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Welcome to the Promotional Thread for Authors. What’s this you say? I read quite a few blogs outside the romance blogosphere and many of the big ones have a daily open thread where the commenters drive the bus.

The rules for Author Promo Night Open Thread are as follows:

The book has to be released in that month (i.e., anything released during the last week of February would be a March release)

All authors, including self-published authors, are welcome, as long as the book is a romance or has strong romantic elements. Think about the readership. I.e., does your non fiction book about psoriasis really fit?

You can post for yourself or you can have a friend post for you if the idea of posting about your book paralyzes you.

This one is more of a guideline than a rule, but be smart about your comment because if it is just a link to your website and the title of your book, I doubt you are going to get any interest.
DA reserves the right to delete the post if it promotes objectionable content (i.e., no daddy/daughter incest recommends are going to be allowed. Sorry.)

That’s it. Post away.

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Got a book you want to talk about? Frustrated with a book or series? In love with a new one? Found a buried treasure? An issue that keeps popping up in the books you are reading? Just want to chat about stuff in general?

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An illuminating, entertaining tour of the physical imperfections—from faulty knees to junk DNA—that make us human.

We humans like to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures. But if we are supposedly evolution’s greatest creation, why do we have such bad knees? Why do we catch head colds so often—two hundred times more often than a dog? How come our wrists have so many useless bones? Why is the vast majority of our genetic code pointless? And are we really supposed to swallow and breathe through the same narrow tube? Surely there’s been some kind of mistake.

As professor of biology Nathan H. Lents explains in Human Errors, our evolutionary history is nothing if not a litany of mistakes, each more entertaining and enlightening than the last. The human body, perhaps evolution’s greatest creation, is one big pile of compromises. But that is also a testament to our greatness: as Lents shows, humans have so many design flaws precisely because we are very, very good at getting around them.

A rollicking, deeply informative tour of humans’ four-billion-year-long evolutionary saga, Human Errors both celebrates our imperfections and offers an unconventional accounting of the cost of our success.

Dear Mr. Lents,

The subject of this book intrigued me. Humans are justly proud of how far we’ve evolved, what we can do and that fact that we can do all that we do despite the fact that we’re not the fastest nor strongest. We don’t have the best eyesight, hearing, or sense of smell. We can’t fly or swim on our own. We’re more jack of all trades and not the best at anything except for one thing – we’ve got powerful brains and miraculously our bodies have evolved to allow us to expand it and make the best (or maybe not) use of it. This book, though, explains just how messed up we are. After reading it, I agree that it’s amazing we’ve come as far as we have and managed to dodge all the problems that could have wiped us out. We are clever and successful but as the book says – we are far from perfect.

DNA? Yeah, we got it and ours is riddled with useless junk that our amazing cells dutifully replicate over and over and over and over. Or there’s a sudden mutation that eliminates our ability to synthesize vitamins that we depend on not to get various horrible diseases like scurvy. If our dietary needs and metabolism hadn’t gotten so off kilter between our ancient days on the savannah and now, our bookstores wouldn’t feature so many diet and food guides. Yet those mutations can also increase our cranial space – handy for our larger brains even if they aren’t quite large enough properly arrange our nasal cavities – and let us see more colors. As you stand in the paint store and dither back and forth over the seemingly endless shades and hues, thank a distance ancestor whose pseudogene borked and actually did something useful for us.

The legion of (stupid) young men who post youtube and facebook videos that start with “I bet I can [insert stupid action]” followed by “here, hold my beer and watch this” and then end in disaster are the product of our evolutionary progression that rewards such risky behavior as men try and impress not only the largest number of nubile young women with their physical prowess but also their peers. The fact that (potential) young female mates were and are impressed with these “costly signals” plays right into the plots and actions some of our romance books and heroes.

Orthopedic surgeons live off of our shift to upright posture and increased strain on joints and tendons that didn’t quite finish the anatomical adaptation. Geneticists, fertility specialists, and OB/GYNs are needed to help us cope with our reproduction problems which are the gift of our increased cranium, horribly engineered female reproductive tract, sperm that can only move in right turns, and other issues that cause such a shockingly high percentage of pregnancies to end early. It’s truly a wonder that we reproduced enough as a species to survive.

