Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander

Available in hardcover 25 October 2011

Here's a sneak peek at Tasha Alexander's newest novel, A Crimson Warning:

"Secrets prove deadly in this new novel featuring Lady Emily Hargreaves. Some very prominent people in London are waking up to find their doorsteps smeared with red paint, the precursor to the revelation of a dark secret – and worse – by someone who enjoys destroying lives.

Newly returned to her home in Mayfair, Lady Emily Hargreaves is looking forward to enjoying the delights of the season. The delights, that is, as defined by her own eccentricities—reading The Aeneid, waltzing with her dashing husband, and joining the Women’s Liberal Federation in the early stages of its campaign to win votes for women. But an audacious vandal disturbs the peace in the capitol city, splashing red paint on the neat edifices of the homes of London’s elite. This mark, impossible to hide, presages the revelation of scandalous secrets, driving the hapless victims into disgrace, despair and even death. Soon, all of London high society is living in fear of learning who will be the next target, and Lady Emily and her husband, Colin, favorite agent of the crown, must uncover the identity and reveal the motives of the twisted mind behind it all before another innocent life is lost."

I enjoy Tasha Alexander's lovely style, so I'm committed to following her handsome sleuthing couple, Emily and Colin Hargreaves through their next adventure!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald

"A magnificent love story unfolds against the backdrop of exotic splendor and stirring deeds as young Englishwoman Laura Hewitt journeys to the East to the fabled fiefdom of the Zemindar, Guardian of the Earth. He is Oliver Erskine, hereditary ruler of his private kingdom, commander of his own native army - and brother of the man she loves. Subject to Britain's Queen, but also a son of India,, he walks the tightrope between treason to the Crown and betrayal of his own native land, a world both beautiful and dangerous, lit with splendor and torn by despair. Challenged by Erskine to plumb India's innermost secrets, Laura's quest puts her in thrall to the Zemindar himself, arrogant and demanding, lustful and compassionate, tender and persuasive. He infuriates her, invades her soul - and claims her as his own, forcing her to confront her own divided loyalties, her own mutinous heart."
(from the publisher)

My thoughts:

It's been a long time since a novel has so captured my imagination and my heart -- Zemindar was simply wonderful and has now joined the ranks of my favorites! It is a rich, sweeping tale of adventure, love, and the horrors of battle during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 in India, and Valerie Fitzgerald's magnificent storytelling brings to life both the beauty and the dangers of the exotic Indian setting.

Laura Hewitt, a twenty-four year old Englishwoman, is living with her aunt and acts as a companion to her pretty younger cousin, Emily. Laura, by no means considered a beauty, has hopes that her feelings for Charles Flood will be returned, but unfortunately, he falls for Emily's charms and they marry. Hurt but stoic, Laura hides her pain and agrees to accompany the couple as they travel to India. Charles' half-brother, Oliver Erskine, is a rich and powerful zemindar (landowner and ruler) and Charles hopes to develop a relationship with him. Since Oliver is unmarried without an heir, Charles has plans to establish himself as a business partner and eventually share a portion of Hassanganj, Oliver's luxurious and palatial home. The British community here views Oliver with suspicion as he is harsh, unattractive, and a loner, and rumors abound of his relationships with Indian women and other questionable loyalties.

How Laura and Oliver come together, and the pain and suffering they each endure as they are separated during the rebellion, is just an extraordinary tale of mutual devotion and courage. After all the tragedies they survive, in the end, will Laura be able to commit to Oliver and stay in India, a place where she is haunted by terrifying memories? Or will she return to England, her home, where there is safety and security -- without Oliver?

**sigh** They just don't write them like this anymore! If you love novels such as Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, or M. M. Kaye's Trade Wind or The Far Pavilions, you'll love Zemindar.

Loved it! Highly, highly recommended!

5/5 stars

Title: Zemindar
Author: Valerie Fitzgerald
Bantam Books
799 pages
genre: historical fiction

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New RT Interview with Susanna Kearsley

For those who enjoy the works of author Susanna Kearsley (that would be me!), RT has posted a new Q&A with the author and her plans for a companion novel to The Winter Sea following the character of Anna. You can read her interview here. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Suddenly Sunday - A Beautiful Day!

Happy Sunday, everyone! Hope this weekend brought you all good things (good books, relaxation from the long work week, and time with family and friends)!

I've had a wonderful weekend as my husband decided to take the kids camping and they were eager to get out into nature and have some fun. I'm not the huntin'-fishin'-kinda-gal, so I opted to stay home and get a few things done here. Oddly enough,(hee hee) all the projects I had planned didn't pan out, but I got some lovely reading done and quality me-time. ;)

Spent the morning immersed in the most wonderful novel -- Zemindar by Valerie Fitzgerald. Will be luxuriating in all its goodness for a while as I don't want to rush it. It is a novel to be savored, and I spent the morning in my yard with my book, a tall glass of iced tea, and the pup curled up under my chair.

This was my view from my lounge chair for most of the morning -- :)

I took a walk around my property and just soaked in all the beauty of this time of year. Everything in my garden is just a profusion of pinks and creams and purples.....just gorgeous! Pretty soon the gardenias, magnolias, and the sweet jasmine will begin to bloom, and the scent is like heaven on earth. I love springtime!

On another note, were any of you like me recently and glued to the tv on Sunday watching Downton Abbey? I thought it was a wonderful period piece, and below is a hilarious spoof of it (which I saw on Ruth's blog, Booktalk & More). Enjoy!

(Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Svea at Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Lord Monleigh by Jan Cox Speas

“Scotland was a land divided. The rightful Stuart had been driven into exile in France, his country ruled by the dour Presbyterians who had ridden into power on the coattails of Oliver Cromwell’s rise to power in England. All who opposed them were rebels and outlaws, to be hunted down and branded as traitors. And the man with the highest price on his head was Monleigh.

Anne Lindsay met him first on the windswept moors, though when first she saw him she had no idea who he might be. She knew only that he was handsome and that he did something to her heart, that here was the one man who could bring warmth and happiness into a life seemingly forever chilled by the bleakness of her early childhood. Monleigh was to give her everything that a man can give a woman, though in the process he was to change her whole life, for this was a man who believed passionately in the freedom of the individual and of his obligation to control his own life. What Anne Lindsay had to learn, and it meant that she all but lost him in the process, was that there is a responsibility in love that goes beyond the mere desire to love another.

Here is a novel of rare and haunting beauty, yet one whose broad narrative sweep is packed with movement and pageantry. It is a brilliantly exciting book by a writer of distinction.”

Original dustcover summary from 1956 Publication by Bobbs-Merrill

my thoughts:

Another glorious tale of love and adventure from Jan Cox Speas that is rich with historical detail and vivid descriptions of another time and place.

Anne Lindsay, left orphaned as a child at the hands of English soldiers, is resigned to live out her days as a personal maid to her dour and fanatically religious aunt, Margaret. Margaret, desperately unhappy and bitter, feigns illness often and brow beats those around her, especially Anne, to attend to her every whim. Anne is frustratingly mild and meek around her aunt, but having been raised in this strict environment for many years and with no alternative, she has no choice but to be subservient. On a rare day out of the house to walk along the moors, she walks too far from Clennan House and meets a man that, unbeknownst to her, is the notorious Lord Monleigh. He is Scotland's most dangerous traitor, an outlawed highland chief. Even worse, he is rumored to indulge in debauchery -- and even murder -- when it comes to the women in his life. As fate would have it, he comes to Anne's rescue as she foolishly loses her footing along a steep slope. From this day forward, Anne begins a gradual transformation from meek and obedient to daring and courageous as her attraction and interest in Monleigh develops. Once afraid to dare cross her aunt for fear of punishment, she arranges secret meetings with Monleigh as they begin to share a passionate and dangerous attraction to each other. They share intimate evenings together in his castle where she sheds her puritan clothes and revels in gifts of clothes made from rich and sumptuous velvets, and meet secretly in the woods under glorious blue skies where he serenades her with lovely tunes on his lute. Anne learns a painful lesson, though, that the man she is falling in love with is as easy to tame as the waves on the sea....he is a smuggler, an adventurer, a rebel, a highland chief, an outlaw.....and destined to break her heart.

I adored this book and enjoyed the beautiful prose and descriptive passages of the Scottish setting and the period details. Since it was originally published in 1956, the romance is passionate and heartbreaking, but never explicit -- there's something to be said for leaving things to your imagination. ;)

One of my favorites is a passage where Anne, trying to understand her conflicting feelings, reflects on the nature of Simon Stewart, Lord Monleigh:

"I was under his spell, as I had come to be under the spell of this
west coast of Scotland. And his was the nature of a Highlander, after all,
a man forever fighting for the possession of himself. There was a dark
heritage in his blood, that same heritage of violence and disquiet
which had seethed through Highland history since the beginning of
time; and I would imagine that this unrest, this dark vein of passion,
must be guarded with a constant vigilance lest it stealthily conquer
a man's soul and abandon him to the darkness.

There was no portion of land in the world with so contradictory a
nature as the Highlands. Now, it was a land of sunlit moors stained
red with heather, knowing only the peace of quiet sky and the heart-
shaking beauty of the blue hills; now it was a harsh and awesome
place where silent mists obscured the peaks and a bitter relentless
rain came down from the skies, where an angry sea washed against the
shore, and sullen clouds reflected in sullen gray lochs.

Scotland in the sun and Scotland in the rain -- it was as true a description
of Simon Stewart as anyone might give."

Loved it!

original 1956 cover -- so pretty!


Title: My Lord Monleigh
Author: Jan Cox Speas
Avon, 1978
(originally published 1956)
297 pages
genre: historical fiction/historical romance

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry

Book Synopsis:
"London. 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne -- and she with him -- until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realizes she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realizes he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably toward self-destruction? Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem, "The Lady of Shalott" blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric, and deeply dark."

my thoughts:

Robert Parry's The Arrow Chest is a Victorian gothic romance blended with a thread of Tudor history -- the buried remains of Anne Boleyn. Her remains were placed in a chest that normally encased hunting arrows (a beheaded body would fit perfectly in a box of this size) and buried without ceremony. A woman once loved and chosen to be Henry VIII's queen, murdered and placed in a simple wooden chest for a coffin. This piece of history follows a parallel story in The Arrow Chest of Daphne, chosen for her beauty and status by the wealthy and powerful Oliver Ramsey. Rotund, brutish, with an eye for attractive women, Ramsey shows contempt for his wife and eventually devises a plan to eliminate her from his life. Amos Roselli, a lifelong friend of Daphne and struggling artist, adores and cherishes his muse, Daphne, and after receiving a commission to paint Ramsey, is distraught watching the treatment she receives at the hands of her husband. Amos knows deep inside that although he will never love another woman as much as Daphne, he is just a struggling artist and would never be accepted into her aristocratic world.

This is a dark and melancholy story with supernatural elements of ghostly appearances and seances adding to the mysterious atmosphere. The character of Beth, the housemaid who is hired at Amos's residence, is a breath of fresh air and added a much-needed touch of cheer and hope for Amos.

The Arrow Chest is a haunting and poignant love story, but it will not end as fairy tales do.....I am completely satisfied with the ending of the story. Sometimes life ends up not as we wish it to be, but as it should be, and the ending was right.

3.5/5 stars

Title: The Arrow Chest
Author: Robert Parry
332 pages
Victorian gothic romance

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Giveaway Winner of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon!

I had a great time featuring Diana Gabaldon's Outlander novel this month, and I appreciate everyone who participated in the Pump Up Your Book Virtual Blog Tour here at Slice of Life! Today the lucky winner of a copy of the fabulous Outlander is announced -- and the winner is......

Dolleygurl (Heather) at The Maiden's Court

Congratulations, Dolleygurl! An e-mail will be sent to you. Thanks to all who entered the giveaway.

I especially want to thank Cheryl Malandrinos of Pump Up Your Book tours for organizing Diana's tour for Outlander and inviting my blog to be a participant, and Random House for providing the giveaway copy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Orchid Affair by Lauren Willig

"Pride and Prejudice lives on" (USA Today) in Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation series, which has been hailed for its addictive blend of history, romance, and adventure. In The Orchid Affair, Willig introduces her strongest heroine yet. Laura Grey, a veteran governess, joins the Selwick Spy School expecting to find elaborate disguises and thrilling exploits in service to the spy known as the Pink Carnation. She hardly expects her first assignment to be serving as governess for the children of Andre Jaouen, right-hand man to Bonaparte's minister of police. Jaouen and his arch rival, Gaston Delaroche, are investigating a suspected Royalist plot to unseat Bonaparte, and Laura's mission is to report any suspicious findings.

At first the job is as lively as Latin textbooks and knitting, but Laura begins to notice strange behavior from Jaouen-secret meetings and odd comings and goings. As Laura edges herself closer to her employer, she makes a shocking discovery and is surprised to learn that she has far more in common with Jaouen than she originally thought...

As their plots begin to unravel, Laura and Jaouen are forced on the run with the children, and with the help of the Pink Carnation they escape to the countryside, traveling as husband and wife. But Delaroche will stop at nothing to take down his nemesis. With his men hot on their trail, can Laura and Jaouen seal the fate of Europe before it's too late?"
(from Goodreads)

my thoughts:

Super quick review here since the Goodreads summary above says it best -- here's the truth, straight up: I just adore everything Lauren Willig writes, and The Orchid Affair is no exception. The entire Pink Carnation series has been a joy to read as her plots are a great mix of romance, history, intrigue, and charming wit.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of all of Willig's books is the way she plays little inside jokes with her readers. She loves to allude to mythology, literature, poetry and famous characters in her storylines, sometimes seriously, sometimes in jest, and I always have the feeling that if she could, she'd be right there next to you giving you a little nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Take Jeannette, for example -- the children's nurse at the home of Andre Jaouen, rocking, rocking, her knitting needles clicking, clicking, clicking.....a la Madame Defarge in a Tale of Two Cities. ;) And Laura Grey (aka The Silver Orchid), the quiet and efficient governess for the children of handsome and stern Andre Jaouen--a little Jane Eyre here? Laura is in league with the Pink Carnation (yes, we do meet up with her in person again!) attempting to discover political secrets from Andre, but soon finds herself involved in a very different scheme with her employer. Difficult times are ahead, and they must take the children and flee from France...with danger in hot pursuit. How their relationship develops over time makes The Orchid Affair a keeper!

4/5 stars

Title: The Orchid Affair
Author: Lauren Willig
405 pages
Penguin Group
genre: historical romance

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 »