This was this month's random pick from my TBR, and it was a random pick that made me happy when I saw what book it was. I like Emma Holly and most ofThis was this month's random pick from my TBR, and it was a random pick that made me happy when I saw what book it was. I like Emma Holly and most of her books have really worked for me, so I'm not too sure why it's been almost 10 years since I've read one.
This is part of Holly's series about the Yama. The earlier books were set in Ohram, which is basically an alternate version of Victorian England, where a race of very advanced beings who live underground have been discovered a few decades previously. The Yama (called "demons" by humans, due to markings on their tongues that make them look like they're forked) have all sorts of technology, which gives this world a quite steampunk feel. Queen Victoria quickly realised the potential benefits of access to their tech and allowed them to settle in her empire, but people are still really wary of them. Part of this is because of their physical appearance, but part of it is because of their penchant for feeding off humans' energy, an act that, although harmful to the human if uncontrolled, can be extremely pleasurable and sensual for both sides.
This particular book is set in what seems to be an alternate version of India, a country recently conquered by the Ohramese. This alternate India is matriarchal and people (particularly women) are a lot freer about their sexuality than in Ohram.
And in keeping with that attitude, what we have here is a ménage book. On one angle of the triangle we've got Prince Pahndir, who was a character in the previous book in the series, Prince of Ice (which I must confess I barely remember). Pahndir is a prince of the Yama, who lost his beloved soulmate when she killed himself. Since Yama get only one chance at a soulmate (and for royalty it's even worse, since they can't really have proper orgasms without this person), Pahndir fell to pieces at her death, which felt to him as a huge betrayal. His family, horrified at his lack of control, faked his death and sent him away, selling him to a brothel. He lived there for years, being used to train the prostitutes (this was where we met him in the previous book, where he was the heroine's friend). At the start of this book we see his rescue, and we see him again when he's running his own brothel (where everyone is wonderfully treated, of course).
Then we've got Charles, a young Ohramese working for an expedition that's excavating an ancient tomb close to the city. Charles's background has some things in common with Pahndir. He's not royal; in fact, he's far from it: his mother was a street prostitute. When she died he ended up in a brothel himself, but he carried with him her fear of the Yama, who had just started to get settled in Ohram, and although he was terribly intrigued and tempted by the concept of their feeding off his energy, he never allowed that particular act. He is still obsessed with this by the start of this book, and when he comes in contact with Pahndir, who makes it clear his kink can be easily accomodated, the temptation becomes too strong for him.
And then there's Beth. Beth is a sheltered young Ohramese woman working in the same expedition as Charles. She's the sister of the heroine of the first book in this series, and she doesn't have any horrible things in her past. She's just adventurous and fancies Charles madly. Turns out she also becomes fascinated by Pahndir.
For the first two thirds of the book, I mostly really liked this. I loved the main relationship. Pahndir is a vulnerable, lonely character, having almost accepted that there's no one out there for him. Charles is tortured by what he sees as his kinks and has to be dragged almost kicking and screaming into his relationship with both Pahndir and Beth. Beth... well, Beth is just horny. She might be a virgin, but she has absolutely no problem accepting her somewhat unorthodox desires and just going for it with Charles, with Pahndir, with both at the same time. She's up for pretty much anything, and I thought that was great.
But there was so much here that was problematic! There were some things in the first two thirds, but then things started getting really gross and horrible, and I ended up giving up about 75% in.
At the start of the book we've got a scene where Charles goes into Beth's room while she's sleeping and they do all sorts of sexual things while she sleeps. Definitely non-consensual, but fine, I was ok to go with this in this fantastical setting.
There's also a subplot about the ancient queen whose tomb Beth and Charles' expedition is excavating. The idea is that this queen, who was extremely powerful, was highly sexed, and by being in the tomb Beth has somehow been influenced by her and sort of absorbed her insatiable appetites and her powers. She has vivid dreams about the queen's life, and we get treated to the detail of one of them, in a long dream sequence. That dreams was clearly intended to be super hot, but it wasn't to me. The queen has a harem of men, slaves sent in as tributes by all the many tribes she's conquered, and she chooses 5 each night. They're all desperate to serve her in that way. I was icked out by this. I know it's meant to be complete fantasy and I'm being humourless and earnest here, but the concept of having sex with slaves and this being portrayed as erotic is hugely problematic to me. I didn't really find that scene erotic in the least. Actually, I probably wouldn't have even if the men involved had not been slaves... this scene involved the queen being fucked by dozens of her slaves in one night.. all I could think was "gross" and "ouch!".
But since I could kind of ignore this and it didn't really affect the real protagonists' relationship, I kept going and mostly enjoying the book. What made me delete this angrily from my kindle was what happened when the suspense subplot got going. Basically, his family have found out that Pahndir has escaped the brothel, and fear he might try to come back. They have him kidnapped by a desert tribe of female assassins. And this casually leads to horrific sexual assault that is portrayed in a way that I thought was exploitative and titillating. There's loads of this, and even the rescue scene by Beth and Charles is horrendous (they decide that since they are outnumbered they need to pretend to be people sent by the villain to properly break their captive). I just could not stomach this crap, so gave up.
I bought this one without reading the blurb. I think I confused it with another Charles book I'd seen people talking about, and when I saw it was abouI bought this one without reading the blurb. I think I confused it with another Charles book I'd seen people talking about, and when I saw it was about 50p on amazon, I just clicked. It became obvious I'd been thinking of a different book pretty much as soon as I started it, when I found myself in the midst of a BDSM sex scene. Really, really not my thing. I'll be honest, if I'd been somewhere with wi-fi I would probably have returned it right there and then, but I wasn't, and I thought it might be a good idea to step out of my comfort zone and give something different a try.
Well, unfortunately, sometimes giving something different a try doesn't pay off.
Dominic Frey is a well-born gentleman who has a kink he's never been able to properly indulge in. He's submissive and needs a sexual partner who orders him around and humiliates him. This has even ruined a relationship with a man he loved, who just couldn't deal with what Dominic needed. As the book starts, Dominic has been able to make an arrangement. Every Wednesday night he goes to an establishment where a great big brute gives him exactly what he wants. Dominic is happy, the other man, Silas Mason, is happy.
Problem is, Dominic works for the Home Office and his job involves stamping out the publication of seditious printed material (basically, anything that questions the Government). Which is exactly what Silas is involved in: he owns a bookshop known as a gathering place for radicals and operates a secret printing press. The first time they meet outside of their trysting place is when Dominic supervises a raid on Silas' bookshop.
