Sunday, 24 April 2016

Review: "By Winter's Light", by Stephanie Laurens

I actually still have two first generation Cynster books left to read (the final two sisters), but this one
is something of a transitional book between the first and second generation.  It comes before the latest two that I've read and is referenced in the first of those - The Tempting of  Thomas Carrick.

In many ways the plot of By Winter's Light is slight.  The action takes place across only a couple of days, there is a great deal of feasting and merry-making, and most of the actual drama is unrelated to the romance, which is basically about Claire sorting out her own thoughts in her head.  As I finished it, I thought to myself, 'If Laurens wrote Chalet School fiction, this would be it.' There's a group of young people trapped in a cottage by a snowstorm, and on another occasion, a number of children play on an icy stream, with not-unexpected dramatic results.

It's a Christmas story, and a gathering of the clans, and the romance isn't even among the Cynsters themselves, but between the tutor of Alastair and Phyllida's sons, and the governess of Gabriel and Alathea's daughter.  The setting at Casphairn Manor (seat of Catriona) allows for a totally snowed in  Christmas tale, and sets the scene beautifully for the next two novels (focused on the eldest twins of Catriona and Richard - Lucilla and Marcus).

The romance is satisfying, and even when the main characters are not aristocrats but "members of the household", Laurens' heroines still get to have sex before getting married. (Although in this case that's less of a shock to the standards of the day, as Claire is a widow.)

I don't think missing this book would do anyone any harm in terms of understanding the rest of the series, but it was a lovely, light read, well suited to reading over a couple of days while still sick in bed.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Wednesday Reads - 20 April 2016

It's just a tad late, even though I had it started on Monday...  Also, I've been off work sick since last Thursday, which has meant a lot of reading, some of it via Audiobook.

What I've just finished reading:
The Flood-Tide by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - this was the American War of Independence book, and very interesting I found it.  Still working on the review post, because I keep getting distracted into singing lines from "Hamilton".

Ravenscliffe, by Jane Sanderson - second of the "Netherwood" series, I really enjoyed this.  They're light and relatively undemanding, but the mining elements are fascinating.  Not sure what I'm going to make of the next one, Eden Falls, as I really dislike Eve's brother Silas who would seem to be featuring even more in that book.

The Taming of Marcus Cynster, by Stephanie Laurens - this one has lain fallow beside my bed, almost finished, for while now, but I got back into it rather easily this morning when I picked it up again.  Niniver is a marvellous addition to the Cynster extended family, and the beginning of the book absolutely grabbed me by the throat.

What I'm reading now:
The Tangled Thread by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - next of the Chronicles, this one focusing on the French Revolution, and the "tangled thread" that is the Annunciata-descended illegitimate line.

The Queen's Choice by Anne O'Brien - Joan of Navarre. I'm probably 75% through this one already.  Really liking Anne O'Brien recently.

Marie Antoinette, by Antonia Fraser, eAudiobook via Bolinda Borrowbox - on Wednesday and, to a lesser extent, today, I had such a bad headache I couldn't read, so I went looking for an audiobook.  Unfortunately this was the best that I could do, but Antoinette is in the background of my current Harrod-Eagles, and the reader is lovely to listen to.

What I'll read next:
The Emperor by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - assuming that I haven't sickened of the series again yet
By Winter's Light, by Stephanie Laurens - a 'between-the-generations' Cynster that I've had sitting around for a while now.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Reading the Morlands #8, The Maiden - concluded.

Poor Jemima.  She had such a rotten life for so long.  I still feel a little sorry for Lady Mary, but she was so unbending.  Not that Marie-Louise helped the situation one little bit...  (Annunciata fatigue has transferred to the younger generations.)

Loved the inclusion of Handel and Maurice going to Dublin, although I do wish he'd been a better father to Rupert. Although I know Jemima was perfectly happy to not be the Countess of Chelmsford any longer, it did make me annoyed that she loses everything when he dies.  Bah!  

When I finished The Maiden I went straight into The Flood-Tide, and as I'm writing this review I've almost finished that one as well, and need to put the next one on hold from the library.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Wednesday Reads - 13 April 2016

What I just finished reading:
The Maiden -  Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.  And by "just finished", I mean in the last half hour.

What I'm currently reading:
I've started The Flood-Tide already, which is the next book in the Morland Chronicles.
Glittering Images, by Susan Howatch
Still working on Epitaph for Three Women, by Jean Plaidy

What I'll read next:
All the other things I'm still in the middle of.
The Tangled Thread, which is the next Morland after the one I'm reading now. 

Friday, 8 April 2016

Books read in January/February 2016

I really haven't been reading much this year.  As proof, have my "books completed Jan-Mar" Project Life layout... (It says Jan-Feb, because I didn't finish any books in March.)  But I'm planning to get back to reading now.  I have to, or my TBR pile will overwhelm me.

Loving Rose: the Redemption of Malcolm Sinclair (Stephanie Laurens) - I honestly didn't remember who Malcolm Sinclair was, although as I was reading I knew I should know him.  It had been a long time since I read any Laurens, and I think this one may have reignited my love of Laurens.

Netherwood (Jane Sanderson) - This one has a sticker on the front saying "For fans of Downton Abbey" (or something like that).  It's set prior to the Downton era (Edwardian era, late 1890s), and very far from what's going on in London, but I'm really quite enjoying it.  The working class aspect of the story is less likely for this genre, but I really appreciate it.  

The Kingmaker's Daughter (Philippa Gregory) - Oh, my.  I do NOT agree with Gregory's view of Anne Neville in this book.  On the other hand, having read the first three books in this sequence, I suspect the genius of Gregory is her ability to get inside the skin of her major characters - because Jaquetta in Lady of the Rivers and Margaret Beaufort in The Red Queen are the same.  I'm looking forward to The White Princess now.

The Tempting of Thomas Carrick (Stephanie Laurens) - There's at least one Cynster I've missed (By Winter's Light) which apparently contains the first meeting of Thomas Carrick and his feted partner, Lucinda Cynster, daughter of Catriona, the Lady of the Vale.  Lucinda is awesome, and kickass, and Thomas gets there eventually.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Reading the Morlands #8 "The Maiden", pt 1

I have begun reading The Maiden, book 8 in the Morland Chronicles.  Annunciata is, would you believe, still alive!  And still meddling.  That said, she's enough in the background (as she eventually was in The Chevalier that she's not annoying me as much as she was. Although I still think there's just generally far too much Annunciata. That said, clearly Harrod-Eagles loves the Stuart/Hanoverian era, whereas it's never been one of my favourites (despite my totally having an interest in Queen Anne.)

Where I'm up to right now: Jemima Morland has been introduced - I know from looking at the blurbs of other books that she's the next key character: she at least gets the next book, although I don't think she's quite the next Annunciata.  Annunciata's granddaughter Mary-Lousie is a spoiled pain in the neck, and I feel so awful for the misunderstandings that have simply plagued the relationship of Jemmy and Lady Mary Holles.  I so wanted Jemmy and Mary to have a good marriage, and although the hideous Lady Derby has finally been dismissed, the damage has been done, and I'm terribly sad about it.

I will say I'm wondering what ever happened to the American Morlands - there's been nothing about them in the last few books.  And from where we last left them, they may well have died.  But I hope they'll be back as we get into the rule of George III (and if I've been uncomfortable with being a Protestant reading a very pro-Catholic story, imagine me reading about the American Revolution from the British side.  There will be a great deal of singing of "Hamilton" lyrics as I read, I imagine.)

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Wednesday reads - 6 April 2016

What I've just finished reading...
The Chevalier, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

What I'm reading now...
The Maiden, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Glittering Images, by Susan Howatch (re-read)
Ravenscliffe, by Jane Sanderson

What I'm going to read next...
By Winter's Light, by Stephanie Laurens
The Queen's Choice, by Anne O'Brien (recommence)
Blood Sisters, by Sarah Gristwood (recommence)

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Reading the Morlands, #7 - "The Chevalier"

Back in February last year, I gave up somewhere in the first fifty pages of The Chevalier due to The Chevalier again when I was about to go away for a weekend, and ploughed through to the point where Annunciata is now mostly offstage.

I am clearly suffering from Annunciata-fatigue.  It is clear that Harrod-Eagles is fascinated by her creation in Annunciata Morland, and to an extent I can understand why: her royal blood, her beauty and her string of husbands make for good fiction, but she's taken over the series in a way I find tiring.  I am so very over her, and it was only with a bit of perseverance that I picked up

Once she was offstage, I sped through the book in about three days. Maurice was a fabulous character to introduce: his connections with Scarlatti and Handel, and as a Vivaldi analogy through his second marriage were a lovely thing to bring in, especially Handel, and Maurice's ability to navigate Stuart and Hanoverian politics.  Karellie had his own sweetness, and Diane was lovely in her steadfastness.  I am starting to worry about all the men who marry women they've known since the woman was a small child, though. 

As to the other characters - I find the hints of Electress Sofie fascinating, given where the succession will go: India Neville (a one-liner indicates that she is probably one of "those Nevilles" although I haven't attempted to look at whether that's possible or not) was horrible, and I feel so sorry for poor Matt - but also for Davey and what he felt driven to.

I've already started the next book in the saga, The Maiden, and have the one after that on reserve from the library.  I am apparently back in the groove, Annunciata-fatigue or not.