Night Shadow, by Nora Roberts (Night Tales #2)

>> Friday, October 31, 2003

After reading Nora Roberts's Night Tales #1, I did something I almost never do and read #2, Night Shadow immediately afterwards.


.....a solitary figure shrouded in black walked the night, determined to awaken a terrified metropolis from the nightmare of crime. There was nothing -- no bullets, and certainly not legal technicalities -- that could deter the man they called Nemesis from his mission.

Deborah O'Roarke, an idealistic young prosecutor waging her own war against crime, owed Nemesis her very life. She shared his passion for justice, yet she could not accept his lawless methods. Still, though she fought her unwelcome desire for this disturbing stranger, she was unable to deny her longing to share the shadows that were his home....
Lots of fun! An A-.

Well, I must say I'm surprised that a romance novel with a hero who puts on a superhero costume and roams the streets fighting the forces of evil and crime worked so well ;-) It's especially surprising because the tone of the book wasn't at all campy, but serious.

Night Shadow felt very much like one of those superheroes comics. It's set in a city, Urbana, which is very, very Gotham (though the atmosphere was distinctly like the one of the city in that first Batman movie...). The hero, who is a millionaire in his regular life (yes, well, this is Nora Roberts, you know), has a "superpower" (being able to become invisible) and moonlights as a superhero. And the heroine. of course, is the serious sort, who keeps running into our hero in both his guises and is attracted to "both" men.

Gage's superpower is pretty well explained, as plausible as these things can be. However, I had to turn down my critical faculties a little: I could understand that he became invisible, but what happens to his clothes?? Ah, well, I just had to ignore this and enjoy the rest of the show :-)

The romance worked very well, too. This was very much an action-driven romance, but I enjoyed it, even though I usually much prefer character-driven stories. Maybe it was just that the action was so fascinating. Anyway, Roberts does a nice balancing act here, and Gage discloses his identity to Deborah just in time. Any more and it would have become irritating.

I very much liked the fact that the book dealt with the issue of vigilantism. It didn't have an obvious agenda, simply explored pros and cons, and I appreciated the fact that it was touched upon.


Night Shift, by Nora Roberts (Night Tales #1)

>> Thursday, October 30, 2003

I was recently talking to a friend who loves series (as in related books) and I was telling her about Nora Roberts. Not too surprisingly, after talking about books I've loved, I felt the need to reread them.

I started with the Night Tales series, a group of five related books with the common thread of having characters who are night people. The first one is Night Shift.


The calls came like clockwork -- a cold, hate-filled voice telling late-night radio announcer Cilla O'Roarke that she was going to die. The never-ending threats had finally made her a believer. She was desperate -- desperate enough to accept police protection.

Cilla preferred to keep her distance from the police, and she had her reasons. But there was something about Boyd Fletcher that made him difficult to ignore. He was strong, laconic, infuriating and clearly determined to watch over her every second of the day -- and night.

And the trouble was, the more Cilla saw of her unwanted bodyguard, the more she wanted him to share the night she loved....
Most of it was just ok, but it had enough special moments to make it a B.

The whole first part of the book was pretty lackluster. It felt like it had very little originality, like every other (and there are quite a few) book about a woman who has the need for police (or bodyguard) protection against a stalker and falls in love with the man assigned to protect her. It was very unoriginal, down to the heroine who very feistily (I hate that word!) denies that she needs the hero's help, and I had trouble keeping my attention on the book. My mind just kept wondering. Oh, and I was irritated by all the music references. I suppose they were pretty mainstream, and most Americans would recognize them, but not being American myself, I didn't get 90% of them and it got very tedious.

But the book gradually became better, probably starting when Cilla ditched her stupid "I don't need a bodyguard" attitude, and there were certain moments, like the first love scene which were wonderful. By the time I got to the final crisis I was having lots of fun.

Of course, there were a few problems in that final half of the book. For instance, it was not really credible that when she was asked about guys in her past she'd rejected, Cilla didn't remember the guy who'd stalked her and even given her a wedding ring. I really can't buy that she wouldn't remember it, it was too recent! But still, the balance was very positive, positive enough to balance the weak first part and get the grade to B-range.


Greygallows, by Barbara Michaels

>> Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Another week, another Barbara Michaels. This time: Greygallows.

Not knowing the past of her charming and handsome suitor, Lucy Cartwright accepts his marriage proposal. Innocently following Baron Clare to his estate, Lucy has no idea that he is leading her into a world of betrayal and danger. Suddenly she realizes the man of her fondest dreams has become the source of her worst nightmares, and she must devise a way out
*Sigh* It's hard to grade this one. I suppose it was a good book, if I had to evaluate it objectively, but the thing is the whole injustice of the laws at the time and helplessness of the heroine made me too angry and depressed to enjoy it. I'll have to give it a C+.

I mean, it was so frustrating! Lucy was so obviously making a huge mistake. She realized the consequences, that once she was married there was pretty much nothing she could do to get out of it if it became intolerable. She wasn't too sure of what she was doing. And yet, she didn't have the spine to take a stand.

Maybe the thing was she was too young. And that was something else I disliked. I suppose it's accurate, but a 17-year-old heroine is just too young for me to relate to, at least as a supposedly "adult" character.

To make things worse, there was very little of the humour I like so much in most of this author's books here. It had the oppressive atmosphere I enjoy in gothics, but without that extra something else, it wasn't thrilling, just awfully depressing.

So far I've had mixed results with Michaels' historicals. Black Rainbow and Greygallows, I didn't like, while The Master of Blacktower, Sons of the Wolf and Wings of the Falcon were good. I'll have to see what I think of The Wizard's Daughter, the only one I haven't reread lately...


Secret Admirer, by Susan Napier

>> Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Last Friday I read Secret Admirer, by Susan Napier, an old Harlequin Presents title.

Running into a potential business partner late at night in a broken elevator - when one was wearing a glamorous fur with nothing on underneath - was awkward, but Grace Blair was cool enough to handle a hot situation.

Her poised, controlled demeanor belied the insecurity she felt taking over her late husband's business empire, but Scott Gregory was able with one caressing glance to strip away all her pretenses. Especially since the handsome New Zealander had made it clear from their first inauspicious meeting that in business, knowledge was power - and that he knew exactly what he wanted.
Despite some early doubts, this was ultimately a B.

