Review: A New Hope by Robyn Carr + Giveaway

new hope by robyn carrFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Thunder Point #8
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: June 30, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

After losing her child, Ginger Dysart was lost in grief. But since moving to Thunder Point, a small town on the Oregon coast, and with the help of her cousin Ray Anne, Ginger is finally moving forward. Her job at the flower shop is peaceful and fulfilling, and she’s excited to start her first big assignment, assisting with the Lacoumette wedding.

In spite of her lasting heartache, Ginger finds herself swept up in the pleasure of the occasion. But the beauty of the Lacoumette farm and the joy of the gregarious family are ruined by an unfortunate encounter with the bride’s brother, Matt. Struggling with painful memories of his own recent divorce, Matt makes a drunken spectacle of himself and Ginger when he tries to make a pass at her, forcing Ginger to flee the scene in embarrassment.

But when Matt shows up at the flower shop determined to make amends, what started out as a humiliating first meeting blossoms into something much deeper than either of them expected. Discovering they have a lot in common, they form a solid friendship, though everyone around them worries that Ginger will end up with a broken heart yet again. But if Ginger has the courage to embrace the future, and if Matt can finally learn to let go of the past, there may still be hope for a happy ending.

My Review:

Welcome back to Thunder Point Oregon, where everyone gets a second chance at love, and at finding their own happily ever after. It’s a place where you make your family out of your friends as well as whoever you were born to, and where if you don’t have enough strength on your own to see you through there is always someone willing to pay someone else in town forwards by helping you out.

This is a place that I would love to visit.

one wish by robyn carrA New Hope is kind of a continuation of One Wish (reviewed here). In One Wish, Grace Dillon and Troy Headly find that they are perfect for each other, even if they couldn’t possibly come from different starting places. But at the end of the story, while Grace and Troy are ready to get married, Grace is also dealing with the news that her domineering mother has ALS. And Grace is pregnant.

So a big chunk of the story in A New Hope is the finishing up of that story. Much of the action revolves around Grace and Troy’s wedding, and their need to get a house ready for Grace’s increasingly infirm mother. Everyone in town pitches in to finish the house, get Winnie settled, and get everyone in town for a beach wedding before Grace is too pregnant to fit into her wedding dress.

promise by robyn carrBut the very beginning is at Peyton’s wedding to Scott, after their story in The Promise (reviewed here). It’s a big wedding on Peyton’s family’s farm, and the Lacoumettes invited everyone in their vast extended family, and everyone in Thunder Point, to the celebration.

Two people aren’t really celebrating. Matt Lacoumette, Peyton’s brother, is drunk and belligerent. His failed marriage started in a wedding just like Peyton’s, less than two years ago. He’s divorced and bitter and not sure where to go with his life. He’s angry with his ex, and doesn’t want to fail again.

Ginger Dysart is finally recovering from the end of her own marriage and the death of her infant son to SIDS. It’s been a long road back from gripping depression for Ginger, and she’s only at the wedding to help her boss Grace with the flowers.

Grieving Ginger and Mad Matt collide. Matt is drunk and grabby, and Ginger clocks him one. He hits the deck, and from that very inauspicious beginning, the start of a beautiful friendship is surprisingly born.

They find that they can share anything with each other, because they’ve both been wounded in the same way. Someone they thought they loved failed them, and they failed themselves.

Out of that healing, they find love. But where Ginger has been able to let her selfish ex go, Matt seems to be unable to forgive himself for things that are too painful to reveal. He can’t let himself grieve and move on, because he can’t let himself confess that he has something to grieve for.

Matt and Ginger are more alike than they ever knew. But they can’t build a future together if Matt keeps dragging the past behind them both.

The Wanderer By Robyn CarEscape Rating B+: As much as I love this series, I think we’ve reached the point where player needs to meet scorecard. This is a series about a small, tight-knit community, and everyone is involved in everyone else’s business. A lot of the action that isn’t directly part of Matt and Ginger’s romance takes place at Cooper’s beach bar and grill. Cooper’s story started the whole series off in The Wanderer (reviewed here) and that is going back a ways.

Also, the characters in this entry, and the rest of the series, are usually introduced a book (or two, or three) before they get their romance. We get to know them first, and why they deserve to get that second chance at happiness. Everyone is related to everyone else, and everyone helps everyone else out. It makes Thunder Point feel like a wonderful town. But the relationships are getting beautifully dense for those of us who have followed the series from the beginning.

It’s impossible not to like Ginger. Although her ability to forgive her ex seems like it’s a bit too good to be true, once we see the whole picture, it does make sense. And she was in such a deep well of depression when she showed up at Ray Anne’s doorstep in One Wish. She’s had her heartbreak, and with her aunt’s help and a lot of her own pluck she has emerged older, sadder and wiser. Wise enough to let herself fall in love again without letting herself get stuck in her old pattern of waiting on tenterhooks for scraps of affection.

wildest dreams by robyn carrAt first, Matt seems like an irredeemable jerk. He gets better. He has also learned from his mistakes, he just hasn’t grieved them yet and gotten them out of his system, so he occasionally gets mad at Ginger for stuff that has nothing to do with her and everything to do with the reasons his first marriage failed. She calls him on his crap and makes him clean it up before she’s willing to make things permanent.

