Monday, October 31, 2011

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon

"A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" is a short story by Diana Gabaldon and is part of the anthology, Songs of Love and Death, George R. R. Martin, Editor.
Here she gives us the bittersweet tale of a man torn out of his proper time and place who will go to almost any length, and endure any hardship, to make it home again.

*****SPOILERS AHEAD! Do not read this post if you do not want to know any spoilers from An Echo in the Bone or A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows!*****

A very happy All Hallows Eve to you! I've been waiting for this very special day to discuss Diana Gabaldon's short story, A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows. A word of warning, though -- I've outlined the story and I'm including spoilers and exact quotes which I thought were key, so please be aware of that. I welcome everyone to help me speculate on what this new information may mean in the on-going puzzle of Outlander. Ready? Alrighty, here we go!

As the story begins, it is actually two weeks until Halloween, but "the gremlins were already at work." Jerry MacKenzie, preparing the Dolly II on the runway for a test flight, is having engine trouble. When the mechanic notes a punctured fuel line and a few other glitches, the flight plans are cancelled until the problems are fixed.

Once inside the building, Jerry is called over to be introduced to someone...."a tallish chap in army uniform with dark hair and a pleasant, if sharp, look about him, eyes like a good sheepdog." When Jerry is introduced to Captain Randall, he "feels a qualm in the pit of his stomach" as he senses Randall has an "air of confidence peculiar to men who kept secrets." Captain Randall is a member of the British Intelligence (M16) and is searching for a top-notch pilot to fly a special solo reconnaissance. The plan is to take a Spitfire II and install cameras in place of a second pair of wing guns. He must first train for the secret mission in Northumberland and will receive further details later. Realizing this was a dangerous venture, Jerry requests to see his wife one more time before he goes. Randall agrees to this, "touching his own gold wedding ring in reflex."

Delighted to be reunited with her husband, Marjorie (Dolly) and their little baby (Roger) spend some quality family time together. (We learn from details that Jerry is twenty-two years old and Roger is young enough to still be wearing nappies and sleeping in a basket.)

Following his training, Jerry learns the details of his dangerous mission: the Nazis have labor camps in Poland, and Jerry is to fly as close as possible to take photos to document evidence of this activity.

Interestingly, while Jerry is preparing to begin his flight, he completes a little pre-flight ritual. He tells Dolly that he loves her, and he carries a sapphire (his lucky stone) in his pocket that his wife found in a rocky hill while on their honeymoon.

Several pages follow of his in-air flight training, and it is noted that he flies above a stone rectangle attached to Hadrian's Wall (made by old Roman legions). The flight abruptly ends due to major engine failure and his fighter plane becomes a glider. "The ground appeared in a sudden burst of yellow and brown. He jerked the nose up, saw the rocks of a crag dead ahead, swerved, stalled, nose-dived, pulled back, pulled back, not enough, oh, God---"

Unconscious but alive and not gravely injured, Jerry regains his equilibrium and looks around -- there is no plane anywhere! Only ancient standing stones! His head was splitting and buzzing, he suffers from vertigo, and is struck with terror as he realizes there are no marks where his plane should have gouged the earth when it crash landed!

Some time later, he begins to believe he is still in Northumbria, "the northern part, where England's billowing fields crash onto the inhospitable rocks of Scotland." But something was very wrong.....the landscape is too different, too rough. He was losing touch with reality and confused about time. His first encounter with people was strange -- they were dirty, ragged, and uncivilized. They beat him, stole his jacket, took his dog tags, and locked him up.
Two Years Later:

Captain Randall visits Dolly MacKenzie; when she sees him at the door, she is flooded with emotions....she's hoping there's been a mistake...maybe Jerry hadn't been killed and they found him alive! But that is not to be. Randall feels a personal obligation to bring a medal of honor, awarded posthumously, to Lieutenant MacKenzie's widow and spends some time visiting and playing with her little boy. The visit is very hard for Dolly, and she breaks down sobbing, "You said you'd come back, said you'd come back!"

Meanwhile, back in a strange time and place, Jerry notices that the stone that was in his pocket has burned to a fine powder. He questions what could possibly have the power to burn a rock -- and leave the man who carried it alive???

