Beautiful Bad Man tells the story of two children, Cal and Norah, who shared an experience that stayed with them forever. Cal has never forgotten what...moreBeautiful Bad Man tells the story of two children, Cal and Norah, who shared an experience that stayed with them forever. Cal has never forgotten what Norah did for him, and will always be indebted to ‘the Girl‘. Norah has always dreamed of what became of ‘the Boy’ after that fateful night. Many years later, Cal is working as a gun for hire, when the group of men he is working with are asked to scare a widow off her lands so that his employer might force her to sell. At first he doesn’t recognise the beleaguered, grief stricken widow. But when it looks like things are going to get out of hand he knows he’s going to have to step in.
I’ve never read anything by Ellen O’Connell before, and decided to buy Beautiful Bad Man after it was recommended to me on Amazon. Her writing style appears to have a little more darkness in it than other historical westerns I have read, but it’s got an easy flow and the darker undertones adds depth to her characters.
Both Cal and Norah have been damaged by their life experiences. Cal abused in childhood until he is left believing his is a damaged, evil man, and Norah is wallowed so deep in grief, that she no longer has the drive in her to carry on living. Each have their own journey to travel, but seeing each other again after all the time that has passed is the trigger to their recovery.
The wider plot circles around the evil landowner Van Cleve who is intent on driving Norah and her neighbours off their lands in order to expand his empire. He sets about this with bullying, vandalism and murder. It soon becomes apparent to Norah, if she wishes to keep her lands she is needs a tougher person to help her, and it also become clear that Cal might be one of the few people who can stop him.
I did like Cal, there were occasions when he did make me smile with his liberal take on what was legal and what wasn’t. I also enjoyed how he shouted at Norah until she came back into herself and fought to live again. What I did miss with O’Connell’s writing style was a greater insight into the character’s emotions and feelings. While of course you do get some of this, I would have liked it to have been deeper as you didn’t always know what the characters feelings were at different junctures of the story. I think this element could have been expanded and made the overall love story richer.
The romance takes a while to get going and it was far from love at first sight, despite their curiosity of one another due to their past connection. Norah is a tough character, she is a survivor and knows how to work and endure. Cal believes himself to be evil and unworthy of love, and initially, only stays to help Norah out of a sense of duty. But the slow blossom of love and healing they each undertake made it a lovely read.
As I mentioned earlier, this definitely has darker undertones to this story, of rape, child abuse and neglect. But it also brought home some of the tougher realities of living in the West in the 19th century. Namely poverty, starvation and corruption. A time when not owning a gun could mean your death. I enjoyed this part of the book, I don’t mind a bit of darkness in the books that I read, and it added plenty of tension to the story.
A well written historical western. I would have liked to have seen more about the character’s feeling at different moments, but that aside this was an engaging, slow burner of a romance with a darker edge mixed in. I will be reading more by Ellen O’Connell in the future.
Technically, The Gilded Fan is the sequel to The Scarlet Kimono, but you really don’t have to have read the first to...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com
Technically, The Gilded Fan is the sequel to The Scarlet Kimono, but you really don’t have to have read the first to read it at all. Our heroine is Midori, a woman of half Japanese, half English heritage raised in Japan as a Samurai. However, the new Shogun with a fear of Christianity has declared that all foreigners must leave or face execution. For readers of The Scarlet Kimono, Midori is the daughter of Hannah and Taro.
Our hero is Nico, who has come to Nagasaki to trade and earn his fortune, but he ends up with an addition to his cargo he hadn’t expected. The addition of course is Midori and the last thing he wants to worry about is the safety of a woman on his ship.
Courtenay’s writing always makes me wish that I had studied History instead of Geography in secondary school (goodness knows why I didn’t!). It’s always rich is historical detail and culture. Beginning in Japan, we journey through to Amsterdam and then Plymouth in the time of the English Civil War. All parts of the narrative were fascinating, but I particularly enjoyed the parts set in England. Courtenay demonstrates through the lives of the characters the impact of the religious war on ordinary people and brings the events to life in your mind’s eye.
For the time, Midori is a very forward thinking woman and is also trained as a Samurai. Which makes her a tough lady, who can fight and defend herself during difficult times. I liked this about her, as well as her willingness to fight to defend her English family in the war. This difference also created inevitable culture clashes. Both between her and Nico, and her and her family. She faced each difficulty with such gracious dignity, and it also gave rise to some great verbal sparring between her and Nico.
I’ve read all of Courtenay’s books to date and in terms of writing flow, this is most definitely the best. But I did have some issues with the story. Two actually. The first was that it turns out that Nico and Midori are oddly related by marriage, I can understand the reason for this twist having read the story, but it felt just ever so slightly cumbersome.
The second is Nico’s reasons for going to fight as a soldier in the Civil War, a war his himself doesn’t believe in. Nico is not exactly a pacifist, but a man that follows life according to his own rules. So when after an argument with Midori, he on the spur of the moment decides to join the war, I had a bit of a whaaaaat moment. I didn’t feel like the actions were within character.
However, The Gilded Fan is a lovely historical novel. The relationship between Nico and Midori is one of those tense slow-growers with plenty of will they or won’t they moments. Nico did have me worried a good couple of times, particularly with his habit for running off and leaving! But it most certainly won’t leave you disappointed.
Issues aside and they were relatively minor, I definitely enjoyed The Gilded Fan. It has a great romance, with two strong characters and a very rich historical background. I would recommend Courtenay’s books to lovers of historical romance that like to seep themselves in culture and detail.
I’m not normally a novella fan, but I’ve been short of time recently so have found myself reading more than normal....moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com
I’m not normally a novella fan, but I’ve been short of time recently so have found myself reading more than normal. A DELIGHTFUL ARRANGEMENT is a light-hearted and dare I say, it ‘delightful’ romance.
The story sucks you in and whirls you away immediately. The main characters are fun, endearing and adorable. I actually wished the story had been longer because I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Francesca’s determination to find a man who makes her swoon, is as humorous as Phillip’s determination to be the man to do it. I loved the fact they were childhood best friends and are both unaware of their own real feelings for one another. It made their love story really heart-warming. Maybe their sudden decision to get married for real was slightly abrupt. But it didn’t matter as you are just so happy for them.
Francesca (Franny), is full of feist, and I can’t say I blame her, what woman wants to marry out of duty? I loved watching Phillip fall first, determined to capture the oblivious Franny’s heart. I always like it when the man falls first, it’s good to keep them on their toes!
Chastity, Franny’s best friend adds depth to the story, she’s funny and realises right from the beginning that Franny and Phillip are meant to be together. This story is the first Cecilia Gray I’ve read and she really does have a lovely writing style, bringing the fairytale magic you want from a historical romance.
You really can’t go wrong with this cute little novella. It’s a lovely, historical romance about two best friends falling in love. Grab your reading glasses, snuggle down and enjoy the ride.
This is the first Courtney Milan I’ve read, and to be honest I purchased it because it was a Kindle freebie. But I w...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com
This is the first Courtney Milan I’ve read, and to be honest I purchased it because it was a Kindle freebie. But I was delighted to find it was a great read. For a novella, the story is delivered with surprising depth, and I wasn’t left unsatisfied wishing the author had taken more time to tell the story, which is often the case with novellas.
UNLOCKED is such a lovely story. But at the heart of it, is an ugly subject – bullying. Lady Elaine, our heroine, has spent ten years being the subject of society’s cruel amusement. There were times when my heart completely went out to Elaine, also referred to as Lady Equine due to her rather loud laugh. She manages the unkind barbs her peers deliberately throw at her with grace and strength.
"It didn’t matter what people said; if you pretended not to hear it, they couldn’t embarrass you. She need show no reaction, need show no shame. If you didn’t acknowledge what they said, you need shed no tears."
Oh how some of these scenes affected me. I wanted to hug her and then slap her tormentors silly. Watching how she slowly diminished and did begin to crumble under their bullying was heart breaking.
Then there’s Evan. Evan has been away from society for over ten years, enjoying the thrills as a mountaineer. But he lives with the regret that he was one of the people that originally instigated the bullying against Elaine. You are not aware of who he was in the past, although you get an impression, but you do begin to admire the man he has become.
How can Elaine trust him, let alone love him? Evan’s path to redemption is as enjoyable as Elaine’s to freedom. If you love grand gestures, you really will adore Evan. Milan manages to convey sadness and alienation in one part, with love and that delicious cosy romance feeling in the next.
There was one scene that didn’t quite work for me, which was the the final big love/consummation scene. You know when a character does something that is quite out of character, that it jars you out of the story and the fantasy in your head? Well…that. But the writing was such, that I was easily swept back in again.
I will definitely be picking up something by Milan again, she has a sweet, seductive writing style that is easy and enjoyable. This is a great Sunday afternoon read for people who believe that love conquers all.
This book is the sequel to 'Trade Winds', and is the story of Killian and Jess's son Bric...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com (8 out of 10 on the blog)
This book is the sequel to 'Trade Winds', and is the story of Killian and Jess's son Brice. But it completely stands on its own right as a novel, so you really do not have to have read 'Trade Winds' before you pick it up.
'Highland Storms' was a very easy read. After being betrayed by his brother and the love of his life, Brice looks for a fresh start. Leaving Sweden, he goes to look after his father's estate in Scotland. But, when he arrives all is not what it seems. What should be a profitable estate is not doing well, with the clans people living in poverty, Brice suspects foul play.
Housekeeper Marsaili has a tough job running the Rosyth estate. With the difficult Estate Manager Seton to contend with, tight budgets and thwarting unwanted advances every day is a challenge. Let alone being the illegitimate daughter of the previous estate owner.
I liked this novel a lot, it had a villain you love to hate, a hero you really wanted to succeed and a plethora of supporting characters that you loved almost as much as the leads. I liked Brice for his honesty and determination to do the right thing by his inheritance and people. Essentially he's a good boy, but he had enough brawn and impishness to be an incredibly sexy hero too.
Marsaili is a modern heroine in a historical setting. I completely identified with her, which I think is what me like her so much. Ok, I don't have loads of suitors knocking on my door, but that aside, she's hard working, tough and proud. And has a fab pet pooch too.
The novel was much more than a love story. With the suspicion and intrigue at the centre of it, there's adventure, a superb baddy you rub your hands together in anticipation of him getting his comeuppance and a dark undertone provided by the English occupation of Scotland.
Christina Courtenay does not write what I would class as traditional historical romance novels. Christina Courtenay writes historical romance with a bit more grit and depth to them. What I like about her writing is the inclusion of historical detail. Not just the rosy details, but interesting factual details which gives it a greater sense of realism.
For historical romance with a difference, look no further than Christina Courtenay. 'Highland Storms' is the third book she's written and I think it's my favourite so far. (less)
Twin identity swapping stories always seem to make me think of Disney's 'The Parent Trap'...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com (7 out of 10 on the blog)
Twin identity swapping stories always seem to make me think of Disney's 'The Parent Trap' (the original is so much better) or Pascal's Sweet Valley High series which I so loved as a girl. There is of course nothing new about the concept, I find I sometimes like the stories, and other times not so much. 'The Husband Trap' thankfully fell into the first camp.
It begins with a wedding. Adrian, Duke of Raeburn waits for his bride, however it is not the woman he thinks it is walking down the aisle, it's in fact her twin sister Violet. In love with her sister Jeanette's fiancé, when Jeanette refuses to go through with the wedding, to avoid the terrible scandal Violet agrees to marry Adrian in her sister's place. The problem is Jeanette is a society princess and party lover and Violet is a shy, retiring bookworm.
This book is a sweet, easy-reading romance. I immediately endeared to Violet, maybe it was her love of books! But I enjoyed the fact that she was clever and shunned society norms. By contrast Jeanette is a spoiled brat who was guaranteed to set my teeth on edge. The love story between Violet and Adrian is warm and cosy like a lovely winter duvet. It builds nicely throughout the book, making it believable. You of course get the ultimate revelation and subsequent fall out, but you always knew that was coming and it just adds to the tension and glow of the romance.
Adrian isn't your typical alpha romance hero, in fact he's not that much alpha, more gentlemanly. But still dreamy enough to pull off the title of hero. I also became very fond of Adrian's brother Kit and the secondary plot and friendship that developed between him and Violet. It added a fun undertone to the story.
I did have a bit of an issue with the twins names in the book. Violet's full name was Janette Violet and of course the sister she swapped places with is Jeanette. Now ok, I get that the spelling and pronunciation is slightly different, but essentially they both have the same name. Would anyone really ever do this to their children? This felt like a very obvious and unbelievable plot device to get around the legality of the swapped marriage.
A really nice, well written regency romance that paces the love story nicely, with characters you love, and characters you love to hate. (less)
The DEVIL OF THE HIGHLANDS is a fun, laugh-out-loud, historical romp. I’ve come across Lynsay Sands books before wit...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com
The DEVIL OF THE HIGHLANDS is a fun, laugh-out-loud, historical romp. I’ve come across Lynsay Sands books before with her paranormal romance Argeneau series. So decided to give this audiobook a whirl.
It’s a light read, perfect for by the pool or a sunny afternoon in the garden. Evelinde our heroine is a calamity, or very unlucky, or both. Cursed with an evil stepmother, who arranges her marriage to ‘The Devil of Donnachaidh’. The name says it all does it not? She is in despair over her upcoming nuptials. Of course we know this is a romance and we know all will end well, but the misunderstanding does give us a hilarious opening.
Throughout the book Evelinde seems to find herself in the most bizarre and funny situations. I chortled away at each one and eagerly awaited the next. Cullen has everything a tall, dark and brooding hero requires. Including a distinct inability to communicate. At first his bellows of ‘wife!’ whenever Evelinde did something wrong irritated me, but by the end this soon turned to amusement when she started responding with ‘husband!‘ in equal tones.
The romance is accompanied by a murder mystery, with the two previous lairds and Cullen’s previous wife having died during suspicious accidents. When Evelinde finds herself the victim of a few near accidents herself, she sets about to discover who the murderer is. I had my suspicions as the plot developed, but it kept us all on a merry dance right until the very end. I do like it when I can’t guess the culprit myself and the mystery had plenty of twists and turns.
The writing itself was a bit flawed. Yes it’s most definitely funny and the murder mystery was well written, but there were errors such as Evelinde responding to questions with ‘aye’, when she was English and not Scottish that niggled a little. The narrator also read the story in a Scottish accent although she was clearly not Scottish herself. I got used to it in the end, but each time I turned it on it bugged me for the first ten minutes or so. The accent wasn’t bad, but at the same time it wasn’t right either.
A funny historical romance perfect for those days when you want a story to cheer you up and give you something to escape in. This is the first in a trilogy and I am very tempted to pick up the next one, as the book has a funny ensemble of supporting characters and I would quite like to see some of the others get their happy ending too.
It’s no secret that I’m quite an Anderson fan. LUCKY PENNY is her latest historical novel that weaves the tale of t...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com
It’s no secret that I’m quite an Anderson fan. LUCKY PENNY is her latest historical novel that weaves the tale of the Coulter family. In general, I think her contemporary books are better, but I can never resist picking up a new release of hers.
The story is of single mother Brianna, who is raising her orphaned sister’s daughter as her own in difficult times. In order to give herself a cover story and measure of respectability, she fabricates a fake husband – David Paxton – whom she writes fake letters to in order to appease her employer.
Of course, we all know in a romance things are never that easy, and the letters find themselves in the hands of the real David Paxton. A man who is astonished to discover he has a wife and child. Being a marshal and a decent man, he sets out to find the woman and child and if the child is his, determines to do the decent thing.
This isn’t a light and fully romance, Anderson’s books rarely are. But she has a very readable, rich writing style. However, what makes me love her stories so much is her depth and insight into human emotions.
Brianna’s plight as a single mother in times where women were expected to be married, respectable wives is well written and clearly depicted. It was easy to grasp her poverty and sense of desperation. A mother who has to raid garbage bins for food for her child really is desperate and it was painful as a reader to witness.
Enter David on his white horse, he didn’t have a suit of armour, but he does have a Stetson and a gun. What more could you ask for? A part of the story I did struggle with is how David believes so strongly that Daphne is his daughter that he doesn’t listen to Brianna’s story of her parentage for a long time, and it made me what to hit over the head with the aforementioned Stetson. That aside he is the perfect, gentlemanly hero. I loved his sweet, caring nature, his generosity and his sense of responsibility and family.
The romance between David and Brianna is a real slow grower, it’s not really until the last third of the book that we begin to see any *ahem* ‘action’, so if you’re a lover of spice and sizzle this probably isn’t for you. Me, I rather love a good slow builder, so I sat back in my comfy chair and just enjoyed the ride.
The story takes a few unexpected turns, but overall it’s a steady Cinderella story, of love conquers and redeems all. Oh, plus, there is a very cute dog! Every book needs a cute dog in my opinion!
I stand by my earlier statement, I still prefer Anderson’s contemporaries, but she is an author who sits firmly on my auto-buy list. She has written better, but this is a rich historical romance with depth, emotion, love and compassion. Every single mum and little girl deserves a hero like David.
Christina Courtenay has this fabulous ability of creating a vivid and rich setting to her books. The historical Japa...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com
Christina Courtenay has this fabulous ability of creating a vivid and rich setting to her books. The historical Japanese backdrop of this novel was one of the things that really made it for me.
The book opens in 17th century England with our heroine Hannah Marston being forced into an arranged marriage by her parents. Unable to bear the man she is due to marry, she stows away on one of her brother's boats which is just about to begin an epic journey to Japan, disguised as a boy.
A journey to Japan in the 17th century is no small undertaking, and unlike some other more fluffy romances I have picked up before, I liked that the novel didn't shy away from the difficulties faced by a crew on such a vast and dangerous sea trip. From illness, starvation, sickness and death. Although as with any girl disguised as boy stories, you do have to suspend your disbelief that in two years only one member of the crew manages to guess that she is actually a girl.
Our male lead is the proud Japanese warlord Taro and the story alternates between Hannah and Taro's viewpoints, portraying two very distinctly different stories at first. As the novel spans a good couple of years before they even meet, there is a lot of interesting scene setting from Hannah's difficult journey and Taro's painful first marriage, which is as enjoyable as the love story itself.
Taro learns of Hannah's arrival many years in advance via a vision from his sensei, and has been awaiting for the arrival of the flame haired woman long before she arrives. When she does arrive the romance is slow in growing and is built with absolute care by Ms Courtenay. It is a fascinating clash of cultures, and is detailed with many twists and turns involving a collection of characters that continue to have a big impact on Hannah and Taro's lives. Taro is terribly proud and more than a touch arrogant, for example getting Hannah kidnapped by samurai warriors so he can learn more about her is certainly a different approach to dating!
As with any romance, as a reader a happy ending is of course a pre-requisite and don't worry 'The Scarlet Kimono' doesn't fail. But, I would have liked the story to take one more final leap to make me a totally happy reader.
A very rich and detailed historical book that is both absorbing and fascinating. I love the fact that Christina Courtenay puts a lot of time and research into her books creating a vivid picture of 17th century Japan. Her characters are strong, and well rounded as likeable for the flaws as their perfections. A great read.(less)
With its lush and vivid setting I'm tempted to call 'Trade Winds' a beautiful book. Set ma...moreReviewed for www.bookchickcity.com (7 out of 10 on the blog)
With its lush and vivid setting I'm tempted to call 'Trade Winds' a beautiful book. Set mainly in Sweden, but with parts of the story told in Scotland and China in transports you through both time and cultures in 1732. I know next to nothing about Sweden, but I got a strong sense that this book was well researched and the author paints a distinct vision of each setting the book takes place in. I particularly loved the parts in China.
The heroine is Jess van Sandt a woman who has been raised in Sweden. Her now deceased father had been a forward thinking man, and with no sons to pass his business to had taught and encouraged Jess to be a part of it. But when her mother remarries, her new stepfather assures Jess that the business is now his, and her father's Will left her with nothing but a dowry for her marriage.
Jess is a determined and intelligent women and knows that something is amiss and desperately tries to get to the bottom of her stepfather's subterfuge. Wanting nothing more than the right to what she legally believes to be hers.
Living in the modern world, with a career of my own, it's easy to forget what it used to be like for women in the past. To not be able to own your own property and be entirely dependant on the men in your life. But this book really did make me think what it must have been like. I admired Jess's wits and courage and fumed at the injustices against her.
As a hero, initially you could be fooled into dismissing Killian as a bit of a gambler and a rogue. But peel beneath the surface and you'll find he's a very complicated man. A man that's determined to prove himself. Disinherited by his Grandfather, he seizes the opportunity to travel to Sweden and apprentice to Jess's stepfather to learn a trade and prove himself.
The love story isn't instantaneous, or a clash of lusty wills as you sometimes see in romances. It's Killian's dislike of injustice that draws him to help Jess, rather than some nefarious or romantic purpose. But just as Jess does, you slowly become charmed by him.
However, this book is more than a love story, the epic journey to China adds a real sense of adventure, and of course it really was an epic journey in those times. There's more than one villain to keep you on your toes and I found the history and Far Eastern culture fascinating.
There are four things that really make this book work. The beautiful setting, the obvious historical research coupled with the adventure and love story. This isn't what I would class as a fluffy romance, it's a rich and engaging novel with a romance story at the heart of it.(less)