This time, it looks like Ginger and Matt are finally going to marry the right people. They just have to work for it a bit first.

As is usual for this series, while we are enjoying Matt and Ginger’s romance, we are also introduced to the people who will be featured in the next book, Wildest Dreams. I can’t wait to see how this one is going to turn out!

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of A New Hope to one lucky U.S. winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Phoenix Inheritance by Corrina Lawson

phoenix inheritance by corrina lawsonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Institute #4
Length: 278 pages
Publisher: Samhain
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

To save their son, they might have to sacrifice their love—and their lives.

Ex-Navy SEAL Daz Montoya and rescue dog handler Renee Black have made a career out of saving people. But when their whirlwind affair resulted in pregnancy, Daz’s verbal fumble tore their budding relationship apart.

It’s been a tough eight years for Renee, raising Charlie alone with his autism-fueled impulsiveness, but she’s managed—until now. When she has to chase him to the edge of a cliff in a snowstorm, seeing the face of their rescuer is just the rotten cherry on top of an already rough day.

In the close confines of a snowbound cabin, Renee and Daz rediscover the heat still simmering between them. But while Renee welcomes Daz’s renewed determination to help Charlie however he can, she’s reluctant to trust him with her heart.

With the Phoenix Institute’s help, Renee and Daz discover their son’s gift for animal telepathy is real. And that to save him from old enemies that would kill to control him, they must join forces—and risk losing everything they’ve ever loved.

My Review:

Back in Issue 5 of Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly I reviewed Corrina Lawson’s entire Phoenix Institute series to date. Because I can’t leave a job unfinished, and because I wanted to read the rest of the story, I’m back with a review of the final book in the series, Phoenix Inheritance.

When last we left our heroes…no that’s not quite right.

phoenix rising by corrina lawsonDaz Montoya has been part of the main sequence of The Phoenix Institute (Phoenix Rising, Phoenix Legacy, Ghost Phoenix) from the very beginning. But Daz doesn’t have any superpowers of his own. Daz was hired by the late and completely unlamented Lansing to both babysit firestarting telekinetic Alex and help Alex become the leader of a paramilitary team.

When Alex finally rebels against his psychopathic foster father in Phoenix Rising, Daz follows the kid he has trained, and leaves Lansing in their burning dust. As Alex has taken over the Institute, Daz has continued to lead the team.

But in Ghost Phoenix, Daz discovered just how difficult and deadly it can be to be the human pinball in a contest between two supers – and Daz has the hand-shaped burn scar to prove it.

Daz is used to being the biggest and baddest thing out there, and he’s having a damn hard time figuring out how to “level up” in a world where he is just a vulnerable human and his opponents can read his mind, control his body, or set him on fire with a thought. And when they heal in an instant, and he definitely doesn’t.

Daz has another big adjustment to make. While he was still a Navy SEAL, he very unofficially participated in the rescue of a downed plane filled with medical supplies and personnel headed for a refugee aid station. As part of this off-the-books search and rescue mission, he met Renee Black and her beautiful SAR dogs Thor and Loki.

The affair between Renee and Daz burned hot, and produced a child. But Daz couldn’t make the right words come out of his mouth to tell Renee he loved her, and Renee has Charlie without him. Even though Daz continues to meet his obligations where Renee and Charlie are concerned, he’s not the 24/7 parent that Renee is forced to be.

Daz is a part of Charlie’s life, but 2 weekends a month are not enough for him to absorb, or even accept, that his eight-year-old’s autism is real and that keeping Charlie mostly on track is wearing Renee down. No one can be on watch 24/7 indefinitely and not hit burnout.

Until a freak snowstorm and a feral cat conspire to get Daz back in Renee and Charlie’s lives long enough for a whole bunch of home truths to finally sink into his skull. It takes a whole host of crises to finally get Daz to accept Charlie exactly for who he is, and for him to figure out that in order for him to have a place in Renee’s life, he has to accept her as a full partner, and not someone he holds at arm’s reach.

And that Batman still has a place in the Justice League, even though he doesn’t have any superpowers of his own.

Escape Rating B: As much as I enjoyed Phoenix Inheritance, it felt like a story in the middle, and it leaves a lot of loose ends dangling regarding the Institute that I hope get picked up, and wrapped up, in a later book that does not currently seem to be on the drawing board.

The story between Renee and Daz also has a feeling of being “in the middle” because so much of their story, the mission where they met, is told in flashbacks that interrupt the story in the present. I found those flashbacks informative but a bit jarring. I was invested in the story in the present and felt like I was getting enough information about how they started that I didn’t need to see all the details – I was much more interested in how they were going to resolve their current problems.

Which are, admittedly, huge.

