‘The Alice Network’ by Kate Quinn

tan kqSTORY: 1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth …no matter where it leads.

REVIEW: I’m a huge fan of WWII movies (The Poet; Shining Through; Anthropoid and many more), so I thought to try and check out some WW books and see if I’d like them too.

What I liked a lot about this story was a couple of things, characters and the setting was a given as soon as I started to read this story, but what wasn’t obvious was how dark and at the same time, humorous it was. It really encompassed the whole of humanity and I liked that very much.

The story jumps between after WWII and a year into WWI. The connection between the two heroines was perfectly plotted and I was at the edge of my seat as I second guessed every clue I was given by the author.

I adored Charlie St. Clair and Eve Gardiner was someone who impressed the hell out of me.

If you’re looking for a gripping, suspenseful and hear breaking and heart warming story, look no further.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Devil in Spring’ by Lisa Kleypas

diw lkSTORY: An eccentric wallflower…

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake…

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St.Devil-in-Spring-1 Vincent, has finally been caught-by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot…

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy-and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven…

REVIEW: ‘Devil in Spring’ is Lisa Kleypas’s third story in her latest historical series, The Ravenels and this is Pandora and Gabriel’s happily ever after. If you’ve never read ‘Devil in Winter’, a story of Gabriel’s parents, then you’ve missed out on one of the best romance novels ever written. However, you don’t have to have read it to get the gist of this story and Gabriel’s character.

He is someone who grew up knowing his destiny and duty of one day becoming a duke, yet the love of his parents had allowed him the freedom to play the field and at the moment we meet him, his parents are not happy with him because he is having an affair with a married woman. He, on the other hand, is very happy with the situation and doesn’t have plans of breaking it off any time soon. That is until he crosses paths with our heroine and they get caught in a compromising position.

As for our heroine, Pandora, we’ve had a pleasure of meeting her from the start of this series and out of all the Ravenel’s, she stood out the most because of her unique outlook on life. I believe all Ravenel’s sisters have had a hard upbringing, but Pandora was a precocious child and she bore the brunt of her father’s anger the most. She is finally coming into her own and with help from her brother in law, looking forward to being a business woman. She never planed on marriage and a husband because she doesn’t want to give up her freedoms. All that changes after they’re caught.

What I loved about this story the most are the characters of Gabriel and Pandora and the way they handled the situation they found themselves in. I loved the courting and enjoyed the banter. I was happy when they entered into marriage without the “convenience” being any part of it. I reveled in Gabriel’s confusion of trying to figure out who this girl was.

“His annoyance drained away, displaced by a rampage of heat and delight. His heart began to thump with the force of his need to be alone with her. To be inside all that energy. Everything in him had just ignited like a bonfire of cotton sedge. He wanted her, wanted her, with all the reckless, self-indulgent desire he usually managed to keep contained. But it made no sense. He was a civilized man, an experienced one with sophisticated tastes, and she was . . . holy God, what was she?”

What I had a bit of a problem with was big enough to make me enjoy this story less. When I’m taken on a ride, I’d like to finish that ride with a bang, and having us witness all the trials and tribulations of these two awesome characters, I feel that the author had let me down in not taking me into the wedding ceremony itself. One moment they’re engaged and the next, in a carriage going to their honeymoon destination.

The secondary plot made sense only because of the further introduction of the young copper with Ravenel’s eyes, otherwise was wasted on me.

Should you read it? You bet! It looks like Lisa Kleypas is back to writing historical novel’s and I am glad for it.

Let me also suggest the audio for this story. I kept going between the two and I must say the narrator, Mary Jane Wells, rocks!

Melanie for b2b

‘The Dressmaker’s Dowry’ by Meredith Jaeger

tdd-mjSTORY: An exquisite ring, passed down through generations, connects two women who learn that love is a choice, and forgiveness is the key to freedom…

San Francisco: 1876

Immigrant dressmakers Hannelore Schaeffer and Margaret O’Brien struggle to provide food for their siblings, while mending delicate clothing for the city’s most affluent ladies. When wealthy Lucas Havensworth enters the shop, Hanna’s future is altered forever. With Margaret’s encouragement and the power of a borrowed green dress, Hanna dares to see herself as worthy of him. Then Margaret disappears, and Hanna turns to Lucas. Braving the gritty streets of the Barbary Coast and daring to enter the mansions of Nob Hill, Hanna stumbles upon Margaret’s fate, forcing her to make a devastating decision…one that will echo through the generations.

San Francisco: Present Day

In her elegant Marina apartment overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, Sarah Havensworth struggles to complete the novel she quit her job for. Afraid to tell her husband of her writer’s block, Sarah is also hiding a darker secret—one that has haunted her for 14 years. Then a news headline from 1876 sparks inspiration: Missing Dressmakers Believed to be Murdered. Compelled to discover what happened to Hannelore and Margaret, Sarah returns to her roots as a journalist. Will her beautiful heirloom engagement ring uncover a connection to Hanna Schaeffer?

REVIEW: Sarah Havensworth, age 30, and her husband, Hunter, are at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco attending a fancy charity event hosted by Sarah’s mother-in-law, Gwyneth. Sarah does not care for mingling with large crowds of people but when Gwyneth asks for her help with these charity events, she knows she cannot refuse.

Sarah’s master’s thesis is due soon. It consists of a novel she hasn’t finished writing due to writer’s block. She is more interested in the history of San Francisco and has written many well-received articles along that line. When she searches for stories of old San Francisco, she discovers one about two missing dressmakers in the late 19th century. The girls were thought to have been murdered. Thus begins Sarah’s story.

Hannalore Schaffer – San Francisco – 1876

Hanna and her siblings are at the mercy of their drunken father. He takes what little money they earn and then beats them. Often, Hanna will go hungry so her siblings can eat. Hanna works as a seamstress at a tailor’s shop and hides some of the money she makes under a floorboard at home. She hopes to save enough to run away with her siblings.

Margaret O’Brien works with Hanna and is in a similar situation having the responsibility for the care of her many siblings.

One day, two gentlemen come into the shop for repairs to some clothes. Their names are Lucas Havensworth and his cousin, Robert. Lucas is very kind to the girls but Robert is arrogant with them.

One Sunday afternoon, Margaret and Hanna meet to enjoy a few hours walking around San Francisco. There, they see Lucas and Robert who stop and talk to them. As the two men prepare to depart in a carriage, a drunk man accosts Hanna and Margaret, but Lucas intervenes and punches the man. The man becomes very angry and swears he will kill the girls one day.

The story switches back and forth from 1876 to present day San Francisco. We see the very desperate way many people in the city lived and how they struggled. We also see the enormous amount of drinking and opium places and the people addicted to them. As Sarah delves further into researching what happened to the girls, she finds she being threatened by someone who doesn’t want her to find out the truth. In addition, she is hiding something very awful from her own past.

For some reason, this book just didn’t grab me as being realistic. I’m not sure I can say that I would care to recommend the book. I believe this is the author’s first novel so I look forward to reading what she writes next as I think every author needs second chances.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘A Drop of Ink’ by Megan Chance

adoi-mcSTORY: Penniless and disgraced, Adelaide Wentworth is feeling rather desperate. With nothing left to lose, she and her sister, Louisa, flee to Lake Geneva with Adelaide’s lover, the infamous poet Julian Estes. There, Louisa hopes to persuade Bayard Sonnier—celebrated writer and her former lover—to advance Julian’s career. He is their last hope for salvation.

At the Villa Diodati—the place that inspired the writing of Frankenstein sixty years earlier—Louisa plots to rekindle her affair with Bayard, while Adelaide hopes to restore her fading love for Julian by being the muse he needs.

But soon, secrets are revealed, passions ignited, and hidden talents discovered. Adelaide begins to imagine a different life. Confused, she turns to Giovanni Calina—Bayard’s assistant and a man with his own secrets and deep resentments—and the two form a dangerous alliance. No one leaves unscathed in this richly imagined, emotionally nuanced tale of passion, ambition, inspiration, and redemption.

REVIEW: I’ve never read this author before but I really got intrigued by the book blurb, so I thought to try it and was so glad I did.

This was not one of those cookie cutter romances that I love and am used to, yet it was a story that delivered on so many fronts. It was a story that went into deeper and more complex telling of so many of our human emotions, from love to madness and back to love again. I loved the imperfections of the characters and their humanity was on full display.

I hope you give Megan Chance  a chance, pun intended, and get this well written and complex story.

“A fatal muse. A man who’d betrayed his wife and child because he told himself he was building a more perfect world, a man who believed art should obey few limits, and that love should obey none.”

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Crowned and Dangerous’ by Rhys Bowen

cad-rbSTORY: Nothing is simple when you’re thirty-fifth in line for the British crown, least of all marriage. But with love on their side, and plans to elope, Lady Georgiana Rannoch and her beau Darcy O’Mara hope to bypass a few royal rules…

With Darcy driving me out of London in a borrowed motor car, I soon discover that he isn’t planning to introduce me to the pleasures of sinning in secret—as I had hoped—but to make me his wife!

Of course, there are some quibbles to be dealt with, such as my needing special permission from the King to marry a Roman Catholic and the question of where we might live after the honeymoon. Though he will inherit a title, Darcy is as broke as I am. Even his family’s Irish castle has been sold to a rich American who now employs Darcy’s father as a hired hand.

Throwing these cares to the wind, nothing could deter us from our mission—except perhaps the news that my future father-in-law has just been arrested. It seems the rich American was murdered and Darcy’s father had more than enough motive to do the deed. With the elopement postponed, we head for Ireland where he insists he’s innocent, and it’s up to us to prove it—for better or worse.

REVIEW: November 1934

Lady Georgina (Georgie) Rannock and the Honorable Darcy O’Mara are in a motor car heading north from London having just attended the wedding of Princess Marina to the Duke of Kent. Now, Georgie and Darcy are headed to Gretna Green to be married.

When a snowstorm stops them followed by news that Darcy’s father has been charged with murder, once again Georgie and Darcy must go their separate ways.

Back in London, Georgie receives a phone call from Darcy who breaks off their engagement. As she is 35th in line to the British crown, Darcy does not want to risk her reputation by having her involved with him. Georgie refuses to accept this and travels to Darcy’s family home, Kilkenny Castle, in Ireland.

Darcy’s father had been overwhelmed with financial problems and agreed to sell the family Castle to a wealthy American while Mr. Darcy remained the head of the stables with an excellent line of horses. After the death of a horse from doping before a race, the American fired Mr. Darcy. Shortly after, the American was found clubbed to death and the club had Mr. Darcy’s fingerprints on it.

Now, it is up to Darcy, Georgie, other family members and friends to try and find the true killer. Thus, we begin yet another adventure in Ireland and the countryside.

I have followed this series for a long time and have read most of the author’s Royal Spyness Mystery series. These are great characters and the story is always a good mystery. I highly recommend the entire series.

Connie for b2b

‘The Gunslinger’ by Lorraine Heath

tg-lhSTORY: Chance Wilder never wanted to be a hero. A road-weary gunslinger with a ruthless reputation, he focuses only on his next target—and his next payday. That is, until a young boy offers Chance everything he owns—a piece of string, a harmonica, and a bent penny—if he’ll save his sister from a couple of thugs. Chance agrees, only to discover that the beautiful, fierce young woman in need of rescue is actually the very person he’s been hunting: his next mark.

But after he saves her, Lillian Madison awakens in him long-buried dreams and possibilities. Facing the demons of his past, Chance is forced to question his next move. Dare he risk everything by following his heart … and trust that the road to redemption begins with Lillian?

* Originally appeared in the print anthology To Tame a Texan, under the title Long Stretch of Lonesome.

REVIEW: As the footnote says, this short story had originally appeared in the print anthology To Tame a Texan, under the title Long Stretch of Lonesome and  it’s the perfect length for all of you that have never read this author. This story will hook you to her wonderful story telling, and for all of us that have been this author’s faithful followers and fans, this will give you all the “feels” you’re used to getting from her.

If you’re in a mood for a sweet historical western with some twists and turns, this is it. It has two wonderful leads, some entertaining second characters and secrets that are heartbreaking when revealed.

I recommend it to all romance readers and not just western genre readers.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘The Lady of the Lakes: The True Love Story of Sir Walter Scott’ by Josi S. Kilpack

tlotl-jskSTORY: One is his first love.
The other is his best love.
Which will be Walter’s true love?

Walter Scott has three passions: Scotland, poetry, and Mina Stuart. Though she is young and they are from different stations in society, Walter is certain their love is meant to be. For years, he has courted her through love letters. She is the sunshine of his soul.

Though Mina shares Walter’s love of literature and romantic temperament, it’s hard for her to know if she truly loves him or if she has only been dazzled by his flattery. When she meets the handsome and charming William Forbes, her heart is challenged. Who will she choose?

But as every poet knows, “the course of true love never did run smooth,” and on a windy morning in the lake country, Walter meets Charlotte.

At twenty-six, Charlotte Carpenter believes she will never find love. After all, she is a Catholic-born Frenchwoman living in London with a family history shadowed by scandal. Though quiet, practical, and determined to live a life of independence, her heart longs for someone to love her and a place to call home.

Passion and promises collide as Walter, Mina, and Charlotte must each decide the course for their futures. What are they each willing to risk to find love and be loved in return?

REVIEW: Edinburgh Scotland – 1791

Walter Scott had been nicknamed Wattie by his mother. She was very strict that he attend church and learn the “guid” word. It was difficult for him to keep still as he wanted to to be outside. He learned many stories in his youth and wanted to write about them. One day at age 19, he sees a young lady who totally enthralls him. As he boldly introduces himself, he learns her name is Williamina (Mina) and her mother is Lady Belches. The young lady appears to be only around age 14. The family is in town for the father to attend Session. Walter’s mother and Lady Belches were girls together so Walter is allowed to escort Mina home.

1795

Walter eagerly awaits Mina’s return as they winter in Edinburgh each year. He is now a barrister and she is age 19. Walter had had infantile paralysis when he was a child and was left with a small limp. But he is an athletic man and he has worked hard to reduce the effects of his illness.

Walter is a huge fan of the theater and always enjoys going. This year, Mina is quite popular with the men and enjoys dancing with them. With his limp, dancing is a bit difficult for Walter. While Walter and Mina enjoy being together, he knows it is too soon to declare himself to her. When Mina is told by her father that she is to marry someone more prestigious than Walter, she is crushed.

Charlotte Carpentier, age 25, is enjoying the theater and a Shakespeare play, “The Winter’s Tale.” Charlotte’s guardian is Lord Downshire. She and her brother were originally from France but they were sent to England as children to be cared for by Lord Downshire. Their parents had not lived up to their duty as parents. Her guardian tells her that it time she wed and suggests an older widower with 5 children. She is horrified and turns him down. That is when Lord Downshire tells her that she needs to wed or find a way to support herself so she soon learns about her finances but is determined to stay single.

We then follow Walter as he loses the love of his life, Mina, but finds another woman, Charlotte. It takes a long time for his broken heart to mend but his friendship with Charlotte is one that grows.

This is an interesting story of Sir Walter Scott in his younger years. The author has put a lot of research into this book and makes the story quite interesting.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b