Saturday, December 29, 2012

Orchard House Holiday

Orchard House Holiday

My friend Susanna visits the Alcotts
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Louisa May Alcott at her home in Concord, Massachusetts. The year was 1870 and Louisa was celebrating the republication of her first book Flower Fables. Flower Fables is a book of fairy stories dedicated to Ellen Emerson, who Louisa babysat. Louisa has decided to give her book, her "first born" to her Marmee for Christmas, for "grandmothers are always kind." Louisa feels that Little Women gets more attention and it's not fair. She handed the book and a stocking to some young visitors to carry around the house and collect gifts for Marmee. The house was decorated for Christmas with greenery and small trees with homemade ornaments. We were shown around the house by a Miss Hawthorne, two Miss Emersons and Louisa's youngest sister May. May is the model for Amy in Little Women and like her fictional counterpart, she is an artist. She has designed a beautiful angel clothespin ornament to honor her sister Lizzie (Beth), "the angel in the house," who died young. We saw Louisa's bedroom with her special writing desk her father made for her (unusual for a woman to have a desk in her room) and May's room with all her drawings on the walls. Then we were escorted down into the parlor where we met Mrs. Alcott and learned about her family. The little visitors gave Marmee her stocking and she delighted in the gifts from her family. Finally, we saw a play based on one of the stories in Flower Fables which was put on by some local girls. It was a lovely tour and a fun way to see Orchard House!

What I've Read Recently... Regency edition

What I've Read Recently... Regency edition . . .

Julia and the Master of Morancourt by Janet Aylmer -- Regency Romance

 Julia Maitland is being pressured by her family to choose a wealthy husband soon. Her family has fallen on hard times lately : first, her only brother died fighting Napoleon's troops in Spain; then, the local bank failed and Papa lost his investments; after that, Papa's health began to decline. Julia is willing to please her family but she is not too happy about either of the prospects her parents have chosen for her. Mama wishes Julia to marry Dominic Brandon, an Earl's heir and cousin to Julia's best friend Emily. Papa prefers Jack Douglas, the son of his friend Harry, a self-made man. Julia doesn't know Dominic at all, she likes his younger brother Freddie though, and Jack prefers farming and animals to people. Julia's headstrong younger sister Sophie seems to get along well with Jack, but Julia doesn't feel they have anything in common. She prefers conversing about books with Jack's younger brother, Kit. Though she would like to marry for love, she would at least prefer to have some degree of common interests and friendship with her husband. Kit Douglas may be the one to steal Julia's heart; certainly he seems interested, but he is a younger son, a wounded soldier with no prospects. When her Aunt Lucy in Bath sends for Julia, her Papa agrees she needs a break and so Julia heads off to fashionable Bath and leaves her past behind her. Traveling with Emily, she learns some shocking secrets about Dominic. In Bath she meets a man who claims to know Dominic and lets slip an interesting piece of information about Dominic. Julia and Emily are perplexed and determined to discover the truth. Then Aunt Lucy's old friend dies and her heir, Christopher Hatton, writes to Aunt Lucy to come to Dorset and choose a souvenir as a memory of her friend. At Morancourt, Julia receives a huge surprise and discovers some surprising secrets about herself and her suitors and uncovers a mystery. Will the path to true love lie in Dorset? Can she ever find perfect happiness? The title of the book is a pretty big spoiler! Even so, it's still a good story. The period details are amazing and the settings are perfectly described so I felt like I was there. Any newcomer to the Regency genre can easily learn about the social customs of the  about herself and her suitors and uncovers a mystery. Will the path to true love lie in Dorset? Can she ever find perfect happiness? The title of the book is a pretty big spoiler! Even so, it's still a good story. The period details are amazing and the settings are perfectly described so I felt like I was there. Any newcomer to the regency genre can easily learn about the social customs of the day. It's obvious Janet Aylmer has done her research. The writing style is also very accessible. She captures the tone of the era without being overburdened with copying Jane Austen's every word. The writing style is a bit dry though and the characters never really come to life. It lacks Jane Austen's wit and gentle humor. The story is a blend of traditional and sweet Regency styles. The plot is a bit slow to start with but picks up about 2/3 of the way through. The mystery plot could have started sooner. The ending is a bit rushed and I wish the book was a bit longer. The characters are interesting and likeable. Julia is a sensible heroine who acts and thinks appropriately for her time. The other two sisters are two-dimensional but they don't factor much into the story. Julia's mother is also a bit stereotypical but her Papa is not. The romantic lead is wonderful! He's kind, caring, romantic and really connects with Julia. I enjoyed the development of their relationship and how they worked together to solve a mystery. I would recommend this to Janites and those who love the old-fashioned sweet and traditional Regencies.

