Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Today's Special - - Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau: Review, Q&A, Giveaway


Kingdom of Exiles
by Maxym M. Martineau
The Beast Charmer - Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
 



My heart wasn't part of the deal when I bargained for my life,
But assassins so rarely keep their word.
Exiled Charmer Leena Edenfrell is running out of time. Empty pockets forced her to sell her beloved magical beasts-an offense punishable by death-and now there's a price on her head. With the realm's most talented murderer-for-hire nipping at her heels, Leena makes Noc an offer he can't refuse: powerful mythical creatures in exchange for her life.
Plagued by a curse that kills everyone he loves, Noc agrees to Leena's terms in hopes of finding a cure. Never mind that the dark magic binding the assassin's oath will eventually force him to choose between Leena's continued survival...and his own.

My thoughts:

Fantasy romance, fantasy of any type, actually, is not my usual cup of tea. When I attended Book Lovers Con in May, a debut fantasy romance was included among the books in my registration bag. The back cover blurb was interesting and after chatting with the author at one of the conference events, I asked if she'd be interested in doing a Q&A for the blog. Which meant, of course, that I'd need to read the book. Though intrigued by the premise, knowing my history with fantasy, I opened the first page with the hope that I would enjoy it; that it would hold my attention. I did not expect to become so completely immersed in the story, so fully invested in the characters, and their journeys. I did not expect to care so. darn. much. But, Martineau brings her fantasy world to life with vivid descriptions that convince me such a place really does exist. She creates characters - human, beast, undead, and more - with care and complexity, giving them surprising layers, unexpected depths, and a range of emotions that stirred my own.   

The first few chapters are a bit slow as I find to be the case with many novels that are first in a new series. There's world building to be accomplished, stages to be set, characters to be introduced, but once Leena reaches the assassins, the story takes off and, for me, not reading was not an option. At about the 60% mark, barely able to keep my eyes open, I went to bed, plugging my Kindle into the charger, intending to finish the book the next day. It stayed on the charger for about five minutes while I tossed and turned in bed. I couldn't stand it. I had come to care deeply for these characters. They were in peril and I had to know what happened next. I pulled the Kindle off the charger and dived right back into the story, not looking up again until I reached the final word around 2:00 AM. Then, I stayed awake for at least another hour, thinking about the characters, the beasts, everything that had happened and what, possibly, might come next. I'm still thinking about them almost three weeks later. 

