Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Latest Historical Review - Regency.

Taming a Gentleman Spy (The Spies of Mayfair Series, Book #2)

 Reviewed by Katie.
I loved this book!  The characters come on stage with wounds, bruises, laughter and longings that are slow-roasted over the fire of daily life and extraordinary events that were entirely believable.  No one is a modern super-character dressed in Regency clothing, thank you Ms. Andersen!  The hero and heroine are consistent with the era that produced them and are surrounded by family, friends, obligations, and anxieties that have produced their unique story.

John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn and Lady Sibella Winborne have known each other for years but not, for a refreshing change, as an excuse to rush the romance.  Sibella has observed changes the battlefields of Spain left on Strathairn and resolved to enjoy nothing more than his friendship … until he kissed her.  Strathairn admits he cares for her but insists nothing will come of his feelings.  He’s a spy and though the war is over, there is still a need for his unique talents.  So, her family discourages him from courting Sibella while warning her against hoping for Strathairn to change professions.  Being cruel to be kind, he advises her to dismiss the thoughts his kiss stirred.  Everyone is sensible and doing just as they ought, which is not producing the happy result expected. 
Of course, romance readers will not be surprised by this.
Bemused, courted by a gentleman her family approves of, she first tries to convince Strathairn they’re perfectly suited.  However, she is no femme fatale and he is nobly determined.  Sibella reluctantly accepts his decision and convinces herself it’s better to accept the offer she has rather than waiting for an offer that will never come.   Strathairn applauds her decision, even goes so far as to encourage Sibella to put aside doubts about her fiancé. 
This story could have devolved in to a farce, or worse, angst ridden depression.  Instead, it stayed the course; the characters developed well-enough to carry the tale. 
Strathairn had valid reasons to deny himself wife and hearth.  Besides facing his partner’s widow, he had firsthand experience of how loved ones could be used as sources of information and pawns of revenge.  Suffering from survivor’s guilt, his rest was seldom undisturbed.  He was haunted by the loss of comrades that received no recognition for their sacrifice, just as he has and will not.  Strathairn was not able to be anyone’s perfect anything while performing perfectly for his King and Country.  I admired his recognition of what was inevitable even as I wanted to whisper in his ear, maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones.  Wisely, he ignored me, demonstrating his depth of care for Sibella that went beyond what he wanted for the moment to what he wanted for her.  His reasoning sold him as both an agent of the crown and a genuine hero.  Further, the fact his love for Sibellla was only a part of the motivation to confront both his past and future instead of using her as a magik wand endeared him (and the author) to me.  That he allowed Sibella time to heal, just as she had given him that same gift, made me want to sing hallelujah! 
Likewise, Sibella was a woman confronting her twenty-sixth year.  Considering the life expectancy of the time, she wasn’t out of line feeling pressured to fish or cut bait, and yet, she hesitated because her heart insisted her desires mattered.  She wanted not only a husband, but a mate - a partner, children and a family that reflected all she knew and hoped to be.  Her love for her family that was so earnestly reciprocated, the way she made a place for herself while maintaining her own identity in a large family was a precious depiction of a (real) Regency woman.  I was proud of her for giving Strathairn more than a couple chances to realize how excellently they would row together. I equally understood when she let those dreams go; there was only so much a woman could do - without jumping the shark.  Her conflict over her doubts regarding the menace - uh fiancé were believable precisely because she knew settling for the image of her dreams would never be as wonderful as having them.  Her fears that her family would dismiss her doubts wasn’t a trite misunderstanding or villainy on the part of her family, it made sense in context of the situation and mores of the time. 
Best of all, the secondary characters were wonderful, in their own right, in this story, as they stood.  They didn’t overwhelm the hero or heroine but they weren’t passive, two-dimensional cut outs either.  I especially adore when a mother is depicted as a genuinely caring person, foibles and all.  The pacing allowed time for the characters to evolve, for the romance to mature, and the need for healing to be more than a hand wave.  In the end, you have no doubt this couple will ever settle for the image of romance. 
My only complaint is the book cover that I didn’t see until after I wrote this review.  I know sex sells, but for this book it’s misleading as far as the contents within.  Thank goodness for e-readers where the only thing exposed is the Scooby Doo band-aid on the scratched surface.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Latest Historical Review - Roman/Celtic Britain.

