Saturday, October 1, 2011

Lady of the English by Elizabeth Chadwick

Lady of the English. Elizabeth Chadwick. Sourcebooks, Incorporated. September 2011. 544 pp. paperback. ISBN #: 9781402250927.

Two women desire to be the Queen of 12th Century England. One, Adeliza, wife of Henry I, sees her role as an actual Queen to be that of peacemaker in a realm where loyalties are based on ambition and the acquisition of power through land and riches. Such loyalties are bound to fluctuate as the tides of power fluctuate over the years.

Another woman, Matilda, the daughter of Henry I, has been promised she will be Queen upon the King's passing. Henry believes he has guaranteed this in having his counselors and liege lords pledge their loyalty on bended knee to Matilda. This is Matilda's story, a journey of yearning and suffering as Stephen of Blois usurps the throne after Henry's death. Matilda is married to Geoffrey of Anjou, a brutal man who almost destroys his wife. Scathingly sarcastic, Geoffrey, however, is a superb military strategist and supports Matilda's quest for the crown only because he believes it will benefit his own dreams of power.

The plot is not as simple as described so far. There are moments of temporary victory, moments of intense sorrow, and ultimately moments when the realization strikes that the timing is all wrong for Matilda's ascension to Queen of England. Thus a brutal civil war begins that tears apart a country undeserving of the shifting spheres of loyalty and success that follow.

Adeliza, believing Matilda should rightly fulfill her queenly destiny, and the men who surround Matilda are complex characters as portrayed in this engaging novel. Matilda is remarkably unable to truly control her strategy and even disregards the advise of those more knowledgeable about how to win over the lords who begin to see Stephen's weaknesses. Adeliza risks much in her loyalty to Matilda, shown in some heartrending scenes that remain potent long after they are read. Indeed, Adeliza is frequently the more sympathetic character than Matilda, a tough woman who hides her heart because she fears it may be deemed weakness.

The Lady of the English is an interesting story about this little-known slice of history and the woman who spent so much of her life in truth preparing another and those around her for the role of ruling the formidable Kingdom of England. Fascinating Middle Ages historical fiction!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Anything by Michael Baron

Anything. Michael Baron. The Story Plant. October 2011. 290 pp. paperback. ISBN #: 9781611880212.

Ken and Melissa are two lawyers who have discovered each other and are about to be married. Melissa has dramatically changed Ken’s life without trying to, and Ken knows his life is fulfilled in a way it could never have been with all the stereotypical women he previously dated. One evening, however, when they are visiting her parents, a few days before their wedding, Ken realizes there is something from her past that has taken the joy out of her life, a loss clearly evident in the way she avoids looking at pictures from her teenage years. Up to now, Ken has been buying her gifts from a strange man who runs a unique jewelry shop. Everything from there is always different and always delights Melissa.

Ken returns to the shop and makes an agreement with Stephon, the owner. Ken is warned he may not like the outcome or consequences of the action he is about to take but refuses to heed the warning. During the magical trip he takes after that visit, he discovers the joyful childhood of his future bride until one fateful evening. He is devastated and on returning to the present, Melissa is appalled at his discovery as well. Ken, however, refuses to let go and returns to Stephon for one more trip to the past. To say more would be a definite spoiler but the story is far from over as Ken tries to change the past, which changes the present as well. Nothing, for sure, is solely as it appears.

The remainder of the story is a quest for recovery, one Ken will not release even though an old acquaintance advises him of its futility. The power of enduring love moves beyond our wildest dreams as the novel ends with a most unlikely ending, one that is not just a happily ever after story, but one that touches the heart with its true essence, a miracle indeed.

Michael Baron knows how to pull every string of a reader’s heart. The plot may seem implausible but there is enough mystery, magic, and deep abiding love to make this novel a pleasing story that would make a lovely movie as well. Charming and well-plotted for sure, Anything is a beautiful romance novel that will engage every reader who loves this genre!

To Wed a Wild Lord by Sabrina Jeffries

To Wed a Wild Lord. Sabrina Jeffries. Pocket Star Publishing. November 2011. 384 pages paperback. ISBN #: 9781451642407.

Lord Gabriel Sharpe’s heart has been broken twice already in his very young life. The first time came with the mysterious death of his parents and then with the untimely death of his friend, Roger Waverly. In between all of this mind-numbing grief comes a challenge from Roger’s sister to race “the needle’s thread,” a hair-raising course which turns into a single lane between boulders. Why would Gabe want to woo her but refuse her challenge? And what does his grandmother’s meddling ultimatum have to do with her anger over who he chooses to marry?

Gabe tells his grandmother he can’t die, in a race or otherwise, because he is “the Angel of Death.” She, of course, doesn’t have a clue what that means and only ascribes it to his impetuous nature. He truly believes he was the one who should have died in place of his parents, something to do with a mysterious stranger who arrived at his home and took one of the family horses out the same day his parents died. He believes that insults and a coincidence of events led to his losses and that he is cheating death over and over and over.

It is Virginia Waverly who throws all of Gabe’s rational explanations to the wind little by little, that is until she hears a rumor that he is wooing her only for purposes of an inheritance he can only have upon being married. Another character, General Waverly, calls him out on his guilt about Roger’s death. The provocative banter, wildly sexy scenes, and funny moments increase in various stages until one can feel the tension in more ways than one with every turned page!

By now the passion between Gabe and Virginia is searing in intensity, attracting these two volatile characters to the point where Gabe realizes he must abandon all the machinations and woo for real! He must enter a race to win a great, passionate love beyond what words can convey! As always, Sabrina Jeffries titillates and thrills the reader with both a mystery about to be solved and hot, steamy, sexy connection that must be fulfilled in order to finally cheat death for one last time! This fourth story is even better than Ms. Jeffries’ previous novels in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series.

So Near - A Novel by Liza Gyllenhaal

So Near: A Novel. Liza Gyllenhaal. New American Library. September 2011. 336 pp. paperback. ISBN #: 9780451234575.

One minute, a father is worry about his father’s business turning sour in a changing economy. Then the same father is enjoying a baseball game, having a few beers, and thinking how great life is, while his wife is preparing for a large barbecue party. Half an hour later, their lives are turned upside down with a terrible, terrible loss, and the horrific future seems to be an impossible reality to get through. Everyone tries to ensure that there is no guilt to be carried but each parent believes he or she is to blame for this nightmare they are now living second by second, minute by minute…

How does one cope with the most devastating death one would not want to imagine? Cal’s brother says a lawsuit is the answer, yet Cal suspects his brother Edwin’s motives are questionable. They are and the further shock that eventually is disclosed is expected because of certain moments when the reader is expecting something financially crushing is about to happen, so aptly does the author foreshadow each phase of this world-shaking event.

Little by little, Cal and Jenny Horigan mourn in different ways and learn not to speak in order not to expose blame or self-recrimination. It reaches a point where each turns elsewhere for desperate communication. Before the Horigan marriage totally sinks into a hole beyond redemption, a stranger comes into their world in a way that could put the finishing touches on a doomed relationship or perhaps provide something else of a more miraculous nature.

So Near is a heart-rending, honest, pragmatic, searing look at love that is called to endure far more than any person should ever have to bear but a love that is so deep that a spark remains to be kindled by a series of miraculous mistakes and interactions. Read it and weep! Read it, smile, and celebrate the gift of life! Tender, compelling novel, Liza Gyllenhaal – you so obviously know of what you write!!!

Justifiable: Oregon by Pamela Wright

Justifiable: Oregon. Pamela Wright. Reaction Press. July 2011. 298 pp. paperback. ISBN #: 9780983580935.

Tilamook Rock Lighthouse in Seaside, Oregon is a scary place all by itself, but what goes on inside this fortress is even more frightening than anyone could contemplate. For whoever is brought here in a drugged state is first subjected to tortured interrogation followed by death and cremation, with no traces left that anyone ever existed here. The cause is “justifiable” as the title of the series suggests, get the details of the crime and eliminate the criminals who would normally never be caught. The plot thickens as we learn that a current investigation has to do with a drug cartel who are pumping already superstar athletes with performance-enhancing chemical drugs that guarantee success. But there’s a huge problem when athletes start dropping dead and it’s discovered that what killed them is far from what was suspected by those testing for addicted champions.

The Doctor who is handing out these drugs has no idea of their real content and so is so stunned upon discovering what could not expose his guilt but prove to be his total undoing as an athlete physician caring for men and women expected to be “winners.” The threat of unexpected death looms in many quarters beyond what the reader can imagine at the beginning of this tautly plotted, nerve-wracking novel.

Dan Morrison knows this is way over his specialized skills and seeks help from others known as the Special Forces team, at the same time knowing that his progression deeper into this mystery could put his friend Sarah into a serious position of jeopardy. But even Dan realizes he doesn't know Sarah or her past so well, especially what she has sacrificed in the name of past missions as well as the present case. Traffickers and pedophiles are the subject at hand and the cartel doesn’t stop there. One team will search the world if necessary to find the lost and taken, eliminating the scum that preys on the weak and helpless.

Pamela Wright has penned a deftly plotted, well-written action novel in which all characters rivet the reader’s attention, up to the last shocking scene in a devastating war of in which the members of a righteous team forge through tense conflicts and scenarios and have no problem justifying their final solution! Gripping, plausible read! The scales of justice are balanced with a unique method of saving the innocent. Nicely done!