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: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: Tapestry

[phpbay]tapestry karen ranney, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

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: ★★½☆☆

Buy: Three Sisters (Blackberry Island)

[phpbay]three sisters susan mallery, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

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: ★★★½☆

Buy: Color of Loneliness

Review: Summer of Two Wishes by Julia London

arcrev

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: ★★★½☆

Get into Bed with Jennifer Haymore (Author Interview)

authorinterview

Keira: Hi Jennifer! I’m so excited to have you with us today. Loved A Hint of Wicked; what was your inspiration?

Jennifer: My husband came up with the first idea for A Hint of Wicked. We were on a long drive and stuck in traffic, and we and started tossing around book ideas. He suggested an irate husband walking in on his mourning wife with another man. The core concept has evolved since then, but I took that idea and ran with it!

Keira: Oh yes, two men! Sophie is in for a tough decision. Tell me a little about the men – what are their hero qualities?

Jennifer: Oooh! That’s a great question. You’re right—it’s an incredibly tough—and almost impossible—decision for Sophie.

Tristan is tall, dark, and handsome. He’s loyal to a fault, analytical, and completely devoted to Sophie and the family they’ve built together. He’s gone through years of grief and growth with her, so he understands how her mind works and what makes her tick. He “clicks” with Sophie—spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

Garrett is blond, blue-eyed, and powerfully built. He’s intense, emotional, and possesses a deeply ingrained sense of honor. He has suffered tremendously in the past years, and that gives him a very dark edge that comes through in his actions. He and Sophie have loved each other unconditionally since they were children.

jenniferhaymoreKeira: Could she just have both? Would Garrett and Tristan do that for her? No?

Jennifer: Hehe, well, let’s just say that, as an author who feels a strong connection to all three characters, it was a strong temptation to try to push the three of them together like that.

Unfortunately, though, Garrett and Tristan would have none of it!

Keira: In one sentence how would you describe their marriages to her?

Jennifer: Her marriage to Garrett, before he left for war, was the epitome of the blush of first love—romantic, exciting, and full of discovery.

Her marriage to Tristan is a comfortable partnership during the day and fireworks-passionate at night.

Keira: Would you make the same decision Sophie did in A Hint of Wicked?

Jennifer: If I were Sophie, I would! As much as I love both heroes, however, I know they’re destined only for the heroines they end up with in their books. I couldn’t barge in and separate either couple! That would be so wrong!

Keira: What is your favorite type of hero to read/write?

Jennifer: Oh my, that’s tough. I like all kinds of heroes, but I guess my favorites are those who truly love their heroines beyond anything in the world, and will go to hell and back at hundred times to win them. The heroes with that pure, focused, unwavering love for their heroines always give me shivers.

Keira: You said both men are passionate, and we readers love that in our heroes! What makes a great (written) bedroom scene?

Jennifer: As a reader, bedroom scenes resonate for me when there is emotion involved, and when the scenes are crucial to the development of the plot of the story and the relationship between the characters. Mix that emotion and character development with big fireworks, and I’m a happy, happy reader!

Keira: What was the hardest part of writing a Hint of Wicked? The easiest?

Jennifer: I think the hardest part was straightening out the legal confusion while keeping my characters morally in the right and their children legitimate. I bought two books on the history of marriage and divorce in the UK, and wow, what a mire of legalities! The legal system in the UK at the time was extremely complicated, and this particular situation had very little precedent. The similar cases I could find were all associated with commoners, but with the aristocracy (especially dukes), things tended to be handled considerably differently. I finally consulted a legal expert who helped me straighten it out a bit. At times in the book, I found the characters beginning to talk in legal circles. In the end, I tried to keep it all as simple and clear as possible so as not to confuse the reader (or myself!).

The easiest part of A Hint of Wicked….hmmm. Well, it was probably finding the motivation to get it done! Not only was it my first contracted novel, it’s a story that’s very close to my heart. I finished it in record time!

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

Jennifer: The second book, A TOUCH OF SCANDAL, will be released in April, 2010.

My website is www.jenniferhaymore.com

Thanks!!

Keira: Thanks so much Jennifer! It’s been a real pleasure to talk with you! For more information on Jennifer Haymore and her books visit her website and check out her blog.

Buy: A Hint of Wicked

Review: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer

bookreview

The second book in the Twilight saga is entitled New Moon and if the first book was about finding true love, then this book is about losing true love. I am not particularly fond of this book. It is because it contains so little Edward. We are introduced to the other paranormal group just up the road however. We meet those that live La Push Reservation, home to the Quileute Tribe. Some we’ve been introduced to before, like Jacob Black. Others are new.

If you couldn’t wait for the library to hand you this next book in the series, you read the beginning chapter that was at the end of Twilight. A teaser that leaves you wondering what happens to Bella when she cuts herself at the Cullens house. Her blood makes them thirsty, none more so than Jasper who has the least control. Edward gets Bella to safety but the damage is done.

The next few days he becomes more and more distant to Bella. She’s desperate to break through to Edward when suddenly he starts to talk to her again. Only she wished he wouldn’t. I wished he hadn’t too. He breaks it off with her at the edge of the forest. It is better than the sewers Angel dumped Buffy in, but I was heartbroken and Bella more so. Here it is, I thought, the end of a good story (but just you wait… keep reading).

So deep is her grief over losing Edward she loses herself and becomes a walking shell. It isn’t until half a year later that she can even stick her head above the water. She does it only because Charlie is running scared and pulling ultimatums about going to Florida to live with her mother. Bella can’t do that. Doing that means leaving the magic of Forks behind and relegating Edward to a memory and not a reality. So she asks a friend to the movies… anything without romance. She couldn’t handle that. It’s after the movies that the story gains interest again. She hears Edwards voice… in her head. His voice is a beautiful hallucination warning her of the danger ahead.

What follows next is a series of stupid reckless moves as Bella fights to hear his voice. She turns to Jacob Black to help her fix motorcycles, thinking the danger in riding them would provide her with Edward’s voice. She becomes Jacob’s friend, and over the hundreds of pages left he becomes the sun to warm the desolation of her life. I don’t like Jacob. He keeps pushing the friend boundary, so certain of Bella turning to him and forgetting about Edward despite her repeated warnings that she’ll never love anyone but Edward.

But then the story changes again and it’s like sweet music playing in your mind because you just know Edward’s coming back into the picture. And like Bella, you fear you are going to miss him, lose him again. The book ends on the sweetest note imaginable and you close this sad book feeling ridiculously happy. The ending is four and a half stars.

Rating: 3 Stars

Review: Almost Home by Pam Jenoff

By Susan S., Guest Reviewer

Almost Home is a beautifully, captivating read, with plot twists galore and a who done it feel until the very end!

Jordan Weiss (heroine) is an intelligence officer from Washington, D.C. She’s about to embark on a journey, which terrifies her, more than any covert operation she’s ever had. One where she must travel to London and confront a painful past.

Her new assignment is to find the person(s) responsible for a money laundering scheme. Money which is being funneled for illegal activities. But, when her main lead goes missing and people start turning up dead, it’s a race against time to find answers. After all, the Albanian mobsters aren’t known for their kindness. They’ll shoot to kill if anyone stands in their way.

When an old rowing buddy from Cambridge (Chris Bannister) rips open old wounds, Jordan will have to uncover dark secrets, before she can begin to heal. Her ex-boyfriend’s drowning 10 years ago hasn’t been easy on either of them. Jared’s death left grief and unanswered questions in its wake. Chris’s re-emergence has brought along a slew of dangerous potholes. Will Jordan complete her assignment, and maneuver them like a professional operative? Or, will she find herself on the wrong side of a gun wielding mobster.

Recommendations:

You “should” read this novel, if you enjoy Harlequin Intrigue and romantic suspense. Almost Home intermingles elements from the movies Clear and Present Danger and Oxford Blues. Jenoff’s novel “may not” be for you, if you like short reads like categories. Or, if you’re hoping to read erotica scenes, or are eager for that happily ever after.

Pam Jenoff is a new-to-me author. Can she write? Oh, absolutely! In fact, her writing is almost poetic. While reading, she had me so engrossed in the story; I’d lose all track of time. Be forewarned though, there is “no” happily ever after. The author leaves us with an unanswered question in the end. Leaving a door open for a sequel, maybe? I’d like to read it, if she does write one.

POV: Heroine’s, first person.

My favorite scene: Jordan has a flash back of an intimate moment spent with Jared. It’s raining; they’re in the ruins of a chapel, making love. The author does a beautiful job of setting that scene up for us.

Almost Home does not have a “developing relationship” between a hero and a heroine. As a contemporary fiction with suspense elements it garners a 5 star rating. As a romance novel, it earns a 2 star rating.

2 Stars, 5 Stars, Fiction, Contemporary, Suspense, ATRIA Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Copyright 2009, Print Pages, 376. ISBN-10: 1-4165-9069-2 ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-9069-9

Buy: Almost Home: A Novel

[phpbay]almost home pam jenoff, 7, 377, “”[/phpbay]