Book Review: “The Duchess” by Danielle Steel

Hello!

Last month, while I was away, I was able to start and finish two books and they were “Murder On the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie and Danielle Steel’s “The Duchess” and they also were my first reads for both authors, so I might be interested in reading other books in the future. The only reason why I will not be sharing a review on MOTOE is because I’ve already seen the 2017 film and it is considered a classic so thought it belonged in my other journal, but I thought you’d love to know my thoughts on this book instead.

To be quite honest with you, I thought this would be a different story, in my mind I thought it was about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. I saw the words “The Duchess” and immediately became excited to finally read the actual book based on the film that came out in 2008, but it wasn’t. The author who wrote that book is Amanda Forman. What I didn’t expect was continuing to read this other story and absolutely loving it!


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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The incomparable Danielle Steel breaks new ground as she takes us to nineteenth-century England, where a high-born young woman is forced out into the world—and begins a journey of survival, sensuality, and long-sought justice.

Angélique Latham has grown up at magnificent Belgrave Castle under the loving tutelage of her father, the Duke of Westerfield, after the death of her aristocratic French mother. At eighteen she is her father’s closest, most trusted child, schooled in managing their grand estate. But when he dies, her half-brothers brutally turn her out, denying her very existence. Angélique has a keen mind, remarkable beauty, and an envelope of money her father pressed upon her. To survive, she will need all her resources—and one bold stroke of fortune.

Unable to secure employment without references or connections, Angélique desperately makes her way to Paris, where she rescues a young woman fleeing an abusive madam—and suddenly sees a possibility: Open an elegant house of pleasure that will protect its women and serve only the best clients. With her upper-class breeding, her impeccable style, and her father’s bequest, Angélique creates Le Boudoir, soon a sensational establishment where powerful men, secret desires, and beautiful, sophisticated women come together. But living on the edge of scandal, can she ever make a life of her own—or regain her rightful place in the world?

From England to Paris to New York, Danielle Steel captures an age of upheaval and the struggles of women in a male-ruled society—and paints a captivating portrait of a woman of unquenchable spirit, who in houses great or humble is every ounce a duchess.

taken from Goodreads.

After I quickly found out this wasn’t at all what I wanted to read originally, I never thought to turn away from it. I had surprised myself in a way because I’ve DNF’d (did not finish) a lot of books this year, and I was half expecting this to be added onto that list.

“She had no idea where the future would lead her or what it would look like, but whatever happened, she was determined to survive it.”

And then I learned more about Angelique Lantham’s story, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I started to really hate sleeping at night because the pull to hear more about her and the world Danielle was able to create was so strong.

As familiar as relearning the customs of that time, which as a reader you should take note early on because this is based in an earlier setting than most historical fictions. This is set in the later period of the Regency, after George IV is actually king and it goes on until the start of Queen Victoria’s reign. So, being a woman–a daughter, wife, and/or aunt was rough because you were not entitled to inherit anything, especially if you were a daughter of a duke. The young daughters and orphaned nieces of the wealthy were subjected to find a suitable husband during the Season and were introduced to others in their social class, plus the royals of the time.

For Angelique, she was the favorite of her only living parent, the Duke of Westfield, but she had two older brothers Tristan and Edward who knew they were next in line to their father’s titles, houses and wealth after he died. And their little sister would get nothing, or so they believed. Once their father passed away, he couldn’t protect her from their wrath, much less the law keeping her away what should have been hers in the first place.

What I found interesting, and mesmerizing was Angelique’s will to fight the odds in her own little modest way.

Every time I thought where the story was going, it would twist around and lead into a new direction just like life had been for her. After being forced to leave her little world at her beloved home, she was sent to a family who needed a nanny for their five children. As a reader, this puzzled me because taking care of that many children under the age of five–despite the changes in history–seems very daunting, and in the beginning, Angelique was nervous about this prospect too, but she pushed through it with grace until her final day.

