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Susan Smith (A small rural village in the English Midlands)

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Wedded Bliss
Wedded Bliss
by Barbara Metzger
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Metzger on jolly good form!, July 17 2004
One of my all time favourite Regency writers, Barbara Metzger has done it again! It's always harder to write comedy than tragedy and Metzger's talent shines through another of her clever farces.
Weddded Bliss is about a twice-widowed earl who needs a mother for his long neglected young sons; indeed the Earl of Rockford thinks they are cuckoos in the nest. Alissa Henning (really Lady William Henning - wife of a deceased disowned son of a Duke) is a loving and devoted mother of two young sons. Well, hey presto - we have the makings of the perfect match and a wonderful story of step families, parenting and an inadvertent and unexpected love.
Amongst the things I particularly admire about Metzger is her sparkling prose - she always has a clever turn of phrase to make you smile to yourself. Although I am not a lover of stories overly dependent on children, her child characters are always well drawn - indeed this lot made me think of the family in Heyer's Frederica. And no one does the family pet as well and this time we get a pack of four mongrel puppies. Added bonuses include an infatuated tutor, a drooling villain and Metzger's usual cast of outrageous servants and eccentric relatives.
All in all, if you like clever comedy, excellent prose and wonderful characterisations, then you will enjoy this. If you are a Metzger fan, don't miss it.

Highland Fling
Highland Fling
by Katie Fforde
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Does just what it says on the label ....., June 14 2004
This review is from: Highland Fling (Hardcover)
If you like easy to read, but skilfully written holiday novels, then this is for you! It does just what it says on the label - entertains and amuses and is perfect for the beach or a plane journey.
It's the story of a "virtual assistant" (e.g. on-line secretary) who is sent to the far north of the Scottish Highlands in the cold and snow of the early winter to sort out a failing woollen mill. Our heroine encounters a cast of characters who range from the sensible to the sublimely impossible and, of course, she has a silly boyfriend whom she eventually dumps for a rich, sexy, gorgeous businessman.
Fforde's stories are always a pleasure: not great literature but very satisfying escapist reads. This is another one to enjoy whilst downing a pina colada on the beach!

A Place of Hiding
A Place of Hiding
by Elizabeth George
Edition: Hardcover
58 used & new from CDN$ 0.07

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just what was the point here?, May 31 2004
This review is from: A Place of Hiding (Hardcover)
I have read all of Elizabeth George's novels after watching the BBC series based on them. This one was a real dud as far as I was concerned. The plotting was thick and full of dead ends and the story populated by characters who never caught my imagination. And although the author does a pretty good interpretation of ordinary daily life in odd corners of Britain (in this case Guernsey) she still just misses making her characters believably British for me.
Although Barbara Havers is the UK equivalent of "trailer park trash", she is without doubt the most successful of George's regulars and I think she is a truly memorable character. However, when it comes to rich, titled, aristocratic British men, I don't think she comes close to making them believable, sympathetic or attractive.
I have always thought that Deborah and Simon had the potential to be George's most interesting characters because their personal backgrounds was fertile ground ripe for exploitation. However, this time, I just got annoyed. Sorry, but the way Simon is made to handle his disability, the way he blows it all out of proportion, Deborah's unwillingness to be open and honest with a man who adores her and the generally slovenly development of their characters in this story was just terribly, terribly disappointing. Also, I should think any reader who had not read the previous novels would have been wondering just what the hell was going on here with Deborah and Simon - too many allusions to the past makes this novel difficult to "stand alone".
Sorry, I nearly gave up after the first 100 pages. The last 30 pages were a frantic attempt to dig out a believable conclusion (and it was credulous to say the least) and the most interesting character was a council house bully of an elder brother who clearly was nuts!
Oh dear; what a disappointment - can't really recommend this and hope the author can do better next time.

Wedding Belles
Wedding Belles
by Barbara Metzger
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars 19 Stars - Explanation Follows!!, May 22 2004
19 Stars: 5 each for Layton, Metzger and Kelly; 2 each for Lane and Kerstan. However, if you are fans of the first three, buy the book and ignore or skim the other two offerings.
Layton, Metzger and Kelly are auto-buys for me but, please, Signet, spare us from Alison Lane's efforts in these eagerly awaited anthologies. It was forgettable - I could not be bothered to finish this tepid and ill-written story of a girl fleeing a wicked guardian into the arms of a rake without much cash. It's part of a series but I won't be tempted to read any of the other stories. It's intended to be an "action" type of story with evid-doers chasing the heroine but it's just too shallow and written in such stilted prose that, well, I just didn't care at all.
Lynn Kerstan can, and has done, better. Her story is about a penniless ward who is given the opportunity to choose between three sons of a Duke. The three brothers are OK but Julia is immature, silly, acts like a spolit child (which she is) and the story drags on and on until the final resolution. Why, please does the author let the heroine refer to a clergyman (not a nice one we gather) as "Pawson Ribble"? Does she have a speech defect? What's wrong with Parson Ribble? The only thing of any interest (and it stretched credulity) was the heir to the dukedom has asthma and his middle brother applies 21st century techniques to get it under control. Oh botheration, nothing more to be said here.
Layton's offering was cleverly written and it had a definite theme: love across class divisions and it was written with grace and humour. It was not her best effort but her characters include a cast of characters from an aristocratic family and one of the city type abhored by the ton. It's a farcical type of tale of two people trying to prevent the marriage of their siblings and, in due course, they fall in love seeing for themselves that love can transcend many obstacles.
Metzger, as always, writes with a light hand and spins a fairy tale about good versus evil by having the devil and St Peter fight for the soul of a Marquis who has been a bad boy back in London and now lies near death on a Spanish battlefield. As always, her prose is light, sparkling and funny and her characters act out a cleverly plotted tale on their way to a happy and romantic conclusion.
Kelly, always an admired favourite has a very unusual offering. Her story of a widowed American sea captain who falls in love with a prickly and unhappy Englishwoman was well written as always with this author and it was charming to read a story of a 40 year old widower falling in love despite himself with a 32 year old spinster. A background of the press gangs and President Jefferson's imminent Embargo Act of 1807 gave the story a very interesting setting.
Buy the book if you like Signet anthologies as much as I do and enjoy the three best stories. Maybe some readers will enjoy Lane and Kerstan but I'm certain everyone will enjoy Layton, Metzger and Kelly!

Almost A Gentleman
Almost A Gentleman
by Pam Rosenthal
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting debut novel - some thoughts, May 14 2004
This review is from: Almost A Gentleman (Paperback)
There was much interest when this novel first appeared and although it took a while for it to get to the top of the TBR pile, I did enjoy it. However, there were some issues in the story that did not work for me.
Although the "cross dressing" sub-genre does not particularly appeal to me, I have read better examples (cf Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades or The Masqueraders) wherein the cross dressing and masquerading as a man seems to have some believeable raison d'etre. However, I felt in reading Almost a Gentleman that it was not wholly a credible action on the part of our heroine, Phoebe. There was never a fully acceptable explanation for her to do this and it seemed a somewhat strange reaction for her following the death of her husband and children. Instead, it appeared to be more of a device used to examine the reactions and behaviour of the hero, Lord Linseley. This was the best aspect of the book - the way he reacts to "Philip" and the soul searching it causes him.
I compliment the author on her prose; excellent quality although she does let the odd Americanism slip in (e.g. "vacation" instead of "holiday") but overall, she is easy and delightful to read.
With respect to the sexual aspects of the story, although her language is, in my view, too frank for the timeframe of the story, nonetheless it was galaxies ahead of the deplorable Emma Holly.
I look forward to reading this author again. I don't think this was a 5 star effort but for a first novel I was very impressed and recommend this to the discerning reader.

