Edie Burchill has never had much of a connection with her mother, Meredith. They don't have a special bond or share the deepest secrets of their lives, in fact Edie hasn't told her mom yet that she and Jamie have split up months previously. Therefore it shouldn't come as a surprise that her mom has kept secrets from her as well. One of those secrets is that she was evacuated to Milderhurst Castle during WWII. There she was looked after by the Blythe sisters, the twins, Percy and Saffy, and their much younger sister Juniper, who was like a sister to Meredith. A long lost letter brings this one revelation of Meredith's past out into the open and Edie can't help but be fascinated.
After visiting a prospective author for the publishing company she works for, Edie gets lost on her way home and stumbles on Milderhurst Castle. It seems as if fate has brought her to these gates all these years after her mother entered them. She soon learns that all the sisters are still in residence, older, and in Juniper's case, insane. Juniper lost her mind the night her fiance jilted her in 1941. Edie also learns that the sisters are the daughters of Raymond Blythe, the author of The True History of the Mud Man, a classic and Edie's favorite book growing up. Astounded by all these coincidences Edie ventures into Milderhurst, not telling the siblings that she is Meredith's daughter. The secrets of the past start to unravel with Edie's arrival and the time has come for the truth to be told, especially about what really happened that stormy night in 1941.
I have come to the conclusion that Kate Morton is a writer that I love in theory but not in practice. I see these big doorstop novels about secrets and lies, where the truth about the past is teased out and revealed to us in the present and think, yes please, I'd like to read that. But expectation and reality have never met in this case of all of Morton's books save one, I did begrudgingly like The Secret Keeper to an extent. The problem is I keep thinking about what might have been, how things might have twisted and turned to make a tauter story, one that didn't leave me thinking a couple of hundred pages in why exactly was it that I picked up this book in the first place and then heroically pushing on to the finish. A finish that I have long ago seen coming.
My main problem I think is that all Morton's books seem to be slightly different stories told with the same building blocks. Older person who may be dying has secret that will change younger person's outlook on life. Commence the lugubrious ferreting out of the truth that has a fifty fifty chance of being hidden in a children's book and will definitely have a nice house in it, even if at this present time it's gone to rack and ruin. Peeling wallpaper, forgotten childhood memories, love where you least expect it. Sound familiar? It should if you've read any of Morton's books. Yes, the books tap into a common zeitgeist of wanting to look into our past and our ancestry to find answers to our lives, but there's only so many ways to tell this story and unless Morton starts to radically change her tune she will be stuck in this rut forever. I can oddly see her writing a book about her own predicament in fact...
Aside from constantly rewriting the same story in different ways The Distant Hours suffers not from comparison to Morton's other works but by the sheer bleakness of the story. This is not a happy story folks. This story will leave you a sad sack just thinking about wasted opportunities and how potential can just wither and die on the vine. Those poor Blythe sisters! I wonder if Morton set out to see just how Brontësque she could make her book with lost loves and ravaging fires and didn't pull back from the manuscript at any time and think, hey, maybe I should temper this Emily vibe I've got going with a little Charlotte? So while this book is Brontës to the max, it's just too depressing. Therefore, unless you've some masochistic desire to wallow in despair, just let me slap this book out of your hands right now.
Though in fairness, it isn't all unremitting horror and despair. We have Edie to counter that. Edie, the idiot. First I want to do a mini rant on the avatar of the reader in a book, so bare with. As readers, there is usually someone we connect to, someone who is our conduit into the narrative. A hero, heroine, antihero, whomever it is, it's someone to be our guide. Now the guide can be a little guileless, because, like them, we are coming into the story for the first time. We are just as clueless as they are, unless they are messing with us in the "unreliable narrator" trope, but that's a different kettle of fish. You, as the writer, want us, the reader, to be able to connect with your narrator and with your story. One way to guarantee that this will never happen is to have a self amused imbecile as our avatar. Writing her thoughts in a cutesy self referential way all the while showing herself to have a cranium full of nothing.
In fact, Edie's brainpan might be filled with less then nothing. Her head is a vacuum that sucks in information that promptly disappears forever. She is oblivious of the world around her. She has a totally unrealistic and fantastical job that only the true idiot heroine can get because she couldn't survive in the real world. Blindingly obvious deductions come as revelations to her hundreds of pages too late. And of course those hundreds of pages are filled with nothing but deathly boring prologue to the events of the evening of October 29th, 1941.
If it wasn't so obvious that Edie was an idiot I'd put down her lack of deductive reasoning to the plodding pace of the narrative, maybe she just fell asleep? In fact, sleeping might have been a better use of my time. As I finish my rant there's just so much in my brain that I want to scream at Morton, show don't tell, Mud Man, ugh, just no. Too many thoughts verses Edie's too few. But the final nail in the stupidity coffin for me was that somehow Edie got her hands on a first edition of Jane Eyre, retail about $50,000, and what does she do with this sacred book? She takes it on a coffee date!?! Excuse me!?! She did what? There's not hope for her. No more. Begone foul spirit! ...more
Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, two sets of twins and all inseparable sisters. While they appear to have a perfect life they are thwarted by conventions and by expectations from their dear mama. Kitty has suffered the worst, being the beauty of the family her outward appearance clashed with her inner retiring nature resulting in several suicide attempts. Edda views it as imperative that they get out from under the thumb of their mother in order that they can have fulfilling lives. Women in Australia can now train to be nurses and the local hospital in Corunda, with the encouragement of the girl's father, is willing to take on the four sisters. It's hard but satisfying work, with all the sisters, save Grace, finding that this could be their true calling. Grace is the first to get married and leave the hospital. It was love at first sight for her and Bear. Soon the girls have to choose between love and a career, or a precarious balance of both. Times are tough and nothing is easy, especially in a world made for men, not women.
I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't know who Colleen McCullough was. Her book The Thorn Birds was not only a phenomenal bestseller, but the miniseries adaptation was one of my late Uncle's favorite shows ever. This is, of course, the man who bragged my entire life that the last movie he paid to see in theaters was The Name of the Rose and decided that nothing could compare after that so he closed his mind. Despite being a fan of The Name of the Rose, his seal of approval actually had me avoiding The Thorn Birds in any form for my entire life. So, despite knowing all about her, Colleen McCullough has been a part of my life without really being a part of it. Until now. I should have left well enough alone.
Don't let the talented graphic designers fool you by their pretty cover, this book is painfully bad. Rage reading bad. Full of bad cliched writing and stereotypes. Repetitive to the point where I wanted to pull out my hair. Did Colleen ever learn that you shouldn't keep repeating the same words in a paragraph? No she didn't. Or maybe she just has a very tiny vocabulary to go with her tiny mindset on the place of women, more on that to come! Oh, and all love is love at first sight? Seriously? Yet the pinnacle of this atrocious writing is that I got to know the sisters moods very intimately by the color of their eyes. Blurg. Every five seconds it's Kitty's eyes are now sparking violet, Edda's eyes are going green. Are their eyes freaking psychedelic rainbows? In fact, in this relatively short book (despite how long it felt, 352 pages is relatively short) eyes are mentioned 236 times! Eyes are mentioned on 67% of the pages! Just no.
Yet what just got under my skin like an immovable tick was that despite starting this book out with four independent women and an apparent feminist bent it very quickly went on to show that women need men and can rarely handle hard thinking and need a husband to complete them. WTF! Why would you destroy such a strong and powerful message by having each character only find happiness once she was married? These women were trailblazers, fighting to have their own lives away from parents, learning skills often reserved only for men, to then give it all up for what? Men who weren't nice and controlled them? Seriously, what's going on here? Why did this book go to cliches and limp-wristed writing? How can anyone justify saying this to an amazing and competent nurse: "Kitty, life never meant you to be a children's nurse. Your life means you to have children of your own!" Gag me now.
But Kitty's domestic fate isn't the worst held in store for the sisters. Oh no, not by a long shot. That fate belongs to Edda. Edda the invincible. Edda who wanted to be a doctor. Edda who wants to travel and be amazing. What becomes of Edda? She becomes a fag hag. Now I don't mean this derogatorily I'm just saying what is true, this is what Colleen McCullough did to her most powerful character, she made her need a man, but because Edda wanted more she needed a man who wouldn't threaten her sexuality or ambitions. Edda was at a point in her nursing career where she was at the top of her field and was scared to take that leap to be a doctor, despite wanting that originally and being thwarted by an evil step-mother. So truthfully, she could have become a doctor on her own impetus. But it takes her finding a gay politician in need of a wife for her to get to medical school. Seriously, WTF. Even worse, at the end she's obviously fallen in love with her husband and is now trapped in a marriage to a man whose nature can never give her what she now wants. Thanks for destroying the independent Edda in the most vicious and heartbreaking way possible Colleen.
