The forced-into-an-asylum concept had me hooked right away. The prose was good too, especially the frequent descriptions. But the romance plot felt awThe forced-into-an-asylum concept had me hooked right away. The prose was good too, especially the frequent descriptions. But the romance plot felt awkward and forced. Rather than a natural build up of emotion and tension, it felt like the leads were just thrown together. The ending was also off in some way that it's difficult to put my finger on. It had some unexpected elements, but they weren't enough to make up for the rushed, anticlimactic feel.
Halfway through, I was prepared to say that I'd love this one. But finishing it left me wondering, "Oh. Is that all?"...more
I loved the first half of it, but felt like the heavy emphasis on the side characters drew things a little off track. I really enjoyed Jane's relationI loved the first half of it, but felt like the heavy emphasis on the side characters drew things a little off track. I really enjoyed Jane's relationships with the other women in the book though....more
This has a very contemporary feel despite its historical setting, and some of the "tortured background" stuff seemed overdone. I liked the political eThis has a very contemporary feel despite its historical setting, and some of the "tortured background" stuff seemed overdone. I liked the political elements and the banter, though....more
Despite that great, gruesome detail about the murder, this one started slow. Every recurring character got a quick recap, and there were a massive numDespite that great, gruesome detail about the murder, this one started slow. Every recurring character got a quick recap, and there were a massive number of new players to introduce.
I liked that so many different threads were juggled without making things feel overcomplicated. But considering that Sebastian questioned over a dozen people, many of them more than once, I did get tired of going back and forth over the same ground while he probed at their evasions. The end was still satisfying, although the resolution involved a convenient bit of timing.
I love these characters, which always makes me wish that the books slanted more towards their ongoing drama. Hero is still my favorite historical character, and while she and Sebastian had a big development in their personal life, I wish they'd gotten more time together.
There was a gratifying lack of Kat as more than a nagging memory. Jarvis showed up to make ominous warnings about the investigation, but if there was a reason for that beyond needling his son-in-law then I must have missed it. Then again, I feel like I miss a lot of things when Jarvis is involved.
Sebastian's time in the military was also a focus. His story was tragic and I can see why it haunted him. (view spoiler)[The idea that he was tricked into pushing the enemy towards an atrocity took me by surprise. I guess I'd always assumed that he'd been in more control over whatever happened, that he'd been forced to make some terrible choice that broke his faith in what he was doing. (hide spoiler)]
My biggest real issue with the mystery is that I prefer it when historical novels tread lightly around well-known figures from the past. Using displaced French royals as actual characters put me off a bit, but that's a personal pet peeve that probably won't bother most other readers.
This may not have been my favorite book in the series, but there's a lot here for fans to like.
I received a copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaway program.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
With this Lady Emily book, the series takes a hard turn into Upstairs, Downstairs territory. But since Emily and Colin are so very thoughtful and egalWith this Lady Emily book, the series takes a hard turn into Upstairs, Downstairs territory. But since Emily and Colin are so very thoughtful and egalitarian, most of the servant-class drama slips by without much tension. We all know that by the end, Lily and Pru's paternalistic employers will take everything in hand, which neatly contradicts the "we should be more equal" theme.
The mystery has this odd mix of too much attention and not enough depth. Emily bounces around between suspects, sometimes running from house to house with fresh accusations, but it still feels as if she solves this case more on intuition than evidence.
The tone is all over the place, and couples appear to fall together based more on how the plot should work than actual chemistry. It's frustrating to see dull new pairings get more of a focus than Emily and Colin's partnership.
I guess this sounds harsh for a three-star review, but damn it, I want more out of these. There's so much potential for it....more
This one reads like three separate stories crammed together.
The first one follows the trend of throwing our heroes into a different country. Their visThis one reads like three separate stories crammed together.
