Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blood Between Queens, Barbara Kyle (2013)

Book Source: NetGalley and Kensington Books

I’ve been a lover of historical fiction for years, especially Victorian, but I’ve gotta admit that it was Philippa Gregory who started me on my Tudor binge, at least book-wise, films have always been on the agenda.  Anyway, it all began with The Other Boleyn Girl (didn't it for everyone?), continued with dozens of books about the Tudors, more recently with the Plantagenets, and I have even started to expand towards Spanish and German royalty, as they are all truly related anyway.  
Recently though, I came across this brand new novel, Blood Between Queens about Queen Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots, which automatically drew my attention to the soap opera-like lives of the Tudors. 

The books starts with a whole bunch of characters who come in and out of the scene, apparently some castle, and all are somehow politically related to Queen Elizabeth.  The author quickly shifts from one point of view to another, so at first it was difficult to figure out who the protagonist was, until it finally become obvious in the third chapter or so.  
Justine Thornleigh is an adopted daughter of the Thornleigh family, who had rescued her from certain indigence when her father was named traitor and then passed away in a fire.  However, Justine has always felt comfortable as part of the family, to the point of even falling in love with the Thornleigh's nephew, against their better judgment.  
In the meantime, the drama between Queens Elizabeth and Mary is escalating as Mary has just run to England seeking asylum, her husband was mysteriously killed and most people believe she was responsible, with the help of her lover turned new husband (third one). Thus, Elizabeth is in a position in which she doesn't  know what to do to believe if her cousin is innocent or not, so she decides to send a spy, and in comes Justine. For those unfamiliar with Mary Stuart, although she was Scottish, she was raised in France to be the king's wife, which she was for a short period of time.  Justine, coincidentally, is half French on her father's side, so it was believed that she would be the perfect lady in waiting to gain Mary's trust and to spy on her.  
Justine is deeply loyal to Elizabeth, but when she starts to get to know Mary, she starts to sympathize with her as well, hence her dilemma.

When I started reading this book I didn't know that it was part of a series until some events were referenced, which became a bit annoying, but in general it was a standalone book.  Anyway, down to the review.
One of the weakest aspects in the book is the title itself; one is led to believe that this is solely about the queens, however they are secondary characters, which is fine, but maybe the title should have been a different one.  
Like I already mentioned, all these characters popped up in the beginning and since I didn't read the other books in the series, I didn't understand who they were or their personal connections-not to mention that the point of view kept changing. Once I got it all sorted out though, it got easier to follow.  
The real protagonist, Justine, was a bit hard to warm to.  She was just so idiotic: lying to her fiance, believing in Mary, actually thinking to meddle into highly classified political matters, (SPOILER ALERT!) believing her criminal father and getting her father of the heart killed  by him! Yikes! I understand she was supposed to be portrayed as a highly intelligent woman who wanted to do the right thing, but she just came off as extremely selfish, manipulative, and annoying.  
The fiance, Will, was a complete self-righteous jerk who put his work ahead of his supposed love and never even tried to understand Justine's major mistake.  Towards the end, he redeemed himself, but really, if I were Justine I wouldn't have forgiven him so easily, he should have been made to grovel some more.
As for the queens themselves, Mary was portrayed as also being totally manipulative, which is probably historically accurate, but I actually wanted to know how the author would resolve the allegations against her about killing her husband, but they never were.  As for Elizabeth, she wasn't in the history line as much, although her encounters were Adam certainly made her out as two-faced. However, what I can say is that she certainly seemed to be quite naive, or at least her royal guards, to permit her into a home without fully checking it and the grounds!
There was also another subplot concerning the above mentioned Adam (another Thornleigh), but he was just so focused on lusting after Elizabeth that he kinda ignored his kids, and totally ignored his wife (there was something that happened in their past, in the other books, but no idea what), that he also came off as egotistical.  In fact, none of the characters in the novel was particularly likable, maybe because the times called to be cold-blooded to survive, but I just think the author wanted to make them be well-rounded characters, but she just focused more on their dark sides.
All in all, it was OK. Way too much drama, rescues, intrigues, and blackguards, but historically it was pretty much accurate (except for the liberties the author admitted she took, which were fine).  I don't think I'll read it again, but I'm glad I did.

Final verdict: 3 stars

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Highlander Most Wanted, Maya Banks (2013)

Book Source: NetGalley

This is the first time I've read a Maya Banks book.  I decided to give it a try as I've read and heard so many good things on her novels, so when I saw an available ARC at NetGalley, I eagerly requested it.
What can I say? Was it entertaining? Pretty much, at least the first half, after that it went downhill.

