September reads

I read 14 books in September, putting me at 99 books for the year so far.

I had a mix of things this time, some mysteries, some romance, some regular fiction & some non-fiction.

Starting with the mysteries, I discovered a new series, only 2 books so far but a 3rd due out in February.

Wanna Get Lucky?  The series is set at a mega resort hotel, called Babylon, in Vegas. Lucky O’Toole is the highly competent customer relations manager. Her job is smoothing over problems with the guests & staff & making sure Babylon gets good PR. This becomes challenging when a woman falls out of the Babylon helicopter & on to the strip. The resort’s owner was in the helicopter,the pilot has disappeared & no one is talking. Also there is a blackmailer preying on her boss & on some guests in town for a couples’ swapping convention. Lucky has to get to the bottom of these mysteries as well as deal with a best friend who wants to become more.
Lucky Stiff (Lucky O’Toole) This time a woman is found devoured by sharks in the Mandalay Bay shark tank. She was seen having an argument with a friend of Lucky’s shortly before her death. The DA is pushing for his arrest, but that same night the DA was found naked, locked out of his room in Lucky’s hotel. Who locked him out of the room & does it have anything to do with the death? Plus her new boyfriend has gone to LA in search of a recording contract where he is hit on by lovely young women, while back in Vegas Lucky is also being pursued by a French chef & a member of security.
I got this book at the library & liked it so much I bought it & the previous one for my kindle.
If you like Stephanie Plum, you’ll like Lucky. She reminds me of what Steph could be if Steph was at all competent at her job & the slapstick was removed.
Pirate King: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
I’ve had my ups & downs with this series. It’s not that I am Holmes purist, but I find the idea of him in his later years, working with a much younger wife to be disconcerting. This time Mary is sent undercover by Inspector Lestrade to work in a film company. Odd criminal activities have been connected with it, cocaine, gun sales & now a missing assistant & Lestrade wants Mary to get to the bottom of it. Mary takes the assistant’s job & travels with the company to Lisbon. They are making a film about a film company that is filming a story based on the Pirates of Penzance that encounter real pirates while they are filming. They are Lisbon to hire some men to play the pirates & to do some filming before they all go to Morocco to do the rest of the filming.
This takes up half the book & while it is a very interesting read, with fascinating characters and lots of detail about making a silent film in the 1920’s, it doesn’t advance the mystery much.
But it turns out they hire actual pirates and are taken captive themselves and the plot moves along quite snappily from there, with Holmes turning up as a replacement for an actor shortly before they set off for Morocco.
I felt the actual resolution to the initial mystery to be rather abrupt but the pirate plot was very well done.
* disclaimer – I was given this book free from Net Galley in return for this review

