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Here's my list of books read (or re-read) in 2018. I don't blog non-fiction that I've used for research unless I've read the whole thing from cover to cover (rather than dipped in and out for information). All these booklogs can be found here in my blog (in reverse order) using the search tag booklog 2018 - (https://jacey.dreamwidth.org/tag/booklog+2018)

I particularly enjoyed books by Jodi Taylor, Rod Duncan, Julia Quinn, Juliet McKenna, Sean Grigsby and T Kingfisher (whom I only discovered in the closing days of the year. Only one novella from Lois McMaster Bujold this year. I might have to go and re-read all her Vorkosigan books and The Curse of Chalion.

Next year I intend to read the second of Scalzi's Old Man's War books, which I've heard very good things about, Tanya Huff's Peacekeeper trilogy, and, as the year starts I have Heather Graham's  When We Touch open on the kindle. As usual I have more books in my strategic book reserve that I can ever get through in a year (or maybe even in a lifetime), though I'm sure that won't stop me adding to them.

Happy New Year. Happy New Reading.

 

1.    John Scalzi: Old Man’s War – Old Man’s War #1

2.    Ian Mortimer: The Outcasts of Time

3.    Elizabeth Bear: The Stone in the Skull

4.    Diana Wynne Jones: Deep Secret

5.    Ursula LeGuin: A Wizard of Earthsea

6.    Georgette Heyer: Frederica

7.    Julia Quinn: What Happens in London

8.    Sean Grigsby: Smoke Eaters

9.    Ashley Gardner: The Hanover Square Affair – Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries #1

10.  Peter Ackroyd: Foundation – The History of England Vol 1

11.  John Heywood: Beside the Seaside

12.  Danielle Harmon: The Wild One – De Montfort Brothers

13.  Krista D Ball: What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank

14.  Ella Quinn: The Marquis and I – Worthingtons 4

15.  Patricia Briggs: Burn Bright – Alpha and Omega

16.  Julia Quinn: The Lost Duke of Wyndham – Two Dukes of Wyndham 1

17.  Julia Quinn: To Sir Philip with Love – Bridgertons 5

18.  Julia Quinn: To Catch an Heiress – Agents of the Crown 1

19.  Julia Quinn: How to Marry a Marquis – Agents of the Crown 2

20.  Julia Quinn: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband

21.  Jim C Hines: Terminal Alliance - Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse, #1

22.  Lindsey Davis: The Silver Pigs – Falco 1

23.  Jodi Taylor: An Argumentation of Historians – Chronicles of St Mary's

24.  Sheila Walsh: The Sergeant Major's Daughter

25.  Jodi Taylor: The Battersea Barricades – Chronicles of St Mary's

26.  Jane Aiken Hodge: Marry in Haste

27.  Peter Ackroyd: Revolution – The History of England Vol 4

28.  Nancy Springer: The Oddling Prince

29.  Maggie Fenton: The Duke's Holiday – Regency Romp Trilogy #1

30.  Ella Quinn: When a Marquis Chooses a Bride

31.  Rod Duncan: Unseemly science – Fall of the gas-Lit Empire #2

32.  Rod Duncan: The Custodian of Marvels – Fall of the Gas Lit Empire #3

33.  C.L. Polk: Witchmark

34.  Georgette Heyer: Faro's Daughter

35.  Juliet McKenna: The Green Man's Heir

36.  Lois McMaster Bujold: The Flowers of Vashnoi -  Vorkosigan 14.5

37.  Rod Duncan: The Queen of All Crows – Map of Unknown Things #1

38.  Kameron Hurley: Apocalypse Nyx – Bel Dame Apocrypha #1.5

39.  Michael J Sullivan: Theft of Swords – The Riyria Revelations #1 & 2

40.  Robert Jackson Bennett: Foundryside

41.  Peter Watts: The Freeze Frame Revolution

42.  Jodi Taylor: The Steam Pump Jump – Chronicles of St Mary's

43.  Jim C. Hines: Revisionary – Magic Ex Libris #4

44.  Benedict Jacka: Marked – Alex Verus #9

45.  Mimi Matthews: The Matrimonial Advertisement – Parish Orphans of Devon #1

46.  Jaine Fenn: Hidden Sun – Shadowlands #1

47.  Sarah M. Eden: Loving Lieutenant Lancaster – Lancaster Family #4

48.  Tanya Huff: The Fire's Stone

49.  Tanya Huff: The Future Falls -  Gale Women #3

50.  Jodi Taylor: Dark Light – Elizabeth Cage #2

51.  Brandon Sanderson: The Final Empire – Mistborn #1

52.  Rod Duncan: The Outlaw and the Upstart King - Map of Unknown Things #2

53.  Julia Quinn: The Other Miss Bridgerton

54.  Sean Grigsby: Daughters of Forgotten Light

55.  T Kingfisher: Clockwork Boys – Clocktaur War #1

56.  T Kingfisher: The Wonder Engine – Clocktaur War #2

57.  Scott Lynch: The Effigy Engine – A Tale of the Red Hats

58.  Jodi Taylor: And Now for Something Completely Different – Chronicles of St Marys

59.  Scott Lynch: In the Stacks

60.  Catherine Johnson: A Nest of Vipers

61.  Stephanie Burgis: Spellswept – A prequel to the Harwood Spellbook



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I read Stephanie Burgess' Snowspelled last year and was very happy to make another trip into her Angland, where the women are the politicians and the men are magicians. Politicians who enter the Boudiccate always have a magician husband. Amy Standish is an ambitious young woman who has taken a position with powerful politician Miranda Harwood in order to be boosted to the ranks of the Boudiccate. For that she needs an advantageous marriage with a magician, and Miranda has introduced her to the perfect one, except he's neither perfect nor 'the one'. Unfortunately the one Amy is drawn to is Amanda's son, Jonathan, who has flatly refused to train as a magician, something no one can understand. Amy doesn't understand either, until she discovers something about Jonathan's sister, Cassandra. This is a story about turning the established order on its head. At novella length, it's a perfect read-in-a-day story. (And 10/10 for a lovely cover.)
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Supposedly a novel for 'middle grade' readers this is definitely for the older end of that age range. Cato Hopkins is a member of Mother Hopkins' criminal gang in 18th century London. An aging Mother Hopkins wants to pull one last con, this time on the daughter of a cruel slave-owning sea-captain. The story unfolds as told by fourteen year old Cato from his condemned cell, the night before his execution. (See what I mean about the age of the readers?) What he tells the clergyman bookends the story, but between the bookends we also get his recollections. He's a foundling, a brown skinned babe bought from his mother for a few pennies and reared, nit unkindly, by Mother Hopkins in a gang of similar unfortunates. Their base being rooms in the inn called A Nest of Vipers, comfortable in its familiarity. The little gang specializes in conning marks out of their money, choosing the greedy as their victims because, as Cato says, you can't con an honest man. Their con is planned down to the last detail, but it doesn't go according to plan. The characters are sympathetic, the setting (London 1712) feels authentic and the action carries you along nicely. This is an engaging read and you are certainly rooting for Cato as his story is told and the cart comes to take him to Tyburn. No spoilers, but this is a book for children, so take a guess at the ending.
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An augmented short story from Scott Lynch about a bunch of fifth year magic students whose end of year exam consists solely of returning a grimoire  to the library stacks. Unfortunately the Living Library of Hazar is, if not entirely sentient, malevolent in the extreme. Lazlo and his room-mate Casimir, under the supervision of two tutors and in the company two other students have to fight their way through all manner of deadly traps includiong rampaging vocabuvores. The deadly creatures (and books) in the library are not the only danger.
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#9.7 in the Chronicles of St Marys.
It's tradition that every Christmas the staff of St Marys (usually Max plus the usual suspects) makes an unauthorized time jump for whatever good reason pops into their heads after they've downed a large helping (or several) of mulled wine. This time the idea is not Max's, but Director Pinkerton's (she of that future St Mary's). As the world (in max's timeline) watches telly for news of the first manned Mars landing, Pinkerton (engineering genius) decides to (from her perspective) record the historic Mars Landing in contemporary time, and she hops back to Max's St Marys to invite Peterson and Maxwell along for the ride. In this short story Pinkie is explaining exactly what went wrong to the Time Police. I look forward to the annual Christmas excursion of St Mary's. This did not disappoint.

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While waiting for the next Locke Lamora book I thought I'd give one of Scott Lynch's shorter works a go. A short story (or maybe a novella) featuring the Red Hats a company of magical mercenaries who fight for right against might. The narrator of this story (and chronicler of the Red Hats) is Watchdog. On this occasion they are fighting with the Elarans against the Iron Ring when a new war machine is deployed against them, a huge tank-like machine. There's not much room for character development in such a short piece by the author introduces Runstandel, a wizard exceedingly ford of himself and somewhat annoying, Tariel a musketeer and the leader of the company, the soreress Millowend, who also happens to me Watchdog's mother. These four have to figure out a way to defeat the war machine.
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Three condemned criminals, a forger, an uncouth (but efficient) assassin, and a disgraced paladin in possession of a dead demon, are given a second chance. If they can travel to the neighbouring country and find out how the terrifying clockwork boys (deadly manufactured beings, more siege engine than creature) are made and how to stop them, they'll get a pardon. It's not much of a chance. They all think it's going to be a suicide mission. They are joined on their journey by a scholar, all innocence and preconceived ideas.

This is a quest tale. Four disparate individuals forming some kind of team, but what lifts it well above average is the characterisation and dialogue. Bleakly funny and heartbreaking by turns, I raced through this and immediately bought the second book, The Wonder Engine, because this is a story of two halves. This book deals with the journey, and now i need to know what happens when they arrive.
 

The Wonder Engine follows on immediately from the Clockwork Boys continuing the quest of Slate, Caliban. Brenner and the Learned Edmund who finally arrive in Anuket City to try to discover what the Cloktaurs (Clockwork Boys) are and how they can be stopped. Slate is a guerilla forger, Caliban a disgraced paladin/demon killer, Brenner is simply a killer, a ruthless assassin, and Learned Edmund is a nineteen year old scholar with no experience of the real world.

The two books are simply one continuous story. In the first book they were given their task and in the second they have to carry it out. There's a new character, Grimehug, a gnole (a badger-like being) who is crucial to the end game.

No spoilers. Just read the pair of books for yourself. You'll thank me for that advice. The characterisation is smart, the dialogue snappy, the internam monologues of each viewpoint character, crisp and revealing. I said the frst book was alternately funny and heartbreaking and this goes double for the second one. If not laugh out loud, the humour is wry and the characters self-deprecating. The final showdown is gut-wrenching and the aftermath shows that there are always consequences to every action. Everyone is changed by events.

The romance aspect, a very slow burn in the first book, is more to the fore here, and it works well with the main plot, adding tension. The end is entirely fitting and satisfying in a gruelling way. Highly recommended.
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I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Grigsby's debut novel, 'Smoke Eaters' so grabbed the chance of getting a review ARC of this from Netgalley. It doesn't disappoint, though it's a very different read.

With advancing, apocalyptic climate change the government has solved its overpopulation problem by sending unwanted boys to fight in some (probably deliberately orchestrated) war and the girls are shipped into space, to Oublliette. The clue is in the name. Once there they are forgotten. Oubliette is technologically advanced, and potentially a safe haven that some of the politicians back home fancy might be worth taking back from the shippees, but on Oubliette gang violence is the norm. Food is scarce (sent from Earth), and the three main gangs fight for it – though one gang has taken to cannibalism rather than rely on the tasteless 'manna'. Sarah Pao is a new shippee who falls in with Lena 'Horror' Horowitz's gang who call themselves Daughters of Forgotten Light. It's a time when an uneasy truce has been negotiated between gangs, but that's about to crack because along with the girls on the last shipment, there's a baby, something never seen in Oubliette and each gang wants the baby for its own. In the meantime, in parallel with the happenings on Oubliette, Senator Linda Dolfuse (who has recently given up her own baby for adoption) is on earth, trying to discover the truth about what really happens on Oubliette.

