The Convenient Marriage – Georgette Heyer

This is an entertaining early romance by Heyer, and some of the plot construction issues hadn’t been smoothed out yet, but the delightful characters make up for it. To get my plot beef out of the way, it is pointless to have the humorous/suspenseful misdirection occur after the climax rather than on the way to it. Yes, the characters don’t know that the situation has been resolved, but the reader does, and this undercuts both the suspense and (as the misdirection becomes annoying/lengthy) the humor. Also the main character is somewhat dropped in the second half and not as involved in the resolution as I’d like.

Despite this structural failing, this was a wonderful read. In a time when news of rape and other sexual misdeeds is everywhere, I enjoyed reading about the diminutive, stammering, and generally heedless Horry getting the better of a would-be rapist by hitting him over the head with a poker. Yes, the plot has a very 30’s attitude toward gender, and the characters are from an even less enlightened time (a sympathetic character suggests Horry’s husband beat her–Heyer doesn’t try to make her heroes and heroines better than their age). There’s also a bit of casual anti-Semitism–not as bad as the later The Grand Sophy, but still not good.

If you can deal with these flaws, you will be rewarded with a madcap tale of fake highwaymen, masked balls, mistaken identity, gambling and, of course, falling in love where it’s least expected–between two people who are already married! Heyer is great at writing disturbingly sexy villains, competent heroes, non-passive heroines, and hilarious side characters. The drunken antics of Horry’s brother and his friends had me in stitches. She’s also good at portraying three-dimensional portraits of people whose flaws genuinely hurt others, yet who have great virtues. You’ll want to punch and applaud the same person.

It’s not as well put-together structurally as some of her other novels such as Faro’s Daughter, but it packs in tons of entertainment. Even if you don’t read romance (I usually prefer other genres), Heyer’s books are accessible, funny, and generally worth a try.

Advertisements

Walking on Knives is out!

You can purchase it at Amazon here!

Thanks to all of you for your support!

WalkingonKnives-fThe little mermaid has no idea that as she makes her way on land, she’s being watched over by the sister of the very witch with whom she made her bargain. She has no idea that the witch’s sister is falling in love with her.

When the prince decides to marry another woman, the little mermaid’s secret helper offers her a chance to live. But the price may be too high…

Content warning: Walking on Knives contains some explicit content and opens with a disturbing scene of dubious sexual consent.

Ester and Artemisia – Rivka Aarons-Hughes

The premise of Ester and Artemisia is wonderful–Adina, a brilliant black art professor, must decide whether or not to authenticate a painting forged by her forger crush/nemesis, Ester–, but the prose leaves something to be desired and the commentary on racism is superficial.

That said, the chemistry between the main characters and the unique scenario they found themselves in kept me reading this short and steamy romance (about 20,000 words or a little more than 50 pages). The sex is not generic, but serves to further individualize the characters. And though I’m no art expert myself, the symbolic centering of Artemisia Gentileschi, the Baroque artist who endured torture in order to see her rapist convicted and went on to paint compelling and emotional works, was very satisfying.

esterandartemisia400

That said, Aarons-Hughes’s fictional Gentileschi forgery is, as described, more interesting than the Black Lives Matter allegory which Ester also paints. Although discussion of racism could have been a more organic part of the story, since Adina is black and Ester, who is Hispanic, sees no way to break into the mostly-white professional art world as an original artist, it ends up heavy-handed and very broad.

Aside from this off note and the numerous cliches in the text (butterflies in Adina’s stomach, for example), this is a quick and engrossing read, full of detail about art, food, and sex. If you’re looking for novella-length romance, it’s worth checking out. And the cover is absolutely lovely!

Note: My Walking on Knives shares a publisher with this work.

July release for Walking on Knives!

My f/f bisexual little mermaid novelette, Walking on Knives, will appear in July this year from Less Than Three Press. Preorder here!

I’m organizing a blog tour and other promotional events, so expect to see more about the story as the release date draws nearer. For today, I’ve got a brand-new excerpt (read a previous one here and add the ebook on Goodreads). Here’s the opening! (warning for dubious consent)

“You wanted this,” the sea-witch murmured. “You made the bargain, you agreed to pay the price.”

The little mermaid nodded mutely. She tried to look everywhere but at the sea-witch: at the crags carved with unconscious artistry by endless waves, at the pale moving lights cast by monsters of the deep, at the black infinity that stretched inward into the bowels of the cave. But tangled black hair and hard scales came between her and the rest of her world.

Sun-starved, chill, she submitted to the sea-witch’s touch.

“Walking on Knives” preview

Yes, it’s been a while since I last posted here- but that should change. I just finished Erin Bow’s The Swan Riders, sequel to The Scorpion Rules, and will be reviewing it soon. In the meantime, have a teaser for my f/f mermaid story, “Walking on Knives.” It will be out as an ebook from Torquere in February 2017.  It will be out as an ebook from Less Than Three Press on July 26th, 2017 and can be preordered here.

