Sunday, August 31, 2008

RIP III Challenge

It's time for another one of Carl V's fabulous challenges - this time it is the RIP Challenge:

From Carl's site

Dark Fantasy.

There is just something about this time of year, when the ghosts of past Autumns and the Autumn to come chase away the dog days of summer, that entices one to read books that fit into the above categories.

It was a desire share the love of eerie, creepy, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night literature that brought me into the online reading challenge game for the first time back in September of 2006. My goals today, in this its third iteration, are no different than the inaugural R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge:

1. Have fun reading.
2. Share that fun with others.

There are three different options availabe and I am choosing Peril the Second which is to read two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

I will be choosing from the following list:

Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason
Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong
Before They are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
The Blackstone Key by Rose Melikan

There's a chance I might substitute some other books as well but we will start with that list as a base.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Blast from the Past

One of the bloggers that I read posted about some of her favourite 80's music on her blog today. One of the songs that she posted was Howard Jones Like to Get to Know You Well which is a cool song, but my favourite Howard Jones song ever is No One is to Blame:

Of course when you start messing around on Youtube before you know it you are following one link to the next and then also thinking of other things to search for and so that brings up to Uncanny X-Men and 50 Years. Did I hear you say WHO? I don't know that their name has lasted twenty years in terms of people remembering them as one of the great Aussie 80's music bands, but I did love this song and I still do!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's on Your Nightstand? and Teaser Tuesday (on Wednesday)

It's hard to believe but it is time for the monthly What's on Your Nightstand? post! The year is just flying by!

Unfortunately the pile by the side of my bed isn't descending, but rather it is nearly at cruising height! (I know....enough with the flying related terminology!). So here is the list of what I now have on my nightstand starting with the books that were there last month:

The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham
Archangel by Sharon Shinn
Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason
Mistletoe Kisses anthology
The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe
Dagger-Star by Elizabeth Vaughan
Visions of Heat by Nalini Singh

The new additions are:

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins - It got rave reviews over at Dear Author so I thought I would give it a go even though I don't read a lot of contemporary romance.

Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong - I really enjoy all the Women of the Otherworld books.


Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Should be Reading:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

I completely forgot to do Teaser Tuesday last week, and it is now Wednesday, but I am going to do this anyway! Part of the problem is that by the time everyone starts posting their Tuesday Teaser posts it is already Wednesday here! We'll see how we go next week. My teaser is from Personal Demon by Kelley Armstrong:

From the thrill of the break-in, I presumed, but when he pulled back, there was trepidation in his eyes, lifting only when I leaned in for another kiss.

I am only in the very early stages of the book, but I have to say that I am eager to know exactly who HE is and what break-in. Damn! Looks like a teased myself!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New site!

Are you pining for I have been I can tell you!

We are very excited to announce a new site which will feature the same friendly members and some of the same features, but at an all new site, and most importantly one where the moderators will be able to make changes when and where we need it!

If you haven't been part of the forum before, and you love to read Historical Fiction come check us out. The members are friendly and very knowledgeable and there are plenty of authors who hang out as well!

Come visit us at

Monday, August 25, 2008

Life...or something like it!

It's been a bit quiet here on my blog, but it's not because there's nothing happening. The Olympics are over and so tonight for the first time in a couple of weeks I had to actually think about what I wanted to watch on TV - and the choices weren't that inspiring!

Speaking of Olympics, I knew when I signed up for Annie's Olympic Reading Challenge I wasn't going to do all that well, because I only had one book by an Aussie author coming up to be read soon. I did end up reading the book (Sir Thursday by Garth Nix) but on the couple of occasions that I sat down to write the review the words just didn't come! They will eventually but for now, I have a few too many other things on my mind! If I was to look at the nationalities of authors that I read during the Olympics, then the US would dominate - 10 Americans, 1 Aussie and 1 Brit.

I got home from work on Friday night to find lots of messages about what is happening at More on that in the next couple of days. I promise you all that there is something happening!

The Melbourne Writers Festival started in Melbourne last weekend and I was very much looking forward to spending time at the Festival on Saturday, but it didn't end up being such a great day in the end. That's not because of anything at the Festival itself, but just that we had a bit of drama. You may remember that a couple of months ago I mentioned that my son had been diagnosed with a nut allergy and therefore we had to start carrying an epipen around with us just in case he had a severe allergic reaction. Saturday morning we got ready to go into the city, packed some lunch, a couple of books and his allergy medication into a backpack and caught a train into the city. Only problem is when we got off the train in the city, the backpack did not. By the time we realised it was too late and the train had left.

I took my son to the activity that he was participating in and explained what had happened and left him there, saying that I would be back with food a bit later and all seemed well. I then spent an hour at Flinders St train station waiting for the train to return to the city to see if the bag was still there, but it turned out not to be which was very disappointing. Not long after that I got a phone call from the program saying that my son couldn't stay there for the day unless someone stayed with him because he did not have his medication. I don't know why it took them an hour to decide this but it did. By this time I was very emotional and upset. It wasn't really the people at the program's problem or fault but it was just so frustrating, especially when it would have cost a fortune to buy a new one.

In the end I had to get a family member to come in to the city to stay with him so that I could go to the one session that I was already booked in for, which was to listen to Jennifer Kloesters talk about the life and times and Georgette Heyer, which was very interesting. I am definitely hoping to attend at least one more event, if not more, this weekend.

I was meant to be going to a flamenco club on Saturday night but that didn't happen either. Needless to say I didn't really enjoy my Saturday all that much.

Fortunately I got a phone call today to say that the bag had been found, and handed in and everything was still there, so we were very lucky! I guess part of the drama was that this was the first real impact we have felt in relation to the difficulties of living with allergies. Hopefully we won't have to go through this again.

Just because this is a very rambly post with not much point, I thought I would post the video that the session that I did get to go to on Saturday started with. I had seen it before but it is lots of fun. Enjoy!!

Friday, August 22, 2008 is down

For those people who read my blog and participate at, you may have noticed that the site is currently down.

We are currently trying to contact the owners to find out what is going on, and as soon as we know, then we will let you all know!


Thursday, August 21, 2008

My week

It's been a little quiet here this week because I have been a little busy. Today was the third of four days training in a new system that they are going to be installing at work soon. I have another four days of training again next week.

Today I don't feel too bad but every other day this week my eyes have been killing me and I have ended up having a shocking headache by the time I got home. This happens a lot when I attend training because I need glasses for looking at the screen in front of me and the books, but not to look up to the front and of course you spend all day doing both.

