My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Published: June 7th 2016 by HarperTeen
Format: Paper Book
Length: 512 pages
Genre: historical fiction, fantasy, magic, shapeshifters, royal drama
Rating: 4.5 stars
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Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…
Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…
Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.
The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?
I was prepared to give My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows a pass when I first heard of it. I usually find period historical royal drama books dull and pretty cringe worthy. Then a copy of My Lady Jane arrived in the June Owl Crate subscription box and I figured since I had it, I should give it a read. I’m glad I did. I expected something stuffy and sluggish but My Lady Jane is a hilarious, clever reinventing of English history with a heavy helping of magical highjacks. It was so much better than I could have anticipated.
Ah, the Tudors. Never a more dysfunctional royal family will you find. In case you need a refresher, this is the period of time where Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church just so he could marry 6 different women. (His wives kept ending up dead, for some reason.) His son Edward VI, by Jane Seymour (wife #3), was brought up a Protestant, while his half-sister Mary, by Catherine of Aragon (wife #1), was brought up a Catholic. Both were struggling for control of the English throne. It is into this political stew pot that our story unfolds. Our authors take the religious tensions of the day and switch them over to a magical prejudice system between shapeshifters, the Edians, and those who despise them, the Verity. Our story is set in 1553, just as young King Edward was about to die from tuberculosis (as history tells us). Only Edward doesn’t die, much to everyone’s frustration. Throw in a royal coup d’état, other dastardly plots, and a horse and you have My Lady Jane in a nutshell.
For the amount of political drama that is the setting, My Lady Jane is a silly historical comedy full of puns and mockery of the sexist attitudes and ridiculous social graces of the time period. It’s funny and tongue-in-cheek. It’s entertaining. My Lady Jane is the type of easy, undemanding book that you can relax with. The romantic relationships, especially between Jane and G, are done spectacularly, with a believable evolution. The humor is clever and sarcastic. It is the exact tone I love to read. The characters are interesting. I especially like Jane. I really identify with her. She has so much book smarts but it’s hard to translate that usefully into the real world. The plot is well-written and the blending of history and fantasy is splendid.
My only real complaint is that it jumps between three POV’s, making it slightly irritating when we switch over to another person and have to backtrack to cover what was happening to them during a time period we’ve already covered from a different POV. I find changing POV’s incredibly jarring to the reading experience, making it hard to really settle into the flow of the narrative. However, I would have never guessed there were three authors. The writing style doesn’t change throughout the book and the tone never shifts. Our authors blended seamlessly together. I have to assume they wrote different parts but you could never tell. There are some portions that drag but the action picks up quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by how NOT annoying the romances were. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows is a fun, witty rump through Tudor history turned on its head that I recommend anybody looking for a good chuckle and some sweet romance should read.
The Secret Tunnel by James Lear
Published October 1st 2008 by Cleis Press
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 325 pages / 1842 KB
Genre: Erotica, Gay Erotica, Gay, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Reading Level: Adults Only
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The Flying Scotsman, one of the world’s legendary train journeys, has many attractions for Edward “Mitch” Mitchell, from the obliging porter to the mean guard to a troop of rough-and-ready soldiers in easily lifted kilts in the third-class carriage. But Mitch may not have time for them all before they arrive in London. When the train gets stuck in a tunnel, a dead body is found in the first-class toilet! Ever-ready Mitch decides to intervene and solve the crime. With his new Belgian sidekick Benoit, he pursues the killer through a crazy kaleidoscope of movie stars, drug dealers, royal scandals, and queens of every description. Can he finger the villain before the villain fingers him? What is the connection between Buckingham Palace and a bunch of backstreet pornographers? And what is the mystery of the secret tunnel? Mitch intends to go all the way to figure it all out.
The Back Passage by James Lear
Published May 5th 2006 by Cleis Press
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 199 pages / 1317 KB
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Gay Erotica, LGBT
Reading Level: Erotica – Adults Only
Goodreads | Amazon
Agatha Christie, move over! Hard-core sex and scandal meet in this brilliantly funny whodunit.
