Review: Sand Dollar Lane by Sheila Roberts

Review: Sand Dollar Lane by Sheila RobertsSand Dollar Lane (Moonlight Harbor, #6) by Sheila Roberts
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Series: Moonlight Harbor #6
Pages: 336
Published by Mira on April 26, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBookshop.orgBetter World Books

USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts will have readers laughing and swooning in turn as two rival business owners compete for the homes and hearts of Moonlight Harbor.
Brody Green is finding it hard to recover after being dumped by his fiancée, Jenna Jones, then watching her walk down the aisle with someone else. Jenna is determined to make up for her love defection and find him the perfect woman, but Brody is done with love. First a divorce, then a broken engagement. From now on he’s keeping things light, no commitments. Luckily Brody’s business is booming. Beach Dreams Realty is the best real estate company in town. And the only one. Until…
Lucy Holmes needs a new start. In business, in love, in…everything. If ever there was a cliché, it was her life back in Seattle. She was a real estate broker working with her husband until she caught him trying out the walk-in shower in a luxury condo—with another agent. She’s always been the more successful of the two, and with him gone, she’s determined to build a business even bigger than what she had. Moonlight Harbor is a charming town and it has only one real estate agency. Surely there’s room for a little competition.
Or not. Looks like it’s going to be a hot market in Moonlight Harbor. And maybe these two competitors will make some heat of their own.

My Review:

“If you’re lucky enough to live at the beach, you’re lucky enough,” or so the saying goes on so many cute signs – particularly at beachfront communities.

But neither Lucy Holmes or Brody Green are feeling particularly lucky when this story begins – even though Brody already has his own house at the beach in Moonlight Harbor. Brody’s either heartbroken or cheesed off – or honestly a bit of both – that his fiancée Jenna Jones broke up with him in the previous book in this series, Sunset on Moonlight Beach, and married someone else.

Jenna owns The Driftwood Inn, a homey little B&B that seems to be the emotional if not the physical heart of tiny Moonlight Harbor. Brody, the only real estate agent in town and the head of the chamber of commerce, has no choice but to keep running into his ex and her new husband everywhere he turns.

It’s not making the hurt heal any faster, particularly since Jenna is determined to make it up to Brody for following HER heart by finding the perfect person for him to lose his to.

Lucy Holmes left her lucrative real estate business in Seattle behind – along with her marriage – after finding her husband in a cliché – and a naked clinch – with one of their junior real estate agents in a condo that Lucy was showing to prospective buyers. She gets half of everything they built together, both their marital property and their real estate business – but she needs a fresh start.

She discovers Moonlight Harbor, a little town on the Washington coast that looks like its on the cusp of discovery – and only seems to have one real estate agency in position to take advantage of the coming boom. There’s plenty of room in this growing community for two real estate agents. Or there should be. But Brody’s feeling sensitive about everything after losing Jenna, and Lucy is not only feeling sensitive about plenty herself, but NEEDS that fresh start in the worst way to get past, well, her past.

It’s a tiny town. They keep running into each other – and running after anyone in town who looks like they’re planning to buy or sell a house. Their college-age children, Brody’s son Declan and Lucy’s daughter Hannah, can’t seem to get enough of each other – enough of a worry for their parents without adding the Montague and Capulet vibes their respective parents are spreading all over town.

But the sparks that Brody and Lucy throw off every time they lock horns or glances puts the truth in another old saying about what three things kissing and real estate have in common. The guiding principles for both endeavors are “Location, location, location.”

Escape Rating B: Sand Dollar Lane is the sixth book in the author’s Moonlight Harbor series, which began with the fittingly titled Welcome to Moonlight Harbor. I haven’t read the previous books in the series – as much as I loved this author’s Life in Icicle Falls series (my favorite is Merry Ex-Mas) I think this one fell down the “so many books, so little time” conundrum.

I didn’t feel like I was missing any of the plot by not having visited this little town before – there are plenty of hints to catch a new reader right up embedded into the current action. What I think I did miss was being previously invested in Brody Green’s relationship with Jenna Jones. Her ‘torn between two lovers’ dilemma stretches over the first five books and finally ends with her marrying Seth Waters at the end of the fifth book.

So here we are in the sixth book, Jenna is happily married and Brody is miserable. (She seems to be a great person and he really did love her so his misery is completely understandable.) But, and this is where I think I missed something, I didn’t know them so I didn’t feel FOR them when this book started.

So Brody comes off as a bit of a self-absorbed jerk, and Jenna’s continuous attempts to assuage her own guilt over their breakup by awkwardly and obviously trying to match Brody up with every unattached female in their age bracket comes off as weird and intrusive. On the other hand, I’m an introvert and would want to lick my wounds in private, thankyouverymuch. Brody, Jenna and Lucy for that matter are all extroverts. So they might feel differently. Jenna certainly does, but Brody, not so much.

Lucy is every bit as salty about men and relationships as Brody is about women, but she earned it more. At the same time, she really is doing her best – and it turns out to be damn good – to wash that man right out of her hair and move forward with her own life and a fresh start.

That she turns into the Wicked Witch of the West whenever Brody gets when spitting distance is not her usual, but she’s having some trust issues about men who seem to be smooth and charming because that was her ex all over. And Brody seems to be able to turn it on and off at a moment’s notice.

In other words, this is a romance where the adults are squabbling like children on a playground and not actually adulting. It’s their newly adult children who are much closer to adulting. Not that Hannah doesn’t fall off that wagon once or twice in a really big way, but then, she’s at the age where that’s expected behavior.

But very much on my other hand, Moonlight Harbor is a lovely, close-knit community, and the people who live there seem to be utterly charming. While the romance in this particular entry in the series turned out to be not quite my cuppa, I did enjoy visiting here and I really liked the way that Lucy ‘put on her big girl panties’ and moved forward with her life. That part was terrific – even with her occasional partial transformations into Maleficent. (Although I loved the time when she had nightmares about it – not for the nightmare but because the invasion of Disney into her dreamscape was just so well done AND on point.)

To make this long story short, while I may not have fallen in love with the romance between Lucy and Brody, I did fall hard for Moonlight Harbor and would love to come back. And probably will the next time I’m in the mood for life in a lovely place that isn’t that far distant in either miles or mood from my beloved Icicle Falls.

Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman + Giveaway

Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman + GiveawayStardust by Neil Gaiman
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, graphic novel, large print, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 288
Published by William Morrow on September 27th 2016 (first published 1999)
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Go and catch a falling star . . .
Tristran Thorn promises to bring back a fallen star for his beloved, the hauntingly beautiful Victoria Forester—and crosses the wall that divides his English country town from another, more dangerous world of lords and witches, all of them in search of the star. Rich with adventure and magic, Stardust is one of master storyteller Neil Gaiman's most beloved tales.
“Eminently readable—a charming piece of work.”   —Washington Post Book World
“Beautiful, memorable . . . A book full of marvels.”   —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

My Review:

Stardust the movie posterNever judge a book by its movie. I saw the movie Stardust a few years ago, but my recollection of it is NOTHING like the book. Which was lovely. But does not contain cross-dressing pirate captains. Not that a book about or containing cross-dressing pirate captains might not be good, or interesting, or funny, or all of the above. But there are none in Stardust. The book.

Stardust has the feel of a fairy tale, albeit one written for adults or near-adults. Or possibly pretending-to-be-adults. The world of Faerie, beyond the town of Wall, has all the elements of a fairy tale. There are evil witches who cast terrible spells. There’s a mysterious kingdom high in the mountains, where the throne is passed, not from father to eldest son, but from survivor to survivor, in a winner-takes-all competition for the throne. There are people ensorcelled to be animals, and animals spelled to be people.

And of course there is prophecy, destiny and fate. And absolutely nothing is as it seems.

Once upon a time, a young man of Wall spends the night in Faerie with a beautiful girl. He goes home to his ordinary life, and marries his ordinary wife, and the night he spent with the bird-girl slips further into dreams.

Until nine months later, when a baby is shoved through the opening from Faerie into Wall, and Dunstan Thorn learns that actions have consequences, although not necessarily for him. Because this is not his story.

It’s that baby’s story. Tristran Thorn grows up, and as a very young man, makes a very foolish promise to a rather stuck-up young woman. But while she means nothing of what she says to him, he means every single word that he says to her.

And off Tristran goes, to Faerie, to seek out a fallen star. He has no idea that Faerie is the land of his birth. And he equally has no idea that the fallen star he seeks is not a lump of metal, but a young woman who was knocked out of the sky by a magically thrown rock.

And of course he has no idea at all that this adventure will be the making of him. The boy who leaves Wall plans to bring the star back to show the young woman he believes that he loves.

The man he becomes, well, that man discovers something else entirely.

Escape Rating A: Stardust is, as I said in the beginning, absolutely lovely. If you have fond memories of reading fairy tales, Stardust will bring back all those feelings, while still telling a story written, if not exactly for grown ups, at least for people masquerading as such.

Stardust is also both a quest story and a coming-of-age story, in the finest fairy tale tradition. As everyone in Faerie knows, there are only two reasons for a young man to embark on the kind of quest that Tristran undertakes – either he is seeking his fortune, or he is doing it for love. And of course, they are right. While he is doing it for love, what he finds turns out to be his fortune. And also love. It wouldn’t have a happy ending otherwise.

Which it most certainly does. But it’s absolutely nothing like the movie.



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William Morrow is giving away (5) sets of American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere and Stardust! (Which are all absolutely awesome books!)
Terms & Conditions:
• By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
• Five winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one set of all 4 books
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• Winner will be contacted via email on December 3.
• Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!
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Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil GaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 178
Published by William Morrow Books on June 18th 2013
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

My Review:

If the man who is never named, who may be someone not dissimilar to the author, returns to that ocean at the end of that lane so that Lettie can see if her sacrifice was worth it, readers are left with the certainty that it was.

If only that so we can read this strange and marvelous story that has bits of fantasy, parts of horror, and a few things that go bump in the night. Along with the sense both that we never quite grow up, and that the bits and pieces we remember of our childhoods do not necessarily resemble what actually happened.

And probably shouldn’t.

From one perspective, this story is relatively simple. A man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, and in his grief he finds himself wandering back to the places he knew as a child.

Much of his childhood has been torn down, and this is not surprising, it happens to all of us as we reach middle-age. But one place is still standing, because it is a place that has always been standing, and possibly always will be, even after the rest of us have turned to dust.

It is the place where the narrator experienced something both wonderful and terrible, an experience that was awful both in the sense that it was a horrible thing to have happen , and in its original sense, that it was full of awe. But it was an experience that his seven-year-old self wasn’t ready to experience, and one that his ordinary self is unable to remember.

Except when he returns, as he sometimes does, to remember what really happened and to give an accounting of his life to the one person who made it all possible.

And it’s magic.

