Sense and Sensibility (Book Review)

Sense and Sensibility (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
only the most sparkling dialogue will do

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Sense and Sensibility

By Jane Austen

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Two sisters with wildly different temprements fall in love with men they can’t have

This book contains some of Austen’s all-time best dialogue. So many double meanings, so much dramatic irony. I will say, though, that this novel gets off to a rather slow start. I’d forgotten how long it takes for things to really get rolling. But the story just keeps getting better and better as it flows along.

I’m a total sucker for strong theme, and this book has it—it’s right there in the title. Just like Pride and Prejudice. You’ve got two sisters who embody two extremes of temperament. Eleanor is all sense, and Marianne is all sensibility. Austen shows us the upsides and downsides of each, ultimately praising both in moderation.

In the BBC miniseries from the 2000s, there is a very cringey scene in which Brandon and Willoughby duel with pistols on a foggy morning. I always mocked this scene up and down, saying, “That never happened in the book.” But I was so dead wrong! When Brandon confides in Eleanor, he mentions in veiled language that a duel did take place. So, there you go. Duels do happen in Austen.

4.8
Frederica (Book Review)

Frederica (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you just want to keep reading Jane Austen over and over forever and ever

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Frederica

By Georgette Heyer

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

What happens when a selfish lord decides to help a poor family get a foothold in London society? Rrrrrrrromance! (Roll the “R.”)

This was delightful. Georgette Heyer is often described as the inventor of the regency romance genre when she started publishing novels like this one back in the ’20s. This book is like Jane Austen with antics, haha.

Frederica is determined to see her drop-dead gorgeous younger sister, Charis, have one London season. That’s all she needs to make a comfortable match with a gentleman. Since Frederica lost both her parents and has long been in charge of her younger siblings, it’s up to her to make this happen for Charis.

Frederica appeals to a distant cousin, Lord Alverstroke, who agrees to help her (at first) only to needle his bothersome sisters. But then, Alverstroke realizes that Frederica might just be his kind of gal. Romance ensues.

This book is CUTE. Clean romance. Regency period. Sparkling morals. Sweet to the bone. But, unlike Jane Austen, this isn’t all quiet action in parlor rooms and gardens and country estates. Here, we mix with people of all classes. We have adventures—barking dogs, hot air balloons, steamers!

The only critique I have (and it’s a small one) is that the writing can be clumsy to read at times. It’s not seamless. I found myself halting through some passages, especially those thick with period slang and colloquialisms. Also, Heyer uses exclamation marks with zero hesitation!!! Haha.

The next time I read a Heyer novel, I’d like to listen on audio. I bet that would be even better.

Side note: I can’t believe that filmmakers haven’t picked up on Heyer yet. Instead of making bad adaptations of Jane Austen, they could pick ANY Georgette Heyer novel and run with it.

Content warnings: None. The romance is as clean as it gets.

4.4
The Carver and the Queen (Book Review)

The Carver and the Queen (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
cozy fairy tales in cold settings are your cup of tea

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Carver and the Queen

By Emma C. Fox (Check out my interview with Emma.)

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Deep in the Russian mountains, two peasants discover a magical realm. But will this power bring good fortune or bad?

This book hit the spot. I loved it, and I thought it was even better than The Arrow and the Crown. The dual protagonists were lovable. The villains were mysterious and not made of cardboard. I also loved the supporting cast.

This book is based on a fairy tale that I’m not familiar with, so, for me, it read like a story set in a fairy tale world. It didn’t feel strange or contrived in any way, which sometimes happens with a retelling when you aren’t familiar with the source. You don’t NEED to know the source story to enjoy this one.

This is a sweet romance, too! Perfect for teens who want clean, mature romance. No spice, just heart.

I’m very much looking forward to Emma C. Fox’s next book!

Content warnings: None


4.6
The Queen’s Gambit (Book Review)

The Queen’s Gambit (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you enjoyed Megan Whalen Turner’s Queen’s Thief series

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Queen’s Gambit (Book 1 of Imirillia)

By Beth Brower

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Don’t confuse this with Walter Tevis’s chess novel. It’s completely different.

I adored The Q, so I’m making Beth Brower’s books a priority. This one is far less complex (and much shorter) than The Q, but it’s still a worthy read, especially if you love character-driven royal dramas with lots of politics.

The bountiful land of Aemogen is a self-contained country that has little to do with the surrounding nations. When Imirillia, a battle-hardened nation to the north, declares war on the soft Aemogen people, the queen, Eleanor, must figure out how to ready her peaceful farmers for war against a foe that is more numerous and skilled than they can ever hope to be. It’s like The Shire vs. Mordor.

