Review: The Blackstone Key by Rose. A. Melikan

Read this for the Historical Fiction reading challenge, and enjoyed the unusual heroine, and the crime mystery set in 18th century England.


Review: The Blackstone Key by Rose. A. MelikanTitle:
The Blackstone Key

Author: Rose. A. Melikan

Genre: Historical Suspense

Publisher: Sphere (Little, Brown)

Year Published: March, 2009

Stand alone or series: Book 1 of  the Mary Finch (?) series

On the Back cover:

Mary Finch is a young woman of wit, courage, and straitened circumstances. When invited to meet her wealthy uncle and end a family estrangement, therefore, she sets off immediately for White Ladies, his estate on the Suffolk coast. Yet soon she is embroiled in an adventure beyond any she could imagine, for the year is 1795, and England is at war with Republican France. When she arrives at White Ladies she learns that her uncle has died, leaving behind evidence of a treacherous plot. Enemy agents have obtained military secrets that would give France a decisive advantage, but who is the source of this information, and how can he be stopped?

Mary is not alone in her quest to solve the mystery, but the men who profess to help her are not quite what they seem. From Suffolk the traitor’s trail moves finally to London. There Mary learns the true meaning of the Blackstone key, but has the treasure it secured already been lost?

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Book Review: Mary Balogh's The Huxtables and A Matter of Class

Am no stranger to Mary Balogh.  Her name has been mentioned many times amongst romance readers that I was quite delighted to have come across some books by her at the local bookstore. The Huxtable series was a good addition on the shelf, while the slim novella sized A Matter of Class was acquired slightly before Christmas on a business trip to a remote part of Indonesia, in anticipation of the lack of in-flight entertainment onboard.

Book Review: Mary Balogh's The Huxtables and A Matter of ClassTitle: First Comes Marriage

Genre: Historical Romance

Publisher: Dell

Year Published: 2004

Stand alone or series: Book 1 of The Huxtables series

Why I read it: I was casting around for a book with a marriage of convenience angle for the TBR reading challenge last year and chanced upon this book

On the Back cover:

The arrival of Elliott Wallace, the irresistibly eligible Viscount Lyngate, has thrown the sleepy village of Throckbridge into a tizzy. It soon becomes clear that Elliot seeks a convenient marriage to a suitable bride, and desperate to rescue her eldest sister Margaret from a loveless union, Vanessa Huxtable – a proud and daring, a young widow – offers herself up instead.

In need of a wife, Elliott takes the audacious widow up on her unconventional proposal while he pursues an urgent mission of his own. But then a strange thing happens: as the wedding night approaches they become inexplicably drawn to one another. And, as intrigue swirls around a past secret – one with a striking connection to the Huxtables – Elliott and Vanessa are uncovering the glorious pleasures of the marriage bed and discovering that when it comes to wedded bliss, love can’t be far behind.

In my books …

Okay, this was the weakest book amongst the three for me, although I was quite charmed by the other two sisters, and curiosity prompted me to seek out the other two books. Thankfully, the next two books in the series captured my interest, with more intriguing heroes.

IMB Rating: 3.0, liked it

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June TBR Review: The Russian Concubine

This month’s theme is that of a tortured hero/ heroine, and The Russian Concubine by new-to-me author, Kate Furnivall fits right into that category.

Set against the backdrop of a war-torn China in the grips of a burgeoning revolution, this sweeping novel with a pair of star-crossed lovers carrying forth the momentum of the melodrama that unfolds in the International Settlement of Junchow in 1928.

In this den of iniquities, where danger lurks not just in the form of opium, prostitution and death, where suspicions of liaison with the Communists could land one in a situation worse than hell itself, 16-year-old daughter, Lydia Ivanova, who, with mother Valentine, live in poverty as exiled White Russian refugees, surviving on whatever largess her pianist mum can coax from gentlemen admirers and the profits Lydia turns from pawning stolen goods.

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Her shining fiery hair making her a distinct target for pimps and slavers, Lydia must often depend on her wits to escape being caught but, when she attracted the unwelcome attentions of a criminal gang, the Black Snakes, Chang An Lo, an English-speaking Communist and kung fu master came to her rescue, forging a bond that would grow stronger than mere friendship.

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The Boleyn novels

Reading these two historical fiction works is like witnessing the scandalous affairs of King Henry VIII unfolding before my very eyes!

Philippa Gregory’s attention to the minutiae of Tudor court life and her lively retelling of the circumstances which drove the Boleyn sisters to rival each other for the King’s favour in The Other Boleyn Girl riveted me from the first to the last page. Told in the first person perspective through Mary Boleyn, the novel spans over 15 years, and takes the reader from Mary’s youth right through to Anne Boleyn’s execution.

New Additions

Seen through the eyes of Mary, Anne’s fate seems [to] smack of treachery and is simply the results of an over-indulged and slightly mad monarch who will stoop at nothing to gain and then destroy the women who drifted in and out his life. It doesn’t paint Henry VIII in a very flattering light, but then we already learnt that from European history taught in school.

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Wicked Deeds and Midnight Honour

If you’ve missed the Immortals After Dark series, it’s about time you get caught up on Kresley Cole’s marvelous series featuring Lorekind folks — the ones you’ve only heard of in urban myths, for she gets better with each instalment!

In Wicked Deeds on Winter’s Night, Bowen, that reclusive, and of course wolfishly handsome, Lykae gets his come-uppance in the form of the petite dynamo Mariketa the Awaited, whose coven of witches may not approve of his wicked designs to make Mari his mate. Now, having met Bowen in the series debut, I’d been rooting for him to get over his lonesome existence and find himself a soulmate to match his stubbornness and high-handedness.

New Additions

In Mari, he found a spitfire slip of a girl (she’s 23 to his several centuries … talk about cradle snatching!) who dared to stand up to him, claws, fangs and all, without compromising on her principles. Bowe has a hard internal struggle to overcome. First of all, he’s got an innate abhorrence of anything remotely resembling witchcraft or magic, he distrusted witches and was at first very resistant to the idea that Mari could be the lost half of his soul. Even when he eventually accepted and grew to like the idea of courting her for his mate, he made some stipulations about her practicing her craft, which inadvertently is stunting her personal growth and eventually led to resentment and much conflict.
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Calling all Georgette Heyer fans

Before I fly off to Bangkok later this morning, here’s some good news for Heyer fans who have always lamented over the scarcity of her backlist titles in the store.

On the way

The thoughtful team at Sourcebooks is re-releasing Cotillion by Georgette Heyer in trade paperback. This is one of the most beloved novels by the Queen of Regency Romance and the press release makes me itch to pick up a copy to read. The cover is attractive and the storyline simply sparkles with possibilities.

The synopsis goes …

Great-uncle Matthew Penicuik sends for his four great-nephews — he is nearing death and will bequeath his entire fortune to his young ward, Kitty, provided she marries one of them. The obsequious Reverend Hugh, the somewhat addled Lord Dolphinton, and the hapless Lord Freddy Standen dutifully arrive, but the one great-nephew who Kitty loves, the wild and unpredictable Jack, refuses to be summoned. 

Kitty, desperate to get to London and see if she can turn the tide of her fate, arranges a sham betrothal with Freddy, who is by no means a typical Romance hero. He’s immensely rich, of course, and not bad-looking, especially with his ultra-starched shirt points and elegant quizzing glass, but hardly a ladies’ man.  The two head for London, where a series of hilarious mishaps threaten their charade. But Freddy discovers hitherto unplumbed depths of cleverness and practicality beneath his dandyish exterior, and Kitty discovers that the rake she was in love with can’t hold a candle to her Freddy. He sets every mishap and adventure to rights in the end, surprising all (especially himself).

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Almost Innocent Countess Confidential

Let me go on record to say that when I first read Almost Innocent by Jane Feather years ago, I was sympathetic towards the plight of the two main characters, Guy and Magdalen, and was in fact moved by their passionate love for each other.

However, when I picked it up again to read recently (go here for the synopsis, for I shall not summarize it), I wasn’t too enamoured of the way they deluded themselves into carrying on an adulterous relationship. Granted, Guy had believed Magdalen’s young hubby, Edmund, to be dead by mishap but not our dear heroine. She’s so strong willed and self-serving when it comes to preserving their relationship that to me, she became almost as spoiled and ruthless as her royal father.

almost_innocent

Somewhere along the line, I started to get annoyed at her insensitive treatment of Edmund. Granted, few women in those medieval days have the freedom and power to choose whom they marry, and marrying for love is a dream few can afford. She has a husband who loved her so much he died rescuing her and thus paving the way free for her to be with her lover and the father of her daughter. It was a bittersweet ending, but I thought it would have been more poignant if she’d lost Guy but healed under Edmund’s patient and gentle loving. Funny how reading the same book sometimes yield different results … it has to be me. The story didn’t change. I did, about the way I view and feel about things. Maybe that’s why this book has suddenly lost its appeal.

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