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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, December 20, 2016

A deliciously heart warming read!


'I’m glad you didn’t die fighting'
For the new Duke of Murdoch, slightingly whispered to as the 'Duke of Murder' by the rapacious of the ton (in clubrooms, behind fluttering fans and gloved hands), these words uttered by Megan Windham are balm to his battle weary soul.
Very loud sighs of satisfaction and content from this reader! Heady stuff!
I adored the reluctant battlefield warrior turned Duke, running the season's gauntlet with more trepidation than the night before a battle. The story of Hamish McHugh, the Duke of Murdoch, and his brave set upon Lady Megan Windham is a treat.
I did think the Windham Brothers were somewhat slow on the uptake with the situation surrounding Megan. And the way they kept all just missing the truth and consequently the danger to Megan made me want to shake them. They just didn't see the villain of the piece!
Thank goodness for Hugh ... and his delectable knees! (So we've moved on from sock glad feet to knees. Nicely done Grace Burrowes!)
The Duke of Murder is going about his Duke-ing with a sense of inadequacy but Meggie sees only a kind man who is her knight errant!
I see more fun and games ahead with the Windham Bride series. Can't wait!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Lost lady or deliberately misplaced?

Lady Lost (Lost Heiresses #3) by Jane Goodger.       



I really enjoyed Lady Lilian Martin. She is spirited and feisty.
Lord Marcus Granton withdrew from the world when the scandal of his wife found dead in bed--another man's bed, broke. He's hidden himself away on his cliff top estate overlooking the North Sea. Gothic enough for you? 
When Lilian descends (well collapses really) on his bolthole looking for asylum and respite having been accused of murder, quickly followed by a child and a plethora of servants, Marcus' hard fought peace of mind is shattered. Lilian gets under his skin in more than one way.
Lilian's sister Theresa is a piece of work. However that doesn't mean that I would wish on her the marriage she ended up with. Theresa's husband is a depraved decadent. Puzzling to me was the way Theresa just peters out. What happened to her?

A NetGalley ARC

****


Saturday, December 10, 2016

... missteps and misalliances!


                                                  

A darkened room, mistaken identify, a
lovers tryst gone awry, and the unforgiving ton!
Robyn Sutherland finds the kisses he shares with another leave him unsettled.
Lily Sommerset, who's not looking for an untrustworthy rake, especially her brother-in-law. She wants a beau without a blemish on his record, like the handsomely pedestrian Lord Atherton.
Lily appears to suffer from an anxiety disorder. Everything must line up and Robyn, selfish hedonist, and wickedest rake in London, doesn't fit the bill, although his kisses do make her melt.
Lily, the perfectionist seems to go from one scandal to another due to the actions of Robyn--all reported in the latest scandal sheet.
Robyn is in the words of the elderly Lady Chase, a 'Rapscallion.' Thump! Young Scoundrel! Thump! (That's Lady Chase's cane punctuating her utterances with her cane. Thump!)
Lily is conflicted and trying to deny her feelings for many good reasons. After all how can one trust Robyn. 'One of Robyn’s most dangerous qualities was making her believe everything he said, regardless of whether she should or not.'
Meanwhile Lord Atherton has become a distant dream of what might have been--or has he?
Certainly the twists and turns in this romance have been explored before but Bradley has managed a well packaged story, even while employing some recognizable tried and true tricks.
There are some delightful turns of phrase and mildly ironic statements spattered throughout that add a little zest to the mix.
A delightful read.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Playing a deep game!

The Danger of Desire (The Sinful Suitors #3) by Sabrina Jeffries


When his cousin Lady Clarissa asks the dedicated rake Warren Corry, Marquess of Knightford, and member of the St. George's Club, to watch out for her friend Miss Delia Trevor during her London season, neither realize that Corey will be inextricably intwined into Delia's life, despite his best intentions. But then neither did Corey know that Delia dressed as a man and gambled the night away in various notorious hells. When Warren recognized the woman beyond the gambling youth facade, to say his is somewhat startled downplays his reaction. Delia is searching for the man who'd been  instrumental in her brother's death--that is until Corry sussed her out. What's a rake to do?
Two people, each with a problem and each with a different way of handling their world are inevitably drawn to each other, both fascinated and annoyed by each other. Will love find a way through the secrets they hold?
Intertwined with others in series, this is a fitting Sinful Sinners addition.
I loved the premise. I have previously stated how much I enjoy the female leading role emulating a youth in order to go about her business without being brought down in disgrace. Despite espousing one of my favourite plot lines this didn't quite capture me as I wanted it to but it's still a jolly good read.

