Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wild and Wicked in Scotland by Melody Thomas

Book Description:
Running wild . . .

When Cassandra Sheridan agreed to an arranged marriage to the Earl of Hampstead, she never dreamed the cad wouldn't even bother to appear for their betrothal ball. It seems her intended cares more for gallivanting than meeting his bride-to-be! So Cassie decides to enjoy an adventure of her own and sets out across Scotland…and meets a dashing stranger who has elevated dueling and deception to an art form.

A dedicated spy on a mission, the Earl of Hampstead has more on his mind than a silly party. Now fate has thrown him together with a vivacious lady whom he must protect from harm, and whose sensuous beauty is proving most distracting. Worse still, Devlyn is horrified to discover she's the very woman he's engaged to marry!

With their lives and reputations in equal peril, do they dare surrender to their irresistible desires?

Doesn't this sound like it would be a really fun romance to read? Mistaken identities (no matter how unlikely and implausible it all is) and love on the run, with excitement and danger? And in Scotland too! All I can say is, "Thank God, I finally finished this dull, dull romance!" It took me almost a week to read, which is unheard of for a short romance. I kept putting it down, taking a break, rolling my eyes and wishing I could just get it over with!

On the surface, this should have been an exciting, good story. Rich American heiress is stood up by her arranged marriage British fiance at their engagement ball. She runs off to Scotland to seek solace with her best friend who lives there. En route, she meets a mysterious secret agent type who turns out to be her fiance! Now, at this point, I thought this could be good. Kind of like an "It Happened One Night" theme going with a spy twist. But, it didn't go that way. Instead it turned into another secret agent/spy thing with the clueless heroine going through a love/hate relationship with the hero. Yawn. Still, I persevered, thinking, it's got to pick up soon. If only I actually liked the heroine, unfortunately, she bothered me. They are attracted to each other, yet she is repelled by him as well. Half way through the book, I'm still waiting for it to get good. While fleeing evil Russian cossacks they somehow have these near sex encounters in the woods, or in barns (even though he has this terrible injury in his shoulder). Finally, they do find a bedroom for an actual consummation of their pent up passion, though he's always fighting it to be honorable. She basically doesn't let him so no anymore and the deed is done (they're engaged anyway, so who cares?) They fall in love and then eventually marry in one long convoluted plot. But that's not even the end of it, it goes on from there.

It wasn't that the romance was bad, it just didn't grab me. The love scenes were ho-hum, I could not fathom what the H/H saw in each other and how they suddenly came to realize they loved one another! All of a sudden at some point, they realized "I'm in love!" Huh? Why? Where was the character development, what made them fall for each other - other than the danger they were constantly facing? I found no depth or emotion whatsoever. The hero was lacklustre, I barely recall what he's supposed to look like, except that he has dark hair. Plus, he was injured for over half of the book. Everytime they had some sort of passionate encounter, all I could think of was his bulky bandage and how much pain he must be in! The heroine (a Victorian virgin) had no qualms about letting him touch her, especially when she wasn't even sure if she liked him or not! There was no long sizzling build up in their romance between one another. I'd expect a little more hesitancy on her part with him, but after one kiss, she was his for the asking.

I was so disappointed I didn't enjoy this book, the writing wasn't bad, but there was no spark in it for me. The secondary characters were weak and undeveloped and the counterfeiting Maria Ivanov plotline was hard to follow. (I won't even try to go in to it here.) I had heard such great things about this book, it was rated so highly by others - what happened? Though it took place in Scotland, it wasn't about Scots, it was about British and Americans traveling in Scotland. Once again, I find I'm turned off by a story in which the setting is in Scotland, yet the hero isn't really Scottish! I guess I felt a little cheated - especially by the title. I can't help it, I have my standards. If the title says, Wild and Wicked in Scotland, I was expecting it to have more oomph than this forgetable spy romance.

