Marked by romantic tragedy and the loss of his brother, Brandon King has forsworn marriage. Obliged to take in a ward, he advertises for a mail-order bride to raise the boy. Since the union is to be a marriage in name only, his criteria are youthful age, a certain level of intellect, good breeding, and that the girl shouldn’t be so ill-favored she would embarrass him in society. To his dismay, he gets more than he’d bargained for. Will it take a miracle for Mr. and Mrs. King to fall in love, or is their marriage another accident waiting to happen?
Well ladies and gents, I didn’t think it was possible, but I may have just come across a new adult romance that reflects college life in a somewhat realistic light! The good and the bad. I’m talking midterms, doing laundry in the dorms, and having study time interfere with dating. Sadly, even rape. And yet in the midst of all this we still manage to uncover an incredible romance.
What’s it About?
Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…
He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart. Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth – and find the unexpected power of love. A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl’s struggle to regain the trust she’s lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy.
When this novel opened I immediately had a gut reaction that we’d be dealing with one of those typical college romances that you could guess the progression of from start to finish. We open with a beautiful lead who is leaving a Halloween costume frat party because she spotted her newly ex-boyfriend dancing hot and heavy with some sorority floozy. Alright, let’s just have her run into the dashing lad who will sweep her off her feet already, am I right? Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within this opening scene we are immediately confronted with the oftentimes dark, harsh reality of what can happen at college. Sexual harassment and rape. Thankfully in this particular scenario the rapist was unable to follow through with his despicable actions, as we do have a knight in shining armor come along and beat the ever loving shit out of him.
Little did I know that this moment would come to represent the constant emotional battle I’d experience as a reader for the rest of the book. On the one hand, turmoil and heartache that will make you hold your breath in anticipation, want to read through your fingers in suspense, and feel disgust on behalf of our characters. But then on the other you have an overwhelmingly positive sense of empowerment, true love, friendship, and sisterhood. It seems like a constant back and forth of highs and lows that will keep you on your toes, as well as have you turning the page to discover what comes next. This is also one of those books where I’d find myself thinking about it constantly throughout the day. I always say the sign of a good book is one that keeps your wheels turning even if you’ve put it down!
Blaming the Victim
While the budding romance between Lucas and Jacqueline is obviously an important focus of the novel, the other primary feature is the shocking reality of rape on college campus. Our characters manage to confront and sometimes successfully squander practically every single stereotype and assumption that can be raised when it comes to rape on campus. She was dressed proactively. She walked out to her car alone. He normally seemed so nice. If she wasn’t a virgin, and she went up to his room, what else did she expect? And behind it all the most common, disgusting phrase that can be said when something like this happens: she was just asking for it.
I’m not gonna lie, there were many parts of this novel which were hard to read, and my nostrils definitely flared a time or two as I listened to this on my walk to work. I may have also shook my head back and forth in disgust as you hear all the different ways someone can defend the actions of a rapist while blaming the victim. However, as these misconceptions are brought out into the open, there are a select few important characters, Lucas especially, who raise the most critical thing to remember when it comes to the women and men who survive these ordeals: it wasn’t your fault.
Coming Together to Rise Above
Yes, there are many difficult scenes and confessions related to rape and attempted rape in this novel. But at the same time, it’s an empowering read where we see the strength of our survivors, and the love of their supporters is truly inspiring. There is one scene in particular that I think deserves mention. In it we see a female pledge confess the sad details of her rape by a frat brother to the other members of her sorority. This scene especially shows how almost every member of her sorority blames our victim, and it’s so tragic to think that these excuses are constantly used to silence survivors.
Just when you think all hope is lost, and this criminal will walk free, the sorority president gives an impassioned speech that damn near brought me to tears. “You know what looks bad? A bunch of women who don’t support each other when a guy pulls some shit like this. I’m sick of it. Less than an hour ago, I told D.J. where he could stick his goddamned fraternal reputation…And you’re worried about who’ll look bad if they tell? Screw that…Are we sisters or not?” In addition to the words of support by some of our characters, we also see the highlighted importance of self defense. Again, it provides a sense of empowerment to our female characters by showing that with some proper training it can be possible to ward off an attacker, even if they seem bigger and stronger. After reading this book I am seriously interested in looking up a local self defense class.
