Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

The Spymistress

Elizabeth Van Lew is horrified when Virginia secedes from the U.S.  Refusing to stand by and do nothing, she risks censure to provide aid to Union prisoners. This leads to providing information vital to the war. The question is whether this untrained spy mistress has enough intelligence, instinct and resources to survive…

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Van Lew is not portrayed as perfect which makes her feel real to the reader. She is brave, but at times too outspoken which puts her into danger. She is compassionate: giving aid to prisoners, mourning the human cost of war for both sides and helping those around her such as the wife of a servant. Sometimes, though, her compassion is overcome by loyalty for the Union resulting in reluctance to aid Confederates needing assistance. She is fervently loyal to the Union, but this at times limits her to seeing that the Union is not perfect. Her good traits and imperfections make her real and this makes the reader want to see how her story will end. Other characters also draw the reader into the story: tenderhearted but brave Eliza Carrington, daring Erastus Ross and Elizabeth’s wise mother. Chiaverini does a good job creating a suspenseful but informative plot which pulls the reader back into the Civil War. For instance, the reader learns of the flow of the Civil War to and away from Richmond. They wonder with Lizzie if Union forces will take the city and what will happen next. The Spymistress paints a harrowing picture of Richmond during the Civil War: fierce confidence transforming into worry as people died, food became scarce and false alarms turned into real battle. The Spymistress is a possibility for readers looking for a portrayal of Elizabeth Van Lew, female protagonists and/or a story of the South during the Civil War.

Want other reads like The Spymistress?

Only Call Us Faithful: A Novel of the Union Underground by Marie Jakober presents another portrayal of Elizabeth Van Lew.

The Widow of the South is another Civil War story featuring strong female protagonist Carrie McGavock. Carrie McGavock is horrified by the carnage of the Battle of Franklin and turns her plantation into a cemetery to honor the dead…

Books such as Elizabeth R. Varon’s Southern Lady, Yankee Lady: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew provide more information about the protagonist of The Spymistress.


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Valor’s Choice by Tanya Huff

Valor's Choice (Confederation, #1)

Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr, and her platoon, needed leave after a costly mission. They did not need to be conscripted as ceremonial guards in a mission to recruit the warrior Silviss. When the mission unexpectedly leads to combat, Kerr and her marines must face inhospitable surroundings, overwhelming number of the enemy and breaking in an inexperienced commander. Just another day in the life of marines if they survive…

Valor’s Choice draws the reader in with a focus on Staff Sergeant Kerr and members within her platoon. Staff Sergeant Kerr is calm under fire, thinks on her feet and knows when to deftly defuse tensions or shoot. She gives the reader a perspective on big picture issues of military life: handling officers without being insubordinate, interacting with civilians who don’t understand – or approve- of combat and keeping members of a platoon in order. The members of her platoon give a more personal perspective. The reader wants to know if flirty Haysole, creative with rules and technology Ressk and the others will survive being bored, being shot at and each other. The reader is exposed to a world with philosophical aspects. For example, the Confederacy Kerr fights for only invited humans, and several other species, to join because they have an enemy they are too pacifistic to fight. This sometimes causes a divide between the original pacifistic species and the newer, aggressive species. The seriousness of the ‘will they survive’ element in the plot is counterbalanced with moments of understated, crude and/or quickly spoken humor. Valor’s Choice is a potential match for a reader looking for a military science fiction book with likeable characters, a look on military life and/or a plot with some humor.

Want books with aspects of Valor’s Choice?

Robert Asprin’s Phule’s Company is another military science fiction book with likeable characters and humor. The brilliant, and disgraced, Captain Willard Phule is given a choice of either resigning or somehow turning a bunch of misfits int0 a functioning military company….

Elizabeth Moon’s Trading in Danger also features a likeable military female protagonist who has to think quickly in the face of overwhelming odds. In experienced Kylara Vatta must keep her crew alive despite the threat posed by an interplanetary war…

Tanya Huff was inspired by the battle of Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu War. She mentions the movie Zulu as one title about the Zulu War.

