Friday, June 28, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Escapade by Joan Smith -- Regency Romance

In her first Season, Miss Puella Fairmont failed to make a splash. She was just a bit too plain and shy to take, but no matter, her aunt, Lady Sara, is willing to take her again next Season. By the time Ella returns to London, she wants nothing to do with Society and is writing a satirical novel skewering the haut ton. Lady Sara tricks Ella into joining in the social whirl by getting the girl a job as a gossip columnist for the Morning Observer. In their column, Ella, Aunt Sara and Grandmama, collectively known as Miss Prattle, point out the utter immorality and failings of the ton. Ella's biggest target is the Duke of Clare, a handsome young man whom she believes is arrogant and rude. Patrick, the young Duke, has had ladies throwing themselves at him for the last several years and he isn't interested in a one. Not knowing how to give them a good set down, he contents himself with poking gentle fun at the vanities of his acquaintances. He isn't too upset about Miss Prattle, but he's determined to put a stop to "it" in a rational manner. Meanwhile, he has a house party to attend, made up of unwanted guests such as Lady Honor, the witless daughter of a Marquess; Miss Sherridan, who thinks only of bonnets and dresses and Belle Prentiss, brainy but vain. Joining the party are a few male friends as well. Lady Sara wrangles an invitation for herself and Ella to get a first-hand look at the Duke's party. At Clare Palace, Ella finds herself overwhelmed at first, but soon inner Miss Prattle comes out and the battle of wits begins. As Ella and Patrick come to know each other as friends, Ella feels bad about her column but her pride and his arrogance may get in the way of true love.

 This is a cute take on Pride and Prejudice and Georgette Heyer's Sylvester. Ella is a heroine I can really relate to. She's shy in public like me, but sharp tongued and condemning in private. She takes some getting to know before anyone can really be friends with her. Since she's just like me, I really liked her. Others may find her snippy and just as bad as those she derides for their behavior. I liked Patrick a lot. He's a very charming, honorable gentleman who takes some getting used to. I loved his witty comments but sometimes I wished he'd just be straight with the ladies and tell him he's not interested and to please leave him alone. Mr. Darcy had no problems giving scathing set downs with a LOOK, but Patrick is more gentle and kindhearted. The other ladies are all two-dimensional stereotypes. I liked Belle until she turned catty. Honor made me giggle with her nonsequitors. The dialogue in the story is sparkling and witty; though not quite Heyeresque,  still very good. The plot moves along a little too slowly. There's a very long description of a frog jumping contest that should have been trimmed a lot. Similarly, a jousting scene could have been shortened. As a result, the romance gets pushed aside. I liked that Ella and Patrick develop a close friendship and a similarity of minds but a little more wooing at the end and recognition of what he did wrong would have been nice. Since Pride and Prejudice is Ella's favorite book, I was hoping Patrick would read it and recognize what he did wrong. He never actually says I love you, but his actions do speak for him. There's a kiss at the end and a little more of a solid ending than Georgette Heyer but not much more. My only other complaint is that some of the dialogue seems too modern. I don't think a Duke's friends would call him by his first name, let alone a nickname publicly. He and Miss Fairmont would also not be on a first name basis and Jane Austen published anonymously and not under her own name. High stickers can nit pick this one but for me, the enjoyable story made up for any inaccuracies. Fans of Ms. Heyer will probably enjoy this one. I really liked it and plan to read it again.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

Antiques Roadkill by Barbara Allan -- Contemporary Mystery

Brandy Borne is heading home to the small town in Missouri where she grew up. She's starting her life over again after an indiscretion at her high school reunion caused her to lose her marriage and her son. She claimed her beloved Shi Tsu Sushi, popped her Prozac and went home to Mother. Mother, actress Vivian Borne is the town's most eccentric citizen. Vivian loves drama and theatrics and sticking her nose into other peoples' business. During a low moment, an unscrupulous antiques dealer cheated her out of her beloved family heirlooms. Brandy is determined to get some of those memories back, but is she mad enough to kill? Bandy accidentally runs over the antiques dealer with her car, but she's certain he was already dead. Her mother was last seen at the scene of the crime, also running over the man. Brandy is positive her mother is innocent and is eager to prove it, much to the dismay of the police department. The Borne ladies snooping gets them in over their heads and in hot water with the cops. Can they solve the crime and prove their innocence before the police or the murderer get them first? I really wanted to like this story. I can relate to moving back home with eccentric parents, but I didn't like Brandy. She's everything I'm not and everything I can't stand: fashion obsessed, image conscious and really really annoying. Her mother is even worse. I just didn't like either of the women in the story. Vivian is over the top and irritating. She annoys everyone she meets, including me. The secondary characters are all two-dimensional and stereotypical. None of them really stand out in any way. The plot was OK. I figured it out at the same time Brandy did and suspected a lot earlier. There are a number of inconsistencies regarding Brandy's age. She's supposed to be 29 and recently celebrated her 10 year high school reunion. It also says she was born when Peggy Sue was a senior in high school. (Peggy Sue is a baby boomer born supposedly in 1957 when the song was popular.) That wouldn't make Brandy old enough to have been in community college during Desert Storm which was 1990-1991, when Brandy was in high school. The inconsistency really bothered me, especially since the time line is important to one character's story. Sushi doesn't play a large enough role in this story. She's largely neglected and appears to advance the plot once in awhile, but she doesn't get to play detective.  The writing isn't very good. It lacks witty dialogue and appealing characters. Overall, this story reads like Stephanie Plum light. and I would recommend the first 10 Plum novels over this one.

