The Kraken King Part 2, by Meljean Brook

>> Saturday, April 26, 2014

TITLE: The Kraken King Part 2: The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm
AUTHOR: Meljean Brook


SETTING: Steampunk version of the 19th century
TYPE: Adventure romance
SERIES: Second part of 4th full length book in the Iron Seas series

As they continue their expedition across Australia, Ariq is determined to stay close to Zenobia and figure out what kind of game she’s playing—even as his admiration for the enigmatic woman starts to override his suspicion.

For Zenobia, revealing her identity to a man who once made his living outside of the law is out of the question—even though Ariq’s dashing looks and blunt manner are distractingly appealing.

But before anyone’s secrets or desires can be exposed, an unexpected attack threatens to destroy them all…

Link to my review of Part 1

Ok, so I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you've read part 1 (but not necessarily this part, so no spoilers for that here).

In The Kraken King and the Abominable Worm, Zenobia and her companions leave Krakentown with Ariq's party. Ariq and his people are trying to find information about the marauders who attacked Zenobia's airship (and have been attacking others in the area) in an effort to prevent the Empress from solving the situation in the simplest, more ruthless way: by laying waste to the entire area.

Ariq is not particularly keen on Zenobia leaving, but at least this way he gets to spend some more time with her and he can try to understand why she changed her mind so completely about him, after initially finding him attractive and looking quite tempted to give in to this attraction. We know it's all based on something Mara overheard and misinterpreted, but Ariq has no idea.

I really liked both the adventure and relationship aspects of this installment. On the adventure front, the abominable worm was a particularly exciting highlight (as were the jokes that such worms inspired), but I also liked the worldbuilding details about how things work between Ariq and his people and the Aboriginal Australians.

On the relationship side, the chemistry between Ariq and Zenobia continues to develop very satisfyingly. The sexual chemistry is scorching, but what I liked best was seeing how well suited they are to each other, and having them increasingly realise that this is so. I mentioned the worm jokes in the previous paragraphs; what was great about them wasn't just that they were funny, it was the way they showed very clearly Ariq's personality: his confidence and therefore his willingness to take the mickey out of himself quite happily. I can totally see why Zenobia would find this very attractive.

As I mentioned in my review of Part 1, I had this part provided by the author together with the first part, but my intention is to read this serial as it comes out. I resisted the temptation to keep going and read this only on the release date (while on some unexpected travel, which unfortunately prevented me from posting this until now). It worked really well that way. Whatever catch-up there was (mainly about why Ariq wants to find out more about the marauders, and a bit about why Zenobia changed her mind about him) was really unobtrusive and felt natural. I wouldn't think those reading the collected version in a few months would find it cumbersome (or even notice it, really). The break at the end of this part is again at an appropriate place, more a natural break than a cliff-hanger. There is a revelation where one of the protagonists finds out something about the other, and it made me speculate about what effect this would have on their feelings and future actions, but it didn't feel like an unfair or manipulative place to stop.

So far so good, can't wait for next Tuesday!


The Kraken King Part 1, by Meljean Brook

>> Thursday, April 17, 2014

TITLE: The Kraken King Part 1: The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster
AUTHOR: Meljean Brook

COPYRIGHT: 2014 (came out Apr 15th)
PAGES: About 100

SETTING: Steampunk version of the 19th century
TYPE: Adventure romance
SERIES: Frist part of 4th full length book in the Iron Seas series

A former smuggler and thief, Ariq—better known as the Kraken King—doesn’t know what to make of the clever, mysterious woman he rescues from an airship besieged by marauders. Unsure if she’s a spy or a pawn in someone else’s game, Ariq isn’t about to let her out of his sight until he finds out…

After escaping her fourth kidnapping attempt in a year, Zenobia Fox has learned to vigilantly guard her identity. While her brother Archimedes is notorious for his exploits, Zenobia has had no adventures to call her own—besides the stories she writes. But when she jumps at the chance to escape to the wilds of Australia and acquire research for her next story, Zenobia quickly discovers that the voyage will be far more adventurous than any fiction she could put to paper…

The Kraken King is an 8 part serial, with a new episode coming out every week. It's my first proper serial. I have, of course, read books that were serialised when first published (mostly classics: Dickens, Dumas, that sort of thing), but I read those all in one go. I've never read any serials as they were meant to be read: waiting for new episodes to come out, speculating about what might come after cliffhanger endings.

