Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: A Gentleman Says "I Do" by Amelia Grey

Reading Romances August Challenge:
1) Read a book that has been made into a movie.
2) Read a book with an older Hero or heroine (AT LEAST mid-to-late thirties).

3) Read a novel that is classified as “chick-lit” or a light, humorous book about a young single, working woman in an urban setting.
4) Read a book that has a character that is involved in any type of arts (music, dance, literature, etc). <-- I chose this one.

5) Read a book that features a “friendship” as its main storyline.

 * * *

The Brentwood Twins have returned to England from Baltimore -- being the newest faces in town, they are the object of much attention. And a lot of that attention is unwanted -- because the Brentwood Twins closely resemble a man who is not their father.

The most audacious piece is a thinly-veiled parody written in the The Daily Herald titled, A Tale of Three Gentlemen written by renowned poet, Sir Phillip Crisp.

Iverson Brentwood is on damage control and has already "convinced" another writer, Lord Waldo, to stop writing about his family -- and he is not happy with the parody and what the parody implies. Iverson has decided to nip the proverbial bud by going directly to Sir Phillip's house to "convince" him not to publish any more.

Except Sir Phillip isn't home and hasn't been home in quite a while. Instead, Iverson meets Sir Phillip's daughter, Catalina.

In a house full of dreamers and "artistic sensibilities," Catalina has had to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground. She needs to -- her family is always one step from penury and financial ruin, she's had to juggle household accounts, merchants' bills along with having to deal with an alcohol-dependent aunt (her aunt calls it "tonic") and an unreliable father who is more often away than at home --

To make ends meet, Catalina has secretly been finishing her father's work for the past three years.

Now that she's met and spoken to Iverson, she realizes that, their "harmless" parody has actually caused harm to the subject of their parody -- and she needs to prevent the publication of the remaining parts of the piece.

Except the publisher doesn't want to deal with her -- and so Catalina must go search for her father.

Iverson is also looking for Sir Phillip -- and his path would often cross with Catalina's -- despite his feelings for Catalina's father, he grows to appreciate and love Catalina.

My biggest problem with this story is that I didn't like the heroine. I think I was supposed to sympathize with Catalina's plight, having to act the adult in a household where she is the youngest -- but I did not feel she was strong. Capable, yes. But, strong? No.

Her father takes her for granted (see his reaction to her finally standing up for herself in pp 296-298). Her aunt lives in her own world. And Catalina doesn't have the courage (or the will) to pull them back to reality. Instead, she allows them to live in their own fantasy.

"Oh there you are, Catalina," Aunt Elle said, entering the room. "This came this morning." She handed a piece of paper to Catalina. "It's from my apothecary. It appears we never took care of the man last month for my tonics. I don't know how that happened, dearest, as I know you are quite good with keeping up with everything that must be paid."

"I'm certain I handled this, Auntie." Catalina looked at the paper and was astounded by the amount. "Auntie, this isn't for last month. This is for something you picked up just last week. Did you need this much tonic?"

Aunt Elle's eyes widened with concern. "Yes, of course I did. You know how distressed I get when I don't have my medications in a timely fashion."

"Yes, yes, I know," Catalina quickly said, trying to hide her shock at the amount and not alarm her aunt. "It's not a problem." She smiled. "This is nothing for you to worry about. I'll take care of it."
- pp. 149-150

And there was this:

Catalina felt an overwhelming need to tell Iverson there were two more parts of A Tale of Three Gentlemen yet to be published.

He deserved to know.

But ...

Was it so wrong of her to hold out hope her father would return in time, so she wouldn't have to? Dare she hope he was at home, waiting for her right now?

She had no doubt if she told Iverson the truth he would never speak to her again. If she waited, and by some chance her father had made it home, Iverson would never have to know what she had kept from him.
- pp. 195-196

This is a rare thing for me to say but I didn't think the heroine deserved her happy ending -- she was an enabler: her aunt's a drunk and her father leaves for unknown periods of time and leaves her with his unfinished work, unpaid debts and very little money.

From the start, Cataline knew what Iverson wanted -- and she could have admitted that she had helped her father write the parody ... but she didn't. She let him believe her father was solely responsible. Granted, she did try to get back the unpublished portions of the parody -- but she didn't try hard enough.

And she never admitted her own culpability.

She was too busy flirting with Iverson. Too busy feeding her aunt's addiction. Too busy covering up for her father.

I almost didn't finish this story -- but I read on, hoping that the story would get better. Very disappointed with the direction this story took: there was no transformation and no admission of guilt with a promise to reform. The problem was never solved, just swept under the rug (see pp 305-306). Instead, those complicit are rewarded with a marriage to a family with deep pockets with Iverson now joining in the continued enabling of Catalina's family's problems . And that's what saddens me.

This is Book 5 in Amelia Grey's Rogue's Dynasty series. (I really enjoyed Book 4: A Gentleman Never Tells.) To find out more about Amelia Grey and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea by Sophia Nash

Alexander Barclay, Duke of Kress, has experienced a disconnection from his life ever since he inherited the title. He does what dukes do and indulges in all the things dukes are allowed to indulge in --

After a most forgettable evening (he can't remember anything that happened -- he can't even remember how he lost his entire fortune!), he wakes up to the wrath of the Prince of England -- and an ultimatum: one month to restore his principal seat in Cornwall, mend his rakish ways, and find a wife.

Roxanne Vanderhaven, Countess of Paxton, was unaware of her husband's plans for her -- until it happened and now she finds herself clinging to the side of a cliff. Being thisclose to death, she's realized what a muddle she's made of her life by following only what is expected of her and she's hoping for a chance to live her life properly.

Hope and her second chance comes in the dubious form of Alexander, who really doesn't want to get involved (as he has problems of his own) -- but something about Roxanne's situation that captivated him -- correction: there's something about Roxanne that captivated him.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt cautions about the unlived life, but that is exactly the life our hero and heroine are living at present. It takes a rather rude wake-up call before Alexander and Roxanne realize this --

Before they met each other, neither one seemed to be engaged in the art of living. Alexander could not even remember the spirits he brought to Candover's party or what happened to his friend, the Duke of Norwich. And Roxanne was living her life on auto-pilot:

Her aim in life was to provide Lawrence his ease, anticipate every need in the household, oversee the entire estate during Lawrence's trips to search out new, exotic plants, and to do him proud as his countess.
- p. 19

Now both of them are being given a second chance to make amends with themselves -- and Sophia Nash does it in a spellbinding and heartbreaking way.

The one element that stands out in this novel is the humor -- it is very cleverly executed and serves to highlight that which is missing from our hero and heroine's lives --

From their very first meeting (and conversation), one discovers the wit they both possess ... and how absorbed they are in the experience of each other. (The fun starts at page 24. ^_^)

... "Planning your departure already?"

"Yes, now that you ask."

"Well, it appears your dear husband is ahead of you on that score."

Her startled blue eyes swung up to meet his gaze, And not for the first time, he was pleasantly surprised by her appearance. She was tall, and spare to be sure. Her large eyes dominated her oval determined visage. A long, straight nose sloped to lips with a prominent bow shape. And a single freckle rested an inch below the outer corner of her left eye. The aspects of her open countenance somehow came together to make for a fascinating face.

"Whatever do you mean?"

"Your funeral is set for a week from today."

She snatched the newspaper and quickly scanned the page. "The devil. The absolute wretch of a man. And what will he bury?"

"It's on page two. I think he means to bury your hat..."
- pp. 54-55

(I had a hard time choosing an excerpt to feature because the whole book is a quotable quote. I was smiling as I was reading this book -- it's light-hearted but not silly and playful without being ridiculous.)

It is not all banter and witty repartee -- as the story progresses, Alexander is forced to confront parts of himself and his past life that he has long kept contained:

After many minutes, he stepped onto a secure rocky ridge and scanned the vast wild beauty of the coastal landscape and crimson rays of the setting sun. Not twenty miles to the southwest, he could see his future -- St. Michael's Mount. The magnificent castle was perched on an outcropping of granite, rising from Mount's Bay. All was swathed in an eerie, golden mist.

A long-dormant emotion pushed past the hard edges of Alex's heart and a sudden sense of deja vu filled him. He forced the emotion back into the compartment he rarely opened.
- pp. 21-22

Roxanne has provided Alexander the reason to open himself up -- even when he didn't want to yet.

Sadly, our hero and heroine are not free to be with each other. Roxanne is married and Alexander needs to marry a woman from a list of candidates approved by the prince. And time is running out.

