Posts Tagged Victoria Alexander

Romance Saturday Returns with Victoria Alexander’s Latest “Scandalous” Adventure

It’s Romance Saturday at Shiny Book Review! So what could be better than a frothy little Victorian Era English romance by Victoria Alexander?

 THE SCANDALOUS ADVENTURES OF THE SISTER OF THE BRIDE stars Delilah, Lady Hargate, and American entrepreneur Simon Russell. Delilah, a widow, is attending the wedding of her sister Camille (note that Camille’s story was reviewed here), and so is Simon, who just so happens to be an eligible bachelor — and friend of the groom, to boot.

So what’s the problem? Well, Delilah and Simon shared one night of passion a few years prior to this wedding and didn’t tell anyone about it for obvious reasons. Making matters more dicey yet is the fact that both Delilah and Simon did their best to blur the lines of who they really were — Simon didn’t talk about his business doings, while Delilah simply called herself “Mrs. Hargate” and passed herself off as her sister’s long-suffering chaperone.

Now, they’re supposedly meeting each other for the first time, and sparks fly — but are flying for all the wrong reasons. Simon is angry that Delilah didn’t tell him that she’s a member of the nobility, and presumably wealthy in her own right, while Delilah is angry that Simon led her to believe that his business doings were far less than they actually are — and that Simon didn’t even tell her that he was a good friend of her sister Camille’s intended, Gray.

While Delilah’s extended family continues to be befuddled by Delilah’s seeming antipathy to Simon, Gray actually figures out that Simon and Delilah must know one another no matter what they’re saying. But, of course, he’s in the midst of planning his wedding to Camille. As Camille is a Bridezilla of the first water, Gray mostly stays above the fray and makes only a few, mild comments here and there.

Simon’s purpose in England isn’t just to attend Gray and Camille’s wedding, mind. He’s also there to look into “horseless carriages” — the ancestor of today’s modern automobiles — as there’s some interesting experimentation going on with Karl Benz (yes, the same Benz from the famous auto brand Mercedes-Benz), and now some French and English investors have decided to get involved as well. All of this is historically accurate, and it is sensible that Simon, who in our terms might be considered a venture capitalist, would take a liking to the various automotive prototypes available in the very late 1880s/early 1890s.

However, Delilah is a sensible kind of gal, and she does not like the idea of motor cars. They are dangerous. They belch toxic fumes — a lot. They barely work. And their steering apparatus (much less their primitive brakes) are no match for a competent horseman driving a traditional coach-and-four.

At any rate, the sexual spark is very strong between Delilah and Simon, so as you’d expect, they don’t refrain from sexual activity despite their strong disagreement about the merits of motor cars. But they try to keep the fact they’re sleeping with one another to themselves . . . and that doesn’t work too well.

Complicating things further, Delilah has a problem with her finances. Her late husband, Lord Hargate, wanted Delilah to remarry within two years. Her two years are nearly up, and because of that, she’s been cut off without a penny from Hargate’s fortune even though he had no known heirs at the time of his death besides herself.

Delilah comes to realize that she loves Simon — granted, she has to be dragged to this realization kicking and screaming, but still — but she refuses to marry for money. Instead, she’d rather drive Simon away . . . so she gets her second cousin to step in and pretend to be interested in Delilah so Simon won’t marry her out of pity.

So, will these two get together, or won’t they? (Hint, hint: bet on the happy ending. In fact, bet large.) And will the rest of the family be able to bear with Camille as she continues her “Bridezilla from Hell” routine? You’ll have to read the book to figure these things out, but you’ll mostly enjoy every minute of it.

Now, why did I say “mostly?” It’s simple. There’s some really poor editing here, which is unusual in a mass market romance. I saw numerous sentences with twenty-five or more words in them with zero commas.

Yes, I said zero.

This is something that’s hard to overlook for three reasons:

  1. To be accurate for the period, commas are needed to set off clauses. The Victorians were much bigger sticklers than I am about proper punctuation, so if you’re going to evoke the Victorian Era, you need to keep this in mind.
  2. It is nearly impossible to read a twenty-five word sentence (or longer) without commas. So for ease of reading alone, commas should’ve been inserted . . . but they weren’t.
  3. This particular romance had a big budget behind it and should’ve had proper editing as a matter of course. Why this book was so poorly edited is both inexplicable and inexcusable.

Look. I have dinged numerous self-published and small press novels for poor editing. So it’s only fair that I ding a big publisher — in this case, Zebra Books — for its own poor editing.

Because of the vagaries of the editing — almost nonexistent in spots — an otherwise A-minus read must be downgraded by one full letter grade to a B-minus.

Bottom line? This is a good, frothy romance with several laugh-out-loud moments. I liked the characters and believed the automobile subplot was plausible. But the editing was absolutely appalling — and I can’t pretend it wasn’t.

Recommendation: Get this one as an e-book, and hope the editing for the e-book edition is better by far than the mass market paperback.

Grade: B-minus.

–reviewed by Barb

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SBR 2-for-1 Saturday Christmas Romance Special

As Shiny Book Review is well aware that we’re fast approaching the holidays, this seemed a logical time to review two Christmas-themed romances, one by Sabrina Jeffries and the other by Victoria Alexander.  Jeffries’ romance is ‘TWAS THE NIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS, while Alexander’s is WHAT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS.

