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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Romance the Highland way!

Highland Flame (Highland Weddings #4)  by Mary Wine


                            

Jane Stanley's husband had been a feckless excuse for a man who sought to sell her favors to pay his gambling debts. When she refused and he was killed she found herself newly widowed and in the depths of the Highlands. After she refused the inn's owner the same liberties she found  herself thrust from the Scottish inn wearing only her chemise.
Which is how Laird Diocail Gordon and his men found her some days later, trudging barefooted and determined towards England--sort of.
Diocail needed a woman of Jane's background to bring order to the run down castle he'd inherited when his miserly uncle had died. 
He needed "a lady and the duties she would have been trained to do. ... Running a kitchen was more than turning bread; it was knowing how much bread to set out to rise in the morning so that the supper table was full and how much grain was needed to make it through the winter and how many hands were needed to produce it all."
His men thought Jane might be the very ticket. Diocail was not adverse to the idea.
Jane, however she might be attracted to this hulking giant of a man did not want to be be married again. But fate and circumstances had other ideas.
How these two work things out makes for a rambunctious story with some amusing highlights, underscored by deadly factors not so very far away. After all Jane is English and the Scots are wary of her and the trouble she could bring.
Diocail is a rather wonderful character and Jane is a feisty treasure.
I must admit to having once picked this story up, finding it hard to put down.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

A wonderful cat and mouse game!

Lady Eleanor's Seventh Suitor(The Sutherlands #1) byAnna Bradley

If ever a woman was caught in the cross hairs of a deadly game, even as the reason for its very being is a deep mystery, that is Eleanor Sutherland. If ever a man stalked his prey so efficiently then that hunter is Camden West.
From the very beginning I was caught up in the manoeuvre that Cam had instigated against  Eleanor using her sister Charlotte. The lengths he is prepared to go to punish her are puzzling. What he punishing her for is even more so. Is it just because she appears cold and unfeeling? Lady Frost is the name Eleanor has been given. Bets are placed on her at White's. She has her own page!
As the story develops we and Cam discover that he has badly underestimated and misjudged Ellie. As she turns the tables on him things look hopeful but always Ellie is taken by surprise by yet another layer that is added to the equation.
It isn't until the end that we start to see the truth. By that time it appears too late for Cam and Ellie.
Each has taken a stand and that stand may unravel them.
How can we fault Ellie for her support of her sister Charlotte?
Cam's cousin Julian has the right of it when he said, 'I don’t like it. This is badly done, Cam.'
It was badly done, and as the story progresses those words will haunt Cam, and the suffering brought about by his actions will be borne by more than just Cam.
I surged through the reading of this unwilling to take a time out. I just needed to see things through to the end.
A fantastic read!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

A lighthearted reprint for Jane Ashford fans

Last Gentleman Standing by Jane Ashford 


                           

A regency novel in the Georgette Heyer mode.
The story has interesting characters, treachery, villainy, a mystery, interesting characters and an heiress newly come. 
Miss Elisabeth Elham is named as the heir to her Scrooge type miserly uncle. Upon finding out about her fortune she immediately takes up her two hitherto unknown cousins, Belinda and Tony who were also in the running as heirs to share in her good fortune.
Earning her living as a teacher, Elisabeth proceeds to London and the pace of the plot becomes dizzying with the elements added. These include a handsome country neighbor, a charming fribble of a would be swain, a Duchess friend of her chaperone and long lost older cousin  Lavina, a mysterious planter Mr. Garrett, a kidnapping and so much more. And let's not forget the unrepentant canine Gowser! 
A pleasant read.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Masterful!

Once a Rebel (Rogues Redeemed #2) by Mary Jo Putney.  


 The research by Putney gives a solid background to a story that spans some years and encompasses betrayal, heartache, the 1812 British Invasion of Washington and Baltimore, race relations, slavery and courage.
When sixteen year old Catherine Callista Brooke  was being forced into marriage with a man old enough to be her father, her best friend "Lord George Gordon Richard Augustus Audley, third and most worthless son of the Marquess of Kingston", suggested elopement to Scotland.
What followed was a horrendous tale that forced the two apart and set them upon very different paths.
Now, fifteen years and many life changes later, Gordon, called Richard by Callie (one of two people only ever to do so) is asked to go to America to find a Mrs. Audley. Curiously he wonders if they are related somehow as Audley is his name. Richard arrives as the British are attacking Washington, and just as Mrs. Audley is being seized upon by looters. A kindly death seems the best of options being presented her.
Imagine his surprise when the mysterious Mrs. Audley is the Callie of his youth. Callie is even more astonished when the friend she'd been told had died appears back from the dead effecting a dramatic rescue.
And this is less than a quarter of the way into the story. 
I found the moments throughout of Callie dealing with what the future might hold for her and the letting go insightful.
This a gripping tale that had me reading over breakfast, on the subway and in between various appointments until I'd finished.
Explosive stuff! A fitting follow up in the Rogue Redeemed series.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

"I would make Erlend remember"!

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller.  


                                

An engaging new novel ripe with assassins, political intrigue, the pale remnants of dark magic, and the need for vengeance.
Sallot Leon is a thief with a shattering history who wants to be more. And that more happens the day they (I say they because Sal is apparently gender fluid, although it took me a while to realize this) hold up a coach, steal a ring from a young woman, and find in her purse a flyer inviting those who might, to audition for the role of one of the Queen's left hand assasins--Opal.
Sal decides to audition, an audition that includes taking evidence of their abilities and suitability.
Sal has a future ambition nourished in the darkness of their situation.. To pay back the nobles who caused her homeland of Nacea to be decimated, all slain without mercy or notice by the dreaded Mage created shadows. They would be the "perfect soldiers [but] ... couldn’t be called back. The shadows had no bodies and no minds, only broken souls." They searched for their bodies killing all before them.
Sal gaining admission to the auditions is the beginning of no holds barred training that includes the right to kill off the opposition.
Sal's quest, their search for meaning and information about those who betrayed their homeland also comes to the fore, adding a certain piquancy to the trials and upping the ante.
The plot is not an unfamiliar one, although obviously the march towards resolution is unique. I couldn't put this down. Whilst some aspects come to fruition, the future for Sal holds more questions to be asked and answered and more diabolical plots and mysteries to be unraveled.

A NetGalley ARC 

****

There's trouble and then there's Jack!

A Murder too Soon: A Tudor mystery (Jack Blackjack Mysteries #2) (Bloody Mary #2) by Michael Jecks

Ah Jack, Jack! Always a hair's breadth from serious trouble and yet like a cat with nine lives you land on your feet--sort of.
Jack Blackjack, the consummate con artist has his master John Blount fooled into thinking he's an assassin. So when Blount actually sends him off to kill Lady Margery Throcklehampton, one of Lady Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting, Jack's not happy. (Elizabeth is under what amounts to house arrest by her sister, Queen Mary). Although on the bright side this takes him out of London and away from Thomas Falkes, whom he owes money to and who is not happy. As Jack muses, Falkes "wanted to personally skin [him] alive–and he was not a slave to metaphor." 
But when Jack finds himself caught in the middle of a struggle for the Tudor throne, Woodstock was no place Jack wanted to be. When he trips over the dead body of the lady he's sent to murder, things take a grim and complicated turn. Jack becomes a suspect for a murder he didn't commit, that his master now thinks he actually did, fulfilling his assassin's role, thereby keeping himself on Blount's payroll, and yet this was a "murder to soon." (Very clever title by the way). Jack continues to play a role in this latest charade, earning himself the acknowledgment of the Lady Elizabeth, but eventually at what cost?
Jack is a character of many facets, fool comes to mind most often but then there's, cut purse, gambler, ladies man, intuitive thinker and a survivalist. One day his luck might just run out!
An engaging read with a rapscallion, likeable character as the centrepiece. I love the understated self-deprecating humour of Jack. He's definitely a charmer! 
Michael Jecks' insights into the Tudor period with the various swirling forces parrying for leadership and change, or just protecting the status quo is fascinating.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

“But sometimes love is not enough.”

A Love to Remember (The Disgraced Lords #7)  by Bronwen Evans.  


                               

What started as an affair between the merry widow, the Duchess Rose Deverill the Earl of Cumberland, Philip Flagstaff ended up as true love. The only thing is that Philip is struggling with the way he came into his earldom and has vowed to never marry.
Feeling responsible for his brother Robert's death at Waterloo, Philip has decided to forgo marriage and children as a penance.
However when his mistress and the woman he loves and the life of her son are threatened Philip is forced to look at what he is prepared to sacrifice for honour and guilt.
A different story that highlights the tug between perceived honour and love.

A NetGalley ARC

***