Larken by Suzanne G. Rogers

The miracle orphan finds love. After years of being alone it’s so nice to see that something has finally gone right.
What’s it About?
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The sole survivor of a train accident, young Larken Burke is dubbed the Miracle Orphan. Four years later, however, her life is far from fortunate. Because of her emotional and physical scars, she believes she’s un-marriageable. With little hope for the future, she agrees to wed a gentleman she’s never met. Unfortunately, his aloof manner proves difficult to take.

Marked by romantic tragedy and the loss of his brother, Brandon King has forsworn marriage. Obliged to take in a ward, he advertises for a mail-order bride to raise the boy. Since the union is to be a marriage in name only, his criteria are youthful age, a certain level of intellect, good breeding, and that the girl shouldn’t be so ill-favored she would embarrass him in society. To his dismay, he gets more than he’d bargained for. Will it take a miracle for Mr. and Mrs. King to fall in love, or is their marriage another accident waiting to happen?

First Impressions 
I have read many a mail order bride romance novel, and honestly after about two or three they get kind of repetitive. However I must say this one was quite unique in that we aren’t dealing with a young woman who gets sent out West to fall in love with a lonely cowboy. Instead this novel is set in the Regency period of jolly ole England. Larken has been brought into the family of Brandon King to act as a sort of governess for his ward. The fact that he places an ad in a newspaper in order to find such a woman to marry and become his wife, sight unseen, makes this romance a bit different than your typical Lord falling in love with a governess tale.
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Why would a woman as young and beautiful as Larken agree to enter into such a bizarre arrangement? Easy, she has no choice. Her parents died years before in a tragic train accident in which Larken was the sole survivor, making her the “miracle orphan”. She was eventually adopted by a cold, unloving family. Larken is now of age to be married off, and her stepfather takes the first offer he finds. This novel definitely draws you in with its sad beginning, but eventually we see a beautiful romance develop, not to mention the importance placed on family. Just when it seems that everything is going wrong for Larken, she eventually finds a happily ever after she never thought was possible. 
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The New Wife and the Ward 
Hands down my favorite aspect of this novel is the fact that it didn’t really start off as a romance. Instead we see the focus placed more on Larken developing a relationship with Myles, Brandon’s young Ward. He too is an orphan, and is afraid to suddenly be in a new home surrounded by people he doesn’t know. This is where Larken is able to offer her own personal perspective, and connect with Myles when it seems no one else can. She too has been left alone in the world, and is just looking for someone she can talk to. Neither will find this in the cold-mannered Brandon King. He practically ignored Larken at their wedding, refusing to look or speak with her. Hell, they didn’t even consummate the damn thing. Needless to say her opinion of him was quite negative at the outset.
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As for his relationship with Myles, we aren’t given too much information at the beginning. We just know that Brandon knew Myles’ mother, and felt obligated to pick up the young lad over in America before returning back with him to his estate in the English countryside. Brandon said only a handful of words to the young orphan on the return journey, and therefore Myles also doesn’t have the best opinion of his new caretaker. He is also wary of Larken in the beginning, insistent that she would never be able to replace his mother. But this is where Larken admits she has no such objective. She is just looking for a friend. This is also where we get to see Larken’s rather carefree and whimsical nature. She had to invent imaginary friends in order to survive the harsh realities of being orphaned in such a tragic manner. She has no hesitancy whatsoever in introducing these silly characters with their own personalities to Myles.
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Eventually their laughter draws the attention of the brusque Brandon King. While both are understandably wary of letting him into their tight-knit circle in the beginning, they eventually are able to open up with each other and become a family. All of them have lost loved ones, and while they understand the others could never replace those that they’ve lost, they are able to overcome the tragedies of their pasts the more time they spend together. All of this takes place within the first half or so of the novel, so you can see why it was definitely my favorite part. Once this ragtag bunch of characters find happiness with each other, things start to get a bit…interesting.
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While there were definitely some interesting plot twists towards the end of the novel that I did not see coming, I must admit that the second half wasn’t as enjoyable as what came before it. I did find one particular plot twist revolving the death of Brandon’s brother, Theo, rather interesting. Brandon blames himself for his brother’s tragic death years before, and we see that it actually relates to Myles’ mother. His brother’s death not only impacted his surly manner, but also his outlook on life and love.
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Both Larken and Myles are able to help Brandon overcome the tragedy of his brother’s death, but with this certain plot twist in the second half it sort of throws everything we thought we knew for a loop. While certain aspects of this twist weren’t necessarily my favorite, or particularly realistic, I really did enjoy that it connects back to how our novel began with the terrible train accident involving Larken and her parents. It was neat to see that almost every aspect of the novel introduced in the beginning comes back full circle by the end. Even the most seemingly erroneous of details actually had a purpose, and nothing is left unresolved.
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However, while the twist involving Brandon’s brother may not have been my absolute favorite, the dramatic plot point that was saved for the very end of the novel was by far my least favorite aspect of the book. It was just too over-the-top, and actually involves Larken being kidnapped by an unhappy group of theater actors dressed as pirates. So…yeah. It was too theatrical for my taste, and took away a sense of realism to the story which had been so strong up to that point. Both the pain and love which all of these characters felt was something that we could all understand. And then suddenly we have this group of outsiders dressed as pirates to throw a wrench in the whole thing. I definitely understand the need for drama, but let’s tone things down just a smidge. 
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Series: Graceling Hall, book 1. Overall I really did enjoy the characters and the story presented in this novel. I will definitely be continuing on with book 2.
Should you read it? This is a short, quick read. It highlights the importance of family, and to keep trudging on when life seems to be at its lowest point. You never know, there might just be a break in the clouds up ahead. The ending was definitely a bit too over-the-top, but I loved the familial dynamic between Brandon, Myles and Larken, not to mention the developing romance between our male and female lead.
Smut Level: Two short kisses, and an implied love scene at the very end. Clean read, no graphic details, and very sweet. Not the steamiest of historical romances. 
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Idunn Court Publishing. 176 Pages.
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Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold by Demelza Carlton

