Tag Archives: new release special

Sunday Post – 10th December 2017

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This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I’m on the last lap of writing the notes for next term’s Creative Writing course and should be finished in time to take them into Northbrook and get them all photocopied on Tuesday, which is the day we break up for Christmas – if I can squeeze in the chore in amongst the Christmas cheer at the end of another successful term.

Last Sunday evening Frances and I attended the Wrap Party to celebrate making Tim’s film. It was boisterous and noisy, which was you’d expect with 20+ teenagers and it was lovely to see her joining in, being right in the thick of it. My amazing mother turned 82 on Tuesday, so my sister and I went down on Wednesday and took her out for lunch, stayed overnight and then had coffee with her before driving back on Thursday morning. On Wednesday evening, we popped round to see the new house my nephew and his girlfriend have recently bought and are doing up.

On Friday, Tim passed his Speaking and Listening exam with flying colours and Himself also got through a major milestone so will shortly be resuming his train driving duties – a huge relief. We celebrated by going out to lunch to The Arun View, which is right on the river and had a delicious meal as they had plenty of vegetarian options. Yesterday I worked most of the day and today will doing be the same, though we are popping out to do some shopping. I am horribly unprepared for Christmas, but to be honest until Friday was out of the way, Himself and I weren’t feeling very festive.

This week I have read:
Split Feather – Book 1 of the Daughter of the Midnight Sun by Deborah A. Wolf
Siggy Aleksov sees demons and talks with creatures she knows aren’t really there. Taken from her family as a child, she is dogged by memories of abandonment, abuse, and mental health issues. Siggy suffers from a hot temper, cluster headaches, caffeine addiction, and terminal foul language.
I really enjoyed this gritty, unusual urban fantasy that spends much of its time in one of my favourite settings – Alaska. Despite Siggy’s significant problems, she is portrayed without any self pity, yet also without dismissing the enormity of her issues, which is a difficult path to tread. A memorable, gutsy protagonist. I shall be reviewing this one in due course.

 

 

Fade Out by Patrick Tilley
Patrick Tilley’s brilliant bestselling thriller of humanity’s first contact with advanced alien intelligence is a high-tension tour-de-force that will leave you thinking long after you have turned the last page.
Hm. I enjoyed a lot of the story and the slow burn anticipation to discovering what the aliens are all about and what will happen next… Not sure about the ending. Review to follow.

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 3rd December, 2017

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Deadly Dance – Book 1 of the D.I. David Vogel series by Hilary Bonner

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fade Out by Patrick Tilley

Review of Language of Power – Book 4 of The Steerswoman series by Rosemary Kirstein

Review of A Local Habitation – Book 2 of the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire

Friday Face-off – Do not go gentle…featuring Knights of the Borrowed Dark – Book 1 from the Knights of the Borrowed Dark trilogy by Dave Rudden

Review of Falling Apart – Book 2 of the Otherworlders series by Jane Lovering

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Christmas Alphabet: R for Roy Orbison (Pretty Paper) https://theimmortaljukebox.com/2017/12/09/christmas-alphabet-r-for-roy-orbison-pretty-paper/ Thom delivers another classy article full of knowledge and passion about a wonderful track – this site is a gem…

The Best Villanelles in English Poetry https://interestingliterature.com/2017/12/06/the-best-villanelles-in-english-poetry/ By coincidence, we’ve been looking at villanelles in this term’s poetry workshop during my Creative Writing course, so I was delighted to see this excellent article – I think there is another one to add to this marvellous list, ‘Villanelle’ by Weldon Kees.

Hope https://inesemjphotography.com/2017/12/09/hope/ Inessa always takes amazing photos – but these are extraordinary. They brought tears to my eyes…

Gift Ideas for the Book Lover on your Holiday Shopping List https://thebookishlibra.com/2017/12/08/gift-ideas-for-the-book-lover-on-your-holiday-shopping-list/ Some fabulous ideas here for that special person in your life who also loves books.

Discussion: Fear of Reading Up All the Good Books http://avalinahsbooks.space/discussion-fear-good-books/ I think it’s one lots of passionate readers have after they have finished a wonderful book with a sigh of pleasure – and Evelina tackles it head-on😊

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

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*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross – Book 2 of The Curious Affair series by Lisa Tuttle

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My attention was snagged by this title and Lisa Tuttle is an author who is been on my radar for a while, so I requested it.