Reviewed by Fran.
If you're a fan of the late TV drama series "Xena Warrior Princess", then "The Beltane Choice" is for you. It's set in AD 71, Britannia, and the heroine is indeed a Warrior Princess. Nara has lived for many years on the Island of Nemetom with the priestesses until her coming of age, and the upcoming Beltane fires are set to decide her fate.

Although extremely brave, from page one Nara has committed a grave mistake and by her own hand has incited the wrath of a wild beast. Put to flight and seeking a safe haven her options are few. To accept the help of any warrior is bad enough and goes against the grain of Nara's upbringing. To be grateful to an enemy warrior is humiliating indeed. Besides, not only does her bitterest enemy achieve a kill where she has failed, he has it in mind to reap a grand reward in exchange for her life. But her life comes at a greater price than expected. Unwilling to concede to his ardent advances, albeit he awakens forbidden desires within her, she cannot and will not succumb.

Lorcan, although a hardened warrior and far superior in strength he nonetheless concedes to wise inner counsel and sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding his captive. For rather than take her against her will, he knows the journey ahead is long and arduous and will afford time enough for him to win her over: if that is ever possible. Her belief all man's inner desires and needs are base proves mildly amusing to him, and he's not immune to her secret observations all things Lorcan.

But events soon unravel to mar a burgeoning mutual respect erring affection between the captor and captive, and although both are aware of intense desire and longing they remain enemy warriors, Brought to the tribe elder Nara is forced to await her fate for she is nought but a bargaining tool between two tribes. And yet, a Roman legion marching ever closer is set to turn her fate around, and come the night of the Beltane Fires she wishes to succumb to the one she loves but is instead betrothed to another. How then can the Goddess Rhianna make her life complete and remove the darkness now befallen her? Of course as the fires fall to smouldering embers and the sun rises on the distant horizon Goddess Rhianna finally plays her trump card!

Nancy Jardine has spun a wonderful romance set within Roman Britain, and likewise woven a tapestry of tribal life and political ambitions in the shadows of the great forests of Britannia.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Latest Regency Review

Reviewed by Katie
 Oh, what good is a libertine if he won’t toy with your sister’s affections and then ruthlessly drop her!” … “I’m a bachelor, not a libertine.  And so begins the Regency romp of the Harlow Hoyden, Miss Emma Harlow, and her Most Trusted Ally, Alexander, the Duke of Trent.  Yes, it’s another tale of twins but our author boldly proclaims her usage of the current cliché with a dollop of comfort that made me laugh out loud.  Don’t look so horrified, my dear. Lavinia and I are twins. What good is an adventure about twins without a case of mistaken identity?” 
Amidst a subplot of Napoleonic intrigue, our hoyden is determined to end the betrothal of her twin sister to the utterly unsuitable fiancé, Sir Windbag, uh, Windbourne.  Despite a dance card that is generally empty and few willing to acknowledge her beyond the cautiously distant nod any hoyden deserves, Emma plots a course with two minor complications.  Number one, she doesn’t actually know any libertines, personally.  Number two, convincing one to turn her sister from the Windbag, without breaking her heart or ruining her reputation.  For while Emma is quite content to live on the fringe of her family’s good name, she knows her sister would not find this at all comfortable.
Oh, and one other tiny detail hadn’t occurred to her.  Resolved never to marry - what heroine worth the title in our modern tropes of fiction isn’t - Emma also never expected to find her own affections engaged.  Fortunately, she’s full of schemes to handle that difficulty as well.
Alexander, at first persuaded by her pursuit of a list of libertines, then by her sister’s enjoyable friendship, eventually agrees with Emma.  Lavinia deserves so much better than Windbag.  He sets about showing Lavinia her worth and knocks holes in Emma’s schemes to remain indifferent by also engaging her admiration for his plotting.  When Lavinia figures out what’s going on, she doesn’t fly off the handle or sink in to despair, she begins her own machinations.  With the duke’s assistance, she gently stirs the cauldron to disguise her design to unite Emma and Alexander.
Everyone is doing all this for each other’s own good, so that makes it all right, or it does in the end, refreshingly without protracted angst. 
I confess, like Emma, I wanted Alexander and Lavinia to end up together.  They had common interest and an easy going friendship that gave me hope.  Unfortunately, they had no spark.  So completely was this demonstrated, that I gave up my foolish hopes, just as Emma did.  But I think it broke my heart a bit.
Obviously, the secondary characters have substance and our sympathy from the very beginning.  Aside from the abrupt injury to the brother and his miraculous recovery, I felt the novel was not only well paced but also well written. The dialog was witty, both internal and external, and there was no chance for dust to land on anything. There are a few phrases that plucked at my ear but nothing that destroyed the energy of the story. Though the novel has a breathless feel, the romance was not rushed.
Most of all, I admired Ms. Messina’s not ignoring the facts of propriety, though I do think she stretched them a bit, even for a romp. Emma was tolerated, not embraced by society, and though her family was personally indulgent, they were at times, very embarrassed and acknowledged this.  She never became a Mary Sue, winning everyone over, reigning as queen of the drawing room as well as the curricle race.  I doubt even the duke of Trent will be able to make some of her exploits acceptable. I’m so very, oh so very glad of that.
A life spent facing the consequences of Emma’s actions is just what Alexander deserves.  I mean, come on, the man wooed by mothers, courted by fathers and nearly smothered by debutants, still has time for dancers and mistresses and charming widows.  He also had time to develop his prowess in the manly sports, not to mention his benevolent attention to his tenants, the poor and his nephew - the hayseed from the country.  Yet he was led by his fascination for Emma from one scrape after another and loved every minute, finally realized it was her, not the novelty of it all, that he loved.  Quite how they’ll ever settle down I can’t imagine.  For Emma, that’s precisely what she wanted as well, freedom to live fully with a good friend.  Learning that friend could also be a lover and a husband is what prevented her from being just another hoyden with a twin and it is what makes this book a keeper.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Latest Historical Mainstream Romance


Reviewed by Francine.
The Empress Emerald is a well-researched Historical saga, in which a cruel twist of fate leaves a boy orphaned in tragic circumstances, semi-adopted, and once again abandoned. And so, from Colonial India at the time of the British Raj, to the Russian Revolution, and to war torn Europe of 1940, Leo Kazan’s life unfolds.
Merely a wide-eyed child in India of 1900 and unaware of deceptive practises associated with spy networking, and the manipulative notions of Sir Lionel Pinecoffin (British official), Leo it is deemed has all the makings for a useful child spy. His linguistic learning ability also sets him fair for foreign assignments and covert missions when of suitable age. All the while, Leo’s natural magpie tendencies and opportunistic nature lends impetus to the acquisition of a secret valuable stash throughout childhood and in to adulthood: a self-interest insurance policy, admittedly, but why not when you know you’re working for masters who deceive and abuse trust at every turn.
As time passes, love is found and lost along life’s path, and Leo makes the best of what comes his way. But where life has cruel twists of fate, sometimes fate comes full circle as though to make amends for past heartaches. Leo finally discovers who he is. And a love that never truly faded cannot be denied when it again steps across his path, nor can it be let slip as ordained in the past by circumstance of a master’s dictate. By the end of this book Leo is his own man and sets his own destiny. Nonetheless, the author affords wonderful insight to the lives of other characters. And while individual stories unravel and run parallel alongside Leo’s, historical facts lend sense of time and place to worldly events. A lovely, lovely story, with amusing childhood cameos not unlike those of Richmal Crompton’s “Just William” novels.


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Latest Historical Review - Regency!

Two Peas in a Pod

Reviewed by Katie

This is a charming Regency for Valentine’s week.  The brothers Coldwell are both struggling to reacquaint themselves not only with family, but just who they are and what direction to take with their lives, post war.  Though neither is excited by their elder sister’s machinations for matrimony, the inevitable happens and they are besotted and yes, confused by hopes, doubts and possibilities.  But after a declaration of one of the misses that she could never consider the elder, the brothers hatch a plan that makes their sister’s look tame.  The farce that follows is amusing yet handled with care. 
Normally stories of twins exchanging identities makes me cringe but Mr. Wilkin pulls it off with the feel of a Shakespearean comedy laced with enough reality to prevent it from becoming too ridiculous.  He deftly uses the truth of scars unseen and facts of life at the time to balance the humor and what could have been cruelty on the part of the brothers.  The ladies, not to be outdone, plot a counter attack that even Wellington could never have imagined.  Beatrice and Benedict would have danced at the weddings in perfect charity.
I love stories that contain more than one romance.  That family and friends - the kind we all want to be and have - do not live their life in an isolated story line used to translate well to the written tale.  It is a fact of modern fiction that we expect One Great Hero and One Awesome Heroine per story with nods to the secondary characters that might have their own book, later, if sales are good.  I’m not sure if that’s due to reader preference or the fear of writers and publishers.  Either way, I am always delighted to find an author willing to flesh out a well crafted story of more than one couple, especially when they make me laugh!
For several generations, we’ve been romanced in fiction by wonderful authors explaining their view of how women believe men think and feel.  Mr. Wilkin provides a generous glimpse of a man’s perspective in a formulaic genre that is quite consistent with the literature of the era while mindful of his modern audience.  I can only hope more men are as bold and more women alert to the subtle differences in perspective that remind us all just how romantic the differences can be.  This is definitely a *keeper* for my bookshelf.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Latest Review - Western Historical

Review by Katie

A face paced Western Romance where you can almost hear the Howard Hawkes musical themes weaving through the story.  Shane and Ashley are rough edged as the Dakota Territory was in the late 1860s where the regrets of war and lessons from the past must be subordinate to survival. 
Raised from birth until his majority with the Cheyenne, Shane struggles to find his identity without betraying those he loved, or himself.  Likewise, Ashley, raised by her father and ranch hands after fleeing war torn South Carolina, struggles to run not only her ranch but find a way to keep all her promises to her later father.  Rough they may be, but Shane and Ashley are destined to face their past before they can dare have a future.  It is in confronting who they’ve been that they find out who they really are, and more importantly, what they can be, together.
There were a few historical points given the hand wave but nothing more than a John Wayne set with no horse dung in the streets.  The villain was way more evil than I felt anyone’s reactions acknowledged but again, with the pace of the story, it was entirely plausible they seemed to move on to the next crisis and deal with all the omigosh, did he really… later.  The secondary characters were as interesting as our hero and heroine and for me, that’s as important as the happy ever after.
I enjoyed this book on a sunny Sunday afternoon and recommend it for anyone that misses the Western Matinees.  I’ll definitely will be watching for other books by Ms. Sharp.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Latest Review - Multi-Layered historical/contemporary novel.

“Will Hurricane Katrina destroy what the Civil War spared?”
Reviewed by Francine.
Hurricane Katrina is winding herself up off the Louisiana coast (2005), and unsuspecting Amaryllis Camilla (Cammie) O’Brien, rocks up to the River Oaks Plantation House with grand ideas for the old place. Back to her roots, the big city life behind her, not a lot has changed as far as she can tell. It’s about to, though, and when forced to wade through water that is ankle deep, and lights in the house are blinking, it’s not the best of homecomings.
Wind and water soon begin to wreak havoc and while Cammie is exploring her late grandmother’s house, water is creeping ever higher and closer to the house. Finally told to gather personal belongings by Noah Gautreaux, (trusted plantation manager), Cammie isn’t about to argue. After all, he’s an old flame, and he’s already ignited a spark that could all too easily blaze out of control: if only the Louisiana sun was shining. He though, is more concerned with getting her and two dogs safely to dry land, and what transpires is terrifying, heart-rending and requires heroic deeds by both. But, in a scary moment alone with just the dogs for company, Cammie seeks comfort from a diary found in the house: anything to take her mind off what is happening all around her.
In the aftermath of Katrina, life resumes, but how long will it take to rebuild what is lost or refurbish properties that miraculously survived? With River Oaks still standing, Cammie vows to restore it to its former glory, and with Noah’s help, she does just that. But, if not for a diary penned in the 1800s and all that it reveals, she might never have known about its hidden secrets and of those who survived the American Civil War.