Actually, I've never particularly wanted to read one that way. A couple of romance authors I like have published serials recently, and so far I've always waited until all parts were out before picking up the collected edition. I do remember saying at one point that I'd only really bother with the concept if a favourite author, like Meljean Brook, did one. Well, this is it, and I'm willing to give it a proper shot.

Part 1, as you might expect, sets up the story. The heroine is Zenobia Fox. Readers of the Iron Seas series will remember her as Archimedes Fox's sister, who chronicles his adventures in extremely successful stories (in serial form, which is very meta). Zenobia loves her brother and writing up his exploits, but she's become dissatisfied with her own unexciting life. Well, unexciting except for people kidnapping her a few times, but even that is more about her brother than about her (see the Tethered novella, for instance).

As the book starts, Zenobia has decided she wants an adventure of her own. Just a small one; she's a sensible woman and is not about to put her life in danger unnecessarily. She decides to accompany an old friend to join her Ambassador husband in the area of Northern Australia where the Nipponese retreated to after fleeing the Horde's invasion of Japan. It doesn't seem too dangerous. She'll be travelling under an assumed identity (Mrs. Geraldine Inkslinger, a widow) and in a huge, official French airship, and she'll have her highly trained bodyguards with her. What could go wrong?

Well, plenty, it turns out, when a group of marauding flyers attack the airship in a sort of suicide attack. Zenobia and her companions are rescued and taken to a nearby small settlement, Krakentown. Krakentown is ran by Ariq, the very man who rescued Zenobia herself. Ariq is not aware of it, but thanks to Archimedes' descriptions, Zenobia has recognised him as the Kraken King. I'm not sure yet what that means, other than that he was the leader of a rebellion against the Horde and is quite famous for it.

What Ariq does know is that he's fascinated by and attracted to this woman and her quick, clever, lateral-thinking mind. He wants her, he wants to know the secrets it's obvious she's hiding, and he's sure she wants him too. He's pretty frank about his attraction and it looks like there will be some time before she and her companions are able to be on their way to their intended destination. This should be enough time for him to convince Zenobia that she should give in to her own attraction, but stuff happens, plus, there are very important reasons why they must get Zenobia's friend to her husband asap.

I really, really enjoyed it. It's a fun setup (and I'll be doing much shorter summaries for future entries, now that this is done), it looks at a part of this universe we've seen nothing of, and I really liked the characters. I found Zenobia to be a very intriguing minor character in the novella Tethered, and she's just as interesting as that story suggested she was. Ariq is just as good. I know less of his background so far, but it sounds like it could be great stuff. Oh, and the chemistry is really, really well done. Ariq is quite frank about his interest, but in a very non-assholey sort of way, and I can totally understand why Zenobia's very tempted.

As for negatives, hmmm, well, there's something that happens which has the potential to become a Big Misunderstanding. This could become a bit annoying, but it's only the beginning of it here, and it could yet be turned around. We'll see how that develops.

I had part 2 available when I finished this, because Meljean had given me that as an ARC as well, but I made the effort to stop for a week and get the proper serial experience. I did want to keep reading, but in an "I'm enjoying this book very much and want more", rather than in an "I can't wait to see what happens next" kind of way. The ending was more a small natural break in the narrative than a cliffhanger. So far, so good. I wouldn't have stopped here on my own, but I'm actually finding it nice to savour this little chunk before the next one.

MY GRADE: I'm not going to grade the book until I get to the end, but if I was doing it for the different parts, this would get a really good grade.


