Archives for posts with tag: 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.)

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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.

I’m always awestruck by how Peter F. Hamilton manages to find so many alternate future universes for humanity, but make them all so plausible.

Peter F. Hamilton Fallen Dragon

(Credit: Jeroen Bouwens, Peter F. Hamilton)

This story is no different. Fallen Dragon describes our society a few hundred years into the future, when we’ve managed to colonise some planets. Unfortunately, we’ve discovered that doing so hasn’t fulfilled the commercial dream of creating financially lucrative products to ship back to Earth and make lots of money. Interstellar travel is just too expensive.  Instead, the starship companies that have footed the bill for creating colonies are shifting money around in funny accounting procedures and heading out to established colonies to conduct “asset realisation”, which basically adds up to piracy on a planetary scale.

Our main character is an idealistic boy who wants to see the stars. The only way for him to do this is to sign up to one of the companies that conducts “asset realisation”. As he realises his mistake, he forms a plan of how to get himself out of his predicament, but it might be more complicated than he thought, because the world from which he intends to pirate away the money to exit the game isn’t as helpless as other worlds have been.

What follows is an intense action sci-fi that has you waiting for the next page. I enjoyed the universe that Hamilton created, and the plot was not at all predictable, keeping me guessing all the way.  As always, I loved the complexities he built into his story and how he makes even minor characters seem real.

I also love how he manages to comment on society, quietly, without making us feel like we’re being lectured at. I really thought hard during this book about how we homogenise everything as we become more numerous and how the cultures of individual countries are taken over by a global culture, or to coin Hamilton’s term, the uniculture.

However, despite this enjoyment, I had a bit of a problem with the way that he’d set this novel up. It sprang between time in an erratic manner that was sometimes a hard to follow. I just couldn’t ascertain why he had made temporal leaps when he did. I think he wanted to start the novel with a bang, which would have necessitated the constant seesawing in time space, but somehow, I think I would have more enjoyed the journey of the main character, Lawrence,  if I’d followed the story with him in chronological order.

The killer issue necessitating the time play is perhaps that we don’t meet the other main viewpoint characters that have a role  in the book until the last chapter in Lawrence’s life plays out, which is probably why Hamilton wrote the novel in the way he did. Given this, I can’t really give a solution for how he should have done it, but I felt something was a bit skewiff.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the biggest issue I had with the novel. My biggest issue is that we, as people,  develop in real life. We mature. (Caution, slight spoiler.) Lawrence was not a spring chicken at the end of the novel. Yet, he decides to settle down with a teenage girl at the end of his travails. How on earth was that going to work? I felt like Hamilton just got tired and didn’t want to deal with what would happen if he brought Lawrence back to the world he’d been born on, years after Lawrence had left it. Perhaps Hamilton didn’t want to describe the changes in the world and what they meant for Lawrence, or perhaps Lawrence’s meeting with a sweetheart who might have married and had children and sagged in the wrong places sickened Hamilton. I had personally been looking forward to those changes. There is nothing more powerful than two lovers meeting after years apart and realising that, although they’ve changed, their attraction for each other is just as strong.

Hamilton robbed me of this in his male desire for his main character not to have wasted his life and have lost his vitality because of a bad life mistake. Boo, I say.

That’s why I’m giving this novel a 3.5/5, despite the fact that it could have scored much higher.

Kate Harper's Lady Libertine

(Credit: Kate Harper)

Straight out, I’m going to say that I love regency romance. I’ll read any Georgette Heyer I find lying about and will try new authors at the drop of a hat. It’s like comfort food for me in book form. As soon as I’m tired or depressed, I get the craving to download a new volume. Which I guess is the great thing (some would say the dangerous thing) about having a Kindle with a 3G connection, where I can buy books almost anywhere.

Lady Libertine really hit the spot when I bought it. Lucy Landon is exactly my kind of heroine — not particularly attractive, but possessed of a brain (shock horror) and a sparkling wit. She has been on the shelf for too many London seasons to hope she will ever find a husband and finds that she can’t face the future that awaits her: her horrid mother expects to marry an equally awful new beau and will move to his tasteless house with any unmarried children.

Luckily, Lucy has a plan. A friend of hers heads up the London Times and pays her to write a column detailing salacious gossip from the many parties she attends. She’s so surely going to end a spinster that no one looks at her anymore, allowing her to watch many ill advised trysts and report them in the paper under the name of Lady Libertine.

One of the targets of her barbed words is Lucius Ransom, the twelfth Earl of Hammersley, who Lucy saw dallying not once, but twice, with someone else’s betrothed — something of a habit for the rake.

Her writing lands him in hot water and Lucius, nicknamed Rand, decides he will find out who Lady Libertine is. From here it follows the usual regency formula, but there was something in the story and the characters which really captured my imagination. I’m going to give it a 3.5.

I also read another of Kate Harper’s which was more run of the mill Regency — His Wayward Ward. I wouldn’t really recommend it. I wasn’t a fan of the main character, who was a ditsy young girl. I’m only going to give it 2.5.