Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recent Reads - a 3fer!

The King’s Courtesan by Judith James

Why this one: Ever since I was blown away by Broken Wing, there’s not a chance I won’t read anything this author writes. Although it sat longer in the TBR pile than originally planned, I think the reason was I’m so taken with reading on my IPad now that it wasn’t until I bought this digitally that I finally started reading it.

Steam Level: It’s cold. It’s winter. This book will help warm one up on a cold winter day

Blurb: Sensuous, beautiful and determined, Hope Matthews is a favored mistress of the king.

Her many charms have helped her rise from the gutter to the king's bed. But with the new queen's impending arrival, her nights in the royal chamber-- and her hopes for security--will swiftly come to an end.

His honor a distant memory

Haunted by his past hardened by the recent civil war, Captain Robert Nichols lives only for revenge. When told he must marry the king's courtesan to provide a cover for their affair,

he's faced with a new low. Both are pawns of a great man, but married to their dreams of independence, their clash is inevitable. Can these two wounded souls realize the answer to all their dreams might lie in each other's arms?

My Thoughts: While this one didn’t blow me away like BW did, it’s certainly in the upper levels of books I read in 2011. Robert Nichols was in the previous book, Libertine’s Kiss where he was a rather dour, severe kind of character; of course any one would be after the larger than life persona of William.

I might have worried, but this is Judith James who writes such wonderful, multidimensional characters. And I just adore the setting and time period.

Although it’s England, this book as well as Libertine’s Kiss is set during the Restoration period. I’ve been so intrigued and wanting to know more about this underwritten time in English history.

As I said, while Robert comes across as stern, much of that can be attributed to the fact that he was on Cromwell’s side during the civil war and those Puritans weren’t know to be party animals. But the fact that he fought for Cromwell was more that it was expedient then the fact that he followed their beliefs. His lands had been stolen and he wanted them back. He is a good and honourable man and I liked him a lot.

But it’s Hope who is the one full of life here. In Broken Wing, it was Gabriel who was the stand out character; in The King’s Courtesan, for me, it’s Hope. What a wonderfully written character she is. She’s grown up in a brothel, her mother the Madam who sells her young daughter, Hope still manages to maintain certain innocence about her. She first meets Robert when she is young and quite literally falls into his lap during a march of the soldiers. She’s smitten with him and sees him as someone who will rescue her from her sad circumstances only to be sold later that same day. The book then moves forward in time to when Charles II has taken the crown and Hope as one of his

mistresses. He is about to be married and Hope realizes that he can’t keep her because of her low birth. All she wants from Charles is her freedom to live her life the way she wants to. Instead, like so many other people in her life, he ‘sells’ her to Robert for the price of Robert’s land back. Charles thinks once the newness of

marriage wears off, he will want Hope back again and Robert will be a compliant cuckold. But things don’t turn out quite that way.

Once they get past their initial misunderstandings, they begin to truly care about the other and fall in love.

And now it hangs over their head – what do they do when the King wants her back

And while Hope is more of a stand out character, Robert is no slouch himself. He never holds Hope’s past against her, realizing she did what she had to do in order to survive.

He is smitten with the dichotomy of her being the King’s mistress on one hand and so seemingly naive and innocent on the other hand.

The setting is also such an attraction for me with this book. There are so few in this setting and I know so little, that a few times while reading, I went back and did a bit of research on the time. As history was one of my favourite subjects in school, I simply loved that I had this reaction.

I just love EVERTHING about Ms. James writing, her characters, her settings, her detail to history, you name it and I give it a thumbs up. As I think I mentioned earlier this one didn’t quite come up to Broken Wing, but since I gave that book higher than a 5 out of 5, this one does get a

Grade: 5 out of 5

When A Duke Says I Do by Jane Goodger

Why This One: There was some discussion on it on the AAR board, I looked it up, it sounded interesting,

I’ve read and enjoyed some older books by this author so I decided to give it a try.

Steam Level: Fairly toasty!

Blurb: Miss Elsie Stanhope resided in Nottinghamshire, an area so rich in titled gentlemen, so felicitous for marriage-minded mamas, it was called

"the Dukeries." Indeed, Elsie had been betrothed since childhood to the heir of a dukedom. She had no expectation it would be a love match.

Still less that she would enter into a shockingly scandalous affair with an altogether different sort of lover. And the very last thing she imagined was that the mysteries of his birth would be unraveled with as many

unforeseen twists and turns as the deepest secrets of her heart.

My Thoughts: Do you ever read a synopsis and just something you can’t really put your finger on precisely calls to you and you just want to read this book?

That’s what happened to me with this one and I’m glad I listened to ‘the call’. I really enjoyed this book. In these times of fewer historical reads, this book helped to remind me why I used to enjoy them so much.

Elsie is a naturally happy young woman. Betrothed since she was very young, she doesn’t really want to get married and move away from all that she knows and loves including her very young sister.

But she is ready to do it since she is if nothing else, an obedient daughter to her widowed father.

But her plans are thrown into disarray when she finds herself very attracted to the mute young

assistant to the mural artist her father has hired. Elsie has troubles sleeping and late at night when

everyone else is abed, she slips down to where Andre or Alexander is working late into the night.

It turns out he’s hiding a few secrets. First off, he is the real artist, not his boss. His boss has been unable to paint for a while and Alexander is covering for him. In addition,

Alexander is not really mute; he just has very real and strong issues, dating back to a horrid childhood in speaking in public. Indeed,

not even his artist boss knows he can really speak.