The Nonesuch
The Nonesuch
by Georgette Heyer
Edition: Paperback
5 used & new from CDN$ 8.35

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another triumph, Feb. 21 2004
This review is from: The Nonesuch (Paperback)
What follows is not a review - just a few thoughts about The Nonesuch. I would think anyone looking at the reviews here probably knows the plot anyway!
I really think that the whole of my adult reading life has been spent looking for something to fill in the gap left on Georgette Heyer's death. I first read Austen in high school and discovered Heyer in my freshman year at university when someone suggested to me that she was "the next best thing to Austen". I guess that was a truth self-evident.
I've read thousands of romances, sandwiched in between the serious history and biography I adore, on buses, trains, in the car, in waiting rooms, during hurried lunch hours and in bed at night to relax after another stressful, hectic day. But, really, if I am honest with myself, there are just a very, very few authors that are on my keeper shelf. Hundreds of authors have come and gone for me. Some I have dismissed after reading a chapter as too puerile, too facetious, too ill-researched, too derelict in the simple use of the English language.
Heyer, however, rarely disappointed. I adore her later books, filled with characters of great wit, insight, morality and self-knowledge who mature and come together through real life experiences - all conveyed in prose of the very highest standard. I guess that's it - Heyer's exquisitely wrought prose telling stories of genuine human emotional experience, all carefully and perfectly set in the Regency world - immaculately researched and painted for the eager reader.
The Nonesuch is, of course, one of my favourites - and I expect I would say that about most of her works. But Sir Waldo and Ancilla so perfectly epitomise adult love, good works and social constraints and decent moral standards that you have to love them. Village life is portrayed beautifully - so much remains the same!
Rant, rant, rant. Every time I go back to Heyer, I am demoralised when I pick up a modern "wanna be". What to do about that?

Ideal Bride
Ideal Bride
by George Nonnie St
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Promising but needs work, Feb. 17 2004
Nonnie St George's debut novel has received enthusiastic comments elsewhere and I bought a copy on the strength of these. However, I was disappointed. Althought the author has great energy and obviously tried hard, I felt there were too many annoying rough edges to make this a truly sparkling debut.
The best thing about the novel is the plot - stuffy businessman unwillingly attracted to aristocratic but poor woman dedicated to charitable work with war widows. Add in a silly, party-mad mother, various other incredulous relations and OTT friends and you have the beginnings of a farce along the lines of Barbara Metzger. What let this novel down was that the ingredients were strained and two dimensional.
Every decent hero has a flaw; in this case Mr Gabriel Carr is incredibly beautiful (and although reluctantly, he knows it and uses it). OK. But his beauty is used in the feminine sense: eg "I'm so lovely that no one can see beneath the surface". It just didn't work for me. Our heroine, Lady Nola, is the daughter of an earl but the family seems to be on its financial knees. OK. But where did she acquire the urge to look after Peninsular war widows with such business acumen?
The characters behave in exaggerated ways; they throw things, they bump into each other, they shout, they lunge, they slam, they loom. They act without any of the refinement of behaviour you would expect in the genre. The hero's middle aged mother parties all night yet is purported to know everyone of importance in society: sorry but this strained credulity a bit. She is described as "lurching to the table in a billowing purple dress like a round grape rolling down a matron's heaving bosom". I realise this is meant to be funny but, really, it's just silly.
And, our hero falls down a flight of stairs, "shatters" his knee yet is up and walking within days. And this before the benefit of x-rays, orthopaedic surgery, physiotherapists, etc. Sorry, just did not work for me.
The author has tried to amuse us. She has made a good effort and no one reading this can doubt her enthusiasm but I think she needs to polish her work a bit more and strive for a little more irony in her humour rather than making it so slap-stick. I will try again with her but she will have to improve on this to keep my interest. Three stars because this is a debut; two might have been nearer the mark.

