Death Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd

death-comes-to-the-fairDeath Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St. Mary Mysteries #4
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: Kurland St. Mary and Kurland St. Anne in England
Published by Kensington
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: November 29, 2016)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
304 pages
Grade: A-
Synopsis: It’s harvest time in the village of Kurland St. Mary as Lucy and Robert prepare to take their vows—but a murderer has taken an unseasonable vow of vengeance . . .

As Miss Lucy Harrington, daughter of the village rector, and Major Sir Robert Kurland plan their nuptials, the major is beginning to wonder if he’ll ever hear wedding bells. He’s seen complex military campaigns that involved less strategy, and he’s finding Lucy’s meddling family maddening.

When the body of Ezekiel Thurrock, the church verger, is discovered crushed by a stone gargoyle that has fallen from the bell tower, the tragic death strikes a somber note and the wedding is delayed. But the evidence suggests this was no accident, and Lucy wonders if bad blood at the village fair had anything to do with the man’s mysterious demise, since there was much bitterness over Ezekiel’s prizewinning vegetables.

As Lucy and Robert uncover long-standing village feuds, the town’s dark secrets begin to take their toll and the couple soon finds they too are in grave danger . . .

Initial impressions

  • Best book in the series so far. The mystery is more complex and the story is more than just the mystery.

Pluses

  • I like how the series moves the personal lives of the characters forward even as mysteries unfold. In this case Robert and Lucy are planning their wedding. They are frustrated that they must take into account many other people. They would like to keep things simple!
  • I like the regard and love Robert and Lucy show for each other. I also like how Robert has grown and changed throughout the series in his regard and respect for Lucy. Lucy has also come to respect Robert and realize what a good person he is.
  • I wasn’t sure how the mystery would be solved for quite some time!
  • During the fair Robert judges the area produce. He judges it without regard for who wins and loses even though Lucy tries to tell him it’s serious business to the area residents and can cause feuds. He doesn’t heed her warnings and awards most of the prizes to one person. He’s very surprised at the anger, grumbling and talk about a “rigged” system from those who didn’t win!
  • I like the different attitudes Robert and Lucy have. Robert is idealistic–he believes giving the prize to the best carrot or turnip is the right thing to do. Lucy is pragmatic–she understands the politics of the villages, that the villagers have long memories and that spreading the prizes among many people will give everyone something to brag about. Who is right?
  • The murders look like they could be accidents and no one seems to believe or care when Robert and Lucy think they could be murders. At first it’s hard to see why the murders took place.
  • The story shows the importance of knowing the history of the people and their region when those people live in an area for a long time–even when no one seems to know the origin of feuds and resentments.

Minuses

  • The book is named after the fair, but the fair is only in the first few pages of the book. However, what happens at the fair does seem to cause some of the events.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I hope there are more books in this series!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Goodreads): “Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and youngest daughter.. ”

Reading Challenges

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Waiting on Wednesday: August 3

I am participating in Waiting on Wednesday hosted by Breaking the Spine. This gives me a chance to show the books I’m looking forward to in the next few months.

Check out Breaking the Spine for more information.

………………………..

death-comes-to-the-fair-by-catherine-lloydDeath Comes to the Fair

by Catherine Lloyd

Series: Kurland St. Mary Mystery #4

Genre: Historical Mystery

Publication date: November 29

Synopsis: It’s harvest time in the village of Kurland St. Mary as Lucy and Robert prepare to take their vows—but a murderer has taken an unseasonable vow of vengeance . . .

As Miss Lucy Harrington, daughter of the village rector, and Major Sir Robert Kurland plan their nuptials, the major is beginning to wonder if he’ll ever hear wedding bells. He’s seen complex military campaigns that involved less strategy, and he’s finding Lucy’s meddling family maddening.

When the body of Ezekiel Thurrock, the church verger, is discovered crushed by a stone gargoyle that has fallen from the bell tower, the tragic death strikes a somber note and the wedding is delayed. But the evidence suggests this was no accident, and Lucy wonders if bad blood at the village fair had anything to do with the man’s mysterious demise, since there was much bitterness over Ezekiel’s prizewinning vegetables.

As Lucy and Robert uncover long-standing village feuds, the town’s dark secrets begin to take their toll and the couple soon finds they too are in grave danger . . .

…………………………

The reasons this book appeals to me:
  • I’ve read the previous three mysteries in this series and really enjoyed them.
  • Lucy and Robert are finally getting married and I want to see that!
  • Prizes at a fair causing feuds? Sounds interesting!

