Review: EMERALD COAST by Anita Hughes

51SUPCYoIvLEMERALD COAST by Anita Hughes / Romance / Released Aug 1, 2017 by St, Martin’s Griffin

EMERALD COAST is told in trademark Anita Hughes style – a current dilemma that can only be resolved as relevant past events surface and unfold. “Emerald Coast” is the quest by divorced Lily and Oliver to escape the hurt of mutual betrayal in the past and find happiness apart…until they are thrown together unexpectedly at an exotic resort.

Written with the full flavor of taste, sight, and sound Anita Hughes does so well, the reader is caught up in the sensuality of the setting, feeling every temptation and opportunity Lily and Oliver each does as they forge forward to create new, individual lives and leave the pain of their pasts behind. However, this same environment that entices each toward the new, also churns up unbroken ties still binding their hearts and souls to the old. Not alone in this upheaval, new lovers, old flames, and current family members also get caught in the turmoil. The Emerald Coast becomes the perfect stewing pot of what’s old and what’s new, forcing dross and truth to the top for Lily and Oliver to face in order to discover what their futures really hold.

“Emerald Coast” is a very pleasant read, immediately absorbing the reader into its characters’ situation and lives. Their struggles to escape the hurt of past betrayals heightens the tension, and the fiery furnace of escalating circumstances takes the novel to that “I don’t want to put this book down” level. Free of anything graphic, this book still takes the reader on a very human and relatable journey that I highly recommend.

Review provided by Colleen L. Donnelly a #1 Amazon Bestseller

New Release: AN UNSUITABLE DUCHESS by Kathleen Buckley

perf5.000x8.000.inddAN UNSUITABLE DUCHESS by Kathleen Buckley

Historical Romance

Released May 19, 2017 by The Wild Rose Press

After her guardian’s death, Anne Sinclair comes to Town seeking a man with broad interests, rather than broad estates. She possesses a competence and a pretty face, so why did her late guardian think it might be difficult for her to make a match? The question becomes urgent when she discovers that London can be perilous for a young lady of inquiring mind—especially when she has a hidden enemy.

Lord John Anniscote unexpectedly inherits the title and responsibilities of his dissolute brother, the Duke of Guysbridge, including houses, servants, tenants, and the need to provide himself with an heir. Formerly poor, cynical, and carefree, he finds himself hunted by marriage-minded females. When a plot against a young lady up from the country touches his honor, can the new duke safeguard her reputation and repair his own?

Author Bio:  When she was three years old, Kathleen Buckley’s father bought a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Big books! With all kinds of words (and pictures) in them! By the age of twelve, she knew she wanted to write fiction (she also wanted to be a journalist, a spy and a spaceperson—but NASA wasn’t accepting female spacepersons then. She never became a journalist because she hates asking pushy questions, nor a spy, because she’s not good with foreign languages, has bad eyes and is not athletic. In semi-retirement, she began to write full-time, at least when not pursuing her other hobbies: reading, cats, cooking, costume, and spinning wheel repair. And no, she can’t spin. That will have to come after the spinning wheel repair. 

Book Excerpt: OUT OF SIGHT by Melissa Klein

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OUT OF SIGHT by Melissa Klein / Book 2 of the Out of Uniform series / Contemporary Romance / Released July 5, 2017 by The Wild Rose Press

When tragedy upends her life, Mia Jones must fight to regain her lost memories and win the man she loves.

After a brutal attack leaves Mia Jones with a traumatic brain injury, she learns the key to discovering her attacker’s identity lies within her damaged brain. As she battles to recover from her injuries, she finds it’s not her fiancé by her side but her foster brother, Hank.

When navy pilot, Hank Taggart ditches his plane in the sea, he thinks the worst has happened—until he returns home to learn Mia, the closest thing he’s ever had to family, is in ICU. While struggling to accept the end of a career that defines him and battling his own medical diagnosis, he must also suppress his newfound feelings for Mia.

With Hank rejecting her love at every turn and the bad guys upping the stakes, Mia wonders, which fate is worse: falling into the hands of her enemy or losing the man she loves.

Excerpt:

“What about your long-term prognosis?”

Mia shrugged. “Doctors are being optimistic. So. I. Don’t. Give. Up.”

He couldn’t image her doing that. “You’ve been through so much, angel. It just isn’t fair.”

