Review: A Private Duel with Agent Gunn by Jillian Stone

Private Duel with Agent Gunn by Jillian StoneFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Historical romance
Series: The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard #3
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: November 27, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Cunning, reclusive Yard man Phineas Gunn is as skilled at capturing surly criminals as he is at charming beautiful women. But the dashing agent’s latest assignment is really testing his mettle. Officially, he’s investigating beguiling prima ballerina Catriona de Dovia Willoughby, a suspected anarchist. Unofficially, his attraction to his devilish former flame is hotter than ever.

Unsure whether to trust the enigmatic lover who betrayed her once, Cate nevertheless enlists Finn’s help to recover some priceless family jewels. Their pursuit erupts into a cross-continental adventure that begins with a double cross and crackles with secrets, lies, and sexual tension. The crime is clear—breaking and entering each other’s hearts—but as the clock ticks down, who will be the first to surrender?

My Review:

There are two private duels with Agent Gunn in this story. Come to think of it, there are two Agent Gunns in this story, but that’s part of what makes it so delicious.

A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis by Jillian StoneThe senior Agent Gunn, and the older brother Agent Gunn, is Phineas Gunn. Readers have already become intrigued by his story in the previous books in this series, particularly in A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis (reviewed here). Phineas relates the entire sad story of how he lost his first love in a mess of operational lies (he also managed to get her brother killed) while on duty with Special Branch in France.

Since this is a second-chance-at-love story, that tragic first love returns to the scene. She might not have forgiven him for getting her brother killed, but the same operation that threw them into each other’s paths before has brought them together again.

Catherine Willoughby’s late brother Eduoardo was a Spanish anarchist, and his former associates are causing trouble in England and on the continent. The question that Special Branch needs Phineas Gunn to answer is whether Catherine Willoughby, or her more famous identity as the prima ballerina Catriona de Dovia, is somehow involved with the anarchists.

Cate needs Finn to help her rescue her brother from prison in France, without letting him know that he’s rescuing her brother from prison. Cate’s not certain that the information she’s been given about her brother’s whereabouts among the living are true, and she’s certainly not sure she can trust Finn.

After all, he lied to her about pretty much everything when they met. And he broke her heart. Not that she’ll ever let him know about that. She’s never forgotten him, and she’s never moved on.

He hasn’t either. While meeting her may have been an assignment, everything that happened between them was all too real. And once they are forced together again for the sake of this mission, it all happens again.

Is it real this time, or is someone being played?

Escape Rating B+: There are two duels. Cate and Finn are dueling with each other through the course of the story, trying to figure out what parts of what they tell each other are real, and which parts are pure invention. Neither of them is ever quite sure which is which until the very end. The emotions are real, but because their entire relationship is built on one fabrication after another, they find it difficult to trust each other, and with damn good reason.

The tension, not just sexual tension, but the pull of the adventure and the constant need to figure out which way to jump, never lets up.

Finn Gunn’s younger brother Hardy also wants to become an agent, and he’s gotten himself into a bit of a mess. Hardy does get into an actual duel, which Finn stops by means of some very fancy sharp-shooting. So there is a real duel in the middle of the story. (Hardy will get his own story later.)

King Solomon's Mines by H Rider HaggardThere are a lot of very fanciful characters in this one, in addition to the Agents. It reads like a wild Victorian adventure tale, King Solomon’s Mines, or something larger than life. This series gets more fun as it goes, and I can’t wait for the next one.

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

Review: A Lesson in Chemistry with Inspector Bruce by Jillian Stone

A Lesson in Chemistry with Inspector Bruce by Jillian StoneFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Historical romance, Romantic suspense
Series: The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard, #2.5
Length: 123 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Date Released: November 6, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Inspector Archie Bruce, who runs the newly formed Scotland Yard crime laboratory, is suddenly shifted from his duties behind the scenes to directly in the line of fire. When mysterious happenings in the laboratory seem threatening, a local pharmacist’s beautiful daughter might be just the one to help him solve the mystery. Can Archie solve the crime in time to protect the Yard and get the girl?

My Review:

Part of the fun of the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series are the glimpses of the development of forensics along with the spying, the adventure and the romance involved in the series.

Two of the key players in the forensic side of the equation are Inspector Archibald Bruce, the head of the criminology lab, and the Yard Dog, Arnold, named for Arnold Nobel of Nobel Prize fame.

Arnold the dog sniffs out bombs and bomb components. Not only is he incredibly important to investigations, Arnold also seems to be a sweetie of a dog. He’s one of my favorite characters. Of course, he’s also the progenitor for bomb-sniffing dogs everywhere.

In this novella, Inspector Bruce and Arnold are nearly killed by a bomb in the lab. The bomb wasn’t planted, it was there to be inspected, but he’s not sure who set it off or how. He’s worried that one of the criminals that Special Branch is currently investigating might have an inside man on the job. Someone who wants to obliterate evidence or investigators before they can be caught.

Meanwhile, Inspector Bruce is also teaching a University course for those planning to take their major exam in chemistry. One of his students just happens to be a young woman he’s encountered before: Miss Fiona A. Rose. At a costume ball at Edinburgh University three years ago, they shared one unforgettable kiss, but she didn’t remove her mask or give her real name.

More importantly, Fiona, and her entire family, own a pharmacy and chemist’s shop. Her father is willing to assist Special Branch on a solution to the problem of transporting fingerprints for analysis, if Archie Bruce will tutor Fiona for her chemistry final.

While Mr. Rose assists Special Branch with fingerprinting, Fiona finds herself assisting on the bomb investigation. And Archie and Fiona discover themselves in a mutual tutorial of more personal subjects.

Unfortunately the bomber takes advantage of their distraction!

Escape Rating B: This one was a great teaser, but because it is a novella it doesn’t have the depth of the full-length entries in the series.

It is still a fun read, and I enjoyed seeing the criminology lab brought to the forefront for a short story.

Unfortunately, it was a bit too obvious who the villain would be. However, that did not distract from the sweetness of the love story between Archie and Fiona.

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

Review: The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter by Jillian Stone + Giveaway

The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter by Jillian StoneFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator #3
Length: 289 pages
Publisher: Kensington Books
Date Released: June 25, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

From steam-powered bunkers to steamy boudoirs, paranormal detective Phaeton Black knows his way around Victorian London. But sometimes, when you slip down a rabbit hole, there’s no turning back. . .

If The Portal’s A-Rockin’

Phaeton Black is missing. Sucked into an alternative universe–courtesy of Professor Lovecraft’s Trans-Dimensional Injection Portal–the illustrious investigator is nowhere to be found. Even the bewitching Miss America Jones, who’s pregnant with Phaeton’s child, has no clue to his whereabouts. But when a spy fly’s microphone picks up Phaeton’s voice in the parlors of Paris, she enlists his dearest friends to track him down–before his deadliest enemies find him first. . .

Don’t Come A-Knockin’

Accompanied by the dashing Dr. Exeter, his delightful ward Mia, and a trusty duo of Nightshades, it’s off to the City of Lights for the determined Miss Jones. Unfortunately, there is something about Paris in the fall that brings out the devil in Dr. Exeter–and the beast in mild-mannered Mia, whose animal urges transform her into a gorgeous panther. With physical reality unraveling on both sides of the cosmic rift, the good doctor must extract Phaeton Black from the clutches of a diabolical techno-wizard–or both could lose the women they love to love. . .forever.

My Review:

Any romance reader who loves the “when I kissed the teacher” trope, known slightly more formally as the “lessons in seduction” story, is going to adore The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter. This story, set in the paranormal, steampunkish, alternative universe invented by Jillian Stone of her Phaeton Black series, is firmly (pun definitely intended) of that vein.

Dr. Exeter being the teacher who both educates and gets seduced by his student, Mia.

Mia is legally an adult, but she has been Exeter’s ward for the past ten years. He’s seen her grow from child to woman and he’s having a difficult time changing how he thinks about her. Mia, on the other hand, has no problem whatsoever seeing him as the only man she’ll ever love.

Exeter wants a normal life for Mia. It’s not going to happen. Mia is a shapeshifter, and her other form is a deadly panther. The only way that Exeter, a powerful sorcerer in his own right, has discovered that she might be able to control her form shifting, is through sexual release. Not only can neither Exeter nor Mia bear the thought of another man initiating her sexually, but who else can either of them trust with the secret of her other identity?

Meanwhile, Mia must gain control of her cat. Their friend Phaeton Black is still in the hands of the alternate world wizard Propero, and his lover America Jones is very near her delivery date with their child. The child will have special powers, and needs the protection of everyone in Phaeton’s circle. The baby needs her father back, but the number of nefarious powers at work seems to be growing.

In the middle of these plots and counter-plots, Exeter is increasingly distracted by the depth of his new-found feelings for Mia. He starts out with the intention of helping her control her power, but discovers that in addition to Mia’s sexual awakening, he experiences an emotional awakening that shakes him.

It’s amazing how many times he has to let her go before he can be convinced that he belongs with her. Being a powerful wizard does not make a man any more knowledgeable about the matters of his own heart.

Escape Rating B+: The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter is a very erotic variation on the lessons in seduction story. The need to control Mia’s panther shifting provides a fantastic excuse for those lessons and for Exeter to put down the barriers between guardian and ward that he has maintained for ten years. This was foreshadowed in the previous book in the series, The Moonstone and Miss Jones (reviewed here). so I’ve been looking forward to this story.

The worldbuilding of this alternate version of London (and Paris) is definitely a continuation of the Phaeton Black series. To understand about the Moonstone and who they are rescuing, you’ll need to have read the whole series, starting with The Seduction of Phaeton Black (reviewed here). For anyone who likes steamy steampunk, this is not exactly a hardship. The series is tremendously good dirty fun.

I would love to see more in this world. While the dangling issues from Moonstone were resolved in this story in addition to Mia and Exeter’s love story, there were a whole bunch of things from this alternate world that I would like to see explored. Could we go back? Please?


The Miss Education of Dr Exeter Button 300 x 225

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

Review: A Dangerous Liaison With Detective Lewis by Jillian Stone

A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis by Jillian StoneFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Historical romance
Series: The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard, #2
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: August 28, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The fates had been perversely mischievous of late—case in point, Raphael Lewis…

When Fanny Greyville-Nugent’s father suffers a gruesome death in the clutches of his own machine, mourning his loss is not the beautiful heiress’s only heartbreak. Scotland Yard is convinced he was targeted in a plot to halt the rise of industry, and Fanny’s former fiancé, dashing and dubious detective Raphael “Rafe” Lewis, has been assigned to the case.

For the estranged ex-lovers, bringing the notorious assassins to justice proves as tumultuous as quelling pent-up desires. Fighting peril and passion at every turn of a dangerous journey from Edinburgh to London, they are pursued by an anarchist group hell-bent on destroying her father’s mysterious entry into the London Industrial Exposition.

When an astonishing discovery about the couple’s failed engagement surfaces, the sleuthing duo realize they can trust no one. Rafe confesses new details about his infidelity and Fanny risks all to avenge her father’s murder. But will Rafe and Fanny triumph over the pain of their past?

My Review:

An Affair with Mr. Kennedy by Jillian StoneThis second entry in Jillian Stone’s Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series (after An Affair with Mr. Kennedy, reviewed by me at Book Lovers Inc.) is a marvelous take on the second chance at love story, with a thrilling adventure added to give the tale a delicious amount of spice.

Ms. Stone definitely loves to add all kinds of spice to her stories!

In the case of this tale, there are two kinds, one is the “run for your life” kind of adventure, and the other is the constant sexual tension between Rafe Lewis and Fanny Greyville-Nugent while they are doing that running.

They used to be engaged. The bad news is that they had to break it off. The good news is that neither of them ever got over it. Back to the bad news again, Fanny has never known why the engagement was broken. Their romantic situation is, not just messy, but contains way too many secrets that need to come out.

But all that bad history makes Fanny disinclined to put up with an ounce of Rafe ordering her around, even when it comes to all too real threats to her safety. Someone is murdering industrialists in spectacularly gory ways, including Fanny’s father. Now that Fanny has inherited his company, Fanny is next on the bloody list.

Except that the murderer seems to have more dastardly plans for Fanny than mere murder. And somewhere amongst the trains, horse-thieving, and coach-riding involved in running for Fanny’s life, Rafe and Fanny discover that the love they had for each other years ago still burns under her disillusionment and his attempts to forget. And under all those buried secrets.

If they survive, can they have the future they might have had? Or did they kill it with their lies?

Escape Rating B: This Dangerous Liaison was every bit as much fun as the Affair with Mr. Kennedy. One of the highlights of the series contnues to be that the women are equally involved in their careers, no matter how untraditional that might have been for the time. It makes the characters much more entertaining, and makes them the equal of the heroes in the adventure.

Although I must admit that Fanny’s frequent attempts at leaving protective custody always ended badly and seemed particularly ill-thought out. She generally seemed too sensible to keep getting in trouble that way, but it was necessary for the plot.

While I understood why Fanny eventually took Rafe back, and she certainly did make him pay, what I never fully got was why he got into the fix he did in the first place that started the whole sorry chain of events, because he got misled by some so-called friends. There was something not-quite right about what happened and it was cleared up all too easily at the end.

Private Duel with Agent Gunn by Jillian StoneThe very charismatic villain of the piece was explained a bit too anachronistically, with 21st century sympathy for his tragic circumstances.

But I still had a great time reading the book, and Ms. Stone was very sneaky about revealing that we are already invested in the hero of one of the later books. Hugo Curzon, who nearly charmed Cassie St. Cloud in book 1, turns out to be Agent Phineas Gunn of A Private Duel with Agent Gunn. Sneaky author.

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

Review: An Affair with Mr. Kennedy by Jillian Stone

An Affair with Mr. Kennedy by Jillian StoneFormat read: ebook purchased from Amazon
Series: The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard, #1
Genre: Historical Romance
Release Date: Jan. 31, 2012
Number of pages: 400 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website | Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Book Depository US | Book Depository (UK) | Publisher’s Website

London, 1887. Part stoic gentleman, part fearless Scotland Yard man, Zeno “Zak” Kennedy is an enigma of the first order. For years, the memory of a deadly bombing at King’s Cross has haunted the brilliant Scotland Yard detective. His investigation has zeroed in on a ring of aristocratic rebels whose bloody campaign for Irish revolution is terrorizing the city. When he discovers one of the treacherous lords is acquainted with his free-spirited new tenant, Cassandra St. Cloud, his inquiry pulled him unexpectedly close to the hear of the conspiracy — and into the arms of a most intriguing lady.

Cassie is no Victorian prude. An impressionist painter with very modern ideas about life and love, she is eager for a romantic escapade that is daring and discreet. She sets her sights on her dour but handsome landlord, but after she learns their meeting was not purely accidental, she hardly has a chance to forgive her lover before their passionate affair catapults them both into a perilous adventure.

My Thoughts:

Somewhere in my apartment there’s a print ARC of this book. That’s not the copy I read.

Miss Education of Dr Exeter by Jillian StoneI finished Ms. Stone’s Miss Education of Dr. Exeter, and wasn’t quite ready to let go of the author. Because that particular entry in her paranormal/steampunk Phaeton Black series clung somewhat more closely to the definitely romantic than earlier entries in the series, I wanted to see what she did with something less eerie and more strictly gaslight-Victorian, and remembered The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard.

Enter Mr. Kennedy, and the copy fortuitously on my Kindle app.

The fascinating thing about the The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series in general is that Ms. Stone is featuring an agency that presages James Bond and his famous license to kill. The men of Mr. Kennedy’s Special Branch hunt for bombers, traitors, spies and agents provocateurs. Because of the era they live in, the agents in this particular story are fomenting both sides of the Irish Home Rule issue. With incendiary, or shall we say  explosive, results.

Mr. Kennedy himself, Zeno Augustus Kennedy, Zak to his friends, is the number two man in Special Branch. He is a younger son of the aristocracy, but as he has to make his own living, he’s simply chosen a somewhat unorthodox way of doing so.

His investigations of an upper-crust ring of possible Irish radicals, or maybe upper-class lords willing to take advantage of the resulting panic from Irish radicals, leads him to a beautiful artist with ties to two potential suspects. Unfortunately for Zak, once he meets Cassie St. Cloud, suspecting her of anything other than distracting him from his goals is the last thing on his mind.

Unfortunately for Cassie, she is already a pawn in the game. Involvement with Zak merely raises her position on the board from pawn to queen.

Verdict: An Affair with Mr. Kennedy is a terrific start to The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series. It sets up the Special Branch as a whole, and provides a great introduction to the men who become the heroes of the next several books. Which I was swept into one after another.

Zak and Cassie are a great pair, because they are equals. One of the fun things about this book, and the series as a whole, is that the heroes and heroines are not dukes and earls or lords and ladies, although Cassie has a title by marriage. Everyone works, and it makes the characters, both the men and the women, easy for us readers to empathize with.

Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis by Jillian StoneCassie is a professional artist. She’s no lady of leisure. She has a career that is every bit as important to her (although not normally as bloody) as Zak’s. Her expertise helps him save the day. They are, in very real ways, partners.

The history blending into the story was also a hoot. Cassie has very real parallels in Mary Cassatt, and, of course, Irish Home Rule was very hotly debated during this period. The idea that there would be unscrupulous people attempting to both create chaos and take advantage of it makes too much sense.

Mixing this with the birth of criminal forensics makes things a load of fun. I’m so glad there are more in the series. (I’ll confess that I immediately dove right into the next book, A Dangerous Liaison with Detective Lewis, with barely time for breath in between.)


I give  An Affair with Mr. Kennedy by Jillian Stone 4 stars!

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

Review: The Moonstone and Miss Jones by Jillian Stone + Giveaway!

Format read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: Mass Market Paperback, ebook
Genre: steampunk, paranormal romance
Series: Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator #2
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Kensington Brava
Date Released: September 25, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

A master of paranormal deduction—and paramour seduction—Phaeton Black has a knack for bumping into things that go bump in the night, from ghoulies and ghosties to long-leggedy beauties…

Mooning For The Moonstone

Barely escaping the clutches of a succulent succubus, Phaeton Black returns to London only to get sucked into another unearthly scheme. Professor Lovecraft has been tinkering with the secrets of life and death, replacing body parts with the latest mechanical marvels. To succeed, he needs to tap the power of the fabled Moonstone—and he needs Phaeton’s help. Of course, Phaeton would prefer to investigate the more interesting body parts of Miss America Jones. Perhaps, bringing his lady friend along for the ride won’t be to too much trouble…

Shanghaied In Shanghai

The bewilderingly beautiful and bountifully gifted daughter of a Cajun witch, Miss Jones is always up for an adventure, especially with Mr. Black as her traveling companion. But when Phaeton is mysteriously shanghaied in Shanghai, America thinks he’s run out on her. Stranded in the Orient—and steaming mad—she’s prepared to look under every stone for the missing detective. The case has put them both in the most compromising positions, but this time, Miss Jones is on top and Mr. Black is at the bottom…of a truly infernal plot.

Pardon me while I have a screaming case of “middle book syndrome”. ARRGGHHH!

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s talk about the book. The Moonstone and Miss Jones is another darkly seductive delight in the adventures of Phaeton Black and American Jones. The difference between this story and their first adventure, The Seduction of Phaeton Black (see review here) is that in this second story the emphasis is more on the steampunk, the darkness and the mystery.

Don’t get me wrong, Phaeton and America are still very much taken with each other, but in this story they finally figure out that they are actually in this thing together, and are not mere ships passing in the night. The story is still steamy, but Phaeton’s finally figured out where to moor his boat. So to speak. His problem is going to be keeping things anchored. Literally.

Those visions of strange beings and and dangerous fantasms that Phaeton has had all his life? They are sendings from a parallel reality, and that reality is starting to come unraveled. Along with our own. Of course, Phaeton is the key. Along with a little present that the Egyptian goddess Qadesh gave him at the end of his previous adventure. Everyone thinks this “Moonstone” will solve all their problems.

Too bad for Phaeton that he’s the only one who can use it. Precisely because he doesn’t want a damn thing from it except to be left alone with America and their ‘pea in the pod’. There is much too much power at stake for that to happen.

But in the process of chasing after the evil-doers, keeping the world from unraveling, and guarding America, Phaeton discovers something that he never expected. He has friends. Real, honest to goodness friends. And a life worth fighting back from hell for.

Escape Rating B+: The Moonstone and Miss Jones is a completely wild ride into not just steampunk, but also parallel universes, the potentials of H.G. Wells time-machine, a little homage to H.P. Lovecraft, and the value of friendship, all wrapped into one. And it’s a cracking good adventure.

Read The Seduction of Phaeton Black first. This story starts pretty hard on the heels on that one, at least as far as continuity is concerned. Phaeton and America had a romantic idyll in between, one that’s interrupted by Phaeton being shanghaied in Shanghai, but the stories crack straight on from one to the other.

There are several interesting side-stories that I would love to see developed revolving around some of the Nightshades guarding America. The smoldering romances there have tons of potential.

I can’t believe I’m going to have to wait until next summer for book 3, The Miss Education of Dr. Exeter. I want to magic it up from the future and read it now, dammit!


Win Phaeton’s most charming charm bracelet. And find clues to the Moonstone’s hiding place in this modern, edgy take on the traditional charm bracelet created by Ana Karolina, a 19-year-old Mexican born designer who made her debut at Nordstrom at the ripe old age of 17. This silver-plated chain bracelet makes skulls and bugs look oh-so cool!

Win one of five copies of The Moonstone and Miss Jones (ebook or print-winners choice)
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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 10-21-12

What’s the difference between wicked and naughty? Why is this question relevant to my Sunday Post?

The Wicked Romances Blog Hop (hosted by Reading Romances) started yesterday at Reading Reality (and LOTS of other places) and that is the question you need to answer in the comments to throw your hat in the ring for a chance at a $15 Amazon Gift Card. But the answers, oooh the answers are utterly fascinating.

And, tomorrow starts the Romance at Random Naughty & Nice Blog Hop. Of course, I couldn’t resist being a hop stop for that hop. Which totally brought up the question, what is the difference between wicked and naughty?

Two days is not one of the answers. Except maybe in this case.

So what wickedness occurred last week at Reading Reality?

Ebook Review Central Featured Titles from Dreamspinner Press for August 2012: #1 Tigers and Devils by Sean Kennedy, #2 Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C., #3 Strengthened by Fire by Andrew Grey.
B Review: Of Blood and Bone (The Minaldi Legacy #1) by Courtney Cole
A- Review: Down for the Count (Dare Me #1) by Christine Bell
B+ Review: A Date with Death (1Night Stand) by Louisa Bacio + Interview
B- Review: The Naughty Angel (1Night Stand) by Shiela Stewart + Interview and Giveaway!
Wicked Romances Blog Hop (still plenty of time to enter!!!)

Whew, what a week! But that’s done and dusted. Except for the wicked, wicked hopping, of course.

What about this coming week, you might ask? I hope you’re asking. I’ve already told you about tomorrow’s Naughty & Nice Hop brought to you by the very lovely Romance at Random.

In addition, tomorrow’s Ebook Review Central will feature the Samhain titles from August 2012. Samhain can always be counted on to provide lots of options for featured titles, and this month was no exception. I’m still furiously tallying.

Tuesday, my guest will be Jessica Scott. She’ll be here to talk about her military romance series, Coming Home, and particularly the latest book in that series, Until There Was You. I’ll also have a review of the book.  (The first book in the series, Because of You, was excellent!) And Jessica has agreed to giveaway copies of both books.

Wednesday is my day to interview Nikki Logan, the author of Wild Encounter. Nikki’s romances feature both a romance between two people, and her romance with nature. In conjunction with the interview, Nikki will be giving away a copy of Wild Encounter. I’ll be reviewing Wild Encounter on Friday this week.

And on Thursday, my feature will be a review of Jillian Stone’s The Moonstone and Miss Jones. This is the second book in her Phaeton Black series. The first book, The Seduction of Phaeton Black, was an incredibly cool mix of decadent Victorian low places and bad boys with steampunk and, really surprising, Egyptian gods and magic powers. With a side-dish of Scotland Yard for spice. I had a lot of fun (see review) with the first book and have definitely been looking forward to the second!

And speaking of looking forward, I have a couple of guests that I’m looking forward to the week of October 29 (and who would have thought that the month was ending so soon!)

Lisa Kessler will be back on October 30 to talk about the latest book in her Night series,  Night Thief. I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Night Walker (review here), so this will be a treat.

And on November 1, my guest will be Cindy Spencer Pape, the author of not one but two of my favorite series, the paranormal/urban fantasy series Urban Arcana, and the one she’ll be talking about, her Gaslight Chronicles. The latest book in the series, Moonlight & Mechanicals, will have just come out, so I’ll also have a review.

It seems like I’ve always got something good to look forward to. How about you?


Review: The Seduction of Phaeton Black by Jillian Stone

The Seduction of Phaeton Black is just that, an extremely seductive story. And not just for the steamy sex. What seduces about Jillian Stone’s first foray into this cross between paranormal and steampunk is the way in which she mixes the darkly decadent underbelly of London during what we think of as the prim and proper Victorian era with evil spirits, misplaced Egyptian gods, and steam-powered wonders.

And the very, steamy sex. Lots of it.

Phaeton Black begins the story as a discredited Special Agent for Scotland Yard. In other words, he’s been recently sacked. His theory about the Ripper was discredited. He believed Jack was a blood-thirsty spirit. The Yard was certain Jack’s motives were more, well, earthly.

Phaeton was right, but there wasn’t any way the Yard could acknowledge that fact. And too many of Phaeton’s fellow officers didn’t want to. He’s generally right, and generally insufferable about it. He’s also seen a few too many uncanny things, and not always been able to cover it up.

Being able to investigate the paranormal makes those whose viewpoints are rooted in the here and now a bit nervous.

So does Phaeton’s marked fondness for absinthe. The Yard chalks his report about the Ripper being a hungry spirit up to the “green fairy”, and gives him the sack. When another problem outside the ordinary raises its ghostly head, the Yard drags him out from the hole he crawled into.

His new apartment in the basement of a brothel. Typical Phaeton.

The heroine of this adventure is America Jones, half-Cajun witch, in search of the pirate who stole her father’s shipping company. She needs Phaeton to help her steal it back. Legally this time.

With the powers from the witchy side of her heritage, America turns out to be the bait that Phaeton needs to entrap the hungry spirit the Yard has sent him after.

Ms. Jones wants Phaeton’s connections to the Yard to help her bring down the pirates, and protect her while she hunts them. And while they hunt her.

Their plan is to use each other to achieve their mutual aims. And then walk away. He’ll catch his killer. She’ll get her company back. If they manage to enjoy each other along the way, that’s just a way to pass the time.

Phaeton Black has never known what love is. Not in any form. He certainly doesn’t expect that this American chit he intends to use is going to teach him.

Or that she will be his salvation.

Escape Rating B+: The world that Jillian Stone has created in The Seduction of Phaeton Black is a seduction all by itself. Phaeton Black is one of those especially debauched anti-heroes who hides everything he feels behind a facade of worldly charm and flippant, often rude, remarks.

He acts like a user of everyone and everything around him. But it IS mostly an act. A coping mechanism.

America Jones is also coping. She’s lost everything she every knew, and using Phaeton Black is the only way she thinks she can get it back. And survive.

The spirit world is using both of them. The Egyptian gods are haunting London. Why not? Why shouldn’t one or more of them have been transported along with Cleopatra’s Needle and all the other ancient relics the British “liberated” (read that as looted) from Egypt. what a marvelous plot-twist!

The Egyptian gods need an assist to get back home. But gods don’t request help, they demand it.

The story was fantastic. Both literally and figuratively. Steam power, Egyptian gods, spirits, familiars, and Jack the Ripper. And pirates added for spice. What a ride! Including airships.

The way that Phaeton and America use each other, yet resist their mutual pull towards any emotional attachment, draws the reader towards their story just as they are drawn towards each other.

Phaeton’s and America’s story continues in The Moonstone and Miss Jones. It needs to continue. I can’t wait to read the next book. It looks like there are many adventures ahead.

Interview with Jilllian Stone + Giveaway

I am so excited to welcome Jillian Stone to Reading Reality today to talk about her fantastic (review here) The Seduction of Phaeton Black and a little bit about her other Victorian series, The Gentleman of Scotland Yard. Phaeton Black has been on my wishlist forever, so I was thrilled to get a chance to ask Ms. Stone a few questions about this decadent and delicious steampunk paranormal series.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What does Jillian Stone do when she’s not writing?

My life, pretty much 24-7 writing and book promotion. Currently, I am writing an e-novella for The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series (Pocket Books) and this summer I will begin the last book in the Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator series for Kensington Brava.

Most of the time when a writer tackles, or re-tackles, the Whitechapel Murders (AKA the Ripper Killings), their detective solves the case. What made you decide to have Phaeton Black be linked to a previous failure, however unfairly?

The premise sets up Phaeton’s story as a misunderstood paranormal investigator. In the opening chapter the reader meets the one man at Scotland Yard who believes that Phaeton might have been onto something in the Whitechapel Murders, (before he was fired) and now there’s a second series of murders along the Strand. Could it be the Ripper again, or a new fiend? That’s all I’m telling!

Absinthe shows up, or drips down, in so much decadent Victoriana. What was the fascination with absinthe? What exactly IS absinthe, anyway?

Absinthe, or the green fairy, is a liquor distilled from herbs: anise, sweet fennel and wormwood. It gained its romantic reputation during the late Victorian period, and was a particular favorite of the Parisian artisan crowd. There is also a wonderful ritual to making the drink and a visible chemical reaction that takes place when the chilled water drips slowly into the glass and mixes with the absinthe. The effect of several glasses has been described as clear-headed or lucid drunkenness. Absinthe is Phaeton’s drink of preference and it suits his character perfectly. He also enjoys a good single malt whiskey.

What attracted you to steampunk for your paranormal series instead of the usual contemporary setting?

I enjoy writing historicals and I liked the idea of combining a few genres, paranormal and steampunk romance with a Byronic antihero character (occult detective). The book also has a few erotic love scenes, so it really covers a lot of subgenres! In The Moonstone and Miss Jones, the sequel to The Seduction of Phaeton Black, the historical characters do some dimensional time travel and explore contemporary London, which was fun to write.


If you were casting Phaeton Black, who would play the part?

Johnny Depp or Ben Barnes would be the closest to Phaeton in terms of looks. Personality wise, Phaeton is a libertine, somewhat brooding character, who can be very funny at times. He is a magnetic force throughout the story.

Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?

Both. I wrote a seven or eight page synopsis for The Seduction of Phaeton Black and then adjusted the story as it developed.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?

All the time.  Sometimes I have to beat them back with a stick, other times I let them take me to a new, interesting place.

Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

I have always loved reading for pleasure, back as far as I can remember, whether I was being read to by my parents or reading to myself.

What was the first moment you knew you wanted to write?

I flirted with the idea of writing for years but never applied myself to learning the craft and business until the last five or six years.

What book do you recommend everyone should read, and why?

I think that Outlander by Diana Gabaldon was one of my more recent influences, along with Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice. Just read them over and over. Neither book is perfectly written, so that should tell you something. It’s not about perfection or how lovely you can turn a phrase, it’s all about the story.

Can you tell us a little bit about your future projects? Phaeton will be back, right?

Oh yes, it takes three books to completely straighten up Phaeton and even then…! In book #2, I’ve introduced a number of new eccentric characters (The Nightshades) as well as several interesting antiheroes. The relationship between Phaeton and America takes a few twists and turns in book #2 as well.

I saw on your website that you also have another Victorian romance series coming out. How do The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard compare to Phaeton Black?

Actually, the first book in the series is available now, An Affair with Mr. Kennedy (Pocket Books). This is my historical romantic suspense series, with a bit of James Bond Steampunk tossed in. The heroes are all detectives for Special Branch, Scotland Yard, who become involved with spirited, heroic young women. The books are full of action, adventure and romance. I have two more full length books coming out this fall and an e-novella for Pocket Star.

Coffee or Tea?

French Roast in the morning. Iced green tea during the day!

Great questions Marlene, thanks for having me!

And thank you so much for answering them! The Gentlemen of Scotland Yard sound every bit as intriguing as  Phaeton Black, even if they are based just slightly closer to the ground. (And that’s a bit of a hint about some of Phaeton’s adventures).

If you want to keep up with Jillian Stone, you can find her on her website or on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.

If you want to find out about Phaeton’s adventures for yourself, you’ll have your chance if you enter the giveaway below.



The Key to Phaeton’s Heart steampunk necklace (designed by Ula Kapala and pictured at right)  and ten (10) print copies of The Seduction of Phaeton Black are being given away tour wide.

To enter the giveaway just fill out the Rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

On My Wishlist #1

I give in!

Instead of buying more books to add to the ever-growing TBR piles and electonic ion storms, I’m joining On My Wishlist, a terrific meme that’s hosted by Book Chick City.

So instead of putting it on my Nightstand and buying it, I’m listing it here and saying why I want it. It doesn’t even have to be a new book. I just have to want it.

So not at problem! My problem is that I want to read more books than I have hours in the day.

Crystalfire by Kate Douglas
DemonSlayers #4
April 3, 2012
Kensington Zebra
Paranormal Romance

This is book four of the DemonSlayers series. I loved books 1, 2 and 3 (Demonfire, Hellfire, Starfire). Any time a sword talks back, and it’s snarky, I’m laughing. (Swords with attitude are fun, if you don’t believe me, read Mercedes Lackey’s Tarma and Kethry books in the Valdemar universe) But I’m also a pushover for romances and fantasies that cross over from a magic universe to ours.

Worldsoul by Liz Williams
June 6, 2012
Prime Books LLC
Science Fiction

This one had me at the opening of the description. I’ve got to find out what’s going on. Besides, I love Liz Williams’ Snake Agent/Detective Inspector Chen series, even if (ahem) I’m not caught up. I have The Iron Khan and haven’t gotten around to it yet.

What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world?

Worldsoul, a great city that forms a nexus point between Earth and the many dimensions known as the Liminality, is a place where old stories gather, where forgotten legends come to fade and die—or to flourish and rise again. Until recently, Worldsoul has been governed by the Skein, but they have gone missing and no one knows why. The city is also being attacked with lethal flower-bombs from unknown enemy. Mercy Fane and her fellow Librarians are doing their best to maintain the Library, but… things… keep breaking out of ancient texts and legends and escaping into the city. Mercy must pursue one such dangerous creature. She turns to Shadow, an alchemist, for aid, but Shadow—inadvertently possessed by an ifrit—has a perilous quest of her own to undertake.

The Seduction of Phaeton Black: Paranormal Investigator by Jillian Stone
April 1, 2012
Paranormal/Steampunk/Erotic Romance/Urban Fantasy/All of the above???

This is the one that got away at the Public Library Association Convention March 14-16. The cover looks so incredibly cool. And I tried to convince the folks at the Kensington booth to just let me have the display copy to review, but they weren’t having any of it. (I did cart away oodles of review copies, this was my only turndown).  Now I want to find out if the book is half as good as the cover.

There’s an additional thing on my wishlist that is not a book. We came back from the conference last night to discover that there’s a water pipe wonked out in our subdivision. We have no water. So the biggest thing on my wishlist today is for the plumbers to fix the pipes!