Saturday, January 30, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly 2016 Week 2:Culinary Vices

Historical Food Fortnightly 2016 Week 2:

Culinary Vices

The Challenge: Culinary Vices
The Recipe: No Bake Fudge Cookies, 1960s USA

No Bake Fudge Cookies

According to "Unbaked confections composed of nuts, dried fruit, seeds and sweeteners were made by ancient Middle eastern cooks."  "No bake" (cookies, squares, bars, balls) originated during the Great Depression. These cookies contain dried/desiccated fruit, nuts, and/or seeds "glued together with a sugar (honey, Karo) or fat (cream cheese, peanut butter, butter, margarine)." Modern no bake cookies descend from the same tradition beginning in the 1950s. 

I cheated a bit here because we have SO much food left over from Christmas that I hated to make something else that wouldn't get eaten. My dad was wishing for more of his mother's famous "No Bake Fudge Cookies." (We ate all the Christmas batch and had a lot of leftover ingredients). This is one of my signature recipes but to make it comply with challenge rules I consulted primary sources but chose to make my Nonnie's original recipe we all love. That makes it fall into the "culinary vices" category. ;-)

Fudge Cookies
2 c. sugar
2. c. brown sugar
1 c. butter
1 c. milk
2 c. chocolate pieces
4 c. quick cooking oats
1 c. nuts
1 c. coconut

Bring sugars, butter, and milk to a boil; boil for two minutes. Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl; pour hot mixture over oat mixture. Mix well. Drop from teaspoon onto waxed paper. Yield 8 dozen.
Favorite Recipes of America Desserts Edition, 1966, p. 147

Combine with the following baked cookies:

Coconut Fingers
1. c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla flavoring
2 c. chopped dates
1 c. chopped nuts
2 c. coconut

Mix all ingredients except coconut; mix well. Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfulls into coconut; roll like fingers. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 2 doz.

Mrs.Ethel M. Miller, Favorite Recipes of America Desserts Edition, 1966, p. 156

Coconut Oat Drops 

1 egg beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. melted shortening
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. chopped nuts 
1/2 c. coconut
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. honey

The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook Deluxe Edition, Culinary Arts Institute, Chicago, 1973

How Did You Make It:

Nonnie's No Bake Fudge Cookies
1/2 c. sugar
1/2. c. brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. chocolate chips
2 c. quick cooking oats
1/2 c. chopped dates
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1 tsp. honey
all the flavors you can mix*
1 bag coconut

Melt sugars, butter, milk and chocolate chips with honey, flavorings and dates in a saucepan. Cook until hot enough to add the oats. Stir in oats. Once oat mixture has cooled a little, roll batter into a ball and into a log. Roll log in coconut. 

"All the flavors you can mix" typically meant whatever liquors she had on hand such as Kahlua (enhances the chocolate flavor) and any extracts like vanilla or almond.
original recipe 

My sinful ingredients include:
Chocolate Chips

1 stick of butter
sugar (white and brown)
sweetened dried coconut

*nuts (depending on whether you consider them sinful)

"flavors" Nonnie's signature Kahlua 1/4 tsp.

and I found this in the liquor cabinet that looked like it would go well with chocolate cookies!
1/4 tsp. 

Non-sinful ingredients include:
1% milk
orange peel
*nuts (depending on whether you consider them sinful)

Time to Complete:  An hour or so allowing for the mixture to cool

Total Cost:   

$13.49 plus flavors (We had all the ingredients on hand)

How Successful Was It?:
I don't usually add the special flavors but the liquors really enhance the chocolate flavor of the cookies. The orange undercuts the sweetness a bit. I pronounce these my best ever! Now I need to work on the shaping.

How Accurate Is It?: 90%? 

See above for the history of no bake cookies. My Nonnie's recipe combines a couple of typical 1960s cookie recipes and adds her own flair, which made this recipe fall into the "culinary vices" category. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

What I Read in October 2015 Part II

What I Read in October 2015 Part II ...

The Blue SapphireThe Blue Sapphire by D.E. Stevenson-- Historical Fiction/Historical Romance

Julia Harburn lives with her emotionally distant father and young stepmother in London. She's engaged to the very suitable and proper Morland Beverley and the couple are waiting for him to get a partnership in his father's firm before marrying. When Morland is late meeting Julia in Kensington Gardens one day, she sits down on a bench to wait. A young man by the name of Stephen Brett walks by and into love. He sits down to chat up Julia for the very true reason that he knows no one in London. Recently returned from Africa, Stephen is a mining engineer from Devonshire. Stephen can't get Julia out of his head and sets out to woo her away from Morland. He was given a blue sapphire in Africa that matches Julia's eyes exactly. He feels it's fated they should be together. It's not an easy task as Julia proves elusive and stubborn. First she decides to strike out on her own while her father and stepmother are on vacation. She finds a room at a lovely boarding house for actors and finds a friend in the owner, May Martineau. Then Julia gets a job and a mysterious letter which will change her destiny.

This is a nice, pleasant sort of book. Except for a few modern references to televisions, cars and hospitals/operations, this story could have taken place at any time between the late 19th century and now. It's a little old-fashioned for the 1960s when women were beginning to have more options. D.E. Stevenson has a theme: young women finding their voices. This book is no exception. It also had a theme of forgiveness and Christian love. The first half was a little slow but the second half moved much faster and I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know what happened to Uncle Roland and which one of the three potential suitors Julia would choose, if any of them.

I really liked Julia. At first she seems too proper and Victorian but she emerges into a strong-minded young woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. She's such a sweet, kind, lovable person and doesn't ever act rude or spoiled and bratty about what she wants. She sees only the good in people and wants only the best for herself and who she loves.

Morland is a pompous, prosy, stupid bore. He's one of those suitors straight out of a Georgette Heyer novel. He doesn't care about Julia and what she wants. He's very selfish and stupid. He means well but he's just a really unlikable person by modern standards. He's not a strong alpha male romantic hero, he's just old-fashioned and obtuse. Stephen is much more fun, but he's kind of the anti-Morland. Stephen is also selfish in a way but he is really a nice guy. He has good business sense, is a kind and caring person and he's close to his mother. I just loved his relationship with his mother. It's so sweet! The story of how he got the sapphire is amazing and shows his wonderful character.

