Showing posts with label YotH. Show all posts
Showing posts with label YotH. Show all posts

Friday, December 17, 2010

2010 YoTH and Re-Read Challenges - Completed!

I decided to finishing off my completed Challenge posts for 2010 this week.  I only have one more Challenge to complete and I'll be taking care of that by posting my last review of the year for the In-Death Challenge later on this month.

Year of the Historical: A 2010 Reading Challenge - Hosted by KMont of Lurv a la Mode

100% Completed December 11, 2010

I had an excellent time with this Challenge. I initially meant to read some of those books I already had in my TBR, but as it turned out I read a mixture of new and older releases. I explored works by some excellent authors AND found some favorite books through this Challenge: Pamela Morsi, Lavyrle Spencer and Cheryl St. John are three of those authors. Their books along with Steve Kluger's Last Days of Summer, Lisa Kleypas' lovely historical romances and Elizabeth Hoyt's Wicked Intentions also made my list.

Following is a list of books read, with a link to each review. As you can see some months I submitted more than one book and review for this Challenge.

Jan:   Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger (WW II) - Review here
Feb:   Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read) - Review here
Mar:  Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh - Review here
Apr:  Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi - Review here
           Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John - Review here
May: The Endearment by Lavyrle Spencer - Review here
Jun:  Lavyrle Spencer: Morning Glory and Years - Review here
Jul :  Love in the Afternoon (Hathaways, Book 5) by Lisa Kleypas - Review here
Aug: Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley - Review here
Sept: Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read) 
           A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Re-read) - Minis for both here
Oct:  The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John - Review here
Nov: Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt - Review here
Dec:  A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist - Review here

Thank you KMont for hosting this Challenge!

The 2010 Re-Read Challenge - Hosted by Nath of Books, Books and more Books

100% Completed December 11, 2010

This was another fun Challenge for me! I tend to re-read books that I love, my keepers and comfort reads. I chose my re-reads at random, depending on my mood. Some of them I re-read before and have become comfort reads, as in Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard, and others I re-read for the first time. My reactions to some of the books were interesting, I enjoyed some of them more the second time around (A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist) and some of them a bit less (To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt), however my overall initial view of the books usually stayed the same.

Following is a list of the books I re-read, by month, with a link to all reviews posted. 

Jan:  Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard - Review here
Feb: Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas - Review here
Mar: Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson - Review here
Apr: Three Sisters Island Trilogy by Nora Roberts - Reviews here
May: To Beguile a Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt - Review here
Jun:  Mine to Possess (Psy/Changeling, #4) by Nalinin Singh - Review here
Jul:  Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling - Review here
Aug: Rising Tides (Quinn Brothers, Book #2) by Nora Roberts - Review here
Sept: Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas, A Separate Peace by John Knowles, 
           Almost Like   Being in Love by Steve Kluger, Cullen's Bride by Fiona Brand, 
           Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard - Minis here
Oct:  Rising Moon by Lori Handerland - Review here
Nov: If You Desire by Kresley Cole - Mini here
Dec: A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist - Review here

Thank you Nath for hosting this Challenge!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Review: Wicked Intentions (Maiden Lane Series, Book 1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

I finally read Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt and loved it. From the beginning I was caught by the dark atmosphere, the grim setting and flawed characters. However, the story itself kept me turning those pages.

Ms. Hoyt sets Wicked Intentions in St. Giles, a poor, dirty, and grim section of London that we don't often see highlighted in historical romance novels. Our female protagonist Temperance and her brother Winter work in a charity home for the foundling children of whores, the poor and desperate. One evening on her way home from picking up just such a child, Temperance comes across a man in an alley standing over a dead body and to her consternation this man follows her home with a proposition.

Lord Caire is in St. Giles investigating the brutal murder of his long time mistress, but he doesn't know this section of London, and its inhabitants won't answer his questions or give him the time of day. The way he figures it the respectable and knowledgeable Mrs. Temperance Dews would serve as the perfect guide through the streets and alleys of St. Guiles. He'll pay her for her services, after all everyone has a price.

Temperance is not happy that this man followed her home and broke into her parlor, but she's not about to show her discomfort. She knows he's a Lord and listens to his proposition with an open mind. Being a realist and in need, Temperance proceeds to negotiate the best of terms with Lord Caire. She'll serve as his guide if he pays for her services, and introduces her to the appropriate set within the ton until she finds a respectable patron for the failing and bankrupt charity home. A deal is struck and they set off.

I really enjoyed Temperance and Caire's murder investigation. It took them to some of the darkest places in St. Giles, setting both tone and atmosphere by giving the reader a real feel for the place and its inhabitants. They encounter everything from gin whores and madams, to thieves and rogues and visit a mercantile, dark pubs and whore houses as they face the ever-growing dangers that await them as they navigate dark streets and alleys.