From idiot girls to politics, this book doesn't just go downhill fast, it plunges itself off a cliff. I'm not the biggest fan of politics as it is, Australian politics during the depression? There is no way in hell this will ever interest me that I can think of. What is worse though is by aligning the politics with the most hated character in the book even if the politics didn't bore you to tears you'd grow to hate them because of Charles Henry Burdum. Charlie, I'm going to call him Charlie because he hates it, is the most controlling, possessive, jealous dumb ass with a Napoleon complex to ever be written. I am still baffled that Kitty was somehow bamboozled into marriage with him because from his first appearance in this book I wanted to throw him under the train he road in on. He isn't an anti hero, he is a douche. And in true douche manner he came in and took over the book and what little ray of feeble light that was trying to shine through was blocked out by this diminutive dumbass. But in the end, I hated all the characters, I hated the message, and I definitely hated this book, so I think I should just move on. When's the next boat out of Melbourne? ...more
The Inghams and the Swanns are inseparable. For hundreds of years the Swanns have served their noble lieges becoming more like family then staff. Their children are brought up together and their bonds are unbreakable. Those bonds will be tested when a horrific attack on the Earl's most precious daughter, Lady Daphne, brings danger to the very heart of Cavendon. The Swanns close ranks to protect Lady Daphne from any further threats, even her own family if necessary. But danger doesn't just circle the family, the world is on the brink of war. Can these two families in crisis come together to help each other through the horrors they have to face and the dangers to come? Or will their bonds start to fray?
Sometimes you need to go to a happy, if unbelievable place, where the moon is always full and servants are like family, just to take you away from your cares. Where everyone loves everyone else, though perhaps a little too much with the incestuous nature between the Inghams and the Swanns. I almost expected them to start quoting that other famous resident of Yorkshire, Emily Brontë, by saying of the Inghams and the Swanns, "whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same." This isn't high art or great literature like Emily, this is pure fun, like Downton Abbey on crack, without the constant threat of one of the Bateses ending up in the clink. These magical happy pills make even the worst situation not only bearable, but work for everyones benefit and eventual happiness. Though seriously, I would like to know how there's always a full moon.
Cavendon Hall does suffer from an unevenness. Most of this has to do with pacing, but also how it's stylistically written and sometimes falls prey to self aggrandisement. Tackling the later, I really would like other authors opinions on quoting yourself. Each part of the book begins with a series of quotes from Shakespeare to Tennyson to Emma Harte. Emma Harte? As in A Woman of Substance Emma Hart? Yes, Barbara Taylor Bradford just quoted herself. By placing this quote with actual quotable greats I can't tell if she's just using something to hand that she thinks works or is trying to elevate her art to a new level? Either way, it seems a bit shady to quote your own characters in a setting that isn't tongue-in-cheek. Makes me think she's more then a little full of herself... but if any of my author friends would like to weigh in I would love to hear what they have to say.
As for the unevenness, it's not just that she occasionally switches up her writing style to be hyper sexual for a paragraph only to revert to her staid writing style of every other page, but the way time is handled is troublesome. Two years take up the first 279 pages while the final 126 pages is six years. So there's this nice introduction, we get to know everyone and become a part of their daily lives to have it all then whoosh past us at light speed. I'm not sure if it's that Barbara Taylor Bradford just didn't want to handle WWI in detail or what. I would say it almost felt as if she was sick of telling her story, but seeing as this is a series with the next book coming out in March, she couldn't be sick of her characters already if she's writing even more about them? But I think this can be a universal gripe to all authors, don't make us fall in love with your characters and then shift focus and gloss over things. Stay consistent within the narrative. All your books don't have to be the same, just the one you're currently writing should be consistent. And if it ends up a doorstop of a novel, so be it, I'll read it.
What I feel is the driving narrative of the book is also in my mind one of the biggest issues. This is, of course, Lady Daphne's rape at the very beginning of the book. Rape is a hard issue to deal with sensitively and properly. Just look at last season of Downton Abbey where Anna's rape split the audience with those who just didn't want more misery for Anna to those who thought the rape storyline was brave, and finally to those who thought the storyline was just handled insensitively. With such a hot button topic it has become rather inappropriately in my mind a way to add drama and spice to a story. When in doubt have your strong female character attacked and assaulted. To me this just seems like a convenience versus a real desire to tackle the issue.
Even in writing about the events in the book I feel uncertain as to how to describe the event critically. The attack and the cover up that surrounds it to me smacks of not wanting to confront something horrible, but wanting to make it like it never happened. This is where my problem lies. The stigma of speaking out. Yes, this was a different time period and "reputation" was the be all end all, but still... this is a problem that still exists and even "period" literature that holds this opinion of silence being the best solution just adds to the problem.
And while the rape and it's repercussions does drive the story, it's how Barbara Taylor Bradford built off this to create a greater atmosphere of fear that kept me reading. Taking the "pervert in the woods" and expanding his reach, showing the terror and fear his other sightings added to the story, this took the book further. I can't help thinking though that if this fear is removed, how will the next book have any tension or jeopardy to keep the spark of interest going in the reader. I also can't help but think if Lady Daphne had told all after her attack that a lot of other bad situations would have been avoided... perhaps Barbara Taylor Bradford was subtly saying that silence isn't the solution... then again, she could have just wanted to scare us and keep reading her book. Anything for the story right?...more
Sally Fitzhugh spent all her time at Lady Climpson's Select Seminary dreaming of the day when she would leave Bath and get to go to all the balls sheSally Fitzhugh spent all her time at Lady Climpson's Select Seminary dreaming of the day when she would leave Bath and get to go to all the balls she could wish for instead of trying to get out of doing homework. Sally has been out a year and she never thought the time would come when she would be bored with this life she dreamed of. If things couldn't get worse the silly people of the ton are enraptured with Sally's friend Lizzy's step-mother's book, The Convent of Orsino, and a vampire craze has engulfed the little season this October. All the rumors of vampires and the occult are swirly around the newly returned Duke of Belliston. He has been absent since the death of his parents years prior and seems the perfect vampire, or so everyone is saying. Sally isn't one of them.
Sally was hoping that the arrival of her two dearest friends, Lizzy and Agnes, would enliven things, but their trio is now more a duo and Sally is feeling distinctly left out. At a party abutting the regal home of the Duke of Belliston, Sally takes a dare to walk over to his house, bored and assuming she won't be caught she strides straight into Lucien, the Duke himself. Events soon transpire to thrust these two together on a more daily basis... but is this relationship something the two of them might secretly hope for? Could Sally fall for a supposed vampire?
If you've never met Lauren, she's this little pepperpot of energy powered by caffeine that talks a mile a minute from topics ranging from the sex lives of socialites in Kenya to Cary Elwes in Ella Enchanted to her high school debates. She exudes such a fun and vibrant energy that her happiness and far ranging interests are contagious. While being a writer of historical fiction she is, in my mind, the exact opposite of the more staid and reserved "traditional" historical fiction authors out there, ahem Philippa Gregory. The reason for the comparison is that Lauren's bubbly enthusiasm carries over to her books. Lauren has the research and the facts down, she has the academic and scholarly aspects of Gregory, but it's her enthusiasm that makes her books so much more then a well written piece of historical fiction. Lauren's books are fun because she brings herself into the equation, perhaps a little more in this volume with Eloise's fate. She loves her characters and her stories with such zeal that you are carried along with her on a reading adventure that you won't forget.
Lauren doesn't take herself too seriously and she is able to have fun with the historical genre while deftly skewering it at the same time with wordplay and modern nudges and winks. Though the theatre major in me had a major chuckle over the "renaming" of Sheridan's The School for Scandal as The Tutelage of Scandal, it's really vampire literature that is most lovingly lambasted in The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla. Just the idea that Miss Gwen, that bane of all young gentleman with her pointy parasol, would be the Stephenie Meyer of her day is a hoot. But that Miss Gwen not only has the ton in a virtual vampire frenzy, but that she even has sparkly vampires, that Lauren is creating parodies on so many levels, from what it is to be an author, to an author's fanbase, all the way to all the different vampire iterations over the centuries, that you can't help but fall for this book. Add to that references to Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, to The Princess Bride, Lauren's willingness to takes liberties will make you smile inside and want to hold onto this series forever.
The fact that The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla is such a strong entry in the Pink Carnation series means that next year when the final volume, The Lure of the Moonflower, is published the ending will be bittersweet because Lauren just keeps developing as a writer. Lauren has been able to avoid many of the pitfalls of long running series by having each book be some offshoot of the first volume. Main characters will reappear, but never in more then background rolls, while the previous background characters take center stage. I love Sally Fitzhugh taking center stage, and yes, that's because I have a great love for all the Fitzhughs. But beyond that she is such an interesting character (but let's not talk about the chickens) with an indomitable will for one so young.
Though it's the events Sally is thrust into that really gripped me. Because at the heart of all the Napoleonic spies and secret leagues, the core of this book is a murder mystery, with a random attack stoat. While the spy angle has always been important, the truth is, spies aren't for everyone. I think this volume will have a wider appeal then previous ones because of the apparent murder/suicide of the Duke of Belliston's parents. This mystery gave the book a greater urgency and made me devour it at a most rapacious rate. Come next year I don't know what I shall do once I finish reading that final volume... luckily until then I will occupy myself with re-reading all the books with The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla being one of the highlights....more
Julia Conley has inherited a house in England. A house on Herne Hill has been left to her by an unknown great-aunt. Julia and her father left England when she was six and her mother was killed in a car crash. Since her life in New York hasn't been going that well lately as one of the many unemployed, she decides to go to England and spend a few months sorting out the house and hopefully sorting out her life. For Julia who has viewed her family as just her and her father she finds it hard to come to gripes with the fact that this was where her mother came from and she still has family here with a few cousins, who of course feel slighted with great-aunt Regina's will. The more time Julia spends in the house the more she wishes she had been given the chance to know her great-aunt.
