I just finished all five of the Gregor the Overlander books, and I highly recommend them. (In case you're wondering, I'm a woman in my late-30s, so you know what viewpoint this review is written from.) I came to them having finished the Hunger Games series and loving the complex, compelling characters, so I wanted to see what else Suzanne Collins had written. (In attempt at brevity from this point forward, I'm going to refer to the Gregor the Overlander series as GTO, and the Hunger Games series at THG.) The two series are quite different because the main character in GTO is only 11 while Katniss is 16 in THG, and the Overland & Underland worlds in GTO are also quite different from Panem in THG, of course. However, Collins has a talent for writing characters that we root for (even when we they're being stubborn and misguided, as we all tend to be at some point), and she creates entire worlds that these characters inhabit (or visit) so well that we can picture it vividly in our minds. You're there with them, experiencing all of it.
The style of writing is slightly different, too, since the Gregor books are suggested for those as young as 4th grade, and the Hunger Games begin at 7th grade as a suggested reading level. So, the adult reading experience of GTO can be comparable to reading the Harry Potter books as far as writing style (for the intended reading audience) and maturity of the main characters. I absolutely loved the characters and universe of Harry Potter, so I didn't have a lot of difficulty going along with the GTO books, too. (I may have had to adjust a little to the simplified reading level with the HP books the first time that I read the early ones, but that was so long ago for me that it's hard to remember.) However, you should think twice before buying the GTO books (or using your precious Audible credits) if you can't adapt to reading from an 11-year-old's point-of-view.
Other reviews summarize the plot quite well, so I won't go into that here. I think that, like most first-time authors, Collins gets better and smoother as she goes along, but these books are definitely worth it, in the long run. In summary, this series excels at depicting characters whom you root for (and some whom you won't, right along with Gregor) and in a world that is refreshing because it is extremely different, yet somewhat recognizable to our own.
I'm one of those people who has a hard time with sexual violence of any kind and also with victims who are utterly betrayed by loved ones and those who say they'll protect them and keep them safe. Psychological abuse is also hard for me, too. So, I don't typically read suspense thrillers and tend to stick to romances or mysteries that mix in a good helping of humor and maybe a little romance. However, a good friend told me that she thought that I'd like the third book in this series, and being a stickler for doing things the "right" way, I decided to start with the first book, namely The Cove.
Oh, this book was so hard for me to get through because of the issues that I laid out in the first two sentences of this review. There is quite a bit of sexual abuse and emotional victimization (or maybe it just seemed like a lot to me) in a main character's past, and she was so powerless at the time to do anything about it and told that it hadn't really happened and was all in her head, it makes me sad just thinking about it. Also, even in the current timeline of the story, it's hard for her to know who she really can trust at any given moment. So, any readers who have trouble reading about this type of thing really shouldn't read this book. Maybe other readers won't feel it was as bad as this, but I was so depressed while getting through most of the book. I knew that the best thing was to see it through because my imagination would probably take it to even worse places in my mind if I didn't just find out how it all played out.
I agree with some of the other reviewers that the writing wasn't great, either. However, I've been known to forgive that before if there are other factors at times that make up for it in my eyes (such as colorful, compelling characters, great dialogue, creative twists and turns, a great love story, etc.). I don't think that I'll ever listen to this book again, even knowing how the plot resolves itself and knowing it may not be so dark and painful for me the next time because I now know the manner in which everything ends for each of the characters.
The only reason that I MIGHT re-read it is that there are characters in this book that show up and cross over with other books in the series. I just finished reading the second book in this series titled The Maze (since I'd bought the first three books in the series and am too cheap to not at least TRY to read what I've paid for), and I recommend that one. The writing still may not be Pulitzer Prize material, but I thought that it was much better and liked all but a few of the characters so much more than I did those of The Cove. Because The Maze's main characters are mostly FBI agents working together on cases, I think that gave the story-line more stability and Coulter was able to get a better handle on her plot, rather than The Cove's ever-shifting "What's going on in this sleepy, innocent little town, or am I just crazy to think that anything bad is going on?" This reminded me a bit more of the Patricia Cornwell novels that I used to read years ago, before I decided that the psychos that she tries to catch in those books were too dark and depressing for escapist reading (for me, at least). I'm hoping that the third book (which is actually the one that my friend said I should read) will be more like The Maze than The Cove.
The narrator did a good job. She can't be blamed for anything wrong with this book.
Bottom line for this review: skip this one and start with The Maze.
Yes, I would. I have read almost all of Lynsay Sands's books (even the backlist romances that she wrote a long time ago), and I enjoy them for what they are. They're never going to win Pulitzer Prizes or change the world, but they ARE light, diverting entertainment with interesting characters, humor, and nice family/friend relationships that warm the heart.
