‘I Want My Epidural Back: Adventures in Mediocre Parenting ‘ by Karen Alpert

iwmeb kaSTORY: Now that I’m a mom, I know the most painful part isn’t getting something giant through your hooha. It’s having a real live child.

If you are the kind of mom who shapes your kiddo’s organic quinoa into reproductions of the Mona Lisa, do not read this book. If you stayed up past midnight to create posters for your PTO presidential campaign, do not read this book. If you look down your nose at parents who have Domino’s pizza on speed dial, do not read this book.

But if you are the kind of parent who accidentally goes ballistic on your rugrats every morning because they won’t put their shoes on and then you feel super guilty about it all day so you take them to McDonald’s for a special treat but really it’s because you opened up your freezer and panicked because you forgot to buy more frozen pizzas, then absolutely read this book.

I Want My Epidural Back is a celebration of mediocre parents and how awesome they are and how their kids love them just as much as children with perfect parents. Karen Alpert’s honest but hilarious observations, stories, quips and pictures will have you nodding your head and peeing in your pants. Or on the toilet if you’re smart and read it there.

REVIEW: Karen describes herself as a mediocre parent, but I found her to be very human, normal, and a good parent. She describes all of those times when children try our very souls. The different age groups and the problems with each are situations that Moms, young and old, can understand. I’m a grandmother and I found myself laughing hysterically.

Remember how kids won’t eat their vegetables no matter how you try to disguise them?

Remember how they won’t eat something on their plate if it touches something else on their place?

Remember leaving them at school on the first day and they screamed bloody murder and you felt like a worm?

Remember taking the kids to a public bathroom? You’re trying to keep them from all those nasty things and they end up filthy anyway. Oh yuk!

Karen runs the whole gamut from feeding her kids fast food and pizzas to cleaning up barf when the kids puke on you. And – oh – there is so much more.

I don’t know when I have had such a good laugh when reading a book. It’s a fairly quick read and one you will certainly enjoy. Don’t try to read it if the kiddies are napping because you will surely wake them up with your laughter.

Connie for b2b

‘The Royal Nanny’ by Karen Harper

trn khSTORY: April, 1897: A young nanny arrives at Sandringham, ancestral estate of the Duke and Duchess of York. She is excited, exhausted—and about to meet royalty. . . .

So begins the unforgettable story of Charlotte Bill, who would care for a generation of royals as their parents never could. Neither Charlotte—LaLa, as her charges dub her—nor anyone else can predict that eldest sons David and Bertie will each one day be king. LaLa knows only that these children, and the four who swiftly follow, need her steadfast loyalty and unconditional affection.

But the greatest impact on Charlotte’s life is made by a mere bud on the family tree: a misunderstood soul who will one day be known as the Lost Prince. Young Prince John needs all of Lala’s love—the kind of love his parents won’t…or can’t…show him.

From Britain’s old wealth to the glittering excesses of Tsarist Russia; from country cottages to royal yachts, and from nursery to ballroom, Charlotte Bill witnesses history. The Royal Nanny is a seamless blend of fact and fiction—an intensely intimate, yet epic tale spanning decades, continents, and divides that only love can cross.

REVIEW: London – 1897

Miss Charlotte Bill, age 22, has just been hired to be under nurse to the royal family at York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate. She is to care for David and Bertie, the two sons of the Duke and Duchess of York. The head nurse is Mrs. Mary Peters. The boys are taken by their nurse to visit with their parents each day at 4:00 PM, when their parents are in residence. David cries a lot when he sees his parents which ends up with them sending him away with his nurse. Bertie is very thin and always hungry. When Charlotte catches Mrs. Peters spanking David, she is shocked. The nurse wants David’s love only for her which is why she pinches him before he is to visit with his parents making him cry. The woman is deemed deranged and sent away. Charlotte then becomes head nurse and the children nickname her LaLa.

Soon, Baby Mary is born, followed a few years later by Baby Harry. The children all love Lala and she adores them dedicating her life to them.

Charlotte becomes friends with Chad who works on the estate. He proposes to her, but she refuses him because she feels her charges need her.

Soon, the Duke and Duchess decide that David and Bertie have a man named Finch to come in and take over some of their care and studies. Bertie’s father always berated him which made the child stutter. This is a problem that followed him all of his life.

Later, Baby George is born followed by the last child, Baby Johnnie. Johnnie’s birth was a very difficult one and for quite awhile he had breathing problems. Charlotte is very drawn to this child and considers him hers. When he starts having seizures, the family feels he needs to be hidden away. So, Charlotte and Johnnie live quietly in a cottage on the estate.

This is a wonderful novel that follows the royal family for 60 years. It’s a depiction of the family life of the royals as seen from the inside. I have always been fascinated with the history of the English royal family but have not read much about this particular time period in the family. I learned a lot and will remember this terrific story for a long time to come.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘A False Proposal’ by Pamela Mingle

afp pmSTORY: London 1812

War hero Adam Grey returns home with a burning ambition to run for Parliament. But he needs the support of the local baronet, who controls the seat. Adam’s plans are thwarted by his dissolute father, who has promised him to the baronet’s daughter in return for forgiveness of his debts. Adam wants nothing to do with marriage or his father’s problems, so he fakes an engagement to Cass Linford—his best friend’s sister.

