A Sinner without a Saint by Bliss Bennet

Two men with a past. Will their mutual obsession with art draw them closer together, or drive a wedge between them forever?

What’s it About?

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An honorable artist: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .

A hedonistic viscount: Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process.

Sinner and saint–can both win at love? But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?

First Impression

A feature you notice from the very opening page of this book, and which the author should be commended for, is that it truly feels as though we have been transported to the Regency Era. I’m sure some of you are thinking that for a 19th century historical read, we damn well better feel like we’re in the 1800s. Well, hear me out! To write a historical romance is one thing, but to feel as though the novel was actually written in the 1800s? That’s a talent all in itself. From the syntax to the British slang, the work felt reminiscent of something written by Jane Austen or Frances Burney. While it was a noticeably admirable trait of the novel, it did also make for a slightly slower read. What can I say? It took me some time to decipher what the characters were actually trying to say. But I also couldn’t deny that my desire for a pot of tea and tray of cucumber sandwiches grew stronger with every page turned.

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Classic Beauty vs. the Unnatural

In my opinion, the true mastery of this novel lay not necessarily with the romance between Benedict and Dulcie, but instead through their discussions and debates of art. Benedict’s goal in life is to open a national art museum for the British people. All British people, regardless of class, station, or wealth. Dulcie on the other hand is one of the leading art critics of the day, with his sights set on acquiring unique pieces for his own private collection. The heated discussions which erupt between the two, as well as with their fellow high-class art peers, were so insightful and thought-provoking that you couldn’t help but feel moved to take up an opinion on the matter as well. As the novel progresses we see a shift in the conversation from who is worthy of appreciating good art to who decides what good art is in the first place. The scrutiny placed on the artistic system was riveting, as our characters understand that sometimes you have to look beyond the paint to what is hiding underneath.

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What hit me the most though was how this discussion of art and beauty could find direct symmetry in the romance between Benedict and Dulcie. The two are art connoisseurs, yet they can both appreciate the talent in an artistic piece that might not be considered classically beautiful. While some might view tangled limbs and an imperfect male specimen on a canvas as grotesque, they are both enamored with the emotion such a piece can evoke in the viewer, and therefore can’t deny that it deserves praise. Even if the majority of their contemporaries don’t agree with them.

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Do me a favor. Do yourselves a favor. Stop talking, and look. You’re not required to write a paper. You’re not even required to like it. You *are* required to consider it. – Mona Lisa Smile

When we look at Benedict and Dulcie’s relationship, the majority of regency society would also look upon it as something grotesque and unnatural. And sadly, there are many in our own time who would see it in the same context. But what lies underneath the surface? What do you have when you push the physical component to the side. What lies beneath the paint? Simple, it’s love. Love between two consenting adults who want to spend the rest of their lives together. Love is love and romance is for all. While they can see the beauty in this, and a minuscule number of their contemporaries understand it, for the majority it is seen as too far removed from what society deems as “right” or “proper”. Again, the parallels between their love and the discussion of modern art was so subtly clever that I’m still thinking about it.

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Romance vs. Challenge

While I was fully entranced by the discussion of art for the masses, unfortunately there was one aspect of the novel that I’m sorry to say I had a much harder time falling in love with. And that would be Dulcie. Now, let me start off by saying that eventually he does manage to redeem himself by becoming a devoted partner and friend once again to Benedict. The problem is that it took sooooo long to happen. Throughout the novel Benedict is this adorable, wide-eyed puppy dog that I just wanted to pick up and snuggle, even though he definitely has some bark behind his bite. When it came to Dulcie though, he was like a predatory hawk. Constantly circling, searching for who he could mess with next.

Ok, ok, so a hawk might be too harsh a comparison. How about a puppet master who loved to pull the strings of others? He could tease, seduce and manipulate with the best of ’em. It was really a struggle to know whether or not his heart was ever behind his pursuit of Benedict, or if it was simply a challenge to regain Benedict’s childhood affections. Again, eventually we see Dulcie open up with Benedict, and share some of his innermost thoughts, feelings and fears. I just wish it had come a bit earlier on in the novel. Something else which I think could have helped me warm up to Dulcie earlier was if we could have received a prologue to show how the two initially connected at school all those years before. We see the moment where their interaction ends, and towards the end of the novel we realize how both of them suffered following the end of their friendship, but the missing element for me was that initial crucial moment which connected them in the first place.

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Let’s Get Physical…Or Not

Duclie’s pursuit of Benedict throughout the novel is fairly relentless. Both admit to an undeniable attraction that seems to be pulling the two of them together. For Benedict though, he doesn’t want anything to happen between them unless Dulcie is willing to offer up his mind in addition to his body. For Dulcie? He’s basically just looking for a good ole rough and tumble in the back room of a tavern. He employs all the seductive looks, touches, and smirks at his disposal to try and sway Benedict to his line of thinking. Essentially, he’s a classic playboy. What I found to be so fascinating though was what happened when the two finally did get physical.

