This is well-written and has an authentic feel for a Regency romance, but the male lead, Ned, isn't very likable for a significant portion of the book...moreThis is well-written and has an authentic feel for a Regency romance, but the male lead, Ned, isn't very likable for a significant portion of the book, and Phoebe's personality seemed too buried under governess reserve, so I didn't bond as much to either of them. For that reason, I would have to give this one a 3.5/5.0 star rating.
Fear is the mind-killer indeed. Mr. Collins writes an effective short novel about that subject. His writing is evocative and distinctive. Definitely o...moreFear is the mind-killer indeed. Mr. Collins writes an effective short novel about that subject. His writing is evocative and distinctive. Definitely one to check out.
Ironskin is a clever re-telling of Jane Eyre with a delicious heaping tablespoon of faerie thrown in. Since Jane Eyre is tied for my favorite book of...moreIronskin is a clever re-telling of Jane Eyre with a delicious heaping tablespoon of faerie thrown in. Since Jane Eyre is tied for my favorite book of all time, I definitely loved that about this book. I appreciated catching the references to the original novel and reading the author's original story with her own ideas based on this beloved classic. In other words, this is not a word for word redux of Jane Eyre. Instead it's a "what if?" sort of take on the novel by Charlotte Brontë.
I am captivated with the post-World War I period and the twenties, and it was a big plus that this book is set somewhere in that late 1910s-early 1920s period. Also, the infusion of faerie into the modern period that would seem incongruous but wasn't. The Gothic atmosphere is prominent, and the menacing allure of faerie magic. Don't look for friendly fey in this book. They are mean and vicious, and terribly insidious. The fey storyline turns out to be quite interesting and unsettling. Connolly taps into the essence of Post-War morals, the shunning of deep things and an enhanced superficiality. Shallow above substance. While the Great War is quite different in this book, the scars it left on society are similarly wounding to the survivors, and the society grabs onto the bright phony allure when so little of the Pre-War way of life is left behind.
Most of the characters are walking wounded, with some who seem blatantly unsympathetic. It takes a while to see where Connolly was going, which impacted my rating, honestly. Even until the end, I felt ambivalent, and the story was rather ambiguous. And yet, there was something impactful about this book. I think Connolly connected to the aesthetic in me. The appeal was in the dreamy and artful descriptions of the house and characters and the manner in which she revealed characters, with descriptions and body language telling much of who the characters were even before they open their mouths. Additionally, the characters' emotions were seething off the page. For this reader, that always speaks loudly when reading a novel. Jane, a tortured heroine who is drifting and surviving, because she has no other choice. When she finds a home with Mr. Rochart and his daughter Dorie, she fears it's an elusive dream, because of persistent feelings of inadequacy and a lack of self-worth. In this way she differs from Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is ever-aware of her shortcomings, but her sense of self is so strong. She is a tiny ball of determination and powerful will. She refuses to settle for less than she deserves, even if that means denying herself the man she loves. This Jane has to grow into that, and while I wasn't happy with some of the choices she made, I was happy that she found the fighter within that was buried under a mountain of hurt. Mr. Rochart is more vague and lacks the vibrancy of Rochester. He's also not as abrasive as Rochester, which is an enduring part of this character's appeal to fans of the novel. But I think he's a better fit for this Jane. He's her Rochester in the end. Dorie had such an impact on me. The lonely, troubled child in need of love and care that Jane is able to connect with. She is one of those younger characters that inspires the mothering urge in me. Also Poule's character. I can't speak on her at length, since it would spoil what was a very novel part of this book.
While Ironskin was a good book, it just didn't satisfy me completely. There was a sense of inertia when I read. As though the story wanted to get someone but it wandered aimlessly in a series of ever-widening circles. I'm not sure if that effectively conveys how I felt as I read, but it's as close as I can articulate at this time. The aspects of this story that appealed to me are significant, which is why I would recommend reading it. I just wanted more momentum in this book. Ultimately, I did appreciate the underlying themes. It speaks on the power of substance and will over all that glitters. Also that our wounds and scars can make us stronger, because they are tangible evidence of the inner truth. That we are survivors, down deep. We must just find that core of strength to prevail over our doubts and fears to grab hold of what we desire and need most in this life.
