Thursday, November 20, 2014

Folle Farine by Ouida

Folle Farine by OuidaI read Signa and Bebee and enjoyed them immensely. This story just didn't work for me. The overall tone is so depressing it makes Les Miserables or Tess of the D'Urbervilles feel like Pollyanna. 

I don't mind some darkness if there's a glimmer of hope, but this isn't that kind of story. I counted one sympathetic character, a cripple and outcast who dies soon after his introduction. Other than him, they are to the last man, woman and child either downright evil or soul-destroyingly indifferent.

I'm the first to admit that understanding allegory is not my strong suite. And this book is rich with them. To a more intellectual mind, I can imagine its worth. But unfortunately, I was blinded by the misery. If there was a moral to this, the only two I took home were that "evil always conquers good" and "there is no God but gold". Not very cheerful.

In a nutshell: a fatherless child (read: spawn of the devil) is brought up as a slave to her evil grandfather and abused by him and every other person she meets. She eventually comes upon a painter starving to death in a tower and comes to his aid. She falls in love with him but he is only in love with his art...

I have a GR friend who adores this book (Its his favorite Ouida) and I'm so reluctant to say anything against it. But my fragile emotions couldn't handle this. Thankfully, there are plenty of other Ouidas for me to choose from.


The Mountebank by William J. Locke

The Mountebank by William J. Locke3.5 Stars

Andrew Lackaday was born under circus tents. As he grew up (to a 6'4" skinny redhead) he perfected his trade in mimicry, sleight of hand, gymnastics and mountbankery (is that a word? :)

Then the war came. And the world changed. What people thought funny before the war was no longer amusing. How can it be? And besides, how can Lackaday go back to playing the fool in second rate music halls when weeks before he wore the stripes of a Brigadier General? The whole situation is ludicrous.

Then there's love. Lackaday holds the heart of a divine lady in the palm of his hand but unbeknownst to her, there's another woman, a coarse but kind circus performer who has stuck by him from the very beginning...

This was good. Quite a character study and not as improbable as it might look at first glance. The situations felt true and realistic. But Beloved Vagabond was better. This story needed a bit more humor in it. It was fairly dark. I wanted more lightheartedness. And if not lightheartedness I wanted more grit. Lackaday never talked about the war and I wanted to hear/ see a bit more how he was affected by it. But aside from the war putting the dampers on his livelihood he seems to have escaped unscathed. Was that even possible?

Still, a good read. I have a hardcopy (with nice d/j) but I tended to pick up my ereader for most of this reading because of the many French phrases I wanted to translate.

PROFANITY: Mild, some D's. 

Sea Horses by Francis Brett Young

Sea Horses by Francis Brett Young3.5 Stars

Francis Brett Young deviates from his usual English stomping ground and takes us on a sea adventure to Panda on the African coast. 

In a nutshell, a sea captain is finishing a job in Naples and is expecting to be home in a matter of weeks when he receives a new command. He must take the ship to Panda, on the African coast to collect goods...and... he must take a passenger, a woman, who is attempting to track down her runaway husband who abandoned her seven years prior, and her young daughter.

For the first half of the book, FBY had me by the ears. I enjoyed seeing relationships develop on board with the various sailors, seeing how a young child changed these gruff men into more human creatures, also the jealousy and animosity between them, having a woman about.

Where FBY lost me was when we stepped ashore in Africa. The descriptions can I put it? I couldn't SEE what he was describing. For example, there is a storm, a tornado, an escape through estuaries or swamps (I'm still not quite sure) and at these times I couldn't really picture what was happening. 

There's also some loose ends which were never fully explained
 There is a rather mysterious man of business who resides in his mosquito netted four posted bed. He looks like a marble statue and we're given to understand that he is partially paralyzed. Our hero has a few conversations with him. Later it is said that this mysterious man has died. And that he died a week prior. But our hero was in communication with him during this time. How? Was someone using him like a dummy? It's never explained. And why did everyone hate him so much? What did he do? Also, what happens to the woman's husband? There is a fight at the end and we don't know if he is alive or dead. Is our heroine free to marry again? We don't know. *END OF SPOILER*

I would be interested in hearing someone else's thoughts on this one but being that it is somewhat rare I may need to wait a while...