A tale as old as time. With a few updates here and there of course!!

What’s it About? 33627778

Once upon a time…The wicked King Thorn forced the enchantress Zuleika to cast a terrible curse. She fled his court to travel the world, helping those who need her magic most. Until a search for her merchant father’s lost ships leads her to an enchanted island, where Prince Vardan, the island’s ruler, is afflicted by the most powerful curse Zuleika has ever encountered. She’s not sure she can reverse the spell, but she’s determined to try. After all, a prince who fights pirates can’t be all bad…no matter how beastly his appearance. Together, can the enchanting beauty and the beastly prince break the spell?

First Impressions

My initial first impression for this novel? Gorgeous cover, and yaaaaay short chapters! After about 1/4 of the way in though? Cover is still gorgeous, but shit, more short chapters. I discovered I’m unbelievably picky when it comes to chapter length. Sometimes short chapters are the perfect break for when I’m waiting for my coffee to brew, or pasta to boil. Not to mention a great way to kill time during commercial breaks. The fact that before tackling this book I had just come off a novel where the chapters were crazy long, well I was just in Heaven. However, it really didn’t take long for the frustration to start seeping in. In all seriousness, I would say the average length of time it took to finish reading a chapter in this book was just under 2 minutes. While this was an excellent way to introduce our characters and provide a brief back-story to our enchanted curse, it became a clear problem in later chapters where key scenes were rushed. This made the book itself feel almost stunted since you had so many short chapters at work which could flip-flop so easily between story lines, as well as switch point of views between our Beast and Beauty.

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An Enchanting Beauty

Personally I just love adaptations of classic fairy tales. It’s so fun to see which elements the author will keep the same, and how they’ll bring their own unique twist to the story. For this version, perhaps the biggest change involves our beauty. Her actual name is Zuleika; a far cry from Belle, and she’s not just the peasant daughter of a poor inventor. Oh no. She’s the enchantress who sets the curse upon our beastly prince. Gotta say, I totally loved this twist! From the classic tale the enchantress feature was always a bit of a mystery, and her motivations were kind of muddled. But in this we see how Zuleika is threatened by an evil king to put a curse on an object intended for his sworn enemy. Enter mirror.

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To save her life and that of her family, Zuleika puts a curse on the mirror not knowing it will eventually end up in the hands of our prince. Upon using it for the first time he transforms into the Beast, while the servants and citizens of his kingdom become invisible. A unique change to a dancing clock and candlestick! When Zuleika magically appears in Prince Vardan’s kingdom after an accident he finds her indescribably beautiful, and because she refuses to reveal her true identity he resorts to calling her Lady Belle. And of course, it wouldn’t be Beauty and Beast without a ball featuring our beautiful enchantress in a gorgeous gown of yellow silk.

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A Kind-Hearted Beast

Although I really enjoyed some of the variations to our classic tale, there were some I wasn’t a huge fan of, or at least had trouble understanding. When Zuleika first curses the mirror, she says that whoever uses it will transform into whatever they truly are on the inside. Therefore, when our prince first uses it he becomes this hairy beast with tusks. Not exactly the picture of a guy you’d wanna introduce to the folks. But here’s the strange part. When Zuleika arrives in the prince’s kingdom and speaks with his subjects, they all say how he’s always been a kind-hearted and just ruler. Soooo shouldn’t he have like, turned into a puppy or something?

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In all the descriptions of his character, he was never revealed to be cruel, vain, or beast-like in any way. So why the beast form?! In my opinion, it was the one main flaw to the story. The other thing I found hard to believe was it took soooooo long before Zuleika realized she was the enchantress who cast the spell over the prince and his city. It just seemed strange that she wouldn’t have even been able to sense her own power within the magic blanketing the city. Hell, at one point she does sense it, but just brushes it aside. Come on now, you have all that magic, listen to it once in a while!

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Series: Romance a Medieval Fairytale, book 1. Zuleika seems like the key that will unlock all the other novels in this series. During her travels throughout the novel we overhear her encounters with magical slippers, and even a trouble-making witch she banished to a lamp in a hidden cave. Sounds a tad familiar, no?

