Tuesday, June 21, 2011
McLean, Sarah: The Season
343 pages, Orchard Books
Seventeen year old Lady Alexandra is strong-willed and sharp-tongued — in a house full of older brothers and their friends, she had to learn to hold her own. Not the best makings for an aristocratic lady in Regency London. Yet her mother still dreams of marrying Alex off to someone safe, respectable, and wealthy. But between ball gown fittings, dances, and dinner parties, Alex, along with her two best friends, Ella and Vivi, manages to get herself into what may be her biggest scrape yet.
When the Earl of Blackmoor is mysteriously killed, Alex decides to help his son, the brooding and devilishly handsome Gavin, uncover the truth. But will Alex's heart be stolen in the process? In an adventure brimming with espionage, murder, and other clandestine affairs, who could possibly have time to worry about finding a husband? Romance abounds as this year's season begins!
If you already know me, you know that I have been raised on a steady diet of period dramas and black and whites. Due to a lifelong adoration of Jane Austen, Regency happens to be one of my favorite historical eras. That, and the fact that it was condoned by The Story Siren (who I admire) and Carrie Ryan, who is one of my favorite authors, resulted in my picking this up on one of my routine library visits last week.
First, let me start by saying that when it comes to historical description - particularly when it comes to dresses, the number of ways that a girl can be ruined, and even little details like taking a turn about a crowded ball room - this author is totally legit. The story reads like one of those BBC mini-series that I am fond of, and it isn't too hard for the reader to fill in their own imagery when it comes to faces like Alex or her "darkly handsome" Gavin.
That being said, the drawback of this story to me was a lack of murder. Yes, you read that correctly. On the cover, in the flap, on the back, in all the reviews, there is promised a murder mystery that Alex and her friends must solve - the murder of Gavin's father, the previous Earl of Blackmoor. While it is true that the man has been murdered, it takes nearly half the book to get around to the main conflict.
Instead, the reader is entertained by Gavin and Alex's slow, and frustrating, romance. I didn't mind it much, but somehow, to me, I can't help but feel that Gavin runs hot and cold. First he's giving Alex a long, intense stare, and then he's back with that prissy whats-her-face that he knows she can't tolerate.
Also, I would've preferred a bit of a stronger female character. Alex seems to be modeled after Elizabeth Bennett - opinionated, a Daddy's girl, and able to hold her own when it comes to male friends - and yet, she lacks some important compound of spirit that Austen's famous characters all seemed to contain. An obsession with her newfound crush, perhaps, or a bit too much insistence that she's an independent, single woman (hear her roar).
Otherwise, this book is meant to be a light-hearted, quick read, and on the whole Sarah McLean succeeded with what she set out to achieve. I'd definitely read her next novel when it comes out, if only for the delight of discovering another era from clear, authentic eyes.
(On a side note, a certain writer's blurb is on the back. I read the blurb before the author's name and even then, I was like, "Hmm, this sounds like Anna Godberson" - who, if you recall, I spent the whole day with this past April - and then it turned out it was her. Just goes to show you that a little observation goes a long way.)
And let's tally up the rating points!
Rather unlikeable heroine
Weak supporting cast
A quick summer read for those looking for a taste of history.