Maggie and Danny (her ancestors) become as real to Cammie as though they are ghosts guiding her, allowing her to step back in time to see for herself their home and that of Maggie’s gardens: the gardens Maggie created. Semblance of those gardens still exist, though other aspects of the past have long since vanished. But the myth that all southern plantation owners mistreated their slaves is blown apart by the heroic gesture of Danny’s secret and deadly venture. And, whilst Cammie reads of Maggie and Danny building a life together beginning with 1805, she and Noah begin building theirs in the 21st century.

River Oaks Plantation in Cammie’s time zone is heart-rending for many reasons. But, as soon as a reader takes a step through the portal by way of Maggie’s diary, there are equally happy, thrilling and tragic tear-jerking moments to contend with. Ms Robinson has taken great care with her research. I highly recommend this to lovers of American history, and to those who may have preconceived ideas that all slave owners in the Deep South were despicably brutish.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Latest Historical Regency


Reviewed by Katie

This was the most delightfully unique Regency I’ve read in years.  It was like being tucked in the corner of a drawing room and observing the lives of friends.  The emerging tenderness between Katherine and Brian provides affirmation of both an intense intimate life but also, as both characters acknowledge, an emotional and mental accord that twines between them like ivy on a cottage.  The book is entirely free of the recent trend in romances to hurl the hero and heroine into adversarial straightjackets so the resolution is a strain to declare a happy ending.  However, this is no two dimensional facsimile of the hay-day of Regency publishing either. 
Katherine is a formidable woman, made so by life, her own will and her late father’s fortune.  She is not crusading or rebelling; she desires to be something more than expectations might grant and is determined to do so in a way society will accept.   Shunned by a family unknown to her and then the society of India where her father had not only made his fortune but also a difference, Katherine understands the narrow paths allowed to her and though there are moments she frets, she does not falter.  She plans, prepares and progresses without becoming an anti-heroine, more than once I found myself thinking:  Yes, that’s how it was done.
Brian is equally formidable with enough genuine humility to prevent him from being a Beta Hero.  In a wonderful turn of the tables, we observe the man economizing and stretching every penny to keep soles on his shoes.  The details of a man’s existence are just the right amount of fact and reflection without bogging you down.  Even better, Brian does not turn to the gambling hells, wild speculation or indifference while raking his way through the muslin company.  He genuinely cares for others and their good opinion of him does matter.  It was refreshing to find a group of male friends not based on school or some gruesome trial of life but because they enjoyed each other’s company.  He is a man to be admired and Katherine not only sees this, she acknowledges it in the most forthright manner.
Both are resolved to survive without violating their honor or the rules of society they are glad to dwell in even as the work to change it for the better, not just for themselves but others as well.  Her blunt proposal nearly knocks those re-soled shoes off his feet and from then on, you sit on the edge of your seat waiting for the explosion that never actually comes, except in the matter of life common to all mankind.  Well, all right, that and a few ironic twists of fate that can only be found in fiction.  You are not the least sorry to skip the fireworks of misunderstandings and foolishness so common in this genre.  These characters are too well-educated from their years of deprivation.  It is a glorious treat to have characters that have actually learned and willingly applied those lessons from the life they’ve lived. It is even better that when they make stupid mistakes, they don’t give up; they keep trying until matters are once more as they should be.
I could easily see this as a weekly installment such as Gaskell’s work.  But instead of the over blow cliff hanger required by the press of the time, our author leaves us with the subtle anticipation ending each chapter so you do in fact pause and savor before turning the digital page. It is not written in a faux historical style but the flavor of each word is crisply intended to provoke the tone of the era.  I was not shocked to discover at the end of this wonderful read that D. W. Wilkins is a mister, only surprised.   I did laugh at myself for making notes about the masculine detail that was charming and the lack of endless feminine wardrobe descriptions that was a precious gift.  The romance was as delicately handled as the historical details and I confess to a sigh or two as I read.  This is definitely a *keeper* for my bookshelf. 
If you are looking for a Classic Regency with characters that you genuinely empathize with while enjoying their foibles and falderal, this is a book I earnestly recommend.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Latest Chick-Lit Review - Done with Men.

