>> Friday, June 27, 2003
This year I've been reading many more anthlogies than I used to. The latest was The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown.
The first story was, IMO, the weakest: ONE TRUE LOVE, by Suzanne Enoch - C+:
Lady Anne Bishop, who has been engaged since childhood to Maximilian Trent - Marquis of Halfurst. Maximilian's estates are in Yorkshire, and Anne's life is set squarely in London. Anne is taking advantage of her long-standing engagement with the fiancé she has never seen by essentially doing whatever she wants, within the confines of society. Maximilian has heard of some of her (rather mild) exploits and has come down to London to reclaim his bride. Only to find when he got there that he actually desires his bride, and wants her to choose him over the suitors she doesn't seem to be aware that she has collected. Rather than bully his way into her life, he sets out to win her love.This one wasn't very successful in showing that our protagonists are in love. He sees her and he wants her and that's it, they're definitely getting married! Additionally, the whole setup (her otherwise sensible, loving father betrothing his daughter at birth, just because) smelled of plot contrivance. I didn't get why Maximillian was so ready to marry the woman his father had chosen for him... Enoch gives no explanation for that.
Still, I kind of liked how Maximillian realized he wanted Anne to actually want to marry him, not do so to fulfill an obligation, and how he decided to woo her. Oh, and they compromised on where to live, that adds some points.
My favourite was the second story, TWO HEARTS, by Karen Hawkins - A+
Handsome, dashing Sir Royce Pemberley has had Miss Liza Pritchard as his best friend for over 20 years. What will he do when that intrepid lady decides it's time to marry and sets her sights on someone Royce believes is entriely inappropriate?A delightful story. In this one, I did believe that Liza and Royce were in love, and the way this came about was oh-so-romantic. I'm a sucker for friends-falling-in-love stories, and this was a particularly good one, especially because these two were very believable as friends.
It had wonderful, wonderful characters. Royce was perfectly charming, even though he really was a rake, and Liza was lovely: an original, but not stupidly so, sensible and straightforward, but a woman who actually does enjoy things like shopping for shoes. So refreshing, after all those martyrs, sacrificing themselves "for the orphans"! I especially loved that both Liza and Royce were mature characters. They were at a point where they both needed something "more", and Liza's decision to marry never feels contrived.
Something else I enjoyed was the humour. Hawkins managed to include wonderful little scraps of comedy, like the monkey, or the scene where Royce meets Liza's godmother and her nephew outside the lending library (OMG, that bit about the horse with the Italy-shaped mark, and the part about Edmund having been upset by certain sections of the library, I laughed until I cried!) And the best thing was that in spite of all the laughter and light-hearted tone, the story had its poignant, stomach-clenching moments.
All in all, a wonderful story. I wasn't terribly impressed by the two full-length stories I've read by this author, but knowing that she can write a story like Two Hearts is enough to make me keep trying her.
Story number 3 was just barely ok: A DOZEN KISSES, by Mia Ryan - B-
Lady Caroline Starling is becoming rather desperate to be free of he mother. She has forced herself to become quiet and unseen, as otherwise Caroline knows she would say and do the oddest things. She feels a quiet desperation and loneliness. Linney is quietly pleased to have caught the attention of the Earl of Pellering, while not harbouring any deep feeling for her potential husband. Terrance Greyson, Lord Darington, was wounded three years previously. A bullet in his brain has made speech difficult for him, and he often finds himself saying things he shouldn't, or unable to phrase what it is he truly wants to say.A potentially fascinating hero wasted on a ninny of a heroine and woefully underwritten. What a shame! I don't think I've ever read a hero quite like this one. The whole situation was full of potential, and the author didn't take full advantage. The ending, especially, was much too abrupt, and Lord Darington's problem wasn't even discussed.
The last story was almost as good as the second one: THIRTY-SIX VALENTINES, by Julia Quinn - A
Susannah Ballister was one of the most popular debs of the previous season, until the man that all thought would propose to her instead married another. Overnight she was someone to be pitied and whispered about, so she returned to the country to recover. Now in London again, Susannah is finding it difficult to smile while being the subject of gossip and enjoy her new role of wallflower.Another excellent story, and one written in JQ's witty, distinctive style. Susannah was a sensible, dignified sort of heroine, never afraid to stand up for herself. She was a bit "beige", if you know what I mean, but I liked her. David, too, was a serious guy, and it was lovely to see him soften and show his sense of humour with Susannah. The storyline was one I usually like, and it was very well executed. Very romantic, funny and sweet.
David Mann-Formsby, Earl of Renminster is the brother of the man that let her down. Influential in society, he makes an act of kindness that serves to restore Susannah so that she can once again take part in society. In doing so, David discovers that it is more than kindness that is driving him - he wants Susannah. All wrong for his brother, he finds he is complete right for himself and he sets out to make Susannah see that. For her part, Susannah is puzzled at why David, whom she knows did not approve of her, is aiding her and resolves that it must be pity, or at least sympathy, that motivates him. Now David must make a grand gesture to show that it is not pity that drives him, but love.
I loved the gimmick of the anthology here. All the stories take place roughly at the same time, in the same place, and characters from one story show up in the others... Everyone goes to the theatre to see The Merchant of Venice performed by Edmund Keane, they all attend a skating party on the Thames, and go to the same Valentine's Day ball. The logistics must have been a nightmare!
This was lots of fun to read. I also adored the Lady Whistledown introductions to each chapter. TFOOLW was much more than just a few stories published in one volume, and this adds points. My grade for the whole thing: A