The Great Roxhythe

by Georgette Heyer

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

“I doubt it.” My lord smiled insufferably.

Spoilerish second quote. Sorry I can’t figure out how to do spoiler tags on WordPress

Roxhythe laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Chris, you are distraught because you are rudderless. Come back to me!”

“No-no! I cannot! Less than ever now. I-I think I shall go out of my mind soon!”

“Chris, you were so happy with me. Come back!”

“Ah. so happy! It could never be the same again. Do not try to persuade me! I must go- right away , where I shall not see you.”

“Even though I beg you to stay?”

“Yes- even then, my lord. Don’t try to persuade me! It is hard enough as it is.” 

both quotes encapsulate why this book is pretty much unreadable for me. As a tip, that Georgette Heyer as a naïve 20/21 year old when she unintentionally wrote this gay romance! Other than the spoilered quote above, this wasn’t funny the second time around. Georgette Heyer’s brother has described his sister as so square she was practically cubed. GH definitely didn’t intend for this novel to be a gay romance!

I don’t think that books about royal intrigues are for me. This book was wwwaaayyy too talky-talky for me! No action happens for very long stretches.

Christopher Dart, who takes a position as Roxhythe’s secretary, is an attractive character at the start, but by the end his rigid morals & behaving like a lovesick teenager start to pall. I would say by the time Chris makes his final appearance in the book he is around 32/33 which in those days would have been considered middle aged. It just doesn’t ring true for me at all.

This book only gets an extra half star for a reasonably good beginning and because My Lord John and Helen are so much worse. Don’t bother looking for my review for those two – I read them before I joined Goodreads and I am never going to read them again!

Even if you are a Heyer completist I would skip this one.

A Book

by Desi Arnaz

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Got to say, one stupid title for a book!

This was my first attempt at writing a review on GR’s shiny new book page! & so far everything very slow. & private notes don’t show while writing the review.

Much the same, as trying to do anything now as a GR librarian!

But I digress.

I have never seen I Love Lucy (other than excerpts on various television specials) but my late mother loved this show & said it was way funnier than any of Lucille Ball’s subsequent TV programmes.

The start of the book about Desi’s privileged childhood in Cuba & the contrast in his life after the family had to flee to Miami after the Cuban Revolution in 1933. From a life of luxury Desi went to cleaning canary cages in Miami. I really admired the boundless optimism, self belief & creativity that kept him going & eventually he did make it in the music world.

When he fell in love with, & then married Lucille Ball, to make the marriage work they needed to live in the same place. Lucille was always (rightly most of the time!) jealous, & Desi admits to also having a jealous nature. I Love Lucy was born not without some (racist) resistance to the idea of having Lucille’s character married to a Latino. (even though that was what had happened in real life!) The programme was a huge success, & the Arnazs showed a strong entrepreneurial streak with subsequent ventures.

The couple in 1957. Public Domain photo.

But all this hard work, infidelity, & Desi’s alcoholism (although he doesn’t use this term) & health issues took a toll on their marriage, & the couple divorced in 1960. On the jacket blurb Desi does promise a sequel, but I can’t find any evidence that this eventuated.

I enjoyed this book very much! Desi has a lively writing style & has lived such an interesting life. The book does sag just a little in the middle before an ending to the fairytale romance that shocked me a little. I’m glad they became friends again in later life.

This book is supposed to be collectable now. I guess I will find out if that is true for the NZ market when I list it on TradeMe.

& an extra for WordPress. What does everyone think of Goodreads new book page?

The Crime Coast

by Elizabeth Gill

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It is sad that Elizabeth Gill died so young (she was only 32) as based on this book I think she showed a lot of promise in this book.

Young lawyer Paul Ashby is going on holiday by himself on the French Riviera. Before leaving London he encounters an elderly & unwell man who asks him to try to locate his missing son, who Major West believes is somewhere in the Riviera.

The early chapters of this book were amazing. Gill painted her characters deftly & shows a real gift for description. I was certain I was looking at a 5★ read. But about a third of the way in, the book pace slowed & it finished with one of the most dreaded conventions in Golden Age mysteries – a very lengthy explanation at the end. It did cover just about every plot point. I had to knock a half ★ off my rating but I am still keen to read Ms Gill’s second book, What Dread Hand?: A Benvenuto Brown Mystery

Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders: A Writer’s (and Editor’s) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, and Myths

by Susanne Alleyn

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“May we never again read about Dark Ages peasants eating tomatoes; unbelievably plucky/feisty liberated medieval heroines with names like Dominique; 18th-century travelers crossing Europe of the Atlantic in a week; slang that’s sixty years ahead of its time and many, many other such common anachronisms of fact and attitude…”

Preach it sister!

When I’m reading a Historical/Historical Romance/Historical Whodunnit I want to totally lose myself in the book’s world. Little mistakes can really jar me, big mistakes (or not really mistakes but the author simply doesn’t care enough to do any research) can be enough for a DNF. If an author doesn’t want to be reasonably accurate then they should market their book as a Historical Fantasy, or really let themselves go & make it Steampunk!

I have some examples;

One book where various characters manage to travel very long distances in nineteenth century New Zealand/Aotearoa in a very short period of time. I remember in 1960s Aotearoa it taking forever to get just from Auckland to Keri Keri in the north! (in spite of this, this book remains a favourite of mine! Sometimes the heart loves what it loves)

I know I have read one romance where the heroine rode quite a long distance attired in a muslin dress. Can you imagine the chaffing?

Another where the heroine’s name changed (frequently) from Blois to du Blois. They are different surnames!

