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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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Actions and consequences!

When the Scoundrel Sins (Capturing the Carlisles #2) by Anna Harrington.  


Harrington bases Annabelle (Belle) Green's story around the laws of inheritance and matrimony pursuant to regency times. When a woman married her property becomes her husband's to do with as he willed.
However the twist in this story is that Belle has been left an estate by her benefactor's husband near the Scottish border that will revert to the church if she's not married by her twenty-fifth birthday. Belle must marry to retain her home she loves dearly. But whom is there to marry who will let her retain oversight of her beloved Castle Glenarvon.
And there's the rub. Belle has been more or less away from society due to having been caught in an interesting situation at a ball six years ago with the rake, Quinton Carlisle, her nemesis and one of her oldest childhood friends.
The third son of a duke, Quinn is about to set sail for America to take up land and a new future.
However his aunt Agnes, Belle's benefactress wants him to vet Belle's suitors and help with Belle's situation. As both Belle and Aunt Agnes see it, Quinn owes Belle. After all it takes a rogue to know a rogue. Here's the thing, Quinn has always been taken with his blue stocking friend Belle, but love and marriage has no part to play in his life, for a variety of reasons. A driving one being that all he has seen of love is the heartache and hurt when a partner dies, not the joy. Another reason is that Quinn wants to be his own man and prove himself, which is what the land in America promises.
I found the characters somewhat obtuse as they battled their own inclinations. Lost in their own realities, they both seemed unwilling to entertain alternatives.
The story has a supercilious suitor, sabotage, love denied, and the drama around Belle's best course of action. As Belle's sad childhood is revealed, Quinn fights his inclination to protect her. As the attraction between Belle and himself becomes an unstoppable flame, Quinn continues to  fight the notion of love, but the chemistry between them has little chance of being denied. Quinn is continually fighting duty and attraction. 
The solution ends up being an elegant surprise with a few twists that shows that all the angst might have been avoided with a good dose of reality. Still this is a romantic regency novel not real life.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Dark and despairing

Unravelling Oliver: A Novel by Liz Nugent. 


                            

Oliver Ryan, known as Vincent Dax, successful Children's writer, all but abondoned child, grows up in a boarding school with no love and no friends, until he meets Michael Condell and his sister Laura.
Who Oliver really is is unveiled chapter by chapter until we come to know him--and thoroughly dislike him.
His egocentric outlook, his destructiveness born of his abandonment and his desire for a father's love and acknowledgement, are the ingredients that meld together forming him. The stewpot of his angst.
I think Barney is my hero and it's sad that Alice never will know him.
Unravelling Oliver almost unravelled me. Brilliantly written, each chapter presents the various characters and their viewpoint on Oliver's Life. Surprise begets more surprise.
A gritty, emotionally charged, psychological novel that provides little pleasure but lots of fascination. I was compelled to finish it even as I was repelled by Oliver. And that compulsion is what had me giving this 5 stars rather than 3.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Paris in the revolution!

Traitor in Her Arms (The Scarlet Chronicles #1) by Shana Galen. 



The opening scenes are gritty and vivid, laced with a certain amount of gallows humour. Lady Gabrielle McCullough is in a tumbrel in Paris rumbling over cobblestones, having had her hair slashed off in readiness to meet Madame la Guillotine,  and surrounded by crowds screaming for yet more beheadings. Yes! This new series has us smack in the middle of Paris at the time of the French Revolution. The scenes of gore and crowds howling for blood, the sansculotte, Robespierre, even Fouché, is here. Above all, the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel is in the background moving people around, directing the rescue of aristocrats and others, always within a whisker of being discovered.
The action then retreats to how Gabrielle has arrived at this state. It seems that upon being widowed Gabrielle found herself responsible for her husband's considerable gambling debts. Debts owed to a very nasty man. To keep herself afloat, Gabrielle has taken to stealing antiquities. In the middle of appropriating an Egyptian necklace aGabrielle is surprised by her husband's best friend, Ramsay, the Earl of Sedgwick. Ramsay is being blackmailed by a mysterious woman (who seemingly has informants everywhere), into doing various tasks for her in order to regain important papers she has about him. The scene of Gabrielle and Ramsay's meeting in the darkened is both amusing and tense. The results, interesting.
When Gabrielle is approached by the Pimpernel in London to rescue a French countess from a Paris prison, Gabrielle agrees. 
Imagine her surprise when she finds Ramsay making another appearance in her life, bound for Paris on the same ship as herself. Trust goes out the window, even as sensuality rushes in. And the dark dangers of Paris await. Little does Gabrielle know that Ramsay needs to discover the Pimpernel's identity, and that Gabrielle is to be that conduit.
What is so fascinating about this story by Galen is the tension generated between what Gabrielle and Ramsay are forced into doing, the dangers they find themselves in, their conscience or lack thereof, and the undeniable chemistry between them, all set against a particularly bloody and horrendous time in French history.
In the meantime we are treated to an interesting array of secondary characters, some of whom I'm sure we will meet in the future.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dante revealed.

