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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Friday, April 24, 2015

Middleton--Fortune Hunter or Not?

The Fortune HunterThe Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you like novels placed in the late 19th century with fox hunting, English royalty, a dissatisfied Austrian Empress and a proper love triangle you will love this book. Pretty standard fare for the genre--an almost penniless military Captain catches the eye of the visiting Austrian Empress when he is engaged as her " pilot" during the hunting season in England. More than a servant but less than an equal he falls under her spell and they become the subject of rumor among the nobility. Meantime, a young woman, heiress to her mother's estate and quite independent also attracts him. Her brother and his fiancé are less than thrilled with the possibility of his marrying the heiress. Not sure why the story should have taken almost 500 pages to tell but the description of the fox hunting, and the early stages of photography, which the heiress, Charlotte, pursues is very interesting.
My favorite character does not appear until quite late in the book, but he just jumps off the page. His name is Caspar Hewes, a photographer from America who has relocated to England in hopes of starting a new life and making a fortune photographing the wealthy beauties of the day. His descriptions of the American West to Charlotte are nothing short of poetic and having been there many times very true to the fact.
The other characters, while based on actual people and well defined are not so different from any of the characters in other books set in the same period among the same people. I find the hero, Bay's, supposed devotion and love for Charlotte less than believable considering his dalliance with Sisi, the Empress Elizabeth. Though the author would have you believe he is not. like Charlotte's other suitors, a fortune hunter, he certainly seems to be. Considering that the author compares Elizabeth to the modern day Princess Diana, it comes as no surprise that another of the characters is an ancestor of Diana, Earl Spencer.
The blurbs on the back cover compare this author to DuMaurier and Austen, with a bit of People magazine thrown in. I agree with the People comparison, not so much the others--well, maybe a lesser Austen. It is a fun, if lengthy read and good for a lazy day on the beach.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

The SwimmerThe Swimmer by Joakim Zander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An exciting spy mystery that keeps the reader as tense and nerve-wracked as the characters being chased down by a deadly but unidentified group of assassins. In the initial chapters the story moves between characters and even time and place. At first, how these short strands connect is what keeps the reader involved but as the plot evolves it becomes evident that the Swimmer is an old CIA agent who deserted his daughter as an infant. She is the main character of the story and with her Arabic ex-boyfriend is being hunted down by a group, somehow involved with the CIA and its operations in the Middle East. Why becomes a driving question as the how of their elusive flight across Brussels and Paris keep the pages turning until the final showdown on a small island off the coast of Sweden in a blinding snowstorm. Satisfying throughout and clever in its solution, I'm looking forward to the next novel by Zander. This one was a reader's copy provided by Goodreads in exchange for my review.

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