With nine books to read and judge for the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA awards – none of which I can tell you about, sorry! – I didn’t have much personal reading time left. But I did manage three wonderful books.
All the Light We Cannot See
Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize
by Anthony Doerr
Oh, this was beautiful! The writing was completely gorgeous, the settings stunningly rendered, and the terrors of occupied France and Nazi obsessions truly frightening in their depiction. The story unfolds in two interweaving narrations. The first is Marie Laure, a blind girl whose father is Master of Locks at the Natural History Museum in Paris. After the Germans occupy Paris, Marie Laure and her father flee to her uncle’s house at Saint-Malo. Meanwhile, orphan Werner grows up in Germany, but when his talents with electronics is spotted, he’s sent to a brutal Hitler Youth academy. As the war progresses, these two characters dance closer and closer.
As well as being named best historical fiction in the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards, and a slate of other awards, All The Light We Cannot See recently won a Pulitzer Prize. Well deserved, I reckon.
by Victoria Aveyard
I didn’t realise this was a young adult fantasy until after I’d started reading but it proved to be another very enjoyable addition to the genre. Mare Barrow is a red blood and therefore relegated to her world’s lowest class. Her people are used as not much more than slave labour to the ruling silver blood class, and cannon fodder in their constant wars. When Mare is given a job in the palace, an accident reveals she has powers no Silver possesses. Frightened of what she is and to explain her power, the Silver ruling family give her a new history. Mare is not longer red but silver and, worse, she’s engaged to a prince of the class she hates.
Plenty of action and intrigue, some pretty cool superhero-type talents, plus a nice hint of romance kept the pages turning.
Lord of the Scoundrels
by Loretta Chase
A rollicking romance by a master storyteller, Lord of Scoundrels is considered one of the genre’s greats. I loved it. The story pitted two extremely clever characters against one another, and the result was a smart and sometimes very funny duel. Spinster Jessica Trent is on a mission to save her not very bright brother from the scandalous and self-described ‘Bane and Blight of the Ballisters’, the Marquess of Dain. Dain thinks he’s more than a match for any woman, and any man for that matter, but he has never met the likes of Jessica. She not only runs rings around him, she ties him in complete knots. The only problem is that she’s having a little too much fun doing it.
The Strings of Murder
by Oscar de Muriel
Ooh, I adore a good Victorian-era murder or two, and this crime novel didn’t disappoint. Very much in the vein of Sherlock Holmes, the story unfolds when cultured, fussy and stuffy Inspector Ian Frey is sent – much to his horror – from London to the wilds of Edinburgh to help solve the mystery of a murdered violinist. If that wasn’t bad enough his new boss, Detective ‘Nine Nails McGray’, is everything Ian is not. There’s conflict and mystery galore, and even a dabble or two in the macabre.
This is clearly the first in what will be a series. I’ll definitely be buying the next.
by D.B. Tait
D.B. Tait is a new voice in Australian crime fiction and a very welcome addition to the genre. Having worked in the criminal justice system for many years, D.B. really knows her stuff and it shows. The descriptions of prison life were fascinating and sometimes disturbing, and provided a gritty edge to the tale. Ten years ago, Julia Taylor went to prison for murder. Now she’s home in the Blue Mountains but from the first day of her release the peace she so desperately craves is shattered. Everyone has secrets, the biggest of all is Julia’s, and someone seems very afraid she might tell…
A pacy story set in a wonderfully described location, with loads of intrigue and a nice sub-drama involving family relations, plus a touch of romance. Highly recommended.
Captive Prince / Prince’s Gambit
by C.S. Pacat
I don’t even know where to begin with this series. Gobsmacking hardly seems to cover it. What I can say is that it’s a stunningly written fantasy, stuffed with political intrigue, that had me hooked from page one and kept me in its grip until it’s end.
Captive Prince begins with Damen, hero and true heir to Akielos, being presented as a slave gift to his country’s arch enemy after Damen’s half-brother suddenly seizes the Akielos throne. Damen’s new master is the beautiful but vicious Prince Laurent. Before long, Damen is caught up in the deadly fight that is Veretian politics. What follows is a tale full of unexpected and breathtaking twists, most of which I never saw coming.
This series is incredible. It’s sometimes erotic and sometimes violent, but always fascinating and unlike anything I’ve ever read. Amazing. Hurry up book three!
Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.
Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.
For as long as she can remember, Teagan Bliss has wanted to manage her family’s property. She’s invested everything in the farm, knowing that when her parents retire she’ll be ready to take the reins. But when a family betrayal leaves her reeling, Teagan is forced to rethink her entire future.
Heartbroken, Teagan flees to her aunt’s property in the idyllic Falls Valley. Vanessa is warm and welcoming and a favourite of the locals who drop in regularly for cocktail hour. Teagan soon catches the attention of sexy local farrier Lucas Knight, and with a new job, new friends and the prospect of a new relationship, she slowly begins to open up again.
But the village is a hotbed of gossip and division and when Teagan gets caught up in town politics, Lucas and Vanessa become concerned. As the tension in town escalates, Teagan must decide who to trust. But when she realises those close to her have been keeping secrets, the fallout may split Teagan apart forever.