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Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Christmas Town is yet another charming holiday story in Donna VanLiere’s Christmas Hope series that’s set in tReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" The Christmas Town is yet another charming holiday story in Donna VanLiere’s Christmas Hope series that’s set in the little fictional town of Grandon, Anywhere USA. In this one a young woman is searching for a family and a place she can truly call home, and through a series of serendipitous events, she discovers that what she’s been searching for is right in front of her. Add in a few cute kids, a couple of past series’ characters, and an intuitive bag boy from the local grocery, and you have the makings of a heartwarming read that’s really put me in the Christmas spirit.
After her father skipped out on his responsibilities and her mother went to jail, Lauren grew up in a series of foster homes. While some were nice, she never quite found one where she fit and could genuinely call home. So after aging out of the system at eighteen, she set out on her own. She works as a cashier in a grocery store in a town about an hour away from Grandon, but it’s a largely boring, thankless job. She longs for someplace she can truly feel at home and a family with whom to share the holidays. Desperately lonely she places an ad on Craigslist for a family for Christmas, and while most of the people who respond are cruel, there are two women who seem genuine. At the same time, after her shift one day, Lauren takes off, driving aimlessly and ends up in Grandon, where she witnesses an accident. She also goes to the local grocery for a quick meal, and chances to meet the “celebrity” bag boy, who hands out personal messages to customers who are happy to wait in line to receive them. The message Lauren gets resonates with her, so when she’s called back to Grandon to identify a suspect in the hit-and-run, and is invited to coffee by Stacy, the victim, she can’t resist accepting. This in turn leads to her meeting Gloria and Miriam (The Christmas Promise) and eventually volunteering at Glory’s Place, an after-school program for needy kids in the community, where she helps teach the kids Christmas carols in time to perform for a big upcoming fund-raiser. Throughout all of this she begins to find a sense of belonging, but when her mother contacts her after seven long years, it may throw everything for a loop. I very much related to Lauren and think that many of us can experience this type of loneliness, especially during the holidays. I like that her heart was open when presented with the gift of family that she was so desperately searching for, and that she found a wonderful place to belong.
While the story primarily revolves around Lauren and her search for a home and family, there are plenty of secondary characters who help give her what she needs. First are best friends, Gloria and Miriam. They’ve been a part of each book since their own, always giving back so much to the community through Glory’s Place. Now they’re making plans for the annual silent auction fund-raiser that will take place in conjunction with the local Christmas parade. But they’re not too busy to answer the ad of a lonely woman on Craigslist and become her “mysterious” friends. These two crack me up with how they always bicker but somehow still make their friendship work. Then there’s Ben, the sweet, lovable bag boy, who was born with a condition that caused some brain damage, but in spite of his handicap, he has a miraculous intuition about exactly what each customer needs to hear. I loved his sunny disposition and his optimistic outlook that’s positively infectious. It’s no wonder most customers willingly wait in his line. There’s Travis, the parks department worker, who ends up in Lauren’s path as a romantic interest, when Miriam refuses to speak with him about using the gazebo. And then there’s little Cassondra, a cute girl with a heart condition who comes to Glory’s Place every day. Nathan Andrews (The Christmas Shoes, The Christmas Blessing) put in a cameo appearance, and several other supporting characters round out the fairly extensive cast.
The Christmas Town was a nice feel-good holiday story with a very gentle faith message. It has no objectionable content, so it could be read by just about anyone. Grandon is a quaint, homey little town, where everyone is ready to lend a helping hand. I’d love to live there if it really existed. The characters were all very likable, just the kind of people I’d love to be friends with. I knocked off the half-star, because like it’s predecessor in the series, it seemed a little more predictable than some of the earlier books. Also it, too, was written in third-person present tense, which is a very unusual style choice and harder for me to get into. But overall, the heartwarming feel of the story overcame most of my issues and left me with warm fuzzies and a few happy tears, which is a sign that a book has done it’s job. Several of the previous books of the series have been made into Hallmark movies and this one, too, would be perfect for Hallmark fans. I don’t know if Donna VanLiere is planning any more books in this series. This one was published last year (2016). It appears that she’s been releasing a new one about once every two years, so we might get another one next year (2018). If so, I’ll be eagerly waiting to read it....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Noelle is the latest heart-warming installment of Greg Kincaid's A Dog Named Christmas series. It’s set in the ficReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Noelle is the latest heart-warming installment of Greg Kincaid's A Dog Named Christmas series. It’s set in the fictional small town of Crossing Trails, Kansas and follows the continuing story of the McCray family while adding a new family, the Robinsons, into the mix. For the first time, there are three separate sub-plots playing out at the same time, which then later converge into one happy ending. It was a lovely story that gave me warm fuzzies and was a great addition to the series.
The first sub-plot involves the McCray parents, George and Mary Ann, who are getting older. George is starting to slow down, his old war injury and the aches and pains of aging beginning to get to him, while Mary Ann is still energetic and always on the move. She’s a music teacher, debate coach, and guidance counselor at the local high school and also serves on the board of the local library. When the other board members want to fire the man who’s been playing Santa during their holiday festivities every year for the last forty years, Mary Ann goes to bat for him using her debate skills. But it backfires on her and she instead finds herself coerced into becoming the new Anna Claus. If she’s going to do this, Mary Ann wants it to be something new and different with Anna spreading a different message than Santa, but at first she struggles with just what that message should be. Once she gets it figured out, she surprisingly becomes a hit, drawing attention not only in Crossing Trails, but all across the state of Kansas. Soon she finds Anna Claus in high demand and travels to other communities, while poor George is left at home with a haphazard assortment of Christmas decoration sitting around and not certain how he feels about all this hoopla.
Our second part of the story involves George and Mary Ann’s youngest son, Todd, who was such a big part of the previous two books. Despite suffering from developmental delays, he’s proven himself to be extremely talented with animals. He loves them and they love him. In the previous book, A Christmas Home, Todd received an opportunity to go away from home for a while to learn how to train service dogs. Now that he’s completed the program, he’s returned to Crossing Trails to become the assistant manager of the newly reopened local animal shelter, but he wants to try to continue training dogs on the side to help people. He’s quite taken with a little misfit dog named Elle who is his hardest case to date. She’s an energetic little creature who always seems to be getting into trouble, and everyone says she’ll never make a good service dog. But Todd isn’t ready to give up on her yet. On top of that, Todd and his long-time girlfriend, Laura, who he also met in the previous book of the series, decide to move in together, but they aren’t quite sure how to tell Todd’s parents who have always been a little over-protective of their special needs son.