Say No More (Gravediggers #3) by Liliana Hart.   


                               


Tight prose only adds to this episode of the Gravediggers. (Lord) Dante Malcolm is front and centre, a former British Intelligence force agent and art thief extraordinaire, now an agent with Gravediggers. He is equally matched by Liv Rothschild. Sadness encompasses Liv. Her twin sister Elizabeth disappeared, taken when they we playing hooky in Harrods. No trace of Elizabeth was ever found. Liv blames herself. This effects all her actions. She is driven by her sister's disappearance. She spends her life trying to make up for that. Liv is a Detective with Interpol and is on the hunt for art thief Simon Locke, an alter ego for Dante. Of course things are complex. This is a Gravedigger's novel after all. Their paths first cross prior to Dante joining the  Gravedigger's team.
It seems Liv and Dante had an intense sexual relationship that always seems to have its outlet in dark and dangerous situations. Added spice or just no time?
The international political backdrop of the novel is so today that I really had to take a step back. I don't think we'd quite reached the level of today's international angst when Hart was writing this.
Eve Winter is still her cold hard self. That woman really freaks me out. I so want to see her story, or maybe not. Can't help but wonder how she came to be.
Elaine the computer is hilarious. Her innocently matter of fact questionsI about being human and what that entails keep you shaking your head.  am wondering how and if she's going to develop.
Apparently she's "the perfect union of technology and robotics... She was free to think on her own and had developed her own personality, much to the amusement of them all."
The body she going to choose when she finally has a physical manifestation if she does have one will be fascinating, and a little creepy.
A slick, many faceted and engaging thriller that holds your interest.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Decidedly quirky!

Lord of Night (Rogues to Riches #3) by Erica Ridley.  

                             

Miss Dahlia Grenville, an unusual debutant will do anything to keep her home for destitute girls afloat.  Her passion for her girls, her cause and the lengths she's willing to go to are extraordinary. Those lengths include stealing small items from the ton and turning them into cash via a rather circuitous route.
However Simon Spaulding, a Bow Street runner of impeccable standards is on the trail of the thief. The thief, on command of Prinny, is to be caught and hanged. Of course Simon doesn't realize that's Dahlia, a young woman he's become attracted to. In fact he thinks Dahlia is a respectable headmistress, not the daughter of a Baron.
So we have the hero unknowingly pursing a thief who is the woman he is coming to appreciate.
Dahlia's sense of fair play does go into realms I would never have considered. I must admit to loud laughter when Dahlia bemoans the fact that she's become a rake, a despoiler of virgin men. Riley has hilariously turned the tables on the norm for Regency romances!
This had some desperately funny parts and some equally desperately sad moments. Simon's relationship with his half brother comes under the latter.  
The humanizing of Simon is delightful. I was charmed. A definite winner with characters you can easily relate to.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Friday, August 18, 2017

family first--duty vs love!

How to Marry a Marquess (Wedded by Scandal #3) by Stacy Reid


                           

A young man, Lord 
Richard Maitland, deceived by his lover, withdraws emotionally  and physically from society
His one source of light becomes his best friend's sister Lady Evie Chesterfield whom he has had a series of interesting meetings with over the years, seemingly always in the garden, often involving advice as to how to ward off unwanted suitors.
For Evie, Richard becomes not only a friend but the man who holds her heart, but she can never let him know.
Years later, uncovering an awful truth Richard, now the Marquess of Westfall, outrages society by claiming his illegitimate daughter openly and  adopting several desperate children. In fact, " it 
had become a scandal that Richard publicly supported reforms of the injustice meted out to women and children in Newgate Prison."
It also is revealed that Evie's family's funds are at a standstill, so Evie must marry!
Always Evie has been on the sidelines. She has actively discouraged offers of marriage. Now she must marry, and it seems that someone will not be Richard. Richard has decided that he should marry. His daughter needs a mother. Evie is disgruntled that he hasn't even considered her. She takes things into her own hands with near disastrous results.
It seems Richard does not believe she has the strength of character to weather society's opinion. Shattered and stunned by Richards betrayal of her, his lack of trust, Evie is resigned to having nothing to do with him. Her fate will be to marry a man of sufficient wealth, who has the approval of her mother. Marrying for circumstances not love. Marry to fill the family coffers. Marriage as an economic transaction.
I must say that I liked the ending. That and various episodes throughout the story had me rethinking my three star rating to four.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Vengeance with a twist.

