Review: Pirate’s Passion by Lisa Kessler + Giveaway

Review: Pirate’s Passion by Lisa Kessler + GiveawayPirate's Passion by Lisa Kessler
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genres: paranormal romance, urban fantasy
Series: Sentinels of Savannah #2
Pages: 311
Published by Entangled: Amara on November 12, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Samuel Keegan used to man the wheel of the Sea Dog over 200 years ago, but these days he’s the front man of a southern rock band. Rum and women are plentiful, but his world is changing rapidly now that his crew is back together searching for the Holy Grail to break their curse. But the quest leads him to a historian with raven hair and a wicked smile. She holds all the answers, but she could also spell death for them all.

Dr. Charlotte Sinclair works for the Maritime Museum in Savannah, an expert on ancient pirate wrecks. When a government agent requests her help in a top-secret investigation, she discovers not only is the Holy Grail real, but the lead singer of her favorite band is actually the immortal pilot of the Sea Dog crew.

The search for the Grail opens some dark secrets better left hidden, and Charlotte's life might depend on one Pirate's Passion...

Each book in the Sentinels of Savannah series is STANDALONE:* Magnolia Mystic* Pirate's Passion

My Review:

While the title of this series is reminiscent of the Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans, the story keeps giving me vibes that it’s related to Alyssa Day’s Warriors of Poseidon – along with a touch of a vampire romance series that I read a long time ago and now can’t recall the title of. And that’s going to drive me bananas until I figure out what it was.

Along with just a hint of the X-Files.

Only the beginnings of this mix were hinted at in the first book in this series, Magnolia Mystic. In that first story, readers were introduced to the immortal crew of the privateer Sea Dog, alive and mostly well over two centuries after their ship sank in the waters near Savannah.

Nearly, well, because their immortality seems to be wearing off.

The last treasure they took was the Holy Grail – and they all took a drink from the cup of immortality. But suddenly they aren’t healing as fast or as well as they used to. They decide to retrieve it from its hiding place and take another sip, only to discover that the cup is missing.

And that they aren’t the only ones after it. That’s where the X-Files come in, or at least Department 13, in the person of Agent David Bale.

That’s where we pick up the story in Pirate’s Passion. While Bale has already enlisted the help of the Sea Dog crew to retrieve the cup, they all need help figuring out who might have stolen it and why.

That’s where Dr. Charlotte Sinclair and the Savannah Maritime Museum come it. Charlotte is an expert on 19th century privateering in the Savannah area in general, and on the Sea Dog and its crew in particular.

She’s even written a book on the subject.

So it’s not much of a stretch to think that she might be able to help – once Bale reveals at least some of the truths to Dr. Sinclair. The big truth that “the truth really is out there” and that there are all sorts of legendary creatures that are not quite as legendary as she might have thought.

And that the crew of the Sea Dog, including the local rock singer she nearly went to bed with the night before, is alive and well and has been spending their eternity in Savannah. She’s not certain whether to be embarrassed about her previous encounter with Samuel Keegan, or to just go with the chemistry between them.

Her friends have all been telling her that she seriously needs to get a life – even if getting an immortal one isn’t quite what they had in mind.

Escape Rating B+: There is a LOT going on in this story. While Magnolia Mystic introduces the series, that was a novella. And now it kind of feels like a teaser. We met the crew and discovered their situation, but the wider (and sometimes wilder) world is mostly in the background. Which makes it a very nice introduction to the series but not critical to getting into this story.

Pirate’s Passion is where all the big guns and full-size cutlasses come out of their holsters and sheaths, and we learn just how different the world really is. While there is a romance in this story, and it looks like there will be in the rest of the series, the overarching story is urban fantasy.

This is our world, it just has a whole lot more…dimensions… than we are aware of. Many of those extra added attractions are interesting, some are very cool, and more than a few are quite deadly. As our heroine discovers, even if our hero isn’t certain whether that deadliness is something that he has to worry about – or not – or not yet.

The romance between Keegan and Char burns hot and heavy, but is often laced with tears. One of the dilemmas that ALWAYS has to be solved, resolved, or at least glossed over is what happens when one of the lovers is immortal. As far as they know, Keegan could live for centuries yet, where Char is mortal. If things go the way they have gone, his choices are to leave before his heart is too deeply engaged or watch her eventually grow old and die – if the dangers of their world don’t kill her first.