Antiques Flee Market (Trash and Treasures Mystery 3) by Barbara Allan -- Contemporary Mystery

The Borne women are searching for bargains to resell so they can make some cash when Vivian interrupts a sale at another seller's booth. Walter Yeager, an old friend of Vivian's, is nearly cheated while trying to sell an antique copy of Tarzan and the Apes. Then someone runs off with another dealer's money and it appears that Walter's long lost granddaughter Chaz knows him. When Walter ends up dead, Chaz is the number one suspect. For some reason the Borne women believe Chaz is innocent and Vivian thinks she can solve the mystery. Brandy's boyfriend, the handsome cop Brian, is not amused by Vivian's meddling but the police chief seems to have a soft spot for Brandy. Vivian decides a little matchmaking may be in order to distract the chief from her interference. Meanwhile, Brandy's friend Tina is going through a tough time and Brandy may make a monumental decision that will affect both of their lives. There's also a little matter of a family secret to confront and Brandy has to decide if and when she'll do it. This mystery is even worse than the first. I figured out who the murderer was when Vivian confronted them. Their motive doesn't make a lot of sense and I just didn't see that coming at all. Vivian manages to be even more irritating since she insists on her own chapters. She goes on and on about pointless things that have no relevance to the plot whatsoever. I skimmed her first chapter because it just seemed like filler. I figured out the family secret in the first book in the series. It was fairly obvious and I wasn't surprised Brandy put the clues together, only surprised it took her so long. Again there are inconsistencies about Brandy's age. Joe is the only character I liked and I appreciated Brandy's friendship with him, but she's just not old enough to have been in community college with him (unless she was taking classes at 14). There are some parts of the book that made me chuckle but they really weren't that funny. I've read much better cozy mysteries and won't be reading any more of this series. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley, illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith -- Children's classic

This Victorian fairy tale begins in England in the mid-19th century with a boy named Tom who works for the cruel chimney sweep Grimes. Along the way to a lucrative job in the countryside, they meet with an old Irish woman who is the first person to ever be kind to Tom. She tells him that those who wish to be clean (pure) can always become so. When Tom is wrongly accused of stealing, he runs away, thus beginning an adventure that culminates with him leaving off his dirty body (i.e. he dies) and being taken by the fairies to a magical undersea world where he is reborn as a water baby. Before he can see and play with the other water babies, Tom must first learn how to be kind and unselfish. Following that lengthy journey, he joins the water babies in work and play. They are taught lessons by Mrs. Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid , ugly and a bit stern. All their loving comes from the beautiful and kind Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby. A surprise water baby arrives to help Tom along on his journey to manhood. Finally, in order to become a man, Tom must travel to the edge of nowhere and find Grimes. Only then can he go home and become a man. 

 I had a very hard time getting into the story because it was so slow moving. The exposition is very very long and it takes several chapters before Tom becomes a water baby. I forced myself to finish this book, but it wasn't easy. This is a very bizarre fairy tale with not so subtle moral, religious and cultural overtones. There are lots of morals in this story that the author fairly clobbers the reader with: be kind, be good, live like a good practicing Christian and you'll become pure and get into heaven. This includes being kind to children, poor people and not hiring quack doctors, or doing any other sort of typical Victorian behavior. There's also an environmental message that's very far ahead of it's time. While I agree with the general sentiments, especially the environmental one, I thought the message was way too heavy handed. There's even a moral spelled out in the end. In short, the book is very much a product of it's time. The story reminded me a lot of Dante's Divine Comedy, especially the last section where Tom travels on to find Grimes. There are several passages revealing anti-Irish and anti-American/democratic sentiment that was common at the time. It bothered me a little but it didn't make or break the whole book.

The edition I read has two color line drawings that appear randomly in the book, having nothing to do with the passage. It also has beautiful, full-color watercolors by the famous early 20th century illustrator Jessie Wilcox Smith. I wish there were more illustrations because the story is filled with many creatures I didn't recognize.

I wouldn't give this one to modern children to read. It's too slow, too didactic and too frightening at times for the young children who might enjoy the story without fully understanding all that is happening. I would recommend this book to Victorian scholars as a class assignment because it covers a lot of the controversial issues in Victorian society.

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Murder at Longbourn: A Mystery (Elizabeth Parker Mysteries) by Tracy Kiely -- Austenesque/ Contemporary Mystery

Elizabeth Parker is a former English major turned fact-checker at a newspaper. Her boyfriend turned out to be a two-timing jerk and her roommate Bridget is about to become engaged to her boyfriend Colin (love the name associations!). Elizabeth has every reason to believe her New Year's Eve will be boring and uneventful, spent only with her beloved books. Then her Aunt Winnie sends an invitation to a murder mystery party at her new B&B on Cape Cod. Elizabeth drives up to help out and discovers that Aunt Winnie has also asked a family friend, Peter McGowan, to help out too. Peter is Elizabeth's childhood nemesis and she is not interested in spending time with a man who calls her Cocoa Puff! The guests assembled for the party are an eclectic bunch and bear a strong resemblance to characters in Jane Austen's novels. When the party takes a deadly turn, Aunt Winnie is accused of murder. Elizabeth knows her aunt is innocent and she's determined to prove it. Peter is determined to befriend Elizabeth and help her stay out of trouble, but Elizabeth stubbornly refuses to accept his overture of friendship. Only if he's lying bleeding to death somewhere will she ever admit she has feelings for him. If she doesn't solve the mystery, her imagined scenario might just come true. Janeites rejoice! Here is fan fiction done right. Many of the characters contemporary versions of Austen characters (I picked up on Mr. Collins and Charlotte; Emma, and of course Mr. Darcy). Literature lovers will also like the other literary references sprinkled throughout the novels. I liked the modern interpretations of the characters a lot. Elizabeth and Aunt Winnie quote Pride and Prejudice to each other which is a little weird, but not overdone. Sometimes Elizabeth sounds like she's from Jane Austen's time which doesn't make her very realistic. I couldn't put the book down once the murder occurred. There are so many twists and turns and clues that I couldn't figure out the mystery at all. I did suspect something towards the end but the reveal came as a huge shock. The murderer's confession is a little confusing. I'm not certain that the motive was really strong enough to warrant murder. It didn't seem to fit the direction the story had been taking up until then. Elizabeth is a strong and independent woman. She's a bit prickly but I think once I get to know her, she'll be a kindred spirit. Peter is more Gilbert Blythe than Mr. Darcy. He seems kind and caring. Aunt Winnie is a bit annoying in an Emma sort of way, but she's endearing as an eccentric old aunt you can't help but love. This first book is the series is excellent. I enjoyed it much more than one of the later books I read. 

