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TBR Challenge – New to Me Books

fairshine I went back to “Sunday” in the Back to School Challenge this month, to read the second of the books I’d chosen for that day.

The prompt was

– Read a book that has in its title the word “Sunday”, “Sun”, “light”, “shine”, “hot, “star” or “day”, or any variation of these words, or a word you think might have a similar connotation.

and I’d chosen a book by the British author, Sylvia Thorpe called Fair Shine the Day, which is a piece of historical fiction with romantic elements set during the time of the English Civil War. This period of English history seems to get a lot less attention than Tudor times, the Regency, or Victorian eras when it comes to historical romance and I can’t quite work out why. There’s plenty of actual history to get one’s teeth into, and of course, that whole Royalist/Puritan divide is, I’d have thought, a romance writer’s dream.

In any case, Fair Shine the Day was very enjoyable – if rather short, but the story is continued into the second book in the series. The writing was excellent, the dialogue had a very authentic ring and Ms Thorpe has a real eye for period detail. The heroine of the story is Charity Shenfield, a poor relation who lives with her uncle and aunt, but who is treated more like a servant than a member of the family. Fortunately, she meets with kindness and affection at the hands of Lord and Lady Conyngton, the local lord and lady of the manor, and is invited there often (to the chagrin of her aunt and cousin Jonas) and strikes up a firm friendship with Darrell Conyngton, four years her senior, and whom she looks upon as an older brother.

The book opens in 1641, and the inhabitants of the sleepy Devonshire village of Conyngton St. John are almost blissfully unaware that their way of life is about to change forever. The book covers a period of around six or seven years, and while the focus is on Charity and events at Conyngton in the absence of both Darrell and his father, who have gone to fight with the king, Ms Thorpe never loses sight of the political situation at the time and integrates the history into her fiction very well, although I confess, I felt once or twice that there was a little too much “telling” and not enough “showing”. There were also couple of times I would have liked her to have taken a little time to have explored a particular emotional development. But I think that may have more to do with the overall page-count (a mere 220 pages) and perhaps with the tastes of the time the book was written (1964) than any deficiency in Ms Thorpe’s storytelling abilities.

My full review can be found here. Bottom line – I enjoyed it enough to seek out the other books in the series, which – fortunately – seem easily obtainable (used) here, so I won’t have to break the bank!

I’m doing the Multi-Blog TBR challenge as well as the Back to School one, and chose Lynsay Sands as a “new-to-me” author for my March read. I know she’s both prolific and popular but for some reason, I’ve not read anything by her, so I picked up Love is Blind, one of her earlier books, which (I assume) is set in the Regency period. I say “I assume” because the book is very much a wallpaper historical with no real indication of when it’s set. I freely admit to being a bit of a stickler when it comes to liking some actual history in my historical romances – but every now and then, I’ll find something which I enjoy almost in spite of myself, and this was one of those times. Anachronistic dialogue and expressions abound, and the tone is quite modern, but the principal characters were so charming and there was such a sense of fun about the whole thing, that I enjoyed it, regardless. My full review is here should you feel so inclined.

I’m also part-way through another book for the Back to School challenge – Shadows of the Night by Jo Beverley, but I didn’t have time to finish it before this post was due, so that’ll be on the agenda next time. I did manage to decrease the pile of books by the bed by two in March – I’m aiming to knock off at least one more next month.

– Caz Owens
Ann-Of-Cambray For this month’s TBR Challenge, I was tasked with reading a book by an author who’s new to me. Since I tend to browse the UBS and pick up random books that sound interesting, I have plenty of things in my TBR stack from authors I’ve never read before. I was I the mood for a medieval, so I grabbed Ann of Cambray by Mary Lide.

Lide’s novel was published in 1984, but it’s not the old school bodice ripper that its cover might suggest. In fact, while there’s certainly a romance intrinsic to the story, the historical side of things is so meaty that I suspect that this book, published as romance in the 1980s, would get classified as historical fiction nowadays. Set during the struggle between Stephen and Matilda for the throne of England, Ann of Cambray sweeps across several years in the heroine’s life. We see her first as an orphaned child sent from her beloved home at Cambray to live as a ward of her liege lord, Raoul of Sedgwick.

At the beginning, Ann presents as a bit of a brat. However, given that she lost her mother, father and brother and then had to move from the somewhat isolated outpost along the border at Cambray to a wealthier home at Sedgwick where she doesn’t entirely fit in, her behavior makes sense. And as she grows up, she also grows less frustrating. During their first encounters at Sedgwick, Ann and the young Lord Raoul find themselves frequently at odds and I had the sinking sensation that this story would involve hundreds of pages of Raoul “taming” her (i.e. breaking Ann’s spirit) with punishing kisses, forced seduction and all the other usual tools in an alphahole’s arsenal. Thankfully, my assumptions proved incorrect.

There are still moments in this story that feel a little uncomfortable. However, they are not “Raoul is SUCH a jerk” uncomfortable. It’s more that sense of realizing the hugeness of the imbalance of power between men and women at this time in history. At times, that imbalance made me a little uncomfortable, but when Ann stands up for herself against powerful men of her day, it made me appreciate her bravery more. While Raoul comes on a bit too strong at times in the beginning, by the end of the book, I thought Lide had done a good job of showing his more tender side without making him look overwhelmingly modern.

If you like a high conflict story with lots of tension, you’ll definitely get that here. However, much of the tension is external rather than internal. We don’t get page after page of mental lusting. Instead, we have battles of wits between Raoul and Ann(and thankfully, neither goes in totally unarmed) as well as the external forces of battle and court politics acting to keep the couple apart at times. During the middle of the book, the power play between Ann and Raoul sometimes degenerated into a bit too much bickering, but things definitely picked up as the book moved into its second half. At that point, the political drama kicked into high gear and the romance also began to run more smoothly. If you like lots of history with your historicals and enjoy an action-packed story, I’d definitely recommend Ann of Cambray This one gets a A- from me.

– Lynn Spencer

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