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review 2018-02-04 22:24
A Josephine Tey Double Dip
Brat Farrar - Josephine Tey
Brat Farrar - Josephine Tey,Carole Boyd
The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey
The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey,Carole Boyd

Both Brat Farrar and The Franchise Affair were on my 2017 Halloween Bingo long list, but so were many other books ... oh well.  Both of these are stand-out books, in that (1) they're not, or not substantively, part of Josephine Tey's Inspector Grant series (in Franchise Affair Grant appears, but only as a minor character; in Brat Farrar he doesn't feature at all), and (2) more importantly, even though the bulk of both books is told from a man's perspective, they feature several strong female characters who are head and shoulders above and beyond what was expected of a woman at the time of their writing (1948-49, respectively) even in ordinary life; never mind in times of adversity.

 

Brat Farrar is a Martin Guerre / Sommersby type of tale set on a manor and stud farm on the Southern English coast; the difference being here, however, that the reader (unlike the family) is explicitly aware of the identity and most of the prior history of the  eponymous allegedly "returned son and heir" -- in fact, we're unequivocally being asked to empathize with him, on the basis of his character as much as on the basis of his prior history, and take his side in opposition to his alleged younger twin brother Simon, whom (if the gamble comes off) he is poised to replace as the stud farm's new owner as from his 21st birthday, which in turn is -- obviously -- right around the corner at the book's beginning.  Both in the setup and in the resolution of the story (which I could see coming on pretty much from the word "go"), there is a bit too much reliance on coincidence for my taste; however, in between the bits of coincidence, Tey crafted a powerful, quiet novel, featuring both a compelling mystery -- above and beyond the title character's identity -- and engaging characters, in the  male protagonist, Brat, as well as in the two leading ladies, Bee (who has taken over management of the farm after the death of her nephew Simon's and his siblings' parents), and her niece, Simon's sister Eleanor, the farm's chief horse trainer (besides Simon himself).

 

The Franchise Affair is based on the true story of the 1753 disappearance of a servant girl named Elizabeth Canning, who had claimed to have been kidnapped by two women and held in their house for a month, which initially resulted in the two women's arrest and conviction of theft and kidnapping; but after a new investigation they were pardoned and Canning was instead convicted of perjury, resulting in a one-month prison sentence and her deportation to Connecticut.  Tey leaves no doubt that she considers the girl's story a complete fabrication; yet, for the longest time this is merely the personal view of her protagonist, the accused women's attorney Robert Blair, who battles against the one fallacy that also beset the defense of the real-life alleged kidnappers: proof where, if not being held captive by his clients in their house, "The Franchise", as she alleged, young Betty had been instead (in the novel, Elizabeth Canning becomes Betty Kane).  And, just as the real Elizabeth Canning case had resulted in an unparralelled pamphleteering and mudslinging campaign for and against Elizabeth on the one hand and the two accused women on the other hand, so, too, Tey's novel makes no bones about the destructive nature of the tabloid press, in words that evoke eerily familiar images and connotations, in the age of social media more than ever:

   "The Ack-Emma was the latest representative of the tabloid newspaper to enter British journalism from the West.  It was run on the principle that two thousand pounds for damages is a cheap price to pay for sales worth half a million.  It had blacker headlines, more sensatiional pictures, and more indiscreet letterpress than any paper printed so far by British presses.  Fleet Street had its own name for it -- monosyllabic and unprintable -- but no protection against it.  The press had always been its own censor, deciding what was and what was not permissible by the principles of its own good sense and good taste.  If  a 'rogue' publication decided not to conform to those principles then there was no power that could make it conform [...]

   And it was the Ack-Emma that blew the Franchise affair wide open.

   [...] He dropped the page, and looked again at that shocking frontispiece.  Yesterday The Franchise was a house protected by four high walls; so unobtrusive, so sufficient unto itself that even Milford did not know what it looked like.  Now it was there to be stared at on every bookstall; on every news-agent's counter from Penzance to Pentland.  Its flat, forbidding front a foil for the innocence if the face above it [Betty's photo]."