I usually decide purchases based on reviews, but occasionally I read some intriguing tidbit in a message board post or mailing list message and buy the book. This is what happened with Secret Admirer, and by the time it got here I hadn't the foggiest idea of why I'd bought it. First of all, it was a Harlequin Presents, which I've always thought of as the old-fashioned ones, with the cruel alpha males and spineless heroines. Definitely not my cup of tea. And when I started it, it seemed to be just that.

The hero, Scott, behaves very much like the sterotypical alpha of old times, when I started reading romance. He acuses Grace of having a "protector", he's condescending and patronizing and manipulative. And Grace is just as problematic. At one point, she thinks she behaved "like a shameless hussy of the streets". A heroine who actually says the words "shameless hussy" and not as a joke has to be a bit too old-fashioned for me ;-) And I got really irritated by the way she lets herself be manipulated by Scott so easily. I just can't believe someone would actually fall for the old "What, afraid of kissing me? No? Then prove it!" trick!

Furthermore, I really didn't get why she got so upset about the elevator episode. So she gets stuck in an elevator naked under a fur coat, and at one point the guy she's stuck with very presumptuously opens her coat and sees she's naked. That's it. Embarrasing? Yes, sure. But blackmail material? Nah. Anyway, good for her for calling his bluff about it.

Still, Grace not as stupid as some heroines I've read. Naive, yes. Easily manipulated by Scott, that too. But she did have some strength and common sense. She was smart enough to admit she was ignorant in business matters and to formulate a strategy to remedy that and to cover her ignorance meanwhile.

But then, after grumbling my way through the first part of the book, I came to the first love scene and the subsequent revelation. It was an "A-ha!" moment. So that's why I decided to buy this book! The minute I read the revelation I had to go back and read the whole love scene again, from the new perspective. Really wonderful!

And after that, we have a new, kinder Scott, who actually shows some vulnerabilities. That part alone was worth the price of admission. He does have a bit of an "all women are bitches except you" attitude, which I really didn't appreciate, but he's ok, as alpha heros go.

It was an interesting book, quite original, and though it wasn't quite a keeper, I'm glad I read it.

Oh, as a last comment, I'll mention that the book was set in NZ, but this wasn't really an issue. Unfortunately, it simply didn't have a strong sense of place, nothing to differentiate it from the run-of-the-mill US urban setting.


Born in Shame, by Nora Roberts

>> Monday, October 27, 2003

I've been meaning to read Born in Shame, by Nora Roberts, ever since I reread the first two novels in the trilogy earlier this year.

This third and final novel in Roberts's Irish trilogy is the story of Shannon Bodine. Shannon's life is rocked by an emotional earthquake when she learns the identity of her real father. Obeying her late mother's last wish, American Shannon travels to County Clare, Ireland, to meet the sisters she never knew she had.

Warmed and comforted by the bond that grows between her and her sisters, her heart is lured by the charm of the Irish countryside and tempted by the attraction of horseman Murphy Muldoon. Murphy takes one look at Shannon and knows that she is the woman he's waited for all his life. But Shannon is a practical woman. Will she open her heart and mind to the timeless, magical bond that connects them? Or will she reject fate's plan and leave Murphy to return to her life in America?
It was wonderful, an A-.

I adored Murphy. I loved the way he took one look at Shannon and he was a gonner. That was it for him. That first scene, where Shannon thinks he's a bit slow because all he can do is stare at her was beautiful!

Shannon could have been a tedious character, because of the way she refused to accept what was happening, but I really did understand her doubts about giving it all up for love, and I though more of her for thinking things through carefully and not letting herself be pressured by Murphy. I felt the solution they arrived at was the best way to go.

Ok, yes, I'm not usually too fond of the "fated lovers" angle. I like to see people fall in love and understand why they do, and to have the protagonists fall for each other only because it was pre-ordained in some prophecy seems to me like cheating. For some reason, it worked here. Probably because I got the feeling that these two would have fallen in love anyway, even if there hadn't been that supernatural thing.

And speaking of the touch of the supernatural, I thought it was just right for the story. Roberts has been known to go a bit overboard with it, but not here.

Almost as good as the love story was the development of the relationship between the three sisters. Discussing Born in Shame with a friend, she mentioned that she loved how the characters from the other books weren't just there for show, they were part of the story. Both Brie and Maggie are the same people they were in their own books, and so are their husbands. They behave in a way that feels natural, given the people we know they are from their own books. Having them here creates a lovely sense of community.

And BTW, like my friend, I must say I like Brianna much better as a secondary character than I did as the heroine ;-)

Taken as a whole, this trilogy is probably the best I've ever read.


Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters

>> Friday, October 24, 2003

As I said I might after reading the last book, I've started a reread of the whole Amelia Peabody series, by Elizabeth Peters. Book number one is Crocodile on the Sandbank.

Elizabeth Peters's unforgettable heroine Amelia Peabody makes her first appearance in this clever mystery. Amelia receives a rather large inheritance and decides to use it for travel. On her way through Rome to Egypt, she meets Evelyn Barton-Forbes, a young woman abandoned by her lover and left with no means of support. Amelia promptly takes Evelyn under her wing, insisting that the young lady accompany her to Egypt, where Amelia plans to indulge her passion for Egyptology. When Evelyn becomes the target of an aborted kidnapping and the focus of a series of suspicious accidents and mysterious visitations, Amelia becomes convinced of a plot to harm her young friend. Like any self-respecting sleuth, Amelia sets out to discover who is behind it all.
I loved it, it may sound clichéd, but it was visiting with old friends. An A+.

Ahhh, this is were it all started. I really loved seeing the first indications of those character traits so developed in the following books. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the characters were already pretty formed here. They develop in the rest of the series, and grow, but they are still the same people they are in this first book.

What can I say about Amelia and Emerson that I haven't said a thousand times before? What is here that isn't in the rest of the books is them falling in love, and it was wonderful. One intense look into each other's eyes was more erotic than a full-blown sex scene in other books ;-)

The plot was ok, but a bit too obvious. I probably remember it from when I first read this, but really, if one accepts that nothing supernatural was going on, there's only one solution, and one very easy to guess.

On to book number two, now!


Almost a Princess, by Elizabeth Thornton

>> Thursday, October 23, 2003

Almost a Princess is my first Elizabeth Thornton book. I've had Whisper His Name (which seems to be a kind of prequel to this one) in my TBR for ages.

What possible connection can there be between Jane Mayberry, a beautiful, independent and articulate bluestocking and a notorious killer who has eluded British Intelligence for years?

