Review: The Art of Deception by Leonard Goldberg

Review: The Art of Deception by Leonard GoldbergThe Art of Deception (The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries #4) by Leonard Goldberg
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery
Series: Daughter of Sherlock Holmes #4
Pages: 320
Published by Minotaur Books on June 16, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

"Suspenseful and entertaining, with many twists and turns....This is one of the best Sherlock Holmes series since Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell books."—Historical Novel Society

USA Today bestselling author Leonard Goldberg returns with another puzzling case for the daughter of Sherlock Holmes to unravel in this exciting mystery, The Art of Deception, sure to be enjoyed by fans of Sherlock Holmes as well Laurie R. King and Charles Finch.
In the west end of London, an apparently crazed individual is on the loose, breaking into art galleries and private homes to slash valuable paintings of women. Despite Scotland Yard’s best efforts, the criminal remains at large and continues on his destructive path.
When Joanna and the Watsons are called in to solve the mystery, they soon discover that although the canvases have been slashed, their backings remain pristine, with no cuts or scratches. The criminal, it seems, is no mere vandal—he's searching for something hidden behind the portraits.
Suspicion soon falls on two skilled art restorers who previously worked at the gallery where all the vandalized art was purchased. When Joanna finds the body of one in a bricked off fireplace at the gallery, the other is left as the prime suspect. But then he's discovered dead as well. Luckily, Joanna has a plan for ensnaring the criminal once and for all. But it must not fail, or more paintings—and lives—will be lost.

My Review:

I picked this one up as a bit of a “palate cleanser”. The book I had planned to read was supposed to be a take-off on Holmes and Watson, and it kind of was? But it just wasn’t hitting the sweet spot, leaving me in the mood for something Holmes-ish but not quite so historical – or honestly quite so slow to get itself off the ground.

Then I got an eARC of the NEXT book in this series (The Abduction of Pretty Penny), remembered I still hadn’t read the last one, and, as the saying goes, “Bob’s your uncle.” Or in this case, your aunt, as this series follows the adventures of, not Sherlock Holmes, but his daughter Joanna.

As chronicled by her assistant, partner and husband, Dr. John Watson the younger. Not that Watson the elder isn’t still around and still extremely helpful, but this series is told from the perspective of his son, who is Joanna (Holmes) Blalock Watson’s second husband.

The case that is presented to Joanna and company is every bit as twisted as any that her famous progenitor tackled, with a solution that at first seems every bit as elusive.

There has been a series of crimes committed in art galleries and private art collections. One would think that a crime in that setting would be theft. After all, there are plenty of pricey paintings on display. But this particular series of crimes consists of breaking, entering and vandalizing.

The paintings seem to have three things in common. They all feature the faces of women. They have all been recently restored. And they’ve all been slashed with a sharp knife from the front without slicing open the back.

The authorities, in the person of Inspector Lestrade, can’t seem to find a common element to either the paintings or the crime scene. Of course, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes can.

The only problem with Joanna’s hypothesis is that of the two men she believes committed the crimes, one is in prison and one is in Australia. The authorities could be wrong. Or Joanna could be mistaken.

Which do you think is more likely?

Escape Rating B: On the one hand, this did do what I wanted it to. I sunk right into this world as soon as I opened the book. On the other hand, it didn’t quite hit that sweet spot – but it did get way closer than my previous book.

There’s something about this series, as well as the Lady Sherlock series, that hits that “almost but not quite” button. But it’s not the same something.

The difference is that Charlotte Holmes, Lady Sherlock, is THE Holmes, except, except, except. Except she’s female instead of male. Except that she is subject to all of the strictures and restrictions that governed respectable female behavior in the Victorian era. Except that the number of people who know the truth about Sherlock Holmes can be counted on one hand with fingers left over.

Joanna Blalock Watson is the daughter of Sherlock Holmes, as she is referred to so damn often that the sobriquet seems to substitute for her actual name. There are times when she is introduced that way, as though she has no identity separate from her father’s exploits.

But Holmes did not raise Joanna, so while it might be possible or even probable that she would have inherited his genius and his innate talents, occasionally the sheer number of his tics and habits that she also inherited seems a bit much.

Joanna also reads almost like a caricature of her father’s famous persona as a “thinking machine”, except for her marital relationship with the younger Watson and her rather overwhelming maternal instincts towards her son Johnny Blalock. Charlotte Holmes reads as more of a “whole person” than Joanna. YMMV.

As Joanna is Holmes’ daughter, this series does not take place in the Victorian Era. Instead, this story is set in 1916. Which seems odd now that I think about it, as this story takes place in the middle of World War I, which isn’t even mentioned anywhere in the narrative. Nevertheless, the century has definitely turned, Queen Victoria is more than a decade dead, dusting for fingerprints has become standard police procedure, and telephones are commonplace, as are automobiles. Joanna’s world is not remotely as restricted as Charlotte’s, which allows the pace of the case to gather more steam. Or should that be horsepower?

Part of the twist in the case is that it seems like the perpetrators are obvious fairly early on. Then they aren’t. And then they are again. There’s also a hidden criminal but that person’s participation in the crimes is even more obvious – not because they’ve done anything obviously wrong, but because they’re so obviously slimy. The bigger twist was the reason for the crimes. There is a lot of fascinating information – and even more contentious opinion – running through the whole story when it comes to Renaissance painting as well as the restoration and forgery of the same.

And the MacGuffin that Joanna finally uncovers? It’s a masterpiece. Possibly even a real one!

Review: Masquerade in Lodi by Lois McMaster Bujold

Review: Masquerade in Lodi by Lois McMaster BujoldMasquerade in Lodi (Penric and Desdemona #4) by Lois McMaster Bujold
Format: ebook
Source: purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy
Series: Penric and Desdemona #4
Pages: 103
Published by Spectrum Literary Agency on October 14th 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

Bastard’s Eve is a night of celebration for most residents in the canal city of Lodi -- but not for sorcerer Learned Penric and his Temple demon Desdemona, who find themselves caught up in the affairs of a shiplost madman, a dangerous ascendant demon, and a very unexpected saint of the fifth god.
This novella falls between “Penric’s Fox” and “Penric’s Mission” in the internal chronology of the Penric & Desdemona tales.