SEX: One offscreen attack/ rape 
VIOLENCE: Some violence but not very descriptive.
PROFANITY: D's mostly. One B, and some racial slurs scattered about.
PARANORMAL ELEMENTS: there's talk of a house having a "feeling " about it because of past lives, also there's a question of whether one character died before or after a series of conversations.

Handwriting Analysis - Discover Your Own Vocational/Career Potential

Handwriting Analysis - Discover Your Own Vocational/Career Po... by David J. DewittSo tell me about myself, that's always fun :) As long as its praiseworthy, complimentary, gushworthy, flattering and otherwise ego boosting, right? No one wants to find out they're a closeted psychopath, egocentric cleptomaniac or some other blight on society. That just wouldn't be cool.

So it was with tingling anticipation I picked up this book. See, I used to have exemplary writing. I did. It was a practiced ART. Perfect. I was proud of it. Then, over time....I don't know. I guess it just wasn't that important to me anymore and I let it go the way of the wind and let my writing just happen. So now...what can I say? I DARE you to steal my recipe book!

This was fun and instructive- very good for highschoolers or others looking for their niche in the career world. Its not all encompassing, (there are other books that go deeper into criminal/business analysis etc.) but is a basic guide with graphs,examples and plenty of simple explanations to help you unlock your potentials and give you a springboard for job ideas. The rest is up to you.

Highly recommended.

*This book was author provided for review purposes. I was not required to give a positive review.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Man Who Lost Himself by Henry De Vere Stacpoole

The Man Who Lost Himself by Henry de Vere Stacpoole4.5 Stars

This is a wonderful story about a penniless American man who accidently meets his double in a crowded Hotel lounge. His lookalike "liquors him up" and the next thing he knows he is waking up in a posh bedroom and being called the Earl of Rochester.

At first he thinks its a practical joke and he plays along. But when the morning newspaper arrives, it all becomes clear: 'Mr Jones, the American' (the real Mr. Rochester) has commited suicide...

You have to love Vincent Jones. A down to earth, honest, plucky businessman, he sorts out the messes Mr. Rochester left behind him one by one, some with truly funny climaxes. All could have carried on smoothly but then the new Mr Rochester meets the lovely woman who he is "married" to and falls in love...

What follows is a confession, a lunatic asylum and a great escape.

So this was really good. There is no part of the story that lagged at all and I really felt invested in the characters. I'll definitely be checking out more books by this author.


The Woman At The Door by Warwick Deeping

The Woman At The Door by Warwick Deeping3.5 Stars

Which is the greater of two evils...a man who abuses his wife over the course of many years, or a woman who kills such a man in self defense? Laws being what they were in 1930s England, such a woman would either hang or spend the rest of her life in prison.

But what if someone.... (theoretically speaking), spirits such a woman away, hides her, creates a new identity for her, a new life somewhere far away...on the continent perhaps, is that man an even greater sinner? Should he be held with even greater responsibility or is it perhaps true that "the law is an ass", afterall? 

Such is the conundrum for Mr. Luce, a widower, who leases an old signal tower in the country for peace and quiet and then one stormy night hears a tapping at his door...

So I enjoyed this book, Deeping always delivers a well told story, but it wasn't my favorite of his. I thought there was a lot of room to spare for richer and more authentic character development, especially on the part of the woman. I felt that Rachel (the abused wife) realistically would have had a lot more baggage/ trust issues than she was shown with and probably wouldn't have fallen so quickly into another man's protection (or his arms). Just an observation. But Deeping likes his docile heroines :)

PROFANITY: Mild, a few D's
VIOLENCE: Mostly offscreen domestic violence. One brief attack shown.
SEX: None shown to reader


Mother by Kathleen Thompson Norris

Mother by Kathleen Thompson NorrisThis is a very light but pleasant read about a young woman who is disillusioned with her lot in life (one of seven children in a small rundown house in a small rundown town) and longs for the "real life" of pleasure and ease.

By coincidence she meets a high society lady who offers her a job as a private secretary in the woman's NY family mansion. She finally experiences life as she imagined it. But is it all it's chalked up to be? And what happens when your beau finds out your true origins? Will all be lost?

And at the crux of the story is Margaret's mother, the true hero of the story...

Its a sweet read but it didn't thrill me. I found it rather syrupy to be honest. Its the kind of book where you know just where the author is going with it, there's really no surprises, but its still a pleasant diversion.