Notorious Nineteen : A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich -- Contemporary Mystery

Stephanie is hard up for money, she desperately needs a high bond skip. Her best option is to look for Geoffrey Cubbin, who disappeared from a hospital after embezzling millions from an assisted living home. Cubbin is proving elusive and Stephanie enlists the aid of Raymond Briggs, security officer to look for Cubbins. Grandma uses her age to advantage to sniff out information on Cubbins. There's no trail on Cubbins so Stephanie and Lula head out to look for some easier skips like Logan, who bashed in a police car after the cop took a tiki that Logan plans to return to Hawaii because it gives bad juju. There's also a nudist to apprehend... easier said than done. Meanwhile, Ranger needs Stephanie's help. Some crazy guy is targeting Ranger's friend Kinsey and his bride Amanda. Ranger needs female security to be in the wedding party and that leaves Stephanie as the likely candidate. When the nutter starts harassing Ranger, he feels Stephanie is in danger but she intends to follow through anyway, much to Morelli's dismay. This story felt very formulaic. How many cars can Stephanie get blown up? How many naked guys can she try to apprehend? How many stoners? Something has to change and/or the series end. There are some funny moments, especially with Grandma (my favorite character) but there weren't enough to really keep the story fun. There are two big mysteries to solve. One I thought that at least Morelli or Ranger or someone could have figured out. I guessed something else but I think someone could have solved the mystery. The other mystery is very dark and creepy. The villain has serious mental issues and Stephanie finds herself in danger yet again. There are some sizzling moments between Stephanie and Ranger and a few domestic scenes with Joe but her man problems really bore me now. I'm rooting for Joe to grow up and Stephanie to mature more so they can finally get married. Sorry ladies, I like Ranger but he's not the type you marry. Imagine if she brought him home to her parents? No... that wouldn't go over well. If you liked the last few books, then you will probably enjoy this one, but if you prefer the witty dialogue and amusing scenes of the first 10 or so books, then you may want to skip this one. I was bored waiting for the bus and picked this up in the bookstore to look at while I waited. I finished it at home with the e book from the library.

Sweet Stuff (Cupcake Club 2) by Donna Kauffman-- Contemporary Romance

 Riley Brown, full-figured, klutzy and with giant slobbery dog in tow arrived in Sugarberry about a year ago to escape her past. She left behind an ex-fiance, his new bride and a job she loved staging food to start over. Now she stages houses instead of food. She's good at what she does and likes the work. Even more she enjoys the friendship of the other "Bitch and Bake" club members but she's hesitant to open up to them, fearing they will betray her trust. During a routine house staging, Riley accidentally makes a fool of herself in front of the hunky New York Times best selling author Quinn Brannigan. Quinn is a true southern gentleman and helps Riley through her predicament, but he can't help but fantasize about Riley and cupcake frosting. The more they get to know each other, the chemistry becomes obvious to everyone but Riley. Miss Alva even tries to find out what's going on and give Quinn a little encouragement. He holds back because he thinks that's what Riley wants. Can she finally move on with her life to trust another man? This sizzling romance has a little less depth to it than the last two in the series, but it's still a good read. The story is paced nicely. The love scenes come at the right time and the story ends in the right place. There's a lot of dialogue, almost too much, at times. The love scenes seemed like they were pretty steamy so I skipped ahead. All I really wanted were the cupcake recipes. The cupcakes are better than the romance. I like Riley best of the heroines so far.. I can relate to her the most and she has a fabulous dog. Brutus is my favorite character. His scenes always made me chuckle. The author really knows (and must love) big, slobbery dogs. Quinn is a little more human than some of the other heroes. He spends a lot of time lusting after Riley but he's also caring, hard working and passionate about writing. I liked the development of his novel and how he had to choose whether to write the story he knew would sell well or write the story that was in his heart, that the characters wanted him to tell. This is a nice summer read for romance fans. Food lovers.  skip ahead to the to-die-for cupcake recipes instead. (check out Donna Kauffman's cupcake blog. It's like food "Pr0n!")

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

My Jane Austen Summer : A Season in Mansfield Park by Cindy Jones -- Austenesque Fiction

Lily Berry's life is a mess. In a matter of months she lost her mom to cancer, her dad to another woman, her boyfriend and her job (for reading Jane Austen at work) and... she finally finished all of Jane Austen's novels and has come to the sad realization that there will never be more Jane Austen novels. She doesn't know what to do with her life and dreams of living in a novel. She consults her inner Jane Austen (her imaginary best friend) and decides to accept her friend Vera's offer of attending a literary festival in England. The literature professors and professional actors will be interpreting Mansfield Park, Lily's favorite novel; she just HAS to go to this festival. Vera passes Lily off as an actress to get her into the festival. She's supposed to take the place of Bets, a young woman whose father is financing the dying festival. When Bets shows up and the literature professors snub the inexperienced Lily, Lily is put to work to come up with a business plan for saving the festival. With the patroness on her death bed, Lily needs to work fast, but she's distracting by the brooding Deacon in the attic and her obsession with him. She's also determined to appear on stage in a plum role. First she must stop being Fanny Price and find her inner Mary Crawford and then she can get her life on track to where she wants it to be. The characters in this novel are similar to their literary counterparts. Lily is not a very likeable character. She's worse than Fanny Price (who I can not stand) because she's whiny, self-centered and obsesses over every little thing. She acts like a stalker around the men in her life and when even her ex says she's "too needy," she refuses to acknowledge her problem. I do understand about her relationship with her mom and the sentimental ties to her childhood and her reaction to her father's new life. I could empathize but at the same time, I wanted her to move forward like her sister. None of the other characters are very appealing either. I didn't care much for Willis. I couldn't figure out who he was supposed to be and am still confused over what happened. I'm not much into brooding men myself so I didn't see the appeal. Bixby is even worse than Willis for different reasons, Magda is witch with a capital B and even Vera and Nigel use Lily for their own purposes. Bets is a stereotypical teenager but I found her honesty refreshing. I kept waiting for Lily to grow up but she never really did. The story drags on way too long and ends rather quickly. I'm a bit confused as to why it ended the way it did and what the ending is supposed to mean. This book just didn't appeal to me very much. I was also turned off by Lily's obsession with the Anglican church and everything that goes with it that she mentioned far too often  in the beginning. If I had known there was strong Christian content, I probably would not have read this book. Other content warning: one mild love scene and one bizarre somewhat graphic scene that I can't explain without spoiling the plot. The only plot parts that really interested me was what would happen with her father and if she would find her necklace. Otherwise, this book was not worthy of my attention. Austenland this is not.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Regency Romance Reviews

