Lady Whistledown Strikes Back, an anthology

>> Friday, December 03, 2004

I had high hopes for Lady Whistledown Strikes Back, since I loved The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown last year. That one had had 2 excellent stories, an ok one, and one that I didn't like but wasn't awful. Unfortunately, this new book wasn't nearly as good.

The first story was the best, The First Kiss, by Julia Quinn.

A dashing fortune hunter is captivated by the Season's most desired debutante...and must prove he is out to steal the lady's heart, not her dowry.
I liked this one, as I've liked everything I've ever read by this author. However, it wasn't really up to her usual standards. Yes, there were some wonderful parts, mostly from Peter's POV (when his feelings were described as he realized he was falling in love with Tillie, or during their first kiss, the way he was so desperate because he just knew this was going to be their only kiss and he wanted to make it unforgettable ::sigh::). However, the rest of it was a little lackluster. Just... nice, I guess. Pleasant reading, but not nearly enough of of the magic I know Julia Quinn can write and has written in other stories. My grade: a B

Then came The Last Temptation, by Mia Ryan. Ryan's story in The Further.... had shown some promise and some sparks of originality, so I was looking forward to see if that promise had been realised.

A lovely, free-spirited servant is dazzled by the romantic attentions of a charming earl...sparking a scandalous affair that could ruin them both.
Ugh, now, this one I just couldn't get into. The situation felt silly and so did the heroine, Bella. The whole thing about wanting to be kissed before she turns 30... contrived, contrived, contrived. And then there's the way she keeps getting lost in her own thoughts and laughing out loud at them, at the most inappropriate moments. I guess this is supposed to make her "free-spirited", or something, but it makes her silly, in my eyes. And she giggles! Constantly. Enough said.

And something else which threw me out of the story at the beginning: she keeps thinking "Bugger it". "Bugger the parrot!", "Bugger Lady Neely!", she consigns everything to be buggered. I'm really hoping "bugger" didn't mean then what it means now. It's not that I mind the language, but that I get the feeling the author is not really aware of exactly what "to bugger" means and how it would be much too coarse for the character she has created. I would be perfectly delighted by a character who uses the expression with awareness of what she's saying and exactly how outrageous she's being, but Isabella... it doesn't work.

Oops, and I haven't even mentioned the hero yet. That does tell you something about him, doesn't it? Not good at all, I'd rate this story a D.

The third story was The Best of Both Worlds, by Suzanne Enoch. I had no big expectations for this one, since I didn't like her story in the first Lady Whistledown anthology, and her latest book, England's Perfect Hero, was probably my most disappointing read this year.

An innocent miss who has spent her life scrupulously avoiding scandal is suddenly -- and secretly -- courted by London's most notorious rogue.
I did not like this one. It's basically: generic rake meets generic innocent twit. They fall in love and face a little opposition from her parents, who are unreasonably worried about scandal. Result: yawn.

I never did understand just why he loved her. No idea. I thought Charlotte was just a stupid self-sacrificing ninny. Oh, even if it's what she most wants in the world, she won't marry him without her parents permission, because she won't do anything that puts a blemish on their reputations, even the blemish will be only in her parents' imagination. Idiot. Idiot, idiot, idiot. And he loves her partly just because she's such a proper, dutiful daughter... sorry, chit. Enoch really overuses the word "chit", which just added to my irritation with the story. My grade is a D.

I hated the last Karen Hawkins book I read, How To Treat a Lady, but since adored her story in the last Lady Whistledown, I had high hopes for this one, The Only One for Me.

A roving viscount comes home to rekindle the passionate fires of his marriage...only to discover that his beautiful, headstrong bride will not be so easily won.
On the bright side, this story was much more engaging and interesting than the two previous ones, so the book ended on a somewhat higher note. However, I just couldn't get over Max's immature behaviour, leaving his wife for 12 years (!) in a fit of pique, and then expecting to easily win her back. And I lost a lot of respect for Sophia for the way she allowed him to do pretty much whatever he wanted with her. I'm more tired every day of the heroine who has very good reasons for not wanting anything to do with the hero, and who still melts into a puddle of lust the minute he kisses her and is incapable of voicing the slightest protest. My grade for this one would be a C+.

The "extras" of the anthology didn't work as well as they had in the first one, either. The coordination between the stories wasn't as well done, and I didn't enjoy Lady Whistledown's columns as much. In fact, I actively disliked the woman at times! Things like naming people as suspects of stealing Lady Neely's bracelet, for instance, were not good.

I think I'd give the anthology as a whole a C.


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