21 Following

Darlene Marshall, author

I write award-winning historical romance about pirates, privateers, smugglers and the occasional possum.

Review--Lock In

Lock In - John Scalzi

Another Scalzi winner that has "Future Hugo Nominee" written all over it. I was turning pages late into the night in this futuristic police procedural.

FBI agent Chris Shane has Haden's Syndrome, a disease where he's "locked in" to his body, unable to move or respond but fully aware. Modern technology has provided Haden's survivors with the ability to transfer their consciousness into "threepios", metal shells that can move and act like humans, but resemble a beloved robotic film character.

Chris and his non-Haden's partner are racing to figure out what's happening in a series of murders and terrorist attacks linked to the Haden's community. The writing is vibrant and the dialogue snappy as they uncover clues leading to a conspiracy larger than anyone could have suspected. The only reason I didn't give the book five stars was the number of pieces that fell into place a touch too conveniently, such as Chris' new roommate happening to have the skills necessary to figure out a key issue.

However, one of the things that struck me the most, and I didn't realize it until late in the novel, is that the Haden's community is a post-racial community. Most people don't know the racial background of the people in the threepios. They're not black, or Hispanic, or Asian, they're all Hadens. It was an interesting twist as a new class of people emerge in society subject to slurs ("clanks" rather than Hadens) and hate crimes.

This is a solid SF novel combined with a good suspense tale, and I hope it's the start of a series because I'd love to read more about Chris, his partner Vann and the Haden's community.

Review--Rock Addiction

Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss) (Volume 1) - Nalini Singh

I normally wouldn't seek out a contemporary romance about a rock star, but I do enjoy Nalini Singh, and she delivers the goods in Rock Addiction. Bad boy rocker Fox has a reputation for partying hard, but when he meets good girl librarian Molly (and yes, they do make fun of the cliche) he's hit with a thunderbolt and knows She's the One.


This is different, the man recognizing True Love and something special right away. It's a pleasure to read about two people who need each other so badly and when they're together the sum is greater than its parts. The novel is emotionally charged and erotic. I almost rejected it at one point because I thought it was veering off into Big Misunderstanding territory, but a skilled author knows how to make these things work and Singh kept the story going in a realistic and logical fashion.


I'm looking forward to more in this series. Sometimes it's a good thing to break out of your reader comfort zone and trying something different.


Review--Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist: Essays - Roxane Gay

I really enjoyed this collection of essays by Roxane Gay. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read her analyses of current events, especially ones relating to gender and women's issues. I'd recommend it to young women in particular, but feminist readers of all ages will appreciate it.


Review--The Songbird's Seduction

The Songbird's Seduction - Connie Brockway

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of classic comedy with romance, especially the trope of the serious guy whose world is overturned by the free-spirited woman who he thinks is All Wrong For Him. But it can't be a movie where the woman's a plot device, a manic pixie dreamgirl with no needs or desires of her own. It has to be a film where a woman is a strong, active character--think Bringing up Baby or Ball of Fire or The Lady Eve or even Born Yesterday. These were great films with strong women and men who (eventually) loved them.


And why don't we get films like this anymore? One reason may be these films were made for adult audiences, women and men, not adolescent boys who like explosions. They had wit, and characters the audience could respond to, and it was a golden age for actresses in Hollywood looking for good films where they were the star, actresses like Barbara Stanwyck and Rosalind Russell and Katherine Hepburn.


But I digress. The preceding rant was to illustrate why I liked The Songbird's Seduction so much. The hero's name, Archibald Grant, is an immediate tip-off. Cary Grant starred in Bringing Up Baby, among other films, and his real name was Archibald Leach. Archie falls in with chanteuse Lucy Eastlake, who's on her way to France to help her elderly aunts claim an inheritance. Along the way there's mayhem galore as Archie and Lucy get separated from the aunts (who end up with the best traveling companion ever), and the couple has to wend their way to the rubies on their own.


The Edwardian setting was also a nice touch. It allowed Lucy to act with more freedom (she has a career!) while highlighting a time and place and fashions that were glorious, but soon to be overturned by World War I.


Fans of Connie Brockway will love this, fans of screwball comedy will wonder why there's not more like this, and fans looking for a historical with a different setting will all enjoy The Songbird's Seduction.

Review--Marco and the Devil's Bargain

Marco and the Devil's Bargain (The Spanish Brand Series) - Carla Kelly

There is something deeply satisfying about reading a novel dealing with the turmoil of making a marriage work. Most romance novels are about the courtship, the journey from Point A to Point B, and the "Happily Ever After". But we all know real life doesn't work that way, and in the hands of a talented author we can get a glimpse into the real work of life, making a marriage grow and become stronger. 

