5 star review, Challenge

March TBR Challenge 2017 & OpenLibrary – Son of the Morning by Linda Howard

Son of the Morning

This month’s challenge is “Comfort Read”, but my moods are too dicy to try to call anything I haven’t re-read a comfort read. So I offer you this gem from 1997, the exception that proves the rule in my general hatred of time travel romance-the only time travel romance I actually enjoy and a near annual re-read. What makes for a comfort read? I dont know, but this one is on my list. So this was on my TBR because I was due, not because it is new.

A scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts, Grace St. John never imagined that a cache of fragile, old documents she discovered was the missing link to a lost Celtic treasure. But as soon as she deciphers the intriguing legend of the Knights of the Templar — long fabled to hold the key to unlimited power — Grace becomes the target of a ruthless killer bent on abusing the coveted force. Determined to stop him, Grace needs the help of a celebrated warrior bound by duty to uphold the Templar’s secret for all eternity. But to find him — and to save herself — she must go back in time.
Summoning the magic of an arcane ritual, Grace steps back to the barren hills of 14th-century Scotland, enduring the perils of an untamed land to confront Black Niall, a fierce man of dark fury and raw, unbridled desire. Driven by a mix of fear and passion, Grace enlists this brazen knight to join her in a modern-day search for a killer. In their quest to protect a timeless secret, they uncover a love for all time — and a deadly duel of honor that risks everything they have.

Once upon a time, shortly after I had moved away to college, I was bored at my mom’s house and this was the longest book I had not read, so I picked it up, thinking blegh, and then was so sucked in I left several hours later than I had intended and even stole one of her precious books. So yes, I own a couple of copies, but this one is also available on Open Library, with the usual disclaimers.

This is also the book’s 20th anniversary, so it seemed like a good time to bring it up for people who may not have ever encountered it before. Due to the longevity of the book and the fact that so many different book blurbs have been used, I may be a bit more spoilery than usual.

On to the actual review:

Have you ever met someone who was sweet and kind of delicate that you always kind of figured would be the type to collapse and never recover when hit by tragedy? But then when they are, while they might have completely shattered, they somehow managed to glue themselves into a sharp ball of all that brokeness and somehow managed to survive and complete their objectives? Never the same again, but completely not what you were expecting either.

That is Grace St. John. A sweet woman with a solid simple life, she loved her brother and her husband, was nice to the neighborhood teen, and loved her job as a translator. In short a round little cream puff of a woman. And then suddenly, it was all taken from her. Her husband and brother both killed, she’s the prime suspect. She has no resources, no skills, and no fallback position; and absolutely no clue why any of this is happening.

Most of the story follows her journey as she fights to stay alive and to solve the mystery of why this has happened to her. It is a story of a woman putting herself back together, inexpertly mended and complete with really sharp edges. It is a story about obsessions.

And I found it remarkably fascinating and was literally not able to put it down, despite the fact that the romance was light (I mean the love interest is in another freaking century for most of the book), and despite the paranormal element (when I already didn’t care for time travel and paranormal was barely a blip on my radar at the time) it was GOOD. I mean I honestly didn’t know which direction the author was going to go; was she taking the topic seriously, was Grace cracking up, was it some coma dream? I just simply didn’t know!

Grace was just so interesting, and eventually so confident and competent that I couldn’t help but root for her, even when I thought she might be out of her damned mind. The love interest, well, I am meh over him to be honest, but Grace really dug on him, so I was even rooting for her to get him too. He was the trapped prince waiting for the queen to rescue him, and basically she did. It totally rocked and was kind of an eye opener for me at the time. The WOMAN could be the rescuer, could be the one to do the leg work. The man could be the object of desire and the one who waited. It kind of blew my mind.

As for how well it holds up. Well except for the payphones, it really held up quite well I think, but take my opinion with a grain of salt, because I am surely reading with my rosy colored sentiment glasses. But if you never picked this one up, thinking it didn’t sound like your cup of tea, well give it another look, because this one is I think a little something special and out of the ordinary, even today.

