Review: Last Night with the Duke

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Last Night with the Duke
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: March 2017
Length: 297 pages
Series?: The Rakes of St. James #1
Genre: Historical Romance

Could finding love be his greatest scandal of all? 

The Duke of Griffin has never lived down his reputation as one of the Rakes of St. James. Now rumors are swirling that his twin sisters may bear the brunt of his past follies. Hiring a competent chaperone is the only thing Griffin has on his mind–until he meets the lovely and intriguing Miss Esmeralda Swift. In ways he could never have expected, she arouses more than just his curiosity.

Esmeralda Swift considered herself too sensible to ever fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met the irresistibly seductive Duke of Griffin. His employment offer proves too tempting for her to resist. She can’t afford to be distracted by his devilish charms because the stakes are so high for his sisters’ debut Season. . .unless one of London’s most notorious rakes has had a change of heart and is ready to make Esmeralda his bride?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Esmerelda Swift is an enterprising businesswoman who runs Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency for women. She has run the agency and cared for her younger sister for some time, but things are becoming extremely tight. They need incoming jobs for Miss Mamie’s to continue its employment services….and keep their home. She has everything to lose.

When the Duke of Griffin whirls in and demands Esmerelda chaperone his twin sisters for their introduction to the ton, he won’t take no for an answer. After earning his nickname as one of the “Rakes of St. James” for his own behavior with young ladies of the ton during his younger days, he is now concerned for his own sisters’ safety and protection during their debut as rumors swirl. Especially when “Miss Honor A Truth’s” weekly scandal sheet is released…and the Duke and his sisters find themselves the center of Society attention.

A strong but friendly chaperone is the perfect answer. Esmerelda throws up a myraid of excuses and finds herself, her sister, and their dog living at Griffin’s home and ushering the argumentative twins to events while keeping the peace.

 

The Players

Esmerelda (Esme) – disowned granddaughter of a noble, quietly operates a servicewomen agency and cares for her sister

Josephine – Esmerelda’s 12 year old sister

Griffin – Benedict Mercer, Duke of Griffin, named one of the Rakes of St. James

Lady Vera – the forceful and cantankerous twin

Lady Sara – the sweet twin

Rust Rathburne – Duke of Rathburne, Griffin’s friend and another of the Rakes of St. James

Sloan Knox -Duke of Hawksthorn, Griffin’s friend and another of the Rakes of St. James

The Quote

If there was a yelling and a shove when they both wanted to play the pianoforte, what would happen when they both started vying for the same young man’s attention?

The Highs and Lows

  • Esmerelda. Her past is important and often Essie turns to in her own thoughts. She is the granddaughter of a viscount, nobility in her own right. However, since her mother chose to love an Irish poet against the wishes of her father, Esmerelda’s mother was disowned. Both her mother and stepfather have since passed on, leaving Esmerelda to care for her 12-year-old sister who is a mix of bratty and sweet. Esmerelda’s life went from governesses to becoming one, and she worked her way up to now own Miss Mamie Fortescue’s Employment Agency, a small company that places servicewomen with high society families. Essie is an enterprising, hard-working, independent, and stubborn woman. I admired and revered her for those qualities, but at times they also seemed like a facade. Essie is hired for her strong backbone, but at every turn in her new employ she is ready to rush and pack her bags, knowing she will be fired. Her independence and confidence were like the spikes and drops in a diabetic’s blood sugar.
  • The Attraction. I didn’t find there to be any romance in this “romance” novel. Benedict Mercer, the Duke of Griffin, is inexplicably attracted to Esmerelda the moment he hears her voice while eavesdropping on her reprimanding an employee. And again when he sets eyes on her. The insta-lust remains that throughout the entire book. There is no real development of their relationship, no growth. They spend very little time together, and their “romance” is some secretive kisses and make-out sessions in the library that can’t go too far. Essie’s commoner “miss” status draws Griffin like a moth to a flame, and ultimately what he also uses to push her away. A Duke can’t marry a mere commoner, but he can dally with one. Flirt, tease, bemoan the fact that he needs to settle down with a “proper” lady. It was a bit of a farce watching Griffin’s intentions completely change as soon as he learned of her family heritage and nobility status. It didn’t seem authentic or believable.
  •  The Goofs. Historically, this is not quite accurate. In no Regency world would a single, virginal employment agency administrator with a teenage sister and a rascally dog be a live-in partial chaperone. Essie doesn’t conduct the full duties of a chaperone, only the public facing ones. All of the planning and orchestrating has been done by Griffin’s aunt, who can’t go out due to a skin condition, which seemed engineered on her part to force Griffin toward a woman. Not to mention how a Duke would not be entering a women’s employment agency. No, there are servants for that – even the housekeeper at worst would have been sent.
  • The Twins. While the twins are quite snotty and catty, they show some development. They fight over everything left and right, and there seemed to even be a slight streak of malice in one of them, aimed at the other. They are high-spirited and high maintenance. However, their undying love for the same man is soon overcome and resolved, and Sara ends up finding her own love. Once the twins got past their tit-for-tat, I enjoyed their characters immensely and hope they make more than just cameos in the remainder of the series. In fact, I wonder if Rath or Hawk will wind up falling for Vera.
  • The Mysterious Revenge Plot. The entire plot of the story revolves around blind Sir Welby’s first-hand accounts of a group of young men bent on ruining Griffin’s sisters. Reputations and perceptions are the powerhouse of the ton, and even the slightest mar is a death threat for a young woman – just like the dozen women Griffin, Hawk, and Rath innocently damaged a decade prior when each young lady appeared at a clandestine location, unchaperoned, in the middle of the night to meet their secret admirers. While there are rumors continuing to abound, Griffin and Esmerelda are suspicious of every young man who shows too much attention or none at all! When the Season is half over with no attempt of harm, they begin to question the validity of Sir Welby’s claim. The mysterious revenge plot drug on…and then dissipated. It was quite anticlimactic.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.

Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.

Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: Crows & Cards

ABOUT THE BOOK

4818478Title: Crows & Cards
Author: Joseph Helgerson
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: April 2009
Length: 348 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Three warnings for readers who hate surprises: 1. Beware of slivers, 2. and gamblers, 3. and aces.

Zebulon Crabtree found all that out the hard way back in 1849 when his mother and father shipped him off to St. Louis to apprentice with a tanner. Too bad he had serious allergies to fur and advice from his parents.

Hearing the beat of a different drummer, Zeb takes up with a riverboat gambler who has some special plans for him, crosses paths with a slave who turns out to be a better friend than cook, and learns that some Indian medicine men can see even though blind.

And then there’s the Brotherhood—the one that Zeb can’t seem to get out of. . . . Lucky for us, the price of living in turbulent times is often a good story, and Zeb spins an unforgettable one.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: MacLeod Andrews
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Release Date: April 2009
Length: 6 hrs and 41 mins

