Publisher: Book View Cafe Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: Purchased
“…we are all Death’s pupils, we practitioners—students of the great healer.”
When magic broke free in my blood, I chose to follow our ancient family path and become a practitioner. I’m learning to heal, and to protect innocents. I dip into minds, stalk vampires, and set wards by the light of the moon. I can hear the children of the night calling.
But there are other families…and other paths. Families with twisted ambitions and frightening powers. On the frontier, folk whisper that one clan is the most dangerous of all.
Chief among those dark sorcerers is a man known as the Keeper of Souls.
And now he wants to keep mine. This blurb came from Goodreads.
Yesterday I reviewed the first book in this series, Night Calls, and I am very happy to report that Kimbriel made me almost miss my bus stop at work because I had to read just one more page. Alfreda was well on her way learning the arts of a practitioner when she discovered that not all who could see the world’s extras delighted in them for the same reasons. As a result, she learned some very interesting lessons and kept me extremely captivated.
I loved seeing Alfreda back visiting her family and friends for a little while. Just as she had changed, she learned her family had as well. Watching her take on the role of instructor to her younger brothers while ignoring one of the side effects of her growing power was extremely cute. I thought the way she patiently walked the boys through figuring out what they should do and why boded well for her future training others, provided she survived to that point.
Speaking of lessons, Alfreda’s formal training continued to increase in complexity. I had the sense that while there was a particular order to the lessons, life’s circumstances were the ultimate decider once the apprentice achieved a solid foundation. Kimbriel did a great job of showing how every piece of information and lesson was critical. Not just practitioner and woodcraft lessons, but also those about human nature in general. The importance of loyalty, sheer determination, common sense, and a willingness to seek allies all came in handy. I loved how Alfreda was forced to use everything she learned throughout her life if she wished to survive her encounter with the dark sorcerers.
Kimbriel avoided the sophomore slump with Kindred Rites, and if anything, managed to ensnare me deeper in this series. Alfreda’s growth and the slow reveal of things left hidden earlier kept my curiosity peeked. The inclusion of two entities as prominent characters added both a bit of levity, and a sense that nature does have an order and will accept assistance in maintaining that order. I thought the final decisions Alfreda made regarding the survivors of her encounter with black sorcerers both emphasized her basic character knowledge, and set up some very interesting potential situations for future installments.
Publisher: Harlequin Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
SPOTTED: LONDON’S FAVORITE FALLEN HEIRESS, TAKING UP WITH THE ROGUE MARQUIS!
Amongst the gossip-hungry ton, no name has become more synonymous with sin than that of Lady Caroline Rider, cast out by her husband and disowned by her family. Rumor has it that the infamous “Caro” is now seeking oblivion in the opium dens of London!
There’s only one man who can save her—notorious rake Sebastian Conway, Marquis of Ardhallow. Soon Caro is installed in his country home, warming his bed, but their passion may not be enough to protect them once news of their scandalous arrangement breaks out…. This blurb came from the author’s website.
It has been a while since I have read a historical by Kaye so when I found this up for review I decided to give it a try. I typically read the Author’s Note, Letter from the Editor, and the dedication that the author or editor includes because it seems to get me in the mood for the story. I found the Author’s Note for this one to be very interesting and focused my attention looking for some of the things Kaye mentioned. I also learned this was part of a series, which I missed when I selected it. I have to admit that I have very mixed feelings about this story because on one hand, the heroine did things I really don’t agree with but on the other hand Kaye was able to make me believe in Caro and her situation.
The story started off with a rather dramatic scene and then proceeded to alternate between significant events in the past that led to the opening scene and events that occurred after that opening scene. I found the flashbacks were very distinct so it was easy to tell the difference between past and present. The scenes in the past were just that, scenes, but they allowed me to get a feeling for who Caro was and a sense of how she ended up in her current position. Let me just say that I am very glad I am not bound by the same particular rules of society that Caro and Sebastian faced. Towards the end of the book I was very glad to see some of the same joy of life return to Caro that she had during a few of the earlier flashbacks.
Sebastian wasn’t without his own issues. He spent most of his life as a disappointment to his father. Not on purpose at first but after a while he started to live up or down to expectations. This reached the point so that even when he was on “his best behavior,” it was only so he could lull the suspicious and then proceed to flaunt society’s rules. As the story starts, he has replaced his dead father as the Marquise of Ardhallow and due to their enmity, the only things he focused on were things his father didn’t seem to value. Yet, unlike any other society man, he rescued Caro, encouraged her to find her strength, and even tried to help her mend some of her fences.
I have to include some spoilers for this book to explain my mixed reaction.
Caro was married to someone other than Sebastian for the entire book. She had separated from her husband, was disowned and kicked out by her father because her husband spread the rumor that she was cheating on him. Caro left because she was finally fed up with her husband’s constant mental, verbal, and physical abuse. She was innocent of sleeping with the particular man her husband said she did but she had slept with someone else during their marriage. END SPOILER
I enjoyed watching Caro and Sebastian come to the realization that they were in love. I also liked watching them decide to face and then deal with the issues of their past. I could also understand a certain choice that was made towards the end of the story given their circumstances and the lesson that Sebastian learns. However, what they did during the middle of the story I had some issues with. Their actions pushed one of my DNF buttons. Having said that, Kaye managed to do such a great job setting up the characters that I was fully invested in my hopes for happiness that I didn’t stop reading. I guess this goes to show that I should stop saying I will never read x, y, or z because sometimes a book comes along that proves me wrong.
As I said in the beginning, this book left me with mixed feelings. I really enjoyed certain aspects and yet I had a hard time accepting other aspects. Caro and Sebastian were likeable, if flawed, characters. It was interesting to see how the pressures of society contributed to those flaws and actions that neither character would normally have taken. I was particularly glad to see that Kaye made the exposure of those flaws cost something but I also felt bad for the suffering that her characters experienced. As Kaye discussed in her Author’s Note, this story had a much darker tone than the others I have read by her. I give Rumors that Ruined a Lady a B-(less)
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
CAN A COMMON CAUSE
Alyce Carr has no time for the strange man in her little Cornwall village, no matter how breathtakingly handsome he is. Life in Trewyn doesn’t allow for much fun—the managers of the copper mine barely provide the miners and their families with enough food. Outsiders are suspect and flirts are unimaginable, but Simon Sharpe is as keen as his name…and Alyce can’t ignore him for long.
LEAD TO A SHARED PASSION?
As the founder of Nemesis, Unlimited, Simon Addison-Shawe is well accustomed to disguise and deceit. Yet he’s not prepared for Alyce’s dogged defense of her people and the injustices the copper mine has dealt them. With Alyce’s help he can change the fate of an entire town, and convincing her to join him is only part of the thrill. Together, they ignite a desire in each other much too powerful to deny. But at what cost? This blurb came from the author’s website.
If you do a search on The Bookpushers for Zoe Archer’s name you will find that she turns up on a fairly regular basis for a really good reason. She writes entertaining stories set in worlds with a twist. Not only does her settings usually contain a twist of some sort but the individuals who populate her worlds are also rather unusual. Unusual in the sense they don’t exactly fit amongst others of their peers but they provide me with hours of enjoyment. I was aware that Archer had started a new series, and I had the first one, Sweet Revenge on Mount TBR so when I saw we were hosting her (see today’s early post) I was incentivized to move it up to the top of the pile. I did this for a couple of different reasons; first I was expecting it to be good; and second, I wanted to review Dangerous Seduction at the same time as her guest post. I knew from reading other series written by Archer that the stories tend to build on each other, therefore I would catch the subtle nuances in later installments if I started with the first one. After reading and enjoying it I couldn’t wait to get started on Dangerous Seduction.
