Tuesday, January 25, 2011

One Wicked Sin / Nicola Cornick. 2010

If you're in the mood for a Regency historical that is outside the norm, here are some of the reasons why you should go pick up this book:

  • The hero, Ethan, is an officer in the French Army. He's not spying or pretending. He really believes in the French Revolution (so did Americans if you'll recall). He's the illegitimate son of an English Duke. The Duke is none too happy about his son's chosen profession. And when Ethan turns up as a prisoner of war, the Duke has something he can use to keep Ethan in line. 
  • The heroine, Lottie, is divorced. Her husband cast her off when she had one too many scandalous affairs. At the end of her rope, she decides to go to work in a brothel because she had always liked sex and thought she could be good at being a courtesan. Only it's not quite as easy as she had imagined.
  • If you like the history part of your historicals, there's lots of interesting stuff here about how prisoners of war were treated. It highlights how class played a huge role. Gentlemen had a degree of freedom (parole) within a prescribed area. They could have a mistress. Everyone else was confined in the worst imaginable conditions.
  • Sex (and lots of it) comes first, and then the relationship deepens.
  • Ethan and Lottie do not trust one another and they're honest about it.
  • Parts of the story are quite humorous. Other parts are quite emotional.

This book is the second in Cornick's Scandalous Women of the Ton series. Lottie was introduced in the first book and she wasn't exactly the most likable character in that book. Lottie keeps looking for love in all the wrong places and when OWS opens, Lottie is divorced, broke, without a friend to turn to, and forced to sell herself in a brothel. Because of her reputation, many of the men are eager to purchase her services. Enter Ethan, who needs a scandalous woman to serve as his mistress in order to cover up his clandestine activities as a French prisoner of war.

It is no secret that Ethan and Lottie are using one another. Ethan needs her to distract the authorities who are trying to watch his every move. Lottie needs a way out of the brothel. They also use one another for sex and begin to connect emotionally as well. I was impressed with Cornick's ability to take a character I hadn't liked much in the previous book and make me change my mind. Lottie is bold and able to stand up for herself. She marches into the little town where Ethan is a prisoner and plays her role to the hilt. Ethan can't help but admire and appreciate her. As the book progresses, Lottie has to make some difficult choices. She is not a fool and she knows that in the long run she has to be careful to take care of herself. Meanwhile, Ethan clearly has his own agenda, although he's not sharing it with Lottie. It takes a lot for them to become emotionally vulnerable to one another and because it comes slowly, it is very believable.

I really liked this unusual and compelling story. I love especially how it broke all of the normal "rules" for a Regency romance. And it stood quite nicely all on it's own. Alex and Joanna from the previous book (Whisper of Scandal) make a brief appearance toward the end, but you don't need to have read that book first.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TBR Day -- A Convenient Wife / Carolyn Davidson. 2001

I sort of quit doing any TBR posts midway through 2010 and I waited until yesterday to decide whether to join in this year. But I really need to work my way through that pile of books sitting in the closet. TBR Day is a good way to jump start that. My thanks to Super Librarian Wendy who is hosting the challenge this year!

The very kind Janet W. sent me a small pile of books a while back and this category Western historical was among them. I think it's the only category in my TBR pile that is NOT a Regency. Make of that what you will, LOL.

Carolyn Davidson's A Convenient Wife was first published in 2001 as part of a series called "Montana Mavericks." As near as I can tell, there are just over 50 books in the series and they were republished in 2009 for Harlequin's 60th anniversary. Mine has this cover (complete with baby bump):

And according to Amazon it is being released in print again Feb. 1.

Ellie Mitchum is a naive and sheltered young woman who is stuck on her father's ranch cooking and cleaning for him. He's a pretty nasty character and when Ellie finds herself pregnant he kicks her out. The baby's father, wanting nothing to do with Ellie and her baby, had left town and Ellie has few options. She winds up becoming the housekeeper for Winston "Win" Gray, the town doctor. When it's clear her reputation is further compromised by her living and working in his home, Win decides to marry Ellie.

Ellie is a talented, kind-hearted young woman with little to no self-esteem. She blossoms when given the opportunity to take care of Win and his home. It's not long before they've fallen in love, but the road to lasting peace is bumpy. There are separate crises involving Ellie's father, and later, Win's mother. There's a fair bit of action in this book with the various subplots.

All-in-all I found this to be an engaging story with characters I really liked. Despite Ellie's initial lack of self-esteem, when push comes to shove Ellie stands up for herself, even when Win would rather she didn't as he sees it as his role to protect her. I liked how Ellie's character was written.

Some of it was a little over-sweet and near the end when Ellie's father has a change of heart it didn't come across as very believable. Fortunately, that's a minor part of the story. Truly, I was fully engrossed and found it a very enjoyable read. I recommend it if you're in the mood for a Western historical.

The Montana Mavericks series was penned by an impressive list of authors including Cheryl St. John, Christine Rimmer, Susan Mallery, and Lisa Jackson, to name but a few. In reading this one I could tell that at least two couples mentioned in the book were probably in books of their own. I enjoyed this book enough that I will probably try to read some of the other books in the series. The Kindle store shows 3 book bundles for titles 1-12 and a handful of others are available as single titles. I also see that some are historicals and the rest are contemporaries. I may have to go shopping later...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Frieda Anderson Workshop project finished

Here's a look at my latest finished project. This is from a class with Frieda Anderson, a gifted teacher and quilt artist who creates beautiful little quilts and does amazing things with color. I learned a new way to fuse fabric and I loved the design. I ended up doing a ton of machine quilting to make the flowers come alive, so I got lots of practice working on that. I love the texture created by the machine quilting. I find myself touching it all the time. If you like this, you really should visit Frieda's site and see the wonderful quilts she has created (click on the gallery link). 

Here are some close-ups of the machine quilting:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Phyl's 5 Phaves from December

Two of my favorites last month were re-reads. In some respects it was a flat month for reading with the busy-ness of Christmas, traveling, etc., etc. I read a non-fiction book that had me in stitches and I just loved. I'm a fan of ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning and Mike Greenberg wrote a book a few years ago called Why My Wife Thinks I'm an Idiot : the Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad. He writes about becoming a father and it was a fun read. That book actually came out 3 or 4 years ago.

5. Sold to a Laird by Karen Ranney. This was a "phave" back in November of '09. Here's what a wrote then (and it was still how I felt when I read it again): If you've read this blog for any length of time, it's no secret I'm a big Karen Ranney fangirl. I love her work. It's emotional and there's usually a plot twist I never see coming. This book is no different. Lady Sarah is the daughter of an autocratic, ruthless duke. The duke insists that Sarah marry a wealthy inventor, Douglas Eston, and Sarah is left with no choice but to obey. Douglas goes along with it because he falls in love with her the moment he sees her. (I love these kinds of stories.) Soon after they are married, tragedy strikes and as Douglas cares for Sarah through the tragedy she, in turn, grows to love him. With Douglas' help, Sarah learns more about herself and her family, and finds an inner strength that she didn't know she had, although Douglas sees it from the first. The third book in this trilogy is due at the end of March.

4. The Year of Living Scandalously by Julia London. You know, this is a book that quite possibly shouldn't have worked. But it did, and I think it's a tribute to the strength of the writing that it did. Keira Hannigan is an extremely impulsive young woman who agrees to help her cousin Lily by traveling to England to visit the estate Lily has inherited. Lily had lived there a long time ago and Keira bears enough resemblance to Lily that when Keira arrives she is mistaken for Lily. Rather than correct everyone, she allows them to believe that she is Lily. But soon she is forced to make one decision after another as "Lily" and she realizes that she has built a house of cards that could come tumbling down any moment. What saves this book is that Keira knows she's made a huge mistake and when an old friend of hers, Declan O'Connor, shows up, Keira isn't shy about asking for help. There's a mystery that's entwined in the story. Since this is the first in a series, the mystery isn't solved at the end of the book. Unfortunately there's a pretty huge gap until the next book is released. I recommend it, but I wish I'd waited awhile to read it. I prefer to read connected books close together. My brain leaks.

3. Emily and the Dark Angel by Jo Beverley. This is one of Beverley's earliest books, first published I think in 1991. It won a RITA and 20 years later I have to say that it really holds up well. This was a re-read for me. I first read it some 5-6 years ago and stumbled upon the re-issue in the library, so I checked it out and devoured it pretty quickly. It's a short, easy read. Emily is a spinster in the hunting-mad town of Melton Mowbray, trying to keep her home intact while she waits for her brother to return from the war against Napoleon. Her father is paralyzed, her aunt is eccentric, and so it is left to Emily to manage the estate. Piers Verderan arrives for the annual hunt, accidentally runs into Emily, and is quickly smitten, even though Emily isn't a particular beauty and seems far too practical. He pursues her relentlessly and it's a sweet courtship indeed. I highly recommend it.

2. Unforgivable by Laura Griffin. I have now read 5 books by this author and only once has she not landed on my "phaves" list. I think it was a near miss that time. Unforgivable is the latest in her Tracers Series, romantic suspense novels that blend police procedure and sophisticated forensics with just enough romance to make them all satisfying reads. This book tells the story of Mia Voss, a DNA specialist who becomes a target as she works with detectives to solve a particular string of violent murders involving call girls. One of the detectives she is working with is Ric Santos. She's worked with him in the past and thought for awhile that there might be something between them. But Ric had backed off and she'd seen little of him until one night she is car-jacked and she barely escapes with her life. I found this to be a riveting read and a nice change of pace from some of the reading I'd done earlier in the month.

1. Marry Me by Jo Goodman. This is, of course, the highly anticipated sequel to Never Love a Lawman. We're back in Reidsville, Colorado, where Dr. Cole Monroe has just moved to town with his younger sister. Shortly after settling in, Cole starts calling on some of the locals who live outside of town. On one of those calls he stumbles upon a severely ill young woman. Cole eventually takes her back to town where he can oversee her recovery and along the way the two fall in love. This is an extremely simplistic synopsis, but I loved how the story unfolded. To say more would give away some spoilers that help make the story so unusual. While Rhyne recovers fairly quickly from her physical injuries, it turns out she has a lot of emotional garbage to overcome as well. Her recovery from the latter is helped by her relationship with Cole who is a very patient hero. Once again I was enchanted by Goodman's writing, her humor, and her ability to create a memorable story.

Friday, January 7, 2011

It's starting to look like a quilt top

My block of the month project is now 3/4 finished. I've made 8 blocks, 2 rows of sashing, 8 sets of block connectors, and the first part of the center medallion. Tonight I sewed some of the blocks and connectors together. Then I put it all up on my design wall:

I believe that tomorrow I'll receive the fabric and instructions to finish the center medallion and I will be able to sew the whole center unit together. From there the 4 corners and the rest of the border. Still lots of space to fill in to make it look like this:

Actually, mine will look slightly different. The shop owner who is running this program made a few fabric substitutions to create more contrast. As a result, I arranged my blocks a little differently to improve the symmetry.

But dang! I am totally caught up. Yea me.