Sunday, May 27, 2007

Castle of the Wolf / Sandra Schwab. 2007

Castle of the Wolf is an unusual book, because it can’t be easily pigeon-holed into a specific type of story. It’s not a paranormal, but does have just a hint of the paranormal in it. I wouldn’t call it a gothic novel, yet it certainly has moments with a distinct gothic feel. It’s not a comedy, but there were many humorous moments, particularly in the beginning when Cissy arrives at the castle. The hero and heroine are common archetypes in historical romance-land—he’s disfigured from the Napoleanic wars (lost a leg), and she’s the spinster sister who refuses to settle for living under the thumb of her bitchy sister-in-law. The year of its setting is fairly common for a European historical (1827), but the place most definitely is not common (Germany’s Black Forest). All of these elements are deftly woven together by the author. In addition there are all sorts of literary references. Some I recognized, but many I didn’t. And it doesn’t come across as pretentious. The heroine is well read and educated so it seems natural for her to quote bits of poetry or refer to fairy tales and legends, because it’s part of her character. The reason she has this unusual education for a woman of her era makes sense and doesn’t come across as contrived.

I won’t bother outlining the plot, because others have done it elsewhere far better than I could. But I will mention two of the things I liked best about the plot. First and foremost, and the factor that makes it a convincing romance, is that you see the h&h grow and change in the course of the book. This is especially true of Cissy, who has to dig deep within to find the fortitude to reach for what she wants out of life. Fenris puts up one wall after another. It is interesting that when you think the final wall has been breached (after the marriage is consummated) you discover that he has it within himself to push Cissy away yet again. He’s that terrified of making himself vulnerable. It worked for me, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it bothered some readers. The other thing I really liked that I want to mention is that Cissy doesn’t fall for the hero right away. He’s rude and her initial reaction of dislike seems perfectly normal. Instead she’s attracted to Fenris’ younger brother Leo, who is, on the surface, charming and sophisticated. It takes a little while for Cissy to see beneath the veneer, but again, it all comes across as normal.

The paranormal element comes in the form of occasional extremely short interludes between some of the chapters. The final one was totally cool.

I loved her first book, The Lily Brand, and her second book lived up to the first. I pretty much devoured this one once I got into it. It rates a solid A from me. I’d like to mention that I am absolutely amazed that English is not Ms. Schwab’s native tongue. I didn’t notice any grammatical or typographical errors. She may have one heck of a copy editor, but you have to think that a large part of the quality is due to the author herself. Unfortunately, Ms. Schwab’s website doesn’t mention what’s coming next. Hopefully it won’t be 2 years until her next book is published.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Does this look like a jigsaw puzzle to you?

I was showing this off to a few people recently and at least 2 of them told me that it looked like a jigsaw puzzle to them. One asked me if I'd done it deliberately. Well, no, I hadn't, but I don't think I mind that it looks that way. I used bright purple thread for the quilting and a medium-weight cotton batting. My meandering quilting stitching is getting better with hardly any hitches. So I suppose the smooth curves, bright thread, puffy finish can make you think of a jigsaw puzzle. I was just playing and practicing. It's kinda' nice when it all finishes up so well. I do like this one. It looks nice in the powder room, too. It tones down that rather unfortunate shade of mint green :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Behind Closed Doors / Shannon McKenna. 2002

I've been reading alot of romantic suspense lately. And here I used to think I was such a die-hard historicals junkie. But since I've loved suspense novels since I was a teen, it really is a natural fit to move into romantic suspense. All the tension with a guaranteed HEA. Really, it doesn't get any better than that. Anyhow, I'm not sure where I saw the recommendation for this one, but I'm glad I was able to find it at the library. I'll be going back for the rest in the series for sure.

Raine Cameron is a shy, timid woman who suffers recurring nightmares that center on the suspicious death of her father. The nightmares plague her to the extent that she decides to go after her father's brother, Victor (whom she hasn't seen in 17 years), to see if she can uncover the truth. Unwittingly, she stumbles into the middle of a secret investigation by Seth Mackey who holds Victor partially responsible for the death of Seth's brother. Seth and Raine meet and there is an instant attraction between them.

As I said, Raine is timid and shy. Seth is domineering and crude. On the surface it sounds like a wallbanger waiting to happen. Instead we're treated to a journey of discovery as each of them grow and change as a result of meeting the other. Raine becomes strong and expressive; Seth reveals his tender side. There's this fabulous scene midway through the book where Raine is describing her pirate queen fantasy to Seth (and making him act it out) and the whole scene becomes a metaphor describing how they feel about one another and what they really want out of their relationship. I considered this book a rare treat in seeing 2 people with serious trust issues open up to one another. Naturally there are the inevitable bumps in the road (trust doesn't come that easily after all) and we do have that nasty Victor to worry about. Perhaps the only real flaw is that the entire book takes place in an extremely short span of time. Granted this is fiction, but I still find it hard to see all of this stuff happen so darn quickly. Shoot, if it makes me exhausted, how must our lead characters feel? But that's just a minor quibble. Basically it took me no time at all to become enthralled by the book and I found it hard to put down. It definitely rates an A for me.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Slow Month

I just realized that here it is May 13 and so far I've only read 6 books. I'm way off the pace and this week isn't going to afford me much reading time. I have to buckle down and clean the house as I'm hosting a bridal shower next Sunday. It'll be worth it, but I do hate giving up prime reading time for something so fleeting as a clean house. And I've been sewing a little more. I need to post a picture, but that isn't happening tonight either.

No matter. As if anyone would even see it.