Historical Reviews

These Old Shades

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Rating: ★★★★½

A notorious duke with a devilish bent…

Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon, is called “Satanas” by enemy and friend alike. In the aristocratic circles of both London and Louis XV’s Paris he has a reputation as a dangerous and debauched rake.

A cast-off urchin with a secret past…

Late one evening, the Duke stumbles upon Leon, a red-haired urchin fleeing a certain beating at his brutal brother’s hands. On a whim, Avon buys the boy and makes him his page. But it soon becomes clear that Leon is not what he seems…

When the grubby Leon turns out to be the enchanting Leonie, the Duke is nor prepared for the breathtaking transformation or the tender emotions she awakens in him, or the unconditional love she had for the man who saved her.

I admit it, I have a bit of a kink when it comes to girls masquerading as guys and managing to pull it off. Especially during times when, historically, it was believed that women were incapable of even a fraction of what men were capable of. To shed the dress and don some breeches and go about the country side takes moxie and young Leon, er, Leonie has that in spades. Her story is wildly entertaining to read about and yet Georgette Heyer manages to kick it up another notch by adding in court intrigue, a debauched rake, and an ancient score that needs to be settled. Little Leonie finds herself in the middle of a whirlwind of scandal and only with the help of her savior, the Duke, does she have a chance to survive.

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke

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Rating: ★★★★☆

For generations, the Winslow and Clarke families have been feuding over rights to the mill stream, but Jane Clarke has managed to stay removed from the fray. While she doesn’t doubt her father’s claims, she also does not harbor ill will towards the Winslows. Yet Jane cannot remain untouched after someone hacks the ears off Mr. Winslow’s horse. Everyone in Satucket believes Jane’s father is the culprit. Is her father the kind of man who could commit such a horrible act? Suddenly, Jane’s long-held placidity is shattered and her trust shaken. Adding to her distress is Phinnie Paine, the suitor her father wishes her to marry.

When Jane defies her father and refuses Paine’s offer she is sent away to Boston to care for a troublesome aunt. Arriving in the bustling city awash with Redcoats and rebellious fervor, Jane discovers she cannot escape the conflicts defining her life. Father against daughter, Winslow against Clarke, loyalist against rebel-the battles are complicated by her seemingly unbalanced aunt, the unexpectedly kind British soldiers, the townspeople who taunt them, and her beloved brother, a law clerk working for John Adams, who is fervently channeling his own frustrations into acts of sedition.

When Jane witnesses British soldiers kill five colonists on a cold March evening in 1770, she understands she has become engulfed in forces greater than herself, knowledge that forces her to question seeming truths… and face the most difficult choices of her life.

This historical novel takes place on the eve of the American Revolution. Jane is a young woman who lives in a world that is more in flux than she realizes. Families are facing off against families, revolutionaries against loyalists and even father against daughter as Jane questions her father’s beliefs and actions and ultimately decides to not marry the man he has picked out for her.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille – the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town – a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when tragedy strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Mix Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who skinny dips in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapon, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman’s sparkling debut hums with wacky humor and down-home heart. It explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others. Above all, it is a book full of feminine wisdom – one to cherish, remember, and share.

Reading about CeeCee’s adventures had me by turns laughing out loud and nearly in tears as her life unfolded over the course of this wacky southern summer.

Charity Girl

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Rating: ★★★★☆

A young and lovely runaway alone on the road to London.
Miss Charity Steane is running away from the drudgery of her aunt’s household to find her grandfather. Not expecting her visit, the old gentleman is not in London but is away in the country.

A scandal broth in the making.
When Viscount Desford encounters a lovely waif searching for her grandfather, he feels honor bound to assist her; but dashing about the countryside together, the Viscount must prevent his exasperating charge from bringing ruin upon herself… and him.

In the end, his best ides is to bring Charity to his lifelong best friend Henrietta, and that’s when the fun and surprises begin…

While this book may start off slow and shaky, by the end Heyer has her footing again and the plot and characters sparkle. In Charity Girl a Viscount named Desford meets a young woman named Charity, “Cherry” for short, hiding away upstairs at a ball. She was foisted off on these relatives by an absent father and is treated more like glorified help then a poor relation in need. Naturally she ends up running away to London in a search for her grandfather. Desford finds her on the road to London and, after hearing her story, decides she would be better off with her grandfather and so gives her a lift. Unfortunately they arrive in London just to discover that her grandfather is out in the country and no one knows where or when he will be back.

A Reliable Wife

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Rating: ★★★★☆

He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for a “reliable wife.” She responded, saying that she was “a simple, honest woman.” She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving herself a wealthy widow. What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own.

Whatever you think this book is about when you pick it up, prepare to have your expectations totally blown out of the water. In A Reliable Wife three characters get tangled in a web of lies, deceit and shame as they all struggle with difficult life situations, hidden and open desires, and bitter and terrible pasts. These are not good people, and yet each in their own way beg for redemption even while believing they deserve none. It is a riveting book about the pain people can inflict on one another and themselves, the bitterness that grows out of that, the helplessness of some people to continue the cycle and the ultimate despair from the belief that the long cold winter will never end.