dinsdag 31 juli 2012

Jean Johnson – The Shifter

The second book in the Shifting Plains series, published May 1, 2012.
Genre: fantasy romance.

The Shifter

Before the Sons of Destiny came to be, shapechangers ruled the heart of a shattered empire and navigated the uncertain shifts of fate…
Years have passed since there was any sighting of Family Mongrel on the Shifting Plains. Yet traces remain, and they lead south into the Correda Mountains. As a favor to his brother and sister-in-law, Kenyen Sin Siin has taken it upon himself to track down those hints from the past and make sure the curs have not survived. The trail grows colder, more tangled, until he’s trapped in a valley where not everyone is as they seem. He will either adapt and survive or be uncovered and perish before his mission is complete.
Wary of strangers and distrustful of the unfamiliar, Solyn Ys Rei and her best friend have formed a secret resistance. One of a rare few with the ability to stand up to and evade enemies, she must still tread with great caution, particularly when even her best friend starts acting oddly. Allies could be enemies lurking in disguise, and a stranger’s face could hide a new foe as easily as a new friend.

Since it has been three years since the first book was published, it took me a while to get back in the story. I had to read the last few chapters again, which was certainly not a hardship, as I loved that book. In that story, Tava was rescued from the Mornai by Kodan Sin Siin and brought back to his people, the Shifterai. A race of shapeshifters. Only one in 50 females is a shapeshifter though, so they are rare and priced, and the leaders of the Shifterai. The more different but pure shapes a shifter can hold, the more standing he or she has.
Tava’s mother was held as a slave by a band of evil and banished Shifters, who mock the ways of the Shifting Plains, and treat women as dirt, only good for cooking and rutting. To find out if those who call themselves Clan Mongrel are still alive and abusing women, a small warband is send out to find them and bring them to justice. Kodan’s younger brother Kenyen is one of the warriors investigation the trails and rumors.

One of the men in the warband has a brother who was banished years ago for almost raping a maiden. Bellar is still visiting his brother every now and then, and has volunteered to work as a guide. But so far, he hasn’t been much of one, and he almost wanted them not to enter the cave, and he certainly does not want Kenyen to investigate the back of it. But Kenyen shifts into his snake form, and slithers through the strange rockfall to the back of the cave. And there he finds the evidence they have been looking for. The remains of a bound and tortured man, and the strange inscription he made using a rock, that he was the real Tunric Tel Vem. After questioning Bellar, they found out that the banished brother has made a living for himself in the hills, and has asked Bellar to send all other banished criminals to him for a job and a second chance. As they cannot clearly read the name of the place the dead man came from, the warband decides to investigate in multiple places to safe time. They have already wasted to much.

Kenyen is send to Northern Correda, a place called Nespah. On his way there, he meets a young man who is clearly running from something, almost killing his horse in the process. The Shifterai are great horsebreeders and take good care of their horses, so seeing the abuse, he is not happy with the young man. But when Traver tells his story, Kenyen soon forgets about it. Apparently, some rich and powerful men have changed greatly in the last few years, becoming brutes and abusing their women. Traver has come upon a bonfire in the forest one day, when hunting in the night to prove his manhood, and saw a band of man. To his horror, they shifted their faces and became people he knew, and strangers. Over 20 of them. Which explains the shifts in behaviour of the men he knows, as they are imposters! They also abused the woman they had with them, dressed in rags and covered in filth and bruises. They clearly are searching for something, and Traver will have to protect that secret. To Kenyen, it is a travesty, it is forbidden to shapeshift into someone else! Only animals are permitted, and then as pure as possible.

But before Traver and Kenyen can get back on the road to the leaders of his warband, Traver is captured by the man he was trying to flee from. And only quick thinking of Kenyen can safe them both. Kenyen pretends to be one of them, banished from the Shifting Plains, and looking for some quick reward. He tells him, he was banished for eating people, and enjoying their screams. And so Kenyen gets taking into their group and told to impersonate Traver, and ingratiate himself in the household of his fiancée. Her mother is a powerful Healer, and her father is a famous blacksmith. There he should search for some secret, but they won’t tell him what it is. Traver has to tell Kenyen as much as he can about himself and his daily life and habits, so Kenyen can take over his life.
Faking some injuries and a concussion is simple for Kenyen, and he quickly becomes Traver. Only Solyn is suspicious. She never was attracted to Traver before, them being engaged was just an excuse to get Tarquin Tun Nev to stop bothering her, but he is just different. More sure of himself, more graceful in his motions, just more. And she is attracted to him! And so Solyn confronts Traver/Kenyen, and Kenyen is just happy to confess it all and get an ally. He just doesn’t feel right to have feelings for another man’s fiancée. In the Plains, maidens are treated with a lot of respect, and “twining” is only done by married people. There are earth priestesses for helping a man with his needs if necessary. Usually widows who have chosen the profession. So when Solyn wants more than his kisses, he refuses.
Solyn is a mage, and she really needs to go to the capital to get a good education, but for now she needs to stay home to protect her parents. Her mother has been experimenting with herbal infusions and how they can affect steel, ever since bluesteel was discovered. Bluesteel is capable of marking shifters permanently, and is used to brand them as criminals and people who are banished for their crimes. And now both she and her husband have discovered greensteel, which can heal the most severe scars. Just cut them open, and the wounds will heal seamlessly. With greensteel, the criminals can remove their marks, and go back to the plains to exact their revenge. Which is why the secret can never fall into their hands.

I did like this book, even though it is very slow paced, and I would have loved some more action and suspense. The daily life of Traver and Solyn is described in great detail, and it was fun to read as they got to know each other, and fall in love, but still, it was slow. It never really did bore me, but I was hoping for some more action, more bad deeds or threats by the Clan Mongrel. Only in the end there was some fighting.
I liked Kenyen, he is a great character. He has grown up in the shadow of his older brother, who is a multerai, a shapeshifter with more than 10 shapes. Kenyen “only” has seven. Which is still more than average, and he is a good fighter and trader. I liked him, and how respectful he is of his own people’s customs, and those of Solyn’s people. But he is not a wimp, and stands up for his beliefs.

Solyn is 22, so not a very young girl. She is a mage, and is learning her mother’s Healing magic. But her own is not in the Healing range, so there is not much she can do. She really wants to go to the capital and get a good education. Will Kenyen go with her, or will he insist on taking her home with him? She will be treasured by his people, who have very little natural mages born among them.

Jean Johnson sure knows how to create a world, paint a village life with her words, and make her characters come to a 3 dimensional life. I enjoy her writingstyle, and her imagination and her stories. I like that her shifters are not just one kind of animal or people, but that a shifter can decide which animal he would like to learn to be, and not just the big predators. Kenyen for instance is a wolf, a hunting cat, a stripe-cat, a viper, a magpie, a horse and an owl.

I do hope there will be more books in this series.

8 stars

Autobuy author

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

maandag 30 juli 2012

Sara Ramsey - Heiress without a cause

The first book in The Muses of Mayfair series, published February 26, 2012.
Genre: historical romance. I love this cover!

