TBR Mountain Range

TBR Mountain Range

A long, long, time ago…in a land not so far away, a book lover was lost with only one unread book. After years as a reviewer, her ever-growing pile of books became the TBR Mountain Range.

3.5 Stars
Uncommon Regency plot in Too Dangerous For a Lady by Jo Beverley
Too Dangerous For a Lady - Jo Beverley

An unusual antiterrorism plot for a Regency historical, this book challenges the reader's thinking and gives us another captivating hero to look forward to in the next book of this series.


BOOK REVIEW: Too Dangerous For a Lady by Jo Beverley
Series: Company of Rogues, Book 16
Category: Historical
Publisher: Signet (April 7, 2015)
ISBN: 978-0451471895
Rated: 3.5 out of 5


Lady Hermione Merryhew lives with her sister and her family, now that their parents are gone. She knows she must marry to help their financial status but a long-lost relative may give her a reprieve from marrying the cousin she despises. They all travel to visit their sick uncle who may be on his deathbed. They stop for the night on the way and a man sneaks into her room to hide from his pursuers. Hermione is even more surprised when this thief turns out to be the man she fell for six years ago at her first ball.


Lieutenant Mark Thayne joins a band of revolutionaries as Ned Granger in hope of thwarting their plans of destruction before they put them into play. But now that he has endangered Hermione by involving her in his undercover activities, he has to think of more than himself. Will he be able to save his country and get the girl he never forgot?


TOO DANGEROUS FOR A LADY is book sixteen of the COMPANY OF ROGUES series but it can be read as a standalone. This is my first book by Jo Beverly and although I sensed that this book may be related to others, I didn't feel as if I had missed anything until I read the author's note about the series at the back of the book.


At just over 400 pages, TOO DANGEROUS FOR A LADY is a complicated story that engages the reader with its unusual antiterrorism plot. I thought the scheme was rather ingenious because I couldn't figure out how something like that could possibly happen in this time period, but it was all sewn up neatly by the end. I really enjoyed Lady Hermione's interactions with her uncle. He is a grumpy old man and she isn't afraid to voice her opinion, which in the end makes him respect her and listen to her advice. I didn't feel as convinced with the relationship between Hermione and Mark. Their dialog seemed stilted then too chatty in several places, so I didn't get a real feel for their emotional connection. By the end I grew more attached to them as a couple, but for the majority of the book, I was more enamored with the other Rogues, the Curious Creatures and Mark's friend Brayden who will be the hero of the next book.


Interestingly, I connected with several male secondary characters which makes me think I will enjoy more books in this series because of Jo Beverly's talent at writing men of intrigue who are charmingly arrogant, mischievous and aloof when faced with danger. Their repartee with one another made me laugh and I can't wait to find out what trouble they get themselves into next. They're very charismatic bad boys with titles and Braydon seems like the sort to fall really hard when he finds the woman meant for him.


An uncommon Regency plot that will surely enthrall readers of the genre, TOO DANGEROUS FOR A LADY has many attributes historical lovers will appreciate.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range. Print ARC provided by the publisher.

Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/Too-Dangerous-For-a-Lady.shtml
4.5 Stars
Where Sea Meets Sky by Karina Halle is a sexy road-trip New Adult novel with heart
Where Sea Meets Sky - Karina Halle

Author Karina Halle writes a sexy romance that's partly a pre-college road-trip for four young adults, full of care-free adventure, lust and emotional coming-of-age sensibilities, while growing into the roles they'll eventually play as responsible adults. Amongst the camaraderie is some serious heartfelt emotion that will touch your romantic soul.


Where Sea Meets Sky by Karina Halle
Category: Contemporary New Adult Romance
Publisher: Atria Books (March 31, 2015)
ISBN: 978-1476796406
Rated 4.5 out of 5


Josh falls instantly in lust with Gemma the first time he sees her at a Halloween party in Vancouver, Canada. She's from New Zealand and has been traveling in North America for a few months, about to fly home the very next day. They have an amazing one-night-stand and then Gemma goes back to resume her life in Auckland.


Josh gets accepted into art school in Canada and decides he craves Gemma's traveling lifestyle too much to resist it, so he flies off to New Zealand. He hopes he runs into Gemma but Josh doesn't intend to find her intentionally, until he tells his story to three German guys he meets at a hostel. They insist that they all go find Gemma at the gym she works at, but Gemma isn't working there. Assuming he'll never see her again, Josh is floored when Gemma walks in the door as they're leaving.


Gemma's cousin Amber is arriving from America and they're off to explore New Zealand together before Gemma has to start work at the gym in February. Gemma invites Nick, her off-again-on-again boyfriend from Australia, to join them on their trip but he declines until he finds out that Gemma has invited Josh along. Not to be outdone, Nick decides they will become a foursome.


Gemma is insanely attracted to Josh and Josh is extremely attracted to Gemma, but she knows it will only be temporary with Josh until he goes home to Canada to attend art school. With Nick, even though he's never told Gemma he loves her and doesn't treat her as he should half the time, he's not as temporary, even if he is a bit of a jerk. Will Gemma give up what's semi-comfortable and predictable for something messy, unpredictable and long-distance?


These four twenty-something-year-old young adults set off on a trip of a lifetime in a VW bus, aka Mr. Orange, staying in backpacker hostels or camping in the camper-like bus. The sleeping arrangements are unusual to say the least and Nick can't keep his hands to himself very long, so Josh and Amber are subjected to listening to this couple's sexual escapades more often than they should. It's not long before Amber's attraction to Josh is initiated, but will Josh oblige her when he hasn't had a chance to see if this thing he has for Gemma will ever be reciprocated?


I have to honestly say that this type of story isn't the kind I'm normally interested in. I'm not big on love triangles but this one works by the end of the story. I will forewarn you that the language is raw and the sexual exploits are vivid and leave little to the imagination, sometimes bordering on TMI for my taste, but I still loved this book.


Josh is a very likeable hero and Nick is not, so that settles that from the get-go. Josh isn't perfect and he can be one-track minded when it comes to one of his body parts, but he does want more than sex with Gemma as he tries to help her get over her issues in a caring way. Amber is cute and sweet, so she's a great secondary character who helps move the story forward. Gemma is a puzzle most of the time. Half the time I didn't even like Gemma, but that's a testimony to how great her characterization is written because Gemma doesn't even like herself. By the end of the book, I was cheering for Gemma because she finally learns to love, including loving herself.


What is so well done in this story are the travel aspects of it. It's very reminiscent of the 70s, complete with Pink Floyd cassette tapes in the funky hippie-like VW. The places these four go and the things they do are amazingly detailed, adventurous and highly entertaining. WHERE SEA MEETS SKY is the perfect road-trip story.


I didn't expect to be mesmerized by the characters or to be so emotionally riveted that I cried three times. This book really touched me, especially because Josh and Gemma are both artistic and broken. I have a soft spot for artists because they remind me of my own youth and many of the friends I made in the art world. I can relate to the travel adventures because I experienced similar travels, staying wherever I could as cheaply as possible. That find-yourself trip of a lifetime before college is something never forgotten and it's really fun to relive those feelings with such an eclectic group of characters.


Promoted as New Adult fiction, this novel isn't as angsty as some I've read, even though there are some very powerful emotions explored. Most of the book was enjoyable and even though I'm not big on the frequency of raw language used at times and the high focus on sex, it was realistic and suited the characters.


The hardest part of the novel for me was getting used to a first person narrative switching back and forth between Josh and Gemma. Josh seemed a bit feminine at times and that's probably because I was still stuck in Gemma's head when I should be in Josh's. Josh is very much a guy with crude guy thoughts, but he doesn't pretend to be anyone else than who he really is and I liked his honesty.


