Review: Heaven in His Arms by Lisa Ann Verge

Title: Heaven in His Arms

Author: Lisa Ann Verge

Genre: Adventure, Historical Romance

First Published: 1995

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2014

Published by Bay Street Press LLC

Rating: 4/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read! This book contains adult themes and language!

“All single men in the colony must marry within a fortnight of the arrival of the king’s girls. If they don’t, they’ll be denied their precious fur trading licenses.” (Loc. 500-501)

For today’s post, I’ve chosen to write a review for an adventure/historical romance entitled Heaven in His Arms, written by Lisa Ann Verge, which is set in Quebec in the 17th century, a place of which I’ve never read anything before.

Genevieve Lalande’s past is filled with grief, terrible events and circumstances that led her to a miserable existence on the streets of Paris. Her only chance to escape from the wretched underbelly of the French society and to begin a better life is to switch places with a king’s girl (Marie Duplessis) in order to become a mail-order bride and to be sent to Quebec, the newest colony in King Louis XIV’s possession.

“Every year since she’d arrived in the Salpêtrière, dozens of girls had been given a dowry by the king and sent off to the Caribbean islands or to the northern settlements of New France, to marry and settle in the colonies.” (Loc. 61-62)

Even if Genevieve will be forced to marry a stranger when she arrives in Quebec, she accepts to do so because anything seems better than a life of poverty, theft and constant humiliations. She went through a lot of hardship in the past to be afraid of the unknown, whether it is the place where she will be settling down or the man who will choose her as his bride.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, André Lefebvre has to marry and settle down into the colony, due to an ordinance sent from France, if the fur trader wants to keep his license. Obviously, André hates this new law because he is a man who loves freedom, pleasures of all kinds, venturing into the unknown parts of New France, and he’s not at all interested in raising a family of his own. Though André tries to avoid such a marriage of convenience, he reluctantly obeys the ordinance for his trade’s sake, picks up the sickly Genevieve and quickly marries her, secretly hoping she will die soon. So much for a warm welcome, eh?

But André doesn’t know that Genevieve can play dirty too and he can’t fool her that easily because she’s also tenacious – she looks for him and insists to go with him on the voyage he planned for so long. Even though André doesn’t want her around, partially because he lusts for her and partially because he’s afraid she won’t survive the journey, Genevieve’s presence is actually useful sometimes because she has skills that surprise her husband who thought that she would have a hard time adapting to the expedition.

In fact, Genevieve somehow belongs in the wilderness because she is a free-spirited, courageous woman like the native Indian women and even though she makes silly or apparently innocent mistakes, she knows what she is doing most of the time. I think that her attitude and adaptability to any unexpected situation is a lesson for misogynistic André, who wrongly compares her to the whiny Frenchwomen who needed comfort, protection and coquetries to be happy: “This woman was as unpredictable and as stubborn as this great stretch of untamed land. A man could spend a lifetime making love to her, and it would be like riding these rapids—wild, exhilarating, bordering on the brink of control.” (Loc.1852-1853).

I’m glad that I’ve read this book. I don’t have many complaints about it, except for Genevieve’s pet name – Genny – that sounds very American to me and not quite French and the sex scenes after André, Genevieve and their crew arrived at their destination. I understand that the purpose of those scenes is to show that the relationship strengthened and that the two lovers had their duties as a married couple, but sometimes these sex scenes dragged a little. However, the rest of the story was very interesting and I didn’t expect to enjoy it this much.

Overall, it was a pleasant read that made me imagine what Canada looked like before the country we all know today. The characters made this fictional journey pass very fast, in good company, and Genevieve and André’s relationship made the experience steamy and unique.

Review: Forbidden by Mike Wells and Devika Fernando

 Book 1 of Forbidden

A Novel of Love and Betrayal

Title: Forbidden

Subtitle: A Novel of Love and Betrayal

Authors: Mike Wells, Devika Fernando

Genre: Romantic Thriller

Year of Publication: 2015

Self-Published

Series: Forbidden

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read!