If the BDSM had been the only thing I had a problem with, I think I'd have been ok (I probably sound really judgmental here. I don't have a problem with BDSM itself, it's just that when something is written with the intention of being hot and sexy and it doesn't strike the reader that way, that's an issue). But it wasn't the only thing. The whole setup of the series struck me as sordid. This group of men seem to all have slept with each other, and I was uncomfortable by how much detail of each other's sex lives was shared with others, even those who weren't particularly intimate. Everyone seems to know about Dominic's Wednesday deal and his kinks. That almost "sex club" setup really didn't work for me.
I also had issues with this beyond the sex, particularly with Dominic's politics. I have enough of a problem with modern-day Tory politics already, so 19th century Tory politics simply enraged me. Dominic is very much for maintaining the existing social order (which benefits toffs like him, duh) and dismissing the concerns of those who are not as well treated by it. He does have some (very mild) problems with his Government's proposals to trample on people's civil rights in an extreme fashion in order to contain any radicalism. However, his position is that, even though he doesn't support these measures, if they do become the law, then he must enforce them. Look, I'm a civil servant myself, so I do understand that your job will sometimes involve implementing policies you don't agree with. But there's a limit there, and if you have grave enough ethical problems with something, the only honourable path is to resign. This won't happen often, but the sorts of policies we're talking about here are one such situation. To be fair, this might happen later in the book, but I didn't like that Dominic was the sort of person who would need to be in a situation where this impinged on his own welfare (by putting a man he cares about in danger) before he'll even consider whether what he's doing is wrong.
Not for me, I'm afraid, which is a shame, because several people whose taste I usually share love Charles' books.
Ah, this book. It sounded great. The world of opera in 1870s Paris. A heroine who's the most famous soprano of her time and has a mysterious past. AnAh, this book. It sounded great. The world of opera in 1870s Paris. A heroine who's the most famous soprano of her time and has a mysterious past. An intriguing plot, in which our heroine, Lilliet, is offered every singer's ambition: a role written specifically for her, only it turns out to be based on her own past, which very few people know.
I tried. I really did! I read over 100 pages of it before giving up. I liked some aspects of it: the setting is lovingly and lusciously described, and the plot was as interesting as promised. However, you really need characters that make sense. Lilliet is paper-thin. By the time I stopped reading I knew a lot about what had happened to her in the past, but I knew nothing about her as a person. I didn't understand why she'd react in the ways I was told she'd reacted and didn't know why I should care about what happened to her. The other characters were just as sketchily drawn, but I could have lived with that, if Lilliet had felt more real. I wasn't crazy about the writing, either. It felt a bit pretentious and it also felt like it worked to distance the reader from the characters.
I picked this one up mainly due to raves in a bookish podcast I really like, calledAll The Books! I love the enthusiasm of the two presenters and they've sold me on quite a few books already. However, I don't think I've actually liked any of them, so I guess I need to accept these two people and I just have very different tastes. Too bad.
I read (or attempted to read) this for my book club. We wanted to choose a biography and the shortlists for the Costa Book Awards had just come out, sI read (or attempted to read) this for my book club. We wanted to choose a biography and the shortlists for the Costa Book Awards had just come out, so we picked one from there. This one sounded interesting to most people, so we went with it.
As the title indicates, this is the story of Alice in Wonderland. It's the story of the book, but also of its author and of the girl that inspired it.
I did not get on with it at all and neither did my fellow book clubers... so much so that we had to cancel the meeting because there really wasn't a quorum.
My main problem was that I found the author's style incredibly annoying. I felt he read much too much into the most minor details. He would draw really fanciful conclusions that weren't reasonable or plausible. Even worse: he would present them in an overly assured way. It's hard to convey just how preposterous it all was, so probably best to let Douglas-Fairhurst himself do the work for me. I'll give you just a couple of random examples, but I can assure you, there are bits like this in practically every page.
Speculating about why Carroll zeroed in so much on Alice Lidell (the young girl, daughter of the college's Dean, to whom Carroll told the proto version of the story):
"...in any case there were plenty of other things about Alice that Carroll would have found attractive. She was born on 4 May 1852, a year which happened to fall exactly halfway between the first recorded uses of ‘nonsense poetry’ (1851) and the adjective ‘no-nonsense’ (1853), and if the close conjunction of those phrases neatly sums up a much larger struggle in the Victorian imagination, between a sensible but rather straitened approach to life and a much zanier alternative, it also hints at the mixture of qualities in Carroll’s potential new friend."
I'm sorry, but WTF? He goes on later in that section:
"Clearly Alice Liddell’s personality was a significant attraction, as was her proximity in Christ Church, which made her friendship convenient as well as genuinely enticing. [OK, that kind of makes sense...] But another and much simpler reason may have been her name.
Some years later Carroll invented the word game Doublets, in which players were supposed to turn one word into another, making the dead live (DEAD, lead, lend, lent, lint, line, LIVE) or mice rats (MICE, mite, mate, mats, RATS). Transforming ALICE LIDDELL into LEWIS CARROLL, or performing the same trick the other way round, is impossible without falling into gobbledygook, although meeting someone whose name had the same shape may still have appealed to a writer who only a few weeks earlier had published ‘Solitude’."
Huh? Do you see why I found myself so annoyed by this crap?
I was also uncomfortable with how the author dealt with the controversial issue here, which is the nature of Carroll's relationship with Alice Lidell. He was clearly drawn to children, especially young, pre-pubescent girls, to an extent which is very disturbing and creepy to the modern reader. People seem to take all sorts of positions on the issue, from thinking it was all innocent and simply a product of a man who was a bit socially awkward, to assuming full-blown paedophilia (interpretations closer to the latter end of the spectrum seem supported by the fact that Carroll's family members cut out and destroyed several pages of his diary which seem clearly to be about the relationship in question). I have no idea where on this spectrum I am, mainly due to ignorance of the subject, and this book didn't particularly help dispel that. Douglas-Fairhurst seems to mostly be on the "innocent" part of the spectrum, but rather than convince me, the way he would twist himself into knots trying to argue this made me suspicious.
In this section, he speculates on something Alice's sister Ina says about a time when Carroll distanced himself from the Lidells:
"Looking back on events in 1930, Ina told Alice that the biographer Florence Becker Lennon had asked her why Carroll stopped coming to the Deanery. ‘I think she tried to see if Mr. Dodgson ever wanted to marry you!!’ Ina wrote, with a double exclamation mark that perhaps indicated how ridiculous the idea was, or alternatively how close Lennon had come to stumbling upon the truth. Her next letter to her sister was equally ambiguous. ‘I said his manner became too affectionate to you as you grew older and that mother spoke to him about it,’ she explained, ‘and that offended him so he ceased coming to visit us again, as one had to find some reason for all intercourse ceasing.’ But this could indicate either that ‘his manner became too affectionate towards you’ (i.e. he behaved inappropriately), or ‘his manner became too affectionate towards you’ (i.e. I was jealous of the attention you were getting, or glad that you were attracting it rather than me). Even her final comment that ‘Mr. Dodgson used to take you on his knee. I know I did not say that!’ is not straightforward. Was she reminding Alice of a childhood secret they had shared, or complaining that Lennon had tried to put words into her mouth?"
