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Book Review Blog Gosford's Daughter Mary Daheim

Book Review: “Gosford’s Daughter” by Mary Daheim

I must confess right up front that I never knew Mary Daheim wrote historical romance novels until now. I am a huge fan of her Alpine/Emma Lord series, so my curiosity was peaked when I realized this book was not a cozy mystery.
This novel is the sequel to, or continuation of, a novel published many years back featuring The Frasers, entitled “ The Royal Mile.” I wanted to find that first book and read it before embarking on this one, but I never got around to locating a copy. However, once I started reading this one, I quickly discovered I didn’t have to read the first book in order to enjoy this one. This book was originally published in 1988 under the title “ Passion’s Triumph.”
This book introduces us to Dallas and Iain’s daughter, Sorcha, who, when we first meet her, is a typical teenaged girl given to petulance, and is headstrong and maybe just a little boy crazy as she appears to fall in and out of love fairly quickly. But, when the man who it has been implied she would eventually marry, suddenly does an about-face, claiming he can’t marry a Catholic, Dallas feels they must begin searching for Sorcha a husband.
This development on top of another one in which Sorcha learns a deeply buried family secret, has her parents sending her off to stay with relatives for a time. It is here, Sorcha will meet the great love of her life, Gavin Napier…. a priest.
Set in the late 1500’s during the imprisonment of Mary Stuart, Sorcha will become friends with King James and become entrenched in schemes, epic dramas, religious conflict, and political intrigue. She and Gavin will suffer much in their quest to be together and the reader will have the pleasure of watching this young woman grow into quite a lady.
This is the kind of historical romance novel I cut my teeth on, so to speak. Epic love stories that enraged the reader at times by bringing a couple together, having them fall in love, separate them by circumstances, bring them back together again, but just as they become so close to finally realizing their passion, they are ripped apart once more. I love that stuff!! I also love mystery and intrigue and this book is chock of that as well, and to put the cherry on the cake the descriptive details of the Scottish Highlands creates an atmosphere second to none for romance.
While this book was published some years back, I have no way of knowing if it was touched up or edited in any way before its release into digital format, but I will say that while many historical romance novels written in the eighties and nineties often rub the modern reader the wrong way and are absolutely politically incorrect by today’s standards, this book, didn’t have a dated feel to it at all and I felt the author created a strong female lead who moved within the strictures of the time period with boldness and courage and was a character to be proud of.
I do still want to find the first book which featured Dallas and Iain since their story is alluded to in this book and it would be a poignant book to read at this stage.
Mary did not continue writing historical romances but found her niche writing mystery novels which I highly recommend if you have never read any of them. However, I hope this re-release will be successful enough to prompt her to take up historical writing once more.
(Review written by Julie)

Articles Book Review Blog Conversation of Englishmen Private Affairs of Englishmen Proper Behavior

To the Unknown Author of The Habits of Good Society

My copy from Amazon arrived yesterday.  It’s a classic reprint, originally published in 1872.  What a hoot.  It’s a goldmine of comments that might have you rolling on the floor with laughter.

The book appears not to be just a set of rules, but contains a vast amount of thoughts on society, social intercourse (not the kind of intercourse you think I’m talking about), private habits, and social behavior, along with proper dress for a variety of occasions for men and women. (Ladies, only white gloves please. The new rage of lavender is scandalous. And for goodness sake, they better not be dirty!)

I thought that I would post interesting tidbits regarding English thoughts and ways of life as I make my way through the text. Even if the advice is 143 years out of date, you might be able to apply it to all those Regency and Victorian era books you read.  Maybe the characters are not as well-bred as the author would have you believe.  Here is one example:

“Let a man be of no matter what station, he has there a right to speak to his fellow man…” The thought here is that there is no harm in speaking to a person who is not of one’s class (i.e. lower) who happens to strike up a conversation.  For example, it is considered kindly to reply to a statement from a lower-classed workman who might say, “It’s a fine day, sir.” No need to be a snob. Answer kindly. Nevertheless, there are boundaries to be kept when it comes to conversation.

“But of course, there is a limit to be fixed.  Englishmen respect nothing so much as their purses and their private affairs, and in England you might as well ask a stranger for five pounds as inquire what he was traveling for, what his income was, or what were the names of his six children.  It is a gross impertinence in this country to put curious questions to a person of whom you know little.”

