Maria, the eldest of eight daughters, is a sociology student in Bergen and works part time as a cleaner. She's due to make a big presentation as part...moreMaria, the eldest of eight daughters, is a sociology student in Bergen and works part time as a cleaner. She's due to make a big presentation as part of her coursework, and is certain that the way she shows the oppression and hardship that cleaners face every day will be so revelatory that all instances of the media will want a piece of her, and she will appear on news programs, talk shows radio shows and in the news papers. While cleaning classrooms and lecture halls, she dreams of the media attention. Of course, she has to write the presentation first.
Alma is fifteen, and completely consumed with lustful thoughts and desire. Every waking moment, she thinks about sex and fantasizes about having sex with pretty much everyone in her daily life. Her friend, her boss (the local shopkeeper), the boys in school. Her mother gets increasingly more upset, as Alma starts stealing booze, racks up a huge phone bill calling phone sex lines, shop lifts a porn magazine and seems to get more and more out of control.
Maria's mother, wife of the local shopkeeper (and mother to eight girls) is feeling increasingly more dissatisfied and unfulfilled. Her days consist of tending house, cleaning and cooking for her large family. She feels unappreciated and unnoticed by her family, and wants to get a job, and make a difference. When she hears that there is a chance the local turnip factory may be closing down (or perhaps just have to initiate some cutbacks), she packs a bag and goes to Oslo to stage a protest in front of the Parliament.
This was a decidedly odd book, but thankfully it wasn't very long, or difficult to read. The theme connecting the three women seems to be dissatisfaction with their lot in life, wanting a change, and wanting to be noticed. Maria is bored as a student and some time cleaner, Alma just wants boys to notice her (she's not one of the popular girls) and Maria's mother (whose never even given a name in the book) is sick of being a housewife and wants a change. The narrative changes very suddenly and unexpectedly from reality to fantasy, and to begin with, it was difficult for me to keep up with what was real, and what was flights of fancy.
The shortest section of the book, the one where Alma's story is related, also gets surprisingly graphic. With the amount of romance and paranormal fantasy I read, it's not like I clutch my pearls in horror or am even adverse to sexual content, but some of the things going through Alma's mind were pretty out there. Not entirely sure what the author was trying to do with that.
I'm also not entirely sure what the purpose of this book was, and what Olaug Nilssen is actually trying to say. There's bits that seem like she's trying to make some sort of social or possibly feminist commentary, but then there are also huge amounts of just absurdist fantasy. It's yet another book I can cross off my TBR list, and another course work text in the bag. I guess I'll just have to be thankful for that. (less)
This is the third book in a series, and while romance novels are normally fine to read out of sequence, some of the really awesome developmen...more4.5 stars
This is the third book in a series, and while romance novels are normally fine to read out of sequence, some of the really awesome developments in this book lose a lot if you haven't read the rest of the series. These books are top notch romance, so just do yourself a favour and start at the beginning with A Rogue by Any Other Name. And yes, I know the titles are spectacularly cheesy. I recently discovered in a podcast that these are MacLean's own puns, not anything imposed on her by the publishers. I don't know whether to be impressed or slightly worried about her.
The great hulking brute known as Temple also goes The Killer Duke. He is one of four disgraced members of the aristocracy who own luxury gambling club The Fallen Angel. When the rich and foolish have lost too much, and have no other recourse, they can fight Temple in the Angel's boxing ring. Should they win, all their losses will be restored. Not that anyone ever has, but it never stops them from trying. William Harrow, the Duke of Lamont, shunned by most of polite society because he is suspected of having killed his father's fiancee, is more than happy to take every beating coming, because he's honestly not entirely sure he doesn't deserve his moniker.
Twelve years earlier, he awoke with only the haziest memories of the night before, to discover that the bewitching beauty who'd invited him up to her room was Miss Mara Lowe, his father's sixteen-year-old child bride and soon to be the Duke's third wife. There was no sign of the bride, only him, naked in sheets soaked in blood. Never convicted as there wasn't a body, Temple was nonetheless driven from polite society, and survived in the less prosperous parts of town because of his boxing prowess. After a while, he teamed up with Michael Lawler, the Marquess of Bourne (hero of book one) to run dice games, until the two were nearly killed by street thugs not too happy with their business venture. They were saved by Chase, the mysterious founder of the Fallen Angel, and became part-owners in the club.
Now Christopher Lowe, Mara's brother keeps challenging Temple, wanting to fight him for the chance to reclaim his squandered fortunes. Temple keeps refusing, not wanting anything to do with anyone named Lowe. Walking home one evening, he is approached by a woman revealing herself to be Mara Lowe, who desperate to escape her wedding did an incredibly foolish thing twelve years ago, and has been in hiding ever since. She promises to come forward and tell the world that Temple is innocent, as long as he restores her brother's funds. Temple has been tormented for over a decade, because Mara made everyone believe he killed her. He's not going to be satisfied with mere absolution, he wants revenge.