Heiress without a cause

One title to change his life…
A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile – until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he won’t ruin her, even if he desperately wants the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.
One chance to break the rules…
Lady Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.
One season to fall in love…
Every stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson’s old enemies are determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?

Lady Madeleine Vaillant is 28 and firmly on the shelf. When her parents died in France years ago, her aunt and uncle took her in and raised her the same as their own daughter Amelia. The two girls grew up as sisters, with Alex as their big brother. Her uncle gave her a dowry as big as Amelia’s, so she certainly is not penniless. But still, the ton never sees her next to the beautiful Amelia. She never lacks for dancepartners, while Madeleine longs for a dance. With their friend Prudence, they form a group called the muses of Mayfair. Amelia is a novelist writing under a pseudonym, Prudence loves science and corresponds with many men throughout the country (including Alex!) and Madeleine loves to act. Of course, none of those pursuits are acceptable for young ladies of the ton.
But now Madeleine has rebelled, she is secretly performing in a small theater, having the time of her life. She knows it can just be for a few weeks, but she loves the acting, the being a part of a play and especially the adoration of the public. But when she tries to quit, the owner of the theater blackmails her in staying another month. And Madeleine reluctantly agrees.

The next night at a ball, the most notorious of all the Duke’s, propositions her to chaperone his two younger sisters. After all, she is a spinster with an impeccable reputation. Due to a lot of deaths in the family, they have been in mourning for the past four years. The rumors go that his older brother killed their father and himself, instead of it being an accident. Which is how Ferguson became the new Duke of Rothwell and that there is a trace of madness in the family. His oldest two brothers were unstable, he himself and his younger sister became the biggest scandals in the ton, and are almost denied access, and his youngest two sisters have been secluded by their father for most of their lives. His sisters hate him for abandoning them to their father, when he went to Scotland at 24. He managed to make such a scandal of himself, that the Duke had no other choice but to banish him from his house and estate. And that was exactly what Ferguson wanted, away from the Duke, who was a cruel monster. He does feel guilty that he could not help his sisters, but he needed to save himself.

His man of affairs suggest he visits a certain theatre that is part of his holdings, to see if they cannot up the rent. Ferguson doesn’t think much of the theater, but he agrees to go with some of his old friends. And when he gets a look at the lead actress, a woman playing Hamlet! And doing it superbly, the audience is completely in her thrall, he is lost. He is determined to make her his mistress, and when she refuses him, he just will wear her down. It is just not done such a pretty woman without a protector. A couple of servants are not enough to stop him. And so he follows her carriage, and to his big surprise, they go inside the servants entrance of a house he knows.

Madeleine is terrified that Ferguson will recognize her, but so far, no one has seen through her disguise. People one see what they expect to see. But when he comes to visit her the next day with his sisters in tow, she knows her ruse is over. He knows who she is. To her surprise, he does not condemn her, or expose her secrets, he seems to understand what drives her. and he will do his best to help her and keep her safe, even if that means Madeleine as her alter ego posing as his mistress. What ever will keep the wolves of the ton at bay.
But when her family finds out, they are livid, and threaten to send her abroad. They have their own reputations to think of, Amelia’s and that of Alex’s future wife and children. Madeleine is furious at Amelia to spill the beans like that, just because she did not want Madeleine to get involved with Ferguson.

Ferguson is determined to have Madeleine as his Duchess, but she refuses. She will have no freedom left at all, she would be expected to become one of the leading hostesses. Even though she has fallen in love with him, she knows love is not enough.

I really liked this story, is was original, and Ferguson is a really tortured hero inside. I liked how he acted with Madeleine (Mad), and how he wanted to repair his relationship with his sisters. What I did not like was how he abandoned them before, and is totally planning on returning to Scotland when he has them safely married. Mad will get used to the quiet life there, even though there would be nothing to do for her at all. Which means, he still thinks only of himself. He does not want to be the next Duke, or take care of all his holdings, that is work his stewards can do. And well, I am just not used to heroes who don’t want to take responsibility for their lives.
Madeleine is a spinster, and she does not like it, but she also does not want to get married. It will cost her what little freedom she has, as her cousin Alex is not a stern guardian for her and his sister. But still, she longs to be an actress, and she is so very good at it. When rumors get serious that Ferguson has killed her actress-alias, she will do what is necessary to clear his name, even though Ferguson refuses. But finally she can make him see reason. Mad is strong, but also caring, and she tries to bring Ferguson and his sister closer together.

Sara Ramsey has a nice writing style, her characters are very lifelike and I came to care for them. I am already looking forward to the next book, which is unfortunately not available at Bookdepository yet (neither is this one, so Amazon it is). The story managed to surprise me at times, which is especially nice in an historical romance, where there is not much room left for something original. There is ofcourse humor, and some love scenes, but not too much. I liked that Ferguson did not try to seduce her time and again to get her to agree to marrying hm.

8 stars.

I won this book on a blog

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

zondag 29 juli 2012

Allyson James – The Dragon Master

The third book in the Dragon series published November 4, 2008.
Genre: paranormal romance.

The Dragon Master

Carol Juan never really believed in her grandmother’s old-world tales of dragons and legends… until she was set upon by a wildly sensual man sporting a blazing red mane – and nothing else. He is Seth, a fire dragon summoned into this world by a dangerous mage who is seeking to ignite his own evil ends by devouring Seth’s fiery powers. What the fire dragon seeks is a life mate, a human female who can help him to explore the pleasures of the flesh.
Seth inflames more in Carol than the untapped magic surging inside her – and only she can save him from the mysterious mage who is guarded by an equally sinister cabal. Arousing Carol’s latent Dragon Master powers is only the beginning. Now she must risk her own life to save the fire dragon lost in her world – the man she has come to love and desire.

Carol Juan did not believe her best friend Lisa was a silver dragon, and her boyfriend Caleb a golden dragon. She is working hard to turn her grandmothers small dim sum restaurant in a successful chain of restaurants in San Francisco, and now she is trying to convince her grandmother to modernize the original one. But Ming Ue is stubborn, and does not want to change anything. She knows that Carol has worked hard to make them all rich and prosperous, but she will not be told what to do.
When Carol goes outside to return home, she is accosted by a naked red-haired man! He claims to be a fire dragon, and that she summoned him. But Carol did no such thing, how could she? Dragons don’t exist, and she has no magic! But that has changed this very evening. Another dragon master, a prisoner of the Order of the Black Lotus, has called Seth from the Dragonreaches. And when her until now dormant power sensed that, Carol’s power took over, making Seth appear near the restaurant. Seth is furious, he will not be enslaved by a Dragon Master ever again! But when Carol does not claim him, he turns into flames and flies away. But later that night, he appears in Carol’s apartment, frightening her. But they come to an understanding, and Malcolm, the black dragon, will teach him the ways of the world. After all, it has been more than a thousand years since last he was summoned here. And back then he was able to keep his Dragon shape, and not pressured into a human male’s body.
When the Black Lotus finds out that Carol has gained the powers of a Dragon Master, she is not safe from them and the demons who work for them, but Seth will protect her. And an old friend of her grandmother will teach her what it means to be a Dragon Master, to hold their names in her mind and in her power, and make them do her bidding. But her most dangerous power, is the ability to take a fire dragon’s fire into herself …

A lot happens in this book, and I don’t want to spoil the whole story, about what happened in the ancient past, and how it pertains to the present. I liked how Carol coped with her new powers, and how she does not want to give up the life she has build for herself. But she now beliefs in dragons, she has no choice, and she will fight for the good. She does not want to enslave dragons, and will do what she can to set her fire dragon free.
Set is more a dragon than Caleb or Malcolm were, after all, they spend a lot of time on earth, living among humans. Seth is enslaved in a very different way than the witches who controlled Caleb or Malcolm, and he wants to be free. But well, a dragon can get used to being touched and petted, and mating with a human female sure is pleasurable. When given the choice instead of an order, he will help Carol and the other dragons fight. Even if it means sacrificing himself. Yes, I cried.

