Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

romancing the duke

  • Title:  Romancing the Duke
  • Series:  Castles Ever After, #1
  • Author:  Tessa Dare
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  January 2014 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  (publisher) As the daughter of a famed author, Isolde Ophelia Goodnight grew up on tales of brave knights and fair maidens. She never doubted romance would be in her future, too.  The storybooks offered endless possibilities.

And as she grew older, Izzy crossed them off.  One by one by one.

  • Ugly duckling turned swan?
  • Abducted by handsome highwayman?
  • Rescued from drudgery by charming prince?

No, no, and… Heh.

Now Izzy’s given up yearning for romance. She’ll settle for a roof over her head.  What fairy tales are left over for an impoverished twenty-six year-old woman who’s never even been kissed?

This one.

My take:  When Izzy’s father died he left her penniless and, because his heir was a nephew, homeless. So when she receives word her godfather has died and bequeathed her a property she’s thrilled and relieved – until she sees said property. It’s a fixer upper of a castle inhabited by a man who had no idea someone else had taken over ownership.

The man who was under the impression the castle was his is none other than the Duke of Rothbury. Izzy finds out immediately he’s a force to be reckoned with. He’s tall, handsome, and blind. She’s always considered herself plain and at 26 years of age, probably on the shelf. For obvious reasons he can’t believe she’d be drawn to him and she’s not used to attention from a man. Their repartee throughout the book was entertaining.

A plot line about the books Izzy’s father wrote involves devoted fans who show up in costume at the castle. That eventually figures into the main plot (with a twist) and moves it toward a tidy conclusion.

Tessa Dare’s story is fun, funny and sometimes borders on silly. I enjoyed it all and would recommend it for when you need a light and fun read.

If Wishes Were Earls by Elizabeth Boyle

  • if wishes were earls
  • Title:  If Wishes Were Earls
  • Author:  Elizabeth Boyle
  • Series:  #3, Rhymes with Love
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  December 31, 2013 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  When you wish upon an earl . . .

Harriet Hathaway has only ever wanted one man: the Earl of Roxley. After a passionate interlude at a house party, Harriet is convinced Roxley will do the right thing and propose. But when she returns to London, she finds the roguish earl on the verge of proposing to another.

Yet Harriet refuses to believe that her hopes of a happily-ever-after are completely lost—for she can see the desire still flickering in the earl’s eyes when he looks at her from across the dance floor. And when they are alone . . . there is one wish neither can deny.

. . . the most extraordinary things can happen

The Earl of Roxley is in a dangerous fix—and to keep Harriet safe, he must hold her at arm’s length. He won’t entangle her in the murderous mystery that is threatening to destroy his family and his future. But keeping Harriet Hathaway out of his troubles proves as impossible as it is to keep the determined beauty from stealing his heart.  (publisher)

My take:  Thoughts upon finishing this book: “Well, that was fun!”  I love historical romance and enjoy reading new-to-me authors.  If Wishes Were Earls is the first of Elizabeth Boyle’s books I’ve read and I enjoyed it very much.

What’s not to like? We have an almost financially ruined Earl in love with a childhood friend who just happens to love him back (and has even less money than he does). The problem is, he’s being blackmailed and must marry the daughter of his blackmailer if he doesn’t want to lose what’s left of his family’s holdings. And then there’s the business of some missing diamonds that have several people chasing after the Earl.

It sounds like it could be a bit complicated but Boyle laid it all out in a humorous and enjoyable fashion that had me looking forward to reading each time I picked the book up. That’s my sign of a good book. Since it’s part of a series I look forward to reading the previous two books.

The Scandal in Kissing an Heir by Sophie Barnes

the scandal in kissing an heir

  • Title:  The Scandal in Kissing an Heir
  • Author:  Sophie Barnes
  • Series:  #2, At the Kingsborough Ball
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  December 31, 2013 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Lady Rebecca is determined to find a husband on her own terms, rather than marry any of the aging suitors her greedy aunt and uncle foist upon her. Her chance comes at the Kingsborough Ball, where she meets several potential grooms…yet no one compares to the dangerously handsome Daniel Neville.

Daniel Neville, notorious rake and heir to the Marquis of Wolvington, is in need of a bride, but finding a lady who’s willing to accept his past, is an entirely different matter. When he spies a stunning woman across the ballroom, Daniel believes he’s found her…until scandal erupts around them. How can he convince Rebecca to take a chance on him…and on the love that could be theirs forever after?

