Friday, February 16, 2018

The Cold Light of Dawn: The King's Greatest Enemy #4 by Anna Belfrage

The Cold Light of Dawn: The King’s Greatest Enemy #4. Anna Belfrage. Timelight Press. February 2018. 593 pp. ASIN#: B0795BMD9W.

“Caught in the middle” is the perfect way to describe Adam de Guirande’s place in the Court of the young King Edward III, too young to rule but old enough to resent the behavior of the regent rulers, Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer. Adam initially serves Edward in whatever way asked and ultimately will become the King’s Guard, in charge of all soldiers who protect the King at all times.  Edward has not reached his majority to rule but is showing signs he is more than able to do so. Isabella and Mortimer are lovers, despite the fact that Mortimer is married.  Mortimer works long hours but he goes farther than he should as he truly loves fine dress, food and riches.  He listens only to Isabella and this is heading toward rebellion from the people he rules or betrayal from one or more of the numerous factions always plotting to thwart Mortimer’s plans.

Adam de Guirande is married to Kit, the grand love of his life.  The passion between them is obvious, frequent and well-described.  Such a great union is all that keeps Adam from losing his sanity.  For Adam is also tied to Roger Mortimer who brought him from a low position to the place Adam now occupies.  He owes Roger everything and yet has sworn loyalty and love to King Edward.  Roger knows this but pulls at Adam’s conflicted, tortured thoughts and feelings, saying he realizes the conflict but always reminding Adam of where his first loyalty should be.

The King, Mortimer, Lancaster and others all have spies everywhere, throughout the country as well as in other countries such as France and Italy. The issues are not new nor are the machinations that would give England France, earls and other nobles who would acquire more land and power throughout England, etc. 

The tensions among Adam, Edward, Roger, Isabella and Lancaster are gradually increasing to the point that the reader knows an explosion is soon to occur and for some end quite badly.  Kidnappings, sword fighting engagements, ladies who enchant with more dangerous but subtle plans in mind, and more fill these swiftly moving pages with excitement and intrigue.  A medieval sense of brutality leaves the reader occasionally breathless.

The Cold Light of Dawn is great reading and easy to follow whether or not the reader knows the history of that particular time period.  Adam loves both his Lords but “a divided house cannot, indeed, stand!”  One suspects another novel in this series is to follow which will be highly anticipated by this reviewer!  Spectacular historical fiction!

Surprise Me: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise Me: A Novel.  Sophie Kinsella. Random House Publishing Group. February 2018. 432 pp.  ISBN#: 9780399592881.

Sylvia and Dan have been married for ten years; they truly are best friends who completely understand each other and their rambunctious twin daughters.  One day they visit a doctor for a wellness visit and from here to about three-quarters of the way through the novel the plot gets downright silly.  They are healthy and are told by the doctor that they have another sixty-eight years more of life together.  For some odd reason, this scares the heck out of Sylvia and Dan.  While their uncanny understanding of each other’s thoughts and feelings brings great peace and joy to their life, the unpredictability of it is unacceptable.  So, they come up with a plan of surprises to keep the future fresh and novel, but it doesn’t really work out at all.

Meanwhile the only thin friction between them has to do with Dan’s dislike of Sylvia’s privileged past and his refusal to let her “Daddy” finance their future.  However, it will turn out that Daddy wasn’t the perfect husband and parent in Sylvia’s memories and this part of the plot saves this novel from being a disaster.  Dan is more than just an understanding husband and lover.  He’s someone who’s been trying to save his wife’s perfect image of her father, sheltering her from the stark reality of a very flawed father.  The ending is quite a shocker for Sylvia but what is more precious is the fact there are some secrets in Dan that are stunning elements and a definite surprise! 

While the second half of this novel “saves the day,” overall, it’s a bit of a strain on credibility.  However, Kinsella manages to pull the reader into an interesting and real part of the relationships that work.  Nicely done, to a degree!

The Queen of Hearts: A Novel by Kimmery Martin

The Queen of Hearts: A Novel.  Kimmery Martin. Berkley Publishing. February 2018. 352 pp.  ISBN#: 9780399585050.

The world of medical students is fraught with exhaustion from working too many hours that any human being should endure and with tension from working in an urban Emergency Room rife with life and death scenes.  It all requires the utmost tenacity, refined medical skills and the patience and calm of a saint!  This is the world of Emma and Zadie, two best friends, who are about to undergo a true test of their solid rock friendship.  Add to that their male friends, Dr. Nick Xenokostas and Graham.  The time element in this story goes back and forth from past to present and back. 

The story concerns scenes that make Gray’s Anatomy and other medical TV shows seem tame in comparison.  For reality isn’t pared back in a novel.  So for the squeamish of heart, you’ve been warned!  Blood, guts and gore as well as actions and reactions force the reader to flip the pages and want to stay up way past a normal bedtime.  No spoilers here but two particular events score the plot with tension and shock!

Exhausted doctors or even doctors handling multiple near-fatality emergency room scenes will make mistakes!  Those inadvertent errors can wreck a person’s career and such a danger is posed for Emma upon the death of a little girl.  The minutiae of that scene will be repeated in her mind as well as the minds of her physician peers and the family of the little girl.  The outcome of this processing will absolutely amaze the reader!

Relationships happen out of all this chaos and non-stop turmoil.  Some make sense and some take twists and turns that make no sense.  But they happen to Emma, Graham, Zadie and Nick and they are life-shattering.  How much wrongdoing can one forgive and should one even consider forgiveness? 

Kimmery Martin is a past medical doctor who knows her professional world well.  This is a well-written, intense, caring, brutal and shocking story that is written with sensitivity and care, enabling the reader to enter this world as fully as possible and root for every character, halting judgment and awaiting the evolution of healing and grace on every page.  Highly recommended medical fiction!