Death Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd

death-comes-to-kurland-hallDeath Comes to Kurland Hall by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St. Mary Mystery series #3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: Kurland St. Mary in rural England, 1817
Published by Kensington, 2015
Library book
281 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: As wedding bells chime in Kurland St. Mary, a motley group of visitors descends on the village—and with a murderer on the prowl, some of them may not be returning home…

Lucy Harrington has returned to Kurland St. Mary to help with her friend Sophia Giffin’s wedding. But her homecoming is made disagreeable by the presence of Major Robert Kurland, whose bungled proposal has ruffled Lucy’s composure, and a meddling widow who has designs on her father, the village rector.

Wary of the cloying Mrs. Chingsford from the start, Lucy has doubts about the busybody’s intentions with her father. But everyone else seems to think they make an ideal match—until the courtship is curtailed when Mrs. Chingsford is found dead at the bottom of a staircase. It’s clear that it wasn’t an accident, and in hopes of finding the culprit, Lucy and Robert call a truce and begin scrutinizing the wedding guests.

But the widow left behind plenty of enemies, and when one of them is the next to turn up dead, Lucy and Robert discover that the truth is far more scandalous than anyone could have imagined…

How was she supposed to deal with someone who asked the most outrageous questions with a smile on her face? She could only pray her father wouldn’t be taken in by the sweetness for too long before he discovered the sour underneath. But then men often seemed incapable of seeing much at all. . . .

and

There was a bitter sound to her words, but Lucy couldn’t blame her. Unwanted or unwed female relatives had very few options if their menfolk died.

Initial impressions

  • I love the characters in these books. The mysteries are good, too!

The story

  • Lucy returns to Kurland St. Mary to help her friend Sophia with her wedding. Sophia found someone to love in London, but Lucy didn’t have any proposals that suited her.
  • Guests begin to arrive for the wedding and since it’s a small village some guests stay at the vicarage.
  • It turns out the guests at the vicarage are Mrs. Chingford and her daughters. Lucy’s father knew Mrs. Chingford when they were both younger and he is pleased to see her again. Lucy hopes he’s not taken in by her.
  • Mrs. Chingford seems to know lots of gossip about the wedding guests and enjoys confronting people. However, Lucy’s father is enamored and announces his engagement to Mrs. Chingford.
  • When Mrs. Chingford falls down a staircase Lucy and Robert declare a truce and try to discover if this was an accident or a murder.

Pluses

  • Before I read the second book I saw that this book is about a wedding and, of course, I thought it would be Lucy and Robert’s wedding!
  • Lucy is happy to be back in her village. She didn’t like London very much, but she’s also sad she didn’t find a suitor in London.
  • Lucy and Robert declare a truce to their annoyance with each other to try to figure out how Mrs. Chingford died.
  • I like the mystery in this book as well as the wedding preparations.
  • We get to know more about several characters from earlier books and see more about their lives and motivations.
  • I do like the bits of romance in these books. I also like that these are more than the romance and that I like the characters a lot.
  • I like Lucy who is outspoken and a “managing” female. Robert is often impatient and always seems to say the wrong thing to Lucy. However, there’s some chemistry there and I hope they discover it soon!

Minuses

  • Sometimes the banter and insults between Lucy and Robert goes on too long. However, I do enjoy them and the story so I don’t let that bother me too much.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • The fourth book in the series–Death Comes to the Fair–comes out in November 2016. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Goodreads): “Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and youngest daughter.. ”

Reading Challenges

Death Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd

death-comes-to-londonDeath Comes to London by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St.Mary series #2
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: London and Kurland St. Mary in England, 1817
Published by Kensington, 2014
Library book
259 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: A season in London promises a welcome change of pace for two friends from the village of Kurland St. Mary until murder makes a debut. With the reluctant blessings of their father, the rector of Kurland St. Mary, Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna leave home for a social season in London. At the same time, Lucy’s special friend Major Robert Kurland is summoned to the city to accept a baronetcy for his wartime heroism.

Amidst the dizzying whirl of balls and formal dinners, the focus shifts from mixing and matchmaking to murder when the dowager Countess of Broughton, the mother of an old army friend of Robert, drops dead. When it’s revealed she’s been poisoned, Robert’s former betrothed, Miss Chingford, is accused, and she in turn points a finger at Anna. To protect her sister, Lucy enlists Robert’s aid in drawing out the true culprit.

But with suspects ranging from resentful rivals and embittered family members to the toast of the ton, it will take all their sleuthing skills to unmask the poisoner before more trouble is stirred up.