Prior to purchasing it, I read all of the other reviews for this book, so I went into it knowing that a good deal of it would cover the same events as The Countess. Personally, I enjoyed the fact that most of this book's events followed those of the earlier book, except from Suzette's and Daniel's points-of-view here. In The Countess, I didn't really like Suzette that much as a character, but I appreciated her much more here because (since we were now inside her head) we knew WHY she was saying the blunt, caustic things that she tended to spout off in both this book and the previous one. I also enjoyed reading what Daniel was thinking in the scenes covered by both books because I had a feeling that there was more to him (still waters running deep) than just being Richard (the male protagonist of The Countess)'s most trusted friend and a generally level-headed, responsible guy. There had to be something more there for a fiery woman like Suzette to be attracted to him (other than the practical, dowry-related reasons that brought them together), and I think that this book captured him quite well.
(I've since moved on to the third book in the series and may have forgotten any of my other favorite moments from The Heiress, but the following is what I DO remember now as having particularly enjoyed.)
The scenes involving Daniel and his mother were very amusing because you can see that she's cut from the same cloth as Suzette, and as tended to happen with Suzette, he had very little say in the end when his mother decides on a course of action. His frustration with the situation was palpable, and she even calls him on it at one point, noting something to the effect that he's sulking right now, but he'll come around once he'd eaten something and his pride was no longer hurt. (I'm not saying that Daniel tended to be either kowtowed nor bad-humored. He had a backbone with Suzette, Richard, etc. when needed, and one could understand his reaction, as an adult man, to his mother's needing to have her way, regardless that her plan really was the smartest one.) Also, her kindness (and not just to her son, but to all of his friends and companions) was heartwarming, considering we could see how she could speak just as sharply as Suzette could when provoked. She could see past other character's mistakes and poor decisions and didn't hold them against them as some mothers might when their son or daughter had been hurt, whether physically or emotionally.
I also really liked Suzette's spirit when she decided that she wasn't going to take things lying down. She didn't worry about saying something diplomatic or strategic. If she felt like being a harpy to a man who was doing her (or a loved one) harm, she did so, no matter the consequences. Not always the smartest move, but she tended to stay true to herself. I actually liked her better as a character here than I did her sister, Christiana, in The Countess (which was from the latter's point-of-view). Christiana was beaten down and unnaturally submissive after a year of emotional abuse by the man she'd married before that book began. Understandable, but this also made Suzette's fearlessness and frankness seem to be a nice change after Christiana's difficulty trusting her new husband in the prior book. Suzette also deserved to have a book devoted to how she and Daniel came together, and just because we have a general idea about some of it from The Countess, we don't really see why they're drawn together until THIS book.
I have not. Unfortunately, Audible doesn't offer anything else narrated by her at this time.
She may be fiery and difficult, but he wouldn't have her any other way.
I have purchased all of the Georgette Heyer Regency romances here on Audible, and I've enjoyed all of them. However, if pressed, I have to say that I had to work at enjoying APRIL LADY the first time that I listened to it more than I've had to with the other GH Regencies. I think that a significant reason why I didn't enjoy this book on my first read was that I felt so much empathy for the heroine and her difficulties. I could see myself, at her age and with her lack of worldly experience, making the same mistakes in judgment that she had, and so I felt all of her turmoil as she truly did try to do the right thing in the muddle that she'd made of things while also trying to keep her headstrong young sister-in-law on the straight and narrow. Any GH fan would probably attest that the last few chapters of her romances tie up all of the plot points in a satisfactory (and usually humorous and entertaining) fashion, and I was happy with this book's resolution, as well, so this made up for the novel, as a whole, not flying along as wonderfully and humorously as I find most of Heyer's romances do. At this moment, I'm almost finished listening to the book again, and I've enjoyed it more this time, possibly because I'm not so anxious about HOW Nell's difficulties will work out in the end. Still, I would not recommend this novel to someone who's never before read a Heyer romance; it might not convince them to ready any more, on its own merits. One of her others (maybe FRIDAY'S CHILD, THE RELUCTANT WIDOW, FREDERICA, or THE UNKNOWN AJAX) would be a better introduction from which to judge her writing, especially her talent for writing memorable humorous characters, even for the supporting cast. So, if this would be your first Heyer audio ever, please re-think this choice and check out her others listed here on Audible. I feel that you should listen to APRIL LADY eventually, but check out her other romances first. Still, the narration was perfect, in my opinion.
I had no problem at all with the narration. Eve Matheson gave every character a unique and appropriate (to their personality) voice. She also applied nuance to her reading to help with understanding any unfamiliar English (specifically Regency English) dialect or slang. (I realize that the quality of Heyer's writing usually takes care of this issue for the most part, but I also sometimes note how a narrator stressing the right words can help me catch when a character is speaking with sarcasm or dry irony, which Matheson did.)