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Healing and heartache!

Hers to Heal (Black Eagle Ops #2) by Vonnie Davis


Another winner in the Eagle Ops series. This time it's Reece Browning who is fighting PTSD and the use of an artificial limb. His physical therapist and ex-Marine Gina Wilson, is part of the equation along with her daughter Piper. Piper is a gem. Tricky and loveable. Reece and Gina's story is tender, confrontative  and fiery. 
Along the way a couple of others from ZQ's team come to Warrior Falls.
Davis seems to combine a touch of Zane Grey with the raunchy reality that surrounds the men in this series.
I like the human face of these characters, their interplay and support for each other.
Gina has her own particular set of 'demons' to exorcise.
I really appreciated Davis' support and understanding for women in service and the particular issues they face.  This story only touches on what I am sure are deep emotional scars for some of these women. The  dedication at the back of the book makes clear how personal the challenges facing returned personnel are to Davis.
Sure, this is a HEA type novel that includes deep and heartfelt issues. I love that a character like 'Silver' is included in the group--a Vietnam Vet who has had to face similar issues to those of the Eagle ops group. This gives a wry sense of continuity as the past bleeds into the today.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Highlander Hellion's dilemma!

Tempestuous and tempting!


Slavery, abolitionists, a headstrong, willful heiress, piracy, and a chase across the oceans from Antigua to London. And this is just the beginning! Plenty of heart stopping action, frisson between the two main protagonists make this an excellent addition to this latest in the Runaway Desires series.
Andrew Corrvan is presented with a strange business request. To kidnap Tempest Holderin, compassionate Antiguan sugar plantation heiress.         
Tempest's plantation manager and close friend Edward Cary is concerned that the vile, supercilious and self serving Lord Nathaniel Delamere will compromise or even force Tempest into marriage. With her father dead, Tempest has no protectors in the wider plantation community.
Tempest is a radical thinker, fan of Mary Wolstencroft, and committed to freeing the slaves on their plantation, Harper's Hill, her dead father's futuristic vision.
Captain Andrew Corrvan is strong and independent, viewed by outsiders as ruthless. His crew knows the truth. He is just and true and seeks out pirates in the Caribbean. Even the truth of that is deeper. The force that drives Andrew is vengeance.  He is committed to finding the pirate who killed his father. He has been searching for nigh on ten years. Yet Andrew Corrvan has self doubts about his own abilities.
Certainly 'Corrvan would never claim to have always acted on the right side of the law, but there were crimes even he would not stoop to commit. Kidnapping was one of them.'
When Andrew agrees to abduct Tempest, admittedly after some consideration and revelations, he is thrown into a situation where the kidnap becomes a fait accompli. 
Tempest is named truly. Feisty, adorable, impulsive and committed to her father's vision for freed slaves, Captain Andrew Corrvan doesn't stand a chance and is taken by storm by the lively Tempest, figuratively and literally. Tempest is tempted by Andrew in ways she had never envisioned.
An intriguing story, laced with high adventure and hard fought love.
A love story based around the darker history of slavery and freedom.
I certainly enjoyed this latest offering from Susannah Craig, with her delightful nods to the great bard, Shakespeare.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fauna and fervour! Love amongst floral favourites!

Romance amongst 'dark satanic mill[s].'

The Heiress and the Hothead by Sabrina Jeffries.  


Having inveigled an invitation to  a Christmas house party, the radical Lord Stephen Corry, meets his match in Miss Amanda Keane. Stephen is a prolific writer who champions the cause for better mill working conditions and practices. He wanted to interview the American owner Montague Mills for an upcoming article.
Mill owner Amanda, and heiress, has modern and compassionate ideas about cotton milling, workers conditions and the treatment of children particularly.
Answering a friend's call to help stir a would be suitor into action, Lord Stephen Cory finds himself under the mistletoe kissing a different young woman by mistake. 
A deeper than usual Christmas romance skating the surface of a not so light issue, conditions in mills and factories that are still present in various parts of the world.
I must admit that the dalliance during a fire took on a certain absurdity, that maybe fits with the surface story. On the other hand--maybe not!
Mill conditions and romance seem strange bedfellows but Sabrina Jeffries makes it work!

(I thought this title was familiar. Yes, like others I had read this Christmas novella before in the collection of Christmas stories, 'What Happens under the Mistletoe.' I must say that I'm somewhat nonplussed by the cost comparisons!)

A NetGalley ARC 

***

Friday, December 2, 2016

Redemption comes haltingly!

Widowed Cait Campbell is a healer who assists Brice Sutherland with an underground movement smuggling Scots being pursued by the English after Culloden away to Canada.
Living alone as she does in an isolated cottage on the edge of Campbell lands, Cait's is the perfect place to harbour these hunted men, women and children.
Cait has a complex background, granddaughter to two powerful clan chiefs, she turned her back on all that when she married a Campbell. Now the Campbell chief Iain has come to call as English soldiers have been killed near her cottage and the English are stirred up. Cait's husband John was killed protecting his Laird. Cait has sought  peace away from the reminders of her beloved husband. Now Cait's hard fought peace  of mind is fiercely challenged, as is her heart.
Iain is both a highland chieftain and an English Lord. He sees only the way forward is to deal with the English. Iain is playing a deadly game, endeavouring to straddle both cultures and bring some sort of peace to the land for the very survival of Scotland.
With the threat of English investigations and increased patrols the channeling of the refugees is becoming more dangerous. With the advent of Iain into Cait's life all bets are off!
When Iain is accused of murdering an English soldier Cait's eyes are opened but Iain's very  survival  becomes moot.
The title is interesting. Certainly there are several levels of redemption that Iain is striving for.
Although Cullen's writing brings alive the historical situation, the landscape, and the people involved, this was not as engaging a read as I was hoping for. Despite all this is still a good read.

A NetGalley ARC 

***

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fantastic visual journey!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A complex and dark Japanese medieval mystery.

Dead Blossoms: The Third Geisha by Richard Monaco





1552. Three shipwreck survivors wash up on the Japanese shoreline and are immediately embroiled in a struggle for lordship and supremacy amongst the Japanese clans.
Jiro Tazeko, a  classless samurai detective finds himself embroiled in the same unrest.
The daughter of a lord's house has been murdered. One of the foreigners has been accused. However, Tazeko discovers some very odd facts, including the suspicion that the dead girl is not the Lady Osan.
As plots are overlayed by more plots the end spirals out of control. All is revealed as this feudal world explodes in a fiery ball and then is reignited by a typhoon.
Who wins is moot. What is left is ash and wind.
I do like Tazeko, the hard boiled, hard drinking,16th Century Sam Spade type character.

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

A reclusive Earl and a kidnapped debutante.

Abandonment, spies and romance--a different take!

Tempting the Earl (The Muses' Salon #3) by Rachael Miles

So how should you react when your father's drugged you, kidnapped you and then presented you with a bride as a fait acompy. If your Harrison Walgrave, the Earl of Levesford, you acquiesce, bed your bride and then flee to London and points abroad as an important secret agent for the English government.
The left behind bride, Olivia Walgrave, is a woman of determination and strength--and an agent for the government. I Really liked Olivia.  She was a fighter and survivor. Coming from an unsure childhood her fate could have been quite different if not for Lord Roderick's (Waverley's father) rescue of her, and subsequent placing of her in Mrs Flints school--a place where apparently young girls are educated and turned out as agents for the crown.
Olivia has spent her years since being abandoned by Harrison yet determined to keep the estate in good order. She has also gathered together a little family of mistreated people employed as servants, and a gaggle of scholars--seven really. After twelve years of not sighting her husband, Olivia has decided to have her marriage to Harrison overturned. Harrison decides to investigate the situation in person, setting his solicitor to make enquiries on several different fronts.
Over the years Olivia has continued her work for the government as a writer exposing issues that need addressing and thereby soliciting insider information and pinpointing leaks or dangerous subversives. There's a mysterious list that she and Harrison are separately working on that completely baffled me.
Here's where it all becomes complex, with one strand of the mystery dogging the other and tripping across the basic lines. Somewhat confusing to me, newly come to the series.
There's threats and more to both Livy and Harrison.
I must admit to being somewhat cross with Harrison from time to time. For the best spy in town he's certainly obtuse and laxadaisical when it comes to his own affairs.
I loved the Seven--the scholars. More like a bunch of puppies than people. Although one surprises!
Now I need to read the others in the series to see what light, if any, can be thrown on what I don't understand.
Still, a refreshing approach to the whole regency romance spy genre. Interestingly, this whole spy school for young ladies oeuvre is becoming quite the thing in all sorts of historical genres I've been lately reading.

A NetGalley ARC 

***1/2

Hunting lodges and fleeing ladies!


