Review: The Escape (Survivor’s Club, Book 3) by Mary Balogh

escapeReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Sir Benedict Harper, a former soldier who has survived the Napoleonic wars wants to return home to get some kind of support and companionship. He could meet any woman, but Samantha Mc Kay is aided by Benedict who believes she must leave her oppressive in-laws. Benedict gets her safely to Wales where she can claim an estate she has since inherited.

Review: This is the third in the Survivor’s Club series, the first being The Proposal, and the second, The Arrangement. This book is the latest in the saga, and also one of the most interesting.

It might be a simplistic plot as Ben helps Samantha flee her oppressors in order to make a new life for herself, but it is more than that. Harper is a man left with war wounds he can’t easily get over. He feels as though he has nothing to offer a woman as handsome as her, and this gives him a dark outlook on life, one he doesn’t mean, but one that leaves him feeling quite sorry for himself. Ben has unwittingly inherited the family title, yet he is not a well enough man for the role of running the estate. Samantha has to contend with her in-laws after the members of her family die one by one and she is left alone with the others running her life. As she feels like she has let this happen, they now control her every movement preventing her from seeing visitors or going on long journeys to see friends. Her only outlet is to wander around the gardens with her dog at her heels.

Ben first meets her while she is out with her dog but it doesn’t go well but thankfully he makes it up to her. The story is a steadily paced one with both Ben and Samantha thinking about how each other will react to the love they feel. As she is in deep mourning, she has to act rather unhappy around everyone, even him, but when she reveals she wants to dance, he knows that she doesn’t want to feel that way anymore, instead she wants to get on with living her life, even enjoying it.

Good bits:

  • Ben’s reaction to Samantha and her dog while out riding.
  • Beatrice trying to be an outrageous match-maker for Ben!
  • Samantha’s friendship with her dog.

Summary: Though Samantha has reservations about Ben, she can only take action if she is to get the life she wants away from Bramble Hall. The Escape like More Than a Mistress and No man’s Mistress has remarkable characters weaved into a captivating story where anything can and will happen.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Escape (Survivor’s Club Book 3)

Review: The Secrets of a Scoundrel (The Inferno Club, Book ) by Gaelen Foley

galen foley secrets of a scoundrelReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Nick Forrester is a legendary rake of a lord, and after living the life of a warrior and ex-spy he’s stuck in a dungeon in Scotland until Lady Virginia Burke lets him out, on one condition – he must agree to be her spy on a mission dictated by her, and her alone. Nick can’t help but take a fancy to her, and she in turn admires his half naked body while she discusses the mission with him in his cell. The question is, will she be able to resist him enough to complete the mission?

Review: I love humour in period novels so this one instantly took my fancy. Lord Forrester (Nick) is a rake, a cad and whatever else you could call him. He’s had women at his feet for years, yet since his last impropriety, he has found himself in dire straits. Virginia tries to rescue him out of his situation, yet is it more a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire, or is her proposal enough to make him want to take her up on it?

As a private investigator she had worked on a case about a young girl who, it seemed has been abducted by a gang of white slavers. If she can get this ‘scoundrel’ to help her track down the gang, and retrieve the girl, she feels she would have been some use to the ones who hired her, but without Nick’s strength and previous spying experience, she feels she can’t find them to bring them to justice.

Good bits:

  • Nick’s thought that Gin is a widow, ‘Praise God!’
  • John Carr, Gin’s associate and a “very beautiful young man.”
  • The big reveal of who Lady Virginia (Gin) really is.
  • Nick’s favourite pudding!

Summary: Nick might be a rake, but he is interested in Gin. He is surprised at who she really is, and understands that he knows more about her than he thinks. She, once letting him out of jail keeps his reputation intact back at the Deepwell Estate. I liked the initial chemistry between the two, the intense yearning they feel at being in each other’s company and the end result of their interest. This, for me was essential Regency reading.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Secrets of a Scoundrel (Inferno Club)

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Review: The Deepest Ocean (Eden Series, Book 2) by Marian Perera

the deepest oceanReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Captain Darok Juell is due to set sail into enemy waters and for once in his life he has to wait for a woman, a woman who with her witchcraft can protect his ship as well as send his enemies back into the sea. The woman is called Yerena Fin Caller and she is cold, calculated and hard to read as she keeps her emotions in check in order to use the power of a shark deep in the waters. He doesn’t like the look of her at first as she is colder than he imagined, but will he get under her skin with his manner?

Review: Darok doesn’t like having a woman on board as seasoned sailors know, it is bad luck, but for Darok, if she isn’t on board, it might be worse for him as there are many enemies around who want to see him and his men dead. From the moment he sees Yerena he feels frustrated about having to wait for her and have her on the ship, and this frustration carries on trhough the novel. He hates having to rely on a woman’s witch powers to get him through a dark mission, and doesn’t take lightly that she will be there for the duration. As the story is seen from his perspective, you get to find out what he really thinks about the woman and his other crew men on board.

Good Bits:

  • I like the name Daystrider for the ship – reminds me of Dawntreader.
  • Captain Darok Juell – he’s the sort of captain who will send your heart racing.
  • There’s some great dry humor in this.

Summary: Marian Perera is an author who likes to write romantic fantasy novels with a touch of science, or that is what her biography tells us. Her other books; Before the Storm, and The Farthest Shore are similar. The setting is perfect, you can feel the effects of life on the high seas, the crew’s plight of never seeing their women until the witch comes on board, having next to no food, drink and the stormy seas whipping them around day in day out. It is a wonder Darok doesn’t get more problems from his crew than he does. Something else I liked about this novel is Darok starts out hating Yerena being there as he’s a man’s man who doesn’t like taking advice – or orders from a woman who thinks she knows better than him simmer down later on. He actually starts to like her and later love her for who she is.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: The Deepest Ocean (Eden Series)

Review: Islands by Richard V. Raiment

islands raimentReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: When two men find themselves shipwrecked on a deserted island they find that they must find a connection as they are the only two men who are left there for years. Of course there is only one way for them to quell the boredom of isolation, but Peter Lightfoot is a gay man while Thomas Carton is straight. That doesn’t stop them having intimacy though but when a woman is shipwrecked with them, anything could happen.

Review: The book starts out from Tom Carton’s perspective, from his time on the ship when turbulent seas meant the two of them had to make do on a desert island with no other company. Glad that he is not alone, he is also shocked that they would be involved in such an awful time sailing. Richard uses the language of the day and has Tom referring to Peter as a “Molly,” a man who has what he calls unnatural relations with another man, so the writing is very convincing – that you are transported to that particular time and place. You could be there, an observer of what two men’s lives would be like. There is the tension, the misery of them maybe never seeing anyone else ever again. it isn’t just the isolation that causes both men grief, it is the change in the way Tom feels about his new-found friend and bed partner, Peter. At first he sees him as a gay man, someone to avoid, feel hatred toward and even great unease, but as the story progresses, he has to change his mind about him and even grow to like him having been on the island with him so long. This is not just a menage story, it is more about acceptance than anything else.

Good Bits:

  • There are some humorous moments in the story.
  • The story is well written and you can actually feel you are there observing the action and the feelings of others purely as an observer.
  • Peter and Tom’s relationship – from unease and loathing to love, it couldn’t get any better than that.

Summary: This is a story to enjoy, and unlike many other novels that are at two-hundred or more pages long, this one is a lot less and more compact and cut back so that readers aren’t troubled by too many words of description or narrative. I love to read period dramas and menage ones are pretty rare, or so this reviewer thinks and I must admit to looking forward to seeing more from this writer in the near future.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: ISLANDS

Review: She Likes it Rough by GVR Corcillo

she likes it roughReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Opposites attract, or at least that is supposed to be the theory, but how can Lisa Flyte change her lazy ways when she has lived a lifetime of sitting on the couch viewing life from through her TV set? There is only one thing that will serve to motivate her into action and that is Jack Hawkins, the hot guy from her MBA classes wants her to test out his new line of adventure gear – will she jump at the chance, or will she let her family walk all over her again?

Review: Lisa is a strange girl, she’s not used to social settings, so interaction is minimal as she has no self-confidence to speak of. This is not to say she hasn’t led an uninteresting life, according to the book at least, she has lost weight due to being in a coma from, strangely enough after a drive-thru fell on her, and has become rich from the cash she got from a settlement with the fast food company. Being shy and retiring isn’t what she wants to be and decides to enrol on a self-improvement programme she hopes will help her get out of her shell (which at the moment is wedged tight as a clam’s) She believes that extreme sports will shock her out of her reserved attitude and get her on the way to recovery – what she doesn’t expect is Jack Hawkins, owner of Into the Wild, a company that makes extreme sports gear for the novice and he wants her to be his test subject. I liked how Lisa was introduced to the readers in the novel as a person who seems to be afraid of everything, but who seems to rise from her fears and make a good go of her life. Her theatrics and the humor from them is exceptional.

