A Strange Scottish Shore (Emmaline Truelove #2) by Juliana Gray

This review is going to contain spoilers for the first book in the series, A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, previously reviewed here. If you haven’t read it and intend to, unspoiled, then stop reading right now because this review will VERY quickly reveal the big secret of that book (and the series). Really, if you’re at all interested in reading it you probably already know the twist, but just in case…

All good? Ready to jump in? Are you sure? Okay, here we go.

A Strange Scottish Shore front cover (Berkley/Penguin Group)

THE PLOT: Emmaline Truelove and her employer, Max, the new Duke of Olympia, are traveling to Scotland as the Duke courts a young lady. Of course, they are also investigating the strange chest that was found containing a “selkie suit,” which feeds into her family’s legend. Because more than just a Duke and his former secretary, Max and Emmaline comprise the Haywood Institute for the Study of Time.

After the adventure on the island of Skyros, it’s apparent that Max has some sort of ability to cause time travel, but it’s unclear (at least to the younger Max) how these powers work. He doesn’t understand them and has very little control. But when Emmaline’s kind-of love-interest Lord Silverton disappears, she realizes she’ll take any risk to get him back—even having Max send her whenever Silverton is.

MY TWO CENTS: These books really don’t give you a lot to describe if you want to avoid spoilers! But here’s the big one: This is a time-travel book. Everything that goes on in this book (and the first one) is based on Max’s time-travel powers.

Now people might be asking how this series compares to Outlander, and here’s what I can tell you: I really don’t know. I’ve never read nor watched Outlander. I know that it involves time travel, which is why I bring it up. I know it’s a very popular romance. I wouldn’t say this series is primarily about romance, so that’s one difference. There are also different eras represented, and from what I can tell, the Outlander characters only travel between the 1940s and 1700s? I know I’m not being a whole lot of help here. If you’re all out of Outlander and want something similar, I’m not sure if this will meet your craving.

I love the framing device in the form of a book written by an older Max who presumably has control of his powers and understands what has gone on in the stories being unveiled in the novel. The story is told in a way that doesn’t quite give away what was going on, but gives you enough of a hint so say, “So WHEN was this selkie lady from, really? And WHEN did she end up?”

Also, although I say this is not primarily a romance (at least not in the way the romance genre is typically formulated), the relationship between Emmaline and Silverton moves forward despite some hemming and hawing in the beginning and her continued reservations that SOMETHING will go wrong and separate them.

Emmaline still talks to ghosts, specifically the ghosts of Queen Victoria and Emmaline’s own stepfather. I’m assuming at some point we’ll learn why Queen Victoria has an interest in Emmaline, but not yet. I suspect it has something to do with biological father.

As far as the pacing goes, I felt that the beginning chapters were slow; it took me a little while to get into it. But once the story was in full swing, it was very difficult to put down. You can’t imagine how this is really going to resolve in any way that is good for the characters. And does it, really? I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book.

COVER NOTES: Love that the cover matches the style of the first book and the e-prequel. I also love that it doesn’t reveal the majority of the book’s setting.

BOTTOM LINE: I’m loving this series and can’t wait to see what happens next. Although this entry seemed a little slow right out of the gate, it really moved the series along.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  No announcement that I know of, but hopefully the next entry in the series will be available in Fall 2018 (although sooner would be good!)

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit (Emmaline Truelove #1) b Juliana Gray

Anyone who is familiar with author Juliana Gray probably identifies her with romance. This book, although linked to her six romance titles, is a completely different genre altogether. Or maybe genres is more appropriate?

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit Front Cover (Berkley/Penguin Group)

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit Front Cover (Berkley/Penguin Group)

THE PLOT: In 1906, Emmaline Truelove is the personal secretary to the Duke of Olympia until his sudden death. The dowager duchess is sending Miss Truelove to Crete on the family yacht in order to track down the new Duke, Maximilian Haywood. Haywood disappeared while working on an archaeological dig. Accompanying Truelove will be the Marquess of Silverton, an insouciant young lord who gives the impression of not being worth much. But in the Duke of Olympia’s world, looks can be very deceiving.

In Crete, Truelove and Silverton try to unravel the mystery of Haywood’s whereabouts while faced with the additional mysteries of whatever is going on in Knossos. Is it really the site of the fabled Labyrinth of the Minotaur? Did the legend have some basis in fact? And why do some paintings at the site show objects that could not possibly have existed 3,000 years before?

MY TWO CENTS: I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but the synopsis definitely intrigued me. I have read two of the author’s six romances (the other four are on my to-read shelf), and I didn’t realize they were connected to this book since it’s not a romance. It doesn’t matter; I don’t think you needed to read the other books before reading this one, although it’s a nice connection and a sly wink to the other characters. It may help frame the story, though, if you read the prequel novella The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match, which is set over a decade before this story and tells how the Duke and dowager duchess met. It also highlights that the Duke was quite active in the spy network even into his advanced years. Is it absolutely necessary? No, but it’s a good story and sets up this book nicely.

Even with that setup, I had a little trouble getting into this book. It took quite a few pages to get to the point where I couldn’t put it down. But I did get to that point. I think the biggest question for this series is, “What the HECK is going on here?” You get a little hint with the book starting off in 2012, then zipping back to 1906, and then…other things happen. Lots to do with the ancient Minoans. Also, did I mention that Truelove sees ghosts? Specifically, she is visited by the ghost of her dead stepfather, and also is often advised by the ghost of Queen Victoria. Whether one should listen to Queen Victoria is another matter.

I’m not kidding when I say this book is different genres. It’s a mystery, part ghost story, part possible time-travel, and maybe a hint of romance, but it is definitely NOT a straight romance. It’s strange, out of the ordinary, and pretty enjoyable despite its quirks. Or maybe because of them? Different is good.

COVER NOTES: I love the cover images for this book and its prequel, The Duke of Olympia Meets His Match. They have stylized art with little facial detail and bright, bold colors. Definitely grabs attention and sets these works apart from the author’s previous romances. The covers scream “This is a new and different kind of story.”

BOTTOM LINE: A little difficult to get into; a mixture of genres, but at heart a mystery. Not everything is resolved, and I’m hooked enough to look forward to the next book in the series.

TEACUP RATING: Three-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available October 4, 2016, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: The title of Book 2 has not been released, but it is scheduled for publication September 15, 2017.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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