Oh, and by the way, it is considered bad breeding and vulgar to ask someone how much something costs.  For example, did you just comment that you liked my gown but asked how much I paid per yard for the fabric? Shame on you!  You are definitely ill bred.

Book Review Blog Ruth Ann Nordin The Earl's Inconvenient Wife

Book Review: “The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife” by Ruth Ann Nordin

The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife is a Regency tale of a  forced marriage that occurs because of a less-than-believable indiscreet moment of the hero and heroine.

Claire, who needs a breath of fresh air, retreats to the veranda leaving the ballroom. While she’s contemplating her search for a husband, the Earl of Roderick arrives challenging her decision to be alone and unaccompanied. Their little spat leads to a stumble on Claire’s behalf, and as the Earl helps her to recover from the fall, they are found in a compromising position. Her father demands that the man marry her to save her reputation. He succumbs to the pressure of the inconvenient wife, while Claire balks and complains over the swiftly arranged marriage to a brooding male.

The story quickly evolves into a rushed wedding and a snippy relationship between the Earl and Claire. Both are clearly miserable. Consummation of the marriage is delayed, and Claire is intent on running home to her sister to escape her newly arranged life. Will they finally fall in love? Well, I won’t give that spoiler away.

The Earl’s Inconvenient Wife is sometimes unbelievable in spots, with characters that are not very endearing. The story starts out well enough with two bachelors in search of a wife. However, as it progresses into the inconvenient marriage, I found my interest waning. Claire is a rather immature young lady who doesn’t exactly possess a pleasant personality. It was difficult to bond to either of the characters. I would have loved to cheer them on into a loving relationship but did not.  Undoubtedly, for some readers it will prove to be a pleasant story that brings enjoyment.

   

A Stormy Knight Amy Mullen Astraea Press Book Review Blog

Book Review: “A Stormy Knight” by Amy Mullen

A Stormy Knight by Amy Mullen is a 2013 Astraea Press Publication.  I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This is a sweet  historical romance that centers around a young couple torn apart by suspicions and machinations beyond their control.
Young and in love Gemma and Nicholas used to meet in a special place, their hearts full of love and promise of the future until one night Nicholas fails to show up and Gemma learns he and his family have simply vanished under a cloud of suspicion.  Broken hearted, Gemma vows never to love again and refused to marry although she has many admirers.
When a string of deaths and odd occurrences plague the castle, Gemma finds herself all alone and making decisions she never expected to have to make.  She calls upon the king for help.  The last person she expects to ride up to the castle is Nicolas!  The boy who broke her heart is now a full grown man, and not only was he sent to protect Gemma, he is there to marry her as well.  Each blame the other for what happened seven years ago,  and each are too proud to admit something was not right about what had happened and they are also too afraid to admit the love they shared back then is still in their hearts and stronger than ever.
I loved this Medieval England tale of intrigue and politics, loss and pain, but of young love, true love, the healing  power of love.  It is not an easy time and Gemma and Nicholas will find themselves at battle on many fronts.  It looks as though the couple will not be able to reconcile the past or to overcome the anger they feel toward each other due to the pain and suffering they endured in the past. This is a little frustrating at times, and both characters made me want to scream  a few times but they do have their hands full. There is some tense action going on as well, which I like  in a romance as it helps to offset the turmoil the couple is going through.  It is not until the very last  when things seem the darkest for Gemma that she learns she is not alone in her feelings and that maybe Nicholas was in her corner all along, but too stubborn to tell her. Men!
I am glad I discovered this book and the author and was so happy to find a solid medieval romance in the midst of these regencies!! I hope this historical era will make a strong comeback and this book is a fine example of how wonderful these stories can be.
Reviewed by Countess Julie.
4

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Book Review Blog Mystery and Suspense The North Wing

Book Review: "The North Wing" by Susan Butler

Releasing a debut novel can often be a nerve-racking adventure for a first-time author, the outcome of which can be disaster or success. Susan Butler, who has been brave enough to share her talent with the world, has successfully written her first novel that is sure to entertain its readers. As an author, she has mastered the art of mystery and suspense in The North Wing, giving us characters that keep us guessing from the moment we meet them.

Abigail Parker, the story’s heroine, is like any other young woman her age. She meets a handsome, dashing bachelor, who sweeps her off her feet and proposes marriage. Of course, she agrees to become his wife and leaves Vienna for England to prepare for their wedding and life with the man she loves–but barely knows. When she arrives at the impressive Rochester Manor, Abigail quickly learned that the man she is to marry is quite different from the man who romanced her back in Vienna.

