BOOK REVIEW: The Duke is But a Dream, by Anna Bennett

BOOK REVIEW: The Duke is But a Dream, by Anna BennettTitle: The Duke Is But a Dream by Anna Bennett
Series: Debutante Diaries #2
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Published: July 30th 2019
Genres: Romance
Pages: 311
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

Once upon a time three young ladies vowed to record their first London seasons…and to fill in the gaps of their finishing school educations. Thus began The Debutante Diaries—and London will never be the same…

HE’S COME TO HER RESCUE

Miss Lily Hartley is the anonymous mastermind behind the ton’s latest obsession: The Debutante’s Revenge, a titillating advice column for ladies on the marriage mart. To keep her identity secret, Lily delivers her columns disguised as a chimney sweep—which is all well and good, until she unwittingly lands in the middle of an ugly tavern brawl. Fortunately, the devastatingly handsome Duke of Stonebridge sweeps in to rescue her.Unfortunately, Lily’s dressed as a boy—and holding rather incriminating evidence linking her to the scandalous column. Drat.

SHE’S LOST HER MEMORY

When Eric Nash, Duke of Stonebridge, sees a helpless lad receive a nasty blow to the head, he’s outraged. But when he discovers there’s a beautiful woman hiding beneath the chimney sweep’s cap, he’s positively stunned. Nash would happily escort her home, but she’s forgotten her name—leaving him little choice but to take her in himself until he can locate her family. But the closer he gets to finding them, the more he doesn’t want to let her go.

WILL THEY FIND LOVE?

Lily’s trying to figure out exactly who she is…in more ways than one. With so much at stake—her column, her reputation, and even her heart—she needs a plan, and she needs it fast. Before Nash finds her family. Before he learns who she is. Before they fall totally, completely, and utterly inconveniently in love.

Me? Reading and reviewing more romance? If you asked me a year ago that I’d be where I am now with regards to reading more of what’s often categorized as “romance,” I probably wouldn’t believe you. But there’s a lot of things that have happened in the last year that I have trouble believing, so here we are. I requested a few romance titles that sounded interesting to me on Netgalley, and The Duke is But a Dream caught my eye because the protagonist, Lily, writes a regular advice column called “The Debutante Diaries” that has captivated all of London. When she gets into a scuffle dressed as a boy, Lily is hurt and has amnesia, and a duke comes to her rescue.

For the most part, I enjoyed this! It was well-paced and kept me wanting to find out what happened at the end, but ultimately it felt timeless in the sense that I couldn’t tell you in what era in the past this book was set. I read historical romance for those details, but this seemed to gloss a lot of those historical placement markers and favored a more modern approach to language and behavior. I hadn’t realized this was the second in a series either, and I might check out the first one from the library to see if the first sets up that historical placement a little more because I know series in general rely on that first book to set up everything while the rest follow on the hopes that the reader recalls the setting of the first!

It’s enjoyable enough for me to look out for the next book in the series once it’s released and to check out the first one! Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for an e-ARC to review. All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: We Are All Good People Here, by Susan Rebecca White

BOOK REVIEW: We Are All Good People Here, by Susan Rebecca WhiteTitle: We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White
Published by Atria Books
Published: August 6th 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

From the author of A Place at the Table and A Soft Place to Land, an “intense, complex, and wholly immersive” (Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author) multigenerational novel that explores the complex relationship between two very different women and the secrets they bequeath to their daughters.

Eve Whalen, privileged child of an old-money Atlanta family, meets Daniella Gold in the fall of 1962, on their first day at Belmont College. Paired as roommates, the two become fast friends. Daniella, raised in Georgetown by a Jewish father and a Methodist mother, has always felt caught between two worlds. But at Belmont, her bond with Eve allows her to finally experience a sense of belonging. That is, until the girls’ expanding awareness of the South’s systematic injustice forces them to question everything they thought they knew about the world and their places in it.

Eve veers toward radicalism—a choice pragmatic Daniella cannot fathom. After a tragedy, Eve returns to Daniella for help in beginning anew, hoping to shed her past. But the past isn’t so easily buried, as Daniella and Eve discover when their daughters are endangered by secrets meant to stay hidden.

Spanning more than thirty years of American history, from the twilight of Kennedy’s Camelot to the beginning of Bill Clinton’s presidency, We Are All Good People Here is “a captivating…meaningful, resonant story” (Emily Giffin, author of All We Ever Wanted) about two flawed but well-meaning women clinging to a lifelong friendship that is tested by the rushing waters of history and their own good intentions.

