Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: The Saint Who Stole My Heart by Stefanie Sloane

Reading Romances June Challenge:
1) Read a book that has a reference to a fairytale, either title, character or plot.
2) Read a book that has an athlete as a character or has a sports-themed plot
3) Read a Stand-Alone book.
4) Read a book that has Wedding, Marriage, Proposal, Bride, Groom or Engagement in the title or has a Wedding theme cover.
5) Read an m/m romance book or a book that has at least one prominent gay or lesbian character.
6) Royalty theme: Read a book that has the words King, Queen, Lord, Earl, Duke, or any other royal title.
7) Repeat Day (June3) Read a book where the first letter repeats for both an author’s first and last name. (Ex. Lora Leigh, Amanda Ashley, Beverly Barton, etc) <-- I picked this one

 * * *

I had problems with the previous book and was very hesitant to read this book but I read the blurb and it involves a heroine who loves books so --

This is part of Stefanie Sloane's Regency Rogues/Young Corinthians series but this "trilogy" focuses on a group of friends: Dashiell Matthews, Langdon and Nicholas Bourne and Sophia Southwell --

Fifteen years ago, childhood innocence and youthful dreams all ended when they stumbled upon the body of Lady Afton, Sophia's mother, who was murdered in her own house. The mystery of her death was never solved and it continues to haunt the four children even as they went their separate ways.

Now Nicholas is back from India and, during a friendly game of cards which Sophia wins, she demands as her prize that the three help her find her mother's murderer.

Dash, Nicholas and Langdon are all members of the spy network, the Young Corinthians, and they've discovered that the murder of Lady Afton is connected to a series of murders of members of the families of their organization. The man responsible for the murders is known as The Bishop.

Eager to settle everything in the past and move forward, Dash is handling his father's last unfinished business, which involves his library that he has bequeathed to a good friend, Baron Harcourt.

Elena Barnes is a student of Ancient Myths and wants to ensure that the very rare Abecedary Illustrations of Greek Mythology by Giacomo Paolini is safely transported to her father's library in Dorset. She wants to complete the task as quickly as possible because nothing in London appeals to her -- well, except the very handsome Dash, Viscount Carrington.

In a case of terrible first impressions, Elena believes Dash isn't her intellectual equal and Dash thinks Elena is a bluestocking through and through.

Surprise is an important part of the story -- the playfulness of being surprised balances out very nicely with the seriousness of the murder plot --

"You really do wear blue stockings," Dash exclaimed, ridiculously delighted by the discovery.
- p. 55

I must say this was an immensely enjoyable read and is, perhaps, Stefanie Sloane's best work yet. The very compelling backstory added to the set of multi-faceted characters (The Furies are my favorite. ^_^) makes this trilogy a very, very promising one.

I am looking forward to the next installment: The Scoundrel Takes a Bride, which is set for release October 2012.

To find out more about the author and her books, visit her website. Stefanie Sloane is also on Facebook.
Friday, June 29, 2012

Review: A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant

Will Blackshear is back from the war and resuming his life as a gentleman of leisure. Will has returned unscathed and everything is fine. That is the facade he presents to the world. Within Will Blackshear roils despair and darkness and a secret sin that Will is desperately seeking absolution for.

Lydia Slaughter discarded her heart and soul long ago, believing she has no use for either one. She has a body that presently ensures her bills get paid and a mind for numbers that ensures her future. Lydia is done with sentimentality and tenderness -- now she deals with numbers and odds. A very specific number: 2000. Pounds sterling. She plans to invest wisely and believes it will be enough for her to secure her independence and to live modestly and comfortably.

Will was never part of Lydia's plans but Will had been drawn to Lydia the first moment he saw her -- and he tries to make sense of his attraction to this woman:

He watched her now, her eyelids lowered and her fingers precise as she fanned out her freshly dealt hand. Not beautiful, no. Pretty, perhaps. Or rather handsome: a young man could have worn that aquiline nose to advantage, and that fiercely etched brow.

She studied her cards without moving any of them -- though the game was whist and all three of her companions were rearranging their cards by suit -- and glanced across at her partner. Gray-blue eyes, expressive of nothing. She could hold all trumps and you'd never know.
- p. 7

But Lydia is someone else's mistress and Will's too broken to even think of having a relationship with a woman -- so they proceed on parallel paths, both seeking to gain the money they each need for their personal agenda.

Soon they discover that, by working together, they could achieve their goals more quickly -- but Lydia is the one with the head for numbers and Will is the one who can get into the card games -- so the lessons begin.

Lydia is Scheherazade -- each night, she steals away from the party and the card games to meet with Will and she teaches him about luck and odds. And Will is entranced by this very intelligent woman who gifts him the secrets of her mind but not of her heart.

"You don't need to trust me. ... In fact I don't advise it. But please trust the odds."
- p. 162

This is a very different love story. It is set in Regency but it is unlike any other Regency novel -- the characters are not gilded and luminous but tarnished beyond recognition. Will and Lydia are all shadows and gray.

