Friday, March 30, 2007

To Rescue a Rogue

Author: Jo Beverley
Published: September 5, 2006 (Signet)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 8/10

My first Jo Beverley, and it was pretty good!

Adamara St. Bride is on the verge of scandal, walking down a London street wearing nothing but a shift and stockings, covered with a blanket, and she needs help fast. She's quite aware that she's on the verge of being ruined should she be discovered, and takes refuge outside the front door of an old friend, Lord Darius Debenham. He finds her in front of his door and brings her inside and gets her cleaned up and clothed with one of his sister's old gowns, and is rather incensed at the idea of a man (old enough to be Mara's father) taking advantage of Mara and imprisoning her away from home sans clothing (so she can't escape), but that didn't stop the daring Mara.

She's cursed with what the St. Bride family calls "devil hair," inherited from the ancestor, Ademar St. Bride. It's very dark hair with red highlights, and only she and Simon, her older brother, have it. In short, it dooms Mara to a life of passion, recklessness, and obstinance. Mara's object of obstinance is now Dare. She realizes, after he rescues her, that she's loved him for the longest time, as he was always around when they were children. He has become a strong and kind man, but went through a tragic experience in the war. He was trampled by the cavalry when his horse was shot out from under him, and an evil Belgian widow nursed him back to health, but kept him captive by addicting him to opium. He's now trying to break away from the addiction, but the previous times he's tried, he's failed and almost died. This time, it's all or nothing, and Mara is going to make sure he succeeds... so they can live happily ever after.

There's not much more to the story beyond Mara and Dare trying to get through his addiction. There's a bit of intrigue when a spurned lover (Mara's old dude), tries starting a nasty rumor about Dare, saying that he was hiding from the fighting and that's why he was trampled by cavalry. They solve the problem quickly, with the help of the Rogues, a group of twelve men formed while youngsters at school. Jo Bev has a series of titles for these Rogues, and apparently, this is the final story to be told. I was confused sometimes, overwhelmed by the sheer number of new characters being thrown at me, as there are 10 living Rogues and most of them are married, so you meet their wives as well. Everyone feels it's honorable to be one of the Rogues, and even though some of their friends want to be in the group, you can only be a Rogue if you were in the original group, or if you marry into the exclusive club. So, that closes the doors to their male friends, even though they joke about it.

It was a great love story, but I didn't feel like it was very wildly passionate. It was a deep, steady love, and that's good too. Mara declares her love for him very early on, which I appreciate, and Dare admits his love and desire to marry her soon as well, which I appreciate even more. I get annoyed when the hero and heroine decide to love each other and live happily ever after in the last 5 pages in the book, making it feel like the end was far too abrupt. This is why I'm so fond of epilogues.

I will definitely read more Jo Bev in the future.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Author: Lauren Royal
Published: September 3, 2002 (Signet)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Flower Trilogy #1
Rating: 10/10

It seems Lauren Royal's trilogies always get off to strong starts! I absolutely fell in love with the hero and heroine of Violet. Ford Chase, Viscount Lakefield, the youngest brother in the Chase family of the Jewel trilogy finally has his story told, and we're introduced to the Ashcroft sisters who live near his estate. Violet, the eldest and least beautiful (in her opinion), is the latest subject to one of her matchmaking mama's schemes, although she doesn't know it.

While on his way to Lakefield, Ford stops by Greystone, Colin and Amy's estate (from Amethyst), only to find that he won't be admitted because there's an outbreak of measles in the house. As their daughter Jewel hasn't caught it yet, Colin is begging Ford to take Jewel and her nursemaid to Lakefield. Ford, being an absentminded professor type of man (albeit a hot geek), isn't too crazy about having to take care of Jewel, but he figures the nursemaid will do all the work. Unfortunately, they realize the nursemaid's come down with the measles during the trip to Lakefield and drop her off in her home village to recover. Ford suddenly finds himself responsible for his little niece when he'd really like to be working on a new version of the pocket watch (one that has a minute hand).

Thanks to a rather coincidental visit by Lady Trentingham (Violet's mother), it's arranged that her son Rowan would make an excellent playmate for Jewel, a rambunctious and strong-willed little girl. And of course, she sent Violet along for the playdates. Violet is a shrinking violet, not one for being the center of attention, and Ford is attracted to this serious young woman who talks freely of her philosophical studies and shares actual conversation with him. He doesn't realize it yet, but he's falling for her, and it'll take him a while to realize this because he's so dense when it comes to women, even though he's acting like her beau. Soon after they first meet, Ford makes a pair of spectacles for her, as she is extremely nearsighted. This simple gesture changes Violet's world and she begins having feelings for the handsome viscount despite her determination to marry someone who doesn't want her for her inheritance... and Ford, with his dilapidated estate, is clearly in need of funds.

Their relationship is one of supporting each other's growth. Ford takes Violet to a ball honoring the Royal Society, introducing her to greats such as Isaac Newton and John Locke. Violet in turn, helps patent his newly improved pocket watch, which he has no inclination or ambition to sell. All he cared about was seeing if he could do it, and when it was done, it was time to move on to another project, like the deciphering of an ancient alchemical text that supposedly holds the secret to turning lead into gold.

Ford finally realizes that he'd like to marry Violet and have a family with her, but she rejects his marriage proposal, still believing that Ford wouldn't want to marry a plain girl like her unless it was for her fortune. To be fair, Ford doesn't really present a good picture to a girl with that idea in her head. He'd rather spend time working on his inventions and experiments than care for his property and the tenants. So Ford decides to fix up his house and lands, and make the ultimate sacrifice to show Violet that he means business when it comes to marrying her NOT for her money. He decides to sell the alchemy text, and when she finds out about it, she realizes that Ford really does love her and they're married shortly after that, as Violet's parents think she might be with child. She could've been, considering the times her mother schemed to get the unwitting lovebirds together alone.

We also see what could be a future novel, perhaps a trilogy about Colin and Amy's three children, for Jewel and Rowan. Jewel, as the precocious, confident little girl she is, has declared she will marry Rowan and that she loves him. Rowan doesn't exactly object, but he didn't like the kiss that Jewel pecked on his cheek. They didn't get off to the greatest of starts, with Rowan refusing to play, so Jewel gets revenge by playing a prank on him (she takes after her father, the official Chase prankster) and glued him to a chair rather cleverly.

This book made me giggle more than once, and it was really hard to hold it in on the subway. I have the rest of the Flower trilogy, which tells the stories of Violet's two younger sisters, but I'm going to ration them, rather than inhaling them all in a couple days. I have proofreading to finish anyways.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Author: Lauren Royal
Published: October 10, 2000 (Signet)
Category: Historical Romance
Rating: 7/10

In Emerald, we follow the romance of Jason Chase, Marquess of Cainewood, and eldest of the Chase family. He's always been the responsible one, acting as father to his three siblings since their parents died when he was sixteen.

The story begins with Jason pursuing two criminals, the Gothard brothers, who've severely injured a little girl in one of his villages. He feels responsible for little Mary and wants to bring the brothers to face justice. In his first encounter with the brothers, he fights a duel with Geoffrey Gothard (the brains of the operation), and when he's about to overcome Gothard, the scoundrel pulls an innocent bystander from the crowd to use as a human shield. Jason is unable to stop his charge in time and accidentally kills the man, giving Gothard time to shoot him in the shoulder. Stubbornly, Jason leaves his sickbed after two weeks, unable to escape the nightmares of little Mary and the innocent man, and continues his search. While following a lead, he discovers a woman dressed as a man confronting the brothers inside an inn. He thinks it's Emerald McCallum, the female Scottish bountyhunter responding to the reward he's offering for the Gothards' capture.

However, it's really Caithren Leslie of Scotland. Her father passed away recently and she stands to inherit all of Leslie, if she marries within a year. If she does not comply with the will, the estate will go to her irresponsible brother Adam instead. Cait knows that Adam is not suited to care for the land and the people, but she has no desire to marry and have her independence taken away from her. The solicitor suggests that Cait find Adam, who's currently visiting with friends and about to attend a wedding in London, and have him waive any rights to the estate in exchange for a living allowance. After tricking her hired traveling companion to leave her when they've reached England, she overhears the Gothards' plot. Geoffrey is planning on killing their brother, Lord Scarborough, and then Walter would inherit. She later confronts the men at the inn, and Jason rushes in to apprehend the Gothards.

Cait gets a little injured in the scuffle, landing on Jason's sword, and the Gothards get away while Jason worries about yet another person he's responsible for. While tending her wounds, he realizes this must be Emerald McCallum, what with her confronting dangerous men alone and the emerald pendant she wears. He also does not believe Cait's claims that she is not Emerald and she's just trying to find her brother.

And so we spend most of the book with Cait and Jason traveling to London, each ragging on the other for being English/Scottish. Jason eventually realizes that Cait is actually telling the truth about her identity, but it takes him long enough to get around to it. I was starting to think he was a bit thick.

Blah blah blah, they get the bad guys in the end and Jason meets the real Emerald McCallum and gives her twice the reward amount he posted because he didn't want her leaving her two children again for this dangerous profession.

What I didn't like about this book? Cait's Scottish accent is painstakingly visible in all her dialogue and it got really annoying. I'm used to crones using "ye," but Cait always said "you" that way and all the "I dinna ken" for "I didn't know" was grating to me and kept me from enjoying the story. The other thing I didn't like? Jason's obstinance in believing that Cait was Emerald. He refused to listen to everything she said about why she was traveling to London, and a couple hundred pages later, he looked like a fool. I didn't think that was in his character make-up to be so narrow minded.

But I love the way Royal has her books set up. I got to see my favorite characters, Colin and Amy, again, enjoying their happy ending granted in Amethyst. It's so easy for me to read a bunch of Royal's books at the same time because I've already met and fallen in love with the characters in previous books. It's like reading a really long book instead of a trilogy, and incidentally, Ford Chase's story is told in Violet, the first book in Royal's second trilogy. Everything links together brilliantly.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Author: Lauren Royal
Published: February 1, 2000 (Signet)
Category: Historical Romance
Series: Jewel Trilogy #1
Quote of choice: "Men can be so stupid sometimes. Are you sure you want to marry this one?"
Rating: 10/10

I literally could not put this book down! I grabbed it off my bookshelf at home before leaving for work on Friday morning and finished it in the wee hours that same day (probably counted as Saturday morning though). This book had everything I like in a romance novel!

In this impressive debut novel, we meet the Chase family of the Restoration period. The eldest is Jason, Marquess of Cainewood (we meet his descendants in Royal's "Sweet Temptations" trilogy), then Colin, Earl of Greystone, and then the twins, Kendra and Ford. I've already read Kendra's story in Amber and it was good, but certain parts of the plot annoyed me too much to fully enjoy the story. Each of the Chases has his/her story told in a novel, but Ford was left to the end and wound up in the "Flower" trilogy instead.

Colin's title was bestowed as a reward for faithful services to King Charles and along with the title came Greystone, an estate in serious disrepair. To restore the property, Colin is engaged to Lady Priscilla Hobbs, or as Kendra quips, "Lady Priscilla Snobs." Clearly, the rest of the Chase siblings are not fond of Colin's choice, but he had sound logic in choosing an heiress with a title and all the right connections. Everything an earl should want for a wife, right? Perhaps not.

Amethyst Goldsmith (Amy to her friends) is the daughter of a prominent jeweler in London. She has a natural talent for her craft and her parents have (against the times), trained her and encouraged her skills, and their nurturing shows in her beautiful pieces and the frequent commissions she gets from their customers. Amy has also been betrothed to the shop's apprentice, Robert, although she has no feelings for him, especially since he's made it clear that no wife of his will work. His attitude is understandable for the time period, but he's also jealous of Amy because she's better at jewelry making than he is. Amy tries to bring this up with her father and express her distaste at the idea of marrying Robert, but her father, lost in his grief over his recently deceased wife, says that Amy must marry and carry on their family's trade, saying that Robert only says those things about Amy being forbidden to work because he's feeling impotent (heh!) as an apprentice.