My take:  Calling all debutantes and wallflowers! If you attend  the Kingsborough Ball, and if the first two books in the series are any indication, chances are you’ll find a marriage prospect! And he’ll either be on the road to being reformed from his rakish ways or he’ll be open to you setting him on that path :)

The Scandal in Kissing an Heir is the second installment in the series and I enjoyed it just as much if not more than the first. Daniel is the quintessential rakehell and Rebecca is the lady in need of rescuing. Her aunt and uncle have put the word out that she’ll go to the highest bidder. And that highest bidder would be a creepy old Duke. When Daniel sees that Rebecca would do almost anything to not be wed to the Duke he sees a way to redeem himself in the eyes of his uncle (whose title Daniel will inherit). The uncle told Daniel he must leave his old habits and find himself a wife. So. Daniel and Rebecca form an alliance and resolve to help each other – knowing all the while that it won’t be a marriage of love but at least they like each other.

Sophie Barne’s story was an entertaining way to spend a few hours. I enjoyed the characters and the happily-ever-after resolution – and I look forward to going back to the ball in the next book of the At the Kingsborough Ball series.

A Return Engagement by Stephanie Laurens

a return engagement (edelweiss)

  • TItle:  A Return Engagement
  • Author:  Stephanie Laurens
  • Genre:  Historical Romance novella
  • Published:  August 2013 – Avon Impulse
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Previously appeared in the anthology Royal Bridesmaids.

Everyone’s eyes are on a royal couple, but there is more behind the scenes than they’ll ever know.

Lady Nell Daughtry is certain her sister will be a perfect princess, if only she gets the reluctant bride safely to the church to marry Prince Frederick of Lautenberg.

But what she doesn’t know is that, in the wedding party, she’s been paired with her former fiancé, Robert Knightly … and now she’ll be face-to-face with the man who walked away. (publisher)

My take: In this delightful novella Stephanie Laurens begins with the arrival of the wedding party but quickly shifts the spotlight to the bride’s sister Nell and the groom’s confidant Robert – a British diplomat.  They share an unresolved past from nine years earlier.

Since many years have gone by the two are now more mature and confident so they quickly get to the point of figuring out what happened. They spend a good deal of time alone – made possible by trying to prevent a family curse from making the panicky bride-to-be call off the wedding. Nell and Robert soon discover they still have feelings for each other.

A Return Engagement has a fairytale-like quality that made the novella a charming and quick read. I’d love to read more about Nell and Robert!

The Trouble With Being a Duke by Sophie Barnes

the trouble with being a duke

  • Title:  The Trouble With Being a Duke (#1 At The Kingsborough Ball)
  • Author:  Sophie Barnes
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  August 2013 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  The Trouble With Being a Duke is the first in a new series by Sophie Barnes. I found it to be light and entertaining for the most part. I enjoyed the main characters. Anthony is rather new at being the Duke of Kingsborough but he shows great promise in his ability to fill his late father’s shoes. Isabella is delightful and fairly self-assured. Anthony is smitten almost at first sight of Isabella at his family’s masquerade ball. The attraction is mutual but she can’t allow him to find out her true identity. 

Isabella leaves the ball with Anthony wondering who she really is and where she lives. A search ensues the following day. A Cinderella story if there ever was one! It was fun seeing how the Duke handled the obstacles he found in his way as he tried to find their happily-ever-after.

I think most fans of light-hearted historical romance will enjoy this book. There’s a bit of drama but mostly it’s as light and sweet as cotton candy.

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March

finding colin firth

  • Title:  Finding Colin Firth
  • Author:  Mia March
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  July 2013 – Gallery Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Start with three unsettled women, add an attractive coastal Maine setting, throw in a possibility of meeting Colin Firth while he’s in town making a movie – what you’ve got is a sweet and tasty novel. Oh, there’s pie too!

Gemma is young woman, in town for a girls’ weekend, who’s just found out she’s pregnant. She’s not sure how to feel about that and is reluctant to share the news with her husband. She just lost her job at a New York newspaper and feels adrift. He thinks its the perfect time to start a family and move to the suburbs. When offered the chance to write a story for the local paper she grabs it and extends her stay in Boothbay Harbor. The topic of the story is the 50th Anniversary of Hope Home, a local home for pregnant teens.

Bea is a twenty-two year old from Boston. She received a letter from her deceased mother a year after her death telling Bea that she was adopted. Shocking news, to be sure. Being out of a job and an apartment, the timing is good for Bea to go to the town listed on her actual birth certificate – Boothbay Harbor.  Her birth mother left information with the adoption agency should Bea ever try to find her. Not sure what she’ll find, she heads to Maine.

