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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-05-13 22:34
The Duke
The Duke (Victorian Rebels) - Kerrigan Byrne

My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...

Sooo, I finished Kerrigan Byrne’s The Duke, book 4 of her dark historical romance series Victorian Rebels and I’m not sure what to say. My feeling is rather ambivalent. I was really anticipating the release because the H of this one sounded very intriguing; however he failed to meet my expectations. Actually, there were equal bits of likes and dislikes throughout.

Wanna add that Victorian Rebels has no paranormal or time travel elements in it like the author’s previous works; just a few Victorian-era bad boys of the underworld getting their HEAs with women who bring them down to their knees, quite literally. More than once I’m happy to add. ;) These people are deadly and will do anything to survive.

In book 1, The Highwayman, we were introduced to the King of the London underworld, Dorian Blackwell and his band of misfits. Dorian is actually Dougan MacKenzie, the bastard son of the cruel and lecherous Hamish MacKenzie, now deceased Laird of MacKenzies. His darkness has seeped into all of his sons, doesn’t matter whether they were legitimate or illegitimate. The only difference was Dougan/Dorian wanted to fight it for the love of his life, Farah. Their story had a tragic beginning that started as young love kept apart for almost 20 years. They both thought all hope were lost for them until they found each-other again. Dougan was imprisoned for murder at the tender age of 12, where his life was a hell no one would want to wish upon another human being. However, he and a few of his rebellious friends survived that hell, came out deadlier than ever. They wanted revenge for what was done to them, they wanted to rule the underworld but most of all, Dorian wanted to find his “fairy” who he knew was still alive. He knew her to be his soulmate. Now all he wanted was to find the peace that eluded him forever. And no one but Farah will do. I really loved book 1, which was a great start to this series.

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review 2017-05-07 20:48
A Talent for Trickery
A Talent for Trickery (The Thief-takers) - Alissa Johnson

A Talent for Trickery is a historical romance with a Victorian setting (1871, I believe), and unlike many with that era's setting, it thankfully doesn't have a girl in a Regency dress, c. 1815, on the cover. 

 

It features strongly a trope I've certainly seen before, but in science fiction and fantasy, rather than historical romance: the base under siege.  Perhaps the classic TV form of a "base under siege" story is many a Dr. Who serial, both Old and New Who.  (From "Web of Fear" and "Horror at Fang Rock" to "Dalek," "The Time of Angels," or "Mummy on the Orient Express," for example.)  In literature you'll find it everywhere from The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and A Game of Thrones; but I don't see it so often in historical romance. 

 

It certainly kept my attention while I was dealing with a bad bout of insomnia last night.  (I got three hours of sleep.  Luckily, I was able to take a long nap today.)

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review 2017-04-23 22:07
The Victorian Chaise-longue
The Victorian Chaise-Longue - Marghanita Laski,P.D. James

"Will you give me your word of honour," said Melanie, "that I am not going to die?"

I love it when a book starts with a first sentence that packs a punch. With this one, we immediately know that what follows will be a story of life and death.

 

The Victorian Chaise-longue is a very short (99 pages) novel about a woman in the late 1940s or early 1950s that is recovering from illness and suddenly finds herself in a most precarious situation - it appears she has woken up in 1864.

 

I will not reveal anything else about the plot (and the above is pretty much revealed on all general descriptions of the book), other than that the plot takes on a different shape depending on how you approach it.

 

Sounds mysterious? Well, it isn't. It's just that the plot is one thing if you read it with the expectation that everything in the book happens just as it is described. If, however, you begin to doubt the narrator, you may start to wonder what is really going on. 

 

Do I know the answer to this question. Nope. 

 

However, I really enjoyed the conjectures that this question of whether "here" is "here" or whether "here" is really "there" allows. In fact, by the end of the book I could not help but draw parallels to one of my all-time favourite novels A Tale for the Time Being, only of course that Marghanita Laski published The Victorian Chaise-longue in 1953, 60 years before Ozeki's book. Do I think that Ozeki borrowed from Laski? Absolutely not. 

The comparison merely came up because both authors seem to base their ideas on a similar question about what time really is, and how we live in time.

 

And both books look at people in their time, and really caught up in time and other circumstances. In Laski's novel, this leads to illustrate the state of women in society - Victorian society and that of the 1940s/50s. Is there much change? 

 

The Victorian Chaise-longue seems to be listed as gothic or horror in the same vein as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper is but I have issues with this classification. In my mind, tagging works as "gothic" or "horror", seems to pass them off as works of the imagination when, in fact, they are quite real. Scary and horrible they may be, but the connotations of the "horror" genre seem to deny such works the sense of veiled realism that truly punches the gut.

 

While I loved the book for its content and delivery, there were a few quibbles I had with the writing, which seemed to jump about a bit (But then, this may have been a way to show the MC's state of mind.) and with one element that left me puzzled - had the treatment of TB in the late 1940s/early 1950s really not moved on from the 1920s?

 

I mean, Laski makes mention of penicillin, yet, no antibiotics seem to be part of the treatment and the MC herself still believes that fresh air, sunlight, and milk will provide a cure - much like prescribed in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain (1924). Again, this is not a real criticism of the book, just an additional question I derived from it.

