Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: Tryst, by Elswyth Thane

Elswyth Thane
Hardcover, 256 pages
Aeonian Press, Reprint Edition
January 6, 2014
(first published 1939)
Classics, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Paranormal Romance
Source: Amazon

Book Synopsis: When Sabrina Archer, a lonely girl of 17, moves with her father and aunt away from their city flat in London to the lavish summer home of Nuns Farthing for her father's work, she has nothing to do but explore the English country home. Finding a locked room at the top floor of the house, Sabrina picks the lock one afternoon and subsequently spends many days trying to discover the identity of the man who used to enjoy the personal study. He seems glamorous to her and it is inevitable that she falls in love with him. But can this obsession end happily?

There are forgotten literary treasures that should be brought out into the light of day, and enjoyed by new generations. This beautiful, poignant novel is one of them. First published in 1939, it has been reprinted several times, but is now unfortunately out of print.

The first time I read this book, I was around 17 myself, and I found it in a local library. I've never forgotten it. A few years ago, I bought one of the reprint editions available, but somehow lost it..... So I bought another one on Amazon, fortunately, at a very reasonable price. When a reader does something like this, you can be sure that the book is an extra special one!

I recommend searching for this novel in local libraries, as I'm sure they will have copies available. This is a not-to-be-missed story!

Sabrina Archer is a bookish young girl, so I was able to relate to her immediately. I was delighted to discover, right along with her, a great book collection in that mysterious, locked room. However, there's something more than just books in the room, as Sabrina gradually learns. A man's entire life and personality are in that room. Sabrina is at first fascinated and intrigued. As time goes by, she begins to fall head over heels for a man she's never met....

Hilary Shenstone is an equally compelling character. He is described, by Alice, one of the other characters in the novel, as "the last of the romantics". He is a man of high ideals, as well as a man who feels things deeply. In fact, I was a bit surprised when he didn't turn out to be a writer or poet, because he certainly had the sensitivity of either. 

Hilary and Sabrina are true soul mates.  But fate played a cruel trick on these two....Hilary died in India, while on a secret mission for the British government, before he and Sabrina ever met. 

Still, they were somehow meant for each other, and, by some mysterious circumstance, found their way to each other. 

Hilary died wishing for England, for Nuns Farthing, the house rented by Sabrina's father, a university professor who is mostly oblivious to his daughter's emotional needs, and her flighty aunt, a spinster who dotes mostly on her obnoxious dog, Bella.

Hilary's final wish comes true, and he finds himself transported back to London. From there, he eventually finds his way back to Nuns Farthing, and finally meets Sabrina, who totally enchants him.

This is a very intimate novel in the sense that Thane gets inside her main characters' heads, exploring their emotions, thoughts, and spiritual longings in a very detailed way. In contrast, the reader doesn't get to know the rest of the characters as well as Sabrina and Hilary. Simply put, the other characters are shallow, except for Mrs. Pilton, the housekeeper, whose reticence hides a world of deep thoughts and emotions.

The characterizations and social environment in this novel are perfect. In many passages, Thane reminds me of Jane Austen; she's an acute observer of all the foibles of human nature, and of the English society of the time. This is all the more remarkable because she was an American writer, born and bred. 

Although she reserves the most complete portrayals for Sabrina and Hilary, the other characters are well brought to life, too. They serve as a marked contrast to the two lovers. All the other characters in the novel are rather self-centered, too, interested only in achieving their own goals, some of them even at the expense of others.

George Shenstone is certainly totally different from his brother. There is no depth to him; his emotions are limited to whatever information his senses give him. He's only interested in whatever pleasure he can get in the here and now. And he certainly doesn't share Hilary's ideals and scruples. 

His mother tells him, while he's visiting her one day, that she has always preferred him over Hilary. She has her own reasons for this, all tied to her marriage, which had not been a happy one.

Alice, Hilary's girlfriend at the beginning of the story, is not a good match for him, something she's just starting to discover when we meet her. She is a rather materialistic person, with none of Sabrina's gentle, shy, bookish nature. In fact, she is as much a contrast to Sabrina as George is to Hilary. 

As for Sabrina's family, they are comical and pathetic at the same time. Alan Archer, Sabrina's father, is a university professor intent on doing research on primitive man for a book he plans to write. This is his overriding concern, and he seriously, and unwittingly, neglects his own daughter. 

