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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

... horses, hearts and hurts!

A Gentleman's Game (Romance of the Turf #1) by Theresa Romain


I had such high hopes for the romance between Nathaniel Chandler and his father's secretary, Rosalind Agate. The beginning started well with Nathaniel and Rosalie working together, helping to cure the sickness developed by some of the thoroughbreds trained by the stables of Nathaniel's father. Nathaniel knows that his father doesn't trust him. It's obvious. It takes us some time and a heap of hints for us to discover the cause. And it takes a long time for the story of Rosalie to come to the fore. Rosalie is trapped in a web of deceit not of her own making, but to which she is beholden.
Nathaniel is a rather wonderful man, who has grown beyond his childish actions yet is hampered by his father's outdated view of him. Hence the rather inane reference to 'milkmaids', Nathaniel's code for problems he comes across as he travels England and beyond on missives for his father. I grew heartedly tiers of those references.
There is mystery, romance and family secrets, the excitement of Derby Day at Epsom, the simple pleasures of an English village fete and a story of three people, each in their own way, learning to trust.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Sleuthing in the country!

Another engrossing mystery featuring my favourite 'medieval noir' investigator and former knight!

 Silence of Stones, The: A Crispin Guest medieval noir (A Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery)  by Jeri Westerson 



Tracker Crispin Guest's dilemma in this new and dangerous situation paces alongside the coming-of-age of Jack Tucker, Crispin's apprentice. We have seen Jack's development as the novels have progressed. Now it is even more to the fore. A fact I like.
It's 1338, the Stone of Scone has been stolen, an explosion has occurred in the Cathedral right as King Richard and Queen Anne are there to attend the Feast of the Holy Virgin's Nativity.
Crispin is there (amongst the 'rabble') at Jack's bidding (pleading rather), 'his apprentice, a rangy boy and now [Crispin's] match in height, though the lad was only fifteen.'
When the explosion occurs of course they both rush towards the action, only to come under the King's gaze and then be subjected to his ire. Years previously Crispin had been stripped of his knighthood for treasonous actions against the King.
Jack is hauled off to the dungeons and Crispin is given three days to find the stone or else Jack's life is forfeit.
Crispin is submerged in Scottish plots and counterplots, enough to make even the Tracker's head ring with the complexity--and often inanity. Meanwhile Jack is befriended by Crispin's friends in high places and does his own investigating.
Both are pursuing the problem from different ends, both are coming to similar conclusions. When Jack helps a young wife who is in distress things become even more interesting.
I love that Jack keeps minding his behaviour and finds himself concerned for his honour, so delightfully telling in little reflective conversations he has with himself. He wants to do his master proud--and he does!
Crispin's search is made even more interesting by the addition of 'John Rykener ... who sometimes goes by the name "Eleanor" to, er ... ply his trade.' John is a cross dressing male prostitute, whose proclivities certainly help Crispin to winkle out information from folks in the know. In many ways John becomes a little like Crispin's conscience as he points out things that Crispin should be paying attention to with regard to Jack now that he's older.
I am sure that there is a note of wistfulness and love in John's voice as he and Crispin part.
We have no woman chasing after Crispin in this novel. We do have an artifact of religious significance, the Stone of Scone. In many ways the absence of some lady that is interested in Crispin or vice versa, getting in the way of Crispin's task, is a relief.
We do have high born and important ladies adding to the tension of the story. Their stories are important to the plot, but they are not Crispin's downfall. Jack plays a major, absolutely delightful, though harrowing,  part with this regard. He is a wonderful source of tension and richness for the plot. I felt that as Jack comes-of-age, so Crispin find a renewed emotional place to some degree. Brilliant!
As always Westerson's research and working knowledge of the era is impeccable. I must say I really liked the cover, the brooding Cathedral sets the tone.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Saturday, January 30, 2016

An enjoyable farce in three parts...or maybe more!

How to Capture a Duke (Matchmaking for Wallflowers #1) by Bianca Blythe


First have yourself mistaken for a highway woman holding up a coach.
Secondly decide to kidnap the handsome occupant to serve as your pretend husband to be.
Thirdly 'let the games begin', or rather runaway from you with excruciating speed.

I loved the premise of the story. Indeed the opening misunderstanding of the Duke's coachman believing that they'd been held up by highway persons was excellent. The situation that developed and the lengths Fiona Amberly (our intrepid Blue Stocking amateur archaeologist)  kept being forced to go to, as one improbable situation piled up on to of another, was farcically humorous. But then something happened and the story fell into blandness. The hero, one Percival Carmichael, new Duke of Alfriston, become a tad dull. Ok, so his leg was plaguing him, but Golly Gosh Batman, couldn't he have been a tad more decisive. 
I found his brother Arthur annoyingly overbearing and somewhat of a buffoon in terms of Percival's dilemma. 
Fiona and Percival's story was plagued by the attitudes and plans of others, by bad timing and by Percival's annoying habit of giving in to others, accepting their pronouncements.
I am still wondering how these two ever achieved a HEA.
Despite my misgivings, I do want to read the next in the series.

