Take A Peek Book Review: A Fall of Marigolds

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away….

September 1911. On Ellis Island in New York Harbor, nurse Clara Wood cannot face returning to Manhattan, where the man she loved fell to his death in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Then, while caring for a fevered immigrant whose own loss mirrors hers, she becomes intrigued by a name embroidered onto the scarf he carries …and finds herself caught in a dilemma that compels her to confront the truth about the assumptions she’s made. Will what she learns devastate her or free her?

September 2011. On Manhattan’s Upper West Side, widow Taryn Michaels has convinced herself that she is living fully, working in a charming specialty fabric store and raising her daughter alone. Then a long-lost photograph appears in a national magazine, and she is forced to relive the terrible day her husband died in the collapse of the World Trade Towers …the same day a stranger reached out and saved her. Will a chance reconnection and a century-old scarf open Taryn’s eyes to the larger forces at work in her life?

My Thoughts:

While A Fall of Marigolds held my attention, I couldn’t quite love this book. For one thing, I’m really getting tired of the split timeline narrative that seems to be everywhere these days, especially when the two timelines are connected by some artifact of one sort or another — a painting, a diary, a doll, etc. It’s a plot device that’s becoming all too prevalent in historical fiction when the author wants a contemporary hook. In A Fall of Marigolds, it’s a colorful scarf that features in both the 1911 and 2011 stories, but the linkage between the two feels forced at times.

It’s too bad, because I might have enjoyed the book more if it had just told one story or the other. Either is compelling, and the book does contain some very dramatic and emotional moments. 9/11 is still part of our collective psyches, and it’s impossible to read Taryn’s part of the story, which includes her eyewitness experience of watching the towers fall, and not be overwhelmed by memories and feelings.

Likewise, the story of the nurses of Ellis Island and their work with infectious immigrants, as well as the story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, is powerful and moving. But the lives of the fictional characters can’t really measure up to the terror and power of the real events. Clara’s experiences, and her fixation on the man who died in the fire in particular, seem rather lightweight when looking at the broader extent of the tragedy. Her story is enlivened by her interactions with the immigrant she nurses through scarlet fever and her dilemma regarding his own losses and secrets, but I couldn’t buy the essential premise of her part of the story and Clara’s view on love and destiny.

The entire plot of A Fall of Marigolds seems to rest quite a bit on the characters coming to terms with events outside of their control. For both Taryn and Clara, they’re left to sort out whether things were meant to happen, or whether their own actions were somehow to blame for outcomes that could otherwise have been avoided. Clara’s need to figure out whether her love for the man she barely knew was real is vital to her, but her fixation on the loss of what might have been begins to feel overblown as the story progresses. On the other hand, Taryn’s guilt over surviving and the loss of her husband feel quite real, and her story gets a pay-off that is bittersweet yet satisfying.

Parts of this book are quite good, but as a whole, there’s some essential element missing. And as I said, the overall structure doesn’t work for me in general — I really would not have started this book, knowing it was a “two-women-from-two-different-eras-linked-by-one-special-thing” kind of story, were it not a book group pick. I’m glad to have read it, but knowing now that most of this author’s works have a similar two-timeline structure, I don’t think I’ll be seeking out more of her books.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: A Fall of Marigolds
Author: Susan Meissner
Publisher: NAL
Publication date: January 1, 2014
Length: 394 pages
Genre: Contemporary/historical fiction
Source: Purchased

Save

Save

Save

Take A Peek Book Review: Waking Lions

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

After one night’s deadly mistake, a man will go to any lengths to save his family and his reputation.

Neurosurgeon Eitan Green has the perfect life–married to a beautiful police officer and father of two young boys. Then, speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he hits someone. Seeing that the man, an African migrant, is beyond help, he flees the scene.

When the victim’s widow knocks at Eitan’s door the next day, holding his wallet and divulging that she knows what happened, Eitan discovers that her price for silence is not money. It is something else entirely, something that will shatter Eitan’s safe existence and take him into a world of secrets and lies he could never have anticipated.