A New Romance
Lucas turns out to be Jacqueline’s savior in more ways than one. Not only does he rescue her that fateful night from a would-be attacker, but he helps her move on from her recent breakup. At the outset, Jacqueline only views him as a bad boy rebound, but as they spend more time together she learns that he has a secret sensitive side. He may also be the only person to ever see the true her. The scenes in which Jacqueline allows Lucas to sketch her prove to be particularly insightful. Not to mention hot as hell! That being said, he never pushes her to do anything before she’s ready.
For the most part I really did enjoy the romantic relationship between Lucas and Jacqueline, but that’s not to say it wasn’t without some issues. First and foremost, while Jacqueline knows Lucas as her protector, it turns out he’s also her economics TA. Of course, he chooses to keep this other identity a secret from her, and because he uses his given name of Landon in all his TA related emails to her, she doesn’t find out until rather late in the game that her protector and her TA are one and the same. Now, I must say this little detail is strikingly evident from the very first email exchange, so I couldn’t help but throw a few eye rolls Jacqueline’s way at her naivety.
My biggest issue though would have to be with Jacqueline’s curiosity revolving around Lucas’s past. Something tragic has obviously happened to him, but he chooses to remain close-lipped about the details. After all that these two have been through, from her attack, to him taking things slowly with her, to finally discovering that he’s her TA, you’d think she could have just been a bit more patient with him. After all, they’ve only been kind of dating for a few weeks. Maybe he’s not ready to reveal all of the troubling emotional heartache he’s been through in his youth. But that doesn’t stop Jacqueline from looking into discovering the truth on her own by sidestepping Lucas entirely, and doing a little internet search to uncover all the gruesome details of his mother’s death. I mean, come on girl don’t you know that curiosity killed the cat? You really want it to kill this damn near perfect relationship you have with Lucas???
Series: Contours of the Heart, book 1. I’ll keep reading this series, though I must say I am slightly concerned with the premise of the next book as we just see a continuation of Lucas and Jacqueline’s story. They’ve been through enough at this point, can’t we just let them have their happily every after? What other drama could they possibly encounter?
Should you read it? I was particularly enthralled with the writing of this novel, as we are presented with a story that makes us feel as though we are there with the characters experiencing everything firsthand. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine either. There’s a trying road that Lucas and Jacqueline must traverse, but with each other they discover a love that neither thought was possible. Sure, they make a few mistakes along the way, but we all do silly things when young and in love.
Smut Level: These two have some hot and heavy make out scenes which are pretty detailed. However, they don’t take things too far until pretty late in the book, and I was surprised that we really didn’t get much of any detail for the big event. Some nice over the clothes stuff though for a good portion of the novel.
Get it on Amazon:Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 338 Pages.
A female lead with a 38E bra size, weighs 160 pounds, wears a size 16 shirt and thinks dieting suuuuucks? Well that’s the most refreshing thing I’ve ever seen.
What’s it About?
I’m a total mess. My boyfriend dumped me – get this – because I diet too much. Not because I’m fat, mind you. Of course, this spurs me into the diet-fitness-revenge-plan of the century, which leads me to the gym and a scorching hot personal trainer. I even manage to make some cool new friends, including a millionaire if you can believe it. Things are looking up! Naturally, that’s the moment my ex decides he wants me back, the personal trainer asks me out, and my millionaire male buddy decides to throw his hat in the ring. But that’s not enough drama. No, not for me. Because I’ve also lost my job and decided to start my own business. Just call me Ms. Drama.
Warning: Bad language, bumpy roads, and embarrassing moments ahead. But there’s also more than a bit of romance and even, if we’re lucky, love. Fingers crossed. Not endorsed by or affiliated with any brand of tequila.
