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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Having a few laughs at a Jane Austen Day party

For Jane Austen fans, this is an early Christmas(or Hanukkah, which begins today) as December 16th is Jane Austen's 239th birthday.

 The Jane Austen Centre in Bath has currently christened this momentous occasion as Jane Austen Day  and there are plenty of celebrations both on and off line going on as we speak. As for me, I thought a small party was in order and what's a party without some laughs along the way?

So, here for your general amusement are a few select clips from Jane Austen adaptations and/or Austen themed media that should start this party off right, one would hope:

SOME MST3K MERRIMENT: One of the best loved parties in all of Austen's books is the famed Netherfield Ball in Pride and Prejudice, where Lizzy finds herself breaking her vow to never dance with a certain Mr. Darcy. Austenesque blogger Meredith Esparza gives us an amusing take on that scene as she offers a touch of Mystery Science Theater 3000 style of commentary(do wish Tom Servo and Crow were there in Regency grab!):


A BREAK FROM THE FUN:

More P&P entertainment here, as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries had worked in Lydia's 21st birthday party into the storyline and Lizzie sought refuge from the extremely festive festivities by vlogging in her room.

Cousin Mary joined her for a break from the scene as well, plus a bit of Costume Theater where we found out why George Wickam was pointedly uninvited to this birthday bash. As much fun as a big party can be, it does help that someone retain their sense and sensibility in order to clean up as well as pitch in during the occasional fiery accident:


 CHRISTMAS PARTY TIME:

Switching over to Emma, the awkward Christmas party scene where Miss Woodhouse discovers that her matchmaking for Harriet and Mr. Elton has gone awry is delightfully included in the web series Emma Approved, this time as a holiday office party.

This modern take on that particular event is pretty fun, as guests take holiday card photos and gifts are exchanged yet Emma's confusion about why Senator Elton isn't as concerned about Harriet's cold as she thought he would be is a slight setback there:



DRESSING FOR THE OCCASION:

It is hard not to return to P&P themed waters, as Bridget Jones' Diary has a bounty of party going delights.

 Choosing just one is as difficult as selecting the right outfit for a smart party but I think that our Miss Jones's wardrobe mishap at the Tarts and Vicars party(where her boyfriend of the moment Daniel Cleaver talked himself out of attending) fits the bill nicely.

Bad enough that she walked into the party without knowing the change in theme beforehand, running into her mum and the new Mr. Collins like admirer in her mother's life was a rather foul icing that took the cake indeed:


As the party winds down, let us wish all Jane Austen friends everywhere a very happy Jane Austen Day and happy holidays as well.

Parties are all well and good but there does come a time to know when to return home and recover from the frenzy that preparing for such things can bring.  During the party, however, despite the heat that can arise from the dance floor, you should remain cool enough not to discard any of your wardrobe whether your soiree is in Austenland or not:


Monday, December 15, 2014

Checking out some Golden Globe nominees at the Movie Trailer Park

The Golden Globe nominations came out last week, with the usual amount of happy people eager to have their chances at Oscar and Emmy gold being increased(along with those disappointed at being untapped for this honor).

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at a few of the movies up for the double Gs that haven't been widely seen just yet. This quartet of potential winners will have major releases after New Year's(with a couple getting a limited Christmas Day opening),so you might want to keep an eye out for them at your local multiplex.

First up is Big Eyes, with director Tim Burton taking on another true story about artists, this one focusing on the infamous Keane paintings that were a big hit in the 1950s. Husband Walter(Christoph Waltz) sold his wife Margaret's(Amy Adams) work and claimed it as his own, which greatly distressed her but due to threats and intimidation, she put up with Walter's outrageous exploitation for years.