  

Scottish Highlands 1523.
Mairi Maclean knew that marriages were clan alliances, no matter that her first marriage went badly. Now widowed, she's again decided to marry for clan. Just before her wedding she learned that her fiancé intended to send a handsome friend to kiss her. If she enjoyed the kiss she might break off the wedding. Not that Mairi was going to do that! As she sad though, “Drunken plans should not be made the night before weddings!”
But did her fiancé have to send someone so handsome? When Mairi kissed the stranger she almost swooned. Still, the wedding would continue Mairi decided even as the stranger was leading her out ... and away, wait a minute, to where? Oops drunken plans certainly played into the hands of Alec MacNeil!
Mairi found herself captive to Alec, clan chief known as The Wolf of Kisimul Castle! Alec has decided to take vengeance against those who murdered his wife and Mairi was the widow of his enemy!
The pages devoted to Mairi being held captive are hilarious. I would give the book five stars just for those pages of mischief. The  relationship with Alec's children, the transition unbeknownst to him of  dank dungeon to something other, is brilliant. Mairi and the children become a formidable team that it takes Alec some time to become aware of.
I loved this story. Marie is a treat, feisty and full of life despite the shadow of fear that hung over her from her treatment at the hands of her former husband and his family.
Alec is a man of honor, trying to keep his clan and family together, and yet so young in understanding relationships, hampered as he is by his seemingly lacklustre upbringing. All the women in his life leave the castle in someway, and yet he remains to carry on a tradition.
Neither of them dreamed where things would lead. 
This definitely is the highlight of the series, humorous and heartfelt.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rakehell meets Lady governess

The Last Gamble (Bastards of London #3) by Anabelle Bryant

 

Lucius Reese, we are told is, 'a man of many titles, none of them revered by the peerage: rakehell, philanderer, and bastard most of all.' Luke, one of the partners of the gambling palace, the Underworld, is a man in pain. His son Nate has been kidnapped by his half-brother, Viscount Dursley.
Lady Georgina Harwood has fled her family situation and comfortable home in Mayfair to a cottage in Coventry and is currently employed by a local peer as a governess.  (Mind you I find the whole cooking episode a bit like Marie Antoinette playing at being a dairymaid)
Luke and Georgina meet because Luke discovers that Georgina the governess can prove that Nate was in Dursley's hands.
There are lovely moments of whimsy in Luke and Georgina's interactionsSuch as Georgina and Luke's individual reflections about each other at the inn. Luke is in room four and Georgina in room three, across the hall from each other. Georgina is taken by fours and Luke by threes.
Four times... Ahh! A rather quirky and lovely piece of writing. Four wheels on a carriage.
Four suits in a deck of cards. Clubs, spades, diamonds and hearts.
Luke is fixated on three! Three times Luke had seen Georgina's hair unbound. Three times ... more whimsy! This moment really struck me. The whimsy in these moments, when the lead characters reflect about the other, is captivating. These are wonderfully endearing insights.
In between the serious business of finding his son Nate, Luke is becoming more and more enamoured of  Georgina, as she is with him.
The thing is I find Georgina moves between believable actions and then moments of inanity. Why does she place herself in situations that are dangerous. She is so much more than the impulsive young woman these moments reveal. And yet, sometimes she walks in, turns around and finds herself in an unlooked for situation because she's not paying attention. She has no street smarts. But then she wasn't raised with the need for any so maybe she's really being true to her character. 
I did find myself at times flipping through the pages of specific sexual encounter looking for the storyline. 
The charged teasing play at the dining table was great--measured and mischievous but there was just too many pages given to the bedroom type play. The story didn't need it. This was the deciding factor for me between four and five stars. 
I had wondered why Lord Dursley would steal Nate. I had already seen the reason as a possibility but had discounted it.
Likeable characters placed tin interesting situations give this story a certain panache.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Honor is as honor does