She finds unexpected help when Wil Traveler, a wandering soldier, arrives at court. Asking him to train her troops is a gamble, but she takes the risk.

This book moved slowly, without too much high action. This first installment in the series is more about establishing character dynamics, which, I’m sure set the stage for the second and third books. The characters are good—flawed and riddled with issues. There is also a lot of worldbuilding to clue us in on the traditions and ethos of the two warring nations. I think this is important to know going in.

There’s also a slow-burn romance that is not cheesy. Executing a romantic subplot without cheese on top is no small feat, but I love the way Beth Brower approaches it. You can hand this to any teenager without fear. It’s clean as a whistle without feeling sanitized.

This book doesn’t provide a ton of closure at the end. It doesn’t completely satisfy as a standalone book. The external plot wraps up, but the internal plot is just getting started, so you do feel compelled to read the next book. That’s also important to know going in.

I’m notorious for reading the first book in a series and never continuing. But, I might just keep going with this YA medieval adventure!

4.5
The Q (Book Review)

The Q (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you love the Victorian Era and the publishing biz—and romance

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Q

By Beth Brower

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

This book wins the award for Cutest Romance That Isn’t Cutesie

It was a slow start, but once I got my mental bearings, I was hooked.

The reason that this book started a TAD slow for me is because the author throws a lot at you right away. There’s a deep cast of secondary characters, and there are businesses, locations, and other things that can cause some early “who’s who?-type” confusion. But just push through that, and you’ll be glad you did.

Set in a fictional European city in the late 1800s, the story opens with Quincy St. Claire, owner of The Q, a newspaper that consists entirely of reader-submitted questions. Kind of like the Classifieds, but anything goes. She’s a brilliant businesswoman with a fiercely independent spirit. Quincy doesn’t need anyone or anything in her life except The Q. It’s her meat and drink.

She works for her uncle, who owns The Q. When he dies, his will states that Quincy can’t inherit The Q unless she meets a set of 12 requirements. The catch? She can’t know what the requirements are. The only person who knows (and who will determine if she meets them) is The Q’s lawyer, Mr. Arch.

Quincy and Arch are tossed together a lot due to this “requirement business,” and they combine like oil and water. Their tart banter is a highlight of this book. Ever so slowly, Arch gets Quincey to open up, and she does NOT want to do this. She prefers accounts, data, and machinery. People are way too unpredictable—not a smart investment.

So, you can see where it’s going, but the journey is worth every page. This is a LONG 500+ page book, and Beth Brower doesn’t rush Quincy’s transformation. Thus, we as readers do feel like we’ve made a big investment in this St. Claire woman, and we want to see how things turn out for her.

Overall, this was a great book that I’d recommend to anyone who loves Jane Austen but with way more sass.

4.8
Seeking Persephone (Book Review)

Seeking Persephone (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
Regency romances are your happy place

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Seeking Persephone

By Sarah M. Eden

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

Sweet romance at its sweetest

Oh boy, I’m a sucker for a Regency romance, and this one came on my radar when I learned that Sarah Eden crowdfunded enough money to have this made into a film. That’s impressive. My library had it, so I thought I’d read it.

This is a loose retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth. You’ve got Adam, a duke, who is fearsome and solitary and self-conscious about his scarred face. Then, you have Persephone, who is young and lively and completely devoted to her father and siblings. The result is a classic Opposites Attract story with heavy Beauty and the Beast overtones.

Adam and Persephone agree to marry, sight unseen, each for their own reasons, and they have a bear of a time getting along.

There were times when the Hades and Persephone myth was too on the nose for my taste, but it was neat to see how Eden translated different elements of the myth into the Regency era.

These stories rely on misunderstandings in order to keep the lovers apart, and there were plenty of them here. Adam and Persephone are strangers when they marry, and neither of them will speak plainly or open up. This book almost reached my personal threshold of tolerance for miscommunications, but it wasn’t bad.

In fact, I devoured this book in just a couple of days. It was a quick, wholesome and enjoyable read.

How spicy is the romance? Like three out of five jalapeno peppers. I thought the romance was one of the most tasteful I’ve read. It didn’t feel cheesy, which is impressive. I truly believed that they were falling in love because they wanted to—not because the author told them to. 😊

4
The Ordinary Princess (Book Review)

The Ordinary Princess (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you enjoy fractured fairy tales (but gentle ones)

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Ordinary Princess

By M. M. Kaye (author and illustrator)

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

What would happen to a fairy tale princess if she were simply ordinary?

This book came with my homeschool curriculum. I didn’t think my 7- and 8-year-old boys would be interested, so I swapped this one with The Secret Garden, which they loved. That didn’t stop me from reading this tiny book for myself, though.