Set in an impoverished Cornish mining town, Archer explored some of the ugly sides to industrialization. Nemesis, Unlimited received an anonymous letter detailing some of the abuses and pleading for help. In response Simon, born and raised a nobleman, went undercover as a mechanic. During his very first day on the job he saw several examples of abuse. One of which was the use of company script for pay instead of cash. Company script could not be exchanged for cash because it was not backed by a hard currency thus keeping the miners and their families dependent on the company. In addition to the negatives, Simon also noticed Alyce, a villager who managed to maintain her drive for a better life.
Alyce entered the scene arguing with the mine managers as she tried to convince them they needed to dispose of the rotting butter in the company store and replace it with fresh so the miners and their families could eat a wholesome meal. The managers refused but she didn’t let that stop her from continuing to make efforts to benefit the villagers’ lives. She was attracted to Simon but she wasn’t going to jeopardize her livelihood, not with some newcomer who on his very first day caught the attention of the local law enforcement.
I really enjoyed watching Simon gain Alyce’s trust. While she was busy viewing Simon with suspicion he was also looking for an ally, someone who the villagers trusted so he could act for justice. She was so suspicious that she followed him one night because he really wasn’t acting like a typical mine employee. Her conduct that night convinced Simon he might have found the key with which to rally the miners. Alyce discovered that there was a lot more to Simon then she thought and that there might be a chance to make life better. I thought it was great that she didn’t immediately trust/believe him when Simon mentioned why he had come to their village despite his actions. Throughout the story Simon demonstrated that he enjoyed Alyce’s will and independence. He never made it seem as if the was unable to do something because she was a woman. Alyce repaid his trust by doing her part and more during their scheme. She also liked him because of who he was as a person, not because of his birth position.
I knew I was enjoying the story but I did not realize exactly how invested I was in the action portion until I took a deep breath at the end of a particular scene and noticed Archer had steadily built up the tension. Even with that small release, the tension continued to build as the stakes rose higher and higher. I thought it was a sneaky touch when the mine situation reached its climax but I still didn’t know how Simon and Alyce were going to resolve their relationship. By spreading the resolution to the mine conditions and the romance across time, Archer reminded me that while one provided the opportunity for the other they were not completely interdependent.
With Dangerous Seduction Archer has once again created a series whose installments I will continue to enjoy. Her characters are unique and memorable. The world-building in Dangerous Seduction is detailed and varied. She also combines romance with action in just the right amounts so I am invested in the story as a whole, not one particular aspect.
Publisher: Book View Cafe Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: Purchased
“When you have the Gift, your life is not your own.”
I was born to a family that harnessed the winds and could read futures in fire and water. Yet my mother kept her secrets.
Then the werewolf came, sharing his madness.
Now it’s my turn to keep secrets…. ********* Descended from powerful magic-users, but ignorant of her heritage, young Alfreda Sorensson learns magic and wisdom from her extended family in an alternate early 1800s Michigan Territory. This blurb came from Book View Café.
I have been relatively vocal about saying that if an author has a website, they don’t need to have a blog just a place for me to find out what is coming out next, what is out now, what was out in the past and where I can buy them. However, if an author does have a blog one of the things I love is seeing what they have read and enjoyed. I was browsing through Laura Anne Gilman’s blog about five months ago when she had a book recommendation post. She was recommending Night Called and made mention that she felt it belonged on the shelf with The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I you have been following us for a while you know that I absolutely LOVE Robin McKinley and tend to re-read both The Hero and The Crown and The Blue Sword on a regular basis so that statement sent me on a clicking frenzy to get to the blurb. I really don’t know why I bothered to read the blurb because the combination of who recommended it and the recommendation itself I knew I was going to buy it. Life happened to get in my reading way so I didn’t manage to read Night Calls until after the New Year when I was dealing with the post holiday slump. After I finished reading it I knew three different things. First, I really hoped she Kimbriel was writing more Alfreda stories. Second, I HAD to review this and spread the word. And finally Gilman gives good book recs.
Night Calls is like an epic fantasy/alternate historic world coming of age with a heroine as the central character. Alfreda lived in a rather small town and dealt with the usual trials and tribulations of growing up and trying to fit in while being slightly different. Then after the visit by a werewolf Alfreda learned she was part of a world that she didn’t know existed. This was a world well known to her family, but her mother’s fears about the very real dangers kept Alfreda ignorant until it became obvious she was in even more danger with her lack of knowledge. Not only was she in danger, but for some reason her town seemed to attract a growing number of creatures or supernatural entities who thought of humans as prey.
Told from Alfreda’s perspective as she learns about this new aspect to hear world and the role she can play in it I found this story an absolute delight. Alfreda did not have all the answers, nor was she all-powerful but she was determined to learn and do the best she could to help deal with the problems. In addition to learning about her abilities, Alfreda was still dealing with school, first crushes, and adults disregarding her thoughts because of her age. I loved the combination of challenges both in her day-to-day life and in her training/apprenticeship.
Kimbriel also created a very interesting world. The merging of magic and supernatural with rustic historic living and superstition was very deftly done. I enjoyed the hints that not all supernatural was evil and sometimes what appeared evil was created by humanity itself. The supporting cast was also evenly balanced, they weren’t all good, bad, or indifferent but appeared to be fully fleshed out. I also think several other families from Alfreda’s town have secrets of their own I am looking forward to discovering. While the focus of the story is Alfreda, her training came from both men and women, which I loved because it showed gender wasn’t a limitation.
Night Calls was a wonderful reminder of why I read epic coming of age fantasy for years and still hope to find that sense of adventure and wonder. I will also agree with Gilman that Night Calls is one I plan to re-read right along with McKinley’s stories. I am looking forward to Alfreda’s continuing adventures.
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
An auxiliary Nemesis agent and a former client go undercover as servants at a country estate during the Christmas season to expose corruption among London society’s powerful elite. Michael and Ada never thought they would again be working side by side in the pursuit of justice. Now that they’re on a case together, the attraction they had once shared flares to life, making a dangerous assignment even more unpredictable. Can they take the heat? This blurb came from the author’s website.
The nice thing about reading a series after it’s already going is the ability to read multiple installments without having to wait–in other words, going on what is called a book glom. I was lucky enough to start reading Archer’s Nemesis Unlimited when she had two novels and a novella already out. So after reviewing Dangerous Seduction, the second novella last week on the blog, I dived right into this novella.
Winter’s Heat introduced two new characters, Michael and Ada. They had met during an earlier case and became attracted to each other. But Nemesis business interrupted their budding relationship and it never went anywhere. Ada was hired as additional help for the Christmas season at a particular country estate. Given her lower class upbringing, she was accustomed to the duties expected of a maid, so going undercover in that capacity was relatively easy. Expecting a partner from Nemesis, she was surprised and displeased to see Michael after the method of their previous break-up. Michael was a regular employee of Nemesis who was just returning from the successful completion of another mission. He went undercover as a temporary footman and the experienced member of the team. In addition to knowing the details of their official mission, Michael had some personal goals of his own.
I found it interesting seeing this world adapted to a novella. In this particular case, Nemesis wasn’t trying to stop a crime from continuing to happen. Instead they were after the ringleaders who had escaped with their profits. This allowed the relationship more prominence, which I appreciated given the shorter length of the story while still satisfying my curiosity for intrigue. It also helped give depth to the story that the villains, while not seen participating in anything wrong, proved through their words that they were despicable individuals.
Even with the shorter length, Winter’s Heat included some elements I have decided are vintage Archer. Michael respected Ada in what she could do and what she decided to attempt. He never tried to say that she couldn’t do certain things because she was a woman. Ada also respected and trusted Michael on a professional basis even when she was unsure on a personal level. Any chance of success required teamwork, trust, and the discovery of unknown skills. The combination of those elements along with the sexual tension created an enjoyable read.