“Witch!” cries the young man after stumbling unexpectedly into the London address of the consulting-detective partnership of Mr. Jasper Jesperson and Miss Lane. He makes the startling accusation while pointing toward Miss Lane . . . then he drops dead. Thus begins the strangest case yet to land—quite literally—on the doorstep of Jesperson and Lane. According to the coroner, Charles Manning died of a heart attack—despite being in perfect health. Could he have been struck down by a witch’s spell? The late Mr. Manning’s address book leads Jesperson and Lane to the shrieking pits of Aylmerton, an ancient archaeological site reputed to be haunted by a vengeful ghost. There they sift through the local characters, each more suspicious than the last: Manning’s associate, Felix Ott, an English folklore enthusiast; Reverend Ringer, a fierce opponent of superstition; and the Bulstrode sisters, a trio of beauties with a reputation for witchcraft. But when an innocent child goes missing, suddenly Jesperson and Lane aren’t merely trying to solve one murder—they’re racing to prevent another.

I haven’t read the first book in this series, but while I have clearly missed a slice of the adventure, that didn’t hamper my understanding or enjoyment of this story. Tuttle doesn’t hang about – she tips us straight into the case which I appreciated. While this series has been compared with the Sherlock Holmes adventures, I don’t think that Miss Lane, the narrator of this case, is all that much like John Watson. She isn’t overly gushing about Jasper Jesperson’s detecting skills, for starters – indeed, there are times when she is quite sharp about him, which I enjoyed.

The other aspect that I hadn’t expected and very much liked – while both Jesperson and Lane are middle-class and reasonably comfortably off, that doesn’t prevent Tuttle from lifting the façade on apparent Victorian respectability by depicting a young serving girl’s plight after suffering a rape. The detective duo also uncover a shocking lack of respect towards women who have the temerity to refuse or thwart a couple of apparently eligible men, who portray themselves as perfectly reasonable, educated gentlemen. Miss Lane isn’t particularly happy about the state of affairs, but isn’t overly surprised. What it reinforced for me is how much women were simply not regarded as on a par with men. Not only did they not have the same protection in law, they were not felt to be capable of the same understanding or intellect as a man – so when a woman demonstrated any independence of spirit, she frequently incurred anger at her temerity – how dare she defy him!

That said, I don’t want you to go away thinking this entertaining, engrossing whodunit is focusing on the gender inequality of the time – it is a mere side issue in this adventure. An adventure full of twists and turns as Lane and Jesperson then find themselves desperately looking for a baby. And the resolution to that puzzle had my jaw dropping…

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and will definitely be tracking down the first instalment in this series. Recommended for anyone who enjoys their historical crime series with a twist of fantasy.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of INDIE arc The Hidden Face – Book 1 of The Fifth Unmasking series by S.C. Flynn

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This puzzle-driven epic fantasy was offered to me by the author as I had read and reviewed his debut novel Children of the Different. Would this one impress me as much?

A face without a face – an unmasking that leaves the mask. Once every few hundred years the sun god, the Akhen, takes on human form and descends to earth. Each Unmasking of the Face of the Akhen ends one era and begins another; the last one created the Faustian Empire. Where and when will the Face next appear, and who will he – or she – be?

Dayraven, son of a great hero, returns to Faustia after years as a hostage of their rivals, the Magians. Those years have changed him, but Faustia has changed as well; the emperor Calvo now seems eccentric and is controlled by one of Dayraven’s old enemies. Following the brutal murder of his old teacher, Dayraven is drawn, together with a female warrior named Sunniva, into the search for an ancient secret that would change the fate of empires.

I liked both protagonists, Dayraven in particular. In common with a lot of high-born children, he has been sent to a neighbouring kingdom as surety for good behaviour and brought up in their court. But while he expected to return home within a handful of years, he has to wait a lot longer before returning home to discover all is changed – and not in a good way. Flynn’s unfussy writing style quickly drew me into the story as Dayraven finds out just who his enemies are, while he hurries to meet up with his former tutor and mentor.

