Saturday, March 24, 2012

Suzanne Robinson -- The Engagement

Rated: ♥ ♥ .   {2.80}
Action: ♠. / Emotion: ♣♣. / Romance: ♥♥ / Sensuous: ♦♦ / Suspense: ♠♠.
Action: 1.5 / Emotion: 2.5 / Romance: 2 / Sensuous: 2 / Suspense: 2.5 // Historical Flavor: 3 / Laughter: 7 / Teary: 1

The Engagement, Suzanne Robinson's second book in The English Gunslingers Duet was a disappointment.   Was so looking forward to reading Nick's story after meeting him in book one, Lady Dangerous.   Robinson started out the book with a bang, but it quickly developed into a whimper of "I love [him] [her], but . . ." thoughts.

The premise for the story line was a clever one -- just imagine the pairing of an ex-thief from St. Giles and a duke's daughter.   There could have been all kinds of witty repartee and fascinating twists and turns to take in the story.   There were a few twists and turns, but mostly the book consisted of misunderstandings and stand-offs between the hero and heroine.

Robinson quickly drew the reader into Nick Ross's life as he turned his horse, Pounder, around to gallop back to his best friend's ranch in Texas when he heard gunfire -- to stop a drunk, rifle-bearing ranch hand from killing Jocelin Marshal.   While Jocelin was being tended by the doctor and his heavily-pregnant wife, Liza, stood by his side, a letter from the Duchess of Clairemont (Jocelin's mother) arrived from England announcing twenty year old Lady Georgiana Marshal's engagement to eighty-something year old John Charles Hyde, the Earl of Threshfield.

To stop the wounded Jocelin and pregnant Liza from crossing the ocean to stop his hair-brained sister from making such a mistake, Nick agreed to go to England and end the engagement.   Nick arrived at the Threshfield estate, again galloping Pounder across the oak-lined avenue to land in front of Georgina with an impressive display of horsemanship, then proceeded to call her "George" and told her to pack her bags, it was time to go.

The flavor of the rest of the story could almost be reduced to Georgiana's thoughts as she figured out that this slow-drawling speaker was Mr. Ross, friend of her brother.

"Georgiana wasn't the daughter of a duke for nothing.   Giving this barbarian a chilly nod, she turned on her heel and spoke to the Threshfield butler, who had come out of the house upon the arrival of the stranger.

"Randall, send this person on his way."   (page 20)
If ever there was an action and phrase sequence that Robinson over-used during the entirety of Georgiana's story, it was Georgiana stiffening her spine and remarking about her standing as "the daughter of a duke."

Robinson told no revealing, sympathy-inducing stories about Georgiana as she grew up under the rule of her tyrant of a father, who subdued and ruled his more intelligent sensitive wife by the simple virtue of his being male.   No sense of Georgiana's sorrow was established when Robinson briefly explained about the one instance where Georgiana felt a moment of magic because Lord Silverstone asked for her hand in marriage -- only to find that Silverstone felt he was making a great sacrifice by marrying a giantess.   Robinson failed to engender sympathy with the few paragraphs about Georgiana feeling inadequate and vulnerable as a clumsy debutante in society because of her height.

Robinson tried to stir up a bit of a connection with Georgiana by having her explain to Nick during several of their confrontations that she was not a typically-spoiled blue blood -- that her life was not all tea and crumpets as her father sought to marry her off to a man who would then own her.   Certainly it is not fair that personal experience ensured that could understand and sympathize more with Nick's mother and sister than with poor, misunderstood Georgiana.   Nick's mother was no less owned by her brutal husband, yet the reader is supposed to feel just as sympathetic for Georgiana, who didn't spend her life rubbing her hands raw scrubbing floors and fireplaces.

Even thought it was easy to understand where Nick was coming from when he believed himself beneath Georgiana on the social scale (the story did take place in class-conscious England), Robinson pulled about as much sympathy for Nick as she did Georgiana.   There was just no deep emotional connection to these two protagonists as they fought their mutual attraction.   Nick pursued Georgiana relentlessly and when they finally made love (with some sizzle and heat), he felt guilty for betraying the man who saved his life.   Then Nick and Georgiana spent the remainder of the book angry at the other because she thought Nick wouldn't marry her because she was so tall and Nick thought her stiff spine meant she was embarrassed that she had lowered herself to be with St. Giles refuse.

Robinson threw in some secondary characters to add some plot and intrigue to the story line -- and give Nick a reason to stay close to Georgiana.   A prominent secondary character was Georgiana's betrothed, the Earl of Threshfield.   Threshfield took great glee in tormenting his family by telling lies and leaving them to wonder what they would inherit upon his death.   Threshfield displayed his intelligence and freely spoke his mind -- even telling Nick that he should wait to pursue Georgiana after she was a widow.