Son of the Morning

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4 star review

Review – Falling for the Highlander by Lynsay Sands + Giveaway

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New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands welcomes readers back to the Scottish Highlands, where a gallant warrior vows to protect a beautiful runaway . . .

Lady Murine Carmichael has known her share of bad luck. But when her debt-ridden half brother tries to sell her off in exchange for a few Scottish horses, it’s the final straw. If keeping her freedom means escaping through harsh countryside alone, so be it. She has barely begun her journey when she lands an unlikely escort—the brawny Highlander who just refused to buy her virtue.

Dougall Buchanan was disgusted by Lord Danvries’ shameful offer, but Murine tempts him beyond measure. Even bedraggled and dusty, the lass glows with beauty and bravery. Dougall wants to do more than just help her flee. He wants to protect her—with his life and his heart—if she’ll only let him. For Murine may be pursued by a powerful foe, but nothing compares to the fiery courage of a Highlander in love.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review. GIVEAWAY

This is my happy-go-lucky, light and sappy, happy place. Lynsay Sands is almost always good for a few laughs and a sappy romance, and I have been digging on this series for a while now. In fact, I moved this ahead on my queue after reading a truly angst inducing series, after which I was compelled to go back to the angst which prompted a reread of this whole series. They are that light, happy, and fluffy. The perfect counterpoint to angst.

We had met both Murine and Dougall in the previous books, and Murine had already proved herself to be kind, loyal, and brave. So I was predisposed to like her. She didn’t necessarily exhibit the extreme competence levels of previous heroines, but she was cute and likeable so I was happy to go through her story to happily ever after. And while Dougall was really just one of a bunch of big brash Buchanans, well I enjoy that sort of character, so he worked for me as well. And needless to say I enjoyed seeing the rest of the brothers again too and will look forward to the rest of their stories as well (particularly that of the scarred eldest brother). And while this story itself stands alone, I think it is one where it is best if you have read the series, especially books 2 & 3.

The story itself was a series of pratfalls, misadventures, and misunderstandings (albit small ones which were mostly talked out in quick order-I HATE the BIG Mis). Murine has had horrible disasters befall her, and a really hard life of late, but her stepbrother’s latest betrayal was just one step too far. Escape was in order. And so our fainting heroine rides forth on her trusty steed…a bull. Seriously! That is just the start of the ridiculousness in store if you pick up this book.

Poor Murine and Dougall. They stagger from one calamity to the next, eventually finding love and a life together. It was sweet and left me feeling happy. Though I’ll admit, I saw the bad guy coming from YEARS away, literally, I saw it coming from book 2. But even so, I enjoyed the story.

Now I’ll admit, this isn’t the most earth shaking and moving or memorable story. In fact in probably a week or two I’ll probably remember very little of it except the bull (and maybe the plumber’s crack above that kilt…how odd is that cover?). But that is fine, it is great even. Because that isn’t why I read these books, I read them for that happy little moood lifting buzz, and it provided that in spades. So it not being the most memorable book every just means I’ll be even happier when I go back and re-read it, which I guarantee you I will! I finished it with a big old sloppy/sappy grin on my face, and if you like a good wallpaper highland historical complete with brogue, Sands put out another winner.

Falling for the Highlander (Highlanders, #4)

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3.5 star review

Review – Highland Chieftan by Hannah Howell

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I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Responsible for protecting her younger siblings from their abusive father, Bethoc Matheson is in no position to rescue another soul in Scotland. Yet when she sees a bleeding man on the verge of drowning, that’s exactly what she does, securing him safely in a cave where she can return day after day to tend to his wounds.

Sir Callum MacMillan can scarcely believe such a slight lass as Bethoc could save him from the grasp of death. But he knows the telltale marks of an angry fist on her skin, and he knows she has the soul of a fighter within her feminine frame. Raised to be a protector of the weak by his Murray clansmen, Callum would prefer to be the one saving her—and save her, he will. If he can first survive the treacherous attack that led him into her irresistible arms . . .