Sorry, but what about "as you grew older" bit on the accusation that Carroll's manner towards Alice became too affectionate? That seems obvious that it wasn't the second interpretation.
And then there's this:
"Mrs Liddell might have been even more nervous if she had read Carroll’s diary entry after his final boat trip with her daughters: ‘A pleasant expedition,’ he wrote, ‘with a very pleasant conclusion.’ Was this a kiss? And if so, was it a ceremony conducted with the chaste solemnity of the Dodo giving Alice a thimble, or was it just a spontaneous muddle of mouths?"
This bit combines all I disliked about this book. How the hell do you go from Carroll saying the expedition had a "pleasant conclusion" to interpreting this means that the conclusion involved a kiss? And "spontaneous muddle of mouths"? Euwwww!! This is a little girl we're talking about!
I pushed through almost to the halfway point, but when it became clear there wasn't going to be much of a discussion at book club, I gave up.
This is a New Adult title which sounded very promising, but ultimately didn't work for me. It's the third in a series, but that wasn't the problem.
BasThis is a New Adult title which sounded very promising, but ultimately didn't work for me. It's the third in a series, but that wasn't the problem.
Basic plot: Cash Carmichael is living in Chicago after making himself independent from his wealthy family. He's quit a pointless job at the family firm (where he was basically supposed to sit around and not do any damage), moved away and got himself a job where he feels he's doing good for the community around him. He can only afford the rent on a tiny apartment, but at least it's his and he's paying for it. He's pretty surprised when his teenage cousin shows up seeking refuge. Turns out the kid's gay, but when he came out to his parents they basically ignored it, did the whole "Don't talk nonsense, I'm sure it's just a phase" thing. Having heard stories about the time Cash brought along his gay friends for Thanksgiving, the kid decides he'll be able to help him and shows up at his doorstep.
Cash needs some help helping him, someone local, and who better than Stephanie, his old friend-with-benefits? Cash and Steph were in college together and shared some close friends (the heroes of a previous book in the series) . They had really good chemistry and after a while began sleeping together. They were explosive between the sheets, but the relationship, such as it was, ended when Steph, who is bisexual, fell for another woman. She wanted to pursue that relationship seriously, so she stopped seeing Cash. Now, some years later, that relationship has ended, and when Cash gets back in touch with Steph, they realise they still fancy each other madly and fall back into bed.
I felt like I should have liked this a lot more than I did. On paper, Cash sounds like a dream come true. He grew up as a superprivileged rich, white, straight, cis male, but he has recognised this privilege and taken action. He's making his own way in the world and through his actions he's trying to make the world a better place. He works for a charity as a football coach for underprivileged kids, he challenges people who make thoughtless comments (even his young gay cousin who is still so immature that he'll use the "like a girl" insult), he listens to what people from minority groups say and adjusts his behaviour accordingly. He's also super open minded about other people's sexualities. All good things.
The thing is, weirdly, his extreme open-mindedness felt like it was taken too far, like it made it easier for people to get him to do things he doesn't want to do. The scene where I stopped reading was one which it seems to me other readers have interpreted in a very different way, and was totally intended to be super hot and awesome. It wasn't to me.
Basically, Cash and Steph have been sleeping together for a while and they start talking about fantasies. Steph suggests a threesome. This would be one with another guy, and one where Cash and the guy would have sex with each other as well. Absolutely fine if that was something that Cash was into, or even intrigued by. But my reading of him was that, while he's 100% comfortable with the idea of gay sex, he's just not attracted to guys. And here's the crucial thing for me: it felt like Cash was so invested in his persona of this tolerant, open-minded guy who does not discriminate against anything, that he didn't feel he could say no to this without compromising this image of himself he had in his mind. And even worse, it felt like Steph was almost calculatedly taking advantage of this. I'm pretty sure this is not what the author intended, and like I said, it seems to me that it's not what other readers have taken from it, but it was the way I read it, and it made me really uncomfortable. I couldn't help but see Steph as somewhat emotionally abusive after that, and I decided not to keep reading.
I should also add that it wasn't that I was loving the book until that one scene. I had plenty of niggles. I was a bit annoyed by the lecturing. It's all messages I agree with 100%, but it just felt unsubtle and I could see the hand of the author much too clearly. Seriously, think Suzanne Brockmann (who takes it just about to the edge for me), and multiply it by 10. And then there was the sex talk. These people have no boundaries. Cousins clearly wanted to demonstrate just how comfortable Cash was with the sex his friends were having and with involving his own prostate in the sex he was having, but she went much too over the top. It all felt incredibly immature (which, I guess, given these people's ages, kind of makes sense). It felt like they were all going "Look how comfortable I am with sex!! Look how tolerant and open-minded I am!! Look, look, LOOK AT ME!!!!".
I'm very disappointed, because there was a lot I liked here.
Irene is an agent who works for the Library. This is the invisible library of the title, an organisation that (I thought I was going to love this one.
Irene is an agent who works for the Library. This is the invisible library of the title, an organisation that (from what I can tell from the first half of the book) occupies the space in between many alternative versions of our world. Irene's work seems to consist of going into those alternate worlds to retrieve books that are of particular interest to the Library, a job that often involves danger and deception and even having to spend months in that world creating a plausible character to get access.
The mission Irene is assigned here is twofold. She's to take a novice under her wing and train him up, and she is to retrieve a volume of the Grimms' fairy tales from an alternative version of Victorian London. This is a world which has developed both magic and steampunk-type technology. The volume has been stolen from a nobleman who happens to be a vampire, and Fae involvement is suspected. All unremarkable enough as missions go, but Irene is alarmed to see that the world has been placed under a quarantine, as Chaos has began to infiltrate it. And before her mission goes very far, she's notified that a dangerous criminal, a renegade Librarian, is involved.
It sounds great, doesn't it? The idea of the library is cool, and the steampunky world is vividly described. My problem was that Cogman gave me no reason to care about any of what was going on. I had no idea of what the library was supposed to be for or trying to do, so I did not feel there was anything really at stake in Irene's mission. Irene must do this because she's been told to just doesn't cut it. And although Irene and her assistant, Kai, are superficially interesting enough, I didn't really connect to them as characters, so I didn't particularly care about the danger they were facing.
I read almost half the book before I realised I was forcing myself to pick it up. It's always a bad sign when I only read a book on my 20-minute journey to work... that's basically how I force myself to finish the books for book club that I'm not enjoying. I didn't have to finish this, so I didn't.