Being Wrong One Day

>> Sunday, April 13, 2014

TITLE: Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error
AUTHOR: Kathryn Schulz

In Being Wrong, Schulz explores the many different aspects of the experience of, yes, being wrong. I was actually quite impressed by how many angles she could take. There's the question of what it is to be wrong, what the essence of wrongness is. There's the many different factors, both psychological and societal that lead us to errors (I'd already covered much of this ground on my behavioural economics reading). There's (and this felt the most novel and insightful) the issue of what it feels like to be wrong and how we humans react to it. And finally, what felt to me the point Schulz was building up to: what does it do to us, and why the author thinks making mistakes is what makes us human.

It was an interesting read and quite an enjoyable one, as well. Schulz has an engaging style and she uses plenty of examples that both illustrate and entertain. Some parts felt a little bit repetitive, but this wasn't a huge issue. Definitely worth a look.


TITLE: One Day
AUTHOR: David Nicholls

Emma and Dex meet on their graduation day at university. We follow their lives for the next decades, meeting them on one day a year. We see them as they become friends, as they can't stand each other, as they take different career paths and as they screw up (pretty often, especially in Dex's case).

I really liked this book. It's funny and insightful and the characters are wonderfully done. Yes, Dexter can be a total arsehole (especially during the Thatcher years... god, he was vile then) and Emma a bit of a doormat (especially when it comes to Dexter), but they felt like real people, and I came to care for them. They grow as the years go by, too. I also thought the structure worked beautifully, creating a sort of in-built suspense. Whenever I'd finish a chapter, I'd always get really excited to see what was coming next, how those things I'd just seen being set up would have developed over a year. Sometimes there were huge surprises, sometimes not, so I never knew exactly what to expect.

Just remember it's not a romance novel. I knew what the ending would before I started it, so it worked for me, but if you read it for the romance, you might end up hating it.



A couple of non-fiction DNFs

>> Saturday, April 12, 2014

Two books that sounded fascinating, but ended up being a disappointment.

TITLE: Amber, Furs and Cockleshells: Bike Rides with Pilgrims and Merchants
AUTHOR: Anne Mustoe

Mustoe is a keen cyclist and in Amber, Furs and Cockleshells we get an account of some of her travels. Each of the three items in the title describes one of the trails she describes in this book. First is the Amber Route (quite simply, the route through which amber from the Baltic was traded south towards the Mediterranean). That's about as far as I got. I missed the Santa Fe Trail (across the Western USA), where I assume furs were traded, as well as the route of the Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, in Northwestern Spain (pilgrims would carry a cockleshell as a symbol that they'd done the pilgrimage).

I stopped reading after about 60 pages, halfway through the Amber Route. The problem was that although the locations Mustoe was cycling through must have been amazing, she wasn't making them come alive. Nor was she providing any of the other things that could make a travel book interesting, whether it's providing insightful cultural commentary or comedy. I find that in travel books the narrator is just as important as the subject matter, and Mustoe was a really bland one. I didn't hate this book, it just bored me.


TITLE: Married To A Bedouin
AUTHOR: Marguerite van Geldermalsen

The author visited Petra in the late 70s and fell in love with a man she met there, a Bedouin. She lived there with him and his family until his death, 24 years later. I thought it'd be interesting to read, having just visited Petra, especially to see how how it's changed over the years.

I didn't get very far into it. After the initial visit where she meets the future husband, the author is invited back by him to attend a Bedouin wedding. The bride is a young girl the author describes as maybe 13, who's marrying a man much older than her. Everyone readily tells van Geldermalsen that the girl doesn't want to marry him, or even like him, but he has paid a very good bride price. So then, through all the wedding preparations, while van Geldermalsen prattled on about the dresses and how they applied kohl on her eyes and henna on her hands, and how pretty everyone looked, I couldn't stop thinking that the girl next to her was about to get raped with everyone's connivance. And all van Geldermalsen will do is describe her as sullen and grumpy (well, you would be, if you were about to get raped) and then blithely go about enjoying the party. It did not endear me to her, and I didn't feel like continuing to read.



To Darkness And To Death, by Julia Spencer-Fleming

>> Wednesday, April 09, 2014

TITLE: To Darkness And To Death
AUTHOR: Julia Spencer-Fleming

PAGES: 370
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Mystery
SERIES: 4th in the Rev. Clare Fergusson / Russ Van Alstyne series

Millicent van der Hoeven has decided to sell her family's Adirondack estate to a nature conservancy. But on the day of the land transfer, her brother frantically calls the police. Millie has disappeared in the cold November forest...

Reverend Clare Fergusson gets an early morning phone call to join the Millers Kill search and rescue operation. As a former Army helicopter pilot trained in survival skills, she can't refuse the request--even though it's the day of the bishop's annual visit. Worse for Clare, the search operation will link her up with Russ Van Alstyne, the very married local police chief who is her greatest temptation. Now, as Clare and Russ race time to find Millie van der Hoeven, they soon discover the secrets of someone who is desperate to stop the sale...and a deadly madness waiting to destroy them all.

To Darkness and To Death was my least favourite of the series so far. As in previous books, there are two main elements here. There's a mystery, and there's also the development of the relationship between Clare Fergusson, an Episcopal priest still relatively new to a small town in upstate New York, and Russ Van Alstyne, the chief of police. Over the series so far, Clare and Russ have become good friends, but those feelings have turned into something beyond friendship now. Problem is, Russ is married; happily married, he would even have said.

So, the thing about this book was that one of the elements worked well, but the other didn't. My big problem was with the mystery plot. The action takes place all in one day. It's an important day, the day when the rich Van Der Hoevens will be signing over huge tracts of their land to a conservancy organisation. Only, when Millie van der Hoeven's brother wakes up that morning he finds her gone and suspects she never came back after a late walk through the forest the previous evening. Did she get lost or is there something more sinister going on? We know it's the latter, as one of the first scenes we get shows us Millie is being kept captive by parties unknown.

But that's not all that's happening. The land transfer is generating all sorts of other changes for the people in the area. Local loggers will not be able to operate in that land, and any other woods are too far to make the work profitable. And without them, the local mill loses access to the raw material they need. Many people have an interest in all of this, and before the day is out, they will all get involved in one way or another.

Basically, this means that there are a lot of people running around doing nasty things. I found it incredibly depressing, because we're not talking criminals, we're talking characters who were presented to us as regular people, people who care about their loved ones and their fellow human beings. I could have taken maybe one of them turning bad. Yes, I can accept that some people, when under some pressure, might be tempted to do things that they know are wrong and will hurt others. But here, everyone did. They did incredibly dodgy things for supposedly good people. Faced with evidence of wrongdoing, they immediately turned their thoughts to how they could take advantage of it, however illegal their actions would be, in turn. It's a horrible view of human nature. It ended up taking me over a month to read this, because I really didn't want to spend time with these characters.

The tone was also wrong. There was a definite touch of the slapstick here, and it all felt almost like a farce. It didn't work for me. Additionally, there was absolutely no suspense, because suspense is about more than not knowing what's going to happen, it's about caring what's going to happen, and I didn't. Pretty much all the characters involved, other than Russ and Clare? I could not care less if they dropped dead. And when the resolution came, there were things that really didn't make much sense.

The Clare and Russ element of the book, though, was good. There aren't that many interactions between them here, but at this stage in the series we're past beyond the point where the author needs to show us how well-suited they are and how much chemistry they have. We know, they know, and each knows the other knows. The issue here is how the situation can be resolved, or rather, whether it has to be resolved, or whether they will just continue as they are, friends who know they want to be more but won't do it because it's wrong. The issue is, is that longing just as wrong? Is there any way to resolve this ethically? I won't include any spoilers here, but I'll just say that there is some movement here, and that I'm very interested to see what will happen in the next book.

So yeah, I will be reading the next book. I know that Spencer-Fleming can do really good mysteries, because the last 3 have been exactly that, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the soap opera continues.



Special Interests, by Emma Barry

>> Monday, April 07, 2014

TITLE: Special Interests
AUTHOR: Emma Barry

COPYRIGHT: 2014 (comes out today)
PAGES: 201
PUBLISHER: Carina Press

SETTING: Contemporary US (Washington DC)
TYPE: Romance

Compared to love, politics is easy

Union organizer Millie Frank's world isn't filled with cocktails and nightclubs…until she's turned into an unwitting minor celebrity. As if being part of a hostage situation wasn't traumatizing enough, now her face is splashed across the news. But Millie's got fresher wounds to nurse—like being shot down by the arrogant bad boy she stupidly hit on.

Parker Beckett will do whatever it takes to close a deal for the senate majority leader, including selling out union labor. Charming and smart on the surface, he's also cynical and uncommitted—an asset on the Hill. But something about Millie has stuck with him and when negotiations bring her to his office, Parker breaks his own rules and asks her out.

Parker can't understand how Millie has retained her idealism in a place like D.C. Millie can't believe what Parker's willing to sacrifice in order to pass a budget. But as they navigate their political differences, what grows between them looks a lot like a relationship... and maybe even a little like love.

For various reasons, I don't often go for ARCs (in fact, this is my only one so far this year). However, I saw Emma Barry's tweet offering review copies of her upcoming contemporary polical romance when I was in just the right mood for it. I contacted her and immediately started reading the book.

Special Interests is a romance between two people who, although ultimately on the same side, have very real political differences. I really liked that the politics here seem to be more grounded in reality than I'm used to in romance novels. I understand why authors might prefer to not make their politician characters' party affiliation explicit, but that's a fiction that stretches credulity more and more. A principled politician in one of the big US parties would not believe the same things as one in the other party. Here, both characters are Democrats, but that doesn't mean that this won't be the source of some really fascinating conflict in their relationship.

Millie works as a labour organiser. She has a job with a union, and truly believes in the cause of defending workers' rights. It's frustrating work, because it feels like they've lately been perpetually on the losing side, but she feels good about doing it. Parker works as a senior staffer for the Senate majority leader. Millie's union are one of their core consituencies, but in Parker's view, his job is closing deals: making sure the next budget passes, keeping the government from coming to a standstill. And that might mean giving up things that are very important to Millie and her union.

The Washington DC in this novel is a vivid setting, and I liked that this is a novel peopled by characters who actually care and talk about politics and the nitty-gritty of budget negotiations and such. I mean, the external conflict is: will Parker manage to do a deal on the budget and what will it take! I'm not sure if it would be everyone's cup of tea, but as a government economist working very closely with the policy delivery function, it was definitely mine!

My government economist job not being for the American government, I can't know how accurately this shows what actually goes on, but it feels like a real world. There's internal coherence, and FWIW, from what I read about current American politics, it rings true.

I particularly liked the subtlety of the portrayal of the characters' different positions. The author's take on Parker and Millie's very different approaches was interesting and thought-provoking. Parker is focused on outcomes, on getting the deal now, and therefore feels everything has to be negotiable. Millie, on the other hand, feels that this is treating important things like a game, when they should be taken seriously. I feared Barry might overly bash Parker's position, but she didn't. They have some spirited discussions and both get in some zingers (including Parker's accusation that it's very easy to feel superior by holding onself above the system and not engaging). There is no big conclusion, no easy answer, and acknowledgement that Millie's and Parker's roles are important and necessary. It's great.

Heck, even the Republicans are subtly portrayed, and we all know how easy it is to make them into ridiculous figures. They're not portrayed as evil, but as firm believers in things that our protagonists disagree with. They're just refusing to play the game of compromising for the sake of keeping the country working, and this is a source of much frustration both for Parker and for his counterpart on the Republican side. There's a scene when these two characters make an unexpected connection, and that and what develops from it were some of my favourite sections in the book.

So, what about the romance? Well, at the core of it, this is a very traditional relationship arc. Millie and Parker meet and start dating and the relationship proceeds from there, basically. As I mentioned, when it comes to reconciling their political differences, the novel is great. The rest of the development is less great, definitely not as good as the rest of the book. Millie and Parker's relationship is very sweet, but I did have a niggling feeling that it was all a bit too fast. Parker goes from cynical guy who has no time or interest in relationships to someone totally up for falling in love and going to brunch on a Sunday with his new girlfriend, and this happens awfully quickly and without that much angsting about it. Parker's mental monologue is more about how to make Millie and the people around him see that he's not that guy any longer than about whether he's ready to change and stop being that guy and just go for it. And then there is Millie, who is just not sure about Parker and whether someone like him is the right guy for her. I kind of got what was worrying her, but in the second half of the book it sometimes feels as if we're going round in neverending circles and I lost track of what she was on about.

So, not perfect, but I enjoyed this very much, and will definitely keep an eye out for more books by this author.



Play of Passion, by Nalini Singh

>> Saturday, April 05, 2014

TITLE: Play of Passion
AUTHOR: Nalini Singh

PAGES: 352

SETTING: US, some 100 years into the future
TYPE: Paranormal romance
SERIES: 9th in the Psy/Changeling series

Passion and reason collide with explosive force in the newest installment of Nalini Singh’s “mesmerizing” Psy/Changeling series. As a conflict with Pure Psy looms on the horizon, two powerful wolves fight a far more intimate war of their own…

In his position as tracker for the SnowDancer pack, it’s up to Drew Kincaid to rein in rogue changelings who have lost control of their animal halves—even if it means killing those who have gone too far. But nothing in his life has prepared him for the battle he must now wage to win the heart of a woman who makes his body ignite…and who threatens to enslave his wolf.

Lieutenant Indigo Riviere doesn’t easily allow skin privileges, especially of the sensual kind—and the last person she expects to find herself craving is the most wickedly playful male in the den. Everything she knows tells her to pull back before the flames burn them both to ash…but she hasn’t counted on Drew’s will.

Now, two of SnowDancer’s most stubborn wolves find themselves playing a hot, sexy game even as lethal danger stalks the very place they call home...

I used to adore the Psy/Changeling series and highly anticipate every entry, but that feeling has faded over the years. I still read the books, but I'm quite behind in the series and don't get anything close to the thrill the first few books would elicit.

Play of Passion is centred on the romance between two changelings. In fact, both are from the same pack, which I don't think we've seen before. Indigo Riviere is a lieutenant with the SnowDancer wolves. She's one of the highest-status, most dominant female wolves, and this creates a problem when it comes to finding a partner. Drew Kincaid is a SnowDancer, too, a tracker, whose job is to keep other wolves from going rogue (and executing those who've actually gone over the line). He is very attracted to the powerful, older Indigo, but she just won't take him seriously.

And as they dance around each other, there's also other stuff going on. The Psy have started to tresspass onto pack territory, and it's clear they're planning something dangerous.

I was looking forward to this, as I'm always really interested in romances where the female character is in a position of more power, but the result was a disappointment, I'm afraid. I was particularly disappointed that Drew had this role that was outside the chain of command, so even though Indigo's ranking was higher, at first sight, he wasn't serving under her and she didn't *really* outrank him. That's very annoying, because even in this series there are books where the heroine is under the hero's command. Why not the opposite? Also, there seemed to be a message here that it's a huge problem if a female changeling is more dominant than her male partner. This is what Indigo fears, that because she's so dominant, her relationship with Drew is doomed from the start. But instead of the resolution of this being that no, this is not the case, the problem is solved by assuring us that it's fine because Drew is really dominant as well, it's just that Indigo doesn't see this, as he's outside the chain of command and therefore doesn't have the obvious mark of a dominant which is high rank. Bah.

The development in the overarching conflict between Psy and changelings was more interesting. It was not my favourite in the series, but I enjoyed it (especially the ending) and there was definitely a feeling that things are fast moving towards some sort of resolution.

So, yeah, I'll keep going, if only just to see what happens, and we'll see about the romance. I'm not sure if it's me or if it's the books that have changed. I think I might have to go back and reread Slave to Sensation, see if I love it as much as I did when I first read it.



Catching up: two historicals

>> Thursday, April 03, 2014

So, I just realised I've got a few half-written reviews that have basically fallen down the back of the sofa. For completeness' sake, and because I've got more than a touch of OCD, I'll be doing a few round-up posts. I really liked most of these books and I wish I could do proper reviews for them, but unfortunately, it's been so long since I read them that I'd have to reread them if I wanted to do so.

TITLE: The Forbidden Rose
AUTHOR: Joanna Bourne

Just like The Spymaster's Lady, which I adored, Bourne's The Forbidden Rose has spies and adventures in France just after the Revolution. The heroine, Marguerite, is a French aristocrat who's part of a secret organisation devoted to smuggling people out of the country, and she teams up with Doyle, a British spy. Both are pretending to be someone they're not, and each knows the other is doing so.

I enjoyed it. The writing was great and I enjoyed the adventure feel of the story. My only issue was that I felt Marguerite couldn't quite compare to Annique, from Spymaster's Lady. She felt a bit more passive, and wasn't quite as interesting. I did like Doyle, and particularly enjoyed one of the secondary characters, Adrian, the boy Doyle's taken on a sort of apprentice. He has the makings of a fantastic character in his own right, and I will definitely be reading his book, which Bourne has now written.


TITLE: A Lady's Lesson in Scandal
AUTHOR: Meredith Duran

A Lady's Lesson in Scandal is a terrible, generic title for a book that's really unique. Our heroine is Nell Whitby, a young woman who was brought up in the slums of London but who turns out to be the long lost heiress of an aristocratic family. Simon St. Maur is the current holder of the title, which came to him without any of the money. So the perfect solution occurs to him: if Nell marries him, he'll help her get access to the family fortune, and as her husband, he'll have access to it as well.

It sounds like a bit of a hokey setup, but the thing is, it's done with subtlety and characters who have real psychological grounding. Ok, so if a woman really had grown up in the slums and now had the chance to take her place as a heiress, how would she feel about it? How would she react? And how does a cynical man react to someone like her? We get the full thing, complete with complex feelings and motivations. Both Nell and Simon are intelligent and realistic and they fall in love with their eyes wide open. I really enjoyed it.



March 2014 reads

>> Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Fewer books than usual, and not much romance, but I did enjoy my reading this month.

1 - The Vor Game, by Lois McMaster Bujold: A-
review coming soon

Audiobook. I'm still very early in the Vorkosigan series, but I'm loving the books so much that I'm doling them out to myself like a total miser, no more than one a month. This is the 2nd full-length Miles book, and covers what happens right after his graduation as a Barrayaran officer. Obviously, this being Miles, things go to hell pretty quickly. Loved it.

2 - The Circle, by Dave Eggers: A-
review coming soon

Audiobook. A satirical look at social media, technology and privacy. Scarily plausible. You can argue that some of it was a bit heavy-handed, but it still worked for me perfectly. We read this for my book club, and I'd highly recommend it for that purpose. The discussion was really enjoyable.

3 - Alien Taste, by Wen Spencer: B+
original review here

Reread of an old favourite, one of the few UF-type books I've liked. Ukiah and his partner Max usually only work on missing people cases. Their latest case, which gets them involved in some seriously weird killings, reveals some surprising things about Ukiah's unique abilities. Love the characters.

4 - Special Interests, by Emma Barry: B
review coming soon

The hero is a senior aide to a pre-eminent senator, the heroine works as a labour organiser. I loved the detailed look at what working in politics might be actually like, and liked the romance.

5 - The Surgeon's Lady, by Carla Kelly: B-
review here

A lady and a 'common surgeon' fall in love while working in a navy hospital during the Napoleonic wars. I loved the hospital stuff, but thought the romance fizzled out.

6 - Amber, Furs and Cockleshells, by Anne Mustoe: DNF
review coming soon

Non fiction, subtitled "Bike Rides with Pilgrims and Merchants". The areas the author was biking through sounded great, but the writing style was very boring.

7 - To Darkness and to Death, by Julia Spencer-Fleming: still reading
review coming soon

Mystery, part of the Rev. Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. The plot concerns the search for a young woman who has disappeared the very day she was supposed to sign over a big swathe of land to a conservation group. Not liking it very much, so far my least favourite in the series.

8 - The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey: still reading
review coming soon

YA, post-alien invasion. Grim and bleak and really absorbing. No idea where it's going, and I love that.


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