Sunday, July 12, 2015

Mini-Reviews: Jacobites, Hit Men and Tiaras

It's time for another round of Wendy mini-reviews!  Books I've either 1) talked about elsewhere 2) listened to on audio and/or 3) just don't have a lot to say about.

Danger Wears White by Lynne Connolly is a Georgian-set historical and the third book in a series.  I read this for Heroes & Heartbreakers, (disclaimer over there - I know Lynne) and it was a patented "OK" read for me.  It's the story of a heroine whose father gambled away the family fortune on the Jacobite cause (which, as history tells us, was a sucker's bet).  All that's left is the eccentric Tudor home where she lives.  She runs up against the hero when she finds him shot and bleeding to death in a rundown hut on her property.  She pegs him for a Jacobite rebel, but can't very well leave him to die - so she secrets him away in her home.  The hero, naturally, is no Jacobite, but a spy and things get interesting when it turns out the heroine is a pawn caught between the rebels and the English crown.

I loved the Georgian period, history and plot of this story.  It reads and feels like a Georgian, not a Regency pretending to be a Georgian.  Also the plot is full of political intrigue which keeps things humming along.  What I was less enamored with was the romance, which was very InstaLust.  Our couple is bumping uglies within two days and the hero is thinking marriage right after because the sex was so amazing.  Then stuff happens, yada yada yada, and we get the happy ending.  So really good everything other than the romance = a C read for me.  I would read a Connolly book again in a hot minute, even without being in love with this romance - because everything else about this I really liked.

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo is a stand-alone novel and I thought "why the heck not?" after I read Keishon's review.  The Scandinavian crime trend is one that has largely passed me by - but this seemed like something to try on audio.  It's also a fairly short novel - clocking in at just over 200 pages.

This was an instance where the audio production elevated the text for me.  It's read by Patti Smith (yes, THAT Patti Smith) and she's got a perfect voice for noir.  That sort of androgynous gravelly-thing going on.  The story itself was OK.  It's about a hit man who runs afoul of his boss when he refuses to kill the man's wife.  I happen to like noir (similar to Gothics for me - I'm in it for the atmosphere), but the complaint I have about this book is a common one I have for noir - the female characters are all so thinly drawn.  Also, I "get" what Nesbo was shooting for here - he blends in fairy tale allusions and dream sequences and.....meh.  I didn't hate it by any stretch of the imagination, but it also didn't bowl me over.  Also, fair warning - it's pretty dark.  I'm generally fine with dark, but not everybody is so....yeah, dark.

But I'm glad I listened to it because 1) I finally tried Nebso 2) I'm not adverse to trying him again and 3) the audio edition is dynamite.  The book itself would probably be a C for me, but with Patti Smith narrating?  Let's go with a B.

Death By Tiara by Laura Levine is the 13th book in a cozy mystery series about Jaine Austen, hapless freelance writer.  It's pretty much the only cozy series I'm still reading these days and I anticipate each new entry.  I read these for the same reason some folks keep reading Janet Evanovich.  Sometimes a girl just needs a completely fluffy brain-candy read.  This time out Jaine is hired to write original song lyrics to a teen pageant contestant.  When one of the pageant organizers is murdered, everyone is a suspect - including Jaine.

Levine is a former sitcom writer so these books tend to be heavy on "antics" anyway, but the slapstick is a bit heavier than usual in this entry.  However there are some nice moments.  For one thing Jaine HAS A BOYFRIEND (!), which is a new wrinkle.  Also, these books tend to be category length (around 250 pages) and Levine has always done a fabulous job of crafting plenty of suspects and red herrings in such a short word count.  I didn't think the mystery was as strong in this entry (I had it pegged), but Levine does the leg-work of giving the reader plenty of options.  As for the boyfriend?  While Jaine continues to be a train-wreck, I love how the author always turns her around in the end.  I never stay worried about Jaine when the book ends.  Our girl knows her own mind, so while her dating disasters are brutal - I never have to worry about Jaine selling herself short in order to "keep a man."  She has gumption, which is always a good thing in my book.

For newbies to the series?  Honestly this is probably a C read.  But if you like this series, and Jaine is an "old friend?"  This book delivers exactly what you'd expect and is exactly why you keep coming back for more.  So probably a B.


Kristie (J) said...

Georgian, Jacobite, thinking Outlander sort of - just got me a copy. I see Lynne all around Romancelandia but I've never tried one of her books before. That will now change.

Wendy said...

Kristie: I really wasn't over-the-moon with the romance, but everything else I really liked and I thought the plotting was strong. I like the Georgian era, but finding an author who doesn't morph it into Pseudo-Regency is hard! I'm reading a Georgian - I expect the powdered hair and men wearing ruffles/lace/high heels :)

This was the third book in a series, but I felt like the author did a good job bringing me up to speed. Caz at AAR has (I think?) read all of the series so far - and she and I were pretty much in agreement with this one. Really liked everything outside of the romance.