Veronica, in her late thirties, works at a diner in Boothbay Harbor. She also makes amazing pies that usually have a desired effect on those who believe. She’s travelled the country and has only been back in her hometown for a year, ready to face her past. She’d always hoped, but didn’t expect, her daughter would find her. When she does, she’s not sure what to do.

As the three women navigate their changing situations they learn to give themselves time and space. The three are fairly confident in wanting to do what’s right for themselves and those close to them. I liked how each eventually asserted herself in finding the right way (for her) to handle things.

Finding Colin Firth is an entertaining novel. It’s light enough in tone yet has plenty of substance, and hey, there’s pie :) Do they find Colin Firth? You’ll have to read to find out!

How to Lose a Bride in One Night by Sophie Jordan

how to lose a bride in one night

  • Title:  How to Lose a Bride in One Night  (Forgotten Princesses, #3)
  • Author:  Sophie Jordan
  • Genre:  Historical Romance; Series
  • Published:  July 30, 2013 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  He saved her life…

When Annalise Hadley is tossed over the side of her honeymoon barge, the newly-minted duchess knows she’s been left for dead — for her husband’s only interest is in her vast dowry, not her muddied lineage. However, she didn’t count on a savior. Especially not an honorable, sinfully intriguing earl who will tempt her to risk everything—again.

Now he will seduce her heart and soul

A man with his own demons, Owen Crawford, the reclusive Earl of McDowell, is enchanted by the mysterious, courageous woman he rescued. He will help her heal, teach her to protect herself, and then send her away—so that she’ll never see he’s far from the hero she believes him to be.

But days and nights alone prove that some secrets are meant to be discovered…some desires are too powerful to resist…and some wounds can only be healed by love. (publisher)

My take:  What grabbed my attention first was the title. It sounded cute but it has a dark beginning in which a bride is left for dead by her new husband (a duke, no less!) at the bottom of a river.

It’s not like any historical romance I’ve read but it’s how the main characters meet. With the help of gypsies he sees to her care. He’s fighting demons from his war days and she’s fighting nightmares of her husband finding her and killing her for certain this time. And when she finds out her rescuer is a gentleman she worries he’ll feel bound by duty to return her to her husband.

So they don’t share their secrets but she convinces him to teach her how to protect herself for when she is well enough to leave. Of course, romance and drama follow.  There’s an exciting denouement that had me quickly turning the pages. I liked this unusual historical romance.

This book concludes The Forgotten Princesses series. Although I didn’t read the previous books I didn’t feel lost. It can definitely stand on its own.

My Notorious Gentleman by Gaelen Foley

my notorious gentleman

  • Title:  My Notorious Gentleman – The Inferno Club #6
  • Author:  Gaelen Foley
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  July 2013 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  In this newest Inferno Club book, the aristocratic men of New York Times bestselling author Gaelen Foley’s series face their greatest challenge yet: Marriage!

Notorious Lord Trevor Montgomery has fearlessly met danger head-on. Now he must confront his greatest challenge yet: marriage!

Shy, warm-hearted Miss Grace Kenwood knows she is ‘just’ the parson’s daughter, with no chance of tempting her new neighbor, Lord Trevor Montgomery. After all, every eligible beauty for miles around is swooning over the brooding former spy. He’s the picture of sin, and though he once had the audacity to kiss her senseless, he can have no interest in someone like her. Yet somehow, the seductive rogue unleashes her own inner devil…

Every lady loves a hero-but Trevor has not a blind bit of interest in any of them–except for the refreshingly candid Grace Kenwood. If he had a heart left, Grace might steal it. She insists he’s better than he thinks. He’s sure she’s absolutely wrong. Until danger threatens, and Trevor rediscovers how easy it is to be a hero…for the right lady. (publisher)

My take:  This is the first of The Inferno Club series books I’ve read. I’m sure fans of the series will enjoy Trevor’s book and those new to the series wouldn’t be lost starting here.

Trevor Montgomery wants nothing more than to buy a farm and live a quiet life. The farm he buys is next door to the wallflower he’d recently met at a ball. He’s not sure if this is a good thing or not. Turns out, he’s quite happy with his good fortune – in real estate and neighbor.  He win’s her heart and the respect of all Thistleton by underwriting an extreme makeover for the entire village.

Grace, Trevor’s neighbor, has been on the shelf for a while so when Lord Trevor comes along and sweeps her off her feet she can’t believe her happiness. That is, until she finds out the daughter of Lord and Lady Windlesham (who is betrothed to another) has her sights set on him as well.

So, there’s drama on the romance front as well as the home front when the threat of retaliation from a London gang on one of Thistleton’s own sparks violence. Will Trevor and Grace find peace and happiness? What will become of Lord Baron Brentford? You’ll have fun reading My Notorious Gentleman to find out.

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

big girl panties

  • Title:  Big Girl Panties
  • Author:  Stephanie Evanovich
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  July 2013  - William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Holly meets Logan on a flight from Montreal to Newark. She’s an overweight 32 year old widow and he’s an adonis-like trainer. To be sure, they are not each other’s type but they strike up a conversation that ends with Logan putting Holly on his training schedule. She puts her all into new habits of healthy eating and working out and reaps the rewards. Working so closely together forms an unlikely friendship that eventually moves into a relationship.

Holly finds it difficult to get past her self esteem issues to believe that Logan truly wants to be with her. Logan really likes her but is bothered by the fact he may care too much what people think when they see him with someone who isn’t a willowy, gorgeous blond model – his usual type.

Holly was as likable as she was relatable (if you’ve ever had weight issues). Big Girl Panties has some very sweet moments that I enjoyed but its spicy scenes may leave some readers blushing so be forewarned. All in all, Stephanie Evanovich’s sexy take on the Ugly Duckling story makes for an entertaining novel.

The Widow Waltz by Sally Koslow

the widow waltz

  • Title:  The Widow Waltz
  • Author:  Sally Koslow
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  June 2013 – Viking
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Ben Silver had it all—a successful law practice, a New York apartment overlooking Central Park, a beach house, fine art, club memberships. Yet when a massive coronary fells him while training for the New York City Marathon, it’s revealed that his life was a lie. He’s left his wife, Georgia Waltz, and their two daughters almost penniless.
Georgia must now rally to support her family while mourning a husband whose private enigmas keep surfacing. To her surprise, she also discovers that it may even be possible to find new love in the land of Spanx and wrinkles. Meanwhile, her daughters must face the responsibilities of adulthood that they have avoided and put their hidden talents to work.

My take:  When golden boy Ben Silver dies his wife and daughters find out he wasn’t quite the man they thought he was. Their lives have changed overnight and they’re left to solve a mystery – why did he leave them without the expected inheritance but instead needing to sell off possessions in order to live? 

As mother and daughters slowly get their bearings they begin to move forward in directions they’d never anticipated. Georgia Waltz is witty and sometimes snarky. At first she grated on me but I soon understood her defense mechanisms and enjoyed her take on her new life. I especially appreciated that Koslow addressed dating in middle age realistically and with humor. I think there are a lot of readers our there who would love more novels with strong 50-something women dealing with life-changing events.

Filled with colorful characters The Widow Waltz is an entertaining novel that could be read in a few hours. The Widow Waltz is about acceptance and forgiveness and what being a family means – and sometimes it’s not what you’d expect.

The Mad Earl’s Bride by Loretta Chase

mad earl's bride

  • Title:  The Mad Earl’s Bride
  • Author:  Loretta Chase
  • Genre:  Historical Romance; Novella
  • Published:  June 2013 – Avon Impulse
  • Source:  A review copy was provided by the publisher

Synopsis (publisher):  The Mad Earl’s Bride originally appeared in the print anthology Three Weddings and a Kiss.

Gwendolyn Adams is about to propose to an earl. On his deathbed.

Gwendolyn Adams isn’t shocked at being asked to save a handsome earl’s dying line, even when she learns the prospective bridegroom is seriously ill and possibly insane. She’s quite a good nurse, after all, and her family is famous for producing healthy male children. Those stories about his riding the moors half-naked on a pale white horse? Extremely intriguing—especially after she gets her first look at the gorgeous lunatic.

The Earl of Rawnsley wants only to lose what’s left of his mind in peace and privacy. But his busybody relatives have saddled him with a surprise bride and orders to sire an heir forthwith. (And they say he’s mad?) But with Gwendolyn, his health is returning, and his resistance … crumbling. Is it possible that love is the finest madness of all?

My take:  The Mad Earl’s Bride is an entertaining story. I enjoyed the main characters – Dorian, a tormented man and Gwendolyn, a bright, beautiful young woman who thinks she can help him and thereby help herself.

Is Dorian destined to die the same horrible death as his mother? Or can his new wife figure out what’s wrong with him and find a cure? After all, she’s smarter than any doctor he’s ever met.

Packed with details, it’s an interesting and somewhat dark novella. Could it be the start of a new series? I don’t know but I think if you’re a fan of Loretta Chase you’ll enjoy The Mad Earl’s Bride.

