Saturday, May 17, 2014

What I've Read Recently Part II . . .

Lord Nightingale's Love Song (Lord Nightingale, #2)Lord Nightingale's Love Song by Judith A. Lansdowne -- Regency Romance

Miss Eugenia Chastain longs to dance. She'd love to dance a reel or even a scandalous waltz, if only she could. A childhood accident left her lame in one leg, so of course she can't dance. Her lameness doesn't really bother her much in the country but here in London, during the Season, no gentlemen have taken an interest in Eugenia. She heads out to the balcony of the Hathfords' ballroom to indulge in a good cry, only to discover the balcony is already occupied by one irascible young gentleman. Edward Finaly, Marquess of Bradford wants nothing to do with balls or young ladies. He only put in appearance because his father made him and because his beloved horse Nod needed a rest. Soon he'll be on his way to the country where he can have peace and quiet and Nod can recover from a recent illness. He also plans to continue searching for those he's lost and he wiln't be trapped into marriage! While in Kent, he discovers a child, a groom, a mongrel puppy, a young cat, and a parrot in his pasture bothering his horse. He misinterprets the situation and chaos ensues. When he brings the motley crew home, dirty and disheveled, he intends to give his neighbors a sharp set down. He's surprised to discover the weeping crippled girl from London. He feels a bit badly about the way he treated her, but he maintains his belief that he wants to be left alone. Eugenia tries to stay out of the way and even extends hospitality to her cousin Neil and his friend Mr. Arnsworth. Though she is suspicious of Neil's motives, Mr. Arnsworth is all that is kind and amiable. She thinks she might even accept a proposal if offered, but as she encounters her temperamental neighbor more often, she begins to see the real man behind the icy exterior. She senses a wounded soul in need and is determined to help her new friend. Lord Nightingale, Delight and her menagerie, and the Dowager Countess of Wickenshire are all also determined to help Eugenia and Lord Bradford.

This is a beautiful story of two handicapped people coming together to heal with the help of a colorful cast of characters, which includes the title character, Lord Nightingale. The plot moves along quickly. The mystery kept me on edge, turning pages and I could hardly put it down. When I did stop, I picked it up again and then finished, picked up book 3 and started speedreading to get to the bottom of the mystery! The story leaves a few loose ends in terms of the mystery. I liked that there wasn't a central villain needing to be defeated, that the demons were inside but caused by a villain. The story is rather sad but there are a lot of light moments to keep it from being too heavy. The romance is a bit rushed at the end and I thought Eugenia deserved a better ending. Other than that, I like the way the relationship builds. This book almost reads like an inspirational novel without the frequent mentions of God and Scriptures. (There are a few quick send-up prayers towards the end but not enough to qualify as a real inspirational novel). The only quibbles I had with this book were a few historical inaccuracies that may be Victorian and also the fact that the characters call each other by their first names. I don't think the vicar's daughters would call Lord Wickenshire "Nicky." My only other complaint is that the characters stammer too much. I can't stand stammering when it's not a speech defect so I took off half a star for it.

The characters are the real stand-out of this novel, especially the supporting cast. Dear little Delight is as delightful as her name. She sounds more like 4 or 5 than 8 though. She's so sweet and innocent and obviously very happy and secure in her new life. I love her devotion to animals and how her kindness brings out the best in everyone. Stanley Blithe and Sweetpea are adorable sidekicks for Delight and reflect her personality. I liked how nothing much is made of her port wine stain birthmark in this book. No one notices it and I forgot all about it. Lord Nightingale is also an excellent supporting character. His dialogue is outstanding and adds a lot of humor to the story. I'm dying to know what "Knollsmarmer" means.

The other human secondary characters are a little less memorable but no less important to the story. Neil actually shows some character growth which I like. It makes him a less typical character. His friend Mr. Arnsworth is a nice young man. He's not taken from the book of supporting characters. He's not all that well-rounded either and his plot is concluded in the most unbelievable way, but I liked him. Lady Wickenshire is not a grand dame. She's a doting aunt who wants to see her niece happy, even if it means interfering a bit. She's amusing but she can also be tough when she wants to be.