Hearing voices outside his prison, Jerry shouts for help. He is rescued from the shack by "biggish buggers, both of them, taller and broader than he was. One fair, one black-haired as Lucifer."

"What's your name, mate?" the dark chap asked with a Scots accent.

"MacKenzie, J.W. Lieutenant, Royal Air Force. Service number...."

Astounded by this information, the dark one with vivid green eyes is floored as understanding dawns. Jerry is desperate to know about these strangers -- where did they come from? They tell him they are from Inverness, but tell him they are from a time a long way away and are lost. (The other stranger is described as fair-haired with a deeply weathered and lined face.) They have no idea what time period they are presently in, but they tell Jerry he must return to the stones "where you came through." Jerry is ecstatic that they understand how to get him back and eagerly goes with them. They explain to him that he must have a gemstone when he goes back (they give him a gemstone) and tell him urgently to think about his wife, Marjorie when he goes back. "Don't think about your son! Just your wife," they tell him.

Jerry is shocked that they knew his wife's name and that he has a son! He demands an explanation, but there is no time....they are being pursued as a light is coming closer! "It's near Samhain... ye need to go, man, and NOW!"

Just as Jerry is desperately thinking of his wife while nearing the stones, the dark haired man stops and tells him, "I love you."

The fair haired stranger asks why he said such a stupid thing like that, and he replies that it is the only chance he will ever get. He says he isn't going to make it back.

But Jerry does make it back!!! When he returns to his own time, the plane is not there but there is a deep gouge where it had been. Making his way to London (and getting strange looks) and desperate to get to Dolly, he is shocked by the terrible damage to the city from bombs. When he reaches his home, it is nothing but a pile of rubble. He is fearful his family is dead when someone tells him that the family is safe and staying at the home of Dolly's mother. While desperately trying to get to that house, the sirens begin to wail and crowds pour out onto the street to get to shelter. Panic ensues as the hysterical crowds try to storm the Tube station....Jerry hears the bombs above the tunnel, the shouts, the sirens.....the tunnel is damaged from the bomb. He is down on the tracks and looks up and sees Dolly with their son. She SEES Jerry and is ecstatic but she can't get to him because of the crush of the crowds and the panic. She pushes people out of the way and can only get as far as a railing. She lowers Roger over the railing to Jerry and the little boy strikes his father in the head -- he grabs him and falls onto the tracks holding onto the boy with his life. As Jerry falls, his head cracks on the tracks and he is gravely injured. Rescuers take the child who is unharmed away from the dying man. They see he is RAF but not wearing any identification. As the tunnel begins to crack and collapse, the rescuers run out with little Roger.

"He felt her hand stroke his hair. He smiled and turned his head to see her smiling back, the radiant joy spreading round her like rings in shining water..."

And the tunnel collapses.

Let's take a deep breath to take this all in.....!!!

As usual, when Diana answers one question, she raises twenty, so while I've learned new information, I now have just as many questions. But here are some of my major observations and/or questions:

l. Now we know that Jerry MacKenzie time traveled, met Roger (as an adult) during the experience, AND made it back home in time to see his wife and son before his death (and his wife's death). (In Outlander we are told by the Reverend that Roger's father was shot down over the channel and his mother was killed in the Blitz.)

2. The fact that Frank brought Dolly the medal and spent time talking to little Roger and playing with him intrigues me. Even though Roger was only two, Frank felt it was his personal responsibility to check on Dolly and her son. (Later, in Outlander when he and Claire are at the Reverend's home and young Roger is in the chair in the study, did Frank recognize him or know who he was?? Wouldn't it make sense that Frank would ask about Roger's father if he was told the father was a member of RAF and shot down over the channel???? Or did he already know this information and just didn't say anything? Hmmmm, interesting.....verrrrry interesting!

3. I was on the fence after reading An Echo in the Bone as to whether or not Roger and Buck actually did go back in time (at least for me it was very vague). Does this mean that the two strangers (Roger and the fair-haired man) did go through the stones and meet Jerry MacKenzie while going to try to find Jem? Since Jem is not actually back in time but stuck in a tunnel, then Roger's time travel got whacked and he met up with his dad instead?! If so, then this piece of plot has to be (or should be) worked into the next book.