Sarah MacLean keeps amazing me, with each new book, she does something new and exciting. Mara genuinely ruined Temple's life. For twelve years, she hid under an assumed name and let everyone keep on believing that the Marquess of Chapin, later Duke of Lamont, had brutally killed her and disposed of the body. Because she drugged him to carry out her disappearance, Temple has never really had a clear recollection of the evening in question himself, and with his brute strength and capacity for anger, occasionally doubted his own innocence. So he's quite righteously furious when she returns, not even particularly remorseful, trying to negotiate with him. Temple doesn't just want her to clear his name, he wants to humiliate her and make her suffer, as much as possible. We're entirely on Temple's side. Mara is clearly the villain of the piece here.
So how in the world do these two find their happy ending. There was clearly attraction between them, that fateful night twelve years ago, when Mara set her foolish escape plan in motion. Even through the anger Temple feels, he can't help but feel drawn towards her. It's also made clear, over the course of the story, that while Mara doesn't feel like she had a choice, and initially seems quite unconcerned for the immense suffering she's caused, she changes her mind the more time she spends with Temple. The fact that she was sixteen, inexperienced and desperate, and completely unaware of Temple's real identity when she set her plan in motion is also made obvious. In what may seem like a terrible cliche, she now runs an orphanage for young by-blows of the aristocracy, and the reason she needs her brother's debts cleared is because she gave her brother the orphanage's funds to manage, and he carelessly lost them too. If she can't get the money back, the young boys in her care will starve. She can't tell Temple the truth as he makes it very clear that nothing she says or does will sway him from his plan to see her utterly humiliated in the eyes of society.
Temple's business partners and their wives do make cameo appearances in the book, and while they are also deeply furious with Mara to begin with, they start changing their attitudes towards her when they realise that she seems to actually care for Temple, and wants to atone for her past actions. It's more common in romance that the hero is the dislikable scoundrel who needs to win the forgiveness of the heroine and her circle. Here it's the other way around, and it's a brave choice by MacLean. Mara has clearly been sticking her head in the sand, desperately trying not to think about the consequences her actions had. Temple is still a Duke after all, and wealthy beyond his wildest dreams. She's been constantly looking over her shoulder, terrified that someone would find her and unravel her secrets. She has to face ugly facts about herself, and her actions, and show herself to be a worthy partner to Temple. Over the course of the book, she's also able to make him see that while his reputation is not what it used to be, he has a lot of good things in his new life to be thankful for, and maybe polite society isn't all that great to be a welcome part of, after all.
Courtney Milan still has the edge, but Sarah MacLean is now neck and neck with her for the title of best historical romance writer out there right now. It's a well-known tradition that in series of romances, the most interesting character is saved for last. Here it's the founder of the Fallen Angel, Chase, who is left until the end, and after the final two pages of this book (which made my jaw figuratively fall to the floor and swear out loud into an empty living room, I was so blown away), I can honestly say that I will be on tenter-hook. It doesn't look like it'll be out until August of next year, but if the first three books in this series are anything to go by, Courtney Milan may have to kiss her crown good-bye. (less)
This is the third and final book in the Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy. It can obviously be read in isolation, but I suspect it works better if you've...moreThis is the third and final book in the Lost Lords of Pembrook trilogy. It can obviously be read in isolation, but I suspect it works better if you've read at least one of the preceding novels about the two eldest brothers, the first of which is She Tempts the Duke.
Lord Rafe Easton was ten when his uncle killed his father, and tried to have him and his two older twin brothers murdered. Saved by the daughter of the neighbouring estate, Mary, the brothers escaped the tower they were locked in, and ran away. Sebastian (the oldest by a few minutes) became a soldier (and eventually horribly scarred Two-Face style in the Crimean war), Tristan was sold to a ship's captain and worked his way up to become a successful captain (and sometime privateer). Rafe was left at a workhouse, because his brothers (then 14), had no idea what horrifying conditions the children there suffered and what a fate they condemned their baby brother to.
Now the proprietor of a successful gambling club (this seems to be a really common way for the heroes of Romancelandia to support themselves), Rafe is happy that they've got their revenge on their uncle, Sebastian is restored to his rightful title as the Duke of Keswick with Mary at his side, Tristan has found love and is also happily settled. He is not really interested in spending a lot of time with his brothers, though, as he's unable to completely blame them for the years of torment he went through in the poorest areas of London, fighting his way through the seedy underworld. His life has taught him that everyone abandons him, sooner or later, and so it's best just not to get attached to them in the first place.
Until he meets the very special someone who can crack his hardened and bitter shell, obviously. Evelyn Chambers is the illegitimate daughter of an Earl. When her mother died, her father took her in, and had her raised in comfort at his country estate. When the Earl dies, she naively believes that her half brother will keep his death bed promise to see her comfortably taken care of, by helping her find a husband. Her brother, being a cowardly weasel of the highest order, instead intends to sell her as a mistress to the highest bidder, to gain funds to repay his many gambling debts. Rafe is present, as the holder of the debts. He's surprised by his own disgust at seeing the other men lech over the oblivious Evelyn, and his own strong attraction to her, and insists on claiming her himself.
He intends to make her his mistress, but while he thinks of himself as the cruelest of villains, he makes sure to give her enough time to get used to the idea, insisting that he would never force her, and he wants her to make the choice to stay with him of her own free will. Deeply uncomfortable with the strength of his feelings towards her, he keeps trying to be controlling and order her about (because that's clearly what a man with a mistress should do) but he's clearly terrified that she will leave him, and keeps painting a very bleak picture of her chances of managing on her own to ensure that she believes that staying with him is her only option.
