Monday, October 6, 2014

Aftershock

Heroine: Lauren Boyer
Hero: Garrett Wright

Aftershock

Whoa.  This book was a great ride.  Lots of sexual tension and danger.  The characters were well developed.

The storyline is this: massive earthquake hits San Diego area, killing lots of people.  Nine people are trapped between two collapsed freeways.  Fortunately, one of those people is a paramedic with an ambulance full of medical supplies.  Unfortunately, an escaped convict stole the dead guard's gun and is wasting limited resources (food and water).  Alliances are formed, friendships are created, and love blossoms.  The pace is fast, the situations are realistic, and the book is awesome.  I highly recommend.

I Married the Duke

Heroine: Arabella Caulfield
Hero: Lucien Westfall, aka Comte de Rallis, aka Captain Andrew

I Married the Duke

I was disappointed with this book.  Some scenes seemed more like dreams than reality.  Scenes which should have been fraught with drama were anticlimactic.  There were aspects of the book that didn't make sense or weren't adequately resolved.  Things were alluded to, but not really confirmed.  The loose ends that were resolved, were a bit too tidy.  (This is the first book in a three-book series, but my feelings of discontent have nothing to do with the overarching theme.  I do intend to continue reading the trilogy.)  The following opinions contain massive spoilers, so please quit reading if you hate that sort of thing.

Luc is the heir to a duchy (dukedom) via an uncle.  His uncle dies, leaving a pregnant wife.  The baby will inherit (before Luc) if it is a boy.  Of course, the aunt has suffered many miscarriages and stillbirths prior to this pregnancy, so they don't even know if the baby will survive.  The uncle and aunt haven't been in the same location for at least 14 months.  Obviously the baby is not legitimate, meaning Luc will inherit, but only if the aunt publicly admits to her adultery.  The villain is not the aunt, as one might suspect.  The villain is her brother; we'll call him Bishop (His name is Absalom Fletcher, Bishop of Barris).

Bishop raised Luc and Christos (Luc's younger brother) after their dad died and their mother ran away to France.  Their uncle had guardianship of them, but he let his friend/brother-in-law raise them.  Bishop was clearly a poor excuse for a man.  His inadequacies include imprisoning his nephews and withholding food.  He also, it is alluded to but never stated outright, molests pre-pubescent/pubescent boys.  I gathered that Christos suffered more molestation than Luc, but since the issue wasn't discussed in a forthright manner, I'm merely guessing.  Luc believes Christos is unfit (presumably because of this abuse) to inherit the duchy.  Bishop created Whitechapel School, a school for boys, by allegedly using money he extorted from the duchy's tenant farmers.  It is supposedly due to this extortion (and perhaps a recent famine) that the tenant farmers are so destitute.

None of that really has anything to do with the first twelve chapters.  Bishop is referred to in the first chapter, as well as Christos, but the story mainly focuses on Luc and Arabella.

Things started to fall apart for me in Chapter Nine, entitled "The Vows."  Luc's cousin and the ship's doctor/priest rush to help an injured Luc on the beach.  Luc is near death, and he and Arabella had just made love.  The cousin decides that Luc and Arabella need to marry immediately.  The reasons given are 1) Christos is unfit to inherit the duchy, 2) Arabella might be carrying Luc's heir, 3) Luc may not survive his injuries (unrelated to the love making).  Marriage will make Arabella's child (if she is pregnant) a legitimate heir, keeping Christos from having to inherit.  No one has told the cousin or the doctor/priest that sex occurred, but they can tell apparently.  Arabella confirms their suspicions, but the cousin suggested the wedding before that.  Arabella consents, and they wed.

This might be the time to mention that Arabella was nearly raped that same evening by three or four men.  Her reason for having sex was that she wanted to lose her virginity on her own terms.  She didn't tell Luc she was a virgin, but he realized it after the fact.  Those three or four guys then attacked Luc on the beach.  We later discover that the band of merry men were hired by Bishop's henchman; the rape was not part of the plan, the murder of Luc was.  So Luc's cousin declares Luc dead, allowing him time to recover aboard the ship before would-be murderers can attack again.  No one tells Arabella that she is not a widow; she finds out when her husband shows up alive.

I'm going to have to skip a lot of parts, but it turns out that the Church of England won't recognize the wedding on the beach since a Catholic priest performed the ceremony on French sand, so Luc and Arabella need to redo the vows, complete with reading of the banns.  Before the actual ceremony, Arabella leaves to do a little detective work, and they never say their vows (until the epilogue, presumably).  Arabella goes to Bishop's house, looking for something that would prove he was responsible for the poverty of the tenant farmers.  (She thinks it's the best time to go since he's at her wedding.)  She finds some papers on the Whitechapel School with donations from a tenant farmer in the name of his son(?).  Her detective work is thwarted by the henchman, Luc shows up and gets thrown in the room with her (so she won't be alone), and she realizes Luc had to grow up in this prison-like room (bars on the window).  He sort of reveals his child abuse, and then pops the bars out of the window.  He can't escape that way (too heavy for drain pipe), but she can.  Some more stuff happens, and they get free.  He only has one eye (I'm not even going to get into that), and his remaining eye was blinded by pepper in the escape, so he's blind temporarily.  He makes plans to meet Bishop on a bridge (while blind, with no one to help him) so he can get back a ring Arabella lost to the henchman.  They have a scuffle, his sight starts to come back, and Bishop dies (he lost his balance and fell off the bridge).  Meanwhile, Arabella convinces the aunt to admit publicly that her newborn son is illegitimate.  Everyone's happy.

The Whitechapel school is never mentioned again.  Some tenant farmers came to Luc (while he was still blind, before Bishop died) and told him that Bishop had extorted them, but the boys needed Luc to save them.  Why did they wait so long to tell him?  No reason I could discern.  Christos was at the wedding and seemed quite lucid; he alluded to the fact that he couldn't have children (and thus produce an heir for the duchy), but that was the only sign that he was "unfit" to inherit.  It was never stated if he was damaged below or simply unwilling to have sex after being raped by Bishop.

There was just so much going on in this book.  The beginning was so nice, but it just fell apart.  It was like three jigsaw puzzles on one table with pieces missing out of all of them; even if you could fit the pieces together, you were still missing some.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Must Love Breeches

Heroine: Isabelle Rochon
Hero: Phineas, aka Lord Montagu



First off, this is a time travel romance novel.  The heroine travels back to 1834.  She's in London.  I have to address the epilogue before I get into my thoughts of the book.  I hated the epilogue; well, mainly the last three paragraphs.  Here's the quote that riled me up: "And in 1973 she would travel back and start her life here."  'She' is the heroine Isabelle Rochon.  The same heroine that had a cell phone capable of taking photographs.  There weren't cell phones in 1973 [also her contact lenses were advanced for 1973].  This is somewhat reconciled by the subsequent line: "Whether she'd shifted the timeline in subtle ways or not, she'd never know."  So apparently she altered the world she lived in; smart phones were invented twenty to thirty years later in the real world.  Since she knew about cell phones, her life was on some sort of loop where the phones and the internet were always available in the year 1973.  The throwaway line at the end of the book stating Isabelle travelled back in time in the year 1973 ruined the epilogue for me.  If there was some hint at the beginning of the book that the year was 1973 and Isabelle had a cell phone, that would have been an awesome foreshadowing moment.  But tossing it in at the end of the book makes it seem like an afterthought, like "hey, let's say she went back in time before cell phones existed, so the reader knows her time jump really affected the world."

I have other issues with the time travel aspects of the book.  Isabelle searches for a way to return to her time, always assuming that once she time travels again, she'll return to 1973.  Not only will it be 1973 when she returns, she assumes that every day she spends in 1834 will be a day that goes by in 1973 without her there.  Why does she assume that?  Firstly, if I thought I'd return to the year I left, I would assume I'd return moments later, regardless of the time spent in the past.  Secondly, I wouldn't be confident that another time traveling moment would return me to where I came from; it could just as easily send me back even further in time.  I do not believe that time travel is possible; I realize it is science fiction/fantasy.  Even so, I would have preferred the heroine was a little less confident that she knew how this time travel stuff worked.  Or if she had been confident, it would have been fun to see her expectations turn out wrong.

Isabelle writes letters [in 1834] to her friend Katy [in 1973] telling her to take care of a cat and tell her boss what was going on, with the intent that Katy would get these letters via her bank.  Okay.  Fine.  But once Isabelle knew what she was going to do, why didn't she throw away the letters she wrote when she wasn't sure what was going on?  The reader learned information by reading these letters, but the whole "time travel on a loop" deal and these letters didn't seem to make sense to me.

Setting aside all the issues I had with the logistics of the time travel aspect of the plot, I thoroughly enjoyed Must Love Breeches.  It was a fun read.  The romance between the hero and the heroine developed at a nice pace.  The heroine was quirky and likable.  The hero was manly and kind.  The writing style made for easy reading.  If you're not as nit-picky about time travel as I apparently am, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Return of the Highlanders

Book 1
Book 2

I am only in the middle of The Sinner by Margaret Mallory, and I just bought books 3 & 4 in the series.  It's that good.  I won book 1 in 2011, but I didn't read it until this month.  If I remember correctly, I won The Guardian in a bundle of books from Beverley Kendall on The Season Blog.  I have no excuse for not reading it immediately; no amount of to-be-read books should stand in your way of this series.  (Of course, if I had read it when I received it, I wouldn't have been able to immediately purchase the entire series.)

The Sinner kept me up past my bedtime last night.  The only thing that stopped me from reading it to the end was wanting to have something great to look forward to tonight.

The series follows a group of four men: Ian (The Guardian), Alex (The Sinner), Duncan (The Warrior), and Connor (The Chieftain).  Ian, Alex, and Connor are cousins (their mothers are/were sisters).  Duncan's mother was Connor's nursemaid, and all four men grew up together.  They are MacDonalds of Sleat, Scottish Highlanders.  They are warriors.

Even though I am only halfway through The Sinner, I know I already love the book more than I enjoyed The Guardian.  The first book in a series always has the burden of introducing the reader to a new world, plus the heroine in the first book has the name S├Čleas, and I never was quite sure how to pronounce it in my mind as I read, so every time I read her name, I hit a mental roadblock.  Glynis is the heroine in book 2, and I can pronounce that easily enough.  Names aside, I like Alex more than Ian.  He's a charmer.

Ms. Mallory's writing is wonderful.  It is easy to read and flows.  There is romance, danger, and fun.  This is the type of writing I'm always thirsty for.  Try it, you'll like it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

No-Bake Fudge Nougats


No-Bake Fudge Nougats
1/2 c (1 stick) butter
2 c sugar
1 c evaporated milk (2/3 c dry non-fat milk; 3/4 c water)
1 c chocolate chips
3/4 c flour
1 c graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c chopped nuts
1 t vanilla extract

In a saucepan combine sugar, butter, and evaporated milk.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Blend in chocolate chips, flour, cracker crumbs, nuts, and vanilla.  Beat until thick.  Spread in well-greased, 9-in square pan.

– Alta Moody, Platteville, Wisconsin