However, it is not all grimness and dirt, there are also balls and musicales included in this story. Caire keeps his part of the deal and by attending those events Temperance experiences a different lifestyle. In the process she finds that people are not so different after all, and that the glitter of the ton doesn't necessarily hide the ugliness present underneath some of its aristocratic members. Hoyt slowly develops the romance between Temperance and Caire during the murder investigation. However lust is another matter entirely, they both feel it and that's what Hoyt uses as a building block to the romance.

I was taken from the beginning by the sexual tension and chemistry, and eventually the heat that Temperance and Caire generated as a couple. Caire doesn't believe that he's capable of feeling emotion and he suffers pain when physically touched by others. Plus, he has the reputation of being sexually deviant throughout both the ton and St. Giles because of his peculiar sexual preferences. In Temperance, Caire finds a passion for life and a vibrancy that he can only envy and wants to absorb, even if it is only by being in her presence.

Temperance is a passionate woman who represses her emotions behind a mask of widowhood, dark clothing and plain looks. She hides passions, lust, guilt, secrets and self-contempt behind a façade of duty and self-confidence. Temperance is shocked when Caire sees through that mask and relieved when she can be herself with him. Temperance and Caire scorched the pages with their desire and yearning for each other. There's growth for both characters throughout the development of their relationship and romance. It was wonderful to experience how they came to terms with their weaknesses and finally found solace and love in the midst of all the grit and tarnished glitter.

Hoyt's characters are dark in Wicked Intentions and she exposes their foibles and sins. This includes the whole cast of characters, from central to secondary, some of which are quite fascinating. I was intrigued by some of the secondary characters and hope to meet them again as their stories were left a mystery or unfinished: Silence, Winter, Asa, O'Connor and the Ghost of St. Giles. There's a secondary story involving Silence and her husband that was both sad and engaging and one that I hope will be further developed.

I loved Wicked Intentions, the setting and atmosphere, central characters, romance, plotting and some of the unforgettable secondary characters. This is a series I will definitely be following in the future. Notorious Pleasures is already on my list of books to read in February 2011.

Category: Historical Romance
Series: Maiden Lane Series, Book 1
Release Date: August 1, 2010
Grade: A

Visit Elizabeth Hoyt here.

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - November Review

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John

How could she say yes?
People like Ellie Parrish did not get proposals of marriage from someone like Dr. Caleb Chaney. Even if his offer was the answer to her prayers, a man as decent and kind as Caleb didn't deserve a woman whose past was a lie.

Caleb Chaney could see that Ellie Parrish was a woman with a troubled soul. But he could also see a woman with a heart big enough to love his infant son as though she were his mother, and big enough to teach Caleb himself how to love again.
The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John is a Harlequin Historical romance I received as a gift from Leslie, and one I've had on my "to be read" pile for a few months. This is another well-written, heart warming historical set in the West by St. John.

In this story, St. John focuses her story on rank poverty in the West and how society viewed and treated those who were less fortunate. The heroine is the daughter of a prostitute. Ellie raises her two younger brothers in squalor from the time they're born until their mother dies and the boys are taken into foster care as free farm laborers. They've all been victims of violence throughout their young lives and Ellie herself was raped at age fourteen (the rape is alluded to, briefly sketched in the book, although not detailed). She changes her name and leaves town, finding a job as a waitress in a decent hotel and is saving money so she can bring her brothers to live with her.

Ellie meets Caleb, a doctor, when she breaks her arm. Caleb is a widower and a single father. After a series of events, Ellie agrees to take care of his infant son while he takes care of his practice. Eventually, Caleb recognizes that Ellie would make a good wife and wonderful mother to his son and proposes marriage.

The story deals with Ellie's self-doubts as she and Caleb embark on a relationship. She confronts different issues including trauma from the rape, the physical abuse that she and her brothers received throughout childhood and her personal shame. Ellie is a strong protagonist with a tough past and little self-esteem -- plus other concerns include the lies and omissions she uses to obfuscate her past. Caleb on the other hand is a wonderful man and portrayed as straight forward, compassionate and understanding, an almost perfect man at times. St. John incorporates all of the above while slowly, but surely, developing Ellie and Caleb's romance to make it believable. Secondary characters, particularly Ellie's brothers, give depth to this story and have much to contribute.

The Doctor's Wife was an emotional read for me. Although lukewarm when it comes to the romance, it's quite heart warming and family-oriented with excellent characterization, plot development, and a well-deserved happily ever after.

Genre: Historical Romance/Americana
Series: None
Release Date: Harlequin Historical/September 1, 1999
Source: Used copy received from Leslie
Grade: B

Visit Cheryl St. John here.

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - October Review

ETA: Available as part of Blogger's Bundle, Volume III: Super Librarian Selects The Harvey Girls: The Doctor's Wife, The Lawman's Bride, The Preacher's Daughter. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hilcia's Weekly Reads

I hope you've all had a terrific week. It's been a while since I've done my weekly reads post... about a year actually, but last week was a bit special and I decided to highlight it. Last month, my friend Mariana of Hips Like Mine announced that she was making September "Re-Reads Month." Although I'm not joining her for a whole month's worth of re-reads, I decided to at least keep her company for one week. Of course, I sneaked in a couple of new books too, (I couldn't help myself, lol) but for the most part I achieved my goal.