Once, many years ago, I used to love Lowell's books. In later years that love turned into mild like, but I still found her books worth reading. I fearOnce, many years ago, I used to love Lowell's books. In later years that love turned into mild like, but I still found her books worth reading. I fear that mild appreciation might have further degraded.
Sara Medina is an art historian with a particular interest in Western Art. She has her own art dealership, which she has developed through trustworthy advice and eschewing any flashy “pump and dump” practices (unlike some of her colleagues).
She is the perfect person for Jay Vemillion to call when his ownership of a bunch of paintings by a soon-to-be-quite-valuable painter is challenged by his late father’s second wife. Sara’s testimony turns out to be quite crucial in the judge’s decision in the matter, but as a bonus, she and Jay become quite friendly through their phone conversations. What started out as business discussions develops into quite intimate conversations. So when Sara comes to Jackson Hole, where Jay’s ranch is located, to hear the judge’s decision and see if Jay wants her to handle the paintings for him, they’re well on the road to friendship.
One of the first things to happen in Jackson is that her hotel room is burgled. With the town full up with tourists, she takes Jay up on his invitation to stay at the ranch. But trouble hasn’t been left behind. When they visit a distant part of the ranch where some of the paintings are stored, it becomes clear that something very dangerous is going on.
I read the first half of the book, and then realised I did not want to continue. Part of it was that I was not interested in the characters or plot, and that I didn’t really believe in the characters. A secondary character, in particular, was bothersome. Jay’s little brother was annoying in a way that a) was unbelievable, and b) made Lowell’s prejudices about what’s ‘manly’ very clear (if you’ve read Lowell before you won’t be surprised to hear that she thinks urban, urbane men are weak and effeminate). And then there was the evil step-mother, a terrible character and exactly the sort of evil gold-digger that I’ve really had enough of in romance novels. Pretty over the top.
The biggest reason I stopped, though, was that I found the writing excruciating. I used to think Lowell had a way with colourful language and similes, but I don’t know if I have changed or she has, but her writing now feels a bit much. The dialogue, especially, feels over-the-top in its baroqueness, a bit like bad Aaron Sorkin dialogue. She also has lots of instances of a character finding another character’s utterances hilarious and incredibly witty, and I as a reader going “Huh?” Oh, and there’s also a lot of mental conversation going on, much along the same lines.
At least she had an interesting conflict between Sara and Jay: Jay is country, can’t see himself ever leaving the ranch, which feels to him like a refuge after a traumatic deployment in Afghanistan. Sara, meanwhile, grew up poor in a rural area, and shudders at the thought of going back to the countryside. She loves San Francisco, where she lives now, loves things which actually resonated with me quite a bit, like being able to see faces of all colours around her (I tend to find it quite shocking when I go back to Uruguay for a visit after living in England, and Liverpool is not even particularly ethnically diverse, as England goes). I was a bit nervous about how she was going to resolve it, though. Again, knowing Lowell, I couldn’t see it going any other way than with the countryside winning over the city. I might be wrong, but I suspect I’m probably not.
MY GRADE: A DNF after reading over half of it. ...more
It's some 500 years in the future, and for a couple of centuries, a corporation has been secretly mining for a rare metal in a distant planet. Many thIt's some 500 years in the future, and for a couple of centuries, a corporation has been secretly mining for a rare metal in a distant planet. Many thousands of people live in the settlement that has grown around these operations. And then one day ships from a rival corporation arrive, but instead of simply reporting the illegal settlement to the interplanetary authorities, they destroy it. A few thousand survivors manage to evacuate and face a long, cramped trip to safety, all the while being pursued by the evil corporation. They clearly don't want witnesses. And then things start to go wrong.
This sounded great. It's narrated through a collection of documents, from transcripts of interviews to chat logs and official and unofficial communications, which is a device which, if well done, works wonderfully for me. It didn't here. The problem was the YA-ness of it all, I'm afraid. The action focuses on two teens amongs the evacuees, Kady and Ezra, who used to be together but broke up right before the attacks. This focus means that a lot of the book is written in this really annoying snarky tone, one which feels really out of place given what's going on. Actually, it's not just Kady and Ezra. The whole thing is like that, and it just didn't feel believable. The worst were these little notes left by the supposed editors of the thing, the people who collected the material (for purposes that are not 100% clear in the sections I read). The little snarky jokes there were particularly out of place. Between that and (possibly because of it) the fact that the characters really weren't coming alive, I gave up at about 25%.
I attempted all the books on the Man Booker 2015 shortlist, and the last one I picked up was A Brief History of Seven Killings. It tells the story ofI attempted all the books on the Man Booker 2015 shortlist, and the last one I picked up was A Brief History of Seven Killings. It tells the story of an assassination attempt on Bob Marley, and through it, the violent history of Jamaica in the 70s and 80s. There are a lot (and I do mean a lot) of characters and a fair bit of stream-of-consciousness narration. It was the last book I picked up and I did so while I was on holiday, so I possibly wasn't able to give it the sustained attention it needed. I ended up DNFing it, I'm afraid....more
The Fishermen is one of the six books that made it through to the shortlist of the Man Booker Prize. It tells the story of four boys living in a smallThe Fishermen is one of the six books that made it through to the shortlist of the Man Booker Prize. It tells the story of four boys living in a small Nigerian town in the 1990s. When their strict father is sent by his employers to work in a distant town and leaves the boys with their mother, they take the opportunity to skip school and go fishing in the forbidden river. And that's when the trouble starts.
I'd heard nothing but good things about this book. Everyone seems to love it. Me? Not so much. I just didn't connect with the writing or the characters. I was interested in what it sounded like the story was about, but I didn't really like how it was told, and the characters annoyed me. I read maybe about 40%, but that was enough for me. Also, I'll be completely honest: if I'd picked this up right at the beginning of my Man Booker reading, I might have persevered for a bit longer. However, I came to it close to the end, and knowing I still had 2 bricks to read, I didn't see the point in keeping on with something I wasn't enjoying.
This is about a young woman who suffers from quite severe social anxiety, to the point that she resorts to inventing a fiancé to keep relatives from fThis is about a young woman who suffers from quite severe social anxiety, to the point that she resorts to inventing a fiancé to keep relatives from forcing her to participate in the marriage mart. Problem is, the random Scottish name and rank she invents actually belong to a real man, and he ends up receiving her letters, in which she explains exactly what she's doing (which doesn't make a great deal of sense). Years later, once the war is over, he seeks her out. This is not because he fell in love with her letters, or anything like that, but because she's a property owner and he's desperate to give the men he commanded during the war, and who've been abandoned by the system, a place to settle and build a life. Ergo, she must marry him or he'll reveal her deception.
