Friday, January 30, 2015

Taming Jake by JoMarie DeGioia
Narrated by Wendy Rich Stetson

The girl afraid of taking chances. 

The guy always looking for his next thrill. 

Staying on the ground or soaring through the air… 

Falling in love is the biggest risk of all. 

Jake Chapman loses himself in extreme sports to fill the emptiness in his life. But when he meets CPA Claire Callahan at Cypress Corners, he wants to spend his visit proving to her that living in the moment is worth the risk. 

Claire cares for her ailing father, a compulsive gambler who repeatedly risked all they had in the quest for a new high. When she falls for Jake, beloved uncle to her close friends’ little boy, she throws her own caution to the wind for once in her life. But his risk-taking soon shows her he’s as addicted to the rush as her father is, and she won’t put her heart in danger. 

Can Jake be the man Claire needs to keep her heart safe? Or will his thirst for adventure keep him from taking the biggest risk of all?

Published & Release Date: Bailey Park Publishing, November 15, 2014

Time and setting: Cypress Corner, Florida 

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Heat Level: 2

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s Musings

I am so pleased I had the opportunity to review this audio performance and the book. When I received the request from Ms. Stetson, I was thrilled. I recently reviewed Finding Harmony and enjoyed it immensely and looked forward to reading Taming Jake. I had read the book description and found it interesting. I was not disappointed. This book is definitely an excellent read. I thoroughly enjoyed Wendy Rich Stetson’s narration as well.

Jake Chapman is a man always looking for the next thrill-seeking globe-trotting adventure. He works for his father part of the year, but they do not have the normal father/son relationship. Bill Chapman is a hard-nosed man and is constantly nagging Jake to make a decision in regards to his life. He just wants Jake to commit to something and stick to it to the finish. His father wants him to go to Cypress Corner and set up his concept of “Adventure Excursions”. Jake is exhilarated with this opportunity to show his father he can finish something and on time.

Claire Callahan is a CPA with a miscreant father, who has a gambling addiction. He lost the family home, and now Claire has bought a mobile home for him in a senior development and manages his money, since he cannot be trusted. Her life centers around work and keeping a close eye on her dad.
When Claire and Jake meet at his brother’s house, they are immediately attracted to each other in a big way. Claire believes she does not have time to have a fling and that is all it could be with a man like Jake. However, when Jake wants something, he goes after it with zeal dogged determination, and he definitely wants Claire. Can this unlikely pair make a relationship work when both of them fear that love would be risking it all?

For the most part this is a light-hearted read with Jake urging Claire to “just let go” for once in her life and live in the moment. Ms. Stetson’s interpretation of Jake is perfect. His easy-going, fun-loving personality comes through loud and clear as he convinces Claire to drop her guard and let him in. Her portrayal of Claire is also excellent. Her need to have everything in order comes shining through as well. I particularly liked Ms. Stetson’s voice tone when Claire’s father’s character is speaking. His charm and outgoing personality is shown whenever he is with other people.
Ms. Stetsons’s narration brings the sensual love scenes to life in a way that had me fanning my face several times! The chemistry between Jake and Claire heated up my Kindle to say the least. Her ability to get the emotion and passion that Jake and Claire feel for each other to come out with just the right inflection of her voice is fantastic.

I was so pleased that Lettie, the older gently-bred southern lady introduced in Finding Harmony was also in this book as well. Ms. Stetson is able to show this delightful character with her at times scandalous talk, as the humorous, playful character she is. I love the narrator’s smooth voice and well-modulated tone a great deal and would definitely listen to future books with her as the narrator.

JoMarie DeGioia writes another light-hearted story with engaging characters and an interesting story line. I fell in love with Jake’s character from the first page and remained in love with him throughout the entire book. I really understood his need to prove to his father that he could and would finish his project on time, which he does by the way. His willingness to allow Claire to set the pace of their developing relationship is perfect. I loved it when he finally got Claire’s character to let go and enjoy life.

