Trouble My Bones by L. Joseph Shosty


Trouble My Bones by L. Joseph Shosty
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (115 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In a magical land where demons walk and assassination is exalted as a moral enterprise, Elihu the Poisoner must defend a gentle innkeeper from a gang of cutthroats with only tradition and etiquette as weapons.

On Planet Whiskey, a train rockets towards the northern pole. Onboard, five men play a game of poker, but this is only the beginning of a breathtaking journey into a world of corrupt businessmen, hapless ice harvesters, and the wise, world-weary men in the middle, torn between doing what is right and playing along with an immoral system to get a bigger piece of the post-Earth dream.

A couple of cowboys running a herd to Fort Smith, Arkansas pause in the untraveled wilds to offer tribute to a mysterious creature, and in doing so anger malevolent forces which lurk there.
Trouble My Bones…

A dazzling masterpiece of storytelling, this collection contains ten of L. Joseph Shosty’s best stories. Here, you’ll find pulpy adventure yarns and quieter, more introspective pieces alike, all with Shosty’s unique blend of humor and thought-provoking ideas.

Just because a place looks quiet and ordinary doesn’t mean it won’t surprise you if given the chance.

The main character in “An Incident in Cain’s Mark” travelled to a small town in order to settle the estate of his uncle. Cain’s Mark was no ordinary town, though, and he soon realized that something dangerous happened there after dark every night. The narrator spent a generous amount of time setting the scene before anything out of the ordinary began to occur, so I felt like I’d gotten to know him and the strange community he was visiting well. Knowing that something was terribly wrong there without having any clue what it might be only made me more curious to read more.

One of the few tales in this collection that needed more development was “Crippled Sucker.” The plot followed a group of people playing a high-stakes game of poker while they discussed business deals on an alien planet. I found it difficult to keep track of all of the characters, especially once they started talking about other characters who weren’t in the room. It would have been nice to have more clues about who was who and how they all knew each other. With that being said, the storyline itself was well done and I did enjoy it overall.

“Zombie Love Song” showed what happened after humans found themselves in a long, bloody war with zomboes, which is the name the characters in this universe gave to zombies. The narrator was someone who had trouble adjusting to ordinary life after seeing and participating in so much violence. One of the things I liked the most about his storytelling was how blasé he was about things that would terrify the average person. I didn’t have to be told he’d been permanently changed by his experience. Little details like this were more than enough to show his devastation, and that made his tale impossible to put down.

Trouble My Bones was a solid collection of imaginative science fiction stories. I’d strongly recommend it to everyone who is a fan of this genre.

The Berghof Betrayal by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin

The Berghof Betrayal by Michael McMenamin and Patrick McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Genre: Historical, Thriller, Mystery/suspense
Length: Full (433 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

“Weiland Herzfelde has absolutely reliable information that the Nazis plan a fake attempt on Hitler’s life which is to be the signal for a general massacre. The sources of his information are the SA in Dortmund and a tapped telephone conversation between Hitler and Röhm.”
The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, February 1933

Winston Churchill receives startling news from a German aristocrat in early 1933 after Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany. The aristocrat has learned of a plot to stage a fake assassination attempt on the new German leader that the Nazis will use as a pretext to declare martial law and liquidate their political opponents. Unknown to Hitler, however, his enemies within the Nazi party—the Black Front—are conspiring with renegade elements of his own SS to turn the fake assassination attempt into a real one.

Churchill tells the American newspaper titan William Randolph Hearst of the fake plot and, together, they persuade Mattie McGary, Hearst’s top photojournalist and Churchill’s adventure-seeking Scottish god- daughter, to investigate. Mattie readily agrees in large part because exposing the fake plot may help her finally shed the unfortunate reputation she has in Germany as “Hitler’s favorite foreign journalist”.

Soon after she leaves for Germany, Mattie’s fiancé, the American lawyer and former MID agent Bourke Cockran, Jr., also travels to Germany to help his publisher client, Freedom House, acquire the rights to Rear Area Pig, an expose of Hitler’s less-than-heroic wartime service. Once in Germany, both Mattie and Cockran find themselves in peril at the hands of the SS loyal to Hitler who will stop at nothing to keep Cockran from acquiring the book and Mattie from learning the truth about the fake plot.

