The Countess Conspiracy

Courtney Milan

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Just when I think a plot is a little farfetched, damn if NPR doesn’t do a segment on someone exactly like the heroine. This is the case with Violet, a brilliant plant scientist whose experiments with genetics reveals the idea of chromosomes carrying the genetic material that gives plants their characteristics. Unfortunately for Violet, she is stuck in a time period where women simply don’t do science, much less science studying the sex lives of plants. She is forced to hide behind a man to present her ideas as his.

Unfortunately, Sebastian, her life-long friend, is tired of the lying and posturing that being the public face of her discoveries requires. He has loved Violet since childhood and encourages her to step out of the shadows to take credit for her own brilliant work.

Another fact-based Milan novel with a strong heroine and a loving hero who values her for her strength.

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Reading Heyer: The Black Moth

Rachel Hyland

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I don’t remember my first Heyer. It was in high school, some 50+ years ago, and I have been a fan of her romances ever since. I’m reading one right now. Rachel Hyland, obviously another fan, turns a loving, albeit critical, eye on Heyer’s first novel, written when she was a teenager.

Chapter by chapter, she dissects the novel, exposing all its weaknesses as well as its strengths, revealing why it is so beloved by fans. Even Jenny the Wonder Horse comes under scrutiny.

This book is a delight and belongs in the library of every Heyer fan, whether a long-time reader or the first-time venturer into the wonderful world of Georgette Heyer.  More, please!

This Victorian Life

Sarah A. Chrisman

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What started out as an interest in 19th-century living evolved  into a full-blown lifestyle. This couple live as completely as possible in the 19th century. The challenges and rewards make up the bulk of the book. Fortunately, the husband has a profession as a bicycle repairman that has changed little over the years. His job is much the same.

For Sarah keeping house is  a struggle at first, but she soon settles into a life without modern technology. I wouldn’t want to trade places with her, but it is interesting to read about her struggles and triumphs.

It is when she turns to long chapters about her and her husband’s bicycle trips that I tuned out and started skipping. They just aren’t very interesting to me. I’m glad that she and her husband are absorbed in minute details of bicycle travel using 19th-century bikes, but I found little of interest in them.

 

Rites of Passage

William Golding

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I’m up to 1980 in my quest to read all the Booker Prize winners in order. I would not have read this book otherwise, and finished it only because of my commitment to myself. I confess to so skimming.

Set in the early days of the 19th century, this journal of a minor official on his way to Australia is mostly tedious posturing by a young man very pleased with himself. He writes of his superiority to the other passengers. One in particular is a Mr Colley, a clergyman. Only toward the end of the book do we find out that Mr Colley also kept a journal, and his account is very different from Mr Talbot’s.

Actually nothing much happens in the book, and I didn’t care very much about any of the characters.

 

The Forthright Lady Gillian

Amanda Scott

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A competent romance. Lady Gillian is rescued from a high tide by the mysterious ‘Baron Hopgood.’ Annoyed because her family doesn’t believe her, Lady Gillian is determined to stick to her story. When her malicious sister places an ad in the local paper announcing the marriage of Lady Gillian and ‘Baron Hopgood,’ the story comes to that attention of the Duke, ‘Hopgood’s’ father. Apparently Baron Hopgood is one of her hero’s minor titles he uses when traveling incognito. He is actually the Marquess of Thorne, heir to the Duke’s title.

Determined to sort things out, he returns to Lady Gillian’s home, but instead of putting the lie to the story, he finds himself attracted to the outspoken, independent Lady Gillian.

Eventually, it all ends happily.

Heirs of Grace

Tim Pratt

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When artist Bekah receives word that she has inherited some money and a large isolated house in N. Carolina, she thinks this would be the ideal opportunity to get away and concentrate on her art, free of worries about supporting herself. When she arrives in N. Carolina, she discovers things aren’t as easy as she hoped. Apparently there are a brood of other relatives that think they have a better claim to the inheritance and are willing to kill to get it.

With the help of a young attorney, Trey Howard, Bekah learns what she needs to know about how to protect herself from the others who want her property. Protecting her heart will be more challenging.

I like trans-racial romance stories (Bekah is black, Trey is white), and magic realism is my catnip. Put them together and you have a very enjoyable book.

Venice Observed

Mary McCarthy

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Ever since I saw the film Dangerous Beauty about the famous Venetian courtesan, Veronica Franco, I have been obsessed with Venice. I read everything I can get my hands on about La Serenissima, the most serene republic.

This book, unlike the histories and other books I read, is an intensely personal reaction to the city. As we travel through the city, we share the keen observations of an articulate writer who has the gift of description.

I may never see Venice in this life, but this account is pure pleasure.

The House by the Sea

Mary Sarton

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Surprised by the success of her first journal, A Journal of A Solitude, May Sarton followed it with this second journal. Not quite as interesting, but it contains the themes that will continue through her journals—her preoccupation with the weather, love of gardening, and the importance of her friends.

Leaving the small house she lived in, she moves to a three-story house along the coast of Maine.There she struggles with the challenge of trying to keep a garden in the severe weather and the coming and going of her friends.

She was a difficult person to know, but she was honest, and that comes through in her journals. It is an interesting journey, and I’m glad she shared it with us.

Cruising Attitude

Heather Poole

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This was a fun, easy read about the trials and tribulations of being a flight attendant. My flying days are over, but I enjoyed reading this book about air travel through the eyes of a flight attendant. Mostly I wondered why anyone would want to be one. It looks very glamorous to the casual observer, but since most people exhibit their worst characteristics under conditions that are less than ideal, one quickly realizes that flight attendants come in for more than their share of abuse.

They have a dangerous, difficult job. We are fortunate that there are people willing to perform it. I’m glad I’m not one of them.

The Cult Next Door

Elizabeth Burchard

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I first heard of  the Black Dog Cult on a podcast called The Grift. Elizabeth Burchard talked about how for years the leader of this cult dominated her life. She gave him all of her time and attention and thousands of dollars. Every decision was subject to his approval.

It’s was easy for me to look down on Burchard, until I remembered some of my own insecurities and bad decisions I made when I was young. Then I realized that it was luck, not my own good sense that preserved me from falling into a situation like Burchard, who was only 17 when she joined.

When one is young and vulnerable, some bad decisions lead to lifelong situations that are very difficult to get out of. Some get married to a person that is wrong for them. Some get religion. Some join a cult, not realizing what they are getting into.

That was the case for Burchard. The leader of the cult was everything she was not: strong, decisive, and self-assured. She accepted his leadership blindly and followed him for years, until a friend helped her to see the absurdity of his teaching and the bad effect it was having on her life and her bankbook. He took and took and never gave back. Finally, she was able to break free of his influence. This book is a result of her looking back on her life, in and out of the cult.

Thanks to NetGalley for ARC.