The Six Sisters: Diana the Huntress, M C Beaton
Summer of Love, Katie Fforde
Not Scarlet But Gold, Malcolm Saville
The Dress Circle, Laurie Graham
The Brutal Telling , Louise Penny
Beastly Things , Donna Leon
The Moorland Cottage, Mrs Gaskell
The Mapping of Love & Death , Jacqueline Winspear
Blotto, Twinks and the Bootlegger’s Moll , Simon Brett
We Three at School , Kathlyn Rhodes
The Maids of La Rochelle , Elinor M Brent-Dyer
Janie of La Rochelle , Elinor M Brent-Dyer
The Chalet School in Exile , Elinor M Brent-Dyer
The Islanders’ Secret Cave, Gaye Knowles
Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man (Coming Attractions), Fannie Flagg
Sheila Sinclair’s Quest, Muriel Stapley
Adele: To Make You Feel Her Love, Neil Simpson.
Yet another series from the prolific M C Beaton. How does she keep churning them out? The six Armitage girls are the daughters of a hunting-obsessed country parson and a hypochondriac mother. All are beautiful and in spite of the disadvantages of their background, all make brilliant marriages, one to a book. Annabelle is the second in the series, so I assume that her elder sister Minerva got engaged in the first one. Unfortunately Annabelle, who is very silly indeed, fancies herself in love with her sister’s fiancé. Eventually she falls in love with the right man, who is rather unbelievably in love with her. By the time of Diana, four sisters are married and it’s her turn. The trouble is that she loves nothing more than hunting, wishes she were a boy and tries to pass herself off as one. It’s a dreadful book! What idiot, quoted on the back cover, described M C Beaton as ‘the best of the regency writers’? There’s so much wrong I wouldn’t know where to start criticising, but my opinion counts for 0; she’s so popular people will keep right on reading this series.
Katie Fforde’s Summer of Love was a disappointment, as I didn’t like any of the characters. I also think the author got it wrong by making a glamorous and not very likeable character wear Boden, as if Boden were shorthand for glamorous, unlikeable people and the reader would smile knowledgeably. Hello? Plenty of people I know wear Boden, including me.:-) Much better was The Dress Circle by Laurie Graham, who writes reliably amusing novels. The main characters are self-made Midlanders, very nouveau and very nice. Their children are horrible and the opening of the book is taken up with the wedding of the bridezilla daughter. Ba is the narrator. She has a terrible shock when, after years of happy marriage, she finds out that her husband likes to wear women’s clothes sometimes, and she thinks he’s ‘turning into a woman’. I found the book too short, as I’d have enjoyed reading more about the family. I also liked Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg. It’s set in Mississippi from 1952 to 1959 and narrated by sassy Daisy. Her father is an alcoholic and a hopeless businessman, her mother keen on keeping up appearances. These people and most of their acquaintances live on the edge yet manage to rub along quite happily. I love Daisy. This is the kind of thing she writes: “I finished reading Great Expectations for English. My favorite character is Estella. She is mean as a snake.” My only complaint is that Daisy’s writing style doesn’t change as she gets older, which is improbable. Funny and touching.
Not Scarlet But Gold was a re-read for review. Not my favourite Lone Pine book. The Islanders’ Secret Cave is one of a series of books by Gaye Knowles about the Carfrae family, who holiday regularly on an island which sounds rather like Lundy. The only way across is by boat and the sea is often rough. No mains services, no phone. It’s not clear whether they rent or own the place. This story begins with the children leaving their various schools for the Easter holidays. There’s an incident at school involving Jack, matron, a trunk and a hand-made gift which won’t fit in, which is very similar to a scene at the end of Jennings’ Diary. Perhaps Anthony Buckeridge had read this book; perhaps such things were always happening at boys’ prep schools. Buckeridge made it much funnier. Today, Mr & Mrs Carfrae would be arrested for child neglect and the children taken into care. The parents have been invited to a dinner dance on the mainland and think it will be quite safe to leave their five children alone for a night. Of course it has to be the night of a big storm. The twins save a boy from drowning but the three are stranded at the bottom of the cliff and have to spend the night in a handy cave. Their poor elder siblings are out of their minds with worry.
That book came from the market, as did Sheila Sinclair’s Quest. It's a Pickering & Inglis evangelical story of a kind I sometimes rather enjoy. This one, though, is a shocker. It uses the well-worn missing twin plot. Marguerite vanished from a ship the family was travelling on when she was two. Sheila only learns of this when she’s sixteen and her mother has just died. Her father is taking her to India and she resolves to find her twin. The shocking part is not the totally unbelievable plot but the rabid anti-Catholicism, complete with sinister priest, which I haven’t met before in this type of book. On the back of the dustwrapper, there’s a list of books for younger readers which includes the wonderful title, The Dullest Boy at Treherne. Poor little chap!
Only one, Adele: To Make You Feel Her Love, which huskyteer alerted me was free for the Kindle. If you’d given me the right newspapers and gossip mags, I could have written this myself. No revelations, then.