The Highs and Lows

  • Zeb. He is a 12-year-old boy and the oldest of seven. His father scrapes together $70 to send him to his Uncle Seth to become a tanner’s apprentice. He is a very sheltered boy. He doesn’t know things about the world. The notion of not talking to strangers, let alone trusting one, isn’t a lesson Zeb has learned – but he will. The story is told from the perspective of Zeb.
  • Setting. It is 1849 in St. Louis. This was the year cholera hit a peak in St. Louis, and it was also the year of the infamous St. Louis Fire.
  • Other Characters. Zeb also learns from the slave, Ho-John, who burns all the food (on purpose) and a blind Native American chief whispered to be a “seer.” Zeb tries as much as he can not to endanger
  • Zeb’s Journey. During his travels to St. Louis via steamboat, Zeb meets a professional gambler and thief named Chilly. Through their escapades, Zeb believes they are going to be a modern-day Robin Hood crew and swindle money from the rich to give to the poor. Eventually Zeb wises up and decides to help the slave and the already swindled chief. But by now he has already become Chilly’s apprentice and magic key to his swindling gigs, pledged himself to the Brotherhood of the Gamblers, and resides in an inn with a gambling parlor,to which Chilly is secretly half-owner in. Eventually, Zeb turns the tables on Chilly with the help of the chief and his daughter, referred to as the princess.
  • Plot and Pacing. This wasn’t a particularly interesting book. In fact, it was particularly boring. I determined to finish listening to the audio so I could mark it for several of my challenges, especially my audiobook challenge. I wasn’t an invested reader in this slow-moving, woefully underdeveloped writing.
  • Imitation or Homage? I couldn’t really tell which angle the author was taking, whether it was an homage to Mark Twain or trying to imitate him. Either way, it feel far from the mark. This emulation of Twain is a cheap imitation and very obvious. While Twain was masterful at Mississippi dialect, this duplicate wannabe is merely bad grammar from the 1830s, and all the characters have the same dialect. The craft and skill that Twain used is not evident in this novel, but there is a great deal of figurative language. The book is also illustrated.
  • Historical Notations. There is an appendix of historical information and a dictionary at the back of the book. The information contained in the appendix is interesting and the dictionary is quite humorous. The appendix contained information about slavery and Native American issues, as well as the attitudes from the time.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

223894First of all, I blame my family for my becoming a writer. Scratch one of my relatives and often as not you’ll get a story, usually of the tall-tale variety. Though I’ve lived out West, I’ve spent most of my life in Minnesota, along the Mississippi River where such tales are a tradition.

As you can see, I’m a redhead, freckled, fry easily. Stories could be told. Stories have been told. I’m married with a son and daughter. Over the years we’ve shared our home with creatures who purr, chirp, bark, scuttle, and molt. It’s generally a happy house, though not always quiet.

I grew up playing sports like a fiend and during college bicycled from Minnesota to Arizona for the adventure. During that trip I kept a journal, which marks the official start of my writing career. My advice to would-be writers? Never turn down a chance to take a bike ride.

Find the author: Website | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: X

ABOUT THE BOOK

22292486Title: X
Author: Ilyasah Shabazz, Kekla Magoon
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: January 2015
Length: 348 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

I am Malcolm.
I am my father’s son. But to be my father’s son means that they will always come for me.

They will always come for me, and I will always succumb.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s nothing but a pack of lies—after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school. There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer.

But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory when what starts as some small-time hustling quickly spins out of control. Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion—and that he can’t run forever.

X follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Narration

**Unabridged Audiobook

Narrated By: Dion Graham , Ilyasah Shabazz
Publisher: Candlewick on Brilliance Audio
Release Date: January 2015
Length: 8 hrs and 56 mins

Dion Graham was a terrific narrator. The text itself contained a lot of natural colloqualism, even in internal dialogue, and Dion’s narration contained a perfect blend and a voice of the African-American struggle with incredible dialect. I would love to hear more of his narrations!

The Highs and Lows

I was surprised when the bilingual coordinator for my school district sent out a district-wide newsletter recommending X alongside other elementary picture and middle grades books for students to read as a diverse read for Black History Month. This was intended for elementary campuses, primarily, which is the struggle in teaching middle school. We have to make things so elementary, but then are griped at that what we are doing is not rigorous enough or preparing them for high school. I was currently listening to the audio at the time. Since I’ve finished the audio, I’ve found many recommending this for student reading in classes, and being a middle school teacher there would be incredible backlash if this were read in any grade below 9th or 10th grade. It is marketed as a YA read, and it is more mature than most YA today. Because it is historical, it is based on real events, but the content is not appropriate for immature readers. Reading Huckleberry Finn was a shock ten years ago when I was a junior in high school, so that should accompanied with a caveat for high school reading.