Claire is an endearing character and liked her a great deal. I could feel her pain over what her father does because of his addiction. If you have ever had anyone in your life who has an addiction, your heart will ache for her disappoint in her father’s behavior. I truly wanted Jake to help Claire become less rigid and he does. When the couple gives into their passion, he gets Claire to let go of all her inhibitions. I am so glad Claire found Jake. He is perfect for her in every way. She needs Jake to help her loosen up. and he needs Claire to help ground him.  

While Ms. DeGioia writes with plenty of emotion, I would have liked to see more development concerning Jake’s relationship with his father. The conflict needs to be stronger to give credence to what drives Jake to be reckless at times.  Now for Claire, she is obviously greatly concerned over the issues with her father, but again it needs to go deeper to really get me totally wrapped up in the story.

Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed this great book. The pacing is excellent, making it an easy read and kept me entertained and isn’t that what a book should do? Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Marine’s E-Mail Order Bride (Heroes of Chance Creek Book 3)
by Cora Seton

If Gunnery Sergeant Zane Hall wants to save his family’s ranch, he’ll need to fix up the buildings, stock the spread with cattle—and find a wife. The first two are easy with the help of his brothers, but getting hitched is proving more difficult. When he meets mountaineer Kenna North through an online ad, she seems like the perfect fit—at least in her e-mails. She wants the same thing he does: a temporary marriage to secure an inheritance. But when Zane meets Kenna, she’s nothing like he expects, and Zane finds himself changing his priorities, fast. 

If Storm Willow wants to save her family’s seaside cottage, she’ll have to keep her boss happy—which means taking Kenna’s place and marrying Zane when Kenna is detained out of the country. As long as Storm acts her part, no one will know that she’s an imposter. But when she falls for the handsome Marine, Storm begins to wonder if holding onto the cottage is worth giving up on love. 

Can a fake marriage lead to real happiness? Or is disaster just a heartbeat away? 

Published & Release Date: One Acre Press, January 6, 2015

Time and setting: Montana  

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Heat Level: 2

Rating: 5 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s Musings

"What Gunnery Sergeant Zane Hall wants, Gunnery Sergeant Zane Hall gets." This is so true for Zane! I thoroughly enjoyed this great addition to the Heroes of Chance Creek series. I have read all the books in Cora Seton’s The Cowboys of Chance Creek series, which I found delightful. Now I am a huge fan of hers and cannot wait for the next one in this series to come out.

Storm Willow, assistant to Kenna North arrives in Chance Creek, Montana with her boss’s wedding dress to find out that Kenna now expects her to pretend to be her and actually marry the cowboy Kenna is supposed to wed in six weeks. Her boss is off on another one of her climbing expeditions and cannot be bothered to play the part of Zane Hall’s fake fiancée, soon to be wife.

After being disappointed when he finds out the woman he wanted to marry was gay, he posts his own e-mail, looking for a woman to marry him with the understanding that they would divorce after his aunt signs over the ranch to him and his three brothers. Kenna North seems perfect; she needs to marry to gain her inheritance as well. A match made in heaven, right? Not that Zane does not want to get married, he just wants to take his time and find a woman he can love.

When Storm pulls open the door of the motel room, her gaze travels over the most handsome man she has ever seen in her life. She immediately feels an overwhelming attraction all the way to her core. She sees the same interest in his gorgeous hazel eyes as well. Before she could stop herself, she says, “Hi, I’m Kenna North,” and the deception begins.

This is a very light-hearted read. Zane and Storm hit it off right away and before they even make it out to meet the rest of Zane’s family, they tumble into bed with each other. The chemistry between the two is off the charts from the very beginning, and Ms. Seton is able to maintain their attraction throughout the entire story, making this a very sensual read.

Even though Storm is lying to Zane, there is such a vulnerability to her that I immediately warmed up to her. After all, her boss has put her in an untenable situation. Either she assumes Kenna’s identity or Storm will be out of a job. Then who will help her mother with her three much younger sisters. I felt a lot of empathy for her character right from the beginning. I think that is why this worked for me, because Storm feels so much guilt and remorse over deceiving Zane. That is the fabric of the entire tale.

