Review: Tapestry by Karen Ranney

tapestryHero: Alex, the Earl of Cardiff, never planned to be the earl. He had a father and older brother and so went off to war to make his mark. When he returns, he is severely wounded and hides his ravage face and body and heart in the castle of Heddon Hall. His servants are terrified of him. His stepmother despises him. He can’t tell if his estate manager is swindling him because he can’t read due to the loss of one eye and the headaches that come from trying to focus the other. When an uppity little maid arrives, bold as you please, on his doorstep, he’s intrigued despite his attempts to distance himself from her.

Heroine: Lady Laura Blake has had enough of being rebuffed. If Alex won’t return her letters and tell her what is going on she will figure it out on her own. She shows up at his estate in disguise, wearing her maid’s clothes and using her maid’s name. Once inside his household, she’s put to work in the kitchen. Being a scullery maid was not quite what she had in mind! Soon she’s elevated to be his personal secretary and that suits her so much better. Now she can spend her days with Alex… and nights.

Review: The first half of the novel is the best part of the story. If you want a happy ending that’s truly happy end at book one/part one. I enjoyed the setup with the heroine breaking into the hero’s lair as a servant (though how she managed it is a mystery because she’s a family friend, you’d think she’d be recognized by someone – Alex!!) I like Laura’s bumbling in the kitchen, her determination to reach Alex and break down his walls. I loved his elation at recapturing humanity and love.

However, after they come together the story goes downhill as they are separated, when the hero returns to his wartime duties for one last assignment. Laura doesn’t want him to go, but for his masculine and national pride, Alex must. Their separation leads to misfortune as Alex is captured and assumed dead. Laura experiences a miscarriage because of the news and also faces the doubly incapacitating grief of losing Alex and the babe. When Alex gets out of prison, he allows his evil stepmother’s cruel words to sway him from finding the truth of what is going on with Laura which causes a big misunderstanding. My friends, you know me, and you know I love angst, but holy moly this is too much. I also like more time together with the main characters and less time apart.

[Rating:2]

Buy: Tapestry

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Review: Three Sisters (Blackberry Island, Book 2) by Susan Mallery

three sistersThis book is not an anthology, but there are three stories intertwined in it. Three Sisters is the nickname for three Victorian houses on a cul-de-sac and with a name like that, it is easy to see that the three women who own it will become as “sisters” in their friendships to one another.

Romantic relationships are at the heart of the novel, but it is not your traditional romance novel. It’s more women’s fiction with romantic elements. I found two of the three stories very depressing for much of their page time and should come with a warning label for some readers. The issues in the novel are not lighthearted ones and could be tough to read emotionally for some women.

One woman deals (or not) with grief over the death of her infant son and it is destroying her marriage. (Her husband isn’t handling it any better and gets drunk to avoid his grief.)

Another woman is struggling in her marriage because she needs order and perfection to counter her childhood abusive relationship with her mother. Her needs, which are silent and never spoken, affect her household and all her children see her as the bad guy. (How could her husband who indicates knowing this tragic past, say/think the things he did and not be more sympathetic or handle his own concerns/needs better/sooner?)

The last woman faces the challenges of new beginnings after her fiancé dumps her at the altar and runs off with his secretary to get hitched in Vegas. I by far, enjoyed her story the most. I liked her, her new fella, and the daughter.

Each of the married women’s struggles is handled with respect, but the story is at times very much a downer. It’s not until over halfway through the book that things start to look up for the two married women on the street, but getting there was painful for me. Their husbands also had to come around and I wasn’t convinced by one of them for a while because it seemed like all the blame was on the wife. Not fair.

The book will tug at your heartstrings, but you have to ask yourself do you want them to be tugged so hard? It ends happy. I give 2 Stars for the married couples’ stories and 4 Stars for the single gal’s story…

[Rating:2.25]

Buy: Three Sisters (Blackberry Island)

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Review: Color of Loneliness by Madeleine Beckett

Color of LonelinessReviewed by Sandra Scholes

The Story: A young copy editor, Myra has to make a life changing decision to move to Oregon as she has no remaining family where she is after a recent death. Her hope is to find comfort around others, and make herself feel better after this soul searching period in her life. She also has no need to stay where she is anyway, as it isn’t as though her ex-boyfriend, Trent is any good for her when she hears gossip about him having cheated on her.

Myra Sommers: As the title suggests, Myra’s moving to a new location means she has little or no contact with others in her neighbourhood, and that is what makes her feel so lonely, and isolated, and through the story that grows, which makes it a bit depressing. Her lonely life is about to be lifted though when she has to get a man around to do work on her house, and that is when she meets Dylan.

Dylan Lawson: He’s not happy about all the women in the town lavishing him with unwanted attention. He acts like a man who doesn’t like to talk to others, and has a bad attitude that he uses to put the women off of him immediately, but that doesn’t seem to happen to Myra.

Is It Any Good? Madeleine makes the readers wait until the main characters get into a romantic clinch, but there is nothing wrong with that when the story fills in most of the characters traits. As I mentioned before, it is in some ways depressing, but that is the writer showing how her character is coping with a move that could cause her more problems in the long run.