The first one follows the trend of throwing our heroes into a different country. Their visit to Japan is entirely accidental, without even a mission to justify showing us how yet another culture has been shaped by dragons. I guess it's neat, but it has no real connection to the wider story, except perhaps to stir up longer-term trouble.
The second section is a return to the political turmoil of China. It's a lot more engaging, but it still manages to feel a little like one of those video game side quests that you have to do before getting back to the main plot.
It isn't until the final third of the book that we get back to the actual conflict with Napoleon that I've been wanting for ages. It's the invasion of Russia, complete with constant retreats, supply line issues, and a heaping helping of dragon mismanagement. It's engrossing stuff, and I wish there had been more of this and less wandering the Japanese countryside with an amnesiac.
As a more general concern, I'd have appreciated a little more recapping. There are too many characters and important details to go without a few gentle memory jogs.
Things seem to be getting back on track, so I hope we can stick with the meatier war stuff now. If Lawrence and Temeraire leave Russia for a thrilling Antarctic detour to gain support from a tribe of wild ice dragons, I'm officially out.
Some of these short stories started to feel like retreads, so I liked Captain Blood Returns better. Elements of the characterization also felt a littlSome of these short stories started to feel like retreads, so I liked Captain Blood Returns better. Elements of the characterization also felt a little off to me....more
Maisie debates making a big change in her life while investigating the months-old murder of an intriguing Indian woman.
This mystery is meatier than thMaisie debates making a big change in her life while investigating the months-old murder of an intriguing Indian woman.
This mystery is meatier than the one from the previous installment, though it didn't feel any more satisfying. Maisie continues to baby step through the personal side of the story.
I can't help thinking that those around her deserve better. It also annoys me that, while she flouts convention and drags her feet in equal measure, she faces little in the way of real disapproval beyond the occasional token mention of how odd a lady detective may seem. Maisie's decisions seem to lead mostly to guilt or awkwardness rather than any external consequences.
These books have always been slow and introspective, but there used to be a quiet, driving passion to them. While the prose is as pretty as ever, they now feel bloodless and almost dull.
Maisie's finally moving toward her future, but it could be too little too late for my taste. There's a good chance that I'm going to stop here and just pretend that, after receiving word that Maisie was been eaten by a tiger, James has a whirlwind romance with a dashing young aviatrix who, unlike her predecessor, can allow herself to be happy....more
Harry Latimer works with South Carolinian rebel groups before and during the Revolutionary War, while circumstances threaten his relationship.
The firsHarry Latimer works with South Carolinian rebel groups before and during the Revolutionary War, while circumstances threaten his relationship.
The first half of this book is a typical Sabatini adventure, with narrow escapes, thrilling confrontations, and a bold hero who risks it all for love. The second half is darker.
In it, the protagonist becomes less sympathetic, wildly swinging between trust and suspicion. He's given fair cause to question, but he is so quick to believe the worst that it turns me a little against him. Some amount of misunderstanding was necessary to drive the drama, but even if he hadn't been on thin ice with me, one desperate step that Latimer nearly takes during the ending soured him as a hero.
My feelings about Harry aside, this is still an enjoyable read. The mix of personal narrative with history and military action is carried off better here than in some of the author's previous books....more
The mystery plot was interesting, and the medieval setting was a nice change of pace for me. Crispin Guest was a thoroughly unlikeable snob, though. TThe mystery plot was interesting, and the medieval setting was a nice change of pace for me. Crispin Guest was a thoroughly unlikeable snob, though. The man's angst over his reduced social status made him feel less like a medieval Sam Spade than the kind of person that a medieval Sam Spade would punch in the face.
If I hadn't read the afterword, I'd never have associated this book with the hardboiled detective stories that helped to inspire it. Purely on a story level, the comparisons are clear. There's a woman in danger (who is sometimes less than honest) and violent criminals with powerful connections. Crispin was warned off, beaten up, and betrayed, and he still pushed doggedly on.