So much is at stake for Alexander and Roxanne:
- to lose each other is to lose joy and laughter
- to lose each other is to lose that one person who challenges you and pushes you to be a better version of yourself
- to lose each other is to lose life as they have come to live it

This was one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year. I loved all the dukes and the one duchess -- and I am looking forward to reading about the rest of them.

Between the Duke and the Deep Blue Sea is the first book in Sophia Nash's The Royal Entourage series. The second book, The Art of Duke Hunting was released last March 2012. The next book, The Duke Diaries, will be released in Spring 2013.

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

Final note #1: This was also one of the most intelligently-written books I have read this year.

"...Can you explain why females are so entranced by the notion of a tortured man? Why does this make him beautiful? Why does this make a lady instantly want to nurture, and even admire him? And worse yet, fall in love with him and imagine he will fall in love with her if she is only allowed access to his heart, which the woman believes she alone can mend?"
- p. 151

I loved the metafiction at play in the story. Nash artfully plays with (and refers to) popular tropes in romance novels in her story. In the story, Roxanne is also busy trying to determine what Alexander's "tragic flaw" is --

Final note #2: My friend, Stacy, shared this book with me. (The book traveled all the way from Michigan to the Philippines! Thank you, dear!) And I clearly remember that, when she finished this book, she immediately went out to get the second book in the series. Now that I've read this, I understand why. ^_^

Review: An Improper Wife by Tarah Scott and KyAnn Waters (e-novella)

It was their last night of freedom. As a final act of defiance before they marry each other, Caroline and Taran decide to attend a masquerade -- not knowing that the other one would also be there.

As Aphrodite, Caroline reveled in the freedom her disguise gave her -- she was free to taste, see and say many things she would never have been allowed to experience as a gently-bred lady. As Aphrodite, Caroline was able to explore the sensual side of life --

Taran had wished his future wife would be more like Aphrodite: warm and openly passionate instead of the cold and proper Englishness of his future wife.

Neither Taran nor Caroline were expecting to find love in their marriage because neither one wanted it. (They are only fulfilling family obligations.) What I loved about this novella is being able to see how compatible Taran and Caroline are and, that, obligations aside, they would have discovered (earlier on) how great they are together.

He drew a deep breath. "Nay, love, I do not toy with you. It was an honest mistake." There was some truth to that. "What wife can fault a husband for likening her to the goddess of love?"

Guilt stabbed deep. She could and would fault him if she knew the truth, but he wouldn't hurt her with the truth. He couldn't prevent a silent, morbid laugh. His sense of chivalry knew no bounds. ...

Taran glanced at his wife. She still stared out of the window. He wouldn't again confuse her with the phantasm he'd touched last night.
- pp. 63-64

The authors show the heartbreaking irony of what might have been and I love that the authors are able to maintain the suspense of the masquerade -- revealing clues throughout the story. There were instances when Taran or Caroline slipped (see p. 63, p. 80 for examples) and I was thinking: Oh no! Will they find out now? How would they react?

I read this in one sitting. Yes, it was that interesting. ^_^

For more information about the authors, visit their websites (Tarah Scott) (KyAnn Waters).

Disclosure: I won this copy in an online contest.
Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sample Reading #9: A Waltz at Midnight by Crista McHugh

Sample Reading

This is a new feature on my blog called Sample Reading. This is where I will talk about book samples that I've gotten online. I'll read the sample and will answer the very important question:

Will I buy it?

Crista McHugh is a new-to-me author and I discovered her through The Season for Romance blog. I decided to check out her body of work and discovered she had written one historical romance novella set in New York.

The Blurb:
New York, 1866

When her mistress receives an utterly unromantic letter from a potential suitor, servant Susanna Parkwell is asked to craft an appropriate response. Though hesitant to take part in the deception, Susanna agrees, never dreaming the scorned suitor will write back.

Theodore Blakely abhors being pressured by his family to marry, but he's intrigued by the witty refusal he receives from "Charlotte". After exchanging more letters, Ted believes he's found a soul mate in his thoughtful and understanding correspondent, and asks permission to formally court her.

Though racked with guilt over her lies, Susanna can't resist the opportunity to meet Ted in person. So she poses as Charlotte at a holiday ball, where she vows to tell him the truth. But when the clock strikes midnight, will Susanna have the courage to reveal her identity and risk losing the man she loves?
- from Crista McHugh's website

I got the sample from: Amazon, Kindle
# of Pages: Less than 1 chapter (4 pages) of a 65-page story
*I also read an excerpt from Crista McHugh's website

My Impressions:
I'm a fan of anything epistolary so I found the premise of this story to be interesting.

I also loved the setting: a boarding house which houses mostly students from Vassar (a women's college back in 1866).

I wish the sample on Amazon was longer. Being only four pages, there really wasn't much to judge on. I was a little confused when the story begins with Susanna and (a really bratty) Annabelle because, based on the summary, Susanna pretends to be a "Charlotte" -- I'm glad I found more information in Crista McHugh's excerpt: Charlotte is another student staying at Susanna's aunt's boardinghouse. She is the one being courted by Theodore and her mother has threatened to pull her out of school if she does not entertain Theodore's letters.

The letters Susanna and Theodore wrote, which Crista shared in the excerpt found on her website really did a lot to flesh out Susanna's character. But it left me with some questions: How did Susanna get so witty and so literate? We know her brother is the bar exam away from becoming a lawyer -- but, what about Susanna?

I wish the author had provided a glimpse of Theodore Blakely. Is he a much older gentleman? Is he in a university somewhere else?

Price: $2.99

Will I buy it? If this book were on sale, I'd have bought it already -- at $2.99, it's a definitely maybe (leaning toward the positive). Maybe when I free up some space on my TBR pile, I'll take a look at this novella again. ^_^
Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia Day (ARC)

Two sisters: Jessica and Hester Sheffield, daughters of the Marquess of Hadley, occupy an exalted position in society. Sought after for their beauty and grace by all but, most especially, by two men:

Alistair Caulfield is the fourth son of the Duke of Masterson. Having three older brothers, Alistair is free to be the family's black sheep. He's younger than Jessica and has no prospects to speak of -- but it does not stop him from yearning for Jessica, betrothed to his best friend's older brother, Benedict, the Viscount Tarley.

Michael Sinclair has loved Hester Sheffield forever -- and has waited patiently for her to come of age so that he may profess his love for her. But Hester's father has loftier plans for her younger daughter than to have her married to a mere second son --

And so the two friends love and worship from afar -- watching the two sisters blossom in their "perfectly happy marriages".

Seven years later, Jessica is widowed and devastated. She intends to travel to Jamaica, to look after her husband's bequest to her, hoping to escape the sad memories in England. She finds herself on board the Acheron, owned by the now-successful Alistair Caulfield.

Jessica has never forgotten her last encounter with Alistair -- on the eve of her wedding, she stumbles upon him and a woman in a most compromising position. Jessica had not run away back then and does not plan to run away from Alistair now.

As they travel to Jamaica, Jessica and Alistair confront the once-forbidden attraction that they felt for each other -- and neither one knew about.

The ship is aptly named -- Jessica embarks on a journey of painful admissions and equally painful discoveries. And her mettle is tested: long trained by her father to cower and react in fear, she stands up for herself and defends someone weaker than her.

Unlike the river in Greek mythology, what awaits Jessica in Jamaica is not hell but the potential for paradise -- if she will only accept what Alistair offers her. Which is love. Love in its most physical and most unrefined form.

It is clear that Day intends for Jessica to undertake a heroic quest -- and the object of the quest is the seemingly elusive happiness and peace that has been lacking from Jessica's life.

Hester's life in London is the antithesis of her sister's -- while Jessica is undergoing a rebuilding/re-invention, Hester's life is breaking down: her husband is becoming more abusive and her spirit and body are slowly dimming.

This is not my first Sylvia Day novel. I've read and enjoyed most of the historical ones (The Stranger I Married is a personal favorite) and the beauty of Sylvia Day's erotic romances is that they have heart. They have the requisite heat and passion but, more than that, they are explorations of the arduous journey lovers take to find love.

This story does not disappoint: it has memorable characters on an unforgettable quest filled with longing, peril, pain, heat, passion (and references to mythology that enhances the story) -- all wonderfully and skillfully written by Sylvia Day.

(A bit of trivia: Sylvia Day has mentioned that Seven Years to Sin inspired her best-selling novel, Bared to You. Source: here.)

*Seven Years to Sin will be re-released this August 2012 in paperback and ebook.

Disclosure: I received the ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Kensington Books for accepting my request.)
Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sample Reading #8: Her Sudden Groom by Rose Gordon

Sample Reading

This is a new feature on my blog called Sample Reading. This is where I will talk about book samples that I've gotten online. I'll read the sample and will answer the very important question:

Will I buy it?

