Flirting with Disaster – Ruthie Knox

Date read: March 26th 2014
Publisher: Random House – Loveswept
Release Date: June 13th 2013
Length: 448 pages
Format: E-book
Source: I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Flirting with Disaster cover

Goodreads description

In the latest eBook original novel in Ruthie Knox’s scorching-hot Camelot series, a no-strings fling looks an awful lot like falling in love—or flirting with disaster.

Fresh out of a fiasco of a marriage, Katie Clark has retreated to her hometown to start over. The new Katie is sophisticated, cavalier, and hell-bent on kicking butt at her job in her brother’s security firm. But on her first assignment—digging up the truth about the stalker threatening a world-famous singer-songwriter—Katie must endure the silent treatment from a stern but sexy partner who doesn’t want her help . . . or her company.

Sean Owens knows that if he opens his mouth around Katie, she’ll instantly remember him as the geeky kid who sat behind her in high school. Silence is golden, but he can’t keep quiet forever, not with Katie stampeding through their investigation. It’s time for Sean to step up and take control of the case, and his decade-old crush. If he can break through Katie’s newfound independence, they just might find they make a perfect team—on the road, on the job, and in bed.

My review

This is the third in Ruthie Knox’s Camelot series, and although you don’t have to have read the first two to thoroughly enjoy this title, I did feel at the beginning of the book that I was missing something. As the reader, you’re dropped into Katie and Sean’s lives unceremoniously, as though you should already know them, and at the start that was disconcerting. However, it didn’t take long to fall for the characters and to thoroughly enjoy their story.

As a lead character, you don’t get much of a sense of Katie’ life – but that’s how it should be, given that she’s suffered a horrible relationship and come back home to lick her wounds. She’s starting afresh, with her newly-engaged brother as support system, and boss. She’s desperate to move up the ranks of her brother Caleb’s security company, and thanks to a chance meeting with rock-star Judah, she just might get the chance.She faces a pretty daunting obstacle in the form of ex-classmate Sean, paired with her to get the details on a blackmail attempt, and determined not to talk to Katie at any point during the job.

Oh Sean… I loved him. Treated appallingly by his mother, but with no scars that anyone can see – they can hear them instead in the form of his stutter, which he’d worked hard to disguise. He’s managed it successfully – except when Katie’s around. He’s had a crush on her since high school, and is well aware that he can’t even say her name. So he doesn’t say anything.

I loved the interactions between these two, even before Sean was able to speak in front of her and used grunts and inclinations of the head to communicate. And Katie was just the person to help him get over all his issues, without him using her the way her ex-husband did. The story with Judah the rock star was predictable but none the less well written, and his turmoil was believable without being over the top.

I’m definitely going to seek out more of Ruthie Knox’s books – I started reading her novel serialisation Truly on Wattpad but didn’t get a chance to finish it before it was taken down prior to publication. I shall be seeking out the first two books in the Camelot series as soon as my enforced book-buying ban is over! Roll on Easter Sunday…

The Crown – Nancy Bilyeau

Date read: 19th March 2014
Publisher: Orion Books
Release Date: January 10th, 2012
Length: 490 pages
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

The Crown - Nancy Bilyeau

Goodreads description

In this debut historical thriller, an aristocratic young nun must find a legendary crown in order to save her father’s life and preserve all she holds dear from Cromwell’s ruthless terror.

When novice nun Joanna Stafford learns her rebel cousin is condemned by King Henry VIII to be burned at the stake, she makes the decision to break the sacred rule of enclosure and run away from her Dominican Order in Dartford to stand at her cousin’s side.

Arrested for interfering with king’s justice, Joanna, along with her father, Sir Richard Stafford, is sent to the Tower of London. Joanna’s father is brutally tortured by Stephen Gardiner, the Bishop of Winchester who leads the Catholic faction bent on saving England’s monasteries from destruction. In order to save her father, Joanna must submit to Gardiner’s will and become a pawn in the struggle between religious extremes. Gardiner forces Joanna to return to Dartford Priory with a mission: find the long hidden crown worn by Saxon King Athelstan in AD 937 during the historic battle that first united Britain. Gardiner believes the crown itself to possess a mystical power that will halt the Reformation.

Uncovering only dark betrayals and murder at Dartford, Joanna flees with Brother Edmund, a troubled young friar, and with time running out, their hunt for the crown leads them through royal castles, to Stonehenge, and finally to the tomb of the mysterious King Athelstan under Malmesbury Abbey. There Joanna learns the true secret of the crown, a secret tracing all the way back to Golgotha and the Relics of the Passion. Now, as Cromwell’s army of destruction advances, Joanna must finally determine who to trust and how far she is willing to go to protect a way of life that she passionately loves.

My review

I love reading about the Tudors (and the Wars of the Roses which preceded the Tudor dynasty), as I studied it at sixth-form college with a truly inspirational teacher who made the era come alive. She also inadvertently created a battle between me and my friend Emily, as I fervently believed that Henry VII was behind the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, and she thought Richard III was the villain.

But I digress. I saw The Crown in Waterstones a few months ago and liked the description on the back cover, only not quite enough to purchase it, so I added it to my library wish list and eventually read it last week.

The first unusual thing about it is that the narrator is a nun from a noble family which has fallen out of favour. It’s hard to keep track of which families Henry VIII favoured and when, as his wrath fell on those who displeased him in whatever way quite frequently. Suffice it to say that the Staffords were an important family, but Joanna’s uncle led a rebellion against the King, was executed for his troubles, and Joanna’s parents were banished from court. Joanna joins a priory following a command from Catherine of Aragon, and after her cousin is executed for treason, finds herself a pawn in a battle with extremely high stakes – the Crown of Athelstan – as Henry VIII continues his destruction of the monasteries, abbeys and priories of the country.

