Review: The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz

Review: The Twist of a Knife by Anthony HorowitzThe Twist of a Knife (Hawthorne and Horowitz Mystery, #4) by Anthony Horowitz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, suspense, thriller
Series: Hawthorne and Horowitz #4
Pages: 384
Published by Harper on November 15, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

'Our deal is over.'
That's what reluctant author Anthony Horowitz tells ex-detective Daniel Hawthorne in an awkward meeting. The truth is that Anthony has other things on his mind.
His new play, Mindgame, is about to open in London's Vaudeville theatre. Not surprisingly Hawthorne declines a ticket.
On opening night, Sunday Times critic Harriet Throsby gives the play a savage review, focusing particularly on the writing. The next morning she is found dead, stabbed in the heart with an ornamental dagger which, it turns out, belongs to Anthony and which has his finger prints all over it.
Anthony is arrested, charged with Throsby's murder, thrown into prison and interrogated.
Alone and increasingly desperate, he realises only one man can help him.
But will Hawthorne take his call?

My Review:

In this fourth outing of the extremely unlikely duo of Daniel Hawthorne and his reluctant scribe – and all too frequently foil – Anthony Horowitz (yes, the author, really, truly and probably sorta/kinda all at once), it’s Horowitz himself who is accused of murder and quite thoroughly stitched up into the bargain.

He needs Hawthorne, which puts Hawthorne very much in the catbird seat of their strange partnership. Horowitz, referred to as ‘Tony’ in the book to differentiate himself as character from his real self as author, has just turned down Hawthorne’s request that they pair up for yet a fourth book, after The Word is Murder, The Sentence is Death and A Line to Kill.

Tony feels like he’s both out of punny titles and out of patience with Hawthorne. The former, obviously not as it turns out. The latter, frequently and often.

But Hawthorne is sure they have an entire series in them, and lo and behold, they do!

Escape Rating A+: The Hawthorne and Horowitz series is a quirky read. If you like it, you really, really like it (obviously I do), but if its quirks don’t quite set your tastes on fire, they don’t. It’s a break the fourth wall kind of series, with a heaping helping of art imitating life rather a lot.

The Horowitz of the series title is the author of the book, Anthony Horowitz. He’s a version – at least I presume it’s a version – of his real-life self, Anthony Horowitz the novelist and playwright, the creative mind behind the still totally awesome TV series Foyle’s War, etc., etc., etc. But he is far, far from the hero of this series.

He plays Watson to the Sherlock of ex-London Metropolitan police detective Daniel Hawthorne. And it’s a bumbling Watson who sometimes makes the most vapid and insipid portrayals of Watson look like absolute geniuses. (Edward Hardwicke’s wonderful and intelligent take on Watson in the Granada TV series with Jeremy Brett ‘Tony’ most certainly is NOT.)

In other words, the author resisted what must have been a great temptation to make himself the hero of this series and instead turned himself into its everyman substitute for the audience, the character who is not able to follow the ‘great detective’, in this case Hawthorne, and requires that every clue be explained to him – and therefore to the audience as well.

Which is part of the charm of this series, and also part of why it runs so much against type for me as a reader and yet I still adore the damn thing. Because I usually read mysteries for their competence porn aspects. The investigator in the series usually demonstrates extreme competence in order to solve the twisty murder. And that’s not exactly what happens here.

Tony is far from competent as an amateur detective, in spite of the many mysteries he’s written. He’s always at least two steps behind Hawthorne. Which actually isn’t too bad as the real police are at least three or four steps behind him. But still, he’s made his own character a bit of a nebbish and I can’t help but wonder if that reflects real life AT ALL. I suspect not or he wouldn’t be half as successful as he is.

But I digress.

Hawthorne, on the other hand, is über-competent. He’s just a secretive asshole about it. So we don’t get to see what he’s really doing or thinking until the very end when he makes everyone involved look like utter fools. Because they were. So he’s extremely competent but we don’t get to enjoy it because he’s such a jerk about pretty much everything.

Like most mysteries where the official police are more interested in scoring off the private detective – in this case Hawthorne and by extension his ‘associate’ Tony – than solving the crime, the first suspect is never the real murderer. So it can’t be Tony, no matter how the evidence seems stacked against him.