There were 5 romance novels

Just Like Heaven This book ties in with the Bridgerton series, only it features one of the Smythe-Smith girls (they of the horrendous musicales). Honoria is preparing for & dreading the upcoming musicale & musing on her single status when she runs into her older brother’s best friend Marcus, Earl of Chatteris and they share some cake. Later they share a couple adventures & some more cake & along the way fall in love. It was a light, fun romance, almost a bit too light, there was no real tension apart from Marcus’ infected leg. Still, I can certainly see Honoria & Marcus having lots of things to talk about on a long winter’s night years down the road, unlike so many other heroes & heroines. Overall I liked it. It is more or less what I was looking for in a romance, a nice break from the endless domineering masterful men. But it would have been nice to see Marcus given a chance to rise to the occasion of some sort of tension. The plot was a little flat from that perspective. Though the hope of a mass uprising of Smythe-Smith girls refusing to perform was a nice touch.
Lie By Moonlight Teacher Concordia Glade knows there is a problem at the private school where she is teaching, enough of a problem she & the 4 students set fire to the house to create a distraction so they can escape. They run into Ambrose Wells, a private inquiry agent, while making the escape & he helps them get to London and into hiding. Concordia has made some powerful enemies by ‘stealing’ those girls from the school. She and Ambrose join forces to discover who was behind the school & what their plans had been for the students. It was enjoyable. Suspenseful, funny, entertaining, with strong characters & a good plot.
The Dragon and the Pearl (Harlequin Historical) Ling Suyin is the late Emperor’s  favorite young concubine, now retired to a much longed for quiet life, until the Warlord Li Tao comes for her when he receives word another warlord has sent assassins after her. Tao knows he is being manipulated but he does not know who is doing it so he keeps Suyin close hoping to solve the mystery. Tao is complex & complicated man with various old & new loyalties. Suyin was trained from childhood to manipulate men to her will. Neither trusts the other but they will need to to avert a civil war. The plot moves along at a nice pace with enough twists & revelations to keep the interest. The tension between Suyin & Tao is well done with great dialogue. I found the ending wrapped up a little too neatly but that is the only complaint I have with it.
* disclaimer – I was given this book free from NetGalley in return for this review
All About Seduction I found the plot of this a little disconcerting. Caroline Broadhurst’s very elderly husband, a mill owner, is desperate for a son, so desperate that he orders his wife to have an affair & get pregnant. He connives with her brother to have half a dozen suitable men brought to the house under the guise of a house party so she can get on with it.
She naturally is horrified, but he threatens to leave her nothing in his will if she doesn’t. She is attracted to Jack, an employee in the mill, but the mill owner’s wife can’t even speak to a mill worker. It’s just not done. Until Jack almost loses his foot in an accident and she has him taken to the house to recover. Caroline tries to do as her husband asks but things keep going wrong for her with the male guests and what she really wants is to take Jack as her lover. Along the way she discovers there is a dark secret in her husband’s past, one that could be repeated in the present & she must decide just what she really wants.
Overall a good story but a little far fetched, the husband too suddenly evil for me; they’d been married 15 years & suddenly he’s this menacing figure? And the ending was a bit too happily ever after. I prefer somewhat more realism & the social gulf between them was a rather much to overcome for society at that time. Not that they couldn’t be happy together personally but the tidy wrapping up seemed unrealistic.
* disclaimer – I was given this book free from NetGalley in return for this review
Bride for a Night Olivia is the shy & timid daughter of a very wealthy & very pushy merchant determined to see her married into the nobility. He arranges for her to marry, against her will, Jack, the younger brother of the Earl of Ashcombe but Jack takes her marriage settlement & runs off, leaving her at the altar & his older brother, Andrew to pick up the pieces. Andrew salvages the family honor by reluctantly marrying Olivia himself, all the while thinking she is every bit as mercenary as her father. The day after the wedding he has her sent off to his estate so he can forget she exists. But he can’t forget her. Before he can get to the estate, to try to get to know her better, Olivia is abducted by French spies. By the time Andrew catches up with her, Olivia is no longer quite so timid, or willing to be ordered around. She is done with being dragged hither and yon at the will of men and is standing up for herself.
It’s a good plot, full or treason, spies, rescues that go awry and even the bad guys are not all that bad at heart. I enjoyed it a good deal.
* disclaimer – I was given this book free from NetGalley in return for this review
In Pursuit of Eliza Cynster A vast improvement over the last one in the series! This one is the story of second sister Eliza, who is kidnapped by the mysterious laird’s new & much more efficient henchman, Scrope, and dragged up to Edinburgh to be delivered to the laird & ‘ruined’. We learn a bit more about the laird, who it seems is perfectly willing to marry her, as part of a scheme to get back at his mother. He has a plan & feels he can reason with her & they can come to some sort of accommodation. But before she is handed over she is rescued by none other than reclusive scholar Jeremy Carling, from the first Bastion Club novel, The Lady Chosen. I admit I was rooting for the laird to be the hero of this one and could not believe it could be Jeremy. But it was, and what a wonderful hero he turned out to be! Jeremy ended up being the hero I’d been looking for all summer, someone who is able to fight off bad guys, treat his lady as though she were perfectly competent on her own, and capable of carrying on sustained conversation about things other than the bad guys. A scholarly warrior, book and sword in hand. Perfect!
Pursued by the laird and Scrope the couple sets off for Wolverstone, the nearest friendly stronghold they can think of. It does take Jeremy and Eliza a rather long time to get from Edinburgh to Wolverstone, a distance of about 100 miles, because every time they start out making some progress travelling on the road, something happens to send them off on foot into the hills. Not the least being that Eliza is the only Cynster in existence who is afraid of horses.  Along the way quiet, retiring Eliza and bookish Jeremy both found strengths in themselves they didn’t know they had.
The story kept moving at a decent pace with lots of twists and turns as Scrope or the laird occasionally caught up with the fleeing duo. 
I did get a tad annoyed with the inevitable “must marry because they spent a night together” thing (actually I think it was 5 nights by the time they finally arrived at Wolverstone). But it wasn’t Jeremy going on about it. It was the family. The annoying thing was NO ONE but the family & very close friends knew they’d been alone over night & you’d think, rather than force people they care about into a loveless union of convenience, they’d all agree to keep their mouths shut about it.
I’m gravely disappointed in the Cynsters.
Jeremy & Eliza were both being quite reasonable about the whole thing. They’d developed an open & easy relationship while on their journey & were in agreement that a marriage was going to happen, they just needed to sort out how it would work between them. Jeremy quickly discarded any idea of the whole “I won’t tell her how I feel because a man like me doesn’t do that” BS and instead went about his wooing with honesty(Though I personally would not consider one single discussion about my favorite things, while walking around a lake, to be ‘wooing’ – I’d consider it to be ‘conversation’). Eliza was sure of what she felt as well & together they were quite annoyed that their families just assumed it would be a marriage of convenience forced on them & couldn’t see that they actually cared for one another.
I really enjoyed this one