Alexander and Elsie develop a strong bond built in friendship

and it leads to much deeper feelings on both their parts. But both realize that their blossoming love is impossible. She

is engaged to someone else and he is nothing more than an artist’s assistant. But is he really only that?

This is a romance novel so of course he’s actually more. But in order to have any chance to claim the young woman he has come to love more than life itself, he’s going to have to rise above his very real issues.

This book reminds me a little of another book I loved to pieces and pieces, Broken Wing in that the hero is severely damaged and needs the

heroine to help heal him. While I didn’t have quite the same reaction to When A Duke Says I Do, I still thought it a very fine way to spend hours reading.

Alexander was deliciously wounded and I do so love a wounded hero. He suffered from a very abusive childhood which together with his speech issues, made things

very bad for him. But he felt comfortable enough with Elsie to be free and speak to her. Because of the healing effect she had on him, he was ‘gone’ for her, another characteristic I love about a heroine; when he is totally smitten with the heroine. I also quite enjoyed the character of Elsie too. She was alternately pragmatic, naïve, optimistic, accepting, compassionate and understanding. When she discovers Alexander’s secrets, she is willing to wait until he is ready to tell her the stories behind them.

Although very curious, she doesn’t pressure him. Towards the end of the story, she made one decision I wish she hadn’t, but considering the pressure she was under, I could see why she capitulated.

The villain of the story was a bit over the top and it wasn’t really

explained to my complete satisfaction why he did the things he did and there was no real closure for the hero. But those were small issues

when measured against how much I enjoyed this book.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

Changeling Dream by Dani Harper

Why This One: I read the first book in this series and liked it

Steam Level: We haven’t had much of a winter so far this year, but if we had this would have helped keep me warm

Blurb: In times of stress Jillian Descharme has always found calm in her dream of a great white wolf with haunting blue eyes. But she is startled when the visions return and this time seem so real. Late at night he comes to her, speaks to her, touches her. It's almost as if he's alive...

Thirty years ago James Macleod lost his wife and unborn child to a killer bent on destroying the Changelings. Though he longed for death, his animal instinct fought for survival and James has been a wolf ever since. Yet now a woman has reawakened the man in him, taming wild instincts but arousing still wilder needs. With his ancient enemy hunting the legendary white wolf, James must fight for new life, new hope, new love.

My Thoughts: I’ve said a few times when it comes to either werewolves or vampires, I pick the werewolf. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been reading this series. I like the first book, thus I wanted to continue. The hero of this book is James MacLeod, the older brother of the hero of Changeling Moon. As it says in the blurb, James suffered a great tragedy when his young wife and unborn child were murdered and because he couldn’t deal with the horror of it all since he felt responsible, he remained in his wolf form for the next 30 years.

The heroine, Jillian Descharme, a young vet hired by Duncan, the hero of the first book, to help in his practice is the catalyst for James finally taking back his human self. It turns out many years ago that his wolf form rescued Jililan and the wolf side has considered Jillian ‘his’ ever since then. And Jillian has never forgotten the white wolf that rescued and comforted her from a horrendous attack when she was very young.

When the white wolf realizes that Jillian has come to his neck of the woods, he claims Jillian as his even though James does not want to become involved with anyone again. He is astonished when he does come back to his humanity to realize that so much time has gone by.

I liked both these characters. James is kind of unusual as there is an internal battle going on inside him for most of the book as to who was going to get what they wanted, him or his inner wolf. I thought that dynamic was quite unique. And I liked the character of Jillian although I felt at times that she was a bit too much of a ‘super’ woman. I preferred the first book just a tad more, but I liked them both enough to get the third one, Changeling Dawn.

There were a few things that I thought weren’t explained enough though. When James rescued Jillian many years ago, she lived in mid-Ontario and yet she moved thousands of miles to the exact location that James called home. It was never explained how James traveled such a long distance or why when in wolf form and then I thought it was just a tad too coincidental that Jillian would end up in the very small Alberta town that the MacLeod family called home.

But for a werewolf or changeling as they prefer to be called, I thought it not too shabby a book at all.

Grade: 3.75 out of 5


Wendy said...

Ugh, still need to read those Judith James Restoration books. Also, need to make sure I have both of them. I know I have the first one, not sure about the second. I've been pretty sloppy with my book buying the last couple of months - need to start writing down a list.....

Kristie (J) said...

We-ell, isn't Feb's challenge a book recommended by someone? That would give you one of these. Or then again there is also the long neglected Conor's Way.

nath said...

Seems like you're having a good start of the year so far, Kristie! :)

so glad you enjoyed the Judith James. I haven't read more of her after The Broken Wing. Needs to remedy that.

I was surprised to see that Ms Goodger had a new release out, but I was glad as well. This one was pretty good indeed :) The story was quite interesting... but I don't feel like we really knew the father's motives :(

Wendy said...

KristieJ: I've pretty much decided I'm reading Connor's Way - although I also have Jackson Rule languishing in the pile as well :) But you've nagged me more about Connor, so he's the lucky fella....

Samantha said...

If given the choice I'd pick werewolves over vampires too. Changeling Dream sounds pretty interesting. Even though I'm a little leery of the whole wolf wants one thing man wants the other. I don't really enjoy when an author chooses to make the wolf and man sound like two separate beings who share the same body.

Hilcia said...

You know? I keep hearing good things about Dani Harper. I have the latest book in that series in my TBR... maybe I'll give it a shot. :) Thanks for the reviews.

Jack said...

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