When this novel first started I had a plethora of assumptions of how the story would progress, which was influenced by not only the synopsis of the story, but also the title. I figured we’d be dealing with a slightly overweight female lead who starts a diet and gets in shape with the help of a personal trainer. She must proceed to slim down considerably which causes her to become irresistibly beautiful to said personal trainer, and they end up with a fairy tale-like happily ever after. Well, I have never been so happy to be wrong on so many different accounts in my life!
Although our female lead does proceed to get a bit more physically fit throughout the novel, the main focus is really so much more on how she gains confidence, and that is what draws men to her like a moth to a flame. It was just so empowering to know that you don’t have to dramatically drop from a size 16 to a size 6 in order to find love. You don’t need to starve yourself, or lose all of the junk in your trunk in order for a man to think you’re beautiful. You just need to be happy with yourself, happy with your life, happy with those around you, and it’s just a matter of time before you’re happy in love. And sure, a few trips to the gym won’t hurt, but they aren’t required. Who knows though, you might also just happen to find the future love of your life waiting for you at the smoothie bar!
The Dreaded Gym
Another one of the first things I assumed about this book was that it would all be about dieting, exercise, and in general making me feel guilty for baking a double chocolate chip fudge cake when I live by myself. But lo and behold this book really doesn’t lay on the guilt trip about how you should hit the gym 5 days a week, or anything like that. Instead we see how our female lead, Everly, has been having a pretty bad week after her boyfriend of many years dumped her unexpectedly after complaining about her continually giving up on her many attempts to diet and lose weight. In a drunken blackout, she signs up for an entire year of private training sessions at her local gym and vows to get in shape so that she’ll make her ex, Josh, unbelievably jealous and beg to get her back.
Now I know what you’re thinking, why doesn’t she just say to hell with it once she sobers up from her binge night and just drown her sorrows in a vat of ice cream? Simple. Not only does Everly’s best friend kick her butt to the gym with her sexy as sin trainer, but she comes to grow an incredible support network of sassy gal pals, the aforementioned sexy trainer, and a geeky guy friend with incredible abs. I must say in addition to our lovable lead, I 100% fell in love with all of her incredible friends who try their hardest to show Everly that she’s beautiful on the inside and out. They let her know that she doesn’t need to lose 50 pounds to be beautiful, but instead encourage her to get fit to the point where she finally feels comfortable in her own skin, while also being there for her when she needs to break her diet by indulging in some tequila.
Looking Beneath the Glasses
I couldn’t help but identify with Everly’s character, from her relationship woes to her stresses at work, and especially her lack of confidence in her body image. But that’s why her support network is everything and more, especially Carter, her geeky guy friend who might just be on the verge of becoming something more. These two are the epitome of relationship goals, and are so freakin’ adorable you can’t help but fall in love. At the start we just assume that Everly is the one lacking confidence in their relationship, for Carter is ripped with sexy abs, not to mention a millionaire.
What could a guy like him ever see in a girl like her? But although Carter seems like the perfect male, we see that he too lacks confidence, and holds Everly up on a pedestal where he also wonders what she could ever see in him. Awwww, swoon worthy. Lastly, he’s unbelievably supportive of her goals to lose weight, yet continually lets her know that she’s beautiful just the way she is, and her continuing diet is totally up to her rather than something she should feel pressure to maintain. Mkay, Everly girl I love ya, but not gonna lie I might need to kick your ass to steal Carter for myself.
A Tequila or Two
One feature of the novel that I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of was Everly’s propensity to get blackout drunk to the point where she couldn’t remember crazy antics from the night before. It sort of indicates her inability to know her own limits, as well as highlight a concern that when unable to deal with the pressures of life with food she instead turns to alcohol as a crutch. However, this was never really addressed as a concern in the novel, but instead was almost featured as a comedic character trait. And I will admit, Everly did get into some pretty funny hi-jinks while intoxicated.
Personally I thought it was kind of disappointing we could never really experience those moments as they happened though. Instead we get the short abbreviated version the next morning from one of her friends who happened to witness it all since Everly herself couldn’t remember. I think it would have made the story all the more enjoyable if Everly had just gotten a bit tipsy which made her loosen up rather than drinking to the point where she couldn’t remember anything. Just goes to show that when you limit your calorie intake, getting drunk happens a bit more quickly than you might be used to!