There were three fiction books

Ladies in Waiting This is listed as a young adult book. I have read very very few young adult books (two actually & didn’t finish one of them); they didn’t have them when I was a young adult & I’d moved on to adult books by the time I was 12, so I have no frame of reference for what exactly makes a book ‘young adult’, apart from the age of the main characters.
There were a lot of whores in this book & I suppose that is what throws me. I’d assumed YA meant there’d be fewer, if any, whores.
It is the story of three young women, each named Elizabeth, about age 16 or so, who become maids of honor/ladies in waiting to Charles II”s Queen. First there is Eliza, daughter of a Puritan, who dreams of becoming a playwright & being sought after for her talent rather than her father’s money. There is also Beth, who is the daughter of a deceased Earl but totally impoverished, so her abusive mother is trying to marry her off to the highest bidder, while all long Beth is in love with an equally impoverished childhood friend. Lastly there is Zabby, thought to be the King’s mistress, but actually only a friend with whom he shares an interest in scientific investigation. Zabby though longs to be his mistress in fact. Only one girl gets what she wants. This was an enjoyable read, the period setting was well done, the various tensions believable and the story well told, though I would have liked a bit more depth of character in general. They felt like sketches sometimes, especially Beth’s mother and Queen Catherine.
* disclaimer – I was given this book free from Net Galley in return for this review
In a Treacherous Court Susan Horenbout is a Flemish artist sent to the court of Henry VIII as an illuminator. On the journey to England she unwittingly comes across a plot against him. An attempt is made on her life almost as soon as she lands. One of the king’s most ruthless courtiers, John Parker, is assigned the job of fetching her from the docks and saves her life. He becomes her protector & together they try to figure out who wants Susan dead and just how close to the throne the plot against Henry reaches.
Both characters really existed & had a real relationship. This story was very well told, lots of period details & a well thought out plot. I spotted the villain early on but only because I’ve never liked the guy.
The Confession of Katherine Howard. The story is told from the point of view of Cat Tilney, a woman who was with Katherine Howard when she was living with the Duchess of Norfolk & was involved with Francis Derham. (not sure how anyone in Tudor times kept anyone straight since they all seem to be named Catherine). Historically, Tilney is one of the women who end up betraying Katherine’s past, which leads to her death. In this version Cat has taken up with Francis herself, after Katherine discarded him, while she is also privy to Katherine’s other dangerous secret, her love affair with Culpepper. It is an interesting retelling of a familiar story. The flashbacks to their shared childhood give a good view of Katherine as the popular girl destined for bigger things & the rest of the girls as satellites to her sun. It’s a well done story, crediting Katherine with more intelligence & ambition than many authors give her, the plot is good but the dialogue was occasionally anachronistic, which always disturbs the flow of a book for me. Over all it was a decent read, though honestly I found it to be more what I thought a YA book was than the other book which actually was a YA book. I don’t mean that as a criticism, more as a comment on style & storytelling.

one non fiction

Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings This is a very well researched book into the life of Mary Boleyn, who is far from being the well known easy sexpot or the sacrificial victim of her father’s ambition she is so often portrayed being. She may have briefly been the mistress of the king of France. If so, no one talked about it much, and far from being pleased by it, her father was furious & possibly sent her off to live with distant relatives for a few years to learn better behavior. Weir shows that he also didn’t benefit by her being Henry’s mistress, an affair that was so shrouded in secrecy at the time it only became known well after he began pursuing a divorce from Katherine. Mary’s father is no more likeable from Weir’s perspective but he isn’t an orge building a career on the backs of his children either.
She shows, with some detail, that Mary’s daughter was probably Henry’s and that  Mary’s first husband Will Carey was not some nobody foisted off on her to cover for her affair with Henry, as has so often been said, but actually quite a fine catch & they were married well before the affair began. Weir redeems Mary’s character with plenty of well footnoted facts & follows her life from start to finish, as well as debunking some myths about who Henry’s illegitimate children are, his ‘prudishness’ and whether or not he had syphilis.
You need to have a decent grounding in Tudor history for this book. There are assumptions of knowledge regarding various historic events and personalities that are part of Mary’s story. 
I really loved this one. Weir’s style is engaging & easy to read.
* disclaimer – I was given this book free from Library Thing in return for this review

and an audiobook

The Bee’s Kiss (Joe Sandilands Mysteries) It is 1926. Joe is back at Scotland Yard. He is sent to investigate the murder of Dame Beatrice Jagow-Joliffe at the Ritz. She was high up in the WRENs and was involved in training young women in decoding in preparation for the next war. She also had a great many secrets, some so dangerous that rather than risk their being exposed, the powers that be pull Joe off the case and call it a burglary gone wrong. But it’s not that easy to call off Bulldog Sandilands. He might not be able to get a conviction, or even a prosecution, but he is determined to find out who killed her.
Cleverly does a good job with the plot & characterizations. She throws in lots of period details as well for everything from a jazz club, to a bohemian painter’s home, to the Ritz. Very enjoyable overall.
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5 comments to September reads

  • Mel

    I do find your reviews fascinating :) And as someone who reads a LOT, I’m impressed by how many books you’ve managed, too!

  • What a wide range of reading! I am obsessed by the Tudor period at the moment so I will be looking out for the Mary Boleyn one :)

  • I finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Really interesting story, but I didn’t think it was very well written. I just started The Lace Reader (set in modern day Salem about a group of sisters who can see the future by reading lace; a bit of witchcraft is promised). Don’t know when the hell I’ll have time to read it. LOL. My book group book for this month is The Buddah in the Attic (it’s very short).

  • How in God’s name can you read this many books in one months *AND* write about them *AND* blog as much as you do? You are super woman.

    I love your reviews. I read “The Help” last month and gave myself a high five for finishing ONE book during the summer.

  • Nice selection :)
    I do like the sound of the Lucky books. I think I’ll see if my local library has them.