The final sub-plot of the book is about the Robinsons: Link, Abbey, and their two young children, Keenan and Emily. Link and Abbey are just a little older than Todd and are friends with George and Mary Ann. Unfortunately Link lost his job, which sent him into a downward spiral of alcoholism and led to him getting a DUI while his kids were in the car with him. Abbey can’t take it anymore and files for a divorce, which leaves their kids, especially impressionable Keenan, angry and adrift. Mary Ann tries to use her counseling skills to help Abbey and the kids as much as she can, but this family really needs a Christmas miracle to keep Link on the straight and narrow, heal the pain of the separation, and keep them from being torn apart even further than they already are.
Overall, Noelle was another enjoyable book in the A Dog Named Christmas series. I liked all the individual pieces of the plot, but I have to admit that it wasn’t grabbing me quite as much as I wanted it to until toward the end when all the sub-plots started to come together. Up until then it was probably running around 4 stars on my ratings meter, but the ending was so sweet and touching, I couldn’t help bumping it up the extra half-star. I would highly recommend it and the other books in the series to fans of Hallmark movies. In fact, two of the books of the series have already been made into Hallmark films. Unless a character who’s struggling with alcoholism and/or a young couple living together would bother you, there’s no objectionable content which makes it appropriate for nearly everyone. It was my first holiday-themed read this year, and it really helped to put me in the Christmas spirit. I don’t know if Greg Kincaid has any more books planned for this series. The ending left just enough open that I could certainly see more story to tell if he chooses to do so, and I would gladly welcome it if he does....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews For a while, I’ve been drawn to Amish historical romance and have managed to amass quite a few on my TBR pile. However, I hadnReviewed for THC Reviews For a while, I’ve been drawn to Amish historical romance and have managed to amass quite a few on my TBR pile. However, I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading one. This might be because most are put out by Christian publishers, and while I do enjoy inspirational romances sometimes, I also find that many of them can be rather preachy, which is a turn-off for me. That’s why, when I saw that a mainstream author had published a few Amish historicals, I thought those might be a good place to start. Therefore, I chose Annette Blair’s Thee, I Love as my first Amish romance, and it ended up being an excellent choice that I loved.
However, this is where I’m going to digress for a moment to give fair warning to readers that this isn’t the typical, presumably squeaky clean, Amish romance that you’ll usually see. I personally think that made it all the more interesting, but I know others will disagree. It contains some mild language, scenes of moderate violence, and three mild to moderately descriptive love scenes that I would characterize as having sensual (though not particularly explicit) language. However, what will probably be most concerning to readers of traditional Christian Amish romance is that the hero and heroine of this story do cheat on her husband/his brother, with much of the plot dependent on this misstep. That said, though, I wasn’t at all put off by it, because there are many extenuating circumstances. For starters, her husband lied to both of them to deliberately keep them apart three years earlier and then presented himself as someone he wasn’t in order to get her to marry him. He then began abusing her from the moment their vows were said, and of course, given the time period and their religious beliefs, it was impossible for her to divorce him. Not to mention, the hero and heroine’s actions aren’t without consequences as they do have to answer for it later in the story. So now that I’ve gotten that little order of business out of the way, on to why I loved this book so much.
Jacob is a total sweetheart of a hero and I completely fell in love with him. He’d been best friends with Rachel all throughout their childhood and teen years. They fell in love, he gave her her first kiss, and it was always presumed that they would someday marry. Then his mother died, and during that difficult time, his brother, Simon, lied about Rachel being in love with and planning to marry him instead. This sent Jacob running out in the English world where he tried to make a go of it, but things just weren’t working out for him. He also had a number of brief affairs with women along the way, and when he discovered that one of those encounters had resulted in twins whose mother had died in childbirth, he immediately stepped up to the plate to take care of them. Jacob loves his newfound children to distraction and is an incredible father, but the only way he knows to raise children is the Amish way. So he humbles himself as the prodigal son returning home. He knows it’s going to be hard to go back and watch Rachel with Simon every day, but he doesn’t know just how hard until he’s there. All the love he’s always felt for her is still there in his heart, and he finds it nearly impossible to hide it, especially when he realizes that Simon is abusing Rachel. One night when the abuse becomes particularly harsh, Jacob comforts Rachel, with one thing leading to another.
Jacob is a wonderful hero. The way he looks out for Rachel, making sure that Simon won’t ever abuse her again, when others around them were turning a blind eye, is nothing short of amazing. I also love how he supports her in her efforts to publish a newspaper for their little Amish community and he’s a tender lover to her, which is something she desperately needed after all she’d been through. He’s a responsible father who takes great care of his kids. He may have a protective streak, but Jacob is definitely a sweet beta hero. He tries to take full responsibility for everything that happened between him and Rachel, and he really takes it to heart when things begin to unravel for them. In the end, he’s ready to sacrifice everything to make sure that Rachel and his kids can have the Amish life he thinks they need. Although parts of the story ripped my heart out, I loved Jacob to pieces for all of his kindness, gentleness, sacrifice, and care of those he loves.
Rachel is an equally kind and sweet heroine. When Jacob left, she thought he’d abandoned her, not knowing that Simon had driven him away with his lies. Simon courted her, eventually leading to her developing feelings for him, but they were never as strong as what she’d felt for Jacob. When Simon began verbally abusing her the very night their vows were said, she knew she’d made a horrible mistake, but there was nothing she could do about it except endure. Rachel is the school teacher in their community, a job she loves because she loves children. However, she hasn’t yet been able to conceive one of her own, which is another thing that Simon regularly berates her for. When Jacob returns and realizes what Simon is doing, it’s something of a relief to her. She also falls in love with his twins and they feel the same about her, so when he asks her to leave her teaching position to take care of them full-time, she’s more than happy to comply. On the night that she and Jacob make love for the first time, she finds it impossible to resist. All the years of pent up love for him, combined with never experiencing a man being kind and gentle toward her, are just too much emotionally. Soon after, she discovers that she’s finally carrying the child she’s longed for, but it’s a mixed blessing. I loved Rachel for being so committed to family and she proves to be a great mother in her care of Jacob’s children. She pushes the boundaries of a traditional Amish woman’s role by publishing her newspaper, which I thought was great. Despite the way her husband treats her and the fact that he destroyed any feelings she had for him on their wedding night, she does still forgive him and have concerns for his well-being. She feels the guilt of her infidelity as deeply as Jacob does, even though she can’t say that she regrets it. I felt like Rachel showed strength and fortitude, mingled with kindness and goodness that made her the perfect heroine.
