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

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

*****

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dead bodies and Greek relics



This is an important chapter in Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves' life. I'm involved because I know what's gone on up 'til now. I re-live with Emily her feelings, fears and guilt. I must say though that what happens is a brilliant plot twist by Alexander, deserving of the Lady Emily story, and yet I am unsure as to how much the story stands by itself. If this is your first reading of a Lady Emily mystery it certainly points the way back to some intriguing times prior to now. 
Emily's dead husband Lord Philip Ashton reappears. A terrible shock.
Colin Hargreaves, Ashton's best friend from childhood, is somewhat reserved throughout. Well, who wouldn't be. The ramifications are enormous. I picture Colin as a sophisticated man of his times, working for the British Government on hush hush business, the strong quiet type (still waters running deep etc. etc.) not easily thrown, but this certainly is one of those moments.
Emily has arranged a holiday with her friends Jeremy and Margaret at her villa on the Greek island of Santorini.  A villa previously Philip's. The description of the villa, the island and it's people is vivid and real. It was very present. 
And now Philip has reappeared on a dig near the villa, being pursued by shadowy characters who want the piece of an important relic, Achilles' helmet, that Philip found. Philip has become obsessed by it and has not revealed it to the dig authorities. In fact he is acting much like Golem acted with the ring. Murder and mayhem follow Philip putting all in danger. Others know of the relic's existence and are willing to kill for it.
The complications of having to deal with the returned husband, who to my mind is unhinged, are enormous. Is Philip's demeanour due to his illness in Africa years ago? Something is definitely off about him. He seems at times delusional, so overcome by obsession with Archilles' helmet, as to be lost to all reason. Hard to say! His attitude towards Emily is almost reverential. All very strange and yet somehow believable.
The story switches rapidly between the past and the present, and between Emily's viewpoint and Philip's. Only towards the end do we see Colin voicing his thoughts.
I loved the cover. Brooding and slightly malevolent, reflecting much that happens.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Saturday, October 8, 2016

An amazing journey!

Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews


Searching for her Korean birth mother leads twenty year old American Anna Carlson into a dark story of suffering, anguish and despair that the Japanese nation still has to properly apologize for.
This novel is a further example of women caught up into war and used and abused by those who think of themselves as more entitled and more powerful. An age old story.
Andrews has woven a wonderful heart wrenching story, without apology, and without false emotions.
What unfolds is the life of a young Korean girl, Jae-hee who is terribly and horribly brutalized during the Japanese occupation of Korea; and who is somehow able to emotionally stay strong, despite the dogs of despair nipping at her heals.
This is not gushy, not over the top, simply a telling of the journey of one young woman who is used as a sex slave 'comfort woman' by the Japanese. Jae-hee  moves to North Korea in the hope of change and a better world. That was not the holy grail it was supposed to be. She then barely escapes with her life to South Korea to struggle as best she may in the aftermath of the Korean War, contending with the shaming prejudices rampant against her and her comfort sister sufferers.
Threaded throughout is the mystery of the comb with the two-headed dragon--a comb that Anna is confronted about by North Koreans.
A worthy and revealing read.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

All is not as it seems!

To Kiss a Thief (Runaway Desires #1) by Susanna Craig    

What do you do when your husband and others discover you in the arms of of a handsome officer, apparently somewhat tipsy, disheveled and with the family heirloom necklace missing from around your neck?
Sarah Pevensey Sutliffe tried to proclaim her innocence. No-one believed her, including her husband. And so she left, assisted on her way by her mother-in-law, with hints of transportation ringing in her ears.
Sarah's marriage had been arranged. She had fled to the library on hearing her husband declaring his love for another woman. And that's when the action unfolded.
Having disappeared and thought dead for three years, Sarah is found by her husband Lord St. John Sutcliffe, Viscount  Fairfax, who  upon returning from Antigua, learned that he is not a widower as he thought.
The story of their reunion is fraught with misunderstandings and distrustfulness. 
I must admit to being somewhat cross with St. John. He sulks like an overgrown man child and is constantly reviewing his opinion of Sarah. Give over St. John!
Still, things unravel and then are knitted somewhat slowly back into something more.
Moments of excitement dot the landscape giving a story one can follow along readily, having forgiven St. John...
A complex and interesting Georgian romance.

A NetGalley ARC

I so enjoyed Susanna's discussion with author Susana Ellis of the small village she modelled Haverhythe on--Clovelly. This is quite an interesting discourse and can be found on Susana Ellis' author page. I found it added an extra depth to my understanding about the making of the novel.

**** 


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Raw and gripping mystery in the Canadian far north.

Strange things done by Elle Wild


Journalist Jo Silver has a history--of doubt and death. Fleeing a story she'd been following in Vancouver that went horribly wrong, Jo heads north to the Yukon and Dawson's Creek--a town where mining and history walk hand in hand.
Only, Jo finds herself once more embroiled in a series of murders that shake her to the core. What to do? Report on it or not? The tourist season is closing down and then only the Dawsonites remain. Once that happens there's no way in or out. Why aren't the Mounties (RCMP) letting the residents know that there's a killer in their midst. Jo's past crowds her out and paralysis her actions. Bowed down by self doubt about the killings and about her own behaviour Jo wonders who to confide in. There's Sally her housemate, dancer at the local bar, Christopher Bryne the handsome woodsman, and RCMP Sergeant Johnnie Cariboo the local law and order. If that's not enough Jo seems to be continually stumbling over the bodies and into related situations. None of this is helped by not being able to remember a single thing after leaving the bar with Bryne when Jo first arrives and a suicide victim is found.
I really enjoyed this mystery. It unravels and reveals at a slapping pace, opening up vistas of isolated communities, exposes people's behaviours, superstitions and fears, all the while reflecting the dark days of winter coming!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Another absorbing addition!



I love these dark men that Byrne presents to us. So much so that I've just reread them all. In fact I foresee that this series will be a regular re-read for me I enjoy them so much. Men who have been to hell and back--and survived, and the gutsy women who love them and believe in them despite their pasts.This is a gritty and poignant story. We first met Mena (Philomena St. Vincent) briefly in The Hunter. Millicent LeCour's son Jakob worried even then, “I think Lord Benchley hurt Lady Philomena, Mama.”
And hurt Mena is. When the story opens she is incarcerated in a mental institution left to be a plaything for unscrupulous staff by her sadistic husband, Lord Gordon St. Vincent, the Viscount Benchley.
Farah Leigh Blackwell, Countess Northwalk, (from The Highwayman) and  Millicent LeCour (from The Hunter) take action to rescue Mena. She must escape from her brutal husband who's  even now searching for her. The problem is where can Mena go? The where becomes the Scottish Highlands, as governess to the children of Lieutenant Colonel Liam MacKenzie, the MacKenzie Laird and the Marquess of Ravencroft, and brother to Farah's husband the notorious Blackheart of Ben More. 
Almost a berserker in battle, Liam is known as the Demon Highlander.
But “Sometimes", as Millie explains, "when in a predicament like (Mena's), the safest place to be is at the side of a violent man.” And the story of Mena and Liam grows from here.
Once more Byrne treats us with a startling and resonant view on life.  Mena and Liam's story follows the patterns set before,  of people abused and holding terrible secrets and of how love can break into those darkest reaches and bring life and forgiveness. I loved it when Mena says to Liam, “ I believe there is a tenuous balance between redemption and damnation. You cannot have one without testing the limits of the other. No light, without first conquering darkness. No courage, without battling your fear. No mercy, unless you experience suffering.”
So engaging! An unabashed page flipper!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

... don't underestimate the hero

Hero in the Highlands (No Ordinary Hero Novel #1) by Suzanne Enoch



1821. Major Gabriel Forrester, soldier and hero of battles against Napoleon, suddenly finds himself banished to England by a sympathetic Wellington. Why? Because he's apparently the next in line to a title that encompasses many responsibilities as Gabriel, the new Duke of Lattimer is finding out. That dukedom has Gabriel taking point and forging into the Scottish Highlands to seek answers to issues. When Gabriel's highlander steward deigns not to answer his solicitors' questions, it's time for the 'major' to take charge.
Amongst his first acquaintances is Fiona Blackstock, an intriguing puzzle, and if that's not enough, the curse and history of his Scottish lands is reaching out from the past into the present. Part of the Maxwell clan became tenants and holders on the Lattimer property back in the past, and highlanders don't forget the wrongs around properties that the English crown parcelled out in previous times.
Fiona does all she can to have the Duke quit and return to his English concerns, but she's reckoned without Gabriel's determination, skills and ability to get alongside people. Gabriel is no softly bred lord. Neither did she foresee the attraction that burgeons between them.
A dilemma for more than one concerned party. Can the hero of battles on the continent win the battles his highland property will disclose?
A fascinating clash of wills add spice to this story.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Gentle persuasion!

I loved all the characters in this story--well most of them. There were a couple of exceptions. Meg (Miss Margaret Lacey) is a person of great heart, a caring nature and a guilty soul. Will (William Ryder, Earl of Castleton) is a a strong minded man with a sensitive side.
Meg and Will have known each other from childhood. Indeed there might have been more if Meg hadn't been so young, stubborn and proud. 
Now Meg and her sisters are in straightened circumstances. There foray into polite society has been less than stellar and the term 'wallflower' is bandied about. Meanwhile Will has taken charge of his cousin's two small daughters. He needs a governess. Meg needs a job. Surely a match made in heaven. The past and the present collide and both Will and Meg are drawn 'willy nilly' into a set of circumstances that leave them both stunned by the flare of attraction that's sparked. And many a mention is made of Will's chocolatey, melting eyes!
Valerie and Diana are wonderful little scamps that can't help but produce a smile. 
When a stranger makes inquiries about the girls the plot thickens. I certainly didn't see that possibility on the horizon.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Another rousing Maggie Hope thriller!