So much fun to read. Short freebie that seriously peeked my curiosity about her upcoming series. Her writing is so vivid and the situations her charac...moreSo much fun to read. Short freebie that seriously peeked my curiosity about her upcoming series. Her writing is so vivid and the situations her characters find themselves in along with the solutions are very intriguing.(less)
Publisher: Penguin Publish Date: Nov 5th How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
In the Highlands of Scotland, plays for power are fought without rules, treachery and intrigue hold court, and, in one woman’s heart, danger stirs as relentlessly as passion…
Wrongfully accused of murder and left to die in a hellish Highland dungeon, Ana Bisset has lost all hope of freedom. But the beautiful healer’s luck takes an unexpected turn when a hooded stranger appears as her rescuer. After a harrowing escape, Ana settles alone in a quiet village where no one knows her past or her reputation. The last thing she ever expects is to meet her mysterious savior again…
Niall MacCurran is no hero, but a warrior on a dangerous mission to expose a threat to the realm. After his decision to free Ana, he now realizes that it is he who needs her help—willing or no—to advance his quest. But his growing feelings for the delicate yet resilient beauty soon jeopardize their safety—and not even Ana’s healing gifts may be enough to protect their love, or their lives. This blurb came from the author’s website.
It has been a while since I read a historical romance so when the blurb for Taming a Wild Scott looked intriguing I decided to give it a try. While I enjoyed the overall idea, unfortunately I had some issues with the execution. I found I had a difficult time following some of the characters, action, and understanding the logic used by both the hero and heroine at different times. This story started off with a great hook–the heroine is dying in a pit, accused of murder, and the hero reluctantly adds her to his rescue mission but only goes far enough to get her out of the castle. He gives her a knife and some water then goes his separate way. This certainly made me curious.
Two months later, Niall spotted Ana in a village and decided to gain her assistance either willingly or through blackmail. The first thing that I found questionable was that they ended up in the same village months later. This struck me as almost a bit too much of a coincidence but I let that slide because I wanted to know what was so important as to result in blackmail. I also had hopes that the blackmail thread would vanish as the two got to know each other and their respective motivating factors.
The action in this story flashed between the village and local keep, a hideaway in the forest, and back by the original castle grounds where Ana had been imprisoned. Niall and his band of men decided to split into two separate groups, each focused on a different aspect of the overall problem. Half of them hid out near the village and the other half went back to the castle. Each time the story jumped from the local area back to the castle, I found myself distracted from what was supposed to be the primary action and main characters. While I understood events were happening simultaneously, equal emphasis was placed on them, which detracted from the romance. I might have had an easier time following the action if I was already familiar with the characters and their relationships with each other. Unfortunately the way I was introduced to them and how their connections were fleshed out seemed rather haphazard instead of deliberate. I think I would have preferred to have a shorter story that focused primarily on Ana and Niall, then a second story taking place during some of the same time that focused on the second group.
I also struggled with the relationship between Ana and Niall. Both of them continued to either cling to or use the original thread of blackmail throughout the majority of the story. As a result, I did not buy into their love for each other because it seemed too sudden instead of growing over time. I thought that each took unnecessary risks, done out of desperation maybe, but without considering the effects of their actions. Niall kept insisting that Ana do things to help him regardless of the fact that she was already under suspicion. I also had the impression, for most of the story that once he succeeded in his mission and she was no longer useful, he would just leave her as he did after the initial rescue. For Ana’s part, there was one particular scene when she decided to use her healing powers that I thought was incredibly stupid given the fact that twice her cottage had been the subject of an unannounced search that included any fresh wounds on Niall. In my mind, she was practically daring them to come and see evidence that something unusual was happening.
I enjoyed the overall idea and loved the opening chapter but Taming a Wild Scott did not live up to its potential for me. I struggled with several of the key elements, including the romance between Ana and Niall, and as a result, I found it extremely difficult to suspend disbelief regarding other elements. The inclusion of a secondary storyline that received almost as much attention also took away from my awareness of the primary romance. I think the amount of world-building and back-story included in Taming a Wild Scott was at the cost of the actual relationship-building. I hope that the second book has a much smoother focused delivery.
Publisher: Self Publish Date: Feb 25 How I got this book: ARC from the author
Even in the darkest of shadows, love can light the way.
Nicholas Graham is caught in the middle: of his family, of his desires, of his own unhappiness. After he meets Winnie Watson, his self-imposed curmudgeonly existence pales in comparison to spending time with her. He wants to be with her, to get to know her. She is a beacon to all the secret cravings he has controlled. Until now. Winnie Watson endured, and survived, a horrendous childhood that would give others nightmares. She started over, a new name, a new goal in life. Then she met the Grahams and everything went sideways. She’s done the unthinkable and struggles to accept it. She wants to forget it all again, but the specter of Nicholas Graham, physical and in her dreams, won’t let her move on.
Caught between their needs, their wants, and what the world will allow them, Nick and Winnie are doomed from the moment they met. However, love will teach them that even the biggest obstacles can be overcome if you believe in love . This blurb came from the author’s website.
Last year I reviewed Vaughn, book 4 in the Circle Eight series and enjoyed it as I did the previous installments. Nicholas met Winnie during some rather tense times in Vaugh and had a chance to see who they could be as they worked to help their family succeed. Yet the two of them parted, each thinking they were not good enough for the other while knowing they had glimpsed something wonderful. When I found out Nick and Winnie were getting their own story I couldn’t resist. This review is going to be shorter than my usual reviews because it is going up several days before its official release.
Initially I struggled immersing myself in this story because the conflict was all self inflicted but then things changed. Lang added external conflict to the mix and suddenly I could understand where their mutual angst originated and I began cheering them on. Nicholas needed someone who wouldn’t let him wallow in the inner workings of his thoughts. Winnie needed to be loved for who she was regardless of the choices and circumstance of her childhood. One of the things Lang appears to have specialized in with this series is heroines with unusual pastimes or pasts who refuse to be regulated by what society has said they should be. I thought it was great to see Winnie own her past and refuse to be dragged down by it but try to make things better for others. And Nicholas supported her as he understood the pain of her past. Their slow progression from physical attraction to self-realization to open love was extremely moving.
Nick and Winnie’s romance was set against the mystery of an event in her past. They had to work their way through emotional highs and lows, hopes and fears, anger and sadness along the way and realized having a partner made things much more bearable. I enjoyed watching each take turns encouraging and supporting the other. Even if sometimes it appeared as if they were provoking anger instead of providing comfort. I loved how it took both Nick and Winnie to piece together the entire story and a willingness to accept help when it was offered to succeed.
In addition to the primary romance and mystery, Nicholas included the start of a secondary romance. I am hoping to see that romance play out as the focus of an upcoming installment because the drama and potential angst should be very entertaining. Once I got past the set-up for this story I found it very engrossing. Lang has continued to find ways to keep Circle Eight feeling fresh even though the problem that started this series was solved a couple of installments ago. As I said earlier I am looking forward what comes next.
Different. Seriously mixed feelings about the heroine. I liked the hero and how he was determined to try and catch her. It seemed like everyone except...moreDifferent. Seriously mixed feelings about the heroine. I liked the hero and how he was determined to try and catch her. It seemed like everyone except for her best friend, her elderly aunt, the hero and his friends were evil and small minded.
I don't think I liked the broad brush painting of everyone else.(less)
Publisher: Berkley Publish Date: Out Now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
From four acclaimed authors come four all-new novellas featuring the rugged men of the West and the women who want them…
From Jodi Thomas…Callie has done a lot of crazy things, but it’ll take one more to prove she isn’t nuts: find a husband, fast! Her only requirement: he has to be taller than she is and swear not to have her committed during their ruse of a marriage.
