Category: Other Periods
The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne
May's Review: Picked by Publishers' Weekly and Library Journal as one of the best romance books of 2010, I thought I would give this book a try even though I generally find spy stories set in the past to be somewhat of a miss for me. Story starts out simple enough. British spy William Doyle meets French aristocrat Marguerite de Fleurignac in a burned out chateau and escorts her back to Paris with the hopes of finding her father, whom he suspects of selling out British agents. Marguerite or Maggie has her own secrets as she has been secretly saving and planning the escape of aristocratic families fated for the guillotine.
Like many books in this genre, this story contained plenty of action with good pacing. The main leads are amply supported by an intriguing cast of secondary characters. Yet somehow, I still felt underwhelmed by this book. Perhaps as some book reviewers have suggested, it may have something to do with some of the secondary characters upstaging Doyle and Maggie so they could be set up as main characters for the next book in Bourne's spy series. Hmm, it's a possibility but I think the problem may lie in the fact that I didn't particularly find the main characters all that engaging. I understand their immense physical attraction to one another but not their love, which just seems forced. Still the book was interesting enough for me to finish although I am not really sure I would give it the "Best of 2010" honours.
The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll
May's Review: On the one side is our beautiful heroine, Ariane, one of the famous Cheney sisters who are renowned for their mystical skills. On the other side, there is our hero, Comte de Renard, a passionate but mysterious nobleman who has fallen madly in love with Ariane and demands that she marries him. Will Ariane continue to resist Renard's overtures or will she finally call upon his assistance when she is in the gravest of dangers from the treacherous Catherine de Medici, the dark queen of France?
Contrary to some readers' opinion, I consider this book to be more of a romance instead of a work of historical fiction or fantasy. Too many of the basic romantic elements are here: a strong and fair maiden with a compassionate heart; a dashing and incredibly strong "knight in shining armour"; both an evil and menacing villain and villainess who will stop at nothing to get what they want; magical ability to transport you to a different time and place; and of course, some pretty "steamy" romantic scenes.
For me, this was an enjoyable and riveted read from start to finish. Obviously I enjoyed the romance but I have to applaud the author for setting up many of the future romances which are covered in the rest of her Dark Queen's Saga series. While some readers maybe upset that Catherine de Medici is so maligned in this book, I have no issue with it. In fact, I don't think Caroll had much of a choice as I don't think there is a more controversial queen in all of France's history than Catherine except for perhaps Marie Antoinette. I also appreciate the fact that the magical elements are kept to a minimum so that they don't overwhelm the story and veer this romance into all-consuming fantasy. Hence, I wholly recommend this book to those who love historical romance and need a change of pace from the usual Regency, time-traveling Viking or all-too masculine Scottish laird books.
For those wishing to check out the the other books in the Dark Queen's Saga series, here are the remaining titles:
* The Courtesan
* The Silver Rose
* The Huntress
* Twilight of a Queen
Review: Not Quite a Husband
Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
May's Review: I admit that I found Thomas' first novel Private Arrangements to be okay but not entirely amazing in spite of the fact that the title garnered a couple of 2009 RITA awards. I decided to give her another shot with her latest book Not Quite a Husband which has now garnered the 2010 RITA award for best historical romance novel. Was I destined for another round of disappointment?
I am happy to report NOT this time. First let's start with the premise. Bryony Asquith and Leo Marsden are a somewhat unusual pair. Bryony is a female doctor and four years older than her ex-husband while Leo is a brilliant and popular mathematician making quite the name for himself in various academic circles. Their marriage unravels shortly after the ceremony and they soon part ways. Yet for some reason, three years later, Leo feels compelled to track down his ex-wife in India to give her a message in-person that her father is dying rather than sending a messenger. Will sparks be rekindled?
Obviously yes but unlike in Barely a Lady (click on this link to read my earlier review) where the heroine is portrayed as the naive and innocent martyr and the hero is easily manipulated and just plain gullible, both Bryony and Leo are more even matched both in temperament and intellect. As they travel across India amidst a civil uprising, both individuals realize they are equally at fault for the dissolution of their marriage and gradually fall in love with one another as they are now (e.g. older and slightly wiser) as opposed to what they were back then (e.g. younger, somewhat obsessed with the notion of love and perhaps idealistic about overcoming each other' s shortcomings). The characters have matured, reconciled with their past, and are determined to face the future with one another by remaining true to their nature. What I mean is that Bryony doesn't give up being a doctor nor does Leo give up being an academic. The two of them simply found a way to balance their professional responsibilities with their personal life. And really, isn't that what relationships are all about anyway?
Since I haven't read too many of the other books that were nominated in this category, I can say that Not Quite a Husband exceeded my expectations and was enjoyable from start to finish.
Calling All Outlander Fans...
Courtesy of the Fiction Files blog...The seventh installment of the popular Outlander series has already hit the library shelves...
An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon
Summary: Gabaldon continues the extraordinary story of the eighteenth-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his twentieth-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall...Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun. Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.
Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters.
Read-Alikes: Audrey Niffenegger's Time Traveler's Wife. For a brief summary and review of the book, check out Library Technician's earlier blog post, housed on the Science Fiction and Fantasy blog.
The Horsemaster's Daughter by Susan Wiggs
The Horsemaster's Daughter
Southern plantation owner Hunter Calhoun staked the success of his Virginia horse breeding farm on an Irish stallion. When the animal arrives crazed and unridable after the stormy sea crossing, Hunter makes the journey to a nearby island to seek the services of a "horse whisperer" only to discover he is dead. His only hope lies with the horsemaster's daughter, Eliza Flyte, who seems to have her father's gift with animals.
The "wild child" has a healing spirit that reaches further than Hunter's horse. The bitter widower convinces Eliza to return with him to his privileged world. It may take a miracle for these two mismatched lovers to accept the healing power of love.
History, Mystery, Adventure and Intrigue
The Tenth Gift
By Jane Johnson
(Product Description modified and taken from Amazon)
In an expensive London restaurant, Julia Lovat receives a gift that will change her life. At first glance it is a book of exquisite seventeenth-century embroidery patterns belonging to a woman named Catherine Ann Tregenna. Yet in its margins are the faintest diary entries; they reveal that “Cat” and others were stolen from their Cornish church in 1625 by pirates and taken on a brutal voyage to Morocco to be auctioned off as slaves. Captivated by this dramatic discovery, Julia sets off to North Africa to determine the authenticity of the book and to uncover more of Cat’s mesmerizing story. There, in the company of a charismatic Moroccan guide, amid the sultry heat, the spice markets, and exotic ruins, Julia will discover buried secrets. And in Morocco—just as Cat did before her—she will lose her heart…
A literary mystery, historical adventure, and dual love story, The Tenth Gift literally crosses genres with narrative ease and prose that is as captivating as the characters who people this unforgettable tale.
My Review: What an intriguing story. I found myself completely enthralled by Cat Tregenna’s tale and just like the contemporary heroine, I too, was dying to know the fate of the kidnapped slave. The author’s description of the setting and the action took the reader into a completely different time period filled with pirates, renegades and damsels in distress. While I did sometimes find the change in the point of view a little distracting (especially when it switches right when Cat’s tale is getting interesting), overall, it was an enjoyable read.
Posted by the Rogue Reader
Johanna Lindsey’s latest novel continues the family saga of the aristocratic Malorys. No Choice But Seduction follows vivacious Katey Tyler from Connecticut, hoping to meet her relatives in England and embark on her grand tour of Europe.
Danger and intrigue develop when Sir Anthony Malory’s daughter is abducted from Hyde Park. Ship owner Boyd Anderson helps the Malorys in the search, discovering the beautiful Katey Tyler has also stumbled upon the high-stakes kidnapping.
Unless you have followed the Malory series, you may get lost in the extended family plot. However, it is a typical Johanna Lindsey historical romance, witty and passionate, full of adventure.
In The Kommandant's Girl, Emma marries Jacob, a political activist just before World War II breaks out. When Poland is invaded, Jacob goes into hiding with the Jewish underground, and manages to arrange a new identity for Emma as the niece of his Catholic aunt. At a dinner party, Emma catches the eye of Kommandant Richwalder, a high ranking Nazi official, and begins to work for him in the hopes of uncovering important information. But when the Kommandant begins to express a romantic interest in Emma, she is torn between loyalty to her husband, the Jewish underground, and her own identity.
The next book in the Border Chronicles series is in the catalogue now. Border Lord's Bride continues the saga which began with A Dangerous Love. Bertrice Small's classic historical romance is set in the English and Scottish borderlands where Highland heiress Ellen MacArthur must surrender her heritage and become a border lord's bride.