As always, Allyson James (aka Jennifer Ashley) has written a great tale with dragons. I love her writing style, her sense of humor. The story is action filled, but there is also room for emotions and some very hot love scenes. And I always like catching up with the previous couples in the series. Imagine, having a little baby who can turn into a little dragon! It just adds that bit of fun to the story, breaking the tension. Axel also has a big part in this book, and I would like to read more about him. The best thing yet? Allyson James hinted on Twitter that this might not be the last book …

9 stars.

Autobuy author

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

vrijdag 27 juli 2012

Allyson James – The Black Dragon

The second book in the Dragon series, published November 6, 2007.
Genre: paranormal romance.

The Black Dragon

Saba Watanabe’s enslavement to the black dragon Malcolm left the powerful witch shaken and vulnerable. But when she’s attacked by a white dragon in human form, the only one who can help her is the dangerously seductive Malcolm. With his attraction for Saba still at a feverish high, Malcolm agrees to help her track down the white dragon terrorizing the San Francisco streets.
But Malcolm, too, has become vulnerable – victim of a spell cast to drain him of his strength – and Saba may be the only one who can rescue him. The key to their survival is in a mysterious book hidden in the world of Dragonspace. When its profound secrets fall into the hands of the enemy, the life of every dragon in existence is threatened, and Saba must not only battle her desire for Malcolm but learn to use her rising powers to safe his kind.

After reading the first Dragon book, Dragon Heat, I knew I wanted to read the other two books fast! So after finishing the lovely brandnew cozy mysteries I received (see previous reviews) I grabbed this book to put it in my bag for reading in my lunchbreak. And when I got back home, I continued reading until it was finished. I enjoyed it so much.

This second book in the series continues much where the first book ended, only 8 months have passed by. Saba is living in the apartment that Malcolm has left her, working at the new job she loves. She still misses him dreadfully, but he never even looked back at her when he left San Francisco for Dragonspace. She knew he longed for home after being exiled for 800 years, but still. She keeps dreaming of him.

Saba is coming back home in the subway from a tiresome seminar, when she is attacked by a white dragon, who wants to enslave her, so she will have to work her magic for him. But Saba refuses, and he cannot mark her. That was the first thing she learned when Malcolm released her, to stay safe from dragons. The white dragon is furious that she is resisting him, and tries to hurt her badly. The only thing Saba can do, is smash the dragon tears Malcolm gave her before he left, and call for him. The tears work, and Malcolm appears in the compartment, fighting the white dragon, enraged that he dares to hurt Saba, his witch! The white dragon flees, and Malcolm has to leave as well, when the magic has done its work, but not before he heals Saba, and caresses her.
When Saba wakes up that night, Malcolm is in her bedroom, having tied her up like he did the first time, only this time it is supposed to be a joke between them, and she could get out of the ropes easily. Saba is of course not amused, and burns the ropes. Malcolm, the black dragon, cannot understand why she does not welcome him back in her bed, why she does not want him to give her pleasure. But he needs her help. He wants to find the white dragon and slay him, and someone or something has put a spell on him that is slowly draining his powers. Perhaps it is the white dragon. And he wants Saba to find his mate for him… Saba is shocked, he wants to make love with her, and then she is to find his mate for him? Not understanding that Malcolm came back for her, he wants her as his mate, as he has not been able to get her from his mind. He has asked Lisa to bring him back from Dragonspace, as he needs to keep Saba safe.

Malcolm is the guardian of the Dragons archive, a big mountain filled with books and other kinds of knowledge, collected by black dragons through the ages. Malcolm knows exactly what is supposed to be where, and he has read all 6 trillion books and treatises. What use is knowledge if it is not read? When he finds out that the white dragon has stolen the most important book in the library, the Book of Dragons, he is furious. How could a lowly dragon like a frost dragon gain entrance in his so well guarded archives? It is Saba who discovers the human computer virus in his database, she has seen it before! Someone who used to work at her company had developed it, and they had a hard time getting it out of the computers.
But the dragons archive is a volatile mix of knowledge and magic, good and bad, and now the balance is disturbed, the darkness is taking over …

With the Book of Dragons, the white dragon can control all other dragons, their real names are in their, and Malcolm is the first one he enslaves. Malcolm cannot fight him, but with the help of the fearless Saba and Caleb, the golden dragon (see book 1) he can escape. While Saba is healing him, she learns his true name as well, and Malcolm is enraged when he finds out. He will not be a slave to a witch! And of course that is different than when he had marked her!

With the help of Axel, who claims he is an imp, they set out to find the white dragon and the witch he has working for him. They will have to safe the archives, and themselves from the darkness.

Another very good book by Allyson James. I just had to finish it when I started reading. Malcolm, the black dragon who is not supposed to feel emotions, has fallen for his witch, Saba. He does not want to acknowledge his feelings, or tell her, she will just have to obey him and do as he wishes. And when Saba refuses, or questions him, he really doesn’t understand that. But Saba is a very strong and smart witch, and I liked the little Japanese rituals and myths mixed in with the Chinese customs of the first book. Saba is half Japanese, and Axel really is a Japanese god who helps eat nightmares, and the darkness when called upon. He has helped her before when she was a little girl, and now again he appears when she needs him. Saba has grown in strength and confidence since the first book, and I like and admire her.

Of course Lisa and Caleb play a big part in this book as well, and the white dragon really overplayed his hand when he tried to kill her. He cannot beat both Malcolm and Caleb, not even when he uses Malcolm’s true name against him. Why do I keep calling Roland the white dragon, instead of using the name Roland he has taken? Because the white dragon never tried to act human, the crimes he committed to gain power are beastly, so he does not deserve to be humanized like Caleb or Malcolm.

Allyson James (Jennifer Ashley) has a great writingstyle, which is exactly how I like my books. Fast, action filled, but also my kind of snarky humor and some hot lovescenes, great characters, both the main ones and the secondary ones, great worldbuilding and a surprising plot. Her books never get dull, boring or predictable. And I have to admit, I loved the epilogue. Which is not always necessary for me in my contemporary romances. I am going to dive straight into the third book tomorrow.

8,5 stars.

Autobuy author

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

donderdag 26 juli 2012

Ellery Adams – Pies and Prejudice

The first book in the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery series, published July 3, 2012.
Genre: paranormal cozy mystery.

