Monday, July 5, 2010

The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer

"A houseful of people he loathes is not Sir Arthurs's worst problem......

It should have been a lovely English country-house weekend. But the unfortunate guest-list is enough to exasperate a saint, and the host, Sir Arthur Billington-Smith, is an abusive wretch hated by everyone from his disinherited son to his wife's stoic, would-be lover. When Sir Arthur is found stabbed to death, no one is particularly grieved--and no one has an alibi. The unhappy guests find themselves under the scrutiny of Scotland Yard's cool-headed Inspector Harding, who has solved tough cases before--but this time, the talented young inspector discovers much more than he's bargained for."
(from the publisher)

my thoughts:

After reading a few of Heyer's Georgian and Regency romances this year, The Unfinished Clue was a very nice change of pace. I love a good mystery, and while this plot wasn't necessarily complex, it was a delightful glimpse into an English country-house weekend party...gone terribly wrong!

In this classic murder mystery set in the 1930's, Heyer introduces the reader to a cast of intriguing and colorful characters, from Fay, the fragile, long-suffering wife of the cantankerous Sir Arthur, to a disinherited son and Lola, his outrageous "exotic dancer" love interest. No one manages to escape the wrath of Sir Arthur, and when the host turns up dead, everyone begins looking suspiciously at the other. Sir Arthur tries to leave behind a clue to the identity of his murderer, but, alas, it is "unfinished."

Leave it to Heyer to blend not only sparkling dialogue and some comedic relief, but she expertly adds all those little details that paint a picture of an elegant, bygone era. (One of my favorite scenes includes the flirty Camilla, described as a corn-colored hair beauty, with scarlet lipstick and lacquer red fingernails, lounging on the terrace before the cocktail hour, (gasp) blowing smoke rings.)

Delightful and charming, all fans of Heyer should try a few of her mysteries.

FYI -- At the Georgette Heyer Tea sponsored by the Poisoned Pen Bookstore that I recently attended, I learned that the author actually pronounced her name more like "hay-er" or "hair" (not "higher"). I've been mispronouncing it all my life! Who knew?

3.5/5 stars

Title: The Unfinished Clue
Author: Gerogette Heyer
321 pages

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley

"Julia Beckett believes in destiny. When she moves into Greywethers, a beautiful sixteenth-century farmhouse, she suspects that more than coincidence has brought her there. The locals are warm and welcoming, especially the eligible squire of Crofton Hall, yet beneath the ordinariness, Julia senses a haunting sadness about her new home. Then she learns of Mariana, a beautiful young woman who lived there three hundred years ago. It seems history has been waiting for Julia....." (from the publisher)

my thoughts:

Susanna Kearsley's Mariana was one of those books that I curled up with in a comfy chair and didn't come up for air until I had turned to the last page.

Haunting and romantic, with elements of reincarnation and time travel, this was a wonderful novel in the tradition of Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart....highly recommended for those who love stories where the present is tied to the past, suspense, and an old-fashioned second chance love story with a two-hankie ending.

Click on the trailer photo for a full-screen view of the book trailer -- it captures the haunting quality of the love story perfectly!

4.5/5 stars

Title: Mariana
Author: Susanna Kearsley
395 pages
genre: romantic suspense

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Meeting Diana Gabaldon, Lauren Willig, & Stephanie Barron

Meeting Diana Gabaldon

So, here it of the most surreal, wonderful moments of my life! Diana Gabaldon was absolutely beautiful, warm, friendly, and gracious while I was a bundle of nerves! I didn't know that the event would be so small and intimate, so I had not prepared anything intelligent (ha!) to say to her personally as I never thought that I would have that opportunity! I would have been happy just to see her from afar and stand in line to get my book signed. But Barbara Peters, the owner of the Poisoned Pen bookstore whom I had met earlier in the day, was kind enough to walk over to Diana and point me out. Barbara said, "This young lady flew in from New Orleans to meet you," and she motioned for me to come over! I almost passed out right then and there!! So I walked over and introduced myself and shook her hand and I THINK I said it was an honor to meet her and that I loved her books....I say I THINK because I swear I had a brain freeze and felt my IQ reduced to zero! Shortly after, book-blogging buddy Julie came in and received her introduction, and Diana very graciously posed for several pictures and laughed with us as I stood there hyperventilating! What an extraordinary experience!

Chatting with Lauren Willig as she signed Blood Lily

Later that night, I had the opportunity to sit and chat with the wonderful Lauren Willig as she signed my copy of The Betrayal of the Blood Lily. I cannot begin to tell you how sweet and charming Lauren was all weekend! I first met her at the Georgette Heyer Tea and talked a little about our shared interest in the Heyer books. At a later event, she and Stephanie Barron spoke about topics related to historical research for their books, and afterwards Julie and I had a long talk with her. We discussed our favorite books and authors, of course, and tried to get her to tell us a little about her future books. She was absolutely adorable and friendly and now I love her books even more now that I've had the chance to meet the person behind the stories. She's a walking encyclopedia of history and literature and I could talk to her all day! I can't wait until the fall release of The Mischief of the Mistletoe (Jane Austen fans will love this one, set in Bath during the Christmas season of 1803).

With Stephanie Barron while she signed my book

Stephanie Barron, author of A Flaw in the Blood and the Jane Austen mystery series, was another amazing author that I had the opportunity to meet. She was an incredibly interesting speaker, very knowledgeable about the Regency period, and was there promoting one of her latest historical fiction releases, The White Garden: A Novel of Virginia Woolf. It is a fictional account of what happened to Virginia Woolf in the weeks between her disappearance and the day her body was found -- part mystery and suspense, rich in historical detail, with beautiful prose. On a funny note, after we left the Tea, Stephanie Barron needed a ride back to the hotel, so she hopped in the car with us and of course, we talked and laughed about books, books, and more books! I kept telling myself, "This is so surreal -- here I am sitting in the back seat chatting with Stephanie Barron!"

Alas, all good things must come to an end, so it's back home to know, normal like hurricanes and oil spills and all the rest of those things that keep life crazy! Thanks, Julie and Cathy, for meeting up with me and sharing these wonderful experiences!

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 »