Surviving the Fatherland by Annette Oppenlander

Surviving the Fatherland by Annette Oppenlander
Publisher: self
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (355 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Spanning thirteen years from 1940 to 1953, SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND tells the true and heart-wrenching stories of Lilly and Günter struggling with the terror-filled reality of life in the Third Reich, each embarking on their own dangerous path toward survival, freedom, and ultimately each other. Based on the author’s own family and anchored in historical facts, this story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the strength of war children.

SURVIVING THE FATHERLAND is a sweeping saga of family, love, and betrayal that illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the children’s war.

This historical novel is based on the author’s parents and what they went through as children in Germany during the Second World War. As the wife of a history buff, I’ve seen a great many movies and heard a lot about the soldiers during that war, but except for The Diary of Anne Frank I’m not familiar with what the children had to go through. This book is eye-opening and heartbreaking, and I would recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the war.

Lily and Gunter grew up in the same city, but their lives during the war took very different routes. The book is told from each of their points of view- the hardships they had to face and the struggles to stay alive.

My heart broke for Lily as her mother so obviously preferred her younger brother and worked her like a slave, even turning a blind eye to potential dangers to Lily in order to make life more bearable for herself. It’s hard for me, as a mother, to understand Mutti’s reaction to her daughter, which cannot be blamed on the war as she was already disengaged from Lily at the beginning of the story. Her father lied to the family, telling them he had been drafted, but he is full of enthusiasm to do his part in Hitler’s war.

We first meet Gunter as he takes part in the local youth drill that all the young men had to join—training children to one day be soldiers. Once his father is drafted, life is different for him as well as supplies become short, and he is forced to do whatever he can to help keep his family together.

When Lily and Gunter met, the war was over but they each had to deal with the baggage they gathered during it. They fell in love, but the path of true love, in their part, didn’t run smoothly. I enjoyed the way they were together as they each worked through their own demons.

This family saga is wonderfully written and, aside from the emotional ramifications, very easy to read. I stayed up too late a couple of nights reading it. I was really invested in the characters and wondered what was going to happen to them next. Knowing it was based on the author’s parents, it was obvious they would get together at the end, but there were still moments I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.

I highly recommend this book!

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C1PHER by Monica E. Spence

C1PHER by Monica E. Spence
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (100 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Revolutionary War re-enactor Mary Banvard must travel to West Point during a thunder storm to authenticate papers concerning Benedict Arnold’s betrayal of West Point. Poor visibility causes a terrible car accident​, and she blacks out. When a masculine voice awakens her, she discovers everyone around her is wearing Colonial clothes. Odd. Who is this guy with the queue and the glasses who looks so worried?

Robert Townsend looks like a Quaker shopkeeper, but he is Culper, Jr., General George Washington’s most important spy. When Lady Mary Banvard, his fiancée, awakens following a carriage accident, she begins ranting about missing papers and traveling through Time.

Together Mary and Robert stumble upon a threat to their lives, their happiness, and the security of American generations to come.

Studying the past is one thing. Suddenly waking up in it is quite another.

The dialogue was fantastic. There were several times when I chuckled out loud at the things Mary said after she mysteriously found herself living back during the time of the Revolutionary War. She has a sharp wit, and it shone through the conversations she had with Robert and other characters during her adventures. The only thing better than this part of the plot was how funny it was to see how everyone responded to the things she said that made sense in our times but were unintelligible a few hundred years ago.

I would have liked to see more time spent developing the romance in this story. The characters involved in it were so different from each other that I needed more examples of what they shared in common. They were both fascinating people. I simply wasn’t totally sure that they would make a good couple because of how often their personalities and interests conflicted each other.

Mary was such an interesting woman. I loved her spunky attitude and how unflappable she was when she found herself in the middle of a crisis. She’s the kind of smart and steady person I’d want to have around if there were some kind of emergency. Her calm approach to even the strangest situations she found herself in made me adore her from the first scene to the last one.

C1PHER should be read by fans of light science fiction and historical romances alike. This is a nice blend of both of those genres!