If this is an example of Martineau's storytelling skill as a debut author, I can't wait to find out what's in store for readers a few books down the road. I am all in, happily hooked, and eagerly anticipating every future book with Maxym M. Martineau's name on the cover. 


~~~~~~~~~


Q&A with Maxym M. Martineau
Welcome to The Romance Dish, Maxym! Thank you for taking the time to visit with us today.

Thank you so much for having me! I’m happy to be here.

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Kingdom of Exiles. I just finished reading it (way past my bedtime) and have spent the past few days telling everyone I know that they have to read this book. Please tell our readers what they can expect from Kingdom of Exiles.

You can’t see me, but I just did a happy dance in my room—I’m so glad you enjoyed it!
Kingdom of Exiles is an adult fantasy romance full of assassins, magical creatures, beast charmers, black-market deals, secrets, and of course, lots of kissing. The story follows two main characters: Leena Edenfrell, an exiled beast charmer, and Noc, leader of the undead assassins guild, Cruor.
After being exiled from her home, Leena is forced to sell her beloved magical creatures on the black market to survive. Unfortunately, this results in a bounty placed on her head. Enter Noc, the realm’s deadliest murderer-for-hire. When he captures Leena and moves in for the kill, she strikes a bargain with him: four magical beasts in exchange for her life. He agrees, not only because these creatures could protect his guild, but because there are whispers of a magical beast that has the ability to grant any wish—something he desperately wants in order to remove a decades-old curse that threatens those he loves.
Leena, Noc and his three closest brethren set off on a beast hunt across the continent of Lendria. But traps capture more than beasts, and ensnared hearts are hard to untangle. With the people behind Leena’s bounty calling for her head, and Noc’s deadly curse making itself known, no manner of beasts or magic can protect their hides.

Which character (human or beast) in Kingdom of Exiles was the most difficult to write and why? Which was the most fun?

Ohhh, that’s a tough one. All of the characters were pretty well-developed in my mind before I sat down to write them, so their mannerisms and nuances flowed nicely during my drafts. I do a lot of pre-writing and character profiles, so I think that helped. Which means, I’d probably say writing the beasts was more difficult. Figuring out ways to describe their size, shape, characteristics, etc., in a fantasy world where our modern-day terms might not translate was difficult. The hardest? Probably the Scorpex, a scorpion/worm amalgamation.
The character who was by far the most fun to write was Kost. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely love my main characters, but Kost is such an emotional touchstone, and I love his mannerisms.

I was fascinated by the beasts in this novel and Leena’s perfect pairing of them with their eventual owners. What type of beast would you create for yourself? Why?

What a great question! Hmm… Prior to getting my degree in English literature, I was actually studying animal behavior. I had a dream of doing field research on large cats—tigers, specifically. You can probably guess where I’m going with this, hehe. Basically, my admiration for these predatory felines translated into the legendary feline beasts in Kingdom of Exiles. So if it’s not the Myad, then it’d be another feline of that caliber, possibly resembling a tiger with some magical characteristics. (Fun fact: I have a Japanese-style tiger tattooed on my leg.)
I’d also take a Groober in a heartbeat. A beast that can help me sleep and is super cuddly? Sign me up!

Your bio says you enjoy binge-watching television shows. I’m always on the lookout for new series to watch. What do you recommend?

I love any show that deals with magic, the supernatural, some sci-fi, or romance. Recently, I devoured The Umbrella Academy in about two days. I’m also an avid fan of Jensen Ackles, and therefore Supernatural. Others include Game of Thrones (minus this last season…sigh), Westworld and Trueblood. Being Human, Teen Wolf and Lost Girl were all up there for me for a while, but life happened, and I stopped watching. Maybe one day I’ll pick ‘em back up!
Where I reeeaallly binge is with anime. My Hero Academia, Hunter x Hunter, Tokyo Ghoul, Seven Deadly Sins, Fairy Tail, Death Note, Re: Zero, Sword Art Online… I know I’m forgetting some major ones, here, but those first three are my favorite.

Speaking of television, I think Kingdom of Exiles would make a fabulous series or series of movies. Who would be your dream cast if that were to happen?

That would be SO amazing. I’d love to see my story brought to life! I recently just had this discussion with my team, and we came up with a working list. Let me tell you, this was incredibly difficult for me to do, and I feel like there are caveats for all of them (no one is Noc!). Anyway, here’s the breakdown:
Leena—Gal Gadot
Noc—Jonathan Rhys Meyers (but a young JRM) or Francois Arnaud
Kost—Robert Sheehan (please, oh please!) or Ezra Miller
Ozias—Winston Duke
Calem—Jason Mamoa or Chris Hemsworth

Many questions are answered by the end of Kingdom of Exiles but some threads are also left dangling which, of course, has me already eagerly anticipating book two. How many books are planned for the series? When can readers expect the next book to be published?