The story is rounded out with some colorful, memorable secondary characters. There's May Martineau, a widow and former actress who runs Julia's boardinghouse. She's very nosy but you can't help but love her despite her flaw. Then there's Madame Claire, a Frenchwoman who runs the shop where Julia works. She's a little effusive in her native language but like her friend May, a real dear. These two women become Julia's first friends in her new life. Then in Scotland there's Uncle Roland, Julia's estranged uncle. He seems like a lively character who has many wonderful stories to tell. He's so kind, it's hard not to love him. Then there's Maggie Walker, the devoted housekeeper/nurse to Uncle Roland. I liked trying to decipher her speech and how she kept forgetting anything that didn't concern Roland. Neil, a promising young doctor, who may be a love interest for Julia or perhaps a good friend. I'll let you read the book to find out.

Love by the Morning Star

Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan-- Young Adult Historical Fiction/Young Adult Historical Romance

Anna Morgan's father has risen from being a lowly grocer to the mouthpiece of the National Fascist Front working for the preservation of "true British way of life." Anna is thrilled that her father's rise in social status allows her the opportunity to better herself. She's determined to be a heroine and marry a titled gentleman. When a German higher up in the NAFF asks Anna to be a part of a secret mission, she's willing to help. At least until she discovers that her role is to play kitchen maid to an noble British family. As if! Sadly for Anna, she isn't allowed to say no and is bundled off to Starkers Castle outside of London. Hannah Morgenstern has grown up in her father's cabaret singing opera and cabaret songs alongside a host of bohemian entertainers who care nothing for politics. Hannah's parents have friends in high places and Hitler's rise to power hasn't meant anything to them - until now. A frequent patron warns the Morgensterns it's time to get out. Jews are unwelcome in Berlin and the situation is about to go from bad to worse. Aaron makes plans for his cabaret and Cora, Hannah's mother, makes plans to send Hannah to her distant English relatives at Starkers Castle. Lady Liripip is said to be kind enough but his third wife is reported to be a harridan. Hannah believes she can endure the unkindness until her parents arrive and everything goes back to normal. When she arrives at the castle, penniless and ragged, she's mistaken for the new kitchen maid and Anna is whisked away upstairs as a member of the family. Neither girl realizes her destiny has been changed by fate and Hannah bravely puts up with the indignity. Anna is determined to play her role and marry Teddy, Lord Winkfield, Lord Liripip's heir, but it's a hunky gardener who haunts her dreams. Meanwhile, Hannah falls in love under the morning star. Their fates are about to intertwine and two teenage girls will become a part of history.

The plot got off to a slow start. If you don't know anything about the politics of the time or the cabaret scene of the Wiemar Republic, I recommend doing a little background research before reading this book. The cabaret is populated by eccentric bohemians I couldn't keep straight and most never reappear in the story. I hated the deception that was forced on the girls by fate and was tempted to skip ahead to see how it was discovered and when. All was discovered way too late for my tastes. I hate love stories based on deception and this one was so incredibly improbable, not to mention predictable. I was more interested in Hannah than Anna but felt that both the love stories were told rather than shown. Anna's doesn't make a lot of sense and Hannah's loses out by being told. I don't really get what she sees in her love interest. He isn't very bright or worthy of her at all. Anna's love interest is not very appealing either. I did root for Hannah to get her wish because she deserved it. I was most interested in finding out what happened to Hannah's parents. There's enough information given but too late in the story so we can read between the lines but it's all handled with a light touch. Though there are references to Kirstallnacht and Buchenwald, it's all kept in the background while the story takes place at Starkers Castle in an insulated world not unlike a Wodehouse novel.

Anna is introduced first and she comes across as stupid, silly and vain. She is the only one in the book who experiences any character growth. All her life she's done what she's been told and parrots the beliefs of her father and his cronies. She isn't smart enough to learn to think on her own and form her own opinions until she learns about hate first hand. I felt her growth was OK. I was glad she changed but she is not the heroine of the story and her character growth is secondary to Hannah's story. Hannah is not as innocent as Anna but naive enough and foreign enough not to understand British culture. All she knows about life in Britain is from P.G. Wodehouse novels and Gilbert and Sullivan operas. She doesn't really grow and change in this story but she does become stronger in her beliefs. How her story ends is completely silly and unrealistic.

If you're not familiar with cabaret life, which I was not, some of the goings-on may make some readers uncomfortable. Characters are fluid in their gender and sexuality; there's frank mentions of sex/sexuality and gender bending. None of that bothered me but some readers may be uncomfortable with it. Adultery, premarital sex and crude language also appear in this story. There's also hints of two love scenes which I found incredibly stupid and unrealistic.

If you love a good Cinderella story set in a more modern and familiar world, this is for you. It wasn't precisely my cup of tea.

What I Read in September 2015 Part VI/What I Read in October 2015 Part I

What I Read in September 2015 Part VI/What I Read in October 2015 Part I ...

Amelia Peabody Mysteries by Elizabeth Peters-- Historical Cozy Mysteries

Lion in the Valley (Amelia Peabody, #4)Lion in the Valley (Amelia Peabody #4)

Amelia Peabody Emerson is back in Egypt with her family. Emerson has finally been given a pyramid to excavate. While still in Cairo, there's an attempt to kidnap Ramses and the wicked Prince Kalenischeff is murdered in the room of his inamorata and the lady is nowhere in sight! Amelia suspects the hand of the Master Criminal and feels it necessary to hire a bodyguard for Ramses. Emerson pooh-poohs the idea of catching the Master Criminal, if there is one, but agrees to hire a bodyguard to protect Ramses from his own curiosity. They hire Nemo, a drug-addicted beggar to watch over Ramses. Amelia has a motive-she means to reform Nemo. She's certain she knows the root of his troubles and can help.

I enjoyed this book a lot but I felt the love story was rather tedious and too similar to the plot of the first book in the series. I also disliked Amelia's high-handed moral methods. While I agree with her about Nemo's problem, I found her methods too heavy-handed but typical of Victorian moral codes. The mystery was engaging but not enough for me to stay up all night reading. I was able to put it down and pick it up again. There are a lot of funny moments - mostly with Ramses and Emerson's temper. I liked the lightness of it all. The language is so sophisticated I had to stop and read twice to understand the opening paragraph and I won't pretend that I always understand Ramses. I also appreciate Amelia and Emerson's relationship. It's nice to see a happily married couple and it's also a plus when their marital activities are implied rather than shown. (Thank you Amelia for being Victorian). I liked Ramses much better in this novel than the last. He's a bit irritating but at 8, he's less precocious than he was at 5 and more believable. To discuss the new major secondary characters would spoil the plot but I disliked all three of them. Two were whiny and silly and one was manipulative.

