Review: The Laird’s Choice (Lairds of the Loch, Book 1) by Amanda Scott

The Laird’s ChoiceHero: Magnus Galbraith escapes captivity after putting together the plot to assassinate King James at the hands his captor’s allies. He will warn the king, claim his freedom, thumb his nose at his father and avenge his brother in the process. He doesn’t expect the laird whose land he washed up on to offer his eldest daughter in marriage. Though to be fair, she did warn him.

Heroine: Lady Andrena MacFarlan has great empathy and can sense the true thoughts of man and animals. She intrinsically knows when something is wrong on her father’s lands and feels it when there are intruders. She finds a wounded man, without an inheritance to call his own that is willing to defy an enemy of her father. She knows she will be asked to wed him and Dree finds she is not unwilling.

Review: The romance is nice and slow. It’s a romance that simmers. The hero and heroine go from perfect strangers to wedded couple and develop from there. The paranormal elements are a little vague for me, but if you can ignore it or roll with it, they become part of the story. Author is very good at conveying the historical setting. You know there was lots of research! I liked the glossary at the beginning. That helped!

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: The Laird’s Choice (The Lairds of the Loch)

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Review: Dead Reckoning (Valkyrie Series, Book 2) by K A Perkins

Dead Reckoning PerkinsReviewed by Sandra Scholes

The year is 1671 and after watching his mother suffer brutality at the hands of three of the most feared pirates in history, Leo vows he will avenge her death one day when he is older. Gabriella is a young woman married to Erik, a cruel Dutch slave trader. Erik rules the house with an iron fist. He is an irascible man, prone to violent mood swings and always finds fault with his wife and his slave, Klara. Gabriella lives in fear of Erik and hopes for the day when she and Klara can flee without being found.

One of the interesting parts of the story is at the beginning as Gabriella wants to get away from her cruel husband, while Leo wants to get close to the pirates who killed his mother, and that in turn takes him closer to her husband. Gabriella grows from being a sensitive, downtrodden woman, to being a strong, independent woman who wants to help others, like Klara out of difficult and dangerous situations. She is ill-equipped for life in the jungle of the island of Sayba, but her life is worth nothing if she is caught by either Erik or his men. Leo has seen his mother die at the hands of Tarr’s men, and seeks his revenge, yet he is a decent man, even at sea. He is often fair with his men, and has braved death attempting to kill Tarr, Blake and Hornigold.

The author shows a real grasp of all things pirate, and has clearly researched in depth about what life would have been like on board a ship for both the captain and crew of the Sound of Freedom. The setting and the characters feel right for the time period, and it is easy to switch off from modern life to tune into the story as it seems believable. It is easy to get to the heart of the people involved, and the author doesn’t concentrate on the main characters alone. The story is gritty and realistic, and as a result gives a more realistic account of how people would have behaved during that time. Jungle life has a detrimental effect on the slaves, and Gabriella and Klara; the disease, the venomous wildlife, and the terrible heat of the location all serve to put the reader there into the thick of period Caribbean life. Having Gabriella and Klara on board isn’t a good idea for the men, but Leo likes the thought of having Erik’s wife and slave to use as a pawn to get what he wants, yet he sees in her a wildness that reminds him of Magdalena. He senses Gabriella is afraid of men, even Leo being around her, and all he wants to do is put her at ease. She is a free woman along with Klara, but life on board a ship like the Sound of Freedom isn’t made for women on the run and he can’t expose the men to them and risk Gabriella being hurt, or worse.

It takes a while for the romance to start, but when it does, Gabriella finds that Leo isn’t the man she thought he was, he is a better man than her husband, and he can show her what that means. Dead Reckoning is more than just a romance novel, it acts as a personal account of life in pirate days that is extensive and gripping.