Drum roll, please! There are… SIX books expected for the Beast Charmer world! The first three follow Noc and Leena’s story specifically, so those threads? They’ll definitely get their pretty bows by the end of it. As for books four, five, and six… You’ll have to wait and see what they entail! Book two, The Frozen Prince, comes out in February of 2020.

Will you be attending any book signings or events this summer where readers will have an opportunity to meet you?

Yes! I have two local signings set up in Arizona. One at the Barnes & Noble in the San Tan Mall location (June 29) and the other at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix (July 9). There is also the potential that I’ll be traveling out of state for something, but that’s still in the works. Keep an eye out on my social media or website for more updates.

What books are on your summer must-read list?

A lot! I feel like my TBR is never-ending. Right now, I’m reading A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (and I’m loving it). After that, I’d like to dig into Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston; The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai; and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I’m hoping I can get to all of them during my crazy schedule!

Where can readers find you online?

I can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or through my website.

Thank you, Maxym! I appreciate you taking the time to visit with us today and, again, congratulations on the publication of your debut novel. Do you have anything else to add? Would you like to ask our readers a question?
It was a pleasure! Thanks again for having me. Hmm… I’d love to hear from everyone about their favorite fantasy romance, paranormal romance, YA fantasy, or something along the likes of those genres! I’m always trying to expand my reading list.

I came home from Book Lovers Con with two signed copies of Kingdom of Exiles to share with Romance Dish readers. Two people who post a comment before 11:00 PM, June 28 will each receive a signed copy of the book. (U.S. only)
And, because I was so blown away by this book and want you all to have an opportunity to share in that experience, a third randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, June 28 will receive their choice of a Kindle copy of Kingdom of Exiles or a print (unsigned) copy (open to all addresses serviced by bookdepository.com).


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Today's Special - - Moonshine and Magnolias by Abigail Sharpe


Moonshine and Magnolias
by Abigail Sharpe
Just Add Peaches - Book 1
Publisher: Abigail Sharpe
Release Date: June 20, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
 




Hotel executive Wendy Marsh puts her career on hold when she inherits half of her family’s inn. Her to-do list? It’s simple: teach her spoiled cousin how to manage Fountenoy Hall, then hightail it back to her structured, careful life in Atlanta. Romance has never been part of Wendy's plan – so what is it about the sexy history professor researching the inn that she finds so tempting?

Rob Upshaw would be enjoying his time at the Inn at Fountenoy Hall if he wasn’t secretly hunting for a family treasure lost during Prohibition. Only a few minor inconveniences stand in his way. His uncle’s old journals are cryptic, he has only a vague description of the loot, and the beautiful, uptight innkeeper with a subtle sense of humor might hold the key to his quest. Even though Rob’s career is built on facts, he accepts he might have to lie to Wendy. But falling for her? That’s out of the question.

Moonshine and Magnolias is a Just Add Peaches novel. Each book in the series is a stand-alone, passionate and playful contemporary romance, but you'll want more than one juicy bite.


My thoughts:

Looking for a fun, light contemporary romance, filled with southern hospitality, complicated family dynamics, a touch of mystery, and a sweet romance to add to your summer reading list? Abigail Sharpe's Moonshine and Magnolias could be just what you're looking for.

As this is the first book in Sharpe's Just Add Peaches series, there's an extended cast of characters to be introduced and I enjoyed getting to know all of them. Granted, I found a few of them annoying (not the hero and heroine) but isn't it the flaws that keep things interesting? The author is adept at bringing her characters to life and I'm looking forward to discovering more about several of them in future books. 

Sharpe also excels at bringing the peaches for which her series is named to life on the pages of her book. I found myself drooling over several passages that feature delicious-sounding dishes conjured up in the kitchen of the family inn. They've made me more eager than ever for peach season to hit its peak where I live. 

One of the facets I most enjoyed about Moonshine and Magnolias is the author's ability to "set the scene." Through her words, she pulled me into her world and the lives of her characters. I could smell the sweet aroma of fresh peaches in the orchard, share the hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations of characters, lose myself in the rich history of the inn, and feel the strong, loving legacy of the generations of women in Wendy's family who had come before. 

I'm looking forward to returning to Fountenoy Hall for book two, Cupcake of the Month and excited that I only have to wait another month for it to be released! 


