Fiction: “A Royal Pain” by Rhys Bowen

Royal PainSo this one’s going to be short.

This is the book I wanted to read when I read Murphy’s Law instead, and was super disappointed. I really enjoyed Georgie when I read Her Royal Spyness – I liked her lightness, and wit, and humor, and she – Georgie is like champagne, whereas Molly Murphy is like whisky. And in general, I don’t prefer whisky. I’ve drank it before, and there are a couple of drinks that I’ll have again where it is a component, but it’s not what I reach for first.

(Actually, if you know me at all, you know my hard liquor preference is gin over all else, but – look, I’m trying to make a metaphor and y’all know those don’t always work for me.)

So I was very happy when A Royal Pain came in from my inter-library loan (which is WAY EASIER now that I frequent the Auburn Library!) and I was able to read the next book in the series.

The reason this review will be short is because I took no notes 

fire elmo.gif

So here’s what I remember.

Georgie is still in London. At the behest of the Queen, Georgie is to play hostess to a Bavarian princess – and let the princess cross paths with Prince David, who is growing increasingly fond of That Simpson Woman.  But Georgie’s still broke. So, to appear posher than she is, she hires her granddad and his neighbor to be her butler and cook.

The princess is a handful – she doesn’t speak English well, but she wants to do all sorts of things that princesses aren’t supposed to do. Like shoplift, for instance. The princess’s companion, the Baroness, hates English food and all things English, setting Georgie off.

Georgie is attending all of these parties, and trying to avoid getting paired off. And she sees Darcy O’Mara off on the sidelines, and her jealousy spikes. At one of the parties, Georgie and the princess run into a guy who’s involved in the Communist party, and when the princess wants to meet him at his bookstore, they instead find a dead body.

So now Georgie and the princess are involved in a murder mystery, where neither of them should be.

My instagram post when I finished the read says, “Not enough Darcy O’Mara, too many Russian communist shenanigans.” And I feel like that’s a solid review. I think if there had been more flirting between Georgie and Darcy, I would have made the effort to maybe, I don’t know, write down the princess’s name?

It was good enough for me to continue reading the series. (Spoiler alert – I have not yet read the next book in the series, and I just had a part of my brain say, “Hey, you’re going to the library to pick up that next book you need to review, maybe you should check the online catalog to see if the next Spyness book is there too?” And I had to respond to that part of my brain, out loud, “You are currently reading four fucking books, you don’t need that right now.”)

(Technically one is an audiobook – but still.)

As for the Guster Reading Challenge, there wasn’t really a category for “reading a book about a princess who pretends to be someone else,” so I went with “Center of Attention” off of Lost and Gone Forever, for reading a book written in the first person.

Grade for A Royal Pain: 3 stars

Fiction: “Codename Villanelle” by Luke Jennings

Codename Villanelle

This is the book that Killing Eve is based on. And no, I have not yet watched Killing Eve – although I suppose I should, considering a) both Eve and Villanelle’s actresses have won Emmys for their work and b) Killing Eve is written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who also wrote and stars in Fleabag, who c) won the Best Actress in a Comedy Emmy out from under the great Julia Louis-Dreyfus, for the latter’s final season of Veep.

There’s a lot of layers there. But the important thing to remember is that I have not yet watched Killing Eve because I am too busy keeping up with Riverdale and Dynasty and I HAVE NO REGRETS, because those shows are MAGIC


Villanelle is a codename for Oxana Vorontsova, an assassin of Russian descent. She went through a training somewhere in between that of Natasha Romanoff/The Black Widow and Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans, and is the right kind of sociopath to truly enjoy being a hired assassin. At this time of the narrative, Villanelle lives in Paris and receives her jobs via Konstantin, her handler.

One job she takes brings her to London – she is successful in killing this Russian named Kedrin, who was a guest speaker at, let’s say, a university. But Eve – an MI-5 agent who was tasked with handling security for the Kedrin event – thought there would be a true threat a little too late and managed to give Villanelle her opportunity.

