Wednesday, February 27, 2013

New Releases: Feb/March 2013 Historical Romance

Lord of Darkness (Maiden Lane #5) by Elizabeth Hoyt
Historical Romance
Grand Central Publishing, February 26, 2013

The Maiden Lane historical romance series is one of my favorite at the moment. So, I'm reading this book released yesterday and I'm already reading it! As always, Hoyt's romances are some of my most anticipated books of each year.
When Strangers In The Night
He lives in the shadows. As the mysterious masked avenger known as the Ghost of St. Giles, Godric St. John's only goal is to protect the innocent of London. Until the night he confronts a fearless young lady pointing a pistol at his head—and realizes she is his wife.

Become Lovers...
Lady Margaret Reading has vowed to kill the Ghost of St. Giles—the man who murdered her one true love. Returning to London, and to the man she hasn't seen since their wedding day, Margaret does not recognize the man behind the mask. Fierce, commanding, and dangerous, the notorious Ghost of St. Giles is everything she feared he would be—and so much more.

Desire Is The Ultimate Danger
When passion flares, these two intimate strangers can't keep from revealing more of themselves than they had ever planned. But when Margaret learns the truth—that the Ghost is her husband—the game is up and the players must the temptation that could destroy them both
Standish by Erastes
Gay Historical Romance
Lethe Press, February 2013

This second of edition of what has become a classic gay historical romance was re-released in February by Lethe Press. I haven't read it yet, but the book is now in my possession.
A great house. A family dispossessed. A sensitive young man. A powerful landowner. An epic love that springs up between two men. Set in the post-Napoleonic years of the 1820's, Standish is a tale of two men - one man discovering his sexuality and the other struggling to overcome his traumatic past. Ambrose Standish, a studious and fragile young man, has dreams of regaining the great house his grandfather lost in a card game. When Rafe Goshawk returns from the continent to claim the estate, their meeting sets them on a path of desire and betrayal which threatens to tear both of their worlds apart. Painting a picture of homosexuality in Georgian England, Standish is a love story of how the decisions of two men affect their journey through Europe and through life.
Spirit of the Pacific by Walter L. Williams
Gay Historical Romance
Lethe Press, February 2013

This gay historical romance is different in that the story takes place during the Civil War, but the events do not take place strictly in the South. There's an adventure aboard a whaling ship, the Aleutian Islands seem to play a big role, and more. Just take a look at the book summary.
Whaling ships in the Aleutian Islands, Confederate raiders and Union naval vessels in Maui, sloops and skiffs in the Hawaiian Islands--ships sail into the unknown and change lives. This is the story of Eddie Freeman, an African American slave from South Carolina, who escaped slavery in 1860. Eddie learned not to be afraid of change and the unknown. This is a story about the unexpected twists and turns of life, and how sometimes a person must travel one way to get to the other, become a sailor to find solid land, go to the Arctic to get to a tropical paradise. It is about giving up one's home to find a better home. It is a story about learning to transcend the polarities of slave and free, sacred and profane, love and hate, human and animal. Most importantly, it is a story about learning to transcend the polarity of life and death to become one with nature, experience limitless love, gain absolute happiness, and achieve true spiritual freedom.
There are quite a few new March releases coming up within the historical romance and historical fiction genres, but I'm highlighting two that caught my eye:

A Little Folly by Jude Morgan (Tim Wilson)
Historical Romance
St. Martin Press, Releasing March 12, 2013

I've never read anything by Morgan. I love the Regency period and despite the comparisons to Austen and Heyer, this novel looks great to me! It says in the blurb that it's a "romantic" novel, and it also mentions that Morgan is an acclaimed historical fiction author. So, I will let you know where this novel falls, exactly. :D
A witty and romantic novel of Regency love, family and appalling scandal, from a latter-day Jane Austen. When their strait-laced, domineering father, Sir Clement Carnell, dies, Valentine throws open their Devonshire estate of Pennacombe to their fashionable cousins from London and Louisa feels free at last to reject the man Sir Clement wanted her to marry.

Soon, the temptations of Regency London beckon, including the beautiful, scandalous, and very married Lady Harriet Eversholt, with whom Valentine becomes dangerously involved. Meanwhile, Louisa finds that freedom of choice is as daunting as it is exciting. Will the opportunity to indulge in a little folly lead to fulfillment—or disaster?

A Little Folly is a novel to make Jane Austen proud and Georgette Heyer envious. An acclaimed author of historical fiction, Jude Morgan weaves together the very best of Regency era writing with "refreshingly original characters, an intriguing plot, and an elegantly ironic style." (RT Book Reviews on Indiscretion). In this exciting new novel, Morgan delivers a story that, yet again, will bring cheers from critics and readers alike.
Surprising Lord Jack (Duchess of Love #2) by Sally McKenzie
Historical Romance
Zebra, March 5, 2013

I read the first book of this series, Bedding Lord Ned and enjoyed McKenzie's style. More so, I liked Jack's character in that first book. So I'm looking forward to this story with the that tried but true trope about the girl in breeches who I'm sure will capture Jack's heart. I'm hoping this is a fun read!
Unladylike Behavior
Frances Hadley has managed her family’s estate for years. So why can’t she request her own dowry? She’ll have to go to London herself and knock some sense into the men interfering in her life. With the nonsense she’s dealt with lately, though, there’s no way she’s going as a woman. A pair of breeches and a quick chop of her red curls, and she’ll have much less to worry about…

Jack Valentine, third son of the famous Duchess of Love, is through being pursued by pushy young ladies. One particularly determined miss has run him out of his own house party. Luckily the inn has one bed left—Jack just has to share with a rather entertaining red-headed youth. Perhaps the two of them should ride to London together. It will make a pleasant escape from his mother’s matchmaking melodrama!
That's it for my February/March historical highlights. Any particular historical romance OR historical fiction books you are looking forward to reading in March? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

New Release March 2013: Shattered Pillars (Eternal Sky #2) by Elizabeth Bear

The Shattered Pillars is the second book of Bear’s The Eternal Sky trilogy and the sequel to Range of Ghosts. Set in a world drawn from our own great Asian Steppes, this saga of magic, politics and war sets Re-Temur, the exiled heir to the great Khagan and his friend Sarmarkar, a Wizard of Tsarepheth, against dark forces determined to conquer all the great Empires along the Celedon Road.

Elizabeth Bear is an astonishing writer, whose prose draws you into strange and wonderful worlds, and makes you care deeply about the people and the stories she tells. The world of The Eternal Sky is broadly and deeply created—her award-nominated novella, "Bone and Jewel Creatures" is also set there.

I loved Range of Ghosts, the first book of Elizabeth Bear's Eternal Sky fantasy series. It should not be a surprise then that Shattered Pillars is one of my most anticipated books of 2013.

Releasing: March 19, 2013 by Tor Books

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington #1) by David Weber

Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1962, David Mark Weber is a science fiction and fantasy author whose stories run the range from epic fantasy to space opera with alternate history and military science fiction where he tends to highlight naval themes.

Weber has written a number of different series and stand alone books, however one of his most popular series is the military science fiction opera whose title coincides with the main character's name, Honor Harrington. Honor's name and Weber's stories are an homage to C. S. Forester's character Horatio Hornblower. Honor's story, together with the "Honorverse" she inhabits, has been developed through 14 novels and various shared-universe anthologies.

In 2008, Weber donated his archive to the department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University. Many of Weber's books are available online, either in their entirety or in part, as part of the Baen Free Library.

Visit David Weber here.


On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington #1) by David Weber

On Basilisk Station by David Weber
Digital Edition
Honor Harrington in trouble: Having made him look the fool, she's been exiled to Basilisk Station in disgrace and set up for ruin by a superior who hates her. Her demoralized crew blames her for their ship's humiliating posting to an out-of-the-way picket station. The aborigines of the system's only habitable planet are smoking homicide-inducing hallucinogens. Parliament isn't sure it wants to keep the place; the major local industry is smuggling, the merchant cartels want her head; the star-conquering, so-called "Republic" of Haven is Up to Something; and Honor Harrington has a single, over-age light cruiser with an armament that doesn't work to police the entire star system. But the people out to get her have made one mistake. They've made her mad.
I enjoy military science fiction and David Weber is one of those authors whose works I have been meaning to read for a while. This series was recommended to me last year during a discussion about females as central figures in science fiction space operas or military sci fi.

