Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Review: Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Cat Morland is the daughter of a vicar, and slightly naive due to being home-schooled, who longs for the kind of excitement and adventure she reads about in her favourite books (the very Gothic Hebridean Harpies series). When her wealthy neighbours offer to take her to the Edinburgh Festival for a month, she is thrilled.

I've not read the original Jane Austen version of this story, so I'm unsure how closely this re-imagining follows the original. Much of the first half of the book is taken up by Cat going to various Festival events and meeting the rather awful Thorpe family. Bella, who swiftly becomes her new best friend, mainly for their shared love of the Hebridean Harpies, and the bombastic Johnny, who decides Cat is going to be his new girlfriend, regardless of what she thinks. In extreme contrast, are the gentle, kind-hearted Tilney's - Henry, who teaches Cat to dance, his mysterious sister, Eleanor, and their 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' elder brother Freddy, on leave from the army, who delights in causing trouble.

The second half the story is where Cat is invited by Eleanor to stay at the family house - or rather, baronial castle. Expecting a deliciously gothic mansion, like the settings for one of her favourite books, Cat is rather disappointed to find the interior has been completely modernised. Still, there are lots of mysterious goings on to compensate ...

I loved the leisurely pace of this novel, so different from Val's crime novels. I particularly enjoyed all the descriptions of Edinburgh and the famous Festival, which really made it come alive for me. I also have a weakness for the same kind of gothic novels as Cat, so I appreciated the humour, and the developing romance between Cat and Henry was sweet.

Recommended if you'd like to read a clever, funny and inventive re-working of the classic Jane Austen novel, but if you're expecting something more like Val's crime novels, you might be disappointed.

About the Author

Val McDermid comes from Kirkcaldy, Fife, and read English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford (where she is now an Honorary Fellow). She was the first ever student from a state school in Scotland. Following graduation she became a journalist, and worked briefly as a dramatist.

Her first success as a novelist came with Report for Murder the first Lindsay Gordon Mystery, first published in 1987.

Among her many awards are the Portico Prize for Fiction, the LA Times Book Prize, the Lambda Literary Pioneer Award and the Cartier Diamond Dagger. She has published 27 novels, short stories, non-fiction and a prize-winning children’s book. She is a regular broadcaster for BBC radio and lives in Edinburgh.

Author Website

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Review: A Passion for Him & Don't Tempt Me by Sylvia Day

I picked this up from the library today - only to realise when I got home that I'd already read it. So I took it back! But it's been several years since I'd read it, so I read it again.

As well as her hugely successful Crossfire series (contemporary romance), Sylvia Day also wrote a series of Georgian historical romances:

#1 Ask For It
#2 A Passion for the Game
#3 A Passion for Him
#4 Don't Tempt Me

They are set in the 1770s and the characters (both male and female) work for various governments as spies. As with any series, you get the most out of them if you read the books in order! However, you could probably get away with starting with book #2.

A Passion for Him
(#3 Georgian Series)
by Sylvia Day

Amelia is the younger sister of Maria, the heroine of book #2. Although betrothed to the handsome Earl of Ware, Amelia is still in love with her childhood sweetheart, Colin, who died saving her life. Amelia and Colin's backstory is told in flashbacks throughout the book, which is handy if you haven't read #2 (or, like me, have a memory like a sieve).

Despite being betrothed to the kind-hearted Earl, Amelia falls head over heels in lust with a handsome stranger at a masked ball. Completely obsessed, she is soon arranging assignations all over London, determined to discover the stranger's secrets. And he has quite a few - one of which I'm sure you've already guessed! There's lots of sex and sometimes the language is a bit crude, but Sylvia Day certainly knows how to write a page turner and I enjoyed the story very much.

Don't Tempt Me
(#4 Georgian Series)
by Sylvia Day

So after reading #3, I then had to read #4 again. This one is about Irish mercenary Simon Quinn, who was Maria's lover in #2, and Colin's boss in #3. Still with me? 

Simon is all set to retire with the fortune he's made working for the British government, only to be tricked into doing one last job - seduce the cold-hearted French assassin Lysette Rousseau. Except Lysette seems to have completely changed since their last assignment - almost as though she is another woman entirely ...

This is my favourite story out of the four, even though it somehow manages to juggle the relationships of three different sets of characters. It starts in Paris in 1757, some twenty-three year earlier, and details the passionate affair between Marguerite Piccard and the Marquis de Saint-de-Martin, before it all goes horribly wrong, mainly due to the interference of the villain, known as 'L'Espirit'. L'Espirit turns up again in the present, to make Simon and Lysette's life hell, and if you haven't read the earlier books you might become extremely confused by this point, as there are an awful lot of characters and some of them have very similar-sounding names. I did enjoy the spy-thriller style plot, although I did work out the identity of the mysterious L'Espirit. And I'd have preferred more about the relationship between Simon and the woman he falls in love with.

About the Author

Sylvia Day is the #1 Sunday Times and #1 international bestselling author of over 20 award-winning novels sold in more than 40 countries. She is a #1 bestselling author in 28 countries, with tens of millions of copies of her books in print. Her Crossfire series has been optioned for television by Lionsgate.