Monday, May 14, 2018

A Most Noble Heir



On her deathbed, Nolan Price’s mother finally reveals her adopted son’s true parentage—he is the son of the Earl of Stainsby.  Afraid that his noble father will not allow him to marry kitchen maid Hannah Burnham, Nolan whisks Hannah away to elope.  The Earl soon officially acknowledges Nolan as his heir but does not accept his son’s marriage.  Can Nolan and Hannah’s relationship survive Nolan’s new position? Will Nolan be forced to choose between the wife he has always loved, or the father he’s always desired?  

Susan Ann Mason tells a beautifully gut-wrenching story in A Most Noble Heir.  I’ll admit to skepticism before reading the novel given that I did not particularly enjoy A Worthy Heart, but I was pleasantly surprised. While slightly predictable, the story is well-told and believable.  I appreciated that the various struggles and arguments between characters stemmed from real problems, not contrived misunderstandings with simple solutions. While Hannah was a bit unrealistically perfect, the rest of the characters were complex and well-developed. Perhaps A Worthy Heart was an aberration, and Mason deserves the adoring fans she has accumulated after all.  

I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Storm Front


When they get news that team leader Chet King is missing after a tornado in Minnesota, former helicopter pilot Ty Remington and the rest of the PEAK team race to help with the search and rescue operation.  What Tye doesn’t expect in Minnesota was Brette Arnold—the girl he once loved and hasn’t been able to forget for the last year.  After surviving a year of chemotherapy for breast cancer, Brette joins a team of storm chasers, and lands directly in Ty’s path.  Brette acknowledges she has feelings for Tye, but decides that he deserves to love a woman who hasn’t been ravaged by cancer, and may not live a full life.  Will Tye be able to let go of his past mistakes and learn to trust himself again? Will Tye’s dedication to the rescue effort and to Brette’s best interest finally convince her to let someone else into her life?  

Susan May Warren continues her riveting Montana Rescue series in Storm Front.  While I had an easier time following the multitude of storylines in this installment because I skimmed the previous stories prior to opening Storm Front, I still struggled a bit.  With so many characters with so many backstories, keeping track of every one of them can be mentally exhausting.  That said, I have loved each of those characters and stories!  Warren is an excellent story-teller, and—like her other works—Storm Front is full of drama, intrigue, and adventure.  Having introduced both Brette and Ty previously, Warren wisely takes her time with subtle characterization and has no need beat the reader over the head.  Again, both characters were well-developed, sympathetic, and believable.  I’ve truly enjoyed the Montana Rescue series, but I’m ready to resolve the overarching mysteries and let the entire cast of characters enjoy a happy ending.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

7 Brides for 7 Texas Rangers




These seven correlated novellas from seven authors tell the story of a group of Texas Rangers hunting the elusive Markham gang.  While the authors did an excellent job weaving a cohesive narrative in this collection, I grew tired of it before I made it half-way through.  Yes, each story highlights different characters within a different plotline, but each story could also boil these plots down to the same basic elements: strong Ranger does not want to get married, meddling Ranger wife sets him up, Ranger meets strong-willed, spunky woman, spunky woman finds herself in danger, Ranger attempts to protect woman, woman—attempting to display her strength and independence—does something stupid that puts her in further danger, Ranger realizes he loves spunky woman, Ranger rescues woman, Ranger and woman get married.  While I typically appreciate strong female leads, this whole storyline felt contrived and even pandering.  Heavy-handed character development also grew tiresome. Characterization in novellas can be difficult, but I have seen it done well.  Again, I concede that romance writing tends to be somewhat predictable, but this collection went beyond even my threshold for toleration.  I forced myself to finish each story hoping that the next would improve.  It never did. If you’re looking for a fun novella collection, Calico and Cowboys and Regency Brides are much more satisfying and worth your time.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Innkeeper's Daughter



At the request of his mentor, Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambler and rogue to expose a plot against England’s king.  The best way to insert himself in the suspects’ inner circle, is to pursue Lady Louisa Coburn’s hand in marriage.  While he spends his days at the Blue Hedge Inn, however, he finds himself falling in love with the innkeeper’s daughter.

Preoccupied with trying to earn enough money to pay off the inn’s debts, Johanna Langley doesn’t have time for Alex’s flirtations.  Alex’s help around the inn eventually breaks down Johanna’s defenses, though.  Can Alex find and arrest the dangerous conspirators before Johanna finds out about his sham of an engagement?  Will both of their attempts to secure a future save them, or put everyone they love in danger? 


