The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall


The Thief’s Daughter by Victoria Cornwall
Publisher: Choc Lit Limited
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (307 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …

Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.

Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good. When her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.

Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are entangled. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned …

Jenna, born in to a family of thieves, has different morals than the rest of her family. The time comes when Jenna and her brother Silas are the only ones left as the thief takers have dealt with the rest.

Jack is a thief taker, but one who is determined to take down the whole operation of smuggler rather than individual people.

Jenna becomes Jack’s housekeeper and is soon embroiled in the smuggling game.

The conflict and romance between Jack and Jenna was very well handled with the emotions of both being strong and evident. Jenna is a strong young lady who fights against her smuggler brother’s wishes, especially after she discovered he’s lied to her. Jack is wary of Jenna because of her family background.

Several times I wondered if they could possibly make a go of things, as their inner suspicions pulled them apart and then threw them together. This made for an intriguing story.

I enjoyed this book but found it rather long. I began to wonder when it was going to end. However perseverance was worth it when I got to the end and felt satisfied by the resolution.

Before You by Kathryn Freeman


Before You by Kathryn Freeman
Publisher: Choc Lit
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (261 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

When life in the fast lane threatens to implode …

Melanie Hunt’s job working for the Delta racing team means she is constantly rubbing shoulders with Formula One superstars in glamorous locations like Monte Carlo. But she has already learned that keeping a professional distance is crucial if she doesn’t want to get hurt.

New Delta team driver Aiden Foster lives his life like he drives his cars – fast and hard. But, no matter how successful he is, it seems he always falls short of his championship-winning father’s legacy. If he could just stay focused, he could finally make that win.

Resolve begins to slip as Melanie and Aiden find themselves drawn to each other –with nowhere to hide as racing season begins. But when a troubled young boy goes missing, everything is thrown into turmoil, including Aiden’s championship dream.

I realize this story and characters are fictional however, while reading the story, I couldn’t help but to compare the main character, Aiden Foster , to the real life NASCAR racer car driver, Dale Earnheart Jr. My point is that if you are looking for a contemporary book then you can’t get anymore contemporary than Before You!

It was really cool to have an inside look on what goes on behind the scenes during a racing season. I always thought it would be cool to be a race car driver but not after reading all the non-glamorous work that is involved in running the circuit. However, Aiden Foster was a delicious book boyfriend while it lasted and it was awesome to read his happy ever after ending.

Melanie Hunt was a very good press officer for Aiden Foster. Their romance was spicy, turbulent and kept me turning the pages. For the most part the book kept a good pace. I took a couple of stars off the rating because of the moments where I wanted to bang my head against the wall. I fully understood that the hero was frustrated about being compared to his father’s championship-winning legacy. I got the picture that Aiden was a playboy. I understood Melanie previously suffered a broken heart and had trust issues. All good romance stories have conflicts that play with our emotions but it was almost too painful to read how Melanie and Aiden couldn’t work things out sooner than they did.

Other characters were brought into the story that eased the annoying back and forth between Aiden and Melanie such as the young boy that goes missing which is mentioned in the synopsis.

The good thing is that all of that on again/ off again romance scenes between Melanie and Aiden paid off in the end. I was finally rewarded with a sense of peace. It was practically an orgasmic feeling to finally have a happy ending. I seriously was about to murder Melanie myself if she didn’t wake up and realize Aiden was more than what she deserved!

I would recommend this book especially after reading the epilogue. The author did a very nice job wrapping up the story. What ever headache I might of had brewing from banging my head was magically healed. I was left feeling sated and dreamy.

House of Secrets by Lynda Stacey

house
House of Secrets by Lynda Stacey
Publisher: Choc. Lit.
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (287 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

A woman on the run, a broken man and a house with a shocking secret …
Madeleine Frost has to get away. Her partner Liam has become increasingly controlling to the point that Maddie fears for her safety, and that of her young daughter Poppy .

Desperation leads Maddie to the hotel owned by her estranged father – the extraordinarily beautiful Wrea Head Hall in Yorkshire. There, she meets Christopher ‘Bandit’ Lawless, an ex-marine and the gamekeeper of the hall, whose brusque manner conceals a painful past.

