The Sherwood Ring

By Elizabeth Marie Pope

“A gentleman can hardly continue to sit,’ he explained, in his serenest and most level voice, ‘when he asks a very remarkable young lady to do him the honor of marrying him. And – ‘he somehow contrived to grin at me wickedly, ‘I usually get what I want, Miss Grahame,’ he added, and pitched over in a tangled heap on the floor.”

This was a lovely light read involving friendly helpful ghosts and 3 charming love stories. I would have been so captivated had I read this as a young teen. I was pretty captivated as an adult. I would recommend this for any romantic teen who loves innocent love stories and history. Peaceable Sherwood was a wonderful character who provided a good portion of the gentle humor in this tale. He reminded me of Geoffrey Delavale in Patricia Veryan’s Journey to Enchantment

Rating: 4 out of 5.

September 27, 2019

Every Secret Thing

By Susanna Kearsley (Emma Cole)

Later on, when I looked back on it, the only explanation I could give for what I did next was that, at the time, I saw no other way. My life, as I was living now, was not a life. To be in fear, to be in hiding, using someone else’s name – this wasn’t how I wanted to go on. And it would never stop, so long as both the murderer and I were still alive. My only thought on that long morning flight to London was that, one way or another, I would see it end, today.

This has been in my TBR pile for a very long time. I kept putting it off because I thought it was going to be a long and heavy WWII angst-ridden emotional journey with lots of tragedy that would require a big commitment in time and emotion, as most of her other books do. It did have some of that, but mostly it was a normal-sized mystery and adventure that was very reminiscent of Mary Stewart, if she had written her books today, instead of 60 or 70 years ago. The heroine of this one, Kate, had the narrative voice of a Mary Stewart heroine and I also enjoyed the travelogue-like descriptions of Lisbon, Enola, and Washington DC. In Susanna Kearsley’s books, you can follow along with our heroine on Google Earth and really almost be there, on the scene.

I won’t go into the plot, but like most of Susanna’s novels, it involves a dual timeline. In order to investigate the mystery, and later to ensure justice is served, Kate, our investigative journalist, tracks down and interviews the now elderly men and women who can shed light on a murder that happened during WWII in Lisbon, Portugal. Their reminiscences are all part of the puzzle but also provide an entertaining story involving love, intrigue, and a portrait of a hero: Andrew Deacon. But someone who wants to silence her and those who would help her solve the puzzle is following her. Someone powerful with high connections with Whitehall. No one is to be trusted, including an attractive man she meets on her quest. And once the murderer is revealed, how will she exact justice and end the danger to herself and others?

By the end, you marvel at all of the threads that have come together to provide the satisfying conclusion. There is poignancy and sadness in the part of the story that belongs to Kate’s grandmother, but no regret. Being a romantic at heart, I wished for more closure on the page for Kate’s happy ending, but I know in my heart she will have one very soon after I put the book down.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

September 5, 2021

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1)

by Ilona Andrews

Burn For Me was such a good book in so many ways. I loved Nevada, the heroine, and her snarky humor. I loved her family: They were all interesting and likable and they were all devoted to each other despite the normal family tensions. They also were funny, as was the book. And not that fake funny either. I was genuinely amused many many times. The action sequences were well done and exciting. The antagonists were hateable and scary. It was a page-turner that kept me very intrigued and involved throughout. I have never read an “urban fantasy” book before that I know of, so I found the world-building and premises creative and fascinating and entertaining. Mr./Ms Andrews does what I need in a good writer: They establish an intimate easy rapport with the reader making you part of the story rather than an outsider looking in. Yes, Ilona Andrews is a good writer. I had a lot of fun. And that makes the two things I did not like overlook-able.
Number one is I hated the hero and love interest, Mad Rogan. I will just say that he was a horrible human being. He was not a good man and he was controlling and abusive to our heroine, who was a very very good person.

“You have no regard for human life,” I said. “You saved the city, but I don’t think you did it because you genuinely cared about all those people. I think you did it because Adam Pierce got under your skin. You hire desperate soldiers, but you don’t do it to save them either. You do it because they offer you unquestioning loyalty. You rescued your cousin, but you had been content to ignore the existence of that whole branch of your family. Had you stepped into Gavin’s life earlier, perhaps he would’ve never met Adam Pierce. …You don’t seem to feel bad about things, and you offer gratitude only when you need to overcome some hurdle. I think you might be a psychopath. “I can’t be with you, no matter how crazy you make me, because you have no empathy, Rogan. The gulf between us, both financially and socially, is too great. So no, I won’t go away with you. I want to be with someone who would if not love, then genuinely care, for me. You are not that man.”

She really nailed it there. Sadly, although she stands up to him in this book and pulls no punches with him throughout, I see the handwriting on the wall. I will probably keep reading at least one more in this series in hopes that she whips him into shape as far as being a decent citizen and person is concerned, or at least gives him justification and a path to redemption in future books. The only reason I could tolerate his nonsense was that Nevada does not cave in mentally or emotionally. I’m pretty sure true love will be his salvation, but he needs to be humbled with some serious groveling on the side.

The other bad mark against this book was the author’s constant and repetitive obsession with worshipping at the altar of Mad Rogan’s looks and power. She/he won’t shut up about his godlike awesomeness, and Nevada’s unwilling attraction and physical response to him. I mean we got it the first dozen times, Ilona. Good Job. Now move on! I guess some readers like this type of over the top horny/sexy writing, but it’s not for me. But like I said, the positives greatly outweigh these annoying negatives.

I’ve learned to be very suspicious about authors who seem to produce more than 1 or so books a year and write exclusively series. Well, Ilona Andrews really churns them out, for sure, but if her/his books are this good, I will have been proven wrong in my prejudice. If they all show the same talent this book does, the more the merrier. And I have a lot of catching up to do.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

April 5, 2020

A Desperate Fortune

By Susanna Kearsley

Once again, we have a dual timeline. The modern girl is a codebreaker with Aspergers. Unfortunately, that sounds a lot more interesting than it was. She is trying to unveil the story of Mary Dundas, a Jacobite exile from the 1730s’, via her diary which is written in code. Susanna Kearsley has written about this era in history quite a bit, and she graces us with a few cameos of people from her previous books.

All in all, this one was rather slow, particularly the contemporary story of Sara. The romance in the historical part, however, was the best I’ve read by SK so far. She does not excel in this department, but the last scene with the big Scotsman and Mary was very sigh-worthy, bumping this one up from 3 stars to 4 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 7, 2016

Eugenia

By Clare Darcy

Richard, Richard, don’t say that to her!” said Lady Brassborough, horrified; but Richard was already out of the room. “Men!” said Lady Brassborough, regarding her empty cup with dark, disillusioned eyes. “If they can’t make a mull of a love scene one way, they’ll do it another!” She poured herself out another cup of chocolate.

I remember Clare Darcy from my youth as the next best thing to Georgette Heyer. Every time I went to the library I would check the shelf on every visit in hopes of a new title magically appearing on the shelf. In those days, before the internet, that’s what you did. I know I read all of her books back then, but strangely I only remember Elyza and Lady Pamela, which I remember were excellent. So I thought I’d give her another try.

On her way to London with her best friend, Muffet, to have her first season and snare a husband, Eugenia comes across a young man in an Inn who is being pursued by Bow Street Runners. She mistakes him for her wild and irresponsible cousin Gerald, but she learns he is really Richard, her cousin and the illegitimate son of the dead heir to a nice property in the country. Gerald is thought to have murdered a coachman while pretending to be a highwayman. Eugenia sets out to prove Richard, and eventually, Gerald is not guilty of the crime by catching the real murderer. At the same time, she is on a mission to prove that Richard’s parents were really married making Richard the true heir and thus a man of means. Eugenia is lively, redoubtable, and very “managing.”

The romance between Eugenia and Richard is definitely on the back burner and really only exists to provide a happy ending and a hopeful future for them both at the end of the adventure. There is just too many other things going on to spend much time on it: Mistaken identity, impersonation, murder, wrongful accusation, an accidental engagement to the wrong man, family squabbles, and later in the book the introduction of Lady B, an eccentric old tart who is luckily on the side of our heroes and heroines.

The book is engagingly written despite Clare Darcy’s very long run-on sentences. It is not a social comedy as most regencies are, but a romp and an adventure. It is light and fluffy with likable characters and I’ll probably try another one down the road.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

August 16, 2021

Orphan X

By Gregg Hurwitz

There’s a Cherokee legend. An elder tells his grandson about the battle that rages inside every person.” “The two wolves.” “That’s right. One wolf is anger and fear and paranoia and cruelty. The other is kindness, humility, compassion, serenity. And the boy asks his grandfather, ‘Which wolf wins?’ You remember the answer?” “‘The one you feed.’” “That’s right. Our challenge?” Jack folds his cloth napkin, wipes a smudge of Alfredo from the edge of his plate. Then he looks directly into Evan’s eyes. “Feed both.”

Excellent thriller along the lines of the movies John Wick, The Equalizer, and the Bournes. It also reminded me of Trevanian’s great Shibumi. Lots of twists and turns, action, shocking developments, and a hero you like, admire, and root for. And not only for his physical survival but for his emotional development as well. It has lots of other things including humor (a bit). The ending promises a return of many characters both good and evil in subsequent books. I guarantee I will be reading on. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

March 7, 2020

The Woman Left Behind

By Linda Howard

Jumping from a high altitude required oxygen. Jumping at night required night-vision goggles. Jumping at all required either nerves of steel or the brain of a hamster. Her nerves definitely weren’t steel, so Jina figured her brain was rodentlike.

Lots of great witty banter, and smart mouth observations from our very likable and appealing heroine. Great action and hot romance. I forgot what an excellent writer Linda Howard was. I think I stopped reading her because she got away from the lighter humor/action plots and into more serious stuff. She does have a tendency to overkill some aspect of the plot. In Troublemaker it was her dog and his damn ball. In this one, it was her parachuting experience (40pp in a row: over 10% of the book). Lather, rinse, repeat, lather, rinse, repeat ad infinitum. But in this one, once it was over, it was over. Also, she made up for it by not belaboring her survival story in the desert. Again, very funny, great cast of characters, and great chemistry and tension between the romantic leads**** 4.25 stars****

Rating: 4 out of 5.

April 24, 2018

Troublemaker

By Linda Howard

“Oh, how sweet. Let me check my give-a-shit meter to see where that registers. Nope, nothing there. Sorry.”

Linda Howard used to be one of my favorite authors, but after a few disappointments, she slipped off my radar screen. I thought I’d revisit her again, hoping that she had regained her appeal. As mentioned by many reviewers, there was way too much dog in this. Even the dog’s toy (a ball) had over 120 mentions. I skipped through the last half. There were some good parts, here and there, and some good characters. Enough that I will probably check out the next in the series that this one begins. The clue to the mystery was in plain sight and I just didn’t see it. I felt very stupid. So good on her.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

July 07, 2016

How to Stop Time

by Matt Haig

One of the reasons people don’t know about us is that most people aren’t prepared to believe it. Human beings, as a rule, simply don’t accept things that don’t fit their worldview.

This is the chief comfort of being four hundred and thirty-nine years old. You understand quite completely that the main lesson of history is: humans don’t learn from history. The twenty-first century could still turn out to be a bad cover version of the twentieth, but what could we do?

This was a very good book that I enjoyed. Matt Haig is a very good writer, as I could scarcely put it down. It’s full of insightful observations about time, history, love, grief, etc. I will certainly be putting Humans on my want-to-read list. It was, however, despite its subject matter, a very light book. It did not move me to tears or laughter. One of the main threads was Tom’s search for his daughter, who we learn and he learns has the same condition: That is, he only ages 1 year for every 15 he lives. what a fascinating premise! Unfortunately, I felt the climax and resolution were too quick and pat. I was hoping for more of a mystery and big reveal concerning his search of hundreds of years for his exceptional daughter and how the problematic Hendrich Pieterson and his mafia-like protection agency were dealt with. More ground could have been laid as far as his daughter’s background, for example. I would have liked her and his 21st-century love, Camille, to be connected somehow to his past in a shocking, but great and good way. As enjoyable and interesting as this book was, it just didn’t live up to the opportunities its premise seemed to promise.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

March 17, 2018

Things You Save in a Fire

By Katharine Center

This was about a 3-star book until the last 20%, which is about the time I had to change to the Kindle version because my audiobook was due back to the library. Cassie was a remarkable character. As the book opens, she is a 26-year-old woman who was abandoned by her mother 10 years earlier on the same day she endured a sexual assault. This had crippled her emotionally although the double trauma has led to her being an award-winning fireman and nothing less than spectacular at her job. She is forced to leave her progressive and modern fire team in Austin, Texas, and take a position in an old-school Boston area firehouse. To put it mildly, the Boston guys do not hold with women being firefighters. She has to move in with her estranged mother who is ill, and plus she kind of loses her temper at an old enemy at a very public ceremony, so she really has little choice but to move.

I was afraid, at this point, that we were going to be put through the wringer of anger and frustration as we watched Cassie deal with prejudice and chauvinistic attitudes. But Cassie earns their respect pretty much right away, and she is not subjected to a lot of cruelty and harassment. There is a problem with one of the firefighters that starts over halfway through the book and she is not fully accepted as part of the team until the end. But I am glad I, the reader, was not subjected to a lot of unremitting angst and injustice. Also, humor is used pretty effectively throughout.

There is a romance with a fellow fireman which I was not all that invested in, unfortunately. Much of the book is devoted to Cassie coming to terms with her mother and learning to understand and forgive not only her mother but others, including herself. Also, she feels like she has to demonstrate her physical strength and mental toughness to her peers time and again. At times I found Cassie’s physical prowess and toughness towards others a bit grating and unrealistic. By the end of the book, in which she triumphs over everyone and everything, she is a “legend.” I felt like a folksong about her was imminent, so it is a little over the top.

The last 20% is pretty white-knuckle reading and her ultimate vindication from scandal and false accusations is pretty epic. It lifted a 3+star book up to 4. Though this might have been because I switched to reading instead of listening. I’m sure some readers will roll their eyes over the “girl needs man and babies to be happy” epilogue. But I chose to take the message that human love and understanding are what make life worth living. It does include romantic love (after all, this is kinda chick-lit) but love for family, friends, yourself, and your fellow man as well.

I even read a whole book on the psychology of post-traumatic growth, and how, in the wake of the terrible, traumatic, unfair, cruel, gaping wounds that life inflicts on us, we can become wiser and stronger than we were before. Am I wiser and stronger now? Without question. Even in the wake of it all. I’ve spent so much time wishing that what happened never happened. But it did. And the question I try to focus on is, What now?

**4 stars out of 5**

Rating: 4 out of 5.

January 1, 2020