As usual, Michelle Griep takes readers on a fast-paced, intriguing adventure in The Innkeeper’s Daughter.  The plot’s twists and turns and the entertaining cast of characters made the novel nearly impossible to put down.  Griep uses Johanna’s desperation to keep her family out of the poorhouse, Alex’s need to complete one last mission, Mrs. Langley’s quiet wisdom, Mr. Quail’s antics, and Mr. Nutbrown’s oddities to tell a truly beautiful story.  This complexity makes Johanna’s and Alex’s love story compelling rather than frustrating, and the ending very satisfying.  The Innkeeper’s Daughter may very well be my favorite book from Griep yet. 

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Ashes on the Moor



After the death of her parents and most of her siblings, Evangeline finds herself thrust into a teaching position in the factory town of Smeatley.  In order to receive her inheritance and reunite with her remaining sister, she must lay aside the sophisticated Victorian values of her upbringing, and prove her worth and determination to her distant grandfather.  Irish brick mason, Dermot, has few friends in Smeatley either, and soon finds himself forming a grudging agreement with the schoolteacher.  Evangeline watches his young son while Dermot works in the evenings, and Dermot provides Evangeline with cooking lessons.  Barely able to understand the Yorkshire accents of her pupils, will Evangeline manage to earn their trust and make sufficient progress with their education?  Will her scheming aunt exaggerate her faults to her grandfather and keep the sister separated forever?  When she begins to feel more than friendship for Dermot, will her high-class past keep her from following her heart?

Sarah M. Eden tells a lovely story-- reminiscent of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South-- in Ashes on the Moor.  With fascinating descriptions of life in a factory town, and the unique struggles and accents found there, Eden's latest is full of historical detail.  Evangeline's complicated family relationships, struggles to reach her students, and compassion for Smeatley's inhabitants were believable and beautifully told.  Dermot, similarly, is an complex and compelling male lead.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the story and its characters, the finale seems a bit forced.  Despite pages and pages of struggle and complication, somehow everyone magically gets everything they want within the last chapter.  A more believable ending would have been infinitely more satisfying.  

 I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review, positive or otherwise, was required—all opinions are my own.  

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Keturah



After their father’s sudden death in the Caribbean island of Nevis, Lady Keturah Banning Tomlinson and her sisters see no other way to recoup their sugar plantation’s losses than to sail across the Atlantic to take over the plantation themselves.  Still emotionally scarred by her first marriage, Keturah is determined to make her own way and never depend on a man again.  When the sisters arrive, however, the other sugar barons refuse to work with women, and conspire to ruin the Banning fortune.  Will Keturah choose the right people to trust in time to save her sisters and their fortune? 

Lisa T. Bergen tells a fascinating story of England and the Caribbean in the mid-1700s in Keturah.  Descriptions of harrowing sea voyages, beautiful islands, conniving sugar barons, simmering racial tensions, and a satisfying love story kept me hooked from beginning to end.  Keturah herself was a believable, relatable, female lead who absolutely deserved her lovely happy ending.  While I’ve not read any of Bergen's other novels, I will definitely call myself a devoted fan from now on.  I anxiously await the next addition to her Sugar Baron's Daughters series. 

I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review was required, and all opinions are my own.

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Chance at Forever


Mercy McClain treasures her positions on the School Board and in the local orphanage in Teaville, Kansas.  Providing love and security for vulnerable children allows her to protect innocent lives from the bullying and trauma she experienced as a child.  When her primary tormenter—Aaron Firebrook—comes back to Teaville and applies for a teaching position, Mercy decides to keep him out of the school at all costs. 

Aaron has returned to Teaville in an attempt to make amends for his former behavior, but realizes that he may never earn Mercy’s trust.   When he takes a summer position as a gardener at Mercy’s orphanage, though, he sees it as an opportunity to show her that he has changed.  Will either of them be able to move past the pain of the past in time to keep the orphans safe, or even find true love? 

Melissa Jagears takes readers back to the ever intriguing Teaville, Kansas in her third installment of the Teaville Moral Society in A Chance at Forever.  I loved the first two novels in the series, and A Chance at Forever did not disappoint.  Jagears has a talent for weaving complex and emotional plotlines that have no obvious or simple solution.  Both Mercy and Aaron were exceptionally well-developed and fascinating to read about.  While the novel stands decently well on its own, I wish I had read the previous two installments more recently to better appreciate the plot.  Overall, I loved spending a long weekend back in Teaville and look forward to hearing even more of its stories. 

I received a free copy from the publisher.  No review was required, and all opinions are my own.