Review: The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron + Giveaway

Review: The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron + GiveawayThe Lost Castle (The Lost Castle #1) by Kristy Cambron
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss, publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, timeslip fiction
Series: Lost Castle #1
Pages: 384
Published by Thomas Nelson on February 6th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Launching a brand-new series, Kristy Cambron explores the collision of past and present as she discovers the ruins of a French castle, long lost to history.

A thirteenth century castle, Chateau de Doux Reves, has been forgotten for generations, left to ruin in a storybook forest nestled deep in France's picturesque Loire Valley. It survived a sacking in the French Revolution, was brought back to life and fashioned into a storybook chateau in the Gilded Age, and was eventually felled and deserted after a disastrous fire in the 1930s.

As Ellie Carver sits by her grandmother's bedside, she hears stories of a castle . . . of lost love and a hidden chapel that played host to a secret fight in the World War II French resistance. But her grandmother is quickly slipping into the locked-down world of Alzheimer's, and Ellie must act fast if she wants to uncover the truth of her family's history.

Sparked by the discovery of a long forgotten family heirloom, Ellie embarks on a journey to French wine country to uncover the mystery surrounding The Sleeping Beauty--the castle so named for Charles Perrault's beloved fairy tale--and unearth its secrets before they're finally silenced by time.

Set in three different time periods--the French Revolution, World War II, and present day--The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged, and an enchanted castle that inspired the epic fairy tales time left behind.

My Review:

Instead of a mystery wrapped in an enigma (not that the reference to Enigma doesn’t turn out to be appropriate) this is a fairy tale wrapped in a war story tied up in a romance. Also not that there isn’t romance throughout – just different romances.

Because this lovely story is a “timeslip” tale that is spread over three very different time periods; the French Revolution, World War II, and the present day. And if the reference to the French Revolution wasn’t enough of a clue, most of the story takes place in France during those periods, specifically in the Loire Valley wine region.

And there’s plenty of wine involved and not just by drinking it. The fates of three very different women are tied together by the wines, the vines, and the castle that hides in the middle of it all.

Timeslip stories, as the sub-genre is now termed, are stories that “slip” between multiple time periods. Sometimes by having one of the characters themselves slip between those periods, but sometimes by having the narrative simply move between the periods for reasons that become clear at some point in the story.

The Lost Castle is one of the latter types. We follow three women in the same place but at three different time periods. We begin by meeting Ellie Carver, whose beloved grandmother has slipped into the fog of Alzheimer’s, and is now also slipping away physically. Lady Vi raised Ellie after her parents died, and Ellie feels like her grandmother is all that she has in the world. She is heartbroken and scrambling. Also emotionally scrambled.

Lady Vi’s fog lifts just enough to send Ellie scrabbling through her grandmother’s books to discover a WWII vintage photo of her grandmother, showing her that in the midst of the life that Ellie knew of her grandmother, there is at least one chapter that she was never told. Lady Vi seems to be looking for closure for this part of her life, and in a mad quest to do something, anything, Ellie hares off to the site of the picture, the “Sleeping Beauty” castle tucked away in the Loire Valley in France.

As the story continues we follow Ellie in the Loire, as she discovers the site of the photo, and unearths the history of when it was taken. We also follow Lady Vi’s history as a semi-trained British Intelligence operative who finds herself on the run from the Nazis in the Loire Valley in 1944. When Lady Vi is rescued by the local Resistance, she finds relative safety, purpose, and love.

We also see glimpses of an earlier history of the area, during the French Revolution, through the eyes of Aveline, a French aristocrat for whom the most famous wine of the region comes to be named.

All three women become integral to the past, and the future, of this storied place. And as Ellie uncovers the truth, we learn why. And it is bittersweet, but as delicious as the wine.

Escape Rating A-: Before I say anything else, let me say again that this is a truly lovely book. If you enjoy timeslip stories, I think you’ll really love this one.