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Series: I think this is just a stand-alone, but I think it would be hilarious if we could either get a series, or maybe just one novel of short stories featuring the romantic exploits of Everly’s hilarious gal pals from her Zumba class. They were a riot!
Should you read it? This is definitely a fun and comedic read all about being happy and confident with yourself. Whether that entails losing weight, trying new things, dating someone new, or venturing out for a new job opportunity, this book highlights that sometimes it’s worth taking the risk. You might be terrified at first, but as long as you give it a solid effort, and maybe have a few close friends who have your back, you can do anything. A cute beach read that’ll make you giggle, and empathize with someone who hates dieting and going to the gym just as much as you do.
Smut Level: We have flirtations galore, but no detailed sex scenes in this one. We just get one brief build up to sex at the very end of the novel.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.49 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 208 Pages.
A second chance at love. Can Liv and Zane overcome their troubled pasts to find love with each other, or will it be too heavy a burden to bear?
What’s it About?
After the incident that caused Liv Morozov to drop out of college, years later she’s still trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She’s managed to carve out a career for herself as a photographer, but when it comes to guys? Her issues send them running for the hills, every damn time. Zane Parata has declared himself off-limits for relationships. Between trying to maintain sobriety and the long hours he works as a chef, no one wants to deal with his brand of damage, and he wouldn’t want to burden them in the first place.
When Liv shows up at Cupid’s Café, she never expected to find Zane, her brother’s former best friend who had vanished one day and never returned. The sparks that surged when they were both teens rekindle stronger than ever, and all too fast, Liv and Zane entangle in each other’s lives, breaking their own rules. Except with both struggling with the demons from their past, the love that’s begun to grow is one lapse away from shattering the two of them beyond repair.
I feel like there is one quote from this novel which perfectly encapsulate the power of the love story being told: “I’m never going to be an easy choice.” Here’s why this sentiment, and the tale love presented to us in this book is absolute perfection. Their love is intense, it’s raw, and most importantly, it…is…real. This story shows us how life is full of unexpected challenges, and to be quite frank, it can be an absolute bitch at times. However, while these external forces can sometimes test the relationship of our lead couple, they never break it. This isn’t one of those romance novels where a simple misunderstanding causes an unnecessary amount of drama, and results in our lovers spending time apart. Oh no. These characters fight for each other, and hold the other up if they’re ever at risk of falling down.
These two have also been through hell and back. They are scarred lead characters who have experienced emotional and physical turmoil in their pasts. But they don’t just love each other in spite of these troubled pasts, they love who the other person is because of how these experiences have shaped them into who they are today. “I’m never going to be an easy choice” shows that their lives might be complicated, they might be thrown a couple of curve balls along the way, but in the end they will always choose the other. I’ve got all the goosebumps here people!
An Unbreakable Bond
I think the reason I enjoyed this tale of love between Liv and Zane so much is that the novel primarily just focuses on them. Sure, we are introduced to a few supplemental characters along the way, but for the most part we are encapsulated in a little Liv/Zane bubble that you never want to see burst. They are aware pretty early on in the book when they meet again after so many years that a LOT has happened during that time apart. Liv was raped in college, which impacts the physical relationship these two start up pretty quickly. Zane is a recovering alcoholic who still feels the constant pull of the bottle.
While some would run away from getting romantically involved with another person with such deep-rooted issues, these two refuse to be scared off. Zane does remain convinced for a large portion of the novel that it’s just a matter of time before Liv realizes how messed up he truly is and hightails it out of there, but he’s going to embrace every possible moment he can between now and when that day might come. In addition, he vows to take things at her own pace, refusing to rush her into a physical relationship before she’s ready.
A Tough Road Ahead
I also loved that this novel demonstrates how past experiences such as theirs won’t simply be forgotten and magically healed forever by the power of love. Even after they build up to the point where Liv is ready to have sex with Zane, she asks him to realize that there might be a moment down the road where she could be triggered to flinch or push away from his touch.
