The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-7-19

Sunday Post

I hope all the USians reading this had a terrific July 4th! We’re in a new neighborhood, so didn’t know how long – or how many days – the fireworks would be “bursting in air” here. The answer turns out to be one night and only one night – which is fine. We’ve lived plenty of places where it goes on all week – and it stops being remotely fun after midnight on the first night.

This was also Hecate’s first Independence Day, and it doesn’t seem like the noise bothered her much – nor does it seem to matter much to either Freddie or Lucifer. Which is good.

Speaking of Lucifer – or a Lucifer, sorta/kinda, we finished watching Good Omens over the weekend – and it was marvelous. If you love the book – watch the series. And if you’ve never read the book – watch the series. Oh, just watch it already. I miss Sir Terry. I still have the final book in the Discworld left to read. I just don’t want it to be over. Even though I know it is.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Amazon Gift Card or $10 Book in the Star Spangled Giveaway Hop
Bound Manuscript of The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Blog Recap:

Star Spangled Giveaway Hop
A+ Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep
B+ Review: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite + Giveaway
Independence Day 2019
B+ Review: Hunter by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (347)

Coming This Week:

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (blog tour review)
Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin (blog tour review)
Her Other Secret by HelenKay Dimon (blog tour review)
Peach Clobbered by Anna Gerard (blog tour review)
A Beach Wish by Shelly Noble (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (347)

Stacking the Shelves

For those of us in the U.S., I hope you are having a good 4-day July 4th weekend. For those of us who have pets, I hope your furry friends are not too traumatized by the nightly fireworks. Our new neighborhood has been quiet so far this weekend, and we’re all happy about that!

For those in Canada, I hope you had a terrific Canada Day weekend last weekend.

Whatever you celebrate, even if it’s just the ability to stay inside where it’s cool, it’s a wonderful long weekend to read. But aren’t they all – even if they aren’t nearly long enough!

In addition to all of the books below, I received the fruits of my participation in the Diving Universe Kickstarter and got ebooks of the entire Diving Universe series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Which was a LOT of lovely books!

For Review:
A Cruel Deception (Bess Crawford #11) by Charles Todd
Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
The Heart of the Circle by Keren Landsman
Hunter (Galactic Gladiators #12) by Anna Hackett (review)
The Ingredients of Us by Jennifer Gold
The New Voices of Science Fiction edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman
A Queen in Hiding (Nine Realms #1) by Sarah Kozloff
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
Those Who Came Before by J.H. Moncrieff

Purchased from Amazon/Audible:
Deception Cove (Neah Bay #1) by Owen Laukkenan (audio)
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde (audio)
Sweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles #4) by Ilona Andrews (preorder)

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Review: Hunter by Anna Hackett

Review: Hunter by Anna HackettHunter (Galactic Gladiators #12) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: science fiction romance
Series: Galactic Gladiators #12
Pages: 199
Published by Anna Hackett on June 30th 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

From the dangerous desert sands to the deadly glitz of the city, the lawless desert planet of Carthago is filled with lethal hunters risking it all for the women who capture their hearts. HUNTER contains two novellas and one short story all set in the Galactic Gladiators series.

Desert Hunter: desert Hunter Bren will do whatever it takes to protect the smart, beautiful Mersi from his darkest secrets.

NOTE: previously released as part of the 2018 Pets in Space Anthology

Born, raised, and sold into servitude on the desert world of Carthago, Mersi Kassar has finally found her freedom and her place on the Corsair Caravan, leading travelers from the gladiator city of Kor Magna through the desert. She also works side by side with her friend—the big, silent Bren—a man she’s desperately in love with. But stubborn Bren shuts down her every attempt to deepen the feelings they have for each other and Mersi isn’t sure she can take the pain anymore.

