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Book 26 & 27: The Favoured Child and The Bernini Bust

Book 26: The Favoured Child (Wideacre Book 2)
Author: Philippa Gregory, 1989.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Family Saga.
Other Details: Paperback. 631 pages

The second in Gregory's Wideacre Trilogy takes up the story of the next generation of the Lacey family. I won't say too much about the plot as even a general summary may serve as a spoiler for the events of the first novel (my 2010 Book 3). The title of 'favoured child' relates to the Lacey heir said by the locals to be destined to inherit the almost magical connection to the land of Wideacre, ensuring its fertility. Two children are rivals for this title, raised in protective innocence of the recent past.

While I enjoyed this novel, its narrator, Julia Lacey, proved a much more conventional heroine of this kind of family saga than Beatrice Lacey, the narrator of Wideacre. On the one hand Julia was a much more likeable central character but I did rather missed the fire and fury of the racy Miss Lacey! It ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, so certainly will continue on to the third and final book in due course.

Book 27: The Bernini Bust (Jonathan Argyll Book 3).
Author: Iain Pears, 1993.
Genre: Art History Mystery.
Other Details: Paperback. 256 pages.

The third in the Jonathan Argyll art history mysteries is based mainly in Los Angeles where aspiring art dealer Jonathan has travelled in order to deliver a minor painting by Titian to an American billionaire. While there he is surprised to meet with another dealer from Italy, whose reputation is rather dubious, who is also selling a piece to the billionaire. The work in question is a bust of Pope Pius V by Bernini. Jonathan is fairly certain this has been illegally smuggled out of Italy. Then the billionaire is murdered and both the suspected smuggler and the bust have disappeared. Jonathan turns for help to his friends in the Italian Art Theft Squad. After some investigation in Italy, Flavia di Stefano is sent to Los Angeles. However, Jonathan already has found himself the killer's next target.

This was another fun mystery with a fair few twists and turns as well as the pleasure of having Flavia and Jonathan thrown together in LA. Both are engaging characters, who enjoy the kind of sparky verbal sparring matches that tease in terms of an underlying sexual attraction. So much more fun than characters who get their kit off within minutes of meeting!
Tags: art, family saga, historical fiction, murder mystery
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