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Monday, October 26, 2015

Editorial - The Witches of Port Townsend: Which Witch is Wicked? Release Event

From left to right: Kerrigan Byrne, Tiffinie Helmer, Cyndi Stark, and Cynthia St. Aubin.

Have you ever been in a group of people with whom you just felt comfortable in less than a day?

You all come from different states, make different livings, wear different styles, and yet, there's a snap and suddenly, you're all aligned.  Everyone is smiling comfortably, talking as if you're all old friends. Laughter happens often, and it's got the full-bodied warmth that only comes when you're in the company of your people.

Speaking to anyone in the group is a pleasure. The myriad of personalities are as reflective as jewels, and all fit snugly into the setting in any order.  The thought of departing for home is bittersweet. You've met your tribe. Your coven. The mothership bearing your kind. The clique that makes your high school group look shallower than a snail's slime track.

This weekend has once again reaffirmed that the world of literature is my home.  I met people who read, wrote, edited, and assisted authors, and no matter what we discussed, books came up over and over. There were debates over interpretation and style, and genre preference.  We shared authors we loved and spoke passionately about what a heroine is and isn't.  Through it all, there was no anger or unkindness, just honesty and respect for each other's preferences.  I witnessed intelligence and wit and so much humor my cheeks are still sore, yet I can't let go of my smile.

The tireless ladies that collaborated to write The Witches of Port Townsend series are a perfect balance and it is clear that these books are more than just stories.  They are a labor of love created by four women whose affection, support for, and belief in each other is obvious just by watching them together.

Tiffinie Helmer is a fascinatingly earthy woman. I don't mean in the way that the word has been twisted.  In truth, she brings back the real meaning with a natural and honest beauty that reminds her fellow women that confidence is the ultimate sexy. There is not an inkling of judgement. Her easy smile is genuine and warm, and when she hugs you, it feels like home.

Cindy Stark is nothing less than delightful. Her bright smile holds such sweetness and I'm so very sad to say I did not get enough time to talk to her.  She's lovely both in visage and heart, and there's something about her that says there are many interesting facets to her.  Watching and listening to her reminds me that no matter how smooth the surface, intriguing undercurrents are constantly in motion.

Kerrigan Byrne is one of those women that could seduce the planet with a wink and a smile.  Her wit and confidence are irrefutable, and her presence can be felt even as she is avidly listening to someone speak.  There is a radiating strength within her that bolsters you, makes you stand up straighter, and be in the moment.  She is startlingly beautiful, in a way that you'll find yourself staring, and then when she speaks, you'll be laughing at her humorous deep savvy and grounded personality.

Cynthia St. Aubin is instantly charming. Never before have I met someone whose joy is expressed without reservation or self-consciousness as Cynthia.  She is open-hearted, humble and has a kindness so obvious, I want to follow her around like a Disney forest creature.  Her classic beauty is only emphasized by the honest appreciation and affection she freely bestows, and her quick mind bubbles over with humor and intelligence.

Port Townsend is more than just a pretty tourist town with gables and widow's walks.  Streets and buildings bearing discreet historical placards hold shops, restaurants and galleries. A short wander along Water Street has such variety, it's impossible not to find something on display that won't tempt you to lighten your wallet, even if just a little. The history is rich and deep.  Listening to our very knowledgeable tour guide, Grymm, I felt a kinship to this place. There is something that speaks of strength here.  Through turmoil and hardship, this town has more than survived, it's retained its beauty and mystery.  There are talks of hauntings and odd happenings.  Whether you believe or not, there is no doubt that this place has a presence of its own.

Grymm (aka Geoff) told eye-widening histories and details that only a native could relate.  His enthusiasm was bone-deep, but not overbearing.  It made me want to know more, and I found myself recounting the tales of sailors going to sea - often against their will. The history wasn't whitewashed;  we learned about nefarious deeds, societal chasms, and the use of Chinese immigrants as veritable slave labor, as well as the swells of prosperity and strife.

