This book started out as a bit of confusion for me at first: I didn’t realize that this starts out as a Regency in England, then makes its way to NewThis book started out as a bit of confusion for me at first: I didn’t realize that this starts out as a Regency in England, then makes its way to New York with immigrants, and then crosses the frontier en route to becoming a Western. This is something that I haven’t experienced previously, the mixing of two seemingly very different subgenres of historical romance. I will say that the two genres do not overlap, but rather seamlessly morph into the next thanks to the added stop in New York which doesn’t really fit either genre except within the greater arc of westward movement. Let me say that I did not love the Regency part of this novel as much as the Western. I strongly feel that Holt’s strength lies in her handling of the frontier life and I was ready to move away from England and get there fairly quickly.
While this story really follows the movements of three characters, Harry, Charlotte, and Camilla, it is really a story of change and evolution for Charlotte. From beginning to end she transforms from a high-society debutante who is destined to wed a duke to a frontierswoman capable of holding her own. Ordinarily this might not be so believable, however Holt has created a period of transition with the stopover in New York. It is here that Charlotte had a true introduction to the harsh realities of life, is brought very low, and then begins to see what she must do to survive in this new life she has opted for. You see the interplay of the perceptions of the life she grew up living and the new reality required on the frontier, not only from Charlotte’s perspective but that of Harry too. It was refreshing to see a heroine who has her damsel in distress moments but then can grow from that into her own person. Sure she makes plenty of mistakes along the way, but that is what made her feel the most realistic. Of the three characters I felt that Camilla could have used a bit more crafting. I know that she wasn’t the main crux of the story relationship-wise, but she is present right there with Harry and Charlotte throughout the whole thing. Unlike the other two, I didn’t feel that I was able to get to know her quite as well.
When we finally arrive in Cutter’s Creek I was very excited to see some familiar faces, from Holt’s prior contribution to the series, The Strong One. It was a striking moment for me when I made the familial connections.
Overall I found this to be a strong contribution to the Cutter’s Creek series, however I found that her prior outing, The Strong One, was a more solidly crafted piece.
This novel starts you off right in the middle of a scene – Lyle is getting read the riot act from Lorna, a woman he has never met before, but she sureThis novel starts you off right in the middle of a scene – Lyle is getting read the riot act from Lorna, a woman he has never met before, but she sure seems to know him. For the first few pages I was a little confused as to what was going on, but as I moved through the first chapter it became more clear and made me identify with Lyle to some extent, because he had no idea what was happening either. Not sure if this was the intention of the author, but it worked for me all the same. Lorna is stuck in an awful situation, but she doesn’t play to the damsel-in-distress. She is set on relying on herself to find a way out, even though that seems like a huge mountain to climb. I liked her from the start. Sure she may have fallen for a good con, but she doesn’t just wallow in it, she picks up and moves forward the best she can. Lyle I found to be an imperfect hero. He is trying to prove himself to be something more than his past, which can be a difficult thing for others to get beyond.
One of the tropes I sometimes hate in romance novels is the characters who won’t get out of their own way to figure out a relationship or to make one work. I’m on the fence with it here. Both of the main characters are in a tough position to begin with based purely on their situations, but do they have to make it harder on themselves too? Each keeps trying to do what they think is best for the other person, but that makes it harder on themselves. I don’t know, it worked here for the most part. The majority of the story was spent on Lorna and Lyle’s relationship as friends and neighbors, the problems for both parties basically served as bookends. I think I would have liked to have just a little bit more of the problem solving; it all came together just a little bit too easily at the end.
For a shorter novel, this story actually has a lot going for it. You get enough backstory about the main characters (and even some of the periphery too), there’s a problem to be solved, and some strong character development. Even though I jumped into this series at book 9, which could have been very daunting with some series, this book can certainly stand alone. You get the sense of other couples’ stories here and there, which does the job of making me want to read more about them, but never where I felt I didn’t know what was going on in the main story.
This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog and a copy was received in exchange for an honest review....more
Important reading note – while this is the first book in the Paradise Valley series, it continues theThis is my favorite book from Vivi Holt thus far!
Important reading note – while this is the first book in the Paradise Valley series, it continues the story of Bill and Sarah that is told in Holt’s book, The Strong One, which is part of the Cutter’s Creek series. You can read these books in either order, Of Peaks and Prairies certainly stands on its own, but I think it will be more enjoyable to read The Strong One first and read Bill and Sarah’s origin story first.
