One Shingle to Hang by Deann Smallwood

When Lil looked to the future, all she ever saw was the law. She’s defied family expectations, not to mention societal norms, to open her own law practice. Marriage never seemed to be on the table. But all of that changes when one rugged cowboy with a threat against his life walks in seeking her help. 

What’s it About? 

A woman with too much knowledge was at risk for insanity. Her fragile mind couldn’t handle it. That’s what Lil had been told when she went against convention and became an attorney. The 1800’s had fewer women lawyers than women doctors. Her pride knew no bounds when she hung her shingle—L.M. Wentfield, Attorney At Law.

Drew was a struggling cattle rancher, building a fledgling Hereford empire. He was working toward that goal when he was accused of rustling and faced possible hanging. He needed a lawyer—a good one—a man. Chesterfield had one lawyer—a new one—L.M. Wentfield. He wasn’t prepared for a beautiful blonde with a sharp tongue and fiercely won independence.

Lil had no homemaking abilities. Her love was the law. And if the thoughts of the gray-eyed cowboy, who had the audacity to refuse her legal help, stayed in her mind, she’d push them aside. She had nothing to offer a rancher . Even her wealth wouldn’t be considered an asset to a prideful man. And Drew Jackson was proud. So proud, he knew he couldn’t ask a woman of Lil’s stature to share his life—but he wanted to—from the moment he’d stolen that first kiss.

First Impressions

This is a cute, light-hearted read whose synopsis was unfortunately more enticing than the story itself. I’m always excited to pick up a historical romance that will regal us with a strong female character who is “ahead of her time”. While Lil was certainly a headstrong and quick-witted female lead, I was rather disappointed we didn’t get to see her engage more with the law. After moving to this small mountain town with the goal of opening her own law practice, the most lawyer-ly activity we see her pursue is writing up an ironclad will for her first ever client who deigned to giver her a chance. When it comes to helping Drew, the dashing cattle rancher in need of legal help, Lil almost transforms more into an intelligent private detective than a lawyer.

She even goes so far as to set up a sting operation with the local sheriff to catch Drew’s accuser in a lie. An entertaining scene to be sure, but I was holding out hope for a dramatic courtroom argument where Lil could truly showcase her law prowess. The fact we are never privy to one scene in court throughout the entirety of the novel was the peak of disappointment, not to mention that Drew’s drama is resolved quite early on in the novel. Even though an act of revenge from Drew’s nemesis is hinted at in the beginning, it’s a threat which never comes to fruition. Instead the focus of the novel switches to the budding romance between Drew and Lil, which was certainly an adorable relationship you proceed to root for, but the flow of the story probably could have benefited from bringing the conflict involving Drew’s land and cattle business back full circle. As things stood, that particular story line was left feeling unfinished. 

The High Point

While the story didn’t quite live up to the hype of the synopsis, one area where this novel truly excelled was in the characters. This is a world you want to live in, or at least have the opportunity to visit, merely in the hopes of sitting down to a cookout with our outspoken female lawyer, her devilishly handsome and selfless rancher, the candid yet caring housekeeper and her precocious granddaughter, just to name a few. Even our villains were characters you loved to hate, from the nefarious cowboy who has his sights set on Drew’s ranch, to Lil’s conservative parents who threaten to stand in the way of everything she’s built for herself. I can’t remember the last time I was so inclined to don a pair of gloves, merely so I could rip them off to haughtily slap a fictional character’s face.

Even though the author should be commended for the creation of such distinct and hypnotizing personalities, it was also a little disappointing to see the introduction of some fascinating characters at the start of the novel, only to have them fade away from the story completely by the midway point. I think this can once again be attributed to the flow of the plot, which was too distinctly segmented into Lil setting up shop, Drew seeking her help with his legal troubles, and then the slow evolution of their romantic relationship after his legal conflict is resolved. This meant that when one segment was settled, there wasn’t an attempt to bring back some of the characters and drama from that section into a later one.

Series: Chesterfield Colorado series, book 1. Though a sweet read, I’m not sure I’ll continue on with this series. 

Final Impressions: Greater cohesion for how this story unfolded, as well as further incorporation of Lil’s law knowledge, really could have made this historical romance a standout read. It seemed like an odd choice to suggest that the source of Drew’s legal drama at the beginning would come back to seek revenge against him and Lil, but then abandon that story line completely. The book as a whole is relatively conflict free, so to bring in Lil’s parents as the final source of drama for the book felt random compared to the possibility of fully resolving the outstanding risk of Drew’s nemesis. Lastly, every great legal story, from Philadelphia to My Cousin Vinny has an exciting courtroom scene of opposing counselors, so never giving Lil the chance to prove herself in court seemed like a wasted opportunity for some delightful entertainment. 

Smut Level: The most sensual moment of this read is when Drew and Lil share a jug of lemonade together in a shaded, hidden meadow. Their clothes stay on the whole time, and the biggest step they take is a brush of lips, but there’s something about that lemonade scene, as they contemplate where each other’s lips have just been that will make you giddy with excitement. Who knew? 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE Kindle book. Soul Mate Publishing, LLC. 213 Pages.  

The Cryptographer by Alice Wallis-Eton

Love and espionage in the midst of war. Could there be any more perfect combination? How about if we throw in an adorable canine sidekick, along with some burly Scottish Dragoons?

What’s it About?

Everybody has a secret, but some are harder to decipher…

England, 1813. Aster Tanner is alone in the world and keeps a roof over her head by working the one asset she has – her mind. She needs her job; she does not need a Scotsman underfoot, making her heart flutter with heated glances and impertinent questions.

Iain McIntyre, Captain in the Second Dragoons, has a confidential assignment: find a list rumoured to name traitors working against England. He is looking for anything unusual — like a woman working as a secretary. He tells himself his fascination with the lass is because she holds a man’s position, and nothing to do with his rising desire to know the sharp mind hidden behind her darkened glasses.

When Aster is targeted by those intent on recovering the list, she must decide who to trust. She has seven encrypted names. But whose? Meanwhile, Iain is on the trail of a double agent. Time is running out, and secrets must be decoded before lives and hearts are sacrificed.