I didn't have an objection to the basic plot. Dare herself has made me buy more preposterous stuff. I didn't even have an objection in principle to the lack of historical accuracy. Dare herself has written books I've enjoyed which don't even attempt to be historically accurate. But this one just didn't work for me. In my opinion, it failed the internal logic test. The characters and motivations made no sense, even in the context of the situations Dare had created. I kept going "Why ever would she not do X?", and "Why would he do Y?" And the humour, which has always been one of the main attractions of Dare's books, just didn't appeal. The whole thing felt completely insubstantial... very Avon, I'm sorry to say. Not for me. I stopped reading at about the halfway point when I realised I didn't care in the least about these people.
This almost never happens, but sometimes a single scene can just make me stop dead and not want to continue reading an otherwise enjoyable book.
The YeThis almost never happens, but sometimes a single scene can just make me stop dead and not want to continue reading an otherwise enjoyable book.
The Year of the Runaways is another book on the Man Booker longlist. It tells the story of a group of young Indians. As the book starts, the men are living together in a cramped little flat in Sheffield, working illegally and putting all their energy into their objectives. The action then moves back to India for each one, showing us what brought them to Sheffield and what they're working towards.
Initially, the comparisons to Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance made me give this the side-eye a bit, as I found that book unbearable. But this is very different. Bad things happen, too, very bad, but there is a fair bit of decency and goodness from characters big and small, and that makes it bearable. It also doesn't minimise the tragedy and unfairness in the least. In fact, I feel it makes the structural injustice and the horrible stuff work better, because it all becomes more believable. When everything is horrible and there's no one drop of goodness at all, my mind sort of shuts down and I stop caring about the characters, because I just don't believe the situation. The way this was written in this book made the tragedy even more tragic and affecting.
It's a nice, diverse group of people, as well, with very different backgrounds. There is no one motivation for immigration and no one story. These were stories I hadn't read before. I was looking forward to reading more.
But then I got to the scene I found unacceptable. It's not really a spoiler, but I'm adding spoiler tags. (view spoiler)[This was at about 1/3 of the way in. In this scene, a really sympathetic character tries to rape a young woman. This is portrayed as him being overcome by his love and need for this girl, rather than, say, an attempt to punish or to control. My mind just stopped and went "No". This conception of rape as being about men not being able to control themselves because they just feel too much (lust, love, whatever) for the woman is toxic and harmful and disgusting. It's not a character self-justifying, which I would have been fine with (some men do, after all). The problem is that it's the narrative portraying the rape attempt this way. I might be overreacting. I've had a look at several reviews and no one even mentions this. Do you think I'm overreacting? The scene I section I object to is below. And in case you're wondering, the man is stone-cold sober at the time, so his obliviousness is not about that. Also, he's previously been a real sweetheart.
"You're the only one who understands", he said, easing her down, her head on the pillow. A nervous look crossed her face, which she tried to smile away. They resumed kissing. Her hands roved around his back as if not sure what they should be doing. His were on her waist, then her bottom. She pushed against his shoulders, but when he insisted on kissing her neck, she seemed willing to let him. He wanted to show her how much he loved her. How much it meant to him that she understood. He pushed up her top and couldn't believe that under it were her breasts. Just there under this thin top. The pink-brown tips revealed. He heard her say something and try to move away but he knew she liked him and he held her arms and kissed her breasts. She was saying it louder now, and the louder she said it the stronger his grip, the more fiercely he applied his mouth to her body. He felt her knees in his stomach, pushing him away. That didn't make sense. He rubbed his cock against her and she screamed, but he was groaning himself and he bit her breasts and dug his fingers into the maddeningly soft flesh of her arms and pushed his weight down, down on her. He was telling her how much he really loved her when he felt a pair of arms around his waist yank him violently away."
I'd also been bothered before this scene by how all the women were grasping and needy and selfish and constantly put the men under huge pressure to give them money: their husbands, their sons, all of them. But I was hoping that this characterisation would become more nuanced as we got to know more female characters. After the above, though, I just don't trust the author, and I refuse to read any further.
MY GRADE: A DNF.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Like A Spool of Blue Thread, which I loved, The Green Road is about a family. Unlike in the former, though, the author's voice got in the way of my enLike A Spool of Blue Thread, which I loved, The Green Road is about a family. Unlike in the former, though, the author's voice got in the way of my enjoyment of the latter.
The premise is that the far-flung members of an Irish family reunite after many years. I didn't get very far into it. I saw the beginning, when eldest son Dan decides he's going to be a priest, sending his mother into paroxisms of grief. Then I saw the second part, a few years later, when we see Dan living in New York in the early 90s, trying very hard not to be gay. I gave up not long after that, after about a third, so I didn't read the stories of all the other siblings. I did push on long after I started wanting to put it down, but gave up after a few days of forcing myself to pick it up.
My problem with The Green Road was mainly the voice. It put me off terribly. It's always hard to pinpoint why a particular writing style doesn't appeal, but basically, I found the style pretentious and annoying, and saw the author behind it a bit too transparently. The second section should have been great. It was a tragic time for the community she was portraying, right during the AIDS epidemic. It just felt horribly objectifying. The voice in which those young men were portrayed was very clearly from the gaze of the opposite sex and felt prurient and horrible. I also felt very detached from the characters. I didn't care.
The Chimes is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic London. The written word is not available any longer, and people's lives are a constant struggle to keThe Chimes is set in a sort of post-apocalyptic London. The written word is not available any longer, and people's lives are a constant struggle to keep memories. Anything not somehow anchored (as bodymemory, on an object) fades away pretty quickly. The whole world is music, from the Chimes several times a day (which seem to have a strong mental effect on the entire population), to the way people communicate (complex directions are always given in song).
We meet Simon as he arrives in London, not long after his mother's death. On his first day he follows a mysterious song and finds a lump of a very special metal (or mettle, as the word has evolved), which brings him into a small group of mudlarks who hunt for that mettle in a certain part of the river.
The beginning of this book was a huge struggle. Everything was really confusing, and it was tough to understand what was going on. After the first quarter or so I started to get it a bit more, but unfortunately, it still didn't work for me. I think the main problem was the issue of memory. I just didn't feel the way it was supposed to work here made sense. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what people remembered and what they forgot after sleeping.
And the characters didn't make much sense to me either. This is something that is probably a problem with me as a reader, since unbelievable characters clearly are no obstacle to books being considered "Good Literature", but I personally need characters that make sense and who react in ways that feel believable. This doesn't mean that they have to react like me; in fact, some of my favourite books have characters that, because of where or when they live, or because of their past experiences, react in ways that are completely foreign to me. That's fine; it just has to make sense. Here, it doesn't, and this is an issue I've had with quite a few Man Booker longlisted books (e.g. the much-adored How To Be Both, last year, or Swimming Home, a couple of years earlier).