cleaning house and moving some reviews to a new post

The Primrose Path by Barbara Metzger -- Regency Romance
Corin Knowlton, Viscount Knowle is furious when he discovers that his aunt has died and left her cottage and money to a bunch of dogs! He believes the cottage is on his property and therefore, should belong to him since his aunt left no heirs. His aunt's will says otherwise. Corin tries to overrule the will, unsuccessfully, and then tries to threaten, bribe and then kiss (twice!) his aunt's companion, Miss Angelina Armstead into leaving the cottage. Though the second kiss was not altogether unpleasant, Lena mistrusts Corin. Lena is not about to leave the only loving home she has known since early childhood and is determined to stay with her beloved dogs until they join Aunt Sophie in Heaven or find loving homes. Lena also intends to oversee the plans for a new home for unwanted dogs that was Aunt Sophie's dream. Corin then tries to tackle the dogs, one by one, trying to find homes for them but discovers, to his display and the utter consternation of his valet, that the dogs were unwanted because they all have certain personality quirks or health issues that made them undesirable to their previous owners. Corin's political career is on the line if he can't move Angelina and the dogs because a certain French anti-Bonapartist writer and spy has escaped France and heading to England where Corin is expected to put the spy up in Primrose Cottage! To complicate things further, Angelina has placed an advertisement in the paper to locate her long-lost sister and has females coming and going from the cottage just when Corin is expecting the very proper Lord Wyte and his most eligible daughter Melissa, whom Corin hopes to marry. Corin both resents and enjoys the interruptions to his previously well-ordered life. He's torn between his ambitions and duty and his growing admiration of Lena. Many more crazy escapades happen before the happy conclusion. Initially I disliked the principal characters, but my feelings changed after I got to know them and understood their situations. The secondary characters are delightful and the plot is funny and sweet. The romance really takes a back seat to the dogs but I didn't mind; I'm crazy about dogs and dog rescue so that part of the plot really appealed to me. I giggled out loud on almost every page over the wonderful descriptions of the dogs and Corin's attempts to get rid of them. I wanted to adopt each and every one of the dogs myself. This book is a must-read for dog lovers and Regency romance fanatics! I loved it!

The Duke's Disappearance by Margaret Summerville -- Regency Romance
Lady Julia Granby has been living in the country mourning the death of her husband for over a year when a friend convinces her to participate in the Season. Bored to death by fortune hunters, Julia decides to hide away in the country for awhile where no one can find her. After finding his fiancee in another man's arms, the proud Duke of Wayland ran off without waiting for an explanation, realizing that the lady only loved his title and fortune. With his pride wounded, George can no longer bear to be in London. Like Lady Granby, he heads to the country to live anonymously for awhile. Unbeknowst to their employers, Julia's maid and George's valet are in love and privy to both master and mistresses' secrets, so the maid Molly schemes for her mistress and herself to move to the very same country as the Duke of Wayland. Lady Granby assumes the position of a genteel lady fallen on hard times and settles into life in a country cottage on the Duke of Wayland's estate. Longing to return to his happy childhood home, the Duke tries to take up residence in his cottage, only to discover Julia already there. He is angry and tries to remove the lady, but since he is in disguise, he can not legally evict the lady. The Duke takes up residence in a sparse cottage owned by the much-hated Squire Henshaw and takes up the life of a struggling writer. The more Julia and George see of each other, the more they enjoy one another's company. The servants, Molly and Ben build their own romantic relationship and help push their employers closer together. The wicked Squire threatens the women and a local villager and nearly destroys the budding romance. Much of the plot is devoted to Molly and Ben's relationship and consequently Julia and George's story is not very well-developed. The plot moves very slowly and not much happens. The characters are two-dimensional, not very interesting. I couldn't feel anything for either of the principles and I disliked the Duke's quick temper. Characters in this novel continually behave outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior of the time. Much of the behavior and some of the language is not historically accurate. The best part of this book are the wonderful descriptions of fashion. I wouldn't recommend this book to any except those who are determined to read every Regency published. 


Impudent Lady by Joan Smith - Regency Traditional
The book jacket reviews refer to Joan Smith as the Canadian Georgette Heyer (who was hailed as a 20th century Jane Austen), but she doesn't come close to the master for matching interesting plots and c
haracters. I felt Prudence was too wishy washy and the hero was too much of a rake and an idiot for me to like. Some of the talk of the ton was too "warm" for my tastes.

Middle Grades Reviews

Past Middle Grades Reviews

Cleaning house and moving some reviews around.

Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George -- Middle Grades fantasy
When the king learns that another kingdom has mounted an army on dragon and plans to attack, he asks Creel to help save the kingdom with the help of local dragons. Upset at the king's attitude towards dragons, Creel sets out to prove that the enemy dragons are not fighting of their own free will. Together with her friend Marta, Martha's betrothed Tobin, Prince Luka and her favorite dragons, Creel sets off to spy on their enemies in Citatie. Creel and Marta uncover a dangerous and deadly secret that leads to The Second Dragon War and it's up to the girls to save the day. I wasn't crazy about this book either. I guess I'm not much of a fan of dragons. The action took a long time to set up and then the battle took up only a brief amount of space before the long ending. I could have used more about the dragons and a longer action sequence. The romance parts were sweet and I really liked the wedding scene. One important thing to note is the glossary in the back, which I didn't discover until after I had read the book. I found many of the names and place names too difficult to pronounce on my own without the glossary and wish I had seen in before I started reading.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George -- Middle Grades fantasy
Creel is an orphaned country maiden with a gift for embroidery and a dream of leaving the village to become a professional needleworker. However, her family is poor and her aunt decides the best way to reverse their finances is to sacrifice Ceel to a dragon so a knight can rescue her, marry her and support the whole family. Creel's adventures don't turn out as planned - for one thing, the dragon refuses to eat her! Instead, Creel befriends the dragon and recieves a beautiful pair of slippers from the dragon's hoard. She then sets off for the King's Seat, dismisses the knight, meets more eccentric dragons and discoveres a dangerous secret that could be the end of all she cares about. I didn't like this story as much as I thought I would. I liked like Creel rescued herself but I was expecting more pluck and wit from her. The story picked up towards the end when the kingdom was in danger. I would recommend this book to 9-12 year olds but maybe not to adults. I do plan to read the sequels though and hope I like them.