Escape Rating A: Fair warning, this is going to be one of those reviews where I mostly talk about how the book made me feel. I’m not sure there is any other way to approach it.

Although most of the events being recounted happened to the protagonist when he was seven, this is an adult book. It is the man looking back on those events, and recognizing that there are things he knows now that he didn’t know then. And sometimes vice-versa.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a story that will either charm you and draw you in, or it won’t. It is also not quite what you might be expecting. There is a sense that it is fantasy, a possibility that it is horror, and even a chance that everything the author thinks he remembers is mostly a story that he tells himself rather than events that he actually remembers.

There are readers, who will be turned off by the child’s perspective, and there are readers who will be turned off by the fantasy elements that are inserted into the real world. Obviously, I wasn’t one of them. I found the sense that he was telling the story to himself added to the magic. It felt like a memory of the things you think you see out of the corner of your eyes – or when when you turn suddenly and what you thought was there seemingly isn’t.

This is also one of those stories that when you finish, you look back at what you read and are forced to view it in an entirely different way because of what you have learned. One of the ways in which the author turns this trope on its head is that while the reader ends with enough knowledge to re-evaluate the whole story, the protagonist forgets all that he has learned. Again.

What he experienced, what he learned, is too magical, too real, to exist in the mundane world. But it is such an important part of what made him who he is that it is necessary, every once in awhile, that he come to Lettie’s Ocean to remember it all over again.

And as the reader, I am very grateful for that.

If you believe that the world is much, much stranger than it seems, and that there are forces both wondrous and terrible still lurking in its hidden corners, this book is an incredible, and intense, treat.

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Review: The Drafter by Kim Harrison

Review: The Drafter by Kim HarrisonThe Drafter (The Peri Reed Chronicles, #1) by Kim Harrison
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Peri Reed Chronicles #1
Pages: 422
Published by Gallery Books on September 1st 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Detroit 2030. Double-crossed by the person she loved and betrayed by the covert government organization that trained her to use her body as a weapon, Peri Reed is a renegade on the run.
Don’t forgive and never forget has always been Peri’s creed. But her day job makes it difficult: she is a drafter, possessed of a rare, invaluable skill for altering time, yet destined to forget both the history she changed and the history she rewrote.
When Peri discovers her name on a list of corrupt operatives, she realizes that her own life has been manipulated by the agency. She joins forces with a mysterious rogue soldier in a deadly race to piece together the truth about her final task, unable to trust even herself.

My Review:

Years ago, a friend recommended Kim Harrison’s Hollows series, starting with Dead Witch Walking. I should have loved it. Ironically, it is set in the Greater Cincinnati area, where I grew up. So I even knew the place. But it just didn’t work for me. I still have the books, thinking I’ll get back round to it someday.

Fast forward to last year, when The Drafter came out. As this was the first book in a new series, it felt like time to give Harrison another chance. But I never got around to it. So when a tour came around for the paperback release of The Drafter, I decided to give it a go. And here we are.

The story is set in a kind of post-urban apocalypse Detroit in 2030. Not that the rest of the U.S. has suffered any kind of apocalypse that we know of. In this series, Detroit is just post its very current situation of urban decay and infrastructure collapse and out the other side to a new and resurrected high-tech city erected on the ashes of the old steel and asphalt core. It’s an interesting idea.

(For another story that takes a completely different tack to the seemingly inevitable fall of Detroit and what rises from its ashes, check out Rachel Aaron’s Nice Dragons Finish Last.)

But back to this version of Detroit and this story.

What if a human being could be their own personal TARDIS? Not that Peri Reed physically takes anyone with her when she “drafts”, but she does jump back in time, just a tiny bit. And when she does, she rewrites history. Unfortunately for her, once the history is rewritten she has to be made to forget the original timeline, or she’ll go crazy.

Drafting is a highly-prized talent, because it is so rare. She can bring about any outcome her handlers want, while erasing the evidence and most of the consequences. She never remembers whatever she did. But Peri is a puppet who doesn’t really know who is pulling her strings. Or she’s a prize-winning bird in a very, very expensive gilded cage. Or a little bit of both. And when she begins to unravel the truth about herself and her puppet masters, all they have to do is make her rewrite the scene where she figures everything out, so they can make her forget all over again.

What are you guilty of if you never remember what you did or why you did it? Is Peri culpable for all of her actions, or is she just the weapon, with her trigger pulled by someone else? And why should she care?

Escape Rating B: It’s the why should she care question that ends up haunting both Peri and the reader. This reader, however, was also left with the question of “why should I care?”, while at the same time unable to forget this story.

Peri is a very, very unreliable narrator for her own life. While we all forget details of our lives over time, Peri is forced to forget weeks, months and even years of her own life, reset back to zero whenever she gets to close to the truth about the organization that uses and sometimes abuses her.

Her entire world is one big lie, and every time she gets close to the center of that lie, she is forced to forget that she ever knew. The devastation wrought by all those resets is hard to imagine. It’s always a wonder that Peri hasn’t gone off the deep end. And the fear of that outcome haunts her at every turn, and is used both to push her into situations she does not want, and to control her when she tries to go her own way. Peri may be a perpetrator, but she is also a victim. And we can never be sure how much she has consented to, and neither can she.

The story here is about Peri’s latest attempt to get to the truth, and then get out with her life and whatever is left of her memory and sanity. Two factions are fighting over her body – Opti, a corrupt government organization that sells Peri’s services to the highest bidder, and The Alliance, an only slightly less corrupt organization that wants to expose Opti and its operations for reasons that are not entirely clear. It’s not that Opti should not be exposed, because they certainly should – it’s that The Alliance and its agenda may not be a much whiter hat in the end. Merely a less dark shade of gray. The individuals on both sides of this equation are amoral operators who see Peri and her talents as just means to their ends. And both feel that their ends justify any means at all.

