Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer

Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer, narrated by Phyllida Nash
When Kitty’s cantankerous care-taker insists that one of his own nephews marry Kitty for her to inherit his fortune, three of them rush to Kitty’s home to propose. When she spurns those three, they patiently explain that she must marry one of them or else she will be left destitute. Kitty hatches a plan (which the reader is left only vaguely aware of) to free herself from these constraints – but it requires her to go to London for a few weeks. That’s where her cousin Freddy comes in. He didn’t propose – had no wish to propose – but only came because he was curious what this big summons from his uncle was about. In secret, Kitty convinces Freddy to propose marriage so that he could take her to London. Of course, she’ll break it off when the few weeks are over….


This is my first book by Georgette Heyer. I’ve heard so many great things about her that I wanted to see for myself. At first, I wasn’t too pleased with the book, but I warmed to it once time had passed, and Kitty matured in London. You see, I didn’t like Kitty at first. She seemed so manipulative – getting Freddy to propose when he clearly didn’t want to. And it seemed her plan could end up destructive to both of them – even if we didn’t know what the whole plan was about. I realized as she grew that the plan was just naivete and not pure manipulation, but I still found all the dangerous lies a bit disturbing. Regardless, everything turned out well in the end, and I was left with a warm fuzzy feeling about the novel. 

Heyer’s writing is delightful. She mixes humor with the beloved Regency Romance genre, and she’s often suggested to readers who have finished all the Jane Austen novels. They definitely have the same feel as an Austen, though the humor has a slightly different tone. Austen has more sarcasm in her books. Both writers have a mixture of wit and silliness. I will hopefully have time to read another Heyer soon. Just think, a brand new author to explore!


Merlin’s Blade, by Robert Treskillard

Merlin’s Blade, by Robert Treskillard

Reason for Reading: A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Genre: Young Adult Christian Fantasy

Review
Merlin has been living peacefully as the blind son of a village blacksmith when druids invade the area with an evil stone that usurps the minds of the villagers and turns them against God. Merlin is the only villager who is unaffected by the stone’s powers. His problems become worse when the High King Uther and his infant son Arthur arrive in the village and are attacked by the druids. Merlin must save his village as well as the young prince. This was a fun retelling of the young Merlin’s back-story. It’s marketed as a Young Adult Christian Fiction, though I think it could be enjoyed by a wider audience. Merlin’s Blade isn’t “preachy,” which is a complaint of many Christian Fiction books, though it does (understandably) perceive the worship of a stone to be an “evil” act. The druids are portrayed as mostly bad (or at least mislead) people, but I appreciated that some of the druids were actually rather likable. I’m a fan of Christian fiction writers who are able to see the humans behind the non-Christian characters. So, if you’re a fan of retellings (especially YA retellings), I think this is a book you might enjoy. It took some interesting liberties with the story of Merlin and Arthur, but it was also rather fun to see how that sword got stuck in the stone to begin with. 🙂

I’ll be waiting for the next book in the series! 

Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs

Written by Jacqueline Winspear, Narrated by Rita Barrington

Reason for Reading: Real Life book club

Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery / Women’s Fiction

Review
Maisie Dobbs is disappointed when her first case as a PI is to investigate a potential infidelity; however, things get a little more interesting when her investigation brings to light a suspicious death in a home for soldiers injured in WWI. But investigating the home turns out to be more dangerous than she’d thought. 

This book was WAY outside my box. I generally don’t read women’s fiction or books that have a feminist leaning – though sometimes I enjoy such books. So this mystery wasn’t for me. The mystery part of the story was very light – she investigated a potential infidelity at the beginning, and at the end she investigated a suspicious home for injured soldiers. The middle half of the book was all Maisie’s background and character development, which I found off-topic and a bit contrived. Maisie is one of those WWI women who did absolutely everything the stereotypical WWI literary woman does. She got caught up in the feminist movement (somewhat), was educated beyond her class and gender, lied about her age so she could be a nurse in France, etc. etc. It’s like Winspear took a list of WWI woman stereotypes and checked them all off. Thus, I felt absolutely no empathy for Maisie’s character because she felt so fake to me. The little touch of mystery at the beginning and the end wasn’t enough to save the book. 

I can see that many readers would love this book – if you like women PI’s, especially of the historical variety, then this is probably a good book for you. The series IS popular. It just wasn’t for me. *shrug*

Against the Tide, by Elizabeth Camden

Against the Tide, by Elizabeth Camden

Reason for Reading: I’m leading the discussion of Against the Tide for the ACFW Bookclub on 5/27 – 5/31. If you would like to join the discussion (or see what else the bookclub is doing) you can join the Yahoo Group. There’s still time to read this fantastic book!

Genre: Christian Historical Romance 

Review
Lydia Pallas grew up surrounded with instability, but she is finally content with her comforting home and rewarding job as a translator for the U. S. Navy. She meticulously organizes her surroundings so that, for the first time in her life, she feels she’s in control of her life. However, her landlords are now threatening to throw her out of the only stable home she’s ever had. She needs to raise several hundred dollars to buy her home by December. Seemingly fortuitously, Alexander Banebridge (Bane), a friend of her boss, offers to pay her a lot of money for some free-lance translation work. Even though Lydia begins to question the odd requests of Bane, she finds herself attracted to his cleverness, charm, and sense of humor. Soon, she is swept up into a dangerous world of opium smuggling. 

I have a lot of good things to say about this book. I loved the late 1800’s Boston setting – it’s a time which lends itself easily to romance. Although there were a few moments that I wondered if the language was historically accurate, I felt Camden did an excellent job with her research into opium trade. Despite (or possibly because of) Lydia’s OCD quirks, she was very lovable. I really found myself empathizing with her pain – losing her family, the stress of raising money to buy the only home she’s ever felt safe in, and her feelings for Bane. On the other hand, I inwardly groaned at her devotion to Bane and his cause. I totally understood WHY she was in love, but cringed at the foolishness of loving a man who claims he has no interest in marriage, but doesn’t mind a bit of flirting. But love is foolish, often, isn’t it? 🙂 I was sort of torn – I empathized with her frustrations with Bane, but I also wished she would find herself a nice dedicated man. This is a similar conundrum I felt while reading Jane Eyre – I wanted her to live happily ever after with the man she loved, but I thought she was risking too much by loving him. I guess that makes it more romantic, in some ways?

The other thing that I really appreciated about this book (though my attention was only drawn to it because I’m about to lead a book discussion): the questions that Camden provided at the end of the book were really deep! I didn’t realize how many sticky philosophical and spiritual questions were brought up in the story until I read the discussion questions. And they’re not spiritual questions that have an obvious “right-if-you’re-REALLY-a-Christian” answer, which is what a lot of end-of-book discussion questions in Christian Fiction seem to be. Personally, I don’t see the world in black and white, so I love the opportunity to discuss grey. 🙂

Airman, by Eoin Colfer

Airman, by Eoin Colfer

Reason for Reading: Seemed like a good idea

Genre: YA Steampunk

Review
Conor Broekhart has grown up as the best friend of the princess of the Saltee kingdom (an imaginary kingdom off of Ireland). But when he discovers a conspiracy to kill the king, the real traitor captures him and sends him to a prison camp to mine diamonds in obscurity. Conor must use his genius for flight to escape the prison and rescue the princess. Conor is much like a 19th century steampunk Artemis Fowl. Colfer delivers his usual book – fun, delightful, and humorous. Definitely a treat for fans of non-dystopia non-paranormal-romance YA. (YAY! for something different!) I’d say this book is appropriate for 5th – 8th graders. 

Interview with Elizabeth Camden



Hi everyone! I’ll be leading a discussion of Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden for this month’s ACFW Bookclub. The discussion will take place from May 27 – 31st on a Yahoo groups email list. Everyone is welcome to join, and there’s plenty of time to read the book! Elizabeth will be participating in the discussion as well. I’ve included an interview with Elizabeth to entice you. 



Please tell us about Against the Tide.

The book is set in Boston, where Lydia Pallas has become a trusted assistant to an Admiral in the U.S. Navy. Fluent in seven languages, she spends her days translating documents from all over the world.  Her remarkable language skills bring her to the attention of Alexander Banebridge, a mysterious man who needs her rare language skills to advance his cause. Bane is a coolly analytical man who never bargained on falling in love with Lydia. As he battles the irresistible attraction growing between them, Bane’s mission will take Lydia away from everything—and everyone—she ever held dear.

What were your goals writing Against the Tide?

I wanted to write a romantic suspense story that hinges on the heroine’s ingenuity to help dig her out of some dicey situations.  I also wanted her intelligence to be the basis for the hero’s initial flare of attraction for her.

Although I did my best to weave themes of forgiveness and redemption into the book, what I really hope is that people simply enjoy reading a thrilling love story.  The characters in this book have huge dreams and are willing to risk everything in order to make them happen.  Whenever the drama gets a little heavy, I try to inject some glimpses of wit and joy into the mix.  This is a deeply romantic story, despite the sometimes weighty themes.

When writing in the romance genre, it seems the success of a book hinges on whether readers accept or agree with the love story in the book. Why do you think this is?

What a great question!  Romance readers will always judge the success of the book by the love story.   Although I love crafting evocative, richly drawn settings, I put most of my effort into creating the chemistry between the hero and heroine.  I want it to dazzle, sparkle.  They must complement one another’s personality at the same time they challenge each other.

The author of a romance novel has to walk a fine line in seeding the characters with enough flaws to prevent the romance from resolving too early, without alienating the reader by having them delve into silly choices merely to drive the plot forward.

Have you ever read a novel where the conflict between the hero and heroine could be solved by a simple honest conversation?  There is no way I am going to let my characters off the hook so easily!  I love a good turbulent story with love, betrayal, heartbreak, all punctuated with periods of soaring joy and utter delight.  That is what I aimed for with Against the Tide.

What are the lessons of that era that are still relevant to readers today?

A huge theme in the book is the power of resilience. Both the hero and heroine have survived devastating childhoods, but are still naturally optimistic people who refuse to let obstacles stand in their way.  Have you ever met people who wither at the first hint of trouble, while others who are repeatedly clobbered by the tragedies of life can still maintain an optimistic outlook?  This is a choice.  Trusting in the Lord’s plan for us is one element of adopting a resilient sprit and I wove that theme throughout the book.   It is a sense of resilience that allows ordinary people to power through obstacles and accomplish amazing things.

I’m thrilled you folks have picked Against the Tide for the May discussion, and look forward to dropping by to participate!

The Aviary, by Kathleen O’Dell

The Aviary, by Kathleen O’Dell

Reason for Reading: Real life book club

Review
Clara Dooley has lived her whole life in the decrepit Glendoveer mansion, where her mother is the care-taker of the elderly Mrs Glendoveer. Clara’s mother keeps her hidden away from the outside world, claiming that Clara’s health is fragile. At 12, Clara has come to an age where she wants to test her boundaries –  and just such an opportunity arrives when her elderly patron passes away, a new girl moves into the neighborhood, and the birds in the aviary begin to speak to her. With her new friend, Clara must discover the secrets of the Glendoveer mansion, and decide whether the birds are friends or foes.

This was a cute little ghost story / mystery for children (probably girls) ages 9-12. It used the basic adults-don’t-want-to-share-secrets format, while keeping the adults likable and intelligent. The two little girls were adorable and fun. And the birds, once they started developing characters, were a very interesting twist. I found this book an engaging and quick read. Highly recommended for lovers of middle-grade ghost stories / mysteries.