At the same time, Zane’s reality is that while he might attend AA meetings multiple times a week, and go for long periods of time without drinking, there will be times where the allure of the alcohol could force him to take a step back from socializing. And they both get it!! They understand when others won’t. They realize that life can be a constant struggle for some people, but they’re there to help and support each other. LOOOVE!
A Step Away From Perfection
At this point I think you can tell I really enjoyed this novel, and while I think the love story described is damn near perfection, I must admit there were a few flaws. The first I consider to be the main flaw, and the one I found to be the most perplexing. The impetus for Live and Zane to reconnect after so many years is that they both receive a cryptic invitation to visit Cupid’s Café where, “an admirer looks forward to meeting you”. Zane is humorously intrigued, and decides why the hell not? Liv is convinced she’s being taunted by her former rapist, and goes to confront him. When they both show up and their eyes lock through the crowded café the rest, as they say, is history.
But that my friends is the flaw. The rest is history. Who the hell sent them these letters?!?! We never find out. There’s no clue or suggestion if it’s one of their friends, a matchmaking café proprietor, or just the cosmos being all funky. I was absolutely shocked that our lead characters never even bother to discuss it with each other. Now, I will say that this is the third book in this Cupid’s Café series, so maybe the one sending invitations is presented in a previous novel? Maybe it will finally be a big reveal when the series comes to a close? I don’t know but give me something!!!!
Waiting for No One
The one other flaw was relatively minor all things considered, and in the end sort of turned into a positive. Our novel opens with Liv on a date from hell, which abruptly ends when she hears the trill of her date’s phone and it immediately reminds her of the night she was raped. When she returns home to find a mystery envelope inviting her to meet someone from her past she’s immediately convinced it can be only one man, her rapist. Her reason for going was decidedly to finally find justice after so many years. Instead, she finds Zane waiting for her.
Throughout the whole novel I kept waiting for the inevitable scene where Liv and Zane would be confronted with this man from her past. So imagine my surprise when it never comes! No glimpse from across the street, or even a more intense confrontation, nothing! Now, in hindsight I’m actually happy we were never presented with a threatening scene between Liv and her rapist. I think that scenario, combined with Zane confronting his own struggle with alcoholism, would have made the whole plot seem too artificially orchestrated. I guess I just would have preferred that it wasn’t implied at the outset that it could have been a possibility. I sort of felt like I was anticipating something I had no need to worry about for the whole book!
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Series: Cupid’s Café, book 3. I kind of want to go back and read the first few novels from this series to see if I missed out on our mystery letter writer inviting our lovebirds to Cupid’s Café.
Should you read it? This is an emotional roller coaster of a read that shows you just how powerful, yet difficult love can be. While I definitely loved both of these characters, I personally found Liv to be truly inspirational. She survived a trying ordeal, and was brave enough to share what happened with Zane even though she thought it would put distance between them. Then when Zane experiences a relapse with his alcoholism she chooses to stand by him and refuses to give up even when Zane tries to convince her that she’d be better off without him. It’s such a refreshing contrast to your typical romance novel drama.
Smut Level: Liv and Zane recognize that after all these years their bodies still crave each other, though this sparked attraction is put slightly on hold after Liv experiences a trigger from her rape. But Zane sticks by her side and is willing to take things slow. Just because it’s slow, don’t think it isn’t delectable!
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.03 Kindle Price. After Glows Publishing. 200 Pages.
A tale as old as time. With a few updates here and there of course!!
What’s it About?
Once upon a time…The wicked King Thorn forced the enchantress Zuleika to cast a terrible curse. She fled his court to travel the world, helping those who need her magic most. Until a search for her merchant father’s lost ships leads her to an enchanted island, where Prince Vardan, the island’s ruler, is afflicted by the most powerful curse Zuleika has ever encountered. She’s not sure she can reverse the spell, but she’s determined to try. After all, a prince who fights pirates can’t be all bad…no matter how beastly his appearance. Together, can the enchanting beauty and the beastly prince break the spell?