For Regina might have held the key to a lovely Pre-Raphaelite painting in one of the rooms of the house, which has a matching painting hidden deep at the back of one of the cupboards. Why was the one painting displayed and the other hidden? Who is this artist Gavin Thorne? Going back to 1849 we learn about the painter Gavin Thorne and his muse, Imogen Grantham, who happened to be the mistress of the house on Herne Hill and married to a wealthy and significantly older collector who was occasionally visited by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who doted on his historical relics. Yet why hide the painting? What connection does this painter and this wife have to Julia? More importantly, after 160 years can Julia find out?
Sometimes life is staggering in it's synchronicity. The very day that I received That Summer in the mail my Great-Aunt Vicki died. My family got the call that she had passed in her sleep and that the rest of the family was to descend on Madison to take care of her estate. My Great-Aunt was the last of the older generation, being preceded in death by all my Grandparents and even an Uncle. While sadly I have never been bequeathed a mysterious house, because she was the last of that generation I have gotten quite used to clearing out ancestral homes, my Grandparents farm having accumulated over a hundred years worth of ephemera, with sadly not a rare painting or a secret stash of cash in sight, but a random piano being used as a tool bench and much mouse effluvia. As I spent the following weeks sifting through the rooms of her house, picking what to keep and what to give away, I couldn't help but think of all the things I don't know about my family and where I come from. There is a strong ancestry bug that my family has, but I have not yet been bitten, and there's a part of me that keeps thinking, better now before it's too late.
The detritus is all we have left of our family's history. Random paintings around the house, Aunt so and so painted this, Cousin so and so did that one; just what if the painting was something more? What if the painting was a closely guarded secret that would unlock some mystery about yourself? The search for your own identity is caught up in the past, in where you come from. While Julia's search for what happened in her own past with her mother as well as to her ancestor's is something that might be uncommon, the search is something we can all identify with. Lauren has tapped into something deep within everyone, a longing to know where they're from in order to find out where they belong. This gives us a strong connection to the characters, we are on their journey with them and I wouldn't want it any other way.
While the time slip genre is nothing new, Lauren is able to create a more accessible story then some authors who mire their books in overly flowery details and descriptions that go on for so many pages you lose the thread of the story. This isn't to say the writing is sparse, it's exactly what it needs to be to conjure this world, no more and no less. Though there is a part of me that wishes at some time in the future Lauren would go all out and write a doorstop of a novel. Yet in Lauren's time slip she is able to capture the best of all worlds, with a little Kate Morton, a little Somewhere in Time, a nod to Du Maurier's Rebecca, a Keats Bridget Jones call out with a wink to Nancy Mitford's silly season. There are also echoes of Victorian literature, from Imogen's marriage mirroring Dorthea's in Middlemarch, to Gavin bringing a little of the John Thornton vibe from North and South. Yet these homages aren't derivative, they give us a touchstone for the time period but then become so distinctly their own story that while you remember the connections at the back of your mind they are inconsequential as the story takes on a life of it's own.
As for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, I will admit that this subject matter is what made me swoon when I heard over a year ago about Lauren's next planned stand alone. I think that I have adequately covered my love of them in previous posts and writings, but I will say that even in the BBC production of Desperate Romantics, they have always been a band apart. Outsiders who verged on Gods in their ways of self aggrandising each other and mythologizing their lives and works. They were Romantics in every sense of the word, demanding the capital letter "R". Yet Lauren brought them down off their pedestals. Packed into the snug sitting room on Herne Hill we see a human Rossetti with his schemes and ideas and his future spiraling out before him. The ways the Brotherhood sought out collectors of antiquities to give an authenticity to their paintings adds a realism to them and their works.
These men aren't Gods, no matter how many posters in English classrooms and dorm rooms might say otherwise, they are men. They have loved and lost and with Gavin we have a true romantic hero that is swoonworthy. And like all good writing, this one aspect of the book, the Brotherhood, it doesn't overpower the story, it compliments it, it strengthens and adds to it. You will fall into this book and even if you are just a fraction of a romantic the Pre-Raphaelite's were you will find yourself falling in love with both couples in the different time periods. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did, and if you're coming into this book from Lauren's Pink Carnation series, there are a few gems hidden in the book, but like these painters who would hide the Brotherhood's initials in their paintings, you might have to have a keen eye to spot them....more
I was really hoping for maybe something more historical about the amorous adventures of the monarchy and the Double Duchess... instead it's a cute litI was really hoping for maybe something more historical about the amorous adventures of the monarchy and the Double Duchess... instead it's a cute little story about Cora almost making a huge social blunder but being saved by a kindly tattoo artist... um... ok... not what I was expecting at all. Then it just seemed padded out with old ads from English Lords looking for American ladies with ready cash and the first two chapters of her book 'The American Heiress.' So skip this, read 'The American Heiress' instead....more
I really liked the wedding of the twins, it was so sweet. Also, I know I've mentioned this before, but once in awhile I feel lost because I don't remeI really liked the wedding of the twins, it was so sweet. Also, I know I've mentioned this before, but once in awhile I feel lost because I don't remember every single detail from each volume, but not this one! It was very well self contained but still with continuing story arcs. Also, how bad ass is the grandma on her goat? Also, if you have a stomach bug like I do, it's best to avoid reading this till you are better. 1) The tons of food made me hungry, 2) how they prep the tons of food, ie, killing, skinning, everything gross that could be done to a sheep is done to a sheep. I don't eat sheep, and this made me really really really never ever ever want to eat sheep....more
Jane and Vincent have been accompanying Melody and her new husband on their wedding tour of the continent. Leaving the newlyweds with their parents, JJane and Vincent have been accompanying Melody and her new husband on their wedding tour of the continent. Leaving the newlyweds with their parents, Jane and Vincent head to Murano. Lord Byron has given the Vincents an open invitation to visit him in Venice, which is a nice cover for what they what to do in Murano. They have long wanted to visit the famed glassmakers there after their discovery about weaving magic into glass to make it portable and not tethered to the earth. The couple hope that with improved techniques they can get reliable results. Yet as Napoleon rallied and invaded Belgium when they were first experimenting with this idea, they are this time set upon by pirates who, while ransoming them and hence not enslaving them, take all their possessions and leave Vincent with a nasty concussion. Finding Byron away from home they are destitute. A kind man takes them in and gives them everything they could need till either Byron returns or they are able to alert their families. Only, sometimes kind men have ulterior motives and the Vincents could be in far more trouble then they could even guess. In fact pirates might be a welcome relief.
There are few authors out there which I will drop everything for. Anything other then reading their newest book is considered nonessential. Phone calls go unanswered, emails pile up, work deadlines get stretched to breaking point. If it wasn't for the fact that food keeps me going and therefore keeps me reading I don't think I would remember to eat. Mary Robinette Kowal has become such an author for me. What began as a strong like has developed into a deep love with her Glamourist Histories. Any chance I get I'm recommending them to people and have so far converted quite a few of my bookish friends. My goal is for complete conversion (say it in a scary cyberman-esque voice). I think this goal is possible based on how these books have grown and developed over time. They are no longer just Jane Austen fanfic with magic, they're so much more! The books are part history, part fantasy, part alternate reality, there's just so much to love about them that I really can't stress enough that you should go out right now and get yourself all the books currently available, because the first won't be enough.
But what is wonderful about Mary Robinette Kowal beyond her writing is that she interacts with her fanbase and while still maintaining the proper author reader relationship she opens up her writing and her process to her readers, giving them a glimpse behind the curtain. In this day and age if an author wants to create a lasting impression on a reader and fortify her following they couldn't do better then to emulate Mary. Back in November I was beyond thrilled because for NaNoWriMo Mary was looking for Alpha readers for the fifth installment of The Glamourist Histories currently titled Of Noble Family. I was doing little dances of joy when I was approved, but more then that, because I had read the series all along Mary included a copy of the forth book, Valour and Vanity. She sent me the email on November 14th and by November 17th I had already devoured every single line. I didn't think that she could surpass my love of Glamour in Glass, which is the second book in the series and my number one read of 2012, but I think she might have. The only problem I faced was that getting to read the next book, Of Noble Family, in installments wouldn't really work for my voracious appetite. So, showing amazing fortitude, if I do say so myself, I waited until the start of the Beta read and over another long weekend I took it all in.
So why you're asking am I so enamoured of these books? Aside from the fact that I love anything Regency and Mary captures the feeling of the time period by sprinkling in historic details without inundating us with information, she has created a world where the magic just works. I'm not talking about works as in you say a spell and wow a light goes on, or even that it's successful in that something magical happens, I'm saying in the way she has created how magic is done just makes sense. The way magic resides in the ether out of the visible range and is brought forth and woven into something visible, either temporary or lasting, just works, it makes sense. Not just that, but as an artist myself, the way you think creatively, the way work takes a toll on you physically and mentally, Mary just nails it. There is such a simpatico going on between me and Jane with our feelings and our physical beings that I am right there with her every step of the way. While yes, there is this part of me going, Jane is me, there's a happier part of me going Jane is Jane. In the previous book, Without a Summer, I felt that Jane's voice was lost a little. She became more wishy-washy. She was constantly in doubt and lacked a spine. Here she doesn't just have a spine, she has spine enough for both her and Vincent, supporting them through their trials and hardships, making plans, taking names, befriending nuns, it's just perfect.
