Tuesday, April 20, 2010

dragon haven, the second book in robin hobb's the rain wilds chronicles is as wonderful as expected

Robin Hobb is one of my all-time favourite fantasy authors. The world she has created in her long-running series The Farseer Trilogy, The Liveship Traders, The Tawny Man and The Soldier Son, has returned in the latest series The Rain Wild Chronicles. Dragon Haven is the second book in the series so far, and, as always, it does not disappoint.
The dragons that hatched from the dismal clutch of sea serpent cocoons in the first book, The Dragon Keeper, have found themselves forced to travel up the dangerous Rain Wild river in the company of a group of young Rain Wilders – humans who have lived too long in the inhospitable jungle and have begun to change into something else.
The Rain Wilders are themselves outcasts, having been keep alive as babies when tradition dictated that any child born already bearing the growths and scaled skin of the Rain Wilds be exposed to the elements.
Luckily for the dragons – damaged, demented and dumb in some cases – these youngsters are around to help feed them, protect them and clean them, whether the dragons are grateful or not.
Alongside the dragons and their keepers travels the barge Tarman, a ship that is definitely more than he should be, his captain Leftrin and the Bingtown trader Alise – who is a misfit herself.
Alise is accompanied by her husband's secretary, Sedric, who's managed to get himself involved in the shady practice of dealing in dragon parts, only to find that something is making him terribly sick.
As the dragons make their way up the river, the motley crew of Rain Wilders, sailors and Bingtowners discover that being exiled may be just what they all needed.
This novel sees friendships made and broken, lives lost and lovers found. It's also a stepping stone in the on-going explanation as to what happened to the dragons. Why did they not cocoon themselves hundreds of years ago when they should have? What happened to the magical cities of the Elderlings, once the dragons' keepers? And why are the new dragon keepers becoming more and more like their charges everyday?
Hobb answers some of these questions, but it is obvious that she is leading the reader on to the next book in the series. There is a denoument of sorts; the dragons finally reach a place they recognise but it may, or may not, be the mythical city of Kelsingra - the place the dragons are searching for.
Twisting through the main story of the dragons and their keepers is that of Bird Keepers Detozi and Erek. These two Keepers of the Birds - which are used to send messages - keep the story tied to the outside world, so to speak, of Bingtown and Trehaug. The pairs' messages open each chapter and over the course of the two novels so far have developed from friends into something more.

Robin Hobb's fantasy is literature
It is details like the Keepers of the Birds - a whole second plotline and story running in tandem with the main action - that makes Hobb's novels so good. These are the details that ensure her fans keep coming back again and again, and are why she is a best-selling novelist.
A basic run-down of Hobb's plot isn't enough to explain why these books are so very special in the over-populated world of fantasy literature. It's not just the storylines, but the characters and their stories, the creatures and their foibles, the grandeur of dragons!
Hobb has that rare ability in a fantasy author to create a connection between the reader and an unreal world. She manages to make one care about what happens to not only the human characters of her books, but also the non-human; the dragons, the liveships and the sea serpents.
The detailed descriptions of each fantastical animal and plant, the odd society mores and the relationships of characters to the inimical jungle as enormous depth to Robb's novels.
Hobb has been described as a modern Tolkien, which is somewhat true, only her works have more warmth and emotion, and less highbrow posturing.
Am I preaching to the converted yet? I read all 570 pages of Dragon Haven in one sitting, through the night, and when I finished I wished I had the next book to read right away.
For lovers of adventure, romance and fiction – even if you aren't usually a reader of fantasy – Robin Hobb's books are a must read. If you're going to read one fantasy series in your life, try one of hers.

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb is published by Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins, and is available in good book stores and online. 

Read my review of The Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb.

carrie ryan's the dead tossed waves is as good as the forest of hands and teeth; zombie genre with emotions & love

Finally I'm getting around to writing up a review for one of my favourite new authors. America's Carrie Ryan burst onto the fantasy scene with The Forest of Hands and Teeth in 2009; it was a zombie novel for girls.

