Book #3 is a fast-paced romp of a steampunk story with misbehaving mechanical servants, party crashers, werewolf pack politics, a stolen train, a loveBook #3 is a fast-paced romp of a steampunk story with misbehaving mechanical servants, party crashers, werewolf pack politics, a stolen train, a love triangle, tangled loyalties, a power-grab conspiracy, disguises, revelations, desperate decisions, and so much more. This time, most of the story takes place away from Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies. A year has passed since the end of Curtsies and Conspiracies. Not long after Sidheag receives bad news regarding her family, Sophronia, Dimity, and Pillover head to Sophronia's home to attend her eldest brother's engagement ball. All seems to be going swimmingly until Sidheag and two werewolves show up, and not long after the werewolves leave, all the mechanical servants suddenly freeze in their tracks and begin singing. The confusion provides the perfect cover for Sophronia and her friends to escape and help Sidheag head north, but none of them has the slightest inkling what chain of events this will set in motion.
This series just keeps getting better and better! Now that I've gotten more of a feel for who/what "Picklemen" are, I have no complaints whatsoever. Well, aside from the fact that I now have to wait for the next installment to be written and published.
For readers' advisors: story, character, and setting doorways are all strong. There is no sex or swearing (what Dimity considers "bad language" hardly counts).
Many many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher who let me read a free eGalley copy in exchange for my honest review....more
Someone has been spreading rumors that, to get his hands on millions of dollars in inheritance money, Cole Steele killed his father and intends to kilSomeone has been spreading rumors that, to get his hands on millions of dollars in inheritance money, Cole Steele killed his father and intends to kill Jase, his fourteen year old brother. Itinerant veterinarian Maia catches Cole's attention when he hears her defend him to the locals, and he starts hanging out in the bar watching her play drums several nights a week. Cole is doing his best to convince her to sleep with him when he gets a call from Jase, frantic because his favorite horse has been severely injured. Cole insists Maia go with him to the ranch. As they drive through the increasing snowstorm, animals swoop down from the darkness and run into their path, frantic to warn Maia of danger ahead--men and blood and violence.
However, between the snowstorms, the injured horse, and a wounded mountain lion, Maia isn't leaving the ranch any time soon. Thank goodness for Jase's presence because Cole gets sexier as his secrets come to light and barriers soften and collapse. When she learns Christmas is a traumatic time of year in the Steele household, Maia is determined to do what she can to banish the hateful ghost that permeates the house. But it isn't a ghost causing the dangerous accidents, and Cole soon realizes that whoever killed his father is still out there.
Seriously, I got it the first time--he's a sexy bad boy inexplicably obsessed with the traveling vet, and even though she knows better, she's attracted to him, too. Despite the obnoxiously repetitious beginning, I eventually enjoyed this story of abused brothers learning to trust each other and heal with the help of a vet who can communicate with animals. I kind of wanted the mountain lion to have a bigger role in the story, though.
For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. There is a fair amount of swearing; some pretty explicit sex scenes; and a ridiculous number of descriptions of the main characters' potent attractiveness destroying all good intentions of self control, liquid fire of desire, careful defenses not working, branding kisses, yada yada yada.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I really wish all romance authors would take Alison Armstrong's Queen's Code workshops (see www.understandmen.com) before they wrote any more novels. Lust does NOT equal love, and too much sexual chemistry is a bad thing, not the fire that keeps a relationship going as so many people seem to believe. Which is not to say that attraction isn't critically important, just that both parties need to feel comfortable enough to be their true selves in order for a relationship (of any kind, really) to grow and strengthen over time. Desperately twisting oneself into a pretzel in an effort to be what one thinks the other wants never works in the long run, and neither does invading someone's personal space with blatant sexuality. Ms. Feehan does eventually get her characters to the point of showing their true selves to each other, but I almost didn't read far enough to find that out because the beginning of this novella was so full of raging lust and hormones.