Desert hunter Bren Hahn hides a terrifying darkness within, and will protect the few people he cares about. That includes Mersi—a woman who sparks a simmering passion he finds harder and harder to ignore. On a perilous journey in the heart of the desert, Mersi and Bren rescue a strange alien creature. Working together to heal the big, shaggy canine, their smoldering desire ignites, but their feelings turn out to be the least of their concerns. A deadly enemy is hunting their new pet. An enemy that threatens Bren’s darkest secret and all they hold dear.

Alien Hunter: head of security Tannon Gi lets no one get close, until a feisty cocktail waitress explodes into his orderly life.

NOTE: this is a brand-new, never-before-published story

Mina Lan’Gar left the desert for a new life in the glitzy heart of Kor Magna known as the District. As a brand-new cocktail waitress at the hottest casino, the Dark Nebula, she’s just trying to get ahead, but all she seems to do is lock horns with the casino’s taciturn head of security, Tannon Gi. The man’s hard body, neat suits, and serious face make her want to mess him up a bit. When she overhears people conspiring to strike a private gladiator party the casino is hosting, she knows she needs to help Tannon stop the attack.

Once a deadly alien hunter assassin, Tannon finally left the life that was destroying him one kill at a time, and made a life for himself at the Dark Nebula Casino. Nothing and no one causes trouble on his watch, and that includes the mysterious woman from the desert who stirs feelings in him that he’s never felt before. When he and Mina find themselves swept up in a fierce passion and a deadly plot, they will soon learn that nothing is quite what it seems…

Includes the short story: A Galactic Gladiators Christmas

NOTE: this is a free read on my website

Mistletoe, Santa Claus, and eggnog. Cyborg Imperator Magnus Rone finds himself in the middle of party filled with rescued humans from Earth, gladiators, cyborgs, and children, trying to understand the strange traditions of Christmas.

My Review:

Just like Rogue, one of the previous books in the Galactic Gladiators series, Hunter is really two books in one. Except that this time it’s more like two and a smidgen books in one.

The first novella included in Hunter is Desert Hunter, which was previously released in Pets in Space 3. As the Pets in Space anthologies tend to only be available for a limited time, now that the time is up Hunter is the only place to read Desert Hunter, a marvelous story about two members of Corsair’s caravan who love each other but haven’t managed to find their way towards each other.

Fiend from Desert Hunter by artist Nyssa Juneau

In this dangerous trek across a shifting planet, they finally bond – with the help of a very, very shaggy dog. Who isn’t always a dog, but who does love them both with all of its heart.

I was lucky enough to receive a preview copy of Desert Hunter and reviewed it as part of the run up to Pets in Space 3. It’s a terrific shaggy dog story, a lovely introduction to the world of the Galactic Gladiators, and a great friends-into-lovers combined with hero-feels-unworthy romance.

At the time, I gave it a B+, and I’ll stand by that rating.

The second novella in Hunter is Alien Hunter, which serves as a kind of “bridge” story between the Galactic Gladiators series and its followup House of Rone series, both set on the far-across-the-universe world of Carthago, amidst the gladiatorial arenas of its capital-city-cum-tourist-mecca, Kor Magna.

And just like one of the earlier stories in the Galactic Gladiators series, Guardian, Alien Hunter is set among the glittering lights of Kor Magna’s premier casinos, Dark Nebula.

The Dark Nebula Casino, and its owner Rillian, have ties to both the House of Galen and the House of Rone, along with some truly excellent security. Making it the perfect place to host a big party for the allied gladiatorial houses.

But someone wants to breach that excellent security. Probably plenty of someones, as the two houses have made it their business to wipe out the slavers’ illicit fight rings on Carthago while rescuing as many of the prisoners of those slavers as possible. With particular emphasis on rescuing the people that were taken from Earth.

As many of the gladiators have fallen in love with those Terran refugees, they have a vested interest in finding and freeing as many as possible. But these are both Houses of good guys (although not all of them are guys) who have been rescuing people from the slavers for all of their existence.

