jacey: (blue eyes)
Boy witrh the Porcelain BladeI’d heard very good things about this book, so I was a little disappointed that it didn’t live up to its hype. There was much to admire, but also things that rankled. I’ve lost track of the number of times Lucien, our hero, was knocked unconscious, for instance. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Set in the sprawling castle of Demesne in the kingdom of Landfall, Lucien is an Orfano, one of the despised and feared, yet privileged Orfani (orphans, geddit?) who are all deformed in some way—born different—but not imbued with any special powers as far as I can tell. Raised in the castle and given the best education in all things, including martial arts, the Orfani are neither one thing nor the other. Set against each other by the system of annual testing, their lives are constantly in danger, from each other as well as from factions who should be protecting them (the mysterious Major Domo and one particularly vicious teacher).

Lucien’s story is told in two separate timelines: from his fateful testing at eighteen and what follows, interspersed with chapters from his childhood, filling us in on the backstory. He’s a lonely little boy who grows up into a lonely young man. He’s desperately concerned with his deformity (lack of external ears, though it doesn’t seem to affect his hearing). Much of this book is concerned with the origins of the Orfani and what Lucien discovers causes an eventual confrontation with the mad king and his Major Domo. The alternating chapters don’t really work for me. Breaking the forward narrative to leap back to a childhood incident pulled me out of the story. I could have done without the flashbacks altogether. Each one made a point or added information, but this could have been covered by a brief summary.

The setting is vaguely Italian Renaissance, delivered mostly via the names and the occasional swear word, yet nothing seems to exist beyond the island kingdom of Landfall. There’s no trade, no diplomatic missions, no sense of geography. We are given an origin myth which involves a ship landing and sleepers being woken, which hints at spacefarers being woken from coldsleep by the person who becomes the king, but it’s never followed through, so maybe this is foreshadowing for a future book, since this seems to be the first in a sequence. Is it possible that Landfall is the only human settlement on an earth-type planet?

Received from Netgalley in return for a review.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Ill Kept OathI almost didn’t finish this one even though it has many of the elements I like in a novel. It’s a Regency romance with magic. Nuff said? Just my sort of thing, usually, but it took me a little while to get into it.

Prudence Fairfeather and Lady Josephine Weston have been raised together as cousins, but have not been told of their magical inheritance. Lord Middlemere (Josephine’s somewhat lacklustre father) has taken an oath to keep them from magic.

Prudence goes to London for her debut season, but when she’s given some artefacts that belonged to her late mother, things start to get weird. In particular the wearing of her mother’s ring seems to imbue her with a talent for the truth. She managed to have a few fairly disastrous happenings which put a dent in her chances in the Marriage Mart. Meanwhile Josephine, still too young to attend the London season, discovers a talent for swordsmanship and an attraction to a certain young lieutenant who is hunting trolls (yes, trolls) in the district.

The characters are well-drawn, though I could have wished that the pace was a little more sprightly, especially in the first part of the book. It picks up in the second half, however and fairly romps home to an ending. It’s not a perfect book by any means, but it’s a competent debut.

Received from Netgalley in return for a review.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Free SpaceI really enjoyed the first Evagardian book, The Admiral, and on a general level I enjoyed this one, too, but where The Admiral had more questions to answer, in Free Space we already know some of the answers, so a large chunk of the intrigue is missing. When the Admiral (we still don’t know his real name, but we now know what he did and why the Evgardians want to silence him) and three companions are kidnapped while on a jaunt to a leisure destination, this book turns into another get-me-out-of-here story, though not on the same scale as The Admiral. Our main character (I can only keep calling him the Admiral, sorry.) is relying on his wits (and his date, Salmagard, one of the trio of rookies from The Admiral) to survive. It would help, of course, if he hadn’t been injected with a deadly poison to start off with. He may not necessarily be at his best.

When the opening kidnap took place I expected that it would be resolved quickly and the story would move on, but, in fact, the whole book is the kidnap and how they all survive it. The writing is equally gripping, but the scope of the whole book smaller than its predecessor. It’s still worth reading (and I will read the next one when it’s published) but it didn’t grip me as much as The Admiral.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Ruin and RisingIn the final Grisha book things come to a head for Alina and Mal. The Darkling rules and Alina has fallen under the power of a bunch of zealots who worship her as a saint, but won’t let her reclaim her Sun-Summoner power. Alina determines to find the last of the amplifiers to boost her power to defeat the Darkling, but there’s a nasty twist lying in wait for her. The triangle between Alina, Mal and Sturmhond/Nickolai is still causing problems. Alina has a big decision to make.

I’ve enjoyed Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy. I wish I’d read it before the Six of Crows duo as the knowledge of the Grisha feeds into Six of Crows, and some of the characters return in a minor role. Also Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom shows the author’s growth. (They are also highly recommended.)
jacey: (blue eyes)
Siege and StormFollowing on from Shadow and Bone, this book sees Mal and Alina fleeing Ravka, but their freedom is fleeting. Alina is unhappy, and covering up her Sun Summoner powers takes its toll. The Darkling emerges with a frightening new power. We meet a fabulous new character, Sturmhond, a privateer who turns out to be so much more. There are complications between Mal and Alina, between Alina and Sturmhond and between Mal and Sturmhond. This is not exactly a love triangle, but it is a triangle and it’s developed quite well (though Mal spends a fair bit of time being an arse in this book.) It’s all about the search for amplifiers that will increase Alina’s power an enable her to defeat the darkling and reverse the big nasty darkness that splits the land.

I can’t say much more without spoilers. The whole Grisha trilogy is one story served up as three books, rather than three standalones. I recommend reading all three together.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Crooked KingdomCrooked Kingdom begins where Six of Crows ended. After pulling a successful caper at the Ice Court on behalf of Jan van Eck Kaz Brekkers gang has been ruinously doublecrossed and Inej, the Wraith, taken prisoner. Though he would never admit it Inej means more to Kaz Brekker than anything else, but Kaz is a hard-nosed criminal and part of his invulnerability is caring for nothing.

Kaz is nominally second in command of a street gang called the Dregs, though their leader Per Rollins has relaxed into letting Kaz do all the work. Kaz has assembled his own little team: Nina, a grisha (magic) heartrender who can control the human body with the power of her mind, but who is now suffering the after effects of a drug; Matthias, a Fjerdan soldier who promised to kill Nina, but fell in love with her instead; Inej, the Wraith, a light-footed, acrobatic spy who was brought to Ketterdam as a slave; Jesper, a sharpshooter whose big failing is that he's addicted to gambling. The sixth member of the team is Wylan, the son of Van Eck, the council member who doublecrossed Kaz and his team. Wylan has his own problems with dear old dad. In addition there's Kuwei Yul Bo, half their hostage, half under their protection and all trouble. Kuwei's father invented a horrific drug, jurda parem, which amplifies the talents of Grisha before killing them, and Kuwei might be the best hope for finding an antidote. The problem is that he's wanted by almost every faction in the city.

Thus the stage is set for another hectic visit to Ketterdam and, more specifically, the Barrel - the bad part of a bad place. Kaz Brekker is out for revenge and one way or another he intends to see van Eck pay for his doublecross and Pekka Rollins pay for a much deeper hurt inflicted six years earlier.

The characters are fascinating. They are a bundle of conflicting flaws. Kaz is clever, twisted and dark, ruthless and desperately trying to hide the fact that he's become fond of (and reliant upon) his gang. He's as hard as nails, but has a weakness that he keeps hidden, knowing it could kill him. Inej can scale a building or walk a high wire, but after a year imprisoned in a brothel she doesn't want to be touched. Nina is still at the stage of withdrawal that she'll beg for another dose of parem. Wylan, despite his cleverness with chemicals, can't read and believes this makes him a second class human being because it's what his father has always told him. Jesper is always driven towards risk and the next big gamble. Matthias thinks he's a traitor to his own country, which isn't too far from the truth.