I dithered on the rating for this book between four and five because there were some things that I felt were a bit over-accentuated for my taste, but the emotions and ongoing travel story were so amazing that I had a very hard time putting this book down, and I'm still sad that I've reached the end. I want the characters to meet on a reunion trip and maybe find out what happened to the three German guys who were in and out of the novel in a couple places. I'm also super curious about Amber's future travels, so I'm thrilled that her story is coming in July 2015 as RACING THE SUN.


WHERE SEA MEETS SKY takes the best attributes of travel memoirs and mixes it up with young love in an emotionally riveting story. Karina Halle has earned herself a spot on my favorite authors list and I'm looking forward to exploring more of her novels. If you love to travel and have always wanted to take a road-trip across country, then grab a copy of WHERE SEA MEETS SKY for a sexy New Adult romance that illumines a sunset in all its glorious hues.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range. Print ARC provided by Publisher.



Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/contemporary/Where-Sea-Meets-Sky.shtml
5 Stars
Jo Goodman sets the romantic western bar with This Gun for Hire!
This Gun for Hire - Jo Goodman

THIS GUN FOR HIRE is western romantic fiction at its best. It's reminiscent of great westerns with its dynamic characters and unexpected plot that will entertain fans over and over, craving a re-read of this one just to be sure you didn't miss a good part in your hurry to finish the book the first time.


THIS GUN FOR HIRE exemplifies one of the most unusual female characters of western fiction, who not only steals the show, but ensures that all the secondary characters stand out against her enigmatic personality. The one-liners of humor are well placed, often unexpected and laugh-out-loud funny, as well as sometimes epitomizing ribald humor that goes so well within a man's world. Katherine "Calico" Nash knows herself well but when she's tested with an all new role to play, anything can and will happen, including love.


Quill McKenna is many things but he's best at riling Calico to distraction. His good looks and sunshine smile blind Calico to what's happening between them until she can no longer resist. They both have jobs to do for Ramsey Stonechurch, the man that Stonechurch, Colorado, is named after and the benefactor of much that goes on in this small western town. Stonechurch's life is in danger and perhaps his daughter's too, so Quill and Calico are once again working together but this time it's because this family needs them.


I'm not going to describe the background of Quill or Calico because I think this novel will be a lot more fun for you if you just jump in and discover everything for yourself. I even advise that you skip reading the blurb, because I didn't, and I had such a great time figuring out who Calico is and then getting surprised by Quill as well. This couple is one of my all-time favorites of any romantic western I've ever read. They're feisty, charming, sexy, ornery, compassionate and heartrending, but never once will you doubt their perfection together.


Even though I enjoyed IN WANT OF A WIFE immensely and highly recommended it, I'm once again enamored by Jo Goodman's ability to tell a story in THIS GUN FOR HIRE that is fun, exciting, unpredictable, as well as predictably well-written, with characters who will win your heart with their intelligence, humility and sense of what's right without giving up their belief in justice well-served. I don't know how Jo Goodman creates the exact story I want to read but I'm sure it's takes plenty of blood, sweat and tears because I felt the emotion and enjoyed this novel as if I had been there in person.


Outlaws, lawmen, bounty hunters, jailbreaks, explosives, peril, injury, healing and sneaky villains fill up this adventure and you're never quite sure who is sabotaging Stonechurch's mine and putting the Stonechurches in danger, but there are enough duplicitous suspicions to encourage rapidly turning the pages. Completely entertaining and highly recommended, Jo Goodman sets the romantic western bar with THIS GUN FOR HIRE.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range. Print ARC provided by publisher.

Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/This-Gun-for-Hire.shtml
4.5 Stars
Still the One by Jill Shalvis has great characterization!
Still the One - Jill Shalvis

Author Jill Shalvis is masterful at taking flawed, damaged characters and making them loveable. Darcy is hard to love, or she tries to be, but AJ sees right through her gruff exterior and loves her anyway. This is their addictive story with a great catch-up on other characters in the series but it is easily read as a standalone.


Darcy Stone is recovering physically from an almost fatal car accident, but her mental status is yet to be determined. She believes she's not ready to love anyone, even if someone is brave enough to love her. Darcy saves her love for the service dogs she rescues and then gives them to whoever needs them most. She scrapes together the funds to buy these throw-away animals from the two jobs she works.


AJ Colten is the physical therapist who has pushed Darcy beyond reason in order to make her well and he's also now her boss at one of her jobs. It infuriates Darcy that she's so attracted to a man who hardly knows she's alive. Oh, he helps her with her physical recovery but her attitude keeps him far away emotionally, or so she thinks. AJ stays away from Darcy because it's the professional thing to do, not because he's not attracted to her. Quite the contrary, he can hardly keep his feelings to himself, but he'll never tell Darcy that because her brother Wyatt would kick him into tomorrow if AJ hurt his sister.


When AJ's patient, who was supposed to go with him to meet potential backers for his facility, cancels, he's pushed into asking Darcy to help him. Darcy feels obligated and intrigued when AJ offers to pay her money that she can use to buy more dogs, but when she finds out that AJ also did a lot of her therapy pro-bono, she's infuriated that she was never told about his gift. To get even with him, Darcy schmoozes the potential investors, a husband and wife team, into thinking that she and AJ are a couple.


Forced to pretend their love for one another, will they be able to convince themselves there is nothing between them when the sparks ignite?


Since the last book I read in this series was RESCUE MY HEART (book 3), I really didn't have any preconceived ideas about most of the characters when starting STILL THE ONE (book 6). I was also able to begin this book without the familiarity pretty easily. I did wonder about Wyatt and Emily quite a bit, but that's because I want to know their story, which was in the previous book, THEN CAME YOU (book 5).


I chose this book for review because I have an affinity for animal stories and I enjoyed RESCUE MY HEART so much that I wanted more. It met my expectations and amped up my craving to read more books in the series.


Darcy is one of the most interesting female characters I've read about in a long time. She's what made the book for me, but I wasn't impressed with her at first. Darcy has been through so much in her lifetime that she puts up barriers and pretends she doesn't care about anyone except her brother and sister. She's a hardass, plain and simple. Darcy has developed relationships so she's not a recluse and one of those relationships, which is thoroughly covered in this book, is with tattoo artist Xander, her best friend, but her hardened exterior seems off-putting at first.


By about chapter eight, I became acquainted with the crazy off-the-wall Darcy and that's when things really got interesting. Darcy is the kind of friend who can either sink or swim a relationship just with her antics. A lot of what she does is to protect her heart but she seems to damage it just as much by trying to protect it. She's one wild girl when she gets something in her mind and AJ is never quite sure what she'll do next. This proves to be very funny more than once. AJ loves Darcy and always has, but he doesn't intend to follow through on his feelings for her. She's off-the-wall wacky a lot, which he finds irresistible as much as she drives him crazy.


This book is worth reading just for the characterization of Darcy, even though so many of the other characters play a very important role in this novel. Xander and his brother are very intriguing so I hope we hear more about them in the future. Fans of the ANIMAL MAGNETISM series will enjoy cameo appearances of other characters from previous books with a lot of time devoted to Emily and Wyatt, especially Wyatt. Since the next book is about Zoe, Darcy's sister, she gets a lot of page time as well, setting up her upcoming story. We get to know these siblings' relationship with each other rather well in this book so I'm anxious to see it further explored in Zoe's book.


I've come to expect humor when reading Jill Shalvis' books and this novel is no exception. There are some laugh-out-loud funny moments in STILL THE ONE, the scene that made me laugh the hardest is the one with Darcy and a parrot. And let's not forget the cat who gets in on the humor. There's nothing super original about the scene itself but it's the magic of the characterization and Darcy's inner dialogue that makes the scene so funny. That's magic when an author can take something predictable and make it unpredictably funny. There is also heart-breaking sadness that is so worth reading. I sobbed like crazy toward the end of the book when emotions are running high and Darcy is faced with something she never expects. A truly beautiful chapter that will touch your heart and cement Darcy, as a character, forever into your memory.


