Review: A Queen from the North

Title: A Queen from the North (A Royal Roses Book)

Authors: Erin McRae & Racheline Maltese

Published: 2017

Format: Ebook

Set in an alternate universe where the Wars of the Roses (between the Houses of York and Lancaster) never truly ended, the Unified Kingdom of England, Scotland, and Wales is still caught in the aftermath of the conflict. Arthur, the widowed Prince of Wales, needs to marry again to provide heirs to the throne, but is Lady Amelia Brockett, the daughter of a Yorkist earl and nearly twenty years his junior, the right woman to be the next Queen?

While this is, ostensibly, a romance novel, the romance isn’t the only plot worth following. The novel is as much political drama concerning the history (and the present) between the north (York) and south (London) of England, as well as the Commonwealth, as it is about the two people trying to navigate through courtship and engagement in the eyes of not only their family and friends, but also the public and the press.

Admittedly, for me, the political drama could be more intriguing than the romance, but that might just be my inner history nerd trying to parse together the differences between this novel’s universe and the English history we are all familiar with. While the Battle of Bosworth Field happened (ending the reign of Richard III and the Yorkist camp), history is altered from there. And while it would be easy to make comparisons between things happening in the novel and events happening today, they are still grounded in the history of the world the authors created, making them fit into the novel as organic events, not thinly veiled commentary on our world.

As for the main couple, Prince Arthur and Lady Amelia, they were believable as well. Well rounded, flaws and all, the authors made them human enough that the reader became invested in their lives and their world. And it appears there may be more books to come in this series, which has me excited. And maybe hoping to get a little more of the history of the world, if only for my inner history nerd’s happiness.

I give it 5 pages.

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Book Review: “The Christmas Widow” by Jillian Eaton

TITLE: The Christmas Widow

AUTHOR: Jillian Eaton

PUBLISHED: 2014

FORMAT: E-Book

Lady Beatrice Tumbley hasn’t gone outside since her husband was killed two years before, earning her the sobriquet “Mad Lady Bea”. Jack Emerson appears on her doorstep one night, bleeding from a gunshot wound. Can she let go of her past and let love prevail?

I read a lot of romance novels, and while most of them don’t set my teeth on edge, there is one trope that irritates me to no end and makes it hard for me to read a book – and sometimes even finish it. That’s the one where the hero decides that he knows what is best for the heroine to deal with [insert problem here] and doesn’t bother to listen to her or just run roughshod over her feelings/concerns/etc. And of course the heroine eventually falls for him, because He Was Right! (I think I just sprained something rolling my eyes).

Unfortunately, that’s the main plot at work here. Jack knows how to get Beatrice out of her grief and runs roughshod over her coping mechanisms and her feelings. Because he loves her (after knowing her for several days) and she figures out she loves him too.

This was a novella, so there’s not enough to really get to know the characters. We don’t anything from Jack’s point of view until Chapter 8, and by that point, he had already annoyed me to the point where I didn’t care about him or why he’d been shot (or how he was able to miraculously recover) or, well, anything else. Which is a shame because I’ve read other books by this author and enjoyed them. This one was just too rushed, too reliant on a tired trope that needs to go away (in my opinion), and too thin on character development for me to enjoy it.

I give it 1 page.

Book Review – Tender Wings of Desire

TITLE: Tender Wings of Desire
AUTHOR: KFC (YUM Brands claims the copyright)
PUBLISHED: 2017
FORMAT: E-Book

“For mothers everywhere, I dedicate this to you – a brief escape from motherhood into the arms of your fantasy Colonel, whoever he may be.”

Lady Madeline Parker doesn’t want to marry the man who her parents have given her hand to, so she runs away the night before her wedding and finds work in a tavern, and finds love in the arms of a sailor (also running from his responsibilities) named Harland Sanders.

No, this is not a joke. For Mother’s Day, KFC put out a romance novel, complete with redhead in jeans, accessorized by a purse and a chicken drumstick, in the arms of a rather buff and sleeveless Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of KFC. As the e-book was free*, I picked it up, and figured it would be a light read where I would giggle at the tropes I often encounter in romance novels. Oh no.

Whoever wrote this did no research into whatever era they placed this in, given the mistakes they made in forms of address for peers, most of which can be found with a quick internet search, or a character calling another a “dish”, as well as a lot of little things that just read like nails on a chalkboard to me. The plot was trite and, really, nothing was done to make us really care about Madeline, or, dare I say it, Harland. While there may be eleven herbs and spices in the Colonel’s secret recipe, they were all lacking from this book and these characters.

Which brings me to the biggest issue I had with this book – Colonel Harland Sanders. KFC/YUM Brands stuck a disclaimer in the beginning that “characters are fictitious or used in a fictitious manner.” But this is nothing more than someone at (or hired by) KFC writing real person romantic fan fiction about the founder of the restaurant. Frankly, the real Colonel Sanders, and yes, he was a real, actual person, deserves better than to be reduced to this, a bland caricature of a man running away from his responsibilities to his restaurant empire. While the real Colonel Harland Sanders’ rank was more honorary as a member of the Kentucky Colonels (an honor he shares with persons such as Muhammad Ali, John Glenn, several former U.S. Presidents, and Betty White), he was an actual human being, not just an actor in a white wig, and reading about his romancing this fictional woman just put me off this book entirely. I kept reading in the hope it would get better, and sadly, it never did.

I have to give it 1 out of 5 pages.

*As of today, it’s now $0.99 on Amazon for the e-book, unless you have Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review: Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel

TITLE: Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel

AUTHOR: James Luceno

PUBLISHED: 2016

FORMAT: E-Book

I’m just going to warn right now for potential spoilers for Rogue One, even though it’s been out over a month.  Also, yes, I am a huge Star Wars fan if you hadn’t guessed from my name.

Catalyst is a prequel novel to Rogue One, the latest movie in the Star Wars universe.  It starts near the end of the Clone Wars, and introduces us to Galen and Lyra Erso, their newborn daughter Jyn, and the complicated interaction between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic, the men behind the construction of the Death Star and it’s weaponry – whether they worked on it willingly or not.

The novel is an interesting bridge between the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire.  It mainly focuses on the two men, but we also get a look at Lyra Erso and her view of the war and how it affects the galaxy – and her family.  And how the players get from where they are at the end of the war, to where they are at the start of Rogue One.

This is not a book that can be read without any knowledge of the Star Wars universe, for certain.  At least familiarity with the prequel movies (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) is needed as events in those movies are heavily referenced – and it actually answers a few questions I know I had about certain things seen at the end of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  And the author’s writing keeps the story flowing well from start to finish.

For those who are fans of the Star Wars universe, this book is a good addition to the canon.  I give it 4 of 5 pages.

Book Review – Hidden Figures

TITLE: Hidden Figures

AUTHOR: Margot Lee Shetterly

PUBLISHED: 2016

FORMAT: Paperback

Hidden Figures bills itself on the cover as “The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.”  That is a perfect description of the book, which has already inspired a (somewhat fictionalized) movie about the  events in the book.   (Full disclosure, I have seen the movie, but I’m one of those people that likes to read the books that movies are based on as well).

This is a non-fiction recounting of the history of many of the women who are often overlooked in history but without whom, World War II and the Space Race would not have gone the way it did.  The book gives you the history of several of the women involved, including Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson and Katherine Goble Johnson. But Hidden Figures is not just about the work the women did, but also the environment they did it in – mainly the segregated south of the 1940s/1950s/1960s, as well as the atmosphere of the Cold War that surrounded the Space Race.  The book doesn’t stint on the history and how it impacted the many women involved.

In fact, there could have been a lot more history in the book – the main chapters end at Apollo 11 (the moon landing for those who aren’t as much of a NASA nerd as I am), but the Epilogue continues with more history on some of the women, up to 2015.  Understandably, the lack of ‘more’ is subjective, and the book makes it clear how much things changed at NASA, from its pre-NASA days as the NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) to the 1980s at least.  Granted, it also shows how much hasn’t changed.

The narrative is definitely helped by the author’s personal familiarity with the subject (she knew some of the women personally growing up in Virginia), as well as the years of research she conducted.  She also has a good writing style that kept me interested in the book as a whole.  This wasn’t a dry history of facts and dates.  She helped you view the players not only as professionals in history, but as individual persons.  That’s not always the case in some non-fiction historical narratives I’ve read.

All in all, I found Hidden Figures pretty compelling.  This is an area of history I’m not as familiar with, though I’ve read a lot about the early days of NASA (I may have NASA nerd tendencies).  However, information about these women who were integral to the program was not in a lot of the histories I read, mostly written by the white men who worked at NASA, or were the astronauts themselves.  And, admittedly, there are times when it is a hard read given the societal issues and the language that was prevalent at the time (the author chose to use the language of the times to stay true to her subject).  While I don’t feel that is a reason not to read this book, I know that not everyone feels the same way.

I give it 4 out of 5 pages.

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