I Put a Spell on You by Adam Selzer -- Middle Grades mystery/school humor
I picked this up because the author's wife is an online acquaintance of mine and I'm not sorry I read it! 6th grade Hall Monitor Chrissie Woodward has always been on the right side of the law, that is, the side of the Principal, but as the community prepares for the big spelling bee, Chrissie begins to suspect the principal's office of being corrupt! She sets out to gather evidence from her peers in this amusing adventure. The story is told from the points of view of the kids involved in the spelling bee: the know-it-all, the homeschool transfer, the class clown, the kid who will eat anything and the girl whose parents want her to win more than anything. This book seems to be based on Watergate, which I'm not sure kids would get, but it reminds me so much of the books my teachers used to read to the class in elementary school that it doesn't matter if kids get the little nods to history. Each of the kids in the story is so intense and the adults are all crazy and "bad," but since the story is told from the point of view of the kids, I can see how they would see adults as "bad." I enjoyed this book a lot and couldn't put it down until I finished the mystery and saw who won the spelling bee! I also learned a lot of new words that I have never even heard of!

Young Adult Reviews

Past Young Adult Reviews

I'm cleaning house and moving some reviews around. 

Bloodhound: Beka Cooper Book 2 by Tamora Pierce -- YA Fantasy/Adventure
Set in Tortall 200 years before Alanna, Beka Cooper, a common-born girl from the city slums is now a full fledged officer of the law, a Dog. When she discovers someone is forging silver coins and the economy is in trouble, Beka and partner Goodwin are assigned under cover duty in Port Caynn to sniff out information, Beka is accompanies by her "birdie" Slapper the pigeon, as well as a new friend, Achoo, the scent hound. Beka detests playing the part of a silly young girl but it helps her make friends, and enemies, in Port Caynn. She and Achoo must work their hardest to find the forger and stop them before it's too late. This is another great offering from Tamora Pierce. A new fan could read it without knowing much of the background and long-time fans will enjoy learning more of the history of Tortall. This story has romance as well as adventure and a cute dog. I enjoyed it as much as Terrier and hope the third volume doesn't take as long to be published!

A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson by Barbara Dana -- YA Historical Fiction

A fictionalized biography of Emily Dickinson. The author uses Emily's writing to flesh out the reclusive offer and show the reader how she came to be the great poet she was. I had a really hard time getting into this story. I just couldn't get into Emily's head. I finished the book but don't remember anything about it. My original review is lost in the ether somewhere!

Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly -- YA Historical Fiction
Set in the Adirondocks in 1906, sixteen year old Mattie Gokey helps run the family farm and look after her younger siblings now that her mother has passed away and her older brother ran off. Encouraged by a forward thinking teacher, Mattie devours words and dreams of attending college and becoming a writer herself. She's torn in her loyalties between duty and dreams which are further complicated by a romance with a local boy. Mattie also feels drawn to a young woman who is a guest at the hotel where Mattie works in the summer. When the young woman turns up drowned, Mattie is even more drawn to her and learning this young woman's story. Mattie tells her own story alternating between past and present using her favorite words from the dictionary to highlight the important happenings of the last year. This is an incredibly well-written novel with rich details that sucked me into the story and didn't let go. I had incredibly sympathy for Mattie, being a literature lover and a college educated woman. I, too, was torn in what I wanted her to do. The murder subplot is only a small part of the book but it shapes Mattie's life and helps her decide where her place is. I have seen this book on the shelves since it was first published and I don't know why it took me so long to read it. It's one of the best YA novels I've read. I especially enjoyed all the literary references to my favorite writers.

Last Dance on Holladay Street by Elisa Carbone -YA Historical Fiction
In 1878, when Eva's adopted parents die, she must make her own way from the Colorado prairie to Denver in search of her birth mother whom she believes was unable to support a child back when Eva was born, but surely must be able to by now. Eva receives a big shock when Denver and her mother are not what she expected. She is befriended by a fellow "colored" person who helps her find her path to freedom. This is an interesting, mature look at the women in the Old West. My heart went out to Eva as she struggled through life and couldn't put the book down to see how she found a way out of her difficult situation. This book is well-written and seems realistic. I enjoyed it.

Austenesque Review

Austenesque Review

Cleaning house and moving some reviews around.

Emma Watson: Jane Austen's The Watsons completed by Joan Aiken

This novel attempts to complete Jane Austen's unfinished novel The Watsons. Emma Watson was adopted by an aunt after the death of her mother, 14 years earlier. Now the aunt has remarried and Emma has to return home to her ailing father and three older spinster sisters. Her eldest sister is kind and good, caring for their father and trying to ignore her broken heart from a long ago romance. The other two sisters are busy husband-hunting and their eldest brother is married to a greedy, grasping woman who dislikes Emma. At a local assembly, Emma dances with a young boy who introduces Emma to his kind mother and his uncle, the vicar, who also dances with Emma. Jane Austen left off after the assembly and Joan Aiken attempts to pick up the novel and finish where Austen left off. Emma is a saintly heroine, helping her eldest sister care for their father and their home while despising her other sisters and brother. She befriends little Charlie Blake and his family including Mr. Howard, the vicar and attracts the interest of the interest of the rakish Tom Musgrave and the slow-witted Lord Osborne. Emma experiences many tragedies before she can find happiness. The first half of this novel is well-written and in the vein of Austen but the rest of the story is full of tragedy before it abruptly comes to an end. This isn't the best Austen adaptation. It doesn't seem like something she would write and there isn't really an ending except for an epilogue which tells what happens to the characters. I would recommend this to Aiken fans and Austen fans who are curious about what happens to Emma Watson.
Romance lovers and historians look elsewhere.

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

onfessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler, Read by Orlagh Cassidy

Modern LA girl Courtney Stone nurses a break-up with her fiance by reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Courtney falls asleep and when she wakes, she's not herself! In fact, she's not even in LA or the 21st century! Courtney seems to be inhabiting the body of a 19th century Englishwoman named Jane Mansfield who has a life worthy of the plot of a Jane Austen novel. Courtney must learn to navigate the social waters of Regency England. Jane's kind but indifferent father leaving things to Jane's scheming matchmaking mother who is determined to marry Jane off to the handsome Charles Edgeworth. At first Courtney/Jane is attracted to Edgeworth, but when she channels Jane's memories, she is disturbed by an unflattering image of Edgeworth. Edgeworth's spinster sister is also determined to prevent the match for Jane's own good. Courtney worries about what to do about Edgeworth and her own situation back in LA and how to get home again. Courtney's reminisces and Jane's memories provide the back story but create awkward moments when Courtney/Jane breaks out of the narrative/carrying on a conversation to relate a memory. Orlagh Cassidy is not a very good narrator. Her voice is pleasant enough but her English accent is atrocious and her pronunciation isn't much better. Courtney was a little annoying with lots of hang-ups and problems a la Bridget Jones but she grew on towards the end. Jane seemed intriguing and I wanted to know more about her and her life. The story also doesn't really fill us in on what happened to Jane (there's a sequel for that). The ending is rather confusing but different in a good way. I thought I would dislike this book but despite the negative aspects, the plot kept me interested and addicted and I really enjoyed the story.

