This is a great book for people who love gothic novels! Creepy, engaging, and an all-around fun read. If you're a big reader of gothics, the plot willThis is a great book for people who love gothic novels! Creepy, engaging, and an all-around fun read. If you're a big reader of gothics, the plot will be fairly transparent, but when you're reading for the romance and the ambiance... it's perfect. I was so engrossed while reading outside that I ended up with a pretty nasty sunburn!...more
I should have known better than to pick up a Philippa Gregory book. Her grasp of history is tenuous, and she has next to no understanding of how peoplI should have known better than to pick up a Philippa Gregory book. Her grasp of history is tenuous, and she has next to no understanding of how people relate to one another. But the back cover looked so enticing, with talk of secret societies and magic and werewolves! It would be hard to make those things uninteresting, right?
The main characters are flat, boring, and- quite frankly- incredibly stupid. For all that they're described as being intelligent, they don't display it at all.
The plot is told to us through fairly lengthy exposition. In fact, most of what happens is described in dialogue form. The worst example of this was someone describing in dialogue the abbey that the main character had just entered, followed by a drawn map of the simple building.
The intrigue and drama? Barely there, and what is there is dull.
Basically... just don't read it. Avoid at all costs. Save yourself!
And for our final proof, this novel, set in 1453, opens with the line: "The hammering on the door shot him into wakefulness like a hand-gun going off in his face."...more
It was a hard book to read. Parts are lovely and almost lyrical as the prose dances across the page descriptively... but it's the kind of book that, oIt was a hard book to read. Parts are lovely and almost lyrical as the prose dances across the page descriptively... but it's the kind of book that, once you've put it down, just doesn't grab you enough to pick it back up again.
I received this book for free through the Goodreads First Reads program....more
I thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading Belladonna. It may not be the most historically accurate book, but it's adventurous and fun and a touch darkI thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading Belladonna. It may not be the most historically accurate book, but it's adventurous and fun and a touch dark and with just enough romance to make me happy.
If you like the RPG game 7th Sea, or Pirates of the Caribbean, or anything dashing with a smidge of historical setting... this is the perfect book for you.
I received this book for free through the Goodreads First Reads program....more
I love the theory of this book, since I absolutely adored The Beacon at Alexandria. A woman, driven to disguise herself as a eunuch to practice mWell.
I love the theory of this book, since I absolutely adored The Beacon at Alexandria. A woman, driven to disguise herself as a eunuch to practice medicine. Lush settings and a story full of intrigue is what I expected.
What I got was the story of a woman who already was a successful physician as a woman, who moved to Constantinople to clear her brother's name. And disguised herself as a eunuch. For some reason.
Within 60 pages she had already acquired as patients two of the most influential people in the entire city, after dithering about how difficult it would be to get into the upper echelon of society to find out about her brother's fate.
I was skeptical of how well the book was going to go.
Then I realized that one of the influential patients was a woman described as beautiful in such flowery terms that she basically just had to be a goddess. All men wanted to sleep with her (except her son-in-law, who she assumed to be "passionless" because she was unsuccessful at seducing him), all women wanted to be her, and her daughter was wildly jealous of her mother's youthful good looks.
With such a description cropping up every time this woman was on the page, I was a little stunned to find out that she was in her 70's.
I'm not saying that 70-year-old women can't be attractive. Helen Mirren is one of the most beautiful people in the world. But Helen Mirren also looks beautifully her own age.
When the descriptions of the elderly hottie wouldn't stop, and I was on yet another description of a eunuch as "soft-faced" (it was the author's go-to descriptor for eunuchs), I had to give up.
If you want a GOOD book about a woman who is willing to sacrifice her whole traditional future for the sake of medicine, read The Beacon at Alexandria. Skip this one. It's awful....more
I love a good gothic novel- the carefully crafted suspense, the secrets held closely by everyone in the house, and a sweet young heroine caught up inI love a good gothic novel- the carefully crafted suspense, the secrets held closely by everyone in the house, and a sweet young heroine caught up in all of the drama.
Sea of Secrets was everything I wanted it to be. There are parallels to another story I love (and was pleased to read in the afterword that the author and I shared a teenage crush on the same literary figure), but DeWees puts her own flair into the story. She pulls it all together beautifully in the end, and I would have to say that I find myself immensely satisfied with the romance.
Do you like gothic romance, but tire of the poorly written and explicit sex scenes that permeate romance novels these days? Read Sea of Secrets. You'll love it....more
**spoiler alert** It's a pastiche of Bronte and Austen! It's a fantasy! It's... got Lovecraftian style Old Gods?
The book is difficult to get into, as**spoiler alert** It's a pastiche of Bronte and Austen! It's a fantasy! It's... got Lovecraftian style Old Gods?
