Review: Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas

The particulars:  Contemporary Romance, MacMillan, available in print and as e-book
The Source: Purchased at Kobo
The Grade: A
The blurb:
Lucy Marinn is a glass artist living in mystical, beautiful, Friday Harbor, Washington. She is stunned and blindsided by the most bitter kind of betrayal: her fiance Kevin has left her. His new lover is Lucy’s own sister. Lucy’s bitterness over being dumped is multiplied by the fact that she has constantly made the wrong choices in her romantic life. Facing the severe disapproval of Lucy’s parents, Kevin asks his friend Sam Nolan, a local vineyard owner on San Juan Island, to “romance” Lucy and hopefully loosen her up and get her over her anger. Complications ensue when Sam and Lucy begin to fall in love, Kevin has second thoughts, and Lucy discovers that the new relationship in her life began under false pretenses. Questions about love, loyalty, old patterns, mistakes, and new beginnings are explored as Lucy learns that some things in life–even after being broken–can be made into something new and beautifu
The Review:
I like Lisa Kleypas historicals, but I had never read her contemporaries. I kept hearing good things about this one, bu the price stopped me. When Macmillan discounted it to 2.99 earlier this summer I snapped it up.
And I am glad I did.
The setting for this sweet romance was San Juan Island outside Washington state. I liked the careful details that Ms Kleypas inserted in her description of the island. From the description of Friday Harbor, to the nature that is an important part of the story.
That said, what made the book for me was the relationship between Sam and Lucy. One thing that I loved were that nothing felt rushed.  The romance unfolded at a pace that felt right. They started out as friends and let it evolve, both of them clear that they made no committments. As their relationship unfolded, Ms Kleypas cleverly wov in the details why they were committment shy.   
I also liked how both Sam and Lucy dealt with the stinking aftermath of her breakup with Kevin.  It could have spoiled the book for me if they had dealt with it differently, but they didn’t.
 But what I also liked was the sense that both of them had something they were passionate about, and careers they loved, yet they didn’t let takeover their lives. 
That said, I wanted to strangle Alice and Kevin for their selfish behaviour, and the fact that they didn’t care if they hurt their family. Just.. Argh.
The magic element in this book felt unnecessary. It was hardly more than a quiant touch. That said, I applaud Ms Kleypas for having the courage to add it. I would love to read a true paranormal romance written by Lisa Kleypas in the future.

Review: The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes

The Particulars: Historical Romance, Sourcebooks, available in print and as ebook
The Source: Purchased at Allromance 
The Grade: A

The blurb:

Ellen Markham tells herself she’s happy raising flowers and living in near penury in the Oxfordshire countryside, but when Valentine Windham moves in just on the other side of the wood, Ellen’s longing for things she can never have threatens to overcome her good sense. Valentine’s artistic soul, tender loving, and ducal determination tempt Ellen to trust and confide in a man who can only be endangered, should he learn of her past. For Valentine, regaining his musical skill becomes far less urgent than winning Ellen’s heart.

The review:
This is Grace Burrowes at her best. This might sound strange, but I am glad I read Lady Sophia’s book first. Don’t get me wrong, Lady Sophia’s Christmas Wish is an decent book, but this one is so much better. ( Ironically, Lady Sophia’s Christmas Wish got nominated to a RITA). So, what did I love with this book.
At the heart of the book is the rênovation of the Markham estate. It is a fitting metaphor for the healing that happen in the book. At the beginning of the book, both Val and Ellen is wounded. Val from the loss of his brothers, and the fact that he cannot play the piano. Ellen miss her husband. But Val gradually coax out Ellen into the living world, showing her that she is worthy of love. But he also coaxed out the secrets of Markham. Like why it was so run down.
But Ellen, and Val’s friends, helped Val to break through the shell he had created around himself. Gradually, he started to see that even though Music would always be an important part, it wasn’t the only thing in the world.
The romance is the focus of the novel, but there is also a blackmail subplot. I liked how that subplot was deftly woven into everything. From the source, to the reason, to the villain. And yes, it is an obstacle in Val’s and Ellen’s path to happily ever after.
One thing that was a welcome difference in this book, were the fact that for most of the book the Windham family was in the background. Instead, there is a number of Val’s friends playing a big supporting role. I’ll admit that I sometimes wondered if none of the Windham’s didn’t have any close friends.
They took a larger part to the end of the book, though, and it was heartening to see Val’s relationship with his father shift.
No book is without a fault. Unfortunately. I didn’t like the way the blackmail subplot was solved. I would much have prefered a confrontation, instead of the fact that it was solved behind the scenes. That is just me.

