Saturday, May 20, 2006

Anthology - Talk of the Ton

Picked this one up a while ago but had not gotten around to reading it. This month it works to satisfy both my Anthology of the Month goal as well as containing a short story by Jacqueline Navin, who is the selected author in my Yahoo Reading Group's Author of the Month challenge.
The Anthology also has stories written by Eloisa James, Julia London and Rebecca Hagan Lee (who I have never read before).

Eloisa James - A Proper Englishwoman: (A) What a delightful short story. This is the tale of Gilbert Baring-Gould, Earl of Kerr who has been betrothed to Emma Loudan since they were children but has yet to collect his bride. He has spent a few years trying to get over the loss of his brother. He spent six months in Paris drunk and putting himself in situations that would result in his death, but failing at that, he has given up all vices. The ton has him pegged as a rakehell because he works at promoting that opinion. His underlying hope is that Emma will hear and call off their engagement.
Emma does hear. She hears that he would marry when she has his child in her belly and his ring on her finger. Of course Gil made the comment quoting Shakespeare and didn't think much of it, but Emma took it as a challenge and decided to seduce him during a masquerade party. But the thing is... Gil has given up his vices... all of them. The story was sweet and funny and just plain well done. Nice rounded tale where you didn't feel like you were dropped in the middle of a tale or were left wanting in the end. This was a great start to the Anthology.

Julia London - The Vicar's Widow: (C ) This one didn't start as promising as the first. I think it shocked me when the hero kissed the heroine - passionately I must interject – while the heroine was married to the local vicar. That was not really the shocking part, the shocking part was that she responded to the kiss - again, quite passionately - while she was, not just married, but also, in love with her husband. Come on now! If you plan on painting the heroine as a kind, gentle soul don't start it off painting her the wanton. When I got past that first glimpse of the main characters I settled in to enjoy the tale, unfortunately the story really didn't take off. In truth the romance was flat on her side and although he had been a scoundrel in the past he was head over heels for her and he showed it in the most romantic ways. She on the other hand…

Rebecca Hagan Lee - Clearly a Couple: (C )This third story is part of The Free Fellows League series by this author. Lord Barclay is given the task of picking up a parcel on his return to London from doing some work for the Free Fellows League. What he didn't realize is that the parcel is the granddaughter to Lord Admiral Sir Harold Gregory who had been abducted 5 years ago and spent the time as part of a sultan's harem. India is a sweet girl and Lord Barclay appears to be a very good man but in truth I just could not swallow that the couple fell in love over the period of one day when there was not much interaction between them. Friends maybe, some attraction definitely, but love? No way.
There was no real plot to this one. He arrives to the cottage, fights and overcomes the Turkish bodyguard, she has nightmares, he consoles her; they wake up, get a carriage and drive to London where he proposes. Just not a very good tale if you can even call it that.

Jacqueline Navin - Miss Jenny Alt's First Kiss: (B ) This is the story that had me digging the anthology out from the TBR pile. Navin was selected as the Author of the Month on my Yahoo Reading Group (as I mentioned before) and this was the only title I had of hers.
Genvieve Alt is somewhat of a wallflower but more of her chosing than anything else. She has come to London with her Aunt Iris and cousin Cassandra for her first season. Jenny is 22 but had put off her first season until it was Cassandra's turn at 18. She tries to blend into the walls as to not take attention away from her younger cousin. This has always been the case since she was brought to live with her Aunt after the death of her own parents.
A distant cousin by marriage of Aunt Iris has requested her assistance with introductions in the ton since he, the Earl of Hatherleigh, has to find himself a bride. There is no complex reason for his seeking the marriage mart except that he had promised his father that he would remarry (his first marriage was a disaster and after her death he avoided the whole business altogether) before he turned 25. The tale is not a cut and dry, 'I saw you, I wanted you' deal. Miles actually thought to offer for Cassandra who is the prettier one and who had shown a clear interest in him. But he noticed Jenny, who avoided him like the plague, was more suited for him. They shared interest and she was more suited to the country life he enjoyed. Unfortunately, Cassandra didn't think so and thus the sneaky conniving began.
I actually enjoyed this one a lot. I did find that Jenny was too much of a coward to really deserve Miles but the flow and the storytelling in this one kept me interested and in the end, I realized that I had enjoyed it a lot.

Grade: B-


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