Category: Book Reviews

Pleasant Surprises For Western Mail Order Brides–For the Readers, too!

MailOrderBridesMail Order Bride Collection (A Timeless Romance Anthology Book 16) by Stacy Henrie, Kristin Holt, Annette Lyon, Sarah M. Eden, Heather B. Moore, and Sian Ann Bessey

As a reader of sweet contemporary romance and mid-century pulps, I had my doubts about reading 1800s American frontier groom-seeks-woman-with-good-teeth-for-amiable-marriage stories. I thought they would be melodramatic and dull. However, what I found as I read Mail Order Bride Collection was a surprising breath of fresh air.

In WRITTEN IN HER HEART, by Stacy Henrie, the heroine, Georgie is lonely and desperate to find a husband—but the man she wants doesn’t want her. Good plot set up. If she marries, her inheritance will fund her favorite orphanage. Proves Georgie has a good heart. I like how she’s characterized. Clay, the man she’d really like by her side is who she’s asked to find her a husband. This sets up great conflict, kept the story moving. Clay, who cann’t sit by and watch Georgie marry another, writes to her as a pretend suitor. Funny situation. I love to see a fast one being pulled over the eyes of the characters and for the hero and heroine to be at cross-purposes. The story really worked for me.

Kristin Holt’s gives us a gripping set up as Dr. Naomi is expelled from her own hospital with charges of murder nipping at her heals in WANTED: MIDWIFE BRIDE. She lays low and answers an ad for a mid-wife to the country doc in Wyoming. However, conflict ensure when Dr. Naomi refrains from telling Dr. Joe she’s a fugitive. Really nice sense of hopelessness. Easy to relate to. It’s suspenseful to the end to see if they can work things out. I’ve seen the withholding of information by an author not work as it could be cleared up with a simple conversation, however, Kristin makes it work in her story.

Annette Lyon wrote about an orphaned girl, Marilyn, given an impossible choice—marry a murdering fiend, or go to jail as a killer. In THE SOUND OF HOME, Marilyn answers an ad for a bride to flee NYC. But her would-be husband was a mentally incapacitated man. His brother, Thomas must send Marilyn back home until he discovers–complication–that he’s falling for her. I loved the set-up of this story and the conflict built upon conflict with the brother taking a chance on her. The story drew me in and delivered on its promise.

In Sarah M. Eden’s FOR BETTER OR WORSE Gerald Smith is lonely and sends for a bride only to have the gal turn out to be someone he’d known and who had annoyed him as a girl. There is humor galore in this story, lots of quick-witted dialogue, and always at cross-purposes. The funniest line in the story is when Gerald, the hero asks Mary, the heroine, if she’s a murderer, and she replies, not yet.

Heather B. Moore’s novella THE INCONVENIENT BRIDE sees Carmela traveling from Boston to Colorado supposedly to marry the eloquent man she’d been writing to. However, big surprise when she gets off the train—her intended is dead. What’s the brother to do? Nice characterization and flow.

THE PRICE OF SILVER, by Siân Ann Bessey, Katie leaves New York for Idaho to marry Jake, a man she’s written to. Great set-up. But when she steps off the train, his brother Caleb greets her instead. Toss in emotional conflict with her having to stay at the family farm. Caleb takes her home to wait for Jake’s return from a mining job he couldn’t pass up. The more Caleb gets to know Katie, the more he wants what his brother has, but he can’t let his heart overrule his head unless Jake changes his mind about his intended bride. Never had to stop an examine the writing.

There was only one issue I had with the book. I just had a minor issue with Heather’s story. She felt the need to explain when the character was thinking, and this was besides writing the thoughts in italics. She would follow what was a clear thought with [he thought, or she thought, or she wondered]. And though a tad annoying and unnecessary, she does tells a marvelous story. So if that’s not a deal-breaker for you, go for it.

If you are a fancier of the simple and sweet love story happening on the fly between two strangers set in a simple time, this might be the compilation of stories for you.

I was given an ARC of this book for an honest evaluation.

 

Betrayal, debauchery, treachery, conspiracy and passion, oh my!

FiresOfDestinyFires of Destiny” by Linda Barlow

Though I rated it 4 out of 5 stars, I’d give it 4.8 stars if I could.

