Audio Review: Thunder and Roses (Fallen Angels, Book 1) by Mary Jo Putney

thunder and rosesHeroine: Methodist schoolteacher Clare Morgan is not noble, but she has noble ideals. Her village is in trouble and she’s determined to do her late father’s memory proud and find a solution. The one that comes to her is to petition the Demon Earl. She remembers him as a young boy when he would meet with her father and she can’t believe the stories the villagers say about him. But when he places a lucrative and impossible price on his aid, she’s not so sure anymore. What kind of man demands a respectable woman give up her reputation and live with him for three months, knowing the villagers will think the worse?

Hero: Nicholas Davies, the Demon Earl, is the legitimate son of a nobleman and a gypsy. His mother gave him to his cruel grandfather, for a bag of gold. His grandfather would have happily seen the estate go to someone else, and worked to ruin it. The betrayal of his youth coupled with his traumatic childhood growing up in his grandfather’s home has made Nicholas the man he is today. So when the little schoolteacher, Clare, comes to him for aid, he puts a devilish price on his intervention and support. He never expects her to agree to it, so while he must care again and fight alongside her to save the community that rejected him in the past, he’s looking forward to stealing his daily kisses… and if Clare can be persuaded, more.

Review: I loved the bet, the stolen kisses, and the chemistry between Nicholas and Clare. The narrator, Peter Bishop, did a good job. It’s always a treat to be read to by a male narrator in this genre.

This book was on a fast track to a 4.5 or 5 Star rating, with great scenes like a summertime dip in the pond with imported penguins. Then, midway through it fell apart for me and if you want to know why, you should note that spoilers and personal opinions lie ahead.

What didn’t work for me was finding out along the way that Clare felt like an impostor in her own skin. Her faith falls short of the face she gives to it around others and that bothered me. I like when a character is true to their faith and I don’t particularly enjoy reading about doubts of God’s existence and if we’re a good Christian if we don’t feel like connect with Him. Clare’s doubts about her faith are the excuse for why she can be with Nicholas, because she never really felt like she belonged and that’s crap. I would have much preferred a line of thought that went more like this… Nicholas is not the Demon Earl he’s been made out to be, I find that each day I am falling more in love with him, and because of this I am willing to be with him. I felt the line of reasoning given in the book, cheapened Clare’s character and the romance between her and Nicholas.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Thunder & Roses

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Review: Worlds Collide (Family Heirlooms Series, Book 6) by Karen Wiesner

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

Under the romantic setting of Japan, Dr. Marcus Samuels works there as a medical missionary at the Childrens Christian Mission Hospital. His whole life has centred on him doing God’s work, but after twelve years of being away from home, he feels he has to go back to the US and make another family for himself away from a foreign land. Now that he is forty, he thinks he might not attract any women at all, but he would be wrong in that assumption, and there are those around him who would definitely prove him wrong indeed!

The reason for his sudden decision is his mother taking ill. Guilt mixed with panic makes him leave, yet he knows he has a life in Japan too. With Keiko and Haruki around who are the paediatricians who work with him, he knows by leaving there, he will feel as though he is being pulled in two different directions. If he leaves he will miss Japan and the people there, if he doesn’t he risks not seeing his mother when he should and the possibility of starting a new family with a wife who will care about him.

Keiko tells him how she feels about him leaving, and can’t take the loss of being without him. He on the other hand has never thought of Keiko as anything other than his best friend, yet in her he could see a potential wife, though there is one problem that could stand in their way. Her family are strict about her changing her religion to Christian, and her doing so could cause a rift between her family and him. So for the both of them, leaving Japan has the power to be life changing.

I loved the way Karen explained the Japanese words used in her novel. I have a liking of Japanese culture in general, and their language, and anyone else out there who has a similar liking will enjoy this book. Readers will find out how Keiko feels when she thinks about her own family and their staunch traditions. Their definition of respect is different than in the West, and she sees that the Japanese way is very selfish and doesn’t allow room for her own thoughts and opinions at all. Showing respect toward the family is seen as uncomfortable and a burden, and views Western life much easier as a result. He likes how independent she would like to be, and the fact that they have been together for so long as best friends tells him she might just be the woman for him and his new life abroad.