The majority of the historical westerns that I have read fall into one of two categories: those that revolve around mail order brides coming from the east to marry men on ranches in the west OR life on an established ranch. Of Peaks and Prairies is different in that everyone who exists within these pages already lives in the west, but the majority of the story takes place along the trail while cattle are being herded from Texas to Montana. This was a refreshing change of pace as we encounter the variety of troubles that could come along with life on the trail that kept things exciting.
Genevieve is desperate to get away from her home – it’s not really much of a home anyway and her step-father and new husband are just terrible men – and setting out on the trail seems like a better plan than staying home, regardless of what tribulations come with it. She doesn’t expect to fall for the handsome trail leader, especially since she is married, but that is what happens and provides quite a bit of trouble on the trek and between her and Thomas. Thomas is a good man on a tight schedule – he doesn’t really have the time to deal with the problems an unmarried woman (as far as he knows) on the trail will bring as he races the coming winter to get home. The romantic moments between the two are sparking, sweet, and at times infuriating (in a good way!). It’s a clean romance, but the tension between the two and the small moments are rewarding and fulfilling for the reader.
I was super excited to return to the story of Sarah and Bill from The Strong One. I didn’t know that they would be part of this story before I started reading it and I quite literally cheered out loud when they returned to the scene. While mostly a sideline story, it still moves forward and they serve as a good foil/inspiration for Genny and Thomas. I also enjoyed seeing more of Sarah’s native lifestyle that we were briefly introduced to at the beginning of The Strong One.
The book left me with a desire to read more books that will hopefully come in this series. I enjoyed all the characters and fell for Genny and Thomas – I can’t wait to see what will happen at Thomas’ new ranch (I enjoyed getting to know some of the cowboys and hope to see more of them). I also have a feeling that we are not done with the native side of Sarah’s story. Holt keeps the plot exciting while advancing the romantic threads of the various relationships at play here. The trail life blossomed from the pages and I felt like I was right there with them all and the hundreds of head of cattle. Well written, fast paced, and enjoyable all around.
I don't read a lot of contemporary romance, but I have enjoyed the authors who write in this series in their historical novels, so I went outside my rI don't read a lot of contemporary romance, but I have enjoyed the authors who write in this series in their historical novels, so I went outside my regular reading zone with this one. It took a little while for me to get used to technology like cell phones and online dating existing in this world, lol. While it is a little contrived that 4 sisters would go out to marry 4 brothers through a matchmaking service - I could believe that there are people who are kept sheltered by their parents such as these girls are, even in today's society.
Wyoming Wedding, while introducing us to all the sisters and the Culpepper boys, is really the story of Karlan and Hope. They meet and marry on the first day...and then learn about each other. They struggle with communication and not knowing each other. There are moments of miscommunication which cause them hardship. But I really was rooting for these two all the way through.
There is a lot of sexual innuendo and descriptive encounters - so just be prepared! A very good novel and I want to enjoy the rest! ...more
I know this isn’t my usual reviewing genre, but I just loved this book SO much that I just had to try to put it into words and share with you all so yI know this isn’t my usual reviewing genre, but I just loved this book SO much that I just had to try to put it into words and share with you all so you can enjoy it yourself. This is a contemporary set story with romantic elements, and while the greater story arc does revolve around the relationship between two characters, it didn’t read like your typical romance – you know where you know there will be a happily ever after no matter what and the wooing and pursuit of the other person. I didn’t even realize it was categorized as a romance when I selected this title, I was simply excited about the vastly different setting of Antarctica and was drawn in by the prospect of the looming disaster of a ship sinking.
One of the things you will notice right from the start is that it is not told in a linear nature, but rather each chapter is a point in time relative to the sinking of the Australis (ie. 5 months before the sinking, 3 days before the sinking). You may jump for a point in Deb’s life 10 years before the sinking to 5 hours before the sinking in the next chapter and then back to 2 years before. While I can sometimes find this style of jumping all over the timeline to be confusing, especially if they just title the chapters with dates, this worked here. I was easily able to follow where Deb was in her life and how it built upon what she would be experiencing the closer be get to the crash or why she made certain choices that she did.
For a place that I have certainly never been anywhere near (and not experienced on the page either), Raymond brought the continent of Antarctica to vivid life. It is not a friendly place to be at all; the weather changes in an instant and you are taking your life in your hands simply traveling there. The descriptions of glacial ice, snow storms, and the frigid nature of just daily life were palpable and I was transported there within just a few pages. If the author has never travelled there I would tell you that I didn’t believe it. I think part of the intrigue for this story was simply just how exotic the setting was for me.
