Sunday, April 29, 2007

Not Quite a Lady / Loretta Chase. 2007

I have no idea how many Regency-set novels I’ve read over the years. Hundreds and hundreds at least. So here’s to an author who can take a well-worn concept and put it in fresh prose, and make me laugh when she does it. Describing Almack’s on p. 18 we read, “…Almack’s Assembly Rooms, to which only the cream of Society was admitted—for the meritorious purpose, it seemed to her, of confining excruciating boredom to a small, select circle.” Such are the delights of reading a Loretta Chase novel. But it’s not just her way with words, it’s her way with characters, too. I always feel as if her characters are well-drawn; we understand who they are and what motivates them. Ms. Chase also understands the era she writes about and I think her characters are, for the most part, true to that era.
Not Quite a Lady is the 4th and final installment in her linked series of books about the Carsington brothers. I have to say that Mr. Impossible remains my favorite, but I liked this one a lot. It was both touching and funny; any book that makes me both laugh and cry is a winner. I like a book that gives me an emotional rush and if it doesn’t, well then it’s just an average book. This one was definitely above average. While the stories are totally different, NQAL is similar to The Leopard Prince in that it plays off the stereotypical differences between men and women. Men are logical, rational, and analytical. Women are emotional and nurturing. Darius’ calm, logical approach to things is his trademark (although the word “logic” began to appear a little too frequently). Interestingly, Lady Charlotte strives to project the same sort of logical approach to life in order to keep her secrets safe. Only she becomes so rattled when she meets Darius (instant attraction), that she begins to let her guard down and as the book progresses, both we and Darius see her for the more emotional woman she really is. This book is really Charlotte’s journey.
SPOILER ALERT. One of the best parts of the book comes near the end when the “villain” (I hate to use that word because Col. Morrell isn’t evil, he’s just stuffy and controlling—probably rather typical of men of his era) confronts Charlotte about her son. Here’s a perfect opportunity for Charlotte to have a TSTL moment. Instead, what does she do? Why she goes straight to Darius so he can help her stand up to this problem. She trusts him! How novel, and refreshing, to have a heroine turn to the person who loves her. I wish we saw this more often. But one of the weaker parts of the book is the presumption that Charlotte will still be accepted into polite society because she has the backing of the Carsington family. I just can’t imagine it really would have been that easy. Although I don’t get the feeling that polite society meant so much to either Darius or Charlotte that they would care. But I think I would have liked to see that although Darius & Charlotte have a HEA, their road ahead would be bumpy. Nonetheless, still a fine read and rates a B+ from me.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Leopard Prince / Elizabeth Hoyt. 2007

This is Elizabeth Hoyt's second book and for me it was as enjoyable as her first one, which was my favorite historical of 2006. Her first book used this device of telling a fairy tale, bit by bit as chapter introductions, that paralled the main story. This book had a fairy tale, too; I'd known that from the reviews I'd read, but I expected the structure to be the same as in The Raven Prince. Instead of chapter lead-ins, the fairy tale is embedded in the dialogue as Georgina tells the story to Harry. The book is full of witty dialogue, but it really sparkles in the places where the fairy tale is told. In addition to the theme of the fairy tale being a parallel to the story, Hoyt uses it to highlight Harry's logical, pragmatic character and Georgina's creative, romantic side. They're rather stereotypical male/female character traits that resonate because men and women often do approach stories very differently. And while the telling of the fairy tale is really a small part of the book, it's a revealing one and I'm so impressed with how it's used. I think this, combined with a lesser-used period setting (1760), and Hoyt's light touches of humor make her an author to watch. I hope she has a long and successful career; she's really that good and there's nothing wooden about her style at all.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned anywhere is the apparent cover goof. I assume the male hand on the cover is supposed to be Harry's. That's his right hand isn't it? If so, it should be missing a finger. I went back and checked the text to be sure. Oh well. Otherwise I think it a rather pretty cover and much less offensive than most.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Paper pieced flowers

I've been working on the pattern to the right and here are the flowers I've made so far. I decided to go ahead and use all 4 of the pattern papers that came in the packet and make 4 identical little quilts. I can think of 2 people right off the bat I want to give one to. I'm sure I'll come up with someone else for the last available one. I haven't worked much on them in the last week; there's been a lot of stuff to do, especially for PTA and church. And of course, this being the day before the tax filing deadline, I finally had to pay attention to our taxes. Finished those an hour ago. Gee, a whole day early. That'll explain why my April reading list is relatively short up to this point.

So, maybe I'll go read for awhile. It's too late in the evening to sew. Everyone else is asleep. And no baseball to listen to--Phillies were rained out.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Claiming the Courtesan / Anna Campbell. 2007

Like quite a few others, I read this book this week because of all of the attention it has gotten recently in romance reading circles. I'd read enough spoilers that I knew what was coming. Oddly, I think that actually enhanced my reading because I took my time, made sure I read every word, and watched carefully for the clues that would make this improbable romance work. And for me it did work. No doubt spoilers follow, but since no one reads my blog, who cares?

