Born to be Wilde By Eloisa James (Wildes #2)

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Always a perfect weekend read

Published by Piatkus Books, 31st July 2018, 384 pages, £5.99

Born to be Wilde begins beautifully, as all of Eloisa James’ novels, perfect for early morning commutes and lazy Sunday noons. It instantly claims you from the first few sentences and fills you with that warm, soothing glow you expect from a classic regency romance.

Lavinia Gray, friend of the scandalous Wildes clan who we were introduced to in Wilde in Love, is in trouble. The money has gone and her mother has committed crimes. In a fit of desperation she turns to Parth Sterling, unofficial Wilde member, bosom pal of her friends’ husbands and self-made rich bachelor. Despite being the one who has always irritated her, prickled her with his comments about her frivolity, caused her to retaliate with childish taunts, she asks for his hand in marriage. But he turns her down. That is what she expected anyway. Why would sensible, serious Parth want her anyway? And she doesn’t want a man who lacks understanding, compassionate and respect. As she comes to terms with her rejection, she realises how hurt she was. However, her proposal was not born out of love… or was it?

Parth has already chosen a perfect bride for himself. Someone who ticks all the boxes and is as practical as he is. When he learns part of Lavinia’s problems, he volunteers to find her a husband, the best candidate being a Prince. But he also finds it hard to get her proposal out of his head. When Lavinia realises she can earn money by doing what she loves best, she grows in confidence. Parth is able to understand her interests more, and the longer they spend time together on his ‘matchmaking’ trials, he realises that practicality is no match for what he has been denying for years.

I loved how the two MCs gradually accepted their feelings for each other. A deliciously stubborn coupling who bicker, clash heatedly and are drawn together like magnets. My favourite scene was a reckless rain-soaked one. Typical but quite necessary. We also follow Lavinia’s journey to earn independence and save her mother, learning about 18th fashion and addiction on the way. However, the narrative struggled to keep my interest towards the end and falls a little flat towards the final fifty pages. Still waiting for the best of the series.

Many thanks to Little, Brown/Piatkus for my copy xxx

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The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn

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Published by Piatkus, May 30th 2017, 352 Pages, £5.99

I can think of no better way to kick off the heat wave than sinking into Julia Quinn’s world. This is a romance author that can do little wrong. I flew past this new installment of The Bridgerton Series. Like any of the series’, no prior knowledge is required. Quinn’s pens a world that effortlessly welcomes both newcomers and fans.

This little tale is about Cecelia Harcourt, a young women who learns of her beloved brother’s injury during war in the Colonies. Penniless after her father’s death and faced with marriage to an oily cousin, she dashes across the world to New York in the hopes of reuniting with her brother and taking care of him. Instead she finds his best friend, Edward Rokesby, a man who she had gotten to know through her brother’s letters. He is unconscious and clinging to life. Just when senior officers usher her away from the hospital, with little enthusiasm to help her search, she blurts out that she is Edward’s wife.

Edward wakes to the sound of her voice and recognizes her, the sister of his dearest friend. The one who wrote the loveliest letters. Letters that he looked a little too forward to reading. The problem was he couldn’t remember marrying her. His injury wiped away six months of his memory. But the fact that she claims to be his wife did not feel off-balance, given his circumstances. There was a comforting logic to it, even if it was a tad confusing. Here Quinn serves us a clever example of instant-love. For a reader who prefers the passionate hate-love transition, this was a charming start to the story. It was a situation that deepened without feeling flat. A case in which the language of truth and lies are no match for base feelings. Despite Cecelia lying for practical reasons, she finds that it’s not just morals getting the way of her revealing the truth.

As Edward gradually recovers, they help each other search for Cecelia’s brother feeling the heat snow-balling between them. Quinn successfully switches between endearing newlyweds to determined lovers. However, there were moments in which I thought the conversations pushed too long. Repeated comments about pretty facial features filled a page or two longer than necessary. I also wished there was more building of secondary characters, who rapidly flit in and out. The mystery of the brother was well sustained but wraps up a little awkwardly. But look forward to a heated and satisfying ending of declarations.

Many thanks to Little, Brown for my review copy xxx

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Published by Macmillan Children’s, 9th February 2017, 464 pages, £5.59

3 Stars

I was so excited when I got my ARC of this, but unfortunately I did not enjoy it as much as hoped. I read the entire Lunar Chronicles this summer and it blew me away, bumping Marissa Meyer up as one of my favourite authors. The premise of Heartless seemed interesting enough- an origin story of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. I’m not a huge Lewis Caroll fan. I love the Jabberwock poem, but I haven’t read Alice in Wonderland in years and I vaguely remember the Disney movie. So I haven’t been interested in reading Caroll adaptations in the past. I was only reading this because of the author. I thought it was going to be like Fairest, the origin story of the evil Queen Levana in the Lunar Chronicles, tragic and fascinating.