Pies and Prejudice

The first slice is magic…
When the going gets tough, Ella Mae LaFaye bakes pies. So when she catches her husband cheating in New York, she heads back home to Havenwood, Georgia, where she can drown her sorrows in fresh fruit filling and flaky crust. But her pies aren't just delicious, they're having magical effects on the people who eat them--and the public is hungry for more.
The second is murder…
Having discovered her hidden talent for enchantment, Ella Mae makes her own wish come true by opening the Charmed Pie Shoppe. But with her old nemesis Loralyn Gaynor making trouble, and her old crush Hugh Dylan making nice, she has more than pie on her plate. And when Loralyn's fiancé is found dead - killed with Ella Mae's rolling pin - it'll take all her sweet magic to clear her name.

After catching her husband of 7 years cheating on her with a pair of twins, Ella Mae LaFaye went straight back home to her mother. All she took where the clothes she was wearing, and her beloved Jack Russell terrier Chewy. Ella Mae and her mother have been estranged ever since she left Havenwood to go to New York with Sloan. Or even before then, with her mother busy with her committees and her garden, and Ella May raised by the housekeeper, Reba. And also a bit by her three aunts, who are all so different from her mother. But they are all close friends.
Ella Mae was taking cooking classes, hoping to one day open her own pie shop. Her aunts see no reason she cannot open one right here in Havenwood. And so, with financial help from her mother and aunts, Ella Mae buys a sweet little cottage in town, perfect for a bakery. But she does make an enemy in the process: her childhood nemesis Loralyn Gaynor wanted that shop to open her third nail parlor annex tanning salon. Her aging fiancée, the famous horse veterinarian Dr. Bradford Knox was to buy it for her, as a token of his love.

But while Ella Mae is happily busy with the renovating of the pie shoppe, disaster strikes. Loralyn’s nail salon burns down, and Dr. Bradford Knox is found inside, beaten to death with a rolling pin, a rolling pin with Ella Mae’s finger prints on them. The police of course suspect Ella Mae, but she had no motive, and could never have gotten into the nail parlor. She also cannot explain how her rolling pin ended up as the murder weapon. Everyone seems to have loved Dr. Knox, but someone did not, and Ella Mae is determined to find out who that was. Loralyn seems not to be grieving at all, she only wanted him for his money, just like her previous two husbands. But Loralyn has an airtight alibi; she was out of town for a bridal party.

Still, something fishy was going on, and the only one really grieving, besides Dr. Knox’ assistant, is his son, Chandler Knox. And Ella Mae will do anything she can to get to the bottom of this and clear her name.
Her Charmed Pie Shoppe will open next Saturday, and she will not have the cloud of a murder accusation hanging above her head. She will also have to hire someone to help in the shop, while she is busy baking. For now, Ella Mae has decided to start with breakfast and lunch, and if the Pie Shoppe becomes a success, she will consider dinner as well.
So far, none of the applicants to the job are suited, so when Reba offers her services, Ella Mae is overjoyed. Not only will she be awesome for the job, they get along so very well. Reba will talk the most stringent dieting woman into taking a piece of pie. And come back the next day for more. Or is that the “magic” baked into the pies, without Ella Mae realising it?

And then there is her highschool crush, Hugh, who has become a hot fireman. He seems to really like her, but he is also awfully close to Loralyn. Can she trust him? Or is he just spying on her. Hugh also works at the doggy daycare, Canine to Five, and Chewy loves it there. Lots of other dogs to play with, a doggie pool, someone to groom them and feed them.

I absolutely loved this book. The magic is very subtle, and it takes Ella Mae a long time to see it, and even more to believe in it. But her mother and her aunts all have a different gift, and Ella Mae’s is to put emotion in her pies. Like what happened when she was baking will lusting after Hugh … everyone who ate those pies sure lost their inhibitions! Let’s just hope the reporters won’t find out about it. Her mother’s gift is with plants, especially with roses, one of her aunts is a metal sculptor, she makes sculptures of deceased beloved pets, and help people deal with their grief. But it takes a lot out of her.

I liked Ella Mae, even though I have a lot of trouble with that name. I keep thinking of Ella Mae Clampett, of the Beverly Hillbillies. Any of you reading this old enough to know that series/book?
It is not easy for her to leave her cheating husband, she still loves him. But she cannot trust him, and when he does not even want to come to Havenwood to talk things through, she knows he is not really sorry, and would cheat on her again. So she sets the divorce in motion as soon as she can. And not even his apologizing letter (which his secretary typed for him) and the enormous check he sends can make her change her mind. While she still loves her husband, she also never got over her crush for Hugh.

The secondary characters of her mother, aunts and Reba are amazing. I want to go to Havenwood and live there and know them. The magic in this book is subtle, not flashy or witchy, it is just there and it comes from the heart.

And then there is, of course, the mystery. A very evil plot, and not something I could have predicted. I was just as amazed as Ella Mae when she found out. I love being surprised by an author, and Ellery Adams certainly did that.

And I just know that the family feud between the Gaynors and the LaFaye’s will have more problems in the next books. Books which I will devour as soon as they arrive.

I do recommend this series to everybody who enjoys a good paranormal cozy mystery. And if you do not like paranormal mixed in your cozies, do read her Books by the Bay series, which is totally awesome.

9 stars.

Autobuy authorLove this book

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

woensdag 25 juli 2012

Holly Bush – Train Station Bride

A stand alone novel, published March 14, 2012.
Genre: historical romance.

Train Station Bride

Debutante Julia Crawford endures a lifetime of subtle ridicule as the plump, silly daughter of a premiere Boston family. Julia strikes out on her own to gain independence, travelling to the Midwest to marry an aging shopkeeper and care for his mother. Julia finds her new home rough and uncivilized after the sophistication of a big city, while closely held secrets threaten to ruin Julia’s one chance at love.
Jake Shelling was sixteen and grew up quick when his parents died from influenza on the North Dakota prairie. Left with a half-cleared farm and two young sisters, he spent little time on his own needs . . till now. At thirty-five, he figured it was high time to have some sons and a mail order bride would suit him just fine. No expectations of love, just a helpmate from sturdy stock, ready for farm life.
Will fate and chance play a trick on Julia and Jake?

I loved this story. It made my cry my eyes out at times, which means the author did a good job of making me love the main characters.

Julia Crawford is 27, her family is rich and important in Boston 1887. Her beautiful and slim older sister is married to an important man and has a little son, her younger sister is 20 and is turning male heads wherever she goes, she is so beautiful, and even her youngest sister of 10, Jillian, is becoming very pretty. Her mother dotes on Jolene, her oldest sister, and belittles Julia whenever possible. But Julia has made a plan to escape her family and its influence: she will go to the West as a mail order bride. To her own surprise she responded to an advertisement in the newspaper, from an older shopkeeper who wanted a wife, and someone who could help with the care for his old mother. Julia and Jacob Snelling have been secretly corresponding for about a year, and the time has come to make the journey. A man who dotes on his aging mother like that, will certainly make a nice husband. With the help of their black charwoman, and Julia’s only friend, she hides the truth from her family, who think she will be visiting her aunt for a week. The only one she will miss dreadfully, is Jillian. Even though there is this huge age difference, they are very close. But Jillian will be going to boardingschool soon, just like all the other girls did, and it really is time for Julia to start her own life. Away from her family.