On Basilisk Station definitely qualifies as a military science fiction space opera, and Honor Harrington plays the dominant central figure. Most of the story is told from her point of view, although that point of view shifts to secondary characters' some who ruminate about Honor's personality traits or her performance as captain of the Fearless, and of course the villains of the piece who worry about how Captain Harrington's actions will affect their plan.

I wish this book had worked out better for me. Instead it was a mixed bag with excellent sections that include detailed, action-packed military battles, and particularly good military science fiction descriptions and sections where it is obvious that Weber placed the majority of his efforts. Where it does not work for me is in how some of this information is delivered.

The book begins slowly and actually becomes plodding at times due to Weber's tendency to use huge sections of information to begin the process of building his world. Later during some of the most exciting sections of the story, including a gorgeously detailed space battle, the flow is repeatedly interrupted by additional long sections of info-dumping (history of the Manticoran system, military history and history of weapons development). In other words, all these excellent historical details that I mention above are not well weaved in with the rest of Honor's adventure.

Honor as the central character is interesting, but the reader doesn't really get to know her character well. We know she comes from Sphinx, that she has a "cool soprano voice," and that she is emphatically bonded to a treecat. This whole bonding with the treecat is mentioned but not really explored. There are a few other personal revelations about her, but not enough to define Honor in-depth. Instead we get to know her as a captain whose crew is initially hostile and slowly learn to admire her for her honor and talents of deduction, as a captain, and as a tactician, and believe me there's not much that Honor can't do! Even if she must sacrifice her career, crew and ship to save her home world, Honor will do the right thing.

There's little "grey" about Weber's characters or or his story, instead there's a lot of black and white. The story itself kept my interest throughout, with political games adding some much needed grey areas and a bit of a twist, some secondary characters that I really came to like along the way, but with a few unanswered questions (or gaping plot holes) left at the end of the story that may or may not be answered in future installments.

There are some excellent moments in On Basilisk Station, and Honor is a good heroine if maybe in need of a flaw or two or three. I have the second book of the series, The Honor of the Queen, and will read it hoping that the story will be better executed. After all, there is enough to enjoy in On Basilisk Station and the military science fiction details are good enough to merit a second look at this very popular military science fiction series.

2013 Sci Fi Experience
Category: Military Science Fiction Opera
Series: Honor Harrington #1
Digital Edition - Released Oct 1, 1994 by Baen Publishing
Grade: C+


1. On Basilisk Station (April 1993)
2. The Honor of the Queen (June 1993)
3. The Short Victorious War (April 1994)
4. Field of Dishonor (October 1994)
5. Flag in Exile (September 1995)
6. Honor Among Enemies (February 1996)
7. In Enemy Hands (July 1997)
8. Echoes of Honor (October 1998)
9. Ashes of Victory (March 2000)
10.War of Honor (October 2002)
11.At All Costs (November 2005)
12.Mission of Honor (June 2010)
13.A Rising Thunder (March, 2012)
14.Shadow of Freedom (February 18, 2013)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TBR Overview: PsyCop Series by Jordan Castillo Price

For the TBR Challenge this month, I decided to read one book from Jordan Castillo Price's PsyCop series and ended up reading the whole enchilada. These books (the entire series) have been in my TBR for a few years and Jordan Castillo Price's work (or JCP as this author is commonly referred to by readers) has been recommended to me by multiple friends. However, for the purpose of this month's theme I must say that Mariana is the one fellow-reader who has most often recommended both the author AND this series to me. 

So instead of writing a review for one book, I decided to post an overview of the series, which includes books read: Among the Living #1, Criss Cross #2, Secrets #3, Body & Soul #4, Camp Hell #5, GhosTV #6 and various novellas that complete the series only by focusing on certain characters and giving them a bit of depth, but that do not really give away any important information pertaining to the overall storyarc.

The PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price is a combination urban fantasy and m/m erotic romance narrated from the main character's first point of view. It sounds pretty standard, doesn't it? But as always when considering urban fantasy world-building must be taken into consideration, and in this case I was quite taken with JCP's world-building, as well as with her wonderful characters.

In JCP's world the action, murder mysteries, and paranormal events that Psychs and Cops encounter take place on or around Chicago's gritty streets. Her world building is that great fusion of alternate contemporary and heavy on the paranormal, with suspense and crime solving always as the center of each book. The other very important aspect of the series, the one I am sure that pulls at most readers, are the characters and the complicated relationships that develop between them. These relationships include both central and secondary characters since they have a tendency to become key contributors to the storylines.

Victor Bayne is a medium and the Psych half of a PsyCop team with his partner being the non-psych or as they are commonly referred to, a Stiff. Vic has a fabulous narrative voice. I don't know of anyone who would not fall in love with the talented but always grumpy Vic with his drug-induced insecurities (or is it his insecurities that cause his tendency to abuse those "feel-so-good" drugs?), vulnerabilities, and snark. I do love that Vic is very much aware of his flaws. But I think that what I've enjoyed most about this series, besides the fact that I'm enjoying JCP's writing style, is that the relationship between Victor and his romantic partner Jacob grows incrementally as the series progresses. By that I mean that although the two of them maintain a sexual relationship, the real trust and balance that makes a true partnership takes time to develop. The same can be said for Vic's relationship with his growing list of friends or secondary characters.

There is also character growth for Victor and Jacob individually, neither remains static as JCP uses the overall storyarc about the Psychs, which she packs with action and exciting revelations, to accomplish this growth. My favorite books of the series are Criss Cross #2 and Secrets,#3, probably because intimate revelations are thick in both books. Camp Hell, a favorite for many readers, was also a great read for me, but left a few holes and important questions unanswered, giving the book an unfinished feel, and GhosTV had a fantastic paranormal atmosphere, but unfortunately the book ended with one of those personal cliffhanger revelations. That was a disappointment, particularly since there has not been a follow up to this book. Hopefully there will be an end to the series.

Theme: Recommended Read
February 2013
Overall this is an addictive series for good reason. Jordan Castillo Price can weave an action-packed story, create a character, and maintain suspense and sexual tension. She can also write some over-the-top steamy scenes! Pheww... those scenes are the reason I decided to label this series UF/Gay Erotic Romance. Do I recommend this series? Absolutely!

Category: UF/Gay Erotic Romance
Series: PsyCop (#1-#6)
Overall Grade: B+

Monday, February 18, 2013

This n' That: Scalzi, Guy Mark Foster + Updates

Hey, how is everyone! I've been missing lately, I know, and slow in posting, but so far this has been one of those tough blogging months for me. Let's see... I had one long week of migraines that would not go away, I am still serving on Grand Jury duty every Thursday and won't be done until the end of February. That means double duty at the office. I can't seem to catch up no matter what I do! Plus, the situation with my mom seems to be deteriorating and it is both an emotionally draining and stressful time for all of us.

But you wonder if I've been reading, I have! Reading is one of those personal joys that I need to keep going. So what have I read lately? What am I reading now? I think I've chosen to read everything but "romance," and by that I mean mainstream contemporary and historical romance.


I have been keeping up with John Scalzi's new science fiction serial, The Human Division and read, Episode #3: We Only Need the Heads, and Episode #4: A Voice in the Wilderness. In We Only Need the Heads, Scalzi returns to the Ambassador's negotiating team and Harry Wilson, cleverly weaving in the events that took place in the wildcat colony featured in Walk the Plank. In A Voice in the Wilderness, Earth is the setting and readers get an inkling as to how the Colonial Union is viewed from their perspective. Political ramifications, manipulation by and of the media play a big part in this installment and I love that this episode ended with a bit of bang! I have Episode #5: Tales from the Clarke in my queue to read, but didn't get to it yet.

