1. Burning Lamp / Amanda Quick
This is the second in Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle's newest trilogy in the Arcane Society novels. The Arcane Society started with an alchemist way back in Newton's time, and is made up of families who have unusual psychic gifts -- such as reading auras, having enhanced psychic abilities, etc. They are always infighting, leading to lots of drama through the centuries, and somehow the men working for them are always diamonds in the rough - tall, dark, handsome and powerful. This particular novel is set in Victorian years, the most entertaining Arcane era for me. We have murderous villains, unprecedented psychic powers, mad scientists, and of course, True Love.
2. A Secret Affair / Mary Balogh
Mary Balogh, though born & raised in Wales, has lived in Saskatchewan for years. As a fellow Saskatchewanian I feel that I really need to read her vast output of romance novels ;) This one I received courtesy of Random House, and the perfect timing is greatly appreciated!
This latest contribution is one in a series about a specific family in Regency/Georgian England (even if the cover is a bit skanky for the era). Each individual gets their own story, and in this one we hear the love story of Constantine Huxtable, the black sheep of the family. As always Balogh's writing is very emotional: though both Constantine and his love interest the Duchess of Dunbarton seem cold and aloof, they are both really soft-hearted social reformers, and they love children. I do get a little tired of the notion that a man is really worth loving because he gets along with children, but, I know there are many people for whom that idea resonates.
The story proceeds along expected lines, but having read all the other books in this series, I am aware of the history behind it, which really fills out some of the characterization. Balogh is very good at drawing motivations and desires of the characters and making the stories more than just a formulaic fill-in-the-blanks. And even in 'just' a romance novel, there are moments of wisdom to be shared -- as when Constantine ponders his recent rude behaviour:
Perhaps one of the worst of his sins, a very recent one, had been his denial of all that he knew to be true of human nature. All people -- all -- were a complex product of their heritage, their environment, their upbringing and education and cumulative experiences of life as well as of a basic character and personality with which they were born. Everyone was a rose but even more complex than a mere flower. Everyone was made up of infinitely layered petals. And everyone had something indescribably precious at the heart of their being.
No one was shallow. Not really.
Now isn't that a more poetic way of saying that there's more than meets the eye in every person? A good lesson to be reminded of, a lesson in empathy. And so two good reads to relax and yet engage the brain this cold and rainy weekend.