Related to kings in two countries, and daughter of a duke, banished by her brother, she was reduced to working as a domestic, and at the mercy of anyone who would hire her.

Afterwards, she travels to France, another ancestral home but with the same heartbreaking results. She finds no job, and everything feels so numb until she comes across a young woman named Fabienne battered and beaten, and she nurses her back to health. Fabienne has had a rough life and has resorted to prostitution, and this part of the book is where things become slightly more interesting, as these two young women decide to create a high-class brothel in Paris, and as the reader, you never see it coming until afterwards; this was the first twist of the story to me and I was stunned by the fact that Angelique would want to do it in the first place and that really threw me for a loop, but then again we are at the last stages of the Regency period–despite being settled in another country!–so the story of brothels, madams, and hookers wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but don’t get me wrong, it was frowned upon respectable women, but sex work has always been available and people (mostly men) have engaged in this sort of act for every part of history!

However, as Angelique has been quick to find out, life can change in an instant, and she has to abandon her life in France and start all over again, but this time she moves to America, and as she’s on the boat, she meets a nice young man by the name of Andrew and he definitely changes Angelique’s piece of mind about what it means to be in love and suddenly wants everything she’s never wanted in the beginning of the story. This relationship was different compared to all of the others she had in Paris, and it’s in this section that two more things turn for this character that makes you feel very happy inside for a while.

For anyone who has never read anything by Danielle Steel, I think you should consider looking into this book and seeing if it had the same effect on you as it did on me. I have picked out a few other books by her to check out in the future. Maybe I’ll find a chance to read them in 2023?

Have you read “The Duchess” by Danielle Steel before? If you have, what were your thoughts on it?

snowflake

November Playlist

Hello!

Since I’ve been kind of turning these monthly playlists into mini wrap ups, I figured this was the perfect way to talk about October and why exactly I was staying at a nursing home for a bit.

So, let’s rewind back to around August as it was the month where everything went up a notch.

My dad has a lot of health issues, but at the end of summer, we started noticing he was losing the usage of his right arm. He has had many MRIs and X-Rays in the past few years and the majority of his trouble areas are in and around his neck and spine. He has broken several discs in the past, but now as he ages, he’s continued to add more arches and pains. He has been told to have surgery since I was a kid, but he’s always turned them down for risking his ability to take care of me. If you’ve ever met my dad, you know how stubborn he is, so you wouldn’t expect anything less from him, especially for something like this.

Four years ago, when my mom had her surgeries, I made the decision to staying in a nursing home while she was there in the hospital and recovering, and since she is a nurse at a really great residential home, and at the time where my nana was living, the idea was simple but most importantly practical for everyone involved. I would spend my week there, before going to stay at my sister’s on the weekend. I was having my mom’s co-workers and friends basically take care of me like the rest of the people there. I was even allowed to get my hair cut by the hairdresser there! Honestly, I had a lot of fun spending time with my nana and the other ladies, and of course playing bingo too!

Fast forward to now, the idea of dad having surgery and knowing how indeed stubborn he truly is, made my mom and I make that crucial decision of staying at the nursing home for two weeks. We had made this decision pretty quickly, because we knew if we had it planned out well enough, my parents could essentially forget about me, and focus on dad’s surgery and recovery. We figured it out within a month or maybe less than that, because we discussed it quite a bit beforehand, so it’s difficult to narrow down the timeline.

This time was completely different.

There were things that I expected like my tiny calf muscles screaming at me during the first week because I was rolling around in my wheelchair the entire building, and like my dad, I am also stubborn and rarely asked for help, because I actually liked it. It was when I was pushing my folded bed in breakfast table with some stuff I had I would need for that day, down the massive hall that I was actually allowing myself a break and had someone carry it to my destination, which was always the activity room.