London was far more tiring and intimidating than Lucy had expected. As the Hathaways had engaged an extremely competent staff, she also had very little to do, which was disconcerting in itself. Apparently, living like a young lady at home was remarkably boring.

and

His assumption that the accumulated wisdom of generations of women was untrustworthy was slightly annoying, but not uncommon in this age of new science. Apparently, in order to be considered worthy, everything had to be proved anew. It seemed ridiculous to her. If willow bark cured a headache, and had done so for centuries, then why would one suddenly doubt it? It was typical of men to rewrite something just for the sake of it.

Initial impressions

  • The second book in this series continued to make me laugh sometimes and read quickly through the suspenseful parts.

The story

  • This book begins a few months after the end of the first book.
  • Lucy Harrington and her sister Anna leave for London for the season in hopes of finding husbands.
  • Much to his dismay Major Robert Kurland is summoned to London to receive a baronetcy for his heroism in the war.
  • They are all at Almack’s when a dowager Countess suddenly collapses and dies. It looks like poison and Major Kurland and Lucy Harrington again work together to solve the mystery.

Pluses

  • I read the first book in this series late last year and enjoyed the story and characters a lot.
  • The London setting is well done and though Lucy would like to find someone to marry she isn’t very happy to be in London. She finds it boring–at least until a murder happens–and she misses the countryside.
  • I like the characters in this series–Lucy, Robert, Anna, Sophia (Lucy’s friend)–even Robert’s former betrothed, Miss Chingford, is interesting and irritating at the same time.
  • There’s some romance in the book since Lucy, Anna and Sophia are in London all trying to find husbands. Of course, after the first book I expected Lucy and Robert to finally wake up and discover each other, but though they make some progress I wondered when or if it  would happen!

Minuses

  • Major Kurland comes across as curmudgeonly and ill-mannered sometimes in this book–especially in his interactions with Lucy. He doesn’t understand that spending so much time with her might ruin her chances of finding a husband.

And concluding thoughts . . .

  • I had the third book in the series and I’ve already read it, too. I hope she writes a fourth book very soon!

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Goodreads): Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and youngest daughter….

Reading Challenges

Christmas Miracles by Mary Balogh

christmas-miracles-by-Mary-BaloghChristmas Miracles by Mary Balogh
Series: None
Genre: Historical Romance
Setting: Regency England at Christmastime
Published by Class Ebooks Editions, Ltd., 2015
E-book, purchased
170 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: CHRISTMAS MIRACLES brings together three previously published and long out-of-print novellas, each of which demonstrates how the wonder of the season can bring together two would-be lovers or two estranged lovers and create a bond between them that will last a lifetime and beyond.

In “The Wassail Bowl” an aristocrat has summoned his young son to a family house party but is disconcerted when his estranged wife and her illegitimate daughter arrive with him. When he expresses his displeasure, she picks up a large bowl of wassail from the hall table and dumps its sticky contents over his head. The only way for the story to proceed after that is up!

In “The Bond Street Carolers” a gentleman who hates Christmas is appalled when his ears are assailed on fashionable Bond Street by a group of inferior carolers–until, that is, he is rooted to the spot by the pure soprano voice of a young boy soloist. As a connoisseur of music and the arts, he must have the boy to sing at one of his concerts–but the child’s widowed mother will have nothing to do with what she sees as exploitation.

In “Guarded by Angels” an estranged couple are separately marooned at the same cottage by a snow storm and must spend Christmas together without coming to blows. But they have a great deal of assistance from their very different guardian angels.

Initial impressions

  • I really like Ms. Balogh’s Christmas stories and books. The stories have a common theme: people losing faith in themselves, each other and Christmas. How they find their way back to faith is the essence of the stories.

“The Wassail Bowl” — Rating: B+

  • This was my favorite story of the three. I love Mary Balogh Christmas stories which takes place in the country.
  • John, the Earl of Wyndham and his wife Antonia have lived separate lives for several years. The Earl orders his wife to send his son to come to Wyndham Park for Christmas. His wife comes with both her children–a boy and a girl. And the first thing she does when she arrives is to pour the rest of the wassail bowl over her husband’s head! That was very funny. (The story has a recipe for wassail and I can see it would have been very sticky!)
  • John and Antonia must talk and remember the love they had for each other and forgives themselves and each other for the hurts they caused. And because it is Christmas they will!

