Monday, August 27, 2018

Book Review: The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo by Kerrigan Byrne

Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, August 28, 2018

Time and setting:  Victorian, England

Genre: Historical Romance

Book Length:   336 Pages

Heat Level: 1.5 Flame

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

The bravest of heroes. The brashest of rebels. The boldest of lovers. These are the men who risk their hearts and their souls—for the passionate women who dare to love them…
He is known only as The Rook. A man with no name, no past, no memories. He awakens in a mass grave, a magnificent dragon tattoo on his muscled forearm the sole clue to his mysterious origins. His only hope for survival—and salvation—lies in the deep, fiery eyes of the beautiful stranger who finds him. Who nurses him back to health. And who calms the restless demons in his soul…
Lorelai will never forget the night she rescued the broken dark angel in the woods, a devilishly handsome man who haunts her dreams to this day. Crippled as a child, she devoted herself to healing the poor tortured man. And when he left, he took a piece of her heart with him. Now, after all these years, The Rook has returned. Like a phantom, he sweeps back into her life and avenges those who wronged her. But can she trust a man who’s been branded a rebel, a thief, and a killer? And can she trust herself to resist him when he takes her in his arms?
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Vikki’s Musings

This is the first book I have read by Kerrigan Byrne, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks go the publisher, via Net-Galley, for providing an e-copy in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo is set in Victorian England. It’s a novel of deep emotional connection between the heroine and hero. The writing is smooth and flows well. The action scenes are vivid and exciting. Overall, an enjoyable read.

Lorelai’s character drew me in from the start. She is a gentle, timid young girl, who has been abused by her elder brother, a truly evil individual to say the least. Her heart aches for the tormented, injured young man she finds in the woods. It’s her kind and loving heart that touched me so much.

The rook, also known as Ash, is truly a tortured soul with no real sense of who he is until the end of the book. When he awakens and sees Lorelai, he craves her goodness, but although he has no memories, he is convicted that he is undeserving of her tender care yet craves it anyway. His nightmares are horrific, and Lorelai is the only one who can pull him away from them.

While love grows between them, it isn’t physical attraction because after all, he is a young man on the cusp of adulthood and she is barely fourteen. When he returns many years later to claim her, the passion ignites between them quickly, and it frightens her to such a degree she faints. She fears that the Ash she knew no longer exists, but she does not give up. She is determined to resurrect him. Fortunately, she does.

The Duke with the Dragon Tattookept me enmeshed until near the end. For some reason, I was slightly disappointed with the conclusion. Everything happens very fast when Ash’s memory returns, and I found it a little confusing, and that is why I gave this book 4 stars.

Nonetheless, it’s an intriguing, emotional read. If you like novels with plenty of deep emotions and terrific action, then you will enjoy The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo. I’m intrigued by characters from previous books in this series so I may seek them out. Happy reading!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Book Review: Come Back to Me by Sharon Sala

