TBR Review: A Regency Christmas II by Putney, Mills, Balogh, Kelly & Walsh

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A Regency Christmas II
Five Stories by Mary Jo Putney, Anita Mills, Mary Balogh, Carla Kelly, Sheila Walsh
Series: None
Genre: Historical Romance (Christmas)
Published by Signet, 1990
Paperback, purchased
347 pages
Overall grade: B
Synopsis: This warm and delightful collection brings together five all-new stories of Christmas by some of the most beloved and highly acclaimed Regency authors. Written especially for the new edition, these delightful tales capture the spirit of Christmas ritual and tradition, its hopes and heartbreaks, its joys and passions. These are stories that reflect happy reunions and homecomings, the fun and festivities, the pleasures of giving, and, of course, the love and goodwill that make life so special and comprise the true message of the holiday season. Here is a beautiful gift that touches the heart — a gift to be cherished now and all year ’round.

………………………….

“Sunshine for Christmas” by Mary Jo Putney
Grade: B

He had also admired the handsome Neapolitan women, had even been tempted by one or two of the sloe-eyed streetwalkers. But he did not succumb to temptation, for the price might be too high: it was said that the prostitutes of Naples often gave men souvenirs that could be neither forgotten nor forgiven.

  • Two lonely people, Naples and Christmas create a sweet story.
  • Lord Randolph Lennox travels to Naples, Italy in search of sunshine and respite from loneliness. He meets a fellow Brit–Miss Elizabeth Walker, a governess working in Italy.

“Playing House” by Mary Balogh
Grade: B

There were candles and evergreen branches and the Nativity scene before the altar. And the church bells before the service, and the organ and the singing during it, and the Christmas readings. And the sermon. And the church packed with neighbors and friends and family. There were love and joy and peace.

It was Christmas.

Christmas as it always was–and never would be again.

  • I read this story a few years ago.
  • I like the characters in the story.
  • Lilias, a little too proud for her own good, and the Marquess of Bedford, cynical and angry.
  • I do enjoy the three children in the story–Lilias’ sister and brother, Megan and Andrew–and Bedford’s daughter, Dora. Megan and Andrew are a little too perfect, but it’s Christmas so I don’t mind. Dora is often portrayed as petulant which gets a little old, but at least she isn’t perfect!
  • Mary Balogh does a good job showing an English country Christmas–and that it’s not the same as the Christmases the Marquess of Bedford thinks he remembers!

“The Three Kings” by Carla Kelly
Grade: A-

Dink passed a hand in front of his eyes. “Can’t believe how easy it is to forget the social graces in this scummy country. Luis Sotomayor, and there’s more, of course,” he whispered back. “how these garlic-eaters tack on name after name and then use the middle one baffles me.”

“Alargosa de Menem,” said the voice through the fire, not even raising his chin from his chest. “And it is not a scummy country, my lord. Devil take you Englishmen.”

  • My favorite story in the collection.
  • Takes place in Spain during the Napoleonic War. Illustrates the horror of war.
  • The Spanish Colonel is an interesting character–practical, pragmatic and sympathetic.
  • I like the details Ms. Kelly adds about the customs in Spain surrounding Christmas and the way she’s able to weave it into the story.

“The Last Wish” by Anita Mills
Grade: B-

“What an uncommonly sensible female you are, my dear.”

“I hope so. Good night, sir,” she repeated firmly.

After she left, he finished his brandy. One hundred pounds per year. He spent more that for his gloves, for almost everything, in fact. One hundred pounds per year. It made him wonder if perhaps in his own way he were not as useless a fellow as George….

  • A cute little girl and her impoverished aunt, a dying grandfather, three nephews gathered at the old man’s deathbed and it’s almost Christmas.
  • Story lacks some content and has some improbable character changes, but all-in-all a nice story.

“The Christmas Star” by Sheila Walsh
Grade: B-

“Oh, governesses don’t count,” Philip averred offhandedly, and did not notice how quiet Louise had become.

A companion is not so demeaning as a governess, she thought, swallowing a rather horrid lump in her throat. But there were times when she seemed to be in a kind of limbo–caught between upstairs and downstairs, not quite knowing her place.

  • A Russian Prince, a young woman from an impoverished family, a frightened new mother with her baby all come together in this story.
  • It’s a cute story, but very unrealistic. I didn’t really understand why the Prince fell in love with Louise. But it’s Christmas so I give it a break!

And a few thoughts . . .

  • These are Christmas stories so I don’t read them very critically. I mostly just enjoy them–especially historical romances.
  • I read this book as part of the Ho-Ho-Ho Read-a-Thon, but also as part of the TBR Challenge. Each month we post a TBR review on the third Wednesday of the month. This month we were challenged to read a historical romance. I have had this book for a number of years. I found it at a used bookstore and the pages are quite brittle and the cover is starting to come apart.
  • Anita Mills is a new author to me as is Sheila Walsh so I’ll be adding them to my New Author Challenge.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Review: The Escape by Mary Balogh

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The Escape
by Mary Balogh
Series: The Survivors’ Club, Book 3
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by Dell, 2014
E-book, Purchased
394 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: In this poignant novel of longing and salvation, a hopeful widow and a resilient war hero discover the promise of love’s magic and new beginnings.

