‘The Sheik Retold’ by Victoria Vane & E. M. Hull

TSR VV2STORY: The Desert was Never Hotter!

Pride and passion vie for supremacy between a haughty young heiress and a savage son of the Sahara in this fresh new telling of E.M. Hull’s romance classic. A haughty young heiress for whom the world is a playground… A savage son of the Sahara who knows no law but his own…

“There will be inquiries.” I choked out. “I am not such a nonentity that nothing will be done when I am missed. You will pay dearly for what you have done.”

“Pay?” His amused look sent a cold feeling of dread through me. “I have already paid… in gold that matches your hair, my gazelle. Besides,” he continued, “the French have no jurisdiction over me. There is no law here above my own.”

My trepidation was growing by the minute. “Why have you done this? Why have you brought me here?”  “Why?” He repeated with a slow and heated appraisal that made me acutely, almost painfully, conscious of my sex.

“Bon Dieu! Are you not woman enough to know?”

When pride and passion vie for supremacy, blistering desert days are nothing compared to sizzling Sahara nights…

REVIEW: First, I never read the original by E. M. Hall, [although after I read this one, I had to get it for my Kindle especially because it was FREE!], so my review is solely on this retelling of the tale.

My impression of the heroine Diana kept going back and forth between admiration and disdain. I started off by admiring her spunk and independence; I understood that her background shaped who she was and I liked her adventurous side. She appeared to know exactly who she was and what she wants of her life, and I admired that.

However, as the story developed and I got to know her better, I questioned many of her decisions and I thought her too impulsive and bratty; too stubborn as she ignored the dangers she was warned about.

Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan is the hero of this tale and if you’re into the über Alpha Male, this guy is ‘all that’ and more!

Since this story is told to us from the heroine’s POV we are not privy to the hero’s thoughts at all, yet his actions and the people around him, give us a good introduction into his past and present.

He is a complex, flawed and mysterious man whose life went through a profound change before he embraced his identity. Despite his powerful and controlling nature I liked Ahmed Ben Hassan because he was constant; knew who and what he was, and he was a perfect man for a woman like Diana.

‘The Sheik Retold’ is an intense and sensual romantic adventure. It’s filled with action and drama, some plot twists and plenty of very sensual moments between these two headstrong characters.   

What I also liked in this book is the wonderful background in which this story is unraveling. Ms. Vane had me take virtual trip into the desert with Diana and her Sheik. She had me smell in the scents they did and sweat the danger they were pot through.

If you’re looking for an exotic, sensual and passion filled romantic adventure, this is for you! I highly recommend it!

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the Author.

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‘Season for Scandal’ by Theresa Romain

SFS TRSTORY: Jane Tindall has never had money of her own or exceptional beauty. Her gifts are more subtle: a mind like an abacus, a talent for play-acting–and a daring taste for gambling. But all the daring in the world can’t help with the cards fixed against her.

And when Edmund Ware, Baron Kirkpatrick, unwittingly spoils her chance to win a fortune, her reputation is ruined too. Or so she thinks, until he suggests a surprising mode of escape: a hasty marriage. To him. On the surface, their wedding would satisfy all the demands of proper society, but as the Yuletide approaches, secrets and scandals turn this proper marriage into a very improper affair.

REVIEW: ‘Season for Scandal’ is the third book in Theresa Romain’s Holiday Pleasures Series of which I read none before. Actually, it wasn’t necessary for me to read the other two books to understand and enjoy this one.

That said, I have to say that I’m new to this author and her voice and style are nothing as I expected it to be. I thought this would be one of those lighthearted and witty tales, but I was pleasantly surprised by what it actually was, a character driven love story of two completely different human beings that had to work hard at finding out what makes the other tick.

As I was reading this story, something just felt off…For the longest time I couldn’t put my finger on it…I even discussed it with my hubby! Something about the story kept bugging me and I was so frustrated for not being able to pinpoint the reason behind my frustration … and then it hit me!

