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Zana Bell

REVIEW:  Close to the Wind by Zana Bell

REVIEW: Close to the Wind by Zana Bell

close-to-the-wind

Georgiana da Silva is catapulted out of the Victorian drawing rooms and into a world of danger when she escapes her fiendish fiancé to engage in a mad dash across the world to save her brother before an unknown assassin can find him.
Meanwhile, Captain Harry Trent is setting sail for New Zealand. With a mission to complete and the law on his heels, he’s got enough trouble of his own without further complications.

Thrown together, unable to trust anyone, Georgiana and Harry are intent on fulfilling their missions despite the distractions of the other. But liberty comes at a price and the closer they get, the more they must question the true cost of being free.

Dear Ms. Bell,

I enjoyed the two Harlequin contemporaries of yours I read so I was excited when Choc Lit contacted me about reading one of your historicals. And not just any old historical but a 19th century ship board to New Zealand one. I thought, “Sign me up.”

“Chick-in-pants” novels have an additional layer of believability to be swallowed but George has been masquerading that way for years. She knows how to balance herself at dangerous heights from her circus father so ship work isn’t too difficult and, better still, she’s aware that her disguise will be hard to maintain which makes her more cautious while doing it. She pulls off the masquerade much better than most heroines I’ve read about. She revels at her freedom – much as her rebellious mother did. Georgie stays very consistent in her actions and reactions. I might see her going down the path towards trouble – especially at the end of the book – but based on how her character has been built and described, her actions make sense.

George and Harry share early humble beginnings and later rise in society which forges a bond and understanding between them. Harry is the dark horse in the action. Is he the assassin being sent to New Zealand or not? Since this possible conflict is revealed early on I wasn’t sure and there are red herrings aplenty here. Harry’s reactions to finding out Georgie’s masquerade actually seem period. He’s initially appalled at what she’s been exposed to living below decks with his rough and ready crew and refuses to allow it to continue. He will take care of this young woman who’s been thrust into his care – by her own actions, sure, but he’ll take over from now on – and return her to her rightful sphere. It takes time for him to learn the “real” Georgiana and realize that she is as she is and he loves her for it.

I enjoyed the initial scenes of George learning life at sea and discovering how she could use her circus tumbling/balancing talents up in the shrouds. She holds her own and asks for no favors. This part ended all too soon and the next shipboard section was a bit more tame. Another dark horse is introduced and the plot cleverly manages to continue the question of who is on George’s side and who is the assassin. I did wonder at the remarkable coordination of characters conveniently meeting up just when the plot requires it despite the vast distances by sea being traveled and the still relative lack of easy communication.

When everyone finally ends up in NZ, I was hoping for more descriptions of its breathtaking beauty. George and Harry marvel a bit at it but selfish me wanted more.

The final resolution of all the plot threads comes down to the wire. With few pages left – as shown by my ereader – things were still very much in the air. The true villain had been revealed but how would the rest of it end? With a convenient scene containing almost all the characters wherein lots of exposition, gunshots and arrivals of more characters just in the nick of time solve all. It was kind of a breathless charge down the backstretch. All is settled, wrong is righted, and romance triumphs. Still I’m left with a slightly unsettled feeling. Perhaps since the story is set in the mid 19th century when mores were changing, it will all work out but as one character says “there will be children” and I wonder how their parents’ reckless and adventurous spirit will bedevil them in their possible inheritance? Still I enjoyed watching George come into her own and Harry learn to love her for herself. B-

~Jayne

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REVIEW: A Risk Worth Taking by Zana Bell

REVIEW: A Risk Worth Taking by Zana Bell

“Any red-blooded American male would be all over Cressa Curtis. She’s gorgeous, she’s wild and clearly she’s open for a no-strings-attached adventure. But Adam Walker’s been there, done that. And now he wants more for himself. Even with his history, Adam still believes in love and family and marriage and the whole white picket fence—hardly what Cressa is offering.

Besides, everything about the crazy Kiwi spells danger and distraction—two things Adam can’t afford to risk with his sights set on medical school. He’s only in New Zealand for a month. Surely he can resist Cressa’s advances that long….”

Dear Ms. Bell,

A Risk Worth Taking by Zana BellI enjoyed your other book, “Tempting the Negotiator,” and have been waiting to see what you’d write about next. “A Risk Worth Taking” starts where that book left off, and peripherally continues the series first in New Zealand and then in Texas. But where that book was focused and centered, this one veered all over the place, plotwise, and ended up not working so well for me.

There is a lot going on here. A lot, a lot, a lot. Adam has his issues with his failed first marriage, the loss of his daughter in his life then – at the last minute – getting Stella back into his life, his feelings of inferiority, being a bastard, not knowing his father’s name or anything about him, his other brother being in jail, his mother as an alcoholic and how he feels about not tripping up her recovery, studying for the MCAT and, oh yes, his relationship with Cressa.

Cressa has her issues with marriage in general, her aborted first attempt at it, motherhood, the loss of her child – and this part is really papered over until the very end – her feelings about wanting to be footloose and fancy free, the relationship with her family – good but tempestuous at times, her jobs and – almost forgot – her growing love for Adam. You also include a tiny bit from Adam’s mother’s point of view. I can only hope that perhaps she’ll end up being a future heroine of her own novel or else this was totally wasted.

The bit about Adam finding out anything regarding his father is swept under the rug. There’s a touch about him reconnecting with his daughter then that’s gone. Cressa has one realization scene of losing her child then we get told about how she sobbed on the phone with others but there’s just not enough room for all this angst, and emotion and past events finally catching up with them. As for Alicia – sorry but I don’t get the feeling that this woman is an alcoholic. I also didn’t truly get that Adam burns to be a surgeon. I’m told this but I don’t see it that much. He could be studying for any major college entrance type exam.

Sweet baby Jesus these characters have a lot of edges and depths but enough is enough. Half of these issues would have done just fine and made a wonderful book but all of it together ends up like a huge group therapy session that’s totally out of control. The book just isn’t long enough to contain it all and get me to feel that justice has been done to it all.

Yet parts of this story remind me of what I liked about the first book. There is lots of stuff about NZ – how cold it is in winter, how the bay looks, the local flora and fauna – but I feel you worked it into the storyline well. It doesn’t come off as a travelogue or like a pamphlet from the Chamber of Commerce. The book definitely takes place here and doesn’t read like a generic location. The phosphorescence on the island under the crushed shells is especially cool. I also enjoyed the bits about Cressa seeing the US and Texas for the first time. Yeah, it is big. And humid around Houston.

With few issues for all around I think I would have really enjoyed this book but no sooner did something get introduced then something else would come along and push it out of the way, rinse and repeat. The resolution of the HEA took almost to the last page. I mean, smoking down to the wire with no resolution of the conflict between them being resolved in sight. There are unresolved things here which I’m guessing are to be continued in further books? But it leaves a sense of too little time spent on them in this book and a rushed tying up of some loose strings and a too quick HEA. C-

~Jayne

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