alternate history

Irenicon: Part Renaissance Fantasy, Part Allegorical Fantasy, All Interesting

46031_Irenicon_MMP.inddIrenicon by Aidan Harte
(The Wave Trilogy #1)
Published by Jo Fletcher Books, March 29, 2014 (Historical Fantasy)*

My rating: Beach vacation

Irenicon has so many different elements. Alternate history of the European Renaissance variety, steampunk fantasy, understated romance, superhero battles, magical water creatures. It also has elements of religious allegory.

This book tells the story of Captain Giovanni, architect to the Concordian empire, and Sofia, heir to the city of Rasenna. Their lives intertwine when Giovanni is sent to build a bridge over the wily Irenicon river in Rasenna, a city dominated by two gangs. Decades ago, the Irenicon was flooded by a mechanical device built by Concord, to depress the wealth and power of its rival. Lives, homes, and people were destroyed, and since then, two groups of tower-jumping gangs have ruled the north and south sides of the city. Sofia is approaching her 17th birthday, and the day she officially becomes Countess of Rasenna. Her position and birth  make her a powerful pawn in the struggle between the gangs, but she has plans of her own. Giovanni, disgraced architect of Concord, meets her when he arrives to build the bridge over the Irenicon. Though it is a symbol and tool of Concord’s dominion over Rasenna, and will be used by an invading army to pass through the city, Giovanni gives it a different significance – one of unity. As the bridge is built, politics in the city shift, power moving swiftly between the north and south sides. Outside Rasenna, Concord makes plans of its own, which are revealed as the plot advances. (more…)

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Girl Genius – a rolicking fun ride and a must-read!

girl geniusGirl Genius Omnibus Volume One: Agatha Awakens by Phil and Kaja Foglio
Tor Books, 2012 (Graphic Novel / Steampunk / Fantasy / Adventure)

My rating: Outstanding Adventure!

This marks my first graphic novel review (on this blog, but also, ever). I occasionally read graphic novels, and it depends on the artwork, but I generally enjoy them. This one caught my eye because, hello! “Girl” in the title, a woman wearing glasses and holding a wrench on the cover… Graphic novels are so rarely written and designed for, and marketed to women. Not to mention, it’s won an award from School Library Journal and multiple Hugo awards!

Billed as a “steampunk fantasy adventure,” it is all of those things.The story is set during an Industrial Revolution that has driven Europe to war. Scientists (magicians?) gifted with “the Spark” are coveted, trapped, employed, and used to develop weapons. Previously, a ruling family, by the name of Heterodyne, kept the peace – but they are all dead or fled.

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A Study in Ashes Concludes the Baskerville Affair Trilogy

A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway
Del Rey – December 31st, 2013 (Steampunk)*

My rating: A vacation by a beach I’d go to again (star equivalent: 3.5)

A Study in Ashes brings the events in The Baskerville Affair series to a strong finish. I reviewed the first in the series, and Jaclyn and I dueled over the second, and I’m back again to tell you that A Study in Ashes does not disappoint. WARNING: If you have not read the first two books, the next two paragraphs will SPOIL things for you!  Read on after the cover image if you’ve already read them.

a study in ashes (more…)

Magic and Mayhem in Disenchanted & Co. Part 2, ‘His Lordship Possessed’

hislordshippossessedHis Lordship Possessed by Lynn Viehl
Pocket Star, October 14th, 2013 (Urban fantasy / Alternate history)

My rating: Vacation at a beach I’d go to again (equal to 3.5 stars)

This part of the Disenchanted & Co. series begins right where the first installment leaves off. The author wastes no time getting right to the action, thankfully. Charm (the heroine) is held captive by Dredmore (the villanous-seeming hero). She calls her ghost grandfather Houdini to help her escape by possessing one of her guards. She escapes, and begins again her quest to sort out the mystery of the magical conspiracy introduced in Her Ladyship’s Curse.