Although it follows along with the tropes well enough, the prose lacks the sharp style and immersive sense of atmosphere that I associate with authors like Hammett and Chandler. I also couldn't shake the feeling that the author wanted me to sympathize with Crispin far more than I was able to.
I was fine with him being kind of a jerk, but his behavior didn't seem to mesh with his mopey backstory. He'd have been more enjoyable to read about if he'd either have embraced his harder edges or committed more firmly to overcoming them....more
I don't read a ton of romance novels, I'm half over steampunk (especially of the paranormal Victorian kind), and I don't have the best recent track reI don't read a ton of romance novels, I'm half over steampunk (especially of the paranormal Victorian kind), and I don't have the best recent track record with random library picks. So I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this.
The heroine was how I like 'em, smart and bold but still with reasonable flaws to keep her grounded. The love interest was a little too physically pushy for my taste, though he stopped mercifully short of that edge of questionable consent that so often puts me off the romance genre. Their hookups did include some repetitive descriptive phrases and left me desperately sick of the word "lush" though.
The ending was convenient and came out of nowhere, but I still liked the overall story. I'll definitely check out another one of these....more
I love the time period and overall concept. The leads weren't always the most admirable of people, but I found them entertaining.
Some plots and characI love the time period and overall concept. The leads weren't always the most admirable of people, but I found them entertaining.
Some plots and character interactions were disappointingly underdeveloped, but the prose was so damned pretty that it was hard to mind as much as I might have if this were a less evocative book....more
Evie was outwardly more likeable thanI loved the lush atmosphere and gorgeous prose of A Spear of Summer Grass, but this one just didn't work for me.
Evie was outwardly more likeable than Delilah from Spear. A dashing aviatrix who exploits publicity and society's expectations while traveling the world with an eccentric aunt? One with a late husband who may have faked his own death in a shipwreck? The back cover blurb couldn't be more perfect.
Maybe my expectations were a tad too high, but Evie had no hope of meeting them. There was little depth to her beyond the tragic misunderstandings of her relationship. Her skills, knowledge, and interests seemed driven mostly by the needs of the plot. For example, she was portrayed as smart, cool-headed, and good with details, unless it was more dramatic for her to miss something she shouldn't have. Gabriel wasn't much of a charismatic lead, either.
Any sparks between them were based in what we were told about their whirlwind past. There's a prequel novella out there, one I didn't hear about until after finishing the book, that might have helped with that. But I don't think it's too much to expect a standalone romantic adventure to actually stand alone.
The pace was inconsistent, dragging us through some dull interactions while skimming past more interesting bits. Characters lectured each other to give exposition to the reader in awkward chunks of dialogue. There were several recurring literary references that felt like piling on too much of a good thing; it would have resonated more strongly if the book had been able to settle for using just one of them as a thematic touchstone. The plot was hopelessly convoluted as well, which wasn't helped by pointless connections to the author's other works.
One of Raybourn's biggest strengths as a writer is her flair for description and atmosphere, but even that felt shortchanged in favor of sharp-edged banter between characters I didn't care about.
The overall concept of this story was great. Too bad it never really came together....more
If the protagonist of this time travel story was as interesting as the man that he follows through the past, this would have been great. UnfortunatelyIf the protagonist of this time travel story was as interesting as the man that he follows through the past, this would have been great. Unfortunately, our viewpoint character is a total ass. I'd have loved to watch someone more sympathetic get lost in the effects of snooping on long-dead drama, but every time the action shifted back to the present, I tended to put the book down....more
The quest story felt a little paint-by-numbers. It was all talk to X, make Y, find Z, and the Shelley references were cutesy and distracting.
I mightThe quest story felt a little paint-by-numbers. It was all talk to X, make Y, find Z, and the Shelley references were cutesy and distracting.
I might have liked this better if it was a Frankenstein-inspired book with its own set of details rather than an straight prequel. I can't help thinking that one of the best genre novels of all time is owed a little more than boy's adventure gone gothic....more