3.5 stars Spoiler warning! This is the third book in a trilogy, and as such, it will be impossible for me to write this review without at least minor s3.5 stars Spoiler warning! This is the third book in a trilogy, and as such, it will be impossible for me to write this review without at least minor spoilers for the earlier books in the series. Start at the beginning with book 1, Every Breathh and come back here when you've caught up.
It's been a few months since Rachel Watts and James Mycroft came back from their trip to England, but Rachel is still having nightmares nearly every night because of her kidnapping and torture. Her mother doesn't even know the full details of what happened, but is barely speaking to Rachel after she impulsively went off to England after Mycroft with no warning. Rachel's not really spending a lot of time with Mycroft either, as he's hot on the trail of his own personal Moriarty, the enigmatic and sinister Mr. Wild. Rachel is deeply uncomfortable with the whole thing and while Mycroft wants to unmask Mr. Wild before he has a chance to hurt Rachel or Mycroft any further, his continued investigation is just making Rachel feel more unsafe and terrified.
Rachel and her brother Mike spend a little time back at their old, now abandoned farm and Mike's best friend Harris returns to Melbourne with them. He can't help but notice Rachel's PTSD and offers to help her with some self defence. Initially, Rachel gets a panic attack the minute he touches her, but the lessons gradually make her feel more confident and help get her anxiety and fear under control. While Mycroft is away with his aunt, investigating another lead into the identity of Mr. Wild, the body of a dead teenager bearing a striking resemblance to him shows up and both Rachel and the local police suspect someone is trying to send a very creepy message. When another dead teen, this time a girl looking uncannily like Rachel shows up, even Mycroft seems to realise just how much danger they are facing. Mr. Wild claims Mycroft has something he wants, and he's proven himself willing to stop at nothing to get it. Can Rachel and Mycroft unmask him and bring him to justice before it's too late?
In book 2, Every Word, Rachel and Mycroft grew closer and their relationship developed, both physically and emotionally. They faced down some very scary people together and Mycroft started opening up about his feelings about his parents' death and his grief. Yet at the beginning of this book, it's like they've taken a huge step back and are drifting apart, because Rachel is stubbornly trying to deal with her panic attacks, nightmares and anxiety without asking anyone for help and Mycroft has buried himself in the quest to find the man who killed his parents and who was also the employer of the men who kidnapped Rachel in Oxford and put both teens through a hell of an ordeal. Having discovered that his father was working for the secret service, most likely investigating a mole, Mycroft can't let the matter rest, no matter how much danger he may be putting himself, and Rachel in. The search for Mr. Wild is driving a wedge between the couple and it made for some miserable reading.
While Rachel is completely on the outs with her mother, unable to tell her everything about what happened on her England-trip, her brother Mike and her dad know the truth and try to help her as best they can. Rachel's friends are also doing their best to make her feel better, but it's Harris, Mike's best friend, who she hasn't seen in years who has the most success with reaching through to her. Pushing her past her initial fear of being touched and teaching her self defence, he finally provides the one thing that lets her sleep through the night again. Of course, while Rachel isn't really romantically interested in anyone but Mycroft, it's quite clear that Harris provides one third of a potential love triangle and this aspect of the book just annoyed me. Why couldn't he just have been a supportive guy friend, who saw that someone he'd known for a long time was struggling, and wanting to help her without any ulterior motive? It seems that opposite gender characters in YA must have a romantic interest in one another, whether that serves the plot or not.
I had a lot of guy friends growing up, and never fell in love with any of them. I'm pretty convinced that none of them ever harboured a crush on me either, unless they hid that infatuation REALLY well over the years. How is it that platonic friendships between opposite gender teens is such an impossibility? Why do they always end up together, or even worse, in some sort of contrived love triangle? I am a huge fan of romance, but don't think it needs to be an element in everything I read, especially YA books, where a lot of people are still maturing, physically and emotionally, and are unlikely to necessarily be looking for romantic entanglements at all.
