Review: The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn (2017)

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My Rating: 3 stars                                          Read: 3/24/2017

Blurb:

While you were sleeping…

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He’s unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier’s life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie…

I told everyone I was your wife

When Edward comes to, he’s more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out six months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is—even if he does not recall her face—and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he’d always assumed he’d marry his neighbor back in England.

If only it were true…

Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself—completely—to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.

My Review:

I enjoy a good regency romance now and then, particularly when the dialogue is sharp and witty, and there’s some nice humor in the mix. A few of my favorite regency authors are Tessa Dare, Georgette Heyer, Lisa Kleypas, and Eloisa James. I have not read Julia Quinn before.

This story is a bit unusual in that it takes place in the American colonies during the Revolutionary War. The British occupy New York Town and the heroine, Cecilia, travels there to find her brother, a British soldier, after her father dies and her odious cousin tries to press her into marriage.

I enjoyed the unusual setting of a very early NYC and I learned a few things too. For example, I never realized that the name “Harlem” comes from  early Dutch settlers (named after Haarlem in the Netherlands). I like being taken to new places/times in fiction. And it was interesting to read a regency that didn’t take place in the usual English setting.

The story goes that Cecilia, a British country miss, corresponded with her brother Thomas regularly while he was in the military, and he shared his letters with his friend, Edward Rokesby, an earl’s son. Edward began adding little notes to Thomas’s replies, and Cecilia began adding paragraphs addressed to Edward. Thomas also has a miniature of Cecilia that Edward likes to stare at when he thinks Thomas isn’t looking. So the H and h do have some history, even though they’ve never met in person.

When Edward wakes up in hospital with a head injury, he finds the real life Cecilia at his bedside, and everyone is calling her “Mrs. Rokesby”. He buys into her story that they married. He can’t remember the past three months of his life and surely, sweet Cecilia wouldn’t lie about something like that (Edward, being very honored, can’t even imagine such a thing).  Besides, he recalled he’d developed a tendre for her due to her letters.

This sounds like a charming set-up for a story. However, to be honest, as this lie of Cecilia’s dragged on and on, I had a hard time with it. Yes, she lies about being Edward’s wife initially to get into the hospital to help care for him, since her brother is missing in action and she knows no one else in New York Town. However, once he’s awake and they take up residence in a nearby hotel, the fiction becomes quite ridiculous and, frankly, inexcusable on her part.

Edwards gives Cecilia plenty of opportunities to tell him, even to “annul” the marriage since he can guess it was never consummated. But Cecilia acts like an indecisive ninny and ignores all these opportunities to come clean. Her reasons for doing so did not ring true given how honorable Edward was. He would not have hurt her if she revealed the truth, and he would have helped her look for her brother anyway, especially since Thomas was also his dear friend. Obviously, the true reason the lie is not revealed is because it’s the main hook of the story, and the author wanted to drag it out. But a set-up involving a lie like this is tricky territory and unfortunately, in this case, the author failed to make me buy the reasons for the continued lying and, honestly, betrayal, and therefore Cecilia ends up looking very bad indeed. Let’s just say in terms of strength, honor, and level-headed thinking, she is no Elizabeth Bennet.

I also found the characters a bit flat. Edward is honorable and upright, but not very fleshed out. Cecilia is described as very beautiful, of course, but Edward is apparently devoted to her because she’s “clever”, only this is rarely shown in her dialog and certainly not in her actions. She is supposed to be strong (according to Edward), because she came to New York in search of her brother, but her lying and waffling made it difficult to see her as a strong person. I felt her characterization was very muddled and inconsistent.

If you can ignore those issues, the intent of this plot line is a “he thinks we’re married but we’re really not” sexual imbroglio in which the young virgin miss is ensconced in a hotel room with her fake husband and sexy times ensue. This is the aspect of the story that most readers will enjoy, and it was fun enough only I personally found it a bit difficult to get immersed in it when I just wanted to smack the heroine all the time and felt sorry for Edward having his trust so abused.

Overall, this was an interesting regency because of the setting, and the story kept me reading to the end. If you are less picky about realism or truthfulness in your heroines, you may well enjoy this romp more than I did.

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Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton (2017)

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My Rating: 4 stars                                          Read: 5/3/2017

Release Date: June 1, 2017

Blurb:

Michael Crichton, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Jurassic Park, returns to the world of paleontology in this recently discovered novel—a thrilling adventure set in the Wild West during the golden age of fossil hunting.

The year is 1876. Warring Indian tribes still populate America’s western territories even as lawless gold-rush towns begin to mark the landscape. In much of the country it is still illegal to espouse evolution. Against this backdrop two monomaniacal paleontologists pillage the Wild West, hunting for dinosaur fossils, while surveilling, deceiving and sabotaging each other in a rivalry that will come to be known as the Bone Wars.