Genevieve McInnis (great name!), the daughter of a powerful laird with connections to the crown, was kidnapped by the evil Ian McHugh a year before when she was on her way to her betrothed,  and forced to become his leman (whore).  She underwent all types of horrible physical and psychological abuse during the year she lived with him, but she manages to survive in one peace, except for the scar on her face.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Last Daughter of Prussia, Marina Gottlieb Sarles (2013)

Source: Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I've been reading books on the Holocaust and the Jews since I was in 4th grade, it has always been a topic of extreme interest and horror, but always from the Jewish or Gypsy point of view, never from the German.  

Marina Goettlieb Sarles reminds us that although the German government committed atrocities during that point of time, they didn't necessarily have the backup of all their citizens, however they still dearly paid with their lives and that of their loved ones during the Russian invasion.

Synopsis: Manya von Falken is an East Prussian aristocrat, a twenty year old young woman whose family breeds the famous Trakhener horses.  They live in an idyllic setting in the middle of the Prussian forests, even though it is 1944 and the Russians are on the verge of destroying their home.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Recruit, Monica McCarty (2012)

I read The Recruit back in November, in merely two days, it was so gripping!  But, I procrastinated and didn't write a review back then, which I'm determined to correct now since it got nominated for the RITA AWARDS only a couple of days ago! Yay!

Kenneth Sutherland became one of my favorite Highland Guards (after Tor McLeod, from The Chief) and Mary of Mar was a heroine I felt for and whose actions I identified with (at least most of the time).

Kenneth was trying to earn a place with the Guards, but his quick temper and 'hot-headedness' was working against him, so he had to work double to prove himself capable of the post.  Mary of Mar was asked by the English king to spy on Robert the Bruce during the Highland Games. Mary of Mar doesn't really want to go, but her son's future inheritance is on the line, so she feels she has no choice.

Friday, March 29, 2013

RITA AWARDS FINALISTS, 2013... The Recruit, Monica McCarty and A Rogue By Any Other Name, Sarah MacLean

I'm super excited because two authors I follow and read (a lot) and love have been nominated for the Romance Writers of America Awards, aka, RITA Awards!  The winners will be announced July 20 at the Romance Writers of America, Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Historical Romance Finalists
Beauty and the Bounty Hunter by Lori Austin
Penguin Group USA, Signet
Claire Zion, editor
Bride by Mistake by Anne Gracie
Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation
Wendy McCurdy, editor
Defiant by Pamela Clare
Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation
Cindy Hwang, editor
A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries
Simon & Schuster, Pocket Books
Micki Nuding, editor
The Recruit by Monica McCarty
Random House Group, Ballantine Books
Kate Collins, editor
A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
HarperCollins Publishers, Avon Books
Carrie Feron, editor
Too Dangerous to Desire by Cara Elliott
Grand Central Publishing, Forever
Lauren Plude, editor 
Wedded in Sin by Jade Lee
Penguin Group USA, Berkley Sensation
Kate Seaver, editor

I will definitely be posting my reviews on these two great novels in the next couple of days!  So, how many from the nominees have YOU read?

Goodreads Giveaway!

Sons of the Wolf, by Paula Lofting

Click on the link above to enter the book giveaway by this excellent author! Giveaway date is April 24, so you still have time!!

On bloody fields he fights for his life, but sometimes the enemy is closer to home... 1054, pious King Edward sits on the throne, spending his days hunting, sleeping and praying, leaving the security of his kingdom to his more capable brother-in-law Harold Godwinson, the powerful Earl of Wessex. Against this backdrop we meet Wulfhere, a Sussex thegn who, as the sun sets over the wild forest of Andredesweald, is returning home victoriously from a great battle in the north. Holding his lands directly from the King, his position demands loyalty to Edward himself, but Wulfhere is duty-bound to also serve Harold, a bond forged within Wulfhere's family heritage and borne of the ancient Teutonic ideology of honour and loyalty. Wulfhere is a man with the strength and courage of a bear, a warrior whose loyalty to his lord and king is unquestionable. He is also a man who holds his family dear and would do anything to protect them. So when Harold demands that he wed his daughter to the son of Helghi, his sworn enemy, Wulfhere has to find a way to save his daughter from a life of certain misery in the household of the cruel and resentful Helghi, without comprising his honour and loyalty to his lord, Harold. On the battlefield, Wulfhere fights for his life but elsewhere the enemy is closer to home, sinister and shadowy and far more dangerous than any war.