Monday, March 16, 2020

Out of Print but Not Forgotten: "Princess Pamela" by Ray Russell

I have a fabulous co-worker (Katherine!) at the library where I work who told me about a book she read years before and that she used to check out of the library, in the town she lived in at the time, and reread every so often. She has pretty similar taste to mine, so, I searched for that book... and found not one copy, but two, so I was able to give her her own copy! That re-readable book is Princess Pamela by Ray Russell.

It is written in the form of a diary, the diary written by the title's namesake, Pamela Summerfield, Princess being her father's pet name for her as she was born on the same day as Princess Victoria. Pamela is a smart and observant diarist. From the very beginning she takes note of all the news and gossip that swirls around her and her well-off family. Her father owns a brewery, her mother keeps their home in order, managing the staff and acting as a hostess for what are called Saturdays at home, a time when certain friends or family are invited to call. She also has a beloved older sister who has married and moved away, and a brother in college studying for "holy orders" as a divinity student being the grandson of a bishop, his mother's father.

Pamela begins  her diary in 1837. It  is filled with the details of her daily life, descriptions of her family and, it is obvious from the reactions of those around her,  that she, herself,  is a lovely young woman of almost 18. She enchants potential suitors with her wit and intelligence, suitors of which we will learn more as we follow her diary through the months and years.

Pamela's voice is captivating and it is remarkable that the actual author of the book is a man who so  believably captured the innermost thoughts, fears and desires of  a young woman.  We, ourselves, are observers to the plights and passions of these characters, especially Pamela's. Her curiosity regarding the details of these passions often leads her to pester her worldly French hairdresser for advice which, at times, she is reluctant to give.

Princess Pamela is also very informative about the social issues and reforms of that time period, taking note of child labor and toxic food additives among the events and occurrences noted, making this a historical novel as well as a "diary". It is a book that certainly deserves to be remembered and one that can be read and re-read to savor all the details. It seems to be out of print, but used copies are available on both Amazon and ebay and well worth the effort of seeking it out.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Worth Every Penny: "The Lady and the Highwayman" by Sarah M. Eden

Elizabeth Black, a charming and beautiful young woman, is Headmistress of a school for girls. She is also the author of Silver Fork novels that appeal to proper society women. On the side, though, she is the secret author of  a Penny Dreadful series. Books that appeal to a much wider, and often lower class audience of readers. She writes these using a male pseudonym, Charles King, and this series is wildly popular.
So popular, that the reigning king of the Penny Dreadfuls, Fletcher Walker, is becoming more than a little alarmed. The reason for this worry is that he and a group of other Penny Dreadful authors belong to a secret society and one that uses its profits to do good. That is, to help those unfortunate urchins who live on the streets of London and face hardships and cruelty at every turn.
How can Fletcher, a former urchin, himself,  and his colleagues, keep the money coming in when  this Mr. King's popularity threatens to siphon off a good deal of that funding?
The hunt is on to find this mysterious Mr. King and find out his intentions. After being introduced to Miss Black at an event, Fletcher decides to enlist her help in finding Mr. King, of course, quite unaware that this enchanting, witty young woman is the very person he is seeking! What a dilemma! Ms. Eden has written a book that is so much fun and filled with such memorable characters, both our protagonists AND the characters they have created, as we also get the works of Mr. King and Mr. Walker interspersed with the stories of their authors.
I absolutely loved this book and these wonderfully appealing characters and their Victorian London milieu. There is romance! Mystery! And urchins! What could be better? Highly recommended for anyone looking for something enjoyably different. Or anyone that loves a good story!

Friday, January 17, 2020

Until Love Blooms Again: "The Stars May Rise and Fall" by Estella Mirai

 Exquisitely written, Ms. Mirai's gorgeous book The Stars May Rise and Fall draws us into the  world of a Japanese Glam/Metal style rock band, playing small clubs, hoping for their next big break.
Teru has been around bands and the drummer for La Rose Verboten for long enough that he has seen younger, newer bands appear and get record deals overnight while they struggle on. Between gigs, Teru works part time in a convenience store to make ends meet and afford his tiny apartment.  One night, he is surprised to find a note in the dressing room while preparing for a show. Someone had left him a card saying "I can help you. Call Me." and a phone number. At first, he thinks it's a prank, maybe one of his band members? None seem to know anything about it. Later, alone in his room, unable to sleep, he keeps thinking of the card. Finally, building up his courage he dials. Then after a couple of rings, he hangs up, feeling uneasy. Not minutes later, it rings. A text appears. "I heard you sing" it says. Teru explains that he is the drummer, he doesn't sing. Then the phone rings again, and a sensual male voice speaks, telling Teru he has a beautiful voice. That he heard him singing in the dressing room. That he can help him become a better singer. He asks Teru to meet with him. At his apartment. He explains it is difficult for him to get out.

Puzzled, Teru agrees, and a couple of days later he finds himself outside the apartment of the man who was going to change his life in more ways than he expects. This man, Rei, appears to be handicapped. He wears a silver mask covering one side of his face, the other side is beautiful. He also wears a blue wig. He has other physical disabilities, but they don't diminish his talent. He tells Teru he is writing the band's new break-out single.

From this first meeting, The Stars May Rise and Fall becomes a dreamy, swoony love story. A story, not just of Teru's blossoming, all encompassing love for  Rei, but about Rei's past, and his lost love and the hopeful love of a young woman for Teru.  It is a story of heartbreak, and persevering in spite of it. And all around are the clubs, and bands and the fans who can help make or break a band.

Partly, this is a very different retelling of Phantom of the Opera, and it successfully gives us the broken yet brilliant Phantom figure in Rei. This is a book that will stay with you long after you finish. The characters are so real you can hear their music as you read the words. Teru and Rei's love story, too, is one that will resonate with you. What happens between these two and the others in the band and on the sidelines is something you will need to discover for yourself . Available in print and as an ebook. I loved this one so much, I bought both!

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Avenging Angel: "Reanimated" by Laura DeLuca

The Recommender is a big fan of Laura DeLuca's Dark Musical series from the very first one that introduced Lord Justyn Patko and Rebecca Hope as teens involved in a school theatrical production of Phantom of the Opera. Over the years and through the series we have followed them as they grow and age through college, summer theatre and to Broadway stardom, marriage and parenthood and each book was based around a musical. Also, the couple seem to attract "the crazies" as they call them and each book features some murderer or other that seems to target our favorite couple.
Reanimated is based on a version of Corpse Bride, or Ghost Bride, as it is called here and Justyn and Rebecca are now co-owners of a dinner theatre along with Tom and Carmen, their long time friends. This dinner theatre was featured in a previous book, so be sure to read the whole series to know the back-story.
 They have hired kitchen and wait staff and actors who will be performing the original production of Ghost Bride.
Meanwhile, Rebecca has been doing something else besides acting, and taking care of their wonderfully talented son, Erik, who is also an actor, and their baby daughter, Harmony. Tired of being a victim, she has been taking shooting lessons and is the owner of a licensed handgun. And, she and her friend Victoria, have decided to help  women who have been abused and are in need of safety by working for an underground Railroad led by a dedicated Detective and a cabbie.
As with Ms. DeLuca's previous books, this one will grab you and pull you into the lives of Lord Justyn, Rebecca, their children, family and friends. It's a compelling story complete with murder, crimes and ... wait! Is something wrong with Lord Justyn? Surely this can't be the last book in the series, can it? I was yelling "What???  and "Oh, No!" at the Kindle during parts of this one! Not giving anything away, though. No spoilers, here!
If you are a fan (or Phan) of Phantom, musical theatre and murder mysteries along with original characters, then be sure to check out all of the Dark Musical books and you, too, will fall for Lord Justyn, just like I did when he first stood at the back of the school auditorium and watched his future soul mate audition for the part of Christine!

Below is a song, one of several referred to in the book, brought to you through the miracle of youtube!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Secret Love: "An Eternity of This" by Amanda Osborne

Christine has left him, married now to Raoul. The Paris Opera House was destroyed in the process of his trying to make her love him and be his bride. Erik still lives and stalks the  hidden passageways of the rebuilt Opera, listening to all the secrets shared within, and it is through this habit that he discovers a new employee now occupying the room Christine once did.
Genevieve Devereaux, a new seamstress has joined the staff at the Opera Populaire. She is tall and almost pretty, though she dresses in severe dresses with her hair pulled up in a tight bun and glasses, giving the air of a spinster. In fact, she is a former Comtesse, now divorced from a handsome titled man whose fa├žade hid the sadistic abusing monster beneath. She has affected the disguise to hide her whereabouts in fear of her life, and also to indulge her talent for designing and sewing, a talent that had been frowned on as unseemly for a girl, then woman, of her station.
It is this secret, Erik overhears, and decides he can make use of it. But first, he might need a new wardrobe, his having been damaged in the fire. Will his hold over Genevieve force her to follow his written demands?
And as for Genevieve, has she left one form of hell for this new one where this Opera Ghost could turn her over to her hated ex-husband if she did not follow his instructions?
Amanda Osborne has given us a sympathetic and believable protagonist in Genevieve  and her story which takes us behind the scenes and into the demanding roles of the costume designers and seamstresses as they work with the various cast members who populate the operas presented on stage.
And Erik, the commanding, attractive yet exasperating figure who will act out in destructive ways if he can't get what he wants. Still desperately longing for Christine who could never love him for who he was, was he destined to always be alone and unloved?
This is a love story for anyone who loves Erik and hoped for more for him. Beautifully written and realized and filled with details, passion and heartbreak. If you are a Phantom Phan  (and even if you're not) then don't hesitate to get a copy of "An Eternity of This". You won't be disappointed and you'll find yourself hoping for more from this author!

There is a love story that's kept secret in "An Eternity of This". Who could sing about secret loves better than Doris Day through the miracle of Youtube?

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Clued In: "Missing Person" by Sarah Lotz

One afternoon, in a village in Ireland, twenty-something bookstore employee Shaun Ryan is taking his dog, Daphne, for a walk in a cemetery when he's approached by a man who has an Elvis vibe and says he knew Shaun's dead uncle, Teddy. Johnny Mckinnon, fresh out of jail and home to care for his ailing Mum, was best mates with Teddy and says he wasn't dead. He went to New York to get away from the hate the family heaped on him for being gay.
Shaun, also gay, had looked up to Teddy as an icon of cool, and now, his world shaken, he has to figure out what to do with this information.
Somewhere in the US, a group of online amateur sleuths,, is sharing information on a long time unidentified body, a young man, possibly the victim of a hate crime, and found mysteriously wearing a pink dress. Was it his own dress, or did the murderer stage this crime?
Ratking, the admin of this particular group, has to keep reminding the members that they are now limited to helping ID the missing person and no longer sleuthing. But as the facts on this particular unidentified begin to mount up can Ratking, Rainbowbrite and Mommiedearest keep themselves from working the case to help police bring closure for a family out there, waiting for word.
Meanwhile, Pete, a family man with a stepdaughter and a wife who works a lot, is keeping tabs on the forum. He participates secretly, using the name Bobbiecowell. What is his interest in this case?
How will the people behind these online identities come together to solve this mystery? And what of Shaun and the revelation of his uncle? Get a copy of Missing Person and find out!
Sarah Lotz has once again written a riveting read all night story with great characters and an unusual premise. She is one of the Recommender's favorite authors and  recommends her work regularly to everyone... including anyone reading this review!

Saturday, June 15, 2019

First Love: "Of Love and Deception" Book 1 of the Tainted Love Series by Kayla Lowe

Sarah MacKenzie and her best friend/cousin, Addison, are settling into their freshman dorm and ready to start college life. The future seems to hold endless possibilities for these two girls from good homes with loving, supportive parents. Both girls are excellent students and as they begin classes they fall into a routine of studying and enjoying each other's company.
One thing they have at college that they didn't have at home is... faster internet! Sarah is a Phantom of the Opera Phan and she enjoys interacting online with others who share her passion. It's just harmless fun, the way Addison feels about her favorite group, Duran Duran.
But just as they are getting ready to go out to dinner with friends, a message pops up on Sarah's laptop signed YOUR PHANTOM LOVER all in caps and his opening sentence stops her in her tracks: WELL HELLO THERE, ANGEL! Who could this be? Why all caps?
Later, while enjoying ice cream in their room with Addison, Sarah opens her laptop to find more messages from this mysterious Phantom presence. Bit by bit, message by message, Sarah and her mysterious Phantom begin to communicate and then they move beyond simply messaging to sharing their innermost thoughts, dreams and ... feelings.

Can Sarah be falling for someone who seems to be luring her deeper and deeper into an online reality. Addison has been chatting with someone, too. The ability of the faster internet seems to distract these two young women from what was most important to them, getting a good college education and making their parents and grandparents proud of them.
Sarah, especially, finds herself longing for those moments when she can chat with her Phantom. Will she ever meet this Opera Ghost in real life? Will he be everything she dreamed about if she does?

Author Kayla Lowe brings these young women and their families to life in a completely believable way. The Recommender found herself yelling at the Kindle and trying to advise Sarah to wait, to be cautious! Can this online Phantom be too good to be true? Be sure to get a copy of Of Love and Deception, and by the end you, too, will find yourself anxiously awaiting the next chapter of the Tainted Love series!