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)

5

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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 the 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: “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.

 

 Reviewed by Countess Robin

 3

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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: "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 Revew: “Viking Fire” by Andrea R. Cooper

Crimson Romance
This is the first book I have read by Cooper, and I will be looking for more.

She has a very easy to read style, full of flow and description. Plenty of character commentary and action, which allowed me to follow the storyline effortlessly.

Kaireen is a good and likable character. Although she hates Vikings, for reasons I didn’t quite figure out, she is not vicious. At one point she comments that although he doesn’t like him, she doesn’t want him dead, even though it would be easy to let him die. She is full of spunk and fire, but ultimately powerless, something she is very aware of. I’m thinking of the countless times she stomps and spits (thankfully not literally), but then goes and does what she is told.

Bram is different, I have no idea what he is thinking, it wasn’t until I read the book description about that I knew anything about him. This would normally frustrate me, I love to think I know all about characters. In Bram’s case, less is more. He is just there, tall, strong, lively and stable. He keeps pushing for what he wants in this non-threatening and water-wearing-down-stone way. I loved him for this. He never gets angry or throws things, he just keeps being a direct contrast to Kaireen’s fears.

I am not an expert on the time era, but that didn’t seem a problem, Cooper gives enough detail that I can imagine it, but not so much that I lose the direction of the story. She writes characters with such hope for the future that I actually feel good after reading this book. (Strange idea, but maybe happily ever after does exist?)

I wonderful Friday night read (took me two cups of tea and three hours).

Now, Cooper, where can I find the story about Kaireen’s sister?

(Reviewed by Countess Sarah)
4

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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: "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: "Border Laird’s Bride" by Allison Butler

It seems this book has received quite a bit of online love; which always makes me skeptical. Who publishes their views of novels online anyway? Can they be trusted?

I was not disappointed when I read this book. I was initially very skeptical, the premise seemed awfully convenient, and the characters had the potential to be very two-dimensional.

Jaime is a reliable man who is driven by the desire to please a dead parent. He is jaded by his parent’s love and his father’s heartbreak. Kenzie is trouble, essentially, wild and willful. A woman who stubbornly refuses to marry, afraid of losing her fragile position and identify. It seems Kenzie is defined by her lack of place in the world, while Jaime is defined by his expected role. One has not enough place, one too much. A simple convenient beginning.

Although Butler’s superb writing style carries her reader away.
I enjoyed this book, Butler carefully divulges information in a very natural way, not twists or awkward information drops. Kenzie and Jaime keep their secrets and their motivations close to their chests until they feel comfortable enough or concerned enough to divulge. I loved this. Her characters are realistic and relaxed. An interesting aspect of the novel is Butler’s writing, it is very clean. There is no awkward chunky description of quivery body parts of 50 synonyms for parts of the anatomy. She simply focuses on feelings. Kenzie mentions her body only when she recognizes it change; when she realizes she is attracted to him and her heart pounds. Jaime makes vague comments about her beautiful body or quickening pulse.

Although we take this description for granted as a staple in the romance genre it is not missed. I didn’t realise it was missing until after I finished reading. It was refreshing to have a novel more concerned with characters than sex, although Butler surely doesn’t ignore the latter.

Butler has created a wonderful character-based novel, driven by natural and realistic writing. Although not very focused on the historical details, well not as much as I would like. I don’t know much about Scotland at this time, so a little more detail for the unknowing would have been helpful.

4 Crowns – Princess of a Charming Story

(Reviewed by Countess Sarah)

4

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: "Lily’s Leap" by Tea Cooper

51-ubKItvIL

Lily is a determined and independent woman who is rebuilding her life after the tragic death of her husband and mother. She is living in a world where her opinions and abilities are not valued and are routinely overlooked. Captain Tom is difficult to understand. He seems all bad and naughty, but given the chance, he is a man seeking a purpose. Once he finds Lily, he also finds himself.

I found Cooper’s writing style slow, I believe it was purposely done to develop an interest in character motivations. I think there are two schools of thought on writing, one where characters are explained at the beginning, and another where we are told their actions and their motivations are hinted at. I guess I am just from the other school of thought. I like to understand what characters are doing and why, rather than making educated guesses.

Lily’s Leap is a short novel and focuses on a week in the lives of the characters. As such, Cooper’s writing is easy to read and vividly paints an image of the Australian bush as both charming and dangerous. I really enjoyed the images Cooper invokes through her skilled use of language. Overall, a well-written book by a talented writer. Sadly, I found the characters hard to relate to and at times shallow, especially Captain Tom. Most of the time, I didn’t have any idea what he was doing or thinking. 