Thresfield's family members were a unique collection of aristocrats.   Thresfield's nephew and heir, Evelyn Hyde, was the typical handsome aristocrat, who acted just like Georgiana's father -- had that air of entitlement and assumed he was superior due to an accident of birth.   Additionally, Nick jealously noticed the lustful glances Evelyn constantly threw Georgiana's way.   Basically, Evelyn was an unremarkable character.

The only reason Evelyn married the rolly-polly, beringed, social-climbing Lady Prudence Hyde was for the immense marriage settlement he received.   What found really amazing was that these two characters even managed to beget a son.   Nick not only noticed Evelyn's lustful glances, but he had to dodge Prudence's prurient interest as well.

Georgiana spent the bulk of her time in the Egyptian Wing with Evelyn and Prudence's son, Ludwig Hyde.   Ludwig and Georgiana were indexing the Earl's vast collection of artifacts.   The egg-shaped Ludwig was so passionate about his Egyptian studies that he was very absent-minded about the social amenities -- often appearing late for meals, with an artifact in hand.

Threshfield's unmarried sister was also in residence.   The elderly Lady Augusta Hyde approached Nick when he first arrived believing him to be sent by Wellington to get rid of Georgiana, Napoleon's spy.   Nick later learned, after fleeing with Georgiana into the woods when Augusta started shooting at her, that this was a regular occurrence.

Augusta was not the only gun-toting senior in the story.   Lady Lavinia Stokes was Georgiana's breeches-wearing spinster aunt (the duke's sister).   Aunt Livy was Georgiana's chaperone on her visit to her betrothed's county house.   It was Aunt Livy who prevented Nick from riding off with Georgiana when he first rode up to Thresfield House.   Although Aunt Livy was not richly developed, she seemed to be the only sensible-headed individual in the book.

Robinson did add a little intrigue to the story by weaving in accidents that revealed that someone was out to kill Georgiana.   There were enough Hyde relatives in residence and Thresfield was enjoying playing with their psyche's by telling lies that had them up in arms regarding their individual inheritances to give readers several suspects.

Robinson failed in her attempt to bring Nick's learned valet, Theophrastus Pertwee, to the same degree of interest and humor that she met with in Lady Dangerous with Jocelin and Loveday.   Pertwee engendered no interest and only added to the Nick's penchant to quote more verse -- a prominent feature in all Robinson's books.

One other minor, barely necessary character was the addition of Dallas Meredith.   Dallas was on Jocelin's ranch at the beginning of the book and Nick kept noticing the silent exchanges between Jocelin and Dallas as they discussed Georgiana.   Then Dallas popped up at the end of the book to deliver letters to both Georgiana and Nick and explain what all those silent glances were about.   (How did Jocelin even get Nick's letters so quickly?   Wouldn't it take at least a month for mail to get from England to Texas?)

In spite of Robinson's valiant efforts to write an enjoyable book, The Engagement will never be a must-read book -- would only recommend it to someone who wanted to read Nick and Georgiana's story after meeting them in Lady Dangerous (book one of The English Gunslingers Duet).   (Have a feeling that Robinson enjoyed writing this particular book because she spent a lot of time describing many of the artifacts found in the Egyptian Wing.)

A Pet Peeves Moment:   Hate it when authors change the spellings of characters and locations that span more than one book.
As Found In:Lady HellfireLady DangerousThe Engagement
  Family Surname . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Marshall . . . . .  Marshal_ . . . . .
  Battle Location . . . . .  Balaclava . . . . .  Balaklava . . . . .  Balaklava . . . . .
--Vonda M. Reid (Friday, March 16, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.)     [221]

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The English Gunslingers Duet
# Date Title Hero Heroine
01.03-1994Lady DangerousJocelin Paul Marshall, Viscount RadcliffeElizabeth "Liza" Maud Elliot
02.06-1996The EngagementNick Ross (St. Giles raised)Lady Georgiana Marshal

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The Engagement Quotations:
42"You're a mean-spirited little snake who hides his appetite for cruelty behind a guise of honesty.   You admire frankness?   Here's frankness -- you have no chin, sir, and you're short, but neither of these mattered to me.   However, I do object to marrying a self-important ass."
46"if the lord had done his lovemaking right, he wouldn't be worried about his wife finding a replacement"
167". . . daughters stiffened their spines and got on with the business of living, even if life seemed to offer only the prospect of unending, bleak grayness."