Jake Shelling is a farmer in Cedar Ridge, and he has been raising his two sisters since their parents died when he was 16. It was not easy, caring for two little girls, but he did it, and managed to make a success of the farm. But his youngest sister just got married, and now it is time for him to find a wife and start a family of his own. He wants a son to leave the farm to. He is not interested in the women in town, he wants someone who will be a real helpmate. Who can cook and clean and help, who makes his house a home. So he has arranged for a mail order bride. Unfortunately, the first wife he paid for, never came to Cedar Ridge, she married another man on the way. But now he has a big and sturdy Swedish woman coming for him, and he will marry her on the spot! Jake might not be able to talk to Inga Crawper at first, but he has no doubt they will be able to communicate his needs.

But well, fate has other plans. They day Julia and Inga are to arrive, is founders day. And the whole town has come and is celebrating. The train station is a racket. And so Jake finds Julia and they cannot really hear eachother clearly. And before Julia knows it, she is married to Jake. Handsome and huge, and totally not what she expected from her older shopkeeper. What is to be done about this mistake? But Jacob’s shrew of a mother makes it clear she won’t have her son marry a divorcée, and at last they go off with Inga. The priest whispers to Julia that she has had a lucky escape, she will be far better off with Jake. And so Jake and Julia decide to give their marriage a try.

Julia is surprised when she sees the farm, but she and Jake have come to an understanding, when his sisters and their families arrive. They were very opposed to Jake marrying a stranger, and a foreigner, but they will make her feel welcome! So when they find Julia instead of Inga, they are very happy. But Julia knows almost nothing about keeping cooking and cleaning, and Flossie and Gloria will have to teach her everything. But Julia loves it, and she is slowly falling for her husband. And he for her. And not only because of the sex, but because she makes him a real home, and even though the eats in the bunkhouse a lot, he appreciates her efforts.

And it could have been great, if Julia’s parents did not want her to come back home, and they will do everything to make that happen.
And then there is the big secret Julia has been keeping for all those years. Her mother uses it to blackmail her, and when Jake finds out, he is furious. And that makes Julia decides to stand up to her mother, and do something about it. Scandal or no scandal.
And stubborn Jake will have to come to his senses soon before he loses her for good.

I immediately fell for Julia. Her sad life in Boston, the horrible way she is treated by her mother and her oldest sister Jolene. The courage it takes to start a new life for herself. And to go for it, learning how to be a crop farmers wife how to take care of him and the house. She is very good with people, and comes to love Jake and his family. And what happened to her 10 years ago. I cannot blame her for that, and I loved it that she stands up to her family at last. She does not take the easy way out, she wants it all, as she deserves it all in the end. And not a husband who hates her for making the, in his eyes, wrong decision.

Jake is a big man, used to taking care of others, and he adores his tiny little wife. He cannot understand why she doesn’t believe she is beautiful, as she so clearly is. He cannot understand a family not made of love like his own. But when he meets his in-laws, he stands behind his wife in everything. He does not need their money, and he won’t be bought off, not even for half a million dollars. He also cannot believe what she has done, even though she was only 17 at the time. But he does come to his senses in time, and goes after his wife. What is his, stays his.

Holly Bush has written a great story. It was absolutely captivating, and I rooted for Julia. Of course I did figure out her big secret very early on, but not all the nasty details. I do hope to find out in another book, what happens next to the family in Boston.

This book was an ARC, and it does need some cleaning up, like the use of the word woman and women sometimes, and some sentences in the dialogues make no sense at all. But it did not jar me out of the story, I had to keep on reading and find out what would happen next.

I like Holly’s writing style, the way she describes things, how the emotions shine through in the characters. For those of you who like hot sex scenes, sorry. Of course they have sex, but the descriptions are very short and totally not explicit. Which for me is a nice change and I like it.

9 stars.

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

dinsdag 24 juli 2012

Annette Blair – Cloaked in Malice

The fifth book in the Vintage Magic Mystery series, published July 3, 2012.
Genre: paranormal cozy mystery.

Cloaked in Malice

The latest "intriguing" Vintage Magic mystery from national bestselling author Annette Blair.

There's nothing boutique owner Maddie Cutler loves more than fabulous vintage clothes, but the visions she gets from them are starting to wear her down. Even so, when a beautifully dressed girl comes to Vintage Magic in search of her past, Maddie isn’t about to turn her away, especially since she bears a striking resemblance to her good friend Dolly Sweet. When Maddie touches Paisley Skye’s exquisitely crafted child’s cloak, the vision she receives is of the ugliest sort: a decades-old case of kidnapping and murder. To give herself more time to investigate, Maddie enlists the help of her FBI Agent boyfriend Nick and takes Paisley into her home. But when Dolly suddenly skips town, Maddie realizes that uncovering the folds of Paisley's past will reveal more than one vintage crime...

Madeira “Maddie” Cutler is getting ready for the August sale in her vintage clothing shop, when a young girl enters. She is dressed very oldfashioned, and has come to Maddie for advice on some children’s clothes she has with her. Paisley Skye has a very strange story to tell. She was raised on a farm, and was not allowed to go behind the fence. She was homeschooled, and everything necessary for daily life was grown on the farm. She does not believe the people she called Mam and Pap where her parents, they never showed her any affection. She has no real memory of her past either. And so she hopes that Maddie can tell her more about the clothes she found, hidden in a locked closet.
When touching the child’s cloak, Maddie gets plunged into a vision at once, a bad one. A man in a tuxedo, shot, and bleeding in the snow. A woman dragged into a car, calling out a name, and another man with the child in his arms, taking her with him. A baby is crying in the background, and there is a church, and other well dressed people running and driving away. Is Maddie witnessing a murder / kidnapping? And is the child wearing the cloak Paisley?

Dante, Maddie’s live in ghost, points out that Paisley is the spitting image of his lady love Dolly in her youth. And when Dolly, who is about to celebrate her 104th birthday in a few days, and her daughter-in-law Ethel enter the shop, they see the same thing. The strange thing is that Dolly disappears the next day, apparently she has taken a plane to Paris! Luckily she was so smart as to hire a nurse-companion for the trip, but Ethel is sick with worry.

Maddie wants to find out more about what happened to Paisley, and needs to be able to touch the other clothes. And so she asks Paisley to stay with her, and tell her more of what she does know. Maddie’s boyfriend Nick is an FBI-agent on leave at the moment, and he is willing to help find out who Paisley is. She just knows those people were not her parents, and her name just has to be phoney. But to find answers, they will have to visit the island the farm is on, something Paisley really is not looking forward to. But on the farm, all they find are more questions. And why did Dolly race of to Paris?

One of the strangest stories I have ever read are told in this book. It is so over the top, so bizarre, that I don’t even know if I really liked it. At least I never guessed the truth before it was revealed. Of course, I loved visiting with Maddie and Eve and Nick and Werner again. And of course her lecturing father and Aunt Fiona (Fee). They are all such great characters. The jealousy between Nick and Werner is still there, though a bit toned down. And Maddie really was surprised but loved it when Nick called her his lifemate to his colleagues. Maddie is in no rush to get married though, which is a refreshing change as well.
Of course clothes, vintage clothes and designers play a big part in this series, and provide the necessary clues to Maddie.