The scientific details behind all this and more are sometimes a little detailed but are explained clearly enough so that I believe I understood most of it. Past random mutations might have been the cause of many of our modern problems but they’ve also allowed us to be malleable enough to survive challenges that could have wiped us out or left us still chipping stone tools and hefting spears at antelopes. Some of our ingrained behaviors, survival skills and poor decision making still haven’t caught up with a modern world where they can cause us PTSD, risky gambling, poor money handling, belief in anecdotes over data and faulty memories.

Will we be able to move past our stalled adaptation to Pleistocene life, our needlessly complicated body, and our excessive lode of useless DNA – among other things? Well, we’ve survived up until this point against some incredible odds and our own faulty designs. I enjoyed this look at a selection of the things about us that ought to have eliminated us eons ago along with the other Hominini and marveled that we’ve made it to the stage where we are able to write and read books about ourselves. B

~Jayne

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Take the Lead by Alexis Daria $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
The first in a sizzling new series about finding love on and off the dance floor from #OwnVoices author Alexis Daria.

Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.

Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.

When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.

One of my fave things is seeing someone tweet or FB about how they made a bad life choice by starting a good book at 10 or 11 at night. That’s the most recent review for this book. The reader started it at 11 and ended at 4. That’s a compelling endorsement.

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First Comes Love by Emily Giffin $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:
A pair of sisters find themselves at a crossroads in this dazzling new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and The One & Only. First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart — wherever that may lead.

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious, relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing, Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes, their delicate bond splinters.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single — and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother — a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter is assigned to her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms, and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover that they need each other more than they knew — and that in the search for true happiness, love always comes first.

From the Hardcover edition.

The reader response is pretty mixed on this book, even from longtime Giffin readers. It sounds like the main drawback is the unlikeability of the characters.

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Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:
A harrowing tale of Hollywood, Las Vegas, and a young woman in pursuit of oblivion by the New York Times-bestselling author of The White Album.

Spare, elegant, and terrifying, Play It as It Lays is the unforgettable story of a woman and a society come undone.

Raised in the ghost town of Silver Wells, Nevada, Maria Wyeth is an ex-model and the star of two films directed by her estranged husband, Carter Lang. But in the spiritual desert of 1960s Los Angeles, Maria has lost the plot of her own life. Her daughter, Kate, was born with an “aberrant chemical in her brain.” Her long-troubled marriage has slipped beyond repair, and her disastrous love affairs and strained friendships provide little comfort. Her only escape is to get in her car and drive the freeway — in the fast lane with the radio turned up high — until it runs out “somewhere no place at all where the flawless burning concrete just stopped.” But every ride to nowhere, every sleepless night numbed by pills and booze and sex, makes it harder for Maria to find the meaning in another day.

Per the reviews, this is a fairly depressing book.

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Sweet Indulgence by Debbie White $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
Annie McPherson has had it with all the blind dates her grandmother and auntie set her up with. She just wants to be left alone to run the Sweet Indulgence cupcake bakery – even if it means she’ll remain single forever.

Jack’s just been through a gut-wrenching break-up, and women are the last thing on his mind. Now he’s on a mission to pick up cupcakes for his niece’s birthday party — not a mission to fall in love. Pulled in by Annie’s good looks and witty charm, though, temptation proves too sweet.

But will Annie’s pesky grandmother and auntie welcome Jack as Annie’s choice or will they have him jumping through hoops to prove he’s the one?

Fans of Debbie Macomber, Sherryl Woods, and Susan Wiggs are sure to love Sweet Indulgence, the first sweet romance novel in the Charleston Harbor series.

This book is too sweet to pass up! Scroll up to one click and begin your indulgence today!

Sweet say a few of the reviews. The lower stars said it was a bit predictable.

