Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mini Musings on: Sebastian St Cyr Mysteries by C. S. Harris

I normally try to start a new series with the first book so that I can have a full understanding of characters and motivations. My reason for beginning with book 3 in the Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries was because I read the first few chapters and was instantly intrigued. Since the first two books weren't in stock, I picked up the two that were, books 3 and 4 and ended up being happy I did.

Why Mermaids Sing is book three in the Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery series. Someone is killing the sons of powerful men in Regency England. When a second young man is found dead in the same manner of one just months prior, Chief Magistrate, Sir Henry Lovejoy enlists the assistance of Sebastian St. Cyr in finding the killer. Since Sebastian is a Viscount and from the same world as the two young men found dead, Lovejoy believes that he's the right person for the job. Sebastian takes up piecing the clues of the murders together and it becomes a race against time, because the closer Sebastian gets to the killer the more bodies he leaves behind.

The downside to starting this series on the third book are the many relationship threads that I didn't have a full grasp of, but the background info did help me piece things together. Sebastian interacts with a lot of people throughout the course of the book. There is an antagonistic relationship between he and Lord Jarvis, cousin to the prince regent. A shaky one between Sebastian and his father, a lighthearted one with his friend Paul Gibson, and a romantic one with his lover, the beautiful actress Kat Boleyn. These relationships are woven through the story alongside the mystery, at times crossing over.

Of all the relationships, I disliked Sebastian and Kat the most. I'm a romantic at heart and can usually find something to love about all romantic pairings, but these two lacked spark. Sebastian is so in love with Kat that he can forgive her anything, and so absolutely soft with her that I felt he was out of character. Kat fills the role of "prostitute with a heart of gold" so well it was a bit nauseating. She's also a martyr, which doesn't help my opinion of her. They got along like two peas in a pod and yet, I was most happy toward the end of the book when a secret is revealed that causes them to part ways. I think it would serve me well to go back and read the first two books so that maybe I will appreciate Kat more.

The mystery was interesting, but I didn't like that there were no clues that pointed to the killer. Also the killer's logic was flimsy at best and even though his reasons were explained, I felt he lacked the background that would make his intense anger understandable. But that's just me. Grade B-

Where Serpents Sleep picks up months after the end of Why Mermaids Sing. Having found out a devastating secret, Sebastian and his love Kat have broken off their engagement and Sebastian is on the outs with his father. He's been living a dissolute life since then, getting lost in alcohol and debauchery. Sebastian is perfectly content to keep on this way but then Blue Stocking, Hero Jarvis (the aptly named daughter of his enemy) comes to him seeking his assistance with a dangerous situation she's become involved in, and Sebastian can not resist a good mystery. He and Hero form a reluctant duo and set out, both in their own ways, to find the killers responsible for the deaths of eight prostitutes.

If you like heavy, all-encompassing mysteries then this series is probably not for you. While the mystery in this book was easy to follow and in the end everything made sense, there was nothing stand out about it. I went into this series for the mystery, but have found that I enjoy the relationship threads a lot more. Between Sebastian and his father, Sebastian and Lord Jarvis, Sebastian and Hero and Hero and her father, Lord Jarvis, there is a lot to love. The characters are exceptionally well drawn, though I find Lord Jarvis to be a bit of a caricature at times, but that could very well be the way he is supposed to be.

As a whole, I liked Where Serpents Sleep a lot more than Why Mermaids Sing, I believe because of Hero. She's my type of heroine. Smart, adept, witty, and a worthy match to the hero-- in this case Sebastian. In fact, I enjoyed Hero more than Sebastian in this book, most likely because of Sebastian's sadness due to his severed relationship with Kat. In Why Mermaids Sing, I didn't really take to Kat, which made it hard to sympathize with Sebastian's current plight. I much prefer Sebastian with Hero. Sure, their relationship is nothing short of contentious, but they have a mutual respect and a certain like-mindedness that makes them an interesting pair. I am intrigued by these two and look forward to seeing where they go. Grade B+

Visit C. S. Harris here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Musings on: Ravishing in Red by Madeline Hunter

I became a fan of Madeline Hunter with her Rothwell & Seducer series. That led me to her back-list of medievals, which I enjoyed as well. With her new series, The Rarest Blooms, Hunter introduces us to four women from different backgrounds who, through varying circumstances, have come to share a home. Under the tutelage of the homes owner, Daphne, the women raise and sell rare flowers. Ravishing in Red is the story of Daphne's cousin, Audrianna Kelmsleigh.

Audrianna's father was accused of letting bad gunpowder be used during the
Peninsular War, which resulted in the tragic death of soldiers. The outcome of the tragedy sparked an inquisition that ultimately led to her father's suicide. The stain of suicide left a bad mark on her family. With future marriage prospects gone, Audrianna decided that she would live independently and left her mother's home to live with her cousin Daphne.

Audrianna remained convinced that her father was wrongly accused, so when
an ad appears in the paper by the "Domino," wishing to meet with Audrianna's deceased father, she goes in his place, hoping the meeting will result in information she can use to clear her dead father's name. She travels alone to the meeting place, a coaching inn, with her cousin's gun as protection.

Lord Sebastian Summerhays, one of the Audrianna's father's persecutors, also read the ad and goes to the coaching inn hoping to find the source of the bad gunpowder. Sebastian and Audrianna come face to face believing that the other is the "Domino." W
hile the two are distracted, the real Domino shows up. A tussle occurs, the gun is discharged, Sebastian is grazed, the whole inn is alerted, and they are compromised.

Sebastian thinks up a plan that paints the two as lovers in order to keep Audrianna from being accused of trying to kill the marquess's brother, but the speculation is damning and soon Sebastian is being depicted as a villain and Audrianna's already weakened reputation is at stake. For Sebastian there is only one solution that will clear both their names and hush rumors: marriage.

Ravishing in Red has everything in it that I love about Hunter's writing.
The historical detail, characterization, and descriptive writing make reading her books a joy. Hunter shines at writing male/male and female/female interpersonal relationships in a very believable way, and both types are present in this book. The four women in the Rarest Blooms House are shown to care deeply for each other. They have come together and formed a sisterly commune, that is an escape of sorts from their pasts. The one rule of the house, that no one pry into anyone's background, gives all the women a peace that they may not otherwise have.

I was especially taken with Sebastian and his brother, Morgan, the marquess. Morgan is chair bound due to war injuries that resulted in him losing use of his legs. The relationship between Sebastian and Morgan is very interesting. Due to Morgan's injuries, Sebastian has stepped into his brother's place as marquess. It is a role that he never intended to have and he struggles with his brother being alive to see his position taken. This causes Sebastian a lot of strife, especially when he begins to feel that he and Morgan share not only a life and title, but Audrianna as well.

Sebastian is my favorite type of hero. A reformed rake, he's doing his best to keep his repaired reputation as spotless as possible, that's why when the fall out from the inn fiasco takes place, he feels that marriage is the best way to go.
He's sensual, charming and understanding. He strives to do the right thing by his brother and Audrianna, even if that means his feelings are not acknowledged. Sebastian is for them the calm in the storm, even though he has is own raging storm inside.

It took me a while to warm to Audrianna. In the beginning of the book s
he made decisions that were not smart, like taking a gun that she didn't know how to use to meet up with a complete stranger at an inn. I felt that she lacked self awareness and at times life awareness. She put herself in situations that any woman of her time would steer clear of, or at least find a less clueless way of going about them. About halfway through, she seemed to smarten up a little and I began liking her more.

Overall, the book was really good. I enjoyed the story as a whole. It was well plotted and paced. The set up for future books in the series was discretely so it did not overwhelm the story. The little tidbits revealed about the women of the Rarest Blooms house, and the men who make up Sebastian's circle were intriguing enough for me to look forward to all their stories. Grade B.

Visit Madeline Hunter here. Read an excerpt for Ravishing in Red here.
Be sure to check out her book trailers, they are really good.