For those who love animals, there are several scenarios with the service dogs Darcy rescues and then places with new owners. Those are great, emotional, loving moments that will tug at your heart.


AJ is the perfect hero for Darcy even though he has some issues to overcome as well. Their journey is sexy, funny and often heartrending, but that's what makes their relationship special.


I had a hard time deciding how to rate this book because I ended up loving it so much. I concluded with 4.5 because I felt Darcy's characterization was a bit off in the beginning, even though I can't put my finger on exactly why. She surprised me when she and AJ took off on their road trip, this made the book for me, so much so that by the last page I felt that overall I really loved this book. I think you need to read it yourself to see if we're in sync with our thoughts.


If you love quirky, damaged characters, laugh-out-loud moments, heart wrenching emotion plus family dynamics and friendships improved by hardship, then STILL THE ONE should be bought to read right away. While you're at it, you might want to pick up a few more books in the ANIMAL MAGNETISM series because you won't be able to read just one. Funny, crazy characters falling in love, what are you waiting for? Jill Shalvis writes keepers that you'll want to re-read.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range.

Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/contemporary/Still-the-One.shtml
5 Stars
The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James a Recommended Read!
The Other Side of Midnight - Simone St. James

An exciting 1920s ghost story featuring a psychic and a war veteran who try to outsmart a killer who seems to have a real dislike for psychics, including the one hunting him!


REVIEW: The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James
Category: Historical Gothic Romantic Suspense
Publisher: NAL (April 7, 2015)
ISBN: 978-0451419491
Rated 5 + RR
Format: PRINT ARC read, available in eBook, Audio as well.


Ellie Winter is known as The Fantastique, finder of lost things, a psychic like her mother. When she catches a client misrepresenting why he's come to her, Ellie swears he's a journalist there to debunk her talent. Instead, he's the brother of her former best friend and psychic, Gloria Sutter, who was murdered and left behind a note to have Ellie find her. Ellie no longer talks to the dead, but she can't tell Gloria's brother no when he asks for her help.


Ellie has operated off the radar in London, living a quiet life as a finder of lost things for an income since her mother's death. She lives in her mother's home, wears her mother's dress when she meets with clients, but Ellie doesn't do séances any longer. Running into James Hawley, a war veteran who ran the tests on Ellie and her mother all those years ago to discredit them, brings up so many feelings of betrayal. The attraction she felt then is still there, but Ellie's distrust and anger at James for what he'd done hasn't gone away either. However, James won't stop dogging her and he seems sincere in his regrets for his actions with the New Society for the Furtherance of Psychical Research.


As James and Ellie investigate further into Gloria's death, the suspect list grows and so does the danger. Can they solve this murder without becoming victims themselves?

Simone St. James is one of the few authors whose books I snag as fast as possible. There isn't another author I've experienced, yet, who can bring out the atmosphere of the 1920s quite like this author. Ms. St. James so easily captures the mood and sets a scene for a ghost story with her words that it's like poetry in motion. If you have any doubt, go to the bookstore and turn to page 259 to read the second paragraph. There are many more examples but that one paragraph struck me because I was wondering at that very moment, what is it about this author's talent that fascinates me? I was answered by that beautiful, descriptive paragraph. Simone St. James' apt turn of phrase is always so very original.


Ellie Winter is an engaging heroine. She's smart and yet, has an innocence and curiosity that makes her likeable. Her life hasn't been easy since she worked alongside her mother as a child talking to the dead. When her mother gave up the séance business, it left Ellie in a position to find her own way but not completely, since this is all she knows. She also can't control when the dead contact her, even though she tries to block it. She made me laugh every time she hissed at them to "go away" like they are a petulant child.


The attraction between Ellie and James is so well honed. James has some issues as a war veteran and Ellie is one of the few people who can truly understand what he's been through. I really enjoyed Ellie and James working together and then finding their way into a relationship. James seems like the type of guy any woman would be proud of for his service to his country and his sense of right and wrong. He also has a dry wit that comes out in a few unexpected places in the book that made me chuckle. If you've read a lot of 1920s fiction or enjoy movies from this time period, then you'll be able to picture James as the brave warrior he is with a bit of the bad boy gene in the way that he moves or sulks in a doorway. I could picture him the whole way through because he is so well portrayed.


The villain in this book is unexpected. I was so surprised when I found out who he is because it's such a clever plot that I never suspected. It's so rare to be taken by complete surprise that I think most suspense lovers will appreciate this author's talent immensely.


THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT is exactly what fans of gothic romance will love. Many of us compare everything that Ms. St. James writes to her first book, THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE, as it's such an exquisite piece of gothic romantic fiction. Is this book as good? I think so, but for different reasons. I also feel that we'll never get another book like the first one because it was our first experience reading this talented author. There's no way to bring back that first experience, any more than we can outdo any other first in our lives.


The cadence of the sentence structure is perfect for building suspense in this novel. The sentences are rhythmic, creating suspense with their pace as much as the words and how the story is told. THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT exemplifies great storytelling. You will be enraptured, creeped out, fascinated and surprised—fully satisfied by the prose, the era, the nostalgia and the great characters who make you fret, laugh and cry. A Recommended Read!


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range.


More reviews of books by Simone St. James at my website: http://www.tbrmountainrange.com/


What’s on your TBR Mountain Range? What's your favorite ghost story?



Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/The-Other-Side-of-Midnight.shtml
3.5 Stars
REVIEW: The Moon Tells Secrets by Savanna Welles
The Moon Tells Secrets - Savanna Welles

Rated 3.5 out of 5 - An intriguing take on shapeshifters, this novel explores the mystery of Navajo skinwalkers when a woman's son is faced with his destiny.


Raine and her eleven-year-old son, Davey, have been running from evil since it killed her husband just before Davey was born. Raine had been told to keep running and to not trust anyone with their secrets until Davey is old enough to face his destiny. When they once again encounter danger, they meet a cousin whose kindness gives them a safe place to stay for a little while. That's where Raine gets to know Cade because he's her cousin's neighbor and dear friend.


Cade is attracted to Raine but he is still grieving his wife who was murdered. Can Raine and Cade get past their individual grief to allow love to grow between them? Will Davey finally have a positive male influence in his life to guide his growth into a man?


I accidentally chose this book for review by clicking on something without reading what it said. Sometimes those one-clicks are dangerous for the TBR pile! I was all "oh shiny" about the book cover and wanted to read more, then next thing I knew, I had requested the book for review. Not one to go back on a request, I decided to try a new-to-me-author. Sometimes I experience happy accidents and this book is one of them.


Shapeshifter books are one of my favorite paranormal categories and I especially enjoyed the Navajo skinwalkers twist in this one. I love anything to do with Native American history, plus all the weird things that go bump in the night, and this book has all those attributes in addition to interesting characters. If you love suspense, then this book will keep you intrigued until the climax.


Raine is a protective mother who acts in her son's best interests but while trying to safeguard him, she has also alienated him from a normal childhood. Not that Davey is anything like a normal child because of his special gift, but he's now tired of running and wants them to stay put. Raine's cousin Luna introduces herself at her mother's funeral, a wake she had over and over while waiting for Raine to show up, because that's what her mother, who was also Raine's Aunt Geneva, requested before she died.


Luna has the sight, in that she can sense the future but not always the full details. Her gift will prove invaluable to Raine and also help her feel more comfortable staying with a woman she has never had the chance to get to know. Cade's story is very sad and it's hard to imagine that he will heal fast enough to be what Raine needs, but he's also full of surprises.


An exciting suspense that kept me on edge until the end, THE MOON TELLS SECRETS has a cool spin on shapeshifters. It's also a coming of age story for Davey and I sense that there might be more to tell about him in the future. If you enjoy paranormals with a little romance mixed in, then I think you'll appreciate this story.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range. ARC provided by St. Martin's Press through NetGalley.

Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/paranormal/The-Moon-Tells-Secrets.shtml
5 Stars
REVIEW: The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M. J. Rose
The Witch of Painted Sorrows - M.J. Rose

Filled with dark history, ancient artifacts, artists’ ambience, sensuality, suspense and a most compelling characterization, THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS contains the perfect twist Gothic Romance lovers will find irresistible.


THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS is very aptly named as you’ll discover if you choose to read this spellbinding novel. This is the first book I’ve read by author M. J. Rose and I’m very impressed with her eloquence, the obvious extensive historical research, as well as her intricate understanding of an artist’s viewpoint, which all culminate into an intriguing character transformation. It’s precisely the type of dark historical romantic fiction that I love because it’s different, exciting and makes me want to know more about this time period. I relished every word because there were so many beautiful passages, sometimes interspersed with French of which I have no proficiency but loved anyways because it gave the book a realism and passion for this time and place.


American heiress Sandrine Salome flees from New York to Paris, France, in the 1890s to escape her cruel husband. Their marriage was never a love match, but if her father had known Sandrine’s husband’s intent from the beginning, he would have never encouraged their union. When her father’s death is listed as suicide, Sandrine knows that her husband orchestrated it, even if it wasn’t his hands that ended her father’s life. Hoping that her estranged grandmother, a famous French courtesan, will give her shelter in Paris, France, Sandrine escapes to the family ancestral home, arriving unexpected. But Grand-mère isn’t home.


Sandrine’s grandmother’s neighbor finds her struggling outside their home and comes to her rescue, giving her shelter until her grandmother arrives. The neighbor explains that Grand-mère is renting an apartment while their family’s home is renovated. Expecting to be welcomed by her grandmother when she arrives, Sandrine is confused when Grand-mère expresses fear, repeating her warning to Sandrine that she never should have come back to Paris, which is poison for her.


Paris is where Sandrine begins to discover who she truly is, so how can that be poison? We’ll all soon find out as this suspenseful novel takes us through the darkest parts of Paris in search of the truth of her family’s history.


Sandrine is a very light, timid woman who goes through a transformation as she discovers her talents and sensuality. The power and strength she has at the end of the novel is so subtly built that you’ll barely remember that timid, simple but intelligent, creature we meet in the first chapters. Sandrine’s intelligence is proven by her historical and art knowledge that was encouraged by her time spent collecting, archiving and perusing museums with her father, who was very much a philosopher by night in contrast to his banker by day persona. It’s her father’s curious nature that sets Sandrine on a path to follow her dreams.


This novel contains all the things I love about Gothic Romance as a sub-genre with enough distinction to make it fresh. The house is a predominate character, as to be expected, sometimes seeming like a living, breathing entity. Sandrine finds love with her grandmother’s architect, somewhat inappropriate, but you’ll continually wonder if their relationship will just be an affair, as it’s not necessarily a healthy relationship, or one without obstacles that touch on some really unusual circumstances. The darkness is always looming—on the streets, in the house, sometimes in Sandrine’s heart and within other people she meets.


There is a lot of darkness so if you don’t enjoy occult history, this book may make you uncomfortable. It might be a book to avoid reading at night as well, because it can be intriguingly creepy. For me, the occult details were perfectly matched to carry the plot and I love creepy if it makes sense for the story. The author’s research is exquisite and the facts presented are very appropriate for the beliefs of that time so even if you’re not keen on the darkness, you’ll still understand why it’s there. It wouldn’t be this story without it. Another warning, the sexuality is vivid and carries throughout much of the novel but it’s not quite as explicit, or frequent, as it would be in an erotic romance, leaving some but not all to the imagination. This book is most definitely an adult novel, but that is not all it is because it’s not overdone and the plot is so intricately appealing. Since this is a story that includes the history of a family of courtesans, you should expect some realistic historical content to that effect.


One element I absolutely loved was getting a glimpse at what it was like to be an artist in that era. To anyone who has studied art, you will relate philosophically with those characters and crave to paint after reading this novel. There is nothing I love more than to read about creative students in history, reminding me with their camaraderie and experiences why I’ve always been drawn to the arts myself.


Atria Books is becoming one of my go-to publishers for polished, unusual, as well as diverse books I anticipate. A thank you to the editors and advance readers who made my advanced review copy of this novel a joy to read. I can’t wait to find another.


Filled with dark history, ancient artifacts, artists’ ambience, sensuality, suspense and a most compelling characterization, THE WITCH OF PAINTED SORROWS contains the perfect twist Gothic Romance lovers will find irresistible. I highly recommend this novel as a most unusual piece of historical fiction, combined with the ancient dark arts that will spin their magic around you, and possibly make you gasp with surprise. It might even ruffle your feathers a bit, but it’s oh so good to be haunted by such a good tale.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range. ARC provided by Atria Books through NetGalley.

Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/The-Witch-of-Painted-Sorrows.shtml
4 Stars
REVIEW: Where Secrets Sleep by Marta Perry
Where Secrets Sleep - Marta Perry

A great story with Amish characters but the romance is between the Englisch among them, along with some suspense to keep everyone in this rural town on edge and helping one another through a wave of unexpected crime.


I always sit with a sappy grin on my face when I begin a Marta Perry book. Perry's stories are like coming home to homemade apple pie after a stressful journey. They're sweet and wholesome with some suspense seasoned in to keep the reader turning the pages. The character conflict of a city girl landing in Amish country because of an inheritance creates ambience instantly for some cute situations to lighten the serious nature of the suspense in this latest endeavor. These key ingredients combined are why I began WHERE SECRETS SLEEP with a satisfied sigh.


Interior Designer Allison "Ally" Standish catches her boyfriend in bed with her boss. Now, not only has Allison lost her job, she's lost someone she thought was a good friend and mentor, not to mention her heartache over her boyfriend's cheating when he thought Allison had already left for her trip. How could she have been so blind?


Allison left that day with her cat for Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, after being disrespected by these two people in her life. She had already scheduled personal time off to look over the property that her estranged father's mother, who is the grandmother she never knew, left her in her will. Blackburn House is a historical mansion that is currently being used commercially and Allison is the new owner, per the lawyer who contacted her. Her initial gut instinct is to get rid of this "white elephant" as fast as possible and get on with her life.


Life has a funny way of becoming more complicated than expected as Allison finds out when she realizes that more than one person wants this property she inherited, or she must make it profitable within a year if she wants to keep it. Should she sell or accept the challenge? Someone is determined to convince her to leave, or so it seems, as one thing after another seems to go wrong, including implicating Allison as a criminal. Can there be a new beginning for this city girl in a small rural community, or should she hightail it out of there as fast as possible?


Carpenter Nick Whiting is a single, divorced dad trying to make a good life for his son in the town where his family has a carpentry business. Nick's shop and showroom is at Blackburn House and he's not so sure he trusts the new owner, an outsider, to do what's best for all those who share the space. Blackburn House rents to a quilt shop, a bookstore, a lawyer and a realtor, in addition to Nick's family's business. Nick needs to think of his son first and not follow through on his attraction to Allison. Can he keep his heart closed off to someone who has begun to impress not just his friends and family, but also the young boy he's trying to protect?


WHERE SECRETS SLEEP contains likeable characters you'll find familiar if you love small town rural America and all the intricacies that make it a well-rounded place to live. It's a quaint story that focuses on the relationships of the Amish with the Englisch, exposing their differences as well as their willingness to be compatible as neighbors. There are some references to Amish faith and how it affects their way of life, but this story isn't about faith, or just the Amish, as much as it's about learning to live a fulfilling life. This story is modern but still exemplifies the less modern way of life in an Amish community.


The romance is sweet between Allison and Nick but there is some violence that is typical in a romantic suspense that reads more like a cozy murder mystery. Blackburn House is the perfect setting for a blending of characters from the charming Amish spinster, to the city girl who is transplanted into rural America and is attracted to a handsome carpenter with a cute child, to the meddling Englisch bookstore owner who can't keep his nose out of anyone's business, mixed in with various other characters including some devious villains.