And from then, the story nocks up another notch and we are whisked along with Dayraven, who begins to appreciate there is a lot more at stake than Emperor Calvo’s current mental confusion. Once he encounters Sunniva and they form a team, they begin to try to unpick the trail of clues left behind by the two guardians of these vital secrets. Together, they manage to uncover part of the mystery – but a number of formidable antagonists are in close pursuit.

I have seen this book rated as YA – do be aware that while the puzzle-solving aspect may appeal to teens, this one isn’t suitable for a younger age-group. I would not be happy to discover my thirteen-year-old granddaughter reading it as there is a fair amount of sexual content, including a rather explicit sex scene.

Other than that concern, I enjoyed this one. I particularly appreciated the depiction of the antagonists as we discover their motives and why they are trying to find out where the Fifth Unmasking will take place. This works well in powering the story forward as the reader is left in no doubt as to what will happen should the secrets fall into the wrong hands.

The storyline comes to a climactic denouement with plenty of action and drama that had the pages turning and bringing this particular slice of the adventure to a satisfactory close – though there are several major plotpoints left dangling as the story evidently will be continued in the next book. Recommended for epic fantasy fans with a taste for arcane mysteries embedded within the worldbuilding.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Prisoner of Limnos – Book 6 of the Penric and Desdemona novella series by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Himself was thrilled when he realised that another slice of Penric goodness was coming our way – quite right too as this series has not only been consistently excellent, it also is very good value, given that each novella is modestly priced. So would this next slice of the adventure measure up to the very high standard already set?

In this sequel novella to Mira’s Last Dance, Temple sorcerer Penric and the widow Nikys have reached safety in the duchy of Orbas when a secret letter from a friend brings frightening news…

And the answer is yes – this book is a joy to read and difficult to put down. However, I do feel quite strongly that although each book is designed to be read as a standalone, in order to gain the maximum enjoyment from this particular adventure, you at least need to read Mira’s Last Dance. As this narrative continues from the ending of that story, there are too many allusions to previous storylines – and besides, why not double the reading pleasure?

One of the delights of this series is charting the growth in Penric’s confidence and maturity since his first fateful encounter with the demon he has named Desdemona. Initially, he had a lot of adjusting to do, given that he wasn’t Temple-trained and his hosting of Desdemona was a complete accident. We don’t get so many tussles between them and neither does Desdemona bait him so much – instead, a strong bond is evident and interestingly, at one stage, it is Desdemona who is panicked and overcome in this adventure, with Penric providing the necessary reassurance to get them out of yet another tricky situation.

In amongst all the tension and excitement, we are also treated to Bujold’s hallmark humour, which is every bit as quirky as her characters. While the stakes are undoubtedly high, I found myself sniggering once Penric manages to successfully get into the prison complex, when someone wholly unexpected pops up… Their indignant exchange was a nice bit of light relief in amongst all the tension and danger.

I found this one almost physically painful to put down and when I finally finished it with a sigh – it was part happiness at having had such an enjoyable read, along with the inevitable pang of regret that it was all over. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, this book – and the series – is recommended for anyone who enjoyed the Miles Vorkosigan books or loves reading well-written fantasy with appealing characters and plenty of adventure.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Artemis by Andy Weir

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I loved The Martian and was delighted when I realised that Andy Weir had another book in the works and thrilled when I managed to obtain a Netgalley arc for it. Question is – does Artemis live up to Weir’s stunning debut?

Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you’ve got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent. Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she’s stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.

The short answer is yes. Oh yes – Artemis has yet another memorably enjoyable protagonist every bit as ingenious and determined as Mark Watney – Jazz is a street-wise moon-girl who plays the odds. She ekes out a precarious living by a series of shady deals under the cover of her lowly job as porter as she needs more money. Lots more money. And it is that need that drives her to make a deal against her better judgement… a deal that trips over into something a whole lot more serious. I’m aware some readers have had a problem with her lack of judgement and maturity, but I feel her poor impulse control is entirely realistic and when we learn the whole story of what went wrong between her and her father, there is also a valid explanation.

Like The Martian, we are charmed into really caring what happens to this lively, irreverent protagonist as she takes us into her confidence and tells us how the domes work, how the society is structured and about her tempestuous relationship with her father. So when it all goes really wrong, we are with her every step of the way, hoping she will prevail. As Weir steadily ups the stakes and increases the pressure – I found this one almost impossible to put down.

