Sunday, April 25, 2010

Once and Always by Judith McNaught

"In this beloved novel, bestselling author Judith McNaught powerfully brings to life the fiery passion of a free-spirited American beauty and a troubled lord. Theirs is one of McNaught's most masterful and moving love stories." (from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Judith McNaught is a new-to-me author, and I thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to her romance writings. She has a very engaging writing style and a fast-moving plot, and I will defintely be reading more of McNaught's novels.

Set in England in 1815, Lord Jason Fielding is rich, powerful, arrogant, and married to an exquisitely beautiful and shallow woman.....she spends most of her time in the arms of other men, and Lord Fielding couldn't care less. Theirs is a miserable relationship, and the only thing in the world that Jason loves is his little son, Jamie. His life is one that is tortured and haunted by painful childhood secrets and a cold and unfaithful wife.

Victoria Seaton is a distant cousin of Lord Fielding that is being raised in America by her English mother and American father. She is a spirited and kind-hearted soul and in love with her childhood sweetheart, Andrew Bainbridge. Together, they plan their future and intend to one day marry.

When tragedy occurs for both Lord Feilding and Victoria, fate steps in and places Victoria on a boat to Wakefield,to the beautiful English estate owned by her notorious cousin, Jason Fielding. It is here, at Wakefield, that Victoria comes to learn of her mother's sorrowful and star-crossed past, and she is embraced by her uncle, Charles, who would love nothing more than to have her married to Lord Fielding. Her uncle devises a plan to announce their betrothal without their knowledge or consent. However, Jason wants nothing to do with her, and Victoria is confident that Andrew will still be her husband one day.

Victoria is confused by her feelings for Jason...she is frightened of his chilling and arrogant demeanor, but is drawn to him and senses his hidden pain. He, too, finds that Victoria stirs conflicting emotions in him; she is beautiful and desirable, but still in love with another man. Jason is not the kind of man to fall in love, but once he does, it will be for always.

Many lively, three-dimensional characters and lies, treachery, and family secrets make this a very enjoyable tale of love and passion.

4/5 stars

Title: Once and Always
Author: Judith McNaught
375 pages
Pocket Books
genre: historical romance

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Deception of the Emerald Ring by Lauren Willig

"Harvard grad student Eloise Kelly has gotten into quite a bit of trouble since she's been spying on the Pink Carnation and the Black Tulip--two of the deadliest agents to saunter the streets of nineteenth-centrury England and France. Not only has she been unearthing secrets that will rearrange history, but she's been dallying with Colin Selwick and looking for a romantic adventure all her own. Little does she know that she's about to uncover another fierce heroine running headlong into history.

In June 1803, Letty Alsworthy attempts to prevent her sister's midnight elopement--only to be accidentally whisked away herself. The scandal forces her into a hasty marriage with Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, who then decamps immediately to help the Pink Carnation quash a ring of Irish rebels led by the Black Tulip. Not to be outdone, Letty steals away to the Emerald Isle herself, ready to learn a thing or two about espionage--and never imagining she might learn a few things about love along the way..."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

It's book #3 in the Pink Carnation series, and I'm still absolutely loving the modern-day storyline of Eloise and the nineteenth-century historical characters and spies that are a part of her dissertation research. I honestly don't know how she does it, but Willig manages to hook me into her stories right from the beginning and I can't stop turning those pages. She's a master at building the suspense and intrigue and leaving you clamoring to know more when the chapter ends!

Fans of Georgette Heyer's Devil's Cub will notice a familiar predicament for Geoffrey Pinchindale and Letty Alsworthy.....Geoffrey, believing that he is in love with the beautiful and much-admired Mary Alsworthy, plans a middle-of-the-night elopement with her, but, (ooops!) sister Letty winds up in the getaway carriage instead and manages to have her reputation seriously compromised. Being a true gentleman, Geoffrey does what is necessary to protect a lady's reputation, and he agrees to marry Letty to save her from ruin. The course their relationship takes is interesting and believable, and I found myself cheering for Letty. Although she's not the beauty that her sister is, she's spunky and endearing and worthy of being loved for herself (freckles and all!)

Willig also keeps the laughs coming, and some of the best gems in the book are Eloise's thoughts on "man-isms"....hilarious and oh-so-true observations about men and their "unique" view of the world. ;)

Lord Vaughn is still as mysterious and enigmatic as ever.....I'm not quite sure where his loyalties lie, or whether he is friend or foe.....but he is a most intriguing character and I can't wait to find out more about him in The Crimson Rose.

4/5 stars

Title: The Deception of the Emerald Ring
Author: Lauren Willig
Publisher: New American Library
450 pages
genre: historical romance

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloester

"The definitive guide to the people, places, and society in Georgette Heyer's novels....

With Georgette Heyer's Regency World, Jennifer Kloester has now put together the ultimate, definitive guide to Georgette Heyer's world: her heroes, her villains and dashing heroes; the shops, clubs, and towns they frequented; the parties they celebrated; how they ate, drank, dressed, socialized, voted, shopped, and drove. An utterly delightful and fun read, beautifully illustrated, and compelling in its historical detail, this is a must read for any Georgette Heyer fan."

(from the publisher)


Last year, I had the pleasure of participating in the Everything Austen challenge and enjoyed reading many Austenesque novels, particularly the Austen reference book by Deirdre Le Faye entited Jane Austen -- The World of her Novels. This opened up a whole new appreciation for Pride and Prejudice as well as other Jane Austen works.

This year, Georgette Heyer seems to be my new obsession (in a good way). I was thrilled when I saw all the beautiful Sourcebook editions of her Regency novels, as well as her lesser-known mysteries. While I've picked up a few here and there over the past year, I decided to start a dedicated collection all of the Heyer books that I can get my hands on -- even the ones that are not currently in print. While I was searching e-bay for some titles, I ran across Kloester's Georgette Heyer's Regency World which has not yet been released in the US (Sourcebooks is coming out with a US edition in August of this year, but I'm impatient and want it now; the price was a bargain, so I jumped on it.)

Here are some of the chapters/topics in this beautiful and entertaining Heyer Regency resource:

Up and Down the Social Ladder
At Home in Town and Country
A Man's World
The Gentle Sex
On the Town
The Pleasure Haunts of London
The Fashionable Resorts
Getting About
What to Wear
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
The Sporting Life
Business and Military
Who's Who in the Regency

Plus, a glossary of cant and common Regency phrases, timelines, lists of her novels, and lots of other fun facts.

This is a resource book, not one I will necessarily read cover to cover, but in bits and pieces whenever I need a little Heyer "fix." Here is the charming cover for the US edition available from Sourcebooks (according to Amazon) in August 2010.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Annual Poisoned Pen Conference!!! I have never, ever considered attending a writers' conference (we have the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival here every year and I've never considered attending), but this info just jumped right out at me and I'm seriously considering this:

The Poisoned Pen, a mystery bookstore in Arizona, is sponsoring an event at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa and will be featuring fun events with authors such as Sharon Kay Penman, Diana Gabaldon, and Lauren Willig, just to name a few!!! It will be held June 24--26, 2010 and most events are free. There is a $25 fee for the Georgette Heyer Tea. (Hello, a Regency tea party?! How fun will that be?)

This sounds like a fabulous opportunity to see so many of my favorite authors in ONE PLACE -- my goodness, I'll be walking into a whole nest of them!

What do you think? Any Diana Gabaldon/Sharon Kay Penman/Lauren Willig fans out there want to go? I really have to give this one serious consideration! Click here to get details at the Poison Pen and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman

"In this beautifully rendered modern classic, Sharon Kay Penman redeems Richard III --vilified as the bitter, twisted, scheming hunchback who murdered his nephews, the princes in the Tower--from his maligned place in history with a dazzling combination of research and storytelling.

Born into the treacherous courts of fifteenth-century England, in the midst of what history has called the War of the Roses, Richard was raised in the shadow of his charismatic brother, King Edward IV. Loyal to his friends and passionately in love with one woman who was denied him, Richard emerges as a gifted man far more sinned against than sinning."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

No doubt about it, Sharon Kay Penman is completely deserving of her reputation as a meticulous researcher and dedicated historian. In this revisionist version of the life and times of Richard III, Penman blends the facts with convincing evidence that this much-maligned historical figure was in actuality an admirable man, devoted to his family, highly principled, and incapable of carrying out the murders of his nephews (the princes in the tower).

I found this book to be very enlightening and enriching, challenging me as I read it in chunks and then taking some time to reflect. (I even kept a little notebook handy to jot down important notes about the plot and the many historical figures involved in the War of Roses.) I consider myself to be a general reader of historical fiction, so my background in this period is very limited. I'm not a history major, nor am I well-versed in any particular English historical period, so perhaps this novel would have moved along faster if I was better informed about the details of the reign of Edward IV and Richard III. It was daunting in the amount of political detail and history -- a span of thirty-three years -- and it took me a while to really hit my stride with this book. The book is divided into four sections, and it wasn't until the last portion of the book that I really began to feel a connection to it. Overall, I'm very glad to have read The Sunne in Splendour , and I plan on reading Penman's Here Be Dragons in the future.

On a side note, I was watching an interview with Sharon Kay Penman and was fascinated (and horrified) to learn that while she was in the process of writing this novel, the original manuscript of The Sunne in Splendour (representing several years of research and writing) was stolen from her car! (She jokingly blamed it on Tudor ghosts, but admitted that she was actually devastated by the incident.) Here is part 1 of the interview where she discusses her mystery books and her historicals.

4/5 stars

Title: The Sunne in Splendour
Author: Sharon Kay Penman
931 pages
St. Martin's Press
historical fiction

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Then Came You by Lisa Kleypas

"Reckless, wild, and beautiful, Lily Lawson delights in shocking proper London society--and now she is determined to rescue her sister from an unwanted impending marriage to the notorious Alex, Lord Raiford, by fair means or foul. But while she succeeds outrageously, Alex is a master gamesman who is not to be undone.

Alex has lost one bride, yet he is enchanted by this remarkable lady who is willing to break any rule to flaunt her independence. When Lily offers him only scorn, he counters with kindness, and he parries her blistering barbs with gentle words and a soft, tender touch. The spirited miss will pay dearly for her interference--with her body, her soul, and her stubborn, unyielding heart. But will Alex's own heart be the prize to be won in this sensuous game of love?"

my thoughts:

Question: What does a Lisa Kleypas book have in common with a hollow chocolate Easter bunny?

Answer: They are both treats and can be devoured in one sitting!

I've had the two books in Kleypas' Gamblers series (Then Came You, Dreaming of You) on my to-read list for quite some time, and the springtime always makes me reach for a good romance novel. A Lisa Kleypas novel is a quick read and a real treat!

This is Lily's story, a fiesty, independent young woman in 1820's England who has a painful past....her fiance' left her before their marriage took place, and another relationship with an Italian lover left her pregnant and alone. I thought this was an interesting twist on the romance heroine, who often times is innocent, beautiful, and the story begins, Lily has loved and lost and made her share of mistakes, and she definitely has some battle scars on her heart. The deepest wound of all for her is that Giuseppe, her Italian lover, is unscrupulous and is keeping her apart from the one thing Lily holds dear. Convinced that love and marriage are never going to be a part of her life, she has committed herself to doing whatever is necessary to take care of herself and her child.

Enter the handsome Lord Raiford, who is betrothed to Lily's younger sister Penelope. He is also the victim of a painful past, so he is content to enter into a conventional arranged marriage, produce an heir, and live dispassionately with a dutiful wife, Penelope. Lily knows that her sister is really in love with another man and wants to help her elope, so she cooks up a scheme to help her sister, arrives for a visit to Lord Raiford's home, and turns everyone's life upside down when she arrives. Lord Raiford thinks Lily's behavior is disgraceful and interfering, and wants nothing more than to get Lily out of his house and life. He is also aware that Lily gambles and often visits the gaming tables at Derek Craven's club and thinks the worst of her friendship with Derek....he has no idea, however, that there is a painful, secret reason why she must win money at the card tables...

Lily is such a lively, colorful character, and it was interesting watching the evolution of her relationship with Alex change from blatantly beligerent, to mildly tolerant, to mutually intrigued, and at the end, a genuine understanding of each other and a passionate connection. Lots of fun, sizzling scenes between Lily and Alex as they try to "one up" each other, as well as a few that tugged at my heartstrings....there are some very poignant moments that involve Lily's child, and there is a memorable scene with Derek as he comes to terms with Lily's love for Alex.(I really liked Derek's Cockney character, and felt for him as he truly thought Lily was special but knew she was way out of his league.)

A fast-paced, easy and flowing plot with lots of spark and sizzle -- pure fun! I'm looking forward to continuing Derek's story in book 2, Dreaming of You. This book is also on the list of 100 best romance books.


Title: Then Came You
Author: Lisa Kleypas
Publisher: Avon
genre: historical romance
371 pages

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New for 2010 Syrie James & Deanna Raybourn

I'm very excited to have updates from the authors of two books that I am very much looking forward to this year....

Syrie James will be releasing Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker in July.

' A tale of adventure and forbidden passion, the book approaches Bram Stoker's Victorian classic Dracula with a brand new perspective, revealing the untold story of Mina Harker’s scandalous, secret love affair with young and handsome Count Dracula—the most powerful vampire of them all.'

In other Syrie James news, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte may be made into a theatrical film by a British production company, with Syrie James writing the screenplay. This is very interesting news for Bronte fans, and you can go to her website here for more info.


I'm also awaiting Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia book #4, Dark Road to Darjeeling in the fall.

"With an exotic setting in the foothills of the Himalayas and the introduction of an arch-villain, Dark Road to Darjeeling promises to be the most exciting Lady Julia novel yet."


Happy reading.....hope everyone is enjoying spring, getting out in the sunshine and experiencing all the good things the Easter season brings.

Favorite Period Dramas

Mount TBR

Joanne's to-read book montage

On a Highland Shore
A Light on the Veranda
The Queen's Vow: A Novel Of Isabella Of Castile
The Edwardians
Maisie Dobbs
Howards End
Lady's Maid
Instruments Of Darkness
When Maidens Mourn
Where Shadows Dance
What Remains of Heaven
Where Serpents Sleep
Why Mermaids Sing
When Gods Die
Before Ever After
The Sugar Queen
Garden Spells
After the Night

Joanne's favorite books »