Book Review: Four Weddings and a Sixpence: An Anthology

Tags

, , , , ,

img_1965Title: Four Weddings and a Sixpence: An Anthology
Author: Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Boyle, Laura Lee Guhrke, Stefanie Sloane
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Avon Books
Format: Mass Market Paperback

Summary
When four friends, Beatrice, Anne, Elizabeth and Elinor, find a sixpence in an old mattress at Madame Rochambeaux’s Gentle School for Girls, they know that despite their difference in social classes, they will be forever bonded. Remembering the old nursery rhyme about marriage they decide that this will be their lucky coin to find true love and prosperous marriages.

“Something old
Something new
Something borrowed
Something blue
And a sixpence in her shoe”

Review
I have a love/hate relationship with anthologies. On the plus side, I appreciate the short stories, especially those that intersect and it’s a great opportunity to try out an author I might not have read before. On the opposite side though, the short stories can sometimes feel rushed at the end since they have to wrap up so quickly and there is usually one story that just doesn’t match up to the others in quality and interest.

Julia Quinn is my absolute favorite author. After reading the Avon teen romances, she was the first author I picked in the romance genre to try and fell in love with her Bridgerton series. Her premise for this story about 4 friends and the age-old marriage nursery rhyme fit well in Regency England. However, each story was very clearly its own story, which left me with a bit of disconnect. I would have like to have seen the 4 girls cross over within each story a bit more, however I understand that would have been difficult to do given the four authors each developed one of the girls. I did appreciate though, the difference in social classes and how each still made very respectable matches, keeping some variety in the story.

Sloane’s story of Anne read as a typical romance novel. Girl needs to marry a respectable man, girl meets non-respectable man, Rhys, and he agrees to help her find a respectable husband, man falls in love with girl, man and girl are stubborn and don’t see they’re in love, they live happily ever after.  It was the prefect start to the premise of the rhyme and offered a story line that was refined and felt like it wrapped up well.

Boyle’s story while the longest, was the cutest play on the rhyme for “something borrowed”. While it felt like it concluded it well enough, it did feel a bit dragged out at times between Cordelia and Christopher Talcott. However, it also had the most supporting characters in my opinion which helped to provide depth to the characters and story itself, which could account for the longer story.

Guhrke’s story, while an interesting premise and did bring more to the story of the girls growing up, seemed to end quite suddenly. All of the building and tension between Elinor and Lawrence in response to the case against her father felt like it needed some big ending and instead it just sort of ended and everyone lived happily ever after. I also would have liked to have seen a better idea for “something blue” than blue eyes. It was my least favorite of the four stories.

Quinn’s story was short (the shortest of the four stories), sweet and the perfect conclusion. Beatrice and Frederick seemed to have the most depth of any of the characters and the way it was released little by little with the growing attraction between them made the conclusion make sense and feel well-timed.

Rating
4 Stars

Book Review: Belgravia

Tags

, , ,

img_1872Title: Belgravia
Author: Julian Fellowes
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover

Summary
The year is 1815 and the creme de la creme of British society in Brussels has come together for a party to be remembered. What they can’t foresee is that most of the gentleman in that ballroom will be killed the next day at the Battle of Waterloo. Among those who were killed was the handsome Edmund Brockenhurst, Lord Bellasis. Prior to his death he’d become acquainted with Miss Sophia Trenchard, daughter of General Wellington’s supplier, and member of a different class. Tragically, Sophia dies months later as well. The impact of this liaison will not be felt however, until 25 years later, back in London where the Trenchards are now living in the fashionable neighborhood of Belgravia, when societal classes will clash and you’ll be left wondering if sometime secrets are better left in the past.

Review
Being an Anglophile, especially in what I read, I decided I wanted to branch out from my normal pick of historical romance. I was a big fan of Downton Abbey (and The Crown, Victoria…you get the idea), so when I saw this novel and read the quick synopsis, I knew I had to give it a try. The historical facts and accuracy in this book as it pertains to the time period and specifically Belgravia, were amazing. I found myself wanting to research if this or that was true. The story itself is fascinating. In true Downton Abbey form, you’re introduced to both the upstairs and downstairs stories and how they intermix, while also showing how difficult it was to climb the social system in Britain at that time through the unlikely alliance of two families. After the initial chapters in Brussels, the story slows for a bit while the past is taking shape. However, the use of historical facts and detail in the writing is what keeps the story moving. With some expected and other unexpected turns, you feel like things come to the right conclusion in the end and that the turmoril of the secrets from 25 years ago that you can’t help to feel yourself have settled.

