Monday, 2 July 2012

The Legacy of Hartlepool Hall

This was my first Paul Torday read and I'm sorry to say that it will probably be my last...
Ed Hartlepool returns to his family home to face up to his responsibilities after years of being abroad in tax exile. To his shock, there are many debts and the only way out to his sell the property for redevelopment. There is also the matter of the 'mysterious' Lady Alice who has suddenly started living at the house and his old friend Annabel, who is stuck living with her grumpy old father.
Although the book is easy to read, the dialogue is terrible and the characters are all unlikeable and unrealistic. They are caricatures of wealthy stereotypes who have no idea about the real world and I wonder if the author does too. I couldn't work out if it was supposed to be a comedy or a study of the upper classes, either way it did not make me laugh and there were some hugely frustrating parts of the story, for example Annabel's reaction to a major event in her life.
The only part of the book I warmed to, was the description of Hartlepool Hall itself, but unfortunately the main parts of the story did not seem to have any resolution. A very strange and frustrating read.

The Beach Cafe

Yes, this is one of those books, that you know exactly what is going to happen after the first few pages, but sometimes this is just the type of book you need to read, especially while relaxing holiday. I read this while sitting by the sea in Devon (sometimes on the patio of a real beach cafe!) although I think it would have made me feel 'holiday-ish' even if I didn't have the sound of the waves and seagulls. 

Evie is the odd one out in her family and has never made a big success of her life. She inherits a cafe in Cornwall after her beloved Aunt dies and takes the big decision to leave her boring life in Oxford and manage the cafe. Of course, there are a few disasters along the way, plus unwelcoming locals and a romance along the way, but by the end I guarantee that you will be wanting Evie's new life too!

Yes its predictable, some of the descriptions and dialogue are a little cringey, but the help that Evie receives to make her dreams come true can't help but make you smile! 

A Humble Companion

I had never heard of Laurie Graham before I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of this book. I became so engrossed in this story of a young girl, selected to keep a princess entertained, that I read it in two days, while on holiday in May.

Nellie Welche, a young girl with a distinct facial mark, is chosen to be Princess Sophia's 'humble companion'. Sophia is the twelfth child of King George III and over the years of their relationship, Nellie has an insight in to the life of the royal children and glimpses of the King's madness. The girls grow up together, with Nellie visiting Sofy and her sisters at their cold houses, returning home to work and look after her family. There is an interesting juxtaposition between Nellie's freedom and Sofy's dependence and innocence of the world. 

Nellie eventually has to marry a confectioner called Jack, who she grows to become fond of, while Sofy watches as her older siblings try to find suitable matches and has her own huge secret to keep... Based on the long-running rumour of a illegitimate child, A Humble Companion also focuses on how two young ladies in very different circumstances try to find their way in life and build their own friendships and extended families with a mixture of fictional and real-life characters.   

I really enjoyed this book, in particular the realistic relationships Nellie has with her husband Jack and the real love of her life Major General Thomas Garth. Graham gives a very amusing voice to Princess Sofy, particularly in her letters to Nell and this gives a fascinating insight into what may have happened during the royal family in this era. Witty, real and poignant, I look forward to discovering the author's other work. 

Nellie can be followed on Twitter @nelliebuzzard 

Darcy and Fitzwilliam

As you may know from previous posts, my favourite book is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.I have read many adaptations and 'sequel's and this is the first one to focus on the close relationship between cousins Fitzwilliam Darcy and Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam (yes the names do get confusing at times!)

The book is split into two parts, the first concentrating on the married life of Darcy and Elizabeth. They still tease each other, with the author keeping up the couple's playful and cheeky dialogue, and Darcy can still be as grumpy and aloof as ever. Elizabeth sighs that she thought he had moved past this after banter between the two cousins turns more serious. As Elizabeth learns that she expecting her first child, there is the bombshell that Darcy once had a brief relationship with the sly Caroline Bingley and she is up to her tricks once more as she lures him to her brother's house to seduce him once more...

The second part is set in London, with Fitzwilliam falling in love with an American widow called Amanda. There is a problem though, Amanda has a son, and they are both under the control of her fierce mother-in-law. Fitzwilliam is undeterred and follows her around the city convincing her of his love. 

This is one of the best Pride and Prejudice follow-ons I have read, as it keeps the tone of Austen's wit, is cheeky and funny and stays true to most of the characters. It was interesting to see Lady Catherine de Burgh's personality expanded and becoming an ally to Elizabeth!

I would recommend this to all fans of Darcy and regency romance!