Review: Unveiled

Courtney Milan‘s Unveiled is the first in a new series about the Turner brothers.  Unveiled is due to be released in January 2011; its sequel, Unclaimed, starring Ash’s youngest brother Mark, is due out in Fall 2011.  I enjoyed Unveiled, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next one.Unveiled cover

Mr. Ash Turner is the  perfect stereotype of a self-made man, rising from an impoverished background to the pinnacle of wealth; he went to sea when he was a teenager, made his fortune overseas in India, and paid for his two youngest brothers to have the finest education money could buy.  And now he has his eyes set on a title – specifically the Duke of Parford’s.  Ash has waited decades for a chance to seek revenge on Parford, whose uncaring arrogance years before led to the dead of Ash’s younger sister, Hope.

The old duke is dying, and with both of his sons proved illegitimate, the Parford estate and the title must fall to the nearest male kin – Ash Turner and his brothers.  Satisfying though it was to embarrass Parford and his family in front of London Society and secure an even more advantageous future for his own family, Ash soon finds vengeance to be not nearly as satisfying as he had thought.  Perhaps he can find consolation in the arms of no-nonsense Margaret Lowell, Parford’s very attractive nurse…

I won’t just steal your title and your lands. I will run any bank that holds your funds into the ground. I will bribe your servants to slip nettles into your bed. I will hire trumpets to stand outside your home, every evening, where they will sound notes at irregular intervals. You will never have a solid night’s sleep again.

Unfortunately for his plans, Miss Margaret Lowell is better known as Lady Anna Margaret Dalrymple, Parford’s only daughter, and she has no interest in offering anything other than hatred.  Ash has ruined her family, her inheritance, and her reputation to settle a decades-old quarrel with her father, the Duke of Parford, proving the duke a bigamist and Margaret and her two older brothers illegitimate.  Whilst Richard and Edmund, Margaret’s brothers, attempt to gain support for a Bill of Parliament to grant them legitimacy, Margaret has been left at Parford Manor to pose as a nurse and care for her ailing father.  And to spy on Ash, when he arrives to survey his stolen inheritance…

This was a very interesting story.  The plot – disinheritance because of bigamy and attempted reinstatement by Act of Parliament – is not one that I’ve ever come across before, and I do love new concepts and settings.  The early Victorian era was a nice change from the generic Georgian Regency period that seems to be the historical romance setting of choice.

Ash was an interesting character, very determined to get his own way and have things go the way he planned.  Including having Margaret in his bed, even after he discovered who she was.  Might I just add that he has the best name I have ever seen on a Romance hero.

Margaret felt rather passive at times, and a little overwhelmed by her domineering father and her affection for her brothers versus her growing attraction to Ash.  I very much enjoyed the way she eventually shook off their hold – including Ash’s – and took her future into her own hands.

Both Ash’s brothers and Margaret’s brothers came across as ungrateful, rather spoiled brats.  I’m not sure if that was intentional, or my own prejudice against bratty younger siblings.

Overall, I enjoyed Unveiled a great deal, and will be looking forward to the sequel.  If you enjoy a determined hero, a unique plot and a refreshingly different setting, do make sure to pick this one up.  Recommended.

sand ninjas

Shoulder is acting up again.  I think I overdid the whole ‘actually using my arm’ thing.

Will hopefully be back this weekend with reviews.  Or at least another demotivator.

Review: Hidden Fires

Hidden Fires by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is a science-fiction tale set in a future where mankind has populated many other solar systems, and inter-system travel taking years or decades is positively common-place thanks to scientific advances.  Hidden Fires is the third book in a series, following Fire Sanctuary and Fires of Nuala, and was re-released as an ebookk in December 2010.Hidden Fires cover

Garth Kristinsson’s parents died long ago, somehow caught in the backlash of a scam gone awry, and he has spent all his time since attempting to to track down the mysterious Silver, his father’s former partner and the one person still living who might be able to give him the answers he seeks.  After over a century of searching and travelling in the technological wonder of Cold Sleep (a form of hibernation that seems to prevent the body from aging during extended space journeys), Garth’s quest takes him to the strange planet of Nuala, a harsh world that is poisonous to those not native or acclimatised to its deadly radiation.

Once he arrives Garth soon locates Silver, who has spent the past decade living on Nuala as Darame Daviddottir, wife of the co-ruler of the Nualan tribe of Atare, far away from the outside galaxy and her former life.  While Darame seems pleased to meet the son of her childhood friend Lisbet, she is ignorant of Lisbet and Kristin’s deaths, and her warm welcome throws Garth off his guard.  Before he can decide whether to pursue his initial plans to make Silver pay, Garth finds himself drawn into the machinons of the young nobles of Atare’s rival clan Dielaan.  A plan intended to make a (relatively) harmless political statement goes badly awry, and Garth soon finds himself fleeing the civilised city of Amura to escape his former co-conspirators.

I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely sure what to think about this book when I started it.  I wasn’t terribly gripped by the opening, and put off reading past the first chapter for a while; the opening line, while obviously intended to grip the reader’s interest, seemed rather ponderous and melodramatic, which combined with the immediate stream-of-consciousness monologue to rather put me off.

I was wrong.

While the first few chapters felt a little slow to me, once the action actually began and we met the mysterious Silver, it quickly changed into an interesting and complex tale of adventure and political intrigue.

I wasn’t fond of Garth to begin with, but he did grow on me as the story progressed, and I liked Lucy and Darame from the start.  Even the ‘villain’ of the piece was more than just a flat cardboard figure, though he fit the ‘selfish megalomaniac’ stereotype a little too neatly for my taste.  Both major and secondary characters seemed to be well-written, and the author resisted the urge to have the token child character talk in ‘baby-talk’, which was very much appreciated.

This is the third book in the world of Nuala, and it definitely shows.  The world’s culture and history is rich in detail and fairly complicated, and a lot of the concepts are explained only briefly; while the world itself is obviously well fleshed-out behind the scenes, it seemed to presume that the reader was already familiar with Nuala through the previous two books and the events they contained, and I felt lost at times without that frame of reference.

Having managed to get past my initial negative impression of Hidden Fires I found that I very much enjoyed this story, and will be adding one of its prequels, Fires of Nuala, to my wish list.  Recommended.

Darkness called… but I was on the phone, so I missed him

Evil is afoot; if only it used the metric system

What makes a good villain? Evil corporations are always fun, of course, but they often lack the personal touch that a single bad guy brings.  But then with a single villain, the temptation is to give them a mental illness or make them irredeemably evil (J.K. Rowling, I’m looking at you).  My favourite villains are the ‘shades of grey’ bad guys – those who are just doing their job, or who are heroes from their side’s point of view.

There are also the sympathetic villains and the empathetic villains, the villains you love to hate, and the villains you just feel pity for.  And let’s not forget those who start off as Good Guys and fall down the Slippery Slope of Evil, and their opposites, Bad Guys who either redeem themselves or are revealed to have some kind of justification for their actions.

And then there are some obviously bad Bad Guys who are just plain fun.

It seems to be more difficult to produce a likeable or empathetic villain in literature than it is in movies or television shows; a T.V. series obviously gives much more room for character development, but why movies and not books?  Or am I just not reading the right books?

My favourites would have to include Al from Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, Batiatus from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Darth Vader from Star Wars, Grendel’s mother from Beowulf, Magneto from X-Men, Mayor Wilkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mayor Wilkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scar from The Lion King, and the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Who are your favourite villains?

gotta be cool, relax, get hip, get on my tracks

I don’t have any finished book reviews and my shoulder is giving me grief again after feeling better at the end of last week, so today you get links instead! Isn’t this fun? 😉

Just in time for Christmas: Star Wars paper snowflakes! These look really cool, and if I were more artistically inclined (and had blank paper) I’d definitely give them a go. Instructions and templates are found on the second page of the article.Paper snowflake with the likeness of Darth Vader's head at the end of each 'spoke'

This has been rolling around the internet for a few weeks now, but in case you haven’t seen it, Nat-2 are soon to release their totally awesome Stack4in1 Shoe range.  They’re shoes!  That transform!  Seriously!  Would I lie about something this geeky?

Eight different designs of Nat-2's Stack4in1 shoesWord Wenches have an interesting article on tea in the Eighteenth Century.  If you like tea or history, be sure to take a look.

Speaking of tea, Shui Tea is selling The Vodka Infusion Pack, tea that can be infused in vodka, instead of water, for (allegedly) tasty vodka-based cocktails.
The Vodka Tea Infusion Pack
Also! If you read romance but don’t follow any large book review or author blogs, there’s still time to join in with the Harlequin Historical Giveaway!  For the first 22 days in December a range of  Harlequin Historical Authors have teamed up to create an online Advent Calendar.  Each day, you can visit the host author’s website to enter competitions for various prizes, ranging from tree ornaments to books.  On the 23rd, there will be a draw from all entries for the Grand Prize: an Amazon Kindle!  Go check it out!

Review: Lust

Lust by Charlotte Featherstone is the first book in The Sins and the Virtues, a brand-new series of books that follow the stories of seven Fey princes, each cursed with one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  Lust is due to be released by Harlequin’s Spice line in January 2011.Lust cover

Centuries ago, the Queen of the Seelie Fey, Aine, was kidnapped by Duir, King of the dark Unseelie Fey.  Whilst in captivity she bore him twin sons, Crom and Niall.  Aine eventually managed to escape, taking Crom with her, but before doing so she laid a curse on Niall and on the other male children of Duir’s line.  Each Dark Fey prince was cursed with the personification of one of the Seven Deadly Sins, their nature shaped by that sin and forced to act upon its desires.  Thanks to Aine’s curse the Unseelie court is dying, and Niall, now king, was helpless to stop it until he discovered the key to unravelling his mother’s curse.  For each Fey prince cursed with a Sin has a counterpart, a mortal woman who embodies one of the Seven Virtues.  If they can find these women, earn their love, and bring them willingly to the Dark Court, perhaps the Seelie Queen’s spell will be broken…

Our first story, Lust, is the tale of Thane, one of Niall’s younger half-brothers.  Thane possesses the Sin of lust, and along with it an insatiable appetite for the pleasures of the flesh.  He and his siblings quickly track down the first three of the human Virtues they need to break the curse, and Thane is unable to take his eyes from Chastity Lennox, the third of the Duke of Lennox’s four beautiful daughters.

Chastity, as her name implies, is one of the embodiments of a Virtue, and Thane’s mortal counterpart.  She has spent all of her life cold and restrained, unmoved by the handsome faces and elegant compliments that make other female hearts flutter – until a chance encounter at a masked ball rocks Chastity’s world, and she finds herself responding to a man, however reluctantly, for the very first time.  A man who she quickly begins to suspect is not a man at all, but a Dark Fey seeking her soul…

Lust is part of the Harlequin Spice line, and very much deserving of the classification.  Lust is a very sexy read, with smouldering chemistry and red-hot sex scenes.  The combination of historical setting and fantasy elements is difficult to find, and certainly makes this book stand out from the crowd.  I spent several enjoyable hours whiling away the time with Lust, and will certainly keep my eye out for the rest of the books in the series to be released.

If you dislike fantasy elements or explicit sex scenes, then this book is not for you; it is very much an erotic romance., with heavy emphasis on the erotic.  However, if  you like your heroes mythological and your sex scenes smokin’ hot, then Lust comes highly recommended.

difficult questions are difficult

If you are what you eat, is Voldemort a unicorn?

via memebase.com

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