WAKING LIONS is a gripping, suspenseful, and morally devastating drama of guilt and survival, shame and desire from a remarkable young author on the rise.

 

My Thoughts:

Waking Lions is an Israeli novel translated into English, and having or getting a grasp of Israeli social dynamics is key to understanding the conflicts and pressures involved in this story. Eitan is a respected, talented neurosurgeon who was forced into leaving his prestigious position at a Tel Aviv hospital after threatening — unsuccessfully — to expose his mentor’s corruption. Now living in the desert town of Beersheva, he’s frustrated and out of sorts, despite having a wonderful marriage and two small boys whom he loves. When he runs down the Eritrean immigrant with his SUV in the middle of the night, Eitan makes a snap decision that will haunt him and threaten all he holds dear.

The wife of the hit-and-run victim blackmails Eitan — not for money, but for medical treatment for a seemingly endless crowd of illegal immigrants, all refugees who risked their lives to cross the border into Israel. The Eritrean refugees work menial jobs for bare subsistence, and are too scared to go to a real clinic or hospital for help, fearing deportation or detention.

Waking Lions outlines the serious problems facing refugees, the ongoing criminal activity in areas such as Beersheva, and the ethnic tensions between African migrants, Bedouins, and Israelis. Moreover, Waking Lions is the exploration of personal ethics — how does a “good” man like Eitan justify the choices he makes? On top of this, as we view events from multiple points of view, it becomes clear that the cultural divides here are so vast that it’s simply impossible for any one person to  understand the thoughts and desires of any other.

While Waking Lions was a compelling read and offered plenty of food for thought and discussion, it was at times frustrating as well. The language often feels over-written, with long passages about inner thought processes that seem to meander and engage a bit too much in navel-gazing. (I have to wonder whether some parts of this book worked better in the original Hebrew.) Eitan in particular, as well as other characters, makes choices that seem utterly senseless, and I often felt that a desire for a dramatic plot was pushing the author to have characters act in unbelievable ways or to makes decisions that defy logic.

On a reading note, I’ll add that my husband and I ended up reading this book at the same time, and had many long discussions about the characters and their actions along the way. In some ways, our discussions were the best part of reading this book, so it could make for a terrific book group choice!

I enjoyed Waking Lions, but did feel that the lengthier moments of introspection weakened the storytelling, and couldn’t help shaking my head over some of the more ridiculous developments. Still, the book provides an eye-opening view into a little-covered element of life in Israel, and posed some interesting dilemmas about right and wrong — and whether right and wrong are absolutes or subject to social interpretation.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Waking Lions
Author: Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Publication date: February 28, 2017
Note: Original Hebrew edition published 2014
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Source: Published

Save

Save

Save

Save

The mountains are calling and I must go

Ha, look at me quoting John Muir.

So in case my absence has worried anyone, fear not! I’m away from home for 8 days, traveling around Montana and visiting Glacier National Park. Here’s a taste of where I was today:

The hubby and I did a couple of short-ish hikes, saw waterfalls, lakes, and mountains, and are now resting our weary feet… so we can go out and do it again tomorrow!

So… in terms of my blogging schedule — well, I have none. I’m not particularly planning to do much of anything while traveling. Heck, I don’t even have cell service where we are right now.

Thanks goodness for decent wifi though — thanks to which I was able to watch the Game of Thrones premiere last night. Wooooo.

Oh, and fun trail encounter: I’ve had this t-shirt for years:

Back home in San Francisco, I’ll occasionally get comments from fellow geeky Firefly fans. But today, two different people I ran into on the trail said they liked my shirt because of the Chinese lettering. I never knew what it said (or if, in fact, it meant anything at all), but now I know that it means “never give up” — which was pretty perfect considering how hard I was breathing on my way up that hill.

Besides the great outdoors, I’m enjoying my Kindle and have read two books so far. I’m sure I’ll post a wrap-up recap of my vacation reading when I get home.

Meanwhile, the mountains are calling me again, and I must go.

Ta-ta for now. See you next week!