“The Bond Street Carolers” — Rating: B+

  • A boy is singing with a church choir on Bond Street. A gentleman notices the boy’s beautiful voice and invites him along with his mother and sister to his Christmas concert.
  • The mother, Fanny Berlinton–a widow who lives with her brother-in-law and his family–remembers Lord Heath when she made her coming out. He was considered a rake and she doesn’t want anything to do with him.
  • However, Lord Heath is a true connoisseur of music and feels the boy should have the opportunity to sing to an appreciative audience. He invites the church choir to perform a song and promises a donation. So, of course, young Matthew does sing at the concert! And Fanny and Lord Heath discover they have more in common than they thought.

“Guarded by Angels” — Rating: B

  • This was my least favorite story. There was a supernatural vibe to the story I didn’t like too well, but once I got further into the story I did enjoy it.
  • Elliott Nichols, Viscount Garrett and June Nichols, Viscountess Garrett have lived apart since early in their marriage. Elliott had come home from war damaged by all the killing and though June loved him he frightened her. They married, but June was too young and Elliott had too many demons.
  • This Christmas their relatives have conspired to get them to both come for Christmas. They are both on their way when they are caught in a sudden snowstorm and saved by a grandmother and grandson and invited to stay in their home.
  • Each is surprised to see the other, but they discover they aren’t the same people they were when they married. They celebrate Christmas in this small cottage with the two who saved them and get to know each other and love each other again.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  Three short stories from Mary Balogh Christmas anthologies published in the 1990’s.
  • I do love the way she writes about Christmas and about young children. They are people in her stories–full of personality.
  • I especially enjoy Katie–Matthew’s younger sister in “The Bond Street Carolers”. Katie has decided Lord Heath would be a good papa, but she’s not sure he will cooperate: “This morning for a few minutes she had even been afraid that they were never going to see him again. She had found herself doing something dreadfully babyish. She had sucked her thumb.”
  • The stories make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Mary Balogh‘s first book was published in 1985 and she’s been writing (over 70 novels and close to 30 novellas) ever since. The latest book is Only a Kiss, the 6th book in The Survivors’ Club series, published in September 2015.
  • She grew up in post-war Wales. She wanted to teach and travel so she took a 2-year contract in Saskatchewan, Canada. After a blind date with Robert Balogh she ended up marrying him and staying in Canada! She and Robert have three grown children. Her dream was to write, but that had to wait until their children were older.
  • When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge

Christmas Gifts by Mary Balogh

christmas-giftsChristmas Gifts by Mary Balogh
Series: None
Genre: Historical Romance–Regency England
Setting: Christmas in England
Published by Class Ebook Editions Ltd., 2015 (reprints of three out-of-print novellas)
E-book, purchased
168 pages
Overall Grade: A-
Synopsis: CHRISTMAS GIFTS brings together three previously published and long out-of-print novellas, each on the theme of Christmas gifts that will last forever because the gift, in essence, is love.

In “The Best Christmas Ever” a boisterous house party is in progress and all the children when asked are eager to tell what they want for Christmas. But one man feels sad, for his young child has not spoken since her mother died and he does not know if the gifts he has bought her will be what she really wants. Unknown to him, her one fervent wish is for a new mother for Christmas, and when she sees one of the guests she knows who that will be. But the lady concerned has an unhappy history with the child’s father.

In “The Porcelain Madonna” a gentleman becomes involved with helping an impoverished lady, who thinks of everyone’s happiness but her own. However, he has seen her gaze with longing at a porcelain madonna well beyond her means displayed in a shop window.

In “The Surprise Party” a man and woman who are antagonistic to each other find themselves landed with the care over Christmas of children who are related to each of them. They quarrel over which of them should undertake the task. It is not a happy situation until the children teach them the true meaning of Christmas, and of love, and they discover that they can do it together.

Initial impressions

  • I know why Mary Balogh is one of my favorite authors when I read these novellas. These stories show how we all hope Christmas will be.
“The Best Christmas Ever”  — Rating: A
  • This is such a lovely story. A little girl (5 years old) who hasn’t spoken since she saw her mother drown three years ago. Her father who loves her fiercely, but is so worried she might never speak again.
  • Each of the children at their grandparents’ home tell their wish for Christmas. Except for Anna who doesn’t speak, but still makes a wish for a mother.
  • On Christmas Eve Day she sees the woman whom she is sure will be her mother, but her father doesn’t cooperate very well since he knows Emma Milford from the past and is still angry with her.
  • This is my favorite story in this series.
“The Porcelain Madonna”  — Rating: B+
  • This is a lovely story about a gentleman who has lost faith in people, is cynical and dislikes Christmas. When he sees a shabbily dressed young woman gazing into a jewelry shop window he sees it as “…the perfect picture of Christmas sentimentality….”
  • He stops a street urchin from running off with her reticule, but when he is going to teach the boy a lesson she stops him. She doesn’t want the boy harmed.
  • “But of course she was beautiful, and of course she was educated, and of course she was impoverished, he thought scornfully. What else could he have expected? And she had been admiring, not a golden bracelet or a diamond necklet, but a porcelain Madonna….”
“The Surprise Party” — Rating: B+
  • The parents of three young children have died. It’s nearly Christmas when their maternal uncle and paternal aunt arrive to take care of them. However, the aunt and uncle dislike each other and neither really wants the children.
  • However, when they decide the children should have a real and happy Christmas, they begin to forget their enmity and discover love for their nephew and nieces.

Jeers

  • No real jeers. I just like one of the stories a little better than others.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  These are lovely stories of people who have lost faith in themselves and others, who are down on their luck or need the spirit that can come at Christmas to change their lives.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Mary Balogh‘s first book was published in 1985 and she’s been writing (over 70 novels and close to 30 novellas) ever since. The latest book is Only a Kiss, the 6th book in The Survivors’ Club series, published in September 2015.
  • She grew up in post-war Wales. She wanted to teach and travel so she took a 2-year contract in Saskatchewan, Canada. After a blind date with Robert Balogh she ended up marrying him and staying in Canada! She and Robert have three grown children. Her dream was to write, but that had to wait until their children were older.
  • When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Reading Challenges

Death Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd

death-comes-to-the-villageDeath Comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd
Series: Kurland St. Mary Mystery #1
Genre: Historical Mystery (cozy)
Setting: Rural England, 1816
Published by Kensington, 2013
E-book, Kindle Unlimited
282 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: A wounded soldier and a rector’s daughter discover strange goings-on in the sleepy village of Kurland St. Mary in Catherine Lloyd’s charming Regency-set mystery debut.

Major Robert Kurland has returned to the quiet vistas of his village home to recuperate from the horrors of Waterloo. However injured his body may be, his mind is as active as ever. Too active, perhaps. When he glimpses a shadowy figure from his bedroom window struggling with a heavy load, the tranquil façade of the village begins to loom sinister. . .

Unable to forget the incident, Robert confides in his childhood friend, Miss Lucy Harrington. As the dutiful daughter of the widowed rector, following up on the major’s suspicions offers a welcome diversion–but soon presents real danger. Someone is intent on stopping their investigation. And in a place where no one locks their doors, a series of thefts and the disappearance of two young serving girls demands explanation. . .

As Robert grapples with his difficult recovery, he and Lucy try to unearth the dark truth lurking within the village shadows, and stop a killer waiting to strike again…

As a child she’d asked her father why the church sat so much lower than the surrounding graveyard–had it sunk? He’d told her that, on the contrary, the church remained the same, but that over the centuries, all the burials had raised the level of the land around it. She’d thanked him for the information and had nightmares for weeks afterward.

and

“Do you not think we have a responsibility to discover what happened to poor Mary? She was a foundling. As far as we know, she has no other family to care about what has become of her.”

“The Bible has much to say about ingratitude, Lucy, of nourishing a viper in one’s bosom.” He stood up and looked down his nose at her. “Perhaps you might reflect on that before you presume to lecture me about my Christian duty to one who has sinned by leaving a perfectly good home provided to her by a loving, spiritual family.”

Initial impressions

  • The characters are interesting and varied, the time period is one I like and the mystery kept me guessing.

Cheers

  • There are several mysteries in this book and as a reader I wondered if they’re all linked or not. The author does a good job creating questions and mystery.
  • I like the slow build-up where we don’t know exactly what’s going on and we get to know the characters and get to wonder about them and whether this one or that one is the culprit.
  • Lucy is the oldest daughter so she has stayed with her family after her mother died to run the household for her father.
  • Now that things are changing with the household–her two younger brothers heading off to school, her older brother getting ready for Cambridge and her sister ready for a season in London–Lucy would like her own season. She’d like a family of her own. Her father thinks she should continue to take care of him. I like that there is more than just the mystery, but that the mystery doesn’t get lost either in the other details.
  • Major Robert Kurland is unable to walk very far without help when the book opens and is mostly bedridden. Lucy–as the vicar’s daughter–visits him to read and converse with him. She doesn’t like him very well since he’s always so grumpy.
  • However, when he sees something out his window one night he feels she’s the only one he can ask about it. He feels his servants think he’s not too stable…that he might have taken too much laudanum and thus imagined the whole thing.
  • When Lucy begins asking around the village she discovers that two village women are missing (including one of the vicarage’s servants) and that someone is stealing small items from houses in the area.
  • There is a bit of a regency romance feel to the book though there aren’t really any romances.
  • I like the details in the book–such as Lucy finding an article about a wheelchair and giving that to Robert.

Jeers

  • I thought at the end of the book Robert acts a little like a jerk!

And a few thoughts . . .

  • There are two more books in the series (so far) and I’m looking forward to reading them soon.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • (from Goodreads): “Catherine Lloyd was born just outside London, England, into a large family of dreamers, artists, and history lovers. She completed her education with a master’s degree in history at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, and uses the skills she gained there to research and write her historical mysteries. Catherine currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and youngest daughter.. ”

Reading Challenges

  • 2015 Goodreads Challenge
  • Cloak & Dagger Mystery Challenge–hosted by Amy @ A Bookish Girl
  • New Author Challenge–hosted by the Literary Escapism blog

Only a Promise by Mary Balogh

only-a-promise-by-mary-baloghOnly a Promise by Mary Balogh
Series: The Survivors’ Club #5
Genre: Historical Romance
Setting: London and Sussex in the English countryside
Published by Signet, 2015
E-book, purchased
400 pages
Grade: B+
Synopsis: Ralph Stockwood prides himself on being a leader, but when he convinced his friends to fight in the Napoleonic Wars, he never envisioned being the sole survivor. Racked with guilt over their deaths, Ralph must move on . . . and find a wife to secure an heir to his family’s title and fortune.

Since her Seasons in London ended in disaster, Chloe Muirhead is resigned to spinsterhood. Driven by the need to escape her family, she takes refuge at the home of her mother’s godmother, where she meets Ralph. He needs a wife. She wants a husband. So Chloe makes the outrageous suggestion to strike a bargain and get married. One condition: Ralph has to promise that he will never take her back to London. But circumstances change. And to Ralph, it was only a promise.

There could surely be nothing worse than having been born a woman, Chloe Muirhead thought with unabashed self-pity as she sucked a globule of blood off her left forefinger and looked to see if any more was about to bubble up and threaten to ruin the strip of delicate lace she was sewing back onto one of the Duchess of Worthingham’s best afternoon caps.

and

What irritated him most about her, perhaps, was that she really was a help–an invaluable help, in fact. And that she did it all cheerfully and efficiently. And that she could–and did–think and act independently.

It fairly set his teeth on edge–until he remembered how unabashedly happy his grandfather had been yesterday.

Cheers

  • I like this series a lot. And this book has a Marriage of Convenience plot which I enjoy in historical romances when they are well done. And this is well done!
  • Even though they marry for their own convenience: Ralph because he needs an heir and Chloe because she is 27 years old with little prospect for marriage and children which she wants. They do not plan to have any emotional involvement with each other.
  • I like that we get the point-of-view of both Ralph and Chloe. Ms. Balogh does a great job of showing that what people are thinking isn’t the same as what they outwardly show or say. They both outwardly show lots of confidence even when inside they don’t feel that confident!
  • I like this series a lot partly because it shows that people who go to war not only need physical wounds we can see healed, but also the wounds we can’t see.
  • Ralph promises Chloe they won’t travel to London. They will live in the country. Of course, events happen and he can’t keep that promise.
  • That’s not the way to begin a marriage. Chloe has good reasons to not want to face the Ton after two disastrous seasons.
  • Ralph has his own demons from the war, of course. He was severely injured in the war, but that’s not where his personal demons are: his three closest friends killed in front of him in the same battle which injured him. He feels responsible for their deaths. He has lived in such hell that he has tried to commit suicide.
  • I like how Ralph supports Chloe. For example, when he discovers how Chloe feels about her hair he is with her all the way. And this is when he still thinks this is a Marriage of Convenience and that he is not going to feel anything for Chloe!
  • I like how Ms. Balogh shows that these two damaged people need each other and each other’s strength to find their own strength and face their fears to make themselves whole again.
  • Mary Balogh does such a great job showing emotions–showing two damaged, but ultimately courageous, sincere and honest people falling in love.

Jeers

  • Chloe should have known that Ralph wouldn’t be able to keep the promise that they wouldn’t go to London. When they’re married Ralph is the Duke’s heir after all. However, this is a small quibble.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  I read this book for the September TBR Challenge hosted by Wendy @ The Misadventures of Super Librarian. The theme for September is to read a Historical novel.
  • Mary Balogh is one of my favorite historical romance authors. I don’t read very much romance, but when I do Mary Balogh is usually my first choice.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Mary Balogh‘s first book was published in 1985 and she’s been writing (over 70 novels and close to 30 novellas) ever since. The latest book is Only a Kiss, the 6th book in The Survivors’ Club series, published in September 2015.
  • She grew up in post-war Wales. She wanted to teach and travel so she took a 2-year contract in Saskatchewan, Canada. After a blind date with Robert Balogh she ended up marrying him and staying in Canada! She and Robert have three grown children. Her dream was to write, but that had to wait until their children were older.
  • When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, music and knitting. She also enjoys watching tennis and curling.

Reading Challenges

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

sorcerer-to-the-crown-by-Zen-ChoSorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Series: Sorcerer Royal #1
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Setting: An alternate Regency England
Published by Ace, 2015
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: September 1, 2015)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
384 pages
Grade: B
Synopsis: In this sparkling debut, magic and mayhem clash with the British elite…

The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, one of the most respected organizations throughout all of England, has long been tasked with maintaining magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman—a freed slave who doesn’t even have a familiar—as their Sorcerer Royal, and allowing England’s once profuse stores of magic to slowly bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession…

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers and eminently proficient magician, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up. But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Cheers

  • I like the world built by Zen Cho–sorcerers, magicians, witches, fairies, dragons, familiars–plus the politics of a magical society.
  • This historic fantasy is set in Regency England so manners are the order of the day.
  • I like that a small village in Malaysia–Janda Baik–is part of this book. I like that Ms. Cho has added some of her heritage to this book.
  • The book has a number of mysteries. Why is England’s magic waning? What is Zacharias’ illness? Why doesn’t Zacharias have a familiar? We do find out all the reasons by the end of the book.
  • Zacharias became Sorcerer Royal when Sir Stephen died. There are many rumors about how he died since Zacharias found him.
  • I love Prunella. She’s an orphan, but doesn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself. She’s very practical. She also has a great deal of magic in her and she uses it very naturally. She doesn’t have much use for formal magic training, but she’s not above using Zacharias’ desire to train her to get to London.
  • Women aren’t held in much esteem in the magic world. They aren’t allowed to practice sorcery or magic though they do little things at home, perhaps in the kitchen. Men are magicians; women are witches.
  • The fact Zacharias is a free black man is interesting in this society. He’s a nuanced character since he’s somewhat naive, but also used to the slights and prejudice of society because he’s a black man.
  • Lady Maria and Sir Stephen Whythe are like parents to Zacharias. They adopted Zacharias, but he has conflicted feelings for Sir Stephen. Sir Stephen bought him and freed him, but also took him away from his real parents. He loves both Lady Maria and Sir Stephen, but also resents Sir Stephen.
  • The interactions between Prunella and Zacharias are fun to read about. They are such different people. She’s very down-to-earth, whereas Zacharias has all the manners of a Regency gentleman.
  • I like how fair Zacharias is in his dealings with people. When he realizes women have magic the same as men he’s ready to train them. Normally women who show any magic inclination are strongly discouraged from using it.
  • The book shows the prejudice not only for any but white men, but also any but white, aristocratic men.
  • I would like to see more of Fairyland in future books. The glimpse we see is interesting and entertaining.
  • There is some romance in the book–just enough so it isn’t too intrusive.
  • Mak Genggang is a very funny, interesting character and a little scary, too!
  • The book takes some surprising turns by the end.

Jeers

  • The book is full of details–almost too much.
  • Zacharias isn’t really very happy during most of this book. But that’s part of his growth as a character. He has to learn to learn what is important to him.

And a few thoughts . . .

  •  I enjoyed reading this debut fantasy and want to the next in the series.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

Author info

  • Zen Cho is a London-based Malaysian author of speculative fiction and romance. Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, is the first in a historical fantasy trilogy out in September 2015 from Ace/Roc (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK and Commonwealth).

Reading Challenges

Review: Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh

 

Only Enchantingonly-enchanting
by Mary Balogh
Series: Survivors’ Club series, Book 4
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by Signet
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: e-ARC (Release Date: Oct 28, 2014)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
400 pages
Grade: A-
Synopsis: The Survivors’ Club: Six men and one woman, all wounded in the Napoleonic Wars, their friendship forged during their recovery at Penderris Hall in Cornwall. Now, in the fourth novel of the Survivors’ Club series, Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, has left this refuge to find his own salvation—in the love of a most unsuspecting woman…

Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby, was devastated by his fiancée’s desertion after his return home. Now the woman who broke his heart is back—and everyone is eager to revive their engagement. Except Flavian, who, in a panic, runs straight into the arms of a most sensible yet enchanting young woman.

Agnes Keeping has never been in love—and never wishes to be. But then she meets the charismatic Flavian, and suddenly Agnes falls so foolishly and so deeply that she agrees to his impetuous proposal of marriage.

When Agnes discovers that the proposal is only to avenge his former love, she’s determined to flee. But Flavian has no intention of letting his new bride go, especially now that he too has fallen so passionately and so unexpectedly in love.

–I’m not adding any quotes (though I had lots of passages I highlighted), because I’m aware the e-ARC I read may have changes to wording and I wouldn’t want to quote something which isn’t in the final copy.

Cheers

  • I love this book and thank the publisher so much for sending the e-Arc to me so I was able to read and finish it the day before it’s published!
  • Ms. Balogh’s characterizations are a hallmark of her writing. Her characters aren’t perfect, sometimes they’ve done things which seem unforgivable, sometimes they have to forgive someone else, sometimes forgive themselves.
  • Her characters nearly always make a journey in her books–they’re often badly hurt people who find redemption in the right person. I think that’s a dream most of us have for our lives. We don’t always find that in our real life and that is why we read romances. I know I will get a “happily ever after,” but in the romances I like best the journey the couple must make is what makes the book special.
  • All the characters in the Survivors’ Club are badly wounded and still suffer, but they support each other no matter what. The Survivors’ Club members are all present during part of this book. And we learn a little more about some of them!
  • In the past three books in this series all we really know about Flavian, Viscount Ponsonby: he was wounded in battle, stammers and seems irreverent and cynical.
  • Now we discover he nearly died and had a terrible head injury. He wasn’t expected to live or recover. Now his stammer is the outward sign of his injuries, but he still has terrible headaches and things he can’t remember. He isn’t even sure what he doesn’t remember. When he first came back to England after his wounding he couldn’t talk and had terrible rages.
  • Before he was wounded he came back to England on leave when his brother was dying. He knows he didn’t stay the entire time with his brother. Instead he went to London where he was betrothed to Velma Frome a neighbor near Flavian’s country estate. Immediately after the betrothal he left to go back to the Peninsula and the war. His brother died the night after Flavian’s betrothal. He knows all this, but can’t come to terms with it. He loved his brother and is ashamed he left him alone to travel to London to celebrate his betrothal.
  • After Flavian was so badly wounded his fiancée married his best friend. Now she is a widow just out of mourning. Flavian’s family lets him know Velma is back home again.
  • Agnes Keeping is a widow and 26 years old. Her husband died three years before and though she didn’t love him she was content except for having no children. She now lives with her spinster sister who is 12 years older and more nearly a mother to Agnes. Agnes and her sister Dora are good friends with Sophia, Viscountess Darleigh. Sophia recently married Vincent Hunt, who is one of the Survivors’ Club members (The Arrangement). Agnes and Dora are invited to a ball at Middlebury Park where Vincent and Sophia live.
  • Flavian is at this ball and Sophia asks him to dance with Agnes so she isn’t a wallflower. He dances with her twice–the last dance a waltz–and though they don’t speak during the dance he declares she’s “Not sensible…only enchanting.”
  • Agnes and Flavian meet again about six months after their dance and within three weeks they are married…even though they know very little about each other. Flavian feels desire for Agnes though she isn’t young or beautiful, but he also declares he will be “safe” with her. Agnes has misgivings, but she marries Flavian anyway.
  • I knew this was a recipe for disaster…LOL! However, Mary Balogh is expert at writing realistically about a relationship without great misunderstandings between the couple.

Jeers

  • None

And a few thoughts . . .

  • As I have mentioned several times I don’t read very much romance these days, but I make an exception for Mary Balogh’s books. I’ve been reading them for years and love her writing. When I finish one of her books I’m almost always smiling. She puts a lot of joy into her writing.
  • I highly recommend this book. It’s not necessary to read the first three books in the Survivors’ Club series, but they are all very good.

Have you read this book? How did you like it?

  • 2014 Goodreads Challenge (Hoping to read 100 books this year)