I was anxiously anticipating this final installment in the Goddess Born trilogy. I have enjoyed the Irish mythology references, the characterizations,I was anxiously anticipating this final installment in the Goddess Born trilogy. I have enjoyed the Irish mythology references, the characterizations, and the settings of Colonial America and Georgian London, and I was looking forward to a final showdown between good and evil in Ireland. This book picks up pretty much where the second book left off, with Selah desperately trying to save her best friend, Nora, from the clutches of an evil witch and trying to find her fiance, Henry, who took off after them in an effort to prevent Selah from placing herself in more danger. But Selah is separated from her travel partners and fellow rescuers early on and has to make her own way to Ireland. And that turns out to be extremely difficult since the enemy has sent a gang of henchmen to stop her.
Unfortunately, I was very frustrated with the first half of this book. It started off very well, but it didn't take long for the story to veer away from the heart of the conflict. There was too much focus on new characters, and Selah ended up in several situations that prolonged her journey to Ireland to be reunited with her fiance and continue the search for her best friend. As Selah met one new character after another and was pursued by one new villain after another, I found myself thinking, "This is silly. We already have a central conflict in place and it's waiting for us in Ireland, so can we please hurry up and get there, for crying out loud?" Henry didn't even enter the story until the halfway mark. And if you've read my reviews of the first two books, you know that Henry is a big part of the appeal of these books for me.
So the continuation of the real story finally begins when Nora arrives in Ireland and finds one heck of a surprise waiting for her. That was a nice twist, but the explanation and development is stunted since there is so much to cram into the second half of the book. More surprises are in store as the group of intrepid Goddess Born face off with one deranged witch while trying to keep another from escaping imprisonment. Nothing less than the destruction of Ireland is at stake, and while there are some exciting moments as the trilogy reaches the climactic moment we'd all been waiting for, I found some of the revelations and plot twists to be too convenient, stretching my limits of belief and weakening the resolution of the story. All's well that ends well, but even that felt rushed, and the moment Selah and Henry fans had been anticipating through three books came and went in a flash, and then it was over. No epilogue, no hint of what the future holds. Fans of the series will of course have to read this final book to see how it all plays out, but this fan had been hoping for more....more
Ward still has the knack for creating drama that won't let me stop reading until the last page, but this book took it way over the top and had so manyWard still has the knack for creating drama that won't let me stop reading until the last page, but this book took it way over the top and had so many characters and subplots that the main romance suffered for it, and none of the characters are very likable. There's nothing original here, and much of it is recycled from reality with just the names changed. On top of that, it was full of worn-out Southern cliches to the point of being laughable, and it was insulting to girls from Virginia to boot. (What was up with that?) I've already sworn off new BDB books after she derailed that series, but now it looks like I won't be reading anything new from her at all. ...more
I loved Bess Greenfield's historical romance debut, The Count's Last Mistress, and so I couldn't wait to read the follow-up. Rescued by the Rake takesI loved Bess Greenfield's historical romance debut, The Count's Last Mistress, and so I couldn't wait to read the follow-up. Rescued by the Rake takes place many years later and features Claudine, the daughter of that book's hero and heroine, Jeanne and Olivier, and Leo, the son of Jeanne's best friend, whom we also met in the first book. It is not necessary to read The Count's Last Mistress first, though I recommend it if you get the chance!
Our story begins with Claudine trying to escape a scandal and her parents' disappointment by singing for a living in a seedy Paris cabaret. She never expects her childhood crush, whom no one has seen in years, to find her and offer her a new chance at life in America. Leo doesn't recognize the little girl who used to follow him around like a puppy; he only sees a potential star for his new theater. Drawn by her combination of innocence and sexuality, he determines to conduct himself as a gentleman and take the naive girl under his wing, protecting her from harm while helping her find her way to fame and fortune. But his determination doesn't last long in the face of their mutual attraction and close quarters. As the lines between business and pleasure blur, love blossoms, but they are both keeping secrets. Leo still doesn't know who Claudine really is or why she's running away, nor does he know about her mission to find her stepbrother. And Claudine doesn't know what forced Leo to run away himself, or if a man of his reputation can be trusted with her heart. But they'll have to figure it out fast because those secrets are about to be exposed with deadly consequences.