I can't wait to see what they get up to next. I wanted instant gratification but the library didn't have this one on e-book so I'm off to go get the print one right now. 

he Deeds of the Disturber 
 (Amelia Peabody #5)
The Deeds of the Disturber (Amelia Peabody, #5)
Amelia, Emerson and Ramses return to England after their Egyptian adventure turned nightmare. They're greeted not just by Evelyn (in delicate condition again and Walter, but also Amelia's older brother James, who must want something. They're also greeted by the press with the sensational news story about a cursed mummy. The press naturally assumed Amelia and Emerson would be investigating. Emerson doesn't believe in curses and neither does Amelia but the mysterious appearance and disappearance of a lunatic masquerading as an Egyptian priest does get Amelia's attention. When she makes the acquaintance of a lady journalist, Amelia feels more compelled to investigate. Meanwhile, on the domestic front things are not going very well. Ramses is experimenting with mummification and there are two extra children in the house to cause more drama.

This novel did not excite or interest me as much as the Egyptian set books. The London setting was not as interesting and the mystery was fairly obvious. Of course I have read other Victorian mystery novels with similar plots so I had the advantage of knowing what the end would bring. I also figured out who the chief villain was before Amelia. She should have figured it out from the subtle clues. At first I thought it was someone else but then it became obvious to me who it was. I was a little surprised by some of the events in the big dramatic scene but not entirely. I also knew what was going on with the children and Amelia should have known based on her childhood experiences. I disliked how Amelia and Emerson HAVE to have marital relations EVERY single time they're alone. Amelia doesn't need to mention it every time. It gets tedious. I hated the jealousy that sprang up in Amelia. She should know that gentleman always have a past and it doesn't do to inquire too closely. It seemed out of character for her.

There are several new secondary characters and one returning secondary character. Kevin O'Connell is back and Amelia is as friendly as ever while Emerson is ready to throttle the man. I actually liked Kevin despite his sensational journalistic style. He's only doing his job. He's not the editor or owner of the paper. I liked Miss Minton at first. Her journalistic integrity needs work but I admire her for going out and getting a job on her own merit and succeeding. Then there's the young Lord Liverpool. He's suffering from a social disease and faced with his own mortality. Like Amelia, I felt rather sorry for him, but not really because he did bring the affliction on himself. He's not too bright, either because of the disease or in addition to it. His friend St. John sends off bad vibes. I didn't like him. There's also Mr. Budge from the British Museum, who isn't very bright or good at his job. Emerson's hatred of him is understandable. Then there's Budge's assistant Mr. Wilson. I feel bad for him because he's been taught the wrong thing. Finally, Ayesha, a mysterious Egyptian woman piques Amelia's curiosity. I didn't like her at first but when the full story came out, I felt sorry for her but I didn't like the affect she had on Amelia.

I'll read the next book in the series since they return to Egypt. I will grab it later this week or read the e-book if I run out of things to read.

The Last Camel Died at Noon (Amelia Peabody, #6)
he Last Camel Died at Noon 
 (Amelia Peabody #6)

The Emerson-Peabodys are back to their investigations. Since the British Army has pushed into the Sudan, Emerson insists they investigate the ancient city of Napata, which is thought to be a precursor to Egyptian civilization. Their plans are interrupted by yet another aristocrat. Lord Blacktower wants Emerson to find his long-lost son who disappeared in the Sudan 14 years ago. Lord Blacktower's grandson, Willoughby Forthright, believes his grandfather is crazy and the evidence presented is faked. Emerson knows at least one piece of evidence is real but he has no intentions of giving up his work or life in pursuit of the missing explorer. Of course events in the Sudan send the Emerson-Peabodys off on an adventure they never dreamed of and may never return from.

This is the most incredible, breathtaking adventure for the Emerson-Peabodys! It starts off with a bang. Amelia and family are lost in the desert, deserted by their servants who took off with food and water, and the last camel has died. Amelia then back tracks to tell us how they got there and what happens next. I could NOT put this book down. I had a hard time keeping all the country borders and ancient civilizations straight. I also didn't understand everything about the co-opting of ancient traditions but the illustrations helped. The political intrigue was complicated and felt a bit cliched. I wasn't entirely surprised by the big revelation at the end but what had happened was a surprise. The story dropped Willoughby Forthright and Amelia and Emerson didn't seem too concerned with him. He pops up again way too late. I had already forgotten him.

The one thing that really bugged me about Amelia and Emerson in this novel was that no matter how progressive they are, they are still strongly influenced by their Victorian British values and they try to impose those values on to a civilization that doesn't value the same things they do. That never ends well which the Emerson-Peabodys should know. Ramses is growing up and he's less loquacious. Now I have trouble distinguishing his speeches from his parents. I actually found myself missing the young precocious Ramses.

There are too many new characters to mention. To tell you what I think of them would spoil the plot. I wasn't thrilled with any of them and found them all hard to keep track of. I wasn't sure what they meant at the end about Lord Blackpool and what they intend to do about their unexpected discovery. I can't wait to see what they get up to next!

The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog  (Amelia Peabody #6)

The Snake, the Crocodile and the Dog (Amelia Peabody, #7) Amelia and her dear sister-in-law Evelyn regret the romance has gone out of their lives, especially now their husbands are more interested in what they can learn from Nefret than anything else. Amelia hopes their upcoming expedition to Egypt will put the spark back in her relationship. This time Ramses as elected to stay at home and pursue an education (and to be with "HER" as he calls Nefret). Emerson has a new plan to return to their old dig sites and make a through study of each one. To do this, they would need a staff (including females!) and a permanent home. Though Amelia would rather excavate some place new, she sees the merit in Emerson's plan. She's also busy translating an Egyptian fairy tale "The Doomed Prince" and they've been asked by an old acquaintance of Emerson's to watch his cat Anubis while he's away. Abdullah fears the cat is a demon based on his name, but Emerson pooh-poohs the superstition. Unfortunately for Amelia, her instincts fail to warn her of impending danger. Before they really begin making a survey of past dig sites, mysterious events occur which place both Emersons in danger. When Amelia's beloved Emerson is abducted and hit on the head, Amelia vows to move heaven and hell to rescue him. Meanwhile, long letters from Ramses arrive detailing abduction attempts on himself and Nefret! Amelia has a lot to contend with but she will keep her family safe with her dying breath if she has to.

This is the best adventure yet! Despite Amelia's protests at starting with a sensational opening, she does so anyway. My heart couldn't stop pounding and I stayed up long long past my bedtime to find out how it turned out. I almost skipped ahead but the endings are so long winded with too much explanation, I didn't want to ruin the adventure. This one really put me (and the characters) through the wringer of emotions. My heart broke for Amelia that she felt the romance had gone out of her relationship, then she faces the worst and I just felt so bad for her. I was with her every step of the way as she fought to save her family. Despite the sad overtones, there is still quite a bit of humor. The letters from Ramses are very funny (unintentionally on his part) and lighten up the plot a bit. I was completely surprised by some of the revelations at the end. I never saw some of them coming though I did suspect the identity of the villain. My only complaint about this book is that some of the archaeological explanations are too long. I was interested in the plot more than being educated (sorry Amelia).