Lydia has long acknowledged her brokenness and fallen state --

"A harlot is still a harlot on Sundays."
- p. 186

And it is Will who unravels and gets undone in the story -- he clings to control and restraint (as his name implies) and social decency but he realizes, in the end, that it is in letting go that he will be healed. (See p. 309-310)

I will admit that this story is not for everyone. Parts of it are too painful and too sad to read -- but there is a thoughtfulness in this story and a haunting melancholy that will leave you quiet and in awe of the redemptive power of love.

This is Cecilia Grant's second installment in her Blackshear Family series. The next book, A Woman Entangled will be released in Spring 2013.

To find out more about the author and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Final note: This is a wonderfully eloquent admission of love:

"If I'm not in love with you already I'm within striking distance of that state." - p. 276 (Will to Lydia)
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Princess Charming by Nicole Jordan

Reading Romances June Challenge:
1) Read a book that has a reference to a fairytale, either title, character or plot.
2) Read a book that has an athlete as a character or has a sports-themed plot
3) Read a Stand-Alone book.
4) Read a book that has Wedding, Marriage, Proposal, Bride, Groom or Engagement in the title or has a Wedding theme cover.
5) Read an m/m romance book or a book that has at least one prominent gay or lesbian character.
6) Royalty theme: Read a book that has the words King, Queen, Lord, Earl, Duke, or any other royal title. <-- I picked this one
7) Repeat Day (June3) Read a book where the first letter repeats for both an author’s first and last name. (Ex. Lora Leigh, Amanda Ashley, Beverly Barton, etc)

* * *

Ashton Wilde, Marquess of Beaufort is the eldest of the Wildes and the de facto* head of the family.

*There is Uncle Cornelius Wilde who serves as guardian to the Wildes but he is often sleeping or too deeply engrossed in his studies.

He glimpses an acquaintance, Maura Collyer, sneaking off at the ball and decides to follow her -- he discovers that Maura is trying to negotiate the return of her beloved horse from Lord Deering and decides to step in to try to level the playing field.

Maura is the daughter of a disgraced horse breeder who died before he could clear his name -- their family's one claim to fame is their horse, Emperor -- a highly sought-after stud that Maura's stepmother rashly sold to Lord Deering in order to advance her two daughter's positions in society.

Now Ashton has included himself in Maura's troubles and his sister, Katharine, decides it might be time for Ashton to find his one true love -- and she believes it is Maura. As Ashton helps Maura regain her horse, he realizes that what his sister claims might be true.

This is the first book in Nicole Jordan's new series: Legendary Lovers and features the Wildes, siblings and cousins who are as wild and as passionate as their name implies.

When I found out the premise of this series, I was excited -- taking legendary lovers in history and reworking their stories into historical romances sounded interesting. I was greatly disappointed when the premise was introduced in the first book. It is my impression that Nicole Jordan intends for her characters to playact the roles of the legendary lovers.

"According to family legend, we Wildes never lose our hearts readily, but when we find our one true mate, we love passionately and for life. Quite a number of our ancestors were celebrated lovers, including all of our parents. But none of us has found true love yet.


And why haven't we fallen in love? ... Because we have not met our true mates yet. The things is, I think I have hit upon a way to solve our problem.


We have only to look to legendary lovers in history ... Literature is filled with classic, timeless tales of love that can lead us to find our own matches. In short, I am proposing that we attempt to follow un the footsteps of the world's greatest lovers.


I have researched very carefully ... and have spent countless hours quizzing Uncle Cornelius about various possibilities to fit our needs. His vast store of knowledge has proved invaluable."
- p. 51-52

* * *

Skye spoke again, giving Ash a reprieve. "You said you have you have tales in mind for the rest of us, Katharine. What is your legend to be?"

... "I expect I will have to settle for Shakespeare's comedy, The Taming of the Shrew. You know my temperament. And my name is even spelled like the Bard's Katharine."

- p. 55

And Katharine goes on to identify the stories for the rest of her siblings and cousins: Jack's story is Romeo and Juliet, Quinn's story is Pygmalion, and Katharine hasn't found a story for Skye yet.

I wish the author didn't do a too literal interpretation of the premise and I really wanted to believe in the story. I wanted to believe that a man can instantly decide to embody Prince Charming and point to someone to be Cinderella and then fall in love.

But even that seemed too difficult for this particular Prince Charming, Ash, because his Cinderella, Maura, seemed to love her horse more than anything and anyone.

I did not feel any chemistry between the two -- Maura makes a bad decision because she is very passionate about saving her horse and Ash steps in to fix everything.

Example #1: At the ball when Maura first approaches Lord Deering. (Chapter 1)

Example #2: When Maura and Ash meet Deering while riding and Deering whips Emperor in front of Maura -- and Maura retaliates by hitting Deering with his whip. (Chapter 4)

Example #3: When Ash points to the darkening skies and suggests they head for shelter and Maura insists on continuing. Rain pours down and Emperor loses a shoe. (Chapter 10)

This was a story with promising characters (the Wildes) but a disappointing plot. Will I be reading the next book? Yes, I am curious enough about Jack and how he intends to be Romeo. (Upon checking the author's website, there is no release date for the second book.)

To find out more about Nicole Jordan and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sharing My Favorite Book Giveaway Hop (International)

This event is being hosted by Nat of Reading Romances and the idea is to share a favorite read.