Finally, Margaret had had enough and declared her independence as well as the truth about who was the true artist in the family. The film is up for Best Song(another Lana Del Ray theme,she's really cornering the market on these) and Best Actor and Actress nods for Adams and Waltz. Hope that Amy Adams gets an Oscar nom for this one, as this story is a sound reminder of what happens to many trusting artists out there:



Next up is A Most Violent Year,which in this case happens to be 1981. The story is set in New York City as a series of criminal actions lead up to a deadly showdown that threatens the lives of an immigrant family trying to create a small empire for themselves.

Jessica Chastain is up for Best Supporting Actress,although from what I've read, she sounds like the lead. Then again, this does appear to be a rather male centric piece,so maybe her nom is in the right spot. Regardless, AMVY is said to be a gritty Sidney Lumet type of film, so keep on the lookout for it as it might become an Academy Award sleeper surprise:


One movie that is definitely going to be a huge contender in the award show arena is Selma, which already has four Golden Globe nominations.

 Director Ava DuVernay and writer Paul Webb(both nominated) bring the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights march to life on screen, with a cast that includes  Lorraine Toussaint, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth, Tessa Thompson and David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King,Jr.

Unlike some films that have dealt with this subject lately, Selma appears to be an earnest yet thought provoking take on one of the most turbulent times in U.S. history. Given that we're currently experiencing some of these same social protests(which shows just how far we have and haven't come) right now, to say that this film is timely is quite the understatement indeed:




The Best Actress field is bound to be extra competitive this year but that hasn't stopped Jennifer Aniston from throwing her hat into the ring with Cake, for which she has a GG nom as the female lead for.

She plays Claire Simmons, a snarky woman addicted to pain killers who becomes obsessed with the suicide of a member of her support group(Anna Kendrick) and even seeks out that woman's remaining family in order to find a way to reconnect with life.

Aniston does have the chops for arthouse fare and she's gotten some film festival buzz for the film already(plus a SAG nom). This might lead her to Oscar territory but not sure if she'll take the award home with the likes of Reese Witherspoon on her heels. On the other hand, let's not get ahead of ourselves on this:


The Golden Globes will be handed out on January 11,2015 and for the third time in a row, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey will be on deck as co-hosts. Should be a fun show and as they say, the third time's the charm(although the first two have been as well). With the Sony Pictures hack scandal still being fresh by then, these gals should have plenty of material from that alone to make some mocking mince meat out of for our amusement, I'm sure:




Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Syrie James gives us some summer lovin' with Jane Austen's First Love

Author Syrie James has done very well when it comes to writing novels about literary figures, particularly Jane Austen as her prior books The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen have shown us eager readers.

Her newest title,however, Jane Austen's First Love, pretty much outdoes them both as this story sheds a little light on Austen's life and times, particularly , a romantic leading man that came into her life well before a certain Tom Lefroy(considered to be the one great love of her life) arrived on the scene.

Here, we find Jane at fifteen, anxious to be out and about in the world, especially when it comes to dances and being allowed the fashionable privilege of powdering her hair. Upon the news of her brother Edward's engagement to Elizabeth Bridges, Jane and her sister Cassandra(along with one of her brother and the ever anxious Mrs. Austen in tow) go off to Kent during the summer of 1791 to meet the in-laws.

A bit of carriage trouble finds Jane being introduced to one of the Bridges' neighbors, a Mr. Edward Taylor of Bifrons. Edward and Jane seem to get along instantly, as they both share a lively wit and enjoyment of daring challenges such as a walk across the top of a high garden wall. While she does her best to keep her strong liking for him under wraps, Jane can not help but show off her playful side, much to the dismay of her sister and mother:



Jane does not cause a true scandal, of course, but her great desire to be well thought of by Edward leads to much excitement when the chance for attending a dance held by family and friends arises.

Even with the grand allowance of powdering her hair for the occasion, Jane becomes a bit anxious about her opportunities for dancing with Edward as his cousin Charlotte is being gently but firmly pushed as a desirable partner for him and not just for a dance. Nonetheless, she and Edward do get a moment on the dance floor to themselves and their conversation proves to be just as nuanced as their steps:


Although Jane realizes that the chance of her and Edward being together are slim, due to the vast differences in their fortunes, she does hold out a little hope there.