Regency Romance Reviews

Regency Romance Reviews

cleaning house and moving some reviews to a new post

The Education of Lady Frances by Evelyn Richardson-- Regency Romance
Lady Frances Cresswell has been in charge of
the estates since their father's death two years earlier and her younger siblings since their mother's death 10 years ago. Frances is smart and strong-willed and easily able to cope with estate matters and the rambunctious twins. She has even devised her own educational system to make learning fun. When her younger friend Kitty Mainwaring is summoned to London for the Season by her uncle, Frances offers to join the nervous Kitty in London for the Season, despite unpleasant memories of her own first Season. When Frances first meets Kitty's uncle, Lord Julian Mainwaring, The Marquess of Camberly, they argue over estate matters and he instantly labels her a bluestocking and a prude. Subsequent meetings between Frances and Julian prove Frances to be intelligent but not overbearing and Julian is surprised to discover that he enjoys the company of Frances and the younger children very much. Julian and Frances provide each other with the intellectually stimulating conversation they both crave and soon Julian finds that the time he spends with Frances is far more agreeable than spending time with his mistress. However, the romance moves slowly and may never evolve into more than friendship so those closest to the pair intervene to give Frances confidence in herself and Julian a little push! Frances is an unusual heroine and one I could strongly identify with. I quite agree with her opinion of the ton and her unorthodox teaching methods would have made school a lot easier. I loved all the little period details which were woven into the plot. I usually don't like children in my Regency novels but Cassie and Freddie are amusing as are their animal companions. However, there were a few things I didn't like about this novel, namely Julian is a bit of a boring hero. We are told a lot of what he does but never get much of the action. The story is told from an omniscient point of view, so we know what everyone is thinking, even the pets, which is a little jarring at times. There are a few grammatical errors in some of the sentences which are a little confusing. Overall, this is a good read, especially if you love novels set during the Season and historical details. Skip this one if all you want is romance.

Miss Cresswell's London Triumph
by Evelyn Richardson-- Regency Romance
Lady Cassandra Cresswell, the former hoydenish little sister of Lady Frances Cresswell, is all grown up spends her days studying Ancient Greeks and playing with her impish nephew Teddy and his assortment of animal companions. Cassie seems happy, though those closest to her believe she lost much of her sparkling personality when her twin brother Freddie and best friend Ned Mainwaring went off to India. In order to help revive Cassie's spirits, a family friend invites her to London to help catalog the Parthenon friezes (known as the Elgin Marbles). Cassie enjoys her work and the scholarly discusses with her co-worker, the Honorable Horace Wilbraham. Secretly, Frances feels that Horace makes Cassie too severe and that Cassie would be better off enjoying the delights of the Season. Freddie and Ned return from success in India causing a sensation and Cassie can hardly believe how grown-up and full of finesse her old pal Ned is, nor how handsome he has become. Cassie, Freddie and Ned's former childhood playmate Arabella Taylor is the belle of the ton and determined to have Ned by her side. Ned happily plays Arabella's game, using his new found skills to flirt and charm the lady, which annoys Cassie. Cassie believes she dislikes the Season and all London Society and what it stands for. She longs for the carefree days of childhood until, like her sister, she receives help from her nearest and dearest to realize her feelings and bring her to the notice of a certain gentleman.
Cassie is an admirable character and I liked her and what she stood for and happy that she was appreciated for her mind before her beauty. Frances is unfortunately too busy to appear in much of the novel and instead the reader is subjected to her rambunctious five-year-old-son who speaks with a lisp. I think the author made some mistakes in titles and inheritance which need to be overlooked in order to follow the plot.This sequel is worth a read to find out what happens next, but otherwise is slow moving and almost identical to The Education of Lady Frances. 

A Handful of Promises by Jeanne Savery -Regency Romance
A Regency Romance revolving around three couples. The primary couple, Secundus Alcester and Lady Helen Rotherford, were separated 15 years ago when the lady's father refused Sec's marriage proposal because the gentleman had little money and no prospects. 15 years later, Sec returns to England a wealthy man, determined to help his orphaned nieces and nephews sort out their lives and marry his lady. I wanted to like Helen for being an older, intelligent female interested in reform, but she doesn't have much personality. I'm not entirely sure why she even loves the hero except that he has always loved her for who she is and not for her fortune. Their love story advances too quickly and is resolved too neatly. I liked the nieces, especially 8 year old Tibby who desires to help her family all she can. I also liked the love interest of the eldest nephew for being an independent, headstrong young woman. Generally I prefer witty, comedy of manners novels that attempt to emulate Jane Austen's style, so this one isn't high on my list of favorites.