Mr. Jeffries and the Jilt by Joy Reed -- Regency Romance

The Honorable Mr. Raymond Jeffries is visiting his aunt at the fashionable watering hole of Shelton-On-Sea. He's bored and longs for intelligent company and is trying to steer clear of the matchmaking Mama's. When he learns the notorious jilt, Caroline Sedgewick is also staying in Shelton-On-Sea, he is intrigued. He vaguely remembers meeting her in London and his curiosity and sympathy are aroused when he learns she has most recently jilted a man he knows to be a scoundrel, Robert Cullen. Caroline is hiding out with her friend Lady Katherine. Caroline has her reasons for doing what she did and is embarrassed to be the talk of the town. As she gets to know Mr. Jeffries she comes to believe he may be the one to capture her heart at last, but she couldn't let him saddle himself with someone so notorious. Mr. Jeffries admires Caroline's plain speaking and her witty conversation. He feels like her knight in shining armor. The more he sees of her, the more he longs to make her his wife, but his aunt doesn't approve based of gossip and hearsay. If he can only get Caroline to trust him enough to tell him the truth and see that they belong together. Then there's Cullen who isn't used to being told no. Will he succeed in winning over Caroline again? Mr. Jeffries is the type of hero any girl would love to swoon over. He's pretty much perfect. Caroline has a few flaws but mostly she's a nice girl. I felt very sympathetic towards her but by the end of the book I wanted to strangle her for her self-sacrificing attitude. The story has some good dialogue between the hero and heroine and there are a few amusing moments that come primarily from the secondary characters. This is a nice, light, sweet romance. It's not fabulous but it's not bad either. I wouldn't put it in my top ten category but I would recommend it to fans of the sweet Regency style. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

What I've Read Recently ... Modern Edition

What I've Read Recently ... Modern Edition . . .

Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell -- Women's Fiction

Poppy Dunbar is having a great time at her "hen do" when she tumbles down the stairs and into the arms of a handsome stranger. She feels an instant connection with this man, Tom, but her wedding is tomorrow! What would her fiance say if she jilted him for a stranger? After agonizing all night line, Poppy decides she can not meet Tom but she can not go through with her wedding. She realizes that Rob is all wrong for her and she would be stifled married to him. When her father kicks her out, she heads off to London to begin a new life. She takes a room in a house owned by Caspar French, a notorious playboy artist and a job with Jake, an antiques dealer. Poppy hits it off with Caspar right away and Jake hasn't fired her no matter how many mistakes she's made, but house mate Claudia can't stand Poppy. Claudia Slade-Wlech is 22 and has a great job and a nice room in a fabulous house. What more could anyone want? Claudia is desperately unhappy. She's in competition with her glamorous parents: her father is an actor and her mother is a beautiful, wealthy, man-hunter. Claudia has a desperate crush on Caspar but he doesn't seem to notice her. Will she ever find love? Poppy's friend Dina (and almost sister-in-law) comes up to spend a weekend of fun with Poppy, leaving behind her dull husband, new baby and controlling mother-in-law. She reveals something about Poppy's past that sets Poppy on a search for something she always knew was missing. She still hasn't given up hope of seeing Tom again, but she's sworn off  men... for now. This story is very long and a bit complicated with several plots going on at the same time. The plots alternative points-of-view between each character and it's difficult to tell who the narrator is because of very abrupt transitions. The multiple plots slow the story down and make it far too long. The mystery elements of the plot were the only thing that kept me reading and even then I stopped reading and skipped ahead to the end. The plot I liked best was about Poppy's family secret. The characters were vibrant and unique. I liked them a lot despite the fact that they smoke and drank too much. Those characters are the only ones I actually liked, apart from Jake. Jake is sweet and shy and nerdy which makes an appealing character. He's a foil to Caspar who is a stereotypical womanizer. I hated Claudia. She is whiny and self-centered and really snobby. She spends the entire book complaining, whining and criticizing. Dina is the worst character. Of course she is a new mom and dying to get away but she goes very overboard and willing to do anything to find something more glamorous. She does eventually grow, which I appreciated. Even Poppy is not appealing. I liked her at first more or less but she never really develops or changes in any way until the very end. I didn't agree with a big decision she made towards the end. I did agree with Caspar's assessment of the situation and was waiting for Poppy to realize he was right. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a witty, romantic comedy.