From Jo Goodman…Felicity Ravenwood was raised to be independent-minded, but when this runaway bride opposes her father’s choices, it is up to Nat Church to bring her around. But he doesn’t count on springing her from jail, holding her hostage, or falling head over boot-heels in love.
From Kaki Warner…Two strangers on a train have more in common than they know—both have hidden purposes and ties to a Nebraska bank robbery. But when their schemes unravel, they find a bigger surprise awaiting them than either could have imagined.
From Alison Kent…When runaway New York socialite Maeve Daugherty joins her father’s bodyguard Zeb Crow on his personal mission of revenge, what was a slightly scandalous new life as a bookkeeper for an infamous San Antonio brothel becomes downright dangerous. But that’s not stopping Maeve from having the time of her life. This blurb came from Goodreads.
I requested this anthology because I have read and enjoyed three of the four authors before. It also helped that this was a western one of my favorites of the romance sub-genres.
“Crazy Callie” by Jodi Thomas was a sweet novella. It reminded me of a Louis L’amour western with an emphasis on sweet romance. Callie desperately needed a husband so she found a man who lived for three years on the promise of a dream only to have it snatched away from him. Together they decided to make the best of it and along the way fell in love. While the bad guy didn’t get what was coming to him in terms of retaliation or punishment, I thought how the final confrontation was handled spoke volumes for the essence of Callie and Luke and what they wanted to build their life on. I give “Crazy Callie” a B
“Nat Church and the Runaway Bride” by Jo Goodman is a novella about a character whose exploits are the subject of dime store novels mentioned in Goodman’s western novels. I have enjoyed the technique of an author writing the story of a character who is fictional to their main characters in the past and this was no exception. The forced interaction between Nat and Felicity was very entertaining as they learned about each other. Felicity’s strength of will remained evident and Nat never crushed her drive or independent spirit. I loved how they figured out their feelings and how to remain independent from her father. I give “Nat Church and the Runaway Bride” a B+
“The Scent of Roses” by Kaki Warner was my introduction to Warner. I found it full of secrets, hidden agendas, verbal missteps, and card games. I enjoyed the cat and mouse game with the main characters trying to figure out who their traveling companions really were. Warner kept me wondering about the possibility of multiple criminals all with the same goal in mind, which made me speculate until the very end. I did guess who might have done it in the story but Warner made the confrontation quite exciting. I give “The Scent of Roses” a B-
“The Hired Gun’s Heiress” by Alison Kent was probably my favorite in this anthology. The contrast between sheltered Maeve working out of her comfortable environment and the hard certainly not sheltered Zeb was very entertaining. Zeb and Maeve had never really talked except for one evening when Maeve got drunk and started asking Zeb questions that she had wondered for years but never asked. She was resistant to leaving her job but on the journey continued to pry at Zeb out of curiosity and frustration. I loved how Kent built the sexual tension and thought this line by Zeb after Maeve stopped their first actual kiss was hilarious. “Because I’m going to be busy awhile putting out my own flame. I sure as hell don’t have time dealing with yours.” I also really liked how it took Maeve’s quick thinking and Zeb’s knowledge of betrayal among criminals to get out of an ugly situation.
I give “The Hired Gun’s Heiress” an A-
Overall this was a better than usual anthology because even though I had not read all of the authors previously, I enjoyed all four stories to varying degrees. One theme that I found consistent is the desire to live a happy relatively peaceful life together without the need to wreck ultimate vengeance against those who could have been considered the ultimate bad guys.
It was fun to go back to the Tang Dynasty and the complicated web of politics, assassins, and a crumbling empire. I look forward to reading the next i...moreIt was fun to go back to the Tang Dynasty and the complicated web of politics, assassins, and a crumbling empire. I look forward to reading the next installment.(less)
Publisher: Ballantine Books Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Genevieve McInnes is locked behind the fortified walls of McHugh Keep, captive of a cruel laird who takes great pleasure in ruining her for any other man. Yet when Bowen Montgomery storms the gates on a mission of clan warfare, Genevieve finds that her spirit is bent but not broken. Still, her path toward freedom remains uncertain. Unable to bear the shame of returning to a family that believes her dead or to abandon others at the keep to an imposing new laird, Genevieve opts for the peaceful life of an abbess. But Bowen’s rugged sensuality stirs something deep inside her that longs to be awakened by his patient, gentle caress—something warm, wicked, and tempting.
Bowen seizes his enemy’s keep, unprepared for the brooding and reclusive woman who captures his heart. He’s enchanted by her fierce determination, her unusual beauty, and her quiet, unfailing strength. But wooing her will take more than a seasoned seducer’s skill. For loving Genevieve, he discovers, means giving her back the freedom that was stolen from her—even if it means losing her forever. This blurb came from the author’s website.
I read the first of Banks’ McCabe Trilogy, her earlier Highlander series and enjoyed it but then real life decided to interfere so I never picked up books 2 and three. So when we received the opportunity to participate in her blog tour for Higherlander Most Wanted I decided I would enjoy giving her second Highlander series a try and once again I found myself enjoying it. Highlander Most Wanted takes place right after the events of Never Seduce a Scott so It would help to understand some of the tension and back story if you read that one first but you will sill get the gist of the initial actions and reactions if you do not.
Genevieve had a pretty miserable life for the past few years. She was captured and abused by a cruel sadistic man who decided that he was going to have her and when she rebuffed him decided to make it so one else would ever want her. She was also mistreated by most of the members of his Clan based on her status there and that she was a very convenient scapegoat. In spite of all of her mistreatment when she found out that the Laird and most of his men fled the keep before the combined Montgomery and Armstrong army arrived, she tried to rally those who remained to be strong and see what they could do to survive. Genevieve was scarred physically, mentally, and emotionally from her treatment by the McHughs which left a lasting impression on her behavior towards men and her hopes for her future. She did annoy me somewhat with her extremely forgiving nature towards the members of the McHugh clan and how they continued to treat her but she also did not hesitate to go after those who turned traitor. I just wish that once Bowen Montgomery had taken control that she stood up for herself against the others.
Bowen was really put in a difficult situation. His simple mission to eliminate the McHugh Laird, his son, and seize the keep became rather complex. He was forced to work with and depend on the Armstrongs who only recently transitioned from deadly enemies to reluctant allies. He had to seize and manage the McHugh Keep until the Montgomery and Armstrong Lairds decided what to do with it and the surrounding lands. He had to deal with the threat of returning McHughs and traitors who remained in the keep. He also had to determine what to do with Genevieve, her past, her future, and his desire for her. I liked how he was able to think through things and see past his immediate kneejerk reaction to determine the facts behind an event. He also had the ability to make tough decisions for the short term in an attempt to make the long term better. One of my favorite scenes was when Genevieve was attacked by a McHugh and he not only killed the man but also decided to become her champion.
Overall, I enjoyed watching Genevieve heal and Bowen lose some of his anger. I also liked seeing the Montgomerys and Armstrongs grow closer together as they dealt with mutual enemies. I was also very happy with the ending situation for Genevieve so she did not have to stay amongst the remnants of the McHughs. I also really liked how Bowen continued to prove his support to Genevieve and to give her choices for her future. I enjoyed the interactions between the main characters in Highlander Most Wanted but I did get a little tired of the mob mentality amongst the supporting cast. They were very eager to continue mistreating Genevieve and blaming her for their situation. In my opinion most of them should have been kicked out of the keep and left to fend for themselves instead of being given multiple chances. I look forward to seeing what happens to the reminder of the Montegomery and Armstrong siblings.