Unfortunately, there were several issues that kept me from enjoying this story as much as I wanted to. Though she does have redeeming qualities, most notably her love for and determination to find her missing stepbrother, Claudine is a little more naive than I like my heroines to be, and she makes some infuriating decisions. I also grew a little weary of her repeatedly placing herself in dangerous situations with lecherous men. Leo, on the other hand, is quite sharp and intriguing, and I found his backstory fascinating, though I did think his affection for Claudine came on too quickly to be believable given his history. And I also grew frustrated with the author's habit of starting scenes by picking up after something happened and explaining it in hindsight rather than letting the reader experience it firsthand. This type of storytelling didn't make the best use of the dual point of view structure and didn't allow me to experience the story as intimately as I'd have liked. And finally, I had really been looking forward to the setting of this story, New York City in the late nineteenth century, and I was surprised to discover that a large portion of the novel takes place on board ship crossing the Atlantic. I really enjoyed the depiction of luxury traveling at sea, but we don't get as much description of life in New York as I'd hoped, and after the rich, lushly depicted atmosphere of Paris in the first book, I missed that ambiance.
It's entirely possible that my expectations for this novel were too high based on how much I enjoyed The Count's Last Mistress, and if I hadn't read that book first, I might not have felt as underwhelmed by this one. It's still a good story with plenty of action and romance and a diverse cast of supporting characters, and the movement of the story from Paris to ocean liner to New York with time spent in entertainment halls should appeal to readers looking for a change of scenery. I still think Bess Greenfield is a historical romance author to watch, but I'll be hoping for a little more "oomph" from her next novel.
I debated whether I should even write a review of this book, for I don't want to turn people off of reading it. It's very well written, with all of thI debated whether I should even write a review of this book, for I don't want to turn people off of reading it. It's very well written, with all of the historical ambiance of its predecessor. But I kind of wish I hadn't read this sequel. I loved the first book, The Outer Banks House, and I fell hard for the main characters of Ben and Abbie. They overcame tremendous differences and outside influences and received what I thought was a happily ever after at the end of that book, only it turns out that wasn't the case. I would rather have remembered them happy in their triumph of love over all than to see what became of them in this heartbreaking sequel.
Once again the vivid descriptions of the Outer Banks bring the setting to life and make it as much a part of the story as any of the characters, and the depictions of hard-scrabble island life add to the authenticity. But the story itself is just not what I had hoped for. While I'm sure it is quite realistic in the real world, where fairy-tale endings are not as commonplace as we would hope, I was so disappointed in the direction Ben and Abbie's marriage took and the final resolution of their problems. It left me feeling depressed and disillusioned. I guess I'm supposed to be satisfied with secondary character Eliza's seemingly happy ending, but I never really warmed to her, and so it was not balm enough.
But I don't want to hold my disappointment with the resolution of the story against what is a well-crafted novel since opinions like that are so subjective, thus I'm giving it a more neutral rating. I highly recommend you read the first book--it's wonderful. But if, like me, you are deeply satisfied with that book's ending, and you decide to read the sequel, prepare yourself for the unhappiness to come....more
3.5 Stars. I am always looking for historical romances that stand out from the crowd, whether because of an unusual setting or time period or because3.5 Stars. I am always looking for historical romances that stand out from the crowd, whether because of an unusual setting or time period or because of unconventional characters and plot lines, and so I was drawn to His Captive Princess. And happily, this book has all of those elements!
First, I loved the Welsh setting and the historical period. King Henry I has died and Stephen and Maude are fighting over the throne. England is in turmoil, and of course that carries over to their neighbors. The story makes good use of the historical background, and the political maneuverings are incorporated into the story, making this much more than a "wallpaper" historical romance.
The characters are also fantastic. A Norman knight, torn as to which ruler deserves his allegiance and anxious to make amends for wrongs committed in the past, travels into the wild forests of Wales to fulfill his duty and cement an alliance by wedding a widowed Welsh princess, though he finds much more than he bargained for. Ambushed, wounded, and taken prisoner, he can't help but admire the beautiful woman who takes him directly to a hostile Welsh prince and leaves him to his fate only to reappear and kidnap him again, this time for her own purposes.
