It’s a new book….

If you haven’t read it! 

Being a column about previously published books. Perhaps recently reissued, perhaps just discovered, perhaps recommended, perhaps on sale as an ebook, or a library find.

Title: Named of the Dragon, Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Berkley/Sourcebooks (Oct 1999, reissued 2013UK, ebook 2015) 337 pp
4.5 stars
Genre: historical romance, romantic suspense, gothic suspense, British
Disclaimer
I have read all her novels, have them as paperbacks and ebooks. I especially love her Scottish characters and stories which take me back home. I have given them to a wide variety of people, with no disappointments. I hope the popularity of this author makes people more aware of similar, earlier novelists:
Mother’s Day is coming up – this novel or any of her books would make a lovely gift. It would also make a lovely holiday reading present.
Author:
Susanna Kearsley is an award winning, NYTimes best selling Canadian author. She studied politics and international development at university and has been a museum curator. I recommend all her books: perhaps it is best to read them in order if you can find them! Mariana (1994), Spendour Falls (1995), Shadowy Horses (1997), Named of the Dragon (1998), Season of Storms (1999/2014), Winter Sea (also called Sophia’s Secret) (2008), Rose Garden (2011), Firebird (2013), A Desperate Fortune (2015). Her well researched historical novels often have paranormal elements, with a gentle love story. She has also written classic style thrillers as Emma Cole (Every Secret Thing, 2006). See her website http://www.susannakearsley.com for pictures of Pembroke Castle.
Story Line:
This is not contemporary romance.
This is not a fast paced mystery / thriller.
This is not necessarily a page turner, fast read.
This is not similar to her most recent paranormal historical books.
But it is a lovely, well written, atmospheric novel that will provide you with a strong sense of time and place: of Wales, King Arthur and literary London. Named of the Dragon is a gentle, layered, absorbing read. I loved the brief but accurate historical details. The gothic suspense is real and building. The voice of each character is pitch perfect. Her characters are often clever intelligent people, in the every day situations. I enjoyed the foray into the literary world, for the interesting portraits of authors, writers, genre, the hard work involved in writing and the intriguing personalities, politics and contemporary contrasts (although note there are no references to social media!). There is a nice balance of family, friends, Welsh vs English, each contributing clues to the slowly revealed story.
Lyn Ravenshaw is an eclectic literary agent for Simon Holland London, who accompanies one of her major clients, the flamboyant, self centered Bridget Cooper to the village of Angle, Wales for a Christmas holiday. Here be dragons, with castle, ruins, dovecote, myths, legends and coastal walks. Lyn’s haunting dreams add a surreal element of prophecy and an opportunity to explore Merlin, King Arthur, Tennyson and personal loss. Lyn is a young (29) widow who is still grieving her stillborn son, but finds new paths with a local family, a playwright, coastal walks with a lovely dog named Chance, and seasonal cheer. Kearsley’s romance is subtle and charming. Here it is a proper love story, not even a kiss but swoon worthy true love.
Read on:
If you like Mary Stewart (especially her Merlin trilogy), Mary Elgin, Barbara Michaels, Barbara Erskine, Anya Seton, Daphine du Maurier, Rosemary Sutcliffe and Elizabeth Harris.
To her later novels, read on to Diana Gabaldon
Alfred, LordTennyson Idylls of the King (Sir Gareth and Lynnette)
This novel reminded me of Mary Stewart, The Merlin Trilogy (4 books beginning with Crystal Cave). This is a wonderful thing as I sincerely miss her writing (and if it’s any indication by the number of individuals and book clubs to which I have recommended Kearsley, many still miss Stewart.
Quotes:
First line: The dream came, as it always did, just before dawn.
Bridget was a one-off, an exceptionally talented writer with a wild imagination that made her books for children instant classics, and a wild nature that drove poor directors of my literary agency to drink….. And I, who had survived 4 years and one weeks holiday in France with Bridget, had risen to status of martyr.
…a toss of the coin did seem the only fair way to decide where I ought to spend Christmas…it only took four tries to make the penny come up tails.
I recognized the stubborn tone, the stamp of a true writer. And I took his side wholeheartedly. Originality was not a team pursuit…
Like one of my father’s more difficult roses, his ego would wither unless you fussed over it constantly. Writers, I knew, could be hard work, that way.
It had been years since I had walked a coastal path, and I’d forgotten how incredible it felt to be so high above everything, to look down and see gulls wheeling under me while on the blue sunlit water the tankers and small boats moved leisurely round one another, completely unaware of my existence.
“I suppose that there’s some planet, somewhere,” I told her, “where all of your theories make sense.”
“You should be sainted.”
“Most legends,” said Gareth, “are root
ed in myth. And legends live longer than truth.”
He was to Wales what William Wallace was to Scotland, only more than that.
Her neighbors, I thought, were probably still undergoing therapy.
She’s high maintenance, you know, like a racing car—always wanting a new set of tires, or an oil change.”
Smiling at the devil was the best way to defeat him, so my father’d always said.
“She’s just inherited her mother’s way of seeing things, the Celtic way, that sees the past and future worlds all blended in with ours. That isn’t mad, it’s Welsh.
“I’m a writer,” she said. “There’s a difference. Authors are rarefied creatures, you know, who write serious fiction.” “And writers…?” “Write books people buy,” she explained, with a twinkle of mischief.
Stripped to its bare outer walls, it was like a cathedral, a great hollow soaring cathedral of stone, with a perfect domed ceiling and small arching windows that slanted pale light through the reverent gloom. From every ledge and opening.

 

Fall into a Good Book!

A friend of a friend is a friend.
A friend of a friend who likes books is a good friend.
A friend of a friend who shares books is a great friend.
And a friend of a friend who is also a regency writer, is a friend-in-waiting!?
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Recently, I discovered a new award winning author Jess Russell – and I am delighted to comment on her debut Regency romance novel The Dressmaker’s Duke. Jess Russell has created a fascinating historical romance novel full of London high society, fashion, courtesans, village life, with complex characters. There are also interesting embedded stories which provide depth that include passion for painting, fashion and dressmaking (the author is also an accomplished seamstress!), the use of all our senses so accurately described which contribute to the story. This is not your standard debut novel. It is a well written and crafted combination of historical detail and rollicking romance. It showcases everyday life, primarily of the English aristocracy but has also some steamy intimate details characteristic of the new regency historical novel (now I understand there are even more regency categories: traditional, regency historical, sensual, paranormal (including Victorian steam punk) and Christian regency romance). This is well researched; you will find many familiar people and locations (Jackson’s, Mr Crup’s, Mrs Radcliffe’s novels, Mrs Siddons).

Characters

Mr Rhys Alistair James Merrick, 6th Duke of Royden aka The Monk

Mrs Olivia Weston (née Olivia Jayne Ballard, father Earl of Stokesly, Mr Angus Allen Hartner)

Her companion Egg (Mrs Eglantine Wiggens who has a flirtation with Merrick’s Uncle Betram)

Daria Battersby, courtesan

Lord Oscar Biden, scoundrel

Plot

The story takes place over the year of 1810. It is rather intricate, somewhat convoluted, with the usual melodrama and secrets. They each have past traumas that are slowly revealed, adding both dimension and substance to their relationship, while preventing straightforward courtship. I haven’t recovered fully from the visual of the main character being described as an onion with many layers. But perhaps that was also due to all of the senses so well described in this novel: the gutter smells and intoxicating fragrances, stunning scenery, gorgeous dresses and feel of the materials, champagne bubbles and sensual trysts, with incessant rain, cobblestone street traffic and droning matron voices. The mistress was slightly caricatured. Imagine being a hag at 35? There are no spoilers here, remember this IS a regency romance, with which I automatically have predictable expectations. But it has fun dialogue, interesting back stories, familiar territory with accurate descriptions, and a most satisfactory ending.

It is a pleasant distraction for an autumn afternoon. I have no recollection of the flight from Florida to Vermont as I was engrossed in this tale, marking hysterical comments and notes to share. 4 stars – open the champagne and celebrate this new author.

Received as an e- ARC from the author.

Publisher Wild Rose Press Author Jess Russell lives in New York (and not only loves power tools, but knows how to use them. I have found a kindred spirit who appreciated the gift of a chainsaw!). Her passions include dressmaking and batik.

The Dressmaker’s Duke came in first in the Fool for Love contest, Golden Apple Awards’ Secret Craving contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity contest, and finaled in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City opener, and Lone Star contests.

Read on: If you like Mary Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, Jo Beverly, Marion Chesney, Georgette Heyer, Lisa Kleypas, Stephanie Laurens, Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick, Christina Dodd or Madeline Hunter.

Favourite Quotes:

“This particular shop was not for the faint of heart. Mr Crup specialised in the macabre.”

“Rhys raised an eyebrow, one of his surest weapons, and gave the man his most ducal look.”

“But the four full suits of armor, Sir Mutton, Sir Haggis, Sir Dunce-a-lot and last but not least, Sir Portly- she had named them all in the last hour- gave up no secrets.”

“Rhys waited and then raised an eyebrow ever so slightly. Wilcove (his secretary) used to reading volumes in the mere quiver of Rhys’s nostril, rushed on.”

“Please don’t resurrect that atrocity (a costume dress). Good lord, we need a patron not an arrest.”

“The ton had called her ruined. Ruined. What an odd word to associate with a human being, as if she were broken and no longer useful, something to be thrown away.”