First Impressions

This was a surprisingly intriguing read that successfully held my interest with a slew of engaging characters, not to mention a few twist and turns that even I didn’t see coming. Unlike the cover art might have you believe, this regency romance isn’t just another classic tale of highbred lord and lady falling in love. Instead, we have two main characters who wouldn’t typically be featured in primary roles, which was one of the first aspects of this novel that drew me in. Aster is a lowly, yet deceptively intelligent, secretary who must work in order to survive. She’s without family, and the only companion she has in life is her beloved pooch, Dougal. In essence, Aster is our regency girl-next-door. She’s never been to a ball, doesn’t know how to ride a horse, and has never been able to afford an elegant item of excess such as a parasol. She lives and works day-to-day, never expecting much more out of life than what she currently has.

Then along comes a Scottish military captain who throws her world upside down. Iain is a second son who has been brushed to the sidelines for most of his life. Although he comes from a family of means, the fact he was born second in line means that he’s had to work his whole life, as there was no great inheritance coming his way. This also resulted in high class women virtually ignoring him considering they wouldn’t marry into the wealth and prestige of his family’s title. When a secret mission brings Iain face-to-face with this intriguing female secretary working alongside an infamous cryptographer, the Scotsman finds himself entranced by Aster’s very presence, and she quickly starts to become the primary focus of his attention rather than the mystery at hand.

Who Can You Trust?

The fact that these two were fully embroiled in the world of espionage, secret codes and puzzles lent a mystifying air to their entire relationship. Even though we as the audience knew they were both honest patriots, Aster and Iain spend the first half of the novel juxtaposing their obvious attraction to one another against the question of whether or not the other is a spy for the enemy. Neither of them is used to receiving much attention, she as a working woman and he as a second son, so when interest and consideration is unexpectedly thrust upon them they immediately start to think of potential ulterior motives. We only hope that these two can ultimately recognize the shared attraction simmering between them, and that if they push aside their suspicious musings they can form an unbreakable partnership which will prove tenacious in the face of a common enemy.

And this brings us to another unique feature of this novel that I wouldn’t have expected from a regency romance, which was the descriptive focus on loneliness which has pervaded so much of their lives up until this point, more so especially with Aster. She lives in a world without family, her work is rather solitary in nature, and she lives in a boarding house where she finds it difficult to connect with the other patrons. Sometimes the only conversation she has in a given day is with her dog. On the other hand, Iain is part of a group of soldiers who are like brothers to him, and yet the vast majority of his youth was spent being ignored in the shadow of his brother, the heir. When Iain and Aster meet they are immediately taken with each other’s company, but they also fear that a future together might be outside the realm of possibility. The thought of going back to the lonely lives they once led is a sad comparison to the bright light that each has brought into the other’s world. When they eventually spend one passion-filled night together in a remote seaside cabin, a happily ever after seems so close, but will all of their prior insecurities continue to push this chance at happiness just out of reach?

Off-Balance

On the whole I did thoroughly enjoy this read, as there was an air of mystery and suspense which held my interest, and a slew of twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting from start to finish. That being said, some of these same unexpected developments ultimately hindered the flow of the story in a way which could have been avoided. Firstly, there were some vast stretches of the story in between our moments of suspense that felt rather lethargic in comparison. Aster and Iain probably spend more of the story thinking about each other, and contemplating their feelings than they actually do interacting with each other. The bulk of the cryptography decoding story line, as well as Aster’s influential role in it, was reserved for the latter half of the novel in a way that we weren’t even fully privy to her intellectual capabilities until rather late in the game. I wish there had been more focus on that part of the plot rather than the constant wondering by Iain and Aster if the other was looking for a lifetime commitment, or if one night was all there would be between them.

Again, while I enjoyed the fact we see a woman of Aster’s background featured in such a crucial way, I wanted her acumen to be more fully integrated throughout the rest of the story. Another feature of this novel which threw things into a bit of disarray was that we were witness to some rather violent and gruesome acts of murder and even torture that I definitely wasn’t expecting. That’s not to say a regency romance can’t have those darker elements featured, but instead their use was so sporadic and off-tone compared to the rest of the story, that you couldn’t help but feel they came completely out of left field. There either needed to be a lighter touch to those moments of violence, or the rest of the book should have had a darker emphasis woven throughout so that those individual scenes didn’t seem so off-balance.

Series: Second Sons, book 1. Iain’s fellow Second Dragoon comrades were such engaging characters that they really helped build a sense of family amongst this group of second sons. I’m eager to continue on with this series to see what romance is in store for each of them.

Final Impressions: This is a read that held my interest, and kept me guessing how everything was going to come together in the end. Unfortunately we don’t really get to see how the big picture does come together, but rather just a few of the tiny pieces to the larger puzzle. Though not a cliffhanger ending by any sorts, it was a bit disappointing to discover that we’ll need to keep going with this series before any kind of final conclusion will occur. Thankfully the slew of characters presented in this first novel were thoroughly entertaining, and I do want to see how things progress in each of their future books. I really enjoyed Iain and Aster as lead characters, especially with Aster as a somewhat unconventional female protagonist, but at times their uncertainties over the other’s affections seemed misplaced and unwarranted. Finally, there were many clever plot twists that kept me on the edge of my seat, and even prompted me to put hand to chest with a gasp of worry at one point. However, some of the twists were unnecessarily macabre in description, while others (though interesting as a twist) contradicted the back stories for some characters which the author had previously presented to us as truths. A bit of editing and restructuring would have benefitted the overall flow of the work.

Smut Level: At one point Aster’s desire for Iain in his absence is so great that she decides to take matters into her own hands, if you catch my drift. We also get a few descriptive moments of one night Iain and Aster spent together, though nothing that will leave you too flushed. I was upset that we never saw one fantasy come to fruition that both of our characters envisioned, which was to spend time in a rather unique cliffside bathtub together.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $25.54 Paperback (I purchased the Kindle version of this years ago for much less, but it doesn’t seem available in e-format anymore). CreateSpace Independent Publishing. 256 Pages.

Swaying the Opposition by D.M. Porters

What better way to start off the new year than with a captivating historical romance featuring two headstrong lead characters on opposing sides of a societal battle? We can’t help but wonder who will succeed first, the innocent beauty trying to sway this man to see her point of view, or the devilish rake hoping to sway said beauty into his bed. Crack this one open to find out for yourself!

What’s it About? 

Lady Aeryn Dunning believes love is fiction, a clever myth designed to control the weak. It was why marriage had never been an option for her growing up. But time changes that. Aeryn starts to feel like a burden on her family and yields to their wishes, accepting the hand of her father’s friend, the Honorable Lord Dunning. Kenneth is much older than her, but the politician is kind and compassionate, making him as good a choice as any. The two become more friends than lovers, but sadly, the marriage would be short-lived. Aeryn is left a wealthy widow, free to pursue a cause dear to her and her husband – saving children from factories and giving them the gift of learning.

Handsome Royce Garrington is a member of Parliament whose tragic past made him cold and uncaring. His arrogance is well-known, and his patience razor-thin. The young lord hates wasting time on inconsequential matters and sees the Factory Act as one of these. He believes the alleged abuses in factories exaggerated and urges the House to move on to more pressing issues.

Aeryn and Royce meet under the most extreme circumstances, and immediately he is drawn to the ravishing redhead. Aeryn knows of Lord Garrington; he is a scoundrel, and she should have nothing to do with him. But when the cad threatens her father’s reputation, Aeryn is forced to agree to a most scandalous arrangement with him. Neither is prepared for the torrent of emotions that would overwhelm them during their time together. Perhaps love does exist, and its power can sway the opposition.

First Impressions

Swaying the Opposition proves to be the kind of historical romance where you not only have the opportunity to witness the development of a young couples’ relationship from enemies to lovers, but you also learn something about the time period in question. At first I was a tad concerned that the rather heavy subject matter of child labor and corresponding injuries/fatalities in the midst of the Industrial Revolution would put a damper on the romance evolving between Lady Dunning and Lord Garrington, but the author actually does a phenomenal job of weaving the details of the Factory Act as a key feature into the romantic story line of the book. The two elements go hand-in-hand, and while you might need a tissue (I know I certainly did) a time or two as we witness the harsh realities of factory work in this era, there are plenty of other moments where you’ll want to stand up and cheer for the bravery and resilience of those who fought to bring about an end to these injustices. What better backdrop for two people on seemingly opposite sides of the aisle to find their way into each other’s arms?   

A Blackmail Scheme that Leads to Love

Aeryn proves to be the perfect boss lady of a heroine. She’s the kind of female lead you love to love. Not afraid to go after what she wants, she also does whatever is necessary for the betterment of those less fortunate than her, even if it means throwing societal pressures and expectations to the wayside. Does she ultimately succumb to the blackmail scheme devised by Lord Garrington to get her into his bed in return for his silence over her actions of trespassing to free a young girl from a harmful factory? Sure, but this really shouldn’t be construed as a matter of weakness, but almost as one of empowerment. I couldn’t help but applaud the author for her ability to highlight this scenario as a way for Aeryn to finally explore her sexuality for the first time in her life, and with a partner she actually wanted to say yes to. In a way, it felt as though this moment of blackmail was the excuse Aeryn needed to convince herself it was ok to give into the desire that Royce had awoken within her. You never for a moment think that Aeyrn was forced into a situation that she didn’t want to wholeheartedly explore herself. 

And that brings us to good ole Lord Garrington. Oh yeah, he’s the perfect cad you love to hate, but then grow to love. The story arch of Royce’s character from an unfeeling politician at the start of the novel to a loving partner by the end was probably my favorite aspect of the entire book. Lady Aeryn proves to be the catalyst for him to start looking at what his life has become, and not only question where things went wrong in the past, but also wonder how he might want to change things for the future. In spite of his wealth and stature in society, he doesn’t feel good enough for a woman of Aeryn’s integrity. For this very reason Royce goes through most of the novel believing he’ll never succeed in winning her over into his life permanently, and yet this surprisingly doesn’t stop him from ultimately succeeding (with some supplemental help from a lovable friendly butler) to change his ways for the better. His continued self-deprecation was in fact a crucial feature of his growth as a character, as we are convinced by the end that Royce wasn’t merely trying to change on the surface in the hopes of getting Aeryn back in his bed, but rather she inspired him to do some soul-searching of his own to see how he could become the man, friend and brother he once was. 

The Game of Politics

Politics play a critical role throughout this entire novel, not only in the logistics of the Factory Act itself, but also for the development of Royce’s character, his evolving romance with Aeryn, as well as the transition of a former friend to villainous foe. I remember at the very start of this novel thinking to myself, “it’s simply not believable that there would be such intense opposition, and from our lead male character no less, to the passing of a resolution which would safeguard women and children” to then having this eye-opening realization of “oh yeah…politics…that definitely tracks”. It was almost comically horrific to see how applicable some of the same debates and futile misunderstandings which permeated the political landscape of the era still ring true today. From Royce thinking the tales of abuse and disfigurement were merely overblown exaggerations not to be believed in the newspapers, to other politicians insisting previous legislation already dealt with the topic, and finally to wealthy businessmen arguing a change in regulations would cripple advancement and economic prosperity. Same arguments, different era. 

While these political debates were crucial to capturing our interest in the story as a whole, they also presented two problematic features for our characters that I wish had been addressed or altered in some way. Firstly, as previously discussed, Royce is initially presented to us as…well a bit of an ass. He staunchly opposes the Factory Act, and seemingly delights in arguing with members of the opposition in a way that makes their blood boil. Even though we ultimately see a change in character for Royce later on that makes us (and Aeryn) fall in love with him, the fact he could be so blasé and dismissive of child endangerment at the start of the novel was quite a turn off. We do see a brief mention that Royce believes there are more pressing issues at hand to discuss in Parliament, but we never really get a full insight into what he thinks those topics are. If we could have been privy to one or two other key pieces of legislature that he felt truly passionate about, and perhaps had even put a lot of time and energy into, he could possibly have been a more redeemable character to us, and Aeryn, earlier on. And this brings me to the second, and perhaps more pressing issue that this political opposition presents, which is that it’s a bit hard to understand why Aeryn was so smitten with Royce considering he essentially stood for everything she despised.

Don’t get me wrong, I was 100% rooting for them to come together by the end of the story, but I couldn’t help but feel as though the initial connection on Aeryn’s part for Royce was almost too steeped in sexual attraction at the start. This is a woman who has devoted most of her life to rescuing women and children from oppressive working conditions, and yet after a few tumbles between the sheets with Royce as part of his blackmail scheme she continues to think upon him fondly after he sends her back home. At this point in the story all she knows of his character is that he voraciously opposes the Factory Act every chance he gets, and that he’s an amazingly attentive lover. We as the readers get a few glimpses early on that there is more lying beneath the surface for this complicated man, as we are privy to his inner musings and changing ways, but Aeryn doesn’t necessarily see the same revelations at that point in time. Later on she learns more in conversations with his butler and adopted brother that Royce came from a complicated past that impacted who he became later in life, but during those early days of their interactions she simply knows him as the ruggedly handsome blackmailer who fights her father on the Parliament floor. This is another reason I had hoped we could have seen one other thing early on that Royce was passionate in arguing for, not against, as it could have been something for Aeryn to hold onto beyond their sexual connection as a reason she couldn’t push him out of her mind. 