So what do you do when your parents have inveigled you into an engagement that you don't want, but that gives them no end of pleasure and lofty feelings of having done well? After all their daughter has landed Lord Brantford, the catch of the season, and a close companion of the Prince Regent. Lady Sarah Highgate, feeling the walls closing in, ran away to Scotland of course! Although it didn't help that she ended up in the wrong place in the middle of a snow storm knitting doggie capes and fending off apparent would be mayrauders with a sword she could  hardly lift. (I must admit to falling in love with Sarah in the hunting lodge stage!)
And if your the owner of a hunting lodge that you've repaired to looking for a time of respite aware from the rapacious members of the ton, you don't expect to find a 'would be goldilocks' sleeping in your bed.
What starts out as a mistaken encounter, endures into friendship that seems to never be able to become any more than that, due to the dratted fiancée and the parental pressure.
Still when Lucy Hunt, the Duchess of Claringdon, decides to help her dearest friend Christian Forester, Viscount Berkeley,  and her new friend Sarah Highgate find true love--well all bets are off, even if the eleventh hour is nigh upon them. Another rollicking bit of fun from the Playful Brides series.

A NetGalley ARC 

****

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Coming soon!








An illuminating Christmas mystery!



On the surface of this Christmas mystery, Victor Narraway and his wife Lady Vespasia (two of my favourite Perry characters) travel to Jerusalem for Christmas. En route, at their hotel in Jaffa, they run across an interesting older gentleman who hands them a parchment to deliver in Jerusalem just before he is killed by a mysterious figure "The Watcher". The story morphs into a Dali like journey of deserts and death, faith defined and refined, and deepening spiritual mysteries.
Following the theme of the wise men seeking truth and wonderment as they track the star that lead them to Bethlehem, Narraway and Vespasia embark on a similar journey, followed by the dark watcher. Along the way they are joined by another.
Three pieces of parchment, and the truth for all mankind, are part of this journey.
Narraway and Vespasia are confronted by their own beliefs and the gradual refining of them.
A simple story of intrigue that cloaks hidden inner meanings of the mystical and faith surrounding the Christmas message and all that followed.
A very different story from what I expected, challenging and thought provoking, reflecting much of Perry's own faith base.
The title sums up the depth and breadth of what this story contains. I found it a fascinating treatise on the Christian message.
I was struck that it is Narraway, ex head of Special Branch and Lady Vespasia, a force in her own right, both mature people, with years of the ability and shrewdness, including being able to mark the difference between the false and the genuine, who are the chosen to encounter this very different journey.
Who is the watcher, what is the stick he carries, seemingly he's supernatural at times and yet able to be injured. What is he watching for? 
A mystery on many levels with faint echoes of Dan Brown.
I found this story stuck with me long after reading.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Glued to the page! Again!


Once more I was absorbed by this next in the Elantra Chronicles. Once again, where Private Kaylin Neda is trouble surely follows--or precedes, it's a moot point and a truism! 
This time we see more of the Aerians and Sergeant Moran dar Carafel in particular. The injured Moran is now residing with Kaylin, along with the rescued Barranis and the dragon Bellusdeo. When Moran is attacked, Kaylin comes in for some shocks.
Shadow makes its appearance once again, and it's form appears changed. 
The two Bararranis residing with Kaylin (one, Annarion is Nightshade's brother) are still coming to terms with coming into the now from their entrapped state.
Bellusdeo is the same feisty female dragon.
Kaylin is her wild and wonderful caring self who rushes in where others fear to tread. In Cast in Flight her thoughts and awe of the Aerians takes a different turn. Alongside Kaylin, we learn more about them.
The complicated relationships and cultural behaviours and norms amongst the varying races that inhabit Elantra keep me coming back for more, along with the fabulous character that is Kaylin.
Sagara keeps injecting a wonderful humanity into Kaylin that's captivating in its simplicity and complexity at the same time. The cross cultural attempts of understanding that Kaylin always come up against, the fact that similarities don't always equate with understandings is fascinating. As is the fact that mostly the various races, or at least their leaders, forgive Kaylin because they know her heart always wants to believe the best, and because of the great service she has so often given them. Kaylin is after all imbued with magic symbols on her arms that has some suspicious of her, and others grateful. After all, Kaylin is the Chosen. And she's still coming to terms with what that means.
Kaylin's relationship with Nightshade is always present like his sigil on her cheek. Although Nightshade is somewhat in the background here, occupied as he is with the return of his brother Annarion.
We do see a little more of the Dragon Emperor. His relationship with Bellusdeo is becoming more complicated--at least for me.
Severn is as always, quietly by Kaylin's side. Steady, dependable and to my mind, mysterious.
Once again Sagara's philosophizing via Kaylin is striking. 
Another not to be missed addition to Sagara's engaging world.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Tortured trust and love!