My Review:

Penric, whose adventures have featured in this novella series since its beginning in Penric’s Demon, is a fascinating character. Or perhaps that should be characters. And that is part of the fascination.

Because Penric was knocked sideways out of the life he planned to lead by the advent of Desdemona in his life, and there his adventures definitely began.

That sounds like a romance, doesn’t it? But that’s not what this is. Not at all. Not that Penric doesn’t have his own romantic adventures, and not that Desdemona didn’t have hers. Two centuries worth of them.

In the World of the Five Gods, those five gods are not just worshipped. They are real, can appear before their followers, and can act directly upon the world. But mostly they act indirectly, through their priests, their learned divines, of which Penric is one, and their god- or goddess- touched Saints, one of whom is featured in this entry in the series.

Those gods are the Mother, the Father, the Sister, the Brother and the fifth god whom Penric serves, the “master of all disasters out of season”.

Penric is a Learned Divine of the White God, the Lord Bastard. Desdemona is the demon who shares Penric’s head. They are partners. He provides the physical body which allows her to move in the world, and she gives him magic. And the benefit of her two centuries of experience – sometimes whether he wants it or not. From Penric’s perspective it’s often like have a dozen older sisters and aunts giving him advice whether he’s asked for it or not. Generally not.

The series began when Desdemona jumped from her previous host, the dying Learned Divine Ruschia, to young Penric, knocking his life into another channel from the one he was expected to have as the younger son of a prosperous landowner.

He also expected to be bored out of his skull, but life with Desdemona inside his skull has been anything but boring. Often dangerous, occasionally life-threatening, but never, ever dull.

In Masquerade in Lodi, Penric is definitely not bored. Tired, footsore, terrified and manipulated, occasionally all at the same time, but never, ever bored.

Even if the story begins by his thwarted attempt to take a half-day off in preparation for the local festival in honor of his god. But then, the Lord Bastard is the god of misfortune and bad luck, along with prostitutes, executioners and vermin.

And Penric runs into pretty much all of the above as he attempts to squire a very young Saint of his order along on a mission to find a demon-touched man who may or may not be either a murderer or a potential victim. Or both.

Whether he is saint or villain, the young man’s mother is still expecting him to come home. It’s up to Penric, with the help and sometimes hindrance of the saint, to make it happen.

Escape Rating B+: The beginning of Masquerade in Lodi may be a bit confusing for faithful readers of this series. The book published immediately before this one, The Physicians of Vilnoc, takes place several years and a whole lot of life and adventures after Masquerade in Lodi. Some fairly dangerous and rather significant adventures, including Penric’s marriage.

Those events are still in Penric’s future in Lodi, and it takes a bit of a reset to get one’s reading self back on track. A worthwhile mental adjustment, but definitely an adjustment. The book whose events immediately precede this one is Penric’s Fox, and that was several books ago.

On my oft-cited other hand, one of the things that this entry in the series does very well, is to not just tell its adventure but also to show and not tell a whole lot more about how the system works.

By that I mean the system of gods, temples, demons, saints and worship. Because this religion functions for the actual good of its people, which is rare in fantasy. Usually the “church” is a source of evil or oppression or corruption or villainy or all of the above. Not in the World of the Five Gods.

So when Penric is called to the dockside mission to investigate the case of a man who might be demon-touched or might merely be out of his own head, it’s normal and accepted and expected. When Penric discovers that the poor man is harboring an untamed demon, there are no torches and pitchforks. No signs of the “evil eye”.

Instead, there’s a process in place for Penric to take the poor man to a Saint of the White God to have the demon taken by the Lord Bastard. A process which the victim will survive.

Except, it’s not nearly that simple. Otherwise there wouldn’t be an adventure. But in the discussion between Penric, his demon Desdemona, all of the Temple officials who become part of the merry chase of the escaped victim, the young Saint who is occasionally god-touched but always way more observant and intelligent than anyone expects, we learn a wondrous amount of stuff about this world, how it works, and both Penric’s and his god’s place in it.

And we get a tour of friends and enemies in low places, because nothing about the victim, the demon, or the reason they met in the first place is remotely as it seems.

Discovering how everyone got to be in this pickle in the first place is all the fun.

Review: The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons

Review: The Memory of Souls by Jenn LyonsThe Memory of Souls (A Chorus of Dragons, #3) by Jenn Lyons
Format: audiobook, eARC
Source: purchased from Audible, supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: epic fantasy, fantasy
Series: Chorus of Dragons #3
Pages: 640
Published by Tor Books on August 25, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The Memory of Souls is the third epic fantasy in Jenn Lyons’ Chorus of Dragons series.
THE LONGER HE LIVESTHE MORE DANGEROUS HE BECOMES
Now that Relos Var’s plans have been revealed and demons are free to rampage across the empire, the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies—and the end of the world—is closer than ever.
To buy time for humanity, Kihrin needs to convince the king of the Manol vané to perform an ancient ritual which will strip the entire race of their immortality, but it’s a ritual which certain vané will do anything to prevent. Including assassinating the messengers.
Worse, Kihrin must come to terms with the horrifying possibility that his connection to the king of demons, Vol Karoth, is growing steadily in strength.
How can he hope to save anyone when he might turn out to be the greatest threat of them all?

My Review:

This shouldn’t work. It really, really shouldn’t. But it oh so very much does.

The Memory of Souls is the third book (out of five, dammit) in A Chorus of Dragons. With each book, the plot gets more convoluted, the politics get both more corrupt and even more twisted, the cast of characters grows almost exponentially, and things go pear-shaped so often and in so many different and competing ways that the shape has become a permanent condition.

And it all just keeps getting better and better with each installment.

The whole thing is also so inverted and convoluted and twisted and upside-down and every other direction that it should take forever to get into each new book. But it doesn’t. The minute I start, I’m instantly sucked right back in, and all the insane details come rushing right back.

At least the details I think I know. Part of the incredible charm of this series so far is that what I think I know, for that matter what the characters think they know, keeps doing handstands and kickstands and headstands.

Nothing is as it seems. Or perhaps it’s better to say that no one is as they seem. Or both. Definitely both.