She decides to spend some of her energy in a bit of matchmaking, as another sister of Elizabeth's named Fanny is also engaged and seems rather displeased with her choice of future husband. To that end, Jane proposes during a rainy set of days for a home theatrical to be put on by the assembled young people.

The play chosen is Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Eve(to be held on Midsummer's Day) and while the production goes off without a hitch, the intended romance rearrangement backfires, leaving Jane ashamed of her presumption in that regard. That is not the only disappointment to be had as she slowly comes to realize that Edward Taylor has a few flaws such as a reckless urge to take risks that endanger more than himself,leading to the first real argument between them:


 Things are soon set to right but not without a price to be paid and a small touch of heartbreak. The entire experience may not have worked out as Jane would have liked,however the inspiration for her novels yet to be are planted in her mind for future reference.

I was granted the chance to discuss Jane Austen's First Love as part of Syrie James' Holiday Blog Tour for the book and am delighted to be spreading the good word about this delightful book. Ms. James has a strong flair for Regency era writing and she captures the essence of our dear Jane remarkably well.

She did a good amount of research here, as many of the characters are real life figures, and her findings are woven into the story along with hints of Austen's own characters in a way that doesn't stop the action of the plot into a full halt. Even if you think you know all there is to know about Jane Austen, this story offers a good number of surprises and suspenseful moments. Plus, you do root for Jane and Edward to be together, one way or another.

My thanks to Laurel Ann Nattress for inviting me to take part in this blog tour(which does have several giveaway opportunities to check out here) and much appreciation to Ms. James for providing us with such a charming love story based upon one of our greatest literary heroines. Jane Austen may not have gotten her full happily ever after but she has blessed us all with many a fine romance better than any fairy tale could be:




Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The LRG Best Books of 2014

Best books of the year lists are piling up these days, much like many of our bedside reading tables(and other spare spots in your home for new reads). My two cents is small indeed on this subject yet I do like to highlight those special titles that made my year of reading so memorable.

I must confess that one of my choices actually is from 2013(didn't get a copy of it until this year) and felt it deserved to be included, as this particular tale was exceptionally well told.

So, without further ado, here are the Living Read Girl picks for Best Books of 2014 and if you're looking for a good read or holiday gifts, any of these would be absolutely perfect delights to behold:

DARING DEBUTS:

 Erin Lindsay McCabe's Civil War drama, I Shall Be Near To You, takes historical fiction and romance onto a new level of art, as her story of Rosetta Wakefield, who follows her newly wed husband Jeremiah into the ranks of the Union army under the guise of "Ross Stone" is a sincerely touching look at the bravery of both men and women.

Ross/Rosetta's  journey across the war torn landscapes that lead to the infamous battle of Antietam is an emotional voyage that changes more than one life and one person's fate. McCabe based her novel upon the numerous true life accounts of women on both sides of the war who joined the fight in male personae and her research goes hand in hand with the rough beauty of her prose.

This book was a Goodreads nominee for Best of 2014(I know I voted for it!) and I hope many others come to discover this heartfelt story before her next book comes out.


Granted, California by Edan Lepucki was fortunate enough to have the Colbert bump propel it forward into readers' hands but it was an honor well bestowed. This look at a young couple in a not too distant future considering their limited options,in the wake of an unexpected pregnancy, is a timely and thought provoking read worth delving into on it's own merits.

California takes stock of how different sections of society hold up when the main structure of their world collapses,from those eking out an existence on their own to "Communities" that  provide refuge and relief but demand an unspoken price for such benefits.

