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Eloisa James has posted an extra chapter to “Duchess In Love” (free registration required).  It takes the form of letters written by Gina to Cam, from when she was eleven to the start of the book – I liked the book, so it was a nice sweet and short reminder of their story.

A couple of interesting blog posts on covers are up – the first talking about “repeat” covers and the use of stock photography (link via Bookseller Chick), and the second on the Eos blog (Eos being the SF/F imprint of Harper Collins). 

Patricia Briggs posted an excerpt of her upcoming novella in the “On the Prowl” anthology (August 2007).  It’s set in the same world as “Moon Called” and “Blood Bound”, and will start off another series.  Which means we’ll get a new book from Ms Briggs every six months – hurray!  The other authors in the anthology are Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance and Sunny – I really like the first two authors’ books (haven’t read a Sunny book before) so am definitely getting this book when it comes out.

New-to-me Authors

I’ve just taken a look at books I read in May and June so far – 32 books, written by 18 authors.  Probably somewhat skewed by the fact I had a Eloisa James mini-glom (seven books). 

Anyway, out of the 18 authors, five were new to me:

  • Jacqueline Winspear (post-WWI mystery series) – The first book was an impulse buy, mainly because the latest book had just come out and was prominently displayed on one of the front tables in Borders.  So I picked it up, read the first couple of pages, realised it was part of a series, bought the first book, loved it and bought all the rest.  So there you go – position matters!  Oh, and it helps if the entire series is available as well…
       
  • Laura Lee Guhrke (historical romance) – “And Then He Kissed Her” was getting rave reviews all around the internet.  So I bought it – and was not disappointed.  Loved the whole “girl-bachelor” storyline and the chemistry between the h/h.  I’m slightly hesitant about getting her backlist (as there were mixed reviews on her previous books) but I’ll definitely be getting her next book “The Wicked Ways of a Duke” (January 2008).
     
  • Jill Churchill (Cosy mystery) – Again, came across her books while browsing through the Mystery section in a bookstore.  She writes two series, “Jane Jeffry” (suburban single mum series) and “Grace and Favor” (Depression-era brother/sister series), and I bought the first book in each.  Of the two, I preferred the “Grace and Favor” book – maybe it’s the setting that appeals to me more – and have ordered more in the series from Amazon.
     
  • The books of the final two authors, Margaret Ball (SF) and Rob Thurman (urban fantasy), were unfortunately a bit, well, blah.  Ms Ball’s book “Disappearing Act” was okay, but nothing special.  As for Ms Thurman’s book “Nightlife” – I struggled to finish it, and ended up flipping through the last half.  Interesting premise (two brothers, one being a half-demon), but it just didn’t capture my imagination. 

So out of the five, I loved one, and liked another two.  Pretty good going, I think.

As an aside, I’m listening to the Wimbledon coverage in the background – or rather, the non-Wimbledon coverage, as it’s been raining for the past three hours.  After lots of chat about the new-look Centre Court (no roof this year), Andy Murray’s wrist injury and last-minute withdrawal, Federer, Nadal, etc, the BBC presenters have finally resorted to re-screening the French Open final.  I bet they’re using up all their “filler” on the first day!

Since I haven’t mentioned Elizabeth Peters in a while…

In Elizabeth Peters‘ latest newsletter (PDF file), she says that she has a contract for another Amelia Peabody, once she finishes writing the Vicky Bliss book she’s currently working on *happy dance*

I’ve now read the first four Vicky Bliss books, and am trying to track down the fifth book “Night Train to Memphis”.  Unfortunately, it seems to be out-of-print, though a UK publisher appears to be republishing the Vicky Bliss series, so fingers crossed that they’ll get round to it soon!

I didn’t really fall in love with the first couple of Vicky Bliss books – I think, on the whole, Ms Peters’ earlier books lack a certain something.  I felt the same way when I read “Crocodile on the Sandbank”, the first book in the Amelia Peabody series.  I’m not sure what’s missing, it’s quite hard to put it into words (that’ll be why I’m a reader, not a writer).  It’s an emotional thing – I don’t feel the characters as strongly, I suppose.  That’s the nearest I can get at the moment.  They’re still good stories, but they’re not great ones, if that makes sense.