For today’s post, I’ve decided to share with you the review I wrote for Forbidden, the first instalment of a romantic thriller series written by Mile Wells and co-authored by Devika Fernando. When I read this novel, there were only three books in the series, but the authors announced the release of the fourth one in late June. There are some mixed opinions about the first book out there, but, in the end, you will decide whether it’s interesting enough for you or not. My opinions and rating are somewhere in the middle because this novel wasn’t that bad, it was pretty much an easy read, but I wanted a little more from content.

The novel follows two alternating plotlines and perspectives: Eleanor’s rebellious teenage years and Jayne’s story from the day she met Lady Eleanor Sotheby onwards, a shocking and life-changing discovery she has never imagined. Though the two plotlines are strongly linked to each other due to Eleanor’s presence, I think that Eleanor’s dark past is more interesting than the present because it’s more suspenseful and its pace is more dynamic than the other plotline which has a steadier pace and some of the events are pretty predictable if you ask me.

At first glance, Eleanor may seem cultured and posh, but her true temper leaks out when things don’t go her way, just like in her early life. She is ambitious, snobbish and now she cares what other socialites have to say about her or her daughter’s reputation. Eleanor is a morally grey and complex character and the way she acts reminds me of another unlikable yet well-built character, Kathy Brogan from Black Widow. Eleanor is also in charge of Jayne’s transformation into a cultured young lady to make her adapt much easier to the new lifestyle and challenges she has to face.

“And what was acting, anyway? Nothing more than being a good liar, and she was very accomplished at that. She had been “acting” ever since she could remember.” (Loc. 591)

 But how Eleanor became a filthy rich widow who has so many connections in socialite circles? Dark secrets should always be buried in the past and Eleanor guards them well because no one should find out how her life was like before becoming Lady Sotheby. She had to take many risks that suited her rebellious nature, but Celeste and Jayne don’t need to know that because the truth would shatter the picture-perfect image of this rich widow and she can’t allow that to happen. Therefore, lies are a useful tool to paint the truth in brighter colours.

The rest of the characters are not complex as Lady Sotheby, but we can easily recognise who is Jayne and who is Celeste because Jayne is sweet, caring, introverted and a girl who works hard to support her loved ones despite her frequent asthma attacks, while Celeste is stubborn, spoiled, posh, self-absorbed, loves parties and speed. And talking about the two girls, one of my favourite scenes is when Jayne and Celeste meet, shock, curiosity and emotions overwhelm each other; it was a truly touching moment.

“This wasn’t her exact reflection she was looking at—this was a version of Jayne dressed in expensive designer clothes, with a fashionably short haircut, and decked out in expensive jewelry.” (Loc. 392)

To be honest, I wasn’t too thrilled with the beginning of the book, but the hook came along with Jayne’s journey to Nice to meet Celeste. Though Jayne is a sweetheart and I liked her as a character, I wouldn’t want to be in her shoes because I couldn’t be that selfless to help Celeste, whom I’ve recently met just because she did a mistake that threatens her reputation and Lady Sotheby’s ambitions. However, the book is interesting because you get a glimpse of how the lives of rich people really are, besides the glamour and the influence they have in their exclusive circles.

The writing is beautiful in the main story with an overall steady pace and realistic in Eleanor’s shady story building the suspense. I enjoyed most of the novel and the characters though I would have liked this first book to be longer because it ended a bit abruptly for my taste. I might pick up the second book someday, just to see how Jayne and Robert’s relationship develops, but only time will tell if I will still be interested in reading it.

Review: Madeleine’s Christmas Wish by Ella Quinn

Book 6 of The Marriage Game

 

Title: Madeleine’s Christmas Wish

Author: Ella Quinn

Genre: Historical Romance

First Published in 2014

Published by eKensington Books

 Imprint of Kensington Publishing Corp.

Series: The Marriage Game

Rating: 2/5 stars

Note: I purchased this book as a freebie. However, this aspect didn’t influence the review I wrote or the rating I gave this book.  In this review, you will find only my honest thoughts and opinions about the book I’ve read! This book contains adult themes and language!

Let me tell you from the very beginning that there will be a few spoilers in this review. Madeleine’s Christmas Wish is the sixth book in the historical romance series The Marriage Game, which is written by Ella Quinn. As some of you may already know, I tried to read this book some months ago, but I couldn’t finish it. However, I didn’t want to give up on it that easily, therefore I gave it a second chance.