As Cal and Frida struggle to figure where they belong and what directions their lives should take, it's the subtly sweet battle for their hearts and minds(as well as their relationship) that makes this book stand out from the rest of the dystopian pack:



WE ARE A PART OF A READING NATION:

Professor Azar Nafisi, best known as the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, embraces the literature of her newly adopted country in The Republic of Imagination, which blends memoir with literary(and occasionally social) critique, by taking three novels as solid defining points for what it means to be American.

Whether you've already read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Babbitt or The Heart is a Lonely Hunter(along with the works of James Baldwin), this examination of how each book defines different elements of the American character makes them more readable than ever before.

I, for one, am inspired to tackle The Heart is a Lonely Hunter(it's going on my spring reading list for next year),thanks to Professor Nafisi and hopefully she'll write a sequel that explores the many other wonderful books she wanted to include here but didn't have the room for:



OFF THE BEATEN PATH ADVENTURES:


Yes, I know that Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch came out last year but it wasn't until my birthday this past spring that I finally had a copy of my own to read(plus, her other two works).

Despite the naysayers who took great joy in ripping this Pulitzer Prize winner apart, I found this elaborate novel just as immensely awesome as the seemingly humble painting that inspired the lead character Theo to guard it against all costs.

You do have to have patience and a taste for Dickensian flair to appreciate this book yet the old adage about such trips being more about the journey than the destination is well defined within these engaging pages. It is a pity that some people just can't let others enjoy a fine work of art without the need to splatter mud upon it but that is their failing , not ours.


 After the cinematic success of The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick's latest novel, The Good Luck of Right Now, had a lot to live up to.

 Even if you haven't seen or read TSLPB, Quick is still in fine form here as his leading man Bartholomew Neal copes with the ups and downs of his life by writing letters to Richard Gere, based upon finding a Free Tibet letter in his deceased mother's belongings.

Believing that a spiritual connection exists between them, Bartholomew pours out his heart in these unsent letters as he and the small group of folks in his slowly expanding sphere of existence are working on finding a better way of life. Packed with humor and heartbreak, TGLORN is a sure sign that Quick is more than just the Hollywood flavor of the moment:


WOMEN OF WONDER:

 A good amount of hype,along with a pre-sale of the film rights, heralded the arrival of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, the intended first of a trilogy. I am happy to report that not only is the novel worthy of such advance praise, seeing where this series is going to go is a big part of the fun.

As ungainly heroine Kelsea Glynn fights to take hold of the throne that her beautiful but thoughtless mother Elyssa couldn't manage, her courage and vulnerability make for a fantasy character that relates well with modern readers.

While it does have some familiar territory to cover, Johansen's unique twist is to have a female lead use her innate wits and education to stake her claim as Queen in order to protect and serve her country. When the movie does hit the theaters, hopefully it will do justice to this entertainingly engaging concept.

Speaking of film, with all of the attention regarding the upcoming Wonder Woman movie these days, a good source of background info about that DC diva can be found in Wonder Woman Unbound.

Living up to it's subtitle, "the curious history of the world's most famous heroine", blogger Tim Hanley traces the pop culture path of the Amazon princess from her eyebrow raising creator William Marston to her adoption as a feminist icon during the sixties and seventies to the impact of Lynda Carter's TV incarnation.

WWUB is a smartly written take on such a classic yet controversial figure in comic book history that should be in every comic collector's library as well as a pop culture follower's collection. For those wondering about the current state of women in comics, I highly recommend bookmarking Straitened Circumstances for Hanley's updates and thoughts on the subject. When it comes to Wonder Woman, Hanley is as much of a true ally as Steve Rogers ever was(perhaps a bit better) as this book showcases the power of strong female characters in media both then and now:



 Well,that's it for this year but stay tuned for more great reads in 2015, folks. For us die hard readers, it's no trouble to keep it all about the books there:


Friday, December 05, 2014

The LRG List of Top Pop Culture Videos of 2014

The time has come for Best of the Year lists and one that I like to put together is for videos from some of my favorite web series. They're a mix of parodies, thoughtful analysis and literary goodness with a big emphasis on pop culture realness(and most importantly, fun).