That the victim was a vile individual that had made a career out of publicly venting their spleen should have led even the dimmest bulb to the possibility that the line of possible murderers would be long enough to circle the country at least twice. To the point where I was beginning to wonder if it was going to turn out to be a Murder on the Orient Express situation.

In the end, the solution is ingenious, the motive was both simple and complex at the same time, the killer was exposed but no one got their just desserts except the woman who was already dead. And that was exactly right.

While Hawthorne got his series after all. Which is fantastic!

While I can’t find any word on when the projected fifth, sixth and seventh (!) books in the Hawthorne and Horowitz series will be out, or even the next book in the Susan Ryeland series which I also love (even when it’s driving me crazy), the first book in that series, Magpie Murders, is now available as a 6-episode TV series. And I’m off to watch it ASAP!

Review: The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson

Review: The Three Dahlias by Katy WatsonThe Three Dahlias (Dahlia Lively #1) by Katy Watson
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery
Series: Dahlia Lively #1
Pages: 304
Published by Hachette Books, Mobius on July 26, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

Three rival actresses team up to solve a murder at the stately home of the author who made them famous - only to discover the solution lies in the stories themselves. A contemporary mystery with a Golden Age feel, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Jessica Fellowes.
In attendance: the VIP fans, staying at Aldermere; the fan club president turned convention organizer; the team behind the newest movie adaptation of Davenport's books; the Davenport family themselves - and the three actresses famous for portraying Lettice's 1930s detective, Dahlia Lively.
National treasure Rosalind King, from the original movies. TV Dahlia for thirteen seasons, Caro Hooper. And ex-child star Posy Starling, fresh out of the fame wilderness (and rehab) to take on the Dahlia mantle for the new movie.
Each actress has her own interpretation of the character - but this English summer weekend they will have to put aside their differences, as the crimes at Aldermere turns anything but cosy.
When fictional death turns into real bodies, can the three Dahlias find the answers to the murders among the fans, the film crew, the family - or even in Lettice's books themselves?

My Review:

The Three Dahlias is intended to take readers back to the genteel but thrilling mysteries of Dame Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Marjory Allingham but with a contemporary twist. What better way to combine the golden age of mystery with the present than by a convention of mystery fans, set on the grounds where one of their favorite mystery series was written, with not one but three of the actors playing their favorite character serving as guests of honor?

It may sound like a scheme guaranteed to give the fans the experience of a lifetime. But anyone who was a true student of those mysteries would tell you that the convention is also the perfect setting for murder. If only to provide the once and future Dahlias with the opportunity to solve either their last – or their first – case.

All they have to do is stop trying to one-up each other long enough to figure out whodunnit.

Escape Rating B: Although there’s a mystery, this isn’t really about the mystery. It’s about the people, and very much like Knives Out, about the relationships between the people and where the hidden stress points are.

That no one is going to miss the victims makes it that much easier for the reader to sink into the story and just enjoy the fun – even if it does take the first third of the book to really get going.

Because first we have those three Dahlias, and they are much more interesting than the murder. The three women represent different stages of life and different points in a career. If this were a fantasy they’d be the classic female triptych of maiden, mother, crone. Or perhaps the Fates. Certainly the fate of both the victims and the perpetrator.

It all starts with someone who seems to be out to get all of them – only for that person to end up getting got. And not by any of them. But along the way, what makes the story fun is the way that these women, literally set up to be rivals at every turn, band together in an unusual bond of sisterhood.

After all, they are all Dahlia, and it’s up to Dahlia to investigate murder when she sees it.

What made this fun as a reader was that I kept wanting to figure out, not so much whodunnit, as ‘who is Dahlia?’ (The idea of the convention seems more than plausible. After all, there is an annual Agatha Christie convention in Torquay.) The thing is that Dahlia Lively reminds me a lot of Phryne Fisher, but that series didn’t even start being published until 1989. There’s not enough history.

There have been more than enough Miss Marples, but that’s a role that an actor takes on much later in her career. Tommy and Tuppence hasn’t been filmed nearly often enough. But it’s fun to imagine.

