Crystal Gardens is for readers who enjoy their historical romance with strong paranormal elements. In this case, a huge part of the story is the conceCrystal Gardens is for readers who enjoy their historical romance with strong paranormal elements. In this case, a huge part of the story is the concept of 'psychical energies.' Both Evangeline and Lucas have paranormal abilities, and they are drawn to Crystal Gardens, Lucas' deceased uncle's estate by no accident. In the case of Lucas, he comes to investigate his uncle's murder. Evangeline comes to soak up the atmosphere and work on her series of serial novels, and also to investigate the place that her father (a man who studied psychical energies and invented machines that ran on these energies) was obsessed with. Evangeline is also fleeing a murderer and ends up running right into Lucas' arms, which is a very good thing! Lucas is just the knight in tarnished armor to keep her safe.
I enjoyed listening to this book on audio but it did fall short overall. The narrator has a very dramatic way of reading it. Sometimes, her voice sounded a little odd (especially when she narrated the male characters), but I loved her British accent, and that each character sounded distinctive. I think that Quick's books lend themselves very well to audiobooks. Her style is very focused on the mystery components, and the romance seems to take a bit of a back seat at times. This would probably bother me more if I was reading than when I listen to books. That is not to say that the romance wasn't good. It was. I just could have used more than I got. I do feel that she emphasized the paranormal elements too much. She used the term 'psychical' excessively. I think that the reader gets the point about the paranormal energies and she could have spent time on building up the story in other ways. I do think Quick excelled in her descriptions of the Gardens and its otherworldly atmosphere. I felt like I was there in the Gardens, which might be a very strange experience indeed.
Unfortunately, the characters didn't feel as well-developed as I would have liked. I found Evangeline and Lucas likable and intriguing, but I don't feel that I knew them as well as I wanted. I feel that Quick did more telling about them than showing. Maybe she could have caused their characterization come to light more organically if she had spent more time on revealing who they were than explaining about the paranormal elements of the Crystal Gardens. At the end of the story, I could feel their attraction and feelings for each other, but I didn't get to explore this powerful love that supposedly had developed between them. Since this is a romance, that is crucial. I found the love scenes well written and passionate, and I really liked this about the book. I did feel the attraction between Evangeline and Lucas, although Quick sort of stole its impact by implying it was related to the psychical energies. Lucas is the kind of hero I love, strong, intelligent, compelling, and dangerous in an appealing way, but something was missing from his portrayal. Evangeline was a good person, a sweet woman who is independent and intelligent, and I wanted things to work out for her, but she wasn't distinctive as a character. The secondary character were barely fleshed out. I did like Evangeline's friends Clarissa and Beatrice, as well as Lucas' siblings, Beth and Tony. I also like Molly, Evangeline's maid, and Stone, Lucas' manservant, but they weren't as vivid as I would have liked. Judith, Lucas' stepmother seemed more lively in her characterization, especially with her feelings of antipathy towards Lucas and the reasons for them. The way Lucas treated Judith endeared me to him. He was respectful and he took his responsibilities for her very seriously even though she had never treated him well. The villain was quite cardboard, and his motivations were shallow. He shows up just in time for a thrilling climax, but he spends very little time in this book overall.
I guess it's clear I wanted to like this book more than I did. I liked it, but I think that this author is capable of writing a better book than this. I say that with all respect for her. I hope that the next books in the Ladies of Mystery have the spark that this book was lacking, because I think this series really has potential. And I am a sucker for the Victorian Gothic romance! ...more
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 ofIronskin 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.
This was a lovely little contemporary western romance with a prominent Gothic feel. Stormy Jones has not seen her father since she was five years old.This was a lovely little contemporary western romance with a prominent Gothic feel. Stormy Jones has not seen her father since she was five years old. In fact, she was told he died. She has spent the majority of her life in her mother's women-centered commune, with little to no contact with men. Yet she feels something missing from her life. When Jonathan McBride enters her life, she is blown away by his rugged male appeal, and has a sinking feeling he is just what he was waiting for. He's like the proverbial forbidden fruit, a virile male, and the epitome of what scares her mother and her followers about men.
