The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell is the second story set in the same world and with the same protagonists. I read it without reading the first novella, The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale, also from Carina Press, and I didn’t feel this novel/novella (it’s right on the cusp) suffered for it. I suspect it contained many spoilers for the first story, and I can guess the general plot of the first story, but at no point did I feel lost or confused for not having read it.
That said, it’s possible this review might contain spoilers for The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale simply because I’m not entirely sure which bits might be spoilery. You’ve been warned.
Stormy, as she is affectionately known, is apparently a time pirate. I say apparently because nothing particularly piratical takes place in BToSG (sorry, it’s too long to keep typing out), but it’s part of her back story. She was born in 19th century London, spent her childhood poor and on the streets until she was taken in by a time-traveller who took her and her adopted brother to the 21st century at age 14ish. Now living in the 19th century and married to the Duke of Leister, I found Stormy a little too blasé about her acquired wealth. I was willing to believe that hanging out in the 21st century modern mannerisms might have rubbed off on her, but I was unwilling to believe that after a childhood of poverty she could so casually mention her toddler daughter intentionally destroying a dress without being angry for her ungratefulness. (Especially since Stormy isn’t a bad person.) It was a really minor, throw-away line but it bothered me for the lack of authenticity.
The story revolves around Stormy identifying a suspicious time traveller, having her husband and brother help her follow him around and then a rescue adventure after her brother accidentally gets himself transported in time with aforementioned shifty time traveller. They end up in Salem a couple of years after the witch trials where her brother appearing out of time gets him arrested for witchcraft. Of course.
It was a fun read. Not the kind of story to be taken too seriously
because then you start noticing the people in the past sounding a little bit too much like modern Americans. There was a surprising twist near the end which livened it up after I thought the tying up of loose ends would be predictable. Stormy started out as brash and amusing but later on became a bit less of the strong heroine I was expecting. From what we learnt/were told about her, I expected more saving of the day on her part.
I’ve tagged it as romance, because it’s marketed thus, but the pairing isn’t the main character (since Stormy is already married). This didn’t bother me at all, but I thought maybe I should warn romance readers who might be expecting more.
Overall, I might pick up the first story and/or the sequel (when it becomes available at some unknown point in the future). I recommend it to anyone interested in a light time-travel story, with some light steampunk overtones and a bit of romance thrown in.
I received an advanced review copy of The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale courtesy of Carina Press. It will be released on the 28th May and will be purchasable from this link.
3.5 / 5 stars
Hoodwink by Rhonda Roberts
Cross-posed from here.
The first thing I want to note is that despite Hoodwink being the second book in Rhonda Roberts’s Timestalker series, it absolutely stands alone. You don’t have to have read the first book, Gladiatrix, although it’s definitely worth reading for its own sake. If you enjoy Hoodwink, there’s no reason not to go back and read Gladiatrix afterwards. The only spoilers in book 2 for book 1 are of the “main characters are alive” variety.
That said, on to the body of the review!
Hoodwink is about Kannon Dupree, arse-kicking, time-travelling PI in training. Kannon is Australian but living in America because of events in book 1. She takes a case investigating the murder of one of the directors of Gone With the Wind, after his body is discovered in the present, 70ish years after his death.
Sent back to 1939 to pose as his personal assistant, the first thing Kannon discovers in the past is that just about everyone who’s ever met him has plausible motives for wanting the director dead. And so begins her tangled investigation, four days before his murder.
Hampered by internal politics at the NTA (the time-travelling equivalent of NASA), Kannon is only given two days to prepare. And, despite her client having suspicions as to who the murderer was, Kannon quickly realises that she has no where near enough information from the future to be of much use. What should make it easier are the repeated attempts on the director’s life and the fact that he’s already afraid someone is after him. But who is it?
Somewhere, among the mayhem of the Gone With the Wind Set (complete with Clarke Gable, Vivien Leigh and Leslie Howard), Kannon has to work out who has the means and opportunity to murder the director, since everyone has motive.
This is a book not short on conspiracy and arse-kicking. As in Gadiatrix, I like the fact that Kannon can look after herself (thanks to her Aikido training), and that many of the people who try to cross her (violently, at least) are rapidly dealt with. It was amusing to read the reactions of some of the men who assumed she was “just a feeble woman”, although in some cases the amusing part was their expressions when she hit them.
All the loose ends in the past are tied up nicely at the end, but not all the questions raised in the future are fully answered. I hope the next book (due out in September) picks them up again. Since there is a shorter gap between books 2 and 3 than there was between books 1 and 2, I’m also hoping there’s more plot-based connection between them. Aside from Kannon’s change in circumstances, very little of book 1 reappeared in book 2. Not that I think Hoodwink suffered for it. In fact, after I found out where one of the key characters from Gladiatrix had got to, I promptly forgot about some of the other issues raised in the first book. Which is probably a good thing, as I suspect in the longish interim between them, Roberts may have chosen to shift the background focus slightly.
The only thing I would’ve liked to see more of, is Kannon’s relationship with people in the present/future. In particular her friend that helps her out at the start and end. We don’t get to see much of why they’re friends or the connection between them. This is another thing I’m hoping is developed in future books.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars.
[For the record, I read the Harper Voyager Australia ebook of Hoodwink, which I purchased off the (Australian) iTunes/iBooks store.]