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Sheri Cobb South

REVIEW:  The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South

REVIEW: The Weaver Takes a Wife by Sheri Cobb South

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Beautiful, haughty Lady Helen Radney is the daughter of a duke who has gambled away his fortune. The duke’s plan is to marry her off to recoup his losses, but the only one interested in this sharp-tongued lady is Mr. Ethan Brundy. Once a workhouse orphan, Brundy is now the owner of a Lancashire textile mill, a very rich man–and smitten with Helen.

Dear Ms. Cobb South,

I vividly remember when I first heard about this book. Back then, I was a faithful visitor to AAR and closely perused their DIK list in my quest to expand my romance reading lists. After reading their review, I immediately added “The Weaver Takes a Wife” to my handwritten TBB list and began searching for it in local stores. I searched high and I searched low. I went through new book stores and used book stores and finally had to order it. But oh, when I finally got my hands on it, I fell in love with Ethan Brundy and his ‘elen. Now newcomers to the series can buy the ebook with a few mouse clicks – lucky devils.

The book might be a touch of Almackistan but not by much. Indeed, it still sticks to the conventions of the genre while at the same time turning them on their heads. It has a non-Duke hero with a lower class accent but manages to include a trip to Almacks. The hero is finally dandified in a form fitting evening coat but it’s not from Weston. The aristocratic heroine might have her nose in the air but she ultimately falls in love with her workhouse brat husband. It is an homage to La Heyer yet carves out a new niche in Regency romance.

Ethan is such a wonderful hero. He’s unfailingly cheerful, mostly happy with his lot in life, aware that things could be so much worse and willing to help those he can. He also seems to be a shrewd businessman, an excellent judge of character and a true romantic. His friends in the ton adore him, including his friend’s lady love who is willing to teach him how to waltz so he can dance with his wife. He makes people want to do better and also pricks the conscience of those in a position to help craft new laws for the poor and working class. And Ethan even helps his friend come to the sticking point with his own romance.

He initially lets drop how much he values ‘elen in terms she’d understand – to the tune of £75,000 – but later reveals his heart when asked why no woman in Lancashire had snatched him up and he’d moved to London – because that’s where ‘elen was. Ethan, more than most men, is aware that nothing worth having is easily obtained so he’s ready to put in the work to win ‘elen’s ‘eart.

“What could one do with a man who merely smiled at one in a way that made one feel suddenly hot and cold all at the same time?”

He astounds ‘elen by simply not recognizing his inferior status. Ah, but she has to learn that this is because he never feels about himself that way except where her love might be concerned.

Mr Brundy might be a man of low birth but he’s also a man of the highest integrity, resourcefullness and determination. He gently waits for his wife’s regard, all the while showing her his worth by his actions as well as his words. Indeed, bit by bit, day by day, gesture and deed by gesture and deed, he shows up almost everyone who would dismiss him as merely a workhouse brat.

Folks this is unconditional love. Does ‘elen deserve it? Frankly early on in the marriage, I wanted to shake her. However one can’t stay too mad at her since she’s probably never known a man as wonderful as Ethan – though her brother shows signs of being salvageable.

‘elen’s changing opinion comes slowly but so clearly – to us and to Ethan – that her brusqueness is easy to bear because we all know she’s falling in love with her besotted husband. She worries about the Luddites and defends him against her former beau Waverly’s sneering.

She discovers she likes the look of his face when it’s not hidden behind an epergne. She sees how his workers adore him and why and strives to present him in London to them in the best light possible. She sees he’s kind to children in a way she and her brother never experienced while growing up. She mourns a honeymoon trip to Brighton because she worries about Ethan thinking she’s using him to help her brother then finally thrills to his KISA rescue. By book’s end, she has realized, and happily admits, that he’s the finest true gentleman she’s ever known.

I love this book because it not only tells me about all the characters but it shows me all their flaws, foibles and strengths. It’s storytelling in action, it’s alive with movement rather than feeling static. It’s funny (watch for the hilarious below stairs view of the marriage through the morning reports of upstairs maid Sukey to the housekeeper Mrs.Givens) as well as heartfelt and by the time ‘elen decides she’d rather not wait the full six months (you’ll see what I mean), I’m bursting with happiness for them and the love they’ve found.