Zane’s character is a sweetheart from the first scene. While he is also lying to his aunt, it is because she has placed such unreasonable goals for all of them. He cannot let his brothers down, yet he does not want to tie himself permanently to a marriage without love. Of course, now that he has met Kenna/Storm he is reconsidering that part, since it is love at first sight.

I found this book so refreshing, in the sense that Zane and Storm actually like each other, so there is very little conflict between the couple, yet the circumstances they find themselves in allows for a great deal of external conflict, and it works so well for this story. Yes, some things do seem to work out a bit too easily, but it did not take anything away from my reading enjoyment.

I am a bit surprised I have fallen under Ms. Seton’s spell because while I enjoy cowboy stories, they are not my first choice when looking for something to read, but I just love all these characters. The plots in her books are very much character driven.

If you have not read any of Ms. Seton’s books, I highly recommend them. I do suggest you read The Navy Seal’s E-Mail Bride first so you will have a better understanding of the dynamics between the brothers and the full dilemma their aunt has put them in. I feel confident that you will enjoy her books as much as I have. Happy reading! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Tour

Hello! I want to welcome the hero from Victoria Vane's upcoming release, Rough Rider to my blog today. Thanks for joining me Mr.Knowlton. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to pay a visit.

So Dirk, I have a few questions I'd like to ask. Here goes.

1.      Dirk, why were you so attracted to bulls, instead of another form such as calf roping, etc?

Bull riding was a progression for me. It was never my favorite event I was a better saddle bronc rider and actually preferred it, but bulls get the most attention. Bulls are the most challenging and the most dangerous. Riding bulls also qualified me for the all around champion.

2.      Dirk, you are the oldest yet at times you seem to feel less worthy than your younger brother, why?

Wade and I were really close as kids. When we were younger he looked up to me, but by the time we reached high school he’d grown about an inch taller than me and had started coming into his own. We seemed to have less and less in common as we got older. I was the jock, he was the achiever. I was restless, he was rooted. He was the responsible one, I was the rebel. Wade didn’t mess up his life like I did. He didn’t disappoint anyone.

3.      I know you wanted to do something that would help folks beyond your everyday life, but why the Marines, instead of say the Navy?

I dunno. It wasn’t anything I’d ever planned to do. It just kind of happened. I was at a really low point when I ran into an old rodeo buddy of mine who’d joined the Marines. It just seemed Providential, I guess.

4.      I’m curious. Janice is vastly different from your previous girlfriend, what drew you to her on that rainy night?

There was always something real about Janice, something that attracted me on a gut level, whether I was consciously aware of it or not. That night she was my safe haven in from the storm.

5.      When you realized, Janice might not be as happy in her relationship with Grady as you thought, how hard was it to walk away?

It friggin’ killed me. But what could I do? We’d both made mistakes that couldn’t be undone. I felt helpless to do anything for her, but she wouldn’t have let me anyway.

Thank you, Dirk for giving me some of your time. I'm sure my viewers will find this fascinating. 

Rough Rider
By Victoria Vane
Sourcebooks Casablanca
Contemporary Western Romance
February 3, 2015
ISBN: 9781492601159

Two wary hearts …
Janice Combes has two loves, bucking bulls and Dirk Knowlton. But Dirk only has eyes for a dazzling rodeo queen. How can Janice ever compete while mired ankle-deep in manure? Exchanging playful banter with Dirk is all Janice can expect—until the stormy night he knocks on her door dripping wet and needing a place to crash.

Different Dreams…
Dirk Knowlton is living the cowboy dream. Life should be good—roping, branding, backing broncs, riding bulls, but there's a void he can't seem to fill. After getting hung up by a bull, he wonders if this is really the life he wants. Restless and rebellious, he bolts…but there’s a certain cowgirl he can’t forget.

When a battle-scarred Dirk returns to his Montana ranch he's determined to hang on at any cost. Janice has come back home to lick her own wounds. When old dreams turn to dust, can two wary hearts take another chance on love?

