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: The Rake by Mary Jo Putney

rake mary jo putneyHero: Reginald Davenport is the disinherited rake turned poor relation wastrel to his cousin the Duke, which is why Reggie is thrown for a loop when his cousin gifts him his childhood home, the most prosperous property the new Duke owns. Strickland brings back many ghosts for Reggie, but he is not prepared to meet with Weston, his steward… and a female!

Heroine: Alys Weston came to Strickland with a secret and a grim determination to succeed, reform, and raise a parcel of children not her own. It wasn’t in her plans to like the new owner of Strickland, a woebegone and restless rake, but she admits he does have his own charm.

Review: A heroine with a career and a hero who wants to keep her in the position? Very unlikely! Reggie keeps Alys on as his steward despite how unlikely it is for a (unmarried!!!) woman to hold the position.

What’s more is that Reggie is predictable as an unrespectable and indolent rake. Like other heroes of similar ilk in romance he is tired of the lifestyle and is looking for something to bring the joy of life back into his life. He also is willing to work hard and do jobs meant for menial labor, thus giving him a heart of gold underneath that tarnish.

Unlike the other rakes in romance who drink socially and never to often in books, Reggie is a functioning drunk. He’s an alcoholic and recognizes that his blackouts are a bad sign. But he can’t go cold turkey and he’s not sure he wants too, and really wants to stock his new home with all sorts of alcohol. Of course, Reggie must not stay a drunk, so much of the story is focused on changing that, but it takes up too much focus and pulls from the romance. It’s hard for me to buy the romance because of this.

Many people rank this book as one of the best romances written and on their favorite shelf. Are you one?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: The Rake

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Review: No Longer a Gentleman (Lost Lords, Book 4) by Mary Jo Putney

No Longer a GentlemanHero: Grey Sommers used to be a gentleman, but nowadays he’s a prisoner in the dungeon of a French official. Grey’s been there for 10 years and counting. He prepares himself using what limited means he has for the day when escape might be possible. That day finally arrives when a sweet grandmother opens the door to his cell. Should he be attracted to the grandmother? He needs to get laid!

Heroine: Cassie Fox orphaned from the French Revolution is fiercely determined to see the end to Napoleon’s reign. She goes undercover for the British government as a spy and helps ferry lost Englishmen across the channel. This new assignment has her chasing a sliver of a lead to find the long lost Lord Wyndham. Disguised as an old woman peddling trinkets, perfume, and health syrups, Cassie makes her way to the castle at just the right time to slip in and rescue the gentleman. How come he’s so gorgeous though? Shouldn’t he be weak and incapacitated from his time in imprisonment? A girl has to watch out for her heart with a man like him trying to claim it.

Review: Grey’s vulnerability is beautifully written. I particularly liked the times when he still believed Cassie to be a much older woman. He was drawn to her femininity and softness and kindness and kept finding himself turned on by her. I thought it was extremely cute and it plays out very similarly to how a hero finds himself lusting for the dressed-as-a-boy-heroine. Cassie is a strong heroine able and dependable. She plays the rescuer role very well and makes an excellent Knight in Shining Armor.

Something that didn’t make much sense: Cassie apparently has cousins in England and never sought them out because she didn’t think they’d remember her? Umm… say what? I think having no family would have worked better because it would have made Cassie’s reasons to become a spy valid and less like running away from family.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: No Longer A Gentleman (The Lost Lords)

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Contest: Three Months of Romantic Indulgence

Not your typical blog tour!

Celebrating Mary Jo Putney’s latest historical romance novel, No Longer A Gentleman, as well as her rerelease of The Rake, Surroundings Flowers and Events of NYC has partnered with BookTrib for an amazing giveaway.

The grand prize winner will receive a monthly delivery of an exquisite floral arrangement for three consecutive months as well as a copy of each of Mary Jo Putney’s new books. Ten additional winners will receive copies of the books.

This page explains the contest in more detail: BookTrib

LRP GIVEAWAY:  I have one copy of each book as a giveaway for the readers of this blog. Open to those living within US/Canada. Enter by leaving a comment on this post. Last day to enter: April 20, 2012.

Buy: The Rake, No Longer A Gentleman

Review: Dark Mirror by M.J. Putney

Dark Mirror can be summed up in four words: magic, romance, time travel.

The Story: When Lady Victoria (Tory) Mansfield performs magic in front of a bunch of witnesses at her mother’s annual lawn party her father banishes her to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for magic tainted aristocrats.