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Dear John Scalzi:

John Scalzi returns with Head On, the standalone follow-up to the New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed Lock In. Chilling near-future SF with the thrills of a gritty cop procedural, Head On brings Scalzi’s trademark snappy dialogue and technological speculation to the future world of sports.
Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.
Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.
Is it an accident or murder? FBI agents and Haden-related crime investigators, Chris Shane and Leslie Vann, are called in to uncover the truth?and in doing so travel to the darker side of the fast-growing sport of Hilketa, where fortunes are made or lost, and where players and owners do whatever it takes to win, on and off the field.
REVIEW:
Dear John Scalzi,
I reviewed the first book in this series “Lock in” here at DA. I had no idea that you were planning to write a sequel, but I was eager to read more about Chris and Leslie’s adventures. I was even more excited when I read that the book would be set in a competitive sports setting – I love those. First and foremost, readers I have to warn you – don’t expect a lot of actual games described on page. Oh, there was a long description of the game in which Duane Chapman died, but that was pretty much it. It’s not a criticism, the story was definitely set in the Hilketa sporting world, but we don’t see much of the actual games, a little bit here and there but, overall, not much at all. I just don’t want readers to develop the expectations I did after reading the blurb.
I’m also not sure if I agree with the blurb characterizing this book as a *stand-alone* follow up to “Lock In”. Yes, the murder investigation definitely stands alone and I suppose the author recaps the world building sufficiently as to not confuse the reader, but I would still recommend reading “Lock in” first to fully understand the world in which this story takes place.
Note that I will be using “she/her” pronoun in relation to Chris even though her gender is not mentioned in the first book. I believe that when I was reviewing “Lock In” I read somewhere that the author did it deliberately and Chris was meant to be a woman. I can’t be one-hundred percent sure Chris was meant to be a woman but, even if her gender meant to be ambiguous, I think it’s fair game to imagine her or any character any way the reader wants. I am used to thinking about her as a woman by now.
We catch up with Chris when she is running late to watch the game with her parents because the Hilketa league really wants her father to invest in league’s upcoming Washington DC franchise.

“I ALMOST MISSED SEEING Duane Chapman die. I didn’t know it at the time. All I knew was that I was running late for the “special exhibition game experience” that I was supposed to be having along with my mother and father.”

Investment opportunity quickly turns into a suspicious accident at Duane Chapman’s death. Certain irregularities that accompanied the “accident” quickly turn it into a murder and then multiple murders. Chris was already on the scene, so she and her partner Leslie Vann assume the lead role in the investigation.
The murder investigation in this story was a very entertaining and fast-moving affair. For me it was a little harder to guess the villain than in “Lock in”, but not terribly difficult. Perhaps the author didn’t want to write a complex mystery, maybe the social commentary behind the suspenseful investigation was the main point of the book. Chris and Leslie once again investigate the world of big business that caters to Haden customers and how that big business adapts after passage of the “Abrams Catering” bill, which cut a lot of medical and other services for people with Haden Syndrome.

I really liked Chris’ voice – just as snappy and funny as it was in the first book. There is also a cat in this book that gets thrown right in the middle of action.

“Then Donut the cat came out of the twins’ room and meowed down the stairs, as if to say, What the actual fuck, humans? The tank threep lashed out, knocking me and Tayla off balance, and lurched up the stairs toward Donut. Donut took one look at the rampaging tank and bolted, running in the direction of my room at the far end of the upstairs. I righted myself and took off up the stairs after the tank, grabbing at its legs.”

As much as I liked Chris’ voice and enjoyed her and her partner not mincing words, I was more than a little disappointed because I didn’t feel either of them got any character development in comparison to the first book. Chris is the POV character, we are in her head all the time; I expected some character growth and, besides her getting more comfortable in her job, I honestly didn’t think (I got much) Scalzi delivered.
Grade: B-/B

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Prince Ever After by A.C. Arthur $ 3.99

From the Jacket Copy:
A royal wager

Playboy prince Roland DeSaunters is ready to live up to his royal legacy—by betting on his future. Winning the beautiful Valora Harrington in a poker game is a scandal waiting to happen. Lucky for him, Val has no intention of getting involved with the younger brother of the man to whom she was once engaged. But after sharing an earth-shattering kiss with Val, Roland is the one swept off his feet.