Colin and Kendra visit the Goldsmiths' jewelry shop to buy her a birthday locket, and they choose one of Amy's design, as well as commission Colin's signet ring with Amy, making Robert jealous yet again. After the signet ring is delivered, Amy and Colin don't see each other for a few months, when the great fire of 1666 devastates London. The fire is visible from Greystone, and the Chase brothers race to London to provide what help they can. Colin rescues a dozen children and comes across Amy, dragging a heavy trunk, and rescues her from certain death when she tries to go back into her house to save her father. In a sort of suspension of ordinary social rules, Colin takes Amy with him to Cainewood, along with the children.

The two are attracted to each other, but each is aware that they have obligations. Colin needs an heiress with a title and Amy promised her father she'd keep their jewelry business alive. However, those doubts aren't strong enough to keep the two from stealing kisses, and to Colin's chagrin, their first night on the road back to Cainewood provides them with one inn room with two beds for a dozen children and two adults.

The book is long, and we follow Colin and Amy as they fall in love despite their rules and objections. Colin even gives Amy up in London when his family arrives, telling them to put her on a ship to France so she can join her aunt. I was a bit upset that Colin didn't want to marry her at that point because he found out about her inheritance, a huge stash of jewels and gold in the trunk she was dragging along during the fire. However, he understands that the gold is in her family for the business, and he wouldn't ask her to give it up to save Greystone. He's already spent part of Priscilla's dowry on repairs. I kept thinking that it would be awfully simple to propose to Amy and use some of the gold to pay back the money spent, but Colin's sense of honor is highly developed (to the point of being stubborn).

Soon after that, Amy's ex-fiancé shows up and attempts to convince her to marry him. She refused and Kendra had to punch the jerk so they could escape, but Robert kidnaps Amy in the middle of the night, intending to marry her in a church outside the city walls. In two particular churches, an impromptu marriage ceremony can take place without a license or consent from the bride, for the right price. Robert really wants Amy for her inheritance, and to control her as he was never able to do when he was an apprentice.

Of course, Colin rescues her and marries her that same day. Amy enjoys being welcomed to the boisterous Chase family. Hell, after reading this book, I wanted to be a member of the Chase family. The siblings have this amazing banter and camaraderie, and are fiercely protective of one another, even if someone hasn't married into the family yet. From the get-go, Colin's siblings voiced their opinion that he should marry Amy instead of Lady Snobs. Amy, the exact opposite of Lady Snobs, loves Greystone and uses some of her inheritance to restore the estate, bringing it to profitable status and ridding Colin of his debt to Lord Hobbs. Snobs refused to marry Colin until Greystone was fit for her luxurious style of living, and also hated his practical jokes. Amy heartily accepted Colin's jokes and laughed along, even pulling pranks on the so-called prank master. They were a lovely couple to read about and I look forward to their cameo appearances in later novels.

One of the best features of this book is the length of the timeline. The story doesn't just end at their marriage; we get to witness the birth of their first child and see a glimpse into their future six years from then. I loved this book, with its strong sense of family, from start to finish and it's a keeper, which means something to a girl with a small apartment and one bookcase.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Boleyn Inheritance

Author: Philippa Gregory
Published: December 2006 (Simon & Schuster)
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 8/10

I'll admit that I had no interest in reading Philippa Gregory up until a couple weeks ago. I figured that she was just another one of those authors that people suddenly go crazy for and say that she's the best thing since sliced bread. Can a book about the wives of a fat tyrant be that interesting? Will I be disappointed like when I doggedly read the first three books of the Shopaholic series? But then a free copy of The Boleyn Inheritance fell into my lap, thanks to my boss, and I figured I'd give it a shot. After all, it's not like I wasted money on it, and I was pleasantly surprised very soon after I started reading it.

The story is narrated by three women: Jane Boleyn, Anne of Cleves, and Katherine Howard. Jane, widow of George Boleyn, is the sister-in-law to Anne Boleyn, and it was her testimony that sent the two to their deaths. She believes she made the incriminating statement to save George, but she was being manipulated by her uncle, the Duke of Norfolk (the most evil person in the story, in my opinion), who took advantage of Jane's jealousy of Anne. Anne of Cleves is King Henry's fourth wife, married for political reasons and quickly rejected by him when she shows her distaste for his appearance (he was practically as wide as he was tall, and smelled of rotting flesh from his old jousting wound). She reminded him of how old he actually was, when everyone else was pulling an "Emperor's New Clothes" on him, pretending that he's always the winner in everything and the most handsome man in court. Katherine is Henry's fifth wife, a silly girl of fifteen, and uses her beauty of whorish wiles to make Henry feel young again. She doesn't care for him, just the gifts he gives her.