As I read The Lost Castle, I did wonder how Aveline was connected to Vi and Ellie. It’s obvious from the beginning that it isn’t a matter of ancestors and descendants – there’s definitely no relation. And it’s not that Aveline’s story isn’t either interesting or important, it’s just that we don’t discover why and how until the very end.

I haven’t read a lot of timeslip stories, at least not under that label, so I’m not sure whether this is a bug or a feature, but neither Aveline’s nor Vi’s stories are told in chronological order. The chapter headings do say where and when each bit takes place, but the slipping forward and backwards within each of their times always took a paragraph or two to adjust to. This was particularly true with Aveline’s story, as we start in the middle and then work both backwards and forwards from that point, sometimes almost at random. The same thing happens with Vi’s story, but she doesn’t flash backwards nearly as much, and proceeds in a straight line from that middle, except for the flashbacks.

All three women are in the midst of great change, and that’s what makes each of their stories so fascinating. Aveline is an aristocrat during the Revolution, but she is a woman who is already uncomfortable with the life that she is supposed to lead. The Revolution provides her with an opportunity to forge a new path for herself, and she takes it.

Vi’s story takes place during World War II. We only get glimpses of her wartime exploits before she reaches the Loire, but they are enough to chill the bones. We do get a fairly complete portrait of her life in the French Resistance, and that comes at a critical time – it is 1944 and the Allied invasion is rumored and imminent, while the Nazis are desperate to hold onto France at all costs, with Vi, her new found friends and the Loire Valley itself caught in the terrible crossfire.

These are also all romances, and the romances are tied together not through the women, but through the place and the family that occupies it, through the men. The Vivay family owns and operates the winery that makes the region famous. Their signature wine, developed by Robert Vivay in Aveline’s time, is named for her. During Vi’s time, it is Julien Vivay who protects the land and is master of the vineyard, using that same signature product to keep the Nazis at bay. And it is Titus Vivay who lived to remember it all, and his grandson who leads Ellie to the answers that she is seeking.

Although the blurbs for this book talk about a “legacy of faith” and as this book is published by Thomas Nelson, a publisher who specializes in Christian faith-based works, one might think that the “faith” being mentioned in those blurbs is religious faith and of a specific type. But it isn’t, or at least it doesn’t seem to be to a reader who is not looking for such. Instead, the faith at the heart of this story seems more like faith in the land and faith in its people. In all three time periods, its the way that the people pull together to defend their lives, but more importantly the lives of those they love, and to defend the land and the work that sustains them, than it is about any belief in a diety.

Your mileage on this subject may definitely vary, but as someone who does not read books that are marketed as “inspirational” fiction this book does not read like part of that tradition.

It reads like excellent historical fiction, because that’s what it is.

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

There is a giveaway for a copy of The Lost Castle and a signed tote bag over at @tnzfiction  on Instagram.

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Review: Smooth Talking Cowboy by Maisey Yates + Giveaway

Review: Smooth Talking Cowboy by Maisey Yates + GiveawaySmooth-Talking Cowboy (Gold Valley, #1) by Maisey Yates
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Gold Valley #1
Pages: 384
Published by HQN Books on February 20th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Welcome to Gold Valley, Oregon, where a rough-and-tumble rancher and the girl next door are about to learn that opposites attract

Olivia Logan has a plan: win back her ex by making him see what he’s missing. But first she needs to find a man who’s willing to play along. With his laid-back cowboy charm and knack for getting under her skin, Luke Hollister is an unlikely hero—but he wants her help convincing her father to sell him land, which means he needs her as much as she needs him.

Luke likes his life—and his women—uncomplicated. So why does good girl Olivia heat his blood like no one else? She’s always been off-limits, but the more time they spend as Gold Valley’s hottest new “couple,” the more real it’s starting to feel. Luke was supposed to help her win back another man…not keep her in his arms. But now that he has her there, he’s not sure he’ll ever let go.

My Review:

It’s not so much that Luke Hollister is a particularly smooth talker – it’s more like Olivia Logan is particularly susceptible to his brand of cowboy charm – even if she can’t admit it, not even to herself.

