**spoiler alert** Lackey should really stay away from writing about that whole "enlightened white heroine mixes with other races because she's so enli**spoiler alert** Lackey should really stay away from writing about that whole "enlightened white heroine mixes with other races because she's so enlightened in far less enlightened times" thing. The magical non-human beings are less obsequiously subservient to the Nice White Lady than the Benneton ad spread of Servants From Other Continents.
On the other hand, Lackey broke out of the standard romance structure for this - a happily married couple who remain happily married! A POV split between the children and adults! I do wish there were less of the "I have loved once, I can never love again" slash "I though I loved once but I didn't really know what love was so that doesn't count!" thing, but even this squidge of variety was pleasant.
Also, for the love of all that's holy, the dialect. OH, the dialect. Just. No.
(And yet I'm still reading all of these. I don't even.) ...more
Lackey does much better with the World War One stuff than she does with the "ooooh mixing of cultures" stuff she maunders through in some of the otherLackey does much better with the World War One stuff than she does with the "ooooh mixing of cultures" stuff she maunders through in some of the other books. Some of it is quite touching, and I'm such a sucker for the fairy tale hurt/comfort of deprivation/luxury (or even basic creature comforts) that are especially well played in a Cinderella retelling. ...more
Goddammit. If I end up reading this entire freaking series just because of the Wimsey homage character, I swear I will....not be surprised.
Okay, so,Goddammit. If I end up reading this entire freaking series just because of the Wimsey homage character, I swear I will....not be surprised.
Okay, so, there's an egregious amount of dialect, and the handling of Hinduism is maaaaaaaaybe a step and a half above Temple of Doom, and the author is clearly v. proud of how she's handling issues of race in Edwardian England with a heroine whose mother was Indian, and while you're totally aware she's tanking it most of the time, you don't realize how much she's tanking it until you read the passage about suffragettes, which is actually pretty decent, and oh my god, are we not even going to vaguely address the fact that the villain might, you know, have some legitimate grievances against the British in India, even if she is batshit crazy? No? Not really? Oh. Okay then.
The romance is a little half-hearted, and the fairy tale pastiche doesn't work nearly as well for me as The Fire Rose did (which is a guilty pleasure re-read of mine), and even the magic isn't all that magic-y for me, but DID YOU SEE THAT THERE'S A NOT-TERRIBLE WIMSEY HOMAGE? Because there is. And he's not terrible. And I'm going to end up reading the entire damn series just to watch him swan onstage every couple of chapters, say something pithy, solve someone's problems, then swan back off. Hey, I recognize my weaknesses. ...more
**spoiler alert** Susanne Whitestone is no Harriet Vane. That could really be the sum and whole of a rather disgruntled review. (Even as I fairly well**spoiler alert** Susanne Whitestone is no Harriet Vane. That could really be the sum and whole of a rather disgruntled review. (Even as I fairly well enjoyed tearing through this in one sitting.)
Lackey trudges into some weird class territory here, and Susanne spends all but the last THREE PAGES mooning after some dude who will never see past the class barrier, even though she's gentry but not the right kind and I don't even, and at least she has some spine and grows a bit, but ugh. Again with Lackey doing better with the World War One stuff than she does with much of the socio-political commentary, but seriously? Seriously? You're going to write off your WIMSEY HOMAGE with someone he doesn't quite see as an equal for most of the book, someone who only slightly agrees that he's not terrible to have around by the end of the book. At least there wasn't a total romantic turnaround by the end.
Well. I just goes to show that even the homage falls apart. Wimsey wouldn't uproot his life for someone he didn't respect enough to make her own decisions, and Harriet never would have put up with most of this bullshit, much less got into a passive-aggressive catfight over someone else's fiance.
(Though props to Lackey for making characters eager to see the backside of the heroine (not like that). Just because she's the heroine doesn't mean she didn't deeply, deeply inconvenience the family who took her in briefly, as well as almost get their son killed, and Lackey made their response to that entirely reasonable, if a titch narrowsighted.)
