Saturday, October 12, 2019

#BookReview: Death of the City Marshal by Anne Louise Bannon

Genre
Historical Mystery

Series
Old Los Angeles #2

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DESCRIPTION: 
It's October, 1870, and once again, violence has errupted on the streets of Los Angeles. This time, City Marshal gets into a gunfight with his deputy Joseph Dye, and is severely wounded. Fortunately, winemaker and physician Maddie Wilcox is on the scene to take care of the marshal. But the next day, she finds that the marshal has been smothered in his bed.

The morning after the marshal's death, red paint is splashed all over the front porch of his home, and a list of his sins posted on the front.

The list of people with grievances against the fiery-tempered marshal is long. But then another prominent citizen has his sins posted and house front splattered.

Maddie takes an interest in the vandalism in the hopes of finding Marshal Warren's killer. But she soon finds out that she is up against a killer driven by a profound longing, and who is prepared to do the worst to keep that most basic of human desires: a home.
REVIEW: 
Taking her inspiration straight from the headlines, Anne Louise Bannon chronicles the violent history of Los Angeles through the exploits of winemaker, physician, and gumshoe, Maddie Wilcox.

In 1870, life was cheap in the City of Angels and lawmen are as vulnerable to brutality and corruption as those they serve. City Marshal William Warren knows this firsthand, or he did before in dying in the line of duty. His death, however, is not as straightforward as it might appear, and Maddie is determined to get to the bottom of things.

Though fictional, I love what this series reveals about California’s intriguing and multiethnic history. Bannon puts her own creative spin on material sourced from the city archives and the authenticity of both the author's cultural understanding and subject matter shine through her text. The fact that Maddie is capable, witty and emotionally dynamic does not hurt either, but that is just me.

While not required, I recommend reading the Los Angeles series in order to avoid spoilers. 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: October 8, 2019
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#BookReview: The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel by Georgie Blalock

Genre
Biographic Fiction

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DESCRIPTION:  
If you love The Crown, then this is the book for you!

Diana, Catherine, Meghan…glamorous Princess Margaret outdid them all. Springing into post-World War II society, and quite naughty and haughty, she lived in a whirlwind of fame and notoriety. Georgie Blalock captures the fascinating, fast-living princess and her “set” as seen through the eyes of one of her ladies-in-waiting.

In dreary, post-war Britain, Princess Margaret captivates everyone with her cutting edge fashion sense and biting quips. The royal socialite, cigarette holder in one hand, cocktail in the other, sparkles in the company of her glittering entourage of wealthy young aristocrats known as the Margaret Set, but her outrageous lifestyle conflicts with her place as Queen Elizabeth’s younger sister. Can she be a dutiful princess while still dazzling the world on her own terms?

Post-war Britain isn’t glamorous for The Honorable Vera Strathmore. While writing scandalous novels, she dreams of living and working in New York, and regaining the happiness she enjoyed before her fiancĂ© was killed in the war. A chance meeting with the Princess changes her life forever. Vera amuses the princess, and what—or who—Margaret wants, Margaret gets. Soon, Vera gains Margaret’s confidence and the privileged position of second lady-in-waiting to the Princess. Thrust into the center of Margaret’s social and royal life, Vera watches the princess’s love affair with dashing Captain Peter Townsend unfurl.

But while Margaret, as a member of the Royal Family, is not free to act on her desires, Vera soon wants the freedom to pursue her own dreams. As time and Princess Margaret’s scandalous behavior progress, both women will be forced to choose between status, duty, and love… 



REVIEW: 
Georgie Blalock’s The Other Windsor Girl is a book I wanted to like more than I did. I did not hate it by any means, but the novel did not meet the expectations I harbored when picking it up.

Much like Meet Me in Monaco, The Other Windsor Girl tempts the audience with a celebrity that is not its narrator. The book is told from the perspective of a fictional character, Vera Strathmore, and while I appreciate the reasons that might have inspired this structuring, I did not like the distance it created from Margaret. The cover led me to expect something more emotionally intimate than the reality, and the disparity left me at a loss.

Vera, an aspiring writer, frustrated me a great deal. Her character did not inspire my admiration, but her passive nature made it exceedingly difficult for me to root for her. I liked the class and social issues she and her family faced in the aftermath of WWII, but those threads faded as the story progressed and were ultimately lost amid the sparkle of royal life.