She barked a laugh. “Haven’t. You. Heard? Life. Not. Fair.”

“But you’ve had more than your share of trouble.”

“Everything happens—for a reason.” She let out a breath. “Mrs. Brooks says. ‘God doesn’t. Give. More. Than. We. Can. Bear.’”

“Then God must think you’re a badass.”

Mia smacked him on the leg. “You’re. Naughty.”

“No,” he said, teasing back. “I’m just telling it like I see it. You’ve been through a hellova lot and you deserve a break.”

“We both do,” she said, her smile fading. “Both. Of. Us. Have.” Her brow furrowed. “Why. You. Should. Date. Be happy.”

She’d found her Prince Charming in Charles Brooks III. As much as he loathed the too-slick, Gone With the Wind throwback, he wouldn’t stand in her way if Tripp made her happy.

A few droplets of rain pelted them. “I guess we better head back inside.”

“Maybe it won’t get worse.”

“Better not chance it.” He scooped her into his arms. “Sugar melts.”

Holding Mia in his arms felt more right than anything in a long while, which was why he needed to get himself gone. She belonged to another man. Hank let himself breathe in her scent and absorb the way her breath tickled his neck for the time it took to return her to her room.

 

New Release & Excerpt: MAGIC IN HER EYES by Donna Dalton

perf5.000x8.000.inddMAGIC IN HER EYES by Donna Dalton / Spicy Historical / Released June 23, 2017 by The Wild Rose Press

Excerpt:

“Do you also have an aversion to being touched?”
Meredith looked up and met the lieutenant’s taunting gaze. It was a challenge she couldn’t ignore. She hefted her chin. “Not if I have given permission to be touched.”
One corner of his mouth twitched. Surely that wasn’t a smile. From what she’d seen, the most his lips could manage were frowns. 
He held out his hand. “May I help you into the wagon, Miss Talbot? In the name of expediency?”
Straw rustled behind her. One child hummed. Another thrummed on the wagon boards. The children were getting restless. She could contain herself long enough to be lifted onto the wagon.
“Very well. I give my permission.”
His hands curled around her waist. Heat seeped through her blouse and branded her skin. Her stomach started doing odd little summersaults like the ones she’d seen Chinese acrobats perform at a local fair. So much for containing herself.
His grip tightened, and he lifted her up and onto the wagon bed as if she weighed no more than a rag doll. His hands lingered a moment before he released her. Gray-brown eyes fused with hers. A strange connection churned between them like the rush crowding the air before a storm.

Review: MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

51szrPzZtOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Mortal Heart – His Fair Assassin – Book 3 by Robin LaFevers, HMH Books for Young Readers, November 2014 – 5 Stars

Blurb:

In the powerful conclusion to Robin LaFever’s New York Times bestselling His Fair Assassins trilogy, Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind, doesn’t mean she has.

 Review:

 Annith watched her friends, Ismae and Sybella leave the convent of St. Mortain to confront the enemies of their country and ruler, Duchess Anne while staying behind. When will it be Annith’s turn to go to battle? One of the nuns, Sister Vereda who has the ‘Sight’ and foretells the future has fallen ill so she can’t be depended upon to help Annith gain her freedom and face her destiny. To her dismay, she overhears the Abbess tell another nun that she, Annith will be the next Seeress who sends out the Handmaidens, young students, on their deadly quests.

Being locked up for the rest of her life frightens Annith and she decides to fight, to do whatever she needs to do to escape this fate. A skilled assassin, the best in the convent with a bow, a knife, on a horse or the ground, she doesn’t believe her future lies behind the walls of St. Mortain’s. She prays for aid, careful not to tell the Abbess or other nuns that this godlike figure the women serve isn’t a secret to her – she actually ‘sees’ him and remembers previous conversations with him. Of course, this spiritual information would only cause the women in charge to ‘know’ Annith ought to be the next Seeress regardless of her protests.

Discovering that the recent change in expectations for her comes from the mortal authorities, not Saint Mortain leads Annith to escape. She forges a note from the Abbess, currently gone on a trip to court, collects food and weapons ~ her is the bow and arrows, then steals her favorite horse and heads off to connect with her friends. On the journey, Annith meets up with a group of unearthly riders known as the ‘harlequin’ who find the recently deceased and escort them to the Underworld or possibly Limbo. Their leader, a warrior known as Balthazar intrigues her. She finds herself joining the band for a while, but not quietly. She wants to know more about the members and interviews them.

Through Annith’s narrative, LaFevers explains the ‘harlequin’ want to help the ‘lost souls’ because it shows there is ‘rest for all souls eventually’ even for them. As they travel closer to their destination, she becomes increasingly drawn to Balthazar and wonders if this is the first time they’ve met. Choosing to investigate further, she discovers he has the arrow she crafted for her ‘god’ during a holiday celebration. While unsure precisely why he has the gift, she seizes a sudden opportunity to escape the ‘harlequin’ and this decision becomes the catalyst for more conflict in the future, especially when she learns that another handmaiden failed, dying on her maiden mission.

In Rennes, Annith reunites with her friends and confronts the Abbess about Mateline’s death, but more mysteries remain to be solved. Since Mortal Heart is the culmination of the trilogy, LaFevers has several unanswered questions from the previous books to resolve. Ismae’s and Sybella’s leaving the convent becomes one of the largest conflicts that Annith faces especially since she’s sent to complete a lethal assignment – killing Chancellor Crunard. While enroute to the city where he’s imprisoned, she faces Balthazar yet again. She must decide if she’s found a mortal or immortal man to love and what will be the cost of her choice?

More twists and turns abound, but the pacing never slows in the turbulent plot. The setting is as well-developed as that in Ismae’s and Sybella’s stories with all of the details from that historical period. Characters from the earlier works continue to evolve. As before, LaFevers effectively utilizes her heroine’s point of view to narrate the story. Readers never lose sight of Annith’s clear perspective, creating a wonderful resolution to a terrific adventure.

Review: DARK TRIUMPH – His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers

51OahoGngaL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Dark Triumph – His Fair Assassin – Book 2 by Robin LaFevers, HMH Books for Young Readers, April 2014 – 5 Stars by Shannon Kennedy

Blurb:

Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. The convent views Sybella, naturally skilled in the arts of both death and seduction, as one of their most dangerous weapons. But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

 

Review:

In this second installment of the His Fair Assassin trilogy, Sybella came to the convent of St. Mortain already a killer, half insane from the demands of her power-mad father who intends to steal the throne from the rightful ruler of Brittany, thirteen-year-old Duchess Anne. Forced by the convent to return to his castle, Sybella does her best to undermine him while she waits for permission from St. Mortain to kill him. When D’Albret tries to force Anne to marry him, Sybella determines to do anything to protect the girl, not simply because of her age and innocence; Sybella knows her father murdered all six of his previous wives including her mother.

Damaged by her past, Sybella may be a flawed character who longs for death at times and is angered because Mortain constantly denies her. Rage is the one quality that she consistently portrays and yet she also has an inherently kind heart which she vehemently refuses to admit. She pities those who stand up to her father and die for their principles yet she also attempts to help whoever she can to escape him, even if it’s only two orphaned household servants. Readers will want this poor, pathetic teenager to live, to learn that there is hope and she has a chance not only for peace but also for a happy, decent future, but how can this happen in her desperate situation?

To complicate matters, Sybella receives orders from the convent and the abbess to rescue Sir Benebic, the Beast of Waroch currently trapped and tortured in her father’s dungeons. She is to return him to the court of Duchess Anne. During this dangerous hunt, Sybella also discovers the extent of her ‘father’s’ horrendous plans. D’Albret intends a gruesome death for the valiant soldier and plans to send pieces of the man’s body to the teenage ruler. It’s a measure of her integrity that Sybella decides if she can’t get Sir Benebic out of the dungeon, she’ll grant him a merciful death, much kinder than the hanging, drawing and quartering described so effectively by LaFevers.

Using the means provided by the convent, i.e. drugs that cannot only kill but also the garrison of soldiers to sleep, she bribes the night-soil man for his cart. However, she doesn’t expect the so-called, Beast of Waroch to knock her unconscious and take her to Duchess Anne’s court with him. The journey lasts several days and Sybella finds herself drawn to the giant, battle-scarred warrior. It is symbolic of LaFevers’ skilled writing that she never allows her heroine to find the ‘Beast’ a super handsome, brilliant hero. Instead, Sybella consistently reminds herself of his physical flaws. When she insults him, he laughs, finding her more amusing than she appreciates. He also respects her lethal abilities. She’s as skilled with her daggers as he is with his sword which comes in handy when they’re forced to confront their pursuers. To her amazement, Waroch wants to protect her from her evil relatives, a new experience for a girl who has always defended herself.