The book is difficult to get into, as the first one was, but more compelling the longer I stuck with it. The whole Old God thing at the end really threw me- it honestly didn't seem to fit into the world as it had been described.
I have such mixed feelings. I'm going to read the third one- I can't imagine not reading it- but the erratic days/nights/seasons really irritate me in my science. It's hard to get past....more
**spoiler alert** It's time for another Ragereview. These come up periodically, and when I reduce poor Matt to giggles over my reenactments, I start t**spoiler alert** It's time for another Ragereview. These come up periodically, and when I reduce poor Matt to giggles over my reenactments, I start to think that maybe I'm funny and should write these things down for the rest of the world.
I have an excuse, I promise. It's not a very good one, to be sure, but it is an excuse. I can't find the review now, but it was gushingly positive over the book, claiming that the roots of the story could be found in the story of Sir Gawain's wife and The Wife of Bath. There was only one real point of similarity in the stories, which I'll have to expound on further.
But before I get to that: a disclaimer. I'm writing a ragereview of a romance novel. If your answer to the question, "Do I have delicate sensibilities?" is anything less than raucous laughter, you may want to avoid reading after the cut. But don't worry, I have pre-cut rage, too! Just with less salty language and fewer illustrations.
A brief backstory is given to us: Hawk's father had his life saved by a Scotsman, and in gratitude, swore that one of his sons would marry one of the Scotsman's daughters, to not only give her a better life, but also to give the other two sisters a chance at a London Season and wealthy, titled husbands. Just what every Regency-era father dreams of, right?
Now, Hawk objects. Of course he does, else this wouldn't be a romance novel. But, his father is dying, tragically and melodramatically, and only wants to see his one living son wed before he dies. His father is also a manipulative tool. One guess as to how ill the man actually is. Just one. Hawk, guilt-ridden, goes up to Scotland, to meet the three choices. He'd really rather gad about London with his mistress, and worries that marriage is going to upset his carefree plans.
Meanwhile, Lord Kilbracken is announcing to his three daughters that One of them is getting married this week! Be happy, dammit! The eldest, a caricature of an artist, wanders dreamily in hope he'll choose her so she can paint all the Ton. The youngest, a silly, vivacious, and pretty girl would give anything for a rich husband to shower her with gifts and take her absolutely everywhere so she can be Seen About.
The middle daughter, (whose name I have forgotten already because she's that kind of heroine) Frances (ah-ha!) is enraged by this news, much as I am by the way the point-of-view changes in the midst of paragraphs repeatedly. It goes beyond simple error or an editing oversight and could almost be called a stylistic choice, it happens with such frequency. I became surprised that the author didn't suddenly begin switching POV in the middle of a sentence!
Frances is the prettiest daughter, known for her beauty and sparkling wit (I never did witness wit- merely snarky, unfunny bitchiness), and a great lover of animals. She spends her days on their country estate being a veterinarian of sorts, caring for the horses in particular. She treats colic, delivers foals and calves, stitches wounds, and doses thrush. She's A Very Independent Woman. (Because heaven knows, in any book set before 1950, you must indicate a woman is Modern by having her heal things. Did they never want to run a shop, or dream of being a lawyer, or of managing their own estate? And God forbid a heroine be remotely interested in anything domestic.) As Hawk arrives, Frances spies him bathing in the loch, and ogles him until she figures out that this is the man she meant to Hate Forever. Then she's angry at him for daring to bathe where she might see. She has delicate sensibilities, ya'll! Men bathing in what they thought was privacy is just beyond the pale!
But, loyal readers, never fear! Our intrepid heroine has just the plan to deceive the dashing yet dastardly dude!
In a fit of conceit, she chooses to encourage Hawk to pick one of her eager sisters by: wearing her oldest clothes, pulling her beautiful flowing hair into a bun, wearing spectacles that inhibit her vision, and being boring. Because she's actually concerned that he'll decide on her if he sees how Totally Awesome she is. Now, to her slight credit, she realizes it's incredibly egotistic of her... but, despite her vaunted brains, she never once considers the possibility of just asking him to not think of her as an option. Rather than be sensible, she chooses an idiotic disguise. Honestly, the only time things like that work are in movies and books where they're scripted to, because people are not that stupid.
(What was her name again? Oh, right...) Frances' father, stepmother, and sisters are horrified at the hideous hag into which she's transformed herself. And seriously, the word hag is tossed around like a football. She's a 22-year-old hottie in a shapeless dress and a bun, not Baba Yaga. And despite parental objections, she minces about like an aged mouse, much to the delight of her sisters who are relieved that their competition has just been reduced.
