Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sample Reading #14: Colorado Dawn by Kaki Warner

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?

Romance Reviews Today recently blogged about their Perfect 10s for 2012 and Kaki Warner's Colorado Dawn was one of two Historical Romances listed (the other one was Sweet Enemy by Heather Snow).

I've never read Kaki Warner but I'm familiar with her name because she's been nominated for the RITAs several times and has won for First Book (for Pieces of Sky) -- so I decided to check out Colorado Dawn, which is the second book in her Runaway Brides series.

colorado dawn kaki warner love saves the world historical romance

The Blurb:
After only three letters and one visit during her six-year marriage to a Scottish Cavalry Officer, Maddie Wallace decides to build a life without him. Accepting an assignment from a London periodical to photograph the West from a female perspective, she sails from England, determined to build a new life as an independent woman.

After injury ends his military career, Angus Wallace returns home to find his wife gone, his family decimated by fever, and himself next in line to an earldom. His new mission is clear--find his wife and sire heirs. His search takes him across an ocean and half a continent, but he finally tracks her to Heartbreak Creek, Colorado. There his biggest challenge awaits--to convince his headstrong wife to return home as his viscountess.
- from Kaki Warner's website

I got the sample from: Amazon, Kindle
# of Pages: Prologue and Chapter 1 of a 368-page book (23 chapters)

My Impressions:
Runaway Brides is one of my favorite romance tropes. There are so many different reasons why a bride would bolt and there are so many different ways for the story to end: will she be "caught" by her groom and will they end up together and how will that come about? Will she find someone else? etc.

(For reference: I love, love, love Celeste Bradley's Runaway Brides Trilogy and Madeline Hunter's The Rarest Blooms series has one runaway bride. ^_^)

In Kaki Warner's Colorado Dawn, Maddie Wallace has grown tired of waiting for her husband Angus, a soldier, to come back. Her husband's indifference and his family's coldness (and then her own parents' death) have pushed Maddie to strike out on her own and pursue her own dreams. On impulse, she submits her tintypes to The Illustrated London News -- and is delighted to have been hired. What surprises her is that her new boss assigns her to take photos of the American West.

Maddie jumps at the chance to have an adventure of her own.

Almost two years later, Angus, who is now Viscount Ashby, has arrived in Colorado to find his wife.

From the sample, I fell in love with Warner's writing. She presents incredible insight into society and has given her characters very distinct voices. I especially loved the part where Angus arrives in Heartbreak Creek and the sheriff introduces him to some people:

... "See that table in the back corner?" He pointed across the hall to the open door that led into the dining room. "The one with the ladies?"

Ash followed his direction and saw the blond woman seated with a dark-skinned woman and a pregnant sandy-haired woman. All three were staring their way. And frowning. "Aye, I see them."

"The blond is Lucinda Hathaway," the sheriff explained in a friendly tone. "Owns the hotel. Yankee. Smart. Carries a pepperbox pistol. Far as I know, she hasn't killed anyone with it. The dark-skinned woman is Prudence Lincoln. She lives at the school the ladies set up for the ex-slaves and anyone else who wants to come to learn. Whether she likes it or not, she's under the protection of a Cheyenne Dog Soldier. Ever heard of them?"

Ash had. ...

"Now that blue-eyed beauty," the man went on, his voice softening as he looked at the sandy-haired woman. "She's Edwina Brodie. She might fool some with her southern charm, but she's pretty handy with a shovel and once even faced down a mountain lion with a bucket of salad greens. And if that's not enough to give a man pause ..." Swinging his gaze back to Ash, he gave him a hard look. "There's me."

... "And who are you?"

The sheriff touched the tips of two fingers to the brim of his hat. "Declan Brodie. I'm temporary sheriff here at Heartbreak Creek. And her husband." ... "As you can see," he went on, glancing back toward the women, "the ladies are upset. It's not good when they get upset."

"Which of us is in trouble?" Ash asked, although he had a fair idea.
- pp 13-14

The sample ends with Angus deciding to chase after Maddie, who is at Alamosa River taking pictures.

I have so, so many questions! Why did they get married? (She's English and he's Scottish.) How will Maddie react to seeing Angus after almost six years?

Price: $10.20 for print (Used copies start at $1.59), $11.69 for Kindle (International?)

Will I buy it?
After I finished reading this sample, I went and read the samples of the first book, Heartbreak Creekheartbreak creek kaki warner historical romance western and the third book, Bride of the High Countrybride of the high country kaki warner historical romance western
and this looks like a really, really, really great series based on the samples.

So, yes, I will be getting these books. (Will most likely get them from the Amazon marketplace to get them at a better price.)
Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: Lessons from a Scandalous Bride by Sophie Jordan

Cleo has lived her entire life poor, hungry and witness to the deaths of her siblings who were born to weak or were too hungry, too cold, and too small to survive life in their cramped rooms.

She's seen her mother's life drained by each pregnancy and seen her stepfather's indifference.

When she is finally found and told who her real father is, Cleo makes two promises to herself: she will strive to make a better life for herself and help her family -- and she will never allow any man to enslave her the way her mother was.

But, part of the condition of getting her share of Jack Hadley's wealth is to marry -- and marry well, preferably a title. Cleo has set her cap on Lord Thrumgoodie, a man with one foot at death's door -- which suits Cleo's preferences very well.

Until she meets Logan McKinney -- a young Scottish lord looking for an heiress to marry to save his crumbling castle and to fund his sisters' dowries.

Logan quickly realizes that he cannot be satisfied with marriage to a shallow, vapid heiress -- he wants Cleo.

Cleo struggles with herself: she cannot fight her attraction to Logan but she also cannot conquer her fears. But, when they are found in a compromising position and her reputation is ruined, Cleo has no choice but to marry Logan -- but she is making sure she protects herself first: by refusing Logan in her bed.

This was a disappointing read -- and I was really looking forward to it because I liked the previous book so much. (See my review of Wicked in Your Arms by Sophie Jordan)

The Forgotten Princesses are Jack Hadley's illegitimate daughters and they are all Cinderellas in their own right -- lost to the soot and dust of various parts of the country, they have been found and restored to their rightful places in society, with wealth and comfort at their fingertips.

Cleo has a tragic backstory. As the eldest child, she's had to bury so many siblings and had felt helpless to defend her mother against her stepfather. From the prologue, I thought I would really like Cleo. She wasn't afraid to stand up to the man hired by Jack Hadley to bring her back and was clever enough to negotiate a higher amount to take care of her family.

But, when she's been given the gift of Jack Hadley's wealthy and power, instead of using it to help her family or to do anything, she seems to have forgotten them. There is no mention of the family she left behind from the prologue up to Chapter 6. Her family comes up again in Chapter 7 when her stepfather stops her at the park and tells her the money (that was supposed to last for two years) had run out.

She should have known this would happen -- that Roger would hoard the money for his own vices while her mother and siblings suffered.

She suddenly doubted whether her mother and the children saw a penny of it.
- pp. 68-69

But the problem is, Cleo didn't. As though she developed amnesia and couldn't remember how cruel and selfish her stepfather was.

