Category historical – 1700s

2010: #14 – The Kitchen House (Kathleen Grissom)

kitchenhouse Book #14 was The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. The back of the book reads:

Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.

I thought this was a beautiful read.  I especially liked the dual narration of Lavinia and Belle.  Lavinia is young and often naive, so you don’t always get the full story from her point of view.  Belle gives us the darker side of the truth. Lavinia and Belle are interesting characters, but as leads, they react much as you would expect them to throughout the book.  For me, the most interesting character was Marshall, the Captain’s son.  I really felt the most sympathy for him, despite his mostly evil presence in the book. He was a young impressionable boy whose only male role models (of his color) were an abusive, violent racist and a sexually abusive authority figure because his father was more in love with the sea than with his own family. I think Marshall wanted to be good, but he just didn’t know how. I felt the Captain was actually a decent man, and things would have been much different if he’d spent more time at home. I did enjoy the slaves of the plantation and their interactions with each other, but they fit molds that one would expect.

Overall, I thought this book gave us a unique point of view of slavery and life on a plantation, and it felt authentic for the time period and location (in my part of the world, no less!). The subject of enslaved white people is one that’s not often explored, and I appreciated this deviation from the usual.

As a side note, thanks to an invitation from Jen, The Literate Housewife, I had the opportunity to meet Kathleen Grissom and hear her read and speak about her inspiration for this book. I quite enjoyed meeting her and her husband, and got an autograph to boot!  There aren’t a lot of opportunities around here for me to meet the authors of books I’ve read, so every one is special to me. Thanks to Jen for giving me a copy of the book (and for lunch, and driving to Lynchburg)!

Page count: 384 | Approximate word count: 96,000

2009: A Fistful of Charms (Kim Harrison)
2008: Sick Puppy (Carl Hiaasen)
2007: Judge & Jury (James Patterson)
2006: The Killing Dance (Laurell K. Hamilton)
2005: Rosemary’s Baby (Ira Levin)

Used in these Challenges: Countdown Challenge 2010; 2010 100+ Reading Challenge; 2010 Pub Challenge; Historical Fiction Reading Challenge; New Author Challenge 2010; Pages Read Challenge Season 2; TwentyTen Challenge; Year of the Historical;

2009: #3 – Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (Diana Gabaldon)

lordjohn Book #3 was Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, the second book in Diana Gabaldon’s Lord John Grey trilogy.  The back of the book reads:

In her much-anticipated new novel, the New York Times bestselling author of the Outlander saga brings back one of her most compelling characters: Lord John Grey—soldier, gentleman, and no mean hand with a blade. Here Diana Gabaldon brilliantly weaves together the strands of Lord John’s secret and public lives—a shattering family mystery, a love affair with potentially disastrous consequences, and a war that stretches from the Old World to the New. . . .
In 1758, in the heart of the Seven Years’ War, Britain fights by the side of Prussia in the Rhineland. For Lord John and his titled brother Hal, the battlefield will be a welcome respite from the torturous mystery that burns poisonously in their family’s history. Seventeen years earlier, Lord John’s late father, the Duke of Pardloe, was found dead, a pistol in his hand and accusations of his role as a Jacobite agent staining forever a family’s honor.
Now unlaid ghosts from the past are stirring. Lord John’s brother has mysteriously received a page of their late father’s missing diary. Someone is taunting the Grey family with secrets from the grave, but Hal, with secrets of his own, refuses to pursue the matter and orders his brother to do likewise. Frustrated, John turns to a man who has been both his prisoner and his confessor: the Scottish Jacobite James Fraser.
Fraser can tell many secrets—and withhold many others. But war, a forbidden affair, and Fraser’s own secrets will complicate Lord John’s quest. Until James Fraser yields the missing piece of an astounding puzzle—and Lord John, caught between his courage and his conscience, must decide whether his family’s honor is worth his life.

I really enjoyed this second book in the Lord John Grey trilogy.  I felt it was much more fleshed out than the first book, Lord John and the Private Matter (which, funny enough, was the 3rd book I read last year). There is much joy and much pain in Lord John’s life during this book, and my only complaint is that the main mystery of the book — who killed Lord John’s father — often gets lost between his relationship with new step-brother Percy (and its consequences) and his involvement in the war. There were long stretches of the book where I completely forgot what the main point was.  Lord John is himself an interesting character, noble and flawed both.  I enjoyed his interactions with Jamie Fraser (which helped me place this book in the Outlander timeline), as well as his affair with Percy, even if that did end poorly.  Not only does Gabaldon manage to tell quite an interesting tale, but she also explores what it’s like to live as a homosexual man in Georgian-era England, where such behavior is often punishable by death.  As with the last book, if you are squeamish about homosexual relations, this trilogy is not for you!

