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I have updated my review and giveaway policies page (now just titled Policies above). If you are entering a giveaway, please read and abide by the applicable policy.

Attention Authors! If you arrived here looking for information on the Two Sides to Every Story guest post series, see the tab at the top of the page for more info!


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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Forever on My Nightstand

Do you have a book that has been forever on your nightstand (or wherever you keep books you are in the middle of)?  Something that you want to pursue, but can’t make it go away?  I do.

That book is The Summer Garden by Paulina Simmons.

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There it sits in all its nightstand glory…waiting for the next time I attempt to read a few more pages.  See, I’ve a love/hate relationship with this book.  This is book 3 in the beloved Bronze Horseman series, and I DEVOURED The Bronze Horseman and Tatiana and Alexander and loved both of them.  However, I’m struggling hard with this one.  It just is lacking what made those other two great. 

Do you want to know how long this has been on my nightstand?  I started reading it on February 8…2014!!! It has made it through 3 moves!! According to my Goodreads updates (which I am religious about updating) I didn’t even pick it up in 2016.   In those 3 years I have made it exactly 277 pages of 752, or 36% of the way.  I know I could just give up on it, and really I sort of have, but I would have an issue with not completing this series that I loved the majority of so much.

Sigh…so there it sits taking up prime real estate.

Do you have anything like this?  Maybe not quite as dramatic, but who knows!  I would love to hear!

 


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, February 27, 2017

Book Review: Only a Duke Will Do by Tamara Gill

only a duke will do

Only A Duke Will Do by Tamara Gill
Book 2 in the To Marry a Rogue Series
ARC, Paperback, 266 pages
Entangled Publishing
February 20, 2017
★★★★ ½☆
goodreads button

Heat Rating:

3 flames 

Genre: Historical Romance

Source: Received from the author for review

Without a Season, Lady Isolde Worthingham captured the Duke of Moore’s heart at a country dance. But on the eve of her wedding, a scandal that rocked the ton and sent her fleeing to Scotland alone and unwed, leaves her perfectly planned future in a tangle of disgrace and heartbreak.

Merrick Mountshaw, the Duke of Moore, loathes the pitiful existence he portrays to the ton. With a scandalous wife he never wanted, who flaunts her many indiscretions, life is a never-ending parade of hell. When the one woman he loved and lost returns to London, he knows he can no longer live without her.

But vows and past hurts are not easily forgotten. Love may not win against the ton when a too proper lord and lady play by the rules.

**This review was previously posted at Romantic Historical Reviews**

On the eve of her wedding, Lady Isolde is thrown a major curveball when her fiancé Merrick, the Duke of Moore is found in a compromising position with another woman, who happened to have been one of her closest friends. Merrick had no alternative but to call off his wedding to Isolde and marry her friend instead. Isolde ran away to Scotland to lick her wounds, but now, five years later she has come out of hiding from the shame of that ignominious day determined to find happiness again and move beyond the love she still feels for Merrick. But her every step is plagued by the machinations of the wife who stole her place, and the continuing presence of Merrick in her life. Because her heart still belongs to him, Lady Isolde must find out if she can move on and be content in a marriage without love while also discovering if it is possible for her to have any type of relationship with the man she almost married.

It’s obvious, right from the first pages of Only A Duke Will Do, that the romance is going to be an uphill battle. The heroine loses her man to someone she thought she could trust, so not only does she lose the love of her life, but also loses a long-established, close female bond. Isolde is crushed, to say the least. Her decision to return to society after five years is a brave one, but she wants the security of a husband and family and going about in London society is the best way to find both those things, even if love is no longer possible. Isolde is one strong woman as she handles seeing her former love move among her friends, deals with the hatred that his wife spews her way, and tries to balance the expectations of the ton. I give her kudos for not falling apart completely, because I would have! We also see things from Merrick’s point of view and learn of the poisonous relationship that his marriage has become. He loves Isolde even now and while he wants the best for her, it also kills him to see her moving on. The back and forth of wills between these two is well done as they both struggle to do what is right.

The relationship, or what remains of it, between Isolde and Merrick is the driving factor in this novel. The romance is primarily the smolder, the yearning, and the question of whether they can ever find their happily ever after. I was rooting for these two from the beginning, but even more than halfway through I wasn’t sure if there was any future for them.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book is that the drama and conflict are established right from the start. The reader doesn’t really have a chance to get behind Isolde and Merrick as a couple before they are ripped apart, and it’s natural to side with Isolde in the early stages. As the book progresses, Merrick’s situation begins to become clearer, and that’s when you start to want to see them together; I believe that this mirrors Isolde’s understanding of her situation nicely. (I should probably point out here that there is no cheating in this story; Merrick and Isolde still love each other, but they don’t commit adultery). While there is no defined “good” character in the novel, although I suppose it could be argued that Isolde is representative of it, there is a very defined “bad” character and she just oozes malice with her every word and move. I was not a fan and was very happy with her character’s outcome.

I raced through the pages of this novel, staying up much later than I should have to finish reading it because I needed to know if Isolde and Merrick would work it out or not. I will be looking forward to the next novel that Tamara Gill puts out as I have thoroughly enjoyed her work thus far.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:


Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia


Also by Tamara Gill:

Tamara Gill has written many books (complete listing here), but those in the To Marry A Rogue series include:

only an earl will do
Only an Earl Will Do
(Book 1)
[My Review]

only a viscount will do
Only a Viscount Will Do
(Book 3)
Coming in May 2017

Find Tamara Gill: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest |Goodreads

 


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, February 24, 2017

Book Review: Sinful Scottish Laird by Julia London

sinfulscottishlaird

Sinful Scottish Laird by Julia London
Book 2 in the Highland Grooms Series
ARC, e-Book, 384 pages
HQN Books
February 28, 2017
★★★★ ½☆
goodreads button

Heat Rating:

3 flames

Genre: Historical Romance

Source: Received from publisher for review (via Netgalley) for TLC Book Tour

A young widow puts her sexy suitors to the test in New York Times bestselling author Julia London's scintillating return to the idyllic Scottish Highlands.

Widowed and forced to remarry in three years' time or forfeit her son's inheritance, Daisy Bristol, Lady Chatwick, has plenty of suitors vying for her hand and her fortune. But a letter from a long-lost love sends Daisy and her young son to her Scottish Highland estate to buy time for his return. Along the way she encounters the powerful Cailean Mackenzie, laird of Arrandale and a notorious smuggler, and she is utterly and unwillingly bewitched.

Cailean has no use for any Sassenach in his glen. But Daisy's brazen, flirtatious nature and alluring beauty intrigue him. When her first love appears unexpectedly at her estate, Cailean knows that a passionate woman like Daisy cannot marry this man. And to prevent the union, Cailean must put his own life at risk to win her heart.

I know that there is a wealth of Highland romance novels out there, but I am late to the game and this is among my first (outside of Outlander of course). And while forbidden relationships between Scot and English is a typical trope in romantic fiction, I do think that Julia London brings a breath of fresh air to this theme.

There were so many things to like about this book.

First of all, the atmosphere was palpable. I could feel the mists enveloping the valleys, see the crags and glens, and feel the wind and storms over the nearby loch. Scotland came to life, especially with regard to the treacherous passability of the Highland roads. The scenes that took place in the stronghold castle of the Mackenzie’s were beautifully wrought and I could see that castle and the set-up for the festival clearly in my mind.

I LOVED that the heroine is not a weepy wallflower, but rather a widow who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to explore life in the window of opportunity before she is expected to again marry. She isn’t expected to be inexperienced and learning her way through the world, she has been there before. It was refreshing. I also loved that her young son plays a rather significant role in the novel, not just that of a problem or unexpected surprise. He is actively involved with all the characters and I personally evaluated all Daisy’s suitors based on how they interacted with her son. The connection between her son and Cailean was almost more touching than that of Daisy and her beau. While Daisy has a few suitors, the serious contender is her childhood sweetheart, Robert, who has suddenly returned to the picture, and her infatuation with the Highland laird, Cailean. I was questioning Robert WAY early on – maybe just because I liked her with Cailean, but it was interesting how it played out. There was no typical misunderstanding between Hero and Heroine – they both knew the reality of the situation; Daisy needed to marry someone of English standing for her son, and Cailean was a Scot that would never be a fit – however, I really loved how it all played out. London was certainly able to connect me with the characters because I definitely had a few tears during Daisy’s departure from Scotland, which is unusual for me in a traditional historical romance.

The sexual tension and subsequent sex scenes are hot, and while not complete graphic, they are detailed. The back and forth sparring between Daisy and Cailean was fabulously done and built their relationship even more.

If you have read the first book in this series, Wild Wicked Scot, which I have not, you will be delighted to find a older version of that book’s Hero/Heroine in Cailean’s parents – and they do have a decent role in the novel, as does his brother, Rabbie, who will headline book 3.

In this first book of London’s I very much enjoyed my experience and will be happy to pick up book 3 soon.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:


Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia


Also by Julia London:

Julia London has written many novels, you can find a complete list here, but the rest of the books in the Highland Grooms series are as follows:

wild wicked scot
Wild Wicked Scot
(Book 1)

hard hearted highlander
Hard Hearted Highlander
(Book 3)

Find Julia London: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest


Follow the Tour!

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TLC Book Tours Website

 


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cover Crush: The Freemason’s Daughter

cover crush

We can all say that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I guarantee that we all have done so at least once! Cover Crush is designed to feature some of those covers that have caught the eye as a standout on the bookshelf.

the freemason's daughter

Leave it to a YA novel to feature a ethereal, beautiful, young woman looking directly at the viewer!!  While I have no idea what the cover tells me about the book, I find the cover gorgeous and would certainly pick it up to look at!  While as an adult I might be looking for a deeper concept from the cover, it might appeal more to the target audience.

What are your thoughts on this cover?

I wonder what my friends are crushing on this week? Let’s check it out: A Bookaholic Swede, 2 Kid and Tired Books, Layered Pages, and A Literary Vacation.  

keep calm and support book bloggers

 

 


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Top 5: Historical Hunks

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I realized that I only make lists at the end of the calendar year when I’m looking back at what I have accomplished, but there are so many other times when a list of awesome things would be appropriate.  I know I’m always finding cool bookish things that I want to share with you all, so I’m starting this Top 5 series to highlight some of those items.

This week I have been thinking about my top 5 historical hunks!  This came in part from a discussion about strong male lead characters a few bloggers and I were having and also because of a humorous conversation I had with my husband.  These are men that I have fallen in love with while reading their novelized life. 

5. Alexander Belov from The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

the bronze horseman

I must say that this is the version of Alexander from The Bronze Horseman only – I don’t necessarily love his character in the subsequent books.  He was just the right amount of hero, dashing, daring, handsome, and brave. He did all the right things and you always cheered for him.

4. Jamie Fraser from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

outlander

I’m already seeing a trend here as a lot of the reasons I liked Jamie are the same reasons I like Alexander above: Jamie was romantic, strong, argumentative, brave.  And in the television show he is quite good looking!

3. Brendan Prescott from The Tudor Secret by C.W. Gortner

the tudor secret

I loved how intelligent and crafty Brendan was – he is quite the dashing spy!

2. Hephestion from The Conqueror’s Wife by Stephanie Thornton

the conquerors wife

Oh Hephestion!  He was a soldier and very loyal to his friend/lover/commander.  He pulls off some witty and outright hilarious dialogue; he can banter with the best!  He was brave and strong and made me outright swoon!

1. William Marshall from The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick

the greatest knight

My earliest historical hunk!  The Greatest Knight was one of the earliest books that I reviewed on this blog and my love of him has kept him at number one all along.  It would take a lot to outrank him in my perspective!  He was honorable and brave and I loved the way he treated his wife. 

I would love to hear who your historical hunks are and if you agree with me about any that I put on my list.

 


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Audiobook Discussions: The Audie Awards

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I have been doing a lot of audiobook listening lately and I attended a recent blogger webinar about audiobook reviewing which got me thinking more and more about audiobooks.  So I wanted to know more of what you think about them!  From there, Audiobook Discussions has been born!

Today I want to talk about the Audie Awards.  Do you know what they are?  Have you heard the announced list of nominees?

The Audie Awards are like the Oscars of the audiobook world, recognizing excellence in 26 categories of audiobook and spoken word entertainment.  These awards are put on by the Audio Publishers Association.  The winners of this 22nd year of the Audies will be announced on June 1st 2017. 

The categories this year are: Audio Drama; Autobiography.Memoir; Best Female Narrator; Best Male Narrator; Business/Personal Development; Erotica; Fantasy; Fiction; History/Biography; Humor; Inspiration/Faith-Based Fiction; Inspiration/Faith-Based Non-Fiction; Literary Fiction & Classics; Middle Grade; Multi-Voiced Performance; Mystery; Narration by the Author or Authors; Non-Fiction; Original Work; Paranormal; Romance; Science Fiction; Short Stories/Collections; Thriller/Suspense; Young Adult; and Young Listeners.

You can read the full list of nominees on this press release – there are some good ones on her – both books and narrators!  You can also check out sound clips for each of the nominees here

So have you ever heard of the Audies?  Does the fact that a specific performance or narrator won an Audie make you more likely to listen to it?

You can check out the other posts in this series:

 


Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Monday, February 20, 2017

Book Review: The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge by Elisabeth Hobbes

saxon outlaws revenge

The Saxon Outlaw’s Revenge by Elisabeth Hobbes
ARC, e-Book, 288 pages
Harlequin Historical
December 1, 2016
★★★★ ½☆
goodreads button


Heat Rating:
2 flames

Genre: Historical Romance

Source: Received from publisher for review at Romantic Historical Reviews

At the mercy of her enemy!

Abducted by Saxon outlaws, Constance Arnaud comes face-to-face with Aelric, a Saxon boy she once loved. He's now her enemy, but Constance must reach out to this rebel and persuade him to save her life as she once saved his…

Aelric is determined to seek vengeance on the Normans who destroyed his family. Believing Constance deserted him, he can never trust her again. Yet, as they are thrown together and their longing for each other reignites, will Aelric discover that love is stronger than revenge?

**This review was previously posted at Romantic Historical Reviews**

The Normans have recently conquered the Saxons and the bad blood is still brewing between those in charge and those who are subjugated. Aelric, a Saxon, loses his whole family, who were hung as traitors by the local baron, who just happens to be the brother-in-law of the girl he is in love with, Constance. Aelric subsequently goes on the run and his relationship with Constance abruptly ends, but years later when they have a chance encounter they have to work through their feelings to determine what if anything still remains between them.

There is not nearly enough historical fiction, romantic or otherwise, set around the time of the Norman invasion of England. It is a time full of so much upheaval and change that it is ripe for storytelling. Hobbes took advantage of this upheaval and used it to create the conflict between the main couple of Aelric and Constance. They are from two very different worlds and the place that they live is still very volatile and they must tread carefully.

I really enjoyed the concept of a second change at love story, even though neither of them went looking for it. Aelric and Constance were split up eight years ago and had not seen nor heard of each other since. They had no idea that they would chance upon each other in a wood, and even then were not all that inclined to like each other. So much had changed in those eight years; they had grown up and lived through many life experiences that colored that early relationship. They remembered that early love they shared, but would that still hold true now; could they get past all of the hurt and the secrets? Constance and Aelric were well-crafted characters; they were multidimensional and you could feel their emotions, the hurt and anger most keenly. For what they went through it would be very difficult to put the past behind them. I can’t say that I could identify with either of them exactly, but I found them realistic and interesting. The author chooses to give Constance a physical disability and I wonder at the choice of that. It makes the character unique and while it made several small appearances I would have liked it to maybe have more of an importance given that it was pointed out extensively early on. The peripheral characters were not as fleshed out as the main two, but there were enough details that you had a sense of who they were, which was enough for me to keep track of who was who.

The romance here is primarily emotional as the two rebuild their relationship and determine what they mean to each other. Although there are a couple sex scenes, which have vastly different tones from each other, sex definitely took a backseat in this novel. Beyond the romance element, this novel was chock full of drama right from the first scene. There is an ambush, a hostage situation, a mass execution, some spying, and a foiled plot that unfolds in an awesome way. The best part is that none of this felt out of place; the characters still acted very much the way I would expect them to for the time in which they live.

If you are looking for a novel that is more of the action packed variety and lighter on the romance, or if you are looking for a novel set in an oft overlooked setting/time, this might be the novel for you to pick up. It kept my attention all the way through and I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:


Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia


Also by Elisabeth Hobbes:

falling for her captor
Falling for Her Captor

a wager for the widow
A Wager for the Widow

the blacksmith's wife
The Blacksmith’s Wife


Find Elisabeth Hobbes:
Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court

Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: So Far From Home (Dear America) by Barry Denenberg

so far from home

So Far From Home: The Diary of Mary Driscoll, an Irish Mill Girl, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1847 by Barry Denenberg
Dear America Diary Series
Hardcover, 170 pages
Scholastic Inc
October 1, 1997
★★★★☆

goodreads button

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Personal collection

In the diary account of her journey from Ireland in 1847 and of her work in a mill in Lowell, Massachusetts, fourteen-year-old Mary reveals a great longing for her family.

I picked up So Far From Home right after I came back from a trip to the Lowell Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts; I love being able to match a book with an experience! I had the opportunity to walk through some of the mills (experience a smidge of the noise created there) as well as the boarding houses where many of the girls would have lived. I wanted to see how Lowell stacked up in a novel treatment, especially one for young adults.

The novel takes on 2 topics that are nicely tied together: the first being the plight of the Irish facing famine at home that led to many choosing to flee to America, the second being how these immigrants were treated upon arrival in the United States. Mary and her family are caught up in the famine at home. Some of the family makes the tough decision to emigrate while some choose to remain at home and live through it. It was hard to think that people would choose to remain behind and continue to live in those conditions, but that was the life they knew and who knew what they would find in the new country. These concerns and arguments for and against were thoroughly explored. The ship voyage was treacherous and while I had thought about and read about the immigrant arrival experience before, So Far From Home did a great job of showing how scary that would have been; how do you find your family and figure out how to get where you are going, especially if you don’t speak the language. Mary’s experiences at the mills showed how the Irish immigrants were taken advantage of and asked to perform the more difficult and dangerous tasks. In total, I think the experience here was perfectly depicted.

One thing I didn’t like was how the book ended. It ends abruptly with Mary headed out for a new experience, which sounds like it could be rather dramatic and I thought it would have been interesting to explore that experience more. It just felt a little bit unresolved to me.

I always enjoy the bonus content included in these books as it expands on the reading experience without me needing to go do my own research. Included in this novel are images of the mills (inside and out), boarding houses, some sheet music for a lullaby that is mentioned in the novel and, what I found most interesting, the time schedules and pay scales for the mills.

Overall, this is a great novel to include for any kids learning about the industrial revolution or to expand upon a visit to the National Park. It’s sad that it’s not one of the few of the Diaries that is currently in print at this time.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:


Buy the Book:
AbeBooks

Other Book in the Dear America Series:

A Journey to the New World
A Journey to the New World

The Winter of Red Snow
The Winter of Red Snow

[My Review]

When Will This Cruel War Be Over
When Will This Cruel War Be Over?

A Picture of Freedom
A Picture of Freedom

Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie

[My Review]

I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
[My Review]

West to a Land of Plenty
West to a Land of Plenty

Dreams in the Golden Country
Dreams in the Golden Country

Standing in the Light
Standing in the Light

Voyage on the Great Titanic
Voyage on the Great Titanic

A Line in the Sand
A Line in the Sand

My Heart is on the Ground
My Heart is on the Ground

The Great Railroad Race
The Great Railroad Race

A Light in the Storm
A Light in the Storm

The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow

A Coal Miner’s Bride
A Coal Miner’s Bride

Color Me Dark
Color Me Dark

One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping

My Secret War
My Secret War

[My Review]

Valley of the Moon
Valley of the Moon

Seeds of Hope
Seeds of Hope

Christmas After All
Christmas After All

Early Sunday Morning
Early Sunday Morning

My Face to the Wind
My Face to the Wind

Where Have All the Flowers Gone
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

A Time for Courage
A Time for Courage

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Survival in the Storm
Survival in the Storm

When Christmas Comes Again
When Christmas Comes Again

Land of the Buffalo Bones
Land of the Buffalo Bones

Love Thy Neighbor
Love Thy Neighbor

All the Stars in the Sky
All the Stars in the Sky

Look to the Hills
Look to the Hills

Hear My Sorrow
Hear My Sorrow

I Walk in Dread
I Walk in Dread

The Fences Between Us
The Fences Between Us

Like The Willow Tree
Like The Willow Tree

Cannons at Dawn
Cannons at Dawn

With the Might of Angels
With the Might of Angels

Behind the Masks
Behind the Masks

A City Tossed and Broken
A City Tossed and Broken

Down the Rabbit Hole
Down the Rabbit Hole


Find Dear America series here.



 
Copyright © 2017 by The Maiden’s Court