Sybella lacks Ismae’s innocent belief in the convent, its leaders and the saint or god of Death. Because of her dysfunctional upbringing, Sybella doesn’t trust anyone and often feels betrayed since she was promised that her father, D’Albret has been ‘marqued’ for death and she will have the opportunity to kill him, the reason she returned to his environs. So, it comes as no surprise to her that when she and Waroch arrive at the Rennes and the royal court, the abbess plots to ruin any chance of peace Sybella may have found. With the country at war, she may be the only asset they have to spy on her traitorous father and Waroch may not have enough influence to keep her safe.

Fifteenth century politics become the backdrop for this unusual young adult alternate history. As before the setting of this book adds to the depth of the novel. Ismae and Duval are integral to the plot and it’s wonderful to watch their romance continue to unfold. Some readers may have trouble with Sybella and the Beast’s unconventional love story. His attempts to protect her aren’t ‘PC’ for our time, but remain historically accurate. Her unwillingness to share everything she knows creates conflict, but is perfectly understandable considering how much guilt she feels over the past.

Another problem may be her incredible ‘warlike’ abilities. She has an intriguing skill-set when it comes to killing others. Unlike most teen protagonists, Sybella doesn’t hesitate to dole out death and feels no particular emotion toward her victims. They get what they deserve. An odd element is that neither she nor Beast exhibit much survivor guilt or PTSD symptoms. They are warriors determined to see the war through to its end and hopefully they will win both life and love in the process. However, there aren’t any guarantees and these two characters accept that more easily than readers may.

On Monday’s blog – Review of Book 3 MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

Review: GRAVE MERCY – HIS FAIR ASSASSIN by Robin LaFevers

519KJVvvQ8LGRAVE MERCY – His Fair Assassin – Book 1 by Robin LaFevers, HMH Books for Young Readers, March 2013 – 5 Stars by Shannon Kennedy

Finding new authors – well, new to me, that is ~ was one of the benefits of hitting the 2016 conference circuit last year as a writer, editor and reader. One of my most amazing discoveries was Robin LaFevers and her fabulous trilogy about teen assassins in the Middle Ages who are determined to put a young girl on the throne of Brittany.

Described as historical fantasy, this series is grounded in a little known era when twelve-year-old Anne of Brittany inherited her father’s throne and held it despite constant upheaval and betrayal from her so-called supporters, as well as dealing with the French regent’s, another woman’s attacks. Somehow, Anne managed to win despite the fact she was in charge of an unstable kingdom, had an empty treasury, and several wanta-be husbands who only wooed her for the country she ruled.

Fantasy elements include the worship of the “9 Saints” ~ former gods now being incorporated into the organized religion, something that historical authorities claim the Catholic church did when it absorbed pagan religions in unconquered nations. In the Brittany of this series, the saints are still worshiped as Gods, especially St. Mortain whose acolytes are raised and trained as warriors from the time they arrive at the convent.

Most of these girls have survived traumatic births ~ where their mothers die ~ and the result is frequently some sort of immunity, such as the first heroine, Ismae’s ability to withstand poison, or the second, Sybella’s sensing heartbeats/life-forces of anyone around her, or Annith’s ability to talk to the ‘dead’. In addition, these young, teen assassins see a ‘marque’ or stain on the faces of those doomed to die and that ‘marque’ gives them permission to kill the evildoer.

LaFevers effectively incorporates other fantasy elements into this trilogy, moving each story forward. Nothing is extraneous and the world-building is often reminiscent of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Avalon series. Everything seems so believable, even when Annith rides with a troop of dead soldiers led by a man who isn’t what he seems.

Review:

Seventeen-year-old Ismae Reinnes faces an unusual destiny when she flees a forced marriage and runs to the convent of St. Mortain, the god of death, now considered one of the ‘nine saints’ of the church, but she knows better. During her stay, she trains to become an assassin with unusual skill in poisons – her gift since she is apparently immune to them – and is told that the saint actually ‘sired’ her so she is considered not only his handmaiden, but also his daughter. Set in 15th century Brittany, this story incorporates the historical background of the Middle Ages when truth seems stranger than fiction.

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