Charm has a very wry, witty way of looking at the world that I love. She’s still plucky, capable of protecting herself, and determined to be independent. Her wit and wry humor come through especially well in a scene where she gets dressed in a whore’s costume at her friend’s brothel.

The plot has a lot going on. And I do mean a lot. Dredmore and Charm’s grandfather Harry are keeping something big from Charm, something crucial to the plot resolution. Dredmore gets into trouble; it’s revealed that the conspiracy involves an ancient magical race and an ancient war; the mystery of Her Ladyship’s Curse is discovered to be especially complicated; Charm treks through the sewers underneath the city Rumsen; there’s betrayal; the relationship between Charm and Dredmore develops in a very decided (and exciting) way; she discovers a secret about her pendant; and there’s even more I don’t want to give away.

All this action makes for a roller-coaster ride of a short novel. At times I felt there was almost too much going on, and that it all happened in a fortnight was kind of unconvincing. At times I found it difficult to figure out what was going on, since it had been so long since I read the first installment. In fact, I would have enjoyed these two books much more had they been kept in a single volume. On the other hand, all that action, the romance, and the myriad sub-plots made this a very absorbing page-turner.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I would recommend the series for fans of steampunk and urban fantasy. Fans of Lynn Viehl will enjoy it, and fans of S.L. Viehl may also enjoy it, although it is quite different from her space opera/science fiction series Stardoc.

Read-alikes

If you liked the determined, independent Charm with her unusual and mysterious nature, who solves mysteries and stops conspiracies, you might also like this novel about a young soulless (and therefore unique) woman in London who solves a supernatural conspriacy:
Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)

If you really enjoyed the romance in His Lordship Possessed, you will probably also enjoy this sexy story about a bionic Duke and a Detective Inspector in an alternate 19th century England:
The Iron Duke (Iron Seas #1)

For another book that combines a magical alternate world with a story about an antagonistic but attracted hero and heroine, try this series about a magical young woman who is forced to work with an aristocratic Fae to save the Edge:
On the Edge (The Edge #1)

If you want to read about more independent, sharp-witted heroines who solve others’ magical problems, and an urban fantasy that is set in an alternate North America, check out:
Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1)

I find myself short of recommendations of similar stories that take place in an alternate, historical North America. Do you have any? I’d love to hear about them!

Duel Review: ‘A Study in Darkness’

17264584A Study in Darkness (Book 2) by Emma Jane Holloway
Del Rey, October 29, 2013 (Steampunk, Historical, Mystery, Romance)*
Series: The Baskerville Affair

And in this post we have… wait for it… a difference of opinion! Lovely readers, Jaclyn and I have disagreed about how much we like this book. In the following, we proceed to express our opinions. Do you have one? Do you strongly agree or disagree with one (or both) of us? Let us know in the comments!

This is the second novel in a steampunk/gaslamp series that takes place in an alternate Victorian London.

 

Stacey’s Review

Rating: Outstanding Adventure

loved this book. It was full of action, suspense, adventure, intrigue, danger, and romance.

When we left the characters at the end of A Study in Silks , Evelina had saved the day, with her childhood sweetheart’s help (that’s Nick), and had solved the mystery of Athena’s Casket with a little help from her Uncle Holmes (yes, as in Sherlock). The villain was vanquished, but society remained unchanged and all power still resided with the Steam Barons’ Council.

This second installment opens with Nick, now captain of his own pirate airship, ally to a colony of ash rooks, and partner with an air spirit named Athena, as he attacks the airship of the Blue King, one of the worst and most powerful Steam Barons. Next, Evelina still tries to hide her magical abilities but runs afoul of the Gold King; while in the background Uncle Mycroft, Holmes’ brother, is heavily involved in a resistance/revolution movement against the Steam Barons and the status quo.

