Review: Saddle Up by Victoria Vane + Giveaway

Review: Saddle Up by Victoria Vane + GiveawaySaddle Up (Hot Cowboy Nights #4) by Victoria Vane
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Hot Cowboy Nights #4
Pages: 320
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on June 7th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Award-winning author Victoria Vane lets loose the fourth in the Hot Cowboy Nights series
WILD HORSES COULDN'T BRING THEM TOGETHER...With exceptional talent and looks, cowboy "horse whisperer" Keith Russo once had the world at his feet - until his career was unwittingly destroyed by an aspiring filmmaker. After being rejected by his family for exploiting his Native American heritage, Keith has no choice but to turn back to his humble beginnings as a wild horse wrangler.
BUT MAYBE THEIR PASSION CAN...Miranda Sutton always dreamed of making films, until wild mustangs captured her heart. But turning her grandmother's Montana ranch into a wild horse sanctuary proves harder than she thought. She needs someone who knows wild horses. Keith and the mustangs need each other. And while working together to save the herd, Keith and Miranda discover a passion as wild as the mustangs they love.
Praise for Slow Hand "Scorching...witty...a red-hot cowboy tale...their sexual chemistry crackles." -Publishers Weekly

My Review:

Saddle Up, just like a book I reviewed a few weeks ago (Doing It Over by Catherine Bybee) is also a meditation on two different literary visions of “home”. For Keith Russo, home is the Thomas Wolfe version, “You can’t go home again.” For Miranda Sutton, it’s the Robert Frost version, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

But of course it isn’t nearly as simple as that.

Keith and Miranda first meet a year before the story really begins. At that point, Keith is on top of the world, and Miranda is a lowly and very much put upon intern in Hollywood. Keith, marketing himself as ‘Two Wolves’, is a celebrity horse trainer. Miranda is finishing up her degree in cinematography while interning with an absolute bitch of a film producer. As is not atypical during internships of all types, Miranda does most of the work, and Bibi takes ALL of the credit.

But the filming where they meet Keith is one where Miranda should be glad that Bibi takes all the credit, and gets all the blame for what it does to Keith’s life. When Keith turns down Bibi’s persistent sexual advances, she exposes him as a fraud, using Miranda’s not quite thorough enough research to back up her claims.

Keith’s life in the fast-lane is over, and he and his ignominy go back to the reservation to hide. And to work out his guilt at selling out his heritage for a fast buck. In spite of Miranda’s research, Keith really is half Native American. His paperwork doesn’t show it because his mother tried to pretend that her brief affair with his activist father never happened. But his father’s parents claim him as their own, no matter how unhappy they might be with him at any given moment. Often very.

When they meet again, Keith is at the bottom, and Miranda is on the upswing – even though that upswing is a bit precarious.

No longer an intern, Miranda is now working for Bibi, and doing projects on the side and in secret. Bibi is still a bitch. Keith is part of a wild mustang gather in Wyoming, and Miranda comes to film the project in the hopes of making a documentary. They still have lots of chemistry together, along with a whole lot of mistrust.

In spite of Bibi taking the credit, Keith still blames Miranda for a whole chunk of his problems. Miranda just wants to save the horses. She isn’t sure whether she wants to explore their explosive chemistry – especially when Keith pushes her away in one minute and pulls her in closer the next.

Neither of them is sure what they want to do – not with the horses and certainly not with each other.

While Keith continues drifting around what he wants to do with his life, Miranda takes charge of hers. She leaves behind the Hollywood that has never fit her and goes back home to her grandmother’s ranch, determined to make a go of the place by providing sanctuary for as many wild mustangs as the place can hold.

And a life of purpose for her and for Keith, if he’s willing to accept everything she offers. If he can let himself.

Escape Rating B+: Miranda and Keith are two people who only meet by chance, and probably shouldn’t have much in common. They just have a hell of a lot of combustible chemistry, and an unshakable love for the mustangs that power this story at a gallop.

slow hand by victoria vaneAnd even though this is the fourth book in the Hot Cowboy Nights series, it also stands completely alone. (As someone who has read the whole series, I’ll confess to not even being certain where this story falls in the timeline. It seems as if the romance in Slow Hand hasn’t happened yet.)

