Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press/Swerve, for providing me with an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.
I love fairy tales. Although probably Beauty and the Beast is my favourite, I have a soft spot for most classics. I also love the Scottish Highlands (I’ve visited two or three times but I hope I will visit again in the future). When I saw this book, which combined a retelling of Cinderella with a setting in the Highlands, I could not resist (I also liked the cover).
This is book 4 in A Highland Fairytale series, but it can be read as a standalone (I haven’t read any of the other books in the series). The story is told in the third person from different characters points of view, but there is no head-hopping and the changes in perspective are clearly marked. The novel is set in the XVII century and tells the story of is Gillian, a young girl daughter of Donal, the laird of the MacLeod’s clan, quiet and shy, whose father and sisters think will never get married (although she is very pretty but too quiet to make herself noticed). Quiet waters and all that, because Gillian has dreams and wants to marry for love. While visiting one of the sisters, she meets an Englishman who is Captain of her brother-in-law’s men, John Erly, and although he has no fortune to his name and a terrible reputation, she discovers there is more to him than people think and falls in love with him. At a masquerade ball, they kiss (he is not wearing much of a disguise but he does not know who she is) and she loses her mask. Despite the effect she has on him, nothing happens and she goes back home. A few months later she is engaged to get married to an old nobleman (older than her father) as her family is convinced she wants a quiet life and an old husband is just the ticket for her. Somehow, John ends up escorting her to Edinburgh with a full complement of Highlanders… And the rest, well, you’ll need to read the book to know.
I don’t want to rehash the plot or reveal any spoilers. As this is a romance and a fairy tale, you can imagine how things end up from the beginning, but the beauty is in the details. Gilliam is far from the wilting violet everybody mistakes her for, and John isn’t the rogue others think either. They go through many adventures, including being assaulted by outlaws, a wedding that is ruined, numerous suitors, fights and perils, a competition to obtain Gillian’s hand in marriage, secrets, confessions, and plenty of Highland traditions, expressions, songs, whisky, and a fair amount of fun (and romance). Of course, it is a fairy tale, so it does require a deal of suspension of disbelief, but both main characters are likeable, and most of the secondary characters are great too (even if we don’t get to know them as well, they provide light relief and liven up the action).
The retelling of Cinderella is limited to the mask and the ball, as the circumstances of the character are quite different (she is beloved by her family even if they don’t understand her true feelings) and what happens later bears no resemblance to the story, but is an enjoyable romp. There is plenty of action and humour, there is violence, there are also scary moments, and a couple of erotic scenes (they are quite mild but I would have enjoyed the book more without them as I’m not a big fan. Especially the first one felt particularly unrealistic, and I know I’m talking about a sex scene in a fairy tale, but for me, it did stretch credibility more than the rest of the book). The writing is in keeping with the story, easy and fairly dynamic, at times reminding me of the serials of old, like the Perils of Pauline, where there is a never-ending amount of trouble waiting for the heroine (who luckily is pretty resourceful).
A fun and light read recommended to lovers of fairy tales and Scottish-themed stories, who enjoy adventures galore and don’t mind some violence and a bit of sex.
I thought I had inventoried all the books that are stashed in the studio. Apparently not.
In my never-ending quest to provide covers - even the wrong ones, if necessary -- for all the books on my BookLikes shelves, I got down on my hands and knees in search of The Impostor, which I knew was out there. Sure enough, there it was on the bottom shelf in the middle of a stack of other mid-century book club editions. Few of them have dust jackets, so they aren't worth scanning. However, I knew The Impostor not only still had its paper cover but that it was in reasonably good condition.
When I lifted the other books from on top of it, I checked their spines to see if there might be some surprises.
The first two titles were ones I recognized as being duly entered on my spreadsheet.
The third was the surprise.
No dust jacket, but a nice book club edition of Phyllis A. Whitney's Columbella! I was certain I had inventoried all the Whitneys and none were in the studio. Alas, this one somehow got skipped. It has now been added!
I won this anthology at the Smart Bitches Recommendation Party at RT con earlier this year and have been waiting patiently for November to come so I could read this.
1. Daughter of Belguim by Marci Jefferson - 3.5 stars
Content warning: the beginning of the story deals with the rape of a teen girl and there is a brief description of what happened later in the story. This story had a lot of suspense and drama, including double agents and resistance fighters. As the story opens up prior to Armistice Day, the violence and war machine plays heavily into the themes.
