Review: Dead Reckoning (Valkyrie Series, Book 2) by K A Perkins

Dead Reckoning PerkinsReviewed by Sandra Scholes

The year is 1671 and after watching his mother suffer brutality at the hands of three of the most feared pirates in history, Leo vows he will avenge her death one day when he is older. Gabriella is a young woman married to Erik, a cruel Dutch slave trader. Erik rules the house with an iron fist. He is an irascible man, prone to violent mood swings and always finds fault with his wife and his slave, Klara. Gabriella lives in fear of Erik and hopes for the day when she and Klara can flee without being found.

One of the interesting parts of the story is at the beginning as Gabriella wants to get away from her cruel husband, while Leo wants to get close to the pirates who killed his mother, and that in turn takes him closer to her husband. Gabriella grows from being a sensitive, downtrodden woman, to being a strong, independent woman who wants to help others, like Klara out of difficult and dangerous situations. She is ill-equipped for life in the jungle of the island of Sayba, but her life is worth nothing if she is caught by either Erik or his men. Leo has seen his mother die at the hands of Tarr’s men, and seeks his revenge, yet he is a decent man, even at sea. He is often fair with his men, and has braved death attempting to kill Tarr, Blake and Hornigold.

The author shows a real grasp of all things pirate, and has clearly researched in depth about what life would have been like on board a ship for both the captain and crew of the Sound of Freedom. The setting and the characters feel right for the time period, and it is easy to switch off from modern life to tune into the story as it seems believable. It is easy to get to the heart of the people involved, and the author doesn’t concentrate on the main characters alone. The story is gritty and realistic, and as a result gives a more realistic account of how people would have behaved during that time. Jungle life has a detrimental effect on the slaves, and Gabriella and Klara; the disease, the venomous wildlife, and the terrible heat of the location all serve to put the reader there into the thick of period Caribbean life. Having Gabriella and Klara on board isn’t a good idea for the men, but Leo likes the thought of having Erik’s wife and slave to use as a pawn to get what he wants, yet he sees in her a wildness that reminds him of Magdalena. He senses Gabriella is afraid of men, even Leo being around her, and all he wants to do is put her at ease. She is a free woman along with Klara, but life on board a ship like the Sound of Freedom isn’t made for women on the run and he can’t expose the men to them and risk Gabriella being hurt, or worse.

It takes a while for the romance to start, but when it does, Gabriella finds that Leo isn’t the man she thought he was, he is a better man than her husband, and he can show her what that means. Dead Reckoning is more than just a romance novel, it acts as a personal account of life in pirate days that is extensive and gripping.

Dead Reckoning was long-listed in the 2011 Mslexia Novel Competition and is the second book in the Valkyerie series. It tells of the losses and danger associated with piracy in the Caribbean during the Seventeenth Century. There are several books in the Valkyrie series including, An Ill Wind (Valkyrie Series 1), Ready About! (Valkyrie Series 3) which is set for a 2913 release, and Shadowfall (Valkyrie Series 4) which is set for a 2014 release. As a novella and K A Perkins’s first book, Gabriella Berryngton had high hopes for a better life in another land, but aged only 14, she realises she must have been so naive.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Dead Reckoning (Valkyrie Series)

Why I Wrote a Historical Romance

BoundbyDecencyGuest blog by Claire Ashgrove, author of Bound by Decency (The Flying Gang Legacy)

Hi, everyone – thanks for having me here today!

One of the things I was asked recently was, “Why did you decide to write a historical romance?” I thought I’d share my answer here with all of you, because granted, it is a shift from what I’ve been doing for the last several years.

I’ve always been writing historicals.  Ironically, I never intended to write a Contemporary, but that in fact, was my first sale.  That book was the product of a dare, as I’ve mentioned previously, and the cards fell into place with a delightful surprise.  But my roots in romance came from historical authors such as Johanna Lindsey, Sabrina Jeffries, and Julie Garwood.  The first romance I wrote, at age 17, was a Regency.

My paranormal series, The Curse of the Templars, is heavily derived from history and mythos, which goes hand-in-hand with history.  My short paranormal series, Inherited Damnation, is grounded in the historical Celts.  So it’s always been a part of my writing process.  And given that on any given trip to the bookstore I will make a beeline for the historical section before I go to fiction, that influence isn’t terribly surprising.

I also tend to lean, more naturally, toward a historical voice in my writing.  I like longer sentences, more description that typically comes with the subgenre, and the general cadence of my structure tends to follow what’s seen with historical romance.  I find when I work in non-historical projects that I have to do a lot more editing, I have to pay more attention to what I am putting down.  In many ways, I understand historical characters more than I do the characters that could be living next door to me.  (That might have something to do with the proverbial writer’s cave!)

But does this mean that I want to focus strictly on historical romance?  Absolutely not!  For reasons that apply to each individual series and book, I love the projects that I have going on right now.  Writing a straight historical simply allows me to immerse myself in the past completely, without having to consider modern day gadgets like cell phones, computers, and all the other conveniences that like to give my plots major hiccups.

I do, however, hope you’ll find Bound by Decency as enjoyable as my other books.  Afterall, it’s based on pirates.  And what’s more sexy than a rugged, bare-chested sailor who fears little and knows precisely how to obtain what he wants?

Excerpt: For a moment, he could do nothing more than stare. Richard had said his intended was lovely, but somehow, Cain had never pictured her as a beauty. Yet now, as she stood before him, her chest heaving with indignation and her hair a sopping mess, he realized Richard had once again played him false. India Prescott wasn’t merely lovely. She was breathtaking.

“What in the name of Mary do you think you’re doing?” she snapped. “My father will see you hang for this.”

Her sharp tongue yanked Cain out of his stupor. He collected himself quickly, and for the first time since his arrest, gave into a broad grin. “Indeed, he will have to get in line.”

India’s eyes widened a fraction, but anger drew delicate brows downward, and those sky-blue eyes narrowed. “I see no amusement in this. Do you have any idea who I am?”

As a rumble of laughter broke through the men within earshot, Cain’s humor subsided. His smile faded, and he reached out to twine a thick lock of her hair around his finger. Turning his wrist, he wrapped the silken length around his hand, slowly bringing her closer. So close that the wet fabric straining across her breasts dampened his shirt. The heat of her skin grazed his. “I know well who you are, Miss Prescott.” He ran the back of his free hand across her dainty collar bone, over the slope of her shoulder, then lifted it to draw his thumb across her parted lips. The audible catch of her breath ricocheted through him. So she was not unaffected by him. Good. He could use it to his advantage.

His gaze held hers. A flicker of fear passed behind her eyes, but to her credit, she didn’t shrink away. She stood straight and proud, even as she shivered in the stirring breeze. Courage Cain didn’t often encounter from the gentle born. God’s teeth, men far stronger and larger than she didn’t hesitate to grovel at his feet. Yet she, no bigger than a lark, defied him with stubborn silence.

Unacceptable.

To drive her subservient position as his captive home, he tightened his hold on her hair until she winced. Leaning forward, he lowered his mouth to her ear. “You are the daughter of a powerful man and presently my prisoner, to do with as I will.” Stepping back, he untwined his hand and smirked.

India’s palm cracked across his cheek. “Rot in hell!”

Back Blurb:

After inheriting a portion of Spain’s Royal Inheritance, Cain left The Flying Gang for a chance at honest wealth. With the secrets of his piracy tucked away, he achieved his lofty aspirations. But when his partner and best friend betrays him to the Royal Navy, Cain’s dreams are ripped to shreds. He’s left with his ship, the tattered remnants of a stolen future, and a piece of Spanish mystery. Wanted by three nations and destined for the gallows, he returns to the legendary band of buccaneers for one purpose — vengeance.

Kidnapped by the formidable Cain, India Prescott discovers he intends to kill the man she’s to marry. Cain’s story reveals betrayal. Treachery that extends to her as well. Although she holds the key to retribution, India refuses to become another man’s pawn. Freedom lies before her, the liberty to shrug off propriety, make her own decisions, and claim her destiny. But when she uncovers goodness in Cain’s soul and he awakens passion in her heart, she must combat the chains of convention once more.

Only this time India’s not fighting society. She’s battling a pirate bent on keeping her decency intact.

Series Concept:

The Flying Gang Legacy
1717…

With Europe in chaos over who would claim the Spanish throne, the Atlantic waters bred a most despicable lot. Privateers who pillaged and claimed, loyal to no country, more thief than noble mercenary. One man would claim Spain’s inheritance. He would pass it on. To a band of cutthroats more terrifying and deadly than the nightmares of the deep.

As the nations settle into peace, The Flying Gang knows no boundaries. No sea is safe. No shore unchartered. Chilling Rogers raised to the sky, they reign with fear, bound only to the wind, the brotherhood, and the ships they love. One tiny jeweled box strikes a gleam in their eyes. A golden trinket four rogue Captains risk danger, capture, and even friendship to possess.

Until love interferes with their rapscallion hearts…

Buy: Bound by Decency (The Flying Gang Legacy)

Author Bio: Claire Ashgrove has been writing since her early teens and maintained the hobby for twenty years before deciding to leap into the professional world. Her first contemporary novel, Seduction’s Stakes, sold to The Wild Rose Press in 2008, where she continues to write steamy, sexy stories for the Champagne and Black Rose lines. Adding to these critically acclaimed romances, Claire’s paranormal romance series, The Curse of the Templars debuted with Tor in January 2012. For those who prefer the more erotic side of romance, she also writes for Berkley Heat as the National Bestselling Author Tori St. Claire.