That this conundrum is resolved differently from the choices made in Magnolia Mystic gives the story some heft. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. (Also, one-size-fits-all is one of the ten biggest lies, right up there with “the check’s in the mail”, and “this will only hurt for a little while”)

This is also a series where, like Stargate and Anna Hackett’s Team 52 series, there is a government department tasked with dealing with the weird, that has a storage facility of dangerous artifacts. A department that employs agents who not only believe in the supernatural, but may also be a part of it.

Including Agent Bale, who has been fighting the bad guys longer than anyone expects. And where Char’s supposedly dead father has been hiding out from everyone who seems to be out to get him – on both sides.

So this is the book in the series where we learn just how big and bad the big bad is going to be. After all, if there are good guys on the side of the light, there must also be bad guys hiding in the dark. That there are multiple organizations out there who want to steal whatever artifacts Department 13 turns up for more-or-less nefarious reasons of their own makes sense in this context.

The world that the crew of the Sea Dog is a part of gets much bigger and much deadlier in this entry in the series. While I love the complexity of the world building, this is one of those times where it might have been better if it didn’t whack into the reader all at once – especially with Char’s own personal connections to the weird along with the crew of the Sea Dog finding out just how much is out there besides themselves.

Your mileage may vary.

That being said, I certainly enjoyed my second outing with the crew of the Sea Dog, if not quite as much as my first trip in Magnolia Mystic. I’m definitely looking forward to another voyage with this crew of pirates in Pirate’s Pleasure, sometime next year. Hopefully early next year!

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

To celebrate the release of PIRATE’S PASSION by Lisa Kessler, we’re giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card!

LINK: http://bit.ly/2y1fdsw

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing.  Giveaway ends 11/16/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.

 

Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Ninth Annual Gratitude Giveaway Hop, hosted by Bookhounds!

To thank YOU, my readers, I’m giving away a the winner’s choice of a $10 gift card or a $10 book. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more terrific prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

Review: Seasons of Sorcery by Amanda Bouchet, Grace Draven, Jennifer Estep and Jeffe Kennedy

Review: Seasons of Sorcery by Amanda Bouchet, Grace Draven, Jennifer Estep and Jeffe KennedySeasons of Sorcery : A Fantasy Anthology by Amanda Bouchet, Grace Draven, Jeffe Kennedy, Jennifer Estep
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: anthologies, fantasy romance
Pages: 410
Published by Brightlynx on November 13, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

WINTER'S WEB BY JENNIFER ESTEP

An assassin at a renaissance faire. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, if you’re Gin Blanco. This Spider is trapped in someone else’s icy web—and it seems like they don’t want her to leave the faire alive . . .

 A WILDERNESS OF GLASS BY GRACE DRAVEN

 The stretch of sea known as the Gray rules the lives of those in the village of Ancilar, including widow Brida Gazi. In the aftermath of an autumn storm, Brida discovers one of the sea's secrets cast onto the shore—a discovery that will change her world, mend her soul, and put her in the greatest danger she's ever faced.

 A CURSE FOR SPRING BY AMANDA BOUCHET

 A malevolent spell strangles the kingdom of Leathen in catastrophic drought. Prince Daric must break the curse before his people starve. A once-mighty goddess trapped in a human body might be the key—but saving his kingdom could mean losing all that he loves.

 THE DRAGONS OF SUMMER BY JEFFE KENNEDY

 As unofficial consort to the High Queen, former mercenary Harlan Konyngrr faces a challenge worse than looming war and fearsome dragons. His long-held secrets threaten what he loves most—and he must make a choice between vows to two women.

My Review:

Jeffe Kennedy seems to be participating in one of these fantasy romance anthologies every year, because that’s where I get them from. There’s always a story from her awesome Twelve Kingdoms series, and I’d get the whole thing for that alone. But the other stories are frequently awesome, occasionally even awesomer, so I’m glad to collect the set!

Seasons of Sorcery contains four fantasy romance novellas, all but one set in its author’s ongoing series.

Winter’s Web by Jennifer Estep is set in her Elemental Assassin series, which I haven’t read – or at least not yet. The story takes place at a Renaissance Faire in an urban fantasy-type world where magic exists but seems to be mostly, but not totally, hidden in plain sight. As I said, I haven’t read this series, but I still enjoyed the story. The Ren Faire setting always provides an interesting backdrop for urban fantasy, and this story is no exception. I suspect that the story didn’t have quite the resonance for me as it would for readers who are familiar with the series, but it still worked well and I didn’t feel lost at all. I liked it more than enough to put this series on the towering TBR pile!

