Book Review: Texas Christmas by Holly Castillo

Gabriella Torres loves returning home to San Antonio for the holidays–the decorations, the magic and her large family. As icing on the cake, she will serve as midwife for one of her cousins. Her Christmas visit also provides a temporary distraction from a looming obligation.

Luke Davenport has traveled across the world to accept the role as town doctor in San Antonio. But when he arrives to domestic chaos, the sheriff offers his hospitality and Luke can’t turn down the offer. While he’s embraced by all, Luke tries to keep his distance. His past remains a threat and the alluring Gabby Torres makes him dream of a brighter but impossible future.

When Gabby learns that Luke has never truly experienced Christmas, she sets out on a mission…to make this Christmas the best that Luke could ever have. As they spend intimate moments together, Luke begins to lose his heart to the woman who is showing him what life as part of a family could be like. When the ghosts of their pasts rise up to haunt them, will Christmas magic and love be strong enough to guarantee the happiness they’ve always dreamed of?

From Tule Publishing via Netgalley.

I didn’t know that this was number 4 in the series, but I thought it stood on it’s own pretty well. The secondary characters are pretty well rounded, and there’s no unnecessary exposition as to why they behave a particular way – invariably they just do what they need to do.

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Book Review: Saving Grace by Sandy James

Grace Riley is on the run—from her past and from her fears. The victim of a violent rape at the hands of a rich politician’s son, she must “disappear” to escape his constant attempts to recapture her. Moving from cattle drive to cattle drive as a cook, she avoids her tormentor for nearly twenty years. When she discovers that the brother she gave up for adoption after their mother died in childbirth was orphaned at an early age, she is frantic to verify that he’s safe. She tracks him to a cattle ranch in Montana.

Widower Adam Morgan owns the Twin Springs ranch, but finds himself falling into a life of loneliness. Although he enjoys spending time with his grown daughter and the two men he rescued when they were living on the streets, he longs to meet a woman he can love. Living in the Montana territory where men greatly outnumber women makes finding a new wife difficult. Weary of working cattle, he is ready to make some changes in his life.

Grace falls ill on her journey, but she manages to make it to the Twin Springs ranch where her brother is supposed to be living. Adam takes her in, concerned for her health and the reason she’s searching for one of his adopted sons. Their chemistry is immediate and intense, but can Grace heal from her past of pain and fear? When her secrets are finally revealed, can Adam forgive her deceptions and learn to love again?

 

From Netgalley in exchange for a review.

There’s a couple of unusual things about this book: Grace has spent the previous 20 years effectively being stalked by her (seemingly mad) rapist, the father of her son, a member of a rich and powerful political party;  There is not one, but two romances going on here – Grace and Adam, and Matthew (Grace’s brother) and Victoria (Adam’s daughter); Both lead characters are older – Grace is 35 and Adam is in his 40s. Continue reading

Book Review: Lord of Night by Erica Ridley

Unlike proper debutantes, Miss Dahlia Grenville is secretly Robin Hood in a bonnet. Her home for wayward girls has too many dependants and not enough donations. But just as she’s about to pull off the heist of the Season, she tumbles straight into the arms of the handsome detective who has sworn to deliver Mayfair’s mysterious thief straight to the gallows.

Highly principled Bow Street runner Simon Spaulding’s world is black and white. There’s no mastermind too clever, no criminal alive who can escape the hangman. Until he realizes the delightful young lady he’s been courting is a liar and a thief. Suddenly, his career—and his heart—are in peril. How can he bring her to justice when it means losing her forever?

From Netgalley in exchange for a review. This is the third in the “Lord of” series, and therefore a companion piece to Lord of Pleasure. It’s standalone enough for me to not twig for the first few chapters and there is little overlap between the two stories. Continue reading

Book Review: No Perfect Magic by Patricia Rice

Will Ives, the bastard of the late marquess, is as strong, handsome, and smart as his titled brothers, but he has no interest in society or book learning. His unique gift for training highly-prized rescue dogs is all he needs. His peace is shattered the day the beautiful but eccentric Lady Aurelia demands his help in finding a child no one knows is missing. 

The daughter of a duke, Lady Aurelia has everything: wealth, beauty, and a family known for their good works. Unfortunately afflicted with hyper-acute hearing, she spends most of her time cringing in her room. She wants to please her father and make a good match, but how can she when every dinner, tea, and ball is pure torture? 

When a child only she can hear cries for help, Aurelia must find a way to turn her affliction into the gift it is, before it’s too late. Will, in turn, must overcome his reluctance to work with a lady who makes him feel inadequate in all ways but one. 
With the reluctant aid of Will and his dogs, the pair sets out on an unusual journey that will surely lead to heartbreak— or a love against all reason. 

Book 6 in the Malcolm series which I received from LibraryThing as part of the Early Reviewers monthly batch.  Will is one of the illegitimate Ives offspring, whose gift is “talking” to dogs and training them for search and rescue. He believes he knows what type of woman he should get married to – even has someone in mind – and just hopes that she will leave him in relative peace to do what he wants. Therefore, when he is confronted with the Lady Aurelia, she is apparently the exact opposite of his ideal woman: small, impossibly petite, rich and apparently more than a little scatter brained. However, the two off them go off to find a child lost in the woods that only Aurelia can hear.   it is the result of finding this child that occupies the rest of the book, and brings the two people closer together, and allows both to find the peace they were looking for.  We get to understand what it’s like for Aurelia to have such sensitive hearing, what Will manages to do for her without even trying, and what both suffer when they are apart from each other. Continue reading

Book Review: Lord of Pleasure by Erica Ridley

In the Rogues to Riches historical romance series, Cinderella stories aren’t just for princesses… Sigh-worthy Regency rogues sweep strong-willed young ladies into whirlwind romance with rollicking adventure.

