roaring twenties

Two eras collide in “An American Duchess”

20579284An American Duchess by Sharon Page
Harlequin HQN, September 30, 2014 (Historical Romance)*

My rating: Beach vacation, with a fancy drink (3.5/5)

I’ve been fairly taken with World War I novels for the past while, thanks to an introduction to the post-war years via Simone St. James. With this year’s centenary, it’s been remarkably easy to get your hands on anything WWI related. I’ve been particularly drawn to the aftermath of the war and the inevitable coping strategies that the survivors use to help themselves deal with the changed world around them. Because of this interest I was especially interested in reading An American Duchess as it takes place shortly after the end of the war in 1922, at a country estate no less. Downton Abbey anyone?

Zoe Gifford is an American heiress who has arrived in England to marry Sebastian, the second son of a duke, in order to gain access to her trust fund. Zoe’s fiance has died, so she’s not interested in love and plans to divorce Sebastian not long after the wedding. She simply needs access to her funds, and this is her only option. Sebastian has his own reasons for a marriage of convenience, but when Sebastian’s elder brother, Nigel, disapproves Zoe starts to rethink her plan. Not because she’s offended that the stuffy duke doesn’t think too much of her or her mercenary plan. No, it seems that Zoe starts to develop feelings for the duke once she starts to learn there’s more to his rigid behaviour. (more…)

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‘Grim Shadows’ in San Franscisco

18045490Grim Shadows by Jenn Bennett (Roaring Twenties #2)
Berkley Sensation, June 3, 2014 (Paranormal Romance)

My Rating: Beach vacation (2.5/5)

I feel like I am missing something with Jenn Bennett’s prohibition era series. Everyone seems to love it, but for me, I could take it or leave it. The series has an interesting concept, but as with the previous book, I’m left feeling ambivalent.

Grim Shadows features the younger brother of the hero from book one. Lowe Magnusson is an archaeologist who’s determined to make a name for himself outside of his brother, Winter’s, bootlegging operation. It’s not because he’s opposed to the criminal way of life, Lowe’s a con artist himself; what he wants is independence. How selling forgeries of ancient antiquities accomplishes that goal, I’m not sure, but to each his own.

Lowe meets curator, Hadley Bacall, after he acquires an ancient artifact that her father wants. Lowe’s willing to make a deal, but of course he’s also planning on swindling the Bacall’s at the same time. What he doesn’t count of is the true power of the artifact or his own reaction to the seemingly cool curator. How can he give Hadley a forgery when he’s falling in love with her? (more…)

Winter Itinerary

December is finally here, and as someone who’s not all that found of snow and cold weather, I’m very excited to stay in and curl up with some upcoming books that I’m looking forward to. And by looking forward to, I mean counting down the days to release dates. So without further ado, here’s my reading plans for this winter.

15787204Shadowdance by Kristen Callihan (Darkest London, #4)
Release Date: December 17th, 2013

I have been rabidly excited for this one since I learned that it would be Jack Talent and Mary Chase’s story. I will be running to Chapters before work on the 17th so I can get my copy and start it on my dinner hour, that’s how excited I am. Shadowdance is my most anticipated read of the winter and thankfully, it’s release date is around the corner. I hope it lives up to my expectations.

 

 

Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett (The Roaring Twenties #1)
Release Date: January 7, 2014

Love the concept for this one. Roaring twenties urban fantasy count me in! I’m really hoping that this series is going to be great, it sounds like a great blend of fantasy and romance, which is what I like! At this point, I haven’t heard any negative or positive reviews, so I’m anticipating it based on the premise alone.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare (Castles Ever After #1)
Release Date: January 28th, 2014

I am a huge fan of Tessa Dare’s historical romances – they are quirky and fun and I can’t get enough of them. I was a little disappointed that this one wasn’t part of the Spindle Cove series, but Romancing the Duke looks to be in a similar vein and I’m looking forward to another quirky and funny courtship.

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab (The Archived #2)
Release Date: January 28th, 2014

I had read the first book in this YA series, and loved the lyrical style of writing and the awesome concept of an archive of the dead. The sequel kind of fell off my radar until I read a teaser with the first 8 chapters on the book. And now, I do not understand how I am supposed to wait until January to catch up with Mac and Guyliner.

Cress by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles #3)
Release Date: February 4th, 2014.

The first installment of Meyer’s sci-fi series was a little lack luster for me, but the second book, Scarlet, made me a huge fan of the series. I love how Meyer is playing around with these fairy tales in a sci-fi setting and can’t wait for the Rapunzel themed re-imagining.

Three by Kristen Simmons (Article 5 #3).
Release Date: February 11th, 2014

Three is the conclusion to Simmons dystopia series and I couldn’t be more excited. Both books one and two were amazing and I need something to fill my dystopia craving now that the Hunger Games and the Divergent trilogies have finished.

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop (The Others #2)
Release Date: March 4, 2014

Written in Red totally blew me away when I read it last year – it was such a different take on urban fantasy. I loved the world building and I’m super excited to learn more about this world and to see how Meg continues to interact with these monsters, because in this world, the werewolves and the vampires aren’t the romantic leads, they are scary creatures that eat the people that venture into their territory.

Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #3)
Release Date: March 25, 2014

This is an awesome steampunk mystery series. I love the concept of a secret organization and the heroic duo of Brooks and Braun are one of my favourite mystery teams. Brooks and Braun are great characters and their dynamic is finally starting to change and I can’t wait to see what they get up to when they head to America.

And that wraps up what I’m looking forward to this winter. Here’s hoping some of these end up under the Christmas tree!

What are you looking forward to reading in 2014?

Guest Review: ‘The Ashford Affair’

15701533The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig
St. Martin’s Press, April 9, 2013 (Historical Fiction)

This Friday’s post is courtesy of Koren, who is another librarian and a friend of ours from library school. She’s a history buff, so naturally her book review features a historical fiction novel. The Ashford Affair sounds like an intriguing read that will appeal to Downton Abbey fans, but does it live up to Willig’s Pink Carnation series?

This is a female-focused drama of family- and self-discovery filled with tragedy, betrayals, unrequited and requited love, and an exploration of the complicated relationships between women.

The Ashford Affair opens on a hot, dusty train ride through Kenya in 1926. Addie, a young woman feeling awkward and unfashionable, is on her way to see her cousin Bea whom she hasn’t seen in several years. As a child, Addie is orphaned and is sent to live with her aunt and uncle, the wealthy upper-class Gillecotes, at Ashford Park. Bea, the middle daughter of the Gillecotes, takes a shine to Addie and they become fast friends. As the story unfolds, we see that Addie plays a supporting role to Bea’s glittering socialite star. There has since been conflict in the family and so there has been little contact between its members. Apprehensive about meeting her cousin, Addie feels a mixture of love and resentment at the prospect of seeing her. When she finally arrives at the train station, sweat-stained and dusty, Bea is there to meet her looking fabulous. The presence of Bea’s husband makes Addie uncomfortable, nervous, and very curious – there has been some sort of relationship between Addie and her cousin’s husband but what kind of relationship it was isn’t clear at this point.

The scene jumps to New York in 1999, where the reader meets Clementine Evans, or Clemmie as she’s usually known, a workaholic lawyer at a large firm who’s recently split up with her fiance, on her way to her grandmother Addie’s birthday party. Flustered, dishevelled, and late, Clemmie arrives at Addie’s apartment and has to deal with the disapproval of her mother and her catty remarks about Clemmie’s aunt, Anna. Here she is reunited with Jon, a sort of ex-step-cousin, from one of Anna’s previous relationships, with whom Clemmie has a past (there are continuous ominous references to a past encounter in Rome). At this party, Clemmie overhears a reference to a family secret and so begins to investigate her grandmother’s past while struggling to keep up with her hectic job. Clemmie, like Addie, has a troubled family life – her parents had divorced when she was a child. Despite her position as a lawyer in a New York firm, I felt like Clemmie was irrational at times.

Through the book, we jump back and forth through time between the stories of Addie and Clemmie. Their stories and experiences run parallel, on their journeys to understand themselves and their families. At first, I found the switches between Addie and Clemmie to be clunky and distracting. However, these transitions became smoother closer to the book’s climax. I usually enjoy books that have a multiple story and multiple time format stories, but I had trouble with the way Willig did these jumps. I found that the reader would often be left on a cliffhanger but when the story returned to that time, the action had already happened and the reader is left with the aftermath.

I feel like the story is rushed and Willig has gotten so caught up juggling the multiple story strands that I didn’t have time to connect with any of the characters. This “juggling” affected my feelings towards the characters, especially Addie. I never felt like I really got to know her and that I was always catching up on important developments in her life. Willig’s characters had great potential and I wish that she spent more time exploring the emotions of her characters. How did Addie feel about Bea’s actions? Bea was Addie’s partner in crime and for much of her life, her only friend. There are several significant moments in Addie’s life which we only hear about after the fact.

Since the title is named for the Gillecotes’ house where Bea and Addie grew up, I expected more time to be spent at Ashford, with more exploration of family life at Ashford. After reading the book jacket, I expected much of the story to take place in Kenya. However, again because of the way Willig crafted the book, most of what we hear about Kenya has already happened.

Overall, The Ashford Affair was enjoyable. There were many twists – some expected, some unexpected. This was my not my first Lauren Willig book, but I didn’t realize this was the author of the Pink Carnation series until after I had finished the book. The Ashford Affair is quite different from Willig’s Pink Carnation series and definitely has a more serious tone. Fans of Kate Morton will enjoy this book.