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REVIEW:  A Little Folly by Jude Morgan

REVIEW: A Little Folly by Jude Morgan

Dear Mr. Morgan,

I haven’t read many Regency era books lately. Whenever I’ve looked at new releases, I’ve almost immediately been put off of them for some reason, often before I’ve even finished the blurb. Usually it’s some bizarre plot set up or mistorical aspect which promises to make me cringe if I should ignore my initial instincts and wade into it anyway. “A Little Folly,” though, has restored my faith. Not only did it seem almost entirely rational and period in feel, but I finished it so happy with the subgenre that it makes me want to rush right out and read another historical romance rather than cleansing my palate with another subgenre as I usually do.

A-Little-FollyThe plot is simple on first glance but reveals its layers as the book progresses. There is no secret-decoder-ring-wearing club of noblemen with silly names who have sworn off marriage. The story hasn’t any noblemen spies working for the government against Napoleon. Valentine’s and Louisa’s father might make Joan Crawford look like a shoo-in for parent of the year but that’s all. Instead of the usual dreck which sends me screaming there is the story of a brother and sister, brought up by a (recently deceased) overbearing father who now find themselves free to live. They aren’t just free to do what they want but are free to think as they wish without the need to conceal their thoughts and feelings from their father and to finally take part in society – both locally and in London.

Louisa can reject the cold, controlled neighbor whom her father wished her to marry and Valentine can take his place as the master of the snug estate left to him. They can also renew ties with the cousins on their deceased mother’s side whom their father forbade them to know. Soon, the two are headed to London to stay with their cousins and drink deeply from the cup of ton life. But will they discover too late where their love and happiness truly lie?

The arc that I got from Jane has a quote on the front cover that likens the story to Austen and Heyer. “Really,” I thought. “What modern Regency era books don’t try and associate themselves with either or both of those authors down to stealing characters and plots wholesale?” Still, there seemed to be good reviews of your books out there and I’m willing to try a book for a few chapters. After I’d finished said few chapters I thought, “Say, I don’t think those comparisons are too far off. And I’m not cringing yet!” Though I hesitate to tell readers that “If you love Austen/Heyer you’ll love this” I don’t mind saying “give it a shot.” The language doesn’t scream 21st century, the characters don’t fall into bed with anyone at the drop of a hat and the plot twists involved situations that just might have actually have been of concern to Regency people. I could catch little glimpses of things from the aforementioned authors but shifted slightly and given a new (but still period) spin. The nod to ‘The Greats’ exist but it’s not slavish, derivative fawning but rather taking them as inspiration.

The pace of the story is slower which is in tune with a world centered on the social niceties of calling cards, note writing and the attention to manners which marked a well bred person of the day. These people are rarely in a hurry and I felt myself settle down to enjoy the leisurely pace of their lives and interactions. I’ve read countless Regency books and have heard and noted all the facts about Almacks, period dress, slang, the Peninsular Wars and Wellington. A few are scattered around in the book but they feel germane rather than laid on with a trowel. I enjoyed the sly dig at too much slang in the silly character “The Top” whom Louisa and a friend from home secretly find ridiculous. There’s also no mention of watered down lemonade though some of the festivities which celebrated the defeat of Napoleon and those demmed Frenchies are attended by our characters.

There is an elopement in the book but unlike “Pride and Prejudice” it’s actually another period route to social ruin which threatens here and calls for timely intervention on behalf of one who loves from afar. Just as in an Austen novel, there are romantic feints and false starts among the cast and Louisa must wait until nearly the end of the story to get her romance but when it finally arrives and declares itself, I sighed with happiness and chuckled at her hero’s sense of humor and sense of the absurd. The two of them, and indeed all the couples, are well matched though some are perhaps not looking for nor will they probably be rewarded with wedded bliss.

