Still in mourning for Mary Stewart (read my tribute here), I re-read a couple more of her books in June.
Set in Provence, France, Madam, will you talk? is the story of Charity, a young English widow, who’s on holiday in Avignon when she befriends a young boy, David, whose father, Richard, has recently been acquitted of a murder. As in all Mary Stewart novels, Charity soon finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy, and having all manner of adventures through Avignon, Nimes and Les Baux — including a memorable car chase to Marseilles. It’s a thrilling story, imbued with wonderful Roman architecture and mystique. Charity is a smart, resourceful heroine too.
Touch not the cat is about Bryony Ashley, who returns to her ancestral home in England after the sudden death of her father. She has the Ashley ‘sight’, manifested as a close bond with another in her family — only she’s not sure who (he won’t reveal himself). There’s dodgy goings on at her home, with valuable items missing from the house and her twin male cousins pressuring her to break the trust so they can sell land… She has to figure out who her mysterious mind companion is (with whom she is in love) and figure out what’s going on… It progresses at a more sedate pace than some of Mary Stewart’s other novels, and doesn’t have the advantage of an exotic setting. Not one of my favourites, but still enjoyable. There is a cool hedge maze.
Yes, OK, I know said I wasn’t going to read any more Harper Fox novels for a while. Turns out I lied. Just can’t help myself. It has to end sometime. In the meantime, there were some novellas I hadn’t read — and a new one released in the Frayne and Tyack series.
In search of Saints is very short and sweet. It’s set on Scottish Dove Island, with archaeologists looking for evidence of a particular pre-Celtic culture. Mitchell is trying to find it before his former partner (who previously stole all Mitchell’s research) does, assisted by the quietly strong and caring Owen. There are mystical and paranormal elements to this story, which I enjoyed a lot. Owen is one of my favourite Harper Fox characters, reminding me a lot of Lt Reyne in The Salisbury Key. Wish we got more of him (this one is very short.)
Half Moon Chambers is about Vince, a police narcotics detective who’s wounded badly on the job and ends up on light duties. He’s assigned the task of getting a witness to testify in a case… Rowan is an artist and recovering drug addict, but the two are drawn together. It’s a dark, gritty love story, with Rowan perhaps the most broken of all Harper Fox’s characters. Loved it.
Kitto is the newly released fourth book in the Frayne and Tyack series (which began with Once upon a haunted moor). Gideon and Lee rent a supposedly secluded cottage to get away from it all, but find themselves encountering a youth called Kitto, who Lee says is dead, but Gideon thinks is alive… Another paranormal mystery to solve, which they do. One of the nice things about these Frayne and Tyack books is the progression of their relationship beyond the first stage of falling in love. So far, across four novellas, we’ve seen them meet, date, move in together, and now they’re getting married. However, I do find these novellas a little undercooked in other ways. They’re being written and released very quickly… I think they’re considerably less polished than Ms Fox’s earlier work.
(I’m fairly sure there’s only one Harper Fox book I haven’t read now…)
In the further interests of comparison, I thought I’d better read at least one book by best-selling m/m romance author, Josh Lanyon — not least because he’s a male author. The one recommended to me was This rough magic (not to be confused with the Mary Stewart book of the same name — which I almost read as well!). This is a historical mystery in the noir style, set in 1930s San Francisco (A shot in the dark #1): PI Neil Patrick Rafferty is hired by wealthy playboy Brett Sheriden to find a missing Shakespearean manuscript… Much investigation goes on, and some loving as well (in a time when it was forbidden). All good fun, with some dramatic highs and lows.
(OK, just to prove I’m not stuck on m/m for ever, I’ll reveal I’m currently reading a science fiction (future urban fantasy?) novel, Debris, by Jo Anderton. More on that in my July reading post…)
Finally, in June I finished listening to fantasy novel Kushiel’s Avatar by Jacqueline Carey as an audio book in the car. I love these books so much, I’m going to write a proper post dedicated to Kushiel’s Dart, Kushiel’s Chosen and Kushiel’s Avatar.
But briefly, Kushiel’s Avatar is set 10 years after events in Chosen; Phedre — peer of the realm, confidant of the Queen, courtesan and spy — is begged by her bitterest enemy (and darkest desire) Melisande to find her lost son. In return, Phedre is promised a clue as to how she can find the key to freeing her childhood friend from his fate, trapped on an island… At Phedre’s side, as always, is Joscelin, her sword-wielding perfect companion, protector and lover. They embark on a quest over oceans, into forgotten kingdoms and enslavement, down rivers, across deserts and into hostile territories to first rescue Imriel and then find the name of god. There is so much packed into this book, with brilliant characters (even the bit players) and fabulous drama. More later.
So that’s what I read in June. Another six books plus the audio. I know some were novellas and therefore short; but on the whole, I’m very pleased with my reading progress for 2014. A considerable improvement from last year!
What did you read in June?