This week’s BotW is Deanna Raybourn’s Silent on the Moor – which is the third in her Lady Julia series, and I think these best so far in that the pueblo it’s two books worth of serial tension and angst comes to the boil in the harsh and unforgiving setting of the Yorkshire Moors.
Lady J had invited herself to Nicholas Brisbane’s new house, which is not only in the middle of nowhere, but had some unexpected (to Julia at least) residents. There are secrets and tensions and grim discoveries and oh so much Gothicky drama. I hasn’t realised that this was what this series has been waiting for, but it totally was. And thinking about it – unconventional widows, gypsies, seers, eccentrics – should have screamed melodrama to me.
The solution to the book’s puzzles is suitably ghastly – with definite ick factor – but it’s so in keeping and well executed that it seems both perfect and obvious once you’ve read it. Do not let the horrible pink cover of my copy confuse you, is is not saccharine or run of the mill by the numbers romance. There is romance (mostly of the will they won’t they kind) and there’s mystery, but Julia (although she makes mistakes) is not a too stupid to live heroine. You’ll jump to some of the same conclusions she does, albeit with a nagging voice in the back of your head that you’ve missed something somewhere that she doesn’t always have.
I know I keep mentioning books that are from series and then telling you to go back to the start first, but I really do mean it with this, you need two books worth of build up to get the full emotional whack from this. So good. And a catnip (as the Smart Bitches say) that I didn’t know I had!
Some highs and lows this week – including one book that nearly made me scream with frustration at a couple of silly errors – but in the end the good outweighed the irritation really. I’ve also just realised I’ve only finished actual print books this week – so the pile is smaller – but it means I’m probably behind when it comes to the NetGalley books again…
Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourne
Seven Up by Janet Evanovich
Book, Line and Sinker by Jenn McKinlay
Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody
Nightingales at War by Donna Douglas
Soulless the Manga by Gail Carriger and REM
Princess Elizabeth’s Spy by Susan Elia McNeal
Dayshift by Charlaine Harris
The Chateau on the Lake by Charlotte Betts
I bought three books (for £1!) in the books sale at the library as I try and support it – that’s my story and I’m sticking too it!
I had trouble picking a BotW again this week – my top rated books of last week were Janet Evanovichs (and I can’t do another of hers for BotW or you’ll all think I’m insane) and a Nora Roberts that I’ve reviewed for Novelicious (I’ll post a link to the review when it goes up). So, instead I’ve gone for the fifth in Sabrina Jeffries’s Hellions of Halstead Hall series – because I’ve really enjoyed reading about the Hellions, and wanted to share it with you.
So, these are historical romances about the Sharpe siblings, whose parents died in scandalous circumstances when they were very young and who have issues tied up with that. At the start of book 1, their domineering grandmother – who holds the purse strings – tells them she’ll disinherit them if they don’t all find themselves spouses with the year. Over the course of the books we see them all find their happiness – and they investigate what really happened to their parents all those years before.
I suggest that you read the books in order – not because you’ll spoil who the other siblings end up with but because you’ll ruin the mystery plot if you don’t – and I don’t think it would be the easiest to follow that part of the book if you haven’t got the full backstory.
My favourites in the series were the first two books and I didn’t love book four, but as a whole the Hellions’ stories ticked a lot of boxes for me and gave me 10 (ish) hours happy reading – hence the BotW post on book five. There is a sixth book in the series – featuring a secondary character from the previous five – which bridges the gap between this series and Jeffries next one – The Duke’s Men (which I’ve already read one of, out of order ), which I’m going to try and get my hands on soon.
So there you go. An unusual BotW from me – and a reminder that I need to slow down on the Janet Evanovich’s to keep my reading material balanced…. You should be able to find Sabrina Jeffries’ Hellions series where ever you usually pick up your US romance novels – I read mine on Scribd, but you can also get them on Kindle and in paperback. The first one is The Truth About Lord Stoneville – and I suggest you start there.
This week’s BotW is Louise Candlish’s The Sudden Departure of the Frasers – which was my Curtis Brown Book Group book for April, but which didn’t get finished until last week because that was when the discussion was.
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers tells the story of Christy and Joe Davenport, who have just bought the house of their dreams in a leafy London area they never expected to be able to afford. The previous owners, the Frasers, renovated the house and then abruptly disappeared. As the Davenports settle in to their new home, Christy becomes obsessed with why the Frasers left and particularly what happened to Amber – beautiful, popular, charming and the centre of the social whirl – and why the atmosphere on the street is so tense.
This is another book that I probably wouldn’t have picked out for myself – but ended up really enjoying* – in fact, I read the vast majority of it across the course of one afternoon and evening because I got sucked in and then I Needed To Know. It’s one of those books where you can’t put it down because your brain is frantically trying to work out what has gone on and you just need to read one more page/chapter/section because then you might be able to figure it out.