What we didn’t intend on happening was the edge of my knees, all the way down to my ankles and toes would become very swollen. I have never experience this before, it actually freaked us out because my feet felt like balloons and looked like they were going to explode at any moment. After that, I was put on a water pill and gradually it helped with the swelling, but I would still have some issues around the ridge of my feet, especially on my left foot, which makes sense considering I was using that foot to push myself around, but yeah that was a fun little surprise.

I was only supposed to stay there for two weeks, but I kept having the date to go home pushed back… twice.

My nana had moved up north with my aunt and uncle a few months later, so I would be alone this time around, and I’ll be honest I was worried about being on my own, but I was in really good hands too, as the longer I was there, the more I was making friends with the other residents too. This was my first time having a roommate since 2002, and she was a lovely lady and we sat together for meals, and we would go to the different activities. The first I participated in were these weaving pumpkins. They gave us a wired outline of a pumpkin and there were two different types of yarn to us, i went with the skinnier and darker orange whle my roommate went for the Cheeto-like yarn as it was bright orange and very puffy!

Besides doing lots of crafts, they played a lot of games too!

The first full day, not only did I weave a pumpkin, but I played Screamo for the first time ever. What is Screamo you say? Well, like my dad said, it’s like Yahtzee and it is, you have two dices and a sheet with the numbers 1-12 including 12 chips or coins, and the group goes around and rolls the dice and whatever it lands on, like a four and five which adds up to a nine, so you can cover those numbers or eight and one, or just the nine, but it is smarter to get rid of the 1 first as it can be tricky to get it as you cover the others. Once you’ve covered the entire board, you scream it out and win. It is easy to follow and would be really great for kids who have trouble with math, and you could switch it up to subtraction and maybe even multiplication if you feel like getting really creative with it.

Three weeks after I came home, I introduced it to my four-year-old nephew, and he literally kicked my butt in three games. However, I will overlook the loses as he thoroughly enjoyed himself and to me that is even better than winning any game with him. Speaking of which, I will be doing a post about fun games to play during the holidays for Blogmas, so keep an eye out for that coming soon.

I was able to spend my birthday there, it wasn’t planned as I was supposed to come home that weekend, but my gal pals really wanted to throw me a party and I thought it was too sweet to tell them no, so after playing Bingo, we had a party and my mom, sister, Nolan and Kimber came out to help celebrate it. I heard the “happy birthday” song three times and by the second time, where everyone in the dining room sang to me, absolutely terrified me, because I don’t like being the center of attention at all. I felt very loved, which was their intention of course, but again, totally out of my element.

The last day I was there was bittersweet as it was nice. I had a lot of people trying to keep me there, but I needed to go home too. While I was there for four weeks, I had missed my dad (he did come to visit me), Rumer, and the cats. My cat Stormy became fairly sick before I left, he’s been really snotty and his allergies really took hold of him, so while I was gone, I kept getting updates from my parents on him, and I enjoyed the pictures my mom would send me, but my ultimate favorite was this one. He felt good enough to climb up to the back deck, which wasn’t something he could do before I left. My mom was so proud of him she opened the patio door and allowed him to enjoy his lunch on the kitchen rug. He now has a bit of a head tilt, but he seems to be doing better. He has been coming up and meowing to us whenever we call him.

November was chaotic in those first two weeks. I had a really heavy time of the month and then on top of that, I either contracted food poisoning or stomach flu. We think it might’ve been the latter since my mom was also affected by it too, although, she wasn’t too bad, I definitely made up for her that’s for sure! Once I was through with both of them, the month started to perk up a bit. We had to have Thanksgiving two days earlier than usual; my mom tends to work on Thanksgiving, so we try to have it on Black Friday, but we had a conflict with other schedules, so we had it on Wednesday.