I'm really enjoying this serial, folks! So far Scalzi has alternated between the overall storyarc involving negotiations between the Colonial Union and different aliens and key events that affect or will affect those negotiations. So far some of the individual episodes work well on their own while others do not, and as a whole book the flow may seem a bit choppy. However, as the story moves along and revelations come to light, it works. I think that after Tales from the Clarke the story may flow better. I will let you know. So far this is a solid B read for me.

The 2013 Science Fiction Experience 
Earlier in the month I highlighted The Rest of Us: Stories by Guy Mark Foster. Foster is a gay African-American writer whose collection of gay fiction stories turned out to be fantastic. I purchased the digital edition, began to browse and ended up reading the whole book in one sitting.

The collection begins with "Boy," a short piece that sets the tone for the rest of the book, where a father explains to his son what manhood is all about, "rest the ankle of one leg on the opposite leg's knee-never cross one leg over the other's knee, and people won't too easily peg you for the punk you are right under my very roof due to become; " and ends with the amazing "Between Us," a story in letter form addressed to "Dear M" where Foster's character Mark attempts to explain to his former white lover why he tends to push people away. Foster's character explains that in addition to being black and gay he also has to "navigate the ever present complexities" of racial history: "simply being a human being presents a whole host of conflicts, but to be gay and of African descent in our society only increases those conflicts."

In between, Foster's wonderful collection of stories captures the social and cultural complexities of growing up as a gay African-American male while dealing with difficult family issues, religion, racial differences, racism, homophobia, and snapshots of men who continue to love men regardless of the obstacles. Highly recommended, this was an A- read for me.


Then, I got all caught up reading Jordan Castillo Price's addicting PsyCop series. Now, some of the books in this series have been sitting in my eReader for years. No kidding. So yeah... I gloamed and read: Among the Living #1, Criss Cross #2, Secrets #3, Body & Soul #4, Camp Hell #5, GhosTV, Book #6 plus the novellas Many Happy ReturnsStriking Sparks and In the Dark, to complete my reading experience. As you can imagine, I really enjoyed that experience, otherwise I would not have read all of these books consecutively. Expect an overview of the whole series soon!

I'm not done with Jordan Castillo Price yet. I'm planning on reading more of her series, plus Hermovore. All books already in my Kindle. Can't wait!

I began but have not finished The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke. I really wanted to concentrate on that book and unfortunately my migraines hit while I was in the middle of it and I had to place it aside for another time. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone suffered the same fate. This is a book that has been sitting in my Kindle since last year and I was enjoying it so much! But, I really needed the time to concentrate on the world building which is quite intricate and unfortunately my head was not in the right place to do so. So I will be reading it at another time. Hopefully soon.

What Am I Reading Now?

Two upcoming March releases: In Search Of and Others is a collection of speculative fiction stories by Will Ludwigsen that's working perfectly for me at this time because I can read and enjoy a few stories at a time in between other books. I will let you know how it turns out when I'm done, but there are some great stories in this collection so far.

The other book I'm reading is Rigoberto González's upcoming creative nonfiction release from UA Press, Red-Inked Retablos. This is another book that I'm thoroughly enjoying. It is totally different from my other reads in that it is nonfiction, but because the book is essentially a collection of distinct essays it can also be read slowly. So far a great read.

That's it for now folks! Hope those of you in the U.S. are enjoying President's Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poetry: Natural Takeover of Small Things by Tim Z. Hernandez

Natural Takeover of Small Things
by Tim Z. Hernandez
Natural Takeover of Small Things by Tim Z. Hernandez is an intimate portrayal of life in California's San Joaquin Valley with all its beauty and exposed flaws. Mr. Hernandez's poetry is personal and while some poems are rendered with deeply moving, lyrical and rhythmic prose, others are rather straight forward, raw and cutting in nature. There is no real place for nostalgia in Hernandez's memories of "home;" instead there is realism filled with love and care in the shaping of moments, places and people who live and die in the valley -- from campesinos who work the land to those who become collateral damage.

The culture of the West and Western Latino culture permeate Hernandez's poetry. Readers experience the pride embodied by hardworking men and women, as well as substandard living conditions, wasted lives, and personal loses. But there is also taste and smell to savor in Hernandez's poetry: menudo, lengua, the fruits of the valley, the earthy smell of the campo -- the beauty and the tragedy.