Marrying Up: A Right Royal Romantic Comedy by Wendy Holden -- Women's Fiction

Polly is an archeologist specializing in Roman loos. Her job isn't glamorous but she loves her work and enjoys inspiring a group of local children who are working with her on a dig at Oakeshott, an estate near her parents' home. Then a dog comes and ruins her dig. The dog's caretaker is a handsome, dark-haired young man whom Polly can't seem to stop snapping at. She regrets her words for the man was kind, but Polly is wary where men are concerned because she was burned in the past. She agrees to have a drink with him and a drink turns into another date and then finally the beginnings of love. Then Max suddenly has to rush off home to a family emergency. He said he'd be back quickly, but he's gone for a long time. Did he desert Polly the way her old boyfriend did? Should she try to find out what happened to him? Allison Donald is a scheming social climber who thought she could sleep her way to the top; she even changed her name to Alexa MacDonald. Then her plan backfired and now she's left with nothing, not even a university education. She's back home in her parents' modest home hating every minute, dreaming of the fame and fortune she should have. In London she meets Florrie, a wealthy socialite who takes Alexa up as a companion. Florrie's mother, however, knows a social climber and is determined to stop Alexa. Alexa has a great ally in Barney, a fellow social climber. Can they claw their way to the top? Meanwhile, the the mountain kingdom of Sedona, the King has decided he needs a royal wedding to publicize the country and bring in revenue. As the King is happily married, he decides his heir, Maxim, should stop fooling around studying to be a vet in England, and come home and get married. Maxim is furious with his father. He doesn't want to be pushed into getting married. He'd much rather follow his heart. His younger brother is too busy partying to be sympathetic. Is there any happy solution for any of them? This story is similar to a fairy tale or Regency romance. There are plenty of aristocrats living the high life sprinkled throughout the story and some regular people who have vastly different agendas. The difference is that this is a modern setting and I feel it doesn't work as well. It's easy to romanticize and admire a past time period, especially when authors leave out the poor, but in a contemporary setting it's not easy to admire the aristocrats who spend their lives partying hard. This is where the story fell short for me. I really liked Polly and I was fascinated by her career and wanted to know more about her dig site and what she found. I loved her romance but felt it developed too fast and then was dropped and picked up too late. I couldn't stand Alexa. Her social climbing antics and lack of moral compass are very distasteful to me. Too much of the book was devoted to her plot. I loved Max and feel there wasn't enough of him in the beginning to really develop a relationship with Molly. The kingdom of Sedona is interesting but it's hard to believe that in this day and age, a monarch would be so hard and uncaring of his son's wishes. The best part of the novel are the gossip magazine pages. The names of the people are very witty. If you are addicted to E! you will probably enjoy this novel. If you like modern fairy tales, you will probably like this story.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What I've Read Recently Christmas edition

What I've Read Recently ... Christmas Edition . . .