While I was in the nursing home, I ended up starting and finishing two books I found there. I read Murder on The Orient Express by Agatha Christie and The Duchess by Danielle Steel (the review will go out on Wednesday!) and I still have my third book which is, The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. It is about Anne Morrow Lindburgh, who was the wife of Charles Lindburgh, but I actually haven’t been doing any reading lately, which is sad, but I read over 50 books this year so I’m not too mad about it honestly. I’m just not going to enjoy updating my stats on Wednesday because that is going to be a real bitch, but I think once I’m done with all of my blog work for the year, I will be able to get back into it again.

I have one more thing to say, since I wasn’t able to get everything done for my final installment of the “Garden Tour” I will be waiting until January to publish it. I am going into Blogmas content on Friday and will not have time to do anything with it for a while, so I just wanted to give you a heads up on it.

And now, I can finally give you the November playlist. If you would like to hear the rest of the playlist, click here

End Of The End by Blastoyz featuring Reality Test, UNSECRET and Krigare
Rise Up by 2WEI x Edda Hayes
Ghosts by Xandria
Hold Me, Help Me by Halocene
Vivien by Crosses
Wake The World by Epica featuring Phil Lanzon and Tommy Karevik
I Like It by Cardi B featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin
Shut Down by BLACKPINK
Dark Sun by Ros Stephen x Power-Hus
Believer by Lea Michele
What A Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong
House On A Hill by Kamelot featuring Simone Simons

How was your November? What were you listening to?
snowflake

What I Love About Afternoon Tea!

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Hello!

Last October, when I stayed at my mom’s work while she recovered from her second surgery, my nana and I got to have a lot of fun together and one of the things we both got to enjoy was a theme dinner there at the nursing home.

Gail who works in the activities department explained to us that they try to have four different themes in a year. She and the other girls decorate the different dining rooms and they plan with the chefs of a meal that would go with that particular theme. The one I got to enjoy was “Serenade At The Seven Seas” or something like that. I liked it. I also loved trying the different courses, but the other ladies were a bit mixed though!

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The theme was called “My Fair Lady” and I guess the ladies in the activities department decorated the dinning rooms and made feathered hats or “bonnets” for the female residents! She took pictures and even wrote out the menu of what they served to the residents! I was going to use the one she made, but it had some spelling mistakes so I just redid it – later I realized I could have spelling mistakes on mine! Funny how they works!

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They also had a little tea party too!

According to Gail, in the film a couple of characters host a party and they decided to recreate that with the residents, so they decorated the large activity room with very pretty and colorful table clothes and had these beautiful centerpieces in the middle of them. They looked very vintage but yet modern too! They also made the ladies hats with feathers and ribbons in crafts. My nana really loved that, but as you can see apparently so did Alex!

28535342_1768924659838523_1707063689_nIn 2016, I actually wanted to have an afternoon tea themed birthday party. I had so many ideas that I wanted to do. I wanted to decorate my grandparent’s kitchen table with different fabrics, and since my birthday is like the day after Halloween, I knew my nana had a large black table liner and I thought if we put that on the table itself and laid out a red runner in the middle that way it wouldn’t look too dark and gloomy for the party!

Over the course of the last two years, I’ve actually wondered what I’d serve to this tea party if I ever had one! Since I read so many of my fellow blogger friends going to afternoon tea at different hotels or just plainly at home with their family members and/or close friends., I’ve been able to figure out what all is served, and I’ve grown to love the three teared stand of food that is laid out on the table. The first thing they give you is your tea. However, I’m like the 1% that doesn’t like coffee or tea, so I’m more interested in finding a good lemonade recipe. My mom actually made a homemade strawberry lemonade last year, where she let the strawberries sit out in the juice overnight to allow the flavors to marinate together. I’m kind of partial to anything raspberry, so whenever I see a “raspberry lemonade” on a menu at a restaurant, I instantly order it! So I’d rather have a raspberry lemonade instead.

As much as I’ve gathered, you usually start with the sandwiches, they are usually placed on the bottom and bigger tear. The traditional flavors are egg salad, smoked salmon and cumber all cut in small bites so they look more dainty, and they always have the crusts cut off! Now I look on Pinterest for other ideas to make this a little bit more casual, so I am curious about creating a sandwich or two as some kind of wrap or pinwheel–using the traditional plain tortilla or having a variation of spinach or whole wheat!

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On the second tear you had the scones, which apparently in the states we say the word completely wrong! I’d explain on how it’s really pronounced but I don’t even know how to describe it, so I apologize there.

I have actually seen quite a few of my favorite chefs make scones on their television programs, so I already know of some different kinds I’d like to try out. I also know that when you’re making them for the first time, they’re suppose to be crumbly, so there’s nothing wrong with them, that’s just how they’re meant to be! Ree Drummond created the Maple Oat Nut Scones after not being able to visit a Starbucks where she lives; they look really good! The way she described them on her show The Pioneer Woman they taste like a biscuit type of pancake, because it has a strong taste of maple syrup! However, I think I would have to keep the coffee out of it! And then there’s a Cheddar and Dill Scone recipe from Ina Garten, she’s made this with both cheddar and a Stilton, which is like a stronger blue cheese! She’s very inspired by French food and had a gourmet food store back in the day, so she’s figured out different ways to make a good savory scone!

28536475_1768924629838526_1468751189_nNow the real question is what would I do about the clotted cream and jam that they serve alongside the scones itself? I know we don’t have the traditional clotted cream or nobody makes it to that level as the British, so the next best choice to have would either be mascarpone or cream cheese! Personally, I’ve never been in jam or perseveres, so I wouldn’t necessarily put it out as an option if it was only me, but if I had a group of people, I’d probably get a small jar of strawberry or blueberry jam, but for those who want to be really adventurous they can try out the marmalade. You know, I love the smell of that stuff because it’s like oranges, but I have never tried it before and if it was put out there on the table, I probably would like to try a small dab of it.

As far as the top layer of the stand, my thoughts have differed, sometimes I think a very casual take on decorative cupcakes would work out very nicely! You could make minis so they’d fit on the tear better. However if you wanted to add a fun twist to them, like stuffing them, it wouldn’t necessarily work on the tiny ones. I’ve noticed I keep looking into French pastries. You’d think I’ve been watching too much Ina Garten lately! So the possibility of having macrons, which is something that is on my food bucket list (yes, I do have one those! I actually need to work on that soon!) and there’s the tarts or tarlets you can make, like the Mini Raspberry Tarts that Julia Baker made on her TV show! These were so cute and seemed really easy to make! If you’re a chocoholic, in which I sort of am, you need a couple of good chocolate desserts too! Truffles would be a good idea, as you can just eat it in one bite! You could dip strawberries in chocolate or make little pote de creme (puddings!) in mason jars too.

There doesn’t seem like there’s a right or wrong way to create your own afternoon tea! If you’re interested in learning and seeing what is actually served at the teas in the United Kingdom, I have compiled a list of favorite blog posts for you! I hope you have enjoyed this post!

A Candy Shop Afternoon Tea at Conrad St. James – Lux Life | Love Is In The Air at Langham London’s Valentine’s Afternoon Tea – Fresh And Fearless | Afternoon Tea at Mr. Fogg’s Gin Parlour – Little Miss Katy | Afternoon Tea at Rockcliffe Hall – This Northern Gal | Sweet Treats: Glam Rock Afternoon Tea at K West Hotel & Spa – AbsolutelyLucy

Have you ever attended an afternoon tea before? If you have, what was it about it that you loved the most? For those of you who haven’t, have you ever been tempted to create one yourself? Let me know in the comments!

snowflake

Life Lately | Where Was I?

Howdy folks!

I’m back to blogging again! I don’t really know if taking a week off is always the best thing for me, because I never truly stop writing posts. I think I make the decisions so I won’t rush into anything and schedule it just so I have something going up that day of the week.

I haven’t done a Life Lately post in so long and it’s a little weird that I got out of habit of doing those types of posts every other month because they were so therapeutic to write, but I’ve been dealing with some really personal things lately and I didn’t think they were appropriate to put up on here. I’ve told some of my online friends about what’s been going on, but they’ve always made it a safe environment for me to come clean–not saying you guys don’t or anything–so that’s the reason why I’ve been so hush-hush about everything.

I’m only going to say that my mom has had two surgeries. One was on her the right side of her neck back in June, a few weeks before Blondie and Brandon’s wedding. And recently she had her second surgery, this time it was bigger and on her stomach. Considering it took me about 12 years to be able to tell everyone the details surrounding my back surgeries, you might have to wait a while so I can get all of the information straight because I feel I have left out quite a bit of details by discussing it with friends, so I apologize if you were wanting a little more, that’s all I’m ready to say for the time being.

While my mom recovered in the hospital for the first surgery for about a day, I spent two days with my sister and brother-in-law. We made mom and dad cupcakes and Brandon and I watched two of the Christian Bale Batman films. The second surgery was a lot bigger compared to the last, so we had to find another place for me to go, because Blondie started her new job back in August, she couldn’t take a full week (or two weeks as it became later) off or Brandon for that matter.

So where was I?

I was at my mom’s work. The same place where my nana now lives. What is surprising though, is that it was my suggestion because we were literally running out of options. I remembered when she told me about a resident at her last job that stayed there every other month to give their parents a little bit of a break. My mom and I were talking one evening and I just brought it up in the middle of our conversation. I think she was more shocked than anything else that I had suggested it. Mom and dad had discussed it amongst themselves but wanted to leave it as a last resort.

So I was supposed to stay there for three days before spending the weekend with Blondie and Brandon. I was a little scared at first, because this is a BIG thing for me! I mean, I’m in my mid-20s spending time at a nursing home while my parents stay in a hospital, but I knew that I was in a place where I was watched by both professionals and my grandmother and I would be fine.

The following Tuesday, I was supposed to go home but poor dad ended up getting sick and we think it was all of the stress of mom having surgery, taking her home and then me coming home on top of that, that everything just kind of came at him all once and his body reacted in the only way it knows how basically, so I stayed there for four more extra days and I really enjoyed it. Mom had told everybody not to spoil me, but that didn’t necessarily work out well for her!

I played Bingo three times and experienced a very adorable theme dinner, called Serenade At The Seven Seas and our tables in the dining rooms were decorated with blue feathered vases (which nana and I helped put together, while listening to Josh Groban) and fish nets and life rafts all around the walls. I ate a lot of food that I don’t necessarily eat at home like Seafood Bisque and Duke Wellington (it was my favorite!) and as our desserts, we had Creme Brule, but I didn’t really like it, because I forgot it is made of custard! I had to explain to nana how it was made and then I realized how much knowledge I’ve been gaining watching all of those food shows on TV!

I had a lot of fun with nana and all of her friends on the hall she lives on. They were all very sweet ladies, not at all what you’re expecting these elderly women are supposed to be, however I will say not everyone is all sunshine and roses, but is anyone really? I really enjoyed being in everyone’s company and seeing both Uncle David, who surprised both of us! I was busy reading by the couch and I saw him walking and I raised my head to smile like I’ve been doing but when people came into that area, after he walked by I went to put my head down, my brain went, “wait…” and as that moment passed he was already over to nana, who was also busy reading the newspaper that I realized it was David. We went outside and got some pictures by his semi and he ate lunch with us! It was a nice visit. And then later, I had my own visitor. My dad’s cousin Amanda came to see me, and brought me a slushie from McDonald’s. She didn’t stay as long but it was nice to see her too!

So yeah, now I’m at home trying to figure what all I’m going to write up for the rest of November! I hoped you enjoyed this little update and I wanted to thank the ones who sent my mom positive thoughts and prayers during both surgeries! And thank you to the ones who allowed me to just vent in between both times too!

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snowflake

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