Cass has been through hell since she last saw Adam. Her betrothed committed suicide, forcing her to withdraw from London society. Heartbroken, she’s given up on marriage. So when Adam suggests a temporary engagement, she agrees. He needs help with his campaign, and Cass can’t resist his charm or the chance to be involved in politics. It all seems so easy, until she finds herself falling in love with her fake fiancé.

REVIEW: This is my first time reading this author and I’m sure not the last. I really enjoyed this story from the start. I loved the way the story developed and its pace, as well as the “fake engagement” trope.

But what I enjoyed the most, were the hero and heroine. Both are strong and smart individuals, with minds of their own. Both are passionate, in and out of politics.

If you’re in a mood for an interesting, complex and entertaining romance, this one definitely fits the bill.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Earl’s Betrothal’ by Karen Tuft

teb ktSTORY: Out of the war and into another, Captain Lord Anthony Hargreaves finds the politics of romance to be as uninviting a battle as the one that nearly cost him his life in Badajoz, Spain.

Wounded both mentally and physically from the Peninsular War in 1812, Anthony returns home to find that his older brother has died, placing Anthony next in line to inherit the estate. But he’s not ready for such responsibilities. And when Anthony’s dying father pleads with him to marry and produce an heir to preserve the family title, it nearly sends Anthony over the edge; nevertheless he dutifully faces a long line of hopeful young ladies who await him. No one grabs his attention, though, like Amelia Clarke, his mother’s stunning companion, who is off-limits for the earl. But when Anthony unwittingly puts Amelia in a compromising situation, he dedicates himself to protecting her reputation.

But the horrors Anthony faced while away from home have left him feeling broken and tormented. And Anthony finds himself drawn to Miss Clarke, the only one who can chase away his demons, but he must overcome the hostility of a society driven by class, a jealous duke bent on revenge, and himself—for could Amelia ever really love a haunted man?

REVIEW: Amelia Clarke, companion to Lady Ashworth, is suggesting some menu choices that may appeal to her husband, the Marquess of Ashworth, who is quite ill and possibly dying. Amelia nursed her father, a parish vicar, until he passed away two years ago. Her mother passed away when Amelia was 12. At her father’s passing, she was left alone in the world and is thankful for her position as a companion.

Amelia is very sad for Lady Ashworth because she recently lost her oldest son and heir, Alexander, the Earl of Halford, in a horse riding accident. This happened shortly after they had been notified that their other son, Captain Lord Anthony Hargreaves, was killed in a war in Spain. These losses have left the Marquess with a very weakened heart.

But, Lord Anthony returns and the family is thankful and joyful. He had survived his wounds by being hidden and cared for by his friend, Lucas Jennings. Lucas has vowed to stay with Anthony until he is certain that he is healed both physically and mentally from his wounds.

Because he almost lost both sons, his father demands that Anthony provide an heir within a year. That means he must find a bride very soon.

A huge village celebration is planned for Anthony’s safe return. Amelia is busy helping with the plans and preparations. She and Anthony join in with the games, but the tug of war played in the mud brings back bad war memories to him resulting in his fleeing to the forest. Amelia finds him there and comforts him. Later that evening, they are found kissing on the balcony. When they are discovered, she is deemed compromised so Anthony announces their betrothal. Since she has no family, Anthony has his solicitor undertake an investigation resulting in some shocking revelations.

This story is terrific. The events following this revelation keep the reader turning pages quickly. I enjoyed the fact that the book is clean. Wish more books were like this.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘The Summer Queen’ by Elizabeth Chadwick

ec tsqSTORY: Eleanor of Aquitaine is a 12th century icon who has fascinated readers for 800 years. But the real Eleanor remains elusive.

This stunning novel introduces an Eleanor that all other writers have missed. Based on the most up-to-date research, it is the first novel to show Eleanor beginning her married life at 13.

Overflowing with scandal, passion, triumph and tragedy, Eleanor’s legendary story begins when her beloved father dies in the summer of 1137, and she is made to marry the young prince Louis of France. A week after the marriage she becomes a queen and her life will change beyond recognition . . .

REVIEW: Ever since I saw Katharine Hepburn as Alienor in “Lion in Winter”, I liked the character so much. That’s why this story intrigued me. I wanted to know what made this woman tick and I had faith in this author to take me on a journey of that discovery. What I didn’t count on was how emotional that journey would be.

The book opens with a thirteen year old Alienor as she sends her father on his way to a pilgramige, but what she doesn’t know is that he’s gravely ill. The conversation her father has with her as he is about to leave is so poignant and touching. He tells her that she is now in charge as his heir and she takes this to heart.

The story is chock full of many historical events and I loved reading about them as much as I loved reading about Alienor.

To follow this girl as she becomes a woman was such a treat and I highly recommend you pick it up.

This is thoroughly researched story and it shows. We follow Alienor’s life from 1137 to 1154, from her becoming Duchess of Aquitaine through her marriage to Louis VII, the future King of France and ending with her second marriage to Henry II of England.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Marrying Winterborne’ by Lisa Kleypas

mw lkSTORY: A ruthless tycoon

Savage ambition has brought common-born Rhys Winterborne vast wealth and success. In business and beyond, Rhys gets exactly what he wants. And from the moment he meets the shy, aristocratic Lady Helen Ravenel, he is determined to possess her. If he must take her virtue to ensure she marries him, so much the better…

A sheltered beauty

Helen has had little contact with the glittering, cynical world of London society. Yet Rhys’s determined seduction awakens an intense mutual passion. Helen’s gentle upbringing belies a stubborn conviction that only she can tame her unruly husband. As Rhys’s enemies conspire against them, Helen must trust him with her darkest secret. The risks are unthinkable… the reward, a lifetime of incomparable bliss. And it all begins with…

REVIEW: Rhys Winterborne, age 30, is a very wealthy man, but does not possess the deportment or education of a gentleman. He has turned his father’s shop into the world’s largest department store. He owns many other businesses as well yet cannot deny that he is the son of a Welsh grocer. His personal secretary, Mrs. Fernsby is a very intelligent woman capable of carrying out any of his requests.

Lady Helen Ravenel of Eversby Priory met Rhys when he was recuperating at the Priory after breaking his leg in an accident. Helen and Rhys spent many long hours together talking. Now, Rhys is determined to marry Helen. He originally given her a large diamond ring but she asked that he replace it with something less ostentatious, because she feels a large diamond does not represent who she is.

Her marriage to Rhys will make it possible for her twin sisters, Cassandra and Pandora, to have dowries. At age 19, they are imps but quite funny. The 3 sisters have led cloistered lives at the Priory. At the urging of her parents, she goes to Eversby Priory to plan and await a June wedding. While packing up memorabilia to take with her to her new home with Rhys, she makes a startling discovery about her paternity which could destroy her relationship with Rhys.

This is an adorable novel. Rhys is a very strong hero who adores Helen. She loves him as well. His adoration of her as expressed in this story is sigh-worthy. Their love and caring for each other is so sweet.

I did not read the first novel in the series which I think would be a good idea before reading this one. At times, I felt a bit lost in the story, however, I was certainly able to understand the plot. I think the humor of Cassandra and Pandora was great and I’m sure that the first book must touch on their witticisms.

Connie for b2b

‘Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray’ by Dorothy Love

mlamg dlSTORY: A general’s wife and a slave girl forge a friendship that transcends race, culture, and the crucible of Civil War.

Mary Anna Custis Lee is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and heiress to Virginia’s storied Arlington house and General Washington’s personal belongings.

Born in bondage at Arlington, Selina Norris Gray learns to read and write in the schoolroom Mary and her mother keep for the slave children and eventually becomes Mary’s housekeeper and confidante. As Mary’s health declines, Selina becomes her personal maid, strengthening a bond that lasts until death parts them.

Forced to flee Arlington at the start of the Civil War, Mary entrusts the keys to her beloved home to no one but Selina. When Union troops begin looting the house, it is Selina who confronts their commander and saves many of its historic treasures.

In a story spanning crude slave quarters, sunny schoolrooms, stately wedding parlors, and cramped birthing rooms, novelist Dorothy Love amplifies the astonishing true-life account of an extraordinary alliance and casts fresh light on the tumultuous years leading up to and through the wrenching battle for a nation’s soul.

A classic American tale, Mrs. Lee and Mrs. Gray is the first novel to chronicle this beautiful fifty-year friendship forged at the crossroads of America’s journey from enslavement to emancipation.

REVIEW: Mary Custis is a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis. She has had a wonderful upbringing meeting many important people; learning about the history of her country; and getting a well-rounded education. She is very close to her parents. Her father dedicates his time to keeping papers about his famous grandfather. Her mother works tirelessly keeping the house running smoothly and teaching the slaves to read. While this is not an accepted thing to do, she insists that the slaves learn because her dream is to see them freed and able to take care of themselves.

Selina is a slave for the Custis family. She loves learning to read and being taught by Miss Mary and her mother.

Mary’s good friend, Robert E. Lee, is currently studying at West Point and hopes to join the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They have been childhood playmates. When Lee proposes to Mary, she is so very happy. After their marriage, they settle at Fort Monroe where Robert is assigned. Problems arise when a slave slaughters some white people. Robert and Mary are at odds because he sees her as an abolitionist.

Robert soon gets involved in fighting the Civil War. For their safety, Mary and her children move back to her parent’s home where Selina has become the housekeeper. Many young men are sent to war and provisions become scarce meaning everyone must pitch in to help.

The story follows the children that Mary has and the children that Selina has. The two women remain close during their lifetime and are true friends.

I enjoyed this story very much. It is a good depiction of life in the south and during the war. The slaves were treated well and there is respect of both the owners and the slaves.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b