~~~~~~~~~~~




Q&A with Abigail Sharpe

Welcome to The Romance Dish, Abigail! Thank you for taking the time to visit with us today.

Thanks, PJ.  I’ve been following the Romance Dish for a few years and I’m all giddy that I get to be a part of it.

Congratulations on the release of Moonshine and Magnolias, the first book in your new Just Add Peaches series. It’s such a fun read! Please tell our readers what they can expect from this book and series.

I like to write passionate, playful contemporary romance. So you’ll read Just Add Peaches to laugh and have a good time. I’ve always preferred to read light and fun, so writing it made sense.

I’m already intrigued with various secondary characters in this first book and hoping they’ll get their own stories. How many books are planned for the series? Are you able to share anything about future books/characters?

You won’t have to wait long for the second book, Cupcake of the Month – it releases in July! Jordan meets an old flame and together they heat up the kitchen.  The third book is half done, and I do have more planned.  In my head, at least.  I love these characters and the setting and their world, so I plan on staying here for a while.

Your bio mentions a love of stage musicals (that I share!). What musical production do you most enjoy watching? For what musical would you most like to be a member of the cast? Is there a dream role you’re aching to fill?

Oh, you’re going to get me started now. I love musicals!  Some folks go bar hopping – we should go musical hopping.
I love performing, but now it has to be something I really want to do, because rehearsals take a dent out of writing time. Aside from my performances every year with my singing wench group at the medieval faire, the last time I was on stage was in 2010 for Singin’ in the Rain. I played the radio announcer, and got to sing and dance in the chorus.  My favorite role ever was Meg from Brigadoon.  She was a trip.
As for watching—that’s a really tough question.  Every musical has something to offer that makes me want to see it over and over. I’d love to be in Rent.  Even the chorus characters have full stories that can make me cry.  As for my dream role – the Witch in Into the Woods.  Hands down.  Oh – and there’s my answer for which one I can watch over and over.  Bernadette Peters was amazing.  Joanna Gleason (The Baker’s Wife) was amazing.  Stephen Sondheim was amazing.  I’d also like to be Florence in Chess (more realistic – I can sing her songs without my voice squeaking) and the Lady of the Lake from Spamalot.

I could go on and on about this, so I’ll stop before I run out of column space.

Peaches are one of my favorite fruits and the delicious peach dishes they whip up in the Fountenoy Hall kitchen in Moonshine and Magnolias had me drooling. What’s your favorite way to eat peaches? Do you do any cooking with them? Have a favorite recipe to share?

Cupcake of the Month is going to come with a peach cupcake recipe that my wonderfully creative cousin whipped up for me.  You’ll have to wait for that.  Of course it has whiskey in it, too, to get that moonshine in there. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Caramelized peaches are soooo good.  Serve them warm over some vanilla ice cream and OMG.  But, really, nothing’s better than the sweet juiciness of a fresh peach – the kind that makes you use twenty napkins while you eat it. 

Moonshine and Magnolias is a great summer read. What books are on your summer must-read list?

I’m sure it will shock you to know I read a lot of romance. Jill Shalvis is great for summer reads!  I’m also a fan of Kat Latham.  Anything fun and lighthearted that brings to mind the carefree summer mindset.

For this summer in particular, I’m about to start Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark.  Not sure how summery they are, but I’m excited to read them.  I’m also part of a book club that reads books that are going to be movies, so on my list are "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen, "Artemis Fowl" by Eoin Colfer, and "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss.  (Shhhh – don’t tell my people I already read this one. It was crazy good.  But fair warning – it’s the first of three.)  I like being part of a book club that makes me read outside the romance genre, since there are so many good romances to read! 

I’ll probably also read “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell.  Both kids had to read it for school and hubby read it as well, so I’ve got book FOMO.

Will you be attending any book signings or events this year where readers will have an opportunity to meet you?

I’m so glad you asked.  On August 17, I’ll be participating in a multi-romance author book signing at the Jacksonville Public Library in Jacksonville, FL.  My original plan was to wait until at least three Just Add Peaches books were published, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of a signing so close to home.

Look for me in 2020, though I’ll probably stay in the southeast.  Travel costs, you know.  Unless I win the lottery, and then all bets are off.

Where can readers find you online?

I mostly hang out on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/AbigailSharpeBooks
And I’ve been dipping my cyber toes into Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/abigailsharpeauthor/
I also have an extremely outdated webpage (I’m working on it!) at www.abigailsharpe.com

Thanks so much, Abigail!  Do you have anything else to add? Would you like to ask our readers a question?

I keep dreaming about being the witch in Into the Woods, so let’s all play pretend.  What fictional character’s life would you like to take over for a day and why? And not just because they’re married to Jamie Fraser. 

One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, June 27 will receive a $5 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Winner - - Emily March






The randomly chosen winner of a print copy of

JACKSON by Emily March is:

Patricia Bennett Barber

Congratulations!

Please send your full name and mailing address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Tour Review & Giveaway - - Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James


Say No to the Duke
by Eloisa James
The Wildes of Lindow Castle - Book 4
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Reviewed by PJ





Could she possibly refuse a duke’s hand—in favor of a sardonic, sinful rake?
Lady Betsy Wilde’s first season was triumphant by any measure, and a duke has proposed—but before marriage, she longs for one last adventure.
No gentleman would agree to her scandalous plan—but Lord Jeremy Roden is no gentleman. He offers a wager. If she wins a billiards game, he’ll provide the breeches.
If he wins…she is his, for one wild night.
But what happens when Jeremy realizes that one night will never be enough? In the most important battle of his life, he’ll have to convince Betsy to say no to the duke.



My thoughts:

I've so enjoyed the first four books in the Wildes of Lindow Castle series, becoming more invested in this family with each book published. Each featured couple brings something unique and special to the series but Betsy and Jeremy just may be my favorites. I adored these two!