The Cowboy’s Orphan Bride by Lauri Robinson

The Cowboy’s Orphan Bride by Lauri Robinson
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (288 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Reunited with the cowboy!

Long ago, orphans Bridgette Banks and Garth McCain made a promise to stay together. But it’s been years since they were parted, and Bridgette’s almost given up hope! So when Garth’s cattle trail passes her town, she won’t let him leave her behind again

Sparks fly as they’re reunited especially when the cowboy catches Bridgette telling everyone she’s his bride! Faced with a past he thought he’d lost forever, Garth realizes this impulsive beauty might be the future he never thought he deserved.

Lauri Robinson created a genuine love story between Garth, the hero and Bridgette, the heroine. Garth possessed all the qualities I admire in a hero; strong yet sensitive, smart, thoughtful, honest, hard worker, brave and very handsome. Bridgette complemented Garth quite well. She was his equal in the ways that mattered. I was pleasantly surprised by her skills and talents. The banter between the couple had me cracking up. The chemistry between the two was obvious and on the shy side of being spicy. The fact that they knew each other in the past and have been reunited only leads me to believe that they were truly meant for each other.

The cast of characters were brilliantly developed and implemented throughout the story. They all had a relevant impact on Garth and Bridgette’s relationship as well as on me. I felt a connection with many of the secondary players. There were too many to name but Jo Jo was probably my favorite supporting cast member. I loved his tender heart and willingness to help. My least favorite secondary character was Cecil; however he was nicely redeemed before the story was over.

The plot was captivating and well written. I enjoyed reading a romance that took place in the west during the cattle drives. It’s an era I’ve always been intrigued by. I thoroughly enjoyed the little bits of suspense that was woven throughout the plot in regards to the selling of the cows, the possible dangers involved in cattle drives and the consequences of Bridgette’s not well thought out plans. Some of those not well thought out plans were hilarious. The plot flowed very smooth and made it impossible to put the book down.

I thought The Cowboy’s Orphan Bride was an amazing love story and I highly recommend this book!

My Traveling Man by Dee Dee Lane

My Traveling Man by Dee Dee Lane
Slip in Time Series

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Holiday, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Short Story (92 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Alice Hanstrom prefers books to people, facts over feelings, and in her world, “adventure” is just a word in the dictionary. That is until the night she braves shadowed hallways of the Cowboy and Western Museum in pursuit of a long​-lost diary. Her search of an antique covered wagon halts abruptly when the museum slips Alice back in time.

Thomas Bristol is an experienced wagon master. On a daily basis he deals with cholera, exhausted oxen, and river rapids on the treacherous journey to Oregon Territory. But he’s completely flummoxed when a mysterious woman appears in Big Blue River.

On the trail, Alice and Thomas strive to balance his love of roaming adventure and her desire for predictable orderliness. As the wagon train reaches Independence Rock, the sparks between them catch fire. But can such different people become equal partners in love…and can their love survive the slip in time?

Alice, is an academic who is studying for her PhD. Her research takes place in the Cowboy and Western Museum and concerns the American west, in particular the wagon trains that travelled west in the mid-1800s. When an accident causes a slip through time, Alice finds a new life in a wagon train. She also finds Thomas Bristol who becomes the love of her life.

I loved this book. Alice’s thoughts on what was happening around her and her thoughts on her research coming to life were fascinating. Her interpretation of the Fourth of July celebrations were quite unique, considering the year she was from and the year she was now living in. One thing I found strange was that no one questioned where she’d come from. You’d think the wagon master or the family she travelled with would at least ask, but I don’t remember that at all.

All through the story, and the heated love scenes, the question hovered – would she return to her own time and if she did would that be the end of any love between her and Thomas? I won’t spoil the story by revealing the ending, but I will say it’s a unique and clever way of finishing the tale.

