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review 2018-01-14 09:33
On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt
On the Night of the Seventh Moon - Victoria Holt

Helena Trant meets a handsome stranger on the Night of the seventh moon festival in Bavaria. She knows what he's up to, so she plays it safe, and returns home to England untouched...Only to go back to Germany wanting to meet the handsome stranger again.

She does, only to learn the stranger's name is Maximilian and he's royalty, but he's also utterly in love with her. They marry, live a week of bliss...And then she wakes up with everybody telling her her beautiful dream was all a lie, conjured up by her mind to protect it from the truth that what really happened to her was a true nightmare.


Back when I was younger, Victoria Holt was one of my favorite authors and I used to gobble up her books like they were life-sustaining. I liked the suspenseful and gothic elements, the twists and turns, the ambiguity of many of the characters (including the heroes), and I loved the stories kept me guessing what was real and what was a mere supposition on the heroine's part.
Yes, they're all written in the first-person POV, which is rather limiting, but it also serves to keep things interesting way beyond the point where we'd be bored with an omniscient narrator.

This was one of my VH favorites back in the day, but I must confess that while I still enjoyed the story, the length bothered me this time around and so many years later.
The pacing was plodding, dragging its behind in multiple places, the heroine was too gullible for my liking (and for her own good), and the whole thing was too wordy by half.

Does it deliver? Yes, it still does, pity it takes to long to get there.

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review 2018-01-13 23:54
A Most Unusual Courtship (The Mage and the Leathersmith .5)

I LOVED this Novella!

So I wasn't sure what to read and then I happened across this short little novella that takes place in an alt-realty Victorian England where mages and magic are an every day occurrence and gay marriage has been legal since the time of the Greek empire. So I figured what the hey, I'll give it a shot.

I'm so so so glad I did! I loved loved loved it!

We start the novella - which is a prequel to the next book but can totally be read alone - in the workshop of leathersmith Gerald Smithson. In walks a bright peacock of a man, Lord Leo Harris, mage. Trouble is the master leathersmith doesn't like mages. He avoids them, refuses their commissions and generally distrusts them. Leo tries charm, tries sweet talk and is flatly refused. Does this stop our Mage Lord? Noooo... Challenge accepted.

Problem is, that one extremely brief interaction brings Gerald to the attention of someone out to do Leo ill. A Dark mage. Cue ominous music. Gerald is kidnapped by the dark mage and its up to Leo to save him and then convince him to work together with Leo and maybe take a chance on a romance.

Gerald's grandfather is the comic relief in this - a cantankerous old curmudgeon with a heart of gold who only has Gerald's best interests at heart.

Seriously. Read this book!

 

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review 2018-01-10 12:50
The Victorian Christmas
The Victorian Christmas - Anna Selby

by Anna Selby

 

Non-fiction

 

This is a nice collection of information about British Victorian Christmas traditions and where they actually originated. It includes the Pagan origins of the date for Christmas and the Germanic background to Christmas trees and to putting charms into the Christmas pudding, as well as a comprehensive recipe for making a traditional Christmas pudding from a Victorian hand-written recipe book. It also details what contributions the Victorians added to our modern view of Christmas, including the pudding and the slow adaptation in modern times to Christmas Cake. I had to smile at the suggestion that the transition was due to making the cake without alcohol, as my family recipe for Christmas Cake uses nothing but brandy for the liquid in the recipe.

 

It's a well-researched book that goes into every possible Christmas tradition, including the origins of Christmas cards and singing carols. There is a wealth of old recipes, many from the Mrs Beaton Cookbook for things like traditional Wassail, gingerbread in various forms and mincemeat, as well as a vast array of recipes for cooking a spectrum of meats that Victorians from different stratas of society might include in their Christmas feast.

 

Christmas decorations and the origins of many of the traditions for those are explained followed by the background to Panto and Boxes, two things still common in England though not well known in the U.S.

 

While I'm not likely to use the wealth of recipes provided, their historical significance makes them of interest. Also included are the lyrics for many old Christmas carols, script samples from mummer's plays and an excerpt from Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Whether these are historically significant or filler could be a matter of opinion.

 

The book finishes off with related New Year traditions and some information that the date for Christmas has actually moved from the new year dates over time and changing calendars, which I didn't know before.

 

As a reference book this is very thorough and professionally presented. It's not always riviting reading, but most reference books aren't.

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review 2017-12-27 23:09
Queer, Demon-Summoning Bohemians of the Victorian era ^^;
Creatures of Will and Temper - Molly Tanzer

Absolutely outstanding writing. I'm always impressed when an author can tell a story I can't help but respect and enjoy, even when I don't really agree with the philosophy, themes, or messages it expresses.

 

Creatures of Will and Temper is the story of two sisters in Victorian England growing into themselves and finding their place in the world. It has a highly unique, essentially amoral take on demons, and some excellent trickery in its direction, setup and twist. I almost stopped reading at the beginning, as it does open with a scene that doesn't involve either of the sisters, but rather a middle-aged lesbian demonologist, which made me think I wouldn't be interested in the story, but then things broadened rather.

 

This was a good effort as far as historical fiction goes; even the linguistic style lends itself to period writing (as opposed to the anachronistic use of too much modern language), and historical worldbuilding and background detail was flawless. Very interesting and well-explored human relationships, flaws and proclivities.

 

There is very strong homosexual (male and female, possibly implied bi) content, so if that's not your thing, be warned. Not too much highly explicit content, intimate scenes are mostly fade-to-black.

 

As far as historical fiction goes, it's an interesting angle on the more bohemian elements of Victorian society, and extrapolates that amoral and artistic attitude in a new and creative direction. In my opinion, a worthwhile and entertaining read whether or not you agree with the conclusions the author heads toward, and extremely well written.

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text 2017-12-27 19:58
16 Festive Tasks - Square 2 - Guy Fawkes Night
That Inevitable Victorian Thing - E. Russell Johnston Jr.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a sci-fi book set in the future, but one of the main characters is the crown princess of the British Empire and a direct descendant of Victoria I, so I'm counting this for the English monarchy.

 

 

 

Book themes for Guy Fawkes Night: Any book about the English monarchy (any genre), political treason, political thrillers, or where fire is a major theme, or fire is on the cover.

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