Book Review: Guarding Shakespeare

guarding-shakespeare-coverJust finished the noir novella “Guarding Shakespeare” by Quintin Peterson, found on Book Club Reading List!


Lt. Norman Blalock has worked at the Folger Library guarding priceless Shakespearean artifacts for 25 years. Shortly after being passed up for promotion yet again, Norman is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: steal a small, virtually unknown artifact in exchange for enough money to retire and live comfortably for the rest of his life. Why should he be loyal to employers who systematically underestimate his abilities? Could he really pull off the heist of a lifetime?


I love the idea for this novella! It’s like Ocean’s 11 meets National Treasure with a dash of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Norman lives a lonely life–estranged from his adult children, single, deceased parents, and has lived with a distrust of others his entire life, making it hard for him to be close with anyone. So when Kavitha, a young, gorgeous British woman, comes around representing her employer and offering Norman incomprehensibly large amounts of money to do a job, I was cautiously hopeful that she might be the solution to his loneliness. I think Guarding Shakespeare does a great job at making the reader care about its characters, particularly Norman. I was very much invested in his outcome, worried he would be double-crossed but hopeful that everything would work out  in the end.

“When the truth is too painful, we choose to live a lie. Norman chose to live the lie for now.” (pg 89)

If that quote doesn’t make you want to root for Norman, I don’t know what will!!

A cool thing about this story is the amount of historical trivia it contains. Any history buff will enjoy this book! I’m thinking the author, Quintin Peterson, is either a history enthusiast himself or did tons of research to write this story. Probably both.


I think the biggest weakness for me was the flow and writing style of this novella. While the content was great, descriptions of locations, people, and historical events are described in extremely long run-on sentences. When sentences are too long, my eyes skip ahead and I miss out on information, making me confused and have to back-track to try and catch up. Here is one example of a run-on sentence that was hard to follow, right at the beginning of the story:

“Lt. Blalock, clean-shaven, tall, dark, and trim, wearing a fresh uniform consisting of navy blue slacks riding just right on the tops of spit-shined combat boots, a heavily starched white shirt choked by a navy blue necktie, and a navy blue commando sweater bearing on each sleeve blue, yellow and white circular Folger Shakespeare Library Police shoulder patches embroidered with Shakespeare’s family crest and a shiny gold metal badge and matching name tag on either side of its half-bust circumference, was hiding in the storage/elevator service room on the Gamma Deck of the Folger’s underground complex, evading detection by a fellow officer with a K-9 conducting a random interior security sweep.” (pg 4)

Whew!! What a mouthful! Why not just say Lt. Blalock was hiding from an officer doing a security sweep, then state in separate sentences what he was wearing and how he looked? I think that would be easier for reader comprehension.


Overall, I really enjoyed the idea behind the story and the main characters Norman and Kavitha. I think Norman is very easy to relate to; he has flaws and seems like a normal person, making me emotionally invested in his well-being. I also enjoyed the bits of historical trivia. Unfortunately, the run-on sentences and lengthy descriptions interrupted the flow so much that I had a hard time following the story in places. I wanted more of the dialogue between Norman and Kavitha, more of Norman’s history with his father, more suspenseful action scenes, and less lengthy descriptions of history or what a character is wearing. The core of a really great story is there; with a little editing it could really shine!

3 stars

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Book review: Surrender

I’ve had the privilege of reading and reviewing Surrender by Jennifer Burrows. (Check out my author interview for more information about Jennifer and her story.) I found it through Cheap eBooks if you’d like to go get yourself a copy!


Surrender starts with our heroine Katherine Anderson, a renowned food critic from New York, as she discovers her fiance cheating on her in her own bed. Her world turned upside down and her dream wedding cancelled, she decides to go on her honeymoon to Italy for a little private time. While on her way to Florence, Katherine meets a dashingly handsome Italian man with the most gorgeous emerald-green eyes she’s ever seen. They hit it off right away and Katherine is amazed at her luck; how many people meet a sexy and charming Italian in the most romantic country in the world? But as Katherine gets to know Tony better, she realizes things aren’t as perfect as she thought. Tony is a fugitive of an underground olive oil cartel that killed his family and is using Katherine to help him escape Italy. As she gets pulled into Tony’s dangerous affairs, Katherine wonders if she’ll ever make it home alive.


There were a lot of great things about this book that kept me reading through the end. The three biggest strengths to Surrender are:

  • Story line
  • Character development
  • Action

Story line

I thought the story line was a lot of fun. I did a study abroad in Italy when I was in college so I especially loved roaming the Tuscan countryside with Katherine and Tony. The imagery took me right back.

“Hills lined with vineyards and small houses made of brick and stucco came into view as the train hummed along the tracks enticing her into a trance.” (pg 8)

For a significant portion of the novel I was skeptical at how solid the story was. I couldn’t figure out why the cartel had targeted Tony’s family and why he was in so much danger. It seemed unrealistic. However, in the last several chapters there is sufficient information that made the conflict convincing.

Character development

Early Katherine is uptight, reserved, a rule-follower, and grieving the loss of the life she had imagined for herself. As the story progresses, she learns to experience the world differently. Instead of reacting to what life throws at her, she decides to act boldly and make her own decisions.

“She was too busy running away from the person she was only to find a person she didn’t know. Did she like this new person? Who was she? The new Katherine was brave; she was a fighter, took life by the horns, and refused to let fear take control. She was Kate. This Kate was going to get home and start a new life.” (pg 284)

Katherine becomes Kate, a woman who knows what she wants and says what she thinks. Later in the story she is captured by the cartel and is beaten and tortured for information. Instead of meekly accepting the situation, she speaks out against her captors with cheeky attitude. This may have resulted in additional physical pain, but her spirit was stronger than ever.


“When the beatings first started, they were tolerable. She’d never been hit by anyone before. Somehow, the physical pain was a relief from the emotional pain she’d felt for the last few weeks; it was somehow cathartic….She was too tired to fight anymore; her strength was gone, and the only glimmer of light she had left was the will to not die like this.” (pg 258)

Holy moly, there was a lot of action in this book! It starts out touristy and a little slow but speeds up fast. Kate and Tony go all over Italy searching for clues, left by Tony’s deceased father, that will give him a new identity and help him to escape the country. They are pursued by the cartel, Kate is kidnapped and tortured, Tony teams up with government agents, who may or may not be trustworthy, all leading up to the final confrontation with the cartel’s boss. You will not be bored reading Surrender!


This book also had some weaknesses. Mainly being:

  1. Editing and grammar mistakes
  2. Italian inauthenticity

Editing and grammar mistakes

Ok, this is actually a HUGE weakness for me. In my opinion, there is no excuse for mistakes in a published book. Mistakes in early drafts? Fine, we’re all human and typos happen. But that’s why editing is so important. This book definitely needed another round of thorough editing because there was an embarrassing number of mistakes that could have been easily caught by a simple read-through. From my notes, which probably didn’t catch everything, there were at least 20 typos or wrong word-choices, like using “in” instead of “and” or “your” instead of “you’re”. Your vs you’re is a particular pet peeve of mine and it was exceedingly irritating to read typos, especially repeat offenders.

Italian inauthenticity

This probably isn’t a weakness for anyone who doesn’t know Italian or has never been to Italy. There were a few names that were misspelled or simply not Italian for characters who probably should have had Italian names. For example, Katherine and Tony go to a restaurant and their waiter’s name is John Paolo (chapter 6). “John” is not Italian; it is instead spelled “Gian” and is pronounced basically the same. Also, the dish “spaghetti bolgonaise” came up repeatedly. Now, I’m not a foodie, but I do know that there is an Italian dish called spaghetti bolognese. These are details that could easily be learned from a simple internet search. If you are going to write about another culture or country, you gotta do your research.


There is so much to love about Surrender: the charming Italian setting, the dynamic story and action, the sizzling chemistry between Kate and Tony. I had a lot of fun reading this book. The biggest detractor was the blaring grammatical errors. I can forgive one or two typos, but 20+ drove me crazy. For these reasons I give Surrender 3 out of 5 stars. Definitely worth the read–lots of fun and a highly entertaining story. If you’re not annoyed by typos then those contained in Surrender won’t bother you. In any case, go check it out here and enjoy your next good tale!

Surrender by Jennifer Burrows

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Find it on Goodreads here