Wednesday, August 24, 2011

MY FIERCE HIGHLANDER by Vonda Sinclair: Review


Gwyneth Carswell, an English lady banished by her father to the harsh Scottish Highlands, wants nothing more than to take her young son away from the violence of two fighting clans--her own distant kin, the MacIrwins, and their enemies, the MacGraths. She risks everything to rescue the fierce MacGrath warrior from the battlefield where he’s left for dead by her clan. She only knows she is inexplicably drawn to him and he wants peace as she does. When her clan learns of her betrayal, they seek vengeance. Dare she trust the enemy more than her own family?

Laird Alasdair MacGrath is driven to end two-hundred years of feuding with the MacIrwins. But by taking in and protecting Lady Gwyneth and her son, he provokes more attacks from his mortal enemy. As the danger and conflict surrounding them escalate, Alasdair and Gwyneth discover an explosive passion neither of them expected. With the arrival of a powerful man from her past, a horrible decision confronts her--give up her son or the man she loves.

My Review:

I love reading books that are set in Scotland or Ireland, so My Fierce Highlander by Vonda Sinclair immediately appealed to me, obviously because of its title! When an author takes the beautiful terrain of Scotland, adds a love story, and historical elements I’m happy. My Fierce Highlander started off a little slow for me, and for the first couple of chapters I struggled a little bit to get into the book. However, I liked her descriptions of the terrain of Scotland’s Highlands, and the characters were believable enough for me to become involved in their story, and once I was involved in the plot the book was hard to put down.

To me Gwyneth was definitely a more believable character to me than the main male character, Alasdair. She was a woman in the 1600’s who was sensual, but yet sought to hide the sensual side of herself, and felt guilty due to it, because it was not acceptable for her to express herself sexually. It’s changed quite a bit since then obviously, but as recently as 60 or so years ago it was still not really considered acceptable for woman. The only reason Alasdair is not as believable for me, is because he seems almost too perfect. His wife had died two years previously and he had yet to remarry or to even enjoy sex. Gwyneth helps to bring him “back to life” in a way. He is the Chieftain of his clan, and I guess I just found it a little unbelievable that he had not remarried in order to have heirs to follow him. In the 1600’s it seems like that was one of the main goals of men who were noble or wealthy, and it did not matter whether love came into the equation. Alasdair does gain the reader’s sympathy though, because he comes across as such a romantic hero, willing to risk his life for Gwyneth and her son. Gwyneth definitely comes across as the one with faults, and Alasdair occasionally comes across as clingy or needy when expressing his desire to wed Gwyneth. Overall I enjoyed reading the book, and it was a quick, fun read. I definitely recommend it to those that are fans of Historical Romance 
Novels, because I doubt you will be disappointed.

I feel good about giving this novel 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

RELUCTANT QUEEN by Geraldine Evans: Review


Mary, the beautiful, younger sister of English king, Henry VIII, reluctantly agrees to marry the aged and sickly Louis XII of France for reasons of state. But before agreeing, she extracts Henry’s promise that she may please herself for her second marriage. Mary is deeply in love with the low-born Charles Brandon, her brother’s boon companion, and is determined to wed Brandon should King Louis die.

Unhappy at the French court, blonde Mary makes friends with the charming, but debauched, Francis, her aged husband’s heir and son-in-law. But Mary is dismayed when her friendly overtures are taken as encouragement for something more than friendship. Too late, Mary finds that, even at twenty, Francis is a practised seducer. He pursues her relentlessly. And with the death of her husband and Francis’s elevation to the French throne and absolute power, her situation becomes desperate. Unprotected, Mary is a captive prey to Francis’s lust for her.

Will she ever be free to go to her lost love? Because since Louis’s death, Mary has become increasingly anxious about the rumours she hears concerning her brother’s plans for her future. Did Henry intend to push her into another loveless marriage to suit himself and the State?

King Henry sends Charles Brandon to the French court on a diplomatic mission, Desperate, Mary persuades him to go through a secret marriage with her. Then they confess to Wolsey and ask him to intercede with King Henry.

Fearfully, they await King Henry’s reaction, aware that no one, not even his much-loved younger sister, defies him with impunity. 

My Review:

I’m a sucker for anything to do with the Tudors, and Reluctant Queen by Geraldine Evans was no exception. There are hundreds of novels on Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Tudor, Henry Tudor, Henry’s daughter Mary Tudor, etc., but one of the Tudors who I have read very little about is Henry’s little sister Mary Tudor. Of course she is almost always mentioned in books that I’ve read on that time period, and we know that she defied her brother, the King of England, to marry his best friend, but beyond that I knew very little about her. Her life definitely seems to have been too short, and it doesn’t seem to have been full of a great amount of happiness, but like her older sister and brother, when she wanted something she went after it even when it went against the wishes of others.

Geraldine Evans did a wonderful job of bringing Mary to life for me. I had no idea that she even had more than one child with Charles Brandon. Frances ended up becoming another semi-infamous Tudor, so she is known in history, but not much is heard of her other two children. I love how the author allows the reader to see what was possibly going on inside Mary’s head during her life. The reader is able to see the regrets that she possibly had over her marriage to Charles, as well as her mental and physical pain during the latter years of her life. It is apparent in the books that I read on Anne Boleyn, and also in this novel, that Mary did not like her and didn’t hide it very well. It was interesting to view the demise of Henry and Catherine’s marriage through his sister’s eyes in this novel.

The only complaint I have would be on how Anne Boleyn is portrayed in this novel. I cannot tell a lie, I am an Anne Boleyn supporter. Another issue I had is a factual inaccuracy. In the novel when Mary is Queen of France and Anne is one of her little lady’s in waiting there is a line which says, “Mary felt that she and Anne shared a special bond—had they not both lost their mothers around the same age? And although Anne still had a father, he was over-ambitious for his children […]” Anne’s mother did not die until around a year after Anne had been executed by Henry VIII.