The Three Dahlias turned out to be light and frothy fun. It’s a lovely little mystery, very atmospheric as a murder at a fan convention (my favorite in this vein is STILL Bimbos of the Death Sun), and as an homage to the Golden Age of Mystery and as a classic country-house murder all rolled into one.

If you’re looking for a light distraction filled with just the right amount of found sisterhood and murderous intentions, The Three Dahlias is quite the treat.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-27-22

I hope you had a wonderful Turkey Day, where the bird was moist, the sides were tasty, and the company was excellent. We had turkey by ourselves on THE DAY, and chili with friends on Saturday – so an excellent holiday weekend at Chez Reading Reality.

I also hope that you had an opportunity – or two or three – to visit ALL the stops on the Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop and enter as many times as allowed! I’m always thankful for books and reading – and laughing a bit that one of the gamification badges in this season’s Kindle Challenge is to “READ INSTEAD” of shopping this Black Friday weekend.

And here’s a picture of Miss Hecate. I should say she’s sleeping off HER turkey coma, but this is a picture of her regularly scheduled afternoon nap in Galen’s office. Hecate naps in Galen’s office while Luna naps in mine. Everybody has their own spot and that’s just the way they like it!

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop (ENDS TOMORROW!!!!!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop (ENDS TUESDAY!!!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the In All Things Give Thanks Giveaway Hop (ENDS WEDNESDAY!)
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Fall 2022 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Blog Recap:

Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop 2022
B+ Review: Mr. Clarke’s Deepest Desire by Sophie Barnes
A- Review: Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade
Thanksgiving 2022 (Guest post by Galen! – with Luna pictures!)
A Review: The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan
Stacking the Shelves (524)

Coming This Week:

The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson
The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz (review)
Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai (review)
A Wish for Winter by Viola Shipman (review)
Holly Jolly Giveaway Hop

Stacking the Shelves (524)

I honestly didn’t think there would be much this week, considering the official US holiday on Thursday and the unofficial holiday on Friday. But my prognostications turned out to be more than a bit off and brought me some lovely books this week. I’ve already read Never Too Old to Save the World and it was AWESOME. Plus there are two books that I have been looking forward to, the upcoming Sparks & Bainbridge historical mystery (The Lady from Burma) AND the forthcoming contemporary mystery The Way of the Bear, the latest in Anne Hillerman’s Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito series.

So many books to look forward to, not nearly enough time to read them all. But I’ll certainly give it my best shot!

For Review:
The Lady from Burma (Sparks & Bainbridge #5) by Allison Montclair
The Lost War (Eidyn Saga #1) by Justin Lee Anderson
Never Too Old to Save the World edited by Alana Jolie Abbott and Addie J. King
The Only Purple House in Town by Ann Aguirre
Perilous Times by Thomas D. Lee
Queen Wallis (Widowland #2) by C.J. Carey
Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay
The Way of the Bear (Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito #26) by Anne Hillerman
White Cat, Black Dog by Kelly Link

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Dead Water by C.A. Fletcher (audio)
The Vibrant Years by Sonali Dev


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below:

Review: The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

Review: The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer RyanThe Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical romance, World War II
Pages: 411
Published by Ballantine Books on May 31, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

Three plucky women lift the spirits of home-front brides in wartime Britain, where clothes rationing leaves little opportunity for pomp or celebration—even at weddings—in this heartwarming novel based on true events, from the bestselling author of The Chilbury Ladies' Choir.After renowned fashion designer Cressida Westcott loses both her home and her design house in the London Blitz, she has nowhere to go but the family manor house she fled decades ago. Praying that her niece and nephew will be more hospitable than her brother had been, she arrives with nothing but the clothes she stands in, at a loss as to how to rebuild her business while staying in a quaint country village.
Her niece, Violet Westcott, is thrilled that her famous aunt is coming to stay—the village has been interminably dull with all the men off fighting. But just as Cressida arrives, so does Violet's conscription letter. It couldn't have come at a worse time; how will she ever find a suitably aristocratic husband if she has to spend her days wearing a frumpy uniform and doing war work?
Meanwhile, the local vicar's daughter, Grace Carlisle, is trying in vain to repair her mother's gown, her only chance of a white wedding. When Cressida Westcott appears at the local Sewing Circle meeting, Grace asks for her help—but Cressida has much more to teach the ladies than just simple sewing skills.
Before long, Cressida's spirit and ambition galvanizes the village group into action, and they find themselves mending wedding dresses not only for local brides, but for brides across the country. And as the women dedicate themselves to helping others celebrate love, they might even manage to find it for themselves.