Buy ROUGH RIDER by Victoria Vane here: Amazon | Apple | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | Kobo

Praise for Slow Hand by Victoria Vane:
“A “red-hot cowboy tale...their sexual chemistry crackles. Well-paced, scorching scenes and witty banter move the story along while setting the stage for Wade’s war-hero brother to find his own true love in the next installment.” – Publishers Weekly
“SLOW HAND by Victoria Vane is delightful, funny, page turning steamy sexy… I'm beginning to think Victoria could write a phone book and make it sexy.” – Unwrapping Romance

Victoria Vane is a multiple award-winning romance novelist and history junkie whose collective works of fiction range from wildly comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Victoria also writes historical fiction as Emery Lee and is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog.

Connect with Victoria Vane: Website | Facebook | @AuthorVictoriaV | Pinterest | Goodreads

Excerpt from ROUGH RIDER by Victoria Vane:

He looked abashed. “We didn’t just have to leave the party, we got kicked out of the hotel too.”
“Evicted from your room?”
“Yup. And there aren’t any others available in all of Casper.”
“I know,” she said. “It’s why I’m camped out here.” She paused to digest what he’d left unsaid. “So you and Rachel?”
He shook his head with a scowl “We’re done now. Quits.”
“You’re kidding.”
“Nope. History. Case closed.”
“It’ll blow over.”
“Don’t think so. It was her idea to boot us. Said she didn’t give a shit if I had a room tonight or not. Then I couldn’t even try finding anything outside of town because my asshole brother took my keys so I wouldn’t drive. My next move was to pilfer a blanket and pillow and camp out under the stars in my truck bed, but then it started pouring on me.”
“So you came here. How’d you do that with no wheels?”
“Three miles in the pouring rain? No wonder you look like something the cat dragged in.”
“Can I crash for a coupla hours? Maybe just camp out in the back seat of your dually? All I need is to get warm and dry again.”
Janice’s mouth went dry as sawdust. Dirk Knowlton. Cold. Wet. Here. Now. Wanting a bed? She’d give her right arm to warm him up. Heck yeah.
Misreading her silence he mumbled a curse. “Sorry, Janice. It’s my damned head. I’m not thinkin’ right. It’s still throbbing like hell. Haven’t been myself all night. M’pologies for being such a dumb-ass and imposing on you—” He turned to the door.
“No! Wait. It’s not that.” She grabbed his sleeve. “I was just thinking of your injuries. You don’t need to make matters worse by sleeping all cramped up in the truck.” She gnawed her lower lip and then blurted. “Y-you wanna just stay here instead?”
“Here? That’s mighty generous but there isn’t a whole lot of room for both of us.” He glanced up at the gooseneck with a frown. “If you’ll just gimme a blanket, I’ll take the floor.”
“You don’t need to do that,” she said. “The bench here flips down over the table and converts into a single. It’s really narrow and not very comfortable, but still better than the truck. Warmer anyway. Besides you need to get dry.”
“You sure about this?” he asked.
“Yeah.” She smiled. “What are friends for? I’m sure I’ve got a shirt for you too.”
“Thanks, Red. That would be great.”
Red? The single syllable rippled warm and tingly, all the way to her toes. He followed up with a lopsided grin that stopped her in her tracks. She turned to the small cabinet that served a dual function as dresser and closet and shut her eyes on a sigh—but the same air stuck in her throat the minute she turned back around.
He’d shed the denim jacket. And the black tee. His bare torso with well-developed pecs and a mouthwatering six pack greeted her. He was drying his face with his discarded shirt. Janice tore her gaze away and cleared her throat. “Here.” She thrust an extra-large Dixie Chicks T-shirt into his hands, a souvenir from their Top of the World Tour. “I—I can get you a towel too.”
He eyed the shirt skeptically. “No thanks.”
“What? You don’t like female musicians?”
“Don’t like their politics. Natalie should just shut up and sing.”
“Ah.” She nodded slowly. The shirt was from the tour that caused the “incident.” A lot of her friends had since thrown out their Dixie Chicks CDs, but Janice still loved their music. “I Can Love You Better” was her favorite. The lyrics, she’s got you wrapped up in her satin and lace. Tied around her little finger…but I can love you better, perfectly summed up all the heartbreak and frustrations of unrequited love; all her secret feelings for Dirk. She only wished she could show him now that he was here. In the flesh. A big strong, blue-lipped and teeth-chattering fantasy come true.

Rafflecopter Giveaway for 3 copies of SLOW HAND by Victoria Vane:
(Giveaway open from January 25 – March 2)

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Trouble with Scots Body of Knowledge Book 3
By Eliza Lloyd

Eadan MacMurough can see the future—the one where he is alone and the one where he finally meets the woman who will be his wife. It has been a long ten years waiting and wondering why he has yet to meet her. On the carriage ride home from the meeting of The Society for the Advancement of Science, Eadan is plagued by the beginnings of a crippling vision. 

Finally his dream meets his reality. 

She is a laughing beauty with auburn hair. Gelasia Cabot is the woman of his visions, only she is traveling with her fiance. What is a harmless kidnapping when one is assured the woman is the love of his life? Has he taken the first step to a lifetime of happiness? Or has he altered the course of his future? 

Published & Release Date: EMRA Publishing, January 20, 2015

Time and setting: Scotland  

Genre: Historical Romance/Paranormal

Heat Level: 1

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s Musings

I stumbled across Eliza Lloyd’s engaging books a couple of years ago, and I have enjoyed five novels of hers. I watch for her books because they are always well-written and extremely erotic with an emotionally charged romantic story. The Trouble with Scots is all those things, except it ended very abruptly with so much unresolved. In fact, I am not sure what to think of it. I pray she plans to continue Eadan and Gellie’s story.

Thirty-Three year old Eadan MacMurrough, the Earl of Dunbar, has had visions of his future wife for ten years. These images cause him intense headaches. After suffering one of these, he stops at an inn on the outskirts of Newcastle upon Tyne.

When he enters, he asks if anyone has seen an auburn-haired woman. No one has, and he is yet again disappointed. Then another party of travels enters, and he nearly stops breathing. It is the woman from his visions, the woman destined to be his wife. There is one problem though, she is engaged to another. Eadan refuses to concern himself over that small detail and later that night while all are sleeping, he steals into her room and kidnaps her.  

Gelasia Cabot is outraged when he bundles her into his carriage and drives off, leaving her intended behind. When he removes her gag, she demands to know why he had abducted her. If it is money he wants, then he needs to turn around and take her back to her betrothed for he would reward him handsomely.

Eadan tells her he cannot return her since their future happiness is at stake. As soon as they pass over the Scottish line, he takes her to the blacksmith priest. The blacksmith refuses to listen to Gellie’s protests and soon, she finds herself married to this delusional Scotsman. He entices her with his horses and promises of passion-filled nights and before she has time to consider, she signs the registry.

Can Eadan woo her in the two weeks he promises to give her before they consummate the marriage, or will he have to release her and learn to live without this enchanting woman who has held his heart in her hands without knowing it for ten years?

I found both the hero and heroine wonderful characters and was soon rooting for them to find their ‘Happily Ever After’. Eadan’s efforts to get Gellie to fall in love with him are tender and romantic.  When they at last come together, the passion is enough to set my Kindle on fire. For a short novella, the characters are surprisingly well-developed and up to the ending, the story drew me in and kept me captivated.

Now I will not explain the ending because I do not want to ruin this story for you, but let me say that I was extremely disappointed in the last part of this book. I am never fond of tales that leave unanswered questions, which this one does in a big way. After becoming so invested in Eadan and Gellie’s romance, I wanted and needed a satisfying ending. However, this book ended so abruptly, I kept thinking that I could not have read THE END!

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed The Trouble with Scots and do not regret reading it. In fact I have already downloaded the first two books in this series as soon as I finished this one. I am hoping I will get a better understanding of this one by reading those stories. Even if I do not, I feel confident I will love them because I adore Ms. Lloyd’s writing style. Happy reading!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Release day for the debut novel by B.B. Hamel. Here is what I had to say!

Undersold by B.B. Hamel

Will be available on February 12th at Amazon!

Amy Woodall has it bad. Her father is dying of cancer, her job barely pays the bills, and she can’t get through the day without thinking about her crushing student loans. As an escape, each night she throws herself into developing a smartphone app in the hopes of kick starting her stalled-out life.