Escape Rating for Winter’s Web: B+

Although A Wilderness of Glass by Grace Draven is set in her Wraith Kings world, which I have not read, the setting felt awfully familiar. Only because it was. This story is set in the same town and among the same people as Night Tide, her fantastic story in Teeth Long and Sharp. A story that I loved.

I didn’t find this story to be quite as good as Night Tide, possibly because it was a bit too reminiscent of The Shape of Water. Albeit with a slightly different version of the happy ending. At least as far as we know.

Escape Rating for A Wilderness of Glass: B

There’s nearly always one story in a collection that doesn’t work for me. It’s the nature of collections that you get to sample authors you may not be familiar with, but might like because they are like someone you already do.

Not that any fantasy romance reader is not familiar with Amanda Bouchet and her terrific Kingmaker Chronicles!

But A Curse for Spring by Amanda Bouchet is the story in this collection that just didn’t work for me. Which is ironic because it is the one story that is not in a previously created world of any kind. For this reader, the problem with this story was that it felt too obvious. It seemed clear from the very beginning what was going on, who was responsible, and how the problem was going to get solved. I kept wanting the story to either just get on with it or go someplace interesting – but it did neither.

Escape Rating for A Curse for Spring: C

Last but definitely not least, The Dragons of Summer by Jeffe Kennedy. This is the story that I got this collection for, and it did not disappoint – although it did occasionally infuriate – but in a good way.

This story is set in Kennedy’s Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms series. While it seems to take place directly after The Arrows of the Heart, much of the emotional heft of the story comes from its relationship to the heroine of her Chronicles of Dasnaria series. The long shadow cast by the lost Dasnarian princess Jenna still looms over her brothers Harlan and Kral. Neither of them know their sister’s fate, but both had a hand in setting her on her path.

It’s not just her brothers that are ignorant of whether Jenna is alive or dead. The final book in that series, Warrior of the World, is due out on January 8. I’ve never been so glad to have an ARC! It’s not so much that either the previous story, Exile of the Seas, or this short story end in a cliffhanger as that it is now obvious that Jenna’s fate is going to be the key that resolves EVERYTHING in both series.

It’s just the kind of ginormous wrap-up that makes readers salivate waiting for the next book in the series. But it also means that this story, of all the stories in the collection, is the one that really only makes sense if you’ve followed the series. And if you love fantasy romance and you haven’t read the series, what on earth are you waiting for? Begin your journey with The Mark of the Tala, and settle in for a marvelous read.

Escape Rating for The Dragons of Summer: A

Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the fourth annual Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island.

While it’s never too soon to start getting ready for the holidays, it IS just over a week before Thanksgiving, when the fun really begins!  It seems as if as soon as the turkey is roasted, even before the leftovers are consumed, the frenetic holiday season really begins.

“Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana,” but December flies like a super sonic transport – or a starship at high warp.

While you’re out – or while you’re online – shopping for everyone else, why not take just a minute to get something for your own Xmas stocking – or however you treat yourself during this holiday season?

I’m giving away the winner’s choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a book up to $10 US in value from the Book Depository. All you have to do is answer one little question in the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

Review: Apollo to the Moon by Teasel E. Muir-Harmony

Review: Apollo to the Moon by Teasel E. Muir-HarmonyApollo to the Moon: A History in 50 Objects by Teasel E Muir-Harmony
Format: hardcover
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: hardcover
Genres: science, science history
Pages: 304
Published by National Geographic Society on October 30, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository
Goodreads

A celebration of the 50th anniversary of NASA's Apollo missions to the moon, this narrative uses 50 key artifacts from the Smithsonian archives to tell the story of the groundbreaking space exploration program.

Bold photographs, fascinating graphics, and engaging stories commemorate the 20th century's most important space endeavor: NASA's Apollo program to reach the moon. From the lunar rover and a survival kit to space food and moon rocks, it's a carefully curated array of objects--complete with intriguing back stories and profiles of key participants.

This book showcases the historic space exploration program that landed humans on the moon, advanced the world's capabilities for space travel, and revolutionized our sense of humanity's place in the universe. Each historic accomplishment is symbolized by a different object, from a Russian stamp honoring Yuri Gagarin and plastic astronaut action figures to the Apollo 11 command module, piloted by Michael Collins as Armstrong and Aldrin made the first moonwalk, together with the monumental art inspired by these moon missions. Throughout, Apollo to the Moon also tells the story of people who made the journey possible: the heroic astronauts as well as their supporters, including President John F. Kennedy, newsman Walter Cronkite, and NASA scientists such as Margaret Hamilton.