One thing that Miranda and Keith do both have in common – both of them have found their homes of the heart with their grandparents. Miranda’s parents are dead, and Keith’s want nothing to do with him. It’s their grandparents that give them each sanctuary and a sense of belonging.

But Keith’s grandparents know that Keith’s real home is not with them. He’s straddled two worlds all of his life, even if he didn’t always know it. While his grandparents love him dearly, they both see him as meant for a place that both sides of his heritage can call home.

Miranda goes back to her grandmother’s ranch, because it’s the one place where she receives unconditional support. She is rethinking her whole life, and her grandmother Jo-Jo provides just the right amount of hard work and tough love for Miranda to work through her issues. And Miranda is happy to give back to the woman who has always helped her. Jo-Jo is in her early 70s, and now a widow. The ranch is too big for her to run alone, but she doesn’t want to leave her home. Together they can make it work – if Keith is willing to help.

This is also a sex-into-love romance. Miranda and Keith have hot chemistry from the beginning, but she doesn’t want to be just another notch on his metaphorical bedpost, and he doesn’t think he’s capable of forming a real relationship. Of course they are both wrong.

There’s no villain here, although Miranda’s aunt and uncle make a brief attempt at filling that role. This romance is all about Miranda and Keith finding their way towards each other, with a whole lot of pushing from a herd of wild mustangs. Not that there isn’t an equally big herd running in Keith’s head, pulling them apart. The “come here go away” that Keith emotionally pulls on Miranda drives both her and the reader just a bit batty – with good reason.

The horses steal the show, and the reader’s heart. (Mine was already gone at the beginning, with the utterly marvelous shout-out to Romancing the Stone!)

Saddle Up graphic


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Review: Beauty and the Bull Rider by Victoria Vane + Giveaway

Review: Beauty and the Bull Rider by Victoria Vane + GiveawayBeauty and the Bull Rider by Victoria Vane
Formats available: ebook
Series: Hotel Rodeo #3
Pages: 144
Published by Lyrical Shine on March 15th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

When Beauty Wants A Baby
Championship bull breeder and former Texas beauty queen Delaney McCall was having a heck of a time finding a daddy for the baby she craved. A failed marriage left her with no desire for another husband, but finding the right stud to satisfy her needs presents a bigger problem that she could have imagined.
And The Bullrider Wants Beauty
After hanging up his spurs, bull rider Zac McDaniel wants nothing more than to fulfill Delaney's dream of having a family. After all, his best friend's ex has been his fantasy for years. Zac, however, has no desire to be seen as just a means to an end. And when Zac insists on doing things the "old fashioned" way, their passion explodes like a bull out of the chute…
Some Bucking Is Bound To Happen
While insisting it's all just a passing fancy, the more Delaney sees the softer side of the rough and tumble cowboy, the harder it is to keep her emotions corraled. Zac, meanwhile, is more determined than ever to prove he's what she really needs, and will do whatever it takes to tear down the mile high fence around her heart…
Praise for Victoria Vane
"Erotic and sexy." --Library Journal on the Devil DeVere series
 "For erotic passion and one-liners, the first book in Vane's new series will satisfy...Vane's latest gets a big yee-haw."  --RT Book Reviews on Slow Hand

My Review:

hell on heels by victoria vaneDelaney McCall has been an important secondary character in the first two Hotel Rodeo books, because she’s an important person in Ty Morgan’s life. But her introduction in Hell on Heels may not dispose readers any too kindly towards Ty’s ex-wife.

It’s pretty obvious in Hell on Heels that Delaney is the source of all too many of Ty’s trust issues when it comes to women, and the breakup of their marriage has definitely made him gun shy of commitments, an issue that Monica spends most of both Hell on Heels and Two to Wrangle dealing with. Or that Ty spends most of those two books working through.

It’s not that Ty ever held a torch. It’s that they never should have gotten married in the first place. It’s much more that Ty was so glad to be out of the marriage that he let Delaney get half his family’s ranch in the divorce – and that she decided to keep it.