4. The ending of the story was just.....heartbreaking. Beautiful and heartbreaking that they went together.

4/5 stars

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cashelmara by Susan Howatch

"There were two subjects which lonely widower Edward de Salis never discussed: his dead wife and his family home in Ireland, 'matchless Cashelmara'. So when he meets Marguerite, a bright young American with whom he can talk freely about both, he is able to love again and takes her back to Ireland as his wife. But Marguerite soon discovers that married life is not what she expected, and that she has married into a troubled family bitterly divided by love and hatred. Cashelmara becomes the curse of three generations as they play out their fates in a spellbinding drama, which moves inexorably towards murder and retribution."
(from Amazon)

my thoughts:

What an absolutely fabulous, impossible-to-put-down family saga!

Spanning several generations of a titled English family beginning with Edward de Salis in 1859, this sweeping story of duty, passion, ambition, and revenge has it all! From the family home, Cashelmara, in Ireland, to glittering London society, and the nouveau riche of New York, the author reveals each character's story from their point-of-view, painting fascinating contrasting portraits of the dramatic events 0f 1859 through 1891.....and indeed, Cashelmara has it's share of high drama! Marriages of duty rather than love; an irresponsible heir leads to near financial ruin....secret, twisted passions turns life for one bride into a nightmarish hell.... smoldering tensions of Cashelmara's Irish tenants living in poverty threaten the security of the inhabitants of the home...I could go on and on raving about this rich and mighty saga! The story just sucked me in from the very first page and kept me hanging on until the very last shocking and thrilling conclusion. I felt I knew the characters so well and became very emotionally involved in the story --- I so admired Marguerite, whose strength and dignity carries the family through so many heartaches and tragedies, and I just wanted to strangle Patrick, the spineless, spoiled heir who's immaturity and selfishness just left me speechless! I experienced a roller coaster of emotions while reading Cashelmara, and I love that in a book!

Long ago, I read Howatch's The Rich are Different and I remember enjoying it very much. I think it's time to dust off some of her other titles and experience more family dramas. (I recently picked up Penmarric at my parish library sale, so I'm eager to get started on it.)

5/5 stars Fantastic read!

Title: Cashelmara
Author: Susan Howatch
Ballantine Books
672 pages
genre: historical fiction

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jane and the Canterbury Tale by Stephanie Barron

"Three years ago, after a night of reckless gaming, Curzon Fiske fled England for an uncertain future in India, leaving scandal and prodigious debts behind him. When news of his death from fever in Ceylon reached his raven-haired wife, Adelaide, she mourned him for a time—then quietly restored her damaged reputation.

Now Adelaide is at the altar again, her groom a soldier on the Marquis of Wellington's staff. The prospects seem bright for one of the most notorious women in Kent—until Jane Austen discovers a corpse on the ancient Pilgrim's Way that runs through her brother Edward's estate. Why is the dead stranger dressed as a pilgrim, and who wrote the summons he carries in his pocket? Who is the aristocrat masquerading as a sailor? And why will none of Adelaide's friends reveal Curzon Fiske's final wager, the night he abandoned his wife? As Chief Magistrate for Canterbury, Edward is forced to investigate, with Jane as his unwilling assistant. From the shooting parties and balls of her wellborn neighbors, to the grim and airless cells of Canterbury gaol, Jane leaves no stone unturned. When a second corpse appears beside the ancient Pilgrim's Way, Jane has no choice but to confront a murderer...lest the next corpse be her own...."

(synopsis from Stephanie Barron's website)

my thoughts:

Since the synopsis above so succinctly summarizes Jane and the Canterbury Tale, I'm just going to cut to the chase.

I could easily picture dear Jane each evening, after retiring to her room at her brother's home, drawing close to the warmth of a fire to reflect on the days' events and journal her thoughts in her little sewn notebooks. In this autumn of 1813 (only a few years before her actual death), she has come to spend some time at Godmersham Park with brother Edward and his family. Relishing the change of pace from quiet country living, she is enjoying the pleasure of parties and social events in the Canterbury area making mental notes about the people and places to help enrich her novel writing. As the story opens, she is attending the glittering wedding of the beautiful Adelaide Fiske and Captain Andrew MacCallister at Chilham Castle and keeping a close eye on her popular niece Fanny and her beaux. While the guests are enjoying dancing and toasting the happy bride and groom, a mysterious package from a stranger is delivered to the bride....and thus begins a series of mysterious and tragic events, including two dead bodies, that will require all of Jane's keen powers of observation and crime-solving skills as she assists Edward with his magesterial duties.