After surviving the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Benedict Harper is struggling to move on, his body and spirit in need of a healing touch. Never does Ben imagine that hope will come in the form of a beautiful woman who has seen her own share of suffering. After the lingering death of her husband, Samantha McKay is at the mercy of her oppressive in-laws – until she plots an escape to distant Wales to claim a house she has inherited. Being a gentleman, Ben insists that he escort her on the fateful journey.

Ben wants Samantha as much as she wants him, but he is cautious. What can a wounded soul offer any woman? Samantha is ready to go where fate takes her, to leave behind polite society and even propriety in her desire for this handsome, honorable soldier. But dare she offer her bruised heart as well as her body? The answers to both their questions may be found in an unlikely place: in each other’s arms.

Includes Mary Balogh’s charming short story “The Suitor.”

And was that what his problem was? That wherever he went, he had to take himself with him? Was it in denial of that fact that he had decided to travel? The eternal quest to escape from himself, from the body that slowed him down, made him grotesque and ungainly, and stopped him from living the life he wanted to live?

and

It might have amused Samantha that Sunday service had become the big outing and social event of her week, if it had not also been so pathetic.

Cheers

  • I like Mary Balogh’s writing very much.
  • The setting in Wales sounds wonderful. (I want to visit Wales!)
  • I like all the characters in the series so much and it’s nice to catch glimpses of them in each book.
  • Ben is an inspiring character. He refuses to give up and he refuses to feel sorry for himself. However, he’s also not sure what to do with his life. He always thought he’d be a military officer and now that that’s impossible he’s lost his way.
  • Both Samantha and Ben must make a journey both to Wales and to decide who they really are and where their lives are going.
  • Ben is completely different from Samantha’s deceased husband who never tried to do anything for himself and insisted Samantha wait on him all the time.
  • The whole Survivors’ series deals with the effects of war on the survivors. Sometimes there are physical injuries, sometimes psychological injuries and sometimes both.
  • The way Ben and Samantha meet is pretty funny. Neither of them reacts well and they don’t want to see each other again, but Ben knows he needs to see her to apologize. They gradually see each other more as Samantha becomes friends with Ben’s sister.
  • The way Ben and Samantha fall in love is wonderful. I really feel they are in love and will stay in love.

Jeers

  • No jeers!

And a few thoughts . . .

The Escape
The Escape
  • I like Mary Balogh’s writing very much. She does a great jobs Making her characters unique. I always feel like I know them when I’m finished with her books.
  • I didn’t read The Suitor so I can’t comment on that story.
  • The above cover is apparently the cover of the Kindle edition (according to Goodreads). I like it much better than the cover I saw when I bought my Kindle book. (However, it does look a little too modern for me.)
  • The next book in this series–Only Enchanting–is due to come out at the end of October 2014. It is Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby’s story. I can’t wait!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Review: The Arrangement by Mary Balogh

arrangementThe Arrangement
by Mary Balogh
Series: The Survivors Club series, #2
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by Dell, 2013
e-book, purchased
400 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Desperate to escape his mother’s matchmaking, Vincent Hunt, Viscount Darleigh, flees to a remote country village. But even there, another marital trap is sprung. So when Miss Sophia Fry’s intervention on his behalf finds her unceremoniously booted from her guardian’s home, Vincent is compelled to act. He may have been blinded in battle, but he can see a solution to both their problems: marriage.

At first, quiet, unassuming Sophia rejects Vincent’s proposal. But when such a gloriously handsome man persuades her that he needs a wife of his own choosing as much as she needs protection from destitution, she agrees. Her alternative is too dreadful to contemplate. But how can an all-consuming fire burn from such a cold arrangement? As friendship and camaraderie lead to sweet seduction and erotic pleasure, dare they believe a bargain born of desperation might lead them both to a love destined to be?

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‘But how devoid of music our lives would be,’ he said, ‘if we allowed the making of it only to those of outstanding talent. Sing while I play.’

What I like about this book:

  • The two main characters–Vincent and Sophia (Sophie)–are interesting, flawed and damaged characters. They grow and change because of each other.
  • The marriage is a real marriage.
  • I thought the “arrangement” was an arranged marriage, but it’s not. They make an arrangement with each other before they get married.
  • Mary Balogh does a good job portraying a blind person–the feelings of panic he still sometimes has, his vulnerability, the early days when he was both deaf and blind, his desire for touch, the desire of his family to protect him, his desire for independence,
  • His family loves him, but also smothers him with their love and concern for his safety. He’s not an independent person when the book begins and he’s chafing at the dependence he let his family create.romance
  • Sophie is such a giving person with a great sense of humor. She has a great imagination and is able to put herself in Vincent’s shoes so she’s able to empathize and come up with ways to make him more independent.
  • Vincent realizes what’s important: Sophie’s fierce loyalty to him (not how she looks to others); that he and Sophie can trust each other; his loyalty to Sophie.
  • Vincent doesn’t regain his sight. I was afraid there would be a miraculous return of his sight.
  • Mary Balogh is very good at portraying loving families.