Come Back to Me by Sharon Sala

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Casablanca, August 28, 2018

Time and setting:  Present Day, Blessings, GA

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Length:   320 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 
After a crime pitted their families against each other, high school sweethearts Phoebe Ritter and Aidan Payne were forced to say a tearful goodbye. Phoebe stayed behind in Blessings, Georgia, while Aidan and his father left town for good.
Twenty years later, after the death of his grandfather, Aidan comes home to Blessings—only to discover he has a nineteen-year-old son. Aidan is hurt but thrilled to meet Lee. And as Aidan and Phoebe spend more time together, they realize their old feelings are as strong as ever. But with a complicated past riddled with drama and betrayal, can they truly forgive and forget?
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Seeing the porch light on as she pulled up to the house was just like old times. He'd done that since he'd been old enough to stay home alone, and she'd missed it. She grabbed her things, ran up the steps, and let herself into the house.
            "I'm home," she yelled.
            "Me, too," he yelled back.
            She laughed. Just like old times. She left her purse on a table as she hurried into the kitchen, and found Lee at the stove, heating up food. 
            He gave her a big hug.
            "I waited for you," he said. "Go change and get comfy. I'll set the table while you're gone."
            "Wonderful!" Phoebe said, and hurried down the hall to her room.
            She changed out of work clothes into a pair of shorts and an old t-shirt, and changed work shoes for sandals, washed up and hurried back to the kitchen.
            "You cooked," she said, eyeing the table and the inviting food.
            "I just added some baked beans and fries to the ribs and slaw. Sit, Mom. Let me wait on you tonight."
"I won't argue," Phoebe said, and smiled at him when he brought glasses of sweet iced tea to the table, followed by the food.
            After filling their plates, they began to talk as they ate.
            "My grade point for the year is 4.0 and I was accepted into an accelerated Physics program next semester," Lee said.
            Phoebe beamed. "Oh, Lee, congratulations. I'm so proud of you. I know you didn't get that from me."
            Lee took a deep breath. "Did I get it from my father?" 
            Phoebe's smile slipped a little. The sorrow she lived with was once again, evident on her face. 
            "Yes. He was very smart."
            Lee ate a few more bites, then took his phone from his pocket, pulled up the picture, and pushed it toward her.
            Phoebe smiled. "A new girlfriend?" 
            He shook his head, then waited as she looked down.
            Her fork clattered onto the table. She pressed a hand over her mouth, but it didn't muffle the moan.
            He grabbed her arm. "Mom. Are you okay?"
            "Where did you...oh my God. That's the store parking lot."
She looked up. "You took this today."
            He nodded. "I saw him by accident. Wasn't for sure, so I took a picture, then came home and compared it to yours. He's older, but it's him, isn't it, Mom? That's my father."
            She nodded, then started to cry.

            Across town, Aidan was already asleep, more at ease in this old house in Blessings, than he was in his New Orleans home, sleeping with the best security system money could buy. But there was no way to control where sleep took him, or enough locks on a door to keep Phoebe out of his dreams.
            He saw Phoebe running toward him. He'd been waiting for days and days for her to come but she had not. She'd been part of the people who'd shunned them, and seeing her now, the pain in his heart hurt so much it was hard to draw breath.
            "I'm sorry," she said.
            He hardened his heart and turned away.
            "Don't leave," she cried. "I'm sorry, so sorry."
            He remembered how soft her lips were against his mouth, and how her body curled into his when they embraced, and kept walking.
            "Aidan, please," she begged.
            He wanted to bury his face against her hair and cry, but he didn't, and then the dream hit fast-forward and they were driving away and she was running behind them, but this time she didn't stop. She was behind their car as they drove out of town. She was running right behind their car all the way to the interstate, and then all of a sudden she was gone. He turned around in the seat, searching for sight of her, but she had disappeared. 
            He was screaming at his Dad, "turn around, turn around. We can't leave Phoebe behind."
Vikki’s Musings

Sharon Sala is fast becoming an auto-buy author for me. I truly enjoy the Blessings series so was pleased when I received an invitation from the publisher, via Net-Galley. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Come Back to Me is a heart-warming second chance romance, one of my favorite troupes. As always, Ms. Sala weaves the many engaging characters throughout the story.  While at times, I had to slow down my reading when she goes from one character’s POV to another, I am becoming used to her writing style.

Phoebe’s character is endearing, and she is a nurture which is my favorite archetype. Her willingness to put her life on hold for her son is a selfless act few women would make. If that was her only reason she has not allowed a man in her life, I might have a harder time believing it. Her love for Aidan just would not die. Since I’m a romantic at heart, this melted me into a puddle of goo. 

Aidan is a mix of the warrior and best friend archetype and a refreshing change from the typical male hero in most romances. I loved him from the start. His sincerity and willingness to take responsibility for his part in what happened between him and Phoebe stole my heart.

The romance between Phoebe and Aidan is a deeply emotional one that tugged at my soul. Yet there is a playful side to it as well. I truly wanted them to find their happy ending.

If you enjoy small town romances with an array of delightful and funny characters with a beautiful love story added in, then you will love Come Back to Me as much as I did. I look forward to more novels set in the quaint and friendly town of Blessings. Happy reading!