The Road To Winterhill by Gloria Gay

The Road To Winterhill by Gloria Gay
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (214 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Snapdragon

In the silence of St. George’s Cathedral, the clergyman’s voice rang out unnaturally loud: “Do you, Richard Branston, Earl of Berrington, take this woman, Belinda Presleigh, of Hunsley Manor, as your lawful wedded wife, to love and honor until death do you part?”

The few wedding guests crowding around them waited for Berrington’s response which was long in coming. Belinda saw their smirks and heard their muffled laughter.

She felt the sting of tears in her eyes at the long pause and realized she could not undo what she had done. The awful deed had come to roost in her heart.

She wished he would say no. She’d rather be jilted than that awful hesitation in which everyone looked at each other, some with smirks of “I told you so.”

Finally, Lord Berrington’s voice rang out—loud, impatient and clear: “I do.”

Society shuns Belinda Presley when her mother’s scheme results in a forced offer of marriage from Richard Branston, the Earl of Berrington, the man she loves in secret.

Warm conversations during the day and passionate nights of love at night on their three-days’ journey give Belinda the only happiness she has ever known. Yet on arriving at Winterhill, Belinda feels the family’s animosity, as the earl, unaware of the danger she leaves her in and still resentful, returns to London.

Her only friend, Lord Wilbur, and solitary walks, are her solace, but Belinda’s enemies’ hatred soon place her in extreme peril.

Quirky and unpredictable, The Road to Winterhill sets off with what seems could be an ordinary enough challenge: Belinda Presleigh is dragged into pursuit of the ‘advantageous situation’ (otherwise known as marriage) by her very determined mother. It seems hardly a new predicament, but her mother is quite unpredictably crafty!

Belinda is concerned about decency, about embarrassment, and avoiding rogues, and that all seemed quite enough before being reminded about the spiders!

Berrington, an Earl, has friends that seem as eager to see him tie the knot as well. Vastly more interested in an assignation, he, it seems, may be manipulated too. The eerie opening setting (dark, dank wine cellar) could scarcely be more fitting. Throughout, locations never intrude, but are somehow just there as perfect background.

The two live in relative wealth, but both somewhat trapped by their status.  Yet, neither of these two are quite the pawns they first appear…the situation is riveting, long before the end of chapter one.

The unexpected intrigue brings us to quite the tale, and we run through an array of emotions. Belinda, who seemed a simple, protected gal of marrying age has actually had quite a number of experiences, sorrows, and hopes. We find ourselves hoping she will find her way to a kinder man…

The past contributes to the unexpected twists of the story. ‘The whims of fate’ indeed seem to take charge of events, but then we do begin to suspect that some one person is at the heart of suspicious circumstances.

The opening dialogue seemed a bit slow (my only complaint) but my inability to stop reading this hysterical and bewitching historical romance means I must give it top marks, and I must say, if I’d had any idea what lay in store, I’d have started reading sooner.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Road To Winterhill as the characters were so unexpectedly engaging. A real treat: Do read.

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas

Devil in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Ravenels Series #3
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review ed by Xeranthemum

An eccentric wallflower…

Most debutantes dream of finding a husband. Lady Pandora Ravenel has different plans. The ambitious young beauty would much rather stay at home and plot out her new board game business than take part in the London Season. But one night at a glittering society ball, she’s ensnared in a scandal with a wickedly handsome stranger.

A cynical rake…

After years of evading marital traps with ease, Gabriel, Lord St. Vincent, has finally been caught-by a rebellious girl who couldn’t be less suitable. In fact, she wants nothing to do with him. But Gabriel finds the high-spirited Pandora irresistible. He’ll do whatever it takes to possess her, even if their marriage of convenience turns out to be the devil’s own bargain.

A perilous plot…

After succumbing to Gabriel’s skilled and sensuous persuasion, Pandora agrees to become his bride. But soon she discovers that her entrepreneurial endeavors have accidentally involved her in a dangerous conspiracy-and only her husband can keep her safe. As Gabriel protects her from their unknown adversaries, they realize their devil’s bargain may just turn out to be a match made in heaven…

The one thing I can count on with books written by Ms. Kleypas is to be entertained to the point that time ceases to have meaning. The romance in Devil in Spring is wonderful, delightful and full of delicious pitfalls and challenges to make the love between Gabriel and Pandora more powerful and engaging. Once again, this author delivers a well-written, exciting and sigh-worthy novel that delivers satisfaction. The most adorable thing though is how Ms. Kleypas delivers her recipe after the HEA. I can’t recall ever giggling while reading a recipe in any cookbook I’ve ever owned.

