Saturday, July 2, 2016

My June Reading

My month was taken up with the tome from Julian Fellowes. I loved the story to pieces. Highly recommended! Overall, it was a slow reading month for me. Too much going on in my personal life, and with school out for the summer, my days and evenings are unscheduled and chaotic.

Julian Fellowes's Belgravia
Categories: Victorian, Historical Fiction
Comments: Gosh, how I enjoyed this gossipy upstairs & downstairs, cits & the nobility story set during the early Victorian era. Unlike the excesses of Downton Abbey, the drama here was tight like Gosford Park. My comments are published by All About Romance.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Categories: Romance, Regency
Comments: Julia Quinn writes with such joy. Her stories are imbued with her ebullient personality. They're witty with a lighter treatment of issues, but they're not issue-less or fluff. JQ was one of the first Regency romance authors I discovered after reading Julie Garwood, who was my first modern romance author. I have happy memories of JQ's Bridgertons. While to many Romancing is the most romantic of the original Bridgerton series, my favorite is The Duke and I. Still Colin and Penelope's story is a decided hit. Penelope has been in love with Colin for years and years but he is only interested in friendship, until suddenly at thirty-three he starts noticing Penelope. At first, he's completely shocked but over time, he cannot believe how he didn't notice her before. It's a friends to lovers trope done well.

A Kind of Honor by Joan Wolf
Categories: Romance, Regency, Traditional
Comments: This is another of Wolf's stories, where she goes out on a limb and tells a difficult story. The book with an excruciating storyline was The Counterfeit Marriage, which I reviewed here. In A Kind of Honor, Wolf handles infidelity in a marriage on part of the heroine. Amanda "Nanda" is the Duchess of Gacé, living with her expat husband in London. The French Duc plays up to the Bourbon King hiding out in Hartwell as well as spies for Napoléon. Adam Todd, Lord Stanford is an injured war veteran, now involved with the strategic planning of Wellington's key offensive. He's also investigating a highly-placed leak in the Horse Guards. Adam is urged by Gacé to stay at his house. Gacé was probably hoping his wife would seduced Adam into revealing his secrets. However, Adam, having been an intelligence officer, is not one to indulge in pillow talk. Of course, Adam and Nanda fall in love. There is no love lost between the Gacés, but he has a hold on her because of her deep love of her two children, whom she would lose if she strayed. Gacé turning out to be the leak in the Horse Guards is a given but the catching of him is well done. Wolf writes stories with such warmth, such heart.

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Categories: Children's Picture
Comments: Poor Madame Chapeau, all alone in her hat shop, making hat after exquisite one-of-a-kind creations. Little does she know in her loneliness how much people around her care for her. On the day of her birthday, a bird flies off with her very special birthday hat, and she's bereft. Everyone around her offers her their hat to lift her up from the desponds. Finally, a young girl gifts her a colorful hand-knitted hat that Madame Chapeau declares is the best hat she's ever seen. She has company on this day for her annual cake, and company then on. I liked the artwork especially for all the varying expressions on the characters' faces. And all those beautiful hats!

A Tale of Two Rice Birds by Clare Hodgson Meeker, illustrated by Christine Lamb
Categories: Children's Picture
Diversity: South Asian characters
Comments: This book looks like a children's book and is considered by the author to be so, but it is not. My copy is a signed copy and I met the author when the book first came out. She said it's a children's story that told all over Thailand in schools and by grandparents. However, for a western audience, it's very much an adult romance novel, after a fashion.

Two rice birds were very much in love and spent all their days together as they flew from pond to rice paddy fields in search of food and sipped nectar from lotus blossoms. The lotus flower has a peculiar quality that it closes shut when the sun's at its zenith and opens again when it is at its nadir. So the rice birds had to be clever in stealing nectar and flying safely away from the lotus flowers.

In time, the birds have babies and while the female rice bird stays with the nest, the male rice bird flies hither and yon to bring food for his family. One day, he's so tempted by the nectar that he doesn't realize that the lotus is closing and he gets trapped inside. The female rice bird in the meantime, has been anxious about his return. In an unfortunate circumstance, the tree where the nest is catches fire. In vain, the female bird beats her wings and tries to save her babies, but they burn to ashes.

In the evening, when the male bird returns, the female cries bitter tears, accuses her mate of perfidy and shiftlessness, and commits suicide in the still-glowing embers. He, in turn, beseeches God citing his faithfulness and qualities of a good mate and promises to be faithful in the next life, and then commits suicide.

The female rice bird is reborn as a princess. She's a happy child and brings joy to everyone around her even as she grows up to be a young woman. But she talks to no man, not even her father, the king. The king is worried about her getting married. So he sends out a proclamation that any man who can get his daughter to speak can marry her.

In the meantime, the male rice bird is reborn as a farmer's son, a dutiful young man who works hard and also studies magic. One day, he reads the king's proclamation and it stirs him deep in the heart and he hies off to the kingdom to try his luck in winning the princess's hand. When she sees him, she immediately runs inside. The king's encouraged by this development and asks the farmer's son to go to her chamber and get her to talk to him.

The farmer's son is very clever and using magic, tells the princess a story, and asks a tricky question. The princess, unable to contain herself, rushes out of the door and answers the question joyfully. HEA.