Civilizing Frances (The Mad Hatterlys #3)

Civilizing Frances (The Mad Hatterlys #3)

By: Marguerite Butler

(http://www.amazon.com/Marguerite-Butler/e/B004SUR0FG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1)

Musa Publishing October 2011

A regency romance novel review

 

(Reviews of The Mad Hatterlys #1 here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/compromising-prudence-the-mad-hatterlys/

And of The Mad Hatterlys #2 here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/becoming-mr-brooking-the-mad-hatterlys/)

 

Every girl’s first London season is nerve-wracking.  For a girl raised in the country with the same pursuits and athleticism as five brothers, it’s stifling.  When that country girl is one of the “Mad Hatterlys,” it’s downright disastrous.  Used to going her own way, Frances finds herself both at war with the Duke of Ainsley, and compromised by him.  The scandal must end in her marriage or her exile from society.  A man of honor, Ainsley surrounds Frances with eligible suitors…So why do they constantly seem drawn to each other?

With daggers drawn right from the start, Frances and Ainsley make a stickier pairing that in the previous Hatterly books, with Frances matching her unorthodox ways and physical prowess against the Duke’s authoritative respectability.  Frances acts younger than her years while Ainsley acts older.  The heroine knowing from the start that the hero will have to propose to her wrenches Civilizing Frances out of the usual groove of eccentric heroines paired with eligible bachelors, with side characters twisting this into more of an ensemble story.  The focus on how the main characters grow through their relationships with others, as well as each other, really brings this book to life and invites the reader to care about all these people outside of the love story.

All in all, this is a large caramel pretzel of a book, with a smoothing dose of sweet caramel bringing the expected fluffy finish to an unusually salty and bumpy romance.

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Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)

Persephone (Daughters of Zeus)

By: Kaitlin Bevis

(http://kaitlinbevis.com/)

Published by: Euterpe (July 5, 2012)

A young adult fantasy review

 

Persephone suspects she is going crazy.  The wind whispers her name and she often feels she is being watched.  Then her mother tells her she is a goddess, so clearly craziness is catching.  Being attacked by the god of winter and carried off to the Underworld by Hades don’t help Persephone’s day.  Ironically, they do convince her that her family is sane, if different.  Now Persephone’s only obstacles are learning how to be a goddess, the obsession of the lustful god Boreas, ruling as queen of the Underworld, and trying to regain control over her life.  Also, finding oneself in a permanent, political marriage to the god of the Underworld can get tricky.  Hades proves a very different god than Persephone imagined.

I found Persephone fresh, fun, and easy to read.  Bevis modernizes Greek mythology by creating her own history of what changing values and worship systems would do to the deities, rather than simply updating them like Rick Riordan.  Her alterations are engaging and change the stakes so that readers get to encounter well-known myths with fresh eyes.  (Yes, I am using the word “fresh” a lot because it’s about the goddess of spring.)  I can’t wait to find out more about the gods in her world-I wish there’d been a bit more exposition just filling me in.

I enjoyed this heroine.  Persephone’s discovery that she is a goddess is the most authentic, plausible supernatural-acceptance narrative I’ve ever read.  She felt so organic that she came across as a truly strong heroine without it seeming like the author was trying to make her one; she just was.  Her personality grounded the novel and grew in the spotlight, no matter what else was happening.  Plus, Persephone’s practically the only time I’ve seen a short girl in this supernatural role.

Bevis very deliberately leaves no stone unturned in creating a Hades whose character is positive.  His Underworld has a lot to offer and is wonderfully fleshed out.  The supporting cast is compelling, rather than just plotpoints.  There’s enough action to keep the pacing quick.  She does assume enough knowledge of Greek mythology that, while readers won’t be lost, they might not enjoy the novel as much if they aren’t in the know.  The myths Bevis actually retells successfully marry familiar myths with her versions of the characters.  The overarching plot that extends to the sequels is promising.

So basically, as Persephone renews the earth, Persephone renews her story.  What’s not to like about spring?  I recommend it.

 

(Review for the sequel here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/daughter-of-earth-and-sky-daughters-of-zeus-2/)

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Becoming Mr. Brooking (The Mad Hatterlys)

Becoming Mr. Brooking (The Mad Hatterlys 2)

By: Marguerite Butler

(http://www.amazon.com/Marguerite-Butler/e/B004SUR0FG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1)

Musa Publishing 2011

A regency romance novel review

 

When Graham Hatterly decides to consider sponsoring Horace Tolliver’s botany expedition, it seems like a simple business arrangement.  Then his secretary Mr. Brooking takes ill and light-spirited Mr. Hatterly decides to travel in his stead.  Undercover, of course.  Hard-pressed to provide for any guest, Edwina Tolliver finds herself saddled with housing and entertaining “Mr. Brooking” throughout a flood.  As Graham learns more about the Tollivers, his own expedition grows into much more than Becoming Mr. Brooking.

