19 Oct 2015

New for 2015- A Sapphire Season- Lynn Morris

368 Pages, August 11th 2015 
Faithwords Publisher

Lynn Morris, bestselling author of The Baron's Honourable Daughter, once again sweeps readers into the Regency era with striking period detail.  

Lady Mirabella Tirel, the beautiful daughter of the Marquess of Camarden, takes a practical approach to love since a dashing captain broke her heart at age 17. Now at almost 22 years old, she has decided to endure one last London season to secure a suitable engagement and begin a simple life in the country. 
Sir Giles Knyvet is Mirabella's oldest friend and her most dependable ally, and he is also secretly in love with her. 
Yet he knows the prospect of a relationship is doubtful: Besides being a mere baronet, he aims to settle a large family debt before sharing his feelings with her. But as Mirabella draws close to a suitable match, Giles may need to interfere to buy himself more time.

For starters, it was I think pleasant to find a Regency Romance story which does not rely on various plot devices such as espionage, political intrigue, or some kind of threat from criminal activities to crank up the drama. There was no mystery, no fast-paced action- no murders, kidnappings or treasonable plots. For some, that might be a bad thing- but I didn’t really mind it.

I could describe the story as a simple, plain, old fashioned Regency that is more character driven than plot driven, and does as it promised- focusing on the heroine’s attempts to find a husband in one particular season. In some ways, actually, I think some Regencies focus too much on the sensational or dramatic, and so it’s good to find one that just offers a simple story which was still enjoyable.
The downside for me, was that I sometimes found it a little hard to follow. I think perhaps that there were too many characters, and so it was hard to keep up with their interactions to one another and their activities. Sometimes I found myself forgetting who X and Y actually were and how they were related to other characters, which cannot be a good thing.

Also, alongside a few annoying Americanisms that intruded upon an otherwise solid and credible period setting (I’m fairly certain that nineteenth century Englishmen did not describe distances in urban areas in ‘blocks’), I think perhaps I had some issue with the heroine Mirabella. In some ways, she was everything a Regency heroine could be- but in other ways, she came across as very fickle, indecisive and rather priggish.
She seemed to lead men on, with her known intent of finding a husband, court them and seem keen on them- and then totally go off them for sometimes the most trivial of reasons, whilst still holding a flame for the distant hero. I mean, was she really trying to find a husband or not? As it seemed as if nobody but the guy she fancied all along could ever be good enough…..yet it was obvious that they would get together in the end.

Overall this was an enjoyable book, the Christian theme well delivered without being clich├ęd or too contrived, and the period details I felt added to the story. I would certainly recommend for fans of Regency and Romance.

I received a copy of this book free from the publisher via Netgalley in return for review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.

7 Oct 2015

New for 2015- A Noble Masquerade- Kristi-Ann Hunter

 8th September 2015, Bethany House 
365 Pages

Lady Miranda Hawthorne acts every inch the lady, but inside she longs to be bold and carefree. Entering her fourth Season and approaching spinsterhood in the eyes of society, she pours her innermost feelings out not in a diary but in letters to her brother's old school friend, a duke--with no intention of ever sending these private thoughts to a man she's heard stories about but never met.
Meanwhile, she also finds herself intrigued by Marcus, her brother's new valet, and although she may wish to break free of the strictures that bind her, falling in love with a servant is more of a rebellion than she planned.

When Marcus accidentally discovers and mails one of the letters to her unwitting confidant, Miranda is beyond mortified. And even more shocked when the duke returns her note with one of his own that initiates a courtship-by-mail. Insecurity about her lack of suitors shifts into confusion at her growing feelings for two men--one she's never met but whose words deeply resonate with her heart, and one she has come to depend on but whose behavior is more and more suspicious. When it becomes apparent state secrets are at risk and Marcus is right in the thick of the conflict, one thing is certain: Miranda's heart is far from all that's at risk for the Hawthornes and those they love.

 I described the prequel novella to this book, A Lady of Esteem as a good, light-hearted, fun read, and it was. As its big sister, A Noble Masquerade had many of the same admirable traits – a socially awkward and often unconventional heroine, with a big heart and a sense of adventure. Some- colourful family members as a supporting cast, and plenty of mishaps, and social customs of the ton that (admit it) most of us have come to love in Regency tales, as well as a sprinkling of romance, and intrigue with the espionage sub-plot.

So on the plus-side it was an enjoyable, well-written novel. Light yet immersive, fun and (generally) clean. Yet- I didn’t enjoy it as much as the accompanying novella, and had a couple of major issues. I suppose the first of these could be described as something of an identity crisis in the plot, style and execution. The book, I think was meant to be light and fun (almost the point of regency spoof, I felt at times) but at the same time had some serious content with the espionage, scheming relatives, and possible seditious plot in the background.

To me, these just did not always seem to mix very well, that it was hard to take one seriously alongside the other. I mean, Ryland was meant to be an experienced spy of many years- he’s not really meant to have been getting his head turned by pretty girls, or walking into traps. So I suppose I would say that some incidents and details seemed to be lacking in plausibility or credibility, and were perhaps resolved too quickly? Perhaps this situation was exacerbated by my finding things a bit hard to follow at times (I mean what did the relatives have to do with someone possibly feeding secrets to Napoleon- or were these two different situations altogether). Am I just being dense? Or perhaps this is a consequence of fast reading over several days.

Putting this aside though- the language really was an annoyance. The odd Americanism in Regencies like this can be overlooked- but in this the characters speech and thoughts were literally crammed full of Americanisms and modern terms and phrases- as if no attempt had really been made to make this authentic for the period at all. Call me nit-picking, but British Aristocrats people in 1812 were not going to be using the word ‘Okay’ which originated as slang in New York/Boston nearly 30 years later. To me, such things damage the credibility of the setting, making it resemble some Regency Drama made by PBS with an exclusively American cast, trying, but not always succeeding, to sound ‘British’.

Elsewhere, whilst It was great to see Miranda, eclipsed by her prettier younger sister getting some happiness, and coming into her own in the course of the book, and sometimes her unconventionality was quite endearing- at the end, some of her conduct could only be described as- really inappropriate. Okay, so kissing happens, it’s a Romance after all- and I have no issue with that.
Nor could she help the situation she was in- but for a Lady of refined manners and breeding, to be sitting on a man’s lap- whilst they ate. And the man in question was a Gentleman- also raised to refinement and good manners. Readers can call me a prude all they want- but by the standards of the time, such behaviour could only be called lewd, totally unnecessary- and perhaps quite out of character.

Altogether, A Noble Masquerade was worth reading, and I would certainly consider more by this author- but I think I still prefer other Regency writers. Perhaps this story was just a little too ambitious, with too many separate elements thrown it that were not always women together seamlessly.

I received an electronic version of this book free from Bethany House via Netgalley for review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own

1 Oct 2015

New for 2015- The Lost Heiress- Roseanna M. White

Ladies of the Manor #1  
September 8th 2015, Bethany House
439 Pages
Brook Eden has never known where she truly belongs. Though raised in the palace of Monaco, she’s British by birth and was brought to the Grimaldis under suspicious circumstances as a babe. When Brook’s friend Justin uncovers the fact that Brook is likely a missing heiress from Yorkshire, Brook leaves the sun of the Mediterranean to travel to the moors of the North Sea to the estate of her supposed family.

The mystery of her mother’s death haunts her, and though her father is quick to accept her, the rest of the family and the servants of Whitby Park are not. Only when Brook’s life is threatened do they draw close—but their loyalty may come too late to save Brook from the same threat that led to tragedy for her mother.
As heir to a dukedom, Justin is no stranger to balancing responsibilities.
When the matters of his estate force him far from Brook, the distance between them reveals that what began as friendship has grown into something much more. But how can their very different loyalties and responsibilities ever come together?
And then, for a second time, the heiress of Whitby Park is stolen away because of the very rare treasure in her possession—and this time only the servants of Whitby can save her
I don't normally gravitate towards Fiction set in the Edwardian Era- but what with the huge popularity of a certain TV series, it is becoming more popular in the Christian Fiction genre- and I did recently read another set a few years later.

I was not sure what to expect- having read nothing by this author before, but I had heard goood thigs about this. Generally, I was satisfied, even when listening the to audiobook at work and reading the EPub at home. There is enough romance, family drama and intrigue to keep the reader interested, as well as a hint of mystery.

My only complaints were that the mystery was perhaps drawn out too long- the characters could have acted on clues sooner- and a few mushy romance scenes (which get to me in any book). Also, in spite of some attempt to avoid them, I did notice the odd Americanism (the mention of 'pants' slipping in a couple of times, even though characters had used the approporate British-ism previous passages).
Otherwise, though, the story was well researched as the author's note makes clear.
Also, although I generally liked Brook, she could prove annoying, childish and pig-headed in places. Does a 'spirited and unconventional' woman always have to posess such traits- really?

Overall though, it was a pleasurable and satisfying read- even though at 15 hours the audiobook is on the long side.
I recieved my e-book version free from Bethany House via Netgalley for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive one and all opinions expressed are my own.
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