Mastered by Love (The Bastion Club, final volume), by Stephanie Laurens

Stephanie Laurens lives in a completely different hemisphere from me, and hits best-seller lists with pretty much every book she produces. She has written, oh, approximately 40 volumes of historical romance, including the sprawling Bar Cynster series, which has expanded to include in-laws, friends, and people who are almost entirely unrelated to the original six Cynster cousins. She started a side series, based on an old novel called Captain Jack’s Woman, regarding seven or so gentlemen, all friends, who have come back from the Napoleonic Wars and realized that, well, they need wives. Neatly sidestepping any possibility of PTSD, each of these gentlemen has either recently come into a large fortune, a title, or both (generally both), and would be a major catch on the Marriage Mart, if they weren’t almost entirely certain to avoid it. This is the last book in the Bastion series, and kind of a bonus story: the boss of the other gentlemen, the mysterious Dalziel.

I’m cutting plot discussion, just in case Dalziel’s identity isn’t known to those reading this review. Continue reading Mastered by Love (The Bastion Club, final volume), by Stephanie Laurens

The Rake and England’s Perfect Hero, by Suzanne Enoch

Suzanne Enoch loves Star Wars to a rather unreasonable degree, which I very much appreciate. She writes primarily historical, Regency-era romance novels, with a second contemporary series floating around. I discovered her from an anthology of stories related to Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, called Lady Whistledown Strikes Back. These are two books that bookend the “Lessons in Love” trilogy, but they form an interesting pair, being that the heroes are a pair of brothers, and what happens in the second volume isn’t necessary to know to read the third. They even come after a related volume whose title I’ve forgotten, but I’ll Google it when I’m not in Torts class. (Ahh. A Matter of Scandal.)

At the ends of their wits, one day three young women become frustrated with the general quality of the young, eligible men in the ton, and determine to teach three of them — one each — lessons. In The Rake, the first volume, Lady Georgianna Halley decides to instruct Tristan Carroway, Viscount Dare, with whom she has had an adversarial relationship for the last eight years. Of course, their adversarial relationship is masking the fact that there’s a deep attraction there. A year or so later, Lucinda Barrett, the last of the three friends, realizing that the other two ended up marrying the objects of their lessons (oh, come on, not a spoiler), chooses Lord Geoffrey Newcombe. Lord Geoffrey, aside from being handsome, is safe and her father, General Barrett, likes him. Unfortunately, Robert Carroway, Tristan’s younger brother, has sort of gotten in the way . . . Continue reading The Rake and England’s Perfect Hero, by Suzanne Enoch

Brighter than the Sun, by Julia Quinn

This is one of Ms. Quinn’s earlier works; it was published quite a long time before Mr. Cavendish, I Presume? and The Lost Duke of Wyndham I reviewed a few weeks ago. It’s actually a sequel to Everything and the Moon, featuring a Miss Victoria Lyndon and the Earl of Macclesfield. Ms. Quinn is an Ivy League graduate; her husband seems to find her career as a best-selling romance novelist both cool and highly amusing, evidenced by his random suggestions for titles. Her main series of books was the eight-volume Bridgerton series; I strongly suspect I can not only name the titles for each volume but the main Bridgerton involved, but I don’t think I’ll try.*

This is, as the introductory note says, Julia Quinn’s marriage-of-convenience story. Two weeks before his time runs out, Charles, Earl of Billingsley, falls out of a tree onto Miss Ellie Lyndon, the sister of Miss Victoria Lyndon and a vicar’s daughter. Due to some vague attraction and the determination that she might not be so bad to be married to, he explains the situation — if he doesn’t marry in the next two weeks, he loses all of the monetary portion of his inheritance. Ellie understands this, being that she’s in her own monetary difficulties — she’s been investing her pocket money and cannot get to it. (Also, there’s an Evil Stepmother involved.) So they have a go of it. Will it work? Continue reading Brighter than the Sun, by Julia Quinn

Delicious, by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas is a relatively recent entrant into the world of historical romance; her first published novel, Private Arrangements, I reviewed a mere year and a half ago, here. She’s a current resident of Texas, but she moved to the US from China at the age of thirteen and apparently had a taste for historical romance even then. This work is her second novel; she’s since published a third, entitled Not Quite a Husband. A fourth, called His at Night, is to be released next May. I believe that the secondary lead in Delicious and the lead in Not Quite a Husband are brothers, but it doesn’t seem to be necessary to read one before the other.