But here's something to note: while I applaud motherhood and its many joys, there is a fairly heavy 'moralizing' tone throughout the book extolling the virtues of a woman's place (childrearing) and I felt bad for any woman reading this in years past who simply couldnt have children or maybe just wasn't "that type of woman" and therefore not up to scratch. You're either a self-sacrificing mother of a tribe of children or you're selfish. I didn't see a balance there.

If you can get past that, its a cute story. 


It Happened In Egypt by C.N Williamson

It Happened in Egypt by C.N. WilliamsonThis book is roughly 70% travelogue, 20% mystery and 10% romance.(and the romance is split between four couples)

It felt almost as though the author kept a diary while on an extensive trip to Egypt and decided to use it as a base for a novel. The descriptions are vivid but I admit I got a little impatient after a while because the story was kept waiting while we admired the scenery. (And anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy a leisurely-paced, descriptive book so go figure...)

I think if it had been edited by about 100 pages the story would have been "tightened up " improving it. But it was an ok read and quite interesting. There are one or two exciting bits but overall not very suspenseful. 

Aside from the scenic descriptions and history of Egyptian gods, we have a story of hidden treasure, escape from a harem and espionage. 

I would recommend it to those who enjoy a more rambling mystery and exotic vacation thrown in.


The Secret Sanctuary by Warwick Deeping

The Secret Sanctuary by Warwick DeepingSuch a good story. Wow. 

A shellshocked WW1 soldier returns from the battlefields with brain storms, mental lesions , or simply put, moments of provoked insanity. After spending some time in prison for almost killing a man, he returns home but cannot settle into normal society. So at the advice of the doctor and John's own wishes, a lonely cottage/ farm is purchased so John can live in peace and quiet, hopefully banishing his demons with meaningful work.

This starts off well and John makes friends with a nearby farmer and his wife. But when a red haired vixen appears on the scene apparently with no other object but to antagonize and seduce, a trigger is set off and history comes close to repeating itself.

Will John ever be able to live as a normal man again? And will he ever feel free to enjoy the love of one good woman, the farmer's daughter, Jess, finding sanctuary from the storms? 

This was a wonderful read. For large chunks of it my heart felt squeezed with emotion. The characters rang true, their struggles were honest and their aspirations worthy of fighting for. A happy (though realisticly imperfect) ending. 5 stars.


SEX: None


NOTE: This is a very hard to find book and not available on many (if any) open domain sites. Scour your libraries and grab it if you can. I found my used copy on Amazon.

The Usurper by William Locke

The Usurper by William J. Locke2.5 Stars

When a down-on-his-luck man comes across a dead acquaintance in the wilds of Australia, it doesn't seem such a big deal to go through his possessions and see what might be of use. One item is a deed to a piece of land. To claim it: pretend to be the owner.

At first the land is a disappointment. Nothing will grow in the black dust and the man is becoming desperate, only to find he is sitting on...a tin mine. 

'Jasper Vellacot' is now a millionaire philanthropist and his "Midas Touch" has accelerated. Everything he touches seems to turn to gold in his hands. And while he is accomplishing much good with his wealth, his secret is eating away at him and keeping him from making close friendships, especially a friendship with a certain beautiful woman who claims cousinship with him.

Then one day a man arrives on his doorstep. A ne'er do well, rough looking, heavy drinking man who looks an awful lot like the acquaintance he left for dead....

So it sounds good but this is probably my least favorite WJL. He got a little sidetracked with the main theme and I found some of the secondary characters more interesting than the primary ones, especially the poet "Bon Ami" and his passionate love for an Italian peasant girl (and subsequent action in WW1) 

In this story his main character, Jasper, becomes a politician (as several of his characters in previous books have done) and I felt a sort of dejavu while reading. 

An ok read but only for WJL fans.


Simon the Jester by William Locke

Simon the Jester by William J. LockeWhen Simon de Gex, wealthy and successful MP, finds he has six months to live, he embarks on a quest for "eumoiriety".

In the words of Marcus Aurelius, " Let death surprise me when or where it will, I may be eumoiros, or a happy man, nevertheless. For he is a happy man who in his lifetime dealeth unto himself a happy lot and good desires, good actions."

So in the matter of a few months, Simon disposes of his wealth in handouts, charities, in hefty tips etc. After all, what good is money when you're six feet under? If Simon can "fix " the universal woes by dipping into his pockets then by all means live, laugh and be eumoirous!

