WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the story ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey
Type: Historical Fiction, Regency Era, Romance
Basic Idea: Imogene wants nothing more than to please her family and pursue her love of art, but her dreams for approval may be shattered when she falls not for her intended, but his enchanting brother Ben.
Plot: 3/5 Average: Suitors and Sabotage is a yummy read for a person that is a fan of the regency romance genre, as well as enjoys a bit of mystery and action. While far from a thriller, the book is able to keep up interest with a mystery that had a suitable, believable villain that was aimed at colorful characters. I loved the realistic natures that the people of the book had; I only wish I could have known more about them and their feelings. I only had two big problems. Many of the character’s feelings of “love” felt more like “lust,” in my opinion, and that there was a wasted opportunity to talk about personality compatibility.
Writing Style and Setup: 3/5 Average: Ms. Anstey wrote in a style that is typical to many teen regency romance authors with a barrage of fancy words, a leisurely pace, and a lot of focus on two people’s forbidden emotions for each other. Now, this isn’t necessarily bad, it is just a style that is a bit overdone in these kinds of books. If one is just getting into these types of books, one may not mind it, but long time readers be not expecting anything new. The most disappointing part was the climax of the story. While the build up to it was done beautifully, the actual event was a bit disappointing. The scene was perfect, but the dialogue and presentation a bit fumbling and awkward, anti-climatic even. Outside of this, I would say it is a tolerably good book.
Moral: 1/5 No Clear Moral: The story did not seem to have any moral to it, only intending to tell a tale. Some may see traces that one should follow their heart or stick up for what they believe in, but I do not believe there is any one clear (or even unclear) moral.
Overall: 3/5 Average: I would say that people looking for another good regency romance to entertain themselves with will get what they are looking for, though outsiders may find the read a bit slow and boring. I definitely would not compare the style to Jane Austen or any other regency writer, but I will say that it would still make a fairly entertaining read to those that like these kinds of books. Though I myself don’t read them on a regular basis, the mystery and likeable characters, as well as a personal love of history, convinced me to see it through to the end. I think woman and teenagers looking for a leisurely, clean romance will enjoy the book best.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Slightly Sensual Content: An unmarried couple kisses on the mouth and almost kisses once. It mentions that during their kiss, the man kissed the woman’s neck. A girl lifts her head, expecting a kiss. A woman falls on a man. A man holds a woman when she cries and holds her hands for non-romantic purposes. A man notices a woman’s curves and that lace is “above her bodice”. Characters feel desires to kiss and touch other people, sometimes sounding a quite a bit suggestive and sensual i.e. “He wanted to… nibble at her neck… feel her body pressed to his.” Characters think about how they liked touching or being near a person. Characters blush or feel their heart speed up as romantic reactions. A man is said to be a charmer, a flirt, and a ladie’s man, and a girl tries flirting, once by purposely leaning on a man’s shoulder. When a necklace is found in a man’s room, he worries, because he knows it could imply she “visited” him. It is mentioned that a cupid statue was naked.
Violence: ½/5 Brief Mention: A man wants to fight another man. There is a legend that a woman committed suicide by jumping off of a tower.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 1½/5 Brief, Light Use: “Lord” is misused once. “Bloody” is misused twice. “Ass’s” is properly used twice. “Lud” is used five times (an archaic euphemism on the same plane as “gosh” or “gee.”) “Lawks” is said four times, though I don’t think this is a curse word, but a boy is reprimanded for using it. A man once swears, but it does not say what he said.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 1/5 Brief Drama: A man is almost crushed by a falling cliff. A swarm of wasps sting a man and woman on their hands and faces. Someone provoked them by throwing rocks at the nest. A girl worries about the ways her dog could get hurt if he jumps off of a limb. A man is thrown off his horse. A castle collapses, trapping a dog by its tail in the rubble. A dog jumps onto a man from a high height. A girl wishes there were stampeding goats for a distraction. A girl cuts her hands on accident. It mentions that a in the past died from a lung disease, and characters talk and think about her sadly. Characters scream from fear and cry or almost cry from great sadness. A girl almost falls off a cliff. A woman jokes that she thought a man “had fallen down the well.” A man jokes that his brother should not hurt dogs or set things on fire to get a girl to like him. Boys tease about there being a “dismembered body.” A dog bleeds and has a hurt shoulder and is “missing… fur.” A man is cut, bruised, bleeding, and sore after falling off a horse, and he contemplates that he could have broken his neck or his horse broken its leg. Slaying dragons is mentioned. Characters talk about not wanting to get hurt or others to. Death is used for descriptive purposes. “Leper” is used for descriptive purposes.
Religious Issues: 1/5 Some Reference and Hinting: Some boys tell a man a room is haunted, and someone makes ghost sounds. Two boys talk about haunting some people but don’t. A girl thinks about not liking her pastor’s sermons, as they are always about hell. Men are referred to as “reverend.” Characters visit an out of service abbey. There are mentions of bishops, cathedrals, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, monks, and mythic works of art. A fake mention of cupid is mentioned. Something is called a “good omen.” “The Fates” and luck are mentioned. “Ghost,” “ghoulish,” “haunted,” and “lucky” are used for descriptive purposes.
Magic: ½/5 Brief Mention: Characters act in a play that has fairies in it. Fairies and dragons. are briefly mentioned. “Spell” is used for descriptive purposes.
Others: Characters mention that they take snuff, have snuff box collections, and give snuff boxes as presents. Snuff is described as being “finely ground tobacco.” Characters use sherry in cooking. Smoking is implied. Characters go into a wine cellar. It is mentioned that something is used to make beer. “Bag of moonshine” is used for descriptive purposes. Characters dance. Much Ado About Nothing and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are mentioned, the latter being performed. Pride and Prejudice and The Confessions of Black Penitents is mentioned and part of it quoted. “Dance” is used for descriptive purposes.
Overall: 2½/5 Older Child Appropriate: I’d say it is a fairly clean novel, on par with some Christian romance novels in morals, though of course the story does lack a Christian theme. I think it would be appropriate starting at the age of eleven or twelve for some of the cursing and sensual themes.