The biggest thing is that Daz keeps treating Renee as someone he needs to protect, instead of as someone who is right in there with him. He hasn’t let her into his life. And this is crucial, because Charlie says that animals talk to him telepathically, not that he uses that term. Renee believes Charlie is imagining what he wants to hear because he has a very powerful and inventive imagination. She doesn’t know that telepathy is real, but Daz does and doesn’t share that information.

Charlie’s potential telepathy puts him in danger from the same forces that are targeting the Phoenix Institute, and Daz doesn’t do a proper threat assessment because he just doesn’t want to admit that his son is autistic.

Of course, there is evil afoot, and that evil is after Charlie, just as they are after everyone connected with the Phoenix Institute. I feel so sorry for the poor cat that they use as both bait and trap, and I’m glad that Odin finds a much better home with Charlie – who really does understand him.

The issues that remained from Ghost Phoenix, that Rasputin and his gang of extra-fanatic crazies are after Alex and anyone connected with the Institute, are not resolved at the end of Phoenix Inheritance. While they managed to neutralize his local representative, that presence also made it apparent that there are plenty of tentacles left on this particular monster.

So the story ends with everyone currently safe, but with the sure and certain knowledge that evil is still out there and still has them in its sights. So even though the romance between Daz and Renee has reached a lovely Happy For Now, a happy ever after seems far outside everyone’s control.

I hope we find out how they neutralize Rasputin one of these days. This series deserves a fitting and final wrap.

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-28-15

Sunday Post

We’re on the road again, so any scheduled winner announcements will appear next week. Which will be the July 4 weekend in the U.S., and probably no one will care until after the weekend.

ALA san francisco 2015This weekend we’re in San Francisco at the American Library Association Annual Convention, hopefully not freezing. I’m referring to the famous quote attributed to Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” SF can be a bit chilly, but I’ve never found it to be quite that cold. And a few days in the 60s are going to feel quite refreshing after weeks in the 90s in Atlanta.

Ironically, the research seems to say that when Twain first made the original statement, he was not referring to San Francisco, but Duluth Minnesota. I currently live in Duluth Georgia, which was named for (you guessed it!) the city in Minnesota.

I keep reminding myself that every place has something that sucks, weatherwise. Atlanta and the South in general, are hotter than Hades in the summer, but generally lovely in the winter. Chicago had horrible winters, and hot summers, but the spring and fall are marvelous. Anchorage totally sucks in the winter, but summers are usually sweet, although apparently not this year. And, just to keep things really interesting, you have to get used to the earthquakes. But I grew up in “Tornado Alley”, so there’s always something.

Current Giveaways:

Ruthless by John Rector

on a cyborg planet by anna hackettBlog Recap:

C+ Review: Dissident by Cecilia London
B- Review: Ruthless by John Rector + Giveaway
B Review: Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell
B+ Review: Valentine by Heather Grothaus
A- Review: On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett
Stacking the Shelves (141)




freedom-to-read-giveaway-hop1-237x300Coming Next Week:

Phoenix Inheritance by Corrina Lawson (review)
A New Hope by Robyn Carr (blog tour review)
The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs (review)
Freedom to Read Giveaway Hop
A Sword for his Lady by Mary Wine (blog tour review)
Duke City Desperado by Max Austin (blog tour review)

Stacking the Shelves (141)

Stacking the Shelves

Today, I am in San Francisco at the American Library Association Annual Conference, surrounded by aisles and aisles and piles and piles of books and ARCs. I will be desperately attempting to resist temptation, or at least channel it into requests for NetGalley and Edelweiss eARCs instead of overloading my suitcase.

Again. <sigh>

For Review:
The Drafter (Peri Reed Chronicles #1) by Kim Harrison
Ether & Elephants (Gaslight Chronicles #8) by Cindy Spencer Pape
The Obsidian Temple (Desert Rising #2) by Kelley Grant
Rockies Retreat (Destination: Desire #5) by Crystal Jordan
Space Cowboys & Indians (Cosmic Cowboys #1) by Lisa Medley
Tales by Charles Todd

Purchased from Amazon:
Wildfire on the Skagit (Firehawks #9) by M.L. Buchman


Review: On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett

on a cyborg planet by anna hackettFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genre: science fiction romance
Series: Phoenix Adventures #6
Length: 78 pages
Publisher: Anna Hackett
Date Released: December 21, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

After a vicious coup, cyborg Axton Saros, Prime of the planet of Centax, is trying to rebuild his world. Still recovering from his captivity and dark guilt, he won’t let anything get in his way. But a priceless artifact, stolen during the attack, is still missing and Axton wants it back. What he doesn’t want is the emotionless and infuriating Centax Security cyborg, Commander Xenia Alexander, heading the investigation.

Everybody knows CenSecs are the galaxy’s deadliest killers. So enhanced that their emotions are dampened to nothing. But Xenia’s been keeping a secret her entire life–her systems don’t work and she feels. Working with Axton to find the Codex Da Vinci, he makes every emotion in her flare to brilliant life, but to be the perfect CenSec, she must not succumb.

