Book Review – Murder at the Brightwell A return to ‘cozy’ mysteries with substance.

The so called ‘cozy mystery’ genre has an unfortunate tendency to lump together the likes of Dorothy Sayers with Agatha Raisin. While Lord Peter may not wrestle with the depressing issues of today’s more edgy thrillers (typified by Nordic Noir), Sayers’ detective fiction was not mere fluff. Her hero, Lord Peter, struggles with PTSD and guilt that stemmed from knowing his “hobby” often results in a hanging. Even the iconic ‘cozy mystery writer’, Agatha Christie, delved into some surprisingly serious issues. I won’t give away too much, but Christie’s Crooked House confronts an issue that is still shocking even in today’s world, even more so nestled in a past age that has been overly romanticized. Personally, I like to separate the ‘cozy mystery’ genre into two sub categories. Firstly, we have ‘pure-fluff’, typified by the slightly more cliched and ridiculous examples of the genre; i.e. M.C. Beaton, any series that features a cat, Murdoch Mysteries. Secondly, we have the ‘Sayers school of writing’, elegant in execution and intelligently plotted, it never assumes that an abundance of depression and gore is necessary to be truly witty. Examples, apart from Sayers herself, would be Foyle’s War, Sherlock Holmes (the originals), and  Ashley Weaver’s debut novel, Murder at the Brightwell.

 

Summary from cover:

Glamorous Amory Ames might be wealthy but she is unhappily married to notorious playboy, Milo, and she willingly accepts her former fiance Gil Trent’s  plea for help in preventing his sister Emmeline from meeting a similar matrimonial fate.  

Amory and  Gil set off for The Brightwell, a sprawling seaside hotel in Devon, where Emmeline and her intended, the disreputable and impeccably groomed Rupert Howe, are holidaying along with a sprinkling of other rich and sumptuously-dressed guests.

Champagne flows but the sparkle soon fades as a dark and unresolved history between Gil and Rupert surfaces. After a late night quarrel the luxurious hotel is one guest fewer by morning. When Gil is arrested for murder, amory is determined to defend his innocence. But if she’s right, the killer is still in their midst – can she prove it before she, too, becomes a victim?

Extravagance, scoundrels and red herrings abound as Amory draws closer to the truth.

 

I grabbed Murder at the Brightwell off the new reads shelf at my library because of its undeniably attractive cover, but my expectations were low. I find few writers up to the challenge of penning a novel set in Britain during the 1930’s. They usually over-do the slang (to many wots!), or spend too much time ramming the ‘vintageness’ of their book down readers throats, not to mention, my always high standards for mystery novels. I was surprised and delighted to find a new favourite for my bookshelf.. From the first page, you realize that you are in the hands of a master storyteller who is completely at ease with her material. There is nothing ‘debut’ about MATB. Weaver captures the mood of high society in the 30’s perfectly. There were moments of banter and situation comedy that brought to mind classics like My Man Godfrey and The Thin Man, but these flowed naturally within the context of the story and never once did I feel that a scene had been contrived merely to set the mood.

There is also no hesitation in the plotting of this delightful seaside romp, the mystery tripping along at a rapid pace, with surprising yet believable twists.

 

But of course, the true heart of any detective novel is the detective. Amory Ames is charming, intelligent, and sympathetic. Her subtle sense of humour showing itself in her repartee with the other characters, one in particular though I won’t say who lest I spoil it for you ;). Amory is also the center of the most believable love triangle I have read in ages. She is not being wishy washy (looking at you YA Fiction), but facing a realistic situation that is sadly all too common in real life.

 

Quote of note: Mrs. Roland was a wealthy widow who flittered about society like a flamboyant overly-chirpy bird. She had been widowed three times, accumulating successively more wealth as each husband faded beneath her bright and tiresome exuberance. I was inclined to believe her husbands had gone to the grave for the sheer peace of it.
In short, Murder at the Brightwell is a book that can be judged by its very elegant and classy cover. Five out of five stars!!!

Book Review: With Every Breath

This book will take your breath away. (Sorry, I can never resist puns.)

From Elizabeth's website.

