Tag Archives: Rape

Incendiaries: A Novel by R. O. Kwon

When I was in college, my boyfriend, for some reason, had to miss one of his upper level advanced mathematics courses and asked me to tape the class and copy down the notes written on the chalkboard. (Obviously this was quite a few years ago). The teacher was Asian with a stilted accent, but even if he had been totally fluent in English, my year of Introductory Calculus was not enough background for me to make heads or tails of the subject matter which the professor was attempting to impart, so I just nodded and copied and pretended that I had an inkling of the topic under discussion, flipping the tape over as appropriate.

This sense of confusion is similar to my experience in reading Incendiaries: A Novel by R. O. Kwon. Flitting from character to character giving little to no reference point with statements which only at times resemble sentences, flipping back and forth with tenses and pronouns so I wasn’t sure who was speaking and when the event occurred, I waded through this book (which was fortunately a quick read) until I finally got the gist of what was happening and was able to confirm my suspicions by going back to the beginning and skimming the chapters after my first go around with the text.

Not a traditional narrative, this book is about a group of students attending Edwards College in Noxhurst, a city somewhere in New York State (I think). There are side trips to New York City with a visit to other locations in the Northeast, although the main characters are originally from California and think nothing about bopping home. Ultimately the story is about a cult started by John Liel which entraps Phoebe Lin and almost ensnares her boyfriend, Will Kendall. The main characters all have some Korean blood and have experienced a past which makes them vulnerable to brainwashing, taking advantage of their questions concerning faith and Christianity. The Pro Life contingent is also a theme which reoccurs throughout the book.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to be sympathetic to any of these protagonists who are all self absorbed, with personality flaws that makes them largely unlikeable. Their college education is alluded to, but for the majority is more a setting than an activity. Bars and other gathering places abound with drinking, drugs, and sex which seem to be the primary activities mixed in with religious allusions. It’s a very jaded view of the college scene.

While the majority of the narrative is disjointed, there is a brief glimpse of a book which I could have liked – the section describing Will’s job as a waiter at an upscale restaurant and the difficulty he had with one of the patrons. Unfortunately, this is a mean spirited episode with more than a touch of misogyny, but at least it was readable.

So, if you like a challenge and are in the mood for a negative plot line, go for it. I, for one, plan to find a book which will make me laugh so as to remove the bitter taste which is currently lingering, just as I decided to major in English and not in Math.

Two and a half stars and a thank you to Edelweiss for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

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The Days When Birds Come Back by Deborah Reed

Instant attraction! An overwhelming emotion which keeps cluttering the mind with questions such as “what should I say”, “should I do this”, “will I see them today”, “did I make a fool of myself”, etc. This unrequited obsession goes on and on, even if the other person is oblivious to the emotions they provoke, even if the words are never spoken or feelings ever revealed. Yet, there is a palpable connection which the reader can feel without any graphic sexual content. It’s the unspoken romance which keeps us engaged.

That’s how it us between June and Jameson in The Days When Birds Come Back by Deborah Reed, two lost souls whose past hurts have overwhelmed their lives, destroying relationships and making day to day interactions almost intolerable. Two souls caught up in the solace found in nature who are finally able to reveal their innermost traumas to each other without fear of judgement, because of a basic understanding of having been there in one form or another.

A romance of a simple touch or smile, or even a post card – but it’s enough.

June who formerly found relief at the bottom of a bottle turns to her “seven comforts, none of which were a drink”. Finding herself back home in rural Oregon by the coast where it all started, she needs someone to renovate her grandparents next door cottage so she can sell it. Enter Jameson (same as the whiskey) who is also returning to the “scene of the crime”, but he finds peace in this home where he now lives while he works, appreciating the ambience of the surrounding wildlife. June, just an eyesight away, keeps her distance, yet there is a nonverbal communication even before they find their commonality. In spite of their new found affinity, Jameson has a wife, Sarah Anne, waiting for him seven hours away back home with their new foster son. June’s ex is in Australia, sent away while she was in a drunken rage. And so the summer goes, from June to September as the house takes shape and it’s time to move on.

Told through introspections interspersed with dialogue we discover the secrets haunting the two thirty five year olds who have somehow found a way to share the formerly closeted details of their damaged lives. There’s no telling here, just a gentle leaning towards the truth. Not for those who like a narrative to explain what’s happening, in this one the reader must glean the facts and come to their own conclusions.

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

And one more thing, I’ve included a poem by Emily Dickinson with a similar title for your perusal. If you think the two are related, fine, if not, enjoy anyway:

These are the Days When Birds Come Back
By Emily Dickinson

These are the days when Birds come back—
A very few—a Bird or two—
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies resume
The old—old sophestries of June—
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh fraud that cannot cheat the Bee—
Almost thy plausibility
Induces my belief.

