Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Art imitating Life + Giveaway

sharp shootin cowboy by victoria vaneI am always happy to welcome Victoria Vane back to Reading Reality! If I’m counting right, this is her fourth guest post for me. I think she’s got the record! While I adored her historical Devil DeVere series, I am also glad that she has branched out to contemporaries, as with today’s featured review book Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy. This time, Victoria is here with a giveaway of the series, and her thoughts about her life has influenced the art of her writing.

How have your experiences (where you live, your family, romantic life, hobbies, etc.) influenced the things you like to write about?

Those familiar with my work already know that my historical books almost always have strong elements of reality. I usually incorporate my fictional characters into real events and/or use real people as secondary characters. In my contemporary stories, I get my inspiration from real life situations and virtually anything else that interests me.

slow hand by victoria vaneSLOW HAND, the first book in my Hot Cowboy Nights series was very much inspired by my own experience when my father died- which included a meltdown very similar to Nikki’s in the middle of an airport. I was so distraught that they actually brought the plane back to the gate! Elements of her background also came from my own life.

My inspiration for ROUGH RIDER came from getting to know a number of real people in the rodeo world which is far more grit than glamour. Dirk became an amputee after I read numerous accounts of similarly wounded vets struggling to put their lives back together. They all deserve to be romance heroes.

The idea for SHARP SHOOTIN’ COWBOY came to life during a research trip to Montana where I met several ranchers who expressed concerns about the booming wolf population and the threat to their livestock. Intrigued by this, I began researching the re-introduction of wolves into the Rocky Mountain States. Upon discovering what a political powder keg this issue had become, I knew I had to write a story about wolves.

rough rider by victoria vaneIn ROUGH RIDER I had already introduced a secondary character named Reid Everett who was a Marine from Wyoming. He seemed to be the perfect candidate to become my hero. Reid is an interesting combination of cowboy and warrior, and a protector to the core. The heroine was much harder for me to get a handle on, until I decided that Reid was based at Camp Pendleton. Suddenly, the answer was clear—she was a California girl named Haley Cooper, which also meant that she was going to be his opposite in every conceivable way.

The fourth book in the series, A COWBOY’S WHISPER, was inspired by my own experiences with wild mustangs and the people who adopt them. I was fortunate to meet one of the few private individuals in the United States who trains them for adoption and got to talk on several occasions with the people who gather them from the wild. The hero of this story was modeled after a real life horse whisperer and the heroine was inspired by a wild horse documentarian.

I have always believed that incorporating real elements gives my stories a more genuine feel.

As for the romance part, after thirty two years of marriage, I am a true believer in both fidelity and lasting love. At the same time, I know that it takes a lot of work! And while I’m no prude about sex, (after thirty two years, we still burn up the sheets), I want it to occur in the context of a loving, caring, relationship. These are the kinds of stories I believe in and the ones I most want to write about. My greatest hope is that my stories will make readers laugh and cry and fall in love right along with my characters.

VV Head shot7About the Author:
Victoria Vane is a multiple award-winning romance novelist and history junkie whose collective works of fiction range from wildly comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Victoria also writes historical fiction as Emery Lee and is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog.
Connect with Victoria Vane: Website | Facebook | @AuthorVictoriaV | Pinterest | Goodreads

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

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Victoria is giving away a Hot Cowboy Nights Book Bundle (3 books) to one lucky winner. See the rafflecopter below for deets on how to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane

sharp shootin cowboy by victoria vaneFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Hot Cowboy Nights #3
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: June 2, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

TAKE YOUR BEST SHOT, COWBOY…
A Weary warrior… After eight years as a Marine sniper, war-scarred Reid Everett is back in his native Wyoming. He knows and loves this rugged land, so working for wildlife services to reduce the booming wolf population suits him to a T.

A Caring crusader… Wildlife biologist Haley Cooper is desperate to make a difference. Leaving the world of academia behind, she accepts a position as a wolf advocate to protect the animals she loves.

Raw attraction… Their jobs set them on a collision course, but chemistry sparks like wildfire between Reid and Haley. They’ll have to brave some rough territory if they hope to reconcile their polarizing views with a passion that won’t be denied.

My Review:

rough rider by victoria vaneJust like the second book in the Hot Cowboy Nights series (Rough Rider, reviewed here), Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy takes place over several years, as the relationship between Reid and Haley goes through several stops and starts, and is also interrupted by Reid’s tours of duty in Afghanistan.

In this opposites-attract romance, wildlife biologist and conservationist Haley Cooper meets Marine Corporal Reid Everett in a bar near Camp Pendleton just a few days before he is due to ship out. Again.

They meet over a pool table, where Haley both captivates Reid and hustles him. She’s a much, much better pool player than Reid possibly imagines. But the push-and-pull of the game’s fortunes is just a metaphor for the push-pull of chemistry between the two of them.

The timing isn’t right. Not just because Reid is shipping out again before the end of the week, but because Haley just isn’t ready. She’ll still in college, and Reid, while not much older in years, has grown up hard and fast at war.

And they seem to have nothing in common but chemistry. Reid isn’t just a soldier, his family makes its living ranching and hunting back in Wyoming. Haley is almost a caricature of the tree-hugging conservationist – she hates hunting, she’s not thrilled by ranching, she’s a vegan AND she hates Marines. Her sperm-donor father, no name ever given, was a Marine who left her mother pregnant and alone.

Reid and Haley argue about absolutely everything – but they can’t forget each other. Not through another tour for Reid, and college and graduate school for Haley. When they meet again, they finally give in to that explosive chemistry – until Reid’s sister and his ex put themselves in the middle of the fledgling relationship. Haley runs again, and Reid goes back to war.

It’s not until years later, when Haley has grown up a lot more, and figured out what she really believes and isn’t just spouting off cliches and platitudes, that she and Reid get one last chance to figure things out. Dr. Haley Cooper becomes the wildlife conservation agent in Wyoming, near Reid’s ranch. And Reid is back for good, or for whatever might come next.

But they are on opposite sides again, as Reid’s family and friends are trying to beat back what they feel is encroachment on their livelihoods by the wolves who have been reintroduced into the area. Haley, of course, is on the side of the wolves.

She doesn’t know that the biggest wolf of all walks on two legs, and has been manipulating her for the last ten years. It takes a crisis of faith and the long arm of coincidence to get her to see that she and Reid have had the important things in common all along.

slow hand by victoria vaneEscape Rating B-: Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy is a story that left me with a lot of mixed feelings.

I was expecting this story to tie more closely into the previous books, Slow Hand (reviewed here) and Rough Rider. There is a mention of Dirk’s ranch near the end, but this is a completely separate story and characters – it is not necessary to have read the first two books to enjoy this one.

I liked the second half of the book much better than the first, because when the story reaches Wyoming, Haley and Reid are finally both well into adulthood and are able to operate more as equals. Also Haley is thinking for herself at this point, and is no longer a cardboard cut-out wolf-loving tree-hugger.

Not that she doesn’t still love the wolves she protects, and not that she isn’t still an environmentalist, but her approach is much more nuanced and less party-line spouting now that she more fully owns her own adulthood and opinions.

In the early parts of the story she seemed very naive, and too inexperienced to make a real relationship with anyone, but especially with Reid. Also, with his greater life experience, I kept getting the sense that he thought he knew best and was sure that he just needed to convince Haley to go his way. Even when he’s right, it feels wrong for the start of a relationship that he discounts so many of her thoughts and feelings.

When they meet again in Wyoming, the playing field is much more level. As equals, they are able to find ways to compromise. When the big crisis comes, and it’s a doozy, it exposes both the places in their relationship that they still need to work on, and how much they both care for each other and the land they will make their home.

The way that the author frames the debate about reintroducing wolves into their habitat and the needs of farmers and ranchers to preserve their way of life, gives readers an excellent opportunity to see both sides of the story.

I’m going to be very interested to read the fourth book in this series, A Cowboy’s Whisper, to see where the author takes us next.

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

Review: Rough Rider by Victoria Vane

rough rider by victoria vaneFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: contemporary western romance
Series: Hot Cowboy Nights #2
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: February 3, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Two loves …
Janice Combes has two loves, bucking bulls and Dirk Knowlton. But Dirk only has eyes for a dazzling rodeo queen. How can Janice ever compete while mired ankle-deep in manure? Exchanging playful banter with Dirk is all Janice can expect-until the stormy night he knocks on her door dripping wet and needing a place to crash.

Different Dreams…
Dirk Knowlton is living the cowboy dream. Life should be good-roping, branding, backing broncs, riding bulls, but there’s a void he can’t seem to fill. After getting hung up by a bull, he wonders if this is really the life he wants. Restless and rebellious, he bolts…but there’s a certain cowgirl he can’t forget.

When a battle-scarred Dirk returns to his Montana ranch he’s determined to hang on at any cost. Janice has come back home to lick her own wounds. When old dreams turn to dust, can two wary hearts take another chance on love?

My Review:

slow hand by victoria vaneWhile I enjoyed this story, as usual a lot because it’s Victoria Vane, I will say that this is definitely one of those books/series where you really need to have read the first book (Slow Hand, reviewed here) before you start this second one.

Having read both, it feels like Slow Hand takes place in the middle of Rough Rider. Literally in the middle. Half the action in Rough Rider is in the past, and shows us some of the reasons that Dirk and Wade’s relationship is so fraught at the beginning of Slow Hand.

Wade married Dirk’s just-barely-ex, way back when, because she was using the two brothers to get at each other. But she’s dead and since they can’t settle it with her, they keep beating up on each other.

In Slow Hand, Wade is finally able to make peace with his past, which makes it possible for him to work things out with Dirk.

In Rough Rider, we get both the story of how Dirk got to be his curmudgeonly self at the beginning of Slow Hand, and how he finally gets beyond it by going back to some of his own unfinished business.

Ironically, it was never about Rachel, the rodeo queen who was looking for some cowboy arm-candy and a way to just keep on getting what she wanted. Dirk always had someone else in his rear-view, and the regrets that were eating him alive were all about Janice Coombs and not about Rachel Carson.

What we get in Rough Rider is the story of Dirk, Janice and Grady, Dirk’s rodeo circuit roommate. Janice was not one of the rodeo queens. Her father bred bulls for the events. She fell for Dirk way, way back, when she was just a little girl and he was a seemingly grown-up teenager. But she never grew out of that love, even though she felt she had no chance against the prettied-up Rachel. Janice was just one of the stock hands around the rodeo, and half the time the cowboys didn’t even see her as a girl.

Grady saw her as a meal-ticket. Her father owned a nice little ranch, and Grady was looking for a way to stay on the gravy train when he was forced to hang up his spurs. Dirk, on the other hand, saw a lovely young woman who needed protection from Grady’s not-exactly honorable intentions. He also saw a woman much more genuine and real that the always-made-up Rachel.

But Dirk doesn’t believe that men and women can be just friends. He’s sure that sex always comes into it sooner or later. And between himself and Janice, he’s right. Dirk turns to Janice for comfort, and then can’t figure out why he can’t stop thinking about the night they shared.

He also can’t make up his mind what to do about it until it is too late. He plays the “come here go away” game with Janice just a bit too long, and isn’t there for her when her father is diagnosed with cancer and her world falls apart.

Grady steps in and marries Janice, while Dirk takes his regrets and his empty heart to the Marines. On his second tour he steps on an IED, and loses his leg and any desire to he ever had for happiness. He retreats to the ranch to become an occasionally nasty recluse.

Janice has a child, loses her father and the ranch, and eventually loses the husband she never should have taken on. Or been taken in by. She comes back home, ten years later with a young son and a ton of regrets.

Her biggest regret is that she and Dirk never figured out what they might have together. But in spite of everything that has happened in between, it still might not be too late. They just have to start from who they are now.

Until one last secret threatens to break them apart – again.

Escape Rating B: As I said at the beginning, Rough Rider feels incomplete without having read Slow Hand. While there is a part of me that wonders if Rough Rider shouldn’t have been released first, I can also see why it wasn’t. Slow Hand has a very clear beginning middle and end. It is complete in itself. While it is interesting getting more of the background, the detailed backstory wasn’t necessary to enjoy Wade and Nikki earning their happy ending.

However, a big chunk of the impetus for Dirk’s turnaround is in Wade’s story. Not necessarily the details, but that Wade finally letting go of the past and Rachel’s death allows the brothers to relate to each other in the here and now and stop having the past continue to screw up the present.

The fascinating thing is that after reading the beginning of Rough Rider, it’s clear that most of what is eating Dirk is in his own head, and his own past, and doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Rachel after all. She becomes more the excuse for the brothers’ long-running feud than the actual reason.

Dirk is mostly just kicking himself for his own separate mistakes. He’s also a lot uncertain about his own worth after his disfiguring and disabling accident. The bear retreats to his cave and sucks his hurt paw, rather than letting anyone in to pull some of the painful thorns.

Because Dirk’s relationship with Janice starts in the past, when they go from zero to boiling hot in 60 seconds it doesn’t feel like insta-lust. More like the lid finally blew off a long-boiling pot. But Dirk’s redemption and turnaround would feel a bit too quick without the knowledge of what happened in the first book.

The story ends on a reveal that involves one of my least-favorite tropes. It also didn’t feel necessary for Dirk, Janice and Cody to become a real family for them to become a real family, but others may feel differently.

Still, for anyone who read Slow Hand and needs to see Dirk’s story get resolved, Rough Rider tells a good story of simmering love that finally gets its day.

***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.

Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Rakes and Cowboys + Giveaway

Victoria in Jackson HoleToday I’d like to welcome Victoria Vane back to Reading Reality. Victoria is known as the “Queen of Georgian Romance”, but her new series takes place far away from what used to be her native habitat. Her new Hot Cowboy Nights is set in the contemporary American West, and it is off to a fine start. Just take a look at today’s review of Slow Hand to see just how fine a start!

But I wanted to hear from Victoria about how and why she decided to switch from opulent ballrooms to the wide-open range. so I had to ask, what made her turn to contemporary westerns after historicals and OMG DeVere? What kind of research (if any) did she have to do for Slow Hand?

Here’s her answer:

***
Hi Marlene! Thank you so much for having me today. It’s so great to be back with you again. It seems I have taken quite a few readers by surprise in leaping three centuries from Georgian rakehells to contemporary cowboys! Many people have asked why I decided to do this, so here is “the story” behind the stories.

The Sheik Retold by Victoria VaneAlthough I have established a fiercely loyal following with my Devil DeVere series, even after eleven published historicals, and a number of awards from reviewers, I have been unable to break out as a historical romance writer. The fact that my books get good reviews told me it wasn’t my writing, but perhaps I’d narrowed my audience too much by writing almost exclusively Georgian romances, (THE SHEIK RETOLD being the sole exception). Although the 18th century is my favorite historical era, it’s not all that popular with readers, but I just couldn’t see myself shifting to Regencies or Highlanders (although I don’t rule out anything anymore!)

One of my good friends who is an avid reader and reviewer, suggested I try writing a contemporary romance. Her argument was that there were far more contemporary readers compared to my beloved historicals, thus more opportunity. Although I knew she was right about the demographics, I immediately dismissed the idea, believing that I had totally the wrong writing voice for it.

But months later in growing frustration, I decided it was indeed time to try something new. For weeks she and I brainstormed ideas but nothing bore any fruit. I just couldn’t relate to the increasingly popular trope of corporate billionaires and virginal heroines, or the dark and angsty NA books. It just wasn’t me. I needed to find something that I could put my own unique spin on, an idea that would help me to stand out in a crowd of talented authors.

Since most romance readers gravitate to certain kinds of heroes, I started looking at what readers like best. I also thought about what heroes I was most attracted to. The answer was a no brainer- cowboys. I’ve loved them my entire life. I’d just never thought to write about them. While I still believed my writing voice would be an obstacle, I was willing to give it a try.

Once I settled on a hero archetype, my next hurdle was finding my story.

They always say to write what you know, so for the first time I began digging into my own life and the events and experiences that have shaped me, experiences that I thought readers might be able to relate to.

One of the most traumatic moments in my entire life involved the death of a loved one. I still vividly recall my hysterical breakdown at Newark airport when bad weather caused me to miss a connection on the way to my father’s funeral. I had literally sprinted through the airport only to arrive at the gate just as the plane was rolling away from the jetway. I stood there numbly watching it, knowing I’d never have closure. (This memory still brings a lump to my throat). Then I suddenly lost it. I went into a near hysterical meltdown and was so distraught that they actually brought the plane back to the gate for me! Suddenly, both Nikki’s character and the seeds of a story implanted in my mind.

By choosing something close to my own heart, I found the words hit the page with an ease that I never could have anticipated. To my shock I had found my story and discovered a new voice.

slow hand by victoria vaneWhile SLOW HAND is a fun and flirty story, it is also partly biographical in that many of my own life experiences crept into it. This even includes the cowboy! (Wade Knowlton is named after my first girlhood cowboy crush.)

