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review 2017-12-09 05:12
Review: Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family #1) by May McGoldrick
Romancing the Scot (The Pennington Family) - May McGoldrick

The story wasn’t bad but I had a few issues that didn’t let me fully enjoy this story.
It was a good romance story, not to mention the suspense sub-plot indeed kept me turning the pages. The thing is, I think there were too many things this book could have done without and it still would have been a good story. 
It all started with lots of heart-pumping action. Someone murdered Grace’s father and now she’s trying to escape the same fate. Miraculously, she ends up in the land of a well-placed family that takes her as one of their own. After that initial encounter and Grace’s convalescence, the pace starts slowing down. 

The characters were charismatic and complex. Hugh was smart and charming; stern when needed yet wicked when he wanted to be. Grace was also smart with the gift of a super memory, although it took forever to get to why it was so important she had such a gift. Jo, Hugh’s sister had a tragic past, something that I also think we spend too much time on. I think they were setting ground for future books but again, I think it was not needed. The writing was impeccable and the historical accuracy was on point. The problem with that was that we spent too much time reading about history and not enough time with the main characters as people. Even the suspense that was so good at the start ends up being kind of a let down because I felt some things about Grace’s father were more guesswork than actual answers. 

** I received this book at no cost to me via Netgalley and I volunteered to read it; this is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.***

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review 2017-12-02 22:38
Meh
Accomplished In Murder: 1 (The Accomplished Mysteries) - Dara England

It's not bad.  The central character is interesting if the only woman with a brain.  But the mystery is easy to solve.

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review 2017-11-30 15:57
Music of the Distant Stars
Music of the Distant Stars - Alys Clare

England, the 1080s

 

The singer watched as the young girl with the copper-coloured hair and the boyish figure wrested open the door of the little house and disappeared inside. You hear me, don't you, lass? he thought. You listen to my song and you go rigid as you perceive my pain. You have a good heart and I'm sorry that I frighten you.

He heard footsteps on the path: a quick, light step that he recognized as belonging to the older woman who lived in the little house. He slipped back into his hiding place and watched as she hurried up to the door and let herself in. She was a healer; his sense of smell was strong, and he could detect her profession from the scent of her clothes, as he could from those of the copper-haired girl. The house itself smelt of clean, fresh things: of herbvs and fresh-cut grass. He liked the smell. He liked being close to the house. It gave him comfort, of a sort.

But there was no real comfort, not any more. His world had come to an end. He was alone, away from the place he had known all his life. He felt the great surge of anguish rise up in him, and a few notes of his song emerged from his lips. As if the music lanced his pain, for a few moments it eased.

Music. There was always the music.

 

This is the third of the Aelf Fen Mysteries featuring the healer Lassair and written by Alys Clare, the author of the perhaps better-known Hawkenlye novels. The Aelf Fen Mysteries are set in a slightly earlier period than those, soon after the Norman Conquest when the victors of Hastings were still hated strangers in the land. Two of Lassaire's uncles had died at Hastings, as had the fathers, husbands, brothers and sons of much of the population – a thing not easily forgotten or forgiven.

 

Lassair is a seventeen-year-old apprentice healer, whose family live in the Fenland village of Aelf Fen, though she herself now lives and studies with her aunt, the local wise woman, herbalist, midwife and – whisper it! – witch.

 

At dawn one midsummer morning, Lassair sets out for the community's burial island, sent by her aunt to put a fresh flower garland on the stone slab that covered the grave of her recently deceased grandmother, Cordeilla. She also has with her the symbols of earth, air, fire and water intended to summon spirits to help her in her prayers. It is still dark, but Lassair has no trouble finding the path through the treacherous swamps and bogs, for she is a dowser who can "see hidden tracks and pathways that are all but invisible to others." She is very sensitive. She is also very superstitious.

 

Suddenly my feet seemed to freeze to the ground and I could not move. I stood on the narrow path, my heart thumping so hard it hurt. [...] The path still glowed faintly, but on either side the land was clothed in its thick-leafed summer foliage, providing far too many places where someone bent on harming me could hide.

I was not afraid of ill-intentioned humans, however. The entities I dreaded had no need of hiding places, for they were, I was quite sure, perfectly capable of invisibility. They could creep up me without my suspecting a thing, and the first I would know was when icy fingers clutched at my throat and supernaturally strong arms thrust my head down into the black waters till I drwoned and went to join their grey, shimmering company ...

With a great effort, I commanded myself not to be so fanciful and cowardly.

 

Teeth chattering with fear, she makes way way across onto the island, only to discover that someone has moved the slab of stone. And peering in, that there are now two bodies in the grave.

 

Whoever moved the slab of stone put that other body in there, she realises. And that person wanted to conceal the body. That person was a murderer!

 

This is all too much for her, and she goes racing back to her aunt.

 

The dead body turns out to be that of a pregnant girl much the same age as Lassair herself. Her name was Ida, and she was seamstress to a rather unpleasant Norman lady. It also turns out that that Norman lady's fiancé, Sir Alain, was rather fonder of Ida that he was was of the Norman lady. Was he the murderer? No one could possibly suggest it, for not only was he a Norman, but he was the local justiciar. And anyway, Lassair rather likes him.

 

No, the chief suspect seems to be a certain Derman, the village idiot, who "looks like a gargoyle and frightens little children", but himself has the mind of a child. And Derman is the brother of the gorgeous Zarina, whom Lassair's own brother, Haward, plans to marry. Only Zarina won't marry him because, she says, she will not impose her brother on him. So wouldn't it suit Haward very well for Derman to be found guilty of the murder? – or so some people can't help wondering.

 

But who is the "invisible singer", a minstrel who seems to have been in love with the dead girl? He is surely unlikely to have been the murderer, but he could have been the father of her unborn baby.

 

All very complicated – and full not only of the magic and mystery we have come to expect from this very special author, but of a love of, and knowledge of, the English countryside that is, in my experience, quite unique among medieval mystery writers.

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review 2017-11-29 05:02
Every Move He Makes by Barbara Elsborg
Every Move He Makes - Barbara Elsborg

This was a great book until the last 25% or so. 

Extra points for excellent russian here and there, tho I still can't figure out why stupid typos were left untouched. "Pecherskaya" was spelled "Pe r cherskaya" literally half the time. No matter the language, it's an annoyance. "The band was called "Gryaznykh Angelov"...". Say what? @.@ A minor mistake, sure, but on top of interchangeable peRcherskaya it screamed "I don't really care. they won't get it anyway.", not to mention the name is such a cliche. What else... "'mu'dak' means 'asshole'". Sure if "asshole" means "meany". Let's be nice, I guess. So, that was the minor stuff.

My major complaint - and it's me, probbly, since I like sex in my books in very moderate amounts - is that the last 20% turned into pure porn. I really don't care who topped whom in the end, how many times and how sticky the stickiness got. Both characters, especially Zak, were crazed enough on sex from the very beginning, but by the end the lust came out full force without MCs surfacing for air for 20% straight. I lost all interest in the book and going to DNF it at 93%.

That leaves me with - what? 75% is pure awesomeness, save for the typos. I can easily dish out 5 and more shiny stars. The last 25% tho? A star and a half maybe.

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review 2017-11-24 21:55
A great resource for writers of historical fiction, historians, and people who love social history and the Victorian period.
Life on the Victorian Stage: Theatrical Gossip - Nell Darby

Thanks to Alex from Pen & Sword for providing me with a review paperback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

If you have been following my reviews for some time, you will be aware that I have read a number of the historical books published by Pen & Sword. I tend to be more interested in social history and how historical changes affected the lives of those who don’t always figure in the big History treatises. Being a lover of plays and a kin theatregoer, I was very curious about this book. Yes, theatre gossip was intriguing, but getting a sense of what life on the Victorian stage must have been like was my main interest. Although sometimes we discover that life has changed dramatically in a reasonably short period of times, some things do not seem to change much. And human curiosity and the love of gossip are among those things. If Victorians had no access to social media, there were plenty of newspapers and periodicals to keep them entertained, and actors were as much a subject of interest then as they are now.

The author does not follow a narrative or chooses a few big cases in this book, but rather illustrates the sheer amount of theatrical news that occupied the Victorian press of the time, not only in London but also in the provinces. As communications improved, newspapers even started featuring stories about actors in America (either natives or British authors touring there) and although sometimes the features lacked in detail (in some cases a suicide or a death would not feature the name of those involved) they were always after items that would attract the public’s attention. Darby divides the book into three parts: Part 1 deals with the business side of things (including such matters as licenses, libel, bankruptcy, breach of contract…), Part 2 looks at criminal lives (from blackmail and assault to prostitution and murder), and Part 3 delves into the personal lives of the actors (what we would probably consider gossip proper, although not all of it is gossip. The chapter on death and disaster deals with serious matter and also makes us look at security measures and disasters in theatres, bigamy seems to have been much more common than it is today, and personally I was fascinated by the chapter on breaches of promise, as I had not realise that there were laws that offered more protection to women in those circumstances than I would have expected).  Each chapter shares both, examples of standard cases of what would usually find its way into the newspapers (brief pieces with hardly any detail) and it dedicates more space to others that were better known, but no single case gets all the limelight. In many ways, this book is like a sampler, where people interested in the subject can learn more and be pointed in the right direction to research further.

The author’s style of writing is direct, and mostly allows the sources to do the talking. She provides sufficient background (on legal matters, the nature of performances, technical issues…) for readers to appreciate the items she discusses, and also some reflections on her own take on the materials. She notes how some periodicals, like The Era, were in a double-bind of sorts, as they tried hard to defend the profession of acting on the stage (that had a pretty bad reputation, especially in the case of women), insisting that actors were honourable and true professionals, whilst at the same time featured “sensational” news to attract readers. Although these days respectability is not a concept many people are worried about, it is true that the press has a hard time trying to reconcile the ideal of protectors of the truth, whilst fighting to keep the attention of the public by any means necessary. Is it possible to keep the moral high ground whilst publishing gossip and innuendo?

Although this is not, perhaps, a book for the general reading public, as I read I kept thinking about how useful this book would be to writers of historical fiction interested in the period (and not only for those considering using a theatrical background in their story but also for those thinking about the press of the time and even society at large) and to historians. Darby provides end notes full of details, both of the sources of her research and also of further information available. Although she mostly uses newspapers, she digs on the archives to confirm details such as names (as many actors and actresses used stage names and some of those were fairly popular) and discovers that Mark Twain wasn’t the only one whose death had been grossly exaggerated (deaths, marriages… were often misreported). The paperback also contains pictures that allow us to put faces to some of the names and help transport us to the era.

In sum, this is a book that will greatly assist writers, historians, and people passionate about the Victorian era and the history of the stage in the UK. It is a good starting point for those who want a general view of the topic and/or are looking for inspiration for their next story or research project. And if you just want to confirm that people’s love for gossip about the stars has not changed over the years, this is your book.

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