Review: Men of Bronze by Scott Oden:

The Particulars:  Historical Fiction, Medallion Press, available as e-book and in print. 
The Source: Purchased at Omnilit
The Grade: A
  The blurb:
 It is 526 B.C. and the empire of the Pharaohs is dying, crushed by the weight of its own antiquity. Decay riddles its cities, infects its aristocracy, and weakens its armies. While across the expanse of Sinai, like jackals drawn to carrion, the forces of the King of Persia watch and wait. Leading the fight to preserve the soul of Egypt is Hasdrabal Barca, Pharaohs countless wounds, it is her spirit that heals and changes him. Once a fearsome demigod of war, Hasdrabal Barca becomes human again. A man now motivated as much by love as anger. Nevertheless honor and duty have bound Barca to the fate of Egypt. A final conflict remains, a reckoning set to unfold in the dusty hills east of Pelusium. There, over the dead of two nations, Hasdrabal Barca will face the same choice as the heroes of old: Death and eternal fame or obscurity and long life.

The Review: 
I bought this book in 2010, I think. I started reading it but abandoned it. I always intended to get back to it, one day. It took awhile, though. What spurred me was the fact that I decided to rebuy it in epub, to replace the pdf copy I bought in 2010. And I am glad I did. 
  One word can describe this book: Epic. At times, it felt almost like I was reading fantasy novel, with minium of magic.    This isn’t fantasy, but  Historical fiction.  This isn’t my favorite genre, since it often involves bloody, gorefilled battles.. ( I know, I have probably read the wrong books). But this book were different. Oh, there were battles in it.  What made me love this were the  vivid settings, and the human characters.   
The settings made me feel as if I were walking through Memphis, standing on the ship on the way to Gaza, feeling the wind tussling my hair.  My heart ached everytime Barca lost one of his friends. The ache tenfolded when I realised the source of The Beast.   At the start of the book  he was  almost a murdering machine. He live for battle.  Yet through the book, he change. He starts to feel compassion.  That change stems from Jauharah and her patience. 
Jauharah… I wept for her. For her loss, for the pain she had suffered, and for the choices she had to make. 
And Callianestes… I admired him for daring to what was right.  Heck, I admired all the characters for their honor and courage. 
The combination of the characters and the setting created a riveting tale, that I just couldn’t put down.  But, as I read it, I was reminded that history goes in circles, and that no civilisation last forever.
What I didn’t like.  I’ll admit it. I wish there was a happy ending, since is Hasdrabal Barca and Jauharah had earned it.  Yet, that would make it a romance, which this isn’t. 
Still, I’ll definitely read more by Scott Oden in the future.

Review: One More Summer by Liz Flaherty

The Particulars: Contemporary Romance, Carina Press, ebook.

The Particulars: Contemporary Romance, available as e-book

The source: Purchased at Books on board
The Grade: A
The blurb:
Grace has taken care of her widowed father her entire adult life and the ornery old goat has finally died. She has no job, no skills and very little money, and has heard her father’s prediction that no decent man would ever want her so often she accepts it as fact.
But she does have a big old house on Lawyers Row in Peacock, Tennessee. She opens a rooming house and quickly gathers a motley crew of tenants: Promise, Grace’s best friend since kindergarten, who’s fighting cancer; Maxie, an aging soap opera actress who hasn’t lost her flair for the dramatic; Jonah, a sweet, gullible old man with a crush on Maxie.
And Dillon, Grace’s brother’s best friend, who stood her up on the night of her senior prom and has regretted it ever since. Dillon rents Grace’s guest house for the summer and hopes to make up for lost time and past hurts—but first, he’ll have to convince Grace that she’s worth loving.