Enjoyable read. It had the Highland flavor I enjoy without too many of the tired cliches. Very vivid characters and some awful villains both men and w...moreEnjoyable read. It had the Highland flavor I enjoy without too many of the tired cliches. Very vivid characters and some awful villains both men and women. Showed how cruel and petty people could be when they thought they had a victim. (less)
Arg and I am now hooked! Rather interesting topics brought up and dealt with. I loved how h/h argued when as an excuse to get what they wanted. I also...moreArg and I am now hooked! Rather interesting topics brought up and dealt with. I loved how h/h argued when as an excuse to get what they wanted. I also loved how the "delicate" lades weren't so delicate after all. There are several characters I am looking forward to seeing again.(less)
For the first time in print, New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn presents a collection of “second epilogues” to her Bridgerton series, previously published as e-originals, plus a new bonus Bridgerton novella: Violet in Bloom,” a short story in which we finally meet Edmund Bridgerton.
*Blurb from Goodreads*
E: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Quinn’s Bridgerton series and successfully pushed them on a few people **cough**MinnChica**cough** but I had not read her Second Epilogues so when I saw they were being released in a single collection I leaped on the chance to review them.
MinnChica: I’m so grateful to E for pushing the Quinn books on me, I absolutely adore the Bridgerton family, and I was one of the people who gobbled up the 2nd Epilogues the moment I was done with the series. I’m just glad to finally have them all in one nice book, with an extra special short about Mama Bridgerton.
The Duke and I: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Simon and Daphne’s story was my introduction to this family. The estrangement between Simon and his father. Simon’s refusal to open and read the letters his father wrote him but never sent which might contain the answers, an apology, or an explanation. This epilogue is about what would make Simon decide to read them. In finding out we got to see some of the familiar interactions between some of the main characters of the series not to mention their various children. I enjoyed seeing the different aspects of their personalities combined in the children. Daphne’s inner monologue was also hilarious as she dealt with a surprise.
MinnChica: I was always curious about the letters from Simon’s father, and was both let down and excited to hear what exactly was in them. I thought the situation Quinn used to get Simon motivated to finally read the letters was a wonderful way to tie back to the original story. Of course, now I want to know how things worked out!! LOL
Lou: I was hoping that Simon’s father would have left something meaningful in the letters but the character stayed true to form. Daphne’s surprise was both charming and funny. I was so happy to see Quinn’s humour back in force, and I think Daphne and Simon were a great couple to start the anthology.
The Viscount Who Loved Me: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Pall Mall! This game epitomizes the competitive yet loving bond between the Bridgertons and their spouses. As the years have passed their plotting and scheming has grown exponentially. I found myself giggling the entire way through this epilogue.
MinnChica: I think that the Pall Mall tournament from the first book is one of my favorite scenes, and this 2nd Epilogue is the one that stayed with me the most since I originally read the few that were available. I love that everyone fights over the black mallet, and that Anthony and Kate still have a fierce competitive streak between the two of them. I loved that this story seemed to be a wonderful little glimpse into a day in the life of the Bridgertons.
Lou: I think Kate and Anthony are one of my favourite Bridgerton couples. This little short was hilarious and encompassed the entire deviousness and sibling rivalry of the Bridgertons. Kate and Anthony have wicked sense of humours and seeing them battle in the very serious game of Pall Mall was a true feat. The ending was perfect with them flirting.
An Offer From a Gentleman: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Posy gets her HEA finally. It was great to see her achieve happiness. Quinn changed her writing style for this particular epilogue which was slightly disconcerting at first but it fit Posy’s relationship and personality
MinnChica: I loved Posy from the original story. I thought she was such a wonderful character, and getting to see her finally get her HEA was so fun. I loved that she also got the chance to have a love at first sight moment, and that she fell hard and quick for the local Vicar. I also loved Ben and Sophie’s little play-by-play at the end. It was a fun little moment for them to look back on their love at first sight moment.
Lou: It was so nice seeing Posy getting her HEA after a miserable upbringing between her mother and sister. Whilst I was happy for Posy I wasn’t that engaged with the short. It was more of a telling rather than showing.
Romancing Mister Bridgerton: The 2nd Epilogue
E: And once again the family dynamics came to play. This one wasn’t my favorite. I think the combination of people trying to make Penelope feel guilty about her alternate identity made me feel bad for her and dread the reveal. I also thought the reveal was anti-climatic.
MinnChica: Colin and Penelope were by far my favorite couple in the series. I think I’ve re-read this book a million times. But unfortunately I didn’t like the 2nd Epilogue as much as I did the book. Maybe it was because the short takes place so close to the end of the book, maybe because it takes place during To Sir Phillip, With Love. Either way, I thought the whole scenario of Penelope telling Eloise her secret was a little, well just like E said: anti-climatic.
Lou: This definitely felt like a deleted scene rather than a return to Penelope and Colin’s life. I would think after what Eloise had just done, the secret Pen kept from her would be the furthest thing from her mind.
To Sir Phillip, With Love: The 2nd Epilogue
E: This was a fun one to read. I remember hoping that Sir Phillip’s children would be happy now that they had a mother so seeing the viewpoint of Amanda was lovely. It was also sweet to see Amanda’s conversation with her father the night she fell in love.
MinnChica: I enjoyed this story as well, mainly because I loved and adored Amanda and Oliver. I always hoped that Quinn would give them each a story, so the fact that we get to see Amanda all grown up was a treat for me! I also loved the moment that she had with Sir Phillip, because it showed just how much he loved and adored her, and how clueless he could really be!
Lou: I enjoyed this story the least and it was due to the first narration. I found that Amanda waffled on quite a bit, and the narration felt uneven in places. However, her meeting with Charles was cute and the last scene with Phillip, her father, was even sweeter.
When He Was Wicked: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Aw this one was extremely touching. Francesca had such a hard time during her life reading this and seeing all her wishes coming true made my heart melt. I enjoyed Francesca’s closeness with her mother Violet.
MinnChica: I never really connected with Francesca as much as I did her sisters and sisters-in-law. While I liked her book, it wasn’t one of my favorites. However, I think this 2nd Epilogue is another one of my favorites. I felt so deeply for her struggle to get pregnant, and wanted nothing more than for her to finally get all her hopes and dreams fulfilled. When she had the heart to heart with her mom, I was in tears. I was so glad to see her finally get her little bundle of joy.
Lou: Poor Francesca had such heartbreak in her life. After the deaths of her first husband and their unborn child, she deserved the children she desperately wanted. I’m not a huge fan of baby endings, but this short ended sweetly and so perfectly for Francesca and Michael.
It’s In His Kiss: The 2nd Epilogue
E: Hyacinth certainly gave her family fits so it was great seeing them return the favor. I really liked how Isabella proved that she loved her mother even when tormenting her.
MinnChica: Hyacinth was such a character throughout the entire series. I adored everything about her, and thought that her search for the jewels would never end. Knowing that her daughter, another wild child, found the jewels so young, and kept it hidden from her mother was so ironic. But then getting to see Isabella realize what her mom searched for and why, I loved that she went through the trouble of helping Hyacinth finally find her treasure.
Lou: I’ve always had a soft spot for Hyacinth. Being the youngest out of my brothers and second youngest out of all my immediate cousins, I know the tribulations that occur in being the youngest of them all. It was funny seeing Isabella be a carbon copy (perhaps more) of her mother, Hyacinth. Hyacinth would have looked for those diamonds forever more, and the scene Isabelle overhears was very sweet and it makes her do something for pure love for her mother.
On The Way to the Wedding: The 2nd Epilogue
E: This epilogue was probably the most serious of them all. The discussion about naming babies was cute and once again the sheer love in the Bridgertons was very evident.