But I absolutely love her later books, and I read “Trojan Gold” (the fourth book, published in 1987) in a single sitting – obviously, it helps that I’m a sucker for romance.  So now I want the fifth Vicky Bliss…

Around the Web

Suzanne Brockmann‘s done a mini-overhaul of her website (and about time too!).  Also on the website is a new excerpt from her August 2007 release “Force of Nature” and the cover for her Christmas novella “All Through The Night”.  I’ve no idea who the main character is in the novella – all the blurb says is a “popular Troubleshooter”.  However, apparently there’s lots of Sam and Alyssa!

Julia Quinn‘s released two more 2nd epilogues – for “Romancing Mr Bridgerton” and “When He Was Wicked”.  I caved and bought them (and had to download the new Adobe Digital Edition software as well – very black and slick-looking) – am off to read them now!

Around the Web

The first two chapters of Charlaine Harris’ next Harper Connelly book “An Ice Cold Grave” (October 2007) is up on her website.  This is the third book – I don’t think the main character is as engaging as Sookie, but it’s still a good series.  Oh, and I’m still wondering about Harper’s and Tolliver’s relationship.

Also on Ms Harris’ website are a couple of pictures of HBO’s “True Blood” set under construction.  I wonder what are the chances of this series making it over to the UK – and not being on Sky?  Fingers crossed.

Anne Bishop posted the German covers of her Black Jewels trilogy.  Oh dear.  I don’t think I would ever have bought them with those covers.  I love the covers for her trade paperback editions though (scroll halfway down this page) – they’re beautiful and I’m seriously considering repurchasing, especially as I seem to have lost my copies somehow.

My June Booklist

I posted some time back about books I planned to buy this month.

Out of those books, I’ve read Jo Beverley’s “Lady Beware”, Eloisa James’ “Desperate Duchesses” and Laurell K Hamilton‘s “The Harlequin”.

On the first two – when I updated my list of books read in June with these two books, I ranked “Lady Beware” slightly higher than “Desperate Duchesses”.  Now I do this after reading each book (or as soon as I remember, anyway), so my grade for each book is independent of similar books.  

Interestingly, even though I ranked “Lady Beware” higher, it was “Desperate Duchesses” that stayed in my mind a couple of days after, while I had to think really hard to remember the details of “Lady Beware” a few days after reading it.  I think Ms James has a real talent for bringing characters alive, even though her storylines may not be as carefully linked together, if that makes sense.  Anyway, both are books that I definitely don’t regret buying.

As for “The Harlequin”, I thought it started off well with a really interesting premise, but sort of fizzled out halfway through.  A mysterious vampire hit squad comes to town, leaving masks to indicate their intention – white if they’re just observing, red if they’ve come for you.  So the scene is set for an intriguing peek into the world of vampire traditions – unfortunately, nothing really happens.  Both in the book and in terms of the overall series arc.  So an okay book, but well, nothing special.

Here’s an interesting review of “The Harlequin”, by someone who’s never read an Anita Blake book before.  IMO, the reviewer completely gets to the root of what’s missing in the later books.

I have Meljean Brook‘s “Demon Moon”, but haven’t properly started it yet – have just dipped in and out of the first couple of chapters.  I remember doing the same thing with the first book “Demon Angel” – I kept on reading bits and pieces until I reached a part that completely grabbed me, and then I ended staying up until 2am until I finished the book.  I think I need to plan it better this time around…

I haven’t seen Julia Quinn’s “The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever”, Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s Justice”, Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Sharing Knife: Legacy” or Janet Evanovich’s “Lean Mean Thirteen” in stores yet – then again, I haven’t been in a bookstore recently.  Actually, I’m not sure if the latter two have been released yet.

Just checked, and no, they’re not officially out yet.  However, there appear to be more excerpts on Ms Evanovich’s website for “Lean Mean Thirteen”.

Also, the first chapter of Ms Bujold’s book is posted on the Eos blog, and if you haven’t yet read the first in the series “TSK: Beguilement”, here are the first couple of chapters.

Back Again…

Sigh.  I’m really starting to hate my ISP.  I’ve had intermittent internet connection for the past week – intermittent being three minutes online before being cut off for about an hour…  It seems to have sorted itself out now, so fingers crossed it stays this way.  I need a new ISP.  Aaaarggghhh…

Anyway, instead of wasting spending time online, I’ve been reading.  Lots and lots of books.  Amazon came through with two deliveries, just in time for the weekend – and guess what?  Five Eloisa James books. 

