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Tag: "Romance"

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

[ 16 ] September 2, 2014

MadamePicassoPlease join Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Enter to win a copy below – open to US residents only

Reviewed by Colleen Turner

Eva Gouel is ready to shed her shy, timid country-girl visage and the expectation that she must become a wife to a man she doesn’t love and resolves to find the freedom and adventure only a place like Paris can provide for her. She is determined to make it in this fast and fascinating city without the help of any man and she gets her chance when she secures a job as a seamstress at the scintillating Moulin Rouge. Then one night, while peering out into the audience from backstage, Eva sees Pablo Picasso and her feelings and future are forever sent down a path she could never have imagined.

Picasso, a fiery, young up-and-coming artist, is finding himself stifled and uninspired by his current muse, his long term mistress Fernande Olivier, a woman as tempestuous as the artist himself. When he sees Eva at an art show he cannot help but be attracted to this woman so unlike Fernande. After an unexpected night of passion, Picasso cannot get Eva out of his head and, once the two finally determine they cannot live without each other, both are forever changed. But as happy as the two are in each other’s arms, happily-ever-after does not come easy. They will have to fight against expectations, the negative opinions of those they love the most and a disastrous illness that threatens to separate them forever.

Madame Picasso perfectly brings to life the bright and fast-paced world of the Moulin Rouge’s backstage and the glittering opulence of the theater and its patrons in front, the disheveled yet pulsating energy of the artist’s studios, the vibrant intellectual stimulation of Gertrude Stein’s Saturday evening salons and the very streets and alleys of Paris itself, which becomes its own character. Sensuality and passion are always brimming and boiling over as would be expected in a city like Paris and in its inhabitants who want nothing more than to break away from conformity in their lives and in their art. But this colorful and vigorous imagery, which is so well developed and expansive, took a backseat to the wonderfully nonconforming characters that felt so tangible to me.

Eva is by far my favorite character, a woman of great determination and intelligence but also kindness and generosity. The reader is able to see her change Picasso’s very being and, by doing so, his art and thereby art history itself. Getting to see the inner workings of a man like Picasso, known for his eccentricities and womanizing, was inspiring and I so enjoyed finding a more fleshed-out, sympathetic and very human man within Madame Picasso’s pages. The rest of the characters – even the ones, such as Fernande, that I wasn’t a particular fan of – are just as well presented so that you cannot help but see them right in front of you, with all their foibles, fears and passions right at the surface. And the ending – oh, the ending – I don’t want to give anything away but just prepare yourself for tears!

Madame Picasso is top-notch historical fiction. I have never been a particular fan of Picasso’s work but the intricate story had me reexamining his painting and looking for any connections I could find online between the artist and Eva. That need to know more is always an indicator to me that a book is unforgettable. That is exactly what Madame Picasso is – unforgettable. Highly recommended to anyone who likes historical fiction.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

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 and giveaway copies were provided by Harlequin MIRA. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Scandalize Me by Caitlin Crews

[ 0 ] August 31, 2014

18722927Reviewed by Rebecca Donatelli

Ten years ago, Hunter, Austin and Alex became part of something bigger than they could have imagined. Sarah, their friend, committed suicide after many attempts to tell the people around her what was going causing an impact on their lives in many ways. All three men are out to destroy Jason Treffen, philanthropist and advocate of women with a side of bribery and pimping.

Hunter Grant is a has-been sports star with a tarnished image and a bad reputation. He’s stubborn and cocky, arrogant and wealthy, yet charming enough to make Zoe Brook weak in the knees. Over the years Hunter continued to make matters worse for himself to keep his dark secrets hidden from others…until Zoe, who has a secret herself.

Zoe Brook, PR queen bee and tough girl, has an attitude that should destroy anyone in her path. She is confident and self-assured, not to mention absolutely beautiful, and on a mission to use Hunter in her attempt at destroying Jason Treffen. Sent to recover Hunter’s destroyed image, Zoe finds herself in a sexy situation where she struggles against her feelings for him.

After reading book #1 in the Fifth Avenue Trilogy, and being somewhat disappointed, I really enjoyed the second installment! I loved the energy and sarcasm that Hunter and Zoe had and I appreciate the female role being played by someone more confident, in-control and dominant. There was much more depth to Scandalize Me and I could not put it down. I enjoyed the back story and watching Zoe and Hunter fight off their feelings. It’s always refreshing to have some humor throughout and the sarcastic bickering really did it for me.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Rebecca is passionate and insane, empathetic and aggressive, loud and predictable. She loves reading, writing, shopping and creating. She is what she is and it may not be what the world wants but it is what it is. Love.

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

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Blog Tour: In Perfect Time by Sarah Sundin

[ 2 ] August 30, 2014

In-Perfect-TimePlease welcome Sarah Sundin, author of In Perfect Time, who is touring the blogosphere with Litfuse Publicity!

Reviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Author Sarah Sundin completes her Wings of the Nightingale series with a dramatic finish in In Perfect Time, a novel of love and redemption between two unlikely characters who fight against all odds to find love during World War II.