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This read captured my interest from opening bell, and it was rather difficult to put down at times, as evidenced by the fact I finished reading it in just 3 days. We have a strong female lead, a troubling male lead in want of reform, and a slew of supplementary characters that bring the story to life. Sure, I would have enjoyed one or two more scenes involving Aeryn and Royce engaging together outside of the bedroom, but they were also so focused on each other when they weren’t together that you almost didn’t notice the physical distance. Almost 😉 The time period setting was truly fascinating, and the political arguments presented were surprisingly reminiscent of those we still see made today across the aisles. This novel does present us with hope though. Hope that true love can not only be found, but that there are people who won’t stand down in standing up for what’s right. 

Smut Level: Me oh my is it getting hot in here! There are plenty of instances of bodice ripping and being pushed up against closed doors/walls to make you swoon. 

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. 284 Pages

The Viscount’s Christmas Temptation by Erica Ridley

Well that went quickly! Here I thought this would be a nice historical read to last me through the holiday season, and it surprisingly just lasted me through my morning coffee. If you’re looking for a quick, fun read during the holidays to kill time as your turkey bastes, if you need a few minutes away from family, or are looking for a break from wrapping presents, this one might do the trick.

What’s it About?

Certain individuals might consider Lady Amelia Pembroke a managing sort of female, but truly, most people would be lost without her help. Why, the latest on-dit is that rakish Viscount Sheffield is canceling the fête of the year because he hasn’t time for silly soirees. He doesn’t need time—he needs her! When a flash of lightning destroys the venue for his family’s annual Christmas ball, Lord Benedict Sheffield intends to enjoy a relaxing holiday for once. But after twelve days of beguiling Lady Amelia’s guerrilla tactics, he’s up to his cravat with tinsel . . . and tumbling head over heels in love.

First Impressions

Throughout the first chapter I honestly wasn’t too sure if I was going to be a fan of our female protagonist, Lady Amelia. She’s responsible for managing her brother’s household and is almost annoyingly efficient at it, foreseeing and anticipating a solution for every possible hiccup that could possibly arise. It would appear as though nothing can ruffle the feathers of this stoically put together lady! When Amelia realizes her single status might be preventing her beloved brother from seeking out a wife of his own, she takes it upon herself to finally find herself a respectable husband before she turns 30, the day after Christmas. Which is only a mere fortnight away! Attending an annual Christmas ball with the highest echelons of society seems like the perfect venue to pick a suitor, but when Amelia discovers an unfortunate stroke of lightning has ruined the traditional choice of venue for the ball she decides to step in with her practical planning and management skills to ensure the party proceeds as planned. And cue the fortuitous meet cute with the devilishly handsome Viscount Sheffield.

The meeting of these two characters is when I became more endeared to our leading lady, and when the fun truly begins! The viscount is a studious man who devotes himself to work from 8am to 8pm, and frivolous fun from 8pm to 8am. He’s immediately taken with the spitfire who bursts into his life, determined to set his annual Christmas ball to right. While he’s been attracted to countless actresses and courtesans throughout the years, he’s never been intrigued by such a bold and outspoken woman before, and it doesn’t take long before she inserts herself into his every waking thought. Viscount Sheffield becomes determined to show Lady Amelia how to have fun in life, and let her hair down so to speak, a truly impractical concept from her viewpoint. She in turn tries to get him to break his insistence on dividing his life into these twelve hour blocks with no possibility of mixing things up every once in a while. Their focused determination to impact each other’s idea of normal makes them the perfect match!

A Tease of Something More

As previously mentioned, I had no idea going into this read that it was going to be so brief in terms of word count. The short length felt like a tease or preview of what this book could have been. I almost wish there was an option to purchase a more full-length version of their romantic tale, as it would have been fun to dive deeper into what we only scratched the surface of viewing. Seeing as their entire romance evolves in the twelve days leading up to Christmas, an entire chapter devoted to each day would have been an intriguing way to organize a longer book.

It also would have been fun to see Viscount Sheffield throwing Lady Amelia a bit more off balance from her perfectly planned ideas, but it’s only hinted at briefly though a sweeping kiss under some holly and whisking her away to a masquerade for some unexpected dancing before another lip-lock. Just one more instance of him successfully surprising her would have been a treat, but for the most part she manages to have the upper hand of staying calm, cool and collected through most of their interactions. It ultimately felt like she had more of an impact on uprooting his way of life than he did for her in return. A few more appearances of traditional Christmas elements beyond just a sprinkling of holly balls throughout a ballroom also would have been a joyful delight. The fact we don’t even see a small gift exchange between our main characters, or the decorating of a Christmas tree seems almost blasphemous for a holiday romance!

Series: Dukes of War, book 1.

Final Impressions: This was certainly a fun, cute, quick read, but I think I would have loved it even more as a full-fledged novel. It seems like a good introduction to the writing style of the author, as well as a jump start to the series, which I wouldn’t be opposed to exploring further!

Smut Level: We do get a delightfully passionate kiss below some mistletoe! No tumbles between the sheets for this holiday read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.75 Paperback Price. Intrepid Reads. 146 Pages.

Upon Your Love by Marie Lavender

The Heiress in Love trilogy comes to a conclusion in this final book with some new and familiar faces making an appearance, but also some unfriendly ones who threaten to break apart the love these characters have found.

What’s it About?

The Hill family saga concludes as loyalties are questioned, faiths will be tested and undying love may come at a terrible cost…

Fara Hill, mother and faithful wife, is torn between her family at home and her urge to be at sea. Soon, she learns some disturbing truths. Was the past a fairy tale instead of reality?

Chloe Hill, loving wife and young mother, questions her faith when her husband sets an ultimatum she cannot meet. Will she be able to keep her marriage from falling apart?

