Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Angel's Share: The Bourbon Kings Series #2 by J. R. Ward

The Angel’s Share: The Bourbon Kings Series #2.  J. R. Ward. Penguin Publishing Group. July 2016. 432 pp.  ISBN#: 9780451475282.

William Baldwine is dead but was his passing a suicide or murder?  Lane Baldwine has discovered that his father has almost impoverished the family fortune.  Millions of dollars have been transferred but to where remains Lane’s challenge to discover.  Meanwhile, the family soap opera-like drama continues.  Lane is attempting to divorce his self-centered wife so that he can marry Lizzie, the family horticulturist, the latter relationship the only pure, true evidence of love in this novel replete with sarcasm, hate, lust, greed and so many more dissolute realities. 

Edward is the son whose father had him tortured and almost killed years ago.  He is now a crippled, broken man living in seclusion and more than content with the family’s present crisis.  At times he seems to know more than he should about his father’s demise but his apparent disconnect leads the family to other suspicious connections. The reader also wonders if his relationship with Sutton from a neighboring fortune family, will be cemented or torn apart.

There are opportunities for second chances for Gin and her daughter.  Mrs. Baldwyne lies in bed addicted to pain killers and mentally out of it and the reader wonders if this is her final destiny or if there is a chance at something better for her.  How is she tied into the disappearance of the family fortune?

There are relationships that look as if they are going somewhere but which then fall apart, leaving the reader flipping the pages to see where these complex patterns merge and cleave apart, always with a surprise factor injected into the ever-changing plot structure.

There’s also a fascinating description of the family’s centerpiece, Kentucky Bourbon, indicating how it’s made (revealing the origin of the novel’s title) and the love and care taken to create this masterpiece that is world-renowned.  This then is what built the family fortune and Lane brings us back to its creation and development, leading us to believe he just may be able to restore this mess with his gritty determination.

The Angel’s Share… is gritty, salacious, high-powered fiction that is sure to please readers galore!  Riveting romance, crime and contemporary fiction!

Daughter of Albion: A Novel by Ilka Tampke

Daughter of Albion: A Novel.  Ilka Tampke. St. Martin’s Press. April 2016. 368 pp.  ISBN#: 9781250081094.

Ailia is a foundling who spends her entire life looking for her true identity, her “skin,” or her totem.  Brought up by a strict but loving servant and healer Cookmother, Ailia knows she can never marry, have children (who would be recognized by her culture) or be part of any formal learning.  The latter is the hardest part for Ailia as she is bright and gifted.  All of this doesn’t initially sync with what follows, especially meeting a swimming fish who morphs into the magical Taliesin.  They immediately fall in love but so many obstacles seem to keep them apart.  What is magical about their relationship is the fact that Taliesin knows part of the story that keeps him fish-bound and unable to enter human territory but disappears when Ailia demands more of an answer. That hunger compels Ailia to enter the forbidden forest, an act that will change her life and that of her community forever.

Ailia is led to the “Mothers” who possess all tribal and other-worldly knowledge.  In spite of her inability to name her “skin,” Ailia is allowed to learn and be tested by the Mothers.  It is there that she is acknowledged to be the “Kendra’ or savior of the Celtic tribes; however, her status is rejected by many whose tribal identity and foundation is based on the knowledge behind each person and the community’s skin.  The nerve-wracking trial to come is the decision of Rome to invade Britain. Placating these Romans with gifts and money before now, community leaders and soldiers are very divided between those who would pacify them with surrender and those who would fight to victory or death rather than submit to domination. Another male, Ruther, and Ailia are attracted but Ruther is enamored of Roman power and knowledge, a definite challenge to any chance they might have together in the future.
The essence of Daughter of Albion… is similar to Marianne Zimmer Bradley, author of The Mists of Avalon, one of this reviewer’s favorite novels (and from which comes my pen name, Viviane Crystal).  An otherworldly, magical world is depicted where right and goodness prevail, albeit not without knowledge of how to deal with the evil in the real world.  Idealistic living is honored and centers all individual and community living.  Characters are open to the flow between the spiritual and temporal world; the “Old Ways” are celebrated indeed!

Daughter of Albion is finely crafted with so much more than this description reveals.  Highly recommended historical fiction that is delightful reading!