Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rules of Murder Review

Rules of MurderRules of Murder 

Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.
Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game.

My Review: 4/10
To be fair, I think Ms. Deering captured the breezy attitudes of the time very well. It is not her fault that they grate on me. If I had found Drew's manner charming as intended instead of cocky and shallow and slimy, the book probably would have gotten a higher rating. But unfortunately, if you can't stand the main character, it's probably not going to end well.

Despite trying to give him depth, the constant careless, insincere banter really turned me off.

I thought the romance was kind of ridiculous and unbelievable. Perhaps as a fling, nothing more. Their instant mutual attraction and declarations of love built on nothing was reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet. This is not a compliment; while heralded as the greatest romance of all time, those who of us who recognize it for what it really was (a tragedy), place blame where it is due: on the immature, selfish and unstable lovers. But I digress.

The plot was built well enough, I suppose. Except the end when the villain completely broke character for the sake of explaining any and all loose ends (and there were quite a few). The reader is constantly told, in addition to or instead of being shown, and is never really left to make their own conclusions.

Edenbrooke Review

Edenbrooke: A Proper RomanceEdenbrooke: A Proper Romance

Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry.

From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will she be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.

My Review: 9/10

I really loved this book. The word that kept coming to mind was delightful. I was frequently laughing out loud and smiling to myself as I read. This is definitely one I will come back to again and again.

I loved the characters and imagery and the depth of the relationships. I loved the overall experience.

Now for the criticisms.

the first 90% of the book was just SO GOOD! But the last 10% fell apart for me. I thought it was way too over the top. The rescue was too coincidental, which just never sits well with me. I think, well if they were just one second to late -at any point- then it all would have been lost. The only way I can deal with dumb luck built on dumb luck (Clumpett happens to be in hearing range, tells people, her father and Philip happen to be in the country and happen to come across William and co. and they happen to stumble on the right inn) is if it's attributed to divine intervention. I felt Donaldson missed a great opportunity here.

The declarations of feelings were way too melodramatic and drawn out. And even worse, this book tumbles headfirst into the same misunderstand-makes-smart-characters-stupid pit that most of its kind fall in. I could understand the misunderstanding itself, but I didn't think her actions were in line with her personality; I felt that Marianne would have confronted Philip or continued to hope, especially when he continued to behave so encouragingly. Then the constant self denial in the face of almost everyone else's encouragement of his affection was too much to believe. I kept thinking, WWLBD (what would lizzie bennet do)? She would have hoped and aggressively sought out the truth. She would have been forthright and certainly combative if she felt she was being used or played with. She would have been real. I reject anything less.

Philip's declaration was too pretty, flowery and girly, not at all realistic.

The abduction itself should have been omitted. The nephew's character made me question the uncle, especially as it all started by his eavesdropping. Why was this never fleshed out?

The ending was too neatly wrapped up; while I love escaping in reading, I don't want a total suspension of reality, where suddenly characters betray their own interests and personalities to fit the resolution (grandmother, cecily, etc).

I know this is nitpicky, but at the beginning of the book, I thought the twirling was sweet, but by the end, I thought it was overemphasized and therefore too childish.

I thought this was a Christian historial romance. While I loved that morals and virtues were common themes and upheld well, I don't recall any direct reference to Jesus and faith. So I was a little disappointed there.

On the whole, I will forray into Edenbrooke again and again, but I will likely end right before the orchard abduction or at the end of chapter 22, before william comes home alone. This book was so good, and for a first novel, it gives me so much hope for what this author will create. Particularly because I actually read her second book, Blackmoore, first; I already know how much she improves from one book to the next.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Blackmoore Review

Blackmoore: A Proper Romance

Blackmoore: A Proper Romance

Kate Worthington knows her heart and she knows she will never marry. Her plan is to travel to India instead—if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured—and rejected—three marriage proposals.

Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore determined to fulfill her end of the bargain and enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. There on the wild lands of Blackmoore, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free?

Set in Northern England in 1820, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the story of a young woman struggling to learn how to follow her heart. It is Wuthering Heights meets Little Women with a delicious must-read twist.

My Review: 10/10

This is the kind of story I'm always hoping to stumble upon when I pick up a historical fiction novel. I thought the language, etiquette and characterization was flawless. I didn;t mind the flashbacks, as they were in chronological order and the author laced the story with enough intrigue that I was dying to unravel the mysteries of Kate as well.

Normally when a misunderstanding of the two main characters' feelings is what separates them, I can barely trudge through the story; it usually makes the characters behave unnaturally and stupidly. But this was done so well! Kate starts it by declaring she will never marry almost immediately after the tenor of their relationship begins to change. And she never elaborates, until the very end. Henry is engaged, defends his fiance and seems content. I found it totally believeable.

I thought the falling out with Sylvia was realistic as well. Kate's mother and sisters were appropriately cringeworthy- I felt every bit as desperate to get them away from Blackmoore as Kate did.

The plot was so well done. The way Kate backed herself into a corner in the heat of the moment was something I could see myself doing. And I so appreciated the way Sylvia spoke her mind and called Kate on the ugliness of her behavior; it was so well done, that I felt similar emotions of shock and shame, having missed the immortality of what she had agreed to as well. I couldn't believe it.

Miss St. Clair was the perfect opponent. Lovely, refined, etc. She reminded me of Caroline Bingley, except with more confidence (and good reason). Her condescension was subtle enough that she could get away with strategically placed barbs that would only make Kate look insecure and petty if she spoke up.

I loved the birds and music and other supporting characters. This was just so well done I could go on for ages.

Now, onto the criticisms:

I thought there was a little too much description in the first couple of chapters (there was hardly any dialogue and this was particularly troublesome right after the plot dropped.

I didn't think Kate worried enough early on about the possible ramifications of her hasty actions.

But my biggest problem was the us of Kate's "demon." I didn't think much of it when she was advised to play music to release (and essentially be rid of) her demons. But at the end of the book, it actually says, "and this time the demon told me to write." So now the demon is giving advice? And she follows it?! I thought this sent the totally wrong message, especially the context of love. I get that she was tormented, but I don't think anyone would advise following the guidance of your "demon" or tormentors. It was such a brief moment, but it was poignant for me. Not in a good way.

Anyway, the only other complaint that I have is how short the follow up was. It left too much unanswered and I craved more.

All in all, I loved this book.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.*