All the characters, no matter how minor, were drawn really well. Even Bennett Charles, the hopeful swDang, I'm really torn about how to rate this one.
All the characters, no matter how minor, were drawn really well. Even Bennett Charles, the hopeful swain at the end, got some "see inside my head" time so we felt sorry for his fate.
The secondary story of Cathleen and Aaron, ill-fated saga that it is, tore at the heart strings. Seriously, I thought they were gonna succeed until they didn't.
Ironically, even though the leads, Miranda and Geoffrey, were given plenty of "screen time" I really didn't care for them. There's a long separation of the two, peppered with some misunderstandings, but nothing like a Big Mis. But they didn't have much to do. For much of the story, heroine Miranda was actually fulfilling the role of accomplice and helper to Cathleen's story.
Geoffrey's servant Judas was also a very interesting character, although yow, his sex scenes have been the purplest prose I've ever read. Bar none. They kinda made me LOL, actually.
What really got me about this book was the writing. It's dense and ornate, with long paragraphs of historic infodumps that treaded that real fine line between "good to know" and "OMG do I need to know this?" At least it was kept to exposition and not dialogue - I just can't handle the AYKB anvil-drops of info. The writing kept me at a distance throughout - the references to characters as "the man" and "the woman" even during real intimate scenes, was a little bizarre and off-putting. If it had happened a few times I wouldn't have paid attention, but the usage was constant.
There's really not much plot happening, other than Thwarted Love (Cathleen/Aaron), Mysterious Roots (Geoffrey's), and Yellow Jack (Death and more death). Really, all hell breaks loose in the last 30 pages and all bets are off as to who lives and dies. There wasn't much conflict for Melinda and Geoffrey to struggle with (that was all Cathleen and Aaron) so it was pretty uneventful.
However, you do get into peoples' heads and get a glimpse of the antebellum Southern mentality, as skewed as it was. How women just willfully ignored unpleasantness, put their Southern belle game face on, and let the menfolk deal with stuff. I actually liked how the issue of slavery was handled. Melinda never once wondered whether slavery was bad, it was a fact of life, always been there, and all she had known. That seemed very authentic to me.
If you're looking for a pure historical romance, where everyone fucks but the hero and heroine (who finally do it on the last page!) and with a solid atmosphere of the place and time, give this one a try....more
Despite all appearances, this book was a real page-turner whenever I managed to carve out some time. Several details simply deman*looks at start date*
Despite all appearances, this book was a real page-turner whenever I managed to carve out some time. Several details simply demanded that I read it: the Vermont setting, a house called Tamarack that hearkened back to my hometown, and that luscious Tom Hall cover art that I could fondle to my heart's content.
This is a huge, lush goffick with all the usual goffick elements writ large, with time to revel in the broodiness and malevolent dwama and twagedy that we come to expect. This story takes its time to unravel the events of 1820 and the unhappy young wife Emelie Carson (through her journal, no less!) and the modern-day woes of her descendant Emelie Milne.
The cold, cruel, puritanical Israel Carson is the villain you love to hate, and his seeming modern counterpart, Justin St. John, was no cuddly teddy bear either. I never cottoned to him, even in the finale when it turns into somewhat less dim sunshine and rainbows for our couple. Somehow when a guy calls his lady an idiot, even when it's described as "tenderly," it doesn't really warm the cockles of this girl's heart. :D
Throughout the book I was trying to figure out just where the fictional town of Welkin was located, because being a Vermonter, I must know. There was internal squee at mentions of real towns that I know quite well, and my best guess is
Just in case you're curious. :P
So, highly recommended for any gothic lovers out there who want their historical and modern yarns at once. And teeming with tragic love, murder, and madness.
ETA: What this book really needs is a family tree in order to keep straight how all the modern day family members are related to each other. There are so many generations involved. But... one of the big reveals would have been given away, so maybe that's why it is omitted. Dang it....more
With 6 ratings and a 2.3 average, and NO REVIEWS, I felt it was my solemn and bounden duty to read and review and, as it turned out, finally put in wWith 6 ratings and a 2.3 average, and NO REVIEWS, I felt it was my solemn and bounden duty to read and review and, as it turned out, finally put in writing why this book SUCKS DONKEY BALLS and why everyone should avoid avoid avoid. Ahem... without further ado...
WARNING: Spoilers! Not that it matters anyway, because you shouldn't waste your time on this book. And GIFs aplenty. And some cussing.