Susan Rebecca White’s We Are All Good People Here follows the lives of two women – Daniella and Eve – and their daughters, spanning from the 1960s to the late 1980s. Throughout these three decades, Daniella and Eve face changes in their personal lives and in the world around them, and even though they try to be good people, their actions often have consequences for which they weren’t prepared. Daniella veers toward social reform and justice while Eve becomes a sometimes-violent radical, and the paths each of them take strain their relationship throughout the rest of their lives culminating in a revelation to each of their daughters that changes how they each view one another.

White’s writing in this book is incredible. It starts off rather naive, reflecting the views and experiences of the characters, and eventually morphing into something complex and heady. White doesn’t shy away from the difficult aspects of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s, the Vietnam riots in the 70s, and the racial tensions throughout each of the decades in which these women live. The descriptions of the era are spot on, and I could often vividly imagine the rooms in which these women walked and the clothes they wore to the tensions and struggles of each setting. The character’s voices are unique, honest, and at times flawed, and each of the women feel so real and I felt as if I got to know each of them very well.

The novel was a reflection on the past as well as a reflection of our current time of unrest and upheaval. I read it in about two sittings because I absolutely had to know how it ended, and it’s a perfect end of summer read. However, if you are affected and prefer not to read about animal violence, there is a violent scene involving a cat that was unsettling.

Thank you to Atria for sending me a complimentary copy to review! All opinions are my own!

BOOK REVIEW: The Beast’s Heart, by Leife Shallcross

BOOK REVIEW: The Beast’s Heart, by Leife ShallcrossTitle: The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross
Published by Berkley
Published: February 12th 2019
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Purchased
Goodreads

A sumptuously magical, brand new take on a tale as old as time—read the Beast's side of the story at long last.

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

The day I was cursed to this wretched existence was the day I was saved—although it did not feel so at the time.

My redemption sprung from contemptible roots; I am not proud of what I did the day her father happened upon my crumbling, isolated chateau. But if loneliness breeds desperation then I was desperate indeed, and I did what I felt I must. My shameful behaviour was unjustly rewarded.

My Isabeau. She opened my eyes, my mind and my heart; she taught me how to be human again.

And now I might lose her forever.

Lose yourself in this gorgeously rich and magical retelling of The Beauty and the Beast that finally lays bare the beast's heart.

It feels like it’s been forever since a I read a fairy tale retelling that was set in its traditional time period. The Beast’s Heart is a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in 17th century France that evokes a lot of the style and magic of what I associate with the fairy tale. Shallcross manages to retell a familiar tale set in a familiar landscape and somehow make it entirely infused with a fresh magic. This retelling is told from the Beast’s perspective, and Shallcross does a fantastic job of letting us into the mind of the beast, showing us the arrogance and the assumptions that the young woman should love him just because he saved her. She shows his growth from “the beast” to “the prince” in a sympathetic and true way, and I liked seeing the Beast’s growth from his own perspective.

While this does stay true to the original tales, as I get older, I realize and recognize some of the weird behaviors that are often swept aside for the romance. As someone in her 30s now, I do find it generally off-putting for men to continually ask someone else out even after she’s said no, find non-consensual voyeurism strange, and think that the whole “woe is me, please love me I’m alone” deal to be tired. You’ll find all of this in the book, and on one hand it is grating and off-putting. I found myself thinking “just leave her alone!” several times when the Beast kept making his advances. I thought some of the scenes where the Beast was watching Isabeau and her family through his magic mirror to add a depth to the story, but there were times he watched Isabeau for the sake of watching her (and in one scene watching her undress). The Beast also bemoans his lack of humanity and the horrors of his beast self, and the consistency with which that happens gets old after a while. But there are people out there in the world who behave this way, and the Beast does come to his senses, matures, and begin reversing a lot of those thoughts and behaviors by the book’s end.

I thought the descriptions of the chateau and its surroundings were beautiful, the dialogue is sparkling, and the pacing is just right for a story like this. It reminded me a lot of the fairy tale retellings I read ages ago by Robin McKinley, Donna Jo Napoli, and Gail Carson Levine, so it left me with good feelings by the end.

BOOK REVIEW: The Dragon Lady, by Louisa Treger

BOOK REVIEW: The Dragon Lady, by Louisa TregerTitle: The Dragon Lady by Louisa Treger
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Published: August 13th 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

'A daring blend of romance, crime and history, and an intelligent exposé of the inherent injustice and consequences of all forms of oppression' Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions

Opening with the shooting of Lady Virginia 'Ginie' Courtauld in her tranquil garden in 1950s Rhodesia, The Dragon Lady tells Ginie's extraordinary story, so called for the exotic tattoo snaking up her leg. From the glamorous Italian Riviera before the Great War to the Art Deco glory of Eltham Palace in the thirties, and from the secluded Scottish Highlands to segregated Rhodesia in the fifties, the narrative spans enormous cultural and social change. Lady Virginia Courtauld was a boundary-breaking, colourful and unconventional person who rejected the submissive role women were expected to play.

