Category: Review

Review: ‘A Gentleman of Fortune’ by Anna Dean

Posted September 5, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I adored the first book in this series (’A Moment of Silence’), which combines two of my great loves – the Regency era, and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple-style amateur sleuth. So this one was a no-brainer. It isn’t quite as successful as the first book, but it’s still a delightfully enjoyable read. The writing is authentically Austen-esque, the mystery is intriguing and the sleuthing rattles along at a merry pace.

In fact, it’s almost too fast a pace. Our amateur detective, Miss Dido Kent, has only to poke her nose out of doors for her to bump into someone with information to impart, or else she overhears something of vital import, or she calls on someone and they obligingly tell her exactly what she wants to know. All this become increasingly implausible, frankly.

One aspect which bothered me somewhat was the numerous similarities to Jane Austen’s Emma. I suppose it’s done as an affectionate homage, but every time we had a strawberry-picking party or the characters start making anagrams with double meanings, I was knocked out of this book and straight into another book. And there’s one parallel that actually gives away a plot element, which felt all kinds of wrong to me (although there’s a twist at the end which partially ameliorates the situation).

This is not a conventional Regency romance, but there is a romantic story simmering beneath the murder, which was begun in the first book, and continues swimmingly here. It leads, in fact, to some interesting (and spirited!) discussions between Miss Kent and her paramour, he feeling that she should be guided by him and give up this nasty sleuthing business, and leave everything to the constables, and she feeling that such submissive behaviour would rip out her very soul. And really, the root of the problem is the nature of marriage in such a patriarchal society as Regency England, where women were very much expected to submit and not worry their pretty little heads with… well, anything very much outside the domestic sphere. I enjoyed this element of the book very much.

Another excellent read, beautifully written, with the murder mystery and romance threads nicely balanced. Very enjoyable and highly recommended. Five stars.


Review: The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton

Posted September 5, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This book should have been right up my street – Regency era, murder mystery, a locked room mystery, even! What could be better? Well, quite a lot of things as it turned out. I don’t know if this is the author’s debut work, but it certainly reads that way. It’s clunky and uneven, and much of it just doesn’t work for me.

I like the idea very much – Stephen Lavender, a Bow Street Runner (an early kind of policeman) is sent to Northumberland with his trusty constable Woods to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an heiress from a locked room. Some of the background colour is excellent. The scene with the prostitute, while it has no relevance to the plot whatsoever, and is there only to show how much research the author has done, is nevertheless an effective introduction to the seedier side of London life, complete with holes in the prostitute’s stockings.

But then it’s off to the north by coach and another irrelevance. The coach is held up by highwaymen (yes, that tired old chestnut) and our two stalwart policemen perform the necessary heroics to avert disaster, aided by a Spanish lady who happens to be handy with a gun. This is where the book goes off the rails, because Lavender unaccountably gets the hots for the Spanish babe (who’s a married woman, by the way) and fancies his chances rather. He essentially forces her to have dinner with him alone, something no respectable woman would or should do, and is very disappointed when she fails to offer him the expected invitation to her bed. I don’t know what this is supposed to achieve, but frankly, it made him very unlikable to me. I do expect a Regency hero to demonstrate some care for a woman’s reputation, and not just attempt to screw her the first time he meets her. Not a nice man.

But then it’s on to the mystery, and another array of cliches – the unpleasant step-brother with the even more unpleasant friends, the wicked step-sister, the loyal maid, the simple but harmless brother, oh and let’s not forget the gypsies who are unfriendly initially but come round when the hero renders them some service or other (stop me if you’ve heard this plot before). There are the usual array of set-piece confrontations, which don’t throw up too many surprises.

There’s a lot of Gothic about this, and the mysteries (the locked room and the disappearing heiress) are resolved quite nicely. The writing’s good, too, and the author’s done her research. This is possibly one of those series that will settle down and become unmissable by about the third book, but for me the clunky pacing, the unlikable characters and especially the very unpleasant main character keep this to three stars for me.


Review: ‘One Night For Love’/’A Summer To Remember’ by Mary Balogh

Posted August 29, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 1 Comment

One Night For Love:

This book is perfect. The end.