What separates Ryan's work from the usual genre is her ability to not only add romance to a zombie novel, but to also give the reader emotional insight into what it would actually feel like to see your loved ones return as something less than an animal.
The Forest of Hands and Teeth was a great book; it received a heap of praise from fans and critics alike so I was excited to read the “companion book” to see if Ryan would live up to expectations.
And she has. The Dead Tossed Waves continues years after Mary has found sanctuary of a sort in a seaside town, fenced off from both the zombies and the forest where they roam. This time the action centres on Mary's daughter Gabry who is about 15 years old and just becoming interested in boys – one boy in particular.
As often happens with teens, the boy and his friends convince Gabry to do something she really knows she shouldn't, and the consequences of this one act direct the path of the plot.
This is Ryan's true skill; she takes a common, everyday occurrence like teens doing something they shouldn't, blends it with moral quandaries and coming-of-age motifs and then adds zombies.
Obviously the zombies can represent just about any modern day ill – drugs, teenage pregnancy, crime – but the addition of a fantasy trope means the Young Adult readers this is aimed at won't take too much umbrage.
Gabry proves herself to be resourceful, strong and weak by turns, petty and generous, smart and stupid – just like any teenage girl. She discovers things about her past that rock her world, yet she manages to both understand her mother as a person and woman, while realising that Mary did the best she could.
Ryan's prose leads the reader into noticing the little things, people's mannerisms that give away their inner thoughts, the way the sea appears to a girl locked in a society of rigid rules and how easy it is to fall in love.
The Dead Tossed Waves is beautifully written and shows that while fantasy and genre fiction may not be nominated for a Booker Prize, it can be good literature.

The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan is published by Gollancz and is available from good book stores and online.

the things that keep us here scares the reader out of complacency with its real life look at bird flu

This is one of the scariest books I've read recently, and there's not a single zombie, vampire, genetically modified creature or mass murderer in sight.

Like Stephen Baxter's Flood, The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley is scary because it could really happen. In Flood, global warming destroyed the world; in Buckley's book, bird flu does.
And like Flood, it's not really the flu that we have to be worried about – sure, it kills lots of people and is terribly contagious – it's the people we know that we have beware of.
The book opens reasonably enough; Ann Brooks is an ordinary mother of two middle-school aged girls, her marriage is dissolving and she has to start work again. Sure, she's a got a bit of a skeleton in the closet but it's nothing particularly terrible.
Her husband, Peter is a research veterinarian, who – surprise, surprise – works with wild bird populations. There's bird flu around, particularly in parts of Asia, but it's not yet reached America. Then, it does.
In a matter of days, hours even, the world that Ann knew comes crashing to a halt, and she has to worry about more than just getting a divorce.
What makes The Things That Keep Us Here so compelling are the small details of how one would survive if the modern world suddenly just stopped.
In Ann's town it's the weather that has the greatest impact as a massive snow storm brings down electricity and phone lines. Then the mobile service disappears and news becomes scarce.
In our world of instantaneous communication and too much information, it's scary to realise just how terrible it would be to have to live as our ancestors did – chopping wood for fires, washing irregularly, seeing and talking only to those who live in our homes.
It is also scary to realise that none of us is really prepared. Do you have canned goods, fresh water, a way to heat things, candles and endless batteries in your house? Not to mention basic medical supplies and the knowledge of how to use them.
As Ann's world becomes more and more circumscribed she has to make difficult choices about who is more important: her own children or their father, the man she never stopped loving and who is now back in her life.
Then, of course, there are the terrible things that people do when pushed to the edge. Quite early in the story Ann comes up against the worst of human nature as two people help themselves to others' shopping in the frenzy started by the closure of the schools.
Later, as life becomes more and more difficult and supplies dwindle, Ann discovers that no only is she tougher than she thought, but that she can be as hard as the worst among us.
The Things That Keep Us Here is a great book. Although a little slow-paced at the outset, it soon heats up and the everyday quandaries of people trying to survive keep you glued to the pages. You want to know who survives, and just as importantly, how they do it.
If you're even slightly paranoid, this book is going to make it hard for you to sleep at night. The recent round of H1N1 should have been warning enough, but sometimes, it's not enough just know about something. The Things That Keep Us Here shows us what could really happen – it might be fiction at the moment, but you just never know.