Captivated by the enemy warrior with striking eyes and warned of impending disaster by the old crone only she can see, Princess Eleri takes things into her own hands. Determined to keep her deceased husband's clan from bringing war on their heads and to save the warrior from a cruel death, she forms a plan to deliver him into the bonds of slavery in her father's lands instead and leads a daring clandestine mission through the mystical forests of her homeland. But she never counted on the unseen danger lurking in the woods, or on falling in love with her handsome prisoner. When she realizes she's not the only person with plans for Warren, Eleri is forced to make a difficult decision.
Warren has plans of his own for the woman who loved him and abandoned him to an uncertain fate. But even the best-laid plans can go awry, and when he finally has the opportunity to wreak his own sensual brand of vengeance on the woman he can't forget, a new threat forces Eleri and Warren to work together to save themselves and the future they've only just realized they want to have together. But is their love enough to overcome the differences of their homelands and the enemy that wants them dead, or are they doomed to suffer a tragic fate?
There are two things holding me back from rating this higher. One, I think the romance could have been a bit more developed. It's obvious why Eleri and Warren would lust after each other in the early days of their relationship, but I would have liked to see more interaction to deepen their relationship and really make me feel that Eleri and Warren were falling in love with each other. We sort of skip over what lies between lust at first sight and true love. And two, the supernatural aspect of the story seemed superficial and served mainly as a crutch for questionable decision-making on Eleri's part. There's no insight into how Eleri's ability to see the old crone who predicts death has played out in the past, or how she connects with that part of herself. It just sort of seems to be tacked on, and if it were removed, the story would pretty much be the same without it.
But overall, I enjoyed this action-packed story filled with historical ambiance. The characters are unique and have great chemistry, and their relationship is surprisingly and deliciously sexy. I will definitely read more from Sandra Jones!
3.5 stars. Heroine has an excellent voice with deliciously dry wit and clever banter with the hero, though I grew a bit weary of her jumping to hasty-3.5 stars. Heroine has an excellent voice with deliciously dry wit and clever banter with the hero, though I grew a bit weary of her jumping to hasty--and erroneus--conclusions. Could have used a few more pages for more satisfying resolutions to several threads. A fast and fun read....more
A story setup of this nature--two men discovering they're long-lost twins--really needs time to develop and explore to make sure it's believable, andA story setup of this nature--two men discovering they're long-lost twins--really needs time to develop and explore to make sure it's believable, and that just doesn't happen here....more
I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on Scheherazade and A Thousand and One Nights. Renee Ahdieh has crafted a gripping tale filled with great characterI thoroughly enjoyed this new take on Scheherazade and A Thousand and One Nights. Renee Ahdieh has crafted a gripping tale filled with great characters, luscious, transporting description, and plenty of angst and emotional turmoil. I'll admit to being a bit put off by King Khalid and his behavior in the beginning, but it's the mark of a good writer when the villain becomes the hero over the course of a story. And Shazi is a heroine worthy of admiration. She's tough, determined, and oh so clever. As if telling tales for her life each night isn't enough, she has to navigate a court filled with political intrigue. Betrayals, secrets, and surprise twists abound as she fights for her life and fights not to lose her heart to her greatest enemy.
My only issue with this gorgeous story is that I thought the foundation for the premise was a bit shaky; a big part of the tension in the story lies in Shazi's quest for answers as to why Khalid keeps taking wives only to kill them the following morning, and the big reveal about why the women had to die was rather anticlimactic. I'm thinking there must be more to it and we'll get it in the next book, which I am anxiously awaiting!...more
3.5 Stars. I was very impressed with Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel, The Crown, and I absolutely loved the follow-up, The Chalice. So I could not wait to3.5 Stars. I was very impressed with Nancy Bilyeau's debut novel, The Crown, and I absolutely loved the follow-up, The Chalice. So I could not wait to get my hands on the final book in the Joanna Stafford trilogy, The Tapestry. It's hard to review books that are part of a series without giving away spoilers from the previous books, so forgive me if my plot recap is a bit vague and I focus more on my overall impressions.