There’s a bigger mystery at the heart of the book. From Peri’s perspective it’s impossible to tell which side everyone is on. She can’t remember anything from her own past, and everyone seems to be out to wipe her memory and use her again. She’s also finally realized that many of her fears and much of her conditioning are designed to keep her mentally weak and dependent on her handlers, just so she doesn’t figure out what she’s really capable of or what she can really do.

But at the end, there are very few people in this story that the reader can root for. All of the operatives and all of the undercover agents for all of the various factions have all “gone native” to one degree or another. No one has clean hands.

As this story wound down to its conclusion, I found myself caught up in the tension and fast pace. I desperately wanted to get to the heart of the mystery and see how everything finally resolved itself. But at the same time, I found myself not really caring for any of the players. There are no heroes here, only lesser and greater villains.

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Review: Two to Wrangle by Victoria Vane

Review: Two to Wrangle by Victoria VaneTwo To Wrangle (Hotel Rodeo, #2) by Victoria Vane
Formats available: ebook
Series: Hotel Rodeo #2
Pages: 144
Published by Lyrical Shine on February 16th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

Maybe having a hot and heavy affair with the boss’s daughter wasn’t the smartest move. But country boy Ty Morgan didn’t regret a moment with city girl Monica Brandt…until she left Las Vegas to return to her life in New York.  When devastating news sends her running back, Ty can’t help but open his arms.  His heart, however, is another matter.  AND A CITY GIRL
Now that Ty has what he’s always wanted—controlling interest in Hotel Rodeo—Monica is certain their time together is at an end.  Then Ty asks her to come on board as a partner.  Maybe it’s just her money he needs, but the chance to stick close to the sexy wrangler sure could make work a whole lot more interesting.  GET READY TO TANGO
Their partnership doesn’t come without a heap of problems. The two can’t agree on anything—except their iron-hot attraction.  As the hotel’s Grand Opening approaches, the truth is all too clear: Ty and Monica must find a way to mix business with pleasure if they have any shot at dancing off into the sunset together…  Praise for Victoria Vane“Erotic and sexy.” —Library Journal on the Devil DeVere series
“For erotic passion and one-liners, the first book in Vane's new series will satisfy...Vane's latest gets a big yee-haw.”—RT Book Reviews on Slow Hand

My Review:

The story may be set mostly in Las Vegas, but the relationship between Ty and Monica feels more like a Texas Two-Step, but I’m not sure whether that’s two steps forward and two steps back, or possibly two steps together and two steps apart.

I’m not sure that Ty and Monica figure it out either, at least not until the very, very end.

hell on heels by victoria vaneTwo to Wrangle is the second half of a fun “opposites attract” type of romance. The first half of the story is in Hell on Heels (reviewed here). Sometimes it isn’t 100% necessary to read the first book in a series before picking up the second (or subsequent) but Two to Wrangle is not one of those times. Hell on Heels and Two to Wrangle are two parts of the same story, and neither feels complete without the other.

In Hell on Heels, Monica comes to Vegas to take care of her father Tom’s business after he suffers a debilitating stroke – and runs smack into Ty, who manages the slightly broken-down hotel her dad owns at the very edge of the Las Vegas strip.

They are on opposite sides from the very beginning, in ways that are both obvious and not so obvious. While Monica is Tom’s biological daughter, they didn’t meet until her adulthood – her mother only contacted Tom to inform him he had a child after he struck it rich. Mom wanted back child support, and got it, while Tom just wanted to know his daughter and Monica just wanted a father.

On that other hand, while Tom and Ty have no biological relationship, Tom pretty much raised Ty and Ty loves him like a father. From Tom’s perspective, it’s clear that Ty is the child he never knew he had, and the advent of Monica into Tom’s life doesn’t change his relationship with Ty.

But the hotel that Ty manages for Tom, the Hotel Rodeo, is long past its glory days. It’s still a decent place to stay, but Ty is doing the best he can with not enough resources to compete in Las Vegas’ glitzy, upscale market.

Monica is a business analyst, and a damn good one. She wants to sell the hotel, she sees the land it’s on as worth more than the business. Ty had just convinced Tom to renovate when the stroke hit him.

As Monica and Ty bite, scratch and claw their way through too many arguments and one glorious night, they push each other away as much as they can’t stay away from each other. Monica wants to go back to New York, and she’s afraid to give her heart to a man who admits he can’t commit. Ty has his head up his ass and can admit that Monica is the one woman he might commit to.

Just as they pull apart, Tom succumbs to a second stroke, and all the battles have to be fought all over again. But this time, for keeps.

Escape Rating B: Ty and Monica really are opposites. It’s not just the country boy/city girl opposite, or the East Coast vs. open West opposite, it’s pretty much everything. But one of those opposites is that Ty is the people person and the visionary, where Monica is a pragmatic businesswoman who always looks at the bottom line. Ty recognizes that to make his vision of the Hotel Rodeo succeed, he needs Monica’s business sense as well as her consent.

It takes most of the book for him to admit to himself, let alone to Monica, that he also just needs her.

Monica, pure and simple, is afraid to upend her life and give her heart to someone who has always said that he doesn’t do relationships, and seems to have a history of not sticking to the ones he does try. There’s also an element where Monica is used to dealing with men as alpha sharks, and until she sees a piece of that in Ty, a place where he is the king and everyone sees him as such, she has a bit of a hard time getting past some of her own assumptions.

beauty and the bull rider by victoria vaneThat he nearly gets himself killed does finally move things along. A lot.

One of the hard things in this story as a whole is that Monica and Ty are people who are wired not to lean on anyone. Not to rely on anyone. Ever. So they both put up a lot of roadblocks to a real relationship, not just by pushing the other away, but also inside their own heads. At times, it seems as if Monica is looking for reasons not to trust Ty, and Ty is looking for reasons to fight with Monica.

It takes a major crisis for them to each pull their heads out of their own asses and admit what they feel, instead of talking around and around about what they think the other one feels. When they finally do, they are able to reach for something that has always eluded them, a real shot at happy ever after.
The next book in the Hotel Rodeo series is Beauty and the Bull Rider. While it features characters we have met in the first two stories, it does not follow Ty and Monica but looks at a different and potentially explosive, relationship among their circle of friends. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next!


Falling Grace et al


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Review: The Winemaker Detective Mysteries: An Omnibus by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen

Review: The Winemaker Detective Mysteries: An Omnibus by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel BalenThe Winemaker Detective: An Omnibus by Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, Anne Trager, Sally Pane
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Pages: 309
Published by Le French Book Inc. on December 5th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Two amateur sleuths gumshoe around French wine country, where money, deceit, jealousy, inheritance and greed are all the ingredients needed for crime. Master winemaker Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile Lanssien solve mysteries in vineyards with a dose of Epicurean enjoyment of fine food and beverage. Each story is a homage to wine and winemakers, as well as a mystery. In "Treachery in Bordeaux," barrels at the prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion wine estate in Bordeaux have been contaminated. Is it negligence or sabotage? In "Grand Cru Heist," Benjamin Cooker's world gets turned upside down one night in Paris. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover. He and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and very particular heist. In "Nightmare in Burgundy," a dream wine tasting trip to Burgundy that turns into a troubling nightmare when Cooker and his assistant stumble upon a mystery revolving around messages from another era. This made-for-TV series is "difficult to forget and oddly addictive" ("ForeWord Reviews").

My Review:

The Winemaker Detective Omnibus combines three books that were originally published separately; Treachery in Bordeaux, Grand Cru Heist and Nightmare in Burgundy. As these are the first three books in what is now a 20 book plus series in the original French, this little omnibus is a convenient way to start on this tasty little series about making wine, living the Epicurean life in France, and murder.

Each of the books in this series is novella-length, so this combined introductory collection makes for a decent book-sized book without being overwhelming.

treachery in bordeaux by jean pierre alaux and noel balenThe stories feature the internationally acclaimed Anglo-French winemaker and wine commentator Benjamin Cooker, and his young assistant Virgile Lanssien. Poor Virgile’s job interview opens Treachery in Bordeaux, and he and his new boss are immediately thrust into a tale of wine sabotage, real estate shenanigans and death.

This is a relatively straight-forward case in many ways, with the original crime – what happened to the wine? – relatively easy to guess, both for the reader and the newly hired Virgile. Figuring out whodunnit and even more interesting, whydunnit make the story. The portrait of the winemaking region of France and the processes used to create and preserve the wine and the winemaking business itself are fascinating.

But Treachery in Bordeaux is mostly a book that sets up later stories. Once Cooker figures out the shortlist of who might have done the crime, the wrap-up is quick and almost anti-climactic. We see Cooker agonize much more over writing the next edition of his famous wine guide than we observe him thinking about the case.

grand cru heist by jean pierre alaux and noel balenFor this reader, Grand Cru Heist was the best of the three stories in the collection. All of the characters and situations are set up in Treachery in Bordeaux, and we see the partnership of Cooker and Lanssien gel. And we see Benjamin Cooker thrown very much out of his element, as we watch him recover from a carjacking in Paris. While he is recuperating in Tours, he runs across a congenial fellow wine collector, a Russian prostitute, and a staged murder-suicide that conceals two murders. Meanwhile back home, a friend’s collection of rare wines is being stolen from auction houses around Europe. And only his friend’s wines, no matter what other treasures are stored in those warehouses.

So while Cooker mourns the loss of his vintage car and his even more precious notes for his next Guide, he finds his recuperation aided by involving himself in both the police investigation and the hunt for a thief. It’s not a complete surprise when that congenial wine collector, the murders and the thefts all turn out to be part of the same messy business. But it is fun.

nightmare in burgundy by jean pierre alaux and noel balenIn Nightmare in Burgundy, Cooker is off to Burgundy, a completely different winemaking region than his native Bordeaux. While Cooker is in Burgundy for a wine judging event, he stumbles across a case that takes a very unfortunate turn.

Someone is leaving Biblical verse graffiti, in Latin, painted on the walls and inside the houses of several villages in the Burgundy area. Whoever is leaving the quotes from Psalm 102, it is someone in a lot of pain and obviously not a typical tagger. When the painting spree starts causing collateral damage among the villagers, Cooker steps in to figure out not just who is in such terrible anguish, and causing so much more.

By the time I got to Nightmare in Burgundy, it felt like reading all three stories back to back was too much of a good thing all at once. Perhaps I was a bit hungover from all the wine talk! So while these stories are individually lovely, I would recommend pacing oneself and resisting the impulse to plow through them all at once.

