‘The Rebel Princess’ by Judith Koll Healy

trp jkhSTORY: Paris, October 1207. There is nothing that Princess AlaÏs of France wants more than to settle down with her lover, William of Caen, and to reveal to his ward, Francis, that she is his mother. but intrigue is afoot in the palace, and tensions are pushed to the brink when a much prized relic is stolen and young Francis goes missing. frantic for his safety, AlaÏs will risk life and limb to find the boy—donning a disguise to outwit cunning enemies as she makes her way into unfamiliar territory to save her son, and perhaps prevent a bloody holy war that threatens her beloved France.

From the opulent halls of Paris to austere monasteries in the south of France, The Rebel Princess combines history and suspense in an unforgettable tale involving one of the most enigmatic and intriguing female figures in medieval history.

REVIEW: Where to start? This was a very, very, very long read for me. I would start reading it and stop, then repeat the exercise for the next month and a half.

For me, reading this historical fiction which, mind you, was very well written and full of many, many historical events, was pure torture.

It might be (but I doubt it) because I hadn’t read the book before it, THE CANTERBURY PAPERS. Or it might be too much of history and not enough of fiction; but whatever it was, I wasn’t able to connect to it. That doesn’t mean that you’ll fail to connect as well. Your tastes might lead you to love it.

I’ll blame my personal taste, and not the style of writing or the prose, that caused me to disconnect with the protagonists and the story itself.

In all honesty, I can’t recommend it to romance lovers; BUT I can to all you history buffs, and for that reason alone I’m giving this novel Four Roses. I’ll be glad to pass it along to someone that would appreciate it more than I did.

Melanie for RRAH

‘All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue’ by Sophie Jordan

atwtrar sjSTORY: There was once a lady who loathed a lord…

Lady Aurelia hasn’t always hated Max, Viscount Camden, her brother’s best friend. In fact, as a besotted girl, she thrived under his kind attention – sure that he was the most noble and handsome man in the land. Until her young heart discovered what manner of rogue he really was. Now, though she enjoys nothing more than getting on his last nerve, she can’t deny Max drives her to distraction—even if she tries to pretend otherwise.

…and a lord who was confounded by a lady.

Max cannot recall a time when Aurelia did not vex him. If she was not his friend’s sister, he would stay far away from the infuriating vixen. Unfortunately, they are always thrown together. At parties and family gatherings…she is always there. Infuriating him, tossing punch in his face, driving him mad…until one night, she goes too far and he retaliates in the only way he can: with a kiss that changes everything.

REVIEW: Lady Aurelia has always had a crush on her older brother Will’s, friend, Max Chandler, the fourth Viscount of Camden. Max would often visit their home when Will and Max were off from school. However, at age eight, Aurelia’s fantasy is ruined when she sees Max tup a maid. She is angry, disillusioned and takes her frustrations out in her usual way – by drawing a caricature. This one is of Max with a tiny penis and titles it “Cockless Camden.” The problem is that her private sketchpad is found by some of Camden’s friends. He is laughed at and retains the moniker for years. Although Aurelia regrets her action, she remains angry with Max.

As the years pass, Aurelia continues to vex Max and the two of them can hardly stand to be in the same room together. While Aurelia has no real prospects for marrying, she is close to becoming a spinster and Max is a man who has no desire to ever marry. But when their disdain for one another suddenly catches fire and turns to passion, they’re both taken aback.

Aurelia is a good artist and enjoys leaving her caricatures of people in public places. Max, on the other hand, is afraid that she is going to get caught some day and be terribly embarrassed This is a cute story about two stubborn people. The fact that they care enough to irritate each other shows me there is attraction between them.

I have enjoyed Sophie Jordan’s books and the signature humor she adds is the icing on the cake. It’s always great when a book makes me laugh out loud. I hope others will read this story too.

Connie for b2b

‘A Royal Pain’ by Rhys Bowen

arp rbSTORY: The Queen of England has concocted a plan in which Georgie is to entertain a Bavarian princess? and conveniently place her in the playboy Prince’s path, in the hopes that he might finally marry.

