5 of 5 stars to ‘Drums of Autumn’ by Diana Gabaldon

Drums of Autumn

Another sterling installment 

Claire Randall is happily living her life alongside her husband Jamie Fraser two hundred years ago – or so Brianna thinks, until she discovers a newspaper clipping from the past. Now she must choose between staying with the man she loves, or risking everything to change the past.

I’ve got to admit that every time I start another book in the Outlander series, I’m expecting the worst. I keep thinking: what more could happen and how could Ms Gabaldon possibly hold my attention through another couple of hundred pages after the thousands I’ve already read? Yet without fail, when I read the last sentence of each novel, I’m left holding my breath, wanting more.

This installment focuses greatly on one of the most interesting issues raised by the series – the question of whether it is possible to change the past, whether doing so is morally correct, what effects changing the past has on the future and whether the fates are truly fated. This issue is of particular importance with the character of Bonnet and it is fascinating and heart-breaking to watch the Frasers reap the consequences of their timeline interferences.

The relationship between mother, daughter and father is heart-warming. Each character is so human and the dynamics between them are so realistic and yet so right for the time period. In a time when women were married and became mothers in their early teens, I particularly enjoyed the freedom and maturity of interaction between Brianna and her mother. Claire is always there for her daughter, but she allows her to experience her own life and reap the consequences of her own actions.

What I found really interesting, is the way in which Ms Gabaldon created a relationship between two characters who never meet – James and Frank. The effect each one has on the other through the characters of Claire, Rodger and Brianna is fascinating to behold.

The historical setting is once again unique, realistic and rustic. Ms Gabaldon’s descriptions of untamed America are sweeping, beautiful, wild and fresh. I’m astounded by the ease with which she can switch settings from Scotland to France, Jamaica to America and can only assume that she has done her research well and travelled too!

This is still one of the best series I’ve ever read!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Outlander’ by Diana Gabaldon – EPIC!

Outlander

Timeless addiction

When I first read the blurb on this book, I thought it would be too similar to Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series, which is one of my favorite ever. I was loathe to read another series like it because I didn’t think anything could live up to the bar Moning had set. When the TV series began, one of my friends fell in love with it and recommended the books, so I gave in. And now I’m positively addicted! While the two authors have followed the same premise, their writing is so different, it’s nearly impossible to compare the two.

Gabaldon’s characters are strong and yet human. Claire Beecham’s strength get’s her through amazing trials and ensures some passionate head-butting with her equally strong-willed Scottish partner. Yet, underpinning her strength is a vulnerability and impulsiveness that often gets her into trouble and endears her to readers and Scots alike.

Jamie, on the other hand is a conundrum of innocence and wisdom. His experiences growing up in the brutish Scottish highlands have sharpened his senses and wit. There are times when the words out of his mouth seem to come from a hundred year old soul. Then there are times when his uncensored words give away his youth and innocence – especially when he is alone with Claire. This combination of traits ensures that Jamie perfectly fulfills the idea of the Scottish hero – fierce protector and gentle lover – without perpetuating the stereotype.

Gabaldon’s authentic depiction of the seventeenth century Scottish Highlands is one of the main attractions of this novel. While the characters may be romantic, their environment is not. Gabaldon has so wonderfully captured the tension between the Scottish and British, the rustic realities of life without technology, the dangers of traveling in such times, the superstitions of our ancestors and the role of women in earlier society. Claire’s strong-willed nature, in a time where women were often considered nothing more than property, throws the contrast between the now and then into sharp relief. The character of Captain Randall and Claire’s continuous comparison of him to his descendant, strengthens the contrast between the times, and also heightens the moral dilemma Claire faces in her attempts to reconcile the two halves of her life.

There is so much that has been packed into this novel and so many wonderful and frightening experiences that each of the characters have lived through, I feel as though I have lived an entire lifetime alongside them. It is a rare and amazing talent for an author to be able to draw a reader so deeply into the lives of her characters as Ms Gabaldon has done.

This novel is pure addiction. You’d be a fool not to read it!

Outlander 2014Jamie Fraser quote

4 of 5 stars to ‘Once written Twice shy’ by Carey Decevito

Once written twice shy

Story between silken sheets

Devastated by a failed marriage, Paxton takes refuge in his writing and his son Jasper. He meets Alissa in one of his online writing groups and their relationship blossoms into a great friendship. After months of chatting online and on the telephone, they decide to meet. Sparks fly and before they know it, Alissa and Paxton are much more than just friends. But there are old and new obstacles to overcome before they can truly take the next step.

