Wednesday, May 19, 2021

"The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the West" by Christopher Corbett

I didn't realize when I got this that it was going to be straight-up nonfiction.  I thought it was going to be one of those books that tells a true story like a novel, what I call "biographical novels."  But it's not.  Instead of telling only the story of one Chinese woman who came to America, it uses her story as a focal point around which to tell the larger story of all Chinese immigration to the Old West.  Which I completely dug, once I understood the book's goal.

Corbett focuses on the life of Polly Bemis, who was reportedly sold by her destitute peasant family in China when she was a young teen, sold to a procurer who brought her across the ocean.  Once here, Polly was sold to a wealthy store owner who lived in a remote Idaho mining community to be his concubine.  A few years later, the store owner lost Polly in a poker game to a gambler named Charlie Bemis, who married her a few years later.  Her story was romanticized decades later by Idaho historians, who dubbed her "the poker bride" because she did eventually marry the man who won her in a poker game.

Along with telling this one individual's story, Corbett shows how similar her experience was to many Chinese women who were trafficked to America, and how much more fortunate she was than the vast majority of such women.  He discussed why they were brought here, how they were treated, and why they would even submit to such treatment.

Initially, young Chinese men came to California to work in the gold fields.  They were either unmarried, or left their wives and families at home.  They not only mined for gold, but over the next few decades, they helped build the Transcontinental Railroad and settle large parts of the West.  However, they generally did not intend to stay here.  They meant to find or earn money and then go home, so the vast majority never married here or brought over their wives from back in China.

Well, because this created a large population of single or far-from-their-wives men, it also created a market for "comfort women."  And so, people here would work with people in China to buy or entice young women to fill this market.  In China at that time, women were not even generally considered fully human.  They had basically no rights at all.  A family could sell their daughter any time they wanted, and this was a pretty common occurrence in particularly poor provinces along the Pacific coast.

The lives of most of those girls who were brought here from China were filled with the kind of stomach-turning misery that is the lot of so many human trafficking victims even today.  There is no kind of truly new vileness under the sun.  But Polly Bemis was an exception.  She appears to have been bought by one man for his own private use, not to sell her to others.  And when he lost her in that poker game, it appears that she did not then enter into any other kind of slavery, but was instead able to work at more dignified jobs.  And, eventually, Charlie Bemis did marry her, probably out of gratitude when she nursed him back to health after someone shot him in the face.

Charlie and Polly Bemis eventually moved to a remote homestead, where they lived out the rest of their lives in quiet.  It is possible that Charlie married her to save her from being deported to China after the Chinese Exclusion Acts were passed in the late 1800s, or it could simply have been to provide companionship to both of them, or there may have been affection between them -- records don't tell us, only that they did remain together until Charlie's death decades later.

I got this book because I'm including some Chinese-immigrant characters in the Beauty and the Beast retelling I'm currently writing.  They're minor characters, but I want to be sure I'm accurately reflecting life for Chinese immigrants in the 1870s.  And I've learned a LOT from this book, so that's pretty great!  But I did skim a chunk of the middle where it went into more detail about the lives and treatments of trafficked women.  It wasn't luridly graphic, but my imagination fills in gaps all too easily, so I did skim that.  My book isn't going to have anything about trafficking in it, so it wasn't really relevant to my research either.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for non-lurid discussions of sex slavery and an incident where a man is shot in the face with non-gory descriptions of his wounds.

This has been my 24th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Friday, May 14, 2021

"Legendary" by Stephanie Garber

I almost never like the middle story in trilogies.  Like, basically never.  It's almost invariably my least-favorite part of a trilogy.  And Legendary is no exception.

I do think this book suffered because I loved Caraval so much (gushy review here), and then I dived straight into this book after finishing that one... only to stop reading after a few chapters because I just... wasn't loving this book.  And then I'd started it again, only to set it aside again.  

Now, I wanted to love it.  I was expecting to, in fact.  But, it was like... do we have to have another Caraval with another set of cryptic clues and another set of characters we can't trust?  It was as if the author said, "Oh, I see you liked Caraval... do you want another Caraval?"

Or, to put it another way, what I wanted was a new adventure in the same setting, and what I got was the same adventure in a new setting.  Sigh.