I'm cheating a bit because I'm sharing my favorite reads (plural) -- all by one author, Sherry Thomas.

I discovered Sherry Thomas by accident and, I admit, it was a case of judging a book by its very beautiful cover.

I had just had my second child and my husband was on a trip and I asked him to find me a copy of Private Arrangements -- he found the very last copy at the bookstore and brought it home to me.

I read it in one sitting. And this was a book that had me crying. Yes, crying -- not teary or misty-eyed, but full-on no-holds-barred sobbing/hiccuping/gulping/crying at 2 o'clock in the morning --

It's been four years and five books and I have enjoyed every word and every page of Sherry Thomas's books. Her sixth book (and the second installment in her Fitzhugh Trilogy), Ravishing the Heiress, will be released July 2012. (Yes, I have pre-ordered that and also the last part of the trilogy, Tempting the Bride, which will be released in October 2012.)

To read my review of the first book in the Fitzhugh Trilogy, click here: Beguiling the Beauty by Sherry Thomas.

To find out more about Sherry Thomas and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

*This giveaway is via Rafflecopter and is open to International Readers
*One entry per household, per IP address.
*This giveaway will run until June 30.
*Rafflecopter will select one (1) winner who can choose any paperback copy of a book written by Sherry Thomas. (Book will be ordered through Book Depository so, please make sure Book Depository ships to your country.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop on to the other bloggers and read about their favorite books:
Saturday, June 23, 2012

Pay It Forward Giveaway Hop (International)

This event is being hosted by Roofbeam Reader and Shooting Star Mag and the idea is
to share "a book, author, or item which you believe deserves more attention, thus “paying it forward” to your readers and the author/product who you are promoting." (from the Pay It Forward Giveaway Hop post on Roofbeam Reader's blog.)

For this giveaway, I'd like to share one author, one novel, and one blog:

The author I'd like to feature is Courtney Milan.  Three months into opening my blog, I had a readership of two (me and a friend).  Courtney Milan happens to be one of my favorite authors and one of my earliest reviews was for her novel, Unraveled.  I read it, enjoyed it thoroughly and wrote my review of it.

Then the most amazing thing happened:  Courtney Milan blurbed me! -- That was probably the most happiest, most awesome moment of my life. ^_^

She's currently working on a new series, The Brothers Sinister and she introduced the series with an e-novella, The Governess Affair.

It's a wonderful e-novella and has one of my favorite heroines for 2012.

This will be followed by The Duchess War, which will be available late Summer 2012.  The rest of series will be released late 2012 to early 2013.

To find out more about Courtney Milan and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

The novel I'd like to share is Ruined by Rumor written by Alyssa Everett.

Love Saves the World is a young blog and I consider myself to still be in the baby stages of blogdom. I'm excited for every milestone that my blog experiences: my first comment, my first follower, my first giveaway, etc.

Ruined by Rumor is the first ARC that I received. I had requested about 3 and was promptly rejected by 2 of them, but Carina Press was kind enough to allow me to read Alyssa Everett's debut* novel.

It's an amazing story and I felt grateful to Carina Press for allowing me an early view of such a great work.

When the book was released, I was going to buy myself a copy but, I decided that I would, instead, share the joy of reading this book with another reader. I've just been waiting for an opportunity to do so and I am glad that I stumbled upon this giveaway hop, which is an excellent chance for me to say "thank you" to Alyssa Everett.

To find out more about Alyssa Everett, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Finally, I'd like to share Leah's blog: White Sky Project. Leah offered a really great prize during one of her giveaways, a chance for a feature on her blog. I won it and was so excited to do my first guest blogpost. ^_^

My favorite feature on White Sky Project is T-Shirt Thursday where she highlights t-shirt designs that she's found online.

*This giveaway is via Rafflecopter and is open to International Readers
*One entry per household, per IP address.
*This giveaway will run until June 30.
*Rafflecopter will select two (2) winners:
1 winner will win an e-copy of Ruined by Rumor by Alyssa Everett (via Kindle only)

1 winner will win an e-copy of The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan (via Kindle or Smashwords)

Click here to read my review of Ruined by Rumor.
Click here to read my review of The Governess Affair.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop on to the other bloggers and read about how they are "paying it forward":

Linky List:

  1. Roof Beam Reader (Int)
  2. Shooting Stars Mag (Int)
  3. Karen White Audiobooks (USA)
  4. BookHounds (USA)
  5. BookHounds YA (USA)
  6. Jinky is Reading (Int)
  7. Abel G. de la Cruz (UK)
  8. Noble Valerie (USA)
  9. There's A Book (US/Canada)
  10. Life as a Spaz (Int)

  1. Tales of an Intrepid Pantster (USA)
  2. Leeswamme's Blog (Int)
  3. The Lupine Librarian (USA)
  4. Sweeping Me (USA/CAN)
  5. Kristen Pelfrey Writes (USA)
  6. Love Saves the World(Int)
  7. Reading With a Broken Heart (Int)
  8. Book Addict (Int)
  9. Cheryl Rainfield (Int)
  10. Candace's Book Blog (Int)
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Seduction of Lady X by Julia London

I love reading romance novels with seemingly impossible scenarios and this is one of them: Harrison Tolly has worked as a steward for the Carey family for fifteen years and, has been secretly in love with Olivia, Lady Carey from the first moment he saw her.