A Regency Christmas (story collection) by Anita Mills, Patricia Rice, Mary Balough, Gayle Buck, Edith Layton -- Regency Romances

Old Acquaintances by Gail Buck is a retelling of Georgette Heyer's Lady of Quality. Miss Judith Graham is traveling from her sister's lively home to her own lonely house for Christmas when she comes upon a serious coach accident. She instantly mothers a young lady, obviously of quality, traveling all on her own.Young Cecily Brown is fleeing her stern guardian's choice of husband. Judith, knowing how the story will end if she doesn't interfere, she invites the girl home with her. When the other guests hear of the invitation, they assume it's an open invitation and soon Judith's home is filled with guests. The guests include Lord Baltor, the young man who caused the coaching accident, a mysterious silent man and a pair of  encroaching "mushrooms" of the most vulgar sort. One guest she doesn't plan on is Sir Peregrine Ashford, Cecily's guardian, and Judith's former fiance! Something went wrong between them years ago and pride has kept them apart. Will the magic of the holiday season and pair of young lovers help them overcome their stubbornness and find their way back to each other? This story is Georgette Heyer light. The new-money couple provide a lot of chuckles, and "Mr. John Smith" makes for a good mystery. The plot is predictable but well-written. There's lots of realistic dialogue and good chemistry between the hero and heroine without it being excessive. They're both proud and stubborn and don't communicate very well. There's lots and lots of dialogue which is both good and bad because it means people are communicating, but we're being told things instead of being shown them, which I didn't like. This is a decent enough story but I didn't feel like it was so very heartwarming. 

In The Duke's Progress by Edith Layton, the Duke of Austell is excited for Christmas. He's bored most of the rest of the year, but at Christmas, he gets to spoil his niece and nephew and treat the servants. His gifts this year meet with less enthusiastic reception and he feels there must be something missing from his life. That something is the magic captured in the scene of a snowglobe his childhood friend's grandfather gave him as a boy. If only he could find that sense of peace and happiness. He hopes to recapture some of the joys of his lost youth when he inherits guardianship of his late friend's son, Randall. He enjoys spending time with young Randall, but upon learning the boy had made plans with best friend Betsy and her older sister Molly back home. When the boy gives Cyril a gift from the heart, Cyril realizes that Christmas magic may be attainable after all and may even lead to true love. I wouldn't call this story a romance. The romance is tacked on at the end and the heroine is never properly introduced.Cyril is a great man and any woman would be proud to marry him if she could hold his interest. I'd like to see the middle of the story filled. There was lots of potential here for a good story but the length prevents it from developing. 

The Kissing Bough by Patricia Rice is another story about second chances. It's Christmas and Diana Carrington is determined to make Christmas merry for her family, despite the fact that they are in mourning for her Papa and her only brother has been on the Peninsula fighting Napoleon. Charles is supposed to be on his way home but no one has heard from him in ages. Diana worries about her brother and she also worries about her old friend and neighbor Jonathan Drummond. Jon and Diana were childhood playmates and sweethearts and Diana can not forgive him for running off to war without telling her he was leaving. When Charles finally returns bringing a wounded Jon, Diana fears the boy she once loved has turned into a proud and angry man. Jon has reason to be bitter. His father has disowned him and his true love is not wearing the ring he secretly left her. Has she chosen to forget him? Surely a woman such as she has many suitors. With some help from a pair of mischievous twins and Diana's casual conversation, Jon begins to piece together the clues to the mystery and begin to plan a way to show Diana how much he cares. Maybe Christmas is a time for miracles after all. This is my favorite story in the collection. I loved the description of country Christmas and domestic life in a minor gentry household. It reminds me a lot of a Louisa May Alcott story, especially since there's sort of a moral to a subplot. The romance between two well-drawn characters develops beautifully. I loved the secondary characters adding comic relief to the plot. This story is very sweet without being too saccharine and the author refrains from hitting her readers over the head with a message.