In this book, James has created two characters with an enormous amount of emotional baggage. Both Betsy and Jeremy have been impacted by events from their past. In Betsy's case, it's the actions of her mother, a woman who abandoned her family for a lover, by whom Betsy is now (unfairly) judged, that have shaped Betsy's actions in society. For Jeremy, who lost all of his men on the battlefield, survivor's guilt is a daily struggle. Both carefully control what they allow others to see and, consequently, very few really know them. Only with one another do they eventually let those masks slip and once they do...let the fun begin!

I couldn't turn the pages of this book quickly enough but then, once I had finished, I returned to the beginning and read it again, this time slowly savoring each delicious word. The banter between Jeremy and Betsy is fast, fun, and plentiful, and the intimate scenes are filled with emotion and heat. The rawness of Jeremy's anguish is so vivid as is the PTSD he battles but the fears Betsy has dealt with most of her life are no less real. All of that is dealt with head-on but James infuses plenty of sass, humor, and passion to keep the story from becoming dark or angst-ridden. And romance. The declarations between these two are so deeply romantic, I defy anyone to not sigh with sheer, heart-tugging delight. I sure did.

I can't wait to find out what Eloisa James has in store for the Wilde family next!

Are you reading this series?

Do you have a favorite Wilde couple?


One randomly chosen person posting a comment before 11:00 PM, June 26 will receive a print copy of Say No to the Duke. (U.S. only) 



Excerpt
Say No to the Duke

They moved toward each other as if they were following the steps of a very slow, very grand country dance. One that was danced by kings and queens and countryfolk alike.

When they were beside each other, she squared her shoulders and met his eyes. “I decided to come to you. I hope that is all right.”

“I do believe that you are the bravest woman I’ve ever met,” he replied.

He couldn’t have said anything better; Betsy felt herself begin to glow. “I haven’t been brave to this point, but I have made up my mind to change. I outlawed being nervous, but now I need to outlaw being afraid.” She hesitated. “I have chosen courage, and now I choose happiness.”

“I love you as you are,” he whispered, and then his mouth came down on hers.

Her breath caught in her throat because their tongues met as if they kissed every day, every night. He tasted right, which sent a shiver through her whole body, and pushed her against him gently, the way a pebble might roll up a beach when the tide comes in.

One doesn’t fight the tide.

~~~~~~~~~~~





Eloisa James is a USA Today and New York Times bestselling author and professor of English literature, who lives with her family in New York, but can sometimes be found in Paris or Italy. She is the mother of two and, in a particularly delicious irony for a romance writer, is married to a genuine Italian knight. Visit her at www.eloisajames.com.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Winner - - Maggie Robinson






The randomly chosen winner of a signed hardcover copy of

Nobody's Sweetheart Now or one trade paperback from

Maggie Robinson's backlist is:

Patoct

Congratulations!

Please send your full name, mailing address, and choice of book to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Winner - - Liz Talley







The randomly chosen winner of a $15 Amazon gift card and 

digital copy of Come Home to Me by Liz Talley is

Laurie G

Congratulations!

Please send your email address to:

theromancedish (at) gmail (dot) com


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Tour Review - - JACKSON





JACKSON
by Emily March
Eternity Springs: The McBrides of Texas - Book 1
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: June 25, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
 



Sometimes it takes a new beginning

Caroline Carruthers thinks she buried her dreams along with the love of her life…until a stranger named Celeste dares her to chase a dream all on her own. Moving to Redemption, Texas, is chapter one in Caroline's new life story. Opening a bookstore is the next. Finding love is the last thing on her mind as she settles into this new place called home. But when she meets a handsome, soulful man who’s also starting over, all bets are off. 

to reach a happily-ever-after

Jackson McBride came to Redemption looking only to find himself, not someone to love. Ever since his marriage ended, he's been bitter. Sure, he used to believe in love - he even has the old song lyrics to prove it - but the Jackson of today is all business. That is, until a beautiful young widow who's moved to town inspires a change of heart. Could it be that the myth of Redemption's healing magic is true...and Jackson and Caroline can find a second chance at a happy ending after all? 

My thoughts:

I've been a fan of Emily March's Eternity Springs series since book one. The characteristics that have sent those books straight to my keeper shelf - complex, endearing characters, heart-tugging story lines, redemption, healing, starting over, and happy-ever-afters - are all on display in this first book of March's new spin-off series, along with a fair amount of humor. Moving from Colorado to the Texas Hill Country, this new series brings readers the stories of three McBride cousins: Jackson, Tucker, and Boone. 

March tells this first book in two parts with part one recounting Jackson and Caroline's first meeting as well as the events that lead each of them to move to Redemption. My heart ached for Jackson from the get-go. He's reeling from a heartbreaking child custody decision when we first meet him, is still bitter about his divorce, and has lost the desire to create the music he used to write. For some reason, Caroline, a stranger he bumps into, has lyrics floating through his mind again. Caroline, in Redemption to write a travel article, enjoys talking to Jackson and touring the property he and his cousins plan to turn into an inn, restaurant, and dance hall. They "click" but not in an overtly sexual way. Caroline is married and very much in love with her husband, even though he has Alzheimer's and no longer knows her and Jackson is an honorable man who would never make a play for a married woman, even if he hadn't already sworn off women since his divorce.

The relationship between Caroline and Jackson begins in Part Two which takes place a year after their first meeting and many months after the death of Caroline's husband. I appreciate the time March gives Caroline before bringing her back to Redemption and into Jackson's sphere. As someone who has walked her path, I found her emotions to be very realistic as she begins the next chapter of her life. I also like that her late husband isn't cast aside as if he never existed. Their years together are very much a part of her as the years Jackson was married and his child are an integral part of him. They all weave together to create the individuals Caroline and Jackson now are and the relationship they create together. March uses care and sensitivity as she slowly guides them from acquaintances, to friends, to lovers, to two people embarking upon a life together. I really liked these two, both individually and as a couple, and quickly became invested in their happiness.

As a fan of Eternity Springs, I was delighted with the appearances of cross-over characters in this novel. It's especially fun to watch unflappable Celeste get her feathers ruffled while dealing with her more free-spirited cousin, Angelica. If you haven't read any of the Eternity Springs books, you might find yourself with a little character confusion when many of the Colorado residents converge on Redemption, Texas for the inn's soft opening but, aside from that chapter, this novel stands very well on its own with the vast majority of the characters new to March's fictional world. I enjoyed meeting all of them in JACKSON (even the ones who caused waves) and am already looking forward to the next chapter in Emily March's McBrides of Texas series. 


~~~~~~~~~~

Have you read any of the Eternity Springs books?

Do you enjoy stories about characters starting over?

Caroline's next chapter occupation is opening an independent bookstore. What would you choose to do if you had the opportunity to start a new chapter?

One person who leaves a comment before 11:00 PM, June 21, will receive a print copy of JACKSON. (U.S. only)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Review - - Rebel


REBEL
by Beverly Jenkins
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie




I have a confession to make. Part of the reason I enjoy historical romance is for the bits of history that I would normally only get if I read dry, boring textbooks. So many times during a bout of Final Jeopardy, when I blurt out an obscure answer, my friends will go, “How did you know that?”, I’ll respond, “I read it in a romance.” And even more, these romances also show how people--heroines like our grandmothers--butted up against the accepted norms of the day and made room for themselves at the table. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Another reason I love and value historical romance is that it instills in us the value of learning and accepting more than one story. I can get so tied into one story about men or a cultural group or even an economic group and forget there are other stories just as true. Now mind you, I love the one story about dukes--I can read that at least once a week--but it’s also good not to read about dukes. Sometimes it’s good to read about other men with power, like pirates...or really handsome architects in Reconstructionist New Orleans.

Blurb: Valinda Lacy’s mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans is to help the newly emancipated survive and flourish. But soon she discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life--and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq.

As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring--or wanting--her. But when Valinda’s father demands she return home to marry a man she doesn’t love, her daring rebellion draws Drake into an irresistible intrigue.

As always, Beverly Jenkins delivers in sensual chemistry between the characters, well-plotted and well-rounded character story building, and fun banter and dialogue between all the characters. I loved the opening scene where the heroine, Valinda, completely shuts down what is sure to be white thugs coming into her school to bully and scatter her school, and she politely and sweetly offers them a spot at her learning table for them to learn to read and write as well. She talks them in such circles, the thugs eventually apologize and leave--which allows all the students to leave unharmed as well. Clever and funny--even during a situation that is anything but.

