Sunday, February 11, 2018

Aurelia: Serving Roma Nova in the 1960's

I have reviewed three of the alternate history Roma Nova books by Alison Morton on this blog.  The titles are linked to their reviews.  They were Inceptio, Perfiditas and Carina.  All three feature Carina Mitela as the protagonist.  With Aurelia , I begin a prequel trilogy taking place in the 20th century and centering on Carina's grandmother, Aurelia Mitela.  I liked what I saw of Aurelia in Carina's books.  So I was happy to receive the first book focusing on her as a gift from the author via Book Funnel, and this is my honest review.

                             


When I compare the two protagonists in the Roma Nova series, I have to say that I prefer Aurelia.   I feel that Aurelia is more level headed, and that she has better judgment than Carina.

 I saw a review of this novel on Goodreads that questions Aurelia's romantic judgment.  Frankly, I thought Aurelia's romantic judgment was much better than Carina's.   I won't get into specifics because those would be spoilers,  but I believe that your mate should be the person who you can always count on to stand by you.  Carina forgave far too much.  It seems to me that Aurelia was able to put her life in perspective when it came to romance, and made a decision that was healthier for her in the long run.

Another major difference between Aurelia and Carina is that Aurelia necessarily had a more powerful support system because she was born into a privileged position in Roma Nova.   She didn't have to learn the ropes. She didn't have to try to fit into a culture that was alien to her as Carina did when she unexpectedly had to start a new life in Roma Nova.  It's a good thing that Carina is so adaptable because she needed that flexibility.  She didn't have Aurelia's advantages.   She had to invent a support system of her own, though Aurelia herself was always someone she could rely on.  In a crisis, Carina transforms herself and finds new options, but Aurelia is as constant as the North Star.  I perceive both of them as strong women with differing approaches that were shaped by their experiences.

I was interested in the opportunity we had to explore a new setting in Aurelia.  Aurelia was sent to Prussia on an assignment that was ostensibly diplomatic, but really involved the collection of intelligence.  In the Roma Nova alternate continuity, Germany was partitioned into a number of sovereign nations in the aftermath of the Great War.  Prussia was one of them. This was apparently a lasting solution to the threat of German militarism. There was no World War II.

In Prussia, Aurelia was faced for the first time with institutionalized sexism.  Respectable Prussian women were restricted to the domestic sphere.  Prussian men seemed incapable of understanding the matriarchal culture of Roma Nova.  I wondered if attitudes in Prussia might have changed over time.  Would Carina have been met with the same uncomprehending prejudice if she visited Prussia in the 21st century in the course of her duties?

I look forward to continuing to explore the differences between the way Carina responded to situations, and how Aurelia reacted to similar circumstances in the two remaining books of the Aurelia trilogy.





                                                                 

                               

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions (Kopp Sisters #3)

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions is the first of Amy Stewart's Kopp Sisters series that I've read, but Tara reviewed the previous volume, Lady Cop Makes Trouble on this blog here.

I didn't feel that I needed an orientation to the Kopp Sisters that wasn't provided by Amy Stewart in this book.   So for me Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions could stand alone.

                         

 When I learned that the Kopp Sisters and other individuals portrayed in this novel really existed, I hoped to be able to find online content freely available that I could link to in this review.  I did find a page on the Library of Congress website devoted to Constance Kopp which included numerous newspaper articles about her.   As the first female sheriff's deputy in the U.S., I thought she would merit a Wikipedia page,  but such a page doesn't exist at this point.  Amy Stewart says that she found the Kopp Sisters on Ancestry.com which is a commercial website.  Serious researchers on the Kopp Sisters would need to pay Ancestry.com for their content.

There was a woman who was assisted by Constance Kopp who I thought was extraordinary by the name of Edna Heustis.  I wanted to know what happened to her after the events of the novel, but I learned that Amy Stewart had fictionalized her to an important degree.   I wondered if fictionalizing real individuals in ways that contradict the historical record could be justified in historical fiction.  Edna Heustis isn't a well-known individual.  Nor is it likely that she will ever be the subject of a full scale biography.  Some might argue that she is too minor for her portrayal to be the subject of controversy.  I will leave the issue up to my readers who may have their own opinions on this matter.

I really liked  Constance Kopp's intervention to restore freedom to young women who had been condemned as "wayward".  This is based on the concept that women are property who couldn't have aspirations or ambitions of their own.  This idea had persisted for centuries and was widely believed in 1916 when Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions took place.

Readers who are interested in early 20th century law enforcement, and how it impacted women who'd been stigmatized as "wayward" will be interested in reading the latest Kopp Sisters novel.
















                            

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Pearl Sister Blog Tour and Review

The Pearl Sister by Lucinda Riley is the fourth book in Riley's Seven Sisters series.   I haven't read the first three novels, but I am aware of the premise of the series. These books are about seven adopted sisters whose novels reveal the truth of their genetic origins.

 I recently reviewed Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate here .  It dealt with adoptions that were a crime against children which is not at all the same focus as Riley's.   It's important for me to say at this point that I believe that genuine parents are those who care about the children involved.  Based on the portrayal of parenting in this book, it seemed to me that Lucinda Riley agrees with me.  I am happy to say that the Seven Sisters series isn't about proving whether birth parents or adoptive parents are more legitimate.   It's apparently about the journey of the individual sisters, and how each of them are impacted by it.

I was selected by the publisher for the blog tour of The Pearl Sister.  An ARC was provided to me via Net Galley in return for this honest review.

                             

There were two elements in the description that interested me.  The first is that CeCe, the protagonist, is an artist.  I love reading about artists.   Last year I reviewed  a novel that contained a female character who lived in impressionist Claude Monet's village, and aspired to be a great artist like Monet.  It was called Black Water Lilies and I reviewed it here. The other theme in The Pearl Sister which I find fascinating is Australian aborigine history and culture.

I have to say that the opening section of this novel which took place in Thailand didn't impress me.  CeCe seemed to be drifting, and I didn't consider her an example of a strong woman protagonist at that point.  The past to which she wanted to connect was in Australia, not Thailand.  I just wanted her to get on with it.  Other readers may be interested in CeCe's relationship with a male character known to her as Ace. I could have done without it.  I thought it was an irrelevancy.

We are introduced to the Australian background by means of Kitty, an early 20th century British immigrant to Australia.  I considered her an ambivalent character.  She was appealing to me when she made unconventional choices, but became increasingly unsympathetic over time.   Some readers may see her role in business as feminist, but I didn't consider this a positive development in her life because she wasn't fulfilling her own ambitions.  I didn't admire the fact that she was making herself unhappy.

It was at this point that the sections devoted to CeCe's life showed her in a more active phase in which she reclaimed her sense of self, and renewed her own aspirations with the help of Australian aborigine sources of support.  CeCe came into her own as a protagonist at the same time that Kitty receded for me.  It became very much CeCe's story, and I was pleased with the arc of her development as a character.

The final section transitions to the next book in the series which will apparently be focused on Tig who feels strongly connected to animals and is a passionate advocate for their rights.   Since this is a focus that is of great importance to me, I look forward to the fifth Seven Sisters novel.