[Rating:3.5]

Buy: Color of Loneliness

Review: Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London

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I spent two days reading another bite your nails love triangle romance… I am such a glutton for punishment!

Of course, I cheated before starting. When it comes to Love Triangles, Jennifer Haymore changed my tune about spoilers. Now I am all for reading the last chapter to find out who gets with whom. Are you the same way or do you like to be spoiler free? Don’t worry I won’t share who wins the girl.

So once I knew who the ultimate hero was I started the book and immediately liked both heroes. Oh no! Like with the rejected man from A Hint of Wicked, I hope the rejected man from a Summer of Two Wishes gets his story too!

What’s fun about the Summer of Two Wishes, is that it’s a contemporary love triangle with a similar set up to A Hint of Wicked only this time the laws surrounding the situation are known. Even though they’re known, our heroine is still in for a hard decision!

Macy was desperately in love with her husband Finn Lockhart. She begged him not to join the army and go fight in Iraq but he was adamant that he would. Macy waited on tenterhooks for his safe return, but that was not to be the case. When officers came to her door with charred dog tags and their condolences, Macy’s world fell apart.

It takes a strong secure man to pull her out of her grief. His name is Wyatt Clark. They fall in love, get married and are celebrating their newlywed status (seven months) by trying to get pregnant and start their family. Life is good and Wyatt believes he’s the luckiest man alive until…

Finn Lockhart is recovered by Coalition forces and on his way home to reclaim his land and his wife. It’s a miracle, a dream come true and a nightmare all rolled in one.

Macy is now in what is called a putative marriage. She must dissolve one marriage by divorce (her’s and Finn’s) or by filing suit to declare one void (her’s and Wyatt’s). How is she ever going to pick between her past love and her new love?

Julia London does an absolutely incredible job putting together this contemporary love triangle. I love the settings, the heroes, the heroine, and the peripheral characters… yes even Finn’s mom!

Rating: 4.5 Stars.

Buy: Summer of Two Wishes

Book Review: Dating da Vinci by Malena Lott

bookreview

Dating da Vinci is a wonderful novel that deals with some very hard issues in a very compassionate and interesting way with very engaging writing. It basically boils down to the question- can one love again when one’s soul mate is gone? Ramona Elise Griffen tries to answer this question all throughout the novel as she writes her dissertation on the language of love.

Ramona is still grieving strongly for her dead husband of two years. His office and his studio spaces are still designated as his and not often trespassed upon. His clothes still hung in her closet and the jar of peanut butter he was eating is still in the pantry. Joel’s absence was very much pronounced throughout her (and her two boy’s) life. The boys were handling it better, joining things again, participating in sports and Ramona was stuck in limbo.

Besides caring for her kids, Ramona teaches immigrants how to speak English, providing them with all the skills they would need to make it out in the real world. Many of her former students still call her a friend and live nearby or run into her on a fairly regular basis. Joel’s life insurance is about to run out and the money she earns as a teacher will soon to be her family’s sole income. So this is just one more worry Ramona must face.

The novel starts on the first day of a new class of immigrants and Ramona spies an odd name mid list. Thinking that the woman in admissions was playing a joke on her, Ramona is surprised when a flesh and blood Leonardo da Vinci enters into the classroom late. His Italian good looks floor her as she had imagined an older graying haired man in his place. Young, vital, da Vinci brings Ramona back to life, slowly dragging her out of her world of grief.

I really liked reading Ramona’s paper as she wrote it. I especially enjoyed the trivia on the term French kissing and what the French actually called it… soul kissing. What a wonderful term! A soul kiss is so much more than a French kiss in my opinion. It means so much for both parties and evokes an intimacy simple lust can not create on its own.

I thought it was so cute that she was Mona Lisa to his da Vinci which is what makes the rest of the story so disappointing. Spoilers ahead… highlight to read.

As the novel progresses, da Vinci starts to come off a bit strange to Ramona. At the same time her sister’s current boyfriend sparks an awareness. Ramona is certain where her relationship with da Vinci is based mostly in fantasy, should she ever start one with Cortland it would be real. I thought this strange, but you’re brought around to agree before novel’s end.

I personally felt that Cortland was a good second choice; he was attentive (to Ramona at least), sensitive, good-looking, rich, and most importantly already a father in his own right. But with a title like Dating da Vinci I grew quite attached to Leo as he was introduce. His weirdness is all explained with a more than adequate explanation.

Later after Ramona feels bad about dumping him she finds his journals. The first one is all about calories and exercise, like a diet journal. The second one she ran across had musings in it that make your heart melt all over again.

I so much wanted to see da Vinci and Ramona together and not getting it really threw me. I would have given this novel a solid 4 Stars had they managed to overcome their differences. As it is, everything ends happily for both Ramona and da Vinci and all the loose ends are wrapped up. It just wasn’t the ending I’d rooted for as I read.

This novel reminded me a lot of P.S. I Love You in tone and feel… overwhelmingly sad in parts and exceedingly joyful (heartwarmingly moving) in others. If you enjoyed P.S. I Love You, you will enjoy Dating da Vinci.

[rating:3.5]