An ill-fated engagement to a man she didn’t love convinced Val that finding Prince Charming wasn’t in her cards. That was before she was drawn into a passionate clandestine affair with the handsome bad boy of the reigning family. With dangerous enemies plotting the noble dynasty’s downfall, are Val and Roland ready to gamble on an uncertain future? Or could a last-minute challenge lead to the biggest surprise wedding Grand Serenity has ever seen?

We are entering the home stretch for the Royal wedding. The current state of events reveal how hot and unrelenting the pubic space is. This book is about islands and royalty and romance. Can’t get much better than that for escapism.

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Royal Pain by Tracy Wolff $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:
He’s a womanizer. He’s cocky. He’s not exactly a prince. Only he technically is. Meet your new royal obsession in this addictive novel from New York Times bestselling author Tracy Wolff.

Being rich opens a lot of doors. When you’re rich and royal, those doors lead to a new bedroom every night. I should know. The tabloids call me His Royal Hotness, Prince Kian of Wildemar. Women across the world see me as a naughty fairy tale, an image I’m happy to indulge. As the spare to the heir, I’m the prince with none of the power . . . and all of the perks.

Then my twin brother is kidnapped, and suddenly I’m the one who could be king. The crown chasers start circling—and yet it’s a luscious waitress who catches my eye. With a smart mouth and the curves to back it up, Savannah Breslin is as brazen as I’d expect an American commoner to be.

But Savvy’s not interested in playing Cinderella. As sexy as she is, she’s no stranger to heartbreak. Besides, a nice guy wouldn’t drag her into all the drama that comes along with royalty. Lucky I’m not a nice guy. And, as it turns out, I might not even be her first prince. . . .

Quick and solid read says the most recent review (left a month ago).

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Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot $ 1.99

From the Jacket Copy:
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Diaries series, comes the very first adult installment, which follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan their fairy tale wedding—but a few poisoned apples could turn this happily-ever-after into a royal nightmare.

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia’s gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn’t need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother’s leaked “fake” wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Can Mia prove to everyone—especially herself—that she’s not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

Pure fun, said PW. This book also received a cover quote from Perez Hilton which seems odd. I’m a big fan of Cabot’s voice. I don’t really know how to prescribe it. Quirky but not overbearing?

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Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow by Jenny Gardiner $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
It’s all fun and royal games until somebody’s heart gets hurt
In his line of work, royal heir Darcy Squires-Thornton has always been content playing second fiddle to close friend Prince Adrian, and happy, too, with whatever brief romantic encounters come his way. Especially one with carefree Caroline McKenzie, whose best friend is engaged to the prince. Fun-loving Caroline McKenzie’s motto has always been “love the one you’re with”. But when the one she’s no longer with is the one with whom she’s fallen in love, what’s a girl an ocean away to do?

This is a story about the people surrounding the royal couple which I think is a nice way to round out today’s deals.

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Dear Thea Harrison,

I’ve been a fan of your Elder Races series ever since I read Dragon Bound back in 2011 (2011! Has it really been so long?). [That reminds me: I really need to re-read Dragon Bound] I’ve enjoyed all of the novels and novellas in the series to one degree or another and Dragos and Pia have remained a favourite couple.

Most recently, you’ve written a number of novellas about Pia and Dragos and their growing family. This novella marks the very last of them. While I expect Pia and Dragos will be at least mentioned in the series in future (and will possibly make appearances), they will not be POV characters anymore. It’s the end of an era. I admit I’m a little sad about it, even though I understand why you’ve decided it’s time.

When I last “visited” with Pia and Dragos, their son Liam was off in Scotland at university and Pia was pregnant with their second son, who share’s Pia’s Wyr form and Dragos’s temperament (basically, the exact opposite of Liam). Pia was struggling with the pregnancy; a kind of Wyr Rh factor  – and Pia was on a drug regimen and being closely monitored by doctors as the pregnancy progressed. The medications Pia is taking have left her bloated and listless and she feels totally differently to how she felt when she was pregnant with Liam.

