About Me

My photo
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

Saturday, November 28, 2015

...deceit and betrayal!

The Striker (Highland Guard, #10) by Monica McCarty


Eoin MacLean's decision to become one of Robert the Bruce's strike force team, The Highland Guards, plays havoc with his personal life. But then Eoin wasn't expecting to be captivated by a wild, red headed, bewitching young woman, Margaret MacDowell, whose father's enmity is legend.
Happiness is replaced by anger. Eoin's promise to not reveal the secret of the Highland Guards is ripe ground for mistrust between himself and Margaret to erode to the point of no return.  Margaret is all that is admirable in the way she seeks to support and understand him, but perceived rejection and frequent snubs worms away at her self confidence. 
Convinced he has been betrayed by Margaret, Eoin turns his back on their marriage and takes up the mantle of his reported death. Some years later, when he learns that Margaret is about to remarry, Eoin has second thoughts, particularly as his Lazarus reappearance behind the English lines, will cause consternation for Bruce's enemies.
What his return causes for Margaret, and the surprises Eoin will face, are very different from the outcome he anticipated, leaving them both shaken and reeling in shock.
Filled with surprises, treachery, misunderstandings and heart throb moments, this addition to the Highland Guards series is just as addictive as it's running mates. Once again the midnight candle burned brightly. I couldn't put Eoin and Margaret's story down until I'd reached the very end.

A NetGalley ARC

****

A compelling labyrinth of events!

Forbidden love

Highland Heat (Highland Knights #2) by Jennifer Haymore

Lady Grace Carrington had no idea when she strode the battle lines after Waterloo looking for survivors, that the injured soldier (with the startling, blue-green aquamarine eyes) she finds will become more important to her than breathing.

Duncan Mackenzie, enlisted soldier, little knows as he gazes upon Grace, that his heart is about to be lost to this determined, titled lady.      
Grace's sister Claire has come to Waterloo on the eve of the battle to try to mend the rift with her husband, Major Sir Robert Campbell, and Duncan's superior.
A love affair that stretches from Waterloo to Scotland is born. Along the way these two have to cope with Grace's testy father, the Earl of Norsey, a member of the older aristocracy. (That line says it all) A commoner is not the match for the daughter of such an Earl.
After the battle Duncan returns to London having been reassigned to a newly formed, internal elite force, The Highland Knights, that includes Campbell. Their task is 'to work at home in the interests and protection of the crown.'
This story of love across the classes has much to recommend it. I cannot help but think that the post Waterloo scenes are not as gripping as could be. The picture of Grace trudging the fields encrusted in mud is realistic, the scene at the medical tent has merit, but when I compare this to the time honoured images from Georgette Heyer's, An Infamous Army, the picture is left a little wanting. Maybe an unfair comparison, but I expected more of what was a horrifying scene.
I was somewhat shocked at how quickly Duncan and Grace leapt into a physical relationship, but then war has a way of having those effected focus on just being alive. The scenes are filled with the unbearable sweetness of newly awakened feelings and the growing love between the Grace and Duncan is well done. Duncan is rather magnificent in his care for Grace and likewise Grace in her care for him. I did rather enjoy their wicked banter about the advantages of kilts over trews. Haymore leaves us in no doubt that these two are indeed soul mates. 
I must say that the Earl of Norsey surprises.
I can see that I will want to know the stories that come set around this band of men, The Highland Knights, survivors of Waterloo, who are forging stronger bonds of brotherly support,  joined as they are already by the experience of war and the devastation of that final battle.
An enjoyable read. I am looking forward to more. 

A NetGalley ARC

****

Monday, November 23, 2015

Enthralling!

The Lost Soul of Lord Badewyn (Order of the M.U.S.E.) by Mia Marlowe!