But queens never take money into account. Georgie has very little, which is why she moonlights as a maid-in-disguise. She must draw up plans: clean house to make it look like a palace; have Granddad and her neighbor pretend to be the domestic staff; un-teach Princess Hanni the English she’s culled from American gangster movies; cure said Princess of her embarrassing shoplifting habit; and keep an eye on her at parties.

Then there’s the worrying matter of the body in the bookshop and Hanni’s unwitting involvement with the Communist Party. It’s enough to drive a girl crazy…

REVIEW: Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch is the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a cousin to His Majesty, the current King.  While that sounds quite glamorous, unfortunately, Georgie has very little money and is always trying to keep up appearances and be at the beck and call of the Queen.  So, when she is summoned to Buckingham Palace for tea with the Queen, she knows she has a job for her.

Bavarian Princess Maria Theresa Hannelore Wilhelmina Mathilda (Hanni) has just come out of a convent where she has been schooled.  The Queen has invited her to England in hopes of pairing her up with her son, Prince David, and getting him away from Wallis Simpson.  The Queen has asked Georgie to take Hanni under her wing and show her around London.  As one can never say no to the Queen, Georgie agrees and then almost panics when she wonders where she will find the money to do all of this.  Ah, but Georgie is a very smart gal and she comes up with a plan.  She gets her brother to let her use Rannoch House in London along with some funds to run it.  Then, she enlists her grandfather’s and his friend’s help to act as butler and cook.

When Hanni arrives, Georgie is taken aback by the vocabulary she has learned by watching American gangster movies.  Hanni wants to cut loose by going to parties and enjoying wonderful restaurants.  But Hanni’s companion poses problems as well with her constant complaining about the food and accommodations.

Georgie takes Hanni to some parties where there is a lot of drinking and then to a house and garden party outside of London.  During this time, Hanni meets a young man who is advocating the Communist party which is not good at all.  When people start dying, things turn frightening so Georgie dons her sleuth hat to try to find the murderer.

This is the second of Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness series.  I’ve read several books in the series and each of them is wonderful.  I hope to complete reading all of the series.

Connie for b2b

‘Malice at the Palace’ by Rhys Bowen

matp rbSTORY: Lady Georgiana Rannoch won’t deny that being thirty-fifth in line for the British throne has its advantages. Unfortunately, money isn’t one of them. And sometimes making ends meet requires her to investigate a little royal wrongdoing.

While my beau Darcy is off on a mysterious mission, I am once again caught between my high birth and empty purse. I am therefore relieved to receive a new assignment from the Queen—especially one that includes lodging. The King’s youngest son, George, is to wed Princess Marina of Greece, and I shall be her companion at the supposedly haunted Kensington Palace.

My duties are simple: help Marina acclimate to English life, show her the best of London and, above all, dispel any rumors about George’s libertine history. Perhaps that last bit isn’t so simple.

George is known for his many affairs with women as well as men—including the great songwriter Noel Coward. But things truly get complicated when I search the Palace for a supposed ghost only to encounter an actual dead person: a society beauty said to have been one of Prince George’s mistresses.

Nothing spoils a royal wedding more than murder, and the Queen wants the whole matter hushed. But as the investigation unfolds—and Darcy, as always, turns up in the most unlikely of places—the investigation brings us precariously close to the prince himself.

REVIEW: London – 1934

Lady Georgiana (Georgie) Rannoch is the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a cousin to His Majesty, the current King.  Her life sounds quite glamorous, but actually not so much.  Too often, she finds herself without funds and reduced to existing on eating beans on toast.  Ah, but things are looking up for her when she is summoned by Queen Mary to come for tea.  There, she was asked to move into Kensington Palace for a time to be a friend to Princess Marina who is to be arriving in London soon to prepare for her wedding to Prince George.  Georgie happily agrees and knows she will enjoy showing her around London.

As it turns out, the area of the Palace where she will stay is a bit small and somewhat shabby.

She has also brought her maid, Queenie, with her.  Poor Queenie tries but she is much too lazy and sassy.  However, Georgie would feel bad if she fired her.  In addition, she gets away with paying her the minimum which is all she can afford.  The Palace is known for its ghosts which don’t frighten Georgie but terrifies Queenie.

