Lord of the Silent, by Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody #13)

>> Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Together with An Affair to Remember, I read Elizabeth Peters' Lord of the Silent. This is book # 13 in the Amelia Peabody series. Since I started reading the series from the beginning, I've learnt that I need to read each book with something different and lighter, in 50 pg. intervals. Otherwise, I start turning pages like crazy, trying to read as fast as I can and I end up skimming and missing much of what's going on.

In 1915, with the world gripped by the madness of war, trouble is endemic. In an effort to prevent their son Ramses from being coerced into working for British intelligence (in the sort of endeavor that nearly got him killed a year earlier when he infiltrated a band of Egyptian nationalists and prevented a Turkish-backed uprising), Amelia and husband Emerson and the rest of their dizzyingly large entourage flee England for the reassuringly stoic splendor of their beloved Egyptian ruins.

So much for a quiet dig among the mastabas. With their usual luck, the family promptly finds itself inundated by would-be assassins and nosy journalists. Amelia quickly deduces that Ramses's undercover work is at the root of both threat and curiosity; more puzzling is the appearance of the odd corpse or two and a rash of stunningly efficient tomb robberies.

When Ramses and his wife, Nefret, travel to Luxor to check on the security of some of their old excavations, they find an all-too-familiar irritant behind the robberies. It would be telling to reveal his identity, but fans of the series will soon figure it out, with the aid of a little suspension of disbelief. With Ramses and Nefret on one hand, and Amelia and Emerson on the other, engaged in "protecting" the other side from conflict and trouble, the novel unfolds in a merry chase of misdirection and miscommunication.

This was an A. As much as I liked the last few books in the series, which concentrated on Ramses and Nefret, it was a pleasure to go back to what made the series great and read a book more similar to the first 8 or so. The spy stuff, so prominent in Thunder especially, was very much in the background here. It really was a welcome surprise that Ramses didn't end up accepting an assignment for the War Office.

It was also nice to have Ramses and Nefret pretty much settled down, and with a lovely relationship. Plus, no more of the "does she love me?" and "will he forgive me?" thing, which I liked to read but which got a bit in the way of what I expect in a comfort series like this one. There was a lot of story told from their POV. I'm in 2 minds about that. I enjoy it, but I kind of miss Amelia's voice and the humour Peters infuses in it.

There was lots of Sethos in this book, and this afforded quite a bit of humour. He was more human and fallible here, instead of the omnipotent antihero of past books.

LOTS was a very enjoyable book (oh, I shouldn't forget the cat Horus, who I love because he's so like my O'Neill![isn't he adorable??]), and I'm looking forward to The Golden One being release in paperback. Peters' voice and humour make her one of my favourite authors.


An Affair to Remember, by Karen Hawkins

Back to some February books: An Affair to Remember (read excerpt), by Karen Hawkins.

Suddenly finding himself the guardian of five energetic children, Anthony Elliot, the Earl of Greyley, knows that he needs a governess and fast. But not just any governess will do; he wants the best. The problem is that the best is the very unconventional Anna Thraxton, a gently bred woman who speaks her mind, puts up with no nonsense, remains stubborn and passionate, and is beautiful as well. Unfortunately, they can't stand each other. But the children need to be taken in hand, and so Anna moves in and wins over the children and the earl at the same time.
AATR was a B for me. It was much, much better than the other Hawkins book I've read, The Seduction of Sara, which I gave a C+. AATR did have a few problems, but on the whole, I enjoyed it.

I especially liked Anna. Her family has no money anymore, but she doesn't go boo-hoo, what shall I do, I'll have to marry for money and go into bouts of self-pity. She simply pulls herself together and becomes the best governess possible. No victim, this one. Plus, she's sensible and very forthright.

Because of this, however, I didn't really believe she'd be so weak in regards to her desire for Anthony. I'm not always bothered by heroines whose thoughts just fly out of their heads when the hero kisses them, but it did bother me in Anna's case, because it seemed out of character.

Anthony was likeable, but problematic too. It was interesting to see him torn between his Elliot and St. john impulses and he was a bit stuffy, which I like in a hero (or rather, I like seeing the stuffiness being knocked out of him). But the author put him in a very difficult position, having him engaged to someone else. On one hand, I realise that a man who broke and engagement back then pretty much had no honor, because this meant he was ruining the woman, so it was nice that he never even considered doing this. But, on the other hand, this meant he intended to make Anna his mistress for much of the book, in spite of her protests, and I despised him for it. Having Charlotte just fall for someone else and free him from the engagement was an easy way out.

The first 2/3 of the book were a B+ for me, but the ending wasn't as good. There was Lady Putney there, making mischief. This just didn't feel right. It was a bit of external conflict when the story had previously been driven solely by internal conflict, so it just felt out of place. Plus, it all felt too rushed, and the author didn't make good use of Anthony being jealous of Rupert, which was a situarion which had promise.

Another problem was that there wasn't a satisfying solution to Anna and Anthony's relationship with the children. I enjoyed Anna's interactions with them in the first part of the book, but they were relegated to the background in the last part.


Left at the Altar, by Justine Davis

>> Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Yesterday I read Left at the Altar, by Justine Davis, the sequel to her Stevie's Chase, which I enjoyed.

The only woman he'd ever wanted had left him standing at the altar without a backward glance. And there was no way in the world Sean Holt was going to allow her to hurt him again - no matter much he ached to let her into his shattered heart....

Aurora Sheridan had let herself be torn away from the man she loved - and she'd had five long years to regret it. And now, with her life in ruins, she had no one left to turn to but him - and nothing left to dream of but another chance at love....

I disliked this one quite violently. It was a D+ for me, the + being solely because I kind of liked Sean.