The Ruin of Kings was a sword. The Name of All Things was one of the cornerstones of this world. Following the pattern, I was expecting The Memory of Souls to be an object of some sort.

But it’s not. It’s literally the memory that souls carry with them of who they were, in ALL their previous lives. It’s as if, in the iconic Star Wars scene, instead of saying, “Luke, I am your father” Vader had said, “Luke, in my last life I was your father.” Which actually happens to one of the characters in THIS story, and it has just as much impact.

That’s a big part of the way that this entry in the series makes everything more and more and even more complex. Because all of the protagonists don’t just know who they are – for sideways definitions of “who” and “they” and “are” – but they also remember who they have been in all of their previous lives.

Every single relationship in the present is complicated by the relationships in the past. In a previous life, Teraeth and Janel were married. In that previous life, Kihrin was the son she died birthing. Although in a previous life to that one, Kihrin and Janel were lovers. In this life they’re probably going to end up as a triad, if they survive – GIGANTIC IF – and if they can manage to get past all of the crap they’re all dragging from all of the previous relationships between them.

Theirs isn’t even the most complicated. In this life, Doc is Teraeth’s father. The Goddess of Death is Teraeth’s mother. And Doc’s wife Valathea used to be Kihrin’s harp. Like I said, it’s complicated.

This is also one of those epic fantasies that I refer to as “walking like a duck and quacking like a duck but not actually being a duck.” Like Pern. A Chorus of Dragons reads like fantasy, including magic and those dragons. But the original people on this planet are all interplanetary refugees. So it’s also sorta/kinda science fiction-y.

And it absolutely has to be read in order to make any kind of sense. So you care about Kihrin and Janel and Teraeth and Thurvishar – and whether any of them are going to manage to survive the saving and destroying of the world. Because they’re probably going to be simultaneous. Or close to it. And possibly even in that order.

Unless Kihrin manages to find another way to get them all out of the mess that the beings known as the 8 Immortals, or the 8 Guardians, who are thought of as gods but definitely are not, have gotten them all into.

Whether Relos Var, who began as the villain and may still be the villain, or maybe not, is planning to save the world or end it or both. This is literally a story about the end of the world as they know it, and so far, nobody feels fine. At all. Or thinks they ever will again. In any life.

Escape Rating A++: Last year’s entry in this series, The Name of All Things, was the first time I officially gave an A++ rating. The Memory of Souls is a worthy successor. This is a rare case where an epic fantasy series seems to just keep getting better and better as it goes along – as well as getting way more complicated – while still remaining fascinating and comprehensible to anyone who has been along for the entire ride.

In other words, and I really can’t say this enough, you can’t start here, you have to start at the beginning – and it is so worth it.

I have the eARC of this one. I’m generally an ebook reader. But this is one story where the audiobook is vastly superior. There are several reasons for this. One is just the way that the story is being told. In this entry, Kihrin and Thurvishar are reading pieces of the story to each other, up until the very last chapter when Thurvishar is left to, let’s call it, speculate about what happened after he and Kihrin parted company.

They’re reading their own personal accounts plus every other scrap of information that Thurvishar, seemingly the official chronicler, has managed to gather. But Thurvishar is a historian and an academic, as well as, in the opinion of at least one of their sometime companions, a storyteller who can’t seem to resist making things up on entirely too many occasions. As he does at the end of this book.

Which also means that Thurvishar doesn’t just read his own parts to Kihrin, he can’t manage to stop himself from commenting on ALL of the parts, adding facts and opinions willy nilly. Something which works fantastically well in audio, and fails miserably in an ebook. Making this a rare case where my first choice would be the audio and the hardback second.

Especially considering that the readers for this entry in the series, Feodor Chin and Vikas Adam, are utterly fantastic. I just wish I was 100% certain which of them is Kihrin and which is Thurvishar. It doesn’t matter for the enjoyment of the audio, I just really, really want to know.

I finished the audio in the middle of Atlanta rush-hour traffic and just kind of sat there and stewed as I drove the rest of the way home. This series gives rise to absolutely epic book hangovers, fitting for this truly epic series.

I expect this series to just continue getting better and better. After all, The Memory of Souls is a middle-book that completely ignores that it’s a middle book, refuses to end in a slough of despond and instead leaves the reader hanging, absolutely on fire, at the edge of a cliff.

I can’t wait for book four, The House of Always, scheduled for May of 2021. Not nearly damn soon enough. Although I’m still laughing about the God of Little Houses. And you will, too.

Review: The Secret Women by Sheila Williams

Review: The Secret Women by Sheila WilliamsThe Secret Women by Sheila Williams
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: relationship fiction, women's fiction
Pages: 304
Published by Amistad on June 9, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The author of Dancing on the Edge of the Roof, now a Netflix film starring Alfre Woodard, returns with a riveting, emotionally rich, novel that explores the complex relationship between mothers and daughters in a fresh, vibrant way—a stunning page-turner for fans of Terry McMillan, Tayari Jones, and Kimberla Lawson Roby.

Elise Armstrong, Carmen Bradshaw, and DeeDee Davis meet in a yoga class. Though vastly different, these women discover they all have one thing in common: their mothers have recently passed away. Becoming fast friends, the trio make a pact to help each other sort through the belongings their mothers’ left behind. But when they find old letters and diaries, Elise, Carmen, and DeeDee are astonished to learn that each of their mothers hid secrets—secrets that will transform their own lives.

Meeting each month over margaritas, the trio share laughter, advice, and support. As they help each other overcome challenges and celebrate successes, Elise, Carmen, and DeeDee gain not only a better understanding of the women their mothers were, but of themselves. They also come to realize they have what their mothers needed most but did not have during difficult times—other women they could trust.

Filled with poignant life lessons, The Secret Women pays tribute to the power of friendship and family and the bonds that tie us together. Beautiful, full of spirit and heart, it is a thoughtful and ultimately uplifting story of unconditional love.

My Review:

I picked this up because the story was wrapped around family secrets that three women discover in the process of grieving for their mothers’ deaths. This was also the central theme of another book that I read recently, the excellent but completely different Millicent Glenn’s Last Wish by Tori Whitaker.

Although the stories share something besides their theme, as both are set in my own hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.