It’s a big surprise to Ty when Delaney offers Ty all sorts of inducements, mostly monetary, to give her a baby. He never does let her get into the details, because he is so uninterested as to be pretty close to revolted. He’s certainly doesn’t trust Delaney enough to give her another hold on him, and he would never abandon his own child. And then there’s his relationship with Monica.

But his own reaction doesn’t stop him from telling his best friend Zac McDaniel about Delaney’s offer. Zac is retiring from the bull riding circuit and takes a job managing the ranch that Ty just inherited. Ty thinks that he’s making a joke, but Zac’s been interested in Delaney from the minute that she, Ty and Zac met, seven years ago.

He’s willing to give Delaney the baby she wants, but what he wants is Delaney, any way that he can have her. It’s up to Delaney to figure out whether what she wants is a baby…or a life.

Escape Rating B: I liked this one a whole lot more than I expected. Plots that revolve around babies are just not my cup of tea.

But in spite of the way that Zac gets back into Delaney’s life, this isn’t his story, and it isn’t really a story about the baby. This is Delaney’s story, and that’s what made it work for me.

From Ty’s perspective, Delaney seemed originally immature, and later just plain vindictive. Of course that’s not the whole story. (And not that Ty wasn’t just as immature at the time, only in a different way.)

When we get to know Delaney from her own point of view, we see something completely different. Her marriage to Ty was a mistake from day one. They were both too immature, and Ty wasn’t ready to settle down. But Beauty Queen Delaney wasn’t so much looking for a man as for a way out of the scripted and controlled life her rich parents shoehorned her into. Marrying Ty got her out from under their overbearing thumbs, so when the marriage inevitably failed she took and kept half his family ranch. While there was some desire for payback, it was mostly out of a need to have her own space and her own life, one where Delaney and only Delaney made the decisions and had the control.

Running the ranch and starting a bucking bull breeding program keeps Delaney intellectually and physically challenged in a way that her old life as a debutante did not and could not. She is fulfilled on those fronts, but she’s lonely. She’s a woman in what is still a man’s world, and she has no friends and no one she can rely on.

It seems like she decides to have a baby not because her biological clock is ticking all that loud, but because she wants someone to love. And from the way she approaches the process of getting that baby, it seems as if she is also a bit interested in someone she can control. Not in any terrible sense, just that the baby will be dependent on her, where the man she makes it with will certainly have a mind of his own.

There’s almost a feeling that she is approaching the creation of her own baby with all the same scientific know-how, and using much of the same process, that she is using in the breeding program for her stock. She has a plan, and she intends to stick to it. And it originally involves turkey-basters all the way around.

Zac throws all of her plans out the window. He’s willing to help her with her baby-making project, but he wants to do it the old-fashioned way. Delaney has learned not to rely on anyone, but Zac is being helpful when needed without impinging too much on Delaney’s independence. He respects her, and he also cares for her. He’s all in, but she’s reluctant every step of the way.

This is Delaney’s story because she’s the one who changes. She doesn’t give up her independence, but she does let Zac in to share the load…and to bring a much needed dose of spontaneity and fun into her life.

It makes for a fun story. And what looks like a fitting conclusion to this fun and sexy contemporary western romance series.



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Review: Two to Wrangle by Victoria Vane

Review: Two to Wrangle by Victoria VaneTwo To Wrangle (Hotel Rodeo, #2) by Victoria Vane
Formats available: ebook
Series: Hotel Rodeo #2
Pages: 144
Published by Lyrical Shine on February 16th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Maybe having a hot and heavy affair with the boss’s daughter wasn’t the smartest move. But country boy Ty Morgan didn’t regret a moment with city girl Monica Brandt…until she left Las Vegas to return to her life in New York.  When devastating news sends her running back, Ty can’t help but open his arms.  His heart, however, is another matter.  AND A CITY GIRL
Now that Ty has what he’s always wanted—controlling interest in Hotel Rodeo—Monica is certain their time together is at an end.  Then Ty asks her to come on board as a partner.  Maybe it’s just her money he needs, but the chance to stick close to the sexy wrangler sure could make work a whole lot more interesting.  GET READY TO TANGO
Their partnership doesn’t come without a heap of problems. The two can’t agree on anything—except their iron-hot attraction.  As the hotel’s Grand Opening approaches, the truth is all too clear: Ty and Monica must find a way to mix business with pleasure if they have any shot at dancing off into the sunset together…  Praise for Victoria Vane“Erotic and sexy.” —Library Journal on the Devil DeVere series
“For erotic passion and one-liners, the first book in Vane's new series will satisfy...Vane's latest gets a big yee-haw.”—RT Book Reviews on Slow Hand

