I really enjoyed this book! The characters were clearly drawn and well-rounded, and the story felt like the least contrived Heyer I've read. Both lead...moreI really enjoyed this book! The characters were clearly drawn and well-rounded, and the story felt like the least contrived Heyer I've read. Both leads had histories and concerns and problems and challenges quite apart from each other and the situation they shared. The conflict between them was realistic, and - unlike most romances I've read - I couldn't quite see how they were going to come together at the end, until the very end. The plot is fairly intricate, and the cast of players manageably small; many of the characters serve more than one purpose, which is all to the good. The situation starts out sticky, and the stakes rise incrementally from there. The supporting cast is good, and in some cases inspired (Lady Bellingham is hilarious). In all, quite my favourite Heyer thus far. (less)
2013: I had no recollection of having read this book, let alone having written a review, in 2009. None. Not a sentence of the story came back to me as...more2013: I had no recollection of having read this book, let alone having written a review, in 2009. None. Not a sentence of the story came back to me as I read. Not one. So I'm treating this like a brand-new read, because it certainly felt like one, and my spoiler-free (or perhaps "vague") review below doesn't actually say much about the book itself, though I do seem to have prophesied this "second first-time" reading experience!
It's interesting reading this book now, having listened to nearly every podcast Lani has ever done (I'm still catching up on the old Popcorn Dialogues, but am up to date on everything else); it's given the book a different context than I had on first reading. I had heard Lani talk about this book with a variety of people - C.J. Barry, Jennifer Crusie, Alastair Stephens - and had more of sense of Lani as a person and an author than I did the first time I read it. I knew, going in, that Colin Firth (as Mr. Darcy) was the model for the love interest, Ian Beckett, and I could easily see Colin delivering Ian's lines. I have a better understanding of the craft of writing, and that undefinable but essential thing called "magic". And this book has both, in spades. I still (or do I mean "again"?) love Portia, and her barmy family. And once again, I laughed and cried and rejoiced and ached alongside them all.
A very satisfying second first read.
2009: I met Lani Rich in October 2004, at a book signing in Bellingham, WA, when she was touring with Chris Baty to promote his No Plot No Problem, about how to write a novel in 30 days, and her Time off For Good Behaviour, whose first draft she had written for Nanowrimo a year or two before. I bought both books, got them signed, and read and enjoyed them. Lani's was pretty much the first book on my 'Authors I Have Met' shelf, along with Chris's.
Four and a bit years later, with a bookstore gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I stumbled across this book, and snatched it up. (No signs of Maybe Baby in that same store, though, unfortunately.) I read it before bed a couple of nights, but impatient to finish, I brought it downstairs with me today and finished it off over morning coffee.
What a great read! It's one of those rare books that you enjoy so much that you wish you could read it again for the first time, you know? The first-person protagonist is wonderful, and I liked and identified with her immediately. I shared her emotions and her concerns, experienced her triumphs and her setbacks, and I blubbed along with her when things all got to be too much. I cheered when she finally figured out her own baggage, sorted out her priorities, and ended up with the right man (with whom, I confess, I was a little in love myself).
Much as I enjoyed Time Off, this is a better book (as it should be; every author should improve on her debut). I need to read more of Lani's books. There are plenty of them to choose from. Hmm. I wonder if any are available in e-book format! (less)
Five stars? Yes, I loved this book that much. I need now to find the rest of this trilogy so I can read the further adventures of the bastard son of P...moreFive stars? Yes, I loved this book that much. I need now to find the rest of this trilogy so I can read the further adventures of the bastard son of Prince Chivalry of Buckkeep!
Why did I love it so? So many reasons. I haven't read much fantasy fiction in a really long time (since I no longer had access to my brother's numerous and groaning bookshelves), but I feel like this is the kind of book or series my brother would have pointed me to, as he did to the Belgariad by David Eddings and numerous others that I probably would never have picked up on my own.
The writing is tight, the prose gorgeous in places, the pacing appropriate to mood and events, the characters beautifully illuminated and rounded, the setting even moreso, and the worldbuilding absolutely stellar. Anyone setting out to create a fantasy universe could take notes from the careful detail in this world, which doesn't stop at the social structure, geography, economic activity, history, theology, and politics but delves into its rituals and beliefs, its magic and legends, its mores and ethics. All of this is done seamlessly, with characters in conversation or in conflict, illustrating similarities and differences between individuals, social groups, families, and nations. I had to just stop and admire, sometimes.
I am a sucker for a first-person narrator embarked on a path he doesn't fully understand, and this mostly nameless protagonist had me from the opening paragraph. His terrors and angers were mine, and so were his joys and sorrows. I rooted for him in all his struggles, rejoiced in his accomplishments, and felt his wounds, both physical and psychic.