As to what this book is about, it’s about so many different things that it is hard to describe. The overarching story arc is the relationship between Deb and Keller and how that’s affected by their work in Antarctica and when they are apart, and don’t have that place to connect them, how their relationship changes. Scaled down a bit is the story of the changing environment of Antarctica seen through the perspective of the wildlife that lives there. Deb and Keller are researchers and are studying penguin colonies that call this frigid land home. You get a lot of information about the wildlife, but it never felt like an infodump or being too preachy about protecting the environment (even though that is there too). There are also some smaller storylines involving some of the passengers and crewmembers on the ship that Deb works from, which become important at times.
I’m going to warn you that this story will pull at your heartstrings and probably require a tissue or two. It’s one of the best books I have read recently and I would recommend it far and wide.
Cassandra Campbell is a top rated narrator and loved by many audiobook listeners. This is the first title I have read from her, although I have picked up several more titles she has narrated since reading this. Not only is the narrative excellent, but the way Campbell reads the story amps up everything: the passion, the fear, and the adrenaline pumping action moments. I believed her as the voice of Deb. She pulled me through this novel and made me never want to put it down.
This review was previously posted at my link text">The Maiden's Court blog and was received in exchange for an honest review....more
I have read several western set novels and novellas lately and almost all of them have involved some sort of mail-order bride scenario – and Vivi HoltI have read several western set novels and novellas lately and almost all of them have involved some sort of mail-order bride scenario – and Vivi Holt does write these types of books too – but this novel in the Cutter’s Creek series is a little bit different. Both of our main characters, Bill and Sarah can be considered long-time residents of the west, but they are also new to their surroundings. Sarah is the child of a Native American and a white soldier who has grown up with her mother’s tribe. She sets out from her home upon hearing some less-than-favorable news about her future to make her way in one of the nearby towns. After running from a few scary situations with local men, she finally finds a place with a nice couple (Sam and Estelle) that are willing to give her shelter for a while. Bill has been away fighting a war that his family didn’t support and are unwilling to let him return to their home and he must set out to make a new way for himself.
There was a lot of action in this story for the length and it started out fairly quickly from the first few pages. I appreciated the pacing of the story as it was always moving it forward and it never felt stagnant. This actually made the story feel much longer than a short novella.
There was also a lot of character growth and development. They are both in a fish-out-of-water situation, especially Sarah as she tries to navigate the waters of life in a town and the differences in some customs. Bill was an excellent hero, but Sarah wasn’t always a damsel that needed rescuing – she had her own strength too. There were a few times where I became frustrated with Sarah and her blindness in some scenarios with regards to Bill, but she ultimately redeems herself in the end (with just a little bit of pushing from Estelle). I would also have loved to have had the ability to have a little more backstory for both Bill and Sarah – and that might have been due to the length. I want to know why Bill went to the war when it wasn’t his family’s fight (not just that he did) and I would love to know about Sarah’s life being a child of a mixed relationship but living in the tribe (not just that she was).
This is a sweet romance novel, so nothing untoward happens here, it’s just a sweet relationship growing over time.
Ruth has what any young woman would want: to be engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors, but he is boring, and droll, and not at all her type. HRuth has what any young woman would want: to be engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors, but he is boring, and droll, and not at all her type. However, she is happy to have her future secure and maybe everything will work out. Someone else has other plans for her though, and they don’t involve marrying her intended, and that is where Isaac comes in. Isaac has been hired to ruin Ruth so that she is no long fit to marry in society and he’s good at his job, but the surprise result of his plan gone awry is that Isaac and Ruth wind up wed and have to now navigate their mutual outward hatred for their circumstances.
I love reading stories where there is not an instant romance, but the two have to really work for it. That is the case here in To Wed a Rebel and man are there obstacles! Ruth had her life all mapped out and would be soon marrying one of the richest bachelors available, but she doesn’t really like him. She is practical and is just trying to fulfill her mother’s request for her to never be a burden to her family – so in her heart she is settling. Isaac Roscoe is a rogue (and I kept thinking of him in that way through the whole book, to the point where I thought a better title would have been To Wed a Rogue because I didn’t find him much of a rebel). In an effort to avoid family obligations he has made a job of taking contracts to ruin women to get them out of various marriage arrangements; dirty and deceitful work, but he rather enjoys it and typically finds no qualms in doing it. But his contract to ruin Ruth bothers him in a way that the others have not; he finds her charming and sweet, and an all-around nice person. So when his mission ends in a success (sort of) he’s sorry it had to work out this way…until the unexpected result is his forced marriage to Ruth. The two battle it out throughout the novel as they try to wrangle their feelings about what happened early in their relationship with new feelings that grow as they get to know each other. Their relationship develops slowly, which made sense given their background, but at times their blindness to each other’s intentions was frustrating beyond measure!