The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley is published by Orion and is available from good book stores and online.

great fun with de la cruz' young adult vampire fiction: revelations and the van alen legacy

In Revelations and The Van Alen Legacy, we return to Melissa de la Cruz' world of the “Blue Bloods”. Think Gossip Girl with vampires and you'd be just about right.
Of course, there's the dorky girl – old name family fallen on bad times – and the ice princess – snooty blonde with a weird thing for her twin brother – so these books are entirely too fluffy to be read.
In fact, although de la Cruz' books are nominally Young Adult fiction, they're way more raunchy and interesting than those horrible Twilight things. Schuyler Van Alen, Mimi Force and her twin Jack and other various teens are punchy, re-born vampires with long memories, strong sex drives and entrenched rivalries.
The only odd thing is that they're expected to graduate from high school.
After the first two books – Blue Bloods and Masquerade – Schuyler has discovered that she's actually a “half blood” vampire and her true love Jack is Mimi's soul mate. Which is a bit of a problem since Jack and Schuyler are having problems keeping their hands off each other.
Then there's the Silver Bloods – other vampires who live on vampire blood and basically turn evil. Oh, they're Satan's minions too. Although Satan is really Lucifer (as in “bearer of light”) and now he appears to have broken free of his prison.
On top of this, Schuyler's newly rediscovered Grandfather has been taken away from her – she has to live with her arch nemesis Mimi (no, not entirely sure how that happened but apparently Mimi's dad is Schuyler's uncle!) and there's something wrong with her former friend Dylan (who may be a Silver Blood) and her best mate Oliver (who she kind of turned into her familiar).
Whew! So, Schuyler's got to save herself, her friends and the world of the Blue Bloods while trying to graduate and make-out with Jack. Oh, and she's become a top fashion model too.
These are great, fun books. The stories are preposterous but the characters are relatively realistic. The teen angst of new love, coupled with realising you really ARE different from everybody else, explains why de la Cruz' has become so popular.
If you have concerns about your “young adults” having sex and thinking about biting people, these books aren't for you. But if you want to give them something fun to read that will resonate with them and perhaps put them off having sex and/or biting people, then the Blue Bloods series is a winner.
Apparently there's another book just around the corner, Misguided Angels, and The Repository – kind of like a Blue Blood history – will be out in June.

Revelations and The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa de la Cruz are published by Atom, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group and are available from good book stores and online.

Read my review of the first two books; Blue Bloods and Masquerade.

single white vampire by lynsday sands is light, escapist reading

Lyndsay Sands returns with another book in her Argeneau vampire series, this time with the tongue in cheek title of Single White Vampire. Like the previous work, Love Bites, the story centres on a family of vampires – the Ageneaus.
This time it's eldest brother Lucern who is the centre of the piece. He's a writer, of romances no less, who is about to have his peaceful life invaded by feisty, young, beautiful Kate C Leever, his new editor.
The plot of Sands' books are fairly predictable – girl meets boy (in this case a vampire boy), boy meets girl; neither of them really want someone in their lives, certainly not a feisty/brooding, beautiful/handsome, passionate/passionate human/vampire.
Naturally enough, it all works out in the end after a number of humorous escapades – this time including cod-pieces and a break and enter attempt.
Single White Vampire isn't a bad book, it's well-written, the characters are formulaic but not ordinary, the prose is good and some of the scenarios are quite funny. But this isn't literature, nor is it the best example of the urban fantasy / supernatural fantasy genre available these days.
If anything, Sands' first book, Love Bites, was better. The plot more adventurous, the characters more developed and the outcome more believable. This time around it seems a little like Sands' is reaching, trying to rationalise the four book deal she (presumably) got on the basis of one idea – love in the vampire world – and the success of her predecessors.
However, if you're looking for a bit of light, escapist reading, there are worse books out there than Single White Vampire; trust me, I know, I've had to review them.

Single White Vampire by Lyndsay Sands is published by Gollancz and is available from good book stores and online.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

harpercollins signs john stephens' the emerald atlas trilogy

HarperCollins has announced the acquisition of John Stephens' The Emerald Atlas, one of the most talked about books of the year. Considered the “book of the fair” by trade and media pundits at Bologna Book Fair, signing The Emerald Atlas is a real cue for the publisher.
The trilogy is described as being in the tradition of Narnia and Harry Potter, and is aimed at middle school aged readers. There are three orphaned kids who have to find three magic books while discovering the secrets of their history. Of course, they also have to defeat an “evil and devastating foe”, announced the press release.
Although this is John Stephens' first foray into book publishing, he was an an executive producer for seasons two and three of Gossip Girl. He has also been a producer and writer on The O.C. and Gilmore Girls, and has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Virginia.
The auction to sign UK and Commonwealth rights from Angharad Kowal, acting in the UK on behalf of Simon Lipskar of Writers House literary agency, was hotly fought, but Nick Lake, HarperCollins UK Editorial Director, won through in the end. Separate international deals and rights for the trilogy have already been sold to the US, Germany, Italy, France, Norway, Holland, and Brazil, with more expected to follow very shortly.
“It's so rare that a book like this comes along; one whose characters you genuinely fall in love with, and whose writing feels so instantly classic,” said Nick Lake. “This wonderful book caused an unprecedented rush of excitement in everyone who read it at HarperCollins. The entire children’s department loves this book, and we could not be more thrilled to have it on our list.”

HarperCollins will launch The Emerald Atlas in 2011.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

zombie tales from joe hill, tad williams, mike carey & more in zombie: an anthology of the undead

You can't go past a good zombie story. Thanks to author Christopher Golden, you can now enjoy 19 great short stories about all sorts of zombies from a range of great fantasy and horror writers. Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead includes stories from Joe Hill (of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns fame), Tad Williams, John Connolly, Mike Carey, Holly Newstein and Aimee Bender, among others.
Sitting perfectly with today's zeitgeist, Hill's Twittering from the Circus of the Dead is awesome. He deftly weaves in teen angst, modern obsessions with technology, reality TV, viral marketing and zombies! It can't get much better than that... although, scarily enough, once you read it, you may wonder if it's actually happened.
Tad Williams' character, paranormal investigator Nathan Nightingale, discovers there's more to the afterlife than he ever realised; the biblical tale of Lazarus is seen from an entirely different perspective in John Connolly's hands and Mike Carey's fabulous story about someone actually choosing to become a zombie and the practical issues he needs to deal with is darkly funny.
Golden, who put the anthology together, says in his foreword that he's always understood why people are fascinated by vampires, but can't get why zombies have become so popular: “Eating brains, my friends, is not sexy.”
“When I set out to edit this anthology, I sought out a wide variety of perspectives on the modern fascination with zombies. I asked questions. Are we so inured to death that we now find it charming? Or – and this was my suspicion – do we embrace these ideas as an indirect way of processing the horror that we feel at the reality of war and torture and death?”
Whether or not you can explain the current fascination with zombies, there is no doubt that this anthology is worth a look. If you can't take sitting through a whole book on the subject, the anthology offers various options – zombies that drop from the sky, zombies that work for you, zombies who used to be people you know – and you can grab a bit of zombie genre in small bites (sorry, couldn't resist).

Zombie: An Anthology of the Undead is edited by Christopher Golden and published by Piatkus, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, an Hachette UK company. It is available from good book stores and online.

steph swainston returns to her world of the immortal circle with above the snowline featuring jant shira

Steph Swainston is probably best-known for her series of fantasy novels about the Fourlands – The Year of Our War, No Present Like Time an The Modern World – where an immortal emperor surrounds himself with the best of the best talents and makes them immortal too. One of the central characters of these books is Jant Shira – the fastest man in the world, part of the immortal Circle and a mixed-blood. Jant is half Rhydanne – the elusive people of the mountains – and half Awian – the most population race who though they have wings, can't fly.
Swainston's latest book, Above the Snowline, follows Jant – immortal but still very cocksure – as he heads back to his birthplace, much to his disgust, in the company of a Rhydanne huntress who's complained to the emperor about Awian incursions into her mountains.
The Rhydanne life is a harsh one; they live above the snowline on mountains so high that there's hardly any air to breathe. Their bodies have adapted over the millennia; turning them into efficient hunting and fighting machines, making them immune to cold, super fast and amazingly hardy. The Awians, naturally, abhor them. Calling the Rhydanne primitive animals. It's obvious that someone needs to intervene in what could become a war.
Cue Jant – the youngest of the immortals he's only 75 years old, and he retains much of his humanity. Jant is a wastrel and a drunk, a womaniser and a bit of cheat. He's also pompous, arrogant and often rude. Still, he's immortal, rakishly handsome and can fly; which makes up for just about everything else.
When Shira Dellin, the Rhydanne huntress turns up in the emperor's city and demands he do something about the Awians, Jant is sent off to deal with the situation.
Along the way, he discovers that memories of his abusive childhood have coloured his actions and beliefs, making him deny much of his Rhydanne heritage. But being in the mountains again, sees Jant slowly realise that he is as much Rhydanne as he is Awian and without either, he'd be less than nothing.
There's a touch of romance in Jant's relationship with Dellin; but it is as much about letting things go, as it is about holding on.
Swainston's world is peopled by creatures who are only a little different from ourselves. It is easy to read the feelings and emotions of any person of mixed-blood in Jant, just as it is to see references to our dying, "primitive" cultures in the Rhydanne.
In fact Swainston has written a piece for Sci Fi Now magazine, called Once Were Hunters, about how she was brought up hunting, rebelled against it and then used the experience in writing Above the Snowline.
The writer's ability to make her characters real to her readers is what makes her books so popular. Swainston's story is familiar, yet different enough to keep us interested. Her descriptions, dialogue and plot are tight and the action keeps moving.
You don't have to have read any of Swainston's previous books – much of the background is given in Above the Snowline – and this one is more a prequel than a an addition to the previous books. Above the Snowline will merely whet your appetite for more stories of Jant, the emperor and his immortal Circle.

