>> Tuesday, August 28, 2007
TITLE: The School for Heiresses anthology
AUTHORS: Sabrina Jeffries, Liz Carlyle, Julia London & Renée Bernard
PUBLISHER: Pocket Star
SETTING: 1820s England
TYPE: Straight Romance
SERIES: The Jeffries is part of her School For Heiresses series, while the Carlyle is an introduction to her new trilogy.
REASON FOR READING: I've got the two new Carlyles waiting in my TBR and just had to read the introduction before getting to them.
I started at the beginning, with Ten Reasons to Stay, by Sabrina Jeffries. I've really liked some of Jeffries single titles, and I loved the one short story of her that I happened to read, in the Fantasy anthology.
When Miss Eliza Crenshawe discovers her new guardian's plans to marry her off without so much as a Season, she flees – on a horse she unwittingly steals (oops!) from Colin Hunt, a newly minted earl who wants nothing more than for her to go home…or stay foreverWith this story, I'm afraid I just wasn't able to immerse myself in the fantasy. Most of it felt silly and unbelievable.
Eliza Crenshaw is running away from her drunken guardian, who means to force her to marry a crony of his. The new earl of Monteith, Colin Hunt, just back from India, catches her when she's borrowing a horse from her stables, so that she can get to the nearest town. For reasons I never completely understood, Eliza refuses to tell him the full details, even though she tells him enough that he could easily find her identity. And for reasons I never completely understood, either, Colin is sure Eliza is just like his ex-wife, ergo, she'll say anything to get her way, ergo, she's lying. Why he's so adamant never made sense. He refuses to let her go, locks her in the room next to his, and some unbelivable sex ensues, with supposedly innocent Eliza turning into this incredibly daring sex kitten. Blergh. I liked the detail of Colin being half Indian, but not much is done with this. A C-, because the story went fast and, while I didn't believe that they fell in love, the love scenes did show some passion.
Next was After Midnight, by Liz Carlyle.
In this passionate tale of scandal and intrigue, meet the mysterious Lord Rothewell and his sister Xanthia Neville. Rothewell and Xanthia have traveled far from their Barbados plantation in order to marry off their beautiful but reckless niece Martinique to a proper English gentleman. But the gentleman Martinique chooses is anything but proper—and Xanthia and her brother are soon busy avoiding a scandal which might well ruin Martinique forever...This one works very well as the introduction to Carlyle's new series, but a bit less well as a romance.
Carlyle does a good job telling us about the Neville family and their history, without really overwhelming Martinique's story, since it's all very relevant to who she is and the issues she has. It's interesting stuff, and both Xanthia and her brother, Kieran, are people I'm looking forward to read about. Kieran, especially, as I'm very intrigued by the hints about something more there in how he treats Martinique. That was actually the most interesting part of the book... Martinique and Kieran's rocky relationship.
As for the actual romance, it's... well, merely all right. After leaving school, 18-year-old Martinique is taken by her adoptive uncle and aunt (who are brother and sister, not husband and wife) to spend the holiday season at an old friend's house. Neighbour Justin St. Vrain is a frequent visitor there, as he's having an affair with a widow who's staying in the house. The widow gets annoyed at him and engineers things so that he ends up naked in Martinique's room, thinking it's the widow's. Scandal ensues, not just because where he's found, but because he's got quite a scandalous history which makes him suspect even before this. Around the time of the bedroom scene I thought the romance was getting good, but things between Justin and Martinique dilute into out-of-the-blue I-love-yous. A pity, because both characters had some interesting depths and complicated histories. Plus, yet another unbelievable sex kitten virgin. *sigh*
A B-, mainly for the family stuff.
The third story was The Merchant's Gift, by Julia London
A graduate of Mrs. Harris's school, Grace attends a refresher tea and receives a lesson. Sent to London to attract a match among the ton, she finds herself drawn to rugged Barrett Adlaine – an entirely inappropriate mate who will never meet with the father's approval.I didn't expect much when I started this, since I haven't liked the books I've read by this author. A good thing, that, since I didn't get much.
The story's about Grace, daughter of a merchant who made his fortune in wool and now despertely wants his daughter to marry a titled gentleman. Grace has done her best, but she's not been a huge success in London. Her father won't accept any excuses, though, and much less will he accept that Grace settle for the one man she's attracted to, mill owner Barrett Adlaine.
The main problem with this story was that Grace clearly doesn't share her father's social-climbing goal, and yet she behaves as if she does. She's horribly snooty and pompous and all-around idiotic to Barrett, so I never understood why he felt any attraction to a woman who was either a snob or a doormat. She does improve, but the grand scene at the end just wasn't enough. My grade: a D+.
The last story, Mischief's Holiday, by Renee Bernard was the only one by a new-to-me author.
Alyssa's father is counting on her to make a match that will allow her transition into titled society despite Alyssa's constant mishaps and chaotic ways. There's no way she's a match for Mr. Leland Yates, who is ruled by logic and reason – or is there?Alyssa Martin is home from school, where she continued to add to her reputation for getting into the most funnily disastrous situations. She's determined to avoid any such situations from now on, though, and make a good much. However, much as she tries, disaster seems to seek her out... and these days, it usually finds her in front of Mr. Leland Yates, her father's very serious friend.
This was a cute story. Kudos to Ms. Bernard for not making Alyssa a ridiculous figure or an idiot. Rather, she was quite adorable, and all the disasters that happened to her really weren't her fault. Leland was a good match for her, a guy with the right attitude towards her mishaps and one who could be counted to see the humour in the situation and yet not laugh at Alyssa. I would have liked a bit more development in the romance, but I was so happy to end this anthology on a nice note that I'm giving this a B-.
Overall grade: a C. No extra points for any kind of cohesiveness in the collection, since the School for Heiresses conceit added nothing at all to the stories.