I loved this book. I dearly hope the rest of the trilogy is of equal quality. (less)
The Bitches called it "exceptionally-researched and written historical romance with plot twists and uncommon characters battling conspiracy and mystery", and I can't quibble with any of that. The male and female leads are fantastically written, well rounded, and I liked them both and was rooting for them all the way. The supporting cast was stellar; I especially liked Adrian, and was sorry to see his importance diminish in the latter half of the book.
>>EDIT: It occurs to me that, in the early going, my suspension of disbelief wavered a bit because Annique was a little too competent, confident, and just plain able for a blind woman (removing bullets by feel! Come ON!). I found myself hoping she'd get a resounding clout on the noggin to turn her eyes back on so we could get past that conceit, but then got used to the blindness and thus was as surprised as Annique when it happened.<<
As mentioned, I got this as an e-book, and read it on my iPhone. Intermittently. But, this book is MEMORABLE. Even after a gap of several months, I didn't have to read back more than a page (which is two paragraphs on my iPhone) to get right back into the story. All the detail came flooding back within the first sentence.
Top marks for the romantic element, the mystery element, and the history element. This may well be the best historical romance I've ever read. Not that I've read many. And I'm a little afraid to try more, for fear they won't measure up. Recommendations happily taken.
This book was making the rounds at work, and the first two people to read it had apparently widely different takes on it, so they were urging me to re...moreThis book was making the rounds at work, and the first two people to read it had apparently widely different takes on it, so they were urging me to read and discuss. Of course I finished it on the Thursday before Easter, so I won't see them for four days. "There's some event," Kendra, the first to read, said to Leisa and me, from the lofty heights of Chapter Three (of five), "that happens on their wedding night that has lifelong repercussions. Apparently it's already happened, but I don't know what it was." She was mistaken, as it turns out; there's an obvious Untoward Event, which doesn't happen until chapter four or five, and it's hard to miss. There's another, more subtle one, however (which Kendra didn't pick up on but Leisa did and so did I), which happens before the protagonists even meet, and that revelation went a fair way to explaining the general emotional detachment of the protagonists, and the prose, to me.
The review by Valerie Ryan, under 'description' above, summarizes this book beautifully, so I won't duplicate her work. I will say, though, that the prose is beautiful and a pleasure to read, and that reading this book has piqued my interest in his other works, which include Atonement.
I think this is my favourite book of the Jane Madison series, and I think that's probably because there's more at stake for Jane - in every aspect of...moreI think this is my favourite book of the Jane Madison series, and I think that's probably because there's more at stake for Jane - in every aspect of her life - in this book than in either the first or second book. The business of witching is no longer the strange new world it was in the first book, and Jane has no need to prove (as she did in the second book) that she is worthy of her powers, her books and arcane materials, her familiar. In the third book, what's at stake is everything she worked so hard to learn and earn in the first two books: her powers themselves, and her very identity as a witch.
Jane has fallen into the witchy equivalent of a blue funk, and her subsequent neglect of her powers, her warder, and her familiar has the unforeseen effect of weakening her powers. (The stronger the powers, the quicker they fade with neglect, Jane discovers, and she is the strongest witch on the Eastern Seaboard.) Her runes crumble to dust, her crystals cloud over, her books lose the ink on their pages when she touches them, and her astral connection to her familiar and her warder diminish into nothing. Something has to be done, but the solution only exacerbates the problem, and Jane faces the possibility of being the instrument of her own destruction.
It takes every ounce of Jane's will and character to find a permanent solution to the magical problem, and in doing so she resolves the mundane conflicts and problems that have dogged her for two long years.
This book is a satisfying denouement to the events and relationships launched in the first two. Another reason this is my favourite of the three is that she finally, finally, kisses David. Which I think pretty much anyone could have guessed, so I'm not going to call that a spoiler.
A new favourite among the Heyers I've read thus far. I gave up the conceit of reading them alphabetically by title and chose this one based on the blu...moreA new favourite among the Heyers I've read thus far. I gave up the conceit of reading them alphabetically by title and chose this one based on the blurb.
Liked the Heroine, adored the hero, fancied the villain, and thoroughly enjoyed the heroine's impulsive and often inebriated brother and his slightly dippy best pal and the other supporting cast.
As with all Heyer, there's entirely too much emphasis on period detail in hairstyles and clothing for my taste, but that's easy enough to slide over in the reading. And there is the inevitable slang, though it was slightly different in this book: confined to a single character, and thoroughly impenetrable; on the whole, used to much better effect than I have often seen in her books. (less)
**spoiler alert** When this book hit the hit lists, I wasn't quite sure what to think. Pride and Prejudice is, after all, my favourite book, and I don...more**spoiler alert** When this book hit the hit lists, I wasn't quite sure what to think. Pride and Prejudice is, after all, my favourite book, and I don't always take kindly to parodies thereon (I'm looking at you, Pride and Promiscuity. However, having recently enjoyed television's "Lost in Austen", and remembering fondly the film Sean of the Dead, and following a recommendation from a friend who knows and understands my love of the original, I plunged in.