My Review:

The story may be set mostly in Las Vegas, but the relationship between Ty and Monica feels more like a Texas Two-Step, but I’m not sure whether that’s two steps forward and two steps back, or possibly two steps together and two steps apart.

I’m not sure that Ty and Monica figure it out either, at least not until the very, very end.

hell on heels by victoria vaneTwo to Wrangle is the second half of a fun “opposites attract” type of romance. The first half of the story is in Hell on Heels (reviewed here). Sometimes it isn’t 100% necessary to read the first book in a series before picking up the second (or subsequent) but Two to Wrangle is not one of those times. Hell on Heels and Two to Wrangle are two parts of the same story, and neither feels complete without the other.

In Hell on Heels, Monica comes to Vegas to take care of her father Tom’s business after he suffers a debilitating stroke – and runs smack into Ty, who manages the slightly broken-down hotel her dad owns at the very edge of the Las Vegas strip.

They are on opposite sides from the very beginning, in ways that are both obvious and not so obvious. While Monica is Tom’s biological daughter, they didn’t meet until her adulthood – her mother only contacted Tom to inform him he had a child after he struck it rich. Mom wanted back child support, and got it, while Tom just wanted to know his daughter and Monica just wanted a father.

On that other hand, while Tom and Ty have no biological relationship, Tom pretty much raised Ty and Ty loves him like a father. From Tom’s perspective, it’s clear that Ty is the child he never knew he had, and the advent of Monica into Tom’s life doesn’t change his relationship with Ty.

But the hotel that Ty manages for Tom, the Hotel Rodeo, is long past its glory days. It’s still a decent place to stay, but Ty is doing the best he can with not enough resources to compete in Las Vegas’ glitzy, upscale market.

Monica is a business analyst, and a damn good one. She wants to sell the hotel, she sees the land it’s on as worth more than the business. Ty had just convinced Tom to renovate when the stroke hit him.

As Monica and Ty bite, scratch and claw their way through too many arguments and one glorious night, they push each other away as much as they can’t stay away from each other. Monica wants to go back to New York, and she’s afraid to give her heart to a man who admits he can’t commit. Ty has his head up his ass and can admit that Monica is the one woman he might commit to.

Just as they pull apart, Tom succumbs to a second stroke, and all the battles have to be fought all over again. But this time, for keeps.

Escape Rating B: Ty and Monica really are opposites. It’s not just the country boy/city girl opposite, or the East Coast vs. open West opposite, it’s pretty much everything. But one of those opposites is that Ty is the people person and the visionary, where Monica is a pragmatic businesswoman who always looks at the bottom line. Ty recognizes that to make his vision of the Hotel Rodeo succeed, he needs Monica’s business sense as well as her consent.

It takes most of the book for him to admit to himself, let alone to Monica, that he also just needs her.

Monica, pure and simple, is afraid to upend her life and give her heart to someone who has always said that he doesn’t do relationships, and seems to have a history of not sticking to the ones he does try. There’s also an element where Monica is used to dealing with men as alpha sharks, and until she sees a piece of that in Ty, a place where he is the king and everyone sees him as such, she has a bit of a hard time getting past some of her own assumptions.

beauty and the bull rider by victoria vaneThat he nearly gets himself killed does finally move things along. A lot.

One of the hard things in this story as a whole is that Monica and Ty are people who are wired not to lean on anyone. Not to rely on anyone. Ever. So they both put up a lot of roadblocks to a real relationship, not just by pushing the other away, but also inside their own heads. At times, it seems as if Monica is looking for reasons not to trust Ty, and Ty is looking for reasons to fight with Monica.

