Housecleaning

I’ve been cleaning up some older reviews to correct formatting issues and what not. It appears they may have popped up in people’s feed readers, and for that I apologize. No spamming was intended. If anyone knows how to update a post in Word Press without it going to feed readers, your advice would be much appreciated.

Back to reading…

Advertisements

The Shadow Queen by Rebecca Dean

Tags

This review will freely discuss events that are known historical fact. In the event that there might be someone who hasn’t heard about Wallis Simpson and her history, consider this a spoiler warning.

“A novel of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor” says the cover, so you’d think this book would be about Wallis when she is the Duchess of Windsor, wouldn’t you? Well guess what, there’s a second book planned, so this one only covers Wallis during her school years, her disastrous first marriage to Win Spencer with a tiny bit at the end for marriage #2 and her first meeting with the Prince of Wales. If you know your history you’ve got a fair idea what this novel entails, and if you don’t – then I’m not going to spoil it with things you don’t want to know prior to reading it. I’ll save every one’s time and just talk about the reading experience.

*YAWN*

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is enough story potential in Wallis’ school years and first marriage to fill a 400+ page book, I’d have preferred a quick recap of these *early years* and then get to the meat of the story. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t find endless tea and cocktail parties all that exciting, YMMV. This book had far too much foreshadowing with predictions for Wallis’ future, along with her endless fascination with the Prince of Wales. I’m not sure if the trip to China actually happened, but boy that trip sure ended fast once the author got in what she wanted – a meeting with an ancient Chinese fortuneteller just to tell us readers of What. Is. To. Come. Lastly, while I understand this is a fictional imagining of Wallis’ life, this reader felt there was far too much imagining going on with too many fictional characters. Library only, then buy it if you love it, although it appears I’m very much in the minority on this one. 2/5 stars.

Reviewed for Amazon Vine.

Deepwater by Pamela Jekel

But what you’ll have instead will be burnished and hardened and battle-proven as this land. And that, to me, is a richer love. It’s a real marriage.

Deepwater is a very chunky book (with tiny font!) set in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina. The story spans several generations, from 1711 through the end of the Civil War and Restoration period. The prologue begins with the lost settlement of Roanoke (including the author’s spin on what happened to those who went missing), and is then broken into three parts. In the first, sisters Tess and Glory Hannock aren’t willing to let something like a marriage separate them when Tess marries a dashing privateer. It isn’t true love forever, but Tess isn’t one to let that stop her and through her experiences we watch the colony grow and prosper until those little disputes with the King over taxation without representation get started…

The second section is centered around Tess’s niece Della (younger sister Glory’s daughter). Della’s been spoiled and travelled abroad, and when she comes home she hones in on wealthy plantation owner Phillip Gage and she’s determined to marry him and become mistress of Deepwater. Phillip is loyal to King George, so you can imagine things get a bit complicated when just about everyone else is on the rebel side, including his wife. The last third of the book begins in 1850 and is centered around Phillips heir, Laurel Gage. Laurel marries a Quaker and owning slaves is not the *done thing* for him, but paying for labor takes its toll on Deepwater and slowly eats away at the acreage and profits.

That’s about all you need to know. This is one of those books that is too difficult to recap without writing a book report, and I’m not of a mind to do it. I liked this a lot, especially as the story focused on the people and the land, there really wasn’t a lot of interaction with real historical characters. Better still, despite the two wars involved in the story, there are no real battle scenes, nor are they touched upon in any great detail – no endless info dumps telling the reader about every major battle in excruciating detail. How refreshing. The only downside that might be a deal breaker is that these aren’t a set of characters you’re going to get emotionally involved with; nor do any of the three women have a great *love story*. If you’re looking for romance, I suggest you keep on looking.

Last quibble, and nothing to do with the book itself, but part of the publisher’s blurb:

Seleta…The wife of a Quaker abolitionist, she saw her beloved land fall to the Yankees. Yet is wasn’t the horror of war that became her greatest challenge…it was her battle to save her young son.

Ummmm, Seleta was Laurel’s daughter and wasn’t a grown woman with children until well towards the end of the book and she was pretty much out of the picture by then.

It’s a good thing you-know-who hasn’t reviewed it. Then we’d finally know whether or not she reads the books 🙂

Fifty Shades of Grey – a lust story

I think most readers know the bare bones of this book and its main characters – supposedly written as fanfic based on the Twilight books (never read them, and don’t intend to), and was eventually picked up by a big publishing house. I could have sworn big publishing houses had things called editors, but the version I read was filled with geographical errors (more on that later), along with endless repetition (I was ready to kill that “inner goddess” just to shut her up). I’ve noticed some reviewers comment on British-isms being used, but I really didn’t pick up much on the Kindle version I got from my library.

Anastasia (Ana) is a young college student in Vancouver Washington who meets Seattle billionaire Christian Grey during an interview for the school paper. Why sophisticated Grey is hot for clumsy Ana (she falls right into his office), is a mystery, but he’s hot for her and she’s not exactly unwilling – but Christian has a dark side and first she’s got to sign a lengthy contract agreeing to his terms and conditions.

15.21 The Submissive shall accept whippings, floggings, spankings, canings, paddlings, or any other discipline the Dominant should decide to administer, without hesitation, inquiry, or complaint.

This is what’s being published and promoted as romance? Ana and Christian have SEX (with the emphasis on the “F” word), they do not make love. Supposedly there’s a dark secret from Christian’s past that has brought about his sexual tastes and controlling nature, but that is still no excuse for abusing others. Erotica is a genre I don’t typically read, but all the online chatter got me curious, and since the library had copies on kindle I just couldn’t resist taking a look when my turn came up, especially because of the Seattle setting – my hometown. It’s always fun to see how the locale is portrayed by those who’ve never been here. How did James do? You be the judge.

Written in the first person narrative, the story begins as Ana tells us about her big day heading to Seattle from Vancouver to interview the mysterious Christian Grey:

ROADS ARE CLEAR as I set off from Vancouver, Washington, toward Interstate 5.

First off, no one but no one says “Interstate 5″. It’s I-5. Second, if someone is driving from the Portland/Vancouver area the only practical route is I-5, so it isn’t necessary to mention the road one is travelling on – just tell the inner goddess that you’re hopping on the freeway. Jeez (another word Ana uses to death).

Beyond that, there is a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of the Seattle skyline that looks out through the city toward the Sound. It’s a stunning vista, and I’m momentarily paralyzed by the view. Wow.

So, look up skyline in the dictionary and/or images of the Seattle skyline (here’s a cool spot to see what it looks like from the Columbia Tower). Just how do you think you are going to see that from the window of one of many tall buildings in the downtown core? I’m sure Grey had a lovely view of Mount Rainier or Puget Sound and the Olympic range, but the skyline? I think not.

Now we have Ana leaving Seattle after her interview with Grey:

AS I LEAVE THE city limits behind…While cruising toward Interstate 5…

Ummm, I-5 (not Interstate 5) runs right through the city. While is it possible to get out of the city limits heading south on secondary roads, it’s not very practical time-wise and those not familiar with the industrial/port area would be hopelessly lost. One would get on I-5 (not Interstate 5) right from downtown, and trust me, one does not “cruise” in downtown. One sits at one red light after another trying to negotiate turns after the hordes of pedestrians have cleared the sidewalks.

I can’t remember the address. It’s in the Pike Market District.

Sigh. That would be Pike Place Market.

Portland disappears in front of us as we head into U.S. airspace.

Portland, Oregon has a different airspace than the rest of the country?

I think we’re moving from Portland’s airspace to Seattle International Airport’s.

It is simply Sea-Tac. Everyone knows it’s an airport and everyone knows it’s an effing international airport. I’m not even going to touch on flying the helicopter amidst the downtown skyscrapers…

We speed up Interstate 5…as Taylor whisks us into the night toward Bellevue.

Grey’s condo is supposedly in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle. Google maps and see which direction on I-5 (not Interstate 5) you need to drive to catch I-90 to Bellevue.

In the end, this was definitely not the book for me. I don’t mind a bit of sex, although I’m in the less is more camp, but I prefer it when there’s some real love and chemistry between a pair and not just sex for sex’s sake. Top that off with one of the most annoying narrators ever (seriously, she talked like a young, vapid teenager and not a college grad), I really can’t find much of anything good to say about this. Except that at times it was so bad it was funny 😀

Ship of Dreams by Brenda Hiatt

Tags

San Francisco, 1857. Della Gilliland has been making her way in the world by selling harmless medicines, but one of her *patients* has just died and she’s being wrongfully blamed for it. With the law hot on her heels and justice in San Francisco somewhere questionable, Della figures her safest bet is to get on the first ship heading out-of-town. But how to get on board when there’s not enough money for it? Why, she marches up to ever-so-handsome Kenton Bradford (of the New York Bradfords!) and introduces herself to his business associate as his wife. Bemused, Kenton plays along at first, but confessing the truth could squash his hopes of a business deal, so he finds himself stuck in the role for the entire trip back East.

This being a romance novel and all I think you’ll guess where the rest of the story is headed, although Hiatt lets that part of the story build slowly. Della and Kent start off talking about their lives and getting to know one another as friends – you aren’t going to get insta love and steamy kisses on every page. Once that spark ignites, the path to true love gets a bit rocky when they face a wee bit of a storm at sea…

Here’s the deal. Despite that seriously cheesy cover (I’ll show it to you in a bit), this is not a sexed up romance, so if that’s what you’re looking for I’d suggest you pass and keep on looking. As I mentioned, Della and Kent spend a great deal of the first part of the book talking and getting to know each other. The latter part of the book is based on a real historical event, the final voyage of the SS Central America, so they’re a bit too busy with other priorities to be bed-hopping.

My thoughts? While not the greatest book evar, this was a good solid read for me and really couldn’t put it down, and one of the better Kindle freebies I’ve picked up. Adding a lesser known bit of history, and keeping events as close to what happened as possible is a huge plus for a history geek like me, and I thought the author did a nice job with it. According to the author’s notes at the end (always appreciated!), several of the characters she wrote into Della and Kent’s story were passengers on the SS Central America. 3.5/5 stars.

Now about that cover…

.

.

.

keep scrolling…

.

.

Ready?

.

.

That cover looks like it would be better suited to a pirate romance, doesn’t it? Like I always say. Never ever judge a book by its cover. While there is some sex in this book, it is very tame and it always happened in the stateroom, not on deck.

Her Highness, the Traitor

Tags

,

Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day queen – was she a victim of her ruthless, scheming parents, or was she a victim of circumstance, being born much too close to the throne? How do you decide between the wishes of the dead king, or the one now dying?

After the unexpected death of Edward VI, England’s crown was to have gone first to elder sister Mary, and then to Elizabeth. Simple, right? Not. Problem was, not very many folks wanted Catholic Mary on England’s throne, plus Edward changed the order of succession before his death, naming the Lady Jane Grey as his heir.

OK, I think most historical fiction buffs have read enough about the Tudors to know the basics, as well as the myths, but if you don’t I am not going to spoil it for you by going into greater story detail. Higginbotham tells the story via alternating first person point of views of Jane Dudley (mother of Guildford Dudley) and Francis Grey (Jane’s mother). I’m generally not fond of alternating POVs and admit to struggling with this at first until I got a handle on the different voices, but in the end I thought it worked very well.

Higginbotham has done an excellent job of wading through those myths and half-truths, presenting a balanced, well-rounded case for what might really have happened, all lightly seasoned here and there with Higginbotham’s sense of humor (watch out for her April Fools’ Day blog posts). 4.5/5 stars.

Thanks to Sourcebooks and Net Galley for the opportunity to read an early copy.

The Glitter and the Gold by Michael Dyne

Tags

,

The Glitter and the Gold tells the story of George IV of England and his relationship with Maria Fitzherbert. I am not going into great details of the storyline, as a lot of it might be spoilerish for those not familiar with George’s history. When the reader first meets George he is still the Prince of Wales, and he’s had enough of his parsimonious parents and their rigid lifestyle, so when he’s nineteen and allowed to cut loose on the world – watch out. There’s some serious high living going on there, along with the immense debt that continued to pile up behind it. But then one day George (Prinney) meets the twice widowed and very Catholic Maria Fitzherbert and he determines to have her no matter the price. And since Maria won’t be a mistress that price is very high indeed.

No one quite knew how the rumor had started. It spread across the Channel and titillated Paris salons. It crossed the Alps and caused a raising of eyebrow in Roman palaces. The Pope knew of it. There was a buzzing of beretta. Had the heir to the throne of England married a Catholic?

This was a seriously fun read, and I am very sad to let these characters go. While this isn’t the greatest novel ever written, I thought the author did a good job with the characters he had, particularly with George – warts and all. I really appreciated the way the author managed to show us George’s ever-increasing waistline by showing instead of telling, as opposed to that lazy method I’ve seen a lot lately in Tudor novels (no beady eyes or gravy drooling down one’s chin to be found here). I have no idea how close this book sticks to known historical facts, but the few times I did go for additional reading I didn’t find anything different from what was portrayed in the book. Dyne even threw in a couple of references to his younger brother’s somewhat notorious relationship to Mary Anne Clarke (trivia: can you name her famous great-great-granddaughter?). I am curious to know if Caroline of Brunswick was really like that starting at age fourteen. Oh my.

All in all jolly good fun and I heartily recommend it. Just don’t take too long dithering about whether to pick up a copy or not. From looking around the book seller sites there aren’t that many copies to be had. I did find a brief bio on the author at the back of the book, it seems that Dyne primarily wrote plays and movie scripts, including The Right Honorable Gentlemen, which was nominated for a Tony award. The Glitter and the Gold was inspired by his love of Regency furniture. I was torn between a 3.5 or a four star rating, but I just had too much fun. 4/5 stars.

The Queen’s Lover by Francine du Plessix Gray

Parts of this review will discuss events that are historical fact. If you aren’t familiar with the French Revolution and the fate of royal family, it would be best to stop reading this review. And just so I don’t get accused of spoiling, the book jacket and the first pages of the book make it clear that at least in this version Von Fersen and Marie Antoinette were lovers.

The Queen’s Lover is the fictional memoirs of Count Axel Von Fersen, memoirs he wrote later in his life. These memoirs are being prepared for publication posthumously by his sister, so you get the odd chapter here and there where she inserts notes to clarify certain events and what not. I could waste time and words giving you a run down on the historical events this novel covers, but the book blurb tells you everything that happens and you could just read that and be done with it.

Sigh. Unfortunately, the memoir format does not work well, and I found Von Fersen to be a most unsympathetic leading man. I understand history says he was known to be quite the ladies man, but let’s just say that the sexual details included in these supposed public memoirs are way too much information and add nothing to the story. The sexual descriptions are very clinical, and not necessarily just with the love of his life. Ick, ick, ick what he did with one mistress right after…(can’t spoil). Thank goodness I’m not allowed to quote from the ARC, but if you’re thinking you’re going to get a fairy tale romance and twu wuv fowevar, you are going to be sadly disappointed.

As for the rest of the story? Tedious. Even Von Fersen’s recounting of his attempt to get the royal family out of France was boring (Dumas does it better). Von Fersen’s memoirs continue as he recounts events in France – events that he didn’t personally witness – so there are endless pages of info dumping via super secret letters between him and Marie A. More info dumping when there’s a gap in the Von Fersen’s memoirs and the sister takes over and recaps events for you. Frankly, if you are already familiar with this period you aren’t going to get anything new out of reading this novel. For those readers looking to learn more about the French Revolution and wanting to be entertained, I’d suggest reading the series written by Alexandre Dumas. At least that way, you can learn and be entertained at the same time.

2/5 stars, and I’m only giving that extra star for the descriptions of of Versailles and the court at the start of the book, I suggest passing on the rest of it. Library only, then buy it if you love it. Reviewed for Amazon Vine.

A Wild Night’s Bride by Victoria Vane

Phoebe Scott (AKA Kitty Willis) is a struggling actress hoping for a shot at the big time, but to do that she pretty much needs to find herself a wealthy lover man to sponsor her. To make a long story short, a scantily dressed Phoebe attends a seriously decadent party where she meets Sir Edward (Ned) Chambers. Ned is still grieving the death of his beloved first wife, but his bosom buddy Viscount Ludovic DeVere is doing his darndest to get Ned to take a walk on the wild side…

Anyhoo, one thing leads to another and in trying to one up each other DeVere makes this wild bet and all three find themselves in quite a pickle.

May the same God save me…for I’m going to be hung, drawn, and quartered for spending last night rutting in the King of England’s bed!

Mind you, that quote is from the prologue so I’m not spoiling. All the fun is in finding how they got there and how in the h*** they are going to get out in one piece.

You have an impressive scepter, my liege…Do you wish me to pay full and proper obeisance to my king?”

“Dear God, yes.

Erotica is not a genre that I normally read, but I’m willing to go outside my comfort zone if it comes with a good story in a realistic historical setting (no wall-paper for this reader) – and A Wild Night’s Bride fits the bill. I laughed my arse off the entire time, and Ned and Phoebe sure can steam up the pages. I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the novellas centered around that devil DeVere (series order from Goodreads here). 4/5 stars.

FTC? An Amazon verified purchase.

Mistress of Paradise

Before I get into the actual review of this book, I present my case for why you should never ever judge a book by its cover, let alone the description written by the idjit publishers. By looking at the cover one might assume that it’s a sexed up romance, perhaps with hot sex on the beach? Wrong – while there is a strong romantic element and there are sex scenes (fairly tame), there is no sex on the beach. Not once.

Now let’s look at the book description on the back:

At her first glance of the wealthy Keith Stewart, her desire rose unbidden, boundless and exciting.

OK, in a way that is correct, but in another way it isn’t. You see, Lani is fourteen years old when she first sets eyes on Keith. So yeah, she’s hot for him but in a puppy-love kind of way.

…Adam who refused to help her hold on to her ranch, Adam who captured her secret desire, who awakened a passion she never knew she had – and who then cruelly turned away…

It makes it sound like he used her and dumped her, doesn’t it? Can’t spoil with details, but I’m telling you that doesn’t happen. I would guess that many a potential reader has picked this up in the bargain bins, taken one look at the cover, stuck their noses in the air and sniffed “bodice ripper” and walked away. Hate to say it, but you can miss out on a good book with an attitude like that. To be fair, I actually was in the mood for a brain candy romance when I picked this up, but was pleasantly surprised to find something completely different inside.

So let’s talk about the book, which is set in Hawaii in the early 1890s. Lani Tucker is descended from an early missionary family (although her mother was Hawaiian), a family that went on to build a great business empire. Her parents dead, Lani is first left in the care of her Uncle Daniel, until a series of events after a bad night at the gambling table makes her the ward of Adam Stewart. There are three Stewart brothers, all handsome, but oldest Keith is the one Lani sets her sights on, not realizing what a womanizing all around bad boy he is. And there’s serious trouble brewing when Lani grows up and none of the Stewart boys can resist her charms…

While there is a strong romantic element in this book, the author also involved Lani and the Stewart brothers in a tumultuous period in Hawaii’s history as forces plot to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy and annex the islands to the United States. This was a good solid read for me, and I frankly had a hard time putting it down, and one I would recommend to those who like a bit more historical detail in their romances. There is a book that precedes this story, Jasmine, about Lani’s grandparents. It looks like the author has written several other historical romances, and I think I might hunt down a few of them for a looksee. 4/5 stars.