Austenesque?

Title: The Ill-Kept Oath by CC AunePublisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishers (Sept 2016) 416pp

Genre: mystery, paranormal, YA, historical fantasy, Victorian, fiction, 

3.5 stars

Author: From Amazon’s author page: ” Aune’s ramblings have led her through 49 states—nine of which she has called home—plus a fair number of countries. She has been a journalist and a contributor for the companion book to PBS’s 2000 series In Search of Our Ancestors. Currently, she directs the blog One Year of Letters, which explores the internal landscape of writers. The Ill-Kept Oath is her debut novel. This is the first of a planned series, with the second Talisman Keepers installment in rewrite.”

Story line: I received an advance copy but after a few chapters found it didn’t meet my expectations. It was less paranormal/ fantasy and more scattered romance. I put it aside for more compelling reads, until rainy, snowy weather held me housebound. Then, grasping the central characters, and melodramatic teen writing, it was a quick read. The two heroines Josephine and Prudence, write to each other from their respective abodes, Stanistead House, a country estate, and London during the Marriage Mart Season. Both are interested in obtaining husbands, both have received an inheritance of Talismans, and both find themselves involved in intrigue. Prudence Fairweather and her brother Edward were taken in by Lord Middlemere, who has a daughter of similar age Josephine Weston. All three were raised in ignorance of their blood legacy, as per the Oath. Prudence,18, has limited options because she is poor, but she is pursued by Underwood (dull but wealthy) while she is interested in the unreliable William MacNeal. There is of course an evil socialite. Lady Josephine, 16, is interested in Robert Quimby, a young military man who is socially beneath her. Meanwhile, there are trolls rampaging in the countryside and magic escaping in candlelit ballrooms.

There is some interesting historical detail (the costume and waltzes) with dark magic being slowly revealed. Good character development bodes well for the continuation of this series. I would have preferred to read the series together as I felt much was unexplained in volume one, lose ends abound, and we still don’t know what kind of magic to expect. The story feels incomplete. Also, who is the target audience?

Quotes:

Normally, Prudence would never challenge authority, but her guardian, having conjured this evocative subject, might as well have touched a spark to gunpowder. Curiosity gave way to burgeoning wonder.

“They possessed a rare set of talents called the Inheritance.”

She’d spent six weeks in London undergoing this transformation. Gone was the country girl who climbed trees and rode bareback; gone forever her girlhood spent in the idyllic hills of the west. Until now, she had directed no thought toward her future. Love might have found her in Wiltshire…

“Shall we rely on social calls to open the right doors? My heart may not be so sanguine with the purposes of a Season, but I have accepted it as a necessary rite of my passage. I’ve been in London already one quarter of a year but not one event have I attended.”

She was doomed to be perceived as an immature child, and the keepsakes seemed to make matters worse. Edward’s point about her reputation had been perfectly valid, however cruelly stated, but the dangers were worse than he could possibly imagine.

Middlemere squeezed the bridge of his nose. Two decades ago, he had postulated that Talismans could, even without ritual, awaken a Keeper’s instincts.

With a crescendo of chords, Middlemere ended the concerto. Everyone applauded, whether they’d been listening or not.

“No one expected the Talismans to exert a force of their own. We called ourselves Talisman Keepers, but our power relied on more than mere objects. Most Keepers formed partnerships that made them still stronger. In the early days, they offered their services in exchange for titles and land and became much coveted by the nobility.

They would descend on our Family and examine everyone for the Trait, identifying you and perhaps Edward before drawing Mr. MacNeal into the net. What would happen to Us then is uncertain, but the Exorcist’s description still burns in my head: a magical Voiding of one’s Memory with the potential to produce unexpected Results.

“Not at all. Think of the quarrels he and I shall have. I’m far too opinionated to be a good marchioness.”

She advanced to the sideboard and poured them all a strong drink, which Prudence and MacNeal accepted with a good deal more alacrity than was strictly necessary.

Do you have any idea what the average man thinks about?” Prudence shuddered and turned bright red.

“I have learned enough to make me proud of my heritage, but if the price of happiness is never to learn another thing about the Inheritance, then gladly will I pay.” 

Read on:

If you like Gail Carriger, Alan Bradley, Seth Graham Smith Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. 

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.