The action is fast and furious with many twists and turns while Kaz and his gang try to keep ahead of the people who want them dead--which is just about everyone in the city, mercher and criminal alike. There's a satisfactory ending (no cliffhangers like Six of Crows) but enough possibilities that I hope this is not the last we see of Brekker and his Crows. Though this seems to be written for the YA market, it’s hard enough and fast enough to easily appeal across the board.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Angel comes to Devils KeepAn unlikely but amusing plot. When Angelica Lovelace, American born daughter of an English ‘younger son’ comes to England to find a husband she promises her father she’ll make a good marriage. On the way to a house party her coach is wrecked in a storm and she stumbles across Huntington McLaughlin – almost literally. Hunt’s horse throws him when Angel pops out of the forest and he sustains a head injury resulting in amnesia. Angel rescues him from rising waters but gets into a tangle when she claims to be his wife so as not to scandalise the farmer who takes them in. I’m certainly not going to outline the plot, but one thing leads to another and Hunt and Angel spend a fair amount of the book knowing that they shouldn’t fall in love but… Well, you get the drift. It’s a bright and breezy read.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Miss Morrison's Second ChanceA Regency romance featuring Verity Morrison and her one time sweetheart Bradford Pemberton, torn apart by jealousy some twelve years earlier. Verity has dwindled into spinsterhood while Pemberton, exiled to foreign lands, made his fortune. When Pemberton returns for a visit to set some affairs in order he expects that Verity must me long married. Verity, seeing Pemberton in the company of her flighty and disreputable married sister, wonders whether she ever had his heart in the first place. It’s one of those stories where the protagonists could have solved a lot of misunderstandings if they’d sat down together over a nice cup of tea, but I’m probably not giving much away to say that it all works out in the end.  It’s a pleasant read – worth spending a few hours on.
jacey: (blue eyes)
RevengerSet in the far, far future when there are myriad small worlds interconnected by trade routes and some 'baubles' containing remnants of alien tech which are valuable but difficult (and dangerous) to get. There are vessels and crews whose sole purpose is to penetrate the baubles and amongst those crews there's a fair amount of rivalry, but no crew as cruel or ruthless as that led by the legendary Bosa Sennen

Two teen sisters, Adrana and Arafura Ness, escape the clutches of their overprotective father to go off adventuring into space, ostensibly to shore up the family's failing finances. They are bone-readers with the capability to jack into alien skulls and communicate across space instantly. Captain Rackamore takes the girls on board and teaches them the basics, but when they are attacked by Bosa Sennen everything goes pear-shaped. Adrana and Fura are separated and Fura, who narrates the story, must go to extraordinary lengths to keep a promise she's made to herself.

This is a little coy about admitting it's a book suitable for the older end of the YA market, but it's actually a book that can easily cross over into both adult and YA. It's a rip-roaring space-based adventure with high stakes. The blurb says it's for lovers of Firefly and Star Wars and I can see where it's coming from. There are certainly echoes of Firefly in the independent nature of the small crews risking all, sometimes scoring, sometimes not.

The worldbuilding is imaginative, but Reynolds doesn't spoonfeed the details to the reader. What are the baubles? How are they sealed? What were the alien occupations that went before? We gradually find out more as we go through, but there are many more layers to this universe that could be unveiled in future books.

Imaginative and exciting. Well worth reading.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Talisman RingLord Lavenham’s dying wish is that Sir Tristram Shield should marry Eustacie, his young French cousin and take over the administration of the estate, since the heir, Ludovic, is currently out of the country, having been accused of murder a few years earlier. Tristram is mature and sensible, Eustacie young and flighty (and somewhat silly). It looks like a match made in hell, though Tristram is willing to go through with it as he thinks it’s about time he should wed. His heart is not involved.

Things turn rapidly when Eustacie decides to run away and with the organisational ability of a cucumber manages to get herself into trouble almost immediately by running into smugglers on a dark and lonely stretch of road. But the leader of the smugglers is Ludovic and when he’s shot by excisemen, Eustacie ends up at an inn with him where they meet Sarah Thane who is travelling with her brother who has settled in to the Inn with a severe case of man-flu and several bottles from the inn’s excellent cellar. Tristram isn’t far behind and soon Sarah muscles in on the adventure,too. It turns out that Ludovic, protesting his innocence in the murder, reckons that his cousin (who stands to inherit the Lavenham estate) is the guilty party and finding the talisman ring will prove the matter.

A regency romance with a twist of mystery, adventure: smugglers and a murder. A missing ring can prove one man’s innocence and another’s guilt. There’s a riotous cast of characters, not all playing the traditional roles. Whose story is it? Who’s the hero and who’s the heroine?
jacey: (blue eyes)
Night in the Lonesome OctA friend recommended this to me a couple of years ago and I kept forgetting about it – which is a pity because it’s great. Set in a Victorianesque England and told from the point of view of Snuff, the dog, who belongs to Jack, it’s horrific, quirky and funny (those aren’t mutually exclusive). We’re left to figure out what’s happening as a bunch of characters from (his)story and fiction (Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Rasputin, Dr Frankenstein, Larry Talbot and The Great Detective amongst others) prepare for some kind of game or contest which involves a fair amount of grave robbing and—it seems—a little murder and mayhem. There are factions—openers and closers—and we must fathom who is aligned with whom. Snuff does occasionally get to discuss things with Jack, but mostly his circle of friends-who-might-be-enemies includes the familiars of the other magical types: cat, rat, snake, bat and owl. We follow the crew through the days of October, day by day, as the game builds to Halloween. Light in tone, but grim in subject I have to admire Zelazny’s imagination and brilliance.

Review copy provided by Netgalley.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Lord St Claires AngelI’ve had a spate of reading Regency romances of late, so maybe I’m getting a bit jaded, but this wasn’t the best. The heroine is an arthritic spinster (which is a refreshing change) and the hero a rake about to reform. Both of them are sympathetic characters, but unfortunately they spend far too much time musing on the meaning of love and the whole thing seemed somewhat over-long to support the simple story. Sweet but not riveting.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Little DonkeyA short story which follows in from The Nothing Girl. Apart from a glitch in timing (something right at the end of The Nothing Girl doesn’t tie into the timeline of Little Donkey) this is a fun read. The vicar wants to borrow Marilyn the Donkey for the church nativity play but anyone who knows what kind of chaos the Checkland household lives in could predict the results. More about Jenny and Russell (post wedding) together with the excellent peripheral characters and even a visit from Thomas the invisible (to most people) horse. You should probably read The Nothing Girl first. Recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Nothing GirlI’ve burned through all Jodi Taylor’s back catalogue this year – her Chronicles of St Marys’ books and her historical fiction under the name of Isabella Barclay– but since I mostly read SF and historicals I hadn’t considered reading The Nothing Girl. At first glance it looked like chick-lit, which I’m not fond of, however, I’ve loved all of Ms Taylor’s writing so thought I should give it a try. I’m not disappointed. Having read and thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m not actually sure how to categorise it. Chick-lit crossed with fantasy? Possibly. Mystery – yes, there’s a bit of that, too. Romance? Ditto. Or maybe it’s just mainstream fiction. It all depends on whether you think the giant golden horse that only Jenny can see is real or imaginary. The fact is that Jenny thinks he’s real, so that’s good enough for me.

Jenny is an introverted young woman with a dreadful stammer not helped by her aunt and uncle’s overprotectiveness. Her parents died and left her well provided for, but traumatised. She lives quietly in an attic room, fully equipped with bookshelves, computer, and a giant golden horse called Thomas who arrived on the day she tried to commit suicide as a thirteen-year-old. Thomas is still with her – and will remain with her until she doesn’t need him any more.

It’s a complicated family worthy of Jilly Cooper. The daughter of the house, Jenny’s glamorous cousin, has had (or maybe is still having) an abusive on-off relationship with Russell Checkland (currently off) whom Jenny has known since school (where he was one of the few who treated her kindly). Russell, a talented artist, lost his muse and his will to paint when Jenny’s cousin left him. Jenny’s cousin has a new man but doesn’t want anyone else to have Russell – which is a pity because Russell has just asked Jenny to marry him. What? Where did that come from? Well, it’s simple enough. Russell has a fabulous old farmhouse but no money to repair it. Jenny has an inheritance but no life outside of her bedroom. Jenny gets a home, Russell gets to keep his home together. It’s a simple arrangement that’s about to get a whole lot more complicated, especially since Jenny keeps having ‘accidents’. Who’s to blame or is she just very clumsy?

As ever I loved Jodi Taylor's 'voice'. There were definite giggle moments in this book. It's light and entertaining while telling an interesting story of genuine depth.

BTW, I don't think the cover does this book any favours and is probably what originally contributed to me dismissing this book as 'chick lit'. without examining it too closely
jacey: (blue eyes)
AdmiralFour cryo-sleepers wake on a strange vessel in space, the first three are rookie Evagardian military personnel and the last is an admiral - or so it says on his sleeper. He's as surprised about this as the other three are. This is a get-me-out-of-here story paced like a race over hurdles. Problem after problem besets our quartet at breakneck speed. They are not actually in space, but on a planet, their ship on unstable ground, and the crew is dead--in bizarre circumstances. The planet is uninhabited and uninhabitable, but are they alone? Though they don't all trust him the three rookies (skilled but inexperienced) follow the admiral's lead. Throughout the story we get hints as to who this 'admiral' might be. I guessed (about halfway through) what he'd done, if not who he was, and it turns out I was right, but the narrative kept me engrossed to the end. Yes, the 'admiral' is an unreliable narrator deliberately hiding his identity, but I can forgive that for the rest of the book and the fact that it is the first book in a series. I'll be looking for the next. Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
HealerDid the fashion for sexy men in kilts begin with Outlander or was there an earlier trend that I missed? (Disclaimer: I’ve never had a thing about men in kilts!) Well, this is one of those sexy men in kilts books, but for all that it’s engaging and a quick, light read.

Lynelle is an outcast in her own family home just south of the Scottish border (in the days when the border was somewhat flexible and border raids were de rigeur). She’s been rejected by her father and stepmother and has been brought up by the local healer (now deceased). When her half-brother is kidnapped by a Scottish raiding party from just over the border, Lynelle sets out to rescue him, not so much out of love for the boy, but because she wants to prove herself to her father. She exaggerates her healing skills – learned but little practised. In a trade (two weeks of her time in return for the release of the boy) she’s sent along to Closeburn with Laird William Kirkpatrick to tend his injured brother. William is shy of healers, having banished one from Closeburn for failing to save various members of his family.

Of course Lynelle falls for the brooding William (rather too easily, maybe) and you can probably more-or-less guess the rest. It’s a fun, light read and there are no great surprises in the ending, but it satisfies the story.

Just for the record, I hate historical romance covers that have headless bare six-packs on the cover. At least this one has a headless bare back.

Note: Review copy provided by netgalley
jacey: (blue eyes)
House of CardsThis is the second outing for lawyer/negotiator Margrit and gargoyle, Alban, in contemporary New York City. Following the events in Heart of Stone, Margrit, who works for the city as a public defence council, is now fully aware of the Old Races, Vampires, Dragons, Djinni, Gargoyles and Selkies, though Selkies, as far as she knows, are a diminishing race. She’s in a dangerous position, but things have quietened down somewhat since Alban (Gargoyle) has decided that he's going to step back from any kind of relationship with Margrit in order to keep her safe. Sadly, his logic doesn’t work. Margrit is attacked in Central Park, and then drawn into a negotiation between crimelord Janx (a Dragon) and billionaire Eliseo Daisani (a Vampire). Tensions mount when Margrit’s boss is murdered, with all the signs of a Djinn being the culprit and Margrit suspects Janx’s henchman, Malik, whom Margrit finds even more scary than Janx. Her on-off relationship with detective Tony is even more off than on and finally she admits that it may be permanently off. The balance of power shifts when a new player comes to town. Margrit is offered an ultimatum and a new job and learns a few hard truths. And then there’s Alban…

I thoroughly enjoyed this and will certainly be watching out for more books by C.E. Murphy in future.

Because I bought this book for my kindle, I didn’t pay much attention to the cover until I came to do my write-up. Margrit in the book is most definitely African American, consistently described as ‘café latte’ in skin tone, however the cover, though a night-time scene with lots of shade, makes Margrit look distinctly pink in hue, which is a pity. No reflection on Ms. Murphy since the cover choice usually belongs to the publisher, not the author.
jacey: (blue eyes)
City of WolvesA murder mystery. Private investigator Drake doesn't work for nobility, but he's not given much choice when he's set upon by two thugs. It's not entirely the best way to set on a new employee, but he's persuaded to investigate the death of Lord Abergreen. His investigations lead him to a shocking discovery. If I said the clue is in the title, that's as much as you're going to get.

I'd almost decided not to finish this book when there was a turn of events that piqued my interest. Luckily the book itself was short or I might still have given up.. I think my main gripe was the fact that I didn't much care for Drake. He was a bit of a negative character and didn't seem to care for much himself, except staying alive.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Husband CampaignI downloaded this from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Note this is number three in a series, but not having read the first two wasn’t a problem. It works as a standalone. Maybe I didn’t look too carefully at the rest of the blurb once I’d seen there was a horse element to the story, but I didn’t realise this was a Christian–inspired historical romance. If I had I wouldn’t have started it. However the Christian aspects didn’t grate on me. Since this is set in the Regency it’s quite likely that the protagonists have a deep and abiding belief and that in times of trouble their thoughts turn skyward.

That said, unfortunately the characters and the storyline left me feeling a little meh. Other than two socially awkward people deciding they are in love after their marriage the only thing at stake is an equine transaction. The hero, John, is a minor aristocrat and a breeder and trainer of fine horses. Having accidentally ‘compromised’ the heroine he marries her out of a sense of duty and the rest of the book is Amelia setting out to earn his love and to get him to turn their relationship sexual. She would probably have an easier time of it if she had four hooves and ate oats for breakfast. John seems somewhat colourless and mostly sexless and Amelia is too nice (which she freely admits).

It’s a fast read and not without some interest, however the thing that really threw me out of the story is the heroine breakfasting on cold popovers—in a REGENCY novel! Harlequin, what was your copy editor thinking? Also the author is obviously American because a lot of her horse terms are particularly Americentric and they don’t transfer across the Atlantic. So instead of a stud or stud farm we have a ‘horse farm’ and instead of a bridle or even a headcollar, Amelia’s horse wears a ‘headstall’. John does explain to Amelia what a girth is, but instead of tightening the girth he ‘cinches’ it. Okay, maybe I’m being picky, and it doesn’t really affect the quality of the writing, but I do wish editors would run books set in England past an English beta-reader. Each time I came across something like that it dragged me out of the story.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Gt St Mary's day OutMax and Leon now have a child which means they can't go on missions together in case they don't come back. So on this occasion Max, fresh from maternity leave, gets to go on a 'day out' to see a Shakespeare play - which just happens to be Hamlet at the Globe in 1601, with the Bard himself playing the part of the ghost. Most of St Mary's volunteer for the trip, including Dr. Bairstow, the director, the cook, the costume mistress, not to mention the usual suspects: Max herself, Guthrie and Mr Markham. If only Professor Rhapson hadn't become a stowaway on a voyage to the New World and Mrs Mack hadn't used a skillet in anger things might have been OK... until, that it, the point at which Shakespeare went up in flames. Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St Marys are an instant must-buy and until there’s a full-length novel available I’ll settle for a short story full of the usual disasters and humour.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Okay, I admit it, I've just binge-read three Heyers in a row. It must be the after effects of finishing my own historical fantasy and sending it on its way to the publisher.

Regency BuckOn the death of their father, Judith and Peregrine Tavener, rich but underage, are left to the guardianship of Julian Audley, Lord Worth, someone they have never met and know nothing about. They decide to leave Yorkshire and set themselves up in London. Worth, their guardian, turns out to be not much older than they are and, after the unfortunate circumstances of their first accidental meeting, dislikes the guardianship arrangement as much as they do. Judith is contrary and independent. Worth is overbearing and domineering and Heyer pretty much tries to set him up as the villain of the piece to begin with. (Heyer readers will, of course, realise this is a false trail of breadcrumbs.) Apparently this was Heyer's first Regency Romance. It contains real historical characters (Beau Brummell, the Prince regent, the Duke of Clarence etc.) mixed in with fictional ones. Judith is contrary and occasionally downright stupid. Audley is arrogant and annoying beyond belief, but (contrary to Judith's belief) has their best interest at heart. I'm inclined to think that these two characters deserve everything they get. The best character is Worth's brother, Charles Audley, who will reappear as the main male character in This Infamous Army. I wondered how the Alastair-Audley books linked up, but apparently the female protagonist in Infamous Army, is the granddaughter of Dominic, Duke of Avon from Devil's Cub.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Devils CubThis is the next generation book following on from These Old Shades, which makes the setting slightly earlier than the Regency, so let's say 'Georgian' - however it's still a 'silver fork' novel. Dominic Alastair, Marquis of Vidal, is a reckless, hot-headed youth, a duellist, a rake and a seducer posessed of a murderous temper. He plans to steal away with the lovely Sophie Challoner, who (encouraged by her grasping mother) believes he'll have to marry her if he compromises her (not what Vidal has in mind at all). At the last minute he's thwarted by Sophie's thoughtful older sister who (masked) takes her place at the rendezvous. In a rage Vidal kidnaps Mary, taking her aboard his yacht and sailing to France. Once he calms down he realises she's 'not that sort of girl' and that he's compromised her reputation beyond repair. The rest of the book is Vidal making amends and Mary, not believing his sincerity, and trying to look out for herself. Typical Heyer, very enjoyable.
jacey: (blue eyes)
SylvesterSylvester, Duke of Salford, somewhat self-important and a bit of an arse, decides he needs a wife and clinically begins to consider suitable young ladies. Persuaded by his godmother that Phoebe Marlow (her granddaughter, might suffice he goes to Wiltshire to meet her, finding her overbearing parents insufferable and Phoebe a nondescript country miss. She's had one season in London and on returning home has (secretly) has written a novel in which Sylvester (whom she met only once) is the thinly disguised villain. It turns out that Phoebe, far from nondescript except when her stepmother is urging her to be on her best behaviour. She learns that Salford is likely to propose and decides to run away to London, to her grandmother, to avoid being married to an insufferably arrogant man she barely knows. Persuading her best friend (male) to drive her she gets herself into an awkward situation which Sylvester gets her out of. This follows Heyer's usual pattern of misunderstandings (especially when the novel is published and becomes the talk of the ton) and an eventual reconciliation, so we get the expected ending, of course. (And Sylvester is not quite such an arse by the end of it.)
jacey: (blue eyes)
Purloined PoodleOne of the best characters in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid series is Atticus O'Sullivan's Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. Oberon can talk (telepathically) to Atticus and can understand human speech. He likes watching TV, and even has some grasp of human history and literature, but forget numeracy, (his grasp of that is none, one, lots). Despite his language and education, he remains wholly dog and can't quite understand why humans refuse to sniff each others' butts on first meeting.

This novella is from Oberon's viewpoint. When champion show dogs begin to disappear Oberon determines that he (assisted by Atticus) should be the one to find them. (He even insists on a deerstalker hat and a pipe to make himself truly Sherlock Holmesian.)

Told in Oberon's unique voice this is an amusing novella, set somewhat later in the series timeline that I've read, but as a standalone it's not a problem.
jacey: (blue eyes)
WillowkeepCharlotte Darby is in dire straits. She's run out of money; her mother is dead; her shipping merchant father has vanished presumed dead, and she's the guardian of her much younger special needs sister, a difficult, uncommunicative child prone to massive temper tantrums and uncontrollable behaviour that has made her a target for derision in Hull, where this story begins. Then the unimaginable happens, a young man appears on her doorstep to tell her she's heiress to the prosperous Willowkeep and a vast fortune. So you'd think everything would be all right, yes? Well, no. Though Charlotte is no longer in danger of starving, her good fortune brings its own problems.

Henry Morland is Charlotte's estate steward, an astute young man, impoverished by the need to pay off his father's considerable debts. He's Charlotte's only friend. Her late uncle's widow, resident at Willowkeep, resents Charlotte having the fortune to which she assumed her son (by her first marriage) would inherit. The son has set his cap at the heiress, and there are strange goings on designed to part Charlotte from her fortune. Then she discovers that in order to keep her inheritance she must marry before her twenty-first birthday but she's determined that even if she goes back to a life of poverty, she'll never marry. There are reasons...

I've been reading a lot of Regencyesque romances lately. This one is quite refreshing as it avoids London and the season in favour of staying in the country. Charlotte tries hard, but she doesn't have the polish that the ton expects, and she's also independently minded, having looked after herself since she was in her early teens. Also the challenging sister, possibly autistic, is an unusual and by no means unwelcome character. And then there's the ghost of Anne Boleyn...
jacey: (blue eyes)
What to do with a DukeI had this as a review copy from netgalley. it's a fun read as long as you don't know too much about the period. Both the main characters have incredibly modern ideas for people of the Regency. Having said that, if you take it for what it is, this is engaging, light and frothy and you'll rip through it in a day, forgiving it its inconsistencies and somewhat odd central concept. The duke of the title, Marcus, has been cursed for the deeds of his ancestor two hundred years ago. Unless he marries for love he'll die before his heir is born. Family history bears out that the curse is effective. His own father died while he was still in his mother's womb. The curse also demands that he maintains a house in the village of Loves Bridge (close to the ancestral seat that he avoids like the plague) which can be occupied in peace by a spinster. When the incumbent spinster unexpectedly decamps to get married, there are three Loves Bridge females vying for the place but Marcus only has eyes for one of them.

Cat is twenty four and considers herself on the shelf. She wants to be an author so she's not anxious to find a husband even though her desperate mother keeps throwing her at a local farmer who persistently asks for her hand. The vacancy at the spinster house is an opportunity to get away from the crowded vicarage and her six younger siblings, so she pursues it with vigour, even though the arrival of the (absentee landlord) duke does turn her head a little. More than a little, in fact.

You can see where this is going, can't you? Yes, of course you can, and it does go there in no uncertain terms. If I have one criticism it is that the duke's head is in his pants every time he sees Cat. He seems to have a problem with... err... tumescence. (Quite a problem in tight breeches and cutaway jackets I presume!) Pretty soon Cat's head is also in her nethers... as I say, attitudes not usually seen in Regency romances. It adds to the fun, but detracts from the period feel.

My other caveat is that there's rather a large loose thread at the end, which apparently is finished off in the next book, so this is not really a standalone if you want to see how Cat and Marcus' future plays out. It does make the ending slightly unsatisfactory, but I guess has the effect of encouraging the reader to seek out the next in the series.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Earls BetrothalA damaged hero. A beautiful heroine who has no expectations because of her lowly birth. A good hearted family. This book has a typical Regency romance, but also shows the returning soldier with a case of PTSD after happenings at Badajoz in the Peninsular War.