I was uncomfortable! I was uncomfortable with their feelings, their dialogue, and their actions toward each other. The feeling of awkwardness that the characters were going through just made me cringe! I couldn’t understand why the author or her editor hadn’t  tried to ‘fix’ this problem…you know, to make the story ‘flow’ more smoothly. The developments of this story had started to hit too close to home [& no I’ll not elaborate!].

That’s when I realized that Ms. Romain did this on purpose! If she did what I expected her to do, and had the story ‘flowed’ as I thought it would, the ‘feel’ of emotional struggle that Jane and Edmund went through would have never been felt by me. She’s made both of these characters flawed, yet she gave them real depth, dimension and they felt very real to me, too real at times. In the end, I came to care and appreciate both characters, their story and the author who took a chance in telling this story of two eccentric souls that were meant for each other.

She also took a very predictable plot and turned it on its head, and that I appreciated to no end!

If you’re looking for a light and fun read, this might not be for you, although it does have lighthearted moments. This is more of a character driven and emotionally charged true love story and I highly recommend it you read.

Now off I go to my local book store to pick up the previous two.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by publisher through NetGalley.

‘The Seduction of Lady Phoebe’ by Ella Quinn

TSOLP EQSTORY: Polite society has its rules for marriage. But for Ella Quinn’s eligible bachelors, their brides will show them that rules are for the weak of heart…

Phoebe Stanhope is not a typical Lady. As feisty as she is quick witted, no one can catch her, especially when she is driving her dashing phaeton with its perfectly matched horses. And unlike her peers, experience has guarded her against a growing list of would-be suitors. But when she encounters Marcus Finley, what she fears most burns deep within his blue-eyed gaze…

For Lord Marcus, the spark of recognition is but a moment in the love he has held these many years. Now that he’s returned to England, all the happiness he desires rests on Lady Phoebe never finding out that he was the one who turned her heart so cold and distant. He must work fast to gain the advantage—to convince her what she wants is exactly what she denies—but in order to seduce her into his arms, he must be willing to give up more than he can control…

REVIEW: This is Ella Quinn’s debut novel, and it really made me chuckle all the way through!

We meet our heroine Phoebe when she’s only an impressionable fifteen, and from that first meeting a reader as well as our hero Marcus, are impressed by her maturity and spunk. No wonder Marcus could never forget her!

I was also impressed with Ms. Quinn’s development of the both major and minor characters, well-developed plot and a villain we could all hate, as well as the pace of the story. I liked that she took the time in developing this sweet romance between Phoebe and Marcus.

If you’re looking for a mix of a traditional and modern Regency story, this will be a perfect read for you. This story was a mix of Carla Kelly and Kieran Kramer, a mix of prim and proper with a dash of fun and witty dialogue. I’m so glad to have discovered another little gem!

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by the publisher by NetGalley.

‘Big Girl Panties’ by Stephanie Evanovich

BGP SESTORY: They say that big girls don’t cry. But when the chips are down and the dip is gone, what can you do? Pull up your BIG GIRL PANTIES and change your life.

Holly Brennan didn’t expect to be a widow at thirty-two. She also didn’t expect to be so big. Through her husband Bruce’s diagnosis and death, food was the one thing she could always count on. Now, those extra pounds make flying coach more than a little mortifying-especially since she’s sitting next to Adonis himself, aka Logan Montgomery, a personal trainer to the country’s most famous pro athletes.

Though Holly doesn’t make the grade on his first-impression meter, Logan finds himself intrigued by her sharp wit and keen insight-a welcome change from the beautiful bubble-headed dolls he usually dates-and impulsively offers to get her back in shape. Ready to make at least one positive change in her life, Holly agrees.

To Logan’s (and her own) surprise, Holly turns out to be a natural in the gym. Throwing herself into exercise, the red head with the blazing wit and welcoming smile slims down into a bonafide looker with killer curves-and a new kind of hunger. Soon, the easy intimacy and playful banter of their training sessions lead Logan and Holly into the bedroom where they share their most intense and steamy workouts yet.

But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn’t fit his image? Now that Holly’s turning other men’s heads, does she even need Logan anymore? Are they a couple built to last . . . or is this sizzling affair going to burn out fast?