Then she forgets her mission: to marry so that she can get money to help her family. Cleo continues to drag her feet and doesn't seem to think of other options (she could have gone to Jack Hadley for help regarding her siblings) -- in Chapter 10, Cleo receives another piece of shattering news about her siblings but, again, she doesn't really do anything. She doesn't go to see them ... or send someone over.

And where is her pin money? (She could have given this to help her family.)

The next time she remembers her family is in the Epilogue. It is mentioned that she spent the last month writing letters to her family with no response -- again, I question her lack of effort.

The oddest part is, Logan actually resolved the situation with Cleo's stepfather in Chapter 11 -- but he also forgets to see the siblings reunited.

And because of all that was forgotten, I could not bring myself to like the hero and heroine. The one constant thing in Cleo's mind was her fear that she would become like her mother -- but, unfortunately, her selfishness and self-centeredness has made her become more like her stepfather who was intent in his own personal needs and wants.

Lessons from a Scandalous Bride is the second book in Sophie Jordan's Forgotten Princesses series (and is connected to Wicked Nights with a Lover, which is Marguerite's story). To find out more about Sophie Jordan and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: A Night Like This by Julia Quinn

A series of careless, unintended actions leads to his friend, Hugh's, leg (and life) shattered forever and results in Daniel Smythe-Smith's extended stay on the Continent. Aimless and unfettered, he lives a life of no responsibilities but it is not a life without worries. Hugo's father, the Marquess of Ramsgate's, threat continues to ring in Daniel's ears and the shadow of danger follows Daniel constantly.

Until Hugh finds him after three years and tells him he can finally come home.

Knowing the Smythe-Smiths, anyone else would have refused to go home to this exuberant, high-spirited (and tone deaf) family -- but, for Daniel, home is truly the best and sweetest place.

His homecoming is made sweeter still when he meets Anne Wynter, governess to his cousins.

She looked up.

Time stopped. It simply stopped. It was the most maudlin and cliched way of describing it, but those few seconds when her face was lifted toward his ... they stretched and pulled, melting into eternity.

She was beautiful. But that didn't explain it. He'd seen beautiful women before. He'd slept with plenty of them, even. But this ... Her ... She ...

Even his thoughts were tongue-tied.
- p. 25

But Anne's the last person who would welcome the attentions of an earl ... or of anyone, for that matter. She's happy to fade into the background, doing everything to not call attention to herself.

For Anne is also living a life of constant fear -- fear that her past will finally catch up with her -- A youthful indiscretion. A ruined reputation. A family who refuses to acknowledge her anymore. And a scorned, injured former lover who is intent on injuring her.

They know they shouldn't pursue the attraction that they feel.

They know nothing good would ever come of it.

But they surrender and enjoy the temporary respite of each other's company and, just when Daniel and Anne start to slowly believe that they can have a different life (a more peaceful, threat-free one), their past ones come crashing into their current lives.

Lives are endangered. Accidents happen. But who is the target? Is it Daniel bringing danger into their lives? Or is it Anne?

Fight or flight? This is the question. The first time around, both chose to run away from their problems and their lives. But now, when more is at stake -- when love is at stake, which will they choose?

This was a pleasant read -- part of the charm of the book hinges on one's previous experience of the Smythe-Smiths (in the Bridgerton novels) -- I see this as a plus and a minus:

Plus: The Smythe-Smiths constantly teased us with their presence in the Bridgerton stories and, even then, one could sense they were unique people with very interesting stories: known for their annual musicale, which despite its (bad) reputation preceding it, everyone attends it.

I'm glad that the spotlight is finally on the Smythe-Smiths -- they were dangerously close to becoming stock characters. Julia Quinn has given them dimension -- and have enhanced the romance of their family's annual tradition.

Minus: Because they are characters from the Bridgerton series, comparisons are inevitable. And, sadly, the Smythe-Smiths' stories don't have the same sparkle as the Bridgerton stories.

Daniel and Anne's story lacked substance and depth -- Quinn's trademark quirkiness is present but this story felt a bit flat.

I didn't like the part where they were rehearsing for the play. (Chapters 10 and 11) It didn't really serve to flesh out our hero and heroine or to deepen their relationship.

The best part of this story is how the author writes about family dynamics. The Smythe-Smiths are fun -- and I could understand why Daniel was so eager to come home to them. It was also bittersweet that Anne is embraced by this family when her own has shunned her completely.

And there is Hugh, second son of Lord Ramsgate -- and the reason why Daniel left. He's actually more likable and more compelling than the main characters. (see pages 85-87)

A Night Like This is the second book in Julia Quinn's Smythe-Smith Quartet. The third book in the series, Sarah and Hugh's story, will be released in May 2013.

To find our more about the author and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Tour Stop: Love's Debt by Rachel Brimble (Interview + Giveaway)

Today we welcome Rachel Brimble, who is currently on tour for her new book, Love's Debt.

I had the pleasure of asking Rachel about books, the English countryside and her future plans:

LSTW: What's the last book you read? What's the next book you plan to read?
Rachel: The last book I read was Vision in White by Nora Roberts, the first in her Bride quartet so I am now reading book two, Bed of Roses. Nora is my favorite romance author and I’m loving this series so will definitely be finishing all four one after the other.

I’m usually reading more than one book AND one genre and right now I am also reading The Darling Strumpet by Gillian Bagwell, a novel based on the infamous lover of Charles II, Nell Gwyn. Highly recommended!

LSTW: What's your favorite thing about living on the English countryside?
Rachel: The beautiful scenery and places to walk my beloved black Labrador, Max. I am lucky enough to be within a thirty-minute drive of the Georgian city of Bath in one direction and the gorgeous countryside thirty minutes drive in the other. I truly love where I live – it is full of historical detail and landmarks, which provides a wealth of inspiration when I’m looking for my next story idea.

LSTW: You've written both contemporary and historical romance -- what's the greatest challenge about shifting time periods?
Rachel: I don’t find a challenge switching genres but there’s definitely a bigger challenge writing historical romance. I tend to focus on the emotion of the story rather than the historical detail in case I get anything wrong, lol! Love is timeless and emotions universal, so what any man or women felt in 1860 will be the same in 1960 and 2060.

I add historical flavor with setting, costume and social etiquette but the core of the story is the romance for which I can adopt the same writing method for both historical and contemporary.

LSTW: What's next for Rachel Brimble?
Rachel: I am SO excited about 2013! Firstly, I have just signed my second romantic suspense with Harlequin Superromance. The first of which will be released in February 2013. I am hoping this will be a trilogy so fingers crossed my editor will like book three enough to contract that one too!

Also, I have signed a two-book Victorian romance contract with Kensington. Unfortunately, I don’t have a confirmed release date for the first book but my editor is hoping for around May 2013. The second one is yet to be written but I completed the plan and hope to start writing in the next week or so. Wish me luck!

Congratulations on the book deal, Rachel! And, thank you, for dropping by my blog!

Rachel started her blog tour last September 24 and will be visiting blogs until October 3. Make sure to drop by her other stops! (For links, click here.)

Rachel is giving away 10 copies of her book. For a chance to win, fill out the Rafflecopter below.