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There’s some rubbing, some tugging, some “spending”. Anything beyond that though? Shockingly this is where Dulcie becomes more reserved! Throughout the whole novel his attitude and confidence towards getting Benedict in his hands sort of implies that he’d be the expert and dominant when it came to the physical side of their relationship. What debauchery might they get into when the seducer finally captures his prey? Who knew it would be the complete opposite with Benedict being the more experienced one?!?! It was very interesting to hear Dulcie’s rather negative opinion towards the concept of oral sex, not to mention penetration, almost as though it was beneath his high stature to engage in such uncivilized and…unsanitary behavior. I have a feeling Benedict might succeed in changing his opinion on that matter though 😉

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

Series: The Penningtons, book 4. This was the first book I read in this series, and I will admit I had trouble with the links between some of the different characters. It was kind of difficult to understand the relationship and familial webs at times.

Final Impression: Overall I can’t say I was fully connected to Dulcie and Benedict as a couple. I couldn’t help but feel that Dulcie’s eventual transformation into a caring and selfless lover came a bit too late in the game for me, and if anything I wanted more for Benedict. As a social and artistic commentary though it was an enthralling read. There are arguments about classic beauty versus opening the mind to modern interpretations that will keep you thinking for a few days.

Smut Level: Any time a couple can successfully balance on a chaise longue whilst exploring each other’s bodies deserves honorable mention. While we don’t get any scenes involving penetration, we get a few decent kissing scenes, tingling spines, tightening of groins, cock-stands, and “spending” a time or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Bliss Bennet Books. 298 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: The Mate by Abigail Owen. Paranormal, Shifters.

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Between the Shadows by Casi McLean

I think I can definitively say this was my favorite book of the whole series. It’s like everything finally clicks into place, and the story which has been building for the past three novels comes full circle.

What’s it About?

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She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one…After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold.

An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnapping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life?

First Impressions

Alright, so let’s get this party started! Our novel once again focuses on the mysterious happenings around the fantastical Lake Lanier in the hills of North Georgia. Near Dahlonega. Well I’ll be a son of a b*tch if I’m not sitting in a hotel room in that very city typing out this review. Small…world! Here’s to work travel bringing you to the edge of the fantasy realm. Now I just need to be sure and avoid any and all lakes. Oh…my…goodness. My drive later this afternoon literally has me going right by Lake Lanier!!! Alright everyone, if you don’t hear from me by the end of the day tomorrow, let’s just assume that I’ve been sucked into a time portal which has thrust me back in time.

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When Past and Future Meet Present

Based on the synopsis you sort of get the sense that Kenzi and James would be the main leads of the novel, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! In my mind, this story revolves around York and Izzy, and they were an undoubtedly intriguing duo with a unique allure that sets them apart from any of the other characters we’ve seen so far throughout the entire series. York is from the future. Izzy is from the past. And yet we see them connect in what we know as the present. It was such a smart way of storytelling that distinguishes it from practically any other time travel romance. And my goodness have I read a few of those. They may meet in the present, and feel an undeniable link to each other, but both can sense that the present is not where they belong.

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Discovering she’s in 2018 rather than the 1800s induces no fear for Izzy, and instead she attempts to see the entire episode as an adventure. She’s definitely braver than myself, lemme tell ya! York is set on saving this woman from whatever fate befell her in the past. She knows she was attacked by a black-bearded man in an abandoned stone cellar in the wilderness of North Georgia at the end of the Civil War. Since her blackout she’s been stuck in the area around Lake Lanier, and can’t move beyond it’s perimeter. When York and his dog come along, she’s shocked that this man can hear her, touch her, feel her. For York, he too is surprised at the immediate connection with this woman from the past, and also by the fact that he feels they’ve met before in his future. That’s all it takes for him to become convinced their destinies are linked, and that he was meant to travel back in time to save her.

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Kenzi and Tess Enter the Mix

York is set and determined to risk his life to save Izzy from her sad, wandering fate. He can’t do it alone though, and relies heavily on Kenzi’s help. She knows how to activate Tess, her grandmother’s time travel device which can help them pinpoint a destination in time by channeling the fantastical energy surrounding Lake Lanier. Not only that, Kenzi also has medical training, which just might be the most useful time travel knowledge to have. Although the synopsis sort of sets Kenzi up as the main focus of the story, in my opinion she took on more of a supporting role.