The baby has now reached a point where he would be viable outside the womb and Dragos wants Pia to consent to an induction so that she can no longer be at risk. Pia is determined to carry the child for as long as possible. This is a source of tension for them as they head to Las Vegas for the wedding of Carling and Rune.

Dragos is feeling restless and impatient with the politics of mankind and he is worried about Pia. Pia feels fat and disgusting. It is not a happy Cuelebre family which arrives at the Bellagio. Miffed that Dragos is obviously hiding information from her after he brushes her off when she notices a man on a billboard with a striking resemblance to Dragos, she goes looking for answers herself.

In the process, Pia is kidnapped. Unable to contact Dragos, she has to navigate the end stages of pregnancy without her drug regimen and faces giving birth in a cave without hot water or towels.

Dragos, of course, is beside himself with fear and rage. I have always loved a rescue story and part of that is the risk leading up to the day being save. Dragos being out of his mind with concern gave me all the feels.

The mysterious stranger is Death. I admit some of his interactions with Pia and Dragos lost me a little. I didn’t quite understand what he was doing or why for most of the book. I expect I was supposed to feel that way so as to ramp up the tension but even at the end I wondered if I had picked up the nuance correctly. I’m not very good with some of the subtleties.

There were parts of the book which felt a little rushed, as the Pia/Dragos story wrapped up. Perhaps another 20 or so pages to flesh those things out would have helped me here but perhaps those pages, even though they’d have provided more detail, would have made the story drag?

Sad as I am to not have more Pia/Dragos stories I couldn’t begrudge them a less fraught HEA than they had been living in the prior two or three years they’d been together (in series time). I wondered whether the bit with Rune near the end was entirely consistent with earlier books but maybe the answer is simply that the landscape had changed.

As to why the novella is called Planet Dragos?

Men might be from Mars, Pia said, and women could possibly be from Venus, but Dragos is a planet all on his own. Just look how everyone revolves around him. On Planet Dragos everything goes the way he arranges it—unless you decide to cross him, and God help you then, because he doesn’t know how to back down, and he doesn’t ever, ever let up.

I have always loved how Dragos doesn’t give up and he has to draw on that tenacity as he fights to save Pia and his family. Planet Dragos does not work as a stand alone story; there is too much readers import into the characterisations from the history of the series but for fans like me, it was a lot of fun and I’m glad I had a chance to “say goodbye” and wave them off into their Elder Races sunset.

Grade: B

Regards,
Kaetrin

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The Dragon Earl by Jade Lee $ 2.84

From the Jacket Copy:
At Evelyn Stanton’s lavish wedding, the bald-headed Chinese monk striding down the center aisle is shocking. Watching the unarmed man dispatch three groomsmen, then learning he is the long-lost heir to the Earldom of Warhaven and the new groom, is even more so.

But Evelyn Stanton is a fully realized woman, who isn’t about to marry the very non-English Jacob Cato just because she was betrothed to him when she was six.

Yet Jacob will not be deterred. He will have the woman who is rightfully his, and the murderer who slaughtered his family and left him for dead will pay.

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All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins $ 2.99

From the Jacket Copy:
TURNING THIRTY HAS ITS UPS AND DOWNS…

For Callie Grey, coming to grips with her age means facing the fact that her boyfriend-slash-boss is way overdue with a marriage proposal. And that she’s way off track, because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company’s new Miss Perfect. If that isn’t bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a Big Three-Oh birthday bash…in the family funeral home.

Bad goes to worse when Callie stirs up a relationship with the town’s single—yet not so warm and fuzzy—veterinarian, in order to flag Mark’s attention. So what if Ian McFarland is more comfortable with animals? So what if he’s formal, orderly and just a bit tense? Friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it’s time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But, dang—if he doesn’t shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Georgebury, Vermont’s unlikeliest eligible bachelor….

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Kidnapped Bride by Amanda Scott $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
First, she loses her honor; then, she loses her heart

Seventeen-year-old heiress Sarah Lennox-Matthews has one goal in mind when she begins a flirtation with dissolute Darcy Ashton, the Earl of Moreland: to annoy his uncle, the handsome and dashing Sir Nicholas Ashton. The ruse quickly turns sour when Darcy abducts her, intent on securing her considerable fortune. Fearing the ruin of her reputation, Sarah agrees to marry him forthwith. But soon she confronts a greater challenge to her honor than being forced into a loveless marriage. Darcy’s unbearably attractive uncle arrives at Moreland manor. Although matrimony is the least of Nicholas’s concerns, he seems determined to seduce her, putting her honor at stake again . . . and perhaps even her heart.

This was originally a Signet Regency published in 1983 and I think, based on the reviews, that the themes are fairly old school (although nothing rapey or bodice-rippery).

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Her Husband’s Harlot by Grace Callaway $ 0.99

From the Jacket Copy:
A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Finalist.

Not Quite a Wife…
After a disastrous wedding night, proper Lady Helena Harteford fears for the fate of her new marriage. Disguised as a doxy, she tracks her husband down at a bawdy house to reason with him . . . and instead discovers the thrill of forbidden passion. An innocent ruse turns into a risky deception; how far will this once-wallflower go to win her husband’s love?

Unfit to be a Husband…
Orphaned at an early age, Nicholas Morgan escapes his violent beginnings to become a successful merchant—only to discover that he is the legitimate heir of the Marquess of Harteford. His transition to the ton is rocky and made rockier when he marries above him. Torn between guilt and lust, he tries to protect his sweet, innocent wife from the demons of his past. But can he safeguard her from his own raging desires?

Caught between Past and Present…
When a dangerous nemesis rises from Nicholas’ past, husband and wife must work together in order to survive. From the drawing rooms to the stews of Regency London, they find themselves caught in a game of passion and seduction. Will true love prevail? Or is Helena destined to remain . . . Her Husband’s Harlot?

There are lots of sex scenes in this book and the lower starred reviews felt that there were too many of them. YMMV.

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“There are rules for private informers accepting a new case. Never take on clients who cannot pay you. Never do favours for friends. Don’t work with relatives. If, like me, you are a woman, keep clear of men you find attractive.

“Will I never learn?”

In Ancient Rome, the number of slaves was far greater than that of free citizens. As a result, often the people Romans feared most were the “enemies at home,” the slaves under their own roofs. Because of this, Roman law decreed that if the head of a household was murdered at home, and the culprit wasn’t quickly discovered, his slaves—all of them, guilty or not—were presumed responsible and were put to death. Without exception.

When a couple is found dead in their own bedroom and their house burglarized, some of their household slaves know what is about to happen to them. They flee to the Temple of Ceres, which by tradition is respected as a haven for refugees. This is where Flavia Albia comes in. The authorities, under pressure from all sides, need a solution. Albia, a private informer just like her father, Marcus Didius Falco, is asked to solve the murders, in this mystery from Lindsey Davis.

Dear Ms. Davis,

Who are the “enemies at home?” Well the title is all about what happens in the story and who are the accused. I know I’m reading these backwards having started with “Graveyard of the Hesperides” and now jumping back by two books but still not at the start. But despite that, I still did just fine.

Flavia Albia has a new case thanks to Manlius Faustus with whom I know she has had a rocky professional start. Either because he thinks she can solve it or maybe because he thinks the crime is unsolvable so who cares if the female PI can’t crack it, he’s tossed it in her lap. Manlius Faustus is in a tricky situation and needs an out; he needs Flavia Albia to determine if nine slaves who have sought asylum in a Temple didn’t come to the aid of their master and mistress during a murder. Oh and who snaffled some pricey silver bits and bobs. The slaves claim drunkenness after a party and that they never heard any calls for help. Roman law says if a slave failed to save his master – the slave dies, painfully.

Lots of people will lie to Flavia Albia and she’ll change her opinion of some of them. Others won’t lie and Flavia Albia will reevaluate them too. But Roman justice needs to be seen being done. Can she untangle all the threads, stick her thumb in the eye of the vigiles and organized crime and keep her aedile – “he’s not my aedile” – in line?