My initial first impression for this novel? Gorgeous cover, and yaaaaay short chapters! After about 1/4 of the way in though? Cover is still gorgeous, but shit, more short chapters. I discovered I’m unbelievably picky when it comes to chapter length. Sometimes short chapters are the perfect break for when I’m waiting for my coffee to brew, or pasta to boil. Not to mention a great way to kill time during commercial breaks. The fact that before tackling this book I had just come off a novel where the chapters were crazy long, well I was just in Heaven. However, it really didn’t take long for the frustration to start seeping in. In all seriousness, I would say the average length of time it took to finish reading a chapter in this book was just under 2 minutes. While this was an excellent way to introduce our characters and provide a brief back-story to our enchanted curse, it became a clear problem in later chapters where key scenes were rushed. This made the book itself feel almost stunted since you had so many short chapters at work which could flip-flop so easily between story lines, as well as switch point of views between our Beast and Beauty.
An Enchanting Beauty
Personally I just love adaptations of classic fairy tales. It’s so fun to see which elements the author will keep the same, and how they’ll bring their own unique twist to the story. For this version, perhaps the biggest change involves our beauty. Her actual name is Zuleika; a far cry from Belle, and she’s not just the peasant daughter of a poor inventor. Oh no. She’s the enchantress who sets the curse upon our beastly prince. Gotta say, I totally loved this twist! From the classic tale the enchantress feature was always a bit of a mystery, and her motivations were kind of muddled. But in this we see how Zuleika is threatened by an evil king to put a curse on an object intended for his sworn enemy. Enter mirror.
To save her life and that of her family, Zuleika puts a curse on the mirror not knowing it will eventually end up in the hands of our prince. Upon using it for the first time he transforms into the Beast, while the servants and citizens of his kingdom become invisible. A unique change to a dancing clock and candlestick! When Zuleika magically appears in Prince Vardan’s kingdom after an accident he finds her indescribably beautiful, and because she refuses to reveal her true identity he resorts to calling her Lady Belle. And of course, it wouldn’t be Beauty and Beast without a ball featuring our beautiful enchantress in a gorgeous gown of yellow silk.
A Kind-Hearted Beast
Although I really enjoyed some of the variations to our classic tale, there were some I wasn’t a huge fan of, or at least had trouble understanding. When Zuleika first curses the mirror, she says that whoever uses it will transform into whatever they truly are on the inside. Therefore, when our prince first uses it he becomes this hairy beast with tusks. Not exactly the picture of a guy you’d wanna introduce to the folks. But here’s the strange part. When Zuleika arrives in the prince’s kingdom and speaks with his subjects, they all say how he’s always been a kind-hearted and just ruler. Soooo shouldn’t he have like, turned into a puppy or something?
In all the descriptions of his character, he was never revealed to be cruel, vain, or beast-like in any way. So why the beast form?! In my opinion, it was the one main flaw to the story. The other thing I found hard to believe was it took soooooo long before Zuleika realized she was the enchantress who cast the spell over the prince and his city. It just seemed strange that she wouldn’t have even been able to sense her own power within the magic blanketing the city. Hell, at one point she does sense it, but just brushes it aside. Come on now, you have all that magic, listen to it once in a while!
Series: Romance a Medieval Fairytale, book 1. Zuleika seems like the key that will unlock all the other novels in this series. During her travels throughout the novel we overhear her encounters with magical slippers, and even a trouble-making witch she banished to a lamp in a hidden cave. Sounds a tad familiar, no?
Should you read it? A fun and fantastical retelling of a beauty who falls for a beast. Spotting all the classic elements within the new changes was like a fun scavenger hunt. Unfortunately, I think the short chapter format of the novel impeded the depth of the writing, and made the story seem stunted. Overall an interesting start to the series, but there’s some definite room for improvement going forward.
Smut Level: Only at the very end of the novel do we get one beautiful love scene. It didn’t hurt that some witches had previously cast a spell on the prince’s…saber…to always please his woman in the bedroom.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE! Lost Plot Press. 248 Pages.
