Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

Title: Bruning Bright

Author: Tracy Chevalier

Publisher: Plume 2008

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 327

Rating: 3/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR; Read Your Book Shelf; Popsugar – Used Book Sale

In the waning days of eighteenth-century London, poet, artist, and printer William Blake works in obscurity as England is rocked by the shock waves of the French Revolution. Next door, the Kellaway family has just moved in, and country boy Jem Kellaway strikes up a tentative friendship with street-savvy Maggie Butterfield. As their stories intertwine with Blake’s, the two children navigate the confusing and exhilarating path to adolescence, and inspire the poet to create the work that enshrined his genius.

I have enjoyed some of Chevalier’s other books, but this one ultimately fell flat. I didn’t find the characters all that interesting. The plot seemed to be nonexistent. The story just didn’t go anywhere and I was bored for most of the pages. The other real redeeming portion of the book were the sections depicting London in 1792. I found myself drawn into the city at a time of great upheaval. The writing comes alive in those passages. Otherwise I was just bored.

A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron

Title: A Flaw in the Blood

Author: Stephanie Barron

Publisher: Bantam 2008

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 289

Rating: 2/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR; Read Your Book Shelf; Popsugar — On my TBR for too long

The acclaimed author of the bestselling Jane Austen mysteries brings rich historical immediacy to an enthralling new suspense novel centered around Queen Victoria’s troubled court…and a secret so dangerous, it could topple thrones.

Totally struck out with this one. My first sign of trouble was that a blurb from Booklist compared it to Carlos Ruiz Zafon. His writing is gorgeous. This writing is mediocre. I didn’t get the same feel for a world as I do in Zafon’s novels. Beyond that, I hated the switching from 3rd person narration from Fitzgerald to 1st person narration from Victoria. The transitions were abrupt and very annoying. The storyline wasn’t very interesting or intriguing. I was bored with the novel. Definitely not worth my time.

The Bargain by Jane Ashford

Title: The Bargain

Author: Jane Ashford

Publisher: Sourcebooks 2014

Genre: Historical Romance

Pages: 416

Rating: 3/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Mount TBR; New to Me

Lord Alan Gresham is the sixth son of the Duke of Langford and, as such, has been allowed to remain at Oxford to pursue his scientific studies. When the prince regent asks him to debunk the “ghost” of a dead actress haunting Carlton House, he cannot refuse, and is forced back to the Society he deplores. But upon meeting the daughter of the alleged ghost, his calm, logical investigation is disrupted.

A fun fluffy romance that turned out to be not so fun. The first 60% of the book was just fine. I enjoyed the characters and the story line. But then things started getting weird. The book tries to stick too many twists and situations into a few pages. Thoroughly disappointed in the last few pages. Really turned me off to the entire book…

The Secret Mistress by Mary Balogh

51wWA28uXdL._AC_UL320_SR192,320_Title: The Secret Mistress (Dudley #3)

Author: Mary Balogh

Publisher: Dell 2011

Genre: Historical Romance

Pages: 406

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; 52 Books – W35

While Lady Angeline Dudley’s pedigree dictates that she must land a titled gentleman, the irrepressible beauty longs for a simple, ordinary suitor. So when Edward Ailsbury, the new Earl of Heyward, defends her honor with unmatched civility, Angeline thinks that she has found true love. Persuading the earl is another matter entirely. From her unconventional fashion sense to her hoydenish antics, Angeline is the last woman on earth for Edward. And yet a stolen kiss awakens something primal within him. Naturally, being a gentleman, he does the right thing after compromising a lady: He offers marriage. The proposal is born of duty, but will Angeline cause Edward to forget about decorum behind closed doors, where sensuality and seduction play wicked games? For a proper wife by day can become a husband’s secret mistress by night, when delicious desire rules.

A fitting conclusion to the trilogy. I wasn’t overly fond of Angeline or Heyward in the first two books, but I did enjoy reading their story in this volume. A very cute couple doing the will they or won’t they dance for almost 350 pages. Finally we get to see them both surrender to their true feelings. Definitely an enjoyable read for this week.

Mistress (Dudley)

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No Man’s Mistress by Mary Balogh

51vUEYpbXCLTitle: No Man’s Mistress (Dudley #2)

Author: Mary Balogh

Publisher: Dell 20001

Genre: Historical Romance

Pages: 381

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books

The dark, devastating stranger rode into the village fair and wagered twenty pounds at the throwing booth — for a chance to win the daisies in Viola Thornhill’s hair. The Gypsy fortune teller had warned: “Beware of a tall, dark, handsome stranger. He can destroy you — if you do not first snare his heart.”

Another fun fluffy romance to occupy my reading time. I think this one was marginally better than the first in the series. Most of that relies on the likability of Ferdinand. Definitely a more likable character than his brother. And Viola was a good foil to his intentions. My only issue with the book was again the ending. I’m sensing a pattern of abrupt endings. I like a bit more drawn out and explained, but oh well. I still enjoyed reading it. On to the last book in the series.,.

Mistress (Dudley)

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The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

51qznXgGnGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Glassblower of Murano

Author: Marina Fiorato

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin 2009

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 348

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; Women Authors; 52 Books – W28

Venice, 1681. Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold. Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon. But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to protect his secret daughter. In the present day his descendant, Leonora Manin, leaves an unhappy life in London to begin a new one as a glassblower in Venice. As she finds new life and love in her adoptive city, her fate becomes inextricably linked with that of her ancestor and the treacherous secrets of his life begin to come to light.

Our book club selection for July. This particular book has been sitting on my shelves for awhile after picking it up for super cheap at Half Price Books. I’m not sure why I can bypassing it as I did enjoy this historical fiction. At first I was hesitant about switching from the past to the present and back. Often those transitions are clunky. Thankfully Fiorato weaves the two stories together in a way that had me intrigued. I learned a lot about glassblowing and Venice. As a character, I didn’t connect that well to Leonora, but I still wanted to read her story. Overall, a decent historical fiction novel.

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The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig

51PZtHEkDHL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Lure of the Moonflower (Pink Carnation #12)

Author: Lauren Willig

Publisher: New American Library 2015

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 475

Rating: 5/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; 52 Books – W27

Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.

All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.

It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.

What a way to end a series! I was in love with this volume from page one. Jack and Jane has always been intriguing characters. It was fitting to end the series with their story.  I loved diving beneath the surface of the Pink Carnation and the Moonflower. As to the story itself, I loved the plot line. We get lots of great action and some actual historical events thrown in. Plus, the reappearance of the Gardener fit perfectly! I was sad to see one of my favorite series end, but it was quite of an ending. Now I feel like I should Lauren Willig’s other books…

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The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig

51eOt1YRQ1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla (Pink Carnation #11)

Author: Lauren Willig

Publisher: Penguin 2014

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 451

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: 52 Books – W26

In October of 1806, the Little Season is in full swing, and Sally Fitzhugh has had enough of the endless parties and balls. With a rampant vampire craze sparked by the novel The Convent of Orsino, it seems no one can speak of anything else. But when Sally hears a rumor that the reclusive Duke of Belliston is an actual vampire, she cannot resist the challenge of proving such nonsense false. At a ball in Belliston Square, she ventures across the gardens and encounters the mysterious Duke.

Lucien, Duke of Belliston, is well versed in the trouble gossip can bring. He’s returned home to dispel the rumors of scandal surrounding his parents’ deaths, which hint at everything from treason to dark sorcery. While he searches for the truth, he welcomes his fearsome reputation—until a woman is found dead in Richmond. Her blood drained from her throat.

Lucien and Sally join forces to stop the so-called vampire from killing again. Someone managed to get away with killing the last Duke of Belliston. But they won’t kill this duke—not if Sally has anything to say about it.

So this book was a bit of an odd one for the series. I enjoyed reading it, but it lacked the spy angle from most of the other books. I did enjoy Lucien as a main character. Sally got on my nerves a few times throughout. And I kept thinking of her as a schoolgirl, not a leading lady. I realize time has passed since the beginning of the series, but it was a bit weird. Overall, I enjoyed the book but definitely not my favorite of the series.

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The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig

5103VnU9PFL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (Pink Carnation #10)

Author: Lauren Willig

Publisher: New American Library 2013

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 439

Rating: 5/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; 52 Books – W22

Colonel William Reid has returned home from India to retire near his children, who are safely stowed at an academy in Bath. Upon his return to the Isles, however, he finds that one of his daughters has vanished, along with one of her classmates.

Because she served as second-in-command to the Pink Carnation, one of England’s most intrepid spies, it would be impossible for Gwendolyn Meadows to give up the intrigue of Paris for a quiet life in the English countryside—especially when she’s just overheard news of an alliance forming between Napoleon and an Ottoman Sultan. But, when the Pink Carnation’s little sister goes missing from her English boarding school, Gwen reluctantly returns home to investigate the girl’s disappearance.

Thrown together by circumstance, Gwen and William must cooperate to track down the young ladies before others with nefarious intent get their hands on them. But Gwen’s partnership with quick-tongued, roguish William may prove to be even more of an adventure for her than finding the lost girls….

Another super fun and enjoyable volume in the series. It was great to see a story revolve around Gwen who’s been a part of the story since the beginning. I loved seeing her open up and get a happy ending. Plus we revisit some other characters including Lizzy and Agnes and especially Colonel Reid. Now I have to get the last two books in the series.

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In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

51KnZUHxlPL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: In the Shadow of the Banyan

Author: Vaddey Ratner

Publisher: Simon and Schuster 2012

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 310

Rating: 3/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Popsugar — About an unfamiliar culture; 52 Books — W20; Women Author

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

Our book club selection for June. I was intrigued by the setting and historical events. I wanted to fall into this book and come out knowing more about Cambodia. Unfortunately, I got bored with the book. After some thought, I realize that I’m not a huge fan of Ratney’s writing style. The narrative meanders here and there, and the meandering just started to annoy me. I don’t mind descriptive writing, but her passages about dragonflies dragged me down. I finished the book but can’t say that this one was for me…

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