This isn't a book for the squeamish. It stares violence unflinchingly in the face. The women and girls (some as young as ten) of Oubliette are a product of the system and they do what they must to survive. It isn't always a comfortable book, but it's gripping. There are one or two things that suffer from a little technical handwaving, in particular how one of the Daughters is able to fly a spaceship, but that's a minor gripe. The ending is bloody, but satisfying.
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The Other Miss BridgertonI was in the mood for something frivolous and this hit the spot.

It's a light and fluffy historical romance in which Poppy Bridgerton meets Andrew Rokesby. These two are members of families in Ms. Quinn's long series of books, each dealing with one family member finding true love in spite of all difficulties.

In this case the relationship doesn't start well when Andrew kidnaps Poppy and carries her off on a sea voyage to Portugal. There are Reasons (TM), of course, and it will be no surprise to tell you that it all turns out all right in the end… but there are a few twists while love grows.

Yes, OK, you tend to know what you're going to get with historical romance, but Ms. Quinn is adept at witty dialogue and she handles the passion well. My only slight quibble with this is the use of contemporary swearing. (I have no problem with cussing, but some of the turns of phrase were distinctly un-historical, which dragged me out of the story briefly.) Also, unusually for Ms. Quinn, there's an interesting chunk of story glossed over a bit too quickly at the end.

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This book isn't out until the new year, but if you like Rod Duncan's writing as much as I do, you'll pre-order it now. I had this as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for  an honest review.

This is the second book of the second Elizabeth Barnabus Trilogy (the first trilogy being the Gas-Lit Empire), but you could be forgiven for thinking it isn't about her to begin with because Elizabeth doesn't appear until well into the story. It's partly narrated by the outlaw, Elias No-Thumbs, a man in search of a certain kind of revenge, or maybe justice, and it's set in a dangerously feudal version of Newfoundland where people are bound by tattooed oaths. Warlords, known as Patron Protectors, rule, supported by thugs. The upstart Jago is one such, a man to be feared.

It turns out that Elizabeth and her friends, Julia and Tinker, have been shipwrecked on the shores of Newfoundland and the problem is how to get off the island, since the only routes in and out are dictated by the patrons – but we don't discover that until Chapter 9, the second part of the book. Thereafter the viewpoint is shared between Elizabeth and Elias. This is really Elias' book. He's the one with the greatest journey to make in order to understand the lengths he'll go to for revenge on the ones that outlawed him and cut off his thumbs. Elizabeth gets embroiled in Elias's troubles in her search for a way off the island.  

There's obviously another book to come, and I'm looking forward to it. I've thoroughly enjoyed Rod Duncan's Barnabus books. Maybe this one slightly less than Queen of All Crows, but it's still well worth reading.

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The final EmpireThis book reminds me of why I'm reluctant to commit to reading long series these days. I'm simply too busy to devote so much time to getting involved with a trilogy which leads into yet more books in the same series. I know this has hundreds and thousands of good reviews and a huge fan following, but all I was thinking was 'How much longer before I reach the halfway point / then the 70% marker that tells me I'm on the home stretch / near the end? I think this review is saying way more about me than it is about the book, which is a bit sad really. Sanderson is a phenomenal world-builder. He's created a world that has a well thought out magic system, internal logic and consistency, and he's peopled it with three-dimensional characters… and yet… I'm not sure I'm going to continue to read books 2 and 3. The main character in this is Vin, a street brat who turns out to be a magically talented allomancer (someone who uses metals to perform feats impossible for a regular human). She throws in her lot with Kelsier and his thieving crew who are planning a revolution rather than a heist. Why a revolution? The Skaa are oppressed by the upper classes, but there's more. Kelsier has his own agenda, having been caught and imprisoned by the Lord Ruler, not just a ruler but effectively a god, eternal, invincible. Kell's former life (and his wife) were destroyed, so he's vowed death to the immortal. Vin isn't sure he knows what he's doing, but it turns out that Kelsier had a plan all along
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This is a follow up book to White Silence, featuring Elizabeth Cage, who sees people's moods/auras in swirling colours, and Jones, spy and possibly killer, whom she is drawn to, but does not trust. On the run from Sorenson (who imprisoned her in a psychiatric facility in the last book and who wants to exploit her talents) Elizabeth has fled her home in Rushford with a little money, but nowhere and no one to run to.  She ends up in Greyston, a picturesque village in the middle of nowhere, and feels as though she might be able to stop and rest for a few days, but Greyston is no ordinary village, and the women there have a strange relationship with three ancient standing stones. Maiden Mother and Crone. Elizabeth is drawn into the intrigue and suddenly can't get out again. An innocent young man is about to die horribly unless she can do something about it. Jones to the rescue... or is he? What's his hidden agenda? Jones and Elizabeth do care for each other, but they never show it except in ascerbic dialogue and witty banter. Ms Taylor is very good at dialogue which says more than it seems to on the surface. This is fast paced and engaging and there's a fair bit of rescuing going on (not always in the same direction). Elizabeth's psychic talents seem to be increasing. From lacking in confidence altogether, she's growing as a person. I'm pretty sure there's enough here for at least one more book, if not more, which is excellent. Jodi Taylor is a buy-on-sight author for me, whether it's her Chronicles of St Mary's, The Nothing Girl, or these Elizabeth Cage books. Highly recommended.
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This is the third book about the Gale Women. (I still think the first, Enchantment Emporium is my favourite.) Charlie, talented Gale woman, musician, and cousin to Allie who runs the Enchantment Emporium, is on her way to becoming a Wild Power. Not quite what the gale Aunties would have wished, but there's not much they can do about it. Unfortunately Charlie is drawn towards Jack, a Gale boy and also a Dragon Prince and sorceror, but their age difference is too great for the Aunties to sanction any kind of romantic relationship. That doesn't stop Charlie and Jack pining for each other, while keeping up a platonic relationship. However when an asteroid is discovered, racing for earth, the Gale Aunties decide they can't do anything about it, except try to save their own. Charlie wants to save the world. According to NASA she has 21 months. There's a fair amount of Charlie/Jack angst, and for a while it seems like the ending is going to be BAM! SPLAT! But Charlie is resourceful and Jack has hidden depths.
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The Fires StoneI kept getting the feeling I'd read this before, but I couldn’t quite remember it. Three main characters come together to retrieve the stone that holds the magic of the volcano in check and prevents it from rising and destroying the city. Princess Chandra, a wizard of the nine, who is trying to avoid an arranged marriage to Prince Darvish of Ischia, a dissolute younger son with an alcohol problem. Into this situation falls Aaron, former can chief's son turned runaway and thief. The fun of this book is the changing relationship between these three protagonists and their eventual resolution. (And the recovery of the stone, of course, despite pirates, storms and traitors.) A fun book. Recommended.
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LancasterThis is a straightforward (clean) romance. Not much happens, except the two protagonists, each with a total lack of self-esteem, finally get over their self-doubt and see what's been right under their noses since the beginning of the book. Not terribly exciting, but it's sweet. It's #4 in a series, but can easily be read as a standalone.
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Hidden SunJaine Fenn has a gift for building unusual and fascinating worlds. The pockets of shadowland are protected from the deadly sun and exist as autonomous city states. Between the city states the skylands are deadly. Exposure to solar radiation is lethal for non-adapted humans. Only the skykin – bonded with a symbiote – can survive there, and even then everything about it (the lands and the wildlife it harbours) is deadly.