But then, Olivia has a long and sad history of not admitting what’s important to her to herself or to anyone else. She has become so invested in being a “good girl” for so many sad and bad reasons that falling for Luke’s charm is the furthest thing from her mind.

Until after it happens, and she’s forced to realize, at least in the privacy of her own mind, that he’s just what she’s been waiting for all along – even when she was pining away for someone else entirely.

This author has a knack for getting her heroine’s into really angsty situations, and Olivia Logan is no exception, even if some of her angst, or at least the layers on top, are mostly of her own making.

In the Copper Ridge series, which takes place just down the road from Gold Valley, Olivia Logan was one of the secondary characters. As her friends and co-workers met and fell in love with the men of their dreams, Olivia was absolutely certain that she had already found the man she was destined to spend the rest of her life with.

The fact that it was obvious to everyone that Olivia Logan and Bennett Dodge had absolutely zero chemistry didn’t seem to matter to Olivia. She had convinced herself that Bennett was the perfect man for her. And it turned out that Olivia’s father had convinced Bennett that Olivia was the right woman for him.

This is not the stuff of which dreams are made. Occasionally it IS the stuff of which nightmares are made.

After a year of extremely tepid dating, Olivia expected a ring. Bennett wasn’t ready. It’s dubious whether Bennett would ever be ready, but Olivia wasn’t ready to admit that. She broke up with Bennett in the hopes that her absence would make him realize just what he was missing.

Instead, Olivia discovered exactly what she was missing, in the person of Luke Hollister – a man who delighted in getting her just a little bit riled up every time they met. Sort of like the way that little boys tease the girls they like but don’t know what to do with yet.

Luke wasn’t interested in relationships, and Olivia wasn’t interested in anything but. But without Bennett to fill in the empty spaces, Olivia discovered that being a good girl was kind of a strait-jacket, and that Luke was the perfect person to help her out of it. And everything else she might possibly have on.

If she’s willing to take a risk on not being perfect, on getting hurt, and on saying (and doing) what’s really in her heart.

Escape Rating B+: As I said earlier, Olivia has been one of the secondary characters in Copper Ridge, and in the author’s Copper Ridge series. She has not been one of the more likeable characters, but up until now, we didn’t really know why.

What we do know is that she’s just a bit socially awkward, and not for any of the usual reasons. Olivia has been so invested in being the “good girl” that her parents expect her to be that she has done her best to live a completely disciplined life and remove any and all temptations to stray from the straight and narrow. And she’s pretty judgemental about anyone who does stray from that straight and narrow.

Olivia is a twin, but her twin sister is not in the picture. Vanessa didn’t just stray from the straight and narrow, she ran headlong away from it, into sex and booze and eventually drugs. As happens in so many families, the more that Vanessa turned toward the “dark side”, the more that Olivia felt obligated to become her opposite, the “good girl”. And now that Vanessa is who-knows-where doing who-knows-what, Olivia is kind of stuck in her role. Not only does the entire town expect it, but so do her smothering, overprotective parents who are desperate to hover over the child they still have in their lives.

Marrying Bennett Dodge was part of the life that Olivia was expected to have. It’s only once Bennett is out of her life that she’s able to look at what she really wants – even when she herself doesn’t want to see it.

Not that Luke is much more self-aware. Just as the loss of her twin is at the heart of so much of Olivia’s behavior, and so much of her internal conflict, Luke Hollister is also hiding a deep loss that he hasn’t been able to get past. It’s their traumas that finally bring them together, and nearly tear them apart.

The lesson at the end of the story is both sad and beautiful. You’ll see.

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

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Romance is in the Air Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Romance is in the Air Giveaway Hop, hosted by Bookhounds!

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, so a lot of people are probably thinking about romance. And that’s only fair, as this is a blog hop to celebrate romance – romance books, that is.

Of the romances I’ve read so far this year, the one that I’m recommending everyone read is The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. This rom-com is a winner from beginning to end, whether you usually like rom-coms or not. It’s just a great, fun, romantic story.

