Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Naked King

The title: The Naked King
The author: Sally MacKenzie
Publication: Zebra, 2011
Got it from: The library

The Naked King is the last book in Sally MacKenzie's "Naked" series.  I have read exactly one, which is this one.  Yes, you are supposed to read them all in order. And yes, as usual, I didn't, because: reasons.  I've done this many, many times before and I'll do it again in my next review, too.  Because a good book should stand alone, and I decide whether I'm intrigued enough to read the whole series, in order or not.

Stephen Parker-Roth, known as the "King of Hearts" (he claims it's because of his card-playing skills, gossips say otherwise) is drunk one morning when he runs into confirmed spinster Lady Anne Marston and her dog.  One thing leads to another and they share a kiss on her doorstep before her dog knocks them into the bushes.  As they are seen by a scandalized neighbourhood gossip, they have to act like they're betrothed.  Stephen finds the whole situation amusing, while Anne is horrified.  She is trying desperately to remain scandal-free so her younger sister can make a proper match during the London season.

As you might guess from the cover, this is definitely meant to be a lighthearted romance, and for the most part it is.  Both the hero and heroine come from cah-razy families.  In addition to her younger sister and dog, Anne has two young, mischievous stepbrothers, a batty aunt chaperone and an absentminded scholarly father.  Stephen has a large, meddlesome family who feature prominently in the rest of the series.  I am rather intrigued by the hints about Stephen's older brother, who supposedly was so into botany that his mother worried she would have to dress a woman up like a flower to get his attention.

But all is not entirely frivolous in this book.  In fact, a rather dark thread runs throughout the story: Anne was raped at a party ten years earlier and she is still traumatized by it.  Her violation caused her to retreat from society and she has lived with the secret shame, blaming herself and living in fear of her secret being discovered.  What I really liked about this book was the hurt/comfort aspect (I am a sucker for hurt/comfort stories), where Stephen helps her heal.  There is one memorable scene where he makes her buy a more flattering wardrobe, and her reluctant shedding of her old clothes mirrors the shedding of her emotional armour.   I really enjoyed Anne's journey to reclaim the joyful side of her romantic and sexual life.  

However, Anne's rapist turns up as the villain in this book, and at times he felt too over-the-top in his cartoon villainy.  He didn't need to literally smell bad for me to get that he was disgusting, and his sexual extortion stretched the bounds of credulity.  But it didn't ruin the story for me.  This was a solidly enjoyable Regency, and I would definitely read this author again.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Betsy Was a Junior and Betsy and Joe

The title: Betsy Was a Junior and Betsy and Joe
The author: Maud Hart Lovelace
Publication: Harper Perennial, 2009 (originally 1940s)
Got it from: Amazon, 2013

It seems that lately, so much of what I have been reading has felt like a chore.  Whether it is books for book club, or bad choices on my part, I find myself more often than not just putting books down and not picking them up again.  But I read the Betsy books for pure pleasure.  As much as I try to draw them out, I just find myself zipping through them too quickly.

This 2-in-1 book follows Betsy through her junior and senior high school years.  There is a lot that feels familiar from her previous high school books: romance, the "gang," outings, fashion and school.  In Betsy Was a Junior, Betsy is enchanted by her older sister's experience with university sororities and she decides to form her own.  It of course ends disastrously, with Betsy learning a valuable lesson about excluding people.  In Betsy and Joe, Betsy is caught up in a classic love triangle with Tony and Joe, although the book's title gives a hint as to where her heart lies. (Go Team Joe!) The romantic drama is the backdrop to all the fun and festivities of her senior year.

Once again it is hard not to love Betsy and her world of Deep Valley.  Everything just seems like so much fun.  There are always parties and sleigh rides and swimming and picnics and plays, and they are always eating the tastiest-sounding food.  

I already summed up a lot of my thoughts about the Betsy books in my previous reviews, and the same applies here.  If you've read the earlier books, of course you will read and enjoy these ones, the way you would watch the next installment in an addictive TV show.  And of course I'm going to read the rest of the series with Betsy's European adventures and her marriage.  I'll try to draw it out, but I doubt I will be able to resist binging again.