Oh, what fun this book was! It's the classic Regency romance, in Jane Austen's glorious original prose, with an adroitly added dimension of the occult. The author's affection for and familiarity with the original shines through, even while he combines it with his knowledge and expertise about martial arts and weapons and fifty-five years of embattlement with an endless supply of zombies.
Apart from the writing, and the sharpened dialogue, there are dozens of small details that will wring gleeful chuckles from a Pride and Prejudice fan. The fates of such as Charlotte Lucas, Mr. Collins, and Mr. Wickham, for instance. The occasional reference to balls. Zombie traps baited with brain-like cauliflower. Lady Catherine's ninjas, and the new and inventive ways she finds to insult Lizzy's honour. The list goes on.
To add to the hilarity, there is a "Readers Discussion Guide" at the end of the book. It's a bit spoilery, so don't look at it until you've finished the book!(less)
Double ditto if you don't read romance, and/or haven't read 'romance' in a while, and/or have a low opinion of romance as a genre. This book doesn't promise to turn you on to romance, but it'll surely help you make an informed decision about whether to read, and what to read, in the genre.
The Smart Bitches started their website as a way to step outside the "be nice" imperative in Romancelandia, and speak plainly and honestly about the books, the characters, the tropes and motifs, and the genre in general. Because not all books are good, and the same is true for romance books. Some of them are unutterable tripe, with cardboard characters, wafer-thin plots, physically impossible sex, and badly written stories that make a reader resent the time and money wasted on reading. But some of them - many of them! - are fantastic explorations of character and situation that rank among the best of mainstream or literary fiction.
The Smart Bitches tell it like it is, and explain the history of the genre ('Old Skool Romance') and its evolution. They cite example after example, express their own preferences, and dismiss almost nothing because reading tastes are subjective. Fortunately the romance genre (which, let's be clear, outsells every other genre by miles every year) has something for pretty much everyone, from historicals to paranormals, from chaste stories without so much as a kiss in them to explorations of every kind of sex known to man. The genre doesn't confine itself to mere humans, or even the traditional male/female couple.
The last part of this book is a "make your own adventure" read that had me purple with suppressed laughter while reading in on the commuter train. The writing is excellent, if tongue-in-cheek, and ably demonstrates the discussion in all the foregoing chapters.
**spoiler alert** I like Jane Madison. She feels like a real person to me, with a job that she's passionate about (the librarian part, not the colonia...more**spoiler alert** I like Jane Madison. She feels like a real person to me, with a job that she's passionate about (the librarian part, not the colonially-dressed barista part), a rock-solid best friend, and a slightly kooky family, which now includes her swishy formerly-a-cat-statue familiar, Neko and her handsome, fit, intense warder David Montrose. I like watching Jane feel her way - often clumsily - around the unfamiliar landscape of witchcraft and magic and covens while trying to balance the social, romantic, family, and professional sides of her life. Not always successfully, of course.
In this book, the second in the Jane Madison series, Jane has to prove herself worthy of her newfound witchy status, or forfeit her familiar, her warder, and her astonishing stash of magic books and materials. The local coven sets her a task to test her abilities, and it's immediately apparent that the other witches are not at all on Jane's side in the endeavour. And to add to Jane's difficulties, there's a handsome new man in her life.
I found the early going in this book quite slow, as Jane brings us up to date on everything that's happened since (and sometimes in) the last book. There was a little too much ruminating on the disastrous ex-boyfriend (and too many explorations of the initials I.B.), and not enough stuff actually happening. But things started to pick up a few chapters in, and I was glad I stuck around.
Where this book really sings in when Jane is working on or with her magic. The reader is drawn in, all the way into Jane's skin, to see and feel and smell and taste everything exactly how and when Jane does. There's a ton of witchy lore divulged, but it's revealed and discussed organically, even when David is actively teaching Jane, which makes for smooth, immediate, and gripping reading. Jane's knowledge of art, geography, and colonial history are a bit more pedantically presented; this is in keeping with her job as a librarian, and provides an interesting contrast between the magic and mundane aspects of her life.
HERE BE THE SPOILER: I knew immediately, as I believe the author intended me to, that the new man, Graeme, was trouble, and that Jane's alleged new friend in the hostile coven was, in fact, bewitching her and spying on her and trying to undo her. And I understood long before Jane did (but not before I was meant to) that Graeme and Haylee were in cahoots. And because I knew what Jane did not, I was fully engaged as a reader. I read with my bottom lip between my teeth at times, just waiting for something to go horribly, spectacularly wrong.