I’m attracted to stories like these because I lost my own mother three years ago this December. Everyone’s grief process is different, although stories like this certainly all live up to that old saying about all happy families being alike while misery seems to have a thousand mothers – and fathers.

But stories like this one have resonance for me, especially this time of year, and especially when the women are somewhere in mid-life or thereabouts, as Elise, Carmen and DeeDee certainly are.

All three women are somewhere in mid-life, all are black, and all are having difficulties dealing with the deaths of their mothers – however recently or not. And all of them are stuck wading through the detritus left behind, both in the sense of physical material and emotional baggage.

Elise in particular has an entire apartment full of stuff to go through and make decisions about. Her mother was a ruthlessly organized woman, which is the only thing that kept her from being featured as a hoarder. Her condo and its storage area are full to the brim with her many, many collections, starting with, but definitely not ending with, 15 complete sets of dishes. Not 15 place settings of dishes, 15 sets of 12 or so place settings each. Along with similar amounts of clothing, jewelry, collectibles, knick-knacks and whatnots. Lots of whatnots.

So these women bond, a bit over their yoga class and their snarky comments about their rigid drill instructor of an instructor, somewhat over the losses they haven’t managed to process, and definitely over a shared need to make peace with the women their mothers’ were by dealing with the secrets they left behind.

And the boxes. Boxes of jewelry, boxes of letters and especially boxes of secrets that bring home the realization that none of them really knew their mothers, not the secret women that their mothers really were.

Escape Rating A: Elise, Carmen and DeeDee have reached this point from three very different journeys, and the secrets that they uncover, both about their mothers and about themselves, are all equally different. They cover a spectrum of mother-daughter relationships and women’s lives that will have a lot of resonance for any woman.

Elise is the one with the most regret, DeeDee is the one who has the most to remember, and Carmen is the one who uncovers the biggest revelation.

There, that was cryptic.

Elise has both the hardest journey, because her loss is the most recent, but also the simplest. She has to empty her mother’s condo and she has to forgive herself for not accepting her mother’s new romantic relationship. Her mother moved on from her father’s death, while Elise mostly didn’t. But there are relatively simple ways for Elise to still find closure and forgiveness, and she eventually does. Her issues aren’t easy – none of this is easy, but they are simple.

DeeDee, whose mother has been gone the longest, has to reach back into her own memory to reset what she thinks and feels about her mother, and how those memories have affected her relationships with her sister and her own daughters.

Bipolar disorder runs through DeeDee’s family, and her mother suffered from both that disorder and severe postpartum depression, which most likely exacerbated each other. The traumatic childhoods of both DeeDee and her sister – who inherited the disorder – still haunts her. In finally opening the boxes her mother left behind, DeeDee is finally able to remember the good as well as the bad, and to begin to let her own daughters know the artistic genius their grandmother was.

The secrets that Carmen uncovers change her perception of who she herself is and her place in the world, as the boxes her mother left behind reveal her life as a young woman, before she married Carmen’s father and became a preacher’s wife. A time when she traveled the world. A time when she married Carmen’s natural father. When she became a very young widow, and when her young husband’s mother erased both Carmen and her mother from her dead son’s life. Because his mother never accepted her son’s black, gentile wife and their mixed race child.

Carmen’s mother believed that her first mother-in-law’s rejection and erasure was solely because she was black. It’s possible that at least some of that attitude was religiously motivated, as it was not unheard of for Jewish parents at that time to consider a child who married outside the religion to be dead and to perform funeral rites over them, to sit shiva and say kaddish. Whatever the motivation, it was despicable treatment that sent Carmen’s mother back home to her family, to her childhood best friend, to the man who Carmen knew as her father for her entire life.

Until she opened those boxes and discovered her mother’s past.

But all three women find a marvelously supportive friendship with each other. A burden shared is, after all, a burden halved. Or in this particular case, thirded. They all find some much-needed closure, they all make a bit of peace, and they all move forward. For this reader, the story was tremendously cathartic, especially as I found touchstones to my own journey among theirs.

I really wish I could take that yoga class with them – although I’m not too sure about maintaining the headstand pose. But friendship like theirs definitely be worth the effort!

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-25-20

Sunday Post

The picture below is titled Ethereal Freddie for the way the light is shining in his face. It could also be “Mischievous Freddie” as this is one of his little tricks to get attention. Both because he’s up on the headboard over Galen’s head, and because he’s about to play with the lampshade. Freddie is not the most graceful cat, and this particular position pretty much guarantees that he’ll either fall on Galen’s face, pointy-side out, or that he’ll knock the lamp off the table onto the floor, causing an unholy clatter and if he’s really lucky, a broken light bulb. If he’s especially clumsy, both. It’s guaranteed to cause human panic and garner him some negative attention, so he wins no matter what happens.

But he’s adorable all the same. We love him. We love him even when he’s driving us bananas.

And we have books. We always have books! I’ve been listening to The Memory of Souls for WEEKS, and I finally finished it. It’s every bit as awesome as the previous books in the series, and I wanted to finish it faster, but I’m not doing nearly as much driving as I used to. And while I do have the ebook, this series works so much better in audio. This story has footnotes, which flow much better when read as asides by the narrator, and both of the narrators are marvelous.

Current Giveaways:

The Light at Wyndcliff by Sarah E. Ladd
$10 Gift Card or $10 Book in the Thanks a Latte Giveaway Hop
$10 Amazon Gift Card from Sophie Barnes and A Duke for Miss Townsbridge

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Millicent Glenn’s Last Wish is Laura D.
The winner of Return to Virgin River is Danielle H.
The winner of the Meowloween Giveaway Hop is Ashley T.

Blog Recap:

A Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
B+ Review: A Duke for Miss Townsbridge by Sophie Barnes + Giveaway
B+ Review: The Troubleshooter by Anna Hackett
A- Review: The Light at Wyndcliff by Sarah E. Ladd + Giveaway
A- Review: Stories from Suffragette City edited by M.J. Rose and Fiona Davis
Stacking the Shelves (415)

Coming This Week:

The Secret Women by Sheila Williams (review)
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (review)
Masquerade in Lodi by Lois McMaster Bujold (review)
The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons (review)
Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark (review)

Stacking the Shelves (415)

Stacking the Shelves

I actually got books from the library this week! I’ve noticed that now that I’m no longer working at one, I get a lot fewer books there. This may also have something to do with the fact that I used to have at least some say in what books got purchased at libraries that I worked at, but I no longer do. So I don’t find as much that I want as I used to. There’s a message in there someplace.