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One Magic Moment by Lynn Kurland

One Magic Moment (De Piaget, #13)

Tess Alexander swore off anything to do with time travel after it led to her sister finding love eight hundred years in the past. John de Piaget swore off time travel after finding modern times much more to his taste than the Middle Ages. When they accidentally meet they forge an undeniable connection. It could be love if they can survive in the present and the past long enough to decide…

Tess is likable because she’s bold but also sensible, smart without being too academic and able to take advice while also holding her ground. John is a fun character because he’s protective without being unpleasantly dominating, grouchy and has an interesting mix of skills (swordsman who can play instruments). The plot does a good job of showing a growing connection which is threatened by a ruthless enemy and the challenges of time travel. The ruthless enemy menaces Tess and John in a blunt but unsettling way. As for time travel, it is hard to choose love when a beloved comes from one time and family from another. Kurland takes a light touch to differences in behavior patterns, modes of travel and clothing between time periods which makes her tale humorous and pleasant to read. (John’s arguments with someone about having privacy during courting, for instance, are amusing.) One Magic Moment is a good pick for a reader looking for likeable characters, a serious and humorous tale and/or romance influenced by the leads being from different time periods.

Want other reads like One Magic Moment?

Sandy Blair’s A Man in a Kilt also features time-crossed romance, danger and humor. In this case a woman from New York finds love and adventure when she meets the ghost of a Scottish laird…

Susan Sizemore’s After the Storm involves a woman traveling back in time to medieval England and being confronted with a romance she isn’t sure how to handle…

Books such as Paul Newman’s Daily Life in the Middle Ages can provide more information about the past…

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Trojan Odyssey by Clive Cussler

Trojan Odyssey (Dirk Pitt, #17)

Dirk Pitt and Al Giorodino, assisted by Pitt’s children Summer and Dirk Jr., move into action when a mysterious brown tide begins harming the world’s oceans. The tide is no natural threat: a group with ties to the Trojan War plans to endanger the planet. It will take wits and mettle to save the world and find the truth behind Homer’s tales…

Trojan Odyssey is fun adventure. Dirk, Al and the others overcome various challenges that can divertingly fill an afternoon. Among them are rescuing an oceanic hotel, battling a sociopathic group which takes names from Celtic goddesses and retracing the steps of Odysseus. Dirk and Al add to the fun with their nonchalant wit and refusal to be unsettled by what faces them. Cussler’s mentions of oceanic technology, creatures and history give the reader time with the sea. Trojan Odyssey is a good match for those looking for a sea tale, a saving the day story and/or an adventure which links mysteries of the past with the present.

Want reads with elements of Trojan Odyssey?

Cole Emerson’s Godsword, like Trojan Odyssey, is a fun adventure story in which a duo faces a past mystery and a present danger. In this case spy Connor Brock must stop a villain claiming to be descended from Genghis Khan from conquest…

Ted Bell’s Hawke features a determined hero who must keep a Russian submarine from being used in a preemptive strike on the U.S….

Cussler based his premise for the truth behind the Trojan War on Where Troy Once Stood by Iman Wilkens.

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Deirdre and Don Juan by Jo Beverley

Deirdre and Don Juan

Plain Lady Deirdre Stowe is not impressed when the seductive Earl of Everdon proposes to her. She might be plain, but she has another man in mind thank you! As the Earl gets to know her, and her chosen match, he sees that beauty is more than skin deep and her intended is a mismatch. Now if he can only get her to see…

Deirdre and Everdon are engaging in themselves, but it is their chemistry which draws the reader. Their wit and determination not to let the other ‘win’ cause amusement while creating the sense they would be well matched. Their interactions plus past and present heartbreak due to mismatches make the plot humorous and create hope for a happily ever after. Beverley’s descriptions of outfits beautiful and hideous, activities including a spontaneous horse race and social mores bring the reader into Regency England.  Deirdre and Don Juan is a good read for those wanting a pair with good chemistry, a humorous but also serious plot and/or a break in Regency England.

Want other reads like Deirdre and Don Juan?

Phoebe in Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester is another not beautiful heroine who is not impressed when a man famous for scandal comes calling. She is so not impressed by him that she even wrote a book featuring him as a villain…

Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice also have a chemistry which could make them a perfect match. That is if they can stop insulting one another and get past a few misconceptions…

Want to learn more about the Regency England? Books such as An Elegant Madness: High Society in Regency England provide a look on that time and place.

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