Verity Durand is the most famous — and infamous — chef in England. Famous, because her food makes angels weep and grown men slaver; infamous because, well, she had an affair with her last employer, Bertie Somerset. Of course, Mr. Somerset has since died and his younger half-brother, Stuart, has inherited the entire place, including Verity’s services — as a chef, of course. Stuart Somerset is a politician; originally a barrister, he’s now an MP and holds the ear of the Prime Minister; he works twenty-four hour days trying to get bills past. He rarely has time to eat, let alone enjoy his food. Oh, and he’s engaged to a Miss Lizzy Bessler. However, ten years ago, he had one amazing night with a lady he’s never seen since, despite searching. Only a totally crazy situation would throw them back together . . . wouldn’t it? Continue reading Delicious, by Sherry Thomas

Bright Star (2009)

[Happy birthday, Andy! Not that you read this, but maybe someone’ll tell you about it. Love, Your Sister.]

One of my study group members (I’m in law school) was, er, less than enthralled with whatever it was we were supposed to be doing so took a moment out to look up the upcoming movies for this week. One of them was described as ‘hot Regency chastity,’ I think by the New York Times, and was clearly a costume drama, so we made plans to see it as soon as possible. Directed by Jane Campion, it starts Abbie Cornish as Fanny Brawne and Ben Whishaw as the poet John Keats.

Fanny is young — late teens or early twenties — and rather more interested in fashion than poetry when she makes the acquaintance of John Keats and his friend and collaborator, Mr. (Charles Armitage) Brown. The two come into closer acquaintance and then fall in love, despite the fact that Keats has less than no money and Fanny, whose father is dead, cannot marry him. Nonetheless, they enter into an affair of the heart, and although the world — and Keats’s health — conspire to keep them apart, they find ways to remain together. Continue reading Bright Star (2009)

Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

Donna Jo Napoli is a linguistics professor at Swarthmore College and an author of children’s books. She used to have a cat named Taxi, for the sheer joy of calling the cat and watching the neighbors make faces. She takes modern dance and yoga classes for fun, and bakes bread. She has also coauthored a scholarly paper on frogs. I’ve reviewed a couple of her books before — here and here — and while they aren’t always my favorite, I seem to keep coming back for more.

The Cinderella story is a common one throughout many cultures, and Ms. Napoli has chosen to set her variant of the tale in Ming-Dynasty China. Xing Xing’s mother dies when she is very small, and her father remarries, to a woman with a daughter close to Ping’s age. The stepmother (called Stepmother) has decided to bind her daughter (Wei Ping)’s feet, in order that she will be able to attract a man of a much higher social status. And of course, once the father dies, Stepmother treats Xing Xing as if she’s the lowest kind of servant, even so far as to sending her off to try to sell green dates as some sort of false miracle cure to raise money. One day, there is a fair in town, and Xing Xing finds some of her mother’s old clothing (including shoes) to wear into town . . . Continue reading Bound, by Donna Jo Napoli

Nights of Blood 2: More Legends of the Vampire, edited by Elyse Salpeter and Bob Nailor

I was sent this book by a member of my former writers’ group (where we talked about anything but writing) who happens to have a story published in the anthology; he and a couple of the other writers, including one of the editors, are all residents of my home region. The book, however, was published by a small press located in Texas called 23 House, and is, as one may plainly see, the second volume of stories about vampires. Mr. Nailor and Ms. Salpeter are experienced editors and writers, and both have been published in other short-story anthologies. They have both been nominated for Eppie Awards, as well.

The stories in this volume include: “The Night Garden,” by Mark Onspaugh; “Debts,” by Amanda Pillar; “Under the Chocolate Tree,” by David E. Hilton; “Floaters,” by Michael S. Bumagin, M.D.; “Burden of Proof,” by Jennifer Graham; “A Rustle of Curtains,” by Henry Leon Lazarus; “Pas de Deux,” by Edward McKeown; “Defender,” by Garry Ward; “Expiration Date Not Required,” by A. D. Nailor; “Lazuli,” by Christine Rains; “1-800-VAMPYRE,” by Bob Nailor; “The Vampire Doll,” by Joette Razanski; “Days and Nights,” by Elyse Salpeter; “Down in the Cellar,” by Joe McKinney; “Barney,” by James R. Cain; “Tales of the Vampire,” by Mitchel Whitington; and “Give Until it Kills,” by Joe Sergi. Continue reading Nights of Blood 2: More Legends of the Vampire, edited by Elyse Salpeter and Bob Nailor

Incantation, by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman has written a number of books for both adults and young adults; three of said novels (Practical MagicAquamarine, and The River King) have been made into movies, starring some rather impressive actors. Born in New York, she attended Adelphi College and later Stanford, getting degrees in creative writing, and in 1983 she wrote the screenplay to a movie entitled “Independence Day,” but not the one with Will Smith and aliens. She currently lives in New York and Boston. Previously on Someone’s Read it Already, I reviewed a novel of hers, The Foretelling.

Estrella de Madrigal is a young woman in sixteenth-century, small-town Spain; her best friend is Catalina, who lives nearby. The girls are very close to each other until Estrella pays a little too much attention to Andres, Catalina’s cousin whom she is intended to marry. Unfortunately, this sets off a streak of jealousy and vindictiveness in Catalina. The town, Encaleflora, is undergoing some awful changes; it’s the time of the Inquisition (although they don’t call it that) and all the Jews and Muslims in town are suspect, even the ones who converted years and years ago. Estrella’s family behaves strangely — is it possible that they are secretly Jewish? And how will they survive? Continue reading Incantation, by Alice Hoffman

This Earth of Mankind (Buru Quartet, book 1), by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who died in 2006, was an Indonesian author and political prisoner. He protested first against the treatment of the native Indonesians by their Dutch colonizers, then the World War II occupation of Indonesia by the Japanese, and then against the authoritarian regimes that replaced them. His political beliefs — which tended towards the socialist end of the spectrum — were not popular, and when his writing seemed to criticize the regime in power more directly, he ended up imprisoned. Many of his works, including this one, the first volume of the Buru Quartet, were written (or composed) while he was either in prison or under house arrest. This one was recited orally to fellow prisoners prior to being written down and smuggled out for publication.

Minke (which, I believe, is Dutch for “monk,” and a nickname) is a young man just before the turn of the 20th century, towards the end of his schooling, when, on a random invitation from a friend, he meets the most famous concubine in Indonesia and her family. Nyai Ontsoroh has been running a business empire for years, and she has been teaching her daughter Annelies — who is, of course, half Indonesian, half Dutch — how to run a business herself. Minke himself is entirely Indonesian and the son of a man with some political power, but he attends the Dutch school in a different town. There are all sorts of racial tensions going on, because Minke has fallen in love with Annelies and her with him, and she is considered significantly too good for him, being half Dutch — although she is the daughter of a concubine, which complicates things. How will their love survive?

Just as a warning and a reminder, there are spoilers after the cut, and some rather frank discussion of unsavory topics. Continue reading This Earth of Mankind (Buru Quartet, book 1), by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Collected Stories, by Lewis Shiner

Ahh, tooth Lewis Shiner. The man who convinced me that I never want to move to Durham, gynecologist NC (the same way that Slumdog Millionaire made me not want to visit India). Born in Eugene, OR in 1950, he moved around a lot as a kid, and read science fiction and adventure novels. One of Bob Dylan’s first few “Dylan Goes Electric” concerts changed his life utterly, and he became involved in music, which would turn out to be a lifelong love and the inspiration for many of his tales. After a degree in English from SMU, he started writing more and more and although his path wasn’t straightforward (there was some technical writing in there, as well as computer programming and car trouble), eventually he was regularly selling detective fiction and science fiction to short-story magazines. His first novel, Frontera, was a finalist for a couple of major awards, and he has written five since.

This collection of short stories includes apparently 41 of his biggest and best tales, ranging from one of his first published works (“Deep Without Pity”) to three stories that had web debuts within the last couple years (“Straws,” “Golfing Vietnam,” “Fear Itself”). The tales range from a couple of punk westerns, a few pulp-type stories, straight-up science fiction, ultra-short literary fiction, a few that were intended for men’s magazines, and, of course, a few tales about rock ‘n’ roll. I won’t list all 41 titles, as that would take too much time, but interested readers can haunt the Sub Press website until they post the table of contents. This book will be published at the end of November this year. Continue reading Collected Stories, by Lewis Shiner