‘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

‘Staircase to the Moon’ by Elizabeth Haran

sttm ehSTORY: Perth, Western Australia, 1913:

When her conservative family tries to force Emily into an arranged marriage with a much older, wealthy man, she decides to take destiny into her own hands and escape her strict father and overbearing brothers.

She embarks on a ship to North-Western Australia to take up employment as a private seamstress for a large and rich farming family, who welcome her with open arms. Surrounded by the breathtakingly beautiful and remote landscapes of the Kimberly region, Emily starts to believe that happiness and love really are possible in her new life.

But storm clouds are gathering, and as the men of Kimberley march off to war in Europe, Emily must step up to prove herself against all the odds. And that’s when things start to turn out different than she ever could have imagined…

REVIEW: Australia – 1913

Emily Scott, age 22, works in her father’s tailor shop in Perth. Stifled by her strict father and 3 overbearing brothers, Emily feels positively suffocated. Her mother passed away when Emily was just 8, leaving her surrounded by all males. Her father’s brother, Freddy, came to live with them after her mother passed. He is a fun man who manages to keep the house going and everyone well fed.

Her father and brothers think she should marry and introduce her to a repulsive older man who wants to marry her. She is so disgusted by him that she decides to take a drastic step to escape this fate. Unbeknownst to her family, she accepts a position as a seamstress in a remove area.

As she is waiting for the train to depart from her hometown, she meets an older woman, Annie, who befriends her and accompanies her on part of the trip. We follow Emily and the adventures of her trip aboard ship. She meets so many interesting people, including a very cranky Chinese man who has just been hired as the cook at the same estate where Emily is heading. After a long and exhausting trip, she is delighted to find a beautiful home and enormous estate owned by the McBride family, including their son and 3 daughters for whom she will sew. Everyone is so nice and they welcome her graciously.

When World War I breaks out, many of the men decide to join up leaving the women to keep the home front going. The difficulties they face with massive rains and droughts, places a huge burden on them all. The women step up and take on jobs that they never thought they could do.

The story includes all of the family members and those who work for them. There is happiness, sadness, fear, humor, and love.

This was a wonderful, wonderful saga. Those who live in Australia or have never visited will be fascinated by the descriptions of the country itself and the people that live there. This is one of those books that deserves more than the five stars I awarded it.

Complimentary copy provided by the publisher

Connie for b2b

‘A Crowded Marriage’ by Catherine Alliott

acm caSTORY: ‘Til death do us part jut might cause you to wring someone’s neck…

Imogen Cameron can’t quite figure out how she and her husband, Alex, have plummeted from living in their beloved London townhouse to scraping by in his exgirlfriend’s guest cottage. But although the scenic pastures might inspire her flagging artistic career, and getting out of the city might do their son good, Imogen wonders if all the country air in the world could calm the crowds that are invading her marriage.

There’s a gaggle of psychotic chickens, an infuriatingly bossy vet, that oh-so-sweet ex-girlfriend-and the feeling that her husband is preoccupied with more than just his job. International bestselling author Catherine Alliott delivers an “intelligent, acutely drawn picture of a difficult marriage” (Daily Telegraph), crafting a witty, sophisticated, and poignant exploration of relationships and family.

REVIEW: I enjoyed reading this book and it really kept my attention. I did not want to put it down. Some funny and some sad situations all worked together to make the reader feel a strong empathy for the heroine. I love British chicklit and this is one I would put at the top of my list.

Connie for b2b

‘Highland Fire’ by Tanya Anne Crosby

HF TACSTORY: Scotland, 1125, the Legend Begins…

For two centuries, Aidan dún Scoti’s kinsmen have guarded Scotland’s greatest secret, awaiting a worthy successor to arise and unite the Highland clans. His people are the last of the “Painted Ones,” the guardians of the true Stone of Destiny.

A Struggle for Power

The Highland tribes are fractured. Scotland’s King David seeks an alliance with the fierce mountain Scot. But only one woman will tempt Aidan dún Scoti—the accursed beauty whose father once betrayed his clan…

Tempted by Revenge

Cursed by Aidan’s people for the sins of her father, Lìleas MacLaren is the one woman he believes he is immune to. Offered in marriage by David of Scotland as a guise for peace, she is also the one woman who may bring the fierce chieftain to his knees.

Rich with history and lore, HIGHLAND FIRE brings back favorite characters from The Highland Brides and introduces you to new ones.

REVIEW: Tanya has done it again!

Scotland 1125

Aiden dun Scoti, a fierce Highlander whom the true blood of kings run through, a protector of a sacred stone, a leader of the last painted ones of old.

Lileas MacLaren, a woman who was cursed as a child for the sins of her father, sent on a mission against her wishes with her son’s life held over her to force her coöperation. This woman has spunk and continuously left me with a smile.

These two find themselves confused by their feelings. Attraction and distrust rage equally side by side. Their journey is smack full of treachery and longing that ultimately leaves them running basically on faith and what their hearts tell them is true.

I love the people introduced, Aiden’s sisters and brother. Lael, especially. This woman is a handful, a master with blades and she carries a temper that when angered even scares Aiden. Una, the woman who sent down the curse upon Lili, a wise woman and healer of the clan as old as time itself. A favorite of mine, Broc from Lion Heart, makes an appearance also which brought happiness to my heart.

Curses, secrets, myths, danger, sadness, laughter and a love that will squeeze your heart. The rugged highlands, with the magic in the mists and where the old ways hold strong, written in a way that will have you feeling and hearing the story instead of reading it. I am going to have a hard time finding the patience to await the next in the series.

*Leah for b2b.

*Book provided by the author.

Leah’s 2013 choices for…

Five Star Reads are:

XMTS VRI know we all have our favorite genres and our favorite authors. As for me, I read all types of historical books. Even a few contemporaries.

I had many 4 – 4 1/2 star reviews this year but I thought I’d post about my 5 star reads and you will see by my list just where my heart lies when it comes to genres, which doesn’t mean that I won’t give high marks to contemporary novels.

I gave a very high 4 1/2 to ‘Spin’ by Bella Love.  I am hooked! You can check out my review here.

Now, back to my FIVE STAR reads and so, here we go….

Julianne Lee and her Tenebrae series

‘Knight Tenebrae’, ‘Knight’s Blood’ and ‘Knight’s Lady’.

“Trapped in a place not their own, two strangers find the only thing they can count on is one another”.

Follow Alex and Lindsay as they travel back through time to 14th century Scotland. All three books take you on their journey. I was simply full of emotion throughout all three books. Read Mel’s reviews for the series here.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder and her Highland Warriors series

 ‘Sins Of a Highland Devil’, ‘Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel’ and ‘Seduction of a Highland Warrior’, along with SOTC PBthe novella, ‘Once Upon a Highland Christmas’.

I can tell you that Sue-Ellen brings medieval Scotland to life for me every time I go into one of her stories. They are full of humor, mystery, highland magic, warfare, and love. All are filled with history bits that will keep all history buffs happy. You can read my reviews for the series here, here & here, with Melanie’s review for the novella here,

Monica McCarty and ‘The Hawk’

It is part of the Highland Guard series and I highly recommend it. They all received high marks from me but Eric “Hawk” MacSorely stood out above the rest. She is another auto-buy for me. You can read my review here.

Diane Darcy and ‘She Owns The Knight’

I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed this book! I am sitting here smiling from ear to ear as I write this. If you love 13th century England, laughing, and watching as two people learn what love is all about, this story is a must buy! You can read my review here.

Victoria Roberts and ‘X Marks The Scot’

TH MMcCThis is #2 in the Bad Boys of the Highlands series and I waited patiently for Declan and his story and was so excited when I finally got it in my hands.

I knew there was a wonderful man behind the rogue. Laidain is just the woman for him too, one who won’t let him hide behind his blether, and one who is strong enough to stand her ground with him and everyone else for that matter.

This story is packed with treason, danger it seems around every turn, secrets discovered that condemns some and saves another, and laughter…..tons of laughter!

Patricia Bracewell and ‘Shadow on the Crown

Loved this story! From the history to the direction Patricia took this story in, her writing had hooked me in!

I felt for Emma as she accepted her lot in life and smiled when she stood for herself when needed. King Aethelred was constantly suspicious of everyone and because of his guilt, found himself tortured by visits from his murdered brother’s ghostly shadow. He also blatantly carried on with Elgiva, his mistress. I enjoyed the way Ms. Bracewell took the story line with Athelstan, the King’s son and his relationship with Emma. Through her words she brought OUAHC SEWcharacters into my life to love and hate, and added with the history, this became one of my most favorite reads this year. I cannot wait for the next on this series to see what she brings us next!

Kris Kennedy and ‘The Conqueror’

This author’s words move me. Period. I feel a deep connection while reading her work and urge you to give her a try if you haven’t yet. You can read my review here.

Margaret Mallory and ‘The Chieftain’

This is book 4 in the Return of the Highlanders series.

From beginning to end she had me captured in their world. My heart-felt warmth as I read the epilogue. I enjoyed watching their love come to fruition and talk about HOT!! I loved the mystical parts of this story. Tearlag and Ilysa and their sight, the fairy glens and the chants… ghostly sightings and the legends surrounding them all call to my heart. Scotland is full of lore and Margaret Mallory does an TIW KKexcellent job of bringing it to life.

She left me aching to walk the fairy glens, graveyards, and hills with standing stones. You can read Melanie’s review here.

Tanya Anne Crosby and her Highland Brides series. 

‘The MacKinnon’s Bride’, ‘Lyon’s Gift’, ‘On Bended Knee’ and ‘Lion Heart’ were re-reads for me that kept calling for me to pull out. Screamed at me actually. ‘Highland Song’ is a new addition to the series and stole my heart just as swiftly as the others did.

I found Tanya when I started reading 20 years ago and she was instantly catapulted to the top of my favorites list.

To me, her writing pulls at my heart and wraps me solidly within its pages.

You can read my reviews for the series herehereherehere, and here. You can now get the first 4 in the series in a boxed set…Cheaper that way, only $9.99!

So, there you have it! The stories that hit 5 stars for me this year and in no particular order. I would love to hear what everyone else read this year that received a 5 star rating. Feel free to share with us and give us your recommendations.

Now, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings into my reading world.

*Leah for b2b