Dead Reckoning was long-listed in the 2011 Mslexia Novel Competition and is the second book in the Valkyerie series. It tells of the losses and danger associated with piracy in the Caribbean during the Seventeenth Century. There are several books in the Valkyrie series including, An Ill Wind (Valkyrie Series 1), Ready About! (Valkyrie Series 3) which is set for a 2913 release, and Shadowfall (Valkyrie Series 4) which is set for a 2014 release. As a novella and K A Perkins’s first book, Gabriella Berryngton had high hopes for a better life in another land, but aged only 14, she realises she must have been so naive.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Dead Reckoning (Valkyrie Series)

Review: Tamed by a Highlander by Paula Quinn

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

I haven’t read a historical romance in quite a while. I’ve been reading a lot of erotic and paranormal romances. I’ve recently gone back to reading the historical romances and I’m glad that I did. Paula has grabbed my attention right from the first page.

In reading Tamed by a Highlander you can picture how all the characters felt, acted, and what they would have been wearing at that period in time. Paula has a way of making you feel as if you’re a part of the story. It’s as if you are watching her characters as their story unfolds. She is like a great fisherman. She keeps you hooked until the very end.

The heroine of this story is Mairi MacGregor. The story starts in the spring of 1685 and we see Mairi wanting to go to battle with the rest of her kin. Our hero is Connor Grant and for some reason Mairi doesn’t like him very much. We also find out why she is so passionate about fighting the battle.

As the story continues, you can just feel the heat between Mairi and Connor. The pages practically sizzle with the chemistry between the two. But as in all good romances, nothing goes smoothly. Lord Oxford, one of the minor characters, keeps coming between the two lovers. As you read, you wonder why he is so fascinated by her. Out of all the women at Court, what is the fascination?

Mairi has a strong personality which is unusual for the time period. She has certain beliefs and she is willing to defend those beliefs. She is like our modern women soldiers and would probably do very well in today’s society. But back then, women didn’t do those things. It was considered unacceptable.

I’m a reader that doesn’t usually like a book that I constantly put down and then pick up again. I lose my train of thought within the story. Usually when I constantly put a book down it’s because it just doesn’t hold my attention. I didn’t have that problem with this book. I couldn’t wait to see what Paula had in the offing for our lovebirds.

If you’re looking for a story that has a lot of sex in it, you won’t find it here. But if you’re looking for a sensual story with some action in it, this is the story for you. Circumstances always seemed to pull our lovers apart. Fans of great romances know that love conquers all. We know that the champion always overcomes any and all obstacles that will come between him and his one true love.

This is a book that I can’t wait for the next installment in the series to come out. I also look forward in to catching up with the series by reading the first two books. This is definitely a book that you want as part of your romance collection.

I give Tamed by a Highlander:

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Tamed by a Highlander, Tamed by a Highlander (UK)

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Review: Highland Rebel by Judith James

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Jamie Sinclair is a chameleon hero. He switches loyalties, sides, and professions to suit his needs. He once worked for Charles II. Now he works for his brother James II. Jamie is not enamored with his mercenary life. He does what he does to earn the monies needed to keep his impoverish and indebted estates and their people going.

So when he comes from a raiding party back to the camp and finds the men out to torture the young lad he faced momentarily on the battlefield, Jamie is reluctant to let them do it. When it turns out that the lad is a she, he’s determined to ensure her safety. The men are angry at the loss of their plaything and won’t easily let Jamie take her. The only way salvage the situation is to marry her.

Catherine Drummond is a quasi female laird. She should be in charge of her people, but her cousin rules the roost. Wounded from battle, she does not recognize what the priest is doing on the field. Her only thoughts are of escape or to take out as many of them as possible before her death.

I was really enjoying this Stuart period romance until about page three hundred. There was so much going on that it’s hard to summarize. Friendship is a very important part for the hero and heroine’s road to love and happiness. I began to loose interest with all the running around, side switching, and back and forth going on between the hero and heroine. The novel takes place over the course of two (and more) years with a lot of down time between meetings. In the end it was too much for me when all I really wanted was for both of them to act on their mutual love and lust for each other. I’m sorry to say that I ended up skimming the rest of the novel to find out what happened.

Rating: 2.5-3 Stars

Buy: Highland Rebel

Get into Bed with Judith James (Author Interview)

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Keira: The Stuart period is not one we see much of in romance. Why did you choose to focus on it?

