REVIEW: Marguerite Kaye’s THE SOLDIER’S DARK SECRET, Or Exorcising Demons and Resting Ghosts

Soldier's_Dark_SecretMiss Bates doesn’t read as much histrom as she used to, but it is her first romance-reading love. A new-to-her-author, Marguerite Kaye, is someone she’s been curious about since Kaye’s sheikh books were published by Harlequin, Innocent In the Sheikh’s Harem especially looked intriguing. As Miss B’s leery of sheikhs, she took a chance on her first Kaye read in the Regency romance The Soldier’s Dark Secret. It contains some of Miss Bates’ favourite romance conventions: hero and heroine solve a mystery; multiple locations, including continental ones; and, the plot is centred on working together to overcome instead of bickering to make it to the bedroom. Kaye’s protagonists don’t squabble, they converse in heated, or humorous tones … and still manage to be sexy as heck.

Waterloo veteran, former Lieutenant-Colonel Jack Trestain struggles with PTSD at his brother’s, Sir Charles’, estate. Enter Parisian heroine Celeste Marmion, commissioned by Charles to paint Trestain Manor’s grounds before his wife’s, Eleanor’s, planned renovations begin. Celeste, however, has another reason for being in England: she seeks the truth of her mother’s mysterious death, “to find some answers and close an unhappy chapter in her life.” Continue reading

REVIEW: Connie Brockway’s THE SONGBIRD’S SEDUCTION, Or Love Among the Crofts

Songbird's_SeductionMiss Bates will expose her uncouth romance-reading ways and admit she’s not keen on Brockway’s books. She read rav-y reviews about As You Desire, dutifully read it, and it left her cold. She read All Through the Night and liked it better, but wasn’t inspired to read more of the oeuvre. Miss Bates suspects that there was something about Brockway’s voice, a privileging of it, a bringing into the forefront of the narrative that made the reader too conscious of it. When The Songbird’s Seduction came along … well, there was a mitigating factor, the Edwardian setting. Surprise, surprise … Brockway’s latest won her over. The novel was charming and funny, and pulled at the heartstrings. The voice was captivating, droll, affectionate towards its hero and heroine’s youthful foibles. The distancing was still there, but it was gentler. Though it may be deemed a light read, frothy and fun, there were also lovely, poignant moments, moments of pain in the characters, whose effervescent mood and carryings-on, embracing of life, willingness to forgive wrong-doing, were endearing. And did Miss Bates mention the laugh-out-loud moments … Continue reading

REVIEW: Louise Allen’s UNLACING LADY THEA, Or “A Talent for Friendship”

Unlacing Lady TheaOne of Miss Bates’ favourite literary exchanges occurs between snarky Hamlet and his doofus-y friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in Act 2, scene 2:

Hamlet: “My excellent good friends! How dost thou?” …

… Guildenstern: ” … On Fortune’s cap we are not the very button.”

Hamlet: “Nor the soles of her shoes?”

Rosencrantz: “Neither, my lord.”

Hamlet: “Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours?”

This exemplifies how Miss Bates considers most of the romance novels she reads, neither the “very button,” nor the “soles” of goodness, but somewhere about the middle and somewhere about the middle of Miss Bates’ favours is where most lie. This may be said about Louise Allen’s Unlacing Lady Thea, the first half of which Miss Bates slogged through, annoyed with much of it. Nevertheless, competent, smooth prose kept her reading. The second half proved much better: with atmosphere, thanks to lovely descriptions of France and Venice, and a hero and heroine who grew on her. The result is a romance that started out “meh” and ended up fairly good, a lot like our hero and heroine’s journey from solid friends to glorious lovers, from gently green and misty England to the magnificence of canals, gondolas, and the Piazza San Marco. Continue reading

REVIEW: Susanna Kearsley’s THE SPLENDOUR FALLS … “On Castle Walls”

The Splendour FallsElgar’s Salut d’Amour for violin and piano is one of the composer’s early efforts, charming, moving, though minor in light of the entire oeuvre.  It informs the raison d’être of Kearsley’s Splendour Falls, this greeting of love, this welcoming.  Kearsley’s novel is also an early work, a reissue of a 1995 effort.  Its rawness is evident, the writer not yet in full control of her material, characters, or themes.  These elements are excessive: too many characters, too much detail, a bogging down of the narrative, and various threads  abandoned.  Nevertheless, Miss Bates enjoyed it.  She recognized in it the promise of what Kearsley does in The Winter Sea, or recent Firebird.  (Miss Bates hasn’t read these titles, but she’s read rave reviews.)  There is much to like in The Splendour Falls and like it Miss Bates did.  She can’t embrace it wholeheartedly, but it is thoughtful, serious, and contains wonderfully lyrical descriptive language.  It’s a quiet book; what it lacks in action, it makes up for in thought.  It’s not riveting, but it is well-written and the narrator’s voice is introspective, engaging and sympathetic. Continue reading