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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
P.O. Box 425, Keller, TX  76244-0425


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Books for Adults - Fiction

Ten Ruby Trick               The Pirate's Lady

Cover Art: Ten Ruby Trick
Ten Ruby Trick
By Julia Knight
Carina Press, 2011, ISBN 9781426891069, e-book $5.99

StarStarStarStarStar
Smash-and-grab Ė that is Andor Van Gastís insignificant style until he meets Josienne, who has a knack for thinking outside the box and planning successful scams. Their success as racketeers knows no limits as they pursue foolish, but exhilarating, risks to pirate untold wealth. But their alliance is a secret, even to their crews. In public, they are bitter rivals, but in private, they are lovers. Van Gast wants their relationship to be more permanent, but heís not certain if Josie feels the same.

Their partnership, however, doesnít preclude plundering ships on their own. When Van Gast and his men capture the Sea Witch, his share of the treasure includes the largest diamond heís ever seen. But soon after, his little-magic begins to itch. While visiting Estovan to trade his diamond for something more precious, that itch becomes a burn, and he barely escapes with his life.

Holden, a Remorian, serves as the eyes and ears of the Master of Mages. A writhing, silver string has bonded him to the Master since his youth, and it allows Holden to live in ďa useful, peaceful society, one with no crime or hatred.Ē (8) He doesnít have to think for himself or fear uncertainty. He need only heed the Masterís wishes. Enraged by the capture of the Sea Witch and the taking of his brideís dowry, the Master orders Holden to capture Van Gast. Once the racketeer is brought to Remoria, the Master intends to enslave Van Gast, who being an unwilling recipient of the silver string, will die a slow and agonizing death.

But Van Gast proves elusive, and the Master decides on a new tack, using Van Gastís enemy to capture the racketeer. When Holden brings Josie to the Master, she doesnít come alone. A young boy is with her, which gives the Master the advantage. Josie must entice Van Gast into Holdenís trap, or the Master will bond her and the boy. But the Master also takes a risk in having Holden work with Josie, for they were once lovers and she showed him what it was like to laugh and to taste freedom, if only for a fleeting moment.

Although not a piratical tale in the strictest sense, Ten Ruby Trick mirrors the ways of pirates during the buccaneers of the seventeenth century. Knight stirs a boiling cauldron of magic, fantasy, adventure, and intrigue that compels the reader to turn the page. Told from both Van Gast and Holdenís points of view, the story is an unsettling, but astounding, voyage that forces the reader to empathize with both men. Knight requires the reader to think, to realize just how hard it is to trust someone, but in doing so, she disperses the steamy mist that muddles our thinking until we understand how precious that gift of trust can be, and how rewarding and freeing it is to think for oneself.
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Review Copyrighted ©2012 Cindy Vallar
 

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Cover Art: The
                Pirate's Lady
The Pirateís Lady
By Julia Knight
Carina Press, 2012, ISBN 978-14268-9395-7, e-book $5.99

StarStarStarStarStar
Andor Van Gast and the racketeers (think privateers) return in a new adventure that promises to net him the greatest prize of all or destroy him in the twistiest scam ever attempted. Just joining Josie in this scheme could prove deadly since heís uncertain whether she still wants to kill him. But the only way to prove that he loves her is to trust her unconditionally. Doing so puts him in harmís way, but the thrill of the hunt dares him to take the plunge.

Under Van Gastís tutelage, Holden slowly learns the ins and outs of racketeering now that he is free of the mageís bond that enslaved him. But that freedom also prevents him from being at ease with his wife, with whom he desperately wants to reunite. But Ilsa is a free woman, and no matter what he tries, the rift between them only seems to widen. Her attraction to Van Gast doesnít make the situation any easier for Holden, nor does the new crew member who awakens new feelings within Holden and makes Van Gastís little-magics itch with warning.

Josieís scam is the most daring and riskiest theyíve ever attempted, but Van Gast isnít privy to all the details. All he knows is the twist involves the Yelen, who want him dead for stealing their prized diamond, and a return to Estovan, where the most powerful Yelen reside. But Estovan has changed since he and Holden destroyed the powerful mages of Remoria. A few still exist within the Yelen court, and Rillen allies himself with them and their growing magic to overthrow his father while laying the blame at Van Gastís feet. And helping him in this struggle is a traitor within Van Gastís crew.
 
The Pirateís Lady is the sequel to Ten Ruby Trick. Favorite characters return and new ones appear making for a delectable cast of characters, but between the opening twist and the twist-to-end-all-twists begins, the story slows. Part of this stems from having to recap the first book for those who havenít read it, and part of the problem is the repetitious nature of some aspects, such as Holdenís dilemma in how to make things right with Ilsa. But once THE twist is set in motion, The Pirateís Lady becomes a runaway roller coaster that pins readers to their seats.

Knight does a fantastic job in crafting her traitor. Until the identity is finally revealed, she kept me switching from one character to the next. At times, I even felt like Andor, wondering if Josie was the traitor, but shaking off that suspicion because I wanted true love to prevail. Like the swashbuckling tales of buccaneers, this one takes place mostly on land. Rillen is a formidable foe, and the trials the racketeers face are fresh and riveting Ė almost as daring and exciting as Morganís sacking of Panama and raid on Maracaibo.
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Review Copyrighted ©2013 Cindy Vallar
 

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