Stacking the Shelves (151)

Stacking the Shelves

I couldn’t resist the Humble Bundle of Star Wars Audiobooks. It includes the original radio broadcasts, and should make our next driving trip fly by. If you’re interested, there’s still a few days left to get in on the bundle.

Something else I couldn’t resist was the opportunity to get the last two books in Candace Robb’s Owen Archer series. This is a terrific historical mystery series that I fell in love with a long time ago. The story takes place in York, England, during the mid-14th century, at the time that the awesomely beautiful York Minster was being built. While I was reading the early books in the series I was in York, and walking the same streets as the characters made the story resonate even more. I’m glad to see that the series is back.

Last but not least, I picked up the two historical romances by Eva Leigh after discovering that Eva Leigh is a new penname for one of my favorite authors, Zoe Archer. I can’t wait to see what she does with this new series.

For Review:
Forever Your Earl (Wicked Quills of London #1) by Eva Leigh
The Guilt of Innocents (Owen Archer #9) by Candace Robb
Lowcountry Bordello (Liz Talbot #4) by Susan M. Boyer
Moonlight over Paris by Jennifer Robson
Return to Dark Earth (Phoenix Adventures #7) by Anna Hackett (review)
Scandal Takes the Stage (Wicked Quills of London #2) by Eva Leigh
This Gulf of Time and Stars (Reunification #1) by Julie E Czerneda
A Vigil of Spies (Owen Archer #10) by Candace Robb

Purchased from Amazon:
Humble Bundle of Star Wars Audiobooks


Stacking the Shelves (143)

Stacking the Shelves

I still can’t believe I picked up a Christmas book. I’m not sure which disturbs me more, that it’s barely July and I’m getting Christmas books, or that the book will be released at the end of September. Too soon, too soon! Ten yard penalty for rushing the season.

But it’s a book in a series I’ve enjoyed, so I could resist. Sugarplums, anyone?

For Review:
Christmas in Mustang Creek (Brides of Bliss County #4) by Linda Lael Miller
Crosstown Crush (Sins in the City #1) by Cara McKenna
First Time with a Highlander (Sirens of the Scottish Borderlands #2) by Gwyn Cready
The Hidden (Krewe of Hunters #17) by Heather Graham
Liesmith (Wyrd #1) by Alis Franklin
One Good Dragon Deserves Another (Heartstrikers #2) by Rachel Aaron
Stormbringer (Wyrd #2) by Alis Franklin

Purchased from Amazon:
Created in Fire (Art of Love #2) by Donna McDonald
Romancing the Alpha: An Action-Adventure Romance Boxed Set by Zoe York, Ruby Lionsdrake, Zara Keane, Anna Hackett, Ember Casey, Anna Lowe, Sadie Haller, Lyn Brittan, Lydia Rowan and Leigh James


The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 7-5-15

Sunday Post

Happy day after the 4th to everyone in the U.S. It’s been a marvelous three-day weekend here. I hope that everyone has made the most of it!

Speaking of the Fourth, there is still time to enter the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop for a chance at either a $10 Gift Card or a book of your choice up to the same amount. The freedom to add something new to your TBR stack awaits you!

Looking ahead to this week’s reviews it looks like speculative fiction week at Reading Reality. And speaking of speculative fiction, the latest issue of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly came out today, with all new reviews, new short fiction and terrific discussions of the genre we (I’m one of the reviewers) all love, SFR. Check out the new issue and be amazed!

freedom-to-read-giveaway-hop1-237x300Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 book of the winner’s choice in the Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
A New Hope by Robyn Carr
5 copies of A Sword for His Lady by Mary Wine

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Ruthless by John Rector is Jo J.
The winner of their choice of a $10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop is Anne

new hope by robyn carrBlog Recap:

B Review: Phoenix Inheritance by Corrina Lawson
B+ Review: A New Hope by Robyn Carr + Giveaway
B Review: The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
B Review: A Sword For His Lady by Mary Wine + Giveaway
B- Review: Duke City Desperado by Max Austin
Stacking the Shelves (142)


ink and shadows by rhys fordComing Next Week:

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (blog tour review)
Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford (review)
Among Galactic Ruins by Anna Hackett (review)
Video Game Storytelling by Evan Skolnick (review)
Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green (review)

Review: A Sword For His Lady by Mary Wine + Giveaway

sword for his lady by mary wineFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical romance
Series: Courtly Love #1
Length: 348 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: July 7, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

He’d defend her keep…

After proving himself on the field of battle, Ramon de Segrave is appointed to the Council of Barons by Richard the Lionheart. But instead of taking his most formidable warrior on his latest Crusade, the king assigns Ramon an even more dangerous task—woo and win the Lady of Thistle Keep.