Oh well, live and learn.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Enslaved by Virginia Henley

Book Description:
Where are all the real men? she wondered...
For Lady Diana Davenport, they existed only in her books and dreams. There she could lose herself, becoming the licentious Diana, goddess of the hunt--far from the rigid restraints of eighteenth-century London, where she was courted by fops and fools. That is, until she tried on an authentic Roman helmet in an antiques store and was catapulted back in time, landing in Marcus Magnus's arms. This was no dream! She was lost in Aquae Sulis, the city she knew as Bath, prisoner of a Roman general who accused the violet-eyed beauty of being a Druid spy--and then made her his slave!


His words were soft, imperious, charged with danger and desire. Marcus Magnus was powerful, arrogant, and infuriating. A real man. And now Lady Diana was his slave, hostage to his will, vowing to fight him to the end--with every seductive weapon she possessed....

Upon reading the first opening pages of this romance, I instantly rolled my eyes. I was set on disliking it. Our heroine, Diana Davenport, is a young wealthy heiress in Georgian England (or was it Regency, it seemed to flip flop back and forth) who reads romances in bed and masturbates to them. She speaks her mind (a 20th century mind it sounds like) and she has the opinions of someone that just does not belong in her century. I cannot abide it when I'm reading an historical novel, and the characters talk as if it's a modern. Unfortunately, this sort of writing was rampant in this book, which was a shame, since the author must have gone to a lot of research in other aspects of it. But the language! Manroot?! Acck! Well, it knocked it down a notch for me. Diana wants some excitement in her life and meets the dark and sexually thrilling Mark Hardwicke while dressed at a masquerade skimpily clad as the Roman goddess, Diana. And this is in Georgian times, mind you! A virgin debutante no less!

Still, I continued on and once Diana travels back in time, it got even more ... interesting. Diana time travels back to the times of Ancient Rome, circa 61 A.D. when Nero was the Roman Emporer. There she immediately meets this dark and swarthy Roman nobleman who instantly makes her his house slave (it must have been those violet eyes of hers). Hmm, why does he seem so familiar? His name is Marcus Magnus, could that be a clue? She turns out to be his love slave, only she turns the tables on him, and they fall in love, but not before having loads and loads of hot monkey lovin' sex! Because of the setting, there is lots of room for kinky sex, bathing sex, eating sex, fireside sex and of course, bedroom sex, not too mention lots of skimpy revealing outfits and innuendos as well. Those Romans really knew how to live! Did I mention this book had a lot of hot sex in it?

But, on top of all of that, it actually had an interesting plotline, though we never do quite figure out how Diana's lover, Marcus Magnus/Mark Hardwicke (a deliberate euphemism for a certain piece of the male anatomy?) winds up being in both places without time traveling himself. Has he been reincarnated? We never find out. It is just taken for granted that the reader will accept it, since so much of this novel is fantasy and over the top anyway.

After lots of hot lovin' in see-through outfits and topless "loin dresses", plus the excitement of being thrown to the lions at the Circus Maximus in Rome, Diana returns to Georgian times, leaving her Roman lover and realizes that that Regency hunk, Mark Hardwicke is her Roman Marcus! (no, really?) Will they connect again? Will he remember their time together in Aqua Sulis? Is their love eternal?

As outlandish as it all sounds, it wasn't bad. I read this book in one day (and it was over 400 pages). It was quick paced and pretty exciting and definitely original. Aside from the misspellings (don't the editors know that "just desserts" has two s and not one?) and the constant reminder that Diana has violet colored eyes, I have to recommend this book, even if it's just for the novelty of it. How many romances are out there that have a time traveling Regency miss go back to ancient Rome? At least Diana's modern way of talking in ancient times, wasn't as glaringly out of place as it was during the Regency sequences.

All in all, not a bad trashy romance for a snowy winter's day.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Book Description:
An independent woman farmer unsettles Victorian Wessex; the village gossips agree, Bathsheba Everdene must either appoint a bailiff or marry suitably. Bathsheba, on the other hand, is dazzled by pleasure-seeking Sergeant Troy-a folly that threatens the whole community. Hardy's most comic novel, Far From the Madding Crowd (1874) reveals a tender understanding of Nature and a profound love for humankind.

