Book Review: Elizabeth Hoyt’s Lord of Darkness

12907444Title: Lord of Darkness
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 5
Rating: 5 out of 5
My Copy: Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

Elizabeth Hoyt’s Lord of Darkness is the fifth book in her Maiden Lane series. For those not familiar with this particular series, Lord of Darkness can be read as a standalone if you don’t mind the back-story she fills in. Otherwise I recommend starting with the first book, Wicked Intentions.

Godric St. John still grieves for the loss of his wife Clara. He decides to live the rest of his life as a widower and devoted to her memory; however, that changes when Griffin Reading blackmails him into marrying his sister Margaret. Margaret reluctantly agrees to the marriage when she finds out her fiancé has been murdered and fears what her family might do when they find out she’s expecting a child. Knowing Margaret will never want a real marriage and his secret will be safe, he agrees to marry her. The two live separately: Margaret in his country estate and Godric in London.

Two years later, Margaret decides she wants a child and the only way to have one is to consummate her marriage. She surprises Godric by showing up at his London residence and explains she came to town for some shopping. When she confesses her real reason, he tells her he cannot betray Clara because consummating their marriage would be the ultimate betrayal. He doesn’t realize Margaret too grieves for her dead fiancé, Roger. When Margaret discovers Godric is the Ghost of St. Giles she confesses her reason for being in St. Giles: she’s looking for Roger’s killer. Godric takes the opportunity to explain how he came to be the Ghost and agrees to find the person responsible for Roger’s death. He also agrees to give her a child.

The majority of the plot centers on the lassie snatchers and we first come across them in Thief of Shadows. I was a bit disappointed Hoyt was going to focus on this again, but in hindsight it makes sense. For readers not familiar with them, they are a group responsible for buying or kidnapping young girls for the sole purpose of making lace stockings. These lace stockings were highly sought after by the wealthy and the girls were often beaten and underfed. In Lord of Darkness, we finally get to put a name to the man behind the operation and we also find out how Roger’s death is connected to the lassie snatchers.

The real story here is that of Godric and Margaret finding love. We have two people who loved deeply and are afraid to take that chance again. Hoyt does a remarkable job expressing their concerns. The moment Godric realizes he loves Margaret is bittersweet. She confesses how she can’t go on not knowing who murdered her beloved and yet at that moment, he’s willing to “walk the fires of hell” for her. There’s one particular scene where I thought Godric might fly off the deep end and that’s when he walks into his bedroom to find Margaret reading a letter she wrote to him. He realizes she was looking in his drawer and he could have easily given her the cold shoulder and thrown her out of his room, but instead he was honest and open with her.

There are few unanswered questions. Godric tells Megs that Sir Stanley Gilpin trained him and two others. If Sir Stanley found it a lark to dress up as the Ghost who’s to say he didn’t train other men before Godric? And if Sir Stanely only trained three men, why did Captain Trevillion knowing Godric was the Ghost, let him go when he had the perfect opportunity to arrest him? Was it because Godric was saving children from the lassie snatchers or is there much more to this? I’m curious about Trevillion since he’s been featured before and I’m hoping Hoyt gives him his own book.

Hoyt often includes a story within a story. All these of course take place in the chapter headings. Our treat this time is the Legend of the Hellequin and what a story it was! Every time she includes one of these in her books, it makes me wish she would publish them in their entirety.

My favorite scene in Lord of Darkness involves Godric, his sister, and Margaret’s Great-Aunt Elvina discussing babies. Elvina believes they are troublesome especially those that bother her dog. Godric suggests they should be hung:

“I cannot believe you would suggest tying a child to the wall.”
“Oh, no, ma’am,” Godric said as he poured himself more wine. “You have me entirely wrong.”
“Well, that’s a relief—”
“I meant the child should hang on the wall.” He looked kindly at the elderly woman. “Like a picture, as it were.”

Elizabeth Hoyt once again delivers and Lord of Darkness doesn’t disappoint. We’re given a preview of Duke of Midnight, the sixth book in the series. It will feature the Duke of Wakefield and Artemis Greaves and I have a feeling we have our third Ghost in Wakefield. It’s scheduled for an October release and October can’t come soon enough.

He loves me, he loves me not

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Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s topic is romance. My list consists couples from history, literature, television and film. A little of everything. Who’s on your list?

Abelard_and_HeloiseAbelard and Heloise
Nothing screams true love forever than letting your lover’s family castrate you. Abelard heard how well read Heloise was and persuaded her uncle Fulbert to meet her. He realized she was beautiful and quite intelligent too. When they become lovers, her uncle finds out and they both flee to his sister’s house where she later gives birth to their child. They secretly marry despite Heloise refusing to marry him (she believed marriage would ruin his career prospects). Her uncle publicly announces the marriage, but she denies it and goes to a convent at Abelard’s urging. Fearing his niece has been cast aside, Fulbert castrates him. The lovers never see each other again, but over the course of twenty years, exchanged passionate love letters.

03B2LAPOLA2Policarpa “La Pola” Salavarrieta and Alejo Sabaraín (La Pola)
No one can confirm if these two were indeed lovers, but evidence suggests that they were. In the telenovela, they meet as children and fall in love, but Alejo is told she died of a fever and when they meet as adults, he’s shocked to see her alive. Although he’s engaged to someone else, he pledges his love and urges her to run away with him, but she refuses wanting to do things correctly. Soon she’s involved in the war effort to free New Granada from Spain. He reluctantly gets involved and in the end, they are both arrested for treason. It’s been rumored, as they both stood to be shot (she opted for that sentence saying she wasn’t a coward) he turned and said to her, “It has been an honor to love you and even more so to die with you.”

maya_raj_caminho_indiasMaya and Raj (Caminho das Indias)
When I first started to watch India, I really wanted Maya to be with her one true love Bahuan, but he was an “untouchable” and her family had already arranged her marriage to Raj. Raj was in love with someone else too, but she was a foreigner. He and Maya make the best of things and she’s thrown out of his house when he finds out his son isn’t his. Meanwhile Bahuan tries to get Maya to leave Raj, but she refuses saying she owes her husband respect. Raj is angry at Maya and later he realizes he still loves her. He goes in search for her because at this point she’s living as a cast off and apologizes. The series ends with her walking hand in hand with him and they come across Bahuan’s wedding and he says to her, “I hope they live a beautiful love like ours.”

150307706284419415_g0CEIpkA_cClark Gable and Carole Lombard
Ah the love story for these two ended way too soon. They met when they were both married to other people, but a few years later they announced they would marry; no date was set and Gable just picked up Lombard one day and drove off to get married (the lovers didn’t think they would ever marry because Gable’s wife refused on several occasions to sign divorce papers, but she relented). The two often played jokes on each other and had nicknames for each other, “Ma” & “Pa.” One time Lombard bought a blow up doll and was in bed in with it to surprise Gable as a joke. When he arrived he made comment to the effect of, the doll better not be equipped bigger than him. LOL! Lombard became one of the first female casualties of World War II when her plane crashed outside Las Vegas. She was returning to LA after being on a Bond Tour. Gable was inconsolable and joined the war effort on her behalf and memory. When he died, he chose to be buried beside her.

Robin-Hood-and-Maid-Marian-walt-disneys-robin-hood-6386303-300-402Robin Hood and Maid Marian
What’s a hero without the fair maiden? Although versions of this tale portray Marian differently, she’s not really introduced as a love interest for Robin until sometime in the 16th century. She’s evolved as a character and each adaptation portrays her differently depending on the time period the tale is written. I’ve always been a fan of Marian as a noblewoman under the protection of King Richard, but I like the Marian who can fight for herself and isn’t afraid of a little adventure. I do have a favorite film adaptation of the Robin Hood tale and brace yourself it isn’t a popular version. I’m a fan of the Kevin Costner version. Blame it on the ten year in me who went and saw Prince of Thieves and just fell in love. Although I can’t resist Disney’s version.