The Boleyn Inheritance is rich with historical detail, and I found myself admiring Anne of Cleves for her courage. She knew Henry could execute her if he wanted to get rid of her, but she also didn't want to return to Cleves, as her brother was abusive (not sure if that's historically accurate). Because of the potential of insulting the Protestant nations, Henry could not execute her and instead annulled the marriage, claiming that her previous betrothal to a Duke of Lorraine's son was never canceled (it had been). She was given a generous settlement and made a Princess of England, and Henry called her his sister. Even after she survived the brief marriage to Henry, she remained cautious and prepared for the day Henry went back on his word and had her dragged to the Tower of London. Anne also used this time to grow into her own person, without having to worry about her brother or a crazy tyrant at her every step. People notice that Anne is actually a graceful and eloquent woman, far more suited to be queen than her successor.

I pitied Jane Boleyn, as it appears she's never been completely right in the head. She lived and breathed her service to the king and her uncle. She always believed she was doing her duty, whether it was right or wrong, and she was so easily manipulated by her uncle. It only stresses how much women were regarded as pawns in a gigantic power play.

As for Katherine Howard, I didn't pity her at all. She was a silly girl with no idea of what propriety was, and flirted with the king because he might give her sables or jewelry. She also didn't seem to consider the fact that she was in danger of execution like her aunt, Anne Boleyn, who died because of her supposed adultery. Katherine started having an affair (understandably though - Henry was old enough to be her grandfather and he stunk something awful) with Thomas Culpepper and they were both executed because of it.

The historical details and strong characters made for such a compelling story. The women's fear of being executed at the king's whim was almost palpable and I couldn't stop reading, even though I knew what was really going to happen to them. Well, it's been a while since I've had to study Henry VIII, so I did have to get a little Wikipedia refresher course.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ace of Hearts

Author: Barbara Metzger
Published: September 6, 2005 (Signet)
Category: Regency Romance
Series: House of Cards Trilogy #1
Rating: 8/10

Alexander "Ace" Endicott, Earl of Carde, is in a predicament. It is unavoidable that an earl must marry and sire the requisite heir, but when he makes this known, he quickly finds himself with a three-of-a-kind; three women have decided that they're engaged to Ace. The only solution that comes to Alex is to run to his country house, only to find that he's followed quickly by one of his supposed fiancées. He's on the road again before his valet has finished unpacking, and this time, he's going deep into the countryside to search for his long-lost half-sister.

Alex's stepmother died in a tragic carriage accident and her toddler was not amongst the wreckage. Alex's father declined soon after that and swore Alex to a deathbed promise that he would not stop searching for little Charlotte. In his stepmother's hometown, he tries to interview her remaining family: her crazy aunt who claims she can talk to ghosts, and her two cousins, Nell and her stingy brother (whose name I can't recall). The brother has run off as soon as he hears Alex is in town, Alex calls on his stepgreataunt and cousin. At the end of his visit, he is attacked by a goose and Nell, and injured by his horse trying to protect Nell and the silly goose. He's also amazed at this time that Nell has grown into a beautiful woman (he hasn't seen her in over a decade, when she was a little girl).

So Nell nurses Alex and they reconnect and deal with the problems falling on their heads. For one, she's invited one of her old schoolmates, who also happens to be one of Alex's fiancées, as she didn't know the engagement was all in the deluded young lady's head. They're also trying to figure out why the estate is so poorly cared for. The tenants' homes are in disrepair and some tenants have left entirely, so where have all the profits gone? Apparently, Nell's brother is an absolute scumbag, and deserves to jump off the roof, which he attempts.

The mystery of the missing money is linked to the mystery of the missing sister, but there is no clear resolution to it at the end of Ace of Hearts. I'm sure the resolution is to come in the later books of the trilogy.

The romance was a bit slow to take off and I thought injecting the suitors for Nell was boring. One suitor? Fine. But a bunch? All the men suddenly find Nell interesting (despite living in a haunted house with a crazy old lady who claims she can converse with ghosts) because Alex seems to be interested in her. If she's good enough for an earl, she's good enough for them!

