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Tag: "Romance"

Review: Underworld’s Daughter by Molly Ringle

[ 1 ] August 28, 2014

perf5.000x8.000.inddReviewed by Jessa Larsen

Persephone and Hades, or Adrian and Sophie in the mortal lives, discovered the secret to immortality in their Underworld garden in Molly Ringle’s first book in the Chrysomelia series. Now, in Underworld’s Daughter, new immortals are being created for the first time in thousands and thousands of years. Unfortunately, Sophie has not had a chance to taste the delectable fruit of immortality. Thanks to Nikolaus, the trickster god, Tabitha and Zoe, her and Adrian’s best friends, have discovered their old immortal selves: Dionysos and Hekate. But Sophie is being left farther and farther behind, which means that mortality and the danger of the cult group, Thanatos, are getting closer and closer. Can her immortal friends, Gods of Ancient Greece, help her escape with her life? Or is she doomed to wait, yet again, and hope she has a chance or coming back for another try.

Thanatos is back in book two of the series, and just as deadly. They’re on the run from the police due to their past public behavior, but this doesn’t seem to bother them any. Sophie, Adrian, and all their friends must group together and outsmart the insane cult. But can they actually reason with the unreasonable?

I love the Greek gods and the mythologies that go along with them, so I was excited to start this series and, after the first book, come back for seconds. Unfortunately, I felt a little disappointed with this installment. I understand that it can be tricky to keep readers engaged while weaving the old Persephone and Hades story with the present storyline. Nevertheless, I found that I liked the original story much more than the story I felt was the “main” event. I think Ringle got stuck in the mud with this one, and it really broke my focus.

I also had an issue with the inclusion of Hades and Persephone’s logically progressing love life. I’m all for a good romance—I don’t even mind it getting hot and heavy—as long as it’s done correctly and doesn’t take away from the plot and characters. In this case, I think the “sexy” bits were tossed in just for the fun of it, and they just made me cringe. Not because they was crude or over the top… it was more like listening to a virgin make up a sexy story you know never actually really happened and just lets you know for sure that the speaker is, indeed, and actual virgin. Just didn’t work for me. At all.

The story ends rather abruptly, and I ended up putting the book down, wandering off, and wondering what just happened to me. I’m also confused by the title. We get a little more of Hekate, who is used by the author as the daughter of Persephone and Hades, thus the possible Underworld’s Daughter. Hekate gets a decent role in the story, and her back story is definitely fleshed out, but I wouldn’t call her a primary character for which titling a book usually makes sense. Anyways, I believe the series has potential, and I really did enjoy the first book. I’m hoping the second was just an awkward middle ground that can turn into a third story that really finishes it up in a fantastic way. Only time will tell, I suppose.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Central Avenue Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Belle Cora by Philip Margulies

[ 2 ] August 26, 2014

17757954Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Very loosely based on a 19th century prostitute, Belle Cora is the remarkable story of one woman’s fight to live her own life on her own terms no matter what tragedies God or man throws at her. A woman of many names and many lives, Belle recounts her story to the reader as a memoir in order to give a clear and truthful account of her life and actions. She gives the many reasons she became the woman the world would come to see as a dangerous and powerful madam and whore. Pointing out the various occurrences that led her down her rather twisted, treacherous, and hard won path – from her parents’ deaths that forced her out of her sheltered life in New York City into an unloving, harsh, and religious farm life, to the vicious loss of her innocence, to a drive to live so strong she begins selling her body – Belle leaves nothing hidden for the first time in her life. And what a life! Rape, degradation, murder, losing the love of her life then finding him again just to lose him again…each new challenge and hurt adds on to the hard shell she builds around herself until she learns to hide her true self and to use her intelligence, cunning, courage, and natural beauty to become a very rich, very powerful, and independent woman.

The memoir style of the novel is absolutely perfect for the story, with Belle laying her life bare and even interrupting her own narrative to interact with the reader and explain that she understands what the reader might be thinking of her actions. Agreeing that she made mistakes and showing herself to be anything but perfect, the reader cannot help but feel for Belle and understand her choices even if they don’t agree with them. At times she is her own worst enemy, doing things that make you want to scream at her; this makes Belle wholly relatable. She is selfish, greedy, prideful, vengeful, and cruel at times but she can also be loving, giving, and remarkably understanding of the bad choices of others. By the end of this very long story (just over six hundred pages!), I had forgotten that this wasn’t a real memoir… it just felt so authentic!

On the downside, Belle Cora felt like a book that is six hundred pages. It wasn’t a fast read and at times felt like it was giving too much time to particular points in her very long life. I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted to rush through the heavy details to get to the next part. I should point out, however, that I am not typically a fan of memoirs for this exact reason, so it could just be me. There were aspects of the novel that pulled me out of Belle’s story as well, dealing with the politics, scandals, and real life historical figures of the time that sometimes felt like they were added as reference points and wouldn’t necessarily be items that a person would spend so much time when recounting their own life story. In the grand scheme of the novel, these are minor problems but are still things to note.