Despite the strong character-led nature of the story, there are still plenty of details about life on the Moon for hard science fiction fans. We learn about how the domes were constructed, who initially settled this first moon settlement and what currently powers the economy – all without compromising the pace or the narrative tension. It’s a neat trick to pull off and far harder to achieve than Weir makes it look. If all these geeky details tend to slide past you, my firm advice would be not to skim too much – because some of this stuff has a major impact on the story progression.

So after setting up a precarious situation where our plucky heroine finds herself on the sharp end of the trickiest conundrum – does Weir satisfactorily wrap up the story? Absolutely. We get a gripping conclusion to this plotline, while there are also some dangling tendrils that would give Weir the opportunity to revisit Artemis with the surviving characters. I would love to see him do so. Highly recommended.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

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I liked the look of the cover and the sound of the first part of the blurb – which is far too long
and chatty for my taste – so requested this one from Netgalley. I’m so glad I did.

Orphaned, raised by wolves, and the proud owner of a horned pig named Merlin, Weylyn Grey knew he wasn’t like other people. But when he single-handedly stopped that tornado on a stormy Christmas day in Oklahoma, he realized just how different he actually was.

This wasn’t remotely what I was expecting. What I thought I was getting was an urban fantasy tale of a werewolf with something of a Jungle Book twist. What this book actually covers is the life of Weylyn Grey, mostly through the viewpoint of people who come into contact with him and whose lives he affects. From the time he is found roaming around the forests with a pack of wolves, he is clearly unusual. But other odd things continue to happen around him.

Given this is set in contemporary America, these unusual talents don’t encourage Weylyn to don a spandex suit featuring a cape and his underpants over his tights – instead they are a constant concern as they often put those around him in acute danger. There is a particularly poignant scene just over halfway through the book where we learn why he hates snow so much.

There are a number of viewpoint characters throughout this book – something I’m not normally a huge fan of. Some of them only feature for a single section, while others return more than once. But each one plays a role in Weylyn’s life as they come into contact with him and become aware of his strangeness. While it has been done before, building the characterisation of the main protagonist through the various viewpoints of a series of transitory characters is a risky strategy. This normal structure most often occurs in murder mysteries where we gradually learn about the victim through the eyes of those who knew her and the investigating team looking into her murder. If we don’t like the victim all that much, it doesn’t really matter – the issue powering the narrative drive in such stories is discovering who killed her. However, for this book to work on almost any level, we need to like and empathise with Weylyn and his plight, because if we don’t care then there’s no point in continuing to read on.

While this may be her debut novel, Lang clearly is an experienced, competent writer with a clean, unfussy writing style that quickly drew me into this book and kept me engrossed until the end. I was sufficiently invested that despite the fact that I could predict the probable ending some way off, I was perfectly happy to relax and go with the flow. And when the ending finally did come, I was left with a lump in my throat.

There is a warmth and gentleness about Weylyn that drew me to him. Lang doesn’t actually sugarcoat his life – some harsh things happen, but there is a steel core of optimism running through this book that swept me up and had me believing that in the end, the right folks would prevail. If you are looking for something a bit different with plenty of heart and adventure, along with a splash of magic realism, then this comes highly recommended.
8/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc novella Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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I was intrigued when I saw this on the Netgalley dashboard – and obviously went for it…

Special limited edition science fiction hardcover novella by the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author. Only 1000 copies.

Scions have no limits. Scions do not die. And Scions do not disappear.
Sergeant Ted Regan has a problem. A son of one of the great corporate families, a Scion, has gone missing at the front. He should have been protected by his Ironclad – the lethal battle suits that make the Scions masters of war – but something has gone catastrophically wrong. Now Regan and his men, ill equipped and demoralised, must go behind enemy lines, find the missing Scion, and uncover how his suit failed. Is there a new Ironclad-killer out there? And how are common soldiers lacking the protection afforded the rich supposed to survive the battlefield of tomorrow?

This year has marked an outpouring of creativity by this talented author, who is clearly relishing flexing his writing muscles. The last book I reviewed only a few weeks ago was in the first-person viewpoint of a wardog. This offering features battle-hardened Sergeant Ted Regan, who has improbably managed to keep himself and his small team from being killed thus far in a war where ordinary troops are regarded as fodder for the scary fighting machines and near-impregnable Ironclads.

I found that once I picked this one up, it was difficult to put down. I’m not a huge fan of novellas. It takes a degree of technical skill to downsize plot progression, characterisation and worldbuilding, particularly in science fiction and fantasy settings, so that the pacing and story flow doesn’t suffer. In my frank opinion, relatively few authors can successfully pull this off – and while I think the denouement was just a tad hurried so that I had to go back and reread it to ensure I completely understood what was going on, it certainly didn’t make a major dent in my overall enjoyment of this cracking tale.

The world is a grim one. Now resources are increasingly limited, the major corporations are fighting for control of governments and land in order to continue to make money. Most people have been knocked down to subsistence levels with only the privileged few able to live in any kind of luxury. However, as is often the case, the true motivations of the savage fighting are wrapped up in grander-sounding motivations – like freedom and democracy. Those at the sharp end know only too well what a hollow sham that turns out to be and I loved Ted’s world-weary take on what is happening around him.

It means that when it all kicks off, I care about him and the small band of outmatched underdogs tasked with a Mission Impossible job. Knowing Tchaikovsky’s form, I was genuinely worried that we might lose one of the team. In the event, as the action unspooled I wasn’t going anywhere until I discovered what happened and the ending came as something of a shock. I am really hoping that this proves to be the start of a new series – I’d love to see more of this world.
9/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

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I enjoyed Angelmaker and loved The Gone-Away World, so when I saw this one on Netgalley, I immediately requested it.

Gnomon, which took Harkaway more than three years to complete, is set in a world of ubiquitous surveillance. Pitched as “a mind-bending Borgesian puzzle box of identity, meaning and reality in which the solution steps sideways as you approach it”, it features: a detective who finds herself investigating the very society she believes in, urged on by a suspect who may be an assassin or an ally, hunting through the dreams of a torture victim in search of the key to something she does not yet understand; a banker who is pursued by a shark that swallows Fortune 500 companies; Saint Augustine’s jilted mistress who reshapes the world with miracles; a refugee grandfather turned games designer who must remember how to walk through walls or be burned alive by fascists; and a sociopath who falls backwards through time in order to commit a murder.

I normally read quite quickly – I’ve read 157 books so far this year. But this one took me nearly two weeks to complete. Partly it’s the fact that it is something of a doorstopper at over 700 pages, but the main reason was that early on I took the decision that I wouldn’t speed-read through this one. The prose is too rich, too dense – there are too many allusions and clues scattered throughout and as you may have gathered from the blurb, the structure isn’t all that straightforward, either.

It might have been tempting to have accelerated through it if I hadn’t been enjoying the experience so much. Harkaway is a remarkable writer and this is him at the peak of his capabilities. For all the depth and complexity, I found the book highly readable and engrossing. It would have been a real shame to have thrown away the experience by trying to skim through it. The writing is immersive and each character has their own flavour so that after a while, it only took a couple of lines to realise whose head I was in. Essentially, it is a thriller. But the puzzle is far more of the slow-burn variety, which doesn’t stop there being some jaw-dropping twists near the end.

For all their quirkiness, I was fond of all the characters, though my favourites remained dogged, persistent Inspector Mielikki Neith whose investigation of the untimely death of Diana Hunter in custody triggers the whole chain of events – and fierce, beautiful Athenais, once-mistress to Saint Augustine, before he decided to become so saintly. The characterisation is masterly and as I’m a sucker for character-led stories, it was their vividness and sheer oddness that sucked me in and kept me reading.

I also feel a similar anger that sparks through the book – the apathy of too many of us, the blind belief that if we put in place a whole raft of cameras and electronic surveillance, it will somehow be alright, no matter who ends up at the helm and in charge. This is a remarkable, brave book, deliberately constructed and written on an epic scale. Does it work? Oh yes. I loved it, but my firm advice would be – don’t rush it. If you try reading this one in a hurry, you’ll end up throwing it out of the window – and given its size, it may cause serious injury if it hits someone…

While I obtained the arc of Gnomon from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc Dogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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I’m a real fan of Tchaikovsky’s writing, so when I saw this offering up on Netgalley, I pounced and was delighted to be approved to read and review it.

Rex is a Good Dog. He loves humans. He hates enemies. He’s utterly obedient to Master. He’s also seven foot tall at the shoulder, bulletproof, bristling with heavy calibre weaponry and his voice resonates with subsonics especially designed to instil fear. With Dragon, Honey and Bees, he’s part of a Multi-form Assault Pack operating in the lawless anarchy of Campeche, Southeastern Mexico.

If you are attracted to the eye-catching cover and blurb that appears to be offering lots of cool military sci fi action, you won’t be disappointed. There are some thrilling set battles, all written with verve and skill – I was there and I cared. However, this book is not only offering foot-to-the-floor action and excitement, Dogs of War is also raising some tricky ethical questions.

Without giving away too much of the storyline, Rex – like so many soldiers before him – has found himself having to confront and account for some of his actions while operating in Campeche under the control of Master. At what stage is Rex given any rights? If he shows himself capable of breaking his conditioning, should he be allowed any form of agency? And what exactly do you do with an animal with such a dangerous potential, even if you decide that he is not ultimately responsible for those terrible atrocities? Can he possibly be allowed to go free, given that he is designed to engender fear by his appearance and body language? Along with a whole bunch of other equally pertinent and troubling questions, these are some of the issues that are raised in this clever and enjoyable book.

Tchaikovsky is fond of presenting his readers with unintended consequences. Rex is a war dog, specifically bred for strength, absolute obedience to his Master’s voice and a set of formidable teeth and claws capable of inflicting terrible damage on the human body. But as the leader of the cadre of genetically tweaked animals, he is also capable of reasoning and reacting to fast-changing battle conditions. His tactical support, a huge bear called Honey, is able to perform even more extraordinary feats. In short, both animals are able to communicate meaningfully and show an increasing awareness about the morality of what they are doing.

Rex is a war dog, trained and conditioned to kill in battle, so it is a big ask to convince the reader that he is capable and able to reconsider his purpose. I thought the writing of Rex’s character was a triumph, as was the development of all the tweaked battle-animals. It all seemed horrifyingly believable and the full ramifications of such a development were thoroughly explored within the story. I loved this one – along with all the violence and mayhem, there is a strong story about some unusual characters that had me completely engrossed. This book will stay with me for a long time to come.

While I obtained the arc of Dogs of War from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
10/10

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc The Hostage Heart by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

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My mother is a solid fan of this prolific author and when I saw this offering on Netgalley, I immediately requested it.

Emotionally hurt in the past, a job in a large country house seems to be Emma’s best option for staying single and safe…

When Emma Ruskin becomes governess to 10-year-old Poppy Ackroyd, the haughty Ackroyd family all treat her with contempt – particularly Gavin, the effortlessly superior eldest son. Yet Emma realises that Gavin alone genuinely cares for Poppy and their unexpected rapport flatters and alarms her – surely he is out of her league?

I’ll be honest – when I first requested this one, for some reason that escapes me, I hadn’t appreciated it was a contemporary romance. You don’t have to spend much time on this blog to appreciate that isn’t one of my go-to genres – however, the mistake is entirely mine and there was a period, longer ago than I care to recall, when I regularly read and liked these books. So I summoned up the Ghost of Higbee Past to read this one with unjaundiced eyes – and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Fortunately, this novel isn’t just about the relationship between Emma and Gavin, or the obstacles that seem to loom between them in the way of miscommunication that tends to cause such havoc in romance novels. There is also a far more sinister aspect to this book and once that plotline kicks off, the whole book nocks up a gear. However even before all that, I found this book had won me over as Harrod-Eagles writes with verve and an enthusiasm for her protagonist that is catching. Emma is fun to be alongside with her dry, often funny observations on her own life and those around her.

This meant that when she is put in danger, I really cared. The head injury she suffered actually properly incapacitated her – a pleasant change in book-based adventures where severe concussion is often shrugged off after a couple of hours’ rest. Having looked after someone in that state, I can testify the effects can linger for weeks and months and no one is in a fit state to continue rampaging around just a day after being struck hard on the head.

The climax to this story had me staying up later than I should to find out what happens next – and although I won’t pretend it was a huge shock, this turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining, well written book that I recommend to fans of romance fans who like a twist of adventure. While I obtained the arc of The Hostage Heart from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10