My Review:

It is very rare for me these days to read a book in print – but for this I’m glad that I made the exception. It’s gorgeous, in its own geeky-techie-nostalgic way, and I am glad to have it on my shelves to pick up and dip into, over and over again.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, than this book is worth all the words, or at least all the words about the Apollo Space Program. It may not be the next best thing to being there – in space that is – but it does feel like the next best thing to being there at the National Air and Space Museum seeing these exhibits in person.

Reading these descriptions, accompanied by the carefully chosen pictures, gave this reader the feeling that I was touring the museum with the best tour guide in the universe standing at my elbow, telling me everything I wanted to know.

I kind of wish I’d had this book when I listened to Apollo 8 by Jeffrey Kluger, because these artifacts provide the perfect images to go along with the story as it played in my ears. I think this book could serve as the “accompanying illustrations” for many books about the Apollo Program.

The explanations that go with each picture of each artifact, explaining what it is, what it was for, and most importantly, who designed or created it and who they were and what brought them to the Space Program, brings to light, and back to life, the entire decade of the “Space Race” that put men on the the surface of the Moon.

The sheer scope of the project will make any reader wonder how we managed to accomplish so much in so short a time – and what a waste it is that we not only have not managed to capitalize on those achievements, but that we seemed to have actively turned away from the belief in the power of science that made the journey possible.

Reality Rating A-: I’m tempted to call this an “Escape” rating, or at least to wish that it was. Because I feel like we should be continuing the journey to escape this planet – and we’re not. It feels as if we are about as far from that possibility as we could be, with so many people refusing to believe in science, in the real science that both fueled and was fueled by the Space Program.

This is not a book with a continuous narrative – except the one in my head that says that we should have kept reaching outward. Instead we drew back, and are now amazed that a project this big and this long managed to not only get started but actually successfully completed. And then it petered out.

If you read science fiction, or science fact, have a “thing” for the space program (as I do) or just wish that we were still reaching for that “final frontier”, this book will fill you with nostalgia and sorrow.

But at least this book, and the artifacts that it so accurately and lovingly describes, will remain to speak to the future.

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 11-11-18

Sunday Post

On this day, one hundred years ago, at “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, the guns of the Great War finally went silent. Although it was only an armistice and not an actual peace, the final shots had been fired and the formal peace agreement, the Treaty of Versailles was signed the following year. This day is celebrated as Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth countries and Veterans Day in the United States.

Current Giveaways:

$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the November of Books Giveaway Hop
Paperback set of the Hidden Legacy series by Ilona Andrews

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane by JoAnn Ross is Linda R.

Blog Recap:

B+ Review: Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews + Giveaway
A- Review: An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
A Review: Imager by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
B Review: Midsummer Mayhem by Marty Wingate
B Review: Why Not Tonight by Susan Mallery
Stacking the Shelves (313)

Coming This Week:

Apollo to the Moon by Teasel E. Muir-Harmony (blog tour review)
Super Stocking Stuffer Giveaway Hop
Seasons of Sorcery by Amanda Bouchet, Grace Draven, Jennifer Estep and Jeffe Kennedy (review)
Gratitude Giveaway Hop
Pirate’s Passion by Lisa Kessler (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (313)

Stacking the Shelves

There’s a very tiny kitten trying to eat my ear as a type this. It’s very distracting – alternately ticklish and painful. I had to put her back in her playpen when she nearly succeeding in giving my ear another piercing.

It’s cold and rainy here in Atlanta, so it’s a lovely weekend for reading. And I have plenty of new stuff to choose from!

For Review:
Apollo to the Moon by Teasel E. Muir-Harmony
Cast in Oblivion (Chronicles of Elantra #14) by Michelle Sagara
Christmas Camp Wedding by Karen Schaler
Do You have Kids?: Life when the Answer is No by Kate Kaufmann
Mission: Her Security (Team 52 #3) by Anna Hackett
Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik

Purchased from Amazon:
Blackmark (Kingsmen Chronicles #1) by Jean Lowe Carlson
Bloodmark (Kingsmen Chronicles #2) by Jean Lowe Carlson
Debris & Detritus, the Lesser Greek Gods Running Amok by Patricia Burroughs (Editor), Rhonda Eudaly (Foreward), Max Adams, Toni McGee Causey, Mark Finn, Claire M Johnson, Jeanne Lyet Gassman, Michelle Muenzler , Robin D. Owens, Irene Radford, ChandaElaine Spurlock, Weyodi Squid, Beth Teliho, Antioch Grey, M.J. Butler
Goldenmark (Kingsmen Chronicles #3) by Jean Lowe Carlson
In the Stacks by Scott Lynch
Script of the Heart (Celta’s Heartmates #15) by Robin D. Owens
Unfettered by Shawn Speakman (Editor), Terry Brooks, Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Jacqueline Carey, Tad Williams, R.A. Salvatore, Naomi Novik, Geno Salvatore, Peter V. Brett, Daniel Abraham, Lev Grossman, David Anthony Durham, Peter Orullian, Blake Charlton, Michael J. Sullivan, Eldon Thompson, Robert V.S. Redick, Carrie Vaughn, Kevin Hearne, Jennifer Bosworth, Todd Lockwood, Mark Lawrence
Unfettered II by Shawn Speakman (Editor), Brandon Sanderson, Naomi Novik, Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Michael J. Sullivan, Janny Wurts, Bradley P. Beaulieu, Mark Lawrence, Seanan McGuire , Peter Orullian, Aidan Moher, Erin Lindsey, John A. Pitts, Anthony Ryan, Scott Sigler, Django Wexler, Rachel Caine, Sarah Beth Durst, David Farland, Terry Brooks
Unfettered III by Shawn Speakman (Editor), Tad Williams, Naomi Novik, Megan Lindholm, John Gwynne, David Anthony Durham, Katherine Arden, Callie Bates , Jason Denzel, Carrie Vaughn, Deborah A. Wolf, Anna Stephens, Patrick Swenson, Ramon Terrell, Peter Orullian, Terry Brooks, Lev Grossman, Seanan McGuire, Delilah S. Dawson, Mark Lawrence (preorder)

Review: Why Not Tonight by Susan Mallery

Review: Why Not Tonight by Susan MalleryWhy Not Tonight (Happily Inc., #3) by Susan Mallery
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Happily Inc #3
Pages: 384
Published by Hqn on September 18, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads


Susan Mallery welcomes you to Happily Inc, where true love isn’t just for fairy tales…

Natalie Kaleta will do anything for the artists at her gallery, including risk life, limb and the effect of humidity on her naturally curly hair. Braving a downpour to check on reclusive Ronan Mitchell, Natalie gets stranded by a mudslide at his mountain home, where the brooding glass artist reveals his playful side, sending her inconvenient crush from under-the-radar to over-the-top.

After a secret tore apart his family and made him question his sense of self, Ronan fled his hometown for Happily Inc, but the sunny small town can’t fix his damaged heart. He won’t give in to his attraction for beautiful, perpetually cheerful Natalie. She’s untouched by darkness—or so he thinks.

Natalie knows that when a heart goes through the flame, it comes out stronger. Life may not be a fairy tale, but sometimes dreams do come true. Why not this one? Why not tonight?

My Review:

Although this story, and the entire Happily Inc. series so far, are definitely contemporary romances, this entry in particular has every bit as much to do with family as it does with romance.

Not that hero Ronan Mitchell doesn’t need his family to find his HEA. Because he’s cut himself off from his brothers and his parents, and without them he can’t seem to find the inspiration he needs – and he does need it. Ronan, just like his brothers Nick and Mathias (and their piece of work father) is an internationally acclaimed artist.

Cutting himself off from the people who care about him – and who he’s currently unwilling to admit that he cares about as well, is also cutting him off from the wellspring that lets him create.

Natalie Kaleta crashes into his solitude and changes, well, everything. For the better. Not that it doesn’t take Ronan a while, a long while, to admit it.

Natalie, the office manager of the gallery where Ronan and his two artistic brothers all display their work, is also an artist herself. And she’s one of those people who cares deeply about the people in her life.

Unlike Ronan, Natalie has no surviving family-of-birth. Her father died before she was born and her mother raised her alone. They were two against the world until her mother died of cancer. But Natalie is not alone, finding herself stranded in Happily Inc. she found herself a job that gives her time to create and created a family-of-choice that sustains her.

She envies Ronan for his close-knit family, and thinks he’s a fool and an idiot for turning his back on them. And she tells him so when she gets stuck in his mountain house during a storm.

He still has a chance to mend fences with his family, fences that he tore down. His struggle is not unreasonable, but his continuing to be a butt-head about it certainly is.

Their forced proximity during the storm gives the sparks between them a chance to rise to the surface, so even though Ronan claims not to want a relationship with anyone, and Natalie is interested in finding commitment, they make a mutual decision to have fun while whatever they have lasts.

When Natalie figures out that she wants more – Ronan does what he does best these days and retreats to his castle, pulling up the figurative drawbridge behind him.

It takes some brotherly intervention to crowbar Ronan’s head out of his ass. But when he finally does, his new perspective lets him figure out what’s been right in front of him all along.

Escape Rating B: I returned to Happily Inc, in order to be taken away to a special little town populated with quirky people, based on an equally quirky PR stunt. There was no wagon train, there were no stranded brides – at least not in the 19th century.

Natalie, however, was a stranded bride in the 21st century – one who decided to make a life for herself in this little wedding destination town. She’s found a family-of-choice and a job that lets her focus on her art.

Ronan, on the other hand, came to Happily Inc. to hide away from his family in Fools’ Gold after a family mess came to light. Ronan’s father, the famous glass artist Ceallach Mitchell, revealed that Ronan was his biological son by someone other than his wife. That means that the four brothers that Ronan believed were his full brothers are only half brothers. That the brother he thought was his fraternal twin isn’t. And that the woman he believed was his mother has been lying to him all these years.

Ronan’s response is to run, hide and brood in Happily Inc. Two of his brothers, Nick and Mathias, follow him there. Their stories are marvelously told in You Say It First (Nick) and Second Chance Girl (Mathias). (As an aside, both of those titles make complete sense in the context of their stories. this one doesn’t and it’s driving me crazy.)

When Natalie gate crashes his solitude, he finally starts to realize that he needs people. She is well aware of it, but his head is too far up his fundament to see the light – figuratively and literally.

For this reader it felt like the romance took a back seat to the family drama – and that felt right. Ronan has to figure out his place in the world again, mend his fences with his family, and most importantly learn to trust himself and others again before he can even like himself enough to love someone else. Even someone has completely awesome and totally right for him as Natalie.

It’s an important part of the story that Natalie doesn’t try to “fix” Ronan, because you can’t really fix someone else’s problems. She does provide him opportunities to fix things for himself, and she does create situations where he can work on fixing things if he wants to try, but she doesn’t mend his fences for him – and she isn’t willing to settle for someone who always has one foot out the door.

And she repeatedly calls him on his bullshit – because it needs to be called.

In the end, Why Not Tonight was a heartwarming story about family, where the romantic happily ever after was the reward for the journey and not the central point of the book. I really like these people and especially this place and can’t wait to go back with Not Quite Over You.

Review: Midsummer Mayhem by Marty Wingate

Review: Midsummer Mayhem by Marty WingateMidsummer Mayhem by Marty Wingate
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Potting Shed #7
Pages: 278
Published by Random House Publishing Group on November 6, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

Shakespeare comes to Hampshire—and Pru Parke is cast into the role of cunning detective gardener once again.

Pru’s friends and neighbors are abuzz with the news of an acting troupe putting on an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And while many are eager to catch a glimpse of famed actor Ambrose Grant, Pru can’t wait to finally see the spectacular gardens of the private estate where the play will be performed. When the estate’s gardener abruptly quits—frustrated with actors trampling his beloved plants—Pru is called upon for her gardening expertise. She throws herself into creating magical woodland forest scenes, and is quickly drawn into the excitement of putting on a play, as she watches the drama on and off the stage. But the play’s suddenly no longer the thing, when one of the actors turns up murdered. 

Pru’s husband, Detective Inspector Christopher Pearse, relies on Pru’s knowledge of all the players in this particular intrigue, and Pru finds herself using rehearsals to investigate. But playing the role of private eye could prove perilous for Pru, as she closes in on a murderer who won’t let anyone—least of all the gardener—keep him from stopping the show . . . dead.

My Review:

The title of this one seems like kind of a double-pun to me. First, the mystery takes place during the rehearsals for a production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. But I also have the feeling that Greenoak, where amateur sleuth Pru Parke and her husband, D.I. Christopher Pearse, live, runs just second to the more famous Midsomer County in the number of murders per capita.

The Midsomer connection feels particularly apropos for this entry as one of the more famous members of the Shakespeare troupe has appeared on Midsomer Murders multiple times. (Truthfully, I suspect that every working actor in Britain has appeared on Midsomer Murders multiple times, whether on the way up, or on the way down. Just as every working New York actor has had multiple appearances in the Law & Order franchise!)