Bell Cora – both the fictionalized woman and the novel – is fascinating, and anyone interested in a no-holds-barred account of what it was to be an independent and intelligent yet flawed woman of this time will find much to enjoy. I was astounded at how genuine the whole story felt and at how much I was able to feel for a woman making so many bad choices. I have no doubt other readers will feel the same. If you enjoy historical fiction it is definitely worth the read!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: Bianca’s Vineyard by Teresa Neumann

[ 2 ] August 26, 2014

51uuQM0yzDLPlease join Teresa Neumann, author of Bianca’s Vineyard, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Reviewed by Charity Lyman

I am a lover of historical fiction. Give me a book about almost any time period in history and I will enjoy it. I especially look for authors who put a lot of work into detail, as Teresa Nuemann has done here with Bianca’s Vineyard. The cover itself draws you in before you’ve even had time to discover the plot. Believe me, if you like stories based on real life, this is one book you do not want to miss.

True to the title,  the story revolves around Bianca. While the book opens in 2001, we are quickly whisked back to 1913 and the beginnings of a long and difficult journey for our heroine. Enter Egisto, Bianca’s uncle, who is getting ready to sail to America from Ripa. His family wants him married to a woman in the Church, but Egisto wants to marry outside the church. His brothers give him some drunken wisdom and while in a bar, he dances with a stranger. Egisto makes a split second decisions and asks this woman, Armida, to marry him. And to his surprise, she accepts. They set sail for America the next day.

The book goes from day-to-day descriptions to skipping parts which span several years. That would be my main problem–I like more of a daily chapter kind of book.  Nevertheless, Bianca’s Vineyard is very well written. While I was somewhat confused when the story skipped from Egisto and his bride sailing to America to them living in Minnesota 10 years later, it was not too hard to deal with.

The characters are so well developed I almost felt the pain of Armida as she realizes that she wasn’t Egisto’s first love and that he might still love the other woman. Egisto goes through so much and don’t even get me started on the children. The scenery is so realistic I could almost feel the sun and smell the grapes in the vineyard. I loved the historical details especially as they pertained to the Fascist aspect of World War II. Overall, a poignant novel based on a true story that will likely interest history lovers.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

Review and giveaway copies were provided by All’s Well House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Dreams of Lilacs by Lynn Kurland

[ 2 ] August 22, 2014

18667833Reviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Lynn Kurland’s Dreams of Lilacs brings readers to eleventh-century France and England for a love story set amongst mystery and suspense within castle walls and the French court. This novel is a moderate read good for more than just a summer romance but not so heavy that the plot or language dizzy a reader into confusion. With all the elements essential to a delicious romance novel, Dreams of Lilacs delves a bit further into literary techniques to satisfy even the most voracious readers.

Kurland, in all of her historical and paranormal novels, exemplifies her knowledge of content applicable to time periods, settings, and language. Dreams of Lilacs is no exception to this fact and will bring readers exactly where they hope to be when choosing a historical romance. Readers who enjoy Kurland’s de Piaget family will be happy to note that the author returns to the family’s ancestral home and brings back a host of characters from her previous novels. Dreams of Lilacs is the sixteenth novel within the de Piaget series but works well as either a stand-alone novel or within the order of the other books. The only aspect readers will miss if reading Dreams of Lilacs as a stand-alone novel is the enjoyment of knowing other characters’ stories. What a way for Kurland to ensure the success of the series!

Dreams of Lilacs is a story about Isabelle de Piaget and Gervase de Seger’s relationship: how their relationship came to be, the struggles the two characters overcame, and the adventures they undertook to protect their families. Kurland’s side story of a potentially murderous and nefarious unnamed character out to rid the de Piaget and de Seger families of their loved ones completes Dreams of Lilacs with suspenseful and humorous scenes.

The novel begins explaining Isabelle’s and Gervase’s present circumstances—he with a broken-down body after a manor fire, she with a threatening letter. Isabelle and Gervase are impulsive, obstinate characters who vow to protect those in their care, so naturally both of them take risks that put themselves in peril. Isabelle eventually finds herself alone in France under Gervase’s care; the Lord de Seger finds himself surrounded by numerous family members, guests, and servants who could be the unnamed character attempting to murder him. The rest of the novel, as in all historical romances, covers Isabelle and Gervase’s growing attraction—and eventually love—for each other, along with dialog and descriptions of smaller interactions and adventures that provide backstories for the characters. Swordplay is a particular favorite activity of Kurland’s characters—male and female—in Dreams of Lilacs.

A cast of characters who range from unpleasant to comical, protective to dangerous, silent to chatty, and needy to independent leaves readers with many names to remember but nothing short of entertainment in wondering who the manly nun in the corner could possibly be and if the youngest de Seger brother will ever have a loving mother (amongst many other storylines). Kurland excels in creating characters that readers care about; her characterization is strongest in her creation of strong-willed females and obstinate gentlemen who need to be humbled. Regardless of the character’s flaws, all of them are wholesome in heart and mind and fully human, to the point that no matter those flaws readers will love them for exactly who they are. In fact, through those flaws Kurland often writes her most humorous and compassionate scenes through witty dialog and descriptive actions.

