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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, October 28, 2014

A tangled treat!

The Accidental Countess (Playful Brides #2) by Valerie Bowman 

Second in the Playful Brides series. Once again Lucy Hunt, the newly minted Duchess of Claringdon hatches a hare brained scheme and all fall into line. Really, I am struck by the fact that these friends
and acquaintances lead themselves to the charade so readily. Such is the power that Lucy wields that others follow her mad capped, pied piper's tune. This time it is Cassandra, Lady Munroe and Lucy's best friend who is swept deeper and deeper into a tangled web of tortured love as her cousin Pen's betrothed, Captain Julian Swift, returns from the Napoleonic wars.
Cass and Swift have kept up an amazing correspondence throughout this time. Swift, determined to break off his arranged marriage and seek Cassandra searches for his fiancé, Cassandra's cousin Penelope. Pen is supposed to be away with her friend, the very non existent Miss Patience Bunbury. 
Cass, at Lucy's insistence, takes on the mantle of the mythical Miss Bunberry at a hastily flung together house party held by Lucy posing as Lady Worthington. I know, I know, Lucy's grand plan just keeps on developing!  Swift of course attends.
Swift is struck by the beauty and sensitivity of Cass as Patience. Cass is in disarray...and in love. Lucy has tied them all up in knots and it's anyone's guess at how the plot will unfold.
A madcap romp with all the features of a farce worthy of Oscar Wilde.

A NetGalley ARC

Monday, October 27, 2014

Spies and sighs!

Madeleine's Christmas Wish (The Marriage Game) by Ella Quinn

An enjoyable love story where the action is confounded by the past and confused by the future.
Madeline, Comtesse du Beaune has been running the family vineyard. The lands are far enough away from Paris that that the family has escaped the fate normally held for the aristocracy. Fortunately her father had declared for the revolution. Now Madeleine's father is dead and her brother is missing. Napoleons's star has waned and Louis is on the throne. Madeleine is abducted and forced into agreeing to work in an English brothel as a spy. This is the price she must pay in order to leave her sister and mother unharmed. But with the black hearted Citizen Coupe having devised her downfall nothing is guaranteed.
French spy, George's, Marquis Cruzy-le-Châte, a companion from Madeline's childhood fortuitously has business on the beach the night Madeline disembarked on the Dover coastline. Fate lends a hand and paths cross for these two, whose families had decreed their future years earlier. Will the past forge a brighter future in togetherness?
Filled with just enough twists and turns to add the right amount of intrigue and romance.

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

...unexpected gifts at Christmas.

Once Upon a Christmas Kiss by Manda Collins 

Miss Winifred Nightingale, a gentlewoman turned governess, has along with her sister Cordelia, been invited to a Christmas house party.       

Sir Lucien Blakemore has come to the same house party. He and Winnie know each other from Yorkshire and have a friendly acquaintance. Things of course change and Lucien and Winnie find themselves thrown together in an unsuspected manner. 
Both Sir Lucien and Winnie are well developed characters that demonstrate both human frailties and strengths.
We have a bad man in the form of an uncaring womanizer from Winnie's past, a dreadful local lady who is a major force, well a bully really in the social circle of the local village, her daughters, and various other house guests. 
Nasty and strange things keep happening to Winnie. Both she and Lucien are perturbed. What is happening and why?

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

...begetting the Earl!

Beguiling the Earl (Landing a Lord #2) by Suzanna Medeiros  

Catherine Evans has been besotted with the Earl of Kerrick, her brother-in-law's best friend, since she first met him. She had hoped for the feeling to be returned during her coming out season. She certainly didn't expect him to become engaged to one Rose Hardwick, but then, to be fair, neither did Kerrick.             Kerrick's interest in Lord and Lady Thornton's daughter, Rose Hardwick, was instigated by forces at a higher command.
Catherine interest in Kerrick is instigated from the heart.
Kerrick's interest in Catherine? Hmm?
And Rose's interest? Well, that's another story entirely.
But who is behind Lord and Lady Thornton's interest in attaching Kerrick for their daughter Rose? And why?
A tad predictable, but an enjoyable read with likeable characters as political machinations, matchmaking fathers and unknown traitors interrupt the course of true love.