Audiobook Length: 15hrs 31m | Approximate word count: 165,980

2008 – Lord John and the Private Matter (Diana Gabaldon)
2007 – No Second Chance (Harlan Coben)
2006 – Lost Innocents (Patricia MacDonald)
2005 – 3rd Degree (James Patterson)

Used in these Challenges: The Genre Challenge; 9 for 09 Challenge; 100+ Reading Challenge 2009; 2009 Audiobook Challenge; The 999 Challenge; A-Z 2009 Challenge

2008: #3 – Lord John and the Private Matter (Diana Gabaldon)

21502421 Book #3 was Lord John and the Private Matter, the first book in a Lord John trilogy by Diana Gabaldon.  The back of the book reads:

Adored bestselling author Diana Gabaldon brings us the first book in a new trilogy featuring many of the characters from her wildly popular Outlander series.

In her New York Times bestselling Outlander novels, Diana Gabaldon introduced millions of readers to a dazzling world of history and adventure—a world of vibrant settings and utterly unforgettable characters. Now one of these characters, Major Lord John Grey, opens the door to his own part of this world—eighteenth-century London, a seething anthill of nobility and rabble peopled by soldiers and spies, whores and dukes. Great Britain is battling France for supremacy on three continents—and life is good for a soldier.

The year is 1757. On a clear morning in mid-June, Lord John Grey emerges from London’s Beefsteak Club, his mind in turmoil. A nobleman and a high-ranking officer in His Majesty’s Army, Grey has just witnessed something shocking. But his efforts to avoid a scandal that might destroy his family are interrupted by something still more urgent: the Crown appoints him to investigate the brutal murder of a comrade in arms, who may have been a traitor.

Obliged to pursue two inquiries at once, Major Grey finds himself ensnared in a web of treachery and betrayal that touches every stratum of English society—and threatens all he holds dear. From the bawdy houses of London’s night-world to the stately drawing rooms of the nobility, and from the blood of a murdered corpse to the thundering seas ruled by the majestic fleet of the East India Company, Lord John pursues the elusive trails of a vanishing footman and a woman in green velvet, who may hold the key to everything—or nothing.

The early days of the Seven Years War come brilliantly to life in this historical mystery by an author whose unique and compelling storytelling has engrossed millions of readers worldwide.

This book had a much more casual tone than the Outlander novels, but I found it pretty enjoyable. Lord John is a novice "investigator" at best, but his fumbling (such as finding himself accidentally sailing off to India) mostly serves to endear him further to the reader. However, if you have a problem Lord John’s sexual orientation, this book is not for you.

Page count: 320 | Approximate word count: 100,594

2007 – No Second Chance (Harlan Coben)
2006 – Lost Innocents (Patricia MacDonald)
2005 – 3rd Degree (James Patterson)

2007: #81 – A Place Called Freedom (Ken Follett)

Book #80 was A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett. The back of the book reads:

Sentenced to a life of misery in the Scottish coal mines, twenty-one-year-old Mack McAsh hungers for escape. His only ally: beautiful high-born Lizzie Hallim, who is trapped in her own kind of hell.

In 1766, from the teeming streets of London to the infernal hold of a slave ship headed for the American colonies to a sprawling Virginia plantation, two restless young people, separated by politics and position, are bound by their search for a place called freedom….

While not as strong a piece of historical fiction as something by John Jakes or even Diana Gabaldon, Follett does a great job of keeping the pages turning. This kept me reading, even if some of the events have a slight reek of “we have got to stop meeting like this!”. Mack is not your typical serf, nor is Lizzie your typical lady.

Page count: 464 | Approximate word count: 133,318

2006 – Drums of Autumn (Diana Gabaldon)

2007: #42 – The Fiery Cross (Diana Gabaldon)

Book #42 was The Fiery Cross, the 5th book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The back of the book reads:

Crossing the boundaries of genre with its unrivaled storytelling, Diana Gabaldon’s new novel is a gift both to her millions of loyal fans and to the lucky readers who have yet to discover her.

In the ten years since her extraordinary debut novel, Outlander, was published, beloved author Diana Gabaldon has entertained scores of readers with her heart-stirring stories and remarkable characters. The four volumes of her bestselling saga, featuring eighteenth-century Scotsman James Fraser and his twentieth-century, time-traveling wife, Claire Randall, boasts nearly 5 million copies in the U.S.

The story of Outlander begins just after the Second World War, when a British field nurse named Claire Randall walks through a cleft stone in the Scottish highlands and is transported back some two hundred years to 1743.

Here, now, is The Fiery Cross, the eagerly awaited fifth volume in this remarkable, award-winning series of historical novels. The year is 1771, and war is approaching. Jamie Fraser’s wife has told him so. Little as he wishes to, he must believe it, for hers is a gift of dreadful prophecy—a time-traveler’s certain knowledge. To break his oath to the Crown will brand him a traitor; to keep it is certain doom. Jamie Fraser stands in the shadow of the fiery cross—a standard that leads nowhere but to the bloody brink of war.

This was another solid entry in this series, though I think this is the first one I’ve read that hasn’t reduced me to a blubbering mess at one point or another. However, the lack of extreme emotion doesn’t take anything away from the story. It seems that life has fallen into a sort of routine (if anything in Jamie and Claire’s lives could ever be considered “routine”), with the specter of the Revolutionary War looming in the distance. The return of a beloved character at the end is a nice touch and an old mystery is revealed.

I think the last paragraph really sums up the feeling of this entire series, so far.

“When the day shall come, that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’ — ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.”

Page count: 1443 | Word count: 498,030

2006: #81 – Drums of Autumn (Diana Gabaldon)

drums.gifBook #81 was Drums of Autumn, the 4th book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The back of the book reads:

In her long awaited new novel, Drums of Autumn, Diana Gabaldon continues the remarkable story of Claire and Jamie Fraser that began with the classic Outlander, and its bestselling sequels, Dragonfly in Amber and Voyager.

Cast ashore in the American colonies, the Frasers are faced with a bleak choice: return to a Scotland fallen into famine and poverty, or seize the risky chance of a new life in the New World—menaced by Claire’s certain knowledge of the coming Revolution.

Still, a highlander is born to risk—and so is a time-traveler. Their daughter, Brianna, is safe—they think—on the other side of a dangerous future; their lives are their own to venture as they will. With faith in themselves and in each other, they seek a new beginning among the exiled Scottish Highlanders of the Cape Fear, in the fertile river valleys of the Colony of North Carolina.

Even in the New World, though, the Frasers find their hope of peace threatened from without and within; by the British Crown and by Jamie’s aunt, Jocasta MacKenzie, last of the MacKenzies of Leoch.

A hunger for freedom drives Jamie to a Highlander’s only true refuge: the mountains. And here at last, with no challenge to their peace—save wild animals, Indians, and the threat of starvation—the Frasers establish a precarious foothold in the wilderness, secure in the knowledge that even war cannot invade their mountain sanctuary.

But history spares no one, and when Brianna follows her mother into the past, not even the mountains can shelter a Highlander. For Brianna too has an urgent quest: not only to find the mother she has lost and the father she has never met, but to save them both from a future that only she can see.

Things have calmed down a *little* bit in the Fraser lives, but this was still a very good book. I like how the story is progressing. My only problem is that I find myself skimming things like Indian folktales — but that’s my problem, not a problem with the book. My eyes always glaze over when I hit stuff like that.

Book count: 81
Pages in book: 1070
Page count: 35,183
Words in book: 400,293

Word count: 10,500,706

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06
5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06
50 books surpassed – 6/12/06
20,000 pages surpassed — 6/29/06
6,000,000 words surpassed — 6/29/06
7,000,000 words surpassed — 7/21/06
8,000,000 words surpassed — 8/18/06
30,000 pages surpassed — 9/3/06
9,000,000 words surpassed — 9/6/06

10,000,000 words surpassed — 9/27/06

2006: #78 – Voyager (Diana Gabaldon)

voyager.gifBook #78 was Voyager, the 3rd book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The back of the book reads:

In this rich, vibrant tale, Diana Gabaldon continues the story of Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser that began with the now-classic novel Outlander and continued in Dragonfly in Amber. Sweeping us from the battlefields of eighteenth-century Scotland to the exotic West Indies, Diana Gabaldon weaves magic once again in an exhilarating and utterly unforgettable novel….

Their love affair happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her … and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.

When she discovers that Jamie may have survived, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face what awaits her … the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland … and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that lies beyond the standing stones.