My Review:

Eustace Westcott was dead, to begin with. And it seems to be a relief for all concerned, especially his family. His deceased presence turns out to be a bigger blight on the lives of everyone who knew him than the war. Even the local pub still boasts “a certain ditty written in the men’s lavatory” proclaiming that “Eustace Westcott should stick his precious checkbook up a certain part of his anatomy.”

His estranged sister, the famous – or infamous in the late Eustace’s mind – fashion designer Cressida Westcott would certainly agree. She only attended his funeral to make absolutely certain the blighter was dead.

But speaking of that war, when the London Blitz takes out both her house and her design house in the same night, Cressida’s not sure where to go or what to do. She’s lost everything except the clothes on her back, the designs in her head, and a reputation in the fashion industry that she’s spent the last 20 years building. Those will see her through – but first she needs a place to live and regroup.

She never thought she’d go back home to Aldhurst. In fact, she’d sworn she wouldn’t. But Eustace is dead and she can at least hope that his two children, now adults themselves, haven’t turned into carbon copies of their not-so-dear old dad. Or that there’s still time for her to help them become functional human beings now that his oppressive influence over their lives has been removed.

What she finds in the old family pile is a second chance. A chance to get to know the village and its people – and become one of them. A chance to find family again by helping her niece and nephew see that their father’s ideas and influence are holding them back from living their own lives instead of repeating all the restrictions of his.

All the restrictions he tried to impose on Cressida and utterly failed at.

Cressida has a chance to explore a bit of the road not taken and let herself have as much of it all as could ever be possible – not in spite of the war but because of it.

Escape Rating A: I was looking for, not exactly a comfort read as most of my comfort reads start with murder, but rather a comfortable read for the end of this week. It’s kind of surprising that led me to World War II, not exactly a comfortable time for ANYONE, but this actually fit the bill quite nicely. I adored one of the author’s previous books, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, and was expecting more of the same – interesting characters who grow and change in a heartwarming story of the British homefront during World War II. And I was expecting a female-centric story because, well, the war.

And all of that is exactly what I got. With bells on!

The story revolves around three women, Cressida Westcott, her niece Violet Westcott, and the woman cressida mentors in Aldhurst, Grace Carlisle. All of their lives have been knocked off their original courses by World War II, but the war also gives each of them a chance to change a course that they thought was set. Hopefully for the better.

Cressida’s change is a driving force in what happens, which is fitting because Cressida herself has always been a driving force in her own life. While her return to Aldhurst allows her to see the place with fresh eyes, her trip back home doesn’t change who she has become in all the years between.

She’s still a driven woman, determined to be in the top echelon of fashion design – and succeeding on her own terms. What her return to Aldhurst allows her to do is to open herself up to new experiences and new friendships. She is still who she has always been, but becoming part of the village – something she was not allowed to do when she was growing up – reminds her that in addition to making a living she also needs to make a life.

Violet and Grace are both in their 20s, and each has planned a certain life for themselves based on what they’ve been taught, what they’ve been told, what they’ve always believed in the “right thing to do.” Violet is honestly a selfish, self-involved little bitch, an upper class twit who believes that marrying a title is her due and that she’s entitled to all the privileges that come with her family’s wealth and status without ever working for them.

Grace is her opposite, the daughter of the local vicar, selflessly devoting herself to the village and parish work, never asking a thing for herself. She’s been shouldering much of her father’s caretaking of the village in the years since her mother died, and everyone else’s need for her has become her life. To the point that she’s planning to marry a clergyman herself, believing that it’s her best chance of recreating the happy family that raised her before her mother’s death.

Violet just needs to grow up – and for that to happen she needs to break out of a role that is designed to keep her childlike and uneducation. Conscription into war work forced Violet to see herself and the world around her with her own eyes, and it’s the making of her.

But it’s Grace’s transformation from colorless drudge to fashion design apprentice that gives the story its heart and its heartbreak. Her involvement with Cressida begins with her engagement, and her desire to wear her mother’s rather moth-eaten wedding gown on her own ‘special’ day.