Georgie quickly settles in and is delighted with the sweet and lovely Princess Marina and together they enjoy shopping, lunches at nice places and soirees with famous people such as Noel Coward.  But when Georgie finds a woman’s body just outside the Palace doors, she gets involved with the police in trying to find the killer.  Georgie has a lot of experience with this because as it happens, this is not the first time she has encountered murder.

Life gets quite busy for her trying to hide the incident from upsetting the Princess and other royals while trying to solve the mystery herself.  She wishes that her boyfriend, the Honorable Darcy O’Mara, the son of Lord Kilhenny, was here.  A handsome man, they have been in a relationship for sometime now and Darcy keeps saying that soon they will be able to get married.  But his covert background is so hush-hush that finding time to even be together for a short time is difficult.  But Georgie remains patient.

As time for the wedding nears, things get a bit tense when it seems that Prince George himself could be a suspect!

I absolutely love the author’s Royal Spyness Mystery Series.  This is the eighth book in the series.  The name dropping and humor always leave me snorting in laughter!  I hope others will discover these books and enjoy them as well.

Connie for b2b

‘Uncovering Secrets’ by Barbara Hinske

us bhSTORY: This third book in the beloved Rosemont series (but easily read as a stand-alone) finds Mayor Maggie Martin knee-deep in the financial problems facing Westbury. With a stagnant investigation into the fraud and embezzlement that brought the town to the brink of bankruptcy, Maggie needs results—now. The bad guys, however, are always one step ahead, with bribes and blackmail at their disposal.

Her late husband’s mistress also has an ace to play against Frank Haynes and his cronies. But the woman’s plan for revenge may be derailed by her daughter’s sudden illness. Will Haynes slip through the net once again?

Meanwhile, Maggie is busy planning her wedding as Roman forms an unlikely alliance with a litter of kittens. And Rosemont’s attic gives up its secrets; some welcome, some not. While Maggie delights in a newly discovered collection of vintage silver, Frank Haynes is on a mission to establish his claim to Rosemont. Surprisingly, his cold heart may not be impervious after all.

Dive in as Maggie seeks her silver lining.

REVIEW: Maggie Martin moved from southern California after her husband, Paul, passed away. Now she lives in her beautiful stone manor home Rosemont, in the midwest.  She is engaged to John Allen, a veterinarian.  In addition, she is the Mayor of Westbury.  Her job has been difficult as she is working to clean up past financial fraud and embezzlement that nearly wiped out the town workers’ pension plan.  She has been criticized by many people in town, including the press.  Some people she used to think of as friends seem to be involved in this fraud.  But Maggie is tough and has no intention of stepping down.

Frank Haynes is a big critic of Maggie and is jealous of her owning Rosemont.  He thinks he has found a way for him to claim ownership of Rosemont and is working toward that end.  The man is quite wealthy and somewhat of a philanthropist in town as he supports several good causes.  He seems to to have two faces in that he is somewhat of a crook but has a soft heart.

Another thug in town is Chuck Delgado who served on the town council with Frank Haynes.  Maggie is working to prove that these two men orchestrated the embezzlement scheme.

Frank Haynes’ assistant, Loretta, was having an affair with Maggie’s husband Paul, before he passed away.  Loretta is a single mother with three children, one of whom is becoming progressively sicker with a kidney problem.

Maggie has two grown children, Susan, an attorney who is dating a man who makes her very happy.  In addition, her son Mike, is married and the father of twin daughters.

Rosemont is a huge home and when Maggie has a chance to explore the attic, she finds an enormous cache of silver pieces, many of which are very rare.  She gets it appraised, insured and safely locked away.  Some she will sell, and some keep for her children’s future.

We follow Maggie as she plans for her wedding to John in June.  Her life is never a dull moment.  There is constant work involved in keeping up with her job as mayor, including the in-depth investigation in the town’s fraud and embezzlement problem.  In addition, she has found herself the surrogate mother for a litter of kittens which requires frequent feedings.

