Review: Thornbrook Park (Thornbrook Park, Book 1) by Sherri Browning

thornbrook parkReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: After the death of her husband, Eve Kendal has only one option when she is disowned by her parents for marrying beneath her. She must leave India and go to London to live with her friend Lady Sophia Averford. The place that has become a new home for her is called Thornbrook Park, and the Dower House is where she will be living for the duration of her stay. Although she is in dire circumstances, she does have a plan for the future. An investment her husband put aside for her will come to fruition soon and when it does, she will use the money available to buy her own house.

Review: The synopsis sounds like the perfect start to Eve’s life, but life is not that reliable when other people are concerned and before long we find that an unscrupulous investor has stolen the money her husband had invested for her, and she is left with nothing. No future and no house to be hers. At least that is what she thinks until she meets Marcus and is instantly attracted to him. Unfortunately for her, he is betrothed to Alice, at least as far as Sophia is concerned, so he is out of bounds to her romantically. That doesn’t stop her having feelings for him though, and the feelings are reciprocated. In fact his interest runs so far that he is willing to help her uncover the mystery of her stolen money and make accountable the cad who stole it.

Good bits:

  • The initial meeting between Eve and Marcus.
  • The setting of the story. Thornbrook Park sounds like a wonderful place.
  • The other characters all have something interesting to hide, so be prepared for some revealing side stories.

Bad bits:

  • It took a long time to get to the good bits.
  • Some of the characters could have been left out.

Summary: As it is set in 1906, the story does mention what happened during that time and how difficult it was for most people who didn’t grow up with wealth. If readers like the period TV series such as Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice, this is one that will thrill readers as some of the characters are believable as is the setting. Eve’s affair with Marcus might sound like a great one for her, but Marcus has problems of his own as he feels the guilt of being alive while many of his friends he served with in the war died.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Thornbrook Park (A Thornbrook Park Romance)

Story Tropes: Rags to Riches

in-her-dreamsGuest blog by Katherine Givens, author of In Her Dreams

One of my favorite romance tropes is the rags to riches story. I’m not talking about the traditional Cinderella story with talking mice and a pumpkin turned carriage. I’m talking about a hero who went from a street urchin dwelling in the streets of St. Giles to a self-made man who is now a decorated war hero or a successful factory owner. And all this while, as he’s risen through the ranks, his heart has only belonged to one woman. The sheltered daughter of a duke.

Or how about the destitute woman who works as a governess for meager wages? She teaches the ward of her bachelor employer and wears plain clothes, but beneath her exterior is an intelligent, vibrant woman. It is these qualities that capture the heart of her employer.

There are several examples of these rags to riches tales that do not include the talking mice. Look at Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff, the antagonistic hero, is a poor gypsy boy when the father of Catherine Earnshaw brings him to Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is orphaned when he is found in the streets of Liverpool. With gypsy blood in his veins, he is an outsider to kinder society, but that does not prevent him from losing his heart to Catherine. The two do love one another. Catherine even remarks that their souls are one and the same, but she marries another. Edgar Linton. Distraught, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights for two years. When he returns, he is smartly dressed, wealthy, and educated. He is self-made, and he did it all for Catherine. Even if he isn’t with his love until the hereafter.

Another example is Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The heroine, Anne Elliot, had been engaged to Captain Frederick Wentworth at a young age. However, her family encouraged her to break off the engagement due to Wentworth’s poor and dire living conditions. He was, after all, only a mere commander in the army. Anne gives in and does as her family seeks, but she never stops loving him. Eight years pass until Wentworth reenters Anne’s life. When he does, he is wealthier due to his service during the Napoleonic Wars. His hard work during the wars earned him 25,000 pounds. On top of that, he is dashing, determined, and successful. A man of consequence all through his own willpower. And, of course, he makes for the perfect hero throughout the course of Persuasion.