  • Before Becoming Malcolm X. I don’t recall ever learning anything about Malcolm X in Texas public schools. Or in college, and I was a geography minor that entailed several anthropology and history classes. Somehow I naturally figured out who Malcolm X was through my own means, and all I knew was that he was a leader for social injustice and basic civil rights. Beyond that, I didn’t know much. While preparing for my review, I discovered that there aren’t a lot of writings about his life before becoming Malcolm X. It was interesting to learn about Malcolm Little from his youth.
  • Fictionalized Perspective. While X is a novel about the formative years about the boy who grew up to become Malcolm X, it is important to distinguish and remember that this is still historical fiction. It is a fictionalized account of his youth. It is not from the perspective of Malcolm Little, but rather from one of his daughters based on stories she heard about her father growing up following his assassination when she was three years old.
  • Anticlimatic. Given this is a fictionalized perspective, it is biased but also contains more depth than other sources could provide. While listening it seemed that some of Malcolm’s decisions were idealized. There did not seem to be real closure to the book. It ended with Malcolm’s imprisonment when he was 20, followed by end notes distinguishing the facts from the fiction. This section contained pretty detailed information that was helpful. It would have been more helpful at the front, especially for audio. Reading this section set the tone for hope for what we know was to come for Malcolm, but I didn’t feel the actual book’s ending arrived there. I was left wanting something more out of the ending for such a compelling narrative.
  • Setting. There are several settings to the book. The storyline travels from Malcolm’s birth in Omaha to his childhood in Flint and Lansing, and then to his youth in Roxbury (Boston) and Harlem, concluding with Malcolm’s imprisonment. The vibrancy in the description and the lives of Roxbury and Harlem particularly captured my attention. In the context of the environment in which he grew up in, Malcolm’s choices stem from the oppression and racism inflicted on his family. The murder of his father and institutionalization of his mother and being forced into foster care during this time had very invasive effects. The timeline moves fluidly back and forth in time.
  • Spiraling. Malcolm is a good student. He’s very smart and makes straight As. He also had a wild streak in him that started with small things, like stealing food for his family. Malcolm saw the face of racism in high school, and then understands his white peers are not being friendly. His (half) sister Ella invites him to live with her in Boston, and Malcolmn jumps at the opportunity to leave Lansing. It is a fresh start in a new place. From there his life begins spiraling out of control for most of the book. There are harsh realities when Malcolm discovers jazz, alcohol, drugs, and women – a white woman named Sophia, specifically – which is why I do not suggest this be read by students younger than 9th grade. It seemed the plot lent itself to compounding on every bad decision Malcolm makes, almost like it is a contest to see how bad he can be the next time.
  • Disillusion. Malcolm’s beliefs of a fresh start in Roxbury don’t last long. He finds that the glittering city life doesn’t provide a means of escape from the racism that filled the hearts and souls of so many. After experiencing Harlem, Malcolm decides that is where he needs to be. Trouble comes knocking again, and Malcolm returns to Roxbury, where Sophia has cooked up a plan that will allow Malcolm, herself, and two others to come into a surplus of funds. Ultimately Malcolm is caught by the police and sent to prison and truly starts over. It is made clear that Malcolm’s self-destructive behavior is the effect of his disillusionment with his father’s teachings about pride and equality and his feeling that there was nothing he could do to change things.
  • Lack of Redemption. While reading, I couldn’t ever find anywhere where Malcolm felt remorse for any of his actions. It was hard to read about Malcolm’s throwing bad choice after bad. His sister Ella gave him opportunities and encouragement. Instead of realizing her disapproval was due to his dangerous choices, he ran from the one good thing in his life. I describe my grandfather as a hard man, unyielding and abrasive, and this was a hard read. I didn’t see any hope for redemption. I think that is why I wasn’t satisfied with the conclusion of the book.
  • Malcolm’s Character. I didn’t like Malcolm’s character for the majority of the book. He chooses to do certain things he knows is against the law and can land him in serious trouble, like illegally owning a gun and dealing “white powder.” There were several scenes regarding these two elements that show a paranoid Malcolm, but he continues to grow arrogant. If the world won’t give it to him, he will take it by whatever means he chooses, namely dealing drugs and being a thief. There is no will or want in him to be a better person, and that was something that resonated with me. It goes against everything I have ever been taught. Even as I write this I have to remember the environment he grew up in. If all you know is debilitating racism, why would you want to be a better person?

The Take-Away

While I didn’t agree with Malcolm’s spiraling behavior and his choices, I also saw the naivety that still resided in him as a young man running wild. To love a white woman in this time was danger in and of itself. I don’t know everything about the Civil Rights Movement, but I know more than some, and I realize what I don’t know. The black spots on my map, so to speak, and learning new little pieces from this narrative are compelling enough to prompt readers to continue expanding their knowledge about leaders and lives during this tumultuous time.

 

Review: O’er the River Liffey

Title: O’er the River Liffey
Author: Heidi Ashworth
Publisher: Dunhaven Place Publishing
Release Date: June 2016
Length: 32 pages
Series?: Power of the Matchmaker #6
Genre: Romance, Historical

ABOUT THE BOOK

26241885Irish heiress Caroline Fulton knows this house party, ostensibly celebrating the victory of Waterloo, is really an audition: will she make a suitable wife? Her host, an English lord, has already won over her father, who’s determined to buy a title with Caroline’s dowry. She is far from taken with the baron, however, especially once she meets Niall Doherty, the impoverished, perceptive tutor to her host’s younger brothers. He shares her love of Irish fairy tales and seems to guard a troubled past…but neither quality will earn Caroline’s father’s approval.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Caroline Fulton is an Irish heiress whose father is intent on finding her a wealthy English husband. The daughter of a wealthy sheppard, she is not interested in the English lord who has wooed her father. Instead, she takes note of the tutor who teaches the barron’s two younger brothers. While she and her friend make waves with their mere presence in this English household, both women realize whom their hearts belong to.

The Players

Caroline – an Irish heiress who is desparate to get out from under her father’s roof

Fiona – Caroline’s friend and companion

Lady Bissell – Lord Arthur’s stepmother, an Irishwoman herself

Lord Arthur Bissell – the wealthy baron inheriting Oak View

Niall – an impoverished tutor at Oak View

Charles and Christopher – Arthur’s younger brothers/Lady Bissells’ sons, Niall’s charges

Lady Anne – a jealous, insensitive cad of a woman

The Quote

 “Why has Miss Fulton gone away?” Christopher asked.

“I had thought she would have dinner with us in the nursery,” Charles said.

Niall felt not one whit less bewildered. “That was certainly my intnetion when I suggested we each take dinner on a tray,” Niall explained. “Perhaps she did not understand. Suppose we issue her a proper invitation?”

“Do you mean that we should write one for her?”

“Precisely my meaning,” Niall said. He procured a piece of fresh parchment and put it on Charles’ desk. “Now, what do you think we should write?”

“That she must come back,” Christopher suggested. “But we must say please.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Caroline’s Father. He is not the man he appears to be. Indeed, he is an Irishman and a harsh man at that. While Caroline may not want for much, she cannot wait to escape from under her father’s roof. She isn’t looking for much at all in order to persuade her to leave, which is disheartening. She could jump out of the frying pan and into the fire with that mentality. However, after she and her father return to Ireland, I can understand her reasons. He is a cruel, hard man. He doesn’t treat her like a daughter; he treats her like property. She is his cash cow.
  • Instalove. I was surprised at this book and its instalove! Both Caroline and Niall both comment about how they only know each other for three or so days and they are like star-crossed lovers. It is like a Romeo and Juliet rewrite – both in terms of the instalove, and a father who won’t allow his daughter to marry a man of lower class. While I understand it can happen, it happened too fast. It did not seem plausable. It just seemed an infatuation.
  • Charles and Christopher. These boys are a hoot! They are sweet and kind and quite witty. They can drive Niall crazy, but enter Caroline into the mix and they are angels.
  • Fiona. Her character rubbed me the wrong way. She is like the here and now voice of Caroline’s father, prohibiting her from fraternizing with Niall. Primarily on the basis of class. It made me see Fiona in a different light. She put these embargos on Caroline, but then does not see that she is behaving in the exact same way with her own infatuation. There’s just one difference.
  • Lady Anne. She makes such a fool of herself! It is worth reading just for that!
  • The Matchmaker’s Prophecy. Niall is convinced he must follow the matchmaker’s prophecy: that he will meet the woman he is meant to be with on the River Liffey, she will have blue eyes and her name begins with L. While Niall is fascinated and falls for Caroline, after her sudden departure from Oak View, Niall still carries the torch but is resigned that she is not the woman from Pearl’s prophecy.
  • The Ending. I was shocked by the last quarter or so of the book. After Caroline and her father leave Oak View, things spiral out of control. I could not believe what was happening! And then something bigger happens, and Caroline ends up walking the footbridge over the River Liffey daily. The ending had a twist that made me feel worse for Caroline. It all could have been avoided if her father would have just listened to her instead of being stubborn. Ugh!

