“Bianca” by Bertrice Small (historical, Berkley, October 2012, $16.00, 432pp)
Series: The Silk Merchant’s Daughter
Summary: Florentine silk merchant Giov“Bianca” by Bertrice Small (historical, Berkley, October 2012, $16.00, 432pp)
Series: The Silk Merchant’s Daughter
Summary: Florentine silk merchant Giovanni Pietro d’Angelo and his wife want nothing more than to marry their daughters to wealthy men of distinction. But when their son’s dangerous indiscretion implicates him in a tragic accident, it is their eldest daughter who must pay the price. Blackmailed by the powerful and debauched Sebastiano Rovere, the Pietro d’Angelos must give beautiful Bianca in marriage to Rovere to buy his silence.
With the aid of her mother, Bianca flees her dark, cruel union, seeking shelter in a seaside villa. It is the shocking murder of her husband that allows her to find the possibility of love at last. But Florentine society would never approve of the man she’s chosen: Prince Amir, grandson of Memhet the Conqueror.
Two passionate lovers...two different cultures...two worlds determined to keep them apart...
Review: In “Bianca” by Bertrice Small, Bianca Pietro d’Angelo is known throughout Florence for her exquisite beauty. Even though she is only fourteen, men come from all through the town just in hopes to catch a glimpse of her. However, her father is a very successful silk merchant who plans to see his daughter married to a man with wealth and a worthy reputation.
Bianca knows that her family will seek a suitable husband for her, but she believes that she will not be married right away. Unfortunately, the time comes sooner than she thinks. A very prominent lawyer, Sebastiano Rovere, is blackmailing Bianca’s father. Sebastiano promises to keep secret the indiscretions of his son and Bianca’s older brother in exchange for the lovely girl’s hand in marriage. Even though Bianca’s mother is against this, she cannot go against her husband’s orders. She attempts to stall the wedding as long as she can.
Sebastiano is a very disreputable man, but his formidable connections keep him out of trouble. Once married, Bianca suffers greatly at Sebastiano’s hands. He is very brutal and makes her perform horrible acts. When her mother learns of the horrors her daughter has endured, she helps Bianca escape. In order to keep her far away from Sebastiano, Bianca is sent to live in a secluded villa with only a few servants. Over time, she learns that she has a neighbor and is quite curious about him.
When she finally meets Prince Amir and they begin to spend time together, she begins to realize what true love is. She receives news of Sebastiano’s death and her parents expect her to return to Florence for another arranged marriage. Bianca is determined not to be forced into another marriage, so she makes plans to leave with Prince Amir to his country, Turkey.
Bianca’s family does not want her to marry Prince Amir because he is considered an infidel and they do not believe this union should take place. They send her to live with her grandfather in Venice in hopes that he can arrange a marriage for her. Prince Amir vows to find Bianca and make her his wife. When a ‘kidnapping’ takes place, this is the perfect opportunity for the two lovers to be together. Bianca enjoys her life with her new husband, but has to get used to being his third wife which is the customs of his land. They also have to be aware of a very jealous wife of the Sultan who wishes to have all of the Sultan’s eligible heirs removed except for her son.
This was a very good story; however, it was very disturbing to read of such acts done to a fourteen-year old girl. I realize the custom in Florence in the 1400s was for girls to be married at that age. Even though Bianca suffered and was expected to do the bidding of others, she survived a very strong woman who became in charge of her own life. Determined not to be forced to marry, she risked her family’s love by disobeying them and marrying Prince Amir. I think secretly her parents were proud of her but I feel her mother was jealous because Bianca succeeded in doing she never could and that was to marry for love.
This is one of the best books of the year. Not only is it entertaining, (I laughed and I cried) but it is educational as well.
Set in WWII (1941) whenThis is one of the best books of the year. Not only is it entertaining, (I laughed and I cried) but it is educational as well.
Set in WWII (1941) when Hitler's Germany was invading smaller countries, Joseph Stalin's USSR was doing the same. This book should be required reading for high school students.
It is not a romance novel, but there are elements of romance between the heroine, Lina, and fellow prisoner Andrius and the enduring love Lina's mother has for her father (he is at another prison camp) is inspiring.
Sepetys injects some light and even funny moments in what was a horrific time for those deported from the Baltics.
Review by Lisa Marie Wilkinson for Romance Novel News
In 1837 England, battle lines are being drawn in a fight for a dukedom. Ash Turner, a distant couReview by Lisa Marie Wilkinson for Romance Novel News
In 1837 England, battle lines are being drawn in a fight for a dukedom. Ash Turner, a distant cousin of the ailing Duke of Parford, has petitioned Parliament with proof that he is the legitimate heir, leaving the current Duke’s grown children, Lady Anna Margaret and her two brothers, to face the scorn of society and a bleak future as bastards.
While her brothers race to rally votes in an upcoming Parliamentary session, Anna Margaret remains at Parford Manor and assumes the identity of a nurse, with instructions to spy on the man attempting to steal their birthright.
Expecting a cold-hearted, ruthless opportunist, Anna Margaret is surprised to discover Ash is a kind, intelligent man who harbors a grudge against her father. The more she learns about Ash and the injustices his family has suffered, the more difficult maintaining her familial loyalty becomes, especially when Ash reveals a personal secret that could result in his own destruction.
Unveiled is one of those rare books where the human heart is revealed in all its complexity and the relationship between the hero and heroine develops in a believable, completely satisfying way.
Major themes such as self-image, loyalty and trust are explored, and author Courtney Milan handles the intricacies of the English courts system of that period with a deft hand.
The only thing that keeps “Unveiled” from being a solid 5-star read is that it was difficult to believe Ash failed to guess Anna Margaret’s true identity, despite the number of hints that were dropped and the fact that most of Ash’s business dealings were based upon his strong instincts and insight into people.
After her abusive husband is murdered, Sarah Allen is looking for a safe place to raise her daughter Holly. Her husband mayReview by Sarah M. Anderson
After her abusive husband is murdered, Sarah Allen is looking for a safe place to raise her daughter Holly. Her husband may be gone, but his business associates keep calling, looking for an incriminating file they believe she has.
Sarah returns to her hometown of Wind Canyon, Wyoming, and rents a cabin owned by Jackson Raines - the man she humiliated in high school. Back then, Jackson was a poor kid from the rough side of town. Now a successful rancher, he hasn’t forgotten about Sarah’s stinging, public rejection of him. He wants her off his property, but when her husband’s associates threaten Sarah and her family, it’s obvious that she is in trouble – and Jackson is a noble cowboy who’s not afraid to brawl.
At times, “Against the Wind” comes off as mechanical. It’s as if it was written from a formulated outline where details are filled in matter-of-factly, however, it isn’t enough to derail the story.
Author Kat Martin does an excellent job of painting Sarah’s vain and conceited past while showing how maturity and motherhood has changed her for the better. Holly is a cute kid who grounds both Sarah and Jackson, keeping their relationship convincing.
The author smoothly introduces Jackson’s brothers, Gabe and Devlin, known as the “no-account Raines boys,” building solid interest in the next two books of the series.
To discourage suitors, Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes claims a longstanding engagement with a faux fiancé, the DukeReview by Rita Jett for Romance Novel News
To discourage suitors, Lady Poppy Smith-Barnes claims a longstanding engagement with a faux fiancé, the Duke of Drummond. So what happens when the imaginary duke turns up at a ball to claim his bride?
Spy extraordinaire, Nicholas Staunton is the newly named Duke of Drummond. His latest mission requires the utmost discretion. Marriage is the best option to maintain his cover and Poppy’s ready-made engagement proves quite convenient.
Poppy is actually pining for Sergei, a Russian prince she has been in love with since she was fifteen. She is absolutely dumbfounded when the duke appears and proposes in front of half the ton.
Poppy feels trapped because her father favors the match with Nicholas and because and she can’t risk scandal by spurning him publicly. Things get more complicated when the Russian prince arrives and wants to court her. What’s a girl to do but play along, get involved with secret government intrigue, and try not to let her heart fall victim to her roguish fiancé?
“Dukes to the Left of Me” is a satisfying read that definitely hits some lovely high notes. There is some enjoyable repartee that will have readers laughing out loud. The plot has some interesting twists, but is also confusing at times.