I also picked up some books that look really fascinating. And one I got just for the title. That would be The Good, the Bad, and the Dumped. I’m really curious about that one, because haven’t we all been there?

For Review:
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
Blood Cruise by Mats Strandberg
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Doors of Sleep by Tim Pratt
Gifting Fire by Alina Boyden
The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
The Good, the Bad, and the Dumped by Jenny Colgan
The Helm of Midnight (Five Penalties #1) by Marina Lostetter
Immunity Index by Sue Burke
The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers
Love at First by Kate Clayborn
The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous
The Sculptress by V.S. Alexander
Seven Perfect Things by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Wild Women and the Blues by Denny S. Bryce

Purchased from Kickstarter:
The Year of the Cat: A Cat of Space and Time edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch & Dean Wesley Smith

Borrowed from the Library:
Just Watch Me (Riley Wolfe #1) by Jeff Lindsay
Long Bright River by Liz Moore
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende



Review: Stories from Suffragette City edited by M.J. Rose and Fiona Davis

Review: Stories from Suffragette City edited by M.J. Rose and Fiona DavisStories from Suffragette City by M.J. Rose, Fiona Davis, Kristin Hannah
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, short stories
Pages: 272
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on October 27, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

A collection of short stories from a chorus of bestselling writers all set on the same day, October 23, 1915, in which over a million women marched for the right to vote in New York City with an introduction by Kristin Hannah.
Stories From Suffragette City is a collection of short stories from the leading voices in historical fiction that all take place on a single day. The day one million women marched for the right to vote in New York City in 1915. A day filled with a million different stories, and a million different voices longing to be heard. Taken together, these stories from writers at the top of their bestselling game become a chorus, stitching together a portrait of a country looking for a fight, and echo into a resounding force strong enough to break even the most stubborn of glass ceilings.With stories from:Lisa Wingate, M. J. Rose, Steve Berry, Paula McLain, Katherine J. Chen, Christina Baker Kline, Jamie Ford, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Megan Chance, Alyson Richman, Chris Bohjalian and Fiona Davis

My Review:

Forget, if you can, the David Bowie classic song, Suffragette City, because the song wasn’t about these suffragettes, in spite of the title. And in spite of the song being the first thing that popped into my head when I read the title. To the point where I have an earworm.

But this book is something entirely different.

On October 23, 1915, 105 years ago today, between 25,000 and 60,000 women marched through the streets of New York, in front of at least 100,000 spectators lining the streets, blocking traffic and generally grinding the entire metropolis to a screeching and sometimes cheering halt.

The Five-Mile Suffrage Parade of 1915 (AP Photo)

New York State was just about to vote on a referendum that would allow women the right to vote. The parade was intended to draw concentrated attention to the referendum, to provide a clear and incontrovertible testament that women were political and should be granted the right to vote.

Not all women agreed. And certainly not all men, who would be the ones doing the actual voting, for or against. As it turned out, mostly against. The referendum failed in 1915. It succeeded in 1917. The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, whose centenary occurred earlier this year, gave all women the right to vote, even if it didn’t – and still doesn’t – mean that all women are actually able to vote.

Nevertheless, the October 23, 1915 parade was a watershed moment. And this collection of short stories that all take place on that day, within and surrounding that parade, tells the story of that moment and the women who were a part of it, through fictional perspectives from all sides, from the rich and famous – and occasionally infamous – Alva Vanderbilt Belmont to NAACP co-founder Ida B. Wells to Irish and Armenian immigrants to a young niece of the storied Tiffany family.

These are not any of their stories in their entirety. Rather, they are the stories of actions on that one, singular day, the thoughts, feelings and struggles that brought them to the parade, and the joy and occasional heartbreak that surrounded both its triumphs and its failures.

Escape Rating A-: It’s time to talk about the stories themselves.

This is one of those times when ALL the stories in the collection are just terrific. And that feels rare in collections. After all, not every style agrees with every reader. But this time, with its emphasis on this one day and all of the thoughts and feelings surrounding it, works. (If the concept of stories around a significant historical event appeals to you, Fall of Poppies, focusing on the cessation of the hostilities of World War I on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is also very lovely and well worth a read on this coming, or any other Veterans Day.)

Back to the stories. Although I will say that the differing perspectives that these stories focus on do lead the reader down plenty of mental and emotional byways. The day may have been singular, but the perspectives on it certainly were not. That’s what makes the collection as a whole so fascinating.

Many of the stories deal with women’s responses to the men in their lives who are either against the idea of women’s suffrage or just think that marching is unseemly and unsafe, and that women are delicate flowers that need protection from the dirty scrum that is politics.

Two of the particularly excellent stories on this topic are A First Step by M.J. Rose and Deeds Not Words by Steve Berry. A First Step also introduces the character of young Grace Tiffany, who flits through almost every story in the book. But in this first story about her, she and her aunt Katrina are planning to march in the parade, even though Grace’s uncle, Charles Tiffany, thinks it’s too dangerous and thinks he’s succeeded in convincing little Grace. He hasn’t. In the end, Grace convinces him.

There are also several stories that focus on the women who were, in one way or another, not welcome in this parade of mostly privileged white women. Ida B. Wells isn’t there. Rather, in Dolen Parkins-Valdez’ story, American Womanhood, Wells is in Chicago, speaking to a group of black women about the issues they face being subject to both racial prejudice and misogyny, expected to always do the most while receiving the least benefits. And as she speaks she remembers her own treatment at the Washington march in 1913, where the genteel southern ladies who had taken over control of the movement refused to let her or any other non-white women march with the main parade. And where Wells did it anyway.

The story that moved me the most was Just Politics by Chris Bohjalian. This story is an immigrant’s story, told from the point of view of Ani, an Armenian woman who has become a teacher in New York. But Ani came to New York during the years of the Armenian Genocide by the Turkish government just before World War I. Everyone around her tells her that the march is “just politics” but Ani has first hand experience of exactly how terrible and deadly “just politics” can become. Her perspective, that combination of hope with bitter, bitter experience, provides a leavening that makes her story just rise.

