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: 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: ★★★★½

Buy: Curse of the Gypsy: A Lady Anne Mystery

Review: The Runaway Duke by Julie Anne Long

If you’re looking for a light happy read though you will like this novel. It’s a perfect companion for a long flight or car ride and will keep you entertained.

The romance is a little overblown and the plot devices a little too farcical. There is a whole gamut of standard plots can be found within this romance:

The hero gives up his title and fortune to become a baron’s head groom in a pointless act of revenge against his father. Next our jaded hero falls in love with the artless ingénue. The heroine sucks at female domestic stuff like sewing and refinement. Instead she wants to be a doctor in a time period where that’s impossible… Unless you were a gypsy. There’s gypsies. The hero and the gypsies both approve of her becoming a healer.

A semi-evil ex-mistress turned dowager duchess, having married hero’s brother. A fortune hunting shmuck that pursues the heroine who thinks he’s in love. Our hero finds out he doesn’t mind his fortune and prestige. No, really? He’s happy to take back control and if not lovingly then kindly and open-mindedly looking out for his tenets.

Heroine gets mad at hero just before the resolution because he’s been keeping stuff hidden from her. It’s a pretty ridiculous argument because she’s agreed verbally and nonverbally to his withholding information for the first five sixths of the novel.

What’s nice though is that despite the shortcomings the narrative is extremely engaging. Julie has a talent for drawing you into the story. I was reading it pretty happily. It’s very indulging and fun. Not a runaway success, but highly enjoyable nevertheless. I know, bad pun.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 3.5 Stars

Buy: The Runaway Duke

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When Characters Just Won’t Shut Up!

guestblog

by Judi Fennell, guest blogger

Back in 2004 when I joined Romance Writers of America, I had one manuscript (in sore need of craft workshops!) and the dream.

I had nothing else. Not a clue how to do this, not another story idea, no industry knowledge. Nothing. How could I ever expect to get a book published – especially once I got my first contest entry back and saw that I needed a lot of help.

Enter the characters who won’t shut up.

And thank God for them. First it was the gypsy who showed up in a re-write of that first story. Then it was Cinda Bella, obviously a Cinderella character but modernized for today’s world. Then it was Bella from Beauty and The Best.

InOverHerHeadCVR.inddAnd then there was Reel. And Erica. And Chum. And Puffer and Vincent and Chipper and Angel and Harry and the rest of the cast of In Over Her Head. Once those floodgates opened, there was no damming them back up.

In Over Her Head is my debut novel and the easiest story I’ve ever written – all because of the characters who won’t shut up! Even now, as I do the edits on the third book in this Mer series, the characters are all chatting in my head.

Sounds crazy, right?

Crazy keeps me writing. These characters wake me up in the middle of the night. They have parties at 5 am, each one trying to shout the other down. It’s insane. I have learned to keep a notebook next to my bed so I can jot down what they’re saying – don’t want to lose it because they can get a bit stubborn about sharing it with me again. “Not important enough to write down when I’m saying it? Then I’m not going to repeat it.”

There’s a reason writers call their stories their babies – sometimes they start to act like grouchy teens!

But I love each of them, even the villains. They’ve given me a lot to work with in the stories and I’ve been blessed to hear from readers that they love the characters.

Many people have emailed me that they love Reel, laughed at Chum, identified with Erica, but the email I received today was a first.

The reader loved my bubble gum-chewing pelican, Amelia. Amelia only shows up for a bit, but she plays a big part, and the bubble gum just sort of came along with her.

So if you’ve read In Over Her Head, who’s your favorite character? Besides Erica and Reel, who would you most like to hang with? I’d love to know. If you haven’t had the chance to read it, please email me once you do (Go to my website for my contact info!).

The characters who won’t shut up are taking bets as we speak.

jf_photoAnd while you’re on my website, (www.JudiFennell.com ) feel free to register to win one of three romantic beach getaway weekends. The Atlantis Inn Bed & Breakfast in Ocean City, NJ (www.AtlantisInn.com) and the Hibiscus House B&B in West Palm Beach Florida, (www.HibiscusHouse.com) have come on board to offer these weekends to celebrate the release of each of the Mer series books.

And the winners can keep an eye out for sexy mermen, or talking fish or even the occasional gum-chewing pelican… Here’s an excerpt from In Over Her Head:

Amelia, Ernie’s wife, popped by instead, floundering to a pelican’s lumbering landing just as they hit the beach.

“Heya, Reel. You are one lucky S-O-M.” Amelia was munching on that chewy substance Humans were so fond of. It stuck to everything and they stuck it to everything: the underside of docks, boat hulls, every piece of their refuse. He could always hear her coming from a mile away.

“What’s the scoop, Amelia?”

Erica groaned behind him. “Amelia? As in Earhart? Who’s next? Captain Nemo?”

“Sorry, chicky, but Nemo’s in the Pacific these days. He and Ern had a falling out.” Amelia blew a pink solid bubble with that stuff.

That always freaked him out. Bubbles. Solid. Out of water. Pink. Odd, just odd.

“So, what’s happening in my luck department, Ame? Krak still chasing the herring?”

The bubble popped all over her beak and she made the mistake of trying to remove it with her wings. Several gooey, fowl-mouthed comments later, the pelican was spun in a web of her own making.

“Oh, for pete’s sake!” Erica approached the squawking bird, plunked her cute backside in the sand and started picking the pink gunk off Amelia.

“Thanks, doll,” Amelia said when her beak was untied. “I guess I oughta lay off that. If you could do that big feather on the bottom… yeah, that one. It’s bending back and pinching a bit… yeah, that’s it.” The pelican sighed. “So, where was I?”

“About to tell me if we’re heading into a trap? You know, just a tiny portion of info that could determine whether we live or die? Nothing too important, Ame,” Reel answered.

“Yeah, yeah, keep your scales on-wait. You don’t have scales. My bad.”

“We’re wasting time, Ame. So, did Krak take the bait? Or did his two brain cells rub together enough to generate a spark of intelligence?”

Amelia stretched a freed wing out to its full three-foot width. “I said you’re a lucky S-O-M and I meant it. The big, dumb oaf is probably halfway to the Falklands by now.”

“Good.” Reel pulled Erica to her feet. “Come on, sweetheart, we’ve got to get moving.”