#96 A Review of Whispered Music (London Fairy Tales #2) by Rachel Van Dyken

When I heard Rachel Van Dyken had a new book coming out, I was ecstatic.  Always a fan of her novels, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Whispered Music, the second in her London Fairy Tales series (my review of book one Upon A Midnight Dream is here).  So, after a quick download from B&N, also known as my mecca, I promptly sat down and began reading this fun and new take on Beauty and the Beast by the master of character development herself. From Goodreads:

Scarred at a young age, Dominique Maksylov, Royal Prince of Russia, has lived a reclusive life. As a musical prodigy, his music has wide reach into the world, but few ever see his face. He never ventures into polite society, but when he dis-covers he is the only heir to the Earldom of Harriss, he goes to one ball. And that one ball, was enough to change the direction of his life forever.
But how could he possibly have known that other person— the other half of his whole—would not only need his help but threaten his very existence?

She didn’t know how hard it would be to love the broken.
Isabelle Hartwell’s mother just sold her to the Beast of Russia. He’s mean, temperamental, and the most virile, handsome man she has ever encountered. But he has a secret, one he’s willing to die for and he refuses to let anyone in. Will she be able to reach his heart before it’s too late?

You know how sometimes when you read a character driven story you can just tell that the author totally fell in love with his or her characters based simply on the way said characters are written?  That totally happened in Whispered Music.  Van Dyken’s connection with Dominique and Isabelle is so strong and added so much to this story allowing me as a reader to just connect  on an entirely different level than I would have normally.  Dominique is definitely Van Dyken’s darkest and most troubled hero to date.  Whispered Music is the seventh of her novels I’ve read and trust me when I tell you – Van Dyken does dark and brooding better than anyone.  Her heroines shouldn’t be forgotten either – nobody pushes these women around.  Isabelle matches Dominique in wits with each tete-a-tete the two share.  She reveals that she’ll be a formidable foe for him early on in the novel when he tries to dominate her with his abrupt and rude manner.  His surprise at her nonchalant and unabashed reactions to him both excite him and scare him.  They excite him because he knows his time with her will be anything but boring and scare him because she may just be the person that touches his heart.

I cannot recommend reading this book enough.  I know I say this in each of my reviews of Van Dyken’s works, but she honestly grows leaps and bounds with each new book she comes out with.  She raises her own standards with each new dark and complex character she creates.  I try to consistently share her books with friends and push her works out there because I truly believe she is a name to follow in the world of historical romances.  She rates in my top five favorite romance authors along with Tessa Dare, Eloisa James, Marie Force, and Lauren Royal.  These five women know what it takes to write a romance that just makes your heart swoon.  Add Van Dyken’s novels to your to-read piles if you haven’t already – I’m serious. Go. Now. Do it.

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my forty-first completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Whispered Music by Rachel Van Dyken
Astraea Press (2012)
eBook: 234 pages
ISBN: 2940015139723

#86 A Review of Upon A Midnight Dream (London Fairy Tales #1) by Rachel Van Dyken

Upon A Midnight Dream is the first novel in Rachel Van Dyken’s new London Fairy Tales series.  The Fairy Tales series is a spinoff of her highly successful Renwick House series. (Reviews of Renwick Books 1, 2, 2.5, and 3) Upon A Midnight Dream is a re-imagined version of Sleeping Beauty.

Rosalind Hartwell and Stefan Hudson have a duty to their families that they cannot break.  They must be wed or a family curse will descend upon both their families.  Stefan, the Marquess of Whitmore, seems like an admirable husband by any standards, yet Rosalind and Stefan call off their engagement, throwing both families into chaos.  The family curse roars into action and multiple family members from both houses, starting with the fathers of both Rosalind and Stefan, die of a mysterious sickness.  In an attempt to ward off even more disaster, Rosalind and Stefan decide to wed after all, but Rosalind insists on being properly courted.  Unfortunately for her, Stefan is a little rusty in that department, having been away from proper civilization in his travels and conquests.  Will they be able to discover the true cause of the mysterious sickness that is cursing the families?  What will become of Rosalind and Stefan’s relationship?