Skillfully, the author immerses her readers into a mysterious house, and page by page begins to unfold the secrets behind its walls and what is locked up in the north wing. The journey keeps readers guessing, and surprises and suspense abound. It is not until Susan skillfully takes us to the climax of the story that you are utterly spellbound and sitting on the edge of your seat as you read the frightening passages. The mark of a good mystery writer is to surprise your readers and surprised you will be over the outcome you won’t see coming.
Since I don’t wish to release spoilers and ruin it for you, I’ll just conclude my thoughts. As a romantic mystery, it is well written and plotted to perfection. Susan’s grasp of the language of the day is good, and her insightful thoughts about life a nice touch. She should be congratulated for her successful debut and being brave to share a wonderful story.
I sincerely hope this talented writer will begin another novel or even write a sequel to The North Wing!

5

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Book Review Blog Book Review Lakota Honor Historical Romance Paranormal Kate Flannery Lakota Honor

Book Review: "Lakota Honor" by Kat Flannery

Nora Rushton from Willow Creek Colorado is a young woman with a special gift of healing. Her father has taken great pains to keep her gift a secret, fearing she will be labeled a witch. He resents his daughter and the burden she has placed on him due to her special abilities.

Otakatay is a half-breed hired to kill all women that have “the mark.” He is also a man with his own demons and has become bitter and angry.
Elwood is a wealthy man accustomed to getting everything he wants. He wants Nora. But, he knows nothing of her special abilities and only wants her because of her beauty. He is a cruel, selfish man. But, he is determined to have Nora, no matter what.
Nora must deal with her boozing father, danger from Elwood, and from Otakatay. But, when Nora and Otakatay come face to face, he can not do what he was hired to do. In fact, Nora gets under his skin and he can’t stop thinking about her.
Nora thinks there is more to Otakatay that the hard-bitten assassin he portrays himself to be. Not only that his physical appearance has her mind pondering on things she has never considered before.
When the relationship with Nora’s father comes to a head, and he turns to heavy drinking, a tragic turn of events leaves Nora and her gift exposed. Will the people of Willow Creek learn the truth about Nora? What is Otakatay’s true mission and will he help Nora in her time of crisis?
This is a very unique novel. You don’t find too may Western Historical Paranormal romances out there.
This novel deals with issues of race, bigotry, exploitation of mentally handicapped persons, child labor, and cruelty to animals.
This is not a very long novel, so that ‘s a lot going on, which I like because the story moves quickly and there is no “filler.”
I wasn’t sure about the chemistry between Otakatay and Nora for a while. The romance did get rushed through, in my opinion. However, the epilogue leaves us with a nice cozy feeling of HEA.

Overall this this one deserves 4 crowns.  (Reviewed by Countess Julie)

4

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Book Review Blog Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman Regency Romance Wareeze Woodson

Book Review: "Conduct Unbecoming of a Gentleman" by Wareeze Woodson

Conduct Unbecoming a Gentleman by Wareeze Woodson is a Soul Mate Publishing release. This is a 2013 copyright. I receive a copy to this book from Long Ago Love and Vicki Hopkins in exchange for an honest review.
Laurel’s husband left her in a bind when he died. His sister, Rhonda, was remembered in his will, and their son was to be his cousin Lord Adron’s ward. So, when Laurel attempts an escape, she is chased down and her son stolen from her by Adron’s men. Once she locates Lord Andron’s estate, he sees she is determined to stay with her son. So, he offers her a deal. She can become an unpaid member of the staff and be a nanny to her son and other children that are currently on estate. Having no choice by law, Laurel takes what she can get in order to be with her son.
Lord Adron believes the worst of Laurel. He was led to believe she brought his cousin to the ultimate despair that caused him to take drastic measures. But, Laurel surprises Lord Adron by being a caring, hands-on mother and having a wonderful way with children. No matter what he throws at her, she is able to withstand it. But, he cannot withstand his attraction to her.
In the middle of this drama, there are some valuable jewels that Laurel’s husband, Robert had hidden somewhere. Rhonda and her cohorts are desperate to find the jewels. In the process, Rhonda continues the plot against Laurel, insinuating that Laurel may be a jewel thief. She is even more determined to get rid of Laurel with she notices the attraction Lord Adron has for Laurel. Rhonda has set her heart on marrying Lord Adron herself. With each passing day, Laurel and Lord Andron fall deeper in love with each other. But, there are issues with women that Lord Andron will have to overcome before he can win Laurel over. But, first the jewel thief must be caught and the jewels found.
This was a really entertaining Regency period historical romance. Lord Andron is terrible in the beginning. He is terrified of being duped by a beautiful woman, which is what led, in part, to his bad attitude toward women. Laurel was innocent is all things, but was admittedly naïve when she first married and her husband didn’t do the right thing by her from the start.  But, as worldly as the men in the story liked to think themselves, they too were rather naïve. They were deceived time and time again but were too blind to see. So, Lord Andron was easily led to believe whatever he was told about Laurel and usually, it wasn’t good.
You will get frustrated with Adron a great deal. I didn’t have much empathy for his side of things except maybe his bad experiences in the past. But, with a certain conniving woman that had everyone twisted around her little finger, you will become quite annoyed. Laurel isn’t as naïve as she once was though and shows a little backbone. Will Lord Andron finally wake up and smell the coffee? Will the jewel thief be discovered? There were lots of twist in the story. A shocking reveal will set you back on your heels and really get you thinking about the jewel thief mystery.
A quick entertaining read that is unique to most Regency romances. But, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe a great deal of pain couldn’t have been avoided by making some changes in those horrible British laws in regards to women’s rights. What do you think?
4 Crowns – Princess of a Charming Story (Countess Julie)
4