Jonathan came to Los Angeles to meet his employer's daughter and deliver important news. Her father is sick and wants to see her before he dies. One look at her tells her she's trouble. He saves her life and ends up in her bed. He is sidetracked by an unfortunate attraction to Stormy that leads to a night of passion. He wakes up the next day, determined to put Stormy at a distance. His experience with love in the past taught him that women could only destroy a man. He feels enormous guilt at sleeping with Hugh's daughter, and just wants to forget about it. Unfortunately, Stormy is a hard woman to forget or to push away. Plus, Stormy still needs to see her father, and when she blurts out a confession of her involvement with Jonathan, the conniving old man changes his will to require a marriage between the two at his death. Jonathan doesn't want another wife, but he does want his inheritance from her father, and marriage is the only way to get it now. Stormy feels deep inside that Jonathan is a man capable of love, no matter how hard he pushes her away. And she's carrying his child, so she doesn't want to walk away. The problem is, someone keeps trying to kill her. Stormy refuses to believe it's Jonathan, despite the cloud of rumors about his last wife's death hanging around him.
I really liked this book. It had a lot of emotion and intensity. I liked the Gothic vibe, and I enjoyed the push/pull between Jonathan and Stormy. I love when the hero is hard and rough and wants to push the heroine away, but needs her and the love she shows him. Jonathan was really quite tortured. He'd had a very rough life and it had taught him that loving and trusting others was a dicey proposition. Stormy's innocent hope and vital passion was just what he needed in his life. While he fights his love for her throughout the book, it was enjoyable to see him fall for her.
The western atmosphere was very well done as well. I felt like I was on a cattle ranch in Southwest Texas, where the land is closer to desert than anything else. This book had a lot more suspenseful vibe than I associate with the typical Silhouette Desires, with someone trying to kill Stormy, and Jonathan's dark past. I miss these old vintage Harlequins which are full of lots of drama and intensity. The newer books just don't have that zing.
I am glad I was able to read this book. Definitely worth looking up if you want a good vintage modern western contemporary romance.
Lair of the Lion is the first historical I've read by Christine Feehan. It's hard to believe I read my first Feehan book last January. Since then, I'vLair of the Lion is the first historical I've read by Christine Feehan. It's hard to believe I read my first Feehan book last January. Since then, I've glommed her backlist. She's one of my favorite authors now. This isn't one of my favorites, but it was a good, enjoyable book. I think my problem is, I really don't care for gothic romance, in general. I think too much time is built on going into the mystery and the dark forces out to get the heroine. I like my romance to focus on the attraction and the unfolding relationship between the hero and the heroine. If the story can do that and have some tension and suspense at the same time, I'm all for it. I think Anne Stuart does this better than any other author, so I usually love her gothic romances. But I digress.
There were elements to this story I really enjoyed. I liked that Ms. Feehan wrote a historical that was set in Italy, not the usual UK setting. I liked that her characters were Italian and had the aspects of this culture. I think she did a great job of establishing the scene: the ever-present air of menace, a remote occasion, a heroine who doesn't know who she can truly trust because danger is all around her. I also liked the medieval setting.
As usual, I love her heroes and heroines. In this story, Isabella really shines. What a strong heroine she is. She was brave enough to go to the beast's lair to get help for her brother from their enemy. Several times, she put herself in danger to protect others, her selfless love for Nicolai. But she also showed a lot of pluck, telling this big, scary guy off with no qualms, when he deserved a good tongue-lashing. Nicolai was as scrumptious as most of Feehan's heroes. Tortured to boot. I almost felt like he could have been in this book more, because he was usually hiding in the shadows or dealing with threats. But when he was in the book, and interacting with Isabella, it was great. Oh, yes. And the passion. Check. That's always there in a Christine Feehan book. Well-done in that regard. And the secondary characters were well-drawn and added significantly to the story. Ms. Feehan kept me guessing who was behind the sabotage that was occuring. I didn't guess the right people, and that's always nice when it happens.
So, I won't go on and on about this book. I don't have that much to say. It was an interesting premise, with the curse that destroyed generation after generation of marriages and wives, because of a terrible event in the past. That dark legacy hanging over the people in Don De Marco's holding. Isabella being the key to their salvation. I didn't quite get all the nuances of Nicolai's condition, but it was interesting, nonetheless. And I love cats, so it was very nice to see all the lions and how dangerous they were. Very unique spin on the Beauty and the Beast story, without trashing the essential elements of this tale. Not my favorite by Ms. Feehan, but a very good book. I'll keep this one and add it to the collection....more
I am working my way through the Anne Stuart's Out-of-Print Gems collection on my Kindle, and it's wonderful to spend time with my favorite author of all time. I already read The Soldier And The Baby and chose this one next. I remembered not loving it the first time I read it. I don't know why, it just didn't stick with me.
I think that listening to a book the second time adds to the experience. I would admit that the robotic voice of Kindle Text to Speech in itself isn't a dramatic aid, but hearing the words of an author spoken out loud employs the auditory senses. Anne Stuart's writing feels good to the ears. She is a spare writer, but she is a master at creating imagery with a minimum of words. And atmosphere. This book seethes with Gothic atmosphere, and it's a perfect fusion of "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Phantom of the Opera." Except Megan is neither the unearthly beauty and pure-hearted goodness of Belle nor the sheltered innocent, and easily victimized Christine Daae. Regardless, this story still works. Megan is a mature woman in her twenties who is wearied from taking care of her immature father who had done something very bad with this construction company, involving the architectural designs of reclusive Ethan Winslow. He manipulates his daughter into going to plead with Winslow to save his skin. Megan knows her dad is manipulating her, but it's a set habit to take care of her dad. Ethan Winslow's world is a dark place with a shadow lover, and a small-minded, vicious town fed into a frenzy by a religious fanatic preacher. Megan knows Ethan is no good for her, in the end, but she is drawn to him in a way that she cannot deny. His lonely heart cries out to hers.
Readers who enjoy that vibe of Beauty and the Beast and Phantom of the Opera with a tortured, disfigured, lion with a thorn in his paw recluse will find themselves drawn to the story for that reason. However, Stuart adds her own stamp to the novel with the Gothic elements and the suspense and tension of Megan being initially imprisoned in Ethan's house and surrounded by strange phenomena and even stranger people.
Despite the short nature of this story, Stuart deals with serious themes of prejudice, the danger of intolerance and mob mentality and violence, and the misuse of religion (not faith or belief in God, which is a very different thing). Ethan is a very angry, vengeful man. He has reason to feel that way, but loving Megan opens a possibility for him to have a real life outside of the prison of the strange house he designed and the prison of his mind and past.
I hate prejudice and bigotry and my heart went out to Ethan for being despised for something that he had no control over. The small-minded meanness with its ugly results of the townspeople was infuriating and sad that they could see no other way to be, and that they felt justified in their hatred of Ethan for no reason (although he did taunt them some).
This story was very romantic. It touches on the fantasy of the shadow lover who is both dangerous and alluring, and the appeal of being in a world of their own making. Their sensual encounters are well-written and passionate, drawing me into the story as I listened, and I could vividly see the story unfolding in my mind.
The characters are sketches in some ways. You can assume more about their personalities than Stuart reveals. I don't mind though. I am easily able to fill in the blanks based on their descriptions, actions and mannerisms. I liked Megan more this time. I can appreciate her personality more now at my age. I respect her independence and her intrinsic sense of right and wrong, and that she's not an innocent girl. She knows what she wants and is mature enough to know what she's sacrificing to have it. And even though I stubbornly wanted Ethan to go after her, I think she showed a lot of bravery to go after the man she wanted, especially with the fact that he would never be the Prince Charming one expects in the fairy tales. He's her Dark Prince, and that's better, in my book.
While this won't ever be a favorite of mine by Ms. Stuart (too many contenders for that), rereading has upped my rating for this novel. I can appreciate it in a way that I didn't before. I think that it has a lot to say about society and the petty mean-spiritedness that people are capable of, and its costly effects to all involved. The atmosphere is fantastic, dark and sinister and Gothic. But also enticing and seductive. The dark can be both depending on the person, their frame of reference. I know for me it is definitely both. I love the night, the velvet of the dark sky, the cooler breeze, and the quiet and settled feel of the nighttime. I feel a sense of peace communing with nature in the dark. But sometimes, the dark inspires fears of the unknown. The things that go bump in the night. Both are evident in this novel. Ethan will always be a creature of the night, but Megan is fine with that. they can create their own world in the night, where their love is inviolate.