The question is, will he leave?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review: White Rainbow (Wounded Warriors Series, Book 6) by Karen Wiesner

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

As she mentions at the beginning before the reader ever gets to the start of the story, “Women who have faced pain, loss and heartache. They know the score and never back down.” For the heroine in this story, it is true enough as Jesse Nelson is a self destructive type as are a few of Karen’s heroines, and she has run her course all the way not regretting a single thing she does until she realizes that self destruction can only go so far before she is dead.

The story starts off as standard romance fare where she meets a man who is very much like her in every way as he too is a self destructive man who thinks of others as enemies due to other people he thought were friends wronging him in the past. There is a twist though, Jesse and Flint were childhood friends and as close as friends could be until circumstances drifted them apart. Both people have been given another chance at life, one for Jesse after being helped out a near death experience in an alleyway, while Flint escapes an accident that could have spelled the end for him.

Flint has all the women he could ever want, the lifestyle and the top executive job to go with it, but inside he is an empty shell, unhappy at the women he has bedded, the wife he married (she was too clingy and needy for him to have a real life around) and the drugs and booze he took to dampen his senses from his useless life had got the better of him, so much so he doesn’t even remember Jesse anymore. His life is one long string of women, and self destruction. It is only when he is alone in his office and he allows his mind to wander that he remembers Jesse and the life they could have had together – she was the only woman for him, and he knows it. He thinks due to him having a lot of money, other women are only out to take it from him, but not all of them are.

What Flint feels all will feel in this excerpt I found interesting as it is him remembering what he had when he was younger and what he lost in adulthood:

“Stroking the cold muzzle of the gun against his forehead, he lay back on the sofa. The image of Jesse Nelson filled his mind. He was eleven years old, living in Milwaukee. Jesse was his best friend, the girl he loved, violently loved. Lived for her. Died without her.”

White Rainbow is two people’s success story once it reaches the end, as the both of them know that they have missed each other for so long and discover they can’t ever be apart as no one else they have been with has ever come close to what they had as lovers. This story reminded me of one of those life changing stories you hear about with people who have come close to death, and managed to survive through faith and love.

As is normal in any of Karen Wiesner’s novels there is a sense of being uplifted once you have read them, and want to get your hands on more of her books almost instantly. Hers is a singular talent not many have, and her imbuing a little religious faith into her stories is without her trying to force her beliefs onto the reader. At the beginning it is more about Flint and his demons he has to come to terms with.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review: A Midwinter Fantasy

Reviewed by Lynn Reynolds

This anthology, by Dorchester Publishing, is like getting three books for the price of one.

The first story is “A Christmas Carroll” by Leanna Renee Hieber.

The prologue, for me, starts the story in some confusion.  We know the story is a historical romance because it is set at the end of 1888 and it is Christmas time.  My confusion comes in how the words in the prologue are trying to set the story.  My mind just can’t seem to process the words into a picture in my mind.  This is part of Leanna’s “Strangely Beautiful Series.”  If you have read her other books in the series this may seem less confusing.  And would probably help you to better understand what is going on.

We meet Michael Carroll in Chapter 1.  We find his profession is that of a vicar.  He is part of a group called “The Guard”.  It is not a military group but a group that watches over evil spirits (ghost hunters of old).  We then find out that he has loved the same woman for over twenty years.

Everyone that belongs to “The Guard” all have special gifts.  But as Michael shares his story, we find that the groups gifts have disappeared.  How will they function?  Their gifts are what also keep the group connected to each other.

I like that in Leanna’s story our couple is older – not all couples need to be young.  The reader can easily put themselves into the couple’s shoes.  How is Michael going to convince his lady-love, Rebecca, that they belong together?

Rebecca doesn’t feel that she deserves Michael’s love.  But it is Christmas time – a time for miracles.  And of course the story is set during the era of Dickens (big hint).