Since I'm also participating in Nath's Re-Read Challenge, this works out perfectly, don't you think? So, this month I'm killing two birds with one stone by posting some tiny-Minis in a weekly post style while I join Mariana in her Re-Read Month, and for Nath's Challenge. :D

As my first re-read I chose Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas. I love her Bow Street Runner series and Sir Ross happens to be a favorite in that category. This story begins with sexual overtones and thoughts and as the story unfolds the attraction builds between Sophia and Ross. Sophia's purpose behind working for Ross, who is a magistrate, is to gather information and avenge the death of her brother, but that doesn't last long. Frankly this whole story is really based on the sexual attraction between Sophia and Ross, and the conflicts between them are solved quickly along the way. However, I did enjoy the sexual tension between the two and I love a male protagonist who goes from being a stick in the mud to hot, sexy and passionate. That's Sir Ross! Plus Nick Gentry is introduced in this book.. :D Grade B.

After that, I totally changed gears and re-read A Separate Peace by John Knowles. This is young adult coming of age, classic American novel set in a New England prep school during World War II. I read this book years ago and have re-read it a few times, it's a favorite. The story of Gene, the intellectual, and Pheneas, the athelete, two young men who are roommates and great friends. This is a short book and an amazingly well written story. Knowles begins with a small, seemingly innocent incident that culminates in a tragedy. Through Gene's point of view, the author develops a story that delves into the dark side of human nature and subtly draws a parallel to those dark days in WWII, while simultaneously providing the reader with few light moments. There are some subtle homoerotic undertones to the story and unexpected depth to Gene, Finny and secondary characters. Grade A

Although A Separate Peace is a favorite, it always leaves me a bit down when I finish reading it. I needed an uplifting read afterwards, and chose to re-read a book that makes me laugh and has a happy ending, Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger. I reviewed this book already, so this is not going to be a mini. However, I'll say that this was the first time I read the book in print and it was a joy! My experience with Klugler's epistolary style was definitely enriched by reading this book in print vs. my first time around with the ebook format. And of course, I haven't changed my mind about the story itself and was left with a big smile and the warm fuzzies when I finished the book, so mission accomplished. :D Grade A

From there I went on to re-read Cullen's Bride by Fiona Brand! This was Fiona Brand's first category romance (1999) and the first book in her SAS series. It's a wonderful book set in New Zealand with a hot, bad boy hero whose childhood was hell! He pulled himself through, left town and came back to work the family farm. Rachel is a strong woman and female protagonist. She grew up with her father and four brothers after her mom died, so she knows what it's like to deal with overly macho and protective males. I loved their story. There's a bit of a mystery and lots of fighting of feelings on Cullen's part while Fiona fights for them. Brand's writing was excellent in this book with great characterization and plotting, plus her descriptions of the setting pulled me right into the story. I felt as if I were right there with Rachel and Cullen experiencing the storms, floods and breezes in the farm or the town. Grade B+

This is where I read two new books Ceremony in Death and Vengeance in Death by J.D. Robb, but those books are for Christine's Challenge, so that's okay, right? ;P Reviews for those books to come later.

And last, but certainly not least, I finished off my re-reading week with Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. This is a suspense romance book I love. Sam and Jaine are favorite characters -- the dialogue and interaction between them always make me laugh, plus they have some sizzling hot, sexy moments and Jaine's peeping tom scene through her kitchen window is a classic! The friendship between the four friends, the "List" and again the dialogue are just so well done by Howard, I fell in love with the four women. There's depth, but there's also such lightness and humor to those parts of the story and the romance that I think that's what made the violence and the killings more shocking. The killer wasn't really scary, smart or mysterious... but the previously mentioned sense of shock provided the true horror to Mr. Perfect. Grade A-

That does it for my reads this week and re-reads this month, I think. :) What about you? What did you read this week?

Mariana's September Re-Read Month
Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge
KMont's 2010 Historical Reading Challenge -September Minis:
A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review: The Endearment by Lavyrle Spencer

HISTORICAL NOTE: Provided by Lavyrle Spencer
During the years immediately preceding Minnesota's declaration of statehood, while it was still considered the frontier, few women ventured into her depths, particularly not north of St. Anthony Falls. Frontier life made the women pay too dearly for her place in the North Country. Although newspapers in the East carried tempting descriptions of all the Minnesota Territory had to offer men, along with open invitations to settle there, no such invitation was extended to women. Instead, those newspapers ran articles discouraging women from that rough, untamed land. Thus, most men who came as pioneers to pluck a living out of the wilderness of the Minnesota Territory came, at first, womanless.
And so was necessitated the practice of sending for women, sight unseen. And these were called "mail-order brides."
The Endearment by LaVyrle Spencer is a historical romance set in Minnesota in 1854. This is a tale of pioneers living in the Minnesota wilds, a mail-order bride, her thirteen year-old brother and a Swedish immigrant -- an absolutely gorgeous tale. The details pertaining to pioneer life are just wonderful -- the description of the area, the loneliness, the heart and grit that it took to settle the land, all of it is there.

