Review – Silent on the Moor

Silent on the MoorI started this series with book five, I think. It was a few years ago so I’m fuzzy on details but I remember enjoying it immensely even though I knew very little of the characters. Based on that one book, I decided the series was worth a look and started at the beginning, like one should when they read a series. This is book two in the Lady Julia Grey series following Silent in the Grave, and if you happen to like your historical fiction tied up with a bit of romance, try these books.

Lady Julia Grey, once more far away from Nicholas Brisbane, takes off with her sister to his home in the country to get re-acquainted, and more. Things of course, aren’t what they seem at Brisbane’s Yorkshire home, Grimsgrave. The estate, old and moldy, is falling down and the once proud family that used to own it is more than strange. Julia, after snooping around, manages to get herself involved in a family mystery and let’s face it, sometimes things are better left unsaid. From there, everything goes downhill.

Can I just tell you how much I like Brisbane? He’s moody, slightly unpredictable, and well, hot and lovable. Yes, there’s a reason Julia becomes all unladylike in his presence. I don’t usually go for these sorts of things in books but I think I found my guilty pleasure and I don’t care. I want to read more of these and I will. Bring on book three, library!

Silent on the Moor

By Deanna Raybourn

Mira

ISBN: 9780778326144

Review – Timeless Desire

I don’t read much romance but throw in time travel and a Scottish man and I’m in. All in.

Actually, I do read romance novels about once or twice a year. It’s not part of my regular reading feast but I like to change things up every few months and romance seems to be the thing for me. So when this book came along I was happy to find myself totally in the story and hoping for a happy ending.

Panna Kennedy is a librarian in Pittsburgh, PA. She’s in her 30s and a widow — her husband Charlie died two years earlier after a long and painful illness. She’s tried dating but doesn’t feel ready for a commitment yet. One night, a well-meaning friend sets her up on a blind date. As she’s getting ready to leave work, she stumbles upon a door in the library that is a time portal to 1706, and more precisely the border of England and Scotland which is about to erupt in battle. After going through the portal, she finds herself in a chapel. Not wanting to be seen, Panna runs off and ends up hiding in the library with a man named Captain James Bridgewater. He owns the castle and the library that she can’t help but admire. Trying to come up with a believable story for how she ended up in his house, she finds herself attracted to Bridgewater and keeps coming up with reasons to stay. Panna finally goes back to her own time but can’t stop thinking of Bridgewater and what might happen to him. Rushing back to the library, she hurls back in time and ends up in a whole mess of trouble that might get her and Bridgewater killed.

I loved that Panna was a librarian and pretty much fell in love with every book she came in contact with. It was a quirk I found very endearing. Being a young widow, she has her sad moments but it doesn’t consume her and while Panna professes she’s not ready for new love, well, it’s a romance so we all know what’s going to happen. And sometimes that predictability about a story is what I want. I wasn’t reading this book because I thought she might find a new man, I was all out waiting for him to appear, past or future.

Now James Bridgewater (Jamie to his friends) is likable in that gruff sort of way. A man without a family, floating between being a Captain in the English army and the grandson of a Scottish Clan leader, he’s more than stuck in the middle. Panna doesn’t make his life easier but she certainly makes it more enjoyable.

I’m a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and while I’m not out to make comparisons, I will anyway. Woman is the time traveler, meets Scot named Jamie, battle brewing between English and Scottish, two people marry under duress, find they really do love each other. You get the picture. Don’t take any of this as negative because it’s certainly not. I liked all these elements in the Outlander series and I liked them in this book. The story had a familiarity to it but didn’t feel the same for me. This happens when I read books with similar settings, which I do often especially with historical fiction, and while I wanted to mention it, it certainly wasn’t a drawback for me.

Here’s what it comes down to — Timeless Desire was a fast and entertaining read. The characters were likable, the setting a favorite time period of mine, and I can’t pass up a hot Scot. I was looking for a change in my reading and this book was a perfect summer evening read for me. I really I have to say I enjoyed it. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be adding more romance to my regularly scheduled reading but it did make me realize I need to give it a chance more often.

Timeless Desire: An Outlander Love Story

By Gwyn Cready

Astor + Blue Editions LLC

ISBN: 9781938231292

4 stars

Review – The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II

The Darling Strumpet: A Novel of Nell Gwynn, Who Captured the Heart of England and King Charles II

By Gillian Bagwell

Penguin Group

ISBN: 9781101478431

3.5 stars

This is the second book I’ve read about Nell Gwynn, the mistress of King Charles II. I like the character, the reason I keep reading the books about her, but for whatever reason, I can’t come to love these books; I like them but not love them.  Maybe I like the real life person too much and want all of these fictional ones to live up to her.  She was known as an incredible comic and was a well-known stage actress adored in her lifetime.  I’m wondering if what I know of her real life has become too mixed up with the fictional one for me.