Dreams of Lilacs is strongly recommended for readers who love romance set amongst a historical background. Note that this novel, and possibly many other of Kurland’s novels based upon other reviews, is “clean.” Kurland’s characters behave in a chaste manner and advocate for the same. Some readers may find this behavior unrealistic; however, in Dreams of Lilacs it makes the characters all the more endearing for their propriety and, quite frankly, a welcome change from novels that are filled with many bedroom scenes.

The language is flowery and long-winded; sometimes it can be challenging to remember the content of the beginning of a sentence because of its length. Often the same phrase is utilized multiple times with the same paragraph—these phrases become tiring to read and take away from otherwise well-written prose. However, neither of these issues are reason enough to find serious fault with novel. Overall, Kurland’s Dreams of Lilacs is a worthy read for any historical-romance fan.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Jove. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match by Sonya Rhodes

[ 1 ] August 21, 2014

Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

Are you alpha or beta? Figure it out here.

Everyone knows the definition of an Alpha male, but an Alpha woman has been misidentified as the B-word—or at least sorely misunderstood—for decades. This elusive Alpha woman is actually competent, confident, careful, career-oriented, calculating, cool and collected… up until she gets with a man. Then, she shrinks back to her base comfort level, which may put her at a disadvantage emotionally, sexually, and otherwise in a relationship with the opposite sex.

The new Alpha woman is able to shine even in her relationships. The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match guides Alphas and Alphas-to-be in how to love themselves, identify strengths, and date and marry well. Author Sonya Rhodes also gives them advice on how to survive a divorce (if it comes to that) and more. She gives real-life-story examples of Alpha women in crisis and on top of their game. Every reader will find something to relate to in this book. There are pull-out sections, tips, surveys, and frequently-asked-questions on the topic of Alpha females.

I enjoyed the section on managing a secret affair (don’t judge). With examples of Alpha men and women who have to project manage their relationships, there are real-life tips on how to negotiate a couple’s needs again with intensive therapy after one partner has had an affair. Alphas need lovin’ too, so if a Beta partner is not living up to expectations in the relationship or marriage, of course problems will crop up over time. But with a heavy dose of self-awareness, Alpha women can find new ways to share their needs with their partner so those needs can be met, if not today then soon. I found this to be interesting and enlightening reading.

The Alpha Woman Meets Her Match is a good read for girl-power without the usual up-in-your-grill feminist angst. Alpha women are not angry, but they are powerful–so the world needs to look the heck out. The book is recommended for any woman and for any young man wanting to know how to pick well for a lifetime partner.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Homecoming by Robyn Carr

[ 1 ] August 21, 2014

51+7R46eRLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Reviewed by Amanda Schaefer

A man with a broken past and reputation to salvage returns to his hometown changed and humbled to prove his worth and win back the woman he loves.

Seth Sileski had everything at age nineteen: handsome looks, athleticism, popularity, and intelligence. Destined for greatness, his hometown of Thunder Point had high expectations for this rising star. But a tragic accident changed everything for Seth, and suddenly those expectations altered just as his professional football career should have been beginning. Years later he returns to Thunder Point at peace with the direction his life has taken. On the surface Seth comes home as a policeman to patrol the streets and keep residents safe. He also plans to get back into the good graces of his childhood friend, Iris. Something happened during their senior year of high school and she withdrew from him; Seth wants to reclaim their friendship and see where else it can go. Having so much to prove to himself, his father, his town, and now Iris, Seth finds himself slowly coming back and being able to live up to the superstar legend from long ago.

Iris McKinley grew up in Thunder Point and is now a counselor at the high school, a job she loves. Iris’ mom, Rose, owned the local florist shop for years, and after she passed away Iris sold it to her now-best-friend, Grace. Iris just wants to focus on her job and her students, and be able to make a difference in the lives she touches. When Seth comes back into town, emotions flood Iris as the memories come back and remind her of the humiliation she felt over her experience with Seth in high school. Determined not to allow him back into her life, she continues on with her work and becomes aware of a situation involving a young girl at school. But in order to protect the girl, Iris has to work closely with Seth…and working closely with Seth can only lead to another broken heart.

After clearing the air with Seth, Iris gives him another chance and they become best friends and lovers in rapid time! Thankfully the book doesn’t end there. We get to see how Seth and Iris work together to help this young girl. The two learn their only true home is each other. The words every woman wants to hear are the words Seth said to Iris: “I want to be the person you love the most, get mad at most often, make up with because you can’t help it. I want to be the guy you laugh with, lean on, cry on, yell at, reach for.” ~happy sigh~

Even though I’ve not read the other books in the Thunder Point series, I felt like I was a welcome visitor to this town! Robyn Carr does an excellent job of allowing each book to stand on its own, but after reading The Homecoming you will definitely want to go back to the rest of the books in this series.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian fiction, women’s fiction, and any chick-lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harlequin MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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