Michael scores hero points in my book because he visits the local orphanage infirmary.  He is considered “The Heart” of the group and we can see why.  He is also someone who does not hide his emotions.  You don’t see many authors that give the male character these types of feelings.  It’s refreshing!

I’m also impressed with the descriptions of the settings and clothes that the characters are wearing.  Leanna gives her readers a good idea of how it was to live in 1888.  She also shows the reader that you don’t have to have a lot of sex in a story to see the romance between characters.

Rating: ★★★★☆

The second story is “The Worth of a Sylph” by L.J. McDonald

This story is part of L.J.’s “Sylph Series”.

The story starts out with us learning that Mace is a shape-shifter (a battle sylph).  We also learn he has a female master.  Her name is Lily and she is in her eighties.  Lily decides that it is time for Mace to find a new master.  Before she leaves their plane, she wants to make sure that Mace is taken care of.

In the story, we get a lot of information about Mace and a young boy named Jayden.  We also see that Sylphs need to draw energy – whether from humans or animals.  Mace sets out to try to find Jayden and as he travels we find out what Mace’s life is really like.

I felt the story was running a little slow because of all the time it takes for Mace to look for Jayden.  We see all that Mace has had to endure but his love interest doesn’t appear until chapter 5.  This is when we find out her name is Sally.

In an anthology stories tend to be short and the author has little time to tell their story.  In this case, and because I have not read the other books in the series, I felt that L.J. fell a little short.  The first four chapters went on a little too much about Mace and no hint of Sally.  Once you get to chapter 5, you see that the story picks up.

I did enjoy the way that L.J. describes things  and she gave us the perfect sort of hero.  Mace protects women and children and will do anything for them.  If I go back and read her other books in the “Sylth Series”, this story may have been better for me.

Rating: ★★★½☆

The third story is “The Crystal Crib” by Helen Scott Taylor

Sonja is a travel professional that goes to meet Vidar.  Vidar owns a resort/theme park.

Sonja is a woman who hopes that her dreams will come true.  One of those dreams is to meet her father.  Vidar is a man who takes charge.  We can tell that Helen has given Vidar a strong, and very focused, personality.

Is Vidar the one who will make all Sonja’s dreams come true?  We find that Vidar knows Sonja’s father and is going to take her to meet him.  On the way to this meeting, Sonja sees things that just don’t seem possible.  She also finds out that her father isn’t exactly human.  And what other dreams does Sonja have?

What I love about Helen’s story is that she mixes both paranormal and mythology together.  She does a great job at describing her characters.  The reader can just picture the look on Sonja’s face as she looks around and sees what you or I will never see.

This is a love story with a twist.  As you read the first love scene, Helen has you both smiling and laughing.  The descriptions she uses makes the scene seem very clear in your mind.  Helen gives her readers a father/daughter moment as well as a good over evil moment.

Rating: ★★★★½

In my opinion, Dorchester Publishing saved the best for last.  Even though I have never read these authors before, I would, overall, recommend reading this book.

Buy: A Midwinter Fantasy

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Review: The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale

The Prince of Midnight was recommended to me by Anime June while guest blogging about My (Not-So-Secret) Favorite Romance Character Types because the hero was damaged and delicious.

I believe this romance also fulfills my lust of big age differences. I can’t remember how old the heroine was (17 maybe?) but the hero’s retired at 33, painting and sculpting in an old castle in France with Nemo a tamed wolf for company by the time Leigh Strachen tracks him down to help her avenge her family’s brutal destruction and murder.

Sophocles Trafalgar (poor guy, luckily he goes by the initials S.T. most of the time) Maitland is a partially deaf ex-highwayman who couldn’t walk a straight line if his life depended on it. When caught in an explosion he lost not only part of his hearing but also his balance. He’s prone to headaches, dizziness, and nausea.

S.T. is a completely charming, dashing, tripping all over himself hunk of a hero. He’s the romantic in the relationship as the heroine is an emotionally walled-off ice princess. With Leigh constantly sneering at him, holding him in contempt, mocking his efforts, and telling him he’s useless I’m surprised S.T. stuck with her, but he does because he knows she’s been hurt and needs a champion.