In this novel we are reacquainted with Cyrus Vandergelt, the American millionaire the Emerson-Peabodys met on an earlier expedition. I barely remembered him so it was a good reminder of who their allies are to stick him in the plot. His heart is as big as Texas and he's such a kind gentleman. Other new characters include Anubis, the cat. I'm not a cat person and I failed to be charmed by this hissing and ornery cat. Bastet seems like the sweetest kitty next to Anubis. His name is a clue to his personality, Anubis being the Egyptian devil-like creature. Then there's Bertha, a woman with a past who seeks refuge with Amelia and entourage. She's hard to figure out and I never really warmed up to her the way Amelia did. Then there's Vincey, an old acquaintance of Emerson's whom Emerson had reported for selling illegal antiquities. He wants to make amends and leave the past behind him but with a cat such as Anubis as his pet, I just didn't like him. Nefret also appears in this story, as told by Amelia and Ramses. She's a tough young lady who will always be unconventional but strong, like Amelia. I liked hearing about her adventures from Ramses. 

More reviews still to come!

What I Read in September 2015 Part V

What I Read in September 2015 Part V ...

Celia's House by D.E. Stevenson-- Historical Fiction/Historical Romance/Austenesque 

Celia's House
Celia Dunne has lived 90 years at Dunnian. She was born the day after Waterloo and has lived into the new century. Now she's elderly and dying and knows she has to leave her beloved Dunnian. There have always been Dunnes at Dunnian, even before their house was built. Her nephew, Maurice, and his wife Nina are dying to get their hands on Dunnian to make "improvements," but Celia has other plans. She summons her great-nephew Humphrey, on leave from the Navy and determines he loves Dunnian as much as she does. It will be a good place for his children to grow up, she thinks and she will leave the house to his daughter Celia. The catch - Celia isn't born yet and the house has to stay in the Dunne family. Should Celia marry, her husband must take her name. Humphrey's wife Alice and their three children: Mark, Edith and Joyce, settle into life at Dunnian. Once Mark becomes acquainted with the woods, the streams and the old Peale, he becomes enchanted with Dunnian. When his distant cousin Deb comes to live with them, she shares his quiet enthusiasm for their beloved old home. Years come and go, two more children are born at Dunnian and Mark learns the truth about the inheritance. He promises to work hard and make a living for himself if he can be near Dunnian. One by one the siblings begin to leave the nest and old neighbors are now grown. This includes the beautiful, lively Tessa and her charming brother Oliver, who come to visit their grandmother in the summer. Summer casts it's spell and soon the plot turns into Mansfield Park. If you haven't read the original - go do that now before you read this book.

The story has too much exposition at the beginning and very little plot. About halfway through the story turns into Mansfield Park - light. It's close enough to be a pale imitator rather than an homage. The plot pretty much follows Mansfield Park from the scheme of getting up the play to the end - leaving out all the extraneous bits that don't fit the 1920s plotline and leaving out nasty Mrs. Norris. There's a lot at the end - a few chapters of epilogue. The writing is decent but there's a lot of telling. The very best writing is reserved for the last chapter. I was very interested in that final chapter and it ends so abruptly! I can imagine what happens though. This book isn't what I would call a romance. It's more about the house than the people and the romance is only a third of the story. It follows Mansfield Park pretty closely but there are some changes which I really liked. This story lacks the satire and humor of Miss Buncle's Book but it's not that kind of story. The first half and the end reminded me a lot of a Lucy Maud Montgomery story. It's a story of place more than people.

The characters aren't all that memorable. I wasn't crazy about Humphrey and his feelings that Dunnian should be entailed on Mark. He was away a lot and I kept having to remind myself that the story begins in 1905 and he is a man of his time. I'm not sure what was up with Alice but she's better than Lady Bertram. She's kind and loving but a little vague and physically weak at times. She wants Deb to stay with her because she truly loves Deb and requires Deb's help, unlike Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris who treat Fanny as an unpaid servant. Deb is very much a member of the family. Mark frequently refers to her as "my favorite sister." She's sweet and kind but not as insipid as Fanny. She has good heart, she nurses her secret love for years but she also has a lively, loving grandmother who gives her good advice. I liked the way Deb handled her situation very much. I liked Mark a lot too, for the most part. He's smart, works hard, loves his family and the old home. I can relate. He, like most men, like Edmund Bertram, is dazzled by a pretty face and sparkling personality. I liked Tessa too, at first, until she grew into a spoiled minx who would stop at nothing to achieve her ends. Then I loathed her. Her brother Oliver is too slick for my tastes. He's not as bad as Henry Crawford but he is indulged and used to getting his own way.

The minor characters include the other children. Edith and Joyce are Maria and Julia Bertram without the influence of Mrs. Norris. Edith is a spoiled beauty and I didn't care for her much. I didn't feel bad for her at all. Joyce is hardly in the book but her character transformation is told rather than shown and I was happy to read it. The younger children are charming. I like their adventures very much and thought they should have been in the story more. I also really liked the servants who are as devoted to Dunnian as the family. They're more like family than hired help. I wished they appeared more often.

Listening ValleyListening Valley by D.E. Stevenson-- Historical Fiction/Historical Romance

Lou and Antonia Melville live in an ordinary house in the city. They spend their days in the nursery with Nannie except for a daily walk. During those walks the girls spy a walled garden they long to see inside. One day while Nannie is out, the two sisters take off on an adventure that will change their lives. Lou, always bold and daring, marches right up to the mysterious house and rings the bell. A kind lady answers and brings them in for tea. They have the most marvelous time eating eclairs and listening to the lady's son Jack teasing. All too soon it's time to return home and the adventure ends - or so they think. Years later, the girls are grown and Lou dares to make her boldest move yet. Poor Tonia is left alone without her sister, without Nannie or anyone to love her or help her. Her hands are clumsy; she can never do anything right; her parents bicker and Tonia is miserable. All she has is her listening place where she can go in her head and dream and listen to the music there. Enter Mr. Robert Norman who is willing to take Tonia under his wing to teach her about life and give her a sense of self-worth, if only she'll let him. Set against the backdrop of the years between the wars and World War II, this novel is a companion to Celia's House. Part I only mentions the Dunnes in passing, but part 2 takes place in the Scottish countryside near Dunnian and serves as a prequel and sequel to Celia's House.