MinnChica: I think that this book was probably my least favorite of all the Bridgerton series books, but I did enjoy this Epilogue. E is absolutely right in that the naming of the kids was so sweet and sentimental. And watching their family surround them with love and support is always a favorite aspect of the series as a whole, so that made this one extra special.
Lou: Despite the serious tone in this short, all I could think of was nine babies. Nine! Gregory’s fear and despair was clear to see, and the scene with him and his eldest daughter, Katheribe, was lovely. The whole family surrounding Lucy showed the love they all had for one another. It kinda reminded me of Sound of Music.
Violet in Bloom
E: I really liked how Quinn did Violet’s story. We got to catch glimpses of several important moments in Violet’s life along with an understanding of why she was so happy with her family. This was the perfect ending to the epilogues.
MinnChica: I loved the way Quinn wrote about Violet. I loved getting to catch a glimpse of the love of her life, but was glad that it wasn’t the entirety of her story, much like her life. Getting little snapshots of life when the children were all younger was so sweet, and really gave us a clear picture of why Violet is loved so much by her children. Like E said, it was a perfect end to the Bridgerton series, and the 2nd Epilogues.
Lou: This I almost couldn’t read because you know what happens. When she and Eloisa find Edmund…gah. I still wish that Violet would have found love again. The short showed her deep love for her family, but I wished she could have found that special love with another man. It breaks my heart a little to know she lost her true love so long. A bittersweet end to the anthology.
E: These are short quick satisfying reads. I want to go back and re-read the novels and then read the associated epilogue. As Quinn states in her introduction this is not the collection to start the series with because it presupposes a lot of knowledge on the reader’s part. While I liked some epilogues more than others just like I enjoyed some of the Bridgertons more than the others overall I enjoyed it.
I give The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After an A-/B+
MinnChica: These stories were all very short and sweet. I think I enjoyed them all, and getting the chance to peek back into the daily lives of these characters is such a treat. I think the Bridgerton family is still one of my all time favorite fictional families. For those who haven’t read any of the 2nd Epilogues, this is going to be a wonderful treat. For those who have, be on the lookout for Avon to put the non-published stories into their own bundle (per Quinn’s FB page).
I give The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After a B
Lou: I’m so happy this author made a return to this wonderful family. I now want to re-read the books all over again. These shorts are not very long but they are great reads for fans of the series. I didn’t dislike any of the shorts, and each story invokes a different feel and tone. I give this anthology a B+ (less)
Publisher: Self Publish Date: 13 Aug How I got this book: ARC from the author
A con man. A rancher’s daughter. A wildfire out of control.
Elizabeth Graham spends her days running the business side of the Circle Eight ranch. Her knack for numbers and organization lent themselves to her position in the family. She has just turned twenty-one and doubts she will find a man to spend her life with. Elizabeth doesn’t believe in love, after all, and when she meets a charlatan named Vaughn Montgomery, her opinion doesn’t waver. At first.
Vaughn Montgomery is down to the lint in his pocket and the handsome smile he uses as a weapon. His last con went wrong and he fled west. Now he finds himself trapped in the middle of nowhere Texas. And at the mercy of a hard-nosed woman who wears shapeless dresses and whose tongue can cut blocks of wood.
Unwilling to bend and unable to forgive, Elizabeth and Vaughn get caught up in a web of lies that stretches from Houston to the heart of Texas. She finds herself falling for the man who can’t seem to tell the truth and he can’t get enough of a woman who can only speak truths. Surrounded by danger, they embark on the ultimate con to save the Circle Eight and their lives. This blurb came from the author’s website.
Before I get started on this review, I have to warn you that there will be spoilers for previous books in this series including a major one about what started the story arc. So if you haven’t read the previous books and you prefer to avoid spoilers then please stop reading now. . . . . . . . After I finished reading Caleb, reviewed here, and realized that the search for the missing Graham was complete but Lang still had unmarried members of the Graham family I didn’t know what she was going to do with the rest of them. Then I found out that she was going to continue writing about the Circle Eight which made me happy but I also wondered what the books would focus around given the apparently conclusion of a major element. I found the answer to my wonderings both intriguing and causing me to hope for a spin-off series.
None of the Grahams are exactly ordinary. Their focus on keeping the family ranch going, raising the family together, and finding their kidnapped brother meant they grew up with a variety of abilities, skills, and a willingness to use them. Elizabeth hasn’t had a lot of up front time so it was good meeting her in this story. She did’t like “traditional” female responsibilities and was hurt when her domineering older brothers tried to insist that she fit the mold or ignored how she could contribute to the family in a different way. But she also never insisted on doing something she enjoyed until one of her new sister-in-laws backed her. As the family/ranch bookkeeper she felt more useful but was still unsatisfied with her life. As a result she was ready for her own adventure and it started with a naked man.
Vaughn really didn’t have much redeeming qualities about him except his charm, his body, and his bedroom skills. Oh and he didn’t intent to swindle the Grahams. I actually ended up feeling a bit sorry for Vaughn. He had no idea how to handle Elizabeth because she didn’t fall for any of his usual phrases yet she was attracted to him. Then when the victims of his last con arrived and Elizabeth, the main Circle Eight house, and Granny were caught up in the mess he started to feel the prodding of regret for his actions. Elizabeth had done nothing other than save his life and now hers was in danger. When she found out what he did for a living and insisted that he make it right he started to see other people something besides a “mark.” That was a huge turning point for him, and I think started his journey as a heroic character. I really enjoyed seeing his mental turmoil and puzzlement at Elizabeth’s behavior and her expectations for people in general.
The physical and emotional journey that both Elizabeth and Vaughn took was significant. Elizabeth learned how to stand up for what she wanted and that she wasn’t actually limited by her circumstances. She also learned how lucky she was to have a family that behaved like a family even when they were overbearing and annoying. Vaughn learned what a family was, not just from Elizabeth but also from the victims of his con. He also learned that actions can have very unintended consequences even when you are trying to do the right thing. While I enjoyed watching Elizabeth and Vaughn together and admired how she was able to adapt to different situations as she worked to get back home, my attention kept drifting to the conned family.
The Gibsons consisted of an old man and several brothers ranging from little boys to grown men. They were loyal to each other but had some issues determining right from wrong and doing things in anger that they later regretted. But the respect and reverence they had for the old man was amazing to see. I would really love to see their journey to redemption **very unsubtle hint asking for spinoff series** because the older brothers started learning some slightly softer aspects of life based on their interaction with Elizabeth. They also demonstrated time and again to Vaughn that family is important and worth doing things you don’t really want to do.
All in all I enjoyed Vaughn. I caught a glimpse of some of the other members of the Graham family and how they continued to pull together as a family. I was introduced to the Gibsons, and I have an idea who the next installment or at least a future one will involve. This was a good transition book I think between the original issue and moving towards a more settled but not boring life for the members of the Circle Eight. I am curious about what Lang will have as the center conflict for the next book.
Publisher: Kensington Publish Date: Dec 6th How I got this book: From the publisher
A HANDSOME DEVIL
1762. James Sherbourne, Earl of Whitney, is a gambling man. Not for the money. But for the thrill, the danger—and the company: Whit has become one of the infamous Hellraisers, losing himself in the chase for adventure and pleasure with his four closest friends.
Which is how Whit finds himself in a gypsy encampment, betting against a lovely Romani girl. Zora Grey’s smoky voice and sharp tongue entrance Whit nearly as much as her clever hands—watching them handle cards inspires thoughts of another kind…
Zora can’t explain her attraction to the careless blue-eyed Whit. She also can’t stop him and his Hellraisers from a fiendish curse: the power to grant their own hearts’ desires, to chase their pleasures from the merely debauched to the truly diabolical. And if Zora can’t save Whit, she still has to escape him… This blurb came from the author’s website here.
