A Midsummer Night’s Sin

Robin Goodfellow Blackthorn is the youngest of the Blackthorn Brothers. Having been blessed, or cursed with this Shakespearean name by his actress mother, he is, of course, generally called ‘Puck’. As one of the Blackthorn bastards, he has felt compelled to live up to the ‘Trickster’ aspects of his Puckish nickname, but in A Midsummer Night’s Sin, the second Blackthorn Brothers book by Kasey Michaels, both the dark and light sides of Puck’s nature are required in order to bring this complex but ultimately rewarding historical romance to its delightful final curtain.

Puck has returned to England in order to find out what his middle brother Jack, not so fondly known as Black Jack, is up to. In the first book in the series, The Taming of the Rake (see review), oldest brother Beau got married, and it was revealed that second son Jack, instead of being quite as black as his nickname would suggest, is actually some kind of secret operative for the government. Puck wants to learn what Jack is up to, and possibly get Jack to mend fences with their father.

Mostly, Puck just wants in on whatever adventure Jack is having.

Regina Hackett thought that she and her cousin Miranda were headed to a ball, properly escorted by Miranda’s mother. But Miranda re-arranged all the plans so that the young ladies were instead off for a masked ball at the considerably less reputable, actually quite scandalous, Lady Fortescue’s.

Puck is attending the masquerade in his pursuit of an entree into the lower echelons of the ton, and in his pursuit of his brother’s confederates. But he is captivated by the sight of Regina Hackett, and, believing her one of the ladies hired for the evening’s entertainment, entices her into the garden for a kiss. Regina takes advantage of the anonymity of her mask to experience the beginnings of a flirtation, but when Puck details all of the naughty things he wants to do with her, in French, and starts acting on that list, her shaky innocent withdrawal finally convinces him that she is not what he assumed her to be.

But her cousin Miranda, petite and blonde, has been kidnapped from the masked ball. And when Regina searches desperately for her, she runs headlong into Puck. He is the only possible source of help, and he did act almost honorably, at least once convinced of her innocence. Puck and his coachman determine that Miranda was taken against her will; she did not leave for an assignation. Then Regina and Puck fabricate a story that will cover up the girls’ departure from their original schedule.

Puck’s and Regina’s association should have ended there. Miranda’s father should have called out the Bow Street Runners, and a search for the missing girl should have begun immediately. But the situation is much more complicated than it appears.

Miranda is not the first petite blonde young woman to be kidnapped in London. She is one of more than two dozen such women.  Many have been prostitutes, but some are from extremely well-connected families. Jack and his confederates are on the case on behalf of the government. This isn’t just a matter of kidnapping, “white slavery” is suspected, but no one has been able to determine who the ringleaders are.

But now that her cousin has been kidnapped, Regina feels compelled to help Puck find the culprits, even if her father turns out to be one of them.

But why should Regina even suspect her father? At first, Reginald Hackett seems like just another tyrannical father, a stock character in any romance, if a bit more menacing than most. So what if his father effectively “bought” Regina’s mother, and her title, as a way of bringing his merchant family up in the world? He’s not the first to do so. But Lady Letitia Hackett lives in abject terror of her husband, and so does the rest of his household.

When he demands that the Bow Street Runners he finances go to Gretna Green in search of Miranda, even though Reginald admits that he knows she did not elope, he raises suspicions in many minds.

Soon, Regina and her mother are hiding out from her father in a variety of Puck’s households in London, while Puck, Regina and Jack’s men search for the missing women. But if her father does turn out to be the kidnapper, can Regina possibly have a future when he is caught, even with one of the infamous Blackthorn bastards?

Escape Rating A: This should have been a light, frothy romance, and it wasn’t. But it was all the better for it. Regina is a woman who finds amazing depths of courage, in order to keep hunting for her cousin. Puck reminds me of the Scarlet Pimpernel. He looks and acts like a complete lightweight, up until the point where he totally isn’t.

The “white slavery” plot is one that was a staple of penny-dreadfuls, and it was used here to great effect. It made for an appropriately dark and dastardly villain and gave this story a breakneck pace as the search for Miranda and the other girls ran towards its deadline.

I can’t wait for Jack’s book! Much Ado About Rogues should be out in March 2012. Not soon enough. Not at all!