Good Bits:

  • The famed dancing scene
  • How Lisa interacts with others – or doesn’t.
  • How we see the world from her perspective.

Summary: If readers have a sense of humor and like comedies they will feel they are in for a treat even when they read the blurb.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: She Likes It Rough

Review: Urbino, Unexpectedly by Maria Chiara Marsciani

urbino unexpectedlyReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Twenty-two year old Clara is a student in Milan and wants a future as a lawyer, but is that all she wants in life? Even though the backdrop of everything that is beautiful about Italy, its alps, romantic hamlets, Rome and Milan, she soon discovers she hates everything about Italy due to her parents expecting too much of her. For her, meeting Leonardo is the best thing that has happened to her even though her parents do not approve of her wanting to marry him later on.

Review: Though Clara is from an upper class background she feels she doesn’t fit in wherever she goes. Her father is someone who is also influential and to be feared, while her mother tries to organise her life from the start. For her, her grandma is the only one who she can talk to, that is until she meets Leonardo who shows her she can enjoy herself without being trapped in her parents’ morals, and lifestyle. You would think that Leonardo being a doctor would make her parents approve, but for her parents, no one she chooses to be with is ever good enough for their high standards. In order to be her own person, Clara knows she has to break away from the parents she soon realises are stifling her creativity and general life, and it will be a big problem for her to do this as her parents have been controlling her for so long.

Good Bits:

  • Leonardo – he sounds very attractive in this book
  • Readers get to appreciate Clara’s cramped life and can come to the conclusion that having money and connections isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Bad Bits:

  • It can be dull at times

Summary: As everything crumbles around her parents’ lives and their control is lessened due to Leonardo’s influence, the story changes from being one of depression and doom to being a more positive outlook on her life, but the depression element has to be ground in so that the changes can show later in the story. There is a lot of romance in this story, and it is one not to be missed.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Urbino, Unexpectedly: a story of love and self-discovery

Review: Just Destiny by Theresa Rizzo

just destinyReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: When Jenny discovers she is pregnant to her husband Gabe, she can’t find the words to tell him. The truth is, she never wanted to have children before, but when Gabe dies in an accident, she finds her world has collapsed around her and she has to make some hard decisions even though she is still grieving over her loss.

Review: Author of He Belongs to Me, Theresa Rizzo takes us through the harrowing moments when the most tragic thing happens to her husband and she has to try and rebuild her life from scratch while Gabe’s Uncle George causes more problems for her to overcome. Jenny tells Gabe she might be pregnant without really coming out and saying it, but he seems oblivious to what she tells him as he thought she never wanted kids – and a dog doesn’t really constitute a baby. As her pregnancy wasn’t planned, she can’t really come out and tell him, but soon it becomes too late as the bike accident that throws them both to the ground kills him.

For Jenny there is the overwhelming sadness of not being able to tell her husband that she was pregnant with their child, and the days of watching as he is in hospital without any brain function. She feels as though the accident was all her fault and throughout part of the novel she wishes she had come out and told him the truth after all. Her doctor tells her about organ donation and it is this that makes an enemy of her through her husband’s uncle.

Theresa gives the reader a good long hard look at what it would be like for a devoted wife to lose her husband while pregnant with their child. Not only does she suffer the pain of losing him, but has to undergo a long court battle to be able to use her husband’s sperm to give her the possibility of having his child.

Good Bits:

  • The way that Theresa showed what she was going through wither loss and how others couldn’t possibly know how she felt.
  • Her friends trying to help her while she is still in a bad state.
  • Steve, he tries his best to help her through all the bad decisions.

Summary: I enjoyed reading this book even though there were a lot of dark moments that overshadowed the happiness Jenny could have felt with her friends, but it is understandable as to be honest I don’t know what I would do if I lost my nearest and dearest.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Just Destiny

What Keeps the Young Adult Genre Fresh

custom book cover Connie book 2 official ebookGuest post by Connie L. Smith, author of Essenced and Emblazed

Can I part with a little secret here? My first reading love wasn’t YA. It wasn’t even contemporary. The initial genre that snagged my interest was fantasy. Elves, orcs, dwarves… I fell hopelessly when introduced to R.A. Salvatore’s The Dark Elf Trilogy , and I haven’t been able to climb my way out yet.

YA and contemporary came later, but they’ve since given me some of my favorite books. In fact, I probably read more contemporary romance now than just about anything, and I’m a sucker for a YA story done right.

There’s something innocent about YA, even when your story involves demons and warfare, a freshness that I enjoy. When I started thinking about giving The Division Chronicles the opportunity meet paper (or an ebook), it just fit with a high school scene. When Julius shows up to tell AJ that she has a purpose and the world is in danger, it felt right to put the meeting in that kind of setting. She’s just a teenager, dealing with regular teenage things. School, extracurricular activities, friends, and absolutely no previous athletic ability. She’s figuring herself out, and throwing such change and responsibility in her lap when she’s still in that middle ground of cliques and confusion seemed right somehow.

It allowed for so much exploration of character within the pages that I don’t think would’ve been possible if I’d been writing about an army of people later in life. None of the Essenced soldiers are out of their teens yet, and you can see it surface from time to time. They’re just kids, suddenly with the world on their shoulders. Of course they’ll mess up, and you can’t expect anything different, but somehow they manage their way through the struggles and issues with strength they never even knew they had. In fact, those moments of mistake are so meaningful to me – because it highlights over and over again that they’re just teenagers doing the best they can.

I guess that’s something that draws me into the world of YA literature. These characters are learning, and they don’t have their feet on anything close to solid ground as of yet, but they still go. There’s a simplicity there that might not be present in some of the other genres. The characters can be completely unsure. The romances can just be sweet. The shortcomings can be excused more easily because of youth. The characters are learning as they go, and we can almost grade them on a curve because of it.

Of course, this genre comes with its complications as well. I’m turning 29 the week of this blog tour, so I’m not exactly part of the crowd the story is theoretically designed for. I know adults read the genre – I read it! – but to target people of a younger age group can prove a bit of a challenge. Slang, music, television… When you’re nearing 30, these sorts of things aren’t necessarily a typical part of your thought process. To be honest, most of my music was outdated when I was in high school, so now it’s proven a bit of a difficulty. But still, I think the genre – even if it exists just a little out of my cultural realm of knowledge – is worth writing.

I plan to write stories of other categories as well. Right now, I have to finish The Division Chronicles, and I have a YA Romance in need of alterations and edits, but I have fantasy and new adult also in my eventual plans. Lots of things in the future, but my first published piece of fiction will always be YA. And I’m okay with that.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my Twitter page for giveaways through the 28th! Also, book one of this trilogy (Essenced) is scheduled to be free through the blog tour! Remember it’s my birthday week? Call trying my book a gift :)

Book Blurb:

After all the preparations, Nicholai’s warriors stand on the threshold of warfare, the demons entering the realm in battalions and the world unknowingly depending on the army’s success to continue intact. But the battle is only the beginning of deadly struggles, and the soldiers will soon realize how little they know, how many things are at stake, and how much they have to lose.

Love, hate, hope, despair, anguish, joy… The journey is a gauntlet of emotion and combat, threatening their resolve as much as their lives.

Will their training and ties be enough, or will the complications and the forthcoming evil forever cripple the world’s last hope of survival?

Buy: Essenced (The Division Chronicles: Book One)


Book Blurb:

After all the preparations, Nicholai’s warriors stand on the threshold of warfare, the demons entering the realm in battalions and the world unknowingly depending on the army’s success to continue intact. But the battle is only the beginning of deadly struggles, and the soldiers will soon realize how little they know, how many things are at stake, and how much they have to lose.

Love, hate, hope, despair, anguish, joy… The journey is a gauntlet of emotion and combat, threatening their resolve as much as their lives.

Will their training and ties be enough, or will the complications and the forthcoming evil forever cripple the world’s last hope of survival?

Buy: Emblazed (The Division Chronicles: Book Two)


Excerpt:

AJ sensed him there, standing wordlessly some feet in the distance, just like she always recognized his presence when he lingered near. She absorbed the comfort and happiness he brought her – not that she’d admit that out loud – before sighing and speaking. “It’s called making a bed, Julius. It’s pretty commonplace.”

He didn’t push away from the doorframe, instead leaning further against it while he continued to observe her. “Sweetheart, nothing’s commonplace when you do it.”

Hearing the grin and affection in his voice, she smiled, peeking at him over her shoulder. “Is that a compliment or an insult?”

He gazed upward to stare at the ceiling with a thoughtful expression, then returned his attention to her, his shrug carefree. “Both.”

She smirked. “Sweet talker.”

“Odd ball.” He finally moved from the threshold, unhurriedly advancing toward her. “You know, most people make their beds in the morning. Not ten o’clock at night.”

She snorted. “Yeah. I’m gonna make my bed as soon as I roll out of it at six AM. I wouldn’t be making it now if I didn’t have to wrestle the sheet back on four times a night.” Finally setting her pillow in its position, she turned to him with an unashamed grin.

He chuckled, his adoration plain, and brushed a lock of hair from her face. “You’re one of a kind, you know that?”

“Compliment or insult?” she teased again.

“Compliment.” He smiled, cupping her cheek. “Definitely a compliment.”

“Sweet talker,” she repeated, standing on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his lips. Wrapping her arms around his neck, his circling her waist, she dove into the moment, reveling in the wonderful sensations only Julius incited. Safety. Warmth. Passion. So many more she couldn’t quite put a name to, the combination too heady and consuming to adequately decipher. It was simply a Julius effect, and its wonder had no equal in her life. Gradually breaking away, she knowingly lifted an eyebrow. “You didn’t come here just to make fun of me over my bed-making habits.”

“Maybe I came up here just to kiss you.”

“If that were the case, dear Julius, you wouldn’t have waited until I kissed you.”

Narrowing his eyes, he barely restrained his smirk at her forwardness and how well she’d grown to understand him in their time together. “You have a point.” He stepped back from her embrace, grasping her hand in his. “Come on. We have a mission.”

“A mission?” Her brow furrowed, though she made no move to retrieve her palm from his, following him in confusion as he neared the hallway. “At ten o’clock at night?”

“I believe we already covered the time in this conversation, AJ.” He made a clucking noise with his tongue, shaking his head in mock disappointment. “You really need to keep up with matters a bit more.”

She glared at the back of his head, lips thinning despite her vexing boyfriend’s inability to see her from his location. Realizing the futility of her frustrated efforts, she clenched the fingers he clutched, smiling in accomplishment at his grunt of discomfort. “Yeah, we covered it, but in household chore way. Not in a mission way. What could we possibly have to do this late at night?”

He sent her an amused glance – one she deemed condescending, particularly after the physical hint of her annoyance  – while tugging her through the doorway. “You do realize it isn’t ten o’clock everywhere, right?”

“Of course I realize that! I’m not a moron!”

“I never said you were…”

She growled, steeling her feet against the floor and prying her hand from his. “You didn’t have to. Your little grin said it all for you.”

His stare revealed sincere bewilderment – maybe a speck of frustration as well – and his arm dropped to his side. “So let me get this straight. You’re angry at me… because I smiled at you?”

Her eyes widened in fury, one finger raising to point at his chest while her left fist braced against her hip. “Don’t try to turn this around like I’m crazy!”

He scrunched his forehead, gaze traveling up and down her form while he held his hands out, as if silently offering his evidence.

She groaned, unhappy, turning away from him to rein in her irritation. For several seconds, she simply scanned her room, livid exhale after livid exhale falling from her lips, but the attempts did little to calm her turmoil, Julius actually flinching when her focus again landed on him. “It’s the grin you used. It’s the same one that was on your face when you drove into New Mexico, and I was surprised the facility was stationed here. Like I’m the dumbest person in the world and your number one source of entertainment.”

Instantly, his expression softened. “You can’t possibly think that I think that way?”

She just glared at him.

“Look, I’m not gonna lie.” He approached her, smiling tenderly. “You do amuse me, but not because I think you’re stupid. You’re… animated. And quirky. But not stupid. And I get it’s late, and no matter what time zone we’re entering, it’s ten o’clock here and we’re handing over sleeping hours, but Nicholai insists we need to go now.”

She kept pinched eyes on him, but her posture loosened a bit.

He laughed, reaching for her hand once more. “See? Animated. I can pretty much watch the wheels in your head turn.”

“Does that make you my mental stalker, too?”

Processing the playful edge of her words, he kissed her knuckles and led her into the hall. “Trust me, sweetheart. I have no desire to wander through your mind. I can’t imagine all the weird things I’d encounter.”

She tilted her head to the side, smiling. “Compliment or insult?”

Smirking over his shoulder, he caught her eyes with his. “Insult.”

Buy: Essenced (The Division Chronicles: Book One), Emblazed (The Division Chronicles: Book Two)