The story opens with a true scene of holy-shit-did-I-just-read-that?, as the beautiful Maura Sullivan, daughter of a rich family who owns a carriage factory in NYC, is racing her father on horses. She makes the sharp-ass turn at the cliff, but Dear Old Dad doesn't and plummets over the edge to certain death.
Within a year and being the weak female she is, Mom Sullivan gets snookered into marriage with the family lawyer Pelham Turk (!!!). He's aware of her faulty ticker, hasn't gotten her the medical care she needs, and Maura is shocked, shocked when she finds out. How could he be so careless and not told Maura? She would have taken her mom to the doctor and so she wouldn't be dying! Maura, being the dimwit she is, doesn't see the designs Turk and his son Braxton have on the Sullivan family fortune: Ma kicks the bucket, Braxton finally gets his lecherous hands on Maura, and the family fortune is theirs, mwahahahaha!!!!
As soon as Mom's planted 6 feet under, they go into action. But the Turks don't count on Duggan Quinn, the factory's foreman. He's brawling Black Irish, and was practically viewed as a son by the late patriarch, and he's not going quietly when they shitcan him because he's a threat to their Grand Plan. He also popped Maura's cherry, so he's got a special interest in the family.
He saves Maura from a near-rape by Braxton, and they're on the run. The goal is to get Maura to her brother James, who went to Pittsburgh to build riverboats and expand the Sullivan Empire. Once he knows what the Turks are up to, he'll help! He's gone kinda AWOL, and no one's heard from him for weeks. At one point, more than 3/4 through the book, I figured he had been offed by Papa Turk in a Plot Twist That Must Be Coming, but NO. He's just one of those frustrating types who suddenly drops off the radar and then wonders why his voicemail box is full from frantic "Where Are You?" calls from friends and family and why everyone is so pissed at him when he says he decided to hike the Applachian Trail. BTW, he finally appears on the last page of the fucking book. But by that time we've had to endure every agonizing step of Maura's journey and incurable stupidity.
This review will be a little on the side of All Over the Place, since that's how the book felt. No organization, no direction. And it didn't take long before I got to the stage of
Marilyn Granbeck did her historical research, that was apparent. Sometimes that can be A Good Thing, if doled out judiciously. But when I get to read lengthy tour guide passages of a riverboat including the height of the smokestacks and the capacity of the boiler...
OK, on to what really pissed me off and made me want to just say Hell With It:
The heroes were inseparable. And I don't mean that they were Best Buds. Their characterizations were pretty much the same, as well as their behaviors. There were some differences. Beau the gambler was smooth:
And Duggan was, shall we say, a wee bit more forceful:
But both cavalierly rolled in the hay with women when it served their purposes and then turned on the charm when Maura got pissed, and chucked her under the chin telling her that her anger was adorable, for good measure. If one acted like that, fine, but both was a little much. (And cheating isn't even a pet peeve of mine!) There was just no differentiation between the two.
Maura was a TWAT. Oh man, was she! The only thoughts in her head throughout the entire book were: Oooh, Beau makes me feel loved. But I love Duggan! I must find James! How could he do this to me??? (directed at the Turks/Duggan/Beau/James)
This bitch bounced between Beau and Duggan for 400 fucking pages. Frankly it got tiresome, because anyone with a brain (and for sticking this book out I was beginning to doubt I had one) saw Beau for the douchebag he turned out to be:
It only took recurring misunderstandings with Duggan for her to go from Twu Wuv with Duggan to fucking Beau the very next day. And back again. And back again.
Annoyed impatience. I haz it.
Plus, she also does shit like, even after knowing the clerk in the Pittsburgh office is working for the Turks (who she just escaped), she gives the guy a message to telegraph to James. Then she's all surprised when OH EM GEE, she hasn't heard from James yet, and, hey wait, what are the Turks doing in Pittsburgh?!?!?!?
But of course we hear from Duggan how smart and capable she is with such a head for business (nowhere is that demonstrated), and Maura thinks so, too! Well, ain't she speshul. She does think that Unions Are Bad, and that any factory owner is a Job Creator who should be thanked by all workers for Giving Them A Job and You'll Take What We Pay You. (Just discovered: This is the latest pick for the GOP Book of the Month Club!) :D
NOTHING happens. The plot was nearly nonexistent. Maura needs to get to James, wherever that flake happens to be. There are 2 excruciatingextensive boat race scenes, a regatta at the beginning, and a riverboat race near the end. Does it push the plot along? No? THEN WHO CARES????
