Friday, October 16, 2009

The Untamed Bride, by Stephanie Laurens. A Review by Angie

UNTAMED_frontcoverSetting aside Laurens' love of her thesaurus, I was very happy to hear she was coming out with a new series.  Her storytelling is excellent and I fell in love with all the Bastion Club gentlemen, and this series looks to be just as entertaining.  However, we aren't completely finished with the Bastion boys, as they make prominent appearances throughout the entire series, along with the Cynster clan.  The series revolves around four British officers stationed in India in 1822.  They are attempting to unravel the mystery of the Black Cobra, putting themselves at risk as they investigate.  At the heart of the matter is a letter with a very condemning seal, one that could bring down a very influential member of the aristocracy.  One comrade has already died to get this information, and the series revolves around getting the letter in the right hands.  To do this, three copies of the letter, and the original, are spread between the four remaining comrades in an effort to mislead the foe and get the letter into the correct hands.   All have their fallen friend on their minds as they make the trip across the sea to England.

The Untamed Bride is the story of Colonel Derek Delborough and his journey back to England with his copy of the letter.  Upon arriving he learns he is to escort a young woman, Miss Deliah Duncannon, back to her parent's estate.  Irritated with the added task, when is already undertaking a dangerous mission, he attempts to dissuade Miss Duncannon to accept the escort of servants, to which she vehemently refuses.  Del has no choice but to bring her along, and hope that he can protect her along the way.  A run in with a would be assassin while still in port prompts Del to be on his way quickly, as Miss Duncannon's view of the killer puts her in immediate danger.  They set off for London for some addition investigation, putting on the pretense of being in town for pleasure.  During balls, the theater, and museum trips, he learns more information of who the elusive Black Cobra may be.

Deliah has secrets of her own, and is making her way back from Jamaica to her parent's estate.  Raised a parson's daughter, her spirit clashed with her parents views of what a young lady should be.  After a scandalous affair, she flees to Jamaica and her Uncle, and lives there for several years before coming back to England.  She is no typical young miss; Deliah is bold, courageous and smart, assisting the gentlemen several times with their mission, and pointing out flaws in their plans.  She finds kindred spirits in the women of the Cynster clan, ladies much above her in station, but much alike in temperament.  She loses her heart to Del despite all she does to keep it.

The pair find love along the way as they search for information and fend off a rather unrealistic attack where they all come out unscathed.  Their goal is to make it to the Duke of St. Ives and his estate, where they attempt to work out who the Black Cobra is and the person behind the violence.  With the assistance of several of the Cynster women, a few Bastion Club boys, Del and Deliah get one step closer to revealing the Black Cobra with a daring set up.

And that's where the book ends.  I believe, and I could be wrong, that each book in this series will end without a complete "ending" for the hero and heroine.   At the end of this book, Del and Deliah have promised themselves to each other, but the story is left wide open at the conclusion.  I'm assuming (and hoping and praying) that at some point in the series, we will see a happy ending for all the heroes and heroines.  Despite the odd end, the book is very, very good, and as usual, Laurens tells an intriguing story that keeps you hooked until the last page.  Her portrayal of the military precision of the time is flawless, and her story of love against most all odds is very endearing.

The Untamed Bride will be in stores October 27, 2009.  Be sure to pick this one up!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Barefoot, by Elin Hilderbrand


The last book I read and reviewed by Elin Hilderbrand, A Summer Affair, left me a bit cold, but I forged on and read her next, Barefoot. I will tell you straight out. Skip the first and start this one. They are not a series, and they are as different as night and day. I identified with it, I cried when I read parts of it. In short, I loved it.

The story revolves around three women, two sisters and a friend, who head to Nantucket for the summer, each with their own disaster story. Vicki has lung cancer and must undergo chemo before life saving surgery. Brenda, her younger sister, has just been fired from her coveted university job because she had an affair with her male student, who, while a year older than she is,  is still off limits. Melanie, Vicki's best friend,  rounds out the trio. She's pregnant after a long bout of infertility, and is  separated from her husband, who is having an affair with a work colleague. Have I lost you yet? I hope not.