 

BOOK RELEASE: ON THE REBOUND BY JIM CANGANY

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ON THE REBOUND IS NOW AVAILABLE!

Author:  Jim Cangany
Release Day:  January 26, 2016
Genre: Sports Romance
Publisher:  Penner Publishing


 

SYNOPSIS

FINAL_AMAZON-APPLE-EBOOK-300x464On The Rebound is a sweet, sports romance set on the campus of fictional Irving University. It’s a story about second chances and features a women’s college basketball team. Here’s a teaser for you.

After he’s caught in a grade fixing scandal, men’s college basketball coach Greg Miller is thrown a lifeline when an old friend offers him a job with the small-school Irving University women’s team.

Academic Advisor Ciara Monaghan knows first-hand the heartbreak and havoc a cheating man can wreak. She wants nothing more than to protect the University’s reputation by seeing to it that Greg’s stay at Irving is short.

The last thing either of them wants is the attraction they can’t deny. Can a struggling member of the basketball team bring them together to see how wonderful a second chance at life, and love, can be?


 

ABOUT JIM CANGANY

JimPhotoJim Cangany was forty pages into his first manuscript when he realized it was a romance. He went with it and has great joy writing sweet, contemporary love stories. A lover of things that go fast, when Jim’s not writing, you can probably find him checking into the latest from IndyCar or pro bike racing. He lives in Indianapolis with his saint of a wife Nancy, his sons Seamus and Aidan, and the princess of the house, kitty cat Maria.

Visit him: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Tumbler


BUY NOW AT YOUR FAVORITE RETAILER!

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National Library Week- celebrate reading!

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Title: A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark,
528 pp April 7, 2015
Genre: historical, mystery, Jacobite, romance, romantic suspense, scottish,
5 stars*****
Author: Susanna Kearsley is a favourite author of mine. I have reviewed several of her books, and recommended all of them. I was hooked when the first reminded me of reading Mary Stewart. Don’t miss The Rose Garden, Shadowy Horses and Mariana. But when her stories gathered Scottish mists and legends I was in thrall and this novel continues this with another magical setting. The historical details are well researched. The gothic suspense is real and building.The voice of each character is pitch perfect. Her romance is subtle and charming.
I found both stories equally heartwarming- in fact I would have enjoyed a separate full length book on each. There are interesting complements, and resonance for many cultures. I love the feel and heft of her books, and savor every word. Three times for this novel: once to melt into the story, two to read for highlighted quotes and review and another for an appreciation of the story structure and conclusion. This helped to reestablish my initial thoughts and feelings. I especially enjoyed reading Kearsley’s acknowledgements and the reasons for telling Mary’s story.
Story Line: This book stands on its own, but the richness of the time period is more fully developed in sequence with The Winter Sea and Firebird. You will enjoy brief vignettes with some of these characters in this novel. There are two distinct story lines, although no time travel is involved. Both are complex, well paced with fascinating characters. The present day story concerns Sara Thomas, with code breaking abilities, who journeys to France to decipher a diary, potentially revealing of the Jacobite cause. An author, Alistair Scott (a champion of Scotland, with history of the ordinary people) is working on a new book and needs a coded source. She has asperger’s and is wary and unsure of herself in the modern world. Her journey is an extremely touching, charming story. Asperger’s was an unusual twist but contributes to her computer and math skills, while also revealed her to be alone, lonely. Understanding Luc Saban develops a lasting relationship.
Her transcription unfolds the story of Mary Dundas, the daughter of an exiled Jacobite, living in France, 1732. She is a brave young woman (21), smart, creative and strong, who with the aid of a highland warrior High MacPherson, travel south to Rome on a perilous journey to reach the protection of the King James III Court (father to Bonnie Prince Charlie). Instead of the expected every day diary details, we are given a story with court intrigue, actual details of financial scandal, and arduous, dangerous 18th century travel as well as an interesting time capsule. Highlanders, as written by Kearsley are simply unforgettable and wonderful.
Read On:
Mary Stewart’s gothic suspense
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series
Mark Haddon Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night (aspherger’s)
Quotes:
Opening line: My cousin didn’t try to catch the bride’s bouquet.
….history is not just the tale of the victors. It’s the tale of the privileged.
You’re like the lone Mac in an office of PCs. They’re all running windows and you’re running OS X.
Tell Alistair Scott that if he’s buying me whisky, my preference is 16 yr old Lagavulin.
My grass is green enough.
Are all men of the Highlands so unfathomable?
That was the Griogal Cridhe, a widow’s lament about seeing her husband beheaded. (not a lullaby then)
The past, Mary thought, was itself a great predator. Chasing you always behind in a tireless pursuit…
….know from experience frogs sometime stayed frogs no matter how often you kissed them.
I liked her sense of humor and her strength, and her tenacity, and her determination to let nothing keep her down. (Sara on Mary)

Many thanks to Netgalley for an advance ebook copy; I had to purchase my own!

You need books!!!

I have seen the forecast….

When the weather outside is frightful, you want to be indoors reading! So head to the library, go into the Friends’ Bookstore (remember all proceeds benefit the library!) and get a stash, or start reading that bag of books you got in the Winterfest Booksale! (And thanks again for supporting the library!)
I was going to be writing a series of book reviews this week (5 are half written) to entice you into the bookstore and library, BUT:
I just received a long awaited sequel from a favourite author and am about to lose myself and a few days.
So, instead, I thought you might like a heads up on a previous author and post. First because of the weather and the flu/cold season, I love this post from Vignette a la Mode that included a copy of The Dressmaker’s Duke tucked into a lovely gift basket!

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This gift basket with tea and other get well or comfort foods, would also work nicely for Valentines!
Second, the library does have a copy of Jess Gibbon’s The Dressmaker’s Duke, although you might have to reserve it as it has been circulating, OR wait til the 20th February when it will go on sale! 99cents February 20th-March 3rd. It has remained a bestseller in historical romance.
And remember if you read it, or purchase it, give the author a heads up and review it (at either or both Amazon or GoodReads). This helps future books sales- and note she is already working on her second novel Mad for the Marquis!
Third, this is a multitalented author and you should check out her website
http://jessrussellromance.com
Each month she does a “trash to treasure” transformation: don’t miss this month’s taking a 70’s bridal gown and reinventing it into a new 2015 evening gown, from Wedding to Wearable!

http://jessrussellromance.com

Mistletoe and Second Chances

Title: A Matchmaker’s Christmas by Donna Lea Simpson
Publisher: Beyond the Page, Amazon digital services (December 2014)
230 pp
Genre: regency romance, classic romance
3 Stars ***
Author:
Donna Lea Simpson is a Canadian bestselling author. She writes romance and mystery novels, some with a paranormal twist (the Awaiting series looks intriguing). This romance was a delightful read, evocative of the rural English countryside in Regency times. I found a few modern attitudes, actions and language but enjoyed the gentle, poignant and satisfying romances.
Story line:
Lady Bournaud, an elderly widow, hosts a Holiday party, resolved to do some good before she passes happily on, waiting to be reunited with her beloved late husband. The unsuspecting couples gather, not necessarily in correct social order, but through much character development, introspection and doubt, find love. Second chances for all ages, in changing social times.
Read on:
To Georgette Heyer, Anne Perry
Mark it for next holiday, with the true spirit of Christmas or enjoy during this winter season.
Quotes:
It’s going to be a long cold winter. Been a miserable summer and it is not likely to get any better now.
But each season had its own sorrows and rewards and she learned a long time ago to take each day as it came….looking ahead was too bleak and looking back was unthinkable.
I hate this present age of music I don’t understand, prissy young folk allowed to marry wherever they wish, and a mad old king,
You cannot mean that you intend to match these poor unsuspecting young people? A reverend and a hoyden?
I have outlived disease. I begin to fear I will live forever…..Lady Bournaud did not like closed books.
As the life I live is my own, and the only one I have been given, I think it behooves me to be careful with it ma’am.
I have taken the elegant affectation of staying in bed until luncheon.

Read as an ARC from Netgalley

What Would Papa Do?

Title: Anne Perry A New York Christmas
Publisher: Ballantine/Penguin Random House (2014, 2015)
164pp
Genre: Christmas short story, novella, historical mystery, romantic suspense, English mysteries,
4 Stars ****
Author: Anne Perry is an international bestselling British author of over 60 historical detective novels. She lives in the secluded Scottish Highlands, but her readership is primarily American. The Times selected her as one of the 20th century’s “100 Masters of Crime”, and her short story “Heroes” (2001) won an Edgar.
Two of her acclaimed series feature William Monk, a private investigator who has amnesia, and Thomas Pitt, now head of Special Branch after a long illustrious career (and 30 books). Her Christmas stories (12 novellas) involve characters from these series, each with a pleasant, moral theme. They are a gentle reminder of why we celebrate the season. Her WWI series is not to be missed. She has also written YA, fantasy, and stand alone novels. I have read all her books and novellas (since 1980) so am familiar with her characters and writing style.
Story line:
It is 1904 and Jemima, the daughter of Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, travels as chaperone to America with Delphinia Cardrew for her high society NY wedding into the wealthy Albright family. Jemima embarks on an adventure trying to find Phinnie’s mother Maria, but is then accused of murder. She meets Patrick Flannery, a police officer with an Irish lilt, who believes her innocence. They encounter danger and friendship in NYC society.
This story is a bit simplistic at times, with numerous themes, very predictable, but enjoyable to read especially the luxurious descriptions of elite NYC, winter in Central Park, diverse neighborhoods, family secrets and skeletons. And as our winter extends, it makes for an enjoyable afternoon read. I wonder if the continuing romance will lead to stories on this side of the Atlantic.
Now on sale in most bookstores, with shorter waiting list in the library.
Read on:
To the mysteries of Anne Perry, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt, or William and Hester Monk.
To Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight series. Or Jane Haddam series.
To short stories of Donna VanLiere.
Quotes:
At twenty you have the face nature has given you; at fifty you have the face you deserve.
Twenty-three, and I’m thinking like a policeman! You would be proud of me Papa…and horrified.
Tact is a priceless virtue.
At least she would not look as foreign as she felt.
She made an instant decision to be charming, complimentary, and unimpressed. She owed it to her national honor not to gawk as if such things were not common at home.
She knows what matter and what doesn’t. She remembers what she receives, but not what she gives….she is never unnecessarily unkind.
It is very good to know the rules, even if you did not intend to follow them.
After all, how could you find magic if you did not believe in it?

Read as an ARC from Netgalley

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.”

Book of the Moment by Helen McIver

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June 2013
The Bookmore Cottage

Dear Gentle Reader,
Summer is almost upon us and I am not sure what happened to spring. I somehow didn’t have enough time to read with all the gardening, travelling and packing, to say nothing of shoveling unexpected May snow. But planes are perfect places to read, so I have always loved summer travel. Cars invite audiobooks across miles. And of course, the chaise lounge on the back deck can take you so many places. Last week I ended up in Scotland, alternating between present day, WWI and WWII.

Letters from Skye is the charming debut novel by Jessica Brockmole. Dear Reader, you will love this beautiful portrayal of old fashioned love in the time of war, the nuances of letter writing, the captivating period detail, and the two cultures (American and Scottish) which will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

Through these letters, I met a new friend that I think you will also adore, the lovely Scottish poet Elspeth Dunn from the island of Skye. Her letters sparkle with her love of countryside, youth, family, her fears and dreams and her compass. I felt the same sea breezes, gazed at the stormy seas, despaired for days and years, questioned my own journey and just so enjoyed her erudite company. The letters of her daughter Margarite, her American friend and lover David Graham, along with various family memebers reveal secrets, friendships, bravery and trials, but as with the very nature of letters leave some experiences to the reader’s imagination. There was a satisfying resolution which celebrated joy, something worth remembering in turbulent times. “I have never stopped loving you.”

I have always been a letter writer, an anomaly/anachronism more so with the passing to the electronic age. The graceful correspondence makes for easy reading and is punctuated with lovely humour, wit and passion. I loved the development of the realistic characters (I have a number of Scottish friends I recognised instantly) over the years but also through the eyes of other family members. I enjoyed being reminded of my Grandmother’s time, and also reminding me of how grateful I am to live in this time. And of course, I want to go back home to Scotland now.

Most Sincerely,

A British Bluestocking

PS Be sure to Read on to:
Yes it has been compared with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows), but it reminds me more of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs, Julia Stuart’s The Tower, The Zoo, The Tortoise, or her Pigeon Pie Mystery and Mr Rosenblum Dreams in English by Natasha Solomons or Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simon (see previous reviews!).

Quotes:
“Like any whose blood runs tartan, I adore W.S…. his poetry really does a fine job of capturing Scotland in all of her changeable moods.”

“ All a person really needs to get them through the vagaries of life are the Bible and W.S. (both of them).”Read as an ARC
4 stars for a delightful summer read
Published July 9th 2013

Book Review – Hopeless

15717943Hopeless
A review by Catherine H. Armstrong

I love Facebook.  Not only does it help you keep in contact with old friends, but it’s also a great source for finding wonderful reading material.  Several of the best books I read last year were brought to my attention through the Facebook posts of my friends or pages that I’ve “liked” (such as the Rochester Public Library, Friends of the Rochester Public Library and Paige Turner).

A couple of weeks ago, author Tracey Garvis Graves posted on Facebook about a book she’d read that she couldn’t put down.  Graves is the author of On the Island, a book I reviewed for this blog some time back and which I thoroughly enjoyed.  When I first read the recommendation, I made a mental note to read it at some point in the future; however, over the next several days, her post kept popping back into my news feed with comment after comment by those who’d read the book and were just raving about it.  The book was Hopeless by Colleen Hoover.

My curiosity had been piqued and I decided to investigate further and went to my two favorite sources for all-things-books:  Amazon and Goodreads.  I was absolutely stunned to find that nearly 2,500 Amazon readers had rated this book a strong 4.5 stars, and more than 15,000 (yes, you read that correctly) Goodreads readers had also read it a full 4.5 stars.  In that moment, I knew this was a book that must be queued up immediately.

Knowing nothing about this book other than that readers seemed to love it, I purchased and downloaded it immediately.  I seriously needed to know what all the hype was about.

I’m not sure whether knowing nothing about this book was a good or a bad thing.  At first, I was terribly disappointed because the first few pages read like a YA novel.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy YA novels, but I really wasn’t in the mood to read a boy-meets-girl and crush ensues novel.  I thought I’d signed up for a really excellent adult novel with a deep plot and the first few pages didn’t give me the warm fuzzies that I was going to get what I’d hoped for.  But I kept reading, and I’m really glad I did.

Hopeless is a beautiful and intense novel about a young woman named Sky who was adopted at the age of 5 and has been sheltered for the remainder of her nearly 18 years by her single mother.  Sky has been home-schooled all of her school years, and her mother doesn’t believe in technology such as computers, telephones and televisions.   As she enters her senior year of school, she convinces her mother to allow her to attend public high school where she meets Dean Holder – a young man who will change her life forever.

As the story unfolds, the reader begins to realize that there’s something just not quite right about Sky.  She’s been sheltered her entire life and has virtually no memories of her life before her adoption.  While she is a seemingly normal teenager, there’s something not quite right about her lack of attraction to other young men her age.  To put it simply, she “tolerates” young men, but has never had the traditional teenage girl crush and has never felt the butterflies in the tummy that most young women her age experience.  Until Dean Holder.  Meeting Holder will turn her world upside down in every way imaginable.

Holder is a wonderful character in every way, but the reader realizes almost immediately that he’s holding something back from Sky.  The only thing we really know about him is that his twin sister committed suicide a year prior and he’s still struggling to deal with his loss.  And  yet the reader immediately begins to feel that there’s so much more to Holder’s story and his attraction to Sky.

The description of this books sounds like a YA Romance novel and, in some ways, it is.  And yet, it is so much more.  Though it does have moments of very explicit intimacy between Sky and Holder, there are so many more layers to this story that makes the genre classification quite murky.  The reader is constantly sitting on the edge of her seat wondering what’s coming next.  Who is Holder?  Why doesn’t Sky have any memories before her adoption?  Why hasn’t she ever had a normal teenage crush before Holder?  What in the world is Holder hiding?

Hopeless is a wonderful, shocking and sometimes painful read.  It’s also one of the few books I’ve read in a single day.  I simply couldn’t put it down.  Above all of that, it’s “real.”

This book is currently not available at the Rochester Public Library; however, I did request that it be added to our collection.  Keep your eyes open to see if it will be added!  In the meantime, this book is available through traditional booksellers in paperback and eBook formats.