This short novella is less a fantasy in the genre sense than in the aspirational sense: there isn't much room for world-building, but the world establThis short novella is less a fantasy in the genre sense than in the aspirational sense: there isn't much room for world-building, but the world established allows for a certain kind of story. In this case, it's an arranged political marriage between two men.
Marcel and Gilbert both have mixed feelings when told they're expected to marry. Gilbert doesn't want to deprive his closest friend of the possibility of a love match. But Marcel, unbeknownst to Gilbert, has always hoped to marry him. I liked the bit of trope reversal here: scientist Gilbert is what we'd call nerdy, and not conventionally attractive. (His nickname is The Frog Prince.) But the popular, sophisticated Marcel has been pining for him for years.
This is a gentle, tender story, with mostly internal conflict. I like the slightly fantastical details, such as Marcel's collection of prosthetic arms. (He was born with a twisted leg and no left arm.) As a courtier and a dandy, he enjoys accessorizing, even using arms that are purely decorative:
Marcel chose his clothes carefully. The arm he chose to go with his outfit was made from black metal intricately sculpted to look like a tree with its roots twining around his shoulder, the branches stretching down to where they became fingers.
Marcel's disability isn't ignored -- it sometimes causes him difficulties -- but it is treated fairly casually as just part of his life.
This isn't a story with a great deal of oomph, but it's a pleasant world to spend some time in....more
I'm always intrigued by how much less dated the older Harlequin Presents are than the ones published in the 21st century. The heroine of this slightlyI'm always intrigued by how much less dated the older Harlequin Presents are than the ones published in the 21st century. The heroine of this slightly subversive romance resists marriage almost to the last page, because she's so fed up with being the caregiver for her siblings and doesn't want to have anything to do with domesticity. She offers to be the hero's mistress, which sends him into gales of laughter over the ridiculous outdated concept. It's a pleasure to read an HP that has all the narrative intensity without being over the top ridiculous....more
I think this might be the single most maddening romance ever written! The plot is incredibly Old Skool--the "hero" kidnaps and rapes (unquestionably rI think this might be the single most maddening romance ever written! The plot is incredibly Old Skool--the "hero" kidnaps and rapes (unquestionably rapes, not a glossed-over romance "forced seduction,") the heroine for revenge, then rapes her again out of jealousy--but it's like Jordan tried to write an Old Skool romance with a modern consciousness, because he's always spouting all this sensitive guy talk which is completely ludicrous in light of what he actually does. The heroine ponders this incongruity once or twice, but for the most part the incredible hypocrisy of it all is left unacknowledged. A crazy-making story!...more
Note: This book could be read as a standalone, but it does contain major spoilers for A Flight of Magpies. It will also be more enjoyable read as partNote: This book could be read as a standalone, but it does contain major spoilers for A Flight of Magpies. It will also be more enjoyable read as part of the series, in my opinion. Reviewed from an e-arc provided by NetGalley.
From the beginning of this story, as we hear Ben Spencer's vengeful inner thoughts, I knew it would be right up my alley. I loved the old skool quality of Charles's story in Another Place in Time and this Victorian-set romance also has that desperate intensity, at least most of the time.
Former police constable Ben is seeking Jonah, the magic-using lover that used and deserted him, leaving him to face the ruination of his entire life. If you've read A Flight of Magpies, you'll know that Jonah is charming, feckless, and amoral... but that his worst actions were motivated by the need to protect someone else. And no surprise, Ben is the someone he was protecting, though Ben himself has no idea of that. So when Ben does find Jonah, there's a complicated mix of guilt and happiness and love between them that culminates in some scary (but consensual) hate sex. But that's just the start of their adventure.
I loved that there was no whitewashing of Jonah's character from the previous book. We do learn that there are reasons for how he is, but he isn't magically reformed. As in an old Harlequin, we never see his point of view, so we have to understand his feelings for Ben through his actions, and learn to trust him along with Ben.
This is very different in feel from the other books in the series. There's no paranormal horror, though Jonah and Ben have some very unpleasant experiences in the everyday world. The paranormal element is depicted much more for fun here, as Jonah can harness his windwalking powers for others to enjoy. (Think Elsa making snowdrifts for Anna to jump from in "Frozen.") In general, it's more of a conventionally structured romance, with the story driven primarily by the powerful love Ben and Jonah feel for each other. (Not that I ever found the romance in the previous books lacking, but it does develop over the course of the entire series.)
I was somewhat disappointed by the middle section of the book, which gets kind of morose and lacks the interesting tension of the beginning and end. But the way the seemingly impossible situation is eventually worked out is very satisfying. ...more
4 1/2 stars. A beautifully done tearjerker in the classic style, except with a gay, Jewish main character. My review at Dear Author: http://dearauthor4 1/2 stars. A beautifully done tearjerker in the classic style, except with a gay, Jewish main character. My review at Dear Author: http://dearauthor.com/book-reviews/ov......more
I was impressed by the elegant style and serious tone of Satie's first book, and this one is even better, with a compelling romance, sympathetic charaI was impressed by the elegant style and serious tone of Satie's first book, and this one is even better, with a compelling romance, sympathetic characters, and even a well done mystery plot. The heroine Sophie has an unusual disability, very poor long-term memory, and the effect this has on her life is beautiful imagined and movingly described. Trust is a major theme in the story, and it plays out in a fascinating way.
I compared The Secret Heart to Jo Goodman, but this reminded me more of Cecelia Grant, primarily because of Sophie's absorbing interest in the ink industry. The rich detail around her unusual profession makes this just the sort of historical romance I enjoy. It doesn't hurt that it also features a hero who can't stop loving the heroine, no matter how hard he tries.
This is only loosely linked to The Secret Heart, and it's fine to read it independently. However, after reading the blurb for the third book, I suspect that threads from both of the first two books will be followed up there....more
(Disclaimer: I'm friendly with this author online, but that doesn't mean I always love his books. Reviewed from e-arc provided by NetGalley.)
Halfway t(Disclaimer: I'm friendly with this author online, but that doesn't mean I always love his books. Reviewed from e-arc provided by NetGalley.)
Halfway through this short story, I switched from Kindle to Nook and was shocked to discover how short it really is. (36 pages, of which 13 are other material.) There's so much richness to it that its limited focus --with little in the way of exposition or characterization or any of the things we normally look for -- just seems like an intense laser beam spotlighting a poignant moment. Hall could have written an entire series about this barely sketched world; instead he wrote just enough.
From the beginning, the story is infused with sadness and regret. Our unnamed narrator was created to be flawless, meant for privilege; instead he fell in love with performing mermaids and ran away to join the circus.
She was sun and sky and flame that day. And I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful, or so free. I was young. I didn't know any better.
Our narrator is carefully trained to see the Mer as wild animals -- "behavior shaping, stimulus discrimination, auditory queuing and lexigram reinforcement" are their tools. Any kind of anthropomorphism is discouraged.
All day and all night, Naera crouched in a corner of the tank and screamed. Vocalised. We were meant to say she vocalised.
When a merman called Nerites arrives at Cirque de la Mer, a Mer who seems to be seeking some kind of connection, cognitive dissonance really begins to set in.
I don't want to say more... in fact, I may have already said too much. Without being particularly surprising in any way, this story is a voyage of discovery. ...more