Other harrowing scenes of realities of the time also play out--but thankfully more favorably with a hero being at the right place at the right time--and you can’t help but root for Valinda who just wants to do what is right and fair for the people of the Race, and not in any sort of way that takes away from anyone else. Valinda is a heroine like all heroines before her: someone who wants fair and equitable treatment; access to education; and respect and dignity as a human being, as afforded to all citizens of the United States under the clause of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Valinda is a teacher--the kind of teacher we all loved in school--who loves learning and lives for the glee on someone’s face who finally “gets it” and learning opens up for them. She is an advocate and a nurturer.

Drake is a protector--and the best kind of hero: the kind that gets out of his heroine’s way as she pursues her dreams. While stories where the hero and heroine are at conflict because they want the same thing for themselves, I find love stories where each partner is supportive of the other without sacrificing their own happiness. Drake is swoonworthy--and with a backlist of LeVeq brothers who also had love stories (Winds of the Storm: Archer and Through the Storm: Raimond), the competition is fierce on the swoonworthy category. This story will only make you want to hunt out the others from your keeper shelf and give them a thorough re-read.

As Beverly Jenkins remarks in her author’s note, the Reconstruction was a “very volatile and bittersweet time.” Jenkins offers some further resources if the reader is interested in reading more; and I would also recommend the PBS documentary that was presented this spring called: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War. It also goes into detail of some of the practices the former slave-owners tried to enact in order to re-enslave blacks in all but name only. There are also scenes of local groups (pre-KKK) who terrorize the local Freedmen and destroy their property--and realistically, there is no favorable resolution (read: justice) for some of  these scenes. These scenes didn’t surprise--I’ve known the history of how the privileged majority has treated African Americans since...well...forever, especially in the South. However, I was surprised with some historical detail, for instance the group of white southern Union soldiers that Drake works with to help curb some of the terrorist group's more terrible actions and also about the Creole families who wished to be treated as a separate group from the freed slave class rather than be labeled by skin color, lumped with them. The post-antebellum history of America is complicated and messy, but Jenkins does her best to touch on many of the issues while still showing triumph in a hard situation. People are good and bad, regardless of skin color--and Jenkins does a good job of showing that in her story.

Don’t worry: this story does finish with a happy ending--just as many other stories of its kind also ended in a happy ending, despite the constant struggle then and now. I highly recommend this book, not only for its trademark Jenkins’ top-notch sensuality and characters, but also for the added benefit of the story itself. Despite my rhapsodising about the historical detail, the story is very much focused on the blossoming romance between Val and Drake--and if you simply want a love story full of well-honed sexual tension, true courtship, and marriage before the consummation, you will love this book. I can’t wait to read the next “Women Who Dare” in the series.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Today's Special - - Review of Who's Sorry Now, Guest Post, & Giveaway


Who's Sorry Now?
by Maggie Robinson
Lady Adelaide Mysteries - Book 2
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Release Date: June 1, 2019
Reviewed by PJ




London, England 1925
A Russian prince. A wealthy heir. An impoverished earl's daughter. Which one will make an untimely exit from the London social scene?
Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Devenand Hunter finds himself in the middle of a series of upper-class deaths in London. Bright Young People are being extinguished in their favorite night spots, from a sleazy private jazz club to the Savoy ballroom. Dev knows just the person to help him navigate the treacherous society waters: Lady Adelaide Compton, a marquess' daughter and widow of a Great War hero. Unfortunately, he has put her in jeopardy once before, nearly leading him to turn in his warrant card.
But when her sister Cee is nearly one of the victims, Addie turns to Mr. Hunter, offering her help... and it soon becomes clear that the two of them working together again could lead to much more than merely solving crime.

My thoughts: 

The second book in Maggie Robinson's Lady Adelaide Mysteries series is another tightly-woven story that immerses readers in 1920's England in all its madcap, post-war glory. Robinson's characters are intriguing, complex, and so well developed that it's easy to be convinced that they must have actually lived at the time. She brings all of them to life on the page, primary and secondary characters alike. The individual characters of Adelaide and Dev continue to slowly evolve as does the budding possibility of a relationship between them and, of course, ghostly Rupert is along for the ride, providing both murder-solving assistance as well as impeccably-timed humor. 