Beyond the events of the early part of the novel which revolve around the ruination of Ruth, there is plenty of action here. There is a plot to save a friend, having to navigate Isaac’s family, as well as the all-around trouble Isaac tends to find himself in through his beyond the law activities. All of these events and adventures serve to help Ruth and Isaac get over their animosity toward each other and come together.
There are just a couple sex scenes in this novel and while they are not graphic you are definitely present in the room for them. It was well used by the author for the development of the characters relationship and even set up yet another roadblock down the road in their love/hate relationship. I thought it was very well done.
Overall, this novel worked for me. Even though there are so many problems between the two of them you are still rooting for them at the end. I look forward to reading other books by Sophie Dash.
Wow, this is quite a hefty novel, even reading it took quite some time! The First World War and the events surrounding it can be confusing to break doWow, this is quite a hefty novel, even reading it took quite some time! The First World War and the events surrounding it can be confusing to break down and unpack – all of the alliances, behind the scenes conversations, and upheaval. In The Fall of Giants, Follet takes us back and forth across the globe and behind the front lines to the depth of the action. We go from inside the lives of the powerful to the virtual nobody. And somehow, it is easier to digest this way.
Throughout the novel, we follow the lives of interconnected families from a variety of backgrounds and belligerent nations. This gives a relatively well rounded world view of the events as they unfold. Sometimes we are privy to more information than others as we have some characters that are in political power positions and others who are just surviving the results of everyday life. Sometimes, I admit, it feels a little contrived that our characters happen to be in the same place to interact with one another, but I was able to put that aside as I dove into the sheer breadth of the novel.
I think the most interesting sections for me were those set in Russia especially during the revolution. This is a country that I have always said doesn’t get the treatment it deserves in historical fiction, but it gets ample time here. I felt that the events here were the most desperate and high-stakes, whereas all the other choices that characters had to make were about personal choices, not world changing decisions. Additionally, we are seeing the events from those who are right in the thick of leading the revolution, not from the perspective of the powerful as is typical. As a matter of fact, we don’t even see the Russian royal family once.
One part that did begin to feel a bit wearing was all the “baby-mama-drama” occurring across the globe! I get that the purpose of this was to set up characters to take over the storytelling reins in the next installment, Winter of the World, but it got a tad bit crazy at times. However, I will say that it did break up the political drama.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you have some reading time on your hands. You don’t have to be a war buff to enjoy it as there are so many different elements to this story.
Regarding the audio book: I have to say, John Lee knocked it out of the park here. Not only did he have A LOT to narrate (I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took to record all of this book) but he had a lot of different types of action and people to contend with. He admirably voiced the characters so that each was distinctive and you had a very clear idea of who was speaking lending even more to the development of characters. His reading pace was fantastic and allowed me to digest what I was reading. Even though it took me quite a while to complete this book that wasn’t due to not being interested in the story being told or the way it was told – I just get the opportunity to listen in small chunks and with a book this long that took a while.
Colin Spenser has always had an interest in Elinor Hargrove, his best friend’s sister, but seeing as she isn’t interested in him, he resolves himselfColin Spenser has always had an interest in Elinor Hargrove, his best friend’s sister, but seeing as she isn’t interested in him, he resolves himself to an engagement of convenience for the sake of his title. Elinor would never know that Colin has an interest in her, as he has always been standoffish, and has resolved herself to being an old maid and content with escorting Colin’s younger sister through her first Season. They would have been comfortable to continue on this way had not some earth shattering information about the death of a Spenser family member forced Colin and Elinor into an awkward situation and having to work together to solve this puzzle. Will they come out of this quest the same way they went into it?
I loved both Colin and Elinor! They were both infuriating in their inability to share how they felt about each other and their obliviousness to how the other truly felt. They were not very good at judging characters either, which made for lots of confusion between the two and in attempting to solve this pseudo-mystery. Despite Colin coming off as cold and stand-offish to those around him, even Elinor thinks so, when you are reading the chapters from his perspective you see that most of it is that he is trying to protect himself from being hurt and isn’t the jerk he outwardly appears to be. Elinor is driven to help find out what happened to her friend and isn’t afraid to take a leap into a world that is shrouded in mystery to women of her station. It was entertaining to watch her try to walk the walk on the other side of the tracks! I could admire her passion to right a wrong, even if there is no way I would have done what she did!
The story is as much an adventure story as it is a romance novel. Elinor and Colin are both (separately and then together) trying to solve what happened to a Spenser family member once startling evidence of possible foul play is brought forward. This gets them into some quite dangerous situations as they try to work out who might have caused harm to this person, why, and how they will bring those involved to justice. I have read a few romance/adventure novels that lose traction in their ability to keep the sense of adventure going while introducing the romantic elements, and I’m happy to say that A Gentleman’s Guide to Scandal does not fall into that trap. Kimmel is able to balance the needs of the plot pacing of the mystery, constantly moving it forward, while introducing a whole new complication for the characters in the form of a romantic tryst. I honestly did not want to put this book down at the end of the night, it was that compelling for me. The evolution of the romance felt appropriate and in line with the characters motivations, even if it came to be in a rather unusual circumstance. The romantic elements (when we finally get to them) are hot, much more so than in A Debutante's Guide to Rebellion, but it felt so right for the characters.
This is a second book in the Birch Hall Romance series. It can certainly be read as a stand-alone; I have not yet read the first book and was able to pick right up with the story without missing a beat. It takes place a little bit after the events of book one, but is focused on a different set of characters. Elinor’s brother and his new wife are peripheral characters here, but they are the stars of A Lady's Guide to Ruin, book 1. After reading this book, I was also able to place the novella, A Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion, into the cannon as well. Each compliments each other well, but is crafted well enough to tell the whole story on its own.
I feel the need to preface this review with the fact that I seem to find myself always in a state of being conflicted to not enjoying literary fictionI feel the need to preface this review with the fact that I seem to find myself always in a state of being conflicted to not enjoying literary fiction books. This is something I never seem to know about prior to starting the book, but rapidly figure it out. It was this way with Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and it was the same here with The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay.
I was initially intrigued by this novel primarily based on the setting. I have read extremely few novels set in Australia and the idea of this location just following the end of WWII had a lot of promise. As I am very unfamiliar with this locale, I was pleased with how brilliantly Hay is able to bring it to life. The descriptions of the mountains, the sea, the beach and more are just beautifully illuminated and if I closed my eyes I could absolutely picture myself right there with the characters.
The novel focuses on how life changes essentially following loss or grief. For Ani, she has lost her husband; for Roy and Frank, they have lost a sense of themselves after the horrors that they experienced during the war. They are now in this idyllic location and trying to come to terms with what their lives mean and how to go on. I found Ani’s loss hard to connect to for quite some time as I didn’t feel her relationship to Mac was well established prior to his death, but that does develop overtime through various remembrances. Roy and Frank’s loss was easier to connect with because I already had the preconceived ideas of what they had experienced, even though we spend less time with them than with Ani. To this end, I think that Hay reasonably supported the theme. I appreciated seeing how these three people from different life places and having different experiences prior to their grief coped with that loss.
The problem I have typically with literary fiction, and again in The Railwayman’s Wife, is that nothing really happens. Mac’s death, which happens off screen, is at the very beginning of the novel and we really just see Ani coping with that, and she comes off as very wooden. There is one other major event that comes in the last few pages of the book that also felt as a bit of a letdown because nothing had happened throughout the middle 150 pages to build me up for it. I wasn’t emotionally invested in these characters and had no real concern for how their lives panned out. There was one plot point that I was banking on seeing and it was never to be, which was a little disappointing.
Huge props to the author for coming up with the poems features throughout the novel as created by our resident poet, Roy. I have always struggled with poetry, so I’m always in awe of those that can write it.
My opinion is certainly not the only one, so if you find that you tend to enjoy literary novels, I would go ahead and pick up this book. For me, it wasn’t my favorite simply because I like more action in my novels.
A lot happened in this brief 80 pages so that it felt much longer than it actually was; if I didn’t know better I would have thought this was just a sA lot happened in this brief 80 pages so that it felt much longer than it actually was; if I didn’t know better I would have thought this was just a slightly shorter-than-normal length novel. Novellas can sometimes fall into a trap where the pacing feels too fast or characters are left underdeveloped, but not here! Kathleen Kimmel carefully utilizes each word to move the plot forward or flesh out her characters.
Within just a few short pages I felt very sure of my feelings for Lady Eddie and Co. Lady Eddie and Ezekiel are not your beautiful, elegant, stars of the ball, but rather studious and even strange to the ton. Their fish-out-of-water nature at these grand Season events made for some comical scenes. Thinking back on it, these would be two people I would probably fit right in with if I was back in that time! Lady Eddie’s mother is certainly not someone to mess with, and that makes it all the more exciting when Lady Eddie does exactly that; even the best laid and devious plans often go awry! Although she might seem a little over-the-top, I’m sure people like her mother certainly existed then as they do now.
The romance element here was sweet and very unexpected for the couple involved; by that I mean that as the reader you see it coming, but the characters not so much. Ezekiel is not interested in looking for love, but eventually decides that a wife could be useful in some ways, while Lady Eddie’s marriage prospects has been laid out by her mother and she is given no say in the matter. It was refreshing to see these two novices in the world of the Season that seems filled with those who are playing the game and that naiveté played into some funny moments that endeared the characters to me.
This was a novella where I felt my time was well-spent. It was an enjoyable, light-hearted romp and I was impressed with how much I cared for these characters over just the short amount of time I had to spend with them. I would love to see them appear in another piece of this series. Regarding the fact that this is a series, I did not notice any time where I felt I was missing something by not having read any of the other books previously. I haven’t yet pieced together how the books in the series actually connect with each other as it doesn’t appear to be an obvious continuation or interconnected characters or setting. However, based on my enjoyment of Kimmel’s writing style, I will definitely be exploring her other titles.
Indiana Belle has so many things going for it that it really defies a distinct categorization. It has a romance thread that runs throughout. It is pacIndiana Belle has so many things going for it that it really defies a distinct categorization. It has a romance thread that runs throughout. It is packed with a little mystery, intrigue, and adventure from the earliest pages. There is the historical setting and some significant events. Oh, and let’s not forget the very critical element of time travel!
I have been a fan of John Heldt’s works since I first read back-to-back The Mine and The Journey in 2013 (both are from his other book series, The Northwest Passage). All of his books include an element of time travel and that was one of the elements that originally drew me to them. In Indiana Belle the time travel element involves some tunnels, some gypsum crystals, and some scientific formulas. While time travel does require some level of suspension of reality, and maybe it’s presentation here isn’t what most would expect for a method time travel, I found it creative, possible, and achieved the point of bringing Cameron back to 1925. The novel also tackles the age old idea that if you travel back in time you must be careful to not change the past or it could affect the future. Cameron wrestles with this premise as he does not wish to let a historical murder happen on his watch. Seeing how he struggles with this and what decision he ultimately makes is one of the central concepts of this novel. Some of the best scenes of this book were with Cameron making continuity mistakes while back in 1925 – some were things that I would never have even thought of.
The romance element is a very light, but critical, part of the story. What happens if you fall in love with someone who isn’t from your time? It served as more of another obstacle to time travel and the completion of Cameron’s mission than anything else. The scenes were sweet and grew from a natural place.
Heldt does an excellent job here of bringing to life the Roaring Twenties; from the quiet mid-west town, to the speakeasy parties, to the big church revivals, it has it all. Cameron sees it as a simpler time initially, but it is full of its own problems, like the KKK and women’s struggle for rights. Some of these elements are obvious while others are atmospheric, but all contribute to a well-formed time. Heldt also tends to cover an event of significance in most of his novels and here we get a little bit of the Tri-State Tornado of 1925. Having survived a tornado myself, it felt very real.
There was only a small element that I questioned while reading, and I thought that it might resolve at some point in the novel, but ultimately wasn’t…Cameron comes from 2017. I wondered at the choice to set it in the near future at the time of publication instead of the current year. Additionally, how the difference in perception of that being a future date for us now, but come a couple years the entire novel will occur in the past. After reading, the resulting analysis: It didn’t seem to have an obvious purpose to me.
While Indiana Belle is the third book in the American Journey’s series, it certainly is successful as a standalone novel. I have not read the first two books yet (September Sky and Mercer Street) and did not feel like I was missing out on anything. I have a feeling Geoffrey Bell, the professor referenced in the book description, probably has connections to the first two books based on some allusions to other time travelers and maybe we learn more about him there, but you still come away with a full understanding and appreciation of Indiana Belle on its own.
There is a little something for everyone here and would appeal widely to both men and women!
A Reckless Promise continues the story of the four best friends (Coop, Darby, Gabe, and Jeremiah) surviving the Little Season and falling in love alonA Reckless Promise continues the story of the four best friends (Coop, Darby, Gabe, and Jeremiah) surviving the Little Season and falling in love along the way. I HIGHLY recommend that you read this series in order – I read the first two books out of order and that was ok, but by the time you get to book 3, one of the major events that has been being foreshadowed all along (whether the Duke will meet his maker or not) comes to a head – and you want to know that backstory so it makes sense.
Darby is that man in the group that isn’t expected to settle down any time soon. He is the rogue with a lot of wealth to throw around. But then Sadie and her niece, Marley, show up literally on his doorstep and magically he has a young ward after a promise that he made out of hand on the battlefield some time before. What does this rogue do?! Fall in love of course! As a couple, I like Darby and Sadie. They play off of each other well and are excellent matches for each other. Both are spit-fires and have excellent comebacks to each other’s nonsense. She is definitely his equal.
While their romance was somewhat of a focal point, it wasn’t the sole focus of this story which was a little bit all over the place, in a somewhat organized fashion. Let me explain that a little more. We certainly see Darby and Sadie grow together, both in terms of their interest in each other, but also as humans, letting their emotions out for the first time and becoming themselves. However, there is a lot that happens to grow the larger storyline of the four couples that detracts from their individual romance. I feel that Gabe and Thea and Coop and Dany were given much more physical story time to grow their respective stories than Darby and Sadie were. Here there is also how the promise Darby made came to be cashed in, the story of Marley’s parents, deep dark history for both Darby and Sadie, the Duke’s possible pending death, the story of the birds continued from the previous books, and probably some other things I’m forgetting. So it didn’t feel as much their story as I would have liked. Additionally, Clarice and Jeremiah’s stories have been told so much through the first 3 books that I have no idea what will be left for their own book. Oh and I mentioned a deep, dark backstory for Darby that is hinted at from the first pages until almost the last. I really lost interest in finding out what this was, but was very surprised by it when revealed – nothing like I had imagined it would be, but I would have liked a little more build up for it.
I’ve said this in the other reviews, but I don’t really find the title of this series relevant in any way. Again, nothing happens that involves the Little Season; they don’t even go to any balls or parties in the entire book. I enjoy this series, but it could be better titled.
The romance here is a little less descriptive and risqué than the other novels, which is a little surprising given that Darby is known to be the rogue of the group. It was sweet and romantic. Some of the scenes are marginally descriptive, but I found these to be more about the character growth than the act itself. It amazes me how different the romantic element are across the novels in this series.
This is a good continuation of the large story arcs within the series as a whole, but I would have liked to have a little focus on Darby and Sadie.
This review was previously posted at The Maiden's Court blog and a copy was received in exchange for an honest review....more
A Buccaneer at Heart picks up immediately after the ending of The Lady’s Command, so I would highly recommend that you read these books in series ordeA Buccaneer at Heart picks up immediately after the ending of The Lady’s Command, so I would highly recommend that you read these books in series order. Edwina and Declan Frobisher have returned from the first leg of the reconnaissance mission to Freetown, Africa to learn why people were going missing there. Having returned with some eye-opening information, it is time for the next part of the mission to begin, and who better for that mission than another of the Frobisher brothers – this time Robert. Robert sets sail to take the mission deeper into the heart of the slums and the jungle to find out where these people are being taken and why. He doesn’t expect to encounter a beautiful but driven young woman, Aileen Hopkins, already in Freetown searching for her missing brother who is at times both a help and a hindrance, but at all times a lovely woman he starts to fall for. What will they uncover in Africa, both about themselves and the mission?
One thing that sets this book apart from the first in the series is how the romance plays out. In The Lady’s Command you have a married couple right from the first few pages of the book and that plays out distinctly different than Robert setting out on this mission as a single man with some thoughts towards seeking a bride upon his return home. As a matter of fact, Robert and Aileen exist on separate storylines through the first third or so of the book – they are relatively aware of the other’s presence, but do not encounter one another. Even once they meet, the main thrust of the story is the mission – for Aileen it is to find her brother who went missing in Freetown and from Robert it is to locate the camp of the kidnappers. This at times sets them at odds with each other as their missions sometimes do not support the other. I did find their early moments to be sort of funny and their relationship flourished at an expedited pace because of the nature of close proximity during their shared mission. By the end of the novel there are a couple of sexy scenes between the two, but you will wait quite a while as the novel is centered more on the adventure than the romance for most of the book.
I liked the characters of Aileen and Robert in this book, more than I liked Edwina from the first book for sure. Aileen is a woman who can take care of herself, she even comes packing her own weapons AND knows how to use them! While she does have a damsel-in-distress moment and needs rescuing, she does return the favor with Robert by the end of the book. We also return to a few characters that we met in the first book, Declan and Edwina book end the novel, but also some of the locals in Freetown make a second appearance here and are quite enjoyable.
Action there is aplenty here, even beyond the bedroom! There is spying, kidnapping, escaping, shootouts, sword-fights, encounters by boat, subterfuge, and more. I think that the adventure was well plotted and feels like a natural progression of the greater story arc across what will be a four book series. While I think that the necessity for the brothers to each complete one part of the mission and then return all the way back to London to report seems a little drawn out to be ultimately believable, I can suspend that disbelief and enjoy the sense of adventure here as it does draw you in. I would weigh the adventure aspect more heavily than the romantic elements in this novel.
There was only one set of awkward scenes, and while I understand why they were written the way they were, it came off very difficult to read. Sprinkled throughout the novel there are a couple scenes where the kidnappers are the central focus and they are discussing their nefarious ways. Obviously the author didn’t want the reader to know who they were yet, as some of them will be revealed later in this book and others likely in the forthcoming titles. So instead of unique names, we have generalities that read very much like, “the first man said to the third man”. This repeated usage began to drive me crazy and I couldn’t wait for those scenes to end because I was even more confused than when I began that section. I’m not sure how to improve this section, but it was just awkward reading.
Overall, I found this second book more enjoyable than the first (which is very unusual for me) and I can’t wait to dive into the third book in this series which follows the youngest and more spontaneous brother, Caleb.
It surprises me to say this, but book 3 has been my favorite in the series so far! For those who maybe read the first book and turned away from the seIt surprises me to say this, but book 3 has been my favorite in the series so far! For those who maybe read the first book and turned away from the series because it was a little slow (and I acknowledge that it was too), each book in the series gets progressively better. Part of this I lay at the feet of the hero of each story, by far Caleb is the most fascinating. The other thing is that I feel like the bulk of the action of this series is in this book and will also be in the forthcoming book when everything comes together. Additionally, the romance thread I found most believable in this book. So, let’s unpack these thoughts a bit further!
Book 2, A Buccaneer at Heart, ends with Caleb setting out on his trip to Africa and when Book 3 picks up, he is already in the depths of the jungle. In A Daredevil Snared we don’t have to deal with some of the monotony that Freetown had become for the reader, we spend the entirety of Caleb’s adventure in the jungle – which I was totally fine with. The jungle was a new and exciting setting that introduced us to those who were behind the kidnappings in question. There is action from the first few pages and I felt that it carried right up until the end.
The best part of the book however was Caleb Frobisher. He is the youngest of the four Frobisher brothers and being that he has always been the reckless one and the one that was never given serious responsibilities. He set off on this mission (without permission mind you) to prove to his family that while he can have a good time, he can reel it in when required. He must stick to the mission and not let his impulses run wild. He would love to just run in, kill all those who are involved in the kidnapping, and save anyone he can; but his mission is just to locate the camp and send that info back to London. We see him struggle between what his nature tells him to do and his desire to prove his worth to his family and that makes him a more compelling character than either Declan or Robert were before him.
The cast grows widely in this book as we meet a bunch of those who were kidnapped and are being kept in the camp – as well as their captors. A few of these characters we have heard of in passing in the first two books, but they actually come into their own here. It was very different to see things from the perspective of the camp and find out what they have been enduring and thinking this whole time they have been there. Katherine Fortescue, our heroine, is one of those trapped in the camp. She is strong and trying to not lose hope in the face of their dire situation; she is a force to be reckoned with.
The romance here between Katherine and Caleb develops in what I felt was a more believable nature than how Robert and Aileen’s (which began in Freetown) or Declan or Edwina (which began in London). Theirs is a romance of opportunity and joint experience and suffering. When you experience hardship and tragedy together relationships necessarily grow quicker and in a different way than in the real world. Here those fetters of society are not there to keep them within rigid boundaries, but even still, they don’t go crazy. It felt very true and real. I was actually rooting for them all along.
Unlike the first two books, this book does not wrap up nicely with the hero and heroine returning to London madly in love and ready to pass the reins on to the next brother. They are very much still in Africa and waiting for someone to come sweeping in – which will be the final brother, whom we have heard much about but very rarely seen, Royd. I’m hoping the other brothers might be involved too since they could use a force to close out this series.
I couldn’t put this book down – which was a first in this series for me – and I hate that I will have to wait to December to read the conclusion, Lord of the Privateers!
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