She is an active member of Romance Writers of America, and her local RWA chapters, Heartland Romance Authors, Midwest Romance Writers, North Texas Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers.

Claire lives in Missouri with her two toddler sons, and too-many horses, cats, and dogs. In her “free” time, she enjoys cooking, winning at Rummy, studying Ancient Civilizations, and spending quiet moments with her family, including the critters. She credits her success to her family’s constant support and endless patience.

To learn more about Claire, visit her on the web at www.claireashgrove.com, or www.toristclaire.com.

Giveaway Details:  Claire will be giving away a $25.00 Amazon Gift Card to one random commenter during the tour.  Follow the tour – the more times you comment, the better your chances of winning!  Complete schedule can be found here.

Review: Dreaming by Jill Barnett

Letty Hornsby is a disaster waiting to happen… literally! The poor girl is a klutz. You’ll adore her. She’s uncoordinated and accident prone. If you’re the unfortunate slob to be within ten feet of her, expect to get knocked out, trampled on, set on fire, or shot… all these things and more happen to the Earl of Downe, Richard Lennox. He’s been the cursed object of her affections since she was a little girl and ran him off a bridge while riding a cow.

Richard might put on a disagreeable, rakish, cynical façade for the world to see, but Letty knows deep down he’s a wonderfully caring man. After all he treats her with respect and tenderness when anybody else would run in the other direction. He’s constantly looking out for her and a man without morals or a heart wouldn’t keep saving her from herself.

Despite all the harm she causes and her scatterbrained conversations which require a map and a translator to follow, Richard finds himself drawn to the innocent hellion. She humbles him, infuriates him, calls to him, and reaches through to him. When they and her dog Gus are captured and trapped onboard a smuggler ship, Richard can’t think of anything else that could go wrong – which was just asking for trouble.

Dreaming is the sequel to Bewitching, some of the overlap with the matchmaking witch is a little more understandable by reading the first I feel… and gives you more appreciation for the peaks into the other characters lives/romances as they try to find their missing friend. It’s satisfyingly long, sweetly passionate, hilariously funny, and quick paced read you won’t want to put down.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Dreaming

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Review: The Pirate Lord by Sabrina Jeffries and Deborah Martin

by Carla F., guest reviewer

It started out with an interesting premise and it ended OK, but there was so much in the middle that bugged me.

In The Pirate Lord, Sara Willis, a reformer, decides that she is going to try to expose the conditions of convict women who are being transported to New South Wales by getting on a ship and going with a group of them. After convincing her step-brother Jordon, the Earl of Blackmore, that she is of age and that he can’t stop her, she heads off on a ship as a teacher for these women. This ship is soon captured by pirates. What the pirates want is not treasure but the convict women. In attempt to save these women, Sara threatens the pirate Captain with retaliation from her powerful “brother”. Unfortunately for her, Gideon Horn, the Captain hates the nobility and in fact targets ships owned by and/or carrying nobles. This has earned him the name, The Pirate Lord. Once Gideon finds out that Sara’s brother is an earl, he decides to take Sara along with the other women.

Things I didn’t like (possible spoilers):

1. The crew on Gideon’s ship are “cleaner” than the crew of the ship headed for New South Wales. OK I don’t really want to read about dirty, nasty pirates either. Still it made me think of Errol Flynn and his Technicolor crew.

2. These pirates don’t want the women just to have their wicked way with them. They want wives because they are “retiring” and moving to an island paradise. Sara thinks that this is an awful thing to do to these women, and it cannot be allowed to happen. This leads me to #3.

3. Sara was an extremely annoying character who will not open her eyes and actually see what was going on. She has a captain and crew who have promised not to harm any of the women.  Gideon even decides to give the women a week to be courted and will let them choose their husbands. Time and time again Gideon agrees to Sara’s requests/demands and yet Sara continues to believe that what is happening is so horrific and that no compromise is acceptable. At one point Gideon gets “forceful” with Sara to try to teach her the difference between him and a bad man, but that doesn’t last long. Sara doesn’t think that Gideon can be good man because, after all, he is a pirate (said multiple times).

4. There is the snake incident. On the island, while Gideon and Sara are talking, a black mambo appears from the tree over her shoulder. Gideon manages to cut off the snake’s head without any harm to Sara. Naturally, this freaks her out, and she winds up in Gideon’s arms for comfort. This leads to intense kissing and eventually Gideon pushes her up against a tree to continue further. Hello! There is a decapitated snake laying on the ground! A snake that came from a tree! Isn’t she concerned? If this had happened to me, I would have been halfway back to England before the snake hit the ground.

As I said at the beginning, I thought the idea of a reformer heading off in a ship to help convicts was an promising idea, but there were just too many problems with the book. If you really love pirate stories, like other Sabrina Jeffries  or Deborah Martin books, or are not bothered by the same things that I am, you might like this book.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy: The Pirate Lord

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Review: Ghost of a Chance by Nina Bruhns

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Hurray a ghost romance! Double hurray there’s pirates! Oh I was so excited to start this novel and it was a thrilling and sexy story.

The first sexual contact? Burns your fingers it’s so hot!

Tyree’s ghosty capabilities include walking through doors, levitating off the bed, solidifying into a sexy sinful lord of the night, and invisibility from most of the populace.

Pirate Captain Tyree St. James cursed to a life of wandering the earth for two hundred years or until a woman loves him so much she is willing to die in his place after accidentally killing his best friend and his love Elizabeth. Terrified a woman would be foolish enough to do that Tyree is steers clear of women and romance. Now he’s been tempted… sorely tempted… by Clara Fergussen.

Clara is the great-great (and so on) grandniece of Tyree’s best friend and curser Captain Sullivan Fouquet. Ironic – but this novel is littered with the relatives of several of the parties apart of the two captains’ lives two hundred years ago. She’s there to research Fouquet and dreams a very erotic pirate dream her first night in Rose Cottage only to find out the next day Tyree is real… if delusional.

The heroine’s stubborn refusal to believe Tyree is both a credit and a discredit. It makes Tyree’s story more poignant, her sacrifice more believable, but it also is highly annoying after about halfway through. Luckily Tyree is sexy enough and there are plenty of pulse heightening moments to overlook the heroine’s obstinacy.

The fire crime mystery is anti-climatic. It’s not wrapped up enough for me – especially with the fire captain, Andre Sullivan. How exactly does he fit in other than looking like a dead ringer for the late pirate captain?

Who knew eye-patches were so sinfully delicious? The one week whirlwind romance is exactly right.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Ghost of a Chance

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Book Review: The Diamond King by Patricia Potter

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The Diamond King has got it all: Highlanders, pirates, lost souls, and love.

Alex Leslie used to be a noble in a world that seems to have existed long ago before the war between Scotland and England. Now he is wanted, without honor or hope for a life that had once been held so promisingly before him. Siding with the bonny Prince Charlie cost Alex far more than his pretty face, now scarred, and two strong legs, one now damaged and aching all the time causing him to limp.

Alex has seen horrors of war. The Battle of Culloden turned the tide of war against innocents as the redcoats and turncoats followed mercilessly on the trails of fleeing women, children and wounded – killing and raping indiscriminately. Stripped of his title but not his own sense of moral rightness, Alex came to lead a parcel of helpless Jacobite children out of Scotland to France. There he swore revenge… and two children swore not to be parted from him no matter the cost.

They followed him onto a ship that he was captaining under letters of Marque. Alex was planning to divest the British of their spoils on the sea and he could not do that for fear of the children. All attempts however to divest himself of the brats were pointless. They were far too crafty from their time on the run with him in Scotland to be forced to do anything they didn’t want to do. And truth be told, Alex did not want them to go. He would miss them.

His surrender to their wishes makes it all the harder on him when poor Meg gets wounded in the capture of Charlotte. To make matters worse, there’s a bloody Campbell on board. The Campbell family was the worst of all the turncoats and all the cruel deeds of the war could be laid at their uncaring, guilty feet.

Jeanette Campbell, never knew the horrors of the war. She was safe, sequestered at home where no tales of cruelty could reach her. This does not sway Alex to relent toward her. At least his hate of her is different than the hate she has felt at others hands. Jenna, as she prefers to be called, has been quite unloved by her aristocratic family and society at large. She has been spurned because of a birthmark she cannot help. Born with the Devil’s Mark on one arm from shoulder to wrist, Jenna has known only fear and instant loathing.

Given the choice of being disowned or marrying a man she’s never met, Jenna chooses to find a haven in Barbados. Certain the widow was not told of her birthmark, Jenna is fearful of her future. The thought of mothering his children is the only thing that kept her going. So when the Charlotte is captured, Jenna cannot help feeling helpless and angry that her one chance at happiness has been ripped from her. For what man will take such a bride; even a desperate one?

Rating: 2 Stars

DIY Highlander Romance Novel Cover Contest – Time to Vote

Last night was the last chance to enter the DIY Highlander Cover Contest and this morning and all day is set aside for voting. You vote by leaving a comment on the entry you like the best for both cover and background. We have two great entries by two great artists.

Sasha presents Laird of the Manor, a contemporary romance with a historical background centered around mock battles.

Zarabeth presents The Highlander’s Heir, a historical romance featuring a feisty plump heroine and a hero with a mission.

Also take a moment to think about the next DIY cover. What would you be interested in see next? We’ve had Pirates and Highlanders, perhaps we need Vikings or werewolves? Maybe corporate bosses and their secretary mistresses? Leave a suggestion!