After discovering a diary belonging to a previous owner, Maddie and Bandit find themselves immersed in the history of the old house, uncovering its secrets, scandals, tragedies – and, all the while, becoming closer.
But Liam still won’t let go, he wants Maddie back, and when Liam wants something he gets it, no matter who he hurts …

Negative emotions kept me reading in a hurry—just had to get three-year-old Poppy out of that toxic place.

Poppy’s mother, Madeline Frost, the–not-very-self-sufficient heroine, and the dastardly bully, Liam O’Grady that Madeline lives with, have a scary relationship.

When Jess, Madeline sister, pressures Madeline to seek help from her father and get away from Liam’s control, the reader is transported to Wrea Head Hall, the house of secrets, where numerous new characters get involved in Madeline and Poppy’s lives. Among them is Bandit, the hero, a veteran with PTSD. He has a family history with Wrea Head Hall. This history comes to light bit by piece as the story unfolds—not until the very end do we know its real significance.

A new facet of the novel is ushered in when Emily Ennis’ diary, written primarily during the World War II years, is found. Secrets of the house–tunnels, rooms, and where they are and what happened in them intrigue. The diary actually creates a story within a story. How the past is connected to the present at Wrea Head Hall surprises.

About the time I thought a happy, romantic love story would start, the villainous Liam slithers back into the action. His unrelenting efforts to control, his devious ways, and his connection with all the misfortunes in Madeline life send the story into the realm of horror. Wrea Head Hall is not the only house with secrets.

While this story demands the reader’s close attention to details, its plot is so compelling one feels an urgency to keep reading—just how much is Madeline going to have to go through before she gets her happy-ever-after!

Lynda Stacey does a remarkable job of weaving together, back stories, foreshadowing, and a big cast of characters with the many facets of this story. How she takes flawed characters and redeems them is amazing. House of Secrets is an unusual, compelling novel.

A Stranger’s House by Clare Chase

HOUSE
A Stranger’s House by Clare Chase
Publisher: Choc Lit
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (233 Pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Sorrel

What if you were powerless to protect the person you cared about most?

When Ruby finds out that her partner has done the unforgivable, she has no option but to move out of their home. With nowhere else to go, a job house-sitting in Cambridge seems like the perfect solution.

But it’s soon clear the absent owner hurts everyone he gets close to, and Ruby’s faced with the fallout. As violent repercussions unfold, her instinct is to investigate: it’s a matter of self-preservation. And besides, she’s curious…

But Ruby’s new boss, Nate Bastable, has his eye on her and seems determined to put a stop to her sleuthing. Is he simply worried for the welfare of a member of staff, or is there something altogether more complicated – and potentially dangerous – at play?

Ruby is a writer, but when her long term relationship ends she takes a job house sitting with the help of her best friend. However, this job becomes life threatening when people start dying.

It took several pages for me to really get into the plot and grasp what was going on because it was a little confusing, but then it got good. Really good!

The owner of a house contacts a company that deals with the house sitting. The owner, whom Nate and Ruby never meet face to face, becomes a very important part of the story. Though they never meet the elusive man, they discover a lot about the kind of man he is and what it means for Ruby because she is house sitting. Ruby comes to work for Nate, who owns the house sitting company, through a mutual connection. What starts as a convenient working relationship evolves into so much more when Ruby begins to uncover the secrets of the house.

As a writer, Ruby is naturally curious and there’s plenty to discover on this assignment. First and foremost is the absentee owner who likes to play with women. And then there are the mysterious deaths.

The characters were for me what made this book special. Nate and Ruby had an instant attraction from the beginning. Though this book is more mystery than romance, I was able to watch their relationship develop and witness them learning to trust each other through the incidents and deaths that occur in the book. Through everything they learn a lot about each other.

The mystery and attraction turned romance is a perfect beach read. The mystery took some time to develop but that time was insightful towards knowing more about Nate and Ruby and their relationship. The climax was the highlight because all of the clues and bits and pieces that Ruby unraveled. It all came together for a realistic and satisfying conclusion.

The Jade Lioness by Christina Courtenay

JADE
The Jade Lioness by Christina Courtenay
Book Three in the Kumashiro series
Publisher: Choc Lit
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (352 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

Can an impossible love become possible?