Adrienne Bellamont Hill, born of a valiant captain and a fiery redhead, is untamed to her core and will bow to no man. Then Christian du Plessis enters her life with an offer she can’t refuse. Discovering the man behind the polished gentleman, she is drawn to him in many ways. Holding out for love is a family tradition, but can she resist the temptation of passion?

Christian finds this young woman to be a fascinating challenge, and is torn between keeping his distance from her and succumbing to her charms. A fierce battle of wills ensues as he sees she is much more than he ever imagined. But danger lurks, threatening to destroy everything…Can these two strong-willed individuals unite in the cause before time runs out?

First Impressions

Of all of the books in this series, Adrienne and Christian were hands-down my favorite couple of the bunch. A large contributing factor to this probably had to do with the fact that they spent more time in each other’s presence than the previous two couples, who were seemingly constantly separated by scheming relatives or large swaths of ocean. Aside from mere proximity however, this couple also shone brightly due to their authentic chemistry which was blanketed with a playfulness you couldn’t help but fall in love with. If the progression of Adrienne and Christian’s relationship had remained the primary focus of the book from start to finish, we could have had a real winner on our hands. Unfortunately, this read was inundated with not only romantic updates for the couples from the previous two books, but also the telling of new romances involving Adrienne and Christian’s best friends, two servants of the Hill family, and even a throwback romance relayed via the journal entries of Adrienne’s grandmother.

Each romance was sort of told in subsequent blocks, which meant that just when the going was getting good with Adrienne and Christian, we’d take a massive pause of a few hundred pages to get a glimpse at four or five other romances involving different characters before we finally got back to our main couple. At least…I’m assuming they were our main couple? Therefore, while they may not have been separated by the physical distance that was common in books one and two, instead we as the audience were separated from them by a slew of other romances. We’re not only rooting for Adrienne and Christian to find their happily ever after, but also Elena and Pierce, Eric and Claudette, and for the happiness to be maintained between Fara and Grant, Chloe and Gabriel, and if I’m being totally honest I completely forgot the names of the grandparents. There were just too many people to keep track of!

Some Shared Dramatic Details

Although we’re dealing with a slew of Hill family women across multiple generations, they do have the tendency to share a few similarities when it comes to the love in their lives. First and foremost, there’s certainly a propensity for them to be involved in somewhat compromising situations (at least for the time period) before marriage. Whether it be premarital sex and pregnancy, which was by far the most common scenario, or being caught in the midst of a passionate make-out session with a man on a balcony at a party, these ladies eventually walk down the aisle with their devilish rakes with whom they couldn’t deny their sexual attraction. As if that wasn’t enough of a shared circumstance, most of these women find themselves having the most intense of arguments and disagreements with their spouses over their overprotective natures.

The men in this novel can’t entertain the idea of any kind of harm befalling their beloveds, that they go to over-the-top extremes of sheltering and patronizing their women in a way that comes across as misogynistically caveman-ish. The fact that these women have so much crossover when it comes to some of the more contentious points of their lives makes you wish there could have been more diversity in the dramatic plot points throughout the story. Instead it came across as rather repetitive, with an intense craving for something different to occur. The few times we do get new introductions of suspense in this novel, it surprisingly revolved around one of the secondary characters, but Adrienne and Christian manage to insert themselves into the fray on more than one occasion. While these moments did help pick up the pace of the read, it also felt odd that none of the drama was borne from vengeance towards either of our primary characters. 

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

Series: Heiress in Love, book 3. The sun has set on this historical romance series. 

Final Impressions: Even though I enjoyed the evolution of Adrienne and Christian’s relationship from strangers scheming to get their best friends together to ultimately becoming lovers, there were simply too many other couples highlighted throughout this story. It prolonged the novel to over 700 long, drawn-out pages, and unfortunately this book was one where you felt the length of every page. If we had been able to edit out the majority of story involving the other characters, as well as the sometimes unnecessarily overly detailed scene descriptors, this book probably could have easily come in at under 400 focused pages. 

Smut Level: We get some pretty steamy scenes of the fun happening behind closed doors, and even one involving late nineteenth century lingerie!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. Solstice Publishing. 705 Pages.

The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley

Chloe has become an expert at blending into the background. When the one man she’s always had her eye on finally sees her, she starts to wonder what a lifetime in his embrace could be like.

What’s it About?

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable — a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she’s ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she’s the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she’ll also abduct a handsome duke.

Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father’s mistakes. To repair his estate’s ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family’s legacy to follow true love?

First Impressions

This is definitely one of those novels where it feels as though we’ve been dropped into the fun mid-story. There are a slew of characters who are difficult to distinguish from one another, each one with an exuberantly over-the-top personality. It seems like we’ve already missed the introduction to who they all are, as well as their dynamic with not only the Duke of Faircliffe, but also the rest of society at large. It was tricky to determine at the outset if Chloe and her rag-tag group of misfit orphan siblings were dedicated to helping those less fortunate in British society, or if they were just extremely talented con-men. While it’s kind of a blend of the two at times, rest assured that it’s more the former than the latter. I was so thrown by the missing backstory that I even double-checked a time or two to see if this was in fact the first book in the Wild Wynchesters series, or perhaps if this was a spin-off series of another which may have provided that missing introduction I was hoping for.

It wasn’t until I finished the whole novel that I discovered there’s actually a novella called The Governess Gambit which takes place before this first full-length book of the series. In simply reading the synopsis of that prequel it seems like it probably contained all of the important foundational details that this book needed. And I must say, it was a pretty frustrating discovery! Either there needed to be a full summary and re-introduction of the key players first thing in this book, or that novella should have been more clearly labeled as book one. While I think it would have helped matters significantly had I read that book first, I don’t believe it would have changed the fact that this read presents us with a rather slow-moving start. Even the primary feature of the synopsis which piqued my interest in the first place, the fact Chloe kind of unknowingly kidnaps a Duke, plays out fairly quickly and isn’t really the basis of the plot in any way. It’s not until roughly the half-way point where things really start to come together as Chloe and Lawrence become more fully entrenched in each other’s lives.

The Orphan and the Duke

Chloe and Lawrence may have spent more of this novel apart than together, thinking and pining after each other rather than engaging directly, and yet their impact on each other’s lives cannot be ignored. Their growing connection and attraction forces them to look inward, and contemplate how they’ve both arrived at this point in their lives. For Chloe, we hear about her background growing up on the streets of London, abandoned by her family before being adopted by a lonely Baron who wanted to provide a better life for orphans who society had turned away from. In order to survive on the streets, Chloe had to blend into the shadows to survive. As a pickpocket, and even after her adoption, she continued to live life without drawing unnecessary attention to herself. By spending more time with Lawrence, she has to emerge more into society so that she can further infiltrate his world. This slowly evolving visibility makes her realize that deep down she’s always craved the possibility of being seen and fully embraced by her peers.

Lawrence’s revelations are also connected to his past and complicated relationship with family, in particular his troublesome father. For years Lawrence has tried to remedy the reputation of his family name following the countless debts his father plunged them into. Only by marrying a wealthy woman can Lawrence guarantee that all his debts will be paid off, and his future children might look upon him proudly rather than with shame. However, the misfit Chloe starts to make him question if he can give up all of that security to have her permanently ensconced in his life, especially when he considers how the rest of society refuses to accept her and her untraditional siblings. We ultimately see a vital struggle of pride versus money and love, and we can’t help but wonder which one will win out in the end.

Series: The Wild Wynchesters, book 1 (technically, but not really). I’m not 100% sure I’ll continue with this series, although I will admit the premise of the next book is intriguing seeing as it focuses on a f/f relationship in history.

Final Impressions: It took a bit too long for the story to really get going for my liking. When it finally did I appreciated the inward reflections that Chloe and Lawrence both spent on their own lives, though having more opportunities for them to connect naturally in society rather than constantly via hijinks and deceptions would have benefitted the overall development of their relationship. The ending of this book is stronger than the start as we see the Wynchester clan learn to accept another into their fold who they once considered an enemy, and it will certainly leave a smile on your face.

Smut Level: It takes a while to get there, just like with the rest of the plot, but once we do things certainly don’t disappoint! We see plenty of steamy detail to make up for the wait.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Forever Publishing. 353 Pages.

Ours by Angela Christina Archer

For those of you looking for an emotionally gut-wrenching read that will leave you in a mess of tears, this is the series for you.

What’s it About?

No one knows when it will end or if it will ever end. It seems like the whole world is in fire and nothing is going to put out the flames.

The promise to go on.

Another two years at war and coming into winter with scarcely any rations to be had, Evelyn and Henry along with everyone they know and love deal the pains of starvation. With the birth of their second child approaching, the couple celebrates with apprehension. Not knowing how much longer the war will last, they also live in fear—fear of the Germans and fear of death. Can they survive? Or will the end of the war come a little too late?

The promise to come home.

After swearing off the notion of ever returning home to Guernsey, Amelia continues her education and lands an internship for a up and coming newspaper. With her life finally laid out before her, fate decides to throw her another devastating blow, shattering her world into pieces. Can she overcome what the war has taken from her? And will an unexpected trip back home, a place she never thought she’d go, be exactly what she needs? Or will it only lead her to more heartbreak and loss?

Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

Every once in a blue moon, I can sympathize with the desire to be in a sad or melancholy mood. It can be hard to explain to people, but sometimes you just wanna listen to a sad song, or watch a depressing move to get the tears flowing. Something like The Notebook, or The Land Before Time that will leave you a gasping mess of tears. However, I can’t say I’ve ever craved that same thing when it comes to a book. Sure, maybe I’ll be mid-read and come across a sad scene that will leave me in tears, and I can appreciate the emotional impact it can lend to the story as a whole. But I can’t say I’ve ever sought out a book or series that I know would be primarily sad like I might with a song or movie, probably because with a book you know you’ll be dealing with it for days, or even weeks. Therefore, whenever I do come across a read that is overwhelmingly sad, it can actually result in it being tricky to want to pick up, and you almost have to force yourself to read it. This was sort of my overall journey with this series. It’s a saga of love, family and friends, but it’s also about how all of that is torn apart by the ravages of war. Ultimately, it can only somewhat be patch-worked back together at the end.

The End is Near

Time has been such an important part of this entire series from the get-go. In the first two books our characters constantly wondered how much time was left in this terrible war: weeks, months, years, or was this their new normal? We as the reader always knew there were years of arduous occupation and turmoil still to come. This third book sort of presents us with the opposite. The bulk of the story takes place in the autumn of 1944, and with every turn of the page I kept whispering under my breath, “Just a few more months, don’t give up now. You can make it!” Some do…and some don’t. And cue the tears. This series then transports us to the end of the war and we see where our characters have ended up following the conclusion of the events form the past six years. We even come full circle back to how the series kicked off, with some of our characters standing on the docks of Guernsey together, which is where they first said goodbye all the way back at the start of book one.

While I could appreciate the poetic beauty of having the series come completely full circle, unfortunately I can’t say I was thrilled with how everything else came together at the end. It’s a bit hard to describe without giving away too many spoilers, but essentially what some of our characters spent the last 2-3 books convincing us of was completely flipped on its head in the last half or so of this final novel. Some may argue that the characters were just trying to convince themselves all this time that something wasn’t true, but it honestly didn’t really feel that way when were in the thick of the story. I guess I couldn’t help but feel that after all of this forward momentum, some of our lead characters ultimately ended up back where they started, and it was such a quick and almost jarring 180 degree turn of events that I wasn’t 100% convinced they ended up where they belonged. Or perhaps they did, but we simply didn’t get enough description to justify this turn.

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

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 3. This was the final book in the series.

Final Impressions: This was an interesting and unique saga, but consider yourself warned that it is an emotionally devastating read. Reading book one will put you on the path where you need to see the series through to the end. You’ll fall in love with and subsequently mourn a slew of characters along the way. Ultimately I can’t say I was pleased with how the series all came together by the end, but it was certainly a journey to get there which will keep you guessing and crying from start to finish.

Smut Level: Any sexually suggestive scenes all fade to black.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 191 Pages.

Mine by Angela Christina Archer

This historical romance will have you turn to any friends, family or loved ones nearby to gather up into your arms, and hold them tightly for as long as you can.

What’s it About? 

War continues to rage in Europe, with no end in sight, people in the occupied countries are suffering and starving. One of those places is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France. A part of the United Kingdom, the residents of Guernsey are the only British citizens facing occupation by the Deutsches Heer.

The promise of love.

Deep in the middle of the German occupation, life for Evelyn and Henry is nothing but a perilous journey, as though walking a tightrope, between survival and starvation. Through the trials of every day, they also find joy, marriage, and the notion of starting a family. But having children during war and while under German rule can be complicated, and Evelyn must face a few hard choices when it comes to keeping those she loves safe and alive.

The promise of beginning again.

Newly wed, and still working on Halifax Farms as a land girl, Amelia comes face to face with a loss of her own. With her husband off to war and the discovery she’s carrying a child, she follows the tugging feeling to continue her education and dreams of becoming a journalist. When tragedy strikes, not once, but twice, however, Amelia must head down a path she never thought she’d take, and one she doesn’t know if she’s ready for or truly desires.
Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

This was another emotional addition to The Promises Between Us series. In my review of book one I mentioned how nobody was off limits when it came to the travesties of war. This second novel certainly underscores the truth of that reality, but we just have to wait around a bit longer for the tragedies to hit. For so much of the book I was just waiting around in agonized anticipation for the other shoe to drop, and sure enough! We see a domino effect of people being impacted and torn apart by war, and one scene in particular left me a bubbling mess of tears. Here’s to hoping the other folks lounging around my apartment’s pool simply thought I had sunscreen in my eyes.

From Guernsey to Halifax Farms

Once again, the principle pathway of this book presents us with alternating scenes of life for the Ashton sisters as they try to find love in the midst of war. An interesting break with book one is that where Amelia once provided a sense of movement and changing scenery compared to her sister trapped on Guernsey, Amelia instead spends most of this second book in one location. Her travel from Guernsey across the English Channel, and multiple train rides to different places in England has now landed her working as a land girl at a country farm. Most of this read involves long stints regaling us with Amelia’s daily chores on the farm compared to Evelyn’s daily life in occupied Guernsey. The fact both sisters are essentially stuck in one place with such limited opportunities for movement left this sequel feeling somewhat linear in terms of plot.

That is of course until we reach the latter half of the book when developments once again start impacting our characters. These sisters are finally successful in sending word to each other about how their lives have changed so much since they last said farewell years before at the Guernsey port, and how love has brought a small glimmer of happiness to their existence. It’s also the first definitive confirmation for Henry to realize that Amelia moved on with someone else after leaving him, and Amelia discovers that her sister and former beau have fallen in love. I don’t want to spoil what comes of these discoveries, but let’s just say their reactions couldn’t have been more different. We can’t help but question if these two sisters and their husbands will survive this terrible war, and if they do what kind of greeting will they have upon seeing each other again?

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

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 2. I’m eager to see how everything will come together for the third and final book.

Final Impressions: While this series certainly highlights the fragility of life, it also does a fantastic job of demonstrating why it’s important to take chances to live every day to the fullest. What struck me most was seeing how true this was for our characters, as they had no idea how much longer this war would last. We as the readers certainly have the end date constantly in the forefront of our minds, but our characters don’t know if the war will end in a month, or if German occupation will be their new reality forever. Some choose to give up amidst such uncertainty, but others live by the mantra to seize the day.

Smut Level: These young ladies have become married women, and enjoy moments of passion with their respective husbands. However, we only see a few kisses before the scenes fade to black, and never witness their bedroom antics in full detail.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 269 Pages. 

Yours by Angela Christina Archer

War might tear some friends and families apart, but this read highlights how it can also pull others together.

What’s it About? 

After France surrenders to the Nazis, all eyes turn to the Channel Islands off the coast. Knowing the Germans could invade their quiet home the resident children of Guernsey are evacuated. Among them are Amelia Ashton, and her older sister Evelyn.

The promise to stay safe.

Forced onto the boat by her older sister, seventeen-year-old Amelia Ashton arrives in Weymouth with hundreds of other children. Although she is placed with a kind and loving foster family in Derbyshire, her world is torn apart. With all her communication cut off from her family, and the boys at school joining to fight in the war, Amelia struggles with her own desire to help. On a whim, she lies about her age and boards a train headed to volunteer with the Women’s Land Army. Finding solace in the work of farm life, she reconnects with William, a young man from Derbyshire, and who doesn’t waste any time asking for her hand in marriage. Can Amelia start a new life without looking over her shoulder at what she left behind in Guernsey or will the war change everything?

The promise to survive.

Fearing for her parents’ lives, nineteen-year-old, Evelyn Ashton stays behind, living through the German occupation plaguing her once beautiful home—the island of Guernsey. Living under German rule, the residents find a new meaning of desperation and despair, trying to survive on rations and evade the threats of being sent off to a death camp. After her parents die in a bombing, Evelyn is left alone to fend for herself against her enemy, and when German soldiers take over her house, she seeks refuge in the only family she believes she has left—Henry—the man once interested in her sister. Can they find comfort in each other or will the occupation claim not only their love but also their lives?

Two sisters. Two promises. One bloody war that changes their lives forever.

First Impressions

After completing the first few chapters of this book I was surprised to admit how much it reminded me of Game of Thrones. Bare with me for a second. Sure, there might not be any fire-breathing dragons, paranormal elements or gratuitous sex scenes. And while we can probably take a far reach to compare the impending arrival of Nazi forces on this small island to the terrifying Night Walkers traversing a wall, that wasn’t exactly the similarity I had in mind. Rather, outside of our two primary sister main characters, you really shouldn’t try to become emotionally attached to anyone else in this book, as they are all fair game to become a victim of the horrors of war. This read might have romance weaved into the plot, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you’ll be given a romanticized view of war. We aren’t presented with any scenes of battle on the frontlines between soldiers, but we do see the devastating effects for those back “at home”. Consider yourself warned you might want to have a box of Kleenex nearby when you pick this one up.

It’s a captivating, albeit oftentimes emotionally devastating read, but alas that is merely the reality of war. We must commend the author for successfully capturing the loss, uncertainties and hopes of those left behind. I’ll admit, I sometimes had to take a few breaks in between my stints of reading this one, as it was so reminiscent of the stories my Oma used to share with my sister and I about what it was like growing up in Nazi Germany with her own sister. From bombs landing in their family attic, to a Jewish classmate who stopped showing up to school one day. She even regaled us with the story of how an American soldier crash landed in a plane outside her village, and she was the only one who could speak a few sentences to him in English before German soldiers came and took him away. I’m sure there was plenty my Oma didn’t tell us about what it took to survive the war with her sister, but reading this tale about another pair of sisters trying to survive each day became quite emotional for me, especially as I tried to envision my sister and I in their shoes.

My Oma, Renate, with her sister, Elfriede.