The story is set during Napoleon’s exile, a period of turmoil in France. Madeleine (Countess of Beaune) volunteers to go to England in her sister’s place, in an exclusive brothel, in order to spy on the English soldiers and to collect useful information for the French Government. It sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? However, after arriving in England, Georges (Marquis Cruzy-le-Châtel, Madeleine’s childhood friend and betrothed) receives information about Madeleine’s arrival in England and quickly rescues her from the hands of the smugglers. Though I understand that Madeleine wants to return home for Christmas, this part of the plot doesn’t feel right in my opinion because the way Georges acts cancels the reader’s expectations nourished by the first pages of the book.

Though Madeleine is saved from harm’s way, I would have preferred Georges’ intervention to take place later on in the book because it would have been a more realistic approach to the story and it would have made the book more complex. After the premature rescue, the plot was a bit less appealing to me and the only real tension was Madeleine’s wish to keep her family safe from the general crisis in France and Coupe, a strange man who supervised the wine business after Madeleine’s father had died mysteriously a few months before.

I liked Madeleine, who is stubborn, intelligent, confident (most of the time) and selfless, especially when it comes to her family and the family business she administrates. She is also ironic and not afraid to refuse Coupe’s marriage proposal. Georges, on the other hand, is a patriot, he hates Napoleon, he is a spy who works for King Louis, but also a sly seducer who, despite Madeleine’s conditioning (not having sex with her until her family is safe), he tries to tempt and play with her sexual instincts until the big night. However, his most artful move is accepting to help and escort Madeleine to France only if she becomes his wife first. This sounds like blackmail to me! However, the scenes where Georges seduces Madeleine are well-written and pleasant to imagine, but because of those naughty little scenes, I don’t recommend the book to readers under the age of 18.

There are certain details I did not like. Besides the issues I have with the plot, I also felt that the story needed more depth, such as a little more historical background to support the story and to make it more plausible. There was a war, in which both Georges and Armand fought, but the name of the battle is not mentioned anywhere. If it was that important for the plot and for the characters, why doesn’t it have a name in the story?  Also, we needed more back-story for the characters’ lives. For example, I wanted to know more about Madeleine and Georges’ childhood or how life was before the revolution – presuming it’s about the French Revolution. Theoretically, Coupe should have been an important character because he is the villain of the story. Unfortunately, he appears briefly in this book and we hear him speak more only during the confrontation. I personally found him more like a caricature of evil rather than a man who had his reasons to justify his wrongdoings.

The writing was overall good and it had a nice Jane Austen feel to it. However, I sometimes found some strange word choices and a few editing mistakes. As I said before, the few erotic scenes were depicted vividly, as well as the feel of the Christmas markets and the last scene which I won’t give away. I also craved for a little more introspection on the characters’ part, but this is my personal taste.

Overall, I felt Madeleine’s Christmas Wish lacked the sparkle readers like me seek and I’m disappointed that it didn’t have all the ingredients to make this book enjoyable, despite its potential.

 

Review: Aucassin and Nicolette translated by Francis William Bourdillon vs. Andrew Lang

Title: Aucassin and Nicolette

Original Title: Aucassin et Nicolette

Author: Anonymous

Translated by Francis William Bourdillon / Andrew Lang

Genre: Cantafable, Humour, Satire, Parody

Year of Publication of this Edition: 2011 / 2013

Published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. LTD / Delphi Classics

Rating: 3/5 stars

I’ve been thinking for a long time about writing a review about a tale I accidentally found on Amazon. Thus, I want to share with you some information and interpretations regarding this French medieval story most of you probably haven’t heard of.

Aucassin and Nicolette is an anonymous Old French chantefable (creation comprising prose and verse), probably from the 12th or 13th century; its only remaining source is a manuscript kept in the National Library of France, in Paris. The story fascinated authors such as Andrew Lang and Francis William Bourdillon, who translated the chantefable in English. I read both translations and I found them very good and similar, but I prefer Lang’s version because it’s more melodious and it sounds a little more old-fashioned than the other one. However, in this review, I will quote and use some of Bourdillon’s explanations from the preface of his edition and a few critical ideas from the Dictionary of the Middle Ages.