Things change when she begins an innocent text flirtation with a man she meets online. Shane Green is beautiful, passionate, and rich in a way Amy can barely comprehend. He’s also obsessed with his privacy, and he’ll do anything to protect the people he loves from the spotlight. When Shane’s company buys Amy’s fledgling business, she finds herself torn between family, career, and love, with no easy way out.

The rules have changed, and Amy must find a way to navigate them before she loses everything.

Published & Release Date: Self-Published, February 12, 2015

Time and setting: Present day, Philadelphia, PA  

Genre: New Adult Romance/Contemporary/Billionaire

Heat Level: 2

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s Musings

B.B. Hamel asked me to review her book, Undersold. I do not read a lot of New Adult romances, but the book description sounded intriguing, so I decided to give it a read. I am so glad I did. This is a fantastic story. It is very well-written, especially for a debut novel. I feel that Ms. Hamel is an excellent storyteller and will go far.

Amy Woodall has recently graduated from Columbia University with a degree in computer programming. She is extremely stressed. She has a the ton of student loans hanging over her head, her father has terminal cancer, and she works at a coffee shop for minimum wage.

Amy devotes most of her spare time developing a smart app. Her best friend suggests she give the website Matchstick a try. She has never been into the online dating thing, but she desperately needs some stress relief. After a dozen selfies, she posts her information and a picture on the website and starts getting eligible bachelors pinging her cell like crazy. 

One profile picture catches her eye, and she answers his message. She starts a carefree texting flirtation with the hot guy. Things heat up quickly when she discovers he is in the tech industry and they seem to have so much in common. He wants to meet. She agrees and they set a time the following day.

Amy is way too nervous the next morning. She has an appointment with  Adstringo, a tech company interested in buying her app program, and is anxious over agreeing to meet Rex Blue, the hot guy. When she arrives for her interview, she is shown into the Shane Green’s office, and she comes face to face with none other than the hot guy she has been sending very explicit texts to for the last few days!

Should she distance herself from this very private billionaire and keep their relationship professional, or should she give into the overpowering attraction she feels and also have a passionate affair with him as well?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Amy and Shane’s emotionally-charged love story. Ms. Hamel’s writing style flows smoothly and her pacing quickly drew me in and had me rooting for this interesting couple. I really wanted them to find their ‘Happily Ever After’. I was not sure that would happen since I understand there will be future books in the series and many of these New Adult romances end in a cliffhanger. Fortunately they do find their HEA.

The book is written in first person and Amy’s point of view. Normally I enjoy having both the hero and heroine’s POV, but Ms. Hamel writes this so well, that I never realized I never read any introspection from Shane until after I had read the entire book and sat down to write my review! That is truly amazing since I feel as if I understand Shane almost as well as Amy’s character. I grew to know him through their texts and dialogue.

If you like J.S. Scott’s Billionaire Series, you will love Undersold. This is a brilliant first novel and I am confident that Ms. Hamel will bring us additional books and her writing will only get better!

Now for the only reason I did not give this book five Gold Crowns. There are a few minor mistakes many new authors make, but they in no way distracted me from this great read. I highly recommend that you read this excellent book. Happy reading!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Love’s Legacy by Joan Avery


Grenada, British West Indies, 1875

English plantation owner Geoffrey Worth has misgivings about hiring an American widow as a governess. But while Geoffrey longs to forget the past—and the daughter who reminds him of it daily—there is still duty to consider. And Bellefleur, his plantation. This is his life now. Warmth, family, love; these things only bring pain. And scars he'll carry forever...

Elizabeth Malfonte is certainly not the aged widow he had anticipated. She's young and beautiful, with a determination that wakes something deep within Geoffrey. Yet Elizabeth hides her own secret―the babe within her womb. And despite Geoffrey's handsome―yet scarred face―her new employer has a cold and unforgiving nature that unsettles her, even as Elizabeth's wariness slowly heats to desire. 

But the bright beauty of this land is no match for the dark, ominous clouds of the past...