Also, to be fair, part of the reason I didn't love this is that it was focused on Tella, aka possibly my least-favorite character from Caraval.  Pretty sure everyone who read my review of that, where I said she irked me, was either like, "Hahaha, wait until she reads Legendary -- she'll change her mind!" or else "Ummmm, so... yeah... Legendary will be an interesting ride for her."  Alas, the latter were correct.  I don't dislike Tella as much as I did in the first book, but I still don't really like her much.  I especially disliked how she kept lying to Scarlett and keeping big secrets from her that were as much about her as about Tella.  Unfair.

Now, you'd think I'd have liked that the other major character in this was Dante, who was possibly my favorite character in the last one.  Unfortunately, when you take the Mysterious Man in the Shadows and bring him out into the forefront of the story... sometimes the mystery and shadows were the best part of him, and the limelight washes him out. 

But I'm still invested enough to want to read Finale.  And often, the third book in a trilogy is my favorite, so you never know, I might love that one too.  We shall see!  I did still really like Garber's writing style, so it was an enjoyable read in that regard.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for more sexual innuendo and make-out scenes, plus some non-violent icky parts involving lots of blood going everywhere.  Again, the language was fairly clean, but not squeaky.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Winners of the S&S Giveaway!

Here we go!  The winners for the five Austen-related prizes are as follows:

Prize 1 (candle): Becky

Prize 2 (lip balm): Roxann

Prize 3 (sticker sheet): Kendra

Prize 4 (bookmarks & portrait sticker): EF Buckles

Prize 5 (bookmarks & bookstack sticker): Ivy Miranda

Congratulations to all five of you!  I will be emailing you each to ask for mailing addresses later this morning.  

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the read-along -- whether you commented on every post, only one or two, or even just followed along quietly, I'm so happy I could share this reading time with you!

I am not currently planning any more read-alongs here on my blog, but might do one again this fall or winter.  We shall see!  Meanwhile, I am tossing around the idea of doing a quick and informal buddy read for the book The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.  It's not long or deep, but it's loads of bookish fun and would be great to read with pals and laugh over together.  

(Mine from my Instagram)

I think I would try hosting that simultaneously here at The Edge of the Precipice and also on Instagram -- everyone could read at their own pace, and we'd all discuss it at the end of the month -- some in comments on a blog post here and others in a chat group on IG, whichever people prefer!  We're still figuring out what our summer will be like, though, so I won't make big plans for that until we know what we're doing for a vacation, and when.  Just something for you to keep in mind, if you're interested!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

"Elizabeth and her German Garden" by Elizabeth von Arnim

I loved this book!  Oh, it was so refreshing and fun.  I am well on my way to being a firm fan of Elizabeth von Arnim -- in fact, I have bought a couple more of her books already.  I love how she makes me laugh!

This is really a journal in which she talks about her efforts to create the perfect garden in the home she shares with her German husband and their children.  Her garden is her retreat, her pet project, and her creative oasis for several years.  She has grand plans for it, but her series of German gardeners never quite seem to either approve of or understand those plans.  Still, she loves her garden.  I love to garden myself, and even though I don't have to deal with intractable gardeners, my little flower garden never quite does what I want it to either.  Gardens foster patience, I think.

But don't think that this book is boring because it's about an Australian who likes flowers and is married to a German.  It is hilarious.  Witty, wry, friendly, salty -- just altogether marvelous.  It reads like a series of letters from a sarcastic and yet kind friend, and I loved getting to read it in the springtime when my own flower gardening is underway.

Particularly Good Bits:

Sometimes I feel as if were blest above all my fellows in being able to find my happiness so easily (p. 15).

A woman's tongue is a deadly weapon and the most difficult thing in the world to keep in order, and things slip off it with a facility nothing short of appalling at the very moment when it ought to be most quiet (p. 25).

Well, trials are the portion of mankind, and gardeners have their share, and in any case it is better to be tried by plants than persons, seeing that with plants you know that it is you who are in the wrong, and with persons it is always the other way about (p. 57).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some very pointed wit indeed.

This was my 20th book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list, and my 23rd book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021

Friday, May 7, 2021

"Caraval" by Stephanie Garber

Um.  Wow.  So, yeah.  I binge-read Caraval.  Four hundred pages in two days.  While also teaching my kids, cooking meals, etc.  I can't remember the last time I read a new-to-me straight-up fantasy book that I liked this much.  Probably, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was the last time I just fell into a fantasy world and didn't want to come out.

(MILD SPOILERS follow, basically just about whether or not some characters survive to the end of the book.)

As usual, it wasn't the fantasy world that grabbed me, it was the characters.  Write a story with a protective older sister who would literally die to save her younger sibling if she had to, and I will be interested.  Make that older sister na├»ve, helpful, stubborn, and cautious, on top of being protective, and I'm just going to be a total fan.  I am. Which is why I loved Scarlett from basically chapter two.  Which is why I inhaled this book, because I had to know she was going to be okay.  I mean, I figured she would be okay in the end, but I had to KNOW.  

The other characters... hmm.  I kept wanting to like Julian, but not trusting him enough to actually like him, but still really wanting to like him.  He kept reminding me of Loki in the MCU, and that is exactly the way I feel about Loki 99% of the time, so yeah.  He could grow on me, maybe.  Scarlett's sister Donatella... irked me a lot.  She also reminded me of Loki in some ways.  Like, she knew her older sister loved her and would do anything for her, but she also just kept doing things that would freak her sister out, and I got frustrated.  

But then there was Dante.  Depending on how Dante plays into the next two books, I could become a Dante fan.  Black-clad man of mystery with suspicious intentions lurking around the edges of the story?  Ohhhhh, yeah.  I could fall for that guy.  We shall see.


We definitely shall see, because I got books 2 and 3 from the library when I was only halfway through this one.  My kids and I finished their school year yesterday, so I am absolutely going to just inhale those two books too, to kick off my summer break.  And I can't wait.

So, what this book is actually about, if you're one of the tiny number of people on the planet who, like me, hadn't already read this trilogy, is a pair of sisters with a horrifying, abusive father who escape their island nation with a pirate named Julian, bound for this magical mystery circus place called Caraval.  And then Donatella gets kidnapped, and Scarlett has only a few days to find her, and she can't actually trust anyone in Caraval because everything is a game and an illusion, and the whole thing slides very, very sideways.  

Through the whole book, I kept being reminded of some vague something that it felt similar to.  Especially at the end.  It wasn't until this morning that I realized what that something is:  it's "Shore Leave," one of my favorite episodes of Classic Star Trek!!!  This was like "Shore Leave" crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so no wonder I dug it. 

I really liked a lot of the writing.  Some of it was a bit... rushed... but it's also a fast-paced adventure story, so me wishing it would slow down a little here and there may have been simply fall-out from me reading a lot of Jane Austen and J. R. R. Tolkien lately.  Garber had so many amazing turns of phrase and unexpected little descriptions that it reminded me a teeny bit of Raymond Chandler now and then.  Just a teeny bit.  Just here and there.  But I liked that too.

Now, there's a lot of suggestive content -- I should probably mention that.  People touching and kissing and almost kissing and pressing against each other.  I think maybe it would have been nice if Julian's torso hadn't been described quite so often as being "row after row of smooth, brown muscles."  (That's not a direct quote, but pretty close.)  I got that he's tan and muscly and lean the first time, thanks.  But... it's YA, and I wasn't that annoyed by it.  Nobody actually ends up having sex, but there's a scene where Scarlett definitely was about to be bedded by someone, except she found a way out of it, so... yeah.  Most of it is just people making unspecified suggestive remarks, looking other people over in sexy ways, and so on.  It never crossed the line out of my comfort zone, but I wouldn't let my kids read this until they were at least 16.  Just throwing that out there.

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for the above-mentioned suggestive content, cruelty, and bloody violence.  Not actually gory, but there were sections with a lot of blood going everywhere.  I think there was also a sprinkling of bad language, but nothing major.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Sense and Sensibility GIVEAWAY!

We did it!  We read Sense and Sensibility together, and I had so much fun digging deeply into the text with you.  To celebrate, I'm giving away five Jane Austen-esque prizes:

Prize 1: "The Air is Full of Spices" candle I bought from Northanger Soapworks.  This is one of my absolute favorite candles -- it smells like oranges and spices, and the name comes from a line of Col. Brandon's in the 1995 film version of Sense and Sensibility, where he describes what India is like for Margaret Dashwood.

Prize 2: "Turn About the Room" lip balm I bought from Northanger Soapworks.  It smells like peppermint and is both soothing and refreshing.

Prize 3:  Sheet of Sense and Sensibility stickers I bought from Vivi At Home Studio.  

Prize 4: Three bookmarks (left-hand set) I bought files from Allegra Digital for and printed myself, plus a portrait sticker of Jane Austen I bought from A Fine Quotation.  The bookmarks are double-sided!