I'm a fan of Amish suspense but I found the originality in this story particularly engaging. The setting lends itself to an almost Gothic Romance feel, without the ghosts, where the house is creepy and especially so when the plot quickens. If you need to relax, a trip to Amish country always does it, even when there's murder and mayhem afoot as in this story. If you're familiar with Amish country, then WHERE SECRETS SLEEP will certainly make you yearn for it.


As the first book in the WATCHER IN THE DARK series by Marta Perry, WHERE SECRETS SLEEP engages the heart. Great suspense mixed with delightful characters you'll look forward to revisiting in the next book.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies and TBR Mountain Range. ARC provided by NetGalley.

Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/suspense/Where-Secrets-Sleep.shtml
3.5 Stars
Stroke of Midnight - Olivia Drake

A satisfying regency whodunit, especially for those who love the nuances of a riches-to-rags-to-riches theme with some Cinderella similarities.


Laura Brown returns to London, hoping to care for her father who is injured, only to arrive too late. Disguised so that no one recognizes her, Laura visits her father's grave, and then feeling threatened by the constable accompanying her, runs off through the streets of London and seeks shelter in an open coach.


Hidden in the shadows of the coach interior, Lady Milford greets the unexpected guest, guessing right away that she's the "notorious" Laura Falkner in disguise. Well aware of Laura's downfall in society since her disappearance several years ago when her father was accused of stealing the Blue Moon diamond, Lady Milford offers her assistance. After arriving at her home, the lady gifts Laura a pair of red silk and beaded dancing slippers, much to Laura's annoyance since she believes that she will never require such beautiful things again. But Lady Milford suspects differently and insists she take them, as well as become the companion of her dear friend, Lady Josephine.


Lady Milford is a bit of a matchmaker, which Laura discovers once she realizes that she is now the companion to the aging aunt of the scoundrel who accused her father of theft. He is also the miscreant whose face she scarred for life as she escaped to Portugal with her father, as well as the eligible gentleman Laura had hoped to marry—Alexander "Alex" Ross, the Earl of Copley.


Lord Copley is thrilled, astonished, as well as suspicious, when he finds Laura in his aunt's home disguised as a spinster. There's no hiding her beauty from him as he has longed for her since her disappearance. Feeling as though he has been given a second chance to win her heart, can he keep Laura from investigating her father's past in order to clear his name? Will Alex win Laura's affection once more before she discovers his secrets?


STROKE OF MIDNIGHT is book two of the CINDERELLA SISTERHOOD novels. Since I haven't read the first or third one, I'm not sure of the connection with the series but I assume it may be the red shoes which are passed on. That's the only detail that I felt I missed, so I believe it's fairly easy to read this series out of order if you wish.


In the beginning, the heroine is naïve and immature for her age, but I assume this was caused by her years of isolation with her father in the mountains of Portugal, away from society since the year of her debut. Her hope to solve the mystery of the missing Blue Moon diamond and clear her father's name is noble, if not foolish. Acting in disguise as a lady's companion allows Laura to attend the balls with her employer, while remaining in the background fairly unseen as a servant. It's only a matter of time before someone else recognizes her besides Alex, and the ton is not kind to those disgraced by crime, even if by affiliation.


Laura's character grew on me as the novel progressed, even though I felt she was naïve and foolish in the beginning. She had a lot to overcome and for the most part, she did so with grace and humility, earning the respect of those who truly mattered. She wasn't without flaws, which made her more believable for the times. When she stood up for herself against her peers, I became a fan of her spunk.


Alex is more complex because the reader doesn't understand the reasons for his actions until almost the end of the novel. Although he seems aloof, as is typical with his position in society, his personality is shaped by his past and I really enjoyed his transformation. I especially appreciated how this couple's relationship develops further when the reader is given a broader glimpse of their story that goes beyond where most romance novels end. For this story, it's necessary to continue past their nuptials, so the difference makes sense and buoys their happy-ever-after.


STROKE OF MIDNIGHT is a satisfying regency whodunit, especially for those who love the nuances of a riches-to-rags-to-riches theme with some Cinderella similarities. Although some of the plot is predictable toward the end, many of the circumstances were unexpected and enhanced my overall enjoyment. I like that the evil stepmother and stepsisters weren't relatives as in the fairy tale, but you had to imagine which characters were playing those parts in this author's version. The Cinderella similarities are subtle which makes this version unpredictable and more fun for the reader to guess who is who.


Reviewed by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies.

Source: http://www.romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/Stroke_of_Midnight_OD.shtml
5 Stars
Stranger on the Shore - Josh Lanyon

Great mystery with a romantic element. It's not the solution to the mystery that is surprising but the way it unravels, even if the reader suspects how it will end, there are all these pieces falling into place in an eloquent style that makes it such a page-turner. I especially enjoyed the connection to one of my favorite classics, THE GREAT GATSBY. I loved the atmospheric quality that reminded me of Fitzgerald's style. The characters are well drawn and the mystery unravels at a great pace.

5 Stars
REVIEW: In Want of a Wife by Jo Goodman
In Want of a Wife - Jo Goodman

Also posted at my blog, TBR Mountain Range.


Jo Goodman creates a tale that easily compels western historical romance lovers' hearts.

It took me about a minute to fall in love with author Jo Goodman's talent.  I love westerns and if they're historical westerns with romance, I love them even more, but finding one that mesmerizes is true gold.  Jo Goodman understands how to create a setting and then slowly build upon it with three dimensional characters who demand your attention.  Do you crave the unlawful Wild West and the men who manage on just this side of the law, along with their strong, supportive women?  Look no further than IN WANT OF A WIFE.

In 1891, Jane Middlebourne is the poor relation to her cousin Francis who brought orphaned Jane into her home when her parents died, but not necessarily into her heart.  Jane has been given many privileges as someone in a wealthy household but spent most of her time as the hired help.  Jane and her cousin, Alexander, concoct a scheme to get Jane out of his mother's control, but not without consequences.  Jane escapes with some money to become a mail-order bride in Wyoming but realizes she may have made a huge mistake once she arrives.

Rancher Morgan Longstreet believes his life is moving forward in the right direction the day he arrives at the train depot to pick up his sturdy, made for ranching, mail-order bride.  Until he realizes the photograph he was sent is not the delicate woman who steps off the train.  Dare he send her packing for a lie when his attraction is undeniable?

Sound like a familiar story?  There's nothing new about mail-order bride stories and the many ways they can be told.  What's new is when an author can layer a story piece by piece and snag your heart in the process.  IN WANT OF A WIFE is exactly how I love a story to be told and if all historical western romances were written like this, they'd be all I'd read.

So, Jane and Morgan are opposites in many ways, then thrown together and dealt personal circumstances to overcome.  They're not left alone to their own devices but surrounded and meddled with by Morgan's ranch hands as well as the folks in town.  Mrs. Sterling lends her straightforward advice, without much care whether Morgan wants her say so or not.  Or she tells Jane what she thinks without Morgan's permission.  Then there's the young brothers Finn and Rabbit who annoy Morgan with their helpfulness, especially when Marshall Cobb Bridger deputizes the youngsters.  And, the things they say are some of the best one-liners!  Let's not forget the three brothers who work for Morgan at the ranch, when they're not fighting one another, who become quite fond of Jane and rile Morgan every chance they get.  And that's just the beginning of the many secondary characters who add to the realism of this story.

Jo Goodman is a western historical romance master with her subtle layering that makes her characters spring to life, grabs our hearts and keeps us glued to the pages.  Her fine attention to detail lands some of the funniest laugh-out-loud moments between the lead couple and the other characters.  The laughter isn't continuous but unexpected and laugh-out-loud worthy, which is the best kind of funny, in my opinion.  Plus, some of the conversations between Jane and Morgan are so endearing and wonderful and so memorable I will forever refer back to them.  One such conversation happens in the middle of the book and it's such a great scene that sets the stage for what you hope for their future.