The characters are portrayed as people of their time. Karl Lindstrom is a twenty-five year-old Swedish settler who achieved his dream and his heart's desire in the land, but who needs Anna to make it complete. In Karl, Spencer creates a wonderful male protagonist who is knowledgeable when it comes to his beloved woods and survival, but clueless when it comes to women.

Karl's loneliness, strength, patience, need for love and sweetness pulled my heartstrings, as did his pride in all he had accomplished. His strong beliefs and intransigence were both frustrating and believable. My heart was broken for him, by him and he also restored it a few times during the course of the story.

Anna Reardon is no less of a character. She is a seventeen year-old girl/woman who takes an amazing risk to save herself and her brother from an unthinkable life. She becomes Karl's mail-order bride by answering his ad and telling him a slew of lies. Most of her lies come to light before Karl and Anna marry and even though he forgives her and she swears to never lie again, there's one secret she keeps to herself, one that will have deep repercussions and will threaten their budding relationship.

Spencer portrays Anna as both a young woman, who is experienced in some ways but immature in others, a flawed character that grows with the story. An Irish girl with a temper and grit, Anna is also irresponsible, fun and playful, hates housework and bathing. She also loves fiercely and is willing to work the woods with Karl from dusk till dawn. Anna is full of insecurities and needs everything Karl has to give, not only his love, but also his forgiveness and understanding.

Spencer completes this story by including James, Anna's brother, a young boy who flourishes in the Minnesota wilds under Karl's tutelage. Lavyrle Spencer uses James and Karl's growing relationship to relate the small details of pioneer life in the Minnesota wilds that set the tone and atmosphere for the story. The richness of those details made this book an absolute treat for me.

The Endearment is not full of sexual scenes, yet there's passion, sexual tension, loving, laughter, friendship, and warmth aplenty. I can tell you that I didn't want this book to end. The story of Anna and Karl touched me and for a while Lavyrle Spencer transported me to that little clearing in the Minnesota wilds and I didn't want to come back. I loved this book.

NOTE: All images taken from Minnesota archives of early settlers and are from 1854 or thereabouts. The first image is of Saint Anthony Falls, Minnesota. The image of the stove is a depiction of one used by early settlers. All images tie to the story.

Genre: Historical Romance/Americana
Series: None
Release Date: September 1, 2006/Kindle Edition
Grade: A

Find list of Lavyrle Spencer's books here.

KMont's Year of the Historical Challenge - May Review

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John

When eighteen-year-old Mariah found herself pregnant and unmarried in her small Colorado town, she disappeared. One year later, she returned with a baby—though minus the "husband" who had conveniently ventured off to Alaska's gold fields to seek his fortune….
But now, with handsome adventurer Wes Burrows turning up and claiming to be the husband she had invented, Mariah's lies become flesh and blood—and her wildest dreams a reality!

I finally read Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John, a Harlequin Historical I've had on my "to be read" pile since it released last December. I loved her book, Joe's Wife and have begun collecting some of the books in her backlist already. She also has a new book this month, To Be a Mother and I'll definitely be adding that one to my pile as well.

Her Colorado Man is the story of a young woman in 1800's Colorado who gets pregnant out of wedlock. Her grandfather sends her away to Chicago to have the baby and tells the rest of the family and the community that she met and married a man there, Wes Burrows. This man then left Mariah and their newborn child for Alaska to seek his fortune looking for gold.

Unfortunately, the name grandpa uses is the name of a "real" person. Through the years, grandpa's old friend Otto writes letters to the young boy pretending he is the father who is away in Alaska. When Otto dies, the "real" Wes Burrows receives the letters and through their correspondence falls in love with the boy. Wes then decides to come "home" to meet his son and to be a "real" father to a boy who he feels needs him. Of course, he doesn't take into account that a wife comes with the son too.

In Wes, St. John creates a tough, but sensitive male character who needs as much as he is needed. I was touched by his sensibilities, his need for love and family and willingness to give. Wes is a "good" man. Mariah on the other hand, is a woman who is ahead of her time, but also very much of her time. She has an outward toughness that hides her inner vulnerabilities. Mariah is independent within her family circle, but is very much restrained by her gender and circumstances. She is trapped by both and her independence is almost an illusion until Wes comes along. 

This was a touching story. St. John begins this romance by having Wes fall in love with the boy first, then with the extensive Spangler family, and at last with Mariah herself. Mariah is understably weary of Wes and really doesn't understand what he wants -- this stranger who comes out of nowhere and whom she has to accept or break her son and family's hearts by revealing her lie. She is quite ruthless with Wes for a long time, even when he is a gentleman and a sweatheart. I think her reactions are quite understandable under the circumstances.

The book is warm on the sensual scale and excellent when it comes to characterization. St. John really takes her time when it comes to developing the protagonists and their romance. She gives you the reasons behind both Mariah and Wes' motivations as we get to know their past histories -- some of which are complex, especially when it comes to Mariah's past experiences. The author also takes the time to develop the large cast of characters that make this story what it is, the Spangler family in particular. Through them, she also explores the setting and historical times by cleverly using the family's ties to the brewery industry to do so.