This week, I've downloaded a sample of Rose Gordon's Her Sudden Groom, which is the first book in her Groom Series. This title intrigued me because it's currently ranked #7 (based on popularity) on the Kindle list for Historical Romances. (#6 is An Introduction to Pleasure by Jess Michaels, which I loved.)

The Blurb:
The overly scientific, always respectable, and socially awkward Alexander Banks has just been informed his name resides on a betrothal agreement right above the name of the worst chit in all of England. With a loophole that allows him to marry another without consequence before the thirtieth anniversary of his birth, he has only four weeks to find another woman and make her his wife. Being the logical scientist he is, Alex decides to take his friend's advice and treat his quest for a bride just like a science experiment...

Caroline Sinclair is still trying to scrape her jaw off the floor after hearing her cousin, Lady Olivia’s, latest announcement when the object of their conversation, Alex Banks, Olivia’s intended, arrives for what Caroline assumes is a bout of drawing room chitchat with his betrothed. But when an experiment is mentioned, Caroline, who cannot resist a science experiment any more than she can deny her lungs air, volunteers to help before she even knows what his latest experiment is!
- from Rose Gordon's website

I got the sample from: Amazon, Kindle
# of Pages: Almost 4 chapters of a 26-chapter book

My Impressions:
One other reason why I decided to read this sample was to meet Alex Banks, well-known for his geekiness and interest in science. Alex finds himself in a lose-lose situation: he either marries Olivia Sinclair, one of the most horrible women alive or he leg-shackles himself to someone else before he turns 30 -- which is a month away.

Alex and his father both agree that any other woman would be better than Olivia and so Alex seeks out Marcus Sinclair, Olivia's brother, in order to ask him if he would honor the terms of the addendum.

Then we meet Olivia and her cousin Caroline -- Olivia is, as Alex suspected, shrewish, whiny, spoiled, rude, etc. etc. -- and Caroline is presented as the nicer of the two.

This is the part that worries me: Olivia is already presented as a flat character and no explanation is given regarding her behavior. If a love triangle is being set-up, Olivia isn't even given a fighting chance! As early as Chapter 2, it is clear that Caroline will be the one Alex ends up with. Even Marcus, Olivia's brother, has deliberately put her in Alex's path. But, in the sample, I actually don't see Caroline as being an attractive prospect. The author does not provide us with a reason to like her -- she has only (so far) provided the readers with a reason to dislike Olivia.

The two are clueless to Marcus's attempt to match them -- on one hand, it is delightful to see two people so interested in science be so dense about other matters but, it also got a bit frustrating.

Marcus limped across the room and stopped, turned his head, and winked at Alex. "I'm not worried about leaving her alone with you. I know you won't do anything with my cousin you wouldn't do with your own."

Care to place a wager on that? Currently the thoughts he was entertaining of him alone with Miss Sinclair were not very cousinly. "Right," Alex said hoarsely, trying to push inappropriate thoughts of Miss Sinclair from his mind. "We'll only speak about science, nothing else."

Marcus gave him a curious look, then shook his head and departed.

Alex had no idea what Marcus was about, nor did he care to know. He'd just been granted a reprieve from being forced to marry Lady Olivia. If her brother wanted him to entertain the beautiful Miss Sinclair with talk of science in return, he wasn't going to argue.
- loc 402 - 419

Alex's attraction to Caroline actually surprised me. When they were introduced, he seemed indifferent to her and actually forgot that they had met before.

I am curious about how Alex will convince Caroline to marry him -- and what Caroline's reason would be to accept the proposal but I don't know how the characters will sustain my attention for 26 chapters.

Price: $0.99 for US, $2.99 for International on Amazon

Will I buy it? Pass on this.

Review: Educating Elizabeth by Kate Pearce

Another day. Another debt. Another house and family to serve. Elizabeth has no control over her life -- or her sleep. She's woken up one more time by her stepfather, in order to pay for another of her stepfather's gambling debt -- but, this time, she's not being sent to an average, run-of-the-mill family but to serve the Duke of Diable Delamere.

When the Duke misunderstands what kind of service she provides and her family casts her out fearing the stain on their reputation, Elizabeth realizes she's tired of her unsettled situation and decides it is time to take matters into her own hands.

Wanting a life where she will be in control of herself, her finances and her future, she asks the Duke to teach her how to be a courtesan --

Gervase past and his current profession as a spy working to uncover a plot to assassinate the prince have taught him not to trust anyone. Not even Elizabeth. He agrees to tutor her but remains suspicious of her and her true motives.

Unlike some of her kind, she had not succumbed to the temptation to steal any of the small but expensive knick-knacks scattered around the room.
- loc 82 (One of Gervase's early impressions of Elizabeth)

When it is discovered that Elizabeth has a natural talent for cracking codes, Gervase reluctantly allows her a glimpse into his real world.

Gervase strikes me as a man who keeps his life compartmentalized -- he's a very different person inside the bedroom and outside. He also treats Elizabeth differently when she serves as a code breaker and when she's his lover.

But when the parts of his life start to meld together because of Elizabeth, he does not know how to feel or think anymore. He does what he usually does to people: push them away.

"My dear, I see the beginnings of hero worship in your beautiful eyes. I've told you on several occasions I'm not a good man. Please endeavor to remember it."
- loc 1565

Many of the conflicts in the story stem from the unwillingness of the characters to tell the truth. Pearce establishes that neither our hero nor our heroine have a profound capacity to trust, which is why they hide so much of themselves from one another. (See latter part of Chapter 18.) Some secrets are revealed but more are kept hidden -- Elizabeth doesn't tell Gervase about her brother Michael and arranges secret meetings with Michael's caretaker, Jack Llewelyn. Elizabeth doesn't know that Gervase has her followed and that he suspects her family to be connected to the plot against the prince.

There's a nice mix of intrigue and romantic tension in Educating Elizabeth and this story has a potential to be amazing but, unlike her Simply series, Kate Pearce seems to have held back. There's emotion -- but not enough. There's tension -- but not enough. Even as the story reaches its critical point: when Gervase discovers the minds and hands behind the plot, somehow it all fell flat.

That being said, this is still a story worth reading because of Gervase's transformation -- I especially enjoyed the sojourn Elizabeth and Gervase take in Chapters 24 to 25. Plus, there is Lord Vincent who I find very intriguing. ^_^

To find out more about Kate Pearce and her work, visit her website. (Please note that her Simply series is considered erotic and has adult themes.)
Thursday, August 16, 2012

Review: Pleasure Me by Monica Burns

Reading Romances August Challenge:
1) Read a book that has been made into a movie.
2) Read a book with an older Hero or heroine (AT LEAST mid-to-late thirties). <-- I chose this one. THEMES: 3) Read a novel that is classified as “chick-lit” or a light, humorous book about a young single, working woman in an urban setting. 4) Read a book that has a character that is involved in any type of arts (music, dance, literature, etc). SPECIAL EVENTS: 5) Read a book that features a “friendship” as its main storyline. * * *

In romance stories, courtesans are either the central characters who are young and find love or are part of the supporting cast and are about to be discarded because the hero has found love with the heroine. There are also stories where the courtesan or mistress is the source of conflict. Rarely do we see a story that features an older courtesan, even more rarely do we meet one who is experiencing such terrible uncertainty about herself because of her age.

Add to the mix a handsome young lord who exudes an outward air of confidence and authority but suffers an equally debilitating insecurity about his physical deformity.

Such is the story of Pleasure Me by Monica Burns.

Ruth is forty-one years old and has just been cast aside by her protector for a younger woman. Such has been the story of Ruth's life lately -- but she desperately needs to buy herself a little bit more time and needs the support of a new protector in order to secure the future of her project: an orphanage that she has devoted the last fifteen years of her life to.

Garrick, Baron Stratfield, hides a secret shame but he pretends to be confident and indifferent to malicious speculations about his sexuality.

When Ruth first sees Garrick, she is instantly attracted.

He was almost a foot taller than her with hair the color of a moonless night. There was something intense and riveting about him. If Allegra thought she had presence, her friend hadn't met this man. He seemed to dwarf everyone and everything in the entryway. He studied her for what seemed an eternity, yet she knew it was only a few seconds before another man she didn't recognize drew his attention away. But the stranger's look was enough to leave her heart racing.
- pp. 11-12

But Ruth struggles with her low self-esteem: what would this very handsome man need from an aging courtesan like her?

And what would the most beautiful woman in London need from an incomplete man like Garrick Stratfield? Garrick cannot deny the desire that Ruth stirs in him -- tempting him to surrender to his body's wants. It is the first time Garrick has ever wanted a woman so badly that he is willing to let go of his self-control.

But did he desire her enough to risk humiliation?

I love Monica Burns's exploration of the May-December romance. What makes her story so unique and compelling is that our hero and heroine aren't stereotypically perfect: our heroine belongs to the demimonde and isn't a woman of good social standing, which makes her twice as undesirable in the eyes of society and our hero, as handsome and amazing as he is, has a physical impairment.

Burns's story is not just a love story about overcoming the difficulties of the big age gap but is also a love story about overcoming doubt (self-doubt and doubting others) and finding trust (trusting one's self and trusting others) -- Ruth doubts Garrick's devotion to her. Is it authentic? Or is using her to maintain his image in society? Garrick also wonders about Ruth's sincerity -- is her desire real? Or one borne of her profession?

Ruth and Garrick are both very sympathetic characters -- their insecurities make them very human. They are characters that readers can really relate with.

I really enjoyed this story. ^_^
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: Temptation in a Kilt by Victoria Roberts (ARC)

Rosalia has run away from her home, escaping an arranged marriage and her abusive family. She plans to seek out her grandmother who lives in the Highlands -- but Rosalia takes an unexpected detour when she is rescued by Ciaran MacGregor.

Ciaran does not want to be Rosalia's savior or protector -- he already has too many responsibilities to his clan and to his brothers. He's already busy fending off their rival clan, the Campbell's -- he does not want to have to defend Rosalia from whomever she is escaping from.

But Ciaran could not ignore Rosalia's quiet courage and determination -- and the harsh winters of Scotland. So, reluctantly, he brings her back to his home, troubles and all.

This is a wonderful tribute to the Highlands -- Roberts highlights the charms of the place and the people -- it is a place of healing for Rosalia -- not only of her body but also her spirit.

Rosalia suffered terribly in the care of her parents -- neglected and let down -- she does not have a sense of self worth ... Or a good body image.

And it is Ciaran and his family who teaches her that she is lovable as she is. Aisling welcomed her as a sister and she shared in the worry for Declan, the youngest MacGregor.

The story has a good mix of intrigue and danger -- the bloody Campbells pose a constant threat to the MacGregors, there is also Beathag, Ciaran's spurned mistress -- and there is Rosalia's family and the question of her ties to the Highlands.

There is comfort in the very domestic worries of Ciaran as laird. Ciaran and Rosalia are wonderful together -- there is a sense of support and companionship -- and an equal partnership between the two.

I am very interested in Declan's story -- bits of it are already hinted about towards the end of the book. It promises to be even more exciting than Ciaran and Rosalia's adventure.

I have two complaints about this novel. The first is the multiple use of the word "beautiful" -- it is used a total of 52 times.

They approached a clearing and she stopped. Never had she seen anything so beautiful. A flowing river with rushing water cascaded through jagged rocks. The smell of pine overwhelmed her senses.
- loc 960

(The next page)
"Tis just a beautiful sight. Truly, it takes my breath." She sighed, glancing from side to side.
- loc 964

A story set in the Highlands already has a heightened sense of romanticism but, to keep saying how beautiful everything is, is a bit too much.

The second is the use of the word "howbeit" -- it should mean however or nevertheless but it seems to also be used as "slang" for "how about" --

"Be thankful I havenae yet taken my sword to ye." He smirked, tapping her playfully on the arm. "Howbeit the fates have tempted me so."
- loc 125-138 --- used to mean "however" (?)

She handed him the wine sack and he took a healthy drink. "Howbeit we make a compromise?" he asked, handing it back. "I will answer what ye ask, and in return, ye have to answer what I ask."
- loc 532 --- used to mean "how about" (?)

I'm not knowledgeable with the language so I did have to stop every time it was used to decode it.

Which leads me to a question: do you prefer your stories written in "authentic" language? Or in a more neutral one?

*Temptation in a Kilt will be released this September 2012 in paperback and ebook.

Disclosure: I received the ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Sourcebooks for accepting my request.)
Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: The Devil You Know by Victoria Vane (e-novella)

Consider A Wild Night's Bride and The Virgin Huntress as appetizers -- teasing our romance taste buds with the lives of five people and the adventure they take as they fall in love, at the center of their little circle, a man known as The Devil DeVere.

Who is Ludovic DeVere? How did he come to be known as The Devil?

And what's the story between him and Diana Palmerston-Wriothesley? As early as the first book, DeVere already warns his friend, Ned, (and the readers) not to jump to conclusions too early:

"There is much more to the story than you know."
- A Wild Night's Bride, p. 11

And this is the "more" --

Diana pretends her life is fine. She pretends her marriage is fine. She pretends she gets along with her husband and makes excuses for him to her friends and to herself.

Diana pretends she is happy for her cousin, Annalee, but she secretly longs for the same intimacy and connection her cousin has with her husband, Ned Chambers.

She accompanies them on a trip to Surrey, to the house of Ned's best friend, Lord DeVere. Despite her cousin's warnings, Diana's could not help but respond to Ludovic Devere. And, despite his outward show of indifference, Ludovic is just as affected by Diana's voluptuousness.

Determined to remain faithful to her vows, Diana steels herself against Ludovic's flirtation but, as the cracks in her marriage are revealed in a very public manner, as the very foundation that Diana has built her life on crumbles, she decides to finally do something for herself and succumbs to the devil's temptations.

The Devil You Know looks at Ludovic DeVere's past and shows us the events that have shaped the man now known as The Devil.

He has the devil's own luck at everything: be it cards or races or business.

The one area Vic seems to be unlucky at is at love. In his youth, he was betrayed by a woman he had hoped to marry -- Caroline weighed his title and wealth against that of the Duke of Beauclerc and heartlessly cast him aside.

But Vic is an exacting man -- he may outwardly project a devil may care attitude but he actually possesses a very noble code of ethics, as evidenced by his long-time friendship with Ned Chambers.

I felt sorry for Diana -- she keeps everything together and makes excuses for her errant husband, trying to pretend she's happy with her lot in life when, in truth, she's not.

...Diana was determined to maintain her sham, the precious pretense that has become indispensable to her life.
- loc 242

When things fall apart, and Diana realizes her cherished illusions have all gone up in smoke due to her husband's recklessness and irresponsibility, Diana decides to take matters into her own hands and step out of the box she has put herself in.

She approaches DeVere for a loan, though Ned already warned her to be careful:

"Simple?" Edward laughed. "That's where you are wrong my dear. Nothing is ever simple with DeVere. I fear any transaction made with him will be much more than you bargained for."
- loc 995

The strange thing was, Diana wasn't afraid to pay the price. She's had a loveless, passionless relationship with her husband -- she allows herself this one act of selfishness, something that is purely for herself.

When Diana's husband is found dead of mysterious circumstances, and DeVere is one of the first to discover his dead body, doubt sets in and Diana's questions and imagination take on a life of their own:

Had DeVere planned everything? Her husband's ruin? Her own fall? Did DeVere kill Reggie?

In this particularly story, the third person POV shows the dramatic irony unfolding: Diana and Vic DeVere are both innocent and are finally free to be together -- but they are also not free to be together -- thanks to Caroline's machinations and threats. (See Chapter 12) In the end, it is DeVere's own sense of honor that prevents him from ever discovering if what he and Diana had was more than just a physical connection.

And so they go their separate paths. Vic's path is a downward spiral to dissolution and deviltry. And Diana selflessly devotes herself to caring for her goddaughter Vesta.

But their paths do cross again -- when Vesta comes to town for her Season (The Virgin Huntress) --

Victoria Vane has crafted a wonderful series that is exciting and absorbing. How will the story of Vic DeVere and Diana Palmerston-Wriothesley end? I am dying to find out! ^_^

The Devil's Match, the fourth installment in The Devil DeVere series, is scheduled for release this August 2012. (For an excerpt, click here.)

To find out more about Victoria Vane and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sample Reading #7: Married by Midnight by Julianne MacLean + a free e-book

Sample Reading

This is a new feature on my blog called Sample Reading. This is where I will talk about book samples that I've gotten online. I'll read the sample and will answer the very important question:

Will I buy it?

This week, I'm trying out Married by Midnight by Julianne MacLean. This is an e-novella that completes (?) her Pembroke Palace/Sinclair Family series. I was actually surprised to hear that this book had been released but I am happy to see that Garrett is finally getting his story. One of my all-time favorite books, The Mistress Diaries, is book 2 in this series.

The Blurb:

For seven years, Lord Garrett Sinclair-- the ruggedly handsome illegitimate son of the Duke of Pembroke--has been traveling abroad with no intention of ever returning home to Pembroke Palace… until his father commands that he must marry by Christmas in order to thwart a family curse or lose his inheritance forever. Haunted by a tragic accident that has hardened his soul, Garrett entrusts his brothers to seek out a bride who will agree to a marriage in name only. Her reward? A sizable share of his inheritance--payable immediately after the wedding night….

