Posted in Historical Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Regency romance and mystery: Duels & Deception

Duels & Deception, by Cindy Anstey, (Apr. 2017, Macmillan/Swoon Reads), $10.99, ISBN: 9781250119094

Recommended for readers 12+

It’s 1817, and Lydia Whitfield is an English society heiress with her future planned out for her – even her marriage partner is planned for her, thanks to her departed father. She will run the family estate until her marriage, when Lord Aldershot, her intended, will take over the day to day work. Until then, her drunkard uncle and his unbearable wife and daughters are living at Roseberry Hall with Lydia and her mother. She wants to be free of her meddling uncle, so she contacts Mr. Robert Newton, a law clerk, to begin drawing up marriage contracts, and everything seems to be progressing nicely. Until Lydia is kidnapped!

Lydia is taken as she’s about to meet with Mr. Newton regarding the contracts, and he ends up a victim of circumstance; first kidnapped with her, then rudely thrown out of the coach. But the kidnappers aren’t very thorough, and make it way too easy for Lydia to escape (with Robert’s help). Lydia starts wondering if the kidnapping had far deeper motives than a ransom, and Mr. Newton is too happy to help her investigate. After all, it keeps him close to Lydia, who he finds himself falling for… and she feels the same about him. Can the two get to the bottom of the plot and work through their feelings for one another while maintaining a sense of propriety?

Duels & Deception is a fun mix of proper Regency romance and a complex whodunit. The kidnapping comes with an interesting twist that stands out, and the main characters engage in witty, flirty banter that is sweet and funny. I did struggle with the pace of the novel at times, but overall, romance and historical fiction fans will enjoy this one. A glossary and discussion questions round out the book.

Duels & Deception was named one of Entertainment Weekly‘s 35 Most Anticipated YA Novels of 2017 and received a starred review from Voya magazine. Add Cindy Anstey’s previous historical romance, Love, Lies & Spies to your booktalking list, and spice it up a little with some superpowers, courtesy of Tarun Shanker’s These Vicious Masks series.

Posted in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Regency, betrayal, superpowers: These Ruthless Deeds

These Ruthless Deeds (These Vicious Masks #2), by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas, (March 2017, Macmillan), $10.00, ISBN: 9781250127952

Recommended for readers 12+

The sequel to These Vicious Masks (2016) picks up shortly after the first novel leaves off. Evelyn is grieving the loss of her sister and finds herself working with a secret society that promises her they are devoted to protecting and working with Evelyn and her friends: friends with special abilities. She’s reunited with Mr. Kent, and even manages to locate Mr. Braddock. Her reputation is intact, even if she does have to be around the awful Mrs. Atherton, who is somehow involved with the society’s work. Still, Evelyn has a bad feeling about things. She’s going to have to take a deeper look into the society, and what she finds may not sit so well with her, after all.

I loved These Vicious Masks, and was excited for the sequel. While it did take a little bit of reading to get as into the second book as I did the first, it was worth it. If you haven’t picked up These Vicious Masks, I suggest you read it before diving into These Ruthless Deeds – you’ll be at a disadvantage in terms of key characters and situations otherwise. Everything that made book one such a strong read is here: secret organizations, heroes and villains (and you may not always know who is who), intrigue, betrayal, witty banter, and a strong heroine.

Display and booktalk with Alison Goodman’s Lady Helen series (Dark Days Club and Dark Days Pact), and Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series, for readers with a craving for more steampunk.

Posted in Fantasy, Young Adult/New Adult

These Vicious Masks – a Regency X-Men!

viciousThese Vicious Masks, by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (Feb. 2016, Macmillan), $9.99, ISBN: 9781250073891

Recommended for ages 13+

Evelyn is so tired of dealing with society’s expectations. She isn’t interested in the balls her mother insists they attend, she isn’t interested in marriage – she’d rather help her sister, Rose, who has the scandalous dream of becoming a doctor! The two have earned the pearl-clutching reputation for healing people at their country estate, and that just won’t do in London society. The sisters meet an odd gentleman named Sebastian Braddock at one gala, and don’t know what to make of him. Is he eccentric, or just crazy? All bets are off the next morning, when Evelyn wakes up to discover Rose is gone. No matter what her so-called note said, she knows that Mr. Braddock is somehow mixed up in this. She heads off to London to find her sister and bring her home.

Once she arrives in London, though, Evelyn finds out that she, Rose, Mr. Braddock, and even Mr. Kent, the dashing gentleman that’s had eyes for her – are a very special group of people, with special abilities that attract the attention of a scientist who experiments on these gifted individuals. Rose’s time is running out, and Evelyn finds herself forced to trust Mr. Braddock to help her get her sister back home safely.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It’s Heroes, circa 1820; X-Men meets Jane Austen, as I’ve read elsewhere. We’ve got a nefarious underground organization pulling strings, young men and women with incredible abilities that they may not even be aware they have, dashing men and daring young women rushing headlong into danger to save one of their own. I love the witty dialogue here – I chuckled out loud often while reading. Evelyn is a brilliant protagonist, sarcastic and vulnerable, smart and strong. Her banter with Mr. Kent is delicious, and her frustration at her own attraction to Sebastian Braddock is hilarious.

It’s not all laughs, with a very real danger in the form of a doctor hell bent on discovering the source of these abilities. Evelyn is terrified at the prospect of losing her sister, and furious at the time it’s taking to locate her. She finds herself in some of the seediest spots in London and up against people, the likes of whom she’s never encountered before. You’ll laugh, but you’ll white knuckle the covers as you read this book, trust me. The ending of the book leads me to think/hope/wish that there’s another book coming, and while I normally sigh and say, “Everything is a trilogy/quadrilogy/series these days,” here, I’ll say, “Yes, please, more.”

Add this one to your YA collections where you have fantasy fans. No steampunk here, just good storytelling and superpowers, no tights, no capes (unless we’re talking opera cloaks, that’s a different story).