(3 Crowns – A Duchess of a Good Read)

(Reviewed by Countess Sarah)

3

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Book Review: "A Note of Scandal" by Nicky Penttila

Set in post-Napoleonic England, the lives of William Marsh and Olivia Delancey intertwine in unforeseen circumstances between newspaper reels, music sheets and political speeches. With 246 juicy- pages, it is another must-read for this hot-summer season to make your hearts race!

A Note of Scandal is based on the events of Summer of 1814 in England, when Napoleon has just been defeated for the second time is and he surrendered to the British. When the British economy is coming to terms with the war expenses and thousands and British men, have returned home either in coffins, decorated with a medal or broken. The future of the middle-class men seems rather bleak and many are those seeking reforms in the wake of industrialisation.

Whilst the Lords are still thinking about the Emperor or have left the city to visit their summer country houses, a newspaper battle ensues between The Register and The Beacon.

It is in the light of this scenario that Nicky Penttila succeeds to weave an interesting and consuming novel between two people with different backgrounds and different passions in life.

William Marsh is a late-twenty-something publisher of the newspaper The Beacon. His only purpose in life is to follow in his father’s footsteps whilst side-stepping his mistakes – to tell the truth at all costs. A true journalist he is always seeking a scoop and does not rely on common sources for his articles. His management of the newspaper made him successful and is highly regarded even by Lords. William Marsh knew the power of words and of the publishing industry.

Olivia Delancey on the other hand is a 24 year-old maiden lady. Her father has no male heirs and his political career has ruined the family treasures. With an almost barren house, her passion is music and her prospect to marry her cousin Richard who is bound to inherit her family’s estate. Olivia though is very intelligent and kind-hearted. She never backs away from a challenge and is always scheming. When two of her friends find themselves in trouble, she is the one that comes to their rescue with a seemingly brilliant plan.

Women at the time were considered as beautiful and were regarded enchanting enough to make small talk with; however they were not reputed ‘creative’ and the possibility of a woman writing a book or composing a piece of music was almost blasphemous. Our heroine Olivia Delancey; challenges this stoic post-Napoleonic, male-dominated society and makes her musical tunes famous by publishing them under a friend’s name. Her life becomes tangled up with the future of her friends and her new indirect boss and love interest.

However, enough with the plot as I don’t want to provide any spoilers; this book is enchanting and gripping from the very first page. Beautifully written, the reader is engulfed with the plight of the returned soldiers and their futures but also with the struggle that women face when they are continuously considered ‘less’ than men.

It is a passion driven novel that has a rather fast paced plot with various twists and array of characters and detailed descriptions. Nicky Penttila vividly portrays England of the early 18th century not so much in a ‘Dickens’ way with a focus on the poor but more on the rise of the middle class and the learnt men with no title. Immediately the discourse in the Ale House is reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel and in a similar fashion, the women of this novel are strong, yet tender and compassionate who do not aspire the impossible but work within their limits (given the social limits) to better their futures.

It is a novel of hope with three-dimensional characters that one immediately takes a likening to from the early pages. With no real villain and no specific heroes; the novel offers a variety of surprises maybe not so much in the development of the plot itself but rather in the character’s growth. In fact whilst I personally loved the story and I was also particularly captured and interested in the character developments. I was also pleased that secondary characters were given ample space to talk and to develop as well. This novel is as much about the historical context as it is about the romance. In fact I was pleased to find a manner of courtship between characters that whilst true to its time it was also very human and down to earth. The relationship between the men and women is all about passion and love with enough romanticism as there is realism both in their physical gestures as well in the speech.

If it wasn’t clear from my review yet, I given this book a 5 Crowns – Sovereign Queen of Historical Love rating as it was surprisingly interesting and I couldn’t put it down easily. It is long enough to provide you with a good amount of pleasurable reading and it is engaging instantly. I wish Nicky Penttila the best of luck and I hope to see this book on the silver screen in the future as I do think a ‘live’ rendition would be appreciated by many.

(Reviewed by Countess Samantha)

 

Available Now:
Audiobook at Amazon/Audible (and via iTunes)

Book Review: “Defiant Imposter” by Miriam Minger

Susanna is a well-created character. She is realistic and interesting. She is trying to do her best in an impossible situation; assuming the identity of her dead mistress Camille Cary, as her dying request, to ensure she doesn’t become lost in America. Camille’s rationale being that no-one knows her on her deceased father’s plantation, and someone needs to carry on the family name. Little does Susanna know she is caught up in the middle of manipulation, lies and a consuming need for revenge.