I finished the book with nary an eye roll or groan of disbelief. Valentine and Louisa became real people to me with faults and follies to go with their ultimate growth in character and understanding. I didn’t feel that you were trying to cram modern characters with modern sensibilities into a past era. Readers looking for a lot of action and running around might not care for the story but those seeking a more character driven book which focuses a lot on the manners and observational habits of the day should check it out. B


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REVIEW:  Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners

REVIEW: Grace Grows by Shelle Sumners

Dear Ms. Sumners:


Grace Barnum’s life is precariously balanced on sensible choices and uncomfortable compromise. She dutifully edits textbooks that, she fears, may be more harmful than helpful to kids. She is engaged to a patent attorney who is steady and reliable. She has a cautious relationship with her fascinating father, a renowned New York painter, and she prefers her mom slightly drunk.

Always a planner, Grace feels prepared for most eventualities. Until the responsibility-challenged Tyler Wilkie shows up. Fresh in town from the Poconos, Tyler has warm eyes, a country drawl, and a smile that makes Grace drop things. Worst of all, he writes devastating songs. About her.

Tyler reaches something in Grace, something she needs, but can’t admit to. Something she wants, but won’t succumb to. Tyler Wilkie loves Grace Barnum and ruins everything. And Grace grows.

I have a weakness for sensible heroines so the description of Grace Barnum called to me. Grace also seemed like she is a little buttoned up. A little in need of having her life ruffled a tiny bit and, if things don’t get out of hand just to get out of hand, I enjoy seeing this happen in a romance. Also the dogs on the cover seemed to promise fun in Central Park. Well, it turns out that the dogs in the story are actually giant schnauzers and that they don’t play much of a role once their presence has introduced Grace to Ty Wilkie – part time dog walker, wannabe musician and the man who wrecks Grace’s orderly life.

Grace_Grows_final_cover_932x1400Since this is a first person POV story, I needed to like Grace and at first I did. She’s funny, she’s smart, she hauls enough around in her huge carryall to save the world and she’s a practical enough woman to win my enthusiasm. Grace isn’t drowning in angst or prone to pratfalls or looking for a hot night of smoking sex for what ever fill-in-the-blank reason so many contemporary heroines seek out bad boys. She and Ty are friends first – though it’s fairly obvious that Ty is smitten with her from the start. She has an almost fiance who finally romantically pops the question, a job she mostly enjoys, friends to go out with and quiet places to recharge her batteries. She’s something that is getting to be a rarity in romance novels – a nice, well adjusted woman who isn’t thinking of doing something outrageous. Grace is a breath of fresh air.

Grace’s romantic choices in life make sense given her parent’s acrimonious marriage and years of avoidance. She wants steady, she wants nice and she doesn’t want to risk her heart. So when her attraction to Ty begins to grow, she fights it. He’s an artist, like her father, and Grace knows how that marriage ended. She’ll stick with patent lawyer Steven. That is until her heart finally recognizes the truth and she is honorable enough to be honest with Steven. I admire Grace for that but this is about the time that I sense impending trouble. Grace is so sure that Ty would never be able to give her the type of marriage she now wants – since her eyes were opened up – that for months she won’t even give him a chance. That is until the itch becomes so overwhelming that there’s nothing to do but give in and scratch it.

Now comes the part when I want to join Grace’s friends in shaking her. True her actions are a product of her background and the little bits of believable circumstance that make up this section of the story plus the growing we’re promised in the title has to occur but honestly, Ty is much more forgiving of Grace than I could be. Her friends want to shake her, her family wants to shake her, Ty’s family wants to shake her and all she can do is whine about how she thinks things could never work out between she and Ty.

This is a book that I didn’t want to put down or stop reading. But it’s also a book that I wanted to like more than I actually did. It has funny parts – some were LOL like where Grace tells off Ty’s dickhead cousin Dennis, it has poignant moments – such as the reaction of all the various adults to baby Jake, it has realistic stuff but waiting for Grace to grow takes a lot of patience and mine wore thin by the end. C+



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