The Monday Check-In ~ 7/10/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Well, the kiddo is off to camp for almost three weeks. Dropping him at the bus for camp has become a yearly ritual… and now I get to look forward to some grown-up vacation time too.

Meanwhile, my big adventure this past weekend was putting together some new shelves — because there’s no such thing as too many bookshelves, am I right? I bought a pair of spine tower shelves for my book nook, and I think they’re adorable.

And now I get to fill them up!

What did I read last week?

It’s been a SLOW reading week. Work, family, and TV conspired to take up all of my time!

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby: DNFd at 15%. The premise sounded cute, but the story felt like it was going nowhere and the main character had no substance. And not that this should matter, but the ARC formatting was bad enough that it made me not want to put anymore effort into what was feeling like a mediocre read. So I moved on.

Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw: An entertaining, quick-moving story of a doctor who specializes in treating the supernatural set of contemporary London, healing vampires, mummies, ghouls, and more. A few pacing problems and lack of character development get in the way of what should have been a much more enjoyable read. If I have time, I’ll write up a proper review in the next few days.

I also kept on my with latest obsession:

Pop culture goodness:

I FINISHED WATCHING THE WALKING DEAD! I’ve now watched all seven seasons… which means I now have to sit around and wait for season 8 (coming in October), just like everyone else. Binges are fun, but it kind of sucks when you’re done!

I suppose I can start Fear the Walking Dead while I’m waiting, but it just won’t be the same without my favorite characters.

Fresh Catch:

I went to a book event for Al Franken, and he was awesome! The event ticket price included the book, so now I have a shiny new hardcover to put on my pretty shelves.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

Finders Keepers by Stephen King: The 2nd book in the Bill Hodges trilogy. Loving it so far.

Now playing via audiobook:

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris: I’m still really enjoying this one. Perfect for word geeks everywhere!

Ongoing reads:

My book group’s next classic read, Ivanhoe, starts in August. Meanwhile, I have no long-term reading commitments at the moment, and it’s kind of nice.

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Monday Check-In ~ 7/3/2017

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Happy (almost) 4th of July! It’s time to break out the 1776 DVD, blast the Hamilton soundtrack, and revel in some fireworks!

 

What did I read last week?

Coming Up For Air by Miranda Kenneally: I always love this author’s books about strong, down-to-earth, athletic young women and their choices and challenges. This one is another winner. My review is here.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli: Sweet, funny, light, and fluffy. A totally enjoyable summer read for fans of YA — kind of predictable, but with cute, well-intentioned characters you can’t help rooting for.

In audiobooks, I finished the delightful Arabella by Georgette Heyer. My review is here.

Also…

I read the new Diana Gabaldon stories, and wrote abut them here.

And continued the graphic novel binge that matches my TV obsession:

See below. Obsessed…

Elsewhere on the blog:

I’m easing off my my normal blogging schedule for the time being. See my post about summertime slacking.

Pop culture goodness:

After contemplating walking away after an unusually upbeat moment and simply pretending that they all lived happily ever after (see my thoughts about this here), I finished season 6 of The Walking Dead — where I meant to stop for the time being until season 7 became available on Netflix.

HOWEVER…

The season 6 finale cliffhanger was too much for me to bear, so I ended up watching the first episode of season 7 on cable last night close to midnight. What a mistake! I spent the entire episode peeking out from between my fingers and ended up a teary, sobbing mess. Which is crazy, considering that spoilers for this episode in particular were unavoidable and I knew before I even started my binge what was going to happen. Still, this episode destroyed me and ruined any chance of a good night’s sleep… and needless to say, I must see what comes next, so my binge continues for another week.

PS – That’s the season 6 promotional photo above. I couldn’t bring myself to use a season 7 image. Oh my god, I’m such a baby.

Fresh Catch:

A NEW DIANA GABALDON BOOK!

I read the new stories in this collection the day it arrived — see above for the link to my post of initial thoughts.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby: I’m just starting, and it seems like it could be a charming story, but I may end up abandoning it if the ARC formatting doesn’t improve.

Now playing via audiobook:

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris: Read by the author, this audiobook is a word-geek treat — a guide to grammar, spelling, word usage and more by a life-long editor at the New Yorker, and it’s just so much fun.

Ongoing reads:

My book group’s next classic read, Ivanhoe, starts in August. Meanwhile, I have no long-term reading commitments at the moment, and it’s kind of nice.

So many books, so little time…

boy1Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Three new stories by Diana Gabaldon

Well, June was quite a month for fans of Diana Gabaldon, who has graced us with with not one, not two, but three new stories! Actually, that should probably be 2 1/2, since the 3rd is coauthored. No matter! We fans will take what we can get.

Most excitingly, for Outlander readers, is the publication of Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, a collection of stories set in the Outlander-verse. Five stories have been published previously in anthologies and as stand-alones:

  • The Custom of the Army (a Lord John story)
  • The Space Between (about Fraser relations, Master Raymond, and the infamous Comte St. Germain)
  • A Plague of Zombies (more Lord John)
  • A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (about Roger’s parents during WWII)
  • Virgins (about Jamie and Ian as young, virginal mercenaries in France, prior to the events of Outlander)

Having read all of these previously*, I’ll just focus on the two new pieces from Seven Stones:

A Fugitive Green: A 100+ page novella about Hal and Minnie — that would be Lord John’s distinguished older brother Harold, Duke of Pardloe, and his beloved wife Minnie. This is their origin story, of sorts. In A Fugitive Green, we get the tale of how Minnie, the daughter of a spymaster and book dealer, met and ended up married to a young, newly widowed British officer on the verge of utter disgrace. Minnie is sent by her father from Paris to London to carry out some book deals as well as some espionage, with the ulterior motive of getting her a rich and well-placed husband along the way. Meanwhile, Hal is dealing with the aftermath of a scandalous duel and his wife’s death, and Hal’s best friend is busy trying to get Hal cleared of any guilt related to the duel. When Minnie and Hal meet, sparks fly. We’ve certainly seen both of these characters as adults and gotten a taste of their fiery marriage, and their unusual meeting and marriage has been spoken of, but here we see it first-hand (and yes, the famous hearth rug too.) It’s all quite delicious, and I enjoyed seeing Hal in his 20s, with a certain amount of romance and vulnerability that his older, more hardened self rarely (if ever) displays. Hal has become a favorite of mine over the course of the main Outlander series as well as in the assortment of Lord John novels and novellas, and I appreciated getting this new view of Hal and Minnie and the start of their relationship.

 

Besieged: In which Lord John, wrapping up his governorship of Jamaica, is informed last minute that not only is his mother Benedicta unexpectedly in Havana, but that the British fleet is about to invade Cuba. What’s a devoted son to do but sail off with his trusted valet Tom Byrd and rush to the rescue? I’ll be honest — despite my love for John and my joy at another adventure with Tom Byrd, this story left me cold. It was mostly people (well, John) rushing from place to place, lots of military talk, and not a whole lot of character depth. The action felt a bit mind-numbing after a while — haciendas and forts and rushing around — and I just didn’t enjoy it. Sure, it’s wonderful to spend time with John, but I would have liked to see him interact more with his mother and Tom rather than being caught up in an action story the whole time. There’s also a very sad development, if you’ve read the Lord John novels and are familiar with John’s extended family, but other than that, I actually found Besieged rather skippable.

 

And finally, a Gabaldon story that’s only kind of a Gabaldon story. In the new anthology MatchUp, bestselling authors are paired up — one male, one female — to create stories together featuring some of their well-known characters. For those who are into these type of stories (crime thrillers), I’m sure there’s lots to enjoy from authors such as Sandra Brown, Charlaine Harris, etc etc etc. For me, I picked up MatchUp at the library strictly for the sake of Herself.

In MatchUp, Diana Gabaldon is paired up with Steve Berry, and together they’ve written a story — Past Prologue — centered around Berry’s lead character, Cotton Malone. In Past Prologue, Malone is in Scotland (to be clear, that’s modern-day, 21st century Scotland) for a private book sale. When he wanders away from Ardsmuir for a walk across the moors, he finds himself at a stone circle… and then, poof! finds himself in the year 1755. And for those who know their Outlander history, that means that Ardsmuir is a prison housing Scottish rebels, among them a tall red-haired man who stands out in a crowd. Malone ends up meeting the one and only Jamie Fraser (pausing here for hearts to melt). The plot of the story isn’t that important, but the Jamie moments are a lovely little treat, with a lot of heartbreak squeezed into one small conversation.

Past Prologue isn’t essential to the Outlander canon, but for fans, it’s a fun way to get a glimpse of familiar characters and settings. Not a bad way to pass the time!

 

*If you’re an Outlander reader but haven’t yet read the five already-published stories, I’ll just say that my two favorites are A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows and Virgins.

**Further note: As always, I’ll mention that the audiobooks are a great option for enjoying the Gabaldon novellas. Jeff Woodman is particularly wonderful narrating anything related to Lord John, and I really enjoyed the Virgins audiobook as well.

***I’ve written about a few of the these stories/novellas in other posts. Check them out:
A Trail of Fire
Virgins

Save

Save

Save

Dramatic plot vs. happily-ever-after: The perils of emotional investment

Fear. Anxiety. Dread.

And it’s all the fault of fictional characters.

I have a tendency to binge when I get into something new, TV or books, and then — oh my stars — it’s so hard to separate. Because what happens when you fall in love with characters, but then have to witness them going through hell? All I want to do is scoop them up and keep them safe, but that’s not the way good stories work.

Clearly, I have a problem.

Take my newest obsession, The Walking Dead. Yes, I am super late to the party, but thanks to finally getting Netflix (again, super late to the party), I’ve been indulging. I started The Walking Dead, season 1 episode 1, in mid-May, and apart from a couple of weeks while I was out of town, have been watching the series straight through. So here I am, a month and a half later, slightly past the middle of season 6, and while I can’t wait to see what happens next, part of me wants to just walk away.

[SPOILERS AHEAD! FOR EPISODES THAT AIRED OVER A YEAR AGO, BUT STILL — SPOILERS!]

I’m at a place in the story where, as usual, the characters’ lives were hanging by a thread. Their supposedly safe haven, where they can finally build a life for themselves and plan for the future, has been overrun by hordes of the undead. All seems doomed, but finally, there’s this totally awesome battle scene (truly, a thing of beauty), and the good guys win! What follows is one of the most chill episodes ever, taking place a few weeks later, where everyone is safe again, rebuilding, relaxing, and starting to make things better.

Guys, they’re smiling! Rick and Daryl are out on a supply run and it’s actually funny! There’s even a sexy, romantic scene! (No, not Rick and Daryl.)

Man, I’m loving this show. I adore Rick Grimes. I want to cuddle Daryl Dixon (after a good bath, maybe). Carl is the cutest. Michonne is a total bad-ass with a heart of gold. And this is where my over-investment comes into play.

Because part of me wants to turn off the TV, pretend that’s the last episode, and walk away. Because then THEY’D ALL LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. And I wouldn’t have to watch all these people I love get tortured again and again. No going hungry. No machete-ing walkers through the brain. No fighting off evil human attackers.

Imagine the possibilities, though, if everyone got to stay happy. The Walking Dead could become a sitcom, with charming little conflicts — uh oh! Craziness ensues when Carol’s favorite knife goes missing! Little Judith’s first word is “walker”, and it’s adorable! Abraham runs a fitness class, and Eugene is his best student! And don’t get me started on Rick Grimes and all the possibilities for him as the cool dad whose teenage son has an attitude.

Anyway…

This can’t be, obviously. Dramatic tension is necessary for good storytelling. If everyone on The Walking Dead remained safe in Alexandria behind secure walls, with enough food and medical equipment to lead healthy, safe lives, the story would be over. It’s wonderful for the characters, of course, but there would be nothing further to keep the show going.

Likewise in books. Let’s take my favorite series, Outlander (duh). These characters never get a break. Yes, there are plenty of happy moments, and plenty of swoonworthy scenes of Claire and Jamie basking in each others’ arms after a blissful night of lovemaking… but things just never go well for long. These folks are in the middle of a war, always. There’s always some bad guy or another lurking around the corner, ready to kidnap, shoot at, plot against, or otherwise cause harm to our beloved characters.

[SPOILER AHEAD — MILD — FOR OUTLANDER SERIES]

Book #7 in the series, An Echo in the Bone, ends with not just one, but 4 or 5 major cliffhangers. The agony of waiting years for the next book while pretty much everyone is in jeopardy! Flash forward a few years to Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (book #8), and after 145 chapters, everyone we care about ends up in a pretty good place. Yes, there are some small questions left unanswered but (spoiler) Jamie and Claire and Brianna and Roger and Ian and Rachel and, well, everyone, are safe and happy and together!

Part of me wanted to just say to Diana Gabaldon — okay, great! Stop now! Let these people live out the rest of their days in the peace and comfort and love they all deserve!

But no. I need and want and crave more of the story, and book #9 is in the works… and what would an Outlander book be if everyone was safe and happy all the time? So while I can’t wait for a publication date to finally be announced, I’m also dreading diving back in and finding out what hideous new dangers await my beloved Claire and Jamie and the rest of their family up on Fraser’s Ridge.

So, am I crazy for wanting my favorite characters — TV or books — to just get a chance to be happy?

We all love happily-ever-afters, right? But they just don’t make for great storytelling. There’s a reason most fairy tales don’t continue past the HEA. We can be happy for people who find happiness, but stories are driven by tension, suspense, conflict, and crisis. If there’s no obstacle to overcome and everybody just enjoys mundane daily lives, what more do we need to know?

Sigh.

I know that great drama demands all of the above. As for The Walking Dead — well, hell yes, I’m going to keep going. And I’ve stumbled across enough spoilers before I started watching the show to know that VERY BAD things are coming soon for characters I care about, and I’m going to end up heartbroken once again.

In the choice between walking away at a happy moment or continuing with a story I love despite the unhappiness to come, there’s no question — I’ll always choose to continue.

But isn’t it nice to daydream about a life in which Carl Grimes’s greatest worry is about impressing a girl, and not fighting for survival while covered in zombie guts?

Audiobook Review: Arabella by Georgette Heyer


To Arabella Tallant, the eldest daughter of a penniless country clergyman, the invitation to stay with her London godmother was like the key to heaven, for in addition to living in the glamorous city, Arabella might even find a suitable husband there. Armed with beauty, virtue and a benevolent godmother, the impetuous but impoverished Arabella embarked on her first London season with her mother’s wish in mind: snare a rich husband.

Impetuosity is Arabella’s only fault. When fate cast her in the path of arrogant, socially prominent Robert Beaumaris, who accused her of being another petty female after his wealth, the proud, headstrong ingenue made a most startling claim — she was an heiress! Suddenly Arabella found herself the talk of the town and pursued by every amorous fortune hunter in London and some of the most eligible young men of the day.

But only one caught Arabella’s fancy: Mr Beaumaris, the handsome and dedicated bachelor. She should know better than to allow herself to be provoked by nonpareil Beau. That gentleman, however, although a most artful matrimonial dodger, badly underestimated his seemingly naive adversary… But would her deceitful charade destroy her one chance for true love…?

I think Georgette Heyer will now be my go-to author for when I need something to lighten the mood. Because Arabella is absolutely delightful, and listening to the audiobook was the perfect antidote for a major, crabby funk.

Arabella has a wonderfully rom-com feel to it. Arabella overhears Mr. Beaumaris making a snide remark about girls looking for money coming up with excuses to cross paths with him, and she is so offended that she’s being lumped in with fortune-hunters (when it was really a carriage mishap that brought her to his doorstep) that she impetuously declares herself to be “the” Miss Tallant — you know, the fabulously rich Miss Tallant. Oh my.

Before she knows it, Arabella is the center of the London season, as every son of distinguished but cash-poor family seems to suddenly be in love with the dear girl. She’s turning down marriage proposals left and right, and meanwhile feels increasingly guilty that her spur-of-the-moment lie has become the accepted truth. So how can she ever say yes to a proposal knowing she does so under false pretenses? And given the butterflies she’s feeling over Mr. Beaumaris, how can she force herself to confess the truth to him and lose his respect and affection?

What a tangled web we weave…

The story may be a trifle predictable — yes, we all know where this love story will end up — but it’s such fun to see how we get there. Mr. Beaumaris is the epitome of fashionable society. All the young men hoping for society standing copy his style, his manners, even his sardonic little tweaks to propriety (for example, after he wears a dandelion in his buttonhole, suddenly all the young men flood London florists with demands for dandelions). He’s known in town as “the nonpareil”, and his presence at any gathering automatically lends it cachet. It’s entertaining to watch people fall all over themselves to interact with Mr. Beaumaris, and the reader (listener) catches on long before Arabella does that he’s both fond of her and is onto her little secret.

There’s a dark cloud in Arabella, as Arabella’s younger brother comes to London as well and tries to live the high life. As he indulges in high fashion, parties, gambling, and gaming houses, he falls into such extreme debt that he sees either death or enlistment as his only options. This is a light-hearted novel, so obviously things work out (I won’t say how), but it’s touch and go for a while there, and I honestly worried about him.

I occasionally had a little twinge of discomfort about Arabella’s relationship with Mr. Beaumaris. She’s seventeen, and he’s a very sophisticated and polished thirty. Not an unimaginable age difference, but there are times where it seems that what he loves about her most is her innocent youth and naivete, and there were a few times where it teetered on the edge of creeper-ness for me.

Now I’m making it sound weird, and it’s really not. Overall, I found Arabella utterly charming, and loved the main character as well as the depictions of all the silly upper class foolery that makes up high society and the London season.

As for the audiobook, it’s a wonderful listen. Narrator Phyllida Nash nails Arabella’s innocence and enthusiasm, as well as Mr. Beaumaris’s haughtiness and dry humor. The only two difficulties with listening to the audiobook are 1) the author uses a lot of terminology related to society matters, fashion, types of carriages, and so on, many of which I wasn’t familiar with — but it’s hard to stop to figure out while listening to an audiobook (especially when said listening is happening while driving a car), and 2) at some point the pace got frustrating for me. Arabella isn’t exactly a suspense novel, but as Arabella gets more and more snared by her made-up story and torn between her feelings for Mr. Beaumaris, her urgent need to help her brother, and her wish for honesty, I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened next — but I had to, since my listening time was parceled out between my drives to and from work.

Arabella would be a great point of entry for anyone considering giving Georgette Heyer a try for the first time, and it’s certain to please anyone who’s already enjoyed some of her books. As for me, I will definitely seek out more Georgette Heyer novels, especially when I find myself in need of a bit of cheering up.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: Arabella
Author: Georgette Heyer
Narrator: Phyllida Nash
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication date: Originally published 1949
Length (print): 312 pages
Length (audiobook): 10 hours, 43 minutes
Genre: Regency romance
Source: Purchased

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Summertime slacking

Summertime, and the living is easy… or so I’ve heard.

And although I’m not lazing away my summer days on tropical beaches, I am trying to do a bit of relaxing and refreshing. Between my time away in early June for family matters, work craziness, and lots of upcoming projects and planning, I find myself in desperate need of more down time.

And so…

I’m planning to slack off a bit and cut back on my blogging commitments. Specifically, I’m putting the two memes I host each week, Shelf Control and Thursday Quotables, on a bit of a break. Have no fear — they shall return! Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to reading whatever I feel like, posting on my blog according to my whims, and living commitment-free for a couple of months…

Okay, not exactly commitment-free. I still have a job and a family, places to go and people to see. But for July and August, I’m letting myself off the hook in terms of the need to stick to a weekly posting schedule.

Aaaaah. I can practically feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair!

Welcome back, glorious summer!