This book is a light, easy read. It reminded me a lot of Lucy Maud Montgomery's later stories and novels, especially The Blue Castle. The writing is more sophisticated than today's "chick lit" but very accessible. The plot is a little slow at first. There's a lot of exposition and a lot of telling what happened. Then in Part II the action picks up a bit and becomes more interesting. I especially liked/but didn't like the bits about flying. They were boring but yet interesting because my grandfather was in the U.S. Army Air Corps during the war stationed in England and flying liberators over Europe. I can't see him participating in the easy camaraderie the characters in this novel do. My library copy is missing the final page. The ending seems very abrupt and unsatisfactory. Thanks to some Good Reads friends for sharing the beautiful ending. This author has a way with words and her descriptions are really lovely. I fell in love with the country more than I did in Celia's House. I loved the connection to the Dunnes and learning more about both Celia's, my favorite characters who didn't get enough page time in Celia's House. The romances rely a little too much on coincidence to be realistic but I enjoyed them anyway. I found a certain mystery element to be entirely obvious and can't believe the characters wouldn't have figured it out.

The characters in this book are great. I liked and identified with both Lou and Tonia. Like Lou, I'm the big sister and I tend to take charge. I am also like Tonia - shy and going away to a place in my head where I can dream of more pleasant things. This is Tonia's story - her coming of age and coming into her own. I loved her character development. Her sweetness and sympathetic nature appealed to me and annoyed me at times. I wish she wasn't such a push over sometimes. Lou probably wouldn't have let people walk all over her and would have figured out what was what quickly.

Daisy is lovely. She's so warm-hearted and the type of person anyone except the stuffy Victorian-minded Melvilles would want t be friends with. Her son Jack likes to tease and I don't really care for that. He's not in the story long enough to be developed well. I especially liked the Smilies. As their name implies, they're very happy, caring people who open their hearts to Tonia and serve as the parents she didn't have. The young officers are pretty much all alike. I can't remember which was which except for Bay. Bay's character development is interesting. If I say more, I risk spoiling the plot.

I highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy quiet, kind sorts of novels. It's the perfect bedtime read or should be read with a cup of tea on a rainy day.

What I Read in September 2015 Part IV

What I Read in September 2015 Part IV ...

The Selected LettersThe Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott by Louisa May Alcott, edited by Madeleine B. SternJoel Myerson- non-fiction

Louisa May Alcott is best known for her novel Little Women. She was an intensely private person who burned many of her private papers before her death. The editors of this volume have compiled selected letters sent from Louisa to friends, family, business contacts and a few special fans. Here you will read about her career from Moods, Work, Hospital Sketches, to Little Women, Jack and Jill and Jo's Boys.

Some of the letters include bits she put into her novels and some are dry business correspondence. She was a remarkably talented, intelligent woman who cared deeply about her family and chafed at the restrictions placed on her by the stuffy society in which she lived. Some of her comments are witty and some letters are dry business ones.

I was surprised by how much my hero bought into the "angel in the house" construct. I knew she was involved in woman suffrage and was among the first women to vote on the east coast. She also believed women should be allowed to work and get paid for that work. She was an early advocate of equal pay or equal work. She would seriously be upset at how little has changed since her day. Yet, she also felt women should make a cozy, happy, loving home for their family and that should be their main concern.

I knew she was in poor health due to possible mercury poisoning from the Calomel given to her when she contracted typhoid at a Washington field hospital during the Civil War. What I didn't know was how much she suffered and for how long. I can relate to being almost 40 and in chronic pain already. 40 was much older then and she felt even older.

The personal content includes her feelings on the numerous tragedies in her family and how much she hated being famous. (She satirizes her fame in Jo's Boys). Her notes to her niece Lulu are adorable and charming. They show a different side to Louisa, who mostly comes across as tough and more masculine than what was normal. She turns into a baby-talking doting auntie whenever she writes to Lulu. I didn't know much about Lulu before this so it was great to see another side of Louisa.

I especially liked the letters about her creative process and the mentions of numerous stories I have yet to read. Somewhere in this house I do have Under the Lilacs and A Garland For Girls. I had Jack and Jill but it has disappeared. I need to track down Lulu''s Library and Spinning Stories.

If you don't know a lot about Louisa, this is a good place to start.

Malice at the Palace (Her Royal Spyness #9)
Malice at the Palace (Her Royal Spyness #9) by Rhys Bowen-- Historical cozy mystery

Georgie Rannoch is back in London where she belongs. She has some money in her pocket from Mummy, who has gone back to Germany to marry Max and a place to stay at Belinda's Mews cottage. When Belinda returns unexpectedly, Georgie is out on her feet again. Luckily, her royal relatives come to the rescue. Prince George, the King's 4th son, is getting married to Princess Marina of Greece and Queen Mary wants Georgie to show the Princess around and shield her from any nasty gossip about George's hard-partying ways. Georgie and Queenie move into Kensington Palace with all it's mysteries and ghosts. The Princess is a fun companion, despite her poor relation Countess Irmtraut who manages to be gloomy in spite of the celebration and a Major Beauchap-Clough is in charge of all expenses so what could be easier? When Georgie discovers a body in the courtyard of Kensington Palace, she knows her job just got a lot harder. The deceased, Bobo Carrington, a society girl addicted to booze and drugs was once the mistress (still?) of Prince George. If Princess Marina finds out, she could call off the wedding and embarrass the royal family. Scotland Yard and the Home Office team up with Georgie to solve the mystery.

Wow this story was a lot grittier than I expected. Content warning spoilers highlight to see: Sex (one scene played for laughs and not too graphic)
Dialogue about sex, homosexuality, drugs, abortion

The 1930s is in full swing here with the Depression, Hitler running Germany and lots of wild partying. If you've seen the recent Upstairs, Downstairs remake, Prince George makes a cameo appearance so you know what he's like. He's been in these books before so I knew what Georgie knew but the rest of it was a little too gritty for me. The grittiness was counterbalanced a little by the humor but the undercurrent of darkness was always present. I was glad Georgie is back in London because Hollywood didn't suit her at all. I like the English royal setting the best. I wasn't at all surprised by the identity of the murderer. I actually picked out that person before the murder even happened! I was a little surprised by the motive though. I hated the big misunderstanding. I gasped when I read it and hoped he had a good explanation, which he did but I'm not sure it was good enough. I'm torn: on one hand it would make a better story if he didn't, but on the other hand, he would break Georgie's heart (and mine) in the process. I gasped again at the final scene and I wonder if this is the final book in the series or what will happen next? I hope it all works out and we see more of Georgie. My biggest complaint besides the darkness, is that the plot moves pretty slowly. There's a lot of historical information thrown in and at first it seemed like the author did her research on Wikipedia but she reveals knowledge of the royals that isn't found there. I also wasn't thrilled about the paranormal aspect. Umm that came out of nowhere...