This is the third novel of the author’s Rosemont series.  Unfortunately, I have yet to read the first two but I will need to do that soon as I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  I think it would make a terrific TV series.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the author

‘The Third Wife’ by Lisa Jewell

ttw lj2STORY: A tragic accident? Or suicide?

Her grief-stricken husband, Adrian, is determined to find out.

Maya had a job she enjoyed; she had friends. They’d been in love.

She even got on with his two previous wives and their children. In fact, they’d all been one big happy family.

But before long Adrian starts to identify the dark cracks in his perfect life.
Because everyone has secrets.
And secrets have consequences.
Some of which can be devastating.

REVIEW: Maya Wolfe was a sweet young woman in love with her husband, Adrian.  Surprisingly, her life was a strange one in that her relationship with her husband’s two ex-wives and all of their children was good.

Adrian first married Susie with whom he had two children.  Then he met Caroline and divorced Susie to marry Caroline with whom he had three children.  Some years later, he met Maya, fell in love with her, divorced Caroline and married Maya.  Yes, Adrian is a busy man who seems to be in love with love.  The families are all friends and spend holidays and vacation times together.  Adrian loves his kids and strives to be with them as much as possible.

One day, Maya goes to a bar, gets insanely drunk and steps out in front of a bus where she is killed.  All Adrian is left with is “Why?” – oh – and Maya’s cat.  Knowing he is not a cat person, he puts an ad up to find the cat a home and a young woman named Jane answers the ad and comes to see the cat.  She tells Adrian that she will think about it and let him know.

As Adrian struggles to come to grips with Maya’s death and what could have driven her to this end, certain clues emerge that seem to point to this not being an accidental death.  Perhaps the Wolfe family is not as stable as one would think.  Problems with each of the children appear and when threatening emails addressed to Maya (that she had hidden) Adrian takes matters into his hands and involves the police in the investigation.

What happened to Maya?  Who sent those awful messages to this sweet woman and why?  Who is this Jane person?  She seems to be involved somehow.

The characters are well written and the story is interesting.  However, I felt that Adrian was a clueless clod.  I enjoyed this novel but cannot say that I was very impressed with it.  As this is the first of the author’s novels that I have read, I think I would be willing to read more and hope they will be better than this one.
Connie for b2b

‘Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor’ by Melanie Dobson

solm mdSTORY: When Heather Toulson returns to her parent’s cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage.

As Heather digs, she finds a mysterious journal that belonged to a woman she never knew and it contains clues that lead to the truth about mysterious drowning decades ago. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

REVIEW: Clevedon, England

When Margaret (Maggie) Emerson finds herself pregnant and deserted by Elliot, a foreign sailor, she accepts the proposal of Walter Doyle, editor of the local newspaper. When her pregnancy begins to show right away, many of the local gossips figure she was pregnant before she got married.  When her daughter is, Libby, is born, she is a tiny baby so Maggie convinces Walter that she is premature.

Walter loves his job writing for the newspaper, but Maggie finally persuades him to move somewhere else because she is afraid he will find out that she was pregnant when he married her.  He gets a job as a postman and she gets a job as housekeeper to the family at Ladenbrooke Manor and the family lives in a house adjacent to the Manor grounds.

As Libby starts to grow, it is obvious that things are not as they should be with her.  She will not do her school work nor will she stay off the grounds of the Manor as requested by the owners.  Her happiness is found in watching and later, painting, butterflies.  I guess she is what someone might then have called a fey child.  However, today, we would know that she has a form of autism.  She soon gains the attention of the son of the Manor and a relationship develops.  When she becomes pregnant by him, her family hides the pregnancy and she gives birth to a girl she names Heather.  Even though Libby nurses the baby, her attention span is not good enough to care for Heather properly, so Maggie says she is Heather’s mother.

The story then jumps to Heather who is a divorced woman living in Portland Oregon and the mother of a girl who has just gotten married.  When after the death of her parents Heather arrives at their home to clean it out to prepare it for sale, many secrets come to light that have been hidden for many years.  She meets up with a man she once loved when she was a girl and their relationship soon rekindles.

There are so many secrets and twists and turns in this novel that the reader will not want to put it down. I was completely enthralled and enjoyed it immensely.

Connie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher