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review 2018-09-19 20:03
Nine Coaches Waiting
Nine Coaches Waiting - Mary Stewart

I can´t even bother to write a proper review for Nine Coaches Waiting.

 

The mystery was lame and ridiculous, the romance was boring as well, the female main character was an idiot, her love interest was a douche and all the French people were depicted as mean spirited and/or dimwitted and/or downright evil. And this book jumped the shark several times. A thing which shouldn´t even be possible.

 

My final verdict: Bah .... NEXT!

 

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review 2018-09-19 11:46
Woman Without a Past
Woman Without a Past - Phyllis A. Whitney

Even though I find Phyllis A. Whitney's books to be a little bit hit and miss, she's still my favorite author of old-school romantic suspense.  Where Victoria Holt's romances feel instantaneous and contrived, and Mary Stewart's plotting is often (sorry mom) ludicrous, Whitney's stories have so far offered much more consistently crafted plots, vivid settings, and haunting atmosphere.  Her romances don't always work for me (romances seldom do), but the characters do, at least, work up to HEA at a slower, sometimes more smouldering, pace.

 

Woman Without a Past almost got a pass from me at the bookstore because, geez, the title.  And then there's the cover.  Actually, it was mostly the cover, but the title screamed Amnesia story! and that's just a no from me on principle.  But the back cover rescued the book; a woman is recognised at her editor's office as being the long lost identical twin, kidnapped as a baby, from an old and prominent Charleston (South Carolina) family.  Strictly speaking, the title is not at all accurate. 

 

This book drips Southern Gothic.  From the prescient cat, to the rocking horse that rocks itself; from the old plantation house, to the slightly mad mother the family tries to keep locked away as much as possible and the cousin that believes she communes with the dead, this book honestly has it all.  Except romance; there's a hint of it here and there and there's certainly talk of it, but no actual romance until the very, very end.

 

In general, the story is well-written, and it's a good story.  But a couple of things worked against it; one is probably just a twist of timing, as I started it on the plane, and then struggled to finish it while jet-lag kicked my butt, leaving me with the feeling that it took forever to finish it; the second was my exasperation with the main character.  Everyone thinks she's strong and independent, yet at no point in the book did she actually act strong or independent.  She mostly just allowed everyone to roll over her.  It wasn't enough to make me actively dislike her, but it was enough that I was often impatient with her.  

 

As I said, not her best, but certainly not her worst.  Fans of true gothic romance will recognise shades of certain classics in this book; definitely worth a look if you see it in your library or on the bargain rack.

 

I read this for the Southern Gothic square of Halloween Bingo 2018.

 

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review 2018-09-18 14:12
Rose Cottage
Rose Cottage - Mary Stewart

by Mary Stewart

 

This one starts out without as much description as previous Mary Stewart books I've read, but by the end of the first chapter exactly what Rose Cottage is has been explained. Much of the first half of the book feels like ordinary things going on, but a mystery presents itself when a hidden cupboard in Rose Cottage is discovered to have been uncovered.

 

The time period is after the war in the UK when rationing was still in force. A lot of Stewart's use of language fits into the era and creates that dreamy sort of old movie atmosphere.

 

Mary Stewart has an engaging style and despite waiting for a long time for anything really significant to happen, the story kept my attention. It isn't what you would call high action and it skirts the Women's Fiction category, but a mystery gets solved in the end and there is that touch of romance that Stewart's Mysteries always have.

 

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review 2018-09-15 22:54
Be Buried in the Rain
Be Buried in the Rain - Barbara Michaels

Boy, when Barbara Michaels got it right, she was one of the best.  I wouldn't go so far as to call Be Buried in the Rain one of her best, but it's definitely in the higher end of the scale.

 

Julie Newcomb is the family's sacrificial lamb, bribed to spend her summer vacation helping to nurse her dying grandmother, an evil witch of a woman, in the crumbling but historical old family manse in Virginia, place nature is slowly and inexorably reclaiming, and positively dripping with atmosphere.  Julie's been busy in med school, unaware of the two skeletons found on the family's property, left posed in the middle of the road, so doesn't find out about the drama and mystery swirling around until she arrives.  Efforts by her family to mitigate the scandal and gossip involve bringing in an archeologist who just happens to be Julie's ex; a relationship that imploded 5 years previously, thanks to the evil machinations of her grandmother.

 

The one thing that Michaels never seemed to get right, in my opinion, was romance; her characters almost always fell into the insta-love category.  Whether this is a reflection of the writing style in her time or not, I can't say, but it remains true with this book.  Yes, the relationship was one that had prior history, and no, they didn't just pick up where they left off in the first few chapters; Michael does at least get the bit right.  But once they do get back together (this is not a spoiler; they always get back together in her books), their future together is taken as a fait accompli - instant happily ever after.

 

What Michaels does get right though, is the slyly evil grandmother.  Her pure, almost supernatural ability to fight back through two strokes; her ability in spite of her obvious physical impairment, to continue to manipulate and control the people around her, and her diabolical ability to psychologically break her own grand children.

 

Her other talent is atmosphere; Maidenwood is positively Southern Gothic.  Her archeological background serves the story well too without sugar-coating the monotony of the profession at all.  Most of the book is nothing but frustrated attempts at finding the history buried beneath the soil.

 

Julie, today, dances the line of being TSTL.  Her ability to blithely ignore common sense is sometimes breathtaking, but this is a story from another age when this sort of heroic damsel was the last word in romantic suspense, so enjoying the story requires suspending disbelief a little further than usual in terms of what it means to be a strong, heroic female lead.