* * *

About the Book:

To keep herself from the depths of poverty, Milly Shepherd needs to be appointed manager of the Red Lion Tavern. The elderly owner is in failing health and has promised her the job permanently if no one more suitable applies. Milly will fight with her entire being to make the job her own.

Joseph Jacobs needs to supplement his income to pay off his father’s creditors and save him from debtor’s prison. Though the job as manager of the local tavern looks promising, Milly is favored by both the owner and customers.  Instead, Joseph swallows his pride and agrees to tend bar.

As they work together, their attraction grows, their goals cross, and both Millie and Joseph find they must face their fears ... the question is whether they face them alone or together?

“No, I take it from here.” His jaw tightened. “I mean it, Milly. I don’t want you in there.”

“Why are we arguing about this? I thought we’d built a trust between us.”

His gaze darted over her face, lingered at her lips. “This has nothing to do with trust.”

“Then what?”

“Pride. If I haven’t got that…if I’ve stooped so low as to put a woman at risk, then there’s no point in going on at all. I won’t do it, Milly. I won’t expose you to whatever is behind that door. If you can’t stay here, then go back to the tavern. I’ll see you there shortly.”

His face was set, his shoulders stiff and Milly’s irritation grew. She poked a finger into his chest. It was like iron. She swallowed. “Have you heard the saying, pride before a fall?” He nodded. “Good, because if people don’t reach out to other people, Joseph Jacobs, they fall further than ever with nobody there to catch them.”


She raised her hand. “Go. Do what you want. I’ve got more important things to worry about that a man full of so much pride, he looks fit to burst.”

Turning, Milly gripped her bag tightly in her hand and strode away. She did not look back, and she didn’t stop walking. Her stupid heart had let her down. Made her get involved in a man’s life and begin to care about him. Well, the buck stopped there. No more. If Joseph Jacobs ever needed her help again, he could take a long walk off the dock.

Blinking against the rare sting of tears, she tilted her chin and retraced her steps across town. Her shift at the tavern started in an hour’s time, but that didn’t matter; there was always plenty to be done and at least there, she was appreciated. Joseph certainly didn’t see what was right in front of his damn face.

Yet each step that took her across town weighed heavier and heavier. She’d seen where he and his father lived. It was little better than a hovel. She’d seen the newspapers stuffed around the window frames in an attempt to keep out the cold, the bare floorboards, and thick layers of soot from the fireplace spilling into the room. The landlady should be seeing to that, all of it. Bitter resentment furled in Milly’s stomach as her past flashed through her mind. She’d pulled her family from the gutter, and the future looked brighter than ever before.

Which didn’t help the nagging feeling that she could do more—wanted to do more to help Joseph. But she couldn’t. It would mean putting a hold on her own plans. All for a man she had hardly known more than two weeks.

She curled her hands into fists. This feeling inside her was new. This sense of wanting to fight for someone outside of her family. How had it gotten like this? To kiss him was bad enough, but to have this…this fear for him? That scared her more than anything.
* * *

A Little Bit More About Rachel Brimble:

Rachel lives with her husband and two young daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. She started writing short stories about eight years ago but once her children were at school, she embarked on her first novel. It was published in 2007. Since then, she’s had several books published with small presses as well as securing her first contract with Harlequin Superromance in May 2012.

Represented by US agent Dawn Dowdle, of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England. And in the evening? Well, a well-deserved glass of wine is never, ever refused ...

Contact Rachel at:
Website -
Blog -
Twitter - or @rachelbrimble
Facebook -

* * *


Follow this VBT to enter the contest at each participating stop for a chance to win one of ten (10) eBook copies of "Love's Debt" by Rachel Brimble. More entries = more chances to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For information on her other stops, click here.
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: The Devilish Montague by Patricia Rice

1) Read a classic romance.

2) Read a book with an animal on its cover.
3) Urban Fantasy with a strong romance line and strong, kick-ass heroine.

4) Editors and Writers Month: Read a book where a character is in the writing field (author, writer, journalist, publisher, editor, etc)
5) Pirate day: Read a book that involves Pirates or other sea-faring characters, like Vikings, Ship Captains, etc..
6)Read a Book Day: Read a book that you have been meaning to read or a book that has been neglected in a series or a challenge or a random book that caught your fancy when you were browsing. <-- this is the challenge * * *

Blake Montague has been to war, has come home because of an injury ... and now wants to go back. He's close to cracking the French code which would turn the tides in England's favor. But, first, he must purchase his colors again.

Problem: His family refuses to give him the money.

In Blake's own offbeat way, he's found a solution: marry money.

Problem: While Blake is fairly well-known as a genius, he's even better known for being irascible unpredictable and slightly prone to angry outbursts. What woman would have him? What society mama would want their daughter married to Blake Montague?

Enter Jocelyn Byrd-Carrington. Who recently inherited an annuity from her father's estate which ensures that she lives comfortably for the rest of her days. But she also has to take care of her eccentric/reclusive mother and younger brother -- and she also has to recover all of her brothers' pet birds, which their older stepbrother sold.

Blake and Jocelyn meet because of one such bird: Percy, the foul-mouthed parrot who is now owned by the Duke of Fortham. A toe is shot. A bird gets "stolen." And Blake and Jocelyn find themselves in a compromising situation.

But it is also a situation that presents an opportunity for the two of them: Blake needs Jocelyn's money and Jocelyn needs Carrington House (her family's house), which Blake's father has won in a game of cards and is now giving to Blake.

Our clever hero and heroine arrange a convenient marriage for themselves -- and so their misadventure begins.

While I was reading this, what kept going through my mind is that these characters don't fit the usual mold.

Blake is intellectual and scholarly but he never finished university (he was booted out) and he doesn't mind getting into a brawl or two. He's not quiet or retiring and has a take-charge attitude.

Jocelyn is a social butterfly -- but she doesn't actually like to flit and flutter about (she sees it as a means to an end) -- and would love to make a stable home for her eccentric mother and younger brother. She longs to put roots down somewhere.

I didn't think I would enjoy this story because it starts out a bit too silly for my taste. The banter is playful but it got out of hand and actually turned me off the first time I read it.

But I recently read a review of this book that made me change my perspective and my approach to reading it -- and I managed to finish it the second time around.

What's interesting is that, while I was complaining about sharing my experience of reading this book with my sister, she actually told me she found the plot interesting and asked me what I thought was wrong with the book because it actually sounded like a book she would enjoy reading.

I started enjoying the story at Chapter 23, when Blake and Jocelyn have moved past the foolishness of their personal pursuits and start working together as a unit. Jocelyn dazzles in the society, ensuring that Blake (and his interests) are in the ears of the right people.

"Your future is now mine," she reminded him, and herself. "I have a vested interest in keeping you from becoming cannon fodder. If it is Wellesley's staff you crave, these people have the prince's ear and can place you there with merely a word."


"I know people, all sorts of people, influential and otherwise. That is my area of expertise." ... "Do not disdain my knowledge, and I will respect yours, whatever it might be. I'm sure there is more to your prowess than fighting drunken duels."
- p. 223

And Blake shows a kinder side of himself when he openly embraces Jocelyn's odd family.