The plot weaves between Nick, Evelina, Holmes, and Imogen, Evelina’s best friend. Holmes is devious and caring; Nick almost reckless and devoted, Evelina tempted but steadfast, and Imogen delicate but determined. Imogen’s story begins with a horrific dream-vision; Evelina’s with an indiscretion that puts her in the power of the Gold King, and Holmes’ with a bomb in his drawing room. Holloway wastes no time continuing the story, an improvement on the first book in the series.

The novel is very complex, with lots of layers. Transitions between narrators are smoother than they were in the previous book, and villainous narrators are kept to a smaller percentage of the work. I kept turning the pages of this one, as the pacing for me felt very fast – lots of action, all packed into just enough wordage. The plot twists and turns were fun to follow, and although not unexpected, were occasionally creepy and often suspenseful.

I liked that there’s a kind of blur between “good” and “evil” characters in this novel. Evelina finds herself intrigued by the mysterious and manipulative villain; the Gold King is moved to help Evelina and Holmes, although his motives are self-interested. In fact, the characters in this novel are motivated by combinations of convincing, and familiar, emotions: self-interest, greed, love, and principles. No character is one-dimensional. Evelina’s temptation adds uncertainty to the plot and depth to her character. Will it ruin her chances for a happy life? Or will she be able to resist future temptations?

Overall, I loved the combination of the highly complex plot and the fast pace, mystery, romance, and excitement. The humor got me as well – lots of very funny, witty turns of phrase. And the ending! What a cliff-hanger. I felt heartbroken and hopeful at the end. I immediately had to request the third book in the series to find out what happens to Evelina, Nick, and Imogen.

Jaclyn’s Review

Rating: Beach Vacation

I did not enjoy this book nearly as much as Stacey. I didn’t hate it by any means, but I certainly didn’t have the same reading experiences as Stacey. Where Stacey found A Study in Darkness fast-paced, I had a hard time getting through some parts.

A Study in Darkness picks up pretty much from where A Study in Silks left off. Evelina’s still caught up in her feelings for Tobias despite the fact that he gave her up and is marrying another woman. Evelina’s childhood sweetheart, Nick, is off pursuing a career as a pirate and gets himself mixed up in a rebel movement. It’s not long before Evelina also finds herself involved in a intrigue plot that she would rather not be part of. Like the first book, I found A Study in Darkness very slow to get started. I felt that the changing points of view were very distracting and I often found myself thrown off balance when we shift to a different character just as things were getting good. This is not my preference of writing style and probably had a lot to do with my overall enjoyment of the book.

I find it very hard to pin point what exactly made me feel that the pacing was slow, since there was a lot of stuff going on plot-wise. In a lot of ways, A Study in Darkness was an action-adventure novel, but it seems that for me, the action and adventure started to get monotonous. There was tons of intrigue with the rebel factions and backstabbing and what have you. Whatever the reason, it took me awhile to read the book, but I will say that the second half was much faster paced and I enjoyed it more than the first part, perhaps because we had more of a focus on the romance side of things.

While I was happy with the direction of the romance in the second half of the book, I have to admit that I still wasn’t in love with it (I think I read too many historical romances, *sigh*). First off, I loathe love triangles in fiction and a big one plays a part in this series between Evelina, Nick and Tobias. Thankfully, in A Study in Darkness, this triangle aspect was toned down and it’s clear whom Evelina has chosen (which made me happy). I also liked that in this one I finally have a better understanding of the depth of emotion between Evie and Nick. They both talk about how they feel, but in the first book, and for a good part of book 2, they are rarely in the same scenes. From a romance perspective, I found this extremely frustrating, so I liked the fact that this progressed a lot more in Study in Darkness.

Overall, while I enjoyed the same elements as Stacey (especially the moral ambiguity of Evelina), I found this a difficult book to get through. There was just some element that didn’t connect for me like it did for Stacey and instead made for a hard fought for finish. However, the cliffhanger ending will have me back for the conclusion. How can I not after that ending.

*Review copies provided by Edelweiss.

