Welcome to 2015!

happy new year

It’s hard to believe the end of the year is here! It’s been a year full of wonderful, exciting books. I’ve read some amazing stories this year that have taken me on adventures on pirate ships, time travelled to my favourite time periods and solved mysteries with Regency spies. I have been so blessed to discover new authors that have quickly joined my ‘must read list’ as well as more stories from my favourite authors.

This year I started this blog and have been so fortunate to have people who read the reviews I write and share, respond and like the things I have written. Thank you to everyone for helping me reach my goals!

I have found myself reading books that I may have not picked up before. I have read my first gothic novel (Thank you Lauren Smith), embraced time travelling and read about the working poor of London. I think it’s healthy to try new things and next on my list is to embrace steam punk. If there are any genres you think I should try – let me know! I’m all ears!

So the most popular post on the site this year was my review of Captivated By You by Sylvia Day. It is the most searched item and continually gets views even though it has been out for a month and a half. I share the passion people have for Gideon and Eva and I can’t wait to read the final installment in the series – hopefully we won’t have to wait as long as last time!

Another very popular post was my review of Shana Galen’s upcoming release Earl’s Just Want To Have Fun, from her new series Covenant Garden. For all of you that read that review and are die hard fans like me…here is a teaser. Shana has graciously agreed to a Q & A and it will be published on this site in less than a week!! She will also be giving away some swag! Check back on Monday to get the details!

The third most popular post was my author review of the incomparable Judith McNaught. This was not a surprise as she is like the touchstone of all historical romance novels. I don’t think her stories will ever leave me and I will always use her as the benchmark for excellence.

Of course a big hit on this site was also the latest by Monica McCarty, The Arrow. It was the very first ARC I received and I am still surprised that the publisher gave me a copy. I was ready to beg, but they graciously gave me a copy and it spurred me to get blogging. Monica has revealed on twitter that she is finishing the books in the series and I think there are two more coming out…yippee!

Thank you for a wonderful 2014! I am so happy to be sharing the wonderful books I have the fortune to read. I am actually giddy with excitement just imagining all the wonderful books I will read in the coming year!

Duke by Day, Rogue by Night

duke by day, rogue by night

Duke by Day, Rogue by Night (The Nelson Tea Series #1) by Katherine Bone

Overview by Amazon:

Constance Danbury is desperate to escape an arranged marriage to a man nearly twice her age. Her only hope is to board a merchantman bound for Spain to enlist her aunt’s help. Her plans go awry when she’s captured by pirates. Even more alarming, her traitorous body longs for the man who’s returning her to England! Pushed into a marriage of convenience, she’s caught between two men—one owns her heart, the other is bent on stealing it.

Percival Avery is a member of Nelson’s Tea, an elite group assigned to protect England’s shores at any cost. On a mission to avenge his sister’s death, Percy infiltrates the gang of cutthroats responsible. When his vessel attacks a merchantman, Percy must choose between vengeance and saving the life of his commander’s niece. His only choice is to mutiny, but mutiny obliterates his well-laid plans. Forced on a new course that leads straight back to Constance Danbury, Percy has to make a decision—chase revenge or allow himself to love again.

I love books with pirates and adventures at sea. There is just something about the hero and heroine being trapped together at sea. I recently went to Boston and ventured onto the Constitution aka Ironsides. It was tight and dark and cramped and to be honest kind of ruined my fantasies of what a ship was like in the 1900th century. However, that is the magic of books; you can imagine anything you want. This book is full of lavish and elaborate descriptions that made me feel like I was actually on the Striker and locked in the captain’s quarters.

Nelson Tea is the name given to men who work for the crown and infiltrate the seas to do the deeds that must be done. The work is dangerous and a life time commitment. We get a glimpse of a few of the twenty members in this book and a hearty dose of the dangerous work they do. This book was at times very graphic and realistic and occasionally a little farfetched. I really enjoyed this book though and I have already purchased the next book in the series and will start it as soon as I finish this review.

I loved Percy/Thomas. Thomas is the quintessential swashbuckling pirate. He wears all black and a bandana. His shirt is open to reveal his broad chest. Yum. This is just the way I like my pirates. Full of swagger and arrogance. We meet him as Thomas Sexton, but it is an elaborate ruse to hunt down unscrupulous men who stole his young sister and raped her, turned her into a prostitute and then died of syphilis. The alter ego is the dashing pirate who sails the seas, but his real identity is the Marquis of Stanford, Percy Avery. He acts as a fop for the ton, obsessed with fashion and fripperies. It is an effective guise as no one would imagine the Marquis is really a stone cold killer and spy. There was a compelling sensuality that oozed off of Percy in whatever role he was playing. I found myself deeply attracted to the man on the pages. His lust and vengeance were a heady mix and I liked that it took him time to reconcile himself with doing the right thing for reasons of his heart rather than propriety.

Constance is a beautiful woman who has been bartered away in marriage to a horrible man, Lord Burton. She is desperate to avoid the marriage and sails to Spain to plead her case with her aunt. Her father and uncle (Simon is the leader of Nelson Tea) have had unbelievable bad luck with their finances of late and are about to enter dun territory. The match to Burton will save the family name and future. She shows great spunk and determination when pirates attack her ship. In the heat of the battle, Thomas asks her to trust him with her life and he saves her repeatedly. Although grateful, she engages in a battle of wits with him, but her body deceives her. He is irrestible to her and she can’t deny her attraction to him any longer. For much of the book, Constance is a pawn in men’s games of war. She is tugged in different directions to suit the needs of the men in her life. She was definitely not ‘too stupid to live’, but trapped in the farces of financial need and desires of men. At the end of the story, it was a showdown by all the men who wanted to capture her for a variety of reasons. She isn’t Helen of Troy, but a woman who has been lied to, mistreated and left with many secrets to burden her. I felt sorry for Constance, but also relieved that she had Percy/Thomas to take care of her.

Recently I have been reading a lot of books, but they have all lacked great action in the bedroom. It’s hard to get totally immersed in a book and the characters if you are shut out of the intimacy they are developing. That’s why the bedroom scenes are so vital to romance novels. This book gets the action started pretty early on and it continues throughout the book. The sex scenes are hot and steamy and you almost feel like you are there in the humid cabin with Thomas and Constance.

This story was well developed with intricate details and a lot of back story to flesh out the characters. I really enjoyed the adventure on the high seas, the ball with the ton and the quiet sanctuary of the character’s homes. A great pirate adventure has heroes, villains and intrigue. This book had all of those elements and is really well done. I’m very glad I picked up this book and am so looking forward to the next in the series!

Get it here

Currently Reading…

Right now I’m reading The Outcast Highlander by R.L. Syme. The holiday season is slowing down my reading quota for the week, so review should be up soon! This book is getting excited, yet I have gingerbread cookies to deliver! If you are looking for something to read by a cozy fire with the Christmas tree twinkling, or on vacation lying on a beach or just a respite from work, this book is FREE right now on amazon.com.

outcast highlander

Knight in Highland Armor

knight in highland armor

Knight in Highland Armor (Highland Dynasty Book #1) by Amy Jarecki

Overview by Amazon:

Grieving from the death of his wife, Lord Colin Campbell listens to the cries of his newborn son whilst penning a missive to the king. With no marriage prospects, Colin petitions his majesty for help in finding a stepmother. Never again will he fall in love—the death of a woman brings more pain than losing a whole contingent of men on the battlefield.

Feisty, quick tongued and smart, Margaret Robinson is delighted when her father receives a messenger from the king…until she discovers what news he brings. In a sennight, she will wed the notorious Black Knight—her life is about to end.

Tension builds during the wedding and deteriorates from there…until an accident draws them together. Just when their love begins to blossom, a dire request arrives from the Pope. Colin must join the Crusades at once.

Their fragile love is forced to withstand the seductions of hell—Margaret tempted by a scoundrel laird—Colin courted by Satan himself. Aye, the war for Christendom could very well ruin their dreams forever.