The characters' inconsistent emotions can be irritating as well, but the same characters will ultimately endear themselves before readers hit the final page.
“Dukes to the Left of Me,” Kramer’s second novel in the “Impossible Bachelors” series, is one that will entertain and amuse any lover of historical romance.
People can say what they will about Jordan Rhodes, the daughter to billionaire Grey Rhodes. Her family has bReview by Rita Jett for Romance Novel News
People can say what they will about Jordan Rhodes, the daughter to billionaire Grey Rhodes. Her family has been the topic of media scrutiny and public fascination for years due to her father’s profitable business ventures.
Jordan has gotten to where she is today all on her own merits - owning one of Chicago’s top wine stores. When her brother Kyle is sentenced to prison and is tormented by other inmates, she’ll do anything to see him set free.
Nick McCall is a top undercover agent and his next assignment will thrust him out of his “average Joe” comfort zone and into the posh lifestyle of the rich and noteworthy.
The FBI has been trying to nail down suspected money launderer (and wine connoisseur) Xander Eckhart. They agree to release Jordan’s brother if she’ll cooperate in an operation to gather evidence against Xander.
Nick and Jordan must pretend to be a couple. Although they have their preconceived notions about each other, they soon begin acting like the real thing.
“A Lot Like Love” is filled with intrigue, excitement and is wickedly sexy. Author Julie James scores big with this immensely entertaining and thoroughly satisfying read. The wine references that pepper many scenes don’t overwhelm the reader but make them want to sit down in Napa Valley and sample a Vineyard 29 estate cabernet.
The main characters have an unequivocal chemistry that readers can’t help falling for. The secondary characters were also quite stellar, especially Jordan’s brother Kyle. This book is filled with the kind of action, drama, comedy, and passion that no romance lover can resist.
Catesby Burgoyne has cultivated a reputation as the scandalous second son of the Earl of Malzard. After beinReview by Rita Jett for Romance Novel News
Catesby Burgoyne has cultivated a reputation as the scandalous second son of the Earl of Malzard. After being kicked out of the service, (he was forced to sell his commission) he returns home to an icy welcome. He is cut out of the family after a nasty fight with his older brother, who is now earl.
Living her life on progressively little, Prudence is now looking forward to a genteel lifestyle. Pru and her mother have sacrificed so that her brother, Aaron, could have the funds to set himself up as a solicitor. With their mother dead, Aaron dismisses his sister, ignoring her repeated pleas for assistance now that he has obtained a new wife with a tidy dowry.
Pru tries to make it on her own but when she is attacked in a seedy neighborhood, Cates comes to her rescue. He is touched by Pru’s out-of-place grace and hospitality - especially since she has so little - but he hasn’t the time to dally with poor maidens. Pru is taunted by memories of her unlikely hero but she too has an agenda.
She decides to force her brother’s hand by demanding he seek an appropriate match for her. Aaron and his wife Susan reluctantly take Pru in and arranging a match with a violent man that will certainly doom her to unhappiness.
During their time apart, Cates has become the new Earl of Malzard after the death of his brother. He seeks out Pru on a whim and rescues her yet again, this time at her wedding. In order to protect her, he hastily makes her his bride - without informing her of his new status. The couple faces a new set of issues adjusting to the earldom and again when Pru’s former fiancé resurfaces seeking revenge.
Fans of Jo Beverley will not be disappointed by “An Unlikely Countess,” the eleventh book in the “Malloren World” series. It offers an entertaining plot line and tangible character chemistry. Beverley expertly portrays the conditions of a woman with no means in the Georgian era.
The story’s climax and resolution were a bit weak compared to the excellent springboard scenes leading up to them, but said scenes are so enthralling that the book definitely satisfies overall. Beverley weaved a winning tale with plenty of action, secrets, and longing to keep readers delightfully engaged.
When one thinks of the grim reaper, the image that comes to mind is a creepy, black-cloaked, scythe-wielding figure. But Darynda Jones has given the rWhen one thinks of the grim reaper, the image that comes to mind is a creepy, black-cloaked, scythe-wielding figure. But Darynda Jones has given the reaper a sexy, sassy makeover in her debut novel, "First Grave on the Right."
Charley Davidson's motto is "better to see dead, than be dead," and she's been seeing the dead since she was a child. Using her cheeky charm and sarcastic wit, she compassionately guides — and sometimes tricks — the departed "into the light."
Reaping isn't a paying gig, so Charley works as a private investigator and consultant for her police detective uncle. Because she can communicate with the dead, Charley can help the police solve murders by asking the victims who killed them.
"First Grave" begins with a visit from three dead lawyers, murdered after learning their client had been falsely accused of murder. Through Charley, they help the police solve the murder and free their client. However, the murder-mystery isn't as compelling as the arousing entity that appears whenever Charley is in danger.
Charley meets skepticism from the public and law enforcement. She's a messenger between the deceased and the living, and her privacy is constantly invaded by dead people (even when she's in the shower).
Her characters, both living and dead, are colorful and endearing, including best friend Cookie, who is fully accepting of Charley's abilities, and Angel, a dead teenage gangbanger who serves as her errand boy in the spiritual world.
Readers may expect a morbid story line, but Jones skillfully fuses tragic events with amusing dialogue, keeping the story lighthearted.
A bitter Earl of Westcliffe is outraged when he finds his wife Claire at his London home. He had exiledWritten by C.M. Lessard for Romance Novel News
A bitter Earl of Westcliffe is outraged when he finds his wife Claire at his London home. He had exiled her three years ago when he caught her in the arms of his younger brother, Stephen, on their wedding night.
In need of her substantial dowry, Westcliffe remained married to Claire but banished her to their country estate without consummating their marriage. She was left alone to manage his estate while he lived the life of a bachelor in town.
Claire, the oldest daughter of the Earl of Crestmont, was betrothed to Westcliffe at birth. She never experienced a season or a proper courtship with Westcliffe. As a child, she was closer with Stephen than with her somber suitor eight years her senior. But that seemingly harmless embrace between childhood friends ruined her marriage and destroyed his relationship with his brother.
Claire travels to London to ask Westcliffe's help in providing a season (and hopefully a suitor) for her younger sister, Beth. She also hopes to repair her marriage in the process. Westcliffe reluctantly agrees to sponsor Beth, by escorting them to society functions and outings. The sooner Beth finds a match, the sooner his wife will return to the country, and he can get on with his plans to divorce her and marry his mistress Anne Cavill.
Westcliffe is extremely cruel to Claire, more than warranted at times, but she eventually wears down his defenses. During their time together, Westcliffe discovers a few things about his wife: she has a scar from childhood, her favorite color is blue and she is an accomplished singer. These are details generally learned during courtship.
Westcliffe breaks off his engagement with Anne but she is not ready to let go. She hatches a scheme to feed into Westcliffe's mistrusting nature.
Lorraine Heath delivers tantalizing (and torturous) scenes between Claire and Westcliffe. Just when readers think reconciliation is imminent, they are disappointed when Westcliffe imparts harsh words then abruptly retreats. Westcliffe is convinced he is unable to love, but his actions toward Claire and his dog prove otherwise. Some of the story’s most tender moments are between Westcliffe and Cooper, his 15-year-old collie.
Heath also gives ample attention to establishing secondary characters; Westcliffe's meddling mother Tessa, her lover Leo, and Westcliffe's brothers, Stephen and Ainsley, who will be the focus of upcoming installments in Heath's "London’s Greatest Lover" series.
Review by Carolyn Lessard, Associated Press (my day job)
In Richelle Mead's "Last Sacrifice," the much-anticipated finale to her young adult Vampire AcReview by Carolyn Lessard, Associated Press (my day job)
In Richelle Mead's "Last Sacrifice," the much-anticipated finale to her young adult Vampire Academy series, 18-year-old Rose Hathaway is facing the death penalty after being framed for the murder of Moroi vampire Queen Tatiana.
With the help of her friends and her estranged father, Abe, Rose breaks out of jail and goes on the run, leaving her boyfriend, Adrian, and her best friend, Lissa, to find the real killer while she hides out with her former lover Dimitri and an alchemist named Sydney.
In Mead's supernatural world, there are two kinds of vampires: the Moroi, a relatively peaceful society possessing magical talents, and their mortal enemy, the evil Strigoi. Both kinds of vampires live mostly undetected among humans. Rose is a guardian, trained to protect the Moroi from attacks by the Strigoi. The Strigoi have no magical abilities; their sole purpose is to kill.
Half-vampire Rose has been training to become a guardian for Lissa, the last known member of a royal Moroi bloodline.
In "Shadow Kiss," the third book in the series, Dimitri was turned into an evil Strigoi vampire during a battle. Rose and Lissa were able to reverse the change in the fifth book, "Spirit Bound," but Rose was denied a long-awaited reunion when Dimitri, haunted by the atrocities he had committed, rejected her, vowing to never love again.
Now, Rose, Dimitri and Sydney have set off on a never-ending road trip that was initially meant to evade capture but turns into a mission to locate Lissa's newly discovered half-sibling. Along the way, they seek refuge within a primitive renegade Moroi community and team up with Victor Dashkov, an old enemy who only helps because it serves his needs.
In contrast to previous books in the series where battles against the Strigoi provided thrilling action, such battles have no significant role in "Last Sacrifice." Instead, Mead focuses on a convoluted murder mystery and a political election as candidates from all the royal bloodlines compete to be the new monarch.
"Last Sacrifice" has a few memorable moments — both tender and taut — between Rose and Dimitri. They battle when Rose tries to escape in an ill-considered plan to return to Lissa. Later, Rose comforts Dimitri when he becomes emotional after an encounter with a Strigoi — his first since his reversal.
Mead does little to build up the love triangle among Rose, Adrian and Dimitri. As a dream-walker, Adrian can invade people's dreams. His interactions with Rose are primarily in this state and don't last long, so her ultimate choice is not at all surprising. What is surprising, however, is the identity of Queen Tatiana's killer.
Mead's Vampire Academy series started out strong but peaked with the fourth book, "Blood Promise." Although the last installment is more fizzle than sizzle, "Last Sacrifice" manages to tie up loose ends while introducing new story lines for Mead's upcoming young adult series featuring another character.
For one week a month, Rose Marlowe heads to London to work at Madame Rubicon’s – an exclusive brothel.
BeingWritten by Rita Jett for Romance Novel News
For one week a month, Rose Marlowe heads to London to work at Madame Rubicon’s – an exclusive brothel.
Being the most popular and expensive “employee” affords Rose the financial security to support her 18-year-old brother while keeping him in the dark about their family’s financial straits.
James Archer arrives seeking a companionship denied to him by his wife Amelia. A successful tradesman, James entered into a marriage of convenience with an aristocratic woman in order to ease his way into high society and forge advantageous alliances. James also hopes his wife will sponsor his younger sister in society.
Amelia’s hostility toward her common-born husband has turned him into a workaholic and although his wife engages in multiple affairs, she will not tolerate his cheating.
Rose is surprised when James spends all night talking with her. He sparks feelings that she thought were long gone and James soon becomes equally infatuated. He visits her every night during her stay and asks her to accompany him to his country estate for one more week.
After a week of bliss, will James find the strength to let Rose go and return to his cold wife? And will Rose be able to return to the brothel next month for another week?
Evangeline Collins’ "Seven Nights to Forever" is a raw love story that takes readers to extremes and pulls on a myriad of emotions. The vulnerability of James and Rose is painful at times as Collins tells the compelling story of a man trapped in a loveless marriage, the desperation of a woman who resorts to prostitution to stave off debt, and what happens when the two fall in love....more
Written by Lisa Marie Wilkinson for Romance Novel News
At 30, Charlotte Spenser is firmly placed upon the shelf, labeled a “spinster” by London societyWritten by Lisa Marie Wilkinson for Romance Novel News
At 30, Charlotte Spenser is firmly placed upon the shelf, labeled a “spinster” by London society. Without fortune or conventional beauty, Charlotte assumes her interest in Viscount Adrian Rohan goes unnoticed by all, including the object of her obsession.
Adrian has long been aware of the covert looks of longing sent his way by the prim and proper Charlotte, but while Charlotte fancies herself in love with Adrian, his intentions are baser and more predatory. A devout hedonist and reputed rake, Adrian finds the thought of seducing Charlotte entertaining.
When Charlotte accompanies her worldlier cousin Lina to a revel of the Heavenly Host - a group of rakes and libertines- her plan is to observe rather than participate. A disguised Charlotte is presented with an opportunity to fulfill her wildest dreams but she risks ruin when Adrian recognizes her, and appoints himself her instructor in the art of love.
The similarities between Anne Stuart’s “Reckless” and her previous book “Ruthless,” are somewhat distracting. The heroes from both books, (they are father and son) are jaded roués redeemed by the love of plucky-but-penniless women from good families.
Despite the fact that the stories take place a generation apart, the men are initially portrayed as bored, self-centered dilettantes focused on their own amusement and pleasure. The justification for Adrian’s behavior is less convincing than that for his father‘s, and as a result, Adrian’s redemption is less compelling.
The seductive pursuit forms the romantic core of “Reckless,” but a secondary romance between Lina and an ex-libertine-turned parson, with its page-turning sexual tension, threatens to overshadow Adrian and Charlotte’s story.
"Reckless,” the second installment in the “House of Rohan” series, is an enjoyable read as a stand-alone offering, but readers who have already read “Ruthless” may be disappointed by the lack of originality. ...more
On his way to inspect a country estate left to him by his uncle, Nash Renfrew is tossed from his horse andWritten by Rita Jett for Romance Novel News
On his way to inspect a country estate left to him by his uncle, Nash Renfrew is tossed from his horse and is rendered unconscious.
Maddy Woodford, who takes care of her 5 siblings, witnesses Nash’s tumble. She jeopardizes propriety - and a good wheelbarrow - by carting the man into her cottage.
Nash awakens two days later without any recollection of his own name, let alone his rank and station. Through all the confusion, Maddy proves to be his salvation.
Tender feelings blossom between nurse and patient. With no family to rely on and a hazy-at-best connection to French nobility, Maddy can’t deny that Nash could remedy her financial troubles.
When he regains his memory, Nash compromises Maddy’s reputation after he lashes out at a greedy solicitor who threatens the Woodford family. Now Nash must do the honorable thing by marrying Maddy. Will his long-established notions of separating love from marriage hold out once his ring is on Maddy’s finger?
“The Accidental Wedding” is a witty and charming love story. Anne Gracie’s characters come alive and battle their practical tendencies in favor of following their hearts.
"The Accidental Wedding" is the fourth book in the “Devil Riders” series....more
In Lori Handeland's "Marked by the Moon," the latest release in the "Nightcreature Novel" series, HandelWritten by C.M. Lessard for Romance Novel News
In Lori Handeland's "Marked by the Moon," the latest release in the "Nightcreature Novel" series, Handeland begins with a systematic execution of an unquestionably evil werewolf by rogue hunter Alexandra Trevalyn. Her weapon of choice is a gun loaded with silver bullets. After a crude exchange, Alex shoots, and a blaze erupts as the bullets pierce the skin (a common side effect when silver meets wolf).
When Alex finishes her assignment, she is confronted by Julian Barlow, a centuries-old alpha, whose wife she similarly executed. Julian's plan for revenge is not to kill Alex, but to turn her into the thing she hates most - a werewolf.
After losing her parents in separate attacks, Alex believes all werewolves are monsters who deserve to die, and she has made their extermination her life's mission.
Julian's bite transforms her, but as her maker, he is physically bound to her now that she is a member of his pack.
When she discovers her father's murderer is a member of Julian's pack, she seizes the opportunity to penetrate Julian's Antarctic colony and hunt down the killer. Not only will she seek revenge but she will reveal their location to her former employer, Edward Mandenauer, the head of an elite taskforce aimed at ridding the world of werewolves.
Julian and Alex quarrel constantly. But after a long journey to his village, and a delirium-charged coupling, their relationship begins to change. Julian tries to deny his attraction as Alex comes to terms with her duality and overpowering bigotry.
The storyline, at times, falls victim to overkill. Handeland offers easy-outs for challenging circumstances: A simple spell by a voodoo priestess helps overcome the uncontrollable bloodlust of a new werewolf and Julian, already a powerful werewolf, also possesses magical powers, including the ability to be invisible.
Handeland's best asset is her humor. Alex's sarcastic wit and clever comebacks help to win her alpha (and readers) over. ...more