&, a personal favourite, where the heroine kept her pet goat in an aristocratic house in the middle of London! No, not in the stable – the actual house! Goats defecate constantly & even the cleanest goat will have a smell. No one in their right mind would do that! (I have owned goats myself, by the way.)

So, although I have no plan to write a book of my own, this one appeals to my inner nitpicker & I am planning to leave this one on my kindle for a quick reference source & to use the websites Ms Alleyn gives, as well as the extensive bibliography – which I might use for further reading of my own.

I’ll admit that I did get a bit bored with the explanation on how the British titles work (& that is an error I’m willing to overlook in historical novels, as I can’t be bothered working them out myself!) but finding out how a guillotine is constructed and what foods were available when was very interesting.

Ms Alleyn is critical – but she also acknowledges both her own & her grandmother the late Lillie V. Albrecht‘s errors & is less harsh on mistakes made by authors that didn’t have the wonderful tool that is the internet available to them.

I can’t help but wonder – with underpants being such a modern invention it must have been a tad breezy down there – even with the long skirts. But I guess what you don’t know you won’t miss!

Fascinating.

The Woman on the Island

by Ann Cleeves

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

No way is this short story 32 pages long!

That would be the length including the extract from The Rising Tide
So it was a good story, but the ending was on me before I was ready! This really isn’t a good marketing practice (I just rechecked on Amazon – different edition now, but there is no mention of this short story being bundled with a book extract.)

I disagree with reviewers who say you have to be familiar with the series to enjoy this short story, as it is dealing with some of Vera’s backstory – & her troubled relationship with her father. It is very well written & I was enjoying it right until the abrupt ending.

Damn.

Before You Knew My Name

by Jacqueline Bublitz

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How had she not noticed that only some [dead] people are deemed worthy of having their stories told?

I used to be a bit of a ghoul.

Well, still am really, but I no longer trawl through sites like The Charley Project, NCMEC & NamUs, trying to figure out why some missing person cases got so much publicity & others the moderators on these sites would sadly report;

Few details are available in his case.

The cases that seemed to get the most publicity would be young, pretty, blonde girls.

Like Alice Lee.

Alice went to New York to leave a troubled past behind. She had dreams, she had ambitions.

Australian Ruby Jones at 36 is twice Alice’s age, but also travels to New York to leave a past that is more unsatisfying than troubled. But in New York she finds she is even lonelier than ever.

But then she discovers Alice’s body…

The bare bones of this story don’t give any indication of what a satisfying read this was and how beautiful & lyrical Ms Bublitz’s use of language is. I was mesmerised – & I’m not normally a fan of (view spoiler) or dual points of view.

Recommended.

Fire

by Deborah Challinor

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m having trouble assigning a rating to this book, as for around the first three quarters of it I had a few problems with Challinor’s writing style. This is an adult book, but the use of language & the pacing (but not the subject matter – there is a lot of sex & talk about sex) was like a 1950s YA novel – think Beverly Cleary. This did make the start rather a dreary read – even though, as a Kiwi who grew up in Auckland, I’m just loving the ‘local’ touches. The fictitious Dunbar & Jones department St is on Wyndham St, one couple go on their first date to the Civic Theatre. I love the Civic! My favourite New Zealand building.

Civic Theatre

The inside of the Civic is pure magic.

The book really does improve as it goes on. The Pakeha (European) land grab at Orakei – shameful. I did not know the history of that – & I grew up not far away from there. The book was inspired by the real life fire at Ballantyne’s (which was in Christchurch) was edge of the seat stuff, so while writing this review I decided I was going to go with 4★, but be aware particularly if you are not a New Zealander Dear Reader, you may not regard it so high.

The Rasp

by Philip MacDonald

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For anyone who (like me) is carpentry-challenged here is a picture of a rasp.

Should have looked that up before reading the book as I’m having to adjust my vision of the murder.

Colonel Gethyn is called in to help solve the murder of the popular and talented British Cabinet Minister. In the hands of MacDonald, Gethyn suffers a lot from Women Want Him, Men Want to be Him Syndrome, which can grate at time (or maybe I should say rasp!)

The story moves along reasonably well at first with good dialogue and I enjoyed the romances. Where the book falls down for me (& this is unfortunately common in Golden Age mysteries) is all the exposition at the end about whodunnit & how Superman Gethyn solved it. I did notice at 85% on my kindle that this was getting rather long. Completely dragged the story down & it took me two days to read this part.

Still a good tale that I am happy to have read.

Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

by Chelsea Handler

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I watch a lot of American (or American based) hosts of late night shows on You Tube. I’m not a big fan of Jimmy Kimmel, but the title of this book made me think I would enjoy Chelsea as a guest host.

Which I did.

Her take no prisoners style of delivery on the show made me a fan, & wish Chelsea would get her own talk show again.

I don’t know if Chelsea’s style works for me so well in print, although I certainly laughed out loud quite a few times.

How they grow grapes in a part of town that is mostly populated by gangs and high-rises is beyond me, but when alcohol is involved, I rarely ask questions.

As a tip, I think would have been a happier person if I hadn’t read Chapter 8. I’m still trying to find a way to bleach it from my brain.

Night Horse

by Elizabeth Smither

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Winner of the Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 2018

Since Elizabeth Smither’s name turns up so regularly in NZ book awards I have wanted to sample her work for a while.

& I enjoyed this collection very much. Like most poetry collections for me, not every poem appeals but Ms Smither has a nice turn of phrase. I especially enjoyed Cat Night & Night Horse.

Putting a Line Through Addresses
 was darker than the other poems & I think it might be my favourite.

As people who know me realise, I’m a sucker for good cover art & this cover by Keely O’Shannessy is one of the best I’ve seen this year.

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