I adored this book 15 years ago and after a blissful reread, I can say that it’s just as good the second time around. A

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  Babes In Tinseltown by Sheri Cobb South

REVIEW: Babes In Tinseltown by Sheri Cobb South

“In 1936, Frankie Foster leaves her Georgia home with high hopes of becoming a movie star in Hollywood. She soon finds work as an extra in a swashbuckling costume picture, but when the producer drops dead at her feet during filming, Frankie knows she must discover the truth if she is to save the picture and her own fledgling career.”

Dear Ms Cobb South,

First let me say I love the setting. Here’s something fresh and innovative that hasn’t been done to death – at least not yet but maybe you’ll lead the charge. It’s filled with little details like living in the boarding house (what is name of the movie I’m thinking of? Stage Door of ’37! that’s it, with Katherine Hepburn), with only a cramped kitchen and one phone in the lobby for everyone to use – and listen in on when others are on it, Frankie wearing a suit + foundation garments on her train trip (ladies don’t perspire, they gleam), stockings, taxi money, the price of gas!, how the police of the day have to be lead by the hand and also worry about stepping on politicians’ toes (love how Frankie uses her judge father to her advantage – even though his jurisdiction is a 1000 miles away). Oh, and the cute “movie title” chapter openings are perfect to set up what happens as the story progresses.

babes in tinseltown Sheri Cobb SouthAs Frankie discovers to her dismay, it’s all fake in Hollywood yet Mitch, who isn’t caught up in the magic, is the one who explains why it’s all so important in 1936 when the nation needs a bit of fun and laughter and escape from the pressing economic woes. I spent some time trying to imagine a life with only the picture shows and radio programs for amusement instead of plethora we have now.

Frankie’s character treads lightly between knowing enough about the racier details of life so that the plot can advance but not too much as to be considered “fast.” She manages to be fresh and innocent and yet also the only one willing to entertain the idea that a murder has been committed. Frankie is both her mother’s (who would be appalled at a lot of the stuff Frankie does and who she keeps company with) and her father the judge’s daughter. She’s a lady but she also is determined to see justice done and not just because it will get her anywhere in Hollywood. But then she’s already displayed gumption in defying her parents for a possible career across country and in her early efforts to get herself noticed in a town where every woman from 15-50 wants to be a star. From her actions and deductions, we can see she’s intelligent and willing to do what it takes to track down a killer but she also displays common sense when it’s called for.

Mitch is a fun character to read about. He’s got a bit of bad boy – I’m not sure Mrs. Foster will take to him very quickly – but he’s also a gentleman and abides by the standards of conduct of the day. He’s not too neanderthalish about Frankie and doesn’t get smothering or controlling. Yet he’s a man of the 1930s who wants to protect her, gets jealous of potential rivals and refused to allow a woman to pay on a date. Still, he doesn’t come across badly. I think Frankie fascinates him as she seems such a “marrying” kind and yet has little interest in doing that. Mitch sets himself up as her knight errant protector which is enough to satisfy his manly instincts without stepping on Frankie’s – or our – toes about it. He’s also as smart as Frankie and lends his own talents and intelligence to the sleuthing.

The mystery is plausible with lots of possible suspects. You develop each one just enough for the plot purposes and give each a reasonable excuse for wanting the victim dead yet don’t point the arrow at anyone enough to give the game away.

The final climactic scene is straight out of a Hollywood movie complete with a killer who has motive and a dramatic rescue in the nick of time. I don’t get mad with Frankie because I honestly don’t think she would have worked it out without that last bit of information that snapped all the pieces of the puzzle in place. Yet as I look back, the subtle clues are all there and woven into the story for us to pick up on. Mitch and, especially, the police appearing on the scene are a bit too handy but poor Frankie might not have survived otherwise. And since Mitch is the knight on a white horse where Frankie is concerned, it isn’t that much of a stretch for me to swallow it.

This is a fun, fast read. Just right for an afternoon or evening’s entertainment. I enjoyed the novel setting, a good mystery and watching the set up of a light romance between two characters who still seem to be working out their feelings for each other. I’m not sure if you plan more (though I hope so) but this one is complete on its own. B

~Jayne

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