Threats to Mattie multiply when SS agents working for the Black Front attempt to coerce her into joining the real plot to kill Hitler. When Cockran learns the Black Front intends to kill Mattie along with Hitler at his alpine retreat, the Berghof, he reluctantly seeks the help of Reichspresident Herman Göring and Kurt von Sturm, a top Göring aide who is also one of Mattie’s former lovers. The one-time rivals for Mattie’s affection quickly conclude that there is only one way to protect Mattie. They must take out the Black Front snipers before they can assassinate Hitler. And time is running out…

This is the fourth book in the Winston Churchill 1930s Thriller series, but it’s the first one I’ve read. Oftentimes that would be a bad idea, but I’m so glad I took a chance on this. Sure, I might have had a deeper understanding of the characters had I read the earlier two books, but I had absolutely no trouble following this one.

It’s a long, complicated story and is not a quick or easy read. It is, however, one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time. It’s detailed, nuanced, and beautifully written. Be aware, it’s very much true to the times and what was going on in the world. There were some pretty depraved individuals around, and the authors do not hesitate to show you what they are capable of.

A blend of historical figures and characters created for the story make this look the world in the 1930s an easy way to learn about what was going on– it’s obvious the authors did their homework. There is a wonderful addition at the back of the book where they share what parts of the story are historical fact and which are created for the story. I appreciated this completely because the two were so seamlessly woven together that I wasn’t sure which were which!

A wonderful job! I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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The Princess and the Swineherd by Michael Bracken


The Princess and the Swineherd by Michael Bracken
Publisher: Deep Desires Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Other: F/F, Toys
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Princess Maegth is the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, and, like many others, a young, female swineherd named Hunig has a crush on her.

When the evil wizard Vilemort abducts the beautiful princess, Hunig joins the search. In the company of a broken-down knight named Fearn-leah of Heathfield, Hunig trails the wizard and his entourage, battles dwarves transformed into swine, and faces physical and emotional challenges.

During the search for the princess, Hunig discovers herself. After rescuing the princess, she reveals her feelings and discovers the feelings are reciprocated.

But there isn’t time to become complacent. Vilemort and his dwarves are hot on their trail. Can Hunig prevent Vilemort from stealing the princess back, can she keep the broken-down knight from claiming credit for rescuing the princess, and can true love win the day?

It takes a very special kind of person to win a princess’ heart.

The world building was really well done. I actually wondered if I’d accidentally stumbled into the middle of a series when I first began reading because of how well-developed and beautifully-described the setting was. While my first guess didn’t turn out to be correct, I was impressed by how much attention Mr. Bracken paid to all of the little details that make such a big difference in how a reader imagines what a faraway place would really be like to visit.

There was a lot of telling the audience what was happening instead of showing it to us in this story. Some of the most exciting and interesting scenes were only given a few sentences worth of attention before the narrator moved on to the next part of the plot. It would have been nice to see how those scenes played out for myself instead of them being quickly explained and then brushed aside like that.

Maegth and Hunig had fantastic chemistry. At first I was a little surprised by how quickly their relationship moved when they first met, but they were so well-suited for each other that it made sense for them to jump in and start exploring their attraction to each other right away. Their personalities were so compatible that I completely understood why they were into each other as well as why neither of them had any interest in taking things slow.

The Princess and the Swineherd should be read by anyone who is in the mood for a sultry fairytale.

The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews


The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews
Publisher: Perfectly Proper
Genre: Historical
Length: Full length (204 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Bluet

A PROUD BEAUTY
Society beauty Sylvia Stafford is far too pragmatic to pine. When the tragic death of her gamester father leaves her destitute and alone, she finds work as a governess in a merchant’s household in Cheapside. Isolated from the fashionable acquaintance of her youth, she resigns herself to lonely spinsterhood…until a mysterious visitor convinces her to temporarily return to her former life–and her former love.

A SCARRED BEAST
Colonel Sebastian Conrad is no longer the dashing cavalry officer Sylvia fell in love with. Badly scarred during the Sepoy Rebellion, he has withdrawn to his estate in rural Hertfordshire where he lives in near complete seclusion. Brooding and tormented, he cares nothing for the earldom he has inherited–and even less for the faithless beauty who rejected him three years before.

AN UNEXPECTED REUNION
A week together in the isolated Victorian countryside is the last thing either of them ever wanted. But when fate intervenes to reunite them, will a beastly earl and an impoverished beauty finally find their happily ever after? Or are some fairy-tale endings simply not meant to be?

Imagine the heartbreak of falling in love, believing your love is returned, and then….nothing. That’s the tragic story that’s told in THE LOST LETTER. Though it’s not an uncommon trope, the telling of this particular tale is done in an emotional and poignant manner.

Three years ago, Colonel Sebastian Conrad was on leave and convinced by a friend to attend a musical event. Though Sebastian is the second son of an earl, his life has revolved around being a soldier, and not with social events. Yet, a beautiful young lady with an angelic voice captures his attention. Sylvia Stafford is a popular young lady, the daughter of a baronet, who is expected to make a good marriage. She surprisingly finds herself very attracted to the somewhat stern, quiet soldier who holds no appeal to the other young ladies. Over the next two weeks, Sebastian and Sylvia meet not-so-accidentally in the park, and spend time together at every event. It’s clear to both that they’re in love. Yet, on the night before he’s shipped off to India, Sebastian lacks the courage to propose, fearing he’ll be refused. They share some tender moments and kisses, and then Sebastian is gone. Neither of them receives any correspondence from the other, and each one believes they were played for a fool.

Time passes, and Sylvia suffers a reversal of fortune. Her father gambles everything away, and commits suicide, leaving Sylvia an outcast from society with no means of support. She seeks employment, and finds a family in trade willing to hire her. I’m happy that this family was very kind to her, and the daughters she teaches are lovely children. Eventually Sylvia settles into her new life, accepting that this will be her future, and convincing herself that her love for Sebastian has died. I admire Sylvia’s willingness to forge her own path, rather than become an unpaid servant for a distant relative.

Meanwhile, things have changed drastically for Sebastian as well. He was severely injured in India, and now has a badly scarred face, as well as being blind in one eye. Upon returning home, he learns that his father and older brother have died, leaving him as the new Earl of Radcliffe, something he never wanted. He retreats to his country estate, wanting only to be left alone, but his younger sister, Julia, won’t oblige. Initially, I found the flighty and overly dramatic Julia somewhat annoying, but I realized that her heart was in the right place, though her methods were questionable. She somehow finds the details of Sebastian’s failed love affair, tracks Sylvia down, and convinces her to come to Pershing Hall as her guest, to “save” Sebastian from doing something drastic.

Though Sylvia doesn’t want to tear her heart open again, she’s kind enough to want to help Sebastian if she possibly can. Sebastian, however, is furious at his sister’s machinations, and believes that the impoverished Sylvia is now coming around because he has a title and a fortune to go with it. This story is not that long, but it packs an emotional punch. I liked both characters very much – Sylvia became strong without becoming hard, and she still retained her dignity and sense of self-worth. Though many of the things Sebastian said were deliberately cruel, he was badly injured and feeling used. His true character became evident as the truth of what happened finally is revealed. It seems that there actually WERE at least a hundred letters written, and both Sylvia and Sebastian were the victims of someone else’s schemes. I love the moment when Sebastian finally has Sylvia’s first letter in his hand, and reads the words that expressed her deep love and longing. THE LOST LETTER is a lovely, touching, and beautifully written story, which I’m sure will be enjoyed by anyone who favors emotion, romance, and a second chance at love.

The Fortune Teller’s Secret by Ron D. Voigts


The Fortune Teller’s Secret by Ron D. Voigts
Publisher: Champagne Books
Genre: Action/Adventure, Historical, Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (234 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

A dead man on a Ferris wheel and a cold-case murder take Cavendish Brown into a world of carnival exotics, ghosts, and killers.

The annual carnival comes to Maiden Falls, a small town in the West Virginia Mountains, but everything is not merry.

The ghost of a woman appears to Cavendish Brown, a carnival worker lies dead aboard a car on the Ferris wheel, and a bullied teenager plots to kill people at the carnival with a homemade bomb. More complications arise. Cavendish again butts heads with the local sheriff, Clinton Pike.

Marbella Wellingway, owner of the newspaper where Cavendish works, receives a visit from the Angel of Death. And a Fortune Teller at the carnival knows something that could forever change Cavendish’s life.

With the aid of Jane, a disturbed psychic, and Alexandra, a Goth witch, he must find the killer, help the mystery woman, and risk his life to prevent more deaths.

Cavendish gets awakened at night by a woman who asks him to help her. She’s a ghost. He sees her die and since he can’t touch her or talk to her, he’s not sure how he could solve her mystery. He also doesn’t speak of it. Everyone around him seems to have powers but he thinks this is just a dream…

Nobody is actually what they show the public world. In this case, the women have witchly powers. Cavendish has some, too, but he doesn’t know it. He was adopted and knows nothing about his real parents.

He works with Alex, who comes and drags him out of his house and takes him to the carnival. He sees a ghost again while he’s there but he tells Alex he needed to relieve himself. And when the Ferris wheel come down to the ground, there’s a dead man in the seat…

With the sheriff arresting the wrong man, the discovery of a body from years ago, and a father who misses his daughter and wants to avenge her, there’s a lot of clues and a lot of misdirection.

This author makes you believe all these powers are real and how people use them is both amazing and amusing. He also throws in a budding romance between Alex and Cavendish.

With a fortune teller who keeps trying to get Cavendish to visit her, Alex’s mother seeing the Angel of Death and knowing someone in her family is going die, a family curse, blackmail and murder, there’s plenty to keep your attention.

The story flows well, has several subplots, and it entertains well. This was a very good read.

Prick of the Thistle by Qeturah Edeli


Prick of the Thistle by Qeturah Edeli
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (281 pages)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lilac

Despite Lord Duncan Friseal’s surly disposition, William finds the heir to the wealthy highland thanedom of Faoltaigh irresistible. After Lord Friseal saves William from a fate worse than death, William grows obsessed with his penetrating fuck-or-kill gaze and aches to discover what lies beneath his great kilt. Lord Friseal appears ignorant of William’s affections, but no matter; William has dealt with his fair share of capricious men and it will be only a matter of time before Lord Friseal succumbs and gives him what he craves.

Lord Friseal realizes too late how dangerously attracted to William he is. He cannot resist the temptation of a man who knows exactly what he wants and where he wants it. Constrained by his station, clan, and religion, Lord Friseal must decide if his passion for a sensuous but traumatized Englishman is worth risking his family’s future and the fate of his immortal soul. Circumstances continue to thwart his swelling sentimentality as William proves to be emotionally distant for all his sexual appetite, and Lord Friseal’s intrusive houseguest, Moira MacKenzie, draws ever closer to the truth.

A Scottish lord saves an Englishman from the wolves out on the moors, brings him back to his castle, and tries to figure out the mystery and allure of him.

From the beginning, I was struck by the beauty of the writing. The author has clearly researched the style, culture, and language of the era and the country. Her descriptions are beautiful and the scenery is vividly brought to life. The writing style is very evocative, and the barren nature and lavish mansion became familiar ground as the story progressed.

The main characters—Duncan, the Scottish thane, and William, the lost thespian—are a curious pairing. They seem to have nothing in common. Apart from the apparent physical femininity and startling beauty of William, I wasn’t sure I understood the attraction Duncan felt for him.

Duncan came off as a more appealing character. He’s kind and strong, smart and capable, and his awakening feelings for a man for the first time were depicted extremely well. I liked him a lot. Even though toward the end he turns into something of a sissy when it comes to his shy daughter and his horrible would-be bride.