The Secret Life of Lady Julia by Lecia Cornwall

the secret life of lady julia

  • Title:  The Secret Life of Lady Julia
  • Author:  Lecia Cornwall
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  May 28, 2013 – Avon
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Julia Leighton was told on her eighth birthday she would marry the Duke of Temberlay (aka Dull Duke David) when she was grown. Fast forward several years and Lady Julia was at her betrothal ball wishing the Duke would at least compliment her on her gown or ask her to dance. He was more interested in playing cards with his friends so when a charming gentleman (Thomas Merritt) waltzed Julia out of the ballroom for a romantic tryst she didn’t say no. When those actions made apparent she was a compromised woman she was  disowned by her family and refused by her fiancé. Several months after her son was born she became a lady’s companion to the sister of a British diplomat on their way to Vienna for peace talks.

Julia is not only beautiful but she’s also quite smart. When the British diplomats find out she speaks 3 or 4 languages they ask her to be their eyes and ears around the palace they’re staying at in Vienna. No one expects her, being a lowly Lady’s companion, to be able to understand what’s being said in her presence. She earns the respect of the diplomats and one in particular has feelings for her.

As fate would have it, Thomas Merritt and Julia’s paths cross in Vienna. Even before he met Julia he’d been (unjustly) disowned by his family so he became a jewel thief. He would woo the ladies of the ton and relieve them of a jewel or two. He stole the jewels and his valet would fence them thereby providing food and housing for the two. They show up in Vienna to strike it rich by relieving  wealthy royalty of their jewelry. As luck would have it they run into problems. Could it be that Thomas and Julia could help each other? Will Julia risk Thomas learning her secret? And what will happen if he does?

The Secret Life of Lady Julia held my interest to the last page. I liked the political aspects – diplomatic and social – and I enjoyed Thomas and Julia’s relationship. They were honorable and had strength of character which dictated they take responsibility for their decisions. They were a good match on all levels. This is the first of Lecia Cornwall’s books I’ve read and I look forward to reading others in the future.

*  *  *

lecia cornwall

Lecia Cornwall is a PRO member of the Romance Writers of America’s Seattle and Calgary Chapters. Her background includes all facets of writing, including running a successful freelance writing business specializing in direct marketing and advertising. Both history and writing have been lifelong passions. Lecia currently lives and writes in Calgary, Alberta, the heart of the Canadian West.

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

the lost husband

  • Title:  The Lost Husband
  • Author:  Katherine Center
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 2013 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis (publisher):  After the sudden loss of her husband in a car crash, Libby Moran falls on hard times – so hard, in fact, that she’s forced to move in with her hyper-critical mother. There, sleeping on the pull-out sofa so her two children can share the guest room, she can’t stop longing for the life she had. So when a letter arrives from Libby’s estranged aunt offering her a job and a place to live on her goat farm, Libby jumps at the opportunity. But starting over is never easy. With an aunt who is nothing like she imagined, a shaggy farm manager with a tragic past, a psychic at the feed store who claims to be able to contact the dead, and a bully at her daughter’s school, country life isn’t at all what Libby expected. But it also offers her what no other place can: A chance to define the good life for herself. A chance to piece together the mysteries of her own past. A chance, even, at love. And, finally, a chance to bring herself, and her family, back to life.

My take:  I love Katherine Center’s novels. They are wonderfully relatable, funny and heartstring tuggers. Her latest, The Lost Husband, is no exception. When it comes down to it, Libby is every woman. Like I said, relatable. Life hasn’t turned out the way she expected yet, despite that fact, she keeps trying her darnedest to keep her family moving forward.

The offer to move to her aunt’s goat farm comes at the right time. She knows she can’t keep living with her domineering mother if she has any hope of a life. A fresh start in new surroundings is just what she and her two young children need. And a new life is exactly what they get.

From her eccentric and loving aunt, to the nice yet mysterious farm manager, to the interesting young woman at the feed store, Libby’s new life is populated with strange but caring people. And they’re all doing their best to move forward as well.

Center is a gifted storyteller and I loved this one. It’s a story of hope and never giving up – trying your hardest even in the darkest moments. Because when all is said and done – it’s worth it. Loved it. Highly recommended.

A Bride by Moonlight by Liz Carlyle

a bride by moonlight

  • Title:  A Bride by Moonlight (Series: Fraternitas Aureae Crucis #4)
  • Author:  Liz Carlyle
  • Genre:  Historical Romance
  • Published:  February 2013 – Avon – 432 pages
  • Source:  Review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis (publisher):  Royden Napier, Baron Saint-Bryce, is tall, dark, and ruthless—and on the hunt for a dangerous beauty . . .