In fact the more she puts him down and humiliates him the more S.T. is determined he is to go with her, protect her, and prove her wrong. He wants to be her hero and against all odds he manages to steal her ice cold heart and warm it with his own.

There’s some religious cultism in the novel, which one should be aware of before starting. The bad guy, the Right Reverend James Chilton, sets himself up as some great religious man with a direct line to God. He has convinced through trickery, showmanship, and charisma the rest of the town—which consists mostly of TSTL females and a dozen or so men—to follow him and do all that he says. It reminds me Jonestown Massacre where everybody was following Jim Jones blindly and drinking the Kool-Aid. Lucky for Chilton’s followers, the Prince of Midnight was there to protect them from their own stupidity.

The Prince of Midnight is an emotionally intense read as both the hero and heroine have transformations. I almost cried reading S.T.’s pleading to not pour acid in his remaining good ear. When Leigh found out and beat the crap out of the Dove of Peace for following this order I cheered her on… it was so sad thinking that Leigh finally admit to herself and to S.T. that she loved him only for him not to be able to hear the words.

Another intense scene which comes earlier in the novel is his taming two badly mistreated horses. He does it once on his own and then instructs Leigh on how to do it with the more hurt of the horses. When the abused horse begins to trust her, she cracks and falls to pieces realizing she loves the horse… and possibly though she won’t admit it yet, S.T. too.

It’s too good to miss. Thanks AJ!

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Buy: The Prince of Midnight

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Review: A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist

Tobacco brides were sent by The Virginia Company of London to the Virginia colony where men could buy the brides with 150 pounds of tobacco leaves. In the beginning, the brides were spinsters, widows, and orphans, but few women were willing to risk all to come to America. In 1643, more likely the brides were criminals and felons who had to choose between the new colony and prison. All except one, Lady Constance Caroline Morrow was kidnapped!

The daughter of an earl, Constance (Connie/CC/Sissy) escaped from her companion to visit her uncle onboard a ship headed for the Virginia colony before it set sail. He was to do his time as an indentured servant in the new world. She was detected and captured under the captain’s orders and locked with the other women below the hold.

Constance is bought by Drew O’Connor along with her friend Mary. Under the governor’s and council’s orders Drew must marry one of them, he chooses Constance. It is to be a marriage in name only, because Constance wants to go home to England and is certain her father will come for her. For his part, Drew wants to never love and lose again so the deal while not ideal is fine with him.

It’s a cute story. I don’t like it as well as Bride in the Bargain. There’s an equal amount of research. As the heroine is fond of mathematical equations there are a lot of strange little riddles littered throughout. You’ll be tempted to solve them, but it’s best to leave that to the heroine and hero.

The 1644 massacre, which starts the second Anglo-Powhatan War, sneaks up unexpectedly. It is the second massacre Drew has gone through. The reconciliation between Drew and Constance is wrapped up in it. Characters are lost in it. The ending is relatively happy despite the sadness of the events surrounding it.

Like Bride in the Bargain, it too is an inspirational Christian romance, but not as subtle. There’s more agenda to this novel than in Bride in the Bargain, so that’s something to consider. The presentation of it was still lovely, light, and sweet. It didn’t bother me, but it might some readers.

Rating: 3.5-4 Stars

Buy: A Bride Most Begrudging

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Movie Review: Keeping the Faith Starring Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, and Jenna Elfman

This love triangle features a priest, a rabbi, and a–oh you heard that joke have you? Well, drat there goes my punch line!

Anyway this movie is a bit old, but I saw it for the first time the other day and I’m so glad I sat down to watch it, VHS tape, preview ads, broken remote and all. Can you imagine? Wow! If you’re a person who has a hard time watching Ben Stiller because he stars in movies along the same vein as Will Farrell you’ll be pleasantly surprised by his comedy routine in this movie. There’s nothing over the top, gross, or poorly done on his part to disrupt the romantic overtones of the story.