In A Gift of Fortune by Anita Mills, Susanah Byrnes, an impoverished widow is journeying home with her small daughter and aunt-in-law from seeing her husband's family who refuse to help her. She doesn't know what her future will bring and it certainly isn't a merry Christmas. To make matters worse, the carriage breaks down on an icy road. Justin Marshfield, Marquess of Lynesdale is also traveling that night with his disreputable younger cousin and comes to the aid of the travelers. He is charmed by the child, Katie Byrnes and is determined she shall have whatever will make her happy. Molly Hill, a fellow traveler, is also eager to share her money with those who have been kind to her. While holed up an an inn for Christmas, the travelers conspire to make a happy Christmas for the little girl and for her mother. This story is incredibly unrealistic but it's a good Christmas story full of good cheer and heartwarming moments. The romance plot is a bit lackluster and unconvincing. The characters are rather stereotypical: noble, self-sacrificing mother; prostitute with a heart of gold and the bored Marquess. If you are looking for a good, heartwarming Christmas story then this one is the one that fits the bill. 

The Star of Bethlehem features a married couple Estelle and Alan, Lord and Lady Lisle. They haven't been very close in their short marriage and spend more time fighting and making love than actually talking to each other. When Estelle loses the Star of Bethlehem, as she calls the diamond and sapphire engagement ring Allan gave her, she fears her marriage is over. Allan wonders whether his wife has been unfaithful and feels jealous and possessive. Her loss of the ring is the last straw. He suggests a trial separation after her family visits for the holidays. A surprise appearance by a chimney sweep's boy brings out the maternal instincts in Estelle. She is determined to rescue him from a difficult life while Allan suspects the boy may be more than he seems. The boy soon discovers he has the power to save the Countess's marriage but he's torn between helping his blood family and helping the family that has been kind to him. Is there a way for everyone to have a merry Christmas? I liked this story least of all. I hate stories about marriages of convenience or married couples who don't communicate and this one is not exception. I HATED how they made silent love all the time after fighting. Their lack of communication probably is realistic for the period but for the sake of a story, I prefer couples to speak what is in their hearts. Others may enjoy the story and the development of two wounded souls coming together.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Twelve Clues of Christmas (Lady Georgiana Mystery) -- Historical Mystery

Poor Georgie is stuck in snowy Scotland after the birth of Fig and Binky's second child. Now it's Christmas and Fig's awful family is coming and they all want Georgie out of the house and married off to some terrible prince or ANYbody. Georgie's heart belongs to the enigmatic Darcy O'Meara but they can never marry, even if he does manage to earn a respectable living, for Darcy is Catholic and Georgie is in line for the throne. Even Georgie's other family has happy plans for the holidays: Mum is going off to some quaint Devonshire village called Tiddleton-Under-Lovey with Noel Coward and Granddad and Mrs. Huggins to serve as help. Glumly, Georgie resigns herself to a dreary Christmas in Scotland. Then a casual glance at a lady's magazine reveals the solution: a Lady Hawes-Gorsley wants a society hostess to help at a holiday party in Tiddleton-Under-Lovey. Georgie jumps at the chance. She looks forward to a traditional English country Christmas, especially once Darcy shows up and their relationship intensifies. She refuses to allow a freak accident that killed a neighbor scare her. That is, until more people end up dead - one a day during the 12 Days of Christmas. The local police don't have a clue but suspect some escaped convicts from Dartmoor. Georgie enlists the aid of Granddad to help her spot clues, but it's not going well. Will the entire village end up dead before Christmas is over? This is the very best book in the entire series. The mystery is completely unsolvable until the motive is finally revealed. I did guess at the villain, which was obvious, but Georgiana was really very clever to figure out the clues and find out the motive. I wanted to read straight through until the end to find out whodunnit but I found a good stopping point and reluctantly went to sleep. I adored the quirky English village complete with a mad woman and "village idiot". It reminded me a lot of Cranford and Emma and was perfectly English. The party guests are hilarious and really illustrate the difference between American "new money" and British aristocracy. The 12 days of Christmas customs were straight out of Dickens and the author provides recipes and parlor games in the back of the book. I love social history and Charles Dickens so I really enjoyed that aspect of the story, plus it provided a lot of comic relief. There's also the perfect amount of romance in this book. Georgie and Darcy's relationship progresses (thank goodness!) and there's some resolution there. I hope this is the last book in the series because I like a good promise of a happily ever after even if there isn't a true resolution. I think that if the series continues, the relationship will turn into another annoying star-crossed lovers plot to be dragged out indefinitely. The author has an e-novella available. Thankfully, it's a prequel and not a sequel though I'd still like to read it.