The romance in Alien Hunter is a bit different, and as usual not so much because of the hero but because of the heroine. Tannon Gi is the head of security for Dark Nebula, and he seems like a humorless monolith pretty much devoted to his job. Of course, there’s plenty of heart under that seemingly impenetrable mask.

Mina Lan’Gar, however, is not what she seems. Not even to herself. On the surface, she seems like a waitress without much education but with a heart of gold. She gives of her own meager salary to help those she works with who are in need.

She thinks that’s all there is to her, a woman from the desert who is hiding from her past. At least, that’s what she thinks until the aforementioned security breach, when she discovers all sorts of hidden talents of the “kicking ass and taking names” variety that she has no idea how she acquired.

Tannon tries to figure her out – and figure out why he can’t help but be attracted to her. When both of their secrets are finally exposed, they discover that they are perfect for each other – and that the secrets that were kept from Mina will help the Gladiators rescue yet more refugees.

There’s a lot packed into Alien Hunter, with enough backstory for new readers to get into this terrific SFR series.

I’m happy to give Alien Hunter another B+

And then there’s that smidgen of a short story, A Galactic Gladiators Christmas. This is a story that I had some series problems with. Not so much the story itself, which is cute and sweet and a great way to see how all the friends from the previous books in the series are doing.

The issue I have is that it’s a Christmas story. Not that I don’t read plenty of Christmas stories, in spite of it very much not being my holiday.

But this is a story set in a future that is far enough from now that Earth has a working space station orbiting Jupiter, with regular shuttle service between Earth and Jupiter. A future that I’d love to see, but based on current technology and current political will probably won’t exist for a century if not two.

To compare it to a different SFnal universe, Star Trek: Enterprise was set in the 22nd century, about 150 years from now. The Star Trek universe by that point was kind of post-religion, quite probably because no one wanted to go there in a world intended for mass appeal. There’s no way to deal with religion without making lots of people angry.

The question I ended up with after reading A Galactic Gladiators Christmas revolved around why Christmas? Or more specifically, why Christmas exclusively? Christmas is far from a universal holiday in the present. Because I’m a librarian, I looked up the numbers. About ⅓ of the current world population is Christian, ¼ is Muslim, ⅙ is unaffiliated and ⅙ is Hindu. Everyone else takes up the rest. Which means that Christmas is far from an Earth-wide holiday, and my personal opinion is that this won’t change in the future. (I tend to believe that religious adherence on Earth in the future will more resemble the Babylon 5 episode The Parliament of Dreams, where the line of representatives of Earth’s many different religions stretches beyond the range of the camera.)

To make a long story short, as this exposition is rapidly reaching the length of the short story it refers to, I found the Xmas story a disruption to my willing suspension of disbelief. I don’t think the population of Earth will give up all religious adherence in 150 or even 250 years. I can’t believe that a space station, which would be a collection of the best and the brightest from the entire planet, would be made up entirely of Christians. Nor do I believe that if a universal winter solstice holiday arises from our many current belief systems, that it will be called Christmas, which is a sacred holiday for a specific religion, regardless of the commercialism that has become attached to it.

In that Xmas party scene, I expected to see some people in the corners who, while more than willing to celebrate their friends’ holiday and/or to celebrate their survival and even their thriving in this new place with friends and family, would have been also sharing their own holiday traditions and reminiscing about their own family celebrations.

My feelings about this story are too conflicted to give it a rating. Your warp speed may definitely vary.

Independence Day 2019

1776 (l-r) Jefferson, Franklin, Adams
Alexander Hamilton

Today is probably a good day to re-watch the movie 1776 – or listen to the original cast recording of Hamilton. More likely both. Both are stories about the beginning of what was sometimes called the “American Experiment” – as in the experiment of democracy. It was kind of a new thing in the late 1700s.

If you are wondering whether that experiment may have run its course this Independence Day, you’re not alone.

