Received an ARC of this collection of stories about learning from failure and am loving it already.
The Arrangement by Mary Balogh
I haven’t read many Regency romances, and I’d never read Mary Balogh before, so I don’t have much ground for comparison, but this was a sweet romance with a twist that made the relationship between Vincent and Sophia all the more believable.
Blinded during battle, Vincent Hunt, the Viscount Darleigh is plagued by relatives who want to compensate for his handicap by managing his life, but that is nothing to the potential for disaster when status-seeking acquaintances try to throw their eligible daughters in his path. Tired of being an object of scrutiny and pity, Vincent seeks the safety of his former home and is nearly snared by the power-hungry Marches, but is saved by the quick-thinking Miss Sophia Fry, neglected niece of the Marches.
More than grateful for Sophia’s intervention, Vincent feels it his duty to come to her aid when she is expelled from her home. He offers her a marriage of convenience, but they soon find that there is more between them than can be satisfied by mere companionship…
The relationship between Vincent and Sophia emerges slowly and grows through mutual regard, a nice change from the usual love-at-first-sight theme. I enjoyed the novel and found myself interested in reading the rest of the Survivor’s Club series. It’s a great weekend read when you need something warm and cozy.
Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan
Shadowance is the fourth installment in Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series, which has just about everything you can want in a fantasy romance set in an alternate, supernatural-infested Victorian London.
Longtime adversaries, Mary Chase and Jack Talent are thrown together when supernaturals start turning up dead. Determined to prove herself, Mary stubbornly agrees to work with Talent, despite his constant haranguing, but there’s more to Talent and his attitude than Mary knows… and there’s more to Mary than Jack imagines.
Just… wow. I really enjoyed the first two books in this series (yes, I skipped ahead to this one, but you don’t really need to read them in order to follow along), this one went way beyond all expectations. If you’re looking for hot hot sex, this is it. Ditto, if you’re looking for strong characters who grow beyond their flaws. Angst, love, revenge, mystery, action… all there. And did I mention the sex? The tension between Mary and Talent is so well crafted, you just know sparks are going to fly. I love a sexy romance that features love between equals and Callihan definitely knows how to make that happen.
I received Shadowdance as a netgalley offer from Forever Romance, but will definitely be purchasing a copy for my collection.
Entwined by Kristen Callihan
Entwined is part of the same universe as Shadowdance, but serves as a companion story rather than part of the ongoing series. Not quite a prequel, Entwined introduces characters that are related to others in the series, but are not directly involved in the main storyline. It’s a quick read and can be read as a standalone. I won’t go into detail for fear of spoilers, but it follows a mixed-up, epistolary love affair between Eamon Evernight and his brother’s betrothed, Lady Luella. Like Shadowdance, there is a good mix of fantasy and romance, and a nice dash of sexytimes.
Thanks to Forever Romance and NetGalley for this one as well.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of those novels that grabbed me from the start and didn’t let go. It is a slim little volume, easy enough to read, but it leaves you feeling that you’ve learned and lost something in the reading. It is the story of a man who once was a boy and a few days that were filled with wonder and terror. It is about a pond that is an ocean, and such an ocean it is.
It is about nature, and dreams, and memories. But it is also about life and growing up, finding yourself, and finding the magic in small things. And it’s about cats and women and wisdom. It’s a novel that has all the essence of a fable, something that has been part of story as long as there have been stories, and yet is entirely new. Neil Gaiman has a way of doing that with his words, weaving tales that are at once new and eternal.
I could make comparisons to The Graveyard Book or Coraline, even to Big Fish, but the novel is really a creature all its own. As with these works, it takes you into a world that makes you doubt the truth of reality and experience, makes you wonder if there is more to be seen just beyond the edge of your vision.
I can’t say much more than that. It is such a privilege to have received this copy for review from William Morrow.
The Hollow, Part 1: Lucinda by John Scudamore
I received a copy of The Hollow to review for The Historical Novel Society Online. I generally choose books that might interest me when the selection list goes around, and this one was described as an Austen-like romance with timeslip elements. I though, I like timetravel fiction. I like Austen. I’ll choose that one as one of my possibilities.
When it arrived, I was duly intrigued by the cover and the back blurb. I started reading it right away.
While not perfect, I was pleasantly surprised by the novel and found myself absorbed by the Scudamore’s treatment of female sexuality. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
If I had to describe this book in one sentence, this is what I would say: It’s a Regency Romance that is more Sarah Waters than Jane Austen.
It’s not perfect, there are anachronisms in the language and description, but the dialog is interesting and raises all kinds of thoughts about female self-discovery for all its lack of perfect, Regency polish.
The narrative follows the sexual awakening of Celia and Lucy, cousins and friends learning how to navigate the strictures that society places on ladies of good breeding. Joined by Alice, Celia’s faithful and knowledgeable maid, these two begin to learn about all those things that make them “tingle”.
That’s one side of the story… The other side involves the Hollow, a place of evil according to local legend, and the arrival of Manfred–a perfectly ordinary twenty-first century physicist who suddenly finds himself transported to Regency England.
Manfred stirs up plenty of trouble in his ignorance of Regency manners, but his involvement in the plot almost seems like an afterthought. That said, I haven’t read the next two books in the trilogy, so I can’t be sure how his part will evolve in the series, but I was much more intrigued by the relationship between Celia, Alice, and Lucy before Manfred became involved in their affair.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel. This is an independently published novel; there were a few typographical errors, but these were few and far between, so they weren’t distracting. I think this might be more appealing to fans of Sarah Waters and Diana Gabaldon than Austen (there is plenty of steamy, feminine romance).
You can find The Hollow, Part 1 at The Book Depository.
Paris 1934: Victory in Retreat by Paul A. Myers
Sandrine Durand is a vibrant young student and journalist covering the political and fashion scenes of Paris in 1934. Working for both a French and an American paper, Sandrine sees two sides to every story, reporting the straight facts for the Americans and the details for the French. Saucy and flirtatious, Sandrine is coming into her own and establishing her independence amidst the free-thinking citizens of Paris, but she is no ingenue. When opportunity strikes, Sandrine takes it.
The novel’s rich detail evokes lively, early 20th century photographs of Parisian cafe scenes and cityscapes, bringing the era to life. The novel opens with mounting political turmoil, but Sandrine’s presence adds a fun and lively quality to the story, balancing the dryer facts of the historical events that serve as the novel’s background. Sandrine’s French and American friends prove to be just as lively and intriguing as the hopeful journalist; the energetic bistro scenes between Sandrine and the American journalists at the Oasis were some of my favorite moments in the novel.
The first half of the novel takes some time to develop; much of the action revolves around a series of civil uprisings that occurred in Paris early in 1934. The story picks up when Sandrine and her friends are introduced. I found that I enjoyed the social aspects of the novel more than the political history, but I appreciated the insight that the historical details provided as I was unfamiliar with the history of Paris’s pre-WWII politics.
I received a review copy of Paris 1934 from the Historical Novel Society Online. HNS Online publishes a quarterly column on self-published and author subsidized publications. Paris 1934 can be purchased from Amazon.com.
On a side note… to avoid any self-plagiarism issues that might arise, I’m going to hold off on posting the reviews I’ve written for my class readings until grades are in.
Also, I’m playing around with my review format… I think adding the title at the beginning of the post rather than in the review will make the reviews more search and reader friendly.