I’m so on a Eloisa James glom.  And I think it’s a major one now.

I’m not sure why I was in the mood for her kind of historical romances, but I just was.  Actually I do.  I was in the mood for the traditional Big Misunderstanding plot (which probably features in every single book of hers).  And I really love the way she writes about a whole cast of characters and secondary romances, rather than just focusing on the main hero and heroine.  Heck, sometimes I find the secondary romance more fascinating than the main one – in a way, the main romance in Ms James’ books is probably defined as being the one described in the back cover blurb, as opposed to the one taking up the most page time or focus!

So I pretty much finished her Pleasures trilogy and the Duchess quartet in the past week.  I think of Pleasures, I liked “Midnight Pleasures” best, because of the hilariously err… weak plot.  You do have to suspend belief at some point, but if you read it as a comedy farce, it works.  And in the Duchess quartet, I really liked “A Wild Pursuit” – again, really because of the comedic situations the characters end up in.

I thought “Enchanting Pleasures” (the final book in her Pleasures trilogy) was the weakest – not because it was the worst of the bunch, but because she completely changed the character of Peter Dewland who also featured in the first two books.  I thought it was rather inconsistent.  Oh, and I know I mentioned historical accuracies in my last post – I think the thing that bugs me the most is the incorrect usage of titles in her books.  It was most obvious in the Duchess books, when she kept on referring to Countess Godwin all the way through. 

‘Nuff grumbling.  Eloisa James got me through an internet-less weekend!

Bits and bobs, but mainly Eloisa James

Suzanne Brockmann‘s posted a tiny excerpt from her upcoming release “Force of Nature” (August 2007).  It’s a Jules-Robin scene *grin*.  I do like Jules – I hope Ms Brockmann gives him a HEA soon!

31ps9cpqyol__aa_sl160_.jpg21qh6weevxl__aa_sl160_.jpgI posted this on Angie‘s blog, but Charlaine Harris‘ Sookie Stackhouse series has just been picked up by a UK publisher, and they’ve given her a very different type of cover to the cartoon-like ones in the US (UK cover on the left, US on the right).  

For some reason, the UK cover seems very YA to me.  Maybe it’s because the female on the cover looks like a teenager.  Then, of course, you look closer and realise that there are skulls in the background.  Eeeep.  I think I prefer the US covers – they convey the humour and quirkiness of this series a lot better than the UK ones.  The UK cover does signal “paranormal”, but maybe more a dreamy-type paranormal, if that makes sense.

What else?  I’m on a Eloisa James mini-glom – it started off with me trying to find her latest release at Borders, not succeeding, and picking up “Potent Pleasures” and “Duchess in Love” instead (both books are the first of a series).

I picked PP up because of the intriguing premise: the heroine sleeps with the hero at a masked ball, meets him a couple of years later amidst rumours that he’s impotent – she obviously knows otherwise!  What happens next?

What I didn’t realise after I finished reading was that “Potent Pleasures” was the first historical romance Ms James ever wrote.  I went to her website (which is good, btw), and read the behind-the-scenes info on this book.  Interestingly, even though PP was her first romance, it came out in hardcover – methinks her publisher must have really liked her! 

Ms James also posted an article (you have to register to read, though it’s free and quick) on the reader response to this book – she seems to be one of those authors that divide readers’ opinions quite strongly (more on that later!).  What I found really interesting though, is that she appears to have made significant revisions to PP prior to its paperback publication, mainly to correct historical anachronisms.

And I say, thank goodness.  Because I loved the book.  Yes, it revelled in the Big Misunderstanding – heck, I believe there were several – but it worked.  I loved Charlotte and Alex, and their romance.  But if she had left the historical inaccuracies in the book… okay, I don’t care if men wore pyjamas back in those days, but Hookers’ Balls?!! That would have pulled me right out of the story (if you’re wondering, they were renamed Cyprians’ Balls).  Sure, there were rough edges, but really, for a debut novel, it was brilliant.

And why I bought “Duchess in Love”?  Because of the excerpt on the inside front cover:

“My God,” he said appreciatively, “who is that beautiful woman?”

“Which?”

“The one over there, dancing with her husband.”

Stephen leaned to the left so he could see and chuckled.  “Why do you ask?”