Once upon a time, it was glorious. Flawed, often extremely so, but glorious all the same. I think we’re all going to miss it if it’s gone.

July 4 Fireworks, Duluth GA

Review: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite + Giveaway

Review: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite + GiveawayThe Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: F/F romance, historical romance
Series: Feminine Pursuits #1
Pages: 384
Published by Avon Impulse on June 25, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.

Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.

While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?

My Review:

In late 19th century New England, they’d have called the relationship between Lucy Muchelney and Catherine St. Day a “Boston Marriage”. In early 19th century “old” England, it becomes a life and business partnership, because a traditional marriage is not a possibility for two women who want to spend their lives together in their own happily ever after.

Along the way it’s a beautiful story about falling in love, creating a partnership of equals, and dealing with all of the crap that society doles out to those of us “living while female” – no matter who we love.

It begins with Lucy. Lucy thinks of herself as an astronomer. She knows that she has spent the last ten years as her father’s unpaid and unacknowledged apprentice and assistant, performing the complex mathematical calculations that made it possible for others to follow his erratic but brilliant paths across the stars.

But her father is dead, and no one except her brother knows that she provided the backbone of his work for the previous decade. Stephen, a mostly unsuccessful painter, is now the head of her family and household. He tells her that it’s time for her to give up her “hobby” and get married. He plans to sell her precious telescope to keep himself in paints and parties.

In the wake of witnessing her lover’s wedding, Lucy takes a desperate leap. One of her father’s patrons needs him to translate an important work of astronomy, currently available only in French. There are plenty of people who can translate the language, even a few who have the necessary background in astronomy, but none who have the language, the astronomy and the crucial ability to follow the mathematical calculations that are integral to the text.

Except Lucy.

Having nothing left except the work that her brother has threatened to take away, Lucy takes herself to London, to the (not-so) Polite Science Society of which her father was a member, and to the potential patron who made the request, Catherine St. Day, Countess of Moth, widow of the naturalist George St. Day, world traveler and funder of her husband’s many, many expeditions.

Catherine has no desire to yoke herself to another genius. She’s been there and done that, and has the emotional scars to prove it. Her late husband has been dead for two years but she still flinches upon entering the rooms that he marked out as “his”.

But Lucy needs succor. And a patron – or perhaps a patroness. Catherine needs a purpose.

Together they set the scientific world on fire. And each other.

Escape Rating B+: In the end, I enjoyed this a LOT, but there were points in the middle where I kind of wanted to turn my eyes away. Not in a bad way, but I FELT for both characters so much, and I kept expecting more bad things to happen to them than actually did. Or for the story to descend into misogynistic cliches – which it never does.

The romance here, while it does happen just a bit fast, is a beautiful exploration of consent at every turn. No one ever overpowers the other. There is no sweeping away of one by the other. But there is still plenty of love and heat and fire, as these two women carefully – and sometimes not so carefully – explore what they can be to each other. It is every bit as romantic as any romance I’ve ever read.

Unfortunately that includes the misunderstandammit that nearly breaks them apart. It does, however, lead to a beautiful and epic reconciliation scene. As it should.

Once upon a time, an author of m/m romance told me that she had fallen for the genre because both protagonists in a romance were equals. The power imbalances that used to be a traditional feature of traditional romance simply aren’t present. Which made it easy to identify with either or both characters.

That observation came to mind somewhat ironically in the case of The Lady’s Guide, because in this f/f romance the protagonists are also equal. What gives this story its heart and soul is that both protagonists are equally in the “one down” position in society. In spite of Catherine’s wealth and relatively high social position, her opinions, her contributions, her very presence is always discounted by the men she deals with. That is true even when it is her money making their work possible.

The way that the so-called “important” men in this story attempt and frequently succeed in cutting both Lucy and Catherine down at every turn is heartbreaking – and easily identifiable with for any woman. We’ve all been talked over, talked down and discounted at every turn.

That Lucy and Catherine discover a way to not just knit their own lives together but to also bring many of the forgotten women of science and art out of the shadows into which they have been cast by male scientists and artist felt like a phenomenal way to bring this historical romance to a wonderful conclusion.

As well as set up hopefully many future stories in the Feminine Pursuits series!

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

 

To celebrate the release of THE LADY’S GUIDE TO CELESTIAL MECHANICS by Olivia Waite, we’re giving away a bound manuscript copy of the book to one lucky winner!

LINK: http://bit.ly/2HIlsH1 

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a bound manuscript copy of The Lady Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Books.  Giveaway ends 7/9/2019 @ 11:59pm EST.

Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer EstepProtect the Prince (Crown of Shards, #2) by Jennifer Estep
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy
Series: Crown of Shards #2
Pages: 448
Published by Harper Voyager on July 2, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.

Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.

But dark forces are at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, Evie’s immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes her wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.

But Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s . . . well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.

Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…

My Review:

Payback is a bitch.

That truism works in multiple ways in Protect the Prince. After all, this is the second book in the Crown of Shards series, after last year’s absolutely marvelous Kill the Queen. After the events in the series opener, there is PLENTY of payback to go around.

Queen Everleigh Saffira Winter Blair is on both ends of that aphorism in this book. On her one hand, she has the desire, the opportunity, and in many cases the absolute necessity of being the bitch delivering payback to all of the people who cut her down and stepped on her when she was the lowest of the royals in the late Queen Cordelia’s court.

But Queen Everleigh remembers full well every single one of those cuts and slights and insults. The court expects her to conveniently forget, believing that Queen Everleigh is still the doormat that poor Evie pretended to be. But the gloves are off. Queen Everleigh won her throne by right of conquest, and she intends to hold it – and hold everyone’s feet to the fire to keep it.

They may all expect her to be assassinated in less than a year, but she plans to go down swinging. If she has to swing at them first, so be it.

Howsomever, her ascension to her throne didn’t just kill her predecessor, it also upset the plans of the Morta, the “evil empire” next door that planned to conquer the continent using their late puppet queen of Bellona as their stalking horse and the armies of Bellona as cannon fodder – while keeping their own hands clean.

The Mortan assassin who thought she had Bellona under control wants payback after Evie upset all her plans. And she doesn’t care who gets in the way. Or goes down in the way.

Kill the Queen got off to its running start with a red banquet of assassination. Protect the Prince opens with the first of several attempts to assassinate Evie.

But, as much as the Mortans, in the person of the assassin Maevan and her “Bastard Brigade” of illegitimate Mortan royals want to eliminate Evie from the board, she is not their primary target this time around. Not that taking her out wouldn’t be icing on their very bloody cake.

As the title implies, in this second entry in the series it is up to Evie, her friends and whatever help she can enlist, to protect the prince of the neighboring – and formerly allied – kingdom of Andvari. Because the Mortans are playing a very long game, and Andvari is also in their crosshairs.

The only question for Evie is which Andvari prince should she protect? The one she should marry – or the one she wants to.

Escape Rating A+: I finished this in one evening. Well, if 2:30 in the morning still counts as evening. Protect the Prince is utterly awesome and I absolutely loved it.

However, it very much starts in medias res, so for readers who attempt to start the series here it will feel like they’ve started in the middle. Which they have. The actions – and reactions, definitely the reactions – in Protect the Prince all hinge on the events of Kill the Queen. Meaning this is not the right place to start.

For those of us who have devoured Kill the Queen, there is more than enough backstory and reminiscences to bring us right back up to speed. Just not quite enough to start here.

Just as Kill the Queen took off the moment that the first queen in the story was killed, now that Evie is queen the story continues at the breakneck pace set by the last 2/3rds of that first book. Which explains what kept me up until 2:30 am. Protect the Prince starts fast, with a court to lesson and an assassin to eliminate in short order. From that point, the political skullduggery never lets up – and neither does the story.