His sister, known to Sabrina as Aunt Effie, is a silly woman who also allows the opinions of the society of the time to influence her own thoughts and opinions. She, too, fails to see just how special Sabrina is. 

Both siblings mean well where Sabrina is concerned, but are unable to give her the emotional and spiritual support she so desperately needs. Nor are they able to enter her intellectual world, for Effie is not interested in books, and Alan is exclusively interested in his research, and will only read books and articles related to it.

So Sabrina is left very much to her own devices. She is also by nature a solitary girl, since she has found no one to share her inner concerns.

Until Hilary arrives, that is.

Hilary is the only person in her life who really understands her, who really knows her, in fact. He shares her worldview -- one of high ideals and lofty goals. Unfortunately, since he is a ghost, he is unable to help Sabrina live the life she was meant to live. She can only sense his presence, but can neither see nor hear him, although he does speak to her. He's already tried speaking with his friends in London, with his own family, but, of course, no one can hear him.

It's just beautiful to become totally immersed in this novel, to see how Sabrina and Hilary care so much for each other. In spite of the obvious communication barrier that makes their relationship a difficult one, they become inseparable, and their final destiny is to be together.

Perhaps the novel's most fascinating aspect is that the romance of the two protagonists is solely based on the compatibility of two souls, to the exclusion of any physical passion. This type of romance might not be for everyone, especially those who enjoy reading so-called "bodice-rippers" or more sensual romances. However, this novel will be very satisfying to those who, like me, enjoy reading about the emotional development between two lovers, even at the occasional exclusion of the physical aspect. After all, if there's no union or compatibility at the inner level, all the fire and passion on the physical level will never be enough to sustain a relationship.

While the beautiful, graceful prose style of this novel categorizes it as one written for adults, I would say that, because the female protagonist is only 17, it would be a great read for YA fans. Perhaps the only problem would be that the writing is clearly more along the lines of an older classic, and thus, might bore some readers. I certainly was never bored, however.

This is a very sweet, touching, and totally wonderful, beautiful book, one that, again, is unforgettable. It saddens me to know that no major studio has ever decided to turn it into a film. Why no one thought of doing so, at the time of its original publication, is beyond me. I would have loved to see this as a black-and-white movie, made in the forties or early fifties. I'm not sure who could have played these characters, but I am sure that it would have been a great movie!

There are two movies by the name of "Tryst"; one was filmed in 1994, and the other in 2005. Neither one has anything to do with this novel. Unfortunately, this jewel of a book has still not been filmed.

Read this novel so you can be carried away by a love that transcends even the barriers of death, a love that will make you feel nostalgic, happy and sad, all at the same time.


Elswyth Thane was born on May 16, 1900, and died on July 31, 1984. She was an American romance novelist from Burlington, Iowa. Her original name was Helen Ricker, which she later changed to "Elswyth Thane". 
She was not only a novelist, but a journalist and screenwriter, as well. 
Thane is most well-known for her series of historical novels, all set in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, although later books were set in cities such as New York, Richmond, Virginia, and England.
She married the naturalist and explorer, William Beebe, in 1927.
Tryst is considered her most romantic novel.

Online Links

Waiting On Wednesday #140: Ashes In The Sky, by Jennifer M. Eaton

This is a weekly event hosted by
It showcases future releases which
we book bloggers
are eagerly anticipating!!

Here's my choice for this week!

Ashes In The Sky
 (Fire In The Woods, Book 2) 
Trade Paperback, 331 pages
March 15, 2016
 Science Fiction,Young Adult Fiction

After inadvertently saving the world, eighteen-year-old Jessica Martinez is ready to put adventure behind her and settle back into the familiar routine of high school.

Though when she's offered an opportunity to photograph the inside of an alien space ship, Jess jumps at the chance. After all, she'd be crazy to turn something like that down, right?

Spending time with David on the ship has definite advantages and the two seem to pick up right where they left off. But when Jess discovers a plot to sabotage David's efforts to establish a new home for his people on another planet, neither David's advanced tech nor Jess's smarts will be able to save them.

ASHES IN THE SKY is an action-packed, romantic Sci Fi adventure that will leave readers screaming for more.

Why I'm waiting on this one!

I love the science fiction genre, and especially 
the YA variety! This one has a GORGEOUS cover, and, with romance thrown into the mix, 
what more could I possibly ask for?
If only I had a time portal to take myself
to March, 2016......

