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review 2021-01-06 03:14
HAUNTED HEARTS by Teresa Desjardien
Haunted Hearts (A Zebra Holiday Regency Romance) - Teresa DesJardien

Olivia is finally coming out of mourning and decides she wants to experience everything. Her first outing is a Masquerade where she meets Ian Drake, a spy thinking she is who is to contact him. He soon realizes his error. When they meet later she knows who he is but he has no idea who she is. He figures she is just a snooty aristocrat. When he later learns who she is he is unsure what to do as he still needs to help a French spy who helped the English escape from England.

 

I liked these characters. Olivia is a total innocent who gets herself involved in things she has no idea exist. Ian does his best to protect her. Because of Olivia's innocence many people are drawn to her. That is fortunate as it helps her at the end. The secondary characters were interesting and eclectic. The story was fun. This is a good read for a lazy afternoon.

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url 2020-11-17 08:59
History of Halloween – What is All-Hallows Eve

The history of Halloween traces back to the time of the Celtics. It is believed that on this day, the boundary between the living and the dead world becomes indistinct.

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review 2020-10-26 07:24
Silverhill
Silverhill - Phyllis A. Whitney

One of Whitney's earlier publications, this one still has the intricate plotting and surprises that are missing in her later titles.  Conversely, it's one of the less evocatively atmospheric of hers I've read so far.  

 

The thing a reader has to accept about Whitney is that her whole raison d'être in writing was to thrust heroines into the most unwelcome home she could imagine and have her persevere in spite of all stumbling blocks.  It's formulaic, definitely, but each of her earlier novels becomes unique in the setting, the secrets and the mystery.

 

Silverhill absolutely fits the Whitney formula, and it made me a bit impatient at the start as all the usual hurdles, cruelty and heartache were presented along with the future insta-love (these books were written in the 50's and 60's when apparently if it took you longer than 48 hours to decide you'd met your One True Love, you might as well not bother).

 

But one all of that was gotten through, the story was a surprise.  I thought I knew where it was going, and I was sort of right, but the salient detail of the whole thing blindsided me when it was revealed.  So much karma getting doled out to everyone.  And, of course, a happy ending for our heroine.

 

When a good Whitney comes along, they are a pure indulgence to a much more innocent, yet horrific, form of story telling for readers who like their suspense served in tandem with romance, and a touch of gothic for garnish.

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review 2020-10-12 07:51
The Red Lamp
The Red Lamp - Mary Roberts Rinehart

I knew this was a ghost story, of sorts, so I started it bright and early yesterday morning, and became so engrossed in the story that I almost, almost, finished it last night. leaving nothing but 3 of the last 4 conclusion chapters for me to read today.

 

Mary Roberts Rinehart was an excellent writer; that her genius has been so far forgotten today is a tragedy.  The Red Lamp was originally written in 1925, and putting aside the lack of technology and the beautifully elegant writing that today might be considered a tad verbose, the story holds up perfectly; it would take very little to make this story 'modern'.

 

The Red Lamp is complex to the point of labyrinthine though.  Like the main character, I stumbled through the story in ignorance.  Some of this was by design, as the mc is meant to be a spectator not an active participant in solving the crimes, but some of it was because there was just so much going on and that beautifully elegant writing of Rinehart's made for easy camouflage of any clues.

 

The book is, with the exception of the introductory and final 4 chapters, purely epistemological, with no chapters, just journal entries.  This style doesn't always lend itself to a submersive experience for the reader, but these journal entries are detailed enough that it makes almost no difference from a first person narrative.

 

The ghostly part of the story, in spite of the enormous potential for scarring the spit out of me, were subdued enough that they never raised so much as a hair.  This was a wee bit disappointing, I admit, but it didn't adversely affect the story; they were never the point of the book, it was always about the mysterious killings and there was never doubt that those killings were done by a very corporeal being.

 

All in all, this was an excellent mystery.  I'd recommend this to anyone curious about Golden Age Mysteries who might be hesitant fearing dry or dated story-telling.  While not perfect, The Red Lamp is most assuredly neither dry nor dated.

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review 2020-10-09 22:36
The Turquoise Mask
The Turquoise Mask - Phyllis A. Whitney

Wow, can Whitney be verbose.  Her earlier work has always been better, in my opinion, but this one was an in-between - first published in 1974.  Which makes the plotting excellent, and the abuse of the expository extreme.  Unfortunately the expository gauntlet must be run for many chapters before a hint of the rewarding plot can be found.

 

I'm undecided on whether it's worth the effort.  The plotting was very well done.  I was absolutely certain I knew who the villain was right up until almost the end, when she convinced me I was wrong, that it was really .... and then she blindsided me with the solution that was just unexpected.  Whitney got huge bonus points for stunning me, but I'm not sure how I actually feel about it as a legitimate ending.  It works, but it feels like it shouldn't.

 

The characters, and the romance, were, as is typical with both Whitney's writing and the time she wrote in, dramatic and overly simplified.  Insta-love has nothing on romantic suspense from the 70's; and characters' personalities are never subtle or nuanced.  If you accept this as the style of its time, it's not an insurmountable problem.

 

The one thing Whitney never lost, no matter how many books she wrote, was her sense of place.  I'm not sure I've ever read anybody better at putting the reader in whatever setting she wants them, and making them feel like they were there.  Here the deserts of New Mexico are the backdrop, and though I've never in my life seen an adobe house, I feel like I've lived in one the last couple of days.

I'd neither recommend it nor deter anyone from this one; the exposition is a challenge, but if that slow build isn't a deterrent, the story is one of her more complicated and compelling ones.

 

I read this for the Romantic Suspense square (which is on my card is the Psych square that's been flipped), for Halloween Bingo 2020.

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