Hmm… I suppose I should write a bit more than that. Let’s start with the premise. Neville Wyatt, the Earl of Kilbourne, is awaiting his bride at the altar. She’s Lauren Edgeworth, friend and neighbour, educated and accomplished, a perfect English lady, exactly suited to becoming a countess. Neville is happy about it, his bride is thrilled, since she’s been in love with him for years and waited while he went off to the war in Portugal, and all their friends and relations gathered in the church are thrilled for them both. And then the unthinkable happens – a simply-dressed poverty-stricken woman rushes into the church and Neville recognises her. She’s his wife, his sergeant’s daughter that he married on the battlefield and thought had died.

Now this is all sorts of delicious, right from the start. What an appalling situation! Lily, the wife, is uneducated and illiterate, a child of nature who loves to run about barefoot and hasn’t the least idea how to be a countess and move in the high level of society that Neville occupies. What’s more, she’s been a prisoner of war for many months, and has been repeatedly raped. So even were there no other issues, the marriage is fraught with difficulties for everyone – Neville and Lily, poor abandoned Lauren, and all the horrified friends and relations, who don’t know what to make of Lily and her scandalously unconventional ways.

But it soon becomes clear that there is a ray of hope, for this was a love match. Neville didn’t just marry Lily out of obligation to his dying sergeant, he truly loves her and all her innocent, free-spirit ways, and she loves him. But even as they inch towards a new understanding, everything falls apart (which I won’t spoilerise but it’s nicely done).

Of course, all comes right in the end, and Lily learns to fit herself into Neville’s world without losing her essential nature, and if I found her transformation a little glib and unconvincing, it hardly matters. One word of warning: this is NOT a romance in the conventional sense, because the protagonists are already in love (and married, even!) before the book starts. But it is a love story, and a beautiful piece of writing which I shall remember for a long time. Five stars.

A Summer To Remember:

This is a follow-on to One Night For Love, which told the story of Neville’s reunion with Lily, his child-like bride from his army days, who reappears at the church door just as Neville is about to marry society lady Lauren. That was a five star read for me, a beautifully resonant piece of writing. This book is about Lauren, and it’s a very different type of story in every way, yet Balogh’s writing lifts it to the heights of another memorable five stars.

The premise is an intriguing one: Lauren, the perfect English lady, perfectly composed and proper, no matter the occasion, is dealing with an unprecedented disaster – jilted on her wedding day by the man she’s loved and waited for for years. She deals with it with her usual unruffled manner, no matter what heartbreak may be going on below the surface, but she’s determined never to think of marriage again.

Meanwhile, Kit Butler is one of London’s most infamous bachelors, living life to the full and by no means ready to settle down. But his family is pushing him to marry and he’s determined to make his own choice. But a bet with his friends leads him to court the least likely person – icy Lauren. This is a very common plot device, but here it’s not in the least contrived, and it’s very entertaining watching Kit woo the unyielding Lauren. But when he finally proposes, Lauren has a proposition of her own: she will agree to a fake betrothal to keep his relatives at bay, and in return, he will give her a memorable summer of adventure. At the end of it, she will jilt him and set him free, while rendering herself, she hopes, unmarriageable. And so the stage is set…

This book is an exact counterpart to its predecessor in one way: whereas One Night For Love centred on free spirit Lily learning the ways of society, this one is about buttoned-up Lauren learning to relax and become something of a free spirit. In neither case is the transformation entirely convincing, but I like to think that fiction simply speeds a process that would, in the real world, take many years.

This is a delightful tale, both for Kit’s wonderful schemes to push Lauren out of her comfort zone, but also Lauren’s elegant and oh-so-ladylike put-downs of Kit’s very ill-mannered family. And needless to say, our two protagonists find themselves very much in love before the end of the book.

For those intrigued by the eccentric Bedwyn family, neighbours of the main family in this book, they have their own series so you can read your fill of them. Personally, nothing about them caught my fancy, so I won’t be reading on, but I highly recommend this book and its predecessor, for the two are best read together, I think. Five stars.


Review: ‘The Toll-Gate’ by Georgette Heyer

Posted August 26, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I started this book twice. The first time, I was put off by the vast number of names and intertwined relationships. The second time, determined to learn them all, I still got befuddled. And you know what? After the first chapter, none of them are ever seen again! That is so irritating.

This is part of my reread of all Heyer’s Regency romances, in chronological order. Oddly enough, this is the first one not to ring any bells with me, so I think I must have missed it before. The premise – John Staple, former captain of the Dragoons, takes a wrong turn while going to visit a friend. Finding himself at a toll-gate, manned only by a boy whose father has disappeared under odd circumstances, he stays to uncover the mystery. And for another, more personal, reason.

One of my biggest complaints about Heyer is that the romance tends to get buried by the twists and turns of the plot, only to suddenly reappear in the last chapter. Not so here, for it forms the centre of the unlikely chain of events that unfolds, and for once is the least implausible part of the story. I liked both the main characters, and if their love is more bolt-from-the-blue than slow-burn, it felt realistic for two people old enough to know their own minds.

My other big complaint about Heyer is the amount of Regency cant she likes to use. When it’s just a couple of characters, it’s not too bad, but here almost everybody uses it liberally and it drove me nuts. It’s a dreadful distraction, and (frankly) the worst kind of well-researched showing off.

The ending is pretty silly, but also unsettling in some ways. But then it was written in 1954 so I suppose sensibilities were different then. Four stars.


Review: ‘Edenbrooke’ by Julianne Donaldson

Posted August 23, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This is a wonderful book – exquisitely written, with well-drawn characters and a beautifully developed relationship. Too often there’s an instant attraction and then they’re head over heels in love, as if that’s all it takes to set a couple on the path to a lifetime of happiness. I far prefer a slow-blooming love. The book also has an astonishing sense of time and place. I wanted to be at Edenbrooke too, and sink into its welcoming arms, and feel as if I were coming home, just like the heroine.

Marianne Daventry has lived with her grandmother in Bath since her mother’s death a year earlier. Her twin Cecily lives with another relative in London, and their father has taken himself off to France. Marianne is bored to tears, missing the countryside and its natural beauty, and is delighted to receive an invitation to stay at Edenbrooke, where the man her sister hopes to marry lives. Edenbrooke offers her the open country her spirit so desperately needs – and a man who delights and infuriates her in equal measure.

If this book were nothing but Marianne’s return to the freedom of nature and her encounters with the infuriating Philip it would be perfect. Unfortunately, it depends on coincidence, a villain and an ignorance of her host’s family that beggars belief. I also have a lot of quibbles about Philip’s behaviour, which is far too forward for a man supposedly watching the proprieties.

The book also fails one of my primary tests – would the plot fall apart if the characters sat down and talked to each other? In this case, the whole plot hinges on Marianne not knowing precisely who Philip is until a long way into the book. Despite my quibbles, I enjoyed this enormously, because the writing is just so good, worthy of five stars. As it is, the reliance on coincidence and non-communication keep it to four stars.


Review: ‘The Weaver Takes A Wife’ by Sheri Cobb South

Posted August 16, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This book was a complete delight – right up until the point where it descended into stupidity and farce. The premise: Mr Ethan Brundy is a Lancashire mill-owner, formerly in the work-house, now fabulously wealthy but still showing a strong accent and appalling dress sense. Lady Helen Radley is the sharp-tongued daughter of the impoverished Duke of Reddington that Brundy falls in love with across a crowded theatre. Arranged marriage ensues.

Brundy is a glorious character, impossible to dislike, quite impervious to the snubs of the ton. Helen is less admirable but she gradually comes to appreciate his good qualities. When he visits his mill in Manchester, she misses him and accompanies him on his next visit, finding herself impressed with his methods and the way his workers love him. There’s a degree of idealisation in the portrayal of so many well-scrubbed and happy workers, and Lady Helen’s transformation from shrew to loving wife is a little too rapid for plausibility, but the charm of the characters and the amusing ways they deal with their peculiar situation overcome any deficiencies at this point.

The main characters’ gradually growing rapport would make enough of a story, but then the author spoils it by throwing in some melodramatic business with a villain, a debt, a necklace and a great deal of implausible creeping about at night, ending with Brundy acting entirely out of character. I’d hoped he could come up with some clever way to deal with the villain but no. Great characters, beautifully written, but the ridiculous farce keeps it to three stars.