phant093Christine and the Phantom (Phantom of the Opera)
Now I know what you’re thinking, but I’m basing this on the novel. In the novel, Christine does return to the lair to be with him and stays until he dies. Prior to that when he kidnaps her, he sets up the trap to kill everyone in the Opera house unless she agrees to marry him, but she refuses. When she realizes Raoul is trapped in the hot torture chamber, she agrees to marriage to save him and everyone at the Opera house. Erik then tries to drown Raoul, but Christine says no and promises not to kill herself if she marries him. He rescues him and the Persian. Afterwards, Erik is alone with Christine and he lifts his mask to kiss her forehead. He’s overcome with emotion because not even his own mother allowed him to touch her and Christine kisses him back. Having a change of heart, he lets Christine go on the condition that she return when he dies. She honors that promise and stays with him when his time comes near.

Wallis_Simpson_5Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor
A king abdicating the throne for the woman he loves? Swoon! To be truthful, I’m not sure I would have wanted him to do that if I had been in Wallis’ shoes. Imagine if it never worked out, he’d be saying, “but I gave up my country for you!” Lucky for us it did work out despite the royals never warming up to her. I wish we knew more about Wallis and she’s such a mystery! I’m sure history hasn’t been kind to her story. We’ll never know 100% if both Wallis and Edward were Nazi sympathizers and if they were, I wonder if they ever changed their mind seeing the aftermath of the second World War.

Annex - Kerr, Deborah (An Affair to Remember)_01Nickie and Terry (An Affair to Remember)
If I learned anything from watching An Affair to Remember it was, sometimes promises aren’t kept and there’s a reason behind it. Nickie, played the handsome Cary Grant, is on a transatlantic ocean liner enroute to New York. He’s involved with someone and he meets Terry, played by Deborah Kerr. Through a series of meetings, the two of them quickly establish a friendship and soon Terry falls in love with him. Both agree to meet in six months time at the top of the Empire State Building if they have ended their relationships. Six months later, Terry is on her way to meet Nickie when tragedy strikes! She’s hit by a car and Nickie is unaware of the accident and believes she’s rejected him. Another six months pass and they see each other at the ballet and he doesn’t notice she’s in a wheelchair because she’s seated as he passes to say hello to her. Nickie’s still hurt that she rejected him and finds out her address. When he visits her, he tries to find out why she didn’t make the meeting, but she doesn’t address the issue. As he leaves he notices his painting on her wall and remembers what the shopkeeper told him, that he gave it to a woman in a wheelchair. He realizes why she didn’t keep the appointment and he embraces her as they both declare their love. :sigh:

00/00/1939. film "Gone with the wind" (Autant en emporte le vent) By Victor FlemingRhett and Scarlett (Gone With the Wind)
I first saw Gone With the Wind when I was five-years-old and fell hard for Rhett and Scarlett. Over the years, I’ve read the book on numerous occasions and watch the film at least twice a year. While it’s not your typical love story with a hero and heroine overcoming the odds to finally find happiness, it is a love story nevertheless. Haven’t we all dealt with unrequited love at some point in our lives? Sure in Scarlett’s case we know Ashley is leading her on as well as Melanie, but what of Rhett? Is she leading him on? My answer is always no because he’s fully aware of where she stands with regards to Ashley, but Rhett believes he can make Scarlett love him. Sadly Scarlett realizes too late of her love for Rhett and while he passionately declares that he doesn’t give a damn when she confesses, in my mind he does. I know in my version of the true ending, he comes back to find her at Tara and grovels at her feet because after all…tomorrow is another day.

prsbrockwc23Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth (Persuasion)
I love stories of separated lovers who meet up in the future. The unresolved conflict of will they or won’t they gets me all the time. Anne is young when she walks way from Wentworth and several years later, they meet again. She’s convinced he’s off to find a wife and all the signs point to that, while he quietly ignores her. Then tragedy strikes when Louisa Musgrove is hurt and Anne leaves to Bath. Later she comes across Wentworth’s sister who informs her of Louisa’s engagement and Anne’s heart dies a little thinking Wentworth is marrying her, but his sister confirms that is not the case. Wentworth comes to Bath and isn’t pleased to see another man courting Anne and the two of them become reacquainted. At the public room in Bath, Wentworth overhears Anne talking about men and women in love and he’s moved with what she has to say. He then proceeds to write the BEST love letter ever written in history (it’s true) and the two of them marry. Here’s the love letter and judge for yourself:

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in
F. W.

