All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Sweet Tea And Spirits by Angie Fox

Sweet Tea And Spirits (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #5)
Angie Fox
Season Publishing
2017, eBook
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Southern girl Verity Long is about as high society as her pet skunk. Which is why she’s surprised as anyone when the new head of the Sugarland social set invites her to join the “it” girls. But this is no social call. Verity’s new client needs her to go in undercover and investigate strange happenings at the group’s historic headquarters.

But while spirits are whispering hints of murder, the socialites are more focused on Verity’s 1978, avocado-green Cadillac. And when Verity stumbles upon a fresh body, she’s going to need the long-dead citizens of Sugarland to help her solve the crime. Good thing she has the handsome deputy sheriff Ellis Wydell on hand, as well as her ghostly sidekick Frankie. The bad thing is, the ghosts are now whispering about the end of a certain ghost hunter.

One of my favourite recent discoveries, this series is funny and feel-good and the perfect thing after a few books that I just haven’t clicked with. Verity is really starting to settle into her role conversing with spirits and she’s gaining confidence in dealing with them and also I think, in the direction she wants to take this. She’s really interested in getting closure and finding out what happens, especially when someone who hired her ends up dead. She’s also getting better at dealing with Frankie, the somewhat temperamental gangster ghost tethered to her property who allows her to access the ghostly plane with his powers.

Likewise Verity is also settled in her relationship with deputy sheriff Ellis Wydell, the brother of her former fiance. Ellis’ mother continues to be a thorn in Verity’s side but in this book she’s an inconsistent thorn, suggesting the two women can occasionally find common ground. I love Ellis and Verity together and I think the author does a good job attempting to portray Ellis’ struggle to balance his desire to be with Verity versus the loyalty he feels towards his family. His family have never been particularly good to him, since he decided not to become a lawyer and instead became a sheriff. His mother clearly sees his profession as beneath him and the family name and she’s incensed that he’s also begun dating Verity, who left his brother Beau at the altar after discovering he was unfaithful. Verity was stuck with the bill and Ellis’ mother would’ve been happy to see her bankrupted paying for it. She has a lot of antagonism toward Verity for not “toeing the Southern line” – marrying him without fuss and then maybe quietly separating at a later date. Instead she caused a scandal, humiliated the Wydell’s.

I always enjoy the mysteries in these books, getting to know the different ghosts and hearing their stories. I like Frankie too although there are times his heartless attitude gets a bit on my nerves, especially toward Verity. I know he is a gangster and is probably relative for his time but sometimes it just gets a bit irritating, especially when he and Verity have the same argument several times in every book. He’s always all about the money and Verity is always all about the story, she wants to know what happened and she doesn’t care if she doesn’t get paid sometimes, as long as she gets the answers/justice/closure/etc. However we did see a different side to Frankie in this book which was really good and definitely about time. He’s certainly still a man of mystery in many ways and I look forward to finding out more about him over time.

This was another really fun installment to this series, I really like the way it’s going and I always can’t wait for the next one. I also really appreciate just how quickly the next one does seem to appear! I think I read the first book about two years ago so the gaps between books aren’t long.

8/10

Book #77 of 2017

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Review: Lord Of Chance by Erica Ridley

Lord Of Chance (Rags To Riches #1)
Erica Ridley
Self-published
2017, 300p
Copy courtesy of the author via NetGalley

Blurb {from Goodreads.com}:

Disguised as a country miss, Charlotte Devon flees London, desperate to leave her tattered reputation behind. In Scotland, her estranged father’s noble blood will finally make her a respectable debutante. Except she finds herself accidentally wed to a devil-may-care rogue with a sinful smile. He’s the last thing she needs…and everything her traitorous heart desires.

Charming rake Anthony Fairfax is on holiday to seek his fortune…and escape his creditors. When an irresistible Lady Luck wins him in a game of chance—and a slight mishap has them leg-shackled by dawn—the tables have finally turned in his favor. But when past demons catch up to them, holding on to new love will mean destroying their dreams forever.

I’ve read a few of Erica Ridley’s Dukes of War series and this book, the first in a new series, is very loosely connected to that in that the hero Anthony is the brother of one of the heroines from that series. This was a little different to what I expected….some of that was in a good way but some of it was also in not so good a way.

Anthony Fairfax needs to earn himself an obscene amount of money to pay back the creditor who purchased his debts. If he doesn’t, he risks going to jail. He finds himself in an inn in Scotland playing cards – hopefully the distance will help him evade his creditors until he has the means to repay them. What Anthony doesn’t bargain on is Charlotte Devon, whom he invites into the game. She promptly wins his entire pot and then to make matters worse when he tries to play the gentleman, an obscure Scottish law means they’re married….for real.

This is awkward for many reasons – they don’t even know each other. One night playing a couple of hands of cards is the extend of their interaction. Also Anthony’s precarious financial position could have negative repercussions for Charlotte – as his wife, her property is considered his. She could also become a target if Anthony cannot repay his creditors within the deadline. And for Charlotte, there’s plenty she hasn’t told Anthony about her background, which for many people would definitely be reason for rejection.

