Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: Spy Fall by Diana Quincy

From the Back Cover:

In this uniquely fresh and innovative Regency romance, a fearless French parachutist lands on top of a wicked rogue who endangers her mission—and her heart.

Mari Lamarre is gaining fame on both sides of the Channel for her daring aeronautic endeavors, but she hasn’t come to Dorset to showcase her talents. Rather, she’s been tasked with recovering sensitive information that may have fallen into the hands of the Marquess of Aldridge. It’s the riskiest adventure of her career—and it begins with a crash landing. Her fall is broken by the Marquess’s very own son, Cosmo, who’s clearly a rake and a drunk, not to mention a liability. So why does Mari find him so utterly alluring?

When he first spots the vision of loveliness in the sky, Lord Cosmo Dunsmore surmises he’s imbibed one drop too many, and an angel has come to fetch him. Little does he know that this female daredevil will make him feel more alive than ever before. But when their torrid affair takes a shocking turn, Cosmo must choose where his loyalties lie: with his respectable father—or with the captivating beauty whose fierce passion makes him feel like a new man.

My Thoughts:

As soon as I saw the description of Spy Fall, I wanted it. Y'all know I'm always looking for something different in romance, and here it is! This is a smart, sassy, sexy, totally original, adventurous, and FUN Regency romance!

When Mari Lamarre parachutes into Dorset, she literally lands on top of Sir Cosmo Dunsmore in a cornfield, returning from a night of debauchery. Annoyed by the shockingly improper and infuriatingly alluring rake (who can't wrap his still-drunk head around what he's seeing), her attitude quickly changes when she realizes who he is: the son of the Marquess of Aldridge, the very man she's investigating, and her ticket into his house. Faking an injury, she convinces an unwitting Cosmo to carry her into the house of the man she intends to destroy. And her luck gets even better. Turns out the Marquess is fascinated with the emerging world of aeronautics and extends Mari an invitation to use his grounds to practice for her upcoming London exhibition. Soon her flying brothers--and fellow spies--arrive, and the three of them get down to work, the brothers canvassing the countryside and village taverns while Mari searches Aldridge's house for the evidence she needs.

But Cosmo is no dunce, and he is quick to catch on to the fact that his angel is hiding something. He's fascinated by Mari, who is unlike any woman he's ever known. So it's really her own fault that he catches her mid-snoop since he can't take his eyes off of her. But when he learns why she's there and what she suspects his father of, he becomes determined to prove otherwise, and in the process, he begins to learn more about his father and the burdens he shoulders, and Cosmo starts to do some long overdue growing up. Things get even more complicated when he and Mari finally become lovers. (Things do get a little wild and a whole lot of hot between them, but I found it all to be tastefully done.) As if her profession weren't already dangerous enough, a series of accidents turn out to be anything but, and Cosmo is forced to accept that not only might his father be a traitor, but someone is trying to kill the woman he loves, and he may be the only person who can save them both.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Spotlight + Giveaway: Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert

Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert

Publication Date: February 1, 2016
Persevero Press; Thorndike (Large Print)
Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Large Print
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biographical Fiction

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When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok—Hick—is assigned to cover Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the wife of the 1932 Democratic presidential candidate, the two women become deeply, intimately involved. Their relationship begins with mutual romantic passion, matures through stormy periods of enforced separation and competing interests, and warms into an enduring, encompassing friendship that ends only with both women's deaths in the 1960s—all of it documented by 3300 letters exchanged over thirty years.

Now, New York Times bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert recreates the fascinating story of Hick and Eleanor, set during the chaotic years of the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Second World War. Loving Eleanor is Hick's personal story, revealing Eleanor as a complex, contradictory, and entirely human woman who is pulled in many directions by her obligations to her husband and family and her role as the nation's First Lady, as well as by a compelling need to care and be cared for. For her part, Hick is revealed as an accomplished journalist, who, at the pinnacle of her career, gives it all up for the woman she loves. Then, as Eleanor is transformed into Eleanor Everywhere, First Lady of the World, Hick must create her own independent, productive life.

Drawing on extensive research in the letters that were sealed for a decade following Hick's death, Albert creates a compelling narrative: a dramatic love story, vividly portraying two strikingly unconventional women, neither of whom is satisfied to live according to the script society has written for her. Loving Eleanor is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see and celebrates the depth and durability of women's love.

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Praise


"Albert captures Hick's spirit with energetic prose, painting a colorful picture of her fascinating life together with and apart from Eleanor. Although this memoir is fictional, the author draws upon thousands of personal letters, first-person accounts by others, and further research to present a compelling possible narrative of the relationship between Eleanor and Hick. Albert's illuminating afterword adds important context to her narrative choices, and a comprehensive bibliography will encourage additional research. This warm, extensively researched novel will entrance readers and inspire them to look further into the lives of two extraordinary women." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: Temptations of a Wallflower by Eva Leigh

From the Back Cover:

Eva Leigh’s deliciously sexy Wicked Quills of London series continues as a Lady’s secret career writing erotic fiction is jeopardized by real-life romance . . .

In society circles she’s known as the Watching Wallflower—shy, quiet, and certainly never scandalous. Yet beneath Lady Sarah Frampton’s demure façade hides the mind of The Lady of Dubious Quality, author of the most titillating erotic fiction the ton has ever seen. Sarah knows discovery would lead to her ruin, but marriage—to a vicar, no less—could help protect her from slander. An especially tempting option when the clergyman in question is the handsome, intriguing Jeremy Cleland.

Tasked with unmasking London’s most scandalous author by his powerful family, Jeremy has no idea that his beautiful, innocent bride is the very woman he seeks to destroy. His mission must remain a secret, even from the new wife who stirs his deepest longings. Yet when the truth comes to light, Sarah and Jeremy’s newfound love will be tested. Will Sarah’s secret identity tear them apart or will the temptations of his wallflower wife prove too wicked to resist?

My Thoughts:

We were briefly introduced to vicar Jeremy Cleland and the "Watching Wallflower," Sarah Frampton, in Scandal Takes the Stage, and I couldn't wait to see how Eva Leigh would bring these characters together and the Wicked Quills of London series to a close. As the third son of England's most moral and upstanding earl, Jeremy was destined for a life in the church from a young age, though it would not have been his chosen profession. But he's fairly happy helping his parishioners, though he is a tad lonely and an awful lot of--ahem--randy. When his libertine cousin gives him a copy of The Highway Man's Seduction by the infamous Lady of Dubious Quality, he becomes hooked, seeking out all of her books and keeping them stashed under his bed. So when his father calls him to London with a mission of utmost importance, to find out who the Lady of Dubious Quality is so he can cease the publication of her books and publicly shame the woman he thinks is ruining the country's moral fiber, Jeremy is conflicted. But with the threat of disinheritance hanging over him, he agrees to the job.

Sarah Frampton, daughter of the Duke of Wakefield, is firmly on the shelf, and she likes it that way. While the rest of the ton pokes fun at her by calling her the Watching Wallflower, little do they know how closely she's really watching, and all in the name of inspiration and fodder for her popular erotic novels, written anonymously as the Lady of Dubious Quality. Her clandestine occupation gives her a sense of purpose and more than a little thrill, knowing that she's keeping such a scandalous secret, even though her life could come crashing down around her if her identity is ever revealed. Though she longs to experience the sensuality she writes about for herself, she knows she will not be content to marry for anything other than love. So she is stunned when she meets Jeremy and not only do sparks fly, but she finds her heart responding to the genuine kindness and interest he shows her and imagines what life might be like if only a duke's daughter could marry a vicar. But as her relationship with Jeremy deepens, disaster looms. She learns someone is determined to uncover the Lady of Dubious Quality, and despite all of her careful precautions, they are getting too close to the truth. She decides marriage could be the only way to soften the scandal if the hammer does fall, and who better for a husband than the man she is falling in love with? But can these two people from such different backgrounds really make a marriage work? And what will happen when they each learn the other's devastating secret?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spotlight: Broken Ground by Karen Halvorsen Schreck

Broken Ground
by Karen Halvorsen Schreck

Howard/Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Paperback, ebook
ISBN: 9781476794839

Newly married to her childhood sweetheart, 21-year-old Ruth Warren is settling into life in a Depression-era, East Texas oil town when she learns that her young husband has been killed in an oil rig accident. Ruth is devastated, but then gets a chance for a fresh start: a scholarship from a college in Pasadena, CA. Ruth decides to take a risk and travel west, to pursue her one remaining dream to become a teacher.

