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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

Monday, December 30, 2013

Short but sweet!

The Earl's Christmas Colt (Entangled Flirts) by Rebecca Thomas




Quite a lovely story about duty, love and marriage.
Out of the blue, Lady Arabella Sutton is informed by her brother Will that she will have no second London season. She is to be married within a few days to Will's friend and future duke, Oliver Westwyck, the Earl of Marsdale.
Arabella is never happier than being with her horses. Marriage is not part of that equation. In shock she flings herself onto her horse and rides off, despite a looming storm.
Forced to take shelter at a local inn when her horse turns up lame, Arabella runs into a handsome, gentlemanly horse breeder at the inn's stables. Mr. Carrington undertakes to assist her with securing a room.
Whilst he is about that Arabella overhears two serving maids discussing the guests. Apparently an Earl, Oliver Westwyck is staying here. Her erstwhile fiancé!
Frantic lest her reputation suffer if he discovers her alone at an inn, a panicked Arabella convinces the inn's groom to give her a horse. Despite the encroaching darkness she flees back to the family estate, determined to take shelter in a nearby estate cottage for the night.
Mr. Carrington, fearful for her safety, follows her.
Arabella is torn between her duty to her brother, her reluctance to marry an unknown suitor, and now a perplexing attractive horse breeder.
A short, nicely written, regency romance and I do like the cover.

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Love will find a way!

The Temptation of Lady Serena (The Marriage Game) by Ella Quinn 

The beginning of the story seemed a tad stilted but then maybe it just reflected the gauche innocence that is Serena. Out of her environment, stiff and unsure, Serena has been living a lonely life, managing the family's large estate whilst her brother's been part of Wellington's staff during the war. Said brother has returned with a wife who wastes no time in sending Serena off to London and out of her way.             
A cousin to Phoebe (from The Seduction of Lady Phoebe fame), Serena meets Marcus' friend Viscount Robert Beaumont and promptly falls in love. Robert finally determines he might wed her on 'his terms.' 'Love was not right for Robert. Could he have her without it?'
Her gentle demeanour hiding a firm will, Serena declares she will only marry him if he loves her.
Well we spend some time with Robert chasing Serena across the channel, acting like a thwarted bear, and in general in a surly mood. Serena leads him a merry dance, albeit always seconds from surrender.
At last Serena starts to come into her own. I adore Robert's grandmother, Lady Beaumont who supports Serena's tactics and am intrigued by his Aunt Freddy who has secrets of her own. Both strong characters with a sense of humour.
Certainly the pace and the interest level picks up, after what I feared might be a steady decline, both mine and the plot's, and challenged with a few twists and turns.
I must admit that I am constantly being amazed by the intimate adventurousness of these Regency ladies I keep coming across. Serena and Robert do manage to find quite a bit of  private time where, 'there was...only him.' Ably assisted by Robert's valet and Serena's dresser.
However, no regency novel worth it's salt leaves out the possibility of intrigue. That's provided by the problem of local children on Robert's estate being snatched to work in the mines or worse. A grim reminder of the life of the poor. And introduces another piece in the puzzle. 
A thoroughly enjoyable read.

A NetGalley ARC

Compelling steampunk finale!

A Study in Ashes (The Baskerville Affair #3) by Emma Jane Holloway

Evelina starts this episode with a bang. Blowing up the University of Camelin chemistry lab no less. Her world had narrowed to the university precincts bound as she is by the Gold King, Jasper Keating. Her price for allowing Nick to escape. All to no avail as he is dead.  Hauled before the University authorities she is for the moment confined to her quarters in the College of London. Who escorts her back to the College? None other than James Moriaty, the Blue King's man of business. We recognize the name for other reasons. Evelina is trapped by Keating, monitored by bracelets that create excruciating pain if she steps beyond her confines.
Imogen has been unconscious for a year. Her twin dead sister Anna is involved. A realization that's nightmarish in its unfolding. Her sister Poppy engages Sherlock Holmes to look into Imogen's illness.
And those dreadful Steam Barons. War lords run amok. The Scarlet Baron is plotting war, others are hedging their bets. Greedy and despicable, corporate plunderers, malignant growths spreading their rapacious tentacles across the country, destroying the country for their own gain. How I detest them. As the Schoolmaster (coordinator/leader of the Baskerville Movement) says, 'I want order with at least a teaspoon of social conscience...What the Steam Council offers is the amoral governance of greed.'                    
Riots are happening around London. Water is no longer free. Outbreaks of cholera are occurring. Men and women are plucked from the streets and forced into servitude and slavery.
Keating sets Tobias to monitor Evelina, a twisted psychological torture for them both.
There are some great to hue-in-cheek lines. Such as the school master to Evelina's would be rescuer, 'Before you rush off to rescue the fair maid, might suggest a nap? And maybe a bath?'
Minor characters I enjoyed: Striker, rough and dangerous but there's something about him.
Gwilliam, Leader of the ash rooks, Bucky, Poppy...really so many.
Plots are entangled within plots. The monarchy is threatened almost to extinction. The dead reappear. A new perspective is cast on Sherlock and the Baskerville legend.
Some of the touches, occasions and characters (literary or otherwise) that the reader knows about, and that Holloway refers to, are very much AhHa! moments. There's a sweet quasi-dark humour in their inclusion. When you meet them you find yourself saying, Oh Yes! Of course!
However, The Black Kingdom is the puzzling one in this part of the story. As Keating tells us, 'No one knew who ran it and no one really wanted to know.' The disturbing part is that Magnus had been there and has brought some dark kingdom (as Evelina calls them) spirits back. Ok and there was a couple of fairly disgusting moments but I guess that goes with the territory of Black Sorcery.
A grand and sweeping dystopian adventure in an alternative Victorian England! 
I loved it!

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, December 20, 2013

'Prayer is telephoning to God and intuition is God telephoning you.'

The Magic Path of Intuition by Florence Scovel Shinn


I liked that opening chapter subheading. I'm still thinking about it.
Intuition! So many of us ignore it, or feel guilty about it.
Often our first response to a situation is intuitive, but how do we put that in words?
So many 'if only' moments. This book is a chance to change that, a fascinating hitherto unpublished work by Shinn who died in 1940.
Imagination and visualization, all form part of the journey.
The affirmations in this quite beautiful production are a helpful guide to this growing process.
The vivid colours, the photography, the welcoming words, the encompassing swirly lines underlining each heading on pages, all contrive to draw us into the text.
I must admit the colours and production radiate a retro seventies 'get in touch with your inner self' feel about them. That's great because this is what the book is about, enhancing and recognizing your intuition as a powerful healing tool, tapping into the wisdom of the universe.
I have been reading a pdf version of the hardcover on my notebook.
The hardcover edition would be a nice personal acquisition, or a lovely present. 
Full of verve and momentum, certainly a book to ponder on.

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A magical delight!

Mistress of the Wind by Michelle Diener

Certainly a change of pace from my previous encounters with Diener's Tudor and other historical works. This work evidences her prodigious talent, the depths of her writing abilities shine.
Beautifully crafted, this retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon, is a pleasure to read. Poetic in its descriptions, the relationship that develops between Astrid and the Bear/Prince unfolds with an unfaltering intensity.
Sold to the Bear/Prince by her family, Astrid travels to his castle. She is to be held there for a year as his companion, not wife if you will, mistress if you won't. She is not to leave and can never see the prince as a man, although he visits her at night. The hurt of being sold is revisited at certain times in the novel. We hurt with Astrid.            
Astrid's cleverness, the humour we see hidden in her request for an axe after she,  with great trepidation, enters the castle stronghold and realizes she has a bargain to keep is precious. Her appeal to the wind, the sight of it dancing around her, adds a moment of relief as the wind brings her joy, in this the unknown. Of course Astrid finds it difficult. 
We understand her plea to see Bjorn, her plea for freedom to be outside. We understand Bjorn's fears of being trapped as a Bear forever, trapped into marriage with the Troll Queen's daughter, his fears of betrayal.
However, despite her love for him, Astrid's actions do condemn Bjorn. With the help of the wind she sets forth to rescue her love. Her journey, a quest with challenges and tests, introduces her and us to some wonderful characters along the way. I love Astrid's respect and the courtesy she shows to these beings. 
Astrid is more than we know. She is a secret even to herself. Her mother might guess, but  her father fears her. Astrid's abilities develop alongside her love for Bjorn and are key to helping Bjorn free himself and his kingdom from the Troll Queen's thrall.
Astrid's relationship with Bjorn has been a longtime coming. These two were destined for each other.
Evocative writing that invites us in, grabs our attention and draws us, drew me, willingly into this magical world that is so real, and so refreshing.
'Fairy tales are stories for the soul, and delving into East of the Sun, West of the Moon, to write this book was a pleasure,' says Diener in her forward. This story certainly captivated me. 
Wonderful!

As an aside, I love the cover. Wistful, romantic and beguiling. A dreamlike quality. The colours certainly reflect what I imagine as the setting for the story.

A NetGalley ARC

Intriguing!

Cross of Vengeance (A Burren Mystery) by Cora Harrison

In Ireland in the Middle Ages (1519) a Brehon was the Gaelic equivalent of a judge. The statutes that governed daily life in medieval Ireland were called Brehon Law.
Mara, Brehon of the kingdom of Burren, a magistrate and the professor (ollamh) at Cahermacnaghten law school, accompanied by her students, attends an important mass, the Feast of the Holy Cross, at Kilnaboy Church, home to a significant 'relic: a piece of the true cross...housed inside a gold shrine.' When the relic is destroyed or stolen the Brehon has a role to play.
Insights into the ancient laws of Ireland meander in and out of the storyline. I like the way each chapter opens with a quote from a relevant law, setting the scene for what is to come. The punishments for various crimes or abuses against the law is fascinating.  
Arson, theft, fanatics, heretics, pilgrims, dark passions, jealousy and avarice present.
Attitudes to Indulgences and Spanish inquisitors become part of the mystery.    
The effects of Martin Luther's 39 Articles has crossed from Europe to Ireland. Now, not only the loss of a holy relic is being investigated, but a murder must be investigated. The Brehon must solve both crimes.
The way Mara's students put forward their ideas and work together to form theories, points towards Mara's encouraging abilities as a teacher, reflecting the sort of person she is.
Mara's wry, unspoken humour at their inclusion of her in their discussions, their assumptions about her, is delightful. Such as in a discussion that included vellum making Slevin's hastens to instruct her about it's making. 'Mara smiled an acknowledgement. She liked the way boys of Slevin's age assumed she had little knowledge of practical matters.' All this points to the type of person she is. She has a quiet intelligence, is accepting and caring, and holds the authority of office with strength tempered by compassion. A velvet glove encasing a will of iron. The leadership of women as justices in Ireland in these times is eye opening.
Beautifully written, Harrison's descriptive prose of the land about as the Brehon travels are a delight. The mind's eye easily sees.
Mysterious, yet brimming with wise reflection, a captivating aspect of Harrison's writing style. Through Mara's eyes we see the burdens and joys of her office and a fascinating look at a regrettably overturneded legal system.

A NetGalley ARC


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

...trials and tribulations in Charlemagne's times!

The Scribe by Antonio Garrido, translated by Simon Bruni

Having been taught to read and write by her father, all Theresa wants to do is be a scribe and parchment maker. Theresa is battling with the prejudice of a woman's place in society. Given that this tale takes place in medieval Würzburg of 799, at a time when women's roles were even more proscribed, we can hardly be surprised by the attitudes of those around her. Garrido's writing is vivid and brings home the sights, sounds and smells of the time, and the hardships of Theresa's occupation. (Thank you also translator Bruni) At this time the surrounding country is besieged by famine. Denizens of Würzburg are in desperate straits.        
A talented parchment maker and scribe Theresa is treated to all sorts of indignities by her fellow workers and especially the master parchment maker, the despicable Korne.  When Theresa had to go into the deepest maceration pool to find her cow skin for her parchment making exam, let me say that my stomached heaved along with hers. After this first dramatic part I actually wondered how the story was going to continue or if I had somehow missed the pagination. Theresa's chapter appeared closed.
But this is only the beginning as Theresa, escaping capture, traverses forests and mauriding Saxons, is rescued by and rescues a young soldier, and eventually finds her way to a Benedictine Monastry in Fulda. Here Theresa becomes a scribe to a Alcuin of York, a monk and herbalist. A man with deductive abilities that make me wonder if this master is a former incarnation of Sherlock Holmes. Alcuin is much more than a humble monk.
There is more afoot though. Graft and corruption is  linked to mysterious illnesses people are dying from. Murder and mystery are intertwined. Unusual friendships leaven the way.
Then there is the relationship between Charlemagne and Theresa's father.
With more twists and turns than a spider's web, this is an intriguing story of a young woman who dared to dream of more--albeit an incredibly stubborn young woman. A doorway into times of the past, portrayed with startling realism.

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, December 16, 2013

Historical fiction or History with fictionalized human perspectives?

Sisters of the Bruce 1292-1314 by J. M. Harvey

I had just finished watching the episode of A History of Scotland that referenced Robert the Bruce and the hardships his family suffered at the hand of the British host. When I had an opportunity to read the ARC of this novel, I couldn't resist. As a result of The Bruce and his men killing John Comyn (1306), Edward I, called for the 'Raising of the Dragon'. Which meant that no quarter would be given to The Bruce supporters, including his family. This work follows the effect of war and this edict upon the men and more particularly, the womenfolk of The Bruce.  
The story is mostly expressed as a series of letters penned between the sisters, which adds to the sense of the personal. However this is more a history book than the fictionalized story of the sisters. This unfortunately renders it a dense and lengthy work. I found myself having to put it down and take it up over a longer period of time than I normally would. Should this have been two books, or a book from each sister's perspective? For better readability something along those lines would be more accessible.
[I was watching a newscast by Avon Romance with   http://avonromancelive.com/ the other day (with Eloisa James, Sarah Maclean and Julia Quinn. Eloise James was asked a question relating to history and fiction. Her answer talked about this very thing, about dumping swathes of history on your audience as opposed to using historical fact to enrich the novel aspect of the work.]

Getting back to the novel however, certainly in Sisters of the Bruce, the atrocity of the women's treatment and their subsequent physical, emotional and mental state is well presented by the Australian author Harvey. A history of Scotland that does persuades one to reflect on the human cost of war no matter the times.

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, December 13, 2013

...'perhaps we are all monsters, those of us who walk the Green Path'...

The Cruel Path by David J Normoyle 

Poignant and stark, with moments of joy, this dystopian novella sets the background for survival, death and what is to come thirty years hence in The Narrowing Path. This is a glimpse into the history of Arcandis and The Refuge through the eyes of Ealnor, one of three brothers.
Teenage boys, those selected from the hierarchy of Arcandis society must walk the Green Path, and survive it. If they survive they will be future leaders.--the ascor. They will be amongst the chosen, certain of refuge when the surface of Arcandis becomes intolerable unto death. However the struggle will be ongoing, lasting a lifetime. There is always some one wanting to take your place.     

The Triplets, brothers, have been (unusually) raised together as comrades, rather than potential enemies competing against each other for survival.
Sorani, Frodan and Ealnor. They 'watched out for each other,...cared for each other, and...loved each other.' In a society that uses anyone they can to scramble, crawl or kill to get to the top of the heap, this is a rare thing. Only two of the brothers will be able to go forward, to be tested by the Green Path. Certainly the verse from John 15:13, 'Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends,' springs to mind. This is exactly what one of the brothers contrives to do. However this leaves at least one of the brothers racked with remorse and guilt.
Having previously read and enjoyed immensely The Narrowing Path, in The Cruel Path we are offered another insight into this harsh society; presented as it is against the strength of love. 
At the time of writing it's free on Amazon. Certainly can't beat that price!

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, December 12, 2013

'Clearly, rumours of her ruination still circulated.'

Compromising Willa (Entangled Scandalous #3) by Diana Quincy 

Secrets and ruin. How do you face down society and retain your dignity when your reputation is, if not in shreds, decidedly singed around the edges?
Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope is re-entering society after her disastrous first season.
Damning rumours are circulating in the various clubs about her, and even years later she is shunned and barely noticed.
Pursued by the new the Earl of Bellingham, a childhood friend, and author of her predicament, attracted to the Duke of Hartwell, a friend of her brother's, Willa is unsure of where to turn. Besides she has other fish to fry. Marriage is not even surfacing on her horizon.
I like Willa as a main character. I like Hartwell. I thought I might like Bellingham but he was such a 'Bad Man' that I happily hissed and booed him from the sidelines whenever necessary.   


The beginning of the story had me thinking this is a different. It captured my interest. Sadly the journey to closure was not as well maintained as I thought it would be. Maybe it was that the bedroom scenes overtook the storyline. Or the amount of misunderstandings and mistaken meaning between Willa and Hartwell was discouraging for me, and downright frustrating for them. Although, I did appreciate that Hartwell kept rescuing Willa from the various situations she kept finding herself in.
Willa's distinct tea blends, and her secret involvement in a coffee house where poor women worked to support their children is a gem of an idea that should have been more fully realized. Reference to Mary Wollstonecraft's writings are made providing a background to Willa's efforts towards social responsibility. This is the second regency novel I've recently read where Wollstonecraft's name makes an appearance as being an influence on the heroine's more radical ideas. Certainly, as a philosopher and women's rights advocate of her time, she is an ideal figure for authors of our times to use to introduce more modern thinking into their plots. 
There were a couple of other threads in 'Willa' that would have made intriguing unravelling but weren't.
All in all though, an enjoyable read despite my comments.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Wonderfully romantic novella! Just loved Anne! (and Pinky)

The Scandal Before Christmas: A Holiday Novella (The Reckless Brides 3.5) by Elizabeth Essex 

'Twas three weeks before Christmas, 
And all through the house,
Nothing was stirring, not even a mouse.
The fire it crackled, a comforting sound
I grabbed a hot chocolate, and a novella I'd found.
Excitingly romantic, a handsome young hound,             
Ordered to marry,  he circled around,
A navel lieutenant, a younger son,
Suddenly found he was the one.
Viscount in waiting he was to be,
He stood his ground, wanting to flee.
He plotted a near treacherous course,                         
Down a path he was protestingly forced.
The answer he puzzled and wrestled and fought,
To do not what he wanted but just what he aught.
By magic and chance he found his true start,
A wren by perception, an eagle at heart.
All browns and greys, a shy little dove,
Hidden from light, a dark little glove,
Transformed to splendour, when gifted by love.
His spinster bride, Anne Lesley by name,
Ian Worth's lady, really anything but tame.
Assisted by Pinky, valet and friend,
Sailed into safe harbour right at the end.
A wondrous read, a sunshine, a ray,
Of romance and pleasure that lightened my day.

(apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, 'The Night Before Christmas.' 1822.
Ok, the original was going around in my head and I couldn't help myself)

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Wow! Never a dull moment with Ciardis Weathervane!

Sworn To Conflict (Courtlight #3) by Terah Edun

The unsuspected continues to startle not only me but Ciardis herself, and all those who come into contact with her. But we're all up for the adventure of it. I have to say I just love the person that Ciardis is--loyal to a fault, compassionate, innocent in her reactions and honourable.
Last seen Ciardis had confronted the Shadow Mage and then somehow been teleported or transported. Where? Smack bang in the middle of a battle far to the frozen north is where! Forced into a healing sleep for two weeks Ciardis awakes and finds herself with her once prospective sponsor General Barnaren, Prince Sebastian, the Lady Serena her original feather brained sponsor, and others who have chased her here. The battle is masking a greater and more dangerous secret!
After a meeting with the Old Ones, the elementals of the Northern lands, and being gifted with a infinitesimal portion of their power, Ciardis is swept away once more to the Sanctuary.
During her time in the Northern lands Ciardis connects with lost family members, the Frost Giant Inga, her guard Kane, the Daemoni Thanar, the Lady Vane and a host of new and compelling characters.
Is Ciardis impulsive and rash as she's been accused of more than once? Does she respond from some hapless intuition, or is it a combination of intuitive understanding on some deeper level combining with her Weathervane gift, that produces these seemingly random responses? Responses that often turn out to be saner than everyone else surmises, including Ciardis. The interesting thing is how much loyalty Ciardis tends to inspire. 
Another wild ride with Ciardis! The improbable is anything but! Hang on to your proverbial hats and enjoy!
Now, I'm hanging out for the next episode, Sworn to Secrecy.

p..s the price is great for such an excellent read?

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

' "Dratted man"... Dear, dratted man'...more Burrowes' entangled delights!

Andrew (Lord of Despair) by Grace Burrowes

'He should never have left in the first place.'
So true and the story of the Alexander family continues, this time focusing on Gareth's brother Andrew and Felicity's sister, Astrid Worthington, now Astrid Allen, Viscountess Amery. You may remember the interplay between a younger Astrid and Andrew at that time.    

Lord Andrew Alexander has returned from abroad having fled his demons--his guilt at the drowning of his brother, father and Gareth's fiancé, and his good intentions with respect to not burdening Astrid with his heaviness. But, as Andrew reflects, 'Haring off to the four corners of the globe hadn't solved what was wrong with [him].
Astrid has been married in his absence, not happily, but comfortably. She is now widowed and pregnant.
Intrigue rears it's ugly head though and it seems that Astrid may be the target of someone who has something to gain by her demise. What's more, it may be that the death of her husband Herbert may not be the accident first thought.
Who benefits most is the question. I had my suspicions.
How can Andrew appease his tormented soul and protect the woman he loves from all this and from himself?
Ah! The wheels of love grind round and about torturously and mysteriously.
Astrid is a delightful person. Forthright and honest, we can't help but take her to our hearts.
I must admit to sparing a puzzled thought for Lord Douglas who seems to be carrying a heavy burden and yet seems unaware of many things, is emotionally contained, even stilted.
So we have pregnancies and possible murders and Saint Andrew thinking he is a vile, unworthy person and self flagellating by deserting any idea of love being a goal he can partake of.
There is an interesting foray into child birth of the times. It was fascinating seeing birthing practices or non practices of the time through Felicity's delivery experience with the assistance of Andrew and Astrid. More advice is given by their brother David Holbrooke.
We have some loose ends being tied up and the result is a finely crafted novel to enjoy.

p.s. I really recommend looking on Burrowes' website at the Lonely Lords Family Tree to see how the families hang together.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Charmingly quixotic! Piercingly insightful!

My Venice and Other Essays by Donna Leon

What a delightful group of essays! Witty, sometimes hilarious, often self deprecating, always with an brilliant edge. Nothing is off the table. The conversation cuts a wide swathe through life in all it's complexities.
Donna Leon brings Venice alive. Through the eyes of both an inhabitant and an expat we taste the puzzling differences and laugh at the idiosyncrasies, and the similarities.  

I really identified with her piece about buying her villa! Sweeping in, being mesmerized by the view, but blind to the detrimental structure of the building. Ah, Bellissimo! Swept up by the view and the ambience, forgetting about the plumbing, the flooding roof and and collapsing walls. For Leon, 'it was love at first sight, and not for the first time, was to prove [her] ruin.'
Each essay is a little gem and tells us something about Italians and Venice that as tourists we would never discover for ourselves. I must admit there are some moments when I felt positively guilty about being a tourist in Venice.
But Venice is only the beginning. Leon pulls no punches when she talks about male female relationships in Italy. Her dismay about attitudes is palpable. 
We journey to the United States and New Jersey with equal vigour. Certainly the streets and the people spring to life in all places. Life viewed through Donna Leon's eyes is certainly a grand experience.
Grazie tanto! Ms. Leon.

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, November 25, 2013

Scandalous charm!

Devil in My Arms: A Loveswept Historical Romance (The Saint's Devils #3) by Samantha Kane  


Lately there has been quite a swathe of regency romances that are taking on issues to do with the treatment of women at that time. Particularly to do with wives as property and no rights, leaving them open for domestic abuse. 
This novel is another such using this background for the story's thrust.
Eleanor Enderby flees from her abusive husband not once, but three times. In her latest attempt she hides out for three months before landing on her sister's doorstep dressed as a youth. She arrives at the same time as Sir Hilary St.John, a suave man about town and entirely eligible parti.
Hil actually spends his time covering up for the Prince Regent when necessary, helping out the Bow Street Runners and at times and taking on investigative requests when interested enough in the problem to seek out the information needed. Eleanor and Hil's attraction is immediate. The relationship that develops between them is not approved of by society. Indeed it fast approaches scandalous and is mentioned in the gossip rags.
However, there is more immediate danger afoot. Eleanor's husband declares her dead and produces a body as proof. He remarries. Is Eleanor safe or will her dreadful, abusive husband find her? What then? 
I really liked the lead characters. Hil is a delightful and intelligent leading man. Eleanor is a determined soul looking to make herself anew. I love their frequent quoting of sonnets and ridiculous little by-plays with each other. Their very passionate relationship is decidedly a centrepiece of the story and we are often silent witnesses in the boudoir. I should take a leaf out of Hil's loyal staff's book and not comment.
An intoxicating and enjoyable read.

A NetGalley ARC

Fantastical moments, dragons, music and mystery.

Seraphina (Seraphina #1) by Rachel Hartman

A marvellous story! Insights into acceptance and belonging, racial tensions, hope and love. All set in a world where Dragons and Humans are trying to co-exist. Seemingly a long hard road to tread.
(How did I miss reading this! It was only after I saw it on a fantasy list on Goodreads that I rechecked and found that I had for some unknown reason skipped over this. Well, a couple of years later I read it. Now I have to find out when the next book is out. It may even be out now. I must investigate.)
After a dreadful war a peace has been made. The rules of behaviour for dragons amongst humans are fiercely controlled by the dragon's Excision Censors and are controlled amongst humans by fear and tradition. It is near to the advent of the dragon leader's state visit by General Comonot Ardmagar of All Dragonkind. The designated visit to the city Lavondaville, the capital of Goredd is to celebrate forty years of the treaty's existence.     

Into this comes Seraphina Dombegh, a half dragon young woman who is hidden in plain sight. An abomination to her human kindred. A dangerous plight but even more dangerous would be the acknowledgement to the world at large of her ancestry.
A gifted intelligent musician, she has inherited her mothers musical ability. But wait, how strange, because dragons are known to not be musical and unable to express emotions! And yet Seraphina's mother was a dragon. Mmm!
Adhered to beliefs will be sundered and all will have their prejudices revealed. Some will accept change other will turn even more fiercely to protect their particular version of truth.
Prince Rupert had been murdered--apparently by a dragon. The city factions are in uproar.
Through circumstances Seraphina joins Prince Lucian Kiggs, captain of the guard, and illegitimate royal offspring, in the hunt for the killer. As they investigate an intrigue is uncovered. A cabal of dragon generals may be trying to have fractue the hard won peace and provoke both sides once again into war.
Seraphina not only discovers herself but her worth. Most importantly she who has felt so alone discovers that she is not. As Seraphina so eloquently says as she closes this chapter of her life, 'The future would come, full of war and uncertainty, but I would not be facing it alone...I had a place to stand.'

A NetGalley ARC

a courageous heart

Heart of Vengeance  (The Jewels of Tomorrow) byTracy Cooper-Posey

[Helena's] 'mouth was thick with the coppery  taste of fear.'
Those words captured me, tainting the very atmosphere. The visceral reaction of this woman whose story I was about to follow was riveting. This opening scene takes place in 1197 in Oxford near to the court of Prince John.
Posing within the court of John as a Norman, the Lady Isobel of Brittany, Helena of York is seeking the truth about her father's death and the consequences that followed for the villagers where Helena's father, the Earl of Wessex's body was discovered.
Here Helena meets Stephen, Count of Dian, the 'Black Baron', once a close friend to King Richard and as chance would have it, a childhood playmate to the real Isobel. Stephen will in turn be puzzled by Helena, challenged by her, love her, protect her from her enemies and assist her in her quest for vengeance. He is quite a remarkable man for his times. The truth of why revenge is important to Helena would become clear to him, although he counsels against it. Very much in terms of how taking revenge will affect her psyche.     

The action swings from the court of Prince of John in Oxford, to York, to the great forests of Robert (Robin) of Locksley, and on to King Richard in Normandy. The interweaving of these commanding characters into the very fabric of the story creates further interest. Their intersection doesn't seem beyond the realm possibility, indeed is indicative of the story's reality working within the historical and legendary contexts of the times.
Helena is companion to the seemingly fragile Lady Catherine Fitzwarren who turns out to be motivated by motherhood, ambition and fear in attaching her family to John's star. That determination of purpose leads Lady Catherine to render Helena harm. Catherine is closed to all else but her own desires in these matters.
The very kingship of England comes under threat as the key players jockey for position.
A medieval romance that stirs the imagination and portrays vividly many of the concerns, cultural habits and political intrigues of the times.

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

"...never allow a murderer of loved ones to go unpunished."

The Triptych by Margit Liesche

There is a lyrical quality to Leische's writing despite her gritty subject matter of war, betrayal, fear and death.
Two main stories unfold, parallel to each other, set in different times yet linked by the commonalities of the unforeseen, of loss and of grief.
The story moves in and out of 1956 to 1986, from Budapest and the Hungarian Revolution to Chicago; from 11 year old  Évike in Budapest to 37 year old Ildikó in Chicago, daughter of Hungarian refugees whose past is surrounded in secrecy.  

ldikó's search for the truth about her roots and her mother's untimely death (was it an accident, murder or suicide?) under a Chicago train will take Ildikó to the Budapest of 1986, with Hungary still a satellite  of the USSR.
Ildikó's search for her history is a revelation, particularly as the riddle of her mother's death, the fate of her mother's sister and the links between the now and the past are puzzling.  Ildikó sadly reflects as she endeavours to make sense of all the confluences in her life, 'now I have only my memory to search for solving the unknowns of [my mother's] death.'
An embroidered collage ldikó's mother Edith had crafted, a triptych of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, holds a key to some of the mystery. 
There were some moments of confusion as I didn't always fully realize who was talking.
I found the book interesting, set as it is against the Hungarian uprising background and life under a harsh regime. Those whose personal histories share this time I am sure would find Triptych worthwhile.
An interesting work.

A NetGalley ARC

...truth and justice pursued! the power of hope revealed!

A Christmas Hope by Anne Perry

What a wonderful story. I have always liked Claudine Burroughs, a volunteer in Hester Monk’s clinic for sick and injured prostitutes. I like her pluck, her courage and her sense of fair play and justice. I cheer for the way she has stepped outside of the role society and her husband expects her to pursue, that of supportive wife and homemaker, of adhering to society's rules for women. She has taken up the cause of the less fortunate. In doing so she is receiving far more than she's gives, a sense of purpose. Life has become meaningful.

Wallace of course hates her charity work. It is not gentile enough for his social aspirations.
How I dislike her husband Wallace. A bully really who sees his wife as an extension of himself. To the point that Wallace dictates her in the wearing and buying of even her dresses. Her behaviour needs to support him ingratiate himself in society and up the ladder of business and success. Claudine's commentary on her marriage is quite devastating. One can see why in just a momentary meeting with the welsh poet, Dai Tregarron, Claudine decides to champion him. 
In a tenderly reflective, nonsensical moment in the garden they had conversed. In a flight of poetic fantasy he had called her Olwen. Sadly Claudine realized that she liked that name better than her own. 
There's been a murder! A young prostitute at that same high society party is beaten. She dies. Dai Is accused. Claudine believes that the Welshman is not the murderer. Yes, he is a drunkard and walks on the wild side but is not a murderer. Besides he likes women. Claudine's sights fall on the three society young men also present at the scene of the murder. Claudine enlists the aid of a reluctant Squeaky Robinson, and sets forth to right a wrong.
Along the way we gain further insights into Claudine, her marriage, her dashed hopes and her dreams. Claudine's strength is our hope, a hope for those reluctantly embroiled in this crime, and the personification of hope for the accused, Dai Tregorran. 
A fitting Christmas tale and an excellent read!

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, November 15, 2013

...an ambitious and worthy representation

Art & Place: Site-Specific Art of the Americas    

From Brazil to Central America, Mexico to the United States and through to Canada, from Andy Goldsworthy pieces to George Segal's Gardens. Be it endangered Richard Serra's Shift in a private field outside Toronto to Walter DeMaria's work, The Broken Kilometer, Soho, or the murals of Mexican artist, Jose Clement Orozco and of course Diego Rivera, amazing works are captured.
The commonality is how these installations at once impose and merge with their landscape.
The thing that strikes me most about the more historically current installations is the sheer delight of them, their playfulness. They are often things to wonder at, delight in.
Whether that installation be in a field, in the desert, near the shoreline, they are amazing.
Architecturally significant sites are included, buildings of significance, or other in situations specific to their site.
Outdoor sculptures and art works in public spaces are part of this comprehensive catalogue including Marc Chagall's three-dimensional monolithic mosaic in Chicago.    
The sites for indigenous American places are another thing. Often sites of religious or communal significance, the wonder here is for the history of these cultures. The age of these artifacts, the petroglyphs giving insight of the past. The realization of this different history, glimpses into another time, is something to gaze at in awe, as is this wonder that they have survived for us to see.
This photographic journal is a fascinating tour across the Americas. What a fun road trip even visiting a few of these locations would be! Searching out these places, following in the footsteps of Art & Place's presenters would be a worthy adventure. 
The scope of works represented is enormous and it is no wonder that it's a joint project of the reputable Phaidon group.
For those of us who are armchair voyagers, who are entranced by landscape installations, this certainly is an ambitious and excellent visual statement about places and spaces across the Americas' panorama that goes beyond geographical information, cataloguing as it does human endeavours of 'art' in the environment.

A NetGalley ARC

...dearest enemy!

The Commander's Desire by Jennette Green

715 AD Galwyddel, a Scottish kingdom far to the west of Northumbria.
Caught on the horns of a dilemma, Elwytha has a choice to make, honour or vengeance.
When Elwytha agreed to sue for a false peace with the waring neighbouring kingdom, little did she know that her plans would be thwarted time and time again. Elwytha was ordered by her brother, now King, to kill The Commander, overseer of their enemy's army, revenge for murdering their older  brother, King Thor, so foully. Her brother Richard, now King, plans to use Elwytha as the bait to trap their enemy and finally win the war. Elwytha searches for the truth.
But truth was a will-o-the-wisp, eluding the outstretched hands of the seekers at every turn.
Even though the outcome is foreseeable, I found the characters and the storyline engaging. The Prince, portrayed as a layabout with eyes that saw more than one guessed at. The Commander a man misjudged by his appearance, and the Elwytha, the warrior princess, haughty yet vulnerable, and fighting the truth before her eyes. Truth which is hidden in her heart.      
Her brother King Richard plays a deep game. I was able to make an informed guess at the 'truth' well before the some of the characters arrived there. I think this increased the tension of the novel, despite that from the sidelines, I was encouraging various characters in all sorts of directions.
A tad predictable yet a pleasing read that I found hard to put down.

A NetGalley ARC

Sunday, November 10, 2013

....redeemed by love, finally! A gem!

Lord St. Claire's Angel (Classic Regency Romances) by Donna Lea Simpson

Ah! Christmas time! It conjures up ideas of Yuletide logs, snow, and family! Including for the Lady Elizabeth, Marchioness of Langlow, that wretched rogue of a brother-in-law, Richard St. Claire, who turns the female staff on their collective heads and wreaks havoc on any maid foolish enough to be burnt. Dratted, dangerous man!
When we first meet St. Clair he is at his despicable highborn worst, with no care for how their employers will treat his ex-flirts. The chase is the thing! The possibility that these susceptible young woman can be dismissed without a reference, thrown onto the refuse heap of humanity, ruined if not in deed then in fact is atrocious. With no prospects and no living these young women would be forced to make ends meet in whatever way possible. Thoughtless, selfish, cad! I was totally disgusted with St. Clair at this stage.
Fortunately, he later exposes the sensitive side to his nature that with careful nourishing will help him grow into a better person.
When St. Clair does falls in love, he falls hard and it takes an age and many mistakes later for him to be able to recognize what has happened. 
Celestine Simons is from an old and honourable family. Fallen on hard times, Celestine takes the position of governess at the home of St. Clair's brother, the Marquis of Langlow. Celestine is plain, intelligent and generous. Suffering badly from arthritis she is not the type to make a connoisseur of beauty take a second look. St Clair is an unrepentant rake, a rogue. When his sister-in-law throws down the gauntlet and declares her female staff off limits St. Clair determines to pursue the new governess. When St. Clair realizes his true feelings for Celestine, he is just as focused in pursuing his love for all the right reasons as he was for pursuing her for all the wrong ones.
As the story progresses, so does the redemption of St. Clair. 
Celestine is a rather wonderful character, physically frail but with a strong and luminous personality.  The question is, does St. Clair even deserve her?
In the end this is a grand old fashioned love story! Indeed it is just is the perfect Christmas Cinderella love story with a twist.

A NetGalley ARC

Friday, November 8, 2013

Another Liaden treat!

Trade Secret (Liaden Universe #17) by Sharon Lee, Steve Miller

Mmm, here's the difficulty about reading a Liaden Universe I
immediately want to reread those that have come before, thosethat come after, those that follow other characters, and those that are just there in tandem. I settled for rereading Balance of Trade, but I've since found myself once more up to my elbows in all things Liaden, and enjoying every moment.   Having been a longtime fan of the Liaden Universe it's absolutely fantastic when another piece of the puzzle is revealed, opening up new vistas, sometimes solving old mysteries and ever, ever delightful.
I first met Jethri Gobelyn in 'Balance of Trade'. Jethri, a Terran trader was adopted by the Liaden clan Ixin, having solved an issue that had impinged the clan's honour. Balance and Necessity, two Liaden concepts, part of Liaden melant'i (code of behaviour and order of things) came into play. At that time Jethri was looking for another ship to work on. In that interaction Jethri, 'found his ship,' 
'On the clan ship Elthoria, he [is] Jethri the trader, son of the trader ven'Deelin, the family name, Ixin the clan.' 
Sent by his adopted mother Norn ven'Deelin to a trade meeting,  Jethri is also trying to recover artifacts inherited from his father, Arin Gobelyn, that he'd lent to the Scouts and that had not been returned. Touching as they do upon old technology, more than one party appears interested. Scout Ter'Astin, his melant'i having been touched by this Scout inaction, is helping Jethri to reclaim his belongings, his birthright. What is Jethri's birthright? The mysteries surrounding his father are matters that occupy Jethri's thoughts. Why his mother seems unable to bear the sight of him is another question. On the journey, Jethri sits as second pilot with ter'Astin, learns a new skill, increases his trading reputation, runs into old friends and makes new enemies. Jethri finds out more about his father, and the larger vision his father had for 'loop' traders. He meets his Uncle. Uncle is another mysterious character who weaves in and out of many Liaden adventures. Intrigue, mishap and adventure dog Jethri's steps. Through it all Jethri's melant'i increases. Balance is brought into being.
To share in the developing life of Jethri Gobelyn is to delight in the person he has become. 
A welcome opportunity for renewal with old acquaintances entering into new horizons.

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, November 7, 2013

'He had simply just assumed she'd always be available when he was ready'...foolish man!

The Secret Life of Miss Anna Marsh (The Marriage Game #2) by Ella Quinn

England 1814, Napoleon is on Elba but things are afoot.
Miss Anna Marsh returns from her London season accompanied by family friend Sebastian, Baron Rutherford. Anna has overheard Sebastian telling his friend Marcus that he intends to make a comfortable life with Anna. Anna is aghast. She's been in love with Sebastian since a small child but wants to be appreciated for herself, not merely thought of as a comfortable wife when the time came.
Sebastian's secretly an intelligence officer for the British Home Office as was Anna's dead brother Harry. Sebastian is endeavouring to find out who's in charge of Harry's smuggling ring. Unbeknownst to him, that's Anna.
Things are hotting up, rumours of French spies returning to English shores has the Home Office worried. Sebastian is dispatched back to Kent to discover what he may.
Anna is continuing to run the ring by night, and her father's estates by day.    
            

Sebastian has his preconceived notions of Anna turned upside down.
Taking her for granted is something he can no longer do.
Then there's Percy Blanchard, childhood acquaintance and malicious underhanded specimen who thinks to marry Anna and is already spreading rumours about her failed London season. Which of course it wasn't. Anna does punch him into the water trough when he's behaving like an ungentlemanly boor! Very satisfying!
And then there's the 'fiery touch' aspect. The merest accidental touch is like a jolt of fire, a shock (electric?) for the story's couples. Obviously this is becoming a prerequisite as the telltale tag for all relationships in the Marriage Game series.
But there's different shocks all round as characters appear, the mystery surrounding Harry's death is revealed, and further romantic interests are engaged. Relationships are not what they seem, neither are the people.
Not a bad story in between the hot and steamy parts, which do seem to occur at any given moment. 

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, November 4, 2013

Scintillating!

Daughter of the God-King by Anne Cleeland   

Hattie Blackhouse arrives with her companion Miss Bing at her lodgings in Paris. In short order she pushes an intruder down the back stairs, finds out her childhood friend, Robbie Tremaine is unaccountably to be married in two days to the widow of a work acquaintance her parents, is approached at a soirée by an aging french roué, Baron du Pays, is introduced to the intruder, sought out by the enigmatic Monsieur Berry, and interviewed by an un-named official of the English government. Of course there is also a mysterious Comte. All seeking information about her parents strongbox. Oh, and Miss Bing's dead brother and Robbie's widowed fiancé dead husband worked with or for her parents in Egypt.
Long neglected by her parents during her childhood whilst they spent their time pursuing their passion, Hattie does find it disturbing that though her parents neglected to provide emotionally for her, in their death have provided materially for her.  

Hattie's famous Egyptologist parents appear to have disappeared without a trace from their Theban dig and are presumed dead. Hattie sets forth to Cairo with Bing to discover the truth. Bodies litter the stage as Hattie forges forward in her quest to locate at the very least her parents bodies. Politics and intrigue jostle each other for prominence. Mysterious references to Napoleon lurk in the background, although he is supposedly confined to Elba. Powerful sources certainly seem to be at play as Bing warns.
Monsieur Berry turns up and Hattie becomes more and more fascinated by him. He-who-was-not-Daniel, as Hattie meditatively refers to him. 
Secrets run deep and swift and I certainly did not see a major deception coming. Romance blooms in unexpected ways. The surprises just keep coming!
I really enjoyed the cut and thrust of the action as events piled on top  of each other to the point where I wondered if I was watching an enjoyable farce much in the vein of 'The Importance of Being Ernest,' or if Hercule Poirot would suddenly emerge from behind a column. Better still, I was reading a romantic thriller. An excellent read! 

A NetGalley ARC

Highly improbable, highly improper situation

Gareth: Lord of Rakes (The Lonely Lords #6) by Grace Burrowes   

...'scandalous, shameful, scounderlous bad man!'
so Felicity Hemmings Worthington at one stage describes Gareth Alexander, Marquess of Heathgate.
I must admit initially I had reservations about the plot. I really liked the main characters but, Yikes! the whole premise left me aghast and agape.
Really I was halfway convinced that Burrowes had run amok and this novel was nothing more than a bodice ripper --albeit 'of the first water.'
My perceptions were turned on their head. Gareth (the novel) emerged as an enthralling, deviously plotted Regency romance embedded in the idea of women and inheritance laws, reverting of land and titles to the crown where no male heir is found, ownership, brothels and prostitutes, and the legalities of this profession in these times. In an  interesting appendage Burrowes discusses these factors.       

In this Lonely Lords episode a penniless spinster, made penniless by the law of Escheat, (where the title and lands, in this case the title of Viscount belonging to her father, reverts to the crown if no male inheritor can be found), inherits a gaming house/brothel. Conditions of the inheritance are Machiavellian to say the least, including eventual loss of virtue. To save her younger sister from a life of drudgery and pernicury the spinster attempts to fulfill the inheritance.
Added to this the sexual encounters although tender yet passionate are again constructs of the premise. A lot of disbelief initially needs to be suspended.
But then this is perhaps a Beauty and the Beast story in a different guise:
*Dowdy looking Beauty (very proper spinster) in predicament
*Approaches Beast (disenchanted marquess) for distasteful help
*Beast agrees reluctantly
*Beast acts beastly to try to scare Beauty off
*Beast finds himself falling in love
*Beauty finds that beast is all she could wish for
*Beast acts in Beauty's best interests
*Beast rescues Beauty from threats
*Beauty is victim no more
*Alls well that ends well--with surprises--but ah! The agony off getting there!
... and a villain of course lurks in the proverbial shrubbery
There are moments that I really enjoyed in this misplaced unintended relationship.
More than once I was struck by Felicity's introspective musings about their relationship. 'Did a gallant knight ever bring his lady anything more precious than hope?'
Frisson aplenty, steamy romance and more. Good reading!

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, October 31, 2013

of murder, spies and motor cars

Hardcastle's Traitors (A Hardcastle and Marriott Historical Mystery) by Graham Ison 

London, 1915 and New Year's Eve is being seen in by a Zeppelin air raid.
For Divisional Detective Inspector Ernest Hardcastle of the Met. the New Year brings a robbery at a jewelry-cum-pawnbroker's, and  a murder.
Hardcastle is a bit of a stickler.
In terms of type, Hardcastle is not as likeable as the perceptive Foyle, more aware of rank and what's due than Jack Frost, maybe a bit more like Oscar Blaketon of Heartbeat, or not.
Really, there's very little personally endearing about the man, apart from his dedication to the chase, which sometimes is derailed or more often nailed by what DS Marriott calls, 'one of the guv'nor's flights of fancy.'

Set in his ways and pedantic, he has strong opinions. Women shouldn't work, or vote, the advent of police cars is  questionable, the telephone 'is a new fangled device that won't last long.' Hardcastle does think fingerprints are a good thing. They have helped him to solve crimes in the past.He forges ahead oblivious to the demand a he places on his underlings.  His long suffering sidekick, Detective Sergeant Charles Marriott is on the case. Fortunately Marriott is 'accustomed to the DDI ignoring the common courtesies.'
Marriott is a splendid foil for Hardcastle. More caring and considerate of his fellow officers, yearning for time to spend with his family, he wonders from time to time why he took this position.
As an aside, in 1915, bowler hats are apparently de rigour for all Senior Detectives.
Murders, spies, deserters, MI5 interest, and Zionist plots are all grist for the mill in this latest Hardcastle and Marriott investigation.

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Captivating!

Rumors that Ruined a Lady (The Armstrong Sisters) by Marguerite Kaye   

Two people who really were soul mates but circumstances, duty and family kept them apart.
Caro, Lady Caroline Rider, always wanting evidence of her father's love, is used as a pawn in  her father' larger game of Marital Chess for his daughters. (As her sister Cressida calls the whole debutante Marriage Mart process).
Sebastian Conway, Marquis of Ardhallow, all his life rejected by his father, is conversely both a rake in society and a recluse when on his estate.
Both are shaped by their upbringing and need for approval. 
With family estates adjoining, Caroline and Sebastian meet when sixteen year old Caro trespasses. An memorable time for both of them.
Eleven years after this initial meeting Sebastian finds Caro almost dead from ingesting opium at a society party.
Caro having left her husband and a farcical, abusive marriage, has been disowned by her father. Near destitution she has given up all hope.
Sebastian takes her back to his estate to recover.
The story develops from there. We are taken back in time to vignettes of significant instances, where over the years they have renewed their acquaintance prior to the present. 
Would they overcome the very real obstacles before them, much less acknowledge how they felt about each other?
Would they bow to the very real pressures of their time and society?
I really liked both Sebastian and Caro as leading characters.
The gradual blossoming of their love over the years and more importantly over the last intensive months is beautifully told.
All does not flow smoothly. Their struggles and subsequent growth are poignant. Their sexual encounters are at once reasonably explicit, yet tasteful.
As the story unfolded I was captivated.
Keyes gives an insightful introduction into her writing process, how she shepherded the characters to where they now move from and what she is trying to achieve.
Issues surrounding woman as property in marriage, the difficulty of divorce both in terms of ecclesiastical and legal requirements, legal status and financial responsibilities, social stigma, divorce and children during Regency times are raised. Things that seem far away from todays perspective.  We should remember that overall no-fault divorce has only been around from about 1968 to mid 70's. Not so very long ago.
This was an enjoyable read. So much so that the family nearly missed out on dinner. I was too engrossed to shop, let alone cook.

A NetGalley ARC 

...a first rate twisty Elizabethan intrigue!

Crimson Rose (A Kit Marlowe Mystery) by M.J. Trow 
                                             
Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan play write and supposed spy for Francis Walsingham has a new play, Tamburlaine, being performed.
Will Shakespeare has a part. He is to fire a gun during the performance. He discharges his gun and in the aftermath it is discovered that he has killed someone in the audience--his landlady. That's just the beginning. It's up to Kit to solve the riddle, and clear Shakespeare. Bodies begin to litter the novel's stage. A corpse is fished from the Thames.
Dodgy doings and swindling is at hand. Spies are thicker on the ground than a London fog.    

The action includes a dangerous chase through the narrow streets alleyways, and a murderer most unexpected.
Trow has made use of interesting historical fact and speculation such as the relationship between Kit and and William Shakespeare, the thought that Marlowe might have been a crown spy, and other factors to great advantage.    

Two of the nefarious toughs we first meet attempting a swindle on Marlowe, we continue to meet throughout the story. They are Nicholas Skeres and Ingram Fritzer.  (Historically rumoured to have stabbed Kit to death.)
The problem Kit is having with his Masters Degree being conferred by his Cambridge college, Corpus Christi, a matter that forms part of the background in this novel, is sorted out by the Chief Secretary, one of Walsingham's associates. (That this historically actually was a problem for Marlowe, solved by outside pressure, suggests some think, that Marlowe did indeed work for the crown.)
Kit's investigations leads him into a nest of Protestants. But as one says to him there are many groups, 'What is it they call us? Puritans? Well it takes all sorts, Brother, all sorts. We are actually fifty shades of grey when all is said and done.' A nicely used line by Trow. Wryly amusing.
A thoroughly good yarn!

Monday, October 28, 2013

...stepping into the unknown, a world of rules and treachery

Relic (The Books of Eva #1) by Heather Terrell   

Another dystopian novel touted to be 'like the hunger games.' Ok, there is a time of testing and a new world order to be overthrown. Relic is not like The Hunger Games. (Really publishers! Get over it! Move on!) It has similarities but then it has similarities to many other books where:
*Civilization as we know it has ended due to some catastrophe. (It seems about 250 years ago here)
*Technology is demonized (I love that Apple is touted as the god symbol,the evil cause of civilizations downfall and that iPads are seen as travelling altars of worship)
*A new order has arisen, the people are conservative and  inward looking with strict rules about things like how much naked skin can be revealed, tasks are allotted according to gender etc.
*Testing of the warrior/leadership class, in this case involves survival outside the city in the Arctic wasteland
*Some sort of quest. Here to find a Relic of some significance washed up on the Frozen Shores during the time of Healing (really a catastrophic flood). The finder has to chronicle stories about the Relic that will sustain the myth of the Lex chosen, those from the Aerie.
Eva takes her turn, the first woman for many years to do so. Factions are aligned against her.
A knowledge of the rules, a study of the ancient manuscripts, can be used to discover new information and to use against those in authority. When Eva is challenged about staking her claim she can challenge knowledgeably.
There is an unknown probably powerful group of people who are acting clandestinely to preserve the status quo. The death of Eva's twin, Eamon hints at this.
The arrival of these newcomers to the Arctic disrupted the way of the original inhabitants  (it seems the descendants of the Inuit) who present a different face to the new closed community for reasons of their own. Whilst to the Aerie inhabitants the indigenous peoples appear as less than civilized. The original inhabitants have their own reasons for going along with the new arrivals suppositions.
The use of biblical references are reworked to promote this new society's beliefs and aims according to the leadership goals. 
It's not the Hunger Games. It's a promising read. I am hoping the next books build on that latent promise and the series blossoms as it moves forward.

A NetGalley ARC


...'dark magic could make her just as dangerous'

A Study in Darkness (The Baskerville Affair #2) by Emma Jane Holloway

Baker Street has been bombed! Holmes and Evelina Cooper, his niece, have a narrow escape. Evelina is sure that the detonator is the work of Tobias.
Now Evelina is in trouble. She plays into Jasper Keating's hands and ends up working for him.  Keating, the Gold King steam baron, wants her to uncover the truth about what the Blue King, better known as the Coal King, is planning. 
However, after insulating herself into the Blue King's domain Evelina discovers that Dr. Magnus has returned from the dead with Seraphina his life like automation, and a cohort of automated ballet dancers. Dr. Magnus is the Blue King's maker and Evelina is forced to work with him. Despite his darkness there is something about Magnus that makes him seem reasonable to Evelina. He is a magician, a mesmerizer. Repartee between Evelina and Magnus always on the edge of a dangerous and dark sarcasm.

Evelina and Nick have become reacquainted with their relationship moving to a new level.
Magnus is after that which the gold casket hid which he suspects the pirate Nick has.  Evelina is the bait, sandwiched between these two powerful men, well three really.
Tobias is a cad in my opinion, but Alice, his wife and daughter to Keating, turns up trumps. Poppy, Imogen and Tobias' little sister, turns out to be quite innovative in uncovering family secrets.
Meanwhile, Imogen Roth, is becoming sensitive to strange dreams. In love with Bucky Penner, but forbidden to see him, she is trapped, with a whole new theatre of horror opening up before her. The dreams of darkness within Imogen have escalated and a murdered woman is part of it, her throat slit just like Grace Child's. Imogen dreams true.
Rebellion is brewing and Mycroft Holmes is somewhere in the middle of it all. Who is the School Master? What is afoot? The code or organization Baskerville is heard of again.
More is revealed about Lord Bancroft and the automations dark history.
Questions are answered, but the answers only reveal new questions.
Closure appears imminent, but hold fast, because added depths open up like wormholes and sweep us into a seemingly never ending vortex of plots within plots.
The second in the series certainly maintained it's edge.
Hold on for the ride! A Victoriana steam punk mesmerizer!

A NetGalley ARC