“The Forgiven Duke” – A Great Story Continues…

I read “The Guardian Duke” a few months ago and LOVED it.  I really wanted to read the sequel.  Thankfully, the sequel did not disappoint. “The Guardian Duke” left off with Alex and John sailing off to Iceland while Gabriel watched, unable to do anything.

However, since he is the Duke of St. Easton and has resources available to him that others may not, he is able to figure out what needs to be done.  He decides that it doesn’t matter what the Prince Regent wants, he is going after Alexandra, and will put his resources at her disposal to find her parents.

Throughout this book, Gabriel’s wants are subverted at various times and by various factions.  He is constrained by family, duty, rivals, and his deafness.  One of the most beautiful things in this book is how Gabriel comes to deal with his deafness.  The lights that he saw in the first book continue in the second, and play a huge role in allowing him to become “accepting” of his disability.  He also comes to realize that the only thing he needs to rely on is God, and that also helps him accept his shortcomings.

Often in Regency fiction, dukes are shown as infallible and proud.  Gabriel certainly starts out in that fashion, but this book really makes him more human.  His story is very interesting, especially given the fact that he is trying to act as though he can still hear, and this is before sign language.

Another interesting plot in this book is the story of John and Alexandra.  She is still captivating and caring, but she begins to realize how some relationships feel right and others don’t…even if they started out feeling right.  I did not like John’s character, there just seems to be something “off” about him.  The interaction between Alexandra and John feels wrong.  The relationship is resolved during the course of the book, but I don’t want to give away the ending.

Something to look forward to in book 3 – there is news of Alexandra’s parents in this book and I can’t wait to see how the journey turns out.

I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

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“Much Ado About Rogues”

I will admit, I’m a sucker for Shakespeare-themed titles.  I’ve read Kasey Michaels’ books before and really enjoyed them, so combining that with a Shakespeare-themed title, and yep, I’m going to read it.

This is a story about finding your identity.  Jack Blackthorn, the middle Blackthorn brother, and the last one to be written about, has been the black sheep of his family for the last 10 years or so.  After leaving home at age 18, he struggled to find his place in the world.  He was taken in by the Marquise Fonteneau, who teaches him some very useful spycraft. During his time with the Marquise, Jack falls in love with his daughter, Tess.  However, things do not end well when Tess blames Jack for the death of her twin brother.  Jack leaves and enters the clandestine service of the Crown.

When the Marquise disappears, Jack is sent to find him.  Jack and Tess have to learn to work together on several fronts…..they have to figure out what happened to the Marquise, what happened that night Tess’ brother died, and who is really calling the shots.  On top of that, Tess has to examine her relationship with her father and come to terms with it.  Jack also has to examine his relationship with his parents and his brothers and see if he can set aside years of hurt feelings to become reunited with them.

I haven’t read the other 2 books in the trilogy, but I will probably look them up.  I enjoyed this book – there were so many twists and turns in the search for the Marquise that it was sometimes to determine who was on whose side.  I’ve read other reviews that said they missed the “getting to know you” part of the relationship, but I didn’t.  It was nice to see how people reconnect after a number of years apart, especially when they didn’t part on good terms, and there are so many secrets between them.

I received this book from the publisher as part of the NetGalley program in exchange for an honest review.

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“Weeknights with Giada”

I will admit, I am a Food Network fan, even though I don’t cook much.  Recipes tend to scare me after a bit because my level of food know-how isn’t very high.  I can follow the directions, but I like knowing what the food is going to look like, and having terms explained.  That’s part of what I like about Giada diLaurentiis.  She’s friendly and knowledgeable, and understands that sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to make intensive meals during the week.  She lists her go-to pantry ingredients, but at my house, I think most of her recipes would be relegated to the weekends when we have more time.

Weeknights with Giada is Giada diLaurentiis’ latest cookbook.  As can be expected, the photos are beautiful and the food sounds (and looks) delicious.  I especially liked the tips (“Cook’s Note”) that is provided on most of the recipes.  She includes stories about some of the recipes – like how she substitutes wagon wheel pasta in one dish to make it more appealing to her 4-year-old daughter.  I never thought of that.

I haven’t tried out any of the recipes yet, but this will most likely be a cookbook I purchase in the next few months.  Her recipes don’t look heavy, and her desserts aren’t overly rich and sugary, which is exactly what I need as I work to lose a bunch of weight.

Thank you Giada for a delightful, beautiful, inspiring cookbook.  You make me want to try new things in the kitchen.

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I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“A Regency Holiday”

One thing I like about reading books through a review service like NetGalley is finding new authors that I end up liking, new genres that broaden my horizons, and finding common threads between authors.  This was true with my latest book – another anthology, which I usually don’t read, by 4 authors I hadn’t heard of before.

A Regency Christmas is an anthology of 4 Regency-era Christmas stories: “Coventry’s Christmas” by Rebecca Hagan Lee; “Star of Wonder” by Lynn Kerstan; “A Christmas Homecoming” by Allison Lane; and “Home for Christmas” by Alicia Rasley.   Even though I usually don’t read anthologies, I liked all of the stories in this book.  They all had a sense of people realizing their lives needed to be different – usually at the instigation of someone unexpected.