Speaking of those nuns... they are just one of the many aspects that made this book so awesome. The blurbs comparing this new installment to Ocean's Eleven aren't wrong. Only I would personally choose Ocean's Twelve, having seen it twice in theatres it's a better movie for many reasons; it has an awesome soundtrack, has a part in Italy, has an amazing Chachi joke, makes more fun of itself with meta humor, and has Eddie Izzard. Here we have glamourists, nuns, pirates, puppet shows, disguises, the Eleventh Doctor, breaking and entering, there is just so much awesome that it's hard to pinpoint what makes it work so well unless you count the fact that everything works so seamlessly together. The thing is you don't really think of heists starting before this past century. Sure their were pirates and brigands and all number of baddies who did all number of innumerable nasty things, but the heist feels like a more modern invention. In fact the definition of heist shows the word being an Americanism from the twenties and even references cars to define it. Aside from Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery, while being Victorian in conceit, but still very much a product of the seventies, I can't think of a successful book that combines a 19th century setting with an elaborate heist. For this alone Valour and Vanity should be held extraordinary and a must read, if not for every other reason I mentioned. Oh, and of course, me being a pusher for this series. Go on! You know you want to read it......more
A young baby boy is being thrown out with the trash. Unwanted and alone a chance of fate has him picked up by the richest Lord in the land, Lord LoveaA young baby boy is being thrown out with the trash. Unwanted and alone a chance of fate has him picked up by the richest Lord in the land, Lord Loveall. Lord Loveall has been mourning all his life for his dear departed sister and when he sees this baby he assumes it to be female and a chance to have his sister back. But Lord Loveall can't just miraculously have an heir, a quick marriage is arranged with his sister's old governess, Anonyma, who has stayed on as librarian at Love Hall to catalog the works of her icon, the poetess Mary Day. Anonyma agrees to raising "Rose" female because the poetess had some interesting theories on gender and Anonyma sees it as an experiment. For many years they are able to keep up this farce, until one day the world crashes down on them and Rose can no longer hide who he is.
The familial vultures swoop in to claim what they have always lusted after. A scandal would be so unbecoming, so Anonyma withdraws... what does she have now that Rose has fled? Rose left in the night without a trace, unable to face what he is. Through awkward sexual awakenings, near death fever dreams, chance encounters, and a twist that you hopefully won't see coming, Rose embraces the odd life that he has been given in this strange world and the companions in his journey who truly love him.
Misfortune is a Dickensian tale with at LGBTQ mindset. Full of interesting incestuous characters I felt that it never quite lived up to it's full potential due to the shifting narrative that, in the end, opted for a shorter, sleeker, story with annoying time jumps, instead of becoming a book of true Dickensian girth. Now I'm not saying that I wanted every detail on Rose's debauched journey to Turkey, but covering such an expanse of time as a fever dream seemed indulgent of the author. In fact, that might be the crux of my problem, the modern sensibilities thrust into this Victorian age by Stace's whim alienates me from the story. Stace says in an interview in the back of the book that he didn't want to be drawn into the trappings of the time period, a carriage is a carriage, not a barouche, not a gig. By having Misfortune be a modern book set in the past he seems to be wanting to make the book more of a post modern statement piece then a quality read.
By breaking convention he is writing a book that will appeal more to those who have never read Dickens or historical fiction while leaving those of us who love 19th century literature and period pieces cold. Coupled with the fact that he pulls a complete Dickensian HEA that was obvious from page one, his tendency to use some literary tropes and abandon others just goes to show that he was gratifying himself instead of his audience, plus exactly HOW was Rose to inherit... she being a she? Many such little questions bothered me throughout. Though my biggest problem with the book that has nothing to do with Stace might just be a side effect of this lack of interest in the historical details. This problem being that the cover illustration shows clothes incorrect to 1820. Yes, I know I should let this go, but the thing is, I remember the day I picked up this book on a table in Barnes and Noble and it was those lovely Regency clothes that sold me on it...
Yet in the end, Rose is problematical to me. Firstly, the sheer self centered delusions indulged by her parents scares the shit out of me. That two adults could contrive to raise a boy as a girl is just wrong to me. I know in this day and age there are a lot of people who talk about wanting to raise their children gender neutral so that they can come into their sexuality on their own. Personally, I think this is bullshit. It takes awhile for children to become aware of things, just look to Rose for an example, and by at least not setting down for them the basics, well, you are going to get one f'd up kid, again, look to Rose. Children need to understand the world around them in order to find their place, wherever that may be. By taking away Rose's knowledge of the world around her with regard to her body, that's just so many levels of wrong. At least her father Geoffroy has some excuse, obviously being insane, but Anonyma, the cold calculated way she sees changing her child's sex as an experiment just makes me want to slap her so hard. While yes, this does lead to some amusing situations, in the end, I felt such sorrow and pity for Rose that at times the book became hard to read.
But the collusion to keep this lie up. Gaw, the rage in me. Personally, the fact that they were able to pull it off for so long makes me a little awestruck. I personally don't see how they did it. I liked that they mentioned that all paintings with genitals shown were hidden, because that was a problem I really had. How, in an English Country House, with the great artwork that is usually in said houses, were they able to keep Rose in the dark? The secluded environment helped, but still, how? Recent studies have shown that people in the 19th century weren't so repressed sexually as we like to imagine. Yes the book has Anonyma lecturing a young Rose on what is private and what is public, and never stripping or lifting of skirts... but still... how? Rose was raised with two other children and they never once lifted a skirt or whipped it out of their pants? That is giving those kids some amazing, I would say unbelievable restraint. Were they sewn into their clothes? Because that's the only way I see this happening, otherwise, I just don't buy it. And if I can't buy this, well, then the book has a major flaw... or shall I just say, it's a flawed book?
Time and neglect have been brought to bear on Ashenden Park. Occasionally loved and cared for, the great estate has fallen into the hands of two siblings after the death of their aunt. They don't know what they should do with this giant white elephant they have inherited. Going back through time to the houses beginning in 1775, James Woods is finishing the architectural touches for his new masterpiece to be wrought in Bath stone, though little does he know that tragedy will personally strike him and his employers will never finish the house. It's 1844 and a new family cares for and loves Ashenden, it is the home of their dreams and their children love it well, but their grandson is feckless. 1938, the house is once again in disrepair, cut up and sold for whatever money the current owner can get for a ceiling or a mantelpiece. 1946, the war arrives and a man who is a prisoner lives where one day he will return a house to lost glory for the aunt of two siblings. Ever rising and falling in it's luck will Ashenden Park be glorious ever again?
It takes a lot to make a house memorable in literature. I don't think it's something that you can set out to do, it's something that happens over time. Manderley, Number Four Privet Drive, Tara, Pemberley, all these places are held in the hearts of readers. We imagine what it would be like to go there, to walk through the woods, to gaze at the family portraits, to be immersed in the world of our favorite story. To us readers these are tangible places that we can visit, if only in our imaginations or between the covers of our favorite book. To have the conceit of following a house through time is at once intriguing and sheer folly. If Ashenden proves anything it's that the engendering of a house in literature can not be forced on us.
In order to fall for a literary house you have to fall for the story. A house itself isn't a story unless it's peopled. Would Hill House be evil and menacing without inhabitants? No, it couldn't be because there's no one to interact with it's bricks and mortar, there's no Eleanor. The house just sits there waiting for occupants. Why yes, Asheden does become occupied, but by having the narrative spread out decades apart over a hundred plus years with different characters there is no way to become invested in the story. The house is an empty vessel and here are some people who occupy it, but don't bother getting too invested in them, they'll be gone soon enough. If there had only been some overarching plot separate from the house itself, like in Mark Gatiss's Crooked House that weaves together hauntings of Geap Manor over a two hundred year period to a conclusive denouement, well, that might have been something I could have worked with, but sadly there wasn't.
As for these people who flit through Ashenden over time. I couldn't have cared less about them. Rarely were they nice or kind, usually they were self centered jack-offs. The way the book is written it's really just intertwined short stories. I'm not the biggest fan of short stories. I like scope. I like having a beautifully built world that I can immerse myself in, which is why I like television and miniseries more then movies. Short stories are hard to invest in unless they are perfectly crafted little jewels that can stand on their own. By having the stories linked through Ashenden this is never possible. Each story with a jerk and a bump leads to the next and the next, with ever more unlikable characters that I didn't want to invest my time in.
But the short narratives weren't the most annoying thing. What really got me was this fine breadcrumb trail of characters and even objects that Wilhide wove through the book. So to recap, lots of unlikable characters I don't like and don't care to remember are peppered throughout the history of Ashenden like little Easter Eggs. Somebody hold me back. Sure, it's a cute idea, a way to link past and present, but sometimes cute ideas should not be employed because they annoy the heck out of your readers. It's gimmicky and gets maddening real fast. That stupid brown cow pitcher, and I have to say, I actually liked a pitcher of a brown cow more then anything else in this book. I liked an inanimate object more then the people. Um, that's a problem.
This is Wilhide's first fiction book, having written a plethora of books on design and architecture, and I have to say it shows. She was unable to create an engaging book. If her goal was to show the "living history" of the house, well, I guess she did that. Wilhide was able to show how the house changed and adapted over time from it's construction to it's current state of dilapidation, but it was a depressing show and tell that felt like I was reading about the slow death of the house sinking further into despair. Never did it feel like she was exulting the house, never once giving it the people it deserved. A pop star? Please no. Anyone who was nice to the house was skimmed over. One of those nice persons was name Florence Henderson, and I hope that this was historical, because otherwise, WTF Wildhide! No.
