Thursday, July 23, 2015

Newport (Book Review)

Please join Jill Morrow, author of Newport, as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours:
Publication: Trade Paperback, William Morrow, July 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 1920s Newport, Rhode Island

Plot: When Adrian de la Noye, a prestigious Boston attorney, is summoned to Newport to draft a new will for a wealthy client he is surprised to learn the elderly but very affluent Bennett Chapman is engaged to a lovely woman half his age, considered a fortune hunter by his adult children. Chapman’s children believe the fiancée, Catherine Walsh, and her niece Amy, are charlatans because they have conducted seances in which Chapman’s deceased wife allegedly appeared and commanded Chapman to marry Catherine. As if this did not present a dilemma for a legal professional, Adrian recognizes Catherine instantly as Cassie Walsh, daughter of his family’s cook, from his long ago past. Adrian and his young legal associate, Jim, who falls hard for the elfin Amy, are determined to learn the secrets behind the Walsh women’s appearance and mysterious channeling of the deceased Mrs. Chapman, although it becomes clear to the reader that Adrian has some painful secrets of his own he would prefer to keep hidden...

Audience: Fans of historical fiction about the 1920s.  This also reminded me of the movie, Magic in the Moonlight, which I recommend.

What I liked: This was a fun and fast paced read, set in the very romantic setting of a glamorous Newport mansion, although it is set mostly away from the glitzy parties of the rich and famous. I enjoyed the mixture of the 1920s story (a period I find very intriguing) with secret upon secret: mysterious séances; dastardly adult children trying to spoil their father’s alleged happiness with a second wife; an idealistic young lawyer learning his hero has feet of clay; and the flashbacks to young love. There was even an attractive and sensible character named Constance (a name usually held by the villainess)!  I also liked the character of the judge who appears late in the story.  The author left the ending open for a sequel.

What I disliked: There was a big reveal and it was surprising – Cassie’s past and elements of her friendship with Adrian – but it was based on a premise so completely unconvincing that it weakened the end of the book for me (see spoiler below). Because I couldn’t understand Cassie’s motivation, I found it hard to like her, and I did not approve of Adrian’s keeping secrets from his client that affected his representation. Also, it wasn’t plausible that Adrian could have attended Andover and Harvard, and subsequently changed his name while living in and having a successful career in Boston. As I can tell you, I can barely walk down the street in Boston without seeing a Harvard classmate and if I changed my name, those classmates would start asking why and would not allow me to go on practicing law unchallenged.  I am sure it was just the same a hundred years ago!  Long before the Internet there were gossipy friends and neighbors so if you are going to change your name, find a small town far from the East Coast and all your fellow alumni (wait, isn’t that was the Unabomber did?). Although what seemed like holes in the plot left me a little disgruntled when I finished reading, I enjoyed the book and, after all, isn't the best compliment to an author when you are still ruminating over the twists and turns several days later?
Source: I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. Please visit other stops on the tour and connect with the author on Facebook and Twitter.
Tuesday, July 7th: BookNAround
Wednesday, July 8th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, July 10th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, July 13th: The many thoughts of a reader
Tuesday, July 14th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, July 15th: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, July 16th: Walking With Nora
Friday, July 17th: View from the Birdhouse
Saturday, July 18th: Luxury Reading
Monday, July 20th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Tuesday, July 21st: Raven Haired Girl
Wednesday, July 22nd: Charmingly Modern
Thursday, July 23rd: FictionZeal
Monday, July 27th: A Book Geek
Spoiler: I can understand a book (and have read several) where the heroine seeks revenge on her rapist or assailant but I have a hard time understanding plotting or participating in an undertaking to marry his father and to subject a child to the knowledge that she was fathered by such a vile person (probably a hard secret to keep indefinitely even if he does not recognize you). Perhaps it would have been better just to demand financial support (albeit many years before DNA testing)? And how did the deceased mother know her son was a rapist? Are we supposed to believe that there are no secrets on the other side of the veil? I suppose that is as likely as the communication from beyond the grave in the first place!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Olivay (Book Review and Giveaway)

Title: Olivay
Author: Deborah Reed
Publication: Lake Union Publishing, July 2015, available in trade paper and eBook
Genre: Fiction
Plot: Olivay has not recovered from the tragic death of her husband a year ago, but one night she picks up a stranger and brings him home. Unfortunately, in the morning, her new acquaintance Henry doesn’t want to leave. Olivay is regretting the impulse that led her to spend the night with him when there is an explosion outside. Suddenly, all of Los Angeles is in chaos and Olivay herself is covered with broken glass. Henry, the mysterious stranger, cares for her tenderly, but bit by bit reveals information about himself, including that he has been stalking Olivay for some time. Confused and injured, Olivay retains enough of her wits to catch Henry in lie upon lie, and she begins to wonder exactly who is this man?

Audience: Fans of literary suspense

What I liked: This is an unusual but extremely readable book. The author does a good job of conveying Olivay’s misery at the loss of her husband – particularly, the fact that he was killed at a time when they had been quarreling. Henry is transformed from a slightly overeager one night stand to someone who begins to seem very dangerous indeed. I am afraid it is hard not to be slightly critical of someone who brings a total stranger into her home, but although I had certain suspicions I wasn’t totally sure what was going to happen, and I appreciated the element of suspense.

What I disliked: I had a hard time deciding if I liked or disliked this book. In some ways, it left me cold because both Olivay and Henry were so peculiar and unappealing but in others I really admired the creativity of the author.
Source: I received this book in return for an honest review.  Please join Deborah Reed as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours
The publisher has provided a copy of Olivay as a giveaway – please leave a comment and I will pick a winner at the end of the tour.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Tide Watchers (Book Review)

Title: The Tide Watchers
Author: Lisa Chaplin
Publication: William Morrow, trade paperback, June 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction
Plot: Winter 1803: one woman allegedly stands between Napoleon and the fall of Great Britain. Daughter of an English baronet who just happens to be a spymaster, Lisbeth eloped with a young Frenchmen who seemed charming until they were married. When her husband abandons her, she takes a menial job in a tavern as a barmaid, determined to somehow reclaim the infant son he has taken from her.

A seasoned spy known as Tidewatcher, Duncan apprenticed under Lisbeth's father and pledged to keep his mentor's pretty daughter safe—a promise complicated by Napoleon Bonaparte. The British believe he is planning an attack, and Duncan is sent to search for signs of invasion on the French coast—where he draws dangerously close to adventurous and unpredictable Lisbeth.

A sensational new invention may shift the tide of a French victory. A brilliant and eccentric American inventor named Robert Fulton has devised a deadly weapon that can decimate an enemy's fleet. To protect English ships, Tidewatcher must gain control of Fulton's invention and cross enemy lines . . . but he cannot do it alone. Left with no other options, Duncan enlists Lisbeth's help in outwitting the American inventor and uncovering Bonaparte's secret plans – in return, he will help her take her son back to England.

Going undercover for the handsome and duty-bound spy, Lisbeth risks her freedom and her life as she navigates double agents and submarine warfare to outwit the greatest military tactician in history. The only question is . . . . who can she trust?

Purchase Links

Audience: Fans of historical fiction, readers who enjoy books by Lauren Willig and Tasha Alexander

What I liked: This is a fast paced adventure combining several elements I enjoy: espionage, complicated family relationships, and women contributing to war efforts. Lisbeth is quick-witted (albeit far too passive) and willing to help defeat Bonaparte although her priority always remains reclaiming her child. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, so I found this novel and its unusual setting entertaining. By far the most interesting aspect of the book, however, was finding Robert Fulton in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars – how had I never known that, despite being born in Pennsylvania, by 1797 he was in Paris, an 18th century scientific center, where he began to design torpedoes and submarines.

What I disliked: I did not find the plot very convincing: I didn’t understand why Lisbeth’s husband courted her in the first place and why he lost interest so quickly; why her father and brothers allowed her to suffer with a known villain, far from home. Duncan’s complicated heritage was confusing, and it seemed unlikely someone would marry his chambermaid mother without any blood connection, just to secure an heir to torment. There seemed to be far too many plot elements floating around without proper setup or resolution, although I suppose the author is already planning other books in the series.  A skilled editor would have helped the author with the anachronisms and her lack of familiarity with this century and Revolutionary France.
Please join Lisa Chaplin as she tours the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours. I received this book in return for an honest review.