On the eve of her escape to the Continent, bold, beautiful Lisette Colburne accepts a proposal she dare not refuse: masquerade as the future bride of the steely-eyed Royden Napier and help him solve his most dangerous case. Soon Lisette is in even greater danger—of losing her heart to the one man with the power to destroy her . . .

Estranged from his aristocratic family, the enigmatic Napier has forged a reputation as Scotland Yard’s most relentless police commissioner. He’s vowed to bring Lisette to justice—but with every forbidden kiss and every tantalizing touch, he finds himself becoming less convinced of her guilt . . . and more certain he must have her. But when danger touches Lisette, can he save her?

My take:  A Bride by Moonlight is the 4th book in the Fraternitas Aureae Crucis series. We met Napier and Lisette in the third book, The Bride Wore PearlsTheir book starts where TBWP left off – a murder has taken place and now Lisette is a prime suspect in Napier’s investigation.

I enjoyed Napier and Lisette’s reluctant relationship. Reluctant until it wasn’t, that is. They are incredibly strong characters who’ve lived their lives with purpose and a sense of honor and duty. Sometimes it was misguided honor and duty but admirable none the less. I would love to see this pair in their own series as a crime-solving couple who have a passionate love for each other.

Liz Carlyle’s attention to detail is appreciated – wow, this author does her research! I was thankful for the list of characters and their relevance to each other and the story. It would be easy to be confused by such a large cast especially when many are related by blood or marriage.

If you enjoy intricate detail and strong characters in your historical romances, I think you’ll like  A Bride by Moonlight.

The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee

avalon ladies scrapbooking society

Title:  The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society
Author:  Darien Gee
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Published: (expected) January 29, 2012 – Ballantine Books
Source:  Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis (publisher): Welcome to Avalon, Illinois, Pop. 4,243

At Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, local residents scrapbook their memories and make new ones. But across town, other Avalonians are struggling to free themselves of the past: Isabel Kidd is fixing up her ramshackle house while sorting through the complications of her late husband’s affair. Ava Catalina is mourning the love of her life and helping her young son grow up without his father. Local plumber Yvonne Tate is smart, beautiful, and new to Avalon, but finds that despite a decade of living life on her own terms, the past has a way of catching up—no matter where she goes. And Frances Latham, mother to a boisterous brood of boys, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a little girl from China—unprepared for the emotional roller coaster of foreign adoption.

Enter Bettie Shelton, the irascible founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Under Bettie’s guidance, even the most reluctant of Avalon’s residents come to terms with their past and make bold decisions about their future. But when the group receives unexpected news about their steadfast leader, they must pull together to create something truly memorable.

My take:  Darien Gee’s novel is filled with interesting characters dealing with heartache, loss, and regrets – yet they keep going. That’s due in part to encouragement from friends and acquaintances. The main characters have some tough issues to work through. I thought Gee handled all of the story lines in an even and believable way.

It’s hard for me to name one character as my favorite but, if pressed, I’d say it was Bettie. She was so “in your face”  and unapologetic that it made me laugh more than once. There are reasons for her behavior that made her even more endearing to me. I loved that she was the owner of the scrapbooking business – the person encouraging everyone to preserve their memories.

My only quibble with the novel is that I thought there were too many story lines. I enjoyed each story but thought there were enough for two books.  That issue aside, I really liked the book and it’s message that things are not important. What matters most are the people in our lives and the times shared with them. 

Fans of novels with recipes won’t be disappointed. There are several at the end of the book.

Three Good Things by Wendy Francis

three good things

  • Title:  Three Good Things
  • Author:  Wendy Francis
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  January 2013 – Simon & Schuster – 256 pages
  • Source:  Review copy from the publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis (publisher): Ellen McClarety, a recent divorcée, has opened a new bake shop in her small Midwestern town, hoping to turn her life around by dedicating herself to the traditional Danish pastry called kringle. She is no longer saddled by her ne’er-do-well husband, but the past still haunts her—sometimes by showing up on her doorstep. Her younger sister, Lanie, is a successful divorce attorney with a baby at home. But Lanie is beginning to feel that her perfect life is not as perfect as it seems. Both women long for the guidance of their mother, who died years ago but left them with lasting memories of her love and a wonderful piece of advice: “At the end of every day, you can always think of three good things that happened.”

Ellen and Lanie are as close as two sisters can be, until one begins keeping a secret that could forever change both their lives. Wearing her big Midwestern heart proudly on her sleeve, Wendy Francis skillfully illuminates the emotional lives of two women with humor and compassion, weaving a story destined to be shared with a friend, a mother, or a sister.