Case Devere, the Earl of Castleton, is attached to Special Branch and is determined to find out. But Jane is embroiled in her own troubles and the last thing she needs right now is this steely-eyed, arrogant aristocrat looking over her shoulder. When she quietly disappears, Case's worst suspicions are aroused. He goes after her.
I don't know. I liked some elements, but the book as a whole didn't completely work for me. A B.

The main problem was that the book felt a little disjointed. The main conflict seems to be catching La Roca, the killer who wants to murder Case, but there's something else from Jane's past which takes over most of the middle part of the book.

And here's the thing: I loved the way they dealt with this problem from Jane's past (trying very hard not to spoil things here!). There was no stupid bowing to convention, which was very refreshing. I just wish the main conflict had been this one, and not La Roca, which means I was more than a little irritated when wham! this problem disappears and we're back to catching the murderer.Damn!

Eh, well... at least, the romance works very well, because the protagonists are lovely. Case is on the surface the very clichéd "Regency spy hero", but the author goes deeper than most in the characterization, exploring what his past experiences did to him. As for Jane, she's a really nice and intelligent heroine, who refuses to martyr herself to society's conventions (see above) and doesn't hesitate to protect herself. I liked their relationship, which seemed to be based on genuine affection and love.

However, their very reasonableness and refusal to act like stereotypical romance characters made Jane and Case's relationship be resolved much too soon, leaving the suspense subplot to carry the rest of the book, so the last part wasn't really much fun.

And that epilogue! I know I complained about a too-abrupt ending in The Master of Blacktower, but this is ridiculous! 20 pages visiting with characters from other books who I don't know and who had nothing to do with the story and tying up the stories of secondary characters who appeared for 2 pages and who I care nothing about. Extremely tedious.


Not So Innocent, by Laura Lee Guhrke

I really liked the first Laura Lee Guhrke I read, Breathless. Not So Innocent (Pandora's Box and excerpt), sounded completely different: Victorian instead of turn-of-the-century US, has a psychic heroine... Still, it did sound interesting.

Sophie Haversham would give anything not to have the gift of foresight. After all, her "talent" has already cost her one fiancé. And reporting a crime that hasn't happened yet is no easy task, especially to a tough, street-wise Scotland Yard detective. Inspector Mick Dunbar doesn't believe in visions, and he's convinced Sophie is actually shielding a would-be murderer. Only when Sophie's life is in danger does Mick realize he has fallen in love with this beautiful, courageous woman who can see into his very mind and heart, but will the knowledge come too late to save her?
Not quite as good as the first 50 pages promised, but still pretty nice: B.

The first thing that comes to mind is that Sophie's psychic powers were very underused. I really would have liked to see more of her powers in action, so to speak, but this part of the book is limited to a couple of little "mindreading" episodes and one vision. I guess the author succeeded in making this interesting, so much so that she has me begging for more! ;-)

Both Sophie and Mick were likeable people, and I found them especially interesting because they weren't the usual rake/bluestocking so many romance novels feature. I liked Mick. He was very charming, in an unpolished way, and one of the things I like best about him is that he doesn't have that "I'm just a policeman, she's too good for me" trauma. He is wonderfully self-assured. The only problem I had with him was that he persisted in not trusting Sophie for a little too long.

Sophie was ok, but more typical innocent, self-martyring, occasionally foolish romance heroine. The first scene, when she goes to the police and tells Mick about her vision, I wanted to shake her. Come on, you know anyone would be doubtful when you tell them about how you saw a murder in your dreams, at least tell them in a way that they won't think you're stupid as well as crazy! She's not that bad in the rest of the book, except for the fact that she seems to be unable to stand up to her mother. Arghh!!

Mick and Sophie had a lot of chemistry, but the actual love scenes felt a bit weird, even if they were very nicely written. There was the dreaded "I want to have sex once to treasure the memory forever", plus no thoughts for the consequences on either's part.

The mystery was interesting and intriguing, but the solution came from nowhere. There was absolutely no way we could have guessed, because we didn't have the necessary info. I mean, I guessed the murderer must be someone who was connected to this certain case in Mick's past, but I simply couldn't know who it was. Well, at least the solution made sense!

The author really makes the Victorian England setting come alive, and it was really good, both the more working-class parts of London and the upper-class ones.

Oh, and a little comment: Loved that small mention of football... though I don't think a London-born and raised guy at those times would hate Manchester United, not to mention be a Glasgow fan! "Global" football is a much more recent phenomenon, or at least, that's my impression. Still, good for the author for including a mention of my beloved game.


Dreams Part I and Part II, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Tuesday, October 21, 2003

With the Dreams Part I and Part II duet, Jayne Ann Krentz does something I hadn't seen before in a Harlequin book, or rather, books!

These are not the usual book and sequel. Neither are complete in themselves, but they aren't really a whole book either, because the main issues change. Part I focuses on the courting, while Part II focuses on making a marriage work and dealing with pregnancy. Meanwhile, the Chained Lady legend and the suspense subplot cover both books.

Dreams Part I: History was repeating itself

Diana Prentice needed a break from the power gars corporate world. She picked the charming mountain town; Fulbrook Corners as her sanctuary, not knowing that mysterious forces had lured her to the scene of an age-old struggle. Was it the local legend of the Chained Lady and warrior that was so unsettling to her... or the disconcerting presence of native Colby Savagar?

Soon the sheer fierceness of his passion overwhelmed and left her in turmoil. For she knew somehow there had been another place, another time when he had taken by force what she now gave willingly ....

Dreams Part II: They were bound by fate

Pregnant! Diana Prentice knew she should be ecstatic - bearing Colby Savagar's child - but she wasn't. The idea of motherhood frightened her. Almost as much as the recurring dreams that told her she needed Colby...dreams that beckoned her back to Fulbrook Corners and its timeless legend.

Colby himself was haunted by visions of impending danger. He, too, was inexorably drawn back to his hometown. Somehow they both knew the key to their happiness lay in Chained Lady Cave, and that only when they conquered the dark forces of the past together would there be hope for their future .. .
My global grade would be a B-.

The first part I thought was much, much better than the second, basically because the very nice guy Colby seemed to change into a sexist prick in the second one. I'd grade the first book B+ and the second one C.

I really liked the way Diana and Colby's relationship developed in the first part. They had chemistry and they seemed to genuinely like each other. This part was enriched by the Colby - Specter the cat feud (hilarious!) and by the appearance of Colby's son Brandon, who was very well done and introduced a fascinating conflict.

