Archive for November, 2009

The Queen’s Dollmaker-Christine Trent

November 30, 2009

The Queen’s Dollmaker

Christine Trent

Kensington, Jan 1 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758238573

 

In 1781 Paris the fire destroyed her family home and shop.  Her parents died soon afterward.  Teenager Claudette Laurent leaves Paris with other fleeing females hoping to find work in England.  After a horrific employment with a shrew, Charlotte uses her dollmaking talent to open up a small shop in London

 

Over the next few years her dolls become prize possessions of the elite and knowledge of her talent crosses the Channel to Versailles where young Queen Marie Antoinette asks her to come home.  In France, Claudette reunites with her childhood boyfriend Jean-Philippe.  As the Revolution explodes, Claudette’s connection as the Queen’s Dollmaker places her in prison awaiting a date with Madame Guillotine if she fails to give testimony against Her Highness.

 

This is a terrific late eighteenth century saga that uses real persona to bring to life mostly Paris during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.  The two keys that refresh this delightful story line are the insightful look at dollmaking and collecting in the 1780s and a rather different view of the Queen who becomes a convenient scapegoat for the excessive of the Revolution.  Historical readers will appreciate this deep look at life in France during a period of turmoil.

 

Harriet Klausner

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Sexy as Hell-Susan Johnson

November 30, 2009

Sexy as Hell

Susan Johnson

Berkley, Jan 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425230206

 

In 1892, after winning at cards, Baron “Oz” Lennox rushes out to the Blackwood Hotel to meet Nell in a tryst before her spouse returns from Paris.  He enters the agreed upon room, but instead of a red-head he is greeted by a blonde who ignores him and turns to her barrister Mr. Malmsey to insure he will serve as a witness.

 

Thus Oz’s luck with the ladies has changed as he asks Isolde Perceval what she wants from him.  She calmly explains she wants her reputation ruined so she is not forced into an unwanted marriage.  Oz offers a different plan as he too would like to continue his wastrel ways without threats from the marriageable biddies.  They agree to marry with plans to divorce soon.  However, they prove quite compatible in and out of the boudoir.  When Isolde becomes pregnant, Oz leaves for London, but the rake finds no enjoyment without Isolde, who misses him too.  She follows him, but his many enemies see her as the heel’s Achilles’ heal.

 

Filled with action especially of the erotic kind, Sexy as Hell is an intriguing Victorian romance.  The lead couple indulging selfish behavior makes them refreshing as they are atypical of the usual honorable noble.  Fans of Susan Johnson will enjoy their hedonistic escapades although the story line is emaciated outside the boudoir.

 

Harriet Klausner

Proof by Seduction-Courtney Milan

November 30, 2009

Proof by Seduction

Courtney Milan

Harlequin HQN, Jan 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780373774395

 

In 1836 fortuneteller Madame Esmeralda is comfortable in her vocation as she feels she provides a service by informing her customers with information they need to know.  Twelve years as Madame Esmeralda has made humble impoverished Jenny Keeble all but disappear.

 

Her favorite client Ned arrives with his cousin, Blakeley, Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely.  Ned explains that Gareth is a skeptic that Madame can predict the future.  A scientist just back from an expedition in Brazil, Gareth plans to prove Esmeralda is a fake.  However is scheme to expose the charlatan has a major roadblock; his attraction to her, which makes him wonder if she is an enchantress, but will he accept proof of the heart?

 

This is a terrific early Victorian romance starring a wonderful somewhat inflexible lead male and a totally unique female who challenges his decisions when everyone else fears to contradict his dictatorial rulings.  The story line is fast-paced but driven by the relationship between the scientist and the fortuneteller.  With a strong secondary cast starting with Ned, this reviewer can predict that sub-genre fans will relish Courtney Milan’s delightful historical.

 

Harriet Klausner

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals-Gillian Gill

November 29, 2009

We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals

Gillian Gill

Ballantine, Feb 23 2010, $18.00

ISBN: 9780345520012

 

This is a fascinating biography that turns upside down the love story of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert as they cherished one another while battling for dominance of their relationship, which denoted dominance of the British Empire.  In other words the early period until Albert’s death could easily be labeled Albertan-Victorian age.  Prince Albert was a classic example of employing a defense mechanism of being everything his family was not and not being anything they were.  Thus he came across as prim, proper and starched, which ironically set the future’s look back at the Victorian Age are his belief on how a ruler should behave.  He kept his Queen seemingly pregnant all the time and was a major supporter of science and technology.  When he died in 1861, Victoria grieved her loss for several years.  However, when she finally moved on, the Victorian Age blossomed as if the student had learned from her late master while she described his virtues and buried with him his faults.

 

This is a terrific biography of the nineteenth century’s most powerful “power couple” as each thrived in their love and rivalry, especially Victoria.  Gillian Gill makes a strong case that Albert was in some ways her mentor as much as her partner.  With numerous illustrations and letters included, fans will relish this profound fresh look at We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals.

 

Harriet Klausner

Too Much Happiness-Alice Munroe

November 29, 2009

Too Much Happiness

Alice Munroe

Knopf, Nov 2009, $25.95

ISBN: 9780307269768

 

This great ten story anthology looks deep into relationships with strong characterizations.  Nine of the contributions are under forty pages; only the title entry is longer at sixty pages.  As always Alice Munroe provides her audience with a profound collection.

 

In “Dimensions” Doree grieves on the bus for her three children who were murdered by their father so they would not suffer the same misery he suffered of their mother leaving them.  “Fiction” stars Christie who tells the stories of her stepmother the music teacher in a published anthology.  “Wenlock Edge” college student explains how her roommate fools her into going on a dinner date with her lover.  Sally learns how “Deep-Holes” in marriage can become.  In “Free Radicals”, Nita’s friends are there at first while she grieves, but she rejects them; now she is moving on and needs them but none are there for her as they were hurt by her when they needed her.  His father stared at his “Face” once after he was born and never looked at his son’s disfigured face again.  Young Mr. Crozier is surrounded by “Some Women” while dying from leukemia; but keeps a stiff upper lip so as not to alarm the female retinue who hide their melancholy from him while caring for him.  In “Child’s Play” Marlene and Charlene become summer camp BFFs, but torture Verna until Marlene muses over “How can you blame a person for the way she was born?”  “Wood” centers on Roy who refinishes furniture, but works alone since he and his wife Lea never had no children. He is hurt and all alone apparently dying in The Deserted Forest.  “Too Much Happiness” centers on Russian mathematician Sophia Kovalevski who has found men limit her choices; still she writes stories in spite of her father insisting she is selling herself and obtains a teaching position in Sweden in spite of her lover living in Paris as she reuses to allow males to limit her.

 

Harriet Klausner

A Lady Like Sarah-Margaret Brownley

November 29, 2009

A Lady Like Sarah

Margaret Brownley

Thomas Nelson, Dec 29 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9781595548092

 

In 1879 on his way to Texas, Reverend Justin Wells is five days beyond St. Louis when he sees the vultures flying, which means someone or an animal is dying.  Having left Boston and his flock in disgrace, Justin knows he must see if he can help..  He finds a severely wounded U.S. Marshal who makes him vow to take his prisoner to Texas.  However, he is stunned as the prisoner is not a lad in red boots, but a woman whose hair matches her footwear.

 

Sarah Prescott is an outlaw from a family of lawbreakers.  She removes the bullet from Marshal Owen before they begin the trek to Rocky Creek.  On the road, the two seemingly opposites find common ground as they fall in love.  However, when Owen dies, the law assumes she killed him because she is a Prescott although she insists she is a lady; only the preacher and his sidekick Timber Joe might save her life as she has saved the soul of the former.

 

This is a wonderful at times amusing western romance starring two people who on the surface seem totally inappropriate for one another yet God works in mysterious ways.  Fans will enjoy the Americana romance between the exiled Boston preacher and the exiled Prescott outlaw as Justin and Sarah fall in love.

 

Harriet Klausner

Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens-Kate Emerson

November 28, 2009

Secrets of the Tudor Court: Between Two Queens

Kate Emerson

Pocket, Jan 5 2009, $16.00

ISBN: 9781416583271

 

In 1637 sixteen year old Anne “Nan” Bassett crosses the Narrow Sea from Calais, France to Dover, England along with her older sister Catherine.  Nan wants to join the court as a maid of honor to Queen Jane Seymour.  Surprisingly King Henry selects her to become a member of his wife’s entourage.

 

When Jane dies in childbirth, Nan leaves the court to move in with her cousin, the Countess of Sussex.  Henry not forgetting the élan of Nan orders her back to the court when he marries again and again.  With intrigue everywhere inside Henry’s court, Nan falls in love, but to survive she must give away her child as her family is no haven since they are caught up in Cromwell seditious activities.

 

The latest secret at King Henry’s court (see Secrets of the Tudor Court: The Pleasure Palace) is an engaging historical starting a maid of honor who keeps her head by keeping her head in crisis.  Based on a real maid of honor, Nan is a terrific heroine, but in many ways the aging monarch steals the show as the King seems to obsessively need to prove his manhood as he goes through a few more wives following the death of Jane.  Fans will relish Kate Emerson’s strong historical tale of life and death at King Henry’s court.

 

Harriet Klausner

The Courteous Cad-Catherine Palmer

November 28, 2009

The Courteous Cad

Catherine Palmer

Tyndale, Jan 1 210, $12.99

ISBN: 9780842375559

 

In 1817 in Yorkshire, Prudence Watson tells her sister Mary that she will never marry but follow in the footsteps of her crusader friend Betsy.  Mary points out that Elizabeth “Betsy” Fry is married with children.  Pru insists she may never wed or have offspring, although she acknowledges Betsy does work hard to improve the plight of the poor women whose options are limited.

 

Prudence aims at reforming mills with a desire to rescue children who work exorbitant hours in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.  Her first target is the mill in Otley, owned by Royal Naval officer William Sherbourne, just home from a deployment at sea.  As the reformer and the cad mee, argue and fall in love, each has secrets that society tattler Miss Pickworth seems to know.

 

The latest Miss Pickworth Regency romance is an enjoyable tale due to the solid lead couple as the resolute reformer refuses to answer to anyone except God while the Courteous Cad answers to the crusader and both respond to that telltale tattler.  Although several subplots never ties back to the gender war, fans will enjoy the latest Miss Pickworth alliteration as these affectionate adversaries fall in love.

 

Harriet Klausner

Lead Me On-Victoria Dahl

November 28, 2009

Lead Me On

Victoria Dahl

Harlequin HQN, Jan 2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780373774340

 

Although her taste in men was a chip off the old maternal block as her mom craved convicts and Jane Morgan relished the bad boys, she reinvented herself into Miss prim and proper.  However, the Aspen office manager finds her perfect boyfriend Greg boring in spite of his being nice and considerate in and out of the bedroom.  She dumps an outraged Greg.

 

Thus when tattooed William Chase of Extreme Excavations enters the office where she works, Jane rationalizes he is a one night stand that will relieve the ennui and get her refocused on snooty decorum.  She failed to account for how explosive that one night proves to be as he is sympathetic to her needs as long as Jane accepts she will not be able to kick him to the curb.

 

This is an engaging contemporary romance starring a likable lead couple who make the bad image look good as the fun story line is driven by Jane and William.  Although Aspen and the support cast never come into focus, fans will enjoy confused Jane as William proves bad girls need bad boys; which neither truly is.

 

Harriet Klausner

 

 

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter-Colleen Coble

November 28, 2009

The Lightkeeper’s Daughter

Colleen Coble

Thomas Nelson, Jan 12 2010, $14.99

ISBN: 9781595542670

 

Addie Sullivan grew up in isolation at Battery Point Lighthouse near Crescent City, California with only her parents and her dog Gideon as companions.  In 1907 she and her mom rescue a man who recognizes a locket that Addie says belonged to her grandma; he calls her Laura.  He says he is Walter Driscoll from Mercy Falls and he is in Crescent City looking for her as her mother is not her mother and seems indifferent with her leaving.

 

Addie accepts a governess position that Walter offers her and goes to Mercy Falls where she hopes to learn just who she is and praying she finds her real mother.  Instead she meets hostility and anger starting when she rescues abused children from employment.  Eaton Hall proves unwelcoming while her charge Edward suffers from fits.  However, the worst reception comes from Edward’s father Naval Lieutenant John North, who ignores her as if she is unworthy while she is falling in love with him.  As she searches for her mom, someone wants her dead.

 

This is a terrific Americana early twentieth century inspirational thriller in which Addie learns that God is there even when the Lord seems to ignore those suffering.  Well written with a gothic feel to the fun plot; Addie makes the tale work as a strong central focus who affirms that having God in her life enables her to overcome the worst that man, woman or child can do to her.  Colleen Coble provides an engaging inspirational historical.

 

Harriet Klausner