I’m very conflicted about this book. One on hand I adored the spunky Margaret and the love story between her and Colin, but for a huge chunk of the book they were separated by the Crusades. It’s hard for a reader to maintain love of a relationship between two characters when years and oceans separate them.

Okay so let’s start with the parts I loved. I absolutely adored Margaret. She was such a great character and was very well developed. She was given to Colin in marriage to be a mother to his newborn son. She is very intelligent and smart. She does the book keeping and keeps the manor running. She is frustrated by the role Colin wants her to play as his wife. She has so much more to offer him. She doesn’t appreciate the rough and disrespectful way he treats her. Her wedding night was not the stuff of virgin dreams. I admired her tenacity and strength in the face of Colin’s indifference and dominance.

In Colin’s defence, he adored his wife Jonet who died in childbirth. The day she died, he gets a letter commanding him back to fight in the Crusades. He needs a mother for his son. He advocates to the King to find him a suitable wife and mother, but he loved Jonet and is still grieving deeply for her. He doesn’t want to find Margaret attractive, or funny or lovely. He wants to wallow in his grief. I was torn here. Part of me really, truly understood how deeply Colin grieved for his dead wife and rightly so. It was normal to feel like he did. Wedding another woman only three weeks after his wife’s death may have been normal in those times, but now it would be seen as callous and egregious. Yet, even with it clearly articulated how Colin was feeling about the situation, I wanted him to love and adore Margaret.

Colin postpones heading for the Crusades as long as he can and during that time their relationship blossoms. They have a rocky start and I loved how sassy Margaret could be. She wasn’t a spoiled brat or a know-it-all, but rather very confident in her abilities and her desires. She was like a bright light that attracts you and entrances you with her shine. It wasn’t long until Colin falls under her spell.

But time marches on and Colin must heed his directions to get to the Holy Land. It’s a difficult separation as Margaret is expecting Colin’s baby. This is where I felt the book let me down. I know it was really realistic for the time period, but Colin is gone for SEVEN years. It was hard to continue hope that he would return. Reading about the boys growing up and passing so many milestones was hard to swallow. The author details what was happening to both of them through the years, but as the reader all I really wanted to get them back together.

I really liked the relationship between Colin and Margaret. That is what made this book worth reading. Although they only had a few months together in their marriage, it literally had to last them and the reader a lifetime (or the length of the novel). The separation of the two lovers was too long. I began to lose hope just like Colin and Margaret that they would ever be reunited. Even when they did come back together, I felt so sad for all the time and their youth that they lost. I think this book was worth reading, as some other readers may find the separation and then reunion romantic. I loved the characters and the romance was wonderful.

The Midnight Rake

the midnight rake

The Midnight Rake by Annabelle Bryant

Overview by Amazon:

Phineas Betcham, Viscount Fenhurst is one of the country’s most eligible bachelors…which – to the heartbreak of each season’s new debutantes – is the way he intends to keep it. Because the broodingly handsome Viscount has vowed to keep emotions out of the bedchamber. And he is a man who always stays true to his word.

So when Penelope Rosebery arrives at his home, impoverished and in need of help, Phin is every inch the gentleman. But, beneath the surface, Penelope stirs a protective and passionate instinct within him. With her untamed beauty and lack of social ties, she’s something of a wildflower – delicate, spontaneous, and rare. And before long, Phineas finds himself tempted to abandon his rulebook…and leave etiquette behind until daybreak.

Phineas was the perfect man to curl up on the couch and read about today. He prides himself on his decorum and honesty. He’s a gentleman through and through. It was delightful to watch him fall head over heels for the delectable Penelope. The internal battles he has with himself over wanting Penelope were a glimpse into a man’s psyche. He adores Penny and will do anything to protect her interests and her heart. He truly was such a great character that made me wish more heroes in historical romance novels were written like him.

He wasn’t so uptight that his morals couldn’t loosen for some messing around. Not only is he a great man, but he is one heck of a kisser and his fantasies reminded the reader that he is definitely a hot blooded man. Honestly, he is the perfect man.

Penelope is taken in by his mother, along with her younger sister. She has carried the burden and guilt of their family’s fall from grace. She has been swindled by a horrible man who left her at the altar. She wants to cling to the remembrance of what a fool she was over Simon, but when she is with Phineas, she can’t help but feel emotions she rather wouldn’t. My heart went out to Penelope as her situation would be difficult in our modern age, let alone in the 1800s. I felt so relieved for her that she had a protector and a lovely family that was looking out for her.

Phineas’ mother was a wonderful character. She is French and uses that as an excuse to meddle in her son’s affairs and to pressure him to give her grandbabies. She keeps a parrot that torments Phineas by repeatedly reminding him to get married. She provides some great comedic relief.

There is no live and death situations in the book, but rather the angst and anxiety of two people deciding if they have found the one. It was fun to read about Phineas’ friends and how they support each other. This is the third book in the series, so for those who have read the other books, it will be great to keep up with characters.

This book was fun to read. I greatly enjoyed the time I spent reading about the relationship between Penelope and Phineas.

An Alaskan Hunk To Keep You Warm

against the sky

Against the Sky (The Brodies of Alaska) by Kat Martin
Overview by Amazon:

ALASKA
In America’s last wilderness there are no limits to what a man can do.
For detective Nick Brodie, that means keeping the perps off the streets of Anchorage 24/7. Nick has never backed down from danger, but after the horrors he’s seen, he’s definitely in need of a break.

Samantha Hollis never thought she’d meet anyone like Nick, especially in a place like Las Vegas. But after one reckless, passionate night, she discovers the charismatic stranger is everything she wants in a man. But can he ever be anything more than a one-night stand?
When Nick invites her to Alaska, Samantha decides to find out, never guessing the depths she’ll discover in him or the tangle of murder, kidnapping, and danger about to engulf them both. . .

What I liked about this book:

• The characters were awesome. I loved Nick and Samantha. I was so rooting for them to pick up where their hot and heavy Vegas weekend left off. I really wanted them to work out. Even though they felt like they didn’t have a lot in common, I think they were underestimating each other and themselves.
• The sex scenes were hot and steamy. Nick is a former Army Ranger and I just cannot resist a warrior, whether they are in ancient Scotland or modern day. His body was described as a work of art and I was jealous that Sam got to be all over that.
• I loved the setting in Alaska. I live in a cold climate and bitterly hate the cold, so I can understand why Sam didn’t want to relocate there, but it sounds so majestic I think I might have caved on that. I also liked that there was the inclusion of first nations in the story. They are an essential part of the fabric of the north and it wouldn’t have been a very accurate book without it.
• The investigation of Jimmy’s father’s death was a big part of the plot. While I liked it and enjoyed how protective Nick was of Samantha, it took over the book and put their lives in danger. It had so many elements and twists to the plot that it felt a little overwhelming and I couldn’t understand how Nick was able to elude law enforcement for so long, but I guess in Alaska things are different.
• I loved how Samantha was such a great cook. My mouth drooled at the descriptions of the food she made. If Nick didn’t want to be with her because of her sexy body, her cooking would have been a great reason.

Samantha isn’t a very adventurous person. She has no interest in hiking and riding an ATV was reckless to her. It kind of irritated me that she flew all the way to Alaska (albeit for a very good reason) to see Nick, but then played hot and cold. To me it was a forgone conclusion that sex was on the agenda – especially considering how good the sex was!! Get in there girl!!

A fun read that features beautiful scenery, good characters and a mystery that was life and death.

The Spinster Bride

the spinster bride

The Spinster Bride by Jane Goodger

Overview by Amazon:

Mr. Charles Norris needs help finding a wife…
For he has the unfortunate habit of falling for each Season’s loveliest debutante, only to have his heart broken when she weds another. Surely Lady Marjorie Penwhistle can help him. She’s sensible, clever, knows the ton, and must marry a peer, which he is not. Since she’s decidedly out of his reach, Charles is free to enjoy her refreshing honesty—and her unexpectedly enticing kisses…

Lady Marjorie Penwhistle doesn’t want a husband…
At least not the titled-but-unbearable suitors her mother is determined she wed. She’d rather stay unmarried and look after her eccentric brother. Still, advising Mr. Norris is a most exciting secret diversion. After all, how hard will it be to match-make someone so forthright, honorable, and downright handsome? It’s not as if she’s in danger of finding Charles all-too-irresistible herself…

This was a fun book to read! I really enjoyed the characters and the plot was fresh and original. Charles Norris needs a bride. He resorts to extortion to get Lady Marjorie to find him one. But that is not all the book is about. There are amazing secondary characters and a devious plot that keeps the story moving along.

Charles Norris is the second son of a Viscount. He has been away for years fighting for England, but now that he has returned he has turned his attentions to finding a bride. However it is much harder than he anticipated. After a fortuitous in with Lady Marjorie, he pleads his case for her to help him with his quest. Charles is described as a large, gregarious man who laughs a little too loud, enjoys life a little too much and is too handsome for his own good. He runs an unusual household and has a badly scarred leg from his time in service. Its things like this that make him seem like a normal man to the reader, not just the main character in a romance novel. At times he reminded me of an eager puppy, chasing after his next potential suitor. I found that endearing about him. He also has a strong sense of humanity and I deeply enjoyed the role of avenging angel he played when looking after Marjorie’s interests.

Marjorie is the only daughter of an Earl. Her father has passed, but she lives with her mother and younger brother, George. Her mother is as fierce as a dragon. She terrifies most members of the ton and has decreed that her daughter will ONLY be wed to a titled man. She can be vicious and mean and Marjorie loves her in spite of it. Marjorie readily agrees to Charles demands for two reasons. One she wants to keep her brother safe and two she thinks it is a grand adventure. Clearly she lacks excitement in her life. She has been out for six years and is not married. This season is her last one to make a match before she is firmly on the shelf. She never felt the pressure before and was actually pleased with her mother’s decree about a titled gentleman, but after meeting Charles she is re-evaluating her situation. He makes her feel things she knows she shouldn’t be and forces her to look within her heart for what she truly wants to be happy.
I really liked how the author also told the story of Marjorie’s mother. She slowly shares the story of how Lady Penwhistle became the bitter and harsh woman she is. It was a very effective strategy as my opinions of the lady changed as I learned more about her life and all that she has endured.

Marjorie’s brother George is not quite right, as she puts it. We recognize that it is autism. Marjorie protects her brother, who is an Earl, from society and mostly her mother. Her mother is so mean to George that it was hard to read the cruel things she would say to him. This loyalty that Marjorie feels for her brother is a true mark of her character. She has thrown away brilliant matches because she overheard negative and mean things being said about her brother. I adored how Charles accepted and liked George. That alone would have convinced me that Charles was the man for Marjorie.

The first time they were intimate with me was hot and steamy, but also had me laughing out loud at the bold request that Marjorie made. It was one of those moments when you think “Did she really just say that?” Thankfully the author has her repeat her request and I couldn’t help but laugh myself silly!

The devious plot is an important part of bringing Charles and Marjorie together. It gives them time to sort out their feelings and relationship. I couldn’t imagine the story without the mystery, even though the matchmaking was fully developed.
This book was an enjoyable read. I liked how the author wove together many different elements to create a story that had depth and sincerity. It comes out on February 3rd and it can be pre-ordered here.

Cinderella, Time Travel and Ghosts!

cinderella and the ghost

Cinderella and The Ghost (The Cursed Princes book #4) by Marina Myles

Overview by Netgalley:

A DANGEROUS ATTRACTION

When her demanding stepmother died, Ella Benoit knew just how far their fortunes had fallen, unlike her spoiled stepsisters. So she never expected the bequest from her late father. A chateau in France and the freedom to live her own life, all at once!

The chateau has seen better days, but Ella knows she can put the ruined house to rights. The life-size portrait of its first owner, Jean-Daniel Girard, seems to watch her work with approval, even pleasure. With bright blue eyes, strong features, and an athlete’s body, the viscount is a tempting sight even now, more than three hundred years after his tragic death. But the more she looks at the portrait, the more convinced Ella is that she’s met Jean-Daniel before. In another life, perhaps or maybe, as the form who haunts the halls at night, invading Ella’s dreams.

The story of Cinderella has continued to fascinate us since the European myth began. With the publication of Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon in 1697, it captured the attention of centuries. The reason I think this story is so enduring is the moral lessons it imbues. The concept of good triumphing over bad is one that all people enjoy reading about. Life isn’t fair and that is a lesson we learn in childhood. For every person that has been unjustly treated, the story of the cinder girl is a message of hope. Its hope that with enough patience, perseverance and fortitude one can overcome the wrongs done to them. The Cinderella story also relies on the support and help from others. Cinderella had her fairy godmother to help her at the most dire moments. How many times have you wished to have someone help you when facing insurmountable odds? It is a reminder that we must help others and put an end to tyrannical behaviour. When I think of Cinderella, it is impossible not to think of the Disney classic, but this novel has created a new narrative for me. This story takes the classic and makes it into a real life, tangible story that has passion, adventure and steamy moments. It even comes with a pair of beautiful glass shoes to complete the story.

cinderella

cinderella slipper

What I loved about this story was that it was part historical romance and contemporary novel. It was a Cinderella story and at times a Gothic novel. I could immediately make parallels to the Cinderella story, yet it felt fresh and new because of the contemporary story. It was pretty scary at some parts when Ella gets to the Chateau and meets the portrait of Jean-Daniel. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when the hauntings began. I despise paranormal movies – I refuse to watch them period. But although this was frightening, the machinations of Jean-Daniel were out of love and hope. He desperately needs to communicate with Ella to come back in time and save him from his fate.

I just finished another time travel historical romance novel, so I am really starting to get into the genre. This book was different because it takes place away from England, like the majority of historical romance novels. It was interesting to learn about French culture and society at the time of Louis the ‘Sun God’. I laughed out loud at the intrepid Ella googling time travel theories once she figured out what the ghost wanted of her.

Ella was a wonderful character to read. She has been dominated by her step mother and step sisters since her father died. She has given up her life to fulfill a promise to her father to take care of her menacing step mother. Once Adelaide passes, Ella is free to live her life on her own terms. We learn that she loves to cook, but put those dreams on hold, while her ugly step sisters frittered away their lives doing what they wanted. Not only is Ella beautiful outside, she is kind and compassionate inside. She longs to belong to a family and to a man who loves her. She is the survivor of a sexual assault as a teenager and is very nervous of men. However one man who completely captures her attention is Jean-Daniel. I didn’t blame her for lusting after the beautiful man in the portrait. Knowing Jean-Daniel’s ghostly thoughts, I was so excited for the adventure that Ella would be embarking upon.

Jean-Daniel is explored as a character before Ella travels back in time. We know his thoughts, his feelings and frustrations. He was essentially a playboy Viscomte during his time, but all that changed when he met Ella. He fell in love like a ‘thunderbolt’ striking him. He is as beautiful as a god, with a hard body and piercing eyes. He meets Ella as a servant in his home, but can’t stay away from her even though there is a rule that nobility can’t marry a lower class. What I loved about Jean-Daniel was that he TRULY loved Ella. It wasn’t just a physical response, but he took the time to get to know her and loved the woman beneath the beautiful exterior. I adored that he was willing to give up everything, including his responsibilities to the people of France, just to be happy with her.

Obviously with a book that features ghosts, time travel and cursed Egyptian artifacts, you have to suspend belief. That is not a problem with this story. I found it captivating and heart wrenching. I loved the many different elements of this story. I found the haunting of Ella by Jean-Daniel creepy, but rewarding. The experience Ella has back in time were so beautifully developed and described, I felt like I was walking through the lavender fields myself. This story achingly explores hope, tragedy and love with a depth that most books lack. I feel so fortunate that I found this book to read and I really, really couldn’t put it down. It was a fresh take on a classic story with lovely characters that made me believe in love that spans centuries and the hope that all is never truly lost.