A well written and developed Harlequin Historical, with excellent characterization, Her Colorado Man was an enjoyable read for me. I loved the clever way in which the setting and history were incorporated into the story, as well as the sense of family and the unique way in which it influenced this romance.

Genre: Historical Romance - American
Series: None
Release Date: December, 2009 - Kindle Edition
Grade: B+

Visit Cheryl St. John here.

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - April Review

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Review: Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi

The news spread like brush fire through the whole county when widower Ancil Drayton announced his intention to start courting Miss Hattie Colfax. She was certainly spirited and delightfully sweet natured, and she'd managed to run her family farm almost single-handedly. But wasn't a twenty-nine-year-old lady farmer too old to catch a husband?

An Irresistable Suitor.

All his life handsome, black-haired Reed Tyler had worked Miss Hattie's farm--and dreamed of one day settling down on his own piece of land with the pretty young woman he'd sworn to marry. Hattie was someone he could tell his hopes and troubles to--someone he looked on as a sister. So he thought, until the idea of Ancil Drayton calling on her made him seethe. Until the night a brotherly peck became a scorching kiss... and Reed knew nothing would bank the blaze--and that his best friend was the only woman he would ever love.
Courting Miss Hattie is the second book by Pamela Morsi I read, and they're now both favorites and keepers. I loved Simple Jess, and this one is just as wonderful.

In Courting Miss Hattie, Morsi once again sets her story in an Arkansas farming community and captures both time and place. She tells the story of Miss Hattie, a 29-year-old spinster who has never been courted, until now. In Miss Hattie, Morsi again works with a character that is viewed as different by her community. She is respected, as an excellent farmer who owns her own land, is independent and knowledgeable and also happens to be an excellent housekeeper and cook. But Hattie is a woman, and as a woman in a community where girls marry at the tender age of seventeen, she's considered an old spinster and treated as such. The fact that Hattie's looks are lacking count heavily against her -- behind her back her nickname is "Horseface Hattie."

When local farmer and widower and father to a slew of children, Ancyl Drayton decides to come calling, you can feel both Hattie's pain and her hope for a future she thought she would never have -- a husband and children. I loved Miss Hattie. She is the perfect spinster/plain Jane type of protagonist that some of us love to read about in a book. Hattie isn't exactly your missish spinster, although she is definitely naive and has her moments. She is an independent woman who is direct and plain speaking and a tough and hard-working farmer. As a woman she is vulnerable, passionate and all heart. There is a joy in Hattie that makes her beautiful.

Reed Tyler? I could have eaten him up with a spoon. What a great character he turned out to be. He is younger than Miss Hattie, but he is a real man. Reed began working at the Colfax farm when he was a 14-year-old boy. After Hattie's parents died and left her the farm, Reed stayed to help her and became a sharecropper using Colfax land. Reed and Hattie are close friends and partners. His dream is to save his money to buy the Colfax farm from Hattie so he can settle down with his young wife once he marries. That is...until Ancyl begins courting Hattie.

Courting Miss Hattie is a wonderful friends to lovers romance. In a way, I hate to put it that way because it simplifies this story and it is more than that. The community at large, and Hattie herself, both see Ancyl's courting as a godsend and a favor to her -- all except Reed. He doesn't think Ancyl is good enough for her, as a man or as a farmer. I loved him for that. Reed begins to see Hattie as a woman and to seethe. Slowly, Ms. Morsi develops the story, and the sexual tension and romance between Hattie and Reed builds. And a passionate, joyful romance it is!

I have many favorite scenes in this book. The scene where Reed explains to Hattie that there are three different types of kisses: pecks, peaches and malvalvas, and Miss Hattie comes to love her "peaches," is a favorite. But, I think their overall joy and laughter in the midst of the discovery of their passion and love is what makes this romance stand out for me.

This review would be incomplete if I didn't mention a secondary romance that impacts Hattie and Reed's relationship. Morsi doesn't leave this romance behind in passion or in characterization; she takes her time with both. As in Simple Jess, she again develops a community that is vital and their down-to-earth, everyday interactions add depth to this story. The secondary characters are very much a part of Courting Miss Hattie and complete this romance.

This is another Morsi book I highly recommend for those who want to read a different type of historical romance in an American setting. In Courting Miss Hattie you’ll find a beautifully written, well-developed, passionate romance, with a friends to lovers theme, and an unforgettable secondary, lively cast of characters that has more to offer than your every day fare. This is definitely a keeper.

For other Morsi reviews, check out:
Courting Miss Hattie at Leslie's Psyche
Wild Oats at The Misadventures of Super Librarian

Genre: Historical Romance - American
Series: None
Release Date: August 26, 2009 - Kindle Edition
Grade: A

Visit Pamela Morsi here.