I've read and love Patricia Rice's Magic series (Malcolm-Ives) and I still think it's one of the best completed series that I've read. Ultimately, what saves this book for me is that it has heart. (And humor, though a bit too much, IMHO) -- I love how Jocelyn finally gets what she has always wanted above all: love and a family.

This is the second book in Patricia Rice's The Rebellious Sons series. To find out more about Patricia Rice and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sample Reading #13: The Queen of Diamonds by Juliet Moore

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 was a case of me judging a book by its cover. I love the expression on her face and her dress is so lovely. (And the color scheme is unique for a historical romance.)

The Blurb:
A priceless diamond leads to love and adventure in late nineteenth century England ...

Only once has anyone cared for abandoned Catherine Claremont's welfare. Handsome Harrison Foster saved her from a pack of cruel neighborhood girls, and walked out of Catherine's young life with her heart.

Imagine Catherine's surprise when her estranged parents send her an invaluable diamond eight years later, a gift that might be a ticket to a better life. She marries Marcus Watson, a third son with no inheritance and the same goal, and uses the diamond to buy a stake in the South African diamond fields.

Once there, nothing goes as planned. Greed consumes Marcus. Harrison Foster re-appears unexpectedly -- and then Marcus mysteriously disappears. As a married woman, Catherine does her best to avoid the man she's always loved. But in the end she must choose between finding Marcus--and keeping her respectability--or running to Harrison and forbidden love.
- from Amazon's Book Description

I got the sample from: Amazon, Kindle
# of Pages: First 2 chapters of a 147-page novella

My Impressions:
The cover is lovely -- but the cover also confuses me. My initial expectation was that this would be about cards and gambling and I was surprised that the "diamond" being referred to in the title actually refers to diamond mines in Africa.

Catherine's a heroine to feel sorry for: abandoned by her parents at a young age and then subjected to teasing and taunting from her cousin and their childhood "friends" -- and to second-class treatment from her uncle and aunt. Catherine's clothes are threadbare and/or are hand-me-downs from her cousin -- who also confuses me. I'm not certain she sees Catherine as a friend -- there's underlying hostility in how she talks to Catherine.

The writing is a bit too modern for Victorian England:

"I bet you she doesn't even have parents. She was abandoned by wolves."
- loc 10

(Origin/history of "bet" from Online Etmology Dictionary)

I also have a problem with how well Catherine remembers Harrison Foster: they only met once (and very briefly -- and at a public inn) when she was twelve years old and she's carried a torch for him ever since? And isn't it a bit too convenient that he happens to be in Africa and they meet there again after all that time?

Price: $0.99 ($2.99 for international)

Will I buy it?
I'm not so sure. On one hand, I'd love to read a story about the diamond mines in Africa (and I want to find out who she chooses in the end) but, on the other hand, I don't know if I can overlook all the inconsistencies in the sample.
Saturday, September 22, 2012

Naughty or Nice Giveaway Hop (International)


This event is being hosted by Nat of Reading Romances and the idea is to choose a side:


I'm choosing "Nice" for this event. ^_^

I recently wrote about The Season for Romance, one of my favorite blog stops online -- and behind this wonderful blog is Beverley Kendall and a group of bloggers/reviewers.

For this giveaway, I am sharing Beverley Kendall's books -- it's an amazing series. ^_^

Clickety-click to read my reviews of:
Book 2: A Taste of Desire
Book 2.5: All's Fair in Love and Seduction
Book 3: An Heir of Deception

*This giveaway is via Rafflecopter and is open to International Readers
*One entry per household, per IP address.
*This giveaway will run until September 29.
*Rafflecopter will select one (1) winner:

The winner will receive Kindle editions of the first 3 books and 1 e-novella in Beverley Kendall's ongoing The Elusive Lords series. The set includes:
Book 1: Sinful Surrender
Book 2: A Taste of Desire
Book 2.5: All's Fair in Love and Seduction (e-nveolla)
Book 3: An Heir of Deception

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop on to the other bloggers and read about which side they chose:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review: Sweet Deception by Heather Snow

If it were up to Derick Aveline, the new Viscount Scarsdale, he would never go back to Derbyshire and all the memories that wait for him there --

But it is not up to him. As an agent for the British government, he is asked to ferret out the informant leaking vital information to the French.

His homecoming isn't one that he had expected: he comes home to find one of the maids missing -- and his childhood friend, Pygmy (Emma), is the one organizing the search.

What Derick doesn't know is that Emma's been acting as magistrate for their county since her brother's unfortunate accident. And she's doing a good job! Gifted with photographic memory and a sharp mathematical brain, Emma's able to figure out patterns and solve the crimes and concerns of their area.

What Derick also doesn't know is how much Emma has loved him ever since they were kids -- and his return has turned Emma's world (and heart) upside down.

The discovery of the missing maid's dead body is the tip of the iceberg -- Derick realizes there have been other unsolved murders in the area and that his own mother's suicide might not have been the full story.

It seems that, for Derick and Emma, the further they dig, the more questions they discover -- and nothing is ever what it seems.

The highlight of this book are the two characters: Derick has an amazing ability to read people and he's used it to track down traitors to the crown.

"W-want you?" Emma sputtered, drawing herself away from him. He couldn't possibly know that, could he? She'd been trying so hard to hide her inconvenient feelings.

"Yes. want me. Shall I tell you how I know?"


"Well, the first tantalizing cue is your shoulders," he said, dropping his lips closer to her ear so she might hear him better. She tried to focus on his words, but his warm breath dancing across her skin proved a mighty distraction.

"See how they are angled just so, open to me, facing me squarely so that all you have to do is open your arms to welcome me to your bosom?"


"Next is how you tilt your head toward me when we speak," he said, "as if placing your delectable lips as close as you can to mine, hoping I'll bridge the gap and touch my own to yours."


"But what really gives you away," Derick murmured, "is the way you stroke your neck after you've tilted your head. It's as if your body is begging me to do the same."
- pp. 85-86

The paradox of Derick Aveline is that, while he is very certain about other people and their agenda, he's not as certain about his own. Derick's mixed parentage (English and French) puts him in limbo -- both sides want to use him for the war but neither side trusts him completely. He hides his true self behind a mask of indifference and insouciance.

But the real Derick loves England and would lay down his life for her and he's tired of living in limbo -- dreaming of moving to America where neither part of his heritage would mean anything.

Emma views the world in forensic terms and she goes as far as developing a mathematical equation that sums up her relationship with Derick:

S (A + B + C) = D squared

(Where S = seduction. For the explanation of the rest of the equation, see page 149)

In Heather Snow's story, it seems that everyone is involved in double-dealing and deception abounds but Emma stands alone as the one character who remains pure and untainted -- I think it's her innocence that allows her to see the world around her with clear eyes and allows her to see and love Derick Aveline for who he is.

In Sweet Deception, Heather Snow takes her story-telling to a new level: the mix of conspiracy and intrigue with clever characters (and their amazing ability to solve the mysteries) makes this book an excellent read. It's a very strong follow-up to her debut, Sweet Enemy.

(To read my review of Sweet Enemy, click here.)

Sweet Deception is the second book in Heather Snow's Veiled Seduction series. The third book, Sweet Madness, will be released in early 2013. To find out more about Heather Snow and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Tour Stop: Romancing Olive by Holly Bush (Review + Giveaway)

This review is for the Virtual Book Tour for Romancing Olive by Holly Bush.

Holly will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour so make sure to visit her other stops and comment! For links, click here. ^_^

My review:
Where do we discover our true selves?

Olive Wilkins found herself and her true calling in Spencer, Ohio -- far from the bustling and busy city of Philadelphia where she lives and works as a librarian.

She's in Spencer to fetch her nephew and niece, orphaned and abandoned after their parents murder. She arrives in Spencer with a plan and she's so confident of herself and her abilities that the reality of the situation that she found shocks her to her core: her brother and his family haven't been living a picture-perfect life on their farm. Olive finds out her brother was a gambler and his wife was an alcoholic who had been using her body to support their lifestyle. When they died, the children were abandoned and the kindhearted Jacob Butler took them in, despite his own personal problems.

With that revelation, Olive's whole perception of the world tumbles down around her -- and she has to face the cold reality: her nephew, John, has been traumatized by the murder and refuses to speak -- and her niece, Mary, is angry and wary of strangers. And both feel safer with Jacob Butler than with her, their aunt.

Still, Olive is determined to fix the situation -- she decides to stay with Jacob Butler's family and hopes she can change John and Mary's minds but, what Olive doesn't count on, is how much the situation would change her as well.

I loved this story. I think Jacob and Olive are wonderful, normal, everyday people who are challenged by their circumstances -- but their actions and the decisions make them heroic.

Jacob is an amazing hero. He lost his wife, the love of his life, and his youngest child has a birth defect, but, instead of wallowing in self pity, he's single-handedly taking care of his family. And he goes out of his way to take care of his neighbors' children -- even when he has no familial obligation to do so. Jacob's very honest about who he is and what he wants -- when Olive arrives, all high-and-mighty, he could have shut the door in her face -- but he was understanding and patient with her.

I had the impression that Olive was like Mary Poppins but Olive's "magic" doesn't come from outside of her but from within -- she never gave up hope and she realized that she was capable of loving people. As a spinster, Olive had resigned herself to that life but living in Spencer, with the Butlers, has opened Olive's eyes to the possibility of a different life.

"...Life is slipping away from us as we speak and I refuse to let another second of my life go by without some pleasure for myself," Olive replied.

Theda's look of shock and confusion was nearly comical.

"But Olive, we're spinsters. We always will be spinsters. Pleasure is not a pursuit meant for women like us."

"What are women like us meant for?" Olive asked quickly.
- p. 194

The strongest emotional resonance, for me, came from the conversations between Theda and Olive when Theda came over to Spencer for a visit. I think the confrontation between Olive's old life and the new one she is about to embark on is a cathartic experience for both women. (See Chapter 10)

This was a wonderful, uplifting romance and I'm glad to have had the chance to read it. ^_^

Disclosure: Review copy was provided by Goddess Fish Promotions. Many thanks to the author and to Goddess Fish for the opportunity. And, yes, this is an honest review.

* * *

About the book:


Spinster librarian, Olive Wilkins, is shocked to learn of her brother’s violent death at a saloon gaming table. Compelled to rescue and raise his children, Olive travels to Ohio, intending to return to her Philadelphia home with her niece and nephew. Little does she know that the children have come to love their caretaker, widower Jacob Butler. Will Olive return home without them or learn to love Jacob as well?


Jacob saw misery and guilt and worry line her face as the shadows of night descended and she shook her head. “It wasn’t your doing. And it’s not your fault,” he said.

Miss Wilkins met his eyes and declared softly, “Whose fault is it then? Who more than their blood relatives? I failed them.”

Jacob watched a shiver run through her. “Are you chilled?” he asked.

“No, Mr. Butler, I’m not chilled. I’m angry.”

“Anger doesn’t solve things. Sometimes nothing does. Except time.”

“But I could have come sooner,” Olive Wilkins said and stepped back from him, fists clenched. “Why didn’t I Mr. Butler? I’ll tell you why. I’ve lived my life; my whole thirty-five years reading books and watching other people live their life. And now, here, those children bear the brunt of it. I buried my nose in a book and my house and my cat and failed them miserably. I made quilts for charity’s and ignored the questions and the doubts I had. I painted a picture of domestic tranquility and never dreamt these children were living, do you hear me, Mr. Butler, living a Dickens tale.”

Jacob’s head inched back with her near hysteria, as she asked and answered her own questions and he knew there was nothing to convince her otherwise. He watched as she calmed herself, righted her dress and shook her head.

“All you can do now, Miss Wilkins, is love them and maybe the past will right it’s self,” he said.

“Yes, of course you’re right. I’m terribly sorry you witnessed my outburst.” Olive Wilkins turned and walked to the porch.

* * *

More about the author:

Holly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.

Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, and vice-president of her local library board and loves to spend time near the ocean. She is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

To find out more about Holly and her books, visit:
Her website:
Holly is on Twitter - @hollybushbooks and on Facebook.
Monday, September 17, 2012

Winners! (Romance at Random Labor Day Hop)

Many thanks to everyone who stopped by from the hop and joined my giveaway.

I enjoyed reading about the titles you are looking forward to this September. ^_^

Congratulations to:



Terri L Byles

I've sent you both an e-mail. ^_^
Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sample Reading #12: Sweet Revenge: A Lady Arianna Regency Mystery by Andrea Penrose

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?

I actually had a different sample planned for the week but, when I read The HR Critic's review of The Defiant Governess by Andrea Pickens (who also writes as Cara Elliott), I decided to check it out -- and discovered that the author also writes historical mysteries as Andrea Penrose. So off to Amazon I went and got samples of the first two books in the series.

The Blurb:
England, 1813: Lady Arianna Hadley’s desire to discover her disgraced father’s murderer has brought her back to London from exile in the Caribbean. Masquerading as a male chef, she is working in one of London’s aristocratic households in order to get close to her main suspect. But when the Prince Regent is taken ill after consuming Arianna’s special chocolate dessert, she unexpectedly finds herself at the center of a dangerous scandal.

Because of his expertise in chocolate, the eccentric Earl of Saybrook, a former military intelligence officer, is asked by the top brass at Horse Guards to investigate the suspected poisoning. But during his first interrogation of Arianna, someone tries to assassinate both of them, and it quickly becomes clear that something very sinister is afoot within the highest circles of government. They each have very different reasons for wanting to uncover the truth, yet to have any chance of doing so they must become allies.

Trust. Treachery. Arianna must assume yet another identity as their search takes them from the glittering ballrooms of Mayfair to the slums of St. Giles. And their reluctant alliance is tested in more ways that one as it becomes clear that someone is looking to plunge England into chaos . . .
- from Andrea Penrose's website

I got the sample from: Amazon, Kindle
# of Pages: First 3 Chapters of a 336-page novel

My Impressions:
Many of the romances I've read this year often have a mix of mystery and intrigue incorporated in the story. In those stories, the romance takes center stage and the mystery serves to move the story (and the relationship of the characters) forward -- but these books written by Andrea Penrose very clearly state that they are historical mysteries, which leads me to believe that the whodunnit is the primary focus of the story.

And what a mystery it is! Andrea Penrose decides to implicate her heroine in the attempted poisoning of the Prince Regent! But was it really poisoning or merely an adverse reaction to a new food?

Now, here's what makes this interesting: the heroine has been working as the chef (a male chef!) in that household. And it is his creation that caused the Prince Regent's collapse. I'm so curious about how Arianna will unmask herself (or will she be unmasked?) and how she will clear her name.

The hero, Alessandro, Lord Saybrook, is also a very interesting man. He's half-Spanish and has matchless knowledge of chocolate. (He also used to work for the Intelligence Office before he was injured.)

The author also begins each chapter with a chocolate-based recipe. (And this is my one nitpick: the recipes are supposed to come from the chocolate notebooks of Dona Maria Castellano and I was expecting to read recipes appropriate to that historical period, but the recipes mention "refrigerate" and "immersion blender" and those felt a bit jarring. Still, I love the inclusion of recipes. (One of my favorite books was Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.) I think it adds to the overall atmosphere of the book.

Price: $6.99 for paperback. The book is also available in e-format.

Will I buy it? ... I really should stop looking through samples. I still have a pile of books that I promised myself I'd finish reading before buying any new ones.

But this one is so interesting! I also read the sample for her second book, The Cocoa Conspiracy.

I actually love the premise of this book more than the first one.  It involves a rare book on cocoa and, from what I've read in the sample, the book contains very important information that men will kill for in order to get.

This story seems to have shades of National Treasure: Book of Secrets and I'm excited to read about Lady Arianna's second adventure.

The third book in the series, Recipe for Treason, will be published December 2012.

Andrea Penrose is a pen name used by Andrea DaRif, who also writes as Andrea Pickens (traditional regencies) and as Cara Elliott (historical romance).

Review: The Bride Who Fell in Love with her Husband by Cheryl Ann Smith (e-novella)

Rose is from Miss Eva Black's School and has now "graduated" by marrying a baron's second son. She lived as a duke's mistress for four years and, despite Miss Eva's tutelage, has fears about her former life intruding into her present life.

Rose knows she is fortunate to have married well and she's determined not to mess things up with Thomas. She's determined to be "the perfect wife" and she thinks it means tamping down her natural passions.

From the beginning, Thomas has made it clear that he does not care about Rose's past -- only their present and their future together. When Rose makes the very bold statement that she will never love him, it challenges Thomas to issue a bolder statement -- that they will fall in love with each other.

This story starts off where whirlwind romances usually start: a bride comes home to meet her husband's family -- there is always a mother who is displeased with the suddenness of the marriage and there is always a battle for control of the household.

But Cheryl Ann Smith puts a fresh spin on that familiar story because the bride in question is a former courtesan who has a lot more to overcome. The Baroness Linley is not pleased with her younger son's sudden marriage and she is determined to bend Rose to her will, as she has done with Thomas's sisters, but Rose possesses a stronger mettle, having had to make her own way from a very young age. Her lessons at Miss Eva's school have taught her restrain and she is trying to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation -- and does a little matchmaking of her own in the process.

The development of the relationship between Rose and Thomas makes for a very compelling read. They had a quick courtship and still have a lot to discover about each other -- but I loved Thomas's devotion to Rose and his steadfast belief that her past doesn't matter to him.

But how does on separate two parts of the same self? It is at the heart of Rose's predicament and the problem comes to the fore on their wedding night, when Rose finds herself reacting improperly to Thomas's lovemaking.

Confusion welled in her mind. She wanted to express her desire but did not want to appear wanton and disappoint Thomas. Everyone knew that wives were not expected to find pleasure in the bedroom. They were meant to please their men.
- p. 23

How our hero and heroine work to allay their worries and fix their relationship is very endearing and heartwarming. One can't help but cheer for both of them because they truly deserve their happy ending.

This e-novella is part of Cheryl Ann Smith's The School for Brides series. To find out more about the author and her works, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Saturday, September 15, 2012

Review: It Begins with a Kiss by Eileen Dreyer (e-short story)

Fiona MacDonald needs to escape from Miss Chase's Finishing School (aka Last Chance Academy) -- not because of the harsh punishments the school doles out to erring students and not because they are usually locked up and starved in a cold attic when they misbehave, but because she believes she must save her twin sister Mairead in Scotland.

But her escape has already been foiled once before -- so now she must rely on her best friend's unreliable older brother to assist her.

Alex Knight isn't there because her sister asked her to, but because he's been tasked by the agency to look after Fiona MacDonald, Ian's younger sister -- but a simple mission becomes complicated when Alex acts on his attraction to Fiona.

I'm a big fan of Eileen Dreyer's Drake's Rakes series and this story/sample does a great job of teasing the readers with information about the next set of books in the series. I wish the books were coming out sooner rather than later -- I would love to find out what happens to Alex and Fiona and the rest of the ladies from Last Chance Academy.

Pippin Knight (Alex's sister), Sarah, Tregallan, Lizzie Ripton and Fiona MacDonald (Ian's sister) -- normally, readers would comment on the chemistry between the hero and heroine (which there is) -- but, in this case, the chemistry of these friends shines through -- very distinct personalities and voices.

Fiona sank back down to sit on her bed. "Poor Lizzie," she said. "No more midnight picnics."

Pip grinned. "Or kitchen raids."

"Skinny-dipping," Sarah said, her eyes bright with unshed tears.

"Excursions to see the gypsies."

"Hiring fairs."

Sarah actually laughed. "We were lucky we escaped that mess," she said, grinning at Pip. "You almost went for a scullery maid."

"I would have made a brilliant scullery maid," Pip defended herself.
- pp. 11-12

Then there's Alex -- I wanted to hit him in the head for being so clueless about his sister's situation at the school -- but, one can see that Pip's revelation about the school genuinely surprised him and now he's determined to make things right.

All in all, this short read was a great transition between the first three books (The Three Graces) and this next set of three (Last Chance Academy). The first book, Once a Rogue (Ian's story), and the second book, Two Times a Lady (Alex and Chuffy's story), will be released in 2013.

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

Final note: My favorite exchange between Alex and Fiona:

"You seem to have run afoul of the landscape, Miss Ferguson."

"You seem to have mastered a grasp of the obvious, Mr. Knight."
- pp. 28
Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: How to Romance a Rake by Manda Collins

I'm read this for the September is for Sequels Reading Challenge hosted by Lisa Loves Literature. ^_^

* * *

Juliet Shelby is one of the three Ugly Ducklings, daughters of the Fabulous Featherstones who, unfortunately, did not inherit their mothers' famed beauty. Of the three, Juliet has more to overcome -- a childhood accident has left her crippled and changed. She's more quiet and somber and prefers to fade into the background.

And Juliet would have been content to live the rest of her days there, until a chance meeting with Alec, Lord Deveril, lights a spark in her.

And, for the first time in her life, she dares to dream of dancing and talking to a handsome lord ... and to step out of the shadows of being a wallflower.

But Juliet's mother has other plans: she's determined to keep Juliet and Juliet's secret in the shadows and pushes for Juliet's marriage to Lord Turlington -- a lord and a painter of very disquieting subjects. O_O

When I was reading this book, I kept thinking that Juliet wasn't as interesting as her cousins Cecily and Madeline -- the only thing that defined her was her limp. Then I realized that this was part of Juliet's story -- she really is the plainest of the three and her limp really defines her life (not by her own choosing -- her mother has a hand in this).