Desired by Nicola Cornick contains two stories that are almost too big and too opposite to be contained in this single romantic tale. Either the very big and very important story of political reform and spousal abuse are too weighty to be, not just contained but even semi-resolved in what might otherwise be a typical historical romance, or the romance convention is too frothy to hold this rather serious story. At the same time, I really got caught up in the story, and I wanted to see the hero and heroine have their happy ending, and evil get its just desserts.

Owen Purchase, Viscount Roxbury meets Lady Tess Darent when she lowers herself into his waiting arms. As romantic as this introduction sounds, it couldn’t be less so. Tess is escaping from a raid on Mrs. Tong’s house of ill-repute, wearing the borrowed dress of one of the ladies in residence, and she’s climbing down a makeshift rope of silk sheets.

Tess is the Dowager Lady Darent.  She has no husband, well, no living husband, anyway. She’s buried three. It’s something of a habit, if a rather scandalous one. Her parents are dead. Being found in a brothel would be another scandal to add to a very long list, if it weren’t for the reason for the raid. Tess is escaping from a political meeting. Even worse, Tess is one of the ringleaders of that meeting.  She is the infamous cartoonist known as ‘Jupiter’, and she has some of her drawings in her possession. Leaving via the window is her best bet, even in a bawd’s gown and ill-fitting shoes.

But Roxbury is the government’s man, sent as a special investigator to ferret out the leaders of the Reform movement. He knows they all ran into Mrs. Tong’s. At first, the escaping Tess seems like a woman caught up in something well beyond her capability, except…something doesn’t add up for Owen. For one thing, her shoes don’t fit. And she plays the flibbertigibbet a little too well, as though it’s rehearsed. But after he’s seen her into a carriage and searches the room she escaped from, he finds two things that convince him Tess is more than she seems. The room contains a set of male clothing imbued with Tess’ scent and only Tess’, and a sheaf of Jupiter’s drawings. Owen starts to believe that Tess is part of the Reform movement, but has no way to prove it.

Owen and Tess begin a game of cat and mouse, except there are more cats in this game than either of them are aware of. And the cheese is not the one either of them thought they were pursuing when they began.

Owen may be Viscount Roxbury, but his estates have very little money attached. His aunts have money, but will not provide any unless he marries and gets about the business of securing an heir. While this seems slightly cold-blooded, it makes sense from the aunts’ perspective. Owen is American, he had to be searched for up and down the collateral branches of the family tree. The aunts don’t want that to happen again.

Tess needs another protector, another husband. Not just because her identity as “Jupiter” may come to light, but because her scandalous behavior is being used to threaten her step-daughter’s future. And Tess will not let her step-daughter be abused the way that she was. So Tess needs to find a husband who will marry her in name only, just as the late Lord Darent did. Tess suffers from the mistaken belief that Owen will agree to such a marriage, and Tess is filthy rich.

By the time Owen discovers why Tess wanted a marriage in name only, and Tess discovers that he wants a real marriage, it is too late for either of them to change their minds. They are married, and Owen refuses to give Tess up. She does need his protection. The government is closing in. Tess and her Reformer friends have been betrayed, and not by Owen.

Escape Rating B+:There were parts of this story that I really, really liked. Tess’ involvement with the Reform movement was a very interesting route to take. I wanted to know more about Tess’ involvement and whether a couple of people get properly punished. Maybe in the final book in this series (The Scandalous Women of the Ton, Book 6, Forbidden, Summer 2012) those niggling loose ends will get wrapped up.

Where my suspension of disbelief frayed a little was in Tess’ quick recovery from the abuse she suffered at the hands of her second husband. (If he wasn’t dead, I’d want to kill him again too.) Tess has been afraid of being touched by any man for years after her traumatic experiences, and understandably so. Owen’s patience and understanding should eventually win her over, at least in the world of romance, or we wouldn’t have a story. I just thought it was a little too easy. Your mileage may vary.

The element from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities near the end was extremely well done. The character who is a totally bad apple from the beginning of this series until almost the very end of his life redeems himself with his death.

Lord of the Abyss

Lord of the Abyss by Nalini Singh is the much-anticipated conclusion to the Royal House of Shadows series. While I was glad to see the House of Elden restored, it seemed like the final battle was almost anti-climactic. On the other hand, the reverse “Beauty and the Beast” love story of Micah and Liliana was very well done.

The daughter of the Blood Sorcerer practically sacrificed herself to transport her broken body through the barrier at the edge of the known realms. Why? Because the Lord of the Black Castle was the last of the children of Elden, and his presence was required in order to defeat her father. More than anything else, Liliana wanted to make sure that her father did not maintain his hold on Elden, even if his death also guaranteed her own.

But first she had to make Prince Micah remember who he truly was, and that was going to take something other than sorcery. Sorcery had cost him his memory, a combination of his mother’s dying spell that flung him to safety, and her father’s foul magic ensuring that he never recalled how he came to Black Castle.

The Lord of the Black Castle was the Guardian of the Abyss, the one who scoured the lands for the souls of those who are evil, whose souls must be cast into the Abyss. His body is encased in a carapace of armor, and he does not remember a time before he was the Guardian. But then, he was only five years old when he was the youngest Prince of Elden. He was just a child.

Now Micah is a man who does not even remember his own name. Liliana must make him remember himself and his own magic, and she only has a few weeks. She cannot use her own sorcery, or her father will find her. Even though she is ugly and broken, she is his possession, and he does not like it when his possessions escape.

So Liliana uses a different kind of magic. She appeals to the child within the man, cooking the treats he loved when he was a boy. And she tells him stories of Elden, stories that remind him of the time before. And she is kind to him, and she is not afraid. Her father beat her, tortured her, and murdered anyone or anything she cared for. Micah does not scare her.

But Micah reacts to her in ways she did not expect. She is the first woman he has ever met who is not afraid of him, and he is only a man. He does not care that she is not beautiful, he only knows that she is good to him, that she challenges him, and that she cares for him. He falls in love with her, not her looks.

And he remembers who he really is. Unfortunately, he also discovers who she really is. And that she concealed the facts from him. Deceit is the one thing that he is not sure he can forgive.

But as they race to the last battle, Micah learns that a love that is willing to sacrifice everything, even life itself, is the most important thing of all.

Escape Rating B: I think I would have liked this better if Micah and Liliana’s story had stood on it’s own. Their love story, her sacrifice to get to Black Castle, her temptation of Micah with childhood recipes and childhood stories, as well as their tentative exploration of love when neither of them had a clue, was heartwarming and touching, as well as deeply sensual.

All of the Royal House of Shadows books have been re-interpretations of fairy tales, and this one definitely re-worked “Beauty and the Beast” in some interesting ways. Both Micah and Liliana could be interpreted as Beauty and Beast, depending on which way you looked at things. Not just Liliana’s actual looks, but Micah’s armor and Guardian’s mannerism were also beast-like. They both change for the better. Black Castle even has invisible inhabitants!

But the re-telling of the Fall of Elden needed to end. I’m glad that’s over, and but it may have gone on one book too long. I’m glad the Blood Sorcerer is gone, too. Did he even have a name? Maybe it’s fitting that he didn’t.

Her Christmas Pleasure

Her Christmas Pleasure by Karen Erickson, is a short, yummy candy cane of a story. And yes, I did want you to think of that particular holiday treat for a reason!

Damien Morton promised his best friend, Lawrence Danver, that he would look after the man’s wife, just before Lawrence died. They were, after all, best friends, and it was the honorable thing to do.

What Damien hadn’t counted on was falling in love with Lady Celia Danver. Hopelessly, irrevocably in love. Or that Lawrence’s family would take him in, and come to rely on him in Lawrence’s place. But Damien knows he’s just a man with no family, an employee, however trusted. He can’t really take his friend’s place. His friend was the heir to Earl of Urswick. Damien is nobody.

A nobody who is in love with his friend’s widow. And has been for years. This Christmas, when he and Celia are caught under the mistletoe, Damien gives in to his one chance to kiss the woman of his dreams, before he has to tell her that he’ll be leaving England after New Year’s Day.

That one kiss awakens Celia to something that she hasn’t been willing to let herself see. Damien is more than a friend. And he’s more than the man her five-year-old son wants to be his father. A man she has allowed to act as his surrogate father for several years now.