The Old Consulate Inn is the Bed & Breakfast in town.  Other locales might be grander, but they have nothing on this stately Victorian overlooking a lighthouse and marina.  The care and detail of each room is impeccable and unique.  Modern amenities are present, but blend beautifully and are disguised with an artful hand.  The decor is true to the period but never feels cluttered. Instead there are nooks and shelves and niches displaying pieces to inspect and admire.  I found it comfortable, and not as though I was a naughty child exploring forbidden rooms, because the atmosphere is welcoming and homey.  The nearby clock tower at the Jefferson County Courthouse chiming the hour always made me smile.  It never caused me any lost sleep or annoyance even though my windows faced the building across the park.  In truth, I slept more soundly and longer at the inn than I have in months.  Breakfast is presented at 9:00 like clockwork and is a work of art in itself.  The proprietors are everything for which one could hope, looking quite at home in their period appropriate clothing.   Cindy is graceful, elegant, and capable. Her wry humor and economic movements speak of her confidence, and when she isn't bustling about behind the kitchen door, she is the epitome of a gracious hostess.  I liked her immediately.  Nathan is a charmer with a quick smile and an intriguing mustache. Though suited to perfection, he never failed to pitch in when necessary, and offered seamless transitions through breakfast and an event or two.  I saw more of him than Cindy, but had the impression that the two were truly partners, and both came and went with an elegant discretion that I envy. The staff is friendly and almost fairy-like in their spectacularly efficient and nearly invisible comings and goings.   The rules of the house are not overbearing or unreasonable.  Rather, they carry common sense, common courtesy, and a respect for the graceful home and its inhabitants.

As I am a cube dweller with an appallingly sedentary lifestyle, I found I was unable to keep up with all of my fellow adventurers and had to bow out of a few events.  However, the soiree, two history tours, dinners and author meet-and-greet were a swirl of laughter, fun, conversation, excellent food and drinks, and company I'd keep again, given a chance.  This was a trip I will remember always. I very much hope everyone I met and with whom I spent such swiftly departing hours stay in touch.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Review: Which Witch is Wicked? (The Witches of Port Townsend Book 2) by Kerrigan Byrne, Cindy Stark, Tiffinie Helmer, and Cynthia St. Aubin

Get your copy of Which Witch is Wicked? (The Witches of Port Townsend Book 2) by Kerrigan Byrne, Cindy Stark, Tiffinie Helmer, and Cynthia St. Aubin here.

The seals are opening, one by one...

The quintuplet sisters Claire, Aerin, Tierra and Moira are back, and facing down stranger and scarier dangers as they inadvertently continue to open the seven seals, one at a time. The four horsemen are still trying to stop the Apocalypse (with a capital A), each knowing that at least one of witches must die in order to prevent it from happening.

Determining which witch is to be whacked is a difficulty – each horseman has a thing for one of four bewitching ladies, and none of the men can seem to fulfill their honor-bound duty. There's a new player in town, dividing loyalties, and straining relationships.

With the number of unbroken seals dwindling and tensions mounting, the choice of which of the sisters will die may be taken out of the horsemen's hands.

“Isn't that the ultimate goal here?” Julian asked. “To end this nightmarish Apocalypse?”
“They don't all have to die,” Dru reminded them. “Only one.”

Which Witch is Wicked? is the second book in the Witches of Port Townsend Series, and is a tight anthology penned by Cynthia St. Aubin, Kerrigan Byrne, Cindy Stark and Tiffinie Helmer. The first book in the series, Which Witch is Which? was released a year ago and ended on a semi-soft cliffhanger.

This second installment begins a week after the first book in the series ended. I highly recommend reading the first book before starting this one, even if you've already read it. While there is some exposition, there is not enough to cover all of the major events of the first book, and a refresher (or just plain fresh) read makes jumping into the story a lot smoother.

The stories are once again divided by sister, each written by a separate author. In the seamless style of the first book, there is a perfect flow without a discernible difference in overall voice from writer to writer. As a reader of all of these authors, I am amazed. They each have their own style, and the collaboration on this work is completely harmonious. None of their styles stand out, they just blend as though written by one person.