Author Bio:

Sharon Sala is a long-time member of RWA, as well as a member of OKRWA.  She has 115 books and novellas in print, published in six different genres – Romance, Young Adult, Western, Fiction, and Women’s Fiction and Non-Fiction.  First published in 1991, she’s an eight-time RITA finalist, winner of the Janet Dailey Award, five-time Career Achievement winner from RT Magazine, five time winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award, and five time winner of the Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence, winner of the Heart of Excellence Award, as well as winner of the Booksellers Best Award.  In 2011 she was named RWA’s recipient of the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2017 Romance Writers of America presented her with the Centennial Award for recognition of her 100th published novel.
Her books are New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-sellers.  Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate.
For book list, go to her website:

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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Book Review: Through the Fire by Katie Ruggle

Through the Fire by Katie Ruggle

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Casablanca, August 28, 2018

Time and setting:  Present Day, USA

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Book Length:   416 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

He's tall.
He's dark.
He's brutally handsome...
And he may be her only hope.
Kit Jernigan despairs of ever fitting in with her new tight-knit K9 unit—they've been through too much to welcome a stranger. So when a killer strikes, it's a fight to convince her fellow officers to trust her long enough to catch the woman she knows is responsible.
She can't do it on her own. What she needs most is a partner: local fire spotter Wesley March.
Wes knows in his heart that Kit is right, and he's willing to leave his lonely tower to help her prove it. But the more time they spend together, the hotter the fire smolders...and the more danger they're in. A member of the K9 unit's inner circle is determined to have her revenge—no matter who gets burned in the process.
This time, it's personal.
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Vikki’s Musings

This is the first book I have read by Katie Ruggle, but it will not be the last. Thanks go to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for inviting me to read and review in advance of publication. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Through the Fire is an exciting romantic suspense with plenty of nail-biting suspenseful scenes. The pacing is good, and the romance is fulfilling. Ms. Ruggle’s writing flows smoothly, giving the reader enough description to still use their own imagination.

Kit’s character resonated with me because I too have experienced not fitting in, so I really identified with her. Her determination to prove herself impressed me. Her tenderness with the children and her faithful bloodhound in this tale touched me.

Wes is the silent, brooding hero with lots of depth. His willingness to step out of his comfort zone stole my heart. He is reserved and shy and his social interactions are awkward except with Kit, making him a character that is easy to fall in love with.

Let’s talk about romance. This couple is perfect for each other and adds greatly to the story. While their chemistry doesn’t burn up the pages, their meeting of minds is very appealing. I was glad they found their happy ending.

The villain in this piece is truly terrifying because her devious mind lends itself to horrific acts. Ms. Ruggle certainly knows how to create highly suspenseful, and at times, graphic scenes, making this novel a thriller.

If you enjoy a book with plenty of action, an interesting array of characters that you’ll want to get to know better, then you will love Through the Fire. I can’t wait to read more by this talented author. Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Book and Audio Review: Mr. Darcy's Mail-Order Bride by J. Dawn King

Mr. Darcy’s Mail-Order Bride by J. Dawn King

Publisher & Release: Quiet Mountain Press, November 24, 2016

Time and setting:  1869, Oregon

Genre: Historical Romance/Pioneer Western

Book Length:   354 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Sweetheart

Rating: 5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice meets the Wild, Wild West.

In 1869, females are in short supply in the west while a single man in want of a wife is rare in the east. When lonely Charles Bingley convinces his good friend, Will Darcy, to write a letter offering marriage to Miss Jane Bennet, she likewise convinces her sister, Elizabeth, to pen the reply. Elizabeth is struck by the beauty of the letter and responds by opening her heart to the Oregon wordsmith, who she believes to be Mr. Bingley. It’s love at first letter—for both the couples. Misunderstandings and bad impressions abound as the true identities of the authors are discovered.

In the days following the double wedding, Will and Elizabeth Darcy face challenge after challenge while Mr. and Mrs. Bingley appear to live in wedded bliss. Will Mr. and Mrs. Darcy find their own true love? In this sweet variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, we will see open disdain shift to a wary friendship and the wary friendship grow to the tenderest of emotions—or will we?

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Vikki’s Musings
This is the first book I’ve read/listened to by Ms. King, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from the first page to the last. I found this through the romance package on Audible and selected it because I love Wendy Rich Stetson’s narrations. 

Mr. Darcy’s Mail-Order Bride is a Pride and Prejudice variation, and I am normally less than thrilled with those, but Ms. King allowed me to visit the beloved characters from that classic in a completely different setting that works surprisingly well. She caught Lizzy’s optimistic personality and Mr. Darcy irascible one perfectly.