So, read this collection for its marvelous stories, and for its kaleidoscope of perspectives on what that day, the cause of women’s suffrage, and the cause of equal rights in general and not just the specific. And think about how many times that tide has risen and fallen and just how much is still left to fight for.

And then, if you have not already done so, go out and vote. It’s a right that was hard won, and it demands that we exercise it.

Review: The Light at Wyndcliff by Sarah E. Ladd + Giveaway

Review: The Light at Wyndcliff by Sarah E. Ladd + GiveawayThe Light at Wyndcliff (Cornwall, #3) by Sarah E. Ladd
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical romance, romantic suspense
Series: Cornwall #3
Pages: 320
Published by Thomas Nelson on October 13, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In the third book of this sweet Regency Cornwall series, one young man must search for truth among the debris of multiple shipwrecks on his newly inherited property.
When Liam Twethewey inherits the ancient Wyndcliff Hall in Pevlyn, Cornwall, he sets a goal of fulfilling his late great-uncle’s dream of opening a china clay pit on the estate’s moorland. When he arrives, however, a mysterious shipwreck on his property—along with even more mysterious survivors—puts his plans on hold.
Evelyn Bray has lived in Pevlyn her entire life. After her grandfather’s fall from fortune, he humbled himself and accepted the position of steward at Wyndcliff Hall. Evelyn’s mother, embarrassed by the reduction of wealth and status, left Pevlyn in search of a better life for them both, but in spite of her promise, never returns. Evelyn is left to navigate an uncertain path with an even more uncertain future.
When the mysteries surrounding the shipwreck survivors intensify, Liam and Evelyn are thrown together as they attempt to untangle a web of deceit and secrets. But as they separate the truths from the lies, they quickly learn that their surroundings—and the people in it—are not as they seem. Liam and Evelyn are each tested, and as a romance buds between them, they must decide if their love is strong enough to overcome their growing differences.

My Review:

The Light at Wyndcliff is lovely and slightly bittersweet, best categorized as historical fiction with romantic elements. A romance does happen, but it’s not the central point of the story.

The plot wraps around the sometimes exciting, sometimes dangerous and always criminal smuggling operations that the rougher bits of the Cornish coast are notorious for But this is not a story that romanticizes smuggling. Rather, it paints an all-too-clear portrait of the rot that burrows into the whole town when smuggling – and the protection of it – become the whole town’s economic mainstay.

But at its heart, it feels like this is a story about figuring out not just who you are, but who you want to be, and taking the steps to achieve that goal – no matter how difficult the road or how many people and institutions stand in your way.

For Liam Twethewey it seems as if that goal should be easy to achieve. He’s 22, he’s male, and he’s just come into his inheritance, Wyndcliff Hall on the Cornish Coast. His dream is to make the property profitable, and to make the area that surrounds it self-sustaining for the benefit of the people who live there.

He wants to provide good jobs at good pay. He wants to be someone who administers his land for the good of everyone, and not just his own profit. He wants to be a good man and a good steward of his property, just as his uncle and mentor has taught him to be.

Ironically, the person standing squarely in Liam’s way is his own steward. Once upon a time Rupert Bray was the owner of his own wealthy property, but either unwise investments or an addiction to gambling or some combination of both cost him his estate. Now he’s the steward of Wyndcliff, and has become the unofficial leader of the nearby town in the long interregnum between the death of the previous owner and Liam’s ascension.

It’s a power Bray doesn’t want to give up. Not over the estate, not over the town, and especially not over his grown-up granddaughter, Evelyn. Partially, that’s because Bray is, quite frankly, a petty tyrant. Much of it is because Bray has secrets that he fears that an active master at Wyndcliff will uncover.

And a whole lot of it is because Evelyn is female, and women didn’t have nearly as much as agency as men, a situation that was even more true in the 1820s setting of this story.

So an important but sometimes frustrating part of this story is Evelyn’s hesitant search for who she wants to be now that she is grown up. A quest that is under siege, caught between her grandfather’s desire to keep her safe, his secret plans for her, her absent mother’s ambitious plans for her future marriage to a man of her mother’s choosing – and the written and unwritten expectations of behavior that society holds over her head.

The more time that Liam and Evelyn spend together, no matter how publicly or how innocently, the more the townspeople judge her for her behavior. In their eyes, she is reaching above herself and consorting with an enemy – even though neither Liam nor Evelyn are aware that the villagers consider him such.

When the crisis finally comes to a head, everyone has fixed their places in the drama – except Evelyn. Everyone makes demands of her. Her grandfather – and the townspeople – expect her to lie for them. Liam, and the agents of the Crown, expect her to tell the truth. And her mother expects her to abandon all of them for the glittering future that she has always promised her daughter.

No matter what she decides, Evelyn is going to make someone she cares about absolutely furious with her. She has to find her own way in a life where she has been discouraged from doing just that at every turn.

Escape Rating A-: A romance between Liam and Evelyn does happen in this story, but it doesn’t feel like the romance is the point of the story. More like it’s the reward for doing the right thing. Figuring out what that right thing is, that feels like it’s the central point of the story. And that’s the story that swept me away.

The suspense and tension in this story come from Liam’s efforts to become the true master of Wyndcliff, in spite of Bray’s opposition. The more Liam digs into what’s really going on, the more obvious it is that Bray and the villagers are hiding a whole lot of skullduggery that no one – except Liam – wants to see brought to light.

This story’s treatment of smuggling, showing it as a criminal enterprise that leads to even more – and darker – criminal behavior reminded me of last year’s The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick. So if the exposure of the smuggling ring and its corruption of the town is something that intrigued you, you might want to check that story out as well.

But Bray’s corruption and the town’s participation in it felt fairly obvious from the very beginning. The reader may not know at the outset exactly what he’s hiding but it’s exceedingly clear that he’s two-faced at best.

Liam’s perspective was interesting but not particularly new. I liked him as a character, and it was clear that he was trying to do his best – and that his best was going to turn out to be fairly good. But the story of a young man taking up his inheritance, feeling some uncertainty while facing some challenges is a story that’s been told many times and will be again.

