Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review and Giveaway: The Sweetheart Rules

The Sweetheart Rules (Sweetheart Sisters - Book 2) by Shirley Jump

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Sensation
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0425264513
ISBN-13: 978-042524515

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Sensation)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Shirley Jump on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

Sweetheart Sisters

1. The Sweetheart Bargain
2. The Sweetheart Rules

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from, The Sweetheart Rules, courtesy of the author's website.

Synopsis:

The Sweetheart Sisters are ready to give some old-school lessons in love…

Rescue Bay veterinarian Diana Tuttle is a great single mom, but she has a harder time taking care of herself. Having been burned in the past by her son’s noncommittal father, the last thing she wants is a man who isn’t in it for the long haul—until a foolish one-night stand from her past walks back into her life.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Mike Stark has never wanted to settle down. But when his ex-wife leaves their two small children on his doorstep, he is forced to become a family man in a hurry. His return to Rescue Bay, Florida and fatherhood isn’t easy, but reconnecting with Diana makes the challenge all the more worthwhile. Except becoming the long-term lover she has in mind may be one commitment too many…

Luckily, when Diana’s and Mike’s pasts begin to threaten their future, the Sweetheart Sisters have the perfect scheme to make this second chance last a lifetime.


Thoughts:

Shirley Jump brings readers the second book in her Sweetheart Sisters series, The Sweetheart Rules. Jump writes contemporary romance novels that grab the heart and won't let go. In this installment of the series, she not only focuses on love between the main couple, but also on family love and parenting. Jump gives readers a man who doesn't know how to be a father and woman, who is struggling with a teenage son. It's a match made in heaven. With three eccentric old ladies bent on matchmaking and three great kids, this is a great addition to the series.

What I liked:

Who doesn't love a man in uniform? The Coast Guard has always been one of those branches of service that I didn't know that much about until I watched tv shows like Deadliest Catch and the movie, The Guardian. I just thought they were men who rode around on boats, warning people about what they should and shouldn't do on the water. But I learned differently and I was really happy to see that this book focused on a character that was in the Coast Guard. Though the story didn't give much time to Mike's career and was honed in on his relationship with his daughters, I found this aspect of his life interesting as well.

Mike wouldn't have won any awards for great parenting skills when this novel started. He hadn't seen his daughters in some time and really wasn't even thinking about them, when his ex wife decided she needed to sort out her life and left the girls with him. It was interesting to see him struggle with the little girls and their issues. From tantrums to a child growing up long before her time, Mike has his hands full and when he meets Diana again things get that much more complicated. I wasn't sure I liked Mike until I began to see that he knew he was screwed up and wanted to change. It just goes to show you, that when you make up your mind to change you can. I loved that aspect of the book.

Mike wasn't such a good lover either. After a one night stand, he left Diana with a nasty note and never looked back. Now he is realizing his mistake and is determined to show her that he has changed. I liked the fact that he took an interest in her son's problems as well as in her. It showed that he really was trying to do things differently. 

Diana was a great heroine. She was struggling with a lot and her son didn't make things any better. She kept trying to make excuses for his father's lack luster behavior as a dad and only making things worse. I enjoyed watching her finally face up to how he was and stand behind her son. I thought she had some serious issues of her own with abandonment, but eventually she gets it all together and turns into a good heroine. She was spunky, but she needed some courage to get her going in the right direction.

Mike and Diana together made an interesting couple. They were certainly both flawed and very human. I liked the matchmaking ploys of the old ladies and the good romantic scenes. This book had a little something for the new adult reader as well as those of us who are a little older. There was a lot of humor and some moments where tissues might be in order.

What I didn't like:

Both sisters in the series so far have had issues with running away from those that love them. Finding the same issue in the second book in the series seemed repetitious in a way and I thought Jump could have used something more original to provide the needed conflict for the story.

Bottom Line:

This was a good book, but probably not my favorite from this author. She has written a ton of contemporary titles and some of them are hard to top. But this read provides a feel good story with a lot of emphasis on family. 

The Sweetheart Rules is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Shirley Jump is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 25 contemporary romance novels, including the Sweet and Savory novels (The Bride Wore ChocolateThe Devil Served DesireThe Angel Tasted Temptation, and The Groom Wanted Seconds), and the McKenna Brothers novels (One Day to Find a HusbandHow the Playboy Got Serious, and Return of the Last McKenna). She spends her days writing romance and women’s fiction to feed her shoe addiction and avoid cleaning the toilets. She cleverly finds writing time by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor, and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners.

The Sweetheart Rules is the second in the Sweetheart Sisters series, following The Sweetheart Bargain.



Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of The Sweetheart Rules by Shirley Jump.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, May 1st.

1. Please leave a comment about what you think about the coast guard and what they do.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Review and Giveaway: The Winter Bride

The Winter Bride (Chance Sisters - Book 2) by Anne Gracie

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Sensation
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: 336
ISBN-10: 045259269
ISBN-13: 978-0425259269

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Sensation)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Anne Gracie on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

Chance Sisters

1. The Autumn Bride
2. The Winter Bride

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.


Excerpt from, The Winter Bride, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

~"Delightful....A romantic winner." --Kirkus  

Four young women face a life of destitution—until a daring act changes their fortune and turns them each into a beautiful bride.  In 
The Winter Bride, a compromising situation leads to an unexpected wedding and delicious temptation....


Damaris Chance’s unhappy past has turned her off the idea of marriage forever. But her guardian, Lady Beatrice Davenham, convinces her to make her coming out anyway—and have a season of carefree, uncomplicated fun. 


When Damaris finds herself trapped in a compromising situation with the handsome rake Freddy Monkton-Coombes, she has no choice but to agree to wed him—as long as it’s in name only. Her new husband seems to accept her terms, but Freddy has a plan of his own: to seduce his reluctant winter bride. 


Will Damaris’s secrets destroy her chance at true happiness? Or can Freddy help her cast off the shackles of the past, and yield to delicious temptation?


Thoughts:

Anne Gracie's second book in the Chance Sisters series, The Winter Bride continues the tale of four women who found themselves fighting for their own survival in one way or another. Though they are not all real sisters, they have a deep bond and readers will love the interaction between them. Gracie is well known in the historical romance genre and readers know to expect a well written and creative novel with each of her books. From muffins to pigs, this book is a real gem with strong characters and enough humor to make the readers sides ache. A great second book in the series.

What I liked:

Anne Gracie has a way with writing that is both complex and entertaining. Her heroes and heroines are often not typical of the time period she writes about. She gives the reader anomalies in situations and in characters. She throws a few curves and readers often find that those curves are what makes Gracie's books so amazing. The Winter Bride is no exception to the rule. We often find heroes that have an aversion to marriage for one reason or another and we have one in this book as well. But the difference is, the heroine doesn't want to marry either. She simply wants a cottage in the country where she can live and paint to her heart's content. In Regency times, that was just unthinkable. And it makes all the difference in this book.

Damaris isn't your typical Regency heroine for a lot of reasons. She grew up in China where her father was a missionary and she doesn't have all of the charm and decorum that most debutantes have. After many harrowing experiences she makes her way to England and by 'chance' gets a second chance at life and love. I thought Gracie did such a great job with her. She had been throw so much, that Gracie could have made her really jaded and bitter, but she didn't. Damaris was kind and loving and the perfect compliment to Freddy.

Freddy wasn't exactly what he seemed either. He makes a grand show of appearing to be a rake who doesn't really care about anyone or anything, but in truth he is a successful businessman, who is scarred from the past. For all his aversion to marriage and his wastrel seeming ways, he has a good heart. He is just afraid to give it away. I loved Freddy's humor and thought he was the perfect hero. A little dark, but not brooding and he knew when to laugh and to make others do the same. There were side splitting moments with him and teary moments. He was such a contrast in emotions. A great all around character.

Gracie uses humor to her advantage in this one and readers will quickly be drawn in. She takes two characters that have suffering a lot and brings them together where they heal and comfort and protect each other. It might be all set up by a fake betrothal which Freddy concocts to get out of finding a bride, but it turns into quite a romance. Readers will love it when the main characters are shocked to realize that maybe marriage isn't quite so bad an idea.

What I didn't like:

There were moments when this one dragged a wee bit, but not too much. I felt like it took an inordinate amount of time for them to get down to business if you know what I mean. I think things could have progressed a bit more quickly and still been just as interesting.

Bottom Line:

This is a very good addition to the series. It has moments of levity and a lot of humor. Readers will laugh and cry with these characters and truly enjoy their happy ever after.

The Winter Bride is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Anne Gracie is the national bestselling author of The Autumn BrideBride By Mistake, and The Accidental Wedding. She lives in Australia.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, May 1st.

1. Please leave a comment about what you really think about marriage.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Blog Tour Stop: The Miracle Thief by Iris Anthony (Interview, Review and Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming Iris Anthony to Debbie's Book Bag today. Iris is here promoting her latest book, The Miracle Thief. Enjoy the interview, along with my review of her book and a giveaway!

DEB: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
IA: I’m a proud graduate of the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington where I became a true-blue fan of Starbucks coffee at a time when there were only two stores in the entire world (both of them in Seattle). Most of my life-before-writing was spent working for government at the local, state, and federal levels. In 1993, I started toying around with an idea for a novel. Ten years, four manuscripts, and 153 rejections later, I finally sold a book! I’ve been writing ever since under my pseudonym, Iris Anthony, and under my own name, Siri Mitchell.


DEB: What was your inspiration for your latest book, The Miracle Thief?
IA: I was researching The Ruins of Lace, when I ran across a synopsis for Furta Sacra by Patrick J. Geary. It mentioned the theft of relics (mostly by monks or other religious people) during the Dark and Middle Ages. The idea of being able to rationalize the stealing of a sacred relic was too good to pass up and soon a story was born.

DEB: Is it a single title or part of a series? 
IA: The Miracle Thief is a single title, although my other Iris Anthony title, The Ruins of Lace, is also set in France and examines different aspects of the concept of worth.

DEB: What drew you to writing about St. Catherine's relics? 
IA: I wasn’t sure, when I set out to the write the book, whose relics I would be using. I did want them to be from a female saint and there are several females among the Catholic Church’s Fourteen Holy Helpers. Saint Catherine of Alexandria died prior to my time period, so she seemed like a logical choice. It was only after I made that decision that I discovered she was the patron saint of maidens and, according to her hagiography, she was martyred when she refused to accept a royal marriage. Not only that, but her finger, found its way to Rouen where part of my story takes place. It’s amazing how many times the choices I’ve made for my stories have turned out to be exactly right in just this way. Miraculous? Maybe…!

DEB: Explain what you think the significance of relics in history. 
IA: I think, as humans, we have always searched for a connection to the divine. In the Dark Ages where there was so much turbulence and tragedy, God must have felt distant. Praying to a saint and being able to kiss one of their relics must have offered 1) the confidence of confiding in a sort of trusted go-between who had lived through much worse than you had, 2) a tangible way to connect with the spiritual realm, 3) a role model for spiritual living, and 4) the hope for some reward, justice, and a better life after death. That power and politics co-opted the practice of prayer and the veneration of relics is truly regrettable. During the heyday of the Middle Ages, pilgrimages became quite lucrative for the churches and merchants located along their paths. When relics were stolen during this period, it was in hopes that those streams of wealth could be channeled in new directions. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that Man quickly figured out how to use the promise of supernatural power to help achieve personal goals of power, fame, and wealth. Even today, relics are stolen from churches. Last month, Time magazine published a timeline of notable thefts of relics. As the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same! Sadly, human nature hasn’t evolved much over the millennium.

DEB: Is historical fiction something you've always been interested in or is it a new passion? 
IA: I’ve always loved history and most of my favorite authors write in the genre (general historical fiction or historical mysteries). At the time I picked up my first publishing contract, contemporary fiction was the top-selling genre so I wrote contemporaries before the resurgence of historicals allowed me to make a change.

DEB: Do you have a favorite author or genre you like to read for your own pleasure? 
IA: My guilty pleasure is the WWII and Cold War spy-thriller. Can’t get enough of them!

DEB: Do you have advice for new writers? 
IA: Just do it. Stop thinking about it. Stop talking about it. All the workshops or conferences or how-to-write books in the world won’t get your novel written. Only you can do that. And so much of writing is learned in the doing.

DEB: Tell us something readers may not know about you. 
IA: Though Iris Anthony is my pseudonym, the iris actually is one of my favorite flowers. It’s also the anadrome for my real name, Siri. (And yes, I find it extremely annoying that iPhone stole my name!) I used my husband’s first name as my pseudonym’s last name since I use his last name as my own in real life.

DEB: What are you working on right now? 
IA: I’m currently editing next spring’s Siri book, Like a Flower in Bloom, which is set in 1850s England during a period of great friction between faith and the growing science of botany. I’m also writing the 2015 Siri release which I’m setting at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, also in the 1850s.

Book Information:

The Miracle Thief by Iris Anthony

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Imprint: Landmark
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
ISBN-10: 1402285310
ISBN-13: 978-1402285318

(Received for an honest review from Sourcebooks Landmark)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Iris Anthony on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Excerpt from, The Miracle Thief, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

Do you believe in miracles?
Sister Juliana does. She's seen miracles happen as she tends Saint Catherine's altar and guards her relic. Yet she doesn't quite dare to believe that even Saint Catherine could help her atone for her wicked past.
Anna does. And she so desperately needs one. In a time when a deformity is interpreted as evidence of a grievous sin, in a place where community is vital to existence, Anna has no family, no home, and no master.
Princess Gisele wants to. A miracle is the only thing that can save her from being given to a brutal, pagan chieftain in marriage.
For those who come in faith, saints offer the answer to almost any prayer. But other forces are plotting to steal Saint Catherine's relic, to bend the saint's power to their own use. Penitent, pilgrim, princess — all will be drawn into an epic struggle where only faith can survive. But in a quest for divine blessing, only the most ruthless of souls may win the prize.

Thoughts:

Iris Anthony's second novel, The Miracle Thief is a tale that will leave readers wondering if they really do believe in miracles. This is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the Dark Ages, a time period that has not been over saturated by other writers. Anthony tells the story of three very different women and their search for a miracle. The nun, the princess and the pilgrim, all looking to the relic of St. Catherine to save them. Historical fiction readers will quickly fall in love with the vivid, descriptive writing of Anthony who has obviously researched her story well and created a novel that readers will be talking about for a long time.

What I liked:

One of the things that I really liked about this novel, was the point of view. Each of the three women in the story, Juliana the nun, Giselle the princess, and Anna the pilgrim all take turns throughout telling the story. It was still very well told and easy to understand. Each character got a certain amount of chapters to tell part of their story before the point of view switched. It definitely kept me interesting in seeing what happened next to each character. I liked the way Anthony allowed each one to tell their story in their own way, but still kept each on intertwined with the next.

Iris Anthony chose a time period in the Dark Ages, that not too many writers write about, even in the historical fiction genre. The 900's were not exactly a hot bed for historical writing and I thought that required Anthony to be a lot more creative with her storytelling. She didn't have a lot of historical background to go and the way she filled in the blanks was simply amazing. The plight of women during the Dark Ages was drastic, especially if you had a deformity like Anna. Anthony was able to bring the stark realities of the time into clear focus in this book. She also did a great job of showing how the politics and the church were interrelated and relied on each other. 

Each of the three women this novel focuses on was so different and unique in her own way. Juliana is charged with taking care of St. Catherine's relic, but in truth she is seeking her own miracle. She is praying for forgiveness for what she believes is her greatest sin. Giselle is a princess. Many would think there would be no reason for her to be looking to St. Catherine for a answers or a miracle, but she is being forced to marry a man she doesn't love. Anna, is young woman who has been sequestered away from the world due to a deformity that some would characterize as a punishment from God. Now she is on her own and need's St. Catherine to heal her if she is to survive. Such great characters, all with remarkable depth and easy to relate to. Anthony does a spectacular job with them and brings them to life in such an understanding way. 

What I didn't like:

The time period is the Dark Ages. But had not the author come right out and said that, I might have had my doubts as to when the story took place. She goes into great detail about her characters and their plights, but not so much about the political climate and signs of the times. It was not a big deal breaker, but it did bug me a little bit.

Bottom Line:

This story is worth the read for the characters alone. Anthony does a spectacular job with characterization and her research into St. Catherine and her relic was well done and brought into the story. An historical fiction reader would love this title.

The Miracle Thief is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Iris Anthony is a pseudonym. The writer behind the name is an award-winning author of eleven novels, including The Ruins of Lace. She lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Learn more about Iris at www.irisanthony.com

Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of The Miracle Thief by Iris Anthony.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, May 1st.

1. Please leave a comment about what you think about religious relics and their historical significance.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Betting the Rainbow

Betting the Rainbow (Harmony - Book 7) by Jodi Thomas

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
ISBN-10: 0425268403
ISBN-13: 978-0425268407

(Received for an honest review from Berkley Books)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Jodi Thomas on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

Harmony

1. Welcome to Harmony
2. Somewhere Along the Way
3. The Comforts of Home
4. Just Down the Road
5. Chance of a Lifetime
6. Can't Stop Believing
7. Betting the Rainbow

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.


Excerpt from, Betting the Rainbow, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

~"Thomas knocks it out of the park again" --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  
New York Times bestselling author Jodi Thomas returns to the town of Harmony, Texas, where life has a way of making better plans than anyone ever imagined… 

Sisters Abby and Dusti Delaney have spent their entire lives on Rainbow Lane, but they dream of something bigger. So when a poker tournament comes to town, Dusti is determined to win enough money to leave. Enlisting expert Kieron O’Brian to teach her the game, sparks begin to fly as they play their hands. But Kieron refuses to stand in the way of her dream, even if it means losing her forever...

After a year of traveling, Ronny Logan is settling into a home on Rainbow Lane, but that’s all the settling she’ll be doing. Ronny refuses to fall for anyone, regardless of the chemistry she has with her neighbor Austin Hawk. Yet something undeniable begins to grow between the two loners—if only they can let their barriers fall and open their hearts...

Thoughts:

Jodi Thomas takes readers back to her beloved town of Harmony, Texas in her latest book in the Harmony series, Betting the Rainbow. Thomas doesn't give readers just one couple or romance to focus on, but three in this offering. This book ties up a lot of loose ends in the series, while continuing to draw in new readers with it's small town charm and warm writing style. Thomas has a way with realistic characters in realistic situations and readers of contemporary romance can't get enough. Another great book by this well respected voice in the genre.

What I liked:

Jodi Thomas' Harmony series is all about love in a small town. Thomas draws readers in with an idyllic Texas setting and a cast of characters that will pull at the heart strings. Throughout the series her characters have been through a lot and though Betting the Rainbow can be read as a stand alone, it goes a long way toward wrapping up some story lines that are near and dear to the hearts of her fans. The thing that continues to draw most readers to this series is the heart felt writing style of Thomas. She knows how to wring the emotion out of her readers and what they need to read get that warm fuzzy feeling that some contemporary romances have. I just love this series.

There are essentially three different story lines combining in this book. Fans who followed the series faithfully will love the update on Reagan and Noah, one of the series most beloved couples. Noah may be coming home, but a lot of things have changed including Reagan. I loved this part of the book and looked forward to where Thomas would take these characters. I thought I knew the direction, but a mid-book curve ball really threw me. 

Dusti wants nothing more than follow her dreams with her sister Abby at her side. She thinks she knows how to do it when a high stakes poker tournament comes to town. With a help of Scotsman she could have it in the bag. But she soon begins to see that what she wants most might be right there in Harmony after all. This was a great storyline. A girl who just wants to get out of town, finally realizes she has all she wants right here. I know about that from experience, so this part of the book really hit home with me.

Ronny has been traveling for a year after the death of her love, Marty. Now she is returning to Harmony, but she isn't ready to face the world. Living quietly on the outskirts of life she finds someone she never expected to find. Someone just as damaged and hurt as she is and in helping him, she never imagines that she will be ultimately helping herself. I really enjoyed all of the healing that went on with these two characters. Austin was a dream and I thought they were perfect for each other.

What I didn't like:

I liked it all. Thomas seems to fill her books with love and you can't argue about that.

Bottom Line:

This really was one of my favorites of the series so far. It had some much genuine emotion. I felt happy and sad and joyful and full of angst and so many other things as I read it. Thomas never disappoints. She is truly a very gifted author and her books have been a great joy and comfort to numerous readers along the way. Can't wait for the next one.

Betting the Rainbow is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today's bestselling author Jodi Thomas has published over 30 books in both the historical romance and contemporary genres, the majority of which are set in her home state of Texas. Publishers Weekly calls her novels "Distinctive...Memorable," and that in her stories "[tension] rides high, mixed with humor and kisses more passionate than most full-on love scenes." In 2006, Romance Writers of America (RITA) inducted Thomas into the RWA Hall of Fame for winning her third RITA for THE TEXAN'S REWARD. She also received the National Readers' Choice Award in 2009 for TWISTED CREEK (2008) and TALL, DARK, AND TEXAN (2008). While continuing to work as a novelist, Thomas also functions as Writer in Residence at the West Texas A&M University campus, where she inspires students and alumni in their own writing pursuits.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Betting the Rainbow by Jodi Thomas.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, April 30th.

1. Please leave a comment about your experiences with poker or other forms of gambling.
2. Please fill out the FORM.

Review and Giveaway: The Red Lily Crown

The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: New American Library
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
ISBN-10: 0451418875
ISBN-13: 978-0451418876

(Received for an honest review from New American Library)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Elizabeth Loupas on the WEB: websitetwitter, facebook, goodreads

Excerpt from, The Red Lily Crown, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

Elizabeth Loupas returns with her most ambitious historical novel yet, a story of intrigue, passion, and murder in the Medici Court...

April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.

Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.

Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets…even to love her…or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?


Thoughts:

Elizabeth Loupas proves why she has become a name to watch in historical fiction with her latest book, The Red Lily Crown. The time of Medici rule in Italy has been well documented by many authors, but Loupas has chosen a lesser none Medici on which to focus her story. Francesco Medici was no saint, were many of the Medici rulers and Loupas portrays him well. From his love of alchemy to his love for his infamous mistress Bianca. Readers who love historical fiction will find this one hard to put down. With violence, the lust for ultimate power and a bit of romance, The Red Lily Crown is a must read in the genre.

What I liked:

Being a former history major, I tend to love a story that doesn't take too much poetic license with the real historical details of the times and Loupas did just that. Sometimes the truth is even more interesting than fiction and I think Loupas used that to her advantage here. Some of the things that the Medici rulers did during their reigns were monstrous, violent and ruthless and the author uses that as a backdrop for her story. Francesco Medici was a man who had a lust for power that was limitless. He was cold, calculating and ultimately evil to some extent, but Loupas does the unbelievable with his character here. She makes him human, real and believable. 

Chiara is the young fictional heroine of this story and she was just as well developed and complex as Francesco himself. She was resourceful and determined. She wanted to save her family and she was willing to go to just about any links to do so. I liked her bravery and her tenacity. She was hellbent on survival and in the end she creates for herself a life that could never have imagined. I loved the way she interacted with real historical characters and held her own with them. Loupas did such an amazing job with her. It was almost as if she to, were a part of history. 

Ruanno, who eventually becomes more than just a friend and teacher to Chiara was also a deep philosophical man. But he had demons of his own and some very strong motives. Learning alchemy was a means to an end for him and it was hard at times to understand where Chiara would fit into his plans. I enjoyed reading their story and how over a period of years they come to not only care for each other, but to understand each other. He was not an easy character to like, even though I sympathized with his mission, but in the end I thought these two were truly meant for each other.

Bianca, Francesco's mistress was perhaps the most intriguing character in this novel. She was absolutely ruthless. She had no conscience. She wanted what she wanted and how she wanted it and did not matter what it took to get it. She was firece and such a good villain she made me cringe more than once. Together with Francesco's need for power, he and Bianca formed a devilish partnership, more than just an underlying romance. They were divinely evil in this book. Loupas must have known that their historical relationship did not need to be improved on. They were the epitome of danger in truth and in fiction.

I loved all of the references to the political climate of times. The grandeur of the Francesco's Florentine court and the links to which everyone went to save face, to court power and receive favor. I thought the author did an amazing job mixing history with fiction in this one. She used a deft hand and let history lead her, but she knew when to let fiction rule. I loved it.

What I didn't like:

There was a bit of repetition here and there that was a little annoying if nothing else. The story was still spectacular and written so well that the reader might forget they were reading a book and instead believe they had been sucked into the past. It was just the engrossing. 

Bottom Line:

Repetition aside, this was an amazing story and Loupas certainly does justice to history here. Her fictional characters were just as well drawn as her historical characters and together they created a very well written and highly entertaining novel. 

The Red Lily Crown is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

Elizabeth Loupas held various positions in radio and television, and worked as an editor, writer, and marketing consultant.  She holds degrees in literary studies and library/information science.  She lives with her husband and two beagles. She is the author of The Second Duchess and The Flower Reader.


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of The Red Lily Crown by Elizabeth Loupas.

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~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, April 30th.

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Review and Giveaway: Midnight Pursuits

Midnight Pursuits (Killer Instincts - Book 4) by Elle Kennedy

Publication Date: 04/01/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Signet Eclipse
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 0451465695
ISBN-13: 978-0451465696

(Received for an honest review from Signet Eclipse)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound

Elle Kennedy on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

Killer Instincts:

1. Midnight Rescue
2. Midnight Alias
3. Midnight Games
4. Midnight Pursuits

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.



Excerpt from, Midnight Pursuits, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.

Synopsis:

Her job is to stay hidden.
Too bad he can’t take his eyes off her.
 
Soldier-for-hire Ethan Hayes is the youngest member of an elite mercenary team. While he may be affectionately nicknamed the rookie, the skills Ethan honed as a Marine make him seriously dangerous. But when a sudden distress call puts him in close quarters with a rival, he finds more than his field skills being put to the test.
 
Juliet Mason stands out as the master thief in a covert group of assassins and spies. Her latest mission is personal—and it’s gone horribly wrong. Juliet may prefer to work alone, but when the rookie comes to her aid in snowy Eastern Europe, she can’t deny they make a good team. But even up against a powerful enemy, their most challenging task yet may be fighting the passion between them....


Thoughts:

Elle Kennedy brings readers the fourth book in her Killer Instincts series, Midnight Pursuits. This is an action packed story with moments of levity and some serious romance. The intense chemistry between the hero and heroine is undeniable. Kennedy knows when to ramp up the romance and when to let action take the center stage. Readers who are fans of the series will love the lead in to the next book and new readers to the series will fall in love with the great secondary cast, as well as the main couple. A great addition to the series.

What I liked:

I haven't been reading romantic suspense for very long, but the more I read it, the more I like it. Elle Kennedy certainly knows her way around the genre and makes each scene in her books action packed and full of sizzle, not just in the bedroom. This is one of those books that makes your heart rate speed up, it's just that intense. From the situations their jobs create to the passionate response they have to each other, Ehtan and Juliet provide a great deal of emotion for the reader. Midnight Pursuits is a real nail biter in more ways than one and Kennedy does a wonderful job with it.

The main couple in this one provides a classic example of the law of opposites attracting, but they also have some things in common that the reader may not see at first glance. Ethan is the rookie on a team of mercenaries that can really kick some butt, but he isn't low man on the totem pole. He is a very capable and extreme. He is a former Marine and can hang with the best of them. His passion for the job is fierce and he loves the same way. Juliet could be characterized as the ice queen. She's an assassin and she loves her job. She doesn't let people get close and she isn't looking for romance. These two make quite a pair. The passion between them borders on a ferocity of sorts. It's almost animalistic. I think the thing that is so similar about them is that deep seeded need for adrenaline in every thing the do. I loved them sepately but together they were a force to be reckoned with.

I have not read the previous books in this series, but after reading this one, it's a given that I will go back and pick up the others. One of the things that made this book such an enjoyable read, were the great secondary characters, many of which have their own stories told in previous books and several with stories yet to tell. This book can easily be read as a stand alone, but I think reading them together probably provides the reader with a much more emotional connection to the group. I liked the underlying tension that existed between the leaders of both groups and it appears that their story is up next. I think each character had a place in this book and I definitely want to know more about each one and these amazing two groups with such strong men and women.

What I didn't like:

The main couple is drawn to each so strongly even from their first meeting that reader can easily see that they will end up together, there is no doubt of that, but things heated up a lot faster than I expected. I wanted a little more angst and build up to those all important three little words. 

Bottom Line:

If you are looking for a read that will almost literally knock your socks off, this is it. Midnight Pursuits is that book that will keep you up at night and make you think about it when you are supposed to be working. It's that book that has just as intense love scenes as it does action scenes. What else can I say, you really gotta read this book.

Midnight Pursuits is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!



About the Author:

RITA-nominated author Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a BA in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager. She loves strong heroines, alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting! 


Giveaway Details:

The publisher is sponsoring a giveaway for one copy of Midnight Pursuits by Elle Kennedy.

~ You must be an email subscriber to participate.
~ US addresses only.
~ The deadline to enter this giveaway is Midnight EST, April 30th.

1. Please leave a comment about what you like about romantic suspense writing.
2. Please fill out the FORM.