But doctors can be wrong, one can meddle where one is not desired, and what does one do when there is a return from the grave but its a return to a bleak world? No money. No society friends. No real skills. No desire? It is a quest for eumoiriety all over again. But this time, perhaps this time, Simon returns a wiser man...

I really liked this. What Ive summarized seems pretty straightforward and tame, but there are a lot of twists and turns along the way and interesting characters to spice things up. There's Lola the lion tamer, an eccentric dwarf "Mr. Anastasius Papadopoulos"; Simon's young friend Dale, and Eleanor Faversham, Simon's finance, about whom he admits:

"There seemed a whimsical attraction in the idea of marrying a girl with a thousand virtues. Before me lay the pleasant prospect of reducing them, say, ten at a time, until I reached the limit at which life was possible, and then one by one until life became entertaining."


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Hidden Masterpiece by Honore De Balzac

The Hidden Masterpiece by Honoré de BalzacI'm not the best judge of short stories since they're really not my thing. But I did enjoy this, sort of. The writing is good, even though I was left with more questions than answers when I'd finished. Maybe its too deep for me, I don't know.

But if I was to give the Master painter in this story a piece of advice (and who am I?) I'd say "beauty in art is knowing when to call it finished. " 

There's such a thing as over beating egg whites. 

Its only 30 pages and is free. Read it for yourself and see what you think. I have some more observations but it would be spoiler ridden to voice them.

Septimus by William J Locke

Septimus by William J. LockeI always enjoy stories that turn the table on cliche, convention and cardboard cutouts.

In Septimus we find a delightfully unusual hero who is modest, inconsequential in appearance, flighty, untidy, eccentric, and inventive. Mainly, he's inventive in developing complicated weaponry, which is pretty ironic when you get to know what a tender-hearted, self sacrificing person Septimus really is, (and you will eventually learn why he chose that trade) but it does send the point home that you can never judge by appearances.

When I first meet Septimus in chapter one I felt a moment of dismay. "Oh please don't tell me this bumbling idiot is going to be the hero...". See how we judge on first sight? I'm ashamed of myself. But I soon found myself rooting for him and you will too.

I could have done with less of Clem Sypher, the inventer of "Sypher's Cure" and more of Septimus though. Clem at times dominated the story, he was larger than life, and while I understood why he was there (to serve as contrast) and although I do feel that he was neccesary, he hogged.

Still a 4 Star read for me and is free on public domain.


The Fortunate Youth by William J Locke

The Fortunate Youth by William J. LockeThis reminded me of a male Cinderella story. At its outset we meet Paul, an unloved and unwanted child in Lancashire. He sleeps on the scullery floor at night and is beaten whenever his mother and stepfather over imbibe (which is most of the time). This would normally break a child's spirit but Paul is of a different nature entirely. For one he is an egoist; there's really no other word for it.

Instead of accepting the inevitable drudge of factory work and home misery as his fate, he sees great things for himself and is convinced that he is the descendant of a Prince. (Why else would he look and act so differently from his family?) So he decides to run away and become what he always knew himself to be: Great.

And he does. He goes from modeling in art studios (he's Adonis in the flesh), to trying his hand at acting, to bankruptcy, pneumonia and dying under a bush, and eventually discovering his fairy godmother and a path to politics and success. 

And that's where he lost me... I'm not at all into politics and I would have found the story much more interesting if he made his fortune frying fish rather than waving the flag. That's just me.

But there are some interesting twists and turns in the story especially with regard to his real father's identity and a French princess.

A solid 3 stars

Sulva John by Warwick Deeping

Suvla John by Warwick DeepingWith a bullet in his back, Sulva John was never meant to return from the war. But while Sulva John's would-be murderer comes back from the trenches a hero of sorts, ("He told me to look after you, Elsie ..") and marries John's finance, John wanders the world as a hired soldier under an assumed name...

When John returns to England, he hitches up with a gypsy caravan and falls in love with Richenda, an inependant, serious minded, pipe-smoking, straight-talking heroine. In her wisdom she tells John, " I want what is ours to begin like a perfect fruit with no other poor fruit lying rotten and unhappy."

So he returns to his former home to "lay some ghosts to rest", confront some painful memories and close a few chapters. But in the process he stumbles across Elsie, his former finance who has no intention of letting dead soldiers stay buried...

I really love Warwick Deeping. I love the ways he spins a tale. Although his stories are simple, they're meaningful and full of genuine characters, good and bad. A very enjoyable read.