Houses all have stories to tell. But does this mean that the stories should be told? No it doesn't. What got me most was that anytime you almost felt invested the story would shift, much in the way Jeffery Eugenides Middlesex did, and you were back at square one, usually with an even more unsavory cast of characters. If you set out to do something unique and different go all in. Go epic, go centuries of detail and dirt. Don't reign yourself in, and don't under any circumstance ellipses over time with little introductory paragraphs at the start of each chapter that are ethereal and dreamlike but are really the type of amateurish and indulgent writing that should have been cut. ...more
Eve's brother Silas is trying to make a go of his luxury hotel in Jamaica. He even has his nephew Seth working for him as his second in command. But things aren't going well. The staff is surly, the customers are fleeing, and Silas is desperate. He thinks that perhaps his sister Eve could help him, but it's not like he's going to ask her, that would be demeaning. Instead Silas writes a letter for Seth to send to his mother, pulling on her heartstrings, and she inevitably agrees to come, despite her husband pointing out the fact that the letter was obviously penned by her own brother and not her son. Yet Eve goes to Seth and tries to fix Silas's problems... though she will fix them in her way not his, which causes yet more strife.
While back in England Eve's family misses her so much it hurts. Even her dear friends miss her. Anna and Amos are at loggerheads. He, as an elected MP for Labour, doesn't view it right that his wife should not only befriend, but work for the upper classes. Their honeymoon is certainly over. While the Earl of Netherwood, Tobias, and his faithless wife Thea are actually coming back together, having a second honeymoon. But the one person making the most news is Lady Henrietta Hoyland, Tobias's elder sister, who is making headlines for her work with the suffrage movement, and for her attack on Downing Street that has lead to her imprisonment. This is just what the youngest Hoyland, Isabella, didn't need when she's coming out; her family in tatters. Yet through the tribulation and strife, the things that really matter, family, love, will be all that remains at the end of the day.
What I have loved most about this series is the minutiae, the day to day details of these characters lives and how from the lowliest pit ponies to the Countess herself, they all flitted in and out of each others lives in Netherwood. This book is completely different from the two proceeding volumes, instead painting the lives we have come to love in broad strokes with the result being that rich, deep characters, have become one note caricatures. Whereas before we were treated to the insights of the Dowager Countess's maid, Flytton, she gets one measly mention in this installment. I'm not sure if this tone shift is because Jane wants to take the books in a different direction, perhaps to lure in more readers, or if she has reached the point wherein she has so many characters that she is unable to successfully juggle them. My money is on the later, mainly because for this volume we were given four pages of dramatis personae, poor Flytton is even excluded there. But I will not discount the "new readers" because there seemed to be a bit too much explaining of people and situations that readers of the series would easily remember.
The narrative has always been linked by a common location, Netherwood, so that people flowed in and out of each others stories easily. By pushing them so far apart distance wise, it seems like when they do show up it's not natural but fate forced to make the story still work as before but within this new rickety framework. The narrative style needs to change if the characters are going to continue to be so geographically dispersed. Maybe the answer is individual books for certain characters. Or being willing to let some characters go or take a backseat for a book or two. Because the lack of detail, the willingness to gloss over things and speed ahead, made this a messy book that left me dissatisfied and wanting more. Plus, if we are to follow every character and then Eliza's journey to France is just mentioned in a sentence or two... well, either you stick to your new style completely, or just abandon it as the failed experiment it obviously is.
One thing that was really missing from this novel was the food. In the previous volumes Jane has lavished attention on the food, making my mouth water and making me wish I had a cook to bake those ambitious recipes in the back of the book for me, or at least Eve's shop around the corner to visit. Gone even are the recipes, and gone is the heart and soul of this book. While food is still important, much like many of the characters, it's just mentioned quickly and pushed aside. This I think is symbolic of what has really happened with this series. As Eve says, you have to put love into your cooking. The ritual of making the humblest pie to the most elaborate feast all comes down to the love put in. I felt like the love was gone, in some cases, like Amos and Anna's bickering, literally gone.
But what ripped out my heart and jumped on it was that I still love these characters, and all the new ones as well. To see them so briefly and in such circumstances hurt me more then if I hadn't seen them at all. Unlikeable characters ran riot, with Silas becoming so horrid it was almost unreadable. And likable characters like Amos who were complex and many sided became one dimensional and mean. Plus Seth! What the hell! There was such progress with Seth at the end of Ravenscliffe and then it's not just two steps back but who the hell is this evil little Silas wannabe, he's a shit. Everything was cookie cutter without the joy of making the cookies. The plot was predictable, Henrietta's being literally an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs, while Silas and his Jamaicans... that wasn't obvious... not in the least (rolls eyes and sighs). I'm just exasperated. A book that I had so looked forward to picking up has basically broken my heart.
I also wonder, at the end of the day, if Jane was trying to thrust some "morality play" into this mess. With the very vehement hatred of the government from the likes of Amos and Henry, to the dissatisfaction with the monarchy, and then the brouhaha with the Tsar, all on top of which men like Silas, who embody all that is wrong with the empire... was Jane being heavy handed with the war is inevitable to fix this broken world? That revolt is not just coming but inevitable? With our foreknowledge of what is in store, the upheaval and insurrection, she is lending all events portents of doom. I kind of hate this in books. Yes, we know where all this leads, but you know what, people at the time didn't know exactly where it was going. To be basically giving them prophetic abilities seems too much to take in. Plus, if the next book is anything like this one, well, I don't know if the series can even make it to the outbreak of war if it continues this rabid downward trajectory... unless Jane does another time jump......more
Colonel William Reid is retiring to England to live out his life in leisure with his two daughters, Kat and Lizzy, leaving behind three very differentColonel William Reid is retiring to England to live out his life in leisure with his two daughters, Kat and Lizzy, leaving behind three very different, one very difficult, sons in India. Little does he know that the school in Bath that Lizzy has been attending, Miss Climpson's Academy, seems to be the epicenter of spies in the battle between the French and the English. For two years Miss Gwendolyn Meadows has been at the center of that fight, or slightly next to the center wielding a dangerous parasol as the second in command to Britain's chief operative, The Pink Carnation, aka, Jane Wooliston. She has ostensibly been the dragonish chaperone of Jane while they lived in France with Jane's cousin. Jane has received a missive from her family that finds Jane and Gwen on the steps of Miss Climpson's just as Colonel Reid arrives.
As fate would have it, these three must unit in their cause because Jane's sister, Agnes, has gone missing along with Colonel Reid's daughter Lizzy. William doesn't grasp the seriousness of this, thinking it's just girls being girls. Jane knows that this is probably not the case. Somehow Agnes and therefore Lizzy's disappearance has to do with Jane's subversive activities. When William and Gwen are attacked while inquiring after Lizzy with his other daughter Kat, he comes to see that his little girl is truly in danger. He might have not been the best parent so far, but he was going to fix that. Though the reason for the girls disappearance might just not be Jane's fault and might actually be tangled up with William's most dubious of children, Jack, and not Jane at all... or at least not directly. Rumors are that, besides playing for both the French and the English, Jack has also made off with the famous jewels of Berar... the jewels which are rumored to have been sent to his little sister. This means that they aren't the only ones looking for the girls. That most dangerous of French spies, The Gardener, is also on their trail.
Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series is like the ultimate comfort read, like watching The Princess Bride mixed with Bridget Jones's Diary. There's "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles"... well, maybe not giants, monsters, or fencing per se, but there is Miss Gwen with a rapier parasol, and Lizzy Reid with a bow and arrow, and Lizzy alone is just as dangerous as those three things together. The release of yet another book in this series brings joy to my heart which was tripled when I realized that The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (an alliteration worthy of Gwen's lurid prose) was yet again raising the bar of this series. To have a long running series, ten books and counting, and to have each entry just as fresh and alive is a fete that Lauren needs a round of applause for. Yet in this installment we have a character we have loved since day one and who has been desperately demanding her own book, seriously, ask Lauren, Miss Gwen said her book was next and so it was.
Miss Gwen has always been a pillar of strength and fortitude. Ready to take down the French with an arch look or a well placed parasol to shin or other vulnerable body parts. We have seen this hilarious yet adept spy trailing behind The Pink Carnation, almost as an accessory to Jane. It is as if Gwen herself was Jane's multifunctional parasol weapon. In The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, we see that the reserve that Jane has always exhibited doesn't exclude Gwen. Gwen is just as in the dark as other agents, just hoping that in lying to herself, that she has found a place where she belongs, working beside Jane. Holding on to the dream that her life has purpose and that this work will continue. Lauren brings such depth to Gwen, showing that while she is strong and kicks ass at her job, there's a vulnerability. Gwen could lose Amy and therefore lose her calling. Beneath the gruff exterior Gwen really does have a gooey center. Yet in revealing Gwen's weaknesses, in showing us her painful history, Lauren doesn't take away anything, Gwen can be both vulnerable and strong. Like a parasol, something light and frilly, but with a hidden sword in the shaft. Gwen is just simply remarkable, "beneath that stern exterior was a lifetime's worth of adventure for the man brave enough to win her."