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

An Icy Affair by Mona Gedney -- Regency Romance

Ivy Sterling is bored to death living in seclusion with her uncle who barely acknowledges her existence. Since her governess left, Ivy's only companion is her Scottie, MacTavish. Ivy demands a London Season and when her uncle refuses to comply, she has a tantrum and runs off into a swirling snow storm. When Ivy is nearly run over by a gentleman's horse, the autocratic man demands to be led to shelter. Who is he to be bossing Ivy around? Then as the storm progresses, more visitors arrive and Ivy seizes the opportunity to leave the school room and be a part of the company. Among the guests are the top-lofty Mr. Robert Wesbrook, a most disagreeable man to be sure; the beautiful actress Davina Durrell, who promises to help Ivy get her Season; and two brothers heading for America. Ivy is smitten with the handsome Edmund Montgomery and she's certain he feels the same. When Miss Durrell gets up and play to amuse the servants, she casts Ivy and Edmund in the title roles of Romeo and Juliet. Ivy can't wait to be alone with her Edmund, but every time she tries, Mr. Westbrook is in the way! Robert Westbrook is not amused. The storm has delayed him from accomplishing his business in London and now he seems to be the only sane person in a house full of Bedlamites. He feels it's up to him to look after the headstrong Ivy, though why he feels compelled to care, he really can't say. This story is told in the third person mostly from Ivy's point of view which prevents us from really getting to know Robert. The author seems to have patterned him after Mr. Darcy and like with Mr. Darcy, we get to know him through the opinions of others. He doesn't seem like hero material at first and I remain lukewarm in my opinion of him. There's a serious lack of romance in this novel. There's romance along the lines of Willoughby and Marianne and Elizabeth and Darcy but the relationship doesn't really progress the way in does in Pride and Prejudice. (Hence one reason why Jane Austen is the best!) The romances come too little too late to really be effective. Ivy is very young and a typical teenager, always wanting her own way and dreaming of a better life. She's not an easy character to like. I don't really enjoy teenagers as heroines of romances novels and Ivy is no exception. She matures a bit in the story but she has a lot of growing up to do still. The plot is trite and there are too many characters to keep track of. There are also a number of possible historical errors which bothered me. First, actors were not very respected and actresses were considered akin to prostitutes so I do not think that Ivy's uncle would even consider associating with an acting troupe let alone an actress. The cook's opinions seem the most realistic. Secondly, why has Ivy spent so much time with her parents and their friends when she's not yet out? Third, I don't think servants were allowed to marry or they were discouraged from socializing with the opposite sex and marrying while in service. To have a cook married to an outdoor servant just seems strange to me. This story just didn't meet my expectations and I wouldn't really recommend it except to those who are not able or willing to read Jane Austen.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I Read Last Weekend

What I Read Last Weekend . . .

Dear Prince Charming by Donna Kauffman -- Contemporary Romance

Valerie Wagner has finally scored her dream job as a publicist for the about-to-be-launched Glass Slipper magazine. They snagged Prince Charming, a man who knows just how to fix relationship problems, as their cover boy and columnist. Eric is also a hunk, which Valerie knows will help sales. There's only one problem - when Eric realizes that the magazine launch will make him a public figure, he decides to come out of the closet. Eric wants to be able to have a private life but he also refuses to let his readers down, so he enlists the aid of his equally handsome best friend Jack Lambert to be the public face of Prince Charming. Jack thinks the whole idea of Prince Charming is a joke. He doesn't even believe in love, not after a horrible divorce to a hot model. He owes Eric though so he agrees to pose for the magazine. What he didn't bank on was his attraction to the control-freak publicist Valerie. Valerie sees Jack as an annoyance. He tries to have things his own way and she fears that the godmothers will find out and she'll lose yet another job. Yet, Jack is so sexy, she can't help but feel an attraction to him. As Prince Charming becomes more and more of a public figure, and Eric finds love, Valerie and Jack are forced to spend more time together. The more time they spend together, the more they feel attracted to one another. Jack is determined to get Valerie to loosen up but she refuses to mix business with pleasure. Should they act on their lust or not is the question and if they do, what does that mean for her job? I can't say I enjoyed this novel. The plot is thin, the characters unlikeable, and there's not much actual ROMANCE in this book. There's a lot of sizzling chemistry between the hero and heroine and I was willing them just to act on it and get it out of the way and then the plot could go on with the romance. The love part comes too late to be convincing. There's really no reason for either of them to fall in love since they are both completely unlikeable. Valerie is career oriented, which I can relate to; and she has a lot of pressure from her family, I can also relate, but she's not a nice person. She doesn't even have friends and I don't see anyone wanting to willingly be friends. She's controlling and annoying. Women constantly complain about men objectifying women yet Valerie does the same thing to Jack and Eric without thinking twice. Jack is a typical rake. He enjoys one night stands and casual flirtations. He knows how to make women's hearts flutter but he's insincere. I liked his childhood backstory but his adult backstory wasn't convincing enough to make him the way he is. I just didn't find the relationship between Jack and Valerie convincing. The godmothers are unlikeable as well. Each one is a stereotype and even one would be more than enough. I would recommend this book to people who think sizzling romances, but for those of us who prefer a well-written story (see my next review), this is not worth the time. Warning: There is a graphic love scene but I skipped it and didn't miss it.

Honey Pie (Cupcake Club 4) by Donna Kauffman -- Contemporary Romance

When Honey D'Amourvell's Aunt Bea dies and leaves honey her small shop on Sugarberry Island, Honey sees the inheritance as a chance to start over. She's been living in a barn in Oregon for the last eight years, making and selling whimsical garden creatures and avoiding human contact. Honey has a sixth sense - she has only to touch someone to know everything bad that ever happened to them and things that will happen. People in Oregon didn't take to kindly to Honey's "gift" and Honey learned to dread and fear what she will see. The easiest solution was not to get too close to people, but Honey is lonely and wants to become part of society gift, curse whatever it is and all. Her arrival in Georgia is not what she expected. First, her beloved Volkswagen Beetle breaks down and then she discovers her aunt's shop is now home to a mail order cupcake business. Honey is forced to rely on the services of Dylan Ross, the local mechanic to fix her car. Dylan is handsome, brooding and not particularly friendly, but when they accidentally touch, they form a strong connection. Dylan isn't one for socializing and gossiping with the neighbors. He keeps himself to himself and likes it that way just fine. He's trying to move on from his dark past and keep his business going. He's a bit antagonistic towards the crazy chick with freaky green eyes, but when she accidentally touches him and freaks out, his protective instincts come out and he realizes he wants to take care of Honey, possibly for the rest of their lives. Honey isn't quite so sure she's ready for that risk despite the connection she shares with Dylan. Can these two lonely, lost people find a way to be together? This is a beautiful, true romance novel in the line of Kristan Higgins. Donna Kauffman surpassed all her other stories by far with this one. The story intrigued me, gripped me from the very beginning and didn't let go. I just couldn't put the book down from the minute Honey and Dylan first touched. I would have executed the plot a little differently. I felt that it went a little backwards. Honey and Dylan touch and form a connection too quickly and when they finally open up and become intimate, the story could end after that and be fine. There's a few more chapters after that that don't really fit the story very well. I would have saved the intimacy for the end and built up to it. I was hoping for some more intimate flashes, sort of like in the TV show Roswell High. I really liked both the heroine and hero. Honey is a bit socially awkward, though she longs for friends. She's scared of her gift and how others will see her. She's a very well-drawn character and I felt like I was right there on her shoulder the whole story trying to coax her and cheer her on. She's someone that I think many women can relate to. I'm not really into brooding heroes so I didn't quite fall in love with Dylan but I really liked him because he reminded of Luke of Gilmore Girls and I always liked Luke. Dylan is more emotionally fragile than Luke because of his past. He is proud and reserved which makes him difficult to know but because Honey has a gift, it made them connect in a way that they wouldn't normally do. The characters from previous novels make cameo appearances as do baked goods, but the cupcakes mostly take a back seat to the romance. Content warning: There is a short love scene. It's not too graphic and it's sweet. Despite a few minor flaws, I really liked this novel. I picked out who the next member of the CC will likely be, if there's another book.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

