Monday, April 18, 2011

Whom the Gods Love by Kate Ross

"Alexander Falkland hasn't an enemy in the world. Young, talented, charming, he shines in every field he enters: law, architecture, the investment market. But one night his luck runs out with a vengeance. In the midst of one of his famous parties, he is found in his study with his head smashed, a blood-stained poker beside him. No wonder the inscription on his gravestone reads: WHOM THE GODS LOVE DIE YOUNG....."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Whom the Gods Love is the third in the Julian Kestrel Regency mystery series, and as usual, Kate Ross delivers another sharp, tight plot that keeps you guessing at every twist and turn of events.

When the Bow Street Runners come up empty with clues or suspects in the highly publicized murder of society's golden boy, Alexander Falkland, his father seeks the assistance of dandy Julian Kestrel, an amateur sleuth. With his trusty sidekick,the reformed pickpocket Dipper, he embarks on another murder investigation that takes him on a journey in the darker side of life to explore Alexander's life, his business and social acquaintances. In the process, Julian uncovers layer upon layer of lies, false identities, and scandalous deceptions. Who was this Alexander Falkland.....really? And who among the long list of family, servants, and associates had reason to want to murder him in cold blood?

Kate Ross is a master at structuring her stories and deftly weaving many threads of mystery together. Her characters from different social classes and their dialogue rings true and the everyday details of the Regency period are completely authentic. A thoroughly enjoyable read, although I still think A Broken Vessel is my favorite.


Title: Whom the Gods Love
Author: Kate Ross
Viking Press
382 pages
genre: Regency mystery

The Plantagenet Prelude by Jean Plaidy

"When William X dies, the duchy of Aquitaine is left to his fifteen-year-old daughter, Eleanor. But such a position for an unmarried woman puts the whole kingdom at risk. So on his deathbed William made a will that would ensure his daughter's protection: he promised her hand in marriage to the future King of France.

Eleanor grows into a romantic and beautiful queen, but she has inherited the will of a king, determined to rule Aquitaine using her husband's power as King of France. Her resolve knows no limit and, in the years to follow she is to become one of history's most scandalous queens."

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

I'm so pleased to have been able to acquire a beautiful set of Plaidy's Plantagenet series from the UK, and I know it will be a delight to savor each one. Jean Plaidy has a gift for bringing history alive, and her novels weave history and everyday life and drama togther to give the reader an imaginative glimpse into the past. I also have two more Eleanor of Acquitaine books to read (The Courts of Love by Jean Plaidy and To Be Queen by Christy English), so it will interesting to compare and contrast the depictions of this very intriguing historical figure.

In The Plantagenet Prelude, Plaidy paints a portrait of young Eleonor (English Eleanor) that was one of beauty, intelligence, and courage. As a young queen, she was renowned for her passion for music and storytelling, and her court would often sit before a fire in the great hall and sing songs of love and chivalry. Her arranged marriage to Louis VII, the King of France, brought her more power and two daughters, but not happiness. Proud and haughty, strong enough to boldly embark on a Crusade, she eventually began to show disdain for her husband who was more devoted to the Church than to her, and sought the attentions of other men. The marriage of Louis and Eleanor was eventually ended on the basis of consanguinity (related by blood).

Eleanor's marriage to England's king, Henry II, brought her more children and contentment, but unfortunately, it was not to last. After many years, Henry's long relationship with Rosamund Clifford was a devastating shock to her after her support of Henry and the many children that they had together. Plaidy also details the relationship between Henry and Thomas Becket, the once close friend and confidante of the king. As the story ends, Henry is lamenting his part in the murder of Becket as Henry wanted to be supreme ruler of both the State and Church, and Becket was against this. As a result, Thomas was murdered and Christendom considered him a martyr.

The next installment, The Revolt of the Eaglets, continues with Henry's precarious predicament: he is punished by the Pope for his involvement in Becket's death, and he now has an enemy in his Queen, as Eleanor is now determined to seek vengeance and will use her sons to conspire against their father.

For a complete list and synopsis of Jean Plaidy's Plantagenet series, click here.

And thanks to a heads-up from Misfit, I learned that the fabulous Elizabeth Chadwick has recently signed a deal to write an Eleanor of Aquitane trilogy!! The novels will be The Summer Queen, The Winter Crown, and The Autumn Throne. Click here for Chadwick's website for more info!

3.5/5 stars

Title: The Plantagenet Prelude
Author: Jean Plaidy
original publication: 1976, 2006
Random House
417 pages
genre: historical fiction

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Love, My Enemy by Jan Cox Speas

"Played against the exciting background of the War of 1812, My Love, My Enemy ranges in colorful setting from Annapolis and Washington to Bermuda, Europe and the high seas..."
(from goodreads)

my thoughts:

I think it's terrific that Sourcebooks Casablanca is bringing back some writers to a new generation of readers by publishing some bestsellers from decades ago. Author Jan Cox Speas came to my attention through Susanna Kearsley's recommendation, and I went on a search to find old copies of her books. So far, Bride of the MacHugh and My Love, My Enemy are being reissued by Sourcebooks this year, and I hope My Lord Monleigh will follow suit as I think it's the best of the bunch. My only minor complaint is that the new Sourcebook covers may be misleading....I adore a hot romance novel and have absolutely nothing against well written sex scenes. But I believe the new covers give the impression that her novels are sexy romances, while in fact they are fairly chaste and completely old-school romance. (A kiss or a touch is about all you'll get.) Her novels are being marketed as historical romances, while I think the term historical adventure is a better description. Readers who enjoy a little spice in their romances will feel misled if they're expecting that from the cover, and those who avoid romances will be pleasantly surprised to find that her writing is much more a blend of history and adventure than romance. Now that I've got that cleared up, on to my thoughts about My Love, My Enemy.

What began as an ordinary day for young Page Bradley quickly turns into a series of events which will change her future forever. Sneaking away from Bradley House without her father's permission is typical mischief for Page -- she has Duncan MacDougall (a Scotsman in her father's employ) as her partner in crime to bring her safely by boat into the town of Annapolis to do some shopping. Knowing there will be hell to pay if anything happens to her, and there is very real danger from the British ships in the area, Duncan is wary of letting his charge too long out of his supervision. But like a magnet to metal, Page seems to attract trouble and soon finds herself almost run down by a horse -- and it's handsome English rider, in a most gentlemanly manner, apologizes and bids her to be more careful. A short while later, Page finds that an angry mob has surrounded this same Englishman and are in the mood to hang him as an English spy. Without thinking, Page steps forward and pretends to know him and extracts him from this volatile situation. Grateful for her assistance, Joycelyn Trevor, Lord Hazard, agrees to accompany her to see her home safely.....until their boat is unfortunately fired upon by the British ship, The Falcon and all are captured.

From Annapolis to the tropical island of Bermuda, to France and England and back to America, this is a tale of high seas adventures, privateers, spies, loyalties to one's country -- and staying true to the heart.

A light, charming read for a quiet afternoon. I preferred her other two books with their Scottish settings, but this was entertaining with its multiple settings and nautical adventures.

*****Edited to Add: Avid Reader gave me a heads up about the kindle cover for this book, which I think is much closer to the spirit of the story.

3/5 stars

Title: My Love, My Enemy
Author: Jan Cox Speas
Originally published 1961
Sourcebooks Casablanca 2011
263 pages
genre: historical adventure

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 »