Audio Review: Lady Caroline and the Egotistical Earl by Terry Spear

lady caroline and the egotistical earlHeroine: Lady Caroline has aided her mother in managing the estates after her father’s death. All was well until knights in the earl’s colors started to terrorize the people and kill livestock. When her mother seeks to speak with the earl, a simple request for assistance turns into something else.

Hero: Lord John Talbot is not aware of any rogue knights. He is however very aware of Caroline. He wants to be near her and decides she must be a lady-in-waiting for his mother. Caroline might not be amenable to the idea, but he has ways to persuade her… and if she’s in danger all the more reason to keep her close.

Review: Lady Caroline is one to take charge. She has an excellent memory and plans to investigate the raids if Lord John won’t. After she gets into a few scrapes… the worse getting her chased up a tree by villainous raiders, he keeps her securely within his arm’s reach. You have to agree that Lady Caroline, while she may be a tad too independent, was right because someone had to proactively investigate! Readers will find this a clean romance without sex, but with sexual interest and overtones to liven up any afternoon.

Narrator: Maria Hunter Welles has a very affected voice for Lady Caroline’s character who is 19 years old. It worked, because Caroline is young and impetuous.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Lady Caroline and the Egotistical Earl

Review: Torch in the Forest by Marcie Kremer

torch in the forestHeroine: Eleanor of Strathcombe is a young widow, only 18, and managing her late husband’s estate. Poachers are running rampant and keep escaping into the neighboring Lord’s estate, where her forrestor cannot pursue. The poacher’s activity is creating a whole host of problems. Then the long absent Lord returns and blames her for the poachers. What’s a lady to do? Fight him of course.

Hero: Lord Hugh of Wykeham doesn’t trust any woman, and stands accused of murdering his faithless wife. Now he is back from crusading and finds his lands are being poached. If Eleanor were a better stewardess this wouldn’t be a problem. Demanding control of the forest boundaries is the only option… that and to marry Eleanor’s sister… which clearly won’t do at all because Eleanor likes the arrogant fellow.

Review: I wasn’t able to connect with the characters in this book and found myself trudging through by sheer force of will at times. The heroine is too strong and comes across anachronistic. A child bride who was married for two years and widowed for two more could be strong, no question, but I didn’t sense the buildup of this strength. The hero is a dunderhead and came across one-dimensional.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Buy: Torch in the Forest (Entangled Scandalous)

Get into Bed with Elizabeth Chadwick (Author Interview)

In A Place Beyond CourageIntroducing Elizabeth Chadwick, author of A Place Beyond Courage

Keira: Quick history lesson: Tell us a bit about England’s civil war between King Henry’s daughter Matilda and her cousin Stephen.

Elizabeth Chadwick: King Henry I had two legitimate children (we won’t talk about the more than 20 children he had by women other than his wife!). The first born was a girl, Matilda, and the second a boy, William. When Matilda was eight, Henry betrothed her to the Emperor of Germany and she was sent there to grow to maturity, marry, and was expected to spend her life at the German court as its empress. Henry’s son, meanwhile, was on track to become King of England and Duke of Normandy as his father’s successor.

However, all Henry’s plans were shattered when his son was drowned while returning from Normandy to England. Suddenly Henry’s only legitimate heir was Matilda in Germany. Henry looked round for others who might inherit his crown, and his attention lit on his nephew, Stephen and he began grooming the young man to succeed him.

But then the Emperor of Germany died and Matilda returned to her father. Suddenly Henry had a choice. He could put his nephew on the throne, or his own flesh and blood daughter. Henry seems to have backed two horses at once. He had his barons swear to uphold Matilda as his successor, but at the same time he kept Stephen in the picture. He married Matilda to a neighbouring Lord, Geoffrey of Anjou. It was a stormy marriage, but Matilda bore three sons from it, the first two born in King Henry’s lifetime, and the eldest eventually destined to become King Henry II.

King Henry I died suddenly when Matilda was absent on her husband’s estates, and when her eldest son was only two years old. There were claims that on his deathbed Henry had named Stephen as his heir, but under suspicious circumstances. Matilda set out to fight for her rightful inheritance and a civil war began in the late 1130s, and continued until 1153.

Keira: Why is naming a successor important? Isn’t there a natural order of succession in place?