What do you think of my choice?
Leave your link below, so I can
come check out your pick(s)!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Stalked by Flames, by Susan Illene: Mini-Review/Excerpt

Welcome to the Stalked by Flames 
blog tour, sponsored by
Bewitching Book Tours!!

For my stop, I'm featuring a mini-review & excerpt!

Stalked by Flames
(Dragon's Breath, Book 1)
Susan Illene
Trade Paperback, 484 pages
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
August 19, 2015
Dystopian Fiction, Paranormal Romance,
Urban Fantasy

Bailey Monzac has just graduated college and is leaving town for her parents’ ranch in Texas when a massive earthquake unleashes the unthinkable on the world: fire-breathing dragons.

Chaos erupts as people flee for their lives, and Bailey survives only because she is somehow immune to the dragons’ flames. In the midst of the mayhem, Bailey is helped by a shape-shifting dragon named Aidan, who recognizes Bailey is a dragon slayer and will be an essential ally in the power struggle between—and within—the dragon clans.

Natural disasters intensify and dragons lay waste to the world as civilization all but collapses amid the loss of electricity and running water. Roving gangs prowl the debris-filled streets, and Bailey and her friends manage to find refuge in the university library. As her relationship with Aidan deepens during private training sessions, Bailey must learn to harness her newfound skills or see everything she knows and loves destroyed.

Stalked by Flames is a gritty urban fantasy about a woman’s journey into a dark new reality she never could have imagined.

When I began reading this short excerpt, I was immediately catapulted into the story! In just a few sentences, the author had my heart pounding with excitement, and I was just waiting for the moment when her kick-butt female hero would defeat the dragon! Although the scene has remained inconclusive, obviously there's more coming, and Illene has whetted my appetite for it!
Besides, I find her plot very original -- it's a combination urban fantasy with dystopian fiction, something I've never seen before.
I know I won't be able to put this one down!

The dragon stomped toward me on all four legs, steam puffing from his nostrils. His nose was as big as both my fists put together. I grabbed a brick off the ground and clutched it in my hand. Maybe I should have tried to run—a normal person would have—but being attacked by dragons had spiked my adrenaline.
Whenever that happened, it was as if another side of me took over. I became someone who fought and stood her ground. More than once my stepfather had marveled at my ability to compartmentalize fear and think clearly when in danger. My mother hated it. She feared it would get me hurt or killed someday.
I grew up on a ranch outside of Dallas where we had a lot of land. When I was ten years old, I’d decided to go out fishing by myself. Along the path to a nearby pond, I stumbled across a rattlesnake. Most people would have run screaming, especially a girl my age. I chucked a heavy tackle box at the thing. That didn’t kill it, of course, but it immobilized the snake’s body long enough for me to beat it to death with my fishing pole.
That’s how my stepfather had found me. Hovering over a mangled snake and pondering whether to get my tackle box back. It had blood and guts all over it. Killing a poisonous snake was one thing, touching icky stuff was another.
Now I had an honest-to-God dragon coming at me and once again I refused to panic. I needed to weigh my options. With my back against a wall, there was nowhere to go before he’d reach me, but there had to be a way out of this mess. Did the dragon have a weakness I could exploit? Something to buy me time until I could get to a safe place?
I glanced at my brick—it was all I had. A heat-seeking missile would have been preferable, but no one had told me we were about to get invaded by mythical beasts, so I didn’t have one on hand. I looked up at the sky and wished a bolt of lightning would strike my opponent. The storm wasn’t close enough to make that a possibility yet. Not that I’d get that lucky.
The red-scaled dragon lumbered closer, less than ten feet away. His gaze still didn’t show any signs of wildness or rage in it. The tilting of his head made me think he was curious more than anything. It’s what stayed my hand as he lowered his head to sniff at my legs. The heat emanating from his breath warmed the skin on my calves.
I stared down and noted once again that my jeans had been burned off to my upper thighs. The sandals I’d been wearing earlier were missing, too. How had I lost half my clothes? There weren’t any signs of burns, only scratches and bruises.
The dragon inspected all of this as his head inched upward. His hot nose tickled the skin of my thighs and he let out a puff of steam near my crotch. Okay, that was just a little too uncomfortable. I smacked his nose.
“Back off!”
He shook his head and let out a snort, then reared onto his hind legs. Flames licked up his body, consuming him. Standing only three feet away, there was no escape from the heat. I scrambled along the wall sideways, putting as much distance between us as I could. What had just happened? Did smacking dragons in the nose trigger some weird reaction?
The flames narrowed and became brighter. Then a dark shape emerged within them that had me tripping over my own feet to get away. It looked demonic—like something straight out of Hell. There was standing my ground and then there was being stupid.
I spun on my heels and took off down the sidewalk that lay between the library and the building next to it. A growl echoed down the corridor—a really angry one. I passed by bushes and benches that provided no cover from a menacing dragon and kept going. There were plenty of paths to take up ahead if I could just get past the library. The damned building seemed to extend forever.
Through the racing of my heart, I caught heavy footsteps behind me. They didn’t clomp the same way as the dragon’s and sounded more like boots on pavement. Glancing back, I saw a man with feral yellow eyes wearing strange clothing. The red dragon was nowhere to be seen. Shivers raced down my spine as I realized this guy’s attention was focused solely on me and he was racing toward me fast. Where had he come from? 

Susan Illene served in the US Army for eleven years and worked as a human resources specialist and an Arabic linguist. She served two deployments to Iraq, and after leaving the army, she studied history at the University of Oklahoma. She and her husband currently live in Oklahoma with two high-maintenance cats doing their best to help her write her books. 


You can access the complete 
tour schedule by
clicking on the button  below!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J. Maas
Hardcover, 432 pages
Bloomsbury USA Children's
May 5, 2015
Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retellings, New Adult Fiction, Paranormal Romance
Source: Target

Book Synopsis:  A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it... or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

I had been eagerly looking forward to reading this novel for several months now, as it's been featured -- and praised -- on many blogs, not to mention Goodreads and Amazon. So when I saw it in the book section of a Target store I recently went to, I grabbed it right away!

I was immediately enchanted as I dove into the story. Maas has a wonderfully evocative prose style; the reader has no problem imagining the fascinating world she has created. The suspension of disbelief -- the bane of every fiction writer -- was quite easy for this reader, as I know it has been for other readers of this novel, judging from all the rave reviews.

As a sample of this author's beautiful writing, I present the following gem, which I found on page 3:

"Once it had been second nature to savor the contrast of new grass against dark, tilled soil, or an amethyst brooch nestled in folds of emerald silk; once I'd dreamed and breathed and thought in color and light and shape."

This is the voice of the 19-year-old narrator, Feyre, who is a sensitive artist. She's also a skilled hunter, and her family's sole means of support, as she not only brings food home, but also sells the skins of the animals she hunts. She's strong, resourceful and courageous, as well, so of course, I immediately liked her! The fact that she's an artist also appealed to me, as I studied art in college myself. I can therefore appreciate the richness of her descriptions, the way she perceives things. Her senses are keenly alive. Naturally, this quality is also extremely useful to her in hunting.

Tamlin, the Beast in the story, is a shapeshifting Fae. When he first appears in the narrative, he's formidable and frightening, although Feyre courageously faces him. She had killed a wolf that turned out to be one of Tamlin's Fae friends. As punishment, she must go to Prythian, the country of the Fae, to remain there for the rest of her life.  

Once he's taken her over the wall, into the magical land of Prythian, and installed her in his manor, Feyre slowly begins to get to know Tamlin. She discovers that he is as sensitive as she is, that underneath his apparently fierce exterior lies a soul tormented by his past, as well as by a strange curse that he can't tell her about.

It was beautiful to see how Feyre began to let down her defenses, how she discovered that not all the Fae were cruel, conquering monsters. It was beautiful to see how she began to relate to them as fellow creatures in the world at large. Thus, the author has woven the theme of prejudice into this magical tale.

Tamlin also begins to see beyond his own assumptions and judgments of human beings. He begins to see Feyre (and her name is, of course, very appropriate for the story) as someone who feels just as deeply as he does, someone who has a beautiful, compassionate soul. 

Their love story is full of poignant incidents, moments of heartfelt understanding, and humor, as well. I also liked the fact that they both relate to each other as equals, even though Feyre is human, and therefore, does not have Tamlin's magical powers. Although, at the beginning of the story, he does have an overbearing attitude toward her, he comes to realize that she's not the type of woman to be ordered around. In fact, she comes to prove herself a skillful warrior later on in the book.