 

   "Today's Ack-Emma had not been calculated to have an appeasing effect on the mob mind.  True, there were no further front-page headlines; the Franchise affair had moved itself to the correspondence page.  But the letters the Ack-Emma had chosen to print there -- and two-thirds of them were about the Franchise affair -- were not likely to prove oil in troubled waters.  They were so much paraffin on a fire that was going quite nicely anyhow.

   Threading his way out of the Larborough traffic, the silly phrases came back to him; and he marveilled all over again at the venom that these unknown women had roused in their writers' minds.  Rage and hatred spilled over on to the paper; malice ran unchecked through the largely-illiterate sentences.  It was an amazing exhibition.  And one of the oddities of it was that the dearest wish of so many of those indignant protesters against violence was to flog the said women within an inch of their lives.  Those who did not want to flog the women wanted to reform the police.  One writer suggested that a fund should be opened for the poor young victim of police inefficiency and bias [Betty Kane].  Another suggested that every man of good will should write to his Member of Parliament about it, and make their lives a misery until something was done about this miscarriage of justice.  Still another asked if anyone had noticed Betty Kane's marked resemblance to Saint Bernadette.

   There was every sign, if today's correspondence page of the Ack-Emma was any criterion, of the birth of a Betty Kane cult.  He hoped that its corollary would not be a Franchise vendetta."

 

   "[I]t would be a miracle, if, after the correspondence in the Ack-Emma, The Franchise was not the mecca of an evening pilgrimage.  But when he came within sight of it he found the long stretch of road deserted; and as he came nearer he saw why.  At the gate of The Franchise, solid and immobile and immaculate in the evening light, was the dark-blue-and-silver figure of a policeman.

   Deligthed that Hallam had been so generous with his scanty force, Robert slowed down to exchange greetings, but the greeting died on his lips.  Along the full length of the tall brick wall, in letters nearly six feet high was splashed a slogan. 'FASCISTS!' screamed the large white capitals.  And again on the further side of the gate: 'FASCISTS!'"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

I own and have read the paperback editions of both books; I also listened to Carole Boyd's stellar narration, which brings a dimension entirely of its own to Tey's storytelling which enhances it considerably.

 

I'll be using both books towards the "T" square of the Women Writers Bingo, as well as The Franchise Affair towards the Fiction from Fact chapter / square of the Detection Club Bingo (which is actually taken from the cover of this book's paperback edition).

 

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-01-28 20:10
It could only have been more perfect with more pictures
The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis - Elizabeth Letts

As I wrote when I started reading this book, I knew the outlines of the history.  I knew how the story ended, and therefore I didn't have to fear tragedy.  In anticipation of light, engaging read, I started turning the digital pages.

 

This turned out to be no child's breezy account of a miraculous rescue.  I had never seen the Disney movie -- had in fact more or less forgotten that there ever was one -- and I had never read Marguerite Henry's novel about the Lipizzan horses, so I was relying on the brief overview provided in her Album of Horses, which I still have.

 

The title is somewhat misleading, since author Letts never really addresses the perfection of any of the horses mentioned.  So set that whole notion aside.  The tale is more about the perfect horror of war.

 

The white stallions of the renowned Spanish Riding School of Vienna were not the only victims.  There were also the brood mares whose foals grew up to be the famed performers, and thousands upon thousands of other pedigreed horses in Europe, among them the Arabians of Poland.  All became victims, in one way or another, of the war.  A very precious few would survive.  That any of them did was a testament to luck and the steadfast determination of a very small group of men, some of whom would otherwise be enemies.

 

This wasn't an easy book to read; not all the horses survived, and the horrors they endured were, to put it simply, inhuman.  No, not inhumane.  One seriously wonders how beings that call themselves human could behave with such wanton cruelty.

 

There is also the suspense.  Even knowing more or less how the book ends, I felt the adrenaline rush of tension.

 

But it's powerfully written, with expansive portraits of the soldiers, riders, veterinarians, and horse-humanitarians involved.  Just be sure to have either a tight rein on your emotions or a healthy supply of tissues.  The ending is the same, but only after a pretty rough roller coaster ride.