What I liked was that both Anthony and Charlotte are quite different to a lot of characters in historical romances. Anthony, although apparently referred to as rakish, didn’t really display much rake behaviour and he’s not rich. Not at all. He’s very kind and considerate, not at all arrogant or lordly, he doesn’t try to boss Charlotte around or tell her that she can’t do this or that. He’s also very adamant about nothing she owns being used to pay his debt or taken from her and when he hears of her background, he’s incredibly judgement-free. Probably few people in his circumstances would’ve been and I’m not entirely sure how realistic his attitude was but it was refreshing nonetheless. His family is quite unconventional (his sister was almost nine months pregnant when she married in her book) so perhaps it wasn’t that unlikely.

Charlotte was in Scotland on her own searching for her father, whom she’s never met. I think this could’ve been explored a bit more – she had very little information, what was she going to do, attempt to search every tavern in Scotland? I also would’ve liked more about her card playing, which is a rather big part of the beginning of the book as it serves to bring them together and then just basically disappears. Despite the fact that Anthony and Charlotte are both kind of down on their luck when they meet – Anthony owes an astronomical amount of money he doesn’t really have much chance of being able to repay, Charlotte wants to meet the father she’s never known despite really possessing no knowledge of him, there are a lot of things that kind of fall into their laps in order to wrap up the novel and it felt unbelievably convenient, especially as they happened pretty much simultaneously.

This was a pleasant read but I didn’t love it. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters and the pacing felt a bit off, especially towards the end. I didn’t really feel any chemistry between Anthony and Charlotte (it’s a very chaste romance, the sexual chemistry felt like it was at 0 and even the romantic chemistry was lukewarm at best) and there were a few loose plot threads. Just okay for me. Not quite as enjoyable as the other books I’ve read by this author.

5/10

Book #71 of 2017

 

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Review: Letters To The Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

Letters To The Lost
Brigid Kemmerer
Bloomsbury ANZ
2017, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they’re not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.

Oh wow. This book gave me all of the feels!

And it was exactly what I needed. A few books I’d read recently were alright but didn’t really provoke a reaction in me one way or another. I didn’t die hard love them but I didn’t dislike them either. But I was left wanting more and so I decided to try something a bit different to what I’d been reading and I remembered that I had this waiting on my kindle. I really have enjoyed the previous Brigid Kemmerer books that I’d read so I figured it was a good time to crack this one.

Perfect, perfect choice. This book had so much emotion in it and to be honest, mostly what comes up off the page is pain. Both Juliet and Declan are both suffering so much. In many ways what they are grieving is very similar. Juliet’s mother recently (as in a few months ago) was killed in an accident and the way that Juliet connects with her now, is to write her letters. She always did this as her mother was a photographer who travelled the world, only now Juliet leaves the letters on her mothers grave. Declan is also grieving the loss of a parent who is not dead but almost might as well be. Declan isn’t also just grieving, he is furious and guilty and torn up inside. His family is in upheaval and he feels that he no longer has a role, a place there and that tears him up as well.

A little while ago Declan did something stupid that resulted in court-ordered community service and now he works at the graveyard where he finds one of Juliet’s letters to her mother during clean up before mowing. Unthinkingly he writes back and when Juliet discovers that someone has read her private letter, she’s incensed, so she writes back. Despite that, they connect – perhaps through some shared suffering. Soon they have moved on from leaving letters on the grave to creating anonymous emails and chatting and emailing that way. They both go to the same school and could choose to confide their identities but they instead decide to remain anonymous, probably preferring the freedom it gives for them to be completely honest. But being in such close proximity means that they can’t stay anonymous forever – what will happen when Juliet realises that the person she’s been confiding in is Declan Murphy, the guy who is kind of douchey to her at school? In person, Declan’s first response often tends to be anger or aggression – frustration coming out generally about other people’s perceptions of him. I really appreciated the moments with his English teacher who has seen glimpses of something in Declan, something much more than just an angry lack of interest in his school work and she really pushes him to let his natural intelligence come out. She’s not turned away by his tough facade and she’s one of the few people that really seems to see Declan as something more.

Juliet seems to feel that people want her to ‘move on’ now, begin to act ‘normally’ again – but she can’t do that. She’s not sure she’ll ever be able to do that. It felt like it was probably a bit too soon for people to be expecting that of Juliet, but perhaps by trying to immerse her in things, such as her photography, they figure they might help her healing process. Toss her in at the deep end and eventually she’ll learn to swim type of thing. Juliet feels sick at the thought of even picking up a camera but her teacher is able to well, bribe her really and it’s through those small actions such as photographing things for the school year book, going to a school dance, that spark moments and interactions. Some make her furious – but they make her feel things other than grief. She’s been struggling to connect with her father since her mother died and his talk of selling her mother’s cameras has her so incensed that he could even consider it. For Juliet I think her cameras are her mother’s essence, that one thing that she can still tangibly have/hold/etc in her life that represent her.

Both Declan and Juliet’s stories were so tragic and both were full of a few of surprises. Declan’s story had more layers than I imagined and Juliet’s journey of discovery about her mother led to some uncomfortable truths but also gave her the opportunity to finally be able to talk to her father. I loved Declan and Juliet both in their interactions with each other (as themselves and as their alter anonymous egos) and I loved them separately. I felt that this had such a realistic tinge to it – nothing was ‘fixed’ magically – there were small improvements, ways forward but both of them still have a lot to work through. The chemistry between them was powerful in all forms – even in their negative interactions before they figure out who they’re talking to. Declan is the sort of guy I really like reading about, the misunderstood juvie contender. I’m glad he finally got some validation for his feelings and there was an attempt to make him see that he shouldn’t ever have been put in the position that he was.

I loved this book – it kind of put me through the wringer reading it but that was pretty much what I wanted. I thought that both Juliet and Declan were amazing characters, flawed and beautifully believable. I loved their interactions, really enjoyed the way in which they could be brutally honest, brutally themselves without hiding anything in the emails. I adored the supporting characters too – Declan’s teacher, Juliet’s best friend, her photography student rival and most of all, Declan’s best friend Rev who is getting his own book. This excites me so much because much is hinted about Rev but there’s still so much to learn. Bring it on. I can’t wait!

9/10

Book #62 of 2017

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Review: Promise Of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Promise Of Hunters Ridge (Hunters Ridge #3)
Sarah Barrie
Harlequin AUS
2017, 432p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

By the time this is all over, she’ll know what it’s like to kill, or what it’s like to die.

Mia Morgan doesn’t let anything get to her. After freeing herself from an obsessive boss and saving loved ones from a serial killer, she feels like she can handle anything life throws at her. But now that killer – a deranged hunter who preys on women for sport – is coming for her. And if she runs, others will pay the price. As if that’s not enough, Ben Bowden, the brilliant detective who has made her life hell for the past four years, has some insane plan to protect her. If she collaborates with him, Mia might just have to acknowledge her true feelings. But if she keeps him out, will she let the hunter win?

Ben Bowden is sick of finding dead bodies. If being the lead detective on the biggest case in the country didn’t come with enough pressure, now the psychopath Ben is chasing has Mia Morgan in his sights. And Mia doesn’t want his help. She hasn’t forgiven him for the past, and is being less than cooperative with his investigation. Protecting her is a challenge, and the sparks that fly whenever they’re together aren’t helping. But he has to make her trust him – somehow – because she has a plan that terrifies him to the bone.

Can he convince her to work with him? Or will she risk everything to single-handedly turn the hunter into the hunted?

Oh my God. I have waited what feels like soooo long for this book! It hasn’t really been that long, maybe 2 years since I read the first one. After reading (and loving!) that one, it was Mia and Ben that I always wanted to read about. There was always so much more to their interactions – Mia’s resentment and grudge holding, Ben’s protective streak. They always had an interesting chemistry and I wanted to know more about them.

Finally, this is their story. I made myself wait to read this until closer to the release date and I also picked a time when I could read the entire thing from start to finish with no interruptions and I’m so glad I did. We pick up quite a few months after the end of book 2 and things have kind of stalled. The psychopath that has terrified Ally, Ebony and Mia remains at large. Detective Ben Bowden is still working the case, still trying to find the break he needs in order to finish things for good, make sure that no one need ever suffer again. It’s not going to be that easy though and when bodies start turning up, this time there’s something a little different about them….

Mia has been keeping a few secrets since her rescue and to be honest, quite a bit of this book is structured around Mia doing well, kind of stupid things. I understand why she does them and I think that the author takes care to give Mia some rationale, a reason why she takes these risks, keeps these secrets but at the end of it, they are dangerous, really dangerous things to do that could not only endanger her life even more (and others) but could also affect an ongoing investigation. Ben is understandably frustrated when he finds out about what Mia has been doing but at the same time he also needs some more information and so he runs with it, hoping the fact that he knows about it and can keep an eye on it will help.

But what Ben really wants is for Mia to trust him – trust him completely, with everything. He knows that he’s messed up in the past, put Mia offside when he made a mistake. But everything he’s done since then has been in an attempt to right his wrong, to make it up to them. Ally has long forgiven him and now trusts him and even counts him as a friend…but Mia is still holding back and the scene where he practically begs her…… it’s what good romantic tension is made of.  Ben and Mia are exactly what I expected – hoped, they would be. Chemistry and angst and a clashing of wills and stubbornness and flaws and misconceptions but underneath all of that, such possibility. If only the threat could be neutralised once and for all.

