Friday, February 3, 2017

Society Romance - Nothing To Sneeze At

Moving on with the backlog - before I left on the trip, I, of course, had to pick up a new stash of books. I did a quick trip to the library, but 1) had my kids with me and 2) really running through my backlog of books from my library break, so only got out two books.  Not too bad, really.  The first of the two I picked up was the latest Lauren Willig, The Other Daughter.  (She has some collaborations as well, but meh, we'll see about those.)  I had decent expectations for the book, since the first two stand-alones were both pretty good.  But not HUGE expectations, since neither was a "real" romance in my favorite style (i.e. angsty for the right reasons :)) The snippets of this book I had read on the website made it sound pretty appealing too, capable young heroine and dashing man, 'twixt the wars.

So first thing - this book dispenses with the modern component that makes the book a time slip! Just a regular old historical.  And though I've mostly enjoyed the modern story in other books, I didn't really mind - I don't really love the way the story gets broken up.  One good story is good enough for me, you know?  So what of the story? Well first of all, expectations met in terms of the hero and heroine, he attractive, debonair, and nice underneath it all, she virtuous, capable, and charming when she needs to be.  What else? Well the plot was um... rather thin. I'm not sure whether I've thought about this too much with other Willig books, but just the fact that I did think about it with this one is not a great sign :) I mean, really, why exactly does Rachel have to masquerade as anything? Didn't really get it. Though admittedly, the ending does make it clear that it was probably a futile task.

The ending is also a bit sadder than maybe it needed to be (sorry for spoilers) - Rachel's father really was heartbroken all those years ago, and therto e's really nothing to be fixed now.  But I suppose that's somewhat in keeping with the other two stand-alones, which certainly are not unalloyedly joyous in their conclusions.

Writing is good, on par with other books.

But who cares about all this? What about romance??? Of course you are saying :) Well... this one was definitely more of a traditional romance than the others. Simon and Rachel don't know till the end that they are in love with each other, and there are definitely some angsty moments (jealousy of others, misconstrued motives, all that).  For whatever reason though, I couldn't *quite* get into it - maybe it was just the total lack of anything from Simon's POV? Not even subtle hints.  I feel like that's somewhat unusual, LW usually does have some male perspective. (Oh yes, now I remember, it definitely is, she even mentioned it in the Acknowledgements as a new style for her).  So it was a good romance, but I couldn't *really* enjoy.

Overall - old fashioned (well, somewhat) nobility, society tale with little other plot to distract, and solid romance. Why would I complain? Well I wouldn't.  And yet

Verdict 4/5 - Why not 5/5? Do I really not think it's a better book than Ashford Affair? It should be, by my standards, right? Probably that one got the benefit of being a first read.  4/5 is nothing sneeze at, certainly. One day I may even reread :) Oh wait never mind, I gave Ashford Affair 4/5. Good, now I feel this is a fair rating :)

Far Away From Home

Vacation has come and gone (it was wonderful) and, with it, a decent backlog of book reviews (of course).  First up - the second book I had taken out of the library along with That Summer, on that Friday afternoon trip - the next Flavia de Luce.  This is the book that brings us the change of scenery - away from the English countryside, to the cold corridors of a Canadian girls boarding school.  There's definitely what to be lost from Flavia's family's, friends', and neighbors' absence.  Does the presence of the teachers and pupils of Miss Bodycote's make up for it?

Maybe not entirely, but certainly the old-fashioned boarding school has its own charm.  Certainly for me, it has a similar far-away old-fashioned comfortable feel as old England.  And if the students can't quite compete with Dogger, Mrs Mullet, and the village, they are certainly new and interesting.  So I don't entirely mind the change of scenery.

I feel though, that with the loss of Buckshaw and the village, the book turns more in the direction of its immediate predecessor - less about life + Flavia's little investigation, more about some serious stuff going on.  Flavia spends a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly is going on at the school, not as much figuring out the dead body.  It all comes together of course - but the tone is different when Flavia is part of the mystery, not just solving it.  More confusing, less cluesy.  Of course, the story of the dead body gets resolved in the end, but I'm not sure how much of a resolution it was.  We find out that Miss Bodycote's is a school for spies, but we knew that already.  And what they do or what it's about isn't really clear.

And with that, if I remember correctly (pretty bad I don't, it hasn't been *that* long, I think I finished this on the plane on the way to CA, which was last Wednesday night), Flavia ends the book journeying back to England. So what was the point of this interlude? I'm not quite sure actually (it would probably help if I remembered better :))

So basically, we lose the village and much of the light-hearted tone.  Flavia herself, while just as capable, does seem a bit out of her depth in this mysterious place.  And the plot itself doesn't *quite* tie up all the lose ends.   With all, Flavia is a pretty talented young lady and the boarding school is an enlivening place. So I guess I didn't mind too much that I, like Flavia, felt a bit lost throughout this book.

Verdict: 3/5