My take:  I found Three Good Things to be a quiet novel about finding out and remembering what’s most important in life.

I think many readers will be able to relate to Ellen and Lanie and their circumstances but, that said, I wish each sister would have been even more fleshed out. At 256 pages it seemed there was room to do so.

There’s a little drama toward the end of the book that wrapped up a bit too conveniently but I still enjoyed the book. I liked the Midwest setting and I’m now craving some of Ellen’s kringle. There’s even a recipe at the end of the novel.

‘Twas the Night After Christmas by Sabrina Jeffries

Title:  ‘Twas the Night After Christmas

#6 Hellions of Halstead Hall (works fine as a stand alone)

Author:  Sabrina Jeffries

Genre:  Historical Romance – Christmas

Published:  October 2012 – Gallery Books

Synopsis:  Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont, has been estranged from his mother for most of his life. When his mother’s new companion, Mrs. Camilla Stuart, writes to tell him that his mother is seriously ill, he goes home. But when he learns that the lovely widow tricked him in order to effect a holiday reconciliation, he refuses to stay—unless she meets his “terms.” Somewhere between trying to seduce the beautiful Camilla and struggling with the cruel memories of his childhood Christmases, Pierce discovers that not only does forgiveness go two ways, but that love can blossom even in the coldest of winters.

My take:  ‘Twas the Night After Christmas is Sabrina Jeffries’ newest addition to the Hellions of Halstead Hall series. I have the first book but haven’t read it yet. As it turns out, I don’t think one needs to have read the previous five books to enjoy this book.

I think what I liked most about this novel is the theme of forgiveness and that it helps the person who forgives even more than the one forgiven. Pierce Waverly has no intention of forgiving his mother. She turned her back on him when he was a young boy which made him the man he has become: someone who refuses to commit to any woman lest she leave him too. He will maintain control in any situation. That all goes out the window when he meets his mother’s companion, Mrs. Camilla Stuart. Because of her own childhood and circumstances since – she’s a widow with a young son, Camilla understands him in a way no other person has before. But she also understands how a mother would do anything to protect her child.

I enjoyed the humor and energy Jeffries’ characters shared. It made the pages fly as I had to see how it would all turn out. It was also fun to see how the poem The Night Before Christmas worked into the novel.

Near the end there’s a new character introduced that I subsequently learned will be in an upcoming series. I’m looking forward to The Duke’s Men.

I recommend ‘Twas the Night After Christmas to fans of Historical Romance and HR with a Christmas theme.

Disclosure:  I received my copy from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.

Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by JB Lynn

Title:  Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman

Author:  JB Lynn

Genre:  Romantic Suspense

Published:  October 2012 – Avon Impulse

Synopsis:  Take three wacky aunts, two talking animals, one nervous bride, and an upcoming hit, and you’ve got the follow-up to JB Lynn’s wickedly funny Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman.
Knocking off a drug kingpin was the last thing on Maggie Lee’s to-do list, but when a tragic accident leaves her beloved niece orphaned and in the hospital, Maggie will go to desperate lengths to land the money needed for her care.

But the drug kingpin is the least of her worries. Maggie’s aunts are driving her crazy, her best friend’s turned into a bridezilla …and a knock on the head has given Maggie Dr. Dolittle abilities—she can talk to animals. Unfortunately, they talk back. It’s just another day in the life of this neurotic hitwoman.

My take:  When I finished reading Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman my wish was that it would be the first of a series. Well, my wish was granted with Further Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman! Once again JB Lynn had me laughing as I read about the adventures of Maggie and her two animal sidekicks: an Anole lizard, God (short for Godzilla) and a Doberman, DeeDee (aka Doomsday).

Maggie needs to hire a lawyer quickly when someone threatens to sue for custody of her niece, Katie. To hire a lawyer Maggie needs fast cash. That means she needs to agree to the latest hit request from the mob boss who got her into the hitwoman business to begin with.

JB Lynn throws plenty in Maggie’s way as she deals with family, possible love interests, and those wacky pets. As I read I was impressed with how Lynn nuanced the story and characters just enough to evoke unexpected emotion a time or two.

Recommended to fans of comedic suspense with light romance. I also recommend reading the books in order – you’ll understand the story and characters much more. Because of how this novel ends I look forward to book three in the Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman series.

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.