Should you read it? A fun and fantastical retelling of a beauty who falls for a beast. Spotting all the classic elements within the new changes was like a fun scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, I think the short chapter format of the novel impeded the depth of the writing, and made the story seem stunted. Overall an interesting start to the series, but there’s some definite room for improvement going forward.

Smut Level: Only at the very end of the novel do we get one beautiful love scene. It didn’t hurt that some witches had previously cast a spell on the prince’s…saber…to always please his woman in the bedroom.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE! Lost Plot Press. 248 Pages.

Love Me Only by Hebby Roman

From the elegant ballrooms of Mexico City, to the mosquito-filled swamps of the jungle, this novel takes us on an adventure to discover the wild unknowns in Mexico’s mountains.

What’s it About? 

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A stranger in a strange land, her father murdered, Diana McFarland must protect her father’s secret formula, the only legacy she has. One thing stands in her way–darkly handsome Seguin Torres, a man who wants the formula for himself. For Seguin, the formula is a way to avenge himself against the man who stole his birthright, but convincing Diana to part with it will prove almost as difficult as resisting his attraction to her. Betrayed by his family, Seguin doesn’t believe in love and marriage. As Mexico erupts into civil war, Seguin is honor-bound to protect Diana from his unscrupulous stepfather and the ravages of war. But their flight across the war-torn countryside is fraught with danger, as well as the challenge of their growing passion. Can Seguin get Diana to safety and let her go, or will their love overcome all the dangers and change Seguin’s heart?

First Impression

Arriving in a new city where you don’t really speak the language can be a challenge. Arriving in that city to discover that your father has been murdered, and that his scarred killer is still on the loose with some unsavory stalkerish tendencies? Ummmm yeah where the hell can I book the fastest train outta here? Let’s make it snappy people!! Thankfully for everyone, our heroine proves to be braver than I, as she sticks around in Mexico to try and discover what happened to her father. This is when the devilishly handsome former business partner of her father comes into play. Can she trust this man who seems dedicated to protecting her? Or did he have a hand in killing her father to get at his secret silver mining formula? Such intrigue. This historical drama definitely draws you in from the get-go, as we see Diana navigate through this new world which can be lavish yet harsh at the same time. The fact she’s a woman in a man’s world makes her all the braver. By the end of the novel though, we find ourselves venturing into a completely different and uncharted territory. Quite literally.

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Murder and Mining Mayhem

Looking at this book as a whole, it almost seems to be two separate books thrown into one. In the first half, we see the immediate repercussions and mystery surrounding the murder of Diana’s father, as well as her attempts to stand up for herself and her mother in the face of the dashing Seguin. He’s intent on purchasing her father’s silver mining formula, and after a series of unfortunate circumstances Diana is the only one who knows her father’s formula by memory. I must say I absolutely adored the scenes where we get to see Diana and Seguin go head to head over the formula. They seem like equals in smarts, tenacity, and their simmering sexual attraction doesn’t hurt things too much either.

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A Stroll Through the Mountains

I must say I did prefer the first half of the novel more than the latter half where we see Seguin, Diana, and a small group of friends wade through the unknown dangers of the jungle in an attempt to escape back to America following an outbreak of war in the city. The fact that the murderer is hot on their heels, not to mention the man who orchestrated the whole thing (Seguin’s stepfather) is also in tow makes their journey all the more desperate. Although this is the part of the novel where Diana and Seguin give in to their lustful inhibitions, it’s also where we get a lot of scenes with a lot of walking. And walking. And having sex on a sacrificial altar in an abandoned ancient city. And more walking.

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It was at this point where I even had to think back and ask, wait, how did this story start again? Oh right, father’s murder. While everything does eventually come full circle at the last possible moment of the book, I couldn’t help but feel that as a whole the various story lines at play were a tad disjointed. While I don’t think the book necessarily has to be split into two separate novels completely, I think a few less jungle wandering scenes, and maybe even a distinct marker for Part 1: the City and Part 2: the Wild could have helped things. It may have better prepared the reader for the fact we were switching gears to a vastly different landscape that juxtaposes the comforts and opulence from part one. Just a thought!

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Miss Independent

Another surprising feature of this novel which was divided in two was the romance. We don’t get just one love story, but two! The first is obviously between Seguin and Diana. Both try to hold off on delving deeper into their initial attraction to each other. For Diana, not only had her father just died, but she wonders if Seguin has something to do with it. Kind of understandable why she’d be hesitant to try anything more. When it comes to Seguin, well he’s basically distrustful of all women. Normally when we see this in a romance it’s because of a former failed relationship with a lover. In his case, it instead had to do with his failed relationship with his mother, which they were never able to fully mend before her death. Complicated is an understatement.

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It’s when we transition to the jungle trek that both Seguin and Diana decide they can’t keep their hands off each other anymore. While I’m always a fan of a good ole romp, I must say I preferred their earlier flirtations in the city. Early on in the novel, Diana has spunk, sass, and the cojones to stand up to Seguin. In the latter half though we see Diana become increasingly dependent on Seguin, and even takes to begging him to “love me only”. Not gonna lie, I missed her tenacity and sense of independence.