Read-Alikes:

Her Ladyship's Curse (Disenchanted & Co., Book 1, Part #1)Heart's Blood (Blood Magic, #2)Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1)Dead Iron (Age of Steam, #1)The Native Star (Veneficas Americana, #1)

Her Ladyship’s Curse: Another book that both of us disagreed on. Stacey loved and Jaclyn didn’t finish it. So if you liked A Study in Darkness as much as Stacey, Viehl’s steampunk mystery is probably right up your alley.

Heart’s Blood: Magic in a Victorian London, a similar world to that of A Study in Darkness. We also have a naive and innocence amateur detective that resembles Evie.

Phoenix Rising: A fabulous example of a steampunk mystery. Tons of gadgets, lots of action and two terrific characters. Added bonus, the hero is an archivist. Just let that sink in. Yup, it’s awesome!

Dead Iron: Steampunk set in the American West that also has a hint of magic. Not as similar to A Study in Darkness but has a familiar overarching big-bad that our hero, Cedar, and his compatriots have to battle against.

Native Star: Another steampunk set in the West, although in this case, I would say the hero is reminiscent of Tobias, so this one would be perfect for readers rooting for Tobias in A Study in Darkness.

Passing the test: A Study in Silks, a book review

studyinsilksA Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway*
Del Rey, September 24, 2013 (Steampunk / Urban Fantasy / Alternate History)
My rating: I’ll go there again!

In A Study in Silks, we follow Evelina Cooper, a young woman who grew up in a circus before Grandmother Holmes sent her to a school for young ladies, where she met her close friend, Imogene, and began to move in polite society. Her past is a thing kept secret; as is her magic. For Evelina is not only the daughter of circus performers, she is one of the Blood, people who have an innate ability to use magic. Her magic, her interest in deductive reasoning, and her fascination with clockwork come together in a unique ability to bring mechanics to life, which draws the attention of several unsavory characters.

Evelina’s story takes place in a different Victorian London, in which districts are divided by differently colored street lamps. Each neighborhood, or district, is owned by one of the Steam Barons, who control industries founded on steam technologies. In fact, the Steam Barons have achieved a stranglehold on English business, enterprise, and society, reducing the influence of the nobility to a fraction of its previous power. In this England, steam technology is king and sorcery forbidden.

Evelina’s secrets are in danger of being exposed when a murder is committed at the B____’s, where she is staying for Imogene’s first Season. Evelina becomes entangled in the mystery, trying to solve it with the occasional cryptic guidance from her Uncle Sherlock. On top of all the intrigue and murder investigations, she is drawn to two young men – her friend’s sister, the clever and handsome but indolent brother of her friend, or a circus performer from her past whose magic reacts with hers in unpredictable – and obvious – ways.

This novel started off a bit slowly, but by the fifth page I was fully engrossed in the unusual nocturnal activities of the heroine, and curious to learn more about her secrets and her past. The separate parts of the mystery are closely interwoven, and the plot moves along at a good pace throughout, with lots of thrilling moments and adventures and some scrapes. I loved the romantic subplot, although the wrap-up was unsatisfying, and I will definitely want to find out what happens next in the sequels. I also found myself intrigued by the rules of magic, and the differences between folk magic and sorcery. The folk magic brings in the (our) Victorian fascination with faeries. I can’t wait to see how Evelina’s magic fits in the universal scheme of things.

Characters are charming, flawed, complex, and dynamic. The mysterious Dr. Magnus is an excellently enigmatic, slightly creepy and manipulative villain. The history between Lord B____ and Dr. Magnus is especially intriguing. Holmes’ cameo is delightfully done, and his role at the end is one of my favorite things about this book.

The only drawback to this story was the number of extra narrators, among them the chief villains and the two young men and even Lord B____.

Overall, I really enjoyed this fantastical tale of a young woman navigating the treacherous society and politics of an alternate, magical Victorian London, and I will be reading the sequels.

