Thursday, October 31, 2013

What I've Read This Week Part I

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

A Christmas Courtship by Carola Dunn, Karla Hocker, and Joy Reed -- Regency Christmas novellas

In The Christmas Party by Carola Dunn, Miss Prudence Figg alias Seraphina Savage is a novice actress appearing in a Christmas theatrical at the Marquis of Easthaven's Christmas party. When she meets the son of the Marquis, Lord Rusholme, she finds the handsome, teasing man attractive but knows that men like him only want one thing from girls like her. Rusholme is determined to seduce Miss Savage and turns on all his charms to win her over but she proves to be the most prudish actress he's ever met. His mother has other plans and he's determined to escape the marriage noose for as long as he can. Even though Miss Savage seems to reject his favors, she's good with his young nieces and nephews and refreshingly honest. He can't help but feel a growing attraction to her. The hero of this story ruined what could have been a sweet, charming romance. He sets out to seduce Pru sight unseen merely because he's bored with his mistress and he thinks actress is synonymous with lightskirt. The clues are all there that Pru isn't what she seems and he even realizes that to some extent but still persists in trying to win her over. The secondary characters are rather stereotypical but one of the young ladies reveals hidden depth which I liked. The last half of the story is better than the first. There's far too much quoting from the play within the story but the romance is nicer. The only character I really liked was Pru. I liked how she tried to make a better life for herself. She was a bit naive at times, but strong at others.

Under the Mistletoe by Karla Hocker is a companion to another novel but stands alone as a short story for the most part. It's darker than the usual Christmas story. The heroine, Susan Cavendish, is just out of mourning for her late husband Frederick, but she feels guilty for NOT mourning him in her heart. Frederick was cruel and abusive and now she fears he's still alive. Susan's belief is based on voices and noises heard in the walls behind the secret passageways. Frederick's cousin Andrew is eager to help Susan. He is not so secretly in love with her and wishes to marry her and protect her. Susan isn't sure what she wants. She's never had the chance to find out. When her best friend Elizabeth Rowland, Duchess of Stenton, arrives, Susan hopes to find the answers she seeks. Elizabeth arrives with her ghost, Annie Tuck, a former nursemaid, who falls in love with Andrew! Annie is jealous of Andrew's feeling for Susan but when danger strikes, she must decide whether to put her feelings aside and help Susan or hope Andrew will join her in the spirit world forevermore. I didn't really like this story. Frederick was a despicable, horrific man and everyone turned a blind eye. There's not much back story to explain how he got that way when his mother seems perfectly nice. The plot is a bit too Gothic for my tastes. I felt very bad for Susan that she never had the chance to figure out who she is or what she wants out of life. While Andrew is a very worthy hero, I think he should have kept his feelings to himself for awhile longer. This story is for those who enjoy realism blended with Gothic mystery. This would be a better story for Halloween than Christmas. The ghost seemed really familiar to me but I can't find a record of having read the story she  first appears in. It's possible I read that or even this story before and forgot.

The Christmas Beau is a lighthearted story about a young girl, Melanie Hartman, in her first season who dreams of marrying her neighbor, Lord Colby and traveling to Italy. When her brother brings home a friend from London, Mellie is aghast that an uncouth savage Scotchman should be allowed to speak to her. William McCraig proves to be conversable, chivalrous and a big help in a crisis. When he asks for Mellie's hand in marriage, she's horrified but he is a very persistent young man. Will Mellie get to marry the man of her dreams? I liked this story best of all the three in the collection but I did not like the heroine. Melanie is spoiled, selfish and really really rude. Her mother should have corrected her behavior. The Colby gentlemen are cads and Melanie refuses to see her beloved Lord Colby as he really is. Her realization comes a little too late for me. I loved Mr. McCraig. He's so funny and charming. The crisis scene had me smiling and laughing throughout. He didn't deserve Melanie and would be better off with her younger sister Nina. Nina is a much nicer girl.

These stories are a little long for an anthology and they lack the heartwarming nature of some of the other Regency Christmas stories I've read. This one isn't tops on my list.

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