A dark, detailed tale about the making of a fearless woman.

THE IMPALER'S WIFE

The spouse of Vlad the Impaler takes center stage in Bardot’s (Legends of Lust, 2019) novel.

There are abundant stories surrounding Vlad Dracula, the brutal, real-life prince of Wallachia who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In a unique take on this well-known figure, Bardot depicts Vlad’s story through the eyes of his wife, Ilona, a courageous, intelligent young woman whose cousin is the king of Hungary. The narrative chronicles Vlad and Ilona’s marriage, a love match that’s also politically expedient. Their relationship is full of emotional extremes and constant maneuvering as Ilona struggles to stay in the mercurial prince’s good graces and keep his attention, both as a confidante and as a lover. Bardot does an excellent job of portraying Ilona’s metamorphosis from a naïve young maiden to a wife who’s determined to hold on to her husband even as their evolving relationship chips away at her beliefs, morals, religion, and identity: “I did not tame the beast,” she reflects, “far from it. My husband released the beast within me.” As Ilona comes to grips with her dark side, Bardot offers the reader an unflinching account of Vlad’s brutal past. Overall, Bardot’s novel is a complex work of historical fiction that touches on politics, religion, battle strategy, and cultural mores. It also doesn’t shy away from scenes of explicit violence and passion. The author mainly details Ilona’s present-day life while leaving her background largely unrevealed. However, the narrative also jumps around in time, piecing together Vlad’s history in a series of flashbacks; it’s a journey that began with an unsettled child who was held captive and ends with a fierce, unforgiving warrior prince who’s obsessed with power and revenge. In the end, although Vlad’s story is indeed interesting, it’s Ilona’s that will truly capture readers’ imaginations. A more detailed author’s note that separates fact from fiction would have been a helpful addition, though.

A dark, detailed tale about the making of a fearless woman.

Pub Date: March 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9882092-4-4

Page Count: 456

Publisher: Flores Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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