Friday, August 7, 2009

Phyl's 5 Phaves from July, Pt. 2

Many of us readers have particular authors that we gravitate toward. Their writing and their stories have that certain "something." It was no surprise as I compiled this list to realize that the 5 authors represented here are among the ones I most look forward to reading. I have gushed over a few of them in this blog previously. Without further ado, last month's Phaves:

5. Loving a Lost Lord by Mary Jo Putney. When I started reading romance again about 6-7 years ago, Putney was one of the first authors I discovered. Her Shattered Rainbows is one of my top 10 reads of all time. Putney took a detour into the paranormal (with mixed results in my opinion) and then a publisher switch meant a two-year gap between books. It was with a great deal of anticipation that I read her first straight historical in some 5 years. The hero of this story is the victim of an accident that leaves him with amnesia. He suddenly appears in Mariah's life just when she's in the need of a protector. She tells him that he's her husband and nurses him back to health. I was prepared to dislike this because their relationship begins based on a pretty serious lie. Fortunately the reveal comes well before the end of the book. There is, naturally, a bit of a mystery to solve and the need for Adam to recall who he really is. Adam's amnesia is a convenient plot device, but I think Putney handles it well. While not as emotional as some of her previous books, this is still an entertaining read by an excellent author. I'm so glad she's "back!"

4. A Scotsman in Love by Karen Ranney. This is a Victorian-era romance with a most unusual heroine. Margaret is a woman from a poor and common background. Her artistic talent was discovered by accident when she was a young girl. A patron made it possible for her to receive training and eventually she becomes a renowned portrait artist serving in the Russian court. As the book opens we find her living alone, almost hermit-like, unable to paint and apparently barely hanging on to her sanity. She is renting a cottage on the estate of an Earl who's been away for several years. The Earl has neglected his home and property, living over in France grieving the accidental and tragic deaths of his much-loved wife and daughter. When Margaret and McDermott meet they are angry, hurting people. What follows, of course, is how their relationship brings healing to each of them. This is a rather dark book, but deeply emotional--just the way I like it.

3. Till There Was You by Lynn Kurland. This is Kurland's latest entry in her MacLeod/De Piaget time travel/historical series. Full of familiar characters, this time it's Zachary Smith who finds himself "sent" back in time to Robin De Piaget's castle where he meets Robin's daughter Mary. Mary is trying to escape an unwanted betrothal and Zachary just wants to get back to the 21st century. Naturally there are a few obstacles to overcome. And as Mary and Zachary fall in love, their relationship complicates things even further. This is a nicely plotted book with a hefty word count (you can tell because the font is small and there's not a lot of white space). I found myself deeply engaged in this story and was glad for the length that let me enjoy it longer. I have to say, though, that I needed that genealogy in the back of the book to keep track of all of the secondary characters at first. And I do not think I would have enjoyed this half as much if I hadn't read all of the preceding books in the series.

2. His Captive Lady by Anne Gracie. Gracie has become a real favorite of mine. Her books are so well-written and she has the relatively rare ability to write a book that makes you both laugh and cry. Lady Helen (Nell) is a young woman who has been badly beaten down by life, but she is determined to reclaim something very special to her. Meanwhile Harry is back in England after many years at war; he is weary and just wants to start his horse farm. He falls for Nell instantly and senses that she needs his help. I love how Nell's story is gradually revealed to us as she gradually opens up to Harry. This is just a gem of a story. It was released late last year; I'm sorry I waited so long to read it. Her next book, To Catch a Bride is due in September.

1. What Happens in London by Julia Quinn. This is a rather light-hearted book full of Quinn's trademark humor. Sir Harry is Lady Olivia's new neighbor. Harry spends all day translating Russian documents for the government. Olivia's bedroom window overlooks Harry's office and she begins to spend time spying on him, especially when she hears the rumor that he's a murderer. Harry catches Olivia spying on him and when they finally meet they find themselves attracted to one another despite the initial negative impression each has about the other. They get to know one another and that journey is just delightful. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, especially over some lurid popular fiction and the Russian delegation. The scene where Harry proposes formally to Olivia is original and priceless. This is Quinn on top of her game. I wouldn't call it her best, but it is what I've come to expect from her.

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