A NetGalley ARC

A legendary love comes alive

The Sharp Hook of Love  by Sherry Jones  

A tragic love story that transcends the mists of time to re vitalize and reaffirm the strength of love itself. Heloise d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard fought the constraints of life and beliefs in twelfth century Paris. They made mistakes, they suffered, yet they experienced incomprehensible joy. Their love burned brightly, of such magnitude it spawned a legend that ensured their love would never be extinguished. This retelling makes us see Abelard and Heloise's humanness, their lives, and the struggles that encompassed their love.
They were bound by the changing religious opinions of the day, by Heloise's uncle's plans for her, and by political manoeuvrings that reached into high places.
Jones has used snippets of Heloise's lost love letters to effect as chapter introductions.
The philosophical discourse between them, the scholarly aptitude of Heloise is well presented. The day to day agonies of Heloise as she seeks to fulfill her dreams, dreams that will not come to fruition, are painful. The very personal interaction between the couple grounds their story in the reality of their day to day lives, and in doing so, grounds their story for us in that same reality.
A transfixing read!

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, October 9, 2014

wolf-ly love at Christmas time...

A Highland Wolf Christmas (Heart of the Wolf #15) by Terry Spear

A light and readable Highlander werewolf love story.   
Guthrie MacNeill is in cupid's path and the arrow's flying from Calla Stewart.
With his clan's finances to protect and a luscious wolf maiden needing the same, Guthrie is conflicted. Could Calla be his mate? Is he acting on the rebound?
Calla meanwhile is asking the same questions. After all this is the man whose boxer shorts  she'd hoisted up the flagpole before her friend Julie's marriage to clan leader Ian.
And having walked out on her fiancé Baird McKinley virtually at the altar, she needs some time and space to come to grips with her near disastrous marriage, and to continue to develop her business as an events planner. Julia wants her to help plan the McNeill's Christmas celebrations.
Neither Guthrie or Calla count on Baird's continued obsession with her.
McNeill clan favourites are ever present in the background.

A NetGalley ARC

Playfully quixotic and shrewdly insightful

Season For Desire (Holiday Pleasure #3) by Theresa Romain

Japanese puzzle boxes, a treasure hunt, an abducted lady, a darstardly villain, an American in a search of his heritage and all at Christmas time.
Brimming with unforgettable people, Lady Audrina Bradleigh is thrown into the maelstrom when her abduction goes wrong, she's rescued, and then forbidden by her harsh father to return to London for her dearest sister's wedding, in case the scandal threatening to surround her puts an end to the upcoming nuptials and her father's chance for a Duke in the family.   
Audrina is a rather marvellous character, searching for understanding and acceptance, in a male dominated world where woman are expected to know their place. Audrina wants none of that. She wants to forge her own way.
Giles Rutherford, is an American helping his father follow his dream, his 'adventure.'
A totally unexpected read with a cast of very amusing and diverse characters. Indeed, Romaine provides us with a mixture of the quixotic and earthy people who lighten the way, and the occasional idea or sentiment expressed so delightfully that they give pause for reflection.  I loved the idea of graphed paper and construction, the hint of the drafting paper for an architect upon which dreams are rendered. There really are a host of gems like this that nibble at our consciousness.
As deeper understandings, respect and attraction grows between Giles and Audrina, so the quest that Giles and his father, Richard are upon, becomes more mysterious and enveloping.
Larger questions about relationships, love and life bounce along in the background, grabbing our attention and adding to the action. Like Audrina's reflection, that to be accepted and loved, 'just as she was...was one of the most seductive thoughts a woman could entertain. Well, she could think of others,' is a wonderful example of Romaine's wry humour and relational wisdom.

A NetGalley ARC

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A captivating romantic intrigue!

