Thursday, June 15, 2017

Four Weddings and a Sixpence - Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, Stefanie Sloane (Avon - Jan 2017)

Beloved authors Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, and Stefanie Sloane deliver the stories of four friends from Madame Rochambeaux's Gentle School for Girls who find an old sixpence in their bedchamber and decide that it will be the lucky coin for each of their weddings.

SOMETHING OLD by Julia Quinn 
This prologue introduces heroine Beatrice Heywood and the premise for FOUR WEDDINGS AND A SIXPENCE.

A brief prologue where we meet the four heroines as young girls and get a bit of their backgrounds. They imbue the found sixpence with some romantic magic and vow to save it for their weddings.

SOMETHING NEW by Stefanie Sloane
An ever vigilant guardian decrees that Anne Brabourne must marry by her twenty-first birthday.  But love finds her in the most unexpected of ways.

The first of the friends to find love.  Anne is in London for another Season of looking for a husband. Her uncle has insisted she find a husband before her twenty-first birthday, only a few weeks away. Looking for some peace during yet another ball, she sneaks away to the library, confiding her troubles to the dog laying before the fire. She doesn't realize the library is occupied until Rhys, Duke of Dorset, makes his presence known.

I loved their meeting. Rhys is amused by what he heard and intrigued by Anne's pragmatic attitude toward marriage. She's quite blunt about what she is looking for, and he isn't it. Having witnessed her parents' volatile relationship, Anne isn't interested in love or passion. She wants a biddable husband who will let her control her own money and live her life as she wants. Rhys enjoys his bachelor ways and has no intention of marrying any time soon. He offers to help her find a suitable man. Over the next few weeks they spend a lot of time together and form quite a friendship.

Rhys soon realizes that he isn't having any luck finding a man he feels is good enough for Anne. I loved the museum scene and his friend, Lord Penbroke's, statement of what is going on with Rhys. An unexpected kiss between Rhys and Anne throws them both into turmoil, as Rhys faces the changes in his feelings. Anne is equally shaken, and thanks to a misunderstanding, believes that Rhys has regrets. There's a wonderful scene between Rhys and Anne's uncle that had me laughing out loud, and another between Anne and Lady Marguerite that opens Anne's eyes to her fears. A fright over Rhys's safety sends Anne running to his side. I loved the ending, with Rhys showing Anne just how well he understands and loves her just as she is. The only downside was a rushed intimacy that didn't really seem to fit in the rest of the scene.

The lucky sixpence is encased in a locket that Anne wears. She's not sure she really believes in its magic, but wears it to make her friends happy. She begins to wonder and questions its effectiveness as her husband hunt is unsuccessful. By the end, she discovers the charm had it right all along.

Tells the tale of Cordelia Padley, who has invented a betrothed to keep her family from pestering her to wed.  Now she'll need to borrow one to convince them she's found her true love.

Cordelia has received the sixpence from Anne, along with an invitation to her wedding, to include Cordelia's mysterious fiancé. The problem is, Cordelia doesn't really have a fiancé. She made him up to get her aunts to stop trying to set her up with eligible men. Cordelia doesn't want to marry, she wants to fulfill her dream of exploring the world. Now she has to find someone to play the part or admit she's been lying all along.

Kipp, Earl of Thornton, has the unenviable task of having to find a wealthy bride. When he unexpectedly inherited the title it was to discover that the estate was flat broke. If he wants to protect the people he's responsible for and save the estate, he needs money and lots of it. He's not really looking forward to proposing to Miss Holt, daughter of a cit, who is more interested in his title than in him. Before he can go through with it, he receives an unexpected visit.

I loved seeing Cordelia's attempts to appeal to Kipp's sense of honor and adventure that she remembers from when they were children. Kipp has given up his childhood dreams of mapping his way around the world, beaten down by his responsibilities. But Cordelia's appeal brings back the memories of happier days and he decides to help her out.

I loved seeing the two of them get to know each other again. It was fun seeing Cordelia bring the light back into Kipp's eyes as they make their way to Anne's wedding. At the same time, Cordelia begins to understand Kipp's devotion to his land and his people. I ached for both of them as they realized that their time together was only temporary, or as Cordelia said "He's only borrowed and I will have to give him back". It doesn't take long before they both realize what they feel, but have no hope of making it work. Then an unexpected and not very welcome visitor arrives throwing everything into confusion. I loved how Kipp dealt with the issue, and then followed up with Cordelia. There was some confusion the next day, and an unexpected twist that made their happy ending that much sweeter.

SOMETHING BLUE by Laura Lee Guhrke
Unlucky Lady Elinor Daventry has her sixpence stolen from her and must convince the rake who pilfered the coin to return it in time for her own wedding.

Not my favorite of the stories. Ellie and Lawrence had been in love and engaged up until six months earlier. Then Lawrence began an investigation into Ellie's father, accusing him of purposely using inferior materials to make guns in order to reap more profits. Ellie finds out about the investigation and believes that Lawrence is putting his ambition to advance ahead of their love. At the same time, Lawrence feels that she should trust him and his love above her father, even though he refuses to provide any evidence to her.

At Cordelia and Kipp's wedding, the sixpence is given to Ellie. She is in expectation of a proposal from a man who's family can stop the investigation into her father's alleged wrongdoings. But Lawrence overhears the exchange and manages to steal the sixpence. From there, all Ellie's plans seem to go awry and she is determined to get the sixpence back. There are some fun scenes of her attempts, which always backfire on her.

In spite of their split, the attraction between them is just as strong as ever. The sparks fly with every encounter, and not just with temper. Ellie can't understand why she still wants a man who is so determined to ruin her father. Lawrence is also fighting his feelings because he can't see Ellie ever forgiving him for what he is doing.

I could see things from both their points of view. Ellie loves her father and can't believe he'd do something as heinous as what Lawrence is accusing him of. Lawrence simply can't put his personal feelings ahead of what he sees as his duty. He tries his best to make Ellie see things his way, but she's adamant in her support of her father.

I'm still not sure I liked the ending. Yes, they are together, but Lawrence's "proposal" was less than romantic. I rather liked what Ellie did for her father, and Lawrence's attitude is harsh. His determination to continue the pursuit seems to me to be asking for a buildup of resentment further down the line.

Finishing up with the story of Beatrice Heywood, who never believed that the sixpence was anything but a tarnished old coin -- until it led all of her friends to true love.  But her faith in the coin is tested when it keeps sending her to the wrong man!

The blurb isn't right on this one. Yes, Bea is skeptical about the magic of the sixpence, but there's only one man in this story. Bea is given the sixpence at Ellie's wedding. She doesn't want it - she has no intention of marrying, but plans to take care of her elderly aunts. But her friends give her no peace until she agrees.

Bea is loyal and caring to her family, independent in her thinking, and fascinated by astronomy. As she's walking down the street one day (griping about the sixpence in her shoe) and watching the clouds, she collides with a gentleman. Though she notices his eyepatch and scar, she's more intrigued by the color of the eye she can see and is caught staring.

Frederick was injured in a carriage accident and took a long time to recover from his injuries. Tired of the looks of revulsion and pity he gets from people, he has purchased a small estate and continues his study of theoretical physics away from contact with most people. When he runs into Bea he sees her staring as the same he always gets, which makes him rather grumpy with her. They part ways, then see each other again at the stationer's shop. Here they actually take the time to talk a little and learn that both are into the sciences. Frederick is intrigued by her, and when the opportunity comes to aid her, he takes it. Their following conversations create a definite connection between them.

I enjoyed the quick and sweet development of their romance. Bea brings Frederick's senses back to life after his accident. He's fascinated by her mind and warmed by her lack of pity and matter-of-fact attitude about his injuries. I loved his desire to do something special for her, and his offer to take her to the observatory was perfect. Though she had been so determined that she'd never marry, Bea is stunned by how quickly she loses her heart to Frederick.

Their trip to the observatory was adorable. Bea's excitement is contagious and Frederick's happiness at her enjoyment is obvious. Even Bea's Aunt Callie gets into the spirit. Aunt Callie is also a bit of a rogue, and plays matchmaker with the two. My favorite line, as Bea goes tearing up the stairs to the telescope and Frederick is grinning, is when Aunt Callie says "You'd better follow. I won't be out of breath for long." Frederick is surprised, but not stupid, and takes her advice. I loved his big moment up there and how he opened himself up to her.

I loved the epilogue and how they brought the sixpence full circle. I also enjoyed the conversation before Bea arrived, and have a suspicion that she is more like her friends than the think she is.

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