January 11, 2016
"Atsa fine I'll have a nice cold glassa lemonade."
- Chico Marx, Duck Soup
After finishing the wonderful Captive Love series by Grace Burrowes, I decided to delve into her debut series about the Windham family. According to her website, Ms. Burrowes was/is quite a prolific writer and had 20 or so books under her belt before she became published. That's a boat load of books and connected characters! I'm very happy she's been published. Here's the deal - the first three in the debut series needed an editor or a writing buddy or someone to say, "whoa, I know all of your words are like babies you've given birth to, but really, you need to cut some.”
Let's do some exploring of these three books, The Heir, The Soldier, and The Virtuoso, starting with The Heir.
Rubbing my hands together and chuckling with glee I started to read The Heir. The Heir
begins with a bang, especially when one considers the hero is bonked over the head by the heroine. Knocked out cold. Yes, our heroine, Anne Seaton clobbers Gayle, Earl of Westhaven over the head because she thinks he is abusing a housemaid. Now, this could be a problem. You see, she's his housekeeper and one should probably not knock ones employer out. Not good for employee/employer relationships and all that. Anyway, Anne realizes she may have been mistaken and decides to play nursemaid to Gayle. Maybe he won't fire her if she helps him recover. Once he is awake and on the slow road to recovery, a romance slowly starts to take place. Of course there is always a rough road to romance and this one is no different.
Gayle is hiding out from his father's manipulations. His father wants grandchildren and he doesn't really care how he goes about it. Even going so far as to employ Gayle's latest mistress into becoming pregnant. Anyway, Gayle is hiding out at his estate. As you may know, in Romanceland both the male and female leads have to have problems and a manipulating father seems to be Gayle's. Anne is the one with the biggest problem because she has a secret - a bigggg secret. Be warned, this is one of the pattern's I found in the Windhams series. It is always the female lead who has the dark deep secret, the one that is more troubling, and the one that makes all of these women skate close to being TSTL.
As much as I loved the Captive series, I could not find it in my heart to love these three stories. The Heir started out well and I was thrilled. In the beginning I loved the hero and heroine, but then something happened about three fourths of the way through. The story just kept going and going and going. When I perceive a story has reached its ending but it keeps on going, then I find myself becoming irritated with things that only a few pages ago were acceptable.
Lemonade. Let's start with the lemonade. Just how many lemon trees were growing on Westhaven's estate? Every time you turned around Anne was breaking out the lemonade. This is Regency times for Pete sake, it's not as if one has a container of Country Time instant lemonade handy. We are talking real lemons. Squeezing and squeezing and squeezing tons of those little yellow things. I used to watch my dad make lemonade. It takes tons of lemons to make just one pitcher of lemonade. The amount of lemons Anne had to go through must have been phenomenal. She must have had some mighty strong digits - they came in handy later. Let's move from the oral fixations of lemonade to the romance irritates.
Trust and hy-po-cri-sy. A lot of times in romance novels trust and hypocrisy walk hand and hand. Oh no! Say it ain't so! Yes, my little petunias, I say trust and hy-po-cri-sy! Anne has trust issues, and, she should, because her brother is a real piece of work. But she can't seem to trust her employer, Gayle, who is a nice guy and with whom she falls in love. Even though she's falling in love with him, even though she's allowing him intimacies, even though she allows him to brush her hair, even though she spreads her wings wide - she cannot trust him. It was a continual lovely scene followed by I can’t' trust you. It went on waaaay toooo long.
And, what's with a servant allowing her employer to brush her hair? If you are looking for any kind of historical accuracy, look elsewhere. The lines between servant and master are nonexistence and this story stretches a lot of boundaries. But, I can allow for historical inaccuracies. I can believe a relationship between servant and master. I read Julia Quinn after all. But there was tooo much of a struggle to get to the end. There was just too much churning of the same things over and over again. The not knowing when to end was too bad, because there were some mighty lyrical words in this book. But those find words were overshadowed by one too many chapters.
On to the next in the series, The Soldier.
Be warned: I had numerous digressing moments when I read this story. This tale is about Devlin St. Just, the illegitimate son of Percival Windham, the Duke of Moreland and the half-brother of Gayle from The Heir. For our heroine we have Emmaline Farnum who lives on the Rosecroft estate and is a guardian to Winnie, the previous Earl of Rosecroft's by-blow. Through some kind of legal maneuvering, which we didn't get to read - thank goodness - Devlin is now the new Earl of Rosecroft. By the way, the old Earl of Rosecroft was the villain in the last piece.
