Valentine’s Romance

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It’s Valentine’s Day.

I know, I know, not everyone is into Valentine’s Day. Call it Singles Awareness Day, Galentine’s Day, Aro Awareness Day, whatever, I love a little romance in my life. Not always, not in everything, but once a year, what’s wrong with the hearts and flowers? What’s wrong with sending the message that true love does exist, that it endures and grows stronger over time? It’s not about the instant attraction, in my experience. It’s about the kind that survives challenges and keeps you together though thick and thin. My sweetheart and I are at 27 years together, and he still sends me sweet text messages and buys me flowers. My favorite part of every day is when he’s home.

Enough mush! You want to know about the books, amirite? Here is my list of 5 romances swoon-worthy enough for the most desperate romantic.

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More romantic stuff.
  1. The Scarlet Pimpernel  by Baroness Emmuska Orczy. Love AND the French Revolution! The movie version even has pre-Gandalf Ian McKellen and a fabulous Jane Seymour. The costumes are to die for! The hats alone – seriously, wow!

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Sir Percy Blakeney is a fantastic hero, although if you’re watching the movie, the disguises need a little modern updating, and the lovely Marguerite St. Just is a great heroine. The movie and the book have different final scenes, but both are very exciting. And even though this one is over 100 years old, it’s still easy to read.

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Enough lace yet?

2. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. Another old-style romance. And by old style, I mean 1865! Molly is our main character and her new stepsister Cynthia is her new best friend. Her new stepmom, on the other hand, is well, not. Fear not, because true love awaits Molly and Cynthia. Hold on, you may be saying, I heard this book didn’t have an ending.

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We like hats too.

Well, you’re right. It doesn’t, not exactly. The author died before she got that far. But the movie – it has the perfect melt your heart ending. Should I just watch the movie Bite your tongue! There’s plenty here to love. It’s not as quick a read, but it’s so well written it draws you right in.

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Time for more hearts

3. Mrs. Mike by Nancy and Benedict Freeman. Wow, Cindy, I hear you saying, what’s with all this period drama? How about something modern? Fine, try this one, which is set in 1907, which practically happened yesterday. Katherine Mary O’Fallon falls in love – hard – with a dashing young Mountie. He wants to marry immediately and set off north. She doesn’t know what she’s getting into when she says yes. This one will rip your heart right out, but put it back in and you’ll be so freaking inspired you’ll want to read it all over again. I think there’s a movie of this one too, but I haven’t seen it so you can just imagine your Mountie looking like, well, this:

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“I’m heroic.”

Sorry, I couldn’t find a better photo without adding “hot Canadian mountie” and I just didn’t want to deal with what I’d find. So use your imagination. But seriously, read this book!

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So sweet!

4. The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer. These are great suggestions, I think some of you are saying (really, you’re all so chatty!), but I like a little humor with my romance! And maybe some mystery too. Got ya covered! It was hard to pick just one by Georgette Heyer, who is admittedly, my favorite romance author of all time, but this one has not one, but two heroines, one saved from the guillotine and one with a bit of sarcasm to match her beauty. The mystery is more of an adventure than truly mysterious, but dashing all the same. No movie here, or pictures either, so imagine whatever you like.

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All the hearts!

5. Persuasion by Jane Austen. You knew she was going to make it on the list eventually, didn’t you? I tried to include some more modern books, I really did, but I guess when it comes to true love I like it old school. Anne Elliot is the heroine I really want to be. Sure, Jane Bennett is wittier, and Emma Woodhouse is richer, but Anne is patient and loyal and she gets her man in the end. And what a man!

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At last!

There is a movie of this one, and it’s perfect for your Valentine’s Day. Hooray for true love! Tomorrow we can go back to every day life, but once year, believe in Happily Ever After.

 

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Book a Party

You’re having a tea party for 5 guests. You may invite anyone from any book. Who would you invite and why? What would you serve? What do you do?

My guests. I’m going to make this an all female party, because it’s my meme and I can, so let’s get that out of the way. My picks would be

  1. Elizabeth Bennett. She’s witty, intelligent, and I’m dying to ask her about life in Regency era England. As well as gossip about our husbands. (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)
  2. Jane Marple. Also intelligent, and such a great source of gossip. It would be lovely to really hear an expert on human behavior. (Miss Marple mysteries by Agatha Christie)
  3. Scheherazade. She could entertain us with some amazing stories and I’d love to hear whether the sultan was worth all that in the end. (Arabian Nights)
  4. Molly Weasley. She’s a mom, like me, and we’d both welcome a chance to talk about our kids. And she’s an unbelievable badass as well. (Harry Potter series by J K Rowling)
  5. Meg Langslow. She’s not so funny all by herself, but as the calm within the storm, her tales would be hysterical. (Meg Langslow series by Donna Andrews)

Menu. Right, any party I attend would be better with chocolate, so let me start there. We’d have a chocolate fondue, tea or coffee for my guests and more chocolate for me. Maybe Molly Weasley would surprise us with some magical desserts and Scheherazade could bring Turkish Delight.

Activity. Maybe a few old-fashioned parlor games? I think Miss Marple or Elizabeth Bennett would be the winners there. Then we could just sit around and tell stories and eat the chocolate.

 

Right, so that’s my list. What about you? Who would you invite and why?

 

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Working class look at Elizabeth Bennett

This book has been getting a lot of buzz, and it’s not hard to see why. Jane Austen is still hot, and thanks to Downton Abbey, readers are curious about the split between how the upper crust and the working class. We’re already familiar about the world of Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy. The book is still super popular, with film versions, graphic novels, and so many spinoffs it’s impossible to keep track. You may be wondering if we really need one more.

Yes.

You see, most of the other versions still revolve around Elizabeth and Darcy – new takes on their romance, throwing a zombie or vampire in there, adding some sex, looking at what happens after the wedding, making them spies, and on and on. But what about the other characters in the story? What about some characters that aren’t really even named as characters, but still contribute to the story? Like, say, the servants?

The main characters of the original book are still here, but only at the fringes. In English major terms, this is a Marxist look at Pride & Prejudice.  The real story revolves around the household staff:  Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sara the housemaid, little Polly the kitchen maid, and the new footman, James.  The arrival of James, who clearly has a secret, has upset the household routine. In fact, everyone in the story has a secret, from Mrs. Hill’s past, to Mr. Hill’s romantic persuasion, to the handsome coachman visiting at the Bingley’s estate.

The book starts off with Sara up to her elbows in laundry, scrubbing the dirt once more out of Miss Elizabeth’s petticoats. And that’s just for starters. Someone has to make all those cups of tea the girls keep requesting, arrange those dinners for the neighbors, support Mrs. Bennett’s failing nerves. Someone has to clean up for Mr. Collin’s visit. And while the ladies of the house may be solely concerned with flirting and finding husbands, the rest of the world is dealing with the war against Napoleon, labor unrest, getting in the harvest, slaughtering livestock for the winter ham, starching the laundry, and so on and on.

This book is not for everyone. If you want your Pride & Prejudice to stay just the way the author wrote it, nice and clean and happily ever after, then you really won’t enjoy this book. The characters are not politely repressed gentlefolk – they fight, they swear, they have sex. James has flashbacks to the war. None of this is graphic, but it’s certainly a change from the well-mannered Jane Austen. But if you like learning about how all members of society live, not just the wealthy, then I strongly recommend this book. I listened to it on audio, and the reader did such a good job with the drawing room accents of Miss Elizabeth and the lower class speech of little Polly. I would definitely put this on  your Audible wishlist. 4.5 stars