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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

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

****

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Flight and fight!

The Heiress's Deception (Sinful Brides #4)    by Christi Caldwell 


                              

When your despicable brother, the Duke of Bedford, uses all the underhanded methods in his repertoire to lay his hands on your dowry, the only alternatives are to acquiesce to his demands and become a victim, or take charge and run.
That's just what Lady Eve Pruitt did. She ran! Right into the life of Calum Dabney, the man she'd thought had hanged as a thief because that same dreaded brother had had him thrown into Newgate when she was only a young child and had taunted her with Calum's death.
Callum will not do anything to harm his 'family', those he'd grown up with on the streets, but when a new bookkeeper comes looking for a position at the group's gambling establishment,  the Hell and Sin Club, things are turned upside down.
Quite a riveting addition to Caldwell's Sinful Brides series.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

'The idea of excitement' brought to life!

Dashing All the Way: A Christmas Anthology
by Celeste Bradley, Eva Devon, Elizabeth Essex, Heather Snow

Nary a story flagged! 5 star holiday season romances with a touch of spice and a dash of cheer that are all excellent inclusions centering around Christmas time in one way or another. From house parties to balls, to situations of intrigue where the stakes are high and the games deadly. Whilst the Eva Devon story did not have as much in common as the others, the central theme continues of female character who is an extraordinary woman looking to take unusual steps.

A Rake for Christmas by Eva Devon 
Beautifully told story of the meeting of a rake (Anthony Basingstoke) and a wallflower (Lady Evangeline Pennyworth), a rake afraid of love and a wallflower unseen until he 'saw' her. What Evangeline wants is to be desirable, and to Anthony she is just that. But he knows the destruction of love. As a child he experienced the chaotic passion and discord of his parent's marriage and that has colored his perceptions. Love is painful and dangerous.

Up on the Rooftops by Elizabeth Essex 
Loved this story! Tobias McTavish, ex jewel thief is targeted. Someone is robbing London's ton of their baubles and jewels exactly in the way the Scottish Wraith used to before being caught. Serving his sentence at His Majesty's Pleasure in the navy had Toby freed and pursuing a gentleman farmer's lot. Now he needs to clear his name. Little does he know that his former Captain's sister, Caledonia Bowmont, has decided he is innocent and she throws herself into helping him. Drat, but she's attracted to Toby! A scintillating, fast moving tale!

The Very Debonair Lady Claire by Heather Snow 
Claire Barton is determined to find out who murdered her twin. A code breaker for the very secrative Abchurch section of the War Department, Clarence has used Claire's talents to help determine some of the codes. Now Clarence is dead and Claire assumes his identity to trap the killer. The new spymaster turns out to be an old friend, almost husband, Lord Andrew Sedgewick. He sees her immediately and it takes all of Claire's powers of persuasion to have him support her. For Andrew's part, he's racked with fear and guilt over the woman he loves whom he walked away from six years ago. A grand tale of love, betrayal, intrigue and romance.

A Liar Under the Mistletoe by Celeste Bradley 
Amie Jackham takes what her father taught her and uses it for survival. The Liar's club uses those lessons in service to the Crown. Lord Elliot Hughes, a Liar's club spy surprises Amie as  she is stealing from the lockbox he has his sights on.
Exciting and at times bewildering, currents of previous stories run deep as thieves vie at Christmas time.
An exciting chase with a young feisty female thief who gives Elliot a run for his money. Amie surprises!

A NetGalley ARC

*****

Portia 'had not expected [her] adventure to include a naked manswimming in the waters off the beach!'

Same Time, Next Christmas (Mistress Trio #3)   
by Victoria Alexander


                           

A rather startling opening leads to a fascinating life's journey with a young widow in Victorian times. When Portia, Lady Redwell, decides to continue on with her Italian Christmas holiday despite her aunt and companion having to leave to return to London, she little guesses that an adventure would open up that would span Christmases to come. She little realizes that she will change forever. Portia is about to experience "What happens when we step out of the boxes we have always lived our lives in. When we dare to take a chance. To select the road untraveled. To accept, even embrace, the new, the unknown." A heady idea! Is Portia up to it?
When Portia finds a stranger swimming naked at her villa's private beach she is angry. Her holiday place is not for sharing! Fletcher Jamison must look elsewhere! 
Ultimately Portia has to decide whether merely being content in any future relationship is enough. Or does she want the 'magic' that her two friends have. Will she settle for the type of relationship she had with her dead husband or does she want more?
Rarely impulsive, Portia finds herself being exactly that. I liked watching Portia struggle with that side of herself. A side that Aunt Helena comments, much to Portia's puzzlement, as being so much like Portia's mother!