Rachel Van Dyken has done it again.  I was laughing from cover to cover, especially when she described the hilarious relationship between Stefan and his horse, Samson.  This humor definitely made the book fly by, and before I knew it I was finished with the book!  Another awesome aspect of this book was Rosalind’s character.  As you all know, I’m a huge fan of strong female leads in books, and I was glad to see Rosalind make it not so easy for Stefan to come back into her life.  Even though he was stubborn, Rosalind stuck to her guns and gave him a taste of his own medicine.  They were a perfect match for each other.  In all, Van Dyken’s work was a fun read, just as I thought it would be.  I really enjoyed this spin on a classic fairy tale, and I can’t wait to see her re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast next!

4 out of 5 Stars

Upon A Midnight Dream by Rachel Van Dyken
Astraea Press (2012)
eBook: 224 pages
ISBN: 2940014355421

Special thanks to Astrea Press for my review copy!

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Stardust

Hi everyone, Adam here! I wanted to give you a broad overview of my new series appearing on the blog, called “Adam’s Film Friday’s.”  Each Friday I will post a new review on a film.  There is no type of film I’m against trying to review, so if after reading some of my posts you think there is a film I’d enjoy or even one you’d like to hear about just use the form on the contact page and let me know.

Stardust, a modern fairy tale, is set during the 1800’s in a small English town called Wall.   The story begins with Dunstan (Ben Barnes) journeying past a magical wall that surrounds the town into the realm known as Stormhold.  (Stormhold is a world filled with witches, warlocks, and all things magical)  There he finds a slave girl with whom he spends the night.  Nine months later a boy is dropped off at Dunstan’s front door, his son Tristan.  18 years later, Tristan (Charlie Cox) has grown up into a local shop boy who vies for the heart of Victoria (Sienna Miller). One night while sharing champagne in the woods, Tristan and Victoria, see a shooting star. Victoria says if Tristan is able to bring the shooting star back to her before her birthday in a week, she will agree to marry him.  Tristan makes it across the wall and begins his journey to find the star, which coincidently turns out to be a beautiful woman Yvaine (Claire Danes).  At the same time Tristan is trying to bring the star back to Victoria, a witch named Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), and a prince, Prince Septimus (Mark Strong) are also searching for her.  Lamia needs the star’s heart for her and her sisters so they can be immortal, and Septimus needs the ruby that the star is wearing so he can take over as King of Stormhold. As they all go on their separate journeys, their stories connect and form what is one of the most entertaining fairy tales I have ever seen in film format since I was a kid.

I thought for the most part the cast fit their roles very well. A definite standout for me was Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare, whose character is completely different from anything else I have ever seen him in. When I first heard he was in this film, I expected him to play the tough guy, but it definitely showed his versatility as an actor to play Captain Shakespeare.  Captain Shakespeare appears to be a tough guy, but let’s just say he also has a soft side. 

Another standout for me was Charlie Cox as the bumbling hero Tristan Thorne. He portrayed the character with the right amount of aloofness and heroic stature that made his character so likeable. Had he done only one of those two contrasting traits, he would have either looked like a condescending jack-ass or a moron.  He was able to find the balance though and effectively play the character.

The weak link in the first half of the film for me was Claire Danes as the star Yvaine. Her performance got better as the film progressed, but her British accent was very weak in the beginning which made her scenes very awkward and uneven to watch. However by the end of the film she came into her own. (If anybody wants to see how good of an actress Claire Danes is, watch her in Baz Lurman’s version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  She is a perfect Juliet).

I think anyone from 9 to 99 would really like this “old school with a twist” fairy tale. The fantastic special effects, solid performances from some old Hollywood favorites/new up and comers, and a solid story made this an enjoyable film viewing experience. I leave you know with this question: Do you think the stars are watching you as you gaze up at them? After viewing this film you will constantly think of an answer to that question.

4 out of 5 Stars

Stardust
Paramount Pictures (2007)
PG-13, 127 Minutes

Kim’s note: Stardust is based on the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman.  For my review of the book click here