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REVIEW:  Jack Absolute by CC Humpreys

REVIEW: Jack Absolute by CC Humpreys

“It’s 1777 when Captain Jack Absolute becomes a sensation throughout London. This news comes as a shock to the real Jack Absolute when he arrives in England after four months at sea. But there’s little time for outrage before he finds himself dueling for his life. Right when he thinks he’s finally won, he is forced to flee London by the quickest means possible, becoming a spy in the American Revolution. From the streets of London, to the pivotal battle of Saratoga, to a hunt for a double agent in Philadelphia, this novel marks the exhilarating beginning of an epic historical series and a character you won’t soon forget.”

Dear Mr. Humphreys,

When I initially saw first the cover of this book and then read the blurb for it, I immediately requested the arc from Netgalley. I adore books set in the 18th century and especially those set in the American Revolution – which seems to have fallen from favor over the past 10-15 years – or those that look as if they will be swashbuckler-ish. This book should have rung my bell in all the best ways. Unfortunately I find myself willing to put it aside for a number of reasons, many of which I acknowledge are personal and not the fault of the book.

Jack-AbsoluteI must have been scanning the blurb through rose colored glasses and reading into it what I wanted to find. What I was expecting of a hero described elsewhere as the “007 of the 1770s” was more romantic town-centered daring do-ish romp than what I found 1/3 of the way into the story. I thought the setting would be more in London and Philadelphia instead of on board ship and in the wilds of upstate New York. Jack is forced to flee London after a duel with a character who strikes me as one of these types who will dog Jack through the story. I use the verb “dog” for a reason as the man also comes off as a rabid OTT villain – a type I dislike and try to avoid in my reading. The fact that Jack has strong ties to the Mohawk tribe and can rough it better than some of the warriors of the tribe came as a surprise. It also brings into the story the tragic effect the War had on the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. The rents in the fabric that would eventually split the Confederacy apart are mentioned early on and I just wasn’t up to watching this happen as I find it too depressing. I also wasn’t excited at the prospect of seeing the terrible way the war played out on the frontier. Though I have read books featuring it
( Independent Heart ) the tone here was feeling especially grim.

Another thing bothered me that I wasn’t expecting. Jack is obviously a British hero working on the side of the Crown. I knew that and was actually looking forward to seeing his side and POV on the war. Jack is intelligent, competent and has a high respect for the Colonials beside whom he fought in the French and Indian War. He wants to bring the Colonies back in the fold as brothers rather than scolded children. But he’s dismayed and handicapped by his fellow British officers and the Loyalists surrounding him. Despite being a patriotic American, I actually found myself sympathizing with the poor man as he was driven towards banging his head against a brick wall and tearing his hair out due to the incompetent and or drunken knobs with whom he was working. This aspect of the story seemed like it was going to do a number on my blood pressure.

The final nail in the coffin is a subplot dealing with a secret society. I hate secret societies. No, let me go further and say I loathe them as plot devices and avoid them if possible. It’s one reason I seldom read romantic suspense novels as they are often chock full of uber black ops groups. I did keep reading far past the point when the Illuminati are first mentioned but it gnawed at me each time they came up and finally I tossed in the towel.

At some future date, I might very well go back and attempt to finish this book. The writing is well done and the plot seems to be solid even if not to my taste. Some things would always bother me but perhaps the grimness might not be such a factor to me as it is now. Some personal issues in my life right now are leading me to put aside darker books for the time being – something that is certainly not the fault of this book. Readers interested in an intelligent and flawed anti-hero in a book set on the brutal frontier during the American Revolution need look no further.

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  The Travel Auction by Mark Green

REVIEW: The Travel Auction by Mark Green

“It should have been their trip of a lifetime. But with just days to go, Jonathan Cork finds himself dumped by his girlfriend, Kate Thornly. Even worse, a life-threatening allergy means he can’t travel alone. Unable to change the name on the spare ticket and fast running out of time, Jonathan resorts to desperate measures. He advertises on eBay for a travel companion with the same name as his ex. The problem is, it’s a complete lottery who he’ll end up with.

