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REVIEW:  Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

REVIEW: Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley

Rules for a Proper Governess Jennifer Ashley

Dear Ms. Ashley:

As many readers here know, I’ve really struggled with the historical romance genre in the past few years despite it being my favorite genre in romance. And it’s not that I haven’t been trying to read it, but it’s been hard to lose myself in the books.

I was chatting with another reader and mentioned that I didn’t think historicals were as raw and earthy as I would like (because my tastes were changing as a reader). Despite the title, the story in Rules isn’t rigid and uptight. It’s a story about a small time grifter, a barrister with secrets, and two children who need more love in their lives.

The heroine is Roberta “Bertie” Frasier, a small time thief. A friend of hers is being tried for murder whom she knows is set up to take the fall for Bertie’s would be suitor’s brother. As she watches from the gallery, Bertie is convinced that she’s watching the verbal lynching of her innocent friend by barrister Sinclair “Basher” McBride. When McBride turns the tables and gets her friend off, Bertie tumbles half in love.

Her father and the suitor, however, aren’t as pleased. Her father sends her to steal something from McBride, just to get a little of their own back. She does so because the threat of being beat is a good motivator and, truthfully, she wouldn’t mind getting closer to McBride. The theft of the watch leads to McBride chasing her into a trap but Bertie doesn’t want to see McBride hurt so she helps him escape, but not before she steals a kiss from him.

McBride would have let about anything go, but not the watch. It was given to him by his long deceased wife and he treasures it. After Bertie saves him from a beating and kisses him senseless, he returns home with a sense of emptiness.

Bertie is intrigued by McBride and semi stalks him. This stalking leads her to be in the right place, at the right time, when the governess for the McBride family basically quits on an outing with Sinclair’s two children. The boy is a terror and the girl is a silent wraith. Bertie takes them to a pastry and tea shop, enjoys the heady experiences of being part of the moneyed class.

Andrew ate most of the cakes. Bertie managed to eat her fill in spite of that, and she lingered over her last scone. This was like a wonderful dream—a warm shop, clotted cream, smooth tea, and no need for money. What a fine world Mr. McBride lived in.

I love that Bertie is the instigator. She’s the one to kiss McBride, more than once. She inserts herself into his life and readily accepts his offer as governess. And she becomes instantly protective of not only McBride, but his children and his household. In some ways, the script if flipped here. Bertie is the stalker. Bertie is the aggressor. Bertie is the possessive one. But she does it in such an easy, nice way that you can’t help but love her.

She’s a creature of instinct. Every action she takes is of instinct and very little forethought. Fortunately she doesn’t come off as headstrong and stupid but rather entertaining, fun, and engaging. I read a lot of her scenes with a smile on my face.

McBride is a little harder to warm up to. He still has strong feelings for his dead wife and he’s not a particularly good father, something the story really doesn’t acknowledge. But because Bertie finds McBride fascinating and desirable and I like Bertie, I root for their inevitable pairing. There’s a surprise in McBride’s past that I really, really enjoyed. It made his relationship with Bertie all the more believable and helped soften his sometimes priggish edges.

If there’s a strong character arc change in either one, I didn’t see it. Yes, McBride falls for Bertie but Bertie is the same cheerful, sweet, impulsive woman at the end as she was in the beginning. Perhaps the changes were subtle. The most obvious changes occur in McBride as he lets go of his past and with his children as they both become more settled under Bertie’s direction. (She plays the most perfect governess, knowing when lessons should be had and when fun should be had. That might be irritating to some)

The romantic tension simmers on low for a while and I was glad for that because I wasn’t ready for the two to consummate their relationship in part because I wanted to see McBride be fully into Bertie when the physical relationship commenced.

An underlying suspense thread wends through the book as someone threatens to reveal McBride’s secrets and there are many returning characters, some that I remembered and some that I did not. Hart is still stern and stuffy and Ian is still mysterious. If Bertie was a bit too perfect, I didn’t mind but I do wish McBride was a more vibrant character. B-

Best regards,

Jane

As a side note, this book takes place before Daniel’s book.

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REVIEW:  Code Runner by Rosie Claverton

REVIEW: Code Runner by Rosie Claverton

 

Dear Rosie Claverton:

I read your debut Amy Lane mystery, and as soon as I was done I went to Netgalley and requested the next installment for review. Life intervened for a couple of weeks, but when I had a spare hour I started reading Code Runner. As I anticipated given my experience with Binary Witness, I had high hopes for this novel and I wasn’t disappointed. Code Runner is a very strong followup to the first book and I am firmly hooked on the Amy and Jason chronicles.

ACode Runner Clavertonmy Lane, computer hacker and agoraphobe, and Jason Carr, ex-con and cleaner/assistant, have settled into a comfortable relationship. Amy’s house and person are well cared for and Jason is enjoying having a proper job. But their new case puts Amy, Jason, and any number of other people close to them in danger, with several characters’ past and present lives colliding.

Unlike the mystery in the first book, this one finds Jason at the heart of the crimes, and even though he is a more or less innocent bystander, his ex-con background makes him an obvious suspect and he winds up back where he hoped never again to be: in prison, meeting old friends and enemies. As a result, the reader spends a lot of time with Jason, and Amy and Jason spend quite a bit of time apart. Jason engages in some behavior that verges on TSTL, although we can understand his motives. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but think that the actions that got him into trouble are *exactly* the kind of thing for which a heroine gets a ton of grief from readers. So I was glad to see that he had to pay the price, however painful it was to watch those consequences unfold.

I don’t want to say too much about the mystery plot because it’s hard to describe without giving away spoilers. I enjoyed it quite a bit, I didn’t guess the full story until almost the end, and I thought the pacing and overall development of the mystery arc was more successful than in the previous novel. The criminals and victims include present and former friends and associates of Jason as well as members of the police force, and we get to know more about Cardiff detectives Bryn and Owain, Jason’s sister Cerys, and Amy’s sister Lizzie.

The relationship between Amy and Jason continues to develop, and in this installment we get hints that each might be feeling more than friendship for the other. Nothing explicit happens, but in spite of that (or perhaps because of it), the few, fleeting moments when they share a sense of something that might happen between them are quite powerful. I hope Claverton doesn’t rush the relationship, because I love the way each is learning more about the other, and the dry, understated humor that often accompanies their observations provides a bit of relief from the ugly stuff. And I get a kick out of the role reversals:

Jason was cleaning the oven. Amy had learned swiftly that if Jason was cleaning the oven, elbow-deep in grease and melted cheese, he was incredibly pissed off. The first time had been the trashy tabloid article where some so-called journalist had scraped together every flimsy piece of “evidence” he could find and concluded that Jason was a dangerous criminal who police had pardoned to bring vigilante justice back to the streets. They’d quoted liberally from a number of anonymous sources—who refused to be named for their safety.

When Owain had apologetically drawn their attention to it, Jason hadn’t said a word. He had just retreated to the kitchen and scoured the oven from top to bottom for two hours. Meanwhile, Amy had launched a DDoS attack, exploiting an old botnet from her blackhat days to flood the tabloid’s antiquated servers with corrupt code. The site had been down for over twenty-four hours, and the creaking old system had never fully recovered. It had been exceedingly satisfying.

At the same time, though, I’m enjoying the possibility of seeing more romance develop over the course of the series.

As in the previous installment, the sense of place is effectively developed; this isn’t a story that could take place anywhere, but rather it is firmly rooted in its context. We travel outside Cardiff to the countryside and to the coast, and the different locations play critical roles in the story. The book is atmospheric without drawing attention to itself. The writing is still a bit rough in patches, but it suits Jason and several other characters’ relatively rough backgrounds and even Amy’s lack of social acumen.

There are no easy fixes for the difficulties the characters face. Amy is still agoraphobic, and although she takes a big step forward, there’s no guarantee she won’t retreat again. Jason’s past continues to shape his present and future despite his efforts to overcome the hurdles it creates. Code Runner provides the next step in the classic path that a good mystery series takes, and my biggest regret when I finished was that I don’t know when the next installment is due. At this point Amy, Jason, Cerys, Bryn, and Owen feel pretty real to me and I want to spend more time with them. Grade: B+

P.S. I don’t usually pay attention to covers, but wow, did you ever win the lottery on yours. I’d buy print copies just to be able to display them.

 

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