This emotionally-charged romance brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. The pacing is excellent, and the writing flows smoothly. Ms. King gives enough description without giving too much detail. 

Now, for the main reason, I am writing a full review. As I mentioned, I love Wendy Rich Stetson as a narrator. She is amazing. She truly brings all the characters to life, from Lizzy and Darcy to the children in this story, to Lydia and Mr. Wickham. I became totally enmeshed in this story through her astonishing abilities as a narrator. If you have never listened to her, then you are truly missing out!

If you enjoy seeing some of your most favorite characters brought to life in an entirely new setting, yet one where their personality traits are still true, then you will love this book. I highly recommend Mr. Darcy’s Mail-Order Bride by this very talented author. Happy reading/listening!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Book Review: Dagger's Edge by Lora Leigh

Dagger’s Edge by Lora Leigh

Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Press, August 28, 2018

Time and setting:  Present Day, USA

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Book Length:   Full Length

Heat Level: 2 Flame

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Ivan Resnova wants nothing more than to escape his hard, brutal past. Starting over is not so easy once you've been a powerful crime boss but now, instead of being punished for his alleged crimes, Ivan fears that the one woman he can't forget is in danger of paying the price.

Crimsyn "Syn" Delaney thought the danger she'd faced was over, and that she could resume her life. She never imagined it would return with a vengeance and throw her back into Ivan's world. But when an attempt is made on her life, she needs Ivan more than ever to keep her safe--even if she is in danger of falling deeply and dangerously in love. . . 

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This is the second book I have read by Lora Leigh, and I enjoyed it for the most part. Thanks go to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the chance to read and review in advance of publication. Dagger’s Edge is an action-packed romantic suspense novel that walks the edge of erotica.

Ms. Leigh writes fantastic suspense scenes that had me nibbling on my nails, waiting to find out what would happen next. It quickly drew me in, and I had a hard time putting it down. This is a plot-driven story, and for anyone who loves hot, steamy, sexual scenes, there are plenty of those.

Regarding the characters, I never truly became vested in either of them. I would have liked more inner thoughts from both of them. The relationship was all about sex with very little emotional connection between the pair, so as a romance this book didn’t work for me. At times, the sexual scenes seemed out of place. I found myself flipping through them to get onto the action. I’m sure other readers may not agree because reading is very subjective.

What did work for me, is the high suspense and the startling surprise at the end when I found out who the villain was. I could feel the heroine’s pain at this realization. If I were to give two ratings for this book, I’d give 5 Gold Crowns for the suspense and 2 for the romance, hence my 3.5 rating.

If you love high suspense and lots of sexual scenes, then you will enjoy Dagger’s Edge. While the romance didn’t work for me, the suspenseful aspect of this novel kept me engaged and on the edge of my seat and made it a worth-while read. Happy reading!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Book Review: Brave New Earl by Jane Ashford

Brave New Earl by Jane Ashford

Publisher & Release: Sourcebooks Casablanca, July 31, 2018

Time and setting:  Regency, London

Genre: Historical Romance

Book Length:   352 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

An Earl mired in melancholy is no match for a determined woman...
Widower Benjamin Romilly, Earl of Furness, has given up hope of finding happiness. His wife died in childbirth five years ago, leaving him with a broken heart and a child who only reminds him of his loss.
Miss Jean Saunders is a cousin by marriage. She doted on Benjamin's late Countess, and can't bear it when she hears rumors that the Earl is too bereaved to care for his young son. She arrives on the scene to evaluate his fitness as a father, and if necessary, to take his son away. 
Jean's sudden eruption into the Earl's household simultaneously infuriates and invigorates him. She may be the only person who can breathe life into his neglected home—and his aching heart...
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Vikki’s Musings

This is another interesting novel by Jane Ashford. Since I had read other books by this author, when I received an invitation from the publisher, via Net-Galley, I eagerly accepted. My opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

Brave New Earl has engaging characters, especially the young boy, Geoffrey. He grabbed my heart from his first scene and held it to the end. That little boy desperately needed a champion, and he got it in Jean Sanders. 

