#FirstNight #NetGalley


first night


The year is 1802, and Cristabel and Max are headlining a youth performance of Orpheus and Eurydice in Lissenberg’s new opera house. Christabel convinces Max to switch parts to let her sing the male lead only to reveal herself to thunderous applause, and her father’s burning shame, at the opera’s close. Disgraced, Christabel is sent back to England.

Upon hearing of the scandal, American heiress Martha Peabody seeks Cristabel out with an unorthodox proposition: Martha has money and independence but no talent, Christabel has raw talent but no means to support herself. With Martha acting as Cristabel’s manager, the two women could travel autonomously: Cristabel able to pursue her passion for opera and Martha escaping the confines of an unwanted marriage. Taking a leap of faith, Cristabel agrees. When a fortuitous meeting with a young composer leads to a professional opportunity for Cristabel, she soon finds herself back in Lissenberg, keen to discover what has become of Max.

But tensions in Lissenberg are rising: Napolean Bonaparte’s supporters are growing in number and Max’s father, the mad Prince Gustav, is tightening his iron grip on his kingdom. Max’s distant behaviour confuses Cristabel, but the show must go on, and she throws herself into her opera training. Meanwhile, Martha finds herself drawn into a political intrigue destined only for trouble.

As opening night approaches it becomes increasingly clear that the diverging paths of the two women are bound to collide, with momentous consequences.

Thank you Net Galley and Ipso Books 🙂


I wish I loved opera. I mean, there are some songs from different operas that I like, but I find it hard to listen to a whole story being sung through in another language. Like musicals, there’s a weird logic thing I can’t make work. Sure, there are some musicals I adore—Hair, All That Jazz, JCS, Godspell, WSS (four out of five of those are from my childhood) but, yeah–no. I guess I feel guilty because opera was huge in my mother’s family and beloved friends love opera and talk about it…a lot, but opera’s like a Rothko painting—you either get it or you don’t.  

That being said…I loved First Night. I expected something even more over the top than usual with settings like Venice and the fictional Lissenberg, and the author did not disappoint me.  Even as the mystery and suspense overtakes the plot a love of opera thrums through the novel and striving for excellence drives the characters forward. The plot has unexpected twists and turns that kept me reading. The novel was published in 1989, and I think it holds up well.


Island of the Mad by Laurie R. King



I am a very big fan of Laurie R King and especially of the Mary Russell series. For some reason, Venice has figured into much of my reading lately, and I had to laugh (because I didn’t read the Net Galley blurb, just requested the book) when the plot brought Mary and Holmes there. Venice is brilliantly rendered under the author’s pen—I dreamed of gray-green lagoons all night long last night—as is Cole Porter and his wife, the gandolieri, the Bright Young Things, the Blackshirts, and Bedlam, to name a few reasons to love this book. The plot moves along quickly and logically with a wonderful smash-bang superhero scene before the big reveal.

Thank you Net Galley and Bantam 🙂

Release Date: June 12, 2018

Bantam Books


Jack Was Here by Christopher Bardsley

watercolour-1833061_1920Jack was herre


This is a brilliant crime novel, and Christopher Bardsley is an author to watch for in the future.

Hugh Fitzgerald is an almost-broken man—served in the Australian army in Afghanistan, wounded and deployed home, his pension is generous enough to allow him to try and drink his way through his PTSD. He’s angry, he has terrible nightmares, and his wife has left him. He’s tough and gritty, though, and always was. When his brother seeks him out to help an old friend find their lost son in Bangkok, all expenses paid plus, Hugh takes on the job, though he’s kind of a wreck, and he knows it. His blatant honesty about himself is the charm here, no subtly, and he has a dark wit. The writing is superb and the plot tight though marred with a few too many typos (I’m looking at you, Thistle). I frankly couldn’t put this down. Hugh’s inner demons soon come crawling out in the excesses of Bangkok, and we learn more about his time in the service and his inner wounds as he hunts for young Jack Kerr. The secondary characters are well drawn, and Hugh’s insights and instinct for evil serve him well. The setting, from Bangkok to the border between Thailand and Cambodia, is so well written I could feel the awful humidity, almost smell the urban and human decay. I am very much looking forward to more from this author.

Three Truant Reviews

With apologies to Net Galley, the publishers, and the authors…


Wild Justice by Priscilla Royal #1

I read the first few books in this series and loved them, so when the book came up on Net Galley, I saw this as an opportunity to jump back into the series. Yes, I am very late—I had a heck of an ending to 2017 and into the New Year and didn’t think I would be able to review the books I had received from Net Galley—then I fell and ended up in the hospital and in recovery going on the second month now. So I re-read the book and liked it more the second time.  You’ve got to know by now the 14th book in the series isn’t going to bring any new surprises but the author delivered again a solid mystery against the backdrop of the order of the Hospitaller’s. It was an enjoyable slow burn to the reveal, gaining momentum as I read. It’s also the type of story where you could pick it up in the middle of the series and not be too lost. I’m usually not the biggest fan of medieval religious sleuths—give me Joliffe over Cadfael any time (lol)—but I did find the intricacies of convent life interesting in this context.



No Man Dies Twice by Michael Smith 

I re-read this one to make sure I still felt the same way about it and still couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it at all.


A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland

I love Victorian mysteries, but unfortunately found this one disappointing, to say the least. I did want to know whodunit so read to the end despite misgivings. It wasn’t the plot that bothered me as much as the first person present tense and that there weren’t many likable, relatable characters, if any at all. There was something off about the language also. I think I would have liked it more if it was written from Sir Hugh’s point of view (in the past tense) or maybe alternating view points.