What we see in Gwen's past sins and also in the destitute life that William's daughter Kat is living, is a different world from the one we are used to in this series. Up until now, any people from lower classes, which weren't that numerous, were always seen in the setting of the world of prosperity. Laura Grey was a governess in a Parisian home, Arabella Dempsey is a teacher at the aforementioned Miss Climpson's Academy, and Letty Alsworthy's family is just a little hard up. Yet they are still in the sphere of influence. They are not in the gutter or in crummy little houses taking in laundry to just get by. Yet these people existed. The children out of wedlock, the family scraping by, these are incidents straight out of Jane Austen that are there, pushed into the corners but never talked about, not really. Here Lauren tackles that to some degree, and in doing so, she has made her world more whole. Every level of humanity makes up the world and in showing us something not quite pleasant there is a satisfying feeling of completion.
And in speaking of completion... how many more books till the end? Lauren has often said that this series would be ending soon with Jane's book, yet characters are always speaking up and demanding their own book, ie Sally Fitzhugh coming out next year I hope. I personally would be happy to see this go on for quite some time, as long as Lauren's writing the Pink Carnation series, I will read it. Yet, with her first stand alone, The Ashford Affair, you can see that Lauren has considerable talent and a lot more to offer and that to keep her churning out this series is unfair to her as a writer, I mean, the series does have it's limitations with time period and historical authenticity. But with her second stand alone coming next year, perhaps a happy medium will be reached. Yet one does feel that in the final pages of this book there is a big game changer at the hands of The Gardner. The Passion of the Purple Plumeria does lend itself to flipping the page to the final chapter of The Pink Carnation's story. A final chapter that will be bittersweet. ...more
When Laurel was a young girl she witnessed her mother kill a man. After that night they never spoke of it ever again. The crime was hushed up by the lWhen Laurel was a young girl she witnessed her mother kill a man. After that night they never spoke of it ever again. The crime was hushed up by the local police and other then herself and her parents, the rest of the family never knew what happened, especially to the special knife used to cut all the birthday cakes. Now fifty years have passed and Laurel's mom Dorothy is dying. Laurel has spent most of her life not thinking about that day. Shortly after the incident she moved away and has rarely been home since. With time running out, Laurel realizes that she can not let her mother go without finding out why the crime happened.
The answer goes further back then that day Laurel hide in the tree house, it goes back to London during the Blitz. Dorothy was a young girl with big plans for her and her boyfriend Jimmy. She could just see them now, at all the glitzy parties with all the chosen people, all the bright young things. Dorothy wasn't going to be a domestic all her life. Wasn't the fact that she had become friends with the wonderful and glamorous Vivien a sign that she was destined for greater things? Though nothing is as it seems sometimes. Dorothy was desperate to get the life she wanted, so desperate that she might do something stupid. Something that might echo down the ages till a "stranger" wanders up a garden path and dies with a knife buried in his gut.
I remember picking up my first Kate Morton book at Borders one day, it was a copy of The Forgotten Garden. Years later I finally read it and while I wanted to love it, with so much potential as to where the plot could have gone, I was a bit disappointed. Yet there was a part of me dying to give Kate Morton another chance. On a dark and stormy night in October I drove to Oconomowoc to see Kate Morton give a talk on her newest book, The Secret Keeper. She was a delight talking in her melodious voice about peeling wallpaper and everything else she loves. I had actually not read anything about her new book and was delighted to find out that a large portion of it took place during the Blitz. While the Blitz must have been one of the most horrific things to live through, it has a romanticism that draws me. It was a time when life lost it's routine. The world was on hold till one side lost. During this time what life you had was intensified. You seized anything you could and didn't let go. I often wonder if we will ever see an event that could have the same impact, but I know it's unlikely. Thousands of people euthanized their pets because they knew of the danger they would be in and also because of rationing... which makes me question a bit why Kate's new book had a few too many pets... research error or food for later...
Sitting in the little armchair with her perfectly cut hair and lovely boots, Kate read the opening chapter. I have a tendency to not be good at public speaking events, after a few minutes I really start to zone out, but Kate had me just transfixed. While I wanted to listen to the rest of her talk and her question and answer session, there was a part of me that just wanted to sit there in that auditorium and keep reading. I wanted to blot out the rest of the world and make this book my everything. One reason I desired an escape from the world was I was in the midst of my worst semester ever and I longed to lose myself. Another reason was that the book I was reading by Mary Roach was non-fiction and not that much of an escape. Also, there are so many other books I want to read at a given time that sometimes picking my new book over an old book makes it feel like the new book is jumping the queue. So I waited. Then one day before spring break I couldn't take it anymore and just had to pick the book up. I devoured it in four days.
I was grateful that this book didn't have the ambition of The Forgotten Garden. Now, this isn't a slight on the book, it just had a simpler question at it's core. Therefore I had a clear through line to follow. I could see, if partially obscured, what followed what and I didn't go off in flights of fancy imagining killings like Jack the Ripper and dark abuse and murder... all of which happened in reading The Forgotten Garden. Instead I had a wonderful time with three characters. Laurel, I couldn't care less about, but Jimmy, Dorothy and Vivien were so alive and so distinct and fully formed they became my life for a few days. Yet what I loved the most is the twist, turn, secret, whatever you want to call it, was a wonderful surprise that could only be done in a book. The contrivance would never work in any other medium, and it's the characters and their behavior that make the twist not only possible, but fully believable. Now, while I will say that I saw the twist coming, it was because of Kate's writing that, although the end was in view, I couldn't tear myself away from the book. I was glad I gave Kate another chance, and I have a feeling I'll be picking up another one of her books in the near future. ...more
Sybella escaped a horrible life to get to the convent of Saint Mortain. She was damaged and more then a little insane when she arrived, but they madeSybella escaped a horrible life to get to the convent of Saint Mortain. She was damaged and more then a little insane when she arrived, but they made her whole again. So what does Mortain and the Abbess ask of her? To go back to that horrible life because her rank and her position are perfectly placed to aid Anne, the Duchess of Brittany, in her fight against the French to maintain Brittany's independence. Yet when it is discovered that the great warrior Beast didn't die in the bloody skirmish outside Nantes, but instead is hidden in the depths of the dungeons, Sybella, being already in Nantes, is asked to aid in his release. Things seldom go to plan, and soon Sybella is on the road to Rennes treating Beast's grievous wounds, instead of being back in Nantes. It wasn't her idea, it was Beast's... and he didn't really give her a choice. But now with the Beast of Waroch free he can use his talents and inspire the countryside and peasantry to rise up for the Duchess and keep Brittany free! If the two of them start falling for each other through their mutual pain and respect, well, that might be just as Mortain had planned...
From the moment I finished Grave Mercy I was dying for the next book, which in my mind should have been called Grave Justice. I needed to know what happened to Beast and if he was still alive, I had quite an attachment to him, so I was assuming that he survived, I don't think Robin could traumatize me that much on purpose, and after all those tantalizing glimpses Ismae had of Sybella, like Ismae, I wanted, no, I NEEDED to know what the Abbess had Sybella doing. I waited, very impatiently I might add, till I finally got my hands on the ARC of Dark Triumph. I had spent a year thinking about how Robin would start with Sybella more then half mad on the day Ismae was brought to the convent. Then we would journey through all that had happened during the time Ismae was on her own mission. I spent much time daydreaming of what could come next.
Thankfully this is not how Robin decided to tell the story. Having just recently finished reading Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, I quickly realized how boring a book can be if after seeing a story from one characters point of view, we go back and repeat the entire story from the other characters. Do this a few times, and let's just say that Fingersmith started to alienate me pretty fast. Instead Dark Triumph started almost near the end of Ismae's volume, with Sybella on the ramparts warning Ismae of D'Albret's treachery. Choosing this moment to bring in the second volume first had me worried, because I wasn't sure all my questions would be answered. I need not have worried, not only where all my questions answered, but because of the story picking up where it did, that meant we had time to dive back into Ismae's story and weave the two together. Dark Triumph turned out to be the best of both worlds.
What Robin has done with Dark Triumph is create not only another compelling narrative in the series, but she has captured Sybella's voice. There is nothing that can be more annoying then having a writer attempt to write a story form multiple points of view and have them fail utterly at it. Each person has a distinct voice, I do, you do, Ismae does, Sybella does. Writing, I fully admit that I can only capture my own voice, which works for what I do. But if Sybella had come out sounding just like Ismae, then not only would this book fail, but then the uniqueness of Ismae and her distinct voice would be belittled and cheapened. Instead we have a far more educated voice. Less enthusiastic for carrying out Mortain's wishes. More circumspect, questioning and wary. Which Sybella would have to be growing up in the dark world she inhabits.
Besides the different voice we also have a very different relationship dynamic between Beast and Sybella. They do not have the zealous righteousness that drives Ismae and Gavriel. They are driven by their dark pasts. The fight for what is right after being stomped down by the oppressive evil in the world. Yet neither of them seem to know when to stop pushing so sometimes the other has to be the guide for when enough is enough. This is most obviously shown when Beast occasionally helps Sybella to a state of unconsciousness to get her out of harm's way or when Sybella forces Beast to rest due to his injuries, when the last thing Beast wants is rest. The endearing aspect is while they both have their secrets, neither one ever questions the loyalties of the other. One jumps, the other jumps. True love comes in many forms and Sybella would have been the first to question finding it in a giant of a man with a squashed face and blood lust on the battlefield.
The other thing that really struck me about this book is it is far darker. I mean, this is dark! The disregard the Abbess had for Sybella's sanity in the face of "Mortain's" wishes shows that at the end of the day people do what's best for themselves, and on a side note, if someone doesn't beat the shit out of the Abbess before this series is over I am going to be sad. I had ideas and suppositions about what Sybella's story was, and never once did I think of this. Robin surprised me and gave me another side to the world she has created, which I heartily embraced, even if I occasionally wanted to wash my hands afterwards.