Judith: Actually that really surprises me as there was so much going on at that time both historically and socially.  It saw the beginning of the Whig and Tory parties and the beginning of the Jacobite movement that is a central theme in so much Highland and Scottish historical romance. Cromwell’s decade long regime was moralistic and repressive.  Attempts were made to outlaw much loved entertainments including gambling, theatre, dancing and even celebrations such as Christmas. The Restoration of Charles II resulted in a kind of social rebellion against the last ten years that reminds me somewhat of the 1960s. It was led by the King himself and his court, filled with a host of colorful characters, was one of the most bawdy, hedonistic, interesting, and rollicking courts of any country and any time in history. Philosophers such as John Locke were challenging the established order and the supremacy of religious dogma and absolute authority.

As often happens in times of turbulent change, it was a time of greater experimentation and social freedom, at least for the upper classes. Courtiers were experimenting with scientific thought, poetry, pornography and sexual freedom including sex outside of marriage and homosexuality for both sexes. Woman had more freedom during this period than they would for many years to come. They took to the stage as actresses and more importantly playwrights. There were well respected female authors, women who led troops and defended their homes during the civil wars etc. There is just so much room to develop characters and so much interesting material.

Keira: Was it a hard period to research? What was the most interesting thing you learned?

Judith: No it was great fun! There are a wealth of materials, some very entertaining, such as the diaries of Samuel Pepys and the Compte de Grammont or Lord Rochester’s letters, and some very informative ones such as Evelyn’s diary and letters. Three interesting things I learned spring to mind immediately. The first was that the word tomboy was already in common usage, just as we use it today. The second was that Valentines Day was a big deal, and your valentine was the first person of the opposite sex you saw when you woke up that day. There’s a hilarious entry by Pepys about that. I was also very surprised at the language used. We tend to think of historical language as stiff and formal at times but people in the 17th century, including the upper classes, used slang terms, contractions and words that would make a modern rapper blush.

Keira: Jamie Sinclair, the hero of Highland Rebel, is a chameleon of sorts. He’s able to blend in anywhere and become anything. If you could do that, what would you be and where would you go in disguise?

Judith: That’s a tough question. I think I would try what Catherine did, and disguise myself as one of the guys. I’d love to hear what they really think of us when we aren’t around.

Keira: In the character creation process what was the first thought that came to you on your hero and heroine?

Judith: Great question! It was that these two people were in many ways opposites, in all ways equal, and more alike than either of them knew.

Keira: I noticed that you really developed the friendship between the leads. Do you think it’s important to be friends first before falling in love?

Judith: Absolutely! It seems to be a theme in all my stories. You are easy with your friends, perhaps from the moment you meet, perhaps it grows over time, but a best friend is someone you know and trust and can share your deepest thoughts and secrets with. Also you like your friends. I don’t believe you can have true love without friendship, liking and trust. I think sometimes the heart pounding attraction certain people give us is often mistaken for love  but that’s really chemistry and lust and doesn’t necessary last that long. When you have friendship combined with all the chemistry, then you have that wonderful last a lifetime love.

Keira: How do you define love?

Judith: Oops! I think I just did. Romantic love to me is genuine friendship, liking and respect combined with sublime chemistry

Keira: Catherine Drummond is a take charge kind of heroine. What’s one thing she had to learn in the story?

Judith: She had to stop trying to prove herself, or judge herself by others standards or she was always going to fail. She needed to learn to trust and follow her own instincts, not an easy thing in a time when loyalty to others such as one’s clan was expected to be paramount over being true to ones self. Jamie’s acceptance and enjoyment of her as she was, helped a lot, but she had some growing up to do on her own as well.

Keira: What was the first romance novel you ever read? Was it the one that got you hooked on reading them?

Judith: I remember that. It was Katherine by Anya Seton. I worked in a bookstore and took it home to read over the weekend and was hooked

Keira: What is your secret guilty plot or character trope that you love beyond reason?

Judith: That would be beauty and the beast. I loved that show too. Anyone remember Vincent?

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Judith: Well I hope those people who enjoy a take charge heroine and a bit of history and adventure with their romance will enjoy Jamie and Cat’s adventures. It’s been a great pleasure doing this interview and I’d like to thank you for having me and for giving me such interesting questions.

Buy: Highland Rebel: A tale of a rebellious lady and a traitorous lord