While the first two books were quite fast-paced and entertaining, this book dragged in places. There's the first third, where Rachel is understandably traumatised after the events in the last book and trying to find back to herself. There's the new and unnecessary love triangle with Harris, her brother's best friend. There's the physical and emotional distance between Rachel and Mycroft. Then the build-up, where the teens come to terms with how they are going to confront Mr. Wild takes too long. While I was very emotionally connected to the characters (I love Rachel and Mycroft, separately and together), I was a bit impatient with the story and the bit with the murdered look-alike teens veered a bit close to moustache-twirling melodrama from the villain.
The final confrontation is still very tense and my heart was certainly racing, but the book took its sweet time getting there. I must admit, these teens get into some pretty serious scrapes and it's a wonder to me that they can walk at all with the amount of horrible injuries they sustain. Nearly mauled by lions, tortured and interrogated by ruthless kidnappers, chased by a sociopathic murderer through an abandoned quarry - there really is quite the variety of dangerous near-death experiences here.
All in all, I can absolutely recommend this trilogy of YA-mysteries, where Mycroft is clearly modelled rather closely on Bendedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. Rachel is a very engaging and likable heroine, the couple work well as friends who turn into something more and the action in each of the books is certainly a lot more elaborate than I seem to remember from the Nancy Drew books I read growing up. The conclusion wraps up nicely, but is still the weakest of the three books structurally.
Judging a book by its cover: Another rather generic YA cover, with the cover models portraying Mycroft and Rachel looking attractive and loving. I very much doubt I'd pick up the third book if I saw this displayed in a bookstore. The publishers could have done something a bit more fun....more
March 2017: My review of this appears to have disappeared from Goodreads, which is just strange. I've reposted it.
June 2015 Rachel Watts lives two doorMarch 2017: My review of this appears to have disappeared from Goodreads, which is just strange. I've reposted it.
June 2015 Rachel Watts lives two doors down from the brilliant, troubled and eccentric James Mycroft, the most intelligent boy in school. What he has in abundance in the IQ department, he lacks in social smarts, and as his closest friend, it seems to be Rachel's job to try to keep him out of scrapes with other students at school (who he will frequently inadvertently or purposefully insult) or from getting suspended for breaking school rules. She also tends to bring him food, as he has a tendency to forget to eat when left to his own devices. While he lives with his aunt Angela, they barely speak and seem to have a mostly antagonistic relationship.
Mycroft, who likes to compare himself to his fictional namesake, Sherlock Holmes' older and allegedly smarter brother, has a passion for forensic pathology and frequents message boards online and writes articles, even occasionally consulting on cases, under the name Diogenes. Watts helps him proof-read and edit the articles. When the teenagers find "Homeless Dave", a man they regularly visit and bring food near Melbourne zoo, murdered not far from his local sleeping spot, Mycroft uses everything he knows of forensic experience to document the scene before the police arrive. He later persuades Watts to be his side-kick in earnest, determined to investigate the death that the police undoubtedly won't care much about, as the victim was a homeless nobody.
Rachel used to live with her parents and older brother Mike on a sheep farm in the country. Financial difficulties forced them to sell the farm and relocate to Melbourne, where Rachel's parents and brother work hard to make ends meet. Rachel wants to study agriculture and move back to the countryside, she feels uprooted and unsettled in her new urban surroundings. With her academic achievements, her family want her to go to college and get a proper degree, though. Previously home schooled and used to a solitary life, the bustling corridors of her new high school and the constant stress and noise of the city is making Rachel miserable. Having made good friends in Mycroft and the fierce Mai Ng, as well as Mai's boyfriend Gus, makes her existence more bearable, but she's still not happy in Melbourne.
James (who always goes by Mycroft) is English and lost both his parents in a horrific car crash that left him scarred both physically and emotionally. His aunt Angela is his legal guardian, but they may as well be strangers just living in the same house for all the time they spend together. Mycroft is constantly skirting the edge of having social services investigate his living situation, which while not idyllic, is at least better than a foster home. Mycroft loves mysteries and is a keen observer of everything around him. While fiercely intelligent, he's also low on social graces and frequently pisses off his class mates or gets into trouble with the school management. He's obsessed with finding out the cause of his parents' accident, and frequently emotionally unstable, with Rachel, sometimes aided by Mai and Gus, doing her best to keep him from getting beaten up or expelled.
Rightly surmising that the police are unlikely to expend too many resources on trying to solve the murder of a homeless man, especially one who appears to have been killed for sport, Mycroft insists that he and Watts need to do their best to figure out who's behind the murder. Rachel initially refuses, but is unable to resist the lure of the mystery or Mycroft's charismatic persuasion for long, and soon the two teens are using everything they know of forensic pathology to identify the killer of their homeless friend. Hunting killers is a dangerous hobby, though, and before long Mycroft and Watts are courting danger and find themselves in near-death situations of their own.
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that there is also a romantic sub-plot in the book, which is very well done, for all that I'm not sure Rachel should involve herself with someone who is clearly not the most emotionally or mentally stable person (I speak from experience here, Watts). Both Rachel and Mycroft are very engaging protagonists and there is a good supporting cast in the book - Rachel's parents and Mike, her brother, as well as Mai, their loyal friend who more than once uses the legal knowledge she's picked up in school, and Gus, her sweet and funny boyfriend.
I really liked this book, and am going to do my best to track down an e-book store which will legally sell me the sequels online, so I don't have to wait for the US release of the next two books before I can read them. ...more
4.5 stars So much good stuff in this book, setting up so many things yet to come. Don't think I love it as much as I once did, and am especially bother4.5 stars So much good stuff in this book, setting up so many things yet to come. Don't think I love it as much as I once did, and am especially bothered by Rachel constantly calling women she doesn't like b*tch. That's not classy, Rach. Marguerite Gavin continues to be an excellent narrator. Full review to come. ...more
Rachel Morgan is an earth witch (which means she uses wooden charms activated with drops of her own blood to do magic, as opposed to layline witches wRachel Morgan is an earth witch (which means she uses wooden charms activated with drops of her own blood to do magic, as opposed to layline witches who draw their power from laylines) and works for the IS (Inderland Security), a police force consisting of supernaturals like witches, living vampires, werewolves, fairies and pixies. They police the supernatural crimes, while the FIB (Federal Inderland Bureau) is its mundane, human counterpart. For the last year, Rachel has had a run of truly awful assignments and what seems like very bad luck on top of things.
She's sick and tired of being jerked around and after being sent to reclaim a leprechaun for tax fraud, she decides that enough is enough. She's going to quit the IS and go into business for herself. For the leprechaun's three wishes, she makes it seem as if she had the wrong paperwork, so the little barmaid can go free, and Rachel can use her first wish to make sure she doesn't get caught. However, she promises her other two wishes to another IS runner, Ivy Tamwood, and Jenks, her pixy backup, to make sure they don't report her.
Unfortunately, although Rachel's boss tells her to her face that he's been trying to make her quit for the best end of a year, she's still under a death threat until she can pay off what remains of her contract. The IS seriously try to discourage people from defecting from their ranks. She is further surprised when Ivy, an incredibly talented and experienced IS runner, announces that she's going to buy her way out of her own contract and offers to go into business with Rachel instead. She claims to already have an office space they can share, which turns out to be an old converted church, where Ivy is currently living.
Because news travels fast, and everyone in supernatural Cincinnati knows Rachel is under the IS death threat, she's already been evicted from her apartment and all her possessions have been cursed. Until she gets them doused in salt water, they could kill her. So when Ivy claims Rachel can rent the extra bedroom, she doesn't really have any other choice. Nevertheless, she has reservations, as Ivy is a living vampire (she has the vampire virus in her system from birth which gives her quicker reflexes, enhanced senses, but she can choose whether to drink blood or not - although most do, but she won't be forced to stay out of the sun and subsist on only blood until she dies and becomes a full vampire). Ivy reassures her that she's not drunk blood for three years, and that Rachel will be safe in the church.