Kill the Queen was billed as “Gladiator meets Game of Thrones”. I wasn’t sure about that description then, and I’m even less so now. For this reader, the Crown of Shards series feels like a mashup between Queen of the Tearling, The Twelve Kingdoms, and The Goblin Emperor.

Of course, those are awesome antecedents, so being reminiscent of those books is pretty excellent company to be in. The Crown of Shards combines the disregarded royal princess turned queen of Tearling with the ascension by killing mad predecessor of The Twelve Kingdoms (and both have evil magical empires to contend with) while The Goblin Emperor brings in that bit about the disregarded new ruler who isn’t expected to live long and has to garner some respect really, really fast.

At the top, I said that payback is a bitch. In the case of Evie being the bitch delivering the payback, it’s righteous and it feels right. It’s not egregious. She’s not out to kill her own court – no matter how tempting the prospect. But she has to take control and the scene where she does so sets the tone for her reign – and her story. It’s necessary, and I loved the way she fought back with her words and her voice and her appearance, even as under the surface she is dealing with a whole lot of completely understandable impostor syndrome.

A good chunk of Evie’s internal struggle revolves around her both acknowledging that she was not meant to be queen, and is only on the throne by happenstance, but that she is there and has to do the best she can for her people. No matter the cost to herself.

Kill the Queen was all about getting Evie to the throne. Protect the Prince is about her taking control of her place and her power. And it makes for a terrific story.

I can’t wait for the third book in the Crown of Shards, Crush the King, coming next March. I think I know who the king of the title is, I just want to see him get righteously crushed!

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Star Spangled Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Star Spangled Giveaway Hop, hosted by Mama the Fox!

To go to the fireworks, or not go to the fireworks, that is the question. It’s July 1, the Fourth of July celebrations are later in the week, and some of us are managing a four-day weekend for the holiday. But Thursday night, or Wednesday night, there will be fireworks somewhere nearby.

For our furry friends, there will be too many fireworks WAY too close. All week. It’s a hard week for the cats and dogs who live with us.

I remember attending the local fireworks display in our little suburb of Cincy when I was a child. Impatiently waiting for it to get dark enough to start the show. The place we went doesn’t exist anymore. But then, I’m not there either, and the shows are bright in memory all the same.

In Alaska we didn’t go, for two reasons. The fireworks didn’t start until midnight, and even then, it wasn’t dark enough to be able to see much. C’est la vie – or c’est la view, as I originally typed.

We’re in a new neighborhood this Fourth, so we may go see the local show. Or we may be close enough to see it from our front porch whether we go or not. We’ll see.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

MamatheFox and all participating blogs are not held responsible for sponsors who fail to fulfill their prize obligations.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-30-19

Sunday Post

There’s booming in the other room. My husband is playing Cat Quest, and it’s adorable. Cats going on adventures! With puns. Lots and lots of puns. The game is adorably cute AND fun to play.

I’m still digging out from the usual post-conference disorganization. There tends to be both a post-conference boost and a post-conference crash. So many great panels. So many excellent speakers. So many, many, many bright shiny new books. Followed immediately by the rush to get home, the continuing aching of the feet, and the need to figure out what happens next. Getting home at 1 in the morning didn’t help any.

But it’s good to be home. The kitties missed us and we missed them. Watching them over the kitty-cam is NOT the same!

Current Giveaways:

Wilde in Love by Eloisa James

Winner Announcements:

The winner of the $20 Dreamspinner Press Gift Certificate is H.B.
The winner of the Hello Summer Giveaway Hop is Chelsea W.