Through three years stationed in Italy, Lts. Kay Jobson and Roger Cooper have kept a steady cordial relationship. Kay, a beautiful flight nurse with a penchant for attracting attention, enjoys flirting and dancing, and dates many men for “fun.” Roger, a prankster pilot known for tardiness, is a former farm-boy who dislikes rules and regulations; he hopes to drum in a big-band after the war ends.

With Kay’s flirtatious manner and Roger’s refusal to date, the two seem as likely to fall for each other as the Axis and Allies do of reaching a compromise. Nevertheless, Kay takes Roger’s rejection as a slight to her ability to get any man she wants. As Kay fights to understand what she has to do to gain Roger’s attention, he struggles to trust himself with women—no easy task as Roger’s romantic past continually makes him question his decisions. Roger and Kay learn that it is only through God’s forgiveness and love that both of them can move forward from painful pasts. The timing of their potential relationship, however, is threatened by years of hurtful comments from family members that deepen minimal self-confidence in themselves and each other. Neither Kay nor Roger believes that they are good enough for God’s redemption or for the other person’s love. Dangerous missions across enemy territory thrust Kay and Roger into situations that grow their feelings for each other. The only question left is whether God’s forgiveness and the resulting redemption is enough for Kay and Roger to trust in His timing to bring them together.

Sundin is a master of World War II historical romance novels. In Perfect Time is no exception to this statement—in fact, this novel may be her best yet as it spans multiple settings, utilizes a completely new plot line rarely discussed in World War II novels, and threads in characters from her previous stories through the current characters’ experiences. From Italy, India, and France to the home-front across the United States, Sundin takes her readers to the front lines, behind enemy territory, through fields and towns with partisans, to USO tours. No setting is left untouched, and her vivid descriptions make it seem as if the war is currently taking place. Sundin’s attention to detail—especially to dialog, cultural standards, and heritage—display her love for World War II history and her desire to bring love to light as a way of honoring those who valiantly fought abroad and at home during the war. One of Sundin’s tools for achieving this genuine love of the time period is her characters. In Perfect Time is filled with all the characters for a compelling story: the flirtatious vixen out to master men, the prankster running to escape his past, the brave boy fighting for his country, the sweet nurse awaiting her love…and many others who serve to complete the story of Kay and Roger’s love. Each character is one that readers can easily see amongst the streets and battlefields of World War II. Sundin’s characters are completely and wholly human—relatable in a way that makes readers feel as if they could be the Roger, Kay, Georgie, Mellie, Vera, Mike, or Enrico of their own World War II story.

I bought Sundin’s Wings of Glory series as a whole; I pre-ordered the first two novels of the Wings of the Nightingale series; and had I not received In Perfect Time as an ARC I would have been the first person to my local Family Christian store to buy the novel. Sundin is one of my favorite authors, and I will continually anxiously await her future novels. In Perfect Time wins five-out-of-five stars for a stellar plot and relatable, loveable characters that readers will cheer for their deserved happy ending.

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 Revell. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: The Typewriter Girl by Alison Atlee

[ 2 ] August 29, 2014

13547262Please join Alison Atlee, author of The Typewriter Girl, as she tours the blogosphere with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours!

Reviewed by Meghan Hyden

As I flipped through the books available to review on Luxury Reading, I was immediately drawn to this book. Now, I’m not really a big fan of romance, but the whole story idea just caught my attention and, even after a few days, I could not forget about the book. When I received the package in the mail, I couldn’t wait to begin reading it.

Before I actually talk ABOUT the story, I have to say that this is one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOKS I have EVER seen. The whole presentation – and the author swag she included – added tremendously to my enjoyment of the book. I love when authors do something a little bit different to catch potential readers’ attention and she did just that. (I posted some pictures of it on my blog – you should definitely check them out.)

Once I opened the book and began reading, I could not put it down. At first, things are rough for Betsey and I really felt for her. The fact that she’s willing to do things that, if caught, could get her in trouble, all to better her life, really drew me to her and she is definitely on my list of favorite female main characters. She’s just so … I don’t even know how to explain her. Even when she’s ready to give up, she’s still not READY to give up.

When she finally does get to Idensea, the adventure really begins. The story just flows and is so much fun to read. This is one of my “read the whole thing in a day” books because nothing seemed more important than finding out what happens to her … and finding out more about this mysterious Mr. Jones.

I like Mr. Jones. I don’t, however, like his girlfriend, who we meet as Betsey’s arriving at the train station. Immediately I knew she was not the one for him–and when you read the book, you’ll find out why.

This is the author’s first book and it was AMAZING. Definite 5 stars (heck, if I could give it higher, I would). I can’t wait to see what she has to offer us next.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

You can find Meghan (that’s Meghan spelled the right way) over on her book-ish blog The Gal in the Blue Mask. She’s an avid reader, a book editor, a story teller, a purveyor of delectable fare and pulchritudinous confections, and the best aunt in the world. She loves gardening, hiking, cooking and spending time at the zoo, library and museums. She may not be able to find her wallet, car keys or sunglasses, but she always knows where her Kindle is.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Alison Atlee. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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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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