I’ve enjoyed the way that this story has continued to build and evolve over the three installments. The author managed to keep it fresh despite it being the same real culprit that continued to elude capture for what did seem like quite a long time. The creep factor is pretty high and there was a lot added to the story in the last book to really give Mia those reasons to take the risks and attempt to put herself in the line of fire. I spent a lot of the book getting a bit frustrated with Mia as she continued to seemingly make things more difficult than they needed to be, but as her motivations and secrets slowly unfolded, it all made sense and painted her in an entirely new light.

The road to true love never did run smooth and for Ben and Mia it was probably rougher than most. Particularly when Ben is forced to do something that he really doesn’t want to that causes Mia to turn on him yet again, to think that he’s betrayed her. It just added another twist in the story, although I have to admit I did expect a few people to be a bit smarter about the whole process considering it made little sense. But throw in emotions and protectiveness and the situation and it’s probably easy for people to judge Ben. And Mia is so stubborn, so damaged from a previous relationship that she was all too ready to believe it too.

Every element of this series has had me hooked from the first page of the first book. I’ve enjoyed the entire ride, the romantic ups and downs, the way in which the suspense element has kept me on the edge of my seat during each book, wondering how it was finally going to end…and then the kind of foreshadowing in this book, that tells you there’s really only two ways it can end. The ending was awesome and lived up to every expectation I had…..which were pretty high, given the past 2 books!

This series is why I love romantic suspense.

9/10

Book #47 of 2017

Promise of Hunters Ridge is the 16th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

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Review: Daughter Of Mine by Fiona Lowe

daughter-of-mineDaughter Of Mine
Fiona Lowe
Harlequin MIRA AUS
2017, 512p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When your world falls apart the only person you can depend on is your sister.

The three Chirnwell sisters are descended from the privileged squattocracy in Victoria’s Western District — but could a long-held secret threaten their family?

Harriett Chirnwell has a perfect life — a husband who loves her, a successful career and a daughter who is destined to become a doctor just like her.

Xara has always lived in Harriet’s shadow; her chaotic life with her family on their sheep farm falls far short of her older sister’s standards of perfection and prestige.

Georgie, the youngest sister and a passionate teacher, is the only one of the three to have left Billawarre. But is her life in Melbourne happy?

Despite all three sisters having a different and sometimes strained bond with their mother, Edwina, they come together to organise a party for her milestone birthday — the first since their father’s death. But when Edwina arrives at her party on the arm of another man, the tumult is like a dam finally breaking. Suddenly the lives of the Chirnwell sisters are flooded by scandal. Criminal accusations, a daughter in crisis, and a secret over fifty years in the making start to crack the perfect façade of the prominent pastoral family.

A thought provoking novel about family expectations, secrets and lies.

I’ve never read Fiona Lowe before but she is the winner of multiple awards (including a RITA) so I was pretty intrigued by this one. It’s quite a complex story line featuring several generations of the same family who hail from wealthy, privileged and respected landowners – the “squattocracy”.

Harriett, Xara and Georgie couldn’t really be more different. Harriett has always been the rigid one, very driven and dedicated. Not only does she push herself hard to always be successful and almost perfect in a way, but she also pushes her daughter hard as well.  Xara has had to learn to be adaptable – as the mother of a child with a lifelong debilitating disability and also twin boys, her life is total chaos where they’re always just scraping buy compared to Harriett’s organised life and quiet wealth. Georgie is a primary school teacher (seemingly stuck with a “difficult” sort of class) and the only one to have made her home away from the local area where they all grew up and their names are an integral part of the history and make up of the town. Who they are and where they came from is of varying importance to them – unsurprisingly Harriet is the most attached the family name and reputation and it is her that reacts in the worst way when she is first betrayed and then confronted with some unexpected news.

In a way I felt for Harriett because the more rigid someone is, the harder it is for them when terrible things happen. And there’s no doubt that Harriett’s life implodes. Someone she loves, someone she respected, does something utterly horrible and she is blindsided by it and then the response to her hurt is perhaps even worse. She is also ostracised, shunned, labelled as a co-conspirator by the locals and her practice suffers greatly as a result. But it was hard to completely sympathise with Harriett because so much of what happens after that first betrayal is of her own making. She’s so rigid and so demanding on what must be done that she overlooks so many important things. She’s concerned with image and how things look and the fact that things like this just don’t happen in their family. Because they are better than that and that was an attitude that I couldn’t sympathise with at all. Despite people attempting to reason with her, she really did stay frustratingly stubborn and judgemental for the longest time. Harriett for me felt like a very interesting study for “nature vs nurture” – there’s no doubt her fractured relationship with Edwina was a product of the distance between them when Harriett was very young and also Edwina’s illnesses. However Harriett also aspired to be very much like her father, wanted to emulate him in every way. She adored him clearly and it’s very difficult for her when she’s forced to confront some of his faults, long after his death. It did make me wonder how much of her nature was because she wanted to be that way, that she thought being that way was more superior than being more like Edwina.

I don’t have a sister but everyone I know with one says that it’s a very complex relationship and these three definitely have that. Georgie and Xara are more mellow personalities, more alike probably and more able to sit and just chat. Harriett is always doing something or going somewhere and she doesn’t seem like she’s as close to the other two as they are to each other. They do rally around in times of crisis, but it’s a lot of things that pile on top of one another – Edwina’s new man friend, the betrayal Harriett experiences and resulting fall out (it also affects Xara and her husband Steve quite personally as well) as well as what happens after that and it isn’t long before fractures in the relationships Harriett has with everyone are showing.

I really loved Edwina’s story, which is told in bits and pieces throughout and I actually think that could’ve made a great book on it’s own – following her from a teenager up until the age she is at the beginning of this novel. She’s experienced a lot of heartache juxtaposed with a lot of privilege and the Edwina that is presented to the world is different from the Edwina that lies beneath the surface. Loved the character of Doug and I loved the fact that they were able to reconnect after so many years and still find something there. There were many surprises that came out of that which made for very interesting reading and added many layers to the complexity of the story.

For the most part, this is a really engaging multi-generational family story with plenty of drama, intricate relationships (some connections are very intricate!) and intriguing reveals. However there were times when for me, it felt a little bit long and Harriett’s hysteria and stubbornness over something was quite irritating. I don’t really know much about the whole squattocracy thing but sometimes the family reputation thing felt a little outdated, something that people would’ve focused on earlier but shouldn’t really seem as relevant now.

Those are little things though and this is still an excellent read.

7/10

Book #38 of 2017

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Daughter Of Mine is book #12 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

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Review: How To Tame A Beast In Seven Days by Kerrelyn Sparks

how-to-tame-a-beastHow To Tame A Beast In Seven Days (The Embraced #1)
Kerrelyn Sparks
St Martin’s Press
2017, 416p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Luciana grew up on the Isle of Moon, hidden away because of her magical powers. But when her father arrives, he offers her a choice: remain on the island or return with him and marry the Beast of Benwick in order to save their legacy—and her father’s life.

Lord Leofric, the Beast of Benwick, has not been touched since he was a child. Born with the power to harness lightning, he is a danger to everyone he touches. When he meets his betrothed, he expects a loveless, lonely marriage…until he discovers she’s vastly more powerful than he realized. But is she strong enough to withstand his touch?

If they can survive, their love will alter the future of the kingdom. But will their extraordinary powers cost them everything?

I’ve never read Kerrelyn Sparks before but she certainly has a very strong reputation in this fantasy romance genre and she has quite a lot of books to her name as well. This is the first in a brand new series set in another world and I love a good series. I have to say, I enjoyed this one a lot.

Luciana was born on a night that the twin moons of the world embrace, leading her to be termed an “Embraced” baby. All of the Embraced are blessed with a particular gift and those gifts can be wide and varied. They’re also reviled in the place she was born so for her safety, her father hid her away on the Isle of Moon, where she could be raised without fear. Along with four other girls, also all Embraced, Luciana grew up to be well educated but also sheltered. She hasn’t even left the small island, or the company of nuns so she isn’t even aware of her privileged background until her father arrives to whisk her back to where she was born. He needs her as his daughter has been promised to the King’s nephew, Lord Leofric, a man known as the Beast of Benwick.

Like Luciana, Leo is Embraced as well and his gift is the power of harnessing lightning. It will seek him out in a storm and there is nothing he can do to prevent it or avoid it. It’s best if he goes somewhere where he can be alone so that the lightning can find him. Then he can store it in his body – and his touch is deadly. He must wear protective gloves when around people and even then, he can give someone a nasty shock. The King has been trying to kill him for years as Leo is both Embraced and a threat and the King also wants the land that Luciana’s father possesses as the Duke. To kill both of them would be the ultimate triumph but no doubt the King is also hoping that Leo will be tempted beyond belief by his beautiful bride and kill her accidentally.

Luciana is taken from a small, peaceful existence and thrust into not only an arranged marriage but also having to be presented at court. Her entire upbringing would’ve been geared towards this moment, had she been raised in her place of birth but because she wasn’t she has to endure quite a steep learning curve. She’s going to be married to a man that not only has she never even seen, but one that is called the Beast. There are all sorts of horrible rumours that fly around about Leo but Luciana is actually pretty stoic in having to face someone who could murder her with a touch. She has a strong sense of right and wrong – she didn’t have to go with her father back to his stronghold but once she heard that he would be executed if he didn’t present a daughter to wed Leo, she immediately decided that she would go. Even though she believes this man just abandoned her and she has no relationship with him she does what she believes is the “right thing” even though it could get her killed.