Also the Donkeyskin fairy tale is creepy as fuck. I'm not sure I ever quite realized that before. ...more
A nice check-in with the previous heroines, but the hero in this book is way too Rapey McIIgnoreYourSillyLadyWords for my taste. She says no! She shovA nice check-in with the previous heroines, but the hero in this book is way too Rapey McIIgnoreYourSillyLadyWords for my taste. She says no! She shoves him away! He states time and time again it doesn't matter what she says she wants because he's going to kiss her until she admits all she wants is his manliness. And then does it.
**spoiler alert** Ho hum. Charming enough writing to compensate for a loathed trope ("Oh! I have a dreadful trauma in my past that led me to making th**spoiler alert** Ho hum. Charming enough writing to compensate for a loathed trope ("Oh! I have a dreadful trauma in my past that led me to making this firm vow that keeps us from being together! Nothing else hinders us any more, so I will cling to this vow like nobody's business! ...okay now I'm done with that vow! Trauma overcome! Let's get hitched and make babies!"). I do appreciate the mystery thrown in, though, even if it was easily solved. I do enjoy romances that have a little external something-something in addition to the conflict between hero and heroine. Especially when that conflict is based around a stupid vow that is ultimately easily overcome, rather than the heroine's far more understandable (for me) desire for independence, which also gets tossed by the wayside.
...actually, the more I think about it, the more I'm kind of pissed the heroine's never gonna see Egypt now. ...more
These books are *crack.* I don't even know. It's like a rundown of urban fantasy tropes that I find deeply, deeply irritating, and yet I devoured bookThese books are *crack.* I don't even know. It's like a rundown of urban fantasy tropes that I find deeply, deeply irritating, and yet I devoured books two and three in almost a single sitting on a single day. ...more
A paranormal historical romance mystery that was neither paranormal, historical, romantical, nor mysterious enough. So many deliciously schlocky elemeA paranormal historical romance mystery that was neither paranormal, historical, romantical, nor mysterious enough. So many deliciously schlocky elements that I should have adored (secret society! ye olde photographye! pretend-to-be-married! ye olde independente laydee! ::handwave:: magic!), but ho-hum enough in the execution that I just didn't care.
Okay, okay. Maybe I'm not so much 'over' romance novels as I am far more solidified in authors-I-like and authors-I-don't. Sherry Thomas, she of the uOkay, okay. Maybe I'm not so much 'over' romance novels as I am far more solidified in authors-I-like and authors-I-don't. Sherry Thomas, she of the utterly delightful-to-me Delicious, is an author-I-like. Not perfect, but a whipcracking fun read. Frothy house parties! Spies and intrigue! That glorious fictional moment of escaping wretchedness into a clean, well-fed, elegantly decorated wonderland, complete with gardens! Microscopically more gritty than your average historical romance, which gives the shiny romance-novel-setting a soupcon of reality in a way that I thoroughly enjoy!
I also very much enjoyed the heroine's ruthless practicality when it came to the contemplation of marriage. I like the contrast between what marriage likely meant in the context of the time place and the frothy romance. I like it when the practical, loveless contemplation of the contract of marriage is not portrayed as a bad thing (caused by grasping, greedy womenfolk!), but an unfortunate necessity. I like that contrasted against the happily ever after our hero and heroine manage to scrape out.
What keeps this book from the sheer delight of Delicious, though, is the double-standard and boneheadedness of the hero. He wants an anonymous, perfect lady! Real ladies are confusing and icky, because they have external motivations! He can be a devious manipulator, but heaven forbid a woman do the same! ::facepalm::
I did love the bits where they were both cranking up the obliviousness to eleven and enjoying each other's competence without saying a word.
Thought the secondary romance was sweet but almost entirely unconnected with the main storyline. ...more
Am finding I'm kind of over romance novels for the moment - or at least their very narrow definition of a happy ending (marriage! babies! for everyoneAm finding I'm kind of over romance novels for the moment - or at least their very narrow definition of a happy ending (marriage! babies! for everyone!) - but I'm finishing out this quartet because I really, really enjoy the friendship between the four women. Not really invested in the romances themselves, but I care about how Roberts has written these women creating their own family.