The review:

This book… I am not sure how to describe it.  According to Carina Press, it is a contemporary romance. Which is true, there are romance, several in fact, but there are so much more in it.
There are the old hurts between Dillon and Gwen.  There are the on and off again relationship between Promise and Stephen. There are the mature love between Jonah and Maxie.   The relationships are shadowed by old hurts,  guilt, and secrets.

I’ll admit it. I went teary eyed  several times when I read this book.   
My heart went soft when Dillon and Gwen started to rebuild their relationship.  I wept when the secrets were revealed, all of them. But most of all, I cheered when Gwen started to regain her confidence, and believe that maybe, just maybe, her father had been wrong. 
I understood Dillon’s fury. I wanted to strangle her father too, for being a cruel insensitive bastard. Yet, during the book it was explained why he hated Gwen so much.

The novel takes place in a small town. The sense of community were a red thread through the book, both through happy and sad times.  I loved the story telling times, especially the Magpie stories.  Just.. aw.  Sometimes, the setting felt so real that I could feel the sweltering summer of Tennessee.  I  could almost see the Elliot House in front of me.

I cannot find anything to pick on when it comes to this book. Except for one thing. I regret that this book is published by Carina Press since it deserve to be read  a wide audience, no matter if they read e-books or not.  I am crossing my fingers that I’ll read a similar announcement for this book, as the one I read for Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski series.

Review: Unveiled by Courtney Milan

Unveiled (Turner, #1)Unveiled by Courtney Milan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Particulars: Historical Romance, HQN, available in print and as e-book.
The Review:
The blurb:
Ash Turner has waited a lifetime to seek revenge on the man who ruined his family—and now the time for justice has arrived. At Parford Manor, he intends to take his place as the rightful heir to the dukedom and settle an old score with the current duke once and for all. But instead he finds himself drawn to a tempting beauty who has the power to undo all his dreams of vengeance….

Lady Margaret knows she should despise the man who’s stolen her fortune and her father’s legacy—the man she’s been ordered to spy on in the guise of a nurse. Yet the more she learns about the new duke, the less she can resist his smoldering appeal. Soon Margaret and Ash find themselves torn between old loyalties—and the tantalizing promise of passion….

My impressions:

This is another book that has been in my TBR file for awhile. I have wanted to read Courtney Milan’s book since I have heard good things about her. After reading Unveiled, I am wondering why it took me so long to read it. This is… I am not sure how to explain it. There is so many aspects that affect the characters. When I read it, my heart went out to the characters. Both Ash and Margaret is scarred by their parents. Sometimes, I was amazed that Margaret didn’t help her father on, since she posed as his nurse. But, she didn’t,and that made me like her more. I felt for Ash when he struggled with his guilt over things he did. But, this isn’t a bleak book. More than anything, it is a book about hope, about love.

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Archangel’s Consort by Nalini Singh

Archangel's ConsortArchangel’s Consort by Nalini Singh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Particulars: Urban Fantasy, Penguin, available in massmarket and e-book

Why it was in my TBR pile? Because I love this series

The review:

The blurb:

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux and her lover, the lethally beautiful archangel Raphael, have returned home to New York only to face an uncompromising new evil…

A vampire has attacked a girls’ school—the assault one of sheer, vicious madness—and it is only the first act. Rampant bloodlust takes vampire after vampire, threatening to make the streets run with blood. Then Raphael himself begins to show signs of an uncontrolled rage, as inexplicable storms darken the city skyline and the earth itself shudders.

The omens are suddenly terrifyingly clear.

An ancient and malevolent immortal is rising. The violent winds whisper her name: Caliane. She has returned to reclaim her son, Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena, the consort who must be destroyed…
My impressions:

This is the third book in the Guild Hunter series. So far, each book in the series have been better than the one before. With the Archangel’s Consort, Nalini Singh have created a heart-stabbing story that crackles with tension. The tension is a multifaceted thread that goes through the novel. Each word, each scene helps ramps it up until I almost wanted to put down the book, because it is too much. Yet at the same time, I didn’t. I wanted to know what happens next.

My heart wept when Elena struggled with balancing her new life and her old. I rejoiced when she claimed a part of Raphael’s manor. Both the good things and the bad things helped to make this a story about love. Not just the love Raphael and Elena feel for each other, but most of all the love a child feels for a parent, no matter how many times they had been hurt.

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