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.

 

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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!

Bookscapes by Helen McIver

A Good Book and Chocolate – Flowers Optional
Romantic Authors

bookpile2Following the library’s (and Facebook’s) alphabetic lists of either books or authors, here is a list of authors that write romance fiction.  I, personally, never knew that Jane Austen or Garrison Keillor was considered a romance writer (searching Kindle selections). These are some of the authors I have enjoyed reading, especially classics and Regency or historical novels.

To quote Robertson Davies, “It is dangerous to condemn stories as junk which satisfy the deep hunger of millions of people. These books are not literary art, but a great deal of what is acclaimed as literary art in our time offers no comfort or fulfillment to anybody.” (From For Your Eyes Alone; the Letters of Robertson Davies, ed. Judith Skelton Grant, Viking Press)
A
Jane Austen, Jennifer Ashley, *Laurie Anderson

B
Mary Balogh, *Angela Benson

C
Gail Carriger, *Jennifer Crusie, Mary Chase Comstock

D
Christina Dodd

E
Suzanne Enoch

F
Jane Feather

G
*Diana Gabaldon, *Roberta Gellis

H
*Madeline Hunter, *Deborah Harkness

I
Iris Johansson

J
*Eliosa James

K
Lisa Kleypas, Susanna Kearsley, Lynn Kurland

L
Stephanie Laurens

M
Karen Marie Moning, *Lucy Muir

N
Brenda Novak

O
Constance O’Day Flannery

P
Mary Jo Putney, *Elizabeth Peters, * Nina Coombs PyKare,

Q
Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick

R
Karen Rose, Karen Ranney, Deanna Raybourn, *Pamela Regis

S
*Christina Skye

T
Adriana Trigiani

U-V
Joan Vincent

W
Susan Wiggs, Lauren Willig, Edith Wharton, Kathleen Woodiwiss

X-Y
*Jane Yardley, Rebecca York

Z
Mia Zachary
* Denotes authors who have a PhD in various subjects and take the romance novel to a new level.

Book of the Moment
Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea

I read Shadowy Horses, Mariana and The Rose Garden, quite quickly in succession, charmed by the writing and locations. Historical Scotland, medieval England, magic as well as reminding me greatly of reading Mary Stewart as a teenager. Then I discovered Mary Stewart was one of Kearsley’s favorite authors growing up, and I couldn’t wait to read more. Her first novel Mariana won the Catherine Cookson literary prize, all of her books have become bestsellers. She also writes classic thrillers under the name Emma Cole.

The Winter Sea is her most recent book, and rumor has it her next one is a sequel (you have time to read this one before Firebird is released in June). Prepare to be enthralled: this is a beautiful and engaging work of historical fiction, with a dash of romance, tragedy, mystery in an engrossing story. She has done her research, both in richly detailed history but also in the present day settings – interesting characters, a moody sea, enchanting Scottish village and local customs.

Summary: Carrie McClelland moves to Scotland to continue to research her next book on a relatively unknown Jacobite rebellion of 1708. She is drawn to Slains Castle, rents a remote cottage and begins to dream of her characters, creating a parallel story.

If you like Barbara Erskine (Lady of Hay), Diana Gabaldon and Mary Stewart, read on.