Sunday, March 4, 2012

Review: Civilizing Frances by Marguerite Butler (4.5 stars, historical)

Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
It's inevitable: as I read through a book belonging to a series, I constantly make comparisons between the current installment and the rest of the books in the series I have read. Civilizing Frances, the third and most recent installment of Marguerite Butler's "The Mad Hatterlys" series, was a significant improvement over the second novel but still not quite up to par with the first. As I have come to expect from Butler, the book is chock full of hilarious moments and dialogue to the point that I had to laugh out loud from time to time. Along with the humor, the other aspect of Butler's works that sets her above the crowd is her characterizations. She has a way of writing thoughts and dialogue that seems very human (and therefore uncannily realistic), which is a very cool thing to read in a romance. So even when she uses romantic stereotypes - as she does in Civilizing Frances - it works.

By "romantic stereotypes," I refer to the fact that the hero starts as a duke. A very proper and somewhat arrogant duke (at least in the beginning) who wants a very proper wife if he has to marry at all. Of course, this means that the heroine - along with being very beautiful and wealthy - is very much a hoyden. She loves horses, isn't afraid to use her fists, and is the only woman who butts heads with the duke. The characters develop a poor opinion of each other's character when they first meet and then accidentally become compromised. Throughout the story they get thrown together frequently, as the hero hosts a house party in the hopes of finding someone else to marry the heroine so that he doesn't have to. The attraction and feelings for each other deepen, as the hero wonders if the heroine is the right woman for him to marry and the heroine resolves not to have the hero marry her out of duty. Basically, the novel uses a variation of a storyline I have probably read at least half a dozen times. But, as I said before, this time it simply works: Butler's comedy and enjoyable writing (particularly in regards to the characters) keeps me entertained as we watch the hero and heroine gradually figure out what the readers know from the start.

Civilizing Frances was not quite everything I look for in a historical romance. The storyline and conflict slow down a bit towards the middle of the book, and the half star deduction reflects this. But the entertaining novel,   full of humor and quality writing, comes pretty darn close to all I could hope for.

As a final note, this book was given to me freely as a review copy (Musa Publishing = awesome). Just so you know.

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