“She’d make a lovely Aphrodite,” Cam said dreamily.  “She’s a scandal, though, isn’t she?  I think she’s going to eat her husband alive, right there on the dance floor.”

Stephen straightened and the humor disappeared from his face. “That isn’t her husband,” he said flatly.

“No?”

“No.”  He cleared his throat.

“You are her husband.”

How could you not buy the book after reading that?  Again, I liked it, but out of the two, I preferred PP.  I’ve now ordered the rest of the books from Amazon.  

I mentioned earlier the divided opinions on Ms James’ books.  Well, there was the heated debate on “The Taming of the Duke” mistaken identity plot, but I, for one, really liked the Essex sisters quartet. 

Her latest release “Desperate Duchesses” got a bit of a mauling at AAR, but you know what?  I really enjoyed it.  Especially the tiny twist at the end.  I think that you’ve to be in the right mood for an Eloisa James book.  She focuses so strongly on ensemble-type stories that if you want a straightforward book that focuses just on the hero and heroine romance all the way through, you’re not going to be satisfied.  Yes, she may have spent slightly too many pages setting up the backstory, but after reading “Much Ado About You” (the first in the Essex Sisters quartet), that was what I was expecting.

I’m slightly disappointed the Georgian-era aspect didn’t come through that strongly.  I mean, when I read “These Old Shades” (Georgette Heyer) or any of Jo Beverley’s “Malloren” books, I just know it’s a Georgian.  In comparison, this is, well, almost restrained.  And this is probably just me, but I kept on mentally comparing her Duke of Villiers to Ms Heyer’s Duke of Avon (the dark hero in “These Old Shades”), and unfortunately, he came off a poor second.

But I’m still glad I bought “Desperate Duchesses” – maybe it’s not an A, but it’s definitely a B, and one of the better historicals I’ve read this year so far.  I want to know what happens to the Duke and Duchess of Beaumont’s marriage and I’ll be getting the rest of the books in the series.

Errr… this was meant to be a quick general post, but somehow turned into an Eloisa James ramble.  I think I’m a bit of a EJ fangirl now.  Oh well, am going to bed now – good night all!

Jacqueline Winspear’s “Maisie Dobbs” Series

I mentioned the other day that I came across a new find – Jacqueline Winspear‘s “Maisie Dobbs” books, which is a mystery series set in 1930s London.  There are four books so far in the series: “Maisie Dobbs”, “Birds of a Feather”, “Pardonable Lies” and “Messenger of Truth”.  These books are shelved under Mystery, but really, the mystery plotline is just one element of the books.

Maisie Dobbs is a private investigator, but one with a difference – I’ll be lazy and quote the character blurb from Ms Winspear’s website here:

At thirteen, after losing her mother, the intuitive young Maisie began working as a housemaid. With diligence and determination, she enrolled at Girton College, but after her first year, left to serve her country as a nurse. Following the war, Maisie returned to school to get her degree. She has since established herself as a successful psychological investigator under Maurice Blanche’s rigorous guidance. With the help of an extraordinary intuitiveness about the workings of the human mind, Maisie now has a flourishing practice of her own.

So what makes these books special?

Well, for one, the post-WWI setting.  Now I know there must be lots of books set in this time period, but I don’t actively search for them.  So this is a new setting to me and Ms Winspear does an excellent job of conveying the human impact of a war – the bravery both of those sent to the Front and those staying behind, and the strength needed to pick up the strands of everyday lives after the War.  It’s also very much a time of change, with women gaining a lot more independence, the idea of being “in service” dying out – again, I thought the social history aspects were described really well. 

[As an aside, I do remember reading LM Montgomery’s “Rilla of Ingleside”, which was set during WWI, and sobbing my eyes out towards the end.  That was my favourite among the “Anne of Green Gables” series, though I much preferred her Emily books.]

Getting back to Maisie, she’s a rather likeable heroine.  How she applies psychology to understand people’s motives and emotions is very interesting, and I’m hoping to read more about her training with Maurice Blanche.  I did wonder how likely it would have been for a household maid to attend Oxford in the time period, but the background Ms Winspear sketches in for Lady Rowan Compton makes it rather plausible, and well, I really don’t know enough about this period to say one way or another.

I also love the London setting and period detail in these books – there’s lots of detail about the places Maisie goes to, and also how things were done back then.  And as I read, I mentally place myself in her shoes, and go “Hmmm… so she’s left Warren Street Station and now she’s heading towards Mayfair…” – and because I know the area (sort of-ish), it would definitely jar if Ms Winspear wrote in a logistical impossibility and I haven’t spotted any so far.

At times, Ms Winspear does veer dangerously close to info-dumping, but hey, it’s fascinating.  I never knew how they used to start up motorcars back then!  She also captures the whole “upstairs-downstairs” atmosphere of the times, for instance, how it was just expected you would have maids to draw baths and bring you dinner on trays – I know these are mentioned in many historical romances, but they just don’t come near the detail described here.

I admit I don’t particularly care for the “woo-woo” aspects to the books – at times, Maisie appears to have a psychic ability to read people’s feelings and see past events.  At the moment, I don’t know if it’s just her intuition and psychology training, or whether Ms Winspear’s actually suggesting Maisie has some sort of sixth sense, but this is the one element that pulls me out of the story slightly.

I actually felt that the mystery plot was the weakest point in the first book – more time was spent on the backstory and setting the scene.  However, I was completely caught up in the mystery in the second book, and the third has started off really promisingly.

So if you’re looking for a new mystery series, I would definitely suggest you try these books!

Oh, and because I am a romance reader – I have to say (with slight spoilers ahead for the first book):

I was desperately hoping for a HEA for her and Simon all throughout the first book – even though I knew it wouldn’t happen because I errr… flipped through the pages of the fourth book beforehand, and figured out what happened to Simon.  Ms Winspear’s website alludes to a romance in later books though, so I’ll be hoping for a satisfying romance to come…

Around the Web

Hurray – it’s the weekend!  A lovely sunny one as well, it’s quite a change from the freezing weather we had a week ago when I seriously considered digging out my winter coat.  Unfortunately, I went out last night and am feeling slightly err… delicate today, so I’ve just spent the afternoon having a bit of a nap instead of making the most of the sunshine.  Oh, and this post may not be hugely coherent.

But anyway, moving on:

In case you haven’t heard, a few peeps in romance blogland have started a new site called Romantic Advances – the aim being to collate info on all upcoming releases in one place.  It looks very cool indeed and the tagline “Building the TBR mountain… one book at a time” is hilariously spot-on!

Author Tracy Grant who I mentioned the other day has a new website – there’s more information on her upcoming release “Secrets of a Lady” (“Daughter of the Game” released under a different title).  I actually like “Daughter of the Game” better as a title – while “Secrets of a Lady” suits the storyline just as well, it strikes me as being a bit too generic.  “Daughter of the Game” on the other hand, is a bit more evocative and mysterious.  I’m guessing that it’s referencing the Great Game (though actually, isn’t that between Britain and Russia?  My knowledge of history is abysmal).  Regardless of the title though, it is a good book and I really really hope Ms Grant gets to publish her third book in her Charles/Melanie series, which is titled “The Mask of Night” – now I like that title *grin*

Mary Jo Putney has posted an excerpt of her upcoming release “A Distant Magic” (July 2007) on her website.  Also, two great pieces of news from her latest newsletter:

In one last bit of news—A Distant Magic will be my last hardcover for the foreseeable future.  I’m changing publishers and will be returning to paperback originals, which I’ve wanted to do for some time now.  Romance readers like to buy their books, and you can  buy four paperbacks for the price of one hardcover.  I want my books to be affordable!

The first book won’t be out until early 2009 (no date or title yet), and it will be classical romance with no fantasy, since that’s what the editors wanted when my agent and I went shopping for a new house.  So those of you who have been wishing for that can celebrate!

Wheeee… cheaper books AND a historical romance with no paranormal elements – the bad news being that it’ll only be out in 2009, I suppose.

And Jo Beverley is also working on a new Georgian – she mentions this in an interview on the Word Wenches blog, posted to promote her latest paperback release “Lady Beware”.  I finished it the other day and really liked it – Ms Beverley always delivers a good story.  I loved the romance and chemistry between Thea and Darien, and I liked reading Darien’s angst-y viewpoint.  My main quibble is that it wasn’t entirely a standalone book – many characters from her previous Rogues books make an appearance to help resolve the main plot conflict.  Not a major minus point overall, so yes, it was a good read.