Nagasaki, 1648

Temperance Marston longs to escape war-torn England and explore the exotic empire of Japan. When offered the chance to accompany her cousin and Captain Noordholt on a trading expedition to Nagasaki, she jumps at the opportunity. However, she soon finds the country’s strict laws for foreigners curtail her freedom.

On a dangerous and foolhardy venture she meets Kazuo, a ronin. Kazuo is fascinated by her blonde hair and blue eyes, but he has a mission to complete and he cannot be distracted. Long ago, his father was accused of a crime he didn’t commit – stealing a valuable jade lioness ornament from the Shogun – and Kazuo must restore his family’s honour.

But when Temperance is kidnapped and sold as a concubine, he has to make a decision

Temperance’s trip to Japan isn’t at all what she expected.

Temperance had hoped that her trip to Japan would be a beautiful adventure. However, once Temperance realizes she will not be allowed to travel around the country; her excitement quickly turns to boredom. Consequently, she decides to do a bit of exploring on her own and meets Kazuo. Their first meeting leaves her wanting more, and once again she dares to escape the confines of the small island she’s living on. Unfortunately, this mistake proves to be very costly, and Temperance’s life is changed forever. I must say that while this is book three in a series, it can certainly stand on its own.

Temperance is a very easy character to like. She’s definitely naïve at the start of the story, but she is kind, caring, and always willing to help others. Her inner strength is put to the test more than once in this book, and I had the pleasure of watching Temperance grow into a great character.

Temperance and Kazuo make a very good couple. They are attracted to each other from the moment they meet, and I must admit that their connection is formed a little fast for my taste. Despite this issue, Temperance and Kazuo’s relationship still feels genuine. However, the restrictions on foreigners make the idea of a happy ending for the couple seem truly impossible. Ms. Courtenay did an excellent job of building suspense gradually. As this romance progressed, the couple moved from one precarious situation to another, and I wasn’t entirely sure that Temperance and Kazuo would find a way to be together without fear until the very end.

Temperance and Kazuo face separate dilemmas throughout the story. As they try to avoid being caught by various enemies, they try to tackle one problem at a time. However, the solution to both Temperance and Kazuo’s problems are found in the same place, and Temperance plays a key role in restoring Kazuo’s family honor. It was not exactly the solution I expected, but it was certainly satisfying.

The Jade Lioness is a very enjoyable book. Temperance is a sweet character, and I liked cheering for her and Kazuo against all odds. I recommend this tale to anyone looking for a different historical romance.

An Irish Promise by Isabella Connor

 

IRISH
An Irish Promise by Isabella Connor
Publisher: Choc Lit.
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (414 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Camellia

Art historian, Rachel Ford has returned to the Irish village of Kilbrook intent on keeping her promise to take revenge on the school bullies who ruined her childhood and destroyed her family.

Australian actor Finn MacKenzie sets hearts fluttering when he turns up in sleepy Kilbrook to help his aunt with a school production. He seems to have a charmed life, yet his confident façade hides heartbreak and tragedy. Although Finn isn’t looking for love, when he meets the mysterious Rachel, there’s a definite spark between them.

Rachel is torn between her desire for revenge and this new love affair. She doesn’t want to deceive Finn, but can she trust him to keep her real identity a secret? And will he understand why she must keep her promise, no matter the cost?

An Irish Promise is a story of revenge, remorse, guilt, and secrets with love having a hard time getting a toehold.

Rachel returns to Kilbrook, where she’d lived as a child with full intentions of hurting bullies. She soon realizes her plan could hurt innocents also. But she reads “The Diary” each night to remind herself why she returned to this place of remembered miseries. It strengthens her resolve.

Father Daniel Quinn has returned to Kilbrook for a very different reason. His efforts, emotions, allegiance, and, finally, his honesty, with himself and others intrigue. His gaining enough courage to do what is right for himself and others is an intricate part of the plot.

Finn Mackenzie returns to Kilbrook, supposedly to help his Aunt Helen, but he, too, has a secret agenda. He has reinvented himself and is a successful actor, but it wasn’t easy. Now, he wants, in some way, to atone for a cruel wrong he was a party to in his miserable youth.

The primary antagonists, Mellissa and Jay Cole, were bullies in school and continue, as adults, to use people, giving no consideration to the damage they are doing. Of course, there is a back story about them that explains their behavior, but it is not enough to excuse their actions.

Rachel and Finn’s relationship evolves and he gives her a pendant with the Claddagh, an Irish design of two hands holding a crowned heart that symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and love; yet each of them have secrets they have not revealed to each other.

Deceit is a major element in An Irish Promise. I even felt deceived at one point. But love is tenacious and hangs on through a multitude of conflicts.

Flight to Coorah Creek by Janet Gover

CREEK
Flight to Coorah Creek by Janet Gover
Publisher: Choc Lit
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (317 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Hawthorn

What happens when you can fly, but you just can’t hide?

Only Jessica Pearson knows the truth when the press portrays her as the woman who betrayed her lover to escape prosecution. But will her new job flying an outback air ambulance help her sleep at night or atone for a lost life?

Doctor Adam Gilmore touches the lives of his patients, but his own scars mean he can never let a woman touch his heart.

Runaway Ellen Parkes wants to build a safe future for her two children. Without a man—not even one as gentle as Jack North.

In Coorah Creek, a town on the edge of nowhere, you’re judged by what you do, not what people say about you. But when the harshest judge is the one you see in the mirror, there’s nowhere left to hide.

Jess, Ellen, Jack and Adam are inspiring characters that manage to find peace in the face of suffering and overwhelming guilt. They’ve experienced more pain than anyone ever should, but they finally have a chance at happiness. Like Jess thinks when she sees Adam’s scars: she’d never change that because the scars made them who they are now.

I loved how both Jess and Ellen were portrayed as vulnerable, but essentially strong women. After being broken and ruined by men, they got up and re-built their lives. Their hesitation about letting new men into their lives was believable, although the guilt Jess and Ellen felt was perhaps a bit overdone. However, it helped to add to their inner conflict so that was easy to overlook.

Sister Luke was a refreshing, wise character that brought some wonderfully quirky moments to the story. I felt a bit more humor would make the story less sentimental and even more enjoyable by juxtaposing the poignancy of the characters’ lives with some comic relief. Even the setting fit the emotional atmosphere, with the desolate Australian Outback symbolizing the isolation of every individual. It read very authentic and real, to the point of me feeling the dust tickling my nose as I read about the dry red expanse of land.

Although the story holds a strong message of how we all deserve to be forgiven, mostly by ourselves, but by others, too, it’s the strong characters that will stay with me. The selflessness of Jack and Adam, the courage and fighting spirit of Ellen, the essential goodness of Jess. They made this story strong and unputdownable.

The Highwayman’s Daughter by Henriette Gyland

HIGHWAYMAN
The Highwayman’s Daughter by Henriette Gyland
Publisher: Choc-Lit
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (285 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Is it a crime to steal a heart?

Hounslow, 1768. Jack Blythe, heir to the Earl of Lampton, is a man with great expectations.

So when his stagecoach is held up by a masked woman, brandishing a pistol and dressed as a gentleman of the road, he wholly expects to have his purse stolen. And when he senses something strangely familiar about the lovely little bandit, Jack also expects to win his cousin Rupert s wager by tracking her down first.

But as Jack and the highwaywoman enter into a swashbuckling game of cat and mouse, uncovering an intricate web of fiercely guarded family secrets, the last thing Jack expects to have stolen is his heart.

There’s nothing like a highwayman robbing a carriage to kick off a story and that’s how this one begins. In this book highwayman’s a young woman, and yes, I know it’s been done many times before, but it never gets old. Well, at least not for me.

The scene was slightly humorous and you find yourself cheering on the highwayman as soon as she draws her weapon. Cora is a character I liked from the beginning, even when she was breaking the law. She’s got a valid reason and it’s not just to line her own purse with other people’s money and belongings.

Jack is also a likeable character and from the beginning he knows he wasn’t robbed by a man which keeps you reading to find out if and when he’s going to run into Cora and if he’ll recognize her.

I liked the dialogue in this story which I thought was fitting for this time period and the historical detail was well presented. I also like that there’s sort of a story in a story. Jack thinks Cora might be somehow related and that’s when the sub-plots kicks into high gear and keeps you reading on.