While cowboy romances are certainly nothing new to readers, each of my stories has a unique tone and theme. In all four books (SLOW HAND, ROUGH RIDER, SHARP SHOOTER and SILVER TONGUE) my heroes are modern day cowboys facing very real and relatable struggles. Wade (SLOW HAND) is burning the candle at both ends between a rural law practice and a struggling family ranch. His brother Dirk (ROUGH RIDER) is a former bull rider, rancher and wounded vet. Reid (SHARP SHOOTER) is also a vet, a marine and backcountry hunting guide. Keith (SILVER TONGUE) is a Native American struggling between two vastly different worlds. These stories are all hot and sexy but still have well-developed plots and emotional depth.

Although this new endeavor marks a distinct departure from historical romance, readers will find that my trademarks still remain—well-researched, scorching hot, emotionally compelling, character-driven stories.

About Victoria
Victoria Vane is an award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Her collective works of fiction range from historical to contemporary settings and include everything from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her biggest writing influences are Georgette Heyer, Robin Schone, and Sylvia Day. Victoria is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog. Look for her sexy new contemporary cowboy series coming from Sourcebooks in 2014.
CONTACT:
victoria.vane@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.victoriavane.com
Blog: http://victoriavane.wordpress.com
Twitter: @authorvictoriav

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

For all of us booklovers out there, Victoria is giving away five beautiful handmade bookmarks.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Slow Hand by Victoria Vane

slow hand by victoria vaneFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: contemporary western romance
Series: Hot Cowboy Nights #1
Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Date Released: November 4, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

In rural Montana…
Wade Knowlton is a hardworking lawyer who’s torn between his small-town Montana law practice and a struggling family ranch. He’s on the brink of exhaustion from trying to save everybody and everything, when gorgeous Nicole Powell walks into his office. She’s a damsel in distress and the breath of fresh air he needs.

Even the lawyers wear boots…

Nicole Powell is a sassy Southern girl who has officially sworn off cowboys after a spate of bad seeds-until her father’s death sends her to Montana and into the arms of a man who seems too good to be true. Her instincts tell her to high tail it out of Montana, but she can’t resist a cowboy with a slow hand…

My Review:

When I first saw the title of this book, I flashed back to the Pointer Sisters song of the same title. And it totally fits. In the song, and in this book, the woman is looking for “somebody who will spend some time, not come and go in a heated rush.”

Although in the story, Nicole Powell isn’t even aware that she’s looking. She seems to have sworn off men, and especially cowboys, with plenty of good reasons. While Wade Knowlton isn’t exactly looking himself, he’s so much more than just a cowboy, and he has his own reasons for being gun-shy about a relationship.

They both need time and care to reach a point where they’re ready to have the real relationship that is sparked by their intense chemistry. Nicole is prettty sure she’s been down this road before, where the chemistry burns hot, and fizzles out fast. Unfortunately her attempts to date anyone without that spark just fizzle into nothing.

Wade hasn’t bothered with relationships, just associates with benefits, since his wife died and left the relationship with his brother in a mess of recriminations and guilt. His trust in women was burned away when he finally acknowledged how much everyone had been used. But his brother still hasn’t gotten over the wreck, or the loss of his rodeo career to an IED in Iraq. There’s plenty of wreckage to go around.

Including the family ranch. Wade has been pouring the money from his law practice into keeping the ranch afloat, but it’s only a stop gap. The financial hole is too big to be filled by full-time Dirk, part-time Wade, and their aging parents. Wade wants to sell, Dirk wants to hang on and try one more experiment.

Nicole finds herself in the middle of both their mess and hers, and doesn’t initially have the emotional wherewithal to deal well with either. She’s in small-town Montana to settle the estate of a father she barely remembers. She’s just hoping for closure, but gets way more than she bargained for on every side.

The story starts with a meet-cute in the Denver airport, and continues through some amazingly funny and ironic coincidences. Nicole loses her wallet on the plane, and Wade is the only person she knows within a thousand miles. Not that she really knows him, he’s just her dad’s lawyer.

But as Nicole works through her frustations of the Catch-22 involved in getting a new ID without any ID in the middle of rural Montana, she has the chance to get to know Wade and his family, and gets a glimpse of the man her dad became by exploring the place he called home.

She’s sure that when everything is finally settled, she’ll return to her life in Atlanta. No matter how empty and sterile that life might be, it’s hers and it’s all she has. Unless she gives in to the promise in Wade’s slow and slightly hesitant courtship.

They both just need to find a faith in each other that they’ve never found before. Something that won’t be easy for either of them.

Escape Rating A-: I think that if most of us inherited the kind of estate that Nicole does, we’d be out of our office jobs like a shot. One of the things that I liked about this story was that you really felt for Nicole, and that the author made Nicole’s reasons for not doing so understandable and sympathetic. She can change her life, but the life she’s built has been hard-won; it is difficult to take a leap into the emotional dark that way. It’s easy to see why she would be reluctant to make her life in a small town very far away from anyplace else, with no support network and only knowing one person initially.

She and Wade have the strong possibility of a relationship from the very beginning, but if things don’t work, well, it is a very small town. Combined with her romantic history, hesitance makes sense, and it takes a lot of work and growth on both their parts to get to their much deserved happy ending.

And I absolutely, totally loved it, to the stand up and cheer point, when Nicole tells her petty tyrant of a boss the equivalent of take this job and shove it.

Wade is a complex character. He became a lawyer because he wanted to get away from the ranch, and also becauses he wants to do some good in local politics. Whether that second ambition is even possible is a philosophical discussion and a story for another time, but he hasn’t managed to get away from the ranch. His family needs his labor and the money he pours in, but he’s finally tired of sticking not enough fingers in too many holes in that dike. It’s not just that guilt and obligation have kept him tied down, but also that he’s tired of setting aside what he wants for a cause that he feels is already lost.

Nicole becomes the catalyst for Wade to make a lot of changes. His presence in her life, and the reasons behind it, also make her re-examine the choices that she has made. They reach towards each other for that happy ending, and it’s great to see them earn it.

rough rider by victoria vaneOne of the most interesting side characters in Slow Hand is Wade’s brother Dirk and their mess of a relationship. Also the mess Dirk is making of his personal life. I can’t wait to see how the author gets Dirk out of his multi-year funk in Rough Rider.

***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.

Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Cupids in Disguise + Giveaway

Victoria VaneToday’s very special guest is Victoria Vane, the author of the indescribably delicious Devil DeVere series. Jewel of the East (reviewed today) is a treat, just what I expect from the “Queen of the Georgian Romance”. Her guest post today is about DeVere, talking about him in a way that heroes (or anti-heroes) don’t usually get talked about. DeVere is Cupid, at least for his friends. A surprising turn for the reprobate we meet in A Wild Night’s Bride.

A Cupid in Disguise
by Victoria Vane

Devil DevereFor those who are unfamiliar, The Devil DeVere is an ongoing hot historical romance series that features a wide cast of characters who are all connected by the series namesake, Viscount Ludovic “the Devil” DeVere.  Although DeVere is the primary protagonist in only four of the eight stories (and counting), he is a master manipulator who plays an integral role in each and every one. Although DeVere is a rakehell of the first order, he is also intensely loyal to, and fiercely protective of,  those few who are fortunate enough to be counted in his inner circle.

In the first book, A Wild Night’s Bride, he brings his grieving best friend Ned back to the land of the living. Poor Ned’s night begins at a high end brothel and ends with an actress in the King of England’s bed!  In The Virgin Huntress, DeVere conspires with Ned’s daughter Vesta to help her get her man who happens to be his young brother Hew. His own path to a happy ever after is a very rocky one and takes three books to tell! The Devil You Know, The Devil’s Match , and A Devil’s Touch

And now, in Jewel of the East, he has reprised his cupid role once more by bringing together two damaged souls who are close to his heart. Simon Singleton (Devil in the Making and The Trouble with Sin) is one of DeVere’s oldest friends. Believed dead, he has just returned home after six years as a prisoner of war. The horrifying experience has left its mark in myriad ways.

jewel of the east by victoria vaneExcerpt: Jewel of the East

For six years, while others perished of dysentery and starvation, Simon had clung to the feeble thread of hope that one day he’d return home to reclaim the lost dreams of his youth, that he would somehow reassemble the fragments of his life.

But now, he was himself a shattered shambles of a man. Feeling neither alive nor dead, he was doomed to this horrific half-existence, destined to be a mere observer. Life as he remembered it—the one he had desperately hoped to resume—was over.

***

Salime, better known as Jewel of the East, is a courtesan with a mysterious history and scars of her own. When her livelihood is compromised, DeVere hires her to be a companion to Simon.

Excerpt: Jewel of the East (book #5)

Salime looked puzzled. “I do not understand what you would ask of me. I am no healer.”

DeVere answered, “He is in great want of one who understands a man’s needs. I believe that you alone might be able to comfort him…to relieve his distress. “

“Ah.” She nodded. “I begin to comprehend. You have such confidence in me, Efendi?”

“I have every confidence in you, my dear. Should you accept my proposition, I am willing to provide you generous compensation.”

She frowned. “It is not for money that I accept. It is only for you. You have asked this of me, so how can I refuse?”

He returned a soft smile. “I pray, Salime, that one day you meet a man worthy of such devotion.”

***

devils touch by victoria vaneExcerpt: A Devil’s Touch (book #4.5)

Ludovic was exhausted. He had left DeVere House near midnight—after he and Ned had gotten Sin foxed enough to abduct him from the rooms he had refused to leave. They had remained at DeVere House only long enough to see their friend comfortably installed in DeVere’s own luxurious chambers, where Simon would awake to find himself in Salime’s tender care.

Although it was a highly unorthodox proposition, Ludovic had full confidence in Salime’s ability to effect Simon’s cure. He had departed London in the belief that no further intervention would be needed. Simon was a man with a man’s needs. Even blemished as she was, Salime was still an exceedingly desirable woman, and one skilled in all manner of pleasure. They were alone together in the lap of luxury. Nature would surely take its course.

Once more, DeVere proves a veritable sage. In Jewel of the East, Simon and Salime discover a true connection of souls that far surpasses even their physical passion. I hope that readers will be enchanted by this sometimes lyrical story of emotional healing and romantic love.

The Devil DeVere Series

(Library Journal Best E-Book Romance 2012)

A Wild Night’s Bride  ( #1)
The Virgin Huntress  (#2)
The Devil You Know (#3)
The Devil’s Match (#4)
A Devil’s Touch (4.5)
Jewel of the East (#5)
Devil in the Making (Devilish Vignette#1)
The Trouble with Sin (Devilish Vignette#2)
A Devil Named DeVere
(a full length compilation of the three Diana and DeVere stories)

Also by Victoria Vane

The Sheik Retold
Treacherous Temptations
A Breach of Promise

About Victoria
Victoria Vane is an award-winning author of smart and sexy romance. Her collective works of fiction range from historical to contemporary settings and include everything from wild comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Her biggest writing influences are Georgette Heyer, Robin Schone, and Sylvia Day. Victoria is the founder of Goodreads Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers and the Romantic Historical Lovers book review blog. Look for her sexy new contemporary cowboy series coming from Sourcebooks in 2014.
CONTACT:
victoria.vane@hotmail.com
Web: http://www.victoriavane.com
Blog: http://victoriavane.wordpress.com
Twitter: @authorvictoriav

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

trouble with sin by victoria vaneVictoria is generously giving away a copy of The Trouble With Sin to ALL commenters! Wow!