Review: Loving The Marquess: Suzanna Medeiros

Posted August 13, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This one has an unusual premise: the hero has a potentially fatal and inheritable illness. He’s being pressured to marry and provide himself with an heir, but he doesn’t want to father a child himself. His solution is to marry an impoverished local woman who won’t be in a position to refuse his solution to this dilemma: to ask his best friend to do the fathering.

So far, so intriguing. But there’s a lot that grated on me. For instance, the heroine, Louisa Evans and her younger brother and sister live in a small cottage alone. As in, no servants. The brother spends much of his day taking lessons from the local vicar, the sister is tinkering in the garden, and the heroine earns a few bob sewing nice dresses for the daughter of the family who reduced them to penury. Erm… so who carries buckets of coal around the house? Blackleads the grates? Cooks the meals? Feeds the chickens and the pig? Scrubs the pans? Heats all that water for the weekly bath? Carries water in from the well, for that matter? Who sweeps the carpets (on their knees, with a dustpan and brush, and yes, it needed to be done every day because of all that coal dust)? A little light sewing? I don’t think so.

I also get very tired of this trope that a man (a marquess!) can be railroaded into marrying by a determined grandmother – or anyone, really. No, really he can’t, and can we not for once have a hero who stands up to his relations’ manipulations and tells them where they get off. He holds all the cards, after all, and could turf granny out of the house if he so chooses (which was normal practice anyway – that’s what dower houses were invented for).

Anyway, our two protagonists get married amidst a welter of historical inaccuracies which we’ll gloss over, and the marquess introduces his bride to society at the grand ball granny’s organised, thinking he’s going to announce his betrothal. One up to the marquess. But then they spend the wedding night at the bride’s cottage, for reasons which are unclear to me. I’d imagined that this was intended to create privacy so that his friend can deflower the bride, but no. So I don’t really know what the point of that was, except as an plot-driven excuse to throw the newly-weds into greater intimacy and test the marquess’s resolve not to sire an heir himself. Because of course, he has one of his turns and they end up in bed together and – resolve duly tested.

The illness runs through the whole book, popping up at convenient moments and disappearing when it might disrupt the resolve-testing (because, yes, the marquess’s resolve is tested multiple times, in fairly graphic detail), and if there’s a single reader who’s surprised by the revelations surrounding the illness, I’d be astonished. Some of the last chapter drama was telegraphed almost from the start. But the tricky situation between the marquess, his wife and the friend roped in to father the heir is nicely done, although I did think a lot of unnecessary angst could have been avoided if they’d all sat down right away and had a nice chat over a cup of tea. However, it works well enough.

A good read, well-written and without too many disturbing anachronisms (and what I found was minor and forgivable). Four stars.


Review: ‘A Grand Gesture’ by Holly Newman

Posted August 11, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

There’s a lot to like about this book. The heroine, Catherine Shreveton, is sensible and independent-minded without falling into stupidity as soon as a man appeared. She’s a talented horse-breeder and rider, who helps her uncle with his stud farm, which she will inherit. She neither wants nor needs a husband, so when her aunt invites her to enjoy a London season and makes it clear she thinks Catherine is both poor and plain, and this is charity on her part, Catherine determines to play the role imagined for her. This is an inversion of Georgette Heyer’s Arabella, where the heroine is poor but the ton thinks her wealthy. Neither lady is plain, of course, for naturally a Regency romance must have a beautiful heroine.

And a handsome hero, and here is the Marquis of Stefton to fill the breach, but however handsome he may be, he almost stumbled at the first hurdle. A hero has to have some heroic qualities, and while he may fall short at the start of the book, and raise himself to full hero status through some kind of redemption, there are certain actions which put him beyond the pale. One is to stand by while the heroine is harmed in some way, and the other is to mess about with other women. Here our hero comes within spitting distance of both of these failures. Almost the first time we see him is at an inn where the generic villain is attempting to molest our heroine. Leaving aside the question of how long an inn would stay in business if it allowed its paying customers to be (possibly) raped on the premises, the hero’s inaction is inexcusable. Even if she seems to be defending herself pretty well, no gentleman would simply stand by and watch. Later, the hero is on the brink of returning to his mistress, and only fails to bed her by chance. So, not much of a hero.

The bulk of the book consists of the two dancing round each other in London, and this follows the usual pattern of suppressed instalust, with both sides pretending they despise the other. It’s pretty well done, though, with some nice set pieces, and I enjoyed Catherine’s emergence from her drab disguise to become a stylishly dressed beauty.

One quibble on historical accuracy. Generally speaking, very little in this book triggered my over-sensitive pedantry alarm. The writing style, dialogue and historical setting were all very convincing, and (my personal pet peeve) the author mostly got the titles right. Only one made me grind my teeth: why is the Countess of Seaverness called Lady Harth rather than Lady Seaverness? That made no sense to me. However, the other titles seemed fine, so I set it down to some obscure quirk of the British Peerage, an institution which has more exceptions to the rules than normal cases.

A good traditional Regency, well-written, with no sex scenes that I can recall. Four stars.


Contemporary romance review: ‘Just Good Friends’ by Rosalind James

Posted July 15, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This one just didn’t do it for me. I liked the opening, with Kate running from a murderous stalker, and the early scenes between Kate and Koti, our hero and heroine, sparkled with genuine antagonism. Their fights were good fun! But before too long they’re all over each other, the fights get further and further apart, and I began to lose interest.

The characters are more interesting than hesitant Hannah and perfect Drew from the first book in the series (review here). These two are far from perfect! Kate is quick to fire up at the merest hint of a slight, and Koti is the arrogant, spoilt, gorgeous, entitled rugby player. He has a certain roguish charm, but he’s also a heart-breaker, and he has to do a lot of growing up in this book.

So the foundation for the story was solid, but once the flirting stopped and they got horizontal, the story went downhill fast. I like some steam as much as the next girl, but some of the sex scenes here felt gratuitous, and I couldn’t quite reconcile multiple-orgasm Kate with guilty-about-masturbating Kate. How does that work? Plus, she was pretty free and easy and *trusting* for a girl just recovering from a stalker.

Then once past the half way point, we began to get deep into Maori culture and New Zealand history, and I kind of zoned out. This is interesting stuff, but it felt clunky dumped like this in the middle of the story, and especially so towards the end, when I was just waiting for the long-expected event signalled right at the beginning.

Not a bad book, and I liked the characters, but it wasn’t as easy a read as the first book, and I skimmed quite a bit to get to where something – anything – was happening. Three stars.


Book review: ‘Forgotten and Remembered’ by Bree Wolf

Posted July 5, 2017 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 5 Comments

Here’s the premise: a widower with a small daughter decides to marry again in order to provide the child with a mother. His bride, Rosabel, is chosen without a word being exchanged between them, on the basis that she has a way with children. She accepts because he’s a duke and why wouldn’t she? But she has trouble coming to terms with her new role and he has trouble overcoming the past.

I struggled to finish this book, skimming the latter half, but let me say right now that lots of people love this book, and all the author’s other books, so I’m in a very small minority. That’s OK, I’m used to it. I’ll come to why I didn’t finish it in a moment, and it gets pretty ranty, so you have been warned.

Firstly, what I did like. The author can write, there’s no doubt about that, and I can see what she was aiming for here. The new wife is lifted straight from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the second wife who hasn’t a clue why the guy married her and is too timid to ask, who is terrified of the servants and feels unworthy and unwanted. There’s even a parallel to Mrs Danvers in Miss Rigsby, the daughter’s governess, who bosses the new wife (a duchess!) around dreadfully.

But Rosabel discovers her role as mother to the poor neglected daughter, and learns to be a lioness protecting her cub. I didn’t find her transition particularly believable, but I was in full-on ranty mode by then, so maybe that coloured my judgement. And of course the husband finally unbuttons enough to fall in love and there are some nice, if long-drawn-out, scenes where they eventually get it together.

So… onto the ranty stuff, and I apologise to the author for this, since she tried to warn me, but, mea culpa, I took her words at face value, and that was my big mistake.

In the ‘From the author’ section for this book on Amazon, she says that she’s not aiming for “complete historical accuracy”. Further, she says: “Let me be clear: I am not saying I completely ignore historical facts. Not at all. I always strive to capture the flair of the times I write about. However, I occasionally bend the rules a little to allow my characters to experience something that would otherwise be denied to them. For example, if I need my characters to waltz, then does it truly matter if the waltz was only introduced to English society a few years later? To me, it doesn’t. After all, it is about the opportunities it creates. However, if it matters to you, then allow me to offer some friendly advice: do not read my books for you will only be disappointed. This post is meant as a guide to help potential readers decide if my books would suit them because I know how annoying it is to read a book that was not meant for you.”

Now, I’m all in favour of this. Extreme pedantry has no place in a book where the objective is light-hearted entertainment to while away a few hours in a pleasant manner. It’s the relationship between the characters that matters more than the precise style of gown worn or the date a certain object was introduced or invented, and if authors wish to gloss over the exact details to minimise wordiness and get on with the story, that’s absolutely fine. I have no problem with characters waltzing a little earlier than they should have done, or a heroine stepping out without a chaperon if the plot needs her to bump into the hero.

But (you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you?) this should never, ever be an excuse to just skip the research and write a story about modern people who happen to wear bonnets and breeches. Besides, a very modest amount of googling elicits enough authentic-sounding snippets to make for a convincing read. It’s not hard, for instance, to look up the correct forms of address, and work out that dukes and duchesses are addressed as ‘your grace’ and ‘Duke/Duchess’, and never as ‘my lord’ or ‘my lady’. The author got this partly correct, but I cringed every time the hero and heroine addressed each other as ‘my lord’ and ‘my lady’.

Other aspects are harder to get right, but the information is out there, and it’s frankly lazy to make no effort to discover the ways in which Regency society differed from our own. Consider the betrothal and wedding, for instance. The hero talks to the heroine’s uncle, and he agrees to the marriage, without any involvement from the heroine. Wrong. The hero might ask permission to pay his addresses first, but then he makes his offer to the lady herself, who accepts or rejects him. Yes, she has the choice, always. Then there’s the two-week engagement. Wrong (unless the hero’s about to go off to war or for some other time-constrained reason). You don’t want people thinking there’s been some hanky-panky in the orangery, and besides, it takes a while to organise an entire new wardrobe for a soon-to-be-duchess, which is what would be needed, both for the requirements of rank and also because she’s now a married woman – very different clothes. Long engagements weren’t usual, but a few months wasn’t out of order, and, to be honest, I didn’t really see the need for haste in the story.

Then there’s the wedding itself. The bride gets up and has breakfast (wrong), puts on her wedding dress (wrong), is driven to her husband’s house (wrong), there are lots of guests (wrong), he kisses her after the ceremony (very wrong), there’s a dance afterwards (wrong) and speeches (wrong). And the next day, she discovers that her new husband has a daughter – ha ha ha ha ha! He’s a duke, for goodness’ sake, he’s in Debrett’s, his entire lineage back to whatever medieval king first elevated some humble knight is in print, including the name of his dead wife and his daughter. You’d have to be peculiarly dense not to manage to find all that out. And since there’s only a handful of dukes in the entire kingdom, everyone would have known his story anyway. It would have been in all the papers (yes, they had newspapers then, and although they didn’t print society gossip, except in the most oblique way, the death of a duchess would have been widely reported).

None of this is at all difficult to look up, and the fact that the author didn’t bother is not merely disappointing, it’s extremely annoying. I’m not talking here about minor quibbles like whether they would have waltzed in 1805 or not; I’m talking about an author who has very little idea about the Regency era, and hasn’t found it necessary to inform herself. What she should have said in her warning is something like: ‘Any resemblance to any real historical era is entirely accidental.’

I will say, however, that this is far from the worst example I’ve seen. I’ve read of one heroine who lived on a ranch near London, several who travelled on public coaches alone and one earl who held a contest to decide who to appoint as his next heir {eyeroll}, and there’s hardly an author in the Regency genre these days who knows the difference between Lord Smith and Lord Charles (no, they’re not interchangeable).

This is not a bad book, if you don’t mind throwing out almost all attempt at historical accuracy. Sadly, I do mind, but since it’s mostly my own stupid fault that I read the book anyway, despite the author’s warning, I’m not going to give it a star rating or post this review elsewhere. And in future, when an author says: ‘I bend the rules a little’, I shall know to keep well away.