Hawk is appalled by her wretched state. The bun and hat and glasses are near enough to make his stomach turn in revulsion. This visceral reaction to a woman's appearance- a woman who is actually exceptionally gorgeous- really does nothing to make him seem like a sympathetic person. Incredibly boring hijinks ensue, wherein Hawk has a personal interview with each sister and Frances sulks. No one bothers to tell Hawk that Frances is being a manipulative twit (even her disapproving father), and so he's stuck with a decision.
Since she's made herself into a revolting wretch, the author needs to come up with some reason for Hawk to pick Frances, so he has a soul-searching session wherein he realizes he's a selfish, immature git who doesn't want to give up his mistress and carefree life. But rather than thinking this is in any way bad, he instead concludes that the only reasonable response is to marry the ugly sister not interested in meeting anyone. So he can leave her at home, alone. And she won't mind at all that he's out whoring, because she's ugly!
Any pretense at respect for this man I had was lost right there.
So, they get a quickie wedding, Frances whines and moans and complains and shrieks, and they leave for Hawk's estates directly thereafter, and this is where the cut should probably go... before I get to the wedding night.
(cut was here on blog!)
Hawk thinks, in his ever-so-winning manner, that his best bet at a happy life is to get his frumpy bride knocked up post-haste. The first night Frances makes some excuse that doesn't even matter because it's so lame that I can't even remember, and then after a long trip in the carriage the next day she's seriously motion-sick. Pleading headache, she pushes Hawk off another night, but he's convinced she's lying and accosts her in her room... to find her puking up her guts because this ever-so-intelligent woman took colic medicine by mistake, instead of the laudanum she'd meant to take.
He holds her hair while she's sick, never once noticing any difference with her hair down and without glasses. Of course, she is being repeatedly and violently sick, so he has some excuse. The next night, though, he is determined to exercise his husbandly rights. So determined, in fact, that he completely ignores all her protests.
Okay, to distract from that first instance of complete horror, let's take a detour into something funnier and less... rape. Because that shit ain't funny.
This is a girl who grew up in rural Scotland, working with farm animals. She's afraid of sex on the grounds that: she doesn't know what to expect, he'll be so big that he'll literally tear her apart, and good girls don't like sex, even with their husbands. So, after her protests go unheeded, she lies still and thinks of England.
He, on the other hand- or perhaps on the same hand as Frances' last objection (which she never voices), has decided that wives are entirely unlike mistresses and require no encouragement in the marital relations department. So, rather than trying his hand at making any part of the night easier or better for her, he gets out cream to ease his passage.
I had a bit of mental disconnect at the idea of cream. While I was well aware that what was meant was something along the lines of a Regency KY, I couldn't help picturing something a bit more like the heavy whipping cream I'd just picked up at the Jewel a few days before.
And... well. Let me just say that whipping cream doesn't seem like the best idea for that kind of thing. It's a bit sticky. Not to mention to constant repetition of the word "cream" was enough to make me burst into immature giggle fits. I've (much to my chagrin) read many romance novels, in order to have the right to criticize them to my little heart's content. For those who've spared themselves the pain, I now have the pleasure of informing you that "cream" is the go-to word to describe feminine arousal fluids. You're welcome. Your brain will forever link that to the half-and-half you're about to pour in your coffee.
Feel free to hate me. Sometimes I do, too.
These forced relations with the aid of oft-mentioned cream continue at every inn on the way back to Hawk's estates, and I cringed every time. At least I can be sure they weren't meant to be romantic, but way to paint your hero in a sympathetic light. He's willing to force himself on his wife, even when she's lying there, crying. Asshole. He doesn't even talk to her. Just enters with the cream, does his business, and is out the door in ten minutes. Nothing about this makes him sexy.
Then, eventually, thankfully, they get back to his home, where his father is (unsurprisingly) spry and running about, bossing the servants and acting in a way that's supposed to be Funny Old Wise Man Who Knows Everything but is in fact merely irritating, bossy, and an interfering know-it-all. There is much outrage expressed over his Lying Lies, but Hawk's father is incredibly smug over Hawk having picked the right girl, despite Hawk's complete incredulity that his father wanted him to pick the heinous hag.
Their first night at home, he forgets the cream, and this leads to his father being informed by the servants of the state of their sheets. His father then confronts Hawk, demanding to know if they'd waited until returning to their home before consummating the marriage. That's right- Hawk forgot the cream, and rather than trying anything at all in order to prevent his wife from suffering, had sex with her without any lubrication at all, leaving bloody spots on the sheets because of his utter lack of compassion.
No wonder she hates him.
A few of Hawk's friends stop by to meet Frances, and all of them see through the ludicrous disguise that has somehow survived several weeks, and yet again, no one mentions it to Hawk. This is either commentary on the depth of his friendships, or perhaps his friends simply feel he deserves to be hoodwinked at such a pathetic level.