KMont's 2010 Year of the Historical Challenge - April Review

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh

Jennifer Winwood has been engaged for five years to a man she hardly knows but believes to be honorable and good: Lord Lionel Kersey. Suddenly, she becomes the quarry of London’s most notorious womanizer, Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill. Jennifer has no idea that she is just a pawn in the long-simmering feud between these two headstrong, irresistible men—or that she will become a prize more valuable than revenge.

Jennifer’s cousin Samantha Newman is smarting after she too is toyed with by Lord Kersey. In the midst of her heartbreak, she seeks solace from her new friend, the disabled gardener Hartley Wade. If only she knew that Hartley is secretly Lord Carew, and that he hides more than extraordinary wealth: a passionate secret held deep in his heart that only her love can reveal.
This book by Mary Balogh has two related stories: Dark Angel and Lord Carew's Bride featuring Jennifer Winwood and Samantha Newman, a pair of young cousins coming to London for their first season. These two books set in Regency times were originally released by Signet in 1994. I didn't read the original releases and was happy to get my hands on this book since I'm still making my way through Balogh's backlist.

In Dark Angel, Jennifer is the central female character. She has been engaged to Lord Lionel Kersey for five years and believes herself to be deeply in love with him, and although her contact with Lionel has been quite limited throughout the years, she dreams of being his wife. She admires his physical beauty and standing in society, but doesn't seem to see or really know anything else about Lionel. Her hope is that they'll get to know each other once their engagement is formally announced. Instead, the man she gets to know is the Earl of Thornhill.

Gabriel Fisher, the Earl of Thornhill, is attracted to Jennifer on sight, but he also has a grudge against Lord Kersey. Gabe seems to be Lionel's opposite, where Lionel is blond and light, Gabe is dark. He has a terrible reputation and is barely tolerated by polite society. Gabriel begins a subtle game of courtship and seduction and Jennifer unwittingly becomes his main focus and eventually a victim in Gabriel and Lionel's games of revenge. But she's not the only victim, as a secondary character Samantha, Jenny's beautiful younger cousin, plays an important role in this story and also falls victim. Sam will never be the same girl after these events are over.

I enjoyed Dark Angel. I liked Gabe as the main male lead in this story. He was an honorable man who let his thirst for revenge overcome that honor. With his character, Balogh mainly addresses his personal fall from grace and then his redemption through what he thought was sacrifice and turned out to be love. Jennifer on the other hand is an interesting character study. She is a naive young woman of her times who is blinded by Lionel's beauty and what she thinks is love to the extent that she can't see anything else. Jenny's self-deception doesn't allow her to see Lionel's villainy even when it's right in front of her eyes. She puts on her blinders and basically has to be told the facts to see the light. This made for a difficult conflict between Gabe and Jenny with a good but tough resolution at the end for this couple.

Lord Carew's Bride features Samantha Newman, Jenny's cousin from Dark Angel. Six years after Jennifer and Gabe's wedding, Sam is still unmarried by choice. Samantha no longer believes in love and has decided marriage is not for her. She is a blond, blue-eyed, petite beauty who gets more than her share of proposals and who is tired of being admired for her physical appearance.

While on a walk through the woods at her cousin Jenny's estate, Samantha trespasses on Lord Carew's lands and meets a gentleman. She assumes he's a gentleman "gardener" by his ordinary looks, clothing and knowledge of the parks. They like each other immediately and strike a beautiful friendship based on mutual likes and dislikes. She likes him because he doesn't seem to focus on her beauty and feels the bond of friendship but no passion, therefore she feels safe with him. This gentleman gardener, Hartley Wade, turns out to be Lord Carew. He is rich, talented, sweet, patient and also crippled. I fell in love with Hartley as soon as he was introduced! He is SO sweet. Although he likes Samantha's personality and admires her independence, he of course also appreciates her beauty and falls in love with her.

Lord Carew's Bride was a beautiful story. I found myself rooting for Hartley as he overcame his shyness and self-consciousness about his physical shortcomings and went after what he wanted, Samantha. I also liked the way Samantha's character grew and her feelings for Hartley moved from friendship to love. There are secondary characters that bring cohesiveness and humor to this story, but Francis, Samantha's old beau and true friend is a favorite of mine. I loved the ending and their happily ever after.

Conclusion: In summary these are two enjoyable re-releases by Ms. Balogh. In Dark Angel and Jenny's character, in the way this character loved because she was "supposed" to love, Ms. Balogh gives us a glimpse into the way some society women followed the rules and mores of Regency times without question. In contrast, in Lord Carew's Bride, Ms. Balogh shows that a woman could also be independent of thought during that time and still be acceptable to society.

