‘Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down’ by Rosecrans Baldwin

pilbybmdSTORY: A self-described Francophile from when he was little, Rosecrans Baldwin always dreamed of living in Paris—drinking le café, eating les croissants, walking in les jardins—so when an opportunity presented itself to work for an advertising agency in Paris, he couldn’t turn it down. Despite the fact that he had no experience in advertising. And despite the fact that he barely spoke French. After an unimaginable amount of red tape and bureaucracy, Rosecrans and his wife packed up their Brooklyn apartment and left the Big Apple for the City of Light. But when they arrived, things were not eactly what Rosecrans remembered from a family vacation when he was nine years old.

Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down is a nimble comic account of observing the French capital from the inside out. It is an exploration of the Paris of Sarkozy, text-message romances, smoking bans, and a McDonald’s beneath the Louvre—the story of an American who arrives loving Paris all out of proportion, but finds life there to be completely unlike what he expected. Over eighteen months, Rosecrans must rely on his dogged American optimism to get him through some very unromantic situations—at work (writing booklets on how to breast-feed, raise, and nurture children), at home (trying to finish writing his first novel in an apartment surrounded on all sides by construction workers), and at every confusing French dinner party in between. An offbeat update to the expat canon, Paris, I Love You is a book about a young man finding his preconceptions replaced by the oddities of a vigorous, nervy city—which is just what he needs to fall in love with Paris for the second time.

REVIEW: This is a delightful biography about a man and his wife who decided to move to Paris for a time and completely immerse themselves into the French culture. He worked for a French company and learned to better speak the language.

We are introduced to the French office atmosphere and work ethic, the food and total attitudes and behavior of this country.

I found it to be very educational, enlightening and funny. It brought back great memories to me from the time I lived there. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in learning more about this glorious city and its citizens.

Connie for b2b

‘Rutherford Park’ by Elizabeth Cooke

rp ecSTORY: Snow had fallen in the night, and now the great house, standing at the head of the valley, seemed like a five-hundred-year old ship sailing in a white ocean…

For the Cavendish family, Rutherford Park is much more than a place to call home. It is a way of life marked by rigid rules and lavish rewards, governed by unspoken desires…

Lady of the house Octavia Cavendish lives like a bird in a gilded cage. With her family’s fortune, her husband, William, has made significant additions to the estate, but he too feels bound—by the obligations of his title as well as his vows. Their son, Harry, is expected to follow in his footsteps, but the boy has dreams of his own, like pursuing the new adventure of aerial flight. Meanwhile, below stairs, a housemaid named Emily holds a secret that could undo the Cavendish name.

On Christmas Eve 1913, Octavia catches a glimpse of her husband in an intimate moment with his beautiful and scandalous distant cousin. She then spies the housemaid Emily out in the snow, walking toward the river, about to make her own secret known to the world. As the clouds of war gather on the horizon, an epic tale of longing and betrayal is about to unfold at Rutherford Park…

REVIEW: The building of Rutherford Park first began in 1530.  It is a vast estate added onto and improved by each Earl who has lived there over the years.  Currently, William Cavendish, the 8th Earl and his wife, Octavia reside there with their three children, Harry, 19, and daughters Louise and Charlotte.  Louise is soon to be presented at court.  Rutherford Park has always been run is a very strict way and the staff is very attentive to their duties.

Harry is a young man who dreams of flying in a plane and hopes one day to do so.  Louise and Charlotte dream of their season and the balls and dinner parties they will be able to attend.

Octavia is woman who is becoming bored with her life.  Her children are nearly grown and her duties of running her home are not enough to stimulate her.  Her husband, William, is a good man but when Octavia sees him in the arms of a visiting distant cousin, her faith in her marriage is shattered.

The servants know their places and keep themselves separate from the family.  However, when housemaid Emily Maitland suffers a tragedy, the results end up affecting the Cavendish family.

An indiscretion from William’s past comes back to haunt him and ends up driving a wedge between him and Octavia.  Will their marriage be able to survive it?

With the threat of war imminent, life changes for the Cavendish family, the staff and the entire country. Louise finds herself caught up in a frightening situation that ends up showing the entire family what is truly important in life.

I enjoyed this novel.  It was written in a rather depressing way although it was still quite good.  Downton Abbey fans should find this book to be interesting to them.

Connie for b2b

 ‘The Devil Takes a Bride’ by Julia London

tdtab jlSTORY: A plan born of desperation…

Once the toast of society, Grace Cabot and her sisters now await the shame of losing high status and fine luxuries upon the death of the Earl of Beckington. The dire circumstances are inevitable unless, of course, Grace’s wicked plot to seduce a wealthy viscount into marriage goes off without a single hitch. But once a stolen embrace with the wrong man leads her to be discovered in the arms of Geoffrey, the Earl of Merryton, her plan takes a most unexpected—and scorching—twist.

…and altered by passion.

Governed by routine and ruled by duty, Geoffrey had no desire for a wife before he succumbed to Grace’s temptation. Though his golden-haired, in-name-only bride is the definition of disorder, he can’t resist wanting her in every way. But once her secrets meet his, society might consider their lives to be ruined beyond repair…while Geoffrey might just see it as a new beginning.

REVIEW: The Earl of Beckington has passed away.  His second wife, Lady Beckington and his four stepdaughters, Honor, Grace, Prudence, and Mercy Cabot are now finding themselves without the funds that they used to enjoy.  The Earl’s son by his first marriage has taken over as heir.  The large dowries the girls had always expected have now been significantly lowered and the girls are afraid that no one will want them.

Grace Cabot decides to take her future into her own hands and plots to be found being seduced by a well-known rake, Lord Amherst.  The plan goes well until the person she meets in the dark turns out to be Amherst’s brother, Jeffrey Donovan, The Earl of Merryton.  When they are caught, he agrees to immediately wed Grace and takes her to his home, Blackwood Hall.  Jeffrey has a reputation for being a very cold man but Grace hopes that she will be able to learn to love him and find out about the real person inside him.

Jeffrey is a man ruled by habit and perfection.  He has an obsessive compulsive personality resulting from the cruelty he was subjected to by his father.  In addition, much of his thoughts are filled with sexual depravity.  He thinks of himself as a mad man and tries to keeps his habits secret.

As Grace and Jeffrey settle into Blackwood Hall, she realizes that he has a problem and does all she can to help him relax his stringent ways which is not an easy task.  However, she is relentless and hopes to help him with his problem.  However, Grace has a secret too.  Her mother is mad and continues to go downhill.

The story is a perfect example of OCD and their sexual encounters are quite explicit.  This is a different type of story that may appeal to many people.  I enjoyed Grace and found her to be a strong woman. However, Jeffrey is a person that I would find hard to like.

Connie for b2b

‘The First Wife’ by Erica Spindler

tfw esSTORY: An idealistic young woman marries a man she barely knows only to discover his first wife disappeared under mysterious circumstances. As a child, Bailey Browne dreamed of a knight in shining armor swooping in to rescue her and her mother. As she grew older, those dreams transformed, becoming ones of a mysterious stranger who swept her off her feet and whisked her away from her ordinary existence; then, suddenly, there he was. Despite the ten-year difference in their ages and her working class upbringing and his of privilege, Logan Abbott and Bailey fall deeply in love. Marriage quickly follows.

But when Logan brings her home to his horse farm in Louisiana, a magnificent estate on ninety wooded acres, her dreams of happily-ever-after begin to unravel. A tragic family history Bailey knew nothing about surfaces, along with whisperings about the disappearance of his first wife and rumors about women from the area who have gone missing, and when another woman disappears, all signs point to her husband’s involvement.

REVIEW: Bailey Browne has recently lost her mother to cancer.  Not ever having her father in her life, her mother was her total support.  She decides to take a trip to Grand Cayman using some of her mother’s life insurance money with hopes of helping her to heal from her loss.  While there, she meets the handsome and charming Logan Abbott.  They are instantly smitten with one another and get married.  Logan is a wealthy man who owns a horse farm in Louisiana.  That is where they head next to settle in.

When Bailey begins meeting the different members of Logan’s family, lifelong friends and others, it turns out that Logan is suspected of murdering his first wife, True.  She disappeared some time ago and was never found.  The Chief of Police, Billy Ray Williams, who has been a life long resident of the town, has always hated Logan.  It comes to light that there have been a number of women who have gone missing over the years and Billy Ray is quite vocal about thinking Logan murdered all of them.

When Bailey meets Raine, Logan’s sister, she finds her to be a very hostile woman whose paintings show anger.  When Bailey learns how Logan’s mother, father and brother died, she is quite shocked.  She loves her husband but cannot help but wonder if he could have been the killer of these women.

This book was very written to keep the reader thinking they might have figured how who the killer is only to learn otherwise.  It is not until the very end of the novel that the truth is revealed.  There are a number of scary things that come to light which only adds to the suspense.

While I feel that the book could have been shortened somewhat, I assume the author meant to hold the reader on the edge of their chair for as long as possible.

Connie for b2b

‘Starling’ by Virginia Taylor

s  vtSTORY: An aspiring dressmaker, orphaned Starling Smith is accustomed to fighting for her own survival. But when she’s offered a year’s wages to temporarily pose as a wealthy man’s bride, she suspects ulterior motives. She can’t lose the chance to open her own shop, but she won’t be any man’s lover, not even handsome, infuriating Alisdair Seymour’s…

To prevent his visiting sister from parading potential brides in front of him, Alisdair has decided to present a fake wife. He lost his heart once, and had it broken—he doesn’t intend to do it again. But stubborn, spirited Starling is more alluring than he bargained for, and Alisdair will risk everything he has to prove his love is true…

Set against the sweeping backdrop of 1866 South Australia, Starling is a novel of cherished dreams and powerful desires, and the young woman bold enough to claim them both…

REVIEW: Adelaide South Australia – 1866

Starling Smith was brought up in an orphanage.  As she has always had a interest in dressmaking and an eye for combining colors, she works for Alasdair Seymour, owner of Seymour’s Emporium.  When Alasdair receives some complaints on Starling for her suggestions to some customers on the colors that would best on them, he threatens to fire her.  However, as he sees her determined spirit, he offers the “job” of posing as his wife for a couple of weeks.  His sister and her husband are coming for a visit and if he is “married,” his sister won’t be pushing him to get married as she usually does.

When Starling finally agrees, she moves into his home hoping to blend in per his instructions for the allotted time period they agreed upon.

When his sister and her husband arrive, they bring along a beautiful widow named Lavender.  It just so happens that Alasdair has been in love with Lavender for many years and was heartbroken when she married a wealthy older man who has since passed away.  Lavender is a very spoiled woman who wears only shades of purple which is actually not well suited to her coloring.

The irritation that the spoiled Lavender adds to everyday events makes life for Starling quite difficult.  In addition, the attraction and friction between Starling and Alasdair begins to grow.

I had a difficult time trying to like Alasdair.  To me, he is simply an arrogant jerk.  Why Starling accepted some of his demands makes no sense.  I’m sure there are those readers who would truly enjoy the novel more than I did.  Starling does show herself to be a strong character and the author has written the character of Lavender quite well.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Born to be King – Prince Charles on Planet Windsor’ by Catherine Mayer

btbk pcopw cmSTORY: A provocative, surprising, and utterly fresh portrait of Charles, Prince of Wales

He is one of the world’s most fascinating and least understood figures: now sixty-six, Prince Charles has spent his entire life preparing to be king while insisting on being his own man. In this brilliant portrait, he emerges as a complex character driven by a painful past, a questing intellect, and a powerful impulse not only to reshape the monarchy but to use the long wait for the throne to work toward high ideals.

Based on exclusive interviews with members of Charles’s inner circle and on rare access to the Prince himself, this revelatory biography takes us deep into the royal sphere—a world of its own that Catherine Mayer calls Planet Windsor—and shows us the skullduggery and unintentional comedy of court life. At the same time, it provides a clear-eyed view of Charles’s struggles and his achievements as a philanthropist and activist. The book also offers a fundamental reappraisal of one of the most documented episodes in modern history—his marriage to Diana. The reality, as with many aspects of the Prince’s story, is more gripping and more poignant than we knew.

Now closer than ever to achieving happiness, the Prince is still far from settled. He remains committed to bringing about social and political change, but in aiming to be a king of hearts, he often creates heartache, for himself and others. Born to Be King explains how and why Charles may redefine the role of the sovereign, even as it reveals the astonishing extent to which the Prince has already left his mark on the world.

REVIEW: At age 66, Prince Charles is still waiting to ascend to the throne as King of England. His life has been one of preparation and finding ways to add something of significance to his country.  He is portrayed as a deep thinker and a man who truly cares about the many causes that he has adopted.  His childhood was not an easy one as he has always been a very sensitive person and the schools he was made to attend were supposed to toughen him up but only resulted in scarring him.  His father, Prince Philip, has always been hard on him because he wants him to be strong for when it is time for him to take over the monarchy.

The book discusses somewhat his marriage to Diana and their unhappy relationship.  The large difference in their ages is one factor that made their relationship a hard one for them, however, they both had painful and sad upbringings which should have brought them together.

The author tells the reader some things about Camilla and paints her as an intelligent woman who enjoys her grandchildren, her reading and a quiet life.  However, she and Charles truly seem to love one another and are happy together.

Charles is committed to doing all he can to change things to allow for more understanding socially among the people of his realm.  He is also interested in technical change and in introducing more modern industrial changes to improve things.

We hear discussion all the time about whether or not he should become King or step aside in favor of his son, William.  Many people feel that the youth of William and Kate will help to bring more modern ways and refresh the view of the Royals.

I do have to commend the author for not “taking sides” in her discussions of Diana and Camilla.

I found this book to have some interesting things but did not find myself being convinced that he should truly be King.

Connie for b2b

‘A Heart Revealed’ by Josi S. Kilpack

ahr jskSTORY: Amber Marie Sterlington, the Rage of the Season in Regency-era London, has her pick of men, and she knows what she wants most in a husband: a title and a fortune. Why would she ever marry for something as fickle as love? And why would she ever look twice at Thomas Richards, a third son of a country lord?

But when Amber’s social standing is threatened, the character of her future husband becomes far more important than his position. After a public humiliation, she finds herself exiled to Yorkshire. Alone except for her maid, Amber is faced with a future she never expected in a circumstance far below what she has known all her life. Humbled and lonely, Amber begins to wonder if isolation is for the best. Who could ever love her now?

REVIEW: London

Amber Sterlington, 19, has been dubbed the “Rage of the Season.”  Her parents are quite wealthy people and have prepared their daughter well for her debut to society. Unfortunately, her privileged upbringing has resulted in her being a selfish and somewhat arrogant young woman. Amber has a younger sister, Darra, poised for her debut in a year’s time.  They also have three younger brothers and spend more of their time at their main home, Hampton Grove.
Amber has her eye on the “prize” who is Lord Norwin whose ailing father is the Earl of Lanketer.  He is quite rich and when he inherits from his father, he will be ready to join the House of Lords.  The problem is that Amber finds him somewhat boring.
The Honourable Thomas Richards is the younger son of a Baron from Yorkshire.  When he first sees Amber at a ball, he is quite taken with her beauty.  However, he realizes that he does not have a title or wealthy background that would appeal to her.
When Amber begins to experience a cosmetic/medical issue, she is soon out of the limelight.  To look at her would be quite shocking.  Saying that she has become ill, her parents banish her to their very small property in Romanby, North Riding County of York along with her faithful maid, Suzanne.  Upon arrival, she is shocked to find that the home is nothing more than a few rooms in a very rustic house with just the basics and they will need to forge for themselves.  Quickly, Amber realizes that her relationship with Suzanne will be more of a friendship as she has given up so much of her own life to remain with Amber.  Refusing to go out and be seen by anyone, Amber becomes a recluse and adopts the name of Mrs. Chandler.  When trips to town are necessary, Suzanne is the one to do it.
Not far away is the home of Thomas Richards, Peakview Manor, which is nearby Romanby where Amber is living.  He lives with his older brother and heir, Albert, and his family along with their widowed mother who resides at the dower house.  Thomas is working hard to improve his land which necessitates that he join right in with the hard work himself.  As he learns of the mysterious lady living with her maid, he becomes intrigued.  After awhile, he realizes that she must be Amber as the time she was banished coincides with the time the mysterious lady moved into the old home.
Little by little we find Amber realizing that her medical problem will not cure itself and she will always be this way.  Knowing this, gives her a downfall from her previous arrogant ways and she slowly becomes a more humble and less self-centered young woman.
Will Thomas be able to approach this woman with whom he fell in love?  Will Amber allow herself to be open to a friendship instead of continuing to lead the life of a recluse?
This is a very deep story of many emotions and beautifully created characters.  It will certainly tug at the heartstrings of readers.  I loved it and hope others will read it too.  It is not to be missed.
Connie for b2b
Complimentary copy provided by the publisher