There Tory meets two very different girls. The first is Elspeth, the biggest outcast at Lackland Abbey. She’s can’t wait to leave, but refuses to reject her magic to make that escape. In fact she openly embraces it. Then there is Cynthia, a bossy conceited roommate, who like Tory wants nothing more than to get out of Lackland as soon as possible which means renouncing magic.

When Tory discovers an underground secret society of Lackland students working to learn and embrace their magic instead of get rid of it, she’s intrigued. In a world where upward mobility and good matches hinged on how normal you were, what could possibly entice nobles to give up the luxuries of being wealthy privileged sons and daughters? In a word: nationalism. The threat of Napoleon invading Britain is enough to spark pride and determination to see Britain through impending war no matter the cost.

One night they get raided and during the escape Tory distracts the mages and mortals hunting them. A chase forces her into a dead end with a large mirror. Thinking she could hide behind it, Tory touches it and finds herself transported to the future, during WWII.

The Romance: While the story focuses primarily on themes like girl power, coming of age, accepting yourself and making the right choices, there is also a romance. As the only son of a Duke, Marquis Justin Allarde, is the most eligible boy at Lackland Abbey. Sparks of magic sizzle between Tory and Allarde the first time their gazes lock together. It’s something Allarde fights tooth and nail because of his own secret, one that’s haunted him, hanging over his head for a long time. A secret that threatens their romance before it even has a chance to blossom.

I’m ready for the sequel. Are you?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Dark Mirror

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Get into Bed with M.J. Putney (Author Interview)

This interview with M.J. Putney is cross posted at my YA book blog, Literature Young Adult Fiction.

Keira:  How did you go from writing adult romances to YA romances? When did you know you wanted to write YA?

MJP: I had a story that would fit best in YA because it’s a blend of history, adventure, and magic. It isn’t first and foremost a romance. Since I’ve read YA for years, I knew that’s where Tory’s story belongs.

Keira:  Dark Mirror sounds like the antithesis to Harry Potter. Magic isn’t revered, it’s despised. You don’t go to school to learn it and get better at using it, you go to a reform school to learn how not to use magic. How did the idea first come to you?

MJP: I’m not really sure, but I have a contrarian streak. I look at a usual structure and immediately want to turn it upside down. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what I did with the first romance I ever wrote.

Keira: What would you do if you could do magic? What would be the best/worst part of having such a gift?

MJP: Magic sounds like it would be a really cool gift, and indeed, it would be lovely to be able travel anywhere in a finger snap, or assure that the weather would be perfect for a party. But there would be a high moral cost, since I’m sure there would be a temptation to use it in selfish and possible destructive ways. And there would be a social cost, as well, since having magic would make one feel strange and horribly different, and perhaps even frightened of being revealed. And that fear of being different is probably at its height in the teen years, which may be why YA readers tend to identify with those who feel different.

Keira: Describe your first kiss. Did it live up to expectations?

MJP: LOL! Has any first kiss ever done so?

Keira:  What’s next for the Dark Passage series?

MJP: The second book, Dark Passage, which will be out in September 2011, sends Tory and her friends to France. I’m not sure about the third book. I’m debating two quite different plot directions.

DARK MIRROR – MJ Putney

Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the earl and countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status.

Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted . . . by magic.

When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.

But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth.

Buy: Dark Mirror

GIVEAWAY: I have 3 copies of Dark Mirror to give away today at LRP. Open to readers in the US & CANADA. Enter by leaving a comment below. 1 entry per relevant comment. Last day to enter: March 11, 2011. PS – LYAF is running the same contest so double your chances by heading over there to leave a comment too.

Blog Tour for DARK MIRROR by MJ Putney

Tuesday 1-Mar Culture Mob
Wednesday 2-Mar Midnight Blooms
Thursday 3-Mar
Friday 4-Mar Eating YA Books
Saturday 5-Mar Green Bean Teen Queen
Sunday 6-Mar Love Romance Passion / Literature Young Adult Fiction
Monday 7-Mar Words for Teens
Tuesday 8-Mar Pure Imagination
Wednesday 9-Mar The Story Siren
Thursday 10-Mar My Pal Amy
Friday 11-Mar YA Bliss
Saturday 12-Mar The Book Smugglers
Sunday 13-Mar Wondrous Reads
Monday 14-Mar Novel Voice
Tuesday 15-Mar
Wednesday 16-Mar TeenReads.com