Rhia is a noble of Shen, one of the Shadowlands. She's a Natural Enquirer, the closest thing to a scientist Shen has, but it's not a seemly task for a woman. Her feckless younger brother is missing, reportedly having crossed the skylands to another shadowland, and a girl has been brutally murdered. Is there a connection? Rhia hopes not, yet when the Duke sends three soldiers to escort him home she feels compelled to join the party.

Dej is destined to be a bonded skykin, but we first meet her in a shadowland crèche where she's a little troublemaker. Imperfectly bonded to her symbiote, she's no better off in the skylands, ending up clanless. Meanwhile a priest is carrying out illicit experiments with recovered skykin symbiotes, seeking the secret of immortality. Viewpoint shifts between these three complex characters, but it isn't until the last third of the book that the Dej and Rhia strands mesh. The story resolves, but there are still many unanswered questions about the world that Ms. Fenn will hopefully answer in the next book. Highly recommended.
(Reviewed as a ARC from Netgalley.)
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Matrimonial AdvertisementJustin Thornhill, lately Captain in the army in India, needs a wife, someone to smooth the way for him with locals, to manage his bleak household and to occasionally warm his bed. An advertisement seems like just the thing. Helena Reynolds is desperate to escape London, even if it means marrying a complete stranger and moving to a remote estate in North Devon. It's a business arrangement, right? No one was meant to fall in love. But Helena's past is catching up with her and Justin is obliged to protect her. Or is it more than obligation? This is one of those books where both partners are hiding secrets that could have (or maybe should have) been revealed earlier, but where's the fun in that? A 'clean' Victorian romance with a touch of sexual tension.
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MarkedNinth in an ongoing series. I have every respect for Mr Jacka. Sustaining this length of series is a marvelous achievement, especially to keep characters developing. This time Alex is sitting on the Junior Council (as a Dark Mage) in Morden's place while Morden is in jail awaiting trial/punishment. No one quite knows what Morden is up to. It's certainly not like him to sit back and wait to be executed, but whatever it is has left Alex once more in the shit. It seems that half the council wants him dead and the others are only keeping him around because he's being useful, reclaiming some of the missing imbued items that were stolen in the last book. Assassination attempts are a regular occurrence. Alex is beginning to realise that if he's going to protect his friends he needs to a) play the council game and b) acquire more power. Is he beginning to want power for power's sake? Are there elements of Dark Magery he's gravitating towards? Dark is not necessarily evil… but there's a fine line between the two. Alex is also finally admitting to himself what we've known for several books… his feelings for Anne. About time Mr. Verus. These books are a buy on sight for me. My only problem is that now I've caught up with the latest, I have to wait for Number Ten. Highly recommended, but start at the beginning.
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I somehow missed the third book in this series, so as we jump to the fourth Isaac Vainio, Libriomancer, has revealed to the world that magic exists. He is in charge of research at New Millennium, a new facility for the Porters just outside of Vegas, and he appears to have a version of the now-dead Gutenberg (Yes that Gutenberg) living inside his head. His lover, Lena, a dryad, and her lover Nidhi, are still living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Isaac is splitting his time between the facility and various congressional hearings in DC when various senators are trying to determine whether magic is dangerous, and others are grasping at a way to weaponsise magic. magic users are being secretly incarcerated. Isaac is struggling against political conspiracies while trying our new, somewhat experimental types of libriomancy, and also fighting against the government's restrictions on using magic to cure illness (specifically that of his neice). Libriomancers can magically pull artifacts from books, so there are some great pop culture references to classic science fiction and fantasy, as well as recent book. Lucy's magical healing potion from 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe' proves particularly useful. This appears to be the final book in the Magic Ex Libris series, though future installments would be possible. It hasn't completely closed off the story.
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Steam Pump JumpAnother of Jodi Taylor's shorts. This comes firmly after An Argumentation of Historians. Max is still confined to her hospital bed, recovering from her usual collection of injuries, but she still finds time to interfere in everyone's lives, this time via Markham. Peterson is struggling with another bereavement and Max thinks he needs distracting, maybe Miss Lingoss can help, but since all her focus is on the steam pump demonstration that they've travelled back in time to see, it's not very likely unless Markham can come up with something on the spur of the moment. What could possibly go wrong? Markham is one of my favourite characters in the Chronicles of St Mary's. I'm really enjoying his development. Jodi Taylor's books are buy-on-sight for me and this does not disappoint.
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Freeze-Frame revolutionSunday is one of the workers on the gate-setting 'ship' (hollowed out asteroid) the Eriophora along with thousands of other 'pieces of meat' i.e. the crew who are in sleep-storage, only being revived for a couple of hours once every few thousand years when Chimp – the AI in charge - thinks he might need a bit of human insight into a problem. The mission is set to last for millennia, and it does, without an end in sight. Surely if humans were going to appear through one of the new gates and take them all back to Earth, they would have done it by now. Does Earth even exist any more? Are Eriophora's meat that last humans in the galaxy? What happens when someone realises that Chimp has extinguished 3,000 of the 30,000 on board? Lian thinks it's about time that the humans took over from the AI that could so easily wipe any one of them out at a moment's notice, but even when Sunday is convinced, how do you organize a revolution when you are only away for one day in every few thousand years, and your co-conspirators awake time may not coincide with yours?

Hard science fiction that occasionally left me boggled, but eventually delivered a very human story.
Long novella length. Review copy from Netgalley

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Sancia Grado is a young thief who escaped slavery and now scratches a living in the Commons of Foundryside, the squalid shanty town that exists in Tevanne between and around the campos where the four leading merchant houses exist in their own comfortable enclaves thanks to their wealth and their magic/technology – scriving. Scrived objects are created with industrialised magical inscriptions. They power everything: carriages that move without horses, ambient flying rigs (basically targeted parachutes), and weapons that are powerful enough to shoot a bolt through metal. Sancia has a talent. She can hear the chattering and murmuring of scrived objects and by touch can learn the nature of whatever she touches. She saves this for inert objects. Touching another human is frequently too painful. When her usual fence offers her a job that will pay a small fortune the fee is simply too tempting to apply her normal caution. She steals an ancient artefact, which has some very peculiar properties, but before she can deliver it and get paid, people start to die. From then on she's trying to get out of the resulting scrape, but she can't do it alone.

The pace is lively, the characters interesting and the magic system complex (and occasionally boggling). This is the first in a new series. It's out on 23rd August from Jo Fletcher books. I had a review copy from Netgalley.
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Theft of SwordsI didn't realise until I was well into this (Kindle edition) that it was two books in an omnibus edition. I read the first, The Crown Conspiracy, so this is only a review of that one. I was looking for some fantasy or science-fictional heist books and this was on someone's ten-best-heist books list. Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater are thieves, successful enough that they haven't been caught yet. Royce is the lock-picker and Hadrian the brilliant swordsman from a good family (and we only get hints of what brought him to thieving for a living). They are careful to plan out every heist carefully, but they get into a spot of bother when they fall for a sob story and unwisely take on a job to steal a sword from the king's chapel. It's a rush job. They don't have time to check it out first, and unfortunately it's a set up. What they find in the chapel is the body of the king and they are framed for the murder. It's looking bleak when the king's daughter makes them an offer. She'll let them out of the dungeon if they will steal something else for her. She wants them to steal the prince, the new heir to the throne. Their kidnap job turns into a rescue and they face a plot to take over the throne. It's a straightforward read with a simple plot and a cast of engaging characters. (Yes I will read the second one, but not right now.)

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Apocalypse NyxReview copy from Netgalley.

This is a collection of five short pieces and can be read as an intro to the world of Kameron Hurley's Bel Dame Apocrypha world, which began with God's War. I confess I have only read the first two stories, slightly over half the book. I've seen Nyx described as 'painfully hard to like' and I'd go with that description. Her answer to everything is to smash heads (or maybe hack them off), and by the time I'd read the first two stories I needed a rest. Nyx is a former Bel Dame, a government assassin turned bounty hunter. She's seen a lot of gore, and contributed greatly to the body count, but she's damaged, and like her surroundings, she's angry, grim, and bloody. She has a team, but she's not sure she can count on them and, what's worse, she's not sure if they can count on her. I will go back and read the other three stories in this collection, but I need to decompress first.

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Queen of All CrowsReview copy from netgalley.com.

I really enjoyed Rod Duncan's first Elizabeth Barnabus trilogy (The Bullet catcher's Daughter, Unseemly Science, and Custodian of Marvels) so I was delighted to find that he's picked up Elizabeth's story again a short while after Elizabeth has won her freedom from the lecherous Duke and the Patent Office. She's having a clandestine affair with Patent Office agent John Farthing, but when she discovers that her best friend Julia has gone missing after her airship has been shot down in the middle of the Atlantic, she resolves to leave John and risk all to find out what's going on. Other airships and vessels have gone missing, too, and there are rumours of a band of female pirates with high-tech weapons. In the guise of a man - her alter ego has always been her (invented) brother – she becomes a spy for the patent office and ventures beyond the borders of the Gas Lit Empire to where she's completely out of her depth, in more ways than one. But Elizabeth is resourceful and what she seeks, she finds, which leads to adventures she could never have dreamt of. This certainly did not disappoint and I'm looking forward to Elizabeth's further adventures.
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This is a Vorkosigan novella centered on Miles' wife Ekaterin who is working with scientist Enrique Borgos on a scheme to clean up the lands of the Vashnoi exclusion zone, radioactive since the Cetagandan invasion. When Enrique's bioengineered bugs go missing, Ekaterin discovers that the zone is not quite as uninhabited as everyone thinks. In the Vorkosiverse timeline, this comes after Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. I'm a Vorkosigan addict. I'd love to see another string of Miles books, but if I can't have those than this is a very nice stopgap. Ms Bujold can do no wrong.

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One of my favourite books so far this year

A modern fantasy, rural rather than urban. Dan works with wood, moving from place to place so he doesn't get too close to anyone. A century ago, a person with a secret could simply move to the other end of the country and take up a new identity, but nowadays with CCTV and social media, it's not so easy. Dan has a big secret. His mother is a Dryad and that makes Dan… different. When a young woman is murdered and left in Derbyshire woodland, Dan realises that the culprit is from his world. She's not the first. The police are never going to find the serial killer, so it's up to Dan. Dan is a great character, always trying to avoid that attention of the local police, but rarely managing it. He's a big lad with powerful fists and usually at the top of the list when the Law comes around asking questions. I do hope Juliet McKenna makes this the first in a series. I'd love to read more. There's a wealth of British folklore in here, and a damn good story.
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Trying to separate his young cousin from making a disastrous marriage with a young woman who is mistress of her aunt's gaming house, Max Ravenscar discovers that there's more to Deborah Grantham than meets the eye. Unromantic Max has a shock in store. There's a gentle comedic element to this as Deborah deliberately upsets Max when she could have allayed his worries in an instant if he'd only been less overbearing. Fun, but not my favourite Heyer.
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Due for release on 1st July 2018, I had this review copy from Netgalley. The book is already available to pre-order from that large company named after a South American River – and it's well worth getting. The setting is Edwardian in feel with an ongoing war about to draw to a close. I'd say it's steampunky, but instead of steam it has magic and bicycles. Magicpunk? Anyhow, the main character in Miles Singer, a young doctor who has survived his part in the war, discharged after a spell in an enemy prison camp. He's left his wealthy and influential family behind to work as a psychiatrist in a veterans' hospital where he can (with all appropriate caution) use his magical talent for healing. If he's caught he'll be confined to a witches' asylum or enslaved by his own family. He puts his own freedom at risk to solve a problem illness for his patients, which turns out to be a wider threat and intersects with the concerns of a handsome stranger from another world. This certainly kept me reading and while not perfect it's an excellent debut.
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The third Elizabeth Barnabus book set in the gas-lit Empire, following on from The Bullet Catcher's Daughter and Unseemly Science. Elizabeth is on the run from the authorities as both halves of Britain – independent and suspicious of each other – prepare to sign an extradition treaty that could send Elizabeth and all the Kingdom refugees back home against their will. If that happens the slimy Duke of Northampton will be waiting to snatch her into sexual slavery. Elizabeth takes to the canals in order to become invisible to the law, but eventually takes matters into her own hands in a dangerous, last-ditch attempt to be free. We meet some old friends from previous books. There's a slow burn romance with Patent Office agent John Farthing, a daring heist, and a satisfying resolution. I've thoroughly enjoyed the whole trilogy and I see that Elizabeth is back in The Queen of All Crows, book 1 of a new trilogy. Excellent!
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Unseemly ScienceI read the first Elizabeth Barnabus book some time ago, but I was surprised how much of it I'd retained in my mind when I started in on the sequel. Post revolution the country is split into two, roughly north and south with the south ruled by aristocrats, and the repressed north very puritan-like. Elizabeth Barnabus, brought up in a travelling circus in the south, has fled to the north to escape being sold to the Duke of Northampton. Women have no standing in northern society, so - a mistress of disguise - she leads a double life, as both herself and her own invented brother, taking commissions as a private detective. In this book she's running from the law as the north and south prepare to sign an extradition treaty and begin to round up all the exiles in preparation for sending them home, something likely to be the death of most of them. Elizabeth gets mixed up with a charity that hides secrets, follows the trail of ice thieves and ends up discovering a world of bodysnatching and unseemly experimentation. I enjoyed this enough to go straight on to the third book in the series: The Custodian of Marvels.
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Book coverI somehow missed this when reading the Worthingtons books in order. It's the story of how Dottie Stern cracks through the polished finish of Dominic, Marquis of Merton. Dottie is best friends with Charlotte, Grace's sister. Merton is Matt's stuffy overbearing cousin whom no one likes. He was brought up by an uncle who left him with rigid ideas of what was proper and dutiful. Falling in love is not one of his ambitions. Falling for Dottie is definitely not on Merton's agenda… yet… And as for Dottie, well, she quite likes him if only he wasn't so hidebound, but maybe there's more to him than meets the eye. With the help of the chaotic Worthington clan (Matt and Grace and all the children, not to metion the dogs) and Dom's mother, Dottie succeeds in humanizing Merton. We knew that's what would happen, but it's the journey that's the thing. Mission accomplished with the help of a sack full of kittens, a mysterious waif and an evil brothel-keeper.
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Duke's HolidayI'm not quite sure why this popped up in my Amazon library, but I got suckered into reading it on my Kindle app.

Montford, a stuffy self-righteous prig of a duke, who is undoubtedly OCD, discovers that a longstanding thorn in his side, Honeywell, has died. Not only that, but he died a year ago and yet the estate that he managed (belonging to Montford) has continued to function and send in accounts. Anxious to find out what's happening he takes himself off to Yorkshire to find the castle and the brewery being managed by Honeywell's daughter, Astrid, oldest of four sisters.

Somewhat unconventional, Astrid drives him nuts, but this is a romance, so the ultimate destination isn't in doubt, it's just the journey that amuses us along the way. And it is amusing. Astrid is ridiculously harebrained. The Duke is unbearably inflexible. but she gradually breaks down his defences (and he hers) and they both begin to thaw out.

There's a pig (male) called Petunia, a foot-and-ale race, a kidnapping, a bucketful of sexual tension, and a whole cast of characters, none of which seems entirely sane. The villain of the piece doesn't get the comeuppance he deserves, which ia a bit of a loose end, but everything else wraps up more-or-less neatly.

The Duke's two friends Sherbook and Marlowe are each the subject of the other two books in the trilogy.
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The Oddling PrinceWhen I opened up this book I was delighted by the lyrical quality of the prose, then about five chapters in it began to annoy me, but I pushed through that to find a very strange tale, somewhat medievaloid. By the time I got to the end I really liked it. It certainly didn't go in the direction I expected. It's a book about unintended consequences, love and loyalty, and the darkness of the human soul. It's very fairy-tale like in feel.

Set in ancient Scotland, the king of Caledon lies on his deathbed, cursed by a ring that he can't remove. His life is saved by a mysterious fey stranger, Albaric, to whom the young prince Aric (age 17) is immediately drawn. It turns out that Albaric is also the king's son from a time-out-of-time spent in the Fey world as a captive lover of the fae queen. The king can't accept this forgotten time and will not accept Albaric. Aric and Albaric bond and from then on we see the king's descent into darkness, directed against not only Albaric, but against those he loves.

Aric is an honest and noble character, trying to balance his (deteriorating) relationship with his father and his loyalty towards Albaric. Part way through we meet Marissa, the daughter of an enemy who becomes Aric's intended, though she's actually a hostage for her father's good behaviour. She's a great character and although she doesn't get a lot of page-time, she makes the most of it.

There is an unexpected (magical) resolution which I didn't see coming, but which fitted the story perfectly.

I guess this is YA, but it crosses boundaries.

(This E-ARC is from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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RevolutionI haven't read the whole six book set of Peter Ackroyd's History of England. I read the first and wanted to skip ahead to this one because it covers the period I'm writing about in my Rowankind novels, that is, the Napoleonic wars. This is a well written account, probably greatly simplified, but with enough information for my purposes. Peter Ackroyd's writing is smooth and delightfully readable and delivered just the right amount of information. It's definitely 'popular' rather than 'academic'. Highly recommended if you have a general interest in English history.
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Marry in hasteI was curious to read this as Jane Aiken Hodge was a writer I read way back in my teens and twenties. I read a lot of recently written historical fiction, mostly Regencies, so I wondered how this would stand up. If you can ignore the bonkers premise… that Camilla Forest, fleeing a bad situation as a governess in a household with a lecherous older son, is picked up on the road (literally) by Lord Leominster when the coach she is waiting for doesn't turn up. Within a couple of hours he's proposed to her, a business arrangement because his fearsome grandmother will disinherit him if he remains single.

Once you've suspended disbelief for that element of the plot, the rest follows quite neatly. Leominster is dispatched to Portugal in the teeth of Napoleon's invasion and Camilla (while gradually falling in love with Leominster) has to navigate war-torn Portugal. In truth, though the characterization is less vivid than it could be and the sex scenes are less steamy that those written by some contemporary historical novel writers, it still stands up reasonably well today as a Gothic Romance. Though there are moments when the tension could be resolved instantly if the two protagonists simply talked to each other.
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The Battersea BarricadesJodie Taylor is a buy-on-sight author for me, so I really enjoyed getting the backstory of Mrs Mack (St Mary's kitchen supremo), Mrs Enderby (wardrobe) and Mrs Shaw (admin) when they manned the Battersea Barricades during an unbelievable three weeks of revolution in Britain and began the downfall of a corrupt government. Oh, ladies, where are you when we need you?
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The Sergeant Major's DaughterI've never read any books by the late Sheila Walsh before, but this was on offer so I gave it a try. Written in 1978, it easily stands up alongside the modern crop of Regency romances, with a strong heroine, though the evil antagonist is a bit two dimensional. Felicity Vale, the daughter of a well-respected sergeant major who has been brought up as an independent army brat, has to rely on her cousin for a roof over her head after her father is killed at Waterloo. The cousin, Amaryllis, is the widow of the younger brother of an earl (Stayne) and felicity's new home turns out to be Stayne's estate. Not wanting charity, she takes on the task of governess to Felicity's (spoilt) son and then – at the Earl's request – opens up a school in the village, thus angering an evil neighbour who wants the peasants kept in their place. Dastardly shenanigens ensue with a fire and peril, but eventually it all ends as expected.
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An Argumentation of HistoriansDoes time travel make this science fiction, or is it pure fantasy? I don't know and I don't care, it's an attention-grabbing read. There's a quick trip to see Henry VIII fall off his horse and a trip to Persepolis, but Clive Ronan is still causing chaos up and down the timelines, so Max and the time police set a trap for him. Well, it seems like a good idea, but when have Max's good ideas ever worked? As a result, Max is dumped in the Medieval period and no one knows where she is. She knows where she is - in St Mary's but about 600 years in the past. She has to learn to live there and to make a new life for herself because she doubts she'll ever get home again. She's desperately missing Leon, but there's someone in 1399 who can offer her protection. She knows Leon would be the first to tell her to find a way to survive, even if that means marrying.

We've known for a while that there was a traitor at St Mary's feeding Ronan information. At last we find out who.

Jodi Taylor is on by buy on sight list, so this is a must-read for me. Highly recommended.
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The Silver PigsEver since I heard one of the Falco books dramatized on Radio4's Book of the Week, I've wanted to get round to reading one of Linsey Davis's stories about Marcus Didius Falco, the Roman 'informer' – a detective in all but name. What better place to start than the first book, from 1989? Falco is a fabulous character, impoverished, but clever. He's thirty years old with an interfering mother and a recently deceased military brother (Didius Festus) who was the family's shining star. Falco knows he'll never measure up to his brother, so he goes his own way, living in a sixth floor apartment over Lenia's laundry and taking a variety of 'informing' jobs. This book kicks off when Falco rescues sixteen year old Sosia who was kidnapped from her uncle's house (Senator Decimus Camillus). This starts Falco on a track that takes him from Rome to British silver mines (working under cover and almost dying from the conditions). There's stolen silver, kidnapping, treachery and violence… and the senator's daughter, the acerbic Helena Justinia. Has Marcus met his match?
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Terminal AllianceThe apocalypse (a mutated plague) turned all humans into mindless savages, but the Krakau found a cure. A hundred years later, those cured humans are allowed into space on Krakau ships, acting in menial roles. They are prized for their toughness, their ability to thrive on basic rations, and their hard work. They get the jobs that no one else wants. Marion “Mops” Adamopoulos is a Lieutenant in charge of shipboard hygiene and sanitation. When a bio attack wipes out the command crew and turns the shipboard humans feral again, Mops and her crew are wearing containment suits so they are the only ones not affected. They go from being janitors and plumbers to having to fly the ship and outwit the aliens, and in doing so learn the secret that the Krakau didn't want them to know.