Until Rachel's able to find enough money to pay off the threat against her, she's in danger every time she sets foot outside her door. She decides that the way to make the money is by proving that the city's golden son, wealthy, charming, handsome and somewhat mysterious councilman Trent Kalamack has a double life as a large scale manufacturer and dealer in illegal bio-engineered drugs. When she tries to question him, she's shocked to find that he wants to hire her to work for him, offering a very lucrative salary, which would certainly make sure she was safe from the IS forever. She flatly refuses his offer and tries to sneak into his estate to find evidence while transformed into a mink. Trent is a very resourceful man, however, and Rachel ends up caught and put into a cage in his office. Even after she manages to escape and turn herself human again (after Trent took her to fight in the city's rat fights), she can't really act on the things she discovered about the ruthless businessman unless she gets proof.
To complicate matters further, it seems that the IS may not be the only ones who want Rachel dead. While working on a way to prove that Trent's a crook, Rachel is attacked by a demon, sent to kill her and only barely survives, after being forced to make a deal with it. Being an independent contractor turns out to be much more dangerous than Rachel ever imagined.
Looking back, I think Kim Harrison's books about Rachel Morgan and the Hollows was the first paranormal fantasy series I got into, way back in 2005, long before I started my meticulous logs recording everything I read and re-read. Even in 2007, I had no access to LibraryThing or Goodreads and just wrote everything down in a dedicated notebook (which I still keep, as backup. No chance of me losing my book records if the apocalypse hits and the internet fails). Hence I don't know exactly when I first read my now rather well-worn paperback copy of Dead Witch Walking, but I bought it in March 2005, so chances are it was shortly after that. All the other paranormal authors and series I now enjoy came later, probably at least in part because I liked these books so much. Patricia Briggs, Patricia BriggsSeanan McGuire, Jim Butcher, Nalini Singh, Meljean Brook, Anne Bishop and my beloved Ilona Andrews - all years after my first encounters with Rachel, Ivy, Jenks and Trent.
One of the things that hooked me into this world is the world-building. An alternate universe, where there are paranormal races living alongside humans, generally without conflicts or incident. Until the disastrous event in the 1960s, where a virus was spread through a genetically modified tomato, and a quarter of the world's humans died in a very short space of time, all the various supernatural creatures - witches, weres, vampires, elves, pixies, fairies, gargoyles, trolls (you get the picture) existed alongside humanity, but had to keep their otherness hidden. The humanoid ones were able to blend in pretty well, and some could even have children with humans, but the more unusual creatures had to stay out of sight and neared extinction when the Turn, as it became known, occurred. While the humans were in the majority, it was unsafe for the supernaturals (or Inderlanders) to come forward, but when so many died, the power balance was shifted and fronted by a very charismatic vampire politician, Rynn Cormel, they publicly announced their existence. Since the Turn, most humans completely shun tomatoes and tomato-based products, while Inderlanders happily still consume them.
While Rachel is a witch, she's never really needed to practise her arts all that much before she quit the IS. With the death threat hanging over her, she needs to craft her own spells, as anything she gets from a magic shop may be marked with a curse targeted to her. The IS actually has teams of magic users on retainer out looking for her, and can legally assassinate her if she doesn't pay off her contract. Rachel, who is normally both rather impulsive and headstrong, needs to learn to become more cautious and think before she acts. Because Ivy is from a very powerful and prominent family, Rachel is considered under her protection while they live together. She's fair game whenever she leaves the church, however. If she accepted Kalamack's job offer, she could end her predicament in a second, but she's convinced he is crooked (even before she witnesses the extent of it while trapped as a mink in his office) and unwilling to sell out her principles.
Before quitting the IS, Rachel partnered with Ivy for a while, but they didn't really know each other well, Suddenly finding themselves not only business partners, but roommates, requires adjustment from both sides. As Rachel discovers, while living vamps can choose whether they drink blood or not, voluntarily abstaining for three years has put Ivy rather on edge, and there are a number of behavioural patterns and unconscious signals Rachel needs to alter, to lessen the chance that Ivy loses control. By offering Jenks, a pixie, an equal share in their business and full access to the church garden, they secure the full gratitude and loyalty of the little winged warrior, who provides perfect backup and surveillance aid for them when they are out on missions. While all three have really been loners before (although Jenks has a wife and a massive family - pixies have a LOT of children), the three establish both a solid working relationship and develop a firm friendship.
The readers are also introduced to two of the more antagonistic characters in the series in this book. Trent Kalamack may be one of the most eligible bachelors in the country, a wealthy, charming and very powerful councilman, but strangely, no one knows if he's witch or human and even Jenks, with his uncanny sense of smell, can't determine it. As Rachel discovers, to her dismay, he has unparallelled security at his compound and is quite ruthless to protect his secrets. Trent is willing to pay generously to make sure he has the best working for him, and has watched Rachel's career with interest. If she won't come to work for him willingly, perhaps he can make her suffer long enough while trapped as a mink that she gives in and submits. I can promise that in the early books, even when he seems quite villainous, he has a lot of good reasons for acting the way he does, and his redemption arc over the course of the series is one of my favourite things about them.
In addition to Trent, there is the demon sent to kill Rachel, who remains nameless in his first appearances here. Able to shapeshift seemingly at will, he appears to his victims as one of their worst fears, usually killing them in horrible, yet creative ways. Demons have to be summoned by someone and controlled, however, and there is someone pulling his strings. Suffice to say, the demon becomes an important secondary character throughout the series, and while he too is utterly villainous and really very scary to begin with (leaving Rachel bleeding to death from a gushing neck wound), he too develops a lot throughout the series.
While, in my experience, a lot of paranormal series can take a while to really draw the reader in (for instance, the first Kate Daniels book by Ilona Andrews is not great, I had to struggle through the first THREE Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher, and even then, the series doesn't get really decent until book 5), Kim Harrison has a really strong introduction to her universe and her characters. While there are absolutely some books that are less enjoyable than others, and Rachel occasionally annoys the crap out of me (I will address this in later reviews), I can see why I was so instantly engaged and why this was my first proper introduction to paranormal/urban fantasy.
Since the series is now not only complete, but even has a prequel, there is no reason not to give it a chance if you're looking for something new in the paranormal genre.
Judging a book by its cover: I must admit, that fond as I am of Kim Harrison's books, the covers are NOT the draw here. It's quite clear to me which scene this is supposed to represent, but at no point is Rachel wearing only a small red bra, showing that much exposed skin on her upper body. The leather pants and the handcuffs with charms are a very nice detail, as is her no-nonsense stance and telltale red hair. But the glorified bikini top annoys me, and always has done....more
Another re-read of one of my all-time favourites, once again narrated by the excellent Kate Reading.
Vere Mallory becomes the Duke of Ainswood after prAnother re-read of one of my all-time favourites, once again narrated by the excellent Kate Reading.
Vere Mallory becomes the Duke of Ainswood after pretty much every other male in his family line dies, including several family members he cared deeply for, and he's quite happy to drink and debauch himself into an early grave so the accursed title can't take anyone else, thank you very much. An endless existence of carousing gets tedious after a while, though, and once he crosses paths with Miss Lydia Grenville, the formidable investigative female journalist doing her best to inspire reform in London's poorer areas, ending up quite humiliated after their first encounter, he finds something new to keep him occupied and challenged.
Miss Lydia Grenville was trying to rescue a confused young woman from being abducted by one of London's most notorious madams when the giant nobleman got it into his head to interfere, and while she managed to outwit him and leave him as a laughing stock, she can't seem to get Vere Mallory and his impressive physique out of her mind. When he starts taking an interest in her career, showing up everywhere she goes, she concludes he's decided to make a conquest of her. While Lydia is a confirmed spinster and hasn't really had the time or interest in men before, the dissolute Duke of Ainswood appeals to her like no other. While she wishes she could remain unaffected, she's just as attracted to him as he is to her. How can she make sure he forgets her and takes his interest elsewhere?
Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels still features on most "Must Read Romance" lists you can find on the internet. While that is a perfectly fine book, I find the hero frustratingly dumb for much of the book, and much prefer this one, which is loosely connected with it. Vere Mallory is one of Dain Ballister's best friends (and drunkenly confuses the heroine Jessica for a harlot in a memorable scene). Bertie Trent, a secondary character in this book is heroine Jessica Trent's bumbling brother, yet surprisingly finds happiness in this one, in a very satisfying secondary plotline. I think Vere is a much better hero than Dain. He starts out a bit arrogant and full of himself, but like all the best heroes, knows well enough when he is facing off against someone far superior to himself and that such a woman is not to be feared or avoided, but rather claimed, cherished, encouraged and honoured.