This 80 page book is divided into three sections: The Arms in Dead Heat, San Joaquin Sutra, and Natural Takeover of Small Things.

I. Arms in Dead Heat includes memories of life in the San Joaquin Valley beginning with the poem that hooked me, Home:
Fresno is the inexhaustible nerve
in the twitching leg of a dog [...]
II. San Joaquin Sutra describes the beauty and the tragedy;
San Joaquin Valley,
where tired faces water quaint gardens with cut hoses,
bending to bury
the corn next to the sugarcane, reaching
for the avocado on the highest branch,
the melon's elusive fragrance
in all directions toward all the windows in all the houses on all the streets,
sweet invisible nectars drifting
in vastness of big sky
where taunts a kite
broken free
of its

☀ ☀ ☀
San Joaquin -
where sickly bodies of old Texan mothers draped in aprons of sunflower
and waning seasons sit idly by, waiting for some slick cancer to escort
their last days to proms of disintegration, while the souls of
amputated limbs
twitch anxious habits for workloads of the waiting day, [...]
III. Natural Takeover of Small Things is full of reflections on those little details that make up life and bring eventual death, the letting go of one life to begin another. Adios, Fresno says is all . . .
Adios, Fresno
You could use more letters of love.
Here, take these. You owe me nothing, except back pay.
But I won't mention it again.
Trust me when I say I'll have no regrets leaving you. [...]

About the Author: Tim Z. Hernandez is a poet, novelist, and performance artist whose awards include the 2006 American Book Award, the 2010 Premio Aztlan Prize in Fiction, and the James Duval Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation. He is the author of a previous book of poetry, Skin Tax, and the novel Breathing in Dust. In 2011 the Poetry Society of America named him one of sixteen New American Poets. His novel of historical fiction, Mañana Means Heaven, based on the life of Bea Franco, will release in Fall of 2013. He holds a BA from Naropa University and an MFA from Bennington College.

Category: Poetry
Series: Camino del Sol: A Latina and Latino Literary Series
ARC provided by Publisher: The University of Arizona Press
Publication Date: February 21, 2013

All poetry quotes taken from Natural Takeover of Small Things by Tim Z. Hernandez. © Tim Z. Hernandez, 2013.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mini: How to Misbehave by Ruthie Knox

How to Misbehave
by Ruthie Knox
How to Misbehave is a novella that serves as a prequel to the new Camelot contemporary romance series by Ruthie Knox planned for release on March 2013.

Tony Mazzara has a well-earned "bad boy" reputation, and Amber Clark suffers from the "good girl" syndrome. Amber is the director at the Camelot Community Centre for the small town and Tony works for the family construction company along with his brother Patrick. The two get stuck alone in the center's basement during a tornado warning and not only do they get to know each other through conversation but a mutual sexual attraction ignites and explodes. After all of it is over they consummate the attraction, but Tony has some heavy baggage that prevents him from seeking happiness while Amber falls for him hook, line, and sinker.

This is a short novella that packs heat and then some. It also packs emotion which elevates the somewhat predictable storyline. Knox works the short format with a deft hand by developing her characters and giving readers an understanding of what is really behind Tony's self-imposed punishment and Amber's need to misbehave. Knox wisely ends the novella with a possible future for this couple. It is the perfect ending, particularly for Tony's character who accepts the possibility of happiness and not more.

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Camelot (# 0.5)
Publisher/Release Date: Random House/January 28, 2013
Format: eBook, 96 pages
Grade: B+

Visit Ruthie Knox here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley is a combination historical fiction and contemporary with romances taking place during both time lines and running parallel to each other. Kearsley uses one central character, Carrie McClelland, to tie both storylines and romances together.