Paisley was a strange character. For grown up on a secluded farm all her life, without books or television, but with schoolbooks a plenty, she learned a lot. Her Pap also taught her how to drive their old pick up truck, but for the rest, she is ignorant of the world. She did not even know their farm was on an island! And still, she holds herself well, even though she sometimes shows childish behaviour. Maddie promises to throw her a party so she will be able to meet some young men and start dating.
I do wonder if we will meet Paisley again in the next books.

In the back of the book, as usual, there are some tips about vintage purses. So if you like purses, you might want to check out this nice paranormal cozy mystery series.

7 stars.

Autobuy author

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

maandag 23 juli 2012

Robin Paige – Death on the Lizard

Book 12 in the Edwardian Mystery series, published February 7, 2006.
Genre: cozy mystery

Death on the Lizard

Lizard Village, 1903. It’s the dawn of a new century, and telegraph companies around the world are scrambling to be the first to send a wireless signal across the Atlantic. But Italian prodigy Guglielmo Marconi beats them to the punch. Naturally, his feat has bruised some egos, but no one expects sabotage – much less murder…
After two apparently accidental deaths at the Marconi station, Charles, Lord Sheridan, an amateur forensic detective and wireless enthusiast, is asked to head an investigation. Meanwhile, his wife, Kate Sheridan, looks into the drowning of a local girl. Soon it becomes clear that the drowning and some dirty tricks at the station are not only connected, but also involve foreign espionage, malicious intrigue, and inexplicable messages sent out of the blue…

Bradford Marsden is one of the directors of the new Marconi Wireless company. He has sunk a lot of his wife Edith’s money in it, and is afraid to see it all go down the drain. The company is in trouble, not only are they advertising things that are not reality yet, but there have been some unexplained deaths on the Lizard, and perhaps some sabotage. The press and their competitors better not get the air of that, or the company will be in severe trouble. So he asks his good friend Sir Charles Sheridan to come to Cornwall, and find out what is happening.
At the same time, Patsy Marsden is back home from her exploits in Arabia, and asks Kate Sheridan to join her in a visit to a friend in Cornwall, who has recently lost her daughter and is terribly lonely. Kate really doesn’t want to go, she doesn’t want to remember her own grief, and intrude on this woman. But Patsy doesn’t want to hear the word no, and when Charles mentions that Bradford asked him to go to Cornwall as well, things are settled. Even though Charles and Kate promised each other not to leave Bishop’s Keep for a while.

The Marconi wireless station at Poldhu has a lot of people opposed to it. The enormous amount of energy needed to send a message across the Atlantic, makes a lot of noise. The Lizard is knows for its nature, its unique birds nesting, and the Poldhu station really does disturb that piece and quiet. So lots of the locals are protesting, also because the Marconi company doesn’t hire locals to do the job, other than building the station. Being a wireless operator means you need an education at a special school.

When Gerald Fleming is found death at his work, disaster is there. Especially when the important tuner he was working on and his notebook have gone missing from the company rooms at the Poldhu hotel. Could it be that his death by electrocution was not an accident after all? And with all the competitors clamouring to be the first to invent a tuner that will keep out interference on the wireless, and keep the messages safe, there are suspects galore.

Bradford gets a nasty surprise when he sees who Marconi’s latest lady love is: a young lady he dallied with himself in Paris just a few days before his marriage to his wife Edith. Only she called herself differently back then And when he met her later in Venice, she was the young “niece” of an American gentleman, who later died suspiciously. Neither the lady nor some of the gentleman’s valuable possessions were found. And now she has her clutches in Marconi, which cannot be good. But when he tries to scare her off, she blackmails him in return, as she has kept his letters from back then.
With Gerald dead, Marconi will need to finish the device himself, and fast. After all, the Royals (The prince and princess of Cornwall, Prince George and Princess May) and the Admiral will be visiting Poldhu in a fortnight, and this mess will have to be solved before then. But Gerald was a much better inventor than Marconi, and without the device and Geralds notes, this will be hopeless.

While Charles is busy with the Poldhu situation, Kate has to deal with Pansy Marsden, and the sad Jenny Lovelace. She blames herself for her daughters’ death, and is seeing and hearing strange things. She told an old family friend about it, Sir Oliver Lodge, who is not only one of Marconi’s biggest competitors; he also has keen interest in paranormal investigations. He uses something called automatic writing, and he thinks Jenna is susceptible to spirit influence and able to perhaps connect to her daughter Harriet. Out of desperation Jenny has agreed to the séance, and she wants Pansy and Kate to be there as well, as witnesses.

Then there is the mysterious man on the sailboat in Frenchman’s Creek Jenny has been visiting in secret. Or not so secret, as the whole village knows about it. But Kate spies an old acquaintance, Captain Andrew Kirk-Smythe, keeping an eye on that man. Andrew is in disguise though, and she does not want to ruin his mission. But she does tell Charles about it, and Charles will find out more, perhaps both their missions will collide.

I absolutely loved this last mystery in the series, and I am sad to close the book. Kate and Charles are such a great couple, even though they are apart in this book, both solving things from their own end and perspective. I felt for Jenny, who lost her only daughter, and feels so guilty about it. And the young girl Alice, who misses her secret friend Harriet, and does not dare tell anybody about what really happened. I loved how Kate made friends with the little girl, and managed to get Jenny some closure in the end.

The ladies set out to explore the Lizard, and it sure is a beautiful piece of Cornwall. Robin Paige has a wonderful way with words, how she describes the scenery, and whatever happens. The book has such a tranquil feeling about it, so quiet, even though lots of things keep happening and it never gets boring for a moment. Everyone is just behaving calm and quiet most of the time, even when their emotions are in turmoil. There is not the urgency a mystery has in the modern world, where there are so many ways for the bad guy to escape the law.

I love meeting famous people from history, and learn personal details about them, not just A invented X and B invented Y. Robin Paige writes great characters in Kate and Charles, and very good secondary characters, they all come to life before my eyes.

I do recommend this series.

9 stars.

Autobuy author

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

zondag 22 juli 2012

Allyson James – Dragon Heat

The first book in the Dragon series, published July 3, 2007.
Genre: paranormal romance

Dragon Heat

Lisa Singleton has an unusual roommate-a fifty-foot dragon named Caleb who has glittering scales and a bad attitude. Little does she know that Caleb is actually a powerful warrior sent to protect her from those out to steal her magic and destroy the world. Lisa never knew she had any magic worth stealing…
Then Lisa’s life is threatened by a black dragon and an evil witch – and she suddenly finds herself in the arms of a tall, naked, sexy stranger with rippling muscles. Turns out the hunk is Caleb – in human form and if he doesn’t stop distracting her with those gorgeous bedroom eyes, they may not have time to stop their enemies before all of existence is wiped out.
At least Lisa and Caleb will have savored every last minute…

Lisa Singleton is quite content with her life. After her divorce from her cheating husband, it took her awhile to get on her feet again. But with the help of her beloved grandmother and her best friend, she managed. Now her grandmother has died, and she is living in her apartment, which she loves. The strange thing though is, when her grandmother died, a white streak appeared in her red hair, just like her grandmother used to have.
Lisa has a job she likes working for a cooking show, making sure the star has everything she needs. And during the evenings, she watches tv with her dragon roommate. That was quite a shock when she first met him, living in her grandmothers, and now her own, spare bedroom. But she finally understood why the tv was turned at such a strange angle, not viewable from the livingroom seats at all. Caleb is very interesting in her life, and she loves talking with him, and watching tv together.