Jake, Brian, and Anna were friends in eighth grade until tragedy struck and Anna had to move away. Jake and Brian continued on being the best of friends. They were both interested in religion and teaching each other about their faith. Eventually their interest lead them to seek becoming leaders of their respective faiths. Years of study, devotion, and passion for their cause lead us to present day where Rabbi Jake Schram (Ben Stiller) and Father Brian Finn (Edward Norton) are making a splash in the community. New York will never be the same. As luck would have it Anna Riley turns up after all their years apart, as a high power executive woman ready to kick butt and take names and with a little… erm… faith reconnect with old friends. She laughs herself silly upon hearing their occupations.

keepingfaith

Jake and Anna are immediately attracted to one another, but Jake must marry in order to receive his due (a promotion when the old Rabbi leaves for retirement). Unfortunately the woman must be Jewish and all the mothers in his congregation are trying to hook him up with their daughters and he can’t say no for fear of offending them. When Jake gives up trying for the perfect Jewish girl, he pursues Anna with a vengeance and passion that leave them both stunned and Jake a little fearful. Nobody will understand – not his parish, not the board members, and most certainly not his mother.

Meanwhile, Brian is struggling his his vows of celibacy as he faces the undeniable truth: he’s in love with his best friend, Anna. Every conversation, every touch, every look feeds into his confusion. He’s reading more into her every action. When things come to a head after a teary phone call from Anna, Brian is stunned, hurt, and furious with his other best friend Jake.

Will the friends be able to patch up their broken hearts, misunderstandings, and keep the faith? Watch and find out!

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Review: A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist

I didn’t know I was thirsting for this type of novel until I glutted myself on it. The story itself is an inspirational set in America during the Civil War aftermath. I picked it up and read and read and read. It’s sweet and chaste, with both leads good God fearing people, which I found refreshing and charming. Deeanne Gist is a master weaver of storytelling, effortlessly combining fact and fiction into one cohesive whole.

The premise of the book truly is based on fact, which is really cool. Obviously the writer exercised creative license with her research but a good amount of that research appeared in some manifestation in the book. Clippings from newspapers, edited and/or condensed, are sprinkled throughout the novel and help set the mood. The letter to the heroine from her father was inspired by a similar missive one man sent his daughter. And so forth…

It does not talk down to you and doesn’t hold any ulterior religious agenda. Yes, both leads are Christian and quote the Bible, but neither they nor the author try to persuade the reader into Christianity or a particular sect of Christianity. There are only two churches and they’re named after the color of their paint. You shouldn’t shy from this book because of the fact it’s inspirational. I have limited experience in inspirational romance, but that will change because of this novel and Deeanne’s expert handling. I plan to get all of her published works from the library and glom on them.

When you open the book you are transported to 1860s Seattle (part of the Washington Territory at that time). Joseph Denton is a lumberjack whose land claim is in jeopardy because his wife died and never showed up in the Territory. It wouldn’t be an issue, except he’s being sued by a man he fired.

The judge through marriage is related to this man and while having a bias is pretty fair-minded toward Joe. He gives Joe a year to get a new wife or hand over his wife’s death certificate. Against his better judgment, Joe takes part of Asa Shinn Mercer’s bride importation project for the Territory. He would go East to get war widows and orphans and bring them back to the Pacific Northwest.

Anna Ivey, one of Mercer’s Girls, desires to be a cook and not a bride. When Mercer gives her a certificate for passage it’s with the understanding that her future employer would settle the debt and she would work it off. Needless to say Joe is not happy, but then it’s not Anna’s problem. Her paperwork from Mercer is different from Joe’s.

The judge is not happy but he gives Joe an extension. Joe is fortunate enough to have another choice, but the woman is old enough to be his grandmother and she hasn’t any teeth and refuses to wed until she gets them!

So Joe brings Anna back where she starts to cook for him and his men. Not even a week passes before news comes that his elderly betrothed’s husband is not dead, but very much alive and coming to claim his wife. That leaves Anna and Joe is more than happy to pursue her… but she can’t find out his intentions or about the returned husband until her answer to his proposal is yes.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: A Bride in the Bargain

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