The English Civil Wars, 1640 1660
by Blair Worden
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson
Nothing in English history has so imprinted itself on the nation's memory as the upheavals of the mid-seventeenth century. And nothing has so divided posterity. This short book provides a crisp and lucid narrative of the complicated events of 1640 to 1660 - not just the war between King and Parliament of 1642-46 but the second civil war, the execution of King Charles I, the Commonwealth and the rule of Cromwell, and finally the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. But it also gets behind the preoccupations of later generations and explains what contemporaries on both sides thought they were fighting for and against. Many factors played a part in these wars: the European conflicts of the time; the wars in Scotland and Ireland from which the English conflict emerged; constitutional tussles from the Tudor period; ideas of liberty and reform; the new powers of taxation acquired by parliamentarians; and the collapse of political censorship during the wars. Through it all there ran the conflict of religion. This wonderfully readable and well-informed account stresses the unpredictability not only of the military outcomes but also of the longer-term results. As the author notes, 'There is no better illustration of the law of unintended consequences than the English civil wars.'
A comprehensive and readable account of the entire period from when things really started to go wrong for Charles I to the Restoration of the Monarchy with the return of Charles II and its consequences. Some new-to-me facts in there, which warrant further investigation, but not as gripping of some of the other accounts of the period I've read recently.
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Highland Pleasures #1)
by Jennifer Ashley
Published by Berkley
The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family--rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn't be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them--of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.
The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He's also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.
Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama--an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.
This was recommended to me a fair while ago, and when I finally got around to reading it, I wondered why I'd waited so long. Ian Mackenzie isn't mad, but he's not what modern observers would term neurotypical either, and so he has difficulty fitting into society. He also suffers with headaches and an almost uncontrollable temper. He proposes to Beth on their first meeting, because he wants to take her to bed, and believes her too respectable to be his mistress, but his sense of fairness also extends to warning her off the man to whom she is already engaged by telling her of the man's secret vices. Beth doesn't particularly want to remarry after all that excitement, and flees to Paris, where she meets more members of Ian's family and becomes involved in the intrigue surrounding a murder in which the Mackenzies were implicated some years before.
I like Beth: she's very good at rescuing herself, as well as at getting along with all these unruly men and their associated women. I love the whole family too, and look forward to catching up with them all in the subsequent books in this series.
Lord Roworth's Reward (Rothschild Trilogy #2)
by Carola Dunn
Published by Robinson Publishing
Love can entrap the most guarded of hearts! The distinguished Viscount Roworth can only hope his clandestine activities on behalf of the British Army will restore his family fortune and gain him entry into Brussels' high society. But the only fly in the ointment is the young woman with whom necessity has forced the penurious peer to share lodgings. The lovely, fiercely independent Miss Fanny Ingram seems to care not a whit for matters of rank and social standing. And although good sense tells Roworth he must resist her uncommon charms, nothing can protect his heart against the slings and arrows of Cupid's unerring aim!
Lord Roworth, who missed out on the heroine's hand in the first book of this trilogy, has had a slight upturn in his fortunes. He's still working for the Rothschild family, but he has also found favour with Wellington and is able to socialise with such society ex-pats as the beautiful Lady Sophia (whom he refers to as The Goddess). Money's still tight, and he's staying in a lodging house with an artillery captain, his sister, and their ward: the illegitimate daughter of an officer killed earlier in the war. The pair believe they are of noble descent, but can't prove it, and hence are unacceptable in polite society as well as having even less money than Roworth. In the run up to the Battle of Waterloo Roworth must keep up his work for his employers and his country while keeping those he cares for safe. He also has to decide between a rich and beautiful (but ultimately shallow) potential bride, and a woman who loves him but is totally unsuitable.
A fun instalment, in which we also get to find out how the pair from the previous novel have fared, in which most of the contrasts were based on the apparent status in society of the characters, rather than on their religious leanings and so it didn't score quite as highly as the first book. I'm looking forward to finding out how it all ends up, though.
Meet Me At The Cupcake Café
by Jenny Colgan
Published by Sphere
Come and meet Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe. Issy Randall can bake. No, more than that -- Issy can create stunning, mouth-wateringly divine cakes. After a childhood spent in her beloved Grampa Joe's bakery, she has undoubtedly inherited his talent. When she's made redundant from her safe but dull City job, Issy decides to seize the moment. Armed with recipes from Grampa, and with her best friends and local bank manager fighting her corner, The Cupcake Cafe opens its doors. But Issy has absolutely no idea what she's let herself in for. It will take all her courage -- and confectionery -- to avert disaster...
This book has been out for a while in the UK, but is newly released in the US, which is how I came to spot the blurb. Utterly enchanting as an audio, I'm tempted to track down a print copy, just for the recipes at the beginning of each chapter and in the author's Afterword. Some of them are reproduced on the author's website as well. Issy is made redundant from a property development company, and after feeling sorry for herself for a while, decides to take on the shop close to where she used to catch her bus to work. No one else has ever made a success of any business there, but she wants to try. Lots of lovely secondary characters in this one, and even the children manage to be realistic and also endearing -- possibly because most of them are far from well-behaved for reasons that make total sense. I need to track down more books from this author.
The Gentlemen's Clubs Of London
by Anthony Lejeune and Malcolm Lewis
Published by TBS The Book Service Ltd
On its first publication in 1979, Lejeun's The Gentlemen's Clubs of London rapidly established itself as a widely sought-after and quoted work around the world among those intrigued by and participating in the rarefied world of the famous clubs of London society. This book lays forth the histories of the clubs, why and how each came into being, who belongs and belonged to which, how members are chosen, and how the clubs have changed down the generations - if indeed they have. This work tells of the ambience and grace of the clubs, their privacies and eccentricities, and of the yarns, disputes and scandals to which they have given rise. Here are new and archival photographs of the clubs' interiors, ranging from the elegant to the snug, premises which are sometimes secret and quirky and sometimes grand, each unique and fitting the character and contributing to the needs and lives of its members.
I would love to own a copy of this book; however even the updated edition from 2012 is potentially outside my price range on abebooks, so I'll have to keep borrowing it from the library at regular intervals. It's the combination of beautiful photos, quotes from literature and the tales of the clubs themselves that I can't resist. It's also a very large book, which makes casual reading rather tricky. One of those reference tomes that should reside on every coffee table.
Hitched (Promise Harbor Wedding #4)
by Erin Nicholas
Published by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Allison Ralston would rather be anywhere other than this wedding. Even if
the wedding is hers. Especially since the wedding is hers.
But Allie’s determined to restore her family’s happiness, and if tying the knot with longtime family friend Josh Brewster is the way to do it, then she’ll walk down that aisle, toss that bouquet and drink that champagne. Oh, she’ll definitely drink the champagne.
There’s only one thing that could get Gavin Montgomery back to Promise Harbor. And she’s about to say I do to another man. Now he’s back to claim what’s his—even if he has to do it in the middle of her wedding.
Allie is shocked—and okay, a little turned on—when Gavin literally sweeps her off her feet. Safe in his arms, she succumbs to fatigue, stress, and yes, the champagne, only to wake up in his bed. In Alaska.
Now that he’s put four thousand miles between Allie and all her responsibilities, Gavin’s determined to show her that they can make a life together. If he has his way, the next wedding Allie will be planning will be theirs.
I've enjoyed this series, but found this book less compelling than the others. The hero and heroine did little for me, and once again I was irked by that romance novel assertion that condoms aren't necessary if it's true love and the heroine is on the pill. On the other hand, I kept reading to find out what happened with two of the background romances, one of which had been hinted at throughout the series. Neither came to a satisfactory conclusion, sadly. Definitely not a standalone book either: it's tricky enough keeping up with all the new characters introduced here, without having to figure out who all those people are that have already appeared in previous books.
Medium Rare (Ramos Family/Medium Trilogy #2)
by Meg Benjamin
Published by Berkley InterMix
Rose Ramos was a reference librarian, until she inherited her grandmother’s house -- and the family talent for connecting with the other side...
Moving into the lovely Victorian in San Antonio’s King William District is a dream come true for Rose—and also a nightmare. That’s the only explanation she has for the man hovering above her bed. But Skag is a ghost who’s been part of Rose’s family for generations. And now he’s all hers.
When Evan Delwin, a reporter out to debunk the city’s newest celebrity, posts an ad looking for a research assistant to investigate a famous medium making his home in San Antonio, Skag suggests that Rose apply for the job. Delving into the dark side has its own dangers for Rose -- including trying to resist Delwin’s manly charms. But as the investigation draws them closer together, the deadly currents surrounding the medium threaten to destroy them all...
Reviewed on The Good the Bad and the Unread.