Into The Hall Of Vice (Bastards of London #2) by Anabelle Bryant


                                      


Lady Gemma Amberson knows there's a mystery surrounding her father's death. That's why she spends her time at polite society gambling parties in an attempt to learn something, anything! Lord Winton, he of the slimey snake charmer abilities, drops hints to her that a visit to a certain Miss Devonshire in Charing Cross might help her enquiries. Of course that hint comes with a demand for payment of the more personal kind.
That's where Cole Hewitt one of the owners of the Underworld, a gambling hall of note, finds her when he visits as his alter ego Mr. Goodworth.
Cole is smitten but he knows the gap between them is real and not even possible.
Cole and Gemma's story had great potential but to my mind it just wasn't pulled off with the same riviting quality that Den of Iniquity had. I liked Cole and Gemma but their relationship, although heated, was just a tad two dimensional. Their interactions were slightly flat.
The gambling hall, the Underworld is really just a backdrop. We see more of who Cole is when he's in Charing Cross reflecting on his awful childhood. Those hints reveal more about him, but not enough. Being locked in the closet gave us hints, but again they only hint at his past.
Still I'm hooked on the series and want to see where the next story takes us.


A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sins of the fathers!






"The treasure had been above ground for under an hour and already it had claimed three lives. This was how it began."






1216. King John seeks to combine his forces against the invading army of Prince Louis of France supported by disloyal barons. John calls on his loyal supporters, amongst them Sir Josse d’Acquin. Joss sets off with his brother Yves and his son Geoffroi to join the King.
Meggie his daughter, a healer has been called by Abbess Caliste to Hawkenlye Abbey. When the message comes Meggie is deep in the forest. She finds strength and knowing here, descended as she is from the Forest People.  At the same time Meggie is concerned about her partner"s absence, Jehan, the smithy.  She's troubled about their relationship and what she wants for her future.
At the Abbey, Meggie becomes involved with a distressed woman and her son, strangers to England and seemingly on an urgent quest. A quest that will involve a cursed treasure.
Thus begins Meggie's gripping race across England trying to save the life of Queen Isabella, wife to King John, and then onto searching for King John himself. All the while gleaning snippets of information about what drives the woman Hadil and her son Faruq.
Based partly on the death of King John, Clare has woven fact and fiction into an exciting landscape of intrigue and treachery with a touch of magic. The nature, the strengths and weaknesses of King John are nicely illuminated.
Evil is very much in ascendency and Meggie's search will take her into an armed camp and into the king's presence, where her father, uncle and brother are, and unknowingly in the same vicinity as her missing lover, Jehan.
This last in the seventeen book series, the Hawkenlye Mysteries draws to conclusion a very satisfying journey.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Germans wore grey.

The Paris Spy (Maggie Hope Mystery #7) by Susan Elia MacNeal



                              

I adore Maggie Hope. She's right out of 'Girls Own Magazine', a patterned heroine with a grownup twist.
In Paris Spy Maggie is once again in the thick of things. This time she's called in favours from 'high places' to get herself over to occupied Paris--at the Ritz of course! Now that's a cover!
She meets Coco! (As a side tack Chanel was reputably an ant-Semite and she had a German lover, Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage.) MacNeal has Maggie meeting Dincklage at Maxims after the ballet. The inclusion of Chanel is seamless, brilliant and believable. Bravo MacNeal!
I have to say MacNeal's descriptions of an occupied high society Paris swirl with undercurrents of a nervous desperation despite all the glitz that is portrayed is riviting.
Maggie's search for her half sister Elsie has taken her to Paris right into the midst of things. The Gestapo, secret agents and double agents. Dirty tricks and dirty secrets.
It would seem that agents are being compromised but the incompetent in charge of receiving SOE agent's messages is not taking notice.
If a search can turn even more deadly it does and Maggie's cover is blown.
What is at stake now becomes vital to the war effort. Maggie has some terrible truths to face. The ending had me on the edge of my seat and desperate for the next book. 
Another ripping Maggie Hope yarn!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Highlander Happenings



                                   


