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Sep 23, 2015

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley

Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Thank you Sourcebooks for another winner!

Named of the Dragon by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark, reissue pub date of October 6, 2015
eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this honest review
Burton Book Review Rating: 5 stars
Read my reviews of other works by Susanna Kearsley
A haunting tale of intrigue from New York Times bestselling author Susanna Kearsley.
Although it goes against her workaholic nature, literary agent Lyn Ravenshaw lets herself be whisked off to Wales for the Christmas holidays by her star client, flamboyant children's author Bridget Cooper. She suspects Bridget has ulterior motives, but the lure of South Wales with its castles and myths is irresistible. Perhaps a change of scene will bring relief from the nightmares that have plagued her since the death of her child.
Lyn immerses herself in the peace and quiet of the charming Welsh village, but she soon meets an eccentric young widow who's concerned her baby son is in danger—and inexplicably thinks Lyn is the child's protector.
Lyn's dreams become more and more disturbing as she forms a surprisingly warm friendship with a reclusive, brooding playwright, and is pulled into an ancient world of Arthurian legend and dangerous prophecies. Before she can escape her nightmares, she must uncover the secret of her dreams, which is somehow inextricably located in a time long ago and far away...
I think I've now read about five of Susanna Kearsley's novels, most of which I have really enjoyed. This one I also enjoyed which is intriguing to me simply because this novel isn't quite like her others. My original draw to the author was her dual time-period narratives and yet this one is different. There is no dual time period here though there are themes that redirect your thoughts to eras gone by, such as the Arthurian legends or the quest for Henry VII to win the English crown.

The story itself is that of a writer's agent, Lyn, who goes on holiday with her flirtatious client, Bridget. Lyn is there to perhaps score herself another client, but she prides herself on being of sound ethics and a good judge of character. She is definitely very easy to like which made me want to pursue reading about what was happening to Lyn as she uncovered more and more of a mystery going on in a remote village of Wales and gets a little caught up with romantic thoughts for rogue-ish Welsh guys.

There was a wonderful tension being built up between the fellow inhabitants of the house that Lyn was staying at, and the mystery theme didn't come off as a plain whodunit formula. The story revolved around Lyn's past hurts and how she was coming to terms with grief, and learning about her new friends. When she becomes protective of a baby is when the drama and tension start to take off, and I was sucked in. It wasn't till I finished the novel that I realized, hey this isn't a historical! And I liked it! Good times. I don't like coming up with buzz words or quotable sentences that feel forced, so let me just say I do love this author and her stuff: she is good at what she does. Susanna Kearsley is one of those names that come to mind when someone asks me for recommendations.

Sourcebooks has been reissuing Kearsley's novels, and this is another one. Some readers get perturbed when novels are marketed as "new" so I just wanted to put it out there that this novel was originally issued in the late nineties but long out of print. Some reviewers will also say they don't give five stars for anything unless their socks got knocked off. I don't wear socks too often, but since I read this book in less than two weeks and I actually WANTED to read again (unlike the last read which was over a month long of complete torture), hell yeah: five stars to Kearsley for making me remember what reading for pleasure was all about.

And thank you to Sourcebooks for offering the eGalley for my review. I still need to read some of the originals that Sourcebooks reissued, such as The Winter Sea or Mariana. I had gotten those signed by the author when I got a chance to see her at a signing in Dallas. Sweet!

Sep 8, 2015

The Passionate Enemies: Book 3 of the Norman Trilogy by Jean Plaidy

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Passionate Enemies: Book 3 of the Norman Trilogy by Jean Plaidy
First published about 1976
Not even gonna try to rate this bad boy
This is the third and final book in The Norman Trilogy and tells the story of the last days of the reign of Henry I. His son and wife are dead, and Henry hastily remarries a woman more than thirty years his junior in the hope of producing a male heir and securing the succession.

If he fails, the throne will pass to Matilda, and Henry fears that his nobles will not willingly serve a woman. But after his death this feckless daughter becomes the focus of a line of would-be kings and soon the country is plunged into a bitter civil war that only a child can undo.

What a thorn in my side this book was. I was so looking forward to getting to a Plaidy historical, for Jean Plaidy has been lauded as a favorite author by many. I have seen many posts by people who state that they read her novels when in high school and loved them so. I wanted to love this book, but much like book two of the Norman trilogy, this was a major bomb.

The story follows the timeline of Empress Matilda and her cousin Stephen, when Henry I is aging and needs to name a successor since his one legitimate son perished on the White Ship. The characters of the Empress and Stephen were repeatedly cemented in throughout the novel: the Empress: a virago, and Stephen, the weak usurper.

The novel has a bit of floof to it as well, with the Empress and Stephen secretly in love (which is not a secret or a spoiler since that is what the synopsis implies). The Empress could wield the magic stick and bring Stephen to his knees, pretty much the whole entire novel was the going back and forth .. one of my Goodreads status updates was "Please don't be more about how Stephen wants Matilda and Matilda holds crown over Stephen's head."

Among the many repeated themes in the novel was the fact that the Empress was named Matilda and Stephen's queen was also Matilda. Over and over again the two Matildas were compared to each other, mostly as Stephen mooned over one while ignoring the other. The novel was so very character focused that one does not completely get the feel of how England suffered during the turmoil of the Stephen vs. Empress wars.

I started the novel in the beginning of August. The dog then ate the book, so I had a week off while I waited for another copy. I finally finished the book on September 8. Not exactly one of those page turning novels!
I think over the years the historical fiction genre has seen the rise of excellent writers such as Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick which then makes picking up a practically vintage Plaidy a hit or miss type of option.

I have enjoyed the three novels I've read under the Phillippa Carr pseudonym, and definitely will return to that series before I can brave another Jean Plaidy.

Thank you so much to MaryKate to being my fellow sufferer. Though perhaps I would have fed the second copy of the book to the dog if I didn't have someone waiting on me for a readalong. BUT it was nice to  have someone who understood what I was going through! The fourth Carr will be our next read along as soon as I can muster up the strength to try again :)

The previous reviews of the Norman trilogy:

The Bastard King Vol. 1
The Lion of Justice Vol. 2
The Passionate Enemies Vol. 3