Arend Aubury as the emotionally fractured Frenchman, gorgeous to behold and trusting no-one is a wonderful hero. Lady Isobel Thompson as the step daughter of the despicable Victoria is a beauty inside and out.
Of course the page sizzles whenever they meet and that sizzling increases in fervour as time goes on. (Almost too much sizzle and not enough story.) Isobel's vengeful stepmother Victoria appears to be trying to engineer an engagement between Isobel and Arente. They enter into a mock engagement in an attempt to entrap Victoria. 
For those who don't know, Victoria has been systematically trying to destroy the members of the Libertine Scholars to pay for their father's dreadful sins against her (and given the extent of their depravities one can see why she is so gripped with the need for retribution).
The point is that none of the Libertines have been like their fathers. In fact their fathers disgusted them. But Victoria must take her vengeance somewhere. Isobel has become a weapon Victoria will use against Arente. 
The Scholars are highly sceptical about Isobel. Is she a willing pawn of Victoria's? Their wives are more generous.
Arente is tortured by his own secrets about his life prior to returning to England, a wealthy man. Unlike when he left. Those secrets, or rather shames, have left him unable to trust or want to trust women. Isobel must fight almost unto death and then some to unearth that trust. Can she however help him to come to terms with his past? I must admit at times I found Arente a little too tortured and his inability to fully trust Isobel a little to drawn. A little to unforgiving of himself and others. But then maybe that's the point of self loathing as he displays it.
This addition to the Libertine Scholars annals rounds off the series, although there will apparently be two more novels featuring other characters that have emerged over time.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Unfortunately, not my cup of tea

The Demon Girl's Song by Susan Jane Bigelow

A charming prequel


Lady Madeline, eldest daughter of Harold Lyons, the Duke of Whitborough, has until now not been interested in any suitors, that is until she meets at Hugo Lowell, Viscount Saxby at her family's house party.
Hugo has been contemplating marriage and has attended the house party at the behest of his sister to keep an eye on their younger brother. He is enroute to spend Christmas with a family whose daughter seems to be a promising bride.
That was before he met Madeline.
This pleasing novella bodes well for the series.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Novella of love and intrigue in the highlands



Newly minted highland knight Maxwell White has been charged to safeguard Max Aila MacKerrick, a single highlands woman living by herself. Max is unthinking in his bundling up and kidnapping of Alia in the middle of the night from her lonely cottage--even if it is for her safety.
A legendary dagger is the key point. A relic that will ensure the holder rallies the clans against the English crown. The highland knights must ensure that this doesn't happen.
Alia is a feisty highland lass who will not go anywhere willing, least of all with a brawny warrior who hasn't the whit to disclose to her the dangers.
Mind you the action moved quickly both in bed and out. I did find Alia's quick acquiescence to sensuality surprising. But then this is a novella and there's a lot to pack in just a few chapters. 
Time lines aside, Max and Alia's story is delightful.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Rivetingly clever!


This Holmsian rewrite, well restructuring really, blew me away! Sheridan has taken the who of Sherlock Holmes and turned it on its head. Sherlock Holmes a woman! Conan Doyle might be laughing, but the Robert Downey Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch incarnations of Shelock, maybe not so much.
The characters are present and believable, despite their various exchanges from what we know. Charlotte Holmes, Livia her sister, the clever Mrs Watson, Charlotte's benefactor, Lord Ingram, Scotland Yard Detective Treadles, and Lord Bancroft as Ingham's brother (think Mycroft). Everyone we know and love translates into someone slightly removed. The characters are like second cousins of the original with for some, their gender being skewed.
Charlotte Holmes is somewhat OCD, with a brilliant mind, and definitely doesn't adhere to the strictures expected of the upper ten thousand. All she wants is to be able to be left alone to be master of her own destiny. She did not expect her bid for freedom  to leave her the subject of salacious drawing room gossip, and to find herself in straightened circumstances in the less salubrious parts of London. Nor did Charlotte expect that her family would come under suspicion for a death linked to her father and sister. Charlotte as Sherlock must look for the truth of the matter.
Several mysteries come together, including that which Charlotte's actions has unleashed.
The story hung together with a believable reality. Any hesitations reflected a young woman of Charlotte's background finding her way to what would become her true vocation. Mrs Watson is a gift, transformed into a woman of secrets and aptitude. I adored her. Mrs Hudson makes her appearance in a most unexpected manner.
An unexpected and delightful addition to the Holmsian trope. I look forward to future developments.

A NetGalley ARC

*****