Elizabeth: Naming a successor in early Medieval England carried a certain amount of weight and would suggest a path for the powerbrokers and councillors to follow. In the mid-12th century, although hereditary succession was becoming the norm, there was still an element of long held custom open to the idea that the nobles and bishops of the kingdom would assemble to elect a new sovereign. In practice this successor was usually the King’s eldest son, but there was still some room for leeway – which is how Stephen came to be elected, and Matilda passed over. Although several years before his death, her father had made his barons swear to uphold her claim, they were not honour bound to do so, especially when they were given the get out clause that Henry may have named someone else on his deathbed.

Keira: What is a Royal Marshal?

Elizabeth: The title covers many roles and responsibilities. The original duty of the Marshal was to look after the royal horses and their equipment, but that duty soon extended to the kennels and the falcon mews. The Marshal became responsible for supplying all the fodder for the animals, and that then moved into the logistics of supplying the court when on the road. The Marshal had to provide the carts and the cart drivers. He had to see that everything ran smoothly – rather like people who Marshal at public events today.

He had responsibility for several military duties, including paying the King’s mercenaries when in the field,

On top of that the Marshal was responsible for keeping order court. His employees were the gatekeepers of the Royal doors, and it was a Marshal’s job to make sure that no one came closer to the kingdom the King wanted. He had an official Rod of office, and would use it on miscreants or people who stepped over the line.

Another duty of his was to keep control of the court prostitutes and make sure they didn’t get out of order and fine those who cause trouble. The Marshal was also responsible for locking up debtors who could not pay their fee at the court Exchequer. So it was a varied and responsible job, although many of the duties were delegated.

Keira: Describe the differences between Aline and Sybilla.

Elizabeth: A Place Beyond Courage, John Marshal has two wives. Aline, his first wife, is innocent, naive, and pious to the point where it damages her ability to make strong relationships with those around her. She is a timid little thing who finds herself in a very difficult marriage to John, who is strong, vibrant and charismatic. Sybilla, John’s second wife, is sparky and outgoing with a warm interest in people. She knows her own worth, and she knows how to get the best out of everyone, including her husband.

I wrote the personalities as I found them. There is not much in the historical record about Aline and Sybilla, but some things can be deduced from the bare facts. Aline bore John two sons in fifteen years of marriage. Sybilla, gave him six children in a similar timespan, including the little boy who was to become the great William Marshal. To get more fully at Aline and Sybilla, I used the Akashic Records – a form of psychic research that if you believe in it, opens up the past so that it can be viewed like a sensory film – and if you don’t, is still a very powerful imaginative tool. There were women like Aline in the 12th century, just as there were women like Sybilla. We are all different in our personalities and attitudes.

Keira: What is your favorite thing about Medieval Fiction?

Elizabeth: I like finding out new things that often buck the trend about what we think we know about the Middle Ages. I love creating stories that use those elements of research and explore them, (such as notions that swords were massive weapons that you needed to be a giant to swing, or that warhorses were enormous beasts, or that Medieval people in the 12th century were small in stature and didn’t wash. I can give you solid refutations on every single one of these so-called ‘facts.’ I also love the detail that well researched Medieval fiction can act as a bridge between the reader and the long ago past.

Keira: What’s next for you?

Elizabeth: In the UK I am under contract to write three major novels about Eleanor of Aquitaine. I have just handed in book one and my editor is reading it at the moment and tells me she LOVES it (her capitals) – so fingers crossed!

Buy: A Place Beyond Courage

Review: Thoroughly Kissed (Charming, Book 2) by Kristine Grayson

Summary: What would you do if you woke up 1000 years from now on another continent with a language that sounds like yours but isn’t? In Emma Lost’s case she learned as fast as she could and became a teacher. Smart move, until her new boss thinks she made it all up because she doesn’t have proper citations. He’s threatening to fire her, her magic is coming in decades too early, and she’s got to cross the US to the west coast before any major disasters happen – like falling for Michael Found.

Should You Read Charming, Book 1? Emma is first introduced in Utterly Charming, which I haven’t read, so no, it’s not necessary to read it first. However, references are made and some are not thoroughly explained, so it’s up to you.

Review: Thoroughly Kissed is thoroughly charming! Kristine Grayson tackles the woebegone Sleeping Beauty fairytale set in modern day mid-west US with wit and humor. This road trip romance features crazy restaurants, mutating housecats, and a bloodless battle in a national park. You’ll believe in magic when you’re done.