The dénouement lived up to all the buildup, and the ending was completely satisfying. Well, except that I wanted Jane and David to have a sensation-stirring kiss or embrace or something. But I've moved on to Magic and the Modern Girl, so maybe I'll get that reward in that volume. :D(less)
I seem to have hit a good vein in my Heyer mine. I enjoyed The Convenient Marriage, and this one was even better. Funny, clever, filled with interesti...moreI seem to have hit a good vein in my Heyer mine. I enjoyed The Convenient Marriage, and this one was even better. Funny, clever, filled with interesting characters (with the possible exception of Jack Westruther, who doesn't actually get much airtime, and thus I didn't quite get the attraction), which leads to an interesting plot and several subplots. The heroine is strong minded and impulsive, but balances that with a charming naiveté so she's never irksome; the hero was a delight, with more depth and brain than one might expect from a dandy, and there was great chemistry between them. (less)
One of five free books from Random House, via Suvudu.com, and I'd file this under urban fantasy/paranormal, which is not my usual fare at all.
Plus: G...moreOne of five free books from Random House, via Suvudu.com, and I'd file this under urban fantasy/paranormal, which is not my usual fare at all.
Plus: Great worldbuilding. The protagonist, Marla Mason, is a human witch; her companion Rondeau is a body-stealing spirit; they get involved with a variety of human, non-human, and inhuman characters, and even a couple of deities. They start off trying to protect Marla's continued existence, and end up in another city on the other side of the continent, working through a time-and-place appropriate take on the labours of Hercules. The magic that underlies the story, its practitioners and infrastructure, is solid, intriguing, and alludes to a greater depth than is covered even in this story.
Plus: Originality and imagination.
Plus: Characterization. They're all well-rounded, none is perfect, and people's flaws are not spun around to appear charming. Physical descriptions were sufficient to my needs, and the description of Bethany really painted a picture for me.
Plus: Rising stakes, and making it worse. There is no clear, straight path to success for these characters. Plot twists are cleverly done, and not obvious. Good pacing, bordering on speedy in places.
Minus: Some of the writing could be tighter. There is a fairish quantity of telling where there should be showing, and there are sections that feel rather info-dumpy. I got caught up in the action and adventure and lost sight of why Marla and Rondeau were in San Francisco in the first place.
My research into What's New and Hot in Category Romance continues. This is Book #4, and this is what I'm talkin' about!
This is my favourite of the fr...moreMy research into What's New and Hot in Category Romance continues. This is Book #4, and this is what I'm talkin' about!
This is my favourite of the free e-books thus far. This one is a Silhouette Special Edition. What sets this one apart from the previous three:
- strong heroine, struggling with wounds both emotional and physical (lost part of a leg while serving in Afghanistan, and her fiancé and her confidence as a result), with real relationships with other people, including family members - strong hero, slightly reserved, who treats the heroine with respect and kindness, as he does his patients (he's a doctor) - realism. war is hell, injuries hurt and take time to heal and in the meantime you suffer, people labour under misconceptions, people keep secrets - good characterization, even to the walk-ons - good story. The end is always a foregone conclusion, so story is crucial - good writing, for the most part
There were a few turns of phrase that made me either laugh ("put on your big-girl panties") or cringe ("drew a deep breath into her lungs" - as opposed to 'on a sheet of paper'?; "it pained him like a bad abscess") or just roll my eyes ("thunderburst of emotion"; "fisted her hands" ['to fist' doesn't mean 'to make a fist', okay? Jeez:]).
This one? I might even re-read. Even though the title sucks and is kind of meaningless, as far as the story goes. (less)
The more I dig into modern category romance, it seems, the better the books get. Book four was good, and so is this, book five, which is from the Supe...moreThe more I dig into modern category romance, it seems, the better the books get. Book four was good, and so is this, book five, which is from the SuperRomance line. I read this one in one sitting.
A read of the bookjacket blurb brought the 1964 movie Father Goose to mind: man living in isolation is lumbered with a teacher and her schoolchildren, and as they struggle to survive and get the teacher and her charges where they need to be, the hero and the schoolteacher fall in love. And except for that similarity, and the happy-ever-after ending, that's all those two stories have in common. Father Goose was set during WWII, and Cary Grant played a civilian (Walter Eckland) pressed into unwilling service; the war that Snowbound's hero John Fallon is a veteran of is the one in Iraq. Eckland's cooperation with the British navy is purchased with carefully rationed whiskey; Fallon has flashbacks and nightmares associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. Leslie Caron's charges were pre-pubescent girls, and Fiona McPherson's are hormonal teenagers of both sexes. Pacific Island versus the mountains of Oregon, etc. and so on.