Lady Anne Douglas has been ruined by scandal and disowned by her father. Facing a life of poverty and spinsterhood, she leaps at the generous terms of the marriage contract to ensure her independence. But the charade of a two-week engagement proves more of a challenge than either anticipated when they cannot resist the intoxicating lure of the marriage bed. Anne knows they will part ways after the wedding. Will she dare risk her heart for two weeks of pleasure in the arms of an irresistible rogue? Or will her surrender become her undoing after a most unexpected turn of events mere hours before the wedding?
- From Julianne MacLean's website

I got the sample from: Amazon, Kindle
# of Pages: Prologue and the first 2 chapters plus the first 4 paragraphs of chapter 3 of a 180-page novella.

My Impressions:
This one was wow. I love the tone and the pace of the story. On the day of the wedding and Lady Anne is preparing to enter into a loveless marriage that will bring her financial security and freedom.

Except, it isn't loveless. Not for Anne.

Then MacLean tells us the story of what happened 3 weeks earlier and how this marriage was contracted between Anne's uncle and the Sinclairs.

It is revealed that Anne's reputation was ruined years ago and she has lived a very secluded life ever since.

I love MacLean's writing in this story. The first chapter begins with a description of the winter scene as "a hostile blanket of crusty white snow" -- I thought this was a subtle commentary on the oppressiveness of purity. And this is further emphasized by Anne's uncle (who seemed a bit like a Dickensian character) who talked about Anne in terms of her lack of purity.

"She may not be pure, but I daresay she's appealing to the eye."
- loc 39

"As I said before, she may not be pure, but she is loyal."
- loc 74

There's also a bit of dramatic irony: Anne wonders what could be wrong about Garrett that he could not find a wife for himself -- and Garrett also wonders what sort of woman would agree to such a bargain.

...he supposed he was no better than a whore -- selling himself for money -- and he feared he was about to marry a woman cut from the same cloth.
- loc 180

Price: $3.11 on Amazon for Kindle

Will I buy it? Yes! I'm actually very excited to read this one! How does Anne manage to fall in love with Garrett? And will the feeling be mutual before the wedding?

It's also mentioned in Chapter 2 that there's an accident that continues to haunt Garrett. How will this particular "handicap" affect Garrett's relationship with Anne?

I think this book will be a great way for fans of the series to revisit the Sinclair Family.  ^_^  (At this point, I am not sure how well this will read as a stand-alone.)

* * *

Free Julianne MacLean e-book!

If Julianne MacLean is a new-to-you author, she has a short story that's free on Kindle, iBooks and Nook. (This is accurate as of August 11, 2012 -- please check again before you click buy.)

The Rebel is a prequel to her Highlanders trilogy and was originally part of the Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance.

Enjoy! ^_^
Friday, August 10, 2012

Blog Tour Stop: The Gold Crucifix by Nickie Fleming (Interview + Giveaway)

I'm very happy to have Nickie Fleming on my blog today. She's currently on a blog tour for her new book, The Gold Crucifix.

I had the pleasure of asking Nickie about her current book and her future plans:

LStW: What made you decide to start writing romance novels?

Nickie:  I’ve always been a romantic at heart, dreaming about the knight on his white horse. In my dreams, he came when needed and so I began to write stories which have a happy ending. My novels are not purely romance novels, as they are set into centuries past and also contain elements of action, adventure and mystery.

My love for history comes from my grandfather. He used to tell me stories about his life as an officer in two world wars, and also stories about his father and grandfather. He had this beautiful Larousse Encyclopedia which he had already inherited from his dad, and he left it to me. It’s a treasure trove of facts as long as they don’t go any further than the Prussian War (1870’s) ...

LStW: You've written books about different historical periods: The Gold Crucifix is set during the Restoration and you've also written about 16th century Spain and 18th century France. Do you have a favorite period in history?

Nickie: I suppose I have a slight preference for the 17th century, be it in England or France. I can say though that I mainly focus on Europe, although my characters sometimes visit other continents. Writing about Europe is familiar, as we learned about European history at school, and I also looked up many facts for myself as a child already. I still have my filing system of little cards, each with a tidbit of history on it.

I sometimes wish I could have lived in 17th century England or France, and have been witness to all the events happening then. I would also liked to have met King Charles II or King Louis XIV.

LStW: Any favorite authors and books?

Nickie: Difficult question, as I have many favourite authors and books. My Kindle is full of them. Some of my favourite authors include Teresa Medeiros, Karen Hawkins and Sabrina Jeffries, but also Harlan Coben, Janet Evanovich or Jeffery Deaver.

Books I love would include ‘Mara, daughter of the Nile’ by Eloise McGraw or ‘Angélique’ by the Golons.

LStW: What's next for Nickie Fleming?

Nickie: Right now I’m working to finish a novel set in Victorian England. It’s a bit darker and more gothic than my previous novels, but I was in the mood for a change. It’s a spin-off from a short story I wrote some years ago, ‘The black coach’ in Face in the Mirror and Other Stories, also published by Rogue Phoenix Press.

Thank you, Nickie!

Nickie started her blog tour last August 6 and will be visiting blogs until August 24. Make sure to drop by her other stops! (For links, click here.)

* * *

A little bit more about Nickie:

Nickie Fleming was born and raised in the historical town of Dendermonde, Belgium – home of the legendary Horse Bayard.

She read English Literature at the University of Ghent, and got her master’s degree in philology. Since then, she has been working as a high school teacher.

Her interests besides reading and writing are travelling, skiing in winter and enjoying fine food.

You can read more about Nickie and her books at her website. She's also on Facebook.

* * *

England, mid seventeenth century. When young Sarah finds out that innkeeper Amos Jennings is not her father, she feels uncertain and scared. Her problems grow bigger when she starts a job as housekeeper and gets involved with two men who both want her love: the earl of Linfield, and his younger brother Richard. To escape these problems, Sarah takes off to London to begin a new life as actress at His Majesty’s Theatre.

Richard cannot forget the young woman her met at his brother’s. He is determined to find Sarah and make her his own -- even his wife, despite what his family thinks of it. But love never comes easy. Richard and Sarah will have to face many a storm--even the Great Fire of London--before they can become one.

* * *

(this is where Sarah meets Richard, the brother of her employer, for the first time)

It happened in the last bend of the lane, just before the clearing where the lawns and flower-beds of the manor became visible.

All at once Sarah heard the thundering of a horse in full gallop, and before she could even jump to safety, she was pushed off the road into the soft grass of the verge. She was so stunned she did not hear the curse of the horseman and how he pulled his mount to a standstill.

Slowly, she crawled to an upright position and immediately noticed the pain in her right knee. Neglecting the fact that her basket had fallen and its contents were shattered over the path--some of them trodden on--she started to rub her knee fiercely. Only then did she notice the man, who had turned his horse and who was now throwing disdainful looks in her direction.

Suddenly, she realized what danger she had barely escaped. This notion triggered a fit of anger, which became so violent she turned hot and enflamed. Returning his glances with eyes that shot fire, she snarled, "You fool! You could have hurt me!"

The look in his eyes remained cold, but the tone of his voice revealed a show of interest.

"In case you shouldn't know, let me warn you that you find yourself on private property," he said.

She refused to be intimidated and was quick to answer. "So right you are. But I am the housekeeper of the Grange…sir," and she put all her contempt into the word, "and I have every right to be here. I was walking alongside the road and you should have been more careful! The least you can do is offer your apologies to me, and if you're a gentleman, you will help me pick up my belongings."

* * *


The author will award two (2) personally autographed print copies of her novel, The Haversham Legacy, to randomly drawn commenters during the tour (INT).

Comment for a chance to win!

Make sure to drop by her other stops! (For links, click here.)
Thursday, August 9, 2012

Winner! Danelle Harmon Blog Tour Stop

Thank you to everyone who dropped by and helped me welcome Danelle to Love Saves the World.

I really enjoyed reading everyone's responses. ^_^

Congratulations to Linda!

I've already contacted Linda and she's received her copy of The Wild One by Danelle Harmon. Yay!

Thank you to everyone who joined!

Until the next giveaway!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A new look for the blog! ^_^

I'm so happy to share with my blog's new look!

Big, big thanks to Jude of In Between Designs for the lovely design. ^_^

I have a new blog button, too!

Love Saves The World

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: A Duchess to Remember by Christina Brooke

Of all the orphans under the Duke of Montford's care, Cecily Westruther is the most orphaned: first losing her parents and then her older sibling, Jonathon, the Earl of Davenport to a mysterious accident. Left alone in the world and made unwelcome in the house she grew up in, she welcomed the care of the Duke of Montford and his house of motley Westruther cousins.

And of all the Westruther cousins, Cecily is also the one who yearns the most for her freedom and her own space -- and she believes her forthcoming marriage to the Duke of Norland is the key.

If she can avoid scandal first.

Cecily has found out that her cousin Lavinia, the current Countess of Davenport, has discovered some of Jonathon's papers and diary and Cecily needs to get them. But Lavinia has sold them to the Duke of Ashburn, a member of the Promethean Club -- and the man who delivered the news of Jonathon's death to her family.

Desperate to retrieve the papers, Cecily breaks into the duke's house only to be caught by the duke himself.

Now Cecily finds herself hopelessly attracted to Rand in a way she never felt for the Duke of Norland -- and the feeling is mutual. With her wedding only three weeks away, Cecily is not one to risk herself or her future plans and so she decides to continue with her engagement to the Duke of Norland -- but will Rand really let her go so easily?

This is the third book in Christina Brooke's The Ministry of Marriage series and is a disappointing follow-up to Mad About the Earl.

This story lacked the focus and intentness that was very clear in the previous book. What was the author's intention in telling Cecily and Rand's story and how are the revealed complications related to the central story? There are too many sub-plots in this novel and, while I was able to follow each thread, I felt each one was incomplete. The layers of this story just didn't stack up nicely:

The main story is Cecily and Rand and how they found each other too late. Cecily is too set in her ways to change her mind and, with her wedding to the Duke of Norland only three weeks away, Rand has very few options available to him.

Then there's the scandal that looms over Cecily if her letter to her brother falls into the wrong hands. It's a race against time because what is contained in those letters might damage Cecily's wedding. (See pp. 206-209 for the reason)

Then there's Cecily's strained relationship with her cousin's wife, the current Countess of Davenport. I think this part if meant to tie in with what is revealed in Chapter 20 and with the situation of Rand's cousin Freddie.

Then there's the Tibby, Cecily's companion -- and what is revealed in Chapter 17. I love how this particular chapter juxtaposes the lives of Tibby and Cecily but, I felt the author didn't provide enough details or hints about this in the previous chapters.

I love the Westruthers and I am a fan of this series but the how and why of this particular story eluded me. I didn't understand why Cecily didn't stop the betrothal before it was announced when it was clear to her and to Rand that they had better chemistry together.

That was ridiculous. One did not fall in love or even form a mild attachment after a scatter of short meetings. She admired Ashburn's intellect; Lord knew his manner coupled with his dark good looks made him immensely attractive on a physical level, too. He had a powerful presence. How could any woman remain unaffected by him?

And yet... Honesty compelled her to admit there was more to it than that. There was a connection between them. She'd felt a sharp tug of recognition from the first instant she'd laid eyes on the Duke of Ashburn.

But she didn't want to explore that connection. She knew down to her bones that if she gave in to him, the Duke of Ashburn would make demands on her she wasn't willing to fulfill.
- pp. 125-126

Cecily seems to waffle and change her mind so easily -- poor Rand. As a reader it left me frustrated -- one minute she is unequivocal about her decision and then the next, she changes her mind.

I did love the scenes of the Ministry of Marriage -- it's been presented as a very secretive organization and it was wonderful to get a glimpse into its inner workings. (Thanks to the Duke of Ashburn.)

Christina Brooke's debut and the first book in The Ministry of Marriage series (Heiress in Love) was a finalist in the 2012 RITA for Regency Historical Romance. To find out more about the author and her works, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

To read my review of Mad About the Earl, which I loved, click here.
Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review: Temptation & Twilight by Charlotte Featherstone

Twelve years ago, Elizabeth York fell in love with Iain Sinclair -- and she surrendered her heart and body to the Scottish rake. One moment they were declaring their love for each other and the next, Iain spurns her love and betroths himself to another, leaving Elizabeth with more than a broken heart.

I liked Elizabeth's character from the first two books -- she lost her eyesight at 18 to a hereditary genetic disease, which her mother also suffered from -- but she didn't seem incapable or handicapped by it -- but came across as very strong and very confident. In the previous books, her relationship with Iain was already hinted about and Elizabeth showed a very strong dislike and wariness to the mad Marquis. But, in her own story, she didn't seem so strong and capable -- instead, she was prey to Iain throughout the story.

I didn't like her so much in this story.

Which brings me to what I think about the hero -- I didn't like him either. There have been stories with heroes that are a bit rough and ungentlemanly but Iain's pursuit of Elizabeth didn't feel like it was borne of love but of pure selfishness. I don't understand his motivations for pursuing Elizabeth again after abandoning her twelve years ago.

Why now?

If we follow the story, it seems the impending duel (and maybe fear of death) is the impetus for the change but it's not the first duel he's fought in twelve years. And, he's going to see Elizabeth to apologize right after leaving his lover's bed. (See Chapter 1)

~sigh~ I really don't see the remorse.

Add to that the odd idiosyncrasy that Iain possesses -- whenever he is angry (or feeling very Alpha), he loses his refined language and reverts to his brogue. It struck me as a bit Jeckyl and Hyde.

"If you doona want him torn tae pieces, leave him be."

... "You are nothing but an animal," she snapped, careful to make certain no one but Alynwick could hear her outburst. "Unhand me this instant." But the brute wouldn't listen, and instead pressed closer to her, his big palm cupping her elbow in a fierce grip.

When he next spoke, he seemed to have put some measure of control on his anger, for his brogue had all but disappeared, leaving behind a silky English accent that worked its way along her body.
- p. 31

As part of the trilogy, this story is problematic -- it basically retells a portion of the second story but, this time, from Elizabeth and Iain's -- I understand why this has to be -- because of Elizabeth's blindness, she always accompanies her brother so his story and hers are intrinsically and unavoidably tied together. And the high point of this story is (once again) Elizabeth's kidnapping by Orpheus, the mysterious adversary of the Brethren Guardians.

I find it strange that, considering the build up of the mystery of Orpheus, it is only hastily resolved in the last three chapters of the book. The mystery and threat of Orpheus also takes a backseat to a new mystery -- that of The Veiled Lady, a mysterious woman written about in Sinjin York's diary. Sinjin is one of the three Templars and an original Brethren. I wondered why Featherstone introduced this new mystery in this story -- is it to show a parallelism between Elizabeth and Iain's stormy relationship with that of Elizabeth's ancestor?

The one redeeming factor in this book is Julian, the Earl of Sheldon, a new character and Iain's rival for Elizabeth's hand. He grew up abroad and has only recently returned to London -- and he has a very deep interest in Templar lore. I thought he had the best dialogue and scenes. He's a clever one and I hope he gets a novella or his own story.

This is the third book in Charlotte Featherstone's Brethren Guardian series. To find out more about the author and her work, visit her website.

To read my review of the first two books, see below:
Review: Seduction & Surrender
Review: Pride & Passion

Final note: This trilogy (?) made me think about how authors plan out books in a series. One particular series that I really enjoyed was Sabrina Jeffries's Hellions of Halstead Hall, which was a 5-book endeavor. I thought that one kept the momentum going from story to story.

Some current ongoing favorites are:
- Sherry Thomas's Fitzhugh Family series
- Loretta Chase's Dressmakers
- Julie Anne Long's amazing Pennyroyal Green series (6 books out, 7th book soon to be released)
- Victoria Vane's The Devil DeVere series of e-novellas
- Elizabeth Hoyt's Maiden Lane series

What makes a great series?

This question made me remember what John Cusack's character says in High Fidelity on how to make a mix tape:

The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.
- High Fidelity

Sample Reading #6: Until Paris by Ellen Trubody

This is a new feature on my blog called Sample Reading. This is where I will talk about book samples that I've gotten online. I'll read the sample and will answer the very important question:

Will I buy it?

I found out about Ellen Trubody's Until Paris through this article on Romantic Times: 10 Short and Steamy Reads to Fill Out Your TBR Pile. What I found interesting was the mention of well-drawn characters -- considering that this is a 74-page book, I wondered how the author would achieve this.

The Blurb:
For Emma, Wills is the perfect husband—and a tirelessly sinful lover. At their home, in dark corners at dinner parties, in carriage rides across London, they explore each other’s bodies in a consuming passion that won’t end. But then a devastating illness turns pleasure into peril and Wills realizes one careless mistake could cost Emma her life. He moves far away to Bath, where his unceasing desire can no longer harm her.