Book Review: Cathy Maxwell’s The Earl Claims His Wife

the earl claims his wifeTitle: The Earl Claims His Wife
Author: Cathy Maxwell
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Yes / Book 2 of 5
Rating: 3 out of 5
My Copy: Borrowed from the library

I like Cathy Maxwell and it’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a book of hers. The Earl Claims His Wife is book 2 in her Scandals and Seductions series. I haven’t read the first book and don’t see a problem reading the series out of order; however, if you’re the type that doesn’t like to be spoiled then start with book 1 (A Seduction at Christmas).

I should start out by saying that I enjoy the abandoned wife plot in historical romance. Maxwell does a good job with a simple plot. After spending four years under Wellington’s command and fighting Napoleon, Brian, the Earl of Wright, returns to London; reluctantly he honors his father’s demands of returning and only because his two older brothers are now dead. Upon returning to London he quickly finds out his wife, Gillian, is not under his father’s roof, but instead has left to manage her cousin’s household. He writes demanding her return, but headstrong Gillian does not comply and he’s left to fetch her only to discover she’s in love with another man.

Gillian, in many ways, had the right to leave her father-in-law’s household. She spent four years being oppressed without a house of her own, whereas Brian’s mistress, Jess, had her own house. Gillian’s resentment towards Brian is justified and it doesn’t help Brian confesses he only married her because he was told to (yes dear reader he tells her about Jess). While spending time at her cousin’s estate, she meets a Spanish nobleman, Andres, and realizes he’s the man she wants to be with. Her aunt tries to knock some sense into her, but Gillian won’t listen and is prepared to take Andres as her lover and things were going according to plan until Brian shows up. Brian threatens a duel with Andres if she doesn’t return with him, Gillian agrees to return only to save the life of the man she loves. Little by little during their journey to London, Gillian sees glimpses of the man she fell in love with. Brian informs her that he needs her and he’s willing to give their marriage another chance. She agrees, but upon arriving in London she’s greeted by the sight of a child and she’s heartbroken for believing in her husband’s lies. Brian for his part tries everything to convince her to stay.

The heart of the novel is Brian’s father, the Marquess of Atherstone. Atherstone likes to control people and when they defy him, he goes out of his way to make them regret their decision. Brian very much defies him at every turn and only returned to London when he was forced. Atherstone has a position in mind for Brian, but Brian has a different idea. The question here is how powerful is Athersone? The answer, dear reader, is simple: very. Maxwell presents us with a worthy character who has a network of spies. I won’t say anymore because it does ruin the experience of reading.

A few people I’ve spoken with believe Gillian was fickle especially since she was so quick to discard Andres. I don’t believe that, but rather she never stopped loving her husband. She tells her aunt, she knew Brian was the one the moment she set eyes on him and when she realizes she still has feelings for him, she does the right thing and that is to inform Andres. As for Brian and his feelings for his mistress…I truly believe he knew deep in down Gillian’s character, but was so blinded by youthful infatuation he couldn’t see anything other than Jess. How many times have we held onto that perfect memory only to experience it again and have it shatter our soul because it was all a lie? Brian experienced what we all do and he comes to his senses. He knows he has a rare treasure of a woman and that’s his wife. The one thing truly missing from this book is a good grovel scene.

If you’re looking for a quick historical romance to read and have a few hours to spare then I recommend it. Just don’t look for in-depth characterization. It’s a fast paced read that will leave you satisfied with the ending.

Book Review: Wendy Vella’s The Reluctant Countess

The-Reluctant-Countess-by-Wendy-Vella Title: The Reluctant Countess
Author: Wendy Vella
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 2 out of 5
My Copy: Borrowed from friend

I’m not sure what to say about Wendy Vella’s The Reluctant Countess. From the synopsis it’s publicized as a Cinderella type plot and it has aspects of it, but Vella just falls short.

Synopsis:
Regal, poised, and elegant, Sophie, Countess of Monmouth, is everything that a highborn lady should be. But Sophie is hiding a past that is far from royal. When Patrick, Earl of Coulter, realizes that her story doesn’t add up, he resolves to find out the truth of what Sophie and her sister-in-law are concealing. Although Sophie has every reason to avoid him, the handsome and charismatic Patrick awakens something wicked deep within her soul . . . a powerful need that Sophie must stifle in order to protect her place in society.

Despite Sophie’s humble background, the raven-haired beauty has won Patrick’s heart. But what Sophie needs now is an ally. Viscount Myles Dumbly, the disgruntled former heir of Monmouth, is determined to expose Sophie as a fraud to recapture his lost inheritance. Soon Patrick is drawn into a fight for both their lives. Somehow he must find a way not only to rescue Sophie from poverty once and for all, but to keep her in his arms forever.

As for character development, there are some issues. The main problem for me is the villain. He’s introduced as hating Sophie and wanting to find out the truth behind her marriage to the late earl. Villains, especially those in a Regency romance do tend to be dastardly, but this one just was meek. A lot of things just don’t make sense. If the earl was dying and as the earl’s heir, wouldn’t he be there to protect his claim especially if there was talk of the earl’s apparent marriage? Speaking of marriage…Sophie married the earl on his deathbed and her son becomes the heir, hence displacing the villain. Here’s the thing… her son turns out to be her brother and of course her brother was already born when Sophie married the earl and therefore cannot be the heir! I understand being out in the country and away from London gossips, but here’s the thing- communities were small enough that people would be aware if the new mistress of the house was pregnant. Servants gossip and how in the world did the earl’s sister, Letty, manage to hush everyone up in the household is beyond me, unless they fired the lot and only retained a few in confidence. I can suspend disbelief, but in this situation it just doesn’t work for me. At one point the villain confronts Sophie and she says something to the effect of, “you got a title passed to you.” What title was that and why isn’t it attached with the others? You can’t just pick and chose with titles will pass just like you can’t pick out of a hat who your heir is going to be.

I didn’t find Sophie and Patrick’s romance all that convincing. It seemed to me she married him because she didn’t have a choice. Obviously marrying Patrick offers some protection (ahem from the possibility of the Ton finding out you weren’t married to your first husband), but I never got the impression Sophie loved Patrick. There wasn’t any indication of feelings of dislike and distrust turning into admiration and then love. It’s also never fully explained why Patrick was interested in knowing more about Sophie. It’s not like he had a claim on the title or was in any way a friend of the family. Yes, Vella writes he visited the earl a few days prior to his death, which again brings up the question of Sophie. Wouldn’t the earl have mentioned he’d married? Vella presents Sophie as a beautiful woman who pretty much keeps men at a distance. If Patrick was interested in her favors, I’d expect an author to describe his lust at seeing her for the first time or something to that effect, but we don’t. His sole purpose is to expose her as a charlatan, but then he changes his feelings regarding Sophie 25% in.

I do have to make note of the language because it sounded too modern. I know it is difficult to write a certain way, but for me when an author sets a novel in the past, I expect it to sound like a product of the time period or as close as possible.

I debated heavily with the rating. In the end, I gave it a two because Vella fails to execute the plot and problems regarding inheritance. I’ve read some well- written Cinderella plots in the past. Julie Ann Long’s To Love a Thief comes to mind as well as Pamela Britton’s Scandal.

Book Review: “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

ImageTitle: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Series: Yes (Book 1 of 7)
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Purchased

The first thing you encounter when you pick up a copy of Outlander is probably surprise, and maybe a bit of intimidation; the novel is a veritable tome, weighing in at well over 800 pages. Oftentimes, this is enough to scare away the more casual reader, but for me, it was more the book’s reputation and popularity that gave pause.

Throughout my bookish life, I’ve been told I ought to read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. It is the single, most oft-recommended book that I’ve ever had suggested to me, and so not inclined to follow the crowd, I resisted. News of an impending mini-series wrought by Ron Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame helped entice me to overcome this initial reluctance, as did the full knowledge of the book’s premise: Jacobite Scotland, espionage, intrigue, highland adventures, and time travel. What’s not to love? As I’ve been on a time travel kick lately, what list of epoch-defying novels is complete without Outlander?

Here ye be warned–spoilers abound in this lengthy review for a lengthy novel.

Summary
Following World War II, Claire Randall and her husband, Frank, embark upon a second honeymoon to Scotland in an attempt to rekindle their war-dwindled romance. Venturing into the countryside, they come across a circle of standing stones, and as Claire is sucked back in time, we are likewise taken along with her.

Positives
The conveyance which transported Claire back two hundred years is simultaneously brilliant and eyebrow-raising. A megalithic circle akin to that of Stonehenge, called Craigh na Dun, is deemed responsible,  and it is also suggested that this is a natural phenomenon that the ancients knew of but did not fully understand. It is implied not that the stones themselves possess the power to thrust a being back in time, but rather more realistically, that the stones were erected ages ago to warn passersby to stay away. Gabaldon’s inclusion of the mythic legends regarding fairies was also clever, and in context, such legends would be a satisfactory explanation for previous occurrences of time travel.

The juxtaposition of Claire’s 20th century mind with the 18th century culture she finds herself thrown into is amusing as well as fascinating. While she’s intelligent enough to avoid more of the situations that would create more comedic scenarios, she’ll still slip and use phrases like “Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars,” confusing those around her and eliciting a chuckle from the reader.

Negatives
Loch Ness monster? Really, Gabaldon? Someone please convince me how this contributed to the plot. It felt like nothing other than a Scottish cliche inserted to amuse the ignorant masses, who cannot think of Scotland save to conjure images of a smiling Nessie sporting a plaid tam.

I’m going to risk incurring the ire of every Fraser fangirl alive by saying this, but Jaime doesn’t do it for me. At all. I completely fail to see why he’s so appealing and attractive. Repeatedly, we’re reminded of his physical perfection; this smacks of Twilight to me, and beating me over the head with description after description of the hero’s physical glories does not at all convince me of the character’s worth. Jaime is kind enough to Claire, that is true. Initially, he seems to be quite likeable. His use of the term “Sassenach” is downright endearing, even to me (I’ll even admit that I think I’d get chills if someone called me that in a Scottish accent); however, I have to be  brutally honest here, and say that I have had great difficulty getting over the scene where Jaime beats Claire. Yes, it’s period for an 18th century man to be able to thrash his wife in punishment. Yes, he promises to never do it again and adheres to that (at least in the first book). But accurate or not, this is one instance where I am not able to accept period-correct behaviour and dismiss it in context. No woman ever deserves to be beaten, no matter her perceived crime. Is this our literary hero?

This book has an even darker side, one of which I would caution less mature readers. There are several scenes and themes in this book I would consider to be potential “triggers” for anyone with a history of abuse, and even for those merely of faint of heart or weak of stomach. We see scenes of vividly-depicted sexual abuse (heterosexual and otherwise), rape, and sodomy. It’s downright uncomfortable to read, and while I understand Gabaldon’s decision to brave exploration of abuse in the 18th century, I don’t understand why she chooses to revel in the literally gorey details, yet gloss over the ramifications and subsequent trauma. It makes me suspect she did it for shock value, and to villainize Jack Randall as much as humanly possible. To be blunt, it felt somewhat cheap.

Quotes

Jaime was not my first hero. The men moved too quickly through the field hospital, as a rule, for the nurses to become well acquainted with them, but now and again you would a man who talked too little or joked too much, who held himself more stiffly than pain and loneliness would account for.

And I knew, roughly, what could be done for them. If there was time, and if they were the kind who talked to keep the dark at bay, you sat with them and listened. If they were silent, you touched them often in passing, and watched for the unguarded moment, when you might draw them outside of themselves and hold them while they exorcised their demons. If there was time. And if there wasn’t, then you jabbed them with morphine, and hoped they would manage to find someone else to listen, while you passed on to a man whose wounds were visible.

— Chapter 36

The dusk momentarily heightened all the colors of the countryside, lighting the land with jewels; a glowing emerald in the hollows, a lovely shadowed amethyst among the clumps of heather, and burning rubies on the red-berried rowan trees that crowned the hills.”

[…]

We came down from the braes near Loch Madoch, pressing the chilly dawn mist to the edge of a still sheet of grey. Wild ducks began to rise from the reeds in untidy flocks that circled the marshes, quacking and calling to rouse late sleepers below. By contrast, a well-disciplined wedge of geese passed over us, calling of heartbreak and desolation.

The grey fog lifted near midday on the second day, and a weak sun lighted the meadows filled with yellow gorse and broom. A few miles past the loch, we came out onto a narrow road and turned northwest. The way took us up again, rising into low, rolling hills that gave way gradually to granite tors and crags.

— Chapter 25

Thoughts
I have nothing but praise for the way Diana Gabaldon writes. Her prose is lyrical, her descriptions vivid and realistic, and her dialogue is good (though not fantastic or wholly period). She has a strong grasp on the historical and cultural aspects of the 18th century, and I say this as an enthusiast of the era. I only caught one inaccuracy; she refers to a character wearing a cotton gown. While cotton was certainly known and the fabric on its way to becoming a staple (later in the century Eli Whitney’s invention would allow it to become affordable enough to reach the masses), in this context, I felt a garment made of “linsey-woolsey” or plain wool would have been more appropriate.

One area I felt could use a bit more exploration was, exactly what sort of trauma and mental distress time travel would invoke on the traveler. We are given very little of what I would expect to be a horrifying experience for anyone; aside from Claire’s initial confusion and denial, it never seems to occur to her that what she has just experienced is a mind-boggling impossibility. I don’t know about you, but I would be doing some heavy-duty thinking about whether or not my every move would be altering the course of history (read Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder if you haven’t already). This is touched upon more satisfactorily in Dragonfly in Amber (which I’m presently in the midst of), and admittedly a 1940s mind might not be as familiar with the concept of time travel in general as Gabaldon’s modern-day audience. Still, we barely see Claire even ponder her quandary at all.

Another question worth asking is whether or not Claire is a bigamist. Why not just tell everyone she was still married? While technically her husband Frank hadn’t been born yet, this would have alleviated the problems of her being forced to marry again. This is addressed in one of the best portions of the entire novel take place in one of the later chapters, where Claire confides in a kindly priest and consults him on the quandary of her marriage to Jaime. The issue of bigamy is addressed, albeit rather conveniently, but through this, Claire is reawakened to religion. It’s a transformation that’s always tricky to pull off, and Gabaldon does it admirably and respectfully, without the all-too-typical “Hallmark” quality that offends my sense of realism.

Conclusion
I do feel that Gabaldon could use an editor; she can be wordy, often unnecessarily so, but not in her description or exposition. It is in her innumerable adventures, the tales of Claire and Jaime that she wears the reader’s patience. Over and over we read of their exploits across the highlands (and between the bedsheets), again and again we are told of how much they love each other. But that’s just it; we’re told, rather than shown. The age-old adage holds true here. Show, don’t tell. Gabaldon is a master of description, but she fails to give us an emotional connection illustrating exactly why Claire would choose Jaime over Frank. We’re given reasons such as her fear of travelling back through the stones a second time; this makes sense, but don’t you think she would brave that risk for Jaime?

Outlander begins to weave several threads that I can only hope will be grasped more firmly later in the series. Especially the story of Geile Duncan and Frank’s experiences during the war, both of which intrigued me, and neither was fully explored.

Overall, four stars for the sheer magnitude of Gabaldon’s undertaking, her ability to pull it off with considerable aplomb, and her laudable knowledge of the historical elements surrounding 18th century Jacobite Scotland. ♦

Book Review: Vicki Hopkins’ Dark Persuasion

Dark Per SmlTitle: Dark Persuasion
Author: Vicki Hopkins
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: No
Rating: 4 out of 5
My Copy: Complimentary copy via LibraryThing’s Member Giveaway

I’ve stated before in a previous review how I’m not a big fan of authors who are upfront and state the history of central characters and how they are connected. This approach can be either hit or miss, but in the case of Dark Persuasion, Vicki Hopkins does an amazing job setting up the plot and it defiantly is needed to understand the particular actions of certain characters.

Charlotte Grey was a child when an accident left her blind and she’s surprised her aristocratic neighbors are interested in being her sponsors and hold a ball in her honor. At the ball she meets two brothers, Patrick and Rupert, who are different as night and day. Both will battle for her hand, but which brother will win her heart and can a wrong be rectified?

Hopkins does an excellent job with historical research. She introduces Braille to the point of having Rupert translate a letter he wrote to Charlotte. There’s also the mention of guide dogs and although the time period is 1890 (the first official use of guide dogs from my own personal research indicates they were first used during World War I in Germany), I can let it go because in literature prior to the 19th century, in a few texts, they mention the blind being guided by a dog. I’m not sure of the extent of actual guide dogs as we know it prior to the First World War and I’m not nitpicking on the historical aspects because as I stated Hopkins does a superb job. She also keeps to social etiquette of the time and the language used doesn’t sound too modern.

Characters are well developed and you can easily see how two brothers become rivals. At the heart of the novel is Charlotte’s blindness and although she can’t see the world around her, she believes she can trust her own instinct. She tries to be independent and her family allows her the freedom she wants, but also cautions her. Like most young women she truly believes she can read people and their intentions. Rupert talks to her and she likes that he’s interested in getting to know her, whereas Patrick doesn’t say anything to her, but he has a reason for keeping quiet and keeping her at a distance. She believes someone opening themselves is how to truly communicate with one another. Your heart breaks for her and all she lost. In one poignant scene, she wishes she could see the face of the man she married. And in another scene her husband doesn’t quite realize what it would be like to be married to a blind woman until Charlotte’s sister is sitting next to them at the wedding breakfast and she’s helping Charlotte eat. He looks down at her place setting and he sees pieces of food all over as she attempts to eat.

What I really liked about Dark Persuasion is that Hopkins gives us a villain, who in the end repents for his actions. Sure it’s not the way we would like him to do it, but he realizes his follies and tries to atone for the way he acted towards Charlotte. There’s a twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting, but overall it’s a satisfying read.

Please note: there is some history of abuse and if you are sensitive to particular situations you might not be comfortable reading this book. It’s not detailed, but it is mentioned and explained.

If you’re in a historical romance rut I highly recommend Dark Persuasion.

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

I came across another fun reading challenge. I’m a big fan of historicals in general so this is right up my alley.

Here are the basics if you want to join in the fun (for full details and to link up, click on link above or below):
• everyone can participate, even those who don’t have a blog (you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish)
• add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review)
• any kind of historical fiction is accepted (HF fantasy, HF young adult,…)

There are various levels to determine the number of books you’ve read. I’m going to for the Ancient History title:
20th century reader – 2 books
Victorian reader – 5 books
Renaissance Reader – 10 books
Medieval – 15 books
Ancient History -25+ books

If you have any questions about the way the challenge works, please visit: Historical Tapestry or click on the challenge banner above.

My Book List:
01. January: The Earl Claims His Wife by Cathy Maxwell (reviewed here)
02. January: Dark Persuasion by Vicki Hopkins (reviewed here)
03. January: The Reluctant Countess by Wendy Vella (reviewed here)
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