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Cindy Spencer Pape

REVIEW:  Cards & Caravans by Cindy Spencer Pape

REVIEW: Cards & Caravans by Cindy Spencer Pape

Dear Ms. Pape:

I’ve been looking for some good steampunk romance and this definitely worked for me. This is the first book of yours of I’ve read, even though this is 5th book in the Gaslight Chronicle series.

Cards & Caravans Cindy Spencer PapeWidow Belinda Danvers is accused of being a witch. Things are looking pretty dire for her until Sir Connor McKay of the Order of the Round Table, shows up and saves her. Making their escape in her grandfather’s circus caravan, they end up sharing a room in an inn. As a widow who knows she is barren, Belinda knows that there is little risk in inviting Sir Connor to share her bed, which I found to be quite refreshing. After all, there’s nothing like being rescued from certain death by a handsome and willing man to make you want to live your life to the fullest.

When they finally reach sanctuary at McKay’s estate, a gaggle of relatives characters from previous books greets the couple. Thankfully, updates of what those characters had done were subtly woven into the story. In fact, it was done in such a way that it made me more curious to go back and read earlier editions in the series. That’s not always an easy thing to do.

As they hang out and discuss Belinda’s situation they come across an interesting solution to her predicament. The witch warrant is for the half-gypsy widow Belinda Danvers. However, if Belinda was married, she would be the noble wife of Sir Connor, which would put her in a different jurisdiction. It’s a nice acknowledgement of social class differences in the legal system, which also contrasts just how different Sir Connor’s family and friends are: they don’t care about Belinda’s lower class background, and the warmth with which they welcome her is genuine and well-done. It doesn’t feel suffocating or confusing as other middle-of-the-series-family saga romance type books to be, because the story remained firmly centered on Belinda and Connor.

Belinda protests as expected, but quickly gives in, because after all, she does feel like she’s falling for him, and he with her, so why not. It’s nice that there was no manufactured tension to delay the marriage. Rather the tension comes from Belinda’s hope that Connor will eventually come to truly love her. But after overhearing a conversation, Belinda concludes that Connor is carrying a torch for an old love, and sadness results, but luckily, not the overly dramatic my-life-is-ruined-forever-and-I-will-run-off-and-do-something-stupid kind of sadness. Instead, Belinda has some sense and knows that things could be worse than being married to a rich noble man you have great chemistry. There is always the potential for more, as the helpful friendly spirit of her dead husband keeps whispering to her (kind of like a ghostly Jiminy Cricket).

Connor feels a bit too perfectly generic. He’s in love with Belinda, and does all the right things. His lack of inner angst, and the fact that he’s actually a rather nice person is refreshing, though some might find him a bit boring. We’re told he’s a powerful magic-user but we don’t actually see him do too many powerful things.

With some sleuthing, the Order of the Round Table (which is a magical do-gooding association largely made up of Connor’s family and friends) determine that the witch hunt for Belinda is part of a larger pattern of attacks and trials on minor magic users that some larger association must be orchestrating. So the team at Kay’s estate decides to masquerade as a traveling circus in order to draw out the witch hunters. I felt like there could have been a bit more color and description here (it is a traveling circus after all) but it feels more like a standard circus, not a steam punk circus, which is a little bit of a lost opportunity.

- spoiler –
[spoiler]Their plan works of course, and what was nice was that Belinda was the one who not only saved herself, but Connor as well. So many paranormal romances have the Super-One-of-a-Kind-Special-Heroine who ends up being saved by the hero. I liked that Belinda was NOT built up that way and yet, and she did more than many other supposedly special heroines.[/spoiler] -spoiler -

Overall, I wanted more world building. There aren’t that many Scottish steampunk romances out there, but this didn’t really make me feel like I was in Scotland. I also felt that the Order of the Round Table caught the bad guys and solved the mystery much too easily. At 52,000 words, this was a quick, fun light read and I will definitely be checking out the earlier books in the series. B


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REVIEW: Motor City Witch by Cindy Spencer Pape

REVIEW: Motor City Witch by Cindy Spencer Pape

Dear Ms. Spencer Pape:

I requested this book from NetGalley because I was intrigued by the blurb. And because of it’s awesome cover.

Once upon a time, Elise Sutton had been a powerful witch and paranormal enforcer. Once she’d been madly in love with Fae lord Aidan Greene. But when Aidan had considered his duties more important than their relationship, the love affair ended badly. Shortly after, while on the hunt for a rogue demon, Elise was brutalized and almost killed. Months later she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. To protect her child-’and her heart-’Elise decided to live a nonmagical life.

Motor City WitchSo the blurb tells me it is a reunited lover story about a strong woman survivor who makes a great sacrifice for her child. I’m intrigued.

There is a lot to like about Motor City Witch but there was one issue that kept bothering me for the entire book. Let me explain in these terms. A while back Sarah Wendell blogged about Playing With Fire and she mentioned that she struggled with the timeline. I had the very same problem. The heroine goes down to drag the firefighter hero out of the emotional funk he is in due to having watched his fiance die in a fire in front of him. Five Months Ago. So every time I would read about the heroine telling the hero it was time to come back to the living or that he needed to forgive himself and let go, I would be silently yelling at her to allow him to grieve. It has been only 5! months.

That’s how I felt during most of this book. What brings Elise and Aidan together again is that Elise’s daughter is kidnapped directly after a wedding. It is a wedding that Aidan attends and when he sees Elise’s daughter with eyes just like his, he immediately assumes the child is his. Aidan is wrong. As the blurb says, the sperm that created Elise’s daughter was from the rogue demon who raped her but Aidan, upon seeing the girl, feels an immediate kinship. Plus, he has never stopped loving Elise.

I love this storyline. It’s one of my favorites (not the kidnapping, but the reunited lovers story). I couldn’t really get into the story because of two things. The first was that there was no urgency to the characters despite the fact that Elise’s daughter has been kidnapped. I mean, I am all for showing that the female character has great emotional strength even in the direst of times, but Elise seemed so unconcerned at times, that I wondered if she even remembered she had a daughter. We were introduced to what seemed like a dozen characters. Elise worried about what she would wear in front of the Fae Queen. She took the time to get a history lesson on Aidan’s grandparents. As they are speeding to the location of where they are to meet the kidnappers in Edinburgh, she aloud about how she has always wanted to visit Scotland. All I can think of is “WHAT ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER”???

There was a point in the story where Elise still doesn’t have her daughter back, Aiden may be injured, and she is busy healing someone and thinks about another guy “Nice, if you liked dark and dangerous, but he didn’t do it for her–not the way Aidan did.” Seriously, you are ogling another guy’s naked chest whilst everything is going to hell in a handbasket?

Also? the blurb that promised that Elise was living a non magical life to protect herself and her heart? Yeah, that wasn’t explained or touched on at all until the very end. I know I shouldn’t rely on the blurb to be accurate but as I had read it, I was expecting certain storylines to come to fruition. In fact, when needed Elise uses her powers without a second thought. I don’t know if I am supposed to fill in stuff here like Elise has some internal agnst about using her power again after five years of letting it lie dormant to protect herself but decides that she must use it in order to save others?

The second thing that I struggled with was the sheer cast of characters. There are a number of players in this book and I felt like I was dropped in the middle of a play that already had two acts I hadn’t seen. At every turn, I felt like I (and Elise) were being introduced to new people. I wasn’t sure that it was necessary and it was hard to stay focused when I tried to mentally separate and identify all the new individuals. Maybe this is my own fault for not starting with book one.

I liked the idea of urban arcana. I liked the concept of the world that was being set up, but I didn’t really love the execution. I found even the romance to be on the pale side. There was a lot to fit into this story: worldbuilding, romance, action and mystery and I felt all of them got a short shrift. But I will always remember this book as the one where I kept asking “but what about your daughter!!”. C-

Best regards,


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