Evelyn may start out as blithely innocent and naive to the point of TSTL, but it's quite clear that the reason she's so oblivious is that her father, while claiming to have acknowledged her, kept her hidden away in the countryside, far away from polite society where she might learn that not everything was pretty dresses and dollies and her being a bastard might not mean that she had a bright future as the wife of some kind man ahead of her. She has a very rude awakening, and wises up really quite quickly once her brother deposits her on Rafe's doorstep. She also realises very quickly that Rafe is a good, but extremely lonely and private man, who believes himself to be much harsher and crueler than he really is. All his servants are people he rescued off the streets, who are deeply grateful and loyal to him.
I've read a fair few series where there's a number of brothers (either biological or in spirit) who over the course of the books will find their true loves and live HEA. It seems to be tradition that the most messed up of these individuals are saved for last. The best example of this is obviously the amazing Smite Turner in Courtney Milan'sUnraveled. Rafe, for all that he's had a horrible childhood, at least had a stable and happy life until he was ten. He has a lot of unresolved issues and fear of commitment because of his experiences in the work house, being forced to work in a mine and being a street kid, but he also seems to resolve quite a few of them as soon as he actually lets Evelyn get close to him. I suspect that in reality it would take years of therapy as well as the love of a good woman, but we have to take these things with a pinch of salt when dealing with historical romance. The fact that in Milan's book, there is no insta-healing, is why I love her the mostest of all the writers out there. (less)
Nathaniel Stokes became the Earl of Westfall when his cousin fell out of a boat in the Lake District and drowned. Before he was an earl, he was plain...moreNathaniel Stokes became the Earl of Westfall when his cousin fell out of a boat in the Lake District and drowned. Before he was an earl, he was plain Nate Stokes, one of Wellington's most trusted spies, and he still can't seem to settle down and be a staid aristocrat. So no one will look to closely at him, or ponder why he was absent for so much of the war on the Peninsula, he cultivates a clumsy and bookish persona, wears fake spectacles and walks with a limp. He likes finding lost and stolen trinkets and artworks for his fellow peers, and is intrigued when the Marquis of Ebberling comes to him to find a governess that fled his home three years ago, who stole from him, and may have killed his wife. He's offering an obscene amount of money to get the job done quickly, and Nate likes the challenge of finding someone who disappeared without a trace so long ago.
Emily Portsman, as the girl is now known, found refuge at the scandalous Tantalus Club, a gambling establishment staffed entirely by well-born and educated young ladies, run by Lady Haybury, the heroine of A Beginner's Guide to Rakes (and the first book in this series). She's not left the club for three years, for fear of Ebberling finding her. Twice a week, she has to dye her hair brown, and while she invites the occasional gentleman up to her rooms, she tries to stay unnoticed as much as possible. So when she overhears Nate at lunch, talking to his younger brother about locating a thief among the staff at the club, all her paranoia returns in full. Believing him to be a befuddled scholar, she invites him to her room to seduce his mission out of him, not realizing that she's playing straight into Nate's hands. As the two become closer, Nate becomes more and more convinced that Ebberling left several key points out of his tale, and that Emily is not the ruthless murderer he's been sent to find, at all. But how can they prove her innocence, against the word of a rich and powerful peer of the realm?
This is the fourth book in Suzanne Enoch's Scandalous Brides series. While all the couples from the previous books appear in this as supporting characters, it's also a pretty good book to start with, as it gives the reader all the information needed about the Tantalus Club and intriguing glimpses of the former couples, so that if you've not read the earlier books, you might be ore tempted to do so. It's probably also my favourite of the four, on a par with, and probably even better than the first one in the series.
The formidable Mrs. Julien has mentioned that she's partial to a big lug in her romances. While I don't mind them, I'm much more fond of the intelligent, slender and frequently sardonic hero, myself. Nate Stokes is just such a man, a war hero who can't boast about any of his achievements, because he's been a spy. He's had so many secret identities that he barely knows who he really is anymore, and he's certainly not comfortable with the Earldom that fell in his lap. He keeps himself busy finding lost trinkets for other peers, as well as teaching his younger brother how to be a responsible and trustworthy adult.
Emily (also known as Rachel, or Eloise) is a wonderful heroine. She's worked hard to get to where she is, getting an education and a higher position in society mainly by deceit and false references, and has had to hide, fearing for her life for years. She's proud of her abilities and enjoys her job at the club, making an honest living even though most of society scorns her and her fellow Tantalus Girls. She's refreshingly different from a lot of romance heroines in that she's not a virgin (none of the Scandalous Brides are, if I recall correctly), she enjoys sex and isn't afraid to admit it to herself or the hero. It's even more refreshing that the hero in no way judges her for it, or slut-shames her in any way.