Harrison is an honorable man, despite his less than spotless origins (he's the bastard son of a courtesan), and never reveals his feelings to Olivia, his Lady X.

To complicate matters even more, Olivia's younger sister, Alexa, comes home from a tour of Spain pregnant and refuses to name the father. In order to protect Olivia and her sister from Edward, Lord Carey's wrath, Harrison steps in and offers to marry Alexa.

As Harrison tries to sort out the mess that he has made of things, Mr. Fish from Hadley Green pays him a visit and informs him that he is the rightful heir of Ashdown, which Harrison immediately refuses -- choosing to live as a steward in order to be near Lady Carey.

So how does one tell the love story of two people who cannot express their love for one another?

"...does she ... does Lady X know of your regard?"

"Apparently not," he said dryly.

Lady Carey bit her lower lip. "But if she knew, she might ..."

"She might what?" he asked impatiently. "Leave her husband and live in reduced circumstances with her reputation destroyed? No, madam. To confess my affection and esteem to Lady X is to compromise her completely, and I would never dishonor her."

Lady Carey looked up then, her eyes full of understanding.

And sadness.
p. 143

In The Seduction of Lady X, Julia London explores what people are willing to endure for the sake of love. Harrison was willing to sacrifice his future, his legacy, his fortune, and his name for his love for Olivia. Olivia sacrificed her chance at happiness and freedom for love of her sister.

Admittedly, the author resorts to a convenient way to resolve the tangled muddle our hero and heroine find themselves in but, then again, I think it works to balance out the plot -- I think it would have been too much if she gave a complicated solution to the problem. (Think Occam's Razor)

Is this the last installment in Julia London's Secrets of Hadley Green series? In some sense, it feels like it is: an heir to Ashdown has been found and the question about the missing jewels has been answered -- though it was answered a bit too casually with a one-line answer from Harrison (p. 330), though -- and the revelations regarding Hadley Green wasn't much in the spotlight in this book. In fact, it felt like a postscript added after London resolved Harrison and Lady X's story.

That aside, this was an amazingly written story -- very daring and ambitious, putting your hero and heroine in a complicated situation but Julia London proves her skill in creating one of the most moving love stories I have read this year.

Do I want this to be the end of the Hadley Green series? No and I hope that it isn't! Julia London has created a scandalous but compelling set of characters -- these are not saints or paragons, but they are lovable, flaws and all.

This is the third book in Julia London's The Secrets of Hadley Green series. The other books in the series are:

Book 1: The Year of Living Scandalously
Book 1.5: The Christmas Secret (e-novella)
Book 2: The Revenge of Lord Eberlin
Book 3: The Seduction of Lady X

For more information about Julia London and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Sunday, June 17, 2012

No Longer a Gentleman by Mary Jo Putney

Cassie Fox is a woman with no home and no name of her own. She lost her family during the Reign of Terror in France and has devoted her life to the downfall of Napoleon's regime.

She's working as a spy for the British and her latest mission requires her to rescue Grey Sommers, Lord Wyndham, who has been missing in action for the past ten years and is presumed dead.

Grey Sommers never dreamed he'd see sunlight again or feel another person's touch. He has survived ten years of solitary confinement and has managed to keep his sanity -- barely.

Grey is drawn to Cassie. Initially, he believes it is only her proximity and his desperation that is fueling the attraction but, as they slowly make their way to the coast of France and to freedom, he discovers a woman who is capable and courageous -- a woman whose love and esteem he could never be worthy of.

Cassie Fox is an amazing heroine. She's definitely one of my favorites for this year (the other one would be Courtney Milan's Serena Barton). She's a very good spy and has used her "plain-ness" in her covert work. Being half-French, she often finds herself in France, gathering information for the British.

But Cassie is far from plain, in fact, she's extraordinary. What I loved about her is that Cassie never incites pity -- even as she recounts the tragedy of her life, it is not pity that one feels for her -- it is admiration. She is very matter-of-fact about the life she has chosen to live.

Grey Sommers has never had to work hard for anything in his life -- everything just comes easily to him and he thought it would be the same when he agreed to do a bit of spy work for Kirkland's agency.

Except it wasn't that easy -- and he got caught.

For the first time in his life, Grey needed to work hard towards a goal -- even in solitary confinement, he sought to maintain his physical and mental fitness. The years in captivity have sobered Grey and he longs for a chance to live a better life.

I think Putney really understands her characters and is able to present, very clearly, the sense of hopelessness and melancholy that both Cassie and Grey feel. It is very easy for readers to empathize with these two characters, who have experienced far too much but have emerged from their experience changed for good.

There is a binariness to our hero and heroine -- strong and not strong; weak and not weak; hopeless but not irreversibly so -- they're damaged but not shattered. But the one singular, luminous thing about them is that they love each other.

"I want to be special to you, Cassandra," he said starkly. "At the beginning I didn't care if you lay with me from pity or duty, but now I do care. I ... I want to be more than just another assignment."
- p. 189

There is no coyness or hesitation in Grey and Cassie -- these two people understand the mutability of life so they approach it with deliberateness and urgency.