In “Coventry’s Christmas”, Amabel leaves her home to travel to her guardian’s house.  Her father remarried and her step-mother is pretty and jealous, especially after Amabel’s father dies.  There are limited eligible men in Amabel’s hometown, so Amabel has to leave.  Unfortunately for her, the original guardian her father selected died a number of years ago, leaving his son Deverell in charge.  He doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but he hides a heart that means well under all of the dissolute living he has done.  Frankly, the sweetest part to me was a letter that Deverell wrote as a pre-teen to Amabel’s father (after his father died), and then the corresponding letter Amabel’s father wrote when Deverell reached his majority.

“Star of Wonder” is about a journey.  A journey a man has been on since he was 14, and which ends when he arrives at Stella Bryar’s home at Christmas search for something he claims her father stole before he died.  It’s a journey that Stella has to be willing to take within herself, to understand who her father was, and to right a wrong done so many years ago.

Sometimes coming home forces you to see the truth.  In “A Christmas Homecoming” Alex comes home to deal with his family estate.  He comes face-to-face with the woman who jilted him six years before, a cousin who has issues, a houseful of potential brides (invited by his grandmother), and a mother who is just coming out of her grief over the death of Alex’s father.  Alex is forced to confront the truth of the various situations, and not just rely on his perceptions of what happened – including the woman who jilted him.

I probably enjoyed reading “Home for Christmas” the most.  Justin arrives at Verity’s house in search of a knife that Verity advertised in the paper.  He is “hijacked” when he arrives by her.  She needs him to pose as her husband during her visit with her father.  The deal is that Justin will get the knife after a successful visit.  There are layers upon layers of deception and untruth in this story – on all sides.  Verity isn’t completely truthful with Justin, her father, or herself.  Justin has been living a lie for so many years that for him to tell the complete truth could cause a lot of damage to those he loves.  Verity’s father can’t see the blessings in front of his face.

I received this book through NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“A Clockwork Christmas” – Stories of Redemption and Love

I have never read a “steampunk” book before.  This was an interesting group of stories for me as I learned about this world of Victorian invention and ingenuity.  It is a group of four stories: Crime Wave in a Corset, This Winter Heart, Wanted: One Scoundrel, and Far from Broken.  I liked 3 out of the 4 stories a lot.  Wanted: One Scoundrel was probably my least favorite out of the 4.

In Crime Wave in a Corset, we meet a young lady who has been a thief most of her life.  She recently stole a Faberge egg from a university professor, who wants it back.  However, in order to get it back, she will have to break into the home of a well-known Irish crime lord.  While planning the theft, she has to learn that some of the walls she has built should be breached.   This was my favorite story.

In This Winter Heart, we meet a mother and her child who are going back to the child’s father’s home, as they have fallen on hard times.  The mother’s secret destroyed their marriage and the father doesn’t realize he has a son.  While there, she is hurt while rescuing their son.  They have to realize what is important and what the definition of “human” is.  This was my third favorite story.

Wanted: One Scoundrel is the story of an Australian suffragette, whose father is extremely wealthy.  She wants to start a political party, but needs a man to be the figurehead.  She finds one, but he is not who he appears to be.  She needs to learn that being independent doesn’t mean being subservient.  This was my least favorite story.

Far from Broken is the story of a woman’s will to survive.  Her husband is a spy for the government.  She was taken as a way to control him, and ended up being tortured almost to death.  He made a deal with the government for her care, and now they both have to come to terms with the agreement.  This was my second favorite story.

I received this book through the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Shadow of Your Smile” and How Important Are Your Memories?

I have read some of Susan May Warren’s books before and liked them.  “The Shadow of Your Smile” is one of her Deep Haven novels, which luckily for me, can be read independently and still understand the stories.  Noelle and Eli have been married for 25 years.  They had 3 children, one of whom died in a robbery 3 years prior to this book taking place.  Ever since then, their marriage has struggled…as Noelle buried herself in grief, Eli buried himself in fishing, hunting, anything to take him away from their house.

On a wintery day, Noelle is on her way home from a mysterious meeting.  She stops at a shop for a coffee and while she is there, interrupts a robbery where the cashier dies.  As she is running out the door to catch a passing trucker, she falls, hits her head, and is knocked unconscious.  When she comes to in the hospital, she has lost 25 years of her life.  She doesn’t recognize Eli, her sons, her best friend, her home.

What ensues is a journey for Noelle and Eli.  A journey back to why they got married in the first place.  A journey to work through their grief of losing their daughter…this time as a family.  A journey to re-discover what is important to them and what they each may have given up as they moved through life together.

A question (in various forms) appears throughout the book – “Should Noelle get her memory back?”  Does Noelle need to regain all 25 years of memories in order to move forward with her life?  Does Eli want Noelle to regain those memories?  If those memories return, what happens to the relationship they have built since she lost them?

How important are memories as you go through life?

I received this book through the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.