Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Scandal Before Sunrise by Sabrina Darby (e-novella from the Scandalous Summer Nights Boxed Set)

Three years ago, Abigail Billings was the life of the party: she kept company with dukes and earls, and the most popular debutantes of the season. Then, in the middle of the Season, Abigail abruptly leaves -- never to be heard from or seen for three years.

Now, she's back and her former friends are expecting her to pick up where they all left off, but, the Abigail Billings who has returned to London is more quiet, and more circumspect -- much to her former friends' exasperation and bafflement. The new Abigail is a mystery to everyone, especially to Honorable Elliot Jones.

We've all been taught the importance of making a good first impression, but the thing with Abigail and Elliot is that, Elliot already had an impression of Abigail even before they met. He had expected a fun, bright, and bubbly girl -- and what he got instead was a polite, well-mannered, well-spoken girl. There's nothing wrong with the latter, really, except that it struck Elliot as being terribly inauthentic.

An opportunist. Changeable. With no true identity of her own other than the goal to become a nobleman's wife.

That changeability underscored how very like all the other marriage-seeking females she was.
- Chapter 1

It's very obvious to Elliot that Abigail is hiding her true self and he wants to find out why. I think what starts out as a challenge and a curiosity becomes an exercise in trust and building a relationship and it's wonderful to see how the shift in purpose unfolds between the two: Elliot's initial curiosity deepens into a true desire to get to know Abigail, and Abigail's misgivings of Elliot changes into trust.

"What is your game, Mr. Jones?"

"I want to meet the irrepressible Miss Billings."

"No, you want to meet the young woman with poor judgment who would have ended her Season in scandal is she had not left."
- Chapter 3

My one big problem with this novella was Elliot Jones. I didn't think he was a distinct or a very well-defined character in his own story: his friend, the Duke of Manfrey was more interesting. (I'm very curious about his story with Sasha, Lady Winterbottom). His character didn't develop beyond his physical attractiveness (which Abigail kept noticing). I also felt he judged Abigail too much and was too passive about the goings-on of the Season (and of Abigail).

"Then why me, Abby? I'd be a wretched husband."

"I don't have the luxury of time. I was giving you a chance. I don't know why. Stupidity, I suppose. Not as mature as Lord Norwood thinks me. But ... if you plan to marry someday, Hones, do so now. We'll have time to grow into it."

"All right."


""I'm agreeing to your damnable plan."

For some reason that made her more furious, which was ridiculous.

"But I can't promise fidelity, or love, or anything more than the desire to have you."
- Chapter 5

I thought Sabrina Darby presented a broad picture of London society: of the frivolous and the worthwhile, of the insouciant and the desperate -- Abigail has enjoyed one end of the spectrum and now finds herself on the opposite end. This, perhaps, is this novella's strongest point -- how life is a cycle of ups and downs and how we are humbled by these moments. Sabrina Darby wrote of Abigail's troubles a bit too subtly: her mother runs off with her lover, her family is in dire straits, and there's the scandal threatening to ruin Abigail's reputation -- and the resolution for the third was a bit too quick. I really would have loved to read more of the troubles that Abigail was experiencing, and would have loved to read a more triumphant rise from all those problems. Still, this was another enjoyable read from Sabrina Darby and I look forward to reading the rest of this series. ^_^

Scandal Before Sunrise is Book 0.5 in Sabrina Darby's The Weekly Scandal series. To find out more about Sabrina Darby and her books, click below:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book Review: Our Little Secrets by Merry Farmer

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Charlie has just arrived in Cold Springs, seeking a fresh start for herself and mistakenly thinks Michael West is a porter and asks him to get her luggage. She eventually realises that he's the owner of the town's convenience store and quickly apologises for her error. It's the beginning of a conversation that proceeded with an invitation to dinner and ended with a proposal for marriage. Merry Farmer's Our Little Secrets features a very different spin on two tropes: the mail-order bride, and the marriage of convenience.

...Was she really mad enough to marry a stranger in a frontier town?

Of course she could, she answered herself. Michael West presented her with the opportunity to start over with everything she wanted, a job, a home, and a purpose. It was more than her step-father had ever tempted her with.
- p. 42

Charlie really isn't a mail-order bride, but just happened to be in a train-full of them -- she is, however, like the women onboard the same train, desperate for a new beginning. What's inside her carpet bag? Why is she running away from her step-father?

