Books in May

May was warm and nice, although it has also seemed long. It was also very busy, hence the astounding amount of romance – easy and quick to read. Let’s get to business, then.

Mary Balogh: Seducing An Angel

He is to be wealthy, wellborn, and want her more than he wants any other woman. Those are the conditions that must be met by the man Cassandra Belmont will choose as her lover. Marriage is out of the question for the scandalous widow who must now barter her beauty in order to survive. With seduction in mind, she sets her sights on Stephen Huxtable, the irresistibly attractive Earl of Merton and London’s most eligible bachelor. But a single night of passion alters all the rules. Cassandra, whose reputation is already in tatters, is now in danger of losing the one thing she vowed never to give. And Stephen won’t rest until Cassandra has surrendered everything – not as his mistress, but as his lover and his wife.

(Back cover of the Dell 2009 paperback edition)

Yes, the month kicked off with a romance again. Seducing An Angel is the fourth part in the Huxtable quartet – well, quintet, as there is one more book to go – and I found it delightfully different from the pervious three. The most glaring difference is the fact that the story does not start with a marriage, but with a seduction. The progress is nice and smooth, although I had some scruples with Cassandra’s stubbornness when it came to distrusting men. It’s logical, of course, since she has been betrayed by every single man in her life, but there is some sort of imbalance here that bothers me: on the one hand it’s hard to see how anyone could ever distrust Stephen, and on the other hand everything in my head is saying she should just keep away from men and keep living with her formers employees – who, by the way, are a factor that make the story so enjoyable. The former governess Alice and the cook/maid Mary both get their own stories, and no lose threads are left hanging for Cassandra’s small family. All the Huxtables are wonderfully kept in character throughout the series, as are their husbands and other recurring characters. The only one who remains mysterious now is their cousin Constantine, who will be the hero of the last book of the series.

There are some things in the language and etiquette that I would very much like to check. What peeves me most is the ball etiquette (yes, I did a class talk on it, so there was Research), and I’m fairly convinced unmarried siblings don’t dance with each other. (Cf. Austen’s Emma – “…You have shewn that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper.”) Not sure how that changes upon marriage, but it rings wrong to have siblings dancing. Ever. Because it’s the frickin’ marriage mart.

Please pardon the rant. Regency is important to me.

Published: Dell 2009

Pages: 388

Paul Torday: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Why does Dr Alfred Jones feel as though something is missing in his life? He has many reasons to be content. His job as a fisheries scientist is satisfactory, and he has just celebrated his twentieth wedding anniversary.

When he is asked to help create a salmon river in the highlands of the Yemen, Fred rejects the idea as absurd. But the proposal catches the eye of several senior British politicians. And so Fred finds himself forced to figure out how to fly ten thousand salmon to a desert country – and persuade them to swim there…

As he embarks on an extraordinary journey of faith the diffident Dr Jones will discover a sense of belief and a capacity for love that surprise himself and all who know him.

(Back cover of the Phoenix 2007 paperback edition)

I would never have picked this book up had there not been a movie based on it coming out. It’s also more than likely that I would not have had any interest in said movie if Ewan McGregor didn’t star in it. In general, there are a couple of things on the back cover that usually put me off: a person not happy with his pedestrian life, and the phrase extraordinary journey of faith, of which the first two are enough for me to make a face and put the book down.

That would have been a mistake. For a book that is concentrated on fishing it is very entertaining. Torday doesn’t bore the reader with infodumps, and even if you’re not familiar with fish or the Arabic culture it really doesn’t matter. There is a small glossary at the end where you can check most of the terminology. (My absolute favourite, the one I giggled over several times, was “salmonid”, particularly in the phrase “migratory salmonids”. I don’t know how funny that is to a fisheries specialist or even a native English speaker, but I think it sounds hilarious. Salmonids.)

A thing one might want to know before picking this book up is that it is not just straightforward prose. The story is told through several kinds of text, like entries from Dr. Jones’s journal, Miss Chetwode-Talbot’s correspondence with her fiancé, memos inside the NCFE, and – I kid you not – intercepted Al-Qaeda e-mail traffic. Don’t be daunted! Torday really pulls it off well, and there’s no fear of confusion once you learn who is who and who does what and so on. I was thoroughly pleased with this book, much to my own surprise. Not the read of the year, but a good piece of literary fiction. I’d heard it was very funny, but I wouldn’t say it was all that funny, although when you learn more about Dr. Jones in the beginning you can’t help but feel that he is a silly old dear and have to smile at the poor man. It gets slightly deeper towards the end, but not enough to be ridiculously soul-searching.

I’m getting rambly. In short: it is well worth a read. And a nice book for summer, too, methinks. What with all the fish and desert and stuff.