Luciana and Leo have a really great dynamic and it helps that although Luciana fears her fate, she doesn’t once she meets Leo and she even defends him, which is a very powerful moment for Leo, who is so used to being feared and reviled and certainly not defended. The two of them are definitely attracted to each other from the very beginning, which makes it even harder for Leo, who must not allow himself to touch her. However, a surprising twist means that Luciana just might be the one person that can withstand the touch of the Beast, confirming that this was a match that was intended to happen. They have a lot to negotiate, as Luciana is hiding something very important from Leo as well and he wants her to feel as though she can trust him with anything. They both want a real relationship with each other, especially Leo, who hasn’t really felt any human touch for years.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Luciana and her “sisters”, those girls raised on the Isle with her. Each of them will be the protagonist in a future book and their fates are all somewhat sealed from a game they played on the Isle using coloured stones and having Luciana read their futures. It’s a really interesting set up. As Embraced, the girls all have different gifts and I look forward to having each of those unfold. This was a great start.

8/10

Book #35 of 2017

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Review: The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan

summer-seaside-kitchenThe Summer Seaside Kitchen
Jenny Colgan
Sphere
2017, 384p
Copy courtesy Hachette AUS via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Flora is definitely, absolutely sure that escaping from the quiet Scottish island where she grew up to the noise and hustle of the big city was the right choice. What was there for her on Mure? It’s a place where everyone has known her all her life, and no one will let her forget the past. In the city, she can be anonymous, ambitious and indulge herself in her hopeless crush on her gorgeous boss, Joel.

When a new client demands Flora’s presence back on Mure, she’s suddenly swept back into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. As Flora indulges her new-found love of cooking and breathes life into the dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour, she’s also going to have to come to terms with past mistakes – and work out exactly where her future lies… fate worse than death .

A long time ago, and I do mean a long time ago, my grandfather’s family came from the Orkney Islands in Scotland. For some reason, many generations later I am blessed with the Scots colouring – red hair, pale skin. Probably great for a location where the average temperature for the year is in single digits. However when you’re in Australia it really just means an awful lot of freckles and painful, painful sunburn. Thanks, distant ancestors. Although the setting of this book is a construct of the author, it’s very much based on those northern islands of Scotland – the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, etc. So I really wanted to read it to get a bit of an idea what life is like in those places.

And I think for that, it was really good. I loved learning about the lifestyles and traditions of Mure, the small island where Flora is from. There’s a large farming community and they face the same problems as farmers everywhere and considering Flora hasn’t been back for three years, left under difficult circumstances and is working for the rich American who is building a big resort but not using one scrap of local materials, labour or produce, she has her work cut out for her. Flora moved to London to become a lawyer and now she’s a small cog in a big wheel, crushing helplessly on a man who doesn’t even know she’s alive.

Back in Mure, it takes her a little while to find her feet. Her brothers are more reminiscent of teenagers, teasing her (occasionally it spills over into outright resentment) and letting the house go to ruin since she left, not bothering to cook proper meals or even tidy up. For something to do, Flora begins trying to prepare meals – at first she struggles, not finding the ingredients she requires at the local store to make the food she likes. But then she finds her mother’s recipe book and all of a sudden, Flora is in her element.

For the most part, I found Flora easy to relate to. The (very) country girl who moves to the big city, chasing a dream, something that is completely different to the life she left behind. And who hasn’t crushed on someone who doesn’t even know you exist, that person that is so unattainable? When she arrives back in Mure, Flora is so resentful even having to be there but slowly, slowly, her heritage starts creeping in. She becomes invested, reconnects with her mother through cooking her dishes and slowly begins to reconnect with her family as well. And even Mure itself. She keeps telling herself that it’s only temporary and that she’ll be going back to London as soon as she can but everyone soon wants her to stay and you can tell that she belongs on the island. I really enjoyed this journey of Flora’s, of finding herself….of finding her home.

There was one aspect of the story that didn’t work for me at all and that was the romance. There were two….options, for lack of a better word although I wouldn’t say it was a love triangle. I thought I had it pegged which way it was going to go (which for me, would’ve been the better way) but in the end the author went the other way and I just really couldn’t buy it. It just didn’t seem at all realistic and it felt very rushed and not something that unfolded naturally. I couldn’t see them as a couple and I really couldn’t see them lasting as a couple, building a life together. With the other option, I felt that I could see into the future, the kind of life they would have. It just felt quite at odds with the rest of the story.

6/10

Book #34 of 2017

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Review: Steam And Sensibility by Kirsten Weiss

steam-and-sensibilitySteam And Sensibility (Sensibility Grey #1)
Kirsten Weiss
Misterio Press
2017 (originally 2014), 168p
Copy courtesy of Red Coat PR via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Steam rising. California Territory, 1848. Gold has been discovered, emptying the village of San Francisco of its male population. Steam-powered technology is still in its infancy.

At 19, Englishwoman Sensibility Grey has spent her life tinkering in her father’s laboratory and missing the finer points of proper British life. But when her father dies in penury, she’s shipped to San Francisco and to the protection of an uncle she’s never met.