John Fallon is the first hero in these first five books who isn't almost painfully good-looking or physically perfect, and that was a nice change. He has a scar on his face, and further scars on his hip and leg, from shrapnel wounds. He's emotionally damaged and trying to recover, and his instant attraction to Fiona McPherson made sense for him as a character; that attraction drove him to take tentative steps toward connecting with another person, with a woman, as part of the process of recovery. He's reserved, almost withdrawn to start, and the way this changes is subtlely and deftly demonstrated by both his behaviour and the frequency and length of his speeches. I liked him a lot.
Fiona McPherson is only the second heroine in these five books who has a life and a passion and a purpose; she's a teacher, and a student working on an advanced degree. She has career aspirations, and I could easily imagine her carrying on with them if she'd never met John Fallon. Fiona is an effective combination of authoritative, strong, compassionate, perceptive and sensible, and she has (or develops) good relationships with her eight students (all of them identifiable individuals) and with John. She's perceptive enough to see that all is not right with John, compassionate enough to want to help, and sensible enough to question whether her attraction to him includes any element of thinking she can 'fix' him.
Because they were thrown together, it's inevitable that these two will be separated eventually, and this reader was no more anxious than the principals to see that happen. I had to keep reading, then, to see how they found their way back to each other. (Hint: They did, of course.)
I thought this author treated the politics of the Iraq war, the brutal reality of war in general, the suffering of everyone touched by it, and the physical and emotional wounds of the survivors, deftly and compassionately. She writes about teenagers and their concerns with equal ease and interest, which makes me wonder if she's a teacher or has teens of her own at home. (less)
This is one of the five free ebooks I recently got at Suvudu.com. As mentioned in a previous review, it's been a number of years since I read much fan...moreThis is one of the five free ebooks I recently got at Suvudu.com. As mentioned in a previous review, it's been a number of years since I read much fantasy, and this book reinforces the budding impression that I've missed out on some really great reading.
Set during the Napoleonic Wars (a period I'm familiar with from all the Jane Austen I've read and reread), this book is as informative about the time, and particularly about the navy, as it is speculative. The worldbuilding is wonderfully done, as is the growing relationship between the protagonists - Laurence and his dragon Temeraire - and the story that makes that relationship necessary and important.
On the strength of this book, I will seek out others in the series. (less)
I loved the movie (starring Cate Blanchett and Rupert Everett) made of this play; this and The Importance of Being Earnest are what I think of when I...moreI loved the movie (starring Cate Blanchett and Rupert Everett) made of this play; this and The Importance of Being Earnest are what I think of when I think of Oscar Wilde. Reading the play made me want to see the movie again. Could have sworn I had it on DVD, too, but can I find it. Bah. This sort of reading makes the bus commute positively fly past.(less)
Have been meaning to read this book since I saw the movie Capote, and a friend was kind enough to send me a PDF of it. But the PDF sat on my computer...moreHave been meaning to read this book since I saw the movie Capote, and a friend was kind enough to send me a PDF of it. But the PDF sat on my computer for many months, until I was able to convert it .pdb format and upload it to Stanza on my iPhone to read it, quite recently.
Seeing the movie interpretation of how Capote gathered the information for this book, interviewing everyone, and forging relationships with the friends, family and neighbours of the victims, the law enforcement representatives, and the accused - particularly with Perry Smith - added a dimension to my reading of this book that I think I would not have had, had I read the book first. I could envision Capote chatting with the townspeople, having drinks and dinner with Alvin Dewey, listening interestedly and not unsympathetically to the ruminations of the accused, and I thought the book and the movie a complementary pair. I'm glad I've experienced them both.
Because the book is non-fiction, one knows before starting that (a) a family gets murdered, and (b) their murderers hang in the end. Both events are foregone conclusion; it's the journey that those involved take that is of interest. The book starts on the morning of the Saturday in whose late hours the family is murdered, and over the course of that day (and numerous flashbacks), paints a richly detailed picture of the least likely family in America to be murdered, and the horribly misinformed murderers-to-be.
The inexorable progress of all parties toward the fatal encounter provides the tension in the early going; the reactions of the townspeople and law enforcement provide it in the middle, and the murderers' long, unstable road toward capture, confession, trial, conviction, and execution provide it through the close. The writing is good throughout and positively scintillating in places. I can see myself reading this again. And having read it once, I want to see that movie again.(less)
Does a book about a single woman finding love in quirky and endearing fashion (rather than in formulaic category romance fashion) count as 'chicklit'...moreDoes a book about a single woman finding love in quirky and endearing fashion (rather than in formulaic category romance fashion) count as 'chicklit' if the author is male? Does it count as chicklit if the male lead is every bit as quirky as the female lead? If he is perhaps moreso? If they're in their late 30's/early 40's? If they're both rather inept at relationships, and have baggage? If neither of them is rich or powerful? If there's no element of rescue?