This book is like strawberry cheesecake.  It fulfills all the sweet, cheesy expectations of this type of story, yet somehow makes it seem fruity-fresh and organic.  I believe it’s the inherent likability of the two leads.  They are charismatic characters with chemistry who transcend their roles.  Yes, Graham Hatterly is the gadabout playboy, but his issues are treated as real faults, not dramatic allure.  Edwina Tolliver’s different-from-society behavior highlights a character I’d like to befriend, rather than a stereotype or the folly of normal society.  Her temper is particularly admirable.  Their interactions include everything you’d want in awkwardly-close-environment encounters, while progressing in natural ways and for good reasons.

Basically, this is a light, quick read that made me laugh, while the characters made me smile.  I’d like to read it again.  Plus, we spend more time with people from Compromising Prudence (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/compromising-prudence-the-mad-hatterlys/) in a way that builds on the family dynamics of the “Mad Hatterlys” rather than being simple cameos.  So far, this is a fun family to discover.

John Crabbe (The John Swale Chronicles)

John Crabbe (The John Swale Chronicles #9)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

John Crabbe returns the chronicles to tempestuous Scotland, with pirates at the helm.  Notorious pirate John Crabbe finds himself facing defiant nobility on and off the water.

Pilling deploys his excellent introductory skills to meld excitement and tension into the debut of his first sea bandit.  The pace whips everything along so briskly that this short work feels even shorter than it really is.  The variety of conflicts, both internal and external, keeps John Crabbe in choppy emotional waters while the action keeps it salty.  It’s a harsh voyage to read, but one that offers all the expected thrills of piracy within the darker context of Scotland’s impending warfare.

The Wild Hunt (The John Swale Chronicles)

The Wild Hunt (The John Swale Chronicles #8)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

Finally on his way towards revenge, Swale’s anticipation to engage Folville drives The Wild Hunt.  However, encountering Folville’s relatives proves far easier than meeting the bandit leader himself.

Another brief segment of The John Swale Chronicles, The Wild Hunt breaks into the real action of the feud.  From opening tactics to the first battle, Swale and Folville keep this work tight, dark, and harsh.  Unlike previous installments to this story, no other character is allowed to broaden the story.  This simpler structure and use of only established characters makes the story sharper, with a more direct message.  On the other hand, it’s missing Pilling’s usual doses of nuance and clever whole-world-building.  As part of a larger work, The Wild Hunt would make a compelling sequence.  Published on its own its success is narrowed to those who appreciate military tales or are highly invested in Folville and Eustace, as opposed to other players in this series.

In short, this is the part of a fight where expectations are still building and resolution is not yet in sight.  Time to place your bets.

Compromising Prudence (The Mad Hatterlys)

Compromising Prudence (The Mad Hatterlys #1)

By: Marguerite Butler

(http://margueritebutler.blogspot.com/)

Aurora Regency (Musa Publishing) 2010

An historical romance fiction review

(Review of The Mad Hatterlys #2 at https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/becoming-mr-brooking-the-mad-hatterlys/)

 

When Prudence decides to take control of her own destiny her defiant spirit quickly enmeshes her with strange men, strange places, and more alcohol than is advisable to imbibe.  When her path crosses with bird-loving Charles Hatterly, Prudence finds that compromising may be the key to achieving her new, independent life.  Charles Hatterly is far from used to compromising, but finds himself doing so more and more when it comes to Prudence.  Will their arrangement rescue them both from their family’s censure?  Or will it just lead them into imprudent decisions and compromised positions?

Compromising Prudence is a tuxedo strawberry of a book!  It’s sweet, fresh, and charming, with an orderly outside to complement its natural inner deliciousness.  The rules of society surround Butler’s story, but always come second to the main characters’ personalities.  Prudence is wonderfully strong-willed without becoming the stereotypical headstrong heroine.  Likewise, Charles’ ability to adapt his thinking gives him more maturity than the usual bewildered bachelor.  The emotions of these characters, particularly Prudence, read as very organic and relatable.  Their relationship dynamic is delightful because once they’ve met it arises from simple experience of each other rather than relying on shocking events or societal values.  The lack of melodrama doesn’t dull Butler’s book, but adds extra lightness, making this a quick, easy read for whiling away plane time, car trips, rainy days, or tea time.  But it’s the inherent likability of Charles and Prudence that drives this romance to the level of sweetness that turns Compromising Prudence from plain fruit into tuxedo strawberries.

The Pretender (The John Swale Chronicles)

The Pretender (The John Swale Chronicles #7)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

The Pretender introduces Edward Balliol, the man whose claim to the Scottish throne is pulling the tides of English and Scottish politics.  With Robert the Bruce’s child son on the Scottish throne and Edward III brimming with ambition, conflict can’t be far off.  This work elaborates on the players of the upcoming struggle while plainly illustrating how the power of kings and countries trickles down to influence the fortunes of everyone.

A short work with a lot to set up, The Pretender is a waiting piece, adding tinder to the fireplace but not yet striking up flames.

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