The Bride Wore Pearls by Liz Carlyle

Title:  The Bride Wore Pearls

Author:  Liz Carlyle

Genre:  Historical Romance

Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages

Published:  Avon – July 31, 2012

Synopsis:  Beneath the elegant façade of Victorian high society, the mysterious men of the St James Society play only by rules of danger and desire…

Rance Welham, the Earl of Lazonby, has survived scandal and disgrace, even evading the Queen’s justice at the end of a hangman’s rope. Now he’s about to gamble everything on something far more dangerous—pure, unquenchable desire.

An exotic and elegant beauty, Lady Anisha Stafford fled her native India after her husband’s death to seek refuge within London’s secretive St James Society. But accepting protection from a man society’s whispers call a cold-blooded killer is a double-edged sword . . . especially when he’s the most captivating and irresistible man Anisha has laid eyes on since leaving Calcutta.

In a world where treachery abounds, no one can be trusted—and no true passion can be denied. Together, these two tempestuous souls will risk their lives for a love that could redeem them both…or destroy everything they hold dear.

My take:  The Bride Wore Pearls has a very different tone to it than other Historical Romances I’ve read. It’s exotic and lush in descriptions of setting and characters. There’s a paranormal aspect woven throughout the story but mostly in the background. This is the third book in the series and I think I would have benefitted by reading the books in order to understand the paranormal theme. That said, Liz Carlyle does a good job of catching the reader up on secondary characters which makes me want to read the previous books.

I enjoyed Rance and Anisha. They are two strong characters who don’t back down from anyone or anything – especially Anisha. She’s been married before and has two young sons. She doesn’t want her brother to match her with someone he feels suitable. If she decides to marry again it will be on her terms. Rance refuses to be anything more than a friend to Anisha. He feels his reputation around the ton wouldn’t be good for Anisha or her sons. You know where this will end up going, right?

For me the fun was seeing how Carlyle let the two find their way to each other. I also thought the mystery of who was behind the false accusation that has plagued Rance for years was interesting and made for an exciting scene or two near the end. Recommended for fans of Liz Carlyle and Historical Romance fans looking for something a little different.

Source:  Publisher

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

About Liz Carlyle

A lifelong Anglophile, Liz Carlyle cut her teeth reading gothic novels under the bedcovers by flashlight. She is the author of seventeen historical romances, including several New York Times bestsellers. Liz travels incessantly, ever in search of the perfect setting for her next book. Along with her genuine romance-hero husband and four very fine felines, she makes her home in North Carolina.

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Liz’s Tour Stops

Thursday, August 2nd: The Book Garden

Tuesday, August 7th: Bookfan

Wednesday, August 8th: Broken Teepee

Friday, August 10th: Alpha Heroes

Tuesday, August 14th: A Chick Who Reads

Wednesday, August 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, August 16th: …the bookworm…

Saturday, August 18th: Mary’s Cup of Tea

Monday, August 20th: BookNAround

Tuesday, August 21st: WV Stitcher

Date TBD: Life In Review

Date TBD: In the Hammock Book Reviews

Date TBD: Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books

Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure by Sophie Barnes

Title:  Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure – Summersby #1

Author:  Sophie Barnes

Genre:  Historical Romance

Published:  May 2012 – Avon Impulse

Synopsis: Lady Alexandra Summersby is not your average society miss. Not only is she more likely to climb a tree than she is to wear a dress, but she has also sworn off marriage. Alex loves taking chances, which is how she finds herself embroiled in a secret mission as she races across the country with the Earl of Trenton. But Alexandra is about to discover that the real danger lies not in duels, but in her completely unexpected reaction to Lord Trenton’s company.

Michael Ashford, Earl of Trenton, is a man of duty. Honorable, charming, and a hit with the ladies, he’s never had trouble staying focused-until now. Lady Alexandra is like no other woman he’s ever met, and suddenly the prospect of marriage seems far more appealing. Now, to convince Alexandra that a life together could be an adventure like no other . . .

My take:  This historical romance is different from any I’ve read. It’s full of adventure, lacks the proper etiquette of the ton - at least where Alex is concerned, and then at nearly the last moment takes on the form of a fairy tale (think duckling turns into swan). It’s an entertaining story.

At it’s very core I found it to be the story of a young woman with commitment issues because of the loss of her mother at an early age. Alex resolved never to marry so she’d never feel the grief she witnessed in her father when her mother died. I thought Sophie Barnes’s treatment of this issue was honest and believable. With the rest of the story being somewhat larger than life I thought it was interesting to address that sensitive issue.

This is the first in the Summersby series with the second due out in the Fall (2012). Lady Alexandra’s Excellent Adventure might be a good one to take to the beach this summer. I enjoyed it.

Source:  Avon Impulse

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.