So, in order to get a copy of the story that starts Sin’s redemption (ooh, that sounds naughty) just leave a comment and include your email address. Tell us what you love about historical romance and get one.

Review: Jewel of the East by Victoria Vane

jewel of the east by victoria vaneFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available:
Genre: historical romance, Georgian romance
Series: Devil DeVere #5
Length: 191 pages
Publisher: Vane Publishing
Date Released: January 18, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Maimed by misfortune… healed by love…
His wounds run deep… Having once lived his life only for larks, laughter, and ladies of easy virtue, Captain Simon Singleton has returned from war a shambles of a man. Although free from six years of captivity, he’s still fettered by fears that confine him to a life of seclusion.

Her scars are well-hidden… Once the crowning jewel of the most lavish brothel in London, the exotic Salime finds her reputation and livelihood destroyed by a bitter rival. With a closely guarded secret stripped away, she fears no man will ever desire her again. Seeking aid from one who once saved her life, she accepts a proposition to become a companion to his war-scarred friend.

But love is the eternal cure… When circumstance brings these two damaged souls together, fate ignites a love story worthy of the Arabian Nights.

My Review:

Jewel of the East is a sensual love story between two damaged and scarred people, brought about by their relentlessly manipulative matchmaking friend, the Devil DeVere.

trouble with sin by victoria vaneWe’ve met both Simon and Salime before, and in somewhat better circumstances. Simon, better known as Sin, was one of DeVere’s school chums. Their escapade with the lion got all of them expelled and rusticated.

They were all a lot younger and in Sin’s case at least, considerably lighter at heart. Sin didn’t think any of his antics would catch up to him, until the morning they all fell on him at once. He’s been paying ever since. (Sin’s last straw, or his parents’ last straw, is detailed in The Trouble With Sin).

DeVere and Ned Chambers (Ned’s story is in A Wild Night’s Bride) have believed that Sin was killed in action in the Colonies. Instead, Sin has been languishing in a prison hulk for six long years. He may have returned from the dead, but the man who comes back is not the same as the one who left.

Six years as a prisoner of war in a hellish situation has left Sin with horrific nightmares and a full-blown case of PTSD to add to the permanent injury to his right hand. He needs healing, and Bedlam was not the place for it.

DeVere has a solution. DeVere always has a solution. Sin can hide in DeVere’s London house and be mostly alone. As he needs to be; part of his PTSD is that he can’t bear to be touched.

Sin is incapable of realizing that he is also helping DeVere. DeVere’s friend, the exotic courtesan Salime, needs a place to stay and a task to perform. The sensual and erotic skills that she acquired in the East are just the perfect solution for Sin’s current aversion to touch.

Salime can make him beg for it.

Salime thinks she’s doing a favor for DeVere. It doesn’t take long for her to come to value Simon for himself. She never realizes that DeVere is meddling, and matchmaking, both Sin and herself into a relationship that will heal both of them.

Escape Rating A-: Jewel of the East is a decadently delicious addition to the marvelous Devil DeVere series. And while it would be possible to read Jewel without having read the rest of the series, if you love historical romance you would be missing an absolutely treat.

wild nights bride by victoria vaneIt was great to catch a glimpse of how the characters from the previous books are doing, especially DeVere, Diana and Ned Chambers. Even though DeVere is not the star of Jewel, his influence on events is keenly felt throughout the story. His house, his friends, his matchmaking, his manipulative meddling. And he’s right again, just as he was in A Wild Night’s Bride.

Sin and Salime have both been deeply wounded before they reach this point. Sin’s path to recovery, while difficult, seems more straightforward. We know what damaged him, and we see him working against his internal barriers to become whole again.

It’s easy to see why Salime wants to help him for his own sake, no matter how she starts out. Sin has a lot to overcome, but he is trying.

The road that Salime took to reach her present circumstances is not as clear. She was kidnapped in childhood and sold into slavery in a sultan’s harem. While that sounds romantic, it clearly is not. DeVere rescued her from a life of prostitution after she was scarred and discarded. But in England, she became a famous courtesan, until the unveiling of her scarred face got her tossed out of her place.

But Salime has led a life where she can never reveal her feelings for anyone. She has made a living in the only way she knows how, and she knows it is precarious at best. Her facial scar makes her feel unworthy.

What Sin gives her is that as she heals him, he gives himself to her without reservation. Not just physically, but also emotionally. She’s never been loved. Desired, but not loved. She’s sure his feelings can’t be real. So she runs away.

Salime tells Sin most of her personal story through stories, much like Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights. He uses those stories to track her down. It’s beautifully done, but I would also love to have heard her tell her story without embellishment. She is exotic, and I would love to know more of her story.

I’ll have to content myself with future installments in DeVere’s story. Or future tales of DeVere’s meddling. They are the same marvelous thing!

JOTE Virtual Tour 1200x600

***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.

Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Reinventing a Classic Bodice-Ripper + Giveaway

I’d like to welcome Victoria Vane, who recently published The Sheik Retold (reviewed here), a retelling of the classic The Sheik by E.M. Hull. Today she’ll talk about…

Reinventing a Classic Bodice-Ripper
by Victoria Vane

Why did you do it? Why would you take on something so politically incorrect as a sheik romance? Why mess with another author’s work? Haven’t you any original ideas of your own?

These are just a few of the questions I anticipated in taking on my erotic re-write of E.M. Hull’s The Sheik. My answer is—of course I have my own book ideas, several dozen of them just waiting to be developed, but The Sheik called to me in no uncertain terms.

The Sheik by E.M. HullThe Sheik by E.M. Hull (first published in 1921 and now public domain in North America) was one of the most controversial books of its time. It was also a huge bestseller that made Rudolph Valentino an international sex symbol in the silent film adaptation.

Almost a century later, there are myriad “imitators” featuring a haughty heroine who is “mastered” by an uncompromising and uber-alpha desert lord. Goodreads currently lists over 500 of these. Following the original, many of these books employ a “forced seduction” as the primary trope. While there is no explicit sex in The Sheik, repeated rape is strongly implied. Shocking? You bet!

As a reader, I have always found the rape-to-love (Stockholm Syndrome) trope appalling and have never had such mixed feeling about a book as I did The Sheik. It had so much to offer with its strong characters and beautiful descriptive prose, but it fell sadly short for me in so many other ways. I found the narrative too repetitive and plodding. There was too much navel-gazing on the heroine’s part, and far too little actual interaction between Diana and Ahmed. In particular, their “romantic relationship” was extremely under-developed.

In sum, I loved and loathed it in equal measure.

Nevertheless, it captured my imagination. Even though I had other books to work on, for weeks after reading The Sheik I was held hostage by the story. It absolutely refused to let me go. Once I began fantasizing about alternate scenarios, dialogue, and plot twists, I knew it was calling to me to re-write. I had no choice but to tell this story the way I envisioned it.

While I have taken a number of liberties in my re-telling, the main plot, characters, and descriptive prose are largely unchanged. I kept everything I loved about the original and threw out the rest. Although my version is not completely devoid of violence (to omit all of it would only have watered down Ahmed’s powerful alpha character), I have taken out the rape and animal abuse which I abhorred.

Another big difference between the two versions is my employment of first person narrative. Since so much of the story was told from Diana’s POV anyway, I felt the story would adapt very well to first person. Most importantly, however, I have held true to Diana’s strong and self-willed nature, which I felt E.M. Hull did not do. In the original story, Diana almost instantly submits to her abductor, whereas my Diana holds her own much longer. Even when she eventually submits, the decision is largely her own. Even though she falls in love with her captor, she stays true to herself right to the end.

Here is an excerpt from The Sheik Retold:

The Sheik Retold by Victoria VaneI had dreamt for years of this experience, of a month spent in the desert and now here I was. I had longed for adventure. It is what I had sought, so why could I not turn this tragedy to my advantage? I had food and shelter that was far superior to any I could have provided for myself. And I was surrounded by hundreds of armed men. Whether I viewed them as my captors or my protectors was only a matter of perception—a matter of choice.I knew I was safe. I had seen the depths of deference, the authority of the Sheik’s command. Any man outside of himself who dared to touch me would suffer death. Of that I had no doubt. The only thing stopping me from enjoying my adventure in this vast oasis and my freedom in the Sheik’s camp, was my own desperate desire to cling to a state of chastity I truly cared nothing about. It was only my pride that stood in the way of my pleasure, and my refusal to allow him to take it from me.

I chewed my lip as I gazed up upon the stars glimmering in the heaven like countless brilliant diamonds shimmering against a backdrop of black velvet. I wondered if in the great scheme of things, my pride was a bit over-rated.

This entire evening I had bucked with resentment against the pretense that I was a willing guest here, but had I met this same Sheik in Biskrah, in more conventional circumstances, if I had only been properly introduced, would I not have willing, even gratefully accepted an invitation to his camp? Only a week ago I would have jumped at the chance. What now prevented me from embracing that role? From enjoying that status— for as long as I had planned? I smiled to myself. Yes, it was all just a matter of perception—except for the bartering of my body— the Sheik’s expectation in return for his hospitality.

My smiled dimmed.

I could enjoy my month of holiday as planned, as long as I would willingly serve his needs—and all that implied— in his bed.

While I believe The Sheik Retold will compare very favorably to E.M. Hull’s The Sheik, I will let readers be the ultimate judge.

Victoria VaneAbout Victoria Vane

Victoria Vane is a multiple award-winning romance novelist, cowboy addict and history junkie whose collective works of fiction range from wildly comedic romps to emotionally compelling erotic romance. Look for Victoria’s sexy new contemporary cowboy series coming in summer 2014.To learn more about Victoria, visit her website and blog or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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

Victoria is giving away an ebook copy of her book Treacherous Temptations to one lucky winner. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

Treacherous Temptations by Victoria Vane

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: The Sheik Retold by Victoria Vane

The Sheik Retold by Victoria VaneFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: historical romance
Length: 274 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: August 28, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Pride and passion vie for supremacy between a haughty young heiress and a savage son of the Sahara in this fresh new telling of E.M. Hull’s romance classic.

A haughty young heiress for whom the world is a playground… A savage son of the Sahara who knows no law but his own…

“There will be inquiries.” I choked out. “I am not such a nonentity that nothing will be done when I am missed. You will pay dearly for what you have done.”
“Pay?” His amused look sent a cold feeling of dread through me. “I have already paid… in gold that matches your hair, my gazelle. Besides,” he continued, “the French have no jurisdiction over me. There is no law here above my own.”
My trepidation was growing by the minute. “Why have you done this? Why have you brought me here?”
“Why?” He repeated with a slow and heated appraisal that made me acutely, almost painfully, conscious of my sex. “Bon Dieu! Are you not woman enough to know?”

When pride and passion vie for supremacy, blistering desert days are nothing compared to sizzling Sahara nights…

My Review:

Rudolph Valentino as Sheik Ahmed and Agnes Ayres as Lady Diana
Rudolph Valentino as Sheik Ahmed and Agnes Ayres as Lady Diana

I can’t imagine being neutral about this book. Or these characters. The story itself is a stunner, and the original, The Sheik, is the stuff of which legends are made. And were made. Certainly Valentino’s was. The Sheik is the movie we remember him for, almost a century later.