What I don’t like:

  • I thought the “arrangement” and accompanying unhappiness went on for too long.

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My thoughts: 

I think I liked the first book in this series–The Proposal–a little better (but not by much!), but I do like Mary Balogh’s writing. She’s very adept at portraying well-rounded, flawed characters who can grow and change, loving but stifling families and a great love story. And Vincent and Sophie are a great couple!

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Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Review: The Proposal by Mary Balogh

When I started this blog I wanted to write fairly short reviews…that’s why it’s called “Notes…lol. Anyway, I read a blog post at the On Starships and Dragonwings blog about doing list reviews so I’m going to try that with this review and see how it goes! I’m going to call it a bullet point review.

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The Proposal
by Mary Balogh
Series: The Survivors’ Club, book 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by Dell, 2013
E-book, Library
384 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Gwendoline, Lady Muir, has seen her share of tragedy. Content in a quiet life with friends and family, the young widow has no desire to marry again. But when Hugo, Lord Trentham, scoops her up in his arms after a fall, she feels a sensation that both shocks and emboldens her. Hugo is a gentleman in name only: a war hero whose bravery earned him a title, a merchant’s son who inherited his wealth. He is happiest when working the land, but duty and title now demand that he finds a wife. Hugo doesn’t wish to court Gwen, yet he cannot resist her guileless manner, infectious laugh, and lovely face. He wants her, but will she have him? The dour ex-military officer who so gallantly carried Gwen to safety is a man who needs a lesson in winning a woman’s heart. But through courtship and seduction, Gwen soon finds that with each kiss, and with every caress, Hugo captivates her more—with his desire, with his love, and with the promise of forever.

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Mary Balogh’s books are pretty much auto-buys for me (although I did get this as an e-book at my library)! This is the first book in a seven book series and the next book comes out at the end of this month. All the characters in the series…most of whom were soldiers…are wounded in some way. In this first book Hugo was psychologically wounded by his guilt for having survived without a scratch when so many of his men were wounded or killed.

What I liked about this book:

  • Gwendolyne, Lady Muir–I’ve read about her in a couple of other books–One Night for Love and A Summer to Remember–though I read those books several years ago. I meant to reread them which I forgot to do 😦
  • Hugo was awarded his title for leading “a forlorn hope” which is an actual phrase. I found it on Wikipedia, but there are also other sources. One meaning (and the meaning used in this book) is a band of soldiers–usually volunteers–chosen to take the lead in a military operation against a defended position where the risk of casualties is very high.
  • Both main characters resent the other for waking them from their inner turmoil (Gwen’s first husband died, she’s felt guilty about his death and never wanted to remarry); Hugo carries guilt both for the soldiers who were wounded or died during the forlorn hope and for his father’s death).
  • The humor in the book…that Gwen can laugh at herself and also find humor in Hugo’s proposal.
  • Hugo and Gwen both have to change in different ways to come to terms with their love for each other because even though they are in love there are real obstacles to their love.
  • Gwen realizes Hugo has made all the concessions in their relationship…entering her world, but she hasn’t entered his world.
  • Gwen is finally able to see below the surface of Hugo’s dour expressions and attitude.
  • Hugo is willing to change his mind about people–Gwen, his stepmother, his sister–when he realizes he’s made mistakes about who they really are.
  • I really do like both Hugo and Gwen. Hugo was the harder sell, but beneath his dour exterior is a very sensitive and caring man.

What I didn’t like:

  • Hugo’s attitude toward Gwen and other members of the aristocracy even though his friends in the Survivors’ Club are part of the aristocracy. Hugo inherited his wealth from his father (a merchant), but was awarded his title for his bravery in war.
  • Hugo is determined to marry someone from his own class and almost reaches the point of no-return with a woman who’s terrified of him and doesn’t love him.
  • The fact I didn’t read the other books Gwen was in I couldn’t remember much about her (but that’s my fault not Mary Balogh’s!)

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I hope you can tell I had very few quibbles with this book. I’m looking forward to the next one which is about Vincent who was blinded in the war. I’ve heard from a few people who’ve gotten advance copies of it that they like it better than The Proposal so that’s exciting!

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I’m going to use a list here, too…lol

  • What do you think about this method of reviewing?
  • I think I like it. It really makes me focus on what I did and didn’t like.
  • It was much faster to write this review.
  • I’m going to try it on a few more books before I decide for sure whether to adopt it for all my book reviews.
  • Do you as a reader of the review feel it tells you enough about this book to decide whether you want to read it?
  • Does it tell you too much about the book?
  • If you’ve read my paragraph style reviews which do you like better?