Friday, August 29, 2014

Face Of An Angel by Dorothy Eden

Face Of An Angel by Dorothy EdenWhile classified as a Gothic, this isn't one in the true sense. There's no windswept moors, no dilapidated mansion, no creepy housekeeper. Really, this is just a good solid mystery, Hitchcock style.

The suspense here builds slowly which in a way is more suspenseful because we are as naive as the heroine. There's no foreboding to warn you of what's coming. And while this is a totally different story, it reminded me in parts of Vincent Price's "House of Wax" and "Psycho". (but don't expect to be scared out of your wits, its not like that)

A young woman, unlucky in love, goes to an art exhibit and attracts the attention of the art dealer and his friend, a foreign painter, who says she has "the face of an angel". Soon, the art dealer, Clive, convinces Meg to go with him to the country and be his secretary. His friend, the artist, insists she also come regularly to sit for him so he can paint her, although he is a terrible artist. ( Incidently, Hans the artist lives nearby with an old recluse of a housekeeper and her cat).

Clive (the art dealer) is married, though we don't see his wife straight away as she's been in the hospital for an extended stay, recovering from an auto accident that has destroyed her face...

There's also a pretty young librarian who is in love with Hans although somewhat frightened of him. She also sits for Hans until one day she doesn't show up for her job...

And there's Simon Sommers, who runs an antique shop and periodically sells Clive paintings. He has taken a shine to Meg and keeps tab on her, always nagging her to spend time with him and flirting shamelessly. I quite liked his character.

I really enjoyed this and thought it was well thought out. While we suspect which characters arent all that they seem to be, we don't know WHY or whats going to happen until it all comes together at the end. At least I never guessed anything. Well worth a read!


India Fortunes by Gary Worthington

India Fortunes by Gary WorthingtonIndia Fortunes is the sequel to India Treasures: A Novel of Rajasthan and Northern India Through the Ages (which I gave 5 stars).

The sequel is written in just the same manner and quality as the first, my reason for dropping a star is personal taste. I'm not much into modern history, so as the stories came closer in time, focusing quite a bit during the time of Ghandi, I found myself skimming.

My favorite section in here is "Master Builder" which tells the story of the design and building of the Taj Mahal. Utterly fascinating, I loved it!

Just a FYI, the two books have dual time lines, one ancient and one modern day (1970s). As the books progress, the "ancient" time line marches closer to the modern until they finally meet at the end of book 2, and the full treasure's hiding place is revealed. (A partial treasure is found at the end of book 1)

Really enjoyed these books and I think that any lover of India or history in general will love them.

CONTENT: PG (mild language and violence)

Bride By Candlelight by Dorothy Eden

Bride by Candlelight3.5 Stars

First off, thanks to my Goodreads buddy Laura for sending me a whole BOX of Dorothy Eden gothics, how awesome is that!!! "Bride by Candlelight" is one of the collection Laura sent and my first Gothic by D.E. although I own and love most of her other novels.

So I enjoyed this. I'm a bit puzzled by the low ratings on GR as it was pretty average as far as 60s gothics go. Had there been just a bit more chill it would have made it to 4 stars but it was still an enjoyable 3.5. Yes, I guessed some things but it wasn't totally predictable and there were some genuinely creepy moments.

A young woman falls in love with a soldier on leave from the war and they don't see eachother for over three years. A few letters pass between them and one of them so touched her she is convinced to go out to New Zealand and marry him. Only thing is, Paul has sustained facial injuries requiring complex surgery and is a little wary of her seeing him again. That must be it, afterall why else would he wait so long to start writing to her again? And why didn't he come to meet her when she arrived, sending his shepherd instead? And when he finally sees her why does he exclaim, "who the devil are you?"

You'll have to read it and find out. There's a nice big spooky run down house, an eccentric old lady, anonymous letters, suspicious phone calls, accidents, and a suddenly amorous finance who seems to have dropped all his former shyness and inexperience and is particularly eager for a wedding as soon as possible.

And then there's Paul's brother Harry, killed in Australia but who the elderly grandmother insists is still alive...


SEX: None (some cuddling, kissing)
VIOLENCE: A few "accidents "
PROFANITY: Very mild.


Bebee, or Two Little Wooden Shoes by Ouida

Bebee by Marie Louise de la RaméeThis is a short story (132 pages) very similar in some ways (and different in yet others) to Ouida's full length novel, Signa.

Here we have an orphan girl who was found among the reeds and water lilies as a baby and brought up by an old man and his wife in Brussels.

She is hardworking and kind and the neighbors dote on her for she always thinks of those less fortunate than herself and has time for the young and old alike.

At age sixteen, Bebee finds herself alone. Old Antoine has died and left the little hut to her. She carries on selling flowers in the city and tending her garden at home. She is naive and trusts the goodness and honesty of all. This is probably her finest quality and her worst fault .

One day, she is approached by a handsome young man in velveteen; an artist with a slick tongue and sly ways. He offers her fine, fashionable things ...without result. He offers her gold... without result. He offers her books and knowledge...ah! the hook has snagged. He offers her love...

This book has an almost fairytale feel to it. Think, Orphelia meets the Big Bad Wolf and you get an idea. Its melodramatic and flowery and won't appeal to everyone but I think its great. It also teaches a good moral lesson that every young woman should heed.


*This book is free on Public Domain and the kindle version is very readable with few typos.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Man About The House by John Perry

A man about the house,I ordered A Man about the House by Francis Brett Young through a used book site and this little volume arrived in its stead. It's a screen play based on the very book I wanted but has been adapted by the playwright John Perry.

I have never read a screenplay; in fact, when I saw my beloved Cyrano de Bergrerac was written as a dramatization, I put it back on the shelf. Same with Pygmalion. But this was short and I had it in my hands so I figured I'd give it a go.

Its pleasnat enough. Light, fluffy, kind of like watching a half hour TV show when you really wanted to inhale a 12 hour BBC drama, know what I mean? So it's not terribly satisfying but it's ok for an hour's entertainment. And since I haven't read the nice chunky novel this was based on (yet!) I can't say how closely this dramatization follows it. The synopsis is basically the same but FBY can really weave a tale and this, by comparison, feels slightly naked.

But call it a 73 page synopsis! It's entertaining, slightly melodramatic (like any 1940's black and white film) and not too serious. I'm anxious to read the "real" story though!

In a nutshell:

Two sisters inherit a villa in Italy when their uncle passes. The butler/ man of the house is a charismatic ne'er do well who one sister immediately falls for. But does he love her...or the estate? And what will he stoop to to make the land completely his?

You know what it's like? Have you ever seen a cartoon based a Dickens book? It's an introduction to the novel but there's soooo much more in the full length book. There's no way it can do it justice. Character developement? Forget it! But its a taste...and a taste is better than nothing...

By the way, this was also made into a movie in 1947:

Signa by Ouida

Signa by OuidaWOW...

This is an amazing book. I can't do it justice or even put into words how good it is.

As the title suggests, this is a story of Signa, an illigitimate orphan boy who is saved from death during a flood when he is about one year old. His two uncles find him clinging to the breast of his dead mother, and, afraid that the villagers might accuse the two brothers of murder, (its a long story), they let the floodwaters take her body away and tell everyone they found the unknown baby alone in the field.

The boy is raised by his Uncle Lippo's family who mistreat him. But bruises can do no lasting harm to Signa for his head is in the clouds where the very angels whisper sweet music to him. He hears it in the wind, in the rustling apricot trees, the grapevines and the hills.

While singing his songs or playing his lute he is content. Then one day he sees an old violin for sale in a shop window and asks to hold it ....

Call him a protege, a genius, an artist, it makes no difference; for music is the very lifeblood and soul of Signa. But his kind uncle Bruno is deaf to Signa's genius. To him it is merely child's play and so Bruno slaves for nine years, building Signa a future there in the Tuscan hills, farming. When Signa kindly rejects his uncle's plans for him, Bruno stomps on Signa's prized violin, destroying it.

There is so much more to this story. There are his childhood playmates, one kind and good peasant girl named Palma and her beautiful but selfish sister Gemma (whom Signa loves). Palma grows up, slaving for her father and idle brothers, never complaining, while Gemma runs away at age 10, seeking a life of luxury ...

The story covers about 25 years so you learn what comes of all these characters and how their lives intertwine for good and for bad as well as the extremely high cost of fame.

In many ways this book feels like an opera put into novel form and has an almost tragic fairytale cadence. Its beautifully poetic and emotive and while it doesn't neccesarily have a HEA, the story had some surprising twists and turns that were brilliantly thought out and I was ultimately satisfied. It really could only have ended in the way it did. Its opera, afterall.
And I love it.

Recommended for lovers of chunky, old fashioned, flowery, melodramatic reads.

* Signa is available for free on Openlibrary but I suggest paying the $2.99 for this particular version on Amazon. The Openlibrary epub version is so riddled with typos it is almost unreadable.
If buying the antique book (have fun with that!) be careful you're buying the complete 512 page book as it was often split into three volumes.

Mr. and Mrs. Pennington by Francis Brett Young

Mr and Mrs Pennington4.5 Stars

This is the story of Dick and Susan Pennington, their courtship and then their first year of marriage with all its ups and downs. Dick is probably the sweetest guy ever. Love his character! If he had any faults it was his all encompassing blind devotion to his wife who could at times be selfish, silly and conniving.

But if I was to give a moralistic superscription to this story it would be the triumph of second chances. I came away feeling quite deeply that we should never be quick to throw away something that's too precious to replace.

I don't want to give away the story but let's just say that something happens that tests this couple love, devotion and loyalty to eachother to the limit. There's a young man involved, a scheming boss, a death, and a murder trial, reminiscent of a Perry Mason episode.

Francis Brett Young is excellent at portraying characters with all their strengths and weaknesses and while we may not always like them, we understand what led them to x,y,z and we root for them. This book reminded me of Margaret Kennedy's style of writing and it was thoroughly enjoyable.


SEX: Behind closed doors
VIOLENCE: Not an issue
MY RATING: Mild PG (for thematic elements)

White Ladies by Francis Brett Young

White Ladies"White Ladies" is primarily a book about obsession, how obsession can consume, blind and control one's life and the lives of one's descendants, snuffing out all but the embers of true happiness and humanity in one's quest for...THINGS. But really it would be naive to limit this quest to THINGS. For the search may encompass status, power, progress, or, in the case of this multi generational saga, a VOCATION.

The story has its start in a clay pit which a father and daughter excavate, making bricks to sell, thereby earning their living.
Enter entrepreneur number one: Bella's husband, Jasper Mortimer. Jasper turns that clay pit into a huge monstrosity of soot and success, enlarging the business to include steel and coal until every living thing (grass, trees, water sources) die in the enterprise envelopes more and more land. Every penny earned is thrust back into the insatiable "beast".

Bella number 2 escapes life at Hayseech by eloping with a sacked employer of her father's business. She of all of them probably had the most sense.

Bella number 3. This Bella was her grandfather Jasper reincarnated, (metaphorically speaking). While she had no use for Hayseech and all its noise and filth (except for the money it brought in), she also became obsessed, consumed, controlled and blinded by her love of something, a house. Not just any house. White Ladies.

Bella first set eyes on 'White Ladies' halfway through the book. Much like Naboth's vineyard, she HAS to have it. The owner doesn't wish to sell but....did I mention? She WILL have it.

Bella's life sap is tied up with 'White Ladies" and as the story progresses there is devastating loss in store for both Bella and her beloved dream. But the foundations of both are strong and while any trace remain of either, there lies a germ of renewal and hope.