Though I do love all things related to the British Aristocracy and Medieval to Regency-type books, they’re not my normal go-to for casual reading. Most of them don’t stack up to my favorite authors like Judith McNaught, Elizabeth Hoyt or Stephanie Laurens. So I admit I dove into the book with pre-conceived notions. However, with Linda Barlow‘s “The Fires of Destiny,” I was more than just pleasantly surprised, I was enthralled. At first the length of the book caused me to take pause. But once I started reading and finally finished, it wasn’t long enough. I wanted more of the wonderfully rich, passionate, yet highly flawed characters of Alexandra Douglas and her rouge lover, Roger Trevor.

Set during the bloody reign of England’s Queen, Mary Tudor, the story is filled with religious persecution, murder, rape, conspiracy, rebellion, heresy, intrigue, treason, torture, and queenly executions. There are illegitimate children and doomed lovers. Everything a good mid 1500s English romance should have.

Spirited, red-headed Alexandra grew up in awe of the Trevor brothers, but was drawn to the middle son, Roger, who ran away from his father’s tyranny when he was only fourteen. Roger grew up on the sea and made the acquaintance of a man who would figures prominently in the book. Because I would be issuing a *SPOILER*, I won’t say in what capacity. What moves the story is the complicated relationship between Alix and Roger – when they first discover that love and passion hangs between then, followed by gross misunderstandings. Roger is haunted by the death of a mistress who wasn’t what she seemed and holds Alix off – mostly for her own protection. So their path to true love is rocky and dotted with secondary characters who appeared to be friends and yet turn out to be deliciously evil villains. The local witch forewarns Alix that she’ll have many lovers and that revelation disturbs her, because Roger’s loving is the only thing she craves.

Alix is drawn into one conspiracy after another usually mistakenly believing Roger is at the heart of each. The constant coming together and then being separated, added to my enjoyment of the consistent conflict making me thirsty to read on. I found Alix and Roger’s physical and spiritual bond explosively forged, fiery passionate, and sexually charged. Their crocked course to happily-ever-after was a roller coaster ride. When they finally do come together, it is after the horrific mistake of him believing she has betrayed his trust and got his friends massacred. It’s just brilliant the way Linda weaves the reader through Alix and Roger’s eventual coming together and loving each other. Just beautiful.

The only flaws that I could see are the usual regency-esk romances tropes, like those silly adjectives, and Linda’s confusion with the attributions, “said he” or “he said.” Other than that, I found story held me captive. I would recommend this book to anyone who is drawn into the dark, mysterious, and lusty world of the Medieval Romance. I will definitely read more of Linda’s books.

WARNING: There are explicit sexual situations that may offend some. 

“Nothing done is ever wasted” – Review of “Gone” by Julie Elizabeth Powell

GoneGone” by Julie Elizabeth Powell

I gave it a: 4 of 5 stars

I was given a free copy of “Gone” through an author review group in exchange for an honest review. “Nothing done is ever wasted” – an absolutely brilliant quote from “Gone” by Julie Elizabeth Powell helped make my reading experience a surprising one since I’m not typically a fan of fantasy. I normally read contemporary romance, suspense and historicals.

The main character, Charley Woods is an executive and mother of a girl who suffered brain damaged as an infant and had to be put in a permanent care facility for which Charley feel miserably guilty. Charley wishes her daughter had died, or that she could end the daughter’s life herself, and because of these horrible thoughts, Charley is ridden with a life-time of remorse. Which makes one wonder what she has left to offer her husband and other children?

But Powell doesn’t explore those feelings as much as I would have liked, even at the end. Heart sick with her sorrow, Charley sits down in a chair in her office and basically dies. Her spirit leaps into the throes of a NDE-Near Death Experience. This subject is something my own husband explores extensively, so I’m totally versed with the experiences of other people who have died and been revived. In this case, the parallels ended at Powell’s fantasy version of what happens to real people who experience NDE’s.

Powell’s character Charley is transported in her NDE to an Alice-in-Wonderland/Wizard-of-Oz/Shrek-esk fantasy world where she find the spirit of her brain-dead daughter. Powell does spend a lot of time painting vivid imagery of her afterlife world, and most are enjoyable. Charley is not alone in her experience. She has guides much like the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar and Toto. Through her experiences in the Avalon-titled fantasy world, Charley is unbelieving, filled with self-doubt, guilt and denial, and must face trials of her faith before she can leave.

But the book has problems. It was very long and challenging to read. I was confused a lot of the time. There are unnecessarily drawn-out passages of description of Powell’s fantasy world and uninspiring, everyday dialogue, and lengthy narrative explanations of what was going on from the fantasy characters. And some of Powell’s structural issues with her writing were difficult to ignore. If you are a fan of fantasy/sci-fi/NDE’s, you might find this book interesting.

Because Powell’s book contains a wonderful message of hope, enduring life with faith, learning to love and forgive others and yourself, and overcoming self-persecution, it was saved from getting the 3-Star review I might have given.  

Review of Teresa D’Amario’s “Visions of Fire and Ice.”

VisionsOfFireAndIceTeresa D’Amario’s “Visions of Fire and Ice.”

I gave it 4 out of 5 Stars.

Though not a fan of fantasy, I do love history and mythology, and Teresa’s book deliveries all three. I was immediately drawn into the story of Ramose, a protector of an ancient society that crash landed on earth from the far away planet, Petiri. With skills far beyond those of simple mortals, this alien race fights hard to keep their special abilities, and the fact that they don’t age, a secret from the human race. For many millennia it worked. The opening battle between Horus, Isis’s son, and Set, the God of Chaos, was so reminiscent of Egyptian mythology and a delightful retelling of those tales. They set up the novel perfectly. Teresa’s well written account made me run to the computer for my own research of the myths.

The heroic character of Ramose is so brilliantly depicted that it was easy to see him in my mind. A caring warrior who’d do anything to keep the Petiri’s secret safe is shaken to the core when he meets a mere mortal, Tamara from America, with a relic of his people imprinted on her arm that has bonded to her. When he watches her burn a drunken lothario with her gift of fire, he’s more than a little intrigued. He is stunned to learn Tamara, a human female, is his Kha Ib, or soul-mate, and now he must now fight to protect her from the demon who’s been tormenting him in his evilness for centuries.

Teresa has crafted a richly-textured, well-written, and masterfully told story merging the world of ancient and modern Egypt, modern times, and alien civilizations. It kept me reading until the wee hours of the morning, which is the mark of a great story teller. She knows how to incorporate the rate of reveal in her story; knowing just when to give the reader clues into what’s going to be happening next between Ramose and Tamara and their enemy, without giving away to much. Ramose is ice to Tamara’s fire and together they ride the storm of passion, including steamy love scenes that might offend some readers, right into the hands of the evil God Set, now taking up residence in one of Ramose’s relatives.

I did enjoy the slow climb of tension and the strengthening of Ramose and Tamara’s relationship moving them toward their inevitable physical sparks, and their confrontation with Set. However, I felt Teresa might have moved to the height of the conflict just a little quicker. Though the tension built, it didn’t move fast enough for me. Then when the evil antagonist finally kidnaps Tamara, I was all ready for something spectacular, but I was slightly disappointed it didn’t deliver as much pop as I would have liked. It made me wonder why now, why after all these thousands of years, Set waited to bring himself back from the dead. There were a number of errors, making it not perfect, but all in all, Visions of Fire and Ice was enjoyable to read, mesmerizing in its scope, spectacular in its descriptions, and the characters love and attraction to one another memorable. I would probably read any and all sequels.

A copy of Teresa D’Amario’s “Visions of Fire and Ice” was given to me as a part of the ReviewsRUs Group for an honest evaluation. I was not compensated for my review.

Review of Pamela Tracy’s “Katie’s Rescue”

KatiesRescuePamela Tracy’s “Katie’s Rescue”

KatiesRescueTraumatized Katie Vincent is threatened with the return of her father’s wild animal menagerie unless she can leave her sign-language job in Texas and drive to Tuscan, Arizona and save a panther from death. Vivid memories of what the sibling of this big cat did to her little sister haunt Katie, but the threat of having all the animals returned and giving back the money has Katie jumping in her car for the drive.

Luke Rittenhouse, director of a wild animal park, has no recourse left but to threaten the former animal owner’s daughter with “breach of Contract,” because the big cat is dying without Katie’s love. What the two people discover is that Katie’s trauma is bone deep. Leaving a scattered and scarred little sister behind and trying to step into the enclosure with the big cat has Katie tied in knots as well as her growing feelings for the wild animal rescue park, and Luke.

I enjoyed the story of the animals and could visualize the love and care Luke offered these exotic creatures with special gifts. Luke is concerned and more than willing to give any animal in trouble, including the two legged kind, his empathy and more than enough time to heal. However, Aquila, the panther doesn’t have much time.

I really got into the story of the animals and the wild animal park. I wish there was a little more emotional connection between the two lead characters, more inner conflict about the change in their relationship, but I loved all the secondary characters and how strong Katie’s little sister really was. Can Katie, through Luke’s faith in her, reconnect with the animal she raised as a cub? Please read it and find out.

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