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Book Review Blog C.W. Gortner Fernando of Argon Historical Fiction Isabella of Castile The Queen's Vow

Review – "The Queen’s Vow" by C. W. Gortner

The life of royalty is akin to playing a game of chess.  Kings, queens, bishops, and plenty of pawns fill the pages of The Queens’s Vow.  As a child in school, history happened to be the subject I hated the most.  However, give me a good book and an intriguing story, and you’ve won me over.  On the pages of a textbook the facts of kings and queens could put you asleep, but in the hands of C. W. Gortner, they keep you highly engaged turning pages in anticipation of what is ahead.

The Queen’s Vow focuses upon the young Isabella of Castile starting at the age of three and continuing onward through adulthood. It begins with the sad reality that the death of a monarch can suddenly leave a wife and his children relegated to poverty far away from the throne. In this instance, Isabella’s half-brother, Enrique, rules Castile. He is married to an unfaithful wife with ambitions for her daughter, who everyone believes is the product of an affair and not of the king’s loins.

The early years of Isabella’s life, with her less than emotional stable mother and younger brother, fill the first few chapters. However, when she and her brother, Alfonso, are finally called to court by their half-brother, you sense the fear of the unknown. Welcomed by the king, but their presence unwanted by the queen, the two of them suddenly become pawns in everyone’s plans for the realm.  However, it’s here that Isabella knows without a doubt that one day she is destined for greatness.

Drowning in a court with unscrupulous advisers and rampant immorality, Isabella finds the court to be a dreadful place. The one bright moment, however, is her introduction to Fernando, Prince of Aragon, who at the age of 12 has led armies into battle.  She dismisses him as a boy, even though he speaks of marriage like a man.  In his mind, they are destined to be together, and when he departs for Aragon to return to his father, he merely writes for her to wait for him.  And wait for him she does – for years.

The book is filled with twists and turns and the ups and downs of Enrique’s rule, Isabella’s favor from the king and subsequent displeasure, along with the characters who play the game of chess behind the scenes. She matures into a strong woman who faces her future with braveness.  I, on the other hand, count my lucky stars for having not been born royalty in an age such as this when the ambitions of others could very well threaten your livelihood and your life. There is an underlying fear of betrayal and captivity that is unsettling in Isabella’s journey to the throne that lasts for quite some time. Finally, in her late teens, she is reunited with Fernando, who she marries against the king’s wishes. The act sets into motion an upheaval that eventually leads her to the throne of Castile.

Though we often read of the conquests of kings and queens in their adulthood and later years, it’s not often we can journey with them on their way to the throne. Of course, if you know your history, Isabella is not without her questionable acts later on in her reign, which are alluded to in the story when a man of the cloth tells her that she’s been chosen by God to clean the land of its wickedness.

C.W. Gornter is an engaging and intelligent author who takes his readers into the world of history-making everything come alive. From the descriptive scenery of Castile to the moldy and musty-smelling castles, the book breathes life on every page. As an author myself, I find his style and writing highly engaging.