She's a character with so many secrets, which is fine with Michael West, who also has secrets of his own. He also came from Philadelphia three years before, and the author did a good job of hinting at Michael's secrets: who is Emily? Why did Michael leave Philadelphia? While Michael has done well for himself and has succeeded in Cold Springs, his present life isn't free of trouble: there are the persistent rumours regarding his sexuality, and thugs his competitor hires to intimidate him. I appreciate the balance that Merry Farmer has brought to portraying life in the Historical West: it isn't perfect, but it is, sometimes, people's best option.

It's interesting to see how Charlie and Michael's relationship plays out, agreeing that the past isn't part of their bargain and the compartmentalisation of past/present/future is curious -- and I read on, wondering if it was possible to live a life just in the "now" -- with no thought to the past or the future. It worked for a while, as our hero and heroine go through the honeymoon stage of their marriage -- when that's over, however, is a different story altogether.

..."Is there something you're not telling me?"

She forced a laugh. "There are lots of things I'm not telling you, remember?" She caught her breath and distracted him with, "Will you show me how to fill out the deposit slip?"
- p. 168

We cannot escape our past. We cannot hide our secrets forever. It was riveting seeing Charlie and Michael wrestle with truths that slowly emerged and they became confronted with questions that tested the promises they made to each other before they married and the affection and love that has grown since then.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Merry Farmer's Our Little Secrets. I did get confused by all the characters/people she introduces in Cold Springs, and wished she had taken some time to deepen each character's story, but it did serve to show the greater community (and life) that Charlie and Michael belong to. The author stayed true to her purpose and played up the "secrets" between Charlie and Michael very well, and she did a good job with all the surprises and twists that happen in the story.

The breakthrough character for me was Phin Bell, owner of the bank, and Michael's long-time friend. He left Philadelphia with Michael and has stayed his loyal friend throughout. His story, Somebody to Love, was published this April 2014.

Our Little Secrets is Book 1 in Merry Farmer's Montana Romance series. To find out more about Merry Farmer and her books, click below:


Disclosure: I received this review copy as part of the blog tour event. Thank you to Merry Farmer for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.
Friday, October 17, 2014

Blog Tour: Our Little Secrets by Merry Farmer (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Love Saves the World is pleased to welcome Merry Farmer and her book, Our Little Secrets, the very first book in her popular Montana Romance series.

For this blog tour, Merry is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card, and digital copies of the 4 books in the Montana Romance series: Our Little Secrets, Fool for Love, In Your Arms, and Somebody to Love. (Enter via Rafflecopter below.)

* * *

About Our Little Secrets

OurLittleSecrets-coverMichael West swore he would never fall in love again. So when the beautiful and wily Charlotte steps off the train looking for a new life he jumps at the business opportunity she presents. Engaged forty-five minutes after meeting, married the next day, Michael thinks heís found everything a respectable man should have. Except that Michael is as far from respectable as they come. They agreed not to ask questions about each otherís pasts, but when the past seeps into their present Michael suspects his passionate new wife is not who she says she is. Too bad heís already fallen in love with her.

Charlotte Baldwin has a secret. She fled Philadelphia to escape the sins of her past but someone is following her. What better way to hide than by marrying Michael West, Cold Springs, Montanaís enigmatic shopkeeper? A new name, a new life, and a passionate husband is exactly what she needs to leave her sins behind. But when it comes to keeping secrets Charlotte may have met her match in Michael. When a connection neither of them expects catches up with them, the shocking revelation means Charlotte may have run right into the arms of her enemy.

No sin stays a secret forever ...

Genre classification: Western Historical Romance


He sent her a mischievous side-long glance. “Well, I’m sure you’re aware that Montana has the highest concentration of prostitutes in the United States,” he told her as though sharing a secret joke.

She blinked. A beat later her shock melted into wicked amusement. Her mother would have had a fit at the thought of her daughter living in such a wild town. Then again, that was reason enough to stay. She laughed, holding her free hand to her mouth. “I suppose it’s not funny, really,” she scolded herself, still giggling.

A cowboy leaning against a post across the street glanced up at her laughter. He took off his hat and swept her with a look of appreciation and a whistle. His look wasn’t all that different from the one Michael had just given her.

Then it hit her.

“Oh no,” she gasped.

“Something wrong?”

She winced, praying she hadn’t given the wrong impression. “Mr. West, Michael, I should tell you right now that I’m not one of Miss Helen’s girls.”

He stopped short, studying her eyes as if making sure he’d heard her right. Then he flushed red, his eyes large behind his glasses.

“Oh dear.” She bit her lip.

“I’m sorry.” He didn’t try to hide his mistake. “I never should have --”

“No, it’s understandable.”

“Unforgivable, more like.”

“Was it something I did? Was I too forward?”

“No that wasn’t --”

“In college they always told me I was too forward.”


“I know traveling with Miss Helen makes me look --”

“Oh no, you look lovely. I mean,” he schooled his expression to seriousness, “you clearly don’t belong with them at all.”

She let out a breath and her sheepish smile returned. “I’m sorry. If that’s what you’re looking for I can go on alone.”

“No! No, that’s definitely not what I’m looking for.” The sparkle in his eyes told another story. “Not that you wouldn’t be what I was looking for if I was looking. But I’m not. Looking, I mean. Though I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. That is, you’re quite beautiful. And from back east. It would make sense ... in a way.”

A grin spread from her lips to her chest. He had no clue what he was saying, bless his heart. It was charming.

“Forget what I just said.” He gave up, letting out a breath then clearing his throat and standing straighter.

Their eyes met in a moment of collective embarrassment. Charlotte found herself unable to stop the laugh that bubbled up from her throat. He grimaced and laughed with her.

“Never mind,” he said. “I’d still like to treat you to lunch.”

Get Our Little Secrets on AmazonAmazon UKSmashwordsBarnes & Noble, and iBooks.

* * *

About the author

Merry Farmer

Merry Farmer is an award-winning author of Historical Romance and what she likes to call "Sci-Fi for Women".  She lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats and enough story ideas to keep her writing until she is 132.  Her second novel, The Faithful Heart, was a 2102 RONE Award finalist and her unpublished futuristic novel A Man's World won first place in the Novel: Character category at the 2013 Philadelphia Writerís Conference. She is out to prove that you can make a living as a self-published author and to help others to do the same.

Find Merry Farmer on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon Author Page.

* * *


For this blog tour, Merry is giving away a $10 Amazon Gift Card, and digital copies of the 4 books in the Montana Romance series: Our Little Secrets, Fool for Love, In Your Arms, and Somebody to Love.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thusday: Historical Romance Edition

Thank you to Shabby Blogs ( for the free frame!

Happy Thursday, everyone! And welcome to a new feature on Buried Under Romance and Love Saves the World.

What is Throwback Thursday?
Traditionally, Throwback Thursday celebrates nostalgia, asking participants to post a personal photo or an image from their past -- usually from 5 to 10 years ago. There are a lot of book blogs that also do a book-related Throwback Thursday.

The Historical Romance Edition:
Since Mary of Buried Under Romance and I are unapologetic lovers of historical romances, we've decided to focus on our beloved genre.

Here are our rules:
1. It must be posted on a Thursday.
2. It must be a historical romance novel published before October 3, 2008.

Texas Angel by Linda Francis Lee, published May 1994

Caught in a compromising embrace with half-Indian Shane Rivers, Caroline Bromley finds herself abandoned, her reputation shattered, and starts a new life as a teacher in El Paso, but Shane's reappearance brings back the joy and pain of their love.

Linda Francis Lee is currently focusing on writing contemporaries, but she started out with historical romances. I actually haven't read this particular one. Texas Angel is her debut novel, and it seems to be out of print (and isn't mentioned in the author's webpage, but I've read through her Boston-based historical romance series on the Hawthorne brothers, and I remember enjoying them.

To find out more about Linda Francis Lee and her books, click below:

Head over to Mary @ Buried Under Romance and Ki Pha of Doing Some Reading for their picks for Throwback Thursday.^_^

Fellow historical romance readers are welcome to join us. Enter your link below so we can visit your TBT: HR Edition post for the week! (Then go here to copy the Link code to your blogs.)


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