Favorite Scene: When Michael is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future/Present also known as Merlin.

Best Side Character: Darnell the cat, especially when he talks.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Thoroughly Kissed

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Review: Defiant by Kris Kennedy

Reviewed by Aggie S.

Would you be interested in reading a book that started off with “At first, it appeared they were both after the same cock.”? I wasn’t so sure it was going to be the type of book I usually like to read. lol ;) As far as opening lines it was pretty catchy.

Summary: Jamie was on a hunt for a priest on orders from the King of England. This particular priest had information regarding some heirs that were thought to have been killed. The keeper of many heirs, also working for the king, is also chasing these same heirs, as they escaped from him before and he wants them back. Eva came back to England with Roger whom she has rescued as a young babe when his parents were killed.

This story takes them all through England heading towards Scotland to get away from the King’s henchmen. Eva throughout the story is protecting Roger as she loves him as her own son. As all romance novels go Jamie eventually falls in love with Eva although throughout the story his loses his patience with her more times than one can count. He realizes he loves her when she lands in the clutches of the King and could possibly die unless he rescues her.

Factoid: Most of the story is based on a true plot to assassinate King John in 1212. A lot of the history is true although the author does add a few characters to make the story more interesting.

I recommend this book for fans of unusual plots and historical intrigue. It’s a little hard to get into but once you do it is not so easy to put it down.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Defiant

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Review: Heart of Vengeance by Tracy Cooper-Posey

by Susan S., guest reviewer

High praise for Cooper-Posey’s Heart of Vengeance. A touching love story of two lovers willing to risk it all (titles, lands, imprisonment, torture, even death) just to be together.

Summary:

Ah, Lady Helena of York, beautiful daughter of the late Earl of Wessex. Pretty Saxon maiden with the most beautiful blue eyes-you’ve ever seen. While she may look angelic, this is a knife carrying, strong heroine who can expertly yield a bow and arrow. She’s going to find her father’s killer come hell or high water! And when she does…well, you’ll have to read the novel to find out.

The plan: Helena (heroine) will pose as Lady Isobel of Brittany; a Norman. Lady Catherine and Sir Hubert Fitzwarren will be sponsoring her return to court. Nothing! Absolutely nothing, will stand in Helena’s way. She simply must find the man responsible for all her anguish. That the Fitzwarren’s plan to marry her off, well…she’ll cross that bridge when she gets there.

Who’s Stephen, Count of Dinan, Earl of Northumbria, often referred to as the Black Baron? Stephen, yes, he’s what I like to call, the law of unintended consequences. The one’s Helena didn’t foresee. When their paths cross, a continued acquaintance would be foolish, not to mention deadly. She’s posing as someone she’s not, and he’s seen as trouble to be avoided. A medieval bad boy, no wonder he appealed to me! Helena has a bit of a trilemma on her hands: 1. How to keep her real identity concealed/ avoid drawing the present king’s ire 2. Steer clear of marrying a repugnant man named Savaric/ circumvent the future king’s wrath, and the most troublesome of the three 3. Can she stay away from a noble knight who’s stolen all she had left…her heart?

Who said a woman’s life was easy?

Recommendations: Do you fancy stories with dashing knights, beautiful maidens, and forbidden love? Did the characters and power plays in The Lion in Winter appeal to you? In the movie Romeo & Juliet (the 1968 version, of course) did the clandestine meetings between lovers make you gush? If so, I recommend you pick up a copy. Same goes, if you read romances in “any” subgenre, but more specifically historicals, romantic suspense, and medieval love stories.

Historical Elements: I’d like to touch on a key point; accuracy. 1. King Richard’s use of kingdom’s resources to support his crusade (check). 2. King Richard married Berengaria (check). 3. As well as Richard’s use of Château Gaillard (check).

My Thoughts: Reading is subjective, yes. But, I’m convinced the author’s beautiful story, coupled with historical accuracies intertwined in such a way, you couldn’t possibly debate its winning outcome.

Complaints: Yes, I have them.

Number one, it’s a single title. I want a Vengeance Series! Can’t I get Marked by Vengeance? Where William of Worcester is the hero; all grown up. Secondly, Robert of Loxley (my goblet clashes against the table) I want him. Sorry, I forget myself, strikethrough. Replace the word him, with more. Or, more of him!?

Comedic Element: Stephen doesn’t know Isobel’s real identity, and she’s not telling, so he calls her not-Isobel.

Where shall I place this novel? In my re-read pile, of course!

Rating: 5 Stars

Buy: Heart of Vengeance (Kindle), Heart of Vengeance (Paperback)

eBook, 2010, Cerridwen Press
Medieval Historical Romantic Suspense, 227 pages.
ISBN# 978-141-992-4040

Review: The Return of Black Douglas by Elaine Coffman

by Aggie S., guest reviewer

Time travel romance is not the same thing as sci-fi romance or sci-fi time travel. In The Return of Black Douglas, there is no bouncing back and forth between different times, but there is a ghost. Twin sisters Isobella and Elizabeth Douglas, go to Scotland to trace their ancestors and learn about their past relatives as a trade off for a honeymoon that never took place, because Isobel’s fiance took off with his dance teacher instead.

This story starts in present time as the girls are starting their day exploring tombs of Douglas ancestors. They find the effigy of The Good Sir James of Douglas and Isobel is so overcome with emotion that she cries. That night Isobel dreams about a medieval dark haired man who wanted to make love to her. The next day the sisters plan on visiting Beloyn Castle and the portrait of the Black Douglas, who died in the fourteenth century. They are in awe of the painting and Isobel touches the bottom of his boot then everything goes black.

The ghost of the Black Douglas has whisked them from the present day, to the sixteenth century to the Isle of Mull, Scotland. They have absolutely no idea where they are and he is not giving them any straight answers. Do ghosts ever give straight answers? ;)

As for the hero, Chieftain Alysandir Mackinnon, he and the rest of the Mackinnon clan are on their way back from delivering their sister to a nunnery, because she does not wish to wed a Maclean when they are ambushed by the Macleans. During the battle the Douglas girls are noticed by the men. Fighting stops and the Macleans look as if they are leaving but then four men on horseback go after the girls. They run but Isobel falls into a crag and the Macleans sweep up Elizabeth and ride off with her. Two of the Mackinnons give chase to save her from them and Alysandir Mackinnon goes after Isobel.

The story continues on with Isobel at Marrach Castle while Elizabeth is with the Macleans at Duart Castle. The ghost of the Black Douglas appears occasionally to answer (but not really answer) Isobel’s questions and he gives no indication as to when or if they will return to their own time, only saying that the answers will be appearing when the time is right. The girls fear being called witches at first and then find some acceptance as to their being there. They are some interesting things that happen throughout the story but you must read it to find out what happens.

I think The Return of Black Douglas is a great book to cuddle up on the couch. The use of current English, Gaelic and old English makes this book an interesting read and gives an idea how they spoke in Medieval times while the translations to current times help understanding.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Return of Black Douglas

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Review: The Devil’s Temptress by Laura Navarre

by Carla F., guest reviewer

Summary: With the popularity, of romances in the Regency and Tudor time periods, books set during the Plantagenet era gets short shrift. The Devil’s Temptress is set during the reign of Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. It begins in 1174 when Eleanor is under “house-arrest” for encouraging her and Henry’s children to rise up and take the throne from Henry.

This story is about Lady Alienore of Lyonstone who is Eleanor’s privy chancellor (for personal matters/correspondence only).  When we first meet Lady Alienore, she has disguised herself in armor and is about to defend the honor of her cousin who was wronged by a knight known only as le Corbeau – the Raven. She was trained in sword fighting and she fights well against Raven, but he ends up walking away after throwing her from her horse because it is a “small pleasure to trounce a half-grown boy.”

Raven has actually come to court because of Alienore. Henry believes that Alienore is a spy for his wife and he wants Raven to stop her without letting Eleanor know Henry is behind it. However, Raven has other reasons for looking for Alienore. She has come to court to escape a betrothal to the Duc d’Ormonde who wants her back.

Review: It was fun to read the court intrigue and the political maneuverings of Henry, Eleanor, and Richard. However, the main story was not as engaging.

Generally, I liked Raven and particularly liked that he had a Muslim mother. Also you could understand the pain he had suffered while fighting in the crusades.

It was difficult to believe that Alienore had survived court life because she seemed to believe whatever anyone told her (particularly Eleanor and Richard). She was wrong about people’s personalities and motives quite often. I also thought her too prideful. I did like she had the Raven’s back when he was fighting off enemies.

Recommended: For those who like to read about Henry, Eleanor, Richard, and Geoffrey Plantagenet.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: The Devil’s Temptress

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