A NetGalley ARC

****

Thursday, December 7, 2017

‘A bubbling broth of murder, theft, blasphemy and sacrilege.’!

A Medieval mystery (The Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan #18) 

by Paul Doherty


Once again Doherty plunged me into the colorful firmament of medieval London of 1381. The starkness of an age where danger encroaches from every side is vividly portrayed. Doherty's descriptions of the hanging fields and the dark depths of the London alleyways are worthy of an Hieronymus Bosch painting. London Hades is a fitting title given the area where the action takes place.
This time Athelstan and his friend 
Sir John Cranston, Lord High Coroner of London, otherwise known as ‘Sir Jack,’ are enmeshed in the dark doings of the gangs of London.
Simon Makepeace, the 'Flesher', leader of 'London’s most vicious and notorious [gang, the] rifflers', an  abhorrent person as his moniker surmises, and his minions are unstoppable, backed as they are by Lord Arundel. When the bodies of a priest, Parson Reynaud, and two others are discovered mysteriously slain within the church of St Benet's, the Flesher's mother's body stolen from her coffin, and the Flesher's treasure taken from the church's iron-bound strongbox, Athelstan is pressed into service. 
Things appear to harken back to when the Twelve Apostles (wonderful gem stones) in their Rose Casket were stolen from the King's barge some eighteen years ago. They were never seen again. The French are taking a keen interest.
Meanwhile another mystery linked to a recent death and a strange discovery in Athelstan's parish of St Erconwald’s sits patiently in Athelstan's mind.
Court politics as always are always lurking in the background.
A mystery that once again puzzles and delights. I did not see the ending coming until the full disclosure was given.

A NetGalley ARC

*****

A Duchess-in-training, maybe!

A Good Day to Marry a Duke (Sin and Sensibility #1)   

by Betina Krahn



                             

An interesting basis to a new series. American heiresses 'who descended on England in the late Victorian era' engaging in the London season, hoping for a titled husband. The author's note at the end of the book is quite illuminating about the practice of sending dowered daughters 'across the pond' to bring back a blue blood husband. Some 'bemoaned it as 'the tidal wave of “dollar princesses” '. Although it seems many of these men were no prize, rather total disasters. But do read this fascinating footnote.
Daisy Bumgarten has a lot to live down. Her New York debut was a total failure. I felt pained along with Daisy when we overheard the catty, disparaging comments of the New York disdaining elites. 
To help her family Daisy agrees to a London season. After all she has three younger sisters lining up behind her. The trouble is Daisy finds it hard to push down the sparkling outspoken woman she really is.
So to London where Daisy's sights, or rather her sponsor's sights, have been firmly set on Arthur Graham, the sixth Duke of Meridian.
Unfortunately, Arthur's brother Lord Ashton Graham is charged with not only discovering Daisy's english antecedents, but with actively dashing her hopes. What he didn't expect was how much he would come to appreciate Daisy. Indeed, the very air sizzles between them, but Daisy must do her duty to her family. Ash as the 'spare' portrays the unenviable lot of many of those in his position. His treatment by his family and his brother's trustees is deplorable.
In all this Arthur, a retiring avid naturalist starts to develop into his own man, thanks largely to Daisy's influence and understanding. So we have the kindly, somewhat preoccupied Duke lifting his head to become aware of his estate and his trustee's actions, the dazzling Daisy and the misunderstood handsome rake Ash. Their stories come together in a highly charged and delightful fashion.

A NetGalley ARC

****

Monday, December 4, 2017

Just have to love Penric and his crew!

Penric's Mission (Penric and Desdemona #4)   by Lois McMaster Bujold 


                          

Well that sucks! I was so drawn in to Penric and his happenings that before I knew it I was on the last page. The ending was far too abrupt. I need, indeed must get hold of what happens next!!
Note: I read the sequel (Mira's Last Dance) and am now much happier
Anyway in Mission, Penric enters into a secret diplomatic mission for the Duke of Adri that ends in unmitigated disaster with Penric imprisoned and the future looking grim. Desdemona as usual has a few pithy words to say! A well constructed world that opens up new vistas, with a fitting sense of humor and occasion.
Penric is altogether one of my favorite characters, and here his story just keeps on giving!

A NetGalley ARC

*****