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

Julianne Lee stops by b2b …

‘The Scottish Play Murder’ by Anne Rutherford aka Julianne Lee

TSPM ARBOOK BLURB: The first production of The New Globe Players was marked by murder. Now Suzanne Thornton’s company dares to mount the most cursed of plays…

When charming Scotsman Diarmid Ramsay asks to play the titular role in Macbeth, he sets off a flurry of excitement among The New Globe Players. Despite protests from the company director that performing the “Scottish play” will lead only to disaster, Suzanne decides that the show must go on—with herself acting the part of Lady Macbeth, opposite the handsome stranger.

Rehearsals begin—but then rumors about Ramsay arise, implicating him in the death of a sailor found behind the Goat and Boar. Is the man a murderer, possibly involved in a plot against the newly restored king? Suzanne refuses to believe it, until another murder connected to Ramsay occurs.

It seems the curse of Macbeth may have been unleashed, leaving Suzanne no choice but to use her wits and her wiles to determine if Ramsay is a gifted actor—or a murderous villain.

BUY LINKS: Amazon / B&N / iBookstore

***   ***   ***

EXCERPT: 

He said to the voice, “Tell your business.”

“Louis, let him in. I can’t hear him out there.”

With a show of reluctance, Louis hauled the door wide enough to allow the visitor to enter. In stepped a man in a skirt. Not just a skirt, but a checkered one that barely covered his knees. The woolen fabric of it overflowed his belt so lavishly that he threw the excess over his shoulder like a cape or shawl. Suzanne had seen a kilt once before, but that had been a dull brown with black threads running through it. This luxurious garment was a stunning red with green, black and yellow criss-crossing in large squares. The fabric was clean and appeared new, a rare thing in this neighborhood, and in her experience almost an oddity in a Scot. Beneath the kilt the visitor wore a clean white shirt that was equally stiff and fresh. His belt was dyed shiny black and bore a large, silver buckle wrought so finely as to bespeak a great deal of wealth. As did the sword that hung at his side from a black leather baldric. A utility dagger with a plain wooden handle was thrust into his belt without scabbard. For shoes he wore only soft leather without ornament or heel, and no leggings at all. It begged the question of what linens he might be wearing beneath the kilted wool, and though there had once been a time when Suzanne might have simply lifted the hem to find out, today she refrained for the sake of proving herself no longer a tart. At her age, that sort of behavior was less than amusing to most men and should be left to women far younger and comely than herself.

And besides, this man’s face caught her attention and held it. He had the black Irish coloring she’d always found appealing, with jet black hair, pale skin, and warm, ruddy cheeks. His mouth was red, and appeared to have the sort of habitual smile that made some people seem happy all the time. In addition, this man was actually smiling. His charm was palpable, and Suzanne felt if she stood in his presence long enough she would soon be covered in it, like spring pollen.

He looked straight into her eyes and said, “I’ve come for an audition.”

Suzanne blinked, surprised. This man appeared far too wealthy to need employment as an actor. Theatre was something one did when desperate and only when without skills other than lying. Certainly that was how she herself had ended up here. In the general scheme of things, acting was thought by most people as one step down from military service, one step up from thievery, and just around the corner from murder for hire. The wealth and beauty she saw standing before her was almost never found onstage.

Their visitor continued, in a rich, rolling brogue, “My name is Diarmid Ramsay, and I’ve been told you’ve a need for someone to play the title role in Macbeth.”

This was news to Suzanne. That play was one the troupe had not yet addressed, and she’d not heard mention of it from Horatio. She turned to call him from the ‘tiring house, and found he’d not left the stage. He was still there, staring at the brightly dressed Scot as if fascinated by the busy tartan wool. “Horatio!” she called. “Have you put out an audition notice regarding Macbeth?”

“I expect you mean the Scottish play.” An odd stress in his voice puzzled her, and he crossed himself as if she’d uttered a curse. When he kissed the wooden crucifix he wore around his neck, she knew she’d truly frightened him.

Oh, right. Nobody ever called that play by its proper name. Bad luck, or something. Horatio was a stickler for taking no chances with theatre superstition, going so far as to ban whistling in the ‘tiring house though he’d only just that year heard it was bad luck. “Very well, then, if you like. The Scottish play. Are we casting for it?”

“No, and we will not ever. ‘Tis terrible luck and I won’t have it.”

Suzanne turned to Ramsay. “I’m sorry, kind sir, you seem to have been ill informed. We’re not casting Mac…that play.” She took a glance back at Horatio.

“Are you certain?” asked the would-be Macbeth.

Horatio called out from where he stood, “We are most certain. No Scottish play for us. Every troupe that has performed that play has failed and dispersed soon after. ‘Tis bad luck.”

Suzanne frowned, thinking, and turned back toward Horatio. “Well, it seems to me the luck is not so much luck as simply timing. Everyone knows that a failing company performs popular plays to increase attendance. And you can’t deny it’s a popular play.”

“You’ll recall in the old days, the time Cromwell’s soldiers attacked us we’d just performed that play.”

“We were performing The Twelfth Night when they came.”

“But the day before it had been the Scottish play.”

“And you think we were cursed by Shakespeare?”

“’Twas the witches. The witches cursed us.”

“You mean the Double, double…”

“Stop!” Horatio pressed his palms to his ears and shut his eyes tightly. “Do not say it!” He crossed himself again, then quickly returned his right palm to his ear. He crouched, as if awaiting a blow.

Louis said mildly, “I’d like us to do Macbeth.” Horatio flinched, but Louis ignored him. “I’ve always enjoyed that play, all dark and mysterious like. I prefer the spooky ones. Witches and ghosts and all that there suchlike.”

“A young man such as yourself would know no better than to flirt with the powers of darkness. So exciting for yourself, but not so merry for those of us who know the ways of the world and how badly they can go awry. ‘Tis bad luck, I say. You can have your mystery, Louis, and keep it.”

Matthew said, “Not so mysterious, I think. Ambitious woman eggs on her husband to do murder, they both go mad with guilt, and everyone ends up dead.”

“Not everyone.”

“Everyone who deserves it, and then some. A crowd pleaser, that one.”

Suzanne allowed as she did rather like Macbeth, and thought it would be a good addition to the repertoire. Indeed, one might think it a necessary addition, being a crowd pleaser. “I think we should do it.”

***   ***   ***

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Julianne LeeAUTHOR INFO: At twelve I began to write for fun, which I think is the only real reason to write fiction. Daydreaming with a purpose, and gradually I realized I could gain approval for the very thing teachers used to criticize me for in class. When I was thirty I decided to write for money and bought a copy of Writer’s Digest.

Twelve years, twelve completed novel manuscripts, and eight proposals for uncompleted novels after buying that Writer’s Digest, I sold a novel. Son of the Sword was my thirteenth completed manuscript. Lucky thirteen. Since then Berkley has published two time travel series set in historical Scotland, and two straight historicals set in Tudor England. I also write historical mysteries set in Restoration London, under the pseudonym Anne Rutherford.

Social Media: Website / Facebook / Tweeter

‘The Hawk’ by Monica McCarty

TH MMcCSTORY: Handpicked by Robert the Bruce to help him in his quest to free Scotland from English rule, the elite warriors of the Highland Guard face their darkest days.

When Bruce is forced to flee, his bid for freedom rests on the shoulders of one extraordinary warrior. Erik MacSorley is a brilliant seafarer who has never encountered a wind he could not harness or a woman he could not win—until he drags a wet, half-naked “nursemaid” out of the waters off the Irish coast.

Ellie’s ordinary appearance belies the truth: She is in fact Lady Elyne de Burgh, the spirited daughter of the most powerful noble in Ireland.Worse, this irresistible woman is determined to prove herself immune to Erik’s charms—a challenge he cannot resist.

Her captor may look every inch a rugged warrior, but Ellie vows that it will take more than a wickedly suggestive caress to impress her. Yet Erik will sweep away Ellie’s resistance with a desire that resonates deep within her heart. Still, he is a man driven by loyalty, and she is a woman with secrets that could jeopardize Bruce’s chance to reclaim his throne. As the battle for king and country sounds across the shores, will Ellie’s love be enough to finally tame the legend known as the Hawk?

REVIEW: This is #2 in the Highland Guard series.
I am loving all these Highland Guards but Hawk is my favorite so far. This story starts out three months after Robert Bruce is crowned King of Scotland at Scone Abbey. King Edward has squashed the rebellion and the Pope has excommunicated the Bruce for murdering his rival who turned on him. Many have refused to follow the Bruce and ten warriors, his secret Guard, are what stands between his failure and his life. Kind Edward is showing no mercy and these warriors will risk everything for the freedom of Scotland.Eric “Hawk” MacSorley is chosen because of his excellent swimming abilities and his sailing skills plus the fact the man knows no fear. He is also a magnificent specimen of a man, in my opinion.Ellie is the daughter of the Earl of Ulster. She’s betrothed to a man that she has no connection with but realizes her sister and the man have a chemistry. Ellie has taken her siblings under her wing after her mother’s death and her sister, Mattie, tells her she has became dull and boring, that she isn’t happy-go-lucky like she used to be so challenges Ellie to join in some festivities that involve swimming in the freezing waters.While she’s swimming she goes to a cave where she is found by some mercenaries. They believe she has overheard their conversation and attempt to take her and kill her. Hawk saves her by telling the mercenaries that he will dispose of her after they have their “fun” with her. That way there isn’t a body to be found had the mercenaries killed her.

The last thing either want is to want the other. She has no interest in him and she isn’t what he normally looks for in a woman. They both feel this tingling shock when they touch. She finds him entrancing but looks down her nose at him. All he sees is this waif but there’s something that draws him to her. It is driving him crazy that she is immune to his smiles and banter.

He thinks she is nursemaid to The Earl of Ulster and when he finds out who she is he understands the risk he has put the Bruce’s mission in by keeping her with him. He takes her back home and almost gets himself captured until she tells him to “go” and she lies for him giving him time to escape.

I felt such heartache for them as they try to find their HEA. This story is one of danger, death, fight for life, learning to let go, and finding an honest and pure love with one of the most amazing love scenes I’ve ever read.

Monica McCarty is definitely an auto buy for me!

Leah Weller for b2b

Spotlight on Julianne Lee and…

TENEBRAE SERIES

Knight Tenebrae/Chapter One

KT JL ebookBOOK BLURB: It begins when an American fighter jet is discovered submerged in Scotland’s Firth of Clyde. Clearly it has been there for centuries. Clearly, that is impossible.

British reporter Lindsay Pawlowski is sent to cover the story. But Alex MacNeil, the arrogant American pilot she interviews, dismisses it—and her—out of hand.

Then MacNeil’s jet, with Lindsay aboard, crashes into the water after passing through a fiery vortex that appears out of nowhere. Lindsay and Alex bail and parachute to the ground as the plane goes under—and they encounter a group of mounted men, wearing armor, bearing swords.

To stay alive, Alex and Lindsay must tread carefully; the Scotland of Robert the Bruce is a dangerous place, particularly for a woman alone. So Lindsay plays squire to Alex’s knight as they slowly adjust to their fate.

But they come to realize that they have far more to worry about than their daily survival in a brutal past. They have a powerful enemy, an inhuman enemy. He caused the vortex, he hates them—and all of mankind—and he plans to use their growing love for one another to destroy them…

EXCERPT: here.

KT JLMINI REVIEW: I actually won these on LibraryThing.com and the only reason I wanted to read them was because of how much I loved the movie TIMELINE with Gerard Butler.

Now, that movie got only 2 1/2 Stars and that’s really bad because I really, really liked it. It’s not a masterpiece and it’s not meant to be. It’s a cute little story, well acted and filled with action. It did what aimed to do, and that’s entertain a certain audience.

This novel did exactly the same. I enjoyed the mix of contemporary, historical and fantasy aspect of it. I also thought the relationship between Alex and Lindsay was interesting, fun and well written. Alex was one of those heroes you’ll really like a lot, and Lindsay in the end turned out to be strong and courageous woman who helped Alex to adept to their new surroundings and a life neither really ever expected to share.

And let’s not forget the plot’s twists and turns as well as great action.

If you like time travel romance and you loved BRAVEHEART, Scotland and its history, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this book.

Knight’s Blood/Chapter Two

KB JL ebookBOOK BLURB: U.S. Navy Pilot Lieutenant Alex MacNeil and his wife Lindsay have returned from their adventure in fourteenth century Scotland—and Lindsay has given birth to a son. But the magic realm is not through with them yet…

The MacNeils’ child has been kidnapped—presumably by Nemed, the elfin king and the couple’s sworn enemy—and brought back into the past. Feeling responsible, Lindsay ventures to medieval Scotland on her own, in pursuit of Nemed. Once again in the guise of Sir Lindsay Pawlowski, she joins a company of rogue knights, led by a man who calls himself “An Reubair.”

It isn’t long before her true identity is discovered, but Lindsay proves her worth among the bandits. As time passes, she finds herself drawn to their lifestyle—and to Reubair—and is torn between reuniting with her family and embracing her warrior’s life.

And soon she will confront Alex, who has also returned to Scotland and resumed his place as laird. And her son, now a fully grown man and resentful of his parents’ abandonment…

EXCERPT: here.

KB JLMINI REVIEW: Julianne Lee continues the adventure of Alex and Lindsey in the second book, Knight’s Blood and gives it a twist that I honestly haven’t seen coming.

This book might even have more action than the first, if that’s possible and I frankly liked it a lot.

She also adds a bit more fantasy in this one, and it made the story a bit more sinister, which is a good thing.

What made me sad was the relationship between all the main characters as they tried to come to terms with their past, especially Lindsey.

Alex, this time around, looked like he handled the situations a bit better than before.

Like the earlier book, this will appeal to all time travel and medieval romance fans.

Knight’s Lady/The Final Chapter

KL JL ebookBOOK BLURB: U.S. Navy pilot Alex MacNeil and his wife, Lindsay, are stranded in fourteenth-century Scotland, brought there by magic and held by bonds of loyalty to Robert the Bruce. But their own bond of love is about to be tested as never before…

The MacNeils are making the best of their new life in the Highlands when a surprise attack throws them into chaos once more. Alex is badly wounded in the fighting, and Lindsay is taken to the Knight An Reubair’s hidden stronghold in the faerie lands of Ireland – for the rogue warrior has long desired to make Lindsay his wife… Lindsay knows she can use her love of Alex as a shield against the seductive powers of An Reubair. But his magical enticements slowly melt her will, forcing Lindsay to fight her own battle for the man she loves and the future that is slipping away from them both…

EXCERPT: here.

KL JLMINI REVIEW: In this last chapter [REALLY?! I don't want this to be the final chapter! I'd like to now more! This didn't end on a final note, so I really REALLY hope there will be more!], Alex comes into his own and the love he bares to his wife is stronger than ever; Lindsay, on the other hand continues to baffle, but in the end I cut her some slack because she really is a complex character.

We also came to know real Trefor and he grew on me [although I wished he'd grow on his mother too].

All in all, this was a fun, entertaining, well written and interesting series filled with complex characters, fast pace and action. You should give it a try with sample chapters, and get it if you like the genre.

Let me also add that I preferred the original book covers [those are the ones by my reviews]. They look more like the characters in the books.

To purchase these books, click on their new ebook covers.

Julianne LeeAUTHOR BIO: At twelve I began to write for fun, which I think is the only real reason to write fiction. Daydreaming with a purpose, and gradually I realized I could gain approval for the very thing teachers used to criticize me for in class.

At thirty I looked for something to do besides acting and changing diapers.
Throughout this time I’d kept writing, though sporadically, and about then I began a second novel.

On January 27, 1987 I bought my first copy of Writers Digest. Another turning point in my life. For the next several years I wrote manuscripts, sent the work out, joined writers groups, and workshopped my novels with the Green River Writers in Louisville, KY. After seven years I sold my first short story, Culture Control, to the now defunct Cosmic Unicorn.

Twelve years, twelve completed novel manuscripts, and eight proposals for uncompleted novels after buying that Writer’s Digest, I sold a novel. Sold from an outline, “Son of the Sword” was my thirteenth completed manuscript. Lucky thirteen.

[Courtesy of Amzaon]

And just for fun [and to get you in a mood for this series], here’s the TIMELINE trailer….

“Ironclad” in Theaters 07/26/11

This movie is a MUST see for all Medieval and Knights fans! Here is the plot summary from anonymous (IMDB):

“It is the year 1215 and the rebel barons of England have forced their despised King John to put his royal seal to the Magna Carta, a noble, seminal document that upheld the rights of free-men. Yet within months of pledging himself to the great charter, the King reneged on his word and assembled a mercenary army on the south coast of England with the intention of bringing the barons and the country back under his tyrannical rule. Barring his way stood the mighty Rochester castle, a place that would become the symbol of the rebel’s momentous struggle for justice and freedom.”

 

Paul Giamatti stars as King John, James Purefoy plays Marshall, Brian Cox plays Albany and Kate Mara is Lady Isabel.

I’ll watch James Pure-Joy ANYTIME in ANYTHING!

Here are the actors talking about the movie at MOVIE CON….

…and just for the heck of it here’s the reason I can watch this Dude ANYTIME!