When Fate begins to turn the final screw on Kay’s world, and the latest man in her life has failed to match her expectations for true love, a holiday seems like a great idea. Her best friend and flatmate Baani has a persuasive stance and sets a plan in motion to save Kay from herself. Besides, with Baani along for company, Kay vows to stay on the straight and narrow. What has she got to lose in mixing a work assignment with pleasure? Famous last words, one might say, when her ex happens to be holidaying in Goa with his latest girlfriend.
Trying to drown ex lovers at the bottom of a glass whilst smoking weed is far from the best pain-killer, any more than a tattoo parlour will truly serve to declare Kay is “done with men”. Sadly, drunkenness has its pitfall, and accidents can occur all too easily. While Kay ponders whether she’s awakened in Heaven - due to a godlike creature tending to her needs - Baani’s presence reassures her she’s safe in hospital. If that is so, has Fate chosen Dr. Vivian D'Mello as the ultimate torture, and can Kay live up to her tattoo? Done with Men is funny, vibrant and true to the chick-lit genre.


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Latest Contemporary Review - Stay.

Reviewed by Katie

Written in the first person, this modern romance is like reading a blog with the comments turned off.  At the end of the novel I feel as conflicted and overwhelmed as Alexa and, surprisingly, as glad to be serially unattached as Julian.  It’s rare to read a romance and not sigh just a bit for what you don’t have at the end of the story.  Stay is the only exception to that experience in my ferocious reading history.

The first seventeen chapters interested and amused me; made me roll my eyes and piqued my curiosity, oh and the sex was not only hot it was well written.  This is extremely difficult to do in the first person.  By chapter nineteen, I was struggling to hang on to empathy for *any* of the characters.  By chapter twenty-three, I was frustrated; by twenty-seven I jumped to the end of the book to get to the Big Sekrit.  There are forty chapters and I couldn’t take it anymore!

It is chapter thirty-seven before you get to that by the way and it’s viciously shoveled out there in a heated moment.  Like Alexa, you want to run because you realize, you’ve been manipulated as thoroughly as she has been.  The characters barely get to react, never mind cope, before the book is over.  Rather than being pieces of a puzzle put together so the bigger picture allows perspective to bring closure, your left with ragged, torn images and sorrow and anger and a bucket of doubt that even a baby step forward is genuinely being made. Just like that annoying real life you might be trying to escape for the space of a good book.

I went back to chapter twenty-seven and read to the end, hoping it wouldn’t feel the same.  Frankly, I closed the book despising Alexa’s so-called friends, wanting to slap her parents and siblings, ready to file charges against the best buddy and a formal complaint with the American Psychological what-evah against the shrink!  I also wanted to ask our hero if Alexa was a 5 instead of an 8 on that 10 point scale of perfection, and was mediocre in banter and bed, would he bother?  Most of all I wanted to sit down with a cup of tea and Alexa and promise her it would be perfectly OK to tell her friends and the hottie new boyfriend to bug off and allow time for herself to actually deal and heal before rejoining the so-called “real world, the one where I socialize and date and enjoy my life.” 

But then, there wouldn’t be a romance would there?

And yet … I read every word, some of them repeatedly.  I rooted for Alexa to keep trying and to have at least as much enthusiasm for her own life as she did her fashionable clothes and shoe collection.  I wanted Julian to win her trust, despite the fact he’s described in terms so similar to her best buddy I had to go back in several places and re-read to be sure whether it was Julian or Luke Alexa was talking about.  They were even the same height! 

See, I was paying attention and in my humble opinion, that’s the mark of a good writer.  I read this book in spite of the lush locale, plot and twenty-something stereotypical angst because the author kept me interested.  She fed my frustration, eye rolling and impatience like I was a monkey and she cornered the market on peanuts.  The intimate scenes and emotional electricity were used in the story exactly as they are in life, to keep the characters connected even when everything else is going to hell in a hand basket. Ms. Wynne makes you want to believe with chemistry that good the rest of it just has to work out.  It will be epic, any minute now, we’re sure of that.

But be warned, this book leaves you hanging, clinging to hope but just not sure.  Personally, I don’t like being toyed with in that way.  I want my story complete, not ending with a cliff hanger and promises of the rest of the story in Book 2.  I think many folks will like Stay precisely because of that.

Stay at Amazon  Stay at Barnes & Nobles   Stay at IUniverse

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Latest Contemporary Review - Silver Rain

Purchased Novel Reviewed by Francine.

Silver Rain is another entertaining read from Jan Ruth’s stable of Welsh based novels. Essentially this is Al’s story, and that of the women in his life.
Al, poor love, has entered the male menopause where his mirrored reflection tells a story all its own, and several questions need answers: How in hell did life pass by so damn quick? And, why don’t relationships come with a red caveat tag? = "think before you leap astride a two-legged filly" Even so, divorce is not the death nell: is it?
Albeit affairs can cause bitterness and result in a cold bed, the old saying, “plenty of fish in the sea” doesn’t exactly lure mermaids forth from the depths of Al’s latent desires. And yet, hope eternal is not to be dismissed. For there’s a third question: do angels exist? They must, because when Kate is cast before him, he’s smitten. What of the caveat, though? Kate has her own personal demons, and dare Al hope he can be her ultimate solace? There are plenty of giggle moments and sad reflections in Silver Rain, in which fiction can seem almost too real.



Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Latest Contemporary Novel -- Broken

Reviewed by Katie.

Having just lost his twin brother during a special ops mission, Mitch heads to his brother’s source of solace, Jessie.  Observing this special woman from a distance, he sees another side of the woman his brother revered.  The sorrow and anxiety he sees haunting Jessie as she so obviously waits for his brother’s return brings a plan of noble intentions - and predictable results - whereby Jessie will have an opportunity for closure and Mitch will maybe experience some of that mystical healing power Jessie possesses.
A story of assumed identity made me afraid of this book before the end of the first chapter.  When Jessie mistakes Mitch for her lover I laughed out loud.  I expected a denouncement; instead she was enchanted by the differences.  When Mitch later justifies wallowing in her delight with, “honesty didn’t seem nearly as important as taking her back to bed…” I really wanted to excuse myself from the remainder of the book.  However, lips twitching, I kept reading and wasn’t disappointed.  Jessie wasn’t an idiot and Mitch wasn’t an emotional vagrant.  They were both broken, just as the title proclaims, by commitment to a man that was larger than life.
Ms. Reeves gives us a pleasant trail of suspended reality perfect for the end of a long day.  The presence of the brother in the form of journal entries instead of a magic wand gives it a fairy tale feel.  Taking a traditional route of assumed identity and ‘oh what a tangled web we weave…” with a few pot holes of conflict along the way make this tale safely predictable.  If you’re looking for a well paced read to wash away the chill of winter or the bark of the boss, Broken should do nicely.

Latest Contemporary Novel - Wind Chime Cafe.


Reviewed by Francine
Wind Chimes and serviettes are the stuff of dreams for Annie Malone, and while a long-held dream of having her own swish restaurant is almost within her grasp, nothing is quite as it seems. Can she turn a new home into  a heavenly retreat? Surely, bad things that happen in life can be made better?