From the elegant ballrooms of Mexico City, to the mosquito-filled swamps of the jungle, this novel takes us on an adventure to discover the wild unknowns in Mexico’s mountains.
What’s it About?
A stranger in a strange land, her father murdered, Diana McFarland must protect her father’s secret formula, the only legacy she has. One thing stands in her way–darkly handsome Seguin Torres, a man who wants the formula for himself. For Seguin, the formula is a way to avenge himself against the man who stole his birthright, but convincing Diana to part with it will prove almost as difficult as resisting his attraction to her. Betrayed by his family, Seguin doesn’t believe in love and marriage. As Mexico erupts into civil war, Seguin is honor-bound to protect Diana from his unscrupulous stepfather and the ravages of war. But their flight across the war-torn countryside is fraught with danger, as well as the challenge of their growing passion. Can Seguin get Diana to safety and let her go, or will their love overcome all the dangers and change Seguin’s heart?
Arriving in a new city where you don’t really speak the language can be a challenge. Arriving in that city to discover that your father has been murdered, and that his scarred killer is still on the loose with some unsavory stalkerish tendencies? Ummmm yeah where the hell can I book the fastest train outta here? Let’s make it snappy people!! Thankfully for everyone, our heroine proves to be braver than I, as she sticks around in Mexico to try and discover what happened to her father. This is when the devilishly handsome former business partner of her father comes into play. Can she trust this man who seems dedicated to protecting her? Or did he have a hand in killing her father to get at his secret silver mining formula? Such intrigue. This historical drama definitely draws you in from the get-go, as we see Diana navigate through this new world which can be lavish yet harsh at the same time. The fact she’s a woman in a man’s world makes her all the braver. By the end of the novel though, we find ourselves venturing into a completely different and uncharted territory. Quite literally.
Murder and Mining Mayhem
Looking at this book as a whole, it almost seems to be two separate books thrown into one. In the first half, we see the immediate repercussions and mystery surrounding the murder of Diana’s father, as well as her attempts to stand up for herself and her mother in the face of the dashing Seguin. He’s intent on purchasing her father’s silver mining formula, and after a series of unfortunate circumstances Diana is the only one who knows her father’s formula by memory. I must say I absolutely adored the scenes where we get to see Diana and Seguin go head to head over the formula. They seem like equals in smarts, tenacity, and their simmering sexual attraction doesn’t hurt things too much either.
A Stroll Through the Mountains
I must say I did prefer the first half of the novel more than the latter half where we see Seguin, Diana, and a small group of friends wade through the unknown dangers of the jungle in an attempt to escape back to America following an outbreak of war in the city. The fact that the murderer is hot on their heels, not to mention the man who orchestrated the whole thing (Seguin’s stepfather) is also in tow makes their journey all the more desperate. Although this is the part of the novel where Diana and Seguin give in to their lustful inhibitions, it’s also where we get a lot of scenes with a lot of walking. And walking. And having sex on a sacrificial altar in an abandoned ancient city. And more walking.
It was at this point where I even had to think back and ask, wait, how did this story start again? Oh right, father’s murder. While everything does eventually come full circle at the last possible moment of the book, I couldn’t help but feel that as a whole the various story lines at play were a tad disjointed. While I don’t think the book necessarily has to be split into two separate novels completely, I think a few less jungle wandering scenes, and maybe even a distinct marker for Part 1: the City and Part 2: the Wild could have helped things. It may have better prepared the reader for the fact we were switching gears to a vastly different landscape that juxtaposes the comforts and opulence from part one. Just a thought!
Another surprising feature of this novel which was divided in two was the romance. We don’t get just one love story, but two! The first is obviously between Seguin and Diana. Both try to hold off on delving deeper into their initial attraction to each other. For Diana, not only had her father just died, but she wonders if Seguin has something to do with it. Kind of understandable why she’d be hesitant to try anything more. When it comes to Seguin, well he’s basically distrustful of all women. Normally when we see this in a romance it’s because of a former failed relationship with a lover. In his case, it instead had to do with his failed relationship with his mother, which they were never able to fully mend before her death. Complicated is an understatement.