Prize 5:  Three bookmarks (right-hand set) I bought files from Allegra Digital for and printed myself, plus an Austen bookstack sticker I bought from Vivi At Home Studio.  The bookmarks are double-sided!

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE, to any country where the USPS delivers.  Enter via this widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway will end at 11:59pm EST on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. I'll draw five winners on Wednesday, May 12, and announce them here on this blog that day, as well as alert them by the email provided to the widget. Use an email address you check often! If I don't receive a response from a winner by Wednesday, May 19, that winner will be disqualified and I'll draw another. 

This giveaway is open worldwide to anyone living in any country where the USPS delivers. I am not responsible for the activities of any postal service -- I will send off your prize in the condition shown above, but it's arrival condition is not something I can control. 

To enter, must be 18+ or have parent's permission to provide a mailing address. Void where prohibited. Not affiliated with Blogger, Google, Etsy, or any of the shops listed here. I purchased all these prizes, they were not donated or solicited in any way. I will use your email and mailing addresses solely for the purpose of this giveaway. They will not be saved by me to use another way or provided to anyone else.

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 49 & 50

Here we are!  All done! 

Whew.  All's well that ends well.  I'm sorry if you were expecting a big, romantic proposal scene, but Austen tends not to indulge in those.  She's more interested in the overall relationships of the characters with each other, I think, and not just here for the kissy stuff.  For which I am very appreciative, overall.  I'm not a big fan of the kissy stuff either.

Anyway, I chuckled a lot over these last two chapters.  Austen gets pretty feisty, doesn't she?  Poking fun at Edward's habit of getting engaged to young ladies without consulting his mother.  And the whole opening of the last chapter made me laugh aloud multiple times, about Edward being "resuscitated" because his mother decided to forgive and reinstate him, and so on.  Oh, man.  That was pretty priceless.  And then she gets a little snarky at how Colonel Brandon never measures up to Marianne's original ideal of a Romantic Hero... but it's okay, because Marianne grows to love him anyway.  Awww.

Some interesting monetary information from the notes in my annotated copy, as to how much Elinor and Edward will have to live on.  His mother gives him ten thousand pounds, and the notes say this "would produce five hundred a year in income."  Edward also is expecting about two hundred and fifty pounds a year from his 'living.'  Also, Edward had two thousand pounds of his own, and Elinor had one thousand, which together would give them another one hundred and fifty income every year (you just live off the interest of your money, basically).  So, all told, "their income would be nine hundred a year" (p. 699).  Waaaaaaaaaay at the beginning of the book, Elinor said she thought a young couple would require a thousand pounds a year to be undoubtedly happy, so she's not quite going to make it to that amount at this time, but she's certainly going to be comfortably off.

And that's it!  We're done!  I'm working on my celebratory giveaway post now, and I'll have that up as soon as I get it finished.  This evening, I hope!

Thank you, everyone who participated.  This was a lot of fun for me, and I hope it was for you too!  Don't worry, you can keep discussing this for as long as you like.  In fact, here are a couple final discussion questions:

1.  Does Elinor get a character arc?  Does she change or grow over the course of this book?  Or is she just here to provide counterpoint to Marianne, making Marianne the actual heroine?

2.  Marianne + Col. Brandon -- do you love their pairing, or not?  And why?

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 47 & 48

So Much Suspense!  I don't know about you, but I really didn't want to stop reading at the end of chapter 48, so I am going to try to post this quick, read the last two chapters, and post about them today too.  Because yikes, the end of 48 is a wretched place to stop.

I love this line about Elinor's thinking process:  "Reflection had given a calmness to her judgment, and sobered her opinion of Willoughby's deserts" (p. 650).  Not only is it important not to make snap judgments, but it's also important to realize that our emotions can be swayed by a forceful personality, and those emotions can affect our reason.  When Willoughby is present and pleading his case, even Elinor can't quite resist his charm.  But when he's gone, she takes the time to think over what she now knows about him, and his claims, and can see them much more clearly.  Something for us all to remember and try to follow!

I'm really happy for Marianne, that she realizes that even if she had married Willoughby, she would not have been happy with him forever.  She would eventually, inevitably have learned about his seduction and abandonment of Eliza, and she would have lost all respect and even love for him.  I think this must be of a great comfort for her, realizing she hasn't missed out on lasting happiness and love.

In fact, she realizes that her own happiness "never was his object" (p. 654).  He was thoroughly selfish in his love, only caring about how it made him feel, not about how it would affect her.  Another important lesson for us, to be careful not to give our love to those who care only about their own happiness and well-being, not our own.  In fact, I personally feel like that's one way you can tell if a relationship could last -- do both people in it put the other person's welfare and interests above their own?  (And if they both put God first, the other person second, and themselves last, then I think you've got an unbeatable romance there.)


And then, their servant drops the big bomb.  Miss Lucy Steele is now Mrs. Lucy Ferrars.  Dun-dun-dun.  (At least we didn't end with THAT chapter!)  Happily, neither the Dashwoods nor ourselves are left in the misunderstanding of which Mr. Ferrars Lucy married -- not for long, anyway.  Edward arrives, announces that he's unmarried, but Lucy has married Robert, and then off he goes because honestly, that's enough news for one day, am I right?

What does Elinor do?  Does she go into hysterics?  No, that's Marianne, and she's not even the one involved in this love quadrangle!  Elinor *almost* runs out of the room (running was unladylike, especially in the house, so she maintains proper behavior even now) and closes the door behind her... and then "burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease" (p. 670).  Final, definite proof that it's not that Elinor doesn't feel deeply, but that she "will be mistress" of herself (p. 666).  No one is going to control her by playing on her emotions, the way Willoughby preyed on Marianne -- she controls her emotions herself, so no one else can.  

Yeah, I don't want to stop here, so I'm going to read the next couple chapters as soon as my kids finish school.  Here's hoping I have time to post about them yet today too.  And then... the giveaway!  And we'll be done!

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Willoughby will continue to regret losing Marianne, or is he going to move on pretty quickly?

2.  Did you just read straight on to the end instead of stopping here? 

Monday, May 3, 2021

"The Lady and the Lionheart" by Joanne Bischof

I'm glad I read this book for two reasons.

One, it's shown me several pitfalls NOT to stumble into with my own Beauty and the Beast retelling, which I'm currently writing the first draft of.  Such as, if your 'beast' is going to have some kind of physical 'otherness' that is supposed to be shocking and off-putting... make it something that actually would be shocking and off-putting. 

Two, it hammered home the fact that Research Really Matters.  A lot.  And getting lazy with your research is not okay.  Especially not in the age of Wikipedia.  Now, this book is set in 1890.  My own books are set from 1866 to 1884, so far, which means I have a reasonable idea of what kinds of words, fabrics, slang terms, music styles, and things of that ilk are contemporaneous to the last half of the 19th century...and also with how easy it is to find out if they're period-correct or not.  

For example, hey, guess what?  In 1890, no random chick in Virginia is going to know what ragtime music is.  It's just barely being invented in New Orleans right then, and it'll be years before it becomes mainstream enough that a random chick in Virginia would be able to recognize it, much less spontaneously play ragtime music on a piano (and that after not having touched a piano for five years).  And that's just the one thing that I was so annoyed over that I ranted to Cowboy over it for minutes on end, so I still remember it vividly.  There were a lot of other things that yanked me out of the story because I wondered so hard if they were accurate or not.  

I HATE being yanked out of a story by having my credulity stretched until it snaps.  (I also kept getting yanked out by the sloppy/clunky writing... and I'm not sure which annoyed me more.)

Also, if you're going to write about a 7-month-old baby, maybe check with the parents of some 7-month-old babies to see if what you're having this fictional kid do and eat is plausible.  I know it's been 8 1/2 years since I had a 7-month-old, but... most babies that age don't have very many teeth, for one thing.  They can gum soft foods like bread, but... I'm just sayin'.

I suppose I should briefly mention what this book is about.  A young woman named Ella who dreams of becoming a nurse comes to the rescue of a man named Charlie and his sick baby.  Charlie is a lion-tamer in the circus.  (He's actually named Richard Lionheart, because subtlety is not a big thing with this book.)  Ella is beautiful and Charlie has shaggy hair and tattoos, so that makes them Beauty and the Beast.  Romance ensues.

(Mine from my Instagram.)

(SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH).  So, the tattoos.  I know that they were a way bigger deal in the past than they are now.  Especially in the Victorian era, when people were Extra Sensitive about certain things.  But I really can't think of any evidence from any of my own historical research that would make me believe that people then found them so disgusting that, wow, it would be a tough choice between getting a lot of tattoos or becoming a male whore.  The whole tattoo thing seemed blown way out of proportion.  Yes, they're permanent.  Yes, they're unusual in that era, for people who weren't sailors or South Sea Islanders.  Yes, circuses would have a Tattooed Man or a Tattooed Lady as a curiosity or "freak" in their sideshows.  But... I did not buy that there was any reason for Charlie to assume that the fact that he had tattoos would make him unmarriageable or unfit for ordinary human interaction.  Seemed very contrived to me.

(MORE SPOILERS)  Also, while we're at it, what was up with the semi-erotic scene where Ella touches Charlie all over his bare chest and back and arms?  Now THAT would have been completely unacceptable behavior in Victorian times.  No way was she going to feel comfortable doing that, especially not with her lingering trauma from her rape five years earlier.  That felt very much like the whole scene was just there to give female readers a chance to vicariously get all hot and bothered, and I was NOT cool with it.


The romance in this is sweet and relatable, and I really did love Charlie in particular.  Men with Sad Pasts and Kind Hearts always draw me, you know.  But every time I'd get drawn into the story by the characters, I'd get thrown out again by the clunky writing.  I know this is an earlier book by this author, so maybe her writing skills have grown to match her story-creating skills by now...

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for memories of a teen girl's rape, a visit to a brothel, suggestive comments made by minor characters.  There's also some kissing, but that's tame.

This is my 20th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

S&S Read-Along: Ch. 45 & 46

We only have four chapters left after this!  Only two more posts!  Oh my goodness.  Well, I suppose I should mention right now that I'll be holding a small giveaway when we finish this, with Austen-inspired goodies and so on.  Just in case you need something to look forward to ;-)

Right, so, on to the chapters at hand.  Elinor is clearly a better person than I am.  She is way more willing to think of good things to remember about Willoughby than I would be.  So, um, good for her.

I do get a little annoyed that Mrs. Dashwood is almost acting like Edward never existed, though.  Like, she never commiserates with Elinor about losing him.  At all.  I get that she's focused on Marianne's brush with death, but she takes time to discuss Willoughby.  Not Edward, though.  Poor Elinor.  Not that she probably wants her mom to really talk about him much, but it would be nice to know she cares and sympathizes, you know?

It's struck me, this time through the book, that Marianne has gotten a way bigger character arc than Elinor.  She started out indulging her every passion and refusing to take time to think anything through, and now she's learned to be calm and reasonable.  She's learned and grown.  But what's Elinor's arc?  I know we're not to the end of the book yet, but so far, Elinor started out reasonable and self-controlled, and she's still reasonable and self-controlled.  Hmm.

Discussion Questions:

1.  Do you think Marianne will stick to her resolution to "divide every moment between music and reading" (p. 640) all summer?

2.  Do you agree with Marianne when she says, "My own feelings had prepared my sufferings" (p. 644)?  If she had behaved less passionately, would her suffering have been any less?

Saturday, May 1, 2021

"The Last Fire-Eater" by Charity Bishop

I was fairly convinced through almost this whole book that history wasn't going to let Charity Bishop give the couple at the center of this story a happy ending, and I was kinda mad about that.  Because I got attached to the title character very quickly, and I needed a happy ending for her.  Needed it, I say!  

Lambert Simnel, titular character of The Queen's Falconer (the previous book in the Tudor Throne series), gradually falls in love with Davina, a young woman who knows the secrets of fire eating.  They're both part of a massive entourage accompanying Princess Margaret to Scotland for her marriage to King James there.  Davina has more secrets than just how to handle fire, and the truth about her past ends up threatening to separate them forever.

SPOILER!  Happily, Bishop bends history just a smidge to give them a happy ending.  All is well.  END SPOILER

Sir Thomas Lovell gets a kinder, gentler role in this book than usual, and even makes amends with his wife, Lady Isabel, over the course of the journey.  But don't worry, he got to do quite a bit of rescuing, conniving, threatening, skulking, and generally being a dark hero.  Which made me happy, as he's been my favorite in this series since the beginning.

Although this is part of the Tudor Throne Series, I think you could read it as a stand-alone and not be lost.  This book in particular works well as a self-contained story.  So if you've been curious about Bishop's books, or if you just want to try out some new history-based fiction, I definitely think you could jump into the series here and be fine.

NOTE: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.  I was not asked or required to leave a review, positive or otherwise.  All opinions are my own.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for some smooching, a wife and husband who desire each other, and some medieval violence.

This is my 19th book read from my TBR stash for #TheUnreadShelfProject2021.