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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Vengeance with a twist.

  

Scottish Highlands 1523.
Mairi Maclean knew that marriages were clan alliances, no matter that her first marriage went badly. Now widowed, she's again decided to marry for clan. Just before her wedding she learned that her fiancé intended to send a handsome friend to kiss her. If she enjoyed the kiss she might break off the wedding. Not that Mairi was going to do that! As she sad though, “Drunken plans should not be made the night before weddings!”
But did her fiancé have to send someone so handsome? When Mairi kissed the stranger she almost swooned. Still, the wedding would continue Mairi decided even as the stranger was leading her out ... and away, wait a minute, to where? Oops drunken plans certainly played into the hands of Alec MacNeil!
Mairi found herself captive to Alec, clan chief known as The Wolf of Kisimul Castle! Alec has decided to take vengeance against those who murdered his wife and Mairi was the widow of his enemy!
The pages devoted to Mairi being held captive are hilarious. I would give the book five stars just for those pages of mischief. The  relationship with Alec's children, the transition unbeknownst to him of  dank dungeon to something other, is brilliant. Mairi and the children become a formidable team that it takes Alec some time to become aware of.
I loved this story. Marie is a treat, feisty and full of life despite the shadow of fear that hung over her from her treatment at the hands of her former husband and his family.
Alec is a man of honor, trying to keep his clan and family together, and yet so young in understanding relationships, hampered as he is by his seemingly lacklustre upbringing. All the women in his life leave the castle in someway, and yet he remains to carry on a tradition.
Neither of them dreamed where things would lead. 
This definitely is the highlight of the series, humorous and heartfelt.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rakehell meets Lady governess

The Last Gamble (Bastards of London #3) by Anabelle Bryant

 

Lucius Reese, we are told is, 'a man of many titles, none of them revered by the peerage: rakehell, philanderer, and bastard most of all.' Luke, one of the partners of the gambling palace, the Underworld, is a man in pain. His son Nate has been kidnapped by his half-brother, Viscount Dursley.
Lady Georgina Harwood has fled her family situation and comfortable home in Mayfair to a cottage in Coventry and is currently employed by a local peer as a governess.  (Mind you I find the whole cooking episode a bit like Marie Antoinette playing at being a dairymaid)
Luke and Georgina meet because Luke discovers that Georgina the governess can prove that Nate was in Dursley's hands.
There are lovely moments of whimsy in Luke and Georgina's interactionsSuch as Georgina and Luke's individual reflections about each other at the inn. Luke is in room four and Georgina in room three, across the hall from each other. Georgina is taken by fours and Luke by threes.
Four times... Ahh! A rather quirky and lovely piece of writing. Four wheels on a carriage.
Four suits in a deck of cards. Clubs, spades, diamonds and hearts.
Luke is fixated on three! Three times Luke had seen Georgina's hair unbound. Three times ... more whimsy! This moment really struck me. The whimsy in these moments, when the lead characters reflect about the other, is captivating. These are wonderfully endearing insights.
In between the serious business of finding his son Nate, Luke is becoming more and more enamoured of  Georgina, as she is with him.
The thing is I find Georgina moves between believable actions and then moments of inanity. Why does she place herself in situations that are dangerous. She is so much more than the impulsive young woman these moments reveal. And yet, sometimes she walks in, turns around and finds herself in an unlooked for situation because she's not paying attention. She has no street smarts. But then she wasn't raised with the need for any so maybe she's really being true to her character. 
I did find myself at times flipping through the pages of specific sexual encounter looking for the storyline. 
The charged teasing play at the dining table was great--measured and mischievous but there was just too many pages given to the bedroom type play. The story didn't need it. This was the deciding factor for me between four and five stars. 
I had wondered why Lord Dursley would steal Nate. I had already seen the reason as a possibility but had discounted it.
Likeable characters placed tin interesting situations give this story a certain panache.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Honor is as honor does

Into The Hall Of Vice (Bastards of London #2) by Anabelle Bryant


                                      


Lady Gemma Amberson knows there's a mystery surrounding her father's death. That's why she spends her time at polite society gambling parties in an attempt to learn something, anything! Lord Winton, he of the slimey snake charmer abilities, drops hints to her that a visit to a certain Miss Devonshire in Charing Cross might help her enquiries. Of course that hint comes with a demand for payment of the more personal kind.
That's where Cole Hewitt one of the owners of the Underworld, a gambling hall of note, finds her when he visits as his alter ego Mr. Goodworth.
Cole is smitten but he knows the gap between them is real and not even possible.
Cole and Gemma's story had great potential but to my mind it just wasn't pulled off with the same riviting quality that Den of Iniquity had. I liked Cole and Gemma but their relationship, although heated, was just a tad two dimensional. Their interactions were slightly flat.
The gambling hall, the Underworld is really just a backdrop. We see more of who Cole is when he's in Charing Cross reflecting on his awful childhood. Those hints reveal more about him, but not enough. Being locked in the closet gave us hints, but again they only hint at his past.
Still I'm hooked on the series and want to see where the next story takes us.


A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sins of the fathers!






"The treasure had been above ground for under an hour and already it had claimed three lives. This was how it began."






1216. King John seeks to combine his forces against the invading army of Prince Louis of France supported by disloyal barons. John calls on his loyal supporters, amongst them Sir Josse d’Acquin. Joss sets off with his brother Yves and his son Geoffroi to join the King.
Meggie his daughter, a healer has been called by Abbess Caliste to Hawkenlye Abbey. When the message comes Meggie is deep in the forest. She finds strength and knowing here, descended as she is from the Forest People.  At the same time Meggie is concerned about her partner"s absence, Jehan, the smithy.  She's troubled about their relationship and what she wants for her future.
At the Abbey, Meggie becomes involved with a distressed woman and her son, strangers to England and seemingly on an urgent quest. A quest that will involve a cursed treasure.
Thus begins Meggie's gripping race across England trying to save the life of Queen Isabella, wife to King John, and then onto searching for King John himself. All the while gleaning snippets of information about what drives the woman Hadil and her son Faruq.
Based partly on the death of King John, Clare has woven fact and fiction into an exciting landscape of intrigue and treachery with a touch of magic. The nature, the strengths and weaknesses of King John are nicely illuminated.
Evil is very much in ascendency and Meggie's search will take her into an armed camp and into the king's presence, where her father, uncle and brother are, and unknowingly in the same vicinity as her missing lover, Jehan.
This last in the seventeen book series, the Hawkenlye Mysteries draws to conclusion a very satisfying journey.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Germans wore grey.

The Paris Spy (Maggie Hope Mystery #7) by Susan Elia MacNeal



                              

I adore Maggie Hope. She's right out of 'Girls Own Magazine', a patterned heroine with a grownup twist.
In Paris Spy Maggie is once again in the thick of things. This time she's called in favours from 'high places' to get herself over to occupied Paris--at the Ritz of course! Now that's a cover!
She meets Coco! (As a side tack Chanel was reputably an ant-Semite and she had a German lover, Baron Hans Günther von Dincklage.) MacNeal has Maggie meeting Dincklage at Maxims after the ballet. The inclusion of Chanel is seamless, brilliant and believable. Bravo MacNeal!
I have to say MacNeal's descriptions of an occupied high society Paris swirl with undercurrents of a nervous desperation despite all the glitz that is portrayed is riviting.
Maggie's search for her half sister Elsie has taken her to Paris right into the midst of things. The Gestapo, secret agents and double agents. Dirty tricks and dirty secrets.
It would seem that agents are being compromised but the incompetent in charge of receiving SOE agent's messages is not taking notice.
If a search can turn even more deadly it does and Maggie's cover is blown.
What is at stake now becomes vital to the war effort. Maggie has some terrible truths to face. The ending had me on the edge of my seat and desperate for the next book. 
Another ripping Maggie Hope yarn!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Highlander Happenings



                                   


I really enjoyed this. We have a feisty young highlander woman who takes the breath away from her silent stalwart brother-in-law, a man who vowed to never return to the place he'd once called home.
Hamish MacBrieve fled Foinaven Castle twelve years ago. He was now an elite guard with the McTiernay clan.
After years of pleas to return home from his brother Robert, Hamish has finally acquiesced.
The only problem is:
1) Hamish had once been head over heels in love with Mairead's sister Selah, who'd married Robert
2) Hamish has cleared out never to return and now only did so because his brother finally persuaded him of danger to the clan
3)Hamish was only stay ing to get the job done--his way
4) Hamish didn't want complications and falling in love with this breath taking young woman whom he use to teach to skip stones was not part of the plan!
And then there's the twist in the tail, what is troubling Mairead? And will Hamish ever trust her, for that matter will she ever trust him.
Talk about clash of wills and hearts. Minds even.
Great tale that keeps adding new surprises. Just sorry it took so long to read. Life kept interrupting! I'm now committed to reading the rest in the series!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Friday, August 4, 2017

Strangeness in the stars!

The Ghost Line: The Titanic of the Stars by Andrew Neil Gray and J.S. Herbison.  

                              


Abandoned star ships that are more than they seem. This premise has been played out before. At this stage I am not interested enough to pursue a future reading of a subsequent tale. The trouble was I felt somewhat abandoned by it all. 
It looked like a straight forward job for Saga and her husband Michel. Break into The Martian Queen, a sealed mothballed ship, and help bring it back online. Then other factors enter including their employer and the ship itself. Life becomes something other. There was a reason this ship had been placed away from all.
This novella has great potential but I was not captured.

A NetGalley ARC

**