It's hard to say something simple, such as "I liked this book" or "I didn't like this book." I'll say instead that I'm awfully glad I read it. Well written and carefully constructed, it caught and held me. It was not always easy to read, and as I got closer and closer to Kylemore's rape of Verity, I had to stop and put it down for awhile several times. Kylemore abducts Verity on p. 43. The 1st rape occurs on p. 128. That's 85 pages of rather tense build-up to what you know is the inevitable. But it's also 85 pages that explore who these people are. We don't like what Kylemore does, but we begin to see that he's barely in control of himself. Later we understand why that is. Rape is one of the most heinous of crimes, but do we say it's one that cannot be forgiven? I don't see how we can draw a line, forgive this, but don't forgive that. Kylemore is remorseful and when he understands that he has hurt the one thing he loves the most he begins to change. It was fascinating to watch him change, and I think Ms. Campbell does it justice. She's a heck of a writer who took a huge chance. I think she was probably lucky to see it published. Or maybe someone at Avon has wised up. Whatever, I'll be eagerly awaiting her next book, due, I think, in December.

Lately I've been avoiding most things Avon. EJ, LK, and JQ all disappointed me with their most recent efforts; with EJ & JQ I wonder where the editors were. If this is the best Avon has to offer I'm not inclined to try their other authors. I had not intended to read this book. I'm glad it got all the "press" it did. I'm glad I read it. Not sure I'll read it again, but never say never.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Games of Command / Linnea Sinclair. 2007

Just a quick word about this one which I finished over lunch today. I see that it's getting a lot of positive press in blog-land. While I enjoyed it, I wasn't bowled over by it the way I was with her Accidental Goddess, which I just loved. Still, it was a fun story with interesting characters. It had one of my favorite themes--a hero suffering unrequited love for years. And!* The hero was a virgin. That is such a rare thing in romanceland and I really applaud when I see it. Sigh. You could really feel his emotion and I liked the way he was written. Anyhow, this one had all the elements of a typical SF adventure. What brought it down for me was a sense that I was missing a lot of the backstory. I don't know if there's a prequel to this book or not, but there were numerous references to Tasha's past that are never explained. Plus we learn at the end that a very minor character is Brandon's brother. There's a story there, too. Finally, this also had an abrupt ending. See my complaint in the previous post. Oh well, still a solid B read and I'm sure I'll enjoy this one again.

*Spoiler alert! Highlight white text to see it.

Voices of the Night / Lydia Joyce. 2007

Lydia Joyce sure has a way with words. And once again she proves it with her latest book, Voices of the Night. I’ve enjoyed all of Lydia’s books. Her stories are a departure from typical historicals and feature unusual locations. This one was set in London, but not in the ordinary way. Our hero travels in the world of the ton, but our heroine most definitely doesn’t. This book gives us a look at both sides.

Maggie is an orphan with no last name. She’s known as Maggie of King Street, or Maggie King. She aspires to sing in the opera. It’s a chance for her to escape her past, and one man in particular. During an audition, she attracts the attention of Charles Crossham, Lord Edgington, who is looking for someone like Maggie whom he can turn into a lady and thus win a wager. This Pygmalian-like story includes fascinating lead characters, who are multi-dimensional and well fleshed out. They are attracted to one another from the start, and refreshingly do not dance around the issue. So there is plenty of passion as well. The villain is deliciously evil and there is a twist involving him that I did not see coming.

But all of this is surrounded by Lydia’s wonderful, lush prose. I am left with vivid pictures in my mind of the dirt and grit of 19th century London and a real sense of the Victorian mindset. Here’s a few sentences that exemplify her ability:

But at least once a week, a message like this came, telling her that Edgington could not come, the reminder of another life and another duty that Maggie was not a part of and did not comprehend. She had always assumed that nobs, being nobs, could do as they pleased, but it appeared that they had the freedom only to do as it pleased other nobs, which seemed a poor kind of freedom to come with so much wealth. She had the sense from Edgington, though never expressed, that high society was a kind of grandiose Punch and Judy show that unceasingly repeated an act that had ossified generations ago, the individual title bearers mattering no more than the identity of the hand inside a puppet.

I love this paragraph because it compliments what we learn from Edgington’s POV; he does indeed feel like a puppet and there’s no on in his life who sees HIM, Charles. Until Maggie, that is. And thus this most likely romance makes sense because Charles finds someone who sees him for who he is and Maggie finds someone who appreciates Maggie’s abilities and compassionate nature.

My only complaint with this book is that it ends rather abruptly. The last one did too. Anne Stuart’s books are like this. I’m one of those readers who like to see things go on a few more pages—to bask in the glow of the HEA I guess. Nonetheless, another A read.