The book doesn’t really have a linear plot – it felt like we focused on Villanelle and her backstory and origin, and how those circumstances formed her into the superior assassin she is now. We also see Eve with her husband, Niko – bridge night, discussing their attempts to have a baby to expand their family, and as Eve’s obsession with finding Villanelle intrudes into their life, their arguments.

After Eve is placed on indeterminate leave following Kedrin’s assassination, she (and her MI-5 partner, Simon) is tapped to join the super-secret Russia bureau of MI-6, and given the task of locating Villanelle and bringing her to justice.

Eve learns that there’s a potential target for Villanelle in Shanghai, so off to China they go. Spoiler alert!: Villanelle is able to take care of her target and evade Eve once more, but: Simon is killed.

Simon has a romantic interlude with Janie, who was actually hired by Konstantin and Villanelle to seduce Simon, steal his phone, and then kill him. Unfortunately for Simon, Janie succeeds and Simon dies. Therefore, “Bury Me,” off of Guster’s second album Goldfly, is this book’s entry in the Guster Reading Challenge, “Read a book in which a character dies”.

I don’t believe that Eve and Villanelle ever interact in this book. (I may be wrong, but it seems like they don’t.) Which is probably why the book is not called Killing Eve. At the end of this book, Villanelle has met up with a former co-assassin-student, Lara, and the two of them are working together to try and rescue Konstantin from … I don’t know, let’s say Siberia, that sounds like something Russia’d do. They get Konstantin out, but then they kill him – which, according to Lara, was the plan: if Villanelle had not attempted to kill Konstantin, Lara’s plan was to kill Villanelle in addition to Konstantin.


So Eve is back at MI-6, tracking Villanelle, and Villanelle is back in Paris, waiting for her next job. (Either she found a new handler or she’s made it known that she’s for hire on her own, I can’t remember – but whatever.)

I was not left with much of an impression of the book. It was short – maybe only six chapters? It felt more like a long novella than a novel, but I’m probably being picky about it. Having said that, the only reason it should be longer is if there was to be a resolution between Eve and Villanelle – and as there wasn’t, then the length is fine. There wasn’t too much lag in parts – at worst, there may have been parts that I wasn’t interested in learning about (like Villanelle’s terrible childhood), but it’s not like the author rambled about nothing for entire chapters on end. And even the childhood stuff – my disinterest stems from the things I like to read – Villanelle’s childhood absolutely informs her present adulthood and assassin-hood, so it’s not extraneous information.

I dunno – I guess I wish the book had the same sort of buzz as the TV show? I’ll let you know after I watch the TV show.

Grade for Codename Villanelle: 1.5 stars

Fiction: “Girl Waits With Gun” by Amy Stewart

girl waits with gunLAST BOOK OF 2018 I FUCKING DID IT

I won’t post the recap before October 1, so I *continue* to get Worse At This every year, but you know what? I HAVE HOPE THAT SOMETHING WILL CHANGE

(Namely, the fact that I am gonna post all my in-progress drafts and notes and possibly done drafts that I have on my laptop into the WordPress App because I have a Fire Tablet that I’m taking to a conference next week [as I’m writing this review] and my goal is to post a review a night because BASEBALL’S DEAD TO ME THIS YEAR, FOLKS and I’ll be on a plane for The Good Place and home by the time Dynasty kicks in for season three and basically, WHAT AM I, BUSY? NO, I AM NOT)

[Note From the Future: I did not meet those expectations at all. I did okay. I wrote one post and saved it, and started another. But at the end of the conference days I was exhausted (and missing my cat, but that’s another story) and basically I binge-watched Big Mouth until I fall asleep every night.]

So anyway.

The worst part about all this? Is that I swear I had jotted down notes for this book back in January, and I could have sworn I had at least four hundred words? Some quotes, even, maybe? But I must have shut the laptop down or some update ran and then I didn’t save the right file because when I opened my Word doc up, this was all I had –

girl waits notes

Thanks, Alaina. Good job.

Okay. So. Here’s what I remember.

Girl Waits With Gun is the story of the first female deputy sheriff (allegedly), Constance Kopp. Constance lives with her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, on a farm in New Jersey in 1914, maybe? Before WWI? Let’s say before WWI. (Goodreads says 1914 so yay me!) One day all three of them are in their cart and/or wagon going into town and Fleurette is driving, when a big ol’ motorcar comes barreling down and runs right into them. No one gets hurt (although Fleurette, the youngest, definitely swans about the house for a while after), and Constance tries to collect $50 from the motorist to repair their wagon.

Except that the motorist happens to be a nasty mobster who runs a shirtwaist factory (maybe? some sort of twill type fabric) and he assumes that ignoring Ms. Kopp will make her go away. But Constance Kopp is not one to back down from a fight. And her tenacity leads to the mobster threatening the Kopp sisters’ livelihood – arson, abduction of Fleurette, you name it.

Norma wants nothing to do with this whole mess – all she wants to do is train her carrier pigeons. (The entire Kopp family is eccentric.) Fleurette, as I said, is eating up the attention. But Constance is trying to figure out how to get the money they’re owed, and so she starts bugging the sheriff’s department.

I cannot remember the name of the sheriff that Constance befriends, and apparently he wasn’t worthy of any of the Goodreads reviewers to name. But this sheriff is the only person who encourages Constance – he knows there’s something shady with the fabric mobster, but needs more evidence to put him away. It also doesn’t help that the fabric mobster provides jobs to some of the working poor in this town – not great jobs, but a chance to earn maybe one coin. (He’s a shitheel, but the politics of shutting down a factory because the boss is a shitheel were bad in those days, apparently.)

The sheriff and Constance work together and are finally able to bring the fabric mobster to justice, though it took a while. And the title comes from the night where Constance waited at a street corner (surrounded by sheriffs and deputies) with a gun in her pocket, hoping to get a message passed to the fabric mobster.

Here’s the thing with the sheriff and Constance – I thought there was going to be more romance there. The way their friendship was written, I felt like there were stolen glances, and kind wrist touches, and that a relationship was going to be teased out over the course of the next couple of books. Turns out that’s not the case – these characters are based on real-life people, and Constance did not end up with the sheriff. In this book, at least, the sheriff is married, and people didn’t divorce people willy-nilly back then. So it probably remains platonic, and while I am okay with that (not every male-female relationship has to lead to romance, Alaina), I am a little disappointed.

Oh well.

I liked the book (in spite of the lack of romances). Constance is a great character – very witty, very matter-of-fact, very determined. I will probably continue reading the series.

And next time, I will try to take better notes.

Grade for Girl Waits With Gun: 3 stars

Fiction: “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty

Husband's SecretAfter enjoying Big Little Lies so effing much (and then realizing, while moving all of my effing books, that I had purchased The Husband’s Secret at some point), I decided to read this late last fall. I still enjoyed it, but I did not read it as quickly as I had read Big Little Lies.

The Husband’s Secret seems to have the same … architectural structure, for lack of a better phrase, as Big Little Lies. The novel takes place in Australia (where the author lives), it involves three women from the neighborhood who don’t appear to interact or even care about each other, until an Event occurs, throwing them all together, and there is a mystery of sorts. While Big Little Lies‘s big mystery required a framing device and a Greek chorus to propel the reader forward (What happened at the Trivia Night), The Husband’s Secret tells its story fairly linearly, save for the occasional flashback to when one of the main characters, Cecilia, meets her future husband, John-Paul.

It is John-Paul who has the titular secret. Cecilia Fitzpatrick is a successful Tupperware saleswoman and devoted mother; John-Paul is some sort of business executive (maybe advertising?) who works abroad frequently. One day, Cecilia finds an envelope addressed to her, but only to be opened in the event of John-Paul’s death. When he calls that night, she asks him about it, and he asks her adamantly not to read it.