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Switching Back and Forth

Our second romance is between Diana’s best friend, Sarah, and Seguin’s half-brother, Gilberto. This had more of the feeling of a classic historical romance. They fall quickly for each other after dancing at a ball, and he must prove that he only has eyes for Sarah. Even if it seems every other woman in the city has eyes for him. It’s practically swoon worthy! But here was my problem with it. I can’t say it was entirely necessary. At least, it could have been incorporated more methodically into the story. When the novel starts we are so enraptured with what might develop between Diana and Seguin, but when Diana is forced to bed rest following a rib injury, we suddenly switch gears completely to focusing on Sarah and Gilberto instead. Our other couple essentially disappears from the story completely to the point where I wondered if we’d even see a conclusion to their tale.

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When we do eventually switch focus back to Seguin and Diana’s relationship, then we see our other couple get pushed to the background. It’s almost like they couldn’t completely coexist, though I will say the love story between Sarah and Gilberto does have implications on all of our characters, and the progression of the story. However, I think I almost would have preferred if maybe the focus had instead been more on Diana and Seguin, as well as our half-brothers trying to mend their troubled relationship. Then at the end we could have had an insinuation that Sarah and Gilberto were googly eyes for each other. It may have helped to create a more cohesive story, rather than having two love stories taking place in one book.

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An Enchanting Landscape

There were two aspects of this novel which completely fascinated me. The first dealt with the historical aspect. This is definitely the first romance novel I’ve ever read which has focused on this time period in history, and it definitely caught my interest. The main reason being, I had zero idea what really came to pass during that time in Mexico’s history, so I had no idea how the historical events could possibly impact the rest of the story. It wasn’t like reading a romance set during the Civil War or WWII, where I know the standard start and end dates, as well as the general progression of the battle timeline. In this case though? It was a total learning process, and one that I’d love to research more fully. Personally I blame my high school’s lack of world history courses. I remember there was only one Global History course offered during my entire high school career, and it conflicted with my French class. Sooooo, yeah, I need to brush up on my history of Mexico.

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The other feature of the novel which was described to perfection was the landscape. I could practically taste the champagne of the royal ball, feel the itch of the mosquitoes from the swamp, and feel the exhaustion of climbing through the countryside. It’s easy to get lost in the description of each scene, as you can picture the beauty and harsher aspects of the setting. Hell, when Diana and Seguin come across an abandoned city in the midst of the jungle you can practically feel the cold stone of the sacrificial altar digging into your back when Seguin worships Diana’s body in the physical sense. Oh my, definitely need to fan myself off here a moment.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-Alone

Should you read it? While I did prefer the first half of the novel, everything does come together for an exciting climax. The historical period of the book was fascinating, and I’m simply intrigued to learn more. Although I’m definitely a fan of romance, I think I would have preferred one less romantic story line here so that more of a focus was on Diana and Seguin. As it stands, there was almost a conflict of sorts in the middle of the book for who the main characters actually are. Replacing that second romance with a focus on Gilberto and Seguin fixing their strained relationship is something I might have preferred to see.

Smut Level: Sarah and Gilberto have a few passionate kisses, and an eventual quick love scene in a thatched hut. Diana and Seguin definitely heat things up a bit, with a descriptive make-out scene in a mining vault, and even a rough coupling on a sacrificial altar. Proving once and for all that even historical romances can have a slightly raunchy side.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Estrella Publishing. 353 Pages.

As the Liquor Flows by Angela Christina Archer

Who knew that being in the wrong place so many different times could lead Evelyn to the love of her life?

What’s it About? 

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Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed, and the day Evelyn Ford will never forget. With the untimely death of her parents and the loss of their only income, Evelyn, and her brother, Frank flee to a make-shift hovel built in Central Park. After Frank mysteriously goes missing, bare cupboards force Evelyn to seek employment anywhere she can find work, even if that means working at a burlesque theater.

Catching the attention of Don Vincent Giovanni, a Kingpin in the New York mafia, Evelyn discovers that Frank is serving time in prison for running hooch and he owes Vincent a lot of money. In order to pay off her brother’s debt, Evelyn is thrown into the world of mobsters and bootlegging. Between running hooch all over the city of New York and trying to save her brother, Evelyn finds herself drawn to Max Catalano, Vincent’s Consigliere. Even with secrets of his own, he’s the only one she can trust when she entangles herself in the middle of the New York mafia crime wars.

First Impressions

This book was a tough one for me to put down! I mean, seriously it has everything you could possibly ask for in a romance set during the early 30s. We’ve got the ramifications and desperation of the Great Depression, prohibition, running hooch, mob bosses, burlesque theaters, and hell we even get an Al Capone mention thrown in there! And in the midst of all this chaos is Evelyn, a young woman who is just trying to survive, and save her brother at the same time. Slightly naive at times, she nevertheless learns that in order to survive in this world she must play along and go with the flow of the liquor, or risk consequences of angering the mob boss who has taken a shine to her.