Alex eventually proposes marriage to Nell, but she wants him to be sure of his decision, saying that if he can go to London and purchase a special license and come back with his mind still made up, then she will marry him. I'm glad he didn't even make it all the way to London, as he realized that he wanted her to go with him and he couldn't be without her any longer, and turned the carriage around. It's a good thing he did, because Nell's brother was about to leap off the roof, and Alex had to save the scoundrel, doing so rather heroically and sealing the deal as Nell's hero thereafter.

Some people might complain that Alex was a horrible hero because he seems so cowardly, running away from his problems all the time. That's what I thought too at first, when I wasn't being amused by the idea of this man running away from three women in wedding dresses. Alex even admits that he's the scholarly one of the family. His younger brother Jack, who's fighting on the peninsula, is the brave one. Alex was actually terrified on the roof and preferred that Nell's brother just jump and be done with the act. However, he went on the roof despite his nerves and saved the man for Nell.

Everything ties together quite neatly, and Alex even manages to foist some of his fiancées off onto some of Nell's pseudo-suitors, which appeals to my very efficient nature.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Girl's Guide to Witchcraft

Author: Mindy Klasky
Published: October 2006 (Red Dress Ink)
Category: Chick Lit
Rating: 7/10

This is my first Red Dress Ink book, and I thought it was absolutely delightful. I wouldn't even call this a paranormal because it wasn't the main point of the book. It was more about the main character overcoming her problems. The magic just happened to be there and the story wasn't about her overcoming the control or training of her powers.

Jane Madison is a reference librarian at the Peabody Free Library, a library specializing in 18th century documents, so it's not the kind of library people come in for light reading. And since it's not one of those kinds of libraries, money's really short, and the board has just decided to cut Jane's pay by 25%. Since she can't afford to pay her rent with new salary, her boss Evelyn has offered her the cottage on the Peabody grounds, at no charge. Sweet deal, right? But Jane has to start wearing colonial costumes courtesy of Williamsburg, VA to attract more walk-ins.

On Jane's first night in her new home, she stumbles across a secret key that unlocks the basement door. Inside, she discovers a library of what looks to be magic books and a large statue of a black cat. She chooses a passage to read aloud and awakens the familiar housed within the statue. However, it doesn't take the form of a cat— instead, he takes the form of a very handsome (and very flamboyantly gay) man named Neko.

With her first use of magic comes the entrance of David Montrose, a warder (someone who enforce's the coven's rules), and Jane has used magic without registering with the coven first. After a couple times of catching Jane using magic while under the influence, he agrees to train her, but kisses her after one of the lessons. He quickly says that they have to stay away from that so their working relationship isn't ruined, so the romantic possibility sort of fades away, except for a slight tension hovering in the air.

The true object of Jane's affection is Jason Templeton, an assistant professor at a fictional university, a frequent patron of the Peabody. Jane calls him her imaginary boyfriend because she's always imagining their happy ending. After she discovers her magical ability and accidentally casts a love spell while drunk, Jason begins to see Jane and even attends her family reunion. But as in many a chick lit novel, he turns out not to be the man Jane dreamed him to be.

However, she doesn't turn to David Montrose, who is there for her when Jason disappoints her. The happy ending is one of those, "I'm going to be strong and dedicate myself to learning magic seriously." However, she said she'd take it seriously earlier and she didn't really do that because she was too busy making calf's eyes at Jason the scumbag.

There's a sequel scheduled for this fall, Sorcery and the Single Girl and I'm hoping there'll be more magic, but I have a feeling it'll be more of a chick lit book again.

Wait Until Midnight

Author: Amanda Quick
Published: February 1, 2005 (Berkley)
Category: Historical Romance/Mystery
Rating: 7/10

Adam Hardesty has discovered the murder scene of the woman who's blackmailing him. She's one of the mediums who've popped up on the scene as psychical studies have sparked Society's interest. Of course, all of the mediums are charlatans, employing cheap tricks to fool their customers. Unfortunately, the diary containing the details of Adam's past is missing and he must have it back or else the future of his younger sister will be ruined. He and his siblings aren't actually the long-lost relatives and heirs of Wilson Grendon, wealthy businessman. In fact, Adam isn't really related to his siblings. He used to live off the streets of London, selling secrets that belonged to the patrons of whores. He rescued his three siblings from their terrible fates on the streets, teaching them how to read and giving them a safe place to live. The eldest sister has married the Earl of Southwood in a love match (and he knows her true heritage); the brother is a scholar; the youngest sister is about to make her debut, and she is the one who would be harmed most by the blackmail information.

One clue found at the murder scene is a list of the last seance sitters, and one name has been underlined: Mrs. Caroline Fordyce, widowed author of serialized sensational novels. He pays her a morning visit, questioning her about the seance and suggests that Caroline and her aunts could've committed the murder, but takes it back . While Adam is speaking with her, Caroline decides to make Adam the model for the villain in her latest story.

They team up for the murder investigation because Caroline is determined to solve the crime herself, so Adam won't have cause to accuse her again. While Adam has secrets, so does Caroline, because she's not really a widow. She was invovled in a scandal in her previous hometown and changed her name and made up a dead husband. Her widowed status allows her to move more freely in Society, and her successful writing career supports her and her two aunts. Caroline is afraid that Adam will reveal her secret and the life she worked to build will be taken away from her.

In the course of the investigation, the two opposite personalities realize they get along and work together quite well. They attend a seance conducted by Irene Toller, the main competition of the the murdered medium. During the seance, Irene claims to have come in contact with the deceased Mr. Fordyce, and Adam trys consoling Caroline in the carriage, saying that the fraud (they know her tricks) shouldn't have preyed on her feelings like that. Caroline takes a risk and decides to trust Adam, telling him the truth about her marital status, or lackthereof. Adam begins to trust her and takes her to his old home where he raised his adopted siblings, telling her the secret of his family, the one he's being blackmailed for. They also get it on, which is no surprise because they're alone in a safe location, and they're attracted to each other. It's a good thing they were together, because it provides Adam with an alibi when Irene turns up dead and evidence planted at the crime scene pointing at him.

The murder mystery was rather good for a regency romance, and also surprisingly layered. Adam's dislike of being made the villain of a widely-read sensation novel makes for amusing reading, and you know that Caroline will make the villain the unexpected hero. There's the usual turning-down-the-marriage-proposal hooha, where Caroline thinks Adam is only offering to marry her to save her reputation. She wants to be loved, and Society believes she is a widow anyway, so there's nothing to worry about her reputation. Adam doesn't know that Caroline won't marry him because he hasn't admitted his love to her verbally. I sometimes wich that the heroine will just state the problem to her man and see how he'd react to that honesty.

Anyways, it was a good book to while away the time before Amanda Quick's new book, The River Knows is published.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: March 2003 (Ace)
Category: SciFi/Fantasy
Rating: 7/10

Gabriel Aaron (Gaaron for short) is the Archangel-to-be in just a year and he has gone to an oracle to learn the name of his intended bride. An Edori woman named Susannah has been chosen, and he must find her while dealing with a strange new threat to Samaria. Men have been appearing across the land, but disappearing as soon as they're spotted. People have also started finding Edori and Jansai campsites scorched through some unknown means.

Susannah has left her birth clan and is following the clan of her lover, Dathan. However, he's a total hound dog, flirting with other girls frequently and he cheats on her. Gaaron arrives in her camp just as she and Dathan have a big old argument about the state of their relationship, and he talks to her kindly, and dropping the bomb on how she's supposed to be his Angelica. The next day, she realizes Dathan will never be faithful to her and allows Gaaron to sweep her up in his arms and goes back to the Eyrie with him.

Susannah has a hard time adjusting to the livestyle at the Eyrie and she's concerned with the fact that she and Gaaron aren't in love. She winds up falling in love with Gaaron after she sees what a kind and fair man he really is. However, they can't seem to talk to each other about their feelings, because he's fallen in love with her too. She refuses to marry him because he hasn't said he loves her, but of course, doesn't say that this is the problem. Gaaron has admitted that he's not good with handling women, and it never occurs to him to say that he loves Susannah. However, it's partially her fault too because she didn't tell him her true feelings either.

Because of this "I'm not going to say it first," we didn't really see the two as a happy couple until the last two pages of this book. I was a little disappointed by this. Don't expect a satisfying story about these two characters. Instead, look to the story of Gaaron's bitchy younger sister Marian. She winds up running away to an Edori clan and becomes instrumental in solving the mystery of disappearing strange men.

Susannah is a part of saving Samaria, but I really thought it was going to be something more exciting. She's got two kisses (a kiss is a small crystal implanted when a Samarian is a baby, and it helps Jovah keep track of them) implanted, and that is very rare. The second kiss by her ear has given her strange dreams filled with Jovah's voice for her entire life. She has been chosen to help Jovah get rid of the invaders. This isn't because she's got some special power or skill. Nope, it's really because she's gullible! After she helps Jovah get rid of the invaders, she's convinced that it was all a dream and I was disappointed in her for accepting it so easily.

Don't look to this book for romance. For a scifi/fantasy it's pretty good. It's far from the deepest one I've read, but it's entertaining and good for those who are just dipping their feet into the genre for the first time.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Friday Night Knitting Club

Author: Kate Jacobs
Published: January 18, 2007 (Putnam)
Category: Fiction
Quote of Choice: We don't all love our jobs every day. And doing something you have a passion for doesn't make the work part of it any easier... it just makes you less likely to quit.
Rating: 8/10

Georgia Walker is a single mom to a twelve-year-old daughter, aptly named Dakota, and supports their tiny family by running the Walker and Daughter knitting shop. While knitting pieces on commission, Georgia opened the knitting store and it has become a well-frequented shop on New York's Upper West Side.

The Friday Night Knitting Club is the remarkable story of Georgia and the other women connected to her through her store. Slowly, a group of repeat customers made a habit of sticking around after hours on Fridays, partaking in Dakota's baked goods (she aspires to have her own show on Food Network) and give each other knitting advice and working out their life problems with each knot they work into their projects.

This is one of those books that is so multifaceted in terms of characters that it's hard to describe because so many stories are being told at the same time. If you asked me about any of the characters, I'd be able to tell you about her storyline, but it's hard for me to write about each of them. I got sucked into the book over two days, and it was one of those books. You know, the kind you read on the subway and don't realize that you're about to arrive at the end of your commute. You hurry to stuff the book back into your bag, but almost reluctantly do so, even though you know you have to get off at this subway stop or else you'll be late for work.

The women, of different levels of knitting skills, are also in different stages of life, and realizing that life doesn't always work out the way you expect. Georgia's boyfriend got her pregnant twelve years ago, and is suddenly back in her life, trying to become the awesome father to her daughter, and she's resentful. Is she resentful because of what happend in the past or the way James is practically buying his daughter's affection?

There's also Peri, the brilliant almost-law school student who chooses to leave her perfect GPA and LSAT scores behind to design pocketbooks. Then there's Lucie, who decides to have a baby by herself at the age of forty because she wants one, man in her life or no man in her life. There's also Anita, widowed after a loving marriage to a wonderful man. She was Georgia's first client and sponsored her knitting store with a loan. Anita now finds that she might want to start dating again at the age of 72 while her sons are trying to get her to move in with them, thus taking away her independence. How about KC, who loses her job in publishing and decides to go to law school in her middle age (doing a reverse of what I did). And last, there's Darwin, working on her dissertation for a Ph.D. in feminism; she's studying the knitting club, trying to understand why these women cling to an old fashioned skill that does nothing for their advancement in the modern world. She's trying so hard not to be the stereotypical "good Asian girl" that it's actually hurting her because her husband is so good and kind to her, despite the bumps in their young marriage.

Chances are, with so many different characters, you're bound to relate to at least one of them in some way. I enjoy knitting and baking, which are mentioned quite frequently, as they are always present in the club meetings, so I felt so cozy while reading this book. I actually curled up in bed on Friday night to finish reading it. The only reason this book didn't get a higher rating is because of the last 80 pages of the book. I'm not a fan of killing off a character just for the sake of drama and a life lesson, because it's not like there wasn't death present earlier in the book (Anita's husband passing away).

Still, even with that unnecessary death, I would highly recommend this book, especially to those who enjoy knitting!