The central story weaves around Meg Antony, now ward of the Duke of Camden and leader of the M.U.S.E.  Meg is a 'finder', her gift being that she can find people and objects psychically.
When reality takes on biblical proportions, time and the heavens stand still. Meg is sent by Edward St James, the Duke of Camden, and mastermind behind the group, to Wales for protection from her cruelly recalcitrant family. Down on their luck since Meg has gone, they are looking to grab her back in order to continue the life of crime they had subjected her to.
Little does Meg understand that she is fleeing from the devils she knows to the dark angel she doesn't.
Samuel Templeton, Lord Badewyn is an unusual man--a watcher. But that is the most normal thing about him. Samuel's family history is shrouded in a mystery of biblical proportions enacted from the beginnings of time.
Actually I was rendered speechless by the interesting direction this episode in the stories of M.U.S.E. has taken. The premises Marlowe puts forward as the basis of the plot is fabulously different and utterly fascinating.
I was drawn in by the straightforward, delightfulness of Meg and by the taciturn, deliberate character of Lord Badewyn, a man draped in inner pain.
The path towards Samuel's redemption is rocky but Meg is a brave lass. The Duke of Camden and Lady Vesta join them as Camden searches for release from, and information about, his wife Mercedes' death. What he discovers sets him back on his heels and sends him racing back to London.
More than one of the M.U.S.E. members or satellites has the threads of resolution drawn together for them in this chapter of this rather exclusive 'club'. 

A NetGalley ARC

*****



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Intriguing!

The Golden Braid (Medieval Fairy Tale Romance #2) by Melanie Dickerson



Featuring some intriguing twists to the Rapunzel story. I wondered how 'the tower' was going to fit into plot. Dickerson has very cleverly made the tower segment seem absolutely normal and believable, complementing all that leads to that moment. On the road to the town of Hagenheim with her mother Rapunzel meets a knight, Sir Gerek, who dismisses her as a poor peasant girl. Rather annoying really, as she ended up rescuing him from bandits after he'd just rescued her from the same bandits. Now he owes her, maybe!
What Rapunzel wants more than anything is to learn to read. Gerek is placed in a position to help--which he does, reluctantly.
The refrain we all know, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair," is not used in the way and place we envisage but nevertheless is referenced in many ways and for a variety of reasons to do with a young woman's place and reputation, of being unmarried, careful and modest. All rather intriguing within the context of the supposed time.
The characters are all carefully crafted. Rapunzel's mother is a quagmire of pathological tendencies. Still Rapunzel  treats her honourably even if that is not returned. There relationship is very interesting to the point of distressing sometimes.
There are many biblical references, but once again all are appropriate for the times given that Christianity had a major and central place in the medieval world. Indeed the idea of knights being models of godly behaviour dedicated to that ideal is not unusual. Beliefs are strong and as Rapunzel grapples to read she learns via the bible. Now even this is unusual due to the cost of books, and Latin would be needed but Rapunzel is so bright she learns this as well as German.
Rapunzel is a very unusual and courageous young woman. Just how unusual becomes apparent as the story progresses, and not just her abilities, her determination to read and better herself. Rapunzel's search for God and meaning form quite a big slice of her tale.
There are some quite fascinating features of the story, resolved in really creative ways. Unfortunately at times the way through was just a tad to contrived, which for me negated those highs of originality. An enjoyable read, made richer by having to reflect about the storyline, the characters, and the way it all comes together.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Absorbing Victorian romance!

The Reluctant Duchess by Sharon Cullen  



I knew this was going to be a five star read right from the opening pages. Mystery, murder and mayhem, my three favourite 'm's. Indeed I mostly smiled all the way through. Lady Sara Emerson has come to London to ask the help of her dead cousin’s fiancé, Gabriel Ferguson, Duke of Rossmoyne.  Her cousin Meredith had been fiendishly murdered two years ago and now someone was sending Sara scary letters that could be from the murderer.
Recently returned from a two year stint in India, Rossqmoyne agrees to help her on condition that she stay in his home with his mother as chaperone. Of course that also opens up its own set of  problems. 
Sara is totally different from Meredith--a fact Ross comes to appreciate the more he sees her.
With him she is refreshing and challenging. At social events she fades into the background. Puzzling behaviour indeed!
The pace is fast, one scenario tumbles after another gathering momentum. Sara's confrontation with Ross and her brave insistence on his help, the scenes with the child Thomas and their conversation, their visit to the rookeries, their midnight talks in the library. All set the atmosphere for what is an exciting and enjoyable read.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Love will find a way--with help!


This latest in the Marriage Game series, where titled bachelors meet their matches, and then some, has all the complexity and humour of an Oscar Wilde novel. Meg Featherton has been disappointed by two suitors and as a consequence has determined to settle for safety and comfort, not the unsteadiness of love. Her sights are set on Charles, Viscount Throughgood. Unbeknownst to Meg, Charles otherwise known as "Chuffy", has his eyes set on her best friend Amanda. 
The man who has been struck by Meg from the beginning, is Damon, Marquis of Hawksworth, handsome and pleasing to all but Meg. Hawksworth's boredom on return from the wars finds some release by leading the dandy set a merry race. Viewing his efforts, Meg dismisses him as a mere fribble. So we are launched on a tale thick with missed opportunities, misunderstandings, interferences, and mistimed happenings; all underpinned by the meddling of a trio of grande society dames. The plot has our lovers pushed down a twisted path towards true love, accompanied by healthy doses of humility. Meg and Damon are separately invited by Lady Bellamny, Damon's godmother, to her Christmas  house party. Matchmaking efforts at their best are trotted out by Lady B. with help from Meg's grandmother. The fact that Meg becomes more befuddled about the situation and her feelings for Damon as time goes on just adds a delightful tension to the situation. I want to say, 'Get over it Meg, move forward!' But no she seems stuck in the role she's given herself. Can Hawksworth can help her move away from being a victim to taking charge of her own life and feelings, to be proactive? Meg has become too scared to trust her own judgement having been taken in so thoroughly before. The thing is we see that Meg and Damon are in tune in many ways, and not just with the singing together vignettes we are treated to. Meg indeed has a long way to go before she'll let love slip through her guard.
I can't even begin to express my ire with Damon's father, the Duke of Somerset. His plotting and perfidy is rampant. Damon's relationship with his father is a major element to the story, dictating Damon's many reactions. 
Damon has seen the worst of the war. This has left him scarred. His discussion with Meg about the soldiers labelled the Forlorn Hope is fascinating. Their mention took me back to Richard Sharpe and Sharpe's War and his band of forlorn men. I am sure I heard the music as I read on. With this in mind, one is even more sure that Damon is a man of a different sort to those Meg is used to meeting. If only she could see it too.
Damon's determination to win his love, despite the conundrums that his courtship is strewn with, gives this Regency romance more than its fair share of enjoyable moments in the quest for true love.

A NetGalley ARC

*****


Christmas with a difference!

A Christmas Escape: A Novel by Anne Perry  


IIt took me a while to realize that this story is about Hester Monk's brother, Charles Latterly. Charles has decided to escape the harshness of a Victorian London Christmas and has journeyed to a small island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, containing one of three active volcanoes in Italy. His hostelry is perched against the upper reaches of the volcano.
Here Charles hopes to attain a measure of inner healing, a different perspective. What he finds is a strange mixture of guests and a volcano that appears anything but benign.
The dark grumbling of that entity are viewed differently by the guests. Some are drawn to it, others repelled.
Languid days, the mystery of the volcano, the sense of something almost mystical beyond the grasp of mere mortals colours the background and enhances the electricity amongst the various guests, all calmed by the host, Stefano whose culinary abilities seem to act at times as a soothing tonic not only for the guests but for the volcano itself.
The English guests are a very different group--some grating, others ineffectual and yet others discerning. Charles is much taken, as am I, by the delightfully precocious teen, Candace Finbar. A young girl who sees to the heart of things way beyond the normal scope of understanding with a maturity that belies her years. Her's and Charles' unlikely, charming friendship becomes a central focus.
All is not as it should be in this small guesting community and when the volcano spews forth it's anger and a member of the household dies, fleeing the danger portended by the volcano is spiked with the added realization that there is a killer amongst the company.
A very unusual story that speaks on a multitude of levels, a Christmas offering with a difference.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Monday, November 9, 2015

A startling and rich read!

Lady of Intrigue Kindle by Sabrina Darby


There are moments when the simplest of actions can be life changing crossroads. For Lady Jane Langley, on her way to the Vienna of 1814, to join her father, it was just an exchange of places into a another carriage. Who knew that this action would see her involved in an accident, be badly injured, witness a murder, and then...most startling  who  finds herself alone in a mountain cabin being cared for by the assassin. The visceral attraction between Lady Jane and her captor is astounding, best displayed in the holding back, the teetering on the edge of an undeniable passion, not the giving in, clearly described by each in their own reflective moments.
Gerard Badeau, illegitimate grandson to Lord Lansdowne, spy and assassin is struck by the singular intelligence and determination of Jane. He captures the wonder he sees in Jane in this one restrained comment, 'Jane--such a name for this woman'.
As time progresses we delve further into the mind of the Gerard, we are privy to his secrets, his methods, his beginnings, and some of his secrets. 
Finally returning to society (as Jane eventually must) Jane becomes a target for those endangered by her appearance. There are deep games afoot in Vienna and Jane finds herself in the midst of them.  Jane's father is a member of the British Delegation to the Congress at Vienna. Jane acts as his factual. Her standing in society certainly doesn't guarantee her safety--only Gerard can do that. But how can he protect them from each other?
I was overwhelmed by the emotional side of these two. Darby's writing explores the psychology of both the lead characters, their situations and the tensions strewn along their path to redemption. An unusual plot, evolving with a finesse and fascination that draws you in to the last word.

A NetGalley ARC

*****






Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Witty and entertaining!

The Irresistible Rogue (Playful Brides #4) by Valerie Bowman  

Playful Brides continues, this time with a Swift sibling in the major role. Daphne had grown up in a household dedicated to the service of their country, and even played a part. She married Captain Rafferty Cavendish as part of an assignment. Daphne is on the verge of becoming engaged to someone else, when Rafe returns and she discovers that the marriage she had supposed had been annulled has not! She is both furious and relieved. It has taken her sometime to go on with her life after Rafe, and now here he is upsetting her well laid plans!
What's to do! The Prince Regent was to take care of this! Rafe however has need of Daphne for one last assignment. 
Rafe is on the trail of the French handler who imprisoned him and took the life of Daphne's elder brother Donald, the former  Earl. He needs Daphne's help. The go-betweens speak Russian, as does Daphne.
There is a deeper game afoot though--a game of the heart and Daphne and Rafe have a long way to go before they can freely admit this.
A minor part is played by the other 'Playful Brides' Lucy, Cassandra and Jane, keeping their menfolk in line and giving Daphne much needed support and advice of a more sensual nature. And Delilah, Daphne's young cousin is brilliant--with her knowing ways, mischievousness, outrageous bargaining and delightful intermittent use of French. Currently a child, but definitely a coming force to be contended with.
This story is quite different from the other three in the series taking a different tack, but in the end it's about two people, drawn together and fighting that link.
Intelligent, adventurous and a worthy addition to the series and to my reading list.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

A captivating read!

Bella and the Beast (Cinderella Sisterhood #4) by Olivia Drake

From the opening I felt like I'd stumbled into a scene worthy of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Only set back a couple of hundred years to Regency England. Here it's the Cinderella Sisterhood and the magic artifact is not denim jeans but Garnett beaded slippers,  (to me) reminiscent of those Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz.  
Bella Jones has returned from Persia with her younger brother and sister to a small cottage in Oxford, England. On his deathbed her father, a noted ancient civilizations scholar instructs her to find the other half of an Egyptian treasure map from Alwyin. Who this is remains a mystery until her 'fairy godmother' the Countess of Milford, sends her off to secure a position as a curator with the taciturn, withdrawn Miles Grayson, the Duke of Aylwin, an avid collector of ancient artifacts.
Suspicious of all, Miles wants nothing to do with Bella. Despite his best intentions, he is totally beguiled by her. Not to worry, he can always set her up as his mistress. Bella of course has plenty to say about that. The sparks fly with these two, and the plot deepens with ghost sightings, theft and the threat of bodily harm. Bella continues to search for the all important half of the map.
As an aside, I do so love that Bella can use a small dagger to great effect.
Even as the very thought of Bella worms it's way into his heart, Miles finds it hard to overcome his mistrust of everyone, including her. After all, 'Miles kept his thoughts and emotions tightly locked inside the surly facade of a beast. And like a caged beast he snarled at anyone who dared to venture close to him.'
The Miles and Bella story, more Beauty and the Beast than Cinderella, is quite different from the usual regency story with just the right touch of the exotic.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Perfectly splendid!

Daniel's True Desire (True Gentlemen #2) by Grace Burrowes  


*Ten stars* for this latest True Gentleman episode. What a pleasure this latest of Grace Burrowes' novel is--fascinating, intelligent and complex. 
'True Desire' is a gem! Daniel Banks  is all that one could wish for. A gorgeous man, inside and out--good, true and desirable. He's been well and truly deceived by his wife who has taken herself out of his life. She is a murky, vain, grasping, self-centred woman, whose actions reflect this. Being separated is not the best recommendation for a country vicar, hence his move to Haddondale and a living under the aegis of the Earl of Bellefonte. 
Daniel is empathetic and honourable. He is a far cry from many of the vicars we come across in novels. This is a man who understands people out of the depths of his own humanness. Lady Kirsten Haddondale recognizes this about him.
Kirsten has been protected by her family. They understand some of her challenges, not all. They do however want to support her in her various pursuits and interests. The new vicar becomes one such interest
Daniel seems to see right into her heart. He understands who she is.
How I loved Daniel's straightforwardness, his integrity. 
His dealings with his loveable 'rotten' boys are simple, well thought out and deceptively intuitive. 
Notes of sunshine surround this story, despite the tension--it enlivens the soul and tackles the vagaries of life with zest.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Be careful what you wish for!

So I Married a Highlander (What Happens In Scotland #2) by Kate McKinley  


Lady Evelyn Alexander seems to have found herself in an interesting situation in her flight to Gretna Green to marry her fiancé, Stephen Crawford. The relationship is such that they should be able to should be able to rub along well enough together. Evelyn is determined to set up her own household, out from under the feet of her managing ducal brother, Lucas.  Lady Evelyn chivvies the bridegroom along rather than the other way around. She is very a 'take charge' managing young woman. And when her plans look like being thwarted Evelyn hies off looking for a solution.
Unfortunately:
1. Lady Evelyn is somewhat of a prima donna and feels the world is there for her to order around and assist her in pursuit of desires and she wants to be married before her brother can find them.
2. Lady Evelyn really shouldn't down strong drink when she's cross and trying to prove a point.
3. Lady Evelyn manages to lose her fiancé and has to find him, even if it means using the tantalizing, infuriating Alec Mcallister.
4. It seems that under the influence of strong drink Lady Evelyn's inhibitions are completely compromised, particularly when confronted by luscious Scottish blacksmith Alec McAllister--this relationship is definitely more than polite friendship.

The last thing Alec McAllister was looking for was a wife. Somehow he seems to have obtained one...and he's not sure that he wants to let her go!

A NetGalley ARC

****

A deliciously fun read!

His Housekeeper's Christmas Wish (Lords of Disgrace) by Louise Allen 
  

A timely Christmas story with just the right touch of sentimentality and humour.
Our hero, Alexander Tempest, Viscount Weybourn has locked off his emotions and been estranged from his family for many years.
Our heroine, Tess Ellery, is a delightful mix of gamine type wisdom with an innocence that sees through to the heart of things.
Tess keeps rescuing the down trodden and uncared for--from humans to animals.
And the human she wants to rescue is the one who effectively knocked her off her feet and then continued to make assumptions...dratted man, that were entirely off the mark and that led to Tess being Weybourn's temporary housekeeper.  Of course his staff love her and Tess' guilessness worms it's way underneath Alexander's indifferent mask and into his heart. 
Ah! But things are never so simple as to immediately lead to a HEA. The route is twisted and captures attention in this seasonal story that salutes the essence of Christmas.

A NetGalley ARC

****