Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Winsome Widow

Author:  Teresa DesJardien
Genre:  Regency Romance

4 Stars
Regist, Viscount Collingsworth, is cousin and best friend to Lady Stephana Monroe.  One night at White's he overhears Lord Willernott laying odds that he can woo and win the widow within three months.  Attempting to stop the wager, Regist is mistaken in that everyone believes he wishes to rival Lord Willernott in pursuing her, and since he cannot think of any way to explain himself, he reluctantly joins in the wager.
Lady Monroe is called the "Wild Goose Widow," among other names, because she has determined never to marry again and refused to see any man more than three times.  Yet she is still pursued because she is very beautiful and has a comfortable living.
I decided to read this book because after the recent loss of my cat, I didn't want to read anything that would make me think, and just something light; and many Regencies are light, if enjoyable, readings.  However,  I was surprised by this book because it has a different premise than many of the Regencies I usually read.
The hero, Regist, is not tall, dark nor handsome.  He is near the same height as Stephana, and has auburn hair; although he is strongly built, he is never described as athletic.  The 'villain' as it were, is Lord Willernott (and I am not giving anything away here, since by the wager he places he has already revealed himself to be the villain; and every good Regency must have one).  He is the tall, dark, and handsome person who is usually the hero.  Indeed, he never has a hair out of place, wears his clothes impeccably; and everything he says or does is held in esteem by others, even though they know of his imperfections (which are made clear to the reader at various points throughout the book).  Yet he has decided, through his wager at White's, that he will marry the widow.
Regist, on the other hand, grew up with Stephana and has loved her for many years.  However, he was left nearly destitute upon his father's death, and being the eldest son must now care for his mother, sister, and two ungrateful larger, younger brothers.  Only recently has Regist begun to repair his finances, but he believes he cannot offer for Stephana because of his limited means.  Yet after he sees Willernott actively pursuing the widow, he changes his mind and decides that he will try to win her himself.
I can tell you that the author writes her characters well.  I truly liked Regist and felt for him.  And I certainly did not like Lord Willernott at all.  In fact, as the story progressed, I began to dislike him immensely.  I could not even see what Stephana saw in him save the fact that he was tall, handsome, and rich, which would appeal to any woman of that time.  He appeared to me as a cold character who was interested only in what he wanted without a thought to anyone else - and if this is what Ms. DesJardien attempted, she certainly succeeded.
The book was a delightful, if short read, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Regencies.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Sudden Loss

There was no warning; no outward signs of illness, no change in her diet.  She was eating well, drinking liquids.  She had no trouble walking, climbing stairs or even sitting on the furniture.  Every morning she would come downstairs for breakfast, then spend the day upstairs, and come back down in the evening when Daddy came home from work.

She would spend the evenings with us, sleeping or waiting to see what we were having for supper.  At night, she would sit on the stairs and let us know it was time to go to bed; usually being pretty vocal about it.  And she would sleep in my arms, her gentle breathing against my ear.  If I wanted her to give me kisses, I would only have to say, "kisses," and she would do so.  This was the most loving girl I have ever known.  She was soft, gentle, loving, beautiful and warm.

Without warning, she was taken from us.  We came home one night and she was lying on the carpet in front of the sofa; unseeing, unfeeling, unmoving.  In that moment, my heart broke in pieces.  This was Gypsy, the cat I have raised from a kitten, loved for 14 years and hoped to love for many more.

And I grieve.  How I grieve.  How do you deal with the loss of a beloved pet, especially when you were not prepared for it?  How do you keep from feeling like you should have been there, in their final moments, holding them until their last breath?  How, when you didn't even know it was their time?

I know that some people might not understand my feelings, but anyone who has ever loved an animal would.  The loss is as great as that of a human.  This is a creature that I have taken as my own, cared for, and loved her for her entire life - and now I have lost her.  And I don't know how to heal the pain that I feel.  This little love, this adorable, loving, gentle-natured cat is now gone, and along with her a part of me.

I know that eventually I will heal and move on.  I know that one day I will awaken and life will be back to normal.  But not now.  Now I will quietly  her loss, and let the tears fall as long as necessary.