I must admit to a bit of prejudice before I read this book – Nancy Bilyeau is American, and I was wary as to the style of writing she would use and whether I’d find it jarring. I’ve had a bad experience with a couple of other books trying to capture the Tudor period where the language just wasn’t right. I can’t remember the particulars (I’ve successfully blocked them from my mind, it turns out), but I gave up after a maximum of two chapters and gave the book to the charity shop. But I needn’t have worried in this case, I slipped straight into the Tudor world and Bilyeau’s writing is clear, concise, and makes you feel as though you’re in Tudor England from the very first page.

The book rattles along at pace and I found it a fairly easy read, although I struggled to keep track of what was happening and when at certain stages, I think that was more to do with me being distracted than the clarity of the writing. Joanna is a sympathetic character – she doesn’t want to return to the priory but a shady bishop has her father prisoner in the Tower of London and won’t release him until he gets results. When the bare facts of the book are laid out in my rather inept way it sounds as though the plot is pure melodrama, but it doesn’t play out that way at all. The supporting characters are all given enough personality to make them believable without taking over the plot for themselves, and Joanna’s devotion to her family and to God is admirable. Bilyeau makes the motivation of some characters ambiguous, which means you can never be sure who you’re willing Joanna to trust, and I didn’t see any of the plot twists coming at all which was a nice surprise. The only thing I was a little discomforted by was the hint of a love triangle, which seemed a little off, but it’s so in the background that it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book at all.

The book is fairly self-contained but there is another Joanna Stafford book – The Chalice – which I shall be seeking out soon I’m sure. I’ll be interested to see where the characters go next, Winifred, Edmund, Geoffrey and the nuns of Dartford Priory.

toptentuesday2Hosted by the wonderful ladies at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is Top 10 Popular Authors I’ve Never Read. Here goes nothing (please don’t throw things at me)…

1) Jenny Han I KNOW. I have The Summer I Met You on my Kindle, and have had for a while, but have yet to dive in. Maybe because I’ve heard so many good things and am worried it will disappoint? I don’t know. But I will read it soon.

2) E. Lockhart See the above. I’m an idiot. I borrowed The Boyfriend List from the library ages ago and didn’t read it before I had to give it back. Bad Hannah.

3) Tahereh Mafi Everyone else seems to have read her books except for me… And they sound like they would be right up my street. I really have no excuses for this.

4) Stephen King Horror really doesn’t hold much interest for me, although I have a couple of friends who rave about his stuff and I’m sure he’s a good writer. Maybe one day.

5) Nora Roberts Given that she has two shelves all to herself in my local bookshop, I can’t complain that I have too few books of hers to choose from, and I’m partial to a romantic read every now and again…

6) Martina Cole So far as I can gather, she writes violent crime, East-End-of-London gangster books. Nothing about this appeals to me.

7) Catherine Cookson I suppose she’d still be described as popular – I think her books are still among the most borrowed in British libraries, anyway. Writer of depressing fiction about people with little money who have to do horrible things in order to survive – or at least, this is what I’ve gleaned from seeing snippets of TV adaptations over the years.

I can’t think of any more to add to the list… Although there are a couple that I wish I could add to my list if it would remove the memory of the books from my mind (Angels and Demons and Tess of the d’Urbevilles spring to mind. Ugh)

The love of the library

My name is Hannah, and I’m a book addict.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me (as a child, I was known in my mum’s favourite shops because I would bring a book with me and hide somewhere in the shelves. In clothes shops, I’m fairly sure I would actually station myself among the clothes on their rails until Mum was ready to go and had to track me down – either that, or ask an assistant if they’d seen me disappear into an aisle somewhere.

However, finances are tight in the household. And there’s nothing better than picking up a book, deciding you can’t live without it RIGHT NOW and taking it home with you there and then. Given that I have little desire to be a shoplifter, the obvious choice is the library!

I live on the outskirts of a fairly large town in the south-west of England, and am lucky that the county I live in has a deal with three other counties so I can request and borrow books from libraries in four counties. I discovered the joy of reserving books online about a year ago – they cost no more than £1 a book to get it sent to a library of your choice. There’s a small library literally thirty seconds walk away from where I work, so if I have a specific book in mind, I reserve it and it’s usually at the library within seven to ten days.

The best experience is going to a big library and just wandering, picking books up from the shelves and seeing whether it’s a book I’d like to try. There’s a large library in Taunton, where I used to live and where two of my best friends still live – so when I go to see either of them, I usually drop by the library for an hour before going to meet them.

(I NEVER remember to bring a bag for my books though. Libraries used to supply them but I think they got withdrawn due to budget cuts, and I’ve been caught out on more than one occasion because I’ve picked up about seven books and can’t carry them with ease).

Here’s a picture of my current library stack:

007

I think about half of these were impulse picks and the rest were ones I requested specifically – I usually go through my Amazon wish-list about once every six weeks and see which books are available at the library before reserving them. It’s saved me an awful lot of money through the past year and introduced me to a few authors I wouldn’t have read otherwise.

(And this pic doesn’t include the library book I’m currently reading or the three that are waiting for me at the library… Oops).

A couple of years ago, the opening hours at a lot of the libraries in my area were cut – I think one only opened four days a week instead of six, and the giant library in Taunton I mentioned earlier closed at 1 on a Saturday instead of 5.  Luckily, the council saw sense (or was threatened with legal action – you decide) and most of the opening hours were returned to what they had been.  Libraries are an awesome way to discover new authors, as well as providing excellent social opportunities for all ages – I have fond memories of reading groups and challenges throughout the never-ending summer holidays in primary school.  Although I still purchase more books than I probably should, I will always check the library first now to see if the book I’m desperate for is available to borrow, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.