Anyway, I gave up after about a third. Too bad, because the premise sounded interesting, a bit like Philip Pullman's The Dark Materials books!
Regan Cassidy has agreed to help out her uncle by attending an auction and bidding for a volume he's been after for a while: a journal written by someRegan Cassidy has agreed to help out her uncle by attending an auction and bidding for a volume he's been after for a while: a journal written by someone who was on a ship that was mysteriously lost at sea. She's to meet up with a professional contact of her uncle's, a marine archaeologist who's going to authenticate the journal. And it was their first meeting that put me off. Basically, Reagan is exactly the kind of heroine that really annoys me. The book opens with her mistakenly going into the wrong hotel room. She manages to come in right at the moment when the occupant (no points if you guess that it's the very marine archeologist she's meant to meet up with) is coming out of the bathroom naked. She flips. Fair enough. But then once they sort out the misunderstanding, she acts like a twit. She's all mortified and becomes really weirdly aggressive and formal with him, even in their further interactions when it becomes clear who Eli is. She treats him as if he's done something horribly wrong and offensive to her, when he did nothing of the kind (other than make some mild jokes when she was invading his room and accusing him of being a sexual predator). Seriously, woman, get over yourself.
The problem with this is that although the storyline was potentially intriguing (I loved the idea of the shipwreck and the mysterious log) and the hero seemed fine, Regan continued to be a complete ninny. I couldn't face spending more time with her, so I bailed.
This was yet another failed attempt at getting back into historical romance. I'd liked a previous Heather Snow title well enough before, so I picked tThis was yet another failed attempt at getting back into historical romance. I'd liked a previous Heather Snow title well enough before, so I picked this one up next. The plot concerns Derick Aveline, an English nobleman who's been working as a spy during the Napoleonic Wars. His last mission before he returns to civilian life is to catch a traitor operating in the very same area as his country estate. When he gets there he finds himself faced with a murder, and his childhood friend Emma determined to investigate. See, Emma's taken on her magistrate brother's duties since he had a stroke, and she means to keep them.
There's nothing really wrong with this book. The fact that I gave up after 80 pages or so is simply due to me having read way too many books just like this. It felt tired, and many of the tropes were amongst my least favourites. I've had it up to here with gentleman spies. The heroine is still nursing a childhood crush on the hero, and has been more or less pining for him all the time he was away. She's some sort of mathematical genius, but the bit of the book that I read really didn't convince me that she was. I will quite happily read all these elements if the book has other things going for it or if the author is doing something novel or interesting with them, but that just wasn't the case here. I didn't buy the characters or the situation, and it felt very "only in a romance novel".
MY GRADE: A DNF. Posted by Rosario on Saturday, April 02, 2016 , Links to this post , 2 commen...more
The "Mammoth Book of X" are a very popular collection of anthologies. They cover all sorts of topics (Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, Mammoth BookThe "Mammoth Book of X" are a very popular collection of anthologies. They cover all sorts of topics (Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance, Mammoth Book of Zombies, Mammoth Book of Comic Fantasy, Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories and so on), and tend to be big bricks containing lots and lots of pretty short stories.
This one sounded like a great idea, and a quick scan of the authors included revealed several names I recognised and had been meaning to try for a while. Unfortunately, once I started reading I was disappointed. I read about a quarter of the stories and was really not impressed by most. There were only 2 which were ok, but even those weren't that great. For the others, reading the short notes I made about them (which I've copied below), I think the best word I can use to describe them is "pointless".
Since this seems to be a collection driven by the editor's taste and I felt this sample gave me enough of an idea of what that taste might be, there really was no point in me continuing to read.
Quick summaries of the stories I read:
MR E. MORSE, BA OXON (FAILED), by Colin Dexter
Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series is one I've been meaning to read, so I'd hoped this would be a good introduction. It's kind of put me off instead. The case was pointless, the writing opaque and Morse himself didn't come across as a particularly interesting character. Story (failed).
GHOSTS, by John Harvey
PI asked to investigate death of a young man in a fight by the victim's mother; must get culprit's girlfriend to turn on him. Much too short, felt like the executive summary of a story. Not interesting, either. Pointless.
THE BLOOD PEARL, by Barry Maitland
Could have been good, with an exotic and unique setting (people who've been fleeced by a con man get involved in plot to steal pearls from his cultivation grounds in Western Australia).Unfortunately I found the characters completely uninsteresting and unbelievable.
THE COMMON ENEMY, by Natasha Cooper
This one was good. Good characters and really, really sad. Girl hasn't come home from friend's house and her mother goes out to search for her. Not a mystery, though, just the story of a tragedy.
BLOODSPORT, by Tom Cain
Really short story, but I liked it. It has a special forces soldier with a sniper's sight trained on the British Prime Minister. Interesting ideas and well-written. Also quite surprising.
THE RAT IN THE ATTIC, by Brian McGilloway
Not terrible, but quite predictable. Elderly woman accuses her neighbour of running over her cat, and police officer goes talk to him to keep her happy. As soon as the whole thing about the roof having no snow on it was said, it was completely obvious what was going on.
ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT ALREADY, by Tony Black
Bad. Girl kills boy who raped her using Rohypnol. No way were these characters believable schoolkids. Another pointless, much-too-short one.
HOGMANAY HOMICIDE, by Edward Marston
Set in 1906, this story features Dr. Crippen as a detective (yes, the famous murderer; this is not just someone of the same name). The mystery was not at all interesting and I found the idea of having Crippen as hero to be in poor taste, especially because Marston seems to be justifying why he would want to kill his wife some years later.
And a list of the other stories in the anthology.
