Saturday, February 21, 2009

True Devotion by Dee Henderson

True Devotion

True Devotion
by Dee Henderson

Trade Paperback: 327 pages
Publisher: Multnomah
First Released: 2000

Author Website

Source: Library

Description from Back Cover:
She was going to drown...

Lifeguard Kelly Jacobs watched the sun go down and knew time for her rescue was running out. The naval base glittered in the fading light, like a jewel she could not reach. The sea surged and pulled, stinging her with cold.

Until he came.

Navy SEAL Lieutenant Joe "Bear" Baker plucked Kelly from the raging sea when she had nearly given up hope. She'd known he would come--he was her best friend--and she clung for all she was worth to the safe haven found in his arms.

Then she said the wrong thing...

Kelly had already paid the ultimate price of loving a warrior. She had the folded flag and the grateful thanks of a nation to prove it. She didn't dare risk loving another man in uniform. But held close in Joe's arms, Kelly said the wrong thing, and their friendship suddenly hung in the balance.

Now they're both in danger.

The man who killed Kelly's husband is back and closer than either Kelly or Joe realize. They're about to discover that God is a refuge, because this time there may be no rescue...

This romantic suspense novel was a fast read. The characters were honorable, interesting, and engaging. I cared what happened to them, even to the 'bad' guy. The heroine is just as strong (in the non-physical sense) as the hero. Though Kelly is rescued by Joe, her own actions go a long way to making that rescue possible. (As in, the smart heroine doesn't do something extremely stupid and then stand helpless and in danger just so the hero can rescue her.)

The obstacles to the romance were realistic ones based on Kelly and Joe's past history with each other (rather than the artificial "if they'd just talk about it" misunderstanding variety).

Both Kelly and Joe are Christians and their faith is integral to their lives, but the book never gets preachy. It explores their struggles with their faith, specifically why God allowed Kelly's husband (who is also Joe's best friend) to die and Joe live.

The details about SEALs, their missions, and what their wives go through when they're on mission were very interesting and immersed me into their world.

There was some kissing, but no sex. I don't recall any cussing. Overall, I'd recommend this as "a good, clean fun" novel.

Excerpt: Chapter One
They were going to drown.

Kelly Jacobs could already see the headline on the front page of the weekly Coronado Eagle newspaper: "Riptide Kills Teen and Lifeguard." The cold water had her by the throat. Six minutes had passed since she'd last seen the boy bobbing in the swells, and they were being pulled out to sea at a horrifying clip.

She had a lifetime of experience in the Pacific waters off San Diego, numerous rescues, but nothing like this. The water in early May, warmer than usual from La Nina, was still only sixty-seven degrees, cold enough to induce hypothermia. The swells dropped her four feet down in the troughs. If she didn't find the boy soon she wouldn't have the ability to get them back to shore. And this was a big ocean for a search party to cover in the dark--to her left the sun had already set and twilight was fading fast.

The riptide created by the conflux of ocean currents and the outgoing tide had formed late in the day with an explosive suddenness. When conditions changed, the riptide would fade as abruptly as it had formed, but whether it lasted a few hours or a day would not matter in the end. It was already on the verge of becoming deadly.

The fear of what was coming overwhelmed her. This fight to reach the boy was turning into a personal life-and-death struggle. The saltwater burned her throat and sent her gasping as another wave caught her in midbreath. To give up the attempted rescue to save herself, to let the boy drown-- It had been years since she had cared about something this much. She wasn't going to give up, and she wasn't going to fail.

Kelly strained to find a way to work with the waves rather than against them. The boy was here, somewhere near, and she was going to reach him. She thought about her husband as she fought the cold sea. Nick, did you die because you drowned? The Navy had never told her.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Montmorency by Eleanor Updale


Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman?
by Eleanor Updale

Trade Paperback: 233 pages
Publisher: Scholastic
First Released: 2003

Source: Bought from

Back Cover Blurb:
London, 1875. When a petty thief falls through a glass roof while fleeing from the police, it should have been the death of him. Instead, it marks the beginning of a whole new life. The thief is sewn back together by a brilliant young surgeon, and before long he's become the chief exhibit at medical gatherings across the city. It's at one of these learned discussions that he first hears about an amazing addition to the London streets--the sewer system--and an idea begins to form.

The sewers are the perfect escape route for a series of daring robberies, and the thief is the only one with the ingenuity to pull them off. He takes on two identities--the wealthy, sophisticated gentleman Montmorency and his filthy, corrupt servant, Scarper. But Montmorency must constantly be on guard. His whole life is built on lies, and the slightest mistake could betray him...

This novel is a middle-grade historical adventure that will probably appeal to boys (and girls). Details of the time period are skillfully woven into the story, and the problems Montmorency faced came from the problems of the period.

The pacing was very good. The characters were interesting and had depth. I felt Montmorency changed realistically. He's not a very nice person at first but, by the end of the story, he gains a conscience and a goal beyond indulging his desire for wealth.

There was no romance (so no sex or kissing), and I don't recall any cussing. Overall, I'd recommend this as "a good, clean fun" novel.

Excerpt: Chapter One
The pain woke him again. Not the constant throb that was so familiar he could hardly remember being without it. This was one of those sharp stabs from the wound along his thigh. Doctor Farcett had dug deep to get through to the shattered bone, and the layers of catgut stitching pulled as the torn flesh struggled to realign itself inside. After so many interventions by the keen young medic, Montmorency should have been prepared for the agony, but each time the aftereffects seemed worse, and the limited pain relief (alcohol and the occasional treat of an experimental gas) less effective.

The candle on the central table had burned almost to nothing: It must be nearly morning, but there was no sign of light through the bars high up in the wall. Montmorency knew there was no point in calling for the night guard. Marston, silent, still, and unsmiling, saw his duties in the prison hospital as strictly limited to preventing escapes. Never mind the fact that Montmorency couldn't even turn over in bed, let alone run away. He'd have to wait in the dark for the arrival of Nurse Darnley, a brusque but well-meaning woman who believed that bad people could be made good and that providing a sip of water to a sick criminal might help that process.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

A Curse Dark as Gold

A Curse Dark as Gold
by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Hardback: 396 pages
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
First Released: 2008

Author Website

Source: Bought from Books-A-Million

Back Cover Blurb:
The gold thread shimmers in the fading light . . .

It promises Charlotte Miller a way out of debt, a chance to save her family's beloved woolen mill. It promises a future for her sister, livelihood for her townsfolk, security against her sinuous and grasping uncle. It might even promise what she didn't know she needed: lasting hope and true love.

But at what cost?

To get the thread, Charlotte must strike a bargain with its maker, the mysterious Jack Spinner. But the gleam of gold conjures a shadowy past -- secrets and bonds ensnaring generations of Millers. And Charlotte's mill, her family, her friends, her love . . . What do those matter to a powerful stranger who can spin straw into gold?

In her brilliant debut, Elizabeth Bunce weaves spellbinding fairy tale, spun with mystery and shot through with romance

This book is a re-telling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, though many of the details are different from the tale I read as a child. The story is set in a country on the verge of an industrial revolution, and the vivid details of the working of the mill bring the story alive. The other world-building details and the pacing are also excellent.

The characters are varied, interesting, and engaging. I found myself really caring about the characters, which was emotionally difficult since there was also a pervading feeling of pain, darkness, and hopelessness in the story. I kept feeling like the heroine couldn't possibly win out even though I knew she had to. The story did have a satisfying ending.

There was no explicit sex, though the heroine obviously has some because she has two children after she's married. There are ghosts in the story. The magic involved is folk superstitions--curses, hex symbols, corn dollies, and the like--but treated as if they were real. Overall, I'd rate this book "good, clean reading."

Excerpt: Chapter One
When my father died, I thought the world would come to an end. Standing in the churchyard in my borrowed mourning black, I was dimly aware of my sister Rosie beside me, the other mourners huddled round the grave. Great dark clouds gathered over the river, and I knew them for what they were: The End, poised to unleash some terrible wrath and sweep us all right out of the Valley. I let go my hold on Rosie's arm, for I was ready to be swept away.

Yet, somehow, I found myself still standing at the end of the service. I stooped and cast a handful of earth atop the casket, accepted a lily from the vicar, and joined the train of black-clad figures trailing back to the Millhouse--all the while wondering what had gone wrong. Surely at least the mill would mourn his passing, and I would find the old wheel splintered and cracked, riven from its axle, ground to a standstill in the wheelpit.

In the millyard, the old building stood as ever, casting its vast shadow over the house and grounds. Far above where the stones met the roofline, an old sign, so faded and weather-eaten as to be near illegible, spelled out STIRWATERS WOOLLEN MILL: MILLER & SONS, SHEARING. There was no Miller now, and there had never been any sons--just two half-grown orphan daughters, a crumbling ruin of a water-mill, and the mountain of debt it was built upon.

"Charlotte." The voice at my shoulder was gentle but insistent, and I turned to see Abby Weaver, big with child, standing beside me. The black gown I wore, twenty years out of fashion and so tight I could scarcely breathe in it, had been her mother's. Abby squeezed my arm and steered me into the Millhouse.