There is a little retreading of old ground here, in the form of reminders of the Apocalypse and the way to end it – causing the emotional turmoil of the couples. However, it is not tedious because it is woven into the intensifying of the relationships of the sisters, the men, as well as the romantic combinations.

More is at stake now, and that leads to character growth more on the part of the sisters than the horsemen. While the witches definitely stand out in my mind, I have trouble separating the horsemen. (Note: I fully admit, that may be a failure on my part.) The introduction of a new character acts as a catalyst for further discord. While not exactly being a fresh take on this particular villain, there's enough individuality and malice to keep the reader guessing.

The story moves along briskly and smoothly, with some short breathers. Due to the number of characters, there is a lot happening. I can't say I have the whole ending figured out, but there is some hefty foreshadowing which makes me wonder if it isn't a flashy red herring. Ending on another cliffhanger (not brutal, but obvious), the way is neatly paved for book three.

With humor, drama, action, and growing tension, this book has sidestepped the “sophomore slump”. I would say it's not quite as good as the first, but only by a very small margin. Along with other readers, I bemoan the time between releases, which attests to the power of the story.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: Accidentally Ever After (Accidentally Paranormal Series, Book 11) by Dakota Cassidy

Click here to buy Accidentally Ever After (Accidentally Paranormal Series, Book 11) by Dakota Cassidy

Antonia Vitali is hiding out in Jersey working in a discount clothing store. Her boss is a young, pretty nightmare that makes Antonia wish she was anywhere but there.

And in an instant she was.

Now she's in Shamalot with the ladies from O.O.P.S., a zombie reindeer, a great blue ogre with a tiny voice, and Jon Doe – a heroic reindeer herder with perfect, well...everything. To get home, she must embark on a quest wearing a get-up that would bring a proud tear to a beauty queen's eye. But like any fairy tale, this one has all the trimmings: danger, magic and a whole lot of derring-do.

Time is running out, can Toni get to the castle in time and find eternal happiness on the way?

Dannan's words plucked a memory in Toni's brain.
The one where she wished she were anywhere but the outlet mall?
No. Nuh-uh.
Crap, crap, crap. She really was responsible for them landing here.

As the eleventh book in the Accidentally Paranormal series, Accidentally Ever After defies series fatigue with a freshness that made it a delightful page-turner. Dakota Cassidy went all out with the world-building here, and that fearless dive into the deep end of the fantasy pool is why this story works. Had she gone half-measure, or tried to weigh it down with more of a hand-wringing heroine, it would have fallen flat. This story isn't as emotionally wrought as some of the others in the series, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment, or the ending.

Eschewing a rehash of the fairy tale twist, Cassidy gleefully mows down the trite stories without losing the crux of their existence, e.g. the journey is more important than the destination. The humor is clever and quick.  Familiar characters are lampooned with tongue-in-cheek affection that is more of a wink at the reader than a gratuitous laugh grab or mocking eye-roll. Of all the Accidentals it's the most self aware, giving a sense that Cassidy is laughing with you, even while she openly acknowledges foreshadowing.

While Toni's character feels familiar, she's different enough to remain interesting. Jon Doe is a true fairy tale hero, but his charm doesn't grate or feel overused. The peripheral characters are almost more interesting, running the gamut of personality and silliness, and definitely round out any rough edges.

The pace is swift, without being frenetic. Every scene has a purpose toward Toni's quest. Cassidy twists the end a bit, making Accidental Ever After stand out in the series. There is a strong lead in for another book, which will delight fans to no end.

Once again, I found myself laughing out loud, feeling warm fuzzies, and looking forward to the next book in the series.   

Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: The Highwayman (Victorian Rebels #1) by Kerrigan Byrne

The widow Farah MacKenzie has built her life with meaning and compassion, even as she crosses paths with London's criminals as a clerk at Scotland Yard. Despite the passage of years, time did not diminish her love for the young man whom she'd wed and lost to a cruel world.

Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More was a legend; a dark shadow controlling the strings of the dangerous London underworld. Calculating and cruel, and forged by suffering and injustice, he is determined to keep a promise made long ago, by any means necessary.

Protecting Farah from a danger she'd thought she'd escaped, Dorian sets in motion a plan that will forever change her life and circumstances. Intrigue, passion and secrets soon tie them together, but Dorian is as determined to protect Farah from himself as from the sinister machinations that threaten her life. His implacable will is constantly challenged by the soul-deep temptation of Farah. Her gentle strength remains unwavering in the face of her own peril, but the safety of her heart lies in Dorian's ruthless hands.

“Do not speak of love, Farah. For it is something I cannot give. I can offer you protection. I can offer you revenge. But I cannot offer you my heart, because I am not capable of giving something I do not possess.”

For many years, historical and regency romances were my reading cornerstone. Lindsay, Garwood, McNaught and a host of others still adorn my bookshelves. I'd comb bookstores, saving my money to buy their backlog of work. Then, I'd return once or twice a month, hoping to see an upcoming release heralded on an announcement board. On release day, I'd be there as early as possible to get my copy, reading late into the night. Over the years, the historical changed shape and my tastes evolved. The last new historical I read was almost a decade ago. Since then, any I've tried seemed to be missing...something.

I came across Byrne's work through a friend. My friend's recommendations were solid; she'd never steered me wrong. In this case, my hopes were exceeded. Byrne's berserker series captured my imagination completely. The writing style was fresh, but was reminiscent of the books I loved.

So, many months ago, when I found out The Highwayman was to be released in September, I felt that old familiar tingle of pre-book anticipation. The literary gods must have been smiling down on me, because at the RT convention in May, I got an advance copy. (And squealed like a fangirl at a boy band concert!) Eschewing sleep for several days, I devoured the book, and have been eagerly anticipating the day when the rest of the world could get their hands on it, too.

The Highwayman is eloquent. Byrne's style of showing rather than telling draws the reader into the tale swiftly. Her ability to convey the subtleties of emotion and the nuances of personality gives all the characters a richness that brings them to vivid life. While most of these details are focused on the hero and heroine, the supporting players each have their own voice.

Farah is resourceful and clever. Her kindness is not naive, instead it's hopeful. Pragmatism keeps her from becoming a Pollyanna clone. Though the period restricts some of her behaviors, her unconventional occupation showcases the sweep of her character, without stretching credulity. Her humor makes her a lovely contrast to Dorian.

Dorian is a deep well of neurosis, and his back story is painted with an ever darker brush, unflinchingly revealing atrocities that are often brushed over or merely hinted at by other authors. Because of this, the angst and harshness of his character is not alienating. Even when he seems unflinchingly cruel, his humanity is never completely gone.

The peripheral characters are more than plot-movers, they are interesting in their own right. Dorian's companions are each given enough back story to make the reader want to know more about them. Morley is not a foppish suitor, but a worthy rival for Farah's affections. Warrington is fiendish, but not a caricature of evil. Though he's not always present, his wily intelligence is implied.

The scenes between Farah and Dorian build with a riveting tension. Byrne's deft handling of their slow dance toward each other keeps the relationship from stagnating or causing reader frustration. Even as you think Dorian's walls will come down, the author validates his character traits with his continued, but fraying, resistance.

The intimacy between the two is scorching, and I was very impressed with the author's continuation of Farah and Dorian's personalities throughout their sexiest scenes. Dorian's darkness is soul-deep, and his psychological scars are shown with raw clarity in the way he beds Farah. It gives a small release to the reader, but actually adds to the tangled issues that prevent them from being together.

Overall, the story moves along very well. It's a sizeable read, but doesn't suffer any hand-wringing filler that's so often found when one of the characters is so troubled. Though there is some foreshadowing, the reader doesn't always know what's going to happen.

I enjoyed this story immensely. It was everything I'd hoped it would be, and more. I'm absolutely delighted to know it's the first in a series, and I eagerly await the next book!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Review: The Accidental Dragon (Accidentally Paranormal Novel) by Dakota Cassidy

Get The Accidental Dragon (Accidentally Paranormal Novel) by Dakota Cassidy here.

Tessa Preston and McAllister Malone have pushed each other's hot buttons since they were little kids. Each hides their attraction for the other behind temper-sparking spats. Lately it's been getting hotter and hotter, until Mick actually sets Tessa's antique shop on fire. With his breath. Must have been that headache powder he took...

Suddenly embroiled in a mystery to determine the source of Mick's new fire-breathing abilities, the two find themselves surrounded by some sooty, (and scary!) but experienced guides to the paranormal. As the weirdness ratchets up, Tessa needs Mick more than ever. But Mick's loyalty to his dearly departed best friend, Tessa's brother, could endanger any future they have.

His eyes searched each woman’s. “Are you going to tell me that if I look in a mirror, I’ll see wings on my back? Wings?”
“Yeah. Just like the kind on those feminine protection commercials, only not,” Nina said on a cackle.
Before he had the chance to respond to this next batch of weirdness, Wanda began hopping around from one foot to the other, holding up her iPhone. “I know what you are!” she sang. “You, Mick Malone, are a dragon!”

In true Accidental Series form, The Accidental Dragon jumps right in, feet first. The reader, in tandem with the main characters, learns the situation is...GASP!... paranormal... with well-crafted, and humorous observations. Piecing together the "How?" part of the mystery, soon leads to the question of "Who?", and from there, the stakes and the drama build exponentially with a smooth arc. Information is carried in on the back draft of the peripheral characters - some new, some old favorites, and some that are mysteries until the very end.

Tessa and Mick are so stubborn that if it weren't for the sudden fantastic situation they were in they'd never have gotten anywhere. They're the kind of people that will think themselves out of a feeling or situation. Mick lashes out to cover his feelings for Tessa, constantly getting her goat. His over-protective smothering would be enough to make any independent woman lose her temper. Tessa fights just as hard as he does. But, in her most vulnerable moments with Mick, it's clear Tessa's feelings for Mick have helped her get through some of the darkest moments of her life. Their relationship isn't at all sibling rivalry, it feels more like a desperate lose/lose battle that will just tear them to shreds if nothing ever changes. Enter the O.O.P.S. team.

Cassidy's got a great ability of using her peripheral characters to advantage. Even ones that have died. The struggle with the memory of Tessa's brother doesn't seem any less important than the fear of the big bad paranormal meanie that seems to have it out for Tessa and Mick. All the O.O.P.S. favorites are here. They seem to be a bit more present than in a few of the other books. It didn't seem as though Tessa and Mick got a lot of time alone.

The book is liberally coated in laugh out loud humor. You'll never hear certain music the same way again. Ever. I promise. Nina's smart-mouth is on fire, as usual, and Mick's mental musings are quite funny. All of this, and yet two little words..."Where's Carl?" had me laughing the hardest. With her signature style, Cassidy pulls together humor, danger, heart-tugging moments, and a twisty, full-circle everything-explained plot line with her usual flair and panache.

After reading the entire series, The Accidental Dragon felt like coming home. There was enough familiarity to feel comforted, and so much original fun that I now have some new favorite characters to hopefully see in future works.

I highly recommend this book.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Review: The Rock Season by R.L. Merrill

Get The Rock Season by R.L. Merrill here.

Stevie is a soon-to-be mother. But that doesn't stop her from rocking out! As a popular blogger, she and her concert buddy frequent the local venue to see all the great shows. When Stevie's careful plan start on a tumultuous slide, she has to find a way to deal with her broken heart. Her whole life, music has been her companion, and once again she turns to it for solace.

Aaron McShane comes from a melting pot of a family. He's given up the rat race to open a vintage vinyl store with his best friend. Everyone thinks he's crazy that he works at an amphitheater during concerts as security for pleasure in his spare time. As the oldest son in a tight-knit extended family, he takes on a lot of responsibility which has taken a toll on his previous relationships. One look at Stevie at a concert, and he's dumbstruck by the redhead blooming with motherhood.

As Stevie works on picking up the pieces of her life, she and Aaron run across each other more and more. There's a sudden vacancy when her concert buddy goes on an extended trip, and Aaron is more than happy to step in. They have music in common, Aaron's family adores Stevie, and it seems as though they might have what it takes to have real love. The tenuous bond they've forged is suddenly tested by life's unexpected smack-downs and Stevie and Aaron have to decide if they can work through the storm together, or be torn apart by it.

'It sounds stupid, but I was kind of grateful, maybe like someone who’d seen the Taj Mahal or the Grand Canyon would think, “I am better for having seen this place.” For me, I was better for having seen her face. I was fucking mental, but I was grateful.'

Quick on the heels of her first release, R.L. Merrill's The Rock Season easily sidesteps the "Sophomore Slump" many authors fall into. This story runs the spectrum of emotion very well. From the first stirrings of attraction, to deep heartbreak, to fear and love - all are painted in the relationships of the main characters whether it be family or with each other. They are seamless and flow with the speed of real life.

Stevie is that quiet, tough soul that soldiers on. She isn't dreary, but her personal sadness is sharp and clear. Rather than telling the reader how much Stevie loves music, Merrill conveys it in her habits, her hobbies, and her dialogue.

Aaron is a big sweetie that only looks intimidating. He's a poet at heart, and a deep thinker. Fiercely devoted to his family, he feels especially responsible for his two younger brothers, who seem to find trouble quite easily.

The story is told in first person, switching back and forth between Stevie and Aaron. Merrill handles this well. Instead of causing the reader confusion, it allows for a deeper understanding of the main characters' feelings and actions. The plot covers a decent span of time, with the emphasis on the busiest time of year at the venue. Despite its length, it doesn't stagnate, but offers new peaks and valleys in the roller-coaster of the relationship.

All of the supporting characters have wonderful depth, and there are quite a few here. Stevie's friend, Maryland is lively and amusing. Aaron's whole family and even his friends are all different and memorable. But, of all the supporting characters, music plays the biggest supporting role. Its presence is felt in every chapter, woven in with a deft hand.

If you love a hero with a sensitive soul and a heroine with enough strength to face down life's challenges, The Rock Season will become one of your favorites. I highly recommend this book for anyone that loves a good romance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Review: Fashionably Dead by Robyn Peterman

The sparkling gem of this story is the irreverent and fearless humor. I swear on all things Prada, it will make you laugh out loud. I startled my dog several times while reading this book. She finally got so disgruntled she left the room.

Astrid is somewhat archetypal: She's a pretty but slightly dysfunctional woman with relationship issues and of course, a heart of gold. She's "not a ho-bag" but has a healthy sexuality. She doesn't know her own worth, has self-doubts, but soon realizes her place and finds inner strength. I could see that character development coming a mile away. Despite this, Peterman's ability to write a clear character voice is so strong, I was able to accept Astrid's at face value, and look forward to a deeper character development as the series progresses.

In the realm of the paranormal, so many things seem to have rules. Isn't that odd? It's supposed to be a world where the impossible is possible, and yet, so many paranormal novels are based on the same tropes and archetypes. While Astrid's beginning seems to follow those at first, and all of the plot twists were fairly obvious, Peterman does take refreshing liberties with many of those "rules". Astrid's genealogy allows for this with ease, which leads to smooth story progression.

The story moves along very well, there's no drudgery or drawn-out angst, which delighted me to no end. The only downside to that was, at times I felt rushed at points that could have used a bit of time to enhance their impact and importance. I'm somewhat befuddled by her very quick fall for her mate, despite barely spending time with him. I don't know if that was due to the "fated-ness" of their being together, or if it was just underdeveloped, or maybe due to length, it got cut. Even so, the book was over way before I was ready to leave the characters - and it had little to do with the "cliffhanger" ending.

To her credit, Peterman writes excellent supporting characters. Just like Astrid, they have clear and separate personalities, which helps the reader process a lot. Because the book moves so quickly, the reader is introduced to nearly 30 other characters. The writing is so good that you can pick them out in your brain to count them. They don't blur together and get lost or forgotten. Were this like other series, I'd love to explore their little worlds and characters separately.

As a first book, the world building and opened possibilities make it an instant appetizer for the rest of the series. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love by Betsy Prioleau

Get Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love by Betsy Prioleau here.
This book is my self-esteem bible.

The title suggests using one's sexuality to gain power. The book goes so much deeper than that, though.  Our femininity is the source of our strength, much as a man's physical build is his.  Rather than stifling this, and resorting to either Madonna or whore archetypes, Prioleau suggests we use the whole of our femininity, from our innate empathy to our resiliency. She cites neatly organized and well-researched examples of several different types of women: nonbeauties, seniors, intellectuals, artists, government leaders, and adventurers.  These women are all towering examples of self-possession, there's not a damsel in distress in sight.  Prioleau doesn't sugarcoat either, every mini biography gives a clear view of all of the subjects’ formidable strengths, but includes their myriad of failings. 

SIDE NOTE:  Seductress is written with enough erudite diction to require even the most avid logophile (someone who loves words) keep a dictionary handy.

Repeatedly, Prioleau circles back to the ancient goddess(es) and how women in history have channeled them.  I'm not well-versed in matriarchal history or lore, and I was at first a bit of a cynic about this. Stepping out of the mental habits and opinions formed by my upbringing, and opening my mind to the ideas rather than the lore, allowed me to distill the underlying message from this book. If you have strong moral opinions, or a strict religious upbringing or belief that is hard-set, you're probably not going to like this book. The author crushes the double standards of men and women in power that go outside a monogamous relationship and lauds the women for using an intoxicating blend of mind, body and heart to get what they deserve. JFK, many powerful men carried on a sordid affair (or several), but they're still venerated.  Women who do so are attacked and insulted.  Rather than mire herself in the debate around morality, Prioleau rises above it. She states the facts, and enumerates the effects.  Some have said that these women are master manipulators.  I find that’s only true in as much as every human being is a manipulator.  These aren't scheming social climbers or gold diggers.  These are women that knew what they wanted, what they needed, and suffered no bull to get it.

Regardless of upbringing, looks, age, original social standing or lack of money, these women rose to notoriety and gained the respect and adoration of their peers.  No matter who you are or what you look like, this book proves over and over the truth of the old cliche, "Looks aren't everything." If you lament that you're getting old, your face is plain, your pockets are empty, or your body is far from the ideal - READ THIS BOOK.  Instead of plaintively or aggressively wailing that society accept you as you are, you own who and what you are.  Society can hang itself.  Slights and barbs don't hurt so much because they are the weak arrows of the unfulfilled and the insecure.  Don't think this is a matter of just suddenly thinking you're self-possessed.  False bravado won't cut it, insecurity isn't hidden by sassy statements and a bitter attitude.  It can only be found by brutally assessing ones-self and staring into the parts both beautiful and hideous. Prioleau understands that, which is why her examples are so vivid. Of the thousands of women she researched, she mined the most formidable figures that impacted society and sometimes history - by fair means or foul.

Like many of the women Prioleau chose to spotlight in her book, the author has an awareness of self, a sharp mind, and understanding of the bisection of male and female society.  I guarantee just about every reader will disagree with the author at one point or another. I found that opened up the possibility of stimulating debates with others. Regardless of whether you agree or not, the intrinsic truths stand out.  Women, not just men, have hamstrung other women.  Feminism has gained us a more equal footing, but has managed to confuse and undercut men.  We don't need their power, we have our own. We don't need to wear men's suits, unless we want to. We don't need to harangue, nag, emasculate or subjugate men - it's alienating, and while it may gain power, it does not gain affection.  We need to assert our own minds and the strengths that complement theirs. We need to work beside and sometimes around them. We need to understand our needs - physical, emotional, and mental - and acquire satisfaction with the knowledge that it's deserved, without apology.  We must know our self-worth, our strengths, understand how others think, cultivate our minds constantly, and pursue all of our passions with unreserved joy. THIS is what makes an enchantress; that self-possession and savvy that spellbinds the people around us.