Nell Gwynn is recovering from another beating from her mother when she realizes this is the day the king will return to England.  She celebrates the king’s return with several men but unfortunately it doesn’t end happily for her.  Needing comfort, she seeks out her sister Rose at the whore house where she works.  Nell is taken on as another girl and begins earning her keep as many women without other means do.  She does her best to stay safe but things aren’t easy for her.  She finds her escape in a regular customer but what she really wants is to be part of the theatre life.  She manages to get herself and Rose jobs selling oranges to theatre patrons and does eventually convince others to teach her to act.   Nell becomes a hit on stage known for her comedic abilities but when her affair with a fellow actor comes to an end, she sets her sights on the king and the position of mistress.

I love historical fiction and the 17th Century is a rich time period.  I can’t fully explain the draw but it’s there.  And I can also say that these royal affairs are always fun; the backstabbing courtiers, the intrigue, and antics always amuse me.  This one didn’t satisfy on the regular level though and honestly, I think it was too much sex.  Yes, I said that and suddenly feel very prudish.

When you’re reading a book about a royal mistress you expect certain things, a lot of sex for one.  This one was brutal in some places and I don’t know about you but forced sex scenes, even when reading about a woman working as a whore, aren’t appealing even if expected.  It didn’t ruin the story for me but it did cause me to approach it with a quick eye.  I skimmed several passages here and there.

The story also felt as if it were being told in snippets.  A paragraph here and there and a year passed.  While it worked in some cases — I didn’t need extended explanations of Nell and Rose’s time at the brothel or Nell’s sexcapades with several men — I did want more when it came to her being the king’s mistress.   That’s when I felt it moved to fast.  I wanted more of the court, the jewels, the presents, the people…

But, all in all, I thought this was still a good read.  It moved fast, was entertaining, and if you’re looking for some bawdy historical fiction, this one fulfills completely on that level.

Review – The Dark Enquiry

The Dark Enquiry

By Deanna Raybourn

Harlequin

ISBN: 9780778312376

4.5 stars

First, I have a confession.  I did something I never do — I read a book out of order in a series.  OK, so not a big, earth shattering confession but I felt I needed to say that for readers of this series.  I’ve heard fabulous things about the Lady Julia Grey novels and have been meaning to read one for a long time.  So when I saw this one on NetGalley I requested it and proceeded to read with abandon. Yes, abandon people.

I feel I should warn of spoilers since this is a series so here you have it but since I haven’t read any of the previous books, I can’t be sure that’s an accurate statement.

Lady Julia Grey is now back in London navigating and negotiating her marriage to Brisbane.  While the two are very much in love, it’s Julia’s insistence on being a true and full partner in Brisbane’s life, which includes his work as an investigator and private detective, that’s causing a small wrinkle in their otherwise happy marriage.  He balks but she insists, and being Julia, she wins.  Brisbane does everything to keep her out of his latest case, including building her a photography studio as a distraction, but Julia manages to not only get involved but also nearly get herself killed in the process.

This book was so entertaining and if they’re all like this, I want to read them all now.  Julia and Brisbane are a great couple and for as annoying as she can be, Julia’s delightful.  Obviously, there’s much I missed in regard to the relationship but I didn’t feel lost which is a testament to Raybourn’s.  She gives you enough to go on and lets you fill in the rest, which in a series I don’t mind and was perfectly at home with here.

There’s one more thing I need to mention — I didn’t care who the killer was.  Remember, a mystery is at the heart of this story, and I don’t usually pick up mysteries because I mostly spend my time trying to figure out who did it without paying attention to characters or plot.  Here, I didn’t even care who did it and I didn’t read ahead which is HUGE for me.  A first actually.  Maybe I finally found the right mix for me when it comes to a mystery; I need ghosts and really great characters.  Also, the romance is good.  I must say this because I’m pretty sure from reading this one installment that many readers are invested in this relationship too.

I probably don’t have to say this but I will anyway — I plan to go back and read the four previous books in this series.  If this one was any indication of the goodness I will be experiencing, I will be a very happy reader.

I downloaded an advanced review copy of this book from NetGalley.

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.  The idea is to give everyone a look inside the book you’re reading.

Play along: Grab your current read; Open to a random page; Share two teaser sentences from that page; Share the title and author so other participants know what you’re reading.

I took a few days off to spend time with my husband who is traveling almost non-stop in July.  I think he’ll actually spend more time out of town and on planes than he will at our house this month.  I thought I’d spend the couple days he was in town with him which is was why things were quiet here.

Getting back into things, I’m sharing a few lines from The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell this week.

“When the rehearsal was done, Nell sat still for a few moments, not wanting to let go of what she had experienced. She felt drained and yet exhilarated, and as if she was changed in some way.” (page 55 of 329 on Nook)

The Dead Travel Fast

The Dead Travel Fast

By Deanna Raybourn

Mira Books

ISBN: 978-0-7783-2765-3

3.5 stars

Theodora Lestrange is a woman alone but she’s not unhappy with her status. She intends to pursue her writing and hopes to make a living at it. For a woman in 1858, it’s an admirable but tough choice to make. Unfortunately, her brother-in-law doesn’t consider this normal and feels that something should be done. When Theodora receives a letter from an old friend asking her to come and visit her in Transylvania, she decides that it’s the change she needs and takes off for the strange land. Once there, she finds herself in an old, drafty castle with a Count and Countess, wolves, rumors of the dead returning, and a death in the castle. Theodora finds herself drawn into the world these people inhabit and dares to fall in love with the Count.

I haven’t read anything by Raybourn and have heard that it would be best to start with the Lady Julia Grey series. I ignored that and went right for this one, mostly because that’s what my library had. I can’t say it was better or worse than any of the others not having read them, but I found this one to be a good distraction of a read. Theodora was interesting in that she’s not the typical woman of the time. She’s outspoken, has a career, and has no interest in marriage or children. I did find it odd that she was a writer that didn’t seem to write much though. It’s mentioned here and there that she spent a morning or afternoon writing but it doesn’t feel part of the character. In the end, there is a book but it feels tacked on a bit as if it was meant to remind you all along that she was a writer. While there is talk of vampires and werewolves, the folk tales and rumors don’t feel fully developed and the love story, which feels like it should be a much larger piece, feels a little stifled. Also, the character of Theodora had a small but annoying habit of saying, “I warmed to my theme…” when she was arguing, disagreeing, or trying to prove a point. She may have been warmed, but I felt annoyed by it. Not sure why it bothered me so much but it did.

I don’t want this to turn into a negative review because it’s not. I flew through this book in a day so I can’t say that I didn’t like it. There were several aspects though that didn’t feel fully put together though. I do think I will seek out a few of her other books and give them a try when I have a chance. There was something that made this compulsively readable and I want to see what else she has to offer.

The Conquest

The Conquest

The Conquest

By Elizabeth Chadwick

St. Martin’s Press

ISBN: 0-312-15497-6

3.75 stars

In 1066, England finds itself overrun with Normans. Ailith, a young Saxon woman and the wife of a blacksmith, is living a content life even while her home country is invaded — until she loses both her husband and infant son on the same day. Her life comes to a halt and she sees no way to move on. In a few short hours, she goes from being the mistress of her own home to wet nurse to a Norman friend and living almost as a servant in their home.

Ailith’s life becomes even more complicated and unhappy by a wedding proposal from a man she despises. When a womanizing Norman named Rolf makes her mistress of his household of his newly acquired lands, she jumps at the chance at a new life. Ailith and Rolf soon fall in love and a daughter, Julitta, is born. When circumstances change quickly, Ailith is forced to make the difficult decision to leave Rolf and her life behind.

Elizabeth Chadwick is a writer I like a lot. I tend to fall in love with her characters and their intricate relationships. In this book, I liked Ailith. She was strong and proud but is also deeply scarred and vulnerable. She gets moody and dark but has every right to feel the way she does after all she lost. Rolf, on the other hand, while likable, seems to think more of his horses than anything or anyone else. He spent too much time brooding and fantasizing about other woman for me to really like him.

The story is told in two parts. Ailith’s life and then her daughter Julitta’s. However, the story shifts abruptly and characters feel like they just disappear. Rolf, for instance, while he was still mentioned, only shows up to marry off Julitta, unsuitably I might add, and is gone again. The two stories, while connected, didn’t feel integrated and I felt like I was reading the same story with a few new characters thrown in.

But, all the above being mentioned, I still found myself liking the story. There’s romance — which I found I didn’t always get into even when large parts of the story hinge on two people finding happiness or at least of few hours of pleasure — and a lot of horses in this one. Although, I think maybe I had my fill of hands running down flanks for awhile. I don’t mind the romance part, I think it was just too much for me this time around. Chadwick is great at the historical details though and she does draw you in. You want to yell at her characters and cheer them on at the same time. While I don’t think this will rank up near the top as one of my favorite books of her’s, I don’t plan to stop reading her novels.