If He's Daring (Wherlocke #6) by Hannah Howell

This is a lively, different and satisfying read, with a touch of the supernatural.
Definitely not your normal Stuart period historical romance.
Fate kindly takes a hand when Lady Catryn Gryffin de Warrene, displaying the termagite tendencies only a mother fearing for her child's safety employs, takes unusual steps to pursue her son's kidnapper
Sir Orion Wherlocke was kind enough to leave his carriage ready for the purpose of pursuit. Though to be fair, he was inside his mansion at the time contemplating another sort of pursuit, of the charming widow variety.
Unfortunately Catryn did not know that Orion's son Giles was inside the carriage when she hijacked it.
So a long list of people all pursing each other begins this rather startling adventure.
There is something otherworldly about Catryn and her son Alwyn. Catryn has strong premonitions. Alwyn sees dead spirits.
Howell's well placed humour blends gratifying characters and a rollicking, adventurous storyline. Her sly sense of the comic adds immensely to the various situations our heroes find themselves in.
Catryn is strong, determined and ready to brave all for her son.
Orion is capable, slightly detached and ruthless when necessary, especially where his family is involved.
Two such strong forces are bound to ignite strong passions when they meet, like colliding stars they are incandescent.
As the story progresses deeper darker mysteries are unravelled, involving sibling rivalries and a renegade Wherlocke cousin.
Catryn discovers answers to many questions she has occasionally puzzled about.
The Wherlocke children are delightfully entertaining with their quaint mix of squabbling and the serious discussions.
I enjoyed Howell's writing immensely and have put her on my 'must read more of' watch list.

A NetGalley ARC

Different and intriguing!

A Matter of Grave Concern by Brenda Novak   

Body snatchers, resurrections and missing persons illuminated against the backdrop of the dark side of London, is the setting for this historical, 'black noir', romantic thriller.
It's 1830, and only eighteen months since Burke and Hare, resurrectionists who took the short cut, murdered people and sold their victims for dissection, are still front and centre in Londoner's consciousness, particularly those who are burying their loved ones.
Schools of medicine are looking for bodies to dissect. Surgeons-in-training need more than animals to work on to increase their knowledge and abilities.
When Abigail Hale, a surgeon's daughter, desperately attempts to procure bodies for her father's college, the Aldersgate School of Medicine, she runs into obstacles that most of us would flee from in terror. Instead Abigail walks headlong into a dangerous situation with nary a hesitation.
Abigail finds herself at odds with a resurrectionist's gang led by a brute of a man, Jack Hutsill and a mysterious member of the gang, Maximillian Wilder. Max is not all he seems. He is looking for his half sister Madeline who's vanished into the underbelly of the city. She was last seen in the company of Jack.
When Abigail and Max meet, Max is forced to protect her as best he can. The sparks fly between them. 
The thing is Abby is headstrong, naive and a constant danger to those trying to protect her.
An intelligent young woman starved for affection, she just doesn't truly know how to be anything but forthright. I did sympathize with her. Her bald comments about all manner of things including her readings on copulation reveal her unusual upbringing.
I applauded Abby's pluck and creativity from time to time, and railed at her stubbornness at others.
But honestly, mostly I lost all patience with her, wanted to walk on stage, and tell her to just get out of there. She can be a very frustrating person. Not just for me as reader, but for all those she comes into contact with. Being so determined Abby is always walking straight into danger dragging those within her orbit down some unending dramatic rabbit hole.
Max and Abigail's developing relationship is interesting. However Max's later treatment of Abigail didn't ring true to the person he was portrayed as earlier. Yes, he is torn between duty, convention, his mother's will and his love for his sister. The person he feels he ought to be is at odds with who he is. Max doesn't quite live up to the earlier impetuous of a man who will stop at nothing for those he cares for. I can only conclude that he is heavily conflicted.
Despite this, an intriguing read if you have a taste for graveyards at midnight, bodies being carted around under cover of the dankness of London streets and romantic tensions.

A NetGalley ARC

Saturday, October 4, 2014

...magic abilities and 'the dragon's advantage!'

The Silver Pear leads on from The Golden Apple, taking us down new paths and experiences of the Great Forest and Wild Magic. Here we become more intimately involved with Rane's brother Soren and a delightful new sorcerer Mirabelle. Like the golden apple, the silver pear is a magical talisman given to Mirabelle by her sorcerer father.
It is stolen after a battle with a sorcerer her lord, William of Nesta. had illegally employed after Mirabelle had refused to 'question' men who kept suddenly appearing in the courtyard of his keep. Mirabelle and Soren join forces to search for the silver pear and Rane.
Meanwhile Kayla and Rane traverse the Great Forest. Kayla to search for training in the use of her witchly gift with wild magic, Rane searching for Soren.    
The Middleland sorcerers are vying for supremacy, focused on taking over the various kingdoms. All four, Rane and Kayla, Soren and Mirabelle are caught up in a battle that will determine Middleland's future.
The Great Forest, as always, is a place of unpredictability, both a refuge and a danger, both friend and foe.
As with the cover of the Golden Apple, the cover of The Silver Pear is delightful, showcasing the beauty and mystery of Mirabelle.  At one stage, within the safety of the Great Forest, Soren reflects on the feeling of sunlight as compared to Jasper's cold dungeon.  He looks back and catches Mirabelle bathed in the sunlight,
'It streamed in through the trees,illuminating Mirabelle in a diffused golden light. ... his eyes kept catching on the way her pale hair seemed to absorb the sunshine, reflecting it back so it glowed.'
We see Soren seeing Mirabelle. A precious moment that this charming cover by Laura Morrigan captures perfectly.
Another beguiling fantasy from Diener.

A NetGalley ARC

So exciting! A fledgling new series takes wing!

A Call to Duty (Manticore Ascendant #1) by David Weber and Timothy Zahn

A brand new series in Weber's Star Nations saga that spawned Honor Harrington, set before Manticore's ascendancy when the Star Kingdom was one of many the Diaspora nations and when Haven was still fairly young.
Travis Uriah Long is an exciting new character with that sense of honour, truth and gutsy characteristics that those gallant icons we loved in the Honor novels displayed. On the converse side there are those money grabbing politically adapt morally bankrupt characters and downright evil plotters as well.
As I see, it the character that could go either way is Travis' half brother Gavin, the young Baron Winterfell, who's tied up with the 'let's get rid of the RMN' group. Will he go the way of the corrupt or will he become a bulwark for the navy group. Only time will tell.
So when it seems politically expedient to cut up the Royal Manticorian battleships and send that budget somewhere else the anti navy (politically bankrupt) group is baying for blood. After all there's no-one out there who has their eyes focused on Manticore, or is there?
Caught in the middle is the monarchy. Hopefully they are lying in wait and not sleeping.
I look forward to the continuing surprises this series is going to bring.
With Weber and Zahn at the helm I'm sure we're in for a great ride!

A NetGalley ARC

...the way of the sword!

The House of the Four Winds: One Dozen Daughters #1  by Mercedes Lackey James Mallory

The Duchy of Swansgaarde has been blessed with twelve beautiful princesses and one prince. Twelve royal dowries would impoverish the small Duchy so it was determined by the princesses at a family council that the only way forward was for them to leave the Duchy on their eighteenth birthday and seek their fortune. Each daughter is allowed to pick a trade on her tenth birthday. Duke Rupert advises them to expect the best and plan for the worst. Wise words indeed.  
It is Princess Clarice of Swansgaarde's eighteen birthday. She goes forth to make her way in the world. Princess Clarice had chosen the way of the sword.
Her search for her fortune, her life's journey, is an eventful story full of merit. The New World is her destination. Disguised as a young man, Mr. Clarence Swann takes ship. Pirates, entrapment and ensorcellment are encountered. The major characters are interesting but somehow the story just didn't come off with the verve and energy I expect from these two authors.
A new twist to the Twelve Dancing Princesses, the premise of The House of Four Winds is fascinating with a wide vista of potential for the series.

A NetGalley ARC

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chia's helping properties!