If only she’d yield her heart…

Isabel of Camoys is a capable widow with no intention of surrendering her valuable estate. She’s fought long and hard for her independence, and if the price is loneliness, then so be it. She will not yield… even if she does find the powerful knight’s heated embrace impossible to ignore.

But when her land is threatened, Isabel reluctantly agrees to allow Ramon and his army to defend the keep—knowing that the price may very well be her heart.

My Review:

This is a book that gave me very, very, downright extremely, mixed feelings.

A Sword for His Lady is a medieval romance, taking place during the Crusades, although the story is set in England.

One of the good things about this story is that it feels pretty realistic about the position of women in society at that point in time.

Isabel of Camoys is expected to keep her estate running successfully after the death of her much despised husband. It is up to her to make sure that her lands produce enough to provide her share of taxes to the King (the absent Richard the Lionheart) and keep her tenants and dependents fed and housed.

And she’s supposed to immediately become subservient the moment that a man offers to marry her, because female independence was considered unwomanly. She’s not supposed to appear capable, even when she is.

She’s not supposed to want to keep her independence, whether her new husband is kind and considerate (and good in bed) or whether he is every bit as nasty a bastard (not literally, of course) as her late, unlamented lord.

Newly appointed Baron Ramon de Segrave is ordered to marry Isabel and fortify her lands. Thistle Keep is on the much contended Welsh border, and Richard needs a man there he can trust

Ramon’s wishes are not considered either, but he gains Isabel’s lands and title, and she becomes property. While it is not surprising that she wants to keep her independence, repeated kidnappings and guerrilla warfare fomented by her vile ex-brother-in-law make it clear to Isabel and everyone around her that it is not realistic in that time and place for her to remain independent.

She has to marry Ramon whether she likes it or not. Fortunately for her, Ramon is a much kinder and more intelligent man than her first husband. Also much more entertaining between the sheets. At least Ramon has grasped the concept that the marriage bed is a lot warmer if both parties are pleased during the proceedings.

In spite of a very rough start to their relationship, Ramon and Isabel do find a way to make a partnership of their marriage, and to finally admit that they love each other. Although neither of them planned on ever getting married, they eventually realize that their king has done them an excellent turn by forcing them together, even if he had no idea of the eventual outcome.

Escape Rating B: I did enjoy this by the end, but I highly recommend that you not read this book right after reading something with a significant feminist bent. While Isabel’s situation seems realistic for her time, it can be difficult to read the way that she is pretty much forced to give up her independence and expected to like it.

Reading this book definitely made me think. There is a trend in historical romance to make the heroine anachronistically independent in some way. While it makes her easier to identify with for 21st century readers, it isn’t right. On that other hand, it doesn’t lead to as much teeth-gritting.

This is a completely different thing from the argument about women’s independence, or women as soldiers, or any variation thereof, in medieval-type fantasy. Just because an author has used a medieval-type setting for their fantasy does not mean that they have to adopt all of that society’s terrible attitudes about women. After all, it is a fantasy-setting, the author can change the parameters to suit themselves as long as it remains internally consistent.

Dismounting soapbox now.

Isabel is living in a society where every person on every side is either telling her to “lie back and enjoy it” or reminding her that she is only chattel, and that she needs to find a man to command her armies and defend her lands, because she doesn’t have that capacity and her society doesn’t allow for her to. It’s often infuriating but it feels true.

I do wish, however, that Ramon’s magic cock hadn’t done quite so much of the convincing. He is far and away her best option, and it is logical that they join forces. Not just because he’s a nice (and handsome) man and will protect her, but also because he believes in his knightly vows and will protect and nurture her lands and her people.