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She’s not alone though in this crazy world of bootlegging, as the right-hand man of the mob kingpin, Max Catalano, has vowed to protect her at all costs. The simmering attraction between these two is electrifying, but it can never be brought to light or else risk the anger and retribution of the man in charge. As their paths continue to intertwine however, and the dangers of this world close in on our lead characters, we start to question if not only will they ever get to declare their love for each other, but if they’ll make it out in one piece. Do you see why it was so hard for me to put this book down?

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Shaken Not Stirred

I think what truly draws you in from the first page is the sheer desperation of our heroine. The author successfully paints such a sad and desolate picture which encapsulates the tragedy and hopelessness of the Great Depression. Evelyn is running out of options in life, and although she has the air of a proper lady, she’s at her wits end, and decides to audition for a job in a burlesque theater. Just as she thinks her chances are completely lost of getting a job, in walks Vincent Giovanni, the kingpin of New York. At first I almost wondered if we’d see a developing love story between Evelyn and Vincent, but it’s not long before we discover the true relationship lay between Evelyn and Max. And lemme tell you, I was allllll for it.

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Their immediate connection was entirely believable, and the fact they can’t really act on their feelings for each other makes this read all the more intriguing. To do so could put both of their lives in danger, not to mention Evelyn’s brother, Frank, who we discover owes a massive debt to Vincent. And this draws together the idea of being in the wrong place so many times over. By auditioning for a burlesque show Evelyn encounters Vincent, and when it’s revealed her brother owes him money she offers to bootleg on his behalf to help work off his debt. This pulls good girl Evelyn even further into this dark web from which there seems no escape. When a turf war begins between Vincent and a rival family, the stakes are raised even higher.

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An Extra Shot or Two Required

Now I’ve always been a huge fan of this era of history and storytelling. I mean, Boardwalk Empire was my freakin’ jam! And while overall I really did enjoy Evelyn and Max’s story, there were a few areas where I wanted more, and they all actually revolved around the character of Mr. Vincent Giovanni. First of all, I found it remarkably unbelievable that he never tried to sexually take advantage of Evelyn. Don’t get me wrong, that would have been utterly devastating, but considering his character as a mob kingpin and how the story develops, it shocked me that sex was never really a major point he pushed with her.

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When they meet in the club, he is immediately drawn to her, and it’s not long before he’s taking her back to his home to live with him, and throwing thousands of dollars of jewelry and clothing at her. And yet, the subject of sex isn’t even suggested at this point. It’s only when Evelyn offers to take on the role her brother had in Vincent’s employ of running hooch does Vincent broach the topic saying that should she fail, he’ll demand payment from her in physical ways. But even then he makes it sound like more of a nuisance than anything, and I never got the sense it was something he was really looking forward to with her. And again, the fact he never really tries anything with her before that time just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me considering the lengths he was going to to seemingly set her up as his mistress.

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And lastly, I’d have to say I simply wanted more of a focus on Vincent as a character. The majority of the novel is spent developing this relationship between Max and Evelyn, and while it was undoubtedly extremely compelling you can’t help but admit that Vincent is an intriguing villain in his own right. There’s a suggested ensuing battle between Vincent and a rival mob family which is never fully explored, and is seemingly dropped from the story line. In addition, at the end of the novel we get a hint that Vincent is more of a puppet master pulling the strings of our characters than we ever realized, and I so would have liked perhaps just one more chapter which provided us a glimpse into his mad psyche. What can I say? Whenever I encounter an enthralling villain I simply want more!!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: I doubt this is a series, but if we could get some kind of short story about Evelyn’s brother, Frank, I’d be first in line.

Should you read it? This story pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. We have a major plot twist later on in the novel that even I didn’t see coming (a rarity indeed), and it made me love it all the more. The whole thing comes together for one exciting climactic conclusion with guns blazing! I will say at times I think parts of the story could have been more fully fleshed out, and there were certain points that crossed the line of convenience over reality, but all in all a fun historical read.

Smut Level: So many longing looks, brushed hands, and captured elbows. Eventually we get a love scene, but the details aren’t excessively raunchy in any way. Pretty clean read altogether.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Long Valley Press. 272 Pages.

 

 

A Royal Affair Series by Christina George

This three book series tells of a love story that spans centuries. Read on for my brief review of each part in the series.

What’s it About?

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What if the love of your life lived 200 years ago? Emma was born with a gift to see past lives, but has no interest in reliving her own. Until it comes back to haunt her. When Emma meets Peter he seems like an average guy, albeit crushingly handsome, not to mention wealthy. Then he reveals he’s so much more, he’s the crowned Prince of Belgium, and Emma can’t shake the feeling they’ve met before. And when starts falling for him she suddenly realizes they’ll never be together in this life because of what happened in the past.

Two-hundred years ago Fitz and Anna-Maria ruled Belgium as King and Queen, but their heart-stopping love story ended in one of the greatest royal tragedies history has ever known. Recalling the past is one thing, rewriting history is another. Is Emma skilled enough for the task? Battling unfinished business, navigating 19th century society, and evading enemies that are able to travel through time just to keep them apart makes Emma fear the worst, despite what her heart tells her. Set in New York, Belgium, and 200 years ago, this trilogy is a sweeping paranormal time travel saga about a love that will live forever, often just out of grasp, and the forces that are trying to destroy it.

A Royal Affair: Book One

We are definitely just getting the ball rolling with this first book, as we are introduced to our two primary characters, Emma and Peter, who fall in love in about the span of a week. However, it’s not as strange as it seems seeing as they also knew each other as lovers in a past life. Ok…so maybe that fact makes it even stranger. The book introduces some fantastical elements as Emma can see details of a person’s past life. When she first meets Peter there’s an immediate connection, and she can sense it’s a powerful one as his very person shimmers with a glowing light. However, Emma isn’t ready to do anything serious with this man, so she chooses to push that light aside and ignore it. Well, you can only push things aside for so long before they come back to bite you in the ass. or in this instance, fling you back to 19th century Belgium.

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Emma is only there for the span of an evening, but in it she sees that she and Peter, or Anna-Maria and Fitz as they’re known in the 1800s, were happily married with two children in a former life, and he was the King of Belgium. While they live a happy life there’s also a threat against the crown. Before Emma has the chance to uncover the details she wakes up back in 2017 in Peter’s arms. While their names may have changed from their former lives, their connection has remained as close as ever, as well as the fact that Peter is still Belgian royalty.

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This detail is yet another reason Emma is hesitant to take things further with the handsome man, as she doesn’t want to live a life in the spotlight. The fact his brother is the heir to the throne though makes him believe their relationship won’t be a huge paparazzi highlight. This all changes when at the very end of the novel we discover that Peter’s brother has abdicated to run off with another woman, and Peter is now in line to rule, which means a relationship with Emma is out of the question. But will their past connection allow them to stay apart?

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A Royal Scandal: Book Two

The intrigue continues! In this second novel we are introduced to Peter’s betrothed, Alexandra, who is just as bitchy as you’d assume her to be. She’s the scheming villain of our novel, and unfortunately Emma walks right into her trap. We do get a few more glimpses of Emma traveling back through time to learn more about the tragic love story of Fitz and Anna-Maria. Sure, she could just as easily Google it and find out the whole sordid story, but instead she chooses to spend hours in a kind of trance to live through it herself. I mean, can you really blame her? She gets to spend a lot of that time being pleasured by the delectable Fitz.

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There still wasn’t that much time spent developing the present day relationship between Emma and Peter as I would have liked. Emma seems so focused on uncovering the details of their shared past, and how it might fit into their present lives, that I feel like I know more about Fitz than Peter as a character. We do discover more of the tragic details from history in this second book, as well as the fact that Peter’s current fiancée, Alexandra, may have had something to do with Anna-Maria and Fitz’s lives in the past. It’ll be interesting to see how this all comes full circle!

A Royal Romance: Book Three

The exciting conclusion to our love story, both past and present. All in all this was hands down my favorite book of the series. It had the best blend of historical and contemporary scenes, not to mention suspense with a risk to Emma’s life, the climactic search for King Fitz, and the question of whether or not one can actually change the past. Not to mention, we finally get some scenes where Peter is the main focus! ‘Twas rather refreshing.

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The historical story line really came to the forefront in this novel. Whereas in the former two books Emma was just an innocent bystander of the tragedy unfolding, in this book she starts to wonder if she could possibly change this sad tale so Fitz and Anna-Maria could possibly find each other again to have a happily every after.

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Unfortunately the aspect I didn’t really care for in this quest to change the past was how they didn’t reaaaally seem to think too hard about how it could impact the present. Sure, the “butterfly effect” was mentioned a time or two, but the determinant was that because this was just related to Belgian history it wouldn’t impact world events. Ummm, are you sure about that? We are dealing with the King of Belgium after all, not just an everyday Joe. Then when that was deemed to not be an issue Emma’s other main quandary was if she and Peter would still fall in love if the past was successfully changed. I just keep thinking on Back to the Future and allllll the potential repercussions of altering the past, but none of that seemed to be a big discussion point. Maybe all those other time travel movies were just overly concerned about nothing!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: A Royal Affair, books 1-3. This series really reads like a full-length book, and shouldn’t be divided up.

Should you read it? An interesting read overall. I enjoyed the mix of contemporary with historical, as well as the tragic tale of Anna-Maria and Fitz. The one aspect I think could have been elaborated on was the relationship between Peter and Emma. It seemed like more emphasis was placed on their bond from a former life rather than really getting to know each other in this one.

Smut Level: There are definitely some passionate scenes in this series. Charm and sexual prowess must be an ability that lasts through reincarnation. In the first book we get all the delightful details of Peter and Emma’s sexual relationship, but in the next two we get to focus instead on Fitz’s talents in the bedroom. Might be royalty outside of the bedroom, but definitely a delectable treat beneath the sheets!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 436 Pages Total.

Lachlan by Hazel Hunter

This book is like Gladiator meets Outlander meets…Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Shockingly, it works!

What’s it About? 

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When Kinley Chandler abruptly lands in medieval Scotland, there isn’t much she’s leaving behind. With her body shattered and her military career over, Kinley has resigned herself to death. But in the past, all that changes. Lachlan McDonnel, the laird of a clan of immortal highlanders, can hardly believe his good fortune. Not only does the mysterious lass save his life, she awakens his heart in a way he’d thought no longer possible. But the druid spells that allow Lachlan’s clan to live forever have a dark side as well. He and his men know all too well that the magic folk never give without taking. Though he is sworn to protect them, the price of his loyalty may finally be too high.

First Impressions

We open on our heroine, Kinley, who has been gravely wounded as a soldier fighting in Afghanistan. She’s experiencing intense PTSD, has no family or friends for support, and has given up to the point where she’s ready to end it all. On a day trip away from the VA hospital in California, she’s prepared to roll her wheelchair off the edge of a cliff when she is suddenly transported to 14th century Scotland where her body is magically healed. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, a clan of immortal highlanders are battling against a legion of Roman vampires, and Kinley is able to assist the Scotsmen by shooting fire out of her hands. So…yeah. Believe it or not, the highlanders and Romans actually make a lot of sense story wise! Now, why a magical portal would transport someone from California to Scotland? Not sure.

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A Fantastical Blend

I was actually pleasantly surprised with how much this story pulled me in and wouldn’t let go! I finished reading it in a day as I traveled from Denver to Salt Lake City for work. We have history, fantasy, time travel, fierce warriors, magic, betrayal, revenge, and some unbelievably steamy sex scenes between Kinley and our highlander laird, Lachlan. Altogether I would say there are three main components at play here: the developing relationship between Kinley and Lachlan, the battle against the Roman legion, and the mystical element concerning Kinley’s travel through time and newfound fire powers. Shockingly, I think my favorite component was actually the fighting, and for one very important reason. Kinley is a freakin’ badass!

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You Go Girl!

As you all know, I love a strong female lead character, and Kinley represents this to the max! She’s not afraid to stand up for herself, and show the men a thing or two about fighting, strategy and hand-to-hand combat. Her persona is the perfect combination of sass, physical and mental strength. This is a woman who is taking advantage of her body’s sudden healing and will live her life to the fullest, even if it’s in another time and place than she’s used to. Kinley knows she’s in a historical era and land where women are inferior to men. But you know what? She doesn’t…give…a f*ck!

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Kinley isn’t afraid to speak up until she’s heard, even if it’s not necessarily what others want to hear. You go girl! And you go all day long! In addition to Kinley’s overall badassery, we also have this larger never-ending battle at hand between highlander and Roman that’s been raging for centuries. It’s a dark and violent battle, and these Roman vampires are merciless and pretty disgusting. Be prepared for some nasty descriptions of battle and blood-sucking murder/mayhem. ‘Twas interesting though!

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Druid Magic and Wonder

The mystical aspects of the novel, while interesting, also left me slightly confused at times. As I mentioned earlier, the reason Kinley is transported from present day California to 14th century Scotland isn’t fully explained. There is Druid magic at play which has made these highlanders immortal, and Romans become vampires. However, the interactions with the local mortals left me a bit befuddled, as these are small villages and the highlanders have been interacting with and protecting them from the Roman vampires for centuries. Yet their immortality is supposedly a secret?

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Then there’s Kinley’s fire power, which is so honed at one point and then completely vanishes the next. Huh? Lastly, the passion between Kinley and Lachlan is off the charts amazing, with so much detail and dirty talk, but at one point Lachlan’s snake tattoo gets involved in the bedroom activities in a rather…disturbing way. At least in my humble opinion! Can’t say it was a feature that was absolutely necessary. Their link is already undeniably intense, so I’m not sure we had to bring the tattoo into the grand scheme of things too?

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Immortal Highlander, book 1. Oh yeah, I’ll definitely be continuing with this series. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for our other highlander warriors.

Should you read it? This is an entertaining and action-packed read! It’s definitely dark at times, but the strength truly lies in the personalities of the characters. From Kinley’s strength to Lachlan’s soft side, his highlander brothers’ loyalty and even the evil of the Romans. It’s all just very believable even though we’re dealing with so many fantastical elements. It’s a uniquely compelling story, and while I can see how it might be too dark a read for some, I’m excited to see where this story is headed!!

Smut Level: Holy sh*t here people! Just because this is a historical read, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s tame!! We’ve got extensive detail, and dirty talk galore. Which I must say whenever we have dirty talk mixed in with old time 14th century speak it kind of makes me giggle. Such a stark juxtaposition.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Allure Press. 382 Pages.

Weary of Running by Adrienne Morris

The summer was off to such a good start for Buck Crenshaw. Unfortunately, all of that falls apart with the arrival of Milford Streeter to the West Point Military Academy.

What’s it About? 

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When West Point Military Academy opens its doors to black candidate Milford Streeter in 1884, Cadet Buck Crenshaw’s moral ambivalence is tested. Will Buck keep his place in the yearling pecking order or throw it away on a stand for Streeter? After Cadet Streeter sacrifices Buck’s reputation to safeguard his own, Buck escapes to his sister Thankful at Fort Grant, Arizona and meets an old rival, William Weldon. Buck must make a decision about the sort of man he wants to become while witnessing the downward spiral of his favorite sister’s romance with a dashing army lieutenant. Weary of Running is about the dangers of moral ambivalence and the redeeming power of love and friendship in an imperfect world of mixed emotions and foolish decisions.

