Duology Review: Sacred Sins & Brazen Virtue

Sacred Sins
The cover of my copy – Bantam edition, before the makeover cover

Title: Sacred Sins
Series: no official name (Goodreads terms it D.C. Detectives; I call it SS/BV) #1
Author: Nora Roberts
Publication year: 1987
Publisher: Bantam Books

Washington D.C. There is a serial killer on the loose, whom the media has dubbed “The Priest” since he strangles his victim with a white amice and leaves a note saying “Her sins are forgiven her.”
Detectives Ben Paris and Ed Jackson who are assigned to the case react differently when their Captain announces they are bringing in a psychiatrist, Dr. Teresa Court. Ed, in his own tea-drinking, nut-munching way, accepts it quietly, thinking it might help their case. It’s Ben who is suspicious of psychiatrists.
Tess herself isn’t exactly thrilled to have more workload, but once she gets to “know” the killer’s mind, she can’t shake the feeling that she might help him.

Sacred Sins is one of Nora Roberts’ older novels, published “only” six years after her first novel. I tend to prefer her older titles, ranging from late-80s to mid-90s (Honest Illusions, The MacGregor series, Dream trilogy, Born In trilogy, Royals of Cordina… need I say more?). Sacred Sins was no exception – I was taken by the level-headed Tess who cares deeply for her patients, the gruff cynist Ben and the easy-going health-expert Ed. The plot twist took me by surprise, which is saying something! And the romance… it’s impossible not to enjoy it if you are rooting for both characters.
The opening scene of the book especially caught my attention. I love the way Nora Roberts paints the stage – the hot weather, restless people, a college guy playing frisbee while hoping to impress the art student, his friend jogging after the carelessly flung frisbee and finding the first victim. You can almost feel the relentless heat, see the people trying to remain in shade as the sun moves, breathe in the heated air. Nora Roberts truly is a word artist.

Another Bantam cover - and not one of its best
Another Bantam cover – and not one of its best

Title: Brazen Virtue
Author: Nora Roberts
Publication year: 1988
Publisher: Bantam Books

Grace McCabe is an award-winning mystery author, and she decides to move in with her newly divorced sister Kathleen for a while, in an attempt to help her sister through her grief and to build a sisterly bond between them.
Kathleen has taken up a side job moonlighting as a phone sex operator working for Fantasy Inc. Then an employee of Fantasy Inc. gets murdered, and Grace turns to the police detective/Kathleen’s neighbor for help – who happens to be Ed Jackson repairing the house he bought some months ago.

Since I already knew Ed’s eccentricities from Sacred Sins, it wasn’t much of a surprise to find him eating artichokes and drinking herb tea. What did surprise me was that he didn’t try to censor Grace’s eating habits as often as he does Ben’s.
Speaking of which, it was really nice to see Ben and Tess again, and see their relationship flourish. Readers who haven’t read Sacred Sins can read Brazen Virtue without being spoiled much except for how the relationship Ben-Tess came to be.
In Sacred Sins I’d wondered what kind of personality would fit Ed’s. When I was first introduced to the disorganized, energetic, curious Grace, I was skeptical, but soon grew to see why Ed was so smitten with her. I did briefly wonder whether Nora Roberts was describing her own situation and feelings as a mystery writer (among other genres) when talking about Grace’s.
There is one big twist (for me) relatively in the beginning but otherwise it’s the kind of Nora book where the readers already know the killer(s) – the characters don’t. So while the plot tension lacked a bit, the rest was enjoyable. I did miss the quasi-sisterly-development between Grace and Kathleen. I would have liked to see it.

July Book Haul

The “original” meme (I don’t know if this was the very first one – hence the quotation marks), In My Mailbox, was created by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. Right now there are other bloggers are hosting similar memes with different names. I don’t know who’s hosting Book Haul, though, or who started it.

July 2014 Book Haul

  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Desperate Remedies by Thomas Hardy
  • Howards End by E. M. Forster
  • The Awakening (and other short stories) by Kate Chopin
  • Lean In for Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg
  • The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
  • Claire and Massie by Lisi Harrison
  • Right Next Door by Debbie Maccomber

I’ve read the last three, and Lean In will be my airplane read (I hope). Lizzie Bennet will be my welcome-home read, and I am hoping to tackle Howards End in the fall when I’m back.

Batch Review #9

MassieMassie by Lisi Harrison
Oh, the irony and the stupidity & thoughtlessness in this novella are almost too much to bear. Lisi Harrison takes it to the extreme for our little (spoiled, egocentric and careless) Alpha, and at the same time she manages to make it all hilarious. In a way, it can only be funny because it is so grossly exaggerated and so obviously wrong. I wonder whose position the author finds herself in – Anastasia’s or Massie’s?

