“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.

“Confessions from an Arranged Marriage”

I will admit, when I picked up this book, I figured that “arranged marriage” meant that they had been intended for each other since birth.  A few pages in, and I realized that wasn’t the case.

Then I thought, “Ok, maybe she secretly loves him and will trap him into a marriage.”  Again….not the case.

So then I decided to just go along for the ride and stop trying to predict how the book was going to go.  I’m glad I did.

Minerva doesn’t like the Marquess of Blakeney.  In fact, he is treated kind of as a laughingstock by her.  He was previously engaged to her sister, and she was subjected to unending stories about horses and hunting.  After the engagement failed, he left London for a few years.  They become reacquainted at her coming out ball, which is being held at his parents’ house, due to the close relationship between the families.

However, things don’t go according to plan.  Partway through the night, Minerva has a migraine, takes some medicine, and lays down in the library.  An intoxicated Blakeney decides to play a trick on a friend, and thinks that Minerva is someone else when he begins to seduce her.  Minerva wakes up as an audience appears in the library door. This means that the incident can’t be hidden and the two are forced to marry.

For Minerva, this is worrisome.  She doesn’t know Blakeney well, but her impression is that he is lazy and probably not very smart, even though he graduated from college.  Blakeney doesn’t think much of Minerva, especially since she is passionate about politics, which is one thing his family does well – even though he doesn’t have any interest in it.

However much these two individuals don’t see eye to eye, they must learn how to live together and create some sort of relationship.  Add the following to the mix – a “best friend” who seems a little slimy and untrustworthy, the death of a father, spies, secrets that have been hidden since school, and families who don’t trust the new spouse – and you get an interesting story that brings you in to the characters’ lives so you feel like you are there with them.  That makes for a good story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

“A Marriage Carol” Made Me Think About What Could Be…

I just finished A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry and Gary Chapman.  It was an extremely quick read, but one that pulled me in.  It’s the story of Marlee and Jacob who are traveling through a snow storm to their attorney’s office on Christmas Eve to sign their divorce papers.

It’s a bittersweet journey.  They were married on Christmas Eve a 20 years ago, and there was a snow storm that night as well.  Even though they are on their way to end their marriage, they are both thinking of that night 20 years ago.  The reader is able to see into the current state of their marriage, from Marlee’s point of view.

They are run off the road by a semi and they land in the snow in the ditch.  Marlee can’t find Jacob, so she goes for help.   Eventually she comes up to a house which is owned by an elderly couple.  We are told that his name is Jay and his wife is not well.  He invites Marlee in, gets her warm, and lets her talk.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but I really enjoyed this story.  I think that the play off A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a useful plot device.  I liked how real the characters seemed.  For me, it provides me a tool for when I am feeling frustrated; I can ask myself “What would happen if I make Decision A over Decision B?” or “What would happen if I allow the situation to fester?”

I would definitely recommend this book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via the NetGalley system.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

“The Merchant’s Daughter” – A Nice Story Though Lacking in Passion

“The Merchant’s Daughter” by Melanie Dickerson

I just finished The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson.  It is the story of Annabel, sent in the 1300s.  Her father was a merchant who died in the Plague after essentially bankrupting his family (losing all of his ships, etc.).  So this family that was used to the “easy” life no longer had it so easy.  The mom wasn’t too interested in doing any work, the older brother was making life easy for him (not doing any work), and the younger brother was used to being coddled.

Everyone in their village had to work for the lord of the manor at a set time.  Annabel’s family had gotten out of it by paying a fine.  However, they hadn’t paid the fine for 3 years and hadn’t worked either, so people in the village were grumbling, and the family was eventually brought before the new lord of the manor, Lord Ranulf.  They had a choice – pay the fine or send one of them to the manor to work as an indentured servant for 3 years.

Annabel makes the choice for the family, hoping that by working in the manor, she can figure out a way to get to Lord Ranulf and ask him to help her get into an abbey.  One of her goals is to read the Holy Bible and to live a life for God, pondering his Word.  However, some of her problems from the village follow her to the manor.

Here is what I liked about the story.  I thought that Annabel was a nice girl who just wanted to do what was right.  I thought that Lord Ranulf was misunderstood by the village, and that he just really wanted to be left alone.  Due to his past, he had issues relating to people and trusting others – especially women. I thought that it was a nice story, some of the characters seemed more realistic than others – there was more depth to some characters.