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The importance of her character was undeniable, as well as her romantic link with a soldier from the past, James. However, I just didn’t feel the same connection with them  as I did with York and Izzy as a lead couple. Kenzi and James’ attraction came across as a bit more surface level, whereas with York and Izzy I felt their fear, their sadness, their desire for each other so much more. There was depth to their connection that was the beating pulse of the whole story. Again, this isn’t to say I didn’t like this other story with James and Kenzi, but it wasn’t the shining feature for me.

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A Time Travel Balance

What made this novel stand out for me when compared to the others in the series is that we see a perfect balance of time eras. We start things off in the present. Izzy is from the Civil War era and somehow infiltrates the solitude of York’s existence after he traveled back in time from the future. York then decides to travel back to Izzy’s time with Kenzi in the hopes that they can save her from whatever tragic fate apparently trapped her to wander the shores of Lake Lanier for centuries. And then we see the ideal culmination of events where Kenzi returns to the future with a companion in tow, while York remains in the past in an attempt to save Izzy. It’s a beautiful story arch of going from the present to the past, and then having the final scenes alternate back and forth between the two. Almost like a song or dance where we have two separate performances which finally blend into a cohesive duet. It made sense, it flowed, and you constantly questioned when and where our characters might end up.

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Fate, Fantasy, and Science

It may have taken me the entire series to finally comprehend, but I’ve ultimately come to the realization that this tale can’t be explained by just science or fantasy alone. Rather, it’s a melding of the two. We have the mysterious time travel element of Lake Lanier which really can’t be explained. This fantastical element can also influence some of our characters to have premonitions of future events, as well as communicate with people in the past. However, the power of the Lake can be harnessed and focused with scientific precision into Tess, which thereby becomes the entrance to the time travel portal. The mystery of Lake Lanier is sprinkled with magic, yet also built upon with science. You sort of need to allow your mind to open up to these possibilities, and realize that it’s not a case of just one or the other. The melding of these two characteristics is so much clearer in this final book that I finally feel like I understand how it all works.

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

Series: Lake Lanier Mysteries, book 3. A great end to the series in my opinion. Definitely my favorite of the three, but I think it’s imperative you read these in order. Book 1 especially lays the groundwork for all of the time travel elements going forward.

Final Impression: We’re presented with a nice conclusion that combines fate, fantasy, and science. York and Izzy were the standout characters for me, as well as his dog, Prince. Kenzi was sort of the tool to bring them all together, but I couldn’t really connect with her story as much. While interesting, it was definitely overshadowed by the connection of the other two characters, and the suspense of everything they’re dealing with to save Izzy. Everything from the previous books finally clicked into place for me. There’s no question left unanswered, or a set up for some other breakaway story. It’s a touching conclusion to a mysterious series.

Smut Level: We see a number of chin raises, open mouthed kisses, neck nuzzles, and a few mentions here and there of burning loins and rigid members. But no final climactic burst of ecstasy!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 320 Pages.

Tomorrow’s Extravaganza Post: A Sinner without a Saint by Bliss Bennet. Regency, Historical, LGBT

Review Madness Starts Monday!

Hey everyone, don’t forget that starting Monday I’ll be switching up my regular posting schedule due to the plethora of new releases coming out next week. I’ll be featuring five novels from five different authors. A new review every day of the week! There’s a little something for everyone, so be sure to check out the schedule outlined below to find out which novels you might be interested in. Prepare yourself for the madness!!

Monday, September 17: Rogue Dragon Rising by TJ Shaw40921417
Genre: Fantasy, Gothic
Synopsis: Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her. Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy. As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 194 Pages.

Tuesday, September 18: Within the Skin by Zara WestWithin the Skin
Genre: Suspense, Multicultural & Interracial
Synopsis: Known as El Toro, street artist Alba Vargas is on the cusp of fame and fortune. Winner of a prestigious award, she is the toast of the New York City art scene. Or at least she will be, once she figures out how to act like a woman after living disguised as a boy for six years. If she is lucky, she might even attract the attention of the tattoo artist she has long loved from afar. Tattoo artist Fernando Pharaoh has betrayed everyone who ever cared about him, including El Toro, the street-wise graffiti artist who saved his life when all looked bleak. Depressed, he turns from his friends and becomes ensnared in a criminal enterprise run by a former enemy. Then the crime boss kidnaps Toro’s younger brother, Hanger. Blaming himself, Pharaoh sets out to rescue him, resolving to do one good thing in his life. But Toro has her own desperate plan to save her brother—one that will not only break Pharaoh’s heart—but will also destroy every hope and dream she has ever had.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. 342 Pages.

Wednesday, September 19: Between the Shadows by Casi McLeanBetween the Shadows
Genre: Time Travel, Fantasy
Synopsis: She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one…After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold. An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnaping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 320 Pages.

