Friday, December 14, 2007

Quick Christmas Panel

Usually I'm a snob about pre-printed panels, but even I couldn't resist this one. I'm a sucker for anything nativity-related for my Christmas decorating. This panel is by Nancy Halvorsen (who doesn't seem to have her own web site, or else I'd link to it) and there's a whole group of fabrics that go with it. I just bought the panel and straight line quilted around the boxes. Sometime after Christmas when I take it down, I'll quilt around the motifs in the boxes to give it a more textured look, but now it's good enough to hang up for what's left of the holidays. This was a very quick little project and very fun. My panel is flannel and I forgot how much lint it leaves behind in my machine. I'll have to give it a good cleaning on Saturday.

I have to take an ornament to a Christmas party Saturday night. I found this free pattern tonight and I'll make it on Saturday. I'll make two. One for the party and one for me!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rising Wind / Cindy Holby. 2007

While I love historicals, I admit that I've tended to avoid American historicals and Westerns. I find I'm rather squeamish about the less savory aspects of our history here in the US. Our historical landscape is littered with broken promises and inhumane behavior. On all sides. We human beings are incredibly cruel to one another (one only has to read the daily paper) and there are days when I just don't want to think about it. But extreme circumstances create great tension for an author to use and it can be well worth it to invest in a book like Rising Wind.

RW takes place in 1774 when the American Revolution was brewing and colonists were in conflict with several native tribes as the colonists moved further and further west. Connor, a former bondsman sent over from Scotland, and Carrie, daughter of a British officer, meet in Williamsburg and are quickly attracted to one another. They are thrown together as they journey into the frontier to Fort Savannah to meet up with Carrie's father. Their small band is attacked by the Shawnee, leaving Connor, Carrie, and 3 others, including Carrie's brother John, to journey the rest of the way alone while they avoid various bands of Shawnee. Although they eventually reach the Fort, they are not fully safe, and Carrie is later abducted by the Shawnee and marched up to present-day Ohio. Connor goes after her to rescue her.

I found myself fully engaged on two levels. First, I simply enjoyed Connor and Carrie and their romance. Secondly, I am familiar with many of the sites mentioned in the book. I live in Ohio, a mile from the Scioto River (site of many Shawnee camps); I have hiked one of the trails in West Virginia not far from Kanawha River valley; and I have driven through much of the territory mentioned. It was not hard for me to understand how incredibly grueling the journey through this area would have been, especially when one had to be wary of potential enemies. This wound up being an absorbing, fast-paced story that reminded me of Pamela Clare's Ride the Fire which I thought was wonderful. I'll be watching for the next book, Fallen, the story of Carrie's brother John. John was not a good guy in this book, so it will be fun to see how Cindy Holby gets John back on the right track.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Untouched / Anna Campbell. 2007

Anna Campbell's first book,
Claiming the Courtesan was an unusual, dark, and controversial book. I read it and blogged about it last spring. I found that one to be a compelling, well-written book and I was anxious to read this one.

Untouched is a very different book, although dark in its own way. The hero, Matthew (a Marquess) has been held in captivity for 9 years while his uncle/guardian convinced the world that Matthew is insane. Thus the uncle has control over Matthew's considerable fortune and property. Matthew lives in a "cottage" that is on what must be a rather large piece of land, surrounded by an unscalable wall. He lives in relative comfort and is able to maintain a scientific correspondence with the outside world. For reasons that aren't entirely clear (or else I missed the reasons), the uncle decides to procure a prostitute for Matthew. Two stereotypically evil henchmen are sent to Bristol to bring back the prostitute. Instead, they accidentally bring back Grace, a recently widowed woman who winds up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Grace is determined to hang on to her virtue. Matthew is determined to keep himself from falling to his uncle's level. Naturally the two are strongly attracted to one another. If they give in to their attraction they fall in line with the uncle's plans. If they resist the attraction, they fight back in some small way, although the uncle threatens Grace's life if they resist too long. Since this IS a romance novel, you can guess what happens. And of course after they finally fall in love with one another they realize that they have to escape the hell-hole that is Matthew's captivity.

I liked this book. I didn't love it, though, and I really, really wanted to love it. I think the writing is excellent and the story was compelling. Once I got into it, I had a very hard time putting it down. Ms. Campbell is a very talented writer. Matthew and Grace are well-drawn and their attraction is believable. The pacing is even and there's great tension as you read to discover how they're going to get out of their predicament and have their HEA. Given how poorly mental illness was understood 200 years ago, it is very plausible that the uncle could get away with what he does to Matthew all those years. How closely would he be questioned?

Lord John, the uncle is a truly vile villain. Ms. Campbell can certainly create some nasty people. At the end, though, Matthew's rescue was achieved so neatly that it felt almost anti-climatic. Here is this great not-your-typical-Regency-historical-romance with an almost typical ending. I don't know why it bugs me, because the rescue makes a lot of sense, especially when we find out who Grace really is. So, is it fair for me to have wanted more? If I got more, Grace would have been a different character. But I react to books with my gut. I can't analyze my reactions to a book as well as others do. In the end all I can say is that I really liked this book. I just didn't love it. And since I still think she's one heck of an author, I'll be first in line again when the next Anna Campbell book is released. I love dark and tense, and she's very good at it.