All My Noble Dreams and then What Happens by Gloria Whelan -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction 

This sequel to Small Acts of Amazing Courage finds Rosalind and her family back in India. Rosy is happy to be back in the colorful country she cares about so deeply; Aunt Louise has found happiness and freedom in India and even Aunt Ethyl enjoys helping out at the orphanage. However, Rosy knows that her idyllic life is far from the common experience; most people in India are dreadfully poor and all are ruled by the British. A small man named Ghandi is struggling to free India from British rule through non-violent resistance. For his trouble, he is thrown in jail without access to pen and paper. Rosy's friend Max and his friend Raman publish the Young India newspaper, printing Ghandi's words for those who care to read them. Not many people do though so when the Prince of Wales comes to visit India, Max thinks it's the perfect opportunity to show the Prince Ghandi's list of British injustices. The only problem is: how to get it to him? When Rosy's family is given an entree to Society, it's up to Rosy to put Max's plan in motion. Will she have the courage to do it? She must for India's freedom is on the line. This is another beautiful historical novel by one of the best middle grade historical fiction writers of today. Gloria Whelan paints such a descriptive, incredibly rich and detailed picture of India that I couldn't help fall in love with it myself. She presents a lot of weighty issues in a way kids can easily understand. The characters all have different viewpoints on what should be done and how which helps the reader form their own opinion. Readers can also draw parallels to the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence. The story is interesting and Rosy continues to be a likeable but realistic character. She's unsure of herself and her place in the larger world but she's passionate and cares deeply for social justice. None of the characters are purely bad and offer up a variety of different personalities based on prejudices of their culture and time period. The plot veers into fantasy territory at times putting Rosy in real life situations with real people, something I don't really care for, but younger readers will probably enjoy it. The ending is left open for another sequel though I know India wasn't granted independence until 25 years after this story takes place. It's been a pleasure watching Rosy grow up and I hope there's at least one more book about her. This novel is a great history lesson that's fascinating and entertaining. I learned much more from this novel that I did from scholarly works about India's history! I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages 9+.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What I've Read Recently

What I've Read Recently . . .

A Dance With Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters went to the Ball by Susannah Fullerton -- Austenesque non-fiction

This short, full-color book uses anecdotes from Jane Austen's novels, letters and other period resources to explain everything about going to a ball from the dance steps to the clothing, the etiquette, and music and much more. This is a very nice book and I learned a few things about dance in the Regency era. I especially liked the use of period images contemporary to Jane Austen's lifetime. There's an extensive bibliography in the back that leads to more resources including blogs and websites. This is a nice little book for a beginning Janeite who wants to know more about the history behind the dances in her novels.

A Rambling Fancy : In the Footsteps of Jane Austen by Caroline Sanderson

This unusual travel narrative does not provide directions to Jane Austen's homes and haunts, but rather chronicles one woman's thoughts as she travels in the footsteps of Jane Austen. The author claims her purpose is to portray Jane Austen as a contemporary- someone who is still relevant in the modern world. I'm not sure she quite achieves her purpose. She rambles a lot, as the title suggests, about Jane Austen's life, sometimes making controversial statements and provoking purposely. This is largely a biography with a lot of suppositions about how Jane Austen felt while at that particular location. It's more biography than travel. The author visits some interesting obscure places as well as metropolitan London, Chawton, and the usual places in search of Jane Austen. This is an interesting concept for a book but it reads more like a series of blog posts rather than a book. It might be useful for someone living in England who wants to find Jane Austen but for everyone else, it's largely useful for the biographical material. I wouldn't buy this book but if your local library carries it, it's worth a perusal.

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend . . .

His Lordship's Reward (also known as Lord Roworth's Reward) by Carola Dunn -- Regency Romance

Four years after the events of Miss Jacobson's Journey, Felix, Lord Roworth is in Brussels working for Nathan Rothschild to repair his family fortunes. As he waits for news on Napoleon's next move, he courts the lovely Lady Sophia, whom he believes would make the perfect countess. The lady has a court of admirers and doesn't seem to show a preference for one over the other. She is very different from the intrepid Fanny Ingram who shares his lodgings with her young ward Anita. Fanny's twin brother Frank is a Captain in the Artillery like his father before him and Fanny has followed the drum her whole life. Nothing seems to faze her at all. Felix likes chatting with fanny and flirting with her a bit. She's a good friend to pour his heart out to. Fanny enjoys her easy friendship with Felix. He's gallant and kind to little Anita and not at all high in the instep. When Napoleon finally makes his move, the Ingrams are more in need of a friend than ever before. Fanny tells herself she must not fall in love with him for Earls' sons don't marry nobodies like her, but Lord Roworth's kindness makes it impossible not to love him. This is a very long story for a paperback Regency. There's not much plot. It drags on and on in the middle.While Felix is kind and caring, he spends the majority of the book believing he's in love with Lady Sophia and making excuses for her snobby behavior. To his credit, he wants to please his family, but that excuse only goes so far. I don't remember liking him much in Miss Jacobson's Journey and he improves a little in this book. His realization comes too late. Fanny is a great heroine for most of the novel. She turns missish during Waterloo and gets a little annoying after that. Before the midway point of the novel, she's strong, brave and kind. She's had a hard life and it's made her the very opposite of the spoiled Lady Sophia. Lady Sophia is a stock character; an ice maiden and it's hard to believe that anyone could actually want to be married to her. I liked catching up with Miriam and Isaac. She is as amazing as ever and a well-rounded character. She can voice her political views about women's rights but she's also a loving mother and a adoring wife who makes a comfortable home for her family. Felix's sisters seem like interesting girls and I would have liked more time spent with them and more space dedicated to Connie and Frank, who apparently have their own novel, but shouldn't really need one. If you liked the first book and want to know what happens next, then read this novel. It works as a stand-alone but it's long and slow moving.