Bourdillon thinks that sometimes we need to leave modern complicated novels behind and turn to old and simple tales, which we may find “more moving, more tender, even more real, than all the laboured realism of these photographic days.” (Loc. 10) He compares Aucassin and Nicolette with Romeo and Juliet, Cupid and Psyche and other classic romances, but the things that make this Old French chantefable stand out are the “perpetual touches of actual life, and words that raise pictures (…)” (Loc.12). The translator speculates that the plot is not original because the particular form of this tale pre-exists in the Arabian or Moorish culture. Thus, Bourdillon suggests that the story probably comes from Spain, the place where two religions and mentalities met. To be more exact, the plot doesn’t seem to take place in Provence, where Old French literature flourished, but in Spain. The British poet argues that Carthage doesn’t refer to the Tunisian city, but to Cartagena (a port in South-East Spain), Valence is not the city situated on the Rhône River, but Valencia and the fictional name Torelore – the place where Aucassin and Nicolette shipwrecked – could be Torello.

That being said, let’s take a look at our protagonists. Aucassin is Count Garin or Warren of Beaucaire’s son, who should fight against Count Bulgarius or Bougars of Valence, his father’s enemy. However, the lad refuses to become a knight and save the besieged city because he has fallen in love with Nicolette, a christened Saracen girl, who was taken from Carthage as a slave and brought up in a culture different from her own. Unlike the other knights, Aucassin doesn’t care too much about duty or glory; he is constantly daydreaming about his sweetheart and laments when the two lovers are separated from each other by their parents.

A thing I haven’t expected to read in a 13th-century tale is the young man’s ideas about religion which are very modern for that time if you ask me. During an argument with the Viscount, Nicolette’s ‘father in God’, Aucassin says that he would rather go to hell than to heaven because in hell he would find all the great knights, courteous ladies, lovers, artists, princes and all the riches of the world. Well, you have to admit that he is certainly not your typical medieval Christian! Actually, if you look carefully at his name, Aucassin sounds pretty Moorish, unlike his sweetheart’s Christian name. Bourdillion writes that Aucassin could be related to the 11th century King of Cordova, Alcazin, whose name was turned into French.

Now let’s turn our attention to the relationship between the young man and the beautiful maiden. If Aucassin doesn’t like to fight against his father’s enemies, maybe he is better at fighting for his love interest, right? Unfortunately, he is more of a philosopher than a man of action, though you might expect more motivation in this case. Even though he goes to Nicolette’s house, fights and captures the Count of Valence just for the covenant’s sake or looks for his beloved into the forest, the young lady is the one n charge of their relationship. For example, she runs away from home in order to save herself from Count Beaucaire’s rage and determination to kill her. And, in order to return to her lover’s land, she dresses up as a troubadour. No damsel in distress has the courage and wit to do such a thing; at least I haven’t read of such women in medieval literature. It is true that Nicolette has sugary soliloquies like her lover and the narrator praises her beauty excessively, which matches perfectly the medieval female ideal – the blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman with a light complexion and small, delicate hands.

The unusual twists and unspecific elements found in this story made critics see this tale as a parody of the epic, romance and saint’s life. Actually, this chantefable satirises many Old French genres, such as amor de lonh or distant love; here, the maiden is the one who searches her lover, not vice versa. Karl Uitti writes in the Dictionary of the Middle Ages that Aucassin and Nicolette combines elements from various Old French genres, such as ‘chanson de geste’, ‘lyric poems’ and ‘courtly novels’. He states that the term ‘chantefable’ appeared for the first time in the last line of this tale: “No cantefable prent fin”.

Some situations, such as the pregnant king in childbed and the rival armies, who fight against each other with baked apples, eggs and cheese projectiles, are truly hilarious scenes that reminded Lang of Rabelais’ grotesque humour. In real life, people fought in wars over food, not with food. If Aucassin and Nicolette’s romance was not enough to exemplify gender role reversals, the author threw in another one: the king lays in childbed and the queen is at war with the royal army. However, if we leave behind the comic aspects of the scene, we could follow Bourdillon’s interpretation of this strange behaviour. According to his research, in many cultures, there was a custom named Couvade, in which the father mimicked labour pains to sympathise with the mother and to protect her and the newborn against evil spirits. As a matter of fact, Strabo took notes of this ritual in his writings too.