Blog Recap:

A+ Review: European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
B Review: Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker
A- Guest Review: Phaze by S.C. Mitchell
B+ Review: Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James + Giveaway
A- Review: Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh
Stacking the Shelves (346)

Coming This Week:

Star Spangled Giveaway Hop
Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep (blog tour review)
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (blog tour review)
Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh (review)

Stacking the Shelves (346)

Stacking the Shelves

I saw some wonderful books at the ALA Conference last week. From the looks of this list, possibly a few too many. Maybe. But for anyone wondering how I carried so many books around, the answer is that I didn’t. These were all ebooks and eARCs. Not that I didn’t see wonderful things, but when I saw them (or heard their authors) I placed requests on NetGalley and Edelweiss. My days of carrying this much around are long over.

I did also get some terrific books read in between conference sessions. And on the plane. There just isn’t enough time in the universe to read ALL THE BOOKS. Dammit.

For Review:
Akin by Emma Donoghue
Angel in a Devil’s Arms (Palace of Rogues #2) by Julie Anne Long
A Beach Wish by Shelley Noble
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Bursts of Fire (Addicted to Heaven #1) by Susan Forest
Coming Home for Christmas (Haven Point #10) by RaeAnne Thayne
A Divided Loyalty (Inspector Ian Rutledge #22) by Charles Todd
The Escape Room by Megan Goldin
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
Golden in Death (In Death #50) by J.D. Robb
The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards #1) by Juliet Marillier
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
A Little Hatred (Age of Madness #1) by Joe Abercrombie
The Murders of Molly Southbourne (Molly Southbourne #1) by Tade Thompson
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
The Rage of Dragons (Burning #1) by Evan Winter
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman
Rival’s Break (Sharpe & Donovan #10) by Carla Neggers
Royal Holiday (Wedding Date #4) by Jasmine Guillory
Sidelined by Suzanne Baltsar
Shrouded Loyalties by Reese Hogan
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Review: Someone to Honor by Mary Balogh

Review: Someone to Honor by Mary BaloghSomeone to Honor (Westcott, #6) by Mary Balogh
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical romance
Series: Westcott #6
Pages: 400
Published by Berkley on July 2, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

First appearances deceive in the newest charming and heartwarming Regency romance in the Westcott series from beloved New York Times bestselling author Mary Balogh.

Abigail Westcott's dreams for her future were lost when her father died, and she discovered her parents were not legally married. But now, six years later, she enjoys the independence a life without expectation provides a wealthy single woman. Indeed, she's grown confident enough to scold the careless servant chopping wood outside without his shirt on in the proximity of ladies.

But the man is not a servant. He is Gilbert Bennington, the lieutenant colonel and superior officer who has escorted her wounded brother, Harry, home from the wars with Napoleon. Gil has come to help his friend and junior officer recover, and he doesn't take lightly to being condescended to—secretly because of his own humble beginnings.

If at first Gil and Abigail seem to embody what the other most despises, each will soon discover how wrong first impressions can be. For behind the appearances of the once-grand lady and the once-humble man are two people who share an understanding of what true honor means, and how only with it can one find love.

My Review:

The entire Westcott series is the story of one family making lemonade out of what initially were some rather bitter lemons – with no sugar at all.

Humphrey Westcott is dead, to begin with. And that’s a good thing for him, because if he hadn’t died before the series opened, the line to kill him would stretch for miles. The late and totally unlamented Humphrey was a bigamist, a fact that was only discovered after his unexpected death.

The series is the story of all of the applecarts that were upset by that discovery learning, one way or another, and sometimes quite painfully, that the overturning of the lives they thought they had was actually the best thing that ever happened to them.

Someone to Honor is Abigail Westcott’s turn. Abigail was the youngest child and second daughter of Humphrey-the-arsehole and the woman everyone believed was his wife, Viola Kingsley. Abigail, as the daughter of the Earl of Riverdale, as Humphrey the figurative bastard was, expected to have her Season on the Marriage Mart, find a wealthy and titled husband, and be married. It was not necessarily what she wanted, but it was her duty and she seems to have had no objections to fulfilling it.

(I never have anything nice to say about the late, unlamented Humphrey. NO ONE in any of the stories has anything nice to say. If divorce had been possible, his family would have kept Viola and abandoned Humphrey – and he deserves every bit of opprobrium heaped on his coffin. But it is amazing just how present he still is, in spite of his death.)

Abby has spent the last six years trying to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. After all that time, the one thing that she is certain of is that the upending of the life she expected was a gift. She still has her family – all of it including her late father’s family – she still has all the friends who matter – and she knows who her true friends are. She has enough money that she doesn’t have to marry in order to put a roof over her head.

And she has the opportunity to be who she wants to be without having to deal with the expectations of the ton and its perpetual search for any character flaw that allows it to tear down her life, her character, her standing and her prospects.

She’s free.

But she’s not free of her well-meaning family’s desire to make a place for her on the fringes of the society that has rejected her for the so-called stain of her illegitimate birth. She loves them, they love her, she doesn’t want to anger or disappoint them – but she doesn’t want to be begrudged a place in the shadows. That life is over for her – and she knows she’s the better for it.

So when the opportunity arises to stay in her childhood home with her brother Harry, a wounded veteran of Waterloo, she jumps at it. Harry needs someone around who won’t coddle him, and Abby needs the quiet to figure out her next steps in life.

What she does not count on is Harry’s friend Gil, the fellow officer who rescued Harry from a convalescent hospital in Paris and brought him home.

In some ways, Gil and Abby are opposites. Where Abby was raised as a lady only to discover she is a bastard, Gil was raised as a bastard only to rise to the officer ranks, and therefore become a gentleman-by-courtesy, in the Army. The illegitimate son of a washerwoman and a nobleman, Gil raised himself up mostly by his own efforts, while Abby fell through no fault of her own.

In their little household of three, Harry, Abby and Gil, Abby and Gil draw closer to each other in fits and starts. Both over their shared concern about Harry, and in their surprising commonalities with each other.

When Gil’s secrets are finally laid bare, Abby is ready to stand up – and stand beside him – come what may. That the entire Westcott family stands with them guarantees that love will triumph, no matter who stands in the way.

Escape Rating A-: I have loved this series from beginning to end. (There was one half-exception, but even that was good – just not great). A big part of what I love about this series is that they are romances but are not frivolous. Or perhaps I should say that the heroines are not frivolous. The heroines of this series, to a woman, both have agency and remain a part of their times. Their situations are not pulled out of whack in anachronistic ways in order to give them the kind of choices that make them relatable for 21st century readers.

It helps that, with the exception of Anna Snow in Someone to Love, the women are no longer members of the aristocracy. Humphrey’s asshattery pulls them down into the upper middle class, removing them from the absurd expectations of the ton while giving them obstacles to overcome and lives to make of their own choosing.

Abigail can be who and what she wants to be and her family will still love her and support her in the emotional sense. Her finances give her freedom to be anything a woman of her times could be – including a spinster if that’s what she decides.

Her decision to marry Gil is not initially a love match – nor is it an arranged one. They have become friends, more or less. They like and respect each other – and they desire each other. She would like to marry, and Gil needs to marry. They enter their marriage with eyes wide open to everything except their true feelings towards each other. Because the seeds of love are certainly there, even if neither of them has the experience to see them.

Plenty of happy marriages begin with much shakier foundations.

In the end, this is a series about a fascinating group of people dealing with unexpected adversity. Life has thrown a monkey wrench into their expectations, and with each book we see the Westcott’s make lemonade out of that crop of lemons. And we see them rise together and support each other, which is certainly a treat.

The Westcotts seem to be the exception that proves the rule about all happy families being alike – they have become a happy family, and a stronger one, by moving forward from something that should have divided them by behaving in a manner that no one expected. It’s what makes them so much fun to read.

So I’m very happy to say that they’ll be back in Someone to Remember, late in the fall. I can’t wait!