Then the second part had to go and become a stupid story about a woman in a relationship with a guy who resisted their being equal partners, and about a pregnancy. I was bored, and I started disliking Colby.

I also did not like the actual Chained Lady legend. It left a bad taste in my mouth that the guy in the legend (a rapist creep) was portrayed not all that negatively.


The Master of Blacktower, by Barbara Michaels

>> Monday, October 20, 2003

I'm sure I'd read The Master of Blacktower, by Barbara Michaels once, when I bought it, but for the life of me I couldn't remember anything about it. I didn't even have a vague impression of whether I'd liked it or not...


His hands were encased in black silk gloves, a lurid scar twisting the roughly hewn features of his face. His dark eyes blazed, and his mocking laughter echoed to the highest tower of the ancient Scottish estate. Damaris Gordon knew she could never work for such a cruel and bitter man-but after her father's death, she had no choice. Her fate was in the hands of Gavin Hamilton--a man tortured by disfigurement, disillusion ... and dark secrets of the past. Was he responsible for his wife's death? Or the injury that crippled his young daughter? Curiosity lured Damaris to the top of the tower in search of the truth. But love sent her over the edge ...
This one's a real gothic. Not a parody of a gothic, or a modern gothic, or any other variation, but an almost textbook example of one, and I relished it. I mean, textbook if you don't think that a gothic heroine has to be weak and TSTL, because Damaris certainly wasn't. My grade: an A-.

The strength of The Master of Blacktower is in its protagonists and its atmosphere. As I said, Damaris was a strong, intelligent heroine, with an excellent intuition about people. Gavin was a perfect gothic hero, wounded and tortured, with failings, but ultimately a good person. These two were lovely together, they definitely had a lot of chemistry.

As for the atmosphere, wow! It was what it should be in any good gothic. The isolated house in Scotland, the strange servants, Gavin's invalid daughter, the mysterious neighbours, the suspicious story of Gavin's wife... it all helped establish a very distinctive atmosphere.

The only thing I wasn't too crazy about was the ending. Oh, the final scene was actually excellent, but the ending itself was much too abrupt. I'm not asking for a looong, syrupy epilogue, but a couple of pages (even paragraphs!) more would have improved this a lot.


Five Kids, One Christmas, by Terese Ramin

>> Friday, October 17, 2003

I've just finished Five Kids, One Christmas, by Terese Ramin. It's not a book I'd nomally choose to read, but I asked a friend to lend me a book at random that wasn't bad and she brought me this one. She said it had problems, but also a lot of original elements I might enjoy.


Last she knew, widowed mom Helen Brannigan had one daughter and no man in her life. Now there were seven Christmas stockings to hang, five extra settings for the table--and one man-size dinner to make. Suddenly she was sharing her home--and joint custody of five kids--with a sexy widowed dad who was no more than a stranger ....


In a marriage of convenience, she'd said "I do" to that sexy stranger. Five happy little faces had held their breaths as she'd kissed the groom. And now Helen was holding her breath--for her brand-new husband to love her ....
My friend was right. I saw the exact problems she meant, but I did like reading some things about it. My grade: a C.

The main problem was that the book was much too crowded. It had too many issues to give each of them the space they deserved to be fully developed. Helen's military career, Nat's blindness, the custody battles, the kids themselves and their problems accepting all the changes in their lives AND the love story. All this in a 250-page book.

Ramin made a good effort, for the first 150 pages, more or less, but in the last 100 pages I thought she lost control of the plot threads by adding a kidnapping and the visit of a weird relative, too, which further crowded the book. I wouldn't have minded the crowd so much if the romance hadn't been shortchanged, but it all but disappeared in that last part, and the book became a chore to read. Until then, she'd succeeded in showing excellent chemistry between Nat and Helen, but she blew it.

It was an interesting book at times, yes, but ultimately not a success for me. Of course, I might have been influenced by the fact that being dropped into a ready-made family with 5 kids is my idea of hell ;-)


The Grey Beginning, by Barbara Michaels

>> Thursday, October 16, 2003

I've just finished The Grey Beginning, by Barbara Michaels

Hoping that a trip to her late husband's childhood home will help her come to terms with his recent death, Kathy Malone travels to the rolling hills of Tuscany. But there, instead of solace, Kathy finds a lonely boy named Pietro, uncanny hints about her late husband, and the stately Contessa Morandini, whose chilly reception warms only when she mistakenly assumes Kathy is pregnant with the next heir of the Morandini line.

Despite--or perhaps because of--the Contessa's efforts to keep Kathy and Pietro apart, Kathy befriends the young boy. Their games lead her through the villa's maze of dark hallways, where she begins to discover hints of a startling truth. As the pieces of a sinister and murderous plan fall into place, Kathy realizes she has stumbled onto a dangerous that was meant to stay hidden forever.
Enjoyable, a B.

Very modern gothic. The atmosphere was perfect: the isolated villa near Firenze, the hostile servants, the tragic little kid. But this is Barbara Michaels, so all thisoppressiveness was tempered with touches of humour, like Pietro's preocupation with American football. It worked perfectly.

I loved that it took me a long time to be sure of what exactly was happening, though I had some ideas almost from the first. The important thing was that Kathy was perfectly justified in not realizing what was going on; too often the heroine in a gothic comes across as stupid for not noticing things. Not her.

The what exactly was going on was a bit jarring and not completely believable, so this wasn't perfect. Other than that, an excellent example of the genre.


I'm a Stranger Here Myself, by Bill Bryson

>> Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I'm apparently on a romance mini-break. The next book I read was I'm a Stranger Here Myself, by one of my favourite authors, Bill Bryson.

After living in Britain for two decades, Bill Bryson recently moved back to the United States with his English wife and four children (he had read somewhere that nearly 3 million Americans believed they had been abducted by aliens--as he later put it, "it was clear my people needed me"). They were greeted by a new and improved America that boasts microwave pancakes, twenty-four-hour dental-floss hotlines, and the staunch conviction that ice is not a luxury item.
I'm a Stranger Here Myself is a compilation of 70 newspaper columns the author wrote between 1996 and 1998, shortly after moving back from the UK to the US. Each essay is about 4 pages long, so when I started it my intention was to make it last, to read a couple of essays every now and then.

I finished it in 2 days. I was completely unable to stop reading. I'd finish an essay and think "I'll stop here", but then I'd glance at the first paragraph of the following column and get hooked... "Ok, one more..." This guy is a genius.