One of the reasons this book worked so well for me is that the setting and the characters seem utterly believeable. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had the fantasy that one day the dream home that you’ve always wanted will pop up on the market miraculously in your price range despite being worth oh-so-much more usually. And then obviously the old adage about “if it looks too good to be true, maybe it is” springs into your mind. Now scenarios like this usually lend themselves to horror or ghost stories (definitely not my thing) but this is neither. It’s a gripping little thriller, which will mess with your head but not leave you with nightmares about blood and gore and ghosts.**
Now I am breaking one of my own rules in writing about this now – because The Sudden Departure of the Frasers doesn’t come out until the 21st. But after a long deliberation I’ve put it up as this week’s BotW – because a) it was really good, b) if I didn’t BotW would probably be another Janet Evanovich (the obsession continues) and c) it will be a really, really good beach read, so preorder it for your holiday and you’ve one less thing to worry about!
You can pre-order The Sudden Departure of the Frasers from all the usual outlets – here is a selection of links – Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and Kindle – and I suspect that when it does come out it may pop up in your local supermarket as it’s being published by Penguin.
* Which illustrates why I have such a massive to-read pile. I like so many different books. And if I had bought myself this, it would probably have sat of the shelf for years because of the backlog because it’s not obviously a book that I’d like. Then you’d get another of my patented posts saying that I loved it and I can’t believe how long it sat on the shelf and why didn’t I read it sooner. I know. I’m a nightmare.
** I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there isn’t any blood or gore or ghosts. It’s not that sort of book. But you know what I mean.
Having got a bit behind with my book group reading, the early part of the week was spent reading the remaining 450 pages (of 500) of the Sudden Departure of the Frasers – which was definitely worth it. After that, the General Election and nightshifts took over – and I moved into a crime-and-romance mind set. I wanted to finish the Nora Roberts – and it is prime nightshift reading (so far at least) but my copy is a big old hardback, too big and heavy to cart about to work and back.
The Hen of the Baskervilles by Donna Andrew
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish
The Unlikely Lady by Valerie Bowman
A War of Flowers by Jane Thynne
Defying the Earl by Anabelle Bryant
Three to get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
The Lady Hellion by Joanna Shupe
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Hollywood Lost by Ace Collins
Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
The Liar by Nora Roberts
No books bought this week (!) which is particularly impressive because nights usually mean poor impulse control, resulting in binge book buying in the early hours. However I’m still on the Evanovich bandwagon (and now The Boy has joined in) so I’m not sure how long the five that I bought last week are going to last me…
This week’s BotW is Lauren Willig’s The Orchid Affair – the eighth book in the Pink Carnation series. It’s been nearly two years since I read my last Pink Carnation book and I’d almost forgotten how much I enjoy them. One of the really good things about this series is that Willig has come up with a way to generate plots that doesn’t involve breaking up couples that you love.
In part eight, we meet Laura, a governess for more than a decade, who has been recruited to the Pink Carnation’s spy network watching Bonaparte’s Paris. She’s got a post in the household of Andre Jaouen – the right-hand man to the Minister of Police. He’s part of an investigation is underway into a royalist plot – and Laura’s charged with reporting anything suspicious. But, as always, things are more complicated than they seem. Meanwhile back in the modern day, Eloise (the historian who is researching the Carnation’s network) is due to meet Colin’s mother.
This is a fun romp through Post-revolutionary France – with likeable characters and a gripping plot. There’s a great balance of suspense and romance – and although I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Colin and Eloise, I appreciate that Willig is taking her time with those two and not rushing them into things – and that more of them might have slowed the pace of the rest of the book.
My only real problem with this book was that the copy that I got is the US edition and so it was in American English – not British English – which in books like this yanks me out of the narrative abit (sometimes to Google things – like AP French). But hey, when you have a backlog like mine, and strict rules about book spending you can’t be picky. And it’s a very minor quibble really.
There’s another three Pink Carnation books I haven’t read yet – with a twelfth and final volume due this year. I suggest you start at the beginning so that the Colin and Eloise thing works best for you, but really they all work quite well on their own. Although you may not get the running jokes. The Orchid Affair is available from Amazon, Waterstones and Kindle – but I don’t think there’s been a UK edition, which can make the prices a bit.. high (hence why it’s taken me two years to get to the Orchid Affair). But the earlier books in the series did get a UK release, so you should be able to get your hands on them – I got the first couple from my local library.
Regular readers know that I like matching books. I have a couple of this series on my kindle (and the novellas), borrowed a few from the library, and then started buying. But due to the vagaries of the book market, I have three different sizes and styles of books – out of three. There isn’t a way to shelve this and make me happy.