The romance I’m looking forward to reading right now is Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison. I read a fair amount of fantasy and paranormal romance, and several, many, LOTS of people have recommended Harrison’s Elder Races series, but I’ve never managed to get a round tuit until now. It’s my review for tomorrow.

And for those of you who like science fiction romance, or who might be thinking of just seeing what it’s all about, the SFR Galaxy Awards were announced just a couple of weeks ago. There are plenty of fantastic, award-winning books right there to add to your TBR pile. I know I found some. A few. Too many to count…

Speaking of adding to your TBR pile, I’m offering the lucky winner of the giveaway their choice of a $10 Gift Card from Amazon or a $10 Book from the Book Depository. The rafflecopter is right down there, waiting for you to enter.

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And for more romantic and bookish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

Review: Midsummer Delights by Eloisa James + Giveaway

Review: Midsummer Delights by Eloisa James + GiveawayMidsummer Delights: A Short Story Collection by Eloisa James
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook
Genres: historical romance, regency romance, short stories
Pages: 96
Published by Avon Impulse on February 6th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads


A Midsummer Night's Disgrace
​Eloisa revisits the ​scintillating world of the Essex Sisters with a story featuring a young lady, Cecilia Bellingworth, who has decided she would rather ruin her reputation than endure further speculation about whether her children will be "silly," like her brother, Billy.​ ​After two failed seasons, ​Cecilia ​decides she ​will dress as she likes​ (in a scandalous red dress!)​ and flirt outrageously​ (with a scandalous pianist!)​. Fortunately, a gorgeous musician at the Duchess of Ormond's house party presents the perfect candidate for scandal…

​Previously published in the Essex Sisters Official Companion Guide (e only).


At Midnight
​Elias Hempleworth-Gray has one thing and one thing only of value—his title, Earl of Leyton. Determined to leave England and the scandal of his gambler father behind, Elias hopes to turn his fortunes around and come back a respectable man to claim the only woman for him, Miss Penelope White. But Penny has other plans for the man she has loved all her life…plans that include a masquerade, a stolen kiss and a lost shoe.

Previously published in the Fairy Tale sampler (print only).


Ever After
When she was sixteen, Miss Violet Leighton spent one blissful month romping around her family estate with Rothwell Talcott…thirty days of shared kisses, culminating in a very illicit afternoon in a berry patch. As Rothwell leaves for his grand tour, he gives his word of honor that he will return for her. Four years and seven refused proposals later, Violet is about to give up and marry when he finally returns. Now the Duke of Cambridge, Rothwell wants to make her his duchess. But how can Violet trust the man who stole her virtue—and then broke her heart?

Previously published in The Ugly Duchess (print only).

My Review:

This will be a short and sweet review of three short and very sweet (also slightly naughty) historical romances.

All three of these stories have been published before, but in separate collections. And while they all hearken back to earlier series, all three also have something in common.

The stories in this collection are very short. In fact, very, very short. If you are looking for a quick romantic getaway, the individual stories in this collection can probably each be read over a cup of coffee – or certainly over a quick lunch.

One of the dilemmas of romances in short stories is that they can easily smack of insta-love – especially if one is hoping for a happily ever after. In the case of these three stories, the author has worked around that problem by making these, not exactly second chances at love, but returns to, or reveals of, an existing love that is quickly re-established in the course of the story.

In A Midsummer Night’s Disgrace, the heroine has had enough of pretending to be the perfect debutante. While not exactly on the shelf yet, she really wants to be relegated to that shelf, so she can retire to the country and pursue her musical studies. If she had been born male, she would be able to take lessons and possibly even be a musician, but it is deemed unladylike and inappropriate for her female self.

She plans on seducing, or being seduced by, the marvelous and utterly gorgeous piano player at the house party she is attending, only to discover that the mysterious pianist is actually the very well grown up version of the boy who used to put grasshoppers down her dress when they were children. And that he can give her all the music her heart desires.

At Midnight is the story of a young man with a prestigious title and pockets to let, courtesy of a father who gambled away just about everything else the family owned. He loves the young woman whose father bought his former patrimony, but is unwilling to ask for her hand and let it be said that he is only marrying her for the land he once called home. It takes the contrivance of their friends, along with the seeming anonymity of a masquerade ball, for the course of true love to find its way.

Ever After, like A Midsummer Night’s Disgrace, is also the story of a young woman who has turned down all her suitors. But in this case, it’s because none of them measure up to the young man she fell in love with when she was 16. At the time, she believed that he loved her in return, but he has been out of the country for four years and she has received only two letters in all that time. She’s sure he’s moved on, and equally sure that no one else will ever replace him in her heart. Then he arrives, in the middle of a ton ball where she is dodging yet more suitors, and literally carries her off to plead his case. She shouldn’t forgive him, but of course she does.

Escape Rating B: These stories are all, as I said at the top, short and sweet, with just a touch of naughty. In spite of their brief length, each one does a fairly good job of establishing its characters and the connection between them without making it feel like insta-love.

For readers who are familiar with the series from which each story came, I’m sure that it is an extra treat to see familiar characters in the background. But for those who are not, as I am, each story is surprisingly complete within itself, especially considering their brevity.

In addition to these little confections, the book also includes a teaser first chapter for the next book in the Wildes of Ludlow Castle series, Too Wilde to Wed. This teaser is a real tease! I loved the first book in the series, Wilde in Love, and was already looking forward to the next book. Having read the first chapter, now I know that May is much too far away. I want it now!

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

LINK: https://goo.gl/gfG1vy
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. Two winners will each receive a paperback copy of A Kiss At Midnight by Eloisa James. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 2/10/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.

February Book of Choice Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the February 2018 Book of Choice Giveaway Hop, hosted by FLYLeF

February is the shortest month. Considering the weather in the northern hemisphere this time of year, that’s often a blessing.

But even in a short month there’s still plenty of time to get into a few (or quite a few) good books. And with Valentine’s Day in the middle of the month, it’s certain the season for romance!

As always, there are a few books I’m particularly looking forward to this month. Right now, I’m reading Into the Fire, the second book in the marvelous military-ish SF series, Vatta’s Peace. Which is itself a sequel series to one of my favorite SF series, Vatta’s War. If you think SF needs more kick-ass female warriors, you really need to meet Kylara Vatta.

I’m also looking forward to the latest entry in a completely different series. The Cat in the Stacks cozy mystery series follows the adventures of small-town Mississippi librarian Charlie Harris and his smart, sweet and very outsized Maine Coon cat Diesel – so named because his big purr sounds like one. Charlie reads like “one of us librarians” and Diesel is always a treat. But there are always Claws for Concern in the little town of Athena Mississippi, as Charlie manages to stumble over yet another dead body.

And speaking of romance, one of my favorite authors, Maisey Yates, is opening a new series this month with Smooth Talking Cowboy. Although its not a completely new series, as Gold Valley is just down the road from Copper Ridge, and that series has certainly been a treat for both my guest reviewer Amy and for me.

What books are you looking forward to this month?

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For more great bookish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop:

Best of 2017 Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the Best of 2017 Giveaway Hop, Hosted by Bookhounds.

It’s time to not just talk about the best books of last year, but also to give some away. This blog hop celebrates the best books of the previous year, at least according to yours truly.

I publish three different “Best of the Year” lists. One for me, one for Library Journal and one for the SFR Galaxy Awards, coming up at the end of the month. But no spoilers for the Galaxy Awards, to that means two lists to work with.

Two lists for you to work with, that is.

So take a look at 17 for 2017 here on Reading Reality, and the whole Library Journal Best Books 2017 article and let me know which book appeals to you the most.

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And for more fabulous bookish prizes, be sure to visit the other stops on this hop!

Review: A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev + Giveaway

Review: A Distant Heart by Sonali Dev + GiveawayA Distant Heart by Sonali Dev
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Bollywood #4
Pages: 352
Published by Kensington Publishing Corp. on December 26th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Her name means “miracle” in Sanskrit, and to her parents, that’s exactly what Kimaya is. The first baby to survive after several miscarriages, Kimi grows up in a mansion at the top of Mumbai’s Pali Hill, surrounded by love and privilege. But at eleven years old, she develops a rare illness that requires her to be confined to a germ-free ivory tower in her home, with only the Arabian Sea churning outside her window for company. . . . Until one person dares venture into her world.

