"I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." - Oscar Wilde
Finally got this book out of my way.
I love a good medieval story. Since Madeline Hunter is famous for her medievals, I started this book with much enthusiasm. The premise is interesting enough. David, a low-born but stinking rich merchant, saw Christiana, a ward of the English King, at court. Being close to the English King, David offered for Christiana. The match was frowned upon because Christiana was a of noble birth, first tier, too. Her marrying a merchant was an outrageous thought.
Christiana loved another. A cad named Stephen. She resented the fact that she had to marry David and sent for Stephen to come marry her before everything was too late. But of course Stephen did not come. Everyone except Christiana could see that Stephen did not love her and that Christiana was an idiot to believe that she had a noble knight in Stephen.
So the marriage was on rocky grounds. The book follows Christiana and David's difficult union. A bride who resented her groom. A groom who desired his bride. Isn't that quaint? It turns out that David, was not a lowly merchant at all. Suffice it to say that Christiana felt like an idiot when David's true parentage came under the light. Some political intrigue, superficial I love you after great sex, the end.
I had a lot of problems with the book. It is not about the writing. It was the story itself. I detest Christiana from the beginning. A stupid girl who knew nothing about love, who mistook infatuation for affections, who expected a jerk to be her prince on the white horse, who despised a man who actually wanted her for his lowly birth and never gave him a chance. I wonder, what is to like about Christiana other than the fact that she was beautiful?
Christiana's immaturity permeates the story. She did "grow out of" her infatuation for Stephen and "realized" that she loved David. I thought the change strange since nothing has changed for Christiana and David other than the fact that they had great sex. So after they had fantastic sex, Christiana came to realize that now she loved David? I mean, come on, give women a little more credit than that. The attitude change and "falling in love" seemed fake. I honestly do not know what changed. Christiana changed. Just like that. And all because David was such a great lover. And this was supposed to be romantic?
Christiana's fault does not stop at being naive and stupid about love. She was quick to anger. Whenever things didn't go her way, she either shut herself in the room or got mad at someone (usually David), accusing them of lying, using, misleading and misunderstanding her. The beautiful Christiana was never at fault. And she was entitled to her anger, because you know, Christiana was not happy. Someone must be responsible for that. And no no, Christiana was always right.
I would have given the book 3 stars for the writing. But Christiana made this book such an awful reading experience. I wanted to slap her but I was forced to read about how David loved her for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. Oh but how could I forget, they had great sex. It must be true love.
oh Captain Oliver Worthy, I am also in love with you.
I have heard about Carla Kelly for a while, lots of positive things, but this is my first book from her. I think her style is a little too innocent for me. But there is no denying it: she is a great writer. What I love about this book is Captain Worthy and his internal dialogues. Haven't we all been there, where the characters' internal dialogues drove us nut? Not in this Kelly novel. I wouldn't call her novel funny. It is not that. It is how poignant her characters are in a particular moment. And you laugh because you know exactly why they said what they said. It made you laugh because, well, you would have thought the same, had you been in the characters' shoes.
Eleanor, aka Nana, was 21 years old. I have to say it because it drove me batty in the beginning not knowing how old Nana and Oliver were. Oliver was 30. They met and came to like each other. It was that simple. What was endearing is the process. They were both so wonderfully sweet. And have I said this already? Captain Worthy is swoon-worthy. Really great characters, with Captain Worthy firmly in the lead.
The plot however, is a little bland for me. I like the background, a navy man, in a horrible war against the French. Wives seeing husbands off at the port. Difficult times. Carla Kelly did a great job illustrating that. She created a very endearing relationship between Oliver and Nana. But it kind of lacks excitement or tension. The pace was kind of slow for me. And the last 20% where Nana wen to rescue Oliver, well, I found that hard to believe. I wasn't impressed. Oliver and Nana are a sweet couple and I really liked Oliver. What a wonderful man. But the story is a bit too....sweet for me. Now I am wondering, just how cynical have I become to want a little more drama?
I actually skipped this book and went on to Eloise's story. When I was about half way into To Sir Phillip, with Love I thought I kind of liked Eloise's story and was reminded what a great writer Julia Quinn can be. I decided to come back and read Penelope and Colin's story. For God's sake, it is "the Bridgertons"!
I really like how Julia Quinn writes. The witty and charming subtlety, I always get into a happy place where I just enjoy the brilliance. There is nothing like it when the writing is so fluid that it encompasses you like a nice warm blanket on a winter night. Yeah, that is how Julia Quinn's writing makes me feel.
However I was rather underwhelmed by Colin and Penelope's story. I venture to guess that it has a lot to do with my doubts about a "I noticed you after 10 years" kind of romance and these tiny bits of details about the characters that usually bother me.
1. Extremely popular guy with a plain girl: Colin the perpetual charmer with Penelope the wallflower. It may be just the thing for some people. For me I am always asking the question: why her, of all the pretty attractive smart girls, why chose a plain girl? I don't get it.
2. They have know each other for years and all of a sudden, he couldn't keep his hands off her: Penelope was Colin's sister's best friend. They have know each other for 11 years when the story begins. I would love to be proven wrong but my observation has been that, if a guy doesn't like you in the beginning, it is very unlikely that he will like you later. It is a physical reaction, either they like you or they don't. And it happens fairly quickly. Whether they do something about it, that is a different story (even though I do maintain that if they REALLY like you, they would do something). If you have seen counter-examples, I would be more than happy to hear about it. I could even buy that the guy is unaware of his feelings. But there should always be something, sparks, discomfort, anything. The unexplored attraction may lay dormant, but it always does something to you.
So I have trouble believing that a charmer such as Colin, who has known Penelope for more than 10 years, would suddenly fall madly in love with the slightly pudgy spinster. Colin was always comfortable around Penelope. He had to be forced to dance with her to be polite. He never had funny thoughts about her. I didn't see any signs of chemistry. And I cannot imagine such a romance blossoming all of a sudden in their 11th year of friendship. But as I said, I would love to be corrected.
I am still glad that I read the book. It is almost like a duty to the Bridgerton family to read everyone's story. I have done right by Colin and Penelope and I am happy to go back to Eloise and Philip.