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Characters Found In "The Engagement"
Character / Location Description / Relationships
Nicholas "Nick" Ross[Hero] grew up in festering sore of east London; dodged father's fists; learned to scavenge in refuse bins for food; picked pockets; robbed houses to buy moldy bread and rancid meat for mother and sister; town house near Grosvenor Square in London; several country houses in several counties (2) disreputable accent and language (7) perseverance; intelligent; charm the ladies without even trying (11) tall; lean; long, shaggy chestnut hair streaked with sun-bleached amber; gun belt slung low on his hip (19) dark blue gaze (20) rough low, throaty voice; sun-brown; sweaty; two days' worth of beard (21) elegantly savage protégé of Jocelin (21) blue eyes tinged with sapphire; wide shoulders; shallow indentation in the middle of his chin (21) charm of Byron linked with the ruthlessness of a Cossack; list of society conquests (29) sunset-blue eyes; handsome; mysterious past; ladies and duchesses quiver in their boots when he rides by in Hyde Park (46) transformed into an aristocrat; smelled of sandalwood soap (49) "a tall, muscled impudent inferior" (50) long, slim fingers; gold ring engraved with winged griffins (83) hair a deep, warm brown, like antique wood, sun-lightened strands formed a spray of polished bronze and amber though the darker hue; fine, almost imperceptible frown line marked a path from his nose past his mouth; straight, neat brows ran parallel to his mouth; wide, yet slender lips; sculpted hollows in his cheeks below the jawline (101) belligerently firm jawline; taller than Jocelin; strong shoulders and arms; a born master (102) bravery; impudent humor: championed misused children; emancipation from iron rule of Society (166) father traded him for settlement of a debt (186) tawny beauty; irreverent humor (195) off-center smile (229)
Lady Georgiana Marshal[Heroine] black hair; emerald eyes; tall enough to tower over most men; gold-rimmed spectacles gave her look of blue-stocking; nose and cheeks were sprayed with light freckles; tripped over her train as she'd back out of the royal presence; stepped on toes of dance partners; spilled tea on callers; sneezed in face of prince consort, Queen Victoria's husband (9) tall young woman, attempted to hide her stature by walking bent forward; gold wire-rimmed spectacles brightened her already astonishing green eyes; studious air prevented people from discerning the vulnerability in those jewel-bright eyes; air of stately dignity (13) had never been able to distance herself from sympathetic pain (18) not a great beauty; too determined; delightful nose (27) thick length of hair (42) love of ancient world (45) steel spine (61) good at planning (74) spine straight as a fence post; shoulders square; nose in the air (90) sensitive; vulnerable (115)
. . . . . .
Catherine of Valois[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] widow of Henry V, married Owen Tudor (195)
Owen Tudor[Actual Historical Character / No Appearance] clerk of the wardrobe (195)
. . . . . .
Duchess of Clairemont[No Appearance] duchess; Georgiana's and Jocelin's mother; prolific writer (8) more intelligent and sensitive than duke; duke had to approve the newspapers, books, magazine she read, the clothes she wore, the friends she made; rarely saw more than a few pounds of real money at any one time (43)
Duke of Clairemont[Secondary Character] Georgiana's father; bungled his finances (18) emerald eyes; erect military bearing; "surveyed the world and everyone in it with the cold disinterest of one who knew that he ranked above all that he observed (263)
Lady Mary Drille[No Appearance] selfish; soft-brained; left her husband of 23-years to chase after Nick (109)
Lady Augusta Hyde[Secondary Character] Threshfield's unmarried sister; bats in her belfry // half-century old apparel; the Hyde eagle's-beak nose; air of daintiness; red-rimmed bean-brown eyes; high squeaky voice (31) earl's unmarried sister (32)
The Honorable Evelyn Hyde[Major Secondary Character] Threshfield's nephew and heir; Ludwig's father (44) disliked threats to his inheritance (45) handsome (53) younger, more energetic replica of Earl (54) air of entitlement; assumed he was superior due to an accident of birth (60)
Ludwig Hyde[Major Secondary Character] Evelyn and Prudence's son; indexing Earl's antiquities (14) domed, slightly bald head shaped like a cabbage; egg-shaped body (14) wispy mustache (15) took refuge in Egyptian wing to evade spiteful great-uncle and parents (45) cabbage-shaped head; parents wanted him to give up studies (78) forgot times; kind; gentle; mannered; well-born (228)
