Friday, January 20, 2012

Great Showing By The Less Than Great

Since nothing came up in the interim (or indeed, since), I moved on to the third novel in Claire Darcy's Regency trio, Lydia.  This one was a combination of quite a few GH's - I'd say mostly The Grand Sophy, but with a strong hint of Frederica and just a touch of Regency Buck.  So many different ones, I'd say, one could almost say it stands on its own as an original.  Its characters, or at least its heroine, can certainly hold her own.  And the plot itself was rich with a good number of complexities.  So what am I saying? I was impressed by this last of the three.  With the first two, I felt like CD caught GH's style, but not much beyond that - the books were fun to read because they were Regency, but slow-moving and, at times, clumsy.  I don't think Lydia could be called slow-moving at all - in fact, I enjoyed it from the start, and didn't want to put it down at any point.  It was clumsy in a few places, for sure... but that's only to be expected, and really wasn't enough to mar my enjoyment at all.

I'm not saying we're talking about GH here.  The romance was definitely not particularly well-executed - it's unclear when the falling in love happens, for starters, and the couple in question do not interact very much.  We get some hint of the Viscount's feelings, but nothing extraordinary.  And the Viscount himself, while very likeable in a combination of Mr. Beaumaris (ready enjoyment of amusing situations) and the Marquis of Alverstoke (not a marrying man), and a soldier to boot, is also new to his wealth, having inherited it unexpectedly from his great-uncle.  Not the worst shame in the world, but we like our heros to be "independently wealthy" if possible :)  The second point is a minor detail, the first less so, but despite both, the book was a good read.  I'd say of all Clare Darcy's books I've read (and there were two others besides the trio, both substantially inferior), this one was the only one that makes me regret there aren't more.  Maybe I'll even consider trying to find the others that there are.. maybe.  But in any case, this one was worth the time.

Verdict: 3.25/5

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great Form, Lacking Substance

Way back when, I started Clare Darcy's regency trilogy (or actually just 3 books published together).  At that point, I wanted to review all three at once, but by the time I finished the first, I had higher priority books in the wings, so I just stopped and review the first.  I have made it back to the low priority pile, for the time being anyway, and I finished the second one today.  Just as I thought, there's not much to say about this one that I haven't already said about the first, but that's what I got myself into by reviewing after  only finishing one...

So, recapitulate (actually, I just assume this is pretty much what I wrote, I didn't reread the other post, naturellement) Clare Darcy is remarkable for her uncanny ability to imitate Georgette Heyer.  Right away, I am sucked in by the familiar cadences - the nineteenth century cant, the lifestyle of Regency gentility... it's there, and in a quite delicately copied fashion.  This particular story, Georgina, was an ode to Venetia -  girl is an isolated town falls in love with a known rogue... and there's a young suitor, a crippled young companion, and some other similarities that make me wonder if CD was at all embarrassed by how much she ripped off.  It's so obvious, I almost think she meant it as an homage.  But homage or not, it is of course not Georgette Heyer.  The characters are less believable, the plot more boring... And in this particular case, GH's signature snobbery was just not there in force.  The guy is... well I suppose he *is* nobly born... in a manner of speaking (he's a bastard).  And all that talk about money... whew! You know only the mushrooms care that much!   Then there's the romance itself, which so disappointingly executed. Georgina figures out quite soon that he loves her, and despite some waffling that seems a bit forced, we and she never really doubt it afterwards.  And where's the fun in that?! And nothing less lack of fun like a poor hero and wealthier heroine.  Where are those principles of GH we can rely on? Gentlemen, with some respectable source of income... who can hide their love from their beloved just a little bit better...

But again, why complain about how CD isn't GH? Of course she's not GH.  So judging the book on its own merits, the romance isn't perfectly executed, but she certainly tries, which is more than I can say for most books.  The writing isn't bad at all, I didn't find it grating.  But overall... well overall the book was just boring.  I don't know, it just didn't move.  I'm not even sure why I found it this way, but perhaps I was picking up on the author's central focus - an "authentic" Regency novel, not necessarily a good story.