Damien is a very handsome man she wants to take to her bed.

These two people, Celia and Damien, have to negotiate the rest of their lives during a family Christmas gathering. Damien has the mistaken belief that his origins mean he has nothing to bring to a possible marriage with Celia, that she can somehow do better than a man who not only loves her, but also loves her son. The boy, Theo, already thinks of Damien as his father–Damien is the only father Theo has ever known.

Celia needs to convince Damien that she really loves him, even through she hasn’t shown any sign of it until that mistletoe kiss. And she doesn’t have much time.  Will the course of true love, not to mention really hot lust, run smooth before the holidays are over?

Escape Rating B-: There was more sex than story in this holiday tale. And very hot and spicy sex it was, too. As far as the story goes, I found Damien’s perspective easier to understand than Celia’s. Her enlightenment came a little bit too suddenly for me to completely relate to, although once it was reached, it was understandable that she wouldn’t want to let him go. My question was why she was that blind for quite that long.

His point of view made more sense to me from the beginning. Damien was simply tired of torturing himself by watching someone he couldn’t have, so he decided to put himself out of temptation’s reach by finding a new position–elsewhere. He kept trying to do the honorable thing, but there were limits to his self-control. When those were reached, the author treated the readers to another sensual interlude.

This story can be nicely summed up as a lovely sensual interlude, as was Karen Erickson’s previous entry in her loosely connected Merry Widows series, Lessons in Indiscretion (review).


Ebook Review Central for Dreamspinner Press for October 2011

It’s time for Ebook Review Central to take a look at the Dreamspinner Press titles from October 2011.

But before we move to the featured titles, let’s take a moment to look back at September. The September list has been updated to reflect additional reviews since the last time we looked at Dreamspinner, and there are a couple of titles that need to be mentioned. Legal Artistry by Andrew Grey, one of last month’s featured titles, received even more praise this month, probably because the sequel, Artistic Appeal, was published in October. Chasing Seth, another ERC featured title, also received even more reviews. It was a late entry in September (Sept. 30), so people may have been still reading it mid-month.

Now on to the October titles! Dreamspinner published 25 titles again this month. There were a lot of titles from continuing series this month, and it was clear from the reviews that reviewers were definitely waiting for those series books, because they generated most, but not all, of the reviewing buzz this month.

The Dreamspinner featured titles are:

Caregiver by Rick R. Reed was the only non-series title to generate a significant number of new reviews this month. From the book blurbs in the reviews, it sounds like a “three-hankie special”, but in a really good way. Every reviewer describes it as a fantastic book that they read with a lump in their throats. This novel is about the AIDS epidemic, and it is set in 1991, at a time when AZT was the only drug available and infection was still considered a death sentence. The reviewers all mention that the way the novel is written is unconventional, and that the author lets the plot drive the story, but that the characters make this a story well worth reading.

Divide & Conquer by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban is the fourth book in their Cut & Run series. Not only did it run away with the reviews, but the most of the reviewers were looking for ratings higher than they normally use in order to rate it. Everyone who follows this series, and it seemed like that was everyone, had fantastic things to say. The Cut & Run series is a mystery/suspense series about two FBI agents, Ty Grady and Zane Garrett, who aren’t even sure they can work together at first. Falling for each other isn’t even on the radar, at least at the beginning. But by the point of this fourth book these two men have definitely managed to figure out a working partnership–the personal partnership is still a work in progress. And it’s that work in progress that keeps readers coming back for more, along with the adrenaline of the suspense plot in each new book. (For the release of Divide & Conquer, Dreamspinner made all four titles in this series available to reviewers on NetGalley. A couple of the reviewers listed mentioned that they read the entire series in one gulp because of this. The strategy definitely paid off!)

Talker’s Graduation by Amy Lane is the final featured title. Based on the reviews, this one comes with a caveat. On the one hand, readers clearly loved this book. On the other hand, it apparently only makes sense if you’ve read the other two first. This novella is the “payoff” story to the two previous books in the series, Talker and Talker’s Redemption. It’s very clear that Tate Walker and Brian Cooper, the two characters in this story, have had an extremely difficult life. Graduation is when they finally get their happy ending. They just have to earn it first.