REVIEW: At the age of 32, Holly finds herself a widow and extremely overweight.  Having always been pudgy, she has packed on the pounds since the death of her young husband from cancer.

Logan Chase is a classic handsome, well-groomed and toned man who is a personal trainer to sports players and other wealthy and well-known figures. 

They meet by chance when they are seated next to one another on a plane trip.  In an effort to cover up her embarrassment at her obvious weight problem, Holly strikes up a conversation with Logan who becomes intrigued by her sense of humor and offers to help her get into shape.  Thus begins a strict regimen of workout sessions that Holly manages to endure and starts to show results.  She gets to know some of his friends, and joins them as Logan’s date.  But is he interested in her as his “experiment” that he has managed to create and mold, or in the person that she truly is?

I found some of the scenes in this novel to be laugh-out-loud funny and was impressed with how well the author created the sweet, innocent yet strong character of Holly.  The character of Logan is touted as the typical guy who appears to be totally self-centered and out for number one.  Suffice to say, I did not care for him overly much which was my big turn-off with this novel.

As this is the debut novel for this author, I feel that she has lots of potential to write more novels and I look forward to seeing what she produces in the future.  I would hope that she would stick to comedy which seems to be her forte.  

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local library.

‘Lady Anne’s Lover’ by Maggie Robinson

LAL MRSTORY: Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont has appeared in the scandalous pages of the “London List” often enough. The reading public is so bored with her nonsense, she couldn’t make news now unless she took a vow of chastity. But behind her naughty hijinks is a terrible fear. It’s time the List helped her. With a quick scan through its job postings and a few whacks at her ridiculous name, she’s off to keep house for a bachelor veteran as plain Anne Mont.

Major Gareth Ripton-Jones is dangerously young and handsome on the face of it, but after losing his love and his arm in short order, he is also too deep in his cups to notice that his suspiciously young housekeeper is suspiciously terrible at keeping house. Until, that is, her sharp tongue and her burnt coffee penetrate even his misery–and the charm underneath surprises them both. Trust the worst cook in Wales to propose a most unexpected solution to his troubles. . .

REVIEW: Major Gareth Ripton-Jones survives the war and returns to his home ready to marry his long-time love, the widow Bronwyn. While helping to fix a roof, he falls and shatters his arm which results in it needing to be amputated.  Bronwyn is now turned off by his appearance and refuses to marry him and later, she is found murdered and the townspeople now think Gareth is her murderer. That’s when Gareth decides to dive into a gin bottle to dull his pain.

Lady Imaculata Anne Egremont is running from London trying to escape her scandalous past and her lecherous father, Lord Egremont.  In order to hide from her past, she applies for a job as housekeeper at Ripton Hall, in Llanwyr Wales and the home of our hero.  Armed with a copy of The Complete Housewife to help her be able to do the job, she decides to darken her red hair and call herself Mrs. Anne Mont.  

Upon arrival, she finds the Major drunk, disheveled and the house in a filthy shambles.  Knowing she needs this job, she does her best to try and clean the house and do some basic cooking, but unfortunately even her coffee is quite disgusting as pointed out to her by the Major.  

Slowly they get to know one another better and Anne works at trying to get Gareth to sober up and straighten his life back. She also realizes that the only way for her to escape her father, she should wed, and thus proposes a marriage of convenience to Gareth. The union would allow her to demand part of her inheritance from her father, which they could use to fix up Gareth’s home.

But then the accidents begin to happen and they realize that someone is trying to hurt them.  Could it be Bronwyn’s real murderer?

While the basic plot here was fine, the explicit and gratuitous sex scenes were totally overdone.  I’m not a prude but I think they could have been tamed down somewhat.  I understand that Anne wanted to escape her father and the scandalous escapades of her past, but I could not understand why she would settle to live in the near-squalor of Gareth’s home especially having grown up in the lap of luxury.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by my local library.

