Monday, August 18, 2008

La Petite Four

Scott, Regina. 2008. La Petite Four.

Lady Emily Southwell, trained from birth to be the refined daughter of a duke, did the unthinkable. (2)

I had every intention in the world of loving this one. I did. When I heard there was a YA Regency Romance being published, I wasn't just vaguely interested, I was happy. I was eager. I love Regency romances, mostly. Austen. Heyer. Quinn. I'm so there. (Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Julia Quinn.) Another fun Regency title (for adults) that I discovered this year was Rules of Gentility by Janet Mullany. But this one just felt off for me. It felt a bit modern, a bit rushed, a bit silly, a bit underdeveloped. It's the story of four best friends who are preparing for their first season. Emily. Daphne. Priscilla. Ariadne. But for me, these characters weren't distinct enough to distinguish among. They all blurred together. Even Emily.

But even more problematic for me than the indistinguishable heroines is the plotting. It's flimsy at best. When Emily is told she's to marry a gentleman, Lord Robert, she takes an instant dislike to him. With no real reasoning, no real logic, she comes to the conclusion that Robert is a criminal. And she seeks to convince her three friends of this as well. Here we have the "mystery" element of the story. But for me, I had no proof other than the whim of an immature and often whiny "child" (disguised as a young woman) that Robert was a suspicious-- no, dangerous--character. Her only reasoning a) she doesn't want to get married b) he won't let her go to a Ball c) he thinks her paintings are silly. I can see why she might dislike him. But you can't logically jump from "I don't like you." to "I think you're a criminal." (There are plenty of people that I've met through the years that I've disliked based on first impressions. I've never once leaped to the conclusion that they must be a criminal mastermind. And then proceeded to try to prove it to have that person arrested.) The whole novel revolves around this must-prove-Robert-to-be-a-criminal plot. For this reader to find the book enjoyable, believable, there needs to be clues laid throughout the book--undeniable proof that crimes are being committed and clues and motivations and intent presented. There's none of that until the grand finale of a climax.

So as a mystery, it is a bit weak. When it comes to romance, well, it's a bit sudden and rushed as well. There is a hero--other than Robert--involved, but he seems to pop up and disappear erratically. He's a convenient hero. But he goes from mere acquaintance to soul mate a bit too quickly and without too much development. There is no wooing really. No scenes of courtship. Again Emily is just making a giant leap. My guess is that this hero-she-proclaims-to-love-truly is just a way to escape (and irritate) Robert.
Initial thoughts on the cover: I know the cover is nice, pink and frilly. But it doesn't work for me at all. I see this cover and I don't think "Regency England" I think prom. (Or perhaps I think bride's maid. Or Barbie.) From the half-decapitated model with the glistening gloss on the lips to the wispy wavy hair and the strapless--yes, strapless--pink ball gown. It looks like something from David's Bridal. When I think Regency, I think empire waist gowns. I think most people do. True, I just did a fact check which said that waistlines were lowering and tightening by around 1825, but still this dress doesn't feel right for the era. This image is, for example, from 1823. I don't think the cover will turn away many readers, in fact it may draw in modern readers. But for me, personally, the cover did some damage to the legitimacy of the book. I don't blame Scott for this, however, since covers are rarely the design or brainchild of the author. Her other novels, all adult Regency novels, have fashion appropriate enough for the era.

For fans of Luxe and Rumours, this may work as "historical" fiction. But it didn't quite work for me.

Note: There are three factors that might bias my review a bit. 1) The cover. It's awful. 2) I read this book over a period of three weeks. A chapter or two at a time. This can taint a reading. It might be why I found the characters so indistinguishably whiny. 3) I've read several Austen novels, several Quinn novels, and several Heyer novels this past year. It's hard to go from the really really good stuff to something that feels a bit mediocre without making some comparisons. But one could easily make the argument that a 12 to 14 year old is a lot less likely to have a familiarity with Austen and Heyer and therefore would not find this as lacking.

The good news? I am almost exclusively finding positive reviews (on the blogs) for this one. Apparently, I'm the only one that read this and had a Miss Cranky Pants reaction.

Other reviews: The Story Siren, Genre Go Round, Trainspotting Reviews,

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous,  3:57 AM  

I'm with you. Or, I'm sure I would agree with all of your criticisms if I had managed to finish the book. But as far as the cover and the blandness of the four friends? Completely agree. And the writing just seemed so...forced.

Don't know about the appeal to Luxe/Rumors fans, though, since I don't think this has the same addictive soap opera quality as that series. You know, no backstabbing best friend or anything. I'm thinking more Bewitching Season by Marisa Doyle.

That said, I agree with your 3rd note, re: having read "better" (in our opinions) Regency romances made us a tougher audience, but teens may not have the same biases.


Anonymous,  7:44 AM  

Excellent, now I can take one book off of my reading list without even having to struggle through the first couple chapters. Thanks!

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge

2018 Kitty Lit Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge

Join the Victorian Reading Challenge
Linked to sign up page

Family Tree Reading Challenge

Family Tree Reading Challenge
Link to sign-up page

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge

2018 Share-a-Tea Challenge
Linked To Sign Up Page

2018 Charity Challenge (Sign Up)

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge

2018 Good Rule Reading Challenge
Link to sign up page

2018 Picture Book Challenge

2018 Picture Book Challenge
Link to sign-up page

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge

Join the 2018 Middle Grade Reading Challenge
click image to go to sign up post

Good Rules Cheat List

Board books and picture books = new is anything published after 2013
Early readers and chapter books = new is anything published after 2013
Contemporary (general/realistic) = new is anything published after 2007
Speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy = new is anything published after 2007
Classics = anything published before 1968
Historical fiction = new is anything published after 2007
Mysteries = new is anything published after 1988
Nonfiction = new is anything published after 2007
Christian books = new is anything published after 2000
Bibles = new is anything published after 1989

My Blog List

(Old) Challenge Participants

Becky's Hosting These Challenges

100 Books Project: Fill in the Gaps

Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by 2008

Back to TOP