Review: The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman

reluctant elfHeroine: Lottie and her daughter, Mabel, are planning to visit Aunt Kate this Christmas because Aunt Kate is starting a bed and breakfast (B&B) business. When Kate is hospitalized, Lottie and Mabel leave a day early for their Christmas vacation. The B&B is in dire straights, so are Aunt Kate’s finances, and the help just absconded for a break to recuperate. Everything hinges on getting a good rating from the reviewer. But Lottie hasn’t the foggiest clue what to do to run a successful B&B.

Hero: Danny, the taxi driver, is an unlikely but most definitely needed hero. When Lottie offers him enough money to fund a trip to see his young daughter in America, he agrees to aid her in anyway he can. He helps paint, fix, repair, clean, and cook. And along the way the two find they have an affinity for each other.

Review: The B&B reviewer and his family are seriously dysfunctional. I am very glad that the creepy brother/in-law doesn’t barge in on Lottie in the bath. He was a very ignorant self-absorbed cad. His wife was a hypochondriac and couldn’t stand her children. The two kids were terrors. I’d be afraid for Mabel to hang out with them. The only one sane was the reviewer. Are you up for some crazy hijinks involving scolding plumbing, falling down ceilings, holes patched with toothpaste? Then you’re in for a treat with this wifi-less Victorian-themed holiday chick-lit. Happy ending for all. There’s definitely room for continuation.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: The Reluctant Elf

Review: Not Quite Dating (Not Quite, Book 1) by Catherine Bybee

not quite datingHero: Jack Morrison is ready to find a woman who will like him for himself and not for the family hotel chain. The point is made especially clear to him when he runs into an ex who is clearly delusional and thinks they will get married and mouths off when he informs her otherwise. He’s decided that the perfect woman for him will love his preference to be laid back – beat-up truck, cowboy hat, and all.

Heroine: Jessica “Jessie” Mann is a single parent trying to make ends meet while helping put her younger sister through college. No easy feat on a waitress’s tips. She’s decided to finally take her mother’s advice on love, namely that “loving a rich guy is as easy as loving a poor guy.” So while Jack is cute, his seasonal job at a fancy hotel and his dreams and goals combine to make him entirely unsuitable.

Review: A cute story that is light and fluffy and goes down easy. I enjoyed the big misunderstanding plot twists, yes plural. Good thing these two both had busybody sisters to step in and get their heads on straight. More sexy time would have been great.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Not Quite Dating (Not Quite series)

Review: Along Came Trouble (Camelot, Book 2) by Ruthie Knox

Along Came TroubleReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Ellen Callahan is having problems with photographers. Not surprising when you have a famous, or infamous, family member. Caleb Clark has come to help Ellen. But you will find that she is a very strong-willed woman. Ruthie shows the reader that it doesn’t matter where you live, the paparazzi will follow a story – they only see the dollar signs. It takes a certain type of person that can protect people from the vultures that carry a camera. But they are also human and still have feelings and we see how important family is to Caleb.

Ruthie goes on to show how vulnerable a single mother can be – especially when the woman is trying to kick start a love life. She also shows that just because a woman has a child doesn’t mean that her womanhood ceases to exist. There was a scene where there is a conversation going on between Ellen and Caleb that just had me laughing. Ruthie does a great job about always putting some comic relief in her work.

Even though Ellen’s brother is a secondary character, we can see how diametric our brother and sister are. And Ruthie feeds on the reader’s preconceived notions about how celebrities act. Especially with the amount of press some celebrities are getting lately. But even though Ellen’s brother is a celebrity, I love their interaction. I have three brothers and wish we had that type of camaraderie.

This is was a great follow-up to book one. If you go to Ruthie’s web site, http://www.ruthieknox.com/, you can get some information about the first book, which I hope you have read, and a sneak peek into her next book titled Flirting with Disaster. If you’ve liked the first two books in the Camelot series you will want to make sure to get book three.

Buy: Along Came Trouble

GIVEAWAY + Review: Big Sky Mountain (Swoon-Worthy Cowboys, Book 2) by Linda Lael Miller

big sky mountain linda lael millerHeroine: Kendra Shepherd is divorced and caring for her young adopted daughter. Once upon a time Hutch broke her heart and she’s now afraid he’s going to do it again, but this time it’s not only her heart in jeopardy, but her daughter’s too.

Hero: Hutch Carmody is about to get married to the wrong woman. Apparently the golden boy of Parable, Montana, can actually do wrong and does when he leaves her at the altar. The female populace is furious on his jilted bride’s behalf… and Kendra thinks this is a sign he is still a playboy.

Series: Big Sky Country is the first book in the trilogy and contains background information on the Carmody brothers: Hutch and Slade. In Big Sky Country, Slade inherits half of Whisper Creek Ranch, which is unexpected because Slade is the illegitimate half-brother of Hutch.

Review: Hutch was a bad-boy and a jerk in the first book, but in his book, Hutch is a really loveable hero. His interactions with four-year-old Madison were super cute. She calls him “Cowboy-man.” Who can resist a guy who buys a little girl a pony? Madison came across smarter than a four-year-old at times, which is probably my only caveat to the story. It was good to see the relationship between Slade and Hutch mend and heal.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Big Sky Mountain, Big Sky Country

Excerpt:

Except for bankers and lawyers, few men in rural Montana wore suits on a regular basis—such get-ups were reserved for Sunday services, funerals and…weddings, ill-fated or otherwise.

Opal, for her part, kept murmuring to herself and shaking her head as she began measuring out flour and lard for a batch of her world-class biscuits. “Landsakes,” she muttered repeatedly, along with, “Well, I never, in all my live-long days—”

Joslyn laid her hands on her bulging stomach and sighed. “I swear this baby is practicing to be a rodeo star. It feels as though he’s riding a bull in there.”

Kendra laughed softly, partly at the image her friend had painted and partly as a way to relieve the dizzying tension brought on by Shea’s breathless announcement. Hutch called the whole thing off. He stopped the wedding.

“The least you could do,” she teased Joslyn, trying to get a grip on her crazy emotions, “is go into labor already and let the little guy get a start on his cowboy career.”

Buy: Big Sky Mountain

GIVEAWAY: I have one paperback copy of Big Sky Mountain up for grabs. Open to US/Canada. Enter by leaving a comment about why you love cowboys, westerns, or why you love Linda Lael Miller! Last day to enter: August 25, 2012. good luck!

Follow along on the blog tour: http://booktrib.com/booktrib-blog-tour-nyt-bestselling-author-linda-lael-millers-big-sky-mountain/.

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How Does One Become a Courtesan?

Courtesan's Lover

Guest Post by Gabrielle Kimm, author of The Courtesan’s Lover

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog!

Your question – ‘how does one become a courtesan?’ did make me smile.  I wondered at first how a classified ad might read:

Career Opportunities for the Broad Minded:

Thinking of making a fortune, and hoping to retire in luxury?  Do you have style and charm, sex-appeal and courage?  Is your sense of timing immaculate?  Prepared for anything?  Yes?  Then you might just be standing on the brink of an extraordinary and highly lucrative career as … a courtesan.  No formal qualifications required, though experience is preferred.  Lack of moral scruples advised.  Enthusiasm is a must. 

Being a little more serious, though, many Renaissance courtesans were in fact introduced to the profession by their mothers, who had most likely been courtesans themselves, and had hopes of being kept in their old age by their offspring in the lavish style to which they had become happily accustomed.  As it happens, Francesca, my eponymous courtesan, is an exception to this rule – as a devoted mother to her two daughters, she expresses her disgust at the thought of maternal procuring at one point in the book:

“Unlike me ,” she says, “(I discovered this life late, compared to most),  most courtesans are born to it – born into harlotry – like that little snake, Alessandra Malacoda, who, if I am to believe the Neapolitan gossips, was introduced to the delights of the bedchamber at the age of ten by her pimping whore of a mother.  No doubt La Malacoda has made her mamma proud of her.  And she plans, so I have been told, to be just as proud of her own daughter.  Hoping she’ll be kept in luxury in her old age, no doubt.  The child is four.  God! – the very thought makes me retch.”

In contrast to the more lowly street-walking prostitutes (or puttane), the courtesans never worked for pimps.  Those who had been introduced into the profession by their mothers would have had patrons procured for them by those mothers; others would have worked with, say, a manservant, and provided their own clientele.  Unwanted patrons were quickly dismissed, and so, to a large extent, a courtesan’s diary was filled only with those men she was happy to see and entertain.

Gabrielle KimmEven within the luxurious world of the high-class courtesan, though, there lurked the threat of danger and disease.  The great Veronica Franco, probably the best-known of the Renaissance Venetian courtesans (and subject of the film ‘Dangerous Beauty’), talked about this.  I include a quote from Franco before the start of The Courtesan’s Lover.  She says:

“  To expose yourself as prey to so many men, with the constant risk of being despoiled, robbed or killed; with the chance that one man, one day, may take from you everything you have acquired with many, over a long time;  to say nothing of the other dangers – of insult and contagious, frightful disease.  ”

Yes, it’s true that a courtesan in Renaissance times might not have faced the grueling terrors that an enslaved and drug-addicted modern sex worker is forced to face every day, and the courtesans may have lived lives that others might see as luxurious, but the bottom line was that they were selling sex, with all the inherent dangers that such a lifestyle brought with it.  On top of everything else, too, at this period in history, there lurked the terror of damnation – the courtesans knew that what they were doing, in the Church’s eyes, was a mortal sin.  Towards the end of The Courtesan’s Lover, at a point at which Francesca’s life seems to be falling in on her and crushing her, she says:

Behind all the tawdry trappings, I have to face the fact … that I’m nothing but a whore.  I earn my scudi on my back.  Strip me of my finery and I am no different from any street puttana.

What was the difference between a mistress and a courtesan?  This is a difficult one.  In  many ways the courtesans were businesswomen – astonishingly independent, acute, even feminist, businesswomen.  They may have slid into emotionally-charged affairs from time to time, and become to all intents and purposes mistresses of whichever man it happened to be; they may have become allied to one particular patron, to the exclusion of all others, for a protracted period; but in the end, they were at heart professional lovers.  I suppose you could sum it up by saying that any courtesan could be a mistress, but not every mistress could be a courtesan.  Does that make sense?

It’s been great fun exploring the world of the courtesan and discovering how extraordinary they were.  I suppose, that in our comparatively liberal, sexually-emancipated world, there is no need for creatures like courtesans any more, but I can’t help thinking, having spent such a lot of time in their company of at least one of them over the last couple of years, that life is perhaps a little less colourful for their loss.

I do hope you enjoy The Courtesan’s Lover – and thank you again for inviting me onto the blog!

Gaby x

Buy: The Courtesan’s Lover

Review: The Doctor’s Forever Family by Marie Ferrarella

Genre: Contemporary, Category

Summary: NYC radiologist Dan Davenport moves to small town Forever, Texas to fulfill his dead brother’s promise to become the town doctor. There he meets single mother Tina Blayne who’s working at becoming an accountant and winds up as his secretary/office administrator. They think they have each other pegged, but do they?

Review: I’m not a big fan of doctor plots so that really affected my reading of the story. I also didn’t like how the single mother has a sick child in the story just because the hero’s a doctor. Too cliché and rarely do I like the sickness trope that brings the main couple together because one takes care of the other (or in this case the kid.) I also felt Dan’s inner angst about his brother and why he was in Forever was a little convoluted and cookie cutter.

What I did like was all the people in the small town coming together to help get his home ready before he arrived (though you’d think they would’ve done this before he got there – except the point was to show him small town hospitality) and Dan’s thoughts where he wondered if they were helping because they thought to barter their help as handymen for his medical services. Too funny!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy: The Doctor’s Forever Family (Harlequin American Romance), The Doctor’s Forever Family (UK)

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Get into Bed with Diana Palmer (Author Interview)

Keira: Who is the most persistent husband hunter in FBI agent Jon Blackhawk’s life?

Diana Palmer: That would be Joceline Perry, who has appeared in many other books, lol. I fell in love with her when she refused to do menial chores at work and she became my heroine.

Keira: What makes single mother, Joceline Perry, stand by Jon when he’s threatened by a revenge seeking criminal, especially because it might put her son at risk?

Diana: Because she loves him – she can’t stand by and let him get killed. She has a secret that he doesn’t know yet.

Keira: The mystery behind Kilraven’s first wife and child double murder from Dangerous is solved in Merciless. Are there any hints you’re willing to divulge here? Or perhaps a red herring?

Diana: There is another link to this chain. I was very surprised to discover that the murderer wasn’t exactly fingered in Dangerous. It’s amazing how characters take on life and become people inside the pages of a book. Often they come up with situations and conclusions that I never really thought about. (Don’t get nets and come after me, other writers will tell you the same thing).

Keira: Tell us about Jon – is he a virgin? Why are virgin heroes sexy?

Diana: In this convoluted world where sex has become a party favor rather than a solemn, beautiful part of love between two people, I think virginity is sexy. I don’t like promiscuity. Oddly, at the turn of the 20th century, even men were expected to wait until marriage to indulge. I think that’s sexy, too. Okay, I ‘m a dinosaur, I admit it. I don’t belong in the modern world.

Keira: Tell us about Joceline – will she ever reveal who the father of her son truly is?

Diana: Oh, yes, she will, and people will be surprised.

Keira: Why does Cammie, Jon’s mother, dislike Joceline so much?

Diana: She doesn’t think anybody is good enough for her son. But Cammy also has very old-fashioned attitudes which sometimes lead her to erroneous conclusions. She will get a real shock about Joceline, and have to face her own prejudices head-on.

Keira: Merciless is the newest book in the Long, Tall Texans for readers who haven’t read other books in the series, what does each LTT book have?

Diana: They all take place, more or less, in a small town called Jacobsville, Texas(and its neighbor, Comanche Wells, Texas). These are small, fictitious towns set in stasis, where everybody knows everybody and it’s like living in a large, very diverse family. In fact, I live in one of these myself. I think small towns are the closest to heaven you can get on earth. I’m glad that some other people, my wonderful readers especially, feel the same way I do.

Keira: What’s coming up in the LTT series? Whose story will we get to read next?

Diana: It was going to be Rourke, the one-eyed South African merc with the very wild sense of humor. But my readers spammed me for Grange, so it looks like the ex-Army Major is next up for hardcover treatment. But in December 2011 True Blue comes out – it’s the story of San Antonio detective Rick Marquez, well known for his single status and very sexy look. He winds up in the middle of a South American revolution which will involve Grange and General Emilio Machado, who appeared in my last hardcover, Heartless. Going to be an interesting year. Oh, I love my job!!!

Thanks for letting me contribute!

Thanks for dropping in Diana! This was great!

Buy: Merciless, Merciless (UK)

Review: Dead Again by Tracy Cooper-Posey

by Susan S., guest reviewer

Dead Again is a high adrenaline read. Get ready to run because when the line between right and wrong blurs-you won’t know who to trust.

Recommendations: This is an action-packed read that doesn’t quit. It reminds me of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, of which I’m a big fan of. It will also appeal to readers who generally buy Harlequin Intrigue and Silhouette Romantic Suspense. If you enjoy watching action-packed movies, or more specifically, if you liked Absolute Power with Clint Eastwood then this novel’s for you.

She heard the words, they gave her the news, he was dead. The tall, dark-haired, kind man with a strong spirit. The one who’d helped her survive five days in the Northern Colorado Mountains after the plane crash. Jack Laubreaux, hero, who provided her with food, with hope. Attending her needs, caring for her broken femur, and all the while disregarding his own injuries, and now he’s gone.

Sophie Rosemary Kingston, heroine, has tried to be strong and independent. To forget him, but like a boomerang the memories never fail to return. Almost a decade has gone by. She’s now a single mother of two, with one failed marriage under her belt, and a café to call her own. Life in Montana’s not going to get better; it just is. Well…Sophie has just undergone a severe shock to her system. She’s just seen a vagrant with an uncanny resemblance to Jack, but his name is Martin Stride.

Her meeting with Martin, is about to propel her into a world where those in power corrupt it, and those who uncover it; die. Someone dubbed the Silent Knight is protecting the Irish mafia leader. When all’s said and done, will Sophie and Martin live to tell the tale?

What I loved: This was a fun read for me, since romantic suspense is one of my favorite sub-genres. The announcements at the end were a nice touch; an update of the key players. I also burst out laughing when I read what the hero studied in the University of Chicago. You’ll laugh too! Especially, if you’re following along with the story.

My favorite scene: This scene made my breath hitch. (Sophie walks into a bar, no, that’s not an intro to a joke.) She follows Martin in, unbeknownst to him, of course. Then there’s a moment when their gazes meet in the mirrored wall behind the bar; the scene was nicely written.

What I would’ve changed: I would’ve wanted a different end for the antagonist.

Dead Again was first published as Silent Knight in Nov. 2004, under a different publisher. Now being published as Dead Again by Cerridwen Press, releasing in April 2010. It’s currently unavailable in print, available as an eARC only at this time.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Buy: Dead Again

eARC, Cerridwen Press, Romantic Suspense, 199 Pages. ISBN# 978 141 992 1483.