Monday, May 31, 2010
Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt — a passionate man with his own dark secrets —has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.
A big disappointment. I didn't care for it at all. Reminiscent of the movie "Days of Heaven" which I liked, but this had none of the poignancy and wistfullness. I had to roll my eyes over much of this novel and the constant preoccupation with sex in all it's flowery glory by the main characters. And I mean constant. All they think of is sex ad nauseum - the longing, the flesh, the passion, the pleasure, blah, blah, blah. Enough already! The romance novels I read with their sensual descriptions of lovemaking are by far better than this sad excuse for literature with erotic overtones - it was laughable.
The gist of the story is a rich man from Wisconsin, Ralph Truitt, advertises for a reliable wife. He is lonely, a widower and would like the companionship (and the unlimited sex) of a wife. He's in his fifties and Catherine answers his ad, they write and she journeys to him from Chicago. Ralph thinks too much - particularly about sex. Catherine is a liar and a schemer and we soon realize she plans on marrying him and then poisoning him. What she doesn't anticipate is she begins to grow fond of him. We learn of his disastrous first marriage to an Italian contessa who used him and has a son by another man, the piano teacher. The son grows up and is beaten repeatedly (by this time his mother is long gone) by his "father." He runs away and assumes another identity of Tony Moretti. For some strange reason to assuage his guilt, Ralph wants his "son" to come home again to Wisconsin, even though he knows the son is not really his son and is a complete wastrel, lazy, good for nothing. Why?? I had no sympathy for Ralph, or anyone else for that matter.
For another unexplained reason, Ralph insists on having his new wife go to St. Louis to bring the son back. Lo and behold, we find out that the son and Catherine have been lovers and the whole plan was cooked up for her to marry his "father" and then poison him so the son, Tony, can inherit everything. Meanwhile, we have to hear all about their thoughts and anticipation of sex, sex, sex! They resume their affair, but Catherine realizes she can't go through with the murder of Ralph once she returns to Wisconsin. Tony, of course, threatens to tell Ralph everything about her wicked past (Ralph thinks she was a missionary) if she doesn't kill him. It was so obvious to me what the only solution was to this problem. And irony of irony, Catherine becomes pregnant - is it Ralph's or Tony's baby? We're led to believe it must be Ralph's, but who really knows?
A waste of my time, I can't understand the rave reviews, just a lot of sexual hooey and wishful thinking with a predictable outcome. The author needed a better editor who wasn't afraid to delete the excessive sexual narratives - it was embarrassing, as if the author was so enraptured with his own thoughts and desires he had to put them down in print for posterity - and frankly, I found it sounded like the fantasies of a sexually frustrated teenage boy.
The narrator, Mark Feuerstein, had a flat and often harsh tone throughout the entire story, which made it nearly impossible to distinguish one character from another, plus they all came across as incredibly unlikeable. I cannot recommend, don't waste your time and if you do decide to read this, don't get the audiobook, sorry I wasted one of my precious Audible points!
London's social season is in full swing, and the Victorian aristocracy can't stop whispering about a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. But he's not the only topic of wagging tongues. Drawing rooms, boudoirs, and ballrooms are abuzz with the latest news of an audacious cat burglar who has been making off with precious items that once belonged to the ill-fated queen.
Light gossip turns serious when the owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Emily. But the strong-minded and fiercely independent Emily will not be shaken. It will take all of her considerable wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, even as a brewing scandal threatens both her reputation and her romance with her late husband's best friend, the dashing Colin Hargreaves.
Second in the Lady Emily Ashton Victorian lady turned sleuth series. This time Emily is perilously on the hunt of a killer as well as seeking the identity of the lost heir to the Bourbon throne. She's in the thick of it with plots, false identies, sneaking into hotel rooms and rooting out undesirable parlor maids who may or may not be spies. Not to mention, she needs to salvage her reputation which is diminishing day by day during London's whirlwind season amidst the Victorian age.
It wasn't bad, the novel was diverting and had enough romance in it to make it interesting, but there was something lacking, it did not have the same charm and elegance as the first in the series. I can't put my finger on it, but I think I preferred the earlier Lady Emily. I felt uncomfortable for her here, her disregard of the social niceties that are so important in her class are getting her in trouble. I still like her enormously, but I can't help thinking that the author is putting too many modern day ideas in Emily's head that would have been scandalously unrealistic and unheard of in Lady Emily's day. For all the first rate research and detail in these novels, there's a glaring hole in this respect. I think Lady Emily would have had better sense and decorum as a beautiful, single widow under the Victorian microscope. Though don't get me wrong, she's not really doing anything too outlandish, but heads are wagging and her mother and Queen Victoria have to actually step in and save her reputation! For shame!
Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I wanted her to take better care and she seems to be awfully naive about how society can ostracize her in a second. Rumors are spread about her supposed affair with her friend, Jeremy (and whatever happened to his storyline, btw I kept thinking he was going to declare himself to her, afterall) which are not true, but she's not going out of her way to try and quash them, in fact Colin takes matters into his own hands to try and quell the rumors by escorting her to the opera. What I'd like to know is, why aren't the gossipmongers going on and on about her relationship with Colin, who makes no secret of his affection for her and her comings and goings to his bachelor townhouse. I also couldn't shake the impression that Lady Emily is becoming too much of a busybody, wreaking havoc wherever she goes! More than a few lives are adversely affected due to her inquiries and sometimes I nearly cringed at what her meddling could cause, particularly with her friend, Ivy. I sound like such a disapproving matron!
But, aside from my quibbles, it was a fluffy bit of fiction, I enjoyed the mysterious letters written in Greek from her thief/admirer, but found his identity as well as most of the revelations by the end - anticlimatic and highly improbable. Still, I'm definitely eager to read the rest of the series, especially now that things have stepped up between Emily and Colin (finally!)
Lisbeth Salander, the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker, is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about the sex trade in Sweden are brutally murdered, and Salander's prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society - but no one can find her anywhere.
Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, will not believe what he hears on the news. Knowing Salander to be fierce when fearful, he is desperate to get to her before she is cornered and alone. As he fits the pieces of the puzzle together, he comes up against some hardened criminals, including the chainsaw-wielding 'blond giant' - a fearsomely huge thug who can feel no pain.
Digging deeper, Blomkvist also unearths some heart-wrenching facts about Salander's past life. Committed to psychiatric care at age 12, declared legally incompetent at 18, this is a messed-up young woman who is the product of an unjust and corrupt system. Yet Lisbeth is more avenging angel than helpless victim - descending on those that have hurt her with a righteous anger terrifying in its intensity and truly wonderful in its outcome.
Another great book continuing the story of Lizbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. The book had a rambling beginning, we follow Lizbeth as she is living it up in the Caribbean, licking her wounds and avoiding Mikael Blomkvist. She does not want to have anything to do with him, much to his surprise and chagrin, of course she gives him no explanation, she just cuts him out of her life. While in the Caribbean, she faces down a hurricane and prevents a brutal husband from killing his rich socialite wife. Sort of an odd side story that has no bearing on the rest of the plot once Lizbeth returns to Sweden and buys herself a multi-million dollar apartment and virtually assumes a new identity.
Still, she finds it too irresistible not to hack into Blomkvist's computer at Millenium and see what they're up to at the magazine. She comes across the upcoming articles and issue they're working on to expose the sex trade and trafficking industry. This leads to all sorts of problems that ensue - mainly Lizbeth is placed at the scene of the crime of three brutal murders (I nearly clapped about one of them - you'll know why when you read it) and a major hunt is on for Lizbeth. Mikael, who discovers two of the dead bodies, is not convinced of her guilt and takes on another crusade to find her and prove her innocence. In so doing, much of her past is revealed and finally we, the readers, learn more of Lizbeth's childhood, who her parent's were, her twin sister and what "all the evil" is that began when she was twelve years old. The book has a cliffhanger ending which makes the recently released and last book in the trilogy a must read.
This novel was not as disturbing and brutally graphic as it's predecessor, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it has it's moments. Whereas the last one dealt with incest and serial murders, this one centers on crime and the sex trade in Europe, involving the murder of young prostitutes and numerous other illegal activities by a syndicate of thugs and gangsters all working for the mysterious and all-knowing Zala. Who is this Zala, and how does Salander's corrupt and detestable guardian, Nils Bjurman know him?
On audio, I was riveted and mesmerized by the excellent narration by Simon Vance, who could read the phone book aloud and I would happily listen. I wholeheartedly recommend this series if you like crime thrillers. Lizbeth is an amazing heroine, so different from most women. Strong yet incredibly vulnerable, here we get a peek into her psyche (but not much). We're scared for her, but also confident she can take care of herself, but by the end, it's pretty dicey, and thankfully her friend, Mikael is on her side, whether she wants him there or not.
Now onto The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which will be a bittersweet read. A pity that the author died before his books were published, he was a great talent and it's very sad and tragic that he died so unexpectedly and at such a young age. The world lost a master storyteller.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Book Description:The earl of Banallt is no stranger to scandal. But when he meets Sophie Evans, the young wife of a fellow libertine, even he is shocked by his reaction. This unconventional and intelligent woman proves to be far more than an amusing distraction - she threatens to drive him to distraction. Unlike the women who usually fall at Banallt's feet, and into his bed, Sophie refuses to be seduced. And soon Banallt desires her more than ever - and for more than an illicit affair.
Years later, the widowed Sophie is free, and Banallt is determined to win the woman he still loves. Unfortunately, she doesn't believe his declaration of love and chivalrous offer of marriage - her heart has already been broken by her scoundrel of a husband. And yet, Sophie is tempted to indulge in the torrid affair she's always fantasized about. Caught between her logical mind and her long-denied desire, Sophie must thwart Banallt's seduction - or risk being consumed by the one man she should avoid at all costs...
Another quickie review due my studying...
This was in interesting romance, I'm not surprised, I love Carolyn Jewel. She has interesting plotlines. This romance switches back and forth between the present day (Regency times) and three years earlier when Sophie and Banallt first meet. In the earlier sequences, he's a ne'er do well, rake about town, she is the neglected wife of her wastrel husband, left to fend for herself at his country estate. Her husband pals around with Banallt, cavorting with whores and playing cards - spending her entire dowry. Upon meeting, Banallt tries to seduce Sophie at first, but she is faithful to her husband even if he doesn't deserve it. He soon realizes she's not the type to stray, so instead, Banallt opts for friendship, for it's the only thing he'll get from her. Soon, Banallt and Sophie become closer, he can see for himself what a gem she is, even if she's not gorgeous, that doesn't matter to him. He can see what a cross she carries married to her lout of a husband. They become confidantes to each other, but one night when he is weakened emotionally, he does something to her that is a mystery while she is still married and we don't find out until the end of the book. What did he do to make her send him away? He goes abroad for a time never realizing while he's gone that her husband had died in an accident and she is finally free.
In the later sequences, Sophie is a widow and Banallt who loved her three years earlier seeks the opportunity to win her love. It's not easy, she vows she'll never marry another man like her husband, who cannot be faithful to his wife, plus she doesn't believe Banallt could possibly really love her - he just wants her because he can't have her - he likes the thrill of the chase. Banallt has an infamous reputation to live down and it's not an easy task for him to change her mind and make her believe he's serious about her. But, he manages to wear her down over time. Whatever it was that he did to her three years earlier has her on her guard and she avoids him at all costs and gets her brother to help her as well. She knows only to well how irresistible he is as well - the less time she spends in his company the easier it will be to resist his advances.