It’s not just a wish out of love and nostalgia, it’s a necessity. Under wartime clothing rationing, there is no material available for new wedding dresses. There’s little available for repairing old ones, either. But with Cressida’s vast design experience and Grace’s eye for the best ways of ‘making mend and making do’ there’s a chance to make it happen.

Even though the process of design and exploration finally makes Grace wake up and realize that it shouldn’t happen for her – or at least it shouldn’t happen for her with the man she’s currently engaged to marry.

Whether Grace gets to wear the dress herself or not, out of her mother’s old dress both a new dress and a grand idea, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle of the title, are born. The dress that Violet’s mother gave to Grace’s mother eventually becomes THE dress for many young women of Aldhurst and beyond, in an act of sisterhood that is carried not just around the country, but all the way back home to where it began.

The dress is beautiful on every woman who wears it. And the story of how it came to be is every single bit as lovely.

Review: Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade

Review: Ship Wrecked by Olivia DadeShip Wrecked (Spoiler Alert, #3) by Olivia Dade
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Series: Spoiler Alert #3
Pages: 416
Published by Avon Books on November 15, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

After All the Feels and Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade once again delivers a warm and wonderful romantic comedy about two co-stars who once had an incredible one-night stand--and after years of filming on the same remote island, are finally ready to yield to temptation again...
Maria's one-night-stand--the thick-thighed, sexy Viking of a man she left without a word or a note--just reappeared. Apparently, Peter's her surly Gods of the Gates co-star, and they're about to spend the next six years filming on a desolate Irish island together. She still wants him...but he now wants nothing to do with her.
Peter knows this role could finally transform him from a forgettable character actor into a leading man. He also knows a failed relationship with Maria could poison the set, and he won't sabotage his career for a woman who's already walked away from him once. Given time, maybe they can be cooperative colleagues or friends--possibly even best friends--but not lovers again. No matter how much he aches for her.
For years, they don't touch off-camera. But on their last night of filming, their mutual restraint finally shatters, and all their pent-up desire explodes into renewed passion. Too bad they still don't have a future together, since Peter's going back to Hollywood, while Maria's returning to her native Sweden. She thinks she needs more than he can give her, but he's determined to change her mind, and he's spent the last six years waiting. Watching. Wanting.
His shipwrecked Swede doesn't stand a chance.

My Review:

This third book in the Spoiler Alert series may seem a bit detached from the previous books, Spoiler Alert and All the Feels. Which makes total sense as all of Peter and Maria’s scenes in the infamous (and fictional) God of the Gates TV series (all resemblances to the final seasons of Game of Thrones indubitably intended) were filmed on a tiny, remote island off the coast of Ireland.

The Aran Islands substitute for the remote island where the characters they play in the series, Cyprian and Cassia, were literally shipwrecked early in the book series that was adapted – sometimes very badly indeed – for the hit TV series. An island where their characters spend six long and frustrating years pining for each other, transforming from enemies into lovers.

Into dead. Because it’s that kind of series. As we know even if we never watched the thing.

Life has imitated art more than a bit, as Peter and Maria also spent their six years filming the series pining for each other every bit as much as their characters did. Only to give in to temptation after the cameras film their final scene – just before they are scheduled to leave the island and go their separate ways.

While they don’t immediately end up dead in real life – because they haven’t really been guarding a hellmouth for six years that has finally opened to bring their doom – their much longed-for relationship keeps tolling its own death knell even as they find ways to spend yet more glorious days and nights together.

Both Peter and Maria came to that deserted island with some serious abandonment issues, and not just in romantic relationships. They may love each other, they certainly want each other, but they can’t seem to get past the trauma in their pasts to realize that they both want the same things – but are no good at expressing what they need and want to the most important person either of them will ever find.

Their characters were shipwrecked, and the real-life (relation)ship that fans have been shipping throughout the entire run of the series looks like it’s wrecked as well. Unless they can find a way to turn it into an HEA with a little bit of luck and a whole lot of the one thing that Peter is bad at – communication.

Escape Rating A-: The beginning of this was just a bit jarring – not their one-night stand, not at ALL – but that the story went all the way back to the early days of the series, back when the showrunners were still adapting the author’s work. When the scripts were still more than halfway decent even if the two showrunners were already scum.