Let me first say this: contemporary erotic romance is generally not my thing. Whilst I love to read romance, I find the anticipation and emotional connection much more exciting than a blow by blow account of the various positions possible for intimate relations. One of my biggest gripes about this particular genre is that I feel most novels sacrifice good plot and character development in order to fit additional sex scenes into the story.

That said, I have a keen interest in Indie writers and like to read the work of authors who travel in my social network circles. I’ve come across Carey Decevito’s name through various interactions and chose to step outside my comfort zone. It’s always good to broaden your horizons, I think.

The first thing that stood out for me was the fact that the novel is written from a male POV. The second, is that it’s not the typical kind of male you find in modern erotica. Paxton is no muscle-bound, egotistical hero. He may be easy on the eyes but there’s no hoard of women waiting to fall at his feet. Paxton is a modern man. He comes with emotional scars from a very real and messy divorce and a loveable little parcel of ‘baggage’ too.

There were parts of the story I felt were predictable and too good to be true. I tend to prefer more conflict in my romance, a lot more ‘chase’ and less ‘catching’, so to speak. But it’s true that life is not always pushing and pulling, and perhaps Paxton had been through enough already and deserved to find his peace. I also found some of the narrative POV’s inserted from time to time pulled me out of the story.

BUT…there was a real story written in between the silk sheets, and it was a good one! I enjoyed how Alissa emerged from her shell and how even the peripheral characters matured and learned their lessons. There were some lovely themes in this novel: self-acceptance, second chances, self sacrifice, healing, and the reality of new age families.

Very entertaining!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Honors Splendour’ by Julie Garwood

Honors Splendor

Honest romance

Madelyne has suffered at the cruel hands of her brother Louddon. She doubts her worth but holds her honor intact when it comes to honesty and protecting others. When Barron Duncan of Wexton arrives at her home to talk with her brother and is captured instead, Madelyne risks her life to save him. She has no idea that Duncan plans to capture her in his own plan for revenge against the wrong Louddon has done to his own sister.

From the moment Madelyne sets him free and warms Duncan’s feet, she surprises him. Nothing she does is predictable and she certainly has none of her brother’s evil traits. Her kindness and unflinching honesty puts an immediate spanner in Duncan’s plan for revenge. He finds himself bewitched by the beautiful sister of his enemy and vows to make her his.

What a delightful tale this is. Light and romantic, it offers an escape into the political world of the English court. Madelyne is an endearing character, and funny too. Her penchant for always telling the truth no matter what, often gets her into trouble. She’s gentle and ladylike, but has no qualms about speaking her mind or responding with uninhibited passion. Her transformation under the guidance of Duncan is charming. Duncan is every girl’s dream: honorable, handsome, a warrior and yet tender when it counts.

The story did feel a little long near the end, but it was nicely tied up with some action scenes and a little politics on the side. Overall, a lovely, wonderfully romantic story.

4 of 5 stars to ‘Ocean’s gift’ by Demelza Carlton

Oceans gift

Not your average mermaid tale

The ocean currents are shifting and life beneath the waves is altering in big ways, but it seems that the humans who live on the land are oblivious of the changes. Sirena, elder of the mermaid people, is appointed to take her two scouts to the human’s lands to investigate what they know about the environmental changes.

Her exploration takes Sirena and her two daughters to the Abrolhos islands, off Western Australia. There, Sirena takes on the alias of Vanessa and meets fisherman come electrician Joe. Sirena finds herself becoming more and more attracted to this down to earth male, but is the connection between them enough to make her forget the man she first loved and lost to the ocean?

It may be about mermaids, but this story is not your average stardust and magic tale. There are no airs and graces. The characters are earthy. The relationship between Vanessa and Joe has very little romance in it, and appears to be highly physical. While I longed for more ‘anticipation’ and less ‘participation’ in their interactions, I felt that Ms Carlton achieved a certain level of differentiation with this approach, which was further supported by the almost mechanical speech of the mermaids. This technique emphasized the differences in the species.

Ocean’s gift has a distinctly Australian culture to it. It’s there in the character’s speech, the choice of food, aromas and activities and is one of the draw cards of this novel. At times, I felt that the story moved a little slowly, but realize that too served to emphasize the laid back culture of the Australian islands and the differences in time perspectives between the mermaids and the humans. I do wish there had been more about Sirena’s home beneath the waves. The references to the environment were tasteful and thought-provoking. Overall I really enjoyed this novel.