And that wraps up the Dreamspinner titles for this month! Please come back next week when Ebook Review Central will be looking at the Samhain Publishing titles for October 2011.

What’s on my (mostly virtual) nightstand? 11-27-11

What’s on my iPad for this week? Pretty much everything that was on it for last week. Plus next week. We did go to my mom’s for Thanksgiving. And of the two options, read a lot or not very much, it turned out to be the not very much option.

But wait, the recap is supposed to come at the end of the post, isn’t it?

I left December as a deliberately “light” month, in the hopes of catching up with stuff I left behind back in September. Also, there’s a whole gaggle of reviews for December 27 and January 1, and I’d like to get a jump on those before they gang up on me. So I’ll be playing a lot of “catch up” this month.

Is anyone else out there having a problem with the idea that December starts this week? I am. For one thing, living in the South means that I miss all the seasonal markers that I’m used to. In Atlanta, at least the leaves do fall off the trees, but it’s still warm outside. In Chicago, we used to get the first serious snowfall most Thanksgiving weekends. There might not be a White Christmas, but there was usually a White Thanksgiving. I know it’s not traditional, but it was normal. Never mind about Anchorage. They usually have a White Halloween.

The last book in a trilogy I’ve been enjoying and reviewing (Den of Thieves, A Thief in the Night) is due Thurday, December 1. Honor Among Thieves by David Chandler finishes up The Ancient Blades trilogy. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all works out. I’m wondering about that title, since there usually is no honor among thieves. We’ll see…

I did get an email over Thanksgiving from Library Journal, asking me to review a Carina title for them, so Holiday Kisses, with stories by Jaci Burton, HelenKay Dimon, Shannon Stacy and Alison Kent is on my list for this week. I’d stared at this several times on NetGalley but resisted the impulse, because I’ve read books by all four authors and enjoyed them immensely. I’m glad LJ gave me the excuse to read the book anyway.

I have a second Christmas novella anthology for next week. A Clockwork Christmas, also a Carina Press title from NetGalley. The difference is that this one is all Steampunk Christmas stories, and this is one I just couldn’t resist. I love Steampunk!

The other book I couldn’t resist is Deadly Pursuit by Nina Croft. It’s the second in her Blood Hunter series. I reviewed the first book, Break Out, back in August. This is not just space opera, this is vampires in space. When I read the first book, I said I wanted to see more of the world, well, here’s my “more”. I have to see what comes next.

As far as the recap from last week goes, I didn’t do so well. Actually, I did pretty awful. Family visits are not conducive to maintaining any kind of routine, as probably every person recovering from their own Thanksgiving holiday is groaning about at this very moment!

I was caught up for one brief shining moment on Tuesday, and it felt so good! It just didn’t last very long. Dagnabbit!

I have one of this week’s books read. Her Christmas Pleasure is pleasurably completed. It helped a lot that it was the shortest! Every other book rolls over to this week. This does not help me get to the September backlog. Not at all.

On the other hand, when I couldn’t concentrate on anything else, I picked up Cast in Fury by Michelle Sagara, which does get me more forwarder on the September backlog. One of the books in that list of titles to be reviewed is Sagara’s Cast in Ruin. In order to review Cast in Ruin, I feel the need to read the rest of the series. Whenever I can’t make myself read something due for the week, I pick up the next Elantra book, and get myself back on track. What I’ll do when I run out of those, well, I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

It’s a 450 mile drive from Atlanta to Cincinnati, each way. Long trip. We listened to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton. Wow. Just wow. The book was absolutely awesome, and I can’t think of a better choice for narrator than Wheaton. The book was so good that when we realized we weren’t quite going to be finished when we got home, we drove around a little, just so we’d finish. It was that good.

Of course I’m going to review it this week. But I just couldn’t resist giving a sneak preview.

Tomorrow is Ebook Review Central. This week will feature Dreamspinner Press for October.

Return next week for another edition of “The Readings of Marlene”. Sort of like “The Perils of Pauline” except all the cliffhangers are between the pages.

Maroon: Donal agus Jimmy

Maroon: Donal agus Jimmy is an amazingly complex story that deftly interweaves three distinct themes;  a tender love story of sexual discovery, the debate about Irish Home Rule, and the building of the great passenger steamers at the Belfast Docks. I said amazingly complex because the book is only 73 pages long, but the melding works beautifully.