It is a bit strange that I don't have a headache tonight though, although I am sure the fact that I was in bed at 9pm last night and slept for a solid 8 hours or more probably helped a great deal. Another early night probably wouldn't hurt but I am off to watch the first episode of Cranford. I have no idea what time it finishes, but hopefully not so late that I will not get enough sleep tonight and therefore might avoid a headache again tomorrow!

In other news, Melbourne has been named the second City of Literature by UNESCO. Sounds as though there are some exciting things happening for both readers and writers.

Read more here.

Thanks to Kerrie for blogging about this!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman

Augustus Penrose created the stained glass 'Lady Window' to adorn the chapel of the university he founded for the daughters of the women who worked in his factory, the Rose Glass Works. Depicting his wife, Eugenie, as the Lady of Shalott, it's a mesmerising portrait that has come to embody the spirit of the school itself.

But now, eighty years after it was created, the Lady Window is due for restoration. The task falls to former alumna Juno McKay. She's restoring it with the help of her friend, Christine Webb, an art historian who is researching the window for her thesis. Christine seems to have discovered some new evidence that suggests that Clare, not her sister Eugenie, was the subject for the Lady Window. But before Christine can discuss her findings with Juno, she's found dead in a boating accident that eerily echoes the fate of the Lady of Shalott. but did she drown or was it something more sinister?

As Juno starts to make her own investigations into just how Christine died, she learns more about Augustus Penrose and his family. The Lady Window was not the only thing the Penroses bequeathed to the world. Madness and deception also form part of their legacy...
Christine Webb is a glassmaker who specialises in restoring stained glass windows. Her company is currently working on a really big project - the restoration of The Lady Window from Penrose College. Christine had attended the college until she left because she was pregnant, and now as a single mum she is watching her teenage daughter become more independant meaning that she has more time to devote to herself. She had married but her husband, who was a successful artist, has been institutionalised in the local asylum after he tried to kill both her and their child years before in a moment of madness.

Christine's best friend Juno also studied at the College and was working on a thesis about the window, and about the founders of the college, Augustus Penrose and his wife Eugenie. After giving a speech at the college about her ideas about the origins and subject matter of the window, Juno goes missing, and is found drowned in the grounds of the Penrose's now deserted home, in an eerie echo of the fate of the Lady of Shallot, who is one of the many classical mythical figures that were used in the Penrose's art and decorations.

For me, this book was flat from beginning to end. The characters never really engaged me, in particular Juno who I never really cared too much for. If there was one thing I did like, it was the treatment that Goodman gave to Neil, Iris's ex husband, although the climactic events of the book that involved him felt extremely contrived and very handy so that we could have the ending that occurred.

Once again Goodman tried to show how clever she was by trying to fit as many classical mythical figures into the narrative as well as lots information about the making and restoration of glass. I do normally like it when an author tries to incorporate new things into the narrative, but when the narrative was already ponderously slow, this just tended to slow the action down even further.

When I first started reading this book I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a link to the previous book that I had read, which I posted about here. It was basically the only pleasant surprise I had. After having declared how much I enjoyed the last Goodman book that I read, this one was a real disappointment for me. I have requested The Sonnet Lover from the library so I guess we will see where that book fits for me in the enjoyment scale.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Golden Girls

So the Olympic swimming program is over. The story is of course Michael Phelp's extraordinary achievement, but from an Australian perspective, one of the major things to come out of this meet is the form of the Australian Women's Swimming team. The Aussies won 6 gold medals at the pool, and all of them were won by women, either individually or as part of relay teams.

So all hail the golden girls of Australian swimming!

Liesel Jones - Gold 100m Breaststroke, Gold 4x100m Relay, Silver 200m Breastroke,

Stephanie Rice - Gold 4x200m Freestyle, Gold 200m Individual Medley, Gold Individual 400m

Libby Trickett - Gold 100m Butterfly, 4x100m Medley Relay, Silver 100m Freestyle

4x100m Medley Relay team

4x200m Freestyle Relay team

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

Amy from My Friend Amy has come up with an awesome idea!

Book Bloggers: You work hard. You read books, you write reviews, you maintain relationships with your readers, publicists, and authors. You are constantly running to the post office to mail your giveaways and participating in carnivals to help boost traffic. You sometimes want to faint when you see the size of your TBR pile, but faithfully you read. And you do it because you love it. Book blogging is for most a hobby. But it's a hobby that takes a lot of work and time. It's a labor of love.

I've been blogging for three years but only really got into book blogging in the last year. I have found, without a doubt, that book bloggers are the kindest, most open minded, and supportive group of bloggers on the internet. With book blogging, it's about community and a love for the written word.

The Readers: We love you! You don't have a blog, but you read our reviews and share your thoughts with us. You enter our giveaways and click on our Amazon associates link. We do this for you and appreciate your readership. We hope you'll join in the fun and festivities of BBAW! (we'll have a special contest just for you!)

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Acknowledging the hard work of book bloggers and their growing impact on book marketing and their essential contribution to book buzz in general, I am excited to announce the first Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Think of it as a retreat for book bloggers and a chance for us to totally nerd out over books together. And of course, shower each other with love and appreciation.

Register: In order to experience the maximum impact of the week, I invite you to register your participation (just like a retreat)!
To register, just send an email to bookbloggerappreciationweekATgmailDOTcom with your blog url and what you consider your niche...i.e, general book blog, classics blog, personal blog with a healthy dose of books, YA books blog, etc. Then, add one of the two buttons at the bottom of this post to your sidebar. If you are a reader (no blog) just send an email announcing your plans to follow along.
Why bother? If you register, you will be added to a book blog directory which will exist long after this week is over. Additionally, you will receive one raffle entry into the daily giveaways during BBAW here at My Friend Amy.

Awards: Oh yes, there will be awards. The Oscars of Book Blogging. :) Nominations start next week.

Spread the Word: If you are excited about this idea like I am and the other book bloggers who are helping, please consider writing a post on your blog announcing this event and inviting other book bloggers and readers to join.

Help Wanted: If you have a talent for designing buttons (like those below) and would like to donate some of your time and skill to me, please email me personally at mypalamyATgmailDOTcom

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

It's 1946, and as Juliet Ashton sits at her desk in her Chelsea flat, she is stumped. A writer of witty newspaper columns during the war, she can't think of what to write next. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from one Dawsey Adams of Guernsey - by chance he's acquired a book Juliet once owned - and, emboldened by their mutual love of books, they begin a correspondence. Dawsey is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and it's not long before the rest of the members write to Juliet - including the gawky Isola, who makes home-made potions, Eben, the fisherman who loves Shakespeare, and Will Thisbee, rag-and-bone man and chef of the famous potato peel pie. As letters fly back and forth, Juliet comes to know the extraordinary personalities of the Society and their lives under the German occupation of the island. Entranced by their stories, Juliet decides to visit the island to meet them properly - and unwittingly turns her life upside down.