First Impressions

This book held so much promise in the beginning, but unfortunately things quickly got out of control to the point where it was no longer my cup of tea. I was excited to read about what I thought would be an ensuing friendship between Buck and West Point’s first ever black candidate, perhaps standing up against prejudice in a military establishment so soon after the end of the Civil War. Unfortunately, while Buck is initially open to the idea of a black cadet at West Point, it doesn’t take long before the influence of his brother, fellow cadets, and Streeter’s own actions to turn Buck into, well, a racist. And this sort of brings me to my main issue with this novel; I really could not find any one main character that I liked. Every single character presented in this novel is extremely flawed, and that makes it almost impossible to root for any of them to succeed.

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The Disappearance of Buck

According to Goodreads, this novel is referred to as “A Buck Crenshaw Novel”. Therefore, I assumed that the majority of the novel would be about…Buck Crenshaw. Shockingly enough though, after about 10% of the novel he completely disappears from the story, and doesn’t return until the book is almost finished. Umm, what? I thought this was mainly going to be all about him and Streeter. And while Buck comes back into the tale much later on, we never hear about Streeter again, or even really get a resolution to that part of the story. Definitely a let down.

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The Arrival of Thankful and William

So I would say Buck disappears for a good 60-65% of the book. Not gonna lie though, I wasn’t really sad to see him go. We see how others mistakenly assume he’s being soft on Streeter, and everything just spirals down from there to the point where Buck himself comes to despise Streeter. Buck and his brother, Fred, even go so far as to beat up Streeter and leave him for dead. Yikes! The novel then switches gears to follow Thankful out West, as she’s pursuing a childhood crush, William, who recently moved out there.

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Alright, maybe this is where some romance will come into the story? Unfortunately…not so much. William is a raging alcoholic, which was spurred on by an accident from his childhood that left him with memory problems, headaches, and a crooked leg. But that doesn’t stop people from showing him zero sympathy, and constantly making fun of him for being a cripple. Thankful also turns away from him in the pursuit of another army officer who is good looking and showers her with compliments and trinkets. Man, this is just getting depressing!

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Although these two characters barely spend any time together in the pages of this novel, their situations are quite similar. Basically, we see how they are ostracized from their comrades, supposed friends, and even their family due to a long string of misunderstandings, and a ridiculous amount of over-reacting from others. They become social pariahs, and while you’d think this would garner some sympathy from us as the reader, it’s also pretty hard to do.

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I’ll admit, there were times that I felt somewhat bad for both Buck and William as their lives totally spiraled out of control into dark depression. This was probably more true in my opinion of William rather than Buck though, who at least had some legitimate medical reasons behind his behavior oftentimes getting out of control. The problem though is that as soon as I’d kind of feel bad for them, it wasn’t long before they’d proceed to say something racist, sexist, or just downright rude. Heck, at one point William even hits a woman! While these may have been common actions and opinions in the 1880s, it’s just not something I want my main characters to indulge in.

Supplemental Characters

If I had to pinpoint the main characters of this novel, it would be Buck, William and Thankful. The majority of the supplemental characters are the familial relations of all of these characters, and my God are they a handful. It was almost comical, yet also annoying, how quickly and constantly they would rush to the most outlandish of conclusions, and over-react to every possible scenario without hearing out what would actually be a very simple explanation. It’s like nobody wanted to listen to reason. At one point Buck’s family even wants to put him in an asylum because he keeps getting into trouble. Buck and Thankful’s brother, Fred, is particularly deceitful by always blaming his own crimes on others, and the whole lot is pretty shockingly rude.

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Whether it be children berating their parents, or parents being openly hurtful to their children, we are dealing with some characters that I had a really tough time liking. There were definitely some complicated family dynamics at play. To give you just a glimpse of some of the hurtful things these characters would say, one mother yells at her daughter, “I tell you all the time that there’s a great deal of difference between plump and downright fat and you have long since crossed that line.” When speaking of Indians a character states, “The savages should be sent from this earth-every last one of them.” Eventually I realized that practically every female in this novel reminded me of the mother in Pride and Prejudice. We’re talking Colin Firth movie version here; very over-the-top emotional, eccentric, etc.

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*A copy of this book was presented for an honest review*

Series: The Tenafly Road Series, book…? This is listed as book 1 and book 2 in a few different places.

Should you read it? I hate to say it, but I had a tough time finishing this one. It was just one unfortunate event after another, with no real light at the end of the tunnel. Look, I get it. We are dealing with a novel set in the 1880s. It was a different time. But the historical novels that I like are the ones that rise above social prejudice, and highlight characters that go against the social norm to come out on top. Is that perhaps an unrealistic and fairy-tale like hope? Sure! But when I’m reading something in my spare time I’d like at least one happy thing to happen to a character I somewhat like, and unfortunately I found that lacking in this read.

Smut Level: There’s one quick jaunt behind a pile of wood, and another scene or two involving a…lady of the night.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 327 Pages.