Books To Take You Away From It All

Tag Archives: Exotic Locales

For American actress Rebecca Bradley, it is the role of a lifetime: She will star as a 1920s debutante in a film shot entirely on location at a magnificent English country house. The remote setting and high walls of Astbury Hall will provide a much needed refuge from the media glare that surrounds her every move. When Lord Anthony Astbury sees Rebecca in costume, he is stunned by her uncanny resemblance to his grandmother Violet. And when Rebecca discovers a manuscript written by a young Indian woman who visited Astbury Hall in the 1920s, she learns of a love affair so passionate and forbidden it nearly destroyed the Astbury family; a secret Lord Astbury himself does not know. As Rebecca is increasingly cut off from the modern world, Violet’s presence starts to make itself felt in unsettling ways. In the gilded years before World War I, Anahita is a bright and curious Indian girl who never thought she would come to England. But as the companion to a royal princess, she is given rare access to a world of privilege and is sent to an English boarding school. When she meets young Lord Donald Astbury, they share a special bond that is only made stronger by their harrowing wartime experiences. Pressured by his family to marry Violet, an American heiress, Lord Astbury must say good-bye to a love that will haunt him for the rest of his life and inspire a romance for the ages. As Rebecca tries to understand her connection to a tragic love affair sixty years in the past, the story of Donald, Anahita, and Violet unspools to its own shocking conclusion. For Rebecca to find a way back to the life she was meant to lead, she will have to put to rest the ghosts of Lord Anthony’s ancestors or risk repeating their downfall herself. (From

Bubby: Yummy, yummy, yummy. Like a chocolate dipped macaroon – but better – The Midnight Rose is rich, deep, dark and delicious. I loved the intertwining of the stories – actress Rebecca’s doomed relationship, Lord Anthony’s secrets, Ari’s life-changing decisions and of course, the long ago romance between Anahita and Lord Astbury. It’s like “Downton Abbey” meets “The Far Pavilions” meets “Beverly Hills 90210”. Awesome.

Sissy: Great metaphor, Bubby. I completely agree. This book starts at the very end of the story and then jumps back and forth between stories and ages. I generally get uneasy when a book starts at the end, because then I think “Who cares? Why should I read this if I already know the end?” The answer to this question, however, is that by reading the book, you learn the whole story and all of the delicious twists and secrets therein. Then the ending you thought you knew looks completely different in context of all you’ve learned.

Bubby: Let’s just talk about the end, shall we? Never in a bazillion years would I have predicted the REAL ending of The Midnight Rose. Let’s just say that there are multiple surprises awaiting you! I so wish I could say more, but I wouldn’t want to be a spoilsport!

Sissy: There’s also a sickly entertaining sociopathic interlude for one of the supporting characters.

Bubby: Yes, Alfred Hitchcock would be proud!

Sissy: Actually, it reminded me of early Mary Higgins Clark. But that’s just one small secondary storyline. So disturbing that I was disturbed that I liked it! The main character Anahita’s life is so exotic, exciting, rich and lush and Lucinda Riley writes it like full color cinematography. It reminded me of the when I was 11 except for not so exciting or rich.

Bubby: What was so exotic about when you were 11? Isn’t that the year you moved to Idaho?

Sissy: It was one of the years we lived in Fiji (those years when Bubby spent the entire time naked) where more than half the population was of Indian descent. So the foods, the clothes, the smells, the memories were evoked by The Midnight Rose. The only things missing were the maharajahs, wealth, castles, and servants.  Also I did not have a nose jewel, although the neighbor asked my mom if I could and she said no.  Where was the fun in that?  This book is a fabulous saga rich in contrasts–wealth and poverty, love and heartbreak, India and England, fame and ignominy, etc.  It is something I imagine as a movie, with one of those breathtaking Bollywood starlets in the main role and Kate Beckinsale as the beleaguered actress Rebecca.

Bubby: Oh, it would make a fabulous movie! And just for the record, I was NOT naked. I usually had at least a diaper on. Usually. I loved The Midnight Rose so much that I went out and bought myself another Lucinda Riley book – for full price! 4 bubbles from me!

Sissy: Maharani Sissy gives it 4.5 bubbles. And an elephant.

Click HERE to buy The Midnight Rose at

We received a copy of The Midnight Rose from the publisher in return for a fair review. No other considerations, monetary or otherwise, were given.

© Bubble Bath Books 2013

Retired government clerk Mr. Ali is driving Mrs. Ali crazy, and so he decides to start a business—a marriage bureau for rich people.  He hangs up a sign and places an ad, and soon, his business is flourishing.  The business brings plenty of excitement to the lives of the Alis—overly specific requirements, challenging customers, mysterious clients—enough so that Mr. Ali hires an assistant, Aruna.  Busy arranging other people’s lives, the Ali’s and Aruna shouldn’t be surprised when fate decides to rearrange their lives too!

Bubby:  I know, I know—we just did a book set in India.  But this book fell into my hands at Barnes and Noble, and I just couldn’t help myself.  Plus, I had Indian food this past weekend, so perhaps I was under the influence.

Sissy:  And you know me—free books (purchased by Bubby) and I’m in!  Also the cover is all scrolly with gold leaf dots and henna hands and very India motif-y in pink, orange, and blue.  Who can resist such a thing?

Bubby:  The very concept of an arranged marriage has always seemed bizarre to me.  I’m pretty sure that’s because my parents’ choice for me would probably have been scary, and not nearly as good as what I chose for myself.  However, as my children get older, I begin to see the wisdom in such arrangements! I love how Farahad Zama throws you right into the deep end of Indian culture—it seems that not a lot has changed in the past several hundred years.  Zama makes no excuses and doesn’t overly explain things—he just assumes you know that’s the way it is.

Sissy:  Yes—things like living with the groom’s parents, adhering to traditional dress, customs, rituals, and foods, dowry and caste system requirements (both illegal)—give us a fascinating look into the world of Indian marriage.  The descriptions of both Muslim and Hindu weddings are very interesting.  Who knew, for example, that in a traditional Brahmin wedding the groom dresses like an austere monk and tries to renounce marriage in pre-ceremony ritual? Or that silver or gold toe rings are placed on the bride’s feet by the groom?

Bubby: I must say my favorite character in the book is a tossup between Mr. Ali’s assistant Aruna and Mrs. Ali.  My favorite line in the book is when Mr. Ali bets Mrs. Ali that she can’t find him an assistant and she says when she wins he must take her out to dinner—not some cheap place, but rather “I want Tandoori chicken!”  she says.  Yes, Mrs. Ali, we all want tandoori chicken.  I love how both Aruna and Mrs. Ali are both very traditional Indian women yet are articulate, intelligent, and have sparkling personalities.

Sissy:  How about yummy Ramanujam?  I won’t tell you what happens with this erstwhile client, but he is straight out of a Bollywood film.  The Marriage Bureau for Rich People started out slow for me but after a few chapters I became invested in the characters and found it to be a delightful story.  Don’t be put off by all our descriptions in the beginning of this review—the culture and flavor of India just weave through this tale and make it colorful and interesting.

Bubby:  I, too, loved Ramanujam.  He is every inch the Indian prince charming.  I advise that before you begin to read this debut novel by Farahad Zama you Google the exchange rate from rupees to dollars.  Guaranteed you will feel very rich, even compared to some of the “rich people” described in the book.  The storytelling, characterizations, and descriptions are delightful and I am interested to read more from this author.

Sissy:  The tale of a matchmaking service in modern-day India certainly opens one’s eyes to how different things still are when you go from the West to the East in the world.  I can’t believe you haven’t mentioned, Bubby, how an Indian gentleman we knew in California once offered our dad $10,000 for me to marry his son.  Dad was speechless and mom nearly went after the guy with her steak knife!

Bubby:  Oh yes—that was a missed opportunity for you, Sissy!  I can see it now—you in your sari living in the home of Mr. and Mrs. M-

Sissy:  Perish the thought!  Horrifying!  I would have taken all the gold bangles and toe rings and run off to Northern Canada (that’s just the most non-India place I can think of).

Bubby:  I thoroughly enjoyed “The Marriage Bureau for Rich People” by Farahad Zama.  I escaped from my white-bread American winter blahs and basked in a mango-scented reverie.  I give it 3 ½ Bubbles.

Sissy:  Earth to mango-scented crazy town:  time to shovel the walks!  I too enjoyed the book, and also give it 3 1/ 2 Bubbles.

Click HERE to buy The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama at

Click HERE to buy The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama at

@2013 Bubble Bath Books

The Far Pavilions is a sweeping epic of India in the 1800’s.  Ashton Pelham-Martyn was born in India to British parents but was raised as a native Indian after the death of his parents, making him never feel completely at home in either culture. Anjuli is a half-caste princess whose mixed background also causes her tribulation and pain. The story takes the reader on a rich journey through wars, tribulations, hope and romance, teaching us that love can truly conquer all in the end.

Sissy: Back in the day when I first read this I was enchanted by the imagery and senses evoked by the writing in this epic tale.  I could see the purple shadowed “Far Pavilions” mountains, smell the spices of India and see the bright, bold saris worn by the Indian Princesses.  I wanted to go to India then, and I still do.

Bubby: I really feel that we should stop writing right now and pop off to “The Bombay House” and fortify ourselves with a little chicken kurma and roti. Seems appropriate, doesn’t it Sissy?
Sissy:  Ah, that sounds divine!
Bubby: As I was refreshing my memory of this book I found that I could get the 1984 miniseries (Ben Cross, Omar Sharif!) and immediately started watching it – boy did I get comments from the kids! I didn’t get to finish so if you can’t get my attention in the next few days, it’s because I’m watching The Far Pavilions! It’s such a grand sweeping epic – not to be missed, either in book form or movie.
Sissy:  I remember when the miniseries came out–I was so excited.  I was skeptical about Amy
Irving playing an Indian princess, but she pulled it off.  This go round I listened to the “The Far Pavilions” on fully dramatized audiobook, and it was great.  I loved the music and the accents.  It is frustrating, though, to hear all that they have to go through before they finally get together (is that a spoiler?).  Princess Anjuli is too loyal to her sister, in my opinion, and that causes lots of unnecessary anguish.
Bubby: I have to say that I fell in love with our main characters just for their names. Who can resist Princess Anjuli and Ashton Pelham-Martyn? Just delicious. Add to that the story of a boy who is English but was unknowingly raised Indian, a forbidden love affair and the struggles between British rule and Indian autonomy. Fabulous.
Sissy:  Agreed.  I also am going to watch the mini-series so that I can have the full sensory experience again.  One of my favorite characters was Koda Dad, the protector of the princesses and the prince, who also becomes close to Ash.  Played by Omar Sharif in the mini-series, by the way.
Bubby: Omar Sharif! He’s up there with Sean Connery and Cary Grant in the fantastic hot old guys list. Sorry, I got distracted there for a minute. Wow – you should all hear the noise that is coming from Sissy’s kitchen right now. Sounds like a herd of rabid rampaging elephants! M.M. Kaye is one of the most descriptive writers I have ever had the privilege of reading. Within the first 20 pages you feel that you are right there in India in the 1800’s. You can almost smell and taste and feel everything that she is writing about. It’s rather amazing.
Sissy:  I’ve sent the elephants back to the Maharaja’s stables, now, and I’ll have Mustaq, the stable boy, clean up their “leavings.”  After that I shall retire to my mosquito netting covered bed, pat some patchouli on my temples, drink some mango lassi, and finger my forehead jewel.  M.M. Kaye’s sweeping epic of romance and adventure in colonial India inspires me thus, and I give it 4 bubbles.
Bubby: I have to put in a few disclaimers before I rate this book. First off, this is a HUGE book – 960 pages. Secondly, it is violent. We have wars, uprisings, ritual burnings – but it’s not gory. And all the violence is integral to the storyline. Thirdly, the ending is not storybook perfect. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not Disney Princesses happy ever after. All this being said, I still think everyone should read The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye at least once in their life. And watch the miniseries too. 5 bubbles.

The Betarrini sisters, Gabi and Lia, have spent every summer of their lives in Italy with their archaeologist parents. On yet another hot and dusty archeological site in rural Tuscany, these two teenage girls are bored out of their minds.  The sheer boredom drives them to break their mom’s rule and enter an ancient tomb.  When Gabi places her hand atop a hand print, she  finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy in the middle of a fierce battle. With the introduction of handsome knights, castles, and intrigue, Gabi’s summer in Italy becomes much more interesting than she could ever imagine.

Sissy:  We have done reviews of books that involved time travel before, but this one seemed to be a bit different and refreshing, don’t you think, Bubby?

Bubby:  Yes I do agree. I think part of the difference may be location – in Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren, we are in the luscious land of Italy. Specifically, Florence and Siena. Complete with fabulous scenery and fabulous heroic men. I’m definitely refreshed!

Sissy:  How old are you?  And how does your hubby feel about your penchant for other fabulous heroic men?

Bubby: There is not a man on the face of this earth, real or fictional, that can compare in any way with my husband. He is without peer. However, that does not stop me from, shall we say, appreciating beauty and such when it appears in my life! Surely you were moved by the bravery and handsomeness of Luca and Marcello?

Sissy:  Okay, I appreciate chivalry as much as the next gal (I think it is a dying quality), and I am all for handsomeness.

Bubby: Yeah – you married a fairly fabulous man yourself, especially in the handsome and chivalrous department. Apologize for slandering me!

Sissy:  Nope.  You are a creepy 14th century knight lover!  And yes, my lovely hubby need not worry about my eyes wandering to fictional knights with bad breath.  That reminds me– I love how Gabi describes the smell of her beloved, all manly and positive, and I’m thinking that he probably smells like rank, dirty sweat and rotten, stuck between the teeth food.  But I guess that would take away from the romance…

Bubby: Bah, humbug. I am tired of your issues with the book genres we are reading – cozy murder mysteries have too many random dead bodies, foodie books have too many skinny people who eat anything they want and time travel novels have smelly people with bad hygiene. Me thinks you should just let go and FEEL. Become the story! Embrace the romance!

Sissy:  Thank you, Dr. Phil.  I am pleased with how well Gabi and Lia adapt to their situation and use their modern skills in the 14th century.  I also enjoyed their bravery and prowess in battle, although I did have to suspend belief a few times to go along with them not being killed in some unlikely situations.  I know that I would definitely have been dead.  And really tired.  And wanting a diet Coke.  But all in all, I thought Lisa T. Bergren did a great bit of writing here.

Bubby: The author manages to put in a few clever plot devices (no, I won’t tell you what they are because that would spoil everything) that save Gabi and Lia from certain death once or twice.

Sissy:  There are 3 books and 2 novellas in the River of Time series, and I read and liked them all.  However, I had to take a break between them because there was just too much mayhem and battle and swordplay going on and I felt tense.  I give Waterfall 3.5 bubbles.

Bubby: I enjoyed Waterfall immensely. I haven’t finished the series yet but it’s on the top of my to-do list. 3.5 bubbles from me too!

Click HERE to buy Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren at

© Bubble Bath Books 2013

Mrs. Emily Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, is a widowed empty-nester.  She is tired of her life and tired of Garden Club Meetings. She decides that she needs to do something new – something exciting, something patriotic.  So, naturally, she becomes a CIA agent. Her first assignment is to Mexico City. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, things do not go according to plan and Mrs. Pollifax finds herself in the middle of a mess. Fortunately for her, she is one feisty lady and those who go up against her are in for quite a surprise! Subsequent books in the series find Mrs. Pollifax anywhere from Switzerland to Damascus, always feisty, always funny, always uniquely Mrs. Pollifax.

Sissy: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax is the first in a delightfully scrumptious series of 14 books written between 1966 and 2000. Mrs. Pollifax is a great character who not only has the mind of a detective but also knows karate and she uses it! I imagine that I will be like Mrs. Pollifax in my golden years.

Bubby: Well, considering that you ARE in your golden years and have yet to learn karate, I sincerely doubt it.

Sissy: Excuse me, Bubby, I am a purple belt in karate for your information.

Bubby: You were a purple belt 20 years ago. Not sure what your belt would look like nowadays. But anyway, I too adore Mrs. Pollifax. The whole series is fantastic. She reminds me of someone who would fit right in at the Red Hat society – those older women who wear their red hats with their purple dresses and have a ball with life.

Sissy: ONe of my problems with most cozy mysteries, although I do like them, is that murdered people just don’t turn up by the dozens in the same location.  Mrs. Pollifax, on the other hand, doesn’t sit around the Garden Club and find dead people under the geraniums. SHe joins the CIA for heaven’s sake! At first they just give her little inane assignments that aren’t supposed to pose any danger but she proves once and for all that age does not diminish one’s innate wonderfulness.

Bubby: I agree with Sissy – in real life one call only find two or three dead bodies before people start accusing them of BEING the murderer. Mrs. Pollifax heads out to all these fantastic exotic locales (Mexico, Egypt, Africa, Morocco) and is involved in situations where murder and mayhem are plentiful.

Sissy: That is one of the most fun things about this series – the exotic locales. Mrs. Pollifax is a hoot when she tries to wear disguises and assimilate into the cultures. Dorothy Gilman is writing is witty and clever.

Bubby: The descriptions of places are so rich and detailed that I can almost smell the saffron couscous and feel the hot Damascus sun beating on my head (referring of course to Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled). I have no desire to be a CIA agent but I enjoy reading a book that can make me feel like one!

Sissy: Ah, yes, the burning sand squidging between my weary, travel-stained toes; the sweat dripping down my lobster-red brow, a tepid mug of barley tea clasped in my gun-grip calloused hands…I’m feeling it with you, Bubby!

Bubby: That’s my point exactly. I don’t actually WANT to go there and do that. I would much prefer to relax in my lavender scented bathwater and live vicariously through the pages of my book.

Sissy: Mrs. Pollifax even finds romance eventually. She is so not your Miss Marple brand of heroine. So go out and buy or borrow these books and read them because you will like them. 5 bubbles for me.

Bubby: Absolutely. I also recommend that you read any or all of Dorothy Gilman’s other books. She is a great writer. 4 1/2 bubbles for Mrs. Pollifax!

Click HERE to buy The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman at

Click HERE  to buy The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman at

© Bubble Bath Books 2012