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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, January 9, 2018

Gripping!

A Mortal Likeness (Victorian Mysteries #2)    by Laura Joh Rowland


                            

Unlikely compatriots and fellow private detectives Sarah Bain and Lord Hugh Staunton, are thrown into, well are lured into really, the case of a kidnapped young child, Robin Mariner. The beloved son of wealthy banker and hard nosed businessman Sir Gerald Mariner, a friend to those in high places, has gone missing. Sir Gerald hires them with a retainer they cannot resist. He insists on a confidentiality clause which puts Sarah immediately at odds with her beau, Police Constable Thomas Barrett and Inspector Reid. After the Ripper debacle, Reid is harbouring a deep grudge against both Sarah and Hugh. He figuratively froths at the mouth whenever he lays eyes on them. And that's a lot of frothing with this latest case!
The thing is Sarah and Hugh are also seen in an area where they should not have been, so suspicion for a double murder falls on them.
Tied up in all this is Sarah's painstaking search for the father she'd grown up believing was dead. As she slowly inches forward with that so personal and painful endeavour, more information comes to light that strikes a blow to her heart and her faith in the type of man she believed her father to be.
There's coil within coil that unwinds like a striking snake. In the case of the missing Robin. Who is to be believed, who is to be trusted? What of the family members and associates, the servants and trusted companions? How many cards are in the deck and where do Sir Gerald's loyalties lie?
In turns, the story is both complex and harrowing as the search for Robin continues and close friendships are stretched to breaking point.
The underlining perceptions of Victorian England, attitudes and fears are highlighted through the main characters who just don't fit in--Sarah, Hugh and Mick, and through the machinations of Sir Gerald, the government and their representatives.
Rowland's portrayals of the places and people of these times are magnificent.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Highwaymen and pirates!

Earl Interrupted (The Daring Marriages #10) 
by Amanda Forester


                            

Quite an unexpected Regency romance with a pirate Lord and a young heiress fleeing a nasty step relatives. I quite enjoyed it even though it took me so long to read.
Emma St. James is no shrinking violet and it seems her undeterred faith and her willingness to take action keeps her one step ahead of a nasty fate.
Dare, Captain Robert Ashton, Earl of Darington, is a man used to action and mincing about drawing rooms looking for a suitable wife is some thing he's not suited to. Glowering and stoney silences are more his forté in these gruelling exercises. All of course add to his reputation as the Pirate Earl.
'As a child, Emma had dreamed of her wedding. What little girl did not?' Emma's prospects now seem so different as she sets forth to be a bride to an unknown grandson of a Lord in America. It's either this, marriage to her step brother, or an asylum.
As fate would have it Emma's plans take a hiatus when she and Dare meet on a dark and stormy night (well not quite!), but Dare does rescue Emma from a carriage accident and capture by brigands. The latter it turns out are no accident!
The adventures go on from here. Emma armed with her faith and resolve, Dare with his persistence and earned reputation. The dance between the two is excruciatingly sweet in a nice way. 'Earl Interrupted' is a fitting title. Because he is, constantly!

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

Charming!

The Rogue Is Back in Town (The Wayward Wallflowers #3) 
by Anna Bennett.   


                              

A young woman moonlight kiss in the garden during a ball is just the beginning. Contrary to  Miss Juliette Lacey's expectations, the erstwhile respectable Duke Nigel (the worm!) does not come a wooing. Instead he sends his rogue of a brother, Lord Samuel Travis, to evict her and her uncle from their home. The relationship between Nigel and Sam is really a key to Sam's behaviour.
Entranced by Juliette, the rogue in Sam finds himself wanting Juliette, but the suppressed Sam wants a chance to change his path. There are some deliciously wicked moments and some humorous ones. Uncle Alistair is a wonderful character. He won my heart with his platypus exchange with a hide bound member of the Royal Society. (The science community did repudiate that such an animal could exist when it was first reported.) Uncle's investigations of the Thames River are also a rather stunning inclusion. A man ahead of his times!
So we have the respectable yet devious brother, the reckless rake seeking to reform and the redoubtable young woman who wants so much more.
The Lacey sisters do indeed have a way with them. Juliette's story is bravely done.

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Crispin at his best!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Haughty evil stalks the land!

by Lecia Cornwall.   


                             

A highland version of Snow White and the Hunter.
Present is the wicked stepmother of Laire MacLeod. A darkly cold woman who beguiles and enchants men, using their female offspring to ensure her own continued beauty.
Laire is the young daughter of the bewitched laird who fights for her family and her love.
We have seven young people, thieves bonded together to form a clan whom Laire seeks shelter with. Then we have the Hunter, Iain Lindsay, bonded to Lady for seven years, whose gain saying of his Lady will come at a terrible price.
From a highland perspective, a take on an old age story of evil and the purity of love freely given.
A breathtaking read of a fairytale reimagined.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Thursday, December 21, 2017

A sacred vow and complications!

The Highland Guardian (Lords of the Highlands #3)     
by Amy Jarecki    


When Scotsman Reid MacKenzie, Earl of Seaforth promises a dying companion to become guardian of his child, Reid's thinking a young lass who could be placed in Boarding school. Imagine his shock when then lass transmorphs into a young, attractive Sassenach woman of marriageable age. Reid's fall back plan is to marry her off quickly so that he can continue down the path his responsibilities lead.
When  a devastated Audrey Kennet learns of his plans for her, she decides she has plans of her own. Not so easy! Especially as the air fairly crackles between Reid and herself. 
On the sidelines, yet significant, the players are an English officer who revels in torment and cruelty and an illegitimate, somewhat deranged cousin of Audrey's who is eyeing off her inheritance. 
When these two join forces both Audrey and Reid are in danger. 
Threats from outside of Jacobite involvements and thwarted plans play a part. 
Audrey and Reid's mutual attraction escalates. Yet it cannot be. Reid has other plans!
I enjoyed both these characters. Reid for his somewhat distracted championship of Audrey and Audrey for the quiet determination she exhibits. Both are strong characters but together they just don't quite have 'it'. Reid really annoyed me occasionally, although to give him his due he was a man of his word to the nth degree.

A NetGalley ARC

*** 1/2

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Nothing of the poetical must take root in her mind!

Enchantress of Numbers: A Novel of Ada Lovelace 
by Jennifer Chiaverini


Fascinating look into the life of Lord Byron's daughter, Ada Byron King, a gifted mathematician and visionary.
Rigorously guided by an overbearing, fearful mother who's one concern is that her daughter not have the contagion of excessive passion that her father did, it's no wonder Ada's brilliance found an outlet via reasoning and calculations. Her relationship with Charles Babbage and his Analytical Machine is that of a far seeing acolyte who comprehends the machine's wide ranging future possibilities and joins his fight for government funding and recognition.
Ada's mother's relationship with her daughter is mostly uncompromising, bordering on obsessively harsh at times and barely understandable at others. Lady Byron's fear that blood will tell and that her daughter will be as wicked as her father governs the way Ada is raised.
At times I felt weighted down and oppressed by Ada's upbringing, for Ada it obviously was so much more. It seems she just was never allowed to just 'be'.
Still I couldn't help but be intrigued by the upbringing this woman experienced, the way she had to carefully govern and restrain herself to gain what she desired. The way friends of her mother's surrounded and channeled Ada's energies. Not for nothing did Ada label these friends, The Three Furies.
Ada survived her childhood, eventually married and was able to pursue some of her dreams.
As Chiaverini says, 'It is an immeasurable loss to mathematics, computing, and poetical science that Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace, never had the chance to discover the fullness of that energy and power.'
Chiaverini's fictional account, based on rigorous research bears this out, combining as it does biographical data to present a well rounded story. I found this an intriguing revelation of an unknown (to me) extraordinary woman.

A NetGalley ARC

****