The craziest example of Shit Happening But Not Really Changing Anything was when Maura gets kidnapped off the riverboat by Braxton and taken by carriage "several miles" into the country to be married by a drunk parson who Braxton bribed. (Evil as he is, he is efficient to have managed to cover that many miles to arrange this elaborate plan in less than an hour.) Simply by still acting passed out, she escapes in the carriage and ends up back at the boat in a quick WTF detour that seemed familiar:
Of course after endless instances of Having Reasons Not To Trust Beau, the fact that he was so busy poker playing that he never noticed she was gone, finally gave her the boot in the ass This Reader had long been itching to give. But still.... Dumb dumb dumb scene.
Final Verdict: Yeah, it started out promising all kinds of WTFery, but failed miserably really damn quick.
(Note: 1.5 stars rounded up to 2, because really, that opening scene was crazyWTF awesomeness. But 1 star for the rest of the book. What a waste of time!)...more
I...I'm done.... Have no idea how to review this...
After some thought:
I thought I could let things sit for a few days before I tackled a review, but aI...I'm done.... Have no idea how to review this...
After some thought:
I thought I could let things sit for a few days before I tackled a review, but any kind of coherent thoughts refuse to form. So it'll be slightly messy and without bunnies like the first book.
One of the best books I've ever read. So different from the first, which had some rather ludicrous moments interlaced with the gloomy doomy death and carnage. This one was all seriousness, and a long, dense seriousness it was! So many times I wondered aloud, "How much more shit can these poor people take? What else CAN there be?" And oh yes, there was always more to endure.
I can't tell if Marilyn Harris hates her characters or loves them. They're all seriously flawed, and in a way that makes them "perfect" human beings. If someone can make a Poor Life Decision, Harriet makes it. Or did she make the best one? Was Edward perhaps better off? We'll never know, but we can guess.
Perhaps the most brutal facesmack that Harris delivered to us, the emotionally involved reader, was how close characters came to happiness over and over again, only to have it yanked away. Simultaneously I was on the verge of tears for these characters and total incredulity that Harris actually went there and did that. No one is spared from agony in this book. No one.
And although the book ends on somewhat of a high note, there is much dread and foreboding of the young John Murrey Eden. Because 2 generations of Eden men have messed up the lives of those around them. Why should this boy be any different?
After this incredibly draining read, I need a breather with lots of fluffiness and bunnage before tackling Book 3.
Considering the steaming pile of poo that was my first gothic I didn't have high hopes for this one either. Endless pages of seemingly menacing charaConsidering the steaming pile of poo that was my first gothic I didn't have high hopes for this one either. Endless pages of seemingly menacing characters who turn out to be good guys, the heroine running around in fear, and a quickly sewn-up ending.
OK, well, it had all those things in varying degrees, but this time it worked. Trust me!
Although the cover implies yet another 1960s contemporary, this actually takes place in 1803, when England is pissing their pants at the rampant rumors that Boney will invade at any moment. Perhaps it was this historical setting that helped with the spook factor - somehow forbidding castles on the moors in the age of cars and telephones don't have that same isolating OMGtheheroineissofuuuuucked vibe that poor Sophy is struggling under.
So, the story: Sophy Marlowe is on her way to Castlecliffe where she will stay with her guardian (her dead dad's bestie) until she turns 21, at which point she'll come into the awesomest of inheritances - what that is, no one knows. But Daddy wrote a letter with some clues, and there are quite a few shadowy characters bent on finding out the mystery. The guardian (or is he?) is under the spell of Shemal Rashid, a dark, dangerous doctor who Sophy's dad warns her about in his letter. A dashing masked highwayman, Jack Midnight, cruises through every now and then to warn/rescue/kiss Miss Sophy. The doctor's courtly nephew Constantine vies for Sophy's attentions - for what purpose? A mangled half-man half-monster wanders the castle grounds at night who Sophy only sees from a distance.
Who can Sophy trust? Not even herself, as Shemal totally starts gaslighting the poor girl and she starts heading down Ingrid Bergman Avenue:
The prose was pretty florid, with metaphors and similes aplenty, which I thought fit with the historical time period - when gothics kinda started, after all! It might bother some, but I lap this stuff up:
The night was silent, though my tense body awaited the nerve-shattering screams. Only when I dreamed did I see a dark, stumbling shape pursuing me, with those chilling cries echoing in every corner of my mind. The terror woke me many times. On each occasion I lay trembling, my head aching, until I could not tell which was the dream and which the reality. Perhaps Rashid was right and the terror stalked within my unbalanced brain...