It’s when we transition to the jungle trek that both Seguin and Diana decide they can’t keep their hands off each other anymore. While I’m always a fan of a good ole romp, I must say I preferred their earlier flirtations in the city. Early on in the novel, Diana has spunk, sass, and the cojones to stand up to Seguin. In the latter half though we see Diana become increasingly dependent on Seguin, and even takes to begging him to “love me only”. Not gonna lie, I missed her tenacity and sense of independence.
Switching Back and Forth
Our second romance is between Diana’s best friend, Sarah, and Seguin’s half-brother, Gilberto. This had more of the feeling of a classic historical romance. They fall quickly for each other after dancing at a ball, and he must prove that he only has eyes for Sarah. Even if it seems every other woman in the city has eyes for him. It’s practically swoon worthy! But here was my problem with it. I can’t say it was entirely necessary. At least, it could have been incorporated more methodically into the story. When the novel starts we are so enraptured with what might develop between Diana and Seguin, but when Diana is forced to bed rest following a rib injury, we suddenly switch gears completely to focusing on Sarah and Gilberto instead. Our other couple essentially disappears from the story completely to the point where I wondered if we’d even see a conclusion to their tale.
When we do eventually switch focus back to Seguin and Diana’s relationship, then we see our other couple get pushed to the background. It’s almost like they couldn’t completely coexist, though I will say the love story between Sarah and Gilberto does have implications on all of our characters, and the progression of the story. However, I think I almost would have preferred if maybe the focus had instead been more on Diana and Seguin, as well as our half-brothers trying to mend their troubled relationship. Then at the end we could have had an insinuation that Sarah and Gilberto were googly eyes for each other. It may have helped to create a more cohesive story, rather than having two love stories taking place in one book.
An Enchanting Landscape
There were two aspects of this novel which completely fascinated me. The first dealt with the historical aspect. This is definitely the first romance novel I’ve ever read which has focused on this time period in history, and it definitely caught my interest. The main reason being, I had zero idea what really came to pass during that time in Mexico’s history, so I had no idea how the historical events could possibly impact the rest of the story. It wasn’t like reading a romance set during the Civil War or WWII, where I know the standard start and end dates, as well as the general progression of the battle timeline. In this case though? It was a total learning process, and one that I’d love to research more fully. Personally I blame my high school’s lack of world history courses. I remember there was only one Global History course offered during my entire high school career, and it conflicted with my French class. Sooooo, yeah, I need to brush up on my history of Mexico.
The other feature of the novel which was described to perfection was the landscape. I could practically taste the champagne of the royal ball, feel the itch of the mosquitoes from the swamp, and feel the exhaustion of climbing through the countryside. It’s easy to get lost in the description of each scene, as you can picture the beauty and harsher aspects of the setting. Hell, when Diana and Seguin come across an abandoned city in the midst of the jungle you can practically feel the cold stone of the sacrificial altar digging into your back when Seguin worships Diana’s body in the physical sense. Oh my, definitely need to fan myself off here a moment.
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Should you read it? While I did prefer the first half of the novel, everything does come together for an exciting climax. The historical period of the book was fascinating, and I’m simply intrigued to learn more. Although I’m definitely a fan of romance, I think I would have preferred one less romantic story line here so that more of a focus was on Diana and Seguin. As it stands, there was almost a conflict of sorts in the middle of the book for who the main characters actually are. Replacing that second romance with a focus on Gilberto and Seguin fixing their strained relationship is something I might have preferred to see.
Smut Level: Sarah and Gilberto have a few passionate kisses, and an eventual quick love scene in a thatched hut. Diana and Seguin definitely heat things up a bit, with a descriptive make-out scene in a mining vault, and even a rough coupling on a sacrificial altar. Proving once and for all that even historical romances can have a slightly raunchy side.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Estrella Publishing. 353 Pages.