In both books she places emphasis on how large a role physical beauty played in how people in that society "viewed" themselves and others. In Dark Angel we see this through Jennifer's eyes when she contrasts Lionel's "angelic" beauty to Gabe's dark and "satanic" looks. We see that emphasis even more in Lord Carew's Bride where Hartley is an imperfect cripple who is shown either disgust or contempt by his peers because of his imperfections -- disgust and contempt they're willing to disguise only because of his wealth -- as opposed to Samantha and Lionel who are beautiful and physically flawless in society's eyes. Lionel is beautiful and a well-known dishonorable man, but because of his "beauty" society is willing to overlook and quickly forgive his flaws. In Samantha's case, she is judged by her beauty when she marries Hartley. Society assumes someone as beautiful as she, can only marry a cripple like Hartley because of his wealth. In Balogh's world, however, the heart wins every time. :)

Genre: Historical Romance - Regency
Release Date: February 23, 2010
Grade -- Dark Angel: B
Grade -- Lord Carew's Bride: B+

Visit Mary Balogh here.

KMont's Year of the Historical Challenge 2010 -- March Review

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Review: Devil in Winter (Wallflowers Series #3) by Lisa Kleypas

A devil's bargain

Easily the shyest Wallflower, Evangeline Jenner stands to become the wealthiest, once her inheritance comes due. Because she must first escape the clutches of her unscrupulous relatives, Evie has approached the rake Viscount St. Vincent with a most outrageous proposition: marriage!

Sebastian's reputation is so dangerous that thirty seconds alone with him will ruin any maiden's good name. Still, this bewitching chit appeared, unchaperoned, on his doorstep to offer her hand. Certainly an aristocrat with a fine eye for beauty could do far worse.

But Evie's proposal comes with a condition: no lovemaking after their wedding night. She will never become just another of the dashing libertine's callously discarded broken hearts -- which means Sebastian will simply have to work harder at his seductions...or perhaps surrender his own heart for the very first time in the name of true love.
Devil in Winter was easily my favorite book in the Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas, and the reason I chose to re-read it. The story of the unlikely pairing between shy Evie and the unscrupulous rake Sebastian St. Vincent.

While re-reading this book, I slowly began to remember why I loved it so much the first time and no, it's not because St. Vincent is one of the best reformed rakes around -- and one of the hottest. Evie has a lot to do with it.

Evie is a desperate woman who takes desperate measures, but although her actions seem impulsive, they are calculated for maximum results. Evie has the upper hand with St. Vincent from the moment she enters his home, and the arrogant, heartless fool doesn't stand a chance.

I was curious to read again how she does it -- how she tames this heartless rake. And, Sebastian is heartless and definitely a rake who has already proven he cares little for friendship and for others. In Evie, Kleypas gives us a heroine who does it all with kindness, love, passion and determination. There is nothing loud or overly self-confident about her. Yet, she is relentless once she makes up her mind and achieves the seemingly unachievable.

Sebastian's change from heartless rake to passionate hero is a bit of a roller coaster. His physical passion for Evie takes him on an emotional journey he's never experienced and one he's not prepared to handle. In St. Vincent, Kleypas gives us a hero who in the end not only finds love and redemption, in the process he also finds who and what he was meant to be all along.

One of the reasons Devil in Winter is such a big draw for me is the chemistry between Sebastian and Evie. Kleypas uses both sexual tension and intense, sizzling scenes to weave their story and it works. From beginning to end,even through the heaviest scenes in the book that chemistry is present.

"...You're my wife." A smile chased across his lips. "My better half, to be certain." Leaning over her, he nuzzled into the fine trendrils that strayed over her forehead. His breath was hot and soft on her skin. "My prize... my pleasure and endless desire. I've never known anyone like you, Evie." His lips touched gently at the bridge of her nose and slid down to the top. "You dare to make demands of me that no other woman would think of asking. And for now I'll pay your price, love. But later you'll pay mine...over and over..." He caught her trembling lips with his, his hands cupping the back of her head.
Evie's past is explored in detail in this book. On the other hand, Sebastian's past is touched on lightly in what I feel is a superficial and a rather off-hand manner. Interestingly enough, I was so taken by Sebastian St. Vincent's sexiness the first time I read this book, I didn't notice. During this re-read, I found myself wishing for a few more details about this man.

When it comes to secondary characters, Cam Rohan is the most prominent. He is introduced in Devil in Winter, as the bulk of the story takes place at Jenner's, the gambling club originally owned by Evie's father and now owned and managed by St. Vincent. Lillian, Annabel and Daisy, the other wallflowers, make appearances although they don't overwhelm the storyline.

Devil in Winter is one of my favorite Lisa Keyplas books and on my keeper shelf.

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Wallflowers Series, Book 3
Released: February 28, 2006
Grade: A-

Visit Lisa Kleypas here.

KMont's Year of the Historical 2010 Challenge - February Review
Nath's 2010 Re-Read Challenge- February Review

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

YotH Review: Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger

I planned to read and review a historical romance for my first Year of the Historical Challenge review. However, after reading Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger, I decided that since a book set in World War II qualifies by KMont's rules, this was going to be my review for this Challenge. The genre is a bit of a mixed bag, I've seen it tagged as YA, Literary Fiction, Sports Fiction, World War II, Men's Fiction, and well... you decide. I prefer to think of it as Fiction with Historical elements and think it deserves to be widely read. So here it is, my first YotH review.