PD Singer’s novella begins as Donal Gallagher is waiting in line to collect his pay at the Harland and Wolff dockyards in Belfast. Donal is a master carpenter, skilled labor on the ship builder. He creates fittings for the luxury cabins. Normally his wages are enough to send money back to his parents and siblings, but tragedy has struck at home and they need more. He needs to find a roommate.

Salvation arrives in the form of a man two lines over.  Jimmy Healy, a boilermaker, also needs to find a room to share. The only problem for Donal is that he has noticed Jimmy for quite a while, in a way that would be more than embarrassing in the extremely religious atmosphere of Ireland in the early 1900s, let alone the testosterone fueled work-place that is the dockyards. Donal knows he’s gay, but there isn’t another soul in Ireland who does.

Jimmy does take the other half of Donal’s rented room, and moves into his life. He also moves into his heart. At last, Jimmy fakes being drunk one night in order to break through Donal’s reserve to explore what they both feel. The love scenes are very touching, in their sense of discovery. Both men know what they want, but don’t really have a clue about what to do. In that time and place, who the hell would they have asked?

This story begins in 1911. The Archduke Ferdinand is still alive and well, and World War I will not start for another 3 years. Ireland in its entirety is still under the dominion of Great Britain, and will be for another 9 years. Irish Home Rule is under heated debate. The Great Irish Potato Famine is 60 years in the past, but the diaspora it left in its wake means that every Irish family has kin in America.

Irish Home Rule is the one that gets them. Jimmy is a boilermaker, which means he’s an engineer, among other things. The Irish path to independence was long and bloody, and the ends of the journey were still drawing blood not all that long ago. But this story takes place at the beginning. Some very hard men come to see Jimmy, wanting him to store guns in the empty boilers. Jimmy puts them off with excuses, but he knows they’ll be back, and they won’t take no for an answer. What can he and Donal do?

The history involved in this story was what really drew me in. Donal and Jimmy manage to keep their relationship secret for a couple of years, but when Irish Home Rule starts heating up, they get sucked in. Jimmy doesn’t have any family, but Donal, and Donal’s big family, makes him vulnerable to pressure. If Donal were threatened, Jimmy would have to give in, and he would start making guns for the men who threaten their happiness. But Jimmy has found an alternative: emigrate to America. The risks involved seem less, but are they?

Escape Rating B+: The author sent me this story, and I started to read it at my computer, thinking I had a sample. Halfway through, I realized that I was hooked, that I had the whole thing, and that I needed to download it to my iPad and find a comfier chair. The amount of stuff packed into this story was amazing!

When a Man Loves a Woman

When a Man Loves a Woman is the title of a classic song from 1966 by Percy Sledge. It’s also the title of an enhanced ebook by Alina Adams. What’s an enhanced ebook? An enhanced ebook has added content from other media. In the case of this particular book, the added content happens to be music videos. Appropriately, one of the music videos is Percy Sledge singing the title track.

But what about the story? The story is also a classic. James Elliot met Deb Brody in med school and fell instantly in love with her. There was just one problem. Deb Brody was already married, to a really nice guy named Max. So for the next 20 years, James Elliot was the perfect best friend. Always there, always helpful, always supportive, and never letting Deb suspect for one single second that he felt anything other than friendship for her.

Fast-forward 20 years. Deb and Elliot are both successful doctors. So successful that Deb is Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery and Elliot is the Chief of the Pediatric Trauma Center at Los Angeles Valley Hospital. There have always been nasty rumors about their close friendship, but Max always knew that the rumors had no validity. Because Deb never let herself see that Elliot played the field vigorously because all the women he dated had one fatal flaw that Max pointed out to her exactly once, all those other women were not Deb.

But Max died of a heart-attack at the age of 44, and the situation was suddenly very, very different.

Deb’s friendship with Elliot is the most important relationship in her life. She loved her husband, but he is gone and she is alone. The first night after all of Max’ relatives leave, after the funeral is over, she asks Elliot to stay. He’s stayed before, the guest bedroom is practically his. It shouldn’t mean anything different.

