Last post I went on a bit in general on reading a "bad" book, and now I want to turn things around to mention, by name, a couple of really good books I've enjoyed. This isn't really a formal review, just some thoughts on what I liked about these two books. Number one good thing to say is I could not put either down until I finished! Both are set in the Regency time period but have very different styles. These two books are 1) Eloisa James' When Beauty Tamed the Beast and 2) Julie Klassen's The Silent Governess.
I would also add both of these to my "Books I'd Read Again" list, which I admit includes (mostly) older titles. I'm woefully behind on reading current fiction, so I'm thrilled to find some "new" favorites, published 2011 and 2009 respectively. Also, each has a quality that made it unique (from what I usually read within the romance genre, that is).
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First, there is Eloisa James' When Beauty Tamed the Beast. To sum it up, if you've ever imagined Hugh Laurie's character from House, M.D. as a Regency era doctor, then this is his story. I confess, I had not imagined this, but Eloisa James did and carried it off superbly! In her Historical Note she acknowledges, "Piers, my version of [their] Dr. Gregory House, differs form his prototype as much as Linnet does from Beauty. But his personality, not to mention his damaged leg and his life's work, was inspired by the irascible diagnostician from Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital."
Brilliant! After reading this story, I find myself appreciating the skill Ms. James wielded in combining a classic fairy tale and a modern influence. This book made me think briefly about the concept of "fan fiction," which the Urban Dictionary defines as "when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it." So, in no way to imply a derogatory use, which I think some people have with the term, this story resembles this definition. As a writer, I can see how it makes excellent marketing sense to draw on these recognizable and appealing cultural influences, and yet, it also makes me think how brave an author must also be to risk "retelling" a story.
But Eloisa James does not disappoint. I loved the similarities, including the students of medicine in the castle dubbed "the ducklings" and Piers' Wilson-like friendship with his cousin. Linnett, the beauty, is smart and spirited and fulfills expectations I hadn't known I had about "what if" House met his perfect match.
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Next, I've found a new favorite author in Julie Klassen. "Moving, mysterious, and romantic" is how the book jacket describes The Silent Governess and I couldn't agree more! This author reminded me how much I use to love reading authors like Victoria Holt (and of course Jane Eyre) as a teen and I couldn't get enough of romantic suspense in a historical setting. I think it's all about identifying with the heroine and, in The Silent Governess, I attached myself to Olivia from the beginning and did not let go. This is saying something, because it's quite a long book!
Klassen won the 2010 Christy Award, recognizing excellence for a christian worldview, in the historical romance category for this book. I admit, I haven't read a lot of "inspirational" fiction, but I'm so glad I decided to read a story so richly layered and slightly outside my normal reading. This book is different from the passionate, mass-market regency romances (such as When Beauty Tamed the Beast), but in its subtle way, it is not a boring story (I finished it at 3 a.m.). The twists and turns of the plot kept me guessing, the descriptions are divine, and the characters well-drawn. It seems like everyone has a secret or two. Olivia especially, has her share, and her story begins with an excellent prologue introducing her unique talent for mathematics exploited by her father for profit. Then chapter one picks up years later and fly by with Olivia on the run and her situation going from bad to worse. I don't dare give it away, but as the book description says, "Olivia Keene is fleeing her own secret. She never intended to overhear his. But now that she has, what is Lord Bradley to do with her? He cannot let her go, for were the truth to get out, he would lose everything -- his reputation, his inheritance, his very home."
Now that I've read a few of the reviews for this book, I also agree with one that says it's like watching a favorite period film in your mind. It's a great change of pace and I will definitely be reading more from this author! I also found this an enjoyable way to learn a lot about the roles of servants, as Olivia transitions to several different social levels throughout the book.
So those are a couple of my new favorites. Maybe, they might become yours too!
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