Tag Archives: Kidnapping

The Traitor’s Game (The Traitor’s Game, Book 1) by Jennifer A Neilson

The Kingdom of Antora has been taken over by Lord Endrick, a self proclaimed king, Lord of the Dominion, who leads with an iron fist with the magic stolen from the Endorians who he conquered (along with the Halderians) in the war which won him the throne. The Dallisors, the rightful rulers, bow down to the power of their Lord, with Henry Dallisor, Endrick’s enforcer, responsible for much of the devastation placed upon the people of the kingdom who are now basically slaves to the whims of this evil overlord. Anyone who dares to complain is swiftly “taken care of” since the common townsfolk are considered expendable often rounded up with the rebels and executed for crimes they did not commit. The Coracks are waiting in the wings, ready for their chance to overthrow the government and the Halderons are keeping their heads down trying to stay out of trouble, although a few have their eye on the prize. The various factions distrust one another and it’s every man for himself. Unfortunately, all the Endorians have been wiped out by Lord Endrick, but if any were still left their lives would be in danger since their kind are hated by everyone for the evilness inherent in their magical powers.

Enter Kestra, daughter of Henry Dallisor, who has been sequestered for three years in Lava Fields after an unsuccessful kidnapping attempt by the Halderians. The event, however, has left her scarred, so her protector, Darrow, has taught her some battle moves, including how to wield a knife. When out of the blue her father sends the Dominion Soldiers to bring her home, Kestra is able to use her survival skills when her carriage is waylaid by the Coracks, but she is forced to give herself up in order to save the lives of Darrow and her lady’s maid, Celia.

Grey Tenger, the leader of Corack rebels, has a task in mind that Kestra is uniquely able to accomplish – finding the Olden Blade, the only weapon which can destroy the immortal king. This mythical object is supposedly hidden in her castle home and she has four days to find it or forfeit the lives of her “friends”. Accompanied by Simon and Trina, disguised as her protector and lady’s maid, they are there to make sure the job gets done. Yet when she arrives “home” she discovers her father has plans for her which threaten to interfere with her stated mission. Lord Endrick also plays a role in determining her future, although from the looks of things she, too, has become expendable in the vast intrigue of palace politics.

The plot of The Traitor’s Game is a YA Fantasy which advances via the points of view of both Krestrel and Simon. The two teenagers have somewhat of a past, since Simon. served as one of her slaves when they were young, but through a series of unpleasant events, he was able to gain his freedom. Their parting left an unpleasant taste in both their mouths, but their close proximity in some fretful situations has softened their mutual feelings of hatred leading to some romantic interludes as their mission progresses. Kestrel is headstrong, acting out without thought to the consequences which sometimes are quite swift and severe. Simon is conflicted, trying to remain loyal to the cause but questioning how he can protect Kestra while staying true to his oath of fealty. Trina, also a teen, is thoughtless and careless, but her determination to succeed at any cost makes her a worthy adversary. All three have daddy issues and each has their own agenda resulting in twists and turns as they move towards their mutual goal.

I thought this was, for the most part, a fast paced story with lots of action and unexpected detours. I didn’t mind the romance (a few kisses) since the two seventeen year olds were in a life and death situation which heightened their emotions, plus they were probably hormonal. The author, Jennifer A Neilson, took her time getting to the climax and, with only thirty pages left, I was afraid there would be no resolution at all, just a cliff hanger to be taken up in book two of the Traitor’s Game series (aptly named because everyone seems to turn on each other whenever it seems expedient). However, there was a somewhat satisfying ending which, although a little rushed and a bit confusing, was mostly unexpected.

I liked it! Four stars and a thank you to Edelweiss for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Tales of India: Folktales from Bengal, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu Illustrated by Svabhu Kohl and Viplov Singh

Tales of India: Folktales from Bengal, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu consists of sixteen stories from the late 1800s through the early 1900s retold and illustrated by Svabhu Kohl and Viplov Singh. These public domain titles repeated over the years by the English and Native inhabitants of India, follow the traditional style we expect when reading old fairy tales. Full of magic, talking animals, evil doers, love, betrayal, kings and queens, kidnappings, rescues, and heroes who are able to overcome adversity through their cleverness, they are sure to delight the lovers of folk lore. With some colorful end pages consisting of a floral pattern alternating yellow, green, pink, orange, red, blue designs, which attractively gives off a sense of ease, the tone is set for the narratives the reader is about to experience.

There are three sections – Animal Tales, Outwitting and Outwitted, and Life and Death, with each story beginning with a “framed” illustration full of color and whimsy which provides an inkling of the subject matter of that particular tale. There are a variety of adventures lasting between three and ten pages including The Bengal story, The Brahman Girl Who Married A Tiger, featuring a young girl who is tricked into marrying a tiger and has to be rescued by her brothers; the Punjab folk lore, The King and the Robbers, which tells about a disguised king on a lark who joins a group of thieves and ends up raiding his own palace treasures, each individual contributing their unique special talent; and the Tamil Nadu tale, The Beggar and the Five Muffins, about a couple who are almost burned alive for the sake of an extra serving of dinner. This book would be the perfect addition to any collection of folk and fairy tales.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Marquis and I (The Worthington, 4) by Ella Quinn

Lady Charlotte Carpenter has been kidnapped. She’s not worried, since she and her sister have taken lessons on self protection plus she has a gun in her basket (along with her docile traveling cat). If only she could get the lock picked in time to escape. In the meantime, her abduction has been witnessed and the butler has cornered Constantine, the Marquis of Kenilworth, into going to the rescue as none of the men of the house are in the vicinity. Despite the inconvenience, Con’s chiverous upbringing necessitates he help this damsel in distress. Then there’s the young groomsman Jemmy, hitching a ride on the back of the coach, ready to assist in the rescue. Miss Betsy, a villain from previous books in The Worthington series, has convinced the innkeepers that the girls she sends their way are runaways needing to be reunited with their loved ones (actually paying customers who desire a particular woman). Constantine is able to rescue Charlotte, but somehow word gets out that they’ve been alone together and without a chaperone to vouch for their innocence, Con must marry his rescuee in order to save her from ruin. Charlotte, however, doesn’t want anything to do with the handsome Con who keeps bad company and has a mistress. Despite their public betrothal, she leads him on a merry chase, even allowing another suitor to publicly court her. Through a convoluted series of events, including a second revenge abduction, the two develop a mutual love and respect for each other and find the same happiness bequeathed on other members of the Worthington family.

While there was a good story somewhere in the Marquis and I by Ella Quinn, there was just too much busyness in a plot that seemed to drag on. The repetitive, mundane dialogue became annoying, despite the delightful characters (mainly the multitude of Charlotte’s younger brothers and sisters with their pets). The sexual encounter between the betrothed couple lacked the amorous touch although the experience made them want to move the wedding date forward. Charlotte’s insistence that she couldn’t marry Con because he had a mistress (even after he broke off that relationship and helped his former paramour restart a new life) and her other pigheaded attitudes made her the least likeable of all the Worthingtons and Constantine, despite his rowdy background, was rather docile through the entire story, especially considering all the crap thrown his way (although the little ones glommed onto him). While I usually read these Regency Romances quickly, this one dragged so much I had to force myself to pick up this book on more than one occasion. A plus was the inclusion of characters from previous books in The Worthington series and even some names from the The Marriage Game. If you’ve read through the majority of these publications, you’ll be familiar with many of the members of The Ton, from the memorable busybody, Lady Belamny, to the sought after dressmaker, Madame Lissette.

Still, shame on you, Ella Quinn. Next time take more care and edit your work into a more readable format and spice up that dialogue (and the sex). Two and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Loser’s Bracket by Chris Crutcher

Unless you are playing during March Madness where a lose is an automatic ejection from further play, there are two pathways to winning a basketball tournament. You can win your way to the top spot, or you can lose and play the other losers into the winner’s circle.

That’s the way Annie Boots prefers to win, by playing the other losers then besting the winning team in Loser’s Bracket by Chris Crutcher. This route may take a little longer, but it gives her a better chance of meeting up with her family. Perhaps her life is a metaphor for the loser’s bracket, since her deadbeat mom, Nancy can’t quite get her act together enough to keep her dysfunctional family intact. Annie ends up in a foster home where the Howard’s (Momma and Pop) are able to provide her a decent lifestyle. Unfortunately, her slightly older sister Sheila is not so fortunate, being bounced between foster families until she became a parent herself. Little Frankie seems as messed up as his mom and his quirky habits also make him an unlikely candidate for a loving home.

Despite Annie’s assured pathway to success, she can’t forsake her biological family, even if Pop pushes her to do just that, but if her mom or sister just show up at a game, then who can blame her for meeting up with them. The draw of blood is just too strong and no threat can keep them apart, even though everyone agrees that Nancy is a bad influence with her frequent shoplifting and drug use. Sheila isn’t much better and often foists Frankie off on her sis. Luckily Momma doesn’t mind and even has a bunch of playthings stashed away for his frequent visits. They just have to watch for meltdowns where he smears his excrement as if it were caulking, a little habit which is less than endearing. Both Annie and Frankie inexplicably need that link with their birth mothers to stay whole, even though a fresh start would be better for their mental health.

Chris Crutcher has the pulse of today’s youth, so when you find his name on any book, you know that it will be a worthwhile read. He creates complex scenarios reflecting the tangled, mixed up lives of the average teen, many from families which also have a convoluted trajectory. While the main characters in this book are white, Annie’s friends represent the diversity found in the average urban high school. There needs to be more YA books which reflect the nitty gritty of teen life and not the dream family dynamics, which even when their flaws are portrayed are still too far from the norm.

Crutcher, not afraid to show the underside of life including the warts, still finds a pathway to a realistic, yet hopeful conclusion. Warning: This one is full of four letter words reflecting the language commonly heard outside of public settings. Four stars and a thank you to Edelweiss for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Perilous Passion by Elizabeth Keysian

After a mishap in the army fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, Rafe Pemeroy, the Earl of Beckport, needs to clear his name. What better way than exposing the head of a smuggling ring who is selling secrets to the French and assisting their attempts to invade England? Posing as a country squire, Mr. “Seaborne” attempts to gain the confidence of the locals. Unfortunately, he suspects they are all somehow involved with the smuggling aspect of the scheme, a practice he frowns upon. Thus he mistrusts everyone in the seaside town of Dorset, including Miss Charlotte Allston, a headstrong miss who seems to be everywhere he looks. Little does he know that the woman who has captured his heart is actually the daughter of Abraham Cutler, the notorious smuggler from the North Sea who was murdered before he could finish giving evidence and receive a Royal Pardon. Despite Rafe’s misgivings about becoming romantically involved, he can’t stop feeling the connection between them, especially since Charlotte is constantly showing up at inconvenient times and places.

To keep them both safe, Charlotte and her mother have changed their names and moved in with Aunt Flora. Mrs. Cutler requires her daughter to be chaperoned, usually by her somewhat lax sister, due to a previous indiscretion where Charlotte attempted to elope with her childhood sweetheart, Justin Jessop. Justin, now serving in the army in Scotland, sends her letters full of complaints about his mistreatment at the hands of his military superiors, so it isn’t a complete surprise when he turns up in Dorset in search of his former love. By this time Charlotte has become infatuated with Lord Beckport (instantly recognized by her Ton savvy mom) and realizes that this previous relationship was just puppy love and not the real thing. Jessop, considered an army deserter, needs her assistance to survive, so she turns to Rafe to provide backup support. Numerous complications could easily mess up Rafe’s plans to stop the enemy from landing on British soil, but by working together the three “patriots” might find a way to rescue each other and their country.

Elizabeth Keysian has presented the reader with some interesting characters in the Pre- Regency Romance, A Perilous Passion, book one in the Wanton in Wessex series. Unfortunately, the majority of the plot centers around the meandering Charlotte and the judgmental Rafe, ignoring the potential of the flighty Aunt and her apothecary “friend”. Told from alternative points of view, we learn the secrets about the two lovers who have a tendency to dwell on their pasts a tad too much. Despite a strong beginning, the middle of the novel sagged a bit while waiting for the next spate of action. The dastardly villain did not disappoint and the resolution of everybody’s troubles made for an acceptable happily ever after, even for the jilted Justin Jessop. The various attempts at humor revolving around sneezing and an allergy to horses did not quite hit the mark, but the romance was more than satisfying.
Romance

Three stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Disney Manga: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas adapted by Jun Asuka

I had a little trouble accessing the temporary ARC of the Disney Manga: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas adapted by Jun Asuka, sent to me by Tokyopop and Netgalley (in exchange for an honest review), but then, one day, voila, I figured it out, so I was able to get the complete experience of morphing an animated movie into an anime book.

I loved the Tim Burton’s film A Nightmare Before Christmas and was pleased that the manga stayed true to the original. I could actually hear the songs in my head as I read the story of Jack Skellington’s quest to find something he felt was missing, something even better than Halloween. Lost in his thoughts, Jack, the Pumpkin King, wanders into Christmas Town which houses the only holiday that could surpass Halloween in its celebratory flavor. Thinking to capture this essence Jack has Santa kidnapped and tries to transform the Christmas tradition, but everything backfires when Jack applies his Halloween knowhow to an already fine-tuned holiday, while back in Halloween Town avarice and greed threaten a possible turn around to the inevitable chaos. A parallel story has Patchwork Doll Sally, a devotee of Jack, trying to help him overcome his mounting difficulties, hoping he’ll notice her in a more romantic way. She has problems of her own as she must finagle her way out of the clutches of her creator who wants her all to himself.

While the illustrations remain true to Tim Burton’s representations, the black and white sketches, although detailed, don’t have the depth of the original. I strongly feel that this particular book would be better received in a print edition due to the limitations of the electronic version. However, even if this could be overlooked, the plot itself doesn’t quite carry over, leaving some gaps in our understanding of events.

Still, after reading the 176 page graphic novel, I am ready to revisit the movie which is currently available on Netflix. I was never quite sure whether this was a Halloween or Christmas story, but I’ll be watching it in time for Ground Hog’s Day. Scary Christmas!

Three and a half stars.

My Brown-Eyed Earl by Anna Bennett (The Wayward Wallflowers, #1)

William Ryder, the Earl of Castleton, has had a thing for Miss Margaret Lacey since they were young, so he was astonished when she staunchly rejected their fathers attempt to arrange a marriage between them (not that he was pleased that his disreputable dad was choosing his bride-to-be). Now, seven years later, he finds Meg in his home applying for a job as governess for the set of six year old twins recently dropped off at his door. The precocious Valerie and Diana are the illegitimate offspring of his cousin who died in a freak accident. Their mother, his cousin’s mistress, threatened to place them in an orphanage if he wasn’t willing to provide for them. The honorable Will would never abandon his best friend’s children to such a fate, but the rambunctious girls obviously needed a steady hand. The Earl, whose own father has been indifferent, fears he doesn’t have the ability to be a good parent, so he turns to what he hopes is “professional” help. Unfortunately, Meg has zero experience, just a need to earn some money to keep her sisters and uncle out of the poorhouse. Of course, once she realizes the potential boss is her former jilted fiancĂ©, she is ready to decline the position. Yet, Will is intrigued and makes her an offer she can’t refuse, so Miss Lacey finds herself wrapped up in the lives of her two charges as well as garnering the attention of the distinctly handsome Castleton.

My Brown-Eyed Earl by Anna Bennett is book one in The Wayward Wallflowers series. Meg and her younger sisters Elizabeth and Juliette have been living with their Uncle Alister, Lord Wiltmore, the only family member willing to offer a home to all three girls after the tragic death of their parents (killed in a storm on that fateful night Meg rejected the marriage proposal). Full of guilt, Meg stoically believes it is her obligation to care for the family. While the somewhat oblivious Uncle Alister has provided them a loving home, his limited funds do not allow for luxuries like fancy gowns. That’s why the sisters have been dubbed The Wilted Wallflowers by The Ton and despite their beauty, their drab attire brings them nothing but scorn and ridicule.

Set to remain a spinster, Meg is determined to earn enough to provide some luxuries for her siblings. With kindly attentions, while visiting the dressmaker to add to the twins wardrobe, Will offers to purchase her a new gown as well, but the proud Meg refuses to even consider the idea. Luckily, the Earl looks beyond her attire and his former feelings are rekindled. Meg is not immune to his charms and they quickly find themselves romantically involved. Encouraged by his mother to take a wife, Will wonders if Meg has the capacity to fill the role of Countess. A series of misadventures seem to indicate otherwise, but first impressions can be deceiving. Whether the Earl can convince his lovely governess to put aside her guilt and find her own happiness is the ultimate goal.

While I loved the witty repartee between Will and Meg, along with the lovable characters Bennett has created (especially the twins), there were some definite flaws in this Regency Romance. In fact, if you like your historical novels to accurately reflect the era, then this is not the book for you. The author plays fast and loose with the mores of the time, ignoring the high standards for maintaining a spotless reputation – such as a current debutante living unchaperoned with a bachelor. Even if all was innocent (which it wasn’t) the scandal would be far reaching. Then Meg’s friend Charlotte, also a governess, openly appears in society with her employer, seemingly as a couple. Neither a likely scenario! In addition, the conversations, although witty, were full of vernacular unbecoming for polite conversation. Despite these and other discrepancies, this book was not without its charm. Yes, there were the muddled accounts of the lovers past as well as a clumsy attempt to provide a little excitement via an inquisitive mystery man, but there were also some interesting interactions, often comical, which compensated for all the flaws.

With a little better attention to the appropriate details, a more complete backstory, and some fine tuning to the plot/climax, this could have been a four+ star book. Still, I’ll give it three and a half stars for its easily readable writing style and humor.

A thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.