Wicked Wager
Wicked Wager
by Julia Justiss
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, Feb. 6 2004
I gave a rave review to Scandalous Proposal by this author but was very, very disappointed with Wicked Wager. I'm not sure I should not give it two stars having initially decided on three.
The problem for me was that this book was just simply sloppy and at times I struggled to keep my attention on it.
For a start, the names of the main characters were completely inappropriate for the time and place setting. Men named Madison, Lane, Bayard ???? Females named Hetty and Jenna? At times I had the feeling of being in a time and space warp and that they were escapees from something set in the ante bellum South when Jenna insists on calling her late husband's brothers "Cousin Lane" and "Cousin Bayard".
There were time-line inaccuraces that, unfortunately, annoyed me and thus devalued the story. For example, the author on the last page speaks of 25 June being the anniversary of Waterloo. Well, it's 18 June for Waterloo! Our heroine, Jenna, talks of nursing her husband for two weeks after the battle before he sadly dies yet before Christmas she is dancing at balls. Really? Surely not! And, at one point she talks about her difficulties in the 8 months since Waterloo and it's not even December yet! What???
Then, in an effort to make the story have some interest, the author turns it into a murder mystery. Someone takes a pot shot at our heroine. The author lets our hero, Viscount Nelthorpe find a "bullet casing" from the "rifle bullet" in a nearby tree. By this time, I was getting really irritated. Bullets with casings were really a mid 19th century development. All pistols, muskets and rifles of the time were loaded with ball, patch and powder.
What we have here is a shallow, ill-developed story of a rake-ish nobleman who became a soldier who returns to London and chases Jenna - a lady he tried to seduce years before. Before this story ends, she has seduced him pretty comprehensively in a scene without a frisson of sexual magic so perfunctorily is it written. (Don't forget Jenna is a widow of about 3 months and only several weeks post-miscarriage - it just doesn't add up, does it?)
Jenna is not particularly likeable and I didn't find Tony, Viscount Nelthorpe exciting either. Both were two dimensional and caught up in a boring story where no one stood out. Indeed, at first I thought Col Madison Vernier would be interesting but then he turns into a cad in the course of a short conversation. Sorry, but the quality of the author's prose does not sparkle (it veers from stilted to silly - using 'twas to indicate this is an historical novel!!).
I can't rcommend this and have changed my mind and am going gack to give it two stars. I also think I must re-read Scandalous Proposal to see what went wrong for this author.

Rake And The Wallflower
Rake And The Wallflower
by Allison Lane
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dull, stilted and boring, Jan. 20 2004
I did try to persist with this - mainly because it had received good reviews here but, in the end, because I was so jaw-droppingly amazed at the silly plot.
It all hinges on a family of three sisters and our heroine, Mary, is the youngest. She is shown both as vulnerable and intellectual but she has a mouth on her when she chooses and acts like a 21st century city girl.
Our hero, Lord Grayson, is flawed; the man is made faint at the site of blood - described over and over again. Also, the author uses this as a polemic against blood sports. Oh well. Rather a modern polemic - in those days no one would have given much thought to it at all. Portrayed as a really nice chap, he nonetheless has an overt talent for attracting mentally ill/unstable women. Really! Never came across that in a Regency novel before!
The storyline is a bit thin and I won't bore you with the details. The problem here is that the middle sister, Laura, was the only reason to read this book - shown to us as just about completely unhinged, she behaves so badly that you turn the pages to see what the author will make her do next. I really expected her to be murdered by one of the characters who would scream as the pistol discharges, "Help - get me out of this wretched novel!" Sadly, though hauled off to the country, she lives to fight another day. Surely the author didn't do a sequel to this? I can't bear to look and see. I would certainly not read it in any event!
Sorry - this was a silly, pointless and very boring novel. The characters acted out a storyline that was shallow and ultimately unbelievable and their conversations were so badly done that I truly struggled to finish this effort.
I can't recommend it. Two stars because I've read worse.

Beauty and the Baron
Beauty and the Baron
by Deborah Hale
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Boring and the Blah, Jan. 3 2004
Sorry, but this is my last attempt with this author. I've tried several times but she just doesn't do it for me. This is a shallow story, much contrived with characters that neither engage nor entertain. The beauty and the beast story and its variations can be extremely entertaining and there are countless examples in romantic and, particularly, regency fiction - too countless to name here. Any of the romantic review sites will give you long lists in this sub-genre. This one, however was just simply credulous. Angela Lacewood never aroused any sympathy in me and Lucius (and boy did the author make a mull of his title - it was given in several ways and usually wrongly) was too ill-drawn to make me at all attracted to him (a "must" with romantic fiction!). The story was not particularly well thought out and sadly, I admit I skimmed the last quarter of this in an effort to justify the expense of purchasing it.

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