I really enjoyed this. We have a feisty young highlander woman who takes the breath away from her silent stalwart brother-in-law, a man who vowed to never return to the place he'd once called home.
Hamish MacBrieve fled Foinaven Castle twelve years ago. He was now an elite guard with the McTiernay clan.
After years of pleas to return home from his brother Robert, Hamish has finally acquiesced.
The only problem is:
1) Hamish had once been head over heels in love with Mairead's sister Selah, who'd married Robert
2) Hamish has cleared out never to return and now only did so because his brother finally persuaded him of danger to the clan
3)Hamish was only stay ing to get the job done--his way
4) Hamish didn't want complications and falling in love with this breath taking young woman whom he use to teach to skip stones was not part of the plan!
And then there's the twist in the tail, what is troubling Mairead? And will Hamish ever trust her, for that matter will she ever trust him.
Talk about clash of wills and hearts. Minds even.
Great tale that keeps adding new surprises. Just sorry it took so long to read. Life kept interrupting! I'm now committed to reading the rest in the series!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Friday, August 4, 2017

Strangeness in the stars!

The Ghost Line: The Titanic of the Stars by Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison.  

                              


Abandoned star ships that are more than they seem. This premise has been played out before. At this stage I am not interested enough to pursue a future reading of a subsequent tale. The trouble was I felt somewhat abandoned by it all. 
It looked like a straight forward job for Saga and her husband Michel. Break into The Martian Queen, a sealed mothballed ship, and help bring it back online. Then other factors enter including their employer and the ship itself. Life becomes something other. There was a reason this ship had been placed away from all.
This novella has great potential but I was not captured.

A NetGalley ARC

**

Thursday, August 3, 2017

"Forgiven; embraced; remembered."

Bloodfire Quest (The Dark Legacy of Shannara #2) by Terry Brooks


                                         

"It all came down to Aleia Omarosian—the first of the Chosen, the original Ellcrys, but also the one responsible for the theft of the missing Elfstones."

I'm with Arlingfant Elessedil. When Ellcrys really chooses you run from the scene screaming. After all we know what happened last time.
Who wants to turn into a rooted tree even if it does live for age upon age?
Arlingfant and her sister Aphenglow Elessedil are of the Chosen who live at Arborlon and tend to the tree Ellcrys. The tree that maintains the barrier between the Four Lands and the Forbidding. But Ellcrys is dying and needs a successor. 
Ellcrys has chosen Arlingfant.
"You will carry my seed to the Bloodfire and immerse it and then return to me, and through you I will be renewed and the Forbidding will hold". 
Arlingfant knows what this will mean for her!
Aphenglow knows about the elf stones and knows that these might be all that stand between her sister and her frightening future. The search is on. Aphen also knows that she and her sister are linked by heredity back to Aleia Omarosian and that this is not coincidence.
Once again Brooks had me wading through a sea of unbelievable action, a quest for the magical Elfstone, the terrifying Forbidding and the race to save the Four Lands. The choices to save the four lands and block the creatures from the Forbidding is growing slimmer. A maelstrom of relentless action from the opening pages. 

A NetGalley ARC

****

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Grace Burrowes does it again!

Too Scot to Handle (Windham Brides #2) Grace Burrowes


                                          


Oh the comfortableness that eventually comes between those who are matched in Burrowes' historical romances. This trope of the strong quiet man coming to know a woman who has been underrated is once more is in ascendancy. Burrowes excels at this mix!
These men wrap their loved ones in ease and warmth. They want to protect their women and do so without confining them. Burrowes has a wonderful way of giving us this.
This story was interesting in many ways. 
The plight of the destitute orphans is part of the story.
The treatment that young women could look for at balls by insipid, entitled young male heirs of little sense was was appalling, exposing the ingrained habits and the right to bad behaviour and stupidity that many of the ton felt was owed them.
Burrowes nicely contrasted them with men of the Windham stamp, who took their duties seriously and did not suffer fools gladly. The fight the newly minted Lord Colin, previously an army captain, has to enter the ranks of the ton is hampered by the self serving Lord who had decided to introduce Colin to the ways of the ton. A less than stellar character.
Colin runs across the intelligent and vastly underrated,  Anwen Windham and life takes on a whole new hue for both of them.
Colin makes Anwen see sparkly rainbows. I love that!
Put that together with a lively bunch of orphans Anwen is caring for and there is plenty of opportunity for intriguing situations Colin and Anwen find themselves in.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Troubled Times: a history and a mystery!

