Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view


REVIEW:  The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory

REVIEW: The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey...


The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.

Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain.

Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.

Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.

Dear Authors,

When I read the blurb for this book at Netgalley, I had high hopes for it. A princess who is an expert swordswoman, pirates, treasure, true love and what I hoped, based on the cover, would be a story filled with swashbuckling adventure. The elements were there but the execution wasn’t what I’d hoped for. The story is slow, the magic is lacking and the romance is almost non-existent. By the end, I just wanted it over.

The first chapter is slow, leisurely and packed with backstory. We discover how poor little Swansgaard has 12 princesses and one crown prince and can’t hope to pay out that many dowries without breaking the bank so the princesses will have to make their own way in life. I was slightly miffed that 12 girls will get booted out so that sonny boy won’t be poor. It’s a set up that left a bitter taste in my mouth but I kept going in the hope that the eldest would be off to a life of grand adventure.

Months later, Clarice decides to head to the new world, which except for some barely changed names sounds much like North and South America. Long and tedious detail describes how she chooses a ship and begins to learn about life on board. If a reader doesn’t know much about sailing ships, this information can be handy but for someone who does, it’s slow going. Frankly the first chapter is a little boring.

But then in chapter two, finally things start to come together and the pace picks up a bit. Things happen, there’s a little swordplay and my interest revived only for the action to slow again. This is more the thinking person’s adventure as at the half way point and slightly beyond, I frankly couldn’t say there’s much “rousing adventure.”

Instead, Dominick and Clarice have to think their way through their problems – why did the captain act the way he did? Where was he going to take the ship and why? And now that they’re there, what lies ahead and how do they anticipate danger and deal with it? At this point, Clarice truly comes in handy with her lifelong training in politics, statesmanship and reading a situation to gain the advantage. But since they’re up against magic, ultimately all this means little.

Ah, the magic. It gets explained more than once but I still never truly “got it.” The most magic that appeared was wielded by the villain and it became more eeevil villainy that just is because it’s there rather than anything that makes much sense. Even the villain’s evil quest is never satisfactorily explained. It just all goes to pieces in the end and something, I’m still not sure what, happens and it’s over. Huh, okay then.

Despite the fact that this is mainly a fantasy novel, there’s still the romance, right? Only Clarice’s is the only point of view in the story and she loves Dominick but he’s utterly clueless about her true gender and identity for most of the story so all that we get is her unrequited feelings up until suddenly he’s in love with her to break a spell. Well, I felt cheated.

The pirates don’t save the story either as they are little but props for the evil villain. The pirate haven is a beautiful but dismal spot, as we learn but it hardly seems to matter as that is left behind too.

The story limps along to an end and it’s then that I realize that there are lots of loose ends left. Since this is, I believe, supposed to be the start of a series, I have to believe that this might be to leave issues to be resolved later. I, however, am not willing to read the next eleven books to find out. D


AmazonBNKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

REVIEW:  Close to the Wind by Zana Bell

REVIEW: Close to the Wind by Zana Bell


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-


AmazonBNSonyKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle