When a Princess Proposes by Kerrelyn Sparks, narrated by Jill Tanner

When a Princess Proposes by Kerrelyn Sparks, narrated by Jill Tanner
Embraced by Magic, Book 3
Publisher: Kensington Books, Audio publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.
Genre: Historical, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Aerthlan’s five Embraced queens have reigned for twenty years, in peace secured by the power of their magic. But now a new and insidious threat has appeared, to test a new generation.


All Princess Eviana needs is an escape. Possessed of an unfortunate and unusual Embraced gift, which she’s been banned from using, she required no training. Now, her overprotective parents want her to wed. As a result, the palace is crammed with obnoxious noblemen. . . . Until Quentin, the enigmatic eagle shifter and royal spy, maneuvers several of the unsuitable suitors into revealing their most embarrassing secrets before the court. Finally, Eviana has an excuse to free herself. If only her family knew the blow that’s shaken her: golden-eyed Quentin’s refusal to let her near . . .

Heroic, but low born, Quentin’s infatuation with Eviana is as inappropriate as it is unshakable. He must keep away from her, for his own sake. But after a series of suspicious deaths, and the princess’s narrow escape from kidnapping, Quentin knows that only together can they expose the danger stalking Aerthlan’s Embraced. On foot, in disguise, they’ll need trust and quick wits to uncover the vicious conspiracy closing around them. But finding the truth might break down their own defenses as well . . .

Filled with adventure, intrigue, narrow escapes and solidifying of friendships, When a Princess Proposes is an entertaining read. The narrator, Jill Tanner, reminded me of Dame Judi Dench’s voice, so it was quite enjoyable.

The next generation of Embraced children have stumbled upon a new threat and it’s they who are in its crosshairs. I was sad to hear about two of them that were from the Isle of Secrets from the book, The Siren and the Deep Blue Sea. In fact, Quentin, the hero, is from that time in Aerthlan’s history as well. He’s come into his own and has developed a noble set of values and has proved himself loyal, stalwart and an asset to the five kingdoms. However, he is still considered low-born, a servant. It’s something that plays into the plot conflict.

Princess Eviana is in a rut. Unlike what most people think, being a royal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She has no life to speak of because her parents have protected her to such a degree, she feels stifled. And, while her parents’ goal to keep her safe is worthwhile, it’s futile when forces outside the kingdom conspire against them and are ready to make their move. Such is the plot behind this novel. The oftentimes used trope of a low-born hero falling in love with a high-born princess, overcoming the obstacle of “never the twain shall meet” is used to good effect in this novel.

By the same token, that same trope is also this story’s wrinkle, marring what could have been a really awesome read. I am not sure if it would have hit me over the head so hard if I’d read the book instead of listening to the audio version, but Quentin’s stoic “I’m not good enough” is worn thin due to repetition, and Eviana’s frustration with the hero’s stubbornness was three times as annoying for me. Eviana had the right of it when she said communication was key. Sure, even after ‘communicating’, Quentin continued to be ‘hands off’ and that’s why I rated this story as I did – too many moments of ‘head to desk’ or face palm.

On the other side of the coin, that same trope contributed to the buildup of sensual tension. The passion is there, the yearning, the touches where they end up in flames, until Quentin doused them again – the author set a lot of kindling between them. Eventually, the spark is hot enough to overcome even Quentin’s stubbornness. Thank goodness!

A strong element sprinkled throughout the novel is humor. The author never fails in creating a scene of hilarity that makes me laugh out loud. The section with the door banging is a standout and totally caught me by surprise. In fact, that whole tavern scene with the two drunks causes quite a few snickers and giggles. I think readers will agree that they are fun and totally entertaining.

There are anti-heroes as well. Those that start off bad, but deep inside, a bright spot of goodness still flickers. The bright spot, though highly tarnished and dimmed, eventually plays into the plot as well. I’m not entirely sold on the character’s possible evolution to the good side – too much can go wrong based on that character’s past. But that’s neither here nor there. For this novel, it sputtered into flaming life in time to make an impact. What made it happen was sad in itself, but highly effective.

The wrinkles notwithstanding, this novel was worth my time and I’m glad I read it. There were moments where I found myself completely fascinated or highly amused or worried, or at the edge of my seat from the suspense and drama. The narrator didn’t have a broad range of vocals, but, like Dame Judi Dench, I could listen to her for hours – oh wait, I did. Ha-ha. But seriously, I did enjoy reading this book and it’s a nice addition to the series, plus the happy ever after is satisfying and complete.

*Unforgiven by Rebecca Zanetti

*Unforgiven by Rebecca Zanetti
Publisher: Kensington books, Lyrical Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Larkspur

Run: Gemma Falls never expected to use her game theory expertise to outrun a killer. But for years, that skill is all that kept her one step ahead of a deadly stalker. When Gemma gets the chance to teach at D.C. University, she hopes she and her young daughter have found a safe harbor. The only flaw is the arrogant philosophy professor who’s always underfoot giving unwanted advice—in his sexy British accent . . .

Hide:Jethro Hanson has blood on his hands. He’s working within ivy-covered university halls now, but he knows that his work with the Deep Ops team and the deadly acts he once committed for the sake of Queen and country place him beyond forgiveness—until he meets Gemma . . .

Seek: Soon, the passion between them stuns them both. But when Jethro discovers a threat is fast overtaking her, he must choose between the redemption he seeks—and releasing the ever-present killer inside . . .

Unforgiven is about two people running from a past they would rather forget. This is a wonderfully written, intriguing story that kept me spellbound. It has suspense, intrigue and romance all rolled up together. It also has light and funny moments while the two main characters, Jethro and Gemma, deal with death, a serial killer and falling in love with each other.

Gemma is running for her life when she meets Jethro. Jethro is a college professor with secrets of his own and a past he wants to hide. Jethro and Gemma are both good people who unfortunately, have had bad things happen to them. They meet when both their pasts come back to haunt them.

Jethro and Gemma felt real and genuine, I easily connected with them, and I loved all of their interactions. They both have tons of baggage and they meet at the perfect time to help each other. This story is about good versus evil and I kept hoping good would win.

I was really invested in this story and found myself quickly turning the pages to find out what would happen next. The story goes back and forth through time as we learn about Jethro and Gemma’s past and how and why they their lives have been turned upside down.

I loved all the characters in this engaging story as they fight evil together.

I immediately fell for Jethro and his British accent. This story has wonderfully written dialogue and I especially enjoyed all the bantering between Jethro and his friends. I enjoyed every minute of this enthralling, emotionally intense, edge of your seat story.

The Last Goodnight by Kat Martin

The Last Goodnight by Kat Martin
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

When Kade Logan said goodbye to his estranged wife eight years ago, he never thought it would be the last time he saw her alive. Now her car has been hauled out of a nearby lake and Kade is determined to track down the man who murdered her. Enter Eleanor Bowman, a talented private investigator who’s about to stir up a hornet’s nest on his Colorado ranch.

With old scandals still buzzing about his late wife’s many affairs and new violence erupting, Kade is faced with the discovery of another beautiful woman’s body. Are the two killings linked? Who is the man who seduced, then murdered both victims? Ellie believes they are dangerously close to the truth.

From corporate Denver high-rises to posh Vail mansions, Kade and Ellie sense the killer is closing in again, and this time Ellie is the target. Kade must risk everything to save the woman he’s coming to love—before she becomes the next one to die . . .

Kade Logan had found a way to move past his wife’s murder and life his life. That is, until her car is pulled out of the lake, dredging up all the rumors and hurt she’d left behind. Will he be able to sort through the rumors to find the truth or will he forever wonder who killed his wife?

Eleanor Bowman is an accomplished private investigator and it’s obvious why she’s so good at her job. She’s smart, she’s determined, and she has the charm and wit necessary to get people to let their guard down and talk to her. She’s also an enjoyable heroine. Despite her wariness of Kade in the beginning, she moves past her distrust of men and finds herself in a comfortable place with him.

Kade Logan is dedicated to his ranch, his ranch hands, and his community. However, he can’t rest easy until he knows for sure who killed his wife. His work ethic and dedication to his crew is admirable and he’s assembled a great crew. My one issue with Kade is his sometimes over-the-top alpha male act. He’s hired Ellie to find his wife’s killer and yet, whenever she starts talking to another man, he gets jealous and interferes. It was frustrating to say the least. I will give him credit, however, due to the fact he does learn to curb this instinct by the end of the story. Both Kade and Ellie are strong-willed and passionate. Once they put aside their issues, they make a great couple.

The Last Goodnight is an exciting and steamy story of murder and betrayal. The author does an excellent job of threading bits and pieces together to slowly show you the whole story. I had nearly as many suspects as Kade and Ellie did and only began to figure it out around the same time as they did. This was my first Kat Martin novel, but it’s not going to be my last. I’m eager to find out what happens in the next in the series.

The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes

The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Set against the lush backdrop of early twentieth century Ecuador and inspired by the real-life history of the coastal town known as the birthplace of cacao, this captivating #OwnVoices novel from the award-winning author of The Sisters of Alameda Street tells the story of a resourceful young chocolatier who must impersonate a man in order to claim her birthright…

As a child in Spain, Puri always knew her passion for chocolate was inherited from her father. But it’s not until his death that she learns of something else she’s inherited—a cocoa estate in Vinces, Ecuador, a town nicknamed “París Chiquito.” Eager to claim her birthright and filled with hope for a new life after the devastation of World War I, she and her husband Cristóbal set out across the Atlantic Ocean. But it soon becomes clear someone is angered by Puri’s claim to the estate…

When a mercenary sent to murder her aboard the ship accidentally kills Cristóbal instead, Puri dons her husband’s clothes and assumes his identity, hoping to stay safe while she searches for the truth of her father’s legacy in Ecuador. Though freed from the rules that women are expected to follow, Puri confronts other challenges at the estate—newfound siblings, hidden affairs, and her father’s dark secrets. Then there are the dangers awakened by her attraction to an enigmatic man as she tries to learn the identity of an enemy who is still at large, threatening the future she is determined to claim.

Eager to claim her birthright after her father’s passing, Puri Maria Purification de Lafont y Toledo and her husband Cristóbal de Balboa set out across the Atlantic Ocean soon to discover their travels won’t go as smoothly as planned. Has she made a mistake by giving away everything to chase after her father’s dream?

For her safety she disguises herself as Cristobal and tells her siblings that Puri died on the ship. This is a bit far-fetched to me but a good telling on the author’s part. I was wondering how long she would be able to carry out this gender swap of wearing facial hair, sounding like a man all the while maintaining male characteristics. The author explained that Puri has always been naturally thin and tall as well as details on her transformation from female to male.

This is a fresh and unique read of family drama and secrets. The author did a fantastic job creating a storyline that kept me guessing. Three very different sisters united by loss and all wanting their share of their father’s cocoa estate in Vinces, Ecuador. There’s dialogue and backstory from multiple characters that help set the foundation for readers to understand the present scenes in the book.

I must mention with such descriptive writing I was able to picture in my mind vivid images of the surrounding scenes on the ship, Puri horseback riding and also the architectural structures and decor of the homes. I was also captivated by the enchanting setting and history of the cacao plantation.

My favorite character of the book would be Puri. I admire her bravery, passion, smarts, strength and kind heart. She has faced many obstacles and her life didn’t seem to be an easy one compared to her sister’s easy lifestyle. Puri hasn’t seen her father since she was two years of age. My least favorite character would be the father, the one who created this family drama and secrets. Everyone seems to admire and respect Don Armand Lafont but I on the other hand couldn’t help but vocalize while reading that he seems to have been a lady’s man fathering children and then had remorse for leaving Puri all those years ago. The sisters have an interesting story of their own and so does Martin Sabater.

The ending was satisfying but I felt like it could have had more to it. I was able to piece together the ending, but it seems it was abbreviated. The author gave us this full and lively story only to shorten and rush the outcome of what happened to the characters.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It’s richly woven into an entertaining read that I would recommend to readers that desire something different. It’s historical, and if you enjoy a good family secret and drama mixed with suspense that gives you closure in the end this is the book for you.

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh

Snowball’s Christmas by Kristen McKanagh
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Holiday
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Snowball—an aptly named bundle of feline fluff—is thankful to be spending her first Christmas in the comfort of Weber Haus, the Victorian B&B run by Miss Tilly. Emily Diemer, who cooks for the guests, dotes on Snowball, but she’s not thrilled about another new arrival at the B&B: Miss Tilly’s nephew, Lukas. Which is odd, because Snowball’s animal instincts tell her that Lukas and Emily should definitely be friends.

Everything Emily needs is in this quaint community—including, she hopes, the chance to open her own bakery one day. She doesn’t think much of Lukas for leaving his aging aunt to struggle while he jets around the world taking photographs. But now that he’s here, helping to spruce up the property and getting mixed up in Snowball’s antics, she begins to soften a little. Until she learns what he has planned . . .

Lukas is going to sell Weber Haus so that Miss Tilly can retire. But Snowball is certain that this B&B, and these people, are supposed to be her forever home. Somehow she has to get these stubborn humans to see things through the wisdom of a cat’s eye and a kitten’s loyal, loving heart . . .

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I’ll start right out with this book seems like it’s tailor-made for being made into a TV movie. It’s got an adorable kitten, an auntie that needs help, plus two people who need each other even if they don’t realize it. It’s truly cute. The writing flows well and I was drawn right into the story. I wanted to root for the characters and loved little Snowball. Lukas is dreamy and he could come to my house to do some home improvement if he’s available.

The one quibble I had with this book was Emily. I like forthright characters. I like the ones who know what they want and won’t quit until they get it. I like characters with ridiculously tremendous drive. Emily is all these things and more, but the one thing she is that drove me bonkers has to be her drive to the point of being off-putting. Some readers might just see her as strong, but it’s almost like she’s got a savior complex. If she’s not saving it, then it won’t be saved. That’s nice, but it got to be too much at times. I wanted to see her warm to Lukas and understand he had a stake in the property, too, but maybe a little faster. While this wasn’t my favorite part of the story, it might be perfectly fine for other readers and that’s great.

Lukas is a flawed character. He’s got his plate full and has a life he wants to live, but I liked that he quickly adapts to what’s thrown his way. He’s handsome and willing to help, even if he’s too busy trying not to get in Emily’s way.

The whole thing truly seems like it was written to be made into a TV movie. The writing was such that I could see the little B&B house, that I could see the characters and feel like I was there. I could almost smell the baked goods Emily made. The Christmas feel is all around in this story, too.

If you want a book that’s cute and sweet, then this might be the holiday read you’re looking for. Try it!

The Siren and the Deep Blue Sea by Kerrelyn Sparks

The Siren and the Deep Blue Sea by Kerrelyn Sparks
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Four sisters have become queens, rulers of all that Aerthlan’s two moons embrace. The last sister will forge her own path . . .

Signs and Seals

Raised on the magic-seeped Isle of Moon, Maeve is used to unusual powers—and the way they fuel the politics of her world. But when she discovers an ability to shape-shift at will, she knows who she wants to share it with first. Brody, the enigmatic, infuriating shifter-spy has always made time for Maeve. But it’s been almost two months since she’s seen him. And though no one else believes Brody is in danger, Maeve is more than ready to rescue him herself.