But the magic of the book resides in the fact that Robin has created a historical fantasy that is so real I worry about what will happen to the characters. I have spent a fair amount of time on Wikipedia looking up what really happened during the fight for Brittany and how this plays out doesn't necessarily play out how I would wish. I worry about what Ismae and Gavriel will do when the wars are done and the fight is over. How will they handle when Isabeau dies? What will they think of Anne's life? She is only 26 when she dies. How can the characters I know and love have a happy ending if Anne doesn't have one too? I really should stop obsessing about this and trust in Robin, she is a hopeless romantic and all will work out... right?...more
I really liked the integration of the politics into this one and the threat of Russia... but really, my favorite was the twins. THEY ARE SO AWESOME! II really liked the integration of the politics into this one and the threat of Russia... but really, my favorite was the twins. THEY ARE SO AWESOME! I cannot wait for the next issue, and not just because it will be "clear with a chance of sheep" but because I cannot wait for their wedding!...more
Eve Williams can hardly credit that she is living the life she is. Mere months before she was on her way to destitution as a widow with three children, but now she's engaged to be married to Daniel MacLeod, the head gardener at Netherwood, has a thriving business, and is moving into the substantially larger Ravenscliffe house on Netherwood Common. Much of these successes are thanks to the indomitable Anna, her best friend and co-conspirator. Though not every life is perfect. Eve's son Seth is rebelling against all the changes that he feels are disrespecting the memory of his father. To Eve's horror, after his twelfth birthday Seth signs on at the colliery that his father Arthur loved, but which killed him nonetheless. She wants Seth to realize that their new station in life has opened up vast opportunities for him as well. He doesn't have to live the life his father lived. Arthur would want a better life for his son, but Anna counsels Eve that Seth has to learn this for himself.
Though the biggest change in Eve's life is the return of her little brother Silas. She hasn't seen him since her wedding to Arthur when he was a scraggly youth and left saying that one day he would send Eve bananas. One day the bananas arrive and a few days later so does Silas. Silas has made an astounding success of his life as a shipping magnate specializing in the importing of bananas to England. He plans on expanding his shipping line out of Bristol and is working on making a luxury hotel in Kingston, Jamaica, and is looking to acquire a coal mine near Netherwood. Silas, unaware of the upheaval in Eve's life, is overly zealous at the success she too has made of her life and starts to encourage her to think bigger, to expand, to grab at every opportunity she is given. Much of these opportunities are connected with the family at Netherwood. After she helps them out of a tight spot when the King comes to visit, Lord Netherwood, following a reassessment of his life, is inclined to give Eve her company outright as a wedding present, relinquishing his share. Yet Lord Netherwood dies before he can commit this to paper. Silas's desire to force the Hoylands hand and get Eve what she deserves creates conflict in Netherwood, with Silas on one side, Anna and Amos on the other, and Eve stuck in the middle. Eve's life might be better, but it is far from perfect.
When the first book in a series is wonderful and perfect I can only imagine the pressure this puts on the author. Jane Sanderson had less time and more expectations with her followup to Netherwood. Thankfully Ravenscliffe exceeded all my expectations. With the expanding of this little microcosm of Edwardian England with new characters and new situations, Jane was able to stay true to the gritty and glamorous world of her first novel, yet infuse it with even more humor and humanity. Throwing us headlong into the upheaval at the great hall with the remodelling and redecorating for the King's arrival made me fall right into this book and not want to leave. The cook dropping dead hours before the first big dinner and having Eve step in was a situation of such absurdity combined with the feeling of her walking a tightrope, led to such suspense I didn't want to go to sleep. In that moment I had such a connection with Eve, I had so much invested, I felt that I was there with her. Jane just has this knack of creating characters that you connect with on so many levels, that you become invested in their lives and just need to know what happens next. Yet, Ravenscliffe isn't just a character piece with historical figures popping up, there are real and relevant issue that ring true to this day, giving the book a depth that most literature today lacks.
In the first book, Netherwood, we see Eve make a huge success out of the ruin of her life. Eve's restaurant becomes not only a place that locals visit, but a destination in Yorkshire for a day out. Her pies are even a hit with the King, who loves food reminiscent of his days in the nursery. Well maybe we should just say he loves food period, and he really loves Eve's puddings and pies. Yet with the arrival of Silas we see someone who has made a real success of his life. He is quite literally a millionaire. Eve and him had the same life, the same start in the world. On that day she married Arthur, Silas set out to make something of himself, and boy did he ever. When compared side by side, Eve's "huge" success in the first book is a pittance when compared to what her brother has achieved. This is the crux of what is a politically charged issue. The situation here is an interesting take on the dynamic of a woman's place in society. The little success Eve has carved out for herself is lauded because she is a woman and any success is amazing in this male dominated society. Yet what could Eve have done if she was male? Would Eve have been as or even more successful then her brother? I think she would have!
Lady Henrietta is the more vocal proponent of women's equality and suffrage in Ravenscliffe. Not only does she run the estate after her father's passing, but she institutes reforms in the collieries that will save lives, as well as becoming political and taking up the banner with the likes of Mrs. Pankhurst! The book shows quite clearly the injustices, but then it shows us that forward thinking women can help effect change. They are just as, if not more capable then the men in their lives, this is especially true of Henry and her inept brother Tobias. This time in history was the true beginning of women demanding the equality they deserved. While it would be another fourteen years from the events of this book till some women got the vote and a further ten years till it was more universal, it was a time of change and this book shows us, more then a dry history textbook, why it was needed and how the change was effected. Is equality for women such a hard concept to grasp even in this day and age? It is a basic human right.
Having the characters that we have known and loved as our friends incorporated into real history and real struggles makes not just their own stories come alive, but makes history come alive. Also, what did I say about historical figures popping up? Well, of course they do, but they aren't what the book is about, they are woven into the plot making it relevant to the story, not just a cameo. The introduction of Mrs. Pankhurst, Churchill, Keir Hardie, and the King, forward the story but also place it in the bigger picture. Jane Sanderson's story coupled with living breathing history makes her plea of suffrage and women's rights more urgent, more real. The only thing I would ask is that she drop the cliche of suffragists all having lesbian leanings... it's ok if it's character driven, just not ok if it's politically driven. Suffragists are all spectrums of women, don't pigeon hole them after writing a book that embraces the trail blazers and the pioneers of equality....more
"I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my soul, I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass."
- Walt Whitman
With her latest scandal, another husband dead, this time via suicide, and a fight for the his inheritance of the Volkonsky jewels arising, Delilah Drummond's family has come together in Paris to discuss her exile. She must remove herself from public scrutiny or face being cut off forever by her Grandfather back in New Orleans. The imperial "they" have decided that she will hide herself away at her ex step father's house Fairlight, in Kenya. Delilah doesn't have much of a say and agrees to the arranged banishment, knowing full well that as soon as the allotted time is over she will be back in Paris, or New York, or whatever city will have her, probably not New York... that pesky Volstead act kind of puts a kink in ones cocktails.
Arriving in Africa with her "devoted" cousin Dodo as her chaperon, Delilah doesn't quite know what to make of her situation. Firstly, Fairlight is in far worse shape then she was led to believe. Secondly, she is now a part of Kenyan society. A society made up of the outcasts of respectable civilization, meaning mainly people Delilah already knows. It's quite a shock to be relocated but still surrounded by those who were a little too outre for everyone else. There is a part of Delilah that feels at home picking back up where she left off before getting married to husband number two with the artist Kit Parrymore, located near at hand on the Fairlight property. Also the dinner parties hosted by Rex and Helen Farrady, as the reigning King and Queen of Kenya, are just the kind of social occasions Delilah is used to with booze flowing and witty conversation larded with innuendo. Though Helen's private parties are another story...
Soon Delilah is fighting not just her new found love for Africa and the new world and experiences she has reluctantly embraced, but she's also fighting her attraction to Ryder White. Ryder, that great white hunter. The man of contradictions, who believes in the preservation of Africa and it's animals, while also leading Safaris for those who are willing to overpay him. For the first time Delilah isn't giving in immediately to her fleeting fancies... but that could be because Ryder rankled her with placing a bet that he would be the first to bed her. Is it wrong that she took delight in sleeping with Kit so fast just to make him lose? Yet, how long can she deny that she has stumbled into everything she's ever needed?
Like the Whitman poem the book takes it's title from, there's a freshness, a freeness to Deanna's Africa with its overt sexuality that makes this book an addictive and delicious read. While I feel that this is the best Raybourn book I have read I have a feeling that the rawness and sexuality might deter other readers, whereas I felt that it perfectly captured the time and the place that was epitomized in Delilah. Raybourn is able to take old tales and stories from the Happy Valley Days and inject a new life to them. Helen's bathtub, and in fact Helen herself, with nods to Idina Sackville, doesn't feel heavy with the baggage of multiple retellings. Deanna was able to incorporate aspects and anecdotes of the time without making it feel like you've heard it all before, which is a true gift after all the books on Africa I have recently read. Deanna made Africa feel new to me, and I don't think there are many authors or books I can say that about. Delilah had so much life that, while we do get a mystery buried deep down, A Spear of Summer Grass is more a character study then a whodunit, and I didn't regret that for a minute.