Verdict: 2.85/5

Friday, January 6, 2012

You're the Mother, Don't Be Such a Baby

A familiar author, if not one I avidly follow - I've reviewed two of Katherine Center's books already and I've been meaning to read the third ever since.  But it was one of those got it out, had to return it, Chava had it out, she had to return it, I forgot about it... but when I remembered, it was very easy to get ahold of.  I thought this was her newest book, but it turns out that it's her first (I think), and, maybe a little surprisingly, I think it made a difference.  I like KC's books despite their plots - overworked Mommy or jobless and manless doesn't really do it for me.  Though surrogate pregnancy isn't a bad twist at all.  But in any case, the books were much more fun to read than their jackets would suggest, since KC has a way of lulling you into calm enjoyment of ordinary life.

But The Bright Side of Disaster (debut or not) was just a little bit less about ordinary life.  It was a Mommy tale again... but a very new, and newly singled Mommy tale.  And it was *all about* just how hard that life is.  So hard it actually made me dread having a baby a little bit... except that it all sounds utterly exaggerated.  Yes, it's tiring to have a new baby, and definitely, it's really hard to do it without a husband.  But seven months in and still doing nothing but taking care of the baby? Pu-leeze, stop complaining.  And in general, stop complaining.  Yes, Jenny's situation is not a pretty one, but seriously, she just makes such bad decisions. Well of course, allowing Dean back in to her life was a bad decision, but that's clear from the book.  It's more just her ridiculous overprotectiveness of Maxie and her constant background whiny tone that just makes it hard for me to feel that sympathetic.  I ended up feeling like she just needed to man up and take better care of herself.

In the end, it all works out of course, but it wasn't all that exciting.  I don't blame KC for that, she doesn't do romance all that well - Get Lucky I found unexpectedly romantic, but it was just a nice bonus.  These books aren't about romance... what they are supposed to be about is women we can get along with.  Women we like, and we want to succeed.  Not that I didn't want Jenny to succeed, but I have to say, I wasn't surprised she had a hard time with.  Wow, I'm being mean :) But the point is, it's not like Jenny was having fun and I certainly had no interest in hangin' with her as she traversed the path of new motherhood.  All I can say is, it BETTER not be that bad - and I'm pretty sure it's not :) So Jenny, glad you ended up with your man, gladder still I'm not you, and not unglad to be finished with the book.

Verdict: 2.75/5

PS - I feel I must note that the cover picture is not of the edition I read but I couldn't find a working link to that one... oh well :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Yet Another Take on the Classic Tale

For some reason, yet another author felt the need to publish a teen version of P&P (Actually, when I reviewed the last one, Prom & Prejudice, I said that I didn't remember reading any other versions, but it just feels so done).  For all the reasons I detailed in my last review - basically, I have no patience for teenagers, I just wasn't that interested in reading Epic Fail when I read about it on Austenprose (this despite it being by an chic lit author, Claire LaZebnick, whose previous books I enjoyed).  But S.b. got it out from the library and thought it was pretty decent, so I read it over this Shabbos, for which I was in Baltimore.

It was indeed, pretty decent, and also pretty much exactly what I expected.  Rich prep school to imitate the class society of England, and sweet enough teenage romance.  Not hugely romantic, but fun enough to read about.  This one took place in Hollywood and made much of the difficult lives of movies stars and whatnot, more standard chic lit fodder.  And there was the similar issue that Elise Benton's position at her school is far more tenuous than Elizabeth's in the vicinity of Longbourne.  Then there's the fact that the plot just doesn't have that much room since we all know what's going to happen. I always end up being happy when story deviates from the original, since at least it's a surprise. Plus if you try to stay too close, you end up wangling things in a way that make no sense at all.  So this one kept consistent enough, changed a few things, and was the more successful for that.

So basically, decent high school romances, NO surprises, not much else to say, but certainly not too hard to read.

Verdict: 2.95/5

Funny side note, as I was writing this Sarah Sp. emailed me and asked me if I had ever read this or another teen version of P&P.