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Posts Tagged ‘Early 20th century setting’

 

(Glasgow and Clydebank Sagas, #1)

 Genre: Historical Romance (Glasgow, mainly during the Depression and WWII)

 Cover Blurb (Amazon):

A warm and poignant story of love, triumph over adversity and the building of the great ocean liner, the Queen Mary, set in Clydebank and the West of Scotland during the Hungry Thirties. Times are hard, but a close-knit community always manages to find a way to laugh at its troubles.

Robbie Baxter is the boy next door, the man Kate Cameron loves like a brother, the man who’s always ready to give her a shoulder to cry on, but it’s Jack Drummond who dazzles her. Kate meets him when she finally achieves her goal of attending classes at Glasgow School of Art in pursuit of her dreams of becoming an artist.

When Jack Drummond shows his true colours, it’s Robbie Kate turns to. Yet she cannot tell him the truth, which means that their growing happiness is a fragile flower, based on a secret which could blow their love and their family to pieces in an instant.

 ♥♥♥♥♥♥

This was a delightfully real, sometimes poignantly sad, but ultimately beautiful tale of Glasgow and its inhabitants. Set mainly during the Depression and WWII, it journeys through eight decades of the life and loves of Kathleen Cameron or Kate as she is mostly known. Her life is alternately joyous and heart-breaking, yet still she triumphs.

The story begins in 1924 when Kate Cameron is 16 and lives in a Glasgow tenement with her father Neil, mother Lily, sisters Jessie and Pearl, and little brother Davy. The family is poor but fiercely proud. Amongst other families sharing the same house are the Baxters, Robbie being the most prominent, as he has loved Kate and will continue to love her through many trials and tribulations. The two families share everything – their happiness, sorrows, even their baking and crockery when needs must. Ms. Craig describes how they prepare for Hogmanay – the scrubbing and cleaning, the first footing of a tall dark man with a lump of coal and black bun, and then the hooting of the ships on The Clyde. All of this I have heard from my own mother, a Glaswegian by birth, and therefore close to my heart.

Kate is a talented young woman and, unusual for the time, is still at school at the age of 16, but it is her father’s desire to see his favourite child continue with her schooling. Kate’s ambition is to attend the Glasgow School of Art, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, one of the many facts incorporated into the story by Maggie Craig to set the scene and stimulate the senses. For anyone unfamiliar with Glasgow, this is a beautiful, iconic building in the Art Nouveau style. Then Kate’s father is laid off work at the Donaldson’s shipyard, along with a large proportion of the workforce of Glasgow. The Great Depression has begun and Kate is finally forced to leave school by her shrewish mother and made to look for work to supplement the family’s meagre income. She is fortunate enough to have the support of two of her former schoolteachers who recommend her for an apprenticeship as a tracer at Donaldson’s.

Two years on, her fairy godmothers further help by pulling strings to obtain Kate a bursary to the School of Art, where she attends as a part time student, and there becomes friends with Marjorie Donaldson, her employer’s daughter. Fellow student, Jack Drummond – upper-class, handsome, elegant, languid, idle, cynical, and a friend of Marjorie’s – begins a charm offensive on Kate but his intentions are far from honourable. Unbeknownst to Kate, he has aspirations of marrying Marjorie for her money. Eventually after plying Kate with champagne at a lunch given at his home, Jack takes advantage of her infatuation but leaves her without a backward glance. Kate discovers that he has become engaged to Marjorie and then that she herself is pregnant. Faced with the choice of an abortion or tricking the honourable Robbie into marriage, she chooses the latter and begins her deceitful secret life with an adoring Robbie. Grace is born, to all intents and purposes a premature baby, and Robbie is in raptures over his daughter.

Robbie Baxter is the epitome of the dark, brooding, honourable hero. He worships Kate and their child and, although Kate is grateful to him, she does not believe she loves him. A few years into their marriage, it takes a visit from Marjorie and Jack to show her what a fool she has been, and it is then she realises how much she loves Robbie, who at last has the love and devotion of his ‘nut-brown maiden’ as he has always called her.