Rating
3.5 Stars

Rock’n’Roll Arizona 10K

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Last week on a spur of the moment decision I signed up for a 10K to get my legs moving and mix things up a bit. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve raced a 10K and I use the term race loosely. Lets just put this out there right now…this was one of my slowest 10K races to date. It was also a ton of fun, hills killing me and all…as running should be! I haven’t been following any sort of training plans lately, but listening to my body and staying active, so while I did have some goals and expectations, I also wasn’t going to beat myself up for not hitting them.

While it’s been awhile since I’ve raced a 10K, it’s been even longer since I ran a race with Rock’n’Roll. In fact, the last Rock’n’Roll race I toed the start line for was the Arizona Marathon in 2012. That unfortunately, was my only DNF ever when I dropped out at mile 8.5 with what I later found out was bronchitis, a fever and a sinus infection. Needless to say, there’s been some need for redemption in Arizona, even if it was 20 miles less ;)

I was extremely impressed with the growth of their expo from the last one I attended and just their overall organization. Having worked in the race industry for a few years now, I find myself constantly comparing, contrasting and seeing it all with my event planner hat on, while also trying to enjoy it as an athlete.

The start line for the 10K and half marathon was on the ASU campus, not far from my brother’s apartment on the other side of Tempe Town Lake. Not wanting to deal with parking, traffic around the course, the light rail, etc I met my brother nice and early on Sunday morning, where he then dropped me as close as he could to the start line and took my car back to his apartment to get after the race. I was about .4 miles from the start and used the walk as part of my warm-up. I came in at the back of the start line which was perfect for bag check and porto-pottie stops. Since I was a bit early, I walked around, got my lay of the land and most importantly, never waited more than 2 minutes for a porto-pottie. They had so many!!! Weird that I noticed that? Maybe, but it made event planners and runners alike happy! There was a bit of confusion on my part for bag check. They were using UPS trucks and the trucks were lined up in last name alphabetical order for drop off, but all the trucks said half-marathon. I didn’t see a single truck that said 10K, despite my information saying there would be a 10k bag check. After asking a few different people I was finally able to discern that the trucks were actually being used for the 10K and half-marathon together. Not exactly clear, but no harm done.

With my bag dropped I proceeded toward coral 2 (my assigned corral) and did a little warm-up. Not knowing how I’d actually run, I simply entered my best 10K time for reference and corral placement. They had the half-marathoners and 10K runners start together before splitting at mile 2.5. Being in corral 2, this didn’t cause any issues for me, nor was I ever confused about staying to the left at 2.5 miles for the 10k turn off.

The thing about this course is that I actually ran a good portion of it a few week prior with my brother for a long run. That meant I knew there were hills and that running along the water front of Tempe Town Lake is my favorite! My initial plan was to pace this as a progression run. I’ve been working on having faster finish runs since this summer. After heading East on campus we turned North to cross over Tempe Town Lake before running West along the water front and finally South back over Tempe Town Lake. While both bridges provided incline, the biggest hill actually came on Curry Road between miles 4.5 and 5. It is a deceptively long hill to the top. Prior to this hill, I’d been feeling really good actually. After we split from the half-marathoners at mile 2.5 I barely saw anyone on the course. The 10K was truly the smaller of the races happening, but that meant open road and path for me, which I’ll always take. In some instances along the water front, I felt like I was just out for another long run. Just before the hill I started catching some of the people in front of me and was feeling good to run reasonably well. That hill however, had other ideas for me. Even knowing it was coming, it killed me and I watched my pace slowly drop. I am happy to say I didn’t walk or think of walking despite people around me doing just that and was even able to pick up the pace across the final bridge again and into the finish line. My last .2 miles were actually at a 6:36 pace, something I haven’t seen since before my hip surgery 3 years ago and clearly, I had something left.

After my brother had dropped my car back at his apartment, he headed back out on his skateboard to come cheer me on at the finish line, which it’s always fun to see someone you know on the course!

img_1741

My final time was 51:30, well off a PR and like I prefaced this novel, one of my slowest 10Ks ever. I was actually shocked that it placed me 4th in my age group. Definitely a small race! But I had fun out there, even the hill. It felt good to be at a start line again, push myself and race into the finish. And if you’re still reading my novel at this point, THANK YOU!

img_1733

I’ll leave you with this, the 1.5 mile walk back to my car post race on the course, including going up the hill backwards had me in one of those “and I thought this hill was tough” moments. But in true Arizona fashion as I’m finding, the view is always worth it!

img_1736

Final Time: 51:30 {8:18/mile pace}