2015 the Challenge is here
And now it’s July.
Caitlyn Callery’s The Bankrupt Viscount showed a newish author in excellent form. I loved it.
This book is beautifully written and very much in the style of Georgette Heyer. A great deal of the action, however, involves our heroine, Ella, in some life-threatening and heart-breaking sequences. The mystery at the core of the plot unravels at just the right pace and makes the reader slide forward on the chair, down the pillows in my case, while the heroine remains, if not oblivious to her danger, then a little ‘it won’t happen to me-ish’. Something we’re all guilty of in life.
As others have said, I found Mrs Potter a mite overdone, but the sacrificial Caroline was a lovely foil to Ella. A little bit of heat in the bedroom written with class and care – what’s not to like.
I’m having another attempt at meeting a numerical challenge, but I’m starting low. VIctorian Reader of Five books. I read one in February. Marguerite Kaye’s The Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah. this is what I thought:
The Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah is a 2012 publication and by an M&B favourite. I do love that feeling of knowing you’re in the hands of a master story-teller within the first few paragraphs.
Regencies are an ever-popular genre and therefore an ever-increasing challenge to those writing in it. Regular readers know a lot about the history, the mores and the clothes. They know what young and not-so-young ladies of the times could and could not do. Perhaps Kaye stretches the boundaries a bit in this work, but we are so very sympathetic to Lady Deborah’s plight, that we forgive and read on avidly.
And what a plight it is. No spoilers here, but I did understand. Lots of derring-do as well and some beautifully crafted love scenes between the central characters, Lady Deborah and Elliot. Highly recommended.
It’s June and where have I been? What reading have I been doing, if not Historical romances, to fulfil my challenge quota? Lots of history, as in research, think The Beau Monde for example.
Okay, enough with the excuses. I have read an historical romance this month. It’s the wonderfully rich The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier.
Honor Bright escapes shame and embarrassment in 1850s Dorset and endures the sea voyage to a new life in America. Only, despite being with Friends, as Quakers are known, it is more different, more challenging and more mind expanding than anything Honor might have expected.
I have not read The girl With The Pearl Earring, but I will now, and so was new to Tracy Chevalier’s writing. I really enjoyed her clear prose. I loved the complexity of her characterisation. I did get a little out of patience with quilting.
The book explores so much of the human heart. How we can see a wrong, condemn it without hesitation, and then come slap against the realities of following one’s conscience. How we can see the evil in another person, but still dig for the light. How we can see the light become an evil in its unswerving rectitude.
Chevalier uses letters to a friend back home as the means of giving Honor an inner uncensored voice. It’s a device, as writers we all use devices, and by and large it succeeds. I was thinking what if someone opens one of these letters just before the author suggests discretion through another character.
There is no HEA, but a positive resolution earned by our heroine. An excellent read. I recommend.
March My third book for the Historical romance Reading challenge is
The Captain and the Countess by Rosemary Morris
Rosemary Morris in the Captain and the Countess, London 1706, is tackling a host of social mores and superstitious beliefs that are strange and difficult for our information soaked age to grasp. That’s why I say stranger than fiction, but you need to read the book to find out what they are. No spoilers here.
The Captain is Edward Howard, a talented artist, who is languishing on half pay while the Admiralty decides about his future. The Countess, is Kate Sinclair, widow of a man for whom no one has a good word, but who is allowed to deprive Kate of her son simply because his ‘male’ view is worth so much more than her ‘female’ one. Kate has set her heart against the mastery of another man and Edward is 9 years younger than the beautiful widow.
Morris knows her period well and delights with carefully chosen historical detail. Isn’t it the detail that brings history alive? The book concentrates on the damage done by holding to apparently incontrovertible belief, but it also has a rich set of sub-plots to keep the reader guessing. Superstition is shown to be comical at times, always damaging and occasionally evil.
The inter-twining of the sub-plots is cleverly achieved, but the central romance never suffers.
Why did I rate it four and not five stars on amazon? A bit of repetition irritated me a little and I longed for more of the high drama scenes to be played out rather than reported. I also felt Morris ‘sorted’ life for too many of the cast and could have left a few plot lines dangling.
February My second book in the Historical Romance Reading challenge is by Deborah Hale, The Earl’s Honorable Intentions,
LoveInspiredBooks 2013 I won the book through a promotion.
I’m a new reader for Deborah Hale, but there are lots of them out there going by her sales figures and, having read The Earl’s Honorable Intentions, I can see why.
Gavin Romney just makes it back to the church for his wife’s funeral, having been called from the Battle of Waterloo by his children’s governess, Hannah Fletcher. His aim is to get back into the fray in order to stop Napoleon and her aim is to prevent the earl doing anything other than learning to be a good father. Gavin has been seriously wounded and is forced to follow doctor’s orders for a week or two. This is an opportunity Hannah doesn’t let by.
The book is a romance, but it contains a slightly unusual conflict in that people mourning a spouse don’t often find themselves falling in love. In a time of arranged and dynastic marriages, however, many were eased into relationships they might not otherwise have chosen. Hannah carries a burden, too, in that she has accepted blame for past events.
Hale teases out the pasts of these two troubled souls with a light, but deeply understanding touch. The dialogue is a delight and the plot glitches flow easily through the whole to a satisfying HEA. There’s enough formality to keep the characters in period and a clever use of the psychological effect of warfare on communities through the observed behaviour of the people in those communities.
So I’ve decided to accept this challenge and I’m starting on the minimum. That’s one book a month.
January My first book is A Brilliant Marriage by Jean Lamb.
I bought this book to read on the strength of a post on Exquisite Quills. It was an easy read.
Jean Lamb peoples her novel with quirky, realistic characters from backgrounds likely to cause anybody serious and severe personality difficulties. I did wonder why there needed to be quite so many people acting out of their circumstances. The novel is called A Brilliant Marriage, but it really roams far and wide over all sorts of issues: returning soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars; inheritance; jealousy; bullying; responsibilities; dishonesty; too much honesty; the mistreatment of children. It is nearly a third of the way through before the Duke and his heiress meet.
My personal preference would have been for a little more interaction between the central lovers and less of the peripheral issues. I also found the amount of telling type narration disappointing. In my view, dialogue creates more drama.