I am methodically working my way through all of the Heyer novels offered here on Audible, and I must agree with other readers who feel that this is one of her best and funniest books. The volatile hero's tendency to say (and act on) exactly what he's thinking and feeling, regardless of the inappropriateness to his company, and the naive, cheerful, universally accepting heroine are both delightful. The secondary characters are truly some of her best and most humorous, though Heyer's secondary characters are ALWAYS better than those of most other authors. The relationship between Kitten and her husband's friends is wonderfully affectionate and sweet, and this adopted family was one of my favorite aspects of FRIDAY'S CHILD. The way that the events of the story play out was also extremely satisfying and intriguing. I recommend both this book and its narration unhesitatingly and without any reservation.
Another great Heyer romance, though unusual because the main character is male, unlike most of her works. I really enjoy Heyer's talent for creating characters who are intelligent, dryly humorous, and kind to everyone, whether servants or peers (even to those selfish individuals who don't really deserve it). I also especially like it when a female character who isn't traditionally beautiful or a giddy girl just out of the schoolroom is able to find happiness with a man who values her above the frippery around him. Therefore, this novel was exactly to my taste. Some of the above qualities reminded me of SPRIG MUSLIN and A CIVIL CONTRACT, so if you liked those books, then you will probably enjoy those of this one, too.
I felt that the narrator did a wonderful job, despite what some other reviewers have written. Each character sounded distinct from the others, and the proper inflections for what Heyer wrote were correctly performed (meaning, that I didn't notice Garrett ever saying a passage without irony when it was obviously meant to be ironic, for example). I didn't find any female voices to be grating myself; if, for example, the stepmother seemed to some listeners to be voiced unpleasantly, that seemed fitting because she was a very selfish and unlikeable character. I think that all of the voices fit their characters, personally. His voice for the main character reminded me a little of the one he used for the Duke in THESE OLD SHADES, but I had no problem with that because I enjoyed both characters and could see some similarities in common.
One thing that surprised me was that I figured out a twist in the plot very early on, and normally, I'm not someone who does so, for the most part. However, this is the ninth Heyer novel that I've listened to, so maybe I just have figured out some of how her mind worked by now.
I hope that Audible offers more and more Heyer titles, since there are many not yet available on audio.
Horry (short for Horatia), as a character, is very endearing, funny, and devoted to the best interests of her family. I like that her husband doesn't try to force her into behaving in a prudent, socially acceptable manner just because she has to. He tries to reason with her and manage her in such a way that she won't become even more willful and stubborn than she naturally is. Her character has some nice growth and arc over the course of the story, and I could easily forgive some of her early silly, less circumspect behavior because of the person she becomes by the end of the novel.
Her husband, the Earl of Rule, is amusing (in a dry, ironic way), brave, and I think that he's almost perfect as a romantic hero in a book of this genre. He can defend himself (and the woman he loves) in a duel, but yet he has all the manners and style of his station. He also has the patience of a saint.
The funniest moments in this book (as far as what I remember right at this moment) occur in scenes that involve Horry's brother, Viscount Pelham Winwood and his friend, Sir Roland Pommeroy. During the last 30 minutes or so of this audiobook, I was laughing uproariously many times at things they said and did, though they were entertaining at several other points in the book, too. In the scenes when they incorporated Pel's brother-in-law in their attempts to save Horry from a potential scandal, it was hilarious.
I liked that the characters were all fairly unique and interesting. For example, Pommeroy is Pel's best friend, but he's not exactly like Pel. He is more observant of the appropriateness of their actions, were they to be brought to the notice of society, though he's still just foolish enough (such as getting drunk with Pel) that you can see how they'd be good friends.
Caroline Hunt narrated the book very, very well, giving each character a distinctive voice. Also, she handled Horry's stuttering quite well, which could have turned out to be annoying, but wasn't.
As other reviewers have already written, this is not your typical Georgette Heyer novel (at least, it's not similar to the Heyer books that I've read so far). Heyer's characters are multi-layered and interesting, but this book focuses more on the historical events in which they're living, unlike her other novels that I've read, in which the characters and plot are the focus and the historical details are more in the background. The book is set mostly in Brussels prior to the Battle of Waterloo and includes the battle itself. Not being deeply interested in history myself, there were moments when I had to persevere through all of the information that is being imparted. If you enjoy military history (or just history, period) and enjoy seeing it through the eyes of interesting fictional characters, you will probably love this book. If you are just interested in reading a more typical Heyer novel, you may find your attention wandering a bit at times.
This book is part of a series, and this kept me reading in order to see what would happen next with the recurring characters (or their children & grandchildren) as they made appearances in the subsequent books. This is the order that I read them in, and I'd recommend that you do so, too: 1.) These Old Shades, 2.) Devil's Cub, and 3.) Regency Buck.
After you've read the above three books (and in that order), THEN I would read An Infamous Army so that you have as much understanding as possible of who each of the characters is and how they know or are related to the other characters. I had to make myself a "cheat sheet" describing who was whom when I first began this book, so that I could keep everyone straight. It's hard to see how similar in temperament and spirit that the new generation is to their grandparents, for example, if you can't keep the relationships straight. This is just a suggestion of something that worked for me. I'm glad I read this book, but it's not my favorite Heyer. Narration: excellent
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