The Tapestry differs from the previous books in several ways. There's not much of a mystery or mission in this book as there was in the others. Joanna is still in danger from an unknown enemy, but that danger stems from things she did in the past rather than what she's doing now. She's just trying to live her life, and though she is drawn back into Henry VIII's court once again, this time it's for a fairly benign and above-board purpose: creating a custom tapestry for the king and helping him inventory the extensive collection of tapestries he already has. So I figured that, since Joanna was now living at court again alongside her good friend Catherine Howard, she was going to somehow be embroiled in the Catherine Howard scandal and that I would get an inside view of this tragic queen's downfall at the hands of a gifted writer. But Joanna's journey ends up taking her far from the English court, and we learn about Catherine's alleged extracurricular activities and the fallout from them secondhand. That was a bit disappointing for me.
However, Joanna's journey through the Hapsburg empire to find her former fiance, Edmund, who she believes to be in great danger, did provide a welcome examination of what was going on across the Channel during Henry VIII's reign. And the fact that her traveling companion is her other former flame, constable Geoffrey Scovill, made for some wonderful emotional turmoil. I found the descriptions of political and religious divisions in Germany to be fascinating. Joanna travels through a land decimated by drought and famine, full of wary and unwelcoming people, where entire towns close their gates to outsiders and even the nobles are resorting to highway robbery to make ends meet. Her experiences and observations were eye-opening and served as a great contrast to the ignorant decadence of the English court. And Joanna's friendship with painter Hans Holbein was a pleasant addition to the story, as were the discussions of men who were challenging the commonly held assumptions of the church and scientific community, men like Paracelsus, Agrippa, and Copernicus.
The story is fast-paced and had me on the edge of my seat quite a bit as Joanna finds herself in one precarious situation after another. I blew through the pages to see how it would all shake out, but I have to say I felt like a major thread was left hanging: the prophecy that Joanna was supposed to be at the center of. It is an underlying theme of the first two books, but it fades away around the middle of this book and never makes a reappearance. And after such a build-up to find Edmund, I felt like their reunion was rather anti-climactic, and her decisions made at the end felt rushed. I wish I had been inside her head more at the end as she grappled with her conflicting emotions about faith, love, and marriage and the direction she wanted her life to take.
So overall, I have mixed feelings about this final installment in Joanna Stafford's series. It's an exciting read, and the historical detail is amazing, as always, and I was very pleased with Joanna's personal transformation and the final choices she made for her future, so the ending was extremely satisfying for me. But I couldn't help but feel like the overall story arc had some holes in it and a couple of underdeveloped plot points. But judging by the other early reviews, I am literally alone in my opinion on this, so don't take my word for it. This is a great series featuring a wonderfully unique protagonist in an environment that never lacks for drama and intrigue, and I recommend it to all lovers of Tudor fiction and historical mysteries....more
After thoroughly enjoying Marci Jefferson's debut, Girl on the Golden Coin: A Novel of Frances Stuart, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Enchantress of Paris. I've read a few novels about the Sun King's court, but they all took place a bit later in his life, after Marie Mancini was out of the picture, so I knew nothing about this trailblazing young woman who captured a king's heart and made such an impression that her name appears in many letters and remembrances of her contemporaries.
The story begins with the death of Marie's mother, when a teenage Marie fully falls under the control of her powerful uncle, Cardinal Mazarin, and we are introduced to all of his nieces--the Mazarinettes, as they are called--and discover how he has used each one who has come of age to strengthen his position of power as top adviser to Louis XIV. Marie is perhaps the most clever and headstrong of all and vows to retain what little control she has over her life. But that doesn't come easy. When she catches the young king's eye and begins to spend time with him, she sees how completely her uncle and the king's mother are controlling his reign, and she determines to help the king realize his full potential on his own. Her desire to do so is admirable, and the author paints a picture of a woman who truly loves the king and wants to see him succeed in his own right, and it's just an added bonus that she gets to see her uncle fall in the process. But this strategy puts her at direct odds with her uncle, especially when the king decides to take a strong stance on the subject of his marriage and vows to marry Marie rather than one of the foreign princesses the cardinal is negotiating for.
And that's when everything starts to go downhill. As smart and daring as Marie is, she is no match for the most powerful man in France. She and Louis make a valiant effort, but the cardinal is always one step ahead of them. Nothing and no one is safe from his machinations as he uses anything he can to achieve his goals and bring down his niece. I cried right along with Marie as she finally realized her dreams of sharing a future with Louis as his wife were not going to come true. I don't know if it went down in history exactly as it does in this novel, but here it was heartbreaking. I wanted to kill the cardinal myself and shake some sense (and a backbone) into the king.
Enchantress of Paris is interesting in that it subscribes to the controversial assertion that Cardinal Mazarin was actually Louis XIV's father. I'm no expert on the subject, but it certainly does create a plausible explanation for the partnership between the cardinal and the queen mother and their rigorous control over the young king. There is a lot of focus here on court politics and the art of dressing to do battle in such an environment. This has caused other reviewers to label the novel as "fluffy," but given that one can draw strong comparisons between the Mazarinettes and their family's struggle to hold sway over Louis XIV with the Boleyn/Howard family's quest to hold on to Henry VIII in England, I appreciated all of those dazzling details and the effort it took to hold one's own in such an environment. Parties, pageants, salons, and feasts are also depicted in sumptuous detail, making this novel a treat for the senses.
Everything was going along fine for me, aside from a little bit of a lag in pacing in the middle of the book, until I got to the epilogue. Many years have passed, and we learn through very brief mentions that Marie's adventures did not end when she left the Sun King. In fact, they were just beginning! I understand that the author chose to focus on Marie's life as it related to Louis XIV, but a true tribute to this remarkable woman should have allowed the reader to continue on with her as she became a star in the Italian court and truly took her destiny into her own hands. Coming in on the shorter side of historical fiction at 316 pages, there was certainly room for it. Chances are that if that epilogue had not teased me with juicy little details about that time in her life, I would not have felt the lack of them so keenly and lamented that I was missing out on a big part of Marie's story. But as Marie herself says in the epilogue, "That is a story for another day," so dare I hope for a sequel???...more
I had really high hopes for this historical fantasy debut, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. Almost a month passed between when I read tI had really high hopes for this historical fantasy debut, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. Almost a month passed between when I read this and when I wrote my review, and I could hardly remember a thing about it before I skimmed back through it, so I think that's pretty telling. A medieval world filled with witches and wizards, revenants and prophets, magic and alchemy should be extremely gripping and atmospheric . . . but it's not so much.
I had some issues with the presentation of Elizabeth's character. There's a twist early on when we find out what Elizabeth has been doing with her nights, and I really felt like it merited more explanation and emotional exploration. That kind of secret has got to take a toll on a young woman, but we don't know if it does on Elizabeth because she never talks about it. And later in the story, Elizabeth is confronted with some startling truths about the world she thought she knew, but really, I couldn't help but think that a smart girl like her should have figured it all out much sooner. I did.
Combine that lack of depth with some uneven pacing and a superficial romance, and eventually I realized I was reading just to get to the end and see how it would all play out. There was a lot of potential here for in-depth characterization and gritty storytelling, but it wasn't fully realized and ending up feeling rather simplistic. The Witch Hunter is by no means a bad book--it certainly has its share of action and excitement--but I found it to be ultimately forgettable in a genre where the bar has been set high by some fantastic stories....more
Even though I wasn't blown away by the one other M.J. Rose book I read, I was drawn to the gorgeous cover and intriguing description of this one. I alEven though I wasn't blown away by the one other M.J. Rose book I read, I was drawn to the gorgeous cover and intriguing description of this one. I almost gave up 50 pages in because the writing was really rocky, but then the plot kicked in and I was encouraged. But around the 60-percent mark, I did give up, for good this time. I just did not care what happened to Sandrine. Perhaps if more time had been spent developing her character before she was possessed, I would have been rooting for her. This story concept had terrific potential, but for me, it didn't live up to it....more
I am not a fashionista, and I didn't know anything about Coco Chanel before reading this. But I am a fan of women who shape their own destinies and leI am not a fashionista, and I didn't know anything about Coco Chanel before reading this. But I am a fan of women who shape their own destinies and leave their mark on the world in the process, and C.W.'s novels have yet to let me down, so this one immediately went on my wishlist. I was not disappointed! This novel is a tour de force, much like the woman at its heart, and I think it's Gortner's best book yet.