The main characters are great as well. I really liked Eugenia when I read Lord Nightingale's Debut, so I was eager to read her story and find out how she finds her happily ever after. I was surprised to find out she's very young, only 20, and in her first Season. She seemed a lot older in the first book. In the beginning of this book, she seems kind of silly and immature but she isn't really. She just has a good sense of the absurd and a sense of humor. She's a smart and determined young woman and I still like her. I didn't feel bad for her that she was lame, but I did feel bad that the gentlemen of the ton are so superficial, they can't see how great she is. I loved her relationship with Lord Bradford. He is also young but an old soul. His speech pattern makes him sound young in the beginning but he acts a lot older. His devotion to his horse really touched me, as an animal lover I can relate. I didn't fall in love with Bradford, but I think many women could. His story is so touching. His relationship with Eugenia is wonderful. They need each other emotionally and become friends. There's no real physical longing, just a meeting of the souls. I loved the romance so much, it made me sigh in parts.

Lord Nightingale's Triumph (Lord Nightingale, #3)Lord Nightingale's Triumph by Judith A. Lansdowne -- Regency Romance

This book picks up where the last one left off but switches the point-of-view to Lord Bradford's brother Peter. Peter is about to do a very bad deed that will land him in Newgate prison if he's caught. He's desperate for money for passage to India so he can make his fortune and marry the woman he loves. He's not sure about that last one because he's on the run from some men who will likely throw him in prison if he's caught. He can't ask his beloved Mary to be on the run with him. Mary has other ideas. When she comes across Peter in the Earl of Wickenshire's barn, she is thrilled her beloved has returned. She's determined to follow him wherever he goes no matter what. She cares nothing for her reputation, only Peter. The pair head on the road to London with a kidnapped Lord Nightingale in tow! When the vicar discovers his eldest missing, he enlists the aid of the Earl of Wickenshire to bring her back. Along the way they hope to discover the whereabouts of Lord Nightingale as well. Meanwhile, Edward and Peter's father shows up determined to stop his heir from marrying a nobody. Serendipity is ready to throw him out but the Dowager Countess sees hints that the Duke is not as black as he's been painted. If they can keep him there, the ladies (and animals) can try to melt his icy exterior.

I speed read through the first half of the novel, eager to solve the mystery of the missing Peter. I wasn't too thrilled with the way the plot went. Nothing happens for most of the first half until the middle. Then we finally get some answers and things are tidied up. I was left wondering what next? The second half deals a lot more with inner demons and what has made the irascible Duke so hard. There's also the mystery of who wanted Lord Nightingale and why. Nothing much happens in the second half either until the end. There are still some loose plot threads so I have to read the Christmas book to find out if they're resolved. I found the solution to all the problems a little too neat and tidy. There's also echoes of Jane Eyre which I found a little too convenient.

I really didn't care too much for the new characters. I wanted more Bradford and Eugenia! Peter isn't as appealing as his brother. He's prone to melodrama and makes a lot of stupid decisions. He tries to be noble and I found him rather trying. Mary is exactly as Neil said. She's no better than she should be. She's just too modern for a story set in the Regency era. She doesn't care about her reputation at all and is ready to throw it all away. A lady's reputation meant everything and she never once thought about how her elopement would affect her sisters. She was selfish and annoying.

All the previous characters return in this book. Nicky and Sera are major supporting characters. I still like Nicky and I liked Sera better now she's a bit more wise. The Dowager Duchess is as mischievous as always and I still like her. Edward and Eugenia make a brief appearance too and it wasn't enough to satisfy me. As usual Delight and her pets steal the plot. She still sounds just like my 5 year old niece and not an 8 year old. Also appearing in this novel are Lady Vermont and her granddaughter Alice. They have little to do and I was hoping for more. Lord Nightingale is the best character in the whole book. He continues to make me laugh with his dialogue. We finally learn more about him, including what "knollsmarmer" means. The villains are also in this story as cardboard as ever for one and the other develops a bit which I like.

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