NH writers spin altered reality of two sortsDEB BAKER
April 25. 2015 9:37PM
Jeremy Robinson's new thriller "MirrorWorld," which comes out this week, is set mostly in New Hampshire, but not necessarily the one we know.
Josef Shiloh, former special forces soldier and CIA assassin, knows himself only as Crazy. He can't remember anything about his life or identity and he is quite literally fearless; it's an emotion as unknown to him as his past.
A woman appears at the mental hospital where he lives, offers him a chance to leave and takes him to a mysterious company called Neuro.
He finds out that Neuro exists to counter a race of mythical creatures called the Dread that have co-existed with humans since the dawn of time and are the source of terror and violence in the world.
Through a series of events I don't want to give away, Josef gains the ability to see and move between the human and Dread worlds. As his memory is restored, he figures out what's driving Neuro's leader. And as a human who can communicate with the Dread, he begins to understand their motivation as well.
Robinson's book is action-packed, a combination of sci-fi and military thriller, and Crazy/Josef is a hero worth rooting for - plainspoken, smart, loyal, and trenchantly observant: "I'm starting to feel like I'm living in my own shadow and I'm getting pretty annoyed with my past self ... The ridiculousness of the situation is not lost on me."
Robinson, who lives in New Hampshire, is a bestselling author of dozens of books with sci-fi, horror, and thriller fan bases around the world, but isn't as well known among general readers. If you can tolerate action movie-style violence, his stories are a wild ride, thought provoking and page-turning.
Fellow New Hampshire writer Margaret Porter writes a completely different kind of fiction that also deals in altered reality - her books are set in the past, and feature actual historical figures, but she fills in the unknown parts of their lives, their everyday feelings, hopes, and ambitions.
Author of 11 previous books, her newest novel, "A Pledge of Better Times," is the story of Lady Diana de Vere, daughter of the Duke of Oxford, and Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans and son of Charles II by his mistress, the actress Nell Gwynn. Both Diana and Charles served at court, and their many descendants include members of today's royal family.
Porter's meticulous research brings every detail of aristocratic London (and the royal courts of France and Holland) in the late 1600s and early 1700s to life. Her storytelling prowess makes even the most baffling court rituals engaging. My only quibble - and it's a minor one - is that sometimes the historical details overwhelm the story a bit.
Still, this book is a pleasure to read. Porter's writing is expressive, as in this passage when the newlywed Diana frets at her husband's absence after he goes to Flanders to fight with King William: "It seemed to Diana that she inhabited one of her own pencil sketches, for the world had gone flat and colorless."
Among the many characters are kings and queens, aristocrats, servants, actors and mistresses. The Duke of St. Albans was one of King Charles II's several illegitimate children. Diana's two sisters had different fathers who had affairs with her mother, and Diana's father also sired children out of wedlock. But "A Pledge of Better Times" is no soap opera.
It's a richly evocative peek into a world long gone and yet very familiar to modern readers, with political and ideological maneuvering and romantic entanglements not so different than today's, except in the details. Porter explores friendship, marriage, parenthood, and loyalty as she tells the story of people who were celebrities in their time, and she illuminates the soft power aristocratic women had, if they were allowed to wield it.
If you're a fan of Masterpiece and other period dramas, the glorious descriptions of fashion and décor, leisure activities, meals and even pets will be very appealing.
Margaret Porter will be at Gibson's Bookstore, 45 S. Main St. in Concord, on Thursday, April 30, at 7 p.m., and at Toadstool Bookshop in the Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene on Saturday, May 16, at 2 p.m.
Deb Baker is adult services manager at Concord Public Library and blogs about books at bookconscious.wordpress.com and the library world at thenocturnallibrarian.com.
Her opinions are her own and not those of her employer.