FRUITS, by Steve Mosby A PLACE FOR VIOLENCE, by Kevin Wignall FOUR HUNDRED RABBITS, by Simon Levack HISTORY!, by Toby Litt THE MASQUERADE, by Sarah Rayne TAKE DEATH EASY, by Peter Turnbull THE PARSON AND THE HIGHWAYMAN, by Judith Cutler SPECIAL DELIVERY, by Adrian Magson A BLOW ON THE HEAD, by Peter Lovesey CHICAGO, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood THE HOUSE THAT GOT SHOT, by Barbara Nadel THE OCTOPUS NEST, by Sophie Hannah WALKING THE DOG, by Peter Robinson THE VELOCITY OF BLAME, by Christopher Fowler SOMEONE TAKE THESE DREAMS AWAY, by Marc Werner ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE, by Alexander McCall Smith 12 BOLINBROKE AVENUE, by Peter James APPETITE FOR MURDER, by Simon R. Green THE OTHER HALF, by Mick Herron SWORD LILIES, by Sally Spedding LOVE HURTS, by Bill Kirton FUNERAL WEATHER, by Kate Ellis A YEAR TO REMEMBER, by Robert Barnard TIME OF THE GREEN, by Ken Bruen VIVISECTION, by Bernie Crosthwaite STAR’S JAR, by Kate Horsley THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A VICTIMLESS CRIME, by Paul Johnston AND HERE’S THE NEXT CLUE..., by Amy Myers FRECKLES, by Allan Guthrie HAPPY HOLIDAYS, by Val McDermid
Heartless was my biggest disappointment so far this year. It's a book I've kind of been hoarding, since it's a favourite for many Balogh fans and I reHeartless was my biggest disappointment so far this year. It's a book I've kind of been hoarding, since it's a favourite for many Balogh fans and I really love some of the books she was writing round that time (for instance, the quartet that starts with Dark Angel). Unfortunately, 20 years after its release it felt very dated and old-fashioned, and I thought it highlighted what I always thought was Balogh's worst tendency: her heroines who seem much too determined to be martyrs and victims (see my favourite entry in All About Romance's much-missed Purple Prose Parody - this is not quite the book that inspired the parody, I don't think, but the heroine is very much in that vein).
This DNF review will include SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution!
Lady Anna Marlow has a Big Secret in her past. It's not really a huge spoiler, because you kind of get most of the story close to the beginning, if not all the details, but here goes. (view spoiler)[Anna's late father had got into trouble gambling and the debts were mounting. She confided in this kindly neighbour, a man about her father's age, and this guy pounced. He bought up the debts and used them to coerce Anna into helping him with illegal activities... distract people while playing at cards so that he could cheat, create a distraction so that he could steal jewellery, that sort of thing. There was also a possessive, sexual element, but instead of making her his mistress, he kidnapped her and had his servants tie her to the bed and remove her hymen. That way she would be "unmarriageable" (because no 18th century woman ever had her hymen broken while horseriding. Bah!). Then he told her he needed to go to America to do... something, and he'd claim her on his return. She would wait for him, otherwise he'd reveal that she helped with his criminal activities (although how he would do that without giving himself away Balogh doesn't explain) and even worse, "the truth": that he has "witnesses" that she pushed her father off the roof of their house. (hide spoiler)]
While waiting for that sword of Damocles to fall on her head, Anna accompanies her younger sister to London so that she can have a Season. Anna considers herself unmarriageable, but her godmother, who's sponsoring them, doesn't. She and her lover conspire to throw her together with the lover's nephew: Lucas Kendrick, the new Duke of Harndon. Luke is newly returned to England after being exiled there for years as a result of almost killing his elder brother in a duel, and his uncle thinks he needs to get married an settle down.
Luke doesn't initially think so but he's quite taken by Anna's warm, cheerful disposition (which is this mask she can't help but adopt, even as she's terrified and upset), and thinks that if he needs to get married, she'll do. Anna accepts Luke's marriage proposal against her better judgment, all the while telling herself that she shouldn't, that when the weirdo comes back he will cause trouble, but goes ahead with the marriage anyway. And obviously, Luke realises she's not a virgin on the wedding night and asks her about it (in a really insulting way). She refuses to say anything and he assumes that she loves whoever it was she had sex with, after which the bloody hypocrite (who's been sleeping around in Paris like there's no tomorrow) is angry and hurt and has punishing sex with her.
And of course, Anna was right about her tormentor coming back. Pretty much right after the wedding he's writing her threatening letters, telling her she's merely "on loan" to her husband and that he'll be claiming her soon, and following her to the duke's country estate and tormenting her there with the help of the Evil Other Woman, who's Lucas' brother's widow.
I got to about 60% and couldn't stand the idea of continuing to read about Anna doing all she possibly could not to solve her problem, worrying herself sick and drowning in self-pity. She has chance after chance after chance to tell her husband what is wrong (he even keeps asking what's wrong when she's upset), but she doesn't take them. This makes very little sense. The man is a powerful duke who can fix her problems (a pesky baronet like the weirdo against the might of one of the richest dukes in England? Please!). Luke also already knows "the worst" (i.e. that she wasn't a virgin). Anna is just determined not to communicate with him and to cause a Big Misunderstanding. And all the while she's wearing this weird cheerful mask, pretending to be warm and happy, except for when she goes all upset and Luke realises something wrong, but she'll refuse to say anything. I found her incredibly frustrating.
The whole thing is a mess. The villain is just unbelievable. This is an area where Balogh usually excels. Her villains tend to be more like antagonists, people who cause trouble/conflict for the protagonists in understandable ways and for understandable, nuanced reasons that are completely believable. This guy simply didn't make sense. The whole thing about him coercing Anna into helping him with his cheating and stealing was kind of preposterous, and the sexual element was squicky and seemed rooted not in any sort of psychologically realistic motivation, but in Balogh needing to have her hymen-less heroine still be technically untouched by any man. And same thing for this whole thing about him letting Luke have her "on loan" and him not simply showing up before the wedding and pressuring Anna not to get married (she would have folded, easily). That made no sense whatever and seemed purely driven by Balogh's plot requiring it.
The other villain, Luke's sister-in-law, was just as frustrating as a character. Basically, she and Luke had grown up together and were in love. And then she turned up pregnant by his elder brother, the heir to the dukedom, and told Luke his brother had raped her. So Luke called out his brother and in the duel he accidentally almost killed him (he was a terrible shot back then), leading to his exile from his family. Now he's back, and she thought she could have him back and continue to, in effect, be the Duchess, plans which were frustrated by his wedding to Anna. Anyway, the sister-in-law was this really retrograde Evil Other Woman, and her sort of villainy was of the kind that I find most insulting and mysoginistic. She was manipulative, (view spoiler)[falsely accused Luke's brother of rape (I'm assuming here, as the truth hadn't been revealed when I stopped reading, but it was pretty obvious that she had seduced the brother, rather than being raped), (hide spoiler)] and helps Anna's stalker stalk her just to cause trouble. And of course, they have skanky villain sex. Of course. We can't miss out on the slut-shaming.
What else? Oh, there's also Anna's little sister who's deaf-mute and whose role in the story seems to be "magical disabled girl who heals all those around her". Great.
I also found Luke's character arc predictable and clichéd. He was betrayed by his family so now he lacks a heart and cannot love. Oh, spare me. The only thing interesting about him was that the book is set in the late-18th century and he is a dandy in the French style: powdered wig, heels, peacock clothes, fans, make-up. That was fine by me, but make-up does not an interesting character make.