Elizabeth Camden has a gift for taking an obscure facet of history and placing it under the microscopic lens of a novel, enlarging it until a new world emerges. The unlikely topic she chooses for With Every Breath is consumption, better known to us now as TB. Anyone who has a fondness for fiction from the Victorian era will tell you that consumption will probably figure in the plot somewhere. For example: In the Anne of Green Gables series, one of her friends dies from consumption. But historical authors tended to gloss over some of the uglier aspects of the disease, almost romanticizing it. Camden shatters that image. In her book, consumption is ruthless and terrifying. Even today, at least here in NZ, possums are closely monitored as potential carriers of the disease. With all our modern medicines, we never rest quite easy in the presence of Tuberculosis.

A deadly disease my seem an odd choice for a historical romance novelist to choose, but it proved to be an excellent one. You see, by choosing a medical topic she was able to present as her hero a Scottish doctor, and Trevor McDonough might be the best thing in doctors since Neil McNeil, ladies and gentlemen. Playing the Beatrice to his Benedict is Kate Livingston. She has a very good reason to not like Dr. McDonough, since he took from her her only chance to pursue the higher education that was so often denied women during that time. I found Kate to be a very relate-able heroine. And as an older sister myself, I found several timely lessons in her character arc. The banter between them as they are forced to share an office is priceless. I will warn you, Camden has some SHOCKING plot twists in this one. Edge of the seat, how can you do that to them, moments. The mystery sub-plot was well done and made me wish that she would write a novel with a mystery at its core.

In conclusion, five out of five stars, and my favorite book of hers yet. And here’s to many more to come.

Movie Review: Cluny Brown

I watched a delightful little movie the other day called Cluny Brown. It has now tied with My Man Godfrey as my favourite Screwball Comedy of all time. Set just before the start of WWII, it tells the story of a professor running from the Nazi’s and a girl who loves plumbing. Quirky and charming in the extreme, it was originally a book, but as it is out of print, I have been unable to lay my hands on a copy for comparison. 😦

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Even though it was his last film, Ernst Lubitsch was still in top form. The most striking feature was the subtle underlying poignancy of the film. WWII had just ended, but the movie takes place just before the war started, and one of the most memorable scenes is when Adam Belinski (Boyer) tells his host that even though there is going to be a war, everything will be okay. As if the survivors were reaching back through time and telling their past that it will turn out alright and everything is going to be okay.

But make no mistake. There were plenty of laughs to be had as well. Lubitsch knew exactly how far to take a running gag (something a lot of modern directors could learn from). Case in point, Belinski’s quiet little war with the chemist. And I defy you to not go around telling people ‘Squirrels to the nuts.’ after you watch this little gem.

Boyer is in top form, proving why he was so popular with the ladies of the time. He doesn’t have to say anything. You can tell just from the way he looks at Cluny Brown that she is the sun and the moon and the stars. And as for the title role, in less capable hands Cluny Brown could have been an annoying little twit, but Jennifer Jones is superb, turning Cluny into a girl who is desperately trying to do the right thing while finding her place in society.

Book Review: A Matter of Magic

What would it look like if Georgette Heyer and Diane Wynne-Jones collaborated on a book? I think the answer would be something very similar to Patricia C. Wrede’s A Matter of Magic.

Bookblurb from Goodreads:When a stranger offers her a small fortune to break into a traveling magician’s wagon, Kim doesn’t hesitate. Having grown up a waif in the dirty streets of London, Kim isn’t above a bit of breaking-and-entering. A hard life and lean times have schooled her in one lesson: steal from them before they steal from you. But when the magician catches her in the act, Kim thinks she’s done for. Until he suggests she become his apprentice; then the real trouble begins.

Kim soon finds herself entangled with murderers, thieves, and cloak-and-dagger politics, all while trying to learn how to become both a proper lady and a magician in her own right. Magic and intrigue go hand in hand in Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward, two fast-paced novels filled with mystery and romance, set against the intricate backdrop of Regency England.

I am generally wary of authors who try and combine history and fantasy. Too often the result ends up being corny steampunk. Not so here. Wrede conjures up a world where using magic and Napoleon in the same sentence miraculously doesn’t strain the imagination. This is largely to do with the matter of fact way in which  Wrede deals with the magical element. She doesn’t spend a lot of time trying to explain it. It just is.