Rumor Has It by Jill Mansell -- Adult Contemporary Fiction (Women's Fiction)

After her boyfriend moves out, Tilly Cole can't afford to stay in her London apartment, so at the urging of her best friend Erin, she moves to a small town to take a job as a "Girl Friday" to single dad Max Dineen. Her duties aren't hard: she helps Max care for his teenage daughter Lou, works with Max in his fabulous interior design business and do a bit of cooking. She also has to avoid the town's most eligible bachelor, Jack Lucas. The ladies are crazy for Jack and he has a reputation as a ladies' man. Jack is commitment phobic and Tilly is not about to get hurt by him, no way, no how. Jack, on the other hand, is intrigued by Tilly and the more she tries to ignore him, the more he's interested in her and the chemistry between them heats up. Can they learn to trust each other and trust their hearts? Meanwhile, Tilly's best friend Erin has finally found love after sacrificing everything to care for her dying mother. The only obstacle to Erin's happiness is Fergus' estranged wife, Stella, a type-A, selfish witch. Stella wants Fergus back and she'll stop at nothing to achieve her goal. Another plot follows Max's ex-wife Kaye, a huge soap opera star in LA who accidentally finds herself in the middle of a scandal. Retreat to England is her only hope for salvation. She's eager to be with her daughter again but with the move goes her career and her chance at happiness, maybe. This story is a typical "chick lit" novel along the lines of Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot and others. The characters in this story have more depth to them which is a welcome surprise. The addition of character backstories really gives the novel more substance and keeps it from being too too fluffy. I had a hard time following all the characters' plot lines at first and I think it would have been better streamlined into Tilly's story. Tilly is a likeable enough heroine. She's independent, seems intelligent and easy going. Towards the end her character turns rather annoying and I wanted to yell at her for being so stupid, but then as the reader, I had information she didn't. I love Jack. Since some of the story is from his point-of-view, the reader gets to know him a bit more than Tilly does at first. He's charming and roguish but kind. I loved the Dineens. They are very funny and such a loving family. Lou is a remarkable and unrealistically adjusted teenager with two caring parents she loves very much. Erin and Fergus are my least favorite characters. Erin is too self-sacrificing and Fergus is a bit of a pushover where Stella is concerned and he's rather dull. Stella surprised me the most. Her story takes a very unexpected turn that made me see her in a different light. The plot is pretty predictable for the most part, with a few twists and turns to keep the story from being too formulaic. The romances are sweet and they're also clean. The characters indulge in adult relationships but the bedroom door is always closed. I enjoyed this story a lot and I plan to read more of this author.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell -- Young Adult Paranormal Historical Fiction

This book is a companion to The Vespertine which I have not read. Seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart has experienced the devastating loses of her best friends and her beloved fiance. She's taken to moping about her family's home in Baltimore and visiting the cemetery where she meets a young Edgar Allen Poe fan, Theo de la Croix. Zora's mother worries about the girl's moping but Zora feels she can never be a part of society again and makes plans to become a mail order bride out West. After creating a scandal in Society with Mr. de la Croix, Zora is sent off to her Aunt Birdie in Oklahoma Territory (newly opened to settlers). Shortly after arriving in Oklahoma, Zora's coach is accosted by highwaymen and she's left all alone along the dusty road where she's picked up by Emerson Birch, a local homesteader. Emerson is handsome, yet a bit prickly and Zora isn't sure she trusts him. Birdie warns Zora away from Emerson, but Zora isn't sure what to think; Emerson has been kind and discovered a secret about Zora that even she didn't know. Zora is what the locals call a springsweet, meaning she has the magical ability to find water. Zora has feelings for Emerson she isn't sure she understands. She feels connected to him in some way and is intrigued by their connection. Then Theo comes calling in his fancy carriage and Birdie pushes Zora into accepting his courtship. When Birdie discovers Zora's talent she decides to turn it to their advantage. Zora allows it, even knowing what will come. Does she have the courage to live again? To follow her feelings? This story reminded me a lot of The Luxe novels by Anna Godbersen because of the time period, the high society and the rebellious teen romance. I could have done without the teen romance but parts of it were sweet and done well, mostly until the epilogue which was so far from realistic. I liked the connection between Emerson and Zora and how they slowly come to know one another through this amazing connection they share. The historical details in the novel are excellent. I loved the description of Oklahoma Territory and the history of the land rush. I'm taking History of the West this semester so I appreciated the author's attempt to create a realistic West rather than the mythic West of Buffalo Bill and dime novels. The description of homesteading in Oklahoma in 1890 is the best part of the book. The characters aren't really very likeable though. Not knowing the events of the Vespertine, I couldn't really feel Zora's loss very keenly. I felt sorry for her but I didn't like the way she handled her grief. I didn't really come to know her as a person through the course of the novel. I didn't like Theo very much either. He's a bit of a stalker though he's kind. I liked Emerson a lot and thought the story should have alternated from his point-of-view. I wanted to know more about him. Don't read this thinking it's a true paranormal or gothic like The Vespertine because it's not. The paranormal is more subtle which I really liked. The plot leaves the reader hanging a bit and I expect there will be a sequel. The writing style is very nice. I liked the descriptive passages the best and could easily imagine Oklahoma. I would have liked a bit less drama in the beginning and more about Zora and her special talents. I liked the story well enough to recommend it to fans of historical fiction, especially teen girls. 

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier translated by Anthea Bell -- Young Adult Fantasy

This sequel picks up right where Ruby Red left off - with Gideon snogging Gwen in a church in 1912 after being confronted by their missing relatives and shot at. Poor Gwen is confused about Gideon's feelings for her and she seems to have attracted a new sidekick - a ghost of a demon who won't leave her alone. Gwen wonders who was out to kill them and why; why did Lucy and Paul steal the chronograph and what is her role in all this? The plot of this book provides a few answers but creates more mystery! On a routine elapse to 1948 Gwen has an unexpected encounter with someone she knows she can trust. That person gives her a clue that creates a bigger mystery about what role she is to play in the future. Her unflappable best friend Leslie sets off to do some research while the demon Xemerius looks through walls and spies on people for Gwen. On top of everything else, Gwen is given a crash course in everything her beautiful, talented cousin Charlotte already knows, which makes Gwen even more nervous about time traveling. Will she ever figure anything out? Being with Gideon makes it much more easy (especially when he's kissing her) but at the same time, he doesn't seem to trust her and she's not sure she can trust him either.  This book is obviously written for young teens. Gwen is a typical modern teenage girl with interests in boys, music and normal things. She's a fine heroine for the story but I prefer her more bookish friend Leslie. I love the addition of the demon; he's my new favorite character and serves as comic relief. I also really like the person who Gwen meets in 1948. That character seems very kind and trustworthy. I also like Lucy and Paul though I can't stand the whole star-crossed lovers conflict, the few glimpses into their travels provide clues and mysteries for the rest of the plot. I think I admire them for what they did, but that yet remains to be seen. I'm not sure I like Gideon. He's a bit mysterious and he confuses poor Gwen. He's a bit of a Mr. Darcy type, I think.  The plot is face paced and balanced between adventure and romance. There's one long tedious section where Gwen has to learn all about the 18th century that slows the pace a bit but the scene that follows is a good contrast and very funny. The story ends with a BIG cliffhanger that serves as a clue to the past and future of the Circle of Twelve. The conclusion, Emerald Green, will not be out for another YEAR! I can not wait that long!! I need some answers and I need them now! This series is highly recommended for teens and adults who don't mind somewhat annoying teenage protagonists.