The most refreshing aspect though was that while Delilah had the Great War baggage and the night terrors and all the typical signs of PTSD, we are not forced to dwell on this. As I have ranted before, so many modern books belabour this point and make more of it then what it is, not a part of the character, but something that is bigger then the character and becomes a separate entity weighing down the whole book. Delilah is damaged, but everyone in Africa is damaged in some way according to Ryder. Blessedly Deanna handles this balance just perfectly and I didn't have to read about guns in the distance causing flashbacks, yet again.
Being a book that is more a character study, it was the originality and the connection between these characters that made this book get devoured by my eyes. While I do really really like Ryder as the hero and his luscious Han Solo Harrison Fordness which was tailor made for the fair Princesses among us, he wasn't the big draw for me. The two characters I connected with most are Ryder's best friend Gideon and his little lame brother Moses, who are native Masai. The way Gideon becomes Delilah's best friend and how they bond over just talking about the simplest of things, like the Masai words for plants, made him far and away my favorite character in the book. He was so real that he walked right out of the pages and into my heart. Likewise his younger brother Moses. To not only have a connection because of his being a sweet boy with a lame leg who doesn't speak, I mean, how could you not love the little Tiny Timness of him? But to then have that couched in the language of what these things really mean within Masai culture, and how his disability means that he is not only different, but that because of this he can't get cattle to raise and if he doesn't get the cattle then there is no way he can afford a dowry and without that he will never marry and have a fulfilled life. The fact that Delilah hires him, that this simple gesture means that Moses could have a real and full life because he is now able to contribute, makes you have the feels all the more. I would even go so far as to say that because of Deanna's integration of characters and culture, that you get to read a deeper book them most of the books on Africa out there.
But if you really want more Ryder, and I can't really blame you, you should check out his little prequel novella, Far in the Wilds. Now I must go listen to some music, because if there is only one flaw in the book, it's that now I can't get Tom Jones's Delilah out of my head......more
Sue Trinder has grown up in Lant Street. She has never left the slummy Borough of London, and has never wanted to. She has lived her entire life in thSue Trinder has grown up in Lant Street. She has never left the slummy Borough of London, and has never wanted to. She has lived her entire life in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, who makes her living farming babies. Sue was the only baby that ever mattered to Mrs. Sucksby. They live with Mr. Ibbs, who makes his living in the roundabout manner or taking in dubious goods through the back door and sending it out the front in a slightly different form. The rest of the household is made up of Mr. Ibbs' invalid sister and John Vroom, a man with a love for dog skins, and his simple girl Dainty. This is Sue's world entire.
One day an acquaintance, known to all as Gentleman, arrives with a plan, to make their fortune using Sue. Mrs. Sucksby has always told Sue that she would be the making of them all and now she has her chance. Gentleman has been posing as an artist, Mr. Rivers, for a Mr. Lilly, who lives out west in the Thames Valley. Mr. Lilly has a niece, Maud. Maud is where their fortune will be found. Gentleman has been seducing the isolated girl but has hit a brick wall. Maud's maid, who was the chaperon, has taken ill and now Maud isn't allowed in the presence of Gentleman. Gentleman has decided to fix that. By installing not only a new chaperon, but one that will help him pursue his interests with the Maud, it is a win win situation.
They will compromise Maud, throw her in an insane asylum, and split her vast fortune and live like toffs. What could possibly go wrong? In a world where there are plots within plots, games within games and you don't know who's playing who, there are a lot of ways this could play out... and perhaps it won't be to everyone's liking.
This was an amazing book, if you only read the first part. Divided into three parts, each subsequent section downgraded it a full star, and some might say downgrading only one star per section is generous, seeing as after the first section Waters has shown us she is capable of so much more. But for some reason I think being overly long and taking the narrative straight into "I don't care land" is a staple of true Victorian writing, or Victorian-esque in this case. Like Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, which Fingersmith strongly emulates, it overstays it's welcome. Looking back onto the other Waters book I've read, The Little Stranger, I realize now that that book really did have the perfect ending. You weren't sure what happened and it ended a bit mysterious. If Waters had done that with this book, ending on a cliffhanger and being all mysterious, I would have been blown away and ranked it up there with some of the finest short fiction with the likes of Shirley Jackson.
Waters does an amazing job of capturing the seamy side of Victorian London. Sometimes you're reading about other times and think, now that would be a nice place to visit. Not here, not this world. And I think that's what makes the world of the book so real. You feel as if this is probably the most accurate description you've ever read of this time period. It's filth and dirt, it's creaking corset stays on a large woman who never washes herself and the secrets she hides within her bodice. Maud's penchant for gloves, though not of her own doing, at least is some kind of barrier to the grotesques that are discussed. But even they are tainted. Yet it's the unrelenting depravity and filth combined with characters who you don't just dislike, but who have nothing good or nice ever happen to them that wears you down in the end. Sure a little history of Victorian pornography is well and good, but after awhile, you say enough is enough. This book grinds you down, and in the end, you are relieved that it is done.
But the single biggest failing of the book is the repetitive storytelling. By having two different narrators with Sue and Maud, we see the exact same events twice. With part two I was almost skipping pages going, ok, read this all already from Sue's point of view, let's get to the part where we left off with Sue so that I get to the forward progression of the narration. Though once we move forward, it's back to Sue, and back to the ending of part one! We have learned so much from Maud that it is painful to then have to live through Sue's excruciatingly slow journey to learn all that we now know. One step forward, two steps back. That cliffhanger to end part one... it will blow you away. Yet it is soon nullified and made pointless by all the other twists and turns and cliffhangers that come after it. The impact is lost in the dragging narrative. It got to the point where it was like watching M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, I kept not only waiting for the next not really shocking twist, but I got good at predicting what it would be, and in the end you really didn't care. So, by all means, read this book, just don't read past part one... you'll thank me....more
Lady Julia Grey has been recuperating in Italy after the scandalous events that ended in a fire at her house. Yet staying in Italy with two of her broLady Julia Grey has been recuperating in Italy after the scandalous events that ended in a fire at her house. Yet staying in Italy with two of her brothers and her newest sister-in-law is starting to wear a little thin. Therefore a summons back to the family estate for Christmas is just what she thinks she needs... but she'll bring along the rather adorable, and young, Italian Alessandro just in case, because you never know what is going on with her family.
Back in England not only does she find her rather distant poor relations, Emma and Lucy, ensconced in the house, but Lucy is there with her fiance, Sir Cedric, planning to be married from the Abbey over the holidays. But Julia didn't expect Nicholas Brisbane. The enigmatic dark knight who she had a previous run in with... and it may have resulted in their lips running into each other. Yet here he is affianced and celebrating the holidays with her family. Julia can sense that her father invited Nicholas for some other reason than just to celebrate the season... and soon things start to go amiss. The new curate, Lucian Snow, is suspicious of the gypsy encampment on the land, especially when Julia's jewels go missing. It's not long before the long winter night closes in on them and makes them snowbound with someone with a mind to murder.
After the first book I was uncertain as to whether I wanted to pick up the next book in this series. But the fact that I already owned it combined with so many people whose opinion I respect loving this series I was willing to give it another go. I mean, it wasn't that I hated the first book as such... there where redeeming qualities, like Julia's crazy family... and seeing as this was about the holidays with said crazy family, it looked like it would fit the bill. Plus, I was craving something with a holiday theme, due to my extreme lack of any holiday celebrations yet, or as it turned out, to come. A family, reunited at their crumbling estate for the holidays, when the snow traps them inside with thieves and murderers... and that's just the family members they like, this was just the kind of read I needed to kick off my own marathon book reading holiday season. And for the most part, I heartily enjoyed it.
For quite awhile the book had me in it's spell. All the secrets and plots and double plots. Jewels going missing, a possible ghost, inappropriate liaisons and engagements and marriages. I was in happy little mystery land but then the spell broke. The story went on overly long and started to drag. I date this failing to when the snow melted and they where no longer trapped. There's something delicious about a locked room mystery that loses it's allure once they can just walk free. Because in the end, it's the tension that kept me flipping the pages, and sure, some people would say that the imminent melting of the snow provided the best tension, I might be willing to agree, but the actual melting, no, because this allowed some of the guilty parties to walk free. While this might be more true to life it does not a satisfying ending make.
Speaking of endings... I think that's where this book failed me. I must warn you that my rant will contain spoilers, which I try to avoid for the most part, but I'm sorry, this just really got under my skin, so spoilers it is. I have an inborn need to try to figure out mysteries as I read. I just can not let my mind rest and enjoy the ride. So I'm sitting there going, well if this person was in India while that person was in India, despite all appearances and any evidence to the contrary and the complete unlikelihood of this happening, I bet they met and that they hold some secret between the two. While at the same time thinking, if that doesn't turn out to be the case, the other option is that the unrelated female could possibly be a jewel thief and is committing murder in order to cover up her crime.
So all the while these thoughts are running through my head trying to narrow it down to one or the other of my theories... and then Deanna Raybourn instead uses BOTH of my possible theories. If she had at least narrowed it down to one and tied it up neatly I could have been ok with it because I didn't see it completely coming. But to cop out and use both! Some may say that this lead to a more complicated mystery, to me it just led to a sloppier ending. And speaking of endings! While it was easy to see where this was going, to then totally take the end of the book and rip off Agatha Christie's The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding instead of writing her own twist. I call shenanigan's on Deanna Raybourn. While I guess if you're going to steal, steal from the best... but Lady Julia isn't Poirot and you aren't Dame Agatha. ...more