With tragedy and trauma in Taylor’s past, Annie is sorely in need of security and peace of mind for her eight-year-old daughter. Convinced the backwater life of a Chesapeake Bay island will afford anonymity, and assist in healing Taylor’s tortured mind, they forsake the city and embrace the life of small town America. After all, there’s a saying “money breeds money” and if the owner of a posh hotel chain sees gold in building a holiday resort on Heron Island, Annie is equally happy to benefit from incoming tourists.
Annie and Taylor are far from alone in seeking sanctuary on Heron Island. Will Dozier, a Navy SEAL, has just returned to his roots after an arduous and deadly deployment to Afghanistan. Although he’s suffering horrific flashbacks and nightmares, Will refuses to believe he’s a victim of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). And when living alone with a dog for company, stepping out for meals becomes a pleasant habit. More so, when the proprietor of your favourite eating place stirs something within that simply won’t go away. Has fate brought Annie and Will together? It looks that way, but sometimes, just sometimes hell is waiting round the next corner. Both Annie and Will are forced to face demons from their respective pasts, but can they share the future?
Award winning author, Sophie Moss, has brought small town America to life in conveying sense of time and place within a close community. After all, where everyone knows or is related to the next person, secrets never stay secret for very long. Through the medium of intermittent and unobtrusive flashbacks, the reader is given insight to past events that have marred and scarred the main characters’ lives.  
Wind Chimes Café is a thoroughly enjoyable and a rather poignant story of love found along life's path. There is a bonus factor to this book with a golden opportunity for reader participation at Sophie’s web site. Read the book to find out what is entailed, though I’ll give you a clue: Restaurant!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Latest Historical Review

Reviewed by Charlotte.
Scandalous Whisper is synonymous with everything ardent fans of Jane Austen expect from a traditional Regency romance. The narrative is stylish. The dialogue is eloquent. There are characters whose foibles are endearing and at times irritating. The heroine’s mother is not unalike Elizabeth Bennet’s mother in Pride and Prejudice...Mrs Napier is a mother typical of Jane Austen’s world. Silly and vain...The butterfly incident is magical the prose poetic at the time of the first kiss...Scandalous Whisper is most definitely a five star Regency romance. It’s remarkable how the author squeezed so much detail into this emotionally driven novella.
 Full Review:
Scandalous Whisper is synonymous with everything ardent fans of Jane Austen expect from a traditional Regency romance. The narrative is stylish. The dialogue is eloquent. There are characters whose foibles are endearing and at times irritating. The heroine’s mother is not unalike Elizabeth Bennet’s mother in Pride and Prejudice. Similarly ambitious for her daughter’s advancement in society Mrs Napier is a mother typical of Jane Austen’s world. Silly and vain, Mrs Napier cannot see the folly of fawning to the Earl of Kilder. His manners in public are without fault. In private he’s a bully. Christina’s twin brother James is little better. While James and Simon Kilder are plotting to compromise Christina and force her into marriage, poor Christina lives in fear of both and thanks her good fortune for the return of her elder brother from war. A hero at the Battle of Waterloo, Julian resumes his role as her champion. Sadly a rift soon develops between mother and son causing dreadful disharmony. The tipping point for Christina is the homecoming of Lord Devonish. He’s a true officer and gentleman and wins her heart with kindness. The butterfly incident is magical the prose poetic at the time of the first kiss between them. Lord Devonish has a sister and she becomes Christina’s secret ally. Egged on by the reckless Alathea, Christina risks her reputation in pursuit of happiness. In the meanwhile her hopes and dreams are dashed. Lord Devonish and Julian are recalled to their regiment. Bereft Christina can’t understand why Lord Devonish has deserted her. I don’t wish to spoil the story for other readers and will only say the end to this love story brought me to tears. Scandalous Whisper is most definitely a five star Regency romance. It’s remarkable how the author squeezed so much detail into this emotionally driven novella.