Sunday, March 8, 2015

Faro's Daughter

Faro's DaughterFaro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best Georgette Heyer Regencies that I've read. I shied away from it for some time because of the setting in a gaming hell, but it was surprisingly non-sordid. It boasts a hero named Max Ravenscar (if that isn't a soap opera worthy name, I don't know what is) and some funny exchanges between the genteel proprietor of said gambling house, Lady Bellingham, and her niece, including this one:

"Now do listen, Deb! Seven hundred pounds for the bays and a new barouche! Well, I can't think where the money is to come from. It seems a monstrous price."

"We might let the bays go, and hire a pair of job horses," suggested Miss Grantham dubiously.

"I can't and I won't live in Squalor!" declared her aunt tearfully.

Ravenscar attempts to buy off the unsuitable Miss Grantham, mistakenly thinking that she is engaged to his nephew. Deborah Grantham is mightily offended by his arrogance and Heyer hijinks ensue. When Heyer is in top form, her books are the best antidote to gloomy weather, whether it is meteorological or psychological.

I also learned what an E.O. table was: a precursor to the roulette wheel. The E and O stood for Even and Odd. Faro was a card game that originated in France where it was called Pharoah.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Commonplace Book Redux

I started a Commonplace Book in 2012. Then the fairies must have hidden it. My latest reading inspired me to return to it. There are ideas aplenty to both inspire and ponder in this story of Hannah More.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Happiest Place on Earth

Over at Slashdot there's an article on the measles outbreak at Disneyland. It leaves me thinking that Joanna Rothkopf must have had a bad experience in the Magic Kingdom at some point in her young life.
According to Joanna Rothkopf Disneyland is already a huge petri dish of disease with tired children wiping their snot faces on Goofy and then riding log flumes through mechanized rivers filled with the backwash of thousands of other sweaty, unwashed, weeping toddlers.
Can't you just see everyone at Disneyland wearing hazmat suits with mouse ears, lining up to ride Big Thunder Mountain?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Civil Contract

A Civil ContractA Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes, I'm on a Georgette Heyer binge.

Not really a typical romance, this novel examines how a marriage of convenience grows into a real marriage. Quite ambitious of Georgette Heyer and it works well. A varied cast of characters with funny and annoying eccentricities, a plainly prosaic heroine, and an unexceptional hero. The friction between in-laws rings true. The everyday quality of the "romantic" relationship will not appeal to readers looking for swoons and throbs and smoldering glances.

"After all, life was not made up of moments of exaltation, but of quite ordinary, everyday things. The vision of the shining, inaccessible peaks vanished; Jenny remembered two pieces of news, and told Adam about them. They were not very romantic, but they were really much more important than grand passions or blighted loves: Giles Jonathan had cut his first tooth, and Adam's best cow had given birth to a fine heifer-calf."

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter Birds

We put a bird feeder out a few weeks ago, but the birds ignored it until the ground was covered with snow. Suddenly, every chickadee, titmouse, and goldfinch in the neighborhood was out there. We also have house finches, juncos, and towhees.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Devil's Cub

Devil's CubDevil's Cub by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Something about a dreary and frigid January makes me want to indulge in a literary escape. What I wanted was a book that would entertain and be utterly removed from reality, without being insipid. Anyone for Georgette Heyer?

If the plot of Devil's Cub makes you roll your eyes, you are forgiven. It's not the plot but the characters that delight. And what characters!

Mary Challoner:
She had, moreover, grave disadvantages. Those fine eyes of hers had a disconcertingly direct gaze, and very often twinkled in a manner disturbing to male egotism. She had common-sense too, and what man wanted the plainly matter-of-fact, when he could enjoy instead Sophia's delicious folly? Worst of all she had been educated at a very select seminary--Mrs Challoner was sometimes afraid that she was almost a Bluestocking.

Sophia Challoner:
She had a frippery brain, but she could dance very prettily, and knew just how to drive a man to desperation, so that it really did not matter in the least that she was amazingly ignorant, and found the mere writing of a letter the most arduous task.

Leonie, Duchess of Avon:
The Duchess had cast off her cloak, and seated herself by the fire. 'Ah, bah, I do not want your ratafia, me. I will drink a glass of port with you, mon vieux.'

Lord Rupert scratched his head, tilting his wig slightly askew. 'Oh, very well! But it's not what I'd call a lady's drink.'

'Me, I am not a lady,' announced her grace. 'I have been very well educated, and I will drink port.'

Juliana Marling:
Paris had gone to Miss Marling's head, and the attentions of such a known connoisseur as the Vicomte De Valme could not but flatter her. The Vicomte protested that his heart was under her feet. She did not entirely believe this, but a diet of admiration and compliments spoiled her for the criticisms of Mr Comyn.

Frederick Comyn:
If Mr Comyn, later, had seized her in his arms in a gently romantic fashion there would have been an end to the Vicomte's flirtation. But Mr Comyn was deeply hurt, and he did not recognize in these signs a perverted expression of his Juliana's love for him. He was young, and he handled the affair very ill. He was forbearing where he should have been violent, and found fault when he should have made love. Miss Marling determined to teach him a lesson.

Lord Rupert Alastair:
Lord Rupert stopped swinging his eyeglass, and said indignantly: 'Damme, I'd not be married by this fellow if I were you, Vidal. Not that I'm saying you should be married at all, for the thing's preposterous.'

Vidal shrugged. 'What do you suppose I care for his opinion of me so long as he does what I want?'

'Well, I don't know,' said his lordship. 'Things are come to a pretty pass, so they are, when any plaguey parson takes it on himself to preach a damned sermon to your face. Why, in my father's time--you never knew him: devilish bad-tempered man he was--in his time, I say, if the chaplain said aught he didn't like--and from the pulpit, mind you!--he'd throw his snuff-box at him, or anything else he had to hand…Now what's to do?'

Justin Alastair, Duke of Avon:
The gentleman opened his snuff-box, and took a pinch delicately. 'If you succeeded in protecting your virtue, my dear Miss Challoner, I can readily believe--knowing his lordship--that your methods must have been exceedingly drastic. You perceive me positively agog with curiosity.'

'I shot him,' she said bluntly.

The hand that was raising the pinch of snuff to one nostril was checked for a brief moment. 'Accept my compliments,' said the gentleman calmly, and inhaled the snuff.

The Devil's Cub AKA Dominic Alastair, Marquis of Vidal:
My lord said, amongst other things, that he did not propose to burden the doctor with the details of his genealogy. He consigned the doctor and all his works, severally and comprehensively described, to hell, and finished up his epic speech by a pungent and Rabelaisian criticism of the whole race of leeches.

Whereupon the doctor, who had listened rapt to the unfaltering diatribe, said with enthusiasm: 'But it is wonderful! An Englishman to have so great a command of the French tongue! It is what compels the admiration! I shall now bleed you. Madame will have the goodness to hold the basin. The English have such phlegm!'

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice

Belle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief JusticeBelle: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where the film based on Dido Elizabeth Belle's life takes certain, ahem, liberties with her story, Paula Byrne's book is firmly planted in historical fact and therefore thin on material about Dido. However, the book does an excellent job of bringing to life Georgian England and the struggle to abolish the slave trade. Byrne's research is excellently done and she breathes fresh air into the people and the events. I thought the chapter detailing the boycott of sugar and rum by ordinary English middle-class housewives in protest of the horrific conditions on the Caribbean plantations was well done. This is the best kind of history: factual and highly readable.

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