Escape Ratings: Treachery in Bordeaux, B-: Grand Cru Heist, B: Nightmare in Burgundy, B

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Review: Adrian by Heather Grothaus

Review: Adrian by Heather GrothausAdrian (The Brotherhood of Fallen Angels, #2) by Heather Grothaus
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Brotherhood of Fallen Angels #2
Pages: 352
Published by Lyrical Press on December 22nd 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

In the medieval Holy Land, four brave Crusaders fight tyranny and betrayal. They are the Brotherhood of Fallen Angels—and one by one, they may discover that love is the greatest adventure of all…   From palaces and cathedrals to fortresses, Adrian Hailsworth’s engineering genius is evident across the land—including the castle of Chastellet. But a bloody siege has left the stronghold, and Adrian, in ruins. Now a wanted man, he is forced into hiding at The Brotherhood of Fallen Angels Abbey, his brilliant mind plagued with nightmares, his spirit broken—until Father Victor presents him with a fiery redhead in need of help only Adrian can give…   Maisie Lindsay is the lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Wyldonna, a small kingdom off the Scottish coast that is being blackmailed—by none other than the Brotherhood’s most treacherous enemy. The only chance of saving Wyldonna lies in unearthing its vast fortune, hidden within a labyrinth of deadly traps and secret passages. The challenge enlivens Adrian—as does the passion Maisie ignites. But she is far more than she appears, and the truth may force Adrian to sacrifice his heart’s longing to save her, before it’s too late for them all…

My Review:

Welcome to Brigadoon!

Not quite, but almost. For those who have never seen the play or the movie, Brigadoon is the story of a group of American tourists who stumble over a magical village in the Scottish Highlands that only appears once a century, and vanishes back into the mists at the end of its single day in normal time.

The mystical kingdom of Wyldonna is equally magical, and also equally Scottish. However, it sounds like Wyldonna is set closer to the Orkney Islands than in the actual Highlands. Wyldonna is certainly an island off the coast of Scotland in this story.

Unlike Brigadoon, Wyldonna emerges from its concealing mists four times per year, on the equinoxes and the solstices. Also unlike Brigadoon, not all, even not most of its inhabitants are humans.

Adrian is also a “magic goes away” type story. In this version of Europe during the Crusades, all of the magic in the world is locked away on Wyldonna. And like the magical kingdom of the Tala in Jeffe Kennedy’s marvelous Twelve Kingdoms, only those from Wyldonna or accompanying someone from Wyldonna can find their way in. And also like the Tala, the complete separation of magic from the rest of world is resulting in difficulties on both sides of the equation. The lack of magic is harming the regular world, and the bottled up magic is too much for Wyldonna.

The crisis that is coming is brought by the villain of the Brotherhood of Fallen Angels series, Glayer Felsteppe, who in addition to having a horrible name seems to have more lives than a cat, and all of them misspent.

valentine by heather grothausIn the first book in this series, Valentine (reviewed here), we were introduced to the world of the Brotherhood of Fallen Angels, the mess they are in, and the lengths they will go to to clear their names of the stain of treason. They did not betray their fortress to the Saracens – that crime belongs to Felsteppe. He and his Saracen ally arranged for the fall of the fortress and the messages to Saladin and Richard the Lion-Hearted that the Brotherhood was responsible. The Brotherhood was not supposed to survive their subsequent torture by the Saracens, but then the best and worst laid plans often go astray.

In their exile, they have all been condemned as traitors. They are all cut off from the families and friends, except each other. They have all vowed to see their enemy’s head on pike, or otherwise separated from his body. So far, they have wounded the bastard, but he keeps surviving to hunt them another day.

In this second entry in the series, it is engineer Adrian Hailsworth’s turn to leave their sanctuary in the hopes of putting paid to Felsteppe’s account. A servant of the Queen of mythical Wyldonna comes to the Abbey asking for aid. The queen needs an engineer to search her castle for a mysterious treasure. A treasure that Felsteppe is planning to pick up, personally.

Adrian believes none of the stories of Wyldonna, and he doesn’t care. He is certain he can find any secrets that any building might be holding. And he’ll do anything for a chance at Felsteppe.

But while Adrian may not believe in the magic of Wyldonna, the magic believes in him. His coming was foretold, as was the death of the Queen who lied to him, lured him to her kingdom, and has come to love him above her own life.

Escape Rating B+: I enjoyed Adrian every bit as much as I did Valentine, but it is a completely different type of story. In Valentine, we have a mad romp across Europe, with the worldly hero and the sheltered heroine falling in love as they escape danger over and over. Valentine is forced to rescue Mary multiple times, both because he doesn’t tell her everything that’s going on and because Mary tends to rush in where angels fear to tread.

In Adrian, the situation is reversed. In Valentine, the journey was the point of the story. In Adrian, it’s the destination that matters. Also, where in Valentine he was constantly rescuing her, in Adrian it is the other way around. Because Adrian is a man of science, even 12th century science, he only believes in what he sees. He does not believe in the very real magic of Wyldonna, no matter how many times it hits him over the head. So, even though Maisie and her brother Malcolm repeatedly warn him not to do certain things or go certain places because of the magic, Adrian bull-headedly ignores them. Maisie, Malcolm and the giant caretaker Reid all end up pulling Adrian out of the frying pan that he has thrown himself into at one time or another.

Adrian’s visit to Wyldonna has been prophesied for centuries. Not him personally, but yes, him. After his torture by the Saracens, in his subsequent rescue Adrian got tattoos to cover all his scars. His extensive tattoos have transformed him into the “Painted Man” of Wyldonna legend, whether he believes it or not.

(It’s a telling point that the practitioner who gave Adrian his ink disappears after his job in the legend is done)

All in all, Adrian is a terrific magical adventure with a lovely twist of romance. The way that the author wove the magic of Wyldonna into the story added to my very willing suspension of disbelief. It’s the kind of magical mystery that the reader wants to be true.

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Review: Wings of Sorrow and Bone by Beth Cato

Review: Wings of Sorrow and Bone by Beth CatoWings of Sorrow and Bone: A Clockwork Dagger Novella by Beth Cato
Formats available: ebook
Series: Clockwork Dagger #2.5
Pages: 96
Published by Harper Voyager Impulse on November 10th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo

From the author of The Clockwork Dagger comes an exciting novella set in the same world…
After being rescued by Octavia Leander from the slums of Caskentia, Rivka Stout is adjusting to her new life in Tamarania. But it’s hard for a blossoming machinist like herself to fit in with proper society, and she’d much rather be tinkering with her tools than at a hoity-toity party any day.
When Rivka stumbles into a laboratory run by the powerful Balthazar Cody, she also discovers a sinister plot involving chimera gremlins and the violent Arena game Warriors. The innocent creatures will end up hurt, or worse, if Rivka doesn’t find a way to stop Mr. Cody. And to do that means she will have to rely on some unexpected new friends.

My Review:

clockwork crown by beth catoI absolutely adored the Clockwork Dagger duology. The second book of the pair, The Clockwork Crown, is a contender for my best of the year list. The only reason that both books aren’t on the list is that The Clockwork Dagger was published in 2014, but I was late to the party.

If you like steampunk and skullduggery mixed with your magic and fantasy, this series is awesome.

So when I saw this postquel (that needs to be a word) listed on Edelweiss, I was all in. I call it a postquel because it isn’t a sequel. Wings of Sorrow and Bone isn’t a whole separate take on this world. Instead it’s more of a tying up of a loose end from the original story.

That being said, this could still serve as an introduction, or more likely a taste-whetter, for the series as a whole. The main characters in Wings were introduced in the main sequence, but not featured. This is sort of a what happens after because of the consequences of the main story. Of course, it has more depth if you’ve read Dagger and Crown. And why wouldn’t you? They are, as I said, positively awesome.

Wings of Sorrow and Bone takes place in Tamarania, the rich and sophisticated country that has managed to sit outside the long and devastating war between Caskentia and the Dallowmen. There are two links between Wings and the main series. One is Viola Stout, who traveled as Medician Octavia Leander’s companion during the main series. Viola is also the secret heir to the disputed Caskentian throne, and has hidden her identity her entire life. With her recently discovered granddaughter, Rivka Stout, Viola is now living safely in Tamarania, and trying to turn her street-urchin granddaughter into a lady.

clockwork dagger by beth catoAll Rivka wants is to be a machinist. She has a way with machines, and absolutely no facility for noble small talk or feminine frippery. Escaping from a dull society partner and her grandmother’s watchful eye, Rivka finds herself in the company Tatiana Garret. Tatiana is the younger sister of Alonzo Garret, the hero of Dagger and Crown. Alonzo is assisting the great medician Octavia Leander as she runs for her life. He’s also fallen in love with her.

And his selfish little sister is absolutely pissed that she isn’t getting enough of his attention. So she kidnaps Leander and ships her back to Caskentia as freight. Garret follows on a stolen mecha warrior, and that story barrels towards its conclusion.

But Tatiana is still in Tamarania, still feeling put upon, and the owner and trainer of the mecha her brother stole is still angry at the loss of his property. Tatiana is still looking for a way to get her own way in something. Rivka just wants to escape the party.

Together the young women find themselves in the mecha laboratory, watching as living animals, adorably ugly little gremlins. are experimented upon and having their parts amputated in order for the owner of the Arena to build a newer, bigger and even more deadly gremlin/mecha warrior to replace the one that Alonzo Garret stole.

All Tatiana seems to see is a way to be the center of everyone’s attention, by becoming the first female mecha rider.

All Rivka sees is a whole laboratory full of living, breathing, feeling, intelligent little animals, who are being sadistically tortured in order to create an even bigger, more intelligent and more feeling gremlin/mecha hybrid, one whose only fate is to die in that Arena.

But not if Rivka, with some surprising help from Tatiana, can find a way to bring it all down, and soon.

Escape Rating B+: This story is short, but packs a satisfying wallop at the end. However, there’s a bit of a stutter in the middle.

The plot that Rivka hatches, with the help of her grandmother Viola and the reluctant assistance of Tatiana, is actually quite clever. Stealing a mecha is not the answer. As the story makes all too clear, Alonzo Garret’s theft of the one gremlin/mecha warrior has only induced the Arena owner Cody, and all of his competitors, to make larger and more dangerous mecha constructs. And the bigger the mecha, the more little gremlins have to be sacrificed to provide the parts.

Rivka wants to save all the gremlins, the little ones who have lost their limbs or wings, and the great big one who is being trained to be a killer. She can’t steal them all, and she can’t buy them all. Her answer to the problem is ingenious. And successful.

It’s her use of Tatiana as an ally, and Tatiana’s very deliberate use of Rivka, that gave me fits. I like Rivka a lot. She’s self-sufficient and smart, and learned to survive in a school of very hard knocks. She loves her grandmother but just doesn’t know how to be the person her grandmother wants her to be. And she’s an absolutely brilliant mechanist.

Tatiana is a selfish little user throughout the story. As she was in Clockwork Crown. Tatiana is all about Tatiana, and she doesn’t care who she steps on or steps over as long as she gets her way. Where Rivka is a likeable protagonist, Tatiana is absolutely not. That Rivka and her grandmother get Tatiana on board with their plan is amazing. That they do it by creating a role that feeds her narcissism was necessary but still left me wanting to slap Tatiana upside the head with a clue-by-four.

And the ending of Wings of Sorrow and Bone still brought a smile to my face.

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Review: Christmas on Candy Cane Lane by Sheila Roberts

Review: Christmas on Candy Cane Lane by Sheila RobertsChristmas on Candy Cane Lane (Life in Icicle Falls, #8) by Sheila Roberts
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Series: Life in Icicle Falls #8
Pages: 400
Published by Mira on October 27th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes &

Icicle Falls is the place to be at Christmas…
Everyone's getting ready for Christmas in Icicle Falls, especially on Candy Cane Lane, where holiday decorating is taken very seriously. Tilda Morrison, town cop, is looking forward to celebrating Christmas in her first house… until she discovers that she's expected to "keep up" with the neighbors, including Maddy Donaldson, the inspiration behind the whole extravaganza. But this year, someone's destroying Maddie's precious candy canes! Thank goodness for the cop in their neighborhood.
Tilda already has her hands full trying to sort out her love life and fix up her fixer-upper. Oh, and won't it be fun to have the family over for Christmas dinner? Not really… Then there's her neighbor, Ivy Bohn. As a newly single mom, Ivy can sum up the holiday in two words: Bah, humbug. But she's determined to give her kids a perfect Christmas.
Despite family disasters, irritating ex-husbands and kitchen catastrophes, these three women are going to find out that Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year!

My Review:

This is a story about what happens when you live next to the Griswold family from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Or at least you feel like you do. When the plastic trappings of Christmas become way more important than any spirit of Christmas whatsoever, you have a recipe for disaster. And comedy.

This entry in the Life in Icicle Falls series is set on Candy Cane Lane, and one of the story threads follows the woman who makes it all happen. Literally. Maddy Donaldson is the person who petitioned the village to change the name of the street to Candy Cane Lane in the first place, and she’s the person responsible for making sure that every resident has their holiday lighting display dialed up to 11. She’s also the cheerleader and organizer who schedules every single woman on the street to serve as Mrs. Claus, standing out in the cold and snow and giving away free candy canes to the carloads of mostly local tourists who come to see Candy Cane Lane in all its electric glory.

(There are plenty of real places that do Christmas to the nth degree the way that Candy Cane Lane does, The Sauganash neighborhood in Chicago is fairly famous, or infamous, in the Chicagoland area.)

But Mandy is so busy organizing the neighborhood, whether they like it or not, that she doesn’t see how often she breaks promises to her husband and daughter in order to play Mrs. Claus or chivvy the neighbors into more holiday spirit. If some of those neighbors are turning to other types of holiday spirits in order to avoid her, she misses that, too.

Mandy isn’t the only woman on Candy Cane Lane having a little difficulty seeing the Christmas around her. Ivy Boch is spending her first Christmas alone. Last December 26, her husband said he’d had enough of being tied down, and left. Now they are sharing custody of their two little kids, and sharing a rather separate misery. Their daughter has written to Santa that all she wants for Christmas is her Daddy back home. Ex-husband Rob has finally figured out that he was a jerk and an idiot, and wants to come home. But Ivy isn’t sure she can trust him again, and who can blame her?

Icicle Falls Police Office Tilda Morrison has just bought a fixer-upper house on Candy Cane Lane. Her love life is non-existent, and she’s decided to quit waiting and just get on with her life. One problem is that her fixer-upper needs way more fixing up than she thought. Her second problem is that one of the local bad boys, Devon Black, would love for Tilda to take him on as her very own personal handyman and fixer upper. And if that wasn’t enough, her new neighbors expect her to solve the sudden rash of Christmas decoration vandals that is ruining everyone’s Christmas displays, right along with Mandy’s and Tilda’s Christmases.

Something needs to change on Candy Cane Lane, or no one is going to have a very merry Christmas.

Merry Ex-Mas by Sheila RobertsEscape Rating B: Just like the previous entry in this series, A Wedding on Primrose Street (reviewed here), Christmas on Candy Cane Lane reads more as women’s fiction than it does a romance. The emphasis in this story is on women’s friendships and women’s relationships, including the fractured relationship between Maddy and her daughter, the tenuous friendship that grows up between Ivy and Tilda, and Tilda’s loving but sometimes contentious relationship with her mother Dot.

Also like a previous holiday entry in the series, Merry Ex-Mas (my personal favorite in Icicle Falls), the women are dealing with the men in their lives at very different stages in those relationships. Maddy and Alan are harried but generally happy with each other; Ivy and Rob are divorced but nothing has been resolved, and Tilda and Devon are still dancing around whether they will have a relationship or not.

Each of the women is in the middle of a crisis. Maddy’s daughter Jordan has become a teenager with a vengeance, and their formerly good relationship is strained by Jordan’s mood swings and increasingly bad attitudes. Ivy is having a meltdown between managing her shop, taking care of her kids, and feeling lonely and stressed to the max. Tilda is worried about her mother, who ends up in the hospital, and has a never-ending series of house-related messes.

Seemingly no one is perfectly happy. But they all get through, often by helping each other. And in the end, they each find out what is really important at Christmas. And the rest of the year.

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Review: Valentine by Heather Grothaus

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

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

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

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

My Review:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.