But it does. She and Elliot never touch. They’ve always maintained a professional distance. In the middle of the night, when she can’t sleep and starts trying to clean out Max’ closet, Elliot tries to stop her, to help her. To let her cry. And instead, they make love. He thinks she finally sees his heart. Instead she thinks that sex may have ruined their friendship.

Deb and Elliot spend a lot of time trying to find a way back to each other, misunderstanding each other and trying to interpret each other’s feelings. They’ve known each other so long, and yet they haven’t known the fundamental truths about each other. In the process, they nearly lose everything.

Escape Rating B: This was a good friends-into-lovers romance. The story that Deb doesn’t want to see that Elliot is in love with her reminded me of the story line in the TV show Bones (we just finished watching season 5). Deb needs Elliot’s friendship too much to upset the applecart by seeing something she doesn’t want to see.

When Max dies, the blinders come off. I was reminded of a quote from science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein, “There is only one way to console a widow. But remember the risk.” Elliot stayed knowing what was probably going to happen, hoping for it. It’s the results that cause so much trouble for the rest of the story.

I felt like they tortured each other a bit too much. The budget fiasco and how the characters treated each other over it, was one tragedy, or at least melodrama, too far for me. I was ready for the happy ending by then. I’m glad they got there. They both suffered enough grief.

About the enhanced part of the ebook…This is an interesting idea, and I can see, or rather hear, how this might work in the future. The neat thing about having an iPad is that I can just touch a link and off I go to the video of the song. And some of the songs were very evocative of the mood of the chapter. I can’t get If I Could Turn Back Time out of my head. There is an issue with mobile rights. I read the book on my iPad. A significant number of the videos did not have mobile rights available, although they work fine on my PC. This is an issue that should be tested before publication as most readers will be using either a reader or a tablet. But it’s a neat concept. The additions to my playlist were great ones.


Only Terry Pratchett could combine a murder mystery, a complex discourse on civil rights and a young boy’s endless fascination with poop into one fantastic story. But this is the Discworld, and million-to-one chances always come through.

Snuff is Pratchett’s 39th entry in the Discworld series. It is also at least the 8th book in the Ankh-Morpork City Watch subseries, depending on how you define the other books set in the city. The City Watch usually manages to turn up when the book is set in the city. Funny how that works.

The Discworld books are just plain funny. Sometimes it’s gallows humor. Sometimes there’s an actual gallows. Death is one of my (and a lot of people’s) favorite characters in the Discworld.

Back to Snuff. There is some literal snuff involved. The tobacco kind. Although I think the stretched pun applies. Sam Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, while supposedly on vacation sees certain things going on and decides “that’s enough”.  Like I said, “snuff”.

Sam Vimes is a cop at heart. Marrying Lady Sybil Ramkin didn’t change anything about his essentially suspicious street cop nature, it just gave him introduction into a whole lot more places to be suspicious in. And it also provided him with two people he loves more than he can possibly admit and will protect with his life and his soul, no matter the cost.

Snuff takes Sam and his family on vacation to the country, to Lady Sybil’s country estate. Their son, Young Sam, will inherit the estate someday, so he needs to get to know the place and its people. And Sam needs a vacation: his wife said so. The fact that Lord Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork, thinks there’s something that needs looking into near Ramkin Hall is a fact that Vetinari is keeping very close to his vest. But then, Havelock Vetinari keeps things so close to his vest that they’ve sewn themselves into its embroidery for safety’s sake.

Sam starts out hoping to find something, anything to distract him from the supposed joys of quiet country living. Sam hates the quiet; he wants a good murder to liven things up. But what he finds is much more than he had planned on. Sam starts with a murder, and ends by expanding the definition of “people”, all in a quest to do the right thing. A Guard’s job is to catch the criminals and let the lawyers sort out the details afterwards.

Escape Rating A+: There is a tremendous amount going on in Snuff, and all the various plots keep simmering marvelously until the very end. Sam Vimes is one of my favorite point-of-view characters in the Discworld, and he’s one who has changed the most over the course of the series. He started out as the commander of a very disgraced City Watch, and also a man who had seen too much, done too much, and was trying to forget way too much of it at the bottom of a bottle. Starting with the events in Guards, Guards, the City Watch, and Sam Vimes life, start to turn around, almost as if there is a symbiotic effect. By the time of Snuff, Sam is as happy as he’s ever going to be, but he’s never forgotten who he was or where he came from. He still carries that darkness inside him, literally as well as figuratively. It’s his greatest strength as well as his biggest weakness.