Meanwhile, Tess has left her husband Will, because Will has admitted that he’s in love with Tess’s cousin, Felicity. Tess brings her son, Liam, to her mother’s house in Sydney, and when she goes to enroll Liam in school she meets our third lady of the novel, Rachel. Rachel is the elder secretary of St. Angela’s Primary School, and she’s sad because her adult son, Rob, and his family (and Rachel’s grandson) are moving to New York soon.

Rachel is also sad because she’s still trying to figure out who murdered her daughter, Janie, almost thirty years ago. Rachel suspects the murderer is Connor Whitby, the PE teacher at St. Angela’s – and who is currently flirting up a storm with Tess, who is flirting right back.

Cecilia does eventually find out what was in the letter, and it is just about as devastating as one can imagine. (I’m not going to tell you what was in the letter, because it’s a spoiler, and there hasn’t been a movie or miniseries made out of it yet.) This discovery is made about halfway through the novel, so the remaining parts of the story are about the decisions she makes as a result, and how they affect those around her.

Overall, while I did enjoy The Husband’s Secret, I have to admit that I liked Big Little Lies better. I felt that the friendships between the three women in Big Little Lies were more real – the connections between Cecilia, Tess and Rachel are very tenuous, and kind of thrown together. I did appreciate how the mystery in The Husband’s Secret unfolded, and that really, there was only one mystery (compare to Big Little Lies’s like, five).

It was okay. It was good. It wasn’t as good as Big Little Lies, but that’s okay. It’s still good.

Grade for The Husband’s Secret: 3 stars

Fiction: “Lost in a Good Book” by Jasper Fforde

Lost in a good bookThe perils of revisiting a book ten months after reading it: No memory of the plot, and all of the dogears are references to other jokes and not to the actual story.

Oh well.

As best as I can recall, Lost in a Good Book takes place almost directly after the end of The Eyre Affair – Thursday has married her love, Landon, and they’re getting used to domesticity. Except Thursday is also getting tired of being the face of SpecOps and having to endure TV shows and other interviews to talk about how she altered the ending of Jane Eyre (and the bigger discussion, is this ending better or worse than the original?).

She and her SpecOps partner, Bowden Cable, think they may have found an authentic copy of Shakespeare’s missing manuscript, Cardenio. Which is cool! And I’ve even read another book about it a very very long time ago!

But then, a member of the Goliath Corporation decides to eradicate Landon from the timeline, as a way to blackmail Thursday into going back into “The Raven” and releasing Jack Schitt, the big bad from The Eyre Affair. Except that Thursday’s uncle Mycroft had destroyed the Prose Portal, so there’s no way to get back into books.

Or so Thursday thinks.

Turns out, there’s a group of detectives that have found a way to jump in and out of books – they’re called Jurisfiction, and the group consists of a mix of fictional characters (including the Cheshire Cat and Miss Havisham), authors (Ambrose Bierce) and regular people (Thursday Next). Thursday gets paired up with Miss Havisham for a mentor and lemme tell ya, when the only image of Miss Havisham you have in your head is Gillian Anderson’s amazing turn as the character –



So the three plots keep intersecting – the attempt to verify Cardenio, Thursday looking for Landon, and her training into the Jurisfiction unit. Plus, Thursday is due to appear in a Trial straight out of Kafka concerning her mucking around with the end of Jane Eyre, plus her lost-in-time-travel father is warning her that the end of the world is upon them.

To say the book has a lot going on would be an understatement. But then you have to throw in a whole bunch of literary references and puns and … and no wonder I can’t remember much of this!

It’s also hard to realize that even if you are lucky (or unlucky, depending on your relationship with reading the classics) enough to recognize some of these references, you then have to remember that this entire book takes place in a crazy alternate universe where books don’t end the way you think.

I mean, there’s the example from the previous book, where, before Thursday ended up in the novel, Jane stayed with St. John and never returned to Rochester. But then when this universe tries to make sense of weird things that actually happened –

“When you get before the magistrate, just deny everything and play dumb. I’m trying to get the case postponed on the grounds of strong reader approval.”

“Will that work?”

“It worked when Falstaff made his illegal jump to The Merry Wives of Windsor and proceeded to dominate and alter the story. We thought he’d be sent packing back to Henry IV, Part 2. But no, his move was approved.” [p. 164]

See?? Unless you know that Falstaff was Henry’s friend in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and then dies offstage in Henry V – oh sorry, spoiler alert – but then Shakespeare decided to plunk him down in The Merry Wives of Windsor, just because it would be funny? This joke might not land.

[But for all us Shakespeare nerds out there – this is an even better joke:]

“Item two: There is an illegal PageRunner from Shakespeare, so this is a priority red. Perp’s name is Feste; worked as a jester in Twelfth Night. Took flight after a debauched night with Sir Toby. Who wants to go after him?”

A hand went up in the crowd.

“Fabien? Thanks. You may have to stand in for him for a while; take Falstaff with you, but please, Sir John – stay out of sight. You’ve been allowed to stay in Merry Wives, but don’t push your luck.” [p. 292]

I really like the concept of these books. I like the alternate universe, I really like Thursday Next (though I don’t talk about her much – sorry), and I enjoy the little in-jokes that the author sprinkles through the novel like Easter eggs. But I think what I need to do, someday, is sit down and read the series back to back (and not like, six years in between books or whatever it was) so I can have a cohesive view of the series.

It’s good, though – if you see this series, try it, I think you’ll like it.

Grade for Lost in a Good Book: 3 stars

Fiction: “Dragonfly in Amber” by Diana Gabaldon

DragonflyI’m writing this at 9 p.m. on a Monday night. I’ve already taken two Tylenol PM because I’ve been fighting a headache all damn day, and I haven’t had a solid night’s sleep in at least a week (thanks, heat wave!). Let’s see if I can beat the clock, huh?

Is that a pun? Because this book deals with time travel? Oh god, I have no idea. Hey, Future!Alaina, when you review this before posting, if that’s not a pun, can you delete that? Thanks!

(Note from Future!Alaina: I mean, it’s not a pun, but it’s kinda funny. I’ll leave it in. Also, I did not finish writing this thing on that Monday (back in July, hence the reference to a heat wave), but I am pretty sure I got some good sleep that night, so – VICTORY)

Okay. Dragonfly in Amber jumps through a couple of periods of Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser’s life. At the very beginning of the book, we are in Scotland in 1968, and we meet Roger Wakefield, adopted son of the preacher who was helping Frank Randall determine his genealogy back in the 1940s, when Claire disappeared back to the past. But here, Roger meets Claire and her daughter, Brianna! Claire and Brianna have come to Inverness after the death of Brianna’s father, Frank.

Roger takes a quick shine to Brianna, and not gonna lie, it’s a tad creepy for my taste:

But if there was any bann-calling to be done, the name linked with Roger Wakefield in the parish register was going to be Brianna Randall’s, if Roger had anything to say about it. [p. 37]

PAGE 37. He like, just met her. She’s also barely twenty, buddy – calm your tits.

Anyway, Claire manages to get Roger to help her with some research – now that Frank’s dead, she’s free to research into whether Jamie and his family died in the Battle of Culloden, which was the end of the Jacobite uprising against the English. The three of them end up at a church, where Claire finds Jamie’s grave; on the stone is etched, “Beloved husband of Claire”. Claire gives us a recap of Outlander, and then we begin the next chapter of Claire and Jamie’s life, starting almost directly after the end of the first book.

Long story short (and I mean long story – this book is over 900 pages long): Jamie and Claire have headed to France after the end of Outlander in an attempt to change history. Claire knows what happens to the Scottish clans during the Jacobite uprising – they are slaughtered by the English, and the Battle of Culloden is that final battle. If she and Jamie can somehow convince Bonny Prince Charlie to remain in France – or, failing that, keep the Prince from raising the funds for his war chest – then they can avert that certain disaster back in Scotland.

What follows is a lot of fancy dresses and scheming. Claire is also pregnant, and Jamie is still dealing with the aftershocks of the trauma dealt to him by Black Jack Randall. At one of the parties at Versailles, Claire and Jamie meet Mary … something-or-other. Whatever, the book is thick and I’m starting to fade. But whatever – Mary, to Claire’s knowledge, goes on to marry Black Jack Randall, creating the ancestry that will eventually result in Frank, Claire’s husband back (forward?) in the 20th century.

While in Paris, Jamie takes over his cousin’s wine transport company, and Claire is … well … Claire is not used to sitting still. She’s used to being active and participating in the household – doing chores, making healing poultices, that type of thing. So when she’s expected to stay home and do nothing, well – it irks her, to say the least. So she starts volunteering her time at the local Hôpital, assisting the nuns in healing the poor. Jamie doesn’t like it – because Jamie is, if nothing else, traditional – but he also knows better than to ban Claire from doing something.

There’s also a plot about a rival wine merchant who’s got it in for Claire and Jamie, because when Claire and Jamie first meet the Comte St. Germain, his wine ship has just made port and is carrying sailors with smallpox, and the local ordinances say that’s too bad, so sad, his boat has to be burned to prevent more plague. So St. Germain does pretty much anything to gain revenge against Claire, including labeling her as a white witch.

At one point, Claire and Jamie run into Black Jack Randall, who did not die during the stampede when Claire rescued Jamie from … Wentworth Prison? Hey, I was right! Anyway, Black Jack Randall shows up and Claire has to make Jamie promise not to kill him, but not because she wants Jamie to be above vengeance killing – no, she wants to make sure that Frank’s ancestry is assured. Which, as Jamie points out, is kind of a dick move, considering she chose to stay with Jamie in the last book.

Anyway, there’s a. lot. in this book, because in order to tell you about how Jamie does indeed end up getting into a duel with Black Jack, I also have to tell you about Fergus, the pickpocket that Jamie sorta hires and sorta adopts to help him steal messages from Bonny Prince Charlie, and how one morning Jamie takes Fergus with him to a brothel to pay a debt on behalf of the Prince or something, Black Jack Randall is at the brothel and decides to have his way with Fergus, who tries not to cry out during the event because it’s easier that way, which is so beyond fucked up I can’t even, and then Jamie catches them in the act and ta-da, a duel is scheduled for the following morning.

Claire finds out when and where the duel is set to take place, and shows up, just in time to see a) Jamie stab Black Jack Randall, possibly fatally; and b) Claire goes into early labor. She blacks out, and wakes up in the Hôpital with the nuns taking care of her. The baby is stillborn, who is christened Faith before being buried. But then Claire’s apothecary friend, M. Raymond, shows up and – tries to heal her? And magically it does? But it’s so weird, you guys, and also, pretty rapey, in a way.

It starts with a massage and some murmuring. But a page later –

I gasped and moved involuntarily, as one hand moved lower, cupped briefly between my legs. An increase in pressure from the other hand warned me to the silent, and the blunt fingers eased their way inside me.

I closed my eyes and waited, feeling my inner walls adjust to this odd intrusion, the inflammation subsiding bit by bit as he probed gently deeper.

Now he touched the center of my loss, and a spasm of pain contracted the heavy walls of my inflamed uterus. I breathed a small moan, then clamped my lips as he shook his head.

The other hand slid down to rest comfortingly on my belly as the groping fingers of the other touched my womb. He was still then, holding the source of my pain between his two hands as though it were a sphere of crystal, heavy and fragile.

“Now,” he said softly. “Call him. Call the red man. Call him.”

The pressure of the fingers within and the palm without grew harder, and I pressed my legs against the bed, fighting it. But there was no strength left in me to resist, and the incurable pressure went on, cracking the crystal sphere, freeing the chaos within.

My mind filled with images, worse than the misery of the fever-dreams, because more real. Grief and loss and fear racked me, and the dusty scent of death and white chalk filled my nostrils. Casting about in the random patterns of my mind for help, I heard the voice still muttering, patiently but firmly, “Call him,” and I sought my anchor.

“Jamie! JAMIE!” [p. 456]

It’s just … gah. Claire is clearly incapacitated, and it seems like this pelvic exam apparently cured her fever, and just … don’t let ANYONE cure my fever like that, okay?

Then, Claire learns that Black Jack Randall still didn’t die, but Jamie did castrate him. To which I said, GO JAMIE! Jamie ended up in prison, so Claire then had to do a favor for the King, and basically managed to paint Le Comte St. Germain as an actual witch, but then she also had to sleep with the King.

jon oliver cool.gif

But they have to leave France, because – duh. Look at all the trouble they caused in the first half of the book! So back to Scotland they go, and live on Jamie’s estate for … maybe a year? I’m not sure, it’s a while, but then Bonny Prince Charlie manages to get enough funds to go to war with England. So Claire and Jamie leave Lallybroch behind and march towards Culloden.

The end of the book comes fairly fast. Turns out, Mary (remember Mary?) is in love with Black Jack Randall’s brother, who is dying of … something. On his deathbed, Claire witnesses a pregnant Mary get married to … Black Jack Randall. And that’s how Frank survives!

And on the day of the Battle of Culloden, knowing what was supposed to happen, Jamie brings Claire back to Craigh na Dun, and makes her go back through the stones because she’s pregnant. He asks her to name the child Brian, after his father. And Claire returns to “the future”, two years after she had disappeared, and to her life with Frank Randall.

This book was very long, and there is so much that happens in it. I didn’t mind it; but I struggled in parts getting through it. I almost wish that it was split into two books – the France stuff could easily be a novel of its own. I like the story enough, but it’s starting to feel a bit … soapy. Based on the next seasons of Outlander on Starz, the next book might go between Claire-in-the-20th-century and Jamie-surviving-Culloden, and then eventually Claire goes back in time and manages to reunite with Jamie, and then they all end up in America? It just feels like … like if I were writing a soap opera and didn’t want to stop writing about the characters, so I just kept throwing them into situations, only in the case of Outlander, those “situations” are “historical battles”.

It’s not bad; don’t get me wrong, I like the story of Claire and Jamie. But I’m writing this review almost a year after I read the book, and I don’t feel any need to go out and borrow Voyager right now. I guess I want my soap operas to be quick and fast-paced.

Like Dynasty!

Grade for Dragonfly in Amber: 3 stars

Fiction: “A Fatal Waltz” by Tasha Alexander

Fatal WaltzI just chipped one of my teeth on a Dorito. Since this night’s going great already, let’s get a review ready to post, huh?

(P.S., for my readers who come here via my Facebook page and realize, “Hey, wait, I thought Alaina chipped her tooth on a Dorito back on June 24, and here it is [ENTER DATE OF POSTING HERE July 6 {holy shit am I getting caught up? I mean, no, but that’s a way better spread of time!}] – did she chip a different tooth on a different Dorito!? What are the odds of that even happening?!”

And the answer, dear readers, is No – only a single tooth(*) has been felled by a Dorito.

(*) As of this writing, which is June 24th, 2019.

(**) I should also probably mention that I have previously broken the now-chipped tooth, back when I was a junior in high school. I think the filling or rebuild or whatever you call it has finally worn down enough to need to be replaced. It has been almost twenty years since I fell off that waterfall(***)…

(***) This is only a slight exaggeration. My family and I were hiking up Angel Falls in northern Maine, and my mother was in hopes of taking my senior picture for the yearbook.(****) On the way down the waterfall, I slipped and fell head-first into some rocks, breaking my bottom teeth. I am extremely lucky that that’s all that broke.

(****) My mother is still a bit mad that I eventually submitted a picture from a roller coaster for the yearbook. It is not what was distributed to the relatives.

But as for the time difference in the tooth-chipping and this review being posted: I have gotten into a [stupid] habit of trying to be at least three reviews ahead of my posting backlog. So for instance – I’m writing this blog on June 24th, but I’ve had the reviews for Luck Is No LadySweet Toothand Persuasion in my drafts queue for a while. Once I finish writing this post, I’m going to save it, and post the review for Luck Is No Lady. And when this post finally gets published, you can rest assured that I will have reviews lined up for at least … whatever the next three books in my queue are, I can’t tell, Excel won’t open right now.

“Okay, Alaina. Yeah, okay. Okay, Alaina. So – WHY DO YOU DO THIS?!” you ask.

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As I think I said when I reviewed the last book in this series – though it could have been another book, who knows, I’m not going back to figure it out – I have to do a couple of things better. Number one, I need to do a better job about reading the next book in a series without waiting over a year, because it takes me a bit to remember who all the players are when I’m reading it. And secondly, I need to do better about either taking notes or marking pages in books that I own, because I have no notes or dogears in my copy of A Fatal Waltz so this might be an even shittier “review” than I normally do.

(Considering I’ve wasted nearly 600 words on a) a chipped tooth, b) how that tooth was originally broken, and c) how that affects my blog posting schedule, I apparently don’t have that much farther to slide on my “shitty” scale.)

Okay. So. Lady Emily – remember, she’s a widow, in 1890s Britain – has gotten engaged to Colin Hargreaves, her husband’s best friend. (It’s cool, though – read the past two books if you’re concerned.) And she is invited to a weekend garden party in the country by her best friend Ivy. Emily hates a couple of the people who are also there – including Lord Fortescue, the mentor of Ivy’s husband – but because Emily loves Ivy, she goes.

In addition to the awful Lord Fortescue, there’s also Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess, who used to “work” “with” Colin.

Oh shit. I never mentioned – Colin’s a spy for the War Office (or whatever they’re calling the War Office at this point in British history). So that “work” is “spy stuff”, but also, think about how James Bond “works” with Vesper Lynd.

However, Colin is extremely faithful to Emily. But a good portion of the plot (as I remember it, nearly nine months later) is made up of Emily trying to reason out of her jealousy towards Kristiana. And Kristiana is not a good sport, who stands aside when her former lover becomes engaged to another woman. Oh, no – she tries to take her lover back, even though she know she doesn’t want him forever.

So anyway. All those awful people are at this weekend garden party, and Emily is pretty miserable whenever she’s not hiding in the hallway, discreetly making out with Colin.

But then Lord Fortescue is murdered, and the prime suspect is Ivy’s husband, Robert.

Emily is determined to prove Robert’s innocence, and the clues take her and her entourage – consisting of Cécile, a friend of her husband’s and confidante, and Emily’s childhood friend Jeremy – to Vienna, to investigate a plot involving anarchists who may or may not have been attempting a coup.

Colin is also in Vienna, working alongside Kristiana, trying to find the same information. He is not happy that Emily has put herself into possible danger, but he also recognizes that even as her fiancé, he is powerless to stop her.

I really wish I had done a better job about taking notes. I know there’s a lovely subplot about one of the artists Emily meets in a coffee shop, and how he’s enamored of a young woman but I think he needs to win over her mother, who happens to be an empress (?) – and I’m not going to look it up, it’s almost midnight as I’m writing this and I really should be asleep by now. Anyway, I do recall that the artist is eventually introduced to the empress and his sketches do in fact win her over, so by the end of the novel, they’re happily in love.

Also happily in love is Emily and Colin, jealousy over Kristiana be-damned. There’s another small subplot – more of a running gag, almost – involving Emily’s conservative, traditional mother, who has instructed Emily and Colin (not advisedinstructed) to hold off on their nuptials until Queen Victoria has given them her blessing – or maybe it’s that they need to hold off until Buckingham Palace is available. I’m not sure, can’t remember, and I’m not looking it up. But at the end of the book, Emily and Colin elope while on Santorini. And if that’s not the pinnacle of a romantic elopement, I don’t know what is.


I mean — that is goddamned beautiful.

Overall, I’m giving the book 3 stars. I think it suffered from having Emily and Colin apart so much, but that might be my personal bias. And I promise to not wait another three years before picking up the next book in the series.

Grade for A Fatal Waltz: 3 stars