A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh

Cover of A Counterfeit Betrothal/The Notorious Rake by Mary Balogh: A woman in a pink Regency dress holds a finger to her lips.

A Counterfeit Betrothal

Mary Balogh

2013 (1992)

Dell

Mass market paperback

Source: Personal copy
Lady Sophia Bryant wants to get her estranged parents back together. Her solution is to pretend to be engaged to her childhood friend, Lord Francis Sutton. Her parents, Olivia and Marcus, have to help prepare for the wedding. In turn, they pretend to still be in love for Sophia’s sake. Alternating points of view  of the four of them showed how they miscommunicated with each other.
This was well written, though a little repetitive. (In an early chapter, it said twice on the same page that her parents had been separated for fourteen years!) The characters all had depth and clear motivation. There were a few times I thought, “Why doesn’t she just ask him if he loves her? Well no, then the book would be over too soon.” The plot was mostly the miscommunications, but I liked this book overall. As a reprint of an earlier novel, I see Balogh’s strengths lie in characterization more than plot. Now I’m interested in reading more recent Mary Balogh books, like her Survivor’s Club series.

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June-July 2015 Round Up

I’m behind on my goals! Here is an update. I got all of these books from my library in print or ebook.

In June and July 2015, I read:
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
Apothecary_full.jpeg

This was a really good YA historical novel. I have a review coming up!
You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren
YouAreYourOwnGym

I’m interested in adding bodyweight training to my running routine. This seemed like a good place to start. (He has a woman’s version, Body by You, which I might look at too.)  I ended up not using the program from this book, but this was very inspiring and scientifically sound, so I would recommend it. Lauren also made the program into a book and app.

Living with Less: How to Downsize to 100 Personal Possessions by Mary Lambert
Livingwithless

This was a basic primer on minimalism by an English organizing consultant. I agree with some of the reviews on Goodreads that this was repetitive and a little sexist. (“Men collect sports equipment!” “Women collect clothes!”) Lambert shares excerpts from her blog when she decided to downsize to 100 items. By the end, one of her items was “T-shirts (13).” I understand grouping some things into categories, but to me 13 t-shirts is 13 items! I’m looking forward to going more in-depth on minimalism by reading The 100 Things Challenge by Dave Bruno, who invented the challenge, and The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.

The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff

SpeciesSeekers

This book explored “natural science” from around the 17th century to the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was very long, but I enjoyed learning about many of the people who “stocked” US and UK natural history museums and their adventures in other countries.
Stealing Secrets: How a Few Daring Women Deceived Generals, Impacted Battles, and Altered the Course of the Civil War by H. Donald Winkler
StealingSecrets

Winkler covered women from both the Union and the Confederacy. I ended up only reading about half of it due to time. I liked that each chapter was about a different woman, and was a good overview of each woman’s life. I recognized Harriet Tubman, Belle Boyd and Mary Surratt, but the rest I didn’t know. I would recommend it!

Deep Secret (Magids #1) by Diana Wynne Jones

DeepSecret1

I finally read this after hearing about it on Neil Gaiman’s blog a few years ago. I thought it was a children’s book, as I know Diana Wynne Jones wrote mainly for kids.  It turned out to be a novel for adults, but teens could read it too.

A Magid is a magician who handles the political relations between many worlds in the Multiverse. Each world has three Magids. Magid Rupert Venables’ superiors send him to find Earth’s third one. He finds good candidates at a science fiction convention. He doesn’t know anything about science fiction and finds it all ridiculous. He just wants to find the third Magid and save the Multiverse from evil. I liked the world building and characterization. I understand the second book is for children, elementary or middle school.

Focusing in on Reviews

So that’s what I read recently. All of those tie into my new focus of reviews:  nonfiction I want to write about, science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction. (I didn’t read any classic novels this month, but want to add that too.)

Ironskin by Tina Connolly (Ironskin #1)

Ironskin

Ironskin (Ironskin #1)

by Tina Connolly

Tor, 2012

This book is a historical fantasy set in a place very much like England. It’s loosely based on Jane Eyre. It was nominated for a 2012 Nebula Award.

Five years after the Great War with the fey (fairies) ended, Jane Eliot comes to work as a governess for the mysterious and handsome Edward Rochart. His little daughter Dorie has had a “fey-curse” from birth. Jane thinks she can help, as she was also cursed by the fey during a battle. She has to wear an iron mask over half her face, so her curse won’t hurt others. In a subplot, her newlywed sister Helen and her husband are also keeping secrets.

The world building here was very good. Jane finds it amusing that her book of children’s tales (a spoof of A Child’s Garden of Verses) tells how to protect yourself from the copperhead hydra, but also has “fictional” stories about dragons. I thought that was a good choice–in a world where humans live with dwarfs and fairies, something else magical doesn’t exist in this world! As Helen is into fashion, there were many descriptions of clothes. The pre-war fashions were long Victorian-type dresses, and the post-war ones were short dresses with fringe, like the 1920s.

Besides the clothes, the theme of the book reminded me of England after World War I–a sense that the wonderful easygoing time of the aristocracy is now lost, and how those times won’t return again even if Jane wishes they could.  Both Jane and Rochart have regrets about what happened during the war. The fey gave humans technology to run their cinemas, cameras, and lights. This magical light was blue. After the war, the fey disappeared, so humans must go back to using coal and steam, and no more blue-and-white movies or photos.

Now, about the Jane Eyre connection. The name “Rochart” was too close to “Rochester” for me, but they are different characters with different motivations for their secrets. (From what I remember of Rochester at least; I haven’t read Eyre since high school.) Jane Eliot is young, in her early twenties, but more worldly than Jane Eyre due to her wartime experiences. Connolly does mention “no madwoman in the attic” and mentions Charlotte Brontë in the acknowledgments.

This is the first book in a trilogy. The second book, Copperhead, is about Helen, and the third, Silverblind, is about a grown-up Dorie.

Besides writing, Tina Connolly reads flash fiction stories on her podcast Toasted Cake.