This book is hard to classify, actually, in spite of the pink on the cover. It's a really enjoyable read, with interesting and engaging characters, a unique and plausible situation and plot, and topnotch writing. The prose is fluid and smooth and polished, and a pleasure to read. I'd read more by this guy. (less)
Dear Jane Austen has the famous authoress answering "Dear Abby" style letters from modern readers, referencing her own works (including the juvenilia...moreDear Jane Austen has the famous authoress answering "Dear Abby" style letters from modern readers, referencing her own works (including the juvenilia and the unpublished works) and their characters to illustrate her advice in matters of life, love, and general behaviour.
Patrice Hannon has an impressive grasp of Austen's works, and the response letters capture her voice and her character brilliantly. (less)
My friend Kammy recommended this one, and I'm glad she did. It was a rollicking read, with an intriguing protagonist, plenty of interesting and rounde...moreMy friend Kammy recommended this one, and I'm glad she did. It was a rollicking read, with an intriguing protagonist, plenty of interesting and rounded secondary characters, great worldbuilding, and lots and lots of Peril™. Harry Dresden, Wizard, has a dry, sly, and wry sense of humour, and the narrative voice in this was very engaging. He's a hardboiled detective who also happens to be a wizard, and I found the way the worldbuilding and backstory were woven into the actual plot really adeptly done. I did think Harry was a bit slow at figuring out the link between his cases, but in fact when he did, he did it much better than I had. :D
Thanks for the rec, Kammy! Now I need book two.
*~*~* 2013: Re-read. Just as good as the first time. This time my mental narrator sounds a lot like James Marsters, for some (delightful) reason. ;)(less)
The Honourable Christopher "Kit" Fancot, convinced that his (elder) identical twin has suffered some kind of mischance, returns from Vienna to investi...moreThe Honourable Christopher "Kit" Fancot, convinced that his (elder) identical twin has suffered some kind of mischance, returns from Vienna to investigate and assist him. His twin, the unfortunately (imho) named Evelyn, is missing and cannot be found, but in the meantime there are pressing social obligations to be met! In particular, there is Evelyn's engagement to a young heiress to secure, and Kit finds himself masquerading as his brother for one evening, in order to make a good impression on the young lady's imperious Grandmama. This is quickly done, but Evelyn doesn't quickly return, and Kit is obliged to perpetuate the masquerade, which curtails his ability to look for the brother he is pretending to be.
Heyer uses some classical comedy motifs (identical twins, mistaken identity, deception with the potential for disaster) here, to good effect. The characters are all likable and fun, though it may well be that Kit's mother, Lady Denville, and her longtime cicisbeo, Sir Bonamy Ripple*, steal the show just a tad, and leave the relatively normal Kit and Cressida in the dust.
The story is interestingly complex, and the denouement (apart from the HEA for Kit and Cressy) though happy, was not entirely as expected. The story was also blessedly less loaded with the slang and cant that infests so many of the others I have read by Heyer. I wish I had started keeping track of the double-barrelled rhyming terms she uses: this book used 'havey-cavey' (meaning: dubious), and 'mingle-mangle' (meaning: tangle) and at least one other that my eyes slid over. I have to wonder if I'm the only reader who feels pulled out of the story upon encountering a speech laden with this Heyer hallmark.
In all, I quite enjoyed this book. I do think the cover deserves some distinction, though; the art on my cover (see photo) is perfectly awful.
* Best-Ever Name For a Character, as awarded by me. (less)
What most pleased me about this book was the exploration of character, and the gradual evolution of the principals' feelings towards each other. The s...moreWhat most pleased me about this book was the exploration of character, and the gradual evolution of the principals' feelings towards each other. The supporting cast presented plenty of of foils for Ancilla and Waldo, and gave them opportunities to demonstrate their finer characteristics. Was there ever a governess/companion so patient and clever as Ancilla? A wealthy man so concerned about the poor as Waldo? The most memorable character in what is admittedly a very large cast has to be Tiffany Wield, the beautiful and spoiled heiress who is very slow to learn (if indeed she can be said to learn) that beauty and money are no substitute for a good disposition. (less)
This is my second dip into Harlequin's Love Inspired line, and this book was miles better than A Very Special Delivery in pretty much every single way...moreThis is my second dip into Harlequin's Love Inspired line, and this book was miles better than A Very Special Delivery in pretty much every single way: story, characters, plot, writing. I do take exception to the title, though; nobody was really hiding, and the one reference to the title was récherché and not at all related to any of the story's themes.
The religious faith aspect of this book was much more subtlely done, to my delight. The setting is the heart of Lancaster County, PA (Amish country), and the supporting characters are Amish, but the lead characters are what the Amish call English, and the two leads are both finding their way to faith rather than questioning it or living secure within it.
This book adds 'suspense' to the recipe of romance and faith, and the strange and dangerous events that threaten the opening of the Three Sisters Inn provide a suitable background for attraction and suspicion to grow into trust and love, though the denouement will come as no surprise to anyone who's ever seen a "the place is haunted" episode of Scooby-Doo. One can almost imagine the villain crying "I'd have got away with it, too, if it weren't for you interfering kids!" as the police car drives away.