Nondescript “good girl” Miss Camellia Grenville only ever opens her mouth when forced to sing at her family’s musicales. That is, until the night she infiltrates the ton’s most scandalous masquerade ball on behalf of her sister, and finds herself in the arms—and the bed—of the one man she’d sworn to hate.

Irresistibly arrogant and unapologetically sensuous, infamous rake Lord Wainwright always gets his way. When he accepts a wager to turn his rakish image respectable in just forty days, he never anticipates falling for an anonymous masked lover…or that discovering her identity would destroy them both.

From the publishers via Netgalley, in exchange for a review.

Michael Rutland, Lord Wainwright wearies of the erroneous reports and daily cartoons in the press that have him as a rake, all too willing to dispoil young virgins. It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy female company – he certainly does – but he has dalliences with older, more experienced women, usually widows, who have little reputation left to protect. Fed up with the cartoons being collected, even by his apparent best friends in his favourite pub, he enters a wager that that he could keep his “hands” clean for forty days. He is determined to win that wager, no matter how boring it will be.

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Book Review: Red Chrysanthemum by Henry Mazel

Red ChrysanthemumAlexander Rada doesn’t want to be called Alexander, or Alex for that matter — Rada will do just fine. It’s the summer of 1945, and army Lieutenant Rada has just arrived in Tokyo to witness the official surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces on the deck of the battleship Missouri.

Rada has a history. He was a cop in L.A. before the war. A disgraced cop. Along the way, he learned to speak Japanese, and now he’s working at GHQ as a translator for General MacArthur. To almost everyone’s surprise, Rada is transferred to the military police to stop an assassination of a top communist. And the thing is, Rada just hates communists. He finds himself attached to a Japanese partner working for the Occupation forces — and even more attached to a unique, beautiful Japanese woman. Love is in the air, and Rada is bound to mess it up.

I was sitting in a restaurant having finished my previous read, and with no paper book in my bag, it was time to scroll through my ebooks to see what I really should tackle next. I picked up this book from Netgalley a while ago, and since I was sitting in a Japanese restaurant, it seemed an appropriate book to start.

Set in the last days of WWII, Rada, a failed policeman and average interpreter, is sent to Japan to help clear things up. Immediately he is pulled into an investigation to find the man rumoured to be claiming to be the rightful heir to the Japanese Emperor’s throne.  Prone to putting his foot into his mouth, he is told very little, manages to annoy and be annoyed by the Japanese liaison he’s been assigned (not helped that the Japanese seem to have been told more than him), and his penchant for Oriental women has lead him to be attached to a Japanese prostitute who takes him for a ride.

The throne Pretender is found – and immediately assassinated – the killing being blamed on Rada, who subsequently goes on the run.  Unfortunately this is as far as I got with this book. Rada  has so few redeeming qualities, and lurches from one event to another with no apparent plan. I have read some reviewers that have enjoyed this book, but I have read over 50% and cant see it being pulled together in the last half to make me change my mind that much, sorry

Book Review: Sonoma Rose (Elm Creek Quilts #19) by Jennifer Chiaverini

As the nation grapples with the strictures of Prohibition, Rosa Diaz Barclay lives on a Southern California rye farm with her volatile husband, John, who has lately found another source of income far outside the Federal purview.
sonoma-rose
Mother to eight children, Rosa mourns the loss of four who succumbed to the mysterious wasting disease currently afflicting young Ana and Miguel. Two daughters born of another father are in perfect health. When an act of violence shatters Rosa’s resolve to maintain her increasingly dangerous existence, she flees with the children and her precious heirloom quilts to the mesa where she last saw her beloved mother alive

Picked up at the 2016 Bookcrossing Unconvention held in Birmingham. This is the 19th in the Elm Creek Quilts series, and this time is set in the US during prohibition.

This is told from the standpoint of Rosa, and shifts across several timeframes – her early life as she grew up with her childhood friend Lars, marrying John who claimed to love her (even though he suspected the first daughter was not his), and having 8 children between the two men. Finally John’s abusive behaviour is too much for her to bear, and she escapes, taking a load of money from the barn (gained as a result of John’s bootlegging).

Lars, Rosa and the remaining children escape to the city, where they find out why some of the children get sick and the others (it’s coelic disease). They then set up new lives – under new names – and start again as if Lars and Rosa had married in the first place. The threat to their new life comes from the prohibition agents who come around the vineyards they now work in.

Whilst this is classed as an “Elm Creek Quilt” book, but there’s very little mention of the “previous heirloom quilts” mentioned in the blurb, and only the occasional reference to Rosa making her own quilts. There’s no tie into Elm Creek at all so I struggled to work out the connection.  Rosa has a certain amount of strength, as shown in standing up to the Prohibition agent, but whilst John was being violent towards her, she still went ahead and got pregnant by Lars (so she has no issue with committing adultery).

The potential threat from John is removed quite quickly, and Lars seems to have no problems with disappearing “off grid” from his family, never to be heard from again – the similarity in his looks to the Prohibition agent only proves to be useful in the end, and there seems to be no issue in deceiving people.

Overall, this wasn’t my favourite in the series and it left me feeling rather disappointed.