James VIII of Scotland
(1688 - 1766)  
Carrie McClelland is a seasoned historical fiction author writing a historical fiction romance that took place in the midst of the failed Jacobite conspiracy to return James Stuart or James VIII to the throne of Scotland in 1708. Unfortunately, Carrie is suffering from writer's block, but while visiting Scotland fate takes a hand and she ends up at a place that calls to her, Slains Castle in Cruden Bay and there meets a man with winter sea eyes. Carry moves to a cottage within sight of the Slains Castle and begins the process of writing her story from the perspective for a fictional woman as the central character, one she names after a long-dead Scottish ancestor, Sophia Paterson. At first her story seems to spill out of her with characters and situations so vivid and real that she can't seem to stop writing, but slowly Carry's research shows that her characters and events, down to the smallest details, were indeed true. Carry ends up with more questions than answers. How can this be happening?

Admiral Thomas Gordon
This is where I fell in love with this book. Kearsley seamlessly weaves two beautiful stories together. She focuses the historical fiction romance of the young, orphaned Mistress Sophia Paterson whose kinswoman the Countess of Erroll, mother to the Earl of Errol takes her in to live as her companion in Slains Castle at Cruden Bay. Soon, Sophia is embroiled in a Jacobite conspiracy to return James Stuart or James VIII to the Scottish throne and meets the young and loyal Jacobite John Moray who already has a price on his head for treason against the crown. Kearsley then proceeds to weave a gorgeous romance between these two characters that is full of danger, betrayal, excitement, angst, and timeless love.

James, 4th Duke of Hamilton
(1658 - 1712)
I love that within this romance Kearsley includes historical characters John Moray, Nathaniel Hooke, Captain Thomas Gordon, the Duke of Hamilton, the Earl of Erroll, his mother the Countess of Erroll, and more. However, these characters are not portrayed as two-dimensional historical figures but become viable characters in the novel that contribute to both the story and the romance. I was particularly taken by the Countess of Erroll whose characterization is extremely well-rendered, as is Thomas Gordon. Sophia and Moray's romance made me sigh out loud, bite my nails at the danger they both faced, and cry. . . Yes, this was an emotional read for me.

But Kearsley's main character is Carrie McClellan and she is a historical fiction romance writer, so think of this as a romance within a romance. By setting up the story this way, Kearsley uses her character's portrayal as a writer to incorporate pertinent historical background and deftly avoids making it feel like info-dump, instead history becomes a key element of the exciting romance/story Carrie is weaving. However, this set-up also serves to give readers an intimate view into a writers world: how they conduct research, the writing process, and even little details like daily routines, and even relationships with readers. I loved that little peek into a writers' world.

All of those details are an intrinsic part of the contemporary storyline which includes a straight forward romance with Carrie as the female protagonist. This romance narrated in the first point of view from Carrie's perspective has little angst and not much conflict, but it includes some of my favorite secondary characters and it ties in quite well with the historical fiction story and romance. Additionally, in Mariana I loved how Kearsley executed the time-travel aspect of her story, in The Winter Sea although on the surface the end result of how Carrie gains knowledge about a different period in time may sound similar, in reality it is quite different and if not necessarily as arresting to me, how Kearsley develops this aspect of the story is definitely intriguing.

Kearsley's writing swept me away to Scotland, both to 1708 and contemporary times. This is only my second read by this author, but I'm loving her writing style, the excellent fusion of historical fiction romance and contemporary romance that she uses to whisk me away to another time while simultaneously keeping me grounded to the present, and her talent for bringing historical characters to life and creating a romance that stays with me. So, the end result is that I will definitely continue to explore her backlist with pleasure.

Slains Castle, Cruden Bay, Scotland

Part I: Group Read: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley hosted by Christine of The happily ever after...

Part II: Group Read The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Highlighting... The Rest of Us: Stories by Guy Mark Foster

The Rest of Us: Stories by Guy Mark Foster

Releasing February 7th
''Love makes us all vulnerable. Guy Mark Foster's exquisitely crafted new collection The Rest of Us cradles that vulnerability in crystal-clear yet cryptic language. And story after story within this deeply engaging book portrays what it means to love even more dangerously, to live for love that's marked by race, sex, age, and class as 'other.' From visions of clubbing immortals to elegiac letters written by regretful adulterers,The Rest of Us rings true notes, dances surely through complicated steps, and offers intimate, detailed vignettes of heroes who surprise readers and themselves with their despair, determination, and hope.'' --Nisi Shawl, acclaimed co-author of Writing the Other: Bridging Cultural Differences for Successful Fiction