Tasked at fourteen-years-old with supporting his family, Rahul Savant shows up to wash Kimi’s windows, and an unlikely friendship develops across the plastic curtain of her isolation room. As years pass, Rahul becomes Kimi’s eyes to the outside world—and she becomes his inspiration to better himself by enrolling in the police force. But when a life-saving heart transplant offers the chance of a real future, both must face all that ties them together and keeps them apart.

As Kimi anticipates a new life, Rahul struggles with loving someone he may yet lose. And when his investigation into a black market organ ring run by a sociopathic gang lord exposes dangerous secrets that cut too close to home, only Rahul's deep, abiding connection with Kimi can keep her safe—and reveal the true meaning of courage, loss, and second chances.

Infused with the rhythms of life in modern-day India, acclaimed author Sonali Dev’s candid, rewarding novel beautifully evokes all the complexities of the human heart.

My Review:

It’s all Kimi’s fault. Not just the events in A Distant Heart, but also everything that happened in A Change of Heart. Both the good and the bad. But especially the bad.

The problem is that Kimi doesn’t know it’s her fault, or that the people she trusted the most saved her life with a giant lie. All that she knows is that two years ago, a donor heart was mysteriously found, and she was able to finally emerge from the sterile bubble in which she had been forced to live her young life.

Kimi doesn’t know where her heart came from. Her rich and influential father has insisted on respecting the privacy of the donor and the donor’s family.

But there’s a black-market organ dealer who is determined to expose the truth that surrounds Kimi’s heart – right before he takes it out of her chest. Or at least ensures that it will never beat again – not for Kimi, not for anyone.

And there’s a police detective determined to bring that same criminal to justice before that happens. Detective Rahul Savant has put all the resources he has at his disposal to bring Asif Khan to justice, no matter what it costs. Not just in revenge for the death of his friend Jen, and for the deaths of all the lost souls whose body parts have been “harvested” by Khan’s organization, but really because Kimi is the love of his life. Even if he can’t admit that to himself. And even if he isn’t allowed to admit it to anyone else. Especially Kimi.

Escape Rating B+: A Distant Heart is the direct follow-up to A Change of Heart. While the friends-into-lovers romance between Kimi and Rahul is played out in this story only, the events that set everything in motion began in A Change of Heart. Because A Distant Heart is the shattering conclusion to a story begun in the earlier book, it is necessary to read both to get the full impact.

And what an impact it is.

Kimi’s life has been a miracle and a tragedy all in one. Her story has elements of the “poor little rich girl” trope, but the “poverty” in Kimi’s story is deeper. Yes, she’s a lonely, rich girl, but she’s lonely not because of distant or neglectful parents (at least not both of them), but because she has an autoimmune disease and must live in a sterile bubble. If her parents weren’t wealthy, the disease would have killed her long ago.

Rahul, on the other hand, began with a happy childhood that was invaded by tragedy of a different kind. His father, also a police officer, was killed in the line of duty, taking a bullet for Kimi’s father. The lesson Rahul learned early, and that was repeated with the sudden death of his little sister, was that people he loved would be taken away without warning.

But the tragedy of his father’s death linked the two families. Kimi’s father felt duty-bound to provide for the family, and 14-year-old Rahul felt equally duty bound not to accept charity from the man who had gotten his father killed. The result was a long-standing arrangement for Rahul to work off the money that was contributed for his and his brother’s education at the estate where Kimi lived in her bubble.

These two children of tragedy connected in a lifelong bond. A bond that neither her illness nor her eventual recovery, or even Rahul’s obsession with the black market organ harvesting ring that led to his friend’s death, could truly break.

And neither could her father’s attempts to place restrictions and limitations on their friendship.

This is a story with multiple facets. The relationship between Rahul and Kimi careens between friendship, love, resentment and fear on an endless roller coaster ride. Rahul is afraid to love anyone, out of fear they will be taken from him. That’s a fear that is more than realistic in Kimi’s case as her life has always been on borrowed time. Kimi loves Rahul, but can also be somewhat of a spoiled brat about getting her own way. She’s never bad about it, but she is used to being indulged in a whole lot of ways because her illness made her precious to everyone around her.

There is also a central mystery to the story. The organ harvester is after Kimi for reasons that are obscure at first, but become clear over the course of the story. His pursuit is deadly, and forces Rahul and Kimi to stay together for safety, giving them the chance they need to work through how they really feel about each other as adults.

But that pursuit is an obsession, and it’s an obsession that gets the man killed. Not that he doesn’t deserve to die as the story goes, but more that it defies common sense. He could have, and should have, left Kimi alone and escaped to set up somewhere else. Not as interesting a story, but more logical. My two cents.

A Distant Heart is a love story where there is so much bitter mixed with the sweet, right until the very end, that you’ll need tissues to cope with the pangs of your own heart. If you are in the mood for sweetness mixed with angst (and a touch of crazy), this one will keep you tied to your chair until the final page.

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

Enter the giveaway for a prize pack from Sonali that includes a $50 Amazon gift card and print copies of A Bollywood Affair and A Change of Heart!

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Check out the Book Trailer!

Review: The Art of Running in Heels by Rachel Gibson + Giveaway

Review: The Art of Running in Heels by Rachel Gibson + GiveawayThe Art of Running in Heels (Chinooks Hockey Team #7) by Rachel Gibson
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance
Series: Chinooks Hockey #7
Pages: 384
Published by Avon on December 26th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Running in five-inch stilettos is an art form

Leaving your fiancé at the altar on live television is a disaster. Lexie Kowalsky thought she was ready to get married in front of millions of people, but at the last minute she fled the set of television’s hottest reality show, Gettin’ Hitched. Wearing a poofy white dress and a pair of five-inch sparkly shoes, Lexie hopped a float plane for Sandspit, Canada. She figured no one would find her there. But she was wrong.

Sharing her flight was the Seattle Chinooks biggest star, Sean Knox. Lexie wasn’t just a reality-show runaway, she was his pain in the butt coach’s daughter. She was chaos and temptation and definitely off limits, but getting her luscious body out of that wedding gown, he couldn’t resist getting her in his bed for one amazing night.

Then a photo of Sean and Lexi breaks the internet—and suddenly they’re both swept up in a crazy plan to spin the whole story. But you can’t run from love— 

My Review:

Readers have begged Rachel Gibson to return to her popular Chinooks Hockey series, and now I know why. But consider this one as “Chinooks Hockey, the Next Generation”. The series started in 1998, and the couple who found their HEA in the first book, Simply Irresistible, are now the usually proud parents of Lexie Kowalski, the heroine of The Art of Running in Heels.

Where once upon a time John “the Wall” Kowalski was a terror on the ice, now he’s a terror in the locker room, as the respected and sometimes feared head coach of his former team, the Seattle Chinooks.

And it’s the surprise of his life to discover that his oldest daughter Lexie, who has made an even more surprising success of her dog clothing and accessories business on the internet, is one of the contestants on the slightly tacky reality TV show, Gettin’ Hitched.

It’s even more of a surprise when Lexie wins, because she has no desire to get hitched, at least not to a man she barely knows and doesn’t love.

But the train has left the station, the snowball is well down the hill (complete with ACME special effects), and Lexie doesn’t know how to get herself out of the mess she’s gotten herself into. So she runs, in heels just as the title says, wearing a deliberately slight tacky wedding dress, straight into the charter plane that a friend is holding for her.

And she dives in headfirst, landing just about in the lap of Sean Knox, the newest player on her dad’s team. But Lexie doesn’t recognize Sean, even though he definitely recognizes her. He’s on his way to tiny Sandspit, British Columbia to deal with his mother’s latest bout of death-defying hypochondria, and has no desire to get anywhere near Lexie’s crazy train.

