Review: Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

Duels and DeceptionDuels and Deception by Cindy Anstey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Miss Lydia Whitfield, heiress to the family fortune, has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father’s choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Mr. Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.

Until Lydia—and Robert along with her—is kidnapped. Someone is after her fortune and won’t hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert’s help, Lydia strives to keep her family’s good name intact and expose whoever is behind the devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she truly wants…”–from Goodreads

Delightful. Absolutely delightful. Those are the first words that come to mind when I think about this book. The whole story was just one rollicking, playful adventure from start to finish, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s not quite ‘fluff,’ not quite serious romance, but all fun. One of the best parts was how the whole narrative kept up a tongue-in-cheek style of humor. I highly recommend this one, preferably with a glass of lemonade on a nice spring day.

Plot: Start with two dashes of witty characters, add in a scoop of mystery, and stir with a healthy dose of comedy. Voila! You have Duels and Deception, fresh and original. The mystery part was alright (I was in it for the characters), intriguing enough to keep me reading, but not nail-bitingly exciting. I did guess who might have perpetrated the kidnapping before the characters found out, but I wasn’t for sure. It was interesting to see how everything worked out. However, I was more interested in the blossoming relationship between Lydia and Robert. Oh, those two. They are absolutely adorable together. All those grins. The ending, while predictable, wrapped things up in a neat bow.

Characters: I’m sure you’ve realized I adore these characters. Lydia and Robert. Robert and Lydia. The sensible, practical young lady who loves her estate and irritating family gets kidnapped along with the equally sensible but slightly more impulsive apprentice-in-waiting. Oh, the fun that ensues. Their relationship is most definitely giggle inducing, as both are in love almost immediately, but it takes them most of the book to realize it. Plenty of swoon worthy moments keep the fire burning between them, even though it seems like anyone and everyone (including themselves) are conspiring to keep them apart.

Setting: I’m a Janeite, and as such, I whole-heartedly approve of the English setting. Particularly since it takes place in Bath. (Too bad we didn’t see any cameos from Jane Austen’s characters!) It was well written: clearly, the author had done her research, and it came through. It seemed authentic and believable, and was the perfect setting for the plot.

Overall, I give this book 4 stars. While not terribly life-altering (it leans more to the ‘fluff’ side than the profound), it was a delicious read, and as such, merits my approval. Fellow Janeites looking for a quick, easy read will enjoy this one.

Age Rating: 14 and up

Content guide:
Language: 3/10 (name-calling–appropriate and archaic in type)
Sexual Content: 4/10 (mentions of ruining a woman’s honor–how and why is not alluded to, hugs, touches, and embraces, along with a few kisses–slightly detailed)
Violence: 4/10 (threats of duels, peril, kidnapping, being knocked unconscious, etc)

*Thanks to Netgalley for providing a copy to review*

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Review: Swim Season by Marianne Sciuccio

Swim Season

by Marianne Sciucco (Goodreads Author)
“Sometimes winning is everything.

Champion swimmer Aerin Keane is ready to give up her dreams of college swimming and a shot at the Olympics. As she starts senior year in her third high school, Aerin’s determined to leave her family troubles behind and be like all the other girls at Two Rivers. She’s got a new image and a new attitude. She doesn’t want to win anymore. She’s swimming for fun, no longer the freak who wins every race, every title, only to find herself alone.

But when her desire to be just one of the girls collides with her desire to be the best Two Rivers has ever seen, will Aerin sacrifice her new friendships to break a longstanding school record that comes with a $50,000 scholarship?”–from Goodreads

Swim Season is a contemporary novel set in Two Rivers, New York. It covers the swim season of Aerin Keane’s senior year, detailing from start to finish her wins, losses, and struggles with the team. A long haul (clocking in around 600 pages), it was interesting, but not thoroughly engrossing. It was a bit of a push to get this one finished–some of which was the length, and some of which was problems or errors within the book itself.