Thursday, September 20: A Sinner Without a Saint by Bliss BennetA Sinner Without a Saint
Genre: Regency, Historical, LGBT
Synopsis: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process. But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 287 Pages.

Friday, September 21: The Mate by Abigail OwenThe Mate
Genre: Paranormal
Synopsis: Maddie Thompson’s life just fell down a rabbit hole. Finding out she’s a dragon shifter was one thing—she never quite fit into the human world, and this new reality feels…strangely right. However, discovering the next step is to choose a mate, and if she chooses wrong she’ll die, is the other side of crazy. Especially when she already left a piece of her heart with someone who didn’t want it. To say dragon enforcer Fallon Conleth was shocked when the Mating Council summoned him as a potential mate for a newly found dragon doesn’t quite cover it. A mate is rare and precious and many dragons never find theirs. Fallon isn’t sure he’s worthy of the honor, not when so many deserve it more. He’ll just go through the motions and return home alone…until he sees Maddie. The human woman he reluctantly let walk away. Fallon already broke Maddie’s heart once, but if he can’t convince her that they’re meant to be, she’ll die… and he won’t be far behind.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. FREE!! 114 Pages.

 

 

New Release Extravaganza!

Who would have guessed it, but apparently mid-September is the perfect storm of new releases! I have five different authors who have requested for me to review five different works which all release next week. Now, I could do the logical thing, and panic!!!! Five books?! 1,257 pages?!?! Next week?? GAAAAHHH!! Mkay, panic moment over. The other thing I could do is try to make something fun out of it. So that’s what I’m gonna try to do! Still with a bit of panic mixed in there though of course.

I must say that is a glorious mix of cover-art right there. Rather than stick to my typical schedule of posting 2-3 reviews a week, I’ve decided to mix things up a bit with these upcoming new releases, and turn them into a review post extravaganza!!! That’s right. Five books. Five days. A new review each day. I’m currently just a little bit over half-way done. Three books down. Two to go. Let’s doooo this!!!

I must say, while it’s a daunting task, I’m pretty excited for the line up of releases we have here. There’s a little something for everyone! We’ll have dragons, multicultural suspense, time travel, historical LGBT, and more dragons. Oh my! And of course, they all have a bit of romance thrown in there as well. Below I’ve outlined the post schedule for next week so you can get a sneak peek of what to expect, as well as a pre-order link on Amazon for each novel. Be sure to tune back in next Monday, September 17, when the extravaganza will officially commence! Wish me luck!!

Monday, September 17: Rogue Dragon Rising by TJ Shaw40921417
Genre: Fantasy, Gothic
Synopsis: Twenty-three year old, Amari Hawke, is thrust into the world of two-soul shifters when she is injured and kidnapped by trackers outside the veil, beyond the safety of her homeland. Unable to remember her past, she trusts no one and relies on instinct to survive. As her awakening approaches, the first time she will transition into her animal, she must evade rogue shifters trying to capture her. Now free from the King’s Army, powerful dragon lord, Jaxon Blackthorn, seeks a peaceful life. Intent on building his lands into a viable plantation, away from war and bloodshed, he is reluctantly pulled back into the fight when he defends the mysterious shifter with no past against an unseen enemy. As evil threatens to destroy the entire realm, can the battle-hardened warrior and coming-of-age noblewoman accept their differences to forge an alliance that will ultimately unite the shifter nations?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 194 Pages.

Tuesday, September 18: Within the Skin by Zara WestWithin the Skin
Genre: Suspense, Multicultural & Interracial
Synopsis: Known as El Toro, street artist Alba Vargas is on the cusp of fame and fortune. Winner of a prestigious award, she is the toast of the New York City art scene. Or at least she will be, once she figures out how to act like a woman after living disguised as a boy for six years. If she is lucky, she might even attract the attention of the tattoo artist she has long loved from afar. Tattoo artist Fernando Pharaoh has betrayed everyone who ever cared about him, including El Toro, the street-wise graffiti artist who saved his life when all looked bleak. Depressed, he turns from his friends and becomes ensnared in a criminal enterprise run by a former enemy. Then the crime boss kidnaps Toro’s younger brother, Hanger. Blaming himself, Pharaoh sets out to rescue him, resolving to do one good thing in his life. But Toro has her own desperate plan to save her brother—one that will not only break Pharaoh’s heart—but will also destroy every hope and dream she has ever had.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. 342 Pages.

