Archives for category: Romance

This set of romance novels that started with a World War Two nurse going back in time to Jacobean Scotland has reached the point where it feels like a television series. Somewhat hilariously it has now also become one.

MOBY-cover-final-US1-220x327In Written In My Own Heart’s Blood we once again follow the adventures of Jamie and Claire who became reunited at the very end of the last book. They now live in America during the war of independence.

Unfortunately, despite the exciting times, the adventures were few and far between and over far too soon. Most of the book is taken up with scrimping to make ends meet or digging in the garden or having sex. There is a battle and a few suspenseful scenes, but mainly the book is full of domesticity where Claire muses about any number of things, from the meaning of life to whether a character might be pregnant or not.

One must say that many of these musings are very entertaining and often insightful. Yet there is a feeling that unlike its characters, who never seem to get enough to eat to have middle-aged spread, the series has become a bit bloated with indulgence. We the reader are so in love with the world Gabaldon has created that we’re willing to continue to read her soap-opera-like story with no end or point in sight.

I used to think that reading Gabaldon was like chicken soup – hearty, homey and good for the soul. Now I wonder whether I’ve simply overdosed on the stuff. Despite being a big fan, I’m not even sure whether I’ll buy the next book if one eventually appears.

I lost interest in The Wheel of Time too, I think around book five or six, while others happily chewed through all of them to the bitter end. This led me to wonder what are the signs that a series is becoming staid. Is it possible to continue a meaningful story for eight books or more?

I’m going to give the novel a 3/5.

(It has to be said though I have absolutely loved most of the books up to this one, and would recommend anyone who likes historical romance to pick up the first in the series or watch the new television production.)

The Fortune Hunter is an odd mix of Georgette Heyer, Jilly Cooper and Dick Smith that enchanted me from its first pages.Fortune-hunter

Charlotte is an heiress who has some rather tactless and grasping relatives. She puts up with them because she is in general a very forbearing person, but she very much looks forward to gaining her majority when her fortune will be her own.

The more impoverished Bay Middleton is shaken by the end of an affair with a society wife, who, though pregnant with his child, discards him callously to return to her husband in the country.

Perhaps longing for someone who he can call his own, as soon as he meets Charlotte he is struck by her. Even though she is plain he finds her conversation as well as her photography hobby refreshing.

For herself, Charlotte falls head over heels for the charming Bay almost as soon as she sees him. Who would not? After all, Bay’s charm has won over countless ladies before her.

It is that charm that leads to his being appointed as a guide to the Empress of Austria, Sisi, for the season’s hunting. Glamorous, rich and accustomed to getting her own way, Sisi takes a liking to Bay and decides to make him her creature.

The demands of the empress threaten to destroy the fragile understanding Charlotte and Bay have formed, especially since Bay is dazzled by the Empress’s beauty and superior riding skills while feeling compassion for the unhappiness hidden beneath her militantly maintained exterior. As the book progresses, it seems ever more likely that the empress’s growing attraction to her English guide will doom the future Bay dreamed of with Charlotte.

In typical Heyer fashion, the strength of this book lies in the wry portrayal of a large set of characters. True, they are not particularly original – their like can be found in any period romance – but this does not extinguish their charm. We feel for Charlotte as she navigates their idiosyncrasies.

Meanwhile, in Dick Francis style we are caught up in Bay’s overriding passion for the hunting world – an obsession for horses combined with a fierce joy in the freedom and dangers of the sport – and Charlotte’s photography hobby – an interesting glimpse into a technology that has evolved much over the last 150 years.

Finally, it is the irreverent depiction of Queen Victoria and Empress Sisi verbally fencing at Windsor that makes me think of Jilly Cooper, who does love to highlight the ridiculous in her novels. I chuckled to myself on a number of occasions, which made people on the bus think I was a little mad.

Whoever Goodwin took her inspiration from; since I started the book on Sunday and finished it on Tuesday I think I can safely say it was a hit. The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt the blurb had falsely advertised the book. It describes a novel that is about the empress, when really the focus is Charlotte. Although Sisi is a fascinating historical figure, she is definitely the antagonist – to be pitied but not loved.

I’m going to give this book a 4/5.

This is Twilight as historical fiction by an author who can actually write.

A taste of blood wine by Freda Warrington

World War Two has only recently ended. Life in England goes on.

Charlotte is a painfully shy girl. She finds it hard to even be frank with her family. It doesn’t help that her sisters appear to be the type of society belle who only ever think of themselves. They have already decided Charlotte is a hopeless wallflower.

Certainly, Charlotte would rather be at home with her scientist father than fishing for a husband in London during the height of the season. She’s looking forward to coming home when her sister meets Karl von Wultondorf. As he’s a vampire he is, of course, literally deathly handsome.

Charlotte feels uneasy around him. Which shows good sense, as he lives off other peoples’ blood. Her sister Maddy is so besotted, however, that she orchestrates a meeting between Karl and her father. Karl is interested in her father’s science; He wants to investigate the scientific impossibility of his existence.

The introduction leads to a working relationship, throwing him into Charlotte’s life and leading unsurprisingly to the start of a love story.

The nice thing about this book is that it doesn’t try to make vampirism attractive – unlike Twilight there is no drinking of animal blood. It’s kill humans or starve. It also doesn’t try and make families accept their blood-sucking relatives. It doesn’t try and prove that the hero has perfect self control. He lusts for Charlotte’s blood like any other human’s. The book feels more realistic this way and also makes less forced the endless self examination endemic to this type of novel.

Where I think it goes wrong is there is absolutely no reason really why Karl should have chosen Charlotte. She is just as affected by his glamour as everyone else. He could have her any time he wanted, as he could numerous other women. We are told there is “something” special about her. I couldn’t see it. She seemed deathly boring to me.

I don’t think I’ll read any more in this series – I didn’t like either of the main characters enough. Both of them agonise about themselves too much, and although they are intrinsically evil because of their propensity to drink blood, they are otherwise goody two shoes.

Looking back, the thing I enjoyed the most was Warrington’s language. She has a wonderful flair for describing scenes in a way that (at least for me) escapes the usual clichés. Here are a few examples:

“She could see the wind, and it was solid: a hill of liquid glass that turned slowly over on itself like a wave.”

“Now she found the truth that lay at the heart of everything: all the fears, veiled warnings, knowing smiles, restrictions; the blood-red stamen at the centre of society’s tightly folded flower. The paradox of an ecstasy that was fretted with danger.”

If I’m going to give it a 3/5.

Claimed, by Evangeline Anderson

(Credit: Evangeline Anderson)

Now that I look back at this series, I wonder how I ever stumbled onto it. I think I must have been hastily trawling through the “Recommended for you” section on my Kindle at Frankfurt Airport in Germany just before my husband and I took off for Sydney. I like to have a wide selection of books on a plane, because when you’re cooped up in a tube of metal thousands of feet up in the air, you need variety to keep you distracted from the fact that if there’s a problem with said metal tube you’re probably cactus.

In this case, my entertainment system wasn’t working (it’s actually surprising how often this happens to me) so I was glad I had so many novels on my Kindle. It wasn’t until I made it a couple of pages into Evangeline Anderson’s Claimed, the first in her Brides of the Kindred novels, that I realised that I’d bought an erotic novel.

Erotica isn’t normally my scene and when you’re physically browsing for books, it’s easy to discard the ones with pictures of half-naked men on the front. However, it’s not so easy to see what is on the cover of a book on the Kindle (too small and black and white); when I sped read the description of Claimed, it sounded interesting — a sci-fi romance.

This series begins on earth with Olivia, who is having breakfast with friends when bureaucrats knock at her door and tell her she’s been “drafted”. Earth has been saved from an alien race called the Scourge by another alien race called the Kindred. In return for protection, all the Kindred ask is that some female Earthlings be provided as their brides. The race is 95 per cent female, which is why they’re so desperate for women. They’ve done the same thing on three different worlds before, which has created three different types of Kindred — beast, blood and twin Kindred. Each of the types is different, although we only really hear about how they’re different when they’re having sex. It is an erotic novel after all.

These brides are lifted to the Kindred mothership, where they remain for a month without contact to the planet. Each week, the Kindred who has chosen them as a bride will subject them to sexual temptation until they break and have bonding sex with the male, at which point they’re stuck with that man for life. Resisting the sexual temptation  is made particularly hard by the Kindred’s pheromones, which are specially tailored to the female in question.

Olivia doesn’t want to leave her life on Earth, so is determined to resist the Kindred who has come for her — Baird, one of the Beast Kindred. He, meanwhile, is head over heels in love with her and, although willing to give her space, is also desperate to get her to accept him. He’s had a hard time in his life, being captured by the Scourge and tortured on their fathership. The only thing that helped him through the experience was the thought of her (he had started to dream share with her on the ship, which is the start of a courtship for the Kindred).

Of course, Olivia’s resistance gets complicated and it all very nearly ends in disaster after a Scourge attack. It turns out that Olivia’s family are involved in some sort of Scourge prophecy, so the evil race want to capture her and her loved ones.

The other three books in this series (Hunted, Sought and Found) revolve around similar stories for her friends and family, who also have Kindred  fall in love with them and are troubled by the Scourge prophecy. I read them when I was sick in bed and wanted something formula.

I have to say that even though I’m not a huge fan of this genre (and if you can’t deal with terms like cunt honey, don’t even think about reading these), each book had a plot with suspense and action which went along with the sex. And although the excuses for sex scenes were sometimes so flimsy they had me laughing in my sick bed, the whole series was an entertaining romp that I don’t regret picking up.

I’m split on what to give this series, given my lack of experience with the genre. From a female’s point of view I’d give it a 3/5. I think the reason I gave it 3 instead of 2.5 was that I really believed the characters when they acted the way they did in the books, even the male sex objects. There’s also a good dollop of humour in the books, which I really enjoyed.  From a male point of view I’d probably give the series 0.5/5.

Evangeline has said that there’ll be two more books this year and I’ll probably pick them up some time when my brain needs a break. She said her plan until then was to take a break and write some young adult books under a different pseudonym. After all, we wouldn’t want those young impressionable minds stumbling on the erotic novels…