I have read other books in the past that have used the idea of a person or several people making a bargain with evil to satisfy their short term desires. What I find interesting about that trope is the combination of what the desire was, who inspires or guides them towards redemption, and the path they take. I had read and enjoyed several of Ms Archer’s previous works so I was really curious about how she would address those three areas.
Devil’s Kiss, the first of Ms Archer’s new The Hellraisers series, introduced me to five rather dissolute friends who make a habit of trying to find new entertainment. Never is this entertainment in the form of anything good or wholesome but usually involving what could be considered a sin. What I found fascinating about the five is that each of them was primarily interested in a particular method of entertainment. As a result initially they appeared to be bound together more by boredom then by common interests.
I really enjoyed the incarnation of evil that Ms Archer created. He didn’t follow many of the common stereotypes like requiring a contract signed in blood, worship or rituals just something that belonged to them. He was a quite sinister evil. He used several different tactics to attempt to keep Whit either through fear or by fulfilling his desire. The reader knows that Whit and his friends have just done something rather ill-advised so aatching Whit’s realization of what he got himself into, who, and what he was against was very entertaining. Despite his bargain Whit was not completely lost from the beginning just mostly lost.
Zora was a treat as well. I really liked how Ms Archer was able to portray a Romani girl who didn’t quite agree with all the traditions but still valued her family and her freedom. While she matured, her actions throughout the book stayed true to what we saw in the beginning. I think my favorite scene with her was when she took enjoyment in the fact that Whit’s servants thought she was a ghost. She was also determined that she would do whatever it took to try to save the goodness and spirit she initially saw in Whit.
I think Ms Archer used the interplay between the five friends to really establish exactly how evil the villain was along with setting up future books. Whit’s journey was hard enough but I think she is going to put the other four (hopefully) through all sorts of misery before they reach their redemption. She did give a glimmer of hope for Whit’s closest friend but it was such a slight glimmer. I am looking forward seeing their journeys.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Out today How I got this book: ARC from the author
Love is madness. When Miss Charlotte Vale isn’t running a school for impoverished factory women, she takes tea with an insane painter—the mother she adores. Determined to avoid her mother’s legacy of madness, Lottie refuses to marry and nurtures the ton’s bemused disregard for her reputation.
Through her door strides a man who threatens all she holds dear. Her cherished school, her careful control and her guarded heart.
Sir Ian Heald has tracked his sister’s blackmailer to her last-known location—Lottie’s school. Although he would burn the place to the ground if it would save his sister’s reputation, Ian is drawn to Lottie’s bold candor and indifference toward polite society.
To find his sister’s blackmailer, Ian follows Lottie into a twisted world of illegal gambling clubs and eccentric parties. Even when their mutual passion ignites, Ian knows their affair cannot last. Lottie was never meant to be tucked away on his quiet pastoral estate, and she staunchly refuses his desire to wed. Yet fiery kisses and scandalous showdowns tempt this proper country gentleman to win the woman he loves and never let her go.
Warning: This book contains gambling in low-class clubs, deliciously deadpan dialogue, an unplanned swim to rescue doused women, and a fast, furious spanking. She wants it though, so that hardly counts. This blurb came from the author’s website.
**BP NOTE: Lorelie Brown has agreed to provide a copy of An Indiscreet Debutante to one commentator. Giveaway instructions are at the end of the review.**
I read and enjoyed Wayward One by Brown last year so when I thought enough time had passed, I pestered her until she sent me a copy of An Indiscreet Debutante. Once again, Brown sucked me into a historical populated with unusual and entertaining characters. An Indiscreet Debutante is the sequel to Wayward One and focuses on Charlotte, known as Lottie, one of the three friends who run a school for impoverished women, providing them more opportunities. This school depends on the goodwill of the nobles to fund and donate materials so everyone involved in the school has to remain above reproach. For Lottie that is much harder then it seems given a mother with a hereditary mental illness and an absent uncaring father. Well her father really isn’t uncaring, he just cares only about his business interests and how he can use Lottie to further them. Into Lottie’s precarious house of cards comes Sir Ian Heald accusing Lottie of harboring common criminals and therefore threatening the school.
Lottie was such a complicated character. After a lifetime of dealing with her family situation, she rarely ever demonstrated a true emotion or feeling while in public or even with her good friends. This learned trait both helped and hindered her interactions with Ian. Lottie had three main goals, keep the school going, protect/shield her mother, and remain unmarried. Usually she was able to focus on the first two goals but her father was becoming more persistent about concluding a business deal with his neighbor through her marriage. As a result, she decided after their first few heated discussions that Ian was the perfect person to ensure she never had to worry about marriage, only that required his cooperation and he was resistant. Lottie also had not fully considered the ramifications of her actions if she was successful beyond hopefully remaining unmarried.
Ian loved his family. He would do anything to protect and make them happy hence his trip to the school. His sister married below her station but came home with the death of her husband less than a year after they were married. Her recovery and interest in life again was badly shaken when blackmail notes started appearing. The notes threatened to expose her marriage to Polite Society and thus ruin any chance of a prestigious second marriage. Ian was able to determine that the blackmailer was his former sister-in-law who he managed to track to Lottie’s school. Ian was desperate to regain or to keep his family respectable so while he was attracted to Lottie he did not want to jeopardize his family’s goals.
I found it fascinating to watch Lottie try to keep all of her encounters with Ian on a superficial level yet push for physical intimacy. Ian on the other hand, had to find out what was going on underneath Lottie’s surface. The more he got to know her and the circumstances around her family situation the more attracted he became to her. As they worked together it was fun to watch them grow and stumble along their journey. Their interaction with the supporting cast was also fun to see and cemented the facets of their characters. It was also a nice treat to see the hero and heroine from Wayward One in action and settled in their relationship.
Brown did several things with this story that I really enjoyed. First, she did not limit the surroundings to a particular part of historical London but took Ian and Lottie throughout several different class areas. She also didn’t shy away from the potential second and third order effects of Lottie’s plan. Third, she never devalued or held Ian up as the magical cure for Lottie’s fear that was behind her insistence to remain unmarried. An Indiscreet Debutant provided an interesting view into the lives of those classes not usually spotlighted in historical romances. Brown brought forward the aspect that within a close friendship things are still kept private and that what you see is sometimes only a fraction of what you get. She also highlighted the importance of give and take on both sides of a relationship in order to make it happen. I am looking forward to seeing what Brown does to her characters in the next installment.
I give An Indiscreet Debutante a B+
**BP NOTE: To enter the giveaway leave a comment talking about the most unusual historical you have read. Winner will be announced on Tuesday the 21st. Good luck!**(less)
Publisher: Love Inspired Publish Date: Out now How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
Caught in the Act
Alone in a gentleman’s bedchamber, rummaging through his clothing-governess Leah Vance risks social ruin. Only by selling political information can she pay for her sister’s care. And the letter she found in Julian DeChambrelle’s coat could be valuable-if the ex-sea captain himself had not just walked in.
As a navy officer, Julian knew his purpose. As a new earl, he’s plagued by trivialities and marriage-obsessed females. Miss Vance’s independence is intriguing-and useful. In return for relaying false information, he will pay her handsomely. But trusting her, even caring for her? That would be pure folly. Yet when he sees the danger that surrounds her, it may be too late to stop himself…
This blurb came from the author’s website.
I was browsing Netgalley when I saw this book. I noticed the cover and the word Historical so I went ahead and looked at the blurb. Since the blurb looked like fun I requested the book. Unfortunately I failed to notice the Love Inspired portion of the cover and I did not look to see which particular line this came from or I would have known to expect an inspirational romance. Please do not take that comment to mean that I dislike inspirationals, I just do not read a lot of them and was not expecting to read one with this book. As a result I felt one way when I finished reading the book and leveled out to mixed feelings when I went back to review the cover, blurb and other book information before writing this review.