This book was laugh out loud funny. Really. I'm not talking about reading something and smiling and thinking "this is really funny". I'm talking about actually laughing until I felt tears running down my cheeks. My family thought I was crazy.

Grade: A-. The only reason this didn't get a perfect grade was a little repetitiveness with a certain joke, which was funny the first time but less so the fourth time. Still, it was only a couple of columns too many, so it never got to be more than a mild irritant.


True Betrayals, by Nora Roberts

>> Tuesday, October 14, 2003

This weekend I reread a Nora Roberts book of which I had practically no recollections: True Betrayals.

Kelsey Byden always believed that her mother was dead. But now, after all this time, she has discovered the truth: Naomi Chadwick is still alive—after spending years in prison for the murder of her lover. Now, at Naomi's Virginia horse farm, Kelsey is trying to sort out a lifetime of deception—and her feelings about her mother. The bonds of love can be fragile…as Kelsey learned from her recently ended marriage.

But as the two women rebuild their relationship—and Kelsey finds herself swept into an unsettling new romance—she must decide once and for all who she can trust, and who threatens to betray her…
It was a B-.

This one read more like women's fiction than romance. Actually, in the first half, the romance part of the book is very, very slight. The book concentrates on Kelsey getting used to the work at the farm and coming to grips with her mother's presence. Gabe is just a presence, someone who wants Kelsey and who's wanted right back by her. It's only in the second half that their romance comes to life, and even then the love scenes are strangely undetailed and cut short, as if Nora had been trying to go more mainstream. I liked these two as a couple, but I never did get completely invested in their relationsip.

The setting, in the world of horse racing (is this the right expression?) was interesting, but unfortunately I didn't really enjoy the suspense subplot which was a large part of the book, and intimately related to the setting. Really, every time we saw Cunningham and Rich Slater I just wished they'd go away, and there was a lot about them.

Also, the ending wasn't at all satisfying. I hate it when a book ends and I feel justice hasn't been served. I guess I'm not much of a "forgive and forget" kind of person. That person, who was ultimately responsible for the deaths of people and for someone spending 10 years in jail, shouldn't have got away scot-free. And Naomi didn't have the right to decide that person shouldn't have been punished. Ok, if you want, forgive the person for what was done to you, but didn't the dead men deserve justice?


Night Fire, by Catherine Coulter

>> Monday, October 13, 2003

I finally finished Night Fire, by Catherine Coulter, which I'd abandoned last month. Here is the post I wrote at the time.

My final grade for it was a D.

Some parts were nice, even sweet, but what bothered me the most was the contrast between a hero who was apparently a nice person, etc, and the guy who'd think that since Arielle wasn't responding to her courting, he was perfectly justified in kidnapping her and tricking her into marriage, and that that was "for her own good", because he was going to make her love him.

That is, what bothered me the most was not exactly what he did, but the fact that he saw nothing wrong in doing it. I'd be able to deal with a hero who knows he's being a bastard in kidnapping the heroine and not respecting her desires, but he's not able to help himself (and he has to grovel, of course ;-). I'm able to deal with this if the author shows that this behaviour is wrong. Not only about kidnapping, I can deal with whatever behaviour (see Gaffney's To Have and To Hold, for instance), but if, and only if, the author doesn't seem to be saying, "Oh, men know best. She, being a woman, didn't know what was good for her". Here it's not like that. Coulter seems to see nothing wrong in Burke's reasoning, and that's what turned me off.

I'm not even going to go into the idiotic suspense subplot and the boring, inane heroine. The hero alone is enough for a D grade.


The Golden One, by Elizabeth Peters

I've been waiting since February to read The Golden One, by Elizabeth Peters, book number 14 in the Amelia Peabody series.

A richly woven tale of romance, treachery, intrigue, and murder in a breathtaking realm of ancient wonders and crumbling splendor.

A new year, 1917, is dawning, and the Great War that ravages the world shows no sign of abating. In these perilous times, archaeologist Amelia Peabody and her extended family must confront shocking dangers. But it is son Ramses who faces the most dire threat, answering a call that will carry him to the fabled seaport of Gaza on a mission as personal as it is perilous--where death will be the certain consequence of exposure. While far away, Ramses's beautiful wife, Nefret, guards a secret of her own ...
I enjoyed it, though the pacing and structure were a bit problematic. A B+.

My main problem with Lord of the Silent is that halfway through, the book undergoes a personality change. We were having a nice mystery, with hidden tombs and grave robbers and all the elements that made me love this series, when wham! the book turns into a spy story. Shit, I thought we'd left that behing after He Shall Thunder in the Sky, but apparently not. Don't get me wrong, I loved Thunder, but the abrupt change didn't feel right. It's as if Peters didn't know if she wanted the mystery or the spy story, so she decided to have both, one after the other.

And then, the final almost 100 pages were completely bereft of suspense. The spy plot is over, the villain in the tomb-robbing mystery is dead, and the Emersons just go about their business in their excavation (with very amusing distractions). I must guiltily confess that I actually loved reading this. The danger had finished, so all I had left to read was the resolution of the "archeological" part of the book, find the secret tomb, etc., simply because what has me coming back to this series again and again are the characters and their interactions, not their adventures in themselves. After all the excitement of the first parts, the slow pace was relaxing, even though I recognize it as a flaw in the book's pacing.

Still, I was expecting some kind of twist in the end, which is what Peters has me used to. I don't know, that so and so is actually Sethos in disguise, or that other character is in cahoots with the villain... something of the sort. Maybe the fact that there wasn't a twist constitutes a twist in itself, I don't know.

The paperback of the next book, Children of the Storm won't be coming out until next April, so I probably won't be able to get it until a few months later. I'm considering starting a reread of the whole series...


>> Friday, October 10, 2003

Question from FridayFive this week.

1. Do you watch sports? If so, which ones?

Football (the kind called soccer in the US). That's practically all I use my TV for, that and the news. My favourite league is the English Premier League (no games this weekend, boo-hoo!), and I follow that obsessively. Also, of course, the Uruguayan league, though watching it after watching some games from the EPL makes me depressed... it looks like we play a different game!! I also like the Italian league, and the Spanish, and the Argentinian, everything. And then there are the regional competitions, like the Libertadores, the Copa Sudamericana, the Champions League... And the best is the World Cup. I spent a month waking up at 3.00 AM every day last year, because I refused to miss even one game.