Above the Snowline by Steph Swainston is published by Gollancz and is available at good book stores and online.

on the horns of a dilemma; the great bits, and a few patchy bits, in joe hill's horns

Ah... the indomitable Joe Hill returns. There is a lyrical quality to Hill's version of horror, a touch of poetry in not only his prose but also his plots and twists. With Horns, Hill brings us Iggy – a young man, like many other young men in the world. Iggy is in a rut, he's given up on the promise of his youth, he's eking out what life he has left with an accidental girlfriend, a distant family and a heavily embedded pain in his heart where his "one true love" used to be.
Then he wakes up with horns on his head after a night he doesn't remember.
“Ignatius Martin Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a headache, put his hands to his temples, and felt something unfamiliar, a pair of knobby pointed protuberances. He was so ill – wet-eyed and weak – he didn't think anything of it at first, was too hungover for thinking or worry.
“But when he was swaying over the toilet, he glanced at himself in the mirror over the sink and saw he had grown horns while he slept. He lurched in surprise, and for the second time in twelve hours he pissed on his feet.”
The biblical and historical references to the devil are obvious but incongruous as Iggy drives around his small-town America home in his small-town America 1972 AMC Gremlin trying to come to terms with his new look.
It is this juxtaposition of real and fantasy that makes Hill's books such good reads. The New York Times best-selling author of Heart-Shaped Box should be able to write a good read; he's Stephen King's son after all.
While the horror connection is there to King's work, Hill writes with a taught delicacy that reminds the reader of grunge era youths, all skinny, hyped-up strength and dopey, gloomy thoughts.
Prior to getting the horns, Iggy had tumbled from upper-class smugness to white trash depression after the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams. Merrin was his golden girl, the girl he'd loved forever, the one he was going to marry. She was found raped, murdered, dumped in the woods and Iggy was blamed for it.
Wallowing in both his own self-pity and his town's ostracisation, Iggy ends up with a hole in his memory and horns on his head – horns that somehow enable him to know people's deepest, darkest secrets.
The local doctor is a drug addict, the local priest is having an affair, his family hates him … and maybe, just maybe, his brother knows something about Merrin's death.
While I loved the premise of Hill's book, and positively relished his passages involving Iggy and his new-found powers, there are passages in Horns that almost put me to sleep. I have to admit that I gave up about half-way through, read a few other books and skipped to the end, before returning to finish the novel.
Why? The passages that move back in time to Iggy's childhood, his meeting with Merrin and his best friend Lee, are boring. I really didn't care about how the pair came to meet, nor did the detailed background to Lee and Iggy's friendship keep me interested. Hill writes horror and fantasy so much better than he does ordinariness. Still, that could just be my personal preferences talking.
Returning to Iggy's present and the revelations of all and sundry get the book moving along again. Iggy realises that he can influence people with the horns, he can get them to act on their deepest, darkest desires. He also discovers that friendship may not be all it's cracked up to be.
Throughout the book Hill places vignettes of delight; the mysterious tree-house that Iggy and Merrin discover, the horrible death of Lee's mother and the deliciously icky nature of people's revelations are great parts of Horns.
The age old play of good versus evil, the devil versus god also gets a bit of shake up, is Iggy a devil because of his horns? Or are all people devils inside?
I'll admit that I found Horns patchy in some instances, but overall, it is a fantastic read – Hill has produced another great piece of horror fiction, well-worth getting your hands on.

Horns by Joe Hill is published by Gollancz and is available from good book stores and online.

kitty the werewolf (yes, that's her name) ends up in a house of horrors, urban fantasy from author carrie vaughn

Yep, Kitty Norville the werewolf returns. I know, I know, a werewolf called Kitty is more than slightly ironic. Still, for all the millions of 'urban fantasy' titles out there, Carrie Vaughn's radio DJ Kitty is one of the more interesting ones.

In Vaughn's alternate reality, the werewolves, vampires, psychics and witches stick pretty much to type. The werewolves are made by being bitten, as are the vamps, the psychics are humans with extra senses and the witches and sorcerers study for years to gain their powers.
In Kitty's House of Horrors, Vaughn cleverly riffs on the whole reality TV phenomenon, sending Kitty the werewolf into a “group house” with a couple of vampires, two psychics and some other were-animals. Oh, and there's a sceptic as well for good measure.
While they all try to suss each other out, and try to convince the sceptic that they really are vampires, werewolves etc, the production team – headed up by a caricature of the typical slimy entertainment type – film them all. The producers are hoping, of course, that they can get a transformation on tape or a vampire sucking blood, or something else equally sensational.
Everything seems fine... but then people start to go missing.
From there on, Kitty's House of Horrors is relatively formulaic. A few characters die, a few more show their true colours and everyone gets their comeuppance in the end.
Vaughn's books aren't the worst versions of generic urban fantasy being published – I'd nominate the Twilight series for the top of that list – but it's not mind-blowingly good either. It's scope is relatively small.
While Kitty's “ordinariness” is meant to make readers identify with her and her problems, it also, unfortunately, takes away much of the glamour that leads people to read urban fiction.
We don't want a perfectly adjusted werewolf, we want one that either revels or hates their situation; we don't want a werewolf that's happily married, we want one that has to hide their secret from their lover, or something like that.
Compared to the mistress of the genre, Laurell K Hamilton, these books are a little bland. Still, if you love the genre alone, then Vaughn's books are a good read. If you enjoy reading about the world through the eyes of someone like you, who's just a little different, then Kitty is your girl.

Kitty's House of Horrors by Carrie Vaughn is published by Gollancz and is available from all good book stores and online.

the historical romance of the elusive bride by stephanie laurens; a regency romp

Stephanie Laurens is one of Australia's most popular romance fiction authors, in fact, she's been voted the country's favourite romance author at least once.
In The Elusive Bride, Laurens continues the intrigue and romance begun in The Untamed Bride, the first book in her new The Black Cobra Quartet.
Just about all Laurens' books are set in Regency England – lots of dashing heroes, feisty maidens and talk about a 'well-turned leg', highwaymen and inheritances. Exactly the right ingredients for fabulous historical novels.
Now, while the general details of history and dress may be correct in Laurens' books, there is a touch of unreality in the actions of many of the women she describes. It seems that what is generally believed, historically, to have been the social mores and niceties of Regency England, things like no sex before marriage and a complete lack of knowledge about such sex, don't exist in these tales of romance.
While the swashbuckling gentlemen of Laurens' books appear mostly true to historical records, her heroines are much more modern – why, they even seem to go about having affairs and seducing said swashbuckling heroes.
This is great for the story, but perhaps not so historical.If this sort of thing bothers you, then Laurens' romances may not be for you. Still, Laurens' books are fiction and in every good romance there should be a bit of fantasy, right?
So, The Elusive Bride opens with Miss Emily Ensworth racing down a dusty hill in India clasping an important document to her heaving bosom, while blood-thirsty natives chase her. Oh yes, these books tend to be more than a little 'politically incorrect”.

By the way, Emily is in India to find herself a suitable husband. Apparently she's managed to go through all the eligible gentlemen in England and so is reduce to tracking one down in the colonies.
Emily escapes the natives, thanks to the self-sacrifice of a swashbuckling hero, and finds herself meeting up with a group of surly British officers; one of which makes a definite impact on our Emily.
The book proceeds with a feisty Emily deciding that she may have met her 'one' and her attempts to track him down and find out if he's the man she will marry. The poor bloke, of course, knows nothing about this. He's just got to put up with Emily adding herself to his very dangerous mission and trying to defend her from all sorts of other nasty natives – as well as trying not to give in and ravish her on the spot.
The Elusive Bride may not make historical sense, Emily may be a brazen little hussy who needs a good slap and a stiff talking to, but this is an enjoyable read. It isn't serious literature, but nor is it unreadable rubbish.
Laurens has a lovely way with dialogue, her characters are well-fleshed out and the plot mostly makes sense. The fact that no real man of Regency England would allow a woman to interfere with his dangerous mission for the crown, nor would he take her up on a night of hot sex without marrying her or dumping her afterwards, doesn't matter. Who cares about reality when you can just sit back with a nice box of chocolates and indulge yourself in an afternoon of light reading?

The Elusive Bride by Stephanie Laurens is published by Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins and is available from good book stores and online.