Lady Prudence Hyde[Major Secondary Character] Evelyn's wife (44) far-reaching plans that ended in acquiring a dukedom for Evelyn (45) short like queen; ran to fat; rings on fingers; features repeated roundness of body; circular eyes (52) bulbous nose; mouth that pinched into tight , round little button; customary snipping tone (53) dumpy little person; Evelyn only married for immense marriage settlement; dressed in height of fashion; sallow complexion; oak-brown hair (53) bean-colored eyes (54)
Sir Nigel Mainwaring[No Appearance] justice of the peace; Evelyn's old school chum (185)
Jocelin Marshal
Viscount Radcliffe
[Brief Appearance] [Book 1 Hero] (4): Nick's closest friend (1) more brother than friend; jet-black hair; "Jos"; failed at ruthlessness; served in Crimea; crusaded against debauchers of children (4) sparkling emerald eyes; military bearing; Horse Guards (6) heir to dukedom; difficult family life (7)
Liza Marshal[Brief Appearance] [Book 1 Heroine] Jocelin's wife; ash-blond hair; hazel eyes; pregnant (3)
Uncle Yale [Marshal][No Appearance] Duke of Clairemont's younger brother // progressive ravages of a disease visited on the promiscuous (17) plague was eating his brain (18)
Dallas Meredith[Brief Appearances] ranch hand (4) from Deep South; blue-blooded (7) Dallas was grandson of Threshfield's youngest brother; sent to American in gambling disgrace (263)
Nellie[Brief Appearance] upstairs maid; caught glimpse of Nick (46)
Theophrastus Pertwee[Secondary Character] Nick's valet; orange hair slicked down with oil; monocle dangled from ribbon on his coat; clothing pristine and free of wrinkles; so thin as to resemble a stick insect; father had been a stuffy old schoolmaster (33) glided as if moving on oiled wheels (34) implacable glance (37)
Poison[No Appearance] ranch cook (5)
PounderNick's horse (2) enormous roan horse (19)
Randall[Minor Secondary Character] Threshfield butler (20)
Rebecca[Secondary Character] Georgiana's maid (39) short; delicately fashioned (70) receding chin (76)
[Mr.] Ross[No Appearance] Nick's father; coachman; drank himself out of every position he held; taken his failures out on his wife and children; flew into rages (35)
Tessie Ross[No Appearance] Nick's sister (35) died at the hands of a man who bought her for an evening; just a little girl (168)
Lord Silverstone[Brief Appearance] asked for Georgiana's hand after one dance; she was in daze until first conversation; heir to a great title; beautiful in a round-chinned way; Georgiana smitten with his artistic sensibilities, refinement, heavy-lidded and sad brown eyes; shorter than Georgiana (40)
Snead[One Appearance] Duke of Clairemont's henchman // mountainous man; broken nose; fists the size of beef joints (265)
Lady Lavinia Stokes[Major Secondary Character] Georgiana's spinster aunt (10) Aunt Livy (17) silver hair; face devoid of all but the finest age lines; wore breeches, riding coat and boots (22) married young to a man more interested in his horses than her; refused to be put on marriage block when widowed (43) steel spine (61)
John Charles Hyde
Earl of Threshfield:
[Major Secondary Character] vicious old blister; old enough to be Georgiana's grandfather (8) chief delight in life is tormenting his family; great deal of income, independent of entail, holds over family; collects strange objects from all over the world; cackles when he laughs; rolls around in creaky wheelchair; spry old skeleton when he wants to be (10) brilliant mind; amazing imagination; allowed bitterness derived from his own uncaring parents, and a love of power over people to sour his soul (45) still tall; over 80 years; majestic Hyde nose; thick white hair swept back from his forehead (47) ever-present glitter composed in part of devilment, curiosity and cynical amusement in watery eyes; silver eyebrows (48) contrary (52) mean old conniver (198)
Nan Tusset[No Appearance] stay maker in Worthbridge (143)

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Suzanne Robinson
♠  Website
♣  pseudonym used by: Lynda S. Robinson
Suzanne Robinson Book List:
♠  Fantastic Fiction
♣  FictionDB
Lynda S. Robinson Book List:
♠  Fantastic Fiction
♣  FictionDB

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The Engagement Reviews:
RatedPostedSiteNotes, Comments, Etc.
4.00 average{2 reviews}Amazonas of: March 24, 2012
3.00 average{1 review}Barnes and Nobleas of: March 24, 2012
3.50 average{2 reviews}Good Readsas of: March 24, 2012
3.13 average{8 ratings}Library Thingas of: March 24, 2012
3.30 average{9 ratings}Paperback Swapas of: March 24, 2012
3.00 average{2 reviews}Shelfarias of: March 24, 2012
2.8003-24-2012Wolf Bear Does Booksshorter post on Amazon, B&N, GR, Library Thing, Shelfari

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♥  Disclaimer:   I Purchased This Book
♥  Very Subjective Rating
♥  Willing to share Cheat Sheet
    ♦  in whole or in part
    ♦  WordPerfect or PDF
♣  Will add your The Engagement review link to table, just ask

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