Used to being the smartest person in any given situation, what Nate wants most of all, is to be surprised. Emily constantly ends up reacting in a different way than he expects, and he finds it wonderfully invigorating. The initial stages of the relationship, when the two of them are trying to subtly interrogate each other, while also trying to dupe the other from finding out their true intentions, is very enjoyable. I also liked that they came clean to each other before the situation got too much out of hand, and once they'd started being honest with each other, there was very little in the way of insecurities and melodrama, despite the two characters' gap in social standing.
While the resolution of the romantic plot line was fine, and seemed to be a lot more plausible than a lot of other historical romances out there (certainly a lot more than them just getting married and not caring what the consequences would be for their standing in society, Loretta Chase, you might want to take notes!), the resolution of the murder plot was utterly ridiculous. My disbelief can only be suspended so much, and I just see no way that Nate, highly valued agent of the Crown though he may be, would get that sort of assistance in clearing the name of his beloved, the employee in a gambling den. The rest of the book is delightful, though, so I will forgive the extreme implausibility of that bit of the plot. Be warned, if you're planning on reading this book, that it gets a bit silly there towards the end. Apart from that, I highly recommend it. (less)
Having drunkenly challenged his friend Daniel Smythe-Smith to a duel after a round of cards, Hugh Prentice ends up shot in the leg, and crippled for l...moreHaving drunkenly challenged his friend Daniel Smythe-Smith to a duel after a round of cards, Hugh Prentice ends up shot in the leg, and crippled for life. He's lucky enough to recover enough that he can walk, but has to use a cane, and will never be able-bodied again. After several years of Daniel Smythe-Smith being on the run from assassins hired by Hugh's father, Hugh has had more than enough of the whole business and tells his father that if anything untoward happens to Daniel, Hugh will kill himself. As his father seems to count on Hugh to marry and provide an heir, he calls off his hired killers, and Daniel can return safely to England, which he does and promptly falls in love with his sisters' governess, in A Night Like This.
Daniel and Hugh forgive each other, but Hugh has never been able to forgive himself. The only person who hates Hugh more than he does himself, is probably Lady Sarah Pleinsworth, who feels that he destroyed not only Daniel's life with the disastrous duel, but ruined her chances at an advantageous marriage. Sarah was supposed to have her debut along with Daniel's sister, Lady Honoria, when Daniel had to flee the country. The scandal meant they had to wait, and Sarah is convinced that one of the fourteen eligible gentlemen who proposed to someone else during that season could now have been her husband. So when Lady Honoria is getting married to Marcus Holroyd (see Just Like Heaven), and Sarah is asked to not only sit next to Hugh, but take special care of him, and make him feel like a welcome guest during the wedding festivities, she's not exactly thrilled.
Hugh thinks Sarah is a melodramatic harpy, and has never forgotten that the first time they met, Sarah unleashed a torrent of vitriolic ranting at him for all the damage she felt he had done to Daniel, Honoria, herself and her younger sisters. He has no choice but to attend Lady Honoria's wedding to show how well things are patched up with the Smythe-Smiths, but he wishes he could spend more time with the younger Pleinsworth sisters rather than Lady Sarah. Despite the personal feelings of Sarah and Hugh, though, it soon seems like several members of the Pleinsworth and Smythe-Smith families are determined to throw the two together as much as possible, and when Sarah injures her ankle and is temporarily just as crippled as Hugh, they discover that their initial dislike for each other may be turning into something else.
This is the third novel in the Smythe-Smith quartet (I suspect the fourth and final book in the series will be about Iris, another lady of marriageable age), and so far the one I've liked the most. Because of Hugh and Sarah's initial antipathy towards each other, they have some truly snarky banter, and it's fun to see a couple turning gradually from dislike to attraction. Hugh is a much more troubled hero than Marcus Holroyd or Daniel Smythe-Smith, never able to forget his foolishly impulsive challenge, and living with the painful (both physical and emotional) after-effects every day. He didn't hesitate to threaten his father with his own death if Daniel couldn't return home safely, as he really feels that his life is worth more to his loathsome father than it is to himself. All he has is his brilliant mind, he can no longer dance, or hunt, or properly woo a lady, so he's quite convinced he's going to die alone and unloved.
Sarah may seem shallow, overly dramatic and obsessed with finding a husband, but as long as she is unmarried, she's forced to participate in the annual Smythe-Smith musicales, being humiliated when she and her tone-deaf cousins are forced to perform for friends and family. When she's actually forced to spend some time with Hugh, she realises that long term, the duel had more disastrous results for him than for any of the Smythe-Smiths or their cousins, and starts softening towards him.
My main complaint with this novel was the complications caused by Hugh's father, who is a moustache-twirling maniac villain of the worst order, with no clear motivations other than being evil and erratic and wanting to control his sons' lives. I wish something else had been used as the issue that needed resolving before the couple's happy ending, but the first three quarters of the book, with the cameo appearances of the previous two books couples, and a number of fun supporting characters, like the younger Pleinsworth sisters, were strong and fun enough that I can rate this four stars. (less)
Tara is a newly hired first year associate with the firm of Kelethres, Albrecht and Ao, and on her very first assignment, she needs to help resurrect...moreTara is a newly hired first year associate with the firm of Kelethres, Albrecht and Ao, and on her very first assignment, she needs to help resurrect a god. Kos, the fire god of Alt Coulumb, has mysteriously died (he may have been murdered) and if he cannot be brought back within the month, the power he supplied to the city will shut down, and there will be chaos.
Abelard is the cleric who was on duty when Kos died, and he is naturally having a bit of a crisis of faith, which he handles by chain-smoking incessantly. He is asked to aid Elayne Kevarian (Tara's boss) and Tara with the case, which also seems to involve a murdered judge, supposedly exiled gargoyles, and the re-appearance of Tara's old mentor, who's also responsible for her being expelled from the Hidden Schools before graduating. There are mysterious things afoot in Alt Coulumb - but who has the most to benefit from the death of Kos? How far are they willing to go to stop him being resurrected and restored to power?
This is not an easy book to classify. It's alternate reality urban fantasy, meets mystery meets steampunk. There are magical systems, and different religious beliefs. There's the necromantic Craft, and the strange legal battles that take place before a case can be settled. The necromancers seem to be part lawyers, part magic wielders. We discover the rules and customs of the world gradually, and the information is sometimes portioned out sparingly, not giving the reader the full story until a long way into the book.
The characters are distinctive, and complex, and not always admirable or likable, but they're never not interesting. I loved the world building and the rules for the use of magic. That gods are powered by the belief of their worshippers is nothing new, but that a god can be the source of power for an entire city is a cool and unusual idea. I liked Tara's ambition, I loved Elayne's cool ruthlessness, and I liked Abelard's genuine faith and devotion. Max Gladstone is a very entertaining writer, and having recently discovered that this is not a stand alone book, and that the next book in the series is out now, I will absolutely be reading more of his work. (less)
Only read the Courtney Milan story - which I would rate a solid 4 stars, but don't really feel I can rate the whole book that high, as glancing over t...moreOnly read the Courtney Milan story - which I would rate a solid 4 stars, but don't really feel I can rate the whole book that high, as glancing over the other stories, I found little to interest me. (less)
Tom Sherbourne was a soldier in Europe during World War I. Deeply affected by his experiences, and the guilt he feels for the lives he took, he signs...moreTom Sherbourne was a soldier in Europe during World War I. Deeply affected by his experiences, and the guilt he feels for the lives he took, he signs up for a job as a lighthouse keeper, taking postings at the most remote and lonely lighthouses around Australia. When a posting becomes available on Janus Rock, a place so remote and lonely, other lighthouse keepers have been driven mad, Tom agrees to go, first as a temporary replacement, and later as the official lighthouse keeper. The only human contact is the supply boat that comes every three months.
Tom falls in love with a young woman, Isabel, and despite his initial reservations, marries her and brings her to Janus Rock. To begin with, they are blissfully happy, alone with each other in a place nearly a day's journey from the coast. After several years, things are more strained. Isabel has miscarried twice, and two weeks after her third pregnancy ended in stillbirth, she first believes herself to be hallucinating, when she hears a baby's cries on the island. A small boat, with a dead man and a living baby, has washed up on shore. Tom, always meticulous in his record keeping, wants to report the findings to the authorities right away. Isabel begs him to wait, just a day, so she can spend some time with the baby. Against all his better judgement, Tom agrees, and he's then persuaded by his desperate grieving wife that they should just bury the dead man, and claim the baby as their own, naming her Lucy. No one knows that Isabel miscarried, they can just pass off the foundling child as their own.
Being on lighthouse duty means the couple only get holiday on shore every three years. Little Lucy is already two years old by the time the Sherbournes return to the mainland, and discover the truth about where their baby really came from. There is a grieving young woman in town, wondering about the fate of her husband and nearly newborn child, lost at sea so long ago. Her wealthy father has promised a fortune in reward for anyone who can give information. Can the Sherbournes continue their deception in the face of someone else's obvious grief?
I am not the first person to read and love this book. It's currently got over ten thousand 5 star reviews on Goodreads and over fifteen thousand 4 star reviews. It also won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction last year. So it seemed like a pretty obvious choice to pick as my first "Read a book everyone else has read" for my Book Bingo card. The fact that I can also use it for my Monthly Keyword challenge, my A to Z challenge AND my historical fiction challenge, was just a bonus. Frankly, with the amount of reading challenges I'm doing at the moment, it's rare that the books don't at least qualify for at least three different ones.
Enough about my crazy need to make my reading more competitive - what was so awesome about this book? Was it the heart-breaking subject matter? Was it the lyrical writing that was so beautiful you just want to stop and read it out loud? Was it the interesting and slightly unusual setting and time period? Was it the skillful way the story was unfolded, making it nearly impossible to put the book down because you just had to read one more page, one more chapter? Was it the wonderfully rendered and extremely complex protagonists, who you just wanted to hug and comfort, at the same time as you often wanted to shake them until their teeth rattled? Was it the great cast of supporting characters, who again didn't feel like characters in a book, but real live people who you just had the fortune to be experiencing on the page? Unsurprisingly, it was all of these things. The fact that this is M.L. Stedman's first novel fills me with awe and admiration and bitter jealous rage all at once. I can't wait to see what she writes next. Do yourself a favour and read this book. You are unlikely to regret it. (less)
What if Jane Eyre was a young college girl forced to drop out after her parents' death, and take a position as a nanny to make ends meet, and save up...moreWhat if Jane Eyre was a young college girl forced to drop out after her parents' death, and take a position as a nanny to make ends meet, and save up enough money to finish her degree? What if Mr. Rochester was a world famous rock star with a tempestuous past working towards a comeback?