RIP My Beautiful Gypsy

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WWJD - What Would Jane Do?

The Jane in the title is Austen, of course.  There is no doubt that she is one of the greatest Regency romance writers that ever was.  (Another comes to mind in the form of Georgette Heyer).  After reading one of her books, you have the feeling of being transported back in time.

Even though personally I feel the 'Pride and Prejudice' thing is quite overdone, with all the sequels to "what might have happened," there is no doubt that the reason someone would write these books is the intense interest in her novels.  And rightly so.  She wrote with precision, wit, humor, relationships between men and women, relationships between the haves and have-nots.  There is no doubt her novels are magnificent.

But what would Jane do today?  Would she follow the trend, as so many other writers have done, of not writing Regencies and turning to Historicals?  Historicals seem to give more of a leeway when it comes to books.  You don't have to be as completely accurate in the time (and Regency readers, myself included, can be such snobs when it comes to accuracy).  Would people still buy her books if she didn't lace them with sex?  Let's face it, a great number of historical novels have sex in them, because, as the saying goes, sex sells.

Don't get me wrong: there are plenty of good authors out there who manage to write these books and maintain a decent plot.  Several have successfully made the transition from Regencies to Historicals.  Their books are just as good, but they have been 'tweaked' for a different or new reader, as well as trying to keep their old ones.

Would Jane still remain true to her form and keep writing such as the aforementioned Pride or Sense and Sensibility?  Or would it become a book with a title such as Pride Will Persuade Her Into His Lord's Bed?  A curious question, indeed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Rating Systems? Why I Think They're Important

I started this blog because I love to read. I really love to read...and I hope that others reading this have the same passion I do. That being said, I think everyone has a favorite series they enjoy. A couple of mine are Maddy Hunter's Emily Andrews. This series is just hilarious, with Emily and her group of senior citizens traveling the world. The first in the series, Alpine for You got me hooked, and I've been traveling with them along the way. The second series I absolutely love is Carolyn Haines' Sarah Booth Delaney. Beginning with Them Bones, she had me deep in the delta of Mississippi and I've been there ever since.

There are also several series I just couldn't read, no matter how hard I've tried. For whatever reason, the characters just didn't pull me in. And I do try to give books a chance. If it's a series, I like to 'become involved' with the characters usually in the first book, but I have read up to the third. If you can't get me into it by then, I won't waste my time reading any further. If it's a stand alone book, I need to want to continue reading by the third chapter.

That being said, I realize everyones' tastes are different and we all look at books differently. Some people read them for escapism, some lose themselves in the book, some actually become the characters in the book. There are any number of reasons people read, but the important thing is they do read, because reading is a pleasure and books are many different things - they can take you places you may never visit, introduce you to people you enjoy being with, give you ideas to begin new things, and so much more.

Like most readers, I have a great love of it and am always looking for new books to read. If I particularly enjoy a book, I'll put it in my 'do not lend' pile and re-read it again at some point (said pile is quite large already, and growing).

How I choose the books I read I'll save for another day. But I will say that I'm an analytical person and a crafter; and as such, I pay attention to detail. Which translates into I Notice Everything. I'll notice local idioms, the way characters dress, things they say, things they do. If you can't (or wouldn't) do it in the real world, you probably shouldn't in a book, either (unless it's Fantasy or Sci-Fi, in which case anything goes).

If I've already starting reading the book, and I'm close to halfway through; or if I like a certain character in the book, I'll finish it. Very rarely will I not finish a book; it has to be pretty bad to make me do that. But I won't sugarcoat my reviews. I don't read books so I can give them a bad review, but I won't read a bad book and give it a good review, either. That's unfair to other readers, and they won't trust anything I say if I do it. They especially won't trust anything I say if they read all the books themselves if I've given all good reviews and they think half of them stink (although I am sure people won't agree with every one of my reviews).