I’m so absolutely thrilled to be back with the Murray Family, despite the fact I mostly enjoyed my sojourn with the Wherlocke-Vaughn family. It is slightly insane that I haven’t actually reviewed one of these here since they were such a staple of my romance diet and I still have an enormous stack of dog-eared (yes I was one of those-you dead tree lovers can be grateful for the advent of digital so hooligans like me no longer deface books) and well-loved books chronicling the lives and loves of the Murrays and MacEnroys.

For the most part I think these can be read as stand alones. Yes there are characters from previous books, but with no centralized arc, jumping in just anywhere is entirely possible, even here with the 21 book, though I do tend to recommend the rest of the series. I suggest no hard long gloms though as it can all be a bit predictable.

This is another of Howell’s damsel and knight in distress books, where they each save each other, with a passel of plot moppets to round it out. I adore it.

We have two mysteries circling around to entertain us, and of course a delightful push-pull of romance between our two main characters.  Callum is one of the rescued boys from Highland Angel, and it is good to see those poor boys grown up and getting the happiness they deserve. And he has grown up to be such a sweet man, and Bethoc is a fitting mate for him. There are some heartbreaking events but overall it is a sweet and happy book.

We also got to check in on the lives of beloved characters, though as I said this can be read as a stand alone, so I don’t think they are overly intrusive if you haven’t read them. You can depend on what you’ll get from this series though, good kind people doing good kind things even in the face of heartbreak, and even though they are a bit muddle headed about love. I am really pleased to be back with the Murray’s and hope to keep visiting with them for years to come.

Highland Chieftain (Murray Family #21)

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3 star review, DNF

August TBR Challenge 2016 Double Header – Defy Not the Heart by Johanna Lyndsey & Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

TBR Challenge 2016

Topic: Kicking It Old School (publication date 10 years or older)

Defy Not the Heart

Reina seethes with rage over her fate: taken captive by the knight Ranulf — a golden giant of a man — who has pledged to deliver her to the nuptial bed of the despised Lord Rothwell. She will never accept such bondage — and Reina offers herself to her kidnapped instead, offering to make Ranulf a great lord…if he agrees to wed her.But the brave knight desires much more than a marriage of convenience from this proud, headstrong lady who treats him with scorn yet makes his blood run hotter than liquid fire. She must come to him of her own free will — or Ranulf will take her. For the passion that consumes them both cannot long be denied — even though gravest peril surely awaits them on the heart’s trail to a destines and turbulent love.

This one has been on my TBR for some time, and it seems to be one of the few Johanna Lindsey books I can not remember having read during my teen Lindsey binging period. It has been published and then republished (multiple times) since 1989-so it fits comfortably in the TBR Challenge parameters. And just this past fall it was brought to my attention again, and once again slipped off my radar-I even had it checked out from the library and forgot to read it. I was going to do a different book for this challenge, but I figured NOW is the time.

This should have been my jam. Heroine starts out in armor defending her home. Hero has a cat. I hear good things. But alas, by the 5th chapter I was STILL trying to force myself to read it. Even reading the last chapter didn’t entice me to continue reading. I didn’t even get to any of the good parts when I had to quit. Something about the was the author used language just put me right off and had me crinkling my nose and curling my lips into a sneer.

I tried, really I did. I don’t remember if this is the way Lindsey has always written, or if this is unique to this particular book, but it really didn’t entice me to go back and reread anything. And pleasure reading really shouldn’t be this hard, so I finally gave up.

Defy Not the Heart (Shefford's Knights, #1)
But, since I got an early start on this one and had the time, i went ahead and tried for a second one.
Cold Comfort Farm

This was another recommended read, it is the oldest book on my TBR (published in 1932), it was immediately availalble from the library, and I was hoping a change was as good as a rest.

When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex.

At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years.