The secondary characters were also well rounded and seemed to have their own story too. Despite its 250 plus pages, it’s a fairly quick read.

If you like historicals, and like me especially look for ones set in England during the 1700s I think you’ll find this an enjoyable read.

Dancing In The Rain by Amanda James

RAIN
Dancing In The Rain by Amanda James
Publisher: Choc-Lit
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (157 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

What if the responsibility for preventing a major disaster lay with you?

Jacob Weston has felt like he doesn’t belong for as long as he can remember and the strangely vivid dreams he experiences only serve to make him feel more alone …

But when his job in research science takes him thousands of miles away from what he thought of as home, Jacob finds the mystery of his past begin to unravel. A trip to the breathtaking Monument Valley and an extraordinary encounter with a Navajo guide seem to hold the key to who Jacob really is.

After meeting the beautiful Rosenya Neboyia, Jacob feels he may have found what he’d been searching for. But with this meeting is the discovery that his dreams come with a responsibility, and that responsibility is bigger and scarier than he could have ever imagined …

The opening of this book pulled me in with its car crash and Agatha stealing a baby. I had hoped that the mystery behind her taking the only survivor would continue more but in the next chapter the baby’s all grown up and called Jacob.

I won’t give too much of the plot away but Jacob and a co-worker go and work in the US and it’s there that the mystery starts to unravel. Jacob’s had visions his entire life and it’s at his new destination that he learns of their meaning and the significance to him.

Ms. James did a great job with the setting. I could visualize this part of the US and Jacob’s road trip. It seemed like she’d done lots of research not only on the area but Native American culture and tradition too which made the book enjoyable.

There are a cast of characters all nicely drawn, and of course a romance that Jacob hints about early on in the story. The dialogue is natural sounding and at 157 pages the story moves nicely especially if you’re looking for something to read in two or three sittings.

If you’re eager to find a book with a little suspense, enjoy books set in the Southwest and love learning about other cultures along with your fiction, this might be a good pick for you.

Somewhere Beyond The Sea by Amanda James

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Somewhere Beyond The Sea by Amanda James
Publisher: Choc-Lit
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (286 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

Doctor Tristan Ainsworth has returned with his family to the idyllic Cornish village close to where he grew up. The past has taught him some hard lessons, but he’ll do anything to make his wife happy—so what’s making her so withdrawn?

Karen Ainsworth daren’t reveal her true feelings, but knows her husband has put up with her moods for too long. A chance to use her extraordinary singing voice may set her free, so why shouldn’t she take it? Surely her past can’t hurt her now?

As a tide of blackmail and betrayal is unleashed to threaten the foundations of their marriage, Karen and Tristan face a difficult question. Is their love strong enough to face the truth when the truth might cost them everything?

This is the second Choc-Lit title I’ve read that’s set in Cornwall, and like the first one, it was a story that drew me in from page one. This one begins with a character planning to end their life…don’t worry it all works out okay, but its outcome is the driving force for the rest of the story.

Karen and Tris seem to be the perfect married couple, apart from Karen’s fear of venturing outside. There were flashbacks from the point of view of the character who tried to end their life, and for a long time I couldn’t figure out if it was Karen or Tris which actually kept me reading to see if my first inclination was right.

The setting is wonderful and well described by Ms. James. I liked Karen and Tris but I think the other secondary characters kept me interested just as much. All are well-rounded and have interesting personalities.

The plot is very entertaining and when someone begins blackmailing Karen I couldn’t put my e-book reader down. There were late night meetings in churchyards, escalating threats and all things that make a great suspense. I won’t give away what happens to the blackmailer but I thought that perhaps the incident would up the suspense just a tad more but it didn’t, which was a bit disappointing to me.

I was cheering for Karen, but actually more for Tris because he came across as sweetheart of a husband who seemed to go to any length to protect his wife from dangers of the past.

Although this is close to a 300 page book you’ll find the pacing fast because of its page turning quality and your need to find out what Karen’s fate will be.

Summer’s still young and if you’re looking for one more title to add to your beach book pile and love suspense, I’d recommend this one to you.