Into this treacherous territory plunges the arrogant and entitled William Johnson, a Yale student with more privilege than sense. Determined to survive a summer in the west to win a bet against his arch-rival, William has joined world-renowned paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh on his latest expedition.  But when the paranoid and secretive Marsh becomes convinced that William is spying for his nemesis, Edwin Drinker Cope, he abandons him in Cheyenne, Wyoming, a locus of crime and vice. William is forced to join forces with Cope and soon stumbles upon a discovery of historic proportions.  With this extraordinary treasure, however, comes exceptional danger, and William’s newfound resilience will be tested in his struggle to protect his cache, which pits him against some of the West’s most notorious characters.

A page-turner that draws on both meticulously researched history and an exuberant imagination, Dragon Teeth is based on the rivalry between real-life paleontologists Cope and Marsh; in William Johnson readers will find an inspiring hero only Michael Crichton could have imagined. Perfectly paced and brilliantly plotted, this enormously winning adventure is destined to become another Crichton classic.  Continue reading “Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton (2017)”

Review: Sex in the Sticks by Sawyer Bennett (2017)

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My Rating: 4 stars                                          Read: 4/15/2017

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Blurb:

Wake up and feel the wood! In the first of a series of irresistible standalone romances from New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett, a city girl rediscovers love and lust in the Alaskan wilderness.

Valentine French may be the sassiest dating columnist in New York City, but the abundance of metrosexuals in her adopted metropolis is seriously cramping her style. Where are the beefy all-American boys? Hoping to find some inspiration, Val heads to Alaska, where the men outnumber the women fifteen to one and wrestle grizzly bears for sport. Or so she can only imagine. Suddenly the most eligible bachelorette in a town full of horny lumberjacks, Val is writing her best columns ever. But if she doesn’t get her nose out of her laptop, she just might miss out on Mr. Right. Continue reading “Review: Sex in the Sticks by Sawyer Bennett (2017)”

Review: The Mermaid Murders by Josh Lanyon (2016)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 4/11/2017

Release Date: 2016

Audiobook narrated by Kale Williams released June 2016

Blurb:

Special Agent Jason West is seconded from the FBI Art Crime Team to temporarily partner with disgraced, legendary “manhunter” Sam Kennedy when it appears that Kennedy’s most famous case, the capture and conviction of a serial killer known as The Huntsman, may actually have been a disastrous failure.

The Huntsman is still out there…and the killing has begun again. Continue reading “Review: The Mermaid Murders by Josh Lanyon (2016)”

Review: The Elementals by Michael McDowell (1981)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 4/2/2017

Release Date: 1981

Audiobook narrated by R.C. Bray released June 2016

Blurb:

After a bizarre and disturbing incident at the funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the McCray and Savage families look forward to a restful and relaxing summer at Beldame, on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where three Victorian houses loom over the shimmering beach. Two of the houses are habitable, while the third is slowly and mysteriously being buried beneath an enormous dune of blindingly white sand. But though long uninhabited, the third house is not empty. Inside, something deadly lies in wait. Something that has terrified Dauphin Savage and Luker McCray since they were boys and which still haunts their nightmares. Something horrific that may be responsible for several terrible and unexplained deaths years earlier – and is now ready to kill again . . .

A haunted house story unlike any other, Michael McDowell’s The Elementals (1981) was one of the finest novels to come out of the horror publishing explosion of the 1970s and ’80s. Though best known for his screenplays for Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, McDowell is now being rediscovered as one of the best modern horror writers and a master of Southern Gothic literature. This edition of McDowell’s masterpiece of terror features a new introduction by award-winning horror author Michael Rowe. McDowell’s first novel, the grisly and darkly comic The Amulet (1979), is also available from Valancourt Books. Continue reading “Review: The Elementals by Michael McDowell (1981)”

Review: In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson (2017)

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My Rating: 5 stars                                          Read: 4/2/2017

Release Date: Jun 6, 2017

Blurb:

For readers of Joe Hill, Cormac McCarthy, and classic Anne Rice, a chilling tale of suspense and horror set deep in the Texas desert.

Travis Stillwell spends his nights searching out women in West Texas honky-tonks. What he does with them doesn’t make him proud, just quiets the demons for a little while. But his nights soon take a terrifying turn in a desert cantina, where Travis crosses paths with a mysterious pale-skinned girl in red boots. Come the morning, he wakes weak and bloodied in his cabover camper, no sign of a girl, no memory of the night before. Continue reading “Review: In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson (2017)”

Review: The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (2017)

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My Rating:stars                                          Read: 3/31/2017

Blurb:

The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror.

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how?

The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. Continue reading “Review: The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (2017)”