The California Territory may hold more dangers than even the indomitable Miss Grey can manage. Pursued by government agents, a secret society, and the enigmatic Mr. Krieg Night, Sensibility must decipher the clockwork secrets in her father’s final journal, unaware she’ll change the world forever.

Magic, mayhem, and mechanicals. Steam and Sensibility is a pre-Steampunk novel of paranormal suspense set in the wild west of the California gold rush.

I don’t read enough steampunk. I say that about things a lot….I don’t read enough mystery or crime or fantasy…..and now steampunk. But it’s true. I really don’t read enough steampunk. What I read, I always end up really enjoying and it always makes me make a note to find more books like it. But then that somehow gets lost in a pile of other books. I see a lot less steampunk novels, so I need to make more of an effort to seek them out.

Sensibility Grey is 19 and has recently just lost her father. She’s being sent to San Francisco, to her uncle only when she arrives and disembarks from her ship, he isn’t there. Several other people are though – a mysterious woman who claims to be a government agent, a dandy who claims to have her uncle and seems to want something he’s convinced Sensibility has in return, and a mysterious man. Sensibility needs to decide quite quickly what she’s going to do in this strange place where there are hardly any men. The men are all off making their fortune on the goldfields leaving behind a town of mostly women and a state not too far from anarchy.

From the moment Sensibility touches her feet on land, the book is fast-paced with plenty of action as one thing after the other seems to happen. It’s a game of cat and mouse between Sensibility and the government agent against the dandy, who wants the papers Sensibility rescued from her father’s things before the creditors took everything. Her father was a brilliant scientist who seems to have discovered something very important and a secret society will stop at nothing to have the notes on his work. They are heavily encrypted but no one knew her father and his work better than Sensibility herself, who grew up tinkering in his workshops. She’s actually very talented although she doesn’t yet see what she is capable of. Sensibility believes she can decrypt the papers although she’ll need some time, which they might not have as the dandy keeps threatening her uncle’s life.

I really liked Sensibility. She’s very young and she’s also very out of her comfort zone and she’s also grieving the loss of her only parent. I’m not sure what happened to her mother but it’s quite clear that it was the two of them for a very long time and his loss has definitely devastated her but in that sort of English young lady “well we must go on” sort of way. She is also learning that there was a whole side of her father that she never knew, that he was connected to this secret society, who are most decidedly nefarious. Sensibility is never quite sure who she can trust as it seems that there are plenty of games being played and some bluffing back and forth but I think she knows who she wants to trust.

This has an original publication date of 2014 and there are actually two further books in this series already published. I enjoyed this enough to definitely pick those up and see what is next for Sensibility and the friends she made.

7/10

Book #30 of 2017

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Review: Close To Home by Lily Everett

close-to-homeClose To Home (Sanctuary Island #5)
Lily Everett
St Martin’s Paperbacks
2017, 304p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The best journeys take us home….

When Tessa Alexander came to Sanctuary Island, she left behind a marriage to a man who didn’t love her the way she loved him. When she finally found the strength to set them both free, she discovered friendship and self-acceptance in her adopted hometown. Now she’s settled into a quiet life on her own—never expecting to see her husband again.

Johnny spent almost two years deep undercover, unable to let his wife into his cold, dangerous world. He’s shaken to the core when he comes home to find her gone. It’s painfully clear that Tessa is no longer the timid young woman he married—she’s become a force of nature, a brave and determined beauty. Johnny can’t let her go without a fight so he sets out to seduce his own wife. But will passion alone be enough to convince Tessa that her new life should include a second chance at happiness with a man who must learn to believe in love?

Whoops, I did it again – picked a book that I didn’t know was part of a series. However this one stands up perfectly well on its own and I don’t feel that I lost anything for not having read the previous books in this series.

Johnny works for the ATF and has just returned from two years deep undercover to find out that his wife of eight years has left him a “Dear Johnny” letter. Despite the fact that their marriage was unconventional, Johnny isn’t willing to let it go like that so he tracks her down. He finds that Terri, his shy and timid wife has morphed into Tessa, a woman with a different haircut, a big laugh and a confidence that was missing before. She seems determined that although she’s grateful to Johnny for helping her years ago when she desperately needed it, she’s okay now. And that they should go their separate ways. But Johnny asks for a month while he attends a therapy program designed to help him transition from undercover back into reality.

Johnny had one of those massive hero/saviour complexes. He rescued Tessa, then known as Terri as a terrified teen and even married her to help her before shipping out with the army. After several deployments he joined the ATF, working undercover operations and pretty much everything he does revolves around helping and protecting people. I know he’s just come back from a very long and dangerous mission but Johnny sees danger everywhere even in the tiniest town in the world. He meets a new person in town (Johnny himself is new in town) and immediately assumes the guy is some kind of criminal because he has watchful body language and a military demeanour. Instead of assuming that maybe he’s burned out or has retired, he wonders if he’s used his military skills to segue into crime but he bases this on nothing just his instinct. If this is Johnny’s instinct at work, it makes me worry for the skills of the ATF division, frankly.

