Cousin Kate

Georgette Heyer

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I love Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. When they first became available for Kindle for $1.99 I bought 57 of them in one swell foop. I accidentally bought one of her historical romances by mistake, but I successfully avoided her mysteries. I read my first Heyer romance in high school, and I’ve been happily reading her novels for 50+ years. This one was a little different, more Gothic than most of them, and less enjoyable. Insanity, murder, and heroines in distress do not make for a favorite story.

There was enough of the sensible heroine with an appreciative hero that I was willing to overlook the other elements that didn’t work so well for me. Altogether a satisfying read but one I won’t be reaching for any time soon.

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Trade Me

Courtney Milan

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I know the lonely billionaire is a popular trope, but this just didn’t work for me. I have read Ms. Milan’s historical romances and decided to give this contemporary a try. I liked the characters, but somehow the whole setup just didn’t work for me. I didn’t like the heroine going to bed with the hero before she decided whether or not she liked him, and I didn’t buy the premise of their changing places.

In future, I’ll save my suspension of disbelief for her historicals.

Condemned to Death

Cora Harrison

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Number 12 in Harrison’s ongoing series about Mara, Brehon (judge) of the three kingdoms. Set in 16th-century Ireland, this tale of a female judge tells of her efforts to solve a murder mystery. Complicating her efforts are the closed ranks of the coastal fisherman. In spite if their lack of cooperation, Mara solves the mystery. Unfortunately, she is too late to save the guilty party.

Another satisfying novel by Cora Harrison, this historical mystery provides much fact about 16th-century Ireland, including information about a dietary delicacy called samphire. My favorite restaurant in town served a garnish they called sea beans. Looking a lot like asparagus, this delicious form of sea weed was a big hit. Turns out it was samphire under another name. I hope to encounter it again.

Wishful Drinking

Carrie Fisher

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Carrie Fisher in person was a force to be reckoned with. Now at least, we have her memoir to enjoy. I saw her one-woman show in person in Berkeley before she took it to Hollywood, and it was a hoot. Out of her pain and suffering, she crafted a light-hearted account of growing up the daughter of Debbie Reynolds, which enough to make anyone crazy. Add  in all the dysfunction of her life, and it is a wonder she was able to cope at all.

Underneath all the laughter, there is a serious tale of substance abuse and mental illness. Through it all, it was her own innate honesty that made it possible for Carrie to  hold it together.

Lord of Scoundrels

Loretta Chase

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I bought this book on a whim, persuaded that I had read it before. I was mistaken and pleasantly surprised by the book. For a change, it features a hero with body image issues and a heroine who is intelligent and active. The titular character is big. And dark. And ugly. He broods about this, not believing that anyone can look beyond this and see the beauty and love that lies beneath, just waiting to be awakened. Until he meets Jessica Trent, that is. She has the insight to realize what is hidden beneath the cover of a devil, and the ability to waken the angel buried inside.

A truly delightful read, with enough spice to make the readers’ hearts flutter, and enough smartness never to insult their intelligence. This is the first Loretta Chase novel I’ve read, but it is far from the last.

Chain of Evidence

Cora Harrison

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This most satisfying addition to Harrison’s series about Mara, the Lady Judge to three kingdoms, has at its heart the clash between English law and Brehon law. Stephen Gardiner is in Ireland to stir up trouble and to find Irish lords willing to bend the knee to Henry VIII in exchange for titles of nobility. He finds eager listeners among clansmen who are nor familiar with Mara and her grasp of men and laws. Mara has to reassert her authority in the case of a mysterious murder.

Also troubling Mara is the persistent problem of Nuala, her best friends daughter. A competent physician and independently wealthy young women, she is desperately unhappy. The man she loves seems entangled by the pretty blue eyes and curly blond hair of one of Mara’s students.

Mara is able to solve the mystery of a murdered and and see the result of her lack of meddling in affairs of the heart as both problems come to their solution. The problem of English encroachment is put to rest for the time being, but bodes ill for the future.

In Praise of the Bees

Kristin Gleeson

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This would have been a better story if the author had tied up the loose ends and had skipped a few plot twists. I found the use of Irish words intrusive without any translation or explanation. I did have a glossary in the back, but it’s not complete. The ending was abrupt and unbelievable, with little foundation laid for the character’s decisions.

All in all I found it unsatisfying.

 

 

Conversations with Rabbi Small

Harry Kemelman

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While on vacation, Rabbi Small’s wife is called away to care for a sick relative. This leaves Rabbi Small on his own at a resort hotel. His stay is livened by the questions of a young woman involved with a Jewish man. She is interested in the young man’s religion and turns to Rabbi Small for answers to her questions.

On their return to Barnard’s Crossing, the couple makes plans to marry. This upsets both sides of the family equation. They turn to Rabbi Small to sort out their dilemma, and he can be trusted to come up with an solution that satisfies everyone. On the way, his answers to both of the young people’s objections to Judaism give him the opportunity to impart the essential of his religion to them and to the reader.

City of Darkness, City of Light

Marge Piercy

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Marge Piercy obviously did a boatload of research for this novel. Unfortunately, that didn’t result in a good novel. Although there were only six main characters, it seemed like a lot more, and their lack of interaction or relation to each other was confusing. I wanted to know more about the events leading up to the French Revolution, but I’ll try Hilary Mantel to learn what I want to know.

Scales of Retribution

Cora Harrison

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This time murder is personal. When Nuala, 14-year-old doctor in training, is suspected of killing her father, Mara rises from her childbirth bed to find the killer. She has a long list of suspects to choose from. Malachy the physician was hungry for silver and less than competent. Mara has many suspects to choose from, but she refuses to believe Nuala guilty of this murder. In spite of her own weakness, she must pull herself together and use all her investigative skills to find the real murderer.