Georgie is still as charmingly naive and sweet as ever. I adore her and can relate to her a bit. She has a good heart and always wants to help her family and she's willing to support herself if only she could. For those who hate Queenie, she's hardly in this one at all and she's much needed for the comic relief. Georgie is a little tough on Queenie but Georgie has a good heart and explains her reasons for keeping Queenie on. More humor is added from Countess Irmtraut who hates England and doesn't understand idiomatic expressions. The humor is what makes these stories so much fun!

Other than Countess Irmtraut, who is a real pill. The new characters include Major B-C, whom I found too polished and too friendly to be true. He seems nice enough but I just didn't like him. There's also Princess Marina, who is a real life member of the royal family. George and Marina seem like a good fit. Marina is fun-loving, has a good sense of humor and doesn't swoon when George urges her to buy a pair of naughty knickers. Then there are the Aunts, Queen Victoria's daughters Beatrice and Louise. They turn out to be unexpectedly delightful. I knew Louise was the cool one and Georgie would like her. Beatrice seems kind too. We don't get to meet Queen Victoria's granddaughters yet. There are also the palace ghosts, including Princess Sophia, daughter of George III who had a tragic past that isn't mentioned in any Georgian or Regency romance novels I've read! The newest character who is not a real life person is Bobo. She never appears on page except as a corpse. She was mysterious and dark; known for her dangerous drug addiction and love of booze. She turns out to be full of surprises as Georgie slowly uncovers the secrets.

Returning characters include Georgie's mum, who always annoys me with her breezy insouciance. fortunately she's only in one scene. Belinda appears a few times and first annoyed me and then I felt sympathy for her. A little bit anyway. Darcy remains mysterious and I am unsure if I should trust him though I do love Darcy and Georgie together. Prince George and his brother David, the playboy princes, appear briefly. George seems more willing to change than David, who is still in the clutches of Mrs. Simpson. (Who has one catty scene which made me proud of Georgie).

This would be a good book to read on Halloween or between Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night, the time the story takes place. It seems an odd sort of book to release in the summer. 

Return to Georgette Heyer

False Colours 

by Georgette Heyer

The Honorable Christopher Fancot takes leave from his diplomatic post to return to London because he has a feeling something is wrong with his twin Evelyn, Lord Denville. Their mother reveals Evelyn hasn't been home in over a week and she is very worried. Evelyn is due to visit his potential bride's family soon and if he isn't home in time then Kit will have to take his place. Kit and his twin used to change places frequently as children for a lark but this is different. Kit agrees believing the masquerade to last only one night. He is surprised to find his brother's intended an intelligent and interesting young lady and her dragon of a grandmother not so formidable as he had feared. He almost regrets that Evelyn must marry this girl out of convenience. When Evelyn still doesn't return home, Kit and Lady Denville head to their country home to search for clues. When Cresy's grandmother invites herself and her granddaughter to visit, Kit has no choice but to continue the masquerade. Can he convince everyone he's his brother? Does he really want to? Is there someone he would rather reveal his true self to? 

 This is a story of deception Georgette Heyer style. I normally hate that kind of thing because I believe in honesty and plain speaking. However, I found this book largely enjoyable, if not predictable. The second half was funnier than the first and contains a lot more of Heyer's trademark period cant. I found it a little excessive and annoying in this novel. It didn't quite flow as seamlessly as it does in some of her other books. I liked the romance a lot and was impressed that there was (read between the lines) passionate kissing in the middle without explicitly stating so. I didn't remember that from my first reading. 

 I'm not super crazy about the characters in this novel. Kit seems like a better man than Evelyn. Evelyn is rackety and though not exactly rakish, he's careless and forgetful which causes him to appear like a rake. Kit is more thoughtful and intelligent than his older brother but I wasn't enamored with him either. He's too indulgent of his mother and even his brother's bad behavior. I thought he was a bit too close to his mother. Their relationship was more like friends or close siblings than mother and son. He improved a lot, in my opinion, once he met Cressy and got to know her better. Amabel, Lady Denville, is the most annoying, immature mother of a main character in all of Heyer's novels. She's so flighty and unintelligent that she drove me crazy. I wanted to be sympathetic because she wasn't brought up to understand money and debt and that sort of thing. She was married at a young age to a man who didn't love her but plenty of other characters in the Regency world as defined by Heyer make do and learn. Amabel is very similar to Nell in April Lady. 

 Cressy is the one character I really liked. She's sharp, intelligent and not a typical gently bred young lady. Her experiences living alone with her father make her more aware of the gentleman's world and how women fit into it. She isn't phased by anything and has a great sense of humor. As always, Heyer's secondary characters really shine. 

Bonamy is a great character. He's a portly middle-aged follower of the Prince Regent and should therefore not be all that likable. In the hands of Heyer, even a character other characters dislike can be a delight. His constant raptures over food were a bit much but he's a kind and loving friend and his dialogue is funny, especially at the end. My second favorite secondary character is Clara's mother. She's clearly not quite the thing and an extortionist but too too funny. I can easily conjure up a mental picture of her. My third favorite secondary character is Cressy's grandmama. If this ever makes it to TV or film any time soon, she will be played by Maggie Smith. She's the Regency version of Lady Violet Crawley - a tough old lady who seems scary but has a good heart inside and wants what's best for her family. 

I enjoyed this book more than I remembered.

What I Read in September 2015 Part III

What I Read in September 2015 Part III ...

Homicide In Hardcover (Bibliophile Mystery #1) by Kate Carlisle-- cozy mystery

Homicide in Hardcover (A Bibliophile Mystery, #1)
Brooklyn Wainwright, bookbinder, is excited and a bit nervous to attend a private showing of rare books at the Covington Library honoring her long-time mentor and friend Abraham Karatovsky. She's nervous because Abraham hasn't spoken to her in six months, since she started her own business. Abraham seems willing to mend broken bridges and is eager to show her a gorgeous copy of Goethe's Faust he's working on. After Brooklyn mingles, munches and stares down the sexy brooding man staring at her, she heads to the basement to visit Abraham's workshop. She arrives in the basement to discover the book's owners, the wealthy Winslow family arguing and then comes across Abraham lying dying in a pool of his own blood. He has just enough time to whisper a secret to Brooklyn and hand over the book for safe keeping. What the heck just happened? Who would murder Abraham and why? Who were the Winslows arguing about? What was her mother doing mysteriously near the murder scene and does all this have anything to do with the book's reputed curse? Nonsense. Brooklyn doesn't believe in curses and neither does security agent Derek Stone who suspects Brooklyn is the murderer! Brooklyn is determined to find out who killed her mentor and why.