A huge must-watch for me and many others is Cecil Trachenburg's Good Bad Flicks that does much more than lovingly mock mediocre cinema. He also provides insider info about the making of certain films, plus in depth looks at how movies in general are marketed and the changes made over the years for good or ill.

 One of his strongest pieces to date is "WTF Happened to PG-13?", the MPAA rating  introduced in the 1980s that was meant to liberate mature content in mainstream movies but has instead become another form of artistic restraint:





A less serious look at modern day films comes from a new series put out by the gang at Wisecrack(which also does Thug Notes and 8-Bit Philosophy) called Earthling Cinema.

Space alien archivist Garyx Wormuloid,(aka comedian Mark Schroeder) gives his take on what is left of Planet Earth's cinematic past in ways that are greatly amusing. For one thing, the way humans consume food is considered upsetting to intergalactic audiences, so censor bars are common for such scenes.

For some flicks, an outsider approach is the best way to examine and a prime example of that is this dissection of Mean Girls, which makes this teen satire seem very Wild Kingdom indeed:



Speaking of Thug Notes, I was pleased as blood red punch that the selection for Halloween this year was Bram Stroker's Dracula.

 If you're not familiar with this series, let me break it down for you; Professor Sparky Sweets( actor Greg Edwards) gives his entertaining everyman synopsis of literature ranging from classics such as Pride and Prejudice(the first one I saw) and Hamlet to present day fare like The Hunger Games.

Don't let the casual flow fool you, Thug Notes offers smart and savvy analysis of great books that teachers and students both use in their studies. Also, it's creative catnip for book folks to sit back and enjoy:



I've watched more Book Tube folks this year and grown fond of a few, such as Rincey Reads and Ron Lit, whose book reviews and examination of literary trends offer some fresh perspective into my bookish world.

The one lady that got me hooked into this scene is Sarah of Mothereffing Books, who has launched a side line series within her web series entitled "Oh My God, This is Terrible, You Should Watch It".

Sarah and her good friend Chris get together to view exceptionally awful movies(both of the High School Musical features have been on the line-up) and give their spirited opinions on them. My favorite of them all is their breakdown of the film adaptation of Vampire Academy, which sounds a lot hilariously better than I suspect the movie actually is. I hope she and Chris keep this up because they make a great Siskel and Ebert pairing here:


I'll wrap this up with another Disney themed offering from the AVbyte brothers who released a sinister sweet mini-musical salute to cartoon villianesses, featuring Maleficent as the fearsome front runner.

2014 certainly has been a year of ups and downs, with a strong chance that more will come our way before the clock strikes midnight for 2015. In times like these, it's good to see people use their creativity to advance the arts not just for fun but entertaining enlightenment as well.

Let's hope that 2015 will lit more imaginative fires and much thanks to the folks mentioned here for making this year a bit more bearable. Despite what some evil doers might think, a happy ever after is a dream that can come true:




Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Year of Freddy Fear referees Freddy Vs.Jason

It's been quite a time in our Year of Freddy Fear here at LRG but we are at last down for the final showdown in our salute to the Nightmare on Elm Street series(as well as the films of leading man Robert Englund).

Yes, the time has come for Freddy Vs. Jason, the 2003 monster mash that pitted these two terror titans against each other for our amusement. While fans of Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees were not happy that long time helmsman Kane Hodder did not don the hockey mask here(stuntman Ken Kirzinger took up the gruesome mantle instead), NOES fans were thrilled to have Englund back on board for this one.

It's no surprise that Freddy turns out to be the more conniving of the two, using his old "you've got the body, I've got the brain" trick to convince Jason to rise from his undead grave in order to frighten the children of Elm Street into thinking about Freddy again:



 It seems that the town of Springwood has worked hard to erase Kruegar from the local lore, even using Hypnocil(a throwback reference to Dream Warriors) on kids in a nearby mental hospital in order to squash any stubborn dreamers in their midst.