"Marry Me."

And so are the fateful two words on an idly sent Valentine that sets in motion a series of events that lead to misunderstandings, obsession, heartbreak, death, and then ultimately - a marriage! I wouldn't exactly call this novel comic, but compared to Hardy's others, it is probably the most lighthearted novel he wrote. Filled with irony and pastoral settings and a very satisfying ending, this is a classic I highly recommend.

This is the story of the effect Bathsheba Everdene has on three different men and the entire community for that matter. The first is Farmer Gabriel Oak, a fine, honest and hardworking man who asks her to marry him, but she turns him down, not finding him quite up to her standards. Next is Farmer Boldwood, a middle-aged, substantial man of the neighborhood, a bachelor who is the receiver of the aforesaid Valentine. And then there is Sgt. Frank Troy, who beguiles her with his uniform and prowess with a sword. He compliments as Farmer Boldwood didn't even think of doing. He told her she was beautiful. What woman can resist that - even if deep down she already knows it? Who do you think she marries? Will Bathsheba ever find happiness when it's right beneath her nose?

I must admit, Bathsheba is not someone I really liked a lot. At times she is thoughtless, proud and vain. Young and beautiful, she is somewhat reckless and proud. She has a tendency of being rash, as in sending the Valentine to Farmer Boldwood. But, as the story continues, she learns to grow up and by the end of the book she has redeemed herself in the eyes of the reader, but not entirely. She must go through a lot to get there. Still, we are left with the impression that she will have help in getting there, and her future is in good hands.

Farmer Oak is a good man. After being previously turned down by Bathsheba, Gabriel faces disaster and loses his entire flock of sheep and cannot keep his own farm any longer. Bathsheba has since inherited her uncle's substantial sheep farm and is now prosperous in Hardy's fictional region of Wessex. Oak comes across her there and she is in need of a shepherd and hires him. Oak knows the difference in their stations now and keeps his place, but sometimes he will lecture her or give her some advice which she does not appreciate and it often makes her put on her 'lady of the manor' attitude with him. He still loves her, but knows this is not what she wants to hear, though she knows it and comes to take it for granted. He knows he has no chance with her, their stations are too different now. She is the proud Miss Everdene, mistress of the farm with many under her. He merely works for her as her shepherd. Still, she respects him and knows he's an honest and reliable friend. I really love Gabriel. Often in the book I just wanted to hug him. He took her refusals so well and he's such a good man, admired by all in the neighborhood. He is modest, but it's obvious he's educated and loyal to Bathsheba no matter what she says or does to him. He is forever faithful to her and her interests.

Boldwood after receiving Bathsheba's anonymous Valentine has the most to lose in this story. He becomes obsessed with finding out who sent him the infamous Valentine that is sealed with the words "Marry Me." Once he finds out it was Bathsheba he becomes obessesed with her and asks her to marry him. He's the catch of the neighborhood that no one has been able to land. The irony is he ignored her at first when she first took over her uncle's farm, and then, feeling a bit put out by it, she sent him the Valentine on an impulse. Little did she know it would lead to his obsession and eventual ruin. Poor Boldwood, I felt so sorry for him. Here he was living a good life and in enters Bathsheba and turns his good life upside down. He's never the same again! She keeps refusing him and he's heartsick over her yet won't give up hope that she'll come around. He goes from being the most admired and respected man in the neighborhood to a lovelorn laughingstock (or so he assumes that's what everyone thinks). He forgets to mind his farm and walks around as a tragic figure mourning the loss of Bathsheba (who he never really had in the first place.)

Frank Troy's story is a bit different. I felt like Frank had some goodness in him, but overall he was a rake. He could have done the right thing and didn't. By the time, he realized it, it was too late. Frank was originally supposed to marry a young maid, Fanny Robin, but when Fanny shows up to their wedding late, he turns his back on her and won't marry her. Months go by and he meets Bathsheba and is quickly enamoured of her. They have a short courtship and marry in secret. He does not turn out to be a good husband, and they are not very happy. We realize that he had truly loved Fanny all along. His one good quality is that he did really love Fanny, but his pride made him turn against her, which resulted in a terrible and ironic outcome.

By the end of the story, everything goes around that comes around and all is settled. But Hardy's characters are human and full of foibles and disappointments that keep your attention. You sigh when they sigh and get caught up in the world of farmers and haying and harvests and country fairs. A great story and a worthwhile read, I loved it!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Gentle Warrior by Julie Garwood

Book Description:
In feudal England, Elizabeth Montwright barely escaped the massacre that destroyed her family and exiled her from her ancestral castle. Bent on revenge, she rode again through the fortress gates, disguised as a seek aid from Geoffrey Berkley, the powerful baron who had routed the murderers.

He heard her pleas, resisted her demands, and vowed to seduce his beautiful subject. Yet as Elizabeth fought the warrior's caresses, love flamed for this gallant man who must soon champion her cause...and capture her spirited heart!

Julie Garwood writes some of my very favorite romances, primarily her Scottish medievals. This was the very first book that she wrote. I wasn't bowled over by it, but I saw many promising elements in this book that showed up in her later medievals. This was a weaker version of her subsequent ones. It lacked the humor and quirkiness that comes into her later attempts, but since it was her first stab at it, I'll give her a break. For a first novel, it was very good, but compared to The Bride (which is my favorite and first Julie Garwood) it paled in comparison. I'm slowly making my way through her backlist, starting with her earliest work.

This is the story about Elizabeth and Geoffrey. He is an English warrior, a favorite of William the Conqueror. I can't say I liked Geoffrey. He was domineering, autocratic and had almost no sense of humor. For a 27 year old, he acted like he was over 50. Good looking in that tall, dark and handsome warrior kind of way, he had an appeal to him, but he had to dominate over everything (yes, yes, I understand he's an overlord and this is feudal England) but it got old really fast.

Elizabeth is the beautiful and striking daughter of a slain nobleman, who was a vassal under Lord Geoffrey. She witnessed the murder of her family and must cope with the memory and try to protect her little brother, the heir to her family's estate. She is hell bent on vengeance. By chance she saves the life of Lord Geoffrey and they soon marry. From the moment he first sees her he knows he will have her and marry her. Yet, he's inflexible and incapable of loving her (or so he thinks.) He cares for her and wants her in his bed, but that's as far as he goes. They are constantly at odds with each other. He insists that she must obey him and be subservient to him, but she'll have none of that. She's convinced that she must train him to be more of a loving husband to her. This is the crux of the story. Can these two very stubborn people get over their pre-conceived notions of how the other should behave and just let nature take it's course and find a mutually satisfying relationship with one another?

If Geoffrey hadn't been such a hard ass, I think I would have enjoyed this story more. How many times must we read about his scowls and his difficulty to reign in his anger, his yelling at the top of his voice? I tired of having it beat over my head - okay already, I get it! Elizabeth is a strong heroine, yet kind of ditzy (not in a bad way, but she's a bit forgetful and irresponsible). She is almost fearless, a good mate for her new husband. Even though they might disagree and argue during the day, their nights are for each other and all arguments and problems of the day are put aside until the morning. He is a surprisingly gentle and considerate lover. The lovemaking scenes were hot, and some were intense - but I still couldn't get over not liking him! Finally, by the end of the book he comes around, but by that point, I'd already lost interest in him. There were times when I thought the story was going to get interesting, for instance, when Elizabeth decides she's going to give him just what he wants, a meek and obedient little wife, but that never happened for the novel took an adventurous turn in which Elizabeth risks her life to save someone, and Geoffrey gets all bent out of shape by it. I found it so annoying that he could not deal with it! When he finally does realize he loves her, it takes him forever to finally tell her, he keeps putting it off for the right time - grr!

I just wanted to get the book over with. I think I prefer Scots behaving this way, more than Englishmen. I have no idea why or if it makes sense, but it's just the way I feel. Give me a Scottish barbarian in a kilt and I'll follow him anywhere.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

2009 Outlander Challenge

I'm a little late in joining up, but for those of you that haven't heard of this challenge already, join the 2009 Outlander Challenge, which is a way to be sure you've read all of Diana Gabaldon's books in her Outlander series before the 7th book in the series, An Echo in the Bone comes out (hopefully) in Fall, 2009.

Join up here and leave a comment to let Michele, from A Reader's Respite know you are joining.

I hesitated about joining up myself, since I already listen to the unabridged recordings of the books (Davina Porter is Claire) in one never ending gigantic loop. I felt funny about joining a challenge of something I do anyway every day of my life! I have all the CD's and listen to them in my car. I've been doing this ever since I finished ABOSAA (Sept. 2005). At first, I got the recordings on cassette from my town library (they'd order them for me via interlibrary loan) and then I broke down and just bought them all myself since I wanted to continue listening to them over and over. I think I've gone through the whole loop about 3 or 4 times. I cannot recommend them enough! But, remember only get the unabridged recordings, the abridged recordings cannot even begin to cover the real thing.

Anyway, I'm starting over from scratch and popping the first of my Outlander CD's into my car tomorrow (today we're completely iced over and I will not be doing any driving, much less getting the car door open!) en route to my office and back.

Happy reading (or listening, as in my case)!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

Book Description:

Widowed Anna Wren is having a wretched day. After an arrogant male on horseback nearly squashes her, she arrives home to learn that she is in dire financial straits. What is a gently bred lady to do?


The Earl of Swartingham is in a quandary. Having frightened off two secretaries, Edward de Raaf needs someone who can withstand his bad temper and boorish behavior. Dammit! How hard can it be to find a decent secretary?


When Anna becomes the earl's secretary, both their problems are solved. Then she discovers he plans to visit the most notorious brothel in London for his "manly" needs. Well! Anna sees red--and decides to assuage her "womanly" desires... with the earl as her unknowing lover.

This is one of those romances that I've been hearing about for the past year that everyone is saying "It's great - you have to read it!" So, I finally did. The first in a trilogy, I must admit it was pretty good, but not the greatest romance I've ever read.

I had some problems with the plotline at first, and was taken aback at the idea that our hero is "ugly." Eep! Though, what appears to be ugly at first, or prickly or pockarked or mousy can turn into a blooming, beautiful rose or a handsome hero at the ready, bent on fighting a duel for his lady's honor. The Raven Prince is a parable on this theme aka Beauty and the Beast.

Set in 1760, Anna Wren is our widowed heroine who is a lady who must seek a form of genteel employment. She finds a job as secretary to the forbidding Earl of Swartingham. They initially meet when he falls off his horse (shades of Jane Eyre). He is gruff and unattractive at first (again, like Edward Rochester - even their names are the same!) He is dark haired and pockmarked, the only survivor of smallpox that killed off his entire family. He is the last in the line and must have an heir for it to continue. Anna, who had been married for four years, never conceived. It is presumed she is barren.

Despite his brash exterior the two of them get along and are attracted to one another. Theirs is an unusual courtship. Anna takes advantage of the unusual and provident opportunity to be able to pose as a whore in a high class brothel in London to bed him. And so she does! He never suspects who she really is for two erotic, sexually stimulating nights. Okay, it's implausible, but different, I'll give it that! Still, I did have a small problem with the deception and use of a brothel in the plotline, but that's just the romance prude in me. I instinctively have issues with heroines who lie about who they are, but often I overcome that as I get into the book, which I did in this one too.

Anna experiences the ultimate bliss in his arms, but faces the dilemma that she cannot simply sleep with him, as a man (presumably) uses a whore. She cannot enjoy the physical act unemotionally as a man would, and finds she wants more - yet she can't have more, since Edward doesn't know it's her and he's engaged to someone else! Plus, no lady can admit to what she did, much less have an affair with her employer! She's stuck. (I really wondered how the author was going to fix this.) Then, to make matters worse, Anna is seen by an unsavory cad at "Aphrodite's Grotto" (the name of the brothel) and is later blackmailed for it (that's where the angst in the story comes in). Edward, on the other hand, finds those two nights with his mysterious masked lady the most sexually fulfilling moments of his life. Yet, he has trouble dealing with the idea that he was with an anonymous whore when he's falling for Anna, his secretary. He feels guilty. What is he to do? And what will happen if and when he finds out that Anna tricked him? It was a joy to read how the two of them resolve this dilemma and become closer in their relationship. The development of the characters is rich and their romantic interludes are hot and sensual with lots of sexual tension in between. We see the two of them bloom and look at each other through different eyes than they did at first. I love romances that show how the two lovers - actually fall in love with one another!

In addition, there's a lot to this book that's fun. The side characters are witty and interesting. Edward's elderly valet, Davis, is a hoot, his steward's waistcoats are diverting and Edward's two friends, Iddesleigh and Harry, are intriguing at the end of the book (the next two books in the trilogy are based on their stories). Anna's mother-in-law is a sweet old lady, there are some whores and courtesans thrown in for good measure, and there is a suitably bitchy antagonist who tries to blackmail Anna in the end, but gets her just desserts instead.

Not only that, I loved the fairy tale of the Raven Prince that begins each chapter. It's a tale that mirrors the romance itself. A story within a story. I found myself as interested in finding out the ending to the fairy tale as much as the ending of the romance between Edward and Anna. I appreciate how the author made Anna's name, Anna Wren, to go so nicely with the theme in the book and to offset "the raven" depicted by Edward.

All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It sped by in one day and I'm eager to read the rest of the trilogy. I'm definitely going to be reading Elizabeth Hoyt's books in the future!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas

Book Description:
Why is Lady Sophia looking for a lover?
And could she seduce the most marriageable man in London? Lady Sophia Sydney would do anything to ensnare the unattainable Sir Ross Cannon. Her goal - to ruin his reputation and cause a scandal that would be the talk of all London. So she insinuates herself into his life by gaining his trust and living in his house. Every morning, her lush presence tempts him beyond all reason...the way she bends over the table to serve him the meals she has prepared...the way her hands oh, so gently - yet sensuously - brush against him. Every night, she promises with her eyes - and her body - that the hours before dawn could be spent in unbridled passion instead of restless sleep - if only he'd let her share his bed. She knows he is falling more in love with her each day. But she never counted on falling in love with him. And she never dreamed he might very respectably ask for her hand in marriage... Are you ready to be seduced by New York Times Bestselling Author Lisa Kleypas and her most compelling love story yet?

Wow! This was a great romance - I think it's the best Lisa Kleypas book I've read to date, which is saying a lot, since all her books are wonderful. Ironically, I was not bowled over by the first in this Bow Street Runners Series, but this book more than made up for it!

I really loved the hero, Sir Ross Cannon, the chief magistrate of the Bow Street Runners. We read a little bit about him in the first of the Bow Street Runners books, and I was intrigued and interested in him in the first book, so I was thrilled to realize this one is his story! The book takes place around Regency times in London, although the exact date of when is never quite revealed.

Ross is approximately 40 years old, a widower, quiet and nicknamed "the Monk" of Bow Street. A workaholic with no time to spare, that all changes on the first page of the book. In walks Sophia and turns his world upside down! Suddenly, he's no longer the Monk and he can't stop thinking about her. He hires her to work for him and so begins their "courtship".

Sophia has her own private motives for why she's trying to seduce him. She wants to ultimately destroy him, because she thinks he is the cause of her brother's death. He becomes enamored of her immediately, unaware of her true motives and can't get enough of her. At first, I groaned when I realized this was going to be another "revenge" sort of story like the first of this series, but soon enough, Sophia realizes her feelings are too strong for Sir Ross and she can't go through with her revenge plot. Yay! What a relief! I wanted to like her, and didn't like the idea that she was tricking him. But, she grows on you, and as her feelings become deeper and stronger for Sir Ross, you see how she hovers around him and wants to take care of him. Yet, she's also very passionate and has a past of her own (as is so often of many of Lisa Kleypas' heroines). She's not a young, innocent virgin, she has more substance to her. Born a lady (her father was a viscount), she was orphaned at a young age and had to fend for herself with her younger brother, who turns to a life of crime, leading to his death in prison. She also has a past lover who dropped her after promising to marry her. She's tarnished, yet rises above it all, and Sir Ross is so wonderful and noble and honorable, he overlooks her past. Did I mention how much I love him? I think he's my favorite LK hero!

With Sophia working at Bow Street, she and Ross ultimately fall in love and it's a pleasure to read about how they do and I savored every page. The love scenes are hot and sexy, but there's a whole relationship being built between the two of them, which is a big part of the book. The dialogue is perky and fast with a lot of character development and an intricate plotline - it all grabs you from page one. I guessed how the outcome of the book would be, but it was so much fun getting there to see how it all winds up and if I was right. There was not a dull moment of this book and it kept my attention throughout - I read it one day. The historical detail is accurate, you feel you're in London, seeing both the glamorous side of Mayfair as well as the seamy side of Bow Street and Covent Garden, I ate it all up like candy.

Do yourself a big favor and read this book, it's the 2nd in the Bow Street Runners Series, but I don't think it's a must to read the 1st to enjoy this one. I highly recommend it!


Friday, January 2, 2009

Master of the Highlands by Veronica Wolff

Book Description:
A modern woman finds true love across the ocean -— and across time.


Lily Hamlin has finally realized that her life isn't as perfect as she once thought. Making a pilgrimage to Scotland, a land she's only heard about in lullabies, Lily hopes that she can find her place again. But while exploring the Highlands, she discovers an overgrown maze and a strange stone map—and lands in the Lochaber of 1654...


Ewen, Chief of the Clan Cameron, is a busy man who must figure out how to save his people from the brutal redcoats and has time for little else. Having sired an heir, the widowed Ewen has no need-or room-for another romance. Then into his life drops a saucy lass with a peculiar accent, no regard for his title—and an arousing body. Drawn to each other despite their differences, they both realize that they don't want her to go back to her own time. But with battles brewing between the Camerons, the redcoats, and a rival clan, staying is a gamble.

This is the debut book from this author that came out in 2008 and based on the description - a highlander romance with time travel thrown in? Sounds right up my alley. Well, it was okay, but tended to drag and I found it took about 50 pages just to start to get into the book - not a good sign. More than once, I found a few Outlander plot similarities:

1) The first time our hero and heroine meet, she has a dislocated shoulder that he fixes for her. Hmm, sound familiar? 2) General Monk is the commander of the garrison of English soldiers that are invading the Scottish highlands. He is a slimy character who is more interested in his clothes and comforts. He doesn't exactly bear any resemblence to Jack Randall, but he is an effeminate English general (although in the epilogue he marries beneath him - I was sure he would turn out to be gay!) who has it out for our hero, Laird Ewen Cameron (though, he just wants him dead, he doesn't want to bed him first!)

Lily, our heroine, just can't really believe she's gone back in time, even though she's been straight out told she has, and all the evidence is smack up right before her face! But, still she tries to run away, at night, in the cold, in her barefeet no less! Of course, she's captured by horrible smelly, foul English soldiers who plan on raping her. This girl seems to have a tendency of getting herself in rape-able situations, this is not the last time she has to fend off the advances of some dirty, smelly, uncouth 17th century barbarian. There was a lot of action, sword fighting (or claymore fighting) and wrestling around in dark stairwells, but I still just did not find myself caught up in this book. It was kind of boring to me and didn't keep my interest. Fortunately, it wasn't long (less than 300 pages long) and it was a quick read.

Lily and Ewen find they are mutually attracted to each other, blah, blah, blah, yet fight it and then finally give in only to have to immediately jump up and go deal with the latest of crises that take place in the book. There was no real courtship or deep feelings in this book. Plenty of head hopping, "he thought" "she thought" business, but it was dull to read about. Not enough romance in this romance novel!

The one thing that I did like about it was the tie in with the song about the other time traveler, Robert, and how in the song he sacrifices himself for Ewen and takes a bullet for him and dies. It wasn't exactly how you think it will turn out and I liked that part of it, but the rest was just fodder. I've read much better time traveler Scottish highlander romances. This one was touted as one that Diana Gabaldon and Karen Marie Moning fans will love - well I didn't. I didn't dislike it, but it was just kind of blah.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Book Description:
Here is the magnificent saga of proud and passionate men and women and the turbulent times through which they suffer and triumph. They are the Truebas. And theirs is a world you will not want to leave, and one you will not forget.

Esteban - The patriarch, a volatile and proud man whose lust for land is legendary and who is haunted by his tyrannical passion for the wife he can never completely possess.

Clara - The matriarch, elusive and mysterious, who foretells family tragedy and shapes the fortunes of the house of the Truebas.

Blanca - Their daughter, soft-spoken yet rebellious, whose shocking love for the son of her father's foreman fuels Esteban's everlasting contempt... even as it produces the grandchild he adores.

Alba - The fruit of Blanca's forbidden love, a luminous bearty, a fiery and willful woman... the family's break with the past and link to the future.

My first book of 2009...

This is one of the books that has been on my TBR list for a long time. I'd always heard about it and often wondered what it was all about, what was so great about it, why was it considered such a great book. After reading it, I still wonder...

Yes, it's the story about the Treubas, a South American family (I think it's supposed to be in Peru, but the events described are more like Chile). It begins around the turn of the century with the del Valle family. A wealthy family with many children, one of whom is beautiful Rosa with long green hair, reminiscent of a mermaid. She is engaged to marry Estaban Treuba, a poor miner, who is trying to save up enough money to marry her. She dies unexpectedly and he eventually marries her younger sister, Clara, and so starts the dynasty of these strange women down the generations. They are mystical and dreamy and of another world, Alba, the youngest being the most grounded of them all, and the most modern. Esteban makes his fortune and become the patriarch of the family, who nearly outlives all these women in his life. He is like a bull, strong, domineering, lustful - often the complete antithesis to the women he loves.

I enjoyed reading about the passions and turmoils that went on in this family over the generations, but at the same time, I always felt like an outsider looking in, not privy to what is really going on with these characters. There's not a lot of deepness in the storytelling, it all seems a little 'matter of fact.' Most of the story is from Clara's and Alba's point of view, telling their family story, and then sometimes it goes into the first person of Esteban, telling his version of the same story at 90 years of age. Often in the narrative, there would be a sentence that would foreshadow a future sad or cataclysmic event, which tended to bother me. (We find out why the story is written this way at the end of the book.) I wanted more feeling and emotion, it seemed distant to me. The events that occured, when monumental to this family, were told in such a way that I couldn't really feel for them, I didn't cry once or get teary eyed. We see how this family survives the political back and forth of governments, and the last 100 pages are especially gripping in describing Alba's story and her lover, Miguel, a Communist guerilla, but I still wasn't moved.

I'm glad I read the book, but was it one of the best books I've ever read? Certainly not. But, it did have it's memorable moments, which will stay with me, and I got a glimpse of life in Latin America during this sprawling time period and how calamaties such as earthquakes and government coups can destroy so much. But yet in the face of destruction, so many brave people survived and were able to claw their way back to life again when all seemed so lost.

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