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The Diamonds Of Welbourne Manor: Justine And The Noble Viscount\Annalise And The Scandalous Rake\Charlotte And The Wicked Lord Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 2009
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The reality is far more heart-warming, quarrelsome, loving and fun! With cheeky servants, a gorgeous home, squabbling siblings, entertaining guests and two dogs that steal the show and anything else that isn't nailed down it's a wonderful read for a Sunday afternoon.
The heart of this anthology is the Fitzmanning family. They are rowdy, independent and they adore each other. Not the done thing in 1818 English society. I loved every minute I spent with them.
While each novella is a separate love story, the thread that runs through each of them is the genuine affection these young people have for each other. A close knit family, when they have every reason not to be, they give the reader someone to root for at every turn, someone to conspire with, to laugh with, to cry with and to fall in love with.
In Justine and the Noble Viscount, the ever sensible Justine teaches the British lord with the stiffest upper lip I've ever seen how to smile and how to love and that love and understanding - not to mention patience! - is what makes a family.
In Annalise and the Scandalous Rake, the artistic Annalise learns to accept the woman she really is, she must be that woman outside of the four walls of her studio. In the process she and Ned, her scandalous rake, learn that love is about acceptance, the very thing this family is built on.
In Charlotte and the Wicked Lord, Charlotte (owner of two of the most scene-stealing pugs that will ever melt your heart and make you laugh until you cry!) learns that love is a gift given freely with no thought as to the consequences. Only a fool would turn it down, especially when it is delivered by the man of her dreams who has always longed to be a part of a real family like the Fitzmannings.
This anthology was a sheer delight to read and very much in the tradition of the Bridgertons and the Cynsters. I fell in love with the Fitzmannings and I know the reader looking for a heart-warming escape into a chaotic brood with a talent for trouble will love it too. I hope the authors intend to keep us posted on the scandalous, riotous doings at Welbourne Manor. I had such a good time, I can't wait to visit again!
Justine and the Noble Viscount by Diane Gaston
The whole first story had not one but two unbelievable premises. I was so busy trying not to fall in the plot holes in that story that I never managed to make myself care about either the hero or the heroine.
Annalise and the Scandalous Rake by Deb Marlowe
The second story was actually pretty good, but I suspect that it had to be cut down in order to make word count, or something, because the end of it was so incredibly rushed compared to the measured, appropriate pacing of the first three quarters of the story.
Charlotte and the Wicked Lord by Amanda McCabe
The third story was perhaps the biggest disappointment, since Amanada McCabe has written a number of books I really liked. The plot here was just too contrived and (again) full of holes. I disliked Charlotte so much that I didn't care if she got a happy ending or not, and I actually didn't like the dogs at all.
One over-arching complaint I have is that the authors were not at all good at writing about one another's heroines. By the time we got to Charlotte's story, I didn't like her. (As it turned out, I liked her best in the second story, but even then, I didn't like her much. In any case, she seemed to be three different people, in the hands of three different authors.) Justine was rather interesting in the first story, but became downright unpleasant in the second story. One of the real challenges of a set of intertwined stories like this about siblings in a close-knit family, is that the authors have to realistically portray the other heroines (and/or heroes) in a way that fits into the story they are writing while being compatible with what that character will do in her (or his) own story. I think that all three authors failed to get this right, and it weakened all three stories.
On the whole, I'd just as soon not have read this book.