Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Seanan McGuire
Urban Fantasy
Daw, 2009

Kelly Gay
Urban Fantasy
Pocket, 2009

1. Half human, half fae private investigator overcoming personal loss is forced to sleuth a magical murder among the fairy races living hidden in plain sight with people.

2. Human cop partnered with siren cop investigates magical narcotics among otherworldly races living openly with people.

1. Standard UF blue tones and leather, but in a twist on the usual the leather is a jacket instead of pants, and the heroine looks remarkably covered, untatooed, and visible-weaponless. Even so, uncertain this would have caught Apprentice Writer's eye in the store on its own. Unusual and intriguing title, though, which is not explained until almost the very end. Too bad the next titles in the series don't follow botanical precedent.

2. Blue tones again, with cover girl back to regular UF uniform and pose. Pretty enough overall look, not quite memorable title. The aspect of the cover that stands out the most to AW is hard to see in this small image; the light-and-shadow background suddenly snapped into focus like one of those optical illusions where you first see one image and it suddenly switches around to something else. Whenever AW looks, she now sees the head and shoulders of a samurai type figure in the upper right corner, staring down the heroine's cleavage. Kind of funny, and maybe not a smart thing to do to a girl with a gun in her hand.

What Works
1. So much, starting with the name of the heroine (October Daye) and continuing on to the heroine herself, a so-called Changeling (as opposed to Pureblood Fae) who has suffered multiple losses and is engaging and wry, choosing to tough it out rather than feel sorry for herself. An excerpt that typifies Toby's persona, spoken after finding a mysterious object:

"Pandora was an idiot. I dropped (it), shuddering from cold as much as from temptation; as soon as (it) left my fingers, the burning died. Whatever it was selling, I wasn't in the market. I had enough to deal with without being pushed around by magical items that shouldn't exist."

Pluses continue with the rich worldbuilding. Apprentice Writer was fascinated with the complex descriptions of the various fae races, their kingdoms and territories, and most of all, with the concept of how they adapted to live invisibly to humans in tiny pockets of nature in the urban environement. AW's familiarity with fae elements to this point was extremely narrow, and limited mostly to Tinkerbell type images or possibly Elvish ones a la 'Lord of the Rings'. Very soon into the story, she realized that the fae inhabiting Toby's world are no laughing, benevolent forest creatures flitting happily about in the sunlight. They are stark, demanding, frequently tyrannical beings with very little tolerance for weakness or departure from their customs and expectations, beautiful and terrifying at once. Each inhabitant of this fae world has certain special gifts and the varying intensity of ability to perform magic; Toby is constantly challenged by the fact that she is relatively weak in magical ability, and so must compensate in smarts and sheer personality when dealing with those who hold stronger hierarchical and/or magical power. The combination of heroine, world, and utter originality (how many stories has the Gentle Reader read lately with the protagonist being turned into a fish for fourteen years?) won AW over, and she impatiently waits for the day the second novel in the series will be released.

A common development in UF stories is for the female protagonist to encounter a male character who antagonizes her yet with whom she must co-operate to resolve the external conflict, and in the process sparks fly between them. Another plus of this story is that something else happened with Toby instead. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next book in this regard.

2. Again, so much.
Kickass female cops abound in urban fantasy land, but Charlie Madigan is the first AW encountered who is also a parent. Not to mention, recently returned from the dead. Throw in a partner who is a siren (he wears a gadget on his throat to prevent people from hearing his real voice, which would make them powerless to resist him if left unmodified), plus various characters representing the races found in alternate levels of the universe (both Heaven- and Hell-like, if AW understood correctly) and we are back at the combination of heroine, world, and originality that AW loves so well.

And in terms of heroine love interest - again, this story didn't follow the usual formula. There were at least three characters who looked like they might be setting up for that role, but in each case matters went down a different road than expected. AW was happily surprised.

What Doesn't
1. AW has often mentioned her love of secondary characters and complex, layered stories. This story delivered in droves. Perhaps - a little too much. There were so many different types of creatures, each with their own appearance, culture, hiearchy, and individual behaviour, it was hard to keep track of. Some of those mentioned only briefly created frustration for those of us who would have liked to find out more about them (e.g. the alluring water horse, the troll). Similarly, the protagonist's backstory is complicated, to say the least; there were many points where AW became confused about what had happened when and why as Toby remembered bits and pieces. A little more clarity would have been desirable for this reader (though it is possible that readers who have more knowledge of the type of folklore involved may have had no problems).

That being said, this was the first in a series so it was to be expected that world building would be extensive, and it's possible to hope for more explanantion in volumes to come.

In the suspension of disbelief department, a couple of recurring and related themes grated: the heroine is repeatedly wounded (par for the course in UF) and keeps bleeding. And bleeding. And bleeding to the point of ludicrosity (yes, that's a word. AW just invented it). Which was made worse by the fact that through the whole book, which covers a period of three or four days minus the prologue, if AW recalls correctly, she eats a total of two sandwiches. At one sitting. Containing marshmallow fluff. There is mention of a lot of coffee, and two instances of magical healing potions, but please: if an author wants AW to believe her heroine can run, jump, sleuth, take a beating and bleed vast quantities, she/he better be providing more fuel than marshmallows or else explicitly writing in that changelings only require a tiny fraction of the calories an active human needs per day.

There were some other 'Why are you doing this the hard way, i.e. alone?' questions, but AW was willing to let these ride in the hope that they might sort themselves out in volume two.

2. Like October's world, Charlie's is highly complex. Which was all to the good, right up until AW became befuddled. This could still have been taken in stride, but was saddled with the fact that Charlie seems to have a heavily conflicted relationship with everyone around her. It became a bit much for her to reflect on problems relating to her ex-husband, partner, daughter, sister, parents of daughter's schoolmates, individuals involved in her medical the point that AW wished for a single calm, angst-free relationship, even if it was with a pet or gargoyle. Her difficulty with people in general reached the point of ludicrosity (hey, if a word is newly invented, it should be used at every opportunity) in her relationship with her partner. Repeatedly, she neglected to speak to him about concerns and events, and took independent action instead of waiting for or informing him- which made no sense. When you are puzzled about behavior and meaning of otherwordly races and events, why in the world WOULDN'T you make use of the tremendous resource at your disposal that is an otheworldly being who knows about those others and is positively inclined towards you? In this blind and self-injurious insistance on going it alone, Charlie made AW equally as crazy as October did.

In minor but jarring 'What??' instances, there is Charlie's description of how the otherworldly beings chose to immigrate to Earth and mingle with humans in the major cities. So far so good. But then she specifies which ones - and they are all in the United States. Meaning what - that, say, Singapore, Mexico City, Paris, Tokyo, Bombay, Shanghai, Rome have all vanished? Or perhaps otherworldly beings for some obscure reason prefer English speaking environments? But then, why no Toronto, London, Sydney?

To go from a larger-than-planetary perspective, with beings from realms beyond Earth, down to such a localized one, was inexplicable and threw this reader out of the story. The inexplicability continued in a later scene when Charlie describes a nightlife happening street where music of all sorts beckons humans and other alike. Again, so far so good. But when she specifies the various music styles on offer, they are one and all currently existing human ones. No mention of a style brought to Earth by the newcomers, or of human music influenced by off-planet styles. AW wasn't sure if this was supposed to demonstrate that Charlie has a narrow perspective, or maybe if she is not as open to other beings as she believes. Perhaps the second volume will clear this up.

Are Seanan McGuire and Kelly Gay twins separated at birth? Although these stories were very different from one another, there were nevertheless similarities in feel, pluses, and question marks in their debut works.

AW sought these titles out due to mega buzz.

She now agrees that these two authors are destined for a whole lot of well-deserved attention as rising stars on the UF horizon. AW was completely sucked into their worlds, and will most definitely read the next books in each series.

Also: she can't wait to get hold of the third debut author buzzing in what she thinks of as the New Wave in Urban Fantasy. Hooray -Kelly Meding's 'Three Days Till Dead' is winging its way to her as she cyberspeaks. These are happy times for fans of debut authors and creative new twists on the genre.

Learn more about the authors here: Next up: Book 2, 'The Darkest Edge of Dawn' Next up: Book 2, 'A Local Habitation'


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Laughter Reviews: THE DEVIL'S CUB

The Devil's Cub

by Georgette Heyer

Historical Comedy
Sourcebooks, 2009

Premise: Bored sprig of nobility meets someone who doesn't bore him.

Cover: Gorgeous. Apprentice Writer has a weakness for covers showing detail of classical paintings. This one is perfect - she looks somewhat bemused, he's commanding the situation (in velvet coat, lacy jabot, shiny boots, and faultless hair despite having travelled to this tete-a-tete(a-tete, if one includes all participants) by horse. Who looks just as curious as the lady in what the lordling will do next.

What Works: Apprentice Writer believes this is what is called a 'Comedy of Manners'. A huge amount of the story rests on the lengths to which people will go to preserve the appearance of social expectations, while seeing just how close to the edge they can skate in terms of not actually behaving accoridng to those expectations. There is a lot of scheming about arranging the setting and timing of one's actions so as to force the hand someone else, and how to evade someone else's efforts to force one's hand. All very entertaining and somewhat exhausting-sounding for the reader, but AW supposes that people had to come up with some way to amuse themselves in the days before Twitter, Wii, and Youtube.

AW had some fun waiting to see how the author would make her come to like various characters she initially was not so sure about, most notably, the cub himself. Wildly indulged, extravagantly wealthy, insufferably competent and of course good-looking, Vidal spends most of his life proving to everybody (meaning his legendary father) that he Doesn't Give A Damn. This doesn't-give-a-damning reaches such intensity that he gets kicked out of the country. So, we have an egocentric spoiled only son, the mother who helped create the monster by hearing and seeing no wrong where he is concerned, and the father who likewise helped create the monster by being so legendary and, apparently, taunting his son with his pwn youthful exploits.

Good lord - what poor heroine would want to get entangled with such a family? Yet when she comes along, she holds her own magnificently, most notably in a scene that showed AW that one of her favorite authors, Ms. Loretta Chase, must be a Heyer devotee. The scene where Jessica demonstrates to Dain that she is decidedly unhappy about his treatment, impressing the hell out of him (fans know EXACTLY what this means) is one of AW's favorite moments of her entire reading career - and seems to be a homage to a superb scene in this story. For that alone, this story is worth reading. But fear not; there are many other wonderful bits as well, not least, how the cub's parents come around to making the reader like them after all.

What Doesn't: Yes, there is a highway robbery scene, and yes, there is a duel. But these are very brief bits of action in what is essentially a lot of talking and sitting around. Inside houses, at gaming tables, in carriages, on boats, with bottles - but all, unarguably, sitting around. Readers who like action and variation of setting may feel numb after awhile. Though the story supposedly winds its way through such places as the English Channel and Paris, it could just as well have been across some loch and into the next village. The reader gains no real sense of the various settings, neither landscape nor people nor food nor weather. It's all about the dialogue. Which is entertaining, and keeps changing up depending on who is in the scene, but it takes a certain type of reader to appreciate that, and readers who like more scene-setting and variation may find it wearing.

Overall: A wonderful read for those who love historical fiction, comedies of manners, and stories where it's all about the banter that brings a pair of opposites together. With the beautiful cover, this would make a lovely gift for the holiday season.

This is Heyer at full force, with two generations of her memorable characters playing off each other. AW shall enjoy reading the prequel, 'These Old Shades', the story of the cub's parents' more youthful days.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Page 1: The Devil's Cub

"There was only one occupant of the coach, a gentleman who sprawled very much at his ease, with his legs outstretched before him, and his hands dug deep in the capacious pockets of his greatcoat.

While the coach rattled over the cobbled streets of the town, the light from an occasional lantern or flambeau momentarily lit the interior of the vehicle and made a diamond pin or a pair of the very large shoe-buckles flash, but since the gentleman lounging in the coach wore his gold-edged hat tilted low over his eyes, his face remained in shadow."

Georgette Heyer, "The Devil's Cub"

Next up: review.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Triplet Reviews: ANTHOLOGIES, Part 2

Hello and welcome to Part 2 to of the Anthology Triplet Review. For Part 1 ('Must Love Hellhounds' & 'Queen in Winter') please scroll down.

Moving on to the third antho in the bunch:

FOUR DUKES AND A DEVIL (Historical Romance, 2009)
Cover: Liked the small details that came together to make something more than the first impression of somewhat bland house at twilight suggested. The devil's tail in the title was nifty, the red color contrast with deep blue twilight eye-catching, the smoke in the sky kind of cool.

The Irish Duke, Cathy Maxwell
Premise: Spinster who makes her living advising ton families on matches warns against suitability of Irish dukes, and is taken to task by one such.
Writing Style: Did not appeal to this reader.
World: Didn't engage, therefore didn't care to make an effort to suspend disbelief.
Prediction: Probably wouldn't seek out more from this author.

Catch of the Century, Sophia Nash
Premise: Governess travelling with three young charges is stranded on the road; passing Duke acts as Good Samaritan.
Writing Style: Drew AW in.
World: This story was trundling nicely along, looking to be AW's favorite in the bunch, when disaster (readerly speaking) struck. WARNING! SPOILERS!
Hero and heroine are chugging away in their mutual but unacted-upon attraction, when she leaves the ducal manor to go in search of the boys who are exploring the grounds. The Duke happens upon her (quelle surprise) and agrees that it would be good to find them given that there is a lake nearby. Then the pair of them in effect say to themselves "But oh, wait, before we go check if they are busy drowning themselves, we have just enough time for our first nekkid encounter!" END SPOILER WARNING!
These are people the reader is supposed to relate to, sympathize with, root for? AW thinks not. Clearly the heroine is an abysmally bad governess, and he apparently believes in some version of "I'm a Duke, so above other people that I needn't concern myself the potential of contributing to three premature juvenile deaths by negligence since I did my duty earlier in not leaving a young lady by the side of the road." This little bit of 'What the hell???' made this book almost turn into a wallbanger right then and there, but that would have been unfair to the remaining authors whose stories were not yet read.
Prediction: AW is utterly conflicted about this. On the one hand, the egregious plot development. On the other, she had enjoyed the story up to that point. On a glass half full basis, AW would do a ten page test of another work.

Charmed by her Smile, Tracy Anne Warren
Premise: Debutante seeks the assistance of one man to manipulate another.
Writing Style: Didn't engage.
World: Wasn't drawn in, felt impatient both with the heroine's manipulativeness and the hero's being attracted to her.
Prediction: Will probably not seek this author out again.

The Duke Who Came to Dinner, Elaine Fox
Premise: Island resident and newcomer are brought together by canine antics.
Writing Style: Pleasant, easily readable.
World: Was refreshing to have a contemporary thrown in the mix (the Duke in question is a pet), and the story was sweet, but ultimately, not especially stand-outish enough to make AW rush off to her local bookstore to keep the reading experience going.
Prediction: There was enough here to warrant a ten-page test in a longer work to see if it compelled more.

Devil to Pay, Jeanine Frost
Premise: Loner vampire comes to the aid of a human trying to commit suicide to protect others from his actions when he is demonically possessed.
Writing Style: Flowed well enough.
World: Though the trouble the hero finds himself in was certainly compelling and roused sympathy, somehow, didn't quite believe in how fast the couple made a connection and didn't quite get drawn in to the story. As with the Singh story in MLH, this was a case of writing that was good but not good enough to surmount AW's aversion to vampire stories. Fans of this genre would probably like it a great deal more.
Prediction: Will probably not seek out more from this author unless she were to begin writing about another type of character.

# of authors AW will definitely seek out based on these short stories,
(in brackets, # AW would give benefit of the doubt in form of a ten-page test of another book)

Must Love Hellhounds - 2 of 4 (plus 1)

Queen in Winter - 2 of 4 (plus 1)

Four Dukes and a Devil - 0 of 5 (plus 2)

Read an anthology lately that AW should try next?


Friday, December 11, 2009

Triplet Reviews: ANTHOLOGIES, Part 1

Alpha Heros and Literary Escapism decided to hold a Short Story/Anthology Reading Challenge.

Since Apprentice Writer recently powered through three of those babies, she decided to give it a whirl.

Here's AW's idea about anthologies: they are supposed to give readers who are unfamiliar with an author's work a taste of his/her writing style, and whether the subgenre or fantasy world appeals. So in theory, if the reader likes a specific new author he/she will be motivated to go out and buy a full-length novel, and if he/she doesn't like that new author - no harm done, it was a small page commitment. So the test here will be: was the story enough to make AW seek out more?

Of the THIRTEEN author collected here, AW had previously read a total of TWO. An almost perfectly clear anthological landscape. Here we go:

MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS (Paranormal/UF, 2009)
Cover: Did nothing for AW. Apparently, hellhounds are particularly unattractive Rothweilers, and the women who take them for walks have spotlights shining out of their crotchal areas.

The Britlingens Go To Hell, Charlaine Harris
Premise: A pair of elite female bodyguards escort a thieving client to hell and are caught.

Writing Style: Didn't appeal.

World: Some imaginative details (loved the dust monsters) and the idea of elite female bodyguards was intriguing, but ultimately some parts of the story torpedoed willingness to suspend disbelief and left no desire to explore this author's world(s) further. Hellhounds played very minor role.

Prediction: Probably won't read this author again.

Angels' Judgement, Nalini Singh
Premise: Guild hunter about to be promoted teams up with loner hunter sent to terminate serial vampire murderer.

Writing Style: Zipped along effortlessly, showing the author's practice at the short story format. Yet despite story tightness and good alternation between action and quieter moments, AW didn't feel drawn in or engaged with either main character. This may have been due to:

World: AW really isn't much of a vampire person. There has to be something else compelling about a story for her to become interested if they form a large part of what's going on. In this case, the angel aspect just didn't make up for it. Hellhound was irrelevant to the plot.

Prediction: From this story alone, wouldn't read this author again. However, she is incredibly popular, especially with other authors who praise her worlds, characters, and writing skills. On that basis, Probably would read this author again.

Magic Mourns, Ilona Andrews
Premise: Shapeshifter with childhood issues teams up with shapeshifter with partner issues to investigate who is controlling a hellhound (among other things).

Writing Style: Loved it. Was rooting for the heroine on multiple levels from page 1. Was so engaged didn't care about the author apparently giving in to the temptation of overpacking the suitcase so it bulged to point of bursting. Whole lot of characters and things going on here, but forgave all and trusted that things will be better integrated with each other in full-length format.

World: Fascinating.

Prediction: Definitely yes. The first volume in this series is already on AW's night table.

Blind Spot, Meljean Brook
Premise: Former CIA-operative turned butler seeks kidnappee with employer's seeing-impaired nephew.

Writing Style: Loved it, but AW already knew that, this being one of the two authors whose previous work she had read. Very nice to be confirmed in belief authory goodness.

World: Consistent, not overwrought, a very imaginative and convincingly written bit about how the hero's special ability is applied. Good example of how other elements make up for presence of vampire characters. Best story of the bunch, not least because the hellhound has some truly hellish qualities and plays a central role.

Prediction: Definitely, AW will keep reading this author! She is quite excited about the upcoming steampunk debut.

QUEEN IN WINTER (Fantasy, 2006)
Cover: Very compelling. Beautiful color combos, lovely arty image, great use of snow. Best cover of the bunch.

Whisper of Spring, Lynn Kurland
Premise: Elf princess is abducted, her brother and non-elf prince mount rescue mission.
Writing Style: Didn't engage.
World: Didn't believe.
Prediction: Probably won't seek this autor out again.

When Winter Comes, Sharon Shinn
Premise: Sisters must flee their home and evade pursuers when one gives birth to a baby with magical powers in an anti-magical world.
Writing Style: Compelling. The reader could sense the characters pain, anxiety, and yearning for a better place and emotional connection.
World: Believable. Felt like the story grew naturally, wasn't forced into premature shape due to short story contstraints.
Prediction: Definitely will read again.

Kiss of the Snow Queen, Claire Delacroix
Premise: Seer sets out to rescue a sorcerer and is aided by a spirit voice from another time.

Writing: Was the most experimental, in that the story starts out in fairly classic high fantasy style, very historic and fairy-tale feeling, and the spirit who speaks to her sounds contemporary.

World: Interesting, with the split in 'era sense' perhaps making it not as easy to fall into the world as would be the case with a story that was either purely modern or classically fantasy.

Prediction: Would read this author again based on interesting approach. (Actually am doing so at the moment - the dystopian 'Fallen' series).

A Gift of Wings, Sarah Monette
Premise: Bodyguard and recuperating wizard are stranded in a mountain inn during a snowstorm and solve a murder.

Writing Style: Loved it, again not a surprise as AW picked up this antho due to this author's inclusion.

World: Similar to and yet distinct from the world created in the 'Doctrine of Labyrinths' series. It was intriguing how gender role reversal was worked in, with the female character, a professional soldier/mercenary, the physically and mentally strong one, and the male character still suffering from psychological abuse inflicted on him.

Prediction: Definitely will continue to read this author.

Please come back for Part 2 of this Triplet Review tomorrow.

In the meantime - is the Gentle Reader familiar with any of these anthos? Agree? Disagree?


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Julie James
Contemporary Comedy

Sherry Thomas
Historical Romance

1. Colleagues vie with one another for a single partnership position in their law firm.

2. Estranged spouses making their way from India to England are caught in the midst of a bloody uprising.

1. Very nice. Playful, colorful, the protagonists shown a equals and clothing giving the sense the story will involve the workplace. Alliterative title does the same. Well done.

2. Meh. Seen this type of thing countless times before. The title works, though.

What Works
1. Apprentice Writer came into this story with high expectations after enjoying the author's debut effort a lot. She was not disappointed. The story of how the perfectly matched protagonists (who, of course, see each other as perfectly matched antagonists) play a game of legal tennis with ever rising stakes that was very entertaining. The reader has no doubt how the story will end - it's the way it gets there that captures one's interest.

2. This author has a gift of creating unusual characters who are drawn to each other precisely because they stand out from their peers, but who are kept apart for large and convincing reasons. No misunderstanding an eavesdropped conversation between the second under-butler and the disgraced scullery maid who is really a duchess spy, no attempt to sacrifice one's own happiness because one is not Good Enough to be the partner of the eighth-in-line-around-three-corners heir of Bottomsup-Hippowich-Lowerrubberboot. The issues the protagonists have are squarely with one another, and resolving the problems in an authentic way, for the story and for the contemporary reader temporarily sent back through time, is an art at which this author excells. The reader suffers emotionally along with the characters in the most wrenching and enjoyable way.

At a talk AW was fortunate enough to attend, 'Desperate Duchesses' author Eloisa James spoke about her fascination with what happens after the wedding, and writing about marriages in trouble. AW agrees. Vast quantities of novels follow the couple on the way to the wedding, and end the story when vows are spoken. Those kinds of stories can certainly be entertaining and fulfilling, but so can stories about how the couple goes about keeping the love alive year after year, or fighting their way back to it after it has suffered a devastating blow. This seems to be developing into a theme for Ms. Thomas. None of the three couples in her published work to date stayed together after first getting together. It is a topic on which she writes tremendously well.

What Doesn't
And here we arrive at the reason for this post's title.


The Gentle Reader will have gathered that Apprentice Writer is a huge fan of both these authors. Here's the "but":

When you love, love, love an author, it hurts much more to find a flaw than would be the case with an author you merely like.

There is an early scene in PMP where the hero tries to gain an advantage by excluding the heroine from a meeting with a star client. He does this by holding the meeting at a golf course which bars female members. AW thought this foreshadowed a later plot development where the hero and heroine would join forces to take legal action against the misogynistic dinosaur.


What kind of a 21st century hero belongs to a gender-exclusive golf club? What kind of 21st century heroine - specializing in gender discrimination cases, no less - doesn't have a problem with this? For that matter, how did the senior partners at the law firm, who make their money on reputation for handling gender discrimination cases, not have a problem with this?

The disconnect between the hero's action and facing no consequences colors the way AW looks back on the whole story.

In NQAH, hero and heroine are enroute from a remote location in the Indian highlands as the attention of local people grows increasingly hostile, until the point they are forced on a panicked horseback dash through a gathering army to make it inside the gates of a British fortress. They then spend the next few days in fear for their lives, the wounded hero acting as sharpshooter while the surgeon heroine patches patients up round the clock. As regular readers of this space know, AW is sensitive about various pitfalls related to India as a setting; while there is no significant individual character of Indian descent in the story, thankfully, the protagonists don't act or speak in a patronizing way towards the local people, and the heroine makes no class- or ethnic- distinctions in the manner or promptness with which she treats her patients. So that was all good. Here's the 'but':

Neither during the long siege, nor after, does either character spend even a moment thinking about the motivation for the attack and whether it was justified.

AW is not asking for a complete analysis of all the economic, political, social, and cultural antecedents. She also recalls the hero pointing out to his politician brother that he himself is not cut out for politicking. Fine. But, come on - not even the tiniest little observation or question? "There are hundreds of people outside these walls dedicated to ending my life to prove their unhappiness. I wonder what made them so angry, and if I would be as passionate in their place?"

But nothing, neither from him nor the heroine, who are both supposed to be extraordinarily intelligent, educated, thoughtful people. It reached the point, when the heroine resolves to be less of an emotional automaton, to engage more and be interested in others, that AW found herself talking to the character (never a good sign), as in "You missed the boat, baby! Had the most perfect opportunity, and walked right by!"

Perhaps the Gentle Reader thinks this concern is exaggerated. Try this: separate the word 'Indian' from 'Highlands' and insert 'Scottish' instead. Can anyone imagine a novel with Scottish protagonists and British army forces in which the Scottish quest for independence and freedom isn't depicted as tragic, noble, justified? In which these sentiments aren't even mentioned? Could a novel be set in Revolutionary America with opposing British forces where the sentiments of the subjugated people aren't mentioned? AW doesn't think so.


Will AW continue to read books from these authors?
Of course. It's Julie James and Sherry Thomas. Who not only possess compelling novel voices, but great blog voices as well. See Ms. Thomas' thoughtful piece on the state of the publishing industry here, further to AW's earlier posts on Drama, Freshly Squeezed.

But does it make you laugh?
1. Yes! The reader can rely on this author for laughs.

2. Question needs to be rephrased as: But does it keep you entertained?
Yes! Apprentice Writer usually reads half a dozen books at a time. She abandoned all others without a second thought when she began NQAH, and powered through till the end, transported by this author's reliably gorgeous prose and bullseye skill at touching the heart.

Learn more about Julie James and her upcoming title 'Something About You' here.

Learn more about Sherry Thomas and her upcoming title 'His At Night' here.