This mystery didn't really grab my attention all that much. I was more interested in the book than the murder. I figured out who probably did it early on though I suspected someone else could have done it. I wasn't surprised at the who but the why was kind of interesting. The mystery got a little too complicated towards the end and the final reveal makes the whole thing sad in a way. The absolute best part of this book is the amazing descriptions. The author either did an insane amount of hands-on research or she has lived it. I especially loved the fictional Covington Library, which I assume from the location, is based on the Huntington Library.

Murder is Binding (A Booktown Mystery #1) by Lorna Barrett-- cozy mystery

Murder is Binding (A Booktown Mystery, #1) Tricia Miles is new to Stoneham, New Hampshire. Like the other store owners on Main Street, she owns a bookshop. Tricia's shop is a mystery themed shop. Her next door neighbor, owner of The Cookery, Doris Gleason is angry with Tricia for declining to participate in collective bargaining with their landlord, Bob Kelly, for lower rents. Tricia tries not to let Doris's mood put her down but then her sister, the oft-married, fun-loving Angelica arrives in town and Tricia's mood plummets. Her day gets worse for when she arrives home after meeting her sister for dinner, she finds The Cookery on fire. Then she stumbles over the dead body of the store's owner, Doris, lying with a kitchen knife in her back. The sheriff suspects Tricia is the murderer and she doesn't seem to be making an effort to find out who really did it. Tricia decides to solve the mystery herself and clear her name. She's read so many mysteries, how hard could it be? Mysteries in real life are more complicated than in novels and she also has to deal with her sister moving to town and trying to carve out time for a social life (other than spending time with her cat Miss Marple).

I just loved the idea of a town with a street full of book stores. If this was a real place I would be on the next bus from Boston. I found the murder mystery very compelling. I did figure out the twist before Trish did but not much before. The reveal was complicated but it seemed realistic. The end was a bit scary and tense.

While I liked the plot, I didn't really love the characters. I wanted to like Trish but I just never warmed up to her. I hated her for using the "r" word to describe Susan. People with sense no longer use that word nor do they use the term "mentally disabled." If I had known Trish had a cat, I probably wouldn't have even read the book. She's good to her employees but not so much her sister. I can sympathize and relate to her feelings about her sister. I like my sister better at a distance. I actually liked Angelica. She seems like she would be annoying at first but I found her sweet. She's trying to be a good sister and making an effort. Tricia isn't all that willing to try. I kind of felt sorry for Angelica.

The villains were totally nasty and crazy. They actually seemed realistic though at least until the confrontation. I felt sad for those who were victims of their crimes. The sheriff is totally stupid and I don't even know why Trish didn't report her to someone higher up! I don't get why Trish put up with the sheriff's letting her personal feelings get in the way of her professionalism. That part was so stupid.

There are 2 potential love interests here. One is a little shady but seems nice. Though I don't think he and Trish are compatible. They have different morals. The other is a bit slick but he seems caring.

I didn't like this book enough to want to read the rest of the series and I would recommend it to people but I won't because of the use of the r word. I know it's only once and a small part of the story but it's offensive and I don't care to read a book by someone who uses that word.  

Allergic to Death (A Gourmet De-Lite Mystery, #1)Allergic to Death 
(A Gourmet De-Lite Mystery #1) by Peg Cochran --cozy mystery

Gigi Fitzgerald, owner and chef of Gigi's Gourmet De-Lite diet meals is starting out in a new town with a new business. She hopes to attract enough business to buy the charming cottage she lives and works in. If all her client cheat on their diets though, she won't get anywhere. After delivering meals to the Woodstone Theater, Gigi accompanies restaurant critic and part-owner of the theater Martha Bernhardt to pick up her meal in Gigi's car. When Martha returns to her own car she discovers her purse stolen. Gigi offers to go with Martha to the police to file a report. Gigi is shocked to see Martha's car swerve, drive off the road and crash head first into a tree. Martha didn't survive. The whole town is shocked. Sure Martha was a nasty person who made a lot of enemies, but her death is still sudden and shocking. The police report blames Marths' peanut allergy for her death. That would mean whatever she last ate caused her to go into shock and that means Gigi is to blame. Gigi knows without a doubt she doesn't ever allow peanuts near her food for that very reason. She knows she didn't kill Martha but rumors are ready to kill her business before she can close a huge deal. There's nothing else for Gigi to do except investigate on her own to clear her name. It won't be easy with Detective Mertz on her trail. Sure he's good looking but he's disconcerting.

I picked this book up because of the cute Westie on the cover. Reg comes into the story about halfway through and only plays a big part in one scene. It was very disappointing. The plot is unmemorable and I could care less who murdered Martha and why. I was certain I knew but then a major clue was dropped and then I knew I was wrong. I figured it out before Gigi, who really should have known from that one clue. The motive was stupid. Why did the person feel the need to murder now? I also could care less about Gigi's love triangle. I'm rooting for Carlo from the Italian restaurant, despite the stereotype. (note to waitstaff : if someone orders coffee the correct question to ask is "Espresso or Americano?" Don't just wander off and get coffee).

The characters are unmemorable and unlikable. I did want Gigi to earn enough money to buy the cottage from the despicable Winston but other than that I thought she was stupid and annoying. I hate diet food and her recipes sounded really gross to me. She's ditzy and does a lot of stupid stuff to find out the truth. Her love triangle is immature and really lame. She adopts a Westie out of the blue and that's it. You can't just go "I'll take him" and bring home a terrier if you're an inexperienced terrier home. Reg exhibits exactly 0 traits that make Westies fun anyway. He might as well be a Poodle or some other kind of boring dog. (Terriers are not dogs. They're some superior species put on earth to rule over dumb two leggers and even more dumb dogs!) I just couldn't muster up any sort of liking for Gigi. All of the other characters were stereotypes and I won't bother to review them. They're not worth mentioning except Sienna is even more dumb than Gigi.

What I Read in September 2015 Part II

What I Read in September 2015 Part II ...

A Diamond in the Rough (Dangerous Liaisons, #1)Diamond in the Rough by Andrea Pickens- Regency Romance

Adrian Linsley, Viscount Marquand has had it with his parents' profligate behavior. With a secret occupation as a landscape designer and a modest inheritance, he has managed to become a respectable member of the ton and a noted Corinthian. Adrian has also found a most proper and perfect bride, Lady Honoria Dunster, an Earl's daughter who will be a lovely addition to his life and home. That is, if he has a home! His father, a drunken gamester has wagered Halsey Hall on a golf match between Adrian and Lord Hertford a notorious villain! Adrian is furious with his father but accepts the challenge. He knows nothing about golf but is assured that he will have the best teachers at St. Andrews in Scotland. However, his caddy, "dirty" Derry, makes Adiran's blood boil! He's also stressed about a garden design he has to come up with and trying to spend time with his elusive fiance. Can he ever concentrate enough to win his ancestral home? Miss Derrien Edwards leads a dual life. By night, she's the proper young lady of Scottish society but by day she hangs around St. Andrews learning all she can about her favorite sport. When "Derry" as she is known, is assigned to work with Viscount Marquand, she's furious. She knows he's just one more lazy, rakish English lord like the one who seduced her mother years ago. She vows she will never give in to the charm of an English lord.