As the Lady of Thistle Keep, she has to do what is best for her people, and Ramon is it, whatever Isabel’s personal opinion might have been.

Ramon’s opposition is evil slime, and he is made out to be evil slime at every turn. That he is also her ex-brother-in-law and plans to marry Isabel by rape and murder Ramon if necessary (and murder Isabel later once the land is secure) is just slimy icing on an already disgusting cake. He had no redeeming virtues whatsoever – he was a coward into the very bad bargain.

That Isabel hesitated to marry Ramon even a nanosecond after Sir Evil appeared was not intelligent or well-done on her part. If she was smart enough to keep her estate going so successfully alone, she should also have been smart enough to realize that the jig was up, whether she liked it or not.

In the end, love does conquer all, even the lady who never believed that she could fall under its spell.


Mary and Sourcebooks are giving away 5 copies of A Sword for His Lady to lucky winners.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-28-15

Sunday Post

We’re on the road again, so any scheduled winner announcements will appear next week. Which will be the July 4 weekend in the U.S., and probably no one will care until after the weekend.

ALA san francisco 2015This weekend we’re in San Francisco at the American Library Association Annual Convention, hopefully not freezing. I’m referring to the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” SF can be a bit chilly, but I’ve never found it to be quite that cold. And a few days in the 60s are going to feel quite refreshing after weeks in the 90s in Atlanta.

Ironically, the research seems to say that when Twain first made the original statement, he was not referring to San Francisco, but Duluth Minnesota. I currently live in Duluth Georgia, which was named for (you guessed it!) the city in Minnesota.

I keep reminding myself that every place has something that sucks, weatherwise. Atlanta and the South in general, are hotter than Hades in the summer, but generally lovely in the winter. Chicago had horrible winters, and hot summers, but the spring and fall are marvelous. Anchorage totally sucks in the winter, but summers are usually sweet, although apparently not this year. And, just to keep things really interesting, you have to get used to the earthquakes. But I grew up in “Tornado Alley”, so there’s always something.

Current Giveaways:

Ruthless by John Rector

on a cyborg planet by anna hackettBlog Recap:

C+ Review: Dissident by Cecilia London
B- Review: Ruthless by John Rector + Giveaway
B Review: Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell
B+ Review: Valentine by Heather Grothaus
A- Review: On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (141)




freedom-to-read-giveaway-hop1-237x300Coming Next Week:

Phoenix Inheritance by Corrina Lawson (review)
A New Hope by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs (review)
Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
A Sword for his Lady by Mary Wine (blog tour review)
Duke City Desperado by Max Austin (blog tour review)

Review: Valentine by Heather Grothaus

valentine by heather grothausFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: historical romance
Series: The Brotherhood of Fallen Angels #1
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Date Released: June 23, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Introducing the Brotherhood of Fallen Angels—an epic new series set in the medieval Holy Land, where four heroic Crusaders find themselves caught in the crosshairs of revenge, devotion—and love…

He’s a man of passion and principle. But would he kill for his convictions? That’s the question that has Valentine Alesander fighting for his innocence. He’s been accused, along with three other Brothers, of orchestrating the horrific siege at the Christian fortification of Chastellet. Could this fatefully-named Crusader be a lover, a fighter, and a traitor? One woman from his past is about to find out.

Gorgeous, free-spirited Lady Mary Beckham has escaped her guardians in England to travel across the world—and find the notorious Valentine. Years ago, she was promised to him…and now she wants out of their marriage contract. Mary wants to wed another and requires Valentine’s blessing—until she discovers they share a tempestuous attraction. But with a vengeful band of sworn enemies at Valentine’s heels, is desire worth the risk of losing…everything?

My Review:

Just like the heroine, I fell in love with the face on the cover of this book, and just couldn’t resist reading his story.

Now that I’ve read it, I’ll admit that the picture on the cover does not match the picture in my head, but there is still something arresting about that face. Also something slightly familiar. I think I’ve seen that face before.

Lady Mary Beckham has seen that face before too, but it is long before she remembers. When she was a baby, her parents contracted her in marriage to Valentine Alesander. His parents had saved her parents’ lives, taking them in at their estate in Aragon after a shipwreck.

This is the 1100s, and at least in England, a pre-contract was as valid as a marriage, and also an impediment to any other marriage that either party might want to get into.

Mary grows up with no knowledge of the contract. Her parents died when she was a child, and there is no one to tell her. Mary grows up alone except for servants, at Beckham Hall, and is the heir to her father’s wealth and title, as well as his protectorship of the Cinque Ports that control shipping into England.

In other words, Mary is a prize that no one has come looking for – until one knight breaches the castle walls. He claims to want to marry Mary, and the tale he weaves sounds like something out of the tales of Courtly Love. It is all very chaste, and very pure, and designed to steal Mary’s heart.

It’s only then, with the offer of marriage on the table, that Mary discovers that she is already married. Sort of.

All she has to do is find her erstwhile husband so that he can come back to England and quit his claim of her. Her future husband must never know.

Nothing could be that simple. Her contracted husband is a wanted criminal across all of Europe. He is accused of betraying an important castle to Saladin. It is the Crusades, after all.

With only a little money, a lot of desperation, and more pluck than she ever imagined she had, sheltered Mary Beckham makes her way across Europe to find the man who should have come for her.

Her journey back to England, with Valentine either helping her to elude their pursuit, or shaking his head at the latest mess she has gotten them both into, is an adventure that will change her life.

How else would a slightly dreamy, very sheltered young woman change from a perfect lady into a pirate?

Escape Rating B+: After the first chapter, this story is a delightful romp from beginning to end. The reader is pulled, along with Mary, on a madcap adventure that feels as if it came from the same kind of wildly improbable romance at the heart of The Princess Bride.

It isn’t quite as good, because that would be inconceivable! But Mary’s adventure and rescue, and rescue, and rescue, is in that same spirit, complete with its very own Dread Pirate Roberts.

While there are a couple too many times where the previously sheltered Mary gets them in trouble simply because she has no clue how the underbelly of the world works, combined with Valentine’s unwillingness, or sometimes inability to just tell her what the hell is going on and why, the mad race from Melk, Austria to the coast of England jumps out of the frying pan, into the fire, and back into the frying pan over and over. Valentine and Mary never seem to catch a break, and everyone, everywhere is after them.

Life on the run is one hell of a bonding experience, and Valentine and Mary are drawn to each other like iron filings to a magnet.

Of course, Valentine tries to do the right thing. He thinks that Mary is falling for him because they are on this adventure together, and not the other way around. He is sure that whoever is waiting for her is much better for her than he, wanted criminal that he is, could ever possibly be.

It’s not until the very end that they both finally figure out that not only do they truly love each other, but in a surprising twist of circumstance, her fiance is the evildoer who has been pursuing Valentine all along.

When that particular plot twist hit, I was filled with chagrin that I hadn’t seen it coming. I knew that Mary’s fiance was probably not nearly as virtuous as she thought, but I assumed that he was just after the title that came with her hand. He’s much, much worse than that.

If you are looking for a romantic romp that never lets up on the adventure or the romantic tension, Valentine is marvelous fun!

An Oath Broken Only Marriage Valentine Banner

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-21-15

Sunday Post

For those of you wondering who won some of the recent giveaways, I was able to catch up now that I’m back home.

ALA san francisco 2015Next week I’ll be at the American Library Association Annual Conference. This year, ALA has done something sensible for a change. We’ll be back in San Francisco. Because San Francisco is generally cool, or cool-ish in the summer, it’s a perfect place to have to be dressed up and running around, unlike last summer in Las Vegas. Or next summer in OMG Orlando. If ALA decided to have every Midwinter Conference in San Diego or San Antonio, and every summer in San Francisco (with the occasional break for Chicago) that would be just fine with me. But c’est la vie.

For anyone who loves fantasy, and has not yet read The Goblin Emperor, go forth and get a copy post-haste. I have seen it described as manner-porn, which is a term I’d never heard before. The Goblin Emperor is set in a world where manners don’t just make the man (or elf, or goblin) but they also keep him alive in the midst of his enemies. It certainly runs counter to the recent spate of grimdark fantasy. And it is simply awesome.

There are still a couple of days left to get in on the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop. Just tell us who your favorite heroine is for a chance at either a $10 Gift Card of a $10 Book of your choice.

Current Giveaways:

favorite heroinesFlirt and Loveswept mugs + ebook copies of Rock It by Jennifer Chance, After Midnight by Kathy Clark, Alex by Sawyer Bennett, Wild on You by Tina Wainscott, Plain Jayne by Laura Drewry, and Accidental Cowgirl by Maggie McGinnis from Loveswept
$10 Gift Card or book in the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of her choice of title in Jeffe Kennedy’s Twelve Kingdoms series is Kristia M.
The winner of The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller is Maria S.
The winner of Let Me Die in his Footsteps by Lori Roy is Brandi D.

goblin emperor by katherine addisonBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
B- Review: Zack by Sawyer Bennett + Giveaway
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell
B Review: The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe
Stacking the Shelves (140)




valentine by heather grothausComing Next Week:

Dissident by Cecilia London (review)
Ruthless by John Rector (blog tour review)
Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell (review)
Valentine by Heather Grothaus (blog tour review)
On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett (review)

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-14-15

Sunday Post

We are on the road again, so I’ll have to let everyone, including the winners, know who won what of last week’s giveaways next week.

And I’m not just writing this early, but I’m writing in the middle of a thunderstorm. I’m wondering when we’ll lose either power or ‘net. Or both. The fweeping sound the UPS (uninterruptable power supplies) make drives the cats absolutely bonkers.

Or at least more bonkers than they are normally.

One of the things about being on the road is that while I may get plenty of time to read, time and space (and quiet) to write in can be hard to come by. Some people are multi-taskers – Galen can write and even code in the living room with the TV on. Me – I need surround-silence, as opposed to surround-sound.

On that other hand, when I’m reading, the world could go to hell in a handbasket right next to me, and I wouldn’t hear a thing. I’m not there. I’m in Middle-Earth, or wherever the book takes me.

Current Giveaways:

Hot Cowboy Nights book bundle by Victoria Vane
$25 Gift Card + ebook copy of The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate
5 copies of Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon by isabel cooperBlog Recap:

A- Review: Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman
B- Review: Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane
Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Art Imitating Life + Giveaway
B+ Review: The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate + Giveaway
A Review: Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper
Guest Post by Isabel Cooper on her Favorite Author + Giveaway
A- Review: Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford
Stacking the Shelves (139)

favorite heroinesComing Next Week:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (review)
Zack by Sawyer Bennett (blog tour review)
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell (review)
Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green (review)

Review: Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon by isabel cooperFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available:
Genre: paranormal romance
Series: Highland Dragons #3
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: June 2, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

William Arundell is a detective working for a secret branch of the English government. When a young man is found dead, William’s investigation leads him to a remote Highland village and the intoxicatingly beautiful lady who rules MacAlasdair Castle.

The charismatic Judith MacAlasdair is not what William expected. The only daughter in a long line of shape-changing dragons, Judith is wary of William and his unrelenting questions. However, when William’s investigation takes an interesting turn, they must put aside years of bad blood and a mutual distrust of outsiders to band together to save the British Islands from its deadliest foe…

My Review:

This series just gets better and better. And we finally get a little more dragon.

legend of the highland dragon by isabel cooperIn this third book in the Highland Dragons series, after Legend of the Highland Dragon (reviewed here) and The Highland Dragon’s Lady (here) we also finally get to see the clan seat of the dragons in the Scottish Highlands, in the remote village of Loch Arach.

We also get an unusual heroine and hero. Not just because Lady Judith MacAlasdair is a dragon in her mid-180s, but also because the hero, William Arundell, admits to being 45. While there is a bit (more than a bit) of an age gap, it is great to see a romance where both the hero and heroine are mature adults and not only act like grownups but need their experience to solve the mystery.

And the hero and heroine take turns saving each other, both by fighting and by magical means. This is a partnership of true equals, and it is done well.

It helps that the chemistry between Judith and William is smoking hot, and not just because Judith is actually capable of belching smoke (and fire) in her dragon-form. These are lovers who both know what they are doing and are quite pleased that the other knows as well. Once they finally trust each other enough to get down to cases. And beds. And, for that matter, up against trees.

The story is that there is something wrong in the state of the Highlands, and Arundell’s colleagues at Special Branch D have traced it to Loch Arach. This branch of Her Majesty’s government investigates demon activity, or anything else supernatural that threatens the realm and its people. They have evidence, ghostly evidence, that someone in Loch Arach is summoning demons, and that never ends well. Or without a string of corpses.

Arundell’s colleagues also wonder about the mysterious MacAlasdair family. There is clearly something odd about them, and concern that it might relate to something sinister. Of course Judith is currently in charge of making sure that the dragonish side of the MacAlasdairs’ nature does not become common knowledge, or even rumored knowledge outside of Loch Arach.

But the MacAlasdairs have no truck with demons, so Judith and Arundell find themselves unlikely allies, and even more unlikely lovers, once they mutually agree that whoever is summoning demons, it isn’t either one of them.

Now they are both marked for death, along with anyone in the village who gets in evil’s way. William and Judith don’t put the pieces together until it’s too late.

Or is it?

Escape Rating A: One of the fascinating things about this book in the series is that we get a much broader glimpse of paranormal and magical activity in this story than the hints that we have had previously.

highland dragons lady by isabel cooperColin, in The Highland Dragon’s Lady, definitely dabbles in magic, but the existence and organization of William Arundell’s Special Branch D shows that there is a lot more magical activity going on than anyone seems to realize. Also that his group is well-organized because their opposite numbers are also, and they are fighting fire with fire, and sometimes other spells.

One ends up wondering exactly which branch of the government Arundell’s Special Branch D is a special branch of. It’s clear that it is not Scotland Yard, but in our world, MI-5 wasn’t established until 1909 (as the Secret Service Bureau). But this is not quite our world, so maybe.

Whoever they are, in this story it is clear that they are one of Britain’s players, or perhaps puppetmasters, in the Great Game of Empire that led to World War I, which is also on the horizon in this mid-1890s story. As it was in real history.

Perhaps we’ll see.

One of the things I loved about this story is the maturity of the hero and heroine. Arundell reflects on his own maturity and mortality, in that his knees may not last much longer as a field agent, but that his experience still sees him through.

While Judith may look under 30, she never hides the experience that her years have given her. She is in control and in charge of Loch Arach every minute. Arundell generally defers to her, once he has discovered her true nature. (Before that he doesn’t trust her enough, not that he doesn’t recognize her command).

These people are just plain good together, and are a match for each other. Nor does Judith change to a simpering miss when she falls in love. She’s still Lady MacAlasdair, it is still her land and her people, and she is still very much in charge, even when she is desperately worrying about the fate of her lover.

Speaking of which, the story does a good job of dealing with the problem of what the ultimate result will inevitably be when a near-immortal falls in love with a mortal. It’s a solution that is just barely possible. Blood transfusion did not become widespread until World War I. But in the late 1800s it did exist. It was regarded as not merely risky but downright dubious, but it did exist. The circumstances set up in the story are just plausible, and add to the drama at the end.

I also liked that the dramatic crisis in this story was NOT precipitated by any willful misunderstanding between the protagonists. They are working together, very successfully, but are overcome by events that they did not quite figure out in time. For this reader, it heightened the tension deliciously.

Although this is the third book in the series, because the setting and characters are so different from the previous books, this would definitely be a place where one could enter the story without having read the previous books. That being said, the first two books are also a whole lot of fun.

I hope that the author will return to this series. I’m going to miss these Highland Dragons.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Stacking the Shelves (137)

Stacking the Shelves

I’ll admit that I really love these short stack weeks. But I’m starting to wonder whether its a lack of books, a lack of choices, my own changing tastes or, heaven forbid, the early signs of a reading slump.

Oh noes! Anything but that…

For Review:
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Fable: Blood of Heroes by Jim C. Hines
Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green
Opening Up (Ink and Chrome #1) by Lauren Dane
A Sword for His Lady (Courtly Love #1) by Mary Wine
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (Song of the Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Purchased from Amazon:
Negotiation (Twelve Kingdoms #0.5) by Jeffe Kennedy