The set-up there is interesting but not fully developed, a small complaint to be sure. One long time debate amongst fans of both series is how to get these bad boys in the same space at the same time;Freddy is a dream demon ,so how can Jason fight him? Well, that involves some tweaking as Freddy finds Jason in hell and while our Mr. Voorhees is undead, he can be in states of unconsciousness there. That's a bit of a stretch but it works well enough.

Freddy's abilities are slightly upgraded, due to his name being bandied about during Jason's kill spree in Springwood, and he even is able at one point to possess the body of a stoner(who is an out and out Jason Mewes of Jay and Silent Bob fame stand-in) in order to knock out his new found ally. With Jason's kills interfering with Freddy's need for soul feeding, their first big battle is in the dream world, where Kruegar has the home field advantage:


Later on, Jason has a fair chance as Freddy is dragged into the real world by Lori(Monica Keena), the girl meant to face off against him as she happens to live in Nancy's old house. I have to say that the biggest flaw in the film is how the teen victims are less than compelling characters.

Lori, for example, is mostly a screaming meenie, much like Kate Capshaw was in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom(and believe me, I was hoping that Kate would get dunked in the lava pit by the end there). Sure, she attempts some flashes of brilliance but they seem to come out of no where.

  One of her girlfriends appears to have wandered out of a Halloween remake audition, right down to her P.J. Soles inspired braids and baseball cap ,while her meant to be sassy gal pal Kia(singer Kelly Rowland in her debut performance) is mainly annoying at best.

 The guys don't fare any better, with the one exception being lovelorn nerd Linderman, whose death is a result of making a bold stand against Jason to protect Kia(who had been taunting him for most of the film). You do actually feel sorry for the poor guy in his last moments.

As glad as I am that the" having a woman be part of the Freddy's demise" standard is held up in FVJ, it would have been nice if she had been more of a force to be reckoned with:


Yet, the main attraction is the battle between the monster men and in that, the movie succeeds. Englund's take on Freddy has some camp but doesn't veer off into goofball territory and there is a nice sense of menace brought to the character for this showdown.

Director Ronny Yu was a great choice, particularly since he had previously revived the Child's Play sequels with his quirky Bride of Chucky. Yu had a good playful approach to the material that didn't skimp on the scares(Jason's fiery attack in the corn field was a strong visual sequence) and made this whole crazy thing as much fun as watching a pro wrestling match on TV.

 I loved this movie when it first came and vividly remember hunting down the first release of it on DVD, just to have this bad boy bout in my video library(now I have two, due to my complete NOES bare basics DVD set ).

There had been talk of a sequel(one of the proposed endings of FVJ was to have Pinhead step in to break up their rematch in hell) but I'm not sure it will happen at this point. That's just as well, since FVJ was a good enough send-off to both characters in my opinion.

This concludes my Year of Freddy Fear and much thanks to all who have followed this pop culture quest of mine. Hope you had a good scary time with me and thanks also belongs to Wes Craven, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp,Lisa Wilcox and the numerous others who made the Elm Street films as menacingly magical as they are. I highly recommend checking out the documentary Never Sleep Again for more insight into how these films were made.

As for Freddy Vs. Jason, I feel that this film was more of a true finale for NOES fans than Freddy's Dead was(but New Nightmare scores higher in the artistic category) and it was grand to have one last deadly dance with this devilish dream man, even if he did have some odd company to keep:




Monday, December 01, 2014

Let Sleepy Hollow awaken you to some revolutionary reading

One of my favorite fantasy shows to watch lately has been Sleepy Hollow, which blends in humor and historical fiction along with the supernatural plot points to make for an engaging hour of entertainment.