IN WANT OF A WIFE intrigues, is finely-laid out, molded and shaped, then allowed to blossom into well fleshed-out characters who can't help but love each other deeply once they realize neither one of them is giving up.  Heartbreaking at times, made even more so by how invested the reader becomes in the lives of all the characters, IN WANT OF A WIFE is the kind of western historical romance I love to read and highly recommend.

If you want to read the rest of Jo Goodman's BITTER SPRINGS series, there are two more novels to read starting with THE LAST RENEGADE and followed by TRUE TO THE LAW, both published prior to IN WANT OF A WIFE.  Also connected to the BITTER SPRINGS series is a novella in a multi-author anthology titled BOOTS UNDER HER BED.  Enjoy!  I know they're on my "to be read" list.


Review by Dorine, courtesy of Romance Junkies.

Source: http://romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/In_Want_of_a_Wife.shtml
4 Stars
REVIEW: A Gentleman 'Til Midnight by Alison DeLaine
A Gentleman 'Til Midnight (Hqn) - Alison DeLaine

Swashbuckling good fun is to be had when a woman captains a ship that is rumored to be involved in less than legal behavior, and then she is forced to act as a lady to retain her inheritance. London has never seen the likes of this or the line-up of men ready to wed her for the value of her land.

Review Courtesy of Romance Junkies and reposted at TBR Mountain Range.

From the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar to a London masquerade and then off to Scotland, this historical romance novel is a romp with pirate panache. It begins in 1767 upon a ship captained by Corsair Kate, the notorious Lady Katherine Kinloch, heir to the Scottish Dunscore, her childhood home. She's not the only female on board her ship, each one with an opinion of what to do about the man they've found almost drowned. Should they rescue him or leave him to his fate?

Once pulled aboard, Naval Captain James Warre realizes that telling anyone who he really is would only result in his death or injury. He becomes known as Midshipman Thomas Barclay, the only survivor of Warre's ship that sank. James will wait until they arrive in London to admit who he really is, then formulate a plan to assist Lady Katherine in retaining her family home. After all, it's James' brother who has brought Katherine's inheritance into question, plus it's the least he can do for the captain who saved his life and for the woman whose life he endangered years ago.

Lady Katherine and others she's rescued create a female cast of characters who are so full of life that society gossips won't tire of them easily. Katherine's reputation arrives in London before she does and Corsair Kate is a fascination for women as much as she is for men. Will she be able to sway the vote that could give Dunscore to her cousin before she has a chance to see her family home again?

At over four hundred pages, A GENTLEMAN 'TIL MIDNIGHT by Alison DeLaine is an intricate story. Those who love a historical with substance should really enjoy this book. I'm especially fond of the premise for this fictional tale which held my attention from the very beginning. The opening scene on the ship when they try to decide what to do about Captain Warre, who is an unknown, almost-drowned man to them at that point, possibly diseased and dangerous to all aboard, is very entertaining. Captain Warre can't control his lust for Corsair Kate and her very formidable reputation, and the women on the ship recognize their sizzle immediately.

Even though Captain Kinloch demands respect, her friends are not afraid to try her with their humor. In fact, they seem bound to annoy her every chance they get.

Katherine is smart and resourceful, yet still feminine when necessary, even though it pains her to dress like a lady. She's also vulnerable enough to abandon control in the heat of the moment, then becomes uncomfortable, wafting back and forth between what she thinks she should do and what her heart wants her to do. All in all, Katherine is an engaging female lead with strength and heart beyond what you'd expect from someone who has been held in captivity.

James is the perfect hero for Katherine in that he tests her at every turn. He brings out her anger and her passion. I found James to be just as compelling as Katherine and his interaction with other male characters in regards to Katherine was oftentimes very funny. Page 235 says it all when he describes what he should be looking for in a wife and what is keeping him from doing just that. It contains one of the funniest lines in the book in my opinion and made me laugh out loud.

I thoroughly enjoyed the moments when the characters were ensconced within London society, visiting friends and going to the theatre or parties. The male characters' reaction to Lady Katherine, all of them gobsmacked by her allure which is enhanced by her reputation, while James is trying to reduce his own attraction is so amusing. Every time one of his male friends barely mentions their desire for Katherine, it sets James off inside his head and yet, he cannot say exactly what he is thinking without giving away his own feelings. It's a laugh-out-loud tug-of-war between what he's thinking and how he must appear that makes his struggles so charming.

Even though this book is filled with a well-developed story, I still wanted more. There was so much that I loved about this novel but there were also particulars that I either missed, or that weren't detailed enough, leaving me to wonder about them. I have so many questions about Katherine's past and the past of the women who traveled with her. I'm guessing that those details will be revealed in future books and it's probably a good thing that I'm still curious because I'll want to read those too.

A GENTLEMAN 'TIL MIDNIGHT is a classic romantic adventure with an unusual plot. The attraction between Katherine and James is immediate and yet, they fight their fate until the very end. Their combative nature is engaging and their conflict kept me reading, knowing full well that they'll figure it out eventually, but neither will go along quietly. And, you won't really want them to, either. It's that explosive fire between them that can't be extinguished that draws you forward, hoping for a happy-ever-after and then some.

More reviews by Dorine and contests at TBR Mountain Range.

Source: http://romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/A_Gentleman_Til_Midnight.shtml
3.5 Stars
REVIEW: Somewhere to Dream by Genevieve Graham
Somewhere to Dream - Genevieve Graham

A young women is taken in by the Cherokee with her sister, after a terrible tragedy. A young man is captured by the Cherokee and embraced as the soul of one of their lost warriors. Can two people with painful pasts find peace in a new way of life?

Review Courtesy of Romance Junkies and reposted at TBR Mountain Range, with a photo taken by me.

This is the third book in THE MACDONNELLS trilogy. I did not read the first two books, so my review may be completely different from someone who knows the back-story. We meet Adelaide, called Shadow Girl by the Cherokee, who tells her story for several chapters before we meet Jesse Black, a captive. This book mixes early American history with the paranormal in the form of visions.

Adelaide and her sister Maggie were abducted and abused by five men. The Cherokee attacked the men, killed them and took the two sisters to their tribe's village where they comforted them and healed their physical wounds. Healing their memories and their hearts is more difficult. The tribe grandmother helps the sisters with their gift as seers. Maggie readily accepts her gift of visions, while Adelaide has fought them since the beginning.

In a previous book, Maggie met her love and married, so Adelaide elects to stay with the tribe, letting her sister leave to be with her husband and his family. Adelaide is trying to be less afraid and work with her Cherokee grandmother on accepting her visions, but her past has been locked away out of fear. She knows a great white warrior is coming to the tribe before anyone else and keeps this knowledge to herself, afraid to let her vision go further because of mistakes she's made previously when misinterpreting her visions.

Jesse Black is captured by the Cherokee and all he can think about is how to escape. Jesse is curious about Adelaide from the first moment he sees her. He can't help but wonder why a blonde, young woman is with the Cherokee and acts as if she belongs with them. Jesse needs Adelaide as a translator but she is so shy and skittish that he can't stop wondering who hurt her. Jesse expects to be killed but Adelaide explains that the warrior who captured him thinks that Jesse has a fallen warrior's soul and has adopted him as his brother.

SOMEWHERE TO DREAM follows the developing love between two people with very painful pasts. Will their love help them overcome their fears and learn to love each other beyond what's in their history?

The beginning of the book is a bit choppy because we don't get to see everything while Adelaide represses her past out of fear. I'm guessing that I would have understood it better by reading the other books. Eventually, all is revealed so this book can be read as a standalone, but would probably be enjoyed more if read in order as a trilogy.