The earlier books in the series, Spoiler Alert and All the Feels, started during the final seasons of the series, at the point where the showrunners had gone past the author’s work and were, well, winging it. Badly. Destroying all the character arcs and most of the characters along with them. Both of those earlier stories center around stars of the series behaving badly because they so desperately want to reveal that the final season is AWFUL with a capital AWE and they fall in love either while behaving very badly (All the Feels) or while violating their NDA (non-disclosure agreement) in new and creative – literally and literarily – ways (Spoiler Alert and All the Feels).

Peter and Maria and their film crew, while not exactly shipwrecked themselves, are isolated from the rest of the cast and crew except via group chats and off-season convention appearances. Their story arc was completely separated from everyone else’s and so are they.

Which doesn’t mean that they don’t deal with the shittiness of the showrunners every bit as much as the rest of the cast – or maybe even a bit more because the showrunners think their physical isolation gives them some sort of psychological advantage. Or simply because they are asshats. Which they most definitely are.

And that’s where one of the more interesting threads of the (book) series in general and this entry in it in particular comes in. Peter and Maria are playing shipwrecked Vikings. They are both big people – which is appropriate for the characters they play. So, while the books don’t specify that they are bigger than the usual Hollywood actors, it seems like good casting.

But the showrunners, being slimeballs, have a plan to make Maria – and by extension Peter, but honestly it’s aimed at Maria – go on a crash diet before her second season because they’re supposed to be starving on the island. And she refuses and makes it stick – even in the face of being fired and re-cast. Maria is righteously all about body positivity, and not wrecking her body for life for anyone or anything, and she’s very aware that her body positivity campaign has played extremely well in the media. AND that the slimy showrunners are already in trouble on every side and need her way more than she needs them.

Those showrunners pulled similar shitty stunts on the plus-sized heroines of both Spoiler Alert and All the Feels and got their heads handed to them both times, but it was terrific to see it happen again – with bells on – this time around.

Oh yeah, there’s a romance in here too. And it’s a bit of a heartbreaker – not that it doesn’t come around to an HEA in the end. As it should. Because ALL the best shipping fics do – no matter how much angst the characters have to go through along the way.

But it’s a heartbreaker both because they nearly break each other’s AND because they’ve had both of theirs broken so many times in ways that have nothing to do with romance but still rear their ugly heads when they might just manage to reach that HEA. Because they’re both afraid of getting left – again – and think they’d rather walk away than have it happen. Again.

Not that they’re both equally stubborn and clueless about it or anything like that.

Last but not least, and speaking of things coming around again, the book series as a whole is rooted both in fanfiction as a labor of love and in the complaints and gossip about the final seasons of the real TV series, Game of Thrones. Which also ran two seasons beyond the last published book in its series and also did “interesting” things with its characters and their arcs. Earlier in the book series I wondered whether Spoiler Alert  would lose the pointedness of some of its inside jokes after Game of Thrones finished.

But then House of the Dragon came along, a prequel series based on the same author’s work that is equally unfinished in book form. So we might have more of Spoiler Alert  to look forward to no matter how, if, or whether House of the Dragon ever floats your shipping boat.

And that is an EXCELLENT thing!

Review: Mr. Clarke’s Deepest Desire by Sophie Barnes

Review: Mr. Clarke’s Deepest Desire by Sophie BarnesMr. Clarke's Deepest Desire (Enterprising Scoundrels #2) by Sophie Barnes
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: historical romance, Victorian romance
Series: Enterprising Scoundrels #2
Pages: 180
Published by Sophie Barnes on November 22, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

When an earl's daughter falls for a businessman in this secret identities Regency romance, she risks more than heartbreak when his connection to her past threatens her reputation...

How can he build a future with a woman whose father ruined his life?

Having recently suffered the death of her father, Rosamund Parker faces an uncertain future. Intent on retaining her independence, she plans to invest her modest inheritance. But the man whose help she seeks is as infuriating as he is handsome. For reasons she can't comprehend, he's set on thwarting her at every turn, even as he tempts her with kisses she ought not want.