What I didn’t like…I had a hard time believing the relationship between Ranulf and Annabel.  I had a hard time believing that Annabel would be as educated as she was for the time period, or that the interaction between lord and servant would be so easy.  Maybe I just don’t know enough about the time period, but it still seemed unlikely.  The relationship between the two just seemed to lack passion or commonalities.  Yes, I realize that I am trying to make them into real people, but to me, the characters of the books I read are real people while I am reading the book.

Amazon Product Page – to be published November 29, 2011

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the NetGalley program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

“The Guardian Duke”….Leaves You Hanging

"The Guardian Duke"

The Guardian Duke by Jamie Carie was a wonderful book.  It’s not a romance novel in its typical definition, and it’s not Christian fiction in its typical definition.  I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but it grabbed me from the beginning.

Alexandria Featherstone’s parents have gone missing.  They are treasure hunters who never really wanted to have a child, but had one, and then proceeded to leave her behind while they went out on their adventures.  Their last adventure was a mysterious one that Alex doesn’t know much about.

Gabriel, Duke of St. Easton is one of the richest men in England.  He receives notice from King George III that he has been named Alex’s guardian since the Crown has determined her parents must have died.  What’s interesting is that after receiving the notice, Gabriel is visited by a peer who tells him the real reason he was appointed Alex’s guardian.  The treasure that her parents were in search of was stolen from the British Museum, and Spain, France, and England all want the item.

Gabriel is struck deaf early on by a mysterious circumstance.  With the help of his secretary/valet, he makes his way through society and England trying to find and help Alex.  They only communicate through letter, and she manages to stay one step ahead of him throughout the book.

Alex “collects” people as she journeys in search of her parents.  People are captured by her charm and sincerity in her search.  They want to help her in anyway possible.  She is often of two minds – wanting Gabriel’s help, but also wanting to do it on her own to prove herself to her parents.

I liked the communication by letter – especially when Gabriel realizes that Alex writes two different types of letters.  Also, I got the feeling that Alex’s attitude in her posted letters to Gabriel was an act to a certain point.

I also liked the way that Gabriel is written.  Usually, dukes are pompous, staid, and used to getting their way.  In this book, Gabriel kind of turns that on its head – he is dependent on a servant to help him; he is very smart and has studied a lot of different topics; while he tries to maintain appearances, he’s not afraid to show that he needs help.

This is book one of a series, and I can’t wait to get the next one.

Jamie Carie’s Live Action Book Trailer for The Guardian Duke

Amazon Product Page – (published February 1, 2012)

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

What I am Thankful For – Day 4

Today I am thankful for my friends.  I have a group of friends that I play trivia with (go Team Tiger Blood!); friends I read books with (yay Book Nerds!); friends I go to the movies with (you know who you are); friends I work (or have worked) with; friends I went to school with; and friends I’ve had since I was young. 

All of these people have touched my life in some way and have made me the person I am.  For all the support they have lent me, for all the laughs we have shared, for the tears we have cried together, and the hours and hours of talking, I thank you.

What I am Thankful For – Day 2

Picture taken by Todd & Kathleen Jacobs (c)

Today I am thankful for two wonderful little girls.  They came into our life just when they were supposed to.  Watching these two grow, learn, and evolve has been a journey. It’s always so entertaining to see what keeps them occupied.  With Autumn, give her a sketch pad or a book and she is happy.  With Skylar, give her a coloring book, some Playdoh, or just sit with her and she is happy.  I can’t wait to see what the future brings for the two of them (and for us).  There are days I still can’t believe they are ours.

Thank you girls for bringing light and joy to your parents.

What I am Thankful For – Day 1

Today, I give thanks for my husband who has been my partner for the last 15 years.  We have weathered many storms together, and I have always known that he is there for me and I am there for him, no matter the situation.  He is always there to balance me and lift me up.  From that day 20+ years ago when we first met to today when we woke up, every day has been treasured.  Sure, we have changed along the way, but we have changed together.

I am looking forward to our future.  Thank you, my love for taking this journey with me.

“In Session” (with Dr Morgan Snow) by MJ Rose

I do not usually read books like this.  However, I love Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone character, so I thought I’d try it out.  MJ Rose’s character Dr. Morgan Snow is a sex therapist.  The premise for this book is that these 3 strong male characters are being analyzed by her, or come into her life, for various reasons.

The first story is Cotton’s (“Extenuating Circumstances”).  If you haven’t read any of Steve Berry’s books, I would definitely recommend them.  I think they are fabulous books of adventure and finding things.  They aren’t your usual intrigue/adventure story.  Cotton has to be one of my favorite characters.  That being said, I was a little disappointed in his story.  I know that it was written with Mr. Berry’s consent and review, but it didn’t have the feel of a Cotton story to me.  Dr. Snow is approached by a woman about problems with her boyfriend.  She counsels her, and then on a trip to Europe, makes a stop in Demark to visit Cotton’s rare book store.  Over the perusal of an old erotic book, she gets Cotton’s story.  This was one of the shorter stories in the book and I don’t know that it really gave me any insight into Cotton’s character.

In the second story (“Decisions, Decisions”), Barry Eisler’s character John Rains makes an appearance.  Dr. Snow is threatened by the husband of one of her patients.  She makes a connection with a former patient’s friend who “makes things go away” and sets up an appointment.  Though she initially wants to hire John for a task, it ends up that she just needs to talk the situation through with someone.  John’s interesting viewpoints and thoughts help her make a decision as to her final action.  I haven’t read any of Mr. Eisler’s books, so I can’t speak to how true to life the portrayal of John Rains is.

In the last story (“Knowing Your Alive”, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher arrives on scene after a bomb has exploded in Dr. Snow’s building.  He isn’t able to pull her from the rubble, but he sits with her until the rescue crews arrive.  In order to distract her from the pain, he tells her a story about “his friend” who had a life-changing experience.  This was one of my favorite stories, even though I have never read any of the Jack Reacher books.  I thought this one was very personal, in a way that the other two weren’t.

I think I will definitely pick up more books like this.  I know I like the other books MJ Rose has written (The Reincarnationist, The Memorist).  I haven’t read any of the Dr. Snow books, but I may pick one up now and see what I think.

Amazon Product Page

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

“Casting Samson” by Melinda Hammond

Casting Samson is almost three stories in one.  The primary story is Deborah’s.  She arrives at her boyfriend’s apartment in London after a cancelled “spa day” to find him coming out of the shower with another woman.  Deborah then goes to her parent’s home to gather herself back together.  She quickly becomes enmeshed in the village events, even helping with a village production of biblical and local stories. One of her jobs is to find someone for the role of Samson. Her story weaves through the book, and you get a sense of a young woman trying to find out what she really wants out of life – is it big city living or small village comfort?  Deborah can’t answer this for herself until the very end of the book.

The second story is Hugo/Hugh Moreton’s. He is a Templar Knight in the 1100s.  We are introduced to him as he is leaving his ancestral home to journey to the Holy Land.  He feels forced to leave because of his love for his brother’s wife.  The village legend in Deborah’s time is that Hugo Moreton built the church in Deborah’s village.  We see bits and pieces of his story throughout the book, sometimes from his viewpoint, sometimes his brother’s or his brother’s wife’s.

The third story is Anne’s.  She is a young widow living in the same village as Deborah.  Like Deborah, she has been pulled into helping with the village production. She inadvertently makes an opponent (they really aren’t enemies, but aren’t really friends) out of Professor Toby Duggan, who doesn’t believe the village claims of a Templar church.  Anne becomes obsessed with proving him wrong, even though he tries to work with her to prove or disprove his theory.

In all, I liked this book.  It was a quick read with mostly interesting characters.  Two of my favorite secondary characters were the elderly people in the village.  Neither had married, but they were involved in everything and very spunky.  One of the problems I had with it is that I felt like it tried to be too much.  In the beginning, a mysterious voice/person calms and comforts Deborah when she arrives at the village church.  That is never explained – it just happens and then the story moves on – was it Hugo?  was it the village priest? It just didn’t seem to have a purpose.  Another example is that occasionally Deborah gets visions of Hugo and family.  Again, it just didn’t seem to have a purpose.  While it was interesting learning about Hugo and hearing his story,  it didn’t really feel like it meshed with the rest of the book, until the last few pages.

I liked Deborah’s story.  Although she seemed a bit too “much”, I thought that it worked for her age and her story.  I liked Anne a lot as well.  I would have liked to know more about her.

Amazon Product Page

I received an free copy of this book from the publisher using the NetGalley system. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.