As with the other book, our heroine, Emmie has a dark secret and she cries all the time and she is tired and has unexplained bruises which have nothing to do with the story. She makes apple tarts and lemonade. Oh no - not lemonade! She also thinks she is a proper guardian for the six-year-old Winnie. Winnie, for some reason, is a wild creature. Digressing question: if one thinks one is a proper guardian for a - say, a six-year-old, would said proper guardian leave that child with a perfect stranger? A male stranger? Of course, they have dinner together for about an hour or so and he does have big thighs, so I guess it's ok to leave a child with somebody one doesn't know.
By the way, the estate Devlin's father maneuvered for him was pretty run down - thanks a lot dad.
The Soldier is almost a carbon copy of The Heir. It started out good, then just kind of ran out of steam and the same old song and dance routine of trusting someone enough to confide in came into play. So, we had another woman who has her hair brushed, cries and doesn't trust someone but is willing to jump into bed with that person.
On to another distraction. I call this my touchy-feely distraction. I confess: I do not come from a touchy-feely family, and none of my friends are touchy-feely. When I come across it, I think "oh isn't that nice." But in this book there were some eye-brow raised moments. One of them involves Devlin and his brother. Devlin's head on his brother's lap and his hair being caressed. Touchy-feely. Odd. But another one came into play with Devlin's friend Douglas and the rubbing of the lotion. It just had an odd feel about it. I like buddies in books. I like the male comrades who would do anything for their friends. But most of those guys don't touch each other. That's a whole different kind of romance, one I don't have anything against by the way. It's just this time it didn't feel right. Even when we are talking about shared war memories. I think back to two of my friends who were in a war together - one was a sniper and one awarded a Purple Heart. So, these two friends had some pretty intense things happen to them. With all of the pain they shared and the bond that was between them, they were not touchy-feely; they didn't have to be. The presence of their friendship, the support they gave each other became the "touch" between them.
While The Soldier once again had wonderful language, the story went on too long and everything that made it good was lost. The conflicts just kept on churning. The heroine cried and was tired and made lemonade and apple tarts and just could not confide to the man she loved.
On to the third brother, Valentine. Valentine plays the piano, he is a virtuoso, hence the title The Virtuoso. However his hand is swollen and painful. He has been told by his doctor that
the hand needs to rest, so he goes off to a run-down country estates and starts doing physical labor. How that "rests" his hands I was never able to figure out. It must be the cream that our heroine made and rubbed on it. Her name is Ellen, Baroness Roxbury and guess what. She has a dark deep secret. A guilty secret. Something she blames herself for. Something which when it is revealed I had a "you have got to be kidding me" moment. "How could you possibly blame yourself?" AAArrrgh.
This is basically a repeat of the other two books, except the names are different. Although, there wasn't as much lemonade in this one. But there was a lack of historical feel about it, a lack of proper space between the main characters. And, we have a friend unbuttoning another friends pants in this one. Not sure why, doesn't add anything to the story.
Adding things to stories. I am of the opinion that unless one is going to use something later on in the story, its presence in the book is a waste of time. It's filler. If it doesn't add to the atmosphere, the smell, the time period, it isn't necessary to add it.
Our couple Valentine and Ellen shared a kiss a year before the story begins. It is a kiss which neither of them can forget. And, it seems to have lessened the 19th century principles of these two people. There is a certain 21st century easygoing feel to this book. They bare their feet, roll up their pant-legs/dress and splash around in a pond. While the conversation between them was lovely, the scene was improbable and my eyebrows went up. Ellen was a hot and cold person when it came to propriety. He couldn't use her given name, but they could make love in the open air.
There were a lot of characters in this book, and that was a tad bit overwhelming. As with the other two books, the ending was in the wrong place. The guilt trip, the angst, the boo-hoo went on waaay too long. The couple was engaging and their language was lyrical, but then they are thrown into a situation that is problematic historically and all that loveliness gets lost.
Bottom line. I'm very glad I started with the Captive series and True Gentleman series and not this one. I know from reading those two series that Ms. Burrowes can write up a storm, but The Heir, The Soldier and The Virtuoso were a miss for me.
Time/Place: Regency England
The Heir - The Soldier - The Virtuoso