At college Ruth tries to fit into campus life, but her grief holds her back. When she spends Christmas with old family friends, she meets Thomas Everly, whose own struggles have instilled in him a commitment to social justice, and led him to work with Mexican migrant farmworkers in a camp east of Los Angeles. With Thomas, Ruth sees another side of town, and another side of current events: the numerous forced deportations without due process of Mexicans, along with United States citizens of Mexican descent.

After Ruth is forced to leave school, she visits Thomas and sees that he has cobbled together a night school for the farmworkers’ children. Ruth begins to work with the children, and establishes deep friendships with people in the camp. When the camp is raided and the workers and their families are rounded up and shipped back to Mexico, Ruth and Thomas decide to take a stand for the workers’ rights—while promising to love one another.

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Praise:

"Much to enjoy in Schreck's well-written, lyric novel...Readers will love Ruth's stamina and heart, and come away with a new understanding of immigrant experiences both then and now." ~Publishers Weekly

"The characters remind the reader that while the world is full of broken people, promises and ground, there is hope. Ruth is an encouraging character who finds herself after losing everything." ~RT Book Reviews (4 Stars)

"Karen Halvorsen Schreck tells a compelling story, emotionally honest and beautifully written." ~Joshilyn Jackson, author of The Opposite of Everyone

Friday, May 13, 2016

Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: Portrait of a Conspiracy by Donna Russo Morin

From the Back Cover:

One murder ignites the powderkeg that threatens to consume the Medici’s Florence. Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed. Seeking to wrest power from the Medici family in 15th Century Florence, members of the Pazzi family drew their blades in a church and slew Giuliano. But Lorenzo de Medici survives, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos that takes dozens of lives. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe. Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought after painting as she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend and see her safe. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci. It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place. Historical fiction at its finest, Donna Russo Morin begins a series of Da Vinci’s disciples with a novel both vibrant and absorbing, perfect for the readers of Sarah Dunant.

My Thoughts:

I was so excited to hear that Donna Russo Morin was embarking on a new mystery series featuring female artists and Leonardo da Vinci in Renaissance Italy. While I have liked some of her books better than others, she is always a must-read author for me, and I was not disappointed in this exciting first installment of Da Vinci's Disciples, in which a society of female artists, six in number, of different ages and backgrounds, meet in secret to practice their craft during a time when a woman belonged in only two places: the home or the church.

The story starts off with a horrific, edge-of-your seat depiction of the assassination of Giuliano de' Medici, the Golden Boy, beloved younger brother of Lorenzo de' Medici--Il Magnifico, with two of the women, Viviana and Fiammetta, right in the thick of it. This murder, committed before thousands of people--in a church, no less--sets off a period of vengeance and unrest that has the entire city of Florence holding its breath, fearful of what the future holds. With food scarce, roving bands of hoodlums prowling the streets, and soldiers systematically dragging accused conspirators from their homes for swift and gruesome public executions, Florence is a city on the edge. But for these women, forgoing the release of their passions via their art is not an option, and it's not something they can do at home, so each bravely ventures out to their secret studio. But one fails to arrive.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Blog Tour Guest Post: Been Searching for You by Nicole Evelina

Please join me in welcoming Nicole Evelina back to Let Them Read Books! It has been a super-busy year for Nicole with three new books published and one more on the way, and I am proud to say I have been working with Nicole on the covers for all of them. Today we're highlighting Been Searching for You, and Nicole is here with a guest post about her inspiration for the story, themes, and characters of Been Searching for You.

Annabeth is a hopeless romantic who believes in soul mates. In fact, she’s been writing to hers each year on her birthday since she was sixteen.

Now, at 34, she’s still holding out hope of finding Mr. Right even though he’d be fighting an uphill battle to gain her trust, thanks to a traumatic experience years before that’s left her unable to commit.

When Annabeth meets a handsome literature professor named Alex on her 34th birthday, she thinks her quest may finally be at an end. Things don’t quite go as planned, so Annabeth resolves to do everything she can over the next year to find the unknown recipient of her letters.  But blind dates, Meetup events and online singles sites have nothing on what fate has in store for her when a co-worker unexpectedly quits and Annabeth finds herself working in close quarters with both Alex and her long ago ex, Nick. Fighting her attraction to one and loathing for the other, Annabeth is forced to face all of her old insecurities while keeping an eye on a scheming frienemy who may derail her hopes and dreams.

Written in the tradition of Bridget Jones' Diary, Kim Gruenfelder’s A Total Waste of Makeup, and Melissa Pimental’s Love By The Book, it shows that love on the sweet side can exist for the modern girl, if only she’s willing to trust herself and search hard enough.

Been Searching for You was the winner of the 2015 Romance Writers of America Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests.


On inspiration, characters, and themes
by Nicole Evelina

I never thought I’d write a romance. I actually swore I’d never write romance because I really disliked romance books for a long time – until I realized what I really hated was certain types of romance. Others are pretty darn good.

But I still had one pet peeve: most heroines, especially in romantic comedies, are under 30. If there’s a wedding involved, it’s “OMG, I’m going to be 30 and not married!” As a 36-year-old single girl, allow me to smack you. So, what did I do? I went and wrote my own love story, one for those of us who are over 30 *gasp*, still single and still romantics at heart. I wrote it because I wanted to write the happily ever after I haven’t yet experienced.

The book came to life because of the Civil Wars songs “To Whom it May Concern” and “Dust to Dust,” both of which my best friend introduced me to. They seem to be bookends to a love story to me, so I swore I’d write a book that began with the words “To Whom it May Concern” and ended with the words “Dust to Dust.” And I did.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spotlight: The California Wife by Kristen Harnisch

THE CALIFORNIA WIFE
By Kristen Harnisch

Pub. date: May 10, 2016
She Writes Press
ISBN:  978-1-63152-087-7
Paperback, 419 pages

In the sweeping, poignant sequel to The Vintner’s Daughter, the Lemieux family’s ambition to establish an American winemaking dynasty takes Sara and Philippe from pastoral Napa to the Paris World’s Fair and into the colorful heart of early 20th-century San Francisco. 

It is 1897, and Sara and Philippe Lemieux, newly married and full of hope for the future, are determined to make Eagle’s Run, their Napa vineyard, into a world-renowned winemaking operation. But the swift arrival of the 20th century brings a host of obstacles they never dreamed of: price wars and the twin threats of phylloxera and Prohibition endanger the success of their business, and the fiercely independent Sara is reluctant to leave the fields behind for the new and strange role of wife and mother. 


An invitation to the World’s Fair in 1900 comes just in time to revive the vineyard’s prospects, and amid the jewel-colored wonders of Belle Époque Paris, Sara and Philippe’s passion is rekindled as well. But then family tragedy strikes, and, upon their return to California, a secret from Philippe’s past threatens to derail their hard-won happiness in one stroke. 


Sara gains an ally when Marie Chevreau, her dear friend, arrives in San Francisco as the first female surgery student to be admitted to prestigious Cooper Medical College. Through Marie, Sara gets a glimpse of the glittering world of San Francisco’s high society, and she also forges friendships with local women’s rights advocates, inciting new tensions in her marriage. Philippe issues Sara an ultimatum: will she abandon the struggle for freedom to protect her family’s winemaking business, or will she ignore Philippe and campaign for a woman’s right to vote and earn a fair wage? 


Fate has other plans in store in the spring of 1906, which brings with it a challenge unlike any other that the Lemieux family or their fellow Northern Californians have ever faced. Will the shadow of history overwhelm Sara and Philippe’s future, despite their love for each other? In
The California Wife, Kristen Harnisch delivers a rich, romantic tale of wine, love, new beginnings, and a family’s determination to fight for what really matters—sure to captivate fans of The Vintner’s Daughter and new readers alike.


A Pulpwood Queens Book Club Pick for June 2016 

Girls’ Night Out Wines Book Club Pick for March 2016

“Kristen Harnisch’s follow-up to her wine-soaked debut, The Vintner’s Daughter, is just as sumptuous as her first offering. . . . This vital, sweeping story is delivered in Harnisch’s silky, upscale prose. Much like a fine glass of wine, The California Wife is a highbrow indulgence that is tasteful, captivating and heady.”—The Globe & Mail

“Harnisch’s lyrical descriptions underscore the beauty of winemaking, political activism, and even surgery. Combined with her first novel, The California Wife feels like the second season of a period miniseries, best enjoyed with a glass of zinfandel.”—Booklist

The Vintner’s Daughter was an enjoyable romantic saga, and this new entry, which spans 1897 to 1906, is even more involving. Harnisch has hit her stride as a writer . . .  The story brings readers deeply into the economics of the wine industry – a unique historical fiction subject . . . Readers will enjoy being whisked back in time to Napa’s beginnings as a major wine-producing region, and the stage is set for future adventures with these warm-hearted, ambitious characters.”—Historical Novels Review