A NetGalley ARC

***

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Lost love, dangerous spies, betrayal and loyalty.



Returning to England after her husband's death Sophia Gardiner found her first love, Aidan Somerville, the Duke of Forster cool, remote and ready to judge.
Before their first meeting all Adian could think of was Sophia's betrayal and a just retribution for her actions. After Aiden had seen her all he could think of was her.
Yet his duty to country and loyalty to his friend Tom counted for something. It was up to him to determine what had happened. Yet he'd not taken notice of Sophia and her wants.
Sophia, a brilliant botanists and garden designer, painter and once the love of Aiden's life now faces danger, and her true love, with courage and trepidation, not in equal measures.
I enjoyed this immensely, the character and the plot captivated me. If this is the first in the series, then I have high hopes for the subsequent volumes.
The tension and mystery is highlighted as the story unfolds, gradually revealing more of the subplots as we move into the heart of the matter
The difficulty for Sophia is that she is caught in a no win situation. She has a responsibility to past promises that include responsibilities for the future. All conflict and lead to troubled situations, particularly between herself and Aidan.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

A puzzling Tudor mystery.

A brilliant depiction of life and death in Henry's London
Ferris Stannum has discovered the elixir of life. A secret many would kill for. And perhaps this is happening because alchemists are dying.  A mysterious illness is affecting others and at the heart is Bianca Goddard who is searching for a way to distill her herbals using alchemists methods, in order to make her concoctions stronger and possibly more effective.
In Bianca's search she is privy to suspect happenings in the death of several denizens of places near low lying areas around the dank and dampness of the Thames River. 
But all is conjecture until the murderer is exposed.
The atmosphere is heightened by the dark look at the underside of areas of London during the medieval period, of the squalor and fetidness of certain parts, of the danger of the sweating disease.
I love the introduction to where Ferris lives, 'in the bowels of a hovel off Ivy Lane.' Gritty!
Lawrence has presented an exacting and exciting murder mystery that reveals how far some may be prepared to go for their loved ones.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Sunday, January 24, 2016

...murder, graft and political clout!



Welcome to the New York and Brooklyn of the 1890's. Mary Handley is back and as erudite as ever. This time her investigation leads to a series of murders, corruption at the highest level, arson, disturbance of the rich and powerful and heartbreaking personal anguish.
Emily Worsham hires Mary to investigate her Uncle John's death--a death Emily's convinced is the result murder. And that's when things become 'curiouser and curiouser'. Mary finds herself embroiled in an investigative trail that cuts a swathe through the upper echelons of New York society (the Vanderbilts, Andrew Cargnegie and the Rockerfellas), dives into the stews of Brooklyn and travels as far as Richmond, Virginia.
I was a little put off by the opening scenes. It took me a while to interpret whose eyes I was seeing the action through but, after that opening gambit, I was thoroughly engaged and well and truly hooked with Mary Handley's quest before the second chapter had ended.
I was upset by Mary's heroically tragic personal decision for her life and hope that in future novels she finds comfort from her chosen direction.

A NetGalley ARC

****

A definite 5 stars!



Thrilling, with just the right amount of tension, peril and romance!
Brice Sutherland, the Earl of Dornach, might not have taken part in Culloden but he organizes an escape route to Canada for those who did. 
Eleanor, Lady Glendale has suffered at the hands of a depraved officer who has orchestrated her husband's charge of treason.
Brice happens upon a bundle of rags on the road and discovers the dying Eleanor.
Taking Eleanor to safety, he sees to her healing, and he finds his heart unwillingly claimed. A love story that defies politics and sensibility ensues, as Brice fights this interruption to his plans.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Hang on for the ride!

Captain Kat Falcone, reluctant war hero, has rubbed too many in power the wrong way. Her truthful disparaging outburst plays into the hands of those who want to be rid of her. Not  everyone's favourite, she is charged with a 'do or die' assignment well behind enemy lines. She is to gain information and wreak havoc on the Theocracy--at the same time ridding her foes of her troublesome self. Ordered by King Hadrian himself to the task, Kat is faced with a sympathetic king who understand the magnitude of the task, the slender chance of survival, the gains the task might give, the politics involved, and who does all he can to ease Kat's way, including having Captain Davison reassigned to her command. The king is obviously a player to watch--maybe in the next in the series. He understands the politics, the thin path he treads holding the Commonwealth together and that more is needed, not less. His and Kat's conversation is just as interesting for what's not said as for what is.
Given the rank of brevet commodore (without the pay or staff), Kat at the helm of the newly outfitted HMS Lightning, stretches herself and her mismatched command fleet across the reaches of deep space, playing a 'cat and mouse' game that takes her into the very jaws of the enemy, betrayal nipping at her heels. There's a Theocracy spy on board revealing her plans to  forces led by her bĂȘte noir, Admiral Junay, placing all in jeopardy. 
Kat is determined to succeed, Junay cannot afford to fail. His precarious political position is made clearer as he decides on a plan of action whilst contemplating a slightly ridiculous rhyme from his childhood, 'for the want of a nail.'
And beyond this there is still a mysterious force at work, a hidden adversary in high places in the Commonwealth, working to bring Kat and those loyal to the king down. Once again, no clues but too many coincidences.
Another ripper of a yarn that has us hurtling into danger with Kat. Once again I was taken to the edge of my seat reading the next of Nuttall's well crafted stories of this space opera.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Immensely enjoyable.