I know the "heroine sacrificing for daddy" is quite popular (just look at the sheer number of books which use that premise), but it's something I really, really hate. To add insult to injury, dear daddy was a real bastard, who supposedly loved his daughter but allowed her to sell herself to save him from humilliation, ruin, etc, yadda, yadda, yadda. Horrid.

The worst part was that from the way Aurora interacted with Sean in this book, the stupid martyr behaviour and her reactions to Talbot were completely out of character. I can take a heroine who's been victimized and who becomes stronger during the book, but that simply wasn't the case here.

Sean was ok, but his behaviour towards Rory didn't make much sense either. I felt he allowed their relationship to develop much too fast for a guy who has such obvious trust issues with her. And don't get me started on Talbot... what was his motivation? He just didn't seem to be obsessed with Rory, as his behaviour would indicate.

Even the resolution was horrible. That they didn't send Talbot to jail... it just boggles the mind. And why? To protect daddy's memory, of course. Arghhh!!! The guy's dead! Nothing can hurt him now! Plus, I'd think Talbot free would be a danger to them both. Stupid, horrible book.


A Dangerous Love, by Sabrina Jeffries

I've read another Sabrina Jeffries, A Dangerous Love, first in the Swanlea Spinsters trilogy, which has apparently turned into a quartet. A little OT, but Jeffries has such bland titles! The Forbidden Lord, The Dangerous Lord, A Dangerous Love... how is one supposed to tell them apart?

Griffith Knighton has found the perfect way to avoid being trapped into marriage with one of the Earl of Swanlea's daughters: he'll swap identities with his man of affairs during their visit to Swan Park, and be free to search out the hidden document that will prove his legitimacy. After all, Griff is not about to marry some homely spinster just to get it from the earl. But he didn't reckon on the brazen, voluptuous Rosalind, who could tempt even a saint into sinning—and Griff is no saint.

Rosalind balks at the plan to marry her off to her father's wealthy heir—and his man of affairs is even more intolerable! The arrogant man is clearly up to something with all his sneaking about Swan Park, but the sparks that fly when they're together make her wish that he wasn't. He's a bit dangerous and a lot mysterious. Dare she risk her heart on a man whose secrets could destroy her love?

I found it very enjoyable, a solid B.

I liked Griff, and I don't know why everyone thought his plans were so unacceptable (well, Rosalind understood, but didn't approve). Yeah, so he wanted revenge. So what? He had excellent reasons for wanting to destroy the girls' father. I understood and I approved. However, I thought he was a bit childish sometimes, trying to elude his responsability. On the whole, I liked the guy.

I also liked Rosalind very much, especially in her interactions with Griff. She really put him in his place more often than not, and never let him get away with things. Just my type of heroine!

The Helena - Daniel subplot was interesting. You just knew there were things going on there you weren't being told about... probably the best way to make readers want to get their hands on the sequel!


Time Enough For Love, by Suzanne Brockmann

>> Monday, April 28, 2003

I read Suzanne Brockmann's Time Enough For Love on the bus on my way to Punta del Este on Saturday. It's only 212 pages long, so the 2 hours 10 minutes trip was just long enough. I finished it a couple of blocks before I had to get off the bus.

The sinfully handsome stranger kept calling out her name, but how could Maggie Winthrop believe the wild things he told her -- especially when he stood naked outside her back door? Chuck Della Croce knew his story about coming back from the future to prevent a disaster and save her life sounded crazy, but the attraction that sparked between him gave him hope. Would sharing his secrets and getting it right this time alter fate?

Daring to test the boundaries of reality when it comes to true love, Suzanne Brockmann persuades us to accept that anything is possible! Destiny had given him a second chance to win the woman whoâ€ï?½d haunted his dreams, but was there time to make her understand that loving her always wouldnâ€ï?½t be long enough?

Now, time-travels are not my thing, usually. I find it hard to suspend disbelief (it doesn't help that the logistics of the time-travel itself are often really lame) and I find the whole "if I do this it'll change the future this way, and so and so will disappear, and..." tiresome to figure out and usually illogical anyway. But... this one's a Suzanne Brockmann (and a loan from María Inés!), so I tried it.

It started so-so, but I ended up loving it. Yeah, it still had all that tiresome speculation, but I cared so much about the characters that it didn't bother me all that much. Chuck, Charles, Charlie, whatever, was a great character (characters?) and Maggie was pretty kick-ass. I loved their relationship and all that emotion. Also, though it felt a bit weird to have Maggie making love with 2 guys, it was a good kind of weird, since Brockmann did convince me that it was really the same guy.

Oh, and Brockmann writes the best love scenes. All that emotion I just mentioned, you see? Her love scenes are not just descriptions of the mechanics of love-making. We see exactly what her characters are feeling, and since they are almost always overcome by strong emotions, the scenes turn out to be steamy.

Worst thing: the terrorist plot thingie, with an organization named Wizard-9! Best thing: the ending, especially the last scene. It was a surprise, in a way, and I loved it. I would have been happy enough without it, but it was the cherry on the cake. I was really fond of Chuck!

PS - Liked how the cover actually represented a scene from the book, down to their clothes and the cactus on the table.


Actually, it's good to be here in Montevideo tonight, since I can follow the Argentinian election on-line. So far, it seems certain that there's going to be a second round, and it's looking like Menem and Kirchner will be in it. I liked Lopez Murphy best of all, but he seems to be third :-(

On the other hand, it could have been worse... imagine a Menem - Rodriguez Saa runoff!! I'd really pity my dear neighbours if they had to choose between those 2 characters!


I got home from Punta del Este early, this weekend. I usually leave Friday afternoon / early Saturday morning and don't come back until Monday morning (that's why I never update during the weekends, BTW). However, my brother is arriving from South Africa at about 6:00 AM, so we have to be here to welcome him back. It seems he's had a great vacation, the lucky dog! He went with some friends, and from his e-mails he's bungee jumped, swam with sharks, surfed... As I said, lucky!