Last Days of Summer is the story of Joey Margolis, neighborhood punching bag, growing up goofy and mostly fatherless in Brooklyn in the early 1940s. A boy looking for a hero, Joey decides to latch on to Charlie Banks, the all-star third baseman for the New York Giants. But Joey's chosen champion doesn't exactly welcome the extreme attention of a persistent young fan with an overactive imagination. Then again, this strange, needy kid might be exactly what Banks needs.
I loved the first book I read by Steve Kluger, Almost Like Being in Love, and yet Last Days of Summer still managed to surprise me. I don't think I expected to be caught up in the story or the characters in the same way. I was wrong.

Kluger takes us to Brooklyn, New York in 1940 to tell us Joey Margolis' story. He is a 12 year old Jewish boy who having recently moved from Manhattan with his mother and aunt becomes the neighborhood bullies' punching bag. Lacking a father figure in his life, Joey is desperately looking for someone to take that place. He chooses a reluctant Charlie Banks, the new 3rd Baseman for the New York Giants baseball team.

Joey is a smart-mouthed, needy, brilliant little boy who goes to great lengths to get what he wants. His imagination, determination and persistence become legendary throughout the story. Charlie is a baseball player through and through. An uneducated young man who doesn't necessarily make the best first impression, Charlie doesn't seem to be the best choice for hero worship. However, once Joey chooses Charlie he doesn't stand a chance, no matter his reluctance to accept that role. Kluger again uses his favored epistolary style to reveal Joey and Charlie's improbable story of friendship. Through letters, telegrams, report cards, tickets and other means of communication, this beautiful story of friendship and love unfolds as the characters are revealed.

Last Days of Summer accurately details some incredible New York baseball history (Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Yankees, New York Giants) and other teams as well, but baseball doesn't overwhelm the book. Also, through Charlie and Joey we glimpse the history of the times between 1940 and 1942 and slowly experience how things change and develop throughout the country. Kluger covers the slow escalation of World War II in Europe, Roosevelt's New Deal, Pearl Harbor, the Japanese-American's Relocation Centers in California, and finally our troops in the South Pacific. Although again, as with baseball, history does not overshadow the main story.

Atmosphere is important when setting a book during these times. Kluger achieves this by the usage of language and attitude, as well as by incorporating wonderful details such as: music, Broadway shows, famous personages, and using the names of businesses that were around in 1940's New York.

I laughed quite a bit while reading Joey and Charlie's sharp and witty exchanges and their improbable adventures, although I admit that the content itself pulled some emotional strings at the most unexpected of times -- Joey's Bar Mitzvah was one of the funniest and most emotional events and one of my favorite. There were wonderful secondary characters in this book that made this story work, even though Joey and Charlie were always the main focus. I personally fell in love with Joey's Aunt Carrie and the Rabbi (Rabby).

The end of this book was very emotional for me and quite beautiful in its own way. If you want to know why I was surprised, well... it's because this book is not really about baseball and being a baseball fan that's what I expected. Instead, Last Days of Summer is a beautiful story about a boy who needs, and a man who by answering that need fulfills his own.

Last Days of Summer is a book I couldn't put down once I read the first few pages. That makes two keepers by Mr. Kluger for me. Grade A

Visit Steve Kluger here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

2010 Year of the Historical Reading Challenge

I've joined the 2010 Year of the Historical Reading Challenge hosted by KMont from Lurv a La Mode. I love history and romance, so where's the challenge? Well, for many years I gave up on reading historical romances, instead I opted to read other genres. There's a period of time between the 1980s and 1990s that's a blank for me when it comes to certain authors and books. The challenge for me is to catch up with authors and books from that period of time that appeal to me. I've accumulated quite a few and have them on my TBR pile, I just need to read them.

The other part of this Challenge I love is that it's historical not just historical romance. I've been meaning to return to reading one of my favorite genres, historical fiction. This is a genre I have a passion for and one I have neglected for far too long. I hope this Challenge will help me get back on the historical fiction reading horse again.

KMont's rules are pretty basic:

a) 1 book per month for a total of 12 books. Review posted last week of the month.
b) Books can be new releases, old releases or re-reads.
c) Historical romance and historical fiction (any historical period).
d) Adult fiction or young adult.

I'm ready. Let's see how well this goes for me. Below, I'll be posting a list of books read with links to reviews as I go along. This should help keep it all organized and easy to manage. :)

January:  Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger (WW II) Review here
February: Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read) - Review here
March: Dark Angel/Lord Carew's Bride by Mary Balogh - Review here
April: Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi - Review here
          Her Colorado Man by Cheryl St. John - Review here
May: The Endearment by Lavyrle Spencer - Review here
June: Lavyrle Spencer: Morning Glory and Years - Review here
July: Love in the Afternoon (Hathaways, Book 5) by Lisa Kleypas - Review here
August: Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley - Review here
September: Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas (Re-read) 
                    A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Re-read) - Minis for both here
October: The Doctor's Wife by Cheryl St. John - Review here
November: Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt - Review here
December: A Bride in the Bargain by Deeane Gist - Review here