I read this book in one sitting and loved it.

This is the fourth book in Mary Jo Putney's Lost Lords series. To find out more about the series and the author, visit her website.
Friday, June 15, 2012

Guest Post: Growing Up a Reader by K. Reed

I'm very excited to welcome K. Reed to Love Saves the World.

K. recently concluded a very successful virtual book tour to promote her debut novel and she generously agreed to do a guest post where I ask her to talk about the books she read growing up and how they influenced her as a writer.

Here's what K. wrote:

* * *

Growing up, I read everything from Agatha Christie to all the Harlequin books I could grab from my mom’s reading pile. Reading those probably didn’t immediately shape how I wanted my books to read, but in retrospect they certainly did make a lasting impression!

I want a strong heroine. Not one who’s strong but bitchy (though we can all use a good bitch every now and then). Strong doesn’t equal mean, it means standing up for yourself and your beliefs. In thinking about those Harlequin romances, it also means having your own beliefs, not just carbon copies of whoever influenced you before the hero happened by to show you the error of your misbegotten ways.

I want a mystery I can’t guess in the first 5 chapters. But then I also want a mystery that makes sense at the wrap-up. Writing a good mystery is incredibly difficult! I prefer thrillers, where you don’t have to keep the bad guy a secret until the big reveal at the end. Makes things easier.

I want heat. I want the tension between my hero and heroine to sizzle, I want it to leap off the page, then I want to read about it. I don’t want to imagine (though I have a pretty good imagination!) I want it to be there, not behind a closed door but against one.

And I want it all wrapped up in a book that flows with awesomeness.

What about you? What were your favorite books growing up and what do you read now?

* * *

Thank you, K!

K. Reed is the author of the dystopian regency romance novel, Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire.

The once glittering ballrooms of Regency England now lay desolate. A plague has ravaged the countryside. The government has fallen. What vestiges of order remained have been consumed by the endless funeral pyres.

Grayson, once the Baron of Harwich, sought only to protect his people. Rescuing a half-dead woman was not among his plans. But something about her pulled at him. Perhaps it was her beauty, still evident beneath the pallor of loss. Perhaps it was the recently fired rifle at her side. Or maybe he simply tired of death. All he knew was that the plague had taken too much already. He couldn’t let it take her as well.

Lady Juliette Adair had been ready to die with her brother. She didn't expect to be shown mercy in a world that had no room for mercy. When Grayson saved her, she questioned his motives but soon found herself intrigued by him, drawn to him.

Societal rules were a thing of the past, dead along with the ton. Juliette had no manner by which to measure her growing closeness to Grayson any longer. But when she discovers he may not be the man she thought she knew more is at stake than just her heart. The secrets she carries could make a king or destroy one.

Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire is available at:
All Romance
Barnes and Noble

Visit K's blog! Click here.

Read my review of Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire here!
Thursday, June 14, 2012

Asher's Invention by Coleen Kwan (e-novella/ARC)

Five years ago, Asher Quigley walked away from his apprenticeship and his fiancee -- his work and idealism stolen by his mentor and he believes his fiancee, Minerva, helped her father steal his invention: a prototype perpetual energy machine.

He's moved on, gaining fame and fortune for saving Ireland from the Potato Blight -- he never thought to see or hear about Minerva Lambkin or her father or his stolen machine ever again.

Until Minerva comes knocking at his door, desperately seeking his help: her father has been kidnapped and she needs the millennium machine to work in order to save her father.

While Asher's life has been charmed, the Lambkins' lives have been in decline -- for all of Minerva's father's engineering skills, he could not replicate Asher's success in creating a miniature prototype of a perpetual energy machine -- money has been frittered away in gambling dens and his investors are getting impatient.

Minerva loved Asher five years ago and it devastated her when Asher would not believe that she was not involved in her father's schemes. With her father's life at stake, she has no recourse or resource left, except for Asher Quigley.

This is what I liked about the book: It's incredibly well-researched and I enjoyed reading about the engineering/technology parts of the story. I could feel the excitement in Asher and Minerva as they discuss their inventions and about the infinite possibilities of their discoveries.

When a circle of promethium magnets was correctly and precisely placed, their combined magnetic fields unlocked the power of the aether-sphere in the form of an electromagnetic current, which could then be harnessed through a series of copper coils.
- p. 33

The steampunk element is very consistent in the story and Kwan does a good job of placing small details in the background, enough to remind the readers that this is a very different sort of world.

Unfortunately, I had trouble accepting the premise of the story: I did not feel Asher had enough reason to agree to help Minerva. Granted, it is mentioned several times how noble and honorable he is -- his acceptance of Minerva seemed a bit too sudden. The reason definitely isn't about helping his old mentor or to see whether he could make the machine work (p. 24) --

This is I think connected to the lack of chemistry between Asher and Miranda -- the way their attraction to each other is described, I felt it was purely physical.

Heart palpitations, palsied hands, lack of appetite and a tendency to daydream over his sublime beauty -- to her he resembled a magnificent Greek statue of Hermes -- had seized her like an attack of ague. She had loved him unreservedly, and though time had crusted over that wound, it had not healed it.
- p. 30

Minerva never gives them a chance to develop their relationship -- I thought she was a heroine who didn't really know who she was or what she wanted:

She was desperate enough to seek Asher out after not seeing him for 5 years but, when she's finally there, it seems she's discovered that she can manage things on her own anyway --

"I'll return to my workshop and fashion my own millennium machine. I have a few parts that might do.


