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series or want more romance and lighter fantasy. I don't think adults will enjoy the series as much. I liked it but would have preferred more adventure and less intense romance.