Watch the Wall, My Darling by Joan Aiken Hodge

21147314Watch the Wall, My Darling

by Joan Aiken Hodge

Edition: ebook, ARC

Synopsis: Only a deathbed promise to her dying father could force Christina Tretton to travel to Tretteign Grange, the ‘Dark House’, and meet her estranged family for the first time. Having to fast-talk her way out of an encounter with smugglers on the way is only the beginning. Waiting for her is flighty aunt Verity, her two very different cousins ? the stoic Ross and fawning Richard ? and her formidable grandfather, who changes his Will every few days.
Taking the neglectful servants in hand, Christina is soon managing the house, proving herself invaluable in her grandfather’s eyes. This backfires when he decides he wants her as his heir, and only on the condition that she marries Ross or Richard. Outraged, she swears she will marry neither, but her cousins have different ideas. Should she marry the cousin she is drawn to, even if he appears to have no true feelings for her?
Hanging over them is the constant threat of invasion, as Dark House looks over the sea to France, and Napoleon. When cousin Ross disappears, it is up to Christina to stand in his stead and take on the running of the estate – amongst some of his more disreputable duties. For as soldiers work to fortify the coast, Christina finds herself in the twisted intrigues of smugglers and spies.

American Christina Tretton arrives at her father’s family home, intent on keeping the promise she made to her now dead parent. She is thrust into the middle of the secrets of “The Dark House”. Can she navigate the danger without forfeiting her life in the process?

Christina was an interesting enough character. It almost seemed as though being American -practical, forthright, opinionated- was her entire character. She made no effort to understand the traditions of her family. It was all ‘I am American and I am going to do things my way.” Her acceptance of everything that came her way was a little unbelievable.

Those who filled “The Dark house” were appropriate for a Gothic style tale. Annoying, suspicious, and integral to the plot in turns, no one really stood out at all. Not even the hero of the tale.

The plot was a bit confusing from the start and it took some effort to continue reading.

Overall, I’m not sorry to have read a Gothic Regency, but I’m not so sure I will be in a hurry to reread it or anything like it again. For those who enjoy a story with a dark atmosphere and too many twists and turns to keep track of, this may be a book for you.

I received an copy through NetGalley for reviewing purposes.

 

 

Favorite Books

As you’ve probably guessed, I like to read. In fact, I take every free moment I can to read…which does make it hard to put writing as a priority.

Anyway, though there are many books I love and like, it takes a pretty special book to make it onto my favorite list and STAY there. Last month, I made a list of my top five favorite books for a fellow author’s site.

Without any further ado, I give you my

Top Five Favorite Books

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Persuasion by Jane Austen

Anne Elliot may not have the charm of Elizabeth Bennet, but she is the most loyal of all Jane Austen’s works and thus my favorite. I love how in her story, she’s matured but still loves the man she turned away. Also, this quote:  “All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one: you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone!”

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The Foundling by Georgette Heyer

What I love about this book is Gilly, the seventh Duke of Sale. He is a mild mannered young man, who longs to know what life would be like if there weren’t well meaning family members and servants who won’t let him lift a finger for himself. He is such a lovable character who really grows up in the story.

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The Case of the Left-Handed Lady (Enola Holmes #2) by Nancy Springer

This is the second book in a middle-grade series about Sherlock Holmes much younger sister. What I love about this book especially is Enola Holmes interactions, not only in disguise with her detective brother, but with a young lady who comes to be her best friend. With codes to solve and danger on every corner, this book out of the series is the one I pick up first.

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The Clue of the Broken Locket (Nancy Drew #11) by Carolyn Keene

This one is on my list because this was my first introduction to Nancy Drew when I was seven years old. Nancy has two mysteries to solve. What I fell in love with was how the mysteries entwined through the story and how much spunk this detective has.

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Murder on Black Swan Lane by Andrea Penrose

So this is a book that has yet to be released but I was privileged to receive an ARC. The hero of this particular book is an earl with an interest in science and when he comes under suspicion for murder he quite logically sets out to prove his innocence. The plot of this book is unusual for the Regency era and is written brilliantly.

So, there you have it, my top five books. At least for the moment. Here’s to finding more great books to enjoy!

Montana Dawn

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Montana Dawn

by Caroline Fiffe

Edition: ebook, 2011

Synopsis: Luke McCutcheon found Faith Brown unprotected and about to give birth, crouched in the corner of her dilapidated wagon. Though his family’s cattle drive was no place for a widow and a newborn, neither was the open trail. Honor demanded he bring them along.

Delivering her child was only Luke’s first kind act. Honest and wholesome, handsome and strong, the cowboy seemed a knight from some long-ago tale. Faith could tell they longed for the same things. But, fleeing the past, trust was a luxury she could little afford. It lay at the end of the road like a warm hearth and home, like a loving family, like a bright Montana Dawn.

Luke McCutcheon finds a young woman in labor while in charge of his family’s cattle drive. Though he knows she’s lying, his heart is caught by her determination and kindness, and he takes Faith home to his family until he can learn the truth.

I really like the family dynamic that is portrayed in this book. I will admit that though this is the first book of the series, at times it felt as though I’d jumped right into the middle of the series. The characters were good and although I understand WHY Faith is hesitant to tell the truth, I wanted to shake her for taking so long.

Overall, this is a good clean read for a lazy afternoon.

The Indigo Girl

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The Indigo Girl

by Natasha Boyd

Edition: ARC ebook, 2017

Synopsis: An incredible story of dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything.

Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it’s the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it’s impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return — against the laws of the day — she will teach the slaves to read.

So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

Based on historical documents, including Eliza’s letters, this is a historical fiction account of how a teenage girl produced indigo dye, which became one of the largest exports out of South Carolina, an export that laid the foundation for the incredible wealth of several Southern families who still live on today. Although largely overlooked by historians, the accomplishments of Eliza Lucas influenced the course of US history. When she passed away in 1793, President George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral.

This book is set between 1739 and 1744, with romance, intrigue, forbidden friendships, and political and financial threats weaving together to form the story of a remarkable young woman whose actions were before their time: the story of the indigo girl.

An intelligent young woman is left in charge of her father’s plantations in South Carolina while her father pursues his military pursuits. As her ambitions grow, she must fight the disapproval from her own family and her own family.

What I especially loved about this novel is how it is based on reality. Eliza did refuse to conform to society. She did learn to produce indigo dye, when everyone save for a few people, said she wouldn’t be able to. I love the references to her letters that are the basis for the narrative.

The fictional characters add dimension to Eliza’s story and how they interact with each other. The story does have an an abrupt ending, but beyond that it has an enjoyable flow. The author does an excellent job of creating the atmosphere of the time.

For any reader who enjoys novels based on history, this is a must read.

I received a free copy from NetGalley for review purposes.

Dukes, Duels, and Daring: A Russian Regency Romance

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Dukes, Duels, and Daring

by Victoria Wright

Edition: ebook, 2017

Synopsis: Run Away to Russia…
Isabelle
Betrothed to a duke well above her station, the young lady Isabelle Fontaine had only one duty to fulfill: marry the man! It should have been an easy task, for Henri, Duke de Gramont, was also strong, handsome, and professed to be in love with her. What more could the provincial daughter of a lowly baron hope for in a husband?

But that was before everything went wrong…

Sebastian
After participating in one duel too many, Prince Sebastian Konstantinovich Lvov was sent to Paris to cool his heels and perhaps learn a thing or two about civilized culture. He never would have imagined that he’d return to Russia with a bride. To begin with, he was already engaged.

That hardly seems to matter when it comes to Isabelle. At first he couldn’t stop himself from tormenting the girl, but when her very life is endangered, he does what any self-respecting nobleman would: propose, and challenge her ex-fiancé to a duel. It seemed a reasonable response at the time.

Now if only he could explain that to his family––or the vengeful Grand Princess he was supposed to marry.

Engaged to be wed to a duke, Isabelle is certain her future is set. A troublesome Russian prince,a cousin of her betrothed, lands her, albeit unintentionally, in hot water and then everything changes.