I went to see the movie (premiered in Finland May 25th) and it’s WAY different. Very funny and very sweet, too, but the ending was not as good as in the book. I was supposed to write a review, but that never happened… But I recommend it. Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt both do a wonderful job!

Published: Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2007

Pages: 317 (Phoenix Paperback 2007 edition – this one also has reading group notes and discussion topics)

Loretta Chase: Lord Perfect

Ideal
The heir to the Earl of Hargate, Benedict Carsington, Viscount Rathbourne, is the perfect aristocrat. Tall, dark, and handsome, he is known for his impeccable manners and good breeding. Benedict knows all the rules and has no trouble following them—until she enters his life.

Infamous
Bathsheba Wingate belongs to the rotten branch of the DeLucey family: a notorious lot of liars, frauds, and swindlers. Small wonder her husband’s high-born family disowned him. Now widowed, she’s determined to give her daughter a stable life and a proper upbringing. Nothing and no one will disrupt Bathsheba’s plans—until he enters her life…

Scandalous
Then Bathsheba’s hoyden daughter lures Benedict’s precocious nephew into a quest for a legendary treasure. To recover the would-be knights errant, Benedict and Bathsheba must embark on a rescue mission that puts them in dangerous, intimate proximity—a situation virtually guaranteed to end in mayhem—even scandal!—if anyone else were involved. But Benedict is in perfect control of events. Perfect control, despite his mad desire to break all the rules. Perfect control. Really.

(lorettachase.com)

Like usual, I can’t seem to start a series from the beginning. Fortunately, that is not necessary with Regency Romances, and even though this is the third instalment of the Carsington Brothers series it was easy to get into it.

Chase is good. Really good. Anyone who reads historical literature knows how horrid it is when one can’t trust the author to know what they are talking about. With Chase, this is not a problem. I have no idea whether she really knows her details – although she has said in an interview she loves doing research, a relieving comment, that – but the reader can feel secure and concentrate on the book itself instead of details. Her writing is witty and fun, and as bored as I am of this attraction-even-before-introduction thing I’m fond of the characters.

However, the story feels a little flat, and the only thing really driving it are the characters. My notes also accuse the book of corny sex.

Published: Berkeley Sensation 2006

Pages: 280 (I’m terribly sorry, I messed up and didn’t check which edition I had…)

Mary Balogh: Dark Angel/Lord Carew’s Bride

Dark Angel

Jennifer Winwood has been engaged for five years to a man she hardly knows but believes to be honorable and good: Lord Lionel Kersey. Suddenly, she becomes the quarry of London’s most notorious womanizer, Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill. Jennifer has no idea that she is just a pawn in the long-simmering feud between these two headstrong, irresistible men – or that she will become a prize more valuable than revenge.

Lord Carew’s Bride

Love has not been kind to Samantha Newman, but friendship has. When her emotions are rubbed raw by the reappearance in her life of a villain who had broken her heart some years before, she turns with gratitude to the kindly Hartley Wade, with whom she had developed a warm friendship when she mistook him for a gardener during a visit to the country. She accepts his proposal, expecting a quiet, safe, undemanding marriage. She does not know that Hartley is the Marquess of Carew and that he loves her passionately–and believes she returns his feelings.

(Back cover of Dell omnibus edition 2010/marybalogh.com)

I really enjoyed both of these books. They are so dramatic I could barely stop reading. They are not completely believable when it comes to historical details, but that doesn’t seem to be necessary in the modern historical romance. Balogh has a way of writing compelling prose, however, and to a romance junkie I would say these two are a must. The heroes are lovable, although Thornhill is a mite conventional and I find myself partial to the crippled, insecure and oh-so-deeply-in-love Lord Carew. Of the heroines I prefer Jennifer from Dark Angel: she is more determined than her cousin Samantha, the heroine of Lord Carew’s Bride. If you’re looking for a little light summer reading, these are the books to take to the beach with you – or this book, rather, as they have recently published as an omnibus edition and I doubt they are unavailable separately.

Published: Signer Regency 1995

Pages: 308/285

So that’s it for May. I’m slightly disappointed in myself, having read so slowly and little, but let’s face it: May is the end of school, and that means a whole lot of work you technically could have done or at least started weeks earlier but never do. Let’s hope there’s more time in June, despite work! (I’ve just found out that the ice cream stall I’ll be working will be located less than ten minutes from my house. Yay!)

Currently reading:

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

Happy summer everyone! Hope the weather’s good wherever you are, although I guess on the southern hemisphere that’s at the moment less likely than on the northern.

EDIT:// I have been so very careless with this update. I apologise. Here are the books I got this month – you can see a clear trend. 😛 The other are from the Bookdepository, but The Famous Heroine/The Plumed Bonnet is from my usual bookstore.

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