Thursday, January 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday Review: Wild Bells to the Wild Sky by Laurie McBain

Hello my lovelies!
So I cannot say how glad I am that Sourcebooks is re-releasing some of these old skool romances from the 70s and 80s. Authors don't seem to be writing these types of long-winded sagas anymore, and it's really a shame. I am a big fan of stories like this from Bertrice Small, Virginia Henley, Laurie McBain, and others. 

One thing I noticed as I was reading this one (because I was on a schedule) was that I couldn't really slow down and take my time to savor the wonderful story. I had a deadline! It certainly has helped me make up my mind to accept fewer ARCs so that I may dip into my backlog of unread books, particularly the shelf of bodice rippers that have gone unread for a few years now. 

Without further ado, let's talk about this month's throwback read!

Wild Bells to the Wild Sky 
by Laurie McBain
Original Pub:  Jan. 1983
Re-Release:  March 1, 2016
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca
Pages:  592
Format:  eARC
Source:  NetGalley

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

Lily Christian was just an enchantingly innocent child of paradise when she fell in love with the sun-bronzed captain who came to take her home to England. But shamed by the resplendent ladies of the court, she bitterly despaired of ever being loved in return.

As the years passed, and fortune's cruelty forced her into a life of adventure, the girl once forgotten became a ravishing beauty who tormented Valentine Whitelaw's heart. And as the royal treachery that had destroyed her family now threatened her, he became her champion. 

Drawn together into perilous adventure and intrigue, they crossed the world, won glorious renown in the service of the Queen... and found their love's destiny past the ends of desire.

I recommend that you read this story when you have time to sit back and savor it. Don't read it in a rush. It's elaborately detailed and meanders through the life our our heroine, starting before she was even a twinkle in her parents' eye. Indeed, by the time I got to 12%, I felt like I had already read an entire book. Those who only read the latest releases may complain that the story is long-winded... but that is why I love it! I don't know of any authors that write like this today... but if you know someone I am missing, please send me some recs!

This story takes place during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. It is packed full of court intrigue and treachery. This is not a historical where you will see the bon ton at Almack's with marriage-minded mamas trying to foist their cow-footed daughter off on the most eligible man with a title. Don't get me wrong, Regency and Victorian romances are all well and good and I read a lot of them. But there is just something captivating in these darker stories set during the Tudor and Elizabethan eras. They tend to be filled with espionage, betrayal, plots, court vipers and royal assassination attempts. I really admire the amount of research the author had to put into the story, even with regard to the elaborately described costumes, landscapes and buildings. And this was done before we had the internet! Phew.

Wild Bells to the Wild Sky is a somewhat familial saga that focuses heavily on the coming-of-age of our heroine, Lily Francisca Christian. Lily's father was one of the Queen's sea dogs out harassing the Spanish fleet in the New World. He falls in love with Dona Magdalena when he plucks her (and her family) off one of the ships he captures. So you really get Lily's story from the way back, before she was ever conceived. She was a great heroine! Despite surviving terrible tragedies that we don't even dream of today, Lily always perserveres. When many would have given up hope, Lily remains strong to take care of her family. She is such a strong character that you really forget how young this girl is... I don't think we even see her reach her 18th birthday in this book.  I loved her.

While our hero is technically Valentine Whitelaw, we don't meet him until much later in the book. The earlier focus is on Lily's father, George Christian, and his good friend Basil Whitelaw. All of the men in this story are wonderful. George Christian was a loving husband and father, and a capable and dangerous sea captain privateer. Basil was a loving friend and surrogate to the children when they needed him most. And though he was not a dashing and dangerous hero, he fit perfectly into the story to bridge the gap between the familial hero and the romantic hero.

As for Valentine, he first meets Lily as a child and has no romantic inclinations toward her. This of course causes some heartbreak to our young heroine who falls quickly for the dashing sea captain, who is handsome and so like the father she lost. Needless to say, this book does not have a grand passion between Valentine and Lily, as she is a child for much of the book. By the time their paths cross again and she is older, Valentine is conflicted by his romantic interests and his feelings of duty. This was not an easy romance and attraction for either party. Lily always feels slighted or despondent that she will never be what Valen wants... and Valentine is thinking of his friend, Lily's father, and his duty as rescuer and caretaker of the children.

In sum, this was a wonderful saga and I am happy that I received an advanced copy of the re-release in exchange for an honest review. 

Check out this cover progression. I am partial to the original cover myself, but I have always been partial to the classic romance and bodice ripper covers.  A throwback to the good old days of these fabulous saga romances when I used to snatch them from my mom's nightstand and read it all in one sitting before she got home from work.