Secret Servant: The Moneypenny Diaries
by Kate Westbrook
Published by John Murray Publishers Ltd
Jane Moneypenny may project a cool, calm and collected image but her secret diaries reveal a rather different story. In the grip of an uncertain love affair and haunted by a dark family secret, the last thing she needs is a crisis at work. But the Secret Intelligence Service is in chaos. One senior officer is on trial for treason, another has defected to Moscow and her beloved James Bond has been brainwashed by the KGB. Only a woman's touch can save them. Moneypenny soon finds herself embroiled in a highly-charged adventure infused with the glamour of the Cold War espionage game. Alone on a dangerous Russian mission she turns, with breathless intimacy, to writing a truly explosive private diary.
I picked this one up as a taster for the series, since I also have it in print and am yet to track down the first book. I think it loses a little as an audio book, and I'll definitely be tracking down the whole series in print. On the other hand, the narrator, Eleanor Bron, did a pretty good job of making Jane (in the diaries) and Kate (in the modern adventure surrounding the publication of the diaries) distinct. Part of the fun, of course, is seeing how real history and the Bond stories are carefully woven together around Jane's life.
A Wolf Brushed Red
by Andie Johnston
Published by Torquere Press
Rowan leads a quiet life, but a shortcut through the woods puts her in the path of something dangerous. Lily has held onto her memory of Rowan since a chance meeting when they were both girls. When they find one another again, they don’t expect to become so close so fast, but they’ll both discover that the danger hasn’t passed just yet.
A very sweet (and spicy at times) retelling of the Red Riding Hood story with the huntsman as the bad guy. I just wish it could have been slightly longer.
Heart of Change
by Roxy Harte
Published by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
After the truth comes out about her age, forty-something porn star Simone Sinclair is handed her walking papers, ending a career that has become more extreme sport than art form. The final straw is her long-time partner’s idea to start their own international studio with a marriage proposal tossed in to sweeten the deal. After two decades of waiting for him to deliver the white picket fence, it’s not exactly the offer she was expecting.
At least she doesn’t need a man to answer the alarm of her biological clock. And when she shares a dance with Geri, one of her lesbian gal pals, she discovers she doesn’t need a man to fulfill other fantasies, either. But Geri’s not interested in touch and tease—she wants more than Simone is ready to give.
Torn between three dreams—a post-retirement career, a family, or lasting love—Simone retreats to get her head on straight, coming to one conclusion. She can’t have everything. But two out of three is worse than nothing at all…
This tackled a bunch of issues very effectively: women who chose to work in the porn industry, the pressures on women to have it all, women being forced out of the media when the reach an arbitrary age and the twin issues of women who come out later in life and women who choose to become mothers later in life as well. Having said all that, it was a splendid story as well. I love Simone's attitude and the close friendship she shares with a bunch of women with whom she initially seems to have little in common.
Kaye Chazan, Amanda Ching, Hilary Thomas, and C.A. Young
Published by Candlemark & Gleam
In 1865, an English author and scholar with an abiding interest in mathematics and logic published a tale originally told for the amusement of a friend's young daughter, Alice.The resulting novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was largely ignored at first, but then rapidly rose to fame, with such prominent admirers as Queen Victoria and Oscar Wilde; its nonsensical language and endearing characters have made it beloved of generations of children and adults alike, and the escapades of young Alice have inspired writers the world over. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has never gone out of print.With such universal appeal, it's no wonder that the quasi-logical tricks and banter of Wonderland have cast a long shadow on modern fantasy. Echoes of the Queen, the Cat, and others can be found in tales old and new, and the idea of falling into a strange, bewildering world is one of the favorite tropes used by authors of the fantastic. The (re)Visions series seeks to bring classic works of speculative fiction back into the modern consciousness, examining how tendrils of the fantastic spiral through all that we think and do, even decades after a work was penned. First, read Lewis Carroll's (extremely) original work; then, let your mind wander through the gardens and passages of Wonderland, guided by four very different modern authors. And don't forget your flamingo.
Four stories riffing off Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with the original in there first as a reminder of all the details. I loved them all for very different reasons, although it took me a while to get into the first of the new stories for some reason. My favourite may have been 'Knave', or it may have been 'The World in a Thimble'.
One Night for Love
by Mary Balogh
Published by PIATKUS BOOKS
Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, awaits his new bride at the altar - when a ragged beggar woman races down the aisle instead. The cream of the ton see him stare, shocked, then declare that this is his late wife! One night of passion is all he remembers of Lily, the woman he'd wed, loved, and lost on the battlefield in Portugal. Now he must endeavour to honour his commitment to her - regardless of the gulf that lies between them. Lily wants only to start a new life - with a husband who truly loves her. She leaves Wyatt to learn how to meet his world on her terms and upon her return Lily soon becomes the toast of the ton, every inch a countess fit for the earl. Wyatt vows to prove to his remarkable wife that what he feels for her is more than desire, that what he wants from her is much more than simply one night for love ...
I picked this one up after its sequel was discussed on Romance Novels for Feminists (and that one's in my To Read pile). Neville turned his back on his responsibilities for a long time by seeking a career in the military (and the infantry rather than the cavalry) and doing rather well at it. When a routine patrol runs into the enemy, and his Sergeant is killed, Neville marries camp-follower Lily (the Sergeant's daughter) to give her some degree of protection should she be captured by the French. After one night together, Lily is apparently killed in another ambush and Neville is seriously wounded. He returns home to marry the woman he was expected to wed originally, and then Lily manages to reach him...
A cute story, and Lily was very much her own person, as were the other women. Lily realises that she's out of place in Neville's world but wants to be able to make her own way in the world if she can't be his equal in society. So she accepts an invitation from Neville's aunt to become a paid companion, in the process learning to read, to dance, and to be a proper lady. I guessed quite early on what the big reveal would be, but since it also provided a happy ending for my two favourite secondary characters, I wasn't really bothered. Hopefully the next will be as much fun.