I used to be on a club swim team myself, so some of what this book covered was not totally unfamiliar to me. However, that was a long time ago, and club swimming is quite different from competitively swimming for a high school. There was quite a few things in this book I had trouble following, such as the seeding at meets, what’s a good time/bad time for a race, etc. For someone completely unfamiliar with competitive swimming, this book would throw them headfirst in the deep end. (See what I did there?) I have a feeling it would be difficult to follow the plot and hard to relate with the characters unless the reader already had a background in competitive swimming. So readers, you are forewarned: this book is for a very selective audience, so I suggest you know your swim stuff before diving into this one. (Sorry–love the swim puns. 😉 )

The characters were fairly good, but I didn’t feel like I got to know any of them super well. While they weren’t flat per say, they weren’t exactly rounded out either. Even Aerin (the main character–it’s 1st person POV) I didn’t really understand. I didn’t totally sympathize with or understand her decision to hide her talents in the first place, so that made it a struggle to get through the first part of the book. And she just felt a little–bland, I guess. She didn’t seem to desperately want/need much in the book, and seemed like more of a passive character than an active one. Another character I had a problem with was Justin–sure, he’s great, and has a fantastic personality and everything, but that’s just it–he’s too perfect. Especially for a high school boy. Give the guy some flaws, okay? He didn’t seem real, because he was too perfect.

We didn’t get to see much of the setting in this one–it was mostly confined to the pools that the meets and practices were held at. Though there was a bit of description, I didn’t get a good feel for what Two Rivers looked like or what was in the town, or such. The descriptions of Two Rivers was pretty much limited to what the characters said Two Rivers was like. The girl’s trip into the city was better–we got more description, and got to look around the place where Aerin used to live.

The plot was a bit predictable, to be honest. There was never a moment when I felt like Aerin wasn’t going to eventually show her competitive streak and win the Singer scholarship, so I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of high stakes here. Some of it was just plain unbelievable: for example, (minor spoiler ahead) Aerin is immediately breaking records and beating everyone as soon as she reveals she’s fast? In fact, she even states “My intentional slacking had done no damage.” Any athlete knows that this is simply not true–you can’t slack off and compete at a lower level of exertion than you’re used to for an extended period of time and then return to record-breaking type exertions. That’s a good way to seriously hurt yourself, if it’s even possible. I also found some other misc. errors in the text as well:
–Aerin makes a lot of references to her step-sisters being spoiled brats. But when we finally get to meet them, they seems so sweet! They are excited to have Aerin around, and want to do things with her. It seems like Aerin is closer to acting the spoiled brat than her step-sisters are.
–I like details in my fiction. I really do. But in this case, do I really need to know every single fact about each match? It got old quick, and I found myself skipping over the details often. Especially towards the beginning, when at least two meets were summarized in a dry, newspaper-style sort of record.
–Another thing that bothered me was when Mel freaked out as soon as Aerin started swimming up to her potential. For Pete’s sake, Mel was pushing for it and insinuating it the whole time! And now she’s angry because she was right all along?
–While the book has a small element of faith–Aerin and a few of her friends attend Mass and plan on going on a missions trip together, their faith didn’t seem personal, and Aerin’s relationship with God was hardly even mentioned till end–then, it seemed more on the mystical side of things. She prayed before her big meet, and “soon a calming peace spread through me, and I knew I had connected.” I was not comfortable with this representation of faith, and was honestly disappointed on how the author handled it throughout. It seemed thrown in ‘just because.’

Overall, I can only give this book 3 stars. I liked it, and read the whole thing, but I don’t have any strong feelings about it–other than wanting to go join a swim team. It was just kinda ‘meh.’

Rating: 3 stars

Content guide:
Violence: 2/10 (vague threats, cyberbullying, etc)
Sexual Content: 2/10 (one kiss, some cuddling)
Language: 2/10 (only mild name-calling that I can recall)

*Many thanks to the author for providing a copy to review!*

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