I'm glad I did not read any reviews before reading this book because, looking through some of them now, I see that some major plot points that hit me pretty hard would have been spoiled for me. So if you're like me and don't know anything about her life either, and if you like to be taken unaware by a great story, be careful as you browse reviews. This one will be relatively spoiler free. If you are familiar with Coco's story, I think you'll find Gortner's interpretation to be balanced and well researched, vibrant with the essence of this legendary woman.
Mademoiselle Chanel's life is a true rags-to-riches story. The story of a woman who used talent, opportunity, and an awful lot of hard work to build a fashion empire. The story of a woman prone to perennial heartbreak, no matter her fame and fortune. The story of a woman who held her heart close yet allowed it to shine through in bittersweet tributes and acts of generosity. She is far from perfect. Her self-absorption causes her to be blindsided by certain developments and to feel tremendous guilt in the aftermath of others. She is a demanding employer and businesswoman, vindictive and even vengeful at times. She cultivates some controversial connections that will tarnish her reputation and her legacy, and she doesn't always come out on the high side of moral dilemmas.
But in spite of all these flaws, you cannot help but admire her. Her drive, her ambition, her sense of style and understanding of a woman's fashion needs. Her desire to free women from the cages of their corseted clothing. Her ability to adapt multiple times over a career spanning five decades, albeit sometimes reluctantly. Her loneliness, her feelings of inadequacy, her fear of irrelevancy. Her conflicting desires between being independent and beholden to no man and her yearning for companionship and security. Her relationships with some of the most influential and creative people of the times, from business tycoons and socialites to artists, writers, and composers to royalty--and even Winston Churchill.
Mademoiselle Chanel's was a life lived through the decadence of the Gilded Age, the Great Depression, the ravages of two world wars, and the good times in between. Hers was a love affair with Paris, with achievement, and with a succession of men who would all leave lasting imprints. Yet hers was a life filled with tragedy and disappointment as well.
Gortner has created a loving tribute to an unconventional woman, and I'm not ashamed to admit I cried at the end! It's a beautifully written story, a dizzying whirlwind of hopes and dreams realized and unraveled, of celebrities and parties and love affairs, of inspiration, dedication, and a rabid work ethic, interspersed with rare quiet moments of respite and reflection, and all playing out against the great backdrop of history--I couldn't put it down and yet I didn't want it to end. It's one hell of a story about one hell of a woman, and one of the best books of the year. Highly recommended!...more
Arden, I remember a summer day when we were young and you were lying on your back in the grass, and all I can think ofGiveaway @ Let Them Read Books!
Arden, I remember a summer day when we were young and you were lying on your back in the grass, and all I can think of now is that nothing in the meadow told you that in five years you'd be dead. No clues at all. Not from the daisies or the clover or the birds or the wind. Not from the clouds or the dog whose ears you scratched. Not from God.
There were Yankee boys, then, in the North. Lying in meadows. Scratching dogs' ears. Time would pass and one day they would put on their shoes and come find you.
Now I've come to find them.
Sisters of Shiloh is the story of Libby Beale, a young woman maddened by grief who disguises herself as a man so she can funnel her anger into vengeance by joining the Confederate army and killing one Yankee for every year of her husband's too-short life. But she's not going alone. Her older sister, Josephine, is going too, to ensure that Libby comes back home, for Josephine can't imagine a life where she is not the plain and dutiful sister to the beautiful and willful Libby.
The sisters run away and enlist shortly after the Battle of Antietam, the single bloodiest day in our nation's history. While Libby fits right in, relishing her new role as a soldier and a killing machine, Josephine feels increasingly isolated. That feeling deepens even more when she realizes her sister has done far more than simply impersonate a man; she has channeled herself into her dead husband, to the point where Josephine can't tell where Arden ends and Libby begins. Libby's descent into madness couples with the horrors of war and Josephine's own guilt over Arden's death to form a morass of conflicting, soul-crushing feelings that Josephine must wade through to maintain her own sanity. Throw in her growing love for a fellow soldier, a love she can never act upon without revealing her identity and getting the sisters kicked out of the army--an unforgivable sin in Libby's eyes--and Josephine's internal struggles become almost as large as that of the war itself.