Reading this novel was like a blast from the past. A hero and heroine from long before not only thrived, but their love and lust for each other is as wonderfully potent as it was when readers were first introduced. It stands to reason that any progeny of theirs would be just as unique, clever, well-rounded and as intriguing as their parents. Gabriel is a credit to his lineage.

The first part of the book concentrates on getting Gabriel and Pandora together. There are a lot of interesting personality issues to overcome or to learn about or reach an understanding about in order to move the plot forward. Pandora’s upbringing was unconventional to say the least. The next chunk of the novel explored the accidental discovery of a diabolical plot which thrusts Pandora into becoming a heroine in the truest sense of the word. Of course that means that Gabriel needs to out-hero her so he can save the day because he is, after all, Sebastien and Evie’s son, he can do no less. Personally, I prefer to believe Pandora and Gabriel saved each other, especially after getting to know them and their quirks of personality. The one thing they both didn’t count on was that one of them might be the target of an assassin. Talk about suspense!

Even though both protagonists have internal and external conflicts tripping them up, when it comes to their physical attraction they have no problems in steaming up the pages and delighting a reader with just how compatible they truly are.

My favorite secondary character is Drago. I adored what Pandora did to his name and was charmed when she introduced his whale as ‘Bubbles’. That started a short but highly endearing and adorable exchange that epitomizes just how special Pandora was as a leading lady. She has the ability to create a kind of magic that inspires other characters to rediscover their child within. Because they are powerless to resist, a reader is treated to some fantastical and delightful dialogue.

On the whole, Devil in Spring has what I look for in a romance and Ms. Kleypas delivered on all counts. Experience the whole emotional spectrum: excitement, shock, fear, lust, humor, whimsy, empathy, and most of all love, when you read your own copy of Devil in Spring. It’s a winner.

Mine Forever and Always by Tammy L Bailey

Mine Forever and Always by Tammy L Bailey
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (192 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

Just shy of fifteen years old, and during a fake and impromptu wedding ceremony, Lily Scott married her best friend’s brother, Henry Dalton.

It seemed harmless enough until he leaned in and whispered to her his true feelings, amorous words she has been unable to forget: Now you’re mine, forever and always.

Unfortunately, growing up pulls them apart and transforms Henry into a pompous scoundrel. When they meet again at a house party hosted by Henry’s sister, will Henry remember his once faithful promise to Lily?

As teenagers Lily and Henry take part in a mock marriage. Shortly after, adult interference tears them apart leaving Lily with the impression Henry regrets his action and no longer wants anything to with her. Lily is invited by Henry’s sister to a party at his family home and he takes every opportunity to ridicule her.

This is a nice book, but for something in the regency line there are a lot of times when Henry would be forced to marry Lily whether he wanted to or not. The passion between them is blurred with Lily wanting him but knowing she can’t have him and Henry apparently only wanting to argue with her.

The imagination brings the scenes and characters to life, and misunderstanding provides levity to the situation, as well as tension. I loved the sister Jane, she was such a lively young lady and I felt she and Waverley would make a good pair. I would have liked to know more of how Jane managed to twist the taking of a name out of a hat to get the response she wanted. Good plot.

Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl

Old Bones Never Die by Leslie A Diehl
Publisher: Camel Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (274 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

Just before Walter Egret is killed in a hit-and-run, he phoned his half-brother Sammy to report that he’d unearthed their missing father’s pocket watch, along with a pile of human bones. The project is put on hold until it can be determined if the site is an Indian burial ground. Then the bones disappear. Now Sammy and his brother’s three orphaned children want Eve Appel to go pro, applying her innate snoopiness to the trade of private investigator. Eve already has her hands full with her two consignment stores. What is she going to do? Sammy and Walter are Miccosukee Indians, and Walter was employed as a backhoe operator on a construction site for a sportsmen’s resort. Was Walter’s death murder or an accident? If the bones belong to Sammy’s father, how did they get there? Delving into these mysteries, Eve is aided by her usual crew of friends and family. This adventure will not only up the stakes for Eve as an investigator, but it will also open her eyes to life possibilities she never imagined. Book 5 in the Eve Appel Mystery series, which began with A Secondhand Murder.

Eve is thinking seriously of becoming a private investigator. She knows of one close to her office who would train her. She knows she’s busy with her consignment shop and the RV they use as a second shop, but she still has spare time and intense curiosity. Would it be too much?

This story is a mix about past and present, death long ago and death currently. With two Indian tribes in the area, future development is beginning in their little town but one is excited about it. It gets even worse when some bones show up at the construction site. The work is shut down until the bones are analyzed. Then the bones go missing, the construction man who found them is dead, and a watch that has been missing for years is missing again. Were the bones part of an Indian burial site? If not, who was it?

The pace moves well, there’s more than one mystery, and it all comes out by end of the story. I enjoyed Eve’s family, her lover and his family, and the mob man she’s friends with. Those close to her know she’ll do what she decides to do but they try to talk her out of it.

The romance in this story is soothing and poor Eve needs that in her life. Especially since someone is trying to kill her now because of her snooping.

This writer’s style is easy to read, she closes up any gaps in the story line and she’s made me want to read another in this series. Eve and Sammy are a joy to read about.

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories by Andrew Kozma

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories by Andrew Kozma
Publisher: Kozmatic Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (44 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs is a collection of weird, speculative fiction containing four stories of people exploring strange places and situations, from a newly-discovered civilization of six-foot-tall talking slugs to being haunted by a man in a dark chocolate suit. Whether waking up in a prison camp or navigating a city full of copies of themselves, the characters in these stories are bent on understanding their world, even if that understanding also means the end of the world they thought they knew.

If you like the strange side of science fiction, keep reading.

The main character in “Stammlager 76” lived in a prison camp and was gradually forgetting everything about the life he’d lead before being imprisoned there. There were so few details about what was going on in that camp that I had to read this twice before I understood what was going on. Once I figured it out, though, I really appreciated how much Mr. Kozma left up to his audience’s imagination. This is the sort of thing that works really well with his writing style because of how many different ways the ending can be interpreted.

“The Man in the Dark Chocolate Suit” was about a man who was trying to keep the man in the dark chocolate suit from haunting him. I absolutely loved the beginning of this story. Trying to figure out how I should interpret the identity of the strange man who was haunting the main character was just as much fun as attempting to guess how their conflict would end. With that being said, I really needed more hints here. None of the theories I came up with about what was going on were confirmed or denied. It would have been nice to have them narrowed down somewhat.

In “We of the Future are the Ghosts of the Past,” a man watched himself die over and over again. He then realized that the entire city was filled with copies of himself who were all experiencing the same event simultaneously. What I liked the most about this one was how calmly the protagonist explained an incredibly bizarre and dream-like situation. I didn’t want his saga to end. All of my most important questions were answered, but I was still fascinated by what this kind of experience would be like.

Not every vacation is necessarily an ideal one. The most interesting thing about “A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs” for me was how unexcited Roger was at the prospect of visiting a faraway land full of large, intelligent slugs. His vacation only fascinated me more as time went on because of how many contradictions there were between what the advertisements for Slugland promised and what the actual destination was like. The beginning and middle were full of questions that the ending only partially answered. I would have liked to see a little more time spent on explaining how everything tied together. I’m still not entirely sure that my theory about Roger’s fate is the correct one.

A Passport to a Nation of Talking Slugs and Other Stories should be savored. There is a lot of meaning to be sucked out of these tales if you take your time with them.

Two Tutor Doves by Patricia Kiyono

Two Tutor Doves by Patricia Kiyono
Publisher: EsKape Press
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (67 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Robert Townley prides himself as an efficient and indispensible valet to Phillip, Duke of Bartlett. But when Robert is coerced into teaching the poor children at the duchess’ chapel school, he’s out of his element. Thankfully, he has assistance from some of the other servants, including the prickly Miss Brown.

Jeanne Brown is lady’s maid to the Duchess of Bartlett. She loves working with the children but can’t abide Robert’s lofty attitude toward them. She’d love to put him in his place — but she needs her job.
When the duchess decides to hold the school’s Christmas party in her home, Robert and Jeanne must put aside their differences and work together to ensure that the holiday celebration goes off without a hitch. Will they be able to endure the partnership, or will their sparks ignite something more?

Robert Townley is the valet to Phillip Peartree – Duke of Bartlett. In his profession Robert has always risen to any challenge presented to him, but his current post might be the one to topple his perfect record. Instructing a classroom of ragtag ruffians how to read and write might be beyond even his vast capabilities. Worse was the fact Robert wasn’t in this endeavor alone, Jeanne, the duchess’ lady’s maid was also there and should Robert cut the lessons short he was certain Jeanne would inform the duchess. Can Jeanne and Robert find some common ground and work together?

The characters in this story were complicated and I found them interesting. Jeanne has a very different and complicated history. The duke and duchess were more cameo’s than main characters, and both clearly very excited and happy with their impending child. An assortment of other servants of the household all were shown to work together like well-oiled cogs in a wheel. I was particularly pleased with Robert’s character. While he preferred things neat and orderly he was open to hearing the genuine thoughts from those around him and I found his mind was usually open to opinions other than his own.

I found this to be quite a thoughtful and interesting historical story. Robert is a good man, but I thought he made an exceptional, if flawed, hero. I really enjoyed the realism of Robert’s character, particularly for this historical time period. Robert genuinely wants to do his best to teach the poor and rough children he’s been told to educate, but he has pretty much zero experience with children and almost no exposure at all to young, poor and not-well-mannered kids. The students aren’t rambunctious or wild – just young children. So having Jeanne point out his failings as a teacher – no matter how kindly – really flummoxes Robert.

While certainly not a perfect man I grew to really respect him and genuinely wanted him to end up happy. Indeed, my only real criticism of the book was even until almost half way through Jeanne thought negative and mean thoughts of Robert and only paid attention to his pompousness and different views of the classes. The main reason this irritated me so much is while Robert could appreciate other people’s perspectives and tried to look at things from more than his own point of view, I felt that Jeanne just watched Robert’s actions and made judgments on it. She didn’t try and learn anything about his past, or try and view the matter from Robert’s perspective – that society expects servants to respect and show manners to their betters. It doesn’t matter that this might not be morally correct – it was what society was back in those days. And teaching the children these things were important. The children needed job, work and education, and I felt that the reality was that teaching them these notions and manners would help them progress. Jeanne’s thinking poorly of Robert for doing this made me really annoyed. Initially at least I really disliked her character for it. I was pleased when Jeanne’s history was explained and it helped me understand her intense dislike of Robert’s need for keeping a proper distance and distinguishing between the upper class and the working class. While I could understand Jeanne’s thoughts, it still struck me as a little odd – particularly for the historical setting where Robert’s views were not just normal, but expected and frequently enforced.

At no stage were the character clashes between Jeanne and Robert mean or particularly angry. I think the author did a good job of balancing their conflict while still leaving room for there to be a common meeting ground and for a light romance to flourish. Readers looking for a deep romance though – with long looks and heartfelt feelings – might not find this as satisfying. I found the story was strongly focused on the education of the children, the historical setting and the characters. The romance was definitely a side-issue and not the main focus to my mind. I didn’t mind this and found the story quite rich in details and characterization, I’m just not certain I would classify it strictly as a romance. Personally I found it to be more of a historical story with a small element of romance towards the end. Either way, I found the story interesting and the characters engrossing and complicated. A satisfying read.