More Micro Reviews from Vacation...

Let's keep these vacation reviews rolling, yes? :-)

Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

I really don't know *how* to describe this one, so I'm going to let Publisher's Weekly do it:
In this experimental California improv, Lutz (The Spellman Files) writes odd-numbered chapters and footnoted barbs directed at her coauthor and ex-boyfriend, poet Hayward, whose even-numbered chapters and stiletto-sharp ripostes add a freaky dimension to the collaboration. Grown siblings Lacey and Paul Hansen are scratching out a precarious living from a Northern California clandestine marijuana operation when a reeking headless human body turns up in their backyard, eventually identified as Hart Drexel, detecting barista Lacey's former lover. Because Lutz and Hayward agreed not to discuss or to undo a plot development the other had produced, they create a jittery black-comic narrative complicated by inter-author tensions unveiled in memos exchanged at the end of each chapter. Shifty secondary characters, some charming, some odious, pop in and out of the resulting dizzying plot that comes off like a trendy Left Coast restaurant mélange—daringly composed, exotic to contemplate.

I loved the off-the-wall format, the footnotes, the sniping...the whole premise was just so interesting to me. Reminds me of the days when my friend Carrie and I would do fanfic this way - alternating with no idea of what was coming! :-)

By His Majesty's Grace by Jennifer Blake

This historical novel is set a bit earlier than my usual - in the court of Henry VII, when Isabel, one of the "three graces" (this is part of a trilogy, get it?) is "given" to Randall Braesford as a reward for his bravery on the battlefield. Though Isabel wills herself not to fall for him, the sparks inevitably fly, and it's up to Isabel to decide if she loves Rand enough to save him when he lands in the Tower of London by circumstances beyond his control. I thought this was an engaging, interesting read in a time period I always enjoy. Am now curious to read about the other two "graces"! :-)

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

I've had this on my "to be read" list forever, so when I found a copy in the cabin in the middle of nowhere, I took it as a sign that I was to read it right then! Rhoda is in a terrible car wreck the same week she discovers her marriage is over because her husband is gay - to mend both body and soul, she goes home to (Mennonite) home of her parents. Sounds serious, but I laughed so hard at portions of his book, that I had to read then out loud to Dad. Yes, there are some wrenching, sad, horrid moments, but this memoir truly is about family, funny stories, happy memories and a woman discovering she's just fine the way she is.

("We can all agree that a snort of day-old coffee will go a long way toward improving our mood in the case of automotive distress." Quote of the trip from the book, I swear to god. Still makes me giggle.)

When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James

This Regency title was one that both Dad and I read on vacation - he thought it was "eh", but I absolutely loved it! Piers is like a modern-day "House" - a doctor with a bad attitude and a limp. Linnet is believed to be a hussy by society through a series of missteps, so to save face, she is coerced into marriage with Piers, traveling to his home, which doubles as a hospital. I thought the characters, and the medical premise, were so unique, and the dialogue was a great mix of zingers, wry humor, romance and the inevitable sexual tension - I laughed out loud a few times at their conversations! The last third of the book had me frantically turning pages to see how it would all end, and I have thought of the plot and characters many times since finishing the book - a rarity for me, I must admit! A great, great Regency read - highly recommended!

My Lord and Spymaster by Joanna Bourne

The Spymaster's Lady was one of the best books I read the year it came out, so I knew it was time to give this sequel a chance...but unfortunately, it didn't stand up, or stand out, the way the first title did. This is another espionage story set during the Napoleonic wars, with the reader not knowing who's good, who's bad, who's spying and who's caught in the middle. The first novel had me turning pages by flashlight...this one had me fairly bored halfway through. Jess is fine, the Captain is fine, the plot is fine...everything is fine, but nothing stood out, captured my imagination or made me believe in any of is. A disappointment. :-( Maybe the third novel in the series will be better!

The Edge of Desire by Stephanie Laurens

This is the last of the regular "Bastion Club" Regency novels from Laurens, excepting the story of Dalziel. This novel focuses on the romance of Christian and Letitia - childhood friends who haven't spoken in years. But when Letitia's husband is murdered, Christian is the only one she can turn to - setting off a series of events involving a budding romance, a search for a murderer, the continued hunt for the last traitor, and the tying up of the Bastion Club. I really enjoyed this title - the murder subplot really kept the story cranking along, away from the usual bodice-ripping excitement. A great ending to the series - but for one. ;-)

Mastered by Love by Stephanie Laurens

Luckily, Dad had the Dalziel story on his Kindle, so I borrowed it to find out how the entire series ends, with the story of the shadowy Dalziel, who has been quite the mystery throughout the series. Turns out, Dalziel is actually Royce Varisey, and is a duke in his own right following the death of his father at the end of Edge of Desire. Royce returns home to his northern estate, and tries to re-ingratiate himself with the staff and residents after a 16 year absence - and with his chatelaine. This is an engaging romance, a nice story of Dalziel fitting into a new role, and a resolution to the "last traitor" storyline, with members of the Bastion Club showing up at just the right time. A great series!

At the Queen's Summons by Susan Wiggs

This is the third in the Tudor Rose trilogy (reprinted from years ago with new titles) - and though I missed reading the second title, it didn't matter. Pippa is a orphaned street performer; Aidan is an Irish war lord. What happens when they cross paths? Sparks, of course. ;-) Actually, this novel was more engaging and entertaining than I was expecting, and I really liked the interplay between the two main characters, as well as the romance. Once again set during the Tudor time period, which I always enjoy - a great read (if you haven't already; it came out originally in 1996 under the name "Dancing on Air").

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