As they follow a trail of clues and booby traps, Axton vows to do everything he can to show his beautiful cyborg the pleasure she’s never experienced. Even if she fights him every step of the way. But as the hunt takes a deadly turn, their desire might be the only thing that can save Xenia from annihilation.

My Review:

on a rogue planet by anna hackettOn a Cyborg Planet is a direct follow up to the Phoenix Adventures story On a Rogue Planet (reviewed here). And while it isn’t necessary to read the entire Phoenix Adventures series in order to enjoy On a Cyborg Planet (although why wouldn’t you, the series is awesome) it probably helps continuity a LOT to read On a Rogue Planet first.

In Rogue Planet, Malin Phoenix and Xander Saros find an ancient Earth artifact and save Xander’s planet, Centax, from hostile invaders. It’s a fun story and a terrific human/cyborg romance.

But while Xander is out saving their world, his brother Axton Saros, the planetary leader of Centax, is being tortured for his security codes and secrets – which he does not give up, and Xander is finally able to send his best operative in to rescue his brother.

That operative is Commander Xenia Alexander of Centax Security. Xenia, like Xander in Rogue Planet, is a cyborg. Everyone knows that the implants that enhance the abilities of CenSecs (Centax Security members) inhibit the emotions of the CenSecs. The best CenSecs, like Xander and Xenia, are not supposed to be able to feel. Their implants supposedly filter out all emotion.

Most of the people on Centax seem to have some implants, but not even close to the degree that CenSecs do.

In Rogue Planet, Xander discovers that whatever he was told, or believed, about the lack of emotional capacity on the part of CenSecs was all a bunch of horsepucky. Because Xander very definitely loves Malin. Of course, he practically turned himself inside out trying to either not believe it was happening or fix it.

By the point of this story, Malin and Xander are definitely living their happily ever after on Centax. And it seems like Xander wants to make sure that his brother Axton finds the same happiness, no matter who it might be with.

Whether or not he knows that his brother is infatuated with his second-in-command or not, Xander definitely fixes them up. He assigns Xenia to Axton as his assistant and bodyguard, figuring that constant contact will break down the reserve on both their parts. Especially since Xander has always known that Xenia’s emotions were not suppressed. Xenia just learned to be a damn good actress.

Axton is hunting for one of the artifacts that were stolen while their planet was occupied by the disgustingly evil Rahl. Xenia is there to prevent him from setting off any remaining Rahl booby-traps, or at least to make sure he survives any he finds.

Neither of them has a clue that the traps were ingeniously designed to catch both of them. Or that Xenia’s awakened emotions are the only thing that can save her. But only if she loves Axton enough.

Escape Rating A-: This is a short novella, and it can afford to be. The worldbuilding has already been done in On a Cyborg Planet (Centax being the cyborg planet). All of the characters are introduced in the previous book.

The cyborgs remind me an awful lot of Data. They’ve been told that they are not supposed to feel, so they think they are broken when they do. Data was also told he didn’t have emotions, so he continued to believe that he needed an “emotion chip” to allow him to have feelings, even though his behavior shows that he has plenty of emotions all along. He just doesn’t know how to express them.

So we know all along that Xander feels quite a lot for his brother Axton, no matter how much he pretends that it is respect for their planetary leader and not simply love for the brother he likes and respects. Likewise, Xander knows that Xenia’s emotions have not been dampened. Even more important, he likes and respects her as a fellow officer. He also feels loyalty, which is yet another emotion.

Xenia rescued Axton at the lowest point in his life – saw him at his absolute worst. Even more important, she comforted him because she could tell he needed it. Those moments where she protected him from the world and gave him the strength to go forward have created a bond between the two of them. A bond that Axton wants to act on, and that Xenia fears will be her undoing.

It is beautiful to watch as that supposedly forbidden bond saves them both.

And the thought of a “First Lady” who can and will totally kick the ass of anyone who steps out of line is fantastic. I suspect it’s a talent that a lot of First Ladies would like to have.

sci fi romance quarterlyOriginally published at Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Valentine by Heather Grothaus

valentine by heather grothausFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: historical romance
Series: The Brotherhood of Fallen Angels #1
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Date Released: June 23, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Introducing the Brotherhood of Fallen Angels—an epic new series set in the medieval Holy Land, where four heroic Crusaders find themselves caught in the crosshairs of revenge, devotion—and love…

He’s a man of passion and principle. But would he kill for his convictions? That’s the question that has Valentine Alesander fighting for his innocence. He’s been accused, along with three other Brothers, of orchestrating the horrific siege at the Christian fortification of Chastellet. Could this fatefully-named Crusader be a lover, a fighter, and a traitor? One woman from his past is about to find out.

Gorgeous, free-spirited Lady Mary Beckham has escaped her guardians in England to travel across the world—and find the notorious Valentine. Years ago, she was promised to him…and now she wants out of their marriage contract. Mary wants to wed another and requires Valentine’s blessing—until she discovers they share a tempestuous attraction. But with a vengeful band of sworn enemies at Valentine’s heels, is desire worth the risk of losing…everything?

My Review:

Just like the heroine, I fell in love with the face on the cover of this book, and just couldn’t resist reading his story.

Now that I’ve read it, I’ll admit that the picture on the cover does not match the picture in my head, but there is still something arresting about that face. Also something slightly familiar. I think I’ve seen that face before.

Lady Mary Beckham has seen that face before too, but it is long before she remembers. When she was a baby, her parents contracted her in marriage to Valentine Alesander. His parents had saved her parents’ lives, taking them in at their estate in Aragon after a shipwreck.

This is the 1100s, and at least in England, a pre-contract was as valid as a marriage, and also an impediment to any other marriage that either party might want to get into.

Mary grows up with no knowledge of the contract. Her parents died when she was a child, and there is no one to tell her. Mary grows up alone except for servants, at Beckham Hall, and is the heir to her father’s wealth and title, as well as his protectorship of the Cinque Ports that control shipping into England.

In other words, Mary is a prize that no one has come looking for – until one knight breaches the castle walls. He claims to want to marry Mary, and the tale he weaves sounds like something out of the tales of Courtly Love. It is all very chaste, and very pure, and designed to steal Mary’s heart.

It’s only then, with the offer of marriage on the table, that Mary discovers that she is already married. Sort of.

All she has to do is find her erstwhile husband so that he can come back to England and quit his claim of her. Her future husband must never know.

Nothing could be that simple. Her contracted husband is a wanted criminal across all of Europe. He is accused of betraying an important castle to Saladin. It is the Crusades, after all.

With only a little money, a lot of desperation, and more pluck than she ever imagined she had, sheltered Mary Beckham makes her way across Europe to find the man who should have come for her.

Her journey back to England, with Valentine either helping her to elude their pursuit, or shaking his head at the latest mess she has gotten them both into, is an adventure that will change her life.

How else would a slightly dreamy, very sheltered young woman change from a perfect lady into a pirate?

Escape Rating B+: After the first chapter, this story is a delightful romp from beginning to end. The reader is pulled, along with Mary, on a madcap adventure that feels as if it came from the same kind of wildly improbable romance at the heart of The Princess Bride.

It isn’t quite as good, because that would be inconceivable! But Mary’s adventure and rescue, and rescue, and rescue, is in that same spirit, complete with its very own Dread Pirate Roberts.

While there are a couple too many times where the previously sheltered Mary gets them in trouble simply because she has no clue how the underbelly of the world works, combined with Valentine’s unwillingness, or sometimes inability to just tell her what the hell is going on and why, the mad race from Melk, Austria to the coast of England jumps out of the frying pan, into the fire, and back into the frying pan over and over. Valentine and Mary never seem to catch a break, and everyone, everywhere is after them.

Life on the run is one hell of a bonding experience, and Valentine and Mary are drawn to each other like iron filings to a magnet.

Of course, Valentine tries to do the right thing. He thinks that Mary is falling for him because they are on this adventure together, and not the other way around. He is sure that whoever is waiting for her is much better for her than he, wanted criminal that he is, could ever possibly be.

It’s not until the very end that they both finally figure out that not only do they truly love each other, but in a surprising twist of circumstance, her fiance is the evildoer who has been pursuing Valentine all along.

When that particular plot twist hit, I was filled with chagrin that I hadn’t seen it coming. I knew that Mary’s fiance was probably not nearly as virtuous as she thought, but I assumed that he was just after the title that came with her hand. He’s much, much worse than that.

If you are looking for a romantic romp that never lets up on the adventure or the romantic tension, Valentine is marvelous fun!

An Oath Broken Only Marriage Valentine Banner

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell

epitaph by mary doria russellFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 592 pages
Publisher: Ecco
Date Released: March 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands…

That was America in 1881.

All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26th when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.

Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.

Epitaph tells Wyatt’s real story, unearthing the Homeric tragedy buried under 130 years of mythology, misrepresentation, and sheer indifference to fact. Epic and intimate, this novel gives voice to the real men and women whose lives were changed forever by those fatal 30 seconds in Tombstone. At its heart is the woman behind the myth: Josephine Sarah Marcus, who loved Wyatt Earp for forty-nine years and who carefully chipped away at the truth until she had crafted the heroic legend that would become the epitaph her husband deserved.

My Review:

Epitaph is the story behind 30 seconds in the 19th century American West that live in myth and legend. 30 seconds that haunt the remaining years of the last survivor well into the 20th.

doc by maria doria russellWhere the absolutely marvelous Doc (reviewed here) relates the story of John Henry “Doc” Holliday in the years before he and the Earp Brothers, found themselves in Tombstone, Epitaph becomes, quite literally, the epitaph of Wyatt Earp, the last survivor of that bloody half-minute.

The title is also a terribly fitting pun. The Tombstone Arizona newspaper that covered the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral most insistently, and whose editor helped to incite the shootout, was the Tombstone Epitaph. Because, as the masthead famously stated, “Every Tombstone needs an Epitaph.”

The story of the famous gunfight, as told in this account, seems like layer upon layer of competing “spin”, culminating in a mostly fictionalized quasi-biography of Wyatt Earp that was published as fact during the Depression, over 50 years after the events.

Although it claimed to be based on Wyatt Earp’s recollections, it was probably mostly made up by the author, Stuart Lake. But it, and the movie based on it, and the TV show based on that, turned out to be not just perfect for the Depression, but also eventually perfect for the fledgling TV industry.

We’ll get back to that.

Most of the book is about the Earps’ and Doc Holliday’s, unfortunate decision to move to Tombstone and the two years worth of catastrophes that followed. Tombstone was a boomtown, with all of the lawlessness that name implies. The Earps, as a group, tended to become sheriffs or deputies or otherwise be on the side of law and order. They enforced the law so that some order could be maintained.

It was what they had done in Dodge City, but it turned out disastrously for them in Tombstone.

The opposition, not just in the gunfight but in the years previously, was a group that called themselves “Cow-boys”. These were not working cowhands, or ranchers. This was a group of men that made their living by stealing cows from across the Mexican border, and from other Arizona ranches, and then re-selling them to the Army or to the silver mines. They raped, murdered and generally pillaged, but Tombstone could never manage to convict any of them of anything.

They had bought off the judges, and terrorized the townspeople. No one stood against them, except the Earps. And that stand is what eventually got everyone involved killed. Some at the gunfight, but most in revenge afterwards.

After all of the dust had finally settled, months and multiple conflicting accounts later, Wyatt was the only survivor. The last third of the book is about Wyatt’s journey after his friends, his brothers and his enemies had died – many of the enemies at his own hand.

His story starts in one last reach for glory, and ends in obscurity.

Escape Rating B: I absolutely loved Doc, and was hoping for more of the same in Epitaph. While I enjoyed Epitaph, it didn’t work as well for me as Doc.

Partly it’s that we know more about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, even if what we know is wrong. We all have a pretty good idea of how this story is going to end, even if we don’t know the details of how they get there.

Because Doc takes place earlier, the devastating ending is still in the shadows, we don’t have to confront it. At the same time Doc Holliday is different character than Wyatt Earp. Doc was educated and especially articulate. He was also fully conscious of the ironies of his situation. His head is a more interesting perspective. And Doc’s story is going to end in tragedy no matter what happens – there was no effective treatment for tuberculosis in the 1870’s.

A lot of the story in Tombstone involves the lining up of the various factions. No one involved on either side seems to have been telling much of the truth, or even much of a consistent story. What we do see is the lining up of the “town” faction, always on the side of at least some kind of order, if not exactly law, and the ranchers on the opposite side who saw town as a place to cut loose, no matter how violently, when they wanted to let off a little steam. They did not want the town’s need for rules or law to impinge on their fun, or on their rights in the territorial legislature.

In some ways, it is easy to see the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as one of the last signposts on the history of the end of the “Wild West”. While the initial picture is very confused, and both sides go on a spree of killing vengeance, in the end, civilization wins.

The focus of the story before the fight is on the Earps, and Doc by extension. We get involved in all of their lives, and come to understand just how they ended up where and how they did. But there is a lot of foreshadowing in the beginning of the story, and it feels heavy-handed. So heavy-handed that it breaks the fourth wall, and feels as though the author is speaking directly to the reader rather than telling the story.

The end felt dragged out. The last third of the book is Wyatt and his wife Josie’s journey all over the West, trying to find a place to settle and outrun or outlive his notoriety. It is both sad and anticlimactic, as Wyatt dies broke and Josie descends into dementia. That Wyatt’s history is whitewashed and reborn on TV is not something that either of them lives to see, even though the sanitized version is the one that Josie always wanted to be told.

Reviewer’s note: My first conscious exposure to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a very bad Star Trek episode, Spectre of the Gun. In the episode, the Enterprise crew take the places of the Cow-boys, who in history were the villains of the piece. In the illusion they are stuck in, circumstances as somewhat otherwise. Of course.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Ruthless by John Rector + Giveaway

ruthless by john rectorFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery/thriller
Length: 270 pages
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Date Released: June 1, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Nick White is the only person who can save Abigail Pierce. After uncovering a plot to have her killed, he attempts to warn her but instead puts himself squarely in the crosshairs. They know who he is, they know where he lives, they know how to get at his family.

Drawn into the conspiracy surrounding Abigail, Nick soon discovers the danger is bigger than he ever believed. Now he must uncover the truth to save her and himself.

My Review:

duke city hit by max austinRuthless reminded me a lot of The Dismantling by Brian DeLeeuw (reviewed here) and Max Austin’s Duke City series (Duke City Split and Duke City Hit, reviewed here and here).

