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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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"To love or not to love. That is the question.”



I swear Charlotte is a warrior woman, a lioness in her defence of Ewan Hoffstead, Duke of Donburrow.
Right from when they met, Ewan a terrified ten and Charlotte Undercross, a perceptive seven, Charlotte has defended and encouraged Ethan.
Even years later, when he turned his back on her she still loved him and wanted only the best for him.
Ewan cannot get past the terrible burden his despicable father lay on him. Taunted as being deformed, defined by his muteness as less, this words have been poisoned darts that have burrowed their way into the deepest corners of his psyche. Not only his father's angst and derision did Ewan have to endure, but the coldness of his mother and the same bullying as his father, inflicted on him by his brothers. His brothers have been brought up to disregard Ewan as the heir. It's only his uncle's pursuit of justice that has Ewan declared the rightful heir and Earl.
Now widowed, Charlotte the Countess of Portsmith hopes for one last time to convince Ewan that her love would be enough.
The story of Ewan's banishment is heart wrenching. Ewan's sense of abandonment that cemented the knowledge that he was 'wrong' governed his life.  Unfortunately that emotional, gut wrenching response negated the real point that he was loved, just not by his parents or siblings. This love was evidenced in the way his uncle and aunt opened their arms and home to him when his father cast him off, their support for him over the years.
The challenges Charlotte faces to bring Ewan to an understanding that he is a complete person are difficult. But Charlotte is determined to give their relationship one last attempt before admitting defeat and throwing herself back onto the marriage market.
I must admit that spread liberally throughout the book is Ewan and Charlotte's physical pleasure in each other. But this is a Jess Michaels' book. 

A NetGalley ARC 

****

Christmas memories awakened!

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Molly Murphy #17) 
by Rhys Bowen.  


This is the first Molly Murphy mystery I've read. Even so, I was not lost with what was happening, or the relationships between the main characters. I am sure earlier readings would have given me more depth of understanding into the intricacies of the various relationships--between Molly and Bridie and Daniel, Daniel Sid and Gus, Molly and Daniel's mother.
Through a series of almost happenstance events, Molly, Daniel and Bridie end up spending Christmas at Greenbriars, the home of Cedric and Winnie Van Aiken, near Scarborough on the Hudson River. 
The loss of a child is devasting, and in Winnie Van Aiken's case, the disappearance of her daughter Charlotte years ago, the not knowing if Lottie is alive or dead, continues to be shattering. 
The plot around Charlotte's disappearance is convoluted. The child's footsteps led outside to the edge of a frozen stream and disappeared. Searches turned up nothing. No ransom was ever asked for. Charlotte was gone. What had happened?
Molly is on edge, she feels apprehensive in the house and doesn't like Cedric Van Aiken. Certainly things turn nasty as Molly pursues her investigative intuition about Lottie's disappearance..
I reserve judgement on Daniel. He obviously loves Molly and yet disapproves of many of her actions. Perhaps if I'd met him in earlier novels I'd like him more.
On top of this it seems their ward Bridie is to be reunited with her father--something that has Molly upset and Bridie uncertain.

A NetGalley ARC

***

'Ethan was broken. Broken, and running from it.'

Twelfth Night with the Earl (The Sutherland Sisters #3)  by Anna Bradley   


                          

Ethan Fortescue's return to Cleve's Court in Devon is full of surprises. The Earl of Devon has come to finally shut up the family seat--a place of terrible memories. This Christmas he's putting the past behind him. Or is he? The house that should be silent and dark is alight and full of merriment. There in the midst of things, directing the proceedings is his childhood friend Theodosia Sheridan.
The cut and thrust of the repartee between these two is so entertaining. Indeed, it seems the wicked Earl has a decidedly wicked sense of humor. 
Ethan is burdened with the most appalling sense of guilt centered around his brother's death at Cleve Court. Thea has determined to make Ethan face his ghosts, hoping to bring about his healing. Ethan needs to stop running! It seems though that she has made an appalling misjudgement. The deadline of winning Ethan over by the twelfth night of Christmas, helping him put aside his guilt over the tragedy of his brother, will not come to fruition.
Resident in the house with Thea are three orphans. They are precociously alert and wary of Ehtan. His efforts to win them over and his interactions with them are especially delightful.
This was a warm, often funny novel leaning on themes of guilt, love and redemption. 
The author's note on how epilepsy was perceived during these times gives a deeper understanding of the story.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Monday, November 13, 2017

Excellent graphic novel depicts Monet's life.

Monet: Itinerant of Light by Salva Rubio, illustrated by EFA (Ricard Fernandez) 


                           

A fascinating chronicle that brings one face to face with Monet's life, his struggles and his achievements. I found the graphic presentation challenging at the beginning, the background coloring seemed to swamp things but as Monet's life unfolded I came to appreciate those shadings that seemed for me to reflect the stages of his life and along the way incorporates references to the styles of Monet and his companions in the search for a new way of seeing. The illustrating is fantastic. There's a richness that the artist EFA (Ricard Fernandez) beings to bear.  I'm awed. Sometimes I find the comments in the word balloons a little stilted, but to me that always is a product of this medium.
Graphic novels are not easy reading. I find they require more concentration than the written word. What I really enjoyed was that this medium, by its nature is in the first person. The engagement with the story is just so very immediate. Monet comes alive.
I must say that I really enjoyed looking at Monet's life through graphic spectacles. Using the visual to explore the visual is brilliant.
This is not a scholarly tome although obviously based on solid research. It is a wonderful biographical investigation, a great addition for a collector of works about Monet, or a collector of graphic novels. I would certainly add it to a school library collection, or give it as a present with a difference for someone I know would enjoy it.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The rake's progress!

The Chaperone’s Secret (Classic Regency Romances #19)   by  Donna Lea Simpson


                            

I felt like I was reading a version of the Cinderella story with Cinders being Amy Corbett and her charge Rowena, the ugly stepsister. Amy has been snaffled away from her kind employer by Lady Rowena's autocratic father, the Duke, to chaperone his daughter during the coming season, and to ensure that Rowena finally marries. Failure is not an option. He really is a very unlikeable man. Unfortunately, Amy in accepting the employment that is, well 'fait accompli' is at the mercy of the Duke and his daughter. 
Lady Rowena is disdainful of others and solely concerned about her impact on men in particular. Her shallowness and meanness is breathtaking.
Lord Dante Pierson sees a vision go by late at night when he's sprawled in the gutter with two helpful 'ladies of the night'. Cupid's arrow pierces his heart. He's in love and determined to mend his dissolute ways and pursue the fair, unknown lady. That fair lady being the outwardly angelic Rowena, whose sweet countenance harbours a petulant inner self.
Now this all makes for a whole lot of heartache for Amy's position as chaperone.
I liked the way the characters were presented. Rowena was a fright, as was meant to be.
Amy is disturbed by the effect Rowena has on Pierson. She foresees nothing but disaster for the relationship. There is nothing she can do about it.
This novel had huge potential. There were a couple of interesting surprises towards the end but to my mind the storyline devolved into a fairly predictable melodrama. 

A NetGalley ARC

***

A new star on the space opera map.

Valiant Dust (Breaker of Empires #1)   by Richard Baker. 


                         

An interesting reworking of space opera themes. Recontact by more developed interstellar powers with isolated frontier worlds from Terra  and how that plays out. In this case the two major powers are the Aquilan Commonwealth and the Dremark Empire.
The world that is in question, Gadira II, is populated by those of Islamic leanings, adhering to moderate Quranist understandings of that faith.
It seems an agent of the Dremark Empire is setting up Gadira, for planetary unrest and thereby being able to install a puppet government aligned with Dremark's self interest. (Is it all sounding familiar?)
The main character, Lieutenant Sikander Singh North, a gunner officer, is from a similar frontier world, Kashmir. This system has been able to escalate its development under the more moderate Aquilan Commonwealth.
He's not only a member of the star fleet forces but akin to a prince in his own nation, hence his valet, Darvesh Reza who 'functions as Sikander's security detail, secretary, and general minder as well as his body servant.' I am sure Darvesh is going to join the renowned list of select sidekicks so enjoyed in other space operas.
For some reason Sikander's character is reminding me of Roger Ramius Sergei Chiang MacClintock from David Weber and John Ringo's series, Empire of Man. I know completely different characters and situations, still ... I'm intuiting some similarities.
There is a slight romantic interest for Sikander's with the intelligent, astute niece of the Sultan, Amira Ranya Meriem el-Nasir, Crown Princess of Gadir. A romance destined not to be.
Captain Markham, captain of the CSS Hector reminds me of some of the stalwart and fearless female captains from the Honor Harrington series.
The battles are all well orchestrated and described by Baker. It's in these situations of course we see further development of major and secondary characters, as they react under fire.
I look forward to the next in this series.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Compelling Victorian Mystery!

Lord Edward's Mysterious Treasure: The Breton Adventure (The Victorian Adventures #4) 
by Lillian Marek. 

                             

Marek's novel takes us to Brittany and a gothic Victorian type mystery with a romantic interest.
The scholarly Lord Edward Tremaine, son of the Marquess and Marchioness of Penworth, is lured to Brittany's coast and the forbidding Chateau Morvan by his friend Antoine on the pretext of being able to interview Tony's great grandfather, the vicomte de Morvan. Edward is excited at this possibility of direct research into the Breton rebellion, and relationship between the peasants of the area and the aristocracy during the French Revolution. Antoine really want wants Edward to help search for lost treasure from that time. Edward reminds me of a Tom Conti or Oscar Wilde type hero. On the surface he seems like an Ineffectual scholar but as events ratchet up, he becomes so much more. And Edward's very perceptive mother notices the difference in her son! 
Then there's Tony's two cousins. The delightful, warm Delphine and the sober Marguerite, a dark and secretive woman and a brilliant pianist. Intrigue and unforeseen dangers swirl around the story akin to the swirling mists that encase the Chateau. 
Tumultuous times are indeed revisited in highly charged and unexpected ways.
In this, the fourth in the series a Tremaine sibling is once again center stage.
Marek's historical setting and her use of situations  to give entree into the drama is fascinating, as is the unpacking of her historical writing muses discussed in her author's notes.

A NetGalley ARC

*****