Adelaide and Jesse both give an interesting perspective in regards to the Cherokee customs and how they react to them, accept them or are appalled by them. Parts of the story depict the violence of the times in raw detail. Also, Adelaide eventually describes what happened to her and her family so if violence against men or women is something that disturbs you, you might want to avoid this book. It's realistic and it's all for valid reasons, giving insight into the characters' past, but it might be overwhelming to a sensitive reader.

I enjoyed the Cherokee characters as much as I enjoyed Adelaide and Jesse. Even one particular Cherokee troublemaker, who has a grudge against Jesse, becomes an excellent part of the story. We also get to know some of the whites in town, as well as have a couple visits with Maggie, so those who have read the previous books will enjoy a catch-up with the characters.

I enjoyed Adelaide and Jesse's interactions with the tribe grandmother the most. She's a wizened old woman who sees into their connection more than they see for themselves. Jesse was very angry at first so he acted out in ways that made me dislike him. Adelaide always showed a reserved front that was likeable, even when she experienced the most fear. Jesse does redeem himself later as he matures into a strong warrior and as a safe haven for Adelaide.

The tribe life really intrigued me and it was the part that I enjoyed the most. The Cherokee friendships were well-drawn and believable. I could sense the urgency of this couple's future and how their relationship might heal them both. There are some really heartbreaking moments that make this book hard to describe, as well as hard to rate. I enjoyed the relationships but the main characters faced so much violence in their past and present that I wasn't ready to let go by the end. I guess I needed a “vision” of more of their future. A book four about one of the Cherokee, perhaps?

SOMEWHERE TO DREAM will satisfy those who enjoy an American historical journey with a paranormal twist.

More reviews by Dorine and contests at TBR Mountain Range.

Source: http://romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/Somewhere_to_Dream.shtml
5 Stars
Review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert

A historical, fictional saga of epic proportions, THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS will fascinate those who have an interest in botanical or scientific exploration, featuring an imperfect heroine who discovers her life's passion.

Review Courtesy of Romance Junkies and reposted at TBR Mountain Range.

This novel is an impressive creation, filled with adventure across the globe as we follow several characters in their travels for botanical research.  Alma and her father are the main characters throughout the book but there are many significant secondary characters who add interest, drama, humor and sadness, including real historical figures you'll recognize.

In 1770, Henry Whittaker is ambitious and has no respect for his father who is honest, yet poor. Ashamed of his father's lack of ambition, Henry makes his own way by stealing.  With his father working at Kew gardens for Sir Joseph Banks, a rare plant hoarder in Henry's estimation, he feels obliged to share with those whom Banks refuses.  So, Henry works with his father during the day, then steals and propagates plants at night to export to numerous clients.  Unbeknownst to Henry, his father discovers and reports his crimes to Banks, hoping to preserve his family's integrity.  Banks confronts Henry and is completely enamored by his bold unrepentant nature, laughing (as did I) at Henry's audacity, which works in his favor.  He decides to use Henry's "talents" by sending him off to sea with Captain Cook as an assistant to another botanist, essentially becoming Banks' informant.  Henry's nickname for himself made me laugh because it describes him perfectly as a thorn of power in everyone's side.  He eventually seeks a wife like he does everything else and marries Beatrix, an intelligent Dutch woman anxious to get away from her family.

Henry Whittaker becomes the richest man in Philadelphia, with Beatrix at his side, by the time Alma is born in 1800.  We really can't truly understand Alma until we understand her father, who is instrumental in much of Alma's life.  Alma isn't pretty but her mind is exceptional, just like her mother's.  Beatrix teaches Alma several languages at a very young age, just as she was taught by her family.  Both her parents believe in pushing Alma intellectually, encouraging her to use her mind to debate with their guests at dinner.  Avoiding children because she prefers adult conversation, Alma never really learns how to socialize other than with her peers.  She spends her childhood exploring their estate, eventually focusing on botany like her father.

When Alma's parents decide to adopt Prudence, Alma is well acclimated to being the center of attention.  Accepting a sister, especially one who isn't as well educated as herself, isn't easy, but they learn to tolerate one another.  What will become of these two women in an age when being an intelligent woman may not equal a happy life?  Will their wealth be a hindrance or the common ground that binds them?

Alma is far from a perfect heroine.  Some of her faults take her a lifetime to recognize.  Above everything, Alma is a thinker and it is her self-evaluation throughout the novel that gives balance to her life.  But will she be able to forgive herself for her worst moments?

Having a horticulture background, botany was the reason I chose this book for review.  I thoroughly enjoyed how the story unfolded and couldn't read fast enough.  Normally when I read a book this intricate with a high page count, I need to take breaks in-between and read other books.  Not with this one.  It held my attention and called me back to it when I was away.  I can't tell you if it is all historically accurate or not, but it sure is believable in the way it is presented.  The botanical descriptions are absorbing and the fact that the majority of the book is about a female botanist added to the intrigue.  There were a few paragraphs where my eyes glazed over from the elaborate detail describing the variances of moss, but for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed every word.  Having been enamored by moss enough myself over the years, enough to obsessively photograph it, I feel as if my inner geek has been vindicated.

But it is not all about botany as it's also about art, science, philosophy and religion.  It's about assimilating research and proving theories while debating the entire process with colleagues.  It's about human emotion and how singular devotion to the study of science can isolate any man or woman.  I think anyone who loves research and knowledge will appreciate the volume included in this novel, as well as how it was organized to be such a beautiful, cohesive story.  It might be overwhelming to someone who isn't interested in the thinkers of this era, but I think everyone should try it as it encompasses such a wide variety of historical topics.

This fascinating historical novel can be considered romantic, in part, as well as sensually explicit, but it won't meet your expectations if you're expecting a traditional romance.  It's a fictional novel containing life's surprises, focusing on the life and survival of an intelligent, well-educated woman in a man's world.  I did have moments where I wondered why some of Alma's personal habits were focused on, but by the end of the book it all became clear.  Alma is a complicated character and by following her life, you also follow history in the making.

A rare historical exploration into the science of plants, filled with interesting characters and theories, THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is brilliantly rendered.  Historical enthusiasts will find Alma's story riveting as a woman before her time.  Author Elizabeth Gilbert's talent is recognized in the enormity of the research involved to create a novel with such historical ambiance, but it was her deft hand at characterization that made me sob when all hope seems lost, then sigh with contentment when all is as it should be.  An extraordinary historical journey, THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is riveting from beginning to end.  Highly recommended!

More reviews by Dorine and contests at TBR Mountain Range.

Source: http://romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/The_Signature_of_All_Things.shtml
5 Stars
Review: Dark Witch by Nora Roberts
Dark Witch - Nora Roberts

The magick begins with the first book in a new trilogy set in Ireland.  It's a pure joy to read and sets the bar high for the next two books that follow in 2014.  Don't miss this very fun, engaging adventure when an evil entity fights against the power of three.  Recommended Read!

Review Courtesy of Romance Junkies and reposted at TBR Mountain Range.

DARK WITCH casts its spell at the beginning with Sorcha, the original Dark Witch, and her three children in the year 1263 when they face the malevolent Cabhan, a sorcerer.  With her husband away at war, Sorcha tends her children by herself as well as fights the evil that wants her power.  Her legacy reaches into the future, into the year of 2013, to those who are descended from her.  Now is the time when three shall join as one against the sorcerer that Sorcha believed she banished but is still an evil entity to defeat...

Iona Sheehan has felt unsettled most of her life until she moves to Ireland.  Her grandmother's stories of County Mayo and the gift of magick they all hold dear intrigues Iona.  Barely trained in her craft, she knows that if her cousins in Ireland accept her, she can learn much from them.  As a descendant of Teagan, one of Sorcha's children, Iona believes that her destiny in Ireland is much more than it would be in the U.S.