Maggie Craig has absolutely captured the poverty, lives and loves of the people of Glasgow and has a rare talent for understanding together with a real sense of place and time. She captures the hopelessness of The Great Depression, with the proud, brave men of Glasgow traipsing from one place to another in search of work; the horror of the war, both for the families and the men sent to fight; the utter devastation of the bombs being aimed at the shipyards, often missing their target and wiping out whole streets and families. I had a tear in my eye on more than one occasion during this beautiful, turbulent story.

I will always listen to the audio version when one is available, because Maggie Craig employs the talented, versatile, Scottish narrator, Leslie Mackie, who is so in tune with the author’s sensitive storytelling. Ms. Mackie’s beautifully modulated tones capture the feisty, fiercely independent Kate, the languid, slightly bored Jack Drummond, the softly spoken Neil Cameron with his gentle highland lilt, and then there is the darling Robbie Baxter. Who couldn’t love this wonderful, dignified man, so perfectly characterised by the clever Maggie Craig? Ms. Mackie employs a slightly deeper melodious tone for him – the image of this darkly beautiful, decent man so expertly conjured up by this gifted actress. Even the excited childish voice of wee Grace when her father comes home is perfectly captured. The Epilogue is enchanting too.

MY VERDICT: A magnificent feast of a story with a fitting and moving ending. Maggie Craig’s love for her City and its people is apparent in the care and thought she has poured into this wonderful tale of triumph over adversity.

 

REVIEW RATING: STELLAR 5 STARS

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Genre: Historical Erotic Romance (early 20th century)

Official Blurb 

The Desert Was Never Hotter…

Pride and passion vie for supremacy in this steamy re-telling of E.M. Hull’s romance classic.

A haughty young heiress for whom the world is a playground…A savage son of the Sahara who knows no law but his own…When pride and passion vie for supremacy, blistering desert days are nothing compared to sizzling Sahara nights…

“There will be inquiries.” I choked out. “I am not such a nonentity that nothing will be done when I am missed. You will pay for what you have done.”

“Pay?” His amused look sent a cold feeling of dread through me. “I have already paid… in gold that matches your hair, my gazelle. Besides,” he continued, “the French Government has no jurisdiction over me. There is no authority here above my own.”
My trepidation was growing by the minute. “Why have you done this? Why have you brought me here?”

“Why?” He repeated with a slow and heated appraisal that made me acutely, almost painfully, conscious of my sex. “Bon Dieu! Are you not woman enough to know?”

** NOTE** Due to differing copyright laws, this book is currently only available in the US, Canada, Australia, India and Japan.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

I absolutely love THE SHEIK RETOLD! Victoria Vane adds her magical touch to this re-telling of E. M. Hull’s THE SHEIK.

I love how Ms Vane has reworked those elements of THE SHEIK that I disliked, whilst staying true to the original concept.

Ahmed is still the powerful, fierce, despotic leader who demands total obedience from everyone but Ms Vane has tempered his character with moments of tenderness, gentleness and vulnerability… as in this scene when his iron self-control slips a tad…

“You wear no undergarments?” he asked in a husky voice.
”This gown permits none,” I replied flippantly.
I felt as much a heard his sharp intake of breath and the press of his burgeoning erection against my bottom. Fumbling slightly, he slipped a long jade necklace over my head and stepped back from me.

Ms Vane has kept Diane true to her character…strong …resilient…fearless. Although she knows she must submit to Ahmed, Diane is determined not to be submissive…she will meet him on an equal footing.


Yes, I decided. I would take him as my lover – for as long as it suited me to do so.

Gone is the often tedious pacing of the original story. The SHEIK RETOLD is fast-paced with the perfect mix of tight narrative and sharp dialogue. The chemistry between Ahmed and Diana is tangible…the sexual tension sizzling…the love scenes smoldering. My favourite involves a bearskin!

Ms Vane has always had the innate ability to draw me into her stories with writing that is evocative, emotive and sensual. Her vivid images create a real sense of mood and atmosphere.


Like a stalking tiger, his mesmerizing gaze lingered on me with a hunger his languid manner could not disguise.

Victoria Vane proves once again why she is among my top favourite authors with this compelling and action-packed tale of passion, desire and love. Definitely a keeper!

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: SIZZLING

Read August 2013

My sincere thanks to Victoria Vane for providing me with a copy of this book in return for a honest review.

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Genre : Historical Romance (early 20th century)

Official Blurb 

Diana Mayo is young, beautiful, wealthy–and independent. Bored by the eligible bachelors and endless parties of the English aristocracy, she arranges for a horseback trek through the Algerian desert. Two days into her adventure, Diana is kidnapped by the powerful Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, who forces her into submission. Diana tries desperately to resist but finds herself falling in love with this dark and handsome stranger. Only when a rival chieftain steals Diana away does the Sheik realize that what he feels for her is more than mere passion. He has been conquered–and risks everything to get her back. The power of love reaches across the desert sands, leading to the thrilling and unexpected conclusion.

One of the most widely read novels of the 1920s, and forever fixed in the popular imagination in the film version starring the irresistible Rudolph Valentino, The Sheik is recognized as the immediate precursor to the modern romance novel. When first published there was nothing like it: To readers the story was scandalous, exotic, and all-consuming; to such critics as the New York Times the book was “shocking,” although written with “a high degree of literary skill.” In the author’s native England, the bestselling book was labeled “poisonously salacious” by the Literary Review and banned from some communities. But the public kept reading. The influence of The Sheik on romance writers and readers continues to resonate. Despite controversy over its portrayal of sexual exploitation as a means to love, The Sheik remains a popular classic for its representation of the social order of its time, capturing contemporary attitudes toward colonialism as well as female power and independence that still strike a chord with readers today.

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

I was in a quandary when reviewing this book. Should I make some sort of concession for the fact that it was written in an era where certain beliefs and attitudes would be totally unacceptable today? Or should I simply review it using the same criteria I would use for all the other books I read. I decided on the latter because ultimately I rate a book on how it makes me feel and how much I enjoy it.

The lengthy narrative and Diane’s predilection for protracted internal monologues frequently slows the story down to a tedious pace. However, I do like E. M. Hull’s descriptive flair… how she captures so vividly the changing hues of the desert setting…the sights, sounds and smells of Ahmed’s camp… the action scenes.

Normally, I love Alpha heroes but not if they are cruel, intimidating and controlling like Ahmed. While I understand his need to rule his people with an iron hand, I absolutely abhor the way he treats Diana. Although not graphically portrayed, it is obvious Ahmed rapes her over and over again. He is determined to force her into total submission.


The easy swing of her boyish figure and the defiant carriage of her head reminded him of one of his own thoroughbred horses. She was as beautiful and wild as they were. And as he broke them so would he break her. She was nearly tamed now, but not quite, and by Allah! it should be quite!

He has no regard for her feelings and no compassion. There is never any real softening of his character and the odd glimpses of tenderness are not enough to redeem him in my eyes.

I hate that Diana does not stay true to her character…the strong-willed, confident woman we see at the start of the story. She quickly becomes whimpering and weak-willed. She may rage against Ahmed inside but simply rolls over and accepts anything he chooses to dish out.


She knew that her life was in his hands, that he could break her with his lean brown fingers like a toy to be broken, and all at once she felt pitifully weak and frightened. She was utterly in his power and at his mercy – the mercy of an Arab who was merciless.

I read an interesting post by Elizabeth Vale on Heroes and Heartbreakers, where she compared the characters in a romance novel to the opponents in a prize fight:

“Now imagine the fight is between a heavyweight champion and some skinny dude who barely tops 90 pounds soaking wet. No one wants to watch a fight like that – it’s too overmatched. No one wants to see a weakling get his butt handed to him, and no one roots for the hulking meathead willing to mop the floor with an opponent one-third his size.”

This struck me as an excellent analogy for this book. I didn’t want to see a once strong-willed heroine demeaned and humiliated by a jerk of a hero. That’s not what I look for in my romance. Maybe, because of this power imbalance, I never felt any real chemistry or sexual tension between Ahmed and Diana and their falling in love seemed forced and unbelievable.

I wanted to read THE SHEIK to fully appreciate THE SHEIK RETOLD, Victoria Vane’s retelling of this story. Overall, it was an interesting experience but not a book I can say I really enjoyed.

REVIEW RATING: 3/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: SUBTLE

Read August 2013

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