Before she became a blood thirsty loon, Catherine Pinkerton was once a young vivacious woman who dreamed of opening her own bakery. But being the daughter of nobility, she was forced into a marriage with the tiny air-headed King of Hearts who was unfortunately besotted with her. She meets Jest, the King’s new mysterious court entertainer, who introduces her to new ideas, worlds, and most importantly, freedom. They enter a secret romance despite the inevitable danger. Meanwhile the Kingdom is being terrorised by vicious monsters with no hope of being vanquished.

I was quickly enchanted by Meyer’s world building which was beautifully and cleverly written. Magic, wonder and intrigue filled each description, from lemon trees that grow from dreams to dancing lobsters. There are so many allusions to Caroll’s creation, which was a nice unearthing of my childhood memories. Familiar and new characters slip in together naturally. Catherine is a very passionate and warm character. Her struggle for independence, which evokes Victorian female oppression, is very endearing.

However, I’m afraid this is where my interest ends. My reading of this book took two months, way longer than I anticipated. Instead of racing through to the end as I did the Lunar Chronicles, I kept getting distracted by other books. I had to ask myself why it almost went into a slump pile, despite having so much promise? I think at the end of the day, when you take away all the beautiful (and sometimes heavy) descriptions, which is primarily adapted from other works, you are left with a singular story line: a young girl with a dream who is forced to abandon it. I’m not saying this story is too simple, but in this case it doesn’t survive. The romance between Catherine and Jest developed too slowly and just wasn’t strong enough. This resulted in the shift in Catherine’s character at the dreaded ending being quite displaced.

Perhaps it belongs to more devoted Caroll fans. The only reason I am not giving it 2.5 stars is because of the beautiful writing which is undeniably impressive. I will, of course, still look forward to more of Marissa Meyer’s work.

 

 

 

Devils Cub (1932) by Georgette Heyer

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2.5 Stars

I’ve been sampling a few vintage romances lately because I have been astounded with how they are so violent against women despite being a popular genre for women, see The Sheik (1919) and The Flame and the Flower (1972) as horrific examples.

I’ve read Georgette Heyer before; soft, sentimental regency dramas that have an uncanny knack to charm the reader and remain very much cherished to this day (you only have to walk into any library and see recent reprints taking over the whole book case). I chose Devil’s Cub (1932) because its been heralded as the more violent of the corpus. Apparently its part of a trilogy, but I didn’t notice this at all as the characters were re-introduced.

The story involves an abominably wild rake, Marquis of Vidal, who has earned the nickname ‘Devil’s Cub’ for his speedy chariot driving and ruthless killing of dueling opponents. In the first chapter, he shoots a highwayman and leaves him on the road without a thought. So this murderer plans on abducting the prettiest debutante of the ton to Paris to be his mistress. Unfortunately for him, this pretty, but brainless girl, has a smart older sister, Mary, who impersonates her sibling and goes to meet Vidal. Mary pretends that the trick was her sister’s idea, hopefully putting an end to their relationship and saving her sister from ruin.

Vidal, ever the beast, abducts Mary instead and threatens violence against her if she objects. Once they arrive in France the damage was done and Mary has no choice but to marry Vidal if she wants to return to England with her reputation intact. The alternative is to find employment at a genteel household, which she of course prefers. For some reason, Vidal becomes very possessive of her and refuses to let her leave him. The relationship is far from ideal. At this point, I wasn’t exactly drawn to their ‘romance’. I did warm to Mary, who is your typical plucky ‘plain Jane’ seeing right through Vidal’s hysterics, as well as being dignified and kind.

In the mean time there is added drama with Mary’s mother, who is delighted and persuading Vidal’s mother, a hot headed French woman, that a marriage must happen. Vidal’s mother rushes to France to put an end to the affair, followed by Vidal’s father, a once legendary rake in his day. Vidal and Mary get stickily entangled with another couple, Vidal’s cousin Juliana and her betrothed, who she plans on marrying secretly in France.

Despite the fairly entertaining mess described above, which heightens towards the end in a sword fight, the book is filled with very lengthy dialogues on topics like the rules of card games and social positions. Vidal and Mary have very few interactions, and most of them abusive on the side of Vidal except for the one occasion Mary draws a pistol, so I am not entirely sure how they fall in love. However, for some reason Heyer pulls off a satisfying ending which might have resulted from a balance between still dialogue and dangerous scenes.

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