I am sure The Other Windsor Girl has an audience and I am convinced the book will do well on the heels of The Crown, but the lack of gravitas in this novel did not hold a great deal of appeal for me.

Note: Georgie Blalock writes romance as Georgie Lee.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Edelweiss
Read: October 10, 2019
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Thursday, October 10, 2019

#BookReview: The Impaler's Wife by Autumn Bardot

Genre
Biographic Fiction

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DESCRIPTION:  
The year is 1464. King Matthias controls Hungary, his family, and the fate of the world’s most notorious political prisoner, Prince Vlad Dracula.

Ilona Szilágy, the king’s cousin, is young and ambitious. Dracula is determined to marry into the family. It is love at first sight, but the king has other plans. The Impaler Prince, however, never takes no for an answer.

Eager to become his trusted confidant, Ilona enters a treacherous world where revenge, betrayal, ambition, and passion transcend all that is sacred. And love demands the ultimate sacrifice.

Woven throughout is a peek into the life and times of one of the world’s most enigmatic and maligned rulers…the man before the legend.




REVIEW: 
Vlad the Impaler is one of the most famous rulers in Wallachian history. Still, few today are as familiar with the truth of his story as they are his bloody reputation and literary alter ego. Taking her cues from the oft-overlooked historical record, Autumn Bardot pulls back the curtain to reveal the man behind the myth, the circumstances that molded him, and the woman who stood at his side.

Historical obscurity makes Ilona an intriguing narrator, but it is Bardot’s handling that makes her memorable. Steadfastly devoted to her husband, Ilona does not dance round the flame so much as she jumps into it, embracing the darker side of her husband’s nature with an enthusiasm that matches his own. I can’t speak for everyone, but I appreciated the intensity of this relationship and how it grew and developed in tandem Vlad’s personal history.

Bardot’s use of eroticism as a means of exploring interpersonal dynamics is undeniably bold, but it works surprisingly well against the personal complexities she builds into her infamous leading man. Historically speaking, this is a violent piece, but it is true to the history that inspired it and tempered with enough cultural detail to balance out. I’d have appreciated a more detailed historical note, but by and large, I have no complaints about the time I spent with The Impaler’s Wife and have no trouble recommending it forward.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: October 2, 2019
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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

#BookReview: The Path to Somerset by Janet Ambrosi Wertman

Genre
Biographic Fiction

Series
The Seymour Saga #2

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DESCRIPTION:  
After the tragic romance of Jane the Quene, the second book in The Seymour Saga trilogy, The Path to Somerset, takes a dark turn through an era in which King Henry VIII descends into cynicism, suspicion and fits of madness – and in which mistakes mean death.

Edward Seymour’s future is uncertain. Although his sister Jane bore Henry the son he’d sought for twenty years, when she died in childbirth, Henry’s good nature died with her. Now the fiercely ambitious Edward must carve a difficult path through Henry’s shifting principles and wives. Challenged at every turn by his nemesis, Bishop Stephen Gardiner, Edward must embrace ruthlessness in order to safeguard not only his own future but England’s as well.

This is the account of Henry’s tumultuous reign, as seen through the eyes of two opponents whose fierce disagreements over religion and common decency fuel epic struggles for the soul of the nation. And for power.




REVIEW: 
Forget all you know - or think you know - about Tudor fiction, because Janet Wertman’s The Path to Somerset is like nothing else on the market.

Picking up in the wake of Jane’s death, book two of The Seymour Saga chronicles the rivalry between Edward Seymour and Bishop Stephen Gardiner as they vie for the favor of a king enslaved by his grief, ambition, and failing health. A thematically layered narrative, The Path to
Somerset is a brilliant illustration of the power and the fortitude required to wield it.

In a beautifully ambitious rejection of trend, Wertman offers readers a new lens through which to view Henry’s court, one not characterized by the women in his bed nor the gossip of his nobles. Instead, she shifts focus to the politics of England, gives a face to the religious friction of the period, and demonstrates the corruptive influence of privilege and authority.

The book can be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend reading The Path to Somerset as a follow-up to Jane the Quene. Though not obvious, Wertman lays the foundations of this novel in the background of its predecessor and I think her themes and ideas best appreciated when already familiar with the larger arcs of the series. 

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Library
Read: September 18, 2019
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