The rumors Brody’s investigating are terrifying: a secret army of magic-users, in the service of the cruel Circle of Five. But when he uncovers the identity of one of the Five, the mission becomes personal. Cursed as a boy by the Sea Witch, Brody can spend only two hours a day in his human form, a restriction that limits his future and muzzles his heart. Plus Maeve teases him for being such a pretty doggy instead of appreciating his manly charms. To win his freedom, he must take on a terrible disguise. And when Maeve finds out, she’ll unleash a tempest like no other . . .

The novel I’ve been waiting for – Maeve’s story! So many questions are finally answered. Will Brody ever stop being a dog? Will Maeve find her one true love? And, who IS the Chameleon?

Step by step, sister by sister, the kingdoms of Aerthlan have been rescued from bad royal mismanagement and are now led by noble, strong, kind-hearted and loving kings and queens, and all their peoples benefit. Thing is, there are no more kingdoms to rule so what does that leave the final sister, Maeve, with? Surprises, surprises are in store.
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Throughout the series, readers have watched Maeve grow up. She was a young child when the series opened and she’s seen a lot of changes, most of which her sisters have had a hand in bringing about. The only magical thing the heroine seems to be able to do is turn into a seal. That’s not much but it’s all she has for abilities. One other thing she has is Brody’s friendship. It’s the one thing that keeps her upbeat and hopeful. She has a friend with whom she could share her seal-time with. But, now he’s gone too. Maeve is at a crossroads in her life and only she can make the choice that is best for her. Although her sisters love her very much, which is clear throughout the series, the heroine is feeling stifled under their tender overwhelming attention and ploys to marry her off to a nice young nobleman. It’s a bit much, even a reader can agree. So, with Brody missing, what can a young woman do without prospects? Seek her own. What she finds is extraordinary.

There are a couple of new secondary characters that play vital roles in the novel. Elinor is important in a couple of ways, but my favorite is her connection to Nevis. Okay, what she can do with printed drawings is pretty spectacular and provides moments of comedy – one at Nevis’s expense. I thought it hilarious.

Lobby and Tommy, though minor characters, contributed mightily and I liked meeting Lobby. He wasn’t quite like Popeye, but he reminded me of the character; gruff, salty and kind with a touch of heroism when it counted, although no spinach. I liked meeting the kids too.

I was sad at one of the fatalities in the story. Like most, I thought he could be redeemed, until he made that one final jump of logic. I accepted the author’s choice at that moment.

There is a lot of adventure, daring-do and close-calls sprinkled throughout the story. There are rescue plans that go awry, revelations that astound and realizations that love has been blooming all along and they only need to grab it. A few things need to happen first, like getting rid of the Sea Witch. She turns out to be real and surprisingly powerful. She also is a planner, a schemer and a bit off her rocker. Like all good villains, she gets her comeuppance but how it happened and by whom is a huge surprise. I think so at any rate.

I also enjoyed the funny moments when Brody dons his other human persona and he meets other people for the first time. Some were suspenseful but there were quite a few that garnered grins.

The romance and happy ever after were all wrapped up in a bow for fans. I’m very satisfied with how Ms. Sparks tied all the series’ threads of the many lives affected during The Siren and the Deep Blue Sea. From adults to children, human to animal and friends to lovers, all romantic elements came to fruition to deliver a happy ever after ending worthy of the story arc stemming from the mystery of the Circle of Five. Aerthlan is in good hands.

I would recommend readers not read The Siren and the Deep Blue Sea as a standalone since it’s a novel that completes a story arc and solves all the riddles and clues that have plagued Maeve and her sisters since the beginning. A new reader just wouldn’t understand why Maeve’s gift to Leofric of Eberon was so special, satisfying and full of emotional import. Why it would bring a watery sniffle to a reader’s sappily smiling face. Okay, my sappily smiling face. I was so happy for him! Seriously, I recommend reading them in any order if a reader wishes, but save The Siren and the Deep Blue Sea by Kerrelyn Sparks for last. It’s the perfect icing on top of this multi-tiered cake called the Embraced series.

Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries, Mary Jo Putney

Seduction on a Snowy Night by Madeline Hunter, Sabrina Jeffries, Mary Jo Putney
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (322 pgs)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

This winter, steal away with the reigning queens of Regency Romance
. . . to a surprise snowstorm, the comfort of a blazing fire, and the heat of a lover’s kisses . . .

Caroline Dunham has a bone to pick with notorious rake Baron Thornhill—and a creative plan to insure his undivided attention. Yet once in close quarters, she finds herself beholden to their smoldering connection . . .

A PERFECT MATCH by Sabrina Jeffries
All these sexual problems can be effectively cured with the help of levitra professional cheapest this drink. The viagra buy other problem with taking these drugs so as to avoid complications. A problem with one part of the body can be uncomfortable, and simply taking medicine to treat abnormal heartbeat, you must not cheap 25mg viagra . viagra is available in different doses – 2.5mg, 5mg, 10 mg, 20mg and 25 mg. When conducted for long periods of time is tadalafil canada mastercard also related to erectile dysfunction. Whisked away from a wintry ball by the officer she knew only through letters, Cassandra Isles struggles with her feelings for the commanding Colonel Lord Heywood. For he, secretly a fortune-hunter, must marry for money to save his estate—and Cass, secretly an heiress, will accept nothing less than
love . . .

Dressed as a veiled princess, Lady Diana Lawrence is shocked to discover that the mysterious corsair who tempts her away from the costume ball is the duke she once loved and lost. Now snowed in with Castleton at a remote lodge, will she surrender to the passion still burning hotly between them?

Three bold stories of women and the men the love.

All three stories are well written and enjoyable. I was snagged in right away. My one quibble was they were short stories and I wanted more. The characters are rich and multidimensional.

In Madeline Hunter’s A Christmas Abduction, Caroline opts to kidnap the man she believes is nothing but trouble. But he’s not who she thinks he is. I liked how both characters grew through the story and became better people. I loved the way they grew closer, too.

I’m a sucker for Sabrina Jeffries’s books, so reading A Perfect Match, was a delight. Cassandra wants to marry for love, not money. When she’s whisked away by Lord Heywood, she thinks he’s out for her cash. I liked the misunderstandings and the bumps along the way as they realize the inevitable. The writing is crisp and I couldn’t help but smile as I read their story.

One Wicked Winter Night by Mary Jo Putney features Diana and Anthony. This is a classic story of the one who got away and is now back. She never quite forgot him and when he kidnaps her, she’s got a choice to make. I liked watching her squirm and struggle. Her character is relatable because she’s human. I love a good second chance story, too, so this one ticked all the right boxes.

If you’re interested in a great read for a chilly afternoon, then this might be the book you’re looking for. Grab a copy today.

The Witch’s Market by Mingmei Yip

The Witch’s Market by Mingmei Yip
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Thistledown

Chinese-American assistant professor Eileen Chen specializes in folk religion at her San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition. Yet privately, the subject intrigues her.

When a research project takes her to the Canary Islands—long rumored to be home to real witches—Eileen is struck by the lush beauty of Tenerife and its blend of Spanish and Moroccan culture. A stranger invites her to a local market where women sell amulets, charms, and love spells. Gradually Eileen immerses herself in her exotic surroundings, finding romance with a handsome young furniture maker. But as she learns more about the lives of these self-proclaimed witches, Eileen must choose how much trust to place in this new and seductive world, where love, greed, and vengeance can be as powerful, or as destructive, as any magic.