That Lydia Grenville shares her name with my BFF and the sister of my heart doesn't hurt, but I challenge anyone not to love Miss Grenville and her tireless quest to improve the straits of those worse off with her critical journalism. That she's also secretly the author of the wildly popular romantic adventure story "The Rose of Thebes" is just a bonus (and I would kill to get my hands on a full version of that - wonder if Loretta Chase could be persuaded to write it). The illegitimate daughter of a Ballister cousin (so a gently reared noblewoman) and a rather unsuccessful actor, Lydia was raised by eccentric relatives after her mother died early, her father ended up in debtor's prison and her younger sister died in the same prison. At 28, she's pretty much accepted that she's going to be a spinster and even if she does give into her lust for the Duke of Ainswood, it's not like she'd ever be a suitable match for him.
This book is so much fun and the two very stubborn and headstrong protagonists facing off against one another is delightful. While this is my fifth re-read of the book, I'd forgotten Vere's wonderful habit of referring to Lydia in his mind with new nicknames every time they encounter one another. "Attila the Hun" or "Ivan the Terrible" Grenville are probably my favourites. Vere's rather unorthodox courting of Lydia is resolved about halfway through, when the book changes pace and the couple have to work together to locate Vere's young cousins, who have run away from home to come see him in London, and fall into the clutches of the very same madam Lydia has been working to take down.
While I freely admit that this book is probably not going to be a favourite for everyone, it's still a very good example of Loretta Chase's excellent plotting, banter and skill. I find something new to love in it every time I revisit it, and highly recommend it as a classic of the genre.
Judging a book by its cover: The audio book cover for this seems hilariously inappropriate, because with the exception of the cover model having long blond hair, the simpering, contemplative pose with the pretty dress and the flowers is pretty much the opposite of everything Miss Lydia Grenville embodies. Dressed in severe and sensible black for much of the novel, Lydia is fierce, stubborn, no-nonsense and a far cry from he demure and insipid lady on this cover. The pastels and wind-blown look of the heroine on the paperback cover I have aren't exactly fitting either. ...more
Rupert Carsington is the fourth son of the Earl of Hargate and has been sent to Egypt to get out of the way of all the calamities he's been able to geRupert Carsington is the fourth son of the Earl of Hargate and has been sent to Egypt to get out of the way of all the calamities he's been able to get tangled in at home in England and on the continent. He finds himself locked up in a dungeon jail after seeing a bunch of soldiers beat up a beggar in the street and deciding to defend the man, beating up a horde of soldiers as a result. His bail is paid by Mrs Daphne Pembroke, a widow searching for her missing brother.
Daphne Pembroke may still be wearing widow's weeds, but she doesn't really mourn her elderly and close-minded husband. He did leave her an absolute fortune, which now allows her to pursue her passion for ancient languages, trying to decrypt the hieroglyphs. After the judgement and disapproval of her late husband, Daphne has learned to hide her intellectual pursuits. Everyone believes her brother Miles is the renowned linguist, while she's just his assistant and secretary. Now he's missing without a trace and the expensive papyrus he gave her, that she's been busy decoding, has been stolen from their house. The British consul is pretty sure Miles is just drunk in a bar somewhere, wants her to go away, and sees his chance to get rid of the troublesome Mr. Carsington at the same time.
It's clear to Rupert that Mrs. Pembroke is very clever and much more likely to keep him around if he pretends to be nothing but a dumb lug who she can order around. From her reactions to coming home to find her house burgled, and the way she speaks about languages and Egyptology, he can clearly see that she's a scholar in her own right and that the papyrus that was stolen is hers, not her brother's. He agrees with her that it's more likely that something bad has happened to Miles, and it's probably best if they find him sooner rather than later. They travel down the Nile in a river boat, trying to locate him, while sinister individuals follow them and try to do away with one or both. Travelling in close quarters also makes it clear that they have great chemistry and mutual attraction.
Mr. Impossible is the very first romance I read back in 2008, when I was re-discovering romance as a genre, having not really read any of it since I was a teenager (when I would buy it translated into Norwegian in these cheep paperbacks with lurid covers). It's still one of my favourite historicals, one of the many with a very clever heroine and the strong and handsome man who falls for her while accompanying and protecting her. Rupert, while his entire family seems to find him an impulsive idiot, is actually much smarter than he seems, he's just also very fond of brawling and drinking and tends to get himself into scrapes by hitting first and thinking later. Daphne got married when really young and spent pretty much her entire marriage being criticised and negged by her elderly husband, who was jealous that she was smarter and more adept at languages than him. Rupert and Daphne compliment each other beautifully and much of the story is a fun adventure romp, as well as a slow-burning romance. Revisiting it in audio after several years was a treat. The only thing I didn't like was the way Kate Reading voiced Rupert, but she's very good with all the various other accents.
This book is technically part of the Carsington series, but works perfectly fine as a stand-alone. It's by far my favourite of the four books, that all centre around one of the sons of the Earl of Hargate. It's a really fun book and a great romance and if I were to make a list of my all-time classics, as Mrs. Julien has done on her blog, this would absolutely have a spot on it.
Judging a book by its cover: My somewhat tattered paperback copy of this has a bright fuschia cover and a headless dude in a partially undone ruffled shirt which always made me feel as if I should cover the book up with a bag to not attract pointed looks on public transport. I'm not sure if the audio book cover is better or worse, but at least has the benefit that few people would see it on your listening device. As a lot of romance covers features naked male flesh and a lot of muscle tone, I suppose the cover designers should be applauded from showing a toned back, rather than the traditional glistening chest and six-pack abs. ...more
4.5 stars In her follow-up to one of my favourite books of last year (Act Like It), Lucy Parker returns to the London theatre world, this time introduc4.5 stars In her follow-up to one of my favourite books of last year (Act Like It), Lucy Parker returns to the London theatre world, this time introducing us to acclaimed director Luc Savage, who has spent a considerable amount of his time and huge amounts of money restoring a theatre his family has a generations long connection to. He's planning to celebrate the reopening of the theatre with a prestigious play called 1553, featuring character studies of Mary I, Elizabeth I and poor doomed Jane Grey. Unfortunately, his first choice for Mary I was his girlfriend of eight years, industry darling Margo Roy, but they recently broke up after realising they'd both been prioritising their careers for years, rather than each other. To make matters worse, Margo went off and almost instantly married an Italian opera singer, going off on an extended honey moon, leaving Luc with no choice but to hire a hypochondriac melodramatic diva instead. Then his first choice for Elizabeth I goes and breaks both her ankles, and he's forced to recast her too.
His casting agent and one of the theatre's top investors are leaning on him to give TV bombshell Lily Lamprey a chance to audition. She's constantly in the tabloids and hiring her would certainly ensure a boost in ticket sales for the theatre. Blond, curvaceous, with a porn starlet voice, Ms. Lamprey has been the resident serial adulteress vixen on costume drama/soap opera Knightsbridge for the last four years, cursing the fact that she let herself get tied into a long-running contract and playing into everyone's expectations for much longer than she wanted to. Her looks and her breathy sex kitten voice has made her the victim of casual sexism her entire career and while she's willing to kill for a chance to prove her acting chops on the London stage, she's none too optimistic about her chances, having been told about Luc's preconceived notions of her from an intern who happened to be serving tea while the arrogant Mr Savage was considering Lily's audition tape. Nevertheless, though she believes it to be a long shot, she's not going to waste the opportunity and ends up impressing Luc despite himself. He believes that with training, careful direction and some serious voice coaching, there is a spark to Lily's acting that could turn into something truly special.