With a rather large cast of characters, I was a little doubtful that all the loose ends would be tied up satisfactorily. However, the final scene had all the characters together and was quite the barnburner, complete with Satanists and brides:
(ETA: Well, sorta. But if I have an excuse to spread the Manos love, I'm taking it.)
Considering my previous goffick experience, and how much I actually enjoyed this one, it's getting the full 5 stars from stingy old me. Hopefully I can find more of Sandra Shulman's books - and that they're as satisfying....more
The story of the De Kuyper clan and New York continues in a fairly lackluster entry which offered even less action than Beekman Place, if that was eveThe story of the De Kuyper clan and New York continues in a fairly lackluster entry which offered even less action than Beekman Place, if that was even possible.
After this 4th installment in the series (thank goodness there are only 5), I've gotten a clearer picture of the author's style (or lack thereof). It is simply a collection of pasteboard characters playing out roles in front of the much more colorful and interesting background of New York history. It is no different in this book.
There really is no plot, and that is the main downfall of these books. Over the course of 600+ pages, short vignettes are loosely strung together, many of which have no bearing on the plot but rather to give "atmosphere" and dramatize little factoids that Nicolaysen desperately wanted to include. One of our rich De Kuyper femmes gives money to a vagrant on the street outside the Academy of Music, who turns out to be Stephen Foster (who did die penniless in NYC). This little scene takes up 3 pages and never mentioned again. Why bother?
I began thinking of this author as a "shallow John Jakes" - but at least in North and South, there was tension. Conflict. When you don't know what may happen. Would Orry rescue Madeleine in time? *biting nails* In these books, the De Kuypers are Teh Awsum and every potential problem that arises is neatly solved in the matter of a dozen pages, maximum. Everything works out for this clan. Adam, the head of the family and the robber baron who inhabits the same circles as Vanderbilt, Astor, and Gould, escapes assassination attempts by rivals, manipulates the stock market (which comprises most of the "plot tension" in the book - *yawn*) to ruin whoever he feels like, and always, always sees the potential for the next greatest thing despite all the naysayers. He buys in at the ground level and ends up controlling all. The end of the book suggests that he'll have a large role in the rise of the telephone and the electric bulb. It's ridiculous. He approaches Marty Stu territory.
But... near the end of the book he's reflecting on how New York has changed from a relatively rural town to a bustling city in the matter of a few short decades, and the wide gap between decadent wealth and grinding squalor.
To him this was a place where a man could rise or sink depending on his abilities and his ambitions. It was not the fault of the city if a man lived in squalor and barely eked out a living. The city offered opportunity, and the man who took advantage of it deserved the rewards that followed. There was no need to feel compassion for those who stayed behind. Life was a struggle, and those who worked hardest emerged the victors.
(Wow, where have I heard that recently?) Tell that to the poor Polish Jew who fled Europe to escape the Cossack pogroms and can't speak English, Mr. Adam "My Family Wealth Goes Back 200 Years" De Kuyper, you clueless douchebag.
Still, in the current day of the "We are the 99%," this 1%er's musings were right on target. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Now, Adam could have had some kind of wake up call by being shown how these poor were exactly at the point where his great-great-great-grandfather Pieter De Kuyper was when he came to the New World in 1620. But no. He's a family man, he loves his wife, he protects his family. He's clearly one of the "good guys" and there is no room for improvement.
So this book sounds really dreadful... why 3 stars, you ask? I give it 2 extra stars because Nicolaysen should have gone the extra mile and written a narrative biography of Manhattan - it is clearly where his heart lies and the emotion behind the writing is obvious. The sections of the book where he is describing the city, the streets, the buildings, the history, even such things as the prices of foodstuffs at the time, are interesting and were the fastest moving sections of the book. They were never very long, and wedged into the fictional scenes, and I always looked forward to the next bit of NYC trivia. He can write action (the ship battle scenes in On Maiden Lane were aces), and in this volume the NYC Draft Riots claim that honor. But as for the rest of the book - ho hum.
So I suggest, if you're going to even attempt any of these books, to stick with On Maiden Lane. It's the best one by a long shot....more
Not about Harry Thaw and Stanford White, like I immediately concluded.... a totally different murder that sounds CRAZY! The good old days... they wereNot about Harry Thaw and Stanford White, like I immediately concluded.... a totally different murder that sounds CRAZY! The good old days... they were awful!...more