Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whitney, My Love by Judith McNaught

Book Description:
Under the dark, languorous eyes of Clayton Westmoreland, the Duke of Claymore, Whitney Stone grew from a saucy hoyden into a ravishingly sensual woman. Fresh from her triumphs in Paris society, she returned to England to win the heart of Paul, her childhood love...only to be bargained away by her bankrupt father to the handsome, arrogant Duke. Outraged, she defies her new lord. But even as his smoldering passion seduces her into a gathering storm of desire, Whitney cannot - will not - relinquish her dream of perfect love.

OMG, this was such a good book, I couldn't put it down! I read it in one day - all seven hundred pages of it! Luckily, I've been sick in bed for the past four days and was able to read it uninterrupted.

First of all, let me say up front that there are:


It would be impossible for me to review this book without revealing what happens in the plotline, so keep that in mind.

On with the review:

This was Judith McNaught's first book which she wrote in the mid 1980's, the days when a hero raped the heroine and nobody thought twice about it. Oh how romances have evolved! Nowadays, that would be so un-PC, but back then it was done, so keep that in mind when reading Whitney, My Love and try to keep an open mind and be forgiving if you can. I was able to look at the story as a whole, although I can totally understand why some people wouldn't be able to read or stomach this novel because of the brutality depicted in the hero. It irked me as well and prevented me from giving it a 5 star rating, but it didn't ruin the book for me. If anything it made it more compelling and lifted it up from being just another funny regency romance to a darker, richer love story about two people who make terrible mistakes in their lives. The hero is an over the top alpha male who reacts irrationally before thinking, and the heroine, albeit lively and endearing, makes some costly errors in judgment.

Whitney Stone is an endearing plucky heroine. An unruly teenager with a crush on her neighbor Paul, she is sent off to France to live with her aunt and uncle. She is schooled in the ways of how to be a proper young lady and makes her debut in Paris. She is a huge hit! Now refined and beautiful she is eager to return to England and get her old love to fall in love and marry her. She's never given up her crush on Paul and is determined to get him and show up everyone who scorned her in the neighborhood - country bumpkins who have nothing better to do than gossip and criticize her! Little does she know that at a masquerade in Paris, she has caught the eye of the tall, dark and handsome Duke of Westmoreland. She has bewitched him, though she has no idea who he is, since he was masked while they danced once together. He, being the sexy uber alpha male that he is, has decided he will marry her, and whatever the Duke of Westmoreland wants, the Duke of Westmoreland gets!

Extrememly rich and powerful, Westmoreland has her background investigatesd and finds out that her father is up to his eyeballs in debt and makes him an offer he can't refuse. They make a deal that Whitney will marry the Duke, all unbeknownst to Whitney who has other plans. The Duke rents a place near her country home so he can court her without the notoriety of his ducal fame and fortune - and rakish reputation with the ladies. Posing as Clayton Westland, he wants to woo her in his own way. They have an unexpected meeting in the the woods soon after she arrives back in England and she hates him almost instantly. She thinks he is rude and arrogant and wants no part of him - she wants Paul! (Shades of Rhett and Scarlett as well as some Darcy and Elizabeth - I loved it!)

Clayton sets out to win her, but it's no easy task, Whitney can't stand the sight of him, even though they're always thrown together somehow. Plus, she's fixated on the vain and lacklustre Paul! Much of what happens between Whitney and Clayton seems to be in extremes. Whitney is a passionate, headstrong girl, much of what happens to her is due to her rash tendencies. Clayton is a take control man, if he wants something he gets it, come hell or high water, he takes no prisoners and shows no mercy. The two of them together are a combustible combination which can be either great or disastrous. To make a long story short, when Whitney finds out about the betrothal she is furious and instantly rebels against the idea, even though the duke is starting to grow on her. Ignoring the fact that her father will be beholden to Clayton for 100,000 pounds, she refuses to marry the duke, she is still bent on marrying Paul who has now finally offered for her. But, when Paul finds out that Whitney has no money, he begs off and Whitney finally comes to terms with marrying Clayton. Finally!

But, just when things are looking rosy for this couple and they're falling in love, the story takes a dark turn. Clayton believes some malicious gossip that a jealous enemy of Whitney's casually tells him (someone should have shot that girl after what she said!) and instead of being rational and thinking it through Clayton grabs Whitney at a London party and kidnaps her and takes her to his estate outside London. He believes that she has been lying to him all along and that she is a huge flirt and has been sleeping around with other men. Whitney has no idea what he's so mad about and is under the wrong impression that he's angry at her about Paul, but he won't let her talk or ask questions. He won't even come right out and tell her why he's angry. He's just so enraged that all he can do is act on it! He verbally abuses her and accuses her of all sorts of atrocious things. It's terrible to read this part of the book and emotionally upsetting to see him go so overboard and overreact - it's horrible! Poor Whitney is telling him she loves him and instead he winds up taking her to his bed and virtually raping her! It's just horrible what he does, but as soon as he realizes she had been a virgin, he immediately knows the huge mistake he made and he hates himself for it and she cries in his arms. But, the damage has been done and it's devastating.

She hates him at first, but as time passes she realizes she loves him and eventually they find their way back to each other, but it's a bumpy road, and even then after their marriage, their troubles are still not over. Once again, he jumps to conclusions when he sees an old note she wrote that she never sent to him. He overreacts and treats her horribly, accusing her again of being unfaithful and a lying bitch. He really has issues! This time once they get back together she makes him promise that he'll never behave this way again with her and that he won't accuse her of being something until he's given her a chance to explain herself. He always goes off half cocked and crazy without thinking first! Plus, he'd often manhandle her, grabbing her arms too tightly, etc. It was great storytelling, although disturbing to read at times. The author does her best to show both sides of where Clayton is coming from and why he does what he does, and he is indeed remorseful when he realizes the grave mistakes he has made. He is often much harder on himself than Whitney is, who I think forgave him much too easily. But, she's young and in love with him and she knew he was acting out of love for her, yet I'd be very wary of him if I were her in the future. But of course, that's if this were real life, and this is a romance novel after all!

I'm leaving a lot out since I don't want to reveal every plot detail, but this was a roller coaster ride of a book. The side characters were well developed and interesting as well as the settings and descriptions which I loved: the jewels, the dresses, the furnishings - very well done!

This is a lengthy book and it had it's ups and down, I often laughed and giggled in the first half, and then the story suprised me when it took on it's dark tone, angst took over and I had to read on to see what would happen next, searching for that light at the end of the tunnel. I was exhausted by the end but it was so worthwhile and satisfying!

One niggling thing, I was a little bit annoyed with the enhanced ending in my version of the book which was all about Clayton's brother Stephen who helped in getting Whitney and Clayton back together. I wish I had read the un-enhanced version so that I could have just savored Whitney and Clayton's story and happily ever after ending without all the business about Stephen and the set up for his sequel. I feel like it detracted from the main story and what happens with Whitney and Clayton when she has her baby.

I highly recommend this regency, but I give it a 4.5/5 instead of a 5 because of the brutality depicted in the story by the hero.

The Key by Lynsay Sands

Book Description:
Iliana Wildwood would do anything to escape from the depraved baron who sought her lands - including marrying a barbarian. Fleeing the highlands, Iliana was wedded to Duncan, laird to Dunbar Castle. Certainly, there was something about the virile warrior that made her weak in the knees - but something stank in the state of Scotland, and Iliana would not trust anyone until she'd discovered the source.

Determined therefore to resist her handsome husband, Iliana found a way to keep her secrets safe. Employing a belt of chastity, the spirited beauty managed to thwart the thane's advances. But then her husband changed his tactics and began a sensual assault that sent her intentions up in smoke. And as the air cleared, Iliana found it had been her heart she had locked away, and that this stubborn Scot had finally found...

An amusing medieval Scottish Highlander romance in which the gist of the story is a lively English heroine is forced to marry a stinky and smelly Scot (albeit, he's good looking!) who refuses to bathe more than twice a year! In retaliation, she refuses to consummate their marriage by wearing a chastity belt with a key until he soaps up! As you can imagine, it had it's amusing moments but I found the hero came across as too dense for my liking most of the time.

Iliana must marry Duncan Dunbar, the son of the laird of the Dunbars in Scotland in order to save her mother who has been forced to marry this evil Englishman. It's complicated, but the King of England has arranged this marriage. The only problem is, Iliana has been accustomed to living a clean and tidy life in England and is not used to the rough and tumble - and very dirty Scotsmen that she's now forced to live amongst. Her soon to be husband is uncouth and unkempt so she takes matters into her own hands and refuses to allow him to bed her until he bathes. Hence, the chastity belt and only she knows where the key is.

Now, I can completely understand where she's coming from, but I think she takes it a bit too far. Duncan is outraged and simply refuses to give in to his new wife, no matter how luscious and pretty she is. He wants her - but not enough to take a bath for her. Now, I thought was this was just plain silly! What's so hard about taking a bath or couldn't he swim in the nearby loch? Instead he goes through all sorts of battles with Iliana and ideas of seduction to avoid a bath! It was funny at first but then got old pretty fast. Eventually she finds a way to have him "fall" into a bath with her and they're finally able to give in to the overwhelming lust that has been building up between them, but as soon as he starts to stink again - back on goes the chastity belt!

Meanwhile, Iliana's mother manages to escape from her horrible English husband and Duncan's father develops a fondness for her. I liked this little sideline between the two of them and their developing romance. Her evil husband comes to attack the Dunbars and there is treachery within the castles walls - someone is a traitor (I guessed it right) and Iliana and the rest of the women must hold off a seige while Duncan and his men are on a wild goose chase looking for Duncan's wayward sister. The action during the seige was exciting and gripping and I felt just as tired as Iliana when it was all over.

Eventually, once there is peace in order again at the castle and Iliana's mother evil husband is dead, Duncan's wise father is the one that finally convinces Duncan that bathing is a good thing. Duncan comes around and they all have a rollicking good time in their baths by the end of the book!

There's a lot more too it, I'm leaving a lot out. It wasn't bad, and a pleasantly diverting read on a snowy day while sick in bed, which is where I've been for the past three days.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Green Darkness by Anya Seton

Book Description:
The year was 1968 ... the country was England. Richard Marsdon had brought his new bride, Celia, to the family home, Medfield Place. They were young and very much in love. But Richard and Celia were not only of this time. They had lived and loved before-in another world-in sixteenth-century England. And their love had been tragically doomed. Was their new love destined for the same fate?

GREEN DARKNESS - a spell-binding story of a great love caught in an evil web of mysticism and witchcraft - of a threatening past that reached across centuries to change the present.

This is the first book I've read by Anya Seton. A bestseller in the early 1970's, it comes across as a bit dated now, but it was an interesting book that covered the Tudor period of King Henry VIII's son, Edward VI, through Mary Tudor's brief reign and then into the first few years of Elizabeth I, all with a mystical reincarnation theme. Doomed lovers that died violently during Tudor times are reincarnated and reunited in 1968 only to face new challenges and unhappiness. Can a learned and wise doctor help them overcome the tragedy from their past life so that they can live in peace now?

The book starts out in "present day" of 1968. Celia and Richard Marsdon have been married for less than a year. They meet on a cruise ship and fall in love and marry quickly. She, an American heiress, he, an earl who could use an infusion of American money for his crumbling country estate. They are happy at first, but some strange things begin to happen in their marriage. Celia seems to have some unexplained blackouts while visiting an old nearby estate, and Richard becomes more and more withdrawn from her. No longer sharing a room, Celia is convinced he no longer loves her or wants her. During a country weekend party at their estate in the country all hell breaks loose when she has a sort of breakdown and comes seriously close to dying and is removed to a London hospital. An Indian, Dr. Anankanda who was a guest during the fractious weekend, thinks he can help her. He believes she has been reincarnated and was once a young woman, Celia, who lived four hundred years earlier. The book is in three parts: Part I is in 1968, Part II is four hundred years earlier, and Part III is in 1968 again.

Once the good doctor begins his hypnosis/mystical therapy on Celia the story shifts to Tudor times and we meet the young Celia, who is an orphan of dubious, but once noble birth. Her mother worked in a tavern, but her aunt on her father's side (the noble side) takes her in and helps elevate her status. Celia is taught how to read and the learnings of the Bible under the tutelage of a young and handsome monk, Brother Stephen. The family she now lives with in the house of Sir Anthony Browne is Catholic, though they must practice in secret since Catholicism is now outlawed for it is during the reign of the young King Edward VI, a devout Protestant. Unlike today, England was either all Protestant or all Catholic, depending on who the ruler was. Despite the restrictions, Sir Anthony keeps a house priest, Stephen Marsden, who is a Benedictine monk from the a nearby family, members of the gentry. He is truly devout to his calling, but once he begins to give lessons to the young and beautiful Celia, his devotion to God is tested.

For much of the book Celia is in love with Stephen. I found her character somewhat stupid and annoying, I didn't really like her. I often found her incredibly naive or selfish. She was young and had convinced herself that Stephen loved her back, even though he was always pushing her away! She was sure that he would leave the priesthood for her. At one point, she throws herself at him, they have a passionate kiss and he comes to his senses and renounces her, he cannot love her, it goes against all he knows and believes in as a priest. She hates him for a while as she goes North with her aunt to visit the Dacres, a noble family with a son who may want to marry Celia. She becomes friends with a daughter of the Dacres, Magdalen who is nice to her amidst a lot of weird ghoulish sorts of goings on. Blood drinking crazed women and ghosts roaming about desolate castles, with the proverbial loutish son that can't wait to get his hands on the beautiful and virginal Celia...

This northern interlude is long, it mostly gives background fodder to the plot and points out the difficulties of being a Catholic family during the Dissolution and the political ins and outs under Edward's reign and then into Mary's where everyone has to be Catholic, and then under Elizabeth's where everyone has to be Protestant again! It's like watching a tennis game! Families fall and rise dependent on their religion. Heads rolled and many were imprisoned for their religions during this time. Eventually Celia, raised as a Catholic, gives up all religion and simply depends on herself. This interlude also touches on a homosexual relationship that Celia witnesses which I imagine must have been pretty daring and titillating to read about back in the early 70's when the book came out! Nowadays it would seem pretty tame.

Once Celia returns from the North, she marries an older man who eventually dies. She returns to Sir Anthony's house, who is now married to her old friend, Magdalen Dacre and under Mary Tudor's reign, the Browne's have been elevated and Sir Anthony is Master of the Horse under Queen Mary. They are very grand now and Brother Stephen has risen as well. He and Celia are reunited and sure enough, she tempts him again, and this time she succeeds where she failed last time. They have a night of passion together just before she is supposed to marry a nice young man. But, once again she's not happy with just the one night and wants Stephen forever. He cannot live with the guilt - he is a priest and she is supposed to marry another! But, she runs away and finds Stephen who is the house priest for the Allens, who live on another estate. Celia disguises herself and finds a job there as a scullery maid and eventually makes herself known to Stephen. She is pregnant from their one night together and at last he admits his love to her and they have plans to run away to France - but... but... it doesn't turn out that way! I won't give it away, but it does not end well... all I can say is Mrs. Allen is just as creepy as her counterpart in the present, Mrs. Simpson.

Back to 1968... now that we know what their past lives went through, their present day counterparts make alot more sense. Dr. Anankanda has brought Celia back to the present with a lot of mystical mumbo jumbo reincarnation stuff and he is also able to help her husband Richard/Stephen come to terms with his past lives as well. Their former lives are finally put to rest. In addition to Celia and Stephen, there are many side characters that we see in both present and the past, such as Dr. Anankanda/Julian, Celia's mother/Ursula, the Simpsons/The Allens (Mrs. Simpson/Allen is especially creepy), and the Duchess/Magdalen. They are interesting, but hardly any real character development to anyone, including the main characters of Celia and Stephen. We know what drives them, but it did feel like there was not much depth to them, the historical aspects of the book were front and center, with the plotline giving it life.

Overall, Green Darkness wasn't bad, but the 1968 plotline was a little dated and strange with it's modern tone. The switch to the earlier period was jarring. The Tudor period was well done, but I can't say I really got into the doomed love story of Celia and Stephen all that much. Although it is the central thread of the book, this is more of an historical novel, not a romance. I almost got the impression the author wanted to write about Tudor times and the role of religion and it's importance to the noble families and how it affected them under the changing monarchs but added the love story to give it more broader appeal.

I can't say I was really crazy about this book, but it was interesting and it made me think about this aspect of the Tudor times and the background history and settings and descriptions were first rate. I liked comparing the modern settings with the past settings and figuring out who was who. It gave a vivid impression of what it was like to live back then and I was compelled to read on to see what happens to the star-crossed lovers of Celia and Stephen, even though we have a pretty good idea of what happens to them in Part one, which gives a sense of doom through most of the book. You know it won't end well, though I really could care less about the modern Celia and Richard. Richard was completely unlikable in present day, I felt more sympathy for his alter ego, Brother Stephen.

If you are into Tudor historicals give this a read, particularly if you think you'd like the mystical, time travel, reincarnation aspect, I have a feeling some will love it, and some won't.


Monday, February 22, 2010

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig (audio)

Book Description:
After 12 years in India, Robert, Duke of Dovedale, returns to his estates in England with a mission in mind-- to infiltrate the infamous Hellfire club to unmask the man who murdered his mentor at the Battle of Assaye. Intent on revenge, Robert never anticipates that an even more difficult challenge awaits him, in the person of one Lady Charlotte Lansdowne. Throughout her secluded youth, Robert was Lady Charlotte's favorite knight in shining armor, the focus of all her adolescent daydreams. The intervening years have only served to render him more dashing. But, unbeknownst to Charlotte, Robert has an ulterior motive of his own for returning to England, a motive that has nothing to do with taking up the ducal mantle. As Charlotte returns to London to take up her post as Maid of Honor to Queen Charlotte, echoes from Robert's past endanger not only their relationship but the very throne itself.

Fifth in the Pink Carnation Series, I can't say I was really thrilled with it. I love the series overall, but for a number of reasons, this is my least favorite of the books.

For starters, I barely know Charlotte from the earlier books, she's all new to me. Same thing with Dovedale, her duke who has returned from India. In the previous books Charlotte is described as a shy, insipid debutante with a dragon for a grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale. It was hard for me to change gears and think of Charlotte as our heroine now. She is still a quiet and retiring girl. A bookworm with fantasies of living in a romance novel, comparing the men she meets (not many) to the heroes or rakes of her novels.

When Robert, the Duke of Dovedale returns unexpectedly from India she falls for him all over again. He reciprocates her feelings and they have one mad, romantic (and yes a bit corny), blissful night on the roof of the estate where they are staying (they are distant cousins and are living in the same house). But, at the same time, he's in England now to avenge the death of his mentor and commanding officer who was shot in the back by a fellow soldier, Wrothan. Robert is determined to seek out this traitor and kill him. The traitor winds up being in league with a number of ne'er do well aristocrats who are members of the infamous Hellfire Club in London. The leader of the Club is Sir Francis Medmenham, a dissolute earl who Robert befriends to get closer to his target, Wrothan. It turns out Wrothan has been in cahoots with a French agent, the Night Jasmine - and so is the link in the series. Another French spy, although Jane, our Pink Carnation is not in this book at all. Miles and Henrietta Selwyck Dorrington have major roles in this book instead.

Robert, our hero, loves Charlotte yet he realizes he will be putting her in danger with his secret activities, so he does the "noble" thing and drops her like a hot potato and leaves her in the lurch. Leaving the estate the next day without a good-bye, he leaves her with one brief note, "Forgive Me." She can't believe he's really left her for good, but over time she comes to realize he has. She carries her heartbreak inside her, soldiering on. Many weeks later she is a maid in waiting for the queen of England, George III's wife, and she runs into Robert again. He is a changed and different person now, nothing like her dear cousin whom she kissed on a cold and wintry evening on the roof. He is now a member of the Hellfire Club and must act the part and she wants no part of him - though of course, her heart still yearns for him.

Meanwhile, Charlotte is involved in an entirely different matter involving the King of England! It turns out that someone is drugging him to simulate madness (he's already been mad before, so it's not a stretch). Charlotte uncovers the plot and seeks to help him. She gets her best friend Henrietta to help her, as well as Henrietta's husband, Miles. Eventually it's tied in with the nefarious and lewd activities of the Hellfire Club. Robert's quest to avenge his mentor coincides with the kidnapping of the king, and they all go on a long rescue mission to recover King George in the caves of the Hellfire Club! Soon enough, Charlotte realizes that Robert has been faking his dissolute friendship and involvement with the members of the Hellfire Club and she understands why he avoided her. She forgives him eventually - though a lot sooner than I would have!

I'm just not fond of "boy meet girl, boy drops girl and breaks her heart to save her" scenarios. For the majority of the book poor Charlotte is heartbroken over thinking Robert is a big jerk and he is doing his best to live up to that idea of hers. I really couldn't stand it which is why this was my least favorite of the series. As sweet as Charlotte was, she had no ooomph or appeal to me, though she does stand up for herself in the end and doesn't quite fall into Robert's arms right away. She also does her best to save the king and skulks around with Henrietta into dangerous situations. But, she still didn't really "come to life" for me.

The book overall wasn't bad, but I was expecting something lighter and wittier like the earlier books in the series. This was the darkest and heaviest of them. The situation with the king was distressing and it went on interminably as well. I wanted more interaction between Charlotte and Robert, yet what there was between them wasn't all that satisfying either. The story itself and plotline were good as long as you aren't looking for more of a romance. This book was more suspense-like. They all have espionage in them, but this moreso without the usual humor that is thrown in. In fact there was no culminating sex scene or wedding night moment either, I think the books are tending to lean away from sex as the series goes on, the first being the raciest of them all, in my opinion.

Regarding the modern day storyline between Colin and Eloise, that was disappointing as well. Eloise is really beginning to annoy me now, she's just so dense sometimes when it comes to being in a relationship! Plus, I kept wondering if they're now having sex together? They're sleeping in the same bed, but did I miss something? Are we just supposed to assume they're having sex? How odd, since we've been building up to their finally getting together - their first kiss was more exciting than their first night together! She spent most of the night skulking around his house in her winter nightgown, searching through his library convinced he's a spy! Maybe this fifth installment in the Pink Carnation series was supposed to be "clean" on purpose. I must admit, I felt like I missed the party, I want some of that old romance and sex back! ;)

I listened to this on audio while driving down to FL from NJ and then on the beach. This installment in the series had a different reader this time, Justine Eyre, who wasn't bad, though at first she kept pronouncing Eloise like it was French "elle-wos" instead of "L-O-eeze" I think she made Eloise sound ditzier than usual, hence I wasn't as crazy about her in this one, but the men's voices were fine as were the historical ones. I think I prefer the other reader, Kate Reading. I noticed that in the next sixth book, Betrayal of the Blood Lily, Reading is doing the narration once again.


The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie

Book Description:
She ran from a brute...

Fleeing the harsh guardianship of her grandfather, Prudence Merridew escapes with her beautiful younger sisters to London. One of them must marry - and fast. To act as her sisters' chaperone, Prudence invents a secret engagement to a reclusive duke... But when the duke arrives unexpectedly in London, she needs his help to avert disaster.

...into the arms of a rake

Aristocratic Gideon, handsome, rakish and with a strong frivolous streak, casually hijacks Prudence's game, awarding himself a stolen kiss or three along the way. Used to managing sisters and elderly men, Prudence is completely out of her depth with a charming, devious and utterly irresistible rake. And her plot goes terribly - if deliciously - awry...

Just a quickie review at least to say that I found this regency romance adorable and really enjoyed it. It would have been a total froth fest for me if the girls' grandfather, who they were running away from, hadn't turned out to be so awful! He would beat them repeatedly and he was the worst of villains, it just did not sit well with me. But aside from that I had a good time reading this on the beach.

I loved Gideon, he was handsome and devilish and I loved his antics and the mix ups that ensued between Prudence and her great-uncle Oswald in regard to her supposed betrothal to Gideon! Some of the side characters were memorable, such as Oswald and Gideon's aunt, but the younger sisters were not fully developed, though I suspect they have books of their own to look forward to. The youngest had some spunk and I liked her direct approach when it came to Gideon and her sister. Much of the story was implausible, yet entertaining. I love runaway adventures, especially when dukes and earls are involved who have lots of money! *grin*

Prudence was endearing and wasn't overly bogged down by that "I'm the ugly one, all my sisters are so much more beautiful than me" syndrome, though this was the general theme of the book, but it was offset by the fact that Gideon completely felt the opposite way! It was refreshing, and for once we have a less than perfect heroine. Prudence had some smarts, but she was a complete ninny when she kept insisting she had to remain true to her secret fiancee who was somewhere in India.

It all came out well in the end, and I felt like clapping when it was over. Not much in the way of sex, though there was always a deep undercurrent of sexual appeal between Gideon and Prudence - plus, he was always trying to seduce her! But, for the most part, it was all sweet and light (not including the dark undertones of their brutal grandfather, but he gets his just desserts in the end). I'll definitely be reading the rest of the Merridew Sisters series in the future!


The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde (audio)

Book Description:
When soon-to-be single parent Thursday Next emerges from her comfortable life inside an unpublished book, she steps into a new age of fictional narrative. The entire book world is abuzz with anticipation of an improved Text Operating System that moves from the 8-plot to the new 32-plot story system. But danger lurks when Jurisfiction agents keep turning up dead. When Thursday steps in, she encounters Dickens' Miss Havisham, passes through Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, and deals with a mispeling vyrus, holesmiths, and unionized nursery rhymes.

I've been away on vacation for a week, driving back and forth from NJ to FL and got a lot of reading and audiobook listening done! We had a great time in the sun, and audiobooks make the driving a pleasure along I-95!

The Well of Lost Plots is the 3rd installment in the Thursday Next series, and I enjoyed listening to it. Elizabeth Sastre was once again the narrator and she has an endearing British accent for the 30-something Thursday. A matter of fact tone, which stands out amidst all the mayhem and craziness that surrounds her in Jurisfiction, where she is biding her time, in hiding from the Goliath Corporation and evil genius, Aornis Hades, who is screwing around with her memories by trying to make Thursday forget her eradicated husband, Landen.

Thursday, now pregnant with Landen's baby has become part of the Character Exchange Program in the unpublished book, Caversham Heights, a book that is basically too crummy to get published. She's taking over the character of Mary for a year. Her role in Caversham Heights is a sideline, for the real plotline of the book is her apprenticeship at Jurisfiction under the tutelage of Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Miss H is one of my very favorites. She steals every scene and Ms. Sastre does her voice perfectly. Jurisfiction is a kind of policing agency within the imaginary fictional world of what goes on behind how books are really written and developed. All the characters from all the books in the world, past and present, are real and alive in Jurisfiction. One of the funniest scenes in the book - if not the funniest - is when Miss Havisham must run an anger management session for the characters of Wuthering Heights. It was a real hoot. All the characters hate Heathcliff (except Cathy, of course) and Heathcliff comes across as a movie star with sunglasses and his agent in tow. Much more than this, I'm leaving a lot out, but it was great!

Another aspect of the story I found interesting as well as prophet-like was the scenario of the new operating system known as UltraWord. We learn the history of the text operating system used by Jurisfiction, beginning with OralTrad, then onto the award winning SCROLL, that was upgraded numerous times, finally leading to BOOKV1, which was used successfully with it's many upgrades for over 800 years. Now UltraWord is being unveiled as the brand new text operating system of the future to be voted on. But, it is not as great as it seems. It turns out that only three people can read a book on UltraWord (reminiscent of today's DRM ebook dilemma), thus putting an end to lending libraries and used bookstores. Plus UltraWord's descriptions really stink, it basically makes everything sound cheap and generic. Good-bye to great writing, hello slap dash, computer written, get-it-out-as-fast-as-you-can prose. It turns out that Jurisfiction agents are being killed off because they are aware of these issues and want it stopped. Thursday ingeniously foils the dastardly "powers that be" who are trying to get UltraWord passed quickly in a vote (not unlike the health bill debacle going on these days) at the BookWorld Awards (another memorably funny part of the book).

In addition to the hilarious Wuthering Heights characters, another side plotline I loved was about ibb and obb, two generics that live with Thursday in Cavisham Heights. We see how they morph into Lola and Randolph and become real characters! Plus, there is the ongoing problem of what is going to happen next (no pun intended) with Thursday. Will she have her baby in the real world, will she ever see her husband Landen again? What's in store for Thursday in Jurisficion - will she live there forever?

Stay tuned and do yourself a big favor and read this series. It's a must for anyone who is well-read and has a sense of humor for the absurd. These books weave in and out of the classics and will make you giggle over and over-this book was no exception! I didn't like it as much as the last, since Thursday, for the most part, is on hold and not in the real world - but what a world it is!

Highly recommended!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Secrets of the Highlander by Janet Chapman

Book Description:
He is the father of her child, but the secrets they are hiding are tearing them apart....

Megan MacKeage escaped the smothering protectiveness of the Highland MacKeage clan to work as a scientist on the Canadian tundra. But when fellow researcher Wayne Ferris breaks her heart by rejecting her, Megan returns to Maine alone.... Then she meets the town's new police chief, Jack Stone--the man she knew as Wayne Ferris. Instead of the quiet scholar he posed as, he's an aggressive private eye who's willing to fight for what he wants, just like all the overbearing men in her clan. So why is Megan still feeling a dangerous attraction? And though Jack claims he followed her here because he loves her, can she ever trust a man with so many secrets?

Another winner from Janet Chapman! I pretty much read this in a day - a snowy blizzardy blustery snow day off from work. Nothing like spending the whole day in your pajamas curled up in bed reading a romance that takes place in the snow in Maine! Perfect!

This is the official last book in the Pine Creek series of time traveling highlanders from the 12th century (not including her recent Christmas book, which is coming up on my TBR list) that wind up in present-day Maine running a ski resort. One of the highlanders, Greylen MacKeage, has seven daughters - and this book is about Megan MacKeage who finds herself pregnant and single. On top of everything else, she's not sure of how she's going to handle the fact that the father of her baby basically ended it with her as soon as he found out she was pregnant while working together in the tundra of Canada. Now, lo and behold, he has shown up in her home town in Maine as the police chief with a new name and new look to him - granted, a very attractive look - but, what's he up to??

To say the least, Megan is pissed off!

The man she knew as her nerdy boyfriend Wayne, has now morphed into rugged and attractive police chief, Jack Stone. And he expects her to come running - to forgive the way he humiliated her and sent her packing, breaking her heart and wondering what she's supposed to do with a baby on the way? Well, Megan starts out determined to send him packing instead, with a swift kick in the you-know-what, but soon she learns the truth about him, that he sent her off for her own good, and though it takes her a while to believe him, she begins to thaw when it comes to Wayne/Jack, and it doesn't hurt that her father likes him as well as everyone else!

As usual in Chapman's Pine Creek books, there is lots of paranormal and fantasy elements. This is no exception. There's a mysterious dragon-like creature breaking into bakeries and stealing doughnuts in addition to the subplot of who is after Megan to get some DNA samples she took in Canada. Plus, there's lots of Greylan and Grace (from the first book in the series - Megan's parents) and Winter and her husband Matt, and his brother Kenzie, who is mixed up in the mystery as well!

I found the plotline exciting and compelling, but most of all I loved the chemistry between Megan and Jack. No matter how much she resisted him at first, she couldn't stay that way forever. Not only does he explain away what he did and why, but he's a great guy in the end. Okay, so he's not over six feet, like all her relatives who were Scottish highlanders, but he's someone that you'd want to have with you if you're lost in the woods on a cold winter's night. Adept at survival with his own brand of magic up his sleeve he is a man after my own heart. He also has a wrenching backstory of his own of how he became orphaned at the age of nine, which is unforgettably sad. I really loved Jack, a great guy (plus the back picture of the book makes him look very yummy!)

I won't reveal too much of the plotline, but this was a great addition to the series, one of my favorites! I highly recommend this series! I'm sad it's almost over! :(


By Possession by Madeline Hunter

Book Description:

A Common Lady
For years she had thought he was dead. Yet when Addis de Valence strode into Moira Falkner's cottage, there was no mistaking the sharp planes of his face, and the scar she herself had helped to heal. The young squire who had once been her hero was now her lord, a hardened man who returned to claim the son she had raised as her own. But Moira couldn't deny that Addis roused a passion she never thought to feel--and a perilous hope for a future that could never be....

An Uncommon Love
Addis returned from the Crusades to find his lands usurped by his stepbrother, and his country on the brink of rebellion. Determined to reclaim his birthright, Addis could not afford to be distracted by a woman--even one as tempting as Moira. Yet the only living part of his contented past lay in Moira - and his desire for her was more dangerous than his deadly battles with the king's men. By law, Moira belonged to him...but possessing her heart might be far more difficult.

I've heard good things about this author and decided to finally get around to reading her medieval series. Some confusion over which book to read first, but I picked this one because it comes first chronologically, though it was written after the next in this series, By Arrangement. I must say at the start that this book did not thrill me. As medievals go it was fine as far as historical detail and settings, etc. but the story itself was tedious and frustrating, but I held out to the bitter end. Still, I'm a bit "medievaled" out. After The Greatest Knight and now this, I need a break from medievals for a while.

This is the story of Moira and Addis. Addis has been held captive and enslaved in the Baltics for several years, captured while returning from the Crusades, and has finally returned to his childhood home, ready to be lord of the manor again. Moira is a young woman, widowed twice (though they were loveless arranged marriages to older men who died soon after their weddings) She grew up in the household of Addis' wife, Claire (who is now dead.) Known as "Claire's Shadow", she was a sort of handmaiden to Claire, plus Moira's mother had been the mistress to Claire's father, so Moira comes from a dubious background. Not noble, but not wholly a serf either - somewhere in between. Now that Addis is back he must reclaim his lands and manor from his evil stepbrother who has usurped them with the approval of the king, Edward II. This is the Edward that was forced to abdicate the throne and was depicted as the effeminate young prince in the movie, Braveheart, who is married to Isabella of France. One of the sidelines of this book is Addis' role in dealing with Edward II and the Despensers who had Edward under their thumbs.

Addis is instantly attracted to Moira upon returning to his home and insists that she accompany him everywhere he goes. She claims she had been released from his family as a bondswoman when her father died, but Addis will have none of that and claims he still possesses her, and possess her he will! He wants to bed her, but Moira will not go to bed with him and end up just like her mother and have children out of wedlock, blah, blah, blah. I admired her will to be her own woman, for a great lord such as Addis could never marry a woman of low birth such as herself and what kind of life would she have as a lehman? And so is the crux of the whole long story: will Moira give in and sleep with Addis? What if she falls in love with him - what then? Or will she hold out forever, granting him small favors and enticing tidbits of passion yet not the whole thing? Can she let him go to marry another, even though she knows he loves her and she loves him? I have to admit, I just could not get into this plotline because I like my heroine's to be of noble birth - as well as my heroes! There! I've said it (hanging my head in shame) - I'm a romance snob!

Meanwhile Addis is growing more and more frustrated (as is Moira too for there is no small attraction between them) but it became so tiresome! The constant push/pull relationship between the two was so angsty and frustrating! He wants her, she wants him, but she can't and she won't! He won't marry her and she won't be his mistress! It went on and on, the rest of the plot swirled around this main one, and Moira must finally choose - a life with a freemason or choose Addis and live in sin as his mistress? The logical choice is to go with the nice freemason, Rhys, who likes her and wants to marry her, but she's not attracted to him - she's only attracted to Addis! Wah!

Eventually, she does give up and falls in the arms of Addis and they have many passionate nights together, but that still doesn't solve their big dilemma - how can they continue when he must eventually marry another for her lands and money? By the end, I barely cared. I just wanted to get the book over with already! Maybe you'll like it more than I did.

Now, I have it under good authority that Ms. Hunter's other medieval's are much better, unfortunately, I started with the one that seems to be most people's least favorite, so I'm not giving up on her, though I'm not reading the next in the series anytime soon. I think I should have read By Arrangement first. We'll see.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick (audio)

Book Description:
Based on fact, this is the story of William Marshal, the greatest knight of the Middle Ages, unsurpassed in the tourneys, adeptly manoeuvring through the colourful, dangerous world of Angevin politics to become one of the most powerful magnates of the realm and eventually regent of England. From minor beginnings and a narrow escape from death in childhood, William Marshal steadily rises through the ranks to become tutor in arms to the son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. A champion on the tourney field, William must face the danger and petty jealousy targeting a royal favourite. Dogged by scandal, banished from court, his services are nevertheless sought throughout Europe and when William's honour is vindicated, he returns to court and wins greater acclaim and power than before. A crusader and the only knight ever to unhorse the legendary Richard Coeur de Lion, William's courage and steadfastness are rewarded by the hand in marriage of Anglo-Irish heiress Isobel de Clare, 19 years old, the grandaughter of kings and his equal in every way.

I know this will sound shallow, but one of the things that drew me to this book in the first place was the cover! Isn't it gorgeous - it calls to me. I think it's perfect for a book based on the early life of William Marshal, a knight in the courts of Henry II and his sons during the Middle Ages. William truly was all that a noble and great knight should be. The book begins with William at age 5, narrowly escaping hanging by (then) King Stephen who couldn't bear to hang a young boy because of his father's misdeeds. (I never forgot this as depicted in Penman's When Christ and His Saints Slept) Stephen allows William to live and tells him to never forget the favor he granted him. As William grows up and becomes a knight, he doesn't forget and he always remained true to the Angevin kings and queens he defended.

Because of this, Marshal is depicted as almost too good to be true. He was honorable and loyal to a fault. Not only was he a great warrior, he was gentlemanly - a courtier. With a flair for rich tunics and armour at Court (when he could afford it), he still showed a great amount of modesty and humility for someone who had as many wins as he did in the tourney circuit (not unlike a popular sports figure nowadays). Intelligent, though illiterate, which was not unusual back in the day, he was astute as well. He had a way with horses as well as young virginal brides and cranky royals. He must have had the patience of a saint when tutoring in the ways of battle two of what were probably considered to be the most spoiled brats of the Middle Ages - Princes Henry and Richard, the two elder sons of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. It's amazing Marshal's hair didn't turn completely white by the time he was forty! Saintly seems to be the running theme throughout the book, for he had his trials and tribulations when it came to Court. Many were jealous of him and plotted to see him banished - as he was at one point. But by all accounts, he truly did deserve to be called the greatest knight of the Middle Ages. Not only was he a good man, but he managed to survive the fickle court and backstabbings of Henry II and his sons and came out as respected and known for his integrity.

By defending King Henry II when his two sons decided to war against their father, he faced down Richard the Lionhearted (skewering his horse rather than Richard himself) and wound up winning Richard's respect after Henry II died, a dreadful part of history btw, terrible how Henry was left to die alone and stripped bare of his clothes and belongings by looters! His just desserts for not going to his son Henry, when Henry was dying? These Angevins were a tough lot, brother against brother, father against son, all unrelenting and stubborn as rocks. Never an apology amongst them for their misdeeds. The closest to an apology William ever got was his reward for his loyalty to the late King Henry II by his son, Richard. Richard granted permission for William to marry a pretty, young heiress who became his partner and confidante and gave him children to carry on his name, Isobel de Clare.

But, in addition to the above, William went through all sorts of other tests that proved his loyalty and honor. He traveled to Jerusalem to pay his respects to the Holy Sepulchre after the young Prince Henry died. Henry fell ill after stealing the Sword of Roland and looting the shrine of Saint Amadour to pay for his war against his father. He died painfully, suffering terribly. No one could do anything to save him. William was so racked with guilt for allowing the looting to take place and not stopping it, he was afraid for his own soul as well as the dead prince whom he served. He felt as if he had failed with young Henry and should have taught him better, but Henry had been a hopeless case, only repenting at the very end before he died. Still, William believed he must atone for the sin and traveled all the way to the Holy Sepulchre fulfilling Henry's last dying wish.

There are countless instances of William's valor and noble ways, too many to discuss. I found the book enjoyable to listen to, Christopher Scott the narrator did a great job, and I was surprised at how fast the book went for me. I was caught up in this medieval time period with the descriptions and imagery. The book really centers on William, not a lot of romance until he marries Isobel towards the later part of the story. Their love for each other is understated yet understood. It's a good and satisfying marriage, though he is twenty years her senior. She is a strong woman, beautiful, capable and honorable as well. A natural life partner for William.

As much as I liked it, it did seem a bit dry, just a lot of facts strung together to show the reader what a great knight he was, rather than say a great love story or one particular event in his life that is the book's climax. There didn't really seem to be a climatic moment in the book, unless you think of it as his showdown with Richard, defending Henry II and skewering his horse. Or maybe it's when he finally marries Isobel - you decide!

If you enjoy historical fiction and the middle ages, particularly the court of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine (I love her and find her a fascinating historical figure) then you'll like this book. Not overly romantic, but William does come across as a swoonworthy type of man, I would have loved to have met him. Was he as noble and handsome as Chadwick portrays him? Who knows, but it's nice to think he looks like the cover!


As You Desire by Connie Brockway

Book Description:
He galloped across the midnight-shrouded landscape, racing toward her on his pure white steed.

Her destiny...

In her wildest fantasies Desdemona Carlisle could not have conjured a more dashing savior, and this was real. But an unlikelier hero was hard to find. Harry Braxton was a rogue, a scoundrel, and a born opportunist who had already broken her heart once. How could she ever trust a notorious rake who came with a warning: lover, beware...

With her bronze-gold hair and quicksilver grace, the sloe-eyed beauty was every man's desire and one man's sole passion. But the secret that had made Harry an exile also made it impossible for him to offer Desdemona more that friendship. Until his aristocratic cousin laid siege to Desdemona's heart and Harry, damning the consequences, vowed to do anything, give anything, to claim her for him own...

I really enjoyed this romance!

Having no idea what I was in for, I loved this witty, evocative Victorian historical set in Cairo of the 1890's. Harry is surprisingly endearing as the rapscallion hero, and Desdemona (I preferred her nickname of "Dizzy") was delightful! The story is not your standard romance at all, both hero and heroine are already well acquainted with one another - flaws and all. Both are in love with each other, yet neither one of them is about to admit it to the other! They're both under the wrong impression that he doesn't want her, and she won't want him, but of course over the course of this charming romance, they realize how wrong they are and love triumphs over all!

Dizzy, orphaned as a young teenager, is a child prodigy in languages, she now earns money translating in twelve different languages. She lives with her grandfather, an Egyptian archeologist, in Cairo. There she has gotten to know many of the other internationals who are in the same related business, one of whom is Harry Braxton, our hero. The two have a singular relationship. Having thrown herself at him three years earlier at the height of her teenage crush, she was handily rebuffed by Harry who knew better than to get involved with a seventeen year old girl - no matter how appealing she may be. Now, older and wiser, she has convinced herself she is "over him." Instead, her guilty pleasure is secretly reading sappy romance novels (imagine that!) and fantasizing that someday she will meet her knight in shining armor who will rescue her from the Egyptian desert and sweep her off her feet to his manor in jolly old England. Amazingly enough Harry's cousin, Blake Ravenscroft, just happens to be visiting from England and he own a manor! Fancy that!

Dizzy is a darling with Harry. Their rapport together is delicious whether they are arguing or making up. No matter what Dizzy may say to herself, she's still in love with him. Harry loves Dizzy as well, but he carries a secret with him that he fears will prevent her from loving him. He can't read. Nowadays, Harry's affliction is known as dyslexia, but in the 1890's, his affliction is looked upon as if he is retarded, an embarrassment. But, in Egypt he has found his calling, he can read glyphs with no problem, and he can also speak dozens of various dialects and languages - he's a genius actually and has been quite successful in his field. The two of them make a natural pair - she can read and write languages, but can't speak them, and he's a pro at speaking them, yet can't read and write!

There is plenty of adventure in this story, Dizzy is kidnapped more than once, but she's so cute and ingenuous, you don't think of the danger. The storyline is more on the lighthearted side with some serious overtones in regard to the stigma of dyslexia and how Harry had been so misunderstood while growing up in England. Dizzy has her childhood issues as well, not having a real childhood since she was trotted out over and over again all over the world as a linguistic child prodigy. Despite her unorthodox upbringing, she is free of affectations which is refreshing. She's brave and bold, and can hold her own whether she is bartering over prices in the market or smoking hashish in a hookah. She's simply adorable. The triangle that is created between Dizzy and Harry and his cousin Blake is fun to read about. Of course, as the reader, we are privy to everyone's secrets, yet the major players are not. It's fun to see how everything plays out. Who is trying to kill Harry? Will Blake succeed in capturing Dizzy's heart? Will Harry come clean and admit to Dizzy he cannot read? Will Harry tell Dizzy he loves her?

By the time the story unfolds and comes to an end, there is lots of action and I was smitten with Harry and ultimately happy for them both. This is a worthwhile read and I'm glad I gave it a go, my first by this author. It was well written and a pleasure, I looked forward to reading it every night after work and kept thinking about the characters. Harry has become one of my favorite disreputable heroes now. If you're into historical settings that are not set in London but have a more exotic locale with some humor and adventure, give this one a try, you'll probably love it!


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Now Face to Face by Karleen Koen

Book Description:
The beloved heroine from Koen's bestselling Through a Glass Darkly returns in a passionate, unforgettable, romantic tapestry. A widow at age 20, emotionally devastated and financially ruined by the death of her husband in scandalous circumstances, Barbara Devane leaves colonial Virginia for London to confront her enemies and to pursue a deeply satisfying yet dangerous clandestine love.

Having loved Through a Glass Darkly, I was eager to read this sequel, and get back into the early Georgian world of London and Barbara Devane. It is 1720, Barbara, a young widow has left London behind and the scheming court of George I with it's political intrigues and the financial disgrace and woes from the South Sea Bubble of which her dead husband has been named scapegoat. She must leave to mourn her husband, Roger, and she keeps busy learning the ways of growing tobacco, and dealing with a new set of intrigues in colonial Virginia.

The first part of the book was a bit slow going. I thought I'd really enjoy the Virginia sequences, but Barbara's life was unhappy there for the most part. She does make some good friends, one of which is her neighbor, Colonel Perry, an older man who grows to love her. He counsels her in the ways of Virginia and society and helps her get her grandmother's plantation in order. The divine Barbara is like an exotic bird in Virginia with her fine gowns and jewels and writs from the King of England! She is young and beautiful and refreshing to the colonials. She has a near romance with a crooked sea captain, Klaus, that comes to nothing, but the worst of Virginia is the loss of her dear, dear French black page, Hyacinthe, who is kidnapped. This leads to great angst and worry. Much hand wringing and searching for him, but he is not to be found. I felt terrible for Barbara and her maid, Therese, who love him dearly, he is like their child. The loss is great. I was disappointed in the way Hyacinthe's journey to return to Barbara and Therese was so haphazardly handled. We get a good idea of what happened to him, but there are a lot of unanswered questions, I would have liked to know how he made it to London from the West Indies! Because of the loss of Hyacinthe, she decides to free all her slaves and then return to London.

Meanwhile, the other half of the story takes place in London surrounding the Jacobean plot to overthrow King George I, and put James of Scotland on the throne of England. Many of Barbara's nearest and dearest are knee deep in the plot. At first, I was a bit tired of it - another Jacobite uprising! Uggh, I just finished a book about the rising in '45, but this earlier one was interesting for I barely knew anything about it. It came to nothing, but it does give you some background on why so many people at the time resisted the Hanoverian king, it makes sense that they would. One of the main plotters is a young man, Slane, who is posing as an actor, but he's really an Irish nobleman, a "gosling" under King James who has vowed to honor him and work to see him on the throne. Slane eventually becomes a love interest to Barbara, although I wasn't totally into the idea of the two of them being together, I was hoping she'd wind up with her cousin, Tony.

Even though Barbara is in Virginia for the first half of the book, she is still the talk of the town in London. Her cousin, Tony, the Duke of Tamworth is still in love with her and fights a duel over her. He kills a man and repents over it. He decides to once and for all marry and get on with his life. I was sorry to see this, for I had hopes that Barbara and Tony would one day marry, but their grandmother, the Duchess of Tamworth would have none of it, she knew Barbara would be Tony's ruin, which was the reason she sent Barbara off to Virginia in the first place. Eventually when Barbara does return to London amidst worries of a rising and invasion taking place momentarily, she immediately finds a place in the King's court and the intrigues begin again at once. Now the book gets interesting! Before she knows it, she is in league with the Jacobites, though not on purpose, they seem to be all around her, many are her friends. She cannot escape them though she tries to remain neutral. Can she stay that way when her lover is a leader in the plot and her best friend's husband is in the Tower, arrested for treason and will soon be hanged?

One of the highlights of Koen's books are her side characters who are delightful. Most of them are more colorful and interesting than her heroine, Barbara. Alice, the elderly Duchess of Tamworth still has some life in her. She is now regretful of her past mistakes in life and seems to have a preoccupation with bees and her memories. There's always a lot unsaid about Alice and her dead husband, Richard's, marriage. So many tantalizing clues about it, was Richard really a Jacobite sympathizer and Alice talked him out of it? How? I want to read a book on their marriage! I wish the author would write one. Diana, her daughter, and Barbara's mother, is still the cunning siren, mistress of many who uses sex to get everything she wants. She is ruthless in her desire for power and will not hesitate to use her body to serve her purposes. It was delicious to read about how bad she is - she's one of the best things in this book! Tony, Barbara's cousin is a good man, but I feel sorry for him. He will always love Barbara but cannot have her. As he says, he never kissed her in passion. Slane, Barbara's lover is like a secret agent for the Jacobites. He is daring and clever, a romantic at heart, I'm glad Barbara finds love eventually with him, though I didn't find theirs to be a "great love" it was more like she settled on him for he was around and young and handsome and was heroic in her eyes. I didn't like him a lot and was surprised that Barbara wound up with him and fell in love with him.

Was this book as good as it's predecessor? Not in the least. It lacked energy, and the plot was not very compelling until around the last 200 pages of the book. It ended in a strange way with the Duchess thinking to herself, rambling on with her memories and thoughts, kind of odd quoting poetry and scripture. Sort of up in the air, but we are led to believe in the epilogue that all will be well. I was a bit disappointed we don't get to see Barbara's reaction when Hyacinthe returns, a lot is left to the imagination and we don't get details of Barbara reuniting with Slane in Paris, we just hear about it. That's why I didn't feel all warm and fuzzy about their relationship, the author sort of keeps the reader at arms length with it, did she just get tired of writing the book and wanted to finish it off and get it over with?

All in all, it was a pretty good book, but fell flat in parts and I kept wishing through all 700 pages of it that it would pick up. Once Barbara returned to London it got a lot better and the pace quickened, there was more of her mother and Aunt Shrew and the Duchess, but it didn't have the flair and poignancy of Through a Glass Darkly, perhaps others will feel differently. Oh well.

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