Adam is, well, a very sexy and passionate person. He is forced to try and win Susanna into marriage by unpleasant circumstances which were once beyond his control, but with Camille’s (Susanna’s) wealth, are no longer.

I relished Susanna’s fiery narration as she competes in a game where she thinks she knows the rules. I loved watching both her and Adam fight to appear relaxed as they court each other, while knowing the game was much more complex than either realized.

At one point, both Adam and Susanna believe the other to be a simpleton in need to some reassuring so they can be manipulated to their own ends. Minger is a great writer who creates wonderful insights into each character so the reader is well informed, but not overwhelmed.

This is one of those books to which I always return. I know my favourite moments (some teasingly rated PG), and can find them effortlessly. Susanna is a delight to observe as she obstinately seeks a suitable husband. Adam is a powerful lead who drives Susanna and the reader to distraction on more than one occasion.

A well-written, heart racing, read into the night book. Full of passion and intrigue, which will have you cheering for Adam and Susanna, and often snickering behind their back as they underestimate each other’s passion, intelligence, and motivations.

 

(Reviewed by Countess Sarah – 5 Crowns – Sovereign Queen of Historical Love)
 
5
 

Review: "The Rogue’s Prize" by Katherine Bone

Crimson Romance
Traditional Publisher

 

The second book in the historical romance trilogy “Nelson’s Tea,” The Rogue’s Prize is a thrilling amorous adventure that captivates its readers from the very beginning. I’ve read only this novel by Ms. Katherine Bone, I’ll make sure to look into her other books soon.

Regardless whether you read the first book in the series or not (I haven’t), this one is a pretty standalone adventure with an array of interesting characters; from men in uniforms, double agents and a damsel in distress.

I won’t go into the details of the story (as I’ll post the summary at the end), but I was entranced by Captain Guffald and his entourage immediately. If you have a soft-spot for pirates and life at sea, this is a book I recommend.

The story has nice twists to it, good dialogue and clear descriptions. The author balances out the importance she gives to the romancing as much as she gives to the action scenes. Some hot, sensual loving wasn’t missing which, speaking frankly, we always anticipate in these novels. Lady Adele and Captain Guffald are two strong characters with as much different temperaments and characters as they are each others’ equals and even though us ladies tend to spiral in favour of the Captain (aye, aye!); you will be pleased not to be reading about a whiny lady concerned with her hair and her dress.

Whilst loving the story, it doesn’t mean I would change anything either. For starters, I would have loved to see more twists. The verbal skirmishes between the hero and heroine were interesting, and I would have liked to see them clash more rather than read their repetitive musings.

Captain Guffald whilst being a handsome navy captain, he is also a recurring character from the previous novel. Ms.Bone gives us ample information; through his thoughts to learn about his past adventures that took place in the other book, however sometimes it feels like his musings are too cumbersome for this book and for the man himself. For readers of the first book, this aspect might be a bit boring and repetitive. For new ones like me; it actually helped me to get inside the man’s head but after half the book was over I felt that maybe I didn’t really need to read the first novel at all as he provided major spoilers. Nonetheless, Ms.Bone’s tactic is similar to the human mind and how some traumatic experiences are relived on a daily basis which shows also the depth of the character.

Finally, my verdict would be a 4 Crowns – Princess of a Charming Story. The plot was good, the characters interesting and so is the dialogue. It is wonderfully written and for a pirate-lover like me; this novel was ideal to start my Summer reading spree with.

(Review by Countess Samantha)

 

Book Review: "Vain" by Jill Hughey

Charlemagne’s Empire – Middle Ages
Independent
Short Synopsis:

“A tailor’s abandoned daughter fashions a vain nobleman’s tunic, finding passion between the neckline and hem as misfortune forces her into his precarious aristocratic world.”

Author Links:  Blog | Facebook  |  TwitterGoodreads

Review:

Despite centering on weaving and sewing this novel is extremely good. Although the subject matter might seem strange, it is artfully weaved (he-he), throughout the novel in a careful and delicate way. Almost like fine gold embroidery on burgundy wool.

Hughey has created a rich and detailed world occupied by realistic and human characters. Lily is passionate and independent, a trait she does not lose when she meets Theo. She is determined to make her own way in the world, despite some fairly sad circumstances. It was wonderful to see a development in this character, and an understanding of what was socially right at the time, rather than abandonment when she meets a man.

Theo is vain. It took a while to discover the link between the title and the content of the book. He chides men for behaving badly, and then he behaves badly. He passes this behaviour off as a part of his class. He is still full of his own self-importance until his big revelation, which is well written and believable.