What I really like about Feyre is that she's such a well-rounded protagonist. She's brave and doesn't hesitate to fight for what and who she loves. She's also very independent. Furthermore, she's a very sensitive person, a very competent artist, and a passionate woman.

Tamlin is a perfect match for Feyre. He does appreciate art; the walls of his manor are covered with masterpieces of Fae paintings. And he is just as passionate as Feyre, just as courageous and fierce when fighting for his people.

I also loved Lucien, who is Tamlin's assistant, and second-in-command. He is basically Tamlin's sidekick. The two are really very good friends, having been through a lot together.He has a wry sense of humor, and is really a softie underneath his gruff exterior. He initially distrusts Feyre, but later on, becomes very fond and even protective of her, although of course Feyre doesn't really need much protection, feisty as she is.

As for Feyre's family, I must confess to disliking one of her sisters, Nesta, at first. It wasn't until much later in the story that it became clear that she wasn't as shallow and selfish as she initially seemed to be. Still, I never could relate to her much. Elain, the other sister, was much more to my liking. She, like Feyre, is a kind, sensitive soul. Although she's not an artist, she does have a green thumb. Anyone who loves gardening has got to be a kind person, I think.

Feyre's father is someone to feel really sorry for. He is a cripple, and is thus unable to support his family. He had once been a rich merchant, but then lost his fortune. I felt so bad for him.... 

As I stated above, Maas's prose style is just beautiful! Her descriptions are vivid, detailed, and put the reader right into the story, with all senses (and, at times, even the sense of smell) fully engaged. There's such richness in the flowing, poetic rhythms of her writing!

In spite of all the positives I've mentioned, I am not giving this novel the five stars I was sure it deserved when I began to read it. This might seem pretty strange, considering everything I stated above, but I have good reasons for my rating.

The first thing that struck me, even as I began to get to know Feyre and her family, was that this was not really a Young Adult novel, as I had thought, due to all the advertising proclaiming it as such. Paradoxically, it did sound like a YA novel; the characters all came across as the type you would encounter in a novel from that genre. But then there were some details and events that you would never find in a YA novel. One of these was the somewhat graphic sex scene at one point, as well as the fact that Feyre is already experienced in this area. Female protagonists in YA novels are usually not, and, if they do acquire this experience during the telling of the story, the authors very subtly allude to it.

What bothered me more than anything else, though, was the inclusion of some very graphically violent scenes, toward the last third of the novel. While I admired Feyre's courage and brilliant resourcefulness in this part of the book, I did not like the very sordid, even gross details involved. They almost made me sick to my stomach, quite honestly.

At one point, one of the characters is forced to perform a very evil action, one that I find completely unnecessary to the plot. Perhaps Maas included this scene in order to make it very obvious to the reader that her villain is capable of anything, without remorse. However, by that point, the villain's ruthlessness and total lack of compassion were more than evident to the reader, so, again, I felt this scene was not needed. Quite frankly, it was totally revolting, and I stopped reading, right then and there. When I had calmed down a little, I returned to finish the book, but it was several days later.

Another problem I had with this novel had to do with a character named Rhys. I hated the way he manipulated Feyre, the way he treated her, as if she were his property and sexual plaything. Heck, I hated HIM. This is another reason I would label this book as New Adult, instead of Young Adult. I might even go as far as to say that it's really a book for adult readers.

I would nevertheless recommend this novel to all fantasy romance fans, with the warning that it's not a Young Adult novel. Instead, it definitely falls into the genre of New Adult Fiction or adult fiction. The plot, characters, and writing are brilliant, but there are scenes and events that are more appropriate for the over-18 crowd, as well as those with strong stomachs.

I still really like this book, and might even re-read it at some point in the future. Still, I can't give it five stars, nor can I say that I love it, as I was very disappointed with certain parts of it toward the end. However, this novel deserves at least four stars. Anything less would clearly be unfair. This is a quality book, in spite of its and this quality deserves to be recognized.

This was my very first Sarah J. Maas novel, and it might be my last, although I do like her writing style and world-building. I am really interested in seeing how she handles her YA novels, though, so perhaps I'll try one of them sometime in the future.


Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series (Queen of Shadows, Book 4, was released in September 2015), as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series (Book 1 was out 5/5/15).

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she's not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.