Just because it’s funny…

I have mixed feelings about Death Comes to Pemberley (glorified Pride and Prejudice fan fiction that was adapted into a miniseries). The casting was pretty weird, and oh, the anachronisms!

However I generally liked this version of Mr Darcy, but now I’ve seen this utterly bizarre picture that makes his head look deformed, I might be changing my mind!

I know historically accurate hairstyles can be funny, but even so!

Death Comes to Pemberley

Northern Heat by Helene Young

Northern Heat by Helene Young  by Helene Young

In steamy northern Queensland, Conor is living under an assumed name and rebuilding his shattered life. Working at Cooktown’s youth centre has given him the chance to make a difference again, and a chance to flirt with Dr Kristy Dark.

After tragedy tore her family apart, Kristy fled to Cooktown with her feisty teenage daughter, Abby. She hoped being part of the small community would help them both heal, but Abby’s sports coach is turning out to be a compelling distraction. When a severe cyclone menaces the coast, threatening to destroy everything in its path, tensions come to a head – and the weather is not the only danger in Cooktown. Cut off from the world and with her life on the line, Kristy will have to summon her courage and place her trust in Conor, or they’ll both lose someone they love.

Northern Heat by Helene Young by Helene Young

It sounds odd, but the thing that really struck me about this book is how well-structured it is. The information comes out gradually, but not too gradually. Characters are introduced as they need to be, but the story never seems crowded with them. Writing this kind of crime/suspense/romance book can be tricky because it is hard to find the right balance. So few authors do.

From a technical point of view, I’m sure this is Helene Young’s best book so far. Another great thing about this author is that she uses settings that she knows and clearly loves. It’s not possible for an author to always use places they have been to (Middle Eastern warzones, for example!), but you can always tell when someone is using a setting they care about and haven’t just looked up on Google.

There is a mature romance at the centre of this book. Not that the characters are old, but that they’re grounded, and have realistic backgrounds, and know a thing or two about life. Reading about them really illustrates how unrealistic a lot of characters in other books are. I think there are a few Australian authors around at the moment who approach their characters as people rather than “romance novel people”. It makes a difference.

Young writes books that are a good balance of all the elements of a suspense story with strong romantic elements. I never feel like the romance is getting in the way of the plot, and I never feel like the plot is getting in the way of the romance. Because of that, I think this is the sort of romantic fiction that appeals to a wider audience.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

After what Laura Vennetti and her son have been through, she’s avoided all contact with the police. Then her son brings detective Ethan Winter into their lives. Despite how appealing – and gorgeous – he is, it’s safe to say Ethan isn’t her dream man…

Immediately, though, Laura can see how different he is from her late husband. Ethan is thoughtful, considerate and a good influence on her son. Add in the intense attraction between her and Ethan and the temptation to give in is irresistible. To her surprise, Laura feels the wounds of the past healing, making her wonder if she could love this cop forever.

To Love a Cop by Janice Kay Johnson

This guy is supposed to be six-four, and attractive. I hate how they always use REALLY tall women and regular-sized men for their covers!

Well, this was brave!

You know, if any other author had written this book, I would have put it down after a few pages. It tackles some big, heavy, US-centric issues, and I know few people could have made it work. However, I love Janice Kay Johnson’s books, and so I made myself continue, and I’m glad I did.

This book is about US gun culture. That is the heart of the story. The heroine’s late-husband left his gun out, their little son accidentally killed someone with it, and then later the husband committed suicide. The sort of news headline that travels across oceans and even makes it onto television here.

How in the world do you write this story without upsetting half of America?! I think the author managed it.

I have never lived in a gun culture, and even coming from a military family, I do not know a single person who privately owns a gun or would ever consider buying one. Guns don’t factor into my existence, and so I look on things like gun shows and the NRA with total bewilderment.

I think this was a factual, unbiased representation of the situation. After all, major characters both own guns and teach gun safety classes, but guns are by no means glorified. It was as balanced as I think it could possibly have been.

On top of all the gun stuff, Johnson is just a plain good writer. She researches the bejesus out of her topics and can write people of all genders, ages and cultures convincingly. She writes realistic characters and believable romances. She has little nuances in their actions so they seem like real people, not creations from a book.

If there was one thing in this one I wasn’t so sure of, it was the way the heroine’s family did a total turnaround after years of heavy, horrible treatment, just because she spoke to them for thirty seconds. It was the only thing in the book I couldn’t believe in.

However, this was yet another good read by this writer.

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Lady Vice by Wendy LaCapra

Lady Vice by Wendy LaCapra

Not every lady plays by the rules…

Lady Lavinia Vaile knows what happens to a woman who puts her faith in society. For her, it was a disastrous marriage to a depraved man—one she threatened to shoot when she left him. Now Lavinia lives outside of society’s strict conventions, hosting private gambling parties. It’s only when her husband is shot dead that Lavinia finds herself in terrible danger…

A former judge in India’s high court, Maximilian Harrison will do anything he can to help Lavinia. In the darkest of times, he held on to thoughts of her and the love they once shared. Now he risks his own position in society―along with his ambitions―in order to clear her name. Yet as desire reignites between them, Lavinia remains caught up in secrets and shame. Her only salvation is to do the unthinkable…and trust in both Maximilian and love.

Lady Vice by Wendy LaCapra

Wendy LaCapra is a promising new historical romance author who weaves lots of action and excitement into her story, but in the future I hope she will watch her Americanisms! Another one of those concept series where everyone’s in a secret society of some sort, the first book, Lady Vice seemed to be a really quick read. I felt that with so much going on and so many characters, it would have benefitted from being a longer book, taking place over a longer period of time. There’s a really interesting story here, but it happened too fast.

Set in the 1780s – love the Georgian era! – this book incorporates my favourite trope: the reunion romance. Our heroine was forced into an awful marriage that included sexual abuse and humiliation, while our hero has spent all this time thinking he was dumped for a better offer. When we meet our lead characters he is on his way to inform her not only has her husband been murdered, but she is a suspect.

As I said, this is a great story with a lot going on. However, the reunion happened over the space of a couple of days. There was no time for years of pain and misunderstanding to be dealt with. I would have liked a much longer timeframe for the story to be done justice.

And argh, but those Americanisms! The past participle of spit is spat. A full stop, not a period, ends a sentence. Too often the book used the modern American trend of dropping adverbs from sentences.

The history was well-researched but the language needed a lot more work.

My impression of this “first book” is that this is an author with great ideas and some solid research, and with a bit more work I think she could become an author I’d love to read.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Christmas Reads: Bringing Maddie Home by Janice Kay Johnson

Bringing Maddie Home by Janice Kay Johnson

Reviewed HERE

Bringing Maddie Home by Janice Kay Johnson

There’s always one case

The moment police Captain Colin McAllister sees her on TV he knows. She may call herself Nell Smith, but she is Maddie Dubeau – the girl who went missing from Angel Butte, Oregon, years ago. She’s haunted Colin, and now the adult version of her is so captivating, he can’t stay away. He wants to help her recover her memories – even solve her case – without crossing a professional line.
But distance becomes impossible when the threats against her escalate. It’s clear someone is determined that Nell never remembers what happened to Maddie. Colin must keep her safe so that he can finally bring her home to his home.

Christmas Reads: One Frosty Night by Janice Kay Johnson

One Frosty Night by Janice Kay Johnson

Unexpected Christmas plans

Olivia Bowen would rather avoid this holiday season. Even her satisfaction at improving the family business doesn’t make up for the loss of her beloved father and the sudden tension with her mother. Olivia questions how much longer she can live in her hometown. And her decision is further complicated by Ben Hovik.

She should keep her distance—he broke her heart years ago. Yet his compassion and their still-sizzling attraction are seductive. Could she be falling for him again? When she spends Christmas with Ben and his teenage son, she wonders if this might be the first of many more…

One Frosty Night by Janice Kay Johnson

Janice Kay Johnson delivers “complete” stories. Her books have a solid, realistic romance, an excellent mystery, important and believable secondary characters, and they reveal their secrets slowly. I haven’t disliked anything I’ve read by her, and One Frosty Night was a really engaging read.

I love a bit of heartache in a story, and our hero here has amends to make when it comes to our heroine. A few years older than her, he dumped her for another girl when he went off into the big, wide world to study. She doesn’t see why she should be giving him a second chance now.

But there’s much more to the story than that. We start with a teenage girl found dead in the woods. Gradually it seems everyone in the town knows something, and everyone has a secret to hide. There’re tensions between mother and daughter and secrets between father and son. There’re a lot of things going on in this small town.

Yes, this book takes place at Christmastime, but I think the cover is a little silly compared to the depth of the story!

One thing I didn’t believe was that the heroine – who is the same age as me – would have been communicating via email through her adolescence. I didn’t even know what email was at the age she was apparently doing it, and we sure didn’t have the internet!

Recommended for people who like believable romances, small town mysteries, or who are tired of Christmas cheese and want something set in the season without the usual themes.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Juliet by Anne Fortier

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?

From Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.

Juliet by Anne Fortier

This is one of those books I love for the concept. I’ve read it a couple of times and there’s just something about (good) retellings of classic stories that appeals.

Anne Fortier clearly has a love of Italy, and her reworking of the Romeo and Juliet story to cover centuries is smart, taking lots of twists and turns.

Juliet gives our lovers a second chance in the present, but they’re not a couple of irresponsible teenagers now. I like that this version strips away some of Shakespeare’s absurdities (earlier versions of the story are much more sensible than the rushed famous version!).

I don’t often enjoy the first person perspective because it puts some severe limitations on the parts of the story that can be told. I want to get inside the heads of other main characters, particularly when there’s a romance aspect of the story involved. In the case of Juliet, it worked for the mystery aspect, but not so much for the romance. It’s very hard to understand why our Romeo of the present is falling in love when we see the whole thing through “Juliet’s” eyes.

Speaking of the romance, Romeo and Giulietta this may be, but romance is not the main focus of the book. While I don’t enjoy lengthy declarations of love, I would have welcomed a bit more on that front, considering the subject matter! I also didn’t need lengthy sex scenes, but the fade-to-black was pretty jarring for our present day characters!

I do love the setup for the present day part of the story. Our two leads are suspicious of each other and do not even LIKE each other at first. There’re a lot of secrets being kept and trust is slow to come.

Juliet has a lot going for it, and I can forgive the slightly dry romantic aspect because the concept is so good.