The Bargain  (The Duke's Sons prequel) by Jane Ashford


A pleasure to read, this prequel to the Duke's Sons series begins with the Duke's youngest son of the Duke of Langford, Lord Alan Gresham, a reputed scientist, being called by the Prince Regent to Carlton House to put an end to the embarrassing appearances of the ghost of a leading actress, Tess Harding, and the Prince's past mistress. Gresham responds to the Prince's demand, but is nevertheless annoyed to be pulled away from his precious experiments.
Ariel Harding has her own reasons for wanting to learn the truth of the hauntings. What she does discover is the very attractiveness of the reticent Lord. Between the hauntings and watching Ariel dispense advice to his brothers, Gresham is not sure whether to be amused, annoyed or beguiled by the vivacious Ariel. 
A pleasing Regency Romance and a fun read!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

an enjoyable highland romance

The Protector (Highland Brides #1) by Allison Butler


Mairi's struggle is what strikes me. She struggles to make amends, to holds at bay her emotional burdens. She struggles to be the pleasing daughter who will obey her father. She holds herself together--too tightly.
The one who sees this about her is a lowlander, Duffy who has taken a year off from the Elliot clan trying to discover his true name and heritage. The silences about this are more telling than explanations. He is one of three from that clan who is on a quest. They were all to meet up at a certain time. 
Duff saves Laird Alistair Gordon from ambush and the laird's daughter Mairi from a spooked horse. Mairi it seems has been given the chance by her father to choose her own husband--from three likely candidates. An unusual occurrence. Most daughters are married off for political reasons with no choice. Laird Gordon asks Duff to stay on to be Marie's protector. She is spending a day with each potential groomsman to aid in her choosing. There must be no hint of scandal. Duff decides he can afford three days before meeting up with his comrades.
The choosing is made the harder for Mairi. She finds herself thinking more and more about Duff.  She is drawn to him. But she knows her duty, a duty heavily fuelled by guilt. A guilt that stops her from enjoying life.
Duff is finding it harder to hold himself apart. Honour demands he stay until Marie has set her course. And perhaps Duff will find a new heritage.

A NetGalley ARC

****

... a solid addition to the Highland Guard series

Dazzling combination! the maiden voyage and an adventurous heart!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Sunshine and mystery

Where Lemons Bloom  by Blair McDowell. 

The more I moved into this story the more Involved I became. At first I went, really? A short time later I was exclaiming...Really!!! Wow! Waste no time! All right extenuating circumstances--maybe?
Eve is a strong and determined woman who finds herself through love with a handsome stranger, sunshine and a picture postcard habitat on the Italian Amalfi coast.
I swear I felt the sun's rays kiss my face and the sea view calm my soul as I sipped coffee with Adamo and Eve's on their pensione balcony
The meeting of Eve Adomo de Leone is dramatic. They part, never to meet again, but fate throws a curve ball and they find themselves on the same boat bound for Italy.
Instead of going their own ways Eve accompanies Adamo to the Almafi coast and to the beginnings of a new life--dogged by the mystery of eighty million missing dollars Adamo has supposedly embezzled, and now attempted murder.
As the story spun out I found myself glued to the pages awaiting the outcome. There are some very interesting secondary characters whose lives intersect Adamo and Eve's seamlessly, bringing further interest to the plot.

A NetGalley ARC

****

A Cinderella story with a twist

Heir to the Duke (The Duke's Sons #1) by Jane Ashford


All her life Lady Violet Devere has been kept in line by her family. Indeed her grandmother, the Dowager Countess of Morely, is a tyrant controlling them all. Lady Violet in particular is a target. The Dowager designates what Violet should wear, what activities are the most ladylike for her to undertake and how she must behave. Coupled with the fact that Violet's maid Renshaw is the Dowager's creature, it is no wonder that Violet flings herself into rebel mode (in a most satisfactory way) after she is married.
The Duke of Langford, Nathaniel Gresham views his upcoming marriage to the Lady Violet as his expected duty. He is prepared for a comfortable time. He is taken by surprise when Violet decrees that they need to be adventurous and enjoy themselves.
Of course, the Dowager and the recalcitrant maid are dead set against this. To the point where both Nathaniel and I take umbrage.
Violet's relationship with her mother has always been a puzzle. When Violet goes to extraordinary lengths to separate her mother from the Dowager in order to talk with her, she learns a secret that has the power to render her current happiness to naught.  
An interesting story. I was at somewhat of a loss with Violet and her family. I wanted Nathaniel to take a stand earlier than he did. 
The tale of a down trodden young thing coming into her own after her marriage is not uncommon and can have some delicious moments. That didn't quite happen here. 
I must admit to enjoying the prequel to The Duke's Sons, The Bargain, more than I did Heir to the Duke. Nevertheless a pleasing read.

A NetGalley ARC

***