Ostracised by society for being a foreign divorcée at the time of Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, Ginie and her second husband ,Stephen Courtauld, leave the confines of post-war Britain to forge a new life in Rhodesia, only to find that being progressive liberals during segregation proves mortally dangerous. Many people had reason to dislike Ginie, but who had reason enough to pull the trigger?

Deeply evocative of time and place, The Dragon Lady subtly blends fact and fiction to paint the portrait of an extraordinary woman in an era of great social and cultural change.

Louisa Treger’s The Dragon Lady is about the Ginie Courtald’s life as the “lady with the dragon tattoo.” Set in Rhodesia, current day Zimbabwe, in the early 20th century, Ginie and her husband Stephen find themselves to be find themselves to be relative social outcasts as they each think and behave differently than society deems acceptable. Ginie has a dragon tattooed the length of her body and creates varying stories about her tattoo, and she is also a divorcee with an annulled marriage that further adds to the speculation about her private life. Stephen is an advocate for the arts and advocates for improved treatment of the native population.

Even though as mentioned in the afterword that not many details about the Courtald’s life are known, Treger’s dedication to research and evoking the atmosphere of the era brought this novel and its characters to life. She touches on the claustrophobic racial tensions, the glitz and glamour of high society, and the struggles between wanting to be one’s own self and wanting to fit in with everyone else. Ginie is bright, vivacious, and carries a wonderful depth; and the rest of the characters add such dimension and life to the story.

When I started reading this, I was in the mood for some historical fiction that flowed and The Dragon Lady delivered. I fell into the story and got lost in it, and I came out of it wanting to know more about Rhodesia/Zimbabwe history.

Many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for an advance copy! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Off the Grid, by Robert McCaw

BOOK REVIEW: Off the Grid, by Robert McCawTitle: Off the Grid by Robert B. McCaw
Published by Oceanview Publishing
Published: July 2nd 2019
Genres: Mystery
Pages: 304
Format: Trade Paper
Source: Publisher
Goodreads

A scrap of cloth fluttering in the wind leads Hilo police Chief Detective Koa Kāne to the tortured remains of an unfortunate soul, left to burn in the path of an advancing lava flow. For Koa, it’s the second gruesome homicide of the day, and he soon discovers the murders are linked. These grisly crimes on Hawaiʻi’s Big Island could rewrite history―or cost Chief Detective Koa Kāne his career.

The dead, a reclusive couple living off the grid, turn out to be mysterious fugitives. The CIA, the Chinese government, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, attempt to thwart Koa’s investigation and obscure the victims’ true identities. Undeterred by mounting political pressure, Koa pursues the truth only to find himself drawn into a web of international intrigue.

While Koa investigates, the Big Island scrambles to prepare for the biggest and most explosive political rally in its history. Despite police resources stretched to the breaking point, Koa uncovers a government conspiracy so shocking its exposure topples senior officials far beyond Hawaiʻi’s shores.

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, and that’s because I recently moved across the country! I did set aside all of my review copies and books I’m really excited to read, so expect updates about those on my blog and Instagram! I’m still in between places, so to speak, and I decided to try updating my blog from my phone for a bit to see how this works! I hope to get back in the regular swing of things soon as I really miss blogging and posting!

While traveling, I read Robert McCaw’s Off the Grid! It’s a mystery set in Hawai’i and I loved the setting of it so much! I feel like I’ve read so few titles set in Hawai’i, and this one really showcased the island’s culture and natural surroundings. I loved the insights into Hawai’ian culture MaCaw gave. The story definitely made me want to read more about Hawai’i and maybe visit some day!

It’s a well-constructed and well-crafted mystery that kept me engaged, and I didn’t feel as if I missed any of the story as it’s the second in a series. While a lot of stories I’ve read or watched about Hawai’i seem magical and perfect tourist places, McCaw shows us the darker underside to the beautiful islands, and that really adds dimension to the novel’s setting, especially the juxtaposition of island life and the broader scope of US and international politics. If you like mysteries and want to read a mystery in an island setting, look into this one!

Many thanks to Oceanview Publishing and FSB Associates for sending me a complimentary copy to review! All opinions are my own