Wednesday, September 19: Between the Shadows by Casi McLeanBetween the Shadows
Genre: Time Travel, Fantasy
Synopsis: She never expected to confront deadly villains…let alone fall in love with one…After her friend, York, encounters the ghostly image of a young woman, Mackenzie Reynolds seizes the opportunity to initiate a time jump, thrusting them back to 1865 Georgia. Resolved to thwart the girl’s untimely fate, Kenzi stumbles into a deadly conflict over a stockpile of stolen Confederate gold. An injured Civil War survivor, James Adams departs for home with a war-fatigued companion he’s determined to help. After pilfering a horse and kidnaping a woman, he never dreamed his hostage would steal his heart. Kenzi and James must unravel a deadly plot, while helping York save his ghost woman from a brutal death. But can she leave York in a violent past to save James’s life?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. 320 Pages.

Thursday, September 20: A Sinner Without a Saint by Bliss BennetA Sinner Without a Saint
Genre: Regency, Historical, LGBT
Synopsis: Benedict Pennington’s greatest ambition is not to paint a masterpiece, but to make the world’s greatest art accessible to all by establishing England’s first national art museum. Success in persuading a reluctant philanthropist to donate his collection of Old Master paintings brings his dream tantalizingly close to reality. Until Viscount Dulcie, the object of Benedict’s illicit adolescent desire, begins to court the donor’s granddaughter, set on winning the paintings for himself . . .Sinclair Milne, Lord Dulcie, far prefers collecting innovative art and dallying with handsome men than burdening himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie’s refusal to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her paintings is due to lingering tender feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong. Not only will he woo her away from the holier-than-thou painter, he’ll also placate his matchmaking father in the process. But when Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again drawn to the intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable–his heart?
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 287 Pages.

Friday, September 21: The Mate by Abigail OwenThe Mate
Genre: Paranormal
Synopsis: Maddie Thompson’s life just fell down a rabbit hole. Finding out she’s a dragon shifter was one thing—she never quite fit into the human world, and this new reality feels…strangely right. However, discovering the next step is to choose a mate, and if she chooses wrong she’ll die, is the other side of crazy. Especially when she already left a piece of her heart with someone who didn’t want it. To say dragon enforcer Fallon Conleth was shocked when the Mating Council summoned him as a potential mate for a newly found dragon doesn’t quite cover it. A mate is rare and precious and many dragons never find theirs. Fallon isn’t sure he’s worthy of the honor, not when so many deserve it more. He’ll just go through the motions and return home alone…until he sees Maddie. The human woman he reluctantly let walk away. Fallon already broke Maddie’s heart once, but if he can’t convince her that they’re meant to be, she’ll die… and he won’t be far behind.
Pre-order on Amazon: Click Here. FREE!! 114 Pages.

Looks like we’re gonna start and end with some dragons! Better get ready for some burning passion!!

Ancient Souls by Marianne Bissett

“I can’t imagine the world without my tub. A hot bath can heal any mademoiselle’s soul.” I seriously think I need to get these words embroidered into my bath towel. Truer words were never spoken.

What’s it About?

40795668Death is only temporary and then you’re reborn, sending out a call to other souls linked through past friendship, love—and betrayal. When WWII nurse Cora Tate discovers she can remember past lives, she is thrust into a world she never knew existed but lived through more times than she could count. Although the memories of her many pasts have not yet returned, she finds herself at the center of a centuries-old conflict with a clear line dividing those who seek power and those who seek to give it. With her superior fighting skills and instincts for battle resurfacing, Cora agrees to fight, joining ancient warriors who could never blend in and a petite female sniper you could never see coming.

With battle after battle, Cora’s memories begin to flood back–though some not soon enough. Their leader, British Captain Alastair Scott, doesn’t hide his feelings for her, barely reigning in his passions in his attempt to give her space to remember. But as Cora’s mind begins to open further revealing her love for Alastair and the never ending war in which they fight, memories of another soul emerge from a far away past where lovers turned into enemies and enemies became lovers. With her destiny held in the balance, Cora must reconcile who she once was with who she was always meant to be to finally end the war.

First Impressions

Cora is just trying to make it through each day as a nurse in the midst of WWII. Little does she know, she’s actually a key player in a war that has been raging for centuries, and that she herself has been fighting throughout countless lifetimes. The details of this war are…complicated, so I’m gonna do my best to summarize it. Cora is part of a group of men and women known as guises, who “have the ability to recall skills and knowledge from their previous lives, making them superior to others in this world.” Cora is part of the good group of guises, who believe that mankind is inherently good. But then there are the Vigilare, led by their uber evil leader, Vitus. These are the bad guys who think that war is simply an inherent part of human nature, and their sole purpose throughout the centuries is to remind humans of the hate and darkness lying within them. It’s your classic tale of good vs. evil; the angels and the devils on the shoulders of humanity. Cora is apparently the key to it all, but there’s one major problem. She’s only just learning that she’s a guise, and can’t remember the details, or fighting prowess, from any of her previous lives.

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The A-Team

In order to remember how to fight, Cora’s fellow guise comrades determine she needs to be placed in a situation where she has no choice but to channel her skills. Essentially, she is walking into battle unarmed, yet at the same time she has all the necessary training needed to succeed. If only she can remember it. It almost seemed like a baby bird learning to fly. Approaching the ledge, needing to jump, and hoping that eventually the flapping of wings will save you. We can sense her trepidation, and I must say it was a cleverly suspenseful way to help us as the audience connect with Cora’s character. We might not be a guise, but we can all imagine the fear which would envelop us if we were placed in a similar situation. To be thrown into the middle of a battlefield and basically told, don’t worry, it’ll all come back to you. The hell you say?!

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We initially question why her teammates wouldn’t just tell Cora about her past lives and their mutual connection to her, so that her fighting skills and other memories could come back to her faster. Well let’s face it, that would simply be too easy. However, it’s also a key feature that separates them from the enemy. They don’t want her memories to be tampered by their view of how events transpired, and instead believe it’s better for it to all come back naturally to her. Honestly, I think the camaraderie of the team was my favorite aspect of the novel. Their countless lifetimes together have strengthened their sense of loyalty, and they’re constantly looking out for each other. Also, you can’t help but love how each character’s distinct personality comes together to form a cohesive team.

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No Ending to True Love

In my opinion the one down-side to the strategy of leaving Cora to come by her memories naturally was that it sort of impacted our ability to really understand the depth of Alastair and Cora’s emotional connection. The link of the team is undoubtedly strong, but I was left wanting more in terms of our lead couple’s romantic pulse. These two have a love that extends across multiple lifetimes, but because Alastair tries to keep away from Cora in the beginning so she can realize their love on her own, it thereby creates a sense of distance between them. While it’s true that Alastair has immense difficulty in staying away, and often loses his control to stroke her hand, nuzzle her neck, or devour her mouth, when all was said and done I wished we had been able to connect with them more as a couple rather than comrades.

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Instead there was more of a focus on dealing with the undoubtedly important matters of war at hand, and develop their strategy against the ultimate enemy, Vitus. Totally understandable, and I have a feeling we’ll uncover even more of their connection in the next book. I just wanted to see a bit more of them discussing what brought them together all those lifetimes ago, and how it’s managed to persist for so many lifetimes thereafter. When it comes to these two, “true love never has a happy ending, because there is no ending to true love.” They mention throughout the story that there’s a line which draws them together, how their pulses are linked, but I guess as the reader I had some trouble feeling this line.

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Here We Go Again

This war against the Vigilare is literally never ending. Death does not mean an end to the controversy, but rather the person will be reborn to continue the fight in their next lifetime. A unique aspect to this endless cycle of war is that it’s not always the same battle on repeat. In one lifetime the Vigilare leaders might be annihilated, only to have them prevail in the next one. Cora may succeed in bringing about peace for humankind, or the Vigilare might find and kill her before she has a chance to remember anything from her previous lives. It definitely makes for a suspenseful read, as the possibility for failure is very real.

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My one question though is aren’t they tired of this never ending struggle? Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. If either side should succeed, it’s a short-lived success. Once they die it just starts all over again. Sooo…what’s the point of it anymore? I mean seriously, after so many centuries of fighting can’t they just be like, ok, you take the Caribbean, we’ll take the south of France, in 100 years we’ll switch. Byeeee, have a fun century. Let the humans do whatever the heck they want. I have a feeling this book has just demonstrated to me that I’m far too lazy to ever become an evil overlord. Thank goodness.

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

Series: Historical Fantasy Romance, book 1. This book definitely ends on an “oh snap” moment that will make you want to find out what might come next. I’m definitely intrigued!

Final Impression: The overall balance of the novel was slightly off for me. There’s an exciting start as Cora realizes all is not as it seems in this world, and I loved the introduction to her rag-tag team of guises. The middle portion did drag a little bit as they venture around war-torn Europe going from mission to mission. It all culminates with a suspenseful and action-packed finish, albeit one that felt slightly rushed. I wish it had come a few chapters earlier in the book, especially the eventual face-to-face confrontation with Vitus. There were so many repercussions of this meeting, and because it happened so late in the book those following details were kind of glossed over in order to pull the reader into the next novel.

Smut Level: Alastair does all he can to keep his distance from Cora, who is still trying to discover how she fits into this world of guises. However, after centuries of falling in love over and over again, the man only has so much willpower 😉

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 298 Pages.

Pride and…Puzzlement?

What do Elizabeth Bennet, Mr. Darcy, murder, and zombies have in common? Simple. They are all primary features for various adaptations of Jane Austen’s classic romance, Pride and Prejudice.