 

 

ClaireClaire by Lisi Harrison
I found Claire’s FBBFs the opposite of nice from the first moment on. And while Massie can be bossy, she at least owns up to it. There’s rarely anything more annoying than a person who pretends not to be (insert an adverb here) while being the textbook-example of it!
I did sympathize with Claire for being put in such a sticky position. Middle school / high school friendships are difficult to hold together, I guess.

 

311 Pelican Court311 Pelican Court by Debbie Macomber
I liked following the characters (esp. Maryellen & Rosie) and time sure flies by while reading it, but the story itself isn’t very memorable. Also, sometimes a month passes by between two paragraphs. Yep, it’s been three years since the first scene of 16 Lighthouse Road. But kudos for bringing Cecelia back!

 

 

Right Next DoorFather’s Day by Debbie Macomber
This one was published in 1990 – as a category romance? – and is about 200 pages in length.
Truth be told, the characters fell flat (esp. in the first two-thirds). Jeff was both hilarious and impertinent – sometimes downright rude to his own mother. Such disrespect! There’s a line between being cheeky and rude. I’d have thought as a ten-year-old he’d have figured it out.
The plot also went a whirlwind journey. Not much happening for chapters, then everything happening in one chapter.
Well. My final verdict is that while I could have skipped on this one, I did enjoy the time spent on reading it.
(It’s possible to write 180+ pages and still have fleshed-out characters. I’ll just reference to Nora Roberts.)

Right Next DoorThe Courtship of Carol Summars
It was in the same bind-up as Father’s Day and follows a similar pattern. But it was published a year earlier, the son was a much more loving one, and the characters were better developed, especially Carol’s. The post-marriage epilogue was a nice nice bonus, I love those things and get totally mushy over them. And kudos for calling Alex out on his obscure, shady plan!

 

 

River's EndRiver’s End by Nora Roberts
At first I resented Noah’s profession and then I started looking forward to it. Spoilers alert It would have been a lot more interesting if Livvy’s father really was the one. Then I’d have love to read Noah’s work as well. But from the very beginning it was David, and the very fact that Nora showed us the “normal” scenes with him was an evidence enough for me to turn against him. Really, it seems I’ve read too much of her works now and know her methods in and out.
In the end, though, I have to say that Noah stole the show. Oh man, he’s irresistible

The Classics Club Challenge (5)

So I haven’t done an update in three months (shocked gasp!) mainly because I haven’t read much classics. Or hardly at all.

News #1: I’ve started Zola’s The Fortune of the Rougons, read the first two chapters, got fed up with his obsession with virgins, and haven’t touched it since.

News #2: I finished another classic! It’s a novella of 70 pages, but I decided to let it count. Quite enjoyable, lots of tongue-in-cheek moments. Oh, and it’s called Mr. Harrison’s Confessions. Some people say it’s a fore-runner to Cranford.

News #3: I’ve started and finished The Doom of the Griffiths, which was tragic and engrossing and had a chillingly beautiful landscape. Review will be up with other two Gaskell short stories, which all will count together as one “book”.

News #4: I’ve started Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell, which is another novella contained in my edition. I’m somehow stuck in the middle, though.  I don’t remember much of details already. Manasseh is the creepy older brother/cousin. Prudence is an occasionally evil brat. The Indian servant likes to scare children. Lois’ uncle is soon dead, and her aunt-in-law is not very welcoming. Faith, the middle cousin, is unlucky in love, I believe? And through all this, the witch craze is going through the country. Oh, Lois is an orphan from England, of course, who sailed across the ocean to the New World after her parents died. Gah, still have a lot to go.

News #5: I’ve started Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. The warning in the first sentence is true, you know. It truly is not another Jane Eyre. Instead, Shirley plays off of another angle – and historical background knowledge is needed here. Napoleonic Wars, industrial unrest in England, United States cutting off trades, Luddite attacks, what-have-you. All of this made it harder to sludge through the book, and the only main character we’ve met so far – Robert Moore – well, isn’t he a bright personality. NO, he’s not, he’s quite sharp and focused and a smart businessman, it seems, but he’s also a little… dull. So far. The heroine that gave the book its name hasn’t even been mentioned, and won’t grace us with her appearance for some time to come, I hear.

June Book Haul & Wrap-Up

The “original” meme (I don’t know if this was the very first one – hence the quotation marks), In My Mailbox, was created by The Story Siren and Pop Culture Junkie. Right now there are other bloggers are hosting similar memes with different names. I don’t know who’s hosting Book Haul, though, or who started it.
As for wrap-ups, I’m following the booktubers’ tradition.

I know, I know, there wasn’t supposed to be a book haul in June. But it happened, anyway!

June Book Haul 2014plus 311 Pelican Court by Debbie Macomber, it arrived on the last day of June.

 

These are what I read in June:

June Wrap Up 2014plus Blood Witch by Cate Tiernan, I finished it on the last day of June; all of the new reads are reviewed, see previous posts.