The 20's Girl, the ghost, and all that jazz by June Kearns

I loved "An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy" by June Kearns (see my review here) and couldn't wait to read something else she'd written. "The 20's Girl, the ghost, and all that jazz" is another beautifully written romance.

Gerardina - Gerry - Mary Chiledexter (yes, that really is the name of the heroine) belongs to the generation of women who were left short of men to marry after the First World War. The story is set in the mid-nineteen-twenties and begins in a rural backwater where Gerry runs a bookshop while living in gentile poverty. 

Her legacy from her Aunt Leonie is a collection of silver-topped scent bottles, a wardrobe of out of date designer clothes, and, astoundingly, a half-share in a million-acre ranch in south-west Texas. 

Consequently Gerry meets Coop, the gorgeous Texan who owns the other half.

As this is a romance novel, the reader knows from the beginning what the outcome will be but Gerry and Coop are off to such a bad start that it is hard to imagine how they're ever going to get together. Once again, author June Kearns has devised a plot so full of twists and turns that even in the final pages it's hard to see how it will all be resolved. Every time you think you know what's going to happen the story takes a different direction.

There's a great cast of supporting characters amongst them deceased Aunt Leonie whose taste in clothes is extravagant and expensive; Gerry's friend Prim who lives up to her name; the Texans who are simultaneously intrigued and confounded by Gerry's appearance in their lives; and the apparently psychic feline, Igor.

As in "An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy" each chapter is headed with a quotation from a period source, this time a magazine or newspaper clipping. I'm going to guess that these are imagined by the author but they feel authentic and provide a very effective structure for the novel.

The contrasting settings of the English Shires and the Texas outback are described in poetic detail as are the beautiful outfits Gerry has inherited from her aunt. This provides a subtle background for the text creating a well-developed sense of time and place.

Dialogue is crisp and economical although Gerry's inner voice is surprisingly modern. This works really well and gives the novel contemporary resonances.

Altogether, another excellent romantic novel from June Kearns. I can't say which of the novels I preferred: they're both five star reads of the highest quality and I'm looking forward to reading whatever she writes next. You can find details of both June Kearns' books on her Amazon Author Page.

The Northern Star: Civil War by Mike Gullickson

Civil War is the second book in The Northern Star trilogy by Mike Gullickson.

I read The Beginning a few days ago (review here) and went straight on to Civil War. The author has included the opening chapters of Civil War at the end of The Beginning and it's such a gripping continuation of the story that it's impossible not to read on.

It seems unlikely that the state of the world could get any worse but in Civil War things go from bad to extraordinarily bad as the conflicts develop. The world has become a terrifying place by 2068. The author describes a world dominated by cyber techno superiority in which ordinary people are of minimal value and the motives of their rulers are even more questionable than in book one.

Although stretching credulity to the limit this is excellent science fiction. The writing is so vivid it makes the story completely believable. The terrifying future world imagined by the author contrasts starkly with the easily recognisable emotions of the main characters. Civil War continues to tell the story of John Rainey, the Tank Major, introduced in The Beginning who despite his extraordinary physical changes retains a profound and moving humanity.

At times this book reads like fantasy with almost spiritual overtones. The cyber world created by the author is on an epic scale and it is greatly to his credit that he manages to sustain the vision and develop it coherently through both books.

Civil War is another can't-put-it-down book and I enjoyed reading it immensely. I borrowed it with my Kindle Unlimited subscription but if I was buying I would definitely go for the omnibus edition with all three books in one volume. More details on the author's Amazon Author page.

The Northern Star: The Beginning by Mike Gullickson

This novel is set in the future; in 2058 to be precise. 

If I live so long I'll be well past the age when I get a celebratory telegram from The Queen and I hope I don't. What a world! The struggle for dwindling resources has created chaos and the new "Mindlink" technology has opened cyberspace to the masses.

Mindlink "sleepers" facilitate the process but a super-sleeper causes devastation on-line becoming a pawn in the global struggle; and an injured soldier, John Raimey, is transformed into a powerful bionic warrior known as a Tank Major to try and bring some order back into the chaos.

Author Mike Gullickson has created a totally authentic other-world into which the reader is skilfully transported. 

The pages fly by as the plot unfolds. 

It's difficult to write about this novel without giving the plot away, suffice to say I loved it. The text is peppered with barbed asides from the author about the state of a world that brought this new world into being. The insatiable greed for oil across the whole of the developed world is the root cause and where this ends up is really quite terrifying. 

Bring an imaginative yet completely plausible advanced cyber-world into the mix and the stage is set for a bumpy ride for the reader and the rest of humankind.

The Northern Star is a trilogy and having finished reading The Beginning I downloaded the second book and continued reading immediately. I'm in 2068 now and things are only getting worse! Highly recommended.

More details of The Northern Star trilogy on the author's Amazon author page and his website.