The fascinating and frustrating part was Evelyn’s story. She was caught betwixt and between in so many ways, and was aware of it and often confused and flummoxed about it all. She knew what she was supposed to feel – and she knew that she didn’t feel it – while also being aware that she was hemmed in by so many conflicting expectations. It felt very much as if The Light at Wyndcliff is more Evelyn’s story than anyone else’s. She’s the character who is stuck in a role that everyone expects to be passive – and yet isn’t.

But speaking of expectations, this series is focused on Liam’s family, the Twetheweys. And his story is central to the book, even if it doesn’t feel as much his journey as it does Evelyn’s. He becomes the person he’s always been expected to be, while Evelyn’s journey has all the twists and turns.

That being said, Liam has moved away from his family, the protagonists of the first two books of this series, The Governess of Penwyth Hall and The Thief of Landwyn Manor, to take up the inheritance that kicks off this book. This distance from his family means that it isn’t necessary to have read the first two books to get immediately drawn into this one. He’s moved away and the story has moved away too.

So if you’re looking for a story that brings a small town to life, contains a bit of true-to-life historical suspense and features characters who manage to do the right thing, catch the bad guys, pay the emotional price AND get rewarded by a happy ever after, The Light at Wyndcliff is guaranteed to sweep you away to the Cornish Coast!

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

I’m giving away a copy of The Light at Wyndcliff to one very lucky US commenter on this tour!

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Review: The Troubleshooter by Anna Hackett

Review: The Troubleshooter by Anna HackettThe Troubleshooter (Norcross #2) by Anna Hackett
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: action adventure romance, contemporary romance
Series: Norcross #2
Pages: 258
Published by Anna Hackett on October 18, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazon
Goodreads

Never, ever fall for your brother’s annoying, infuriating, gorgeous best friend.

Gia Norcross’ life is exactly how she likes it. She has a successful PR firm in San Francisco, a beautiful apartment, a loving family of overprotective brothers, and her fabulous designer shoe collection. Perfection. Sure, occasionally she has to deal with her aggravating nemesis who happens to be her brother’s best friend. Saxon Buchanan: tall, rich, handsome, bossy, and knows how to work her last nerve.

She’ll never, ever admit to anyone that most days, she isn’t sure if she wants to punch the arrogant, tattooed, suit-wearing know-it-all…or kiss him.

After a military career spent in a covert special ops team doing hard, dirty, and very classified missions, Saxon Buchanan is happy working at Norcross Security as the company’s top troubleshooter. He also enjoys the perks of civilian life. That includes sparring with smart, sexy Gia of the wide brown eyes, luscious curves, and sharp tongue. He’s spent half his life fighting the pull of his best friend’s little sister.

But seeing a man aim a gun at Gia changes everything.

When Gia’s troubled childhood best friend drags her into a really, really bad situation, soon bullets are flying, precious gemstones are missing, and Gia’s in danger. Saxon’s done pushing away the one woman he’s ever wanted. He’ll do everything to protect her, and he’s not letting anything get in his way: not the bad guys, not his best friend, and especially not Gia.

My Review:

This is the story I was expecting after the hints at the end of the first book in the Norcross series, The Investigator. And it was exactly the kind of terrific doozy of an action adventure romance that I expect from this author!

Gia Norcross has entirely too many brothers – or at least that’s how she sees it at least some of the time.

Not that she doesn’t love every single over-protective one of them. But they do have a testosterone-fueled tendency to try to protect her even when she doesn’t need protecting. And especially when she does.

As she does fairly often in this entry in the series.

Not, as happened a bit too often in the first book in the series, because the heroine couldn’t seem to recognize the obvious risks that she kept walking right into. But rather because Gia’s heart is very big and extremely loyal, and she’s unwilling to cut off one of her childhood friends. Even if that friend has become a liar, a thief, and a user of both pharmaceuticals and people.

And Gia is most often her target. Or her sucker. She’s someone who seriously needs some tough love, but Gia keeps on bailing her out of the trouble that she’s gotten herself into.

In this particular case, seriously big time trouble that follows her friend right to Gia’s doorstep. In search of the stolen jewels that said “friend” is letting Gia hide for her. Gems that are way more valuable – and chased by people way more deadly, than her friend is willing to admit.

Unlike her lying, using, so-called friend, Gia has some real badasses fighting in her corner. Because they’re her brothers, sometimes she’s fighting them more than the bad guys who are after her.

But one of those badasses is not one of her brothers, and in spite of the number of years they’ve been pissing each other off on a regular basis, she definitely doesn’t have any sisterly feelings towards Saxon Buchanan.

Occasionally murderous feelings, but even those are just a cover for how much she wants him and how long it’s been going on. But Saxon has been parading a seemingly endless stream of long leggy blondes through his bed, and Gia’s not remotely interested in being a notch on anyone’s bedpost. Especially not someone who seems to prefer women who are her exact opposite.

But, this isn’t the story of a rake reformed. Instead, it’s the classic story of the older brother’s best friend falling for his friend’s underage sister – who has grown up into the woman he wants but shouldn’t have.

Something about that damn ‘bro code getting in the way.

With at first one, then two and eventually three different sets of villains chasing after Gia for those stolen jewels that she doesn’t even have, Saxon Buchanan finally makes keeping Gia safe and making her his not just his top priority, but his only priority.

No matter what her brothers or any of those villains have to say in the matter. His real challenge is to get Gia to admit that she’s been on that train all along.

Escape Rating B+: I liked The Troubleshooter considerably more than I did The Investigator, so I’m really happy to say that the books stand more than enough alone that you don’t have to read the first to get into the second.

The reason I liked this one better is that Gia was a much more active character than Haven. Haven kept falling into trouble, and seemed to always be reacting to the crap that happened TO her.

Gia, on the other hand, felt proactive. Some of her actions didn’t turn out for the best, or didn’t turn out quite the way she planned, and occasionally the bad guys planned better, but it always felt like Gia was pushing her own action forward. She was never passive. She was not a passive person in any way, and she was always the prime mover of her own story no matter how much Saxon and her brothers tried to wrap her in cotton and keep her safe. Not always successfully. And that lack of success wasn’t remotely always Gia’s fault.