As this is the first Russian Regency novel I’ve ever seen, I was immediately intrigued. And that really is the story’s strongest point. The details about Russian culture are fascinating, and though I don’t know much about Russia, I got the feeling that the author does. That definitely comes across in the writing.

As to the characters themselves, I didn’t like them at first. The whole “I like you so that’s why tease you and are mean to you” trope irritates me, and so Prince Sebastian comes across as a bully when we first meet him. Isabelle herself seems a little modern for the era and her own attitude towards the prince seemed uncalled for. The other characters are introduced to us so fast it was difficult to keep track of them.

Given that I read an ARC, there were some misspellings and punctuation errors that were enough to jar me out of the story. Hopefully these were addressed before the book’s release. There were multiple instances of modern words (i.e OK, which is an Americanism with its origin coming about in 1840). Isabelle is also referred to as Lady Fontaine on occasion, when she ought to have been The Honorable Isabelle Fontaine. I’m also not fond of novels that are left with nothing really resolved.

There is something about this book, though, that had my interest, and I think it does come down to where it is set.

I received a free copy from the author for reviewing purposes.

An Untimely Frost (Lilly Long #1)

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An Untimely Frost

by Penny Richards

Edition: paperback, 2016

Synopsis: In 1881 Chicago, the idea of a female detective is virtually unheard of. But when famed crime buster Allan Pinkerton opens his agency’s doors to a handful of women, one intrepid actress with her own troubled past is driven to defy convention and take on a new and dangerous role. . .

Since the age of eleven, when her mother was murdered, the life of the theater is all Lilly Long has known. Now twenty-two, she has blossomed into an accomplished Shakespearean actress. But after her innocence–and her savings–are taken from her by a seductive scoundrel, Lilly vows to leave the stage, enter the real world, and save others from a similar fate. Following in the footsteps of the country’s first female detective, Lilly persuades Allan Pinkerton to take her on.

Lilly’s acting skills are a perfect fit for her real-life role as a Pinkerton operative. But her first case is a baptism by fire as she is sent to the small town of Vandalia to solve the mystery of a pastor who disappeared with his family–and the church’s funds. When Lilly arrives, she finds the mere mention of the reverend’s name provokes enmity or suspicious silence. Shadowed by a second Pinkerton agent with an agenda of his own, Lilly begins to uncover Vandalia’s sordid secrets. But she’ll have to deliver the performance of a lifetime to survive the final act of this drama.

In the wake of discovering the duplicity of her new husband, Lilly Long decides she can use her life to help other women who are victims of unscrupulous men. She is hired, after some hesitation, by Allan Pinkerton and is off on her first assignment as an operative. Can this young, former actress handle the danger and mystery?

I wold say “poor Lilly” but this is not a character to pity. Despite the horrible things that have happened in her life, she keeps going and wants to help other women. She is clever, but emotional. Her reactions to the things she discovers are true to life and made me like her even more.

The mystery itself was well executed and kept me guessing. The reader is led along at just the right pace and the facts discovered in just the right way.

In short, this is a fantastic addition to historical fiction and I cannot wait to follow Lilly into more mysteries.

Lady Maybe

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Lady Maybe

by Julie Klassen

Edition: paperback, 2015

Synopsis: One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

After awakening from a carriage accident, a young woman is confused when she is called Lady Mayfield. When her memory returns, she makes a decision and then must endure the consequences.

From the start, I guessed the identity of the young woman. The reader is not left in suspense for long. The majority of the novel focuses on her past, which she is anxious to keep quiet for obvious reasons. Her conflicting feelings are understandable, and the consequences that she bravely faces.

The book is clean, although there is a scene where two characters get into bed together. This is written in a discreet manner and is not graphic. Though I did not like it, I don’t think it very offensive.

Every few chapters -it varies-, we have the viewpoint of Lord Mayfield’s solicitor, which adds an interesting layer to the story.

This Regency tale is entertaining and one I could recommend to fans of the era.