It takes a major crisis for them to each pull their heads out of their own asses and admit what they feel, instead of talking around and around about what they think the other one feels. When they finally do, they are able to reach for something that has always eluded them, a real shot at happy ever after.
The next book in the Hotel Rodeo series is Beauty and the Bull Rider. While it features characters we have met in the first two stories, it does not follow Ty and Monica but looks at a different and potentially explosive, relationship among their circle of friends. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!


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Review: Hell on Heels by Victoria Vane

Review: Hell on Heels by Victoria VaneHell On Heels (Hotel Rodeo, #1) by Victoria Vane
Formats available: ebook
Series: Hotel Rodeo #1
Pages: 128
Published by Lyrical Shine on January 19th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Some Odds are Meant to be Played...

The Hotel Rodeo in Las Vegas has seen better days, but managing partner Ty Morgan has come up with a way to return it to its former glory. His plan looks promising until the unthinkable happens. Suddenly Ty is working for the boss’s daughter. And Miss Monica Brandt, hot as she may be, doesn’t share his vision…
She left a fabulous career and a frustrated fiancé in New York to move to Vegas and save her father’s investment. But now Monica is locking horns with a sexy cowboy-turned-businessman. What does Ty think he can do that she can’t? All Monica knows is that she doesn’t dare trust him—or is it herself she doesn’t trust...
The battle lines are drawn. The stakes are high. And the attraction can’t be denied—especially the more closely Ty and Monica have to work together. Some odds are just meant to be played, and with chemistry this electric, it may be time to grab life by the horns…

My Review:

I’m still not completely sure how I feel about this one. I love Victoria Vane’s work, but Hell on Heels didn’t quite click for me until the very end.

beauty and the bull rider by victoria vaneAnd then it clicked so hard that I picked up the third book in the series (Beauty and the Bull Rider) on NetGalley, after swearing that I wouldn’t. The baby trope it uses is far from my favorite.

I already have the second book, Two to Wrangle, and I’m very glad I do. Because the story in Hell on Heels is NOT OVER when you turn the last page. Ty and Monica are definitely not through with each other, even though they both thought they were.

The story in Hell on Heels is definitely an “opposites attract” romance. Ty Morgan is Western through and through. He grew up on a ranch in Oklahoma, and used to ride bulls for a living. Now he’s the manager of a well-past-its-heyday Rodeo-themed hotel at the edge of the Las Vegas strip.

Ty is full of plans to remodel and renovate and bring the hotel back to its glory days. And just as he convinces his boss, controlling partner and mentor to back his play, the man that Ty looks up to as a father figure has a debilitating stroke.

And Tom Brandt’s business tycoon daughter Monica sweeps in to take the best care she can of her father, including taking care of all the businesses her dad needs her to manage for him.

Top of that list, or bottom of the heap, is Ty’s Hotel Rodeo. And Monica finds herself caught between making the right business decision and making the right decision. Her heart wants to please her father by helping Ty. Other parts of her want to make Ty happy, in the hopes that they might have a future together.

But her business sense tells her that the hotel is too far past its prime to ever come back.

Does she go all in with Ty, or does she run away back to her life in New York City?

Escape Rating B-: At the end, I liked it enough to keep going with the series. But in the beginning (and some of the middle) I felt very conflicted. Luckily this is a short enough book that the beginning doesn’t last long.

At the beginning, Monica acts like a bitch on wheels, or as Ty says, “hell on heels”, while Ty comes off as a sexist neanderthal. It’s only as the story progresses, and readers start to see behind their crusty exteriors, that we are able to empathize with the characters, and they are able to see a bit past each other’s surfaces. They still argue every five minutes, but it’s more about what they are actually saying and doing than quite as many stereotypical assumptions on their part.

There are still plenty of damaging assumptions on both sides, but they are less about roles and more about the heart of their conflicts. And even though they indulge in all the sexual chemistry that their arguing fires up, neither of them can manage to see past their own baggage. Which would give them a view of the other person’s equally weighty baggage.

two to wrangle by victoria vaneIn the end, Hell on Heels is a novella that starts out simplistic, but develops depth as it goes. The ending is frustrating because it isn’t an ending. Ty and Monica’s rocky relationship goes through more twists and turns in Two to Wrangle. And I find myself looking forward to it.