Eventually, love conquers all and it was great getting there, and I was strung along dying to find out what the big mystery was and the penultimate moment when she admits to him that she wants him - *sigh*
I loved this romance and the way Sophie comes around. The chemistry is wonderful between the two and I read this in a day or two - it's short for a romance, though it has plenty of passion and heat. The characterizations were well done, I knew where both were coming from. I felt Sophie was a bit harsh towards Banallt at first - but he kept at it! He's larger than life and I found it hard to believe she could resist him as long as she did. He's handsome, virile, an earl - and loves her books that she writes under a pseudonym! (to pay the bills). Although I felt the big secret was a bit anticlimatic, all in all I'll chalk this up as another winner from Jewel (though I really disliked this cover!) Lord Ruin is still my favorite, though.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Raised to rule her clan, che'll stop at nothing to protect her own. Daughter of a Highland laird, heiress to a title and vast fortunes, Catherine Drummond rebels against ladylike expectations and rides fearlessly into battle against the English forces sent to quell the Scots' rebellion...
His wit and intoxicating good looks have served him well...
Jaime Sinclair, abandoned and despised at an early age, learned quickly to fend for himself. Now he looks forward to finishing one last mission for his king and finally collecting his reward...
When Catherine falls into the hands of vicious mercenaries, Jamie impulsively marries her on the spot to save her from a grim fate. But in a world where princes cannot be trusted and faith fuels intolerance, hatred, and war, no good deed goes unpunished.
Just a quickie review, for I'm studying these days for my state insurance exams and don't have a lot of time for writing (though of course, I'm still reading!)
This was an entertaining romance set in post-Restoration England and Scotland. A willful and beautiful Scottish lass (who also happens to be the laird of her clan) and a handsome, rakish, devil may care English lord who may or may not be a spy, marry impulsively in order to save her life which sets in motion a series of events that makes this novel exciting, romantic, amusing and a pleasure to read. The story goes from the Scottish Highlands to London to Ireland. I liked this better than Broken Wing, the author's previous novel. One reason is because, having recently finished Forever Amber, I appreciated the time and setting when this one takes place, James II's English Court. I was familiar with the locales and people mentioned. Jaime is a noble anti-hero who is saddled with debt. Catherine, unbeknownst to him, is a Scottish heiress, she is a strong and resourceful heroine, I admired her greatly. They made a good pair and the chemistry and sexual tension made the book hard to put down. I think I read it in two days. He rescues her at first, and then she winds up resuing him. Good characterizations and an interesting plotline make it noteworthy, I'm looking forward to whatever Ms. James comes up with next.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
David Liss's bestselling historical thrillers have been called remarkable and rousing: the perfect combination of scrupulous research and breathless excitement. Now Liss delivers his best novel yet in America in the years after the Revolution, an unstable nation where desperate schemers vie for wealth, power, and a chance to shape a country's destiny.
Ethan Saunders, once among General Washington's most valued spies, now lives in disgrace, haunting the taverns of Philadelphia. An accusation of treason has long since cost him his reputation and his beloved fiancee, Cynthia Pearson, but at his most desperate moment he is recruited for an unlikely task - finding Cynthia's missing husband. To help her, Saunders must serve his old enemy, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, who is engaged in a bitter power struggle with political rival Thomas Jefferson over the fragile young nation's first real financial institution: the Bank of the United States.
Meanwhile, Joan Maycott is a young woman married to another Revolutionary War veteran. With the new states unable to support their ex-soldiers, the Maycotts make a desperate gamble: trade the chance of future payment for the hope of a better life on the western Pennsylvania frontier. There, amid hardship and deprivation, they find unlikely friendship and a chance for prosperity with a new method of distilling whiskey. But on an isolated frontier, whiskey is more than a drink; it is currency and power, and the Maycotts' success attracts the brutal attention of men in Hamilton's orbit, men who threaten to destroy all Joan holds dear.
As their causes intertwine, Joan and Saunders - both patriots in their own way - find themselves on opposing sides of a daring scheme that will forever change their lives and their new country. The Whiskey Rebels is a superb rendering of a perilous age and a nation nearly torn apart.
I loved this novel and thought it was an excellent example of historical fiction at it's best.
I had trouble with it at first because I listened to it on audio and there was only one narrator when there should have been two. It's split up between two points of view - both in first person as well. Ethan Saunders is the male protagonist who I had trouble liking at first. I wasn't sure what to make of him. Am I supposed to think of him as a romantic figure or a drunken buffoon? I chose the former, though it took me a while to decide. Ethan, a former spy who carries the ignominy of being unjustly accused a traitor during the last years of the American Revolution has seen better times. When we meet Ethan ten years after his fall from grace, he is disheveled and dirty with no place to live (he's been kicked out of his boarding house.) Bruised and beaten by a cuckolded husband and his minions, he soon finds himself face to face with his old love, Cynthia, and she is in trouble. Despite the fact that she is married, he risks everything to help her and find her missing ass of a husband which causes all sorts of problems for Ethan - but he is a gentleman, even if he is a mess! Through all his trials, he still manages to retain his witty sense of humor and handles the most difficult of situations with aplomb. There is a charm about him that is irresistible. Plus, he hasn't completely lost all his spy antennae for sniffing out intrigue and secrets - nor has he lost his good looks. Despite his recent failings, did I happen to mention his reputation with the ladies?
But the thing that really made me like him and what made him grow on me, was when I when I realized the narrator's voice (Christopher Lane) made him sound exactly like the actor, William Holden! Well, that clinched it for me. Now, I've never seen William Holden in a period eighteenth century movie before, but if he ever was in one - he would be Ethan Saunders! (I happen to love William Holden, btw.)
The other point of view in the novel is a woman, Joan Maycott. If only the publishers had had two different narrators for Ethan and Joan's voices - it would have been a great audio. Lane was right on as Ethan, but his voice for Joan was mechanical and flat. Joan's character is determined and single minded - bent on the destruction of the men who have wronged her, yet I wish they'd used a woman's voice instead for Joan. Though Lane wasn't bad as Joan, it did take away from her character and I didn't like her as much as Ethan. Sometimes her voice would sound mannish and had a hard time differentiating her voice from the other men! Joan becomes almost diabolical in her quest to bring down Hamilton and his men who she holds responsible for ruining her happy life with her husband, Andrew. A would be novelist, she comes up with an ingenious financial scheme to ruin them all. Her pretty face and figure starts out as a hindrance in the story, but becomes an asset as the novel progresses. She learns how to use her feminine wiles to their best advantage before long and uses the men around her like pawns on a chessboard.
Without giving away any spoilers, the gist of the plot is Joan is out to ruin the two men she sees as being responsible for all her woes in Western Pennsylvania. She comes up with an ingenious plan to bring down the Bank of the United States and stop the excise tax on whiskey, plus, make a great amount of money as a result. She enlists the help of her fellow whiskey makers from Pennsylvania to scam some of the biggest players in the stock markets. In some ways, the plan reminded me of "The Sting" - a well orchestrated deception with Joan in the center as the mastermind and all her men around her carrying out her plans.
I was saddened to see what sort of person Joan becomes at the end, she started out so sweet and naive all set to write her novel. The West changes her, as a troubled young man, Phinneas tells her at one point in the book. She becomes too cool and calculating, less loving and compassionate. Despite Joan's transformation, I became fascinated with the story of Joan and Ethan, trying to figure out what the connection was between their stories, their chapters would alternate, he in Philadelphia, she in Pittsburgh. Eventually they come together and join forces, it's a big surprise when they do. The plot is intricate and full of finance, involving the Bank of the United States, Alexander Hamilton, William Duer (a speculator who drove the markets,) and several other interesting characters that make this a vivid portrait of the stock markets in New York and Philadelphia in the fledgling early days of the brand new United States.
For those of you that can't take much violence, I had issues early on in the book. Joan and her husband, Andrew move to the wilderness in western Pennsylania near Pittsburgh. They are tricked into leasing land there, thinking they've bought it and are soon under the thumb of a ruthless landlord. Their treatment is brutal and I was in constant dread of what was going to happen to them. At times I seriously considered going no further and dropping the book, for I can't take too much suspense and worry, I wasn't enjoying it. But, I persevered and stuck with it, and I'm so glad I did! Keep it in mind, the menacing dread and violence ends eventually, but it was hard for me to get through it, but it's over by the half way point.
Liss' many memorable characters besides Ethan and Joan bring this book to life. One I really liked in particular was Leonidas, Ethan's slave. He's more of a companion and peer to Ethan than a servant. Ethan keeps intending to free Leonidas but he's afraid of losing him as a sounding board and friend if he does, and he likes to have Leonidas around to talk to and keep him company. This comes back to bite Ethan in the butt later on on the book. Mr. Lavien, a Jew who works for Hamilton is a disturbing man. He doesn't think twice about using violence as a means to get his way, though I liked his character too. Good to have at your back, but not one to have as an enemy, he and Ethan make an interesting pair. Lavien is a perfect foil for Ethan's joie de vivre.
The whiskey rebels "gang" who are helping Joan have their interesting types too - naturally I liked John Skye the best, an aging Scot (loved the way Lane did his accent) who takes a liking to Joan, though it can never be acted upon. The bad guys: Tindle, Reynolds, Phinneas and his other minions were so frightening on the journey out to Western Pennsylvania, I hated them all and wished every one of them dead! They scared me to death!
I recommend this book highly if you have a head for finance and historical American fiction - or even if you don't. The big scheme to bring down Hamilton's bank, includes a lot of speculating in the markets and buying and selling six percents and four percents - and frankly - a lot of that part of it made me screw up my face, furrow my brows and think. I liked it! :) I hope you will too!
Saturday, May 15, 2010
New York Times bestselling author Judith McNaught sweeps readers from the wilds of America to elegant 1820s London in this unforgettable romantic adventure.
A teacher in a school for wealthy young ladies, Sheridan, Bromleigh is hired to accompany one of her students, heiress Charise Lancaster, to England to meet her fiancé. When her charge elopes with a stranger, Sheridan wonders how she will ever explain it to Charise's intended, Lord Burleton.
Standing on the pier, Stephen Westmoreland, the Earl of Langford, assumes the young woman coming toward him is Charise Lancaster -- and informs her of his inadvertent role in a fatal accident involving Lord Burleton the night before. And just as Sheridan is about to speak, she steps into the path of a cargo net loaded with crates!
Sheridan awakens in Westmoreland's mansion with no memory of who she is; the only hint of her past is the puzzling fact that everyone calls her Miss Lancaster. All she truly knows is that she is falling in love with a handsome English earl, and that the life unfolding before her seems full of wondrous possibilities...
I loved this sequel to Whitney, My Love. The story picks up a few years later from where Whitney left off. Here the story centers on Stephen, brother to Clayton Westmoreland. Stephen is now a jaded and cynical man about town, determined to never let a women into his life again who will deceive him the same way a certain woman from his past had done.
I loved seeing some of our old friends from Whitney and found many of the same plot devices used again - but who cares? They were great and I loved every minute! My one gripe is the long period set in America before our heroine, Sherry goes to England. It seemed endless and a little bit dull.
The basic story is about mistaken identities and amnesia. Stephen Westmoreland, minding his own business on his way home early one morning from trysting with his mistress, runs over a young lord who runs out into the street. He kills him accidentally and feels terrible about it. He finds out this Lord Burleton was supposed to get married in two days to an American heiress due to arrive in London the next day. Stephen takes it upon himself to meet her at the ship and inform her of her intended's early death. It's the least he can do, for he's under the impression it was a love match.
Meanwhile, we learn that the heiress, Charise Lancaster, has run off with some fortune hunter before the ship from America has even docked! Obviously, it wasn't a love match with Burleton! Her chaperone, Sheridan Bromleigh, is beside herself with worry, convinced she will be blamed for everything and will go to jail. She braces herself and goes to meet the lord that is waiting for her at the dock. She thinks she's meeting Lord Burleton, but it's really Stephen, who thinks he's meeting Charise. How confusing! But, to make matters even more confusing, within seconds of meeting, Sheridan is hit by a big cargo net full of crates and is knocked unconscious before she can inform Stephen who she really is and that Charise has run off!
Feeling even more guilty, he brings her back to his townhouse and sees to it that she is nursed back to health. It turns out she remembers nothing and has amnesia. Her doctor has informed Stephen that she cannot have any more shocks or bad news until she is out of danger. One thing leads to another and Sheridan (Sherry) thinks Stephen is her fiancé! He can't tell her the truth right away for fear of more damage to her recovery and the plot gets thicker and even more delicious! But there is still the sticky issue of how is it going to be resolved? She thinks they're already engaged? How can he undo the engagement without hurting her feelings? Basically... he can't, and he's an ass for trying. Grr.
I loved every minute of this story and ate it up like candy. Stephen's family is let in on the secret, and they all instantly believe Sherry and Stephen are meant for one another. Sherry falls for him immediately, but he resists and futiley tries to convince her that she should look around and marry someone else. He feels so guilty about lusting over her when he killed her fiancé! (A minor matter, in my opinion). Naturally, her feelings are hurt and she is angry at him, but it doesn't last for too long. She becomes the toast of London with her debut (thanks to Stephen's sister in-law, Whitney and her aristocratic friends). Before long, she and Stephen cannot resist one another and grow even closer, she has fallen in love with him, and he's getting close, if he'll only admit it to himself. He decides to overcome his guilt and in a particularly romantic moment, he asks her to be his wife and sweeps her out onto the dance floor at a very public ball - my favorite moment in the book. They are a stunning couple and have so much to look forward to - but... but... she still doesn't have her memory back and when it does return all hell breaks loose! There is the terrible, big misunderstanding, as in Whitney, and it creates all sorts of angst and misery. Stephen does a terrible thing (these Westmoreland brothers!) which makes the reader long for some kind of resolution and my sympathy goes out to Sherry! I won't spoil it, but it's a great story and everything does work out in the end and Sherry's dreams all come true - it's exciting, but nerve wracking - impossible to put down!
I loved Sherry, she was sweet and innocent, so vulnerable with her amnesia. I was annoyed with her when she does something really stupid once she gets her memory back, but I felt sorry for her and I don't blame her for what she did - she was in shock! I agonized for her and felt terrible for her, especially after the way she and Stephen had fallen in love with each other - it just wasn't fair! He is every bit a Westmoreland and if you loved his brother in Whitney, you'll love Stephen in Until You. Tall, dark and handsome, he has a vulnerability about him that wasn't as apparent in Clayton, yet he has that same Westmoreland intractability about him - willing to cut the woman he loves out of his life if he thinks she's wronged him. I hated him for it, but I loved him too! He wasn't as extreme as Clayton (thankfully), but he still put Sherry through the wringer, but it makes it that much better when they are finally reunited - oh, but what a way to get back to that point again! *sigh*
This is a must read for Whitney, My Love fans, you will not be sorry. It wasn't as devastatingly emotional as Whitney, but it was similar in ways and a very satisfying read. The glittering ballrooms and styles of post-Regency England were perfectly executed, I loved being back in this world. It was great to see Whitney, Clayton, Nicki and the Dowager Duchess again - especially since they were all rooting for Sherry and Stephen to be together! A great, great romance with a wonderful happily ever after ending! Not quite as good as the first, but a hairsbreadth away. It took nine years for this sequel to come out after Whitney, and kudos to Ms. McNaught for pulling it off - brava!
Friday, May 14, 2010
'Lucky Jack' Burrell's quest for revenge against Sophia Deford will have to wait until he discharges a debt. He has to help her find the fabled pirate treasure Garvey's Gold, then he can wring her dainty neck. Sophia has no intention of sharing anything with anyone. She will have all of Garvey's Gold, no matter how much Jack's lean-muscled body makes her want to get to know him just a little bit better before she gets rid of him. As the two adversaries squabble their way across Territorial Florida following the clues on their treasure map, they know that before they're through they're either going to kiss each other, kill each other, or both...
This was a cute and amusing pirate historical romance set in early 1800's Florida before it becomes a part of the United States. I love forced marriage scenarios and this one was full of humor and not a little hotness! Our hero, Jack Burrell and heroine, Sophia Deford are forced to marry, although they have a dubious past together - one in which Jack has vowed to get revenge on her if it's the last thing he ever does. Years before in England, while Jack was playing highwayman he is fooled by Sophia's damsel in distress act when he stops her coach to steal her lecherous guardian's gold. Due to an unforseen happenstance, Jack unexpectedly rescues her from her guardian's clutches and brings her to his cave. She wastes no time in knocking him out from behind, stealing his clothes and leaving him trussed up and naked absconding with the money!
Now five years later, they meet again face to face. He a pirate, she a passenger on a ship he takes by force in the middle of the Caribbean. Sophia is fulfilling her good friend's last dying wish to find a fortune in gold - "Garvey's Gold". But the catch is, she needs Lucky Jack Burrell to help her find it. He's now a pirate - or a privateer - and she's determined to get the gold. They strike a bargain and he agrees to help for half the gold. But then fate steps in, in the form of Captain Sinister (from one of Marshall's previous books), another pirate who forces them to marry on board his pirate ship. They're married now, but in name only, despite how handsome he his and how cute she looks crawling into his hammock at night in her nightie - alone. The constant banter and dialogue between these two was amusing and delightful, one of the best features of the book! There was a lot of chemistry between the two and the sensual moments between them were memorable and well done as well.
There were loads of funny little details in this story that cracked me up. The budding romance between Jack and Sophia was great, they're constantly throwing barbs at one another with a fast paced repartee. She is singleminded and determined to find this gold and she's not going to let anything get in her way - namely her attractive pirate husband who has a penchant for sleeping in the nude and wearing an eye patch that he doesn't really need. He wants the gold too, but he also wants Sophia! He is determined to seduce her any way he can, but he finds himself developing stronger feelings for her than just lust. How long can Sophia hold out before she succumbs to his charm and 'monstrous engine of delight?' Despite the way he makes her feel when she's in his arms - and bed, will our heroine double cross her handsome pirate husband in order to get it all for herself - or does she fall for him instead?
I really enjoyed the story, Jack and Sophia make a great team together. They have interesting friends too who make colorful characters, such as Reuben and his wife Betsey. It was good plot with the treasure hunt for the gold and wondering if Sophia is going to realize she can do a lot worse than a man like Jack. Will she ever thaw towards him and drop this pursuit of the gold that seems to be the only thing on her mind? Some parts of the story dragged a bit or were a bit too coincidental or perfect, but not much, there is a great deal of slogging through jungle and woods with mosquitoes and other bugs, I presume. I was tired out from all the walking and climbing and riding they had to undertake to find the gold, but for the most part I enjoyed most everything about this book. The ending was exciting to find out if they're able to find the gold or not and I was on the edge of my seat all the way up to the surprising - but not too suprising - finish.
Sophia is a force to be reckoned with. She's quick on her feet, brave, smart, pretty and knows how to get her way and achieve it by any means. But I wish she had been kinder to Jack when it was obvious he had tender feelings for her. Jack is a great guy to have around. He strong, able, resourceful, smart - yet, Sophia puts him off his pace, he's less of a pirate around her and he has a tendency to fall for her wiles and allurements so that he doesn't realize what a schemer she really is. This was my main problem with these two. She was too absorbed with getting the gold to realize what a great guy Jack was, and he walked right into her deceptions because he was falling for her - and her pretty face. Despite their flaws, they brought out the best in each other by the end and I was glad to see that she learned a thing or two from him and grew to appreciate her dashing - and loving husband.
I've read all of Darlene Marshall's pirate romances, and I highly recommend this one, it was a lot of fun and one of her best to date.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Julie Garwood returns to her beloved historical romance roots in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland. For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows, skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England's most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle's marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place. For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war. Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle's bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle's body nor heart is safe. A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions - unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire.
If only this book was as good as the description above made it sound. Now, it is Julie Garwood afterall, so it wasn't bad, but it was a big disappoinment compared to her earlier historicals. Where was the humor? Where was the romance? Where was the sex? This barely felt like one of Julie's books. Half way through the book, the hero and heroine still had barely met! It took a very long time for the plot to get going where it centered on the hero and heroine. Endless lead up to the events that leave Gabrielle stranded in Scotland where she meets the unlikely ferocious hero, Colm who takes pity on her and brings her back to his home. Eventually, they must marry - a forced marriage - in order to protect her from King John and his minions who want the land that serves as her dowry - and the secret to a hidden treasure of gold.
Gabrielle is on her way to Scotland to marry a Scottish laird that she has never seen. An arranged marriage her father has set up for her, she is a dutiful daughter and will marry the laird and make the best of it. The King also wants this marriage. But, all goes wrong and the elder laird is murdered and she no longer has a husband waiting to marry her! Due to jealousy, a spiteful and lying b**tch yells out that Gabrielle is a whore and has been fooling everyone about her chastity. The crowd turns ugly and before you know it, Gabrielle is unjustly maligned and disgraced - but it's not true! Her life is turned upside down in a matter of minutes. Cast out and banished from England, this is where our unlikely hero, Colm steps in. Little does he know that this vulnerable and beautiful "princess" is also an expert with a bow and arrow and saved his brother's life. I kept wishing Gabrielle would tell Colm the truth that she was the one who saved his brother from being murdered - a sideline earlier in the book about feuding clans, etc. Gabrielle unwittingly stumbled upon his brother's near murder and stopped it by shooting an arrow and killing one of the men that was going to kill him, though no one witnessed it but her faithful guards.
Colm takes her under his protection and brings her north to his holdings, but due to circumstances regarding this little (but important) piece of land and her regaining her reputation, Colm and Gabrielle must marry. Of course, Colm doesn't even want to marry her, not because he believes the story - he's just not interested in getting married at the moment. Still, honor forces him into the betrothal to save her from the dastardly and evil Englishmen who are trying to get to her. As much as he's attracted to her - very attracted - he vows he won't touch her for six months, so no one will doubt that her first baby is his due to the ugly rumors surrounding her. They'll have a long betrothal. But, things change and once King John learns of the huge mistake that has been made in regard to her and her reputation he wants to make amends (not really, he always has some kind of ulterior motive) to her for the strife she underwent over the big lie about her, but it's too late. In order to avoid having to marry who the King wants her to marry (and give the land to someone else), she quickly marries Colm, and he is now owner of the land that everyone wants.
Still with me here?
Meanwhile, she's falling in love with Colm and frankly, I found it hard to believe why. He was so stern and hard and cold most of the time to Gabrielle. He is this great big brute of a Scot, everyone is scared to death of him, his reputation makes him out to be absolutely scary and ruthless. He had no sense of humor - barely even a twinkle in his eye - ever. Not even likable. Yet, around Gabrielle, he begins to soften, but it's gradual. Once they're married and they consummate their marriage, they grow warmer towards each other, but with none of that endearing humor and winsomeness that Garwood's earlier Scottish historicals have. And none of the sensuality her previous books have had either! Their wedding night was so disappointing! The story itself wasn't bad and had a lot of promise, but it just wasn't romantic enough to be a Julie Garwood medieval - or at least the way I like them to be!
The plotline of this wasn't bad, there is a lot of deception and shady doings behind the scenes, (not on the part of Colm or Gabrielle), but by these English lords who are after Gabrielle and this lost gold that they believe she can help them find. Her mother comes from a former kingdom that has a history of some lost gold that was supposed to go to the Pope and really didn't.
It's a good story but not what I was expecting. I had to read Shadow Music, despite the mixed reviews, since I really loved the first two books in the series, this is similar in tone to Ransom, but less romance than The Secret. For any die hard Julie Garwood fan, it's hard to resist any of her historicals, especially when a new one comes out, but I can't help wondering if she's lost her desire to write them, this book reads like she did. I have a feeling we're only going to see her suspense contemporaries in the future - but, I could be wrong - I hope.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
THE DUCHESS OF COSWAY YEARNS FOR A MAN SHE HAS NEVER MET... HER HUSBAND.
Married by proxy as a child, Lady Isidore has spent years fending off lecherous men in every European court while waiting to meet her husband. She's determined to accept him, no matter how unattractive the duke turns out to be. When she finally lures Simeon Jermyn back to London, his dark handsomeness puts Isidore's worst fears to rest -- until disaster strikes.
The duke demands an annulment.
Forsaking his adventuresome past, Simeon has returned to London ready to embrace the life of a proper duke, only to find that his supposed wife is too ravishing, too headstrong, and too sensual to be the docile duchess he has in mind. But Isidore will not give up her claim to the title - or him - without a fight.
She will do whatever it takes to capture Simeon's heart, even if it means sacrificing her virtue. After all, a consummated marriage cannot be annulled.
Yet in forcing Simeon into a delicious surrender, will Isidore risk not only her dignity - but her heart?
"If you love your sewer, it'll love you back."
Instructive words of wisdom from an expert to the Duke of Cosway who, among other things, is preoccupied with getting rid of the stench of uncleaned sewers from his ducal estate. That's not the only thing he's trying to get rid of.
As I began to read this Georgian romance, fourth in the Desperate Dutchesses series, I never would have imagined I would learn so much about eighteenth century water closets and who cleans them! I learned what the Dead Watch means and all sort of interesting things about hygiene - or lack thereof. In fact, for a part of the book, I became so preoccupied with Simeon's water closets, they became more important to me than the actual story itself between the hero and heroine! I'm not so sure this is such a good thing or what the author intended. So romantic and sexy!
There is more to the story than just the elimination of bathroom stench. Italian born, Isidore has been married to Simeon, the Duke of Cosway since she was a young teenager. He's been off in Africa for ages and they haven't met in years. Married by proxy, he has no idea what a beautiful young woman she has grown up to be. Saving herself and her reputation for the day her duke finally returns, she grows desperate waiting, waiting and waiting. She spreads some scandalous stories about herself that she is certain will eventually get back to her wayward husband in Africa, and sure enough they bring him home. He is remarkably handsome and a virgin - very different than what she imagined. Living in Africa and India he has picked up their customs, he's a runner and wears shorts to run in - highly unusual! In fact, his own mother, the dowager duchess is aghast by his behavior, referring to him as running around in "nappies!"
Simeon is inundated with unpaid bills that his mother had not taken care of while he has been out of the country, though there is no shortage of money - she just didn't pay for anything, so there is tons to do to fix up the place. Meanwhile, his young wife is determined to seduce her husband and help him with the estate. She wants to consummate their marriage. He has this mixed up notion that they'd be better off getting an annulment. I didn't quite understand his reasoning, why didn't he just go for it with her? He's put off by her beauty, so he avoids her as much as he can. Eventually, they give in and consummate the marriage, but it still doesn't solve their marital problems, there's the usual misunderstanding though they are falling in love, she leaves him, etc., but it was a fun read to see how everything was resolved - especially the water closets! Still, I didn't bond with either one of their characters which were one-dimensional. I've noticed that Ms. James' books have a lot of different characters in them, to the point where they're spread too thin, hence, none of them get the attention and character development they deserve.
As in her other novels, another side story is going on in addition to the main one in regard to Isidore's friend, Jemma, the Dutchess of Beaumont and her husband, Elijah, the Duke. As compelling as their story is, in fact it was better than the main story, I found it detracted from the story of our main hero and heroine, Simeon and Isidore. I wished Jemma and Elijah would just have their own book, rather than living on the outskirts of Isadore and Simeon's. Looks like I'll get my wish in the next book in the series. Jemma and Elijah and their mutual good friend, the Duke of Villiers are the most interesting part of this book!
Overall, this was not bad, but not great. A diverting read, it had it's hot and sexy moments, but I didn't find much chemistry between the hero and heroine, and I found it tiresome after a while that the Duke of Cosway was constantly running away from his wife, especially since I didn't quite buy his reasoning behind it. I didn't have much sympathy for him, except - ahem - in regard to the water closets *cough*
Friday, May 7, 2010
Harriet Vanger, member of one of Sweden's wealthiest families, disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
This was a great book. Listening to it on audio enhanced it, I was swept away with this mystery and looked forward to listening to it every day on my daily commute. Plus, I love Simon Vance's narration - he's one of my favorites! He did all the accents and pronunciations perfectly - he's an amazing narrator! Towards the end, I listened to it as much as possible, whether I was driving, doing needlepoint, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, you name it. The story centers on Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist specializing in business reporting who is hired to find out what happened to a missing girl forty years earlier. He has lost a libel suit against a large corrupt Swedish industrialist and is now somewhat disgraced in the industry. We are sympathetic towards Mikael, he was set up. As we get to know his world a little better, I was interested in his life and his part time lover and business partner, Erika Berger. Mikael is honest and upright, but he's not perfect. He has his problems. Now divorced, he sleeps with a married woman openly and even admits himself he's not the best father to his seventeen year old daughter.
Mikael is hired by the legendary Swedish business magnate, Henrik Vanger. Now an octogenarian, retired and reclusive Vanger has been consumed with the disappearance of his beloved niece Harriet, who vanished into thin air one day in 1966. Henrik hires Mikael to solve the mystery of what happened to her, using his skills as an investigative journalist. Mikael has nothing better to do at the moment and is being offered a small fortune to do it, but he must move up to Henrik's family home for a year - where all the other Vanger's live on Hedeby Island. It's quite a family, and Henrik detests most of them, certain one of them was responsible for Harriet's disappearance. As Mikael delves into the files and police records and thousands of photographs of the day Harriet disappeared the same day as a parade and a huge oil tanker accident on the bridge to Hedeby Island, he unearths some startling and macabre truths of this reclusive family. It nearly kills him.
The plot thickens with plenty of twists and turns. On the other side of the coin is the story of Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth works for a top notch exclusive private investigative company. She is hired by Vanger's lawyer to do a background check on Mikael before Vanger hired him. She is an odd girl. She's had a hard life, but she is a survivor and a genius on computers, one of the greatest hackers in Sweden. But, she has loads of social issues, I suspect she has Asperger's Syndrome. Her story is fascinating and riveting, I loved her character. Always dressed and styled in the "goth" way, her plight with the system makes you truly sympathetic towards her.
Before long, she and Mikael join up to solve the case of Harriet. Together they unravel the truth, but it's quite a journey to get there.
There is so much to this book that I haven't gone into for I don't want to post any spoilers, but it's a great story and I'm eager to get to the next two books in the trilogy. Alas, I had no idea that the author died, I don't even know the circumstances of whether all the books were published posthumously, but they are great, and I loved the locale and got a real flavor for Sweden - I want to go there now! I don't usually read mysteries or thrillers, but this is a combination of both and I simply loved it. Lisbeth is so interesting and amazing, though introverted and vulnerable, she and Mikael complement each other wonderfully. He's so normal - and she's so not! I love it how she starts out as a victim and learns to defend herself, you'll know what I mean when you read it.
Read the book if this is your genre - it's one of my favorites of the year! It has some really creepy moments not for the faint of heart, but in my opinion, it only made the book that much better and kept me on the edge of my seat. Once I finish the entire series, I'll see the movie, I hear it's very good and faithful to the book, but I'm avoiding it for now, for I like to keep the characters in my head as I've imagined them.
Monday, May 3, 2010
The lady and the commoner...
Lady Christiana Fitzwaryn was not opposed to marriage. But she demanded to be married on her own terms, not as punishment for a romantic indiscretion, and especially not to a common merchant. Yet she was in for a shock when she met David de Abyndon. For she was confronted by no ordinary merchant but a man of extraordinary poise and virility. He was unaffected by their difference in social status. And even less affected by her well-thought-out arguments against their upcoming betrothal. Instead, it was Christiana who felt uneasy in the presence of this naturally lordly man behind whose cool blue eyes she sensed the most uncompromising of passions.
David de Abyndon understood Christiana's dilemma, for he too harbored a secret pain. How could he tell her that there was more to this arrangement than met the eye? How could he tell her about his deal with the king-a deal that meant he had all but bought Christiana sight unseen?
What's more, now that he had seen this beautiful, spirited woman, how could he convince her that the love she sought was not in the callow knight she had romanticized but in the flesh-and-blood arms of the man who may have bought her body--but in the bargain lost both his heart and soul?
I liked this medieval romance, but I didn't love it. I thought it was better than the other Madeline Hunter novel I've read, By Possession, but I always felt at arms length with these characters, particularly David. For most of the book, we don't know who he really is, it's obvious he's not just a simple merchant who has managed to accumulate a great amount of wealth. There's more to him than meets the eye. Is he a spy for the French against the English? Is he a spy for the English King Edward? Or is he some bastard son of some nobleman somewhere that never knew of his existence?
As much as this romance is slow developing, it's a fairly realistic relationship between Christiana and David. But, it was more Christiana's story, for it was all from her point of view. Occasionally, we'd get David's reactions to events, but mostly everything hinged on Christiana's reactions. She is in the unfortunate position of thinking she has given away her virginity to a knight she believed she was in love with. He turned out to be nothing more than a "love 'em and leave 'em" type who must return to his family in the north (he's a Percy). Naive and innocent, Christiana is mistaken and she hasn't actually lost her virginity, but the King thinks she has and he arranges a marriage for her with David de Abyndon, a prosperous merchant in the city of London.
Christiana is convinced that as soon as her lover, Stephen, finds out that she is being forced to marry a lowly merchant (she is considered "damaged goods" after all) he will come and spirit her away and elope with her. David knows better. He's almost too good to be true. He seems to know all and sees all. Christiana is so preoccupied with Stephen that she can't see what a gem David really is. Slowly but surely he gets under her skin.
Gradually, they get to know one another. Christiana tells him from the outset that she is not a virgin, yet David is still willing to marry her. The majority of the book centers on how the two learn to trust and deal with each other. David was right, and Stephen never comes to carry Christiana off. She marries David, but she still has the spectre of Stephen hanging over her head. David believes she loved him and is jealous. Christiana finds out shortly before the wedding that she is indeed still a virgin and before long she falls in love with her husband and realizes that she never loved Stephen afterall, she sees him for what he really is - although David doesn't realize this right away. He still thinks she carrying a torch for Stephen - miscommunication and jealousy is always the bane of honeymooners in romance novels.
The gist of the plot is, can Christiana get over her prejudice of marrying a wealthy merchant, rather than a noble and learn to love him - even if she thinks he might be a traitor? The plot thickens and we learn about who David really is, but the main focus is on Christiana and David's developing relationship and love for one another. No fireworks, no passionate avowals, it just sort of happens gradually. Of course, they have the obligatory "big misunderstanding", but David is a sensible man and eventually realizes his error in misjudging Christiana.
The ending became the usual 'kidnapped just when she was about to tell him she loved him' scenario and the locale shifts to Caen. David must search for and eventually find Christiana, thus rescuing her, and at the same time, we learn who he really is! (I had already guessed, it wasn't a stretch). Lots of flowery love talk at the end that I found dull and repetitive.
Am I the only one that is not ga-ga over Madeline Hunter? I just did not get into the story all that much, nor in the other book I read of hers. Her characters seemed to be two dimensional, though I did find the plotline early on (before it shifts to France) interesting and I wanted to see what would happen between them. But, for the most part it was a bit dull and when I read a medieval romance, I like a little more action and adventure - I need escapism.
Perhaps you'll feel differently. I doubt I'll read the 3rd book in the series.