“A Talent for Sin” by Lavinia Kent

Even though I bought this book as soon as it came out, I was for some reason very reluctant to read it, so I waited for the second one in the Series to come out to read them both at the same time. Then the second one came out, and I still could not get myself to read this new author. Finally, in July of this year, I got around to it. This is book one in Masters Family Series.  Second one in the series is “Bound by Temptation” (Johnathan Masters’ story) and the third one “Taken by Desire” (Anna Steele’s story).

When I read the synopsis for “A Talent for Sin”, it intrigued me, for no other reason, but that it was about a 31-year-old widow who is having a love affair with a 24-year-old man. I am all for the older woman/younger man love stories, since my love story falls into this category. I met my husband when he was 24, and I soon to be divorced at the “ripe” old age of 36.

The book starts with Violet and Peter already in a relationship. They are lovers; however Peter is ready for more. He has fallen in love with her. Violet on the other hand is not of the same mind, and she refuses his proposal. Peter does not give up that easily, and here is where the story, for me, starts to get interesting. We see the back-and-forth of this wonderful couple that are torn by their desire for one another, as well as their feelings of frustration with each other. She has been married three times (to older men), and all these marriages were less than ideal. She went through a pregnancy that ended in early child-birth, which ended in death of her little boy. Afterwards she was told that she can’t have children. To marry Peter, who is younger and needs heirs is totally unacceptable to her. We get to meet Violet’s much younger sister, Isabella and her brother Masters (whose story I read and LOVED in “Bound by Temptation”). Everything goes awry once Masters and Isabella come to town and all hell breaks loose. Broken promises, broken hearts along with a mysterious murder and betrayal enter to rock the very foundation of their relationship. The author pulled me in with the sensuality. It was so sensual that at times I put the book down to take a deep breath. Violet was a very strong heroine, in her attitudes as well as in her opinions. I also thought her vulnerable. Well, Peter just charmed me. His persistence, his maturity, his audacity had no bounds. This was one man who knew what he wanted, and went for it. He was willing to sacrifice anything and everything to make Violet feel secure in her future, even if that future would be without him in it. I thought the story well written, entertaining and emotionally engaging.

It is a pleasure to read Regency Novel that has a strong, independent, sensual older woman as a heroine. I wish I read it sooner.

I do recommend you read all three books, but I was a bit disappointed in the third book. Is it possible to hate the story and love the writing? That’s what I got out of this third installment. There was nothing wrong with Ms. Kent’s writing. Her characters were three-dimensional, at least the primary, and somewhat interesting but I just didn’t connect with any of them. This book gets into social issue of how much power husbands had over their wives. Upon marriage, all of her assets become the husband’s, and our Heroine had plenty of those, so she’s not willing to separate herself with them, be it giving it away to the husband or taken away by the nefarious means by her family. I didn’t like the games our Heroine played on our Hero. All of the characters, primary and secondary, were annoying me to no end. At one point I just wanted to line them all up and slap them silly! Like that scene with Cher in Moonstruck where she says to Nick Cage: “SNAP OUT OF IT”!

As I mentioned before, Ms. Kent’s writing was as excellent as usual, but the characters I just didn’t like much. Our Heroine was too busy plotting and manipulating, and the hero came off too timid. It took both of them forever to come clean and resolve the problems that they dug themselves into. However, I still recommend this novel just because of its writing and the social issue of that day.

As for my love story: This September 23rd my very young husband (42) and I (53) celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary, and we are as much in love with each other as when we first met. We have no children together, (trust me, this was a B-I-G issue for me) and surprisingly, not for my husband. My children are closer to his age than I am and we are a very happy and content family. He is the love of my life, my best friend and lover I had to wait for and meet when I was in my late 30’s. Go figure!
Love does find us unawares, grabs us by the throat, and pulls us in when we least expect it. Trust me, I know of what I speak!

“Notorious Bachelours” by Emma Wildes

 I thought it would be interesting to review this series as a whole, rather than each book.

Ms. Wildes has done a wonderful job of bringing us a story of three best friends, Lord Alexander St. James in “My Lord Scandal”, Luke Daudet, Viscount Altea in “Our Wicked Mistake” and Michael Hepburn, Marquess of Longhaven in “His Sinful Secret”.  All three have survived the Napoleonic/Peninsular War and are now trying to get back to the life they were meant to lead. There is plenty of romance, intrigue and mystery in all three stories.

In the first book we meet our first Hero Lord Alexander St. James, younger son of a Duke and a former soldier.  He’s breaking into Lord Hathaway’s home to retrieve a key that rightly belongs to St. James Family. Even though this should have been fairly easy to carry out, especially with Michael’s help who has worked with the War Office, things go awry when Lady Amelia Hathaway unexpectedly returns home and finds Alex on her balcony. From here on we’re treated to a wonderful love story as well as a mystery.  I very much liked the slow unraveling of the mystery. It was a pleasant surprise to meet secondary characters that were as well-developed as the primary. As soon as these two meet, sparks are flying and we can’t help but like both of them. Every moment that we share with Alex and Amelia, be it on the dance floor or by a gazebo, we’re left breathless!  Through all of this, we find out how these two families share in a tragedy that happened a generation ago.  I was much reminded of Romeo and Juliet and prayed this one would end happily. Their romance was so well written that brought tears to my eyes. The author treated these characters as grownups and we so appreciate it. There’s not much misspeaking, meaningless fights, or disrespect. Our Hero and Heroine are a couple that understand each other and even though the obstacles they faced were not small, nothing would stop these two. This was a fast read and not once was I bored reading it. You’ll be surprised by the plot twist at the end.

The second story “Our Wicked Mistake” is about Luke Daudent, Viscount Altea and Madeline May, Lady Brewer. It opens when Madeline summons Luke, with whom she is acquainted as they spent one night together awhile back, to her home as she’s in trouble.  He’s not very happy to hear from her because Madeline is the only woman who has the power to tear down a long built defense to his heart. Luke just couldn’t handle the all consuming passion he felt for her and he just tried very hard to forget and ignore her and the night they spent together.  We’re sucked into their story and we’re made to understand both of them as wonderfully flawed, yet very compassionate beings. It’s heartbreaking to find out the reasons for his fear of intimacy, and we just can’t help but read on and hope that Madeline’s courage would prevail. This one was a bit sad, more serious but still witty and very well written with yet again secondary characters that are so easily woven through the main story. I found the book full of suspense and I loved the dramatic conclusion.

In “His Sinful Secret” we find our last Notorious Bachelor Michael Hepburn, at a point of his brother’s unexpected death.  With him inheriting the title of Marquess of Longhaven, he now must fulfill the betrothal contract that was long-standing between his brother and Julianne Sutton. The author has outdone herself in creating such a wonderful relationship between these two people. It was such a pleasure to encounter this young woman, Julianne who was so smart and way too perceptive for our Hero.  Michael was astonished and pleasantly surprised with her. They both have great expectations of this marriage and. Michael means to keep separate his physical relationship from his deep feelings for her.  This was one of the sweetest romance novels I’ve read in a long while. There’s plenty of spy intrigue, lots of twists and turns and finally we get to find out who the notorious adversary spy is!

I have waited to buy all three books before I read them, and truly was glad that I did. Each story is unique, but unified by these men and their women. All three deliver on suspense, romance, intrigue and wit. We get to know these men and we love watching them fall prey to love and at the end, marriage. It took me awhile to pick out my favorite one, and I thought Michael’s story, for me, was the best written and best developed as well as the most interesting of the three.

I highly recommend all three and have only one complaint: that all those secondary characters had a book of their own, that’s how good they were.

Remembering my Serbian Christmas Tradition

Badnjak

Every year at this time I’m reminded of how we used to celebrate Christmas in the “Old Country”.  I grew up as a Serbian Orthodox, so Christmas for us comes two weeks later than that of Roman Catholics on December 25th. Serbian Orthodox Christmas is always on January 7th. This is because the Serbs follow the Julian calendar, while Roman Catholics follow the Gregorian calendar, so while most of the world welcomes New Year December 31st, Serbs welcome it on January 13th.

Cesnica

In the morning of January 6th, Grandpa would get my dad to go with him and together they would choose our Yule log (badnjak) which actually is a young oak branch with leaves.  Cut “Badnjak” is then brought to the house, where mom and Grandma would welcome them back with the gift of “Badnjak”, and place it around the home as well as put some on the fire for good luck.

As evening approached, Grandpa would gather us all and together we would head to the stables where we’d gather straw, so we would place it on the floor of our rooms. Our traditional Christmas Eve supper was usually fish, baked beans, dried figs, dried plums and apples. Grandma used to call that “Posna Vecera” (Lent Dinner).  After dinner, the neighborhood kids with their parents would head out to “Korindju” (Caroling). We would go from house to house of our small village and wish all a “Sretan Badnjak” (Happy Christmas Eve). Afterwards we’d get home and while we’d be getting ready for bed in anticipation of “Deda Mraz’s” coming, dad would cover the Yule Log with hot ashes so it would still be burning in the morning.  

Koljivo

On Christmas Day, the first person that enters our house was called “polozajnik”.  For this day people are greeted with “Hristos se rodi” (Christ is born!) to which you must reply:  “Vaistinu se rodi” (Indeed he is born!).  He is offered my Grandma’s Christmas specialty “zito” (which is actually a boiled wheat and sugar) and red wine. For breakfast we eat a dish made of flour, eggs, butter and cheese (“cicvara”).  That is accompanied with cakes, figs and “Sljivovica“, which is Serbian homemade plum brandy. It is also a custom to prepare a bowl where young wheat is planted to grow during the coming year.  Before lunch, women of the house are getting everything ready for dinner, as Lent is officially over. Men are all outside slowly roasting the pork

Christmas Cake

After a very rich and heavy lunch, which starts early and can stretch well into the afternoon, mom would bring her “cesnica” (Christmas bread). Our Christmas bread is made of  lightly sweetened pastry filled with cream cheese, raisins, and pecans where a coin is hidden and us kids would always wait in anticipation of who would be the lucky recipient of this coin as that would mean prosperity into New Year. Serbian women are all very proud of their “cesnica” as it’s nicely decorated with braids, birds and roses made of dough.  Christmas day meal marks the end of the lent period and  for three consecutive days, Christmas is celebrated. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone through this tradition, but I still remember it fondly. What are yours?

Books on my Christmas List………

My Christmas Wish List of books is ever-growing, and while a lot of my friends are wishing for some of the new releases (and trust me I do too) that are out there, I’m hoping for some old ones. Here are some of the books that I would love to get my paws on:

“The Rebel and the Redcoat” by Karyn Monk

STORY: She thought she was about to die when her family’s farm came under attack. Instead, a handsome stranger rode to her rescue and took a bullet to save her. But when the bloodshed and terror were over, Josephine Armstrong discovered that the man she owed her life to was a British soldier. She could not betray Lt. Col. Damien Powell–not after what he’d done for her. But she would pay dearly for harboring the enemy, forced to prove her patriotism by becoming the rebels’ most beautiful spy…

When he saw the lovely young woman struggling with her captor, Damien didn’t care which side of the bloody war she was on. He only knew that he had never seen such an incredible mixture of extraordinary beauty and raw courage in his life. Yet Damien couldn’t know that one day this innocent farm girl was destined to betray him. She would become Charles Town’s most irresistible spy, dazzling officers with her charms even as she stripped them of strategic secrets. But when a twist of fate brings Josephine back into his life again, Damien will gamble everything on the chance that he can make this exquisite rebel surrender…if only in his arms. (taken from KM’s website)

“Captives of the Night” by Loretta Chase

STORY:  When the intriguing Comte d’Esmond enters a room, women swoon and men gnash their teeth. The count is fully accustomed to this reaction–and brilliant at exploiting it. What he isn’t prepared for is Leila Beaumont. One look from her tawny eyes is dangerously captivating. How…troublesome. Esmond can’t afford the distraction of an entanglement, however passionate it promises to be. He’s supposed to be working– for the British government! –and his employers want Leila’s corrupt and treacherous husband brought to justice. When the spouse, unsurprisingly and conveniently, gets himself murdered, all Esmond has to do is clear Leila of suspicion and proceed to the next assignment.

But not being hanged for her husband’s murder isn’t enough for Leila. She wants to learn the truth—all of it—from Esmond, a man who’s been lying all his life. (taken from LC’s website)

“Taming Rafe” by Suzanne Enoch

STORY:  Rafe Bancroft was nothing but a scoundrel!  But the sexy, infuriating man was now the owner of Forton Hall, Felicity Harrington’s ancestral home.   The fiery beauty was determined to save her family – and herself – from ruin at the hands of the handsome rake.  But how can she, when she lies in bed each night longing for her irresistible enemy’s touch?

Rafe might have won Forton Hall in a card game, but he had no intention of settling down.  No, his plan was to sell the place and be off on the next adventure – until he met Felicity.  Suddenly days – and nights – spent with Felicity in his arms seem far more alluring than any exotic land.  His roguish heart can’t explain it…unless love is the greatest adventure of all! (taken from SE’s website)

“Once Tempted” by Elizabeth Boyle

STORY:  A notorious rake, the Marquis of Bradstone stole young Olivia Sutton‘s heart…and then ruined her life. For seven years she has been forced to hide her past behind a false identity. And now the dashing scoundrel has returned a different man: handsomer, more serious, more desirable…and far more dangerous than the cad who brought scandal and shame into Olivia’s world.

Major Robert Danvers is living a lie — but for a noble cause. Masquerading as his cousin, the late Marquis, Robert’s secret mission for the crown has led him straight to the beautiful, scheming seductress he believes was responsible for his brother’s death. But there is a gentle innocence about this Olivia that belies her murderous reputation — and a passionate sensuality that makes him yearn to hold her in his arms forever. So while his loyalty to his mission tells him that surrender would be the worst sort of betrayal–once tempted, how can a man resist, when his heart tells him here is his one true love? (taken from EB’s website)

“The Lion’s Daughter” by Loretta Chase

STORY:  Esme Brentmor doesn’t care that revenge isn’t a suitable job for a woman. She’s determined to avenge the murder of her beloved father, an enigmatic English aristocrat who lived in self-imposed exile. Honor demands that Esme let nothing and nobody stand in her way. That includes the handsome wastrel who’s become entangled in her life, whose charm does NOT make up for his lazy and irresponsible character.

Having gambled away his entire family fortune, Varian St. George, Lord Edenmont, now lives by his wits and winning ways. A man who has always taken the path of least resistance—preferably in soft beds with willing women–he does NOT want to become embroiled in a mad quest with a hot-tempered and heavily armed redhead.

But forced to travel together through an exotic land, the mismatched pair soon discover that friction produces dangerous sparks… (from LC’s website)

“An Honorable Thief” by Anne Gracie

STORY:  When Miss Kit Singleton’s arrival in London coincided with a spate of robberies from members of the ton, Hugo Devenish couldn’t explain why he suspected the innocent-looking beauty. But when the clues added up, Hugo knew his instincts had been right all along. Kit had to cease this dangerous game immediately!

Only for Kit, it wasn’t a game; she’d made a sacred promise to avenge her papa’s honour. Surely Hugo could understand that she mustn’t break her word – even to please the man she was falling in love with. (taken from AG’s website)

“Elusive Passion” by Kathryn Smith

STORY:  Miles Christian has had a lot of intrigue in his life, but never has he been abducted at gunpoint by a woman! Even more disconcerting are the woman’s claims that he murdered his former mistress. Varya Ulyanova has spent many years trying to hide from society, but she’ll risk discovery to find the man responsible for her friend’s death. Miles’s gentle seduction may mean risking her heart as well. (taken from KS’s website)

 

“Georgette Heyer’s Regency World” by Jennifer Kloester

STORY:  With Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, Jennifer Kloester has now put together the ultimate, definitive guide to Georgette Heyer’s world: her heroines; her villains and dashing heroes; the shops, clubs and towns they frequented; the parties and seasons they celebrated; how they ate, drank, dressed, socialized, voted, shopped and drove. An utterly delightful and fun read, beautifully illustrated and compelling in its historical detail, this is a must-read for any Georgette Heyer fan.

Just thinking……

I’m looking forward to my Christmas shopping. I’m not one of these people that buy Christmas gifts in July. I need snow and Christmas music to get me in the mood for it. As soon as November hits, my radio dial goes straight to 93.1! I’m sure my co-workers hate my guts! My computer’s blasting Dean Martin with “Baby its Cold Outside” and Jose Feliciano!  Also, this year my son got engaged. Now that was a complete shocker! It stunned the family, but all of us were happy that he’s settling down. She’s very cute and I would love to get to know her better, but with our work schedules I don’t get to see either of them that often. They seem to have it all figured out and have already reserved the Chapel and Reception venue for August next year, so mama’s got to get on the treadmill pronto!

As for my reading, it’s slowed down a bit because of so many things on my TO DO list.  I was happy to have accomplished something that always slipped off my list, such as finding a permanent home for my books. We had a bedroom that basically served as storage for everything from old clothes to “cats litter room”. I wish I took some before pictures so you could see the difference just a little shelf and bedding  makes! My husband named the room my “Woman Cave”! We have two cats that seem to gravitate to my  “cave” now that the room is looking half decent. There are still a few authors that are hiding in my dresser drawer, and I’m hoping to find them home soon.

I also would love to check some authors that I think people forget are out there, even though they’ve either past on, or haven’t had a book in a while. My Romance reading started long, long time ago with Arnette Lamb, Elizabeth Thornton, Kathleen E. Woodwiss, Virginia Henley and Bertrice Small. Later on I was introduced to Catherine Coulter, Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsey, and Shirlee Busbee and just recently I started reading Mary Balogh, Stephanie Lawrence, Gayle Callen, Gayle Wilson, Anne Gracie, Karen Hawkins, Karen Ranney, Anna Campbell, Jo Beverley, and Victoria Alexander. This year I discovered Joanna Bourne and Judith James, as well as Tiffany Clare and Kieran Kramer. Last year I read every book from Julia Quinn, Candice Hern and Celeste Bradley. There are many more, but I could only remember these for now. I just love Amazon!

I have finished a few books that I can’t wait to review. Sarah MacLean’s “Ten Ways…” is coming shortly, probably by the end of the week. After that Notorious Bachelors by Emma Wildes. Yesterday brought a whole new bunch of books that I got and they went straight to my TBR shelf. Oh, and I can’t forget that I’ll be reviewing couple of books for LibraryThing.com. They’ve sent me Reviewers copies of Friday Mornings at Nine by Marilyn Brant and Family Affair by Debbie Macomber. Both are contemporary stories, and I’ve never read one before, believe it or not. Debbie’s sounds good, but I’m skeptical of Marilyn’s. This will be the first time for me to read both of those authors. Have any of you read them? Let me know.