As the Liquor Flows by Angela Christina Archer

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

What’s it About? 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

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Shaken Not Stirred

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

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

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An Extra Shot or Two Required

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Anchors Away!

Have you all missed me this past week? Sorry for the silence, but I was recently on a fabulous Caribbean cruise, and well…let’s just say I didn’t get a whole lot of writing done for my little blog here.

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Let’s face it, there’s nothing like a cruise in December to really get you in the holiday spirit! The fact that Christmas music was often being played through the ship’s speakers and there were Christmas trees in various ports of call was an almost jarring experience! But when you’re laying out in the hot Caribbean sun with a good book on your Kindle who can really be bothered by anything? It was also a family cruise with parents, siblings, and loved ones, so you can’t ask for much more!

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First stop on the cruise was a relaxing beach day at Princess Cays.

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Then we had an amazing day in Jamaica, and oh my goodness you guys I have to tell you about it. My dad and I decided to take an excursion for a private rum tour at the Hampden rum estate. There was about a 30 minute delightfully bouncy car ride through the beautiful Jamaican countryside before we arrived at our destination.

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Upon arrival at the estate we were immediately greeted with a potent glass of rum punch, and then proceeded to have an introduction to the history of rum, as well as the history of the estate. And lo and behold, when our tour guide mentioned the founder of the estate I couldn’t help but exclaim in shock and glee when it was revealed that the patriarch of the family had fled Scotland following the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 to establish the estate in Jamaica. My mouth dropped open, and I whispered an audible “Oh…my…God”, when the tour guide looked to me in surprise and asked, “Oh, you know of the Jacobite rebellion?” Ummmm, I’m an Outlander and Jamie Fraser fanatic, of course I know about the Jacobite rebellion!!!! Such a delightfully unexpected fun fact. After that I couldn’t help but picture Jamie and Claire Fraser walking arm in arm with us throughout the rest of our tour.

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After Jamaica we had another relaxing beach day at Grand Cayman, and it was a fun throwback to about 3 years ago when I went for a week-long vacation there with my sister. As some of you may know, that was the trip which first inspired me to start a romance novel blog. Ahhh, memories.

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Our final stop was in Cozumel, Mexico, where my family and I rented a catamaran for the day. We went snorkeling, hung out at a private beach, and eventually ate the largest lobsters I’ve ever seen at one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been to: Mission. Highly recommend.

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All in all, a fabulous trip! There’s really nothing better than having your phone in airplane mode for an entire week as you soak up the sun. Oh, and consuming an average of about 3 desserts a day. I also may have come back with a few souvenirs 🙂

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A Royal Affair Series by Christina George

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

What’s it About?

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

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

A Royal Affair: Book One

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

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

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

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A Royal Scandal: Book Two

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

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

A Royal Romance: Book Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lachlan by Hazel Hunter

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

What’s it About? 

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

First Impressions

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

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A Fantastical Blend

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

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You Go Girl!

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

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

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Druid Magic and Wonder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watermark by Marti Ziegler

A journey down the Mississippi River is fraught with perils: alligators, pirates, and a debonair flatboat captain with his sight set on revenge. Sign me up!

What’s it About?

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Whom could you trust if you were stranded fifteen hundred miles from home? Misfortune has plagued Juno Brock for months. Recently widowed, a chance encounter with a dangerous criminal in St. Louis exposes her to information that can see her branded. Or worse, hanged. When a pirate attack on the Mississippi River maroons her in the wilds of Michigan Territory, she has but one choice: use her wits to secure passage on a boat traveling downriver and reunite with her family fifteen hundred miles away.

An arrogant mistake in his youth has set flatboat pilot Malcolm Moreau on a forked path of redemption and revenge. His successful livelihood transporting goods to New Orleans revolves around cargo, not passengers, but Juno’s recent encounter with his longtime enemy makes her the exception. A bargain is struck: safe passage to Natchez, Mississippi, in exchange for the information she unwittingly discovered.

What follows is a month-long journey where mistrust and resentment unfolds into an unexpected friendship filled with secret confidences and before long, attraction. Sometimes dangerous, often humorous, their voyage down America’s most infamous river and the outlandish characters they meet along the way will ultimately inspire a destination neither expected: love.