There were weak bits, but by and large I thought this was a pretty decent category romance. (less)
Borrowed this one from someone at work, when it was making the rounds. Interesting story, well told from the POV of the teenage daughter, of particula...moreBorrowed this one from someone at work, when it was making the rounds. Interesting story, well told from the POV of the teenage daughter, of particularly bizarre episode in her parents' chronically rocky marriage when her mother takes the narrator, May, and her brother Eden, from London to a California ashram, to do some healing. What the children first see as a holiday turns into permanence, and they begin to make friends and go to school on the ashram, and their mother becomes more and more involved in the spiritual teachings of their guru, the weirdly charismatic Parvati. May's developing relationship with the manipulative Sati parallels her growing understanding of the spiritual, political, and emotional dynamics of the adult world, even as her younger brother's experience of events provides a diminishing link to childhood innocence. It's an interesting exploration of all kinds of relationships, and like real life, when the episode is over, everyone is changed by it, but there is no neat and tidy resolution of the issues and problems that underlie. (less)
I borrowed this book from a co-worker, who had picked it up at Starbucks. The description (above) completely overstates what interested me about this...moreI borrowed this book from a co-worker, who had picked it up at Starbucks. The description (above) completely overstates what interested me about this book, and the significance of the lives and events it relates, I think.
I was intrigued to learn more (based on my co-worker's retailing of the first few chapters) about how a man who had worked a job he hadn't even had to try to get (it was all set for him when he graduated from Yale), for twenty-five years, and had been at the top of his industry, had survived being fired to make way for younger blood at the age of fifty-three, and how he had gone from a life of affluence and privilege to taking the subway and wearing a green Starbucks apron.
The answer to the first question is "not very successfully", and to the second is "by accident, and for the health insurance".
Being the only white face among the African-American workforce at a Starbucks on Broadway in New York, being sixty-three and male and working for a 28-year-old woman, going from cruising along on connections and privilege to being the best cleaner of toilets and scrubber of grout makes for an interesting story.
The author's first year at Starbucks (the period covered in the book) is replete with revelations about what is important and what is not, and it's satisfying to watch him derive satisfaction from doing a job that he would never have noticed before, and to being invisible to the people he once knew who he encounters at work, because of the uniform.
Although there is reference to improvements in the author's relationships with his children, his family get very little airtime; the book focuses primarily on the new relationships, especially with boss Crystal and the other Partners (Starbucks parlance for 'employees'), and on one level the whole thing reads like one great big advertisement for Starbucks as an employer and career foundation.
His past life of success, privilege and affluence gets fairly frequent mention, in the form of name and occasion dropping: working with Jackie O to help save Grand Central Station from demolition; committing a serious faux-pas before Queen Elizabeth, an encounter with Frank Sinatra. These were always in reference to some new revelation, but in some ways seemed self-conscious, a sort of desperate attempt to reclaim the life that had been taken from him (work) or that he had squandered (family).
The writing was good, though, and the story engaging, which outweighed the flaws, for me. (less)
Still researching what's hot and new in category romance in the new millennium.
This is my third in the lot of sixteen free downloads, and the one I'v...moreStill researching what's hot and new in category romance in the new millennium.
This is my third in the lot of sixteen free downloads, and the one I've most enjoyed so far. There's a mystery at the core of the book, and it's a fairly gripping mystery, well unfolded. In story terms, the mystery aspect is at least the equal of the romance aspect, and the two tie together nicely; I never felt that either part had been tacked on to the other.
The lead couple are more well-rounded than the last two I've encountered; I never felt that they were cardboard cutouts whose only purpose was to fall (back) in love within 55-60,000 words. The heroine, Dana Cardwell, is feisty and active, rather than unassuming and passive, and I can actually imagine this one having something meaningful to do if the improbably named Hudson (Hud) Savage hadn't come back into her life. Similarly, I can imagine Hud carrying on with his life if circumstances hadn't drawn him back to his hometown and the woman he still (of course) loved.
Dana and Hud have (naturally) been separated by lies, hurt and anger, but they've both gone on with their lives, and have other things to think about than each other. She has strained relationships with her alcoholic father and feels increasing pressure to sell the ranch to satisfy her siblings' financial imperatives. He has a lot of guilt, and also struggles with an unpleasable father.
The secondary characters are also quite well drawn, from the various family members to the friends and neighbours, almost all of whom are murder suspects.