 

I am very much looking forward to reading more by this author.

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review 2017-04-09 12:46
Plenty of information on the court and the London of the era and a balanced view of Anne’s historical figure.
Anne Boleyn in London - Lissa Chapman

Thanks to Pen & Sword for providing me with a copy of this book that I freely choose to review.

I have recently read a number of books about the Tudor era, mostly historical fiction novels and I was intrigued to see what this book might offer.

The author has researched the topic well and discusses what London was like in Anne Boleyn’s time and describes the changes that not only London, but also the rest of England, experienced during this time, and in some cases, later. Even if those changes were not directly influenced by Anne’s role, it is clear that this was a momentous time for British history and Anne’s history is inextricably linked to them. Although London was not as important internationally as other cities at the time (Paris, for instance) it was the seat of power and influence of the kingdom. Most important people would have a residence in London at the time, and the book mentions the different properties the king had in the city and surrounding area and how those were renovated or abandoned according to the needs of the period. The fact that Anne’s family didn’t have a house in London is remarkable considering the ambition Thomas Boleyn had for himself and his children. As we know, that didn’t stop him but perhaps meant that he had not as many allies in the capital as he would have wished.

I was fascinated by the accounts of the never-ending moves of the court from residence to residence (due to sanitation and problems with the water supply, no single place could accommodate the king and his entourage for lengthy periods of time, and once they left the cleaning process would start again), by the way in which properties and alliances swapped and changed hands (the Queen is Dead, God Save the Queen indeed, as most of the women who had been ladies in waiting of one of the queens would end up serving the next one or even several in a row, whatever their personal sympathies or feelings might have been. And, of course, everybody would hope to get their hands on the property and positions of those now out of favour with the king) and by details such as how expensive it could be to be called to court (as you had to adjust your dress, carriages, etc., to the requirements) but also profitable if you managed to advance your position and you played your cards right. Some of the historical figures were remarkably resilient and managed to survive changes and whims, although those closest to the king were at highest risk. We learn about the roles of the different Lords and Ladies at the King and Queen’s service, we hear about the strict rules on hygiene, we learn about illnesses and mishaps…

The book does not go into detailed descriptions of places or events, but manages to recreate the atmosphere of the era and gives a good indication of the politics and how the different factions played against each other. The author suggests that to be successful and to survive close to the king, one needed to know how to move and behave both in London and in court. Anne was very familiar with the court’s inner workings (she’d been educated in the courts of Austria and France from a very young age) but due to her time away and to her birthplace, she didn’t know London well. Cromwell knew the ins and outs of London (and was very good at managing the crowds, getting money for coronations and other events, gathering information…) but was not so adept at the ins and outs of court. Ultimately, Henry VIII’s main interest seems to have been to please himself and if somebody stopped being useful or interesting to him, there were plenty of others happy to take their place and try their luck.

Chapman tries to provide an objective and even-handed view of Anne’s historical figure, not adopting sides or taking us on any flights of fancy. She quotes the sources for comments, anecdotes and stories about the queen, always documenting how much weight we can set by them, because much of what has been written about Anne dates from years or centuries after her demise and it was penned by people who did not know her. Even the people who were documenting the events as they occurred tend to be either pro or against Anne rather than neutral observers, and there is little doubt their accounts are coloured by their loyalty and feelings. When possible, the author provides more than one source or interpretation on the events and her sources will be of interest to anybody looking to make their own minds up (although, in my opinion, the book provides a balanced account).

The early chapters flow better and this is, perhaps, because the chapters seem to be designed to work if read separately, providing enough background and references to each period of Anne’s life. A reader who goes through the whole book in a relatively short period of time is bound to notice some repetitions. For example, discussions as to when the court became aware that Anne was pregnant, or descriptions of the chambers of the king and queen appear in more than one chapter. Despite that, I enjoyed learning how the court was organised and the roles others who were not of noble blood played in keeping everything running smoothly.

The last chapter makes a point of updating us on the changes to the properties of the period that have survived to this day. I had to chuckle at the comments about the re-Tudorisation of quite a few buildings in the Victorian Era (the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Windsor in particular).

This book is a good resource for people who are interested in the history behind the figure and are looking for an even-handed summary and account of the events. It will also be of interest to those who want to learn more about the society of the time and how it worked. It offers factual information (such as it exists) and allows us to put into context some of the stories and legends that circulate about Anne to this day. It might be too basic for those who’ve read extensively on the subject but will be a great addition to those who love the period and are looking for reliable data presented in an easy to read and engaging manner.

As an aside, I had access to a hardback copy and it contains black and white pictures that go from drawings of London and supposed portraits to modern-day reminders of Anne's figure.

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text 2017-04-05 19:20
FREE for a limited time! Bold Seduction (Hornsby Brothers #1) by Karyn Gerrard

Virgin nerd hero, experienced madam. Snowed in, crumbling castle/lodge in Cornwall. Sparks fly. And there's a couple of Irish wolfhounds. 

 

Bold Seduction - Karyn Gerrard  This was the story that made me fall in love with the author's writing. 

 

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NOOK http://tinyurl.com/zd8kmhy
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