Published & Release Date: Entangled, Scandalous, November 10, 2014

Time and setting: Granada, 1875

Genre: Historical Romance

Heat Level: 1

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s musings

When I received this book from the publisher for an honest review, I was intrigued since it is set in Granada, British West Indies in 1875. This is not my typical read, since I love the Regency era above all else, but the synopsis for the book sounded interesting. I am so glad I accepted this remarkable book for review. The plot is different and pulled me in from the beginning. I have never been a fan of Gothic novels, but I found this one highly pleasurable to say the least.

Geoffrey Worth is an English planter in need of a governess for his six year old daughter. James Douglass, a close friend and employee has located a widow from Virginia. When she arrives, Geoffrey is not impressed, yet attracted to the woman nonetheless. His initial behavior toward the young widow is abrupt and crass.

Elizabeth Malfonte is still in deep mourning for her beloved husband when she arrives in Granada, and she has recently discovered she is with child. Of course, she hides her condition from her new employer. Estranged from her southern family for marrying a Yankee, she needs this position. She only prays that when Geoffrey Worth learns of her condition, he will not turn her out.

Their relationship is troubled at best. Geoffrey is a man filled with angst, brusque to the point of rudeness most of the time, yet Elizabeth sees glimmers of intense pain in his eyes. As they forge a friendship, she begins to see that beneath his gruff exterior lays a tortured soul, and against her better judgment she is drawn to him. Can her gentle, loving nature show Geoffrey that he can move beyond his pain, or will his past destroy their fledging love?

This is not an easy book to read. Geoffrey is the kind of hero I love to hate, full of angst and turmoil, only showing the world his cold demeanor, hiding his true nature. It took me quite a while to warm up to him. In fact, it is not until well over half way into the story. Fortunately, I immediately liked Elizabeth. Her loving kindness toward his daughter, Angelina touched my heart, and her willingness to look below the surface and discover Geoffrey’s pain kept me reading.

Since Elizabeth is pregnant through more than 60% of the story, the author has to build sexual tension, and she does this extremely well from the beginning of the story and is able to sustain it throughout the book. Of course, once Elizabeth has the child, Ms. Avery writes a deeply moving love scene, yet poignant. I will not go into detail because I do not want to include any spoilers. This is one part of the story that did not sit well with me since there is an impediment to their relationship.

This is an extremely emotionally-charged book from the first page to the end. Ms. Avery’s writing is fluid and smooth, and her ability to paint a scene is exquisite. I could easily picture the beautiful surroundings and landscape of Granada. It makes me want to visit this interesting place. She is able to create the imagery needed to fill my senses and touch my heart. The author writes with an astonishing depth of emotion, placing me squarely in the characters’ head. I adore that when it happens.

Now, for one other small detail that did not work for me. At times the change from one scene to the other is a bit jarring. At one point, Elizabeth is along a stream, and in the next paragraph she is talking to Geoffrey in another location. That drew me out of the story to the point that I had to go back and read it again. I also feel that the ending is somewhat abrupt. That is not to say it does not have a satisfying ending, it does, just  rushed. Even with these few problems, I can easily rate this book a very strong 4 Gold Crowns. Without a doubt, the book is well-written and I enjoyed it immensely.

If you enjoy historical romance with a Gothic twist, then this is a book you will not want to miss. I understand there are other books in this series, and I will go back and read them as well. I love it when I discover a new author and there are already other books for my enjoyment. Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Freedom to Love by Shanna Fraser

Thérèse Bondurant trusted her parents to provide for her and her young half-sister, though they never wed due to laws against mixed-race marriage. But when both die of a fever, Thérèse learns her only inheritance is debt—and her father's promise that somewhere on his plantation lies a buried treasure. To save her own life—as well as that of her sister—she'll need to find it before her white cousins take possession of the land.

British officer Henry Farlow, dazed from a wound received in battle outside New Orleans, stumbles onto Thérèse's property out of necessity. But he stays because he's become captivated by her intelligence and beauty. It's thanks to Thérèse's tender care that he regains his strength just in time to fend off her cousin, inadvertently killing the would-be rapist in the process.