As with all Jane Ashford's books, the writing flows smoothly capturing me early on. As some reviewers have mentioned, there are inaccuracies, but after all, it is fiction so they did not take away from my overall enjoyment.

Jean’s character is a true nurturer, and her determination to help Geoffrey endeared her to me. Her backstory is heartbreaking, and it easily lends itself to her passion to ensure the earl’s son has the emotional care and love he needs.

Benjamin is definitely a tormented hero, but one who is so enmeshed in his grief, he has left the care of his son to others without any thought to the child. That is not a trait I find appealing, so it took me quite some time to warm to his character. In the end, Ms. Ashford did redeem him for the most part.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the aspect of the story that involves Geoffrey, I did not feel a strong chemistry between the hero and heroine, making it difficult to crave a happy ending for them. As another reviewer mentioned, their romance feels rushed at the end.

Nonetheless, I did enjoy this novel. While it isn’t her best work, it still was engaging and I’m glad I had the chance to read it. Happy reading!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review: Heaven Shining Through by Joe Sccardi

Heaven Shining Through by Joe Siccardi

Publisher & Release: Xulon Press, March 27, 2018

Time and setting:  Present Day, USA

Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

Book Length:   74 Pages

Heat Level: 1 sweetheart

Rating: 3.5 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Throughout her life, she had a rocky relationship with her mother – and now her mother is all she has left.

Through a nostalgic look back, Samantha recognizes the presence of God in an ordinary life. She learns more about herself as a wife and mother who has had her share of sorrow and blessings.

As her faith increases, she is able to see her mother through new eyes, leading to reconciliation …and is reminded of that every time she sees Heaven Shining Through. 

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Vikki’s Musings

Heaven Shining Through is a great premise with likable characters, and an interesting look at a woman’s troubled life, where she rises above her heartaches and relies on God to get her through. Thanks go to the author for sending me an e-copy of Heaven Shining Through to read and review. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Heaven Shining Through has a great deal of potential, but it's underdeveloped. While I quickly became engrossed with the story, it was like reading on steroids. Everything just moved too quickly, and I didn't have a chance to savor and consider what was going on. It was all a series of flashbacks, and while highly intriguing, it needed more. 

If the book had taken up after those flashbacks with her having meaningful conversations with her mother concerning they're less than loving and caring relationship, that would have worked, I believe. Instead, their issues were brushed up in a pile, much as when one is cleaning house in a hurry for company and toss things into a closet to hide them away from the guests. 

Nonetheless, Heaven Shining Through did grab me; I just would have liked more showing and not as much telling. Happy reading!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Book Review: Deep Cover by Scarlett Cole

Deep Cover by Scarlett Cole

Publisher & Release: Montlake Romance, July 31, 2018

Time and setting:  Present Day, USA

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Book Length:   336 Pages

Heat Level: 1 Flame

Rating: 4 Gold Crowns

Book Description: 

Ex-Navy SEAL Cabe Moss always comes when called to duty—at all costs. Even though the death of his fiancĂ©e nearly destroyed him, Cabe won’t let his past interfere with any work that has to get done. When his latest task pushes him to team up with FBI operative Amy Murray, a fierce beauty with the undercover skills to match, Cabe must admit that, for the first time in years, he wants to do more than just complete their mission together.
Amy was born ready for this assignment, but working side-by-side with the strong, silent, and frustratingly professional Cabe seems to be the biggest challenge of all. But when the sparks begin to fly—and the stakes rise to dangerous heights—the only thing Amy is left worrying about is how she can resist him. Their lives may be in danger, but their hearts hold the biggest risk of all…

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Vikki’s Musings

This is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Cole, and I enjoyed it a great deal. My thanks goes to the publisher, via Net-Galley, for the chance to read and review this book. My opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Deep Cover is an exciting romantic suspense with excellent characters and an intriguing plot that kept me engaged throughout the book. The writing flows nicely and the pacing is steady. There is a good bit of suspense as well.

Cabe and Amy are perfect for each other, and I truly wanted them to find their happy ending. The chemistry is strong between the couple and intermingles with the suspense without interfering or slowing down the pacing.

If you are looking for a good romantic suspense with plenty of action and an intriguing plot, then you will enjoy Deep Cover. I hope to go back and read the other books in this series in the near future. Happy reading!