But this is not the original, this is a contemporary re-telling. So instead of a rape-turned-romance, we have something slightly different. And thank goodness, because the Stockholm Syndrome is not exactly my favorite trope. I like my heroines with agency.

We have Ahmed Ben Hassan, the titular Sheik of the story, kidnapping Diana Mayo from a caravan crossing the Sahara desert. The story is as escapist as any tale that Scheherazade spun in those 1,001 Arabian nights.

This is an erotic romantic fantasy. Mysterious desert chieftain becomes entranced by beautiful ice-princess and kidnaps her, carrying her off to his secret encampment in the desert. He keeps her imprisoned and shows her both cruelty and kindness, but is unable to destroy her spirit. In the classic exchange, she gives sex to get love, and he discovers that after all his attempts to keep his heart, he has, in spite of himself, given her his love when all he originally intended was to get sexual gratification.

Of course there is more to the tale. Ahmed Ben Hassan is not just a desert chieftain. In fact, he should never have been a sheik at all. And while he certainly kidnaps Diana for reasons of his own, in Vane’s retelling of the tale, he also saves her life. Not just because she should have known better than to go haring across the desert with such a small party and so few guards, but because she had been set up in the first place.

While Hull’s original story may owe a lot to Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vane’s version gives contemporary readers more reasons to accept Diana’s change from ice-queen to passionate vixen; it’s not just that she discovers that sex can be glorious with the right partner, its that Ben Hassan doesn’t merely desire her, he challenges her on all levels; erotic and intellectual. Men of her own culture simply bore her to death.

Vane’s retelling is much too adventurous for that terrible fate!

Escape Rating B+: How much the reader will be swept up in the story will depend on how they feel about Diana. Whether they sympathize, empathize, or want to shoot her. Or possibly all three at the same time.

The novel is first person POV from Diana Mayo’s perspective, and Diana is a character that basically, I wanted to slap upside the head. I understood that she completely chafed at the restrictions imposed on women by society, and that she had been raised to ignore those restrictions, but she wasn’t stupid. Money purchased her the privilege of ignoring the rules, and she simply didn’t research the conditions she threw herself into.

But without her, there is no story.

Diana is like a wild horse the reader is riding. She definitely has agency, in other words, she does plenty, however, she’s not actually in control even when she thinks she is. She often believes she has control and then discovers that she really doesn’t. This may be the story of Diana’s life.

But what makes The Sheik Retold an erotic romance instead of a rape fantasy is that Diana decides that she will become the seducer as well as the seduced. She doesn’t so much submit as decide that she will be an active participant in everything that happens. She finally owns her sexuality, instead of continuing in the pretense that she has none, or that her gender has no bearing whatsoever on her circumstances.

The Sheik Retold is for one of those afternoons when you want to be swept away by romantic fantasy.

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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.

Review: The Trouble with Sin by Victoria Vane

The Trouble With Sin by Victoria VaneFormat read: ebook provided by the Author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Georgian romance, Historical romance
Series: Devilish Vignette (The Devil DeVere), #2
Length: 79 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: March 9, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

The Trouble with Sin … Is the devil within…

Aspiring poet Simon “Sin” Singleton, has lived his life only for larks, laughter, and ladies of easy virtue, eluding defying, and flouting all manner of authority until his impetuous misdeeds finally catch up with him. Having lost his muse, his allowance, and even his friends by edict from a tyrannical father and puritanical mother, Simon is ready to drown himself in drink, until receiving an ingenious proposition that could change everything.

The wages of Sin is……twenty-five percent of the net!

It seems a fantasy come true when Simon is offered an independent income by combining his two great passions– poetry and lewd women –by writing poetry about lewd women! Unfortunately, maintaining anonymity may be much harder than he thought…

My Review:

Devil in The Making by Victoria VaneSimon Singleton, otherwise so appropriately known as “Sin” is the third of DeVere’s friends. We first get to know Sin in the infamous (and hilarious) Lion incident in Devil in the Making. Sin seems to be the only one of the rather infamous trio to have what we might consider normal parents. Well, more normal than DeVere’s anyway.

Although Sin’s mother does seem to be excessively devoted to religious pursuits! And Sin is so far from religiosity as to be positively pursuing anything in the opposite direction. What I meant was that his parents are both alive and do seem to care what happens to him, even if they sometimes have a peculiar way of showing it.

DeVere is definitely a bad influence. Not evil, definitely not that, but not precisely on the side of the angels, either.

And Sin Singleton is the picture of a sweet boy looking for nothing but good times. Wine, women and song, if by song you mean poetry. He seems somewhat of a lightweight, seeking the easiest ways to keep himself in pretty girls, decent drink and to continue writing that poetry.

So he ends up writing a guidebook to prostitutes. In verse. How else were they to advertise?

It’s a great way to supplement his allowance! Until his mama finds out. And then his papa buys him a commission in the Army. Sending him off to the wilds of North America, of all places.

The trouble with Sin is that he always tried to take the easy way out. In the end it turned out to be very, very difficult, indeed.

Jewel of the East by Victoria VaneEscape Rating B+: The Trouble With Sin is a light and lovely romp that provides the perfect bridge between the main DeVere series, its prequel Devil in the Making, and the upcoming Jewel of the East. We haven’t seen much of Sin until now, so it was great to finally read his backstory.

He clearly had to have had a rough time in order for the boy he was in The Trouble with Sin, to turn into the broken man who appears in the midst of A Devil’s Touch. I can’t wait for Jewel of the East, because this story has completely whetted my appetite for another of Victoria Vane’s delightful Georgian bonbons!

***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.