Sisterhood

This might be a tale of romance, war and survival, but it’s also a tale of sisters. Amelia is sent off to England on her own, while Evelyn remains behind on the island of Guernsey as the Nazis invade. While we’re immediately swept up in the emotional roller coaster this read has to portray, one thing I would have liked to see a bit more of was a connection, yet also a distinction, between these two heroines as sisters. Aside from their goals for the future, these two ladies are rather similar in personality and demeanor that it almost felt like either one could have been present in either part of the story. This is where more distinction would have been welcome. As far as connection, the novel opens with Evelyn pushing Amelia onto a boat for the safety of England, and we sort of missed out on any experience of them together as sisters. It seemed like we didn’t get a full glimpse of their sibling dynamic, and maybe a flashback or two could have helped set the scene of what it was like for them to suddenly be separated by the distance of war.

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

Series: The Promises Between Us, book 1. I’m officially fully invested in seeing what happens to these sisters, and am committed to seeing it through to the end.

Final Impressions: This first novel is definitely setting the scene of our primary characters, including our sisters and their respective beaus whom they unexpectedly found in the midst of unimaginable tragedy. While I was initially hesitant to see Evelyn start to fall for her sister’s former flame, the situation is presented and explained in a way where you can only root for them to survive this war linked arm in arm. Amelia also finds a burgeoning romance where she wasn’t looking for one, and we must simply hold our breath in anticipation to see how the next few years of this war will unfold for the Ashton sisters.

Smut Level: A few breathtaking kisses, but nothing overtly explicit.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. 323 Pages. 

In the Shadow of the Hawthorn by D.M. Porters

A tale of childhood crushes, friendship, romance, greed and murder. In the Shadow of the Hawthorn takes us on a journey of discovery, and the realization that love can be one of the most powerful things of all.

What’s it About? 

“I am only a man, Emma.”

“Then be a man with me.”

Beautiful Emma Mason was an illegitimate child who should have landed on the streets of London. A twist of fate would spare the girl from having to sell her body or beg for her next meal. Instead, Emma grew up in Lord and Lady Drake’s lavish home, working happily in their kitchen with her ever-grateful mother, Julia.

Through the years, Emma would never want for anything – that is until she met Theo Barnett, the son of a wealthy landowner. Friends of the Drakes, Lord Elliott Barnett, and his wife Sylvia had high expectations for their only child. A good match was vital, but they knew their handsome son would have no problems attracting the right woman one day. A chance encounter between Theo and Emma would change everything.

Though wrong, Theo could not stop his attraction to the young baker. Desires burned, and their love was pure, but Emma knew it could not be. They would never be allowed to be together. Refusing to have Theo lose everything for her, Emma would push away the man she loves. Their lives apart would be filled with tragedy, deception, and pain, all fueled by insatiable greed. Can Emma and Theo look beyond the misery and find their way back to each other? Could they go on after losing so much?

First Impressions

When I first started reading this novel, it almost felt like I was coming in at the end of a story. A young woman left alone and pregnant, Julia is a talented baker of delicious confections in an upscale London eatery. She’s about to be forced out because of her delicate condition when she’s discovered and brought into the home of a loving older woman and her devoted husband. They treat her like the daughter they never had, and dote upon her and her newborn child as though finally realizing the happily ever after this woman has been waiting for her entire life. However, we soon discover that this isn’t Julia’s story. Instead it will revolve around her daughter, Emma, who follows in her mother’s culinary talents. But what will society permit when this lowly kitchen servant and a wealthy gentleman fall in love? And more importantly, how will one man’s greed come to shatter the perfect world this happy family has created for themselves?

Wait For It…

Not only does this novel seemingly commence with a happily ever after montage, but it takes some time for us to work our way through Emma’s youth into adulthood before we ultimately get to the crux of the story. I constantly felt as though I was waiting around for the other shoe to drop! Although we have to wait a bit before we come across the real turning point of the novel with a tragic crime, something I really appreciated as we proceeded along this journey was that the author manages to avoid some of the more common trappings and tropes you might initially expect to encounter with this kind of read.

For example, Emma and Theo are initially hesitant to give into their obvious feelings for each other. Especially Emma! While they engage in one steamy moment of indulgence, she tries to shut it down almost immediately following their afternoon tryst. After this seemingly final declaration, there was still quite a bit of novel remaining, so I assumed we’d encounter some kind of continual back and forth of we should…no wait we shouldn’t. Rinse and repeat. Or perhaps a misunderstanding where one of them might be tempted to give up on the other as they wait for the perfect timing of when they can finally be together. Instead we are granted with some interesting twists and turns to the plot that result in tragedy, surprise decisions and unexpected discoveries, but thankfully we never really encounter sheer frustration at the choices or actions of our protagonists. It was utterly refreshing!

Beyond the Romance

While this might be a tale of romance, there are two additional complementary themes which play major roles in how the events of this tale evolve: greed and class status. Our primary villain, as well as a few other minor supporting characters, carry out some shockingly dastardly deeds as a result of these motivations. Initially I found it hard to believe what depths some people would go to simply because of money. From denying a son true happiness, to a case of murder and abuse, all due to greed. At one point I thought, well this seems a tad outlandish and over-the-top in terms of a response. As the conclusion of the novel approached however, I had this moment of epiphany where I simply had to remind myself, “well of course this is plausible!!” Countless moments throughout history have been impacted because of these exact trivial impulses, and we still see cases of it to this very day. Honestly, it was a rather sobering realization. And yet, when you see the love and devotion this family and this couple feels for each other it seemingly allows for a ray of sunshine to break through the shadows.

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: This was sort of a deceptive read at the beginning in that it presents itself as a seemingly happy familial tale that manages to hide away from the rules and cruelties of the outside world. However, eventually we see the shadows of tragedy encroach upon these selfless and caring people. While initially hesitant to pursue a relationship, it was refreshing and inspiring to see Emma and Theo stand by each other through it all, never giving up hope that one day they’d be able to come together in a loving embrace. There are a slew of entertaining characters presented in this read, and honestly I’d love if we had the chance to explore their individual stories further in subsequent novels. At times this fabulous supporting cast did detract too much attention away from our lead couple, but overall we have a unique historical romance which proves family is what you make it.

Smut Level: This was surprisingly steamy for a historical read!! Not only do we get a romantic hotel getaway, but we also have a mouth-watering scene in a rustic shed on Theo’s property.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Denise Portugaise. 220 Pages.