‘Always a Rogue, Forever Her Love’ by Christi Caldwell

cc aarfhlSTORY: Miss Juliet Marshville is spitting mad. With one guardian missing, and the other singularly uninterested in her fate, she is at the mercy of her wastrel brother who loses her beloved childhood home to a man known as Sin. Determined to reclaim control of Rosecliff Cottage and her own fate, Juliet arranges a meeting with the notorious rogue and demands the return of her property.

Jonathan Tidemore, 5th Earl of Sinclair, known to the ton as Sin, is exceptionally lucky in life and at the gaming tables. He has just one problem. Well…four, really. His incorrigible sisters have driven off yet another governess. This time, however, his mother demands he find an appropriate replacement.

When Miss Juliet Marshville boldly demands the return of her precious cottage, he takes advantage of his sudden good fortune and puts an offer to her; turn his sisters into proper English ladies, and he’ll return Rosecliff Cottage to Juliet’s possession.

Jonathan comes to appreciate Juliet’s spirit, courage, and clever wit, and decides to claim the fiery beauty as his mistress. Juliet, however, will be mistress for no man. Nor could she ever love a man who callously stole her home in a game of cards. As Jonathan begins to see Juliet as more than a spirited beauty to warm his bed, he realizes she could be a lady he could love the rest of his life, if only he can convince the proud Juliet that he’s worthy of her hand and heart.

REVIEW: April 1819 – London

Jonathan Tidemore, Fifth Earl of Sinclair, is now head of his family which consists of his widowed mother and four younger sisters:  Patrina age 19, Prudence age 15, Penelope age 13, and Poppy age 12.  While Patrina has had her come out, the 3 younger sisters are still in the schoolroom.

Once again, his sisters have managed to run off their fifth governess so Jonathan’s mother is completely frustrated and insists that it is Jonathan’s turn to find a new governess.  In addition, his mother is once again pressuring him to get married and provide a suitable countess that will carry on the Sinclair line. As he had been jilted once, Jonathan is still hesitant to to make that step.

Juliet Marshville, age 22 and her brother Albert, age 20 have recently lost their father making Albert the new Baronet.  Instead of settling down to his duties, he has instead gambled away much of their inheritance.  With debt collectors breathing down his neck, Albert is trying to push Juliet to wed the odious, Lord Williams.  Albert’s cruelty to and hatred of his sister knows no bounds.  When Juliet was 13, Albert pushed her off a tree top resulting in her leg being shattered.  Today she walks with a limp.  All she wants is to escape to their family home, Rosemont Cottage, and live out her life in peace, far away from her hateful brother.  However, when she finds that Albert has lost the property while gambling, she is devastated.

Juliet discovers that Jonathan Tidemore, is the man who won Rosemont Cottage from her brother, so she decides to approach him and ask for him to please return it to her.  Instead, he offers her the job of governess to his sisters.  If she is able to shape the young hoydens into proper English ladies, he will make sure that the property is returned to her and only her.  As she really has no other choice, she immediately agrees.

An intelligent young woman, Juliet works well with the young girls who take a liking to her and are willing to take their instruction from her.  Juliet is kind and makes learning interesting and fun for them.

Meanwhile, the interactions between Jonathan and Juliet occur more and more often and their attraction to one another begins to blossom.  Even though Juliet is the daughter of a Baron, she feels that any true, future relationship between them is not to be so she holds onto her dream of one day being able to live in peace in her cottage.  Ah, but will love be denied?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and there is so much more to the story that I cannot reveal here.  Just know that you must read this book.  It’s romantic, fun, and sweet.

Connie for b2b

‘The Daughter of Highland Hall’ by Carrie Turansky

ct tdohhSTORY: Eighteen-year-old Katherine Ramsey travels to London with her family to make her debut into society and hopefully find her future husband. Her overbearing aunt insists she must secure a proposal from a wealthy young man who is in line to inherit his father’s title and estate. But Katherine questions her aunt’s plans when she gets to know Jonathan Foster, a handsome medical student and strong Christian who is determined to protect the poor and vulnerable in London’s East End.

When a family scandal puts a damper on Katherine’s hopes for the season, she has time to volunteer with Jonathan, caring for children in one of London’s poorest areas, and romance blossoms. Katherine’s faith grows and she begins to envision a different future with Jonathan. But when Katherine’s work in the East End puts her in danger, Jonathan distances himself from Katherine to protect her. A wealthy suitor reappears, and Katherine must choose which path to follow.

REVIEW: 1912, London.  Katherine (Kate) Ramsey is preparing to enter the social season by being presented at court.  While she is looking forward to the season, she is somewhat bored with all the things she must remember to do.  As she lost her parents years ago, she is living with her cousin, Baron William Ramsey of Highland Hall.  Her aunt, Lady Louisa Gatewood has undertaken Kate’s training for her presentation.  However, Lady Louisa is a harsh and pushy woman who has added to Kate’s frustration and taken away from some of the fun and excitement of her season.

Cousin William Ramsey, a widower, has become engaged to his children’s governess.  Many of the ton are appalled at this, but William and Julia are very much in love and looking forward to their wedding.

Julia is the sister to Jonathan (Jon) Foster.  Jon and their parents have returned from India after an extensive time as missionaries.  Their father has had medical problems and requires rest.  Jon is attending medical school.  When he graduates, he is unsure of whether he will return to India to continue his parents’ mission and offer medical care. He is also on course to head the local St. George’s Hospital.  Another path that interests him is continuing his work at the Daystar Clinic in the East End of London where he can offer free medical care to people who cannot afford it.

Kate and Jon are drawn to one another because she is interested in his work and wants to offer her help however she can.  While Kate’s Aunt Louisa is trying to match her up with a wealthy man, Kate is looking to find someone she can truly love and one with whom she can share her love of God.  Is Jon that man?

This book will be published October 7, 2014.  I have strived to add some teasers but no spoilers to my review.

This the second book of Carrie’s series.  The first book is “The Governess of Highland Hall” followed by this one, “The Daughter of Highland Hall” and the third book, “A Refuge at Highland Hall” will be published in October 2015.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘In Bed with a Rogue’ by Samantha Grace

sg ibwarSTORY: He’s the Talk of the Town

The whole town is tittering about Baron Sebastian Thorne having been jilted at the altar. Every move he makes ends up in the gossip columns. Tired of being the butt of everyone’s jokes, Sebastian vows to restore his family’s reputation no matter what it takes.

She’s the Toast of the Ton

Feted by the crème of society, the beautiful widow Lady Prestwick is a vision of all that is proper. But Helena is no angel, and when Sebastian uncovers her dark secret, he’s quick to press his advantage. In order to keep her hard-won good name, Helen will have to make a deal with the devil. But she’s got some tricks up her sleeves to keep this notorious rogue on his toes…

REVIEW: May 1819.

Baron Sebastian Thorne is not a happy man.  The woman he planned to marry has been “stolen” by his best friend, the Earl of Ellis.  In order to drown his sorrows, he is deep in his cups from drinking.  Having sent his driver home earlier, he decides to walk home.  Bad decision!  He is immediately attacked, beaten and robbed in the streets of Whitechapel by footpads and left unconscious.

Lady Helena Prestwick a widow from Aldmist Fell in Scotland, is in London searching for her four sisters, Cora, Pearl, Gracie and Lavinia.  Helena and her sisters were very young when their mother died and their father turned to drink.  As the oldest, Helena did all she could to care for her sisters until the day her father literally sold her to her husband so her father could get money for his needs.  Now, that Helena is a widow, she is determined to find her sisters and get the family back together.  She fears that they are working in a brothel.  So, she and her trusted friend, Fergus, are out most nights searching the brothels.

Lucky for Sebastian, Helena happens upon him the night he is beaten and takes him home to nurse his wounds.  Grateful for her help and attracted to her as well, he agrees to aid her in her search for her sisters.

She soon finds her sister, Lavinia, who lives as the courtesan of a wealthy and kind man who loves her and wants to marry her.  Her youngest sister, Gracie, is living with Lavinia.  Cora is married to a butcher and the mother of several children.  Pearl has not been found.

As Sebastian and Helena become more enmeshed into one another’s lives, their attraction grows and romance blossoms.

The family members and other characters in the story are all so very well written.  I could just picture each of them perfectly.  I think readers will truly enjoy this story of strength, love and determination.

Connie for b2b

Book provided by the publisher

‘Season for Desire’ by Theresa Romain

tr sfdSTORY: Properly Wicked

Like her four sisters, Lady Audrina Bradleigh is expected to marry a duke, lead fashion, and behave with propriety. Consequently, Audrina pursues mischief with gusto, attending scandalous parties and indulging in illicit affairs. But when an erstwhile lover threatens to ruin her reputation, Audrina has no choice but to find a respectable husband at once.

Who would guess that her search would lead her to Giles Rutherford, a blunt-spoken American on a treasure hunt of his own? When a Christmas snowstorm strands the pair at a country inn, more secrets are traded than gifts—along with kisses that require no mistletoe—and Audrina discovers even proper gentlemen have their wicked side…

REVIEW: December 1820, Northern England

David Llewelyn has kidnapped and drugged Lady Audrina Bradleigh to take her to Gretna Green where he plans to force her to marry him so he can gain access to her dowry to cover his debts.  When they are forced to stop at an inn, the Goat and Gauntlet, due to a snowstorm, she is rescued by Giles Rutherford.  Giles and his widowed father, Richard, are Americans from Philadelphia.  They have traveled to England in search of a puzzle box supposed to contain a fortune in diamonds that was left behind by Lady Beatrix Rutherford, Richard’s late wife, when she left England.

Lady Audrina’s sister, Charissa, is set to marry the very wealthy Duke of Walpole.  The scandal of Audrina having been “tainted” by David Llewelyn is a possible threat to having Walpole call off the wedding to Charissa.

It is rumored that Castle Parr houses the puzzle box the Rutherford’s are seeking.  The group travels to the Castle where they are welcomed by the rather eccentric owners, Viscount and Viscountess of Dudley and their widowed daughter-in-law, Sophy.

When a heavy snowstorm keeps them at the Castle, trying to solve the puzzle and its history occupies them.  In addition, romance begins to blossom as well.

This novel had some interesting characters but I found myself drawn more to the puzzle and the obvious in-depth research that the author put into writing its story.  It was very well written and captivating.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Invisible Ellen’ by Shari Shattuck

ss ieSTORY: For many of us, there comes a moment when we wish we were invisible.

For Ellen Homes, not only does she wish it . . . she actually lives it.

She spends her days quietly observing but unobserved, watching and recording in her notebooks the lives of her neighbors, coworkers, and total strangers. Overweight, socially stunted, and utterly alone, one night Ellen saves a blind young woman from being mugged.

Then everything changes.

Character-driven, poignant, and leavened with touches of humor and witty dialogue, Invisible Ellen is a remarkable novel about personal transformation, morality, the power of friendship, and the human need for connection with others.

REVIEW: Ellen is 24 and a painfully shy young woman who lives in a small apartment with her cat in an undesirable part of town.  She works nights as a cleaner at Costco, taking the bus to and from work.  Overweight with a badly scarred face, all she wants is to go through life being as inconspicuous as possible.  While she has no personal friends, she entertains herself by watching many of the residents of her apartment area and keeping journals of their activities.

Ellen grew up in foster homes when, at age 5. her abusive mother abandoned her.  Used to being ignored, she got through life until she was old enough to be on her own.  She never learned to eat good food and has always survived on a bad diet and junk food.

One day on the bus, she encounters a blind woman named Temerity who possesses a great sense of humor, ability to laugh at herself and an amazingly positive outlook on life.  She sits next to Ellen and engages her in essentially what begins as a one-sided conversation.  When she and Temerity get off the bus, Ellen notices that some hoodlums are after the young woman and steps in as they try to steal her handbag.  Grateful for her intervention, Temerity invites her to dinner the next night and their unusual friendship begins.

Temerity is a very gifted violinist and lives with her twin brother, Justice, who is a doctor of Anthropology.  When Temerity reaches out more and more to Ellen, she begins to open up a bit at a time.

A drug deal gone wrong resulting in murder at Ellen’s apartment complex; a single pregnant woman coping with trying to decide if she should give her baby up for adoption to a very pushy couple; plus other scenarios that Ellen witnesses out her window end up as fodder for she and Temerity as they decide join forces to help people.

While they mean well in what they do, I couldn’t help but get a feel of a Nancy Drew and sidekick biting off more than they can chew.  Aside from that, the point of the book is how a woman like Ellen is able to “come to life” and learn to live in it.  The real meaning of compassion is beautifully expressed in this novel and I think many readers will take away a very good feeling after reading it.

Connie for b2b

‘It Happened at Christmas’ by Debbie Mason

dm ihacSTORY: Love is the best Christmas gift of all.

Free-spirited activist Skylar Davis is out of money and out of options. After using up her trust fund trying to save the world, she hides out in Christmas, hoping the kindness of friends will help her forget the reckless actions of her past. All goes well . . . until she comes face-to-face with one of her mistakes: the town’s gorgeous young mayor.

Ethan O’Connor likes his life drama-free and predictable now that he’s about to make the move from small-town politics to the Colorado State Senate. Then Skye blows back into town, as impulsive and passionate as he remembers. If word ever got out about their night together-the night he’s never been able to forget-the scandal could cripple his career. Yet as he starts his campaign, Ethan finds that, like the town of Christmas itself, he can’t get Skye out of his head . . . or his heart.

REVIEW: Skylar (Skye) Davis has returned to the town of Christmas Colorado where she hopes to be incognito until she can get back on her feet.  At age 28, she has spent many years spending her trust fund giving it to what she considered good causes and as “loans” to many friends.  Now, she has very little money in her pocket and is working at a bakery.

Her past relationship with Ethan O’Connor is off.  Skye is a solid Democrat and Ethan is a handsome, wealthy Republican running for the Colorado State Senate.  Their differences are so extreme that it’s a wonder they ever had a connection.  Their last encounter a couple of months ago was wonderful but a scandal would hurt his chances if it ever got out.  Angry and hurt at this, Skye took off.

Her intentions do not last long as she is quickly spotted by her friends and Ethan as well.  Her friends are happy to see her and Ethan too but he is constantly reminded by his election manager, the beautiful and intelligent Claudia that he must remain focused only on his campaign.

However, sometimes the consequences of a sexual encounter can result in surprises.  What, you ask?  Ha-Ha!  You will have to buy the book [published on September 30, 2014].

The characters are well written and there are some humorous events.  Readers are in for a nice story.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

Outlander Ep. 108 ‘Both Sides Now’

108c

Read at your own peril. My thoughts will be sprinkled with SPOILERS!
Even after some eight or so times of watching this episode, my thoughts about it are still percolating. They managed to cram a lot of action in this one, but my first viewing left me a mess after the “stones” scene which just took my breath away and I broke down and cried. The acting by Tobias Menzies and Caitriona Balfe continues to be brilliant.

108m

They both bring so much to their respective roles that I honestly have been gob smacked from week to week. I realize that a lot of things go into making this show, but if these two people lacked talent, nothing and no one could bring these characters out. Good for us they are loaded with talent and once they put on those costumes on, they are Frank/Black Jack and Claire.

108 dia

And here we are at the mid-season finale, episode 108 and aptly titled ‘Both Sides Now’ because for the first time we get to see ‘the other’ side, Frank’s side and it was heartbreaking watching Frank go through his grieving process.

108 frankFirst, this was an episode that was told simultaneously from Frank’s and Claire’s point of view, and it’s a huge departure from the books, but it worked for both audiences, book and non-book readers. Speaking as a book reader, it helped me to understand this man much better. It humanized Frank and brought me closer to him.

I said it before and let me reiterate, Ron D. Moore’s a genius and no doubt about it. I’m 108 renjoying the show and leaving books behind while the show is on. He has a vision and he’s running with it and we can join and enjoy the ride or get off his train. Our choice and I must say, I’m joining the crowed that’s hitching a ride on that train.

That’s not to say that I’m on board with every choice he’s made about the adaptation, and I do think there was some missed opportunity in adding more dimension to Jamie Fraser’s character. I’ll try to explain this a little bit further down, but now let me say that this episode was a mixed bag for me. I predominantly liked it, but wasn’t enamored with it as with the previous seven.

108dSome things just didn’t work for me, while others did.

I have to stop here and tell you that even though I’m watching the show without comparing it to the books [and it is not easy, but I’ve managed it so far!], I noticed that my opinion/observation of this episode in particular, comes more from a perspective of a “reader” than a “viewer”. I’ve noticed the difference only after I had a discussion with my awesome DH who’s been 108nwatching the show with me [never read the books]. I was surprised with his take on this episode and it was fascinating to hear him talk about the parts he loved and actually appreciated.

He thought that all that Frank stuff was necessary and very poignant, going so far to tell me the date that Frank went up to that hill [12/21/1945; Frank was listening to the news on his car radio] and he was the 108pone to point Claire’s shawl to me which was all lost on me because I was a mess at that point. So, I guess we all bring to the table our own interpretation and none is right or wrong, but just our own.

In our discussion of the issue I had, he totally shot me down! He completely disagreed with me and that’s when I realized that my POV was still being influenced by the “reader” and not the “viewer”.2014-09-27 22.55.53

Anyways, let me tell you the things I loved right off the bat.
I was very happy to have another point of view and watching Frank’s timeline was exhilarating, jarring and depressing, but boy was it welcome!
Wee Roger was curtness itself and I’m sure that we’ll see him some more before the season ends.

108lClaire’s bonding not just with Jamie but with all the Highlanders.

I was impressed by the filming of the ‘near rape’ from Claire’s perspective, giving us a ‘dream like’ view and speed. 2014-09-28 00.44.02And as I said earlier, the two timelines converging at the Craig Na Dun, combined with a Druid song in the background, just did me in. 

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The cliffhanger wasn’t a surprise for me because I read somewhere that Ron Moore said that’s where he’d end it, and yet I still went nuts over it. Loved it! Watching Jamie’s snarl was awesome and seeing the expression on Black Jack’s face was disturbing to say the least!

108g

All in all, I’m a happy camper, as a reader and a viewer. It’s rare that a book of this caliber gets an adaptation as close and vivid as this one is. Everything throughout the season has been portrayed as close to it as possible and the production is superb, from top to bottom. But knowing who’s behind it, it doesn’t surprise me, and as a fan of the creator of the show and books, I am in virtual seventh heaven and very grateful to them both, for creating and bringing this literary gem to me.

108j

That said, I am disappointed that the character of Jamie Fraser hadn’t been fleshed out in these eight episodes as much as Frank or Black Jack has. And as much as people are quick to point out to me that I’m biased and speaking from my “reader” POV, I still think [and this is in no criticism of RDM & Co] but just my own personal observation, is that Ron Moore made a conscious decision to expand one character at the expanse of another.

2014-09-28 00.44.15

While I’m all for it, I think it could have been accomplished with at least a third less screen time, which could have gone to the developing and ‘rounding’ of Jamie’s character. I understand that this is their prerogative and they are the experts. However, that still doesn’t change my opinion that the opportunity has been missed to develop him just a bit more.

2014-09-28 00.44.07

Not to make him ‘King of Men’, nor to embellish him, but just make him more three-dimensional. I was and am on board with seeing Frank and his suffering; watch BJR’s character tell us his POV about the flogging. Those scenes gave us better picture of those characters. My question is why couldn’t we have had the same opportunity to get to know JAMMF in just the same way? The scenes we see JAMMF are very good, and majority was plucked right out of the book, but the most powerful one [of his flogging] was solely concentrated on another character.

108i

So while they followed JAMMF’s story almost to the letter of the book, keeping him in the background [too long in my humble opinion] they fleshed out other characters, such as Frank and Dougal, even Angus and Rupert. That was wasted time and opportunity in developing JAMMF.

It’s water under the bridge now. I’m not losing faith in the show, in RDM or anything of the sort but that’s my impression …

But then I talk to my DH and he tells me from his non-book-reader POV, the show had developed Jamie character to his satisfaction. He is very impressed with the story and tells me that there’s plenty of time left to get into Jamie’s character.
I am given to understand that the second half will be in his voiceover which made me feel a whole lot better.

Scotch on the Rocks! Sam Heughan from Twitter today.

Scotch on the Rocks!
Sam Heughan from Twitter today.

As much as I love Tobias Menzies, I’ll be glad when Frank/BJR are out of the picture.
so what do you think about the show so far/ are you hooked? And what are your thoughts on this episode? I always welcome discussion, especially the ones with different POV from mine. I’ll always give it respect that it deserves. We all bring to the table our own interpretation, and none is right or wrong, but just our own. If I respect your opinion, then I’m hoping you will do the same with mine, and not belittle it or discourage me to have one. This is what we as people with love of anything should always strive to do. Question, talk, discuss and be loving in all of it.

*PHOTO CREDIT STARZ

*Sam Heughan’s photo from his Twitter

*SCREEN GRABS