Other than those two issues I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and I learned a great deal about Mary Tudor, Dowager Queen of France and Duchess of Suffolk. During a time when women did as they were told, Mary went against the grain and chose her own destiny, which always makes for an interesting Tudor Era read!
This novel gets 4 out of 5 stars from me!

THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER by Suzie Grant: Review


A bounty hunter facing his past encounters a criminal on the run from her own.

Blaze Marie Austin is no longer the little girl forced to be an outlaw. Finding her chance at redemption, Blaze repays the man who’d saved her life. Only her savior’s estranged son accuses her of betrayal and ignites a passion she can’t deny.

Gade Ryder returned to Eden, Texas, after a twelve year absence to investigate a gang of rustlers on the family ranch. Has he accepted the job out of misplaced family loyalty or had the compelling mystery of the devil’s daughter convinced him to stay in the one place he didn’t want to be? Confronted by the memory of his mother’s suicide and the father he blames for her death, Gade seeks comfort from the one woman he couldn’t trust.

When the little criminal is accused of murder, Gade realizes his growing attraction for her could not only cost him his freedom, it may well cost him his life. 

My Review:

I loved this book! It was a great Historical Fiction Western Romance. The vivid scenes that Suzie Grant brings to mind with her beautiful descriptions of Texas, when it was still mostly ranch land, are amazing. I loved Blaze’s character as well. She was hard on the outside, but as a reader you were able to ascertain that beneath her hard exterior she is a lost soul. I was surprised when I realized she was only 19, because she seems so much older. When you continue to read you discover the reason why she seems so much older than she really is. Her life has been a series of hurt and heartaches. Anyone she has ever loved or trusted has betrayed her, including family. She was on her own at such a young age, and had committed shocking crimes when she was barely a pre-teen, because of the people that she was forced to travel with.

The reader begins to see Blaze’s vulnerability when she interacts with Gade. He’s the only man that a woman, who has spent her entire life being forced to be so strong, could ever fall for. Blaze needs a strong man who can love her and also keep her grounded, and Gade is the man. He’s definitely the perfect man for a Western Romance novel. He’s strong and fierce, but he also has baggage that he carries with him that makes him human.
I liked that this book wasn’t all about the sex and romance, yeah there were some good sex scenes, but there was a ton of action as well. The reader is able to really get to know the two main characters, and also some of the more minor characters. It’s easy to care for Gade and his family, and when misfortune befalls them, it’s easy to grieve for them. I think the author, Suzie Grant, did an excellent job at bringing the characters and the scenery in this novel alive, and I look forward to reading more novels by her in the future.

This book definitely deserves a 4 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

THE GIFTED ONES by Lisa Vaughn: Review


Lisa was conservatively raised in a Catholic family in no-where middle America, where excitement is scarce and dreams are for sleeping. Little did she know, at age thirteen, she would suddenly find herself on a totally different path. Through an unlikely chance meeting of a fellow classmate, she's surprisingly mesmerized, almost consumed, to befriend a girl who is obviously from the other side of the tracks...the cool side. Lisa does whatever she has to just to be accepted into this small club of coolness. Little did she realize, she was signing up for a lot more than social status. The two best friends find themselves innocently taking their relationship to a foreign level neither had experienced or saw coming. A rollercoaster ride littered with choices and challenges Lisa never fathomed facing, especially in no-where middle America. She will find out what she is made of as she faces the consequences and struggles that come along with going against the grain. Throughout their six year relationship, you will witness a touching story of human nature at it's best...and at it's worst. Showing just how far the human spirit can be challenged and pushed to a point where your “fight or flight” instincts naturally kick in. Struggling just to survive in a world where you are not like everyone else, but at the same time you really are.

My Review:

This book was such a refreshing read for me. I rarely read memoirs or works of non-fiction, so the poignant honesty of this novel was such a nice break from the norm. Lisa Vaughn definitely has lived a life worth writing about, and her insight into the experiences she had are so revealing. I had never looked at love the way it happened with her. The idea that you could be a straight woman, and spend years loving another woman and being with her, was never something that I would have thought possible. I guess I looked at things as black and white; either you’re gay, bi, or straight. I had never thought of the grey areas, or of possibly falling in love with the person inside, rather than limiting yourself by only allowing yourself to fall in love with the person’s sex that you prefer. The love that this story deals with goes beyond the normal “love story” that we see all the time.

I also enjoyed reading about the struggles between Lisa and her mother. I think many young women go through a struggle of wills with their mothers, especially when they are alike in so many ways. I know that I went through a phase where I thought my mother was purposefully out to get me, and to ruin my life. Now, looking back at it, I realize how similar we were, and how often our arguments turned into a battle of wills between us…almost a battle for “power” in some ways.

I would definitely recommend this memoir. It makes you think of and view love in a new way. I think that it would appeal more to female readers, but some men would certainly enjoy it as well.
This novel was definitely a 5 star read for me.


Monday, August 15, 2011

WINNER of 300 Follower GIVEAWAY!

I know I am late announcing this, and for that I apologize, but this past week was nuts! It was the first week that students were back, and I barely  had any time to myself because of all the planning for class and meetings! Hopefully the second week will be calmer....but I doubt it! I have three books that I will be reviewing, and I will try to get the reviews written up this week! Once everything calms down with school I'll be able to spend more time on here keeping up with my reviews!!


Congrats on winning a copy of Joy Stroube's novel as well as a paperback copy of DEAD IRON!