A remarkable collection of short stories that embrace the breadth and depth of being a gay African-American, The Rest of Us approaches life from the angst of youth and first love to the familiarities of cruising and romancing later in life. The boys and men in Guy Mark Foster's tales refuse to be bound by the heavy chains of oppressive religion in the family household or racism encountered on campus. And this strength will be needed to face the passions stirring in their chests, their bedrooms, their lives. From the restlessness of "Lasius niger (The Black Ant)" to familiar discord in "Legacy" and the promise of love in "This Man and Me," Foster's is a voice that will resonate with all readers.
I love the idea behind Lethe Press' Tincture imprint. Tincture showcases quality fiction written by authors whose stories bring to the forefront the gay experience as experienced from different cultural perspectives. I've read and loved a few of the books from their catalogue: The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam by Alex Jeffers, Slant by Timothy Wang, and From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction edited by Charles Rice-González and Charlie Vázquez. All winners! Needless to say my expectations for The Rest of Us: Stories by Guy Mark Foster are high.

Gay Fiction / African-American Fiction
A Tincture imprint of Lethe Press
Paperback, 180 pages

Friday, February 1, 2013

January 2013: Recap + The Vintage Science Fiction Month

January is already over! I can't believe it... I guess it is true that "time flies when you are having fun." And I had lots of fun during this first month of the year reading and blogging about different types of science fiction reads, both the old and the new.

I would love to thank The Little Red Reviewer for hosting The Vintage Science Fiction Month. Not only did I read a few oldies but goodies, but I also added to my "to read" list by visiting other blogs and reading some excellent reviews posted by fellow participants. I am also participating in The 2013 Science Fiction Experience hosted by CarlV from Stainless Steel Droppings and enjoying it to the fullest, but I still have one more month of enjoyment left and planning to read quite a few books too.

Books read & Related Posts:
Andre Norton: Sargasso of Space (Solar Queen #1)
Group Read: Dragonflight (Pern #1) by Anne McCaffrey (Parts I & II)
Group Read: Dragonflight (Pern #1) by Anne McCaffrey (Parts III & IV)
Sci Fi Books Old and New: When the price is right
Andre Norton: Storm Over Warlock (Forerunners, Book #1)
Plague Ship (Solar Queen #1) by Andre Norton (Not reviewed but recommended)
AND, here is my recap of all books read for the entire month of January:

Total books read: 19
 Contemporary: 5
 Historical: 3 (Fiction/Romance: 1, Historical Romance: 2)
 Science Fiction: 8
 LGBT: 3 (Gay Mystery/Romance)


1)   The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley: A-
2)   Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry: A-
3)   Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey: B+
4)   Plague Ship (Solar Queen #1)by Andre Norton (Not reviewed but recommended): B
5)   Taking the Reins (Roped & Tangled #1) by Kat Murray: B
6)   Sargasso of Space (Solar Queen #1)by Andre Norton: B
7)   The Human Division #1: The B-Team by John Scalzi: B
8)   Exclusively Yours by Shannon Stacey (Kowalski #1): B
9)   How to Misbehave (Camelot #1) by Ruthie Knox: B+
10) Deadly Wrong (Deadly Mystery #2) by Victor J. Banis: B
11) Deadly Nightshade (Deadly Mystery #1) by Victor J. Banis: B-
12) Deadly Dreams (Deadly Mystery #3) by Victor J. Banis: B-
13) Dragonflight (Pern #1) by Anne McCaffrey: C+
14) The Seduction of Elliot McBride (Highland Pleasures #5) by Jennifer Ashley: C+
15) Unforgivable by Joanna Chambers: C+
16) The Human Division #2: Walk the Plan by John Scalzi: C
17) Storm Over Warlock (Forerunners, Book #1) by Andre Norton: C
18) Seven Sexy Cowboy Robots by Sandra McDonald: C
19) Bound to You by Bethany Kane: C-

Favorite books of the month: Within Reach by Sarah Mayberry, The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (upcoming review for Read-along hosted by Christine from The happily ever after...), and the Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey.