‘The Mistress’ by Danielle Steel

tm-dsSTORY: Natasha Leonova’s beauty saved her life. Discovered on a freezing Moscow street by a Russian billionaire, she has lived for seven years under his protection, immersed in rarefied luxury, while he pursues his activities in a dark world that she guesses at but never sees. Her home is the world, often on one of Vladimir Stanislas’s spectacular yachts manned by scores of heavily armed crew members. Natasha’s job is to keep Vladimir happy, ask no questions, and be discreet. She knows her place, and the rules. She feels fortunate to be spoiled and protected, and is careful not to dwell on Vladimir’s ruthlessness or the deadly circles he moves in. She experiences only his kindness and generosity and believes he will always keep her safe. She is unfailingly loyal to him in exchange.

Theo Luca is the son of a brilliant, world famous, and difficult artist, Lorenzo Luca, who left his wife and son with a fortune in artwork they refuse to sell. Lorenzo’s widow, Maylis, has transformed their home in St. Paul de Vence into a celebrated restaurant decorated with her late husband’s paintings, and treats it as a museum. There, on a warm June evening, Theo first encounters Natasha, the most exquisite woman he has ever seen. And there, Vladimir lays eyes on Luca’s artwork. Two dangerous obsessions begin.

Theo, a gifted artist in his own right, finds himself feverishly painting Natasha’s image for weeks after their first meeting. Vladimir, enraged that Lorenzo’s works are not for sale, is determined to secure a painting at any price. And Natasha, who knows that she cannot afford to make even one false move, nevertheless begins to think of the freedom she can never have as Vladimir’s mistress. She cannot risk her safety for another man, or even a conversation with him, as Theo longs for a woman he can never have.

From Moscow to the Riviera, Paris, and London, The Mistress is a riveting tale of vast fortune, cruelty, creative genius, and daring courage, as uncompromising individuals chart a course for collision.

REVIEW: The 500 foot yacht, Princess Marina, named for his mother, is owned by Vladimir Stanislos, 49, one of the richest men in Russia whose worth is estimated at $40-$50 billion. His mistress is Natasha Leonova, 26, whom he has been with for 7 years. She had a very poor life as a child and he rescued her off the streets of Russia. She was very sick with pneumonia and he nursed her back to health. Natasha knows that he refuses to have any children with a mistress. But she is the perfect companion who always knows what he needs from her. Vladimir is an art lover and collector and Natasha enjoys it as well. They spend time on their yacht or at one of their other residences around the world.

Maylis Luca is the widow of famed artist, Lorenzo Luca. Their son, Theo. is also a talented artist. Maylis owns a posh restaurant in Cap d’Antibes which displays a number of Lorenzo’s paintings, but none are for sale. Occasionally, Theo helps out at the restaurant when they are short handed.

One night, Vladimir and Natasha have dinner at the restaurant. Both are very taken with Luca’s paintings and want to buy one. However, Maylis gives them a firm no even though Theo encourages her to sell it. Theo thinks Natasha is very beautiful, but he does not care for Vladimir and his arrogant manner. However, when Vladimir offers an outrageously high figure for the painting, Maylis accepts the offer.

Theo is so obsessed with Natasha that he spends an enormous period of time painting her from memory working until he feels it is perfect. When he gifts her with the painting, Vladimir becomes jealous and revenge erupts.

This is a typical Danielle Steel novels that rambles along making it a very easy read. Of course, there are a lot of repeated sentences but that is the signature of this particular author. I have read a number of her books but not all. I chose to read this particular novel because it takes place in my beloved Paris and the south of France. If you are looking for a nice story with lots of descriptions, do pick up this book. It is quite good.

Connie for b2b

‘Wicked in His Arms’ by Stacy Reid

wiha-srSTORY: Tobias Walcott, the Earl of Blade, has learned it is best to exercise rigid control over his passions and emotions in all that he does. Uncaring that it makes him seem cool and aloof to most in the ton, he is content with his desire to only woo agreeable and demur females. Then unforeseen circumstances see him trapped in a closet at a house party with the last woman he would ever make his countess.

Lady Olivia Sherwood is everything he should not desire in a female—unconventional, too decisive, and utterly without decorum. But passion ignites between them and they are discovered. Honor demands they wed, and while Tobias finds himself unwillingly drawn to the bewitching beauty, he must do everything not to tempt the passion that burns in him for her, lest it leads to disastrous consequences.

REVIEW: Hertfordshire England – 1818 – Riverhill Manor

Viscount Bathhurst is ill and his stepdaughter, Lady Olivia (Livvie) Sherwood, is helping to care for him. She has loved him as a true father since her real father took his own life leaving her mother and two daughters alone and penniless. The Viscount has a son, William, from his first marriage, who will inherit everything except for a small cottage, and modest incomes se aside for his wife and two stepdaughters.

When he tells her that he has asked his cousin, the Countess of Blade, to sponsor her for a season, she is not pleased. Having received a bad reception 3 years ago at her first season in London due to her father’s past, she does not want to go through it again. Livvie is happy with her life just as it is. As an accomplished painter, she has been able to earn money by selling her paintings. She is confident that when her stepfather passes, she will be able to help support them through this pastime.

But her mother is also insistent that she find a husband. Yet when her stepbrother, William, tells her he is going to make her his mistress, she is shocked to the point she immediately agrees to go to the Countess of Blade for her assistance in finding a husband for her.

Grangeville Park, South Hampshire

Tobias Theodore Walcott, the Earl of Blade, is riding his horse very fast when he runs into another horse knocking its rider on the ground. The rider turns out to be Livvie. Furious at him for knocking her into the mud, he is intrigued by her anger as she scolds him. Of course, she knows that the Countess will be angry with her if she learns that Livvie was riding astride.

As they get to know one another, Tobias sees that Livvie is not a very ladylike person and tends to be a bit of a hoyden. She is also very outspoken and enjoys things like fencing and fishing.

Tobias is a very straight-laced man who is not easily moved by young women looking to wed him. But when he and Livvie are caught in a compromising situation, there is no other choice than that they wed. How can these two very different people expect to make their marriage last?

This is a good story about two very opinionated people. I found Livvie to be very likable but Tobias needed a swift kick in the butt. I’m sure that readers will enjoy their adventures.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘The Coldwater Warm Hearts Club’ by Lexi Eddings

tcwwhc-leSTORY: For Lacy Evans, returning to flyover country is the definition of failure. She had everything she wanted an award-winning design firm, a chic city condo, a handsome, aristocratic almost-fiance. Then her boyfriend ran off with her receptionist and her clients’ money. Now she s out of business and crashing on her parents couch. When she slides into a booth at the Green Apple Grill, she’s feeling lower than a worm’s belly.

But Lacy s old classmate Jacob Tyler is happy to see her. Coldwater s football hero came back from Afghanistan short part of a leg and some peace of mind, but he s counting his blessings, and Lacy could be one of them. Then there s her ex, Daniel, wearing a sheriff s badge and a wedding ring, but looking like young summer love. And a host of unlikely serendipities: the selfless do-gooders who sneak around taming curmudgeons and constructing second chances. The Fighting Marmots. The sprawling, take-no-prisoners Bugtussle clan.

Lacy thought she knew her hometown, and herself. She just wanted to get on her feet and keep running. But the longer she stays, the more she finds to change her mind. . .

REVIEW: Lexi Eddings is a new voice of contemporary romance, however Mia Marlow is one of my all time favorite historical romance authors. Knowing that, I was praying that I’d at least like this new reincarnation of her writing voice. And guess what? I loved it!

For me, even though this was Lacy and Jake’s story, it just felt more of an ensemble tale, and that’s because we have multiple points of views and because every character you meet is three dimensional.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the author’s choice of including Jake’s faith throughout the storyline. That’s something I hardly encounter in romances, unless they’re marked as “Christian”.

If you’re looking for a new voice in contemporary romance, I highly recommend Lexi Eddings and her heartwarming story of second chances, redemption, faith, hope and love.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Never and Always’ by Maureen Driscoll

naa-mdSTORY: Return to the world of the Kellington and Emerson families in this Regency romance collection of three novellas.

Leticia Emerson, Violet Kellington and Anna Emerson have been friends most of their lives. Little did they know a visit from three Eton school boys would change everyone’s lives for the better.

Fifteen-year-old Lord Wesley Addington has just learned he has a half-sister, Lady Leticia Emerson. Over the next decade, Violet Kellington falls in love with the man who only sees her as his sister’s friend.

Lord Robert Carmichael has been all but abandoned by his family due to his pronounced limp, and he doesn’t want to pass on his affliction to a child. Though he is determined not to marry, Letty Emerson sees only the brave man who fought through the pain of his illness and the scorn of his family.

Scholarship student Mark Jones is torn between two worlds: the London stews he was born into and the peers who will never accept him. Anna Emerson, who has an English father and a Native American mother, knows she has found her soul’s mate.

The book contains three intersecting novellas, touching on love, loss and acceptance. It revisits the Kellington and Emerson families, more than a decade after their stories concluded. It is a love letter from the author to the two families which have meant so much to her.

BUY LINKS: Amazon 

REVIEW: If you’re like me and enjoy romance written in series, you know that once the series is done, we are literally going through withdrawal. We hope and hope that the author might one day give us a glimpse of those many couples that we’ve come to know and love through their wonderful prose and plots.

Well, let me tell you! I was one happy camper when this author decided not to wait years and years to let me know what’s been going on in Kellington and Emerson Universe!

Every character introduced to us in this story feels genuine and well rounded and as usual, the dialogue between everyone never lacks wit and humor, for which this author is well known for.

Violet and Wes’s story was fun because of her strong personality.

“Let me see if I understand,” she said, taking three steps toward him and bringing her lemon verbena with her. “You were so… taken with our kiss that you decided it was necessary to put an ocean between us. I am flattered beyond belief. I can only imagine how much further you would have run had we taken things further.”

Robert and Letty’s story was heartbreaking because of who these two were. Both, but especially Robert, had to be strong not only for themselves, but for each other as well. I love flawed characters, and giving Robert an infirmity, made his story even sweeter.

 

“When it had finally become apparent that, despite the hard-earned progress Robert had made, he would never walk without a pronounced limp, his father had called him into his study and said he was ashamed that the historic title would one day be handed down to such a weakling.

“Fear not, my lord,” Robert had said. “Mayhap another illness will kill me before that happens.”

His father had leaned back in his seat and said, “God knows either of your brothers would do a better job of it. At least we would not have to worry that the next generation would be deformed imbeciles.”

Mark and Anna’s story was just as poignant as the other two and you’ll love this young man who grew without the family, yet found one in Kellingtons and Emmersons.

“Most of the boys at Eton were entitled arses. They judged a boy by his accent first and character never.  And while Mark could imitate the speech of the boys of the ton, he had an East London accent.  But even if he’d had their diction, he would never be part of their circles because birthright was the only thing which mattered to them.

Lost in thought, he didn’t see the fight until he was almost on top of it. He heard it first, from the crowd of boys cheering them on.  In London, Mark had seen too many real fights which ended in death and serious injury to have much of a stomach for more blood.  He was about to walk around it when he saw Percy Reynolds, the reigning school bully.  That was hardly surprising since he loved to get his mates to fight for him.  But it was the other boy who drew Mark’s attention.  He was Robert Carmichael, known as Lorton, who had a pronounced limp.  Usually, Mark didn’t care all that much when toffs fought amongst themselves, but since three boys were attacking one who was already at a disadvantage he decided it was time to step in.  He just had to make sure not to hurt the boys too much, because while toffs could hit each other with impunity, Mark realized the very same thing could get him expelled.”

I must say, even though this book is comprised of three novella’s, it never felt like these stories were separate because there was a common thread to all of them and the plot wasn’t rushed which in the end helped me to connect to the main characters and enjoy their happily ever after’s.

By now I’ve come to respect this authors writing voice and I’ve yet to be disappointed by it. Her stories never fail to keep me entertained from the first to the last page.

If you’re a fan, I have no doubt you’ll get this one. If you’ve never read this author, you may as well start with this story of true friendship and love. It’s a ‘must read.’

Melanie for b2b

‘Never Too Late’ by Amara Royce

ntl-arSTORY: “Expect the unexpected, especially in a room filled with books. . .”

Honoria Duchamp is well aware that men often consider widows easy prey for the role of mistress. What else could explain the attentions of handsome Lord Devin, and his visits to her bookshop? The much younger Viscount has even shown interest in the printing press with which she creates pamphlets on London’s basest injustices. Yet his chief interest appears to be in her. . .

Coerced to investigate Nora’s controversial pamphlets, Devin expected to find a bookish matron. Instead, he is taken with Nora’s womanly beauty, sharp intellect, and quick wit. Soon, what begins as an unwelcome task becomes a pleasure, and Devin’s job becomes more dangerous-for them both. For Nora has no idea of the vicious element she’s crossed. Now Devin will risk his reputation to protect her-and much more to win her love. . .

REVIEW: Once in a blue moon an author will take a chance and write a romance involving an older, mature heroine and a younger, dashing hero. I am so happy when that happens!

It makes for an interesting and very entertaining romance filled with drama and suspense as well as some fascinating characters that will stay with you for some time.

Please don’t let the difference in their ages deter you from reading this story. The age difference between Nora and Devin is what makes this story so compelling.

I highly recommend it!

Melanie for b2b

‘The Plum Tree’ by Ellen Marie Wiseman

tpt emwSTORY: “Bloom where you’re planted,” is the advice Christine Bolz receives from her beloved Oma. But seventeen-year-old domestic Christine knows there is a whole world waiting beyond her small German village. It’s a world she’s begun to glimpse through music, books—and through Isaac Bauerman, the cultured son of the wealthy Jewish family she works for.

Yet the future she and Isaac dream of sharing faces greater challenges than their difference in stations. In the fall of 1938, Germany is changing rapidly under Hitler’s regime. Anti-Jewish posters are everywhere, dissenting talk is silenced, and a new law forbids Christine from returning to her job—and from having any relationship with Isaac. In the months and years that follow, Christine will confront the Gestapo’s wrath and the horrors of Dachau, desperate to be with the man she loves, to survive—and finally, to speak out.

Set against the backdrop of the German home front, this is an unforgettable novel of courage and resolve, of the inhumanity of war, and the heartbreak and hope left in its wake.

REVIEW: This is one of those stories that touches ones soul. Everything in this story was vivid and tangible. The prose gives one Goosebumps and has every character come to life while the author has us relive a dark time in history of Germany and the world.

“The air was as crisp and sweet as the crimson apples hanging in the orchards that lined the gentle foothills of the Kocher River valley. The sun was shining in a blue September sky quilted with tall, cottony clouds that swept rolling shadows over the countryside.”

What is touching through out the story, is how the author paints the picture that is so real, so true.

“Christine, I want you to understand something. War makes perpetrators of some, criminals of others, and victims of everyone. Not all of the soldiers on the front are fighting for Hitler and his ideals. Just because a soldier is in the battle, doesn’t mean that he believes in the war.”

***          ***          ***

“It came from the direction of the woods, unmistakable, uninterrupted, and unending. She fell to her knees, stomach twisting, thinking she’d go crazy before it stopped. She pressed her hands over her ears, but the sound of gunfire found its way through her trembling hands, ripping into her brain.”

If you’re looking for a historical fiction set in WWII, a story that shows what one goes through to survive, to love and to hope, you’ve found it in ‘The Plum Tree’.

Melanie for b2b

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

‘Where We Belong’ by Emily Giffin

wwb egSTORY: The author of five blockbuster novels, Emily Giffin, delivers an unforgettable story of two women, the families that make them who they are, and the longing, loyalty and love that binds them together

Marian Caldwell is a thirty-six year old television producer, living her dream in New York City. With a fulfilling career and satisfying relationship, she has convinced everyone, including herself, that her life is just as she wants it to be. But one night, Marian answers a knock on the door . . . only to find Kirby Rose, an eighteen-year-old girl with a key to a past that Marian thought she had sealed off forever. From the moment Kirby appears on her doorstep, Marian’s perfectly constructed world—and her very identity—will be shaken to its core, resurrecting ghosts and memories of a passionate young love affair that threaten everything that has come to define her.

For the precocious and determined Kirby, the encounter will spur a process of discovery that ushers her across the threshold of adulthood, forcing her to re-evaluate her family and future in a wise and bittersweet light. As the two women embark on a journey to find the one thing missing in their lives, each will come to recognize that where we belong is often where we least expect to find ourselves—a place that we may have willed ourselves to forget, but that the heart remembers forever.

REVIEW: Marian and Conrad are two young teenagers just getting to know one another. Marian is a shy girl and she and Conrad have sex. She is a virgin and since they used protection, Marian is shocked when she is late. She takes a pregnancy test which comes up positive. Not wanting Conrad to feel obligated to her, she lies to him telling him the test is negative and then proceeds to break up with him. Confiding in her mother only, Marian at first considers abortion but backs out at the last minute. She then chooses to go away for the duration of her pregnancy and gives her baby girl up for adoption. It breaks Marian’s heart to do so, however, she know she wants the best for her child and confidently gives her to a family who have prayed for a child for a long time and will love her and give her a wonderful home.

Fast forward 18 years and we meet the young girl, Kirby, who although she loves her adoptive parents, wants to find and meet her birth mother. She is given the information from the adoption agency and travels to meet Marian, who is a television producer living in New York City. Marion’s life has been successful and she is dating Peter, the CEO of the television company she works for. Theirs is a somewhat tenuous relationship with Marian wanting to get married and have a child and Peter who is not really ready for that. The reunion between Marian and Kirby is a bit rocky in that Marian lives a rather well-to-do life and Kirby’s life has been with her middle class family. However, they do enjoy one another and plan to keep in touch.

We follow Kirby as she finishes her last months of high school but is undecided about going to college. She and Marian decide to look up Conrad, the birth father. Conrad and Kirby bond well and find a mutual love of music but Conrad is furious at Marian for lying to him and not letting him know of Kirby’s existence. Marian feels extremely bad about lying to him but also finds herself drawn to him.

Do Marian and Peter end up together? Do Marian and Conrad stand a chance at life together?

Emily Giffin has penned yet another of her novels that gets right into life with characters so real you feel as though you’ve met them before. Her endings are always a surprise which makes the reader not want to put the novel down. I really enjoyed reading this and hope others will do the same.

Connie for b2b