Leah’s 2013 choices for…

Five Star Reads are:

XMTS VRI know we all have our favorite genres and our favorite authors. As for me, I read all types of historical books. Even a few contemporaries.

I had many 4 – 4 1/2 star reviews this year but I thought I’d post about my 5 star reads and you will see by my list just where my heart lies when it comes to genres, which doesn’t mean that I won’t give high marks to contemporary novels.

I gave a very high 4 1/2 to ‘Spin’ by Bella Love.  I am hooked! You can check out my review here.

Now, back to my FIVE STAR reads and so, here we go….

Julianne Lee and her Tenebrae series

‘Knight Tenebrae’, ‘Knight’s Blood’ and ‘Knight’s Lady’.

“Trapped in a place not their own, two strangers find the only thing they can count on is one another”.

Follow Alex and Lindsay as they travel back through time to 14th century Scotland. All three books take you on their journey. I was simply full of emotion throughout all three books. Read Mel’s reviews for the series here.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder and her Highland Warriors series

 ‘Sins Of a Highland Devil’, ‘Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel’ and ‘Seduction of a Highland Warrior’, along with SOTC PBthe novella, ‘Once Upon a Highland Christmas’.

I can tell you that Sue-Ellen brings medieval Scotland to life for me every time I go into one of her stories. They are full of humor, mystery, highland magic, warfare, and love. All are filled with history bits that will keep all history buffs happy. You can read my reviews for the series here, here & here, with Melanie’s review for the novella here,

Monica McCarty and ‘The Hawk’

It is part of the Highland Guard series and I highly recommend it. They all received high marks from me but Eric “Hawk” MacSorely stood out above the rest. She is another auto-buy for me. You can read my review here.

Diane Darcy and ‘She Owns The Knight’

I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed this book! I am sitting here smiling from ear to ear as I write this. If you love 13th century England, laughing, and watching as two people learn what love is all about, this story is a must buy! You can read my review here.

Victoria Roberts and ‘X Marks The Scot’

TH MMcCThis is #2 in the Bad Boys of the Highlands series and I waited patiently for Declan and his story and was so excited when I finally got it in my hands.

I knew there was a wonderful man behind the rogue. Laidain is just the woman for him too, one who won’t let him hide behind his blether, and one who is strong enough to stand her ground with him and everyone else for that matter.

This story is packed with treason, danger it seems around every turn, secrets discovered that condemns some and saves another, and laughter…..tons of laughter!

Patricia Bracewell and ‘Shadow on the Crown

Loved this story! From the history to the direction Patricia took this story in, her writing had hooked me in!

I felt for Emma as she accepted her lot in life and smiled when she stood for herself when needed. King Aethelred was constantly suspicious of everyone and because of his guilt, found himself tortured by visits from his murdered brother’s ghostly shadow. He also blatantly carried on with Elgiva, his mistress. I enjoyed the way Ms. Bracewell took the story line with Athelstan, the King’s son and his relationship with Emma. Through her words she brought OUAHC SEWcharacters into my life to love and hate, and added with the history, this became one of my most favorite reads this year. I cannot wait for the next on this series to see what she brings us next!

Kris Kennedy and ‘The Conqueror’

This author’s words move me. Period. I feel a deep connection while reading her work and urge you to give her a try if you haven’t yet. You can read my review here.

Margaret Mallory and ‘The Chieftain’

This is book 4 in the Return of the Highlanders series.

From beginning to end she had me captured in their world. My heart-felt warmth as I read the epilogue. I enjoyed watching their love come to fruition and talk about HOT!! I loved the mystical parts of this story. Tearlag and Ilysa and their sight, the fairy glens and the chants… ghostly sightings and the legends surrounding them all call to my heart. Scotland is full of lore and Margaret Mallory does an TIW KKexcellent job of bringing it to life.

She left me aching to walk the fairy glens, graveyards, and hills with standing stones. You can read Melanie’s review here.

Tanya Anne Crosby and her Highland Brides series. 

‘The MacKinnon’s Bride’, ‘Lyon’s Gift’, ‘On Bended Knee’ and ‘Lion Heart’ were re-reads for me that kept calling for me to pull out. Screamed at me actually. ‘Highland Song’ is a new addition to the series and stole my heart just as swiftly as the others did.

I found Tanya when I started reading 20 years ago and she was instantly catapulted to the top of my favorites list.

To me, her writing pulls at my heart and wraps me solidly within its pages.

You can read my reviews for the series herehereherehere, and here. You can now get the first 4 in the series in a boxed set…Cheaper that way, only $9.99!

So, there you have it! The stories that hit 5 stars for me this year and in no particular order. I would love to hear what everyone else read this year that received a 5 star rating. Feel free to share with us and give us your recommendations.

Now, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings into my reading world.

*Leah for b2b

Fan2Author Interview with…Kris Kennedy!

Kris KennedyLeah: Kris, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview with me. I am a huge fan of your writing. Here are a few things I’ve said in reviews for your stories:

“Kris Kennedy had my heart full to bursting with the emotions these two have and even breaking a time or two.” and

“Through Kennedy’s descriptions, I had only to close my eyes and be there in the moment. I love when an author can transport me to where my soul yearns to be. This was a wonderful story that kept me intensely involved from start to finish.”

I know when I pick up one of your books that I will be transported and will enjoy the ride.

Kris Kennedy: Leah, thank-you, thank-you!!

I think I’m like most writers, in that I write for two reasons: first, because the story is inside, but second, and just as important, is because once it’s out, it touches readers the way it touched me.  That means there’s a deep connection there, with the story at the core–writer to story, reader to story.  A storyweb.   Which means YOU matter to the story too!

L: Can you tell us a little something about yourself?

KK: I’ve done a lot of jobs in my life, including running a private practice psychotherapy and consultant business, developing and supervising treatment programs for high-risk individuals, but I left all that glamour behind to write and be a mom.

I have offshoot business interests that take a good bit of time, but at the core, I write and mom and wife. :)

L: What work/s in progress are you currently working on?

KK: In the historical realm, I’m working on an ‘almost-erotic’ romance set in Elizabethan Ireland. It’s got a tattooed Irish hero and a very determined, very untattooed English heroine. :)  It’s called Claiming Her, and the cover’s ready to go!

I’m also at work on another medieval that makes me all squee-y whenever I think about it.  The hero’s Scottish and his name is Taggart Eòghann Gillivray MacIver, more easily and less dangerously known as the Hunter.  He hunts people down.  For a fee.

I’m so excited to write this story!  I have about 100 pages done and can’t wait to get back to it. All I need is a few more hours in the day.  Maybe 6.  Or 7.   Okay, definitely 8 more hours a day should do the job.

TTC KKL: How have your characters and their stories come to you and which one/s whispered the loudest for their story to be told?

KK: For me, stories start with a scene, a single moment in time, and 99% of the time, it’s some charged interaction between hero & heroine.  It has no connection to any plot or character already existing in my head; it’s a little island of imagination.

Then I just kind of…keep going, writing blind, into the rest of the story.  This includes coming up with a plot.  :)

These ‘inciting’ scenes aren’t sacred.  Often as not, they get cut in some murderous rampage of my creative mind.  They’re simply fuel, a portal I can use to climb into the story.  The details TIW KKaren’t actually important; it’s the emotional energy of and between the hero & heroine that I have to capture & hone.

In THE CONQUEROR, the ‘inciting’ scene had the heroine at her castle, her father still alive, and occurred months before the current opening timeline.  I cut the whole thing, slashed it like a horror movie.

But in THE IRISH WARRIOR, the bones of that ‘inciting’ scene remain intact: the heroine meets the bad guy in his great hall, realizes she’s been ‘had’ and in a moment of anger, does something she really ought not to have done.  And the Irish hero, held in chains on the floor, is watching the whole thing.

D KKDEFIANT’s inciting scene is lost in the annals of my dusty mind, because I rewrote the damn thing so many times I can hardly remember anymore.  I do know it’s nothing like the in-print version, thank Goodness.  ;)

DECEPTION…let us draw a veil over DECEPTION’s head-banging process, except to say the characters were there, solid and ready for action, precisely themselves.  Okay, maybe Kier got a little more ruthless over time.  All to the good.

Speaking of characters and the one’s who’ve “whispered to me,” which was, I believe, your question. . . in every story, one character has shown up in a big, flashy way.  Simply flung him or herself across the page, bold and scene-stealing.  My job is simply to get it all down on the page.

In THE IRISH WARRIOR, it was Finian.  He showed on on page one and kept on showing up, every scene, being 100% himself, pushing Senna’s buttons and making me happy.

Eva, from DEFIANT, was the same, although she took her own sweet time coming.  In fact, I’dD1 KK been writing the story for about 6 months, slogging through it, knowing it wasn’t working, but as I had no idea how to fix it, I kept plugging away, knowing (hoping, praying, making voodoo dolls) the ‘real’ story would come.

Then, one day, I circled back to rewrite what I thought was a done-deal opening scene–because an opening line occurred to me, of all things.  An opening line, out of the blue, nine words: “At first, it appeared they wanted the same cock’—and BAM, Eva showed up.

One might wonder at the sort of heroine who would show up after a line like that.

Sometimes you just have to poke around in there a bit  :)

Turns out, Eva did more than “whisper in my ear.”  She was like a force of nature.  She came fully formed with a French accent and hunting someone down (!! I was shocked to discover this.  She hadn’t been doing anything like that in previous versions.)  I had no idea what was happening, but I knew enough to put my head down & keep writing, fast as I could.

The story unfolded from there, with some messy moments for plot, but none for the characters. Hard-hearted, ruthless Jamie Lost was smitten from the second he met her.  In every way, Eva was the fulcrum, the necessary ingredient, for this story to take off.

Senna from THE IRISH WARRIOR definitely found herself along the way, got stronger on rewrites, and as she did, so did the story.Initially, the plot revolved around marriage.  Meh.

Then Senna ‘whispered in my ear’ that um, Kris, a story about marriage was simply not worthy of her.   She was right.  It became about a businesswoman duped, and pissed off about it, and determined not to let anyonedictate her life.   The story took off after that.   In fact, if I could rewrite it now, Senna would become even stronger yet.

How’s that for a long-winded answer??

CH KKL: I smiled the entire time I read that. :)

I have a deep love for the time between William the Conqueror and the Plantagenets. The women they loved interest me greatly also. What I would give to be able to skip through time and sit down with them to pick their brains. What is your favorite time in history and who would you love to be able to chat with if time travel were possible?

KK: I’m not sure if it would actually be a good time to actually live in, what with the lack of running water and periodic famines and endemic warfare, but I love the high medieval period. 12th-early 16th century.

Within that period, and focusing on England (and by necessity France), I’d like to ask Thomas Becket what the heck he was thinking, pissing off a king like that, and see if he’s developed any humility over the past 900 years.

I agree with you about the Plantagenents!  I’d want to meet them all, and their lady loves and wives. I’d love to meet Henry I and Eleanor of Aquitaine and experience their charisma in person.  Would it hold up in the 21st century?  I think it would.

I want to meet all the medieval Edwards, from the Hammer of the Scots Edward I to his son Edward II, & try to see through all the muddled history about him and Piers Gaveston. I want to meet Edward II’s wife Isabella and her consort Mortimer, and see if they were as awful as you’re forced to believe, but somehow, don’t quite in the end.  I’d want to meet Edward III when he was young and glittering, and when he was old, lingering on, denying his son a kingdom.  I’ve always felt for the Black Prince.

I want to meet Richard I (I doubt I’d have liked him) and Richard II (I think I would have.)  I’d love to meet St. Francis of Assisi and I want to poke the Dominican friars in the eye, every one, to mirror their inner blindness.

I want to wander through a crusader army encampment (invisibly, with the ability to avert my eyes and cover my nose). I want to see Jerusalem before ten additional centuries of hatred and greed and fear wore it down. I want to meet Saladin (I think I’d have liked him very much) and Chaucer—fairly sure we’d have been drinking buddies.

I want to walk through the stables of a castle crowded with guests and touch a destrier and see tents spread across a grassy field when a tournament is in flow.  I want to talk to a village reeve about how much he hates his job, and be at Michaelmas celebrations with a good harvest in. I want to go to a renegade Beltaine festival. (Yes, I very much want to do that.)  I want to meet a falconer and talk to a medieval architect about the development of rounded battlements.

Umm, okay, I’ll stop.  I think you get the point.  LOL I want to meet everyone!

L: I just got cold chills. It was like you spoke from my own heart there.

My first historical romance was The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I regret not letting her know how her words changed my life forever. It brought me a love for reading that I never had before and I also started down a path of learning everything I could about the medieval era. What was the first historical romance or historical fiction that you read and are there any authors who have inspired you?

KK: My first historical romance was THE GROUND SHE WALKS UPON.  I’d seen it in theTGSWU MMcK library for years, always avoiding ‘those romance novels.’  (Yes, I was one of those people.)  Finally one day I scooped it up and brought it home and I was a goner.   A die-hard romance fan ever since.  :)

Marsha Canham totally lit my medieval fire.

L: I will have to look for that book and read it. Marsha Canham….love her Robin Hood series and her Highland series runs a very close second.

When you get time to read, what genre do you enjoy reading?

KK: I love historical romances of course!  But I’ll read anything exciting and/or well-written, and, depending, I actually don’t require both.  :)

I’ll read character-thin/plot-heavy thrillers and character-dense/plot-thin romances.  I love Ellis Peter’s Father Cadfael mysteries and Jenny Cruise’s sexy contemporaries.  I love Julie Anne Long’s hot, beautiful Regencies and Rachel Grant’s romantic suspense thrillers.  I love erotic romance and nonfiction like The Illustrated Chronicles of Matthew of Paris and Adrian PaulMaphead.  I tend to like my stories both action-packed & with strong sensual energy, with lots of bad things happening, but don’t always require all elements in the same book—I have moods.   Great writing grabs me every time.  And humor totally sucks me in.

L: I’ve always wanted to go to England, rent a car, start at Hastings and just make my way north plumb through Scotland. No time frame, just go where my soul leads me. What’s on your bucket list?

KK: Yes. That. 100%  We’ll go together.  :)

Something tells me that would be one hell of an adventure! ;)
I’d love to live for at least a year in Ireland, in a castle, preferably one that’s been restored not to a state of grandeur, but to a state of running water and insulation.  Also, Eastern Europe and the Baltic Sea area. I would tread carefully.

L: Kilt or armor?

KK: Depends what we’re doing! :)

L: Mountains or beach?Henry Cavill

KK: Mountains.

L: Coffee or tea?

KK: Coffee.

L: Cat or dog?

KK: Both!

L: During a thunderstorm – stay inside or sit on porch watching the show?

KK: Porch for sure.  In fact, that’s just what I do, go outside to watch.
Me too….love the wild weather!

L: Sports car or SUV?

KK: Hmmm…if there’s camping involved, I’m going to need the truck or SUV.  But I like to go fast sometimes, and a sports car would be helpful there.  Can I have a mood-based time-share on the whole lot?  :)

L: Kris, thank you for giving us some insight into your world. It means a lot to me that you agreed to help me spread my wings in the reviewing world. I was tickled to death when Mel asked me if I wanted to come aboard and I never thought I’d be interviewing some pretty awesome authors too. :)

KK: I’m so touched by how much you love the stories Leah, and how generous you are with your joy about them.   The honor of chatting is all mine.   :)

*1 eBook/1 Winner! 

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‘The Conqueror’ by Kris Kennedy

TC KKSTORY: England, 1152. Henry II is king. The country is wracked by bloody civil war. Griffyn Sauvage is a valiant knight with a strict moral code of honor. But when his family’s estate and vast treasures are seized, he becomes hardened by the betrayal. Now he will go to any lengths for vengeance–even if it means forming a union with his most despised enemy by marrying his daughter, Lady Guinevere de l’Ami. Then, Griffyn lays eyes on Gwyn and is completely disarmed. . .

As war strikes, Gwyn is left alone to fight her enemies who want control of her ancestral lands. When Griffyn comes to her rescue, she is grateful that the mysterious, brave knight has risked his life to protect hers. With each passing day, she finds herself drawn to him even as she senses he’s hiding a dark secret from her. And when another dangerous adversary closes in on both of them, Griffyn and Gwyn’s trust in each other will be put to the ultimate test. . .

REVIEW: I highly recommend Kris Kennedy to anyone who loves suspense in their stories as much as they love the romance. If I bit my nails, which thankfully I do not, she would definitely have me doing it throughout the book!

Griffyn “Pagan” Sauvage is a warrior that carries a secret so sacred that men’s lives and hopes depend on him. His task is to prepare England for invasion for Henri fitzEmpress, Count of Anjou, Duke of Normandy. His personal mission is to destroy the House of de l’Ami and reclaim what is his by birthright. 

Guinevere de l’Ami is the daughter of the Earl of Everoot who has died. Many men are trying to do everything within their power to take her by force and in doing so grasp control of Everoot. She flees only to find herself in the arms of the one person who makes her “feel”. The one person she should avoid at all costs.

This is a story of long-buried secrets that bind these two together. Each holds a key to unlocking these secrets and the journey is a long, hard road filled with treachery, betrayal, pain, and then understanding. As the mystery unfolds, they find their souls entwined so tightly that nothing can tear their destinies apart.

One of my favorite lines….

“Have you a weapon?” he asked.

“A rock.”

“A rock? Do you know how to throw one?”

“Know how to throw one? Perdition! You just… throw it!”

At times, she had me in tears, pulled from my depths as my heart physically breaks; laughter so hard everyone in the house including the animals kept staring at me; hate for the villains so badly I wanted to crawl into the book and stab them myself with a sword! 

I loved the way Ms. Kennedy had my emotions pulled to the max and how she had me live the story right along with the hero and the heroine!

Leah for b2b

PUSH-a-BOOK celebration kick-off with…ME!

No, no, no! I didn’t write the books I’m going to push, but I sure read them!

I know, I know! It’s not time yet, but I just can’t wait! Sabrina Jeffries will be here in couple of days to ‘officially’ kick the celebration off, but I just couldn’t contain my excitement and thought to try to tell you why I’d like to push these… yep, you heard me right! I want you to read THESE  books. I loved the whole damn series!

Reading any book series makes me feel like I am watching [read following/stalking] some great families and characters that these talented authors keep gifting me with. This year I’ve read a few and while I did get to review some of the books, there were some that I missed. Here are those books…

First, if you haven’t read Pamela Clare, than you need to start with this series…The MacKinnon’s Rangers Trilogy. The first one is ‘Surrender, then we have the second one Untamedand the third one was the one that actually made me buy the other two, ‘Defiant.

A few months ago I caught the making of the book trailer for ‘Defiant’ and it so reminded me of one of my all time favorite movies, ‘The Last Of the Mohicans’ with Daniel Day Lewis, that I was sure all three of these would satisfy my craving for a a story that would take me into the world of these men and the time of the French and Indian War here in the United States. Boy was I ever satisfied!

Pamela Clare did an outstanding job painting this time in history for me that it really felt like I was watching a movie. Each story was unique despite the common thread of the enemy who threatened all the brothers. Reading these stories I couldn’t help but notice the painstaking research that author did and I appreciated it as much as the work poured into creating these three men, each character finely drawn and three-dimensional. Every story is filled with heart stopping action, dialogue that at times will have you sigh and laugh all at once and because of the shear talent of the author, she manages to pace every story to perfection. Now, if you haven’t read them yet, get thee to your nearest book store, or better yet, just click on the covers and buy them from Amazon!

Here’s the overview of the series from the authors website:

The MacKinnon’s Rangers Trilogy is set during the conflict known in the United States as the French and Indian War — the war made famous by the film Last of the Mohicans, which starred Daniel Day Lewis. The rest of the world knows this conflict as the Seven Year’s War. As a writer, I’ve always been drawn to pre-Revolutionary American history because of the conflict inherent during this time — human beings against a vast, untamed wilderness, European cultures in conflict with each other and with Native inhabitants. Conflict is, after all, what gives rise to good stories.

The trilogy tells the stories of three brothers — Iain, Morgan and Connor MacKinnon — transplanted Highlanders who came to North America as boys when their father was exiled from Scotland. Raised on the frontier, they know several Indian tongues and count themselves kin to the Mahican Indians of Stockbridge. Having learned how to track, fight, and hunt from their Mahican friends, they’re at home in the wilderness. And this is where their troubles began…

When war breaks out, Lord William Wentworth, grandson of His Majesty King George II, coerces the brothers into fighting for the Crown not as Redcoats, but as Rangers – men whose style of fighting is modeled more after Indian than European warfare.

My research for this series of novels centered around Major Robert Rogers, who is credited with turning the Ranger Corps into one of the most successful military organizations in American history. These men, hardened by frontier life and capable of feats that would be difficult for modern soldiers to duplicate, were the Special Forces of their day. Rogers created the Rules of Ranging that are still, in updated form, utilized by U.S. Army Rangers, a testament to Major Rogers’ genius.

Rogers and his Rangers were stationed at Fort Edward on an island in the middle of the Hudson River south of the doomed Fort William Henry. In my books, Fort Edward and Rogers have been brushed aside and replaced with Fort Elizabeth and MacKinnon’s Rangers. Apart from that, I’ve done my best to be historically accurate to the smallest detail, from the items a Ranger carried in his tumpline pack to the rules that guided him in battle.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit Fort Edward and Rogers Island and to stand where the real Rangers stood. I’ve also visited Fort Ticonderoga, called Fort Carillon by the French, where Major Rogers’ powder horn, and many other Ranger artifacts, are on exhibit. Walking in their footsteps, and visiting the sites of real battles, has only further fueled my imagination.

Each book in the trilogy tells the story of one MacKinnon brother, with the characters repeating from book to book, including the Rangers themselves, a bunch of hearty Scots and stubborn Irish who’ve won my heart. As each brother struggles to win and protect the woman he loves, I explore the history of what is arguably the most significant war in American history, a war that has been called “The War the Made America.”

And now, here’s the reason for me starting to read Pamela Clare books……

For our giveaway today, I would love to know what you think of the book series? Do you like them or not? Why?

We’ll be giving away THREE copies [one each] to THREE of you!

Won’t you join our celebration by:

1) Telling us which ‘Book’ would you like to ‘Push’ and why…

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All three are required for a TRIPLE chance to win in the Grand Giveaway!

However, if you’re already a follower and our FB buddy, all you need do is…COMMENT on the upcoming posts and you’re all set to go.

*Clicking on the author’s name/pic will give you their contact info, website or bio. 

*Clicking on the cover of the book/s will take you to Amazon.