The Take-Away

It was hard for me to get into the book at first, but I found I liked Caroline’s character – and Charles and Christopher. The rest I could do without. There wasn’t a lot of pull for this book. It fell a little flat. Lady Anne’s own situation of embarrassment was hilarious to read, though!

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Borrow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

2052146Heidi Ashworth, best-selling, award-winning author of traditional regency romance, lives in the San Francisco bay area, but she lost her heart across the pond when she was very young. She read her first regency romance when she was four years old (just a few words, but it was enough). The first one she wrote took place in Paris circa 1974 but such gaffes are mere trifles when you are only ten. Since then she has sharpened her skills and garnered a few accolades.

Find the author: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Audiobook Review: Dodger

13516846Title: Dodger
Author: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Release Date: September 2012
Length: 360 pages
Series?: Dodger #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he’s…Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl–not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy’s rise in a complex and fascinating world.

 

my review

The Skinny

A late-night toshing of the sewers unexpectedly leads Dodger right into an encounter with some unsavory characters and simaltaneously rescuing a damsel in distress. This single act of scaring off assailants draws Dodger into a world that has ramications farther than he can fathom.

While he has changed the course of his own life, he also changes the life of the anonymous woman he rescued. A cast of do-gooders from the upper echelons of society, many of them true historical figures of the time, take charge of the situation to protect Dodger and this young woman named Simplicity. They use their wealth, connections, influence, and knowledge to keep Simplicity safe as danger encroaches again.

Along the way, Dodger continues to find himself – a typical eyesore of polite society – as the hero in a number of situations, including the resuce of Sweeeney Todd from his own demons. Thusly, he becomes the interest of Sir Robert Peel, head of police.

 

The Players

Dodger – a teen tosher of the London streets and sewers, given the title of “king of the toshers”

Simplicity – a mysterious and beautiful girl Dodger rescues in the streets, she has escaped from her abusive, royal husband

Solomon Cohen- Dodger’s housemate and unofficial (Jewish) guardian, an elderly craftsman, a Freemason

Onan – Solomon’s smelly dog, Dodger likes him

Charles Dickens- a journalist who understands the plight of the poor

Henry Mayhew – a friend of Dickens, he and his wife take care of Simplicity, he is interested in improving conditions for the poorer citizens of London

Angela Burdett-Coutts – an independent, wealthy woman destined to be single who uses her influence and excess to help those in need, she takes in Simplicity and protects her

Benjamin Disraeli – a young politician friend of Charlie’s, he helps play a role in the faking of Simplicity’s death

Sir Robert Peel – the head of London police, he is supportive of Simplicity’s wish to not be sent back to her husband

The Outlander – a wanted assassin with targets on Simplicity and Dodger, he looks different every time he commits a crime, always has the same woman at his side

Sweeney Todd – a current-day barber traumatised with PTSD from his Napoleonic War experiences who kills his customers, the reason Dodger becomes a national hero by disarming him