Some of the writing could be tighter, I thought, and I'd like to slap whomever allowed "the sun peaked through the clouds" through, but other than that, a good story entertainingly told. I liked it. (less)
Austen wrote only the first eleven chapters of this book before she became too ill to continue, and she died before she could add anything to a promising beginning, which finds the sensible and pragmatic Charlotte Heywood the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Parker at their house in Sanditon, which Mr. Parker hopes will become a seaside resort on a par with Brighton. Austen had time to introduce us to a cast of interesting and amusing characters - the imperious and suspicious Lady Denham, and her ingratiating nephew and niece, the verbose and ridiculous Sir Edward and the supercilious Miss Denham; the Parkers and Mr. Parker's various siblings; the Miss Beauforts, who live to be merry and fashionable and the object of every gentleman's admiration. Marie Dobbs adds only two young men to the quotient: Henry Brudenall and Reginald Catton.
The join occurs in the middle of chapter 11, which in this version is about a quarter of the way through. This gives the continuist a great deal of scope, and a great deal of responsibility, and Miss Dobbs (who wrote this in 1975) does a pretty good job with the language, the characters, and the situations. Austen's sharp satire is difficult to match, and Dobbs doesn't really try to. Instead she focuses on the social and romantic potential of the characters and situations, and the story is at its best when it keeps within those bounds.
She does a creditable job, I think. I enjoyed this one. (less)
This isn't the cover of my book, but oh well whatever.
This is rather thicker than most of the Heyers I own, and honestly I can't help but think it was...moreThis isn't the cover of my book, but oh well whatever.
This is rather thicker than most of the Heyers I own, and honestly I can't help but think it was a little too long in some ways. It started charmingly, and I thoroughly enjoyed the painstaking progress through the matter of eloping respectably, and setting up a household, etc. And Lord Sherry's neglectful attitude toward his new wife was consistent with his character to begin, but I thought he was a tad slow to realize that he had some responsibility toward Hero, and/or that he enjoyed himself immensely when she was around.
The character of Sir Montagu Revesby, Notorious Gamester and Ruiner of Moneyed Young Bucks, showed such promise, and then didn't quite live up to it, with the deus-ex-machina downfall in the middle of the book.
The characters, however, were as always delightful, and either I'm getting used to it or this book was a bit shyer on the trademark Heyer cant than some others, because it didn't irritate me on that front. Decent plot, though I daresay it went on a bit too long; I was happy when the ending finally came. (less)
This book starts promisingly, with a 29-year-old publishing peon Sarah protagonist finding herself pregnant by the man she's only been dating for two...moreThis book starts promisingly, with a 29-year-old publishing peon Sarah protagonist finding herself pregnant by the man she's only been dating for two months. How will he react? For that matter, how does Sarah feel about it?
Sarah has two sisters, both of whom arrive at crisis points in their romantic lives at about the same time, and they all end up in temporary residence at their father's home, while he is planning his wedding to his third wife. The point of view shifts for every chapter, from sister to sister, as they all struggle with shattered romances and other issues (infertility, dating, workplace politics, a missing parent).
The first two-thirds of this book were good fun, as the sisters cope with their own struggles and begin to see and help with the others' struggles. At some point, though, the struggling ceases and the loose ends are woven into a tidy end that sees all the relationships sorted out: sister to sister, daughters to father, women to younger stepmother, romantic alliances. Sarah's relationship to the father of her baby was particularly fairy-tale, I thought. And some of the writing, especially in the resolution of sister-to-sister and daughter-to-father relationships, was a bit heavy-handed.
In general, though, a pleasant read. Not one I'll likely repeat, though.(less)
I've categorized this book as "chicklit" for a couple of reasons: (a) the protag is a young, attractive fashionista (favourite designer: Givenvchy. No...moreI've categorized this book as "chicklit" for a couple of reasons: (a) the protag is a young, attractive fashionista (favourite designer: Givenvchy. No points for guessing, sorry), and she's in a bit of a pickle and there's a man involved. Well, two men. One good, one bad. You get the idea. (b), I have a 'chicklit' shelf here, and (c), I didn't know what else to call it.
This book is different from all the other chicklit books I've read because it's also a bit of an action thriller (along the lines of The Da Vinci Code but with better prose). The stakes really are life and death; the protagonist and the hero get shot at repeatedly, and although they seem to be able to hide out and have hot "omg we survived today" sex several times in the course of a week, the tension of the hunt is never out of mind. On the other hand, I never really worried that the lead couple wouldn't triumph, and I completely foresaw the somewhat cliched ending.
The narration in this book leaps back and forth between first-person for the female protag, Melanie, and third-person for her hero (the dreadfully named Stryker; it's his last name, but it what she calls him) and the villain. I found the transitions less jarring as I got used to them, but they still pulled me out of the story every time. I think if Melanie had been written in third person, it might have read better. Less intimate, perhaps less chicklit and more mass market fiction.
I've read it, though (in two sittings, which gives you an idea how fast-paced it is), and I won't read it again. It's up for grabs if anyone wants it. (less)