Instead, Gia’s fault isn’t a fault. Well, her temper is definitely a fault, but it isn’t what got her into this mess. Gia’s loyal, and always tries to see the best in people. As faults go, it’s a pretty good one. And it is one that gets her in trouble, but her actions, even when they turn out wrong, still keep the story moving and make her the prime agent of her own story.

I liked Gia a lot. She’d be a loyal friend and a whole lot of fun. But she’s also a serious businesswoman who has made her own way. There’s just a lot to admire about her character and I did.

I did enjoy the way that Saxon and Gia’s relationship exploded. Developed is not the right word, because it’s been there all along. Definitely exploded. They have explosive chemistry AND explosive tempers and they caught serious fire. Saxon is every bit as troubled as most of this author’s heroes, but the chemistry between them burned up the page and just plain worked.

One tiny thing niggled at me. In the previous story there was an evil old man who collected women to be his sex slaves. In this one there’s an evil old man who buys women to be sold as sex slaves. In neither case was the evil old lech the main villain. He felt over the top both times and I’m tired of reading about him. That’s my 2 cents and I’m sticking to it.

Howsomever, I’m definitely NOT tired of reading about the Norcross family. Especially as the hints at the end of this book promise that the next romance in the series will follow one of my favorite tropes, the falling for the boss trope. This time with the added bonus that the assistant is in no way intimidated by her boss’ power, or his money, or pretty much anything or anyone at all.

This is going to be so much fun!

Review: A Duke for Miss Townsbridge by Sophie Barnes + Giveaway

Review: A Duke for Miss Townsbridge by Sophie Barnes + GiveawayA Duke for Miss Townsbridge by Sophie Barnes
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: ebook
Genres: historical fiction, historical romance, regency romance
Series: Townsbridges #4
Pages: 100
Published by Sophie Barnes on October 20, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

She threatens to conquer his heart…
When Matthew Donovan, Duke of Brunswick, proposes to Sarah Townsbridge, she’s shocked. After all, she’s never met him before. One thing is clear though – he obviously needs help. So after turning him down, she decides to get to know him better, and finds out she’s right. But fixing a broken man is not the same as adopting a puppy. Least of all when the man in question has no desire to be saved.
Matthew has his mind set on Sarah. Kind and energetic, she’ll make an excellent mother. Best of all, her reclusiveness is sure to make her accept the sort of marriage he has in mind – one where they live apart. The only problem is, to convince her, they must spend time together. And the more they do, the more he risks falling prey to the one emotion he knows he must avoid at all cost: love.

My Review:

Life may or may not be like a box of chocolates, but A Duke for Miss Townsbridge is a deliciously light confection of froth and fluff with a tasty but chewy center to give it just the right amount of bite.

I’ve just realized that this analogy makes Sophie Barnes’ work the equivalent of that box of chocolates, and that definitely works. They are always delicious!

Initially, the duke in question is not for Miss Townsbridge. At all. Oh, he thinks he is, but she’s having none of him after he invades an afternoon party being held in her honor, gets down on one knee and doesn’t so much propose marriage as command it.

The Duke of Brunswick’s literal first words to his intended bride are “Marry me,” as though he has the right to order it and she has no choice but to go along.

In spite of being near the end of her sixth season, 22 years old and in danger of being considered permanently on the shelf, Sarah Townsbridge does have a choice in the matter, and her choice is to decline the honor.

But that “no” is only the beginning of a romance that Brunwsick had intended to forgo altogether. He needed a wife and a mother for his eventual heir. He wanted someone capable of presenting herself as his duchess while maintaining her own household and keeping herself occupied for the rest of their lives.

He had no intention of loving, or frankly even liking his would-be Duchess. His entire family had been killed in a carriage accident when he was a child. An experience that he has NEVER gotten over. Or past. Or even let the tiniest bit go of.

That’s what makes Sarah decide to give him another chance. She’s made a hobby of taking in wounded animals and “fixing” them. And Matthew Donovan, the high-in-the-instep Duke of Brunswick, is definitely a wounded animal that needs just Sarah’s kind of care. He needs to heal, and she wants to “fix” him.

It should be an even worse beginning for a relationship than his initial commanding proposal. And it very nearly is. Until it finally isn’t.

Escape Rating B+: All of the stories in the Townsbridges series of historical romantic novellas have been utterly delicious, and A Duke for Miss Townsbridge is certainly no exception.

They have also all been romances with just a little bit of bite. Romances where there’s something unconventional in the way that the hero and heroine begin their romantic adventure. Even better, it’s never the same something.

It’s also generally something that shouldn’t work, from When Love Leads to Scandal, where the heroine begins the story engaged to the hero’s best friend, to Lady Abigail’s Perfect Match, where the hero initially makes the heroine literally sick to her stomach, to the previous story, Falling for Mr. Townsbridge, when a son of the household falls for his mother’s new cook – and chooses to ignore convention and marry her.

It’s not necessary to have read the previous books in the series to enjoy this one, but they are all lovely, short, eventually sweet and utterly delicious.

In this outing, Sarah falls for the Duke because she wants to fix him. In real life, this is downright dangerous, and relationships like this one nearly always end in disaster AND heartbreak. Plenty of people have issues that need fixing, but no one can BE fixed. They have to want to fix themselves and then carry through – something that doesn’t happen nearly enough except in Romancelandia.

And it nearly doesn’t happen here, either. It’s not that Matthew is a terrible person, it’s that he’s lived his entire life up to this point clinging to his pain – and he doesn’t know how to stop. Sarah, at least doesn’t think it will be easy, but she does see that it’s necessary. Her mistake is thinking that Matthew is all in on doing the work, when he really isn’t.

So there’s a romance here, where these people fall in love but only one of them is willing to admit it. And they marry anyway. It’s only after Matthew breaks Sarah’s heart that the healing can begin.

That the author didn’t gloss over just how much hard work is going to be involved made this unworkable premise work. In the end, their happy ending was definitely earned!

But speaking of earning a happy ending, the jilted fiance from the very first book in this series, will finally have the chance to earn his in the next book, An Unexpected Temptation, when he gets stranded in a winter storm with his nemesis, just in time for the holidays.

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

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