There are a number of notable secondary characters who really fill out the cast of Thee, I Love. First are Jacob’s twins, Emma and Aaron, who are cute as a button and help show Jacob and Rachel's excellent parenting skills. Aaron, in particular, loves with an innocent kind of love only a child can. He genuinely cares about his Unkabear, wriggling his way into Simon’s hard heart and showing that the man isn’t entirely evil. Rachel's sister, Esther, and Jacob’s best friend, Reuben, get a secondary romance, while offering unwavering support to Rachel and Jacob. Esther is a pregnant widow, while Reuben is twice widowed, both of his wives having died in childbirth, so he’s understandably very fearful of any woman who’s expecting, especially when her time comes. Both Rachel’s and Jacob’s fathers show that they can be kind and reasonable men, even though there are some things that are outside their control, and both offer penance for not recognizing Simon’s abuse of Rachel sooner. Atlee, an elderly gentleman in their community offers to sell Rachel his old printing press and gives back to her and Jacob in a whole lot of other ways as well. Then there’s Simon, who is a pretty miserable human being. Much of his animosity is rooted in jealousy and covetousness. He always felt that Jacob was the favored son, and therefore he wanted everything Jacob had, including Rachel, whom he’d lusted after for a long time. Other reasons come out later on, which speak of a religious fanaticism and an inability to take responsibility for his own choices, always blaming someone else for his own failings. Sadly Simon never does see the error of his ways, instead becoming more mentally unstable as the story progresses. The only bright spot for him is Aaron, who manages to get under his skin enough to draw a little bit of caring out of him.
Overall, Thee, I Love was a really beautiful story with an even more beautiful ending that really tugs on the heartstrings. I was kept guessing right up until the final pages just how Jacob and Rachel could possibly have an HEA, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Jacob and Rachel's love is unbreakable, and it’s abundantly apparent that they were meant to be together if only Simon hadn’t interfered, leading to so much heartache for everyone involved. Both of them express a great deal of sorrow over the hurt they caused Simon, which I think was necessary to show what kind and truly good people they are in spite of their missteps. But at the same time, I felt like Simon brought much of it on himself by being the first to act inappropriately. In this way, the book is very much a study in the individual choices we make and how those choices can often affect those around us in both positive and negative ways. The author also does a great job of keeping the suspense high throughout, making me wonder more than once if things were going to go the way I was hoping or not. For the record, it did, but there was plenty of angst, drama, and emotion in getting there. I can’t express how much I loved this story. It’s one of those hidden gems in romance. It was my first read by Annette Blair but most certainly will not be my last. I very much look forward to trying more of her work soon. Thee, I Love was more recently republished under the new title, Jacob’s Return....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Once Upon a Maiden Lane is the first of the two wrap-up novellas in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series. Whereas tReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Once Upon a Maiden Lane is the first of the two wrap-up novellas in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series. Whereas the final full-length novel, Duke of Desire, was probably the darkest story of the series, this little novella is quite possibly the lightest. It’s a sweet fairy-tale about Mary Whitsun, one of the numerous Marys who were raised at the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children. If memory serves she’s been a part of the series since the beginning and has now grown up into a lovely young lady. But she’s still just a servant – albeit a very valued one who is more like an adopted daughter – in the home of the Caires (Wicked Intentions), until a handsome aristocrat recognizes her in a bookshop and insists that she could be the long-lost twin of the woman to whom he is betrothed. Thus sets in motion a Cinderella tale with a few unexpected twists and turns.
I really liked Mary. She’s a grounded intelligent girl who isn’t given to flights of fancy, so it’s a lot for her to take in when she meets the family she never knew she had and discovers that she, not her sister, is actually the one betrothed to Henry, who is a viscount no less. It’s like all her childhood dreams of having a family to call her own are finally coming true, but she isn’t sure whether to believe it or not. However, it doesn’t stop her from falling head over heels for her fiancé even though they don’t exactly get off on the right foot. Mary wasn’t raised as a genteel lady, so she’s definitely a girl who can stand up for herself and doesn’t hesitate to do so when necessary, but at the same time, there’s an unmistakable sweetness about her that I loved.
For his part, Henry is a handsome charmer who won’t take no for an answer. He’s always thought he was content to fulfill his duty as a member of the aristocracy, as well as the marriage contract that was forged between his father and the twins’ father shortly after the girls’ births. But when the oldest twin went missing as an infant and was never found the contract was amended to have him marry the youngest one instead. The two grew up together and think of one another more as brother and sister than future husband and wife, so when Henry meets Mary, he realizes all he’s been missing. She’s everything he could hope for in a life partner and her sass intrigues him. He’s also not the least bit put off that she grew up as an orphan and a servant. He simply loves her for herself, which made me love him.
Overall, Once Upon a Maiden Lane was a great little story that I very much enjoyed. It was wonderful to see one of the older girls from the orphanage get an HEA, although there are others I would have loved to see more of as well. We do get to see all the past characters come together for Mary and Henry’s nuptials, though, which was fun. Val and Bridget (Duke of Sin) appear in one scene as well with Val doting on their little daughter, which was cute. There was also a secondary romance for Mary’s sister, Joanna, and Henry’s best friend. I loved the little mystery as to who was shooting at Mary and Henry and why. I didn’t figure that out until it was revealed and what a twisty reveal it was. I wasn’t sure where things were going to go from there, so bravo to the author for keeping me on my toes. I suppose my only minor complaint is that there is only one full love scene that doesn’t occur until the very end. I was almost thinking there wasn’t going to be one until I got to the final few pages. While admittedly it was consistent with the sweetness of the story, it felt a tad rushed. It was still nice and welcome, but rather unlike this author who is known for her steamy romances. But this was a small thing in an otherwise fun novella, so I can’t complain too much. Now I’m just waiting for the final novella that will be released this month (Dec. 2017)....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" I was rather amused when I read Cheryl St. John’s bio at the end of this book. It says: “A peacemaker, a romantic,Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" I was rather amused when I read Cheryl St. John’s bio at the end of this book. It says: “A peacemaker, a romantic, an idealist, and a discouraged perfectionist are the words that Cheryl uses to describe herself.” It also goes on to mention: “… she’s been told that she is painfully honest.” Since these are all words and phrases I would use to describe myself, I suspect that’s why the first two of her stories I’ve read have resonated with me so strongly. His Secondhand Wife is a sweet, tender historical romance that follows on the heels of its predecessor in the Copper Creek Brides series, Sweet Annie. In this one, we have a scarred, brooding hero who can’t stand people’s stares, so he prefers to keep to himself, rarely ever leaving his ranch. But when his flighty, philandering younger brother gets himself killed, leaving a young pregnant wife behind, he takes it upon himself to look after her, never expecting to end up marrying her and falling in love. It was a really wonderful story that was a near-perfect read for me.