Left to her own devices, Emma plans a new life for herself in Paris. She writes to Wills—tearful letters, pleading letters, letters threatening to leave him, letters begging him to return—but he never responds. She decides to confront the stubborn man in the flesh but finds him unwilling to say goodbye. Wills loves Emma and he has until Paris to prove they’re meant to be together—and to show her dark, forbidden pleasures unlike any she’s known before.
- from the Ellora's Cave info page for the book

I got the sample from: a variety of sources: Amazon, Kindle and then Google Books and then the Ellora's Cave info page for the book.
# of Pages: Best sample was from Google Books, which was the first 14 pages of this 74-page e-novella

My Impressions:
Had I relied on the Kindle sample, I would not buy this book. The sample was too short (4 pages + 4 lines on page 5) and didn't reveal anything new about the story. In fact, the summary at the back of the book told a better story than the first few pages.

I'm glad I decided to look around for a better sample and was able to read the first 2 chapters through Google Books -- and it gave me a better picture of the characters and their story.

I love how Emma was portrayed in the first chapter. She's still in love with her husband, despite being separated from him for seven years. Trubody writes her longing and agony very well.

Regardless of how disheveled Emma looked on the outside, her inner landscape was in far greater shambles. Rehearsing the perfect goodbye was never an easy thing. Far harder, considering whom she had to say it to.
- p. 6

Wills is not unaffected either. He's had to stay away from his wife because another pregnancy would endanger her life. He's lived a life of celibacy and has denied himself the pleasure of even corresponding with his wife.

"I wrote, Wills. Several times. I'm going back to France. I've come to say goodbye. I'm leaving you, remember?" She swung her body away from his, her head tilting upward to flash a warning with her eyes. "Surely you got one of my letters?"


"Yes I did get your last letter and I wrote back."


"You wrote me?" she finally asked. "When? I've received nothing for weeks."

A prickle of hope nudged through her followed by a slight thaw of remorse. Perhaps she'd been wrong to condemn him. Perhaps he'd had something to say about her leaving after all.

"No, you wouldn't have received it." Wills looked away and shrugged. "I didn't send it."
- pp. 7 - 9

It's interesting that Wills is a doctor of "women's medicine" (p. 12) and I wonder how his medical knowledge will translate to sexual knowledge (this is an erotic romance after all) and how he will use his knowledge of medicine to save his wife and their marriage. (From the RT review of the e-novella, it seems it will not be medical science that will save their marriage but something else. So I'm curious how the author will justify his not using medicine.)

Price: $4.59 on Amazon, $4.45 on Ellora's Cave

Will I buy it? At $0.99 to $2.99, I'd probably have gotten it already but, at $4+, I'll wait for this book to go on sale. ^_^
Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas

All that I love
I fold over once
And once again
And keep in a box
Or a slit in a hollow post
Or in my shoe.
- Bonsai by Edith Tiempo

What happens when you are in love with someone who is in love with someone else?

What happens when you are married to and in love with someone is in love with and wishes he were married to someone else?

Millie Fitzhugh is in that situation -- stuck in a marriage of convenience to a man who finds her very presence inconvenient.

At 17, most girls wouldn't know what to do -- would probably accept their fate and live complacent of the whole situation.

But Millie isn't like most girls. And, surprisingly, it is her husband who unwittingly gives her the courage to dream bigger than herself.

"I have been thinking about what you said the other day. You made me realize that yes, I have been forced into this. I was never given ant other choice, never told that there was any other way to justify my existence on this earth but to be a conduit that united the Graves name with a lineage nobler and more ancient.

It is a stupid goal. But such are the circumstances of our lives that we must hold our noses and proceed, or we shall both be far worse off ..."
- p. 44

While Millie and Fitz have no say about who they marry, they do have a say about what happens to them after. And so, young Millie and young Fitz both agree to eight years of freedom from married life.

It is eight years later, despite the circumstances, Millie and Fitz have become very good friends and partners in Millie's father's business. Fitz's old love is back. Isabella is now a widow and is eager to rekindle what was snuffed out many years ago.

But, before Fitz can do that, he must first fulfill his bargain with Millie.

Millie has always known she would never have her husband's heart -- and now it returns to its true owner -- but, first, she must honor her end of the bargain and she wonders how she will survive it.

After four years and reading all of Sherry Thomas's books, these are what I have come to love about her work:

Flawless Prose
Her writing is so beautiful and very poetic. With a pointillist's precision, Thomas carefully and thoughtfully selects words to paint an incredibly heart-wrenching and breathtaking picture.

Consider this moment when she first met Fitz:
Like a visitation of angels, there flared a bright white light in the center of her vision. Haloed by this supernatural radiance stood a young man who musy have folded his wings just that moment so as to bear a passing resemblance to a mortal.

An instinctive sense of self-preservation made her lower her face before she'd quite comprehended the geography of his features. But she was all agitation inside, a sensation that was equal parts glee and misery.
- p. 4

Unusual Love Story
Thematically, Ravishing the Heiress could be best compared to Not Quite a Husband -- but, where Bryony and Leo's problem was one of not knowing how the other felt, Fitz and Millie's problem is that they knew.

They knew that Fitz didn't want to marry Millie. They knew that Fitz wanted to marry Isabella. They knew that Millie's family only wanted her to marry Fitz for his title and connections.

In all romance novels, the reflection is always: How does love come to be? And I have come to appreciate this question as Sherry Thomas releases these three stories about the Fitzhugh siblings back-to-back:

In the first book, love happened in a whirlwind affair on a boat, with the heroine masked and unseen by the hero. Love expressed itself in a physical and intellectual way (they were conversing quite often) --

In this one, love happens when it wasn't supposed to happen. Love has no physical expression here -- it came to be through mutual respect and shared work, blossoming through friendship.

Love was patient in Millie and Fitz's case -- it took them eight years to discover and reveal what was in their hearts.

Most times, flashbacks are used for the reader's benefit -- to explain something that happened in the past that is significant to the events of the present. (Private Arrangements and what Gigi did to Cam.)

In this story, the use of flashbacks is also for Millie and Fitz's benefit -- to show just how many experiences they have shared together, despite their pact to live independently of each other. Their memories of each other pervade their present in a seamless way.

I loved the breakfast scene with the scrambled eggs -- how something as simple and mundane as that could trigger a memory from the past.

Her light brown hair was pulled back into a tight bun, not a strand loose -- never a strand loose, except when she'd smashed a brick fireplace wielding a sledgehammer.


His wife had left behind some scrambled eggs, which was most unlike her... He knew she liked her eggs salted, but this was less scrambled egg than scrambled salt. He'd have to speak to her about it next time he saw her...
- pp. 19 - 23

The fireplace. The eggs. The next time. Past, present and future meld together in a very organic and instinctual way. (We learn about the incident with the sledgehammer in pp. 116 to 118)

Could this story have been told in a linear fashion? Yes, and I think it would flow just as wonderfully -- but the implosive element with be lost. And that aspect of Millie reminded me of Edith Tiempo's poem, the first stanza of which I have quoted at the beginning of this review. We would not be able to see how Millie struggled to contain her feelings for Fitz -- how she tried to "fold up her feelings" and made them small so that no one would see it.

I am a huge fan of Sherry Thomas and consider her books to be keepers. Every time I read her books, I am affected in a way that rarely happens when I read. (It's been 4 days since I finished this book -- and the story has stayed with me long after I have read it.)

What is amazing about this book is how incredibly compact it is -- a love story that spanned eight years told in less than 300 pages. And it works.

The third book in the series, Helena Fitzhugh's story, Tempting the Bride, will be released this October. (Yay!)

Also, I'm so glad to hear that Sherry Thomas will be releasing 2 e-novellas related to her Fitzhugh series. (The first e-novella will be part of the Midnight Scandals anthology, which will be released this August.)

To find out more about Sherry Thomas and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Blog Tour Stop: The de Monforte Brothers series by Danelle Harmon (Guest Blog Post + Giveaway)

I'm very excited to welcome Danelle Harmon to Love Saves the World.

Danelle is currently on a virtual book tour to promote her de Montforte Brothers series and I asked her to do a guest post where she talks about what she does when she isn't writing.

Danelle will be awarding a digital copy of book two, "The Beloved One" to one randomly drawn commenter at every stop and a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour (INT).

Make sure to drop by her other stops! For links, click here.

Here's what Danelle wrote:

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Things I do when I'm not writing:

Playing with my dogs... We have four German Shorthaired Pointers ranging in age from one to fifteen years. This is a difficult breed, and one I don't recommend to anyone who doesn't have a lot of time to devote to them and room for them to run, as their exercise requirements are huge, but I guess I'm a sucker for punishment! They are so devoted and a lot of fun, and they make me laugh, as they never really grow up. My male, Marcus -- handsome and flamboyant -- is an AKC champion and also has his Canine Good Citizen title, and our puppy, Tansy, just got her first championship point. I've spent many a morning getting up before the sun to trek off to a dog show! I also do a lot of volunteer work including fostering for dog Rescue, and have recently been asked to write a bi-monthly column for our national breed publication by our national rescue chair. This is an honor... and something I think will be every bit as challenging as writing a book! It feels good to help save a life.

Reading... I like straight historical fiction, or even a suspense or two such as something by Dean Koontz or Tess Gerritsen. I actually don't read a lot of romance, as I don't want others' influences to creep, even subconsciously, into my own work. I think this helps to keep my own stories fresh and (hopefully) original. Right now I'm reading a great biography by Samuel A. Forman about the young and handsome Dr. Joseph Warren, a forgotten hero of the American Revolution and one of my favorite historical figures. He's likely to find himself into a future book. Dr. Warren, that is -- not his biographer!

Riding my horse... The largest member of our family, Ben Azi, is a grey Arabian. His great-grandsire, Nazeer, was an Egyptian racehorse, and he traces in every line from horses imported from Egypt. Though Arabians are the go-to choice in romance novels, they are often portrayed as "huge," which really clashes with reality. The true Arabian horse is a smaller animal, often technically "pony size," and most of our romance genre's 6'-plus heroes would look sadly underhorsed on them, though in reality, the Arabian is renowned for its ability to carry more weight for its size than many other breeds, and is the preferred choice for those who compete in endurance. Ben Azi doesn't know he's a horse, though. He thinks he's a dog, begs at the back deck during suppertime (he likes pizza and potato chips), and has taken good and gentle care of our daughter ever since she started riding him at age two. He is a wonderful companion!

Listening to music... My tastes are varied. I wrote much of the de Montforte series to the hard-driving music of the British band Oasis, which was huge when I lived in England... it never found as much status here in the states as it did in the UK, but I remain a devoted fan. I need energy when I write -- I think it finds itself into my writing, or at least I hope it does! From Madonna to the Bee Gees to Blur, my iTunes library is pretty eclectic!

Kicking back and spending time with my family... I met my English husband in 1994; he was living in Oxfordshire, and I was here in Massachusetts. By the autumn of that year, I had moved myself and my dog, Roscoe (that's him on the cover of THE DEFIANT ONE, and he also was the "model" for "Freckles," one of the dogs in that book) to England, and we were married in March of 1995. We live here in New England now, and have a 'tweenaged daughter, Emma... also an animal lover!

I also devote time to other obligations: I'm on the Vestry of my church, am trying to learn Photoshop (I think it's defeating me), and have a long-standing interest in miniatures, where I've made a modest part-time income as a model horse artist during the years of my writerly sabbatical.

Thank you for taking the time to host me today on your blog -- it has been a pleasure to be here!

* * *

Thank you, Danelle! I'm so happy to have you visit my blog!

* * *

More about the author:

Multi-award winning and critically acclaimed author Danelle Harmon is the author of ten books, previously published in print and distributed in many languages throughout the world. A Massachusetts native, she married her English husband while living in the United Kingdom, and both now make their home in Massachusetts with their daughter Emma and numerous animals including four dogs, an Egyptian Arabian horse, and a flock of pet chickens.

To find out more about Danelle and her books, visit:
Danelle Harmon on the web:
Danelle Harmon on Facebook:
Danelle Harmon on Twitter:
Danelle Harmon's blog:

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More about the de Montforte Brothers series:

Book 1 in the series
England, 1776: Lord Gareth de Montforte is known as an irresponsible rake with a heart of gold. When he takes a bullet for boldly thwarting a stagecoach robbery, he is stunned to discover that the beautiful young woman he has heroically rescued, Juliet Paige, is his deceased brother’s American fiancée, accompanied by her infant daughter. Despite his brother the duke's refusal to acknowledge Juliet, Gareth is determined to do right by the courageous woman who crossed an ocean to give her baby her rightful name. But Juliet is wary of marrying this black sheep aristocrat, even while she is hopelessly charmed by the dashing devil. Never has she met anyone who embraces life so thoroughly, who makes her laugh, who loves her so well. And, even when it seems the odds are against them, Juliet has absolute faith that Gareth will go beyond the call of duty, risking his life itself to give her and her daughter a home — and a love that will last a lifetime.

"Just what on earth are you doing, Lord Gareth?"

The way she said it made his cheeks warm with embarrassment. So he was a pillock. Who cared? Instead, he gave her his most devastating grin and said with cheerful earnestness, "Why, I have come to rescue you, of course."

"Rescue me?"

"Surely you didn't think I'd allow Lucien to banish you into obscurity, now, did you?"

"Well, I -- The duke didn't ban -- She gave a disbelieving little laugh and leaned out the window, grasping the blanket tightly at her breasts. Her hair, caught in a long, dark braid, swung tantalizingly out over her bosom. "Really, Lord Gareth. This is... highly irregular!"

"Yes, but the hour is late, and as it took me all day to find you, I was feeling rather impatient. I do hope you'll forgive me for resorting to such desperate measures. May I come in and talk?"

"Of course not! I -- I cannot have a man in my bedroom!"

"Why not, my sweet?" He pushed aside a small, leafy twig in order to see her better and grinned cajolingly up at her. "I had you in mine."

She shook her head, torn between what she wanted to do -- and what she ought to do. "Really, Lord Gareth... your brother will never approve of this. You should go home. After all, you're the son of a duke and I'm just a -- "

" -- beautiful young woman with nowhere else to go. A beautiful young woman who should be a part of my family. Now, do collect Charlotte and your things, Miss Paige -- I fear we must make haste, if we are to marry before Lucien catches up to us."

"Marry?!" she cried, forgetting to whisper.

He gazed at her in blank, perfect innocence. "Well, yes, of course," he said, clinging to the branch as it dropped another few inches. "Surely you don't think I'd be hanging out of a tree for anything less, do you?"

Book 2 in the series
Wounded in battle, Englishman Charles de Montforte has awakened to find himself in the tender care of a sensuous, sloe-eyed local miss, whose beauty would be a joy he would treasure always... if only their paths had crossed in some other place and time. Charles' heart is profoundly moved by Amy Leighton's desperate plight, and her curvaceous dark loveliness and gentle, healing touch are enflaming his desires. But the noble British lord is already taken, though Amy soon lures him away from past loyalties to Crown and fiancée with a golden, rapturous promise of love happily forever after.

Amy has long prayed for someone special to enter her life -- someone who would take her far away from the daily drudgery imposed upon her by a cruel, unloving step-family. Now fate has brought her the strong yet gentle man of her dreams; but the handsome stranger is from an enemy land... and he's sworn to love another.

Book 3 in the series
Blessed -- or perhaps cursed -- with a fiery temper, a strong will, and a blatant disregard for his brother's wishes, Andrew's only desire was to be left alone.

But after being caught in a compromising position with tempting Lady Celsiana Blake, the defiant Lord Andrew is forced into marriage. This solitary man knows he has been duped by his brother, for Andrew would never have taken the lady into his private chambers if it hadn't been for the Duke of Blackheath's machinations. After all, the reluctant groom's sudden, unbidden desire for the woman who would be his bride could only be called a mere chemical reaction -- or was it something more?

Celsie can't account for her shameless behavior with the brilliant but brooding lord she was to wed. So how was she supposed to act now that she was sharing her life with him? There is only one thing a new wife on the verge of falling in love can do -- try to win her husband's wary heart.

Book 4 in the series
The head of his noble family, the dark and dangerous Duke of Blackheath spends his time manipulating other lives without giving a thought to finding a wife of his own. Yet Lucien must admit he finds exquisite Eva de la Mouriére most intriguing. What adventurous, red-blooded male would not be intrigued by a flame-haired beauty who appears in his chambers demanding that he make love to her? Certainly this hot-tempered minx would make a delightful bedmate -- though surely not a bride.

Eva knows Lucien is the cause of all her current misfortunes, yet he refuses to be humiliated. But the worst betrayer is her own heart. No match for Lucien's seductive mastery, Eva craves the blackguard as she's never craved another. She must resist this rogue, but how long can she deny her own passion -- or Lucien's blossoming genuine love -- in the face of his scheming family's successful attempts to force a wedding?

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Danelle will be awarding a digital copy of book two, "The Beloved One" to one randomly drawn commenter at every stop and a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. (INT).

Make sure to drop by her other stops! For links, click here.

*This giveaway is via Rafflecopter and is open to International Readers
*One entry per household, per IP address.
*This giveaway will run until August 7.
*Rafflecopter will select one (1) winner who will win an e-copy of The Beloved One by Danelle Harmon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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