Saturday, October 28, 2006

'Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: A Bisexual Regency Romance' by Ann Herendeen

TITLE: Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: A Bisexual Regency Romance
AUTHOR: Ann Herendeen
PRICE: $14.50
GENRE: Gay & Lesbian/historical
ISBN: 1420869639
PUBLISHER: Authorhouse
POINT OF SALE: Authorhouse

'Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander" both is, and is not, your mother's Regency romance. It is a love story with a plucky heroine and a dark, brooding aristocratic hero, there are some balls (yes, I mean dances) in pretty frocks, there is a marriage of convenience, a string of misunderstandings (531 pages worth!) and a happy ending. There are also the husband's new and former male lovers, a rent boy and his girlfriend, a club for wealthy sodomites, intrusive and eccentric relatives, friends and associates, French and British spies and quite possibly (somewhere in the mix) both a kitchen sink and a partridge and a pear tree. One gets the feeling that in limiting herself to these mere 500-odd pages Ann Herendeen was in fact showing a significant degree of restraint. Perhaps this story would really like to be one of those three novel sets a lady novelist of the era would have produced!

The plot rumbles off to a fairly standard beginning with an impoverished Phyllida being offered marriage by Andrew Carrington--although a quirky twist is apparent because Andrew makes his sexuality known from the beginning and Phyllida is revealed as an shockingly open-minded authoress of high gothic romances. On cue the two find themselves victims of hit-and-miss sexual chemistry (the latter being not all that surprising given a mutual lack of experience with heterosexual coupling). Things escalate from there, thanks to the interference and advice of many parties and Andrew’s secret sideline in espionage. In trying to protect each other the happy couple manage to… well, you really have to read the book to see what a truly tangled web they weave and just how many people get caught up in it.

By the end there is dire peril all around, emotions reach a fever pitch, people are hidden away in various rooms and basements, guns are going off, secret codes are passed around along with a strong of interlocking personal secrets and misunderstandings, and although no balls are in frocks Phyllida is trying to squeeze her ample charms into the disguise of male garb (with a distinct lack of success). 'Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander' is a book that is easy to like, easy to read, and a fun way to spend a day--preferably lounging on a chaise lounge and exclaiming in mock horror at every salacious detail. For a fan of regency romance and gay themes in fiction ‘Phyllida’ truly is a confection almost to good to be true!

RATING: 8/10

Amazon 10/10


Monday, October 16, 2006

'The Senator' by Lou Dischler

TITLE: The Senator
AUTHOR: Lou Dischler
PRICE: $14.99
GENRE: Thriller
ISBN: 141962007X

I just finished three thrillers in a row. The first two were The Broker by Grisham and The Camel Club by Baldacci. The third one was The Senator by Lou Dischler.

I have no qualms putting this right next to the Grisham and Baldacci novels. The Senator is fast paced, populated with three dimensional characters, and the settings and atmosphere surrounding the events in those settings, were realistic. In places, as a matter of fact, it seemed much more real than the Grisham, with which I had some ‘suspension of disbelief’ struggles.

The main character is a “lesser known” (and completely fictional) Kennedy who has run for office and failed, as well as failed in an attempt at a career in journalism. At the time of the story’s opening, Paul Kennedy (who doesn’t appear until chapter 2, actually) is dreaming about buying a 30 foot boat and running a tourist fishing operation. He’s dating the daughter of the powerful Senator from South Carolina, Wade Thornton, a situation which the staunchly Republican Senator thoroughly disapproves. Paul would marry Helen Thornton, but she is reluctant because of the enmity between Paul and her father.

The arrival of a package from Argentina at Paul’s address, but intended for someone else, is the beginning of a chain of events in Paul and Helen’s life that eventually leads them to uncover a conspiracy that includes people in top government positions both in the US and other countries, who are pushing relentlessly towards a goal that would destroy the US economy, setting up the right circumstances for their Society to step in and take charge of a world that will be left in chaos.

There are a number of essential subplots and secondary characters, all are well crafted and integral to the story. The subplots weave in and out of the main plot, supporting and enhancing the story. And while there is a secret global conspiracy, it isn’t one totally constituted of dark and exaggeratedly evil madmen. One can actually empathize with them at some level. To me, this is key to a good thriller. If the white-hats are too white and the black-hats too black it’s just melodrama.

Because much of a thriller’s enjoyment for a reader hinges upon the elements of surprise, it would be unfair to go deeper into the story. I will say that there are times when I think some of the economic rhetoric could have been pruned. I also think the portrayal of the Secretary of Defense was a bit over the top. But I think back to the characters in the Grisham and the Baldacci books mentioned above and they had similar flaws. I found a few errors a bit more copy-editing might have caught, but frankly I’m finding those in best-sellers these days, too. No harm done to my reading pleasure. And it was a pleasure to read.

RATING: 8/10

Amazon 10/10


Reviewed by Dawno