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Now, I love Pride and Prejudice. I’ve read this book multiple times, in three different languages, and only once was it actually for a class assignment. The rest was all voluntary. I’ve re-watched the six hour TV mini-series version with the delectable Colin Firth more times than I can count, and I’ve even been known to turn on the less superior Keira Knightley version a time or two throughout the years. But something I haven’t done yet is indulge in reading a Pride and Prejudice adaptation.

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On the one hand, I’m definitely intrigued. Who doesn’t want more Lizzy and Darcy? And some of these plot lines sound pretty interesting! A murder mystery at Pemberley perhaps? Hearing things from Darcy’s perspective? Or how about looking at the flip side by focusing on the servants of Longbourn? Honestly, doesn’t sound half bad!

But then on the other hand. We’re talking Pride and Prejudice here!! To continue the story of Lizzy and Darcy without the words of Jane Austen behind it almost seems blasphemous! Oh, and did I mention the one with the zombies? Yes, I know I did, but seriously, it’s worth repeating. There’s something I never thought I’d see incorporated into such a classic tale. Honestly, not quite sure I can go that far.

I mean, what’s next? A sequel to Gone with the Wind not written by Margaret Mitchell? Oh wait…that…yeah that already happened. Honestly, it wasn’t the worst thing ever.

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But here’s the thing. While I’ve been tempted to read some of the Pride and Prejudice adaptations listed above, as well as the countless others that are out there, I have not yet taken the plunge. I’m still too hesitant to step into that world when the original seems so untouchable. So how about all of you? Have any of you attempted one of these reads, and if so how did it go? Are there any good ones you’d recommend, or is it better to just take the time to read the classic all over again? Let me know!

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Here and Then After by D.M. Porters

Beth has been given a second chance at life, and in the process she also has a chance at love. It might be the truest love she’s ever experienced. In this lifetime…or her last one.

What’s it About?

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Retired tax accountant, Elizabeth Edwards is devastated when she discovers her husband of 41 years, has been unfaithful most of their married life. What’s worse, she discovers this after he passes away when deep, punishing secrets are revealed. She is left to struggle with the deception and the fact that her life has been a lie. Broken, tortured and alone, Beth decides to leave her life behind and start over with what little time she had left.

With a keen eye for antiques and her love of history, Beth embarks on a journey to England that will change everything for her, even time. She visits the countryside to explore its grand manors and estates. Then, the directions to a ‘hidden gem’ are disclosed to her, and she is inexplicably drawn to this estate – Taylor Manor.

Faced with her own sudden death, Beth is given a second chance to live. This time, however, it is in the body of a beautiful young woman living her own hell 200 years in the past. In a twist of fate, the haven she is sent to is Taylor Manor, where she is to work as a maid. There she meets the brooding Lord Samuel Taylor, who has lived through his own pain and suffering. Can Beth start over and learn to live in this new and dangerous world while resisting her growing attraction to handsome Lord Taylor? Can he allow himself to love while battling his own demons? Love truly has no boundaries, not even time.

First Impressions

This novel presents us with a very unique and interesting twist to your typical time travel romance. Rather than simply traveling through time (seriously, who hasn’t in this day and age?), Beth has actually died in the year 2017 from a heart attack. As she’s traveling towards the white light of the beyond, she encounters a young woman named Sarah who is also moving along that same light. Beth then proceeds to inhabit Sarah’s body back in the early 1800’s. This added an interesting dimension to the whole time travel theme in that Beth doesn’t just have to adapt to living in a new time period, but she also deals with a flood of memories from this young woman’s sad and short-lived life. I can’t say I’ve ever come across a time travel romance such as this, and I must say I loved this twist. Instead of constantly wondering whether or not Beth will be able to return to her own time, because let’s face it that ship has sailed, we get an alternate drama of her having to cope with the events and tragedies that Sarah tried to escape from through suicide. We quickly learn that this woman was abused and raped at the hands of her drunken father, and while Beth is able to hide out in the countryside estate, Taylor Manor, we all know it’s just a matter of time before this abusive father comes to find her.

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A New Life

Beth doesn’t lament too long on the fact that she’s leaving her old life behind for good. After all, she was in her 60’s at the time of her death, and suffering from obvious heart problems. She now gets to inhabit the body of a beautiful 20-year-old, and the aches and pains of old age are no more. Beyond that though, she had also just learned that her recently deceased husband of 41 years was quite the philanderer, and even had a daughter she never knew existed. After learning of this betrayal, Beth decided to finally set out and live life for herself by exploring the beautiful country estates of England. She visits a rather hidden estate known as Taylor Manor, and feels an immediate connection to the house before keeling over dead from a heart attack. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up in the 1800’s, and learns that to escape the clutches of Sarah’s lunatic father she will be hidden away as a housemaid in none other than Taylor Manor.

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Now, most people who find themselves in this type of situation would probably be freaking the eff out. However, you have to admire Beth’s tenacity and ability to look at this entire situation as a second chance at life. Sure, Sarah’s life was fraught with issues, but Beth still chooses to make the most of every day. The fact that she gets to spend her time in a beautiful manor house surrounded by glorious antiques is simply an added bonus! And sure, the devilishly handsome master of the house with whom she has an undeniable sexual chemistry isn’t half-bad either. However, I do feel that there was one missed opportunity here for some added fun. In her former life, Beth was a wealthy older woman who had worked a desk job as a successful accountant. Now she is suddenly a housemaid in the 1800’s doing dishes, cleaning, etc? I just wish we could have been privy to a few more scenes which focused on the difficulty of adjusting to this new life. I get that by waking up 40 years younger she probably has a bit more pep in her step, but it seems like she would have had a few issues here and there with having to put some elbow grease into her daily work.

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Life in the Manor

Of all the manors in England to end up in after traveling through time, Beth definitely lucked out being placed in Taylor Manor. The various characters of the house are such a delight, and you can’t help but fall in love with them. From the motherly love of the head-housekeeper, to the joyous affability of the cook, and especially the rambunctious innocence of the young stable boy. As soon as Beth steps foot into this house you can’t wait to get to know them all, and just like Beth you too will be swept up into the warmth of this friendly bunch of people. And then of course we get to the master of the house, Samuel. He’s a bit of a surly fellow. Kind of closed-off and grumbly, although he has a definite soft spot for his employees.

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We learn that his parents died in a tragic carriage accident when he was just a boy. The fact he witnessed the entire ordeal adds to the overall tragedy of the event, and obviously contributed to his seemingly outward lack of empathy as an adult. But at the first sight of Beth he is obviously smitten, and also surprisingly intrigued by her adept knowledge of math and balancing his ledgers. Beth is also surprised to feel such desire for a man again. I will admit at times I was prone to a slight giggle-fest when they eventually acted upon their desires for each other. What can I say? I couldn’t help but remind myself that in essence we have a woman in her 60’s getting down and dirty with a handsome English Lord in his 20’s. Sure, her body might be young, but this woman has lived, and she brings all of her experience to the table. Let’s just say she has a few tricks up her sleeve to bring this man to his knees. Well…she gets down on hers anyway!

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The Big Reveal

Alright, so the time has come which we know is inevitable in any time travel romance. The moment when our lead character admits to her love interest the fact that she isn’t from this time. Samuel has suspected pretty much from day one that Beth was hiding something about herself, but he never dreamed in a million years what she would come to admit. Now, typically when this reveal happens, a very common response is for the opposite party to think our time traveler is crazy. I definitely get it. But here was the one aspect of this novel that I wasn’t toooooo fond of. Normally when the person thinks the time traveler is crazy, they immediately start to treat them like delicate glass, and vow to get them the help they so desperately need. Well…we don’t get that here.

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Instead, after Beth admits she’s lived a life in the future, Samuel not only declares she must be mad, but practically insists that she get the hell outta his house as soon as possible. Dude, I understand it’s a tough thing to understand, but don’t throw the poor woman out on the street! Let’s assume for a moment that he does actually believe she is legitimately insane. Beth has already admitted to him that she (or at least the woman she’s occupying) tried to commit suicide after being abused and raped at the hands of her father. Why wouldn’t Samuel just think she’s going through some kind of post-traumatic meltdown, and somehow tried to create an alternate life as a way to cope with this trauma? While he quickly comes to regret his decision to kick her out of his house, and immediately runs after her to bring her back, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at his initial reaction to her admission. I expected more from you Samuel!

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

Series: Taylor series, book 1. I have definitely fallen in love with this family, and this manor. Can’t wait to see what comes next in book 2!

Should you read it? I will say it does take some time for our story to build up to Beth’s eventual death and travel through time. Quite a bit of time is spent on Beth interacting with her husband’s illegitimate daughter that I’m not 100% convinced was entirely necessary. Unless of course that story line comes back into play in a future novel? Who knows! That being said, once Beth makes the jump through time I was hooked. You have the drama and intrigue of her adjusting to life in the 1800s, falling in love with Samuel, and eventually dealing with the suspense of the abusive father. I figured we’d end with a happily ever after, but what I wasn’t expecting was to see how everything connects back to the future. The novel definitely comes full circle in a delightfully clever way, and I for one am excited to see what other inventive twists and turns we might encounter in a second book.

Smut Level: For a historical romance this book will definitely have you blushing. Sure, we get the typical mentions of trembling and bursting forth into ecstasy, but there are also a few more details in there to please our modern sensibilities.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 237 Pages.