How does Ms. Johansen come up with these quirky characters and unusual story ideas? Gunner is something else. A daredevil who assumes risk as part of...moreHow does Ms. Johansen come up with these quirky characters and unusual story ideas? Gunner is something else. A daredevil who assumes risk as part of his job with the Clanad. He takes care of little Andrew, who went through a traumatic event that caused him to segment his personality, an action that could prove very dangerous for a powerful telepath like this boy. Part of his plan is to hire a nanny to help watch out for Andrew as they spend time at Andrew's mother's cottage with a man who could help in Andrew's therapy. Steven is a grown man who has an extremely low IQ and needs help being functional in society. Gunner believes that Andrew will gravitate towards Steven, and this will help him heal from his own mental trauma.
Quenby is a very conventional woman who has dedicated herself to caring for children as a highly trained nanny. She takes the job to care for Andrew, having no idea what kind of crazy scenario she will involve herself with. She falls in love with Andrew, and ends up falling in love with the risk-taker Gunner.
Gunner believes in the concept of fated mates, and knows that Quenby is his. He hits the ground running in his pursuit of Quenby, proving to be a tough man to resist for the lonely Quenby, who was betrayed in love once, and has kept herself from getting involved since then. Gunner loves everything about Quenby, and is determined to show her that they belong together. He believes he's a freak because of his psychic gifts, and has a savior complex, because he wasn't there to protect his family when they were massacred by the soldiers that invaded and absorbed his small native country. Since then, he's put himself at risk again and again on behalf of his adopted family, the Clanad, a group of psychic people who've settled in Sedikhan.
Quenby doesn't like Gunner's tendency to put himself in danger. She wants to protect him and keep him safe. She's cautious about their courtship, but definitely feels the strong attraction between them.
Star Light, Star Bright has Ms. Johansen's characteristic sensuality and compelling romance. The story of Andrew and Steven's healing process is poignant, as well as Gunner's issues with the loss of his family and his inadequacies about his psychic gifts. I found Gunner adorable. I could see why Quenby couldn't resist him. This was a good story, but I liked A Tough Man To Tame a little more, since the pace was a little faster in that book. But, it was great to read about Quenby and Gunner's courtship, since they show up as a happily married couple in A Tough Man to Tame. It's been great to get copies of Iris Johansen's oldies. Looking forward to reading more of them.(less)
I enjoyed reading this book. I think the writing style probably wouldn't work for everyone, but it has a trad regency feel that I like in a regency ro...moreI enjoyed reading this book. I think the writing style probably wouldn't work for everyone, but it has a trad regency feel that I like in a regency romance.
Unfortunately, the title and blurb are a bit misleading. The hero, Ben, really isn't that much of a rake. He's illegitimate, and that has affected him so that he doesn't 'spread his seed' liberally. He has affairs, but he is discreet about it and careful to take precautions. Charlotte is a virgin, but she's not as young and naive as the title conveys. She's five and twenty, very intelligent, and tough-minded, and she holds her own.
I thought the chemistry between Ben and Charlotte was a big plus in this story. They do a lot of verbal sparring. Charlotte has been attracted to Ben since they first met, but she doesn't want to be. Ben feels the same way, much to her surprise. She had determined that she would stay a spinster and devote her life to educating young women. She had no desire to marry. And Ben isn't a marrying man anyway. The last thing she'd do is be any man's mistress. If you're like me and you hate the whole mistress angle, don't worry. Actually, Ben doesn't hold any dishonorable intentions seriously. He knows better. He actually turns out to be quite honorable. For many reasons, I just didn't see him as a rake, which is a good thing for me.
There is a bit of suspense, but it's not the major part of the storyline. However, there were things that occurred in the previous books that were discussed and alluded to that left me in the dark regarding the suspense angle. Not enough to frustrate me or spoil the read though. I'm not real big on suspense being too prominent in a romance book, so I was happy that the focus is on the sparring/chase/advance/retreat between Ben and Charlotte. There are some passionate kisses and a well-done love scene, and the author shows very clearly that they are both crazy about each other. I believe the author did a good job in keeping this story period. There was enough sexual tension to make this a lively romance, but the characters acted as people of their times in how they conducted themselves (very important for this reader).
I think that the narrative relies a bit too heavily on internal dialogue, and less on actual conversation and action, and that would be a negative for some readers. I would have liked more of both, but overall, I thought this was a good read. I enjoyed it, and I had a smile on my face as I finished the epilogue, which was very sweet.
I've give this book a 3.75/5.0 stars because I thought it was good entertainment, and I really liked both Ben and Elizabeth. And I am a sucker for a good spinster/bachelor sparring and fighting their feelings for each other romance. I'd recommend it with reservations as expressed above.(less)