This is a digital reprint of an early paperback Regency. It's one of the better e-book offerings right now, especially since it was free on Amazon! Let me begin this review by saying I hate golf. I liked mini golf when I was younger but I was terrible at it. I never even tried it when my uncle took us to the driving range, preferring instead the arcade video games. I stink at Wii golf. This story is all about golf. It contains endless details about golf, the history of and how to play. It should be a snoozer right? Wrong! (Actually that's why 4 stars and not 5). I actually kind of liked learning about the early modern history of golf. I knew it was being played in Scotland with a stick similar to a walking stick and a ball of feathers from a visit to Colonial Williamsburg (where the interpreter portraying a colonial man absentmindedly practiced his golf swing and then covered his tracks by explaining how it was being played in Scotland). There are way too many details about how to play and the best way to go about winning. I could have done without all the play by play.

I also knocked the book down to 4 stars because Adrian is so extremely stupid. He doesn't figure out any of the secrets about the ladies in his life, let alone understand his feelings. To be fair to him, he's preoccupied. I did find him an admirable hero though. He's not a rake, though he has known a ballet dancer or two. He excels at sports, he's loyal, values his estate and has a passion for landscape design. Lest you think he's too perfect, he also has a temper and is impatient on the golf course. Plus he insists on marrying the most porcelain-doll like lady, ignoring his own feelings. I really liked him but fell short of falling in love myself.

I liked Derry a lot though found her a bit immature. She's always resisting the urge to kick someone in the shins or stick her tongue out at them. She's busy running around dressed like a boy and thinks no one will notice. Her mentor sees all and knows her better than she knows herself. I also disliked her assumptions about Adrian based on one or two bad experiences. I can see her feeling that way before she meets Adrian but she insists on misjudging him for too long. It was a little annoying.

The romance develops nicely. The two go from antagonists to mutual respect and admiration, to friendship and love. Sure they haven't known each other long, but that's the norm for this genre and they know each other better than Adrian knows Honoria and better than they would if they had met only in Society. There is one scene with heavy kissing and light petting but no body parts are exposed. I actually expected a lot more love making based on the chemistry between the two. There is a minor subplot that develops that I could have done without. It's predictable but shows how young ladies were expected to behave.

I really want to read Rafe's story. He was a good friend to Adrian, a brave and patriotic British man and his story involves chocolate. And there's a dog on the cover. Two things guaranteed to win me over. I requested the library buy the e-book so hopefully they'll get it soon.

Artemisia (a Regency romance in the tradition of Jane Austen)
rtemesia: A  Novel in the tradition of Jane Austen 
by D.G. Rampton-- Middle Grades Fiction

Artemisia Grantley, niece of the Duke of Wentworth, likes nothing better than to romp around her uncle's estate dressed as a boy with her best guy pal, much to her uncle's dismay. The Duke is determined to get Arabella a Season before she comes into her full inheritance and gets into mischief. He asks his political friend Jared, the Marquess of Chysm to enlist the aid of his sister Marianne, the lovely widowed Lady Lubriot to help. Unfortunately for Artemisia, her first meeting with Lord Chysm was less than stellar and now she's convinced he is her greatest enemy. Marianne wins over Artemsia and helps the girl adopt a few social graces in preparation for the Season. Artemisia is determined to do the Season her way, which means clashing with some of the leaders of the ton, especially Lord Chysm. His interest in the girl excites the gossips of the ton for everyone knows Lord Chysm is not the marrying sort. As Artemisia becomes a greater success, the more the gossiping tongues wag and the more Artemisia feels peevish and the more she and Lord Chysm disagree about her behavior. She still has no plans to marry... unless she falls in love and the man she loves can love her back. As for Lord Chysm, he could care less about debutantes, he's just doing a favor for an old friend and his beloved sister, or so he tells himself. He's more concerned with finding out what happened to his spies carrying news from France. It seems there's a leak somewhere in the War Office but who is it?

This book states that it is in the tradition of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer. The influence of these two wonderful writers is clearly seen, especially in the opening paragraph. The opening is worded similarly to Northanger Abbey. There's also a scene with Michaelangelo, the spaniel pup and a poodle in the park which is reminiscent of a scene in Frederica. It's not quite as zany or funny. Overall, the writing is decent and the author soon develops her own style of writing. The relationship aspect of the novel also resembles a Georgette Heyer novel. It develops OK but the constant fighting got on my nerves by the end of the book and I didn't feel there was anything romantic about it. The 13 year age difference between Artemisia and Chysm made her seem childish at times. The mystery gripped me and I couldn't put the book down until I found out how it all turned out. I wasn't surprised at the identity of the villain/s but how it all came together was a bit of a surprise.

Artemisia is a likable heroine, for the most part. She doesn't want to grow up and chafes against the prescribed gender roles of her time. She longs to be free to do what she really wants. She longs for adventure and travel, which are not possible for an unmarried girl, especially during war time. I felt bad for her that she had nothing to really look forward to or goals available except marriage. She does seem rather childish at times though when she fights with Chysm. She also shows her naivete at times which causes her to do stupid things. I think she could have been made more likable by making her older and a little less stubborn.

Chysm is likable for the most part. He's a strong alpha male who has a strict sense of propriety regarding unmarried women and he knows how the ton will tear apart Artemisia for being unconventional. I almost felt bad for him that she willfully misunderstood him and continued to fight with him long after they should have been friends.

The secondary characters are very good too. Marianne is charming and sweet. I couldn't help but like her the way Artemisia did. She knows just how to handle stubborn young ladies who don't care what other people think. I liked the close bond between the two women and how they supported each other. Uncle Timothy is a Mr. Bingley sort of character. He's very amiable and not dashing or romantic but kind and good. I liked his story though it was very predictable. Artemisia's gentlemen friends are largely unmemorable and not worth mentioning. The villains are truly despicable in their actions.

If you like the Signet and Zebra Regency romances of the 90s, especially those by Regina Scott you will enjoy this one. I would be willing to read more from this author. If you don't like Bath Tangle then this book is probably not for you.