With the second season "fall finale" airing tonight( or in other words, taking a holiday break), it felt fitting to review the series' first tie-in novel entitled Sleepy Hollow: Children of the Revolution, which I received courtesy of the good folks at Blogging for Books.

Written by Keith R. A. DeCandido, the story takes place during Season One in between two episodes, as Ichabod gets a magical message from an imprisoned in purgatory Katrina regarding phases of the moon and the need to claim a medal awarded to him posthumously.

 The medal in question is one of several, called Congressional(or Independence) Crosses, that are currently being stolen from museums and historical sites. These robberies are also leaving a trail of strangely executed bodies in their wake.

As Ichabod and Abbie gather their forces to figure this out, an ally of their friend Captain Frank Irving may know more than she's letting on as the clues point to an ancient coven devoted to the witch Serilda(who Ichabod and Abbie vanquished earlier on) that wants to bring back their mistress using a ritual that requires the crosses and without help from the demon Moloch.

I know that tie-in novels to either TV or film usually get a bad rap but this was the exception to that rule big time. The story not only captures the flavor of the TV show, it also allows for some nice back story moments for the supporting players such as Frank taking his daughter on a field trip and Abbie's sister Jenny getting a glimpse of what her life could've been like if not for that fateful day in the woods.

 The writing here is solid and so good that I wish this had been an actual episode on Sleepy Hollow but this book does offer both new fans and old something to keep their wits warm during this upcoming hiatus. The witchcraft elements of the story are well strung together and do make you wish that Serilda could make a return appearance at some point(who knows, maybe she will!):




 Sleepy Hollow this season had a mention of Benedict Arnold, which drew me to borrow a copy of The Traitor's Wife by Alison Pataki from my Booksfree account. Yes, Alison is the daughter of former NYS governor George Pataki and she's written a pretty entertaining debut here.

The wife of the title is Peggy Shippen, the spoiled rich daughter of  a judge in Philadelphia during the 1700s, whose family is not taking an official side in the ongoing war between the Colonies and England. Peggy uses her flirtatious charms with everyone, including a certain Major Andre, to become the local belle of every ball.

However, her social reign is threatened as the British officers are forced to flee town and life is sharply changed as  George Washington's forces is taking over. Peggy decides to have Benedict Arnold court her, given that he can provide her with the lavish lifestyle she prefers to have.


 After they're married, Arnold is called forth to court upon charges of misappropriation of funds(for which he's given an official reprimand from Washington himself). This impacts the family finances considerably, especially since Peggy is expecting their first child.

 With Benedict already peeved about not being paid back for providing funds for his troops from the new government, he is more than willing to listen to his bride's suggestions about making a secret deal with the British. Those plans also just happen to involve her former romantic partner John Andre.

The story is told through the viewpoint of Clara Bell, a young house maid who follows Peggy into her new married life and is secretly in love with a young man enlisted in Washington's army. Clara is unhappy with her mistress's schemes and longs to find a way to stop them without risking her own future. Yet, it is hard to take such a stand as most of her contemporaries insist upon letting the Arnolds go about their affairs as servants are meant to been seen little and heard even less.

The Upstairs/Downstairs elements of the story are nicely done and while Ms. Pataki does plays a little fast and loose with some of the details(which she freely admits to in the afterword), those changes are mainly due to condensing some of the action. In reality, Peggy did play a Lady Macbeth role in her husband's treason, something that came to light long after her lifetime and this novel does offer a fresh new look into that historical scandal that is quite the patriotic page turner:


 I have to admit that waiting for new Sleepy Hollow episodes will be tough but at least they're worth it. One way to make the time pass by quicker is by finding other American Revolutionary war dramas to explore both in print and on film.

I might check out AMC's Turn:Washington's Spies during the break, if I can. Funny how such a subject that once seemed to be the dull stuff of school room lectures and songs is now an exciting arena for new stories to come alive in. History does repeat itself but sometimes, that's not a bad thing: