Posts Tagged ‘review’

Saturday Recommendations

I really like my little medieval reader, because he’s the living spit of my character Carlito from a co-written story called Tears of Heaven.

Why do we co-write? If our co-writer loses interest we’re left with 95k [or more] worth of story that’s pretty much unusable. All respect to the writers who bravely go it alone and actually get stuff FINISHED!!

I’m particularly glad that one particular writer got stuff finished. Regency romance is a bit of a cliché in historical romance terms. There’s such a lot of it about and not always well executed. Not so this week’s recommendation – the Enlightenment trilogy by Joanna Chambers.

Click on the image to go to the book. I’ve linked to Provoked, the first in the trilogy, because I got in a muddle and bought Enlightened, the third book, first and had to buy both the others, naturally. This meant that once I’d started reading Provoked I couldn’t stop until I’d read both the others too and had 36 hours or so where I didn’t get much else done and finished with a mild squint and a big silly smile. So, Provoked first, ‘kay.

Provoked has one of the most riveting and unexpected first chapters I’ve ever seen in what I thought was going to be a romance. But, of course, this isn’t a romance. This is a historical novel, with some romance and a metric fucktonne of social commentary. Compelling fictional characters are inserted without a ripple into the murky pool of early nineteenth century politics, law and cross-border contention. I don’t think I’ve read ANYTHING set in Scotland that wasn’t a rehash of something already hashed up beyond redemption by Diana Gabaldon but this is firmly Scottish, looks carefully at the aftermath of rebellion and union and while a kilt makes its appearance it’s made clear that its presence is contentious. The social mores of the time are depicted accurately but with compassion and the hacks used to get around them don’t strain my credulity.

So much for the history. The romance appealed to me as well. David, young, highly intelligent and driven to make his mark as a lawyer despite the potential disadvantage of his need to occasionally slope off to find a cock to suck, is a brilliant character. He is clever with the sort of cleverness that makes him a little bit dumb where other people are concerned – not dumb, naive. He doesn’t always read situations well but thinks he does which is a great and very believable source of conflict with casual hookup Murdo. Murdo is older, wealthy, well connected and accustomed to being ruthless to get what he wants. He is a little arrogant, which strikes sparks off David’s prickly self made pride, but has hidden vulnerabilities that become more apparent as their story develops.

I say ‘their story’ because the romance between them is the thread that ties the three books together, but each book has a clear theme beyond the romance, addressing a social issues of the time. From the use of agents provocateur to interfere in labour disputes to the plight of abused wives, the historical content strikes me as right and oh it was such a joy to see something beyond star crossed lovers. David and Murdo have to be careful in the pursuit of their desires but for the majority of each book they have other important matters on their minds. I really respect characters who can put their own sexual gratification on hold while they deal with crucial problems beyond ‘who’s got the lube’.

Word of warning – I can’t say too much, because of spoilers, but PAY ATTENTION. It’s really worth it. Also either don’t buy all three in one go, or make sure you don’t have anything else to do/anywhere to go – you won’t want to put them down.

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Saturday Recommendation

So many books! I’ve had a brilliant month picking up several terrific titles at the Meet in Bristol and getting a mountain of recommendations to add to my TBR pile. It occurs to me that one recommendation a week isn’t really enough! This week I’ve been bingeing on historicals – my favourite – but I’ve read some excellent Sci Fi as well.

Sometimes I pick up a book with no particular expectations and am surprised and delighted by what I read. Sometimes the title is much anticipated from an auto-buy author who has set a very high bar and the delight, while anticipated, is just as great. My recommendation today is one of the latter – Think of England by K J Charles.

KJ is best known for her Magpie Lord books, set in a Victorian England where magic is a tried and tested solution to many problems. Think of England also has a Victorian setting only this one is skirting the edges of that much beloved country inhabited by the larger-than-life heroes of Rider Haggard, John Buchan etc, where heroes have exceedingly stiff upper lips, never undo their collars even in the hottest weather and feel that just because a chap enjoys the company of chaps, other chaps shouldn’t be too quick to read anything into it.

That description fits Archie Curtis, nephew of the great explorer Sir Henry Curtis, damaged and grieving after an ‘accident’ that maimed him and killed his men and his – well not lover because Archie isn’t like that – but Archie has heard that the accident may not have been an accident at all and is investigating in an endearingly inept and gentlemanly fashion. The moral knots into which Archie ties himself are one of the joys of the book. As a complete contrast to our clean-cut hero is Daniel Da Silva, who speaks like a gentleman but is plainly not from the top drawer, dresses in a very bohemian fashion and is the epitomy of one of my favourite words “louche”. Yes, Daniel bothers Archie from the moment he first sees him and he should because Daniel embraces all the things Archie tries to ignore in himself and flaunts them, as his green carnation demonstrates. Instead of being a rock solid rather unimaginative military man he is a poet and not a poet who writes proper verses either. His work has meanings that are just out of Archie’s grasp, but Archie assumes that they refer to something disturbing and ‘not quite the thing’.

Of all people to be essential to the success of Archie’s mission, Daniel is the least likely, but how these two negotiate their way to being antagonistic partners, then lovers is another joy of the books. Together they face the appalling prejudices of the time, depicted with excruciating and necessary accuracy, social ruin, and both physical and psychological danger. The villains are plausible and loathsome, help arrives from unexpected sources, period appropriate solutions are found to age old problems.

I’m not going to say any more about it other that I LOVED it and am so glad that KJ is already writing book 2. To save you the bother of Googling, you can buy it here.

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As usual I’ve lost the plot a bit this week as far as signing up for stuff but here’s a Saturday Rec post anyway.

I’m a big fan of historical action stories, and of action stories in general. Until I found the growing M/M genre knocking on for 10 years ago now, I had never read romances – preferring Fred Forsythe or Patrick O’Brien to Loretta Chase or E L James – and I still have problems getting my head around the tropes. Some of the best stories I’ve read play all kinds of games with these ‘set in stone’ rules.

Because I know that I have problems with romances I scan the ebook sites very quickly ignoring all the naked torsos and cuddling contemporary couples, instead pouncing on anything with a gun on the cover, a suggestion of noir or a whiff of historical costume. The Boys of Summer went on my To Read List the moment I saw the gorgeous cover.

Boy, did I feel daft when I read the blurb and realised that it was a contemporary romance but actually it was that glorious thing – a twofer! As in two for the price of one.

The contemporary romance concerns David, a location prospector for the film industry checking out sites in the Hawaiian archipelago, assisted by Rick, a pilot, whose skill at the controls is the only thing between them and death when a tropical storm blows up. There’s action right from the first page and the pace continues, with quieter moments that allow the reader to catch up and realise just how much trouble the protagonists are in. Neatly inserted into the contemporary narrative is a slightly slower paced story set during the Second World War where another David and Rick carry out an exquisitely agonised courtship against a backdrop of code breaking and far too many sorties as a fighter pilot. This part of the book was beautifully done and impressed me very much – a clear 5 star read. Then we return again to the present with a greater sense of purpose and urgency.

How one story fits with the other would be a spoiler, as would how the past impacts on the present so I’ll say no more about it other than that it was a damned good read and kept me entertained throughout.

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