In short, everything seems to be upside down in Aucassin and Nicolette, from the protagonist’s antiheroic character, the lady’s determination to be with him, their “against the grain” relationship, to the bizarre and funny situations they encounter.

A source I used besides the preface of the book.

 

Interview with Author Devika Fernando

Note: This post was written in collaboration with my friend Elena from eLitere.ro.  The images were sent to us by the author.

Social Media is an amazing tool to promote your business, book, art project or blog if you know where to look and how to use it. We’ve come to meet even more amazing people, and discover books or films that made us happy or broke our hearts. We bring you a new interview today, with a lady whose name was mentioned before on eLitere and on Alina’s Bookish Hideout: Devika Fernando. She is the author of  contemporary romance and paranormal books such as When I See Your Face: A Second Chance at Love, Kaleidoscope of Hopes: A Second Chance Workplace Romance and the book series Fire Trilogy (Elemental Paranormal Romance), Romance Round The World and Forbidden, a romantic thriller series written in collaboration with American author Mike Wells, writer of Lust, Money & Murder series.

When was your passion for writing born?

Devika: When I was seven years old. I was always being read to and reading books, and I really wanted my own story too. It was a very short, short story. The real passion for writing arose during my teenage years, though it was mostly poems in English and novel ideas (just a few chapters here and there) in German. In 2013 I decided to really make my dream come true and become a romance novelist.

What inspires you the most?

Devika: I react very powerfully to pictures like fantasy art, romantic photos or even places that I can imagine as the setting for a novel. Sometimes new items or a book I read might spark an idea. Ultimately, I regard everything and everyone in life as an inspiration for writing.

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Devika: I don’t suffer from it. If I ever feel a little reluctant to write, I just push on and write anyway. Even if I might not be satisfied with what I’ve written, it’ll still have taken me a step further. If I get stuck, I sometimes switch to a different story or chapter or just read what I’ve written and fall back on track.

How has literature shaped the way you look at the world?

Devika: That is a wonderful question that I’ve never been asked before! I think it has made me observe more, and understand more, especially emotions and how they are sometimes hidden or unconsciously portrayed. And it has made me believe in love more because romance novels show that ultimately true love can overcome almost any obstacle.

“Artists instinctively want to reflect humanity, their own and each other’s, in all its intermittent virtue and vitality, frailty and fallibility”, said Tom Hiddleston in an interview some years ago. What are your thoughts on fandoms, on the way artists and their fans can interact nowadays?

Devika: It’s such a beautiful and meaningful quote, with which I heartily agree, being an artist myself. I think fandoms offer many benefits. They can bring people together, even if they might live on opposite sides of the globe or would otherwise never meet or talk, but are passionate about the same thing and will never run out of a topic to discuss. I’ve found three of my closest friends through a fandom. I also think being an ardent fan of someone or something brings out our creativity. It can give us strength to go on, things to look forward to, joy in hard times.

And with the internet, the possibilities seem endless. We have the chance to get to know a little more about the artist or even interact, and that in turn might make us understand and appreciate their work even more. Then there’s fanfiction. I know some people have very strong (negative) views about it, but I can’t see the harm in it. Some have discovered their inner writer through it or practice and end up writing wonderful books or even opening the door to success.

The only thing that makes me a bit weary of fandom is the ‘fanatic’ aspect. With the internet, some fans have started stalking artists or posting inappropriate stuff and totally ignoring privacy.

What would you say to those who are just discovering your novels? Why should they read your stories?

Devika: Another good question, thanks! I’ll give them three reasons: firstly, my characters don’t just fall in lust, kiss after the first page, and enjoy romps between the sheets, but really fall in love with each other. Secondly, I try to explore exotic settings in my novels that add to the fascination. For example, you can take a virtual trip to Sri Lanka in my multicultural romance novel Saved in Sri Lanka and you’ll find out a lot about Iceland in my upcoming paranormal romance novels Dancing with Fire and Living with Fire. Thirdly, there is always an aspect of the heroine (and hero) not only finding love but also finding themselves and learning to love themselves.

You can follow Devika Fernando on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads and Amazon.