Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

About the Book:

It's the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford's young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford-and Elise-forever.

My thoughts:

Solomons' The House at Tyneford had all the elements that promised a very satisfying read......an English estate with a handsome heir, an upstairs/downstairs hierarchy, the drama of impending war, and the poignant story of a lovely young Jewish woman in Vienna forced to leave her family and their lavish lifestyle for a life of servitude in an English manor.  The writing was very descriptive and evocative, and I found myself delighting in the author's ability to create a vivid image of life in an English country home and all the charming details of life by the sea. However, I felt that plot actually seemed to take a back seat to setting, and the story became a tedious re-creation of time and place -- not much happened to keep the plot moving forward until the very end of the story. 

It would be too spoilerish to discuss the main character's love life, but suffice it to say that I was not on board with the relationships that Elise had throughout the novel which was a huge disappointment. I didn't feel a real connection between her first liaison -- it just came out of nowhere and seemed to go nowhere -- and the path Elise found later in life was understandable under the circumstances, but it was a completely unsatisfying ending for me. What did work for me was the turmoil Elise felt over the years of never knowing the fate of her parents, and longing to be reunited with her sister in America. That particular aspect of the plot was very well done, and I can't imagine the suffering and persecution of the Jewish community during this time.

I'm glad I read The House at Tyneford, but somehow wish it could have been so much more.

3/5 stars

Monday, September 10, 2012

Silent Night by Deanna Raybourn

Exciting news......

A new Lady Julia and Brisbane e-novella is coming soon and I cannot wait!! 

Here is the synopsis for this kindle edition of the Christmas novella:

"After a year of marriage—and numerous adventures—Lady Julia and Brisbane hope for a quiet, intimate Christmas together—until they find themselves at her father's ancestral estate, Bellmont Abbey, with her eccentric family and a menagerie of animals.
Nevertheless, Julia looks forward to a lively family gathering—but amongst the celebrations, a mystery stirs. There are missing jewels, new faces at the Abbey, and a prowling ghost that brings back unwelcome memories from a previous holiday—one that turned deadly. Is a new culprit recreating crimes of the past? And will Brisbane let Julia investigate—?"

(from Amazon.com)

Available Nov. 1.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Born of the Sun by Joan Wolf

About the book:

"This compelling saga about a beautiful Celtic princess who gives her heart to a Saxon prince explodes with the passions of love and war. When the Saxon army, in its bloody charge against the Celts, captures the child-princess Niniane, they bring her to Cynric, King of the West Saxons. Enchanted by her innocence and beauty, he makes Niniane a favored prisoner. But she soon discovers that the King's court abounds with tempestuous intrigues and tormented rivalries. And when the adulterous and envious Queen arranges for a duel between the King's beloved illegitimate son and her own son. heir to the throne, intrigue turns to deadly peril.

With this epic novel of the star-crossed passion that swept the Celts and Saxons to the brink of war--and two lovers to the edge of oblivion--Joan Wolf brilliantly brings alive a little-know but fascinating age."

My thoughts:

Born of the Sun has everything I hope to find in historical fiction -- a rich tapestry of history, daily life, a compelling love story, and political intrigue. An interesting twist was the opposing religious beliefs of Niniane, the Christian Celtic princess, and her husband, Ceawlin, the pagan Saxon prince. Forced into marriage for political convenience, their relationship evolves over time with struggles and successes you would expect to find in any relationship trying to "meet in the middle" and "give and take" to find a common ground. The plot was rich in love, history, treachery, and war and I'm looking forward to reading more in this series.

This is the second novel in the Dark Ages of Britain trilogy, but it was a stand alone novel and it appears that they are chronologically arranged but can be read in any order.

The series includes The Road to Avalon (Book 1):

The Edge of Light (Book 3)

4.5/5 stars     Highly recommended for historical fiction fans -- a gem from the past.

Title: Born of the Sun
Author: Joan Wolf
Publisher: Onyx
genre: historical fiction
508 pages

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vintage Romance Covers - Spotlight on Charles Geer

I adore books....I love reading them, of course, but I also have a passion for searching for collectible books -- that rare first edition, first printing, or paperbacks and dust jackets that feature gorgeous cover art. I've had pretty good luck with sellers on ebay and Amazon, but my favorite find is when I scoop one up for a super bargain at used book sales. :)

 Recently, the trend in many book covers in the genres that I prefer feature the much over-used headless or near- headless woman in period clothing. Fortunately, going back in time to vintage historical romance and historical fiction, I've found that some of the artwork is so distinctive and attractive that it's a pleasure to display these gorgeous covers on my bookshelves like pieces of art. I just love looking at them!

Today I'm going to share with you my small but favorite collection of vintage books that feature the work of the amazing artist, Charles Geer. I think you will agree that his elegant style and talent evoke the beauty and grace of another era and set the tone for the reading experience. Interestingly, there is as much attention to detail on the spine and back covers as there are on the prominent front cover art. Ahhh, a lost art!

  I hope you enjoy taking a walk down memory lane with these vintage historical romance paperbacks. Goodreads also has reviews of these books and other books featuring Geer's work.

(**If you click on the cover you will be able to see in greater detail.)

    (Cover - Castles in the Air by Patricia Gallagher; Avon, 1976 paperback)

(back cover of Castles in the Air)

     (Cover - No Greater Love by Patricia Gallagher; Avon, 1979 paperback)

                            (back cover of No Greater Love)

           (Cover - On Wings of Dreams by Patricia Gallagher; Berkley, 1985)

(back cover of On Wings of Dreams)

                   (Cover - My Lady Destiny by Denise Robins; Avon,  1978)

(back cover of My Lady Destiny)

Which cover is your favorite?

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 »