Their story is wound together in an interesting tapestry by Josh Flynn, a college senior who is hired to babysit Vicki's kids while she undergoes treatment. What Josh doesn't expect is to have feelings for all three women, and one in particular. His role as surrogate mother, father and lover in that little cottage on the beach  pulls the story neatly together and makes it all real.

Elin Hilderbrand redeems herself in my eyes in this novel. The one thing I look for when I read a novel is to be pulled into a story and to be able to relate, in some way, to the characters and their dilemmas.  And the greatest compliment I can pay to a book and its author is that I didn't want to see it end. In this case, I wish this summer would have gone on forever.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Summer Affair, by Elin Hilderbrand


Just how perfect does one's life have to be before it's perfect enough?  Elin Hilderbrand attempts to answer this question in A Summer Affair.   After reading this book, I'd say it's obviously never perfect enough. But is that a realistic answer, even for a novel?

The story revolves around Nantucket Island and resident artist Claire Danner Crispin, the thirty-something wife of Jason (repeatedly described as a handsome blond with a six pack ab) and mother to four children, aged ten and under. There are undercurrents running through the marriage, specifically relating to Claire's profession of glass-blowing, from which she has taken a forced hiatus after an accident.

Claire is asked by Lock Dixon, a wealthy resident with a wife whose car accident leaves her with no social tact to speak of,  to co-chair the Summer Gala for Nantucket's Children, a local charity.  She is hesitant at first but because she can't say no to a request, she accepts the job. Her acceptance of  the position comes with two obligations. She must return to glass blowing to create the auction piece for the gala, a chandelier, and she's asked to procure the entertainment for the evening in the form of  Max West, formerly known as Matthew Westfield, now an international rock superstar, and Claire's first love from high school.

The story takes a funky twist when Claire begins a torrid affair with Lock Dixon. At this point, I was having trouble understanding the attraction between the two, and why, even with some tension at home, Claire would want to endanger her family life and marriage with this particular man. This is not based on any moral high ground.  The author simply never really makes this point with me. And any affection I had for Claire as a character went out the window at this point.  Hilderbrand then throws Max West into the mix. He's still in love with Claire and needs her to rescue him from his twenty year old demons. He practically proposes to her the night before the gala (does anyone remember Claire is married?).

No, near perfection is definitely not enough for Claire. And while the author makes you feel the desperation that Claire feels as she's caught up in her obsession with Lock,  it never quite rings true for this character. The way Claire's story unfolds  reminds me of one of her failed attempts at blowing the glass that would form the perfect chandelier arm; the result is too fragile to support even itself.

I have one more Elin Hilderbrand to try. We'll see if that one holds any weight.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My BFF by Ruth Phillips Oakland

41KpfoDCZ+L._SL500_AA240_Elizabeth Bennet was a child prodigy whose life went drastically off course as a teenager.  Thrust into adulthood much too soon she learned to cope with life by keeping everyone at arms length.  Now as a successful university professor her life is finally on the right track and the last thing Elizabeth wants is to fall in love and lose control again. 

Enter Fitzwilliam Darcy, powerful, brilliant, and absolutely gorgeous.  He hasn’t had a real relationship in years and isn’t about to start looking for one.  He learned early on that real love comes at a much higher price than simply paying for the imitation.  With a company and a foundation to run and a sister to watch over, Darcy can’t afford to lose his heart.

When the two meet things don’t exactly go as planned.  Neither Elizabeth nor Darcy wants to admit how attracted they are to the other, but they can’t seem to stay away from each other either.  With both of them thinking a romantic relationship would be a disaster, they decide to forge a friendship.  Soon the two are inseparable and the fine line between friends and lovers is blurring at a rapidly increasing pace.  But can Elizabeth ad Darcy overcome their fears and find happiness or will they never be more than just best friends?

My BFF is a fantastic story.  Ruth Phillips Oakland does a great job taking Jane Austen’s most beloved characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, and creating a wonderfully modern story.  The language and imagery are superb, and each character is so well written they all find a way into your head. I highly recommend this book, not only to those who read Jane Austen fan fiction, but to anyone who loves to read well-written novels.