It's a matter of weeks before Hawk gets fed up and goes traipsing back to London, whining to his mistress that his wife is boring. She tries to convince him, between vigorous bouts of sex, that wives are just like any other women, and that he should treat Frances like he does his ladies of the night. He runs briefly into his shrewish sister and her Clearly Evil Fiance-
(mid-paragraph POV change to hear him talk about his Evil Plots!). Hawk is flirted with by disappointed women, gambles with his male friends, and is finally guilted into returning home to his wife.
Frances, on the other hand, has been encouraged by her father-in-law to ditch the disguise and run the estate, since Hawk seems to show no interest in doing so. She's incredibly gorgeous, making friends with all the staff immediately, and shows an enthusiastic interest in the racing stables. Her skill at healing farm animals gives her a wicked insight into the business of horse racing, of course.
Hawk returns, and finds his wife, sans bun, spectacles, silly hat, and shapeless dress, and is hit with a lightning bolt of lust, followed swiftly by jealousy as he decides that she's been cuckolding him with his employees. Obviously. Finally her denials get through to his little brain, and he decides that it's a good thing he came back intending to seduce her. Why wouldn't he seduce a hottie? He's also irritated that the little lady is overstepping her bounds by running the stables. He doesn't bother to look at her lack of qualifications, he just thinks with his penis and decides that since he's having sex with her, she shouldn't be doing such unladylike work.
But Frances is still opposed to knowing her husband biblically. Given the experience she's had thus far, I can't really blame her, but again, she doesn't go about expressing this to him in any useful way. He walks up with a smarmy look on his face and she scowls and walks away. No, "Hey, don't be a douche." Nothing resembling, "Have you considered listening to me." Just screeching over how she hates him and he's horrible and stupid and on and on and on.
So, upon hearing that she's hired out a stallion for stud services, he decides to have her join the men and watch the horses mating. Because that will get her totally turned on and ready to go! Hawk forces her to dress as a boy, which amazingly fools everyone, and much to my surprise, Hawk's idiotic plan worked.
The author describes the horses mating in rather painful detail, talking about the mare screaming in pleasure, and the stallion trumpeting his release, with a pause to describe- with a failed attempt at gentility- the stallion's genitalia. And Frances is driven so wild that she and Hawk step into the barn for a quickie. And somehow, despite working as a healer for farm animals, Frances has somehow missed figuring out how animals mate. Here's a hint- this (which you shouldn't click on unless you're fully prepared to take responsibility for witnessing horse sex): Is Not Sexy.
Unless you're a furry, in which case, I don't want to know, thanks.
Yes. Well. In any case, Frances pretty thoroughly hates herself for being so into Hawk after watching... that... and avoids him for a day or two. His plans to woo her into sexytimes failed, Hawk then asks her to sit down with him after dinner and play cards, whereupon he gets her blindingly drunk and they have hot, hot monkey sex. Which she regrets in the morning, so he plans to get her drunk again.
Unfortunately, his dastardly plans are foiled by a visit from his Shrewish Sister and her Still Clearly Evil Fiance, who want to buy the racing stables from poor Hawk, who doesn't want that trouble, does he? Oh, no! Hawk and Frances refuse to sell, on the grounds that Hawk wants to keep taking his wife to see horses getting it on so that he can get some, and Clearly Evil Fiance flounces off with Sister, back to London to plot more.
And then accidents begin to happen, and Frances falls off a horse after a booby-trapped jump. Hawk is distraught, because he loves his wife. One might wonder when this happened. Also how. These questions are mere trivialities, since they have more sex. Also, she loves him, too. Because of sex that she either didn't consent to or regretted. Stockholm Syndrome is romantic!
Then about two chapters wherein the Clearly Evil Fiance shows his true colors and they find out the secret of the stable which was stunning clear from the beginning. Flying in to save the day is... Hawk's mistress, who he'd given a huge pile of money and sent away to get married after she funneled information about CEF to him. Frances and the mistress become instant and fast friends. For some reason. The bad guy offs himself, all comes to light, and everyone lives happily ever after, the end.
...no, really. The end. Plot only happened in the final 10% of the novel....more
Not quite what I expected. The modern-day part of the book was charming and what I would normally think of as a romance novel... however, the level ofNot quite what I expected. The modern-day part of the book was charming and what I would normally think of as a romance novel... however, the level of steaminess in the Blackbird sections was a good deal more raunchy. Not sexy...raunchy.
I received this book for free through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program....more
As a lover of historical fiction, Madame Tussaud did not disappoint. The characters were engaging and interesting, and even though history has well-doAs a lover of historical fiction, Madame Tussaud did not disappoint. The characters were engaging and interesting, and even though history has well-documented what happened in France at the time, the suspense was very well managed. I absolutely adored it, and am getting Moran's other books!
I received this book for free through the Goodreads First Reads program....more