I cannot live without books - Thomas Jefferson

The way I feel about reading is this:

You wouldn't want to spend time with someone you didn't like, would you? (Unless you have no backbone, of course), and if a friend wanted you to go see that person, you'd tell them. You wouldn't say, "Oh, they're great. I just love the way she laughs, and she tells such funny stories." If you did that, your friend would think you were crazy and wouldn't understand why you didn't want to see them. I don't tell them all the good things and then add, 'but I really don't want to visit them.' I won't lie about it.

Well, books are like people. A few great, most good, some mediocre, and some I wouldn't want to be alone with. That's why not all of my reviews are 5 stars. For these reasons, I will give an honest and fair review. If I love the book, I'll tell you.   If I hate it, I'll explain why the best I can.  I believe that if I, myself, can't give an honest review about all books, not just what I consider the good or great ones, then I have no business writing this blog.

What's a book? Everything or nothing. The eye that sees it all - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Murder on the Cape Fear

Author:  Ellen Elizabeth Hunter
Genre:  Mystery

4 Stars
Ashley Wilkes lives in Wilmington, North Carolina and is an historic preservationist; she is restoring the home of a sea captain, Thomas Pettigrew, who was a Civil War blockade runner.  An old journal and letters link Captain Pettigrew to the present day, and someone who believes there is buried treasure somewhere in the house she is restoring is willing to kill for it.
While at a local bookshop where her uncle is having a book signing, Ashley stumbles - literally - across a dead body.  She discovers that her uncle was sent a journal written by the late Captain Pettigrew.

Ashley (who, for those of you who may not have yet read Gone With the Wind), was named after a character in the book, along with her sister, Melanie.  I picked up this book for that reason and the fact that it has ties to the Civil War, a subject I am extremely interested in (due to the fact that my husband was born and raised near Gettysburg, and I love the area and the history surrounding it).  I am glad to say I was not disappointed.  The plot is well-woven, the story tight, and the characters both endearing and infuriating.

I was slightly confused at first, because although the book's description reads that Ashley is an "historic preservationist," and that she is refurbishing a home, she refers to the home as 'hers', and several times throughout the book she notes that she has to get back to 'her house,' and I guess maybe a preservationist could refer to a house that way; I don't think I, personally, would get so attached to a house I was refurbishing to look at it as mine.  Nor would I live in it as Ashley is doing.  I've seen houses that needed to be restored, and no one I know would think of living in them while they're refinishing unless the house truly belonged to them.  After all, how would you feel when it was time to leave?  But I digress...

When Ashley finds the body, it turns out he was part of an 'investors weekend' her sister Melanie was hosting.  Melanie is an ex-beauty queen-turned-realtor who breezes through life without a care, and does pretty much whatever she pleases.  So until the police can clear the rest of the investors as suspects, no one is allowed to leave town.

Melanie being who she is, foists upon her younger sister a loud-mouthed writer and her mousy husband who proceed to take over the house from Ashley, lock, stock and barrel.  Ashley is beside herself but her sister won't do anything (stating all hotels are full), and Patsy, the unwelcome houseguest, considers herself a 'picker' and begins to load the house with all sorts of junk, to Ashley's dismay.  Patsy is a thoroughly unlikeable, coarse woman in my opinion, and there were a few times while reading I wanted to give her a swift kick myself.

Then things begin to happen - and I won't spoil the book and tell.  But what I will say is that it is all tied to the journal that Ashley's Uncle Binkie has received from the home's owner - and that it goes back to the Civil War, Wilmington and the blockade runners.  There are historical references and information regarding Wilmington and the surrounding area which I found to be interesting.

When the ending is finally revealed, it was put together well.  It made sense, and both the past and the present were merged seamlessly.  The reason I gave it four stars instead of five was because, as I mentioned before, I became confused when she kept referring to it as 'my house,' and thought that she should have explained how she lives in the homes and refers to them as 'hers'.

Still, a very good read and recommended for anyone with either an interest in the Civil War or mysteries.  I fully intend to read others by this author.

Tragic Toppings (A Donut Shop Mystery #5)

Author:  Jessica Beck Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9780312541095 Minotaur Books 290 Pages [Various Prices];...