His mother’s extreme hypochondria has added all the crazy-train drama he could ever need into his life. But Lexie, lost and alone in tiny Sandspit, is hard to avoid. Especially since she needs his help.

She expected to stay out of Seattle for a couple of days and let the fuss over her runaway bride act run its course. But the open maw of the 24-hour news cycle has swallowed her story whole, and now there are entire shows devoted to “Where’s Lexie?”.

Sean helps her hide. He helps her keep herself occupied in Sandspit, and she helps him deal with his mother’s latest round of craziness. Before their little interlude in Sandspit is over, they help each other into bed.

But when Lexie returns to Seattle, alone, she discovers that there’s a downside to becoming an internet sensation. She’s the villain of this piece, and her fledgling business is paying the price. She needs Sean to help her turn her runaway bride story into something sweet and romantic.

And Sean, as much as he refuses to admit it, just needs Lexie, crazy train and all.

Escape Rating A: This one is absolutely terrific crazysauce, and completely fun from beginning to end. It had me at Lexie’s headlong dive into the plane, pretty much at the same time that she has Sean, even if neither of them is admitting it at that point.

This is one of those stories where you love it either in spite of or because of the way it starts out crazy and just turns out to be layers and layers of crazy all the way down. Because Lexie and Sean (and her little dog Yum Yum) are irresistibly fun, even if, or especially because, of the way that they keep trying, and failing, to resist each other.

It’s marvelously obvious from the very beginning that Sean and Lexie have enough chemistry to melt the biggest hockey rink. Part of the fun in the story is watching them figure out that chemistry isn’t all they have.

I have not read the rest of the Chinooks Hockey series, but it doesn’t seem necessary to enjoy The Art of Running in Heels. This book really is a fresh start to the series. I’ll also confess I’m not sure whether I will. As much as I enjoyed this one, the first book in the series revolves around a “secret baby” and that is one of my least favorite tropes ever.

But Lexie is the secret baby from that first book, all grown up. And her story is a hoot (and a holler) from beginning to end.

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

LINK: https://goo.gl/YW1pov

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback set of the entire Chinooks Romance series by Rachel Gibson.  This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance.  Giveaway ends 1/5/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address.  Duplicates will be deleted.

Jeepers It’s January Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Jeepers! It’s January Giveaway Hop, hosted by The Kids Did It and The Mommy Island

Jeepers, it IS January, isn’t it?

It’s COLD here in Atlanta, with highs barely into the 30s and lows in the teens. One of the reasons we moved down here it to avoid this stuff. I like having four seasons, but I much prefer it when winter deals us a very glancing blow. That’s not what this is. BRRRR!

But everywhere (and everyone is different. In both Anchorage and Chicago, this weather would be almost balmy for this time of year. And it would be warm enough that everyone would be just waiting for the snow, make that MORE snow, to fall, followed by a temperature plunge into the “belows”. As in below zero. There were definitely things I loved about living in both cities, but the January (and February!) weather was not among them.

But it is definitely January, which means short chilly days and long, even chillier nights. One lucky commenter will win their choice of a $10 Amazon Gift Card or a $10 Book from the Book Depository, to get themselves something to help pass those long cold nights. Spring will come. Eventually.

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For most great prizes to get you through the chilly days and long nights, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop!

January Book of Choice Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the January 2018 Book of Choice Giveaway Hop, hosted by FLYLeF

New Year’s Day is a time for setting goals and making resolutions for the year ahead. And for looking forward to all the lovely new books coming out in the months ahead.

My own personal end-of-2017 had more than its share of low notes, so I’m looking forward to getting lost in a few (more than a few) forthcoming new books. Three books I’m really looking forward to this month: Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra, The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman (Invisible Library #4) and one of my annual treats, Cast in Deception by Michelle Sagara, the next book in her marvelous fantasy series, the Chronicles of Elantra.

What books are you looking forward to this month?

 

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For more bookish prizes to start your year off  right, be sure to visit the other stops on the hop