With This Ring, by Amanda Quick

>> Thursday, April 24, 2003

I'm lazy, I know... still haven't posted my travelogue. I've been too busy trying to catch up at work, but I'll do my best to do it soon, otherwise I just know, it'll never get done. Or I'll forget many of the details and impressions and it simply won't be very good. BTW, I thank all of you who've e-mailed me for your interest :-D

Meanwhile, a little something about Amanda Quick's With This Ring, which I read during the week.

Beatrice Poole, a widow and the author of gothic-style popular fiction, needs help. Her uncle spent his fortune on an ancient artifact called the Rings of Aphrodite, then died under mysterious circumstances. She must find the rings because the money spent for them was earmarked for her cousin's dowry. Beatrice seeks out Leo, the reclusive earl of Monkcrest, because he is an antiquities expert, deliberately ignoring his reputation for delving into the supernatural. Leo is intrigued by Beatrice and decides to participate in the search. As they try to solve the mystery of the rings, their personal lives become entwined and start resembling one of Beatrice's wild novels.
I liked this, it's a B. Yep, it's different from the earlier Amanda Quicks, and I do like these a bit better, but it's very much an enjoyable read.

I loved Beatrice and Leo, especially the fact that both were mature grown-ups. Their banter was delicious, and their relationship believable. However, it did not have the sense of intimacy present in her earlier works. And call me shallow, but a couple more love scenes (or a bit more detail in the ones here, especially the second one), would have improved the book.

I also liked the cast of secondary characters, especially Clarinda, and found the mystery appealing.


Named of the Dragon, by Susanna Kearsley

>> Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Finally, I read most of Susanna Kearsley's Named of the Dragon. Loved it too, but less than the others of hers that I've read: a B+.

The invitation to spend Christmas in Angle, on the Pembrokeshire coast, is one that Lyn Ravenshaw is only too happy to accept. To escape London and the pressures of her literary agency is temptation enough, but the prospect of meeting Booker Prize nominee James Swift - conveniently in search of an agent - is the deciding factor. On holiday she encounters the disturbing Elen Vaughan, recently widowed and with an eight-month-old son whose paternity is a subject for local gossip. Elen's baby arouses painful memories of Lyn's own dead child/ and strange, haunting dreams, in which a young woman in blue repeatedly tries to hand over her child to Lyn for safekeeping.

Who is the father of Elen's baby? What is the eerie, monstrous creature of Elen's dreams that tries to ensnare her son, and what makes her so sure that Lyn has been sent to protect him? As she begins to untangle the truth behind the stories, the secret she discovers leads Lyn to an encounter with the past that will change her life forever.

I still enjoyed the book like crazy, but I was more conscious of its flaws than with her other books. The ending was very anticlimatic and the supernatural elements were left hanging a bit too much.

Still, the atmosphere and the characters more than made up for it, and though I'm not to fond of Arthurian elements, I had lots of fun with these ones.


A Man Like Mac, by Fay Robinson

I had even better luck with the books I read on my way back to Montevideo. The first, which I must have read in 2 hours -tops-, was A Man Like Mac, by Fay Robinson. According to her Superauthors page, the author has unfortunately passed away. This is her own description of her book:

From the Author

In A MAN LIKE MAC, I've explored the relationship between a disabled man and an able-bodied woman facing a terrible injury. My research led me to some incredible real-life heroes and heroines, people who shared their experiences and answered questions about difficult subjects. I was profoundly changed by what I learned. Courage has a new meaning for me now. The heart of this story is romance. Mac McCandless has loved Keely Wilson since she was 17, but he was her coach and teacher and such feelings were forbidden at the time. She's now 27 and locked in a battle for her emotional survival. Mac can't help her without reviving those old feelings. But he's not sure his heart can take losing her again. I hope you enjoy the story. This is my debut novel.
This would have been at least an A, if it weren't for the very unlikeable heroine. As it is, it's a B+

I just loved Mac. Really, really loved him. He's so confident and so not-sorry-for-himself (sorry for the awful non-word!). When writing about disabled characters authors often make them sound like victims. Not Robinson. Mac was happy with himself. Sure, he would have preferred to be able-bodied, but he accepted that he was not and decided to live his life to the fullest.

Keely was much more problematic. I didn't "get" her at all, probably because I can't understand how someone could actually want to live her life with the sole objective of being the best runner ever. Make some sacrifices for it, sure, I'd understand. Make lots of sacrifices.. umm, ok. Sacrifice her whole life for it, to the point she has no life apart from running? Sorry, I don't see why someone would want do this. I know there are people who do this, I just find myself unable to sympathize. And I lost all respect for her when seeing her relationship with her mother and the way she was completely blind to her father's manipulations.

Apart from the characters themselves, a couple more comments: I liked that Robinson didn't rely on miracle cures to get her characters to their HEA. Basically, they learn to live with their bodies' limitations and with the fact that there's nothing they can do about them. Refreshing. What I didn't like was that Keely decision to go after Mac and seduce him wasn't very well done. It didn't ring true that she'd change so radically, from fearful and distrustful to a shameless seductress. Still, this led to one of the tenderest love scenes I've ever read, so I can't complain too much ;-)


Here I Stay, by Barbara Michaels

Second book I read on my way to Asunción was something completely different: Here I Stay, by Barbara Michaels. This is one of my favourite authors, and this was a reread.

Turning a decrepit old mansion into a beautiful country inn isn't easy, but for Andrea Torgesen, the hard work is exactly what her young brother, Jim, needs after a serious car accident. Or, so she thinks -- until Jim is haunted by unearthly voices and eerie visions, and becomes obsessed with a long-neglected graveyard. Suddenly, the impossible becomes terrifyingly possible and Andrea must battle an evil force that threatens to destroy their lives.
Here I Stay is one of Michaels' best, or at least, one of the ones I like best. It's a B+, both for the atmosphere and for the characters.

