Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lightning Reviews: FARFLUNG HISTORY

Today, a trio of rapid reviews of farflung historical romantic adventure, from a trio of authors for whom these are second-ever releases, and whose covers all subscribe to the philosophy:

"Torsos essential, faces irrelevant!"

Michelle Beattie, 2009

Cover: Great title, luscious color, pose straight out of the final scenes of 'Pirates of the Caribbean 3' - this is one enticing cover, sure to draw in readers who pass by in the store.
Content: Besides hero and heroine finding their way to one another, the story has added layers of lost identity and pursuit of missing family members on top of battles on the high seas. Apprentice Writer enjoyed the dramatic tension, and loved it that the heroine strove for independence rather than waiting around for a man to 'save' her when the chips were down. It was disappointing, though, that after the heroine was introduced with the intrepid profession of blacksmith, so little was done with it. When she boards the hero's ship, for example, there is zero mention of her showing any interest in the weapons and ironware on board - despite the interest a regular passenger on a vessel with a high probability of being attached by pirates could be expected to show - let alone someone who assesses quality of same for a living.

Characters from the author's first title appear, but this second book can be read as a standalone and Apprentice Writer had no problem following along.
Recommended for: Fans of historical romance, POTC devotees, and armchair Caribbean travellers
Author Info: (no info found on upcoming release)

Kate Noble, 2009

Cover: Title a nice follow-up to debut book's 'Compromised', art with very nice color and movement.
Content: AW loved the author's writing style in 'Compromised', and 'Revealed' follows suit. It was all shaping up beautifully - hero and heroine antagonize each other at first, he is NOT socially powerful and well regarded, there is an intriguing, maladjusted brother whom AW very much hopes represents sequel bait, and an excellent bit about a social rival who has unanticipated depths and complexity - so much so that this looked to be a 5/5 star read. The final grade wobbled a little for three reasons: a) there is an episode of 'accent speak' with the particularly unfortunate addition of making one of the words the foreign language speaker utters in his own tongue during an English sentence a ludicrously simple one ('very') which he would have known how to say in English with 100% guarantee, b) suspension of disbelief was shot to hell (that is a pun, for those who know the story) half way through in terms of how a key development took place, and c) when the wronged hero is vindicated, the character doing the 'mea culpa' speech chooses to say it not only in public (which should be utterly out of character with his profession) but in a street in outside a burning building while people and key evidence are trapped inside and chaos is going on (which should be utterly out of character with common sense).

Still: there was enough here, in unusual elements told in an engaging way, for AW to very much look forward to the author's most recent release, 'The Summer of You' , just arrived in stores.
Recommended for: Fans of historical and/or espionage stories, Julia Quinn-like writing, and London season/country houseparty tales.
Author Info:

HIGHLAND REBEL Judith James, 2009

Cover: Title - Hard to tell if refers to hero or heroine. In AW's humble opinion, the word 'highland' appears in way, way too many titles to signal 'New and fresh story!'. Art - AW will concede that the sky being either of a sunset or burning nature is eye catching, and that the nekkid chestal area is in small mercies framed by some degree of shirt. But oh, what a tremendous, cliche-generic letdown this cover is after the high-impact splendour that was the author's first, 'Broken Wing'!
Content: There is an oft-repeated bit of writing advice that hero and heroine of a story should have diametrically opposed motivations and goals, so as to create dramatic tension. Boy howdy, is this ever the case here. The protagonists are from such different backgrounds, with such different short- and longterm aims in life, that the reader wonders early and often how they will ever manage to reconcile all the forces tearing at them. Those forces themselves almost form a character of their own - AW was very interested to learn of all the real-life historical figures and events which the author wove so skillfully in, and marvelled at the quick wits it took to retain fortune and titles (sometimes, even one's mere neck) in an era when monarchs succeeded one another in revolving door fashion, with courtiers falling in and out of favor between breakfast and lunch.

Though both excelled in painting memorable characters and depicting sincere emotion, this second title felt very different from the author's first. The third, 'Libertine's Kiss', is scheduled for upcoming release, and AW suspects it will continue to show this author's remarkable versatility.
Recommended for: Fans of straight historical fiction as well as historical romance, afficionados of stories set in Scotland or Ireland.
Author Info: (Does not seem to have been updated recently; AW wonders if there is some fluctuation going on. First book was published by Medallion Press, second by Sourcebooks, a quick check on Amazon shows a beautiful cover for 'Libertine's Kiss' with a Harlequin logo attached. What's up?)


Rachel said...

I love the recommended for section!

Anonymous said...


Jenners said...

I love how you tied the books together with that description ... and the "Torsos essential, faces irrelevant" is classic!

M. said...

Rachel - thanks

Jenners - ditto. I find I don't have time to do full reviews for all the books I read, so sometimes, themes lend themselves.

Julia Smith said...

M - Judith James was part of my writer's group but didn't return last year. As far as I know, she's got her nose to the grindstone and is writing, writing, writing. I don't think she's as taken by the whole social media thing, so her website is probably something she's got on her to-do list. As far as the revolving publishers, Judith just wanted her books on store shelves - which is a tribute to her intense focus.