First up is Jeffries’ effort, set during Regency England and featuring Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, and Mrs. Camilla Stuart, a respectable widow with a young son.  Pierce has engaged Camilla to become a companion to Pierce’s own mother, whom he cares for but refuses to speak with for reasons that both he and his mother refuse to discuss.  However, Camilla is having none of that as it’s Christmas.  (She feels every mother deserves to have her son home for Christmas no matter how badly things have gone wrong in the past.)  Which is why she sends a brief note to Pierce saying that his mother is unwell and that if Pierce wishes to see her “before it’s too late,” he’d best come soon or not come at all.

Of course this is extremely upsetting to Pierce, who immediately goes to see his mother.  However, once he gets to his mother’s small house, Pierce gets extremely upset and feels both violated and manipulated.  But as he’s immediately attracted to Camilla despite what Camilla perceives as her lack of beauty, he decides to stick around for a few days to figure out what’s really going on with his mother.

And, of course, since Pierce wants things his own way, he also blackmails Camilla in the process.  Which means that he isn’t above a bit of manipulation of his own as he’s attracted to her, intends to get to the bottom of just why this is, and will figure out a way to make her his own if at all possible.

Over the course of this novel, many things are revealed, including why Pierce and his mother have been estranged, why Camilla’s so keen on keeping families together (hint, hint: it’s not just because she’s the widow of a vicar), and why these two are meant for one another.  Yet because Camilla is not a member of the nobility and Pierce obviously is, it seems for a time as if there’s no way these two can possibly marry and be together.

Of course, as this is a Christmas romance — and “happily ever afters” are a specialty of most romances the world over anyway — you can freely expect that there will be a way around this conundrum.  That way is well-written, involving, and interesting, yet felt a bit contrived beyond the normal levels expected of any given romance.

Still, it’s a nice read with two good main characters with many flaws (I do love flawed heroes and heroines), and I felt the romance between them was realistic and well done.

Moving on, Alexander’s farcical WHAT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS is one of the more amusing Christmas-themed romances I’ve ever read.  This Victorian-era English romance stars Camille, Lady Lydingham, and Grayson Elliot, the man who got away years ago.  Camille was in love with Gray when she was eighteen and he was around the same age, but she was about to marry another.  Gray declared himself, Camille was flummoxed, and both declared themselves brokenhearted forever when their abortive romance did not end in a “happily ever after.”

Now a widow (as Camille did marry the man she’d been engaged to), Camille is about to marry Prince Nikolai of the Kingdom of Greater Avalonia.  Camille doesn’t know where Avalonia is, much less much about Prince Nikolai, but as she’s always wanted to be a princess — and as she hasn’t seen Gray in many years — she’s willing to do just about anything to make Prince Nikolai happy.  So when the Prince wants a “proper English Christmas,” Camille is bound and determined to do anything she can to bring it off even though her mother and one of her sisters are in France and her father is presumed dead.

So what does the intrepid Camille do?  Why, hire a whole troupe of actors, of course!  They’ll play the parts of her devoted family plus all of the servants (who’ve been given holiday time off prior to the start of the book), and that will give the Prince the “proper English Christmas” he’s always wanted.

Of course, things go wrong nearly immediately when Gray comes back into the picture.  Now an extremely wealthy man after making a great deal of money in India, Gray believes he has the panache to offer for Camille.  Thus he goes to Camille’s house at the behest of his brother, the country squire, to renew his acquaintance.

But of course Gray has no idea that Camille hired a whole troupe of actors until he gets to her house.  Then, seizing on the opportunity presented, he proclaims himself her “third cousin” and takes up residence in Camille’s home alongside the other actors.

And of course it’s Gray who realizes that Prince Nikolai is not who he seems to be, especially as the Principality of Greater Avalonia no longer exists, but the only person he can discuss this with is Camille’s identical twin sister Beryl.  (Gray has always been able to tell the two apart.  So can Beryl’s husband, which is just as well.)  Beryl is not wholly unsympathetic to Gray’s pursuit of Camille, but she believes that Gray should have to earn Camille’s trust (a quite sensible attitude).  This leads to much spirited and witty by-play and a great deal of comedic intrigue.

And then . . . as this is, after all, a farce . . . things get even more convoluted when Camille’s real mother and her other sister, Delilah, show up and start interacting with the actors.  Because they still don’t want anyone to know what’s happening with all of these actors as the truth would ruin Camille socially, they end up taking false names right alongside Gray.

And if that wasn’t enough, another of Camille’s relatives shows up — someone completely unexpected — and he, too, must be accounted for in the whole farcical floating narrative.

Because WHAT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS is a flat-out farce, all of this plot description doesn’t begin to do it justice.  So let’s boil it down to brass tacks — Alexander’s book is extremely funny, and it’s well worth the read and the consequent re-reads because the humor is excellent, the characters make sense and the romance is incredibly realistic considering the farcical situations going on all around.

Bottom line: Both romances are better than average, but Alexander’s was funnier.  Still, both are well worth reading and will hold your interest.

Grades:

‘TWAS THE NIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS — B-plus.

WHAT HAPPENS AT CHRISTMAS — A.

— reviewed by Barb

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