Spoiler warning! If you haven't read Jane Eyre, a novel that is more than 160 years old by now, this review will contain some spoilers, and you should probably skip it. However, you should also go find a copy of Jane Eyre and read it, because it's great.
Still here? Ok, then. Jane Moore is an art student at Sarah Lawrence, but can't afford to pay tuition after her parents die, leaving her almost destitute. She takes a position as a nanny at Thornfield Park, taking care of rock legend Nico Rathburn's daughter from an ill-advised and brief relationship with a French starlet.
Nico Rathburn seems demanding, gruff and arrogant at first, but is clearly pleased with Jane's efforts to take care of and nurture his daughter. Working towards the release of his new album and a subsequent world tour, Rathburn isn't even around that much at first. As he spends more time at Thornfield Park, however, Jane can't help but grow closer to him, even as he seems to be wooing the glamorous celebrity photographer Bianca Ingram to be his new wife. And what are all the strange noises coming from the restricted area on the third floor? Why is no one allowed up there? What exactly is Nico hiding from the world?
April Lindner is a professor of English at a University in Philadelphia, and says that Jane Eyre is her favourite novel, that she teaches at any opportunity given to her. So it's not a surprise that this is a very faithful adaptation of the classic novel. While there's not as much time spent dwelling on Jane's absolutely awful childhood, the modern take on Jane still had a pretty rotten upbringing, with self-centred parents more concerned about her older siblings. She's an art student, shy, introverted, plain (not as obsessed with her appearance as the original, God I want to shake that girl for all her whining about how unremarkable-looking she is).
Mr. Rochester has become Nicholas Rathburn, former bad boy rocker with all manner of womanising, alcohol and drug abuse and partying in his past. Now clean and sober, he's launching his comeback album and planning a massive tour with his band. Blanch Ingram is instead a sexy fashion photographer, and the mad wife in the attic is his deeply unstable, schizophrenic first wife who he refuses to have institutionalised.
Lindner clearly knows the novel so well that I'm pretty sure that if I could be bothered to go to the shelf and find my copy of Jane Eyre, I would find that the plot for each chapter is pretty much faithfully recreated, just updated to a modern setting. It's actually very well done, and I won't deny having been engaged by the story and swept along by the drama on occasion. I read the book in two days, so it's not like it was boring or a lot of hard work. I'm just not entirely sure why the adaptation needed to be made. Still, there were no zombies or ninjas or sea monsters or vampires, it's just a very accurate modern take on the novel for a young adult audience (although those faint of heart should know that there are some smexy times, if not very graphic - get ready to clutch your pearls). As someone who's very ready for that fad to be over now, I guess I should be grateful. I will also confess to being curious about the author's next novel, which is a modern take on Wuthering Heights. Maybe she can make me hate that book a bit less by modernising it?(less)
Dare You To is the sequel to Pushing the Limits, which I reviewed last year, but works fine on its own, and may even be better if you don't h...more4.5 stars
Dare You To is the sequel to Pushing the Limits, which I reviewed last year, but works fine on its own, and may even be better if you don't have any preconceived impressions of Beth from that book.
To say that Elizabeth "Beth" Risk has a sucky home life, would be an understatement. Beth's mum is an alcoholic and recreational drug user, with an abusive boyfriend. Yet Beth feels responsible for her father leaving them, years ago, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her mother out of jail, even if it means taking a beating now and again. Thanks to the help of her two best friends, Noah and Isaiah, she manages to stay mostly safe. Neither of the two boys think she should be protecting her mother the way she does. When Beth's mum smashes up her boyfriend's car, and Beth takes the blame for it, getting arrested so her mother doesn't violate her parole, the two foster care boys are relieved when Beth's uncle, Scott, arrives to bail her out of jail, and demands that she stay with him until she turns eighteen, even if it means they won't get to see her much anymore.
Scott is her father's younger brother, who knows exactly what sort of a dead beat Beth's father was. He left to become a baseball pro while Beth was still a little girl, and has just moved back into town with his wife. Unless Beth agrees to stay with him until she turns eighteen, and follow his rules, he'll make sure the police know all about Beth's mother and the things he found in her flat when he came looking for Beth. Defeated, Beth agrees, even though Scott's new wife is less than thrilled to have what she considers a severely messed up juvenile delinquent staying under her roof.
Ryan Stone is the local golden boy, whose baseball skills are likely to get him a career in the big leagues. Of course, most of the town don't know about the tensions he's experiencing at home, with his father shunning his older brother after he came out as gay, or that baseball may not be the only thing Ryan wants to focus on. His English teacher is pushing him to pursue his writing, and has even entered him into a big contest, but his father wants nothing to distract him from baseball games and showing off for talent scouts. He keeps his adrenaline up with constant dares, the hardest one in a while getting the phone number of a stand offish skater girl at Taco Bell. Imagine Ryan's surprise when the skater girl turns out to be the new girl in his school, and the niece of one of his baseball idols, Scott Risk? Of course, Beth still won't give him the time of day, and his friends up the dare from getting her phone number to getting her to agree to a date - but Ryan isn't worried. He never plays to lose, and he certainly intends to win this challenge.