Amelia Clarke, destitute daughter of a deceased country vicar, has (through the good offices of the aunt of her late mother's school friend) taken up the position of paid companion to a kindly lady whose two sons are dead and whose husband is at death's door. And then the younger son, Anthony, not dead after all, turns up on the doorstep having left Wellington's army following his wounding at the brutal seige of Badajoz. There's much rejoicing, but Anthony's scars are more than physical and he's barely holding it together, especially since his older brother's death has left him the heir and now his perilously ill father is pressing him to marry and produce the required 'heir and a spare'.

Despite the obvious growing attraction, Amelia knows that Anthony is out of her reach, until something happens that makes her situation both exciting and untenable.

Being able to guess how something will end doesn't necessarily spoil the enjoyment of finding out how the characters get there. There's a nice double twist regarding Amelia's humble origins and a surprising way for Anthony to expunge his demons.

Sadly I don't think the cover does this a lot of favours.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Quiet GentlemanNot my favourite Heyer by any means, but still worth reading. Gervase Frant, having been estranged from his father for most of his life inherits the earldom, much to the chagrin of his younger half-brother, Martin, and his father’s second wife, an annoyingly boring dowager with barely two brain cells to rub together. He’s in the army (just after Waterloo) and waits a year to resign and go home – home being a rambling old castle in Lincolnshire – and is met with barely concealed hostility from his stepmother and half-brother, though welcomed by his amiable cousin, Theo, who stewards the earl’s holdings exceedingly well. Soon after Gervase’ old army friend arrives and there ensues some rivalry for the hand of Marianne whom Martin considered to be ‘his’, though Marianne has other ideas. After a couple of suspicious accidents it becomes obvious that someone is trying to murder Gervase. Suspicion naturally falls on the hot-headed and ill-tempered Martin, but there is no proof. This isn’t so much a whodunit as a who’s-trying-to-do-it. Gervase figures it out with the help of Miss Morville, a guest at the castle and a young woman possessed of a great deal of solid common sense, though, sadly, not looks. The romance in this Regency romance, is downplayed in favour of the attempted murder plot, but it’s sweet all the same, even though we don’t get to see much of it from inside the character’s heads. The heroine is stoically intelligent and her parents (who have raised her to be solidly republican) are amusing. So why isn’t it one of my favourites? Perhaps because the main viewpoint characters are heavily male the conversations are somewhat verbose and a little stiff at times. Yes, I know, that’s Heyer all over, but this took a little chewing through in the early chapters and only picked up pace towards the end. Also Ms Heyer doesn’t reveal much of what’s in her characters’ heads, so we’re locked out of Gervase’s thought processes, simply to make the end reveal a surprise.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Penric & the ShamanThe second Penric novella, picking up Penric’s story after he’s been trained and installed as a Divine of the Bastard’s Order, and a Sorceror, in the religious house of the princess archdivine in Martensbridge. Penric rides (or is ridden by) a demon, Desdemona who has already inhabited many other divines in her long relationship with humans, so Pen not only had the demon personality breaking through his own, but also the other divines Des had inhabited. It gives him skills and powers he can call on when he needs to, but the other personalities also pop up when he doesn’t always want them.

Called away from his task of making woodcuts of the Temple’s books (magically) Pen is sent on a mission to retrieve Inglis, a rogue shaman wanted for murder. His companion (apart from the ever present Desdemona) is Senior Locator Oswyl, a man who takes his duties very seriously. Pen and Oswyl don’t really see eye to eye. Oswyl follows his head and Pen follows his heart. When the shaman is found their troubles are only just beginning. Set in the world of the Five Gods (like The Curse of Chalion) theology is a practical discipline, not just a theoretical one.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Dastardly DukeI guess the author is American because we didn’t have lynx and bobcats in British woodland in the Regency period. Neither did we eat ‘biscuits’ for breakfast. I recommend Ms Putnam reads: Susanne Alleyn: Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders to remind her that a little fact checking is better than making assumptions.

OK that’s got that out of the way. That apart, the rest of it works well. The book is fun. The Duke of Claridge takes a bet and must take a street wench and turn her into a society lady. (Yes, one of those stories.) The difference here is that his street wench, Hannah Gregory, is not quite what she seems. She is a lady but has fallen on hard times due to the fact that she’s profoundly deaf. It adds another dimension to what might otherwise be a Regency re-tread of My Fair Lady (or Pygmalion).
jacey: (blue eyes)
PassengerEtta Spencer is an up-and-coming concert violinist about to make her debut in New York when her world is turned upside down. She fluffs her performance because of a strange sound and then, following it, trips over the corpse of her beloved teacher and then is shoved down a time tunnel ending up in seventeen hundred and something on a sailing ship heading for America with a bitchy young woman (the one who pushed her) and a mixed-race young sailor, Nicholas. (Plus a piratical crew.)

It turns out that Etta is one of the great time-travelling families, but her mother, rather than training her, has left her in complete ignorance. The head of the Ironwood Family has kidnapped Etta's mother back in the present, and unless Etta retrieves a hugely valuable and powerful astrolabe for him her mother will die.

Etta and Nicholas go hurtling off through time tunnels. It's a story of love, intrigue and adventure. Officially this is aimed at the Children's market but it doesn't much feel like a children's book. It's at least YA/New Adult.

I did enjoy this except... except... I hated the ending. In fact it didn't have an ending. It simply stopped. I felt completely let down. This broke the implicit contract between author and reader in that I was looking for a resolution which was absent. It may be a cunning trick to get me to buy the next book, but it was such an abrupt cut-off that all it did was to leave me feeling extremely let down. I don't mind a few loose ends to tease me into reading the sequel, but I do want some kind of resolution at the end of the book.
jacey: (blue eyes)
SummerlongA beautifully written allegorical tale set in the Pacific North West of the USA. Abe, a retired history professor who plays harmonica and writes his book has a long term relationship with Joanna Delvecchio, a senior airline stewardess, with four years to go to the end of her career, and with Jo's often troubled daughter, Lily, who has a series of failed lesbian relationships behind her. They've all been together for twenty years, though they each maintain a separate household, Lily and Del on the mainland, Abe on Gardner, one of the many islands in Puget Sound.

Life is predictable until the arrival of the unlikely sounding Lioness Lazos, a quiet but charismatic waitress at Abe's local diner. Whatever it is that causes Abe and Del to brefriend the newcomer spins its gentle effect wherever she treads. The island seems to be undergoing a perfect summer, flowers bloom where no flowers should be, orcas dance offshore and gradually the lives of three people are irrevocably changed. Who is Lioness and what, or who is she running from?

Saying more than that would give away the twist, but suffice it to say it's a retelling of a very old story.  This is a gentle tale with a bittersweet ending - slightly more bitter than sweet.

I received this as an uncorrected proof review copy from Netgalley
jacey: (blue eyes)
Somnabulist and the psychic thiefThis is a detective story with a supernatural theme. Miss Lane, having left her previous job as companion to a psychic investigator (who turns out to be a fraud) ends up falling into the job of assisting Jasper Jesperson, a Sherlock Holmsian type of consulting detective. It’s all very proper as the household is managed by Mrs Jesperson, Jasper’s formidable mother. Clients are not exactly falling over themselves to employ Jesperson and Lane and the rent is due, but they take on a seemingly simple job to discover where a somnambulist goes when he sleepwalks. Things get complicated when this crosses over with a mystery which brings Miss Lane back into contact with her previous partner. Someone is kidnapping psychics and the police don’t seem very interested in finding out who. Naturally it’s a job for Jesperson and Lane.

I found myself liking the characters. Miss Lane (she hates her name Aphrodite) is intelligent and proactive without ever stepping out of the character of a Victorian lady while Mr Jesperson is hugely talented, though has an enormously high opinion of himself which takes a while to justify. I’m not a natural reader of Victorian detective fiction, though the supernatural elements appealed. To be honest, though it’s extremely well written, I found this a little slow at times, especially in the first half. Ms Tuttle tries for the Victorian voice, and succeeds, but that does mean that everything is very polite and steady; slightly stiff, in fact. It does, however, warm up in the second half as the mystery deepens. I would guess, that this is setting up a series for Jesperson and Lane. Recommended for lovers of detective fiction and the Victorian era.

I received this as a review copy via Netgalley
jacey: (blue eyes)
ChosenAlex Verus, keeps a magic shop in London and keeps his head down, or tries to. He’s not very popular with mage society, having once been apprenticed to a dark mage. His particular skill is that of a diviner. He can see possible futures. It’s not a very strong power, especially when compared to someone who can throw firebolts, but if he can see where the firebolt will land it enables him to not be there when it does.

As this series develops Alex, once a loner out of necessity) begins to gather friends and he’s discovering that he’s comfortable with it. Unfortunately that means when there’s a threat it rebounds on to them as well, and he doesn’t want to put them in danger. The Nightstalkers are hunting dark mages and they have Alex firmly in their sights. The mage council isn’t going to step in (what’s it to them if Alex is killed?) so Alex is more or less on his own… though maybe not entirely.

There are rumours that Alex’s old dark master is returning and Alex is faced with the prospect of revealing things he’s really not proud of to the people he’s come to like and trust. He’s pretty sure that once they learn the truth about him he’ll lose their friendship and support.

One of the charming things about these Alex Verus novels is the voice. Alex is an excellent narrator, wry and down to earth. Jacka is a master of pacing and tension. Highly recommended (though I suggest you read them in series order).
jacey: (blue eyes)
FiremanI’ve had Joe Hill recommended to me a number of times, but this is my first foray into his writing. The Fireman picked me up and wouldn’t let me stop until the very last page. It’s a long book and doesn’t always move at a fast pace, but there’s always something to hold interest. The cultural referencing is a neat trick that keeps the reader grounded in the increasingly horrific world.

There’s a plague – not a virus but a spore. It has a fancy name but everyone calls it dragonscale. First you get the marks on your skin then you burst into flame and burn to death. Understandably the world is trying to keep this in check, but no one really understands how it’s spread, so it’s spreading rapidly – and huge swathes of America are burning.

Harper is a school nurse, but when the schools are closed she volunteers at the local hospital, fully covered in a protective suit. That’s where she meets The Fireman for the first time.  He brings in a child for emergency treatment (appendicitis) and Harper helps him to get medical attention in time to save the boy’s life, thus putting him in her debt. When Harper herself gets the first signs of scale the Fireman is there to save her (and her unborn child) from the husband, Jakob, who wants them to both die in a suicide pact. He takes Harper to a summer camp, a secret refuge for the scale-infected, and there she learns that there’s an alternative to going up in flames.

But the camp is not the ultimate answer. Duelling paranoias cause problems and Harper’s troubles are only just beginning. Her husband has become one of the anti-scale vigilantes and no one is safe. Harper has to protect herself and her baby while at the same time unravelling secrets of the Fireman’s past and his extraordinary talents.

Gripping and involving. Highly recommended.

I had this as a galley proof from netgalley in exchange for a review.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Lies, Damned Lies, and HistoryIf you’ve been following my booklogs you’ll realise that I’ve read all seven of the St Mary’s books in the space of just over a week, plus the five available short stories. To say I’ve enjoyed them would be an understatement. The mayhem caused by the time-travelling historians of St Mary’s, disaster magnets all, have been immensely amusing—just plain fun..

To begin with Max and her partners in crime (literally this time) Peterson and Markham are in deep trouble, having done the wrong thing for the right reasons – or maybe it was the right thing… but no one else sees it that way, It all starts when they accidentally get caught up in a battle involving (King) Arthur and spot an opportunity. Things go sour. They try to set it right and end up almost under house arrest. Regardless of her burgeoning pregnancy Max tries to make amends with another wild scheme. It would have worked out well without Max’s arch-enemy Ronan stepping in. There’s a real race against time at the end.

Whether there will be more to come after this book remains to be seen, but Ms Taylor has left some nice loose ends, although she pretty much sets Max down at the beginning of a new phase in her life. There are still plenty of opportunities for more, however. Oh, and there’s a nice little twist right at the end that made me smile. I highly recommend the whole series – but read them in order.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Christmas PresentShips and Stings and Wedding Rings
Chronicles of St Mary Short Story
In which Max, how happily married to Leon and somewhat pregnant, goes haring off to ancient Egypt in search of a modern gun that one of her team members has left behind – a cardinal sin.

Christmas Present
Chronicles of St Mary’s Short Story 4.5
I managed to read this out of order. It introduces the character who causes the big problem in Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings. St Mary’s prides itself on never leaving anyone behind, but that’s without the interference of Clive Ronan who has come from the future and plagues them up and down the timeline. This rescue is either ten years late or right on time, depending on your perspective.
jacey: (blue eyes)
What Could Possibly Go WrongThe sixth St Mary’s novel – only one more to go before I’ve caught up with all of them – and they’re still not getting old. After the incidents in No Time Like The Past, Max is on light duties for six months while she fully recovers from various injuries, so she swaps departments with Petersen and takes on the mantle of head of training. It should be easy because there are no trainees… until there are, and Max has to not only devise a new training programme but keep her unruly charges under control, preferably without killing or injuring them. If that’s supposed to be light duties I’d hate to see what she’d end up doing on normal duties. She has five students, some of them almost as bolshy as she was herself, but it turns out to be the quiet ones you have to watch. From the Valley of the Kings, the burning of Joan of Arc, a meeting with Herodotus and the opening of the Clifton Suspension Bridge to the Battle of Bosworth Field, Max has to protect the timeline and if that means making some harsh decisions, she knows she’ll have to do it. If she doesn’t History will. I’ve enjoyed all the St Mary’s books. After No Time Like the Past, which was episodic, this one returns to form.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Very First Damned ThingJodi Taylor: The Very First Damn Thing
A welcome St Mary's short story which shows Edward Bairstow coming back through time to establish St Mary's, acquiring funding, and drawing together his team of founder members.

Jodi Taylor: When a Child is Born
Max, Peterson and Markham are sent back to 1066 to observe the coronation of William the Conquror, but stumbling across an injured woodcutter on the way they end up missing the main event and doing something more important. Screwing with the timeline can have consequences, sometimes fatal ones. Luckily History had planned it all along.

Jodi Taylor: Roman Holiday
Max, Markham, Guthrie, Peterson and Van Owen are sent back to ancient Rome to get a look at Julius Caesar, his wife, Calpurnia, and his mistress, Cleopatra, who are sharing a house. Whose great idea was that? Of course, nothing goes according to plan.

I've lumped these short stories together, even though they were all purchased as individual titles for my Kindle. They are all written with Ms Taylor's usual feel for voice and with her light, humourous touch, however because they are standalone incidents, apart from the first one, they don't move the story arc forward. I was a little worried that I might read them out of order (I do like to read a series in timeline order if possible) but it's not obvious from the second and third which part of the St Mary's timeline these belong to, They are enjoyable, but not essential reading. Recommended for completists.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Second ChanceI appear to be well and truly hooked on Ms Taylor’s St Mary’s books. This is my third-in-a-row and I’m just about to order number four.

In this outing for Max Maxwell and the disaster-magnet time-travelling historians of St Mary’s we visit Troy, both before the siege and during, take a quick trip back to the Cretaceous, get mixed up in the Battle of Agincourt, and switch between two realities following a similar timeline. Max manages to deal with an old enemy, but because this is time travel there’s nothing to say that he’s gone forever. This is a very difficult book to review without spoilers – even the book’s own blurb gives more than a clue that there will be a calamitous, event for Max, and indeed there is, but not at the end of the book. This deals with the event and the aftermath and then piles on another calamitous event that occurs at Agincourt… and resolves it in a way that’s entirely unexpected.