The best is actually going to the games. The Centenario, where my team plays (also known as the stadium where the first World Cup final was played), is about 10 minutes from my house, so I go practically every weekend.

I do like some other sports. I like watching tennis and golf, and sometimes basketball.

2. What/who are your favorite sports teams and/or favorite athletes?

My football team is Nacional, one of the two big teams in Uruguay. It's a family tradition, from my mom's side of the family. My grandfather was club president once, and my grandma used to go to the stadium for every single game. The other day it was pouring and freezing cold, and Nacional was playing an away game at a stadium that's reputed to be pretty dangerous, so I stayed home and watched it on TV. My mom's comment: "You're not going to the Nacional game? Your grandma would have gone!". Grandma died when I was 3, I wish I'd been able to go to games with her.

My favourite athletes are all football players. The guy who was my absolute favourite disappointed me earlier this year with a very unprofessional attitude; I'd even named my cat O'Neill after him. I tried to change his name and called him something else, but I gave up the effort when the poor thing started looking confused.

Now I'd say I have 2 favourite footballers. One is Sebastian Abreu, who played for Nacional for free earlier this year just because he's a big fan of the team (he got us the Championship, too) and the other is a Camerounese guy who plays for Nacional, Angbwa Benoit. He's one of those guys who always makes a huge effort, plus, I saw an interview a couple of weeks ago where he talked very passionately about books, which is a very easy way to charm me!

3. Are there any sports you hate?

Ok, I don't know if you'd call them sports, but I really detest hunting and bullfighting.

And I wouldn't say I hate it, but I'm not too fond of boxing either.

4. Have you ever been to a sports event?

Oops, already answered above. Yes, the Centenario stadium is practically my home away from home.

5. Do/did you play any sports (in school or other)? How long did you play?

At school we had gymnastics and track and the "official" team sports were field hockey for girls and rugby for boys. I didn't like hockey very much. For starters, I sucked at it and I once had an accident where one of the other girls hit my eyebrow instead of the ball and I had such a deep cut that my bone showed, so I was always a bit frightened when on the field.

These days I don't really play any sports. I walk, and go to the gym, but that's it. I haven't played football since I broke my ankle at a practise session a couple of years ago.


Guilty Pleasures, by Cathy Yardley

>> Thursday, October 09, 2003

After the last couple of Blaze books that I've read, I was almost afraid to try Cathy Yardley's Guilty Pleasures.

Mari Salazar has to get her act together — otherwise her backstreet restaurant will quickly become a been-there, done-that kind of thing. She risked everything to create her place, Guilty Pleasures, and she's willing to risk everything all over again just to save it. She doesn't have a plan, but she does have...

Nick Avery is a supersexy chef looking for a second chance. His once-four-star reputation is now no-star, thanks to a longtime rival. When Nick shows up on Mari's doorstep she knows it means trouble, and not just for her restaurant, either! Soon she's not only sampling his delectable dishes, she's sampling the chef himself.

Together they cook up a sinful menu that garners many new patrons, but when opportunity knocks on Nick's door, with high-class offers, he must decide, as will Mari, what and who they truly desire...
This was better. A B-.

The main thing I liked about this book was the food angle, though I have to say that the type of cooking in JAK's books usually sounds more tempting to me than the one here ;-) Still, this was a fascinating glance into the world of high-class cooking, with its contests, its rules and its cutthroat rivalries.

The romance was a bit more ho-hum. I didn't get all that emotionally involved in it, even though I liked both characters. I must say I liked the ending, which dealt realistically with the issues of sacrificing one's ambitions for love.


Lord of Danger, by Anne Stuart

>> Wednesday, October 08, 2003

I'm glad that even though I intensely disliked the previous Anne Stuarts I've read (Blue Sage and Moonrise), I nevertheless decided to give her another chance and read Lord of Danger.

Half-sister to Richard the Fair, Alys has been schooled in the sheltered ways of the convent, far from the treachery and intrigue of castle life. Until she is taken from the cloister and brought to a place filled with secrets. Here she is to meet her future husband, a man some call monster. He is Simon of Navarre, a powerful and mysterious lord practiced in the black arts. This sensual stranger both terrifies and fascinates her...and sets her heart burning with an unfamiliar fire.

Jaded by war, no longer able to believe in human goodness, Simon has turned to the realm of darkness. But the master magician finds himself bewitched by the innocent Alys, who fears his very touch could damn her forever...yet even as Simon begins to work his seductive magic, Alys senses the wounded soul beneath the coolly elegant facade. Now, as the two became pawns in Richard's treacherous scheme to become England's king, only one power can save them: the unstoppable force of love.
Such a difference from those other two books! The little things that I'd liked about them, what made me think "this could have been good" were excellent here, and what had bothered me had been toned down. A B+.

I really liked that the focus of the book was mostly on the love story. The political intrigue set up the situation and provided the final conflict, but it didn't take over the story with tiresome manouvering.

The characters: just wonderful. Simon was a very dark, tortured hero. He was like James (from Moonrise) in that, only he had a sense of humor, a great deal of charm, a sense of honour and a troublesome conscience... in short, he was nothing like James ;-)

All jokes aside, he was a fascinating character, a guy who's cultivated his own legend to get power, who delights in scaring people and who likes to think that he has lost his soul and has no conscience, only to have it pop up and bother him at inconvenient times. James wouldn't have had a problem in giving Richard the poison he asked for in order to murder the 12-year-old king. Simon did. He tried to convince himself, listed all the reasons why he should do it anyway, but his conscience still bothered him. And that made all the difference in my liking him.

I loved the way he was completely fascinated by Alys, and how that fascination baffled him. As for Alys, I liked her too. She was a bit too much of a wide-eyed innocent at first, so ready to martyr herself and sacrifice. I just loved the way she accepted the fact that it wasn't going to be such an awful thing to be married to Simon, that the guy didn't so much scare her as excite her. I thought it was very courageous of her to see this, most romance heroines would simply cling to their idea that they were sacrificing to the bitter end.

The secondary storyline I liked. It was interesting, but much more romance-ey than the primary one. I liked that it contrasted nicely with it, giving the book some much needed air among the intensity.

Other good things were the colourful, almost jewel-like (I know this isn't a valid adjective, but it was the word that came to mind. You probably know what I mean) atmosphere and a villain who was interesting and actually human. Evil, yes, but not a caricature.


Green Fire, by Stephanie James (aka Jayne Ann Krentz)

>> Tuesday, October 07, 2003

I'm trying to make them last, but this weekend I succumbed to temptation and read Green Fire, byJayne Anne Krentz (written as Stephanie James).

Flint Cottrell had been driven all his life by a restlessness that didn't allow any peace. He chased legends and treasures, wrote about them, sold his stories to magazines when he could, did odd jobs when he couldn't. But the night Rani Garroway opened her door, he knew he'd found that elusive "something" he'd been searching for.

Rani stared at the handsome, thoroughly rain-soaked stranger, who looked like a battle-scarred alley cat demanding shelter. As his exotic green eyes locked with hers, she realized that he could set her safe, risk-free life on fire--green fire--and the flames were already licking at her heart.
A nice read, one with several elements from The Adventurer. It had several problems, but I'd still give it a B.

"...looked like a battle-scarred alley cat demanding shelter". I love that description. From that phrase alone on the back cover, I would have bought the book even if it hadn't been a JAK. It signaled that I was going to get something I always enjoy in a JAK book, a hero who really needs the heroine. And I did. Flint had a desperate sense that Rani was what he'd been looking for all his life, and that's simply something that touches a chord with me.

Unfortunately, about half-way through the dynamics of the situation were abruptly reversed. Rani was hesitant, until then, not really wanting to get involved, but suddenly she's madly in love and telling Flint that. And he, who'd been ready to make a permanent commitment, keeps quiet. It made absolutely no sense, and it was very obviously done only to generate some conflict.

The obligatory suspense subplot was completely extraneous, and I saw it coming a mile away, only because I knew the book had to have some gun-wielding villain. Since there just weren't all that many characters, it was also obvious who the villain had to be.

Still, I enjoyed this, in spite of the problems I found.


Whose Body?, by Dorothy L. Sayers

>> Monday, October 06, 2003

This weekend I read Whose Body?, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

The stark naked body was lying in the tub.Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder -- especially witha pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What's more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.
It was very good, a B.

From the info I've been able to gather, this one's the first Lord Peter Wimsey mystery. I'd read some of them in high school, from my school library, so earlier this year I decided to read the full list, in order.

Whose Body? had an interesting mystery, but one that wasn't particularly difficult to guess. There weren't all that many suspects, and it was even pretty obvious what had happened. Intrincate, yes; interesting, that too, but suspensful it wasn't.

What made this book good was the writing and the characters, especially Lord Peter. such a fascinating character! So fatuous on the outside, but all those little clues as to his past in the war. I'm looking forward to reading more about him.

This book was written in 1923, and many things felt terribly alien, most especially the way Jews were alluded to. I don't know if I'd describe it as anti-Semitism, exactly, since there wasn't any hostility expressed from the characters who were supposed to be sympathetic, and the one Jewish character was portrayed as a very nice man. What there was was a lot of mentions to the fact that someone was Jewish, or about how Jews were a certain way. Things that didn't necessarily express the author's opinion, but which didn't have any bearing on the plot either. I suppose they might be simply a faithful representation of how many people were at the time, but it still made me uncomfortable.


Sharp Edges, by Jayne Ann Krentz

>> Friday, October 03, 2003

Sharp Edges is the last of the Jayne Ann Krentz books I had that I hadn't reread.

Eugenia Swift is a young woman of singular sensibilities, and a connoisseur of beauty. As the director of the Leafbrook Glass Museum, she's been asked to travel to Frog Cove Island -- an artistic haven near Seattle -- to catalog an important collection of art glass. But thanks to unsavory rumors surrounding the collector's death, the museum insists that Eugenia take along Cyrus Chandler Colfax -- a rough-hewn private investigator whose taste in glass runs to ice-cold bottles filled with beers.

When Colfax declares they must pose as a couple, Eugenia protests in a manner as loud as his Hawaiian shirts. She fears that her secret mission will be discovered...while he hopes that she will be a mask for his own hidden agenda. But soon their very lives depend on making an utterely convincing couple. Because among the chic galleries of Frog Cove Island lurks a killer, and their only chance for survival is the boldest, most artful collaboration they can dare to imagine.
It was good, if a little bit lackluster. An excellent comfort read (like every JAK), yes, but not very exciting. A B.

Very nice characters (I especially loved how Cyrus delighted in how Eugenia liked was really strong and good at what she did), an otherwise interesting suspense subplot that occupied a little too much space, and a nice setting.

Liked best: the bantering. That's always one of the best parts of JAK's books.

Liked least: the villain. Too much of a moustache-twirling cliché.

And that's it, really. Not much more to say...


FridayFive questions for this week. They are not really all applicable, but here I go.

1. What vehicle do you drive?

I don't have a car. I can afford to buy one (maybe not a Ferrari, :-P but a serviceable one, yes), but I've chosen not to for a couple of reasons.

First, I don't like cars. I think they are dirty things.

Second, I find driving in the city stressful. I much prefer using buses. The Montevideo bus system isn't perfect, but it covers my most usual movements perfectly. When it doesn't, I just take a cab. I'm lucky, I know there are places where you have to have a car if you want to move around. When I decide where I'm going to live, what the public transportation network is like will probably have a big role in my choice.

Third, money. With gas, insurance, maintenance, parking, not to mention the little features people add (like CD players and loudspeaker) and car club fees, just having a car ends up costing lots of money.

And fourth, having a car is a responsiblility I don't want. You have to take care of it. You hear a little noise and have to take it to the garage. You have to keep track of oil changes and that kind of things. If you leave it parked downtown you have to worry about having paid for enough parking town, and in other areas you have to worry about vandalism or it getting stolen. I really don't need the trouble.

2. How long have you had it?

3. What is the coolest feature on your vehicle?

4. What is the most annoying thing about your vehicle?

5. If money were no object, what vehicle would you be driving right now?


Two to Tangle, by Leslie Kelly

>> Thursday, October 02, 2003

I tried a new-to-me author the other day, Leslie Kelly. Her book is Two to Tangle, a Harlequin Temptation.

She'd heard of brotherly love...

Window dresser Chloe Weston doesn't believe in lust at first sight-until she catches her boss, Troy Langtree, reveling half-naked in a rainstorm. So when she finds herself alone, on a secluded beach, with the object of her nightly fantasies, she decides to go for it. And wakes up to discover she's had the best sex of her life--with Troy's twin brother!

...But this was ridiculous!

Trent Langtree has a fledgling business, a nosy family...and a bad case of the hots for sassy Chloe Weston. The gorgeous brunette is smart, spirited and sexy as hell. She's everything he's ever wanted in a woman...except she thinks he's his brother, Troy. But Trent has plans to convince Chloe that he's her man. After all, in the battle between the sheets, this brother always comes out on top!
I enjoyed it, it had nice things and nothing that irritated me, but also nothing all that special. Still, it was a satisfying short read: B is my grade.

The book had an interesting setup. Yes, it was probably an "only in a romance novel" kind of thing, but I liked it because while it depended on coincidence, it didn't depend on the characters acting like idiots or reasoning like no sensible person would. They reacted plausibly, and that is something that will make or break a book for me.

There were a couple of contrived, less believable details, like Trent's "signed contract" with his grandmother, but this was kept to a minimum and wasn't a major conflict in the story.

Both characters were likeable, and I enjoyed Trent's campaign to "win" Chloe. It helped that Chloe wasn't stupidly stubborn about it, she simply had a couple of doubts due to her family history and to the very rude shock she had received. She didn't hold what had happened against Trent, and was very reasonable about it. Refreshing. Oh, and plus, I liked them together, they were a nice fit.


New-to-me authors of 2003... so far

I posted at AAR about the authors I've discovered so far in 2003. Though most of them weren't by any means new or debut authors, I discovered a grand total of 42 new-to-me authors this year. The results varied. (Any of these you want to know more details about: go to my index of reads to find the link to that particual book)

Some hits:

Breathless, by Laura Lee Guhrke: a lovely setting, characters I liked and who grew during the book and yummy sexual tension.

Sensual Secrets, by Jo Leigh: Leigh is one of the few authors who writes 20something heroines who feel right.

The Shadowy Horses, by Susanna Kearsley: For some reason, this author's writing just hits the right spot with me. I love her characters, and the way her settings feel so real.

Midnight is a Lonely Place, by Barbara Erskine: This is not romance, it's more like supernatural horror. It was chilling and fascinating.

The Vagabond Knight, by Margaret Moore (short story in the The Brides of Christmas anthology): I loved the hero, a guy who hid the fact that his life was tough and he was unhappy behind a façade of good humour. The story wasn't perfect; basically, it was too short and felt rushed, but I liked what I read enough to go looking for Moore's backlist.

The Forbidden Lord, by Sabrina Jeffries: very much a typical Regency-set historical, but the author made everything feel fresh and exciting.

My Brother Michael, by Mary Stewart: A nice trip to the past.

Forbidden Garden, by Tracy Fobes: A B-movie set in the 19th century, with a nice romance included.

Shards of Honor, by Lois McMaster Bujold: My first sci-fi. The romance was good, too.

Final Exit, by Laurie Breton: Good, very solid book. The suspense subplot was especially well done.

Once a Dreamer, by Candice Hern: I just adored the hero, a real 19th century feminist.

Duchess in Love, by Eloisa James: Loved the authors writing style. I was more interested in one of the secondary romances than on the protagonists, but the book was a success for me.


Dangerous, by Debra Dier: TSTL heroine and a suspense subplot that didn't go well with the humorous tone of the rest of the book.

Not Abigail!, by Suzanne Forster (short story in the Hot Chocolate anthology): Horrible. Forced humour and a hero who didn't need a woman but a mommy who'd take care of him.

My One and Only, by MacKenzie Taylor: This one wasn't really that horrible, but it was terribly disappointing. It started pretty well, but the romance fell flat.

The Edge of Heaven, by Teresa Hill: I especially hated the second half of this one.

Sweethearts of the Twilight Lanes, by Luanne Jones: Veeery boring, and characters who felt like cartoon drawings.

Gabriel West: Still the One, by Fiona Brand: Very boring suspense subplot that completely overwhelmed the romance. Plus, it was obviously part of a series and there were people I was supposed to know but didn't popping up all over the place.

Take Me, by Cherry Adair: It's still early, but with Two Sexy! (more below), this one's in the running for the "Worst book I've read this year" award. I found it offensive and the characters disgusting.

Two Sexy!, by Stephanie Bond: Horrible. I'm tired of reading stuff that demonizes women who aren't some nurturing, motherly ideal. The hero here was a self-righteous prig, and the heroine was a TSTL martyr.


As You Desire, by Connie Brockway

>> Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Earlier this week I reread As You Desire, by Connie Brockway. I had first read it years and years ago, and I hadn't really enjoyed it much. However, lately I've "rediscovered" Brockway, so I decided to give it another chance.

He galloped across the midnight-shrouded landscape, racing toward her on his pure white steed. Her destiny...In her wildest fantasies Desdemona Carlisle could not have conjured a more dashing savior, and this was real. But an unlikelier hero was hard to find. Harry Braxton was a rogue, a scoundrel, and a born opportunist who had already broken her heart once. How could she ever trust a notorious rake who came with a warning: lover, beware...?

With her bronze-gold hair and quicksilver grace, the sloe-eyed beauty was every man's desire and one man's sole passion. But the secret that had made Harry an exile also made it impossible for him to offer Desdemona more that friendship. Until his aristocratic cousin laid siege to Desdemona's heart and Harry, damning the consequences, vowed to do anything, give anything, to claim her for him own...
It was lovely, an A-. Not my favourite Brockway, by any means, but still wonderful.

First of all, I really liked the setting. This is Amelia Peabody's Egypt, perfectly recognizable, and it was nice to see another perspective of the early days of Egyptology.

I found Harry captivating. A charmer, all fun and good humour, but with hidden depths. I liked how there were almost no scenes from his POV for the first part of the book, so I formed a certain impression, and then when we got into his head I was surprised because he was much more than I imagined. I really don't know if I'd call him a tortured hero. I mean, he had had very big problems, but he refused to wallow in them and let them influence his present actions.

It was a bit hard to understand why not being able to read was treated as such a big deal, but this is from current, "enlightened" perspective. It was interesting to see how dyslexia was seen in a different light in the past.

Desdemona was also a character I enjoyed. She was in some ways a typical romance heroine, but in other ways she was very different. This was a woman who tried to convince herself that she wants certain romantic ideas, but who had too much common sense to allow herself to completely believe them. I liked that about her.

I also enjoyed the actual plot of the book, which was mostly character driven. There was one stock villain, but the rest of the antagonists for the protagonists were very real and well-drawn. Blake wasn't characterized as an eeeevil villain, just a guy with failings. As was Marta, the "other woman" interested in Harry (I'm very happy she got her happy ending, BTW, which might have been a little more developed).

All in all, a very positive experience.


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