When sixteen year old Anna's father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson's navy. Henry Duncannon is a pWhen sixteen year old Anna's father is dying in Naples he arranges for her to be married off to a sea captain in Nelson's navy. Henry Duncannon is a penniless officer estranged from his good family, who is more or less forced into the marriage of convenience. Within half a day the two are separated as Henry heads back to sea, leaving Anna under the protection of Lady Hamilton. But war is flowing through Europe in the shape of Napoleon's armies and soon Anna is left alone - with her faithful maid - and determines to make her way using her only skill, music. She takes up singing in an opera company. It's six turbulent years in war-torn Europe before Anna and Henry are reunited and a love story begins.
This is a book in two halves - the opera years and the regency romance and both have theitr appeal. Ms Smith says that the novel came about because she originally intended to novelise the journals of Betsey Wynne, and, indeed, there's lots of rich detail in here and an underpinning of authenticity. The story is a slow-burn romance despite the early marriage of convenience. Anna survives post-revolutionary France, a theatre fire, touring with the opera company which at times is nore hazardous than the Battle of Trafalgar. Possibly more terrifying still is Anna's introduction to Henry's English family and the woman who spurned him for his older brother.
Packed full of ideas, but not falling into the trap of unlikely melodrama this is an engaging read. Highly recommended....more
I'm a big fan of Pratchett's discworld and although this book is set in London in the early years of Victoria's reign, the feeling is very Ankh-MorporI'm a big fan of Pratchett's discworld and although this book is set in London in the early years of Victoria's reign, the feeling is very Ankh-Morporkian, or maybe that should be that Ankh Morpork is very much based on London. Dodger lives in the Seven Dials and makes his living as a tosher, i.e. trawling through the city's sewers, true Roman relics, for valuables that have been washed away down the city's drains (at this stage more for rain water and detritus than personal waste). He's a geezer, known by and knowing all the likely coves in his orbit and he's not above finding the odd item that the owner didn't know was lost, however, Solomon, his landlord, friend and mentor, far from being a Fagin character, strives to keep the lad on the straight and narrow.
And indeed, Dodger's not a bad lad, though he's no soft touch, except perhaps where the vulnerable are concerned. Emerging from his sewer one night he sees a scuffle, an attempted murder maybe, and rescues a young lady who has been severely beaten up, possibly a young lady of quality by the ring on her finger (which amazingly Dodger leaves there). Close by, a certain journalist named Charlie Dickens grows interested in the happening and thus begins an adventure to rival anything the Discworld has to offer. The stews of London, the Peelers, nobby gentry, Solomon's wisdom, Onan the (very) smelly dog, a lethal assassin, Benjamin Disraeli and even Queen Victoria herself are all in the mix, plus Dodger's attempts to find out who is trying to harm the young lady that he's rapidly falling for, and a plan - which doesn't go entirely... err... to plan. Dodger's wry voice is appealing and his view of his surroundings and the people who inhabit them is amusing if not laugh out loud funny. A lively read. Highly recommended. ...more
The story of Etta, put-upon widow and grandmother, whose generosity of spirit was abused by her domineering (wealthy) husband who left her at the mercThe story of Etta, put-upon widow and grandmother, whose generosity of spirit was abused by her domineering (wealthy) husband who left her at the mercy of her uncaring, grasping children due to the terms of his will. When Etta's home is sold out from under her and she's installed in a cramped little house close to her son and daughter-in-law, she's expected to be cook and full-time nanny for her spoiled brattish grandchildren, but the village into which she's propelled, Willowwood, has a cast of interesting characters and--because this is, after all, a Jilly Cooper novel--romance eventually blossoms, and not only for Etta. On the way Etta rescues Mrs Wilkinson, a battered, half-starved thoroughbred filly, who turns out to be a courageous little National Hunt racer. Etta and Mrs Wilkinson save each other, and the filly is a catalyst redeeming or condemning (each according to their worth) a whole cast of characters. Or maybe that should be cariacatures--because this is, after all, a Jilly Cooper novel. It's long, complex and tremendous fun featuring a few recurring favourites such as Rupert Campbell-Black.
Cooper's immersion in the world of jump racing is complete and very believable and I absolutely trust that she has the details of the sport accurately depicted. It's well researched, but not laboured.
Jilly Cooper is not a subtle novellist--her plots are twisty, her characters larger than life--but she delivers page-turning, emotion-packed stories, perfect for a bit of self-indulgent reading when you really should be getting on with something else, but, oh, never mind. Just one more chapter....more
A mixture of urban fantasy with deeper myths of cultures from Scandinavia to the high Afghan hills, this is a story that is that rare combination of fA mixture of urban fantasy with deeper myths of cultures from Scandinavia to the high Afghan hills, this is a story that is that rare combination of fast-paced action and excellent characterisation underpinned with literate and intelligent investigation of mythology and religion.
When Albert meets a demon in his kitchen, he's not phased by it. He knows something of demons even if his memories are patchy. Albert's lived a long time, no wonder he can't keep all his experiences in his head. All he really knows about himself is that he's a smith, a damned good one, better than any human could ever be... oh, yes... and he doesn't trust gods. Currently he's living successfully under the radar and dirt-poor, so the demon's gold, bright shiny metal (Albert's weakness) in return for one little job, is very tempting.
So he goes to investigate the scene of a fire and accidentally stumbles into arson detective Melissa El Hajj – and not in a good way. In fact Albert's pretty sure he's split her skull open with his (metal) cane. It turns out she's not dead, but she's as mad as hell and out for his blood. It seems, however, as though the demon is pushing Albert and Mel to work together. A salamander has been tortured, but worse than that something metallic and ancient that has been hidden for thousands of years, had been stolen and damaged. It's leaking its ancient secrets about the nature of godhood into the world and it's calling out to Albert for repair. The artifact must be found and repaired or the old gods will reawaken.
Following the trail together, but still not trusting each other, Albert and Mel chase from the real world to somewhere else entirely in pursuit of the thief, someone Albert knows very well – or does he? Albert and Mel learn a lot about themselves, each other, their family and their origins during a fast-paced chase to save not only the artifact, but ultimately the world.
I expected this to be good as James A Burton is none other than Jim Hetley with a new pseudonym, and I've always loved Jim's Maine books. Highly recommended....more