It's kind of like, oh crap, that one movie about the four friends in childhood and in adulthood, with Thora Birch and Christina Ricci and Gabby Hoffman, where all four are good friends but there are sets of two that are closer - Now and Then! It's like Now and Then in the grouping of the friends, and I find that I'm more interested in this latter group of two, Laurel and Parker, than I was in the first group. So, yeah, I'm totally sticking around for book four, but I feel like the books are reading like Roberts herself is more interested in writing the friendships than the romance, and I totally agree. ...more
I think this may be the book that puts me off romances for quite some time, because it'll be a damn sight for another book to be so eminently well-suiI think this may be the book that puts me off romances for quite some time, because it'll be a damn sight for another book to be so eminently well-suited to my tastes as this one. There's lavish descriptions of food! It's all framed by a wink-and-a-nod to fairy tales! The heroine is actually quite sensible, and the hero is not entirely a lunkhead!
I also enjoy the work Thomas has done with the man who by all rights should be the villain in this book - the hero's half brother and the heroine's former lover. She takes him from what should be a caricature of a romance novel mustache-twirling villain who rejected both Our Heroine and Our Hero in their own personally devastating ways, and she gives credence to why these people who we're supposed to like and respect loved this quasi-villain in the first place.
Yes, yes, there's a huge swathe of Captain Exposition at the very end, but it's handled in such a way that it's still emotionally resonant and not just a plot dump.
Still - fairy tales and food as metaphor. Nope, this is pretty much my favorite romance novel written in the last twenty years. ...more
While the hero eventually recovers from his first ninety or so pages of Angry Boner ManTM the Smart Bitches ("Heroine give me boner! Boner make me angWhile the hero eventually recovers from his first ninety or so pages of Angry Boner ManTM the Smart Bitches ("Heroine give me boner! Boner make me angry! Angry man do stupid things because angry!"), he was still, you know, an Angry Boner Man. A star was lost for me right there.
However, what this book does marevelously well is how it handles the inevitable conflict of spy vs. spy. In order for them to have a happily-ever-after, someone has to be wrong 99% of the time. Someone is working for the "wrong" government or deluded or whatever, and in 99% of that 99%, I'd say the "wrong" one is most often the woman. Angry Reader Lady!
Here, though, Bourne manages to resolve this conflict in a way that allows her heroine to retain her agency and her integrity, even as the heroine works for, ohmigodthehorror, France. (Obviously bad.) The heroine solves her own problems and is largely responsible for engineering her own happily-ever-after. I appreciate that so much I can't even say.
I also appreciate that Bourne walked the fine line of hero-and-heroine-finally-falling-in-love-and-heh-doin'-it combined with hero-holding-heroine-prisoner very well. While the hero may forget that the heroine is essentially his captive (because he can't be all that wrong! he works for the *right* side! England forever! it's all in her best interests, the little lady!), the heroine (and Bourne) never do, and Bourne never lets that be not creepy. Because it is.
Very skillfully done overall, even if I did want to punch the hero for big chunks of the book. ...more
Once again, picked up because of the Dear Author review. Was won over solely by the description of both assistantUSattorney!heroine and FBIagent!heroOnce again, picked up because of the Dear Author review. Was won over solely by the description of both assistantUSattorney!heroine and FBIagent!hero being good at their jobs and respecting each other for being good at their jobs, and lo, the review was right. Competent people! Being competent! And talking about things! And even though this justice system still clearly takes place in happy fantasy world, it's the closest I've seen to reality in quite some time (just with the particularly less scenic bits rubbed off).
Four stars on the strength of taking so many of the tropes I loathe about both procedural shows/books and romance novels and tossing them straight out the window. No "sassy" heroine who ignores anything remotely like common sense! A hero who provides protection in legitimate situations in which protection is needed (not like that, except for how it's totally like that) but who isn't smothering!