Tag Archives: Into the Wild Challenge

La Petite Four

Scott, Regina. La Petite Four (2008). 231 Pages. $8.99. Penguin.

Lady Emily Southwell is the daughter of a Duke, and is also a Rebellious Teenager* who refuses to settle for anything less than her dream. Lady Emily and her three best friends– Priscilla Tate, Ariadne Courdebas, and Daphne Courdebas– have built this grand idea of their debut, and they will not let anything get in the way of their plans.

Their plans are set in motion as they graduate from the Barnsley School for Young Ladies, and are about to debut in their first Season. They plan for a ball to outdo all other balls– Priscilla’s family was beset by Scandal and she needs to use her good looks and charm to catch a rich husband, Daphne and Ariadne’s mother has Big Plans for her daughters and expects them to marry well. However, Emily’s fate has already been decided by her high-handed but well-meaning father; she will marry Lord Robert Townsend in eight day’s time, and she will not be attending the ball.

Of course, none of the girls are happy about it, and being Rebellious Teens, they are inclined to do things which are entirely improper and are likely to tarnish their good name in order to free Emily from her obligation. They follow Lord Robert about town and try to uncover some scandal which will make him so unmarriageable that Emily will never be expected to fulfill her engagement to the man.

Enter into this drama the incredibly handsome James Cropper, a mysterious man who crops up** at the strangest moments, confusing Lady Emily. Everything is not as it seems, and Lady Emily is the last one to catch on to the plot, leaving everything to her slightly-more-intelligent friends to figure out. By the end of the story, most readers will be sure of the end and just waiting for the characters to catch up.

Once I got over the fact that “Lady Emily” was what she was going to be called, and the fact that the cover was entirely anachronistic, and pink– a color which the character hates– and all of the other bits and pieces that drove me crazy, I found myself genuinely liking the story. It was terrible when I thought of it as a Regency story– there are so many things in here which other authors did better.

For being a well-bred young lady, the daughter of a Duke, and a recent graduate from finishing school, one might hope that a young lady would be aware that she should not be wandering around in the seedy parts of town without a guard. Sure, it creates the opening for Cropper to crop up the first time (hahahah, really, I’m brilliant, aren’t I?), and it sets the stage for the Romantic Entanglement, but really? Add to that the fact that over the course of eight days she apparently falls in love, and manages to (without actually figuring out a single thing) unveil the villain, and you’ve got something which is asking me to suspend my disbelief a little too high in that tree over there.

The Quick Version:***

It wasn’t terrible, but it was not brilliant. Regina Scott is clearly talented, as her writing itself is enjoyable. It’s her plot, and some of the finer details which made me raise an eyebrow (some times a bit higher than others). I liked the story as a whole, and was enthralled enough that I read it in a single sitting. It gets a 3 out of 5 for being solid, but having some issues.

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* She’s the Clever Princess, the Smart Princess, the girl who has everything in life, but is not happy with it. She’s the noble who’s not happy being noble, and thus does something silly. In short, she’s your typical rebellious teen wrapped up in noble trappings and thrown in a regency setting.

** Hahahaha, get it, cropper crops up!?! I kill myself sometimes.

*** I think I should just start calling this “the verdict” because really, it doesn’t re-state much. It just… declares.

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This book is now part of the Into the Wild Book Challenge. I’m not sure where I’ll release it yet, I’ll be sure to update this post when I’ve made up my mind though. If anyone reading the blog wants it, I’m more than happy to make this a controlled release and mail it to you. Just let me know!

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Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery & Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Improper English

MacAlister, Katie. Improper English (2003). 369 Pages. Love Spell. $6.99

The trouble with Katie MacAlister is that when I start reading one of her books, I cannot put it down. I really and truly cannot bring myself to part with her books until I’ve finished them, and when they are a part of a series, I keep tearing through until I get to the end, and then I still want more.

This became increasingly problematic when I realized I had reached the end of the Dragon Septs series*, and I found myself wondering what the heck to read. Then, in the mail came a package. A book I had traded for had finally arrived, Improper English sat there taunting me, begging to be read. So I obliged, and found myself a day later, bemused, realizing I had lost yet another day and having finished yet another Katie MacAlister book.

Improper English is a lot like many of Katie’s other books; Alix, our (American) heroine, is insecure and flawed, more than a little neurotic, and prone to what I can only think of as verbal diarrhea. They prattle, they blather, they babble, they go on and on and on, and all I want is for them to just shut up already. I’m big on flawed characters, it makes them interesting, and it makes them likable. It’s the babbling I’m not big on. However, despite my annoyance, despite the fact that I sometimes just want to gag a character and move on with the plot, I genuinely enjoy her books. They’re good, they make you laugh, they make you sigh, they drag you in and have you yearning for more, all of which is great. It’s just the babbling that gets me.

Anyway, Improper English is about Alix, a neurotic, insecure babbler who has lived under her mother’s thumb for 29 years. She has left a string of failures in her wake, and is hoping to succeed with just one thing; a novel. Her mother has agreed to finance a flat in London for a month on the condition that should Alix’s novel fail, she will move back  to America and take care of her elderly grandmother without complaint. This seems fine to Alix, how hard can writing a novel really be?**

Alix’s landlady is the enviably perfect and poised Isabella, who represents just about everything Alix thinks she wants to be. She’s beautiful, prim, proper, and delicate. She knows scores of handsome, available men, and even offers to set Alix up with someone who is perfect for her. When Alix arrives for dinner at Isabella’s, she finds Alexander and Karl, only to be disappointed when Isabella says that Karl the Dentist is Alix’s perfect match. In fact, Karl is charming and considerate, and an all-around stand-up guy. It is, unfortunately, Alex whom Alix finds herself drawn to.***

As I have said so many times before, knowing this is a romance novel, we come in with certain expectations. They are met and exceeded. Alix’s romance is enthralling, you find yourself drawn in, and alternately horrified by what she has just said, worried about her stupidity, gasping at what she just did, steaming up your glasses over the next page, and laughing aloud immediately after. Adding to all of this is the story of Alix writing her book, and the excerpts which start each chapter. They are so bad they are funny, and all I can think is that Katie must have had a great time writing them.

The Quick Version:

Considering that this is one of Katie MacAlister’s first books, it makes sense that it’s not as polished as her later work. It is still incredibly fun to read, and I truly did enjoy it immensely. It gets a 4/5 because it really was good, even if Alix was annoying.

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* And by end, I mean the latest book published, which came out earlier this month, and which represents the “end” only in that I can’t read the next one until it’s been written.

** Those of us who have attempted NaNoWriMo have got at least a vague sort of grasp on just how difficult novels can be.

*** I would make fun of the name thing, but I dated a guy named Aaron.

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This book is part of the Into the Wild Book Challenge. It’s ready to go, and will be released Memorial Day Weekend at Fanime Con! Hopefully it will find its home soon!

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Chick-Lit, Contemporary Romance, Humor, Romance