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear—
And softly thro’ the altered air
Hurries a timid leaf.

Oh Sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze—
Permit a child to join.

Thy sacred emblems to partake—
They consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!

A Dream of Redemption by Bronwen Evans (Book Eight, Disgraced Lords series)

Clarence Homestead was too good looking for his own comfort and he avoided the admiring glances from the females he encountered. Little did he expect to catch the eye of Lady Helen Hawkestone, the sister of his patroness, Marissa Maitland, the Duchess of Lyttleton. Although Clary has considered the beautiful Helen an angel ever since their first meeting five years prior (when he was awaiting news of the fate of the wounded Marisa), he knew that his low born life and past indiscretions nixed any thought of a relationship. His focus was on serving Maitland and his wife who together had rescued him from a sleazy existence in a brothel. In return, he acted as Her Grace’s personal secretary and overseer of the numerous orphanages the couple acquired and “renovated”.

Yet when Lady Helen decides to get involved in this charitable endeavor, Clary balked, not only because of his inner feelings of attraction, but to protect the innocent twenty three year old from the sordidness of life on the other side of aristocracy. His instincts were correct when the newest acquisition revealed a manager who more than dabbled in the human trafficking of children. At Helen’s urging, they not only rescued the most recent abduction but put a stop, at least temporarily, to these nefarious activities.

Helen, as stubborn as her unconventional sister Marissa, refuses to accept Clary’s objections to a future together, despite the revelation of his disreputable upbringing. After placing herself in numerous compromising situations, the two finally succumb to their mutual passion. Despite Helen’s feelings, convincing her over-protective, hot-headed brother Sebastian, the Marquess of Coldhurst, to sanction their relationship is an insurmountable task. A twist of fate necessitating a life or death rescue changes the dynamics leading to a relatively happily ever after for a couple who prefer a quiet life in the country to the scandal mongering attitudes of London and The Ton.

A Dream of Redemption by Bronwen Evans is the eighth book in the Disgraced Lords series. While you don’t need to have read the other seven books dealing with the Libertine Scholars and their romances to enjoy this one, I would recommend reading book four, A Whisper of Desire, to familiarize yourself with Marisa and Maitland’s unlikely marriage as well as the gritty details of the circumstances surrounding their involvement with a den of inquiry and the unfortunate experience which followed. The dark tone begun in this book is continued in book eight, which deals with the seedier side of life instead of focusing on the frivolities of a season in London. Of necessity is the constant reference to marrying the “wrong sort of person” which would lead to ostracism not only by polite society but even ones own family (in fear of their reputations being tarnished by association). Although 1820 is just past the era of the Prince Regent, I would still call this a Regency Romance.

While this action packed plot had such potential, the constant repetitious back and forth between Cary and Helen detracted from the whole. A bit of consolidating/editing would have definitely improved the tale, despite several hot and steamy scenes between the two lovebirds which are sure to entertain. Catching up with some of the Libertine Scholars and their wives was a definite plus for those of us who have been along for the ride from the beginning. Three and a half stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Celie’s life has been full of abuse since she was a small child. When her mother becomes too ill to satisfy her husband’s needs he turns to his preteen daughter, fathering then getting rid of her two newborns, and eventually farming her out to be the wife of another man so she can take care of HIS house and children. Once again, Celie becomes a receptacle, this time for her husband. Despite the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse, she works hard and quietly accepts her fate, obediently doing what she is told. Her one moment of rebellion involves her sister Nettie whom she harbors from the leacherous attentions of their father. Nettie is sent on her way when she refuses the advances of Mister, Celie’s husband, but vows to write (unless she is dead). When after years of waiting and no letter is received, Celine assumes the worst, another blow in her lackluster life. Yet there are women who refuse to be dominated by men. Shug Avery, Mister’s mistress, becomes an ally of Celie, teaching her the joys of intimacy. Then there is Sophia, step son Harpo’s wife, who refuses to be bullied by any man, physically reciprocating the violence. This, of course, gets ugly when Sophia accosts the mayor after “sassing” his wife for assuming she would jump at the chance to be a maid for a white family.

As we follow the life of Celie we slowly watch as she finds her voice with the help of Shug, Sophia, and even Squeak (Harpo’s mistress). With her newfound independence many truths are revealed, changing her outlook on life. The story is told in “letters” at first beginning Dear God, then switching to Dear Nettie when Celie looses her faith in the Almighty.

Now what I’ve neglected to mention about the book The Color Purple by Alice Walker is that Celie is black, living in rural Georgia during the depression, so not only does this story deal with misogyny, but also the racism still prevalent in the south sixty to seventy years after the Enancipation Proclamation.

There are so many facets to this story, I can see why it won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for Fiction. It’s raw language and unabashed references to sexuality has also earned it a consistent place on the banned book list.

While the depressing aspects of Celie’s life should leave us in a morbid funk, this is a story about the strength of family and friends, full of the promise that people’s attitudes and behaviors can change in a positive manner providing hope for a brighter future. It helps that I listened to the tape narrated by Alice Walker who brilliantly brought the characters to life. Little wonder The Color Purple provided a plot perfect for the stage and screen.

A must read. Five stars.

A Most Inconvenient Wish by Eileen Richards (A Lady’s Wish, #3)

It’s been five years and two kids since elder sister Anne married Nathaniel Matthews (An Unexpected Wish, A Lady’s Wish Book One) and three years since younger sister Juliet married Nathaniel’s little brother Tony, (An Honorable Wish, A Lady’s Wish Book Two), now the beauty of the family, Sophia Townsend, decides to climb to the top of the Fairy Steps and make her marriage wish. Unfortunately, the pesky Scott, Ian McDonald, who a partnered with her brothers-in-law, follows her up to the top, and in exasperation at his interference she makes the wrong wish in A Most Inconvenient Wish (A Lady’s Wish Book Three) by Eileen Richards.

While her siblings married for love, Sophia just wants the comfort of a title and the excitement of the whirlwind of London society, but Nathaniel vows there will be no more seasons. He’s ready to permanently settle down at The Lodge with his wife and children. Sophia has turned down all her suitors, none which have fit her ideal. Yet she has one last chance, inviting Lord Geoffrey Bateman and his sister Lady Catherine for a house visit. The Earl was especially attentive this last season, with The Ton abuzz about the expected proposal. Unfortunately, Geoffrey arrives with his new bride to be (along with her generous dowry) in toe. While he enjoyed his time with Sophia, Bateman needs to marry for money. Love was never a part of the picture. He’s so desperate that he even tries to broker a marriage between the wealthy sheep farmer Ian and his sister to get the cash he needs to maintain his dignified lifestyle. McDonald, whose father was the steward for the Bateman estate, wants nothing to do with the deal, but is willing to purchase the land neighboring their two properties at a fair price.

Complications ensue as the house guests don’t always display the best manners, and Sophie rues the day she impulsively invited them into their midst. The antagonistic relationship between Sophia and Ian fluctuates between harmony and discord as the two try to decide if their vastly different goals matter in the grand scheme of things.

While Richards always comes up with an interesting plot with a compelling beginning and ending, she has trouble somewhere in the middle, meandering about with too much repetition amongst the action. She definitely needs a reminder to show and not tell and tell and tell again. Better a tight 250 page Regency Romance than a rambling one of 300 pages. I was often confused, especially regarding the inconsistent actions of the characters, and the vague generalizations alluded to in the text. Was Geoffrey a decent, but proud man caught in a difficult situation, or was he a raving lunatic? The mantra about desperate men doing desperate things didn’t quite cover some of his (or his sister’s) evil behaviors.

This story, however, has a little more meat to it than book one. Three stars.

This ARC was provided by Netgalley and Lyrical Press in exchange for an honest review. The same review appears on Goodreads.

A Night of Forever by Bronwen Evans (The Disgraced Lord Series, Book 6)

Arend Asbury, the Baron of Labourd, seems fearless, but that is only because he doesn’t really care whether he lives or dies. While he is totally devoted to his boyhood friends, the Libertine Scholars, he feels he is not worthy of their loyalty due to his despicable actions during the five years he was abroad in Paris. So while searching for the woman who is seeking revenge on his friends and their wives and children, he is more than ready to take chances which might get him killed for his efforts. After all, he, too, is a target of revenge in retaliation for the sins of their evil fathers. The main candidate is Lady Victoria, the woman the Libertine Scholars suspect of being the ruthless, vindictive killer out to avenge the gang raping incident which ruined her life when she was just a young girl.

Lady Isobel Thompson, Victoria’s step daughter, is a natural suspect, especially since Isobel always seems to be in the midst of the action when vengeful acts occur. Arend thinks she is either a spy, or worse, in cahoots with her stepmother. The Baron willingly puts himself in harm’s way by becoming her faux fiancé, as a means of keeping her under surveillance while the group tries to verify their suspicions. Isobel, who has her own agenda, is more than happy to assist Arend if he helps her prove Victoria is behind the death of her father.

Despite Arend’s good looks and impenetrable aura, his French origins and an unsavory reputation as a rake causes Isobel to have second thoughts. Although he is one of the richest men in England due to the diamond mines he discovered in Brazil (another secretive part of his past), once they go their separate ways she’ll be considered ruined. While her own generous inheritance will be more than enough to entice a proposal, Isobel wants a love match, not a marriage of convenience. Sensing Arend’s deep seated hurt, Isobel thinks she can heal him with her love, but only if he’s willing to trust her with his darkest secrets, actions which he feels are shamefully dishonorable, and will lead to rejection.

Even though they have a mutual distrust, there is an magnetic connection which draws them both together. Mentally they try to resist, but their sexual energy cannot be denied. Arend is torn, he wants to seduce the truth out of Isobel, while protecting her virtue in case she is innocent. It’s her innocence which attracts him, yet there is a sense of doubt, especially since his experiences with beautiful women always seem to end in life altering betrayal.

A Night of Forever by Bronwen Evans is the sixth book in The Disgraced Lord Series. The other five libertines have discovered their true loves and it is now Arend’s turn. The plot begins where A Whisper of Desire (#4) ends, then runs parallel to A Taste of Seduction (#5) before going off on its own tangent. Arend, the dark horse, is the most enigmatic and haunted of the six friends and his mysterious back story is slowly revealed, one piece at a time, through his thoughts and Isobel’s probing questions. While the first two thirds of the book is riveting, the last third dragged, despite the climatic, although absurd conclusion. Yet the reader is glad to finally get some closure to the entire six book vengeance plot which uncovered some dark, unsavory incidents.

Arend’s sexual prowess was exciting at first, but became repetitious as the lovemaking became a one note chorus. A skilled lover should definitely have some varied tricks up his “sleeve” to satisfy a woman without compromising her virtue (which became silly once Isobel was no longer a virgin).

Staying true to the mores and vernacular of the Regency Period is not a forte of Evans, but she did wrap up the saga in a nice neat bow. Or did she? There are a few side characters who did not get their “happily ever afters”, so a couple future books are necessary to tidy things up.

A helpful addition to this book is the Preface by Christian Trent, the Earl of Markham, the featured character in A Kiss of Lies (the first book in The Disgraced Lord Series) who gives a brief overview of events, and the Meet the Libertine Scholars section containing an annotated list of the already featured Libertines (5) and their spouses. For the next book, I suggest Evans add in the various children and their origins (since not all of the offspring are a result of the various marriages). Additional characters (especially those to be featured in the upcoming books) should also be included.

Three and a half stars (it was a four star book for the first half) and a thank you to Netgalley and Loveswept Books for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Taste of Seduction by Bronwen Evans (Disgraced Lord Series, Book 5)

Lord Hadley Fullerton and his next door neighbor Lady Evangeline Stuart are in love, even though the future will require a conservative lifestyle. Hadley, as the second son to the Duke of Claymore has a limited income based on his fledgling vineyard, while Evageline, despite her beauty, comes from a fatherless family who has lost its income due to her mother’s gambling habits, so lacks a proper dowry to attract the wealthy husband her mom envisions. She doesn’t care that they can’t afford a season since her true love is the handsome Hadley. By the time they agree to elope, they’ve already explored their passion through every act but penetration. The evening they exchange promises, Evangeline convinces Hadley to give in to their passions and consummate their relationship. Thinking they are to wed, he allows himself to be seduced by his one true love.

Five years later, Hadley is a bitter man. He avoids close relationships with women after being spurned by Evageline who absconded to Scotland with a rich titled gentleman. He even agreed to wed his brother’s best friend’s sister, a mousy plain spinster, because it would be a marriage without emotion. Yet as his thirtieth birthday and the impending nuptials near, he starts to have second thoughts. Then Evangeline, the now wealthy widow, reappears and acts as if she did nothing wrong. Her presence enrages Hadley, even while he finds himself still attracted to his former fiancé. Evangeline has a different take on the whole situation, and she, too, is angry because Hadley let her go so easily and did not come and rescue her from an unwanted fate.

While the two lovebirds sort out their feelings, giving in to their mutual passions despite their differences, a series of complications arise. The mystery woman who is trying to ruin the lives of the six Libertine Scholars, strikes once again. This time the reader gets some answers, but there are still too many questions remaining to get complete closure. Kidnappings, murder, and mayhem overwhelm the close friends as one of their number disappears and they must admit that the only way to find him alive is to trust their enemy.

A Taste of Seduction by Bronwen Evans ends unfinished leaving the reader wanting more. There are surprises intermixed with exciting developments and lots of loose ends plus the fear that the next book in the Disgraced Lord series, A Night of Forever, will also end in tragedy. This Regency Romance is definitely a four star book.

A thank you to Netgalley and Loveswept for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.