India, a grand setting for love, betrayal and threat.



                             

Sophia Elliot is distraught when her brother's best friend unaccountably takes himself off to the continent with his only word being some idiocy about them being best friends.
For Sophia, their time together had been more than that. Indeed she'd thought Anthony Blake, the Earl of Wilshire felt likewise. The signs were all there.
Anthony, is in reality an English spy and he's been called back into service on the eve of him declaring his intentions towards Sophia. The task he's charged with reveals that Sophia along with many others are in danger. A coded document detailing the English spy network, their  names and their loved ones has been stolen. The whole network maybe compromised unless Anthony can track it down.
Two years later Sophia decides to join the Fishing Fleet for Bombay (This was the name given to the annual exodus of young women to India seeking husbands each season).
And it's here that Sophia unexpectedly comes face to face with Anthony. Can Sophia survive this test? Can Anthony? And what of Anthony's task? A task that's dragged him across the continent all this time and now here. Why has his path led him to Bombay?
The mystery continues as Sophia and Anthony try to take up the reins of a relationship defined as friendship, with the beating heart of love barely disguised.
Allen brings alive the times and the colour of India, all underscored by the heady secrets revealed. Alongside this Allen hints at the disparagement and clashes between these two cultures. 
To my mind the title, Secret of the India Orchid reflects the exoticness, the culture, the flora and fauna of a setting that the finále of Anthony's search deserves, bringing the secrets of love and betrayal that intertwine to a satisfying conclusion.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Another satisfyingly complex Blanchard mystery.


Ursula Blanchard's  life continues to be a maelstrom of activity. Garnering the occasional involvement in state secrets, heinous crimes of murder, advice to her sister Queen Elizabeth, all offset around the normal pace of life and country living. Ursula is always moving between the Queen's court, her Surrey home at Hawkswood, her second Withysham, which was in Sussex and visiting other places when called to by Lord Cecil, the Queen's treasurer or Francis Walsingham, the Queen's Secretary of State. Accompanied always by her devoted serving woman Dale and Brockley her loyal manservant and Dale's husband. 
A letter from Cecil takes Ursula back to court and to her sister's side.  Elizabeth is contemplating marriage with French royalty, Francis, the Duke of Alençon,  a man twenty years her junior. A stormy contemplation. Elizabeth is fearful and worried, beset by fears of what marriage means for her, the physical intimacy, the fear of childbirth and how such a marriage might effect her kingdom. 
Opening with the search for a missing boy in July 1579, the thread of that missing child becomes woven into seemingly unconnected happenings and meetings that have no discernible connection to the Elizabethan court intrigues. Ursula is called to a distraught friend's home. Her husband, missing thirty years has reappeared. The reunion is not pleasant!
At court Ursula becomes involved in a poisoning and the ructions around Elizabeth's view to marrying. Many are against it. Alençon is Catholic and this is making many at court nervous. Deaths draw the threads together in the most unlooked for places.
Ursula suspects, as she reflects at the beginning, that as she's been told by others, she's "a natural adventuress, that responds to the call of mysterious and secretive tasks as wild geese take wing in response to each other’s haunting calls." Sometimes Ursula should ignore the call!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Courtly intrigue. Serving at the Queen's pleasure!


When I started this book I thought Ho Hum! another Elizabethan spy novel, albeit by Sharon Cullen. But no! This had it all! Treachery on all sides with intrigue and treason emerging from the French, Spanish, English and Scottish courts.
Aimee de Verris was sent to Scotland by her aunt Catherine de Medici to spy on Queen Mary. The carrot was that Aimee would be allowed to return to France and take up with her true love. Aimee is effectively banished to a place where she's never warm and for a task she has absolutely no trading for.
Simon Marcheford was sent by Queen Elizabeth to spy on Mary and her court. He wanted to retire to his lands with his sister and live peacefully. But when a monarch such as Elizabeth makes a request there is only one answer. Yes!
Out of nowhere Simon and Aimee are ordered by Queen Mary to marry. This story of how the two connect, if nothing else, shows how in these times, all are at the mercy of ruling monarchs.
When Mary's advisor is murdered right before their eyes, Aimee and Simon find themselves running from the powerful perpetrators, and later running from Mary's wrath against all present at that fateful hour. Their only hope is Elizabeth, but how welcoming will she be?
A fast paced, absorbing and very enjoyable read.

A NetGalley ARC

*****