These characters rise from their poor conditions, only to gain all the riches in the world. Hard work and backbreaking labor are their friends. They know what poverty is like and appreciate wealth when it is finally achieved. On top of improving their lot in life, they often manage to find love. Heathcliff and Catherine reach their love in the afterlife, when their souls become one. Anne and Wentworth are lucky enough to find love in life, and they do not abuse one bit of it.

My debut novella, In Her Dreams, with Harlequin Australia’s Escape Publishing lacks the rags to riches trope. However, it remains my favorite storyline. The novel I am nearly done writing has the rags to riches trope, and I can’t wait to be able to share it. For now, I am excited to share my novella In Her Dreams, which was just released today! In Her Dreams doesn’t have the rags to riches storyline, but it has my second favorite story trope. Entangled love affairs between two sisters and their suitors.

In Her Dreams

A flirty, fun, mix-and-match romance about two sisters who are betrothed to the wrong men…

Evangeline Vernon is a woman on the verge of spinsterhood — until the prim and proper Duke of Manchester steps in. Her family is pleased with the match, but the duke is not the passionate man Evangeline craves. Her heart belongs to an alluring, golden-haired gentleman, perfect in every way…except one: he doesn’t exist.

Angela Vernon is everything a proper, well-brought-up woman should be. She knows her place and understands society’s expectations — which include not being jealous of her sister and not coveting her sister’s suitor. But how can she bear the heartache of watching the only man she loves marry not only her sister, but a woman who doesn’t see past his exterior to the man he is beneath?

Buy: In Her Dreams

katherine givensIn Her Dreams is Katherine’s debut novella, which is published with Harlequin Australia’s imprint Escape Publishing. She is working on a number of other projects and always has ideas flooding her head. In her spare time, Katherine loves to read about history, craft jewellery, and play with her ornery kitten named Bucky. To learn more about Katherine and her writing, please visit the following sites. She loves to hear from readers.

Buy: In Her Dreams (novella)

Review: Rumours Among the Heather by Amanda Balfour

rumors among the heatherReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Juliana Hastings is in a dire situation after being left destitute from her unfortunate father’s death. She is still in mourning, but has to get her life together, and wonders how she will be able to cope when her fiancé decides to jilt her. Her only hope is to become a governess for Matthew McDonald.

Matthew McDonald is in a dire situation as he becomes a fugitive when the Jacobite Rebellion ends. When he turns to Juliana who he has come to know as a great friend, confidante and lover, she gives him all he needs – yet when he is caught, he thinks she has betrayed him and continues to hate her even though she still loves him. When he is set free later, he wants to find Juliana and get his revenge.

Review: Matthew has the aid of his friend to get him safe passage to freedom at the beginning, but events soon change for the worst. Amanda brings the characters together under the worst of circumstances, while Matthew is busy trying to get away from his attackers; Juliana wants to get closer to him to be work for him. Matthew has a nephew, Ian whose mother died who doesn’t talk for long periods of time, leaving him with a boy who doesn’t want to learn through stubbornness. Juliana likes the challenge though and accepts his terms even though she is perceived to be too young for the position of governess.

He is surprised at her bluntness and temper, but intrigued that she had been brought up to be a genteel lady. The further into the story I got, I felt Matthew became more and more intrigued by her even though she says she doesn’t want to flirt with him, and just wants to get her job done. Her actions seem to betray her thoughts, leading her down a path she can’t come back from.

Good bits:

  • Matthew’s altercation with a footpad in the street – daring to say the least!
  • Having a pub called the Pig and Whistle.
  • Matthew notices Juliana tries to hide her beauty, but he knows a pretty girl when he sees one.

Bad bits:

  • The story takes a while to get really interesting.

Last thought: Amanda has gone to a lot of trouble to portray a beautifully ‘bonnie Scotland’ that can be loved by all, especially the characters that enrich the entire novel.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Rumors Among the Heather

[phpbay]rumors among heather amanda balfour, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]

Review: Ten Things I Love About You (Bevelstoke, Book 3) by Julia Quinn

Heroine: Annabel Winslow, eldest sister of 8 siblings, is soon to be engaged to an overweight, short-tempered nobleman as old as her grandmother. She must agree or risk her family’s future happiness. If she does, she loses her own. But she still has time before the Earl of Newbury asks, perhaps there is another way?

Hero: Sebastian Grey firsts hears of Annabel as a woman ‘…so fertile that birds sing when she draws near.’ He knows his uncle, the Earl of Newbury, wants an heir so that he does not inherit the estate. His uncle hates him and the feeling is mutual. He does not care if he inherits or not, he just wished he knew one way or the other.

Meet Cute: A chance meeting outside in the moors at an annual house party when Annabel literally trips over Sebastian. He was just waiting for his female partner to slip back into the house party before he went in again. She was escaping his cruel, odious, groping uncle. (That lecher!  Shudder.) They flirt and then kiss. (Seb and Annabel.) Hawt.

Review: Rosalyn Landor is a wonderful narrator. She brought the characters fully to life and if you combine her talent with the author’s you have an amazing story. I loved it. Capitalize that—I LOVED IT! I was utterly charmed, just like Sebastian was with Annabel. The story is sweet, the sexual tension sizzling, the romance was just perfect. Sebastian is making it to my favorite hero list (which shouldn’t surprise him, he loves lists… and so does the heroine). (Now I have more than one Seb to love, bwuahahaha!)

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Ten Things I Love About You

[phpbay]ten things love julia quinn, 10, , “”[/phpbay]

Review: Gallant Waif by Anne Gracie

Story: Lady Cahill is Jack Carstairs’ grandmother and is determined to see her moping scarred and wounded grandson back on his feet and back in the market for marriage. Just because his father disowned him, and his fiancée dumps him doesn’t mean he can turn his sister away from his door and refuse to see her! That is just outrageous. Well let him try putting his grandmother off! Ha!

On the way she’ll kill two birds with one stone and pick up Kate Farleigh. Except there’s a snag… one headstrong girl. Not to worry! Immediately after Kate refuses her offer for a Season in London Lady Cahill kidnaps her. The Lady can’t imagine why the stupid chit turned her down. They have a connection! She’s the godmother of the girl’s dead mother, so of course it’s not charity!

The morning after she arrives with Kate in tow Lady Cahill decides to get the two kids together… for the animation in Jack’s face inspired by Kate is just too tempting to ignore. But Kate still isn’t interested in a Season. What’s a grandmother to do? She hires Kate as Jack’s housekeeper and dashes off to get out of the way, that’s what.

Review: I love Jack. He’s so outraged on Kate’s behalf its funny! A genteel lady shouldn’t be scrubbing floors, cooking his meals, or anything else a housekeeper does. He doesn’t understand why Kate thinks its good enough, because clearly it isn’t!

Their banter on it was hilarious – the kind of hilarious that requires stitches. :P Jack doesn’t know how to fight with Kate and usually ends up flustered and speechless with rage. She’s so calm about most of their confrontations, but sometimes she seeks to egg him on too because she loves his responses. She knows it means he cares and with her background (being unloved by her father) knowing someone cares means a lot.

I liked a lot of this novel… but

(Spoilers) I felt Kate’s secret history was very sad… she was raped during the war by a French man who took advantage of her amnesia (and maybe caused it, who knows, because she definitely was knocked over the head by someone). He claimed to be her husband and she gave him conjugal rights.

I didn’t feel her emotions connected to this made much sense. I would have reacted differently been angry or bitter or something more than accepting. Especially since all she’d ever wanted was a nice husband and kids (she really wanted kids.) Luckily for her, she’s the heroine of a romance novel!

I’m very glad that when the other soldiers show up that they don’t treat her like a whore (how she was treated on the continent by those who knew) and that they wanted to see her and Jack together. Nobody made an inappropriate advance on her from among Jack’s friends… (but someone tries for other reasons.)

The ending sequence when the group of soldiers ban together to help Jack save Kate’s reputation at a ball is so sweet and heartwarming.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Gallant Waif (Harlequin Historical)

[phpbay]gallant waif anne, 10, 377, “”[/phpbay]