*e-ARC provided by Edelweiss

Read-alikes:
A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1) Her Ladyship's Curse (Disenchanted & Co. Book 1, Part #1) Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn #1)

Fall Itinerary

17380041Now that September’s hit, I feel like my reading list is out of control. There’s so much that I want/have to read this fall, I can’t help but think it’s really too bad that librarians don’t get to read all day at work. So without further ado, here’s a list of my most anticipated reads for this fall. Some (if they’re as good as I hope they are) will be reviewed here in the coming weeks and months. In no particular order…

1. Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood (September 3, 2013)

I first discovered Atwood after having to reading The Handmaid’s Tale in high school and have loved her dystopian books ever since. I’ve been following the Maddaddam trilogy, and have been both entranced and disturbed by the vision of the future Atwood displays. I can’t wait for the conclusion.

2. Longbourn by Jo Baker (October 8, 2013)

Pride and Prejudice remix? Yes, please! I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Longbourn and the downstairs version of Pride and Prejudice. In some ways, I think it’s capitalizing on the Downton Abbey success and I can only hope that it lives up to the hype. Since I’ve got an advance reader copy, hopefully I will be proven right sooner rather than later.

3. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas (August 27, 2013)

I loved Maas’ Throne of Glass and have been anxiously awaiting this one forever. I’m currently reading it. I love it, but I also hate it, since I know it’s NOT going to end well and then I will have another year to wait to find out what happens next. It’s moments like these when you wish you hadn’t discovered a series until after all the books were published.

4. The Sum of All Kisses by Julia Quinn (October 29, 2013) 15702268

I love Julia Quinn. Her historical romances are cute and quirky, and I especially loved her latest featuring a mathematical genius with a limp. I can promise that this one doesn’t disappoint, since I’ve already read my review copy. I’ll be posting my review closer to the publication date.

5. A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway (October 29, 2013)

Steampunk is a genre close to my heart. I love the combination of a historical locale and the impossible. Holloway’s Victorian London, combines magic, steam barons, mystery and a dash of romance, all centred around her intrepid heroine, Evelina Cooper, Sherlock Holmes’ niece. I’ve just started reading it; so far, so good!

6. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean (November 26, 2013)

MacLean’s another one of my favourite historical romance writers. She gives up great plots, great characters and fantastic romance. This will be third book in the Scoundrels series and I can’t wait for Temple’s story.

7. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (September 24, 2013)

The Shining is a book that I discovered in university when I had to read it for a class about hauntings. It was terrifying and amazing at the same time. I can’t promise that I’ll read this one right away, but it will be interesting to see what King does with Danny’s character after the events of The Shining.

171655938. Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber (September 3, 2013)

I’m not generally a huge mystery fan, but there’s something about a historical mystery that just draws me in. The second book in Huber’s Lady Darby series promises to be fantastic, now if only my library’s copy would arrive!

9. Allegiant by Veronica Roth (October 22, 2013)

Who isn’t looking forward to this one? Unfortunately, I’m near the bottom of the holds list at my library, so I probably wont be reading this one until the winter, but I’m still excited about it, especially since I keep seeing pictures of the upcoming film adaptation of Divergent.

10. Inhuman by Kat Falls (September 24, 2013)

Another teen dystopian. I don’t know too much about it, but it looks good. Plus, I have an advance copy, so how can I not be excited about that?

There will, of course, be other books that I’ll want to add to my “to-read” list for the fall – so it’s pretty clear that I need to retreat to my reading cave and blind myself with reading.