When I started reading I quickly found myself captivated by the characters. There was tragedy, family drama, angst, economic depression, civil unrest, intrigue, and class snobbery. Leah lived a pretty restrictive life as a governess. She was forced to take a job when her family fell upon hard times and she was left responsible for her brain damaged younger sister. Her pay wasn’t enough to cover her sister’s care at a decent asylum so she augmented her salary by selling information about higher society. As a result of everything that had happened to her family; brother killed at sea during the war, father and mother dead, sister unable to care for herself and her own personal experience with the horrors of life as a woman in service Leah had a rather fatalistic perspective on life. One night Julian caught her snooping in his room and turned her into a double agent.
Julian wasn’t enjoying life. His father had been injured in a carriage accident and died. His older brother, trained as the heir to the title was also dead. His younger brother was settled in California, one sister refused to have anything to do with the rest of the family, one sister had her own family to care for, and his youngest sister was special needs. Julian was a navy officer by both inclination and skill so he is very uncomfortable about gaining the title and its various responsibilities. As a result of a note slipped in his pocket, he decided to start investigating the death of this father, which brought him to his estranged sister’s house. The same house that employed Leah as governess.
I was completely engrossed with the characters and their struggles when about halfway through the book the first reference to Leah having lost her faith came up. Followed shortly thereafter by Molly, a maid, saying that maybe God made certain things happen so she would be there to minister to Leah. At that point I did a mental double-take because the references to faith and religion came out of nowhere. As the second half of the book progressed the focus shifted from the mystery, intrigue, family drama to that of returning back to your faith. Once Leah found her faith everything had the best possible resolution that it could regardless of how improbable given the make-up of the characters as previously established.
When I initially finished reading I felt like I had been cheated out of a satisfying book climax. Then when I went back and reread the blurb, studied the front cover, and looked at the publisher I realized this was an inspirational romance to begin with and therefore faith is supposed to be a central theme. Viewing The Reluctant Earl through that lens more of the second half of the book made sense however, I still have two big issues. First is that faith did not even come up until the second half of the book, so if I was expecting inspirational from the beginning I would have been upset not to find it. Leah and her lack of faith was not a central theme or even an internal character conflict so it seemed like this was a late addition to the plot. The second issue I have is that the personalities of the supporting characters all changed once Leah found her Faith. Years long family quarrels were mended, the murderer was found, Leah’s sister was removed from the asylum to live comfortably. Economic depression and civil unrest were no longer a topic of discussion or concern. I can understand that finding faith will help an individual deal with everything that is going on in their life but to use faith to hand wave over all of the previous issues seemed to do an injustice to the characters and their lives to that point.
I enjoyed the premise of The Reluctant Earl and overall I liked both Leah and Julian but I had some issues with the uneven execution. If Leah’s lack of or struggle to regain her faith had been a thread throughout the narrative I think I would have enjoyed reading this more.
Publisher: Samhain Publish Date: Feb 5th How I got this book: ARC from the author
He’ll protect her with every vicious bone in his body.
During her ten years at the prestigious Waywroth Academy, Sera Miller clung to a strict code of propriety to shield herself from rumors that she isn’t an orphan at all. She’s a bastard. Now she wishes she had never allowed her friends to talk her into snooping into the mysterious source of her tuition.
Her benefactor isn’t the unknown father she dreamed of one day meeting, but Fletcher Thomas—underworld tycoon, gambling den owner, and a man so dangerously mesmerizing that he could spark the scandal Sera has worked so hard to avoid.
Fletcher is only two steps away from leaving the life of crime he inherited from his father. First he plans to join an aboveboard railroad consortium, then claim the one thing his ill-gotten gains have kept safe all these years—Sera.
With every wicked caress, Sera fights harder to remember society’s rules and reject the painful memories his touch resurrects. Accepting Fletcher’s love means accepting her past—a risk too great for a woman who has always lived in the shadows. No matter how safe she feels in his arms.
Warning: This book contains a do-gooder heroine, an accidentally charming hero with tendencies toward caveman-itis, inappropriate household décor and fabulous sex against a wall.
This blurb came from the author’s website.
According to one version of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a trope is a common or overused theme or device. Common or overused they might be most of us have several we enjoy reading or watching. One of mine happens to be that of the unknown benefactor–provided they aren’t a sleaze-ball but the hero. So when I saw the blurb for Wayward One my inner book heart gave a jump for joy. My inner book heart was even happier when I finished reading because I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sera and Fletcher had spent most of their lifetimes trying to make up for their past or to change their present so the past would not matter in the future. Sera was hoping that she could find answers to her past which would wipe out the stigma of not knowing who her father was to the girls of polite society. Fletcher wanted to distance himself from his father’s legacy and find legitimacy in polite society, and the final touch would be marrying Sera.
Fletcher was trying to do the right thing. He rescued Sera from a pretty bad life on the streets and set her up to receive an education and polishing fit for any society lady. He also had a plan to become a legitimate member of society but until he could establish a legal base for his income he couldn’t completely separate himself from the underworld. Fletcher was so incredibly patient and loving despite the world he grew up in. He didn’t know how society did things or what a loving relationship looked like but he knew what it should be, and that he would try to get it. Fletcher also tried to keep his part of the underworld as clean as possible but he still had to demonstrate that he was not weak to those around him. Fletcher’s growth was more of understanding the role society’s rules played and how you could be yourself while still appearing to conform. I was most impressed by his dedication to his plan and to Sera. He wanted her in his life but he wanted her happiness even more.
Sera epitomized staunch propriety. The other students at her boarding school were cruel as only girls can be to another girl. In her defense Sera pulled the rules and trapping of society around her so no one could tell from the outside that she did not have a respectable background. After finding out that her unknown benefactor was not her unknown father, and certainly wasn’t a noble man, she was determined to make the best of her education which meant staying away from Fletcher–until she realized that Fletcher was equally determined. I absolutely loved it when Sera turned the tables on him and moved in to uphold her side of their bargain. Sera did have a long way to go emotionally before she was ready to admit that society’s rules didn’t have to go down to her very drops of blood.
Brown did a wonderful job of developing two characters who appeared so very different on the outside and yet fit together so nicely. They both wanted someone to love them unconditionally which, given society at that time, could only come from someone who had a common background. About 80% of the way in, I had to tweet that Brown was trying to rip my heart out. I felt so bad for both Fletcher and Sera as they struggled to deal with what they had, what they thought they should have, and how it should be expressed. Without spoiling anything, I think Brown provided a very satisfactory groveling scene.
Sera and Fletcher were wonderful to read. Their interactions with each other and the supporting characters were very telling about who they were on the inside. They also had some truly lovely chemistry together. It was very enjoyable to have my favorite underused trope, in an historical, with unusual characters and a great groveling scene. I did figure out who the bad guy was rather early on but Brown included some other enjoyable twists that I did not expect. Overall I enjoyed reading Wayward One. I hope that Brown provides stories for Sera’s two girlfriends because they are rather unconventional themselves.
I am blaming Dear Author for this. I don't know why I never tried Beverly Jenkins before because this was REALLY good. A few things I didn't like or t...moreI am blaming Dear Author for this. I don't know why I never tried Beverly Jenkins before because this was REALLY good. A few things I didn't like or thought were too coincidental but overall very enjoyable. Both the h/h were strong characters who did what they had to not just survive but to try to enjoy. They didn't take crap from anyone nor did they sit and wait for someone to come along and change their lives. Jenkins also provided me with some laughs while I was reading because several of the situations made my heart break at how certain subsets of people in America were, have been and still are treated.(less)