The Bride

Julie Garwood

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This is the kind of romance that makes people say ‘I could write that.’ If they actually try, they find is isn’t quite as easy as it looks. Garwood’s gift for dialogue and tight (if ridiculous) plotting isn’t easy to reproduce.

Jamie Jamison, youngest daughter of Baron Jamison, is sold as bride to Alec Kincaid for reasons. Her sister is sold to Alec’s sidekick Daniel Ferguson at the same time, but you needn’t bother much about her. The author certainly doesn’t. She make an appearance now and then, but mostly she’s just set dressing. Oh, yes, Jamie was previously sold to an English nobleman. Remember that because it comes into the plot later. Jamie doesn’t have to worry about it because she knows nothing about it.

Anyhow, Jamie hates Alec in spite of being hugely attracted to him. He comes to her home and although her father (for whom she waits on hand and foot) tries to keep her hidden because he had already sold her to someone else. Alas, Alec sees her and picks her for his bride. The get married that afternoon and start off for Scotland. She is put off by the stories about him that he killed first wife by throwing her off a cliff. Or maybe he beat her to death. Whatever, he did something bad to his first wife.

After several adventures, Jamie endears herself to one and all by her healing ability. Everyone loves her in spite of her Englishness except the person who is trying to kill her. First a fire breaks out in a hut she is trapped in by a barred door and things go downhill from there. On the other hand, things are going well with Alec. There is a lot of misunderstanding between them because of culture differences, but they manage to overcome them.

This being a romance, love conquers all. Jamie endears herself to one and all by the end when the English nobleman (remember him?) comes to collect her, all the Scots throw their jewels at his feet to make up for the money he paid for her.

This all sound unbelievable, and it is. Yet, there is something pleasant about losing oneself in the competent hands of an able writer. She manages to weave all the threads of plot and subplots into a tight chain of story. Sit down, put up your feet and loose yourself in the fantasy that is The Bride.

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The Frozen Rabbi

Steve Stern

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One day rummaging around in the family freezer, Bernie Karp unearths a man frozen into a block of ice. Upon asking his father about him, he is told that he is a family tradition and there is a book about him.  As he reads the book we are transported to  1889 and the holy man, Rabbi  Eliezer ben Zephyr, the Boibiczer prodigy. When he wished to get closer to God, he would lie near a pond outside his village. Eventually he meditates on letters of the Tetragrammoton until he went into a trance.  One day, while he was lost in meditation, a great storm raises the waters of the pond. They creep up his body until he is completely submerged.

One day a man cutting ice, discovers the rebbe. His disciples are in a quandary about what to do. Ultimately they decided to postpone the decision until the rebbe frees himself from the ice and decides for himself what to do.

From that point the book become a double story: one part deals with the block of ice, traveling from Boibiczer to America, ending up in the Karp’s freezer; the other part tell the story with what happens to Bernie when a power failure defrosts the old man.

I was expecting a book rather like Brother Petroc’s Return, the story of a monk who is brought forward in time to the present time. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Showing no sign of discomfort, the rabbi settles in to restore people to their soul. He decides to open a house of spiritual exercises, Rabbi ben Zephyr’s House of Enlightenment at the local shopping mall.

Both the history of how his ice block is maintained over the years and his adventures in the present and his impact on the life of Bernie Karp are interesting for the reader, but the actions of the Rabbi in the modern day, while meant to an amusing satire on modern mores is undercut by the sexual immorality of the Rabbi.

I cannot recommend this book.

 

 

 

 

 

A Desperate Fortune

Susanna Kearsley

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I heard an interview with Susanna Kearsley on the Smart Podcast, Trashy Books podcast, so-called because iTunes won’t let Sarah Wendell call it Smart Bitches, Trashy Book after her blog. I’ve found quite a few new authors from this podcast or from book that they talk about. Susanna Kearsley is one such author. She is a lawyer, and sound very intelligent. I don’t know what there is about romance that attracts lawyers, but several writers are lawyers.

I bought this book based on her interview and liked it immensely. Her heroine, Sara Thomas, is not typical. She is on the spectrum and has Asperger’s syndrome. This works in her favor, as she is hired by a historian who wants her to decipher a coded book by a French woman who is involved in a Jacobite plot in France. She had started her journal in French, then switched to a code. Sara solves code for fun, although she not a professional cryptologist. Being between jobs in IT, she up for a job, especially one that requires her to spend time in France, not to mention the money, she decides to take the job. It takes a while but she is able to crack the code, with the help of a young boy, a son of the family who is renting her living space with them. From that point the book is a double story, that of Mary Dundas writing her journal, and Sara Thomas who is working to unravel it nearly 300 years later. I’d be hard put to tell which story more interesting.

Both heroines are appealing: two intelligent young women who are pushed into jobs that they are untrained for but very good at. Both become involved with adventurous young men that the people around them (or their own good sense) warn them off of.

A thoroughly good set of stories that won’t insult your intelligence.

 

Designated Daughters

Margaret Moran

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This is the 17th title in the Deborah Knott Bryant series of cozy mysteries by Margaret Maron and I have enjoyed every one of them. Because I read mysteries for the characters instead of the mystery, I couldn’t tell you who the murderer was six months after I have read a book. This means I can read a mystery again and again. I think I have read Nine Tailors at least four times over the years, and I’m always surprised by the murderer.

This one fits neatly into the series, with information that furthers the relationship between Deborah, Dwight and Cal. There’s memories of the past that still have an impact on the present and refuse to die.

I think the setting is one of the major attractions for me. Several of the characters have lived in Colleton County all their lives and belong to large families. I don’t always remember all their names or their relationships but the strong family love is there. They have lived in the same house, and their children grow up among the same people.

Lucky characters!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Country Marriage

by Sandra-Jane Goddard

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I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When 17-year-old Mary Springer marries George Strong she doesn’t know what to expect, especially on her wedding night. “Just do what he tells you” is the sum of the advice she receives from her mother. Her parent leave after the wedding, not staying for the celebration after. The message couldn’t be clearer—Mary is on her own.

As her marriage to this strange man progresses, Mary learns to live in this loveless marriage, she struggle to cope with an endless stream of farm and house work, try to do it all herself as her husband become more and more involved with the clandestine activities of disenchanted farm workers who are being put out of work in the world of the 1820s. Even though George is not threatened by the changes in farming, he unites with other farm workers trying to get justice, until his activities bring him to the brink of disaster.

Mary’s faith in her husband is shaken be his indifference to her needs, and she is drawn to another man, Francis Troke, who seems able to meet her physical needs in a way her husband cannot. Eventually she is forced into a choice between the two men.

I like the book for the description of farm life in Hampshire in the 1820, although I expect the book could have been set on a farm anywhere in the same time period. I like the few words of dialect dropped in to remind us of where and when we are.

I even liked poor old George, torn as he was between his duty to Mary and his attraction to his vivacious and attractive sister-in-law, Annie.

The personal stories make an elegant framing device for the turbulance of the times. Where is the justice between farm owners who want to make as much as possible while the farm workers fear losing their jobs and their ability to make a living? This book doesn’t show the answer but attempts to show both sides with justice.

Ancient Spirits (Daisy Gumm #6)

Alice Duncan

Ancient Spirits (A Daisy Gumm Majesty Mystery, Book 6) by [Duncan, Alice]

Daisy’s husband has finally died, thank God. Daisy is distraught so Harold has the bright idea to take Daisy to Egypt. In August. Its barely two month since Billy died and Daisy is wasting away to nothing. Something must be done, and Harold has the money to do it. He chooses Egypt because Billy had read so much about it in National Geographic.

Howsomever, Egypt is a bust so Daisy and Harold pick up and head out for Turkey, where things start to pick up. Daisy’s appetite returns and Sam Rotondo appears on the scene, accompanied by two English policemen, convinced that Daisy is endangered. He’s not far wrong, but Daisy is far better at taking care of herself than Sam is. When Sam is kidnapped, Daisy insists on joining the rescue party.

All this helps take her mind off Billy’s death, and the money Mrs Pinkerton pays her in gratitude for putting her daughter on the right path make it possible for Daisy to buy gifts for everyone and enjoy herself. She returns to Pasadena refreshed and ready to return to normal life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mane Event

Shelly Laurenston

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This book is actually two novellas:  Christmas Pride and Shaw’s Tail

The first tells the story of Mace Llewellyn, a rich beyond imagining lion shapeshifter and the love of his life, a human ex-marine NYPD detective, Desiree MacDermott. Mace has loved Dez ever since elementary school.

After serving his time as a Navy SEAL and bonding with a fellow SEAL who is a werewolf, he decides its time to make his move on Dez.

The story is an excuse to match the two in sex every page or so, yet somehow her humor and joy between the characters pull the reader in. The scenes are full of humor, and both characters enjoy themselves so much the reader is invited to enjoy it, too.

Shaw’s Tail offers the story of Mace’s brother, Brendon Shaw, who starts out badly: three broken ribs, a broken collarbone, broken kneecaps and internal bleeding. If he can only get out of the tunnel where he had an encounter with a pack of hyenas he will probably survive. Too bad he can’t walk.

Then he smells something wonderful and powerful; something to give him a reason to live. He was definitely in love. Rhonda Lee Reed was the most beautiful thing he have ever seen. He would just have to overcome one slight problem:

Both stories are full of joyful sex as the couple work out their differences.

I’m not very interested in rich lion SEAL shapeshfters so I won’t be buying any more of this series. Besides, I’m totally engrossed in her Call of Crows series. I guess I like stories based on Norse saga and eddas better that lions and dogs, also there is a lot less sex, and much more romance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cottonwood

by R. Lee Smith

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I keep waiting for an R. Lee Smith book to disappoint me, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve read five so far, and they all have engaged and delighted me. I am in a dilemma, though, about how to write about them. The cover of this one doesn’t help me any. The main character would not recognize herself in this portrait. A caseworker in what is essentially a concentration camp,  Sarah thinks of herself as an ordinary human being just trying to do her job.

The problem is, she’s a decent human being in an inhuman setting. You see, the ‘refugees’ in Cottonwood aren’t just refugees—they’re aliens. They were rounded up and put into camps ‘for their own protection.’ Her very decency creates conflict for her and has consequences beyond her imagination.

One of the ‘bugs,’ as the aliens are called, has never given up hope for escape. Gradually Sarah is drawn to him and his dream of escape. How to maintain her humanity as she learns more and more of the inhumanity of the corporation running this camp challenges her beyond anything else.  It is the inmate, labeled Sanford because of the son he is raising, who teaches her the way.