Thursday, 26 June 2014

Latest Review - WW2 Novel 1944.

Reviewed by Katie


This is a love story with Americana as the anti-hero.  L.C. Moore flirts with cultural ideals of the good ole days and does nothing to destroy them, only bring them more fully in to the light.  Four young people, coming of age, in two different timelines give a weathered diary feel to the chapters that enhances the experiences of dislocation adolescents and young adults often know better than their parents.And the backdrop of war and the tension increases....


Like a Leo Kotke album, each suite is uniquely its own yet still part of the larger whole.  There are just enough clich├ęs to make the eras accessible for understanding or nostalgic, depending on your age. Each perspective is skillfully used to prevent the characters from becoming trite.  There are no secondary characters.  Everyone is a precise note or extended measure for the suite.  We know some of these people.  They're our parents, grandparents, cousins - maybe a neighbor, maybe ourselves.  They are the folks we might not think of as knowing anything about Real Life.  


The evocative, tightly written prose disturbed me even as it held me captive.  Choppy sentence fragments set the mood with conversational narrative that carries us away, back to where we've never really been, but thought we knew so well because we studied history and watched the Discovery Channel.  Jumping from one timeline to another with no pattern I could establish made the book seem a bit longer than it actually was.  I wanted more from each chapter, more for each character; they felt like my family long before the middle of the book. And it doesn’t take a genius to know the ‘happily ever after’ in war stories is seldom white picket fences and orange blossoms, so my tension increased with each turn of the page. 


I did not want to finish the tale but I could not not know.  It made my stomach burn, literally, as I rolled to the last forty pages or so.  This is not a romance in the traditional sense.  It is a condensed epic tale, spanning generations, the conclusion bittersweet.  I would not have chosen this as a book to read but that's why I enjoy reading for Romance Reviews Magazine, I'm exposed to different explorations of what is a good romance.  


I have two quibbles.  First, the entanglement theory don't work for me, personally.  The descriptions of dreams and emotions felt were too vague in comparison to the strength of the narrative's other aspects.  However, I welcomed the thoughts of what if...  all the same. I still found the individual stories enthralling, so in the end, the entanglement did not matter, at least to me.  


Second, there were many editing issues in my copy of the text that I did not convert {ex: "Roomer was he was repeating ninth grade for the third time." "there was more darkness then light..." “My general approached to things was….”} I hope these issues have been corrected in the final version.  Unfortunately, in such a tightly written book they Stand Out, especially in key moments and jarred me brutally from the tale.  Even so, I recommend All I Long For Long Ago Was You as a thoughtful weekend read that will remain with you for days.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Latest Historical Review - Lady Highwayman

Reviewed by Lorraine.

1743. Rosie Davey possesses the kind of fatal beauty that makes men desire her and women jealous. Sent to London for her own safety to work for her Aunt Elisa at the Nag’s Head, Drury Lane, she finds herself in the underbelly of society. She is expected to earn her keep through prostitution, and there are many men eager to take her innocence by force.

She is saved by Blake, a highwayman she has encountered before in times of danger, who pays for her exclusive services but respects her virginity.

Others, of low and high degree, are determined to have her, and when she is forced to fight for her survival and stabs a debauched magistrate, she has to flee. Falling in with a Romany gypsy, Micu, she is nursed to health, and then becomes the object of his attentions. Five times she is nearly raped, only for his mother to save her.

Blake finds her, kills Micu, and takes her back to London, where he makes her his own. She joins him in his highway adventures until she is shot and taken to Newgate, from where she is eventually rescued by Micu’s sister. At last she returns home to Windermere, where her mother tells her the truth about her birth.


 Reviewer notes:

Rosie’s many adventures take place at high speed. Pirates, gypsies, highwaymen, debauched aristocrats, and gin–sodden whores are all encountered along the way. She is nearly raped, graphically, too many times to count, though always saved at the very last second, and is depicted throughout as a victim of circumstances, rarely instigating any of the events herself except in error.

There are obvious problems with misused words – broach for brooch, caste for cast - and textual errors: ‘“Yes thank you milord, pausing slightly he realized Lord Bligh was waiting for him to pour the wine.’ There are anachronisms: boss and heist belong to C19th US, not mid-C18th England. Monastral blue is a trade name from the 1930s. Buttoned blouses and chignons were not worn in 1743.

The wife of an Earl is a Countess, not a Duchess (and no Countess would put ‘the wife of Earl…’ on an invitation to her ball). It is correct to say Earl or Duke of, but not Lord of Windermere.

Elisa becomes Eliza, Blake Glenowen becomes Blake Remington.   As for ‘Bene darkmans’, that must remain a puzzle.

This is a novel of two halves. The depiction of the stews of London is good, and promises much; but once Rosie moves from underworld to haut monde, the pace picks up to a gallop at the expense of detail. Coincidences and unlikelihoods abound, and although the author puts every possible block in her progress, in a rather weak and hurried ending Rosie finds her hero once more.

Suzy's notes: Brooch also Middle English Broche = Broach.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Latest Contemporary Mainstream Paranormal.

Guest Review by Fran.

Having enjoyed ‘Mystery at Rosehill’ I was thrilled to receive a review copy of ‘Secrets at Rosehill’, and I’ve again enjoyed time spent with Camilla and Marcus. In the first novel the machinations of a blossoming romance between the hero and heroine was tentative at best, because, not only did Camilla entertain spiritual visitations from the nether world in her role as a psychic medium, one or two tested Marcus’ faith to extremes in his role as the resident vicar to a rural parish. The base line being, could too such opposites come together in united harmony?
In this, the second book (four years later), marital bliss between Camilla and Marcus seems as idyllic as does ‘Rosehill’, the house which Camilla loves as much as she loves old dark furniture and antiques. But it is the ‘others’ whom dwell within the walls of Rosehill, not least the reappearance of familiar ghostly apparitions and favoured characters from book 1, that all in all, make for a delightful follow-up read.
I rather liked the way a diary penned in the 1800s reveals much about the history of the house and captures Camilla’s attention. Whilst the diary owner’s favourite room is not as empty as one might imagine, much of what happens within his private place seems quite logical. Nonetheless, contented reality can all too easily be blighted by real-time secrets. Thus, two chance encounters, two small fibs, and mixed emotions unexpectedly come full circle for both Camilla and Marcus. At this point in time, one begins to wonder can the once happy couple survive a looming crisis? And believe it, when I say, the author takes a great leap of psychic faith with the end sequence, because it’s not only touching in its finality it reminds us to hold onto the now, whilst knowing the past is always at our elbow!


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Latest Historical - Regency.

Reviewed by Katie


In this romantic mystery, Sebastian Alder survived Waterloo, barely.  As he recovers, a woman appears to inform him that now, he is Lord Somerton.  Whisking him off to better chambers and an increased hope of actual recovery, he finds the legacy a great deal more trouble than it seemed to be worth.


The Somerton inheritance was a tainted privilege.  In some ways he was no better off than he would have been if he had remained a penniless officer of the line on half pay. At least then he only had his siblings and himself to worry about. Now he had a household and an estate, all claiming pennies from a purse that looked decidedly the worse for wear....  Where had it all gone and how, in God’s name, was he expected to restore the family fortunes?


He had thought the matter through in the tedious hours in the coach and decided that if he thought of the task ahead as being akin to a sudden promotion to Colonel of a regiment, it did not seem so daunting.


Sebastian meets the new family, assumes his new responsibility and intends to make provisions for his brother and sister.  As soon as he untangles the financial mess Anthony Kingsley left behind.  There are hanger's on, wise granny, an aunt and dozens of cousins, plus tenants, retainers and servants to assess and get to know.  Always near by, ready to offer assistance or subtle guidance, is Isabel.  He sees her wounds, the grief she struggles beneath and that she is trying to reach beyond the sorrows and anger.  Through Sebastian's eyes we observe Isabel's healing steps, stumbles and set backs.  It was an interesting perspective because generally the socks are on the other foot. 


This story is slightly Gothic in tone, the writing smooth and gently reflective.  There was an old-fashioned pace I really enjoyed.  There was no rush of the romance, the story or the ending.  The dialog kept you in the period without effort or cliches.  Characters were believable, though slowly revealed.  Personally I like that but others may find the bits and pieces revelation too old skool.  Secondary characters weren't two dimensional though the villains were both over the top once their disguises were stripped away.  I was disappointed by the second villain's big reveal.  For all the realism it brought to the story, I felt manipulated and a wee bit resentful. 


I liked Sebastian, his siblings and Isabel.  I appreciated how the tragic past was handled as part of the story, not a cudgel to wallow in and create more angst.  They were the Ordinary Folks we all think we are until trials come our way and we learn not only is there more to us, but less as well.  Confronting their own failings, they have compassion for other's.  Mostly, it was absolutely wonderful to read an Awakening Story that wasn't all about the sexual attraction or trumped up conflicts that reduce hero and heroine to argumentative banter based on misunderstandings.  They were cautious with each other, kind to themselves even.  Taking time, giving support and space as needed, Sebastian and Isabel's story advanced even as the mysteries, debts and confusions mounted to a larger pile.


I had a bit of difficulty with the last couple chapters of this book.  It tied up "too neatly" for me.  I like a bit of conflict left hanging, things to work through together in happily ever after land.  In fairness, the financial situation is probably Huge Enough, not to mention the "secret" Sebastian has chosen to keep.  I believe that will come back to bite them both in the end.  Of course,  it could simply be the fact  I seldom like epilogues and this one was a bit too sweet for me. That said, I did enjoy 98.7% of the book, the writing style, characterizations, and well-handles story line.  Definitely will look for other works by this author. I recommend Lord Somerton's Heir for when you're in a Traditional mood, looking for a meatier story with a gentle romance. 

Latest Historical Romance - Time-Slip.

Review by Katie

What a Fun book! 


She knew, then, what had come of reading too many Georgette Heyer novels.


Though I love Dr. Who and Back to the Future, I usually avoid time traveling romance books like they are loaded with transfats and over processed sugars.  They cannot end satisfactorily for me.  Someone in the timeline is going to  suffer, even if it isn't the romantic couple, it is family or others left behind at one end of the time stream or another.  When I want to read about paradoxes and continuums of historical necessity, I read science fiction.  I can't take that kind of angst in a romance unless it is in the past or middle. I read  romance for happily ever after. However, this book made me giggle like a debutante at the end.


Devorah is on the cusp of becoming a Special Case.  Over thirty and unmarried, her cultural expectations aligned with her own [yeah! What a wonderful difference] but she wasn't willing to settle for less than her soul mate.  So, when her best friend mentions a visiting cousin of her husband, Devorah is willing to take another chance he won't be more of a Special Case than she is.  However, things don't go quite as planned.


Ms. Schaefer sneakily draws you in with four chapters of charming introduction to characters that presumably have  little to do with the story.  It reads like a resume of the Intelligentsia meets My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  Still,  I did feel the appropriate sympathetic connections intended by the prose and it was perfectly paced.  Just  as I was at the point of saying, what the heck has this got to do with-  Devorah fell off a chair, smacked her head and everything went black.  When she regains consciousness, it is March, 1815 and she's been discovered by a Duke.


My dear child, you have met with a deplorable, unexplained accident, but you are now safe,” he explained in dramatic  tones. “Fortunately, you have been rescued by his grace, the Duke of Ravenscroft. He has conveyed you back to his  ducal seat at Ravenscourt, where you now find yourself. It is the Duke’s intention, I believe, for you to remain here  under his protection until you have recovered sufficiently to return to your own home.”


I am not a member of the Intelligentsia.  It was work for me to shift gears from loving friends and family to  another place and time, complete with new characters and Important Statements.  Needless to say, I survived.  And  before the middle of the chapter I was hooked.  The characters were loving compilations of romance stories through  the ages.  The contrast of utterly familiar and completely unique conflicts and dilemmas tossed about by time displacement was a marvelous surprise from the expected complaints about hygiene, class conundrums, and feminist affronts. Devorah's sensibilities were so composed I was in awe from the very beginning of her alternate reality.


“Well, this is only conjecture,” she said baldly, “but apparently I fell off a chair and landed in the wrong  century."


The writing was perfectly pitched for each time period.  Dialog was period consistent, description just enough over the usual reader expectation to convince you Devorah  is confronting the past with a future eye.  Though it is work, she is able to fit in and present herself to all and sundry as if she belongs. Devorah making vermicelli and meatballs when the cook breaks her leg is a moment I  will never, ever forget! And the joy here is how subtly it is all done.  Devorah is constantly on alert for mistakes she might make even as she wows the evening's entertainment with her skill on the pianoforte and the ladies with her needlework.  [If only all new writers of historical romance were as careful as Devorah]


Everyone falls in and out of infatuation just as they should.  Though I fretted at several points, anticipating the end and that wail of, "Noooo," I'd be embarrassing myself with, the transitions and resolutions gentled my fears like a loving nanny, or they tried to.  Ms. Schaefer kept just the right amount of tension going, at least for me. Younger brothers Robert and Theo were exceedingly well done; even the Duchess-desperate-to-be-a-Dowager made her way in to my heart.


I  didn't think much of the expedient Duke and his usage of people to satisfy his sense of humor, no matter how convenient it was for those in need.  But I have every hope that his future duchess will turn that table on him; more than adequately tempering his arrogance.  Strangely, Albinia, the obligatory insipid miss, eventually obtained my sympathy.  After all, she's destined to endure life - well, never mind, that would be a spoiler.  My point is, the people in the alternate reality became as tangible as those in the family and friends in the beginning. 


I did think the end was too abrupt.  I wanted a bit more than a wink and I wanted much more of Mr. W [both incarnations of him] than we received.  Otherwise, Ms. Schaefer certainly surprised me in a good way.  I am so glad I was given the opportunity to read Me & Georgette.  Totally recommend this book for an afternoon's escape or an evening's relaxation.  It will make you laugh and sigh and grin. Best Part?  No one gets left behind at the end.  Promise!


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