I have to continue giving this series an A+. This installment wasn’t quite so heartwrenching, though it did have its moments!

Book count: 78
Pages in book: 1059
Page count: 33,343
Words in book: 381,597

Word count: 9,892,447

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06
5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06
50 books surpassed – 6/12/06
20,000 pages surpassed — 6/29/06
6,000,000 words surpassed — 6/29/06
7,000,000 words surpassed — 7/21/06
8,000,000 words surpassed — 8/18/06
30,000 pages surpassed — 9/3/06
9,000,000 words surpassed — 9/6/06

2006: #76 – Dragonfly in Amber (Diana Gabaldon)

amber.gifBook #76 was Dragonfly in Amber, the second book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The back of the book reads:

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones … about a love that transcends the boundaries of time … and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his….

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart … in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising … and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves….

I loved this one just as much as the first. It had me crying last night. Now, that’s not entirely unusual — after all, I cry at tv commercials. But I wasn’t just crying, I was friggin’ sobbing. Even though I knew it wasn’t that bad! No one was going to die, they’re going to see each other again — there’s more books! It probably didn’t help that I was already emotionally wrought after all the Sept 11th stuff during the halftime show of the Vikings/Redskins game. Who am I trying to kid? I would have sobbed anyway.

I’m forcing myself to read something else in between books in this series. Mostly because I don’t want to finish it too soon!

Book count: 76
Pages in book: 947
Page count: 31,964
Words in book: 338,528

Word count: 9,417,909

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06
5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06
50 books surpassed – 6/12/06
20,000 pages surpassed — 6/29/06
6,000,000 words surpassed — 6/29/06
7,000,000 words surpassed — 7/21/06
8,000,000 words surpassed — 8/18/06
30,000 pages surpassed — 9/3/06
9,000,000 words surpassed — 9/6/06

2006: #74 – Outlander (Diana Gabaldon); #75 – Cruel and Unusual (Patricia Cornwell)

outlander.gifBook #74 was Outlander, the first book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. The back of the book reads:

Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another…

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon–when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach–an “outlander”–in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life …and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I can’t say enough about this book. I was in love with it by the time I’d read 100 pages. In fact, it’s an 800+ page book and I read it in about 4 days. And I’ve *already* reread parts. I think I’ve read the final chapter 4 times now. I’m not sure what makes it affect me so. It’s very passionate, and the suspense in parts is so much that I think I stopped breathing. I mean, you’re pretty sure that certain people aren’t going to die, but you’re not *quite* sure. And at one point there’s a decision that has to be made, and there’s no foreshadowing of what that decision might be. Sometimes you can tell by the number of pages left in the book, but this could have gone either way. I almost stopped reading because I didn’t want her to make the choice I didn’t want!

Anyway, I am hooked. I went out on Monday and bought the next 4 books in the series, and I can’t tell you the last time I paid full price for paperbacks. I started the second book last night, and already my mind is racing!

Book count: 74
Pages in book: 896
Page count: 30,601
Words in book: 294,555

Word count: 8,978,914


cruel.gifBook #75 was Cruel & Unusual, book #4 in Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series. The back of the book reads:

“Killing me won’t kill the beast” are the last words of rapist-murderer Ronnie Joe Waddell, written four days before his execution. But they can’t explain how Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds Waddell’s fingerprints on another crime scene — after she’d performed his autopsy. If this is some sort of game, Scarpetta seems to be the target. And if the next victim is someone she knows, the punishment will be cruel and unusual…

Not a bad installment. I don’t enjoy these early ones as much as the later ones. The wrap-ups often seem clunky and convenient. Lucy’s character in this one is somewhat harsh, but there’s shadows of what’s to come with her.

Book count: 75
Pages in book: 416
Page count: 31,017
Words in book: 100,467

Word count: 9,079,381

1,000,000 words surpassed — 2/2/06
2,000,000 words surpassed — 2/14/06
10,000 pages surpassed — 3/10/06
3,000,000 words surpassed — 3/16/06
4,000,000 words surpassed — 4/3/06
5,000,000 words surpassed — 5/30/06
50 books surpassed – 6/12/06
20,000 pages surpassed — 6/29/06
6,000,000 words surpassed — 6/29/06
7,000,000 words surpassed — 7/21/06
8,000,000 words surpassed — 8/18/06
30,000 pages surpassed — 9/3/06
9,000,000 words surpassed — 9/6/06

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