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Lately Read

Here’s where I’ll be putting my thoughts on what I’ve been reading.

Untamed by Pamela Clare

This book was my introduction to Ms. Clare’s writing. I found it while grocery shopping, read a page and didn’t want to put it down, so I bought it.

Untamed is the sequel to Surrender, the first instalment in MS. Clare’s MacKinnon’s Rangers series. The MacKinnons are three brothers, transplanted Highland Scots who have been unfairly pressed into service in the British Army during the French-Indian War. Against this rich historical background, the MacKinnons fight for and win the women they love.

Untamed features Morgan, the second MacKinnon brother, and Amelie Chauvenet, the orphaned daughter of a French officer at Fort Ticonderoga. When Morgan is gravely wounded and captured in a skirmish, Amelie is assigned to nurse him back to health so he can be tortured for information, then handed to the Abenaki to be burned alive in revenge for a raid on one of their villages.

Amelie has reason to hate Morgan – the Rangers he leads are responsible for the death of her father – but as he recovers from his wounds, she comes to admire his courage and his loyalty to his brothers. When he tells her that he does not fight willingly for the British, Amelie convinces her guardian, Monsieur de Bourlamaque, Ticonderoga’s commander, to offer Morgan sanctuary and a place in the French Army. Morgan accepts and begins leading a double life, spying on the man who has spared his life and falling in love with Amelie, all the while knowing that his duty is to escape and leave her behind.

Ms. Clare has created a fast-paced, passionate story that carries the reader along effortlessly. She gives her characters real pain and hardship, balanced with deep emotion and sensuality. Morgan is a hero to be remembered, and Amelie is his match in every way. Her innocence and generosity are a perfect counterfoil for Morgan’s fierce protectiveness and strength of character. The history is accurate to the last detail, and the secondary characters, ally and enemy, support the story well. For a real page-turner with depth, it doesn’t get any better than this.

5 / 5 stars

Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell

This is my first read by Anna Campbell. I’ve been hearing her name lately and also hearing good things about this book, so when I brought it home from our RWA Christmas party this weekend, I dug in right away.

I wasn’t disappointed. The story opens with the heroine, Lady Charis Weston, on the run from her brutal stepbrothers, who have tried to beat her into accepting one of their wastrel associates as a husband. Battered and desperate, Lady Charis encounters the hero, Sir Gideon Trevithick, newly returned to England after years of service with the East India Company. Gideon has endured unspeakable torture in the line of duty and been knighted as a reward, but he sees himself as anything but a hero.

To Lady Charis, Gideon is her knight in shining armor, a man of honor who agrees to shelter and protect her from her stepbrothers. The man who sets her on fire from the very beginning. To Gideon, Charis is a torment, a reminder of all he believes he can never have, damaged as he is in body and mind. He will do whatever is necessary to protect her until she turns twenty-one and comes into her fortune – anything, including marriage, but in name only. Once Charis is safely in possession of her rights he will set her free, in spite of the overwhelming desire building between them.

I’m not a big reader of Regencies. Life in high society has never really interested me, but there is little of the ton, balls and fancy gowns in this book. It’s fraught with real conflict and danger. I couldn’t help falling in love with Gideon and admiring Charis for her honesty and determination to be fair to Gideon and herself. As she discovers his fragility, her love for him only becomes stronger. The settings are superbly done, the love scenes very honest and emotional, and the characters richly detailed. I’d recommend this book wholeheartedly to any lover of romance, regency or otherwise. I will definitely be watching for Ms. Campbell’s next release.

5 / 5 stars

Seasons of Fantasy: The Spring Maiden by Aubrie Dionne

Elana is a young girl from a privileged family, whose parents wish to marry her to a farmer’s son, Barrow Tiln. Unwilling, Elana escapes from her bedroom and flees to the woods, into an enchanted mushroom ring. She becomes the Spring Maiden, trapped out of mortal time in an eternal spring while all she knew ages and dies.

A century later, a handsome huntsman, Warren Cutter, stumbles into Elana’s glade. He is smitten with the beautiful Spring Maiden and asks her to return to the mortal world with him. Elana has to choose between her magical, loveless existence and a loving, though not eternal, life with Warren.

With its underlying message of living life to the fullest, Spring Maiden is a charming, old-fashioned fairy tale. By stepping out of the cycle of life, Elana has found immortality but lost all that makes life meaningful. Dionne’s lyrical prose suits the genre well. The story begins with Elana already in her enchanted glade, then shifts to her escape from home in a transition I found slightly abrupt, but that didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying this beautifully written short fantasy. It will charm readers of all ages.

4.5 / 5 stars

Seasons of Fantasy: The Winter Queen by Aubrie Dionne

In another of Dionne’s lyrical fairy tales, The Snow Queen guards a magical ice bridge that leads to a fabled paradise. Whenever a mortal tries to cross, the Queen steals and freezes his soul until spring, when he is allowed to die.

This is the tale of Barrow Tiln, the rejected lover from The Spring Maiden. Unlike others who try to gain the Snow Queen’s favor with bribery, bravery or violence, Barrow approaches the ice bridge empty-handed. He knows the Queen as Lianna, a beautiful princess whose lover betrayed her long ago, embittering her and transforming her into a frozen soul herself.

Barrow has always loved winter and is not afraid of the Snow Queen. He understands her pain and offers her the cure, his love. The queen thaws and becomes Lianna again, no longer a stealer of souls. The message of this tale is the healing power of love, and Dionne’s poetic, descriptive prose brings it poignantly to life. This is another charming installment in the Seasons of Fantasy series, to be enjoyed by children and adults alike.

5 / 5 stars