Did I say I was hooked on these books? Highly recommended, but read them in order.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Symphony of EchoesI jumped into this on the same day I finished ‘Just One Thing After Another’ – the first St Mary’s book – and since it picks up right where the other leaves off it was just like a continuation. Everything that I liked about the first book was echoed in this one. Ms Taylor gives her lead character, ‘Max’ Maxwell (no one ever calls her Maddie) a unique voice, quirky and caustic but with great underlying humanity. In the wake of the attacks in the first book, the same antagonist is still around, or rather, is around for the first time, because when they encounter him in Mary Queen of Scots' Edinburgh they have the advantage that it’s (for him) before their (Book One) encounters in the Cretaceous and at the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. The disaster-prone historians from Max’s near future timeline end up going further into the future to help sort out Future St Mary’s which is under attack. Max ends up leading (temporarily) with the aid of Chief Farrell, which whom she still has a very stormy relationship.

I must admit I immediately wanted to go and buy the third St Mary’s book and was only prevented by the arrival of a posse of visitors. I’ve tried starting a couple of other books since but just not been able to get into them… oh, okay, I’ve given in and ordered #3. It’s obviously where my reading brain wants to go.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Maddie 'Max' Maxwell PhD is inaugurated into St Mary's Institute of Historical research which uses time travel to grub out the facts of history. Dark, exciting and hilarious in turn, this is a real page turner and yet delivers some real laugh-out-loud moments. Max is the product of a bad upbringing, saved only by the right teacher at the right time. Now that same teacher (retired) points her at St Mary's.

The institution is chaotic and dangerous. Eccentric hardly begins to cover it. Some of the staff are just plain bonkers, but in a useful way. Historians lose their lives or end up injured in a variety of ingenious ways, but somehow they keep functioning. Max survives her initial training, gets promoted to 'historian' and is attracted to tech Chief Farrell. Great! She's in business!

But someone is messing with the timelines, using history for pleasure and profit. On a trip to the Cretaceous to study dinosaurs everything comes to a head and Max must cope!

This book's a lot of fun and highly recommended. I immediately went out and got the second in the series.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Babylon SteelI’ve had this book on my to-be-read pile ever since it came out but somehow never managed to read it. It turns out that it was my bad luck because it’s brilliant and now I have to go and read Ms Sebold’s other books: Shanghai Sparrow and Dangerous Gifts (another Babylon Steel novel).

Babylon Steel is a high-class brothel keeper in Scalentine, a place with many portals to other planes and a mixed population of humans and other races, furred, scaled and magical.. She’s a tough cookie, revelling in sex and always ready for a fight. She’s gathered about her a family of sorts: her cook, her guards and her prostitutes, plus there’s a police chief she can rely on for a good game of chess. She prides herself on running the best brothel in town, but she’s not having a good week. Her taxes are way overdue and sher’s not sure she can pay the bill. The Vessels of Purity, a strict religious order (of men)  are protesting against brothels.

When the mysterious (and very attractive) Darask Fain offers her a job finding a missing girl, Babylon decides to take it, but there are complications.  Neither Fain nor the missing girl are quite what they seem, but neither is Babylon, and Babylon’s secret past is about to catch up with her. Babylon’s past and present are told in alternating chapters, beautifully timed so that they both come together at exactly the right time. Babylon has a thing about young girls being taken advantage of and what she’ll do to help goes beyond money.

This book has a great cast of characters and there’s never a dull moment. Babylon has the knack of making friends and her contacts across the city are introduced both as characters and as part of the world-building. From lizard men and four-breasted hermaphrodites to Police Chief Bitternut who’s a were… but a were what… this is fascinating glimpse into the world of Scalentine as Twomoon approaches – a massive conjunction that echoes across all the planes of existence.

I particularly liked Babylon’s crew. Flower, the big green troll cook, Cruel and Unusual, a pair of siblings who cater for clients with ‘special tastes’, Laney the fae and Previous, the ex-mercenary who guards the door, but doesn’t do ‘upstairs’ work.. They don’t get much page time, but they are well drawn and sympathetic, particularly Previous.

What you think is going to be the main thrust of the story isn’t actually, but it looks as though it will re-emerge in Dangerous Gifts, which I’m looking forward to reading. In the meantime I thoroughly recommend this story. Don’t leave it as long to read it as I did.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Bride GiftA fairly straightforward historical romance set during the wars between Stephen Empress Maude. Helena of Lystanwold is married by proxy to Guy of Helston. They didn’t even meet until after the wedding day.. Guy’s motive is to  possess Lystanwold, (which he does once he’s married to Helena). Helena’s uncle’s motive in pushing for the proxy wedding is to give Helena protection from the grasping, cruel Ranulf, near neighbour with his beady eye on Lystanwold and the earldom.

Yeah, OK it’s not as if you haven’t read this story before in all its variants. Reluctant bride (tick) marries hunky knight (tick) against her will (tick) but they fall for each other regardless (tick) and he saves her from a fate worse than death / death / rampaging hoards (tick). She’s usually feisty (tick) and unforgiving (tick) but it all ends up happily ever after(tick). Having said that this kept me turning the pages. It’s a light read, but engaging.

The sexual tension is handled well and the pace is nicely done. There’s tension with Rosalind whom Helena sees as ‘the other woman’ and Helena takes a while to get over her jealousy. I like Rosalind and could have happily read something with her as the main character. Towards the end of the book, however, both Helena and Guy acquire a sudden dose of stupid and act completely out of character which annoyed me somewhat. I did feel as though they acted for the sake of plot rather than following their own character traits to their logical conclusions, but everything else worked well.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Down and Out in PurgatoryI read this as a review copy from Netgalley.

Tom Holbrook is a man bent on revenge. The girl he loved in college, Shasta, married John Atwater instead of him. Atwater eventually murdered her and got away with it in court. Holbrook has spent the last six years of his life hunting Atwater down, only to be thwarted by Atwater dying, inconveniently, of natural causes. Not to be deterred Holbrook arranges to have himself shot and follows Atwater to purgatory where he intends to wipe out Atwater's ghost as well.

Weird? Yes. A bit too surreal for me, I'm afraid. I've never liked overly long strange dream sequences and most of this novella feels just like that. The ending is a little predictable, but that doesn't really detract. The writing is elegant, as I would expect from Tim Powers, but ultimately, though I wanted to like it, I found this unsatisfying.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Chasing the HeiressDue for Publication 31st May 2016
I had this as a review copy from Netgalley and I confess that I wouldn't have read it if I had known in advance that it was a second book in a series. I prefer to read series in order. However it can mostly be read as a standalone, until you realise that there are a few ongoing plot threads that are not going to be explained.

But worry not, the main plot resolves itself. An heiress - Lucy - on the run from a grasping cousin is hiding out, pretending to be a scullery maid in an inn. Her medical skills (from a life in army camps) save Colin, the younger brother of a duke and currently working for the British Government - a sort-of forerunner of the secret service. He's been sent on a mission without all the facts and it goes sour on him. And of course Lucy and Colin fall in love... There are two plots to resolve, hers and his.

Set in 1819 there are a few historical inconsistencies that pulled me out of the story. For example: pound coins. There was no such thing as a British pound coin until 1983. Also the clothing wasn't quite right for the period, but that's maybe more the fault of the cover artist as Ms. Miles mentions colours but not details of styles. Regency dresses were still high waisted and not crinoline-shaped in 1819.

Despite all that the romance bits were well written and the plot fairly rattled along. It was a light read, but engaging, and kept me turning the pages for the best part of a day. Though I have to say that much trouble could have been avoided if the main protagonists had just had an honest conversation.
jacey: (blue eyes)
VirginsA novella detailing some of the adventures of Jamie Fraser and Ian in France. Set before the happenings in the first Outlander novel, the action takes place just after the death of Jamie's father and the flogging that disfigured Jamie's back. It's a standalone adventure with Jamie and Ian working in a mercenary company detailed to protect a consignment for a Jewish doctor. The two protagonists are little more then boys, the virgins of the title, but big boys with swords. I thought it might detail how Ian lost his leg, but it leaves the duo still standing to fight another day.

