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Book Review: The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll

Historical fiction, fantasy, and romance collide in this hypnotic book.

The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll is the latest episode in my Bookshelf Cleanout.  I’d acquired this battered copy at a library book sale, and it’d been gathering dust for probably a couple of years.

From the Cover: From Brittany’s misty shores to the decadent splendor of Paris’s royal court, one woman must fulfill her destiny–while facing the treacherous designs of Catherine de Medici, the dark queen.

She is Ariane, the Lady of Faire Isle, one of the Cheney sisters, renowned for their mystical skills and for keeping the isle secure and prosperous. But this is a time when women of ability are deemed sorceresses, when Renaissance France is torn by ruthless political intrigues, and all are held in thrall to the sinister ambitions of Queen Catherine de Medici. Then a wounded stranger arrives on Faire Isle, bearing a secret the Dark Queen will do everything in her power to possess. The only person Ariane can turn to is the comte de Renard, a nobleman with fiery determination and a past as mysterious as his own unusual gifts.

Riveting, vibrant, and breathtaking, The Dark Queen follows Ariane and Renard as they risk everything to prevent the fulfillment of a dreadful prophecy–even if they must tempt fate and their own passions.

What I Loved:  As The Dark Queen tells the story of Ariane Cheney and the comte de Renard, it reveals a tale of passion, duty, and magic.  The characters are very well-developed, even the side characters who could’ve gotten away with being a little flat.  Their depth only continues to increase as the story goes on.

Carroll does an excellent job of establishing the setting in Renaissance France.  The reader can see every building, every chamber, every gown, and even the finer details of the candles and bowls and rings.  She accomplishes this without great lengths of flowery prose, keeping The Dark Queen driven by its plot and characters.

The romance between the two main characters is sweet and compelling, pulling the reader even further into the story.

This was a book I didn’t want to finish because I was enjoying it so much, but it was also one that I couldn’t wait to finish because I was dying to see how it ended.  This book is the first in a series, and I can’t wait to read the rest!

Favorite Quote:  Never trust a man over your cat.

What I Didn’t Love So Much:  Probably my least favorite parts of the book were the ones that showed Catherine de Medici’s side of the tale.  It wasn’t that these scenes were poorly written, and in fact they served to give a detailed picture of the force Ariane Cheney is up against.  But I was so intrigued by the Cheney side of the story that I didn’t want to read anything else!

Rating and Recommendation:  If you’re a fan of historical fiction with a twist of magic and fantasy, you must read The Dark Queen.  The whole idea of my Bookshelf Cleanout is to read the books I’ve got so I can decide which ones to keep.  I think this one is a keeper!  5 stars!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

Note:  I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.  I will always give you my honest opinion on something before linking to it.

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Bookshelf Cleanout!

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have too many books.  I know, I know.  There’s no such thing, right?  But after several library book sales, the closing down of our local used book store during which I got almost a trunk full of free books, and a few too many episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I’ve decided I need to start clearing some space on my shelves.

Now, that’s not to say I’ll be getting rid of everything.  If you live in a house without books, are you really living at all?  And anyway, some books are just too special to ever part with.  I have a lovely wall shelf my husband built that I’d like to dedicate only to my signed copies and the books that were true lifechangers.  I hope it’s big enough.

Okay, well my problem isn’t this bad…yet.
Image by Eli Digital Creative from Pixabay

The problem is that most of the books I need to (or could possibly, maybe) get rid of are ones I haven’t read yet!  I can’t just pack them all up without at least giving them a shot, right?

So pretty soon you should start seeing a fresh flood of book reviews from me as I go through the shelf of random paperbacks in the dining room, the shelf of hardbacks that don’t fit anywhere else in the living room, the shelf of freebie fantasies from that store closing I mentioned, and the second shelf from that book store closing I mentioned…Oh, and there is a box (or two, or three) in the attic.

 

Wish me luck!

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Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois.  She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University.  Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside DetectiveHer short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Paradox, and Subcutaneous.  Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world.  You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.

 

 

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Book Review: Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan

I won this book in a silent auction basket at my local library.  I mean, I had to bid on it since it was nothing but books about cats, right?  I also happen to like cozy mysteries, so this was an easy entry on my To Read list.

The first thing I have to say about Mayhem is that it’s not quite as cozy as other books in the genre that I’ve read.  While I’ve really only gotten into this type of book over the last few years and I can’t say I’ve delved extensively into the genre, I was surprised to find that there were quite a few cuss words.  There’s also the mention of condoms and more than an insinuation that two characters are having sex.  I’m not offended by any of this, but it stood out to me as unusual.

Mayhem is written in first person in a very casual, sarcastic style that I really enjoyed.  Bea Cartwright is sassy and a little crabby, and she doesn’t hesitate to talk about it.  The book is fast-paced and well put together with a good mystery.  The clues and the red herrings are intermixed, keeping the real mystery for the very end.  Along the way, we discover that Bea has a secret of her own, which just adds to the plot.

At the beginning of the book, the main characters have been in court far too many times complaining about each other.  The local judge sentences them to join the library’s book club.  While this seems pretty far-fetched and made for a bit of a bumpy start to the book, it was a good way to draw the characters together.  Things picked up quickly, and then I couldn’t put it down.

As you may have guessed, Murder on the Orient Express is featured in this mystery.  While I think the book would still be enjoyable if you haven’t read Christie’s classic, I think it’s better for having done so.  I just read MOE a few months ago, so a lot of the elements were still fresh in my mind.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.  My one disappointment is that the cat on the cover was only a very minor part of the book, mentioned maybe two or three times.  If you’re expecting a cat mystery, this isn’t it.  But it was a quick, fun read, and I’ll definitely read more by the same author.

 

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A Review of Out of Time by Monique Martin

I truly believe that you should read in the genre in which you want to write.  My most recent foray into this principle concerns time travel.  Once I finish up the sequel to The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping, I have an outline that I’ve started for something a little different.  I don’t have a title for it yet, but it’s based on a dream I had once and revolves around (you guessed it) time travel.

During a quick little shopping trip to Amazon, I found Monique Martin’s Out of Time.  Since I always try to support other indie authors and it had good reviews, I decided to download it.  I haven’t regretted it.

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Elizabeth and Simon find themselves transported to 1920’s Manhattan.  While they search for a way back to their own time and place, they have to face some major challenges.  Not only do they have to blend into this new world, but there are vampires to fight as well.

The characters are well developed and experience genuine arcs as the plot progresses.  Martin lets the reader into the minds of both of the main characters throughout, bringing their emotions right to the forefront of the story.  Martin fully employs her descriptive powers, whether she is letting us in on the in’s and out’s of what life was like in the 1920’s or simply waxing literary.  One of my favorite lines from the book:  “Umbrellas blossomed like black flowers in a potter’s field.”

I noticed that another reviewer on Amazon stated that the vampires seemed to come out of nowhere in the story and were a bit misplaced.  I humbly disagree.  I think the problem is simply that Ms. Martin plunges the reader so thoroughly into the time period of the story, that the reader forgets what the book is actually supposed to be about.  It’s a rare occasion that the author does such a good job that we forget what’s going on.

I highly recommend Out of Time to anyone looking for a great sci-fi romance! I look forward to reading further into this series!

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