First Impressions

This is only the second Marti Ziegler book I’ve ever read, but I think it’s fair to say that one of my favorite things about her work is seeing the characters evolve. I’m now convinced she is an absolute master at creating a rough male lead who you can’t help but love. At first introduction, Malcolm is kind of a jerk. He is hell bent on revenge, and is more than willing to just leave Juno on the side of the Mississippi River to fend for herself. But then we slowly start to unravel his story, and see what can almost be described as a charmingly boyish side to this rough man. I found myself smitten within a matter of pages even though you also kind of get the urge to slap him a few times throughout the book.

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There’s a similar unraveling to Juno’s character as well. When the novel beings she sort of seems like a momma’s girl, always clinging to her family’s side. Someone who is afraid to be out on their own. Very quickly though we discover that this strong woman knows how to survive. She’s clever, stubborn in only the best of ways, and just a downright fun heroine to read. All in all, I’m always mesmerized by the lead characters Ziegler introduces me to in her work.

A Motley Crew

It’s not just the main characters who are an absolute delight in this river tale. We literally have a whole crew of Malcolm’s boat mates to provide us with thorough entertainment. From his hard-lined cook, to a few flirtatious scallywags, you never want this trip down the Mississippi to end. That brings us to the setting, which is basically another character in and of itself. ‘Tis a journey filled with a plethora of perils, some of which were mentioned above. Alligators, exploding riverboats, pirates and religious zealots.

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This motley crew is constantly facing challenges as they make their way to return Juno to her family, and for Malcolm to finally achieve revenge against his sworn enemy who was the most devious of villains. I do sort of wish we had seen more of this enemy rather than just a few scenes at the very beginning and end of the book. He is described at length throughout from Malcolm’s point of view, so we do learn about their complicated history. That being said, I think it would have been more interesting and suspenseful to have more scenes between the two in person.

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From Nuisance to Lover

What I particularly enjoyed about this novel, aside from learning the historical aspect of 19th century riverboat life, was seeing the evolution of Juno and Malcolm’s relationship. At the start they are both severely annoyed by each other, and see the other as a deterrent and nuisance to reaching their final goal. However, they quickly realize they must rely on each other in their journey.

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Slowly, Juno and Malcolm start to open up and trust each other. This is perfectly reflected in their nightly pastime where Malcolm reads to Juno, who doesn’t know how to read for herself. She’s still fascinated by the written word, and though she initially kind of harasses Malcolm into reading for her, it soon becomes their nightly thing. Malcolm begrudgingly puts up with it every night, but then when he eventually buys her a small pocket reader to teach her to read? Girl, I damn near had tears in my eyes it was so beautiful.

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Let’s Rock the Boat

For a historical romance these two have some sizzling hot sex scenes! And in some pretty unique locations on top of everything. They tussle about in a small bed on a flatboat, against a tree trunk, and even on the floor of a cave. For those last two, they definitely aren’t the most comfortable of locales, but that’s what I positively loved about it all. Juno acknowledges right away that a bed probably would have been more convenient.

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She has twigs in her hair, a few scrapes and bruises, but when you’re overcome by passion? You do it wherever you can apparently. When the two realize their time together is soon coming to an end their lovemaking becomes even more desperate and passionate. However, they still manage to keep things grounded. For example, at one point they also have a drunkenly frank conversation about how they can’t have sex because she’s on her courses. It provides a comforting sense of realism and domesticity to their relationship that I just loved.

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

Series: Stand-alone. Can’t wait to see what comes next from this author!

Should you read it? Well, I’m a fan! I love that with each Ziegler novel I get to learn about a different period of history, and in a new unique setting. All the characters also have such great chemistry together. I could see how some might not particularly warm to the somewhat schoolyard antics of Malcolm and Juno’s relationship at the start, but just stick with it to see it develop! I do wish we had seen more of the villain, who was so creepily written you just want to see a bit more from him. Overall though, a fun historical read.

Smut Level: These two get busy in some unique locations, and I loved how they both commented soon after that it might not have been the most comfortable experience. There was one sex scene that seemed somewhat ill-timed following a near death experience, but I guess that simply increases the passion level!!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 351 Pages.

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Outlander Returns!

If you’re an Outlander fan like me, then you undoubtedly jumped for joy, and maybe even cried a little bit when the fantabulous Season 3 premiered on Starz last week.

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And what a premier it was! Honestly, I think it might have been Sam Heughan’s best performance to date, and the dude pretty much just laid on his back throughout the entirety of the show. But my God did he do it well.

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I’m also so unbelievably grateful that they’ve found a way to incorporate more of Frank’s character into the TV show. Let’s face it, prominent scenes featuring Frank in the later books within the series are almost non-existent, so I really do enjoy seeing how they’re able to creatively incorporate his character into the show. I mean, the onscreen chemistry between Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe is absolute perfection. I completely understand why they’d want to keep him around for as long as possible!

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An amazing start to the series for sure. And yes, I was ugly crying for a large portion of the show. When I told my sister and mom they were like, “Oh, you cried? Which part?” Ummm, the barn scene? Are you kidding me??? Gosh, even thinking about it now….give me a moment.

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Unfortunately I also found out another Outlander detail last Sunday that almost brought tears to my eyes, and not in a good way. About a year ago, I finally finished what I thought was the last main book in the series, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood. Not gonna lie you guys, I was not a fan of the last few books of this series. Starting with about book 5, each novel was a massive tome of about 1000 pages or more, and there was so much needless historical detail that had little to do with the plot I couldn’t help but be bored. But I trudged through it and finally finished them all…OR SO I THOUGHT!

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Lo and behold, last Sunday I discover that Diana Gabaldon is writing a ninth book, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. Whyyyyyy?????

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Look, book 8 ended on a fine note, can’t we just leave the damn bees where they are and call it a day? I’m sure this is a dream come true for a lot of Outlander fans who can’t wait to read more about Jamie and Claire. And most of them probably already knew this ninth book was a thing, and I’m just laughingly late to the party. I just keep thinking about how this signals another 5 months or so of my life reading about daily life and hygiene in the 18th century. And why do I think this book will be a continuation of the boredom I experienced in books 5-8? Well, let’s see what Diana Gabaldon herself has to say about the upcoming release, shall we?

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“My books are huge”. “2-3 years…to write and research and publish”. I love the dedication to the craft, but what if the books were…less huge? Please?

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Now don’t get me wrong. I’m gonna read this book when it releases. I’ve come this far, I’m not gonna back down now. I’ll try and go in with an open mind, but it’s going to be hard considering how much of the last few books I just skimmed through because I wanted to get to the actual story already. Here’s to hoping that book 9 will be just as good as this Season 3 premier was! Or that the TV show will still be up and running, and just as fantabulous as ever by the time book 9 actually releases!!

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A Train Through Time by Bess McBride

One of my favorite features of time travel romances is the moment when our hero or heroine discovers they’re not in Kansas anymore. Most simply go with the flow and adapt. Others have that brief moment of denial before eventual acceptance. In this novel, Ellie has a minor freak out, and continually insists she’s dreaming rather than acknowledging the harsh truth. Probably the most realistic scenario of the three!

What’s it About? 

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College teacher Ellie Standish thinks she’s on a sleek modern train heading to a conference on women’s studies in Seattle, but she awakens from a night’s doze to find herself on a bizarre historical train full of late Victorian era reenactors who refuse to come out of character. When the leader of the group—handsome, green-eyed Robert Chamberlain—finally convinces her the date is indeed 1901, a skeptical Ellie rejects any eccentric theories of time travel and presumes she is smack dab in the middle of a very interesting historical dream. She turns the directorial reins of her dream over to the smitten and willing Robert, only to realize that dreams cannot last forever. Someday, she must wake up to reality, though Ellie no longer has any idea what reality is. She only knows that Robert must play an important part in her future. But how can he…if he’s only a figment of her imagination or worse yet…a man who belongs to an era long past?

First Impressions

I really loved the start of this novel. Ellie is adamant she hasn’t traveled through time, instead thinking she’s woken up surrounded by a strange troupe of Victorian era reenacters. When she eventually realizes that theory holds no weight she moves on to the idea that she must be dreaming, and sticks with it for pretty much the rest of the novel. Rather than our heroine admitting the truth that she’s traveled through time, Robert is actually the one who puts it together first, and tries to convince her of it. It felt like such a unique departure from most time travel romances, where our traveler is usually the one who must come up with the most compelling argument to convince others that they are from a different time. Normally those in the past are the skeptical ones, and I just really loved how this novel chooses to take that trope and flip it on its head.