 

 

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text 2018-01-17 22:13
I needed something nice to read
The Perfect Horse: The Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis - Elizabeth Letts

I first learned of the Lippizan stallions and Col. Alois Podhajsky's rescue of them via Marguerite Henry's Album of Horses when I was about eight years old.

 

Mary Stewart's Airs Above the Ground was entertaining, but I had most of the plot figured out ahead of time, also thanks to Ms. Henry's book.

 

Today I needed something nice to read, something that wouldn't increase the stress I'm already dealing with.  More back pain -- not spasms but still painful.  Car repairs.  House repairs.  Health issues.  Financial insecurity.  I need something that will slow the panic.

 

I found this on the public library's ecloud catalogue.  I pretty much know how it's going to end.

 

Now, leave me alone!  ;-)

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review 2018-01-12 10:00
New Release Review! The Cinderella Hoedown & The Rapunzel Rodeo (Fated Mate Speed Dating 1 & 2) by Sable Sylvan!

 

 

There's no way you'd catch Kelly Dean at a speed dating event…unless her best friend, Savina, had something to do with it. There's also no way you'd find the no-nonsense BBW in the company of three different alpha male cowboys in the span of under a week, but when werebears after their fated mates get mixed with women who are two parts sass, one part curves, you'll find anything can happen. The only question is, will this Texas fairytale end with this Cinderella finding her Prince Charming…and her lost shoes?

Kelly's a recent college grad keeping herself busy by helping her friend Savina organize the first ever Fallowedirt Hoedown, a celebration of the town's recent economic growth. Part of that growth has come in the form of the McCarthy Dude Ranch, home to a veritable bounty of hot shifter men. Kelly's far too busy to date one man, much less three hot-blooded cowboy werebears who all want to claim her as their fated mate. She definitely doesn't have time for their drama. While these cowboys might be experts at driving cattle, it seems all these shifters can do with Kelly is drive her away.

Jeff, Tom, and Will may seem similar, but the three grizzly bear cowboys couldn't be more different. All-American Jeff can't stand local bad boy Will, and neither can stand the out of towner, Tom the doctor. These three grizzlies can barely get along on the ranch, working side by side. How are they supposed to manage to menage? The clock's ticking, and while these three fight, the hoedown swiftly approaches, and Kelly's curves are sashaying right back out of town. Which one of these cowboys will win Kelly's heart?

Love fairy tales and fated mates? Can't get enough of speedy reads and speed dates? Into sassy BBWs learning to love and the hot-blooded wild shifter heroes begging to be tamed? Not afraid of a good-old-fashioned happy ending (no cliffhangers allowed) for a three-on-one menage a trois-plus-one? And most importantly, do you think that grandmas and pies can save the frikkin' world?

Then check out "The Cinderella Hoedown", and look for the rest of the books in the "Fated Mate Speed Date" series on Amazon, available via the Kindle Unlimited program! This series has elements of romantic comedy, Western romance, and of course, shifter-focused paranormal romances between curvy BBWs and a menagerie of different alpha male shifters.

 

 

 

Curvy seamstress Olivia Larson likes three things: costumes, horses, family. She isn't looking to add anything to that list, especially not three more things in the form of cowboy shifters. The last thing she needs is some werehorses getting in the way of her charity rodeo, but apparently, the trio of Matt, Richard, and Jason is up to that challenge. Fallowedirt isn't a one-horse town anymore. The only question is, will this Rapunzel let down her emotional walls and learn to let down her hair, or will she look her gift horses in the mouth?

Olivia's not looking for love. She's just looking to help raise money for the local library by helping out at the Fallowedirt Rodeo. When the three dominant werestallions she let herself fall for cause a huge mess for her to clean up, she's not about to let herself be fooled twice by her own heart. A leopard can't change its spots, but can these stallion shifters become horses of a different color? She's going to need to see proof that they're not just stuffing horse crap in a Trojan horse…and that's straight from the horse's mouth. Otherwise, how will Olivia know if she's betting on the wrong horses?