Despite the fact that Johnny and Tessa were married for eight years, he spent most of those away either on deployment or undercover so their marriage, which began as one of convenience and help for Tessa, wasn’t even a real marriage, something that I found a little hard to believe. I couldn’t really see the point of having it unconsummated for so long other than to exacerbate Johnny’s hero complex. He has this view of Terri (as she was back then) of being this precious, fragile flower and perhaps she might’ve been when they first met. But she began to put herself back together but his view of her really didn’t change until after she left him and he was confronted with the new Tessa who wasn’t afraid to state her opinions and was willing to go out there and find happiness. I think Tessa felt that Johnny would stay with her forever in the platonic marriage they had for all time out of loyalty, obligation and a need to protect her, so she chose to leave him so that they both might find something truly deeper than that. Whilst Johnny might’ve wanted Tessa (even when he didn’t touch her) he had said he wasn’t open to the whole love thing and Tessa wanted that. Johnny had to learn the hard way that his feelings for Tessa ran deeper than what he was willing to acknowledge.

I think this story was okay – I would’ve liked more background to their marriage and I’m glad Tessa took it upon herself to carve out a life without relying on Johnny. But I think that ultimately Johnny’s obsessive need to protect and save really got on my nerves. There was an attempt to give it a good background but it came too late in the story and was brushed over too quickly, as was how he was going to move on from it. I think I was more interested in the secondary story which sets up the couple in the sixth book, I kept waiting for them to reappear.

6/10

Book #24 of 2017

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Review: Wicked In His Arms by Stacy Reid

wicked-in-his-armsWicked In His Arms (Wedded By Scandal #2)
Stacy Reid
Entangled: Scandalous
2017, 300p
Copy courtesy the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Tobias Walcott, the Earl of Blade, has learned it is best to exercise rigid control over his passions and emotions in all that he does. Uncaring that it makes him seem cool and aloof to most in the ton, he is content with his desire to only woo agreeable and demur females. Then unforeseen circumstances see him trapped in a closet at a house party with the last woman he would ever make his countess.

Lady Olivia Sherwood is everything he should not desire in a female—unconventional, too decisive, and utterly without decorum. But passion ignites between them and they are discovered. Honor demands they wed, and while Tobias finds himself unwillingly drawn to the bewitching beauty, he must do everything not to tempt the passion that burns in him for her, lest it leads to disastrous consequences.

I adored the first book in this series, Accidentally Compromising The Duke and was super excited for this one because I thought it would be about the Marquis of Westfall. However it’s not – looks like he’s going to be book 3. Instead we got a friend of both the Duke of Wolverton (from book 1) and Westfall, Tobias Walcott, the Earl of Blade. Tobias is a ruthlessly controlled sort, firmly holding all emotions in check and never allowing a breath of scandal to touch him. Enter Lady Olivia Sherwood, with the taint of scandal still firmly upon her thanks to her father’s actions. Her stepfather has sent Lady Olivia to his cousin, the Earl’s mother for some “social polish”.

Lady Olivia rides like a hoyden raised by her now deceased father to do a lot of things young ladies shouldn’t know how to do. She’s not like other ladies in society and she is the very thing Tobias does not want in a wife. She’s the sort who would court a scandal, not do her best to avoid one and Tobias has had enough of scandals in his family. He wants a calm wife, someone who will always do and say the right thing. It’s important that he not have any real feelings toward his wife either. Those lead to yet more scandals.

I didn’t really care much for Tobias in the beginning. I found him insufferably antagonistic toward Lady Olivia. Half the time he seemed to go out of his way to bait her and then they bickered like children – it’s suggested in the book they fought like an old married couple but for me it was more like hideously annoying siblings. Tobias makes it very clear he doesn’t want this or that for a bride, doesn’t want to court scandal…etc etc and then ends up in a closet with Lady Olivia in about three minutes. Okay. Good plan.

At least he does insist on doing the ‘right thing’ but Lady Olivia wants him to love her. And Tobias believes that love is some sort of weakness that will lead to you doing ridiculous things in public. Have a guess where someone who spurns all of this is going…..yes, pride goeth before a very large fall and I have to say, the end of this novel redeemed for me. Tobias, once he does figure out how he feels about Lady Oliva, does become rather awesome. This was something the previous book excelled at too – once the hero pulls his head out of his backside and realises what he has, there are so many feels. Stacy Reid does tortured hero and angst super well…..which is I think why I am sooo looking forward to the book with the Marquis of Westfall because that one is already tortured and angsty and we haven’t even got to the romancey stuff yet!

After a bit of a shaky start, this book definitely redeemed itself for me and I ended up really enjoying it. Tobias ended up really needing someone like Olivia to show him the sort of life he really wanted. Once Tobias let go of that rigid control and fear of weakness leading to scandal, the two of them were perfect together.

7/10

Book #5 of 2017

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