Why? Because in all these cases the protagonist is a guy who ends up involved in basically two-bit crimes. He’s not evil, he doesn’t intend to become a career criminal, but he just takes the easy way out one time too often and finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in way over his head.

Also, in both Dismantling and Ruthless, the poor schlub is misled by a woman who he wants to believe is basically innocent, and turns out to be anything but.

Ruthless also takes a surprising turn into lab-based science fiction, but we’ll get there in a minute.

At the beginning of the story, Nick White is at his regular bar, talking to his regular bartender and feeling regularly sorry for himself. His wife is over him because he keeps gambling, and often losing. Even worse, he gambled away their savings – and her trust. It’s not clear whether Nick is addicted to gambling, or if he’s just good enough at it that he generally walks away ahead – just not ahead enough.

His life is basically on the skids when he decides to play a prank on a drunk woman who walks into the bar. She thinks he’s the person she was planning to meet. It’s only after she staggers away that he opens up the manila envelope she left him. (Why is it always a manila envelope?)

The lady was expecting to meet a hitman, to contract with the guy to off her step-daughter. Because Nick’s luck is running true-to-form, meaning bad, the real hitman walks in as Nick is skulking out, and the really bad guy figures out who Nick is and what he has let himself in for.

Nick’s life goes all downhill from that point. Not that it had far to roll.

He should call the police and turn the evidence over to them. Instead, he decides to warn the intended victim.

Abigail Pierce looks like innocence personified. When the bad guys show up and start cutting her, Nick will do anything they say – and anything Abigail says, to keep her, and himself, and his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and possibly his dad, from being murdered.

He should have run as fast as he could, and left Abigail to her well-deserved fate. By the time he figures things out, he’s much, much too late to save anyone – including himself.

Escape Rating B-: At first, it just seems like Nick is out of luck and over his head. After his initial mistake, he keeps trying to do the right thing. It’s only as he gets deeper in to the quagmire that he finally figures out that everyone on all sides is using him.

He doesn’t even know what it is he is being used for. Poor schlub.

For all of Nick’s faults, and he has a bunch, he can’t see through Abigail’s innocent act, and he can’t believe that everyone is lying to him all the way around. For a guy who supposedly makes a living as a gambler, he does a lousy job of reading everyone’s tells.

dismantling by brian deleeuwAt first, this story seemed pretty familiar – it was a better written version of the story in The Dismantling. Nick gets sucked in to a life of crime, or at least a life on the run, by trying to save a woman who doesn’t really need saving. What made this one different is what he finally discovers he is saving Abigail for, or from. Or not.

Abigail and her stepmother appear to be fighting over the estate of a wealthy industrialist, the man they have in common. The question is presented to Nick as a matter of who gets the vast estate when the guy dies, which is expected to be soon.

It’s really about the details of his research. Abigail is the result of a experimental genetics lab. (This bit reminds me just a little of Orphan Black). Abigail wants the details of the research that created her, because she wants to start it up again. Her stepmother won’t deal with her, so she enlists Nick as a go-between. Also as a patsy.

This one ends up being about who is using who.

I’m not totally sure about the science fictional nature of the reason why Abigail gets Nick into this mess. There was plenty of thriller there if Abigail was just a typical heir trying to stay alive to inherit, and if she and her stepmother were in the middle of some mutually assured destruction without the lab-related distraction.

You will end up feeling sorry for Nick. He should have seen it at least some of it coming.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

I’m giving away a copy of Ruthless to one lucky U.S. or Canadian commenter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Dissident by Cecilia London

dissident by cecilia london alternate coverFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: contemporary romance, political thriller
Series: Bellator Saga #1
Length: 274 pages
Publisher: Principatum Publishing
Date Released: March 17, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

She once was important. Now she’s considered dangerous.

In a new America where almost no one can be trusted, Caroline lies unconscious in a government hospital as others decide her fate. She is a political dissident, wanted for questioning by a brutal regime that has come to power in a shockingly easy way. As she recovers from her injuries, all she has are her memories. And once she wakes up, they may not matter anymore.

Dissident is part contemporary romance and part political thriller, with elements of romantic suspense and speculative fiction. Told mostly in flashback, it details the budding romantic relationship between our heroine Caroline and Jack, the silver fox playboy who tries to win her heart.

My Review:

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Actually, the state of Pennsylvania, and apparently the rest of the U.S. Not that we find out nearly enough about what’s gone wrong in the first book of the Bellator Saga.

Most of this story is told in flashback. Actually, so much of it is flashback that it feels like the few bits that are in the main character’s “present” feel like flash forwards. This feels like the very beginning of how things got the way they are, but it is so far back that there are no hints of the awful future that will come to pass.

It’s not that the future in Caroline’s world isn’t awful – because the tiny bits of it we see definitely are. It’s that we see nothing of even the very beginning of the road to hell – we just find ourselves with Caroline in the handbasket.

A handbasket which is still dark and not well lighted with description. All we see of it are Caroline and her husband attempting to escape to Canada, a doctor murdered, and Texas and California seceding from a very shaky locked-down Union.