My copy came with a preface by the author, and I’m glad I didn’t skip it. She says that after going on a fairy-tale-reading-spree, she realized that most of the princesses fit a certain model—beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed, and graceful. This is only to be expected in fairy tales, right? But, the author, like so many before and after her, wondered how the story might change if the princess in question were ordinary. She said that she sat under a tree and wrote the whole thing by hand in one sitting.

This book isn’t exactly a retelling of any single tale (that I can think of). It nods mightily to Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, but it’s not a spinoff. It stars Amy, the seventh and youngest daughter of a noble kingdom, and she’s cursed with ordinariness.

Because she’s nothing special to look at, the king and queen can’t marry her off. Amy becomes so weary of the endless string of suitors who arrive, take one look at her, and then awkwardly contrive early departures. So, she must figure something out—and that something is her future.

The curse turns into a blessing. Amy learns the virtues of independent thought, hard work, and healthy physical exertion out of doors, all of which (come to think of it) line up neatly with The Secret Garden.

This book is short and takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to fairy tales, mildly mocking them. It reminds me of About the Sleeping Beauty by P. L. Travers. It’s long been fashionable to recast these timeless tales to suit modern tastes, pointing out how sexist and violent the originals are, and aren’t we much better in this day and age? But, we’re not better, and it does no good to scoff at folklore, myth, and fairy tales. But it’s okay to look at them and wonder why. Wonder how and if. What else are they for if not that?

4
The Silent Governess (Book Review)

The Silent Governess (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
you like slow-burn, clean regency romances with Christian undertones

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

The Silent Governess (DNF 50%)

By Julie Klassen

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

When a young woman in regency-era England is forced to flee home, where will she turn?

This is the second Julie Klassen book that I’ve DNFed since the beginning of the year. I tried listening to Castaway in Cornwall on audio first, and then I got bored at the 35 percent mark. I decided to start this one, and I find that I’m forcing myself to go back to the audiobook…I have no desire to continue, so I’m going to just stop.

I don’t know if it’s the audio format or if it’s just not the right time for a regency romance. The books aren’t bad, but I think they’re lacking the conflict and emotion that I’m craving right now.

There are times when a relatively sedate and buttoned-up story is just the ticket. But, that’s falling flat for me at the moment.

Not giving up on you, Jules! I’ll be back.

Content warnings: Nothing graphic, but there was one scene when a man made unwanted advances toward the protagonist, and she got away.

3.3
Friday’s Child (Book Review)

Friday’s Child (Book Review)

You’ll love it if
Regency romances are your happy place, and you like the “fake relationship” trope

This book review contains affiliate links. Here’s my disclosure policy.

Friday’s Child

By Georgette Heyer

Character
Plot & Pacing
Writing Craft
Moral Value

It’s a marriage of convenience, but…

…could it turn into true love?

This is my second Georgette Heyer novel, and I went into it blind. I enjoyed this old-timey Regency romance for the most part, although there was a saggy bit in the beginning-middle, which I pushed through, and I’m glad I did. This book illustrates the age-old truth: you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

The first few chapters race along because the setup is superfun: A rich, young, and hunky lord decides (on a whim) to marry a childhood friend of his. She’s young, like 16, and he’s not much older, like early 20s. They don’t love each other, but they’re chums. They’re marrying for convenience. The Viscount Sherry gets his full inheritance bestowed upon him when he marries, and our sweet young heroine (aptly named Hero) agrees to be his wife to avoid the woeful fate of becoming a governess.

After they get married, Hero proves that she has no idea how to be a proper lady, but Sherry can’t be bothered to teach her. They are both so young, and they just wanna have fu-un. Sherry is a bit of a wild boy, flirting and gaming. Hero is a fun-loving, ready-for-anything teenager.

The beginning-middle of the book shows Sherry having to clean up after Hero’s many social fumbles—taking the grownup role for the first time in his life. Hero realizes how much she loves Sherry, but Sherry is oblivious to this. Hero wonders if he regrets marrying her, and she never asks him, so she’s left to stress over it.

The book title probably comes from the traditional poem “Monday’s Child.” According to the poem, Friday’s child is “loving and giving,” and that is exactly what Hero is. She is not an Amazon or a Matriarch or any power-archetype. She’s entirely at Sherry’s mercy, yet, through her love and goodness, she saves him.

Sherry is not—ahem—politically correct, shall we say. This whole book, in fact, is delightfully incorrect in so many ways. Sherry is flawed. He doesn’t appreciate Hero and treats her like a possession. His nickname for her is “Kitten”—barf! Even after his transformation, he’s not exactly fighting for her right to be prime minister or anything like that. But he does teach her to drive, so there’s that.

3.6