Snuff is about solving a murder. But Sam can’t resist commenting on the world as he finds it. He’s still a street rat from Ankh-Morpork. So when he starts to stir things up, he stirs everything up.  That’s Sam. If a bunch of poor little rich girls are complaining that they can’t find husbands because they have no dowries, he’ll tell them to get off their butts and go to work. Women with jobs find their own husbands, and in the meantime, they’re self-supporting and don’t have to worry about dowries. And if one of them turns out to be the Discworld’s Jane Austen, so much the better.

Murder is murder, and if the person murdered isn’t legally a person, well that’s just plain wrong. The law needs to be changed, because murder is wrong.

This review is being posted on November 24, the Thanksgiving holiday in the US. I chose Snuff for two reasons. I’m always grateful to see another Discworld book. They make me laugh and they make me think, and that’s a difficult combination.

The second reason is that each new Discworld book now is a gift. I hope there will be lots more, but the odds are against it. It’s time for another one of those million-to-one shots to come in.

Edge of Survival

Edge of Survival by Toni Anderson is a compelling story of love, murder and survival in a remote and hostile wilderness.

Dr. Cameran Young comes to Frenchmans Bight for her post-doctoral research on fish migration. It should be routine, but…Frenchmans Bight is in the Canadian Wilderness with a capital W. The research is a before-and-after investigation on the building of a mine, and all the miners in the area are just sure her research is all about shutting down the mine. And last but definitely not least in the problem department, Cam is a diabetic, and the Canadian Bush is way far away from civilization if she has a crisis. But that’s the whole point as far as Cam is concerned: she needs to prove that she has her disease under control, that she can handle anything that any other researcher can do.

Waiting in the bar for the helicopter pilot to take them to base camp, Cam and her friend Vikki nearly start a barroom brawl. Not just because they are the only women in the place, or possibly even in town, but because the miners are sure they are part of the “tree-hugger” contingent. Just when things start to get ugly, in walks Daniel Fox, their pilot. His British accent, not to mention the rest of him, fuels Cam’s James Bond fantasies. Fox doesn’t notice Cam, except as an assignment, but then, he’s basically detached from people as a species.

Until Cam makes a bathroom run before they board the helicopter, and finds a dead body inside one of the completely disgusting stalls. Not that the body isn’t gruesome, but the bathroom hasn’t been cleaned since the last ice age.  Cam’s subsequent panicked flight into Daniel Fox’s arms begins to break down his detachment from the human race. He sees Cam as a person who matters to him, the first person in a long time who does, whether he wants to or not.

What about the dead body?  He recognizes her. She was one of the local “bikes”. Everybody rode Sylvie Watson. But why did someone slit her throat?

The RCMP are called in to investigate the murder while Cam starts her fish research and Daniel’s secrets begin to unravel him. The Mounties are famous for always getting their man. Someone will have to pay for murdering Sylvie Watson. The case is very tangled, and the RCMP Staff Sergeant from St. John’s Major Crime Unit is faced with the choice of solving the convoluted puzzle in Frenchmans Bight or saving his marriage back home. More futures than his depend on that choice.

Escape Rating B: This was a good, solid romantic suspense story. I didn’t figure out who the actual murderer was. I knew the red herring was a red herring, I just didn’t see the actual murderer. So very good job on that front!

I found it fascinating, that all the characters in Edge of Survival are damaged in one way or another. Not everyone carries their scars on the outside. Cam has diabetes, Daniel has PTSD. Vikki has self-esteem issues. Even the RCMP officer is a mess. The murderer is probably one of the “paths”, as in psychopath or sociopath. Or he’s just plain crazy, and he hides it really, really well.

My willing suspension of disbelief slipped a little at the end of the story. One of my pet peeves is the noble hero going off without a word, and when he comes back, all is forgiven with one kiss, or something similar. I want to see some serious groveling. And arguing first. That stunt is always a major piece of macho idiocy, and there should be some major consequences. Instant forgiveness is not a consequence. It’s very romantic, but not bloody likely in outside of fiction!