Caroline is in a medical coma in a hospital, after a sadistic beating by the soldiers of this new republic, where the former U.S. Representative has been declared a dissident, for reasons that the readers still do not know by the end of the book.

What we see in the past is Caroline’s rocky road to romance with her second husband, also a U.S. Representative. It is a heart-warming and occasionally heart-rending romance between two adults who both have some serious damage.

Caroline is a relatively young widow. Her first husband died in an automobile accident, skidding on black ice and totaling the car and himself. (After the end of the story in the present, one can’t help but wonder if it was really an accident, but without enough information yet to determine why it might not have been.)

Jack is a rich playboy who seems to have bought himself a House seat. While he does a good job as a freshman congressperson, he has spent his life with his eye on the next chance. He sees himself as completely shallow, but seems to have fallen in love, for reals, with the likable and anything but shallow Caroline.

Also she’s a Democrat and he’s a Republican, but they both have a history of reaching across the aisle. That by the end of the book he wants to lead her down an aisle is a bit more reaching than either of them expected.

First they will have to get past his betrayal of their trust. The entire length of their relationship, he’s been planning to run for Governor of Pennsylvania, and never bothered to tell her. When the flashbacks end, their relationship is on extremely shaky ground.

When the story ends in her present, she is waking up from her coma to the memory of exactly how severely she was beaten. But we, the readers, still don’t know why.

Escape Rating C+: While I enjoyed this while I was reading it, there wasn’t anything that compelled me to keep going. I’m not sure why that is, but it is.

The one thing that drove me bananas is that there is nothing in Caroline’s flashbacks, and no details in the present, to let me know how the hell things got so f’ed up. While the details may be premature in the way that the author is telling the story, I need to have clues about how things got the way they are, and I felt completely dissatisfied at the end that there wasn’t anything to help me out.

I have a nasty feeling that this is going to be like Babylon 5, where a repressive government takes control of Earth through a coup that appears legitimate, then insidiously uses quasi-legal means to ramp up fear, create secret organizations that spy on citizens in the guise of safety and peace, and then outright repress all resistance until rebellion breaks out and planets and peoples start seceding.

But I’m guessing because I don’t know. I didn’t find any hints and that frustrates me no end. Most of the time, I felt like I was reading a contemporary romance. A pretty decent contemporary romance at that.

However, I needed to see where the shadows come in to accept this book as anything more.  And I just didn’t find the signs and portents I needed for that.

I also recognize that what I am looking for is intended to appear in later volumes. This is a serial novel rather than a series, and Dissident is only part one. My frustrations with it make me realize that I just don’t care for the serial novel concept. I need my stories to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, even if, as with books in a series, the end is a pause rather than a complete finish. There is still some intentional closure in each book in a series, and I like my stories that way.

As always, YMMV.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-21-15

Sunday Post

For those of you wondering who won some of the recent giveaways, I was able to catch up now that I’m back home.

ALA san francisco 2015Next week I’ll be at the American Library Association Annual Conference. This year, ALA has done something sensible for a change. We’ll be back in San Francisco. Because San Francisco is generally cool, or cool-ish in the summer, it’s a perfect place to have to be dressed up and running around, unlike last summer in Las Vegas. Or next summer in OMG Orlando. If ALA decided to have every Midwinter Conference in San Diego or San Antonio, and every summer in San Francisco (with the occasional break for Chicago) that would be just fine with me. But c’est la vie.

For anyone who loves fantasy, and has not yet read The Goblin Emperor, go forth and get a copy post-haste. I have seen it described as manner-porn, which is a term I’d never heard before. The Goblin Emperor is set in a world where manners don’t just make the man (or elf, or goblin) but they also keep him alive in the midst of his enemies. It certainly runs counter to the recent spate of grimdark fantasy. And it is simply awesome.

There are still a couple of days left to get in on the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop. Just tell us who your favorite heroine is for a chance at either a $10 Gift Card of a $10 Book of your choice.

Current Giveaways:

favorite heroinesFlirt and Loveswept mugs + ebook copies of Rock It by Jennifer Chance, After Midnight by Kathy Clark, Alex by Sawyer Bennett, Wild on You by Tina Wainscott, Plain Jayne by Laura Drewry, and Accidental Cowgirl by Maggie McGinnis from Loveswept
$10 Gift Card or book in the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of her choice of title in Jeffe Kennedy’s Twelve Kingdoms series is Kristia M.
The winner of The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller is Maria S.
The winner of Let Me Die in his Footsteps by Lori Roy is Brandi D.

goblin emperor by katherine addisonBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
B- Review: Zack by Sawyer Bennett + Giveaway
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell
B Review: The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe
Stacking the Shelves (140)




valentine by heather grothausComing Next Week:

Dissident by Cecilia London (review)
Ruthless by John Rector (blog tour review)
Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell (review)
Valentine by Heather Grothaus (blog tour review)
On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett (review)