Matthew Clarke needs funding for his locomotive business, but he'll not accept it from the Earl of Stoneburrow's daughter. As far as Matthew's concerned, that entire family can go hang. Unfortunately, Lady Rosamund seems to pop up wherever he goes. Ignoring the fire she stirs in him becomes an increasing challenge. But surrendering to it could prove disastrous. It could in fact ruin both their lives...

My Review:

Mr. Clarke’s Deepest Desires, the second book in the Enterprising Scoundrels series after Mr. Donahue’s Total Surrender (I sense a theme in the titles, don’t you?) is a delightfully frothy bit of Victorian romance with some dark notes in the background. And a whole heaping helping of insta-lust in the lush foreground.

A part of me wants to make some terrible puns about Rosamund Parker and her need to have her engines overhauled – or at least her ashes hauled, but that’s not where this story begins. In a perverse way it began way back when, when her late, lamented, dear old dad couldn’t resist forcing their housemaid to haul his – will she or nill she. And of course he fired her when she informed him that she was carrying the inevitable consequence of his actions.

Now he’s dead and buried, and the mourning period has just officially ended. The reading of his will has left his daughter in a bit of a fix of a different sort. As the daughter (and only child) of an Earl, she knew she would not inherit his title or the entailed estate. But she expected a bit more than 500 pounds. Not per annum, but in total. Along with a binding clause that her uncle, the new Earl, was not permitted to maintain or support her.

(If you’re curious, that’s just over $60,000 in today’s dollars. A more-than-decent one year’s salary, but not nearly enough for a relatively young woman to live off of for the rest of her life.)

Rosamund, who does want to marry, also wants to have enough time going about the selection process to ensure that she makes a choice that satisfies both her head and her heart. So, instead of rushing into anything or anyone she plans to invest most of her money and life off the income from her investment while she makes a considered choice.

It’s a sensible plan, which makes sense. Because Rosamund is a very sensible woman. Also a very intelligent one.

But her plans go up almost literally in smoke when she meets Matthew Clarke, the owner of A&C Locomotive. Because Rosamund and Matthew strike more sparks from each other than any one of his engines do when they screech their brakes. Not that either of them can manage much of anything except almost literally screeching at each other.

Matthew’s mother was the housemaid that Rosamund’s father forced into his bed and then out the door, leaving both mother and 12-year-old Matthew destitute. Matthew refuses to take Rosamund’s investment money – no matter how much he actually needs it. He’s still carrying that grudge – and is an absolute ass about it to Rosamund even though she has no clue what he’s so angry about.

After all, she was all of 10 at the time and it’s not exactly a subject that any father would raise with his own daughter – particularly not in the Victorian Era!

But Rosamund is determined to invest in the burgeoning railroad industry, and Matthew still does need investors. Which means that they keep meeting – and meeting – and meeting at various gatherings of industry executives and potential investors. The more often they run into each other, the more sparks that fly – no matter how little Rosamund wants to believe the truth about her beloved father.

The push-pull of their relationship, the way that they hate each other but still want each other desperately, is hot enough to fuel a locomotive or ten without the use of coal. All they need to do is give in – before they make a mistake that will haunt the rest of their lives.

Escape Rating B+: One of the things that I really enjoy about the Enterprising Scoundrels series is that the heroes all work for a living. Admittedly it’s work among the wealthy and powerful, and they’ve done well for themselves, but it’s still real work that gives them real purpose. This is a series where happiness is not just the province of the idle rich to the point where it openly questions whether the idle rich are all that happy.

Matthew Clarke is an especially delicious hero in this mold because he’s a self-made man who has not either lost the threads of his humanity or obtained his wealth outside the law. Both of which are not uncommon backgrounds for heroes of historical romances.

What made this book downright refreshing is that even the bounder who tries to interfere with the romance between Rose and Matthew is really after Rose for her prodigious intellect and genius ideas, while her truly delectable person is icing on the cake of her splendid brain and not the other way around.

But speaking of that bounder, he’s not really a villain – at least not in the bwahaha sense that often happens. He’s out for himself and he does take advantage of a situation, but he doesn’t make the situation and he’s just not evil. Selfish and self-centered, but not beyond human reason.