For a long time, I thought this was going to end up a 3-star read for me for several reasons. First, I can't say I'm the biggest fan of the writing style. Lots of POV switches and short scenes lent a disjointed feeling to the novel, but that is balanced out by gritty and eye-opening descriptions of camp life and stunningly profound passages about war and its effects. Second, the subject matter is already so dark that at times I felt like Libby's madness on top of that was overkill, and I started to get rather annoyed with her, but toward the end, the authors did a great job of making me understand how closely she had been connected to her husband (and that it wasn't a good thing) and that her temporary spiral into darkness was almost necessary for her to be able to come out on the other side of it and move past her grief. And finally, it took me awhile to form a connection with the sisters, but as the story drew closer to the end, everything sort of gelled together for me, and I was on the edge of my seat to see how everything would play out.
I was moved the most by Josephine's struggle to hold on to her femininity, which she had already thought was somewhat lacking, in the midst of so many men and so many horrible situations. I enjoyed watching her confidence emerge, watching her finally become her own person instead of thinking of herself only as a sister or a daughter. And I was grateful for her budding romance with a fellow soldier. In a novel full of blood and guts and death and despair, that shining bright spot was very much appreciated, and I held on to that hopefulness right up to the very last page and the novel's poignant and satisfying conclusion.
I don't think this novel will be for everyone due to its darkness, but for its focus on the sisters' internal struggles and the life of a war-time soldier, it's a must-read for lovers of women's fiction and Civil War history....more
3.5 Stars. I was drawn to this book because I loved the idea of Helen of Sparta, not Helen of Troy. What a brilliant idea to tell the story of who Hel3.5 Stars. I was drawn to this book because I loved the idea of Helen of Sparta, not Helen of Troy. What a brilliant idea to tell the story of who Helen was before Paris entered the picture.
Helen of Sparta is very well written, offering a fascinating glimpse into Spartan society, though I did find the pacing to be slow at times. I hadn't been expecting to get so much of Theseus, and I was pleasantly surprised at his relationship with Helen and the strength of his character throughout the story. He's a dreamboat. There's a good cast of supporting characters too, including Helen's brothers, Pollux and Castor, Pirithous, King of the Lapiths and Theseus's best friend, and there's even an encounter with a young and then-unknown Paris. Even Menelaus comes off as sympathetic in the beginning before his desire for Helen and the power he believes is his due twists him into an unrecognizable version of Helen's childhood friend.
I hoped this book would give me a new view of Helen, of a Helen that was not just a prize or a pawn or nothing but a pretty face. And it does, though I can't say that I was totally enamored of her. She has a bit of a tough go of it. Her mother, Leda, despises her as the daughter of rape at the hands of Zeus, and Zeus has never made his presence known in Helen's life, something she is pretty bitter about. Suffice it to say she has some major daddy issues! Sometimes she was truly strong, brave, and smart, but other times she was incredibly stupid. Or perhaps obstinate to the point of idiocy would be a better way to put it. I get being pissed off at the gods, but after they've already proven how miserable they can make your life as well as what they can do to your loved ones, to be willfully rude and disrespectful is just not a smart thing to do, and Helen ends up bringing a lot of heartache on herself.
An exciting sequence of events leads up to the conclusion, but then it ends just as the beginning of the story we all know kicks into gear. I was surprised at the abrupt ending just as Helen's life was about to be forever changed, and I anxiously scoured the internet looking for news of a sequel, but I couldn't find any. I'm familiar with the basic story of Helen's departure with Paris and the war that follows, but I was hoping to get it from Helen's point of view in Amalia Carosella's capable hands. Plus I don't know what happens to Helen after Troy falls, and I was really hoping to find out. So if there is not a sequel and that ending stands as is, then I am not completely satisfied, and I'm going to bump my rating down a notch. But I'm crossing my fingers for that sequel!...more