It quickly becomes obvious that there is a strong attraction between Luc and Lily, which both of them resists as with the close working relationship, it could spell disaster for both the play and their reputations. Luc's parents are still absolutely besotted with one another, while his older brother recently divorced a nineteen-year-old. The press is constantly inventing fictitious rebound romances for him after Margo's leap into matrimony right after breaking up with him. They'd love to be able to blame the whole split on him. Lily, on the other hand has a number of reasons, both personal and professional as to why she doesn't want to fall for her director.
Herself the result of an adulterous affair between her middle-aged politician father and a highly ambitious singer, Lily has been a favoured victim of the tabloid press for most of her life. With a mother known to use both her looks and sex appeal to further her career in a series of short-lived romantic relationships, Lily certainly doesn't want to be an apple from the same tree. She has three rules for herself 1) No significantly older men (she's 26, Luc's around 40), 2) No one in a committed relationship or just out of one (Luc's famously on the rebound after years with the same woman) and 3) No one she works with or for. So in effect, Luc is the triple threat of her deal breakers.
Despite all this and the professional distance they try to affect, it's quite clear to everyone in the production that Luc is rather besotted with Lily, and she's not unaffected by him. That the new editor of tabloid paper London Celebrity has some sort of personal vendetta against Luc doesn't help (the editor's grandfather apparently lost a fortune to Luc's grandfather - a rather shady sort), absolutely everything that can be scrutinised about the rehearsals and production is being portrayed in the very worst light. When Luc is called to the hospital because one of his family members is urgently admitted, Lily doesn't even hesitate, but drops everything to go comfort him. After that, what has been rather obvious to all their colleagues becomes gossip fodder for everyone.
While I suspect I will still turn to Act Like It when I want a witty and comforting re-read, I'm not entirely sure that Pretty Face doesn't in fact have the edge, and is an even better book. In the former book, there is a very annoying ongoing subplot involving Lainie's worthless toad of an ex-boyfriend and the ending goes a bit off the rails with the melodrama. It may be frothier and sparkier, but in some ways, I liked the serious undertones of this one a lot too. There are a number of reasons why Luc and Lily shouldn't date, starting with the power dynamic brought on by the age difference and him being her boss. There's Lily's desire to prove to the world that she's a talented actress and that unlike her mother, she doesn't advance her career through sexual favours.
Luc has always been incredibly focused on the theatre and his career, which is why he and Margo grew apart and realised they just didn't love each other even half as much as they loved their work. Lily has, throughout her life, been reminded that pretty much everyone she cares about has put something else ahead of her. She can't really visit her father's home when her stepmother is there, as she is always a visible and painful reminder of her father's adultery. Both her father and her mother seem to only have time for her when business deals or tour engagements don't interfere. Even Lily's best friend and roommate, Trix, more or less completely abandoned her for a while, when she was dating a controlling and emotionally abusive guy. So getting involved with a driven, career-minded man (who also ticks all the other deal-breaker boxes she has) seems like it might spell disaster for Lily emotionally, not just for her future in the industry.
While it's got a more serious undertone, and the last third deals with Lily going through a serious loss and needing time to find herself and get her emotions sorted out, this book is also extremely funny throughout and kept making me laugh loudly and highlight lines on my e-reader so I'd remember them later. The banter is excellent, not just between Luc and Lily. There are a lot of genuinely supportive relationships, with cast members, family and friends. I especially liked that Margo turned out not to be a jealous harpy, but rather quite an understanding and supportive friend to Lily. Fellow Cannonballer and romance fan Ellepkay mentioned in her review how good it is to read about adults, behaving like proper grown-ups throughout, and I absolutely agree with her. I was also delighted by the cameo by Richard and Lainey from Act Like It , as it's nice to see them after their own HEA.
With Pretty Face, Lucy Parker shows that last year's novel, one of the most popular on the CBR in 2016, wasn't just a one-off. She's a very good and consistent writer, who's rocketed onto my pre-order list. I am eagerly awaiting her next release and more books from the London theatre world.
Judging a book by its cover: As Luc is described in the book as a 1950s Gregory Peck, I'm not entirely sure that the male cover model does him justice. The female model seems to fit pretty well with Lily's description, though, and I love the affectionate and sweet feel of the embrace on the cover. It makes me smile, just like this book did. I can't really ask for more than that. ...more