After being badly scarred in an accident during childhood, Noah has basically lived the life of a recluse. His father and stepmother couldn’t stand the sight of him, and his stepmother, in particular, was pretty cruel toward him. The townspeople tend to stare as well, so Noah simply stays on his ranch, never leaving unless it’s something that one of his hands can’t take care of. Only his brother, Levi, genuinely accepted Noah, but Levi has been gone for years. When Noah gets word that Levi was shot and killed by a cuckolded husband, he isn’t really surprised given Levi’s history with the ladies, but it’s a hard blow for him anyway. What does surprise him is that Levi left behind a pregnant wife, although she hasn’t seen him in months. Noah views the woman and her unborn child as his responsibility and insists on taking her back to his ranch and providing for her. After tongues start wagging in town and his stepmother gets involved, Noah also offers to marry her, but he plans for it to be a marriage in name only. Noah may have a lot of visible scars, but he harbors many deep psychological ones that cannot be seen, as well. Because of the way his father and stepmother reacted to his appearance after the accident, he believes he is ugly and unlovable, so he hides behind a beard, long hair, a hat, and clothing as much as possible. But little by little, his new wife starts to change his mind. Noah is such a sweet man to take on his brother’s wife and child, even though they disrupt his solitary, well-ordered life, and I very much admired him for it. Although he’s a bit more brooding, he’s a definite beta hero, as well as one of those rare virgin heroes in romance that I adore. I also think it’s cute the way he marvels over Kate in his own mind and although he doesn’t think he knows what to do with a woman, he figures it all out pretty well. He’s definitely the type of kind, gentle man I could totally fall in love with.
Katherine experienced a whirlwind relationship with Levi that only lasted a few weeks before he headed out for parts unknown, claiming that he was looking for a job and a place for them to live, but he never came back. Then a dark, mysterious stranger who says he’s Levi’s brother, arrives at her door, telling Kate that her husband cheated on her, is now dead, and that she’s coming with him to live on his ranch. While this might be a lot for some women to handle all at once, Kate is a pretty easy-going person who takes it all in stride. After growing up with no father, a critical single mother with whom she still lives, and working every day at the laundry just to make enough money for food and living quarters that are little more than a shack, she doesn’t want that kind of life for her baby. Even though she doesn’t know Noah, she figures that he’s at least offering her a home and his protection, so it can’t be any worse than what she’s got now. As a matter of fact, it turns out to be a whole lot better than Kate ever could have hoped for, except that she’s so pampered, there isn’t really anything for her to do, which leaves her feeling like there’s no place for her in Noah’s life. She can’t help thinking that he mainly only wants Levi’s child and not her. Kate is a really sweet heroine, almost a tad too sweet at times, because she kind of allows Estelle, Levi’s mother (and Noah’s stepmother), to run roughshod over her. However, she doesn’t like the way Estelle treats Noah, and I have to give Kate credit for finally putting the woman in her place near the end of the story. I also liked that she is accepting of Noah, scars and all, and isn’t the least bit afraid of him.
His Secondhand Wife ties into the Copper Creek Brides series in part by being set in the little Colorado town of Copper Creek, but it also shares some common characters with Sweet Annie. Of course, Annie and Luke from that story play a pretty important role, particularly Annie, who becomes one of Kate’s first friends. It was nice to see her and Luke so happy and expecting a second child while being such great parents to their first. Annie also now owns a successful dress shop, where Estelle insists upon buying new clothes to lavish upon Kate. Annie’s cousin, Charmaine, also becomes a friend to Kate. In this one, she’s eagerly – and impatiently – awaiting a proposal from her beau, and we get to see the outcome of that when she becomes the heroine of the final novella of the series, Almost a Bride from the Wed Under Western Skies anthology.
Overall, I very much enjoyed His Secondhand Wife. Just like the first book of the series, it’s the type of story I could see being turned into a Hallmark movie. I waffled mightily between rating it 4.5 and 5 stars. It’s truly my kind of book with characters I could definitely relate to, but I did get just a tad antsy at times with the way in which both Noah and Kate tend to misconstrue the other’s words or actions rather than attacking the problem head-on and getting it out in the open. However, when I looked at each of their backgrounds and respective hang-ups, I did understand why they think some of the things they do. Even though he cares for Kate and can’t believe his brother didn’t treat her better, Noah still tends to keep her at arms length, because of his scars, thinking that she’s only being nice to him out of a sense of obligation for what he’s providing for her. Even after she’s seen some of his scars, he still tends to hide himself, both physically and emotionally, but considering it’s what he’s been doing for years, I’m sure that would be a hard habit to break. For her part, Kate can’t seem to let go of the notion that Noah only married her out of a sense of responsibility, and that he really wants her baby more than he wants her. However, given that she’s worked hard all her life and was basically not being given anything to do to make her feel like she’s contributing to the ranch or Noah’s life, I suppose I could understand her feeling that way, too. I have to admit as well that the author does a good job of bringing things back around each time one of them veers off into their wrongheaded thinking. I’d no sooner be annoyed by it than something sweet or romantic was happening to help make it all better. But in the end, I decided it was just enough to knock off the half-star. Not to mention, I was a teensy bit disappointed that we, the readers, are the only ones who are privy to Noah’s virginal status. I don’t think I’ve read a romance before where that was the case. Hero or heroine, if one of them is a virgin, the other always tends to find out or be let in on it somehow. But otherwise, I thought His Secondhand Wife was a great story for fans of sweeter, gentler romances, and it, along with its predecessor, also earned Cheryl St. John a place on my favorite authors list....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Duke of Desire is the twelfth and final full-length novel of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, so I’m starting to become saReviewed for THC Reviews Duke of Desire is the twelfth and final full-length novel of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, so I’m starting to become sad that the series is winding down. There are two more novellas to be released before the end of 2017 that I’m very much looking forward to reading, but I’m not looking forward to this ride being over. I’ve fallen in love with all the characters from the series and thoroughly enjoyed reading each of their stories in turn. Duke of Desire was no exception, and if the series had to end, this book sends it out on a high note for me. It was quite possibly the darkest book of the series with plenty of angst and drama, just the way I like my romance reads, and we finally get to see the dissolution of the evil Lords of Chaos once and for all. In the previous book, Duke of Pleasure, Hugh thought he’d rooted them all out, but as it turns out, enough of them still remained to reform, as vile and heinous as ever. But now a new hero, Raphael de Chartres, has returned from exile with a vendetta against the Lords and is prepared to die if necessary to see them all destroyed. He just didn’t expect to fall in love with a feisty, headstrong beauty and find something worth living for along the way.
Raphael is right up there along with some of the most tortured romance heroes I’ve ever read. He’s the son of the previous Duke of Dyemore who also happened to be the former Dionysus, the ring-leader of the Lords of Chaos. With his father now dead, Raphael has returned to England from his home in Corsica to take up the title and see justice served. As it happens, the Lords hold their revels on his land, so between that and his connection to the former Dionysus, he has no problem infiltrating their ranks in hopes of figuring out the identity of the new Dionysus and taking him down along with everyone else involved. However, Raphael considers this to be his fight, and his alone, so he really has no one backing him up besides the accomplished fighters he brought back with him from Corsica. His hatred for the Lords stems from childhood abuse relating to the revels. I won’t give away the details so as to not reveal spoilers, but if you’ve read Eve’s (Sweetest Scoundrel) or Val’s (Duke of Sin) books, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what happened to Raphael. He also has a deep scar down one side of his face that makes him look fierce and which no one really knows how he acquired. But trust me when I say that when you find out the story behind it, it’ll rip your heart out. Raphael is so psychologically damaged, he’s determined to end the family line with himself so as to not pass on his father’s evil to his children. He just didn’t count on an equally determined woman getting under his skin and becoming irresistible to him. Raphael is one of those heroes I want to wrap up in my arms and give him all the love and comfort he was denied. He’s one of those people who is truly beautiful inside but who doesn’t recognize it because of the terrible things that happened to him. I’m so glad he found Iris, because she does see it and was his perfect match.
I loved Iris in the previous book of the series, because she showed that she’s a very intelligent woman. She’s a widow who didn’t have a particularly fulfilling first marriage. Her husband was a good man, but he was nearly twice her age and very aloof, so when he died, she vowed that if she ever married again, it would be for love or at the very least for affection and friendship. That’s why she’d been prepared to marry Hugh even though it wouldn’t have been a love match. However, she was never broken up about him marrying Alf, because she realized how much they loved one another. But due to her close relationship with Hugh and the scandalous nature of him marrying a woman so far beneath his station, they allowed the public to temporarily believe that Iris was one marrying him after all. This led to her kidnapping at the hands of the Lords of Chaos who were trying to strike back against Hugh for daring to take them down. This is where she finds herself at the beginning of the story, at a Lords of Chaos revel at which she’s the main course, so to speak. She had previously met Raphael at a ball, where there was definite chemistry between them, so he rescues her from the Lord’s clutches and spirits her away. The only problem is he goes about it in such a way as to not blow his cover, which leaves her thinking that he’s still a bad guy, so she shoots him. She soon finds out otherwise, but at that point, he believes marrying her immediately is the only way to keep her safe from the Lords, who are expecting him to kill her.
Iris was a wonderful heroine in so many ways. She traveled on the Continent with her husband who was in the military, so she has some experience with nursing a wounded man which she puts to use saving Raphael's life. She’s not put off by his scar and still finds him attractive despite it. Even though Raphael is reticent in more ways than one, she keeps gently prodding to get him to open up to her and to see things differently. Iris is curious and headstrong, not really listening to Raphael, except when it counts. She may have had to marry him under duress, but she decides to make the best of it and and try to make it work. Despite being a widow, she still has a sweetness and innocence about her. Yet because of her best friend who took many lovers, all of whom she told Iris about in detail, Iris got an unusual education in the sexual arts, which she boldly puts into action with Raphael. She wants more than anything to simply love a man and have him love her in return, as well as to become a mother and have a family with him. But it takes some determination on her part to make that happen with her new husband. Most of all, though, I loved her for loving Raphael, no matter what new horror he revealed or how determined he was to never have children. She just gave all of herself to him unconditionally. It’s no wonder Raphael called her his light in the darkness, and he felt he couldn’t live without her.
The only secondary characters of note were Raphael's Corsicans, who are fierce and loyal to a fault, and his loving maternal aunt, who took him away at the age of twelve and finished raising him. If not for her, I think his life would have turned out very differently. Then on the villainous side were the Lords of Chaos, whose depraved and perverted rituals make my skin crawl. I’m so glad that they’re finished for good this time. Hugh (Duke of Pleasure), as Iris’s good friend, put in a couple of appearances, but he was the only common character from the series to show up. This is probably because Raphael's and Iris’s stories didn’t really intersect with any of the other main characters except Alf. Not to mention, the bulk of this book is all about Raphael and Iris building a relationship after marrying out of necessity, as well as him overcoming his abusive past and doing what he needed to do to root out the Lords of Chaos.
Overall, Duke of Desire was an incredible wrap-up to the main books of the series. I loved both Raphael and Iris, and thought they were perfect for each other. Her lightness and positivity balances out his darkness and pain. Their strength and determination combined makes them a formidable pair. I love that Raphael gets to a point where he simply can’t resist Iris anymore even though he thinks he should. I also love that Iris never gives up on helping him heal from the past and on making a real life with him. It’s her love, loyalty, and tenacity that gradually wins over her dark, brooding duke. I love a good tortured hero, and they don’t get much more tortured that Raphael. I adored these two together and wouldn’t have minded the story being a bit longer to read more about them, but at the same time, it was a great book as is. Now it’s on to the final two novellas of the series before saying farewell to Maiden Lane for a while, but I have no doubt that I’ll come back at some point to reread Duke of Desire and the entire series.
Note: The love scenes in this book are fairly hot and steamy, though content-wise not quite erotic. However, the author uses some explicit language which gives them a more erotic feel. Also there is one explicit scene at a Lords of Chaos revel (basically an orgy) that is described in some detail. Sensitive readers should also be aware that this book contains descriptions of child abuse, including a sketchbook that is the equivalent of 18th century child porn....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Plague of Zombies falls about one year after The Scottish Prisoner in the Lord John Grey series chronology. In this one, JohReviewed for THC Reviews A Plague of Zombies falls about one year after The Scottish Prisoner in the Lord John Grey series chronology. In this one, John has now been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and is finally the one in charge of the troops. He’s been sent, along with a number of other soldiers, to Jamaica to put down a slave revolt. As with most things in life, this isn’t as simple and straight-forward as it seems. As John starts looking into matters upon his arrival on the island, he starts to uncover government corruption and other criminal deeds, some of which have led to the slaves rebelling. Add in tales of the supernatural and John being attacked by what appears to be a zombie, and you have the makings of a fun and engaging read.
As always John shows that he’s an honorable man who always tries to do the right thing, standing out in contrast to the corrupt officials who think nothing of using and abusing slaves, as well as engaging in other misdeeds. He also proves himself, once again, to be highly intelligent, methodically investigating the root cause of the slave uprising and later a murder, and of course, figuring everything out in due time. John gets to show his diplomatic side as well, when he must negotiate with the maroons (those who are essentially at the head of the rebellion) for the release of his men. In this, he also proves his bravery again, too. According to Diana Gabaldon’s author note, all of this is apparently in preparation for John eventually becoming governor of Jamaica, which is where he is when Jamie and Claire find themselves there in Voyager. Last but not least, I love that for a man from his time period, he’s almost surprisingly colorblind. In Custom of the Army, he had a very brief affair with a Native American, and although nothing comes of it this time, he, nonetheless, finds himself extremely attracted to one of the governor’s black servants in this story. So all in all, John is still the amazing hero I’ve come to love over the course of reading the Outlander series and now his own books.
Overall, I really enjoyed A Plague of Zombies. Out of the shorter novellas of the series, this is now my favorite one. It may have partly been because the military theme was fairly minimal this time. But I think it may also have to do with it being a little more closely related to events in the Outlander books than some of the other Lord John stories are. Not only do we get to see John taking actions in Jamaica where he will eventually be in charge, but he also interviews Geillis Duncan who, of course, is now Mrs. Abernathy of Rose Hill plantation, right after her husband dies. Being the sharp investigator that he is, John almost immediately realizes that she’s probably guilty of murdering the man herself, although he has no proof, merely a hunch. John also briefly meets up with a couple of members of the Twelvetrees family who’ve been a thorn in his side, while trying to keep his duel with Edward Twelvetrees back in London a secret. The last thing that really made this novella pop for me was the zombie theme, which is really interwoven with the black African culture of the island. I don’t know if it’s actually possible to make a zombie as presented in the book, but I know Ms. Gabaldon is a master at research and if she included it, there must be at least some anecdotal evidence for such a thing. I think I’m an armchair anthropologist at heart, so I loved learning about the cultural aspects of voodoo and other mystical practices that the Africans brought with them, as well as how the former slaves escaped into the hills of the island. It all made for a fascinating story that kept me riveted throughout. A Plague of Zombies was originally published in the multi-author anthology, Down These Strange Streets, and was later republished as a stand-alone novella in eBook format. It’s most recent publication is in the single-author anthology, Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, along with several other Outlander related novellas....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I just started this new-to-me YA series this year, and I have to say that so far, I’m pretty impressed. I’m not loving it quitReviewed for THC Reviews I just started this new-to-me YA series this year, and I have to say that so far, I’m pretty impressed. I’m not loving it quite as much as The Hunger Games, but it’s still been an exciting, action-packed thrill-ride that’s kept me on the edge of my seat and my brain engaged, wondering exactly what’s going on and why these kids are being put through all of these Trials. Whereas the first book, The Maze Runner, was more about them figuring out how to escape the maze, The Scorch Trials is pretty much a survival story. The Gladers escaped The Maze, thinking that it was all finally over and they were safe. But they’re not. It’s just the beginning of yet another challenge. They’re now tasked with crossing The Scorch, a stretch of land that’s broiling hot and dead as far as the eye can see. They only have a limited amount of time to reach the Safe Haven on the other side of a mountain range beyond a decimated city that’s now only populated with Cranks, people who are infected with a disease known as the Flare. Along the way, they’ll lose comrades to various diabolical challenges, not unlike the Grievers in the Maze. But perhaps most surprising of all is that the Gladers discover they weren’t the only ones who had to go through the Trials, and now Thomas, our intrepid hero, is essentially being hunted by the other group for an unknown reason. It all made for some great reading that really held my attention and kept me coming back for more.
As with the first book of the series, the entire story is told from the third-person perspective of Thomas, the main character. He was the last of the boys to enter the Glade and proved himself to be a strong leader even though he didn’t entirely take up that mantle. When he awoke in the Box, headed to the Glade, he could no longer remember anything about himself or his life up to that point. After being stung by a Griever and going through the Change, he started to remember bits and pieces of his life before the Glade, but everything was still pretty murky. He begins to remember more in this volume, giving the reader a few more glimpses into his past, but his memories are still disjointed enough to not present a full picture of who he was and why he was sent into these Trials. We do know, though, that Thomas was aware of the experiment and consented to it beforehand. In fact, he may have somehow been in on the planning of it. We also learn that Thomas is an important player in the experiment, so much so that WICKED is willing to intervene on his behalf when things don’t go as planned. However, most of Thomas’ life and the reasons behind the Trials are still in shadow.
Thomas has an ensemble cast of secondary characters to back him up, but he interacts with different ones at different times throughout the book. As the story opens, he is still with his friends and fellow Gladers who survived the escape from the Maze. After learning of their new mission, this small band, including Minho, Newt, Frypan, and others from the Glade, as well as newcomer, Aris, but minus Teresa who’s been taken elsewhere, must cross The Scorch. Aris is an intriguing character, because like Thomas and Teresa, he can communicate telepathically. On their way to the Safe Haven, the Gladers must pass through a destroyed city, where they meet two Cranks, Jorge and Brenda, who unlike many other Cranks there, are still in control of their faculties. These two help the Gladers and join them on their journey, while Brenda becomes a second possible love interest for Thomas. Along the way, they’re also reunited with Teresa and a group of girls who they learn were their counterparts in a parallel experiment. But Thomas is no longer certain he can trust Teresa after she orchestrates some unexpected events.
Since this is a YA book, this is where I’ll diverge for a moment to give my take, as a parent, on the book’s appropriateness for a younger audience. There’s very little in the way of sensuality. Thomas shares a couple of fairly chaste kisses with one of the girls and there’s a small amount of very mild sexual tension between Thomas and each of the female leads. Thomas and Brenda end up at a Crank party, where they’re forced to drink something presumably alcoholic that’s also been laced with a drug, and we briefly see the aftereffects on the partygoers the next morning. Language is a little murkier. There are only maybe three instances of a mild profanity being used. However, there are additional instances of some British profanities, and the characters frequently use Glader slang such as shuck and klunk that stand in for actual bad words. These euphemisms may go over the heads of younger readers, but savvy teens are sure to understand the meaning behind them. What would probably be of most concern, though, is the violence. Much like in other YA post-apocalyptic science-fiction stories, these kids are put through the ringer and many of them die along the way, sometimes rather hideously. They frequently find themselves fighting for their lives against various monsters and nature itself, never quite sure who might be taken from them next, and there’s a certain degree of fallout to Thomas’ psyche each time one of his friends dies. He also sometimes struggles psychologically with the Trials themselves but always manages to find the strength to keep fighting. The long-gone Cranks, who’ve succumbed to the Flare, are basically grotesque, zombie-like creatures who apparently feed on human flesh. All of these parts of the story could be a little too scary for younger kids, so I would only recommend the book for around age thirteen and up, who aren’t overly sensitive or prone to nightmares and with a recommendation of parental or educator guidance.
Overall, The Scorch Trials was another entertaining read for me in this series. In addition to the virtually non-stop action and adventure, the thing that really kept me reading was the mystery. There’s the big question of who Thomas and the others were before being put through the Trials and exactly why they’re being put through it. I believe the general answer lies in these experiments somehow being humanity’s last hope for survival, but all the details are still yet to be revealed. Then there’s also the mystery of exactly who Thomas can trust, because people he thought were friends start betraying him along the way, leaving a lot more questions in their wake as to why they’re doing the things they’re doing. There was at least one major event that occurred, which left me wondering what its purpose was, but since everything else is still a big question mark, I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt and trust that he’s going to have it all making sense by the end. And speaking of the end, I have very high hopes that the ending is going to be great. There’s certainly plenty yet to reveal, and I’m very much looking forward to The Death Cure to find out exactly what’s going on and who makes it to the end of this crazy test alive while hoping that it’s all worth the journey....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Prince Charming was an excellent conclusion to Gaelen Foley’s Ascension Trilogy. There were a few moments when I wondered if iReviewed for THC Reviews Prince Charming was an excellent conclusion to Gaelen Foley’s Ascension Trilogy. There were a few moments when I wondered if it was going to get tops marks from me, and I have to admit that it was ever so slightly my least favorite of the series, but in the end, it definitely won me over. I loved it almost as much as the other two, giving the series a perfect 5.0 record for me. In this one, Rafael, Lazar and Allegra’s (The Pirate Prince) son and heir to the throne of Ascension is left in charge of the fictional island nation as Prince Regent while his parents travel abroad to visit his sister, brother-in-law, and their family. Lazar has been suffering from a mysterious stomach ailment, which the doctors believe is some form of cancer, but only the Prime Minister and Rafe know about it. Rafe wonders if someone might be trying to poison his father, but if so, no evidence of it has been found yet. His heroine, Daniela, lives a double-life as both the daughter of a duke and the Masked Rider, a hero of the people who robs from the rich to give to the poor. When she tries to rob the Prince, she finds she’s met her match when she ends up in jail. But knowing he needs to find a bride in order to fulfill his parents’ wishes and carry on the regal line and also knowing that Dani is respected by the people of Ascension, Rafe bargains with her, offering her and her cohorts their freedom in exchange for her hand in marriage. He just didn’t expect to fall in love with his new bride or for her to prove to be such a worthy match. The two must then stand up to a villainous kinsman, who is trying to usurp the throne.
Rafael is known throughout Ascension as Rafe the Rake. Despite being the heir to the throne, no one takes him seriously because of his reputation as a ladies man and his seeming disinterest in anything other than the pleasures of the flesh. But underneath his devil-may-care facade beats a loyal and tender heart. He loves his country and longs to be a good leader, but he fears he can never live up to his beloved father’s legacy. He also feels that his father has been too hard on him throughout the years and that the King doesn’t believe in him any more than his advisers or the people of Ascension do. When Lazar leaves Rafe in charge of Ascension during his absence, it’s a responsibility that he’s been itching to be given, but at the same time, he’s uncertain if he can pull it off. Years ago, as a callow youth, in his sister’s book Princess, Rafe was taken in by a devious woman who played upon his sympathies to get him to rescue her and become her lover, then she cruelly betrayed both him and the entire country. Needless to say, it left him with a bad taste in his mouth where women are concerned and he doesn’t trust easily. When he’s robbed by the Masked Rider and tracks the miscreant to Dani’s estate, he’s instantly smitten with her, but when he later discovers her hidden identity, he isn’t sure he can trust her. However, he sees marrying her as no hardship and believes it will raise his worth in the eyes of the people if not the royal advisers.
Rafe may be a rakish playboy who can charm the stockings off most women, but he’s a young man whose emotions run deep and who can be hurt easily. That’s why I think he’s at least partly a beta hero. He wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Dani, even though he doesn’t realize at first that he’s in love with her. But once he does, he wants no other woman. Despite seeming a tad immature, he does take his responsibilities as Prince Regent seriously, which I found admirable, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to save the country, as well as both her life and the lives of his family members. The only two things that gave me pause were his inability to make up his mind regarding whether to keep his mistress after marrying Dani and his charm skating a little too close to forced seduction for me. In regards to the mistress, at first, he’s a bit too easily swayed by her manipulations and doesn’t immediately give her the boot like I felt he should have. This was another reason for me saying he’s part beta, because he can’t stand her tears and doesn’t want to rock the boat. But in his defense, he does come to his senses before things go too far and doesn’t technically cheat on Dani (although other readers may disagree on this point). In regards to the second issue, in one scene, he brings Dani to his room while he’s drunk, fully intending to seduce her despite her protestations and probably would have if he hadn’t discovered her secret. His saving grace here was that he gave her an opportunity to leave, but she didn’t take it. Then on their wedding night, something similar happened, where she was fighting him and telling him no, but he continues trying to make love to her for a while anyway because he thinks it’s just maidenly fears that he can overcome. Again, this incident made me a teensy bit uncomfortable, but he does eventually stop. Otherwise, Rafe was a great hero, and his later gallantry pretty much erased these early slight missteps for me.
Daniela may be a noblewoman, but she’s been living in genteel poverty, trying her best to provide for an ailing grandfather, the only family she has left, and her tenants. She’s always been a tomboy and knows about things that most women don’t, such as how to shoot and make bombs, so when finances became too tight, she took up the persona of the Masked Rider. She may occasionally humiliate a rich man, but she never harms anyone when stealing from them. Unfortunately she picks the wrong man to tangle with when she and her cohorts, who’ve been her friends since childhood, accidentally try to rob the Crown Prince. It doesn’t happen right away, but eventually she and her friends are arrested for their misdeeds and threatened with hanging, until Rafe makes his offer of marriage in exchange for their lives. She’s had a fairytale crush on the prince since she was a girl and finds it hard to resist him, but she’s been an independent woman for so long, she can’t imagine being under a man’s thumb. However, the prince can be very persuasive.
Dani loves Ascension and her people every bit as much as Rafe does, so when Rafe’s cousin comes to her saying that Rafe could be in danger of being disinherited for marrying her if she doesn’t resist consummating the marriage so that it can be annulled when the King and Queen return, she’s willing to go along with it at first. She’s also afraid of getting pregnant, because her own mother died in childbirth, which also played into her decision. I liked that she was smart enough to not entirely trust Rafe’s cousin, though, and asked one of her friends to investigate him. When she begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together with regards to what’s happening politically and when she realizes how much she loves Rafe, she doesn’t hesitate to give him all of herself and her love. I loved that Dani is loyal to a fault and would never betray Rafe or Ascension. She’s the perfect mix of sweetness and spice, a gentle, giving woman by nature but a strong, feisty one when she has to be and the perfect match for Rafe.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Prince Charming. Rafe and Dani complemented each other in every way. Their love for each other gave them strength to stand up to the villain when he tried to tear them and their country apart, and it gave them faith and trust in one another. They share some very romantic moments, as well as some super-sexy ones. The villain was very compelling with strong characterization and motives, and his manipulations made perfect sense. Rafe’s friends helped him out a lot and were generally loyal to him if a bit too outspoken at times. Since Darius and Serafina (Princess) live in Spain and Lazar and Allegra are off visiting them for most of the story, Rafe’s family don’t play much of a part, but we do get to see Lazar at the very beginning, as well as him and Allegra at the end. Darius and Serafina come back to Ascension to make a brief appearance at the end as well. The story is well-plotted with plenty of suspense, and although we know who the villain is from very early on, his motives are much more of a surprise. I didn’t guess those until it was revealed. Everything came together to make this a wonderful story and a clean sweep for the series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews White Night was another thrilling adventure for our intrepid private detective wizard, Harry Dresden. This case was pretty mucReviewed for THC Reviews White Night was another thrilling adventure for our intrepid private detective wizard, Harry Dresden. This case was pretty much tailor-made for a chivalrous guy like Harry, because women in the magical community, mid-level practitioners who mostly fly under the radar, are being attacked. They’re either going missing or turning up dead of apparent suicides, but it only takes Harry a few minutes investigating the scene where one of these ladies died to know something supernatural is afoot. Then all signs start leading him back to his own brother, Thomas, as the prime suspect, even though Harry is certain Thomas would never do such a thing. It’s a mystery that takes him right into the heart of vampire politics, where he discovers that someone may be trying to sabotage peace talks between the White Council and the Red Court. And it all culminates in an epic battle with supercharged ghouls that appear to be controlled by the entity Harry calls Cowl, who may be a traitor within the ranks of the White Council. Like I said, it was another exciting installment of the Dresden Files that really kept me on the edge of my seat.
Harry has been a wonderful character for me from the start. He’s pretty much everything I look for in a male lead of any novel, and it didn’t take me long to understand why my romance-reading friends kept recommending this series to me. I’m so glad they convinced me to give the Dresden Files a try, because they were all right, and he just keeps getting better and better as the series goes on. He’s daring and courageous, never afraid to try something that sounds crazy in an attempt to save the day, even though doing so in the past always seems to lead to a death-defying moment, which of course, is half the fun of the stories. And while he may be a little rough around the edges, he’s a kind soul who really cares about people and is loyal to a fault when it comes to his friends. He’s also strong, always putting himself in harm’s way to save others. He’s simply awesome, and with each new book, he seems to discover something new about himself. In this one, he encounters some unexpected anger issues that appear to be related to his uneasy alliance with Lasciel. I love how he handled that situation, which showed that he hadn’t allowed himself to become corrupted by her presence. Then how things ended between them leaves me wondering how he might be different in future books of the series. But before that all happened, Lash (as he nicknamed her) let him in on a secret about himself that he didn’t know and that I suspect will also lead to some additional changes for him. In any case, I can’t wait to find out what those changes might be.
As always, Harry has an incredible cast of supporting characters to back him up, some of whom appear in most of the books and others we may only see occasionally, but I love them all. At the top of the list in White Night is Thomas. Like Harry, I knew he couldn’t possibly be guilty of killing the magical women, but he has been pretty secretive, not only in this book, but the previous one as well. All I can say is that I loved Thomas before, and when his secrets came out, I loved him even more. He’s another character who could easily be a romance novel lead. Right alongside him would be Warden Carlos Ramirez, another strong, courageous young wizard. When this guy’s big secret came out, I was laughing right along with Harry, but in a delighted way. I can’t help wondering if he might become a possible love interest for Harry’s apprentice, Molly, who is still youthfully stubborn but learns some valuable lessons in this story. Murphy is right there by Harry’s side, too. This petite woman packs a huge punch when she has to, and I love how she’s become completely accepting of Harry’s crazy world. She’s also there to call him on the mat when his rage goes a little too far. I still don’t know if anything romantic is going to happen between these two, but I’ll be eagerly waiting to find out. Another possible contender is Harry’s ex, Elaine, who shows up again. I admit it’s been so long since I last saw her, I don’t recall much about her previous appearance, except that they were on opposing sides. But this time, they’re fighting on the same side with her trying to protect the women as well. It’s obvious that she and Harry still have chemistry, although she lives in LA where she also works as a PI, so I don’t know how likely it is for a romantic reunion between them. If something did happen, I wouldn’t be averse to the idea, because I liked her here. She has enough power to be a Warden, but chooses to avoid that life, although she does want to make a difference and cares deeply about her clients. Then there’s Mouse, who shows some new powers of his own in this book. These are the most important of the good guys.
On the side of Harry’s frenemies, those people with whom Harry has a tentative working relationship in the interest of fighting a common enemy, we have Marcone, the Chicago crime boss who’s been there from the start. Even though he’s a criminal who’s generally only looking our for his own interests and can’t entirely be trusted, I’ve always kind of liked him. He has his own sense of honor. It seems that he can be taken at his word, and he’s gotten Harry out of a few tight spots even though there’s usually a price attached. It’s looking like Marcone is going to be taking on an even greater role on the supernatural side of Chicago. Helen Beckitt, one of the secondary baddies from the very first book, Storm Front, resurfaces, but isn’t entirely all that she seems. Then there’s Thomas’ older sister, Lara, and with her having control over their father, Lord Raith, the leader of the White Court, she is now really their de facto leader. This means that when other vampires try to sabotage the peace talks, she and Harry find themselves mostly on the same side, although she proves craftier in the whole process than it seems at first glance. The real baddies are a total mystery at first, but they turn out to be a combination of new characters and one old character we’ve met before. As a whole, they cause a boatload of trouble for Harry to clean up.
Overall, White Night was another great installment in the Dresden Files. There were maybe a few places where I thought perhaps the descriptive prose could have been pared down just a bit, because my mind wandered a little. Also, the vampire politics got just a tad confusing, but by the end, I think I’d gotten a pretty good handle on everything. Because of these two things, the book was running around a 4.5 on my star meter until I got to the nail-biting conclusion. That kept my attention fully engaged wondering exactly how Harry and company were going to get out of yet another extremely dangerous situation and it didn’t disappoint. Not to mention, there were a few things revealed in the final pages that made it more than worth the wait to get there. So, I decided that White Night was worth the full five stars. I can’t wait to keep reading about our intrepid hero and all his friends to find out what happens next in their lives....more