It’s time to take another trip through 1st century Rome when the Emperor is paranoid and life is cheap – especially if you’re a slave. As Flavia Albia says – most of her cases involve spite, sexual betrayal, dishonesty or greed and this one is no exception. Life or horrible deaths (quite probably in the arena and involving lions) are on the line if she can’t prove that that the slaves aren’t innocent of the charges. There is certainly a lot in ancient Rome that was sordid and the book doesn’t shy away from that. Slavery was accepted and the lives of slaves usually weren’t pretty. Organized crime was rampant then as was sexism.

Flavia Albia doesn’t try to solve all this or crusade for changes. She is a part of her world – the good and the bad. She can misjudge people and even if her gut is telling her that someone isn’t telling the whole truth, there are times when it will take patience and, yes, luck to put all the pieces together.

Just like modern justice, the guilty won’t always pay while the injured aren’t guaranteed to get justice. Sometimes life just sucks. But Flavia Albia will doggedly keep going – wise cracking and cynically observing her fellow Romans as she works. Perhaps she’ll also keep forging a growing, working relationship with an aedile who could be one of the few honest men in Rome.

I love the little bits we hear of Helena Justina and Falco – now retired and mostly off stage for the whole book. Wait for the hilarious ladies morning drinking party and the stunned men who interrupt it. Enjoy Flavia Albia and Manlius Faustus working a stake-out but stay for Flavia Albia’s skill and determination to solve a crime that had me guessing until almost the very end. B

~Jayne

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Dear Vivian Arend,

At the end of A Rancher’s Heart which was released late last year, readers got a tease of what may lay ahead for Walker Stone. He threw his guitar case in the back of his truck and headed off to try his luck in the music business.

So it was with some surprise A Rancher’s Song started off with Walker having a panic attack during a bull ride at a rodeo and very little was mentioned about his burgeoning music career. It seems that a number of months had passed between the end of book one and book two in the series but in that time, mostly Walker was doing the rodeo circuit and not the music one. And then he comes home to Heart Falls because panic attacks during a bull ride area not good for one’s continued longevity. He needs to sort out his head and decide what’s next.

I had thought, given the ending of A Rancher’s Heart that the decision had already been made. I have a vague memory of seeing a tweet or two from you to the effect that where you thought the story was going to go was not where it ended up. (Alternatively I could totally have made that up.) If my memory is correct, that may explain the differences in the two books. Because the story did not at all go where I thought it would go based on what I read in the first novel.

It’s clear that Walker has taken advantage of an opportunity to sing backup vocals for a single (or maybe an album?) for a friend of a friend and he has a chance to go on tour as a backup vocalist and potentially build a career in music from there. Or he could continue on the rodeo circuit. But in either case, he’d need to stop having panic attacks first. When he comes home to the ranch, he’s so happy to be home. There is a clear longing jumping off the page; Walker wants to be home with his family. But the ranch is facing some lean times and there is a risk of the family losing the property and Walker feels obligated to contribute to help. He feels the best option for him to do that is to head back out – either with music or bull riding – as he can make good money doing so and can send it back to the family. If he stays he’s just another ranch hand and anyone can do that, right?

To complicate matters, Walker’s high school sweetheart, Ivy Fields is back in town. They fell in love when they were teenagers but after graduation, Walker encouraged Ivy to leave Heart Falls and pursue her dream of becoming a teacher. The path to fulfilling that dream and eventually coming back home to take up a position at the local school took 11 long years. Ivy has no intention of leaving again.

Walker and Ivy still have feelings for each other and it doesn’t take long to realise that the intervening years have not changed their essential characters. They still love each other. But Ivy is staying and Walker has to leave so how can they be together?

The twist in the tail is that Ivy can’t “change her mind” about remaining in Heart Falls as easily as it might first appear. She has a significant health problem which affects her immune system. New environments and lots of people pose a health risk to her. Travelling is not on the cards so it is just as well she has no great ambition there. Part of the reason it took her so long to make it back home was that she spent a very long time recovering from illness when she was away, including lengthy hospital stays. It is clear early on that things got very dire indeed for a while there. Ivy’s disease isn’t specified. An Author’s Note in the book references you being inspired by a real life person you once knew. It isn’t really necessary to know the nature of Ivy’s medical condition. What is important for the book, is for reader’s to understand that Ivy has somewhat fragile health and this impacts upon what she can and can’t do.

Ivy is also very shy and introverted. She is better now than she was but she still needs to have breaks from people and prefers small groups to large crowds. She has learned coping strategies and is much more confident than she was but she will never be comfortable in the spotlight. Part of Ivy’s shyness is about her illness. When she was a child she had to isolate herself from people for her health but it is also her natural constitution. There is not a lot about Ivy’s very early childhood in the book but Ivy and her three sisters were all adopted (sisters by adoption, not biology) by Sophie and Malachi Fields and there is reference to them all being vulnerable and in need in one way or another and that is how the Fields’s chose them. So I inferred that Ivy had not had an easy time of it prior to becoming Sophie’s and Malachi’s daughter. (I don’t know exactly how old Ivy was when she was adopted – if it was in the book, I missed it.)

Initially Walker is resistant to picking up with Ivy because he knows he’s not staying but Ivy has learned a lot about resilience and going after what she wants since she was 18. While she is clearly not interested in being a weirdo stalker type, she’s not ready to just roll over.

She was going to have to move slowly. If he really didn’t want to stay in Heart Falls she wasn’t going to force him, but it seemed silly not to talk about this more. It would be wrong to not figure out what was going on in his head before she gave up completely.

I liked that Ivy’s introversion and the continuing effects of her medical condition were just built into the story. Certain allowances were made for her and by her so she could be happy and safe and it certainly had some impact on where any HEA could go given Ivy’s very real reason for wanting to stay in Heart Falls, but it wasn’t a story about Ivy’s health. It wasn’t a story about Ivy having a health crisis or about her getting over shyness or introversion. Ivy’s health and personality just were.

I loved how connected Walker and Ivy were. Walker is effortlessly considerate of her needs without being overprotective or fussing. He doesn’t treat her as fragile as spun glass or put her on a pedestal. He knows her and loves her for who she is; a resilient, smart woman with plans for her career and hopes for a future with him. There were perhaps some things about how they had lived their lives in the years they had been apart which I thought just a little far-fetched (particularly in Walker’s case) but I couldn’t be upset about them either.

Walker’s story arc is really about him deciding what he wants to do with his life; whether to stay or go and how, if he was to stay he can meaningfully contribute to the ranch and ensure the Stone family can stay on their land for generations to come. Necessarily, he has to deal with his panic attacks. As it happens, Ivy has some experience in dealing with such things and can offer some practical assistance there (when he finally opens up to her about it) but there was a glaring lack of actual professional assistance. I don’t think most people in real life get over panic attacks without seeing a doctor or a psychologist and many people need medication (for a period of time at least) and I wasn’t really sure the representation of Walker’s issue was ideal here.

The writing had some lovely similes, painting beautiful and apt word pictures in my head.

Conversation flitted like butterflies over a patch of wildflowers; the whole group for a while, smaller twos and threes at moments.

Fans of the Coleman series catch up briefly with Dare at her wedding to Jesse and Caleb and Tamara are happily settling into married life. Luke, the next brother to get a story, is further revealed and readers also meet a certain sexy fireman who will be featured in a novella to be released later this year.

I find your books reliably entertaining, easy to read page-turners with characters I can root for and love and A Rancher’s Song is no different where those things are concerned. I know I’m going to get an interesting family dynamic, different examples of what family can look like, banter and a bit of snark (particularly between siblings) and steamy sex scenes wrapped up in a love story between people who feel like they could be my friends (if they were real and lived anywhere near each other), and of course, the all important HEA. So I always open one of your books in happy anticipation knowing that the experience is pretty low risk. There is little chance I won’t like what I find.

Here, there were a couple of things that didn’t quite work for me; the main one being the distinct differences between Walker in A Rancher’s Heart and Walker in A Rancher’s Song (not so much in character but in continuity) but taken as a stand-alone, the book works very well. And even with those issues, the story is still sweet and sexy with a cinnamon roll hero and a solid romance.

Grade: B-

Regards,
Kaetrin

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