Robinson's descriptions are so vivid that they transport readers into the smoke-filled, private jazz clubs of London as well as small villages in the English countryside. In fact, her settings are so realistically depicted that, if I didn't know better, I'd wonder if Robinson hadn't invested in a time machine in order to gain a little first-hand knowledge. 

The mystery itself is intricately woven, with twists and turns aplenty, keeping me reading late into the night and guessing right up until the reveal. I am so invested in these characters now and already eagerly anticipating the next Lady Adelaide mystery. I can't wait to find out what Maggie Robinson has in store for them, and us, next!

~~~~~~~~~~~~



Guest Post
by Maggie Robinson


Thanks so much for having me here today, P.J! I’ve returned to talk about the latest 1920s-set cozy Lady Adelaide Mystery, Who’s Sorry Now? I love this 1922 quote from Zelda Fitzgerald: “The flapper…bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings, and a great deal of audacity and rouge, and went into the battle.” Can’t you just see it? Young women all over the world were breaking free of society’s constraints, getting jobs, voting, dancing their nights away whenever possible. They wanted to put the hardships and struggles of the Great War behind them, if only for a little while and a big sip of champagne.

In Who’s Sorry Now, widowed Lady Adelaide isn’t quite a flapper, but her younger sister Cee aspires to be, and they both get mixed up with Bright Young People and poison. In the twenties, private clubs sprang up all over London to avoid the rigid licensing laws, so that you could drink and party all night without fear of arrest (but with fear of a hangover, LOL). Crazy antics were all the rage—midnight scavenger hunts, themed costume parties, stealing a policeman’s helmet, etc., which look so innocent now but were considered scandalous then.

Addie is too grown-up to participate in such hijinks, but of a perfect age to team up with dishy Anglo-Indian Detective Inspector Devenand Hunter of Scotland Yard to figure out who’s poisoning upper crust kids. They have extra help from Major Rupert Charles Cressleigh Compton, Addie’s late and unlamented husband, who must perform some good deeds before he’s allowed into Heaven. He has a lot of sins for atone for, yet he’s my favorite character—a 20th century rake, a cad, an inveterate ladies’ man who was also brave, reckless, and daring during the war. He is so much fun to write, and his witty arguments with Addie may drive her crazy but bring a smile to my face. I love it when readers say they wanted to dislike him but couldn’t. See, he’s charming even in death!

I also love it when people root for Dev and Addie to get together, even if their social backgrounds are so far apart. As a romance writer, I know anything is possible. But I grew up watching soap operas with my grandmother, and once the star-crossed lovers finally got together (usually after years of being married to other people, having babies kidnapped, surviving life-threatening illnesses, or some other far-fetched plot device—Marlena possessed, anyone?), they became boring. I don’t want to have that happen to Dev and Addie!

Here’s a brief snippet: “Dev had been nearly speechless last night when Lady Adelaide offered to help in the investigation.

Over his dead body. He wasn’t taking any more chances. If they hadn’t been interrupted by that nurse, he would have given her a piece of his mind, what was left of it. He’d nearly bitten his tongue clean through.

“All right, show her in. But in five minutes, come in to tell me the Commissioner is on the line.”

“Right-o.”

Dev didn’t ask Bob to lie for him often, but in this instance, it was self-preservation. He didn’t trust himself. All Lady Adelaide had to do was bat her eyelashes behind her tortoise shell spectacles, and Dev was very much afraid she’d lure them both into peril.

She was looking more rested this morning, in a powder blue lightweight wool suit trimmed in blonde mink. A matching hat was perched upon her golden head. The calendar might say it was spring, but it felt more like winter. Today was damp and cold, a miserable day to match his mood.

Dev swore softly to himself. This could not possibly go well unless he threw a rug over her to stop him from being blinded by her beauty.”

Do you like a little mystery with your romance, or a little romance with your mystery? The Scotland Yard detective wants to know! 

One randomly chosen person leaving a comment before 11:00 PM, June 19 will receive a signed hardcover copy of Nobody’s Sweetheart Now, the first book in the series, or any trade paperback from my backlist. 





Maggie Robinson is a former teacher, library clerk, and mother of four who woke up in the middle of the night absolutely compelled to create the perfect man and use as many adjectives and adverbs as possible doing so. A transplanted New Yorker, she lives with her not-quite-perfect husband in Maine, where the cold winters are ideal for staying indoors and writing.