Paradoxically, it is her firm grasp on history that allows her to deal with the magical element so confidently.  Wrede seamlessly transports the reader from sparkling Heyer-esque ballrooms to seedy underworlds straight out of Dickens.

It has been a long time since I laughed as much over a book as much as I did this one. It is rare to find an author who can successfully write slapstick comedy without getting muddled down in confusing and boring descriptions, but Wrede handles this with a deft hand. This might be because every situation is a result of the antics of her delightful characters. You will fall in love with Mairelon and root for Kim, but my personal favorite was Lady Wendell. Best mother ever!

In short… I adored it. 6 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Good Night Mr. Holmes

While we groupies of Baker Street wait for the Christmas Special, I thought I would review one of my favorite Holmesian spin-offs to pass the time. I speak of Carole Nelson Douglas‘ Good Night Mr. Holmes.

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For some reason this book seems to have faded into obscurity in comparison to Douglas’ other books about cats and werewolves. Good Night Mr. Holmes examines that infamous affair A Scandal In Bohemia from the flip side of the coin.  Who was Irene Adler? How did she meet the king? How did such a scandalous woman capture the proper barrister Godfrey Norton?  Douglas answers all these questions and more.

Many writers have tried to solve the mystery of Irene Adler but in my humble opinion none has succeeded quite so well as Carole Nelson Douglas. Douglas does justice to the canon while at the same time putting her own unique spin on the story. Her Irene Adler is the the perfect match for Doyle’s Holmes. Both are equally talented. Both are Bohemian and eccentric. Both crave mental stimulation. Both enjoy a battle of wits. But Holmes focuses his powers on deduction and detecting. When he is bored he resorts to the cocaine. Irene on the other hand, in true female form, is a multi-tasker extraordinaire. One minute solving a crime, the next – pursing a role in an opera, she will never ‘indulge’ because she will never allow herself to be bored.

It is Irene’s multi-tasking nature on which Douglas builds her plot. And a delightfully complex plot it is too. There are little mysteries, there are big mysteries, there are mysteries within mysteries. But despite all the brain work, the reader never ever feels like they are slogging through the words. One comes back to the real world feeling refreshed and somehow the smarter for simply being in the presence of such genius.

Godfrey Norton must not be forgotten. I couldn’t help but think that if Good Night Mr. Holmes was ever made into a movie Jeremy Northam would be a perfect Godfrey Norton.

And I have to say the historian in me enjoyed the never ending cameos from Victorian London. So much fun! Which aptly sums up the whole book.

Book Review: To Win Her Favour

Have you ever sat there in horror as a dark side of someone you know shows itself? I have a friend, they are from England, and they are one of the sweetest kindest people I have ever known. Therefore, it was a shock to listen to them recount with downright glee a story about a cruel joke they had played on someone when they were young, just because that someone happened to be Irish. This feeling of prejudice, it was indicated to me, was typical, at least at the time of the story.

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Having witnessed the prejudice for myself, it was with great interest that I picked up Tamera Alexander’s To Win Her Favour, which focuses on the racial prejudice the Irish had to deal with when they immigrated to America during the 19th century. The second book in her Belle Meade series, To Win Her Favour, deals with three parallel struggles.  The freed slaves, fighting to actually be free. The Irish, finding disappointment in paradise. And a woman struggling to prove herself capable of more than dreams.

Lest this sound like depressing fare, dear reader, have no fear. I had heard that To Win Her Favour had an epic love story, and they weren’t lying. This book sizzles! There were a few moments between Cullen and Maggie when I thought my Kindle was going to short out. 😉 Not that she ever goes beyond the line in the sand that is Christian Fiction. I read a few reviews where readers were shocked at the detail. I was a little surprised that they were surprised. Alexander might have gone a little further than she normally does, but that is still isn’t as far as say… Julie Lessman or Tamara Leigh sometimes go.

Also, the little horse crazy girl in me has to mention the horses. Some might find that particular sub-plot a little sappy, but I loved every single moment of it. I also appreciated that Bucket was sort of an anti-Lassie. Loved him. He brought to mind a dog I used to own.

Therefore, to sum up; I loved it. I need to stop buying books on my Kindle just before I go to bed. Yes, I stayed up until 3 in the morning finishing it. I live a wild and crazy life my friends.  And one last word. You really need to check out Relz character profile of Cullen. 🙂

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Book Review x2 : The Cubicle Next Door and Kissing Adrien

The Cubicle Next Door:

Summary: Jackie rebels against having her already tiny office space partitioned off by writing an anonymous blog about work life. But she never counted on her blog going viral and her nemesis deciding he’s not content with taking over her work life. He wants to invade her personal life, too. What’s a girl to do?

Before this book, my only experience with Mitchell’s writing had been her more intense historicals. (The Messenger, She Walks In Beauty) It was a delightful surprise to discover that she is IMHO, the Christian Sophie Kinsella. In TCND, Mitchell has created an intelligent rom-com that ticks all my boxes. It is warm and funny without being sappy-sweet. It has 3D characters that you love despite the fact that they make mistakes. The romantic tension holds strong right up until the end. The setting and the atmosphere are genuine and add an extra dimension to the story. Speaking of setting…

TCND is set in Colorado, and while it has been many years since I spent the early part of my childhood in Colorado, I found myself recalling long forgotten aspects of life in the Rockies while reading the book. Setting and local colour is so strong in Mitchell’s writing it almost becomes another character, and I love that.

If I was going to have a peeve with the book it would have to be that I don’t always agree with all of Mitchell’s theological or philosophical points-of-view. But they are minor blips and I can see how they could be argued either way. Her writing certainly makes one stop and think and question one’s own beliefs. And that is always a good thing, even if you decide you don’t agree.

And I just have to add, Grandma and her beau were adorable. And yes, elderly English gentlemen really act like that.

Kissing Adrien:

Summary: Claire goes to France to deal with the estate of a deceased relative that she never even knew existed. What she did not expect was to have her life turned upside down by Adrien.

I bought this book after reading TCND. I was expecting something along the same lines. Perhaps a bit more Audrey Hepburn since it is set in Paris. Instead I found a book that has made it on to the 10-books-my-daughter-must-read list. (I intend to do a post about that list at a later date, btw.)

For starters, Siri Mitchell actually lived in France and it shows. Remember in Ratatouille when Remy climbs onto the roof and sees Paris stretching out in front of him for the first time? I got the same feeling while reading the book. She describes Paris, not as an ultra glam tourist spot, but as an old friend, exploring the quirks and nuances of daily life that create Paris’ character.

The romance between Adrien and Claire is as swoon worthy as all the other reviewers claimed. What the other reviewers did not mention was that this book is one of the best lessons on how to be beautiful that I have ever read. Just before I read this book I happened to see a clip of a Christian comedian describing the differences between men and women. I wish I could remember his name because it was hilarious. What I do remember was a little comment he dropped about what men find attractive in women. he was talking about a movie star that the critics were calling beautiful, sexy, glam, and so on and so forth. But she wasn’t drop dead gorgeous. In fact, she was rather plain. However, she was CONFIDENT. And confidence, not to be confused with pride or a cocky attitude, is very attractive. Reading Kissing Adrien, those words kept coming back to me. You’ll have to read it to see why. I won’t spoil the book for you. Siri Mitchell states her case much better than I ever could.

Again, I didn’t agree with all of her points, but her main point was well made and much needed. Kissing Adrien has made me sit back, and actually change the way I am living my life.

Just for fun, here are some links about living in Paris that I found.

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12268/10-eating-rules-french-children-know-but-most-americans-dont.html

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/nutrition/nutrition+tips/other+reasons+french+women+dont+get+fat,14077

There was also a wonderful blog by an American Woman who married a Frenchman that I wanted to post, but I lost the link. 😦

The Series Trap

Remember back at the beginning of this blog when I said I didn’t like series. I lied. I didn’t know I was lying but I was. Upon reflection, I have discovered that many of the books I read are actually series. The series I do like have some important features that separate them from the common throng. The series that I don’t like also have some defining features.

Firstly, things that I don’t like:

1. Too-little-butter, Too-much-toast Syndrome: You know the series I mean. The ones that become repetitive and are churned out by the author on editor demand because the first 2 books were popular. Skulduggery Pleasant is an excellent example of how not to fall into this category because Derek Landy has had a very careful story arc planned and has always had the end in mind and each book has been an episode in a larger story. A lot of detective fiction can fall into this trap.

2. Soap Opera Syndrome: These series can be very popular with some people. They just aren’t my thing. Karen Kingsbury’s books would fall into this category. Sorry. I was introduced to them by a friend of mine and I tried so hard to like them. Just not my cuppa tea.

3. Trilogy for the sake of a trilogy: Everything from fantasy to western-historical comes in trilogies these days. I would rather have one really well written epic than three loosely connected books that have been written by contract. Contracted trilogies just don’t seem to be written with the same depth as one lovingly produced book.

And some things that I do like in my series:

1. Character Development: This really carries on from my earlier point. Each instalment needs to have a sense of purpose. Jill Paton Walsh’s Lord Peter Wimsey books have all been splendid examples of this. She’s not just writing the books because she’s in love with her characters. Each book is a solid mystery, but more importantly, each book takes the characters to new limits. SPOILERS: For instance, The Attenbury Emeralds saw Lord Peter suddenly become the Duke of Denver.

2. Strong Series Plot: Goldstone Woods. You knew I was going to bring that up sooner or later, didn’t you. Ha! Stengl has little trilogies within a series and it still manages to hold together to one over-reaching plot.

3. Enough is Enough: Tumblr explodes every-time a Sherlock season ends, but personally, I think Moffat is very wise to keep the seasons so short. Instead of being forced to churn out episodes (as much as we would like to get the inside scoop on the Elephant in the Room Case), the three episode format allows the writers to craft masterpieces of mystery and suspense that keep the show on the brainy end of the spectrum instead of diving off into the pool of formulaic cop shows like NCIS and Castle.

Discussion Question: Tell me what you look for in your book series.

Cover Reveal: Draven’s Light

Today I have the honour of presenting you with the cover of Draven’s Light by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I made the mistake of reading the excerpt and I already have feels!!!

She has changed illustrators for this one, and I’d love to hear what you think of the new look. I miss the old softer look, personally, but I can also appreciate that the cover needs to match the content. And the figure on the cover looks a wee bit like Thorin, which can only be a good thing, right? 😉 Without further ado, I present to you Draven’s Light.

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In the Darkness of the Pit, The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

Coming May 25, 2015

There is also a give-away.

Visit Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s blog to enter the giveaway!

Or you can pre-order the book on Amazon.

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Excerpt from

DRAVEN’S LIGHT

By Anne Elisabeth Stengl

(coming May 25, 2015)

He heard the drums in his dreams, distant but drawing ever nearer. He had heard them before and wondered if the time of his manhood had come. But with the approach of dawn, the drums always faded away and he woke to the world still a child. Still a boy.

But this night, the distant drums were louder, stronger. Somehow he knew they were not concocted of his sleeping fancy. No, even as he slept he knew these were real drums, and he recognized the beat: The beat of death. The beat of blood.

The beat of a man’s heart.

He woke with a start, his leg throbbing where it had just been kicked. It was not the sort of awakening he had longed for these last two years and more. He glared from his bed up into the face of his sister, who stood above him, balancing her weight on a stout forked branch tucked under her left shoulder.

“Ita,” the boy growled, “what are you doing here? Go back to the women’s hut!”

His sister made a face at him, but he saw, even by the moonlight streaming through cracks in the thatch above, that her eyes were very round and solemn. Only then did he notice that the drumbeats of his dream were indeed still booming deep in the woods beyond the village fires. He sat up then, his heart thudding its own thunderous pace.

“A prisoner,” Ita said, shifting her branch so that she might turn toward the door. “The drums speak of a prisoner. They’re bringing him even now.” She flashed a smile down at him, though it was so tense with anxiety it could hardly be counted a smile at all. “Gaho, your name!”

The boy was up and out of his bed in a moment, reaching for a tunic and belt. His sister hobbled back along the wall but did not leave, though he wished she would. He wished she would allow him these few moments before the drums arrived in the village. The drums that beat of one man’s death . . . and one man’s birth.

His name was Gaho. But by the coming of dawn, if the drums’ promise was true, he would be born again in blood and bear a new name.

Hands shaking with what he desperately hoped wasn’t fear, he tightened his belt and searched the room for his sickle blade. He saw the bone handle, white in the moonlight, protruding from beneath his bed pile, and swiftly took it up. The bronze gleamed dully, like the carnivorous tooth of an ancient beast.

A shudder ran through his sister’s body. Gaho, sensing her distress, turned to her. She grasped her supporting branch hard, and the smile was gone from her face. “Gaho,” she said, “will you do it?”

“I will,” said Gaho, his voice strong with mounting excitement.

But Ita reached out to him suddenly, catching his weapon hand just above the wrist. “I will lose you,” she said. “My brother . . . I will lose you!”

“You will not. You will lose only Gaho,” said the boy, shaking her off, gently, for she was not strong. Without another word, he ducked through the door of his small hut—one he had built for himself but a year before in anticipation of his coming manhood—and stood in the darkness of Rannul Village, eyes instinctively turning to the few campfires burning. The drums were very near now, and he could see the shadows of waking villagers moving about the fires, building up the flames in preparation for what must surely follow. He felt eyes he could not see turning to his hut, turning to him. He felt the question each pair of eyes asked in silent curiosity: Will it be tonight?

Tonight or no night.

Grasping the hilt of his weapon with both hands, Gaho strode to the dusty village center, which was beaten down into hard, packed earth from years of meetings and matches of strength held in this same spot. Tall pillars of aged wood ringed this circle, and women hastened to these, bearing torches which they fit into hollowed-out slots in each pillar. Soon the village center was bright as noonday, but with harsh red light appropriate for coming events.

Gaho stood in the center of that light, his heart ramming in his throat though his face was a stoic mask. All the waking village was gathered now, men, women, and children, standing just beyond the circle, watching him.

The drums came up from the river, pounding in time to the tramp of warriors’ feet. Then the warriors themselves were illuminated by the ringing torches, their faces anointed in blood, their heads helmed with bone and bronze, their shoulders covered in hides of bear, wolf, and boar. Ten men carried tight skin drums, beating them with their fists. They entered the center first, standing each beneath one of the ringing pillars. Other warriors followed them, filling in the gaps between.

Then the chieftain, mighty Gaher, appeared. He carried his heavy crescent ax in one hand, and Gaho saw that blood stained its edge—indeed, blood spattered the blade from tip to hilt and covered the whole of the chieftain’s fist. Gaher strode into the circle, and the boy saw more blood in his beard. But he also saw the bright, wolfish smile and knew for certain that his sister had been correct. The night of naming had come.

“My son,” said the chief, saluting Gaho with upraised weapon.

“My father,” said Gaho, raising his sickle blade in return.

“Are you ready this night to die and live again?” asked the chief. His voice carried through the shadows, and every one of the tribe heard it, and any and all listening beasts of forests and fields surrounding. “Are you ready this night for the spilling of blood that must flow before life may begin?”

Gaho drew a deep breath, putting all the strength of his spirit into his answer. “I am ready, Father.”

Gaher’s smile grew, the torchlight flashing red upon his sharpened canines. He turned then and motioned to the darkness beyond the torchlight.

The sacrifice was brought forward.

AUTHOR BIO:

ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.

To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit: www.AnneElisabethStengl.blogspot.com

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen: Book Review

The Silent Governess has long been on my really really really want to read pile. Julie Klassen is one of my favourite authors, even if she can be a bit hit-and-miss sometimes (I simply can’t get through Apothecary’s Daughter). Maid of Fairbourne Hall is still my favourite, but The Silent Governess came close to making it a tie. Not quite as tightly written as Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Silent Governess was still a compelling, can’t-put-it-down-read. Klassen is one of the few modern authors who can write convincing Bronte/Austen-esque fiction without being corny or over the top and The Silent Governess will keep you on your toes right to the last chapter.