Pru Parke may have been bitten, just a bit, by the acting bug back when she was in school, but she makes her living as one of the estate gardeners at Greenoak, along with her older brother Simon.

Still, that long-ago bit of wishful thinking makes Pru an excellent candidate for set decorator/gardener/general dogsbody for the outdoor Shakespeare production that has taken over the extensive gardens of the closed-up estate next door.

That estate’s regular gardener is a bit of a recluse, and not all that fond of people in general – or actors in particular – and has taken himself off in a huff, leaving the Shakespeare company in the lurch and the estate’s owners in a bit of a pickle.

Pru steps in to fill the breach, with no idea what she’s letting herself in for. Only that one of the stars of the production is an actor that not only her late mother, but every woman of a certain age in town, had a crush on back in the day. (And if Ambrose Grant isn’t intended as an homage to Hugh Grant, I’ll eat a bouquet.)

While Pru is an expert gardener, she is in a bit over her head with the set design, at least until murder enters the scene. When it comes to figuring out whodunit, Pru has become rather expert – a fact that her police detective husband both adores and regrets.

He’s happy that they met in the middle of Pru’s first murder investigation, but always worried when she finds herself in the middle of yet another case.

Because her investigations, as helpful as they usually are, also usually put her right in the middle of the murderer’s path. A path that the murderer is usually determined to clear of all impediments – especially Pru.

Escape Rating B: The Potting Shed mystery series has been fun from Pru’s first outing in The Garden Plot. One of the things that makes this cozy mystery series so enjoyable, at least for this reader, is the character of Pru herself.

The series is Pru’s journey, and it’s been a fascinating one so far. It’s all the more lovely for it being a journey of a woman of a certain age starting her life over at midlife. Pru left behind a successful career in Texas to follow her heart, and to follow her mother’s footsteps back to England.

Along the way, Pru found a new life, fell in love and married, and discovered her long-lost brother. For those of us who are also of a certain age, it is fantastic to have a heroine who represents us, and who exemplifies all of those old cliches about being as young as you feel and that life begins at any age.

The background of this particular case was interesting. Putting on a play, or filming a movie, always makes for a scene rife with over-the-top personalities under high pressure, and provides a backdrop where a disparate group of people congregate to accomplish a goal without necessarily knowing each other.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream itself is a play within a play, and Midsummer Mayhem comes very close to being a play within a play within a play. There are certainly lots of players who know of each other if not actually know each other, lots of pressure, plenty of secrets, several illicit affairs and even long-lost lovers – and that’s just among the cast.

In that hothouse environment, it’s not really a surprise that someone ends up dead. Especially someone who seems to have been an complete ass – and not the kind portrayed by Bottom in the play.

It’s not a question of why the man is dead – it’s more a question of winnowing down the rather long list of suspects. I’ll admit that I guessed whodunit fairly early on. The fun in this particular case was in figuring out whether those two long-lost lovers would manage to figure out that they belonged together after all.

Just as in the play, a good time was had by all – except the murderer and his victim – and in the end, a lovely story is told, both to the audience watching the production and to the readers of Pru’s latest adventure.

Review: Imager by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Review: Imager by L.E. Modesitt Jr.Imager (Imager Portfolio, #1) by L.E. Modesitt Jr., William Dufris
Format: audiobook
Source: purchased from Audible
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy
Series: Imager Portfolio #1
Pages: 432
Published by Tantor Media on April 13, 2009
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Although Rhennthyl is the son of a leading wool merchant in L'Excelsis, the capital of Solidar, the most powerful nation on Terahnar, he has spent years becoming a journeyman artist and is skilled and diligent enough to be considered for the status of master artisan—in another two years. Then, in a single moment, his entire life is transformed when his master patron is killed in a flash fire, and Rhenn discovers he is an imager—one of the few in the entire world of Terahnar who can visualize things and make them real.

Rhenn is forced to leave his family and join the Collegium of Imagisle. Because of their abilities (they can do accidental magic even while asleep) and because they are both feared and vulnerable, imagers must live separately from the rest of society. In this new life, Rhenn discovers that all too many of the "truths" he knew were nothing of the sort. Every day brings a new threat to his life. He makes a powerful enemy while righting a wrong, and he begins to learn to do magic in secret. Imager is the innovative and enchanting opening of an involving new fantasy story.