A Thousand Perfect Things is almost perfect: a book review

thousandperfectthingsA Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon
Publisher: Premier Digital Publishing
Date: August 27 2013
Genre: Fantasy
My rating: Vacation by the beach
e-Arc provided by NetGalley

In an alternate world where a familiar nineteenth-century England (Anglica) builds a sea-spanning Bridge that makes crossing the kraken-filled waters to a recognizable India (Bharata) safer and more expedient, young Astoria (called Tori) is determined to find the Golden Lotus, a mythical flower in Nanpura, a province of Bharata. She is club-footed and scholarly, having spent her time with her grandfather, a student of the natural world. Nanpura is the home of Mahindra, a Bharatan sorcerer who is also determined to find the Golden Lotus – for his own purposes. He harbors hatred for the Anglicans, who have conquered his homeland and imposed their own culture over his. He orchestrates Tori’s arrival and subsequent search by arranging for her father to be posted in Nanpura, and to take his family with him. Unknown to Tori and Mahindra, the Anglican government also plans to use Tori to find the mythical flower – in order to further subjugate the Bharatans. And the plot thickens.

Tori, young Captain Muir-Smith, the younger prince of Nanpura, Mahindra, an old gardener who knew Tori’s grandfather, and an officer with the intelligence services, all play a role in the story and narrate the plot at different times. Bharata is almost a secondary character, with lavish descriptions of the jungle, of its people, its spirits, and its society.

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Book Review: Enchanted by “Disenchanted & Co., Part 1: Her Ladyship’s Curse”

ladyship'scurse Her Ladyship’s Curse by Lynn Viehl
Publisher: Pocket Star
Date: August 12th, 2013
Genre: Steampunk Romance / Alternate History
Series: Disenchanted & Co.
Sequel: His Lordship Possessed
My rating: I’d go there again!
e-ARC provided by NetGalley

Her Ladyship’s Curse begins the story of Charmian (Kit), a young woman living in an alternate United States that lost the Revolutionary War to Great Britain. Magic, ghosts, curses, and steampunk technology coexist … except Kit doesn’t believe in magic. She has spent the last few years in the city of Rumsen working as a private investigator, resolving clients’ problems by finding mundane motives and causes of curses, disappearing and reappearing boxes, and other magical occurrences. This time, Lady Diana Walsh has asked her to dispell a curse that carves hateful words into the lady’s flesh while she sleeps. In the course of the investigation, she runs into her longtime nemesis, a deathmage named Lucien Dredmore, who is determined to have Kit. She receives help from an old family friend, now the Chief Detective Inspector of the police, Thomas Doyle.

In a world where wives are considered their husbands’ chattel, and women have no rights outside of working for a living, Kit skirts the attempts of men to control, guide, and own her, fiercely holding to her own independence while solving the mystery of the curse and unraveling a political and magical conspiracy that lies at the heart of the mystery. Fearless, determined, and witty, she is a strong and delightful heroine.

The world-building was a bit fragmented and confusing, although Viehl did avoid info-dumping. A close reading is essential for understanding Kit’s world. I remain confused about a few historical and geographical points, and a map of the alternate world would have been appreciated. Why are the Hungarians the Enemy? That is never explained in this first part, yet it seems to play such a key role in Kit’s personal history. Kit’s discovery of her own past leads in one direction at first, but abruptly changes, without any real explanation. This was the main problem I had with this almost novella-length first installment. There was a lot to explain in terms of world-building and context, and yet the novel was so full of action and drama (not a complaint!) that not enough lines were devoted to clearing up some of the mystery of Toriana and the world. On the other hand, it is very easy to grasp the history and organization of Rumsen, where the action takes place.

The romance is predictable, but still enjoyable – Viehl is a master at writing the interactions and relationships that develop between an antagonistic heroine and an enigmatic “enemy.” In this book, Kit believes Dredmore is a charlatan like all other mages, and that he is essentially evil. She fights his interest in her (and hers in him) because she believes him to be interested only in possessing her. And he is, but things are not as simple as that. At one point, when both Dredmore and Kit dine with the Walshes, different foods are served according to the gender of the diners. Kit silently objects, and ultimately Dredmore slips her some of his food and exchanges it for some of hers. At the end of the novel, these two still have issues to resolve, but the reader is left with the hope that they will (and with the anticipation of future battles of wills).