But Flora loves nothing better than to organize other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas, Cold Comfort Farm (1932) is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

I don’t know exactly what I just read, but it was unexpectedly delightful. Somehow much of it puts me in mind of my childhood memories of the Anne of Avonlea series…though I read those so long ago anyone with current experience could likely rightfully dispute me. The rest of the book is filled with onomatopoeia and ridiculousness. Half the words aren’t really words, and the rest of the words don’t often make sense when put together….if you stop and think about it. So whatever you do, don’t think about a bit of it and let the imagery the paint pictures in your mind.

So what that the cows might lose legs, and hooves, and their horns? Just enjoy how Flora cheerfully goes about managing everything in her midst until everything is just so. She plots and maneuvers with the best of intentions until everything falls perfectly into place, and then is left lonely and bereft. So what is a managing female to do but fall instantly in love with the man who won’t tolerate her managing, and him with her?

I suspect that there is much I am missing in this. But it seems the type of thing one can either read surface or deep, and enjoyment is possible at either level. I am not in raptures over it as some seem to be, but it was cute. And while I won’t likely be re-reading it, I do think I will recommend it to others. It is definitely unique if nothing else.

Cold Comfort Farm

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3 star review

Review-If He’s Noble by Hannah Howell

If He's Noble

New York Times bestselling author Hannah Howell delivers adventure and instant attraction in this all-new Wherlocke Family novel…

For Lady Primrose Wootten nothing has been ordinary since her father the Baron died and his wayward family filled the estate with greed and treachery. Primrose knows if she can just track down her brother, he can send the odious relations on their way. But instead she finds this enormous, powerful stranger, and forgets entirely what she was doing in the first place…

Sir Bened Vaughn isn’t much afraid of a pistol. But he is a bit afraid of the woman holding it, who stirs up something so primal he’s not sure he can shake it off. Vaughn is an honorable man, and he knows he has no right to desire Primrose. Yet he does have an obligation to help her, and as they learn more about her brother’s disappearance, he realizes that means staying by her side…wanting her all the while… and wondering how much longer they can resist temptation…

So a little less than a year ago when THIS book came out, I binged, and binged, and binged, and binged, and binged, and binged (yes, that is 6) to prepare for this book and then I rather didn’t care to see another Wherlocke ever again. For some reason though this popped back to my attention and I figured maybe it was time to try to finish this off. Plus the 21rst Murray story is coming out in September, and I think I would feel guilty if I didn’t read this one first. Yes, I am strange.

What we have here is the epic trek. Primrose and Bened trek about all over the countryside killing people and foiling kidnapping and murder plots while searching for her brother. It is a romp. I actually expected a ton more “I am not good enough he/she is too good” etc, but there was only a little. What there was more of was adult like contemplation of the ramifications of their possible affair, which was a pleasant change from the usual fare.

There really wasn’t any mystery so this was more action oriented and on that it delivered fairly well. Primrose was charming and capable, and slightly ridiculous. Bened was stalwart as a good historical hero should be. And there was a ridiculous little plot pet of the man-eating purse rat variety.

I liked this one fairly well. No one was cheating, there were no protracted ridiculous separations, and there were happy endings all around (you know, if you consider bad people dying a happy ending, which I do). I hope if there is a next book it will be Modred’s, but I suspect it will be the brother’s.

If your local library has copies of these, I recommend them as a pleasant way to pass the time.

If He's Noble (Wherlocke)

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4 star review

Review – This is All I Ask by Lynn Kurland

This is All I Ask

Set near the Scottish border at a rugged castle on the edge of the sea, this is the story of a courageous lord who lost everything he held dear. Of a strong young woman willing to sacrifice everything for happiness. Two lost souls who find in each other a reason to live again, to laugh again, and to love for the first time…

I am not quite entirely sure how this book ended up on my TBR, particularly with none of the other books in the series read or an my TBR. But I suspect it somehow came to my attention after reading Candle in the Window and becoming interested in how blind protagonists are treated after reading The Arrangement.

It turns out that this is also somewhat a paranormal, and we have witches, I suspect from they way they are presented here they have been meddling along in the series and will continue to meddle. So yep, a historical paranormal with a blind hero.

Fortunately it is only a touch paranormal, the rest is just historical. We have the rough, tough cream puff hero, who protects himself due to prior emotional wounding. He also happens to be blind, and a little self-pitying. So while he will marry the heroine due to a long-standing promise and his honor, he is determined not to love her or care for her (beyond being a proper husband) or like it in any way. We have the kind, but living in fear heroine who initially fears the hero, but learns to first trust and then love, and then learns courage and her own self-worth. And then we have a cast of humorous and sympathetic characters, and of course the heroine’s father-the villain.

Man, oh, man, this book is almost painfully sweet. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just, it is so sweet, but you know the other shoe is about to drop sometime. It is also on occasion, whether intentionally or not, kind of humorous. Not like it is a comedy, but just enough to leaven the topics and make you feel happy reading it instead of entrenched in the doom and gloom of what are some pretty awful situations. And we also have a hero who is in touch with his own emotions on a level that I find delightful but that may leave readers who prefer a more traditional alpha hero feeling a little uncomfortable, YMMV.

And another thing I really enjoyed, we have no miracles here. Things are what they are, our characters have to live through and with the things that have happened to them, but separately and together they grow as individuals and find their way through and together. Which is a mishmash way of saying we have a delightful happily ever after with two characters who are more than happy to depend on one another but aren’t exactly dependent on one another, if you see what I mean. Looking at this objectively, I would probably have given this 3 stars, but , but for me this is one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and it is an emotional event that I will likely return to. However, the rest of the two series this book is entwined with seem to have a significant number of time travel books, so I doubt it will be a glommable series for me.

This Is All I Ask (de Piaget, #6; de Piaget/MacLeod, #3)

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3 star review

Review – A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen

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Love takes the stage…

Elise deVries is not what she seems. By night, the actress captivates London theatergoers with her chameleon-like ability to slip inside her characters. By day, she uses her mastery of disguise to work undercover for Chegarre & Associates, an elite agency known for its discreet handling of indelicate scandals. But when Elise is tasked with locating the missing Duke of Ashland, she finds herself center stage in a real-life drama.

Noah Ellery left the glamour of the London aristocracy to pursue a simpler life in the country. He’s managed to avoid any complications or entanglements—that is, until he lays eyes on Elise and realizes there’s more to this beautiful woman than meets the eye. But when Elise reveals her real identity—and her true feelings for him—the runaway duke must confront the past he left behind . . . to keep the woman he loves forever.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

This is the second book in this series, and Kelly Bowen is fast becoming an author I feel I can trust for a quick, fun romp through wallpaper historical England. And this particular series is such smashing fun because the heroines have their own agency, and by that I mean both their personal agency to affect change in their own lives, and an honest to goodness agency-their place of business where scandals can be made to go away.

I’ll admit that this one did not capture my attention as firmly at the start as the previous story did. And that is at least in part because I didn’t immediately connect Elise in this story to the lady in the previous book. She was an interesting character, it is just that Ivory just overwhelmed me. So it felt like starting cold to me, and the author clearly meant us to have already had some time with her. So if you don’t remember Elise, I say brush up by reading at least the first chapter or so from Duke of my Heart. I think that will truly make a difference in how one starts out with Elise. The other part is that the Big-Mis of the two character not understanding who each other was and what their purposes were just made me feel so awkward with the characters, despite their obvious initial attraction.

Once things got going though I was really into it. The back story was way sadder than the blurb leads one to believe, but it was interesting. And the way Chegarre and Associates handled the return of the wayward and missing earl was a delight. I could have read chapters more of that. I also really enjoyed getting more backstory on a mysterious character from the previous book.

Unfortunately the way the relationship resolution came about was less than what I had hoped. It wasn’t bad, I just wanted more. I suppose that is the theme here, I wanted more, more of the mystery, more of the agency working, and more of the relationship-everything that was there did work, so I suppose I am just being greedy. In any event this is a story I honestly enjoyed reading and which leads me top gladly keep reading the series, it just won’t go on my re-read shelf. Perfect for anyone looking for a quick, fun romp.

A Duke to Remember (Season for Scandal, #2)

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