My Review:

This was a re-read for me. I first read Imager when it originally came out in 2009 because the cataloger in the next office was cataloging it and said it looked good. He was right. In fact, he was so right that I continued to read the series over the next decade. I finished the current final book in the series, Endgames, last month, and just couldn’t let this world go.

I hope I don’t have to, but the jury is still out on that.

The Imager Portfolio was written in a different order than the events take place in the created world of Terahnar. In the internal chronology, Scholar is first and Imager’s Intrigue is last. As the stories were written, Imager is first and Endgames is last. The internal chronology has the events of the, let’s call it the Quaeryt Quintet, first, the Alastar/Charyn Quartet second and the Rhenn Trilogy third – even though Rhenn’s story was the first one written.

I found myself really curious to see if the circle closed, if the events that occurred in Quaeryt’s, Alastar’s and Charyn’s stories actually led to the situation that Rhenn finds himself in at the beginning of Imager.

Also I remembered the original trilogy as a damn good story, and wondered if that would be true on a re-read. Actually a re-listen, as this time I got the unabridged audio.

There are themes that occur in all three of the subseries. I remembered Rhenn as a young man who had already planned his life, and was executing that plan, when fate intervened and he discovered that he had imaging talent.

I’ve invoked Rhenn’s memory often over the years, because his story is an interesting variation on the coming-of-age theme that so often permeates epic fantasy. Neither Rhenn, nor the author’s other heroes in this series, come of age during their stories. They are already adults, albeit generally in their 20s.

Instead, these are coming-into-power stories, where the protagonists have to adjust life plans that they have not only already made but have already begun working towards. They find themselves in unanticipated situations and things go sideways. They have to adjust and change to survive.

Or they won’t.

Within the opening chapters of Imager, I was both pleased to learn that the earlier history of Terahnar, and the country of Solidar, was anticipated from the beginning. Rhenn tours the Council Chateau with his father, and sees portraits of both Rex Regis, the man who becomes Rex in the Quaeryt Quintet, and Rex Defou, the Rex who is overthrown in Madness in Solidar. He also eyes a bust of Rex Charyn, the last Rex, whose exploits are completed in Endgames.

I’ll admit this worries me a lot about the possibility for further crises in the history of this place to be explored. Because the circle does seem to close and the loose ends do seem to get wrapped up.

I can still hope.

On re-listening to the story, I discovered that while I had lost most of the details of the story over the years, the outline was still clear. And still wonderful to read – or have read to me.

While at times Rhenn feels a bit too good to be true, he is also an intelligent and likeable hero. We do see more of his early years than I remembered, but the story really kicks into high gear when Rhenn is in his mid-20s, at the point where he is forced to give up his dreams of becoming a master portraturist and crosses the Bridge of Hopes to Imagisle.

From there, the story is off to the races, almost surprisingly so for a story that goes into a great deal of detail about Rhenn’s training as an imager. If you enjoy books that cover intensive training periods, this one is a treat.

Because Rhenn is not just learning to become an imager, he’s learning to become a spy and assassin and whatever else the College of Imagers needs him to become to keep the College, and the country of Solidar that defends it and that it defends, safe.

If he can manage to survive all the assassination attempts on his own life, that is.

Escape Rating A: This was as good as I remembered it. The story spends a bit more time than I recalled on Rhenn’s early years as a journeyman portraturist, which are necessary but not nearly as interesting (or potentially deadly) as his life rising through the imager ranks while trying not to end up dead.

One of the themes that has carried forward through the entire series is just how important the female characters are to the survival and success of the male protagonist. Seliora, like the life-partners of the heroes of the other stories, is Rhenn’s equal – and he recognizes that.

On the flip side, one of the things that grates more than I remembered is the negative attitude that Rhenn’s mother in particular displays towards everyone of Pharsi origin, like Seliora. Her constant stream of prejudice wears on the reader’s ears every bit as much as it does Rhenn’s.

Scholar by L. E. Modesitt Jr.As much as I wanted to slap his mother silly, it’s Rhenn’s story that I came to see. Or rather hear. It does feel like it fits in its proper place in this history, and follows very well after finishing Endgames.

Anyone who loves epic fantasy and has not indulged in the Imager Portfolio could happily start here, as I did in 2009. Scholar would make an equally fine start, at the beginning of the internal history.

Wherever you begin, there’s a LOT to love in this series, If you have not yet begun, I envy you the journey.