The Chia Cookbook: Inventive, Delicious Recipes Featuring Nature's Superfood by Janie Hoffman

Here's a great opportunity to take a serious look at chia and learn more 'about foods with health enhancing powers.' As Hoffman descibes it, 'these minuscule seeds from the mint family have an astonishing amount of omega 3's, protein, fibre, calcium antioxidants and more.'
Obviously for Hoffman they have been a miracle food.
Janie Hoffman is the founder of Mama Chia, an organic chia-based food and drink company in 2009.
These credentials  give substance to what is an exciting voyage into new possibilities for a healthy regime. As she says and proves you can do more with chia than sprinkling it your food for a healthier lustre, and this cookbook helps to achieve that goal. There are hints on buying, storing and using.
The peach chia jam was a winner in the just ended peach season. Caprese baked eggs, smokey baba ghanoush, and much much more.Yum!
This book explodes with interesting and exciting ways to enrich your nutritional regime.

A NetGalley ARC

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Christmas delights!

Christmas Brides by Suzanne Enoch, Alexandra Hawkins, Elizabeth Essex, Valerie Bowman

Old favourites and delicious new tales to lighten hearts at Christmas time! Common themes emerge: heiresses, damsels in distress, knights in shining armour (figuratively speaking), villains, men being pursued by title seeking harpies, damsels being pursued by fortune hunters; all of course at this holiday period.

One Hot Scot by Suzanne Enoch      
Oh my! Thrown from a horse, fleeing from kidnappers and confronting a stunningly gorgeous naked brawny fellow emerging from a lake just as you've helped yourself to his plaid kilt to ease the chill you were feeling! Life for Duncan Lenox and Lady Julia Prentiss was taking unexpected turns.

Once Upon a Christmas Scandal by Alexandra Hawkins

1826 All her father's actions had done by increasing dowry was to ensure every fortune hunter in England would cross Lady Ellen path. One of these is Lord Derek Swainsbury.
A twist to the plot enhances what seemed to be a simple tale of an heiress pursued by fortune hunter.

The Scandal Before Christmas by Elizabeth Essex

I have reviewed this previously. On the re-reading it is still one of my fav. Xmas regency short stories.
1816 and it's six days before Christmas. Lieutenant Ian Worth's bully of a father the Viscount Rainsford declares that Ian must find a wife. Ian's brother, the heir, has had an accident, is in a coma and the succession is in doubt. Despite Ian wishing his father to purgatory and back Ian means to look for a wife. A chance meeting with Colonel Oliver Lesley an older naval friend, elicits the information that the Colonel has an unmarried daughter. Ian invites the family for Christmas with a view to wedding Anne Lesley, thus solving his problem. Anne unfortunately is shy and retiring and sad to say, remarkably plain. Ian wonders if he will spend more time at sea than he has first thought.
I love Anne and a Pinky, Ian's man, a batman cum butler.
I love the way Anne comes into her own. I love that she finds her 'voice.' A really lovely story.

It Happened Under the Mistletoe by Valerie Bowman

1817. Ah! Those dreaded house parties! Traps for unwary players. Oliver Townsende and Miss Cerian Blake are both fleeing unwanted suitors. Oliver, a newly minted Duke and Cerian, an heiress, meet in an unexpected place fleeing the eager hordes with mistletoe sprigs in their hands. I particularly enjoyed the cat that just might be Cupid in disguise.
Really, from the description of house parties I've read over the years the regency period seems to have been more the Ravishing Regency years. Still the setting provides us with an elegantly, witty Xmas story.

A NetGalley ARC

Reivers and romance!

Moonlight Raider (Border Nights) by Amanda Scott 

The Borders, Scotland,1426. Ettrick Forest on Clan Scott lands. A young woman, Molly Cockburn has fled into the night in nothing but her chemise from her father's keep. Pursued by her brother's sleuthhounds and her enraged family, she is escaping the travesty of a forced marriage to a brutish clan leader. 
A young Scots Lord, Walter Scott of Rankilburn, newly come to the position by way of his fathers death grieves his loss alone in the forest he rules.
Romance, lawlessness, and fulfilling promises to the King all become part of the story. Wat (Walter) is an honourable young man with an icy temper. Molly is an innocent young woman, grown to womanhood amongst men. Her knowledge of relations between men and women is sadly lacking. Which is a piece of information that becomes an important part of the plot. Well crafted this is all in all an engaging story.

A NetGalley ARC