Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday- Favorite Love Stories

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic: Top Ten Favorite Love Stories (mine are listed in no particular order). 

Happy belated Valentine's Day! Sorry for the blogging hiatus... work/life/etc. has been crazy the past few weeks!

1. Persuasion by Jane Austen- I love, love, love this story of second chances between Capt. Frederick Wentworth and Anne Eliot. I know many people have a differing opinion but I am a huge fan of the 2008 BBC version starring Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth.

2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen- How can you not mention the grande dame of romantic literature? I periodically re-read this and am always amazed at Austen's perceptive view of people and how Darcy and Elizabeth grow and change over the course of the story.

3. East of the Sun by Julia Gregson- A wonderful novel about three young women who leave England for India in the waning years of colonial rule and their ensuing romantic complications. Each grows over the course of the story and finds the relationship that is right for them.

4. A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin- Probably my favorite book of 2010. Walt and Allie, the main characters, are wonderful and I was totally swept up in their sweet love story based on a deep friendship.

5. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- I grew up with a Southern mom who adored this movie and when I finally read the book I loved it just as much as the film version. It has it all--passion, danger, scheming, war, romance, etc.

6. The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig- Letty and Geoff have always been my favorite of the Pink Carnation couples. A forced marriage brought on by a misunderstanding turns to love, and it's fun to read how they overcome their initial perceptions of each other.

7. North and South by Elizabeth Gasskell- I'm working off of only the movie version (the book is on my very long TBR list) but I love this story of how Margaret and John overcome their prejudices against each other. And can you beat Richard Armitage as John Thornton? So dreamy!

8. Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane in the Lady Julia mysteries by Deanna Raybourn- I've loved reading how their relationship develops over the course of the series and seeing how two very different people spark off each other.

9. Amelia Sedley Osborne and William Dobbin in Vanity Fair by William Thackeray- Thackeray is definitely viewing these characters through a sarcastic eye, but it's still great to see how steadfast Dobbin is in his love for Amelia, even as she holds onto an idealized version of her dead husband and is blind to his help. It's a nice moment when she realizes her husband was no angel and rushes to meet Dobbin at the pier.

10. Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling- Sure, I was glad to see Harry and Ginny end up together, but the relationship between brainy Hermione and the lovable and often clueless Ron has always been my favorite. When they finally share a kiss during the Battle of Hogwarts I felt like I'd been waiting the whole series! I can't wait for the movie version this summer... 

What are your favorite love stories?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Review: The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig

Laura Grey, a veteran governess, joins the Selwick Spy School expecting to find elaborate disguises and thrilling exploits in service to the spy known as the Pink Carnation. She hardly expects her first assignment to be serving as governess for the children of Andre Jaouen, right-hand man to Bonaparte's minister of police. Jaouen and his arch rival, Gaston Delaroche, are investigating a suspected Royalist plot to unseat Bonaparte, and Laura's mission is to report any suspicious findings.At first the job is as lively as Latin textbooks and knitting, but Laura begins to notice strange behavior from Jaouen-secret meetings and odd comings and goings. As Laura edges herself closer to her employer, she makes a shocking discovery and is surprised to learn that she has far more in common with Jaouen than she originally thought...(summary from goodreads)

don't know how she does it, but Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series continues to get better and better. I loved that at ages 36 and 32 respectively, Andre and Laura are both older than the other Pink heroes and heroines and therefore more mature and slightly world-weary. 16 years of providing for herself by working as a governess has left Laura cynical and stubborn, while Andre is a man of many secrets weighed down by his job as assistant to the Prefect of Police. Neither of them are perfect, and I loved watching their romance develop as Laura begins to soften and her competence and smarts win the admiration of Jaouen.

I enjoyed the cast of secondary characters as well, like the flamboyant and jovial Monsieur Daubier and the crotchety nurserymaid Jeannette. Willig also deftly weaves in a few scenes with the hero and heroine of the next Pink Carnation book, Augustus Whittlesby and Emma Delagardie. It was fun to get a sneak peek of how their romance will begin (rather contentiously it seems).

Author Lauren Willig

As with Willig's other books, The Silver Orchid is obviously well-researched and grounded in real-life historical events. The edgy environment of suspicion in Bonaparte's Paris was perfectly captured and I felt like I was in the salons and gardens with the main characters. The only part of the book that didn't hold my attention as well was the contemporary storyline with Eloise and Colin. I normally enjoy their chapters but I couldn't help wanting the story to move along so I could get back to Laura and Andre! Overall, however, Willig has mastered how to blend the modern and historical storylines so that they each complement each other. If you've never read any of her books I highly recommend you start.

On a side note, there's an interesting interview with the author here about the journey to the final cover for The Orchid Affair, from the publisher's decision to go for a more contemporary look to one that more resembles the rest of the series' fine art covers (which I love-- I don't think I would have picked up the first book in the series if it had a "traditional romance" cover).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Another witty and fun romance with flawed yet appealing characters who I truly liked and an intelligent and well-written story. I can't wait for the next book (which unfortunately won't be released until January 2012)!

source: personal copy