MY GRADE: A DNF. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Years ago I really enjoyed Carroll's Faire Isle trilogy. I loved her 16th-century France setting and the mix of history and fantasy, peopled by reallyYears ago I really enjoyed Carroll's Faire Isle trilogy. I loved her 16th-century France setting and the mix of history and fantasy, peopled by really interesting, fresh characters. There were some obvious threads left hanging at the end and I was really interested in reading the next book, which was not yet out. This was in 2006, but when the book came out the next year, I didn't read it. I think it was a bit on the expensive side when it first came out, and then I moved to England and got a bit distracted. Well, 9 years later I remembered the series and decided to go back and read The Huntress. I'm now really sorry I didn't read it back then, not because I liked it now, but because I think I might have liked it more back then.
The last book of the original trilogy, The Silver Rose, had as an antagonist a woman whose daughter had huge magical powers. Problem was, the antagonist meant to misuse her daughter's powers. At the end of the book she was stopped and killed (not really much of a spoiler, it's kind of part of The Silver Rose having an HEA), and her daughter was taken away by her long-lost father, Martin Le Loup, determined to keep her safe from all the other people wanting to abuse the girl's powers.
As The Huntress starts, Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, hears that there are rumours about where the girl might be and that a particularly powerful book, which was supposed to have been destroyed when her mother was killed, is actually still around. Ariane decides to send Catriona O'Hanlon to warn Martin about the threat to his daughter and to, ideally, bring both back to the safety of Faire Isle.
Catriona, originally from Ireland, is none to happy about having to go to London to carry out her mission (that's where Martin and his daughter have settled), but she considers herself Ariane's "gallowglass" (I had to look that up: it's "(in Ireland) a mercenary or member of a special class of soldiers in the service of a chieftain.") and is steadfastly loyal, so she'll do her best.
But once she finds them, Martin won't even consider going back to Faire Isle. He's sure he can keep his daughter perfectly safe himself, plus, he's spent many years setting himself up as a respectable Englishman, and he wants to give that status to his daughter and help her make an advantageous marriage. Cat considers just kidnapping the girl, but after seeing the love between her and her father, she decides to simply stick around and add her considerable powers to Martin's protection.
There were some good things about this. The Elizabethan London setting is vivid and rich, and there's plenty of intrigue. Martin has got himself involved with Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth's spymaster, and is in the uncomfortable situation of having to spy on a nobleman who helped him with his patronage, while hoping against hope he doesn't discover anything damning... like, say, that the man is involved in the plots Walsingham knows very well Queen Mary of Scotland is hatching against Elizabeth.
My problem was that the book had a very old-fashioned feel that put me off. Cat was a particularly frustrating character. She is genuinely powerful and is no unbelievable virgin warrior, but way too much of her characterisation is stereotypical "fiery Irish lass". She's stupidly impetuous and confrontational when it doesn't make sense for her to be, and even worse: she speaks like Nora Roberts' Irish characters.
Martin I just found annoying. I did sympathise with his love for his daughter and his wanting to give her the world, but he came across as yet another man who thinks he knows best and refuses to even contemplate that a woman might have ideas of her own. He is completely blind to all evidence that she might have some interest in magic and still some mixed feelings about her late mother. Oh, no, Martin has decided that it is best to just completely forget all that happened in the girl's life before he came into it, and therefore she has forgotten it. Period. Honestly, I thought he was rather thick.
I read about 2/3 of this pretty long book before realising there was no point forcing myself to pick it up every time I put it down (which was usually after about 20 pages, as I got bored or annoyed). I wasn't really interested in the plot (other than in the very peripheral thread of Ariane's pregnancy, which seemed to be dangerously sapping her strength), and I didn't see any chemistry whatever between Cat and Martin, so the romance really wasn't working for me.
Very disappointing. I think back when this came out I was a bit more tolerant about some of the things that annoyed me here, so it's a shame I didn't pick it up then.
Another of my random picks from old stuff in the TBR. I'm starting to think I should maybe just delete anything that's been there for a few years, becAnother of my random picks from old stuff in the TBR. I'm starting to think I should maybe just delete anything that's been there for a few years, because I really haven't had much success.
The first scene has our hero, Anthony, drunk and being dragged along to a whorehouse by his friends, who are determined he should lose his virginity. He virtuously thinks he doesn't want to, and that some of the women might not be there willingly, but oh, well, he's horny, so maybe best not to think about icky things and just have a nice time. He only deflates when he comes face to face with the madame, who turns out to be his mother (!). His father had said she was dead, but instead there she is, running the most exclusive brothel in London. Angry Anthony refuses to listen and runs out, where he meets the pretty orange seller he's been ogling for days. He kisses her.
10 years later, scandalous rake Anthony, who also moonlights as a spy (that bit's not even surprising), is still looking for the orange seller. It seems like the forced kiss we just saw turned into sex against a wall, and he remembers the encounter as rape and wants to apologise (because why even consider whether the woman is at all interested in reencountering the man who raped her; Anthony's conscience will feel better, and everyone knows a man's conscience trumps a woman's potential terror). To find the mysterious woman, he's enlisted the help of his secret half-sister, who's a psychic (!). At a party, sis tells him she's finally found the woman and she's right in the next room! Hmmm, none of the servants look like the woman he remembers. But there's something familiar about the mousy vicar's daughter who's a friend of the hostess...
And then he gets home and someone's stolen the rubies he had in his pocket. He remembers the vicar's daughter bumped into him at the party. Aha, she's the former orange seller, and she's a pickpocket! (Don't worry, she's only a pickpocket to fund an orphanage she's founded). He must get the rubies back. And he's been given a new super-special spy mission, to steal a letter a nobleman will receive where someone else has thoughtfully written down all the details of a plot to assassinate the Prince Regent. This will all happen at a house party thrown by a very jealous host. Best bring a mistress with him! But he has no official mistress, and asking one of the many women he randomly fucks will give the silly woman ideas beyond her station. Oh, of course! What better idea than to blackmail the woman to whom he was just about to apologise for raping her into pretending to be his mistress? Because there's no reason she might feel uncomfortable about spending some private quality time with her rapist...
Ugh, what a mess of WTF. It's a cracked setup, plus, this is book 4 of a series, and it shows. Maybe some of the whatthefuckery would make a bit more sense if I'd read the previous 3 books... I'm guessing some of those elements must have been introduced with a bit more care. Here, they're just plunked down. Long-lost mum who runs a brothel! Psychic sister! Harebrained spy plots!
We also have a truly entitled, obnoxious hero I wanted to smack several times. What elastic morals he's got! I got to about 12% on this gem. It might have calmed down a bit after that, but I wasn't going to hang about to find out.
MY GRADE: A DNF, but the bits I read I would probably rate an F. ...more