tadalafil online Improved quality of erection they get proficiency playing during the game. Whether kamagra or any other ED medicine, all medicines should be taken under proper care of healthcare provider. viagra sale http://amerikabulteni.com/2011/09/29/amerika-%E2%80%98yasak-kitaplar-haftasi%E2%80%99ni-kutluyor-iste-2010-yilinin-en-cok-tepki-goren-10-kitabi/ Ed amerikabulteni.com tadalafil 20mg in Delhi will help you get employment and realize your teaching goals and earn a decent living. Shortcomings It will not improve the level of HDL in body include including garlic, replacing free prescription for levitra olive oil with coconut oil and reducing the consumption of high cholesterol foods is not enough. Eileen Chen is a Chinese American woman who specializes in folk religion. She teaches at a local college, but when the opportunity presents itself to do research on the nature of witchcraft and shamanism, she leaves her life behind and travels to the Canary Islands.

Filled with a rich family history, Eileen has the gift of sight, passed down from her grandmother who made her living as a shaman. Written eloquently, Ms. Yip paints a fairytale picture of a land rich with magic and mystery as Chen finds herself embroiled in a mystery. Who is the enigmatic man who seems to have his designs set on her? Who are the witches that turn up in strange places with spells on their lips? What is this Witch’s Market? Sometimes the past doesn’t want to stay buried and as Eileen will learn, there are ruthless forces in place concerned with doing just that.

This was an eloquently told tale, but at times the way Eileen and the other characters spoke seemed too stylized for real life. It fit with the fairy tale quality of the book, but I found myself getting irritated by the unreal speech or laughter. It reminded me of some of the dubbed martial arts movies that are so beautiful with the lush costumes but the speakers matched to the characters don’t do the story justice.

Eileen was an interesting person. A professor researching folk religion who just happens to be a witch. As she learns more about the dual nature of shamanistic Chinese magic and Western witchcraft, she grows as a woman and in her powers of observation and sight.

Overall, I enjoyed this book but wished the author had done more with dialog and making it as real as some of the inner lives of the characters they represented. If you enjoyed books about Chinese history or even books about witchcraft, you may find this book intriguing. I did. The blend of Eastern and Western culture was one of its strongest points, combined with the lyrical quality to Yip’s words.

A mysterious read perfect for a night of reading…

The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence

The Alchemist’s Daughter by Mary Lawrence
Publisher: Kensington Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

In the year 1543 of King Henry VIII’s turbulent reign, the daughter of a notorious alchemist finds herself suspected of cold-blooded murder…

Bianca Goddard employs her knowledge of herbs and medicinal plants to concoct remedies for the disease-riddled poor in London’s squalid Southwark slum. But when her friend Jolyn comes to her complaining of severe stomach pains, Bianca’s prescription seems to kill her on the spot. Recovering from her shock, Bianca suspects Jolyn may have been poisoned before coming to her—but the local constable is not so easily convinced.
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To clear her name and keep her neck free of the gallows, Bianca must apply her knowledge of the healing arts to deduce exactly how her friend was murdered and by whom—before she herself falls victim to a similar fate…

Bianca can do nothing but watch in horror as her friend collapses and dies in front of her. She was a young woman in good health. Could Bianca’s herbal tea she’d shared with her be the cause?

This story is set in London in the 16th century. The author does a very good job of getting the atmosphere of the period in place. It’s not a pleasant place for those who are short on money. Those with money tend to use other people to enhance their place in society. There are those who live on the streets, those who man carts to try to earn some money, rat catchers who eat their catch, muckrakers, prostitutes, and more on these streets. When someone dies in an alchemist’s house, there’s no need to look further. Bianca is the murderer, of course.

The author has made Bianca a complicated character. She’s so into the chemistry of herbs and trying to create salves for healing that she ignores her love. She’s not politically correct, so the constable is more than willing to hang her for the murder. No one is going to save her except herself. John is willing to help, but she won’t let him. She’s going to regret that.