I received a free eGalley copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Apparently this novella was published a decade or so ago as part of a couple of story collections and is now being repackaged on its own in ebook format....more
Mrs. Agnes Keeping, a young widow, lives quietly with her sister, a spinster music teacher, in the English village Inglebrook. She had married an oldeMrs. Agnes Keeping, a young widow, lives quietly with her sister, a spinster music teacher, in the English village Inglebrook. She had married an older gentleman for comfort and convenience and doesn't expect or wish to ever fall in love. In fact, she rather fears it, thanks to her mother's scandalous behavior and consequent abandonment of the sisters when Agnes was a small child. However, when she goes to a ball given by her new best friend, Sophia, Lady Darleigh, Agnes accidentally falls in love with Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby. Thankfully, he doesn't live in the area, and she believes she'll never see him again. This being a romance novel, she of course sees him again five months later when he and the other members of the Survivors' Club journey back to Middlebury Park for their annual gathering.
Flavian was shot in the head and trampled by a horse while fighting Napoleon's army in France. He has recovered from most of his wounds, thanks the the ministrations he received at Penderris Hall, home of the Duke of Stanbrook, but he still suffers from gaps in his memory, stuttering, and unexpected flashes of anger--symptoms familiar to many of today's soldiers as well. One of those frustrating holes in his memory relates to his former fiancee who jilted him to marry his best friend after he was wounded in battle. News that she's widowed and finished with her mourning period inexplicably sends him into a panic, where only marriage to Agnes feels safe. The difficulty lies in stitching together enough pieces of the past to understand the present and salvage their future together.
Mary Balogh does such a fantastic job writing multi-dimensional characters. It's one of the things I like best about her books--you feel like the people in them are real, and you enjoy spending time with them.
My only quibble with book #4 in this series is that I could have used some sort of chart or character list to help me keep the names and relationships straight. I thought I had read all three of the previous novels, but thanks to Goodreads, I just discovered that I'd only read the first one...which helps explain why I struggled mightily to connect titles, first names, and last names. My husband is in the military, and I have the exact same difficulty with his colleagues--it's taken me years in many cases to link a face with the three separate things she or he might be called, according to the circumstances. I have often wished for a cheat sheet with my husband's friends & coworkers, and I definitely wished for one while reading Only Enchanting.
For readers' advisors: character and setting doorways. Mild historical swearing and eventually a couple of sex scenes.
I received a free e-galley copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review....more
I almost quit reading within the first few chapters because I really didn't much care for any of the characters, but I'm glad I kept going because theI almost quit reading within the first few chapters because I really didn't much care for any of the characters, but I'm glad I kept going because they eventually started to grow on me.
The novel opens with Annie Hewitt, a debt-ridden ventriloquist stricken with pneumonia, driving through a blizzard on a small island off the coast of Maine to a cottage she must live in for the next 60 straight days lest ownership revert to her ex-stepfather. The sudden appearance of a man on horseback causes her to skid off the road into a snow-filled ditch, and things don't improve even after she drags her feverish self and her suitcases of puppets through the cold night to the dark cottage where the caretaker hasn't turned on the utilities as requested. The rider turns out to be her former step-brother and ex-boyfriend whom she hasn't seen in 18 years--since he tried to kill her. Theo Harp is now a famous author and recent widower, but this time she has the courage to stand up to him, in the process learning that all wasn't as it seemed back when they were teenagers.
Annie's mother never treated her very kindly, but on her deathbed, she promised Annie that the cottage contained "her legacy" and there would be plenty of money, so Annie begins the search, hoping to discover something that could help pay off the bills she incurred catering to her mother's dying whims. Annie spends hours up at Harp House trading housekeeping labor (to prevent Theo from firing her friend who can't do the work due to a broken foot) for wi-fi access so she can research the art and objects she finds. None of it seems valuable, but someone sure wants to scare Annie away because there is a series of break-ins, vandalism, threats, and once someone even shoots at her.
My favorite part of the book, I think, is the subplot about Jaycie's four-year-old daughter Livia who became mute after witnessing her mother shoot her father. Annie's talent for ventriloquism helps draw Livia out and start the healing process.
For reader's advisors: character and setting doorways. There is some swearing and eventually some sex scenes. ...more