William, in comparison, seemed less attractive. His propensity to think of nothing but sex made him somewhat uncouth and surly. His past does explain some of that…

However, and I can’t stress this enough, despite the length of this book, you will NOT be getting a whole story. This ends so abruptly, in the middle of a scene, everything up in the air, that I was incensed. It immediately made me lower the rating. One would think three hundred pages is enough to write a clear and satisfying ending. Alas, that is not the case.

As a result, we learn next to nothing about William. His mystery is by the end of the book… still a mystery. None of my questions about him were answered. That is rather annoying, wouldn’t you say?

What makes this oversight more vexing is that this is a good book, a very well written historical gay romance. We get a lot of sexually tense scenes between Duncan and William—though not a lot of actual sex. The setting and the people feel real and relatable. The plot moves at a swift pace, even if the first chapter is ripe with exposition. And yet, personally I didn’t want to miss a single word.

So overall, I do recommend this to everyone who loves historical gay romances, with a caveat. Thus far the series, Heartwood, has only two books out. Not having read the second, I don’t know if the story reaches a worthwhile conclusion in that one. Here, it does not. If you take that into consideration, though, this is a book I liked and you might like as well. I’m pretty sure I will be checking out the sequel.

SonofaWitch! by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Sara Dobie Bauer, Lissa Marie Redmond, Frances Pauli, Mara Malins, and Adam Millard.


SonofaWitch! by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Sara Dobie Bauer, Lissa Marie Redmond, Frances Pauli, Mara Malins, and Adam Millard
Publisher: World Weaver Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (187 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

No one is perfect—not even a witch. Witches have amazing power at their fingertips to do unbelievable things. That magic can come in really handy sometimes too. They can make someone fall in love, poison an apple to enact a sleeping curse, banish an enemy to an alternate reality, or just conjure up some Nutella when there is none in the house.

But what happens when those spells go horribly awry?

SonofaWitch! contains six humorous contemporary fantasy stories of magic spells gone wrong by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, Sara Dobie Bauer, Lissa Marie Redmond, Frances Pauli, Mara Malins, and Adam Millard.

Modern magic is far more complicated than it might first appear to be.

The main character in “Good Spell Gone Bug” agreed to get a tattoo in order to earn money to pay off a debt. It wasn’t until the tattoo began to cause her some odd health problems that main character decided to break the rules and try to get rid of it regardless of the consequences. Ms. VanArendonk Baugh’s writing was filled with creative moments. I never knew what she was going to shock her characters with next, and that made it hard to stop reading.

Violet had an unrequited crush in “The Trouble with Love Spells,” and she thought the best way to fix it was to put a love spell on the guy she desired. Ms. Bauer’s twist to the spell made me gasp. It was the last thing I would have expected to happen, but it fit the tone of this tale perfectly. I also enjoyed the fact that the main character was so flexible when her plans didn’t exactly turn out the way she thought they would.

James owned a coffee shop that catered to fairy tale characters in “All the Petty Curses.” I was amused by seeing how he interacted with everyone from Hansel and Gretel to the Big Bad Wolf. While I enjoyed seeing how many references to classic fairy tales Ms. Redmond fit into James’ daily life, the number of characters running around the scenes was so high that I had trouble keeping track of what everyone was doing. It would have been nice to focus on a smaller number of people instead.

All Rowan wanted was to fall in love with the perfect man. What surprised me the most about her and her dog Rex’s adventures in “The Perfect Mate Fiasco” was how she reacted when she woke up the next morning and realized her spell had come true but not in the exact way she’d hoped. Ms. Pauli made me chuckle as I followed Rowan through her strange day and waited to see if she’d accept the soulmate she’d been given.

“A Matter of Perspective” showed what happened to a witch named Olyvar after he failed to learn how to make one of the simplest potions his instructor knew of. After he carelessly tossed a tatty root ball and watched it land in his potion, he and a few other members of the class were magically transported far away from home. Olyvar and his companions had intelligent reactions to their predicament, especially once they realized just how far away they’d