Anyone who has read Pushing the Limits could be forgiven for thinking that Beth and Isaiah were clearly meant to end up together. Katie McGarry even admits that when she was writing the first book, she fully intended them to become a couple. But things change, and never having been entirely convinced by their chemistry when they were supporting characters in Noah's book, I'm glad that McGarry changed her mind and developed new love interests for Beth and Isaiah (there's a sneak preview of Isaiah's book Crash into You at the end of the book). While Isaiah is a sweet guy, he never challenges or questions Beth, and he would certainly never push her out of her comfort zone.
Ryan is great. He's clearly so much more than your standard high school jock from the moment we meet him. While on the surface he has everything - looks, athletic skills, popularity, money - it's very obvious that he's desperately lonely after his beloved older brother left. He's clearly not really shared the true extent to his tense and uncomfortable home life after his father's autocratic decision to shun his eldest son with his closest friends. As well as being a star baseball player, he's apparently a great writer. He's strangely drawn to Beth from the first time they meet, and he's certainly not used to being outright rejected. At first, getting close to Beth is all about winning the dare, but the more time he spends with her, the more he realizes that she's not actually what his first impressions, and the rumours about her, suggest.
Beth is fiercely loyal, even when that loyalty is undeserved and wholly misplaced. Her mother is an alcoholic and an addict, and Beth is the one who tries to make sure the bills are paid and they actually have food in the house. She feels that she cannot abandon her mother, as it's her fault that her father left them, even though he was a dead beat drug dealer, who would should clearly never have been allowed near women or kids. It's clear that Beth has taken beatings from her mother's abusive boyfriend more than once, just to deflect attention away from her mother. Noah and Isaiah try to keep her away from her home as much as possible, but they're foster kids, and don't exactly have the best resources. When her uncle Scott shows up, ready to swoop to the rescue after nearly a decade away, Beth just feels betrayed and she certainly doesn't want to give up her clothes and her friends and become someone she's not just because Scott has finally decided he can take care of her again.
Like in McGarry's last book, the chapters alternate between the protagonists' point of view, so you get to know both characters and their thoughts and emotions really well. It's a great way of making the reader sympathetic to the characters, and allows her to explore a situation from several angles. While I really liked McGarry's first book in the series, I enjoyed this one even more, possibly because while both Ryan and Beth's home lives were unpleasant and unenviable, they weren't as messed up as Echo's buried secrets. I'm very much looking forward to Isaiah's book, out in November, and will happily pay for it if I'm not lucky enough to get a NetGalley ARC the third time around.
This book was an ARC from Harlequin Australia, given to me through NetGalley. The book is on sale in hardcover and e-book, worldwide, now. (less)
Marianne Daventry is an innocent 17-year-old whose mother died the year before in a riding accident. Her father's scarpered off to France to grieve, h...moreMarianne Daventry is an innocent 17-year-old whose mother died the year before in a riding accident. Her father's scarpered off to France to grieve, her twin sister's in London with family friends enjoying a season, while poor little Marianne is wasting away with boredom at her grandmother's in Bath. Her gran, a cranky and unpleasant old biddy, decides to disinherit her no good scoundrel nephew and bestow her fortune of forty thousand pounds on Marianne, as long as the girl will learn to behave like a proper lady (she likes running about out of doors without a bonnet, and prefers the countryside to town life - dreadful stuff).
Marianne clearly needs role models, and is shipped off to Edenbrooke, the estate where Lady Wyndham, a bosom friend of Marianne's mother lives. Marianne's twin sister is besties with Lady Wyndham's daughter, and the girls are set to return to the estate from London, so Marianne will have some company. On the way to Edenbrooke, Marianne's carriage is set upon by a highwayman, and when her coachman is shot, she has to drive the carriage to the nearest inn by herself (this was one of the few useful and admirable things the girl did in the entire novel). At said inn, she's insulted by a gentleman, because of her dishevelled appearance. Once he realises that she is of good standing, he apologises for his incredible rudeness and instead proceeds to condescendingly take matters completely out of her hands. He insists that they be on first name basis, and refuses to divulge anything about his identity.
Once Marianne arrives at Edenbrooke and promptly falls in the river, twice (because she loves to twirl uncontrollably to express happiness, and apparently never looks where she does this), she discovers that Philip is indeed Lady Wyndham's second oldest son. They two strike up a highly unlikely and inappropriate friendship, and just before Marianne's twin Cecily is about to arrive complications rear their ugly head when it's revealed that Philip's older brother died a few years back, making him the lord of the manor, and the man Cecily has set her sights on as a future husband. As Marianne apparently always gives in if her slightly older sister calls dibs on something, this means she has to give up on Philip. Oh noes! How can this conflict ever be resolved!?!
As this book is currently one of the finalists in the Goodreads Choice 2012 awards, and has a huge number of positive reviews both there and here on Amazon, I decided to give it a try. Many of the reviews compare the writing to that of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, and all I can say is that both women must be spinning in their graves. Or possibly "twirling" like the heroine in this preposterous story.
It's labelled as a "proper romance", because there aren't any graphic love scenes, but the behaviour of the hero and heroine is deeply improper from the moment they first meet. As the heroine is an inexperienced young girl from the country, her ignorance and foolishness might be explained away, but the so-called "gentleman" hero should know better than to encourage the girl to call him by her first name, flirt inappropriately with her in private and in front of his family. At one point, Philip encourages Marianne to take a nap outside, while he sits around watching her (Edward Cullen alert!), and subsequently claims that "she snores like a big, fat man". If that's the makings of a "proper" romance, give me the kind with sexy times every day of the week.
The first half is full of badly done exposition, the author overuses adjectives, and in pretty much every scene, all the characters seem to feel an excess of emotions from joy to anger to despair, if the descriptions of their feelings and facial expressions is to be believed. The book is wildly melodramatic, and might have been better if it was written in 3rd person - but sadly, it's not.'
Then there's the plot, highwaymen, falling into rivers, inappropriate flirting and banter, dreadfully characterised supporting characters (both Marianne's twin sister Cecily and Philip's younger sister Louisa are total mean girl bitches for most of the story, only to make a total turnaround and become super supportive and helpful "fairy godmothers" in the wrap up of the story), kidnappings, random due (inside in the common room at an inn - how do you even go about that?) - it may sound exciting, but most of the time, it's just dull, and there's a limit to how far I can suspend my disbelief.
I fully understand that readers may be looking for clean, chaste Regency romances - but do yourselves a favour and read something by Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer novel instead. This is simply a very poor excuse for a novel, pretty cover notwithstanding.(less)
When Jacqueline is dumped by her preppy boyfriend two months into her sophomore year at college, she's suddenly forced to re-examine her life choices....moreWhen Jacqueline is dumped by her preppy boyfriend two months into her sophomore year at college, she's suddenly forced to re-examine her life choices. She has no friends outside the circle of their mutual ones (, she's stuck at a university she followed her now ex to, and she's failing a class for the first time in her life because she's gutted after the breakup and can't stand the thought of seeing her ex several classes a week. After a party, not long after the dumping, one of her ex's frat brothers try to rape her, and would've succeeded if she hadn't been rescued by a mysterious stranger, who luckily happened to be crossing the parking lot and witnessed the assault.
Jacqueline manages to get her econ professor to let her make up the missing midterm, and promises to attend tutoring sessions to catch up on the missing work. She doesn't tell anyone about the attack, not wanting to make a fuss. While she'd never really noticed the cute guy who rescued her, she now seems to run into him everywhere. He works at the campus Starbucks, he sits in the back row of her econ class, more busy sketching than taking notes. Her roommate designates Lucas the mystery man as the perfect rebound guy. Jacqueline strikes up a flirtation with Lucas, but is also trading bantering e-mails and texts with her new econ tutor. Is she really ready for a new relationship at all, and which guy is the right one for her?
Another one of the Young Adult nominees for the Goodreads Choice 2012 awards, this one caught my eye because my friend Erica read it and rated it highly. As one of the subplots deals with sexual assault and the aftermath of that, this could be a difficult book for some to read. The frat boy who attempts to rape Jacqueline continues his threatening behaviour, and spreads lies about her alleged promiscuity following her breakup. He also goes on to rape another girl, and Jacqueline has to decide what to do about coming forward so he can be charged with the attacks.
Having defined herself almost entirely as Kennedy's boyfriend since early high school, Jacqueline is forced to take a long hard look at her life after he suddenly dumps her, and she doesn't like what she sees. With the exception of her room mate, most of their mutual friends take his side, as he is the handsome, popular frat member, while she is the independent, arty girl who never quite fit in. Jacqueline is very good at double bass, an unusual instrument for a woman to play, and tutors local high school kids as a part time job. She could've applied to a music conservatory, but followed her boyfriend to university instead. Lonely and adrift, things get even worse when she's attacked. She doesn't want to tell her room mate, who's dating the attacker's best friend. The description of Jacqueline's loneliness and self doubt is very well done. You kind of want to slap her for being so trusting, naive and oblivious that she meekly followed her douchebag boyfriend to college, but you also feel sorry for her, and can't help but want her to succeed in turning her life around, preferably with a hot new boyfriend and some new, better friends.
Once her attacker actually rapes someone else, Jacqueline has to come forward and admit that she was attacked as well, and the book deals with the difficult situation many rape victims find themselves in, trying to prove that the sex was not consensual. Jacqueline and her room mate start taking self defence classes, and all the things they do to help her feel more empowered and safe again were very well done.
Jacqueline's struggle to become a stronger, more independent person were in many ways more interesting than the romantic subplot. To begin with, Lucas is pretty much the hot, dashing stranger. She's not sure if she likes him because he rescued her from a traumatic situation or whether there's something more there. He's very secretive about his background and past, and to begin with there's a few complications and misunderstandings, that thankfully get resolved fairly quickly. The romance angle is good, but the main reason to read this book is for the character growth in the protagonist. Although if rape and sexual assault are bad triggers for you, it might be best to give it a miss. (less)