Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TBR Day. Lord of Danger / Anne Stuart. 1997

I bought this used over 2 years ago because I saw several references to it by readers who considered it one of their favorite Anne Stuart books. It has been sitting in the TBR pile all this time and I was glad for the excuse to finally get it out and read it. I was not disappointed.

Lord of Danger is a medieval-set historical, the story of Alys of Summersedge and Simon of Navarre. Alys is half-sister to Richard de Lancie. Simon is a magician who works for Richard. Because of his dark looks, crippled hand, and mastery of the dark arts, everyone is afraid of Simon except for Richard. Alys and her younger sister Claire were raised in a convent and have been brought home to Summersedge so Richard can marry one of them to Simon. This will tie Simon to Richard so that Richard can continue to make use of Simon's talents. Simon, who manages to quietly manipulate Richard, has his own reasons for agreeing to the match. He views his association with Richard as temporary and will move on again when the time is right.

Claire is the more beautiful of the two sisters. But Alys, who may appear meek and timid, is smart and bold because of her fierce determination to protect Claire from an unwanted marriage. When Simon meets the two sisters he is immediately attracted to Alys and decides that she will do just as well and he tells Richard that he will marry Alys. While Alys had already made up her mind that she would marry Simon (to save her sister), she finds herself not as reluctant to do so as she had anticipated.

Simon had been on one of the Crusades. And it's that experience that has left him scarred emotionally and physically. Yet in the aftermath of the Crusade he had an opportunity to learn the healing arts from Arabs who he lived with for a time. Alys considers herself a healer, but she is largely ignorant and relies more on folk remedies than science. This interest gives them something in common and here is where we see Alys' practical, compasionate nature, and Simon's softer side (which he works hard to hide). I like the way these characters come together naturally so nothing feels contrived or forced.

What follows is a largely character-driven romance as Alys and Simon get to know each other and find ways to avoid Richard's malicious scheming. This book has many of Anne Stuart's trademarks all neatly wrapped together: the dark, tortured hero who has seen and done horrendous things in the past; a sweet, yet determined heroine; and a nasty villian who must be defeated. In addition, there's a secondary romance involving Claire and one of Richard's knights. It also has the typical Anne Stuart abrupt ending where Alys and Simon come together in just a few sentences. These elements are done very well and I was reminded again that I sure do enjoy the way Anne Stuart writes.

All in all this was a very satisfying read. In many ways the structure reminded me of the various books in the "Ice" series. Since there is an assassination plot at hand, you could almost consider this a medieval romantic suspense. But the suspense aspect doesn't drive the whole of the book the way it does in the "Ice" books. Still, it adds a nifty layer to the story. Highly recommended.

Remember, today is TBR day. You can find a complete list of participants here. Be sure to check them all out. Together we'll probably increase the size of our piles, not shorten them!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Baby Quilt in progress

So I should be working on The Kid's quilt in the sidebar. But in 8 days there's a baby shower at work for a friend. Can I whip up something in time? For the last 3 nights I've been cutting out 6 inch squares and here's how they're laid out up on the design wall. Before I can start piecing them together I have to finish my taxes. Which I would need to start first.

And I'm going away this weekend. And I have to read the book for next Wednesday's TBR Day. And I'm sure there are a ton of other things I really need to be doing. But nope, I'm working on this quilt for Jenn. Yes, she's having a girl.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Waffle Time Table Runner

I fell in love with this pattern some time ago. I think it is simply elegant. I had seen it made up at more than one shop, usually in batiks, and it was all I could do not to buy it. I have soooo many patterns coming out the wazoo, I really didn't need another one. Then I thought of the perfect excuse! I knew I'd be needing a wedding present, so I caved and bought the pattern. I even finished the gift on time for the wedding. I finished my version today at 2:30. The wedding began at 3:30. Fortunately I live 1.5 miles from the church where said wedding took place. Best of all, I made this entirely from my stash.

So here is my version below. After I finished piecing it, it wasn't laying as flat as I would have liked. I knew I'd have to make the quilting denser in the border to take up the excess fabric. I did a simple meander in both the center and outer border, and some straight lines in the middle border. I was extremely pleased at how flat it turned out so I didn't need to block it and I was able to wrap it and have enough time to get dressed for the wedding. Which was a very nice event, by the way.

Oh, and I started Pamela Clare's Unlawful Contact while on the treadmill this morning. This puppy's going to be hard to put down! I'm loving it so far.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Simply Perfect / Mary Balogh. 2008

You know what? I actually liked this one. I really didn't expect to. It's not great and it definitely suffered from Bedwynitis. First time readers will no doubt be annoyed with the plethora of secondary and tertiary characters who took up space and had little to do with Claudia and Joseph. I'd have been annoyed if I hadn't read the previous books. Maybe this is what most readers want these days--revisiting ad nauseum old favorite characters.

Anyhow, what I did like was the part that was JUST Claudia and Joseph. On the surface here are two people that should have no interest in one another. Yet they're drawn together when Joseph asks Claudia to meet his illigitimate daughter, Lizzie. These sections were the best part of the book and very enjoyable as Claudia and Joseph interact with Lizzie, and one another. In Lizzie's presense they are themselves and their attraction felt real, not forced.

If you're a Mary Balogh fan you're going to read this whether I recommend this or not. If you jumped off the train already, you probably don't want to jump back on for this book. With luck her next series has nary a Bedwyn in sight. And maybe that will mean that the focus can remain on the hero & heroine.

I've got a table runner to finish for a Saturday wedding....

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Silent Run / Barbara Freethy. 2008

I find myself trying more and more romantic suspense. I think I'm spoiled by Karen Rose and her very tight, and tense books. This was my first book by Ms. Freethy and while it didn't have near the same degree of suspense, I still found this to be quite a page turner and I found it nearly impossible to put down. I ended up finishing it in less than 24 hours. The house is STILL a pigsty. Oh well.

Silent Run is the first of 2 linked books released back to back. The second book, Silent Fall is out now and I'm sure I'll be reading it before the end of the month. It's the story of Sarah, a woman on the run who, after a car accident, finds herself in the hospital with amnesia. A man named Jake shows up and it turns out that Jake is the father of her baby--who is missing. Sarah had mysteriously left Jake 7 months ealier, taking baby Caitlyn with her and Jake had been frantically searching for the 2 of them ever since. He's hurt and angry, and desperate to find his daughter. Within a short time it becomes evident that someone is trying to kill Sarah, but because of her amnesia she has no idea who or why. So there's a double mystery--who is Sarah and where is Caitlyn?

Over the course of the book we learn that Jake and Sarah had been very much in love. But apparently they hadn't really known one another very well. And that comes to light when they need to solve the mystery of Sarah's past. Slowly Sarah's life is revealled to us as her memory comes back in bits and pieces. And Jake's feelings need to be resolved after the fact that Sarah disappeared so completely with no explanation as to why.

I found Jake's conflicting feelings to be very believable and while amnesia is a plot device some people really dislike, I enjoyed the way it was used here. Sarah's had a traumatic past and recovering her memory is not easy for her. I liked both characters and thought the pacing was even and fast. Like I said, I had a hard time putting it down. Recommended.

Jacobian Rose

This was the kit I bought during last summer's shop hop, pieced over Christmas vacation, and quilted at the retreat. I finally got the binding on and have it hanging for spring.