A seaside village, an English country house, a family of wealthy eccentrics and their equally peculiar servants, a determined detective — all the ingredients are here for a cozy Agatha Christie-style whodunit. But wait — Edward “Mitch” Mitchell is no Hercule Poirot, and The Back Passage is no Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Mitch is a handsome, insatiable 22-year-old hunk who never lets a clue stand in the way of a steamy encounter, whether it’s with the local constabulary, the house secretary, or his school chum and fellow athlete Boy Morgan, who becomes his Watson when they’re not busy boffing each other.
When Reg Walworth is found dead in a cabinet, Sir James Eagle has his servant Weeks immediately arrested as the killer. But Mitch’s observant eye pegs more plausible possibilities: polysexual chauffeur Hibbert, queenly pervert Leonard Eagle, missing scion Rex, sadistic copper Kennington, even Sir James Eagle himself. Blackmail, police corruption, a dizzying network of spyholes and secret passages, watersports, and a nonstop queer orgy backstairs and everyplace else mark this hilariously hard-core mystery by a major new talent.
I’m attempting to read Mordred, Bastard Son by Douglas Clegg because my Arthurian legend obsession is still going strong but I’m having a hard time getting into it. I’m about 30 pages in and I’m already annoyed with the dialogue and writing style. I can understand when an author wants to immerse the reader into an era, like the dark ages, but then there is using dialogue that is really just irritating. It’s rather like reading a Shakespearian play and I just want to shake people until they stop talking like that. Then the writing is really choppy, with breaks all over the place, and it really ruins the flow. I’m just not able to sink into it. I’ll keep up with it for a little bit more but I might have to abandon it if it doesn’t catch me soon.
I just cracked open Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherin Gilbert Murdock. I’m literally like 5 pages in. It’s letters and bits of journals and such and you all know how I feel about books written in letter form. I can already feel my eye twitching. I’m apparently not doing too well with my first choices of books after my mini-hiatus. I was hoping to have a review ready for the beginning of next week but I’m beating my head against a wall here. Ugh. My kingdom for a good book?
I read a fair amount of books with witches in them and a good number focus on witch trials. They are inevitably set in some small village fallen on hard times, famine or disease. There is always some reason, something, that drives otherwise logical, fairly decent people into a frenzy. Those who were once friends are now foes. Sometimes it is the outcast accused. Other times it’s a well-to-do woman that the finger is pointed at. Occasionally a man ends up in the hot seat. A religious man or even just a witch hunter is there to goad the people into a passion. But fear, hate, and anger make people do strange things. The tale told in The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman is no exception.
The Witch’s Trinity is set in Tierkinddorf, a small village in Germany. Really, the only things that mark the story as set in Germany are the names and a few pieces of vocabulary. Such as using Mutter for the word Mother. Otherwise this could be any village anywhere in Europe in the early 1500’s. The village and the surrounding area have fallen onto hard times. There is famine and plague (the Black Death). For several years now the grain has not grown in the fields and the mill sits silent. The whispers of witchcraft start and a friar arrives in the little village, promising to stamp out the dark seed of evil. (I have to pause and wonder why the author chose to call the religious man a friar and not simply a priest. There must be some distinction, possibly in the Germanic way the clergy is set up, that I do not understand. There is a priest in the village already but he isn’t important to the story.)
The village of Tierkinddorf is beset with famine and pestilence. The crops have failed for many years and the people are starving. A friar arrives, armed with the Malleus Maleficarum, The Witches Hammer. The villagers hope that the friar can find the source of their misfortune. A witch is among them and God is punishing them all until the wrong doer can be found and dealt with. The friar turns his eye on each of the villagers, meaning to find this witch and put them to death. Now, each person is eyeing their neighbors, their friends, with distrust. How far will this witch hunt go?
The main character in this story is an old woman and bravo to the author for focusing on such an overlooked character. A lot of fiction books with witch trials have the main character as a young woman. All the better for readers to relate to and all the better to throw a little romance into the mix. (Obviously there is no romance in this story.) In reality, many of those accused as witches were the elderly and the poor. The unwanted peoples of society had no protection. Güde Müller is an old woman living with her son, his wife, and their two children. Irmeltrud, the wife, would like nothing more than one less hungry mouth at the table.
The first person is accused and it turns out to be Künne, Güde’s childhood friend and the local healer. Güde knows that Künne cannot be the witch but all her protests and those of her son, only allow suspicion to fall on her own head. Künne, unable to pass a ludicrous test for witchcraft, is burned at the stake. Irmeltrud is then all too willing to tell the friar that her mother-in-law is a witch. After all, the friar brought food and is willing to gift some of it to those brave enough to accuse a beloved family member of being a witch. Güde is arrested under the suspicion of witchcraft while her son, and most of the male members of the village, have left on a long hunting trip, hoping to find food further afield.
(Now for a bit of light historical fact. Being accused as a witch was not the death sentence most fiction books seem to portray it as. A good number of those accused were acquitted; sometimes more than once! Your social standing might never have recovered, but there was a chance you would be freed. Also, the burning of a person found guilty of witchcraft was not as prevalent as popular culture would have us believe. The preferred method was actually hanging (it’s easier), at least on continental Europe. Burning was seen more often in the United Kingdom.)
Witch trial stories are always driven by hate, anger, and greed. The little village of Tierkinddorf has all these in spades. The arrival of the friar (which I have now just realized is never named in the story) and the witch hunt allows people a chance to remove any thorns from their sides. Nobody is safe. At the end, it gets a bit ridiculous with everyone pointing fingers and screaming ‘witch’. Even the friar can see that he has lost control of the situation. Even Irmeltrud is accused by another blackheart seeing a chance to grab what they want. (Irmeltrud does not seem to realize that damning her mother-in-law (already under suspicion because she was friends with Künne) will just open the door for accusations to be leveled on every member of the family, including her children.) Both Güde and Irmeltrud are saved from being burned only by the timely return of the hunting party, who has captured a woman who may or may not be the true witch.
This story can go both ways. It can either be a supernatural story or a realistic tale. Supernatural events happen, involving what might be sex with the devil (only slightly graphic) and dancing in the woods. But the main character, Güde, is not quite sure if these things are really happening to her or if her aged mind is merely tricking her again. We are led to believe that it is possible that all this is happening in Güde’s head. She does display mild symptoms of Alzheimer’s or even dementia during the story. There is either a witch really pledging Tierkinddorf or it’s just bad weather. We are never sure.
In the end, the supposed witch and the friar are burned. (Break out the marshmallows and noise makers! Asshole friar deserved to die.) The villagers, in a frenzy of bloodlust and manic superstition, kill them both. The supposed witch is a surprise. She is not from the village of Tierkinddorf but from the next village over. Güde sees the woman in the woods as a part of the strange witchy visions she appears to have. Our main character remembers seeing the other woman during feast days years ago and Güde can never decide if it is her breaking mind that summons up the image of the woman or if she is really a witch. But at the end of the story prosperity returns to the village and the crops grow again. We are left wondering what really happened in Tierkinddorf.
Best line: “Fuck your Roman protocol!” he snarled. “We are Germans!”
Warning: While torture is not shown, it is described in detail. A torture device is shown to Güde and the process described by the friar in order to get Güde to confess to witchcraft. The description is more than enough. (shudder)
It’s National Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status.
Well, the book closest to me is the one I’m currently reading, The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston. I’m only on page 36 (I am in the process of moving and I am super busy), so turning to page 57 is going to be as much a surprise for me as it will be for you.
–> The next few hours passed in a whirl of activity.
I don’t even know what’s going on in this part yet but we’re in the middle of a flashback from the main character. Since the character is immortal and over 400 years old, that is quite a flashback.
I have a tick that completely irritates me in stories. That is using more than one name for a character. I understand that characters have nicknames and pet names and so on, but those names should be used within dialogue only. Using multiple names for a character in the text is confusing and annoying. Having the name Elizabeth, Bess, Beth, or Eliza sprinkled around a page is annoying because it is both confusing and shows the writer was not able to create enough descriptors for their character. In other words, it is the writer’s poor attempt to not start every sentence with He/She or the character’s name.
Paula Brackston is doing something a little different in her story. Because the main character is immortal, Brackston is using two different names to separate time zones. As a young girl the character goes by Bess and as an older woman the character uses the name Elizabeth. Bess the younger and Elizabeth the older. The other name does not appear when we are reading about one time zone. This is a neat little trick that I approve of to get readers to think of the two names as different characters, even if they are the same person.