Similar to the ugly duckling fairy tale, Juliet's transformation is a natural result -- no magic was required (well, love is magical. ^_^) -- she simply needed room to breathe and to be given a chance to be herself. And Alec was the mirror that reflected her and made her realize her value.

Manda Collins also weaves an intriguing mystery -- Juliet's piano teacher/mentor and dear friend, Anna, disappears and her disappearance is followed by news of other missing women. Alec and Juliet work together to uncover who the mastermind is. (It surprised me when I found out who it was but, reading back, I realize that Collins has left enough clues behind to make the answer believable.)

I have one small quibble about the story -- Alec is supposed to be a rake but, throughout the story, he behaves perfectly. (And even his backstory suggests that he makes an effort to live along the straight and narrow.)

Alec's only sin is one of self-absorption: too caught up in keeping up appearances and making certain that he lived a life that was different from his father's --

I thought he and Juliet were perfectly suited, despite outward appearances. I liked how Alec's story contrasts with Juliet's -- this is not a one-sided story but one that shows that Alec also gains a lot from loving and being loved by Juliet. Juliet may have been a swan underneath the ugly duckling exterior but Alec was an ugly duckling hiding behind a swan facade. ^_^

There was no denying that the Viscount Deveril was a breathtakingly beautiful man.

A man who had just spent a quarter of an hour kissing her senseless.

"I should apologize for that," Alec said, his back still turned to her. "But I find I cannot."

"Good," Juliet said. "Because if you apologized I would be forced to apologize too. But I find I cannot."

He turned, a wry smile at his mouth. "A fine pair of repentants we are," he said.
p. 113-114

This was a great follow-up to Cecily's story, How to Dance With a Duke. The third book, How to Entice an Earl (Madeline's story) will be released in February 2013.

To find out more about Manda Collins and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Celebrating Bloggers" Blog Hop

Celebrating Bloggers blog hop

This hop is being hosted by author, Terri Giuliano Long. The event runs from September 10 to 13 and she's invited bloggers and authors to share their thoughts about bloggers.

Why do I blog?

This is an apt topic of reflection for me because September 14 marks my one year anniversary of blogging. One of my reading buddies (and the first reader of this blog) couldn't believe it when I told her it's almost been a year. Time really does fly by when you're having fun. ^_^

I initially started writing about the books I read as part of my New Year's Resolution a few years ago and I enjoyed being able to remember all the books that I've read for the year. When my notebook got filled up, I decided to move my writing online.

I blog because I love to read and I love being able to share my thoughts about the books I read with fellow readers. Authors have spent time and thought to write stories that evoke emotions and inspire imagination so, to show my appreciation of their efforts, I challenge myself to digest and reflect on the book I've just read and to put my feelings down to words.

I also grow as a reader with each book that I read and with each blog entry that I write. I am gradually discovering that I do have preferences when it comes to my heroes and heroines -- and about the kinds of romance stories that I read.

I love reading blogs because I get to see the different perspectives, approaches, and reading experiences of my fellow readers. It's fun to read online discussions on books and book-related concerns. I've discovered so many great authors and books through other bloggers and my reading pile has grown exponentially because of this. (This is a good thing. ^_^)

Reading Challenges have also helped guide me as a reader -- and I have blogs to thank for this. I look forward to the start of each month for the Reading Romances Reading Challenge because it helps me plan what to read next. I also recently joined a month-long reading challenge hosted by Lisa Loves Literature called "September is for Sequels" -- and only then did I realize that I had a lot of sequels in my TBR pile.

The one important lesson I learned this year is that blogging also takes quite a bit of time and careful planning. I've joined a few book tours this year and I love the experience of having authors visit the blog but it also means fixing my calendar to make sure that blog posts go live promptly. The same goes for reviews -- I used to be a casual (and carefree) reader and I didn't have to think about what to read next but now I have to. But I love the challenge of making sure my blog is updated. I love that my blog keeps my mind active and alert.

Which brings me to the "celebrating bloggers" part of this entry. I've only been blogging for a year and I am in awe of the dedication and passion of my fellow book bloggers. They are tireless and diligent in their promotion of the books and authors that they love.

It's also an amazing community that helps to promote its own. I've seen many instances on Facebook and on blogs where bloggers would highlight fellow bloggers' fan pages and blogs. (Parajunkee's View has a regular Feature and Follow Hop and Stitch, Read, Cook has a wonderful feature on her blog called "A Day in the Life".)

Now I'd like to highlight some of my favorite book bloggers (and my regular blog stops) on the net:

The Season for Romance
- run by author, Beverley Kendall, the website has amazing discussion points and a great new feature that helps self-published authors gain insights into buyer attitudes called, The Anatomy of a Potential Bestseller.

Beverley and the rest of the bloggers at The Season for Romance are generous in sharing reviews, publishing news and giveaways. And the discussions on the blog are always very interesting and insightful. I also love the monthly release calendar which provides me a visual reference of all the books I need to buy (don't tell my husband) every month.

The HR Critic
- a unique voice in book blogging. I am amazed by the clarity of his opinions about historical romances. He writes very thorough and very fair assessments of the novels that he reads. I also love that his blog features a mix of newly-published novels as well as older books.

His tags are also very so much fun to read (and reflects his enthusiasm for the genre). ^_^

By the way, my choice of pronoun in reference to The HR Critic is not a mistake. ;-)

The Brazen Bookworm
- I found out about Sarah's blog when she was featured in Elise Rome's March Madness series. I remember that Elise said The Brazen Bookworm was one of the loveliest-looking blogs she had visited -- and Elise is right. The Brazen Bookworm is style and substance. She reads and writes about a broad range of books and, to date, her feature on Favorite Romantic Heroes: The Peerage remains one of my favorite blog entries read online.

I am also enjoying her Outlander read-a-long entries. Diana Gabaldon's work is an important piece of historical romance but, to my eternal shame, I have not had the chance to read it. I read Sarah's entries to gain an experience of the book vicariously. ^_^

Finally, to celebrate bloggers, one must also celebrate the readers and blog followers who take the time to visit blogs, to read entries, and to leave comments. Readers inspire me to read better and to write better blog entries.

Many thanks to Terri Long for hosting this very thoughtful event.

Terri also has an ongoing giveaway and you can join by filling out the Rafflecopter over at her blog. Link here.

Hop on to the other participants and read about how they are celebrating bloggers. ^_^

Blogger Participants

Author Participants

Monday, September 10, 2012

Review: Almost a Scandal by Elizabeth Essex

Sally Kent is on her way to have the grand adventure of a lifetime. She's boarding a ship and sailing off to far-off places -- except it's not supposed to be her adventure, but her brother, Richard's.

The Kents have a long family history of joining the Royal Navy and distinguishing themselves in that career and it is supposed to be Richard Kent's turn -- but he has run away to pursue a different career as a vicar. Sally decides to step in to preserve the family's good name ... and because she wants to.

As the only Kent female, Sally is resigned to a lonely life waiting at home while her father and brothers are all out at sea. Taking Richard's place gives her the chance to see and do what all other Kents see and do, but she doesn't count on being on the same ship as Lieutenant David Colyear, her brother Matthew's best friend, who has grown more handsome and dashing since she last saw him.

But her duty as a Kent comes first and Sally finds that she loves being out at sea more than she could imagine and she's proving to be the best new recruit on the ship -- much to the ire of Damien Gamage, a senior on board the ship who has failed the lieutenancy exam far too many times.

Sally and the younger recruits find themselves the target of Gamage's bullying and thieving and Sally has decided to put a stop to it.

And there are other more important things to deal with: the Audacious is on blockade duty and are patrolling the waters against French and Spanish ships.

So there's danger at sea and danger on board the ship for Sally -- also, Mister Colyear has discovered Sally's secret. Will he keep her secret?

Although it starts out slow (in the first four chapters, they are just docked at the port waiting for their orders), but, like a ship that has caught wind in its sails, the story gains momentum once they've left the port.

I enjoyed reading about the politics of rank and position on board a ship and loved the details about how a ship is managed. I am very impressed with Elizabeth Essex's knowledge of ships.

That being said, I did find myself stopping once in a while to think about the terms being used by the characters in the story -- but it does add authenticity to the adventure of Col and Sally.

I felt a bit sorry for Richard Kent -- I felt he was misunderstood by his family and suffered for it. At one point, Sally refers to his decision to pursue a different career as cowardice (see p. 96) --

It had been she -- Sally. She had been in the back garden with him, sitting on the high orchard wall with him by her side, lobbing apples at Richard for his mealymouthed prating. They had laughed and laughed...
- p. 69

But he is part of Sally's growth while she's on the journey -- from a sister who didn't understand or respect Richard's desires, Sally becomes a sister who cares and supports him; from a person who resorted to childish pranks (see p. 117) to one who stopped to think about her actions and how they will affect the next person. I appreciate how Essex shows this maturity, especially with Sally's relationship with Mister Gamage.

Finally, there is Sally's relationship with Col. Part of the sexual tension comes from the fact that Col knows who Sally is but they cannot act on their attraction for fear of being found out.

"Ever since you came on board you've captured my attention in a way that has" -- he searched for a word -- "unsettled me."
- p. 66

"You just need to be careful. Unless you want Mr. Horner to discover" -- he glanced around the empty cabin, but still lowered his voice -- "certain things, and to be eaten up with lust and longing, and as hard as a belaying pin, then you had best either make sure he is not in his cabin, or extinguish the lantern before you wash yourself."

"Oh." She drew back, belated understanding steeling her spine. "I understand. But does that mean y--" She stopped, and said no more, but she couldn't stop her eyes from shying down his frame, or keep her face from flaming with a heat that swept downward over her neck like a trail of fire.

But he knew what she had not asked.
- p. 171

My one other complaint is that Essex builds up the Kent Family too much in this story -- the reader is constantly reminded of how amazing all the Kents are as Navy men -- and I had expected this series to be about the rest of Kents. I was surprised (and delighted) to read that the next story will be about Will Jellicoe, one of the young recruits Sally befriends on the Audacious.

Almost a Scandal is the first book in The Reckless Bride series by Elizabeth Essex. The next book, A Breath of Scandal will be released December 2012.

To find out more of Elizabeth Essex and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.
Sunday, September 9, 2012

September is for Sequels Challenge

I've joined a really cool reading challenge this month called "September is for Sequels". It's being hosted by Lisa of Lisa Loves Literature.

To read and review a minimum of 4 sequels between the dates of September 1st and 30th, 2012.


  • It would be good if you had a blog to post reviews, or you can be a Goodreads Member and post your reviews on the site.
  • The book must be a sequel - it can be any # in the series, just not the first book. Prequels can count if they came out AFTER the first one in the series. You can do e-books, even ARCs or e-galleys, as well as good old fashioned books. And, I'll even let you count the little 1.5 novellas that are often published as e-books only.
  • The deadline to sign up and participate is September 15th.
  • You must post on your blog an entry that has a list of the sequels you're planning to read, but it doesn't have to be complete, or you could even just post your goal, do you plan to read 8, or more? You can always go back as the month proceeds and enter the books as you read and review them.

My goal is to read 4 sequels:
1. How to Romance a Rake by Manda Collins (Book 2 of her Ugly Ducklings series)
2. A Night Like This by Julia Quinn (Book 2 of her Smythe-Smith Quartet)
3. Sweet Deception by Heather Snow (Book 2 of her Veiled Seduction series)
4. Lessons from a Scandalous Bride by Sophie Jordan (Book 2 of her Forgotten Princesses series)


In case I have more time, I have 2 more sequels on standby:
5. Too Tempting to Resist by Cara Elliott (Book 2 of her Lords of Midnight series)
6. Forever a Lady by Delilah Marvelle (Book 2 of her Rumor series)

Very excited! ^_^

Sample Reading #11: The Beloved One by Danelle Harmon + 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?

I had the pleasure to host Danelle Harmon when she recently went on a blog tour for her The De Montforte Brothers series e-release. I really enjoyed reading the first book and have been planning to look into the rest of the series, which Danelle is editing and re-releasing in e-book format. (Read my review of The Wild One here.)

The Beloved One is the second book in the series.

The Blurb:
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.
- from Danelle Harmon's website

I got the sample from: Amazon, Kindle
# of Pages: Prologue and first 3 Chapters of a 384-page novel

My Impressions:
A bit of Charles's story was already hinted at in the first book. His family has thought he was dead for over a year -- and this is the story of what happened to him.

Charles is a soldier stationed in Boston. During a mission, he and his men are ambushed and he falls from his horse and is presumed dead.

A young Will Leighton was in that group that ambushed Charles -- and, for some strange reason, Charles decides not to shoot him -- but this action nearly costs Charles his life.

Dragged across Boston, Charles wakes up after a trepanning (O_O) blind and in the care of the Leightons. The responsibility of his care falls to Amy, the next eldest to Will and the Cinderella of her family. She's kind-hearted and generous and her older siblings depend on her for everything.

When she first sees a bloody and unconscious Charles, she is captivated by his handsomeness -- and his neatness.

... No farmer she'd ever met had hands that looked like that. Long, elegant fingers. Clean skin devoid of dirt and scars. Short, well-scrubbed nails that were filed smooth and obviously well cared for.
- loc 237

What is interesting about this story is that Charles is supposed to be the perfect, beloved one of his family -- and now he finds himself in an imperfect and less-than-ideal situation. How will he recover his eyesight? How will he survive? A redcoat living amidst the rebels? How does he get back to England?

There is also the matter of his fiance and daughter (we find out their story in the first book) -- but I am curious about how Charles will struggle between his love for her and (I assume) his attraction to Amy.

Price: $3.99 (for International?)

Will I buy it? I want to finish reading this! I want to find out how this ends!

* * *

Free E-book from Danelle Harmon!

The Wild One, the first book in The De Montforte Brothers series, is currently FREE on Kindle and Smashwords.

It is $0.99 for the Nook.

(This information is accurate as of time of publishing, September 9.)

Enjoy! ^_^


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