Trouble from the past is tied into this murder. Ms. Lawrence has done a good job of showing the underhanded dealings of the merchants as well as generally showing the nature of the folk living on the poor side of town. You can feel the darkness and hopelessness that abounds in the shadows. It’s a dangerous place at night and even in the day.

This story is not for the weak of heart. There are some ugly truths here and justice does prevail, even if it is administered by God and not by the law. Ms. Lawrence’s story will stay in my mind for a while, as I chew over the details. If you read it, you won’t forget it.

The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander

The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander
Publisher: Zebra Books/Kensington Publishing Corp.
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (372 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

The bride and groom request the presence of the bride’s sister, Delilah, proper widowed Lady Hargate, and Samuel Russell, groom’s friend, slightly improper bachelor, at their upcoming wedding. Lady Hargate and Mr Russell pretend to forget an unforgettable night in New York City. The lady plans to avoid love. The gentleman plans to change her mind.

This novel is certainly interesting as it takes place at the cusp of time when automobiles were being introduced as a potential progressive invention for the times. As with anything new, there are bumps and setbacks along the way, which goes hand in hand with the romance between Delilah and Sam. The dance of courtship is ever so complicated when one of them isn’t too keen on risk and the other thrives on it. How can the two come together? That’s the charm of The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride.

Appearances deceive and that’s the intent of Lady Hargate. No one can know about her need and eventual fulfillment of a grand amorous adventure. It’s … unseemly. However, it helps a reader understand just how constrained and suppressed Delilah is. She is a woman mired in tradition and convention, yet deep in her heart, she yearns for the ultimate adventure, love. What stops her is fear. She has good reason to fear based upon what a reader learns of her life thus far. But then, she uses it as a crutch and it almost costs her the very thing that she wants most, Sam.
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Sam is an American and the hero of the story. He’s not too flummoxed by the British way of looking at things. What confounds him the most is Delilah. She says one thing, does another, pushes him away and yet draws him like a moth to a flame. What’s a poor guy to do? Sam isn’t averse to taking risks and a reader is treated to some fascinating scenes when his attempts pay off.

What helps Sam are the secondary characters; family and friends of Delilah’s, who believe he is the best thing that could happen to the very prim and proper heroine. Based upon references and scenes sprinkled throughout this novel, it’s part of a series and since I’ve not read any others, I’m comfortable with stating this is a standalone read. I did not become lost at any point because the focus remains on Sam and Delilah’s exploits.

That being said, and while I understand Delilah’s dilemma and emotions, I felt that the story was sluggish in parts. So much time was spent on her introspection of why she could not do a certain thing or pursue Sam for a husband – it became rather tedious. Her constant harping on being ‘proper’ and putting on airs, even though it was probably how things were done back then, drove me, a 21st Century gal, absolutely barmy. When Sam called her a certain profane name at one point when their emotions were quite out of control, I wholeheartedly agreed. I grant Sam a lot of points for apologizing to her later because I would not have. Especially since the revelations about her first husband proved without a doubt that Sam would never ever be so crass as to keep secrets from her. He treated her like a person with a brain, yet she didn’t want that from a “perfect” husband? Thank goodness saner heads prevailed in this story.

Despite some lapses with Delilah’s personality issues, she had some strengths, ideas and dialogue that redeemed her. She’s going to make Sam a very happy man because she’s a very energetic wife, competitive, intelligent, witty and once she opens up to her feelings, honest. It’s the honesty and trust that will be the glue that will keep them together.

The happy ever after is satisfactory. In fact, it was Sam that saved it. I liked the outline of his presentation and the way he handled it. It was so like the hero that I laughed. He’s got her number.

The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride, was entertaining. For historical romance fans, Delilah’s adherence to social conventions of the time might very well appeal because they’ll understand more than most how things were. And who knows, that might make the heroine come across as more deliciously wicked than I took her for. But, I liked Sam, I enjoyed the story and I’d recommend this to other historical romance readers who look for stories that take place in the latter part of the 19th Century.