Kate Thornly (the second) is aware of the unusual eBay auction, but she can’t be persuaded to bid. Enter Maria, her best friend, who secretly applies on her behalf! With her nursing credentials and erotic photo, Kate seems the perfect travel companion. But there’s just one small detail Maria’s conveniently left off Kate’s bid…

What follows is a funny, page-turning, roller-coaster ride around South America.”

Dear Mr. Green,

What an interesting premise for a book. The uniqueness of the plot and writing style shown in the opening excerpt are what hooked me and got me on board to read it. I will admit to some disbelief that there are that many Kate Thornlys in GB but for the sake of moving the plot along, okay. I really fell in love with KT2/Angel and not for any “she’s such an inspiration!” guff either. Angel is funny, opinionated, independent, calls ‘em as she sees ‘em, doesn’t let Jonny/JC get away with shit and is uninhibited in a way I can only marvel at.

travel-auctionBut what happens to the ebay auction? It begins with that, which kicks off the funny first chapter, and then the selection process seems to shift to interviews. Later Jonny/JC and KT2/Angel’s notoriety depends on the fact that this was supposedly all over ebay but it’s not like Angel’s friend Maria bid in Angel’s place and “won.” And can Angel taste nuts? She can’t detect them and if the food is fried in nut oil, how would she know so – why the sham/charade of her testing Jonny/JC’s food? I would also think that he’d have cards printed out ahead of time in Spanish and Portuguese warning of his allergies that he could show to wait staff along the way. I also wondered just how many epi/adrenaline pens did he bring?

The trip around South America sounded like a blast. The detailed comments JC relays to Angel give it a super “you are there” feel for those of us not as lucky to have bummed around Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. I did notice a tendency on JC’s part to paint the experience with a light wash of “Oh, the noble, natives, how happy they are with what little they have” sepia tones. He also begins to soulfully admire how brave and fearless Angel is and wax rhapsodic about how she’s “opening his eyes” and “making him see life anew” or some such. Gosh, almost like she’s some kind of inspiration for him. Thankfully, Angel doesn’t sink into Saint acting role.

I don’t want to give away the secret but it would be hard not to talk about something that is a major part of the story and Angel. She never views herself as lesser, only as needing different cues in life and isn’t afraid to confront anyone about their thoughts on her disability. I’m not sure how someone who is disabled will like this story. I’m hesitant to comment on the validity of Angel’s character or her actions. But I did like that the focus of the story is on JC and Angel and their growing relationship via traveling and not her condition.

I like the dual PsOV layout of the book and also that you manage to avoid retelling the same thing when the POV shifts to the other person. The pace is brisk and the book didn’t have the dreaded saggy middle. The romance and relationship keep chugging along and I like that the relationship arrives and is allowed time to breathe long before the naughty bits get into action. JC and Angel ingeniously arrange for the healthcare needed after their harrowing drive from the jungle back to La Paz – that was a sobering view of traveling insurance – and still manage to get the better of those who would hound them for a story and invade their lives. It all also kickstarts JC’s realization that Angel is the one for him and that he’s not going to lose her because he didn’t try. His methods confirm that he’s changed dramatically from the orderly, list making man who began the journey. Any bloke willing to wear what he does and do what he does to win her and chuck the nosy reporters richly deserves his HEA.

The story is open ended and yet not. Angel and JC are easing into a relationship – despite the “From Here to Eternity” public show – but there are still issues for them to confront – namely the “late breaking” medical information which I don’t recall JC having even told Angel yet. But it’s a bright and shiny future they’re headed towards as they wing their way to Heathrow. I feel good about them but slightly, giddily apprehensive about what Angel’s equally uninhibited friend Maria will get up to when she hears all the scoop. I predict some wild theme parties and hen nights. B-

~Jayne

 

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