What Lisa does not know yet, is that Caleb has been sent by a coven of three witches to protect her from a black dragon in human form, who wants to use her power to go back home. If he destroys the world in doing so, he does not care. Caleb loves his job, but when the black dragon makes a move on Lisa, using his minion, Caleb summons the witches. He needs to be closer to Lisa to protect her, as he cannot leave the bedroom. He needs to be human to do that! Saba agrees with him, and uses her magic to create a bracelet he can use in the human world. And to Lisa’s surprise and relieve, when Greg is accosting her on her own sofa, a huge gorgeous blond naked man emerges from her spare bedroom and tosses Greg out on his ear. The man has no shame about being nude and it takes Lisa a while to understand that this is Caleb, her dragon friend.

Lisa still does not know that she has magic inside of her; let alone how to use it. And she certainly will not let the witches who send Caleb to her side teach her, she does not trust Donna at all, especially not when Donna sees nothing in hurting Caleb by using his true name. She will find out at her own, and perhaps her grandmother’s friend can help her. And what is the dragon orb both the black dragon and the witches are after?

I really enjoyed this book. I liked Lisa, and her easy acceptance of everything that happens in her life. A dragon in her spare bedroom, who can turn into a gorgeous man and who wants nothing more than to protect her (and have sex with her). The witches, her grandmother’s secret, the black dragon. A lot happens in this story, and it kept me at the edge of my seat at times. There is a lot of talk about Caleb being a lowly golden dragon, nothing more than a fighter, while the black dragon is much wiser, lives to grow older and is a coolheaded creature without emotion. But I like Caleb, he really cares for Lisa, even though Dragons are solitairy creatures, and often get killed right after mating. Caleb survived that, and he even raised one of his eggs/children until the witches came …
He knows when this danger for Lisa is over, he will be send back to the Dragonreaches again, but he wants to stay with her. And not just as the dragon in her spare bedroom, but as her mate.

Allyson James (who is also Jennifer Ashley) wrote a lovely story about magic and dragons, witches and friends, and above all, love. The story did surprise me a few times, and I am eagerly looking forward to reading the next book. Lucky for me, I bought all three books. I just know I have not seen the last of Malcolm, the black dragon and his witch Saba. Allyson James created a great world, and I want to learn more about it, and the abilities of the different kinds of dragons.

8 stars.

Autobuy author

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

vrijdag 20 juli 2012

New additions to my addiction

Stapel boeken

From Bookdepository:

- Alexis Morgan – My Lady Mage
- Kalayna Price – Grave Memory
- Annette Blair – Cloaked in Malice
- Susan Wittig Albert – The Darling Dahlia’s and the Naked Ladies
- Ellery Adams – Pies and Prejudice

From Amazon:
- Robin D. Owens – Hearts and Swords
- Jean Johnson – The Shifter
(I bought those books with an Amazon gift card I had won on a blog).

Books I have won:

- Sara Ramsey – Heiress without a cause, autographed and it came with a gorgeous bookmark and a little note. I love it. Such a beautiful cover.

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

donderdag 19 juli 2012

Jude Deveraux – The Awakening

Book 13 in the Montgomery series, published in 1988.
Genre: historical romance, 1913.

The Awakening

Amanda Caulden led a sheltered life on her father's California ranch -- until the day Hank Montgomery stormed into town. A hot-blooded union organizer with a taste for ladies and fine champagne, he sensed the fire that smoldered beneath her prim, virtuous beauty...and he vowed to make her his.
Hank's assault on her orderly life made Amanda furious -- and all the more enticing. Slowly, he drew her into a world of sensuous pleasure: sumptuous meals and moonlit dances, carefree laughter and stolen kisses...gently stirring the sleeping embers of passion. But even as a fierce love rose between them, violent rebellion threatened to destroy the Caulden ranch -- and their lives!

I have been a fan of Jude Deveraux books ever since I read the first one in my early teens. I have collected them in Dutch as hardcover, and now I am collecting them in English in paperback. I have just finished this book, and I have no idea what to think of it. I don’t have the feeling this is a romance novel. I did not particularly like any of the characters in the book either. And the background story was very severe, and yet I was totally captivated by the story and did not want to stop reading.

This book takes place in America in 1913, when Unions are being created, standing up for the very poor working conditions of the many foreign workers in the country. In this particular instance, for the harvest of hop. And those working conditions were so very bad, such gruesome things happened.

Hank Montgomery is an economics professor, who is working to improve working conditions for manual labor in the country, setting up unions and such. He is been asked to go to Kingman, California, and see what can be done about the hop harvest and the working conditions. It is a very hot and humid and heavy job, and the working conditions are abysmal, the landowner really exploits the workers.
To his surprise, he gets invited to stay at the ranch, so he can see for himself what happens. What he doesn’t know, is that the owners daughter Amanda is to keep him occupied, and tell her father and fiancée what Hank does for the union, so they can stay one step ahead of him.
Hank is one of THE Montgomeries, his family is filthy rich, only he doesn’t like that to be known. He is just a professor at the university, but in his free time he loves to race cars. And sleep with a lot of women. But he really does care for people, and tries to help them if he can.

Amanda she really is an unusual heroine. When she was 14 years of age, her father took her of the village school, as he had hired a tutor for her, a distant poor relative. Taylor has dictated her every moment since then. Educating her to become his wife. He dictates what she eats, what she wears, when she wears it, buys her clothes for her, tells her when she is allowed to use the bathroom and how long. Everything she does is according to the schedule he makes for her daily, and she is to follow it to the letter. She studies all day long, and he gives her tests. She is fluent in languages, in politics, both American and foreign, as she is to be able to politely converse with him over dinner, and read to him in the evenings, until he sends her to her bedroom. Not once has he touched her, or kissed her. Still, Amanda thinks herself in love with her teacher/fiancé. He just told her they were to be married when he thinks her ready, and she was grateful for that. After all, he is the only man she knows besides her father. And she doesn’t get to see her father much, and her mother almost never, as Taylor thinks her a bad influence on Amanda.

At first Hank thinks Amanda a spoiled little prig, who can do nothing else but spout her bookish knowledge at him, like she is lecturing. But when he finally opens his eyes, and sees that it is Taylor who totally controls her, he tries to make her rebel, to live a little. And I really, really dislike the way he does that, with no thought to Amanda at all, how he kisses her and grabs her, and later one even makes love to her, when she has changed her mind already. He just thinks about what he wants, never about what would be better for Amanda. When Amanda disobeys Taylor, or disappoints him, or scores badly on one of the daily tests, she gets send to her room without food. And so Hank forces rich food on her all the time.