I have been anxiously waiting for this book since I first heard about it.  In my early years of romance reading, I devoured as many of Nora Roberts' books as were available at that time.  The most memorable and influential of these books, which opened my eyes to other genres, was the GALLAGHERS OF ARDMORE trilogy.  That trilogy made me fall in love with Ireland and the magick of its folklore, often thinking of them as parallel.  Now that I've experienced Ireland in person, I can't resist going back to that mystical setting, with an aura all its own, in my reading.  Nora Roberts' ability to bring the mystique of Ireland alive is incomparable.

Many years have passed since I have read a Nora Roberts' novel and, at first, her writing style in this book made my internal editor go crazy.  Her style of combining thoughts with commas, without using "and" at all, jarred me at first and I couldn't concentrate on the story unfolding.  But, my fond memories of the GALLAGHERS OF ARDMORE trilogy kept pushing me forward and, eventually, the mechanics no longer mattered because I was having such a good time experiencing the storytelling.

At the core, DARK WITCH has a very specific rhythm, like the ebb and flow of a soft rippling wave along a shoreline.  It takes a bit to roll with it and just let it be.  It's almost singsong or poetic, the swaying rhythm soothes and mystifies until I felt wrapped up within the words, drawing pure joy from them.  I laughed out loud, I cried for joy and sorrow and I couldn't read fast enough to satisfy the craving for more.  I felt like a kid reading my first fairytale.  Even now that I'm done with the book, I ache for more.  It was just so darn much fun!

The characters are rich and well-drawn—a delectable lot, each with their own individuality and idiosyncrasies, making each character come alive as if you've always known them.  Iona is the main character but she has a supporting cast who breathe life into her journey.  There are Iona's cousins, Connor and Branna O'Dwyer, brother and sister as well as witches, who take Iona into their home and their lives with open arms.  Connor and Branna are so very different from one another, yet they couldn't be closer.  Then there's Boyle McGrath, the handsome and irresistible co-owner of the stables where Iona is employed.  Boyle and Iona's passion for each other is immediate and transforming for both of them.  Let's not forget Finbar "Fin," the other stable co-owner and Branna's long ago sweetheart.  He's very intriguing.  Then there's Meara, a dear friend and co-worker who adds to the laughs as she introduces Iona to Ireland and Irish ways.  Combine these good friends with a few more characters, horses, a dog and some hawks, all with personalities of their own, and you have a well-rounded story full of comradeship, promising a trilogy filled with adventure.

Iona is often very funny in her bold as brass demeanor.  She says exactly what she thinks, honest to the core, often throwing the steadfast and serious Boyle completely off-kilter.  Several times I experienced sentimental tears for how sweet and passionate the love between Iona and Boyle becomes.  Their journey is beautiful, sometimes uproariously funny, heartrending and unbearable, coming full circle to tenderness.  Their love is honest and Iona needs it as much as Boyle, even if it takes him a while to realize he should risk everything to get it.  Will it be enough to want their relationship to succeed when evil is determined to ruin their hope before they even begin?

Besides the writing and the story, the paperback packaging begs the reader to own this book in print.  I love the artistic look of the cover front, as well as the scalloped edges of the inside flaps.  It's a trade size paperback worth holding within your hands.  I even love the jagged edges of the pages that make it feel like an ancient mystery about to unfold.  So happy to have it reside on my keeper shelves.

DARK WITCH is evocative storytelling that comforts like a well worn quilt.  The story, the place or the characters may seem familiar, but it's the characters' camaraderie that makes you so happy to go along for the adventure.  If you love the magick of good against evil in an engaging novel—buy it, cherish it and then buy one for a friend.  DARK WITCH begs to be shared, discussed and relished for the satisfying and joyful experience it is—highly recommended!

More reviews by Dorine and contests at TBR Mountain Range.

Source: http://romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/paranormal/Dark_Witch.shtml
4 Stars
REVIEW: Taming a Wild Scot by Rowan Keats
Taming a Wild Scot - Rowan Keats

Escaping from prison with Black Warrior Niall's help, healer Ana must face evil personified before her happy-ever-after is within reach.  Engaging, similar to the Knights of the Round Table of Arthurian legend or Robin Hood's merry men, TAMING A WILD SCOT is filled with quests.

Review Courtesy of Romance Junkies and reposted at TBR Mountain Range.

Healer Ana Bisset finds herself in a hopeless situation when accused of witchcraft.  Left without food or water for days, deep in a hole in the dungeon of Lochurkie Castle, it could be just a matter of hours before her death.  When the guards take all the lanterns and she's left in the dark to wonder why she is facing death, Ana hears voices and can't stop herself from calling out to them.

Niall MacCurran, a Black Warrior, still feels guilty about leaving the woman he rescued from the Lochurkie dungeon to fend for herself in the woods near the castle.  It was necessary in order to save his brother from the very same dungeon.  They lost their land, Dunstoras, over the framed attempt and consequent imprisonment of his brother and they are determined to get their home back at whatever cost.  Although Niall saved Ana against his better judgment, that's all he could do when speed was of an essence to save his brother.  When Niall recognizes Ana at a market in another town, he knows she will help him get access to the manor he seeks, even though he didn't actually save her completely.

Making it publicly known that he is her long lost husband, Niall leaves Ana with no choice but to bring him to her home while going along with his ruse.  He knows that she was accused of poisoning the earl she tended at Lochurkie and that no one in this town suspects that, yet, so he uses that knowledge to convince her to help him.  Will she return the favor of her life saved in exchange for helping Niall get the evidence he needs to retrieve their land before the king gives it to someone else?  Or will Ana once again face death for helping someone other than herself?

Ana won my enthusiasm for her moral fiber right from the beginning.  Left in an incomprehensible position to fight for her life, I'm still unsure how she survived what she faced after being held prisoner.  And that's not all she will endure, either, so she becomes a heroine even more worthy of respect as her story progresses.  Niall, on the other hand, didn't score many points with me when he left Ana for the guards' dogs to chase down after he helped her escape from prison.  He did rescue her, but he didn't take it far enough for me to have complete trust in his intentions.  Many times throughout the book I doubted that he could love Ana in the way she deserved.  Niall won my heart in the end, but I think I expected him to work a lot harder at winning Ana while proving that he deserved her love.  She was that great of a heroine, while Niall needed some improvement in regards to his unrealistic expectations.  I wanted to smack him a few times but eventually Niall proved his worthiness to my satisfaction.

There are several intriguing secondary characters who hinted at what may happen in future books, as well as one particular unexpected villain who was beyond creepy in his zealousness.  Prejudice and fear of the unknown run high in this story, which made me root for the characters' success even more.  There are parts of the story that left me quite anxious to see the resolution, so although I enjoyed this story for its simplicity in many ways, those complications heightened my interest even more.  I'm hoping to see Ana develop some friendships that she can trust in future books because she's a character who has experienced enough tragedy for one lifetime.

TAMING A WILD SCOT features an engaging adventure for a healer and her brave Scottish warrior aided by the Scot's merry men and challenged by villains you'll love to despise.  This first book in the CLAIMED BY THE HIGHLANDER series is predominately historical in flavor, taking place in Scotland in the year of 1285, but it does have a few paranormal elements, primarily magic, that give it a fantasy flare.  With its plot's tendency toward adventure, especially the way the book ended, making the reader hope for more interaction with the secondary characters, I feel that this series could easily appeal to historical as well as fantasy readers.  I know I'm looking forward to what happens next with this band of warriors and the ladies they love.  Reminiscent of the Knights of the Round Table of Arthurian legend or Robin Hood's daring, the CLAIMED BY THE HIGHLANDER series is off to a promising start.

More reviews by Dorine and contests at TBR Mountain Range.

Source: http://romancejunkiesreviews.com/artman/publish/historical/Taming_a_Wild_Scot.shtml