I bought this as a separate ebook, but I believe it was originally in the Dangerous Women anthology edited by George R.R. Martin.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Aeronaut's WindlassWow! What a ride! Jim Butcher kicks off his new Cinder Spires series in fine style with The Aeronaut's Windlass, a steampunky tale of action and intrigue set in Spire Albion. The humans (and not quite humans) live vertically in the spires, huge monoliths two miles in diameter and monstrously tall. Whatever is on the ground is no longer friendly to their kind. Transport is by 'airships' but not as we know them. They are powered by enormously valuable crystals for lift and power, harnessing the ether.
There's a cold war brewing, about to turn hot. Captain Grimm of the privateer vessel Predator has been a thorn in the side of Spire Aurora for some time and finally the Auroran navy sends a warship after him that almost finishes Predator completely. With his crystals cracked and his ship in a bad way Grimm is offered a way of earning his repairs - a mission to the lower levels of the spire, crowded and dangerous, with an oddly assorted bunch of spies.

Gwen, from the powerful House Lancaster (Albion's crystal growers) and Bridget of House Tagwyn are new recruits to the Spirearch's guard. Together with Gwen's cousin, the warrior-born Benedict and Bridget's friend, Rowl, a cat, and two etherealists, they make up the somewhat oddly composed spy-party, but each one has a part to play after the Auroran's mount an attack on Albion. It's not simply an attack for its own sake, there's a purpose, but what is it? Grimm and his crew together with the 'spies' are despatched to find out.

Mayhem ensues.

The worldbuilding is fascinating and the characters, human and otherwise, complex and interesting. It's an ensemble piece told from various viewpoints. There's a lot of action and violence including hand to hand and pitched air battles. Butcher carries it off with ease. I liked Grimm a lot, while Bridget, Benedict and Gwen were interesting and sympathetic characters. I was less fond of Rowl, the talking cat. (All cats talk it's just that not all humans can speak cat like Bridget can.) I'm pretty sure if you're a cat person you find Rowl both amusing and characterful. I found him slightly annoying and could have done with a little less cat in the book. That apart it was a good set-up for a new series and I'll be watching out for the next one.
jacey: (blue eyes)
MasqueradersI read this back to back with Anne Gracie's The Perfect Rake, thinking to make a comparison, but picked one of the few Heyers that is not Regency, but rather is Georgian, set just after the 1745 Jacobite rising, a time of hooped skirts and powdered wigs when former Jacobite supporters were being sent to the gallows by the cart-load.

In the wake of the rebellion brother and sister, Robin and Pru, are in England heavily disguised. The slight Robin is in skirts as 'Kate' and his sister, tall and big-boned, has become 'Peter'. They have arranged to meet their father in London. He's mostly referred to as 'the old gentleman' since he changes his name more often than his socks. Aiding and abetting their deception is the stalwart servant, John and complicit is their hostess, Therese.

On the way to London they intercept an elopement gone wrong, rescuing Letty Grayson from her drunken would-be suitor, Mr. Markham, when she realises he's not quite as gallant as she thought he was.

The cross-dressing siblings are a pair of scam artists, though good-hearted ones, who have been dragged around Europe in the wake of their opportunist rogue of a father, taking on new identities, male and female, as the situation required. It was their father who involved them in the Jacobite cause, but now his mercurial character has taken him on a completely new track, but he hasn't bothered explaining it to them, just given them instructions which they are supposed to follow to the letter. Complications arise when Robin begins to fall for the rescued Letty, an heiress, and Pru takes a fancy to Sir Anthony Fanshawe, a friend of the Graysons and a solid mountain of a man, considered to be a little slow and dull witted, but who sees far more than everyone realises.

No more of the story for fear of spoilers. That's just the set-up. I found this one of the most difficult Heyers to get into. The opening chapter is dense to the point of confusing as the siblings are first of all presented as the gender they appear to be, calling each other by both real names and assumed ones and often addressing each other as 'child' (doubly confusing). It takes a few chapters to sort out who's who and why, and the rest is revealed at a leisurely pace. Speech is somewhat cod-Georgian and stilted at times. It takes perhaps the first third of the book to get comfortable with the style. It irritated me at first, but by the time I was halfway through I found I was enjoying it - almost to my surprise. There are some extremely witty moments hidden inside it, notably the siblings' cynicism about their father's carrying on.

When the old gentleman turns up his character explains Pru and Robin perfectly. Walter Mitty hardly begins to cover it. He's got unshaken belief in the magnificence of his own grand plans and rides roughshod over anyone who stands in his way, using everyone else as pawn in his great game. He's the sort of character who needs double-wide doors to get his head through.  I think he's meant to be charming and funny, but if I'd been Robin and Pru I would have abandoned him years before. If Heyer meant us to like him, I'm afraid she missed the mark with me. Whimsical is one thing, but insufferably pompous is another. Good job I liked Robin and Pru. Sir Anthony Fanshaw also get brownie points for being an unflappable hero despite not getting much page-time. The unsung hero is John, the servant, who is also more than he seems.

Of course, it's all right in the end - this is Heyer but all things considered, not my favourite. Apparently this is one of her earlier novels (1928) and it shows.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Perfect RakeThe first of two historical romances read back-to-back. The first is set in the Regency period.  Merridew sisters are trapped with an autocratic and violently abusive grandfather at his country home after the death of their parents. Beatings go on for almost ten years, getting worse and worse until Prudence Merridew, just a few weeks short of her twenty first birthday can take it no more. On her twenty first birthday she gets custody of the younger girls, but unless she marries there's no money and they will be destitute. So Pru's plan is to launch the girls on the London season and find them suitable husbands. (They are all great beauties apart from her and all of age to marry apart from the ten year old.) When there's a particularly nasty incident at home which leaves the youngest girl badly beaten and grandfather laid up with a broken leg, they make their break.

Staying with an indulgent, but somewhat straight-laced great uncle Pru is launched on society, but Great Uncle won't allow the other girls to come out until Pru is safely betrothed. He reasons that since they are way more beautiful than she is, she won't stand a chance once they're on the marriage market. This doesn't suit Pru who wants all the girls out there at the same time. The first one to secure a husband ensures safety for all. So she invents a betrothal to a duke known to be reclusive and never in town - except he is and he's looking for a bride.

Things get complicated and somewhat silly when Pru goes to confess her lie to the duke and mistakes his rakish friend, Gideon Carradice, for his lordship. Gideon is a rake with a dense of humour and - if everything everyone says about Pru is accurate - defective eyesight, for he sees the plain Pru as beautiful from the beginning and ignores her pretty sisters completely. Things are doubly complicated because Pru, four and a half years earlier, entered into a secret betrothal with Philip who then promptly went off to India to seek his fortune and has been absent ever since, his letters becoming ever more rare.

Okay, that's the set up. There are issues. At times this is frothy and absurd, at other times very dark secrets are revealed. In some ways the book doesn't really know what it wants to be. The girls don't seem to have suffered any lasting mental trauma or trust issues from their harsh upbringing. Grandfather is a cardboard villain and we only really see one side of him. Pru and Gideon fall for each other (without admitting it) too quickly without any real reason. Gideon turns from his rakish ways in an instant, converted by the power of love. Despite all that and the convoluted twists and turns as Pru tries to extricate herself from her lies while digging an ever deepening hole, this is a fun, light read. Of course it all turns our right in the end, mainly due to the fact that Pru was labouring under a couple of misapprehensions the whole time. I can see why some reviewers compare this with Georgette Heyer, though the authorial touch is somewhat heavier. In the end it is what it is and you just have to go with it. An enjoyable read.

June 2017

M T W T F S S
   1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Page Summary

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 25th, 2017 02:40 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios