The Hourglassby Barbara Metzger
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Coryn, Earl of Ardeth, has spent an eternity in Hell. Fed up, he gambles with the Devil and wins a second chance: if he can find his heart, his soul, and his hourglass in six months, he can return to life. Then he meets Genie, a disgraced water-girl at the Battle of Waterloo. Now, her only hope is this crazy stranger-and she's half-terrified of and half-in-love with the eccentric earl. Together they have to find his humanity, her social acceptance, and overcome someone bent on destroying their lives.
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I often enjoy an historical romance as an escape from the books I read and review. So when I spotted this one on a bargain table I picked it up. This is the story of Sir Coryn – a long-dead Crusader who now works for Satan as a soul collector. He is one of many who attend the dying and bring those slated for Hell back to Satan. He’s been doing this job for centuries. And during his collections he has been able to store away real-world trinkets and treasures – enough to line the pockets of a sultan. When the time is right, Coryn (known among the underworld as Ar) makes a gambling deal with the Devil – and wins! He is allowed to return to the world of the living but Satan gives him only six months in which to find his soul. Coryn’s soul is contained in an hourglass brooch which Satan throws into the world and which Coryn must find in order to remain a man. On his journey back to this life, Coryn is accompanied by a gremlin who manages to tag along. After trying various forms the gremlin settles on being a talking crow who likes to say “Alive”. But Coryn tells folks the bird is a bit dim-witted and is trying to say its name – “Olive”. In order to redeem his soul, Coryn sets about doing good deeds – saving the lives of wounded soldiers at first. He then meets Imogene, the widow of a soldier who has been ostracized from the society of military wives and who is penniless and pregnant. Coryn convinces her to marry him. In due course, Coryn claims his ancient title and lands, Genie (his wife) is now a countess and he feels that together they can do good works for women and children. But the path to redemption is blocked by those who would do them ill. Can Coryn redeem himself in the time allotted? Will Genie learn to accept the eccentricities that make up her husband? Will Olive ever learn to speak the King’s English? A gripping tale of Life and Death, this one will have the reader turning the pages far into the night. The characters are multi-layered and slowly expose their layers to the reader. A welcome counterpoint is the crow and his antics and the hourglass room. I enjoyed this book as it deviates from the historical romance boilerplate novel of two erstwhile lovers who find each other. I’ll admit I read this book in two days. As this is my first Barbara Metzger book, I’ll be anxious to look at her other works.
Paranormal historical romance ~ gotta love it! *Book source ~ Many thanks to Untreed Reads for providing a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Coryn, Earl of Ardeth is really Ar Death and a reaper, a minion of the Devil. After centuries of reaping souls he wants a chance to be mortal and takes steps to that end in case he wins his gamble with the Devil. Win he does and the Devil has to put up or shut up. Making Ardeath mortal and then adding the caveat that Ardeath has to find his humanity and his hourglass (the brooch symbolizing his office) in six months or he will serve the Devil for all eternity. Ardeath is put down in the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo and immediately sets to work easing the pain and suffering of the soldiers. While there he comes across a penniless widow, Imogene Hopewell Macklin, who has been cast off from polite society. His solution to both of their situations is for them to marry before heading to London. The problems before them seem insurmountable, but Ardeath has been a reaper in Hell for centuries. He’s not about to give up now especially when his mortal future is beginning to look so bright. Well, this is the second historical romance with a paranormal twist by Barbara Metzger that I’ve read and I have to say I loved it. Her stories are always so entertaining and light-hearted even when the characters seem as if they will never rise from their problems and despairs. The romance part takes a bit of a back seat in this until towards the end while the paranormal part is the majority of the story. However, it all comes together beautifully. The writing carried me along and I didn’t want to put it down. Ardeath is one interesting dude and Genie has some spunk. I quite enjoyed how she tried to ignore her new husband’s *cough* eccentric behavior. And Olive the crow is hilarious. I would not have been so forgiving of her family as Genie is, but other than that I love how she’s trying to go with Ardeath’s flow. A sigh-worthy romance that also entertains is a rare treat and this one fits the bill nicely.
Hourglass Barbara Metzger Signet, Mar 2007, $6.99 ISBN: 045122079X He knows he committed atrocities while fighting in the name of God during what foolish mankind called the Crusades. However, his eternal punishment is to be a Death collector, a minion of the Grim Reaper. Unlike most if not all of his peers, Ar Death remembers when he was Sir Coryn of Ardsley filled with a heart and soul. He could plead with his superior Sir Grimness to relieve him of duty as he believes he is a victim of battle fatigue, but that means ending up as a permanent resident of an even worse place, Hell. Still his only hope for salvation lies with gambling with His Eminence the Devil. The deal is simple six months on earth to find his missing humanity and freedom or more likely failure and eternity as one of the Devil¿s minion. Imogene ¿Genie¿ Macklin tends to the wounded at Waterloo while pondering her future as an undesirable destitute pregnant soldier¿s widow though her preference is to not think at all. Also healing the cannon fodder is Coryn, claiming to be an Earl, as he rips into haughty aristocratic Major Willeford. Genie and Coryn meet over a dying soldier and he realizes she is a lady of quality who could enhance his lies. When he proposes she accepts because she must think of her baby. Though they fall in love with one another, the sands in his HOURGLASS are slipping into a future of eternal condemnation if he fails to find his humanity. --- This paranormal romance grips the audience from the opening gamble until the final confrontation with Ar¿s former boss. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action yet most critical to this enjoyable supernatural historical is the belief in Hell, the Grim Reaper, and the soul as described by Barbara Metzger. Romance fans who appreciate a devilishly different type of Regency will want to read this delightful second chance at life tale. --- Harriet Klausner