Sunday, December 31, 2006

Book Review: The Man Who Loved Jane Austen

I must preface this review with a disclaimer because this book was given to me as a gift for Christmas. I very much appreciated the gift as it was a book with a jacket synopsis that probably would have made me want to buy the book myself. Little did I know from that summary that the book itself was so utterly ridiculous.

The premise of this book was admitedly intriguing. Was there really a Fitzwilliam Darcy? Did Jane Austen base that famous romantic hero on a real person in her life? In The Man Who Loved Jane Austen, that is the precise question at issue. Eliza, a modern-day heroine, is a New York artist who purchases an antique vanity only to take it home and discover two letters hidden inside, presumably written from a Fitzwilliam Darcy to a Jane Austen in 1810 Hampshire. That plotline itself interested me because it was similar to Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series which I enjoy. But Willig (thankfully!) omits something from her book that O'Roarke just can't resist. And that thing is a plot device which rhymes with "grime gravel," something that incidentally, I hate with a passion that will never die. Why, you ask? BECAUSE IT NEVER WORKS! I am once again proven right in this book because if plots were analogous to bowls, then the plot in this book would be this:

In addition to the lame plot line that was industriously hidden in the jacket description, O'Roarke's writing is amaturish and unpolished. There was a lot of potential in her hero that I felt went undeveloped. And the Jane Austen storyline itself was so dull and boring that I skipped over what I think was supposed to the be the most climactic part. Everyone loves Jane Austen, and that's understandable, but this recent outgrowth of books based upon either Elizabeth and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice or (apparently) Austen herself is a little too much for me. Austen is loved to this day because she was a great writer and these "tributes" are, in my opinion, sullying her good name. O'Roarke writes in her dedication that she thinks Austen would have been agreeable to the insipid story O'Roarke has created about her life, but I couldn't help but think that Austen would have been horrified and embarrassed by the way her name was used.

Lindsey's Grade: C- (maybe even my first D+ on this site)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Book Review: The Gilded Web

This book itself was so-so, which is pretty remarkable for Mary Balogh, who in my opinion is the best Regency romance writer. But it's a reprint, originally written almost 20 years ago, I think, so it's understandable.

The hero and heroine are Edmund and Alexandra, who through no fault of their own find themselves in a compromising situation. And being the consumate gentleman, Edmund proposes to Alexandra, and she eventually accepts even though she doesn't particularly want to marry him. The rest of the book focuses on them getting to know each other, and particularly how Alexandra comes into herself as a person.

I wasn't too fond of Alexandra as the book progressed. I thought she was naive and self-absorbed, but I think Balogh intended for her to be that way, because her epitome is really what ends up as the climax of the story. It feels natural and genuine, and tugged at my heartstrings a bit. Edmund is, basically, absolutely perfect and flawless as a romantic hero. He's impossible not to like.

But what really got me interested were the subplots from this book that lead into the other two books in the series. Edmund has younger twin siblings, Dominic and Madeline, who will be the characters in the second and third books, respectively. In The Gilded Web they are only twenty-two, and a little flighty and immature (both of them). I can tell that Balogh is going to do some great character development with them because at the end of The Gilded Web Dominic is going off to fight in the Napoleonic wars (which should make him grow up fast). But enough about Dominic, the real intrigue is in Madeline's story. She and Alexandra's brother James do not get off on the right feet, mostly because of James's inner demons that he for some reason projects onto Madeline. At the end of The Gilded Web James leaves for destinations unknown after some great scenes between them. I am so hooked! I can't wait to read their story, but it won't be republished until January 2008!!! Maybe I will have to do some snooping around to see if I can locate an old issue somewhere.

Lindsey's Grade: B+

Book Review: The Prince Kidnaps A Bride

As I've mentioned before, I don't particularly like Christina Dodd's books. And it always kind of confounded me that so many people loved her and her books. Well, now I think I can safely said that the few books of hers that I read must not have been her best, because I liked The Prince Kidnaps A Bride. It was nothing ground-breaking, but it had everything a romance novel should have, and it was fun to read.

This book is actually the third in a series about three sisters who are princesses of a small (fictional) European country. They were forced to flee the continent as children after their father the king was killed fighting back revolutionaries who eventually took over. Years later their grandmother reestablished the monarchy and sent Prince Rangier (from a neighboring country), who just so happens to be the betrothed of the Crown Princess Sorcha, to find them. I guess he succeeds in the previous two books, only one of which I have read, and in this one he goes after his finance.

Really this was a rather unremarkable book, but my expectations were so low after Trouble In High Heels (which was inexplicably named as one of the year's best) that it seemed like a triumph.

Lindsey's Grade: B-

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Book Review: Pleasure For Pleasure

I used to count Eloisa James as one of my favorite authors, probably because I really enjoyed the first couple of her books that I read. And also because I read the blog she keeps with other romance writers and I think that she just sounds like a very interesting, fun person. But I wasn't crazy about her last book, but since it was third in a serious of four, the first two of which I really liked, I still picked up Pleasure for Pleasure when it came out. But about 100 pages in I almost quit reading it.

I think I've mentioned before that I don't like large age gaps between the hero and heroine in a book. And even though this is a historical romance set in the Regency Era in England, something about a man being 16 years older than the woman doesn't sit well with me. The characters in this book were not new to me either, because both of were frequent players in the other books in the series, the hero especially. He is a notorious rake that has seduced countless women. The hero is an eighteen year old girl in her first season in London. She is also the youngest of four sisters, and other three books in the serious were about her older sisters. It just so happens that the hero, the Earl of Mayne, was previously engaged to the oldest sister, a potential prospect for the second, and a potential lover for the third.

Now, maybe I'm strange, and I know I live in modern times. But there is no way in hell I would have anything to do with a guy that was previously involved with my sister. In fact, a guy that she "went out with" in high school for less than 48 hours was once interested in me in college, but those 48 hours years ago were enough to make me want to have nothing to do with him romantically. So it kind of blew my mind that Josie, the heroine, would be interested in Maybe. It was also kind of gross that they knew each other when she was fifteen. Fifteen!

Also, I never really liked Mayne. But apparently everyone else loves him (I also read Eloisa James's website.) I even skipped most of the parts with him in the other books because it was a second storyline. Maybe that's why I don't like him as much as everyone else. Hmm... I should also note that it was not clear from the back of the book or for a while in the beginning of the book itself who Josie would end up with. When I figured out that Mayne was indeed the hero, I set the book down out of protest and almost wasn't going to finish it. But of course, I picked it up again.

And darn if Eloisa didn't make it work! She is a great writer, although kind of perplexing for me. In real life she's a professor of Shakepearean literature, and so her books always have a very intellectual and academic feel to them. And sometimes its too much for me and I don't like it. But she's a crafty one, that Eloisa, because even when I don't like the main characters in one of her books, she will have a second storyline going on that I love (like in Taming of the Duke or Fool For Love). When I'm really lucky, I will love both (like in Duchess In Love). I loved the secondary storyline in this one a whole bunch.

So even though I still didn't like the age difference between the characters, Eloisa wrote about them in a way that was fun and interesting to read. I ended up liking both characters much better at the end of the book, more than I expected to. It was a fun read. I enjoyed it. A nice end to a good series.

Lindsey's Grade: A

Book Review: Wish List

I really enjoy reading anthologies because they go by so fast! This book had four little novellas in it. Lisa Kleypas's name is the biggest on the cover because she's the best known author, and her novella is the best. After that I would say I liked Lynsey Sands next, then Lisa Cach, then Claudia Dain. Dain's writing is strange, and the plot was a little odd, too. I really didn't like it at all, to tell the truth.

But the book as a whole is fun. And it's all about Christmas! Who doesn't love Christmas?

Lindsey's Grade: B+

Book Review: Tell Me Lies

I've read a whole bunch of Jennifer Crusie books (and it took me a few years to figure out that her last name was not Cruise, like Tom) and some I like, some I don't. She's one of those authors who is a technically good writer (sentence structure, style, plotting), but I don't always like the way she puts a story together. And in this books, I went back and forth on whether or not I liked it.

This book was set in a small town, and it begins with a woman finding a pair of crotchless panties in her husbands car when she volunteers to clean it out for him. Needless to say, she's pissed. But she doesn't seem to like her husband that much, because apparently he cheated on her five years earlier and he convinced her not to leave him. Normally I would feel sorry for her, but she just stomped around annoyingly and then had sex with another guy herself. Hmm... that's classy.

I was going to stop at that point in the book because I was pissed. But it turns out her husband really was a piece of crap. Crusie also had a little mystery going throughout the book, and she actually did a great job with that. I didn't figure it out until almost before it was revealed to the reader, and it wasn't cheesy (relative to the cheese factor in the rest of the book.) And she wrote it just right so that I kept reading because wanted to know what happened. So good job, Jenny!

I also warmed to the characters as the book went on and grew more sympathetic for the heroine. I guess I could recommend the book.

Lindsey's Grade: B-