‘It Takes Two to Tangle’ by Theresa Romain

ITTTT TRSTORY: Wooing the Wrong Woman…

Henry Middlebrook is back from fighting Napoleon, ready to re-enter London society where he left it. Wounded and battle weary, he decides that the right wife is all he needs. Selecting the most desirable lady in the ton, Henry turns to her best friend and companion to help him with his suit…

Is a Terrible Mistake…

Young and beautiful, war widow Frances Whittier is no stranger to social intrigue. She finds Henry Middlebrook courageous and manly, unlike the foppish aristocrats she is used to, and is inspired to exercise her considerable wit on his behalf. But she may be too clever for her own good, and Frances discovers that she has set in motion a complicated train of events that’s only going to break her own heart…

REVIEW: When Henry Middlebrook returned from fighting Napoleon, he came home with a useless right arm and a feeling of defeat.  His older brother Jem and his wife Emily welcomed him into their home hoping to help him heal from his wounds, both physical and mental.  Thus, he enters into the social rounds hoping to meet the right woman and settle down in his estate.

While at a soiree, he meets, is attracted to and considers offering for Caroline Graves, the widowed Countess of Stratton who is accompanied by her companion and cousin, Frances Whittier.  

As men buzz around Caroline like bees to a flower, Frances is busy keeping things organized and running smoothly. While attending various events, Frances and Henry become well acquainted and enjoy each other’s company and Henry finds her to be an intelligent woman. They openly discuss his physical limitations and she helps him learn to write with his left hand and encourages him to take up his paintbrushes and paint again.

She can’t help but be attracted to him even though she assumes him attracted to Caroline, so she starts writing suggestive letters to Henry making him think they have come from Caroline to encourage him to visit more often.  But what will happen when he finds out his letter writer is none other than Frances?  Can their fragile relationship withstand this betrayal of sorts?

Theresa Romain wrote this novel expressing an enormous depth of pain experienced by both Henry and Frances.  The way she conveyed their emotions to the reader almost made me feel their pain as well.  I think the following quote from Sir Walter Scott comes into play perfectly in this novel:  “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

I enjoyed this novel very much and felt as though I learned a lot about painting and paint colors too.  

“It Takes Two to Tangle” is the first novel of Theresa Romain’s Matchmaker Trilogy.  Book 2, “To Charm a Naughty Countess” will be published in May 2014.

Connie for b2b

*Book provided by the author in a Giveaway.

*Book provided by the publisher to b2b through NetGalley.

‘A Duke’s Promise’ by Jamie Carie

ADP JCSTORY: From the Land of Fire and Ice back to England’s shores, Alexandria Featherstone finds herself the new Duchess of St. Easton. Her husband has promised a wedding trip to take them to the place where her imperiled parents were last seen — Italy and the marble caves of Carrara — but a powerful Italian duke plots against Alex and her treasure-hunting parents.

Hoping to save them, Alex and Gabriel travel to Italy by balloon. Fraught with danger on all sides and pressured by Gabriel’s affliction to the breaking point, they must learn to work and fight together. The mysterious key is within their grasp, but they have yet to recognize it. This journey will require steadfast faith in God and each other — a risk that will win them everything they want or lose them everything they have.

REVIEW: This is the third and last book in the Forgotten Castles series; book one, ‘The Guardian Duke’ and book two, ‘The Forgiven Duke’ must be read before you read this third installment. None of the books are stand alone, unless you read the first one which ends in a cliffhanger.

I liked the first one very much, then I was very disappointed in the second one, and that disappointment extended to this third book as well.

I did find the character of Gabriel Ravenwood, Duke of St Easton well written and three-dimensional, but the heroine, Alexandria, I found to be only two-dimensional and not much likable.

Plot wise I found the first book somewhat believable and inspirational, while the second and the third I thought just too far-fetched and despite action, intrigue and lukewarm romance, I found it totally unbelievable.

These three books should have never offered to the readers as a series, but as one book. I believe it would have read better and wouldn’t feel forced and rushed.

I honestly wouldn’t recommend it or the series.

Melanie for b2b

*Book provided by publisher through NetGalley.