Review: A Lady Awakened

Review: A Lady AwakenedA Lady Awakened (Blackshear Family, #1) by Cecilia Grant
Series: Blackshear Family #1
Published by Bantam on December 27, 2011
Genres: Historical
Pages: 346
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: An intellectually interesting twist on the normal romance story, but ultimately I found the book too uneven to be a great book.

THE STORY: Martha Russel is newly widowed and determined to protect the people of her estate from her husband’s brother who stands to inherit. So she concocts a scheme: she will quickly get pregnant and pass the child off to as her husband’s heir. She approaches a temporary newcomer to the area, Theo Milkwood, with a proposition. She will pay him to impregnate her. Theo, sent by his father to learn some responsibility, is insulted by Martha’s offer, but is happy to take the widow up on a month of irresponsible sex.

OPINION: I wanted to really love this book. There was something fresh and interesting in the story. The relationship between the hero and heroine begins cold and through their interactions, I loved how the two of them change and find something special together.

That first part of the book, however, was pretty difficult to get through. There is a lot of unsatisfying sex to get through. Unfortunately, when things change for them, the satisfying encounters don’t really outweigh the two thirds of book that come before.

What I did like was the development of the heroine. I never really liked her much. She’s not a character that I came to really love, but I found her journey intriguing. This was an interesting exercise of a book to read, but it didn’t really seem like a book that I would voluntarily pick up again.

Parts were really good, and I didn’t really mind way the relationship between the characters develop, but I left the book really not feeling that the happy ending outweighed everything that went before.

WORTH MENTIONING: I think the book might have been better with an epilogue showing these characters happy together.

CONNECTED BOOKS: A LADY AWAKENED is the first book in the Blackshear Family series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Scottish Prisoner

Review: The Scottish PrisonerThe Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Lord John Grey #3
Published by Bantam on May 29, 2012
Genres: Historical
Pages: 518
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: More Jamie than Lord John, this story is a type of buddy book with John and Jamie having to work together to solve a mystery involving a possible Jacobite group. I loved seeing Jamie for an extended period even though my heart hurt for him missing Claire.

THE STORY: This book takes place in the time period covered by VOYAGER (and there are spoilers). Here Lord John Grey finds himself the recipient of a mysterious message written in the Scottish language. He reluctantly realizes that Jamie might be able to translate the message. (The two have had a serious falling out during an earlier Lord John story.)  Jamie is suffering from the loss of Claire but watching over his illegitimate and unacknowledged son. But he is also approached with echoes from the past by Irish remnants of the Rising. These events send Jamie and John Grey on an adventure to discover the truth of what is happening.

OPINION: This is my favorite of the Lord John series, but it feels closest to Outlander because of Jamie’s presence. But the reason that I like this as a Lord John book is because Lord John is best when he is interacting with Jamie and not just thinking about him.

This book definitely takes it shape from the Lord John Grey series. It is a mystery that John goes to investigate. Here, because Jamie is such a central character, we get more of the interaction between John and Jamie. Their relationship is strained but this book is part of their journey to becoming friends again — and this time a more honest friendship.

I really enjoyed the story which was political drama, a roadtrip adventure, historical download and a story of unrequited love all in one. I also enjoyed getting to see more of John’s brother and sister in law (a couple I enjoyed in their own story).

This book enhanced my Outlander understanding and also managed to be the best example of the Lord John books.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novel is told by alternating Jamie’s story and Lord John’s story as the stories overlap. It takes place in the space of when Jamie and Claire are apart VOYAGER.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE SCOTTISH PRISONER is the third book in the Lord John Grey series. This series is a spinoff of the Outlander series. While it is not necessary to have read the other books in the Lord John Grey series to read this book, I believe it is necessary to read VOYAGER to appreciate this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Dragonfly in Amber

Review: Dragonfly in AmberDragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2) by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #2
Published by Bantam on August 7th 2001
Genres: Historical, Time Travel
Pages: 743
Goodreads
five-stars

Political Intrigue and Romance With Claire and Jaime

FINAL DECISION: I ended up liking this one better than OUTLANDER itself. The story seemed tighter, the relationship between Claire and Jamie more complex and although there is plenty of death and pain in this book, it felt more civilized after the events of the first book. And I ended up in tears for most of the end of this book.

THE STORY: After the events of OUTLANDER, Jaime and Claire have fled to France. There they will try to prevent the coming battle of Culloden in order to prevent the destruction of the Highlanders culture. Their scheme requires them to participate in Eighteenth Century French court politics and intrigues with Bonnie Prince Charlie and the King of France. There are still repercussions from Jamie’s torture and rape at the end of OUTLANDER. Intrigues, danger and the past threaten to tear Jamie and Claire apart even at the point where they share joy at the coming of their child.

OPINION: I liked OUTLANDER, but I liked DRAGONFLY IN AMBER more. OUTLANDER was about Jamie and Claire discovering one another and falling in love. This book is about letting their love and marriage mature. In OUTLANDER Jamie and Claire ran the gauntlet of danger. This book is a slow burn. Things are quieter, more outwardly civilized and yet even more complicated and dangerous. Politics, society and intrigue take up the majority of this book.

For those readers who read OUTLANDER but don’t know more about the series, they will be surprised by the beginning of this book. (I don’t want to give it away, but it is a clever story device to begin the narrative there instead of being strictly chronological). The book feels fresh and different after OUTLANDER. The characters have grown and changed (not always for the good) and there are lots of new characters to get to know. Old friends and enemies also have returned so there is a good reason to review the events of OUTLANDER if you haven’t read it in a while.

Jamie is more remote in this book after the events with Jack Randall in OUTLANDER. He is still struggling with the aftermath and the pressures of trying to save the entire Highlands. Being involved in the political intrigue means that he and Claire spend less time together and thus immense pressure is placed on their relationship.

Claire is also struggling to find her role in this new situation. The new life in the Court of France has new conflicts and restrictions upon this twentieth century woman. She has to use her imperfect knowledge of the past to help avoid Culloden while know knowing whether such a thing is possible. She is also struggling with her relationship with Jamie. She gave up her entire life to be with him and now she has to deal with those consequences.

On a more philosophical point, the book also investigates the idea of changing the past. Is it even possible for Jamie and Claire to change the events that lead to Culloden or does everything they do actually cause that event to happen? Can the past be changed at all? These are universal themes in time travel stories and this book examines those issues with complexity and subtlety. Even better, there are no real answers.

I began reading OUTLANDER when the television series started because I always want to read the books first and I began reading this one in preparation for Season 2. I don’t know if I have been influenced by the series, but I felt that this book went more quickly and the events were clearer, the characters more defined and the outcome more devastating. I cried through the end of the book because it was incredibly well written and sad. At the end of this book, I desperately wanted to begin VOYAGER (book 3) to find out what happens.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book ends on a cliffhanger.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DRAGONFLY IN AMBER is the second book in the Outlander series. It can be read as a standalone, but why do that. Read OUTLANDER first to really appreciate DRAGONFLY IN AMBER.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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five-stars