Lovely storytelling in Austen's voice and a tie-in to Chaucer's Canterbury Tale, Barron's cast of characters each has a story to tell on the road to solving the multiple mysteries -- why was Adelaide's first husband (who was supposed to be dead) still alive at the time of the wedding? Who sent a mysterious package to the bride on her wedding night, and what does it mean? Who has a motive for murder...and who will be the next victim?

I have been enjoying this series as part of the Austenprose Jane Austen Mystery Challenge as I always come away from the books marvelling at Barron's expertise and obvious devotion to the Austen style. Barron weaves actual events in Austen's life as a backdrop for her mysteries, and her depiction of Regency life and customs makes her books entertaining as well as informative.

4/5 stars

Title: Jane and the Canterbury Tale
Author: Stephanie Barron
Bantam Books
307 pages
genre: Historical fiction/Regency mystery

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Marsh King's Daughter by Elizabeth Chadwick

England - 1216: Dissatisfaction with King John has bred a civil war which threatens the social order...

Unwanted and unloved, rebellious Miriel Weaver is forced to a convent by her violent stepfather. Her plan to escape from the harsh life of a novice nun crystallizes with the arrival of recuperating soldier of fortune Nicholas de Caen. Miriel sees in his pride and self-sufficiency a kindred spirit and, once he is well enough, a way out.

The two part in Nottingham on bad terms which are to blight both their lives. When they meet again by chance, they agree to call a truce -- but the truce becomes first friendship and then a dangerous passion. Almost too late, Nicholas and Miriel realise that the chain of events triggered by their first meeting could now ensure they never know the pleasure of living...

(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

One of the great things about discovering a wonderful historical fiction writer like Elizabeth Chadwick is that she's still producing stellar novels, and she has a long backlist for me to work my way through. For the King's Favor was one of my favorites from last year, and The Marsh King's Daughter was another fascinating historical read.

The Marsh King's Daughter centers on Miriel, the granddaughter of a master weaver who has passed on his skills to his beloved granddaughter. After his death, Miriel's violent stepfather and mother try unsuccessfully to curb her willful personality. Sent to the nuns at St. Catherine's Abbey, Miriel's strong spirit will not bend to the strict regimen and often cruel attempts to make her conform.

Miriel's life changes drastically the day Nicholas de Caen is found by the nuns near death in the vicinity of the abbey. Nicholas had been captured by King John's soldiers as he was involved in an attempted seige. Tied up and thrown in a cart to be interrogated later, he was part of the king's baggage train that traveled across the treacherous marshlands. As the mists rolled in and the waters began to rise, the helpless baggage train began to descend in murky waters and quicksand, drowning men, horses, and burying the royal treasure. Nicholas escapes in the confusion and steals what he can of the king's gold and treasures, although the effort nearly costs him his life.

As Nicholas slowly begins to recover at the abbey under Miriel's medical care, she befriends him and sees him as a way of escape. When his strength returns, the two make a daring escape. Miriel knows she is in grave danger as a young woman out in the world is liable to come under suspicion. She steals a part of the royal treasure from Nicholas and takes off on her own to make her way in the world pretending to be a young widow.

The journey Miriel takes from a runaway novice to a successful businesswoman in the wool industry was interesting and believable. Her intelligence and sense of independence carries her through the difficult times....and many challenges are ahead, particularly as Nicholas and Miriel cross paths again and realize that their lives are meant to be spent together. But evil villains, secret plots, a hidden treasure, and jealous spouses will stand in the way of their happiness.

Loved it! Chadwick's authentic portrait of daily life in the twelfth century is fascinating. From the mind set of medieval men and women, the dress, customs, manners, and mores of the times, Chadwick truly does make the past come alive.

But I do have one curious observation.....does anyone know why this book is called The Marsh King's Daughter??? There is obviously some symbolic meaning that I am missing, or some historical reference that I am not familiar with. I did a quick search and all I could find was a story by Hans Christian Andersen entitled "The Marsh King's Daughter" which contains a refrain:

“Gold and possessions will flee away,
Friends and foes must die one day;
Every man on earth must die,
But a famous name will never die.”

This does have some connection, but I'm just guessing. I'm curious about this and there's nothing that I can find on her website that addresses this. Any info from those in the know would be appreciated!

5/5 stars Highly recommmended for historical fiction fans.

Title: The Marsh King's Daughter
Author: Elizabeth Chadwick
Warner Books

Friday, October 21, 2011

Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware

A Passionate, Flamboyant Duchess and a Cruel Twist of Fate.....

Jane Maxwell, the fourth Duchess of Gordon, was one of the most influential women of her time--a patroness of poet Robert Burns, advisor to King George and friend to Queen Charlotte, the mastermind behind her husband's political success, and a rival of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

Rich in historical detail, passion, and intrigue, Ciji Ware's Island of the Swans paints a fascinating portrait of one of the most celebrated and controversial beauties of eighteenth-century England.

my thoughts:

I spent quite a bit of time savoring this fascinating portrait of the historical figure, Jane Maxwell, (who became the fourth Duchess of Gordon) and I loved every page! Ciji Ware did a wonderful job of capturing the historical and social details of the time period spanning 1760 - 1797 while weaving in the heartbreaking fictional account of her great first love, Thomas Fraser. From beautiful Scottish landscapes to plantations in Maryland, this rich and dramatic tale of lost love and secret longing kept me glued to the pages!

As young people, Jane and her true love, Thomas Fraser, planned to marry....but Jane's ambitious mother and Thomas' godfather, Simon Fraser, have other plans. The Frasers lost their lands and titles after the defeat at Culloden, and the Master of Lovat devises a scheme to train his godson in military skills to receive a commission in the Black Watch -- a regiment sent to fight in the Colonies. Through this maneuver, the Frasers would have influence with the king to get back what was rightly theirs. Declaring their love for each other and dreaming of their future marriage, Thomas leaves for his duty....but fate is cruel. Their marriage can never be and Jane painfully tries to put the hurtful past aside and forge ahead with life. She is indeed a strong and beautiful woman, intelligent and charismatic, and if she had not been deeply affected by her first love, perhaps her marriage would have been a happy and successful one. On the surface, the Duke and Duchess of Gordon seemed to have everything - children, beautiful homes, a prestigious place in society, a comfortable attraction to each other - yet complete peace and happiness eludes them as they are both haunted by ghosts from the past.

The only place that Jane finds a bit of peace and solace is at Kinrara, one of her smaller homes near Loch-an-Eilean:

"....a body of water in the shape of a perfect oval sapphire. A small
green island on which stood a miniature, vine-covered fortress, studded
its center like a precious emerald jewel. Sun poured down on the center
of the loch, leaving the gravel beaches at its edge shrouded in billowing
mist. ....Two large white swans, their necks arching proudly, swam in a
stately procession from a thicket of reeds, encircling the castle walls."

If you'd like to know why this is an enchanting place for Jane, you must read Island of the Swans for is not to be missed! It's going right next to A Cottage by the Sea as my favorites from Ciji Ware.

5/5 stars Highly recommended

Title: Island of the Swans
Author: Ciji Ware
Sourcebooks 2010
579 pages
genre: historical fiction

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lord John and the Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon

Lord John and the Plague of Zombies is a novella by Diana Gabaldon; it is included in the anthology, Down These Strange Streets, a collection of urban fantasy/paranormal stories (editor George R. R. Martin).

my thoughts:

I have to be honest.....I've been a long-time Outlander fan and eagerly anticipated all of the books in the series since first discovering them over ten years ago. However, when the Lord John books began appearing as an adjunct to the series, I didn't run out to get them for several reasons. One, I just wasn't that enthralled with Lord John as a character. While he certainly plays an important role in the overall storyline (his attraction and friendship with Jamie and his eventual role as father to Willie is key), I just wasn't interested in Lord John's life when he wasn't "on stage" in the Outlander books. I thought I would just keep these books somewhere in the background, and if and when the Outlander series eventually came to an end, I'd still have some Gabaldon books left to read. After all, they were supposed to be "stand alone" novels and stories, so I wouldn't be missing out on any important events. Or so I thought....

Fast forward to today.....more and more stories and novellas have been written by Diana about characters from the Outlander series that DO in fact shed more light on the puzzle pieces that fans have been trying to fit together for years. I'm beginning to feel completely out of the loop, and I hate being in the dark about anything related to the Outlander series! After reading An Echo in the Bone and then reading "A Leaf On the Wind of All Hallows," (a short story featuring Roger's father that I'll discuss in a future post), there is a definite connection and we learn an astounding piece of information regarding what we "thought" was Roger's parents' fate. I'm now convinced that I have to start reading the Lord John series and all the short stories just to make sure I'm completely up-to-date. I'm not thrilled to have to purchase an entire anthology just for the Gabaldon selection, but at some time in the future I intend to read some of the other selections -- there are some interesting authors in the anthologies. Gabaldon discusses that the reading order does not have to be strictly chronological, but those interested in starting at the beginning of her Lord John books can click here to see her suggested chronological order.

In the spirit of the month of October and Halloween when I enjoy reading things that have spooky overtones, I started with "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies." Lord John has been called to assist the Royal Governor of Jamaica as the threat of a slave rebellion has the island inhabitants fearing the worst. Arriving with a battalion of soldiers for protection, Lord John's first encounter with the Governor at his home indicates that there are quite a bit of strange and eerie forces at work on the addition to the threat of a slave rebellion, there is the fear of zombies and supernatural magic here in this remote post. This installment reinforces Lord John's character as one of intelligence, integrity, and a deep sense of duty. It also reveals his inner thoughts about his longing for someone with "reddish whiskers" as well as his attraction to a well-formed male house servant. Nothing terribly new or different, just reinforcing what is already known about his character. However, it was exciting to learn that he has an encounter at Rose Hall that adds to the overall sense of danger to Lord John while he is on the island. Literal and figurative snakes play an important role in "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies," and I believe that anyone who enjoyed the latter part of Voyager will certainly enjoy Lord John's adventure with zombies, snakes, a green-eyed witch, and things that go bump (and reek of decay) in the night.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Winner: Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman

Thank you to everyone who entered to win a copy of Wildflower Hill! The winner chosen randomly is.......

Anne from The Book Garden

Congratulations, Anne! You will be receiving an e-mail from me. I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sea Witch by Helen Hollick


The Time: The golden age of piracy -- 1716
The Place: The pirate round - from Africa to the Caribbean

"At 15 Jesamiah Acorne escapes the bullying of his elder half-brother to become a pirate with only two loves -- the sea and his freedom. But his life is to change after an attack on a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa when he meets the mysterious Tiola Oldstagh, an insignificant girl -- or so he assumes -- until he discovers her true identity, that of a white witch. Tiola and Jesamiah become lovers, but the wealthy Stefan van Overstratten also wants Tiola as his wife. Meanwhile, Jesamiah's half-brother, Phillipe Mereno, is determined to seek revenge for resentments of the past.

When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship, the Sea Witch, is put in Jesamiah's path, he must choose between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both -- but Mereno and van Overstratten want him dead.

Tiola must use her gift of Craft to rescue her lover, but first she must brave the darkness of the ocean depths and cnfront the supernatural presence of Tethys, the goddess of the sea, who will stop at nothing to claim the soul of Jesamiah Acorne
(from back cover)

my thoughts:

What a glorious adventure with an irresistible rogue!

Sea Witch is the first book in the series chronicling the adventures of Captain Jesamiah Acorne, a pirate who loves the thrill of living-on-the-edge with dangerous encounters at sea...and sharing the plundered treasures with his loyal crew. On the surface, he's a handsome soundrel who loves his rum and women, but deep inside he suffers from shameful secrets and unspeakable abuse in his childhood from his jealous half-brother.

During a skirmish at sea with another ship, Jesamiah encounters the beautiful Tiola, a healer with the gift of Craft, a white witch. She is to haunt his mind and soul....and take over his heart with his love for her. But there is to be no peace for them as lovers as others reach out in pursuit....his brother Phillipe is not finished with his revenge, and Stefan van Overstratten wants Tiola for his wife. Most powerful of all, Tethys -- the soul of the sea in the dark abyss -- wants to claim Jesamiah as her own.

From a plantation in Charleston to Capetown and Nassau, the thrilling adventures and heartwrenching struggles of the two lovers was non-stop action and kept me glued to the pages. I adored this lovable rogue and his devoted Tiola and enjoyed the blending of history, nautical adventures, romance, and fantasy. There were moments of real anguish and heart-pounding danger, and a couple of times I laughed out loud at Jesamiah's naughty antics! Tiola was a strong and admirable heroine, devoted to upholding the truth and integrity of her craft and sensitive to the uses of her power.

I've already purchased the next two installments in the series, Pirate Code and Bring it Close, as I absolutely have to follow Jesamiah and Tiola on another adventure! Their journey is by no means complete in this first installment as there are still many conflicts to work through. I'm delighted to learn that Helen Hollick is busy working on the fourth novel, Ripples in the Sand. I'm hooked and will follow Jesamiah wherever the sea takes him!

4.5/5 stars

***Thank you to Helen Hollick and Laura's Reviews for a copy of Sea Witch.****

Title: Sea Witch: The First Voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne
Author: Helen Hollick
Silverwood Books
314 pages
genre: historical adventure

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley

"Eva Ward returns to the only place she truly belongs, the old house on the Cornish coast, seeking happiness in memories of childhood summers. There she finds mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time.

But Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago. As she begins to question her place in the present, she comes to realize that she too must decide where she really belongs.

The Rose Garden is a haunting exploration of love, family, the true meaning of home, and the ties that bind us together."

(from the publisher)

My thoughts:

If you are a fan of Susanna Kearsley's novels, then you already know what to expect in The Rose Garden... lyrical writing... vivid images of nature and the landscape...historical settings... characters that you come to know and really care about...time travel that changes seamlessly from one frame to the next...and a breathtaking and poignant ending. The Rose Garden is no exception.

Susanna Kearsley has a very distinctive voice and her "comforting" stories of history and romantic suspense transport me to another time and place. I actually feel a bit out of sorts when I finish Kearsley's novels as I get so wrapped up in another world that I find it jarring to finish the book and realize the journey with the characters is over! That speaks volumes for the magic of her writing.

The Rose Garden introduces us to Eva Ward, a young woman who finds herself alone in the world after the death of her sister. She travels to Cornwall to Trelowarth, an old house where she and her family spent many happy summers as children. Eva believes that this would be the perfect resting place for her sister's ashes as they had such fond memories in Cornwall. She is welcomed by the Halletts, her long-time friends and the family which lives in Trelowarth, and they encourage her to stay for a while to help her get through this difficult time. Feeling stressed and grieved, Eva accepts their invitation and settles into life at Trelowarth. It is not long, however, before strange things begin to happen to Eva that have her questioning her sanity. Who are the voices she is hearing as she is sleeping in her room? Why is the landscape changing as she is walking in the woods?

Eva is experiencing time travel, and soon finds herself back in the 1700's at Trelowarth where two brothers, Mark and Daniel Butler, are involved in mysterious activites. Both smugglers and Jacobite supporters, Eva becomes more and more involved in their intrigue (and falls in love) as she travels back and forth in time. The time travel elements and the challenges Eva faces coming back and forth in time are handled well, but I do wish that the relationship between Eva and her love interest had a bit more spice. I like relationships that have depth and chemistry, and this didn't quite get off the ground until the very end. It was well worth hanging in there for things to develop, though.

Eva has many questions and must confront several issues: how is this happening to her? Can she change the course of history (or the course of someone's life) with her knowledge of the past? Will the present or the past be the place that will bring her a sense of belonging? I thoroughly enjoyed Eva's journey all the way to the stunning conclusion.

"Whatever time we have," he said, "it will be time enough."

***Thank you to Susanna Kearsley and Sourcebooks for sending me a copy for review.****

4.5/5 stars

Title: The Rose Garden
Author: Susanna Kearsley
441 pages
genre: historical romantic suspense

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 »