The Quote

“Well, dear Mrs. Mayhew, I can promise you that there will not be any hanky panky because I do not know what panky is, and I’ve never hand a hanky. Only a handkerchief.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Victorian era. I love reading historicals set in the Victorian era, but I always get the romanticized version on the opposite end of the spectrum. Or, at least a very rosy version of reality. I don’t think I’ve ever spent too much time truly looking through a different lens of the time. The socioeconomic statuses of the classes are highlighted heavily in this novel.
  • + Humor. The witty and cunning nature of Dodger, and the humor of others throughout, had me giggling more than once.
  • International Intrigue. Simplicity’s mysterious past brings about the true reason she was beaten in the streets, and why The Outlander is still after her and now Dodger as well. Dodger unwittingly walks into a problem thickened by international boundaries.
  • Simplicity. We never learn her real name! After her “death,” she is given a new name: Serendipity, and it fits perfectly.
  • – Instalove. While I can easily see why Dodger would fall in love with SimplicityI don’t much see how or why it was reciprocated. There wasn’t anything alluring about Dodger and it didn’t seem Simplicity felt any rangef emotions whatsoever. I understand gratitude and gratefulness for her resuce, but I didn’t see this as a love match with real love. It seemed too easy to tie the ends up for Dodger and the “knight” to get the girl.
  • + Historical Figures. Several have voiced their pleaseure or displeasure about having real historical figures of the time inserted in the novel. While I wasn’t aware that they all lived during the same time (you learn something new every day), I found it interesting and a touching nod of Pratchett to those he respected and revered by including them in one of his works, especially ones that espouse the sentiments of poverty that are the heart of the book.
  • + The Dedication. Pratchett dedicated the novel in honor of the real Mayhew, who worked to shed the light on the poorest of London in his own book London Labour and the London Poor.

The Take-Away

Many readers find it hard to read this novel separate from Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and I feel all his other writings are overshadowed by his famous 40-book series. While I never read a one of them, I enjoyed this one by Pratchett. It was different and englightening and still held the archetype of a knight in shining armor, rags-to-riches character and storyline.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

I recommend reading! Buy or borrow.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1654Sir Terry Pratchett sold his first story when he was thirteen, which earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe.

Terry worked for many years as a journalist and press officer, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels, including his first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic, in 1983. There are over 40 books in the Discworld series. The first of these, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, won the Carnegie Medal.

Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett has won numerous literary awards, was named an Officer of the British Empire “for services to literature” in 1998, and has received honorary doctorates from University of Warwick in 1999, the University of Portsmouth in 2001, the University of Bath in 2003, the University of Bristol in 2004, Buckinghamshire New University in 2008, the University of Dublin in 2008, Bradford University in 2009, University of Winchester in 2009, and The Open University in 2013 for his contribution to Public Service.

In 2007, Pratchett disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In February 2009, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He was awarded the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 2010. Sir Terry Pratchett passed away in March 2015.

Find the author: Website | Goodreads

Review: A Love That Never Tires

7Title: A Love That Never Tires
Author: Allyson Jeleyne
Publisher: Fifty Forty Productions
Release Date: November 2014
Length: 367 pages
Series?: Linley & Patrick #1
Genre: Historical Romance

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Linley Talbot-Martin is a girl who likes to get her hands dirty. As the daughter of a famous archaeologist, she’s been everywhere and seen everything—except London. When the Talbot-Martin team travels there for her father’s investiture, Linley finally gets her wish. But when the time comes to trade her jodhpurs and work boots for silk gowns and kid gloves, she may be in over her head.

Even though she can out-ride, out-shoot, and outsmart any girl in London society, Linley is destined to be the failure of the season. No one she meets cares about ancient pottery or lost Buddhist texts, and fundraising efforts for future expeditions keep coming up short. If the Talbot-Martin team doesn’t find money soon, they will be out of a job, and Linley will lose everything she holds dear.

Patrick Wolford, Marquess of Kyre (pronounced ‘Keer’), is a man who knows his place. Well-connected and respected, he is everything everyone expects him to be, but beneath his façade, he is as neglected and crumbling as the family estate. Now the strain of keeping up appearances is taking its toll. The smart thing would be to marry the heiress nipping at his heels and be done with it, but when he meets Linley Talbot-Martin, who dares to shake up his seemingly proper world, he must choose between the life he’s always known and one he never dared to dream of.

 

my review

The Skinny

Set in the early 1900s, Linley Talbot-Martin follows in her father’s footsteps and travels the world and assisting on his expeditions, the only thing she’s ever known. Now that she is grown, the expedition is traveling back to London on a refinancing mission and to receive recognition from the Queen. While there, Linley wants to explore the cultural aspects of London, like the British Museum. Her father, however, has other plans.

For the first time in her life, Linley is having trouble fitting in. She does not meet the textbook socialite answer for a young woman. She is struggling to do as she has always done her whole life. Going where she wishes and speaking her mind are ostracizing her while her aunt is wholeheartedly trying to make the most of her stay (i.e. put her on the marriage mart and take her off successfully).

When Linley met Patrick in Africa, she didn’t know who he was. He was just another individual that seemed very forward-thinking, when in all reality he is a traditionalist. When they meet again in London, Patrick befriends Linley while needing to find a rich heiress to help keep his expansive lands financially sound. Instead, he does something that drastically changes his financial situation and decides to go on the next Talbot-Martin expedition.

The Players

Linely Talbot-Martin –

Bedford Talbot-Martin – Linley’s father and a renowned and famous archaeologist

Archie Gwynne – another archaeologist on the Talbot-Martin expedition, close friend to Linley

Reginald – a member of the Talbot-Martin expedition

Schoville – a member of the Talbot-Martin expedition

Patrick Wolford – Marquess of Kyre, the face of everything expected by society, but not able to keep up with the financial demands. He is quietly flailing in life and latches on to the Talbot-Martin expedition after meeting Linley

Berenice Hastings – Bedford’s cousin in London, she is a very proper woman

The Quote

 Real love wasn’t about happy endings. It was about the moments spent together, and what you made of them.

The Highs and Lows

  • Inconsistencies. For the time period, there were many things that did not fit well throughout the story. The behavior and remarks of Linley and Patrick at the British Museum were the start of these ill-fitting things. In a time when propriety was still an important aspect of social situations, that seems to be abandoned. This wasn’t an isolated incident, as the behaviors continue and seemed contradictory. Most of the time this was on Linley’s behalf, making everything seem outlandish.
  • Explicit Sex Scenes. While I have nothing against explicit sex scenes, these were not old-fashioned to fit the time period. While Patrick expects his wife to be a virgin, Linley acts like a sex-craved modern-day woman.
  • Flat Characters. In general, the characters seemed flat. Patrick showed a minuscule amount of growth, but overall I expected more out of the ending.
  • Beautiful Descriptive Scenes. I found a lot of fault that kept me from fully investing in the story, but the descriptive scenes were very well written.

The Take-Away

I’m still not sure where the author was going with this one.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Skip it.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

9162394Allyson Jeleyne is an author of Edwardian Era & 1920s adventure/romance novels. She earned an interdisciplinary studies degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from a small, southern liberal arts university while also studying British history & literature in her spare time. When not writing, she enjoys traveling, dancing, and checking things off her bucket list.

She makes her home in the South Carolina lowcountry with her beloved dog, Dollie Madison.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: The Earl’s New Bride

26081442Title: The Earl’s New Bride
Author: Frances Fowlkes
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC (Scandalous)
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 214 pages
Series?: The Daughters of Amhurst #1
Genre: Historical Romance

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

England, 1819

The Earl of Amhurst has returned to his estate in search of a wife and, more importantly, an heir. Simon Devere isn’t interested in some comely, simpering creature. A beautiful woman only brings heartbreak and ruin, and Simon’s disfigured visage is proof enough of that. No, he wants a wife who is unattractive and undesirable—and the homelier, the better.

But nothing about Lady Henrietta Beauchamp is homely. She is lovely and sweet…and struggles to mix with polite society when she would so much rather have plants for company. And yet Simon is her only hope for keeping Plumburn Castle in her family’s possession. Even if it means marrying a man she doesn’t love.

It’s an impossible and unlikely match…unless this awkward beauty can bring hope back into a solitary beast’s life.

Read More »