FYI: It's very difficult to find this one. I haven't seen "Sulva John" on any public domain sites and I just managed to snag a used copy from Amazon. If your library has one, grab it before they "recycle ".


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Beloved Vagabond by William John Locke

The Belovéd Vagabond by William J. Locke4.5 Stars

What happens when a gentleman of learning, passion, and artistic temperament gets his heart broken? Why, he smashes every remnant of his past life into little tiny fragments, sweeps them under the rug of oblivion and reimerges with a new identity. His name will vary with whim and circumstance, his home may be a slum in London or a hedge in Britany, but one thing, the man inside, the "real " man, the Genius and man of heart, Paragot, will remain unchanged... as the beloved vagabond.

Not everyone will enjoy this. You have to love words, (I have 51 new words in my kindle 'vocabulary builder' because of this book), you must love the music and rhythm of flowery, witty speech (see status updates for examples) and you must be ok with a story that doesn't gallop along at a breakneck pace. If this sounds like your style, I think you'll find Beloved Vagabond a very satisfying read that celebrates true contentment found in the obvious yet elusive real life.

In The Beloved Vagabond one learns (almost too late) that dreams, even admirable dreams, lifelong dreams, lovelorn dreams, are occasionally best kept under the pillow where dreams belong.

CONTENT: G-PG (for "crapulous" i.e, drunken, scenes :)

*I recommend reading this for free via Amazon on an ereader or tablet with built in dictionary/ translation features for fullest enjoyment.

A Woman's War by Warwick Deeping

A Woman's War by Warwick DeepingFive stars easy!

A Woman's War is my first Warwick Deeping and I've happily found a new favorite author. :)

In a nutshell, it is a story of good triumphing over evil. The evil in this case comes in the form of inherited alcoholism. A curse for any person but particularly more stigmatic (and potentially dangerous) when one is an M.D. in a small village. Neighbors will talk, jealous coworkers will scheme and accidents will happen...

This story engrossed me from page one. Dr. James Murchison and his family warmed my heart with their deep seated love/ support for eachother. When James stumbles, we root for him, willing him to overcome his "curse " before all is lost. And when good eventually triumphs and the baddies get their just desserts we try not to revel in it, because we've experienced what that feels like.

A wholesome, must read, honest book. How it ever went out of print I don't know. Thankfully, it can be read or downloaded straight from public domain sites such as Openlibrary. 
Or, you can pay to buy from Dodo Press but they're pretty expensive for these obscure titles.


SEX: None
THEMATIC ELEMENTS: Alcoholism, syphilis


The Hidden Hand by E.D.E.N. Southworth

The Hidden Hand: Or, Capitola the MadcapIt somehow doesn't seem right to review a book that's really only half a book (The "sequel" Capitola's Peril is the other half, and both are available free on kindle).

Well, I didn't love this. I'm not even sure if I liked it. It's a strange little book and has its share of devoted fans but for one reason or another IT and I just didn't 'click '. Some books are like that and you can't force the relationship. It either is or it isnt.

At its beginning, "The Hidden Hand " is a mystery. Then its a comedy. Then a romance, next a sermon and ends. No character felt real enough for me to care what became of them. And primarily for this reason, although the book takes us to a cliffhanger ending where nothing much is resolved and Black Donald is still on the loose, I'm ok with that. I know the answers are all in the sequel but I'm not sure I'm that bothered to find out, even though its free. Isn't that awful?

Please read other reviews for this because I am definitely in the minority on this one and Id hate for you to bypass a book that may be a winner for you. It's free. Give it a go.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Lodger by Mary Jane Staples

The Lodger by Mary Jane Staples4.5 Stars

This is a retelling of Marie Belloc Lowndes' book The Lodger but with a humorous cockney twist. While characters go about their daily routines and see to their own joys and challenges, a murderer is afoot. A murderer who strangles his lady victims and takes a lock of their golden hair as a souvenir.

No, the murders are not funny. But this is where Mary Jane Staples (a.k.a. Robert Tyler Stevens) excels at his craft. The way he can take a subject like Jack the Ripper and turn it into a feel good story is masterful. In this novel we are treated to three distinct romances, a lot of cockney humor and bantering dialog as well as satisfying suspense. 

It's a light read but there's still enough going on to satisfy serious readers who like a meatier story. The cover art makes you think its a YA novel but it really isn't. I would say because of themeatic elements older teenagers and up would be best suited. 


SEX: alluded to (off screen), one victim is a prostitute. 
PROFANITY: Mild (if you're American), Moderate (if you're British). No F bombs.
MY RATING: PG-13 (for profanity)

The Key Of Life by Francis Brett Young

The Key Of Life3.75 Stars 

When archaeologists start digging around her home of Castel Ditches, Ruth is intrigued. Not much happens in the country so anything of news is welcome.

But with the winter comes sickness. The head archaeologist becomes ill with pleurisy and the doctor puts him up at Ruth's home to be nursed since its the closest. She tends him and they fall in love ... but is it love? Or pity?

Hugh gets reposted to Egypt (because of the warmer dry climate) and he sends for Ruth to join him there. But when she arrives, Hugh is sick once again and his mind is full of his own work and nagging suspicions. Suspicions about Ruth and the new anthropologist, a man called Bezuidenthout...

I can't say any more, you'll have to read it. But I found it a quick, enjoyable read. It could have been 4 stars but the ending didn't quite satisfy me. 

The story takes place around the time King Tut's tomb was discovered so anyone fascinated with mummies, pyramids and archaeology in general would probably like this. Alas, it is difficult to find. I bought my copy through Abebooks but ebay is another option. 

Sex: None
Violence: None
Profanity: Ds
Paranormal elements: None

Lebanon by Caroline Miller

Lebanon3.5 Stars

We're first introduced to Lebanon as a young bayou woman living with her father, Crease and brother Joel. Her mother died while Lebanon was very small so her upbringing was left to the menfolk. So it's not too surprising that Lebanon is just as comfortable hunting alligators as she is in keeping house. While she never learned to read and write, (not for lack of desire) she is well seasoned in survival skills.

I loved the bayou part of the book, I always find that setting fascinating and her first love with Sebastian Ratcliff was soul satisfyingly sweet. They really seemed like soulmates. Unfortunately, Sebastian is betrothed to another and stands by his word...

Lebanon, alone with her misery, can no longer bear her memories in the bayou so she impetuously proposes to a family friend in order to head West.

We're not actually told where they end up settling and if you're looking for much in the way of wagon trails, river crossings and Indian attacks you'll be disappointed (I was not) as the story doesn't dwell on the journey, but rather the destination.

Lebanon is made for homesteading while her husband is not. Partly for this reason and partly because they're very different from eachother there are some serious ups and downs in their married life. 

I wont go further because I will spoil things but there is a twist toward the end which is quite surprising. And while some might say it has a possible HEA, the story did not end as I wanted it to and I frowned as I closed the book, which took it down a star for me.

Overall, a good read.


SEX: None
PROFANITY: Very mild, B


* NOTE* There's a paragraph in this book where Lebanon talks of a home remedy for preventing poison ivy blisters: chewing the leaves. I looked it up to see if that really works. It is NOT recommended and serious reactions may occur. Apparently, the thought was to chew very small amounts, (much the way homeopathy works), gradually increasing the dose. But there's no proof that this helps and could be dangerous so is best avoided. Sorry to disappoint. I'm sure you were eager to try this :)

A Roman Singer by Francis Marion Crawford

A Roman Singer (Dodo Press)This is the story of a rather ugly boy with a great voice. While still non-famous he falls in love with a Count's daughter and pretends to be a professor to gain access to his lady love while tutoring.

One day, he goes on a "field trip " with Hedwig, her father and another man to the Roman ruins at midnight so Hedwig can see the full moon through the hole in the ampitheater ceiling. While there, in the darkness he gets the urge to sing and does so but no one can tell where the voice is coming from. Nino says it's his cousin who has now disappeared into the night.
Hedwig falls in love with the voice and keeps asking about his cousin...

Then the day of his debut arrives and Hedwig and her father are in the audience...

To cut a long story short, the Count refuses to allow his daughter to marry a phlebian musician and he takes his daughter away to an undisclosed castle location far in the mountains of Italy.

There's a villain, and a love story, a great escape and a subtheme of opera. Add to that, the dialog has fantastic wit which makes it a winner in my books. (see my status updates for examples) 

I took it down a star because I dislike someone else narrating the story. (in this case it was Nino's adoptive father). You miss so much with explanations of "how I know what happened ".

But its a good fairytale like story and I enjoyed it.