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Anita Davison

REVIEW: Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison

REVIEW: Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison

“Isabel Hart is afraid of two things, the maze at Trencarrow where she got lost as a young child, and the lake where her brother David saved her from drowning in a boating accident.

With her twenty-first birthday and the announcement of her engagement imminent, Isabel decides it is time for her to face her demons and ventures into the maze. There she sees something which will alter her perceptions of herself and her family forever.

Isabel’s widowed aunt joins the house party, where her cousin confides she is in love with an enigmatic young man who surely cannot be what he pretends, for he is too dashing for homely Laura.

When Henry, Viscount Strachan and his mother arrives, ostensibly to use her ball as an arena for finding a wife, Isabel is determined not to like him.

As more secrets are revealed, Isabel doubts she has chosen the right man, although her future fiancé has more vested in this marriage than Isabel realizes and has no intention of letting her go easily.

Will Isabel be able to put her preconceptions of marriage behind her and take charge of her own life, or is she destined to be controlled by others forever?”

Dear Ms. Davison,

Trencarrow Secret by Anita DavisonI don’t read too many Victorian set novels but every once in a while, I feel the urge. Your offer of “Trencarrow Secret” coincided with just such a rare urge. At first I was puzzled by the title for beyond it sounding gothic-y, I didn’t notice any secrets – at least not until the end. Still it was nice to not have the usual Rakish Scandal, Picked by the Duke, or Lady Learns to Love. All in all it seems like a very English way to title the story.

Izzy – goodness I want to shake her at times. Lots of times. I can understand Amelia’s genteel rant to Ashton that everyone’s so damned concerned not to upset Izzy. Izzy also willingly buries her head in the sand about a lot of things up til the action starts and then even after when she realizes – from David and Laura! – what she’s doing. But – this is what I might expect from a Victorian woman who has been sheltered by her family in an age that still celebrated helpless women. I kept wanting her to shape up and take control but that might be more 20/21st century stuff and not really what might be expected from most Victorian young women. She’s almost painfully naive about relationships though and is the type of heroine people might hate because she’s lovely but unaware of it.

But Izzy does grow and change. Baby steps at first but then with growing confidence. She has a few set backs with Jared what with feeling sorry for him but by his last betrayal and selfish act, she’s strong enough to cut him out of her life. She also learns and grows to respect other peoples relationships – seeing Laura with new eyes, understanding Melody and Walter’s true love and even being willing to see her father move on and set David free. And to her credit, Izzy gets a lot thrown at her this summer.

Henry – handsome, rich, titled, acts like a gentleman, is already in love with Izzy, supports women’s rights, charges to Izzy’s rescue and is kind to his mother and to animals. Tell me he’s got some kind of flaw beyond his own secret from school. Any kind. Otherwise he’s too perfect. A great guy anyone would love to bring home to mother but too perfect to be real. But then from what we’re told, he shallowly falls for her only because of how he first sees her and only later is this deepened after he actually gets to know her. He’s lucky she didn’t turn out to be a harpy shrew.

I have to be honest and say the romantic near misses about drove me around the bend. Henry is almost to declaring himself and someone interrupts, then he’s close again and Izzy rushes off because she’s confused, then almost there and something else happens. It’s not for lack of opportunity but – damn – just say it! Of course then that would end the book too soon. Still the romantic declaration interruptus did bother me.

A strong point for me is how the family relationships seem real and not faux “everyone’s wonderful.” Izzy and cousin Laura don’t always get along, Aunt Margot still likes to take control when she visits her family home, the servants must be treated delicately and Father is in charge. I do like Lady Boscawen and her sharp sense of humor especially as she teases Henry and then Aunt Margot by telling Margot she tried to piece together Henry’s letter from Evaline. And failed! She’d be great fun to gossip with at parties, I’ll bet.

Ashton and Amelia – the way Marie engineered their relationship was tricky and, as is said, more manipulative than Auntie Margot. It sounds kind of cold at first from Marie’s POV but then if she never had a grand passion for Ashton and had only come to just care for him, I can actually understand her reasoning and hopes that she could find someone for him to love and to take care of him. Oh, poor Amelia – the life of an indigent relation who’s neither fish nor fowl in the household and on top of it all is in love with her employer’s husband. What a load she carried.

I appreciate the fact that you don’t make these characters too PC. Yippee! Aunt Margot uses the lovely term “punka wallah,” most of the people at the house don’t support the vote for women and look askance at the progressive women’s societies who don’t take class into consideration. The view of life without AC makes me so glad it’s been invented. Omg, the sweating – I mean gleaming – and the wish not to be trapped in tight corsets – what a horror. The nod to the Victorian fascination with death in the covering of mirrors was a neat touch.

What’s the deal with the smuggler stuff? It was suddenly introduced then dropped, never to be heard from again. – Oh, and what happened with Ivy the nursery maid? was confused about David for a long time. Then it finally dawned on me that Izzy was the only one in scenes with him until near the end.

The story gets slightly convoluted with tangents appearing and disappearing at times. You’ve invented a large cast of characters but I got to know them and wanted to see how things would work out. There’s growth and acceptance of things as they are instead of how it’s wished they are. I enjoyed seeing a Victorian household, how it runs and how it’s different from now, the differences in class and status even among those received by the family, and the fact that most marriages weren’t love matches in this strata of society. I wish Henry had managed to blurt out his feelings and that Izzy had let him. Oh, and maybe that she’d told off Evaline. C+

~Jayne

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REVIEW: Duking Days: Revolution by Anita Davison

REVIEW: Duking Days: Revolution by Anita Davison

Dear Mrs. Davison,

Earlier this year I read your first novel “Duking Days:Rebellion.” As I said, it took me back to my early days of reading historical fiction rather than true romance books. When I finished it, I already had plans to read the sequel, “Duking Days: Revolution.” This story does take up exactly where the first left off so I would not recommend readers start here. Even I had to stop a few times at the beginning and recall names and events from “Rebellion.”

“Revolution” is more saga-ish than a standard historical romance, following multiple people and story threads over a seven year time frame. It doesn’t really feel quite like either a romance novel or a historical novel – more bit of both with touch of something different. Kind of like the more old fashioned stories of the sixties and seventies but without the soap opera melodrama that so often dragged those stories far past my tolerance level.

Like “Rebellion,” it’s filled with great period detail but I got tired of Helena constantly being the ignorant one to whom things get explained in order to tell them to the reader. Yet, it does reflect the norm where women would probably not have known things since men controlled everything, including what their womenfolk read/saw/were exposed to.

I knew a lot about the events surrounding the Duke of Monmouth’s play for the throne but not as much as I thought about what happened during the short, tumultuous reign of his uncle, the last King James. The major events of the day were incorporated into the story by having the Woulfes or their associates involved yet it didn’t take on the feel I get from some historical books of major contrivance to allow this. Guy, Aaron, William and Robert Deveroux all felt like they should be at these events or involved in them instead of tacked into the battles, or bank building, etc in order for us to see them.

Helena voices her frustrations/fears/anger at Aaron and her father. Yes! She loves/d them and yet I would have felt it unnatural for her to keep all this anger simmering inside her when she finally gets the chance to vent it. It’s also realistic that there would be tension over Tobias and his place in the family. Aaron probably did feel displaced as ‘eldest son’ and some guilt that Tobias was there in England to help Helena and Henry when Aaron was in Holland. I hated that Tobias never saw the family restored to Loxsbeare yet his death and that of Sir Jonathan were more realistic rather than having everything tied up in neat happy package at the end.

Guy and Helena – you give Helena enough to feel anger about and reason for what she does – or the start of a reason – yet avoid turning Guy into some maniacal villain at the end. He’s basically a decent person just doing what is considered normal for the day. He and Helena never married for an overwhelming passion / love but did care for each other. I wondered how you would manage Helena’s true HEA and again, it fits with the times and dangers of the day. I enjoyed the snapshot of Guy as a patient father and also his obvious love for his children. His attempts to win back Helena’s affections were a welcome change from the usual way The Other Man is depicted rather than painting him into a corner of villainy.

As for William and Helena – their relationship is trickier. Yes, they’re in love – truly in love – yet some will balk at what they do. I had moments of disappointment at them but as Adella informs Helena, it’s what lots of other women of the time were up to. And this isn’t an age where divorce was an easy option.

I love the chance to read about an era when social mobility was still more flexible as opposed to Georgian or Regency society- trade was accepted and noblemen could work and not be snubbed. Or perhaps the whole construct of this is something invented and presented to us in romance novels as truth?

I’m more used to the Irish being shown as downtrodden/oppressed by the English and not hearing English characters express fear of them. Again, good job in presenting the Battle of the Boyne. We get enough detail for the purpose of the story without going overboard and bringing the narrative to a halt.

Helena has moments of independence and yet will allow the men in her life to arrange things – dictating her movements after the birth of the twins, designing and decorating the Palmer’s new house, Guy’s funeral. Thanks for not making her a strident feminist, three centuries too early. Your depictions of childbirth (ye Gods!) make me think you speak from experience. Poor Helena with no mother to comfort her and take pain away. I loved that she’s not an immediate, natural mother-of-the-year.

Lord Bladen – hmmm. The ending compresses and deflates him. There’s no major showdown yet the Woulfes quietly showed him up by surviving, thriving and restoring Loxsbeare to it’s former glory. Thank you for giving poor Henry the HEA he so richly deserves. Did you base the trials of his lady love on any historical facts. If so, it’s yet another instance of how much these women were at the mercy of men.

All in all, I’m well pleased with the resolution of the story you’ve invented for the Woulfe family and how neatly it dovetails with historical fact. Yes, I am the type of person interested in the nuggets of information you sprinkled throughout the books and I laughed when I read about the correction of the menus based on your whispered comment to the proprietor that his dates were incorrect. Thanks for sending me copies of these books and I look forward to what you’ll write next. B+

~Jayne

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