And when in the end of the book, they love each other, I really could not believe in it. After all Hank is a total womanizer, he even dates and kisses other women while being obsessed with Amanda.

Then there is Taylor. His father was hopelessly in love with his mother, who was fat and drunk most of the time, so Taylor is determined never to fall in love, and to have his wife obey him. Which makes him control Amanda’s every moment, every bite, every thought. He is training a ragdoll. Of course he doesn’t love her, he doesn’t know the real her, but neither does Amanda, who was quite happy with her life before she met Hank as she did not know any better.

After letting Amanda see that she is living in a prison, and she is 22, and had a better education than any woman in the country, but she will never graduate, Hank sets out to show her how evil her father is in his treatment of the fieldworkers. Amanda loves her father, who never spends any thoughts on her though, or eats with them. And so she defends him, and believes him when he tells her how good he is to his workers, how expensive it is to grow the hop and such. Hank sure makes her eyes go open, but he does that in such a wrong way.

And finally, the spineless mother, who lets her daughter be taken from her, who keeps to her room for years, and never tries to help Amanda. Only now, when Hank Montgomery has been opening her eyes and Amanda comes to her with questions. And still she does not really help Amanda, just tries to make trouble for her with Taylor, hoping they will break it up and he will leave.

Yes, Amanda did wake up, she did smell the roses and everything, but to fall in love with a womanizing bully? Why? Because he is handsome and the second man she ever sets eyes on?

Okay, I did not like the characters, but the story itself was captivating. I also think I kept hoping to start to like the characters a bit more. Did I like the book or not? I really cannot say. And this book should be part of the Montgomery series I love so much? If so, only because his last name is Montgomery. Perhaps it would have been better advertised as a stand alone novel. I do know, this one will not be re-read.

6 stars.

Autobuy author

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian

woensdag 18 juli 2012

Robin Paige – Death at Blenheim Palace

Book 11 in the Edwardian mystery series, published Febrary 1, 2005.
Genre: cozy mystery

Death at Blenheim Palace

The ancient park surrounding what is now Blenheim Palace is said to be the place where Henry II carried on his liaison with Rosamund – who perished, many suspect, at the hands ot Eleanor of Aquitaine. Now, as Charles and Kate Sheridan arrive in 1903, at the invitation of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, it is the site of a new mystery.
As Kate labors on a book about the legendary love affair, she is distracted by the disappearance of a household maid – and Charles discovers that a mysterious woman seems to be offering the famous Marlborough Gems for sale. Then the duke and his teenaged mistress vanish – and soon Winston Churchill and the young T.E. Lawrence make appearances as intrigue, and history, repeat themselves…

Kate and Charles Sheridan are invited to Blenheim Palace by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. The Duchess is an American heiress, Consuela Vanderbilt. She was matched to the Duke at a very young age by her overbearing mother, even though she was in love with some one else. The Duke desperately needed her money to keep up Blenheim Palace, which is the only thing in his life he loves.
Their marriage is very unhappy for the Duchess, who feels like a prisoner in Blenheim Palace, which is beyond huge, and always cold. Even though it has the loveliest view in all of England. Her husband does not even like her, and is always belittling her and ridiculing her. She would love to do some more charity work, but even that is not permitted. She is not to do anything different than his mother and grandmother before her. But Consuela has done her duty to the Duke, giving him a heir and a spare, and now they are almost ready to be send of to boarding school.
The Duke though has fallen in love with an other young American girl, but is this Gladys Deacon really this innocent and naïf young girl, or she is a conniving little thief? Consuela cannot feel it in her to dislike the vibrant and charming Gladys, she totally blames her husband who should now better. They will not be able to divorce, as he needs her money for Blenheim. And a separation will cause too big a scandal.
Also in residence is Winston Churchill, a friend of Charles, who is busy writing a book about his illustrious father, Sir Randolph Churchill. The Duke is his cousin, and Blenheim is his house as well. He will do anything to protect the family name of scandal, and he doesn’t like the duke’s behaviour with young Gladys.

But belowstairs, things are not going well either. A young housemaid has gone missing, leaving all her clothes and even her wages behind. Surely she cannot have run off like that. One of the footmen, Alfred, has an eye on her, they have served together before they came to Blenheim, and he is totally in love with his Kitty. But Kitty had other ideas of her future, she is sure to be rich very soon. And Alfred was just a nice diversion for a few days between jobs. Just before she disappeared, Kitty was seen talking to a red-bearded man at the local pub …

Charles Sheridan has a second reason to coming to Blenheim. He has recently solved a large theft for the Ashmodean museum, and now the curator tells him of a disguised woman trying to sell him some stones that clearly belong to the famous Marlborough collection. Collected by the fourth duke, and squandered by the seventh. But perhaps some stones have survived the sale. The curator doesn’t trust things, and has asked Charles to look into it. Which Charles ofcourse agrees too. And he might need the help of young Ned (T.E. Lawrence), one of the museums students, who has a thing for archaeology and is very bright and smart. Charles likes him.

After a strange scene at the diningroom table, Gladys is missing the next day, her bed not slept in. And her other admirer, Northcote, has gone in the middle of the night, taking the six o clock train to London. What happened to Gladys? The duke wants her found, and he orders Charles to find her! So with the help of his beloved Kate (and Beryl ofcourse) Charles sets out to find the truth about it all. What has the missing housemaid to do with the missing Gladys? And is Gladys missing, playing a dangerous game, or did something bad befall her?
Almost at the end of the book, a body is fished out of the lake ….

A great mystery, and this one did not start with a body found. But still a mystery had to be solved, or perhaps more than one. And a ring of thieves has their sights set on the Royal houseparty that will take place in a few weeks. Can Charles and Kate prevent a scandal from happening in time? Because a houseparty will mean a house in disarray, dozens of strange servants roaming the hallways, and no security to speak off. The King loves for is guests to be decked out in their best jewellery and stuff, which means lots of opportunities for a clever thief. What happened to Kitty? Does Alfred knows more? And is Gladys innocent or a schemer?
As always, a great mystery against an historical background. I loved it, also as usual. Kate and Charles are so great together, and apart from each other, they find clues that together make a whole story. Winston Churchill plays a small role in this book, as does T.J. Lawrence. The famous desert warrior! He was just a boy back then, but passionate about archaeology. I have to admit, I was very happy with the epilogue written, explaining what happened with all the main players in the book. Consuela did legally separate from her husband, and later one even divorced him, and lived very happy ever after. The coldhearted Duke married his Gladys when she was 40, and she was miserable until he died, and she died old and all alone, hated by everyone.

If you like historical cozy mysteries, I can for sure recommend this series.

Robin Paige is one of my favourite cozy authors, the writing team of husband and wife Bill and Susan Wittig Albert. And I am very sad that I have only 1 more book to go in this great series. I keep hoping they will relent and write another one. Can I keep labelling them autobuy author if they don’t write this series anymore?

8 stars.

Autobuy author

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

© 2012 Reviews by Aurian