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review 2017-09-18 16:24
Nine Coaches Waiting / Mary Stewart
Nine Coaches Waiting (Rediscovered Classics) - Sandra Brown,Mary Stewart

Read to fill the “Romantic Suspense” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

This Bingo was a great excuse to revisit an old favourite, which only been slight worn by the passage of time. It is very much a gothic romance, with the heroine having the usual attributes—she is an orphan, she needs to pay her way in the world, and she is hired by a French family to school a young nobleman in English. The young Comte is nine years old and it takes a bit for Linda Martin to make friends with him and get him acting like a real small boy, but they manage to make the connection just before sinister things begin to happen. Has Linda been chosen because she is an orphan with no real connections in France? Will she be the scapegoat when young Philippe is killed?

Add the complication that Linda has fallen in love with Raoul, her employer’s son, who manages another large family estate. Raoul is as sophisticated as Linda is naïve, which causes much of the romantic tension, as the reader wonders whether he is serious or just playing with Linda. Stewart actually uses Cinderella imagery to reassure the reader—there is an Easter ball, of course, for which Linda sews her own dress and during which she dances with Raoul and they agree to become engaged. She has promised to visit her charge, Philippe, in “the dead of night” so he can feel included in the event, so she & Raoul take a “midnight feast” pilfered from the buffet table up to the little boy’s room. On her way up to the nursey, Linda’s shoe comes undone and she almost loses it, completing the Cinderella reference.

Nor is that the only literary reference. The book’s title comes from the poem The Revenger’s Tragedy, a tale of lust and ambition suited to the story line of Nine Coaches Waiting. Each of the chapters is referred to as a coach and Linda takes some kind of conveyance (train, car, plane) in each. The poem also includes a tempter’s list of pleasures: coaches, the palace, banquets, etc., all of which decadent indulgences may lure our heroine to overlook the attempts on her student’s life.

One of the joys of the book for me was the description of the French countryside and communities. These descriptive interludes extend the tension of both the mystery & the romance and give the reader some time to assimilate the clues and try to see the road ahead. It also gave me breathing room to assess the very whirlwind nature of the romance, something that I would usually find unrealistic & therefore off-putting (and which I never noticed as a teenager reading this novel).

I am delighted to report that I enjoyed this novel almost as much forty years later as I did when I first read it.

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text 2017-09-15 21:35
Weekend Reading
Grendel - John Gardner
Misery - Stephen King
Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor
Nine Coaches Waiting (Rediscovered Classics) - Sandra Brown,Mary Stewart

The weather has cooled down here in Calgary considerably.  I haven't any big plans for the weekend, so I hope to do some baking and read some Halloween Bingo books.


I've read part of both Grendel and Misery, so I just want to finish them up.  Akata Witch is the next book due at the library (with holds so I can't renew).  And I think that Nine Coaches Waiting will be an excellent Friday evening book.


Happy weekend, everyone!!

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review 2017-09-01 22:38
The Ivy Tree
The Ivy Tree - Mary Stewart

A truly excellent read, but not the book I was expecting.  I chose this book as my first bingo book because I was looking for something that would trip along at a fast clip, and typically Mary Stewart and the romantic suspense genre of her time generally do clip along as a good pace.


But The Ivy Tree doesn't.  This is a slowly paced, slowly building romantic suspense with a damn unreliable narrator, and I really dislike unreliable narrators.  So really this was not the book I was looking for so I found myself very impatient but at the same time, I was completely unable to put it down.  Is she or isn't she?  Did they or didn't they?  Will he or won't he?  And really, what the hell is up with creepy Lisa???


I'd have liked to have gotten more about Adam; given his role, Stewart doesn't allow us to get to know him at all, and I don't think Lisa's full potential of totally creepy was explored, but otherwise, in spite of not being what I thought it would be, this is really a riveting read.


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text 2017-08-31 08:11
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 319 pages.
The Ivy Tree - Mary Stewart

My first read for Halloween 2017 bingo, for the Romantic Suspense square. 

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review 2017-08-12 17:50
100% Delightful
The Moonspinners - Mary Stewart

You know those books that you are pretty sure you are really going to love, so you buy it and wait to read it because once you read it, you won't be able to look forward to reading it anymore? This was one of those books for me. I picked up a paperback copy of The Moonspinners donkeys ages ago, at either the UBS or a library sale, & I've been holding onto it since then. I finally decided that life was too short to not read this book, and there were other Mary Stewarts for me to read, so I should just do it already.


This is a near perfect romantic suspense novel. 


I loved everything about this book. The setting is divine - it is set on the island of Crete, primarily in a small fishing village. Mary Stewart has tremendous respect for her settings, and she works hard to incorporate details of the lives of the inhabitants that lend a great deal of richness to the setting. The main character, Nicola, is a junior undersecretary at the British embassy in Athens, and she has taken the time to learn Greek.


I love this detail. I think that this is a really important little piece of character development, especially given that this book was initially published in 1962. Mary Stewart not only gives her main character enough personal agency to go abroad to Greece and take a job on her own - something that is intimidating and noteworthy in 2017 - but that same heroine has enough intellectual curiosity and engagement to learn the language while she is there, which shows tremendous respect for the local culture. 


While Nicola did, at times, engage in some pretty silly behavior, overall this is a heroine who is genuinely independent. All too often we see authors who claim that their heroes are "independent," but whose behavior doesn't reflect that independence. In this book, Stewart never uses the word "independent" to describe Nicola, she just shows us a young British woman who IS independent without constantly having to try to convince the reader of that aspect of her character. 


Stewart also references other relationships that Nicola has been involved in, and there is a clear implication that she is a frankly modern young woman with a "past" which is treated as totally normal and not something shameful. It's really difficult to overstate the importance of this element - again, this book was written in 1962. There is no slut-shaming here, and in fact, Nicola's prior experiences with men is just taken for granted and stated matter-of-factly. Of course a young single woman has had prior experiences. 


So, the setting is delightful and the main character is likeable. The male love interest is also a likeable young man, although he is much less the focus than the heroine. Stewart's descriptions of the native flora and fauna are absolutely lovely, even as she manages to avoid allowing her narrative to devolve into a travelogue. I don't really have any complaints about this book, just minor quibbles that aren't worth delving into here.


This book could be categorized as "New Adult," and when I compare it to the crap that is being published right now under that label, I laugh. Mary Stewart is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers. I foresee a future in which I've tracked down and read every single thing she's ever written.

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