Here’s a preview- the little mermaid’s first encounter with birds and the concept of flight. The other half of the f/f pair isn’t in this bit, unfortunately, though you do get to meet the prince (who quotes the ancient Greek poet Alcman on kingfishers):

“My lady, listen.” The prince held a finger to his lips. She didn’t know what she was meant to be hearing–everything here was hushed, the still air, the carpet of old twigs and leaves. Slowly patterns emerged: squeaks like the gabbling of dolphins and every now and then a long high rattle. She revolved, seeing only the trees on one side and the path to the beach, with a cottage beside it, on the other.

She could feel the prince’s gaze on her. Her eyes had widened, and her hands came up in excited gesticulation. He understood her without words.

“Look up,” he whispered, pointing at the branches that interwove above them. Something blue and impossible streaked through the air.

“A kingfisher,” he said, and sang a line or two of verse. “‘His heart fearless, the holy sea-blue bird.’ You’re not from around here, are you?”

She scarcely registered the question. Head tilted back, she scanned the obstructed sky for more of the creatures. Air suddenly took on the complexity, the bounty of the sea.

A little brown meteor flew past; it came to rest on a low branch, and she examined its squid-like beak and mysterious texture–a thousand soft, elongated scales covered its breast and its– fins? arms? A miracle, in this gravity-bound, depthless world.

 

Climbing the Date Palm – Shira Glassman

This is a short and sweet novel with an opera connection.

Queen Shulamit and her girlfriend, the cook Aviva, need a solution to prevent the lesbian queen from having to marry a man in order to conceive a legitimate heir. Prince Kaveh of a neighboring country needs someone to get his boyfriend out of jail, where he’s scheduled to be executed for standing up to Kaveh’s father, the king, in a labor dispute. They come to a mutually beneficial arrangement– Kaveh will be Shulamit’s husband-in-name-only, and Shulamit will rescue his boyfriend.

As you can probably guess from the names and synopsis, this is a queer fantasy novel where most of the characters are Jewish. It’s published by the small press Prizm, the YA imprint of Torquere, which will be publishing my Walking on Knives. Shira Glassman mentioned that the plot was very loosely inspired by the Verdi opera/Schiller play Don Carlos (in which a tyrannical king kills his son’s best friend). That happens to be my favorite opera and my favorite play, so of course I had to check it out.

I liked the characterizations, with the main characters having flaws that made them more lovable than if they were perfect (eg Shulamit is a worrier, Kaveh tends toward hysterics, but both of them try to overcome their flaws). There was a lot of emphasis on the dignity and importance of work, whether it be the initial labor dispute over wage theft or Kaveh learning from Aviva how to cook as a way to be useful and avoid being overcome by his emotions. Also, though this is book two in a series, I was able to understand it easily without having read the first book.22677590-_uy200_

On to the not-so-good: this book really could have used another line-edit, as many sentences had very awkward constructions. Also, the ending, in which Kaveh’s father is convinced by his long-lost lover to release his prisoner, left me confused as to why the implications were not more deeply explored. Said long-lost love is totally aware of how the king has become a terrible person, yet agrees to marry him– I would have liked to know if this was a sacrifice on her part or if the king had some redeeming qualities. This is not even discussed.

Overall, a light and charming read.

The Cold Between – Elizabeth Bonesteel

pp98sulctikkxyeml1ap Elizabeth Bonesteel’s debut novel, The Cold Between, is blurbed by a RITA award winner and begins, after a prologue, with the main character, Elena, being picked up in a bar by the mysterious Trey Zajec (the picture to the left is from the excellent cover depiction of them). They’re soon having sex, in a lengthy scene that nonetheless reveals little about their characters. Is this sci-fi, romance, or both?

I can think of some excellent crossovers– Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor being an example– but I was worried this book might prove “too much romance, not enough roller derby,” to borrow a phrase. I needn’t have worried. While Bonesteel doesn’t have Bujold’s flair for characterization, relying too much on telling about each character from the point of view of the others rather than showing, she’s a much smoother prose stylist. And the plot soon picks up, with murders, wormholes, and mysterious explosions. I also enjoyed the heroine being an army mechanic, an unusual occupation which comes in handy at various points.

The setting is a Russian-influenced future space colony, and I was amused to see some characters’ last names taken directly from Russian politics, like Putin and Limonov. While the villains of the story were too obvious for my liking, both in terms of their identities and their motivations, they did have a few redeeming qualities and interesting povs. For example, one villain refuses to be part of the heroes’ plans to thwart a technology that could be world-ending…or life-saving. I really liked that the hypotenuse of the love triangle, Elena’s captain Greg, gets to be a strong and likable character despite Elena not being attracted to him.

Ultimately, the weakness of this story is in the tell-don’t-show characterization. Rather than letting us see their attraction in their actions, Bonesteel has Trey and Elena mentally praise each other– a tactic that didn’t work for me in Graveyard Sparrow, either. Nor is the character development subtle. One particularly obvious quote: “His heart warmed, and all of his insecurity washed away as if it had never been.”

However, there’s plenty of action and tension, all in a very readable style, and Bonesteel ties up the plot while leaving plenty for the sequel to explore. I’ll probably be reading the sequel, Remnants of Trust, when it comes out later this year.

And as to the genre question? I’m waiting for later books to resolve that. The Cold Between doesn’t have the Happily Ever After or Happy For Now ending required of genre romance, but we’ll see what happens as the series goes on.