I highly recommend The Queen’s Vow for anyone looking for a great historical fiction of a famous queen, sprinkled with the love of her husband, Fernando.  I found the story extremely intriguing from her childhood to the coronation and her early years of rule.  However, when Jewish persecution and the Spanish Inquisition were initiated at the persuading of others, I found my interest waning in the book.

I think that relates back to the bad taste in my mouth left by a profoundly disturbing movie – Goya’s Ghosts.  Perhaps I had high hopes for Isabella and Fernando because I enjoyed their characters early on but found fault in their actions later in their rule.  The author, who did a great job creating living and breathing reincarnations of kings and queens, brings you to a place of being intimately acquainted with these historical characters.  That is a mark of a good writer, especially when their actions bring you disappointment — you almost take it personally.

On a side note, for my historical romance readers, there are fleeting portions of romance within the book.  Nevertheless, I rate it a Four-Star – Princess of a Charming Story (even though it’s about a Queen).

Reviewed by Countess Victoria

 

Book Review Blog Christian Romance Regency Romance Sarah E. Ladd The Heiress of Winterwood

Book Review: “The Heiress of Winterwood” by Sarah E. Ladd

There’s nothing like starting a book off quickly and to the point. Sarah Ladd does just that in this Regency tale of one woman’s intent on marriage. In fact, she’s so driven to do so, the heroine proposes matrimony to a man she meets for the first time at the end of chapter one. Of course, a woman should have good motives to do something so outrageous in 1814. In Amelia’s mind, she thinks her plan is perfect. It will secure her inheritance and provide an instant family with a man she barely knows.  Captain Sterling has returned home to face the sorrows and joys of the life he left behind on his latest tour of duty.
Amelia is a head-strong woman with a mind of her own.  She has a dilemma and is faced with three alternatives: marry a man whose character is questionable; marry a man for convenience that she barely knows to keep a promise, or let her 24th birthday pass as an unmarried woman and watch her inheritance go to a distant cousin leaving her destitute. For her, the choice is clear.
She proposes marriage to Captain Sterling, which causes an upset and scandal amongst her family and sets off her now ex-fiance’s rage.  Amelia realizes that she doesn’t love the man she had originally agreed to marry after his greedy motives are revealed. Instead, she sets her mind upon a man she neither knows or loves in order to bring a stable home to the daughter her friend bore to Captain Sterling before she passed away.  Amelia intends to take her place, marry the grieving Captain, and bring up their child she has cared for and loved.

There is little romance between Captain Sterling and Amelia at the onset. Only fleeting thoughts of their agreeable personalities and appearances. At first, Amelia’s plan is rejected, but when the Captain has a change of heart, obstacles keep them apart.  In certain scenes affections rise, but are suppressed, until a difficult situation brings them together in love.

I really wanted to understand the heart of Amelia, but couldn’t quite get there except for her determination behind her quest to marry the Captain. She comes across as a goodhearted woman with values, but she restrains her affections and passions.

As far as Graham Sterling, the man of the sea, he read superficially with little insight into the workings of his heart other than his career that has forged his life and character.  Toward the end of the story, more of his own personal struggles are revealed. I really don’t warm up to him as a likable hero that I could imagine falling in love with.  There are no intimate scenes to steam up the story, except for a passionate kiss and final declaration of love which doesn’t quite make up for the lack.

I understood why, when I realized The Heiress of Winterwood is published by Thomas Nelson. There are Christian undertones throughout the story, which contains themes of faith, trusting God, the creator’s plan for one’s life, and forgiveness.  Portions of scripture are sprinkled throughout the story, and a few prayers are expressed by the characters.

The book was well written and your mind easily envisions the Regency surroundings and way of life.  BUT, I can hear my English teacher screaming at me not to start sentences with conjunctions like “but” and “and.” Good gracious, things have changed over the years, and I guess I need to get over it.  BUT, it’s like nails scratching on a chalkboard in my mind when I read a text with BUT and AND starting a sentence.  Yes, I know, I’m old fashion.  Blame it on Mrs. Marone, my strict high-school teacher. AND I know I should get hip with my own style of writing to catch up.  Well, maybe.

All in all the book is on the puritanical side of Regency, with a bit of suspense and intrigue thrown in for conflict. For me, it was a three crown Duchess of a good read.  Personally, I just need a bit more romance and passion to stir my heart and fill my fantasy needs of being swept off my feet.

(Reviewed by Countess Victoria)

3

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