Review: Breton Wolfe by Victoria Vane

Review: Breton Wolfe by Victoria VaneBreton Wolfe by Victoria Vane
Formats available: ebook
Series: Wolves of Brittany #1
Pages: 115
on October 27th, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon

My Review:

Breton Wolfe, the first of a series, is a fun early-medieval romance that takes place during a time period that we don’t often see featured in historical romances. Or possibly historical fiction, for that matter.

It’s 907 A.D. So the Romans are long gone and William the Conqueror hasn’t yet conquered much of anything. Mostly because he won’t be born for another century plus. But I use him as a touchpoint because this story is set in Brittany. Brittany eventually became a quasi-independent dukedom as part of a united France, but in 907 it was a bunch of squabbling counties and dukedoms who seem to have spent as much time making war on each other as they did in alliance.

They should have remained allies, because this story takes place at a time when the Vikings were famously going a-Viking. Their raids and occasional attempts to settle carved huge chunks out of the medieval history of France and England, among other places. Breton Wolfe is the story of one of those Viking raids that came to stay.

France wasn’t united in 907, which made it easy for the Vikings to divide, raid and occasionally conquer. But the only place seemingly more divided than France itself was Brittany. The setup of this story is that a successful Viking raid sets itself up as a kingdom in France, and that the Frankish king gives his new allies a chance to conquer fractured Brittany. I think everyone may be putting off the day they make war against each other until later, but Brittany is certainly fractured enough to conquer.

One of the young leaders of the Vikings, Valdrik Vargr, is given a small army and the remit to conquer Brittany and rule it, or die trying. Valdrik starts with the weakest link in the Breton lands, and overthrows Radult, Duke of Vannes. Radult is no great loss to the world, but his Duchess Adele is not ready to turn her homeland over to the barbarians who killed her father and brother in their earlier raids.

She’s happy to be rid of Radult, but not all that happy with the agency that accomplished the deed. Until she meets Valdrik and discovers that the Viking barbarian raider is a much better man, not to mention a much more thoughtful lord, than her disgusting husband.

Can two former enemies find a way to make peace? Even better, can they find a way to make love and not war?

Escape Rating B: This is short, eventually sweet, and a lot of fun. It also feels like the setup for a much longer story, which it is. Breton Wolfe is the first of a series, The Wolves of Brittany. So far, the wolf in the title is a nickname, and doesn’t have anything to do with any supernatural wolves. We’ll see.

The story reminds me a lot of A Sword for His Lady by Mary Wine (reviewed here). The setting is different, but the premise is the same. A strong woman is left widowed and in possession of a significant holding. She is forced by circumstances if not at actual swordpoint to give up her independence and marry her conqueror. Said conqueror turns out to be a much better man, and a much better lord for her lands, than the bastard of a husband he replaces. Eventually her resistance crumbles in the face (and other parts) of an intelligent man who knows how to treat a woman in bed. True love conquers all.

There is a difference in the details. Where in the Wine story, the heroine just doesn’t want to give up her independence to the point of being shortsighted and stupid about it, in Breton Wolfe the heroine faces a conflict of loyalties and has a rightfully difficult decision figuring out which way to turn.

While there is the definite possibility that her choice is between life and death, there are other considerations as well. Her cooperation means life and reasonable accommodations for her people. But at the same time, she is accommodating the raiders who killed her father and brother, and is effectively facilitating a Viking takeover of Brittany from its hereditary rulers. If she were a man, it would be her duty to resist, through force of arms if necessary, to her last breath.

At the same time, the current rulers of Brittany are a rapacious and ineffective lot, although not as personally disgusting as her late husband. Valdrik and his people look like they will be better stewards of the country than the men they overthrow. But Valdrik and his people still worship the Norse gods, and Brittany is a Christian country.

Adele of Vannes has a lot of hard decisions to make. Unlike the heroine in Sword, she is never stupid about her choices. Occasionally short-sighted, but never dumb. And she fumbles more than a bit while making those choices, with nearly disastrous consequences for herself and her country. But with ultimately the best intentions.

If medieval romance is your cup of mead, then Breton Wolfe looks like the start of a fascinating series.