I was impressed with the way I could not put this book down. I chose to read this book above all other things I could be doing on a Saturday. I enjoyed it because it was not simply a book about lust. It was about characters, lives and recovering from impossible situations. I found myself almost at the point of tears several times during the novel. Hughey created so much sympathy between reader and character, it was impossible not to become worried for Lily and Theo when things seemed dire, and proud in their individual triumphs.

Although, it was hard for me to picture the village, I think at one point I caught myself picturing 1950’s London instead of 800AD.

This novel is quite long, because I believe it takes the time to be genuine. Not all problems are solved overnight, well, not in a meaningful and long lasting way.

Read if you want a well written novel about characters and meaningful love. Avoid if you want a quickie, pardon the pun, but I cannot move away from the comparison.


(Reviewed by Countess Sarah – 5 Crown Read – Sovereign Queen of Historical Love )

 

 

 

Book Review: “The Courting Campaign” by Regina Scott

“The Courting Campaign” by Regina Scott came to me from Net Galley for review. It is a Love Inspired Historical from Harlequin due to be released August 6, 2013, so put it on your squeaky-clean shelf if you’re only looking for a few kisses. Set in the Regency era, it’s an interesting read with all the right elements of historical romance.

Miss Emma Pyrmont has been hired as a nanny to a precocious four-year old girl in the household of Sir Nicholas Rotherford, run by his sister-in-law, Mrs. Dunworthy.  Emma is a sweet lady, with a sad childhood, who is happy to begin a new chapter in her life. She reminds me of another Emma – outspoken, a mind of her own, and scheming to bring two people together.  She’s a matchmaker in another sense.

Upon early observation in her position, she discovers that Sir Nicholas is unable to connect with his daughter.  He’s a philosopher and scientist driven by a mission to invent a lamp for coal miners that is safe and useful.  His mind is set upon a singular path, and the world spins around him unnoticed while he hides away working.  Emma, of course, finds his behavior unacceptable. She doesn’t want to see Alice, her charge, growing up feeling neglected and unloved as she once did.  Her mission is one of the same, only on an emotional level. Emma’s task isn’t easy, as she also deals with  the difficult Mrs. Dunworthy and a past that won’t seem to let her go.

The setting is 1815 near the Peak District, Derbyshire, England. The book is a good read.  Regina Scott is a talented writer that keeps the interest of her readers. With a background in real life as a technical writer for scientists, she apparently used her knowledge to build Sir Nicholas’ character. He’s a complex man who analyzes everything around him, with a habit of tapping his finger on his thigh.  At times I wanted to grab his hand and hold it still. The author goes into great length building his character and does an equally fine job with Emma.  There is quite a bit of text, however, about Sir Nicholas’ quest to build a lamp that is safe for workers in the mines. Be prepared not only for his male mindset but his inventive one as well.  Depending on your level of 19th century scientific interest in this area, you may find it a bit tedious.

“The Courting Campaign” has its usual plot twists that you may or may not see coming.  They are there, of course, to add the conflict needed to push the story along to its intended end.  Emma and Sir Nicholas’ relationship as a romantic pair develops slowly. Emma believes she wouldn’t want to marry a man like Nicholas because of his neglect of family, and Nicholas believes he would make a terrible husband because of past mistakes in a previous marriage.  In the end, like all romances, they come to realize they love one another.

Though my past two books have been on the squeaky-clean side, I still hoped for a bit more.  Since this is a Love Inspired Historical, it is once again sprinkled with Christian values and silent prayers uttered throughout the book. Emotional intimacy rather than sexual are the guidelines for this genre on the publisher’s submission page.

In my opinion, though, men and women who fall in love still have an attraction that goes beyond those confines. In this genre, those emotions are never expressed, which I find making the “falling-in-love” part somewhat bland. Attraction begins at many levels and not with just a meeting of the minds. You can keep a story clean, but be honest about the deep human emotions, yearnings, and temptations we all experience – even as Christians.  As Marianne Dashwood declared in the movie version of Sense & Sensibility:

“To love is to burn – to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise.”

“The Courting Campaign” is a slow burn rather than a story of blazing adoration. Over all, I’d give it 4 Crowns – Princess of a Charming Story for the writing, character development, and plot.

One last comment, the formatting on Kindle was terribly inconsistent.  Not sure what happened but the font size changed to extremely big on some pages and then back to normal on others.  The basic paragraph formatting was inconsistent throughout, as well as an obvious area of “hard” returns (not good in eBooks) that screwed a few pages up entirely.  Hopefully, they will correct before release. (Reviewed by Countess Victoria)

 4

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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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