2. The Record Set Right by Lauren Wilig - 3.5 stars
I liked the heroine (Camilla) right from the get go and enjoyed her both in her past (as a young adult) and in her present day elderly self (loosely, as the story takes place alternately in 1918 and 1980). Camilla was smart and knew the game; when other players made their choice, she made hers with much more forethought. I didn't think Edward or Nicholas deserved her then or now, but I did like reading how Camilla and Edward reconciled after so much time.
3. All for the Love of You by Jennifer Robson - 4 stars
I really liked the research that went into this story about face masks designed and produced by artists (with funding by the American Red Cross) for wounded soldiers. The romance was very well written and believable despite the timeframe the romance developed in.
4. After You've Gone by Evangeline Holland - 4 stars
A different take on the war romance, this story features black characters (American and British) in France just after the Armistice started. The plot line centers more on the emerging jazz age in Europe via black Americans who fought in the war and decided to stay in Europe rather than return to Jim Crow-era US. I really enjoyed reading from the heroine's (Morven) POV and she had an interesting back story and strong character development.
5. Something Worth Landing For by Jessica Brockmole - 2 stars
A marriage of convenience that never really got off the ground. It had the beginnings of a romance story but failed to tell the whole story through the brief meeting of the couple and her letters to him.
6. Hour of the Bells by Heather Webb - 3.5 stars
Strictly a work of historical women's fiction, it is a great story of a war widow's grief and anger at the possibility of losing her son to the war as well as her husband. Her grief and anger leads her to action.
7. An American Airman in Paris by Beatriz Williams - 1 star
Boring, depressing, with an unresolved ending. Waste of time reading this.
8. The Photograph by Kate Kerrigan - 3.5 stars
I had a hard time getting into this story, partly because of the last story's lingering bitter taste. This story grew into something really good and takes on a wholly different event that happened during the war - the Irish uprising in 1916 (starting with, but not limited to, the Easter Rebellion). I really like how the present characters' situation ties in with the past.
9. Hush by Hazel Gaynor - 3.5 stars
A really great way to end the book, especially with the mentions of poppies. This was a story about an English village affected by the war rather than individuals. The countdown to 11:00 on November 11th 1918 added tension to the story.
Out of the nine stories, only two were less than good, so I am going to recommend this book to historical fiction readers. Now I have a bunch of authors I want to read more from (luckily I have some more Robson and Kerrigan works on my NOOK).
This story has the best love declaration I have ever read! It had me having all the feels, specially for Ewan, the most alluring non-Viking Viking I've read.
Lorrie is a young, passionate, spirited woman that has gone as far as try to elope because her parents won’t allow her to marry the man she loves. Seeing how his daughter will not be dissuaded from marrying the wrong man, her father hires Ewan Mostyn, the third son of an earl and an ex-soldier that’s mostly known for knocking heads together at a gambling club than for appearing at a dance ball.
Ewan is a taciturn man, rejected by his father because he considers him an unworthy son, and judged by society because he is considered nothing more than a brute. Ever since he was a child, he was told he was stupid due to a learning disability and it wasn’t until he joined the army and later some sort of “suicide unit” that he finally felt he belonged somewhere. I fell in love with his honesty and quiet way of communicating. He had this genuine way about him that made him both charming and alluring in a very unique, gentle way. The author made a fabulous job conveying his emotions because to me they all felt real and relatable.
People tend to forget that historicals include debutants and most heroines are barely of age when they are thrown into the marriage market. Lorrie is young so yeah, she’s going to act recklessly at times, but in my opinion she was not stupid but naïve. She was also determined, curious, and true to herself. She was capable of seeing in Ewan what he was not able to see in himself and that in turn gave him the strength to fight for what he wanted. If that’s not a worthy heroine then I don’t know what is.
We get a secondary love story between Lorrie’s parents that I would have loved to see more of but at least it gave me more of an insight of why Lorrie and Ewan’s closeness was allowed. Oh, and let's not forget the other Saviors! There was such a brotherly banter and comradery among them that my heart melted a little bit every time I got to read about them. I was a little off put with something towards the end but other than this was a great book and a great start to a new series.
** I was gifted a copy of this book and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.**