Review: The Road Beneath Me by Jessica Blair

the-road-beneath-meReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Jessica Blair is a well-known author of almost seventy books written under several pseudonyms; The Restless Spirit, Reach For Tomorrow, The Restless Heart, Storm Bay, A Distant Harbour, and The Seaweed Gatherers. In her new novel, The Road Beneath Me, Kate Swan is thrown out of the house by her father for being unwilling to marry a man of his choosing. The fact she abhors him deeply does not sway her father in the slightest.

Far away from Kate, Malcolm McFadden marries a crofter’s daughter, Rowena Murray, yet even for him, disaster strikes and Rowena has second thoughts about marrying him. Somehow, Malcolm encounters Kate, and they find an attraction that transcends convention; though he leaves her as he has other responsibilities back home to attend to. Kate is troubled by him leaving so soon, and wonders if she will ever see him again.

Jessica Blair, author of similar titles Sealed Secrets and Secrets of a Whitby Girl is well versed in weaving a tale. Malcolm McFadden is no Heathcliff in this Yorkshire drama; he is a man who tries to do right by those he cares for. The backdrop of Whitby is the perfect setting for the two lovers who can make a go of their relationship. Kate felt as though she was naive for thinking she would, like most of her friends get married to a man who would fulfill all her criteria for the perfect man, and what she actually got was much different. As her father only had designs on the Garfield business, her father did not take her feelings into consideration. He was only interested in using her as a pawn to get more money, and she wanted no part of it, not from her father, and not to marry Cyrus Garfield.

Of course, in that time period, Kate had made a harsh, if not foolish decision to leave home as many would have been left penniless and found themselves on the street with nowhere to go. She is unsure of the path that is in front of her, and afraid to leave even though she has to, or resign herself to marrying Cyrus. She has only one place to go, her brother Archie’s and stay there until she can find somewhere else. To be honest, she is lucky she could find someone, family who would take her in, as usually once a girl had been banished by her father, the entire family would have had nothing to do with her. As Archie is in business with her father, he can’t risk letting Kate stay too long, but there is an answer, she can be sent to become a domestic near Robin Hood’s Bay. At least there she can set up a new life.

Jessica takes the reader through Kate’s thoughts and feelings on her father’s decision to have her leave, and how she can make a life for herself even though her father always thought she would run back to him, and agree to marry the man he wanted. I would count Kate as being very fortunate in this particular period for having the support of her brother at the start. It might seem unrealistic to have Kate helped in this way, however it keeps readers seeing the harsher side of life on the street, and gets her right into the arms of Malcolm.

The Road Beneath Me is filled with heart-rending accounts of what Kate had suffered at the hands of her father and the emotional turmoil she experienced with Malcolm. This is a romance novel that gives hope to all of us.

[Rating:3]

Buy: The Road Beneath Me

Review: Curse of the Gypsy (Lady Anne Mystery, Book 3) by Donna Lea Simpson

Curse of the GypsyHeroine: When Lady Anne Addison visits the gypsy camp on her father’s lands, she swears she spies Tony in the woods. Unacceptable! She meant it when she said she needed space. Did the man never listen? Well he can’t misunderstand her if it is in writing!

Hero: Anthony, the Marquess of Darkefell, has proposed to Anne and her rejection has stung. Who does think she is to order him away from her side? Then to write such a letter! He wasn’t in Kent, but if she didn’t spy him in the woods, who was it? He intends to find out what is going on and convince Anne to wed him in the process.

Mystery: Sickness is spreading in the village and gypsy camp and both sides blame each other. Both sides curse each other and superstitions run amuck. As fear and tension grows, Lady Anne and Tony strive to get to the bottom of illness and what is causing it.

Review: I love that despite his disappointment, Tony still wears his love on his sleeve. I could have done without the focus on the illness, perhaps a string of escalating “incidents”? There were several in the story that were a tangent mystery. I love how Donna brings back the mystery of the first novel and wraps up the trilogy nicely.

[Rating:4.25]

Buy: Curse of the Gypsy: A Lady Anne Mystery

Review: Revenge of the Barbary Ghost by Donna Lea Simpson

lady anne revenge of the barbary ghost
This story continues immediately after the events of Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark.

Lady Anne Addison: Our plucky heroine isn’t sure she wants to wed and escapes to the coast to avoid answering the Marquess of Darkefell’s proposal. She can’t stop thinking about the man but she is determined to be distracted. The local mystery of the Barbary Ghost in Cornwall is just the ticket. She can’t imagine it’s a real ghost, but seeing it in person makes her think twice, still she’s certain she can figure out how the ghost stunt is achieved.

Marquess of Darkefell: Our strikingly handsome hero won’t take a non-answer from Anne about his proposal so he chases her to Cornwall after obtaining her whereabouts from her family. To press his suit, Darkefell joins her in sleuthing, which also helps an old employee worried about his son being involved in the smuggling. The biggest mystery at Cliff House for him though is not the Barbary Ghost and the smugglers; the biggest mystery to solve is how to win Lady Anne’s hand in marriage.

Review: You should definitely read Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark before reading this one, as it helps illuminate their relationship. The romance between Anne and Tony is one that will play out serially like the Francesca Cahill Deadly Mysteries. Each novel gives you more forward movement, but also leaves you begging for more! Anne is certain if she were to marry the only man she’d want is Tony, but is undecided about the institution of marriage fearing if she does marry Tony, the power it will give him over her life. She is not yet willing to give up what control she has (which is more than most young ladies as she has her inheritance). The style of writing is sweet, clever, full of twists and turns, and passionate! I love both Anne and Tony and can’t wait to see them get their happy ever after as a crime solving duo!

Recommended If You Like: Francesca Cahill Deadly Mysteries, Lady Julie Grey Mysteries, Jaine Austen Mysteries, Mrs. Murphy Mysteries, and mysteries that are light, clever, have a dash of romance and are full of fun!

This series continues with Curse of the Gypsy, which makes it sound like Tony has a twin brother to stir up trouble! Oh la la!

Buy: Revenge of the Barbary Ghost: A Lady Anne Mystery

Review: A Light on the Veranda by Ciji Ware

light verandaReviewed by Cara Lynn

This is a re-publishing of her novel. I read an uncorrected advance copy.

This was a hard book for me to get into. It wasn’t until I was on about page 200 when I began to figure it out. Perhaps that was because it took me so long to read the first 200 pages that I might not have remembered clues given earlier. Who knows.

The basic story is about a harpist Daphne Whitaker Duvallon who wishes to attend her brother’s wedding (and perform). Her conductor in NYC, Rafe, who also happens to be an ex-lover, fires her from her position. She goes to the wedding anyway. About a year earlier, she had literally stopped her wedding to Jack when she discovered her soon-to-be husband in the throes of making love to someone else. (She announces that at the wedding.) He holds a grudge; she is terribly hurt. He sabotages her harp just before her brother’s wedding.

Enter Sim Hopkins, a bird photographer, whose marriage ended disastrously in divorce when he was not home when his wife loses a baby. His ex-wife is a lawyer that Jack hires to push through disposing toxic waste too close to the bird sanctuary. Of course Jack does this after researching Sim on the Internet and knowing that he and Daphne are getting close. Daphne tries, unsuccessfully, to convince Sim that they are up to no good.

Both of them hear a harp playing in the middle of the night when no one is there. They are in two separate locations.

In a way, this book is a sort of time-travel gothic romance. Daphne finds herself transported back into the past when she hears certain sounds or music. She witnesses the people; she isn’t part of it. (That wasn’t clear to me in the beginning.) Whether Sim has any similar experiences, we don’t know.

Suffice it to say that the lives of the ancestors are in some ways influencing the present. And they are thoroughly unlikeable, with a couple of exceptions, as well as mentally off, shades of Jane Eyre with the crazy wife in the upper rooms, then the daughter with similar issues put in an insane asylum when she doesn’t deserve it by a tyrant of a second husband after her money, stillborns, forced marital ‘rights’. Even with the geneologies in the front of the book, I had a hard time keeping them straight. This is the deep south, in the time of slavery.

The book flips back and forth from present day to the past.

Both Sim and Daphne are wounded by their own pasts, let alone their ancestors.

Be warned: There is abortion, miscarriage, stillborn, suicides, insanity, disfigurement, a Gothic-type denouement.

Recommended: If you like reading about the past and the above situations.

[Rating:3]

Buy: Light on the Veranda

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Review: The Demon Lover (Fairwick Chronicles, Book 1) by Juliet Dark

demon lover juliet darkReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

This story is written in the first person.

Dr. Cailleach Fay seems to enjoy writing about all types of demon lovers. She doesn’t just teach the classics but also watches episodes of Dark Shadows and reads the works of Anne Rice. Callie is vying for a teaching position at Fairwick College. A college where we find out that everyone isn’t as they seem.

Juliet does a great job of describing the town where Fairwick College is located. It sounds like a quaint little town that any romantic would love to visit. Callie is staying at an Inn in town while waiting to see if she got the job. She then falls in love with a house across the street called Honeysuckle House.

Callie starts to get nightly visits from a mystery man. Is he just a man of her dreams or is he something more? We have a little mystery going on and some of it revolves around Callie’s house and the woods that are just behind. The College also seems something of a mystery.

Callie’s house used to belong to a romance novelist. Part of what the novelist wrote is located in the attic. Callie is very interested in learning more about the novelist that lived in Honeysuckle House as well as reading her works. Will Dahlia LaMotte’s stories, journals, and letters connect these two ladies?

I did love how Juliet gives us a story within a story. We get to read parts of the stories that Dahlia created. Juliet also gives her readers some pretty hot dream scenes. Not overly sexual but hot, and very descriptive, all the same. But there were times that I thought things were moving to slow. And that there were parts that could have been left out and probably would not change the storyline.

I think that Juliet knew what she was doing by creating a mystery around Callie’s house. It will hold your attention and make you question as to what is going on. We need to keep reading in order to see if the mystery gets solved. But then she surprised me by who she hooked Callie up with. I never would have guessed that one in a million years.

The story will make you turn the pages but if you’re looking for a romance, this may not be the kind you are looking for. To me it’s more of a paranormal mystery. But since this is book one, maybe the storyline will continue in book 2. Maybe this is the hook that Juliet wants to use to have us follow the series. I would say that if you want to read this book, check it out at your local library.

[Rating:3.5]

Buy: The Demon Lover

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