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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, April 18, 2018

Absolutely charmed...




The Perfect Duchess (The Macalisters #2) 
by Erica Taylor.     


... by this story of love, angst, betrayals and murder!
Lady Clara Masson has been emotionally abused by her brother for far too long. Ever since her twin sister eloped rather than marry the Duke of Bradstone, Andrew Macalister.
Deciding to attend the Duke's masked ball some years later, Clara finds herself shunned by polite society, banned from Almanac's and generally looked down upon. The rumors spread about her are diabolical. 
Andrew has been half in love with Clara since he was a child. Her sudden appearance at the ball, her treatment by society has him exercising his ducal rights, scandalizing the gossipy ladies of the ton by not only dancing with Clara but leading her into supper.
It's when he visits  the next morning that he finds the house in disarray and Clara unconscious on the floor, bleeding from a head wound.
Well events get even stranger and Andrew finds himself in quite a quandary. As the situation unfolds, a plethora of wonderful characters come into play.
An oft times fun, and definitely mysterious, read!

A NetGalley ARC

****

The rake's rehabilitation!

The Duke Who Ravished Me (Rebellious Brides #4)   
by Diana Quincy    


                           

At the heart of this story are the laws in the 1800's to do with guardianship and the care of children. But that's just the segue into this regency romp that had me laughing ... and gasping!
Adam Fairfax, the Duke of Sunderford (Sinful Sunny to readers of the gossip sheets) is an outrageous, although oft times endearing, rake who has thrown his energies into the most dissipating activities one could imagine. All that comes to a rather screeching halt the night he is made aware of his guardianship of two seven year old girls, and by way of inclusion, their rather formidable governess right in the middle of a very risqué event at his home. The efforts of his butler to inform Sunny of his suddenly changed status from a 'Duke with no ties' to a 'guardian' is vastly amusing.
Of course the governess, Isobel Finch, is a prune of a woman, disapproving and constrained ... or is she?
As Sunny comes to know 'Finch' his misconceptions are dealt a blow, as is his heart. 
Our hearts are struck a blow as we see how Sunny embarked upon the path he fully embraced.
This pilgrim's progress, of renowned libertine to man of heart and conscience, is rather delicious and I really enjoyed it.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Masterful. Cuts to the chase!

by Rachel Hyland     


A rather wonderfully, light hearted, yet shrewd interpretation of Heyer's first novel, The Black Moth. 
The prologue was adroit and immediately grabbed my attention. (Mind you 'These Old Shades' was the Heyer novel I first read, and to this day I am in love with the Duc of Avon and Leonie! Oh! Stamp of pretty foot, Monsiegneur!)
So this well delivered expose of The Black Moth has me recalling those stories and feelings that revolved around this novel, These Old Shades  and Devil's Cub. Certainly Hugh Tracy, the Duke of Andover, is darker than Justin, the Duc of Avon. 
Whole generations have been born and died since I first read Heyer. And I am still enamoured of her works, and still reread them with the same fervour.
And oh Bliss! I reacquainted myself with Heyer in Hyland's fabulous commentary. I was given fresh eyes to see and things reflect on and to laugh at. What a wonderful sardonically, laconic writing style Hylands has, albeit with serious undertones. The inclusion of Jenny, Jack Carstaires horse, is both deft and hilarious.
On a darker note Hyland points to the shocking fact that Hugh Tracy, the Duke of Andover, tries to kidnap and have his way with the Lady Diana Beauleigh (aka rape). The lower classes were targets for this sort of behaviour, but Ladies? Oh my, the class divisions rear their ugly head and the treatment of females generally rears its even uglier head. All of which nineteen year old Heyer, in the early 1920's seems to have had little notion about, or perhaps the real life knowledge to view such actions through?
Certainly, a 2018 view on this Georgian novel written in is illuminating and thought provoking.
This is a witty, well written reflection on Heyer's first novel. I enjoyed it immensely. 
'Damn it, Tracy. Damn it all.'
All Heyer fans need a copy!

A NetGalley ARC

Note: Publication date for April 17, 2018 appears to be deferred

*****

Friday, April 13, 2018

Huzzah! An enticing historical crime novel!

A Rising man (Sam Wyndham #1)   by Abir Mukherjee


The understated discourse by Captain Sam Wyndham is up there with the best of them.
In the opening page Wyndham's statement sets the tone, "When you think you’ve seen it all, it’s nice to find that a killer can still surprise you." A British official has been murdered, a threatening note stuffed in his mouth addressed to the overlords, the crown raj.
It's 1919, post the war. Captain Wyndham, formerly of Scotland Yard has taken a posting in Calcutta.
He displays a certain jaundiced attitude covering an inner Boy Scout hopefulness.
Up against corruption, home grown terrorists (fighters for home rule and independence from Britain), Wyndham's introductory case is that of this official murdered in an alley in the more sordid parts of the city. In a place he should not have been! And it happens outside a brothel!
The trail will take Wyndham from the heights of government, to the most powerful businessmen in the country,and to H Division's Secret Service headquarters, into to the very bowels of the bazaar and the squalor therein.
Accompanied by his new sidekicks, the quite unpleasant Inspector Digby and wonderfully understated Sergeant Surrender-not Banerjee. The conversations between these three are truly the stuff of the past. Delivered in such an understated fashion, I just laughed at so many places, when my jaw wasn't dropping.
I am so hooked!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Fun 14th Century highland romp with a difference

My Lady Captor    by Hannah Howell


A strong female lead, Lady Sorcha Hay is placed in a difficult position when her brother Dougal, the clan Laird, he of little sense, is captured by the English. You see the English will demand a ransom. The problem is that Sorcha's people are dirt poor.
This is a clan whose women are somewhat different in that they see spirits. As they come into womanhood this gift or curse (depending on your viewpoint) comes into fruition. Hence the lonely, isolated place that the clan occupies.
Sorcha must come up with a plan to save her captured brother. Her solution pits her against another more powerful laird, 
Sir Ruari Kerr, laird of Gartmhor. Unfortunately Sorcha's unique answer to the problem brings about further challenges, not the least being Ruari Kerr himself.
There are some rather singular secondary characters and a couple of ghosts who round out a well written and captivating story, in the vein one has come to expect from Howell.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Dark secrets under hot, breathless skies!

Aphrodite's Tears    by Hannah Fielding


How much more can happen in one novel. Lost opportunities and lost dreams are bundled into this lengthy novel that leaves one exhausted.
Although I must admit the detail in the food descriptions are mouthwatering and left me scrabbling through my Greek Cookery books (Yes! I read novels on my kindle, but cookery and art books are definitely a hardcopy essential).
The archeological descriptions are crazy wonderful and inspire me to visit the Greek Islands.
The mythological stories inculcate the secrets of the past, sometimes romantic, at other times tragic, all underlined by the cruelty of the gods.
Mystery abounds about the major players.
There's torturous romance, torrid at times, twisted at others, sensitive and self absorbed.
All the key aspects for an exciting novel are there, and yes I kept on until the end. I felt the sunlight and the dark corners... and yet I felt I was watching a movie length production of The Bold and the Beautiful.
If you want a saga this is it!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Captivating!

A Dream of Redemption (The Disgraced Lords #8) 
by Bronwen Evans   



                          

Clary Homeward regarded his employer's sister as an angel. An innocent who should have nothing to do with him. After all, he is a product of the streets, of depravity, of the worst parts of London.
Book loving, intelligent Lady Helen Hawkestone was frustrated by the endless rounds of senseless ton activities. She wanted more, she wanted to marry for love. If she can't have that then her sister- in-law's support of orphanages would challenge the boredom of the social interplay.
A mission sweetened by the enigmatic manager of the charities, the beautiful Clarence.
Clarence's past rises up between them and Helen finds herself fighting for love, and the hapless children, prey to the amoral, who see them as nothing more than trading goods, human fodder to be used by those who rule the underbelly of the city.
A novel of darkness, and the light of love shining into the painful corners, bringing cleansing and freedom. Nicely balanced and well written.

A NetGalley ARC

*****