You can lead a horse to his fated mate, but you can't make him menage. Matt, Richard, and Jason can't get along during the day at the McCarthy Dude Ranch, where they all work putting their shifts to good use. The last thing they need is another thing to fight over, but Olivia's not just any 'thing': she's a full-bodied, sassy woman with curves that they each think they deserve. The only question is, will these three men stop horsing around, get off their high horses, and finally get down to the business of winning back their mate? Or are they trying to close the stable door after the horses have already bolted?

Love fairy tales and fated mates? Can't get enough of speedy reads and speed dates? Into sassy BBWs learning to love and the hot-blooded wild shifter heroes begging to be tamed? Not afraid of a good-old-fashioned happy ending (no cliffhangers allowed) for a three-on-one menage a trois-plus-one? And most importantly, do you think that grandmas and pies can save the frikkin' world?

Then check out "The Rapunzel Rodeo", and look for the rest of the books in the "Fated Mate Speed Date" reverse harem romance series on Amazon, available via the Kindle Unlimited program! This series has elements of romantic comedy, Western romance, and of course, shifter-focused paranormal romances between curvy BBWs and a menagerie of different alpha male shifters.

 

 

Having read the first two books in the Fated Mate Speed Date series back to back, I decided to combine my reviews. Both stories have strong characters that draws readers in, sweet romance and some hot and steamy ménage sex scene and some fun dialogue that adds that something extra the stories. The heroines have some pretty heavy duty decisions to make regarding which suitor they should pick or if they should take them all which adds quite a bit of emotional turmoil to the story and all parties have to decide if a ménage relationship would be right for them.

 

The world has a unique twist that makes them a bit different from other dating stories and are full of some hot & sexy cowboy shifters that has readers panting for more. I enjoyed both stories and got quite a kick out of the storylines and the characters, so if you want a good story on the light hearted side but full of sizzle, then these two books are the books for you.

 

I give both books 4 stars!

 

 

 

The Cinderella Hoedown is the 1st book in the Fated Mate Speed Date series

And is available in ebook at:

Amazon

 

 

 

The Rapunzel Rodeo is the 2nd book in the Fated Mate Speed Date series and is set to be released in ebook on January 12, 2018 at:

Amazon – sorry link was unavailable to me at time of posting.

 

Sable Sylvan can be found at:

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review 2018-01-07 22:21
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill
The Secret Horses of Briar Hill - Megan Shepherd
You don’t have to truly understand everything that was taking place in this novel to truly enjoy it. The more that I thought about this novel, the more that I understood the essence of the novel and the more I loved it. It’s a journey that begins when Emmaline discovers what lies within the mirrors of Briar Hill Hospital. This hospital was once the home of a princess but is now the home to children with stillwaters (tuberculosis). Emmaline and her roommate Anna are the only two individuals who claim they can see what is in the mirrors, a secret that they now share privately. Emmaline tries to fit in amongst the other children but since her comment the first day about what she saw in the mirrors, some children have been antagonizing her. As she escapes one such taunting, she dashes beyond the kitchen terrace, where no children are allowed, to a place where she feels safe.
 
It can’t be. One of the images from the mirror has slipped through to her world and now stands before her. It is wounded though. It’s a magical and emotional time as Emmaline is faced with decisions regarding the winged horse from the mirror. Anna, her roommate is slowly dying and Emmaline has been told to keep calm around her yet the excitement and intensity of this new development is hard to keep contained. Anna is the only person who she can share this excitement with and she wants to tell Anna everything. As Emmaline sleeps, she hears hoofprints on the roof and realizes that it cannot be her winged horse as it was injured. Checking on the horse the next day, she finds a note from The Horse Lord. He asks Emmaline help in protecting the injured horse Foxfire, from the Black Horse who is out to hurt her. He leaves Emmaline instructions, if she is willing to help. This is a huge responsibility with the war going on and a huge risk for Emmaline. It was an intense and exciting journey as the rest of the novel played out.
 
I fell head first into the magical elements of this story. I enjoyed Emmaline’s commitment to do what she thought was right and how creative she was. Her age showed as she sometimes acted before she thought things through and I loved how she acted from her heart. This was a beautiful story, a story that you will not forget when you close the final pages. I think it would make an excellent bedtime story or a read aloud. I can’t wait to share it with others.

 

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