It's quirky and intriguing. Highly recommended.
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Girl with Make Believe HusbandJulia Quinn is always a reliable read. Though the premised for this is a bit bonkers it largely worked for me. Celie Harcourt abandons England with barely a penny to her name, and goes tearing off to the Americas when she finds out that her brother, Thomas, has been injured. When she gets to New York she finds that Thomas is unaccountably missing, but his best friend, Edward Rokesby is badly injures and in need of care. In order to get access she tells the authorities that she's Edward's wife, and since he's insensible she gets away with it. When he comes to, he's conveniently lost his memory and so she fools him, too. That's the point at which I was screaming for her to do the sensible thing and tell him, but no, she continues to fool him as well - until she doesn't. Even though I had a few quibbles, it was an enjoyable read.
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How to Marry a marquisThe second Agents of the Crown book features James Sidwell, Marquis of Riverdale, whose spying has been curtailed because a French spy has exposed his identity. So while he has nothing much to do he's called down to his aunt's estate to help her identify a blackmailer. While in disguise as the new estate manager he meets Elizabeth Hotchkiss, companion to his aunt, well-bred but penniless.

Elizabeth has just stumbled on a book in her employer's library called 'How to Marry a Marquis.' Since marriage to someone wealthy seems to be the only way she can support her younger siblings, she gets trapped into trying out the edicts in the book – trying them on the only available male, James, who is, of course, a marquis in disguise.

Bits of this read like a French farce. There are inevitable misunderstandings, but the ending was never in doubt. It's fun and frothy.
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To Catch an HeiressI usually try to blog the books I read one at a time, but I've been busy, so I'm playing catchup. It's only when I make a list that I realise how many Julia Quinn books I've read this year. No excuses. She writes engagingly frothy regency romances, and when I'm deep into writing, I need something to switch off with.

With six weeks to go before her twenty-first birthday and freedom to control her own money, Caroline Trent is running away from an unwanted marriage when she's captured by dashing Blake Ravenscroft, who mistakes her for a French spy, Carlotta de Leon. She only needs a place to hide for six weeks, so, believing that she can come clean at any time, she plays along. There's a lot of quirky comedy in this book, which is good because the plot is frankly ridiculous. Blake and Caroline are engaging characters, however and James Sidwell, Marquis of Riverdale is an excellent secondary character.
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To Sir Phillip With LoveI've enjoyed all of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton books. Eloise is one of the middle siblings of eight. When she begins a correspondence with the widower of a distant cousin, she never thinks it will develop into a relaitionship. At twenty-eight she feel she might be a confirmed spinster, but that's only because she's turned down sixc proposals already, determined to have a love-match or nothing at all.

Sir Phillip Crane feels that a twenty eight year old spinster might be desperate enough to marry him. He's not looking for a love match. He needs a mother for his two unruly children and that's about it. He's clueless, of course, but it's not all lighthearted froth. Phillip's first marriage was a nightmare. His wife's illness has left him traumatised. He's dumbfounded when the spinster who turns up on his doorstep is not a drab. Eloise's practical good sense saves the day and as their relationship develops you really want to root for them.

The other Bridgertons turn up, of course, and there's plenty of humour.
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The Lost Duke of WyndhamWhen a dashing soldier-turned-highwayman stops the carriage carrying the dowager Duchess of Wyndham and her paid companion, Grace, there are two revelations. The dowager recognises highwayman Jack Audley as her grandson and Grace recognises that she's not immune to Jack's charms. But the problem is that if Jack is truly who the dowager thinks he is, he's the rightful Duke of Wyndham and will displace Thomas, the current duke. And Grace might fall in love with a charming rogue, but she knows she's not high-born enough for a duke.

I really enjoyed this book, but haven't been able to bring myself to read the second book in this series because it's the same story from a different viewpoint. Reading other reviews it seems that the version most readers prefer is the first oine they read, so I'll stick at this. Always happy to read other Julia Quinn books, however, despite the occasional Americanisms that don't quite fit.
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Burn BrightWerewolf Charles has been left in charge of the misfit pack of werewolves while the Marrok (the boss of werewolves in North America) is out of the country. Charles is his father's enforcer and Anna, an omega wolf who is a peace bringer, is his mate and partner. The Marrok looks after the broken and marginally sane/insane, old wolves and the worst of these are the wildlings who live - well - out in the wild, I suppose. When there's an emergency call from one of the wildlings, Charles and Anna hurry out there in time to prevent a kidnapping, but not to prevent death.

There's a traitor in the pack and we get some insights into some of the wolf-characters we've met before, particularly Leah, the Marrok's mate, and a bit of disturbing retconning about Bran himself.

Not my favourite Alpha & Omega novel, but still a good read.

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The Marquis and ILady Charlotte Carpenter is abducted by thugs and held in an inn in retribution for her brother-in-law putting an evil brothel owner out of business. She almost mnanages her own escape, but is helped by a dashing gentleman and unfortunately seen with him by an inveterate gossip. i.e. she's been 'compromised' according to the customs of the day, by Constantine, marquis of Kenilworth. Con  agrees that the only solution is marriage, but Charlotte isn't sure. He keeps a mistress for goodness sake and Charlotte is deeply into campaigning on behalf of sex-workers (or unfortunates as she might call them). Can she change Con's view of the world where virtue is a negotiable commodity, and can the Worthingtons finally put an end to the evil 'madame' who has appeared as the villain in a couple of books in the series?
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What Kings Ate and Wizards DrankA book about fantasy worldbuilding for writers. Some useful tips, especially for beginners. It's heavily into food and food history from a fantasy preoccupation with stew to provisioning an army. Recommended
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I almost didn't read this because of the cover. I'm getting really fed up with decapitated male torsos. Set in 1776. Juliet Paige, an American storekeeper's daughter, is left pregnant after he fiancée, Charles De Montfort, younger brother of Lucien, the current Duke is killed at the battle of Concord. On her way to the De Montfort home, Juliet (and her child) are in a coach that is held up by robbers. The younger brother (the wild one) Gareth De Montfort comes to the rescue, which starts the book down the path to an inevitable romantic conclusion, and the story of how the wild one is tamed. A light read.

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