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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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

...in such beginnings, endings are held

The Sunset Warrior (The Sunset Warrior Cycle, 1) by Eric Van Lustbader 

'Ronin was dying.' The opening lines. Perhaps not Ronin himself but certainly the way of life in Freehold is in its death throes. The code is under attack. War is coming and with it a breakdown of the old traditions and a replacing with new. Factions are jockeying into key positions. Who is the enemy?
Science and a reason versus mages and magic as Ronin, an unaligned Bladesman is drawn into the secrets of Freehold, its post apocalyptic beginnings and it's failing, the secrets of its
beginnings and the consequences for its future. The descriptive aspects of Freehold and the outside are fulsome and alive. Unfortunately the storyline itself just did not pull me in as I wanted it to.

A NetGalley ARC

...a traitorous love!


What a Hero Dares (The Redgraves #4) by Kasey Michaels 

In this volume the search for the leader of the secret hellfire club continues. All our favourite Redgrave characters are here. The threat of a Bonaparte inspired invasion is still present. The family's investigation into its duplicitous, treasonous and debauched past continues. They continue the search for the journals, the records of the society's members and plans.   
Trixie and the faithful Richard Borders, now married, are once more entrenched in the action as is Kate.
Our interest is focused from the viewpoint of another member of the Redgrave cohort, soldier and spy Maximillien Redgrave. Devastated by the betrayal of his lover and companion Zoe Charbonneau, now recognized as a double agent Max has infiltrated a smuggling ring. En route to England Max is astounded to discover Zoe on his ship.
Questions intersect each other. Who was the traitor in France, who is the leader of the revived society, what is their connection?
This is Max and Zoe's story. I loved it when Richard said to Zoe, 'Together you must have been pure beauty to watch in action.' To me that sums up their relationship...pure beauty, a matched pair of panthers...sleek, dangerous and made for each other. They have much to work out. The sooner they do, the sooner the chase can be taken up, the society pursued and the traitor exposed. 
Another fascinating episode!  Make no mistake there's action, betrayal, bloodshed, and steamy romance in spades. All the members of the family are up to their usual tricks and none more so than Trixie Redgrave, the Dowager Countess. Another roller coaster ride!

A NetGalley ARC

Romance and mystery! Excellent!

After the Scandal (The Reckless Brides #4) by Elizabeth Essex  



Wow! Tanner and Claire! Wonderful stuff! 
Foolishly going for a stroll on the terrace, Lady Claire Jellicoe is attacked by her escort, Lord Peter Rosing. Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, rescues Claire from the would-be rapist. Together they escape the frightening reality of the situation and Tanner takes her by punt along the Thames to relax. Only they discover a body. It is the lady's maid, Maisy Carter that Claire had used at Tanner's grandmother's house party.
Claire doesn't want to return to the party and Tanner wants her safe. Even before he met her he'd been 'devoted to this exquisite orchid of a young woman.' He'd loved her from afar, madly and secretly.
Tanner and Claire continue their trip to Chelsea to try to uncover more information about the dead maid. This is only the beginning.
As the story progresses we see the vulnerability of Tanner and the strength beneath the outward fragility of Claire.
Propriety be damned--Claire wanted justice. She found both love and justice!
Tanner Evans had not always been a Lord. He'd been a thief, the Tanner!
The background of Tanner is indeed 'ripe for the plucking' in terms of rewarding stories.
A sentiment the author confirms in her post script.
Note to self: Must make sure to read the whole series!
Post Script: I have now read all in the series thus far and am even more enamoured by The Reckless Brides stories.

A NetGalley ARC

Perry come through again!

Death on Blackheath: A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel by Anne Perry

Blood and hair and broken glass on stone steps, a disappeared lady's maid in a household near Greenwich. Special Branch Commander Pitt is called in because Owner Dudley Kynaston is 'deeply involved in matters of naval defense.'     
Rosalind Kynaston is puzzled, but all Ailsa, Mrs. Bennett Kynaston, the Dudley's widowed sister-in-law, and uncharitable piece of work can say is, how dare maid,  Kitty Ryder, meet someone unsuitable so close to the house and if she does return she should be dismissed.
Was the hair and blood evident of an argument, or something more dire?
That's what Pitt and the stalwart Stoker have to ascertain. We learn more about who Stoker is in this volume. One's heart warms to this man!
There are other high up persons and offices interested in what's going on. Edam Talbot for one. Things spiral out in concentric rings from here to a surprising end.
I sympathized with what Charlotte is undergoing. Her sadness that sharing in Pitt's cases as she used to is less possible with his new position. Not that that slows her down too much.

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, March 24, 2014

Powerful and satisfying!

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist by Ruchama King Feuerman 

Souls are searched, feelings exposed and motives uncovered in this fascinating novel. A tale of dreams lost and new directions found--however unexpected.
Forty year old Isaac Markowitz left his haberdashery shop in the Lower East Side and came to Israel. He has been assisting a Kabbalist, an unimposing, gentle rabbe who along with his wife dispenses wisdom to the neighbourhood and to those who seek answers.
Mustafa, a Muslim works on the Temple Mount as a custodian. His neck has been damaged since birth with his head turned looking over his right side. He cannot turn his neck straight on. All his life he has been disparaged, rejected and dismissed as of no worth because of this difference.
I must admit I too found it hard to look at Mustafa in our first encounters.  
Then his humanness took over, his longing to be worthy, his actions of endeavouring to be the best kohein, his desire for friendship and acceptance.    
Isaac is really a similar soul to Mustafa. Unsure, damaged yet working towards being more worthwhile, of discovering who he is and can become.
That first encounter between Isaac and Mustafa is so brief and passing, yet from that moment Mustafa finds a new way of looking at his tasks, as that of a kohein, a high priest, caring for the temple.
Truly, a Woody Allen sadness imbibes them both.
For me the story is drawn in browns and greys with flashes of crimson.
The ironies revealed, their juxtapositions, are simple and deep, sometimes delightful and at others devastating.
I enjoyed Isaac's developing relationship with Mustafa, with Tamar the new convert, and his realization about the nature of the relationship between Rabbe Yehudah and his wife.
Mustafa brings an artifact, a clay pomegranate to show the rebbe that he has found on the Mount. From this action flows a river of consequences for both him and Isaac.
At once beautifully and starkly told with wonderful twists and revelations. The memory stays with you.

A NetGalley ARC

'Her Cinderella Moment'

Desperately Seeking Suzanna (Tricks of the Ton #2) by Elizabeth Michels

Sue Green is a complicated young woman. Artistic and intelligent, she is ignored because of her sisters' beauty, condemned by her harpy of a mother as unattractive and not worth worrying about. No wonder her rebellious streak rises from time to time.
Persuaded by her sisters to crash a masquerade ball, Sue becomes Suzanna for one reckless night of laughter and hanky panky in the library with a reknown rake, Lord Holden Ellis.
Holden has his own set of secrets.
That one night with Sue has him hankering to track down the mysterious cousin of the Fairly sisters.
And here's where it goes awry. Just as the prince never saw Cinderella amongst the cinders, so does Holden never truly see Sue amongst her sisters.
As awareness comes, other matters vie for his attention. I'm afraid Holden is quite dense and insulting to Sue in more ways than one. He does indeed break her heart.  
A regency romp with a difference, although tying your virginal beloved hands to the bedpost on the 'first' occasion seems a tad hasty.
I must admit that I want to smack some sense into Holden from time to time as he's really quite thick and self centred. But then again he has a list of wrongs done to him that sets him up for being how he is.
I do wish more could have been made of Sue's artistic abilities.
Side stories from other Tricks of the Ton novels intrude and our attention is drawn by hints or memories. I still wonder why Holden, when out for a morning ride, ends up racing against a young female person with an auburn braid who ride a astride in breeches--possibly related to Trevor Moore. Certainly Lilian and Mad Lord Thornton are present. We have hints about their story as well but all these whispers seem to crowd the story at tad. I loved Must Love Dukes and here I don't really recognize Lily and Lord Thornton as the characters I adored. They are preoccupied and acting out another story off screen.
In fact that's my problem there are fabulous moments and happenings throughout the novel but their linking doesn't flow for me. Still, I really enjoyed the character of Sue and I will continue to read the rest of the series.

A NetGalley ARC

Shines!

The Golden Apple by Michelle Diener  


Witches, kings with secrets, a princess with a hidden talent, dark magic, wild magic, evil sorcerers, giant cats--the list goes on and the telling of these happenings enrich every page.
Princess Kayla of Gaynor is placed by her father in a gilded chair atop a glass mountain. Whomever reaches her and 'plucks' the golden apple from her lap will have won her hand in marriage and become heir to the kingdom.
...'if [Kayla] had been clamped naked into the stocks she could not have felt more exposed, more vulnerable. more disrespected.'
The Princess however has not submitted to this indignity entirely. She has taken some matters into her own hands prior to this mortifying contest.
She makes further choices now. Her father wore gloves when he placed the apple into her lap with instructions not to touch the apple. Kayla decides otherwise!
She recognizes that what the contenders want is power. What she wants is not considered.
Rane is battling for his brother's life. He cannot count the cost to the Princess or himself. Jasper is holding his brother Soren captive. Jasper wants the apple in exchange for Soren's life.
But Dark sorcery is at work and Rane and the Princess Kayla are ensorcelled. They must enter the Great Forest and fulfill a task before they can be freed. A task fraught with dangers and uncertainty. The Great Forest is a place alive with wild magic--primeval and unpredictable. And yet these surroundings will force the discovery of a hidden talent within Kayla
I loved the cover design. The colours, the astounding purple tones of the dress, the way the golden colours of the apple clasped in the figure's hand focuses our attention. The line of the dress against the figure's back is entrancing. All are set against a forest background, portraying an atmosphere that is at once both gorgeous and mysterious.
I am drawn back to the cover, it's colours and this view of Kayla when I read Rane's thoughts as he walks behind her.
'Having her in front of him all day...he can see the delicate nape of her neck, a hint of the smoothness of her back, [this] aroused him far more than seeing any woman naked.'
We see Rane seeing Kayla, not just in the poetic imagery of Diener's words but through the visual imagery of Laura Morrigan's wonderfully appropriate cover.
I am enthralled by both.
A sparkling story loosely based on a Norwegian fairy tale, the Princess on the Glass Hill. Diener once more demonstrates her storytelling talents with The Golden Apple.

A NetGalley ARC

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Charming!

The Weaver Takes a Wife (Weaver #1) by Sheri Cobb South  


What can you do when cupid's arrow strikes and leaves you dazzled by a veritable princess (well in this case a daughter of a Duke)...and you a self made man of 'Trade', a 'cit?'
Well if your determined like Mr Ethan Bundy you forge ahead despite all. After all a cat can look at a Queen. 
The love story of Lady Helen Radney and Ethan is absolutely delightful, leavened throughout with a wry humour.
'elen' as Bundy calls his wife Helen is a wilful shrew who finds her way to love.
Ethan Bundy, a man of strong inner character and wonderful gentleness, is the mill owner who dares to love above his station. A man without subterfuge, honest and worthy. A man whose strengths slowly dawn on his wife. A man who as Helen says, 'took Almack's by storm.'
In this case of pursuing true love it's fortunate that the lady in question's father, the Duke of Reddington, is an inveterate gambler and just shy of being hauled up River Tick, as they say. And that Ethan is just the man to assist the Duke with his monetary embarrassment .
Of course there's the blaggard Lord Waverley who tries to twist the situation between Helen and Ethan to his own advantage, not to mention the charming scrape grace of a brother whose antics heighten the situation and lead Helen down a path she's reluctant to go.
As a story of love pursued, love rejected and love found, this rendition is thoroughly enjoyable and ageless. A celebratory 15 year anniversary reprint with a lively forward by Mary Balogh it is indeed a treat. I for one am grateful that this republication has brought the book to the fore for a fresh batch of readers like myself to enjoy. I smiled the whole reading through!

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fabulous!

The Lascar's Dagger: The Forsaken Lands by Glenda Larke   

Oh, I enjoyed this! All the necessary aspects are present to coalesce into a sparkling work with a brilliant plot. Vividly descriptive, the writing ensured my interest was held from beginning to end. 
Kings, evil prelates, a princess who in battling to order her own life never counts the cost to others, witchery and old magic, guile and truth, miracles and more.
Oh! and an investigator of the order of the Va-Faith maligned and nullified, left to die naked and chained to a tree in the coldest hours of the night. Saker Rampion is an Ardronese witan, a spy for the Pontifect of Va-Faith, sent to the Kingdom of Lowmeer, not once but twice. The first time is to find out if the merchants of Lowmeer have found the Spicerie (the source of spices), the second as a spiritual tutor for Prince Ryce and the Princess, the Lady Matilda of Lowmeer.  An unlikely hero!
Sorrel Redwing has the gift of glamoury. Through heart breaking circumstances she ends up as a hand maiden for Lady Matilda. Sorrel's feet are firmly set on a path that will intersect with Saker's becoming involved in the mysteries he faces.   
Then there's the dreaded horn sickness and the killing of twins as carriers and what to do when the Queen is carrying twins?  And the dagger?
Well that's even more mysterious! On his first mission in Lowmeer, one that the Pontifect reminds him is to have no brawling or sword fights, indeed nothing to draw attention to his presence.  An instruction Saker fails to keep when, in pursuit of a lead, he is involved in fight in a spice warehouse with a Lascar, a sailor from the islands of the Summer Seas. The fight interrupts the clandestine meeting Saker is observing. There's an unexpected discovery and a chancy escape. Not before Saker notices some gold coloured sparkling filaments that had been hidden in a length of Bambu. As Saker escapes the Lascan throws the dagger at him. It is embedded in his leg. The dagger is 'oddly sinuous.' When Saker first saw it his mouth went dry. 'Sailors say that there is sorcery in a blade like that.'
The dagger it seems has its own agenda which includes, after injuring Saker, forsaking its Lascar owner and cleaving to Saker. It's a dagger that won't stay thrown away or left behind no matter how hard Saker tries.  Sorcery indeed!
Sorcery that involves what was hidden in the bambu. Sorcery that could enthral a King, bring done a kingdom, open the way for greater evil, and lead to untold havoc for not only the Summer Seas people but all who come under its sway.

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, March 13, 2014

...entertaining!

An accidental Affair (The Distinguished Rogues #4) by Heather Boyd

Finding true love is no easy thing. Widowed Arabella Lawson, Lady Farnsworth, 'not the type of woman to incite great passion in the gentlemen', comes to town to chaperone her niece, and with a personal 'mission'--to take a lover.
The thing is she was married off to a much older man and before she returns to a quiet country life she decides to live just a little, to find out the truth and hopefully the joy of a brief romance.
Stolen kisses in the library seem a start--or an ending.
Merrick Bishop, the Earl of Rothwell needs an heir.      
Some quiet biddable debutante seems the very thing. This restless rake is determined to be a faithful husband once married. He has his reasons! But those stolen kisses had rather more of an effect on him than he cares to admit.
Merrick is suffering the burden of his dead father's rampant casual affairs. The consequences have prompted Merrick to actions hidden away from society's view, actions more likely to earn their condemnation.
He, the relentless rogue, is secretly a man of ideals with a social conscience.
As he tells Arabella, Women are largely at a disadvantage in our society...They are expected to be silent when mistreated and have no grounds to complain or receive compensation for cruel use. It is wrong.'
Their relationship comes to a head when Arabella's dastardly villain of a brother-in-law attempts to sell her to the highest bidder! Something he has nor right to do as she is a the widow of his brother, albeit his responsibility. Arabella turns to Merrick for help. And what an entrance into his bachelor establishment that is!
Merrick's arranges for Arabella to be taken to a safe haven, not without some difficulties and confusion.
Then there's Merrick's secretary Anson Holland. What a delightful man. Actually, Merrick's staff are all rather special.
And Merrick's dreaded aunt Pen-- well she turns out to be a trooper!
An above average rattle with enough of a twist in the tail to sustain my interest.

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

...another Cameron winner!

The Fell Sword (The Traitor Son Cycle #2) by Miles Cameron  

Miles Cameron continues to maintain the tension in this next volume of his highly addictive Traitor Son series.   
Heroic fantasy complete with heart-stopping, exhausting battles, palace intrigues, geo-political manoeuvres and the occasional romance all mixed up with knights, mercenaries, magisters and creatures of the Wild in this medieval referencing landscape. Oh and did I mention boggles, trolls and irks. Renegade sorcerer and aether handler Thorn develops new and more powerful magics. The Red Knight has his hands full! Magister Harmodius still shares his body, and that's a whole 'nother story.  The Emperor has been seized, there are spies in the palace, the Red Knight's men are being poisoned, his horses have been killed and assassins  are  in place. Of course all our favourites are present; Bad Tom, Mags, Sauce, Ser Michael, and Kaitlin to name a few.
Fast paced and compelling. A fitting next chapter!

A NetGalley ARC

Sunday, March 9, 2014

...the pain continues

From Every Bitter Thing: The Real Story of Guenevere and Lancelot by Robert Rice


Finally! A rendering that makes sense of the Guenevere and Lancelot story.  
Not that of a faithless queen and a foresworn trusted knight, but a tale of cultural differences and understandings running counter to each other. Of old beliefs pitted against new and of  kingdom skirmishes and territorial grabs.    
The story of Guenevere, a pict priestess and a King's daughter and Lancelot her mercenary champion, chosen from before her political marriage to Arthur. Their relationship set against pict women's rights and practices give rise to the many misunderstandings about the triangle of Guenevere, Arthur and Lancelot a different focus. But first there was Lancelot.
Guenevere is a woman used and a woman betrayed. Arthur is the High King seeking a dream, it seems at any cost. Beyond that is a story of love and betrayal that had the power to bring this reader to tears.

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

David...a masterful Lonely Lords addition!

David: Lord of Honor (Lonely Lords #9) by Grace Burrowes

The opening has us sympathizing with David over his having inherited an elegant, expensive brothel. As we are told this should be every young gentleman's unbridled fantasy. David Worthington, fourth Viscount Fairly, bemoans the fact. Owning a brothel brings a myriad of problems.
David's interest in Mrs Letticia Banks is due to her having been the mistress of his deceased brother-in-law, Lord Amery.
David needs a Madame, Letticia needs employment. Certainly this looks like a way forward for both of them.
Of course, nothing is that simple. As David and Letty are thrown together the attraction between them surfaces. And of course Letty's road to her current state has a sympathetic back story.
Oh and yes, 'feet' feature once more in this masterful Lonely Lords addition.  As David and Letty embark on a fuller relationship David reflects, 'he'd touched her feet before, and it seemed a safe--and biblically humble--place to start.' I love the imagery of this line. 
Douglas Allen, the Viscount of Amery becomes one of my  hero's in his discussion about women with David. No wonder he and David are friends. Two compassionate men, yet both so very different. I have enjoyed them both right from the first moment of meeting them.
His confidences to David about Letty reveal the thoughtful depths of the man. Douglas, adorable man, shocks David by suggesting that rather than bed Letty, he David, should marry her. Well that rather takes David aback!
I loved it when Douglas describes David as 'an odd duck...a saint by some standards, a lunatic by others.' This is such an apt comment about David.
Once more David's medical know come to the fore in relation to Douglas's wife Rose,  her pregnancy and the impending birth. We learn more about David's previous life and marriage.
What a wonderful person he is and Letty matches him.
The emotions, the sensitivity of David, the sympatico of Letty make for some singularly sweet love scenes, that hum with the very essence of tender love, desire, understanding and appreciation.
So why does Letticia want to leave him? Therein is the mystery! A mystery right to the end.
I do so love this family, all are as mismatched and charismatic as David's eyes, and I love that they rally in support of each other and stand shoulder to shoulder!

A NetGalley ARC

Wolves reign again!

Silence of the Wolf (Heart of the Wolf #13) by Terry Spear 

This shapeshifting werewolf story with all the right ingredients, continues the saga of the inhabitants of Silver Town.
Warm, sleek,half coyote, half wolf-gal meets sexy handsome wolf-guy. There's an attempted kidnapping, unsolved murders and mysterious strangers hanging around the town.
Loner, Elizabeth Wildwood, turns up in grey wolf country ostensibly to do a story about skiing at a Colorado resort. She runs into Tom Silver, youngest brother of pack leader Darien. Sparks fly between them.      
Elizabeth has connections to the neighbouring Bruin's pack through her father, although she had never been part of it. She's in Silver Town to contact North Redding, a wolf from her past, part of Bruin's pack, who says he has information about her parents' murderers.  
As part of covering her story she heads up the ski slopes to take photos. Pausing on the edge of the trail to take random shots of the action, Elizabeth is injured by a stranger who comes out of nowhere and slams into her sending her down a steep incline. Was it deliberate or an accident?
The story flows from here with typical Spear flair. We catch up with old friends from unexpected places. Bjornolf Jorgenson and Anna turn up, and we make new friends. Outcasts come in from the cold, and unresolved relationships flourish.
We are left at the end of the novel with a few possible hints about the future. Newcomers are apparently coming to Silver Town to renovate the old hotel, and just who did Tom and Elizabeth run into at the butchers shop near Elizabeth's apartment who muttered 'Dogs' at them? 
Action packed with great tempo, Silence of the Wolf is a fun fast paced read!

A NetGalley ARC

Sapphires sparkle brilliantly!

Sapphires Are an Earl's Best Friend (Jewels of the Ton #3) by Shana Galen 



Enter stage right smart, sassy, knows her business, Lillian Beatrice Dawson, the Duchess of Charm, a notorious courtesan and in a reality government spy.
Lily is assigned to find the identity of Artemis the code name for an Englishman turned traitor who holds papers that would reveal the identities of English spies abroad.
It is suspected that culprit is the Duke of Ravenscroft. Early on hints are thrown out that all might not have been as it seemed in the Ravenscroft household.
Lily goes undercover as a guest at the Duke of Ravenscroft's house party.  In truth more an excuse for a raunchy time for lechers and various women of questionable morals who skirt the edge of tonnish circles. Her assignment is to beguile the Duke, gain access to his home  and search for the list.
Enemy agent, Lucifer, making another appearance in the Jewels series, is after the same list.
Unfortunately Andrew Booth-Payne, Earl of Darlington, the Duke's son, the darling of the ton and the man she has loved forever is there. Awkward!
Lily becomes engaged to the Duke and involved with Andrew.
Andrew is more a liability than a lover. He keeps foiling Lily in her attempts to search the house for the list. Really, I loose all patience with Andrew. 
A tad too late in my mind he realizes that what he had before him in Lily was better than what he'd hankered after with Lily's friend, fellow courtesan and spy, Juliette.
He does admit to frequent lapses into idiocy so there's hope for him. Andrew just didn't grow up quickly enough for me and I really thought Lily deserved better. Lily sparkles, Andrew just doesn't.

A NetGalley ARC

Amusing romp!

Loving Lord Ash (Duchess of Love #3) by Sally MacKenzie  

Being the son of Venus, the Duchess of Love produces it's own problems. Her sons head for the hill at the slightest hint that Mama is pursuing their interests with only one thing in mind, well two. Matrimony, and a Happy Marriage!
Her eldest son, Kit, Marquis of Ashton, returns to Blackweith Manor to see his wife Jess, whom he hasn't seen for eight years. He needs an heir. They come to a agreement! Not without Ash completely jumping to all the wrong conclusions. There are no women at the manor but there are some very handsome footmen. 
What a conundrum!  They decide  to avoid the pressure of Ash's mother, the Duchess, but run slap bang into her. Ho hum!
There are some truly hilarious parts, such as when Jess looses the soap in the bath and she asks Kit to find it.
I do enjoy the way a line from Venus graces the beginning of each chapter as a prelude to what comes. 
A delightful read!       

A NetGalley ARC