So I didn’t leave this book, as I did Mr. Donohue’s Total Surrender, with the feeling that there were too many characters who did not receive the desserts they had so richly earned. If there is a villain in this piece it’s Rosamund’s father, and he’s already having that discussion with his Maker when the story begins.

I do have to say that I found the blurb for the book a bit deceptive. This isn’t really a story of secret identities. Rosamund and Matthew know exactly who each other is. She doesn’t know that he and his mother were once in service to her family – at least not at the beginning – but his business success wipes out most of that stigma. They do end up on the wrong end of a lot of social opprobrium, but it’s as a result of their actions in the present and not some hidden secret in either of their pasts.

While I’m not personally satisfied with the amount of groveling Matthew does over that incident, he does manage to screw his courage to the sticking point and fix things before it’s too late – with a whole lot of professional assistance from his soon-to-be bride. Which makes for happy endings all around – as they certainly deserved.

Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop 2022

Welcome to the Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by yours truly, Reading Reality, and the Caffeinated Reviewer!

I am, always, thankful for books. There’s a quote from Anne Herbert that’s not nearly famous enough that goes:

Most of us can’t afford to buy all the books we want to read. Certainly as a child and young adult I couldn’t even begin to buy all the books I wanted to read. That’s what libraries are FOR, and that’s why so many people’s fond memories of them involve stacks of books and many pleasurable hours reading them.

The corollary to the quote is that the books you get through the library, while they may not exactly get you through times of no money at all they do get you through times that are missing something, or a whole lot of somethings, that you need or want or miss dreadfully. Or at least that’s always been true for me – and it has certainly been true these last few years of pandemics and upheavals and everything else that has upset chunks of the world and everyone in it.

So I’m very thankful for books to get me through. I’m also very thankful for the friends that have been part of the journey, and to all of you who have followed and commented and participated on Reading Reality over these past OMG 11 years (AND COUNTING!)

Happy Holidays!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more wonderful prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-20-22

This is Thanksgiving Week. OMG how time flies when you’re having whatever the hell this year has been.

The annual Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by Caffeinated Reviewer and yours truly, starts tomorrow! YAY! (Insert Kermit Flail here!)

Not to literally insert a Kermit Flail, although it does fit with my mood about the whole thing. Thanksgiving seriously snuck up on me this year.

Instead, I’ll insert a picture of the Lovely Luna in one of her favorite poses and places, making her adorable upside-down-kitty-face from between Galen’s legs while on top of the cushy blanket.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the In All Things Give Thanks Giveaway Hop
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Fall 2022 Seasons of Books Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the Thanks a Latte Giveaway Hop is Wendy

Blog Recap:

Spotlight: Under a Veiled Moon by Karen Odden + Excerpt
A+ Review: Cold Fear by Brandon Webb and John David Mann
In All Things Give Thanks Giveaway Hop
A- Review: The Girl with the Emerald Flag by Kathleen McGurl
A+ Review: Death on a Winter Stroll by Francine Mathews
Stacking the Shelves (523)

Coming This Week:

Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop
Mr. Clarke’s Deepest Desire by Sophie Barnes (blog tour review)
Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade (review)
Thanksgiving 2022 (guest post by Galen!)
The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu (review)

Stacking the Shelves (523)

It’s not just me, is it? This year is going by really, really fast? The Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop starts on OMG MONDAY! and Thanksgiving is less than a week away! I know “time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana” but this year has just zipped by. At warp speed!

I swear I did not simply cut off this stack after the letter ‘C’ although it sure looks that way! This is what I have covers for so far. And so far, the covers for the Saffron Everleigh series, which started with A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, certainly win the prettiest cover award!

For Review:
All the Queen’s Spies (Agents of the Crown #3) by Oliver Clements
Arca (Five Queendoms #2) by G.R. Macallister
Atalanta by Jennifer Saint
The Blood Gift (Blood Gift Duology #2) by N.E. Davenport
A Botanist’s Guide to Flowers and Fatality (Saffron Everleigh #2) by Kate Khavari
Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling
Canary Girls by Jennifer Chiaverini
The Carnivale of Curiosities by Amiee Gibbs

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
A Caribbean Heiress in Paris (Las Léonas #1) by Adriana Herrera (audio)


If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page

Please link your STS post in the linky below: