This novella sets the stage for Debra Holland's entire Wild Montana Sky and Mail Order Brides of the West series; it is chronologically the earliest.This novella sets the stage for Debra Holland's entire Wild Montana Sky and Mail Order Brides of the West series; it is chronologically the earliest. This however wasn’t my first introduction to the Sweetwater Springs world (that was with Grace: Bride of Montana).
The novella starts out in two different settings that occur simultaneously: Montana, on the ranch that John Carter owns, and Boston, where Pamela lives. We are introduced to John and he is a solid, upstanding rancher who has just taken in his godson and really has no idea how to raise a teenage boy dealing with the grief of losing his family. He knows that a wife would make his life easier and possibly bring Nick out of his grief, but he has to look far afield for one as there are not many in the wilds of Montana. John’s whole approach is in looking at it in not quite the strictly business arrangement manner, but he’s not looking for a love-at-first-sight match either. I found him earnest and interested in doing what he can for everyone. Pamela lives in a world that is very, very different from John; she lives in the urban environment of Boston complete with all the amenities that a city life brings. She has settled on being an old maid for the rest of her life, so she makes a huge mess of things in ultimately getting to the altar with John. Her reaction to essentially being swept up in a pseudo-arranged/quick marriage is very much like my own would be: cautious, but optimistic. He is a hard worker who tries to improve life for herself and those around her on the new ranch she will call home. I think I most enjoyed watching her put these men in line (there is one scene where all I can envision is Snow White sending the dwarves out to bathe!). There were quite a few chuckles to be had here.
The romance in this novel is slow building, which I found believable and appropriate for the time period and nature of the relationship. They agree to marry without really knowing too much about each other and over time grow to trust one another. Most women who moved west had to be industrious and figure out creative ways to solve the myriad of problems they would encounter, and Pamela does just that, even though she is from a more posh background. She is able to blend herself into John’s life and build a family from those that welcome her into their world.
I found this novella to be sweet and intriguing as I came to know more about these characters and this setting of Sweetwater Springs. It was a quick read and I look forward to reading more in this series.
The issue that I had with the last audiobook narrated by Lara Asmudson (Grace, Bride of Montana) I also encountered here. Overall, her narration was very good, however there seems to always be one character whose voice bothers me tremendously and can pull me out of the story; this time it was Pamela’s Boston friend Elizabeth Hamilton. Her British accent did nothing for me, and every time she called her “dear Pam” the sound of it pulled me right out of the story. The good thing here is that Elizabeth is not one of the main characters, she is just present in the Boston section of the story, which isn’t long), so it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment to a great extent. The narrator’s pacing of the reading is well done while still moving the story along.
This mail-order bride series is a different type of series in that it is being written by two different authors instead of just one author for the whoThis mail-order bride series is a different type of series in that it is being written by two different authors instead of just one author for the whole series. Each author has written their own books in the series, but their characters are interconnected. This is seeming to become more of a common occurrence these days with authors writing in each other’s series. The characters written about by Debra Holland will also appear in her Montana Sky series while the characters in Caroline Fyffe’s novels will appear in her McCutcheon series. So, it will be kinda cool to see how all of these characters interact, but I love the idea that they are loosely tied to one another. Trudy connects with the second book Evie as they write back and forth to each other throughout this story and I’m assuming Evie too. It was even cute how at the end of the book, Trudy is holding a conversation with her new husband about trying to find husbands for her friends at the bride agency – which we will see in coming books!
Trudy is the first woman to sign up for a mail-order bride service that wasn’t in some sort of trouble, whether it be being left at the altar, finding themselves pregnant and alone, or running from some bad relationship. Trudy signs up because she wants adventure out west, more than her boring life can give her – and she certainly does find that, daily life is an adventure! It was also cool to see the vetting process that the bride agency went through before pairing up couples; I’m sure that some took their agency seriously while others just randomly paired up people with less than a thought. Seth is looking for a mail-order bride after losing the woman that he intends to marry. Getting used to this new woman in his life is exciting and he wants to embrace it fully, but he is still struggling to get over his previous woman. This sets the stage for certain problems to arise between Seth and Trudy who are desperately trying to understand each other. Nevermind the fact that Trudy is trying to get used to living the life in the west.
I immediately liked both Seth and Trudy. I had encountered them as a married couple in another one of Holland’s books, Grace: Bride of Montana, and loved them as the seasoned mail-order bride couple, so it was fun getting to see that develop and how they got to that point. They are both trying hard to make the relationship work, but there were really a couple times that I wasn’t so sure they were going to make it. Trudy is really not well suited to life in the west, but she has all the earnestness to learn the ropes. The only struggle that I had with Trudy was her reaction upon finding out that Seth had previously intended to marry someone else before turning to the mail-order bride service. I imagine that if a man is resorting to a mail-order bride service, there could be any number of reasons behind why he is doing so, but I thought her reaction was a little bit over the top.
The romance here is very mild. The two spend the majority of the novel just trying to get to know one another, so this is a sweet, clean read.
Regarding the audio book: I don’t know if it is just that I am getting used to this narrator, this being the third time I have listened to her, but I felt that she did a pretty good job with this story. She did a great job enhancing the sweetness of Trudy. She does have some slight changes of voice for the different characters, but it is not so obvious that it is distracting (which was a problem that I had with a prior narration from her). Her reading pace is unhurried and made a 200 page novel feel longer (in a good way).
This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog and a copy was received in exchange for an honest review....more
Wow – I’m trying to come down off this high from reading this book, and my thoughts might be a little scattered as I process it all – but I absolutelyWow – I’m trying to come down off this high from reading this book, and my thoughts might be a little scattered as I process it all – but I absolutely wanted to share this book with you right now and not scatter it further down my review calendar.
Code Name Verity is a story of friendship, a story of women behind the lines during WWII, and a story of bravery. It’s a historical thriller that will grab you from the opening lines and just carry you all the way to the end; there is truly no lull in the action. From the outset, you know what type of peril is on the line for our narrator – that isn’t a surprise – but everything that led up to the current situation and what occur during and after is intense.
The structure of this novel is told through two narrators, Queenie and Maddie, but it is not told through alternating narration. Queenie leads us through the first half of the novel telling us their backstory and how she came to be a “guest” of the gestapo as she puts forth her confession for them. Interspersed throughout that narrative she tells us about what is happening during her stay with the Nazis, her frustrations, and other little excerpts. The second half of the novel is told by Maddie as she writes in her journal documenting what has happened since the two of them were separated and everything that is being done to bring her home, she also brings an alternative telling to some of the events that Queenie told us about. It really is a fantastic way of telling this story.
This novel also brings a different thread to the greater drama of WWII, beyond the typical story of women on the homefront or men on the front lines. It crosses all of those boundaries and then some.
This was, hands down, one of THE best audio book productions I have EVER listened to! The narrators were both AMAZING! Sure, they had incredible accents, that’s always helpful when those are done well as we all know that terrible accents can destroy a wonderful book, but that is certainly not all. The pacing of their reading was spot-on – every terrifying, exhilarating, and infuriating moment was perfectly portrayed here by these narrators. There was singing and shouting and whispering. Each portrayed one of the young women that this novel revolves around and lived within their skin – they WERE Queenie and Maddie. I could not have asked for more from the production.
I not only recommend this book, but I strongly recommend it in audio book version.
So, this book started out as a “buddy read” with my fellow blogger friends Erin, Stephanie, and Magdalena, it ended foOh where to start with this one…
So, this book started out as a “buddy read” with my fellow blogger friends Erin, Stephanie, and Magdalena, it ended for all of us as a solo read because about two-thirds of the way through it bogged us down so much that no one really wanted to read any further. What was once a promising read at the very beginning and generated much discussion at the possibilities of what the resolution would be to the mystery that is introduced in the first pages, lost its way entirely somewhere around half-way. I hung on through the end because I really wanted to see how the mystery would play out and was left disappointed by the anticlimactic answer.
Let me start with a discussion of what I think the author succeeded in with this book. Prior to reading this book the most I knew about tea planting/harvesting was from a Snapple commercial where a little old man told me that “you pluck” tea leaves not pick them. I didn’t even have any idea where Ceylon was – that was the first thing that I needed to go look up with this book! By the end, I had a fairly clear idea of how a tea plantation would have been run during this time, some of the problems that they would have faced with the native laborers and their growing demands for change, and how they might have been effected by the Great Depression. I could envision how a plantation might look and to some extent draw the lines between the way the laborers/natives would have lived and how the British colonizers would have lived (although the native took less of a robust shape).
I have the idea that the author wanted to flesh out these divisions between the British and the natives as well as the civil unrest occurring between the Sinhalese and the Tamil, but this was less successfully done. The most significant takeaway that stands out in my mind was the upheaval over which language would be taught in school – which didn’t have anything to do with the story. We hear a lot about the improvements that are needed for the laborers or the demands their unions are making through conversations between Laurence and his overseer, but it never means a lot to the reader as we don’t experience it – tell less, show more. The only time we witness anything related to these issues are when two riots happen and out main cast just happens to be there, for the most part. We are left very distant from these issues and thus they don’t feel all that important.
My biggest struggles with this book were with regard to the characters and the basic forward movement of the plot in general. I literally found every character infuriating, especially the main character Gwen. She moves through most of the book in a distant state or at other times so overwrought and in her own world that I just could absolutely not connect with her in any way. Her sister-in-law, Verity, I wanted to smack several times. I wanted to shout for her to grow up and let go of her brother. Verity and Laurence (Gwen’s husband) always felt a little off to me – that something was being hidden was obvious and I changed my mind as to what it was many times.
The plot was boring and I hate saying that because based on the book blurb and the earliest chapters I didn’t think it would be that way. Right off the start we find out about the deaths which occurred earlier of two people close to Laurence, but everything is cloaked in mystery regarding what happened. No one wants to talk to Gwen about it, but she keeps finding little reminders of these people throughout the house and its grounds. There are so many questions and possibilities of what happened to these people and if someone had anything to do with their deaths (directly or indirectly) – but the author only briefly touches on these elements, it’s never a main plot point, which I think was a missed opportunity. Instead, we have Gwen existing at this plantation home, fighting off the sister-in-law who doesn’t know her place, trying to raise a son (sort of), and keep the attention of her husband who may or may not have a wandering eye. But the problem is, my description in the last sentence comes off even as more exciting than that plot actually was. Even with super short chapters, I was often bored to tears and would put the book down for days (and even weeks!) at a time before picking it back up. Our read-along came to feel as a chore to get the chapters done because we had nothing to discuss!!! At 98% of the way done with the book, I was sure that we had totally lost track of that mystery that began on page 1 and that I was not going to get any kind of resolution (which by that point was the only reason I was even still reading). Well, it had a resolution – a nice, quick, tied-with-a-bow resolution, that left we thinking, “that’s it?!? That’s what I read 418 pages for?!” I wanted SO much more from this plot – it felt like a husk that was missing the meat of the storyline.
Overall, I don’t think that I can comfortably recommend this book to others – I would hate to have them upset over the resolution as I was and to be blamed for sending them after the book in the first place. I only have myself to blame at this point. We quit reading this as a group somewhere around the two-thirds mark; to date 3 of the 4 of us have finished reading the book.
Grace’s story is technically book number 41 in the 50 books series American Mail-Order Brides; but don’t be fooled by this statement, you do not needGrace’s story is technically book number 41 in the 50 books series American Mail-Order Brides; but don’t be fooled by this statement, you do not need to read them in any order. Each bride is simply from a different state in the United States. Grace is the bride of Montana – although her story starts in Massachusetts and with a sort of tragic story.
Grace sets her mind on becoming a mail-order bride because the company she works for burns down and her romantic prospects take a huge flop. She is desperate to get as far away from where everything has turned toward the worst and can’t perceive anywhere being further away than Montana. When she arrives in Montana she is met not only by her future spouse, Frey, but also Trudy and Seth Flanagan. It was interesting to see Grace interact with Trudy as Trudy arrived in Montana as a mail-order bride herself (she even has her own book!) and she could offer experience and someone for Grace to relate to in the new world. The scenes between Grace and Frey are sweet and develop from a friendship and into love. They both give each other time to get acquainted with their situation and don’t try to force something that isn’t necessarily there…yet. Grace is still reeling from the failed relationship at home and is both trying to deal with that as well as this new romantic relationship – so she is a rocky boat but trying to make the best of it.
This is a low drama novel; its strength is in its character building. I appreciated that the author allowed the characters to get to know each other and not have them fall in love at first sight. All of the characters are very likable and I found their conversations to be downright funny at times. There is one dramatic scene toward the end that really cements this new relationship, a pivotal moment that caught me off guard as I was used to the low key nature of the plot.
The heat rating is very low on this one – as I said, they are really just trying to figure things out and Grace is still mourning her last relationship. There are sweet thoughts, some hand holding, and a chaste kiss or two – it all made sense with how their relationship was forming.
I enjoyed this novella and would love to read more set in this world of Sweetwater Springs – which is excellent as there are not only many written by this author but a few written by other authors as well!
I had some issues with the narrator, most notably the voice that she used when reading the lines and thoughts of Frey, the male protagonist. It sounds like she was trying hard to pull over a low pitched voice, which didn’t quite come off natural, but felt a little forced. It would shake me from the story every time Frey would come back into the story, which was a little unfortunate as he was very often there. I didn’t have any issues with her other voices, even for the other male character, Seth Flanagan. I think it would have been markedly improved if she did not try for so low a voice for Frey. Ms. Asmundson narrates many of the novels in the Montana Sky series, particularly the Mail-Order Brides of the West segment, so I’m hoping that this doesn’t continue to be a repeated issue for me, since I would like to enjoy more of these on audio format. I enjoyed her pacing of the story, it felt natural and even overall.
This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog and the audio download was received in exchange for an honest review....more
This novella was an exciting reading experience that I dove into on a whim. I knew nothing about this author or series and had not read anything mailThis novella was an exciting reading experience that I dove into on a whim. I knew nothing about this author or series and had not read anything mail order bride related before; so I essentially started this with no expectations. I haven’t historically read a lot of romances, but that is quickly starting to change. This is a sweet romance, so there are a couple chaste kissing scenes (with their desire for more…), but there is no dancing between the sheets here. You could feel the passion and interest in both of the characters, but everything is kept in check because of various plot points that I’m not going to spoil here.
Although this is novella length, it had the feel of a full length novel. The plotting did not feel rushed, as some romances (even full length romances) can tend toward. There were complete character arcs and real time spent with relationship development. I actually cared for everyone involved in this story, even the periphery characters, they were all fully fleshed out. The story moved right along and I did not want to put it down – I just wanted to reach the end of the story and ultimately want to pick up the previous two (and the upcoming too). This is the third book in the series, but they do not need to be read in any particular order and I don’t know that they are really interrelated, besides being based on brides that are orphans and head west. This was not what I consider a typical mail order bride novel, based on what that term brings to mind. It was more of an arrangement through a third party friend, rather than through a service of some kind.
Another element that I really liked was the choice of settings – Boston and Sacramento, California. These are not common locations and they were fleshed out enough to be unique locations, not just stamped. It made the story feel fresh.
This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog and the book was received in exchange for an honest review....more
After reading the final pages of Galerie by Steven Greenberg I felt like I had not stopped to take a breath for the last 30 pages at least! And the maAfter reading the final pages of Galerie by Steven Greenberg I felt like I had not stopped to take a breath for the last 30 pages at least! And the majority of the book was that way as well. Greenberg keeps the reader on their toes, never knowing which way the plot is going to turn next. Despite a page count that is less than 250 pages, you never once get the feeling that it is that short as the story is so full of twists and shockers. The plot of this novel definitely had a feel similar to The Da Vinci Code, where one discovery just spirals into the next and sucks the reader along in the intrigue. This is not only a story of events that transpired during World War II, but also the lingering effects on those who survived the Holocaust and the next generation. This was a new angle to the WWII story for me.
I didn’t necessarily love the format of the story – I struggled with it initially, but after the first half of the novel I started to get used to it. I struggled with 2 things: that the narrator did not really experience any of the events himself, it is mostly all second hand knowledge so I found him to be an unreliable narrator. There is even a scene where he imagines what might have happened and then tells the reader that he has no knowledge that this happened at all. The second thing was that the storytelling jumps all over the place in the timeline. You will go from the 1990s back to the 1940s and then the next chapter is the 1980s and there are different family members whose stories are being told. It all comes together and ultimately works, but I had a hard time keeping the storylines straight throughout.
Despite the stylistic quirks that troubled me early on, the story being told rocked!
This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog and the book was received in exchange for an honest review....more
I can never say enough about the novels that C.W. Gortner writes, I have absolutely LOVED each and every one of them I have read so far, and that inclI can never say enough about the novels that C.W. Gortner writes, I have absolutely LOVED each and every one of them I have read so far, and that includes The Vatican Princess. I do not have as much experience with the Borgias as I do with say, the Tudors, but Gortner does such a fabulous job of creating characters that I did not feel like I was missing anything by coming into this book with relatively little knowledge.
Gortner brings the intrigue of the Borgia world to life as seen through the eyes of a young Lucrezia. Throughout the novel she matures through her teen years into her young 20s and grows in her understanding of the intrigue that is Borgia. She starts off naïve, but learns a lot over time. As has become his signature, Gortner presents a more sympathetic Lucrezia; she is certainly not the scheming, poisoning, woman that is frequently portrayed in novels and television. There were times that I was angry with her, sad for her, and loved with her.
I think it was a smart choice to tell the Borgia story through her eyes; you can definitely find sympathy for her and grow with her throughout the story. While some have taken issue with the choice to only showcase less than a decade of Lucrezia’s life, I think it shows the most compelling period of her life. If it had continued through her later life it probably would have suffered from a loss of excitement during the later years. I think that sometimes authors feel compelled to tell the complete story of their focal characters and it was a refreshing choice here.
While Lucrezia is Gortner’s main character, her brother, Cesare, and father, Roderigo (AKA Pope Alexander VI) get their fair share of page time. Cesare is a man that I grew to love and hate – he was passionate and driven and did everything for his family and mission, even when those choices were reprehensible. For Lucrezia, Roderigo is her father regardless that he is the Holy Father and she finds that he is not quite the man she thought he was. Whereas she early on truly sees what Cesare is capable of and chooses how to deal with that, she constantly gives her father benefit of the doubt and is more blind to his faults which creates interesting decision making for her.
The world crafting that Gortner does in this novel is absolutely palpable. There are colors, sounds, textures, and sensations that leap off the page and embed you in Renaissance Rome or wherever else the travels take you.
As always, I highly recommend this novel and would read anything this author releases be it the Renaissance or twentieth century! Give me more!
This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog and the book was received in exchange for an honest review....more
This book had so many different elements going for it, and because I'm not doing a full review of this, I'm going to present them in more of a list:
1)This book had so many different elements going for it, and because I'm not doing a full review of this, I'm going to present them in more of a list:
1) 3 narrators - Eve, Eleanor, and Helena. I didn't exactly care for the Eve chapters; I get why they were there, to build up Eleanor's struggles, but I found myself wishing they were over from the time they started. It didn't help that I found that narrator annoying in the audiobook. I loved the Eleanor and Helena chapters and how they played off of each other with very different life experiences.
2) There was a slight romance thread (not main plot point), a little bit of a mystery, and a story of day to day life. Eleanor is helping to care for Helena after her hospital visit and she knows that the older woman keeps a secret or two from her past that she eventually ferrets out. I didn't expect what she eventually revealed.
3) I loved hearing about Helena and her sisters' lives in Hungary right around the time of WWII - it was a different perspective than many novels.
4) Helena and Eleanor's conversations are hilarious - they know how to push each other's buttons so well and get their barbs in. ...more
An Improper Arrangement is the first novel in the series titled The Little Season. Where many Regency set romance novels take place during The Season,An Improper Arrangement is the first novel in the series titled The Little Season. Where many Regency set romance novels take place during The Season, the official period of time where debutantes are introduced into the social sphere in London, The Little Season is virtually the minor leagues or a practice run for those ladies who might be deemed not quite ready for the major leagues yet. In An Improper Arrangement, Thea comes to London to from America to take part in this Little Season that her mother always wanted to have; however, first she has to go through some prep school if you will with Gabriel Sinclair to learn the ropes. Not only does a romance grow throughout this novel, but the plans held by the parties in question crisscross and resolve in quite the humorous ways.
One of the things that I loved about this book was the dialogue between Gabriel and Thea; from the moment they are introduced they engage in a witty, bantering, discourse that equally enraptures and infuriates the other. I just love it when characters can get under each other’s skin like that because it keeps them on their toes and keeps the dialogue light. These two characters were well defined and fleshed out and the dialogue was well used to enhance their individuality.
In some romance novels the plot can get lost behind the effort to bring the two would be lovers together. While the plot did ramble at times, I thought that the story arcs (and there are actually a couple of them) were crafted well. There is the greater story arc of Thea coming to London to have her debut, but there are a few smaller ones that thread throughout that resolve nicely by the end of the novel. It was nice to see that the plot wasn’t an afterthought, but crafted amongst the romance.
And that segues nicely into a discussion on the romance factor. The romance continuously built throughout the novel; the tropes of instant attraction or dislike turning to lust were not used here. Instead it developed overtime as Thea and Gabriel were paired together through the lead up to the Little Season and the drama they had planned. By the time things evolved into something more it made sense to their characters. And here the scenes became a little steamy! The two major scenes were descriptive without being pornographic. They were short, tasteful, and felt appropriate to the characters. While descriptive, the author leaves enough to the imagination as well. Done well in my opinion!
This book also served to introduce the readers to the other men who will be featured in the following Little Season books! They were given enough of a role in a few scenes that didn’t get in the way of the main story arc but still give the reader enough of an introduction to be interested in seeing how their stories progress in the future.
A Scandalous Proposal brings the reader back into The Little Season just a few short weeks following the end of An Improper Arrangement, but with a diA Scandalous Proposal brings the reader back into The Little Season just a few short weeks following the end of An Improper Arrangement, but with a different couple in the crosshairs, this time Cooper Townsend and Daniella (Dany) Foster. While you certainly could read this book as a standalone, having read the first book just gives you a little bit more in the way of character development. Additionally, you get some spoilers from what happened in book 1 during a recap segment – so I recommend reading them in order if possible.
As much as I enjoyed, An Improper Arrangement, I enjoyed A Scandalous Proposal even more. The plot was tightened more here and did not go off on rambling tangents. The intrigue and adventure element, the blackmail, was a uniting storyline that brought all of the characters together on this mission. I appreciated that the four men had a lot bigger role in this novel, but I was hoping to see a little more of Gabriel than we do since he was the main man of the prior novel. It was a lot of fun. While this was one of those stories where the characters are tossed into a relationship from first sight basically, the relationship itself was allowed to grow and I will confess to having a tear in my eye in the final scene as it was so sweet. The one thing that I was a little disappointed by was that this book really used the Little Season as more of a token element; nothing took place that was critical to the Little Season, it was basically just mentioned in passing as the reason by Dany was in town to begin with. As this is the theme of the series, I would have liked a little more importance to the Little Season.
In terms of characters, I liked Dany and Cooper together. They were super cute and were always looking out for each other, while getting in each other’s way. Dany is headstrong and Cooper struggles to handle her; she isn’t willing to just sit by and let him figure out this mystery on his own. As with book 1, I LOVED the bantering between the two of them. My favorite scene is when the two end up in her bedroom to keep an eye out for the blackmailer – such hilarious dialogue and double entendres here.
The romance was a little more sweet, but still passionate. I felt that it evolved from a true heartfelt center for both of the characters. While the scene was a little less descriptive than in A Scandalous Proposal, I felt much more connected to the emotional experience of the characters, which I appreciated.
I am all in for book 3 this summer, A Reckless Promise, focused on Darby Travers!
This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog as the book was received in exchange for an honest review....more