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A Dreamy Man

Robert could have easily had this strange woman committed for acting so bizarrely, but instead he chooses to play along with Ellie’s delusion that she’s simply dreaming. It was actually a humorous way to show how smitten Robert was with her from the very beginning. He becomes convinced that Ellie was meant to travel through time to find him, and for them to be together. Now he just has to convince her that it’s true. At first Ellie is determined to “wake up” from this crazy dream. However, as she spends more time with the dashing Robert her fondness for him also grows, and she starts to hope that this wonderful dream will continue.

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Shockingly, at one point in the novel when Ellie falls asleep she does actually wake up from this dream in her own time for the briefest of moments before waking up again back in the Victorian era. She then becomes determined to stay away from Robert before they fall too hard for each other, or else risk crushing his heart once she does leave this time for good. This is definitely a unique time travel twist in that although the train sort of acted as the device of her travel, it was more the act of falling asleep that was the impetus for it. This makes her presence in the past all the more suspenseful, as you never know when she might wake up again in her own time. Is she truly destined to remain with Robert forever in the past? Or is she just visiting for a brief moment in time?

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The Standout

The characters in this novel are everything. From Robert’s snarky grandmother, who I couldn’t help but compare to Trix from Gilmore Girls, to his delightfully chipper sister. Even the supplemental characters who don’t have that much impact on the overall story are so much fun, and you can’t help but become enthralled in this world. The development of some characters was also fascinating. We are introduced to one woman at the beginning of the novel who is set up to be someone who will become a thorn in Ellie’s side, potentially ruining her happily ever after with Robert. Instead, we surprisingly see how this woman comes to becomes one of Ellie’s best friends, who is so unbelievably kind and sincere. So delightful, and it definitely keeps you on your toes!

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Corsets and Hairdos

I can’t think of a better juxtaposition than having a Women’s Studies professor being thrust back in time to the turn of the century. The land of corsets, elaborate hairdos, and always having to lean on a man’s arm. At the start of this novel I was thoroughly entertained with how Ellie expressed her horror at having to squeeze herself into a corset, and jumped for joy at how she wasn’t afraid to talk with Robert about how different her life is in the future as a modern woman.

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Some of my favorite scenes though were when Ellie would have a heart-to-heart with a woman from the past, and discover how they see such fashions of the time as freeing compared to what they were years before. We can see how one can criticize the past when compared with their current life, but at the time also see how illuminating it can be to compare those circumstance with those that came before. It really helps to put everything in perspective, and give the professor a lesson as well.

From Outspoken Woman to a Lady of the Times

My one main criticism of this novel is how Ellie’s character evolves, or devolves, throughout the book. She eventually comes to fit in almost too much with the times. What I loved so much at the outset was how Ellie stood out compared to those around her, and that she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself as a woman. As she spends more time in the past however, we see how she starts to internalize more of her opinions, and almost becomes complacent in her interactions with Robert. I still love Robert as a lead character, but when she avoids making eye contact with him, becomes tongue-tied in his presence, or runs away from her feelings for him she almost seems like a turn of the century woman who needs a fainting couch. Or maybe some smelling salts to help her with the vapors! I wanted her to remain a headstrong female from start to finish, but instead at one point she’s almost like a blushing wall flower.

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Series: Train Through Time, book 1. I got this one for free on Bookbub, and I immediately went and bought the 2nd book in the series.

Should you read it? A fun, quick, simple read that is entertaining throughout. I will say it does drag at one minor point when Ellie tries to distance herself from Robert, but it all comes together for one exciting finish! I do wish Ellie’s character had remained outspoken and spunky throughout, but overall I really enjoyed this one. It does take some unique approaches to the traditional time travel romance genre that made it fun and interesting.

Smut Level: Ellie and Robert have one rather passionate kissing scene, and he is really quite the flirtatious debonair leading lad. Nothing scandalous takes place, even though Ellie does admit she’s no virgin.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 200 Pages.