Let me assure you, I did not come here expecting you to rescue me. I'm not some helpless female, and I certainly don't need anyone to be my nursemaid. I came here only to ask if you could make a replica of your millennium machine That is all. Since you cannot, that is the end of the matter."
- p. 26

Throughout the story, she constantly reminds Asher that they should not revisit the past and, yet, she constantly brings it up at every opportunity.

She does redeem herself in the end when she finally articulates what she wants for herself:
"I want to be an independent woman. Don't you see? ... All my life I've been subject to other people's whims ..."
- p. 121

Fans of steampunk romances will appreciate the adventure Kwan offers in her story. The novella also makes good use of the dictionary feature of our e-readers. It was my first time, in a very long time, to encounter the word "titivate" and Kwan uses a mix of slang gives the proper atmosphere (but jars the reader).

This is Coleen Kwan's first historical romance novel. She previously published a contemporary romance, When Harriet Came Home.
To find out more about the author, visit her website. Coleen Kwan is also on Facebook.

Final note: The word "lounge" is misspelled in all three instances that it is used in the novella: pp. 28, and 59.

Disclosure: I received an ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Carina Press for accepting my request.)
Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dark Inheritance: Fallen Empire by K. Reed

The plague has returned to England and the Regency has been destroyed -- first, by disease and then, by panic and riot.

In the midst of chaos, Grayson, Baron Harwich, strives to maintain order and security for the people who depend on him. On a scouting/recovery mission, he stumbles upon a lady -- lying in a room that is filled with death and decay. But the beautiful lady is dignified despite all that.

With scarce resources and too many mouths already depending on him, Grayson breaks his own rules and rescues her.

Lady Juliette did not want to be rescued. She had resigned herself to her fate -- but this man, who seemed so alive and so vital had wanted her to live and has taken her away to his barony. His dedication to her gives her to strength to live and his dedication to his people gives her a reason to hope.

For Juliette holds a very important key to the rebuilding of England -- but, first, she must determine who is worthy of her trust and her gift of power.

While reading, I was impressed with how organized K. presents the story. The action is clear, making it easy for the readers to follow the sequence of events.

This is how Grayson finds Juliette:

He didn't know what made him look, what sound captured his attention, but he suddenly knew he was not alone. Cursing his carelessness, he drew his sword and looked around. There, on the opposite side of the bed, pushed against the wall.

She lay on a settee, head resting on one arm, dark hair falling down the side of the sofa. He glanced to the bed, to the man there, and wondered who the dead pair were. She looked to have survived the plague; her face and neck were thin and smooth. Died of neglect, then. The last living being in the house and she couldn't summon the strength to feed herself.

His eyes locked on the rifle lying just under her reach. Sheathing his sword, it was then he noticed that powder marks blackened her hands and were smudged along her face and neck. He quickly scanned the area, a small bag of powder and a case of shot rested on a nearby chair.
- pp 8-9

There is a duality to the roles each character plays: the French are seen as savior by some and as scourge by others; Grayson is both benevolent and ruthless as a leader; Broadwood is seen as Grayson's ally but also his greatest threat -- and Lady Juliette must decide who to bestow her gift: a secret cache of weapons, enough for an army to control England.

Like an expert chess player, Reed positions all the players in her story in a game of politics and diplomacy:

Diana, Helen and Juliette, like the queen pieces, are able to maneuver quickly and adeptly -- ferreting out secrets and information that is critical to the power play between Harwich and Broadwood and, oftentimes, the women would discover the information before the men --

"I had a conversation with Grayson's guest," Diana began in a soft voice.

"Oh? And what have you gleaned from her?" Wesley continued to gesture as he asked this.


"Your opinion of Lady Juliette seems accurate, she conceded. "She's very intelligent and quite well aware of the circumstances in which she finds herself." Diana paused and said, "She's trying to fit in, find her place here. I don't sense she's manipulating Grayson in any way."
- pp. 80-81

* * *

Instead she'd focus on the weakest point -- Helen. To the first maid she saw, she instructed the girl to fetch Helen for a private tete a tete.

Unthinkingly turning for her rooms, Juliette paused on the landing before turning for Helen's rooms. She'd have her private conversation with Helen and would learn everything the other woman knew about Broadwood's plans.


She knew how to do this. Granted, it'd been a while and she was a bit rusty, but delicately extracting information, particularly from women, was a game Juliet knew well.
- pp 212-213

Throughout the story, we see the characters maneuver for position and loyalties are tested. I love Wesley and his sister, Diana. They are consistent and clear-minded about their objectives. Diana is especially discerning and observant:

Crossing to the desk, Diana leaned against it and tried to puzzle out Juliette. She as an odd woman, but these were strange circumstances they found themselves in.
- p. 201

The endgame (Chapters 34 - 43) is a skillfully staged set and the tension is intense! When all the pieces are in place, K. Reed keeps you hanging -- will it be a checkmate or a draw? (Picture a scene where one can hear a pin drop and where one can see sweat slowly bead down a man's face. -- not sure if that made sense.)

The one weak point in the story is the romance aspect -- I felt the courtship/romance between Grayson and Juliette was very sparse and needed more exposition. I did not really see them interact much (except to have sex).

Overall, this was a solid debut. It was refreshing to read about a very different kind of England and a very different kind of historical romance. It was interesting to see how each character responds to such an unthinkable situation: the opportunist, the ambitious, the defender, the idealist, the realist -- when rank no longer matters and survival is the only goal, I wonder which one I would be.

Disclosure: ARC provided by author. Yes, this is an honest and sincere review.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Inconvenient Seduction by Ava Young (e-book)

When Lucy Nightingale first meets Marcus Sommerville, she never expected this man would be the answer to her problems. She was swimming naked in the early hours of the morning at the nearby bath and wash house and he was also swimming, also naked in the same pool at the same time. (Except Lucy shouldn't be there because St. George's is only for men.)

But that first meeting leaves both Lucy and Marcus curious about the other and, when Lucy finds out that Marcus might be able to help her with the dire financial predicament she finds herself in, she approaches him with an offer.

An honorable one: he'll lend her the full amount she needs to pay off her father's loan and she'll pay him back with interest for three years.

But Marcus counters her offer with a dishonorable one: in exchange for the loan, Marcus wants Lucy as his mistress.

Of course Lucy refuses but she cannot allow Marcus to walk away and after much negotiations, she agrees to two dinners and a show with him.

Ever the businessman, Marcus is determined to profit as much from each encounter as he can.

The first thing that drew me to this book are the descriptions: Ava Young is very good at writing clear, image-invoking descriptions of everything --

I love that she describes Lucy's small chocolate shop, Nightingale's as a "sliver of a shop" (loc 48) and how Piccadilly Street is like "a picture gallery, with live people in frames." (loc 2813)

As I was reviewing all the passages I highlighted while reading the story, I discovered that a majority of those highlights had to do with Young's vivid description of things, people and places. The author makes us aware of everything else that usually happens while the hero and heroine are courting.

This is both a plus (+) and a minus (-), I think. I enjoyed the detailed description and narration of the gathering at Mr and Mrs Grey's house in Chapter 7 -- a chapter where the hero and heroine do not interact at all.

He stood by himself, observing with amusement some of the wealthiest men in the City clamoring for the attention of Lord Rothmere. They resembled little children gathered around a favorite uncle; one whose aspect was glum and forbidding, but whose pockets always jingled and crackled merrily with the music of small coins and paper-wrapped sweets.
- loc 1422

Ava Young gives us a sense of the world around the hero and heroine. It's a vibrant world -- full of exciting financial possibilities and of interesting people doing the most interesting things (Carrots, Lord and Lady Derrydown, Ada, etc.)

There is a tranche de vie element in Young's novel -- with paragraphs detailing how Marcus swims (Chapter Nine) to details of riding on the upper level of the omnibus through the streets of London (Chapter 14).

But there's also the danger of being too detailed: too many details might shift the reader's focus from the point of the story: the romance between the hero and heroine. This is not a novel for readers who rush through a story, requiring action and excitement with every page. This is a long, leisurely promenade of a book -- not a glimpse or a brief look but a thorough perusal of the lives of Lucy and Marcus and the people around them.

There were times when I felt the book was becoming overdrawn, but what kept me going and turning the pages was Young's injection of lightness and humor into the story.

"Agatha, you look like a ghost. Of the angry, vengeful variety. Do try not to frighten the servants when you return to your room. Good help is terribly hard to find in London."
- loc 2265-2275

Lucy and Marcus are great characters -- Marcus sees the world in terms of money. Everything has a price and everything can be negotiated. I was a bit annoyed at how clueless Marcus was about what Lucy wanted from their relationship and how he only saw Lucy as "mistress material" -- but I realized that it was part of who he was. The world he lives in doesn't have room for sentiment or love.

Lucy's world, on the other hand, is about one of life's little pleasures: chocolate. Lucy's business is about providing delight to her customers. She wants love; Marcus wants an affair -- she stands her ground. But Lucy is not a perfectly consistent character -- I am unsure of what she wanted from Marcus. On one hand, she seemed the typical English girl who is modest and protects her virtue -- but we see her considering an affair with Marcus. Marcus is very clear that he wants her as a mistress so it surprised me when she accepted Marcus's plans to go to his country estate. (Chapter 17) -- Honestly, what did she hope to achieve by going there? And, when Marcus renews his offer to be her protector, why does she feel so upset?

All in all, this was a satisfying read -- despite the sudden shift in point of view and the, sometimes, overlong passages of description and discourse, this novel has a quiet charm and a number of strong points.

This is Ava Young's debut novel. According to the author's notes at the end of this book, she is currently writing the second book in the series and will feature Geoffrey Delauney.

Final note: I love this phrase: "acts of verbal ravishment" - loc 3211
Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sinful by Sharon Page (e-novella)

Ten years ago, Lyan and Estelle exchanged marriage vows in a makeshift ceremony with no priest or witness present -- after spending their wedding night, Lyan wakes up alone with half of his money stolen by Estelle.

Now he must face her again -- as a Bow Street Runner, Lyan was hired to locate Lady Maryanne, an heiress, and Estelle is the last person to see her before she went missing.

Both Lyan and Estelle know that what's in their past hasn't been put to rest at all -- and old emotions threaten to break through to the present. Lyan's ready to pick up where they left off -- but is Estelle?

I like Trevelyan Foxton because he's a man of integrity. When he "married" Estelle ten years ago and consummated the marriage with her, he believed in his heart that she was his wife -- even when she abandoned him, he still remained faithful to his vows to her.

He had a bride. He had made a vow to Sally Thomas. It still stood, in his mind, legal or not. Whether either of them wanted it or not.
- loc 403

I truly wondered what made Estelle (Sally) run away so suddenly -- and why she never looked back and thought if she had made a mistake or not. Instead, she sets up a new identity and a shop --

When it's finally revealed in the end, I didn't think Estelle's reasons were compelling enough for her to run away.

But what's done is done -- and I love how Lyan tries to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward.

Things are more complicated now than before -- Lyan is the missing heir to an earldom and, if Estelle (Sally) thought she had good reasons for leaving him before, she has better reasons for refusing him now.

She couldn't marry him. He was going to be an earl. She was a shopkeeper who wanted to forge an independent life.
- loc 916

I found it ironic that Estelle also helped young ladies elope with their young men -- after Estelle ensured that the men were sincere. Couldn't she see Lyan's sincerity and devotion to her?

This was an okay read -- I can't quite figure out why this story didn't stand out more -- maybe it lacked emotional intensity? Or character development? Even though I did not really see change happen in Estelle, I'm glad Lyan got his happy ending and Sharon Page resolves the mystery of the missing heiress nicely in the end.
Friday, June 1, 2012

My Lady Rival by Ashley March

Two households, both alike in dignity (1)

The Strattons and Lauries run two of the biggest dye-making businesses in the world. Three years ago, Alex Laurie lost an important investor to the Strattons, thanks to Willa Stratton's machinations. This time, as both companies chase after the elusive Madonna dye, a deep blue that was used only once for the Queen's dress, Alex is determined to best her.

Alex and Willa are Ashley March's Romeo and Juliet, but, unlike the star-crossed lovers, the rivalry between our hero and heroine does not stem from their parents but from their own pride and ambition.

Alex believes that the Madonna dye is his family's entry into London Society. He needs it to ensure proper marriages for his sisters (read: titled marriages). He's in London looking for clues related to the disappearance of the dye's creator -- and he is surprised (and annoyed) to see that his old rival is also in town for the same purpose.

Willa Stratton desperately needs the dye. It's her key to freedom from her father and his demand that she marry a man of his choosing. (See p. 121) Unfortunately for her, Alex Laurie wants the same dye.

Three years ago, Willa let Alex believe that she used her feminine wiles in order to secure an important investor for her father's company -- and she's not afraid to do it again.

Their last meeting ended in a kiss and a bitter feeling of betrayal in Alex Laurie. Now, their meeting begins with a flirtation and an almost-kiss at a masquerade. I think Ashley March use of the masquerade as a device is appropriate -- in fiction, a masquerade is a time of fantasy and pretend. The rules of society are put to rest for the magical few hours where everyone is masked and rank and identities are briefly forgotten.

Alex and Willa have fixed roles in society and they play those roles effortlessly. In their public and business personas, they are in competition with each other. But, free of those roles, they are two people who have amazing chemistry with each other. (See Chapters 1 to 4)

The interlude ends with an unmasking, both literally and figuratively -- without their masks, Alex and Willa are forced to confront the truths in front of them:

1. They are both in London for the same reason: the dye.
2. They are attracted to each other.
3. They cannot have each other because of business.

When he straightened, Willa's heart gave a hard thump in her chest. Yes, he was there. It was him. Alex Laurie.

He might be her rival, but he was still one of the most beautiful men she'd ever met.
- p. 72

She is not for me.

She has money but not the connections or influence needed to grow the business of Laurie & Sons.
- p. 277

It is interesting to note that the term rival can also be used to compare two things of equal value (see's definition #1 for rival) -- and we see how our hero and heroine are well-matched for each other. They pursue the dye with the same relentlessnes as they do other things in their lives.

They love the same degree as they hate. They want as badly and desperately as they reject.

They are equal in all things, including passion.

I love the intensity of the two characters. Each encounter is fiercely explosive. While Shakespeare's lovers ended in tragedy, March's Alex and Willa finally set aside their pride to express what it is that they truly want and are rewarded for it in the end.

This is Ashley March's last book written as Ashley March. She has 3 books written as Ashley March:
1. Seducing the Duchess
2. Romancing the Countess
3. My Lady Rival

She has 1 e-novella, Romancing Lady Cecily.

(Yes, I've read all of her works.)

The author now writes under the name Elise Rome. (See the FAQ on her website.) Her first book as Elise Rome, The Sinning Hour will be released June 2012.

To find out more about Ashley March/Elise Rome, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Final note: I felt the tone changed abruptly from Chapter 15 and it took me a while to get back on track.

(1) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Prologue verse 1


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