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Friday, June 24, 2016

By Helen's Hand by Amalia Carosella

Title: By Helen's Hand - Helen of Sparta Series, Book 2
Author: Amalia Carosella
Publisher: 10 May 2016 by Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 429 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, historical fiction, mythology
My Rating: 3.5 crowns


With divine beauty comes dangerous power.
Helen believed she could escape her destiny and save her people from utter destruction. After defying her family and betraying her intended husband, she found peace with her beloved Theseus, the king of Athens and son of Poseidon.

But peace did not last long. Cruelly separated from Theseus by the gods, and uncertain whether he will live or die, Helen is forced to return to Sparta. In order to avoid marriage to Menelaus, a powerful prince unhinged by desire, Helen assembles an array of suitors to compete for her hand. As the men circle like vultures, Helen dreams again of war—and of a strange prince, meant to steal her away. Every step she takes to protect herself and her people seems to bring destruction nearer. Without Theseus’s strength to support her, can Helen thwart the gods and stop her nightmare from coming to pass?

My Thoughts

I read 'Helen of Sparta' by Amalia Carosella last year and loved it, and in this novel, find she has presented a worthy sequel to the events leading up to the Trojan War. It continues right where we left off, after Helen was returned to Sparta by her brothers. Therefore it would be advisable, for maximum enjoyment, to have read the first book. 

It's difficult to review this book without revealing anything major, however, suffice to say,  I have mixed feelings about By Helen's Hand. Without a doubt Carosella writes well, yet I found the first part of this book to be somewhat slow and repetitive as Helen is constantly missing Theseus, fearing Menelaus and ruing the curse of her beauty.

"I would not give up hope, for I was certain that so long as there was a breath in his body, Theseus would fight to reach me."

What is enjoyable about both books is the full cast of characters - mythology in abundance! Carosella brings to life some of the most famous figures of Greek history - there is a great array of interesting characters. Overall, this is a book about love, friendship, family and fate (in the hands of the Gods). I find it refreshing how Helen is portrayed as more than 'just a pretty face' - Carosella makes her very real and unique, someone who is struggling against her fate.  

Personally, I also struggled with the ending of the novel because it seemed a little rushed, strange and not what I was expecting at all! I have to admit to feeling a little dissatisfied. I understand there are conflicting versions and it is mythology, but it just didn't sit right with me after all I had experienced through the two books. 

Overall, however,  I did like both books and think they are well worth a read for anyone interested in Ancient Greek mythology. They offer insight into what proceeds the Trojan War, providing real substance to the face 'launched a thousand ships', a portrayal of the woman who truly deserved to be known for more than just that. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Nannyland by Jane Elizabeth Hughes

Title: Nannyland
Author: Jane Elizabeth Hughes
Publisher: 30 May 2016 by Pocket Star
Pages: 256 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: womens fiction, romance
My Rating: 3.5 crowns


This delightful, romantic debut follows a sophisticated Manhattanite who trades her fast-paced Wall Street life for the English countryside, and unexpectedly becomes a nanny to the children of a widowed British lord. Who is as infuriating as he is intriguing...

Jordy Greene has it all—the high-powered job, the high-octane New York lifestyle, the powerful lover—until she’s suddenly forced to flee the city. Running to avoid false charges of illegal trading and a destructive relationship, Jordy escapes to England. There she finds refuge in a cottage on the estate of the icy Lord John Grey—a descendant of the Nine Day Queen, Lady Jane Grey.

The four rambunctious Grey children are in desperate need of a nanny, and Jordy is in desperate need of a purpose—so they plunge into an investigation of the Tudor queen’s mysterious life and shocking death. Amid flying subpoenas, willful adolescents, outraged aristocrats, and an unexpected attraction to Lord Grey, Jordy struggles to regain control of her life. In the midst of the chaos, can she find the kind of happiness she’d never thought to have?
If The Sound of Music and The Wolf of Wall Street had a child, it would be the captivating Nannyland!

My Thoughts

Nannyland was an entertaining read with diverse characters as the author combines a family story with the quest to discover the truth behind the history of Lady Jane Grey and her nine day reign. At its heart, however, it is chick lit - light, fluffy and not that mentally taxing. That is why I was so pleasantly surprised by the subplot surrounding the discovery of the supposed truth behind Lady Jane Grey. 

"Why would she risk her life to make Elizabeth the queen and not herself?"

The investigation into Queen Jane Grey I found it to be intriguing and well done. I liked how all the pieces of the puzzle were slowly unveiled and bought together - fascinating when compared to the accepted and understood tale of the 'Nine Day Queen'. I'm not sure how historically accurate it is, but it was food for thought and engaging. 

"Lady Jane Grey was a complicated girl, a product of her time, and her legend has lived longer that five hundred and fifty years! Doesn't that count for something? What matters is that she has meaning, a lot of meaning."

I did, however, struggle with the romance. If you are looking for a sweet escape, this is not the book for you. This is a tale about two people with issues that find a companionship of convenience. No emotional sparks here people - I found it all rather perplexing. Especially after the confrontational/graphic sexual violence suggested with her ex boss/lover. Strange. It was all about convenient sex. I found it very difficult to like the male lead, he ran so hot and cold. It was a little harder to believe they could ever extend beyond the initial 'all about the sex' to something more endearing and enduring. I found their sexual liaison had started too early and therefore their romance never really rang true for me - it was purely physical attraction on both sides:

"No, just suggesting a very pleasant afternoon diversion for two consenting adults." 

So if that is what you are after - a pleasant diversion - then escape to Nannyland. 

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.