The heroine restoring an old house has almost become a cliché by now, but this was written 20 years ago, and it must have been the first I read using this plot, so it's always felt fresh to me. As for the characters, I liked Andrea (even though I know some people might find her a little to rigid) and I just loved Martin. Michaels devoted more space than usual to the romance, which was great, and it was such a lovely love story! Also, it fit right in with the rest of the plot.

The only problem I had with the book (and the reason it doesn't get an A-range grade) was that the ending was much too abrupt. I'm not asking for 50 more pages of post-climatic explanations, but a little more info would have been nice.


Red Roses Mean Love, by Jacquie D'Alessandro

Some quick impressions of the books I read last week. Oh, and no, I'm not that nuts, I almost didn't read while in Paraguay. Just a couple of pages before going to sleep, when I wasn't too tired. The bus trip was another matter, however. 20 to 22 hours long, as I've mentioned, so it was read or die of boredom. I finished 2 books on the way to Asunción and 2 more on the way back to Montevideo.

First book was Red Roses Mean Love, by Jacquie D'Alessandro.

Orphaned and abandoned by her fiancé, Hayley Albright is determined to care for her younger siblings even if it means having to give up her own dreams. She doesn't expect to ever find love or get married...until one moonlit night when she saves the life of a mysterious stranger.

Lord Stephen Barrett woke up gazing at the face of an angel. He was alive. And safe, for now, from the killer stalking his every move. Allowing Hayley to believe he is just a tutor of modest means, Stephen stays on for reasons of his own, never anticipating the passions Hayley would stir in his cold, wary heart. Her innocence is pure seduction. Her touch is sweet temptation. And suddenly the man who has everything is willing to risk it all--for a woman who has nothing to give...but all her heart....

This one was a C for me. Too cutesy, basically. It doesn't get a failing grade because there were elements there I enjoyed, like the sexual tension and the friendship between Stephen and Justin, and it was an easy book to read.

However, I'm afraid there were too many things that made me go "oh, puh-leeze" and roll my eyes. Hayley and Stephen were stereotypes. Hayley was so goooood, "Oh, we're starving, but my sister has to have pretty dresses!". I thought she was a bit of a dingbat (thanks Mrs. Giggles for the word!). It also irritated the hell out of me that she kept making excuses for Stephen's bad behaviour: "He's repulsed by me, I'm such a wanton!", "Oh dear, what did I do? Stephen seems angry at me!" She never thought what a jerk he was being, just berated herself for making him angry. Such a victim!

And this, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to that snobbish idiot, Stephen. Oh, he has the best intentions, but he treats Hayley like dirt most of the time. Kisses her passionately and then ignores her in order to avoid temptation, flirts with another woman in her face, just to let her find happiness with another man, or some such rot. And don't get me started on the way he lectures her because her household doesn't function in a way he approves, or the way he keeps thinking "I'll have to visit my mistress when I get to London". Yeah, he thinks of her as "my mistress", not by name, it seems she's just an object for him, not a human being. Yuck!

Enough? I could also mention the 2 bickering old men, the little girl who loves tea parties, etc. None of these made me go "awwww", they just made me think "Kill them now!!".


Well, I'm back. Actually, I got back Sunday morning, but I've been resting and catching up. I did manage to find a digital cam, so I do have some photos of my vacation, but I only bought it on Thursday last week, so I don't have any pics of Asunción, only of the Iguazú falls.

I took notes of what I saw and of my impressions, so I'll try to do a kind of travelogue later today. Since I'll be including photos of the last few days, I think I'll put it off-blog and link to it from here. Till then, if anyone's interested, I've put some photos on my online album. The comments on the pics are in Spanish, though.


>> Friday, April 11, 2003

Tomorrow morning I leave for Paraguay to visit my friend Cecilia, who moved there last October (or was it November?). Plane tickets within Latin America are outrageously expensive, so penny-pinching me will be taking the bus. 20 hour bus trip, yay! I'm packing a bagful of books to amuse myself. I'll be back posting next Monday, and if I manage to find a cheap digital camera, I promise to make an illustrated travelogue.


My Dearest Enemy, by Connie Brockway

Having loved Connie Brockway's Bridal Season when I read it earlier this year, I decided to reread her My Dearest Enemy (excerpt). I wasn't too impressed the first time around, but this was years ago, so I thought I'd see if I liked it better now.

In Horatio Thorne's will, suffragette Lily Bede is named manager of Mill House for five years. If the estate succeeds, it will be hers. If it fails, it will revert to Horatio's only adult male relation, Avery Thorne, whom Horatio considers a sickly wastrel. But with his legacy on hold for five years, Avery becomes an explorer, corresponding with his "dearest enemy" as Lily sends him his stipend. These epistolary lifelines are the beginning of a most unusual courtship that continues when Avery returns, not as a wastrel but as a handsome, witty and honorable man. The question is, can Avery convince skeptical Lily to trust and love him?
I find I can now appreciate this one in a way I wasn't able to all those years ago. Actually, it has a similar flavour to Bridal Favors, so I suspect I wouldn't have liked that one either, if I'd read it at that time. People change, and all that. As it is, my grade for MDE is A-.

Brockway's writing is magical, elegant, lyrical, every poetic adjective you can think of. She has a knack for choosing just the right word, the perfect expression, and never sounding overblown or overly precious. I haven't read any of her more angsty books (I have All Through the Night in my TBR pile), so I've no idea if she writes any differently there, but here her tone adds to the lighthearted atmosphere.

Though the tone is light, this book isn't at all light-weight. It deals with the issue of women's rights beautifully, and the characters are fully fleshed-out. Lily's issues could make her unsympathetic and too-stubborn in another author's hands, but she's just right here, while Avery... all I'm going to say is that I love Avery. His vulnerability, his shyness, his wit, his determination to be a gentleman (while having zero manners!)... everything! Just go read this!


The Dangerous Lord, by Sabrina Jeffries

After reading The Forbidden Lord, I immediately asked Maria Ines to lend me the next in Sabrina Jeffries' "Lord" series. The title of this one is The Dangerous Lord.

Ian Lennard needs a wife and thinks he's found the perfect one. Then a newspaper column by a notorious gossip named Lord X unwittingly exposes part of Ian's deeply hidden past. When the column scares off Ian's skittish prospective fiancée, Ian wants to skewer the gossipmonger. Using his skills as a one-time spy, he runs the man to ground.

But the "man" is a fetching young female named Felicity Taylor, whose wastrel father left her and her four young brothers so destitute that only her pitiful income from her column stands between them and ruin. Unsure of his loyalties, Felicity engages Ian in a battle of wits that fires his blood. He's soon embroiled in a war of words and passion that will lay open his dark soul to the only woman who can forgive the sins of his past and teach him how to heal.

This one was nice, a B. Like with TFL, I felt that most of the elements here weren't particularly original, but for some reason, I had fun anyway.

Obviously, I liked TFL better. Why? Mainly because Felicity was often a bit irritating and because Ian's Big Secret was really, really lame. Apart from that, I liked Ian very much and loved the sexual tension.

Jeffries' style seems to resonate with me, and I'll be looking for her backlist.


Season of Storms, by Susanna Kearsley

>> Thursday, April 10, 2003

After reading The Shadowy Horses, I just had to read Susanna Kearsley's other books. Most of her backlist is very hard to find and quite expensive, but there were two which were just barely affordable to me: Named of the Dragon and Season of Storms, the latter of which I read this past weekend.

Season of Storms, evokes the majesty and mystery of the Italian Lake District.. In the early 1900s, in an elegant, isolated villa called Il Piacere, the playwright Galeazzo D'Ascanio lived for Celia Sands. She was his muse and his mistress, his most enduring obsession. She was the inspiration for his most stunning, original play. But the night before she was to take the stage in the leading role, she disappeared. Now, in a theatre on the grounds of Il Piacere, Alessandro D'Ascanio is preparing to stage the first performance of his grandfather's masterpiece. A promising young actress-who shares Celia Sands's name-but not her blood-has agreed to star. She is instantly drawn to the mysteries surrounding the play-and to her compelling, compassionate employer. And even though she knows she should let the past go, in the dark -in her dreams- it comes back.
This was an A for me. Why an A? After all, I freely admit it had some flaws: for instance, the anticlimatic ending, the clichéd evil other woman (this is so overused, maybe we should have an acronym for it? The EOW sounds appropriate)... But, I grade books for my enjoyment of them. This is not some objective evaluation, but a description of how I feel about a certain book. And, I enjoyed this very, very much. I, someone who reads at a speed of 100 pages an hour and usually finishes normal-sized books in 3 or 4 hours, well, I spent the whole weekend reading this one. Literally: I started Saturday morning, on the bus to Punta del Este and finished it early Monday morning, before heading back to Montevideo. This wasn't because it was difficult to read, not at all; I paced myself, trying to read as slowly as possible, in order to make it last. It feels like I spent the whole weekend wallowing in Kearsley's prose, and I had a wonderful time :-D

A huge part of my enjoyment came from the beatifully done setting. There's something I read in one of the review sites, but I can't find right now: "Known for her background descriptions that feel like panoramic murals that enhance her starring charcaters, Susanna Kearsley paints a multi-layered vista." Oh yes, absolutely! I felt like I'd seen Venice, walked on the Piazza San Marco with Celia and Roo and Den, been with them to the basilica. And the house, Il Piacere, it feels like I've been there. The map even, something that usually confuses me, was a big help and very useful, especially because it fit Kearsley's descriptions to a T. After all this, I'd probably be able to find my way inside that house better than Celia.

Celia was a great protagonist, someone you could root for. Very well-drawn and very human, and genuinely nice. Her issues, too, were portrayed realistically. Alex, meanwhile, was the quintessential gothic hero, quiet and mysterious, though a bit more beta than the usual one. I wanted more of him, but what we saw through Celia's eyes was enough to convince me they were right for each other. His touch of jealousy of Den was a nice touch.

Actually, the whole cast of characters was incredible. Madeleine, who could have been a bitch but was a great lady, and her relationship with Den; Poppy, and her "crush" on Celia; the egocentric Nicholas; flirty Den; and most especially, Roo and Bryan, with their beatiful relationship, both their love for each other and for Celia.

I found the whole business about staging a play fascinating. Kearsley used exactly the right amount of detail of the subject.

The weakest part of the book was the suspense subplot, with the thievery ring. Not too interesting, but it wasn't too much of a big part of the plot.

I'm saving Named of the Dragon for my trip to Paraguay next Saturday (20 hours by bus, I'll need this!)


I went to the movies last night, to watch Catch Me If You Can. This was a movie I wasn't in much of a hurry to watch, basically because I know I tend to be a bit intolerant of thief characters, and what's the fun in watching a movie hoping the supposed hero gets punished? However, a friend had these free tickets, so I thought "what the hell".

It was a light, fun movie, even though I wasn't exactly rooting for the the protagonist. There was something, though, that drove me crazy: every woman (and I mean every one of them) was dumb as a doorpost, a treacherous bitch or both. Nice, uh?


>> Wednesday, April 09, 2003

I'm afraid I'll open with a rant today. Sorry!!

My mom had a witch come to my house to "rid it of bad vibes" as she called it. She does it every now and then, because she believes it helps our family do well, by flooding the house with positive energy and blocking bad vibes and envy.

We are doing pretty well right now, so I asked her why we needed this. Her answer: we are doing well precisely because this woman, Cata's spells are protecting us. Right. I have a job I love, but not because I'm a good economist; the fact that my father's practice is flourishing has nothing to do with his being a great lawyer, and if my sister just got a job at the best law firm in the country, well, it isn't because she's a genius and has the best grades in her class. Oh no, it's because Cata came to our house last year and burnt some sticks of incense while chanting around the house. Yeah, well, pardon the expression, but bullshit!

It shouldn't bother me, right? If I don't believe this does any good, then I shouldn't believe it does any harm either, so why complain? Well, simply because while I think it's innocuous, we are paying good money for this fake to do her stuff.Yeah, yeah, I'm cheap and it's my parents' money anyway and they have a right to do whatever they want with it, but you know what? I hate to see them being taken advantage of. Plus, there's a little bit of envy here, I must admit. What this woman charges for a half hour performance is a seventh of my monthly paycheck, and as I've said, mine is a good job. That hurts my pride, really. To add insult to injury, I had to lend my mother the $ to pay her this morning, since she had less cash than she had thought in her wallet.


The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley

>> Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Of all the books I read in February during my vacation, I enjoyed Susanna Kearsley's The Shadowy Horses (another review) the best.

TSH was recommended to me as being very similar in style to Barbara Michaels' books. In fact, that's how it was promoted, since it says "In the tradition of Barbara Michaels" right under the title, and the cover design and picture are almost exactly like those on a couple of Michaels' books.

Impulse has brought Verity Grey to remote Eyemouth, Scotland from her home in England. Verity's friend and ex-lover Adrian Sutton-Clarke has tempted her with an archaeological mystery. What it is, exactly, he won't tell her until she gets to Eyemouth. By then, the impetuous museum worker is intrigued enough to stay.

At the estate known as Rosehill, Verity meets her boss, Peter Quinnell. People say Peter is quite mad, but the eccentric old man believes he has found the site of the lost Ninth Legion of Rome. With the help of a young boy with second sight, Peter intends to unearth the remains of the Roman camp. Verity's job would be cataloguing and drawing the artifacts that are found- but she isn't convinced of the site's authenticity.

While at Rosehill, Verity also meets David Fortune, an archaeologist working with Quinnell. What starts out as a working relationship builds into a romantic attraction as the two find themselves embroiled in a mystery that dates back to ancient Rome.
For once, the marketing department wasn't wrong. This was very much like the best Michaels, except that she doesn't usually use archeological elements as Kearsley did. there was a light romantic thread; a female lead, very likeable; supernatural stuff related to events taking place in the past, and which the protagonists have to find out about; teamwork, with everyone in on and believing the supernatural things... this book had everything.

I loved everything, characters, supporting cast, plot, and most especially, the richness of detail about setting and archeology. The book took place in eastern Scotland, near the border with England. Many of the characters spoke using lots and lots of Scots terms, and their speech had quite a few differences from regular English... not only in vocabulary and turns of phrase, but in cadence and rythm. This never felt clumsy, and I, usually irritated by characters who use dialect, loved it. There was also a lot of local colour, and this was always very well integrated within the story, never feeling like Kearsley was simply quoting a guidebook. This was also the case with the archeological bits.

The information about the Hispana Legion was fascinating. I don't know much about Roman military history but I'm inspired to find out. I've also be looking for Kearsley's backlist.


Suddenly You, by Lisa Kleypas

>> Monday, April 07, 2003

I revisited an old favourite last week: Lisa Kleypas' Suddenly You. Most people seem to like her Dreaming of You best of all, but I'm afraid it didn't make much of an impression on me when I read it. Hmm, time for a reread, maybe?

She was unmarried, untouched and almost thirty, but novelist Amanda Briars wasn't about to greet her next birthday without making love to a man. When he appeared at her door, she believed he was her gift to herself, hired for one night of passion. Unforgettably handsome, irresistibly virile, he tempted her in ways she never thought possible...but something stopped him from completely fulfilling her dream.

Jack Devlin's determination to possess Amanda became greater when she discovered his true identity. But gently-bred Amanda craved respectability more than she admitted, while Jack, the cast-off son of a nobleman and London's most notorious businessman, refused to live by society's rules. Yet when fate conspired for them to marry, their worlds collided with a passionate force neither had expected...but both soon craved.

My grade for SY is A-. I've no idea why it resonates so much with me, clichéd plot devices and all, but it does. Maybe because I'm physically similar to Amanda, and of course it would be fantastic to have a guy such as Jack as fascinated with me as Jack was with her! I enjoyed that this wasn't a case of the heroine feeling ugly but actually being a raving beauty. No, Amanda is what could be called a handsome woman, but Jack thinks she's the most beautiful, desirable woman he's ever met.

The love scenes deserve a separate mention. I thought they were really amazing, hot and tender at the same time. I'd have liked to see more of Jack's POV here, but still! Too many of them? It didn't feel that way to me. Probably because they weren't gratuitous scenes, there only to fill up space and titillate the reader, but scenes where the portrayal of the characters and their relationship was furthered.

SY had the exact right amount of plot, and it's a testament to Kleypas' ability that I even enjoyed the pregnancy angle. I even loved the epilogue, usually the most problematic part of books for me (too many sappy scenes with huge broods of children, usually).


Sleeping With The Enemy, by Jamie Denton

>> Friday, April 04, 2003

After this, I read a Harlequin Blaze. It was Sleeping With the Enemy, by Jamie Denton.

FBI agent Chase Bracken has the unsavory job of tracking down a rogue agent. His only solid lead is the guy's sisters, sexy Dr. Dee Romine. Working undercover, Bracken will do anything to get his man...or woman. Including making love to the delectable doctor.

Dee is overwhelmed by the new "high school coach" in town. Chase seems to have infiltrated her life, her senses, her body...in a short time. She's breaking her own rules and letting emotions sway her. And Dee's certain he's done the same. Yet something doesn't add up.

C+. Not bad, but it had some problems. I liked the main protagonists, even if Chase took a while to win me over. He was such a bastard at the beginning, perfectly willing to use Dee to further his career, perfectly willing to break the law and violate her civil rights for this. But slowly, by seeing how he felt about her and how he started having doubts about what he was doing, I warmed up to him. An yes, even if it was a pretty manipulative, he got me when he told Dee about his childhood.

The love scenes were pretty hot, only some safe sex aspects bothered me. Basically, that after all the emphasis on Dee teaching safe sex to the teenagers at the school, she has unprotected sex with Chase. And it's not only the instance when they get carried away, they also have oral sex without a condom. Yeah, I wouldn't mind this in another book, but this book makes much about Dee being an expert, so I hold it to higher standards.

Anyway, that was just a niggle. More important were my problems with the style, especially with the dialogue. There was a lot of internal monologue between remarks, which broke the flow of the dialogue and made it hard to follow, because by the time someone said something, I had forgotten what the last remark had been.

Also, it bothered me that the Jared situation was unresolved. If I'd known I'd have to read another book to get the whole story, maybe I wouldn't have minded so much, but this caught me by surprise and it bugged me.


Dangerous, by Amanda Quick

>> Thursday, April 03, 2003

I first read Amanda Quick's Dangerous when it came out 10 years ago, at age 15. At that time, I used to sign the first page of books I read with the date (this was BI - Before Internet, so I never dreamt I could end up trading the books with other readers in the rest of the world). It was a bit of a shock to open Dangerous and see my name and "1993" there. Can't believe it's been that long!

I must confess I didn't particularly like this book back then, as far as I can recall. I think I had another AQ too, and didn't much like it either. I was more into other authors at the time, I think. I remember I used to love Sandra Brown, and my other favourites included authors like Catherine Coulter, Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey... all authors I've stopped reading now. In fact, there are very few books I liked at the time that I can tolerate to reread now.

Anyway, a few years ago I bought another AQ by mistake, thinking she was a new-to-me author and I really, really liked it. When I noticed I had these two others by her, I reread them and oh, surprise! I thought they were pretty good, so I bought the rest of her backlist. I enjoyed them, but it wasn't until I started rereading them again a few months ago that I loved them. I guess I must be the opposite of most people I've met online. I've read poster after poster saying they've grown out of her books, but in my case I didn't get them as a teen and have learnt to enjoy them only now.

Enough about me. Onto Dangerous:

From a magnificent ballroom ablaze with lights to an imposing country house steeped in shadows comes a breathtaking tale of an impetuous miss--and a passion that leads to peril...At five and twenty, Prudence Merryweather knew very well tht risks a woman took by visiting a gentleman in the dead of night. But bearding the notorious Earl of Angelstone in his den was the only way to stop him from engaging her hot-headed brother in a duel. And that was why she found herself ushered into Sebastian's frobidding presence at three int the morning--and thoroughly kissed before dawn.

She was a country-bred innocent--and an intriguing experience for a man who dwelt more in the shadows than in the sunshine. Yet as her boldness drew Prue into one dangerous episode after another, Sebastian found himself torn between a raging hunger to possess her and a driving need to protect her. And the reckless beauty would soon need all the protection she could get...

Great book. My grade's an A. The dark side of it was very well integrated with the lighter part, something which isn't particularly easy to do. The characters themselves were nothing too innovative; just classic AQ. She's the oblivious bluestocking, who is the only one who sees the real man the hero is. He, of course, is the perfect tortured hero, for whom the heroine is his salvation from inner demons. Predictable, in a way, but it works.


Unnatural Causes, by PD James

I finally finished the PD James mystery I'd been reading since last Saturday. This one was one of the earlier Dalgliesh books, Unnatural Causes

A famous mystery writer is found dead at the bottom of a dinghy, with both hands chopped off at the wrists. Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh, with help from his remarkable Aunt Jane, must discover who typed the writer's death sentence before the plot takes another murderous turn.
I enjoyed this one more than the others I've reread this year. It was a B+. The atmosphere was superb, and the mystery fascinating. Best part: the resolution was believable and not anticlimatic, for a change!

Dalgliesh was better here than in other books, but yep, he's still irritating. I must be a bad person, but my reaction when he receives a letter from his girlfriend saying she's dumping him was "Serves you right, you idiot!"


True Colors, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Believe it or not, I still have pages and pages of notes about books I read during my vacation last February. I thought I'd be done with them in a couple of weeks, but no, I've been posting them much more slowly.

Today I'll post about True Colors, an old category book by Jayne Ann Krentz It's hard to find good summaries of these books, and I haven't been able to get a good one of True Colors. I don't much like to recap books, but I'll give it a try:

After his sister gets bilked by an apparently respectable businessman, Cade Santerre offers to help the authorities catch him. He does this by posing as a wealthy playboy and becoming friendly with him and his family. Jamie Garland is working as assistant to the con man's sister, and she and Cade fall in love.

All hell breaks loose, however, when the authorities move in to arrest the man, exposing the deception the morning after Jamie and Cade's first night together, and before he can tell her the truth. Cade doesn't think this has anything to do with their relationship, but Jamie feels used and has other ideas.

Oh, this was so good!! An A-, as a matter of fact. There's nothing more satisfying than a good, justified grovel and boy, does Cade grovel! He starts out really arrogant and very sure of himself, so it's incredibly good to see Jamie take him down a peg. She's pretty justified in not trusting him, considering his previous actions, which makes it even better.

At first, I thought Cade was just going to steamroll all over poor Jamie. You know "I know you love me" style, so I was ready to throw this against the wall. It wasn't like that at all. Cade gets to a state of fear of losing her and self-doubt that he actually begs her to give him a second chance. God, I'm a sadist to have enjoyed this so much!

This was a reissue of a 1986 release, but it didn't feel to dated, except for some birth control / safe sex issues. Jamie was a bit of a "reformed" ingénue, so she's quite tough, whicle Cade was a nice alpha, more sensitive than most and willing to let Jamie take control when she wants to.

I'm having quite good luck with JAK's backlist so far. It was a great idea to start collecting them.

Update: I reread this one on January 2005 and posted my comments here. I gave it a B then.


In spite of my promises, I tried to read another Julie Garwood earlier this week. It was a medieval this time, The Bride. Will I never learn? I gave up after gritting my teeth through the first 100 pages. Yeah, yeah, I know, you can't judge a whole book based on only the beginning, but what bothered me the most here was the style and the type of characters, my exact problems with the rest of her books that I've tried, so believe, it wasn't getting better. Luckily, this book was another loan from my friend María Inés, so, having not spent money to get it, I felt under no pressure to finish it.

At this point, I've tried 4 Garwoods apart from this one and I haven't liked any of them. This is many more chances than I usually give an author... most times, if I don't like the first book I try I'm very reluctant to try another one. I do so only if it gets lots of rave reviews, and sometimes I only allow myself to acquire it by trading for it. Garwood, however, is beloved by so many people (just check out the sheer number of DIK reviews she has at AAR) that it seems I can't believe her books inspire such violent dislike in me.


The Forbidden Lord, by Sabrina Jeffries

>> Tuesday, April 01, 2003

This weekend I read a book lent to me by a romance-reading Uruguayan friend (and I thought I was the only one!). The book was The Forbidden Lord, by Sabrina Jeffries. Do explore Jeffries' site, if you have time; it's one of the best author sites I've ever seen. I especially liked the extra info about the books (see here "Inside The Forbidden Lord"). I loved this book: A-. It appears I have a new author whose backlist to glom.

Jordan Willis, the Earl of Blackmore, is known for his exploits with experienced bedmates and his avoidance of innocents. Having never been in love, he's earned the nickname "the Lord with the Granite Heart." So he's surprised when a chance encounter prompts him to steal a kiss from the prim Emily Fairchild, a rector's daughter. Stunned by her passionate response, he nonetheless expects never to see her again. Then he meets the flirtatious Lady Emma, supposed daughter of a Scottish earl, who's a double for the lovely Emily.

When the earl recognizes her and demands an explanation, Emily is in a quandary. Her very life depends on convincing society that she is Lady Emma. But though she plays the coquette and succeeds in making the earl doubt his own eyes, no disguise can hide their fiery attraction. Can she trust the Lord of Granite Hearts with her secrets when he's so certain love is forbidden to him?

This novel very much follows the unwritten "rules" of the Regency-set historical: the innocent young woman, the experienced nobleman pretty much brought to his knees by the heroine's purity and goodness... Thing is, the author's so good that these rules yielded magic. And, after all, there's a reason they became the rules, isn't there? I usually resent them when the writting is subpar and the plotting awkward in the first place.

This is a story without a villain, but it has an interesting plot that isn't as far-fetched as it may seem at first sight. I found it believable that Emily would agree to Nesfield's plot; after all, she was being threatened with a murder accusation, and what she had to do to get out of it was something mostly innocuous. This definitely passes the resonability test.

Jordan was a little obnoxious at first, but it was lots of fun to see him so completely besotted by Emily and jealous of anyone who looked at her. The way his lust turned into love was very well rendered and believable, and very, very romantic. His whole refusal to accept love was what he was feeling could have been tiresome if it had gone on for much longer, but Jeffries displayed an excellent sense of timing and solved it just right.

Actually, now that I think of it, the timing of this book was perfect: Jordan accepting his feelings, Emily's Big Secret being revealed, love scenes....

Speaking of love scenes, this was probably one of the steamiest books I've read in ages. Maybe someone who doesn't care for internal lusting would be irritated by it, but me, I loved it.

All in all, this was great. It began with a very intriguing situation and didn't flag at all. The ending was beautiful, very sentimental and sweet (but not saccharine). I was reading this one at the same time as a PD James book, which I abandoned after 100 pages of TFL. Extra points for the fact that that bastard Lord Nesfield doesn't get away scot-free.


"Did your handbag get stolen recently, by any chance?"

Thus spake an old school chum I hadn't heard from in ages, who phoned me out of the blue last night. As you may imagine, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Apparently, a friend of hers has a house in La Floresta, and this house has a bread oven built in the garden. People being what they are, this oven is seldom used, so they never even looked inside during February and most of March. They did so this last weekend, and imagine their surprise when they found a burgundy leather handbag.

They deduced what had happened immediately, so they looked through it to determine who it belonged to. Since my date book was there, and I had my name and contact info on the first page, that was pretty easy to figure out. Again, people being what they are, they couldn't resist looking through my "contacts" section (to see just who this Rosario person was, I suppose, and who she knew, something essential to who you are here in Uruguay), where they ran into my friend's name. They handed it over to her and she called me, so that I could pick it up.

Except for the cash, everything's there, it seems, even my wallet. Glasses, driver's licence, ID card, credit cards, house keys... At this point, to tell you the truth, I'd almost rather it hadn't showed up. I mean, I've spent lots time and money replacing all that was stolen (we even changed the locks at my house less than a week ago), and now it turns out I needn't have!


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