 

The mystery involved was more complex than it looked at the start, and I was left unsurprised by one of the culprits, but more than a tiny bit horrified by the skeletons' stories.  I might have to go back and re-read the very end, because I'm not sure that the full story behind who put the skeletons in the road was really explained, but I might have just failed to retain that part as the jet lag set in and my will to live drained out (I finished reading this on the plane home).

 

This definitely qualifies for Halloween Bingo, but I'm not sure yet what square I'm using it for.  I'm in catch-up mode at the moment, but will update this post when I get everything sorted out.

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review 2018-09-14 14:40
The Women and Dogs Were Awesome, The Romantic Partner Sucked
The Search - Nora Roberts

I initially thought that "The Search" was going to be a very good romantic suspense novel, but I ended up disliking the male hero so much that it ruined any enjoyment I previously had and then soured me on the book. Roberts did a lot of research it seems into Search and Rescue and dog behavior which was good. Heck, I will even throw out some kudos about the serial killer plot being woven into the story believably. However, I cannot with a male hero who calls the heroine a "cocktease", "bitch" or accuses her of "bitching" and doing his He-Man Alpha BS. The ending was even ruined by her trembling and he had to be the one coming in to save her. Bah to this book.

 

"The Search" is about Fiona Bristow who lives on an island near Seattle. She has three dogs and trains others and also participates in Search and Rescue on the island. She is also a survivor or a serial killer who eventually murdered her fiancee in retribution for her getting away from him. Though the serial killer is now locked up, someone out there seems hell-bent on being a copy-cat and is kidnapping and murdering young woman again. Fiona is dealing with this along with an unexpected romance with Simon Doyle who is a wood/artisan. 

 

Fiona was wonderful I thought. If the book had been about her, her dogs, and her stepmother and best friend I would have loved it. She obviously has regrets and still thinks about how she lost her fiancee. With the recent missing women she feels guilty and angry. She's self sufficient and smart and the scenes with her and her dogs, or others were highlights. I do wish that we had more backstory about her murdered fiancee though. Maybe an earlier scene with them together or a prologue would have worked. I never did feel like he was a flesh and blood character. 

 

Simon sucked. His puppy Jaws was cute, but he sucked. Him going around and telling Fiona how things would be, him getting angry at her and telling her she wasn't going to handle him like her dogs was disparaging and nasty. I didn't even understand why she stayed with him since he was an asshole to her too many times to count. Heck even how he proposed would have caused me to run to the hills. 

I think the worst part for me was his negative reaction when she dared to clean his house. I would have told him enjoy the filth, I'm out. Roberts too many times has these alpha he-men in her romantic suspense novels and they always rub me the wrong way. What is wrong with having the man and woman in the story as equals without her having to be some helpless thing that needs to be saved. 

 

 “You’ve got a bug up your ass today,” he said before she could speak.

“Excuse me?”

“A definite bitch on. Well, enjoy.”

He whistled for his dog, which naturally brought the whole pack."

 

I would have planted my foot up his ass. Seriously. He used the word "bitch" to much when talking to her. Cause a woman who is upset and not her usual bright self has a "bitch on". I kept wishing the serial killer copy cat would murder Simon.

 

“For me there is. And now I have soup and . . .” She peeled back the foil. “Mmmm, rosemary bread. This is exceptional. I have a stepmother who’d take the time to make it for me, a neighbor who’d bring it by even though he’d rather not, and my dogs. I’m not allowed to brood. So we’ll have dinner and conversation. But I’m not going to sleep with you after.”

“Cocktease.”

She nearly choked on the wine. “You did not just say that.”

 

Ha ha. Yeah, no. He's an asshole. I would have kicked him out at this point. 

 

“I’m not fucking done. You don’t run this show. I don’t know how you worked it before with your cop, but this is now. You’re dealing with me now. You’d better think about that, and if you can’t deal with it, you let me know. We’ll leave it that we just fuck when we’re both in the mood, and move on.”

 

At this point I was just glad I had nothing breakable near me. Romantic suspense does not equal asshole hero. 

 

“If you’re going to bitch, I’m going to sit down and drink my beer.”

“If I’m going to—You left here this morning pissed off and bossy. Interrupting me every five seconds. Telling me to shut up.”

“I’m about to repeat that.”

“What gives you the right to tell me what to do, what to think, what to say?”

“Not a thing.”

He tipped the beer in her direction. “And right back at you, Fiona.”

“I’m not telling you what to do. I’m giving you a choice, and I’m telling you I won’t tolerate this kind of behavior.”

His gaze fired to hers, molten gold sheathed in ice. “I’m not one of your dogs. You won’t train me.”

 

She should have kicked him out of her damn house at this point.

 

The secondary characters were more interesting. We had two FBI agents checking in with Fiona, one who was there the last time around. Frankly it would have made more sense for her to get involved with that character than Simon. 

 

I was curious about how Fiona's mother was still alive and sounded like a caring woman, but we got no dialogue between them. At least I can't remember any. She's really close to her stepmother which was nice to see. 

 

The serial killer parts were disturbing and I skimmed as much as possible. Towards the end of the book it just felt endless. 

 

I would argue the flow wasn't that great at the end of the book. All of a sudden we just go on a hunt for a serial killer and the book needed a better lift in my eyes. Everything just kind of ends. 

 

The setting of the book takes place on Orcas Island, San Juan Islands which sounded pretty fantastic. I was just in the northwest and fell in love with Seattle and Portland. It was nice to have a better idea of the landscape and homes that would be there while reading this book.


The ending was a big raspberry. Honestly I think a stronger ending could have raised this up a star for me if we had Fiona standing tall without Simon there to show what a big strong man he is with his fists. 

Definitely will say the dogs were a delight and highlight, though I can see why some people complained there was a lot of dog talk in this book and not enough romance. For me, there was not enough romance cause the hero was terrible. 

 

 

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