The ending is frustrating, because I can’t immediately pick up the second volume – it might as well be under the definition of “cliffhanger” in the dictionary. Clearly the “Part 1” in the title is to be taken literally. If you don’t like waiting for the sequel, I would encourage you to wait to read this until you can read all three parts together.

Viehl is one of my favorite science fiction authors, and I was delighted with this foray into the arena of steampunk and alternate history. I feel it would have come together better and been more cohesive if it had been a full-length novel, instead of one part of a divided novel. Action-packed, witty, with great main and supporting characters and an intriguing alternate world, it will be a great addition to fantasy, steampunk, alternate history, and paranormal romance collections. I cannot wait to read the next installment.

Also by Lynn Viehl:

If Angels Burn (Darkyn #1)   Stardoc (Stardoc #1)   Bio Rescue (Bio Rescue #1)   Shadowlight (Kyndred #1)

Book Review: The Garden Intrigue

thegardenintrigue

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig
Publisher: Dutton Adult
Date: February 2012
Genre: Historical Romance / Mystery
Series: The League of the Pink Carnation (Book #9)
Rating: I’d go there again!

Lauren Willig’s The Garden Intrigue is the ninth book in the League of the Pink Carnation series. I recently came back to this series after getting stalled on book six, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily.  In the end I decided to skip The Betrayal of the Blood Lily as the plot did not appeal to me at all and move on in this fun, historical series.

In The Garden of Intrigue we once again return to the dual narratives of Eloise, the modern day scholar, and the subjects of her thesis, the spies that make up the League of the elusive Pink Carnation. In this volume we head over to France and visit Napoleon’s court. In this court serves poet, Augustus Whittlesby. Augustus is a horrendous and cliched poet, complete with billowy sleeves and too tight pants. His most vocal critic is the young widow, Emma Morris Delagardie, who married a Frenchman and was cut off from her family. Emma’s husband died four years previous and she’s now feeling a lit lost at sea; but it certainly doesn’t stop her from poking fun at Augustus. Unbeknownst to Emma, Augustus is more than a billowy shirt, he’s actually a British spy working with Jane, the Pink Carnation.

When Augustus catches wind of a mysterious device in Napoleon’s hands, he knows that he must get access to house party where the new technology will be reportedly tested. Emma, as a close friend to the Bonaparte family, has been asked to write a short play for the house party and Augustus takes advantage of that to secure his own invitation. What Augustus does not count on is learning that Emma is more than the facade she presents to the wider world.

In addition to this historical intrigue, we also have the continuation of Eloise Kelly and Colin Selwick’s romance. In this installment a film crew has invaded Selwick Hall and Eloise has to face the fact that her fellowship has run its course and she has to go back to the States. Once again, I wish readers were given a longer look at the Eloise and Colin relationship drama – Eloise is a great character and I would love to hear more from her point of view. I would love it if Willig devoted an entire novel to Eloise and Colin, but alas I have no control over that.

Overall, I really enjoyed returning to this series, and while I may feel a touch guilty for skipping a book, I’m glad that I could move on without feeling like I was missing an integral part of the series as a whole.

One thing I have to mention with this series is the romance aspect. Initially, I loved that Willig was incorporating more of a historical romance in a more in-depth novel; however, I have noticed that with each subsequent book the romance has gotten lighter and lighter and if I were to complain about anything, that would be it. I loved that the earlier books in the series were heavier on the romance side of things and I didn’t really see why this had to change; that said, I think this series would then appeal to readers outside of the historical romance genre.

At any rate, I’m happy to have caught up on the series since the next installment comes out in August 2013 – we get the ferocious Miss Gwen’s story next!

Read-Alikes:

And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily, #1) Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia, #1) Slightly Shady (Lake/March, #1) Her Royal Spyness (Her Royal Spyness Mysteries #1