A moving tale of post-war friendship, love and books, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is gloriously honest, sweet and funny - a book to fall in love with.
This little book is the subject of quite a lot of attention at the moment, and I am going to join the chorus and say that it definitely deserves it!

I must confess that the first few times I saw this mentioned on blogs I completely skipped over it simply because, to me, the title suggested something very different from what it is actually is.

Julia Lambert has spent most of WWII writing witty newspaper columns under the name Izzy Bickerstaff, doing her part in keeping the spirits of Londoners up during the dark days of the Blitz. Now that the war is over, Julia wants to do something different. She doesn't want to be Izzy anymore but she doesn't know what she does want to write.

One day she receives a letter from one Dawsey Adams, who lives in Guernsey. He has found a book by Charles Lamb that used to be owned by Julia and he has written to her in the hope that she may be able to assist him in finding more books by that author. In his letter, Dawsey mentions that he is a member of the Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, and Julia's interest is captured. What is the Society? Where did the name come from and how did it start?

What starts as a simple correspondence about an author grows into a series of letters between not only Dawsey and Julia, but also several of the other islanders (some are members of the Society but others are not) and Julia, and soon she begins to feel as though these people are her friends. They also begin to tell her of how life was on the island during the German occupation which no other part of the British Isles experienced.

Soon Julia finds herself wanting to go to Guernsey to meet the people she has come to know. It doesn't take long before she is caught up in island life, and her life is further woven into the lives of her friends than she could ever have imagined she would be at the beginning of the book.

The characters are fun with lots of quirkiness, but there is a depth that is captured as well - the losses that they suffered, the separation from the children that were sent to the UK for their on safety, the hunger, the fear left from living under oppression.

The whole book is told in the format of letters, telegrams and notes between the characters.
when I started I really wasn't sure if that format would work for me, or if it would become a bit annoying by the end of the book, but the author(s) really did well at making the story flow within the limitations that this format necessarily gives to the structure of the novel .

I have been trying to think of a book to compare to this one, but I am really struggling. It is funny and charming, poignant, informative and there are probably numerous other descriptions I could use, but at its heart it is a really lovely story. The fact that I too wanted to go to Guernsey after finishing the book means that the characters not only captured Julia's heart, but also mine as a reader!

Just a couple of other thoughts on the cover and author. The covers for the Australian book is just so plain that if I had not heard of this book already I would never have even picked it up. It is interesting that in other places around the world, the author is given is Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, but here it is just Mary Ann Shaffer. There is a note in the back that explains that after submitting the original manuscript, Mary Ann Shaffer became ill, and so her niece Annie Barrows completed the book. Unfortunately Mary Ann Shaffer died before seeing her book published, which is both a shame for her, and for us as readers because her book is a lovely read and it would have been interesting to see if she could have followed it up with another great read.

I totally recommend this book to anyone, and ending up giving it the highest possible grade - 5/5 for this one!

Cross posted at Historical Tapestry.

If you have reviewed this book, leave a comment and I will add a link to your review.

A Garden Carried in the Pocket

Thoughts of Joy
B&B Ex Libris
Fresh Ink
Hey Lady! Watcha Reading?
Sincerely Stacie
Word Lily

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Well that was a little embarrasing!

I was feeling very pleased with myself this morning because we had what was going to be a great day planned. My son and I got up and going relatively early and caught the train into the city so that we would be there by 10am, and then wandered off to the event site...only to find that the event wasn't today but it is actually next week! Whoops!

I am blaming my brain not working on the fact that I am still recovering from when I was sick last week!

So instead of what I thought we were going to be doing we hung around in the city. We spent some time at the National Gallery of Victoria where they had two new to us exhibits that were really great. My nine year old boy likes going to the Art Gallery, but usually only likes to do one room before he starts getting a bit bored, but we actually went through one of the exhibits twice.

The one that we went through twice was called Klippel/Klippel: Opus 2008. What you can't tell from the link is how the exhibit space was set out. The first two rooms were these tiny, intricate little sculptures, but the first room was very dark with display boxes scattered throughout with just lighting within the boxes so that you could see the contents. The next room was completely white with the only thing breaking the whiteness/brightness the display boxes that were scattered around the room at different levels and more tiny and intricate modern sculptures. The third room was just a single piece, but it was 3 metres tall. The whole exhibit was very cool!

The second exhibit was called Look! New Perspectives on the Contemporary Collection and there were some great pieces there as well. One of my favourites was the second picture on the above link, but there were lots of others good pieces as well.

After all that culture we wandered around the city for a while and then went and watched our beloved Adelaide Crows play Aussie Rules Football. The only problem was that because I hadn't actually planned to go to the footy we weren't exactly dressed for sitting around in the cold, but it was a good win by the Crows, so we managed.

All in all, it was still a great day, just a different great day than I had planned!

Note to self: Melbourne Writer's Festival begins next week!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman

Iris Greenfeder, ABD (All But Dissertation), feels the “buts” are taking over her life: all but published, all but a professor, all but married. Yet the sudden impulse to write a story about her mother, Katherine Morrissey, leads to a shot at literary success. The piece recounts an eerie Irish fairy tale her mother used to tell her at bedtime—and nestled inside it is the sad story of her death. It captures the attention of her mother’s former literary agent, who is convinced that Katherine wrote one final manuscript before her strange, untimely end in a fire thirty years ago. So Iris goes back to the remote Hotel Equinox in the Catskills, the place where she grew up, to write her mother’s biography and search for the missing manuscript—and there she unravels a haunting mystery, one that holds more secrets than she ever expected. . . .

Of the three Carol Goodman books I have read, this is my favourite! Iris Greenfeder is a writer. The reality is that she is more a writing teacher who is constantly looking for the story that is going to give her success so that she can step out from the shadows of her mother. Her mother, Kay Morrissey, wrote two hugely successful fantasy novels, and is rumoured to have written the third and final book in the trilogy but she was killed in a terrible hotel fire, and no one knows exactly where that third book may be hidden.

When she is writes a story about her mother she achieves a degree of success, and she is contacted by her mother's former agent and asked to write a book about her mother. The best place to do this is at her childhood home, the Equinox Hotel in the Catskills. Where the hotel used to be a family vacation destination, nowadays the hotel is struggling and is in danger of being closed for good. Fortunately, a new owner has been found, and so Iris is employed to manage the hotel when it reopens, which should allow her to save her home but also the time she needs to write, and access to documents about her mother and memories from the few guests who do continue to return year after year.

What follows is a story that is laced through with myths and legends - Celtic myths of selkies and fairies, but when she sets her students a writing project to write about myths we are also introduced to the myths of other countries, most memorably from Japan. As part of her teaching at a community college, we meet several other diverse characters who play minor but key roles in the book. Iris also teaches at a prison, and it is here that she meets Aidan Barry who is just about to be released on parole.

With her new role as manager, she offers Aidan a job at the hotel - a chance for the ex-con to start again. The question is can you ever truly leave the past behind? Is the new owner of the hotel only interested in the hotel as a business or is there more too it than that? Who exactly was her mother and was Kay Morrissey's death an accident, and why are all these questions arising after all these years? As Iris learns more, the evidence takes her in completely unexpected directions and threatens to reveal the truth about a lot of people who don't necessarily want the truth revealed after all these years.

As the book heads towards its climax, the body count grows, the plot twists and turns, and Iris is forced to evaluate her relationship with her artist boyfriend and fight for what it is that she really wants out of life. If there is one criticism it may be that the characters had to go through one too many trials at the end of the book, but it's a small thing.

I loved the mythology and the imagery that permeated this book. Of the three books by this author I have read so far, this is the one book that I would be happy to reread. If Goodman's future novels are like this one then I will be a very happy reader indeed.

Have you reviewed this books? Leave a comment and I will link to your review.

Aussiecon 4

Just saw over at Matilda that Melbourne will be hosting the World Science Fiction Conference from September 2-6 in 2010 and that the event will be known as Aussiecon 4.

Obviously there aren't many details available yet, but one of the guests has already been named - Shaun Tan. I just love his books so I will definitely be trying to go along to at least some events!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Should be Reading:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

He and Mrs Maugery went with me to the Commandant's Office, and we all swore that I was Lord Tobias Penn-Piers

From The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Desperate Duchesses by Eloisa James

Welcome to a world of reckless sensuality and glittering sophistication . . . of dangerously handsome gentlemen and young ladies longing to gain a title . . . of games played for high stakes, including—on occasion—a lady's virtue. A marquess's sheltered only daughter, Lady Roberta St. Giles falls in love with a man she glimpses across a crowded ballroom: a duke, a game player of consummate skill, a notorious rakehell who shows no interest in marriage—until he lays eyes on Roberta. Yet the Earl of Gryffyn knows too well that the price required to gain a coronet is often too high. Damon Reeve, the earl, is determined to protect the exquisite Roberta from chasing after the wrong destiny. Can Damon entice her into a high-stakes game of his own, even if his heart is likely to be lost in the venture?
I struggle with Eloisa James. I know that I should love her books but a lot of the time I just don't. I have commented on this before so I guess the question that needs to be asked is just why do I keep reading her books. The short answer is that there are lots of things I do like about her writing, but then there are times that she just overcomplicates matters and loses me. As a result I hadn't read one of her books for nearly 18 months, but then I was sitting here the other day I was thinking why haven't I read any of the Desperate Duchesses books. Now I remember why!

In this book, the main couple are almost bit players as opposed to the main focus. There seems to be more focus on Jemma, Duchess of Beaumont. She has just returned from a self-imposed exile in France, much to the apprehension of her husband - a hard working politician who cannot afford a whif of scandal. He knows that Jemma lives a life filled with scandal. Also problematic is the fact that Jemma's brother has come to stay, bringing with him his illegitimate child.

With a house filling up rapidly with all sorts of barely acceptable characters, when Roberta turns up to stay uninvited because she wants to come out into society, the Duke warns his wife that there must be no more scandal. Roberta is a cousin to the Duchess and her brother (although somewhat distant! If my cousin five times removed (or seven...whichever it was) turned up and wanted to stay for a while I am not sure that I would be quite so pleased as Jemma appeared to be.

Roberta has decided that she wants to marry, and luckily she already know exactly who she wants to marry - the notorious Duke of Villiers. Much is made about the Duke's detachment so it is likely that Roberta may have chosen a very difficult target indeed. Jemma is though, a master at manipulating, so with her help perhaps it is not unattainable.

What gives this book a point of difference is the use of parlour games like chess and dominoes to help heighten the tension (sexual and otherwise) between our characters. It seems surprising today but in the Georgian era, playing chess was one of few ways for males and females to be together in an intimate setting without causing a scandal. Jemma loves chess and soon finds herself playing games with both her husband and Villiers.

It is obvious that the story of Jemma and her husband is going to be a story that arcs throughout the series in the same way as the story of Sebastian and Esme did in the Duchess Quartet. In that series, Sebastian and Esme's story was the one that I wanted most and the main couples in the books were there, but not as compelling, and so I do wonder though if James will manage to manage the balance between the individual romances in each book and the overarcing storyline.

I guess that part of the reason that this book didn't work as well as I would have liked for me was in the fact that I never felt like I understood exactly when Roberta fell in love with Damon. His attraction was more obvious than hers, but even whilst she is fooling around with Damon, she is still determined that she is in love with Villiers - goodness only knows why, but she had declared this on having spied the man across a crowded room once!

There are definitely some good things about this book - it is funny and there are some great individual scenes, but once again I put down the book thinking that I am not clever enough to GET this author.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood

Super-sleuth Phryne Fisher is sojourning at Cave House, a Gothic mansion in the heart of Gippsland mountain country. But she soon discovers that her host is receiving death threats, someone is setting lethal traps and the parlourmaid has been strangled to death. It seems Phryne is up to her neck in danger.

How does this connect with a pair of young lovers, an extremely eccentric swagman and an angry outcast heir? Just who is responsible for the mysterious funerary urns which keep appearing around the house? And how can she make time for the luscious Lin Chung?

Phryne's search draws her deep into the darkest dungeons of the house and of the limestone Buchan cavers. Who knows what she will unearth this time.
When Phryne is invited to a house party at Cave House in the Gippsland area outside of Melbourne, she takes along her current beau, Lin Chung, and their servants, the ever faithful Dot and the ever resourceful Li Pen who is Lin Chung's bodyguard. The fact that Lin is Chinese is something of a shock to the guests who are all from the upper echelon's of Melbourne society, and Phryne and Lin have to deal with the not so hidden racism of the time.

Even before the Fisher party arrive at the gothic Cave House there is drama when Phryne hears a gun shot and then they see a young woman emerge from the bush screaming. What Phryne doesn't realise is that she has been invited for a specific reason. The host is being threatened with letters, and it isn't long before Phryne finds that matters are escalating with a number of more lethal traps being set within the grounds. Like Phryne, many of the guests are at the house for a reason, and it is only as the book progresses that everyones agendas are unveiled piece by piece and layer by layer. The group dynamics are affected by a couple of major events. The first is that the river that is near the property is on the rise, and the house guests are all trapped together until the rains cease and the river goes down. There are also the small matters of the mysterious urns that keep on being moved from one place to another, the people who seem to want to get into Phryne's room at night, and the housemaid who has gone missing. Of the guests, Phryne is the only one who knows that the girl is already dead because she saw the body, but when she went to get the hosts the body had been moved and there is no sign of where it might be.

This book felt like a tribute to classic Agatha Christie. There is the house party, the guests who all have hidden links to other guests, the body that Phryne knows is there but that goes missing and it has to be said that Kerry Greenwood really manages to make these really classic mystery ideas feel fresh. The unveiling of the culprits is really very creepy and takes place in a very interesting place.

If there was one thing that did bother me it relates to Phryne's relationship with Lin Chung. She has always been a lover of beautiful young men, but in this book she also has relations with one of the other characters. Lin Chung obviously isn't pleased but it happens anyway. I suspect that the relationship is growing, but I don't really want to see this kind of thing continue. It is probably worth mentioning that the sex is a bit more obvious in this book than I remember it being in the earlier books. Not explicit by any stretch of the imagination just more there.

After being just a little disappointed in the last Phryne Fisher book this was a welcome return to form and I am totally looking forward to getting to the next book. As an added bonus, my interest has been piqued about the Gippsland area in which the book was set, including the Buchan Caves. I can't remember the last time I went into a cave - must be more than 20 years.

Once again, this isn't the cover that I had on the library book I read, but I do so love this new series of covers, and they do fit the series so well that I am just going to go ahead and post with this cover instead of looking for the one I have!

Legacy by Jeanette Baker

When a distant relative bequeaths a Scottish castle to Christina Murray, the beautiful college professor is off to a distant land to claim her inheritance. It is there that she meets Ian Douglas, a breathtakingly handsome man who may hold the key to the secrets of Traquair House...and to her heart. As Christina enters the elusive passageway to love, her all-too-lifelike dreams reveal that she is tied to three ghostly ancestors: Katrine, a spirited Jacobite in love with an Englishman...Jeanne, a Renaissance wife accused of witchcraft...and Mairi, the medieval maid who shares a forbidden passion with England's king.

Destined to become the curse's next victim, Christina travels through time to unveil the mystery of her family. But she soon discovers that her assumptions about Ian and their newly found love, as well as her own life, may have put her in grave danger...
I would never have chosen to pick up this book but when Jeanette Baker was chosen as Author of the Month over at Historical Romance Chat for May. When I say I would have have chosen to pick it up, it is not for any other reason than I had never ever heard of her before. When I checked the library catalogue under either name that she wrote under (Jeanette Baker and Jeanette Ramirez) this was the only one they had, so this is the book I chose to read.

The book opens with Christina Murray arriving at Traquair House in Scotland. She has no idea why she is there, and so she is totally surprised when it turns out that the historic house has been bequeathed to her by a complete stranger. Christina has just gone through a divorce from her husband of 15 years where one of the bigger issues is that she doesn't seem to be able to have children. So when the handsome neighbour, Ian Douglas, starts paying attention she is somewhat surprised, and very flattered by the attention.

Not long after arriving at Traquair, Christina starts to suffer strange headaches, and very strange dream where she finds herself in the past. At first she thinks that it might be something to do with her diabetes, but gradually it becomes that there is something more to it than that. Where first it feels like they are dreams gradually the intensity of the experiences increases until Christina is actually there feeling what the other three women who are her ancestors are feeling, seeing what they are seeing and hearing what they are hearing and with whom she shares several characteristics, including their looks and the fact that they all suffer from diabetes.

The first story to be told is that of Katrine Murray who lives in the mid 1700's. She is a spirited young lass (as are all of the ancestors). When she meets a handsome English soldier and fall in love it is impossible for her to know what the consequences will be. With the Jacobite rebellion gaining momentum, Katrine finds herself on the wrong side of the conflict. She is a Scottish woman living in England but when she returns to Scotland her heart is with her husband who is fighting for the English.

The second story is of Jeanne, who despite a rocky start, falls desperately in love with John Douglas. John has spent time in the English court, but he has now returned to the court of King James, known to his friend as Jamie. With a confrontation looming against the English, Jeanne has a vision of what is to come and tries to stop it with tragic consequences for her and her family.

The third story, and the one where the curse against the Douglas women started, goes back to the late 1200s when Mairi of Shields falls passionately in love with a man who turns up asking for hospitality at her home, and who she ends up nursing back to health. The man does not reveal his true identity, but when she goes to the English court, the truth is revealed. Her love is none other than King Edward I. As yet another conflict looms with the English, Mairi does what needs to be done and removes the Stone of Scone, used for centuries in the coronation ceremonies of Scottish kings and queens. When she marries against his wishes, their feelings change to hostility, once again with tragic consequences.

In effect there are four different love stories in this book. The fact three of them are doomed adds a level of poignancy. This is a really clever book in many ways. The only problem I had was with the contemporary sections. For the most part it is good, but just at the end, the resolution didn't quite work for me, both in terms of how Christina was going to get a happily ever after and break the curse, and also in how that HEA came about. Having said that, this is one of the more unusual books that I have read and I really did enjoy it.

I can't remember the last time I read a time travel book. It's been a while, but this one certainly has renewed my interest in the subgenre.

Coincidentally this morning I stumbled over a link to the Traquair House website over at Classical Bookworm, where you can read the history of the house, and see some pictures. It was really interesting to look at since I only finished this book in the early hours of this morning.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Woe is me!

I am so sick of being sick. In addition to still feeling the effects of the virus that I had last week, I now also have an infected finger, and inner ear infections in not one but both ears.

I haven't managed to read a lot whilst I have been sick, but I have managed to write quite a few reviews, so that is an added bonus.

I have a doctors certificate for Monday, so assuming that I go back to work on Tuesday I will have been off for more than a week. I am going to need instructions on how to find my desk!

Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

I am granddaughter to a king and daughter to a prince, a wife twice over, a queen as well. I have fought with sword and bow, and
struggled fierce to bear my babes into this world.
I have loved deeply and hated deeply, too.

Lady Gruadh, called Rue, is the last female descendent of Scotland’s most royal line. Married to a powerful northern lord, she is widowed while still carrying his child and forced to marry her husband’s murderer: a rising war-lord named Macbeth. Encountering danger from Vikings, Saxons, and treacherous Scottish lords, Rue begins to respect the man she once despised–and then realizes that Macbeth’s complex ambitions extend beyond the borders of the vast northern region. Among the powerful warlords and their steel-games, only Macbeth can unite Scotland–and his wife’s royal blood is the key to his ultimate success.

Determined to protect her small son and a proud legacy of warrior kings and strong women, Rue invokes the ancient wisdom and secret practices of her female ancestors as she strives to hold her own in a warrior society. Finally, side by side as the last Celtic king and queen of Scotland, she and Macbeth must face the gathering storm brought on by their combined destiny.

From towering crags to misted moors and formidable fortresses, Lady Macbeth transports readers to the heart of eleventh-century Scotland, painting a bold, vivid portrait of a woman much maligned by history.

For most people, the main thing that would be associated with the name Lady Macbeth are the following words from Shakespeare:

Out, damn'd spot! out, I say!—One; two: why, then'tis time to do't.—Hell is

murky.—Fie, my lord, fie, a soldier, andafeard? What need we fear who knows it,
when none can call ourpow'r to accompt?—Yet who would have thought the old man
tohave had so much blood in him?

If you pick up this book expecting to see anything like this, you are bound to be disappointed, but if you are interested in finding out some of the historical background to this particular character then this could be the book for you.

Lady Gruad is born into the Royal family of Scotland making her a very desirable marriage match due to her pure bloodlines. After being kidnapped twice, once when she is very nearly of marriagable age, her father decides that it is time to marry her off, and she is married to Gilcomgan of Moray against her wishes. A relatively short time after, Rue is heavily pregnant when she is widowed. Her husband has been killed by Macbeth in one of the many power struggles that dominated the Scottish political scene in the late 11th century, and particularly in revenge for the murder of Macbeth's father by Gilcomgan. Macbeth himself is descended from King Duncan, and so when he forces Rue to marry him immediately following her first husband's death (all spoils to the victor!) he bolsters his own claim to the throne of Scotland even though his grandfather the King has named another as his successor in a break from the traditional way that the kings of Scotland have been chosen.

By marrying Rue, Macbeth becomes Mormaer of Moray, a powerful and rich lord, but it is through his efforts to be a fair and generous ruler to his people that he gains their loyalty. For a long time he is prepared to not make any challenges to the throne, but when his life and those of his young family are threatened things change, and Macbeth becomes King of Scotland and Rue his queen.

There are many details of life in Scotland in 11th century within the book: the struggle for peace with both the Vikings and the English, the struggle between the Church in Rome and the Celtic church as well as weaving in many superstitions, omens and spells.

It was interesting to read the life of a Queen who involved herself in her husband's life to such an extent as Rue did, including in policy making, and it is inferred within the novel that the two came to value and respect each other, and yes perhaps love each other. There were however still plenty of examples where she was left behind and it is in those times that we begin to see how much Rue is affected by the portents and omens that she can see, and how it effects the decisions that she makes for the future, and in particular how determined she becomes to protect the old ways of life.

Whilst I enjoyed this book, it didn't quite make it to the status of a great read for me. I never felt truly immersed in the book. Part of the reason for this may be the first person narrative, but I don't think that it was the only factor. For much of the time I was outside of the book. In my favourite HF novels, I would be there with the characters, wrapped in furs trying to keep warm in the middle of a harsh Scottish winter, but with this book I was still firmly in the 21st century looking back through a window of time.

Cross posted at Historical Tapestry

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman

Jane Hudson never thought she would return to Heart Lake. Her years there as a scholarship girl ended in a double tragedy: the drowning of her two roommates.

Now she is back, adjusting to her new life teaching Latin and as a single mother. But the events that haunted her memories for so many years begin to recur in front of her eyes. It seems she alone can see what is happening, and only she will be able to prevent a second catastrophe...

Surrounded by the lake that gives the school its name, steeped in history and overflowing with the emotions of teenage girls, Heart Lake guards its past - but cannot keep it hidden.

When Jane Hudson returns to her school after many years away, it is a chance to return to a place that feels like home, as long as she doesn't think about the tragic events of her final year. Jane has just separated from her husband, and is returning to the workforce as a single mum teaching Latin. Unfortunately, as much as Jane doesn't want to think about the events that claimed the lives of her friends in very strange circumstances, there is someone else who wants Jane to remember. Somehow, someone has got hold of Jane's old diary that went missing in her final year of school and is leaving pages around for her to find. More scarily, events are being manipulated so that there are a new group of girls who seem to be reenacting the events from 20 years before.

Having subsequently read a couple of other Carol Goodman books (reviews still to come), I have come to the conclusion that one of her aims it to try and show as much as she can of what she knows. Maybe it is to try and give her books some kind of point of difference to other mystery/suspense type books by finding something and sharing it. In this case a lot of the emphasis was around Latin, and in other books it has been Celtic and Classical myths, and glass making. That in itself isn't a bad thing but there are times when it feels just a bit too clever. I think that part of the reason why it worked for me in this book was because it was the first time that I had read one of her books, but there is at least one other of her books where it just didn't work for me at all.

There are a lot of topics covered in this novel particularly around issues that many young girls face - sex, self harm, suicide, abuse, and to be honest it isn't a particularly cheerful novel. It has an almost mystical/gothic feel to many of the events in the book, and that feeling isn't redeemed by the solution.

Whilst I liked this book when I first finished it, the more I think about it, the more holes I find in it. Even when I first finished the book, the biggest problem that I had is with the ending, which whilst not coming completely out of the blue, wasn't far off of it, but I guess I was sufficiently interested in Goodman's writing to keep reading her books. So far I have read three, and have another on the TBR pile. For a debut this was a pretty good read - it remains to be seen and whether Goodman can maintain a consistent quality to her writing. At this stage I personally am not convinced that she has.

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Lous Pages

Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood

Running late to a gala performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore, Phryne Fisher meets some thugs in dark alley and handles them convincingly before they can ruin her silver dress. She then finds that she has rescued the handsome Lin Chung, and his grandmother, who briefly mistake her for a deity.

Denying divinity but accepting cognac, she later continues safely to the theatre where her night is again interrupted by a bizarre death onstage.

What links can Phryne find between the ridiculously entertaining plot of Ruddigore, the Chinese community of Little Bourke St., or the actors treading the boards of His Majesty's Theatre?

Drawn backstage and onstage Phryne must solve an old murder and find a new murderer - and, of course, banish the theatre's ghost who seems likely to kill again.

Where the previous book in the series took place in the carnival and circus, this time Phryne is involved in a mystery in the theatre and in particular in a production of Ruddigore by Gilbert and Sullivan.

The book opens when Phryne and her friend Bunji are on their way to a night at the theatre and they interupt a mugging of an old Chinese woman and her handsome grandson, Lin Chung.

They continue onto the theatre, but to say that it is not an ordinary night is an understatement, because the main character dies on stage. In the grand tradition of the stage, the show must goes on, but when the understudy to the main character also feels ill, it is obvious that there are major problems at the production. With more deaths to follow, and the appearance of a ghost in the theatre there is plenty to keep Phryne busy. What unravels next is

I must confess that this one didn't work for me as well as a lot of the other Phryne Fisher novels did. I don't know if it was all the references to Gilbert and Sullivan that I didn't get, or something else, but it didn't hold my attention as well as normal. It probably is just about me, because when I check the Amazon reviews most other people love it.

The introduction of Lin Chung heralds what appears to be a pretty major change in Phryne's life. At first, it seems as though he is another of the parade of beautiful young men that Phryne fills her life with, but just reading through the author website and back cover copy for the next books in the series, it is obvious that Lin becomes a pretty major and regular character. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in relation to this aspect of the mysteries.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Olympic Reading Challenge

Annie from Reading, Writing and Ranting has come up with an awesome idea for a short term challenge:

For the entire period of the Olympic Games (08 August 08 till 24 August 08) I'll be hosting a unique mini-challenge. It's country against country in the battle to prove your reading patriatism. The ultimate prize will be awarded to the individual who earns the most gold medals - a US $20 Gift Voucher. The runner up will receive a $5 Gift Voucher. Both 1st and 2nd place will also receive a special 'winner' badge to place on their blog.
How it Works...

1) You are to read as many books possible written by authors from your own country during the period the Olympics are on. The genre and length of the books will be up to you.
2) Each time you finish a book, post your name, country, blog address, book title and author as a comment on the bottom of this post. That will earn yourself and your country a silver medal. If you do all the above plus post a link to your review of the book you earn yourself and your country a gold medal.
3) A running country medal tally will be kept down the right hand side of this blog as well as the individual currently topping the leader board.
4) To win the Amazon Gift Voucher, you must be a gold medal winner (ie you must have submitted a review).
5) I don't mind if you've read the books before or were half-way through when the challenge started either.

Now at this point of time I only have one book by an Aussie author lined up for the next couple of weeks, but it is just such a good idea that I couldn't resist joining in! Click here for all the details and to sign up.

I just need to practice my skills of reading and watching Olympics coverage at the same time so I can fit everything in.

Weekly Geeks #13 - Author Photos Revealed!

This week's Weekly Geeks challenge was to post photos of your favourite authors and have your visitors guess who was shown. I have to say that I was terrible at guessing who everyone elses favourites were! My original Weekly Geeks post is here.

1. Photos of my favourite authors.

The three authors that I chose to spotlight as my favourites were Diana Gabaldon (good pick up to Kerry who noticed that I unintentionally made it nice and easy by choosing a photo that actually told you who it was!), Elizabeth Chadwick and Kelley Armstrong.

2. Photo(s) of the author(s) of the book(s) you’re currently reading.

At the time when I posted this I was reading Let Sleeping Rogues Lie by Sabrina Jeffries and Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland. I have now finished the first book, but I am still going on the second one.

3. Photo(s) of any author(s) you’ve met in person (even very briefly).

4. A youtube of (an) author(s) you’ve heard speak.

5. Any photo(s) you may have of yourself with an author.

The answer for questions 3, 4 and 5 is all the same - Paullina Simons. You can read more about my experiences of meeting the lovely Paullina here.

6. A photo of the author of the book you’ve most recently finished.

At the time of posting, the last book I had finished was Angelique by Sergeanne Golon. You can read my review of that excellent book here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The wait is over...kind of!

With the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics due to happen in Beijing tomorrow night, you might well think I am jumping the gun a little, but the Olympic competition has begun in at least two sports. The women's soccer (football) started last night, and tonight the Olyroos (the Australian men's soccer team) take to the park against Serbia. And so begins just over two weeks of sport. As an armchair sports fan from way back, I love it when the Olympics, or any other major sports event for that matter, is on!

There's just one thing left to say at this point in time and that is....

Come on Aussies!

Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood

Phryne Fisher is bored. So when she is asked to investigate some strange goings-on in Farrell's Circus and Wild Beast Show, her curiosity gets the better of her. Stripped of her identity, wealth and privileges, Phryne takes a job as a trick horse-rider, wearing hand-me-downs and a new name.

But what connects the circus with the particularly nasty murder in Miss Witherspoon's house for paying gentlefolk? Or with the warfare between rival gangs on Brunswick Street? Piecing together the fragments from the seedy underworld of twenties Fitzroy and the eccentric life under the big top, Phryne proves her mettle yet again aided only by her wits, an oddly attractive clown, and a stout and helpful bear.

The Honorable Phryne Fisher is feeling somewhat bored with her life. Yes, she is wealthy with a steady stream of beautiful young men to keep her company, and lives a very glamourous life during the Roaring '20s but it doesn't seem to be enough.

When she is approached by 3 members of Farrell's Circus and Wild Beast Show to investigate the mysterious goings on at the circus, including the death of one of the circus freaks in a Brunswick boarding house, Phryne leaps at the chance to go undercover at the circus. She becomes one of the trick riders, the young women who stand on the back of the horses and perform tricks. Phryne has long been somewhat impulsive, and this decision is certainly an example of this, because for Phryne to fully investigate exactly what is going on at Farrell's she needs to go deep undercover, and that means that for the first time in many years Phyrne is going to be by herself. No servants, no friends to help her out if she gets in trouble, and it is inevitable that she is going to do so.

This book was a little different than the usual Phryne Fisher mystery. This book is more about the life of the circus performer and about Phryne being by herself than the mystery itself. For example, Phryne doesn't get directly involved in the murder investigation. She is more focusing on the circus and why a string of things have gone wrong. There is quite a lot of emphasis on the different social levels within the circus with the performers not meant to fraternise with the 'carnie' workers.

I did enjoy seeing Phryne show a more vulnerable side to herself, and found the ending to be a very interesting finish to another fun Phryne Fisher mystery.

When I look back at the grades that I have given to all of the books I have read in the series so far, the consistency of the writing and the stories told is very clear.

The above cover image is not the cover that I have (although I do love this whole series of covers for the rereleases!), which I can't find a picture of anywhere! It seems to be quite a common problem for me with this series because there are a couple of others that I haven't been able to find anywhere as well. Oh well. I do think these ones are much prettier than the versions I have so I won't go the bother of scanning the covers or anything like that.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Did you ask 1000 what?

It could be 1000 tissues used on my poor nose, seeing that my lovely child has decided to share his germs with me.

It could be 1000 times that I have thought about how bad I feel today.

It could 1000 degrees centigrade, which is probably how hot it is in my house today. The heaters are going full bore, but my hands and feet are still freezing and I am still shivering.

Or it could be that this is the 1000th post published on my blog since I started back in November 2005 (not counting the posts that are either scheduled or in draft). Of course, if that was the case, then I would have organised some kind of blog celebration wouldn't I, but instead I am moaning about how crook I feel!

So that this post has some kind of actual interest, there is a new meme going around that is being hosted by The rules are pretty simple:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

So my book is Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland and the two lines are:

His hand flew from the canvas to the little tin of linseed oile, to his palette, then to the canvas, back to the oil, canvas, palette. There was soemthing wild about it, like a swallow darting to catch insects.

One bonus of being home today was that I was able to log in for the online launch of the fourth book of the Gardella Vampires Chronicles. Author Colleen Gleason took questions from the people who were 'attending', gave out some prizes and managed to fill nearly an hour with plenty of interesting facts about her books. If I had of gone to work I wouldn't have been able to watch!

A couple of posts ago, I talked about how I have 27 library books to read by 2 September. By the time I finished watching the event I was all excited about the prospect of reading the next book in the series that I have here to read...which isn't one of those books! Whoops!

Angelique by Sergeanne Golon

I am not quite sure how I managed it, but some how I have managed to spend the last twenty five years of my reading life in complete ignorance about the Angelique series, and yet having just finished reading the first book (well actually first two books) in the series, I am confident in saying that this book has everything that I love in a book.

The first I remember hearing about the series is when Ana did an Author Spotlight about Serge and Anne Golon at Historical Tapestry.

Somewhat unusually this book doesn't have any kind of synopsis at all on either the inside or back cover so I hope that I can do justice to the plot without giving too much away.

Young Angelique is born into a noble but impoverished family in the mid 1600's. One of several children, Angelique is high spirited, and lives her life amongst the villagers and in the marshlands around her home. Her best features are her green eyes and her beautiful hair and is growing into quite the beauty, quite in danger of falling prey to young men. After becoming involved in a dangerous situation that enables her father to have a little more money, it becomes apparent to her family that she is in danger of becoming out of control so she is packed off to the convent for her education, and even the nuns have trouble controlling her.

Angelique is forced to return from the convent to be married to a man she has never met, Comte Joffrey de Peyrac de Morens, Lord of Toulouse. He is a man with a fearsome reputation. He is scarred and lame, but richer than the king (allegedly) and reputed to be a wizard. Angelique is determined that she will not give herself to Joffrey and he is patient. What she did not know about her new husband is that he is devoted to the art of love, and has the voice of an angel. He is also devoted to his young wife and once he manages to convince Angelique of his love, the couple have a period of happiness. But this is the middle ages and with lots of intrigue and jealousy between the Church and the Royal Court, a man who apparently has the skills of witchcraft that enable him to cause many women to fall in love with him despite his physical infirmities as well as to be able to magically conjure gold out of rocks where there is no gold present is always going to be in danger.

With Joffrey capturing the attention of the King (Louis XIV) for all the wrong reason, a new time starts in Angelique's life, where she must do whatever it takes to save her husband on very limited resources and knowing that she herself has become person non grata in the Royal social scene. And yet for Angelique this is just the start of her downward slide, but being the head strong and resourceful young lady that she is she most assuredly find a way to climb out from the depths of her experiences and back up the social chain.

At nearly 800 pages long, this book is action packed and filled with details such as the excesses of life in Louis XIV court and the squalor and danger for life of the normal Parisian. There are many real life historical figures populating the book. From the comparative poverty of her childhood, to her beautiful home in Toulouse as Joffrey's bride, to the depths of the Paris underworld in her place as the queen of the Court of Miracles, to the kitchen of the restaurant where she starts to rebuild her life, to the role of business woman as she introduces chocolate to the masses, Angelique undergoes a tremendous journey. In some ways, she reminded me of Amber from Kathleen Winsor's historical fiction classic Forever Amber, but Angelique is less cunning and manipulative and more concerned with just doing what she has to do to survive, even if some times that means that she makes decisions which may have been seen as immoral by some. She doesn't necessarily always make smart decisions, but she has her own code of behaviour which she adheres too. And yet there are times within the novel where she does seem to lose her sense of who she is, but if that happens she is always strong enough to draw herself out of the situation that she is in.

As for the men of the book, well the standout has to be Joffrey. He is a man who has been maimed and scarred, and yet lived life to the fullest, undertaking journeys to strange lands and learning everything he could, and then applying those lessons to his own life. He is a student of the principles of courtly love and shares those with the few chosen to spend time at home, and he is apparently a wonderful lover. Yet when fate delivers him into the hands of the prosecutors who have decided he must be done away with he is eloquent in his defence, courageous in the face of his own death, and we know without being told that he is totally in love with his beautiful wife and family. What a really great hero!

There are others too that are interesting in that they are not really one dimensional characters. Angelique's childhood friend Nicholas who plays such a key role in Angelique's life, to her cousin Philippe whose coldness and cruelty just leaps from the page, and to the lawyer Desgrez whose fate seems destined to be intertwined with that of Angelique and her family, some are men that Angelique loves and others are protectors and friends, but all of them are part of the excellent experience of reading this book.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am going to be reading as much of this series as I possibly can. Or maybe reading is too gentle a word. I am going to be devouring the rest of this series and am very much looking forward to going on my next adventure with Angelique.

I should say that this hardcover version of the book that I read includes two books that were issued separately in paperback - Angelique, The Marquise of the Angels and Angelique: The Road to Versailles. The other books in the series that have been translated into English are:

Angelique and the King
Angelique and the Sultan
Angelique in Revolt
Angelique in Love
The Countess Angelique
The Temptation of Angelique
Angelique and the Demon
Angelique and the Ghosts

There are a couple of other books in the series that have not yet been translated. Given that the first book in the series came out in 1956, it is remarkable to think that Anne Golon is still working on this series, with a view to finishing off the series.

With the book currently being out of print, I would definitely suggest that it is worth the effort to try and track down as many of these books as you possibly can and then make the effort to enjoy this truly remarkable adventure.

Cross posted at Historical Tapestry


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