Marco Mondragon and Paloma Vega (The Double Cross) are now married in Spanish New Mexico where Marco is the Juez de Campo, a brand inspector who's the closest thing to a judicial officer in the isolated royal colony. He and Paloma are settling in to newlywed life, though Paloma deeply regrets their lack of children, something he shared with his first wife before she and the children died of cholera.

Their happiness is disrupted by news that "la viruela"--smallpox--is coming. Some of the people have been inoculated, most have not, and many fear inoculation because it can bring on the disease. Marco's own brother died of inoculation (not vaccination--that method was not yet in common use). An English physician offers Marco a bargain: if he's escorted deep into Comanche territory to find his kidnapped daughter, he'll inoculate Paloma and others.

It is a devil's bargain, for entering Comanche land is almost certainly a death sentence, yet Marco agrees, the inoculation occurs, and after her recovery Paloma insists on accompanying them on their dangerous journey.

Marco and the Devil's Bargain is a tale of good people making difficult choices. Paloma and Marco share a love that endures through disease and death, struggling to find their place in a harsh, yet beautiful land. The secondary characters make the story real, particularly Toshua, their Indian brother, and Anthony Gill, the Englishman burdened by a secret.

This second book in the Spanish Brand series is sure to please Ms. Kelly's fans. It's a lovingly crafted novel of marriage and growth, and a glimpse into what's left out of traditional US history books, the role played by the Spanish settlers who preceded the Anglo-Americans into Florida, Louisiana Territory and the Southwest. I look forward to more books from Ms. Kelly in this setting.

Review--Half a King

Half a King - Joe Abercrombie

This book had me turning pages late into the night, and it was worth it. You think you know the story--a prince who's the younger son and who's handicapped in a society of warriors is destined never to rule.


But then his world is turned upside down. You expect this to be a young man's journey of discovery and self-awareness as he gathers companions and has adventures on his road to adulthood. After all, we've all read Joseph Campbell and countless fantasy novels. We know where this is going.


Except Abercrombie pulls the rug out from beneath us, and I loved it. I loved seeing the paradigm subverted, I loved the secondary characters, I loved how truly flawed the hero was.


I'd be content if this is a stand-alone novel, but I noticed there are more "Shattered Sea" books coming. I hope the author will continue to astound me by subverting my expectations.

Florida pirates, ahoy!

The Bride And The Buccaneer - Darlene Marshall

Are you ready for International Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19? Amber Quill Press is featuring my first four nautical novels, all of which are set in Florida in the early 19th Century. 


Florida's reputation as a haven for smugglers, pirates, land speculators, rascals, runaways and ne'er do wells of all stripes goes back to its earliest days. For all I know, the Timucuan Indians were warning each other about crooked shell games down on the coast (with real shells). Pirates were certainly a huge part of it, and the smuggling of drugs, humans, exotic pets and contraband is still an issue for the state. 


But if you long to read about olden days, when pirates were pirates, grab some books and settle in with a tankard of grog, a parrot, an eyepatch (as long as it doesn't interfere with your reading) and channel your inner pirate on International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  

Review--Dark Skye

Dark Skye - Kresley Cole

I've enjoyed the entire series, but I especially enjoyed how Cole addressed the issue of "slut shaming" in Dark Skye. The heroine has had an active and enjoyable sex life, the hero wants her to be ashamed or regretful and she refuses to accept this.


Obviously, he has to come around to accepting, and valuing her for who she is. This is an issue too seldom dealt with by romance authors, and Cole handles it with aplomb. I'm looking forward, as always, to the next book in the series.


The only reason I didn't give it five stars is I felt the "what danger do we face now?" scenes carried on a bit too much. I would have preferred to see more of Lanthe adjusting to her new and difficult life once they're out of the fiery pits.

Review--The Professional

The Professional - Kresley Cole

I was conflicted about this one. On one hand, I like a good BDSM erotic romance as much as the next gal, and this one was very well written. Lightyears better than That Book.


On the other hand, the hero's controlling behavior outside of the bedroom made my nerves twitch. The whole "I'm preventing you from leaving because I can't live without you" dynamic made me want to tell her to run far and fast, and not look behind her.


I'm also so over virgin college students being taken under the wing of billionaires for sex training and amazing baubles. To me it would be much more interesting if the heroine was a neurosurgeon or tax collector or forest ranger--anyone with more life experience!


Bottom line is K. Cole is an extremely talented writer, which was my primary reason for getting this book and reading it until the end. Having said that, I'm mulling over whether I would buy others in this series. I'll wait and see what's published.

The Vineyard of Liberty (American Experiment, Vol 1) - James MacGregor Burns

I enjoyed this history of the early American Republic so much that I kept coming back to it on vacation, when I would normally be gorging on mysteries, romance and SF. It's that good.



Reblogged from SnoopyDoo's Book Reviews :

For all you Heathcliffe fans.

Doorstep Baby: Best Romance Hero Discovers He has a Child

The Taming of Billy Jones - Christine Rimmer Whisper Falls - Toni Blake Just for Fun (Escape to New Zealand) - Rosalind James His Tattooed Virgin [Divine Creek Ranch 12] (Siren Publishing Everlasting Classic) - Heather Rainier Trying to Score - Toni Aleo The Soldier's Homecoming (Romance) - Donna Alward Hard Mated - Jennifer Ashley The Pirate's Secret Baby - Darlene Marshall Baby Bonanza - Maureen Child Tied Up, Tied Down - Lorelei James
Reblogged from Cat's Books: Romance :

Father's Day Week Romance List Party!


I am not a huge fan of the secret baby trope because it is rare that I can forgive the heroine for keeping such knowledge from the hero. There are always exceptions though! 


My brother actually had the secret baby thing happened to him. Crazy. His daughter contacted him when she was 19. He found out he was a grandfather to a 3 month baby boy on the same day. My brother was so heartbroken to learn about this little girl growing up without him. He is working hard to build a relationship with her and his grandchild now. 


As from Romance Novels, I tend to like it better when the hero discovers he has a child and the heroine of the story isn't the mother of the child. 


Here are some great reads with the heroes who have just discovered they are fathers! 


1. The Taming of Billy Jones by Christine Rimmer 

2. Whisper Falls: A Destiny Novel by Toni Blake 

3. Just for Fun by Rosalind James 

4. His Tattooed Virgin by Heather Rainier 

5. Trying to Score  by Toni Aleo

6. The Soldier's Homecoming by Donna Alward 

7. Hard Mated by Jennifer Ashley 

8. The Pirate's Secret Baby by Darlene Marshall 

9. Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child 

10. Tied Up, Tied Down by Lorelei James 


To vote for the best of the best of these new Dads, go to my Goodreads list: Doorstep Baby: Best Romance Hero Discovers He has a Child.


To gaze upon so lovely father and child moments, check out my Pinterest Board: Father Love: Best Father Heroes in Romance. 




Review--The Martian

The Martian - Andy Weir

This is the kind of science fiction I don't read often enough--people using courage, education, mad science skills and duct tape to save the day.


Mark Watney is the Martian--one of a handful of Earth astronauts to walk on the surface of Mars, and now he's going to be the first human to die there. A freak storm battered him and damaged his telemetry to where his life signs flat-line, and his crewmates (rightly) presume him dead and head back for Earth.


He's not dead. Now Mark has to figure out 1. how to survive 2. how to let NASA know he's survived. Fortunately, Mark is both an engineer and a botanist (each astronaut had to bring expertise in two fields to the flight)and will use his skill set to stay alive, one day longer.


He will also learn to appreciate 70s sitcoms and loathe disco.

I loved the movie Apollo 13 for the same reason I liked this book--if you start with the premise that failure is not an option, then you begin thinking differently and figure out how to fit the square peg into the round hole.


I really enjoyed The Martian, and I'd love to see it get made into a movie.

Booksigning on Sunday

The Pirate's Secret Baby - Darlene Marshall

If you happen to be in Gainesville, Florida on Sunday, May 18, I'll be signing The Pirate's Secret Baby at The Book Rack, 4936 NW 39th Ave, Stop by between 2-4 p.m., get a signed book and say "hi!". As always at my booksignings, there will be chocolate!

Review--In Want of a Wife

In Want of a Wife - Jo Goodman

Jo Goodman is on my shortlist of best authors writing western historical romance. Each book of hers that I read convinces me of this, and In Want of A Wife is definitely a keeper.


Morgan Longstreet and Jane Middlebourne are the kind of quiet characters who make a huge impression on a reader. Their love story unfolds in a rational and mature fashion as they get to know one another, despite their unromantic beginnings when Morgan sends for Jane as a mail order bride.


The drama at the end builds beautifully, and the secondary characters (many of whom are familiar from other Goodman westerns) add to the richness of the story.


Review--The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812

The Slaves' Gamble: Choosing Sides in the War of 1812 - Gene Allen Smith

Excellent history of an overlooked part of American history and US/British conflicts. I knew about the Patriot War in Spanish Florida, and the role Blacks, Seminoles and Maroons played in driving back invading American forces, but I wasn't familiar with many of the other events involving slaves and free Blacks during the War of 1812.


This is a valuable addition to any writer researching The War of 1812 for novels.