Though he risks being labeled a deserter, it's much more than a sense of duty that compels Henry to see the sisters to safety—far away from the scene of the crime. And Thérèse realizes she has come to rely on Henry for so much more than protection. On their journey to freedom in England, they must navigate a territory that's just as foreign to them both—love.

Published & Release Date: Carina Press, January 5, 2015

Time and setting: 1815, New Orleans, England, Canada

Genre: Historical Romance/Interracial

Heat Level: 1

Rating: 5 Gold Crowns

Vikki’s Musings

When I stumbled across Freedom to Love on Net-Galley, the book description drew me in. I had read A Christmas Reunion in October and enjoyed it immensely. I immediately requested this book and to my delight, the publisher approved my request for an honest review. Freedom to Love pulled me in from the first page when Henry Farlow awakens in the aftermath of the Battle of New Orleans with a hole in his side ‘cold mud beneath him and a dull gray sky above’.  

Dozens of dead soldiers lay scattered around him and panic sets in. He must get away before the grim reaper realizes there is one still alive. He scrambles to his feet and stumbles into a nearby swamp. In a haze of pain, he wanders until he finds a creek to follow. He reaches what appears to be a deserted plantation. Gathering his strength he staggers into the slave quarters where he hears young female voices speaking a language that sounds similar to French, his mother’s native language. He drops to his knees, his hand held out in front of him, for the beautiful young woman has a pistol aimed at his head.

Therese, a cuarterona and her mulatto half-sister Jeanette realize the handsome British soldier is badly wounded. After some bantering back and forth with Jeanette wanting her to shoot him because he has seen their treasure, Therese decides to help the injured man to the house and treat his wounds. For several days, his body is ravaged by fever, but Jeanette is a talented healer and he begins to slowly recover.

When Therese’s cousin shows up to claim his property, the man attacks Jeanette. Henry defends her, but accidentally kills the man. This begins their mad dash to freedom across the south and to the hills of Tennessee and on to Canada, receiving help along the way from folks against slavery, then onto England.

Can the love Therese and Henry have found on their journey withstand the judgmental prejudice of his family if they find out that she is one-eighth African, or will it tear them apart forever?

Freedom to Love deals with the issue of interracial marriage and the problems that can be created when races intertwine with delicacy and finesse. The love and acceptance that grows between Henry and Therese had me close to tears from the sheer beauty of it. It is so refreshing to read a story where the hero and heroine actually like each other from the beginning and the love grows out of mutual respect.

I truly fell in love with the characters in this story. Each have their own distinct personality and are fully fleshed out, and not just the hero and the heroine. Jeanette plays an important role, and I feel that I grew to know her on a much deeper level than I normally do with a secondary character. What can I say, I loved this book and did not want it to end!

I was intrigued and amazed by the amount of research Ms. Fraser must have done to write this compelling love story. Her historical detail brings the period to life. This is not the typical Regency romance where lords and ladies flirt and dance in beautiful gowns, which is the only thing historical about the book. This is a novel I could completely enmesh myself in a time long gone.

If you enjoy historical romances with a little more depth, and one filled with sexual tension that makes you root for the couple to come together, and when they do, it is beautifully written with a great deal of genuine emotion, then do not want to miss Freedom to Love. I am sure you will enjoy this fantastic story as much as I have. Happy reading!

About the author

Susanna Fraser wrote her first novel in fourth grade. It starred a family of talking horses who ruled a magical land. In high school she started, but never finished, a succession of tales of girls who were just like her, only with long, naturally curly and often unusually colored hair, who, perhaps because of the hair, had much greater success with boys than she ever did.
Along the way she read her hometown library’s entire collection of Regency romance, fell in love with the works of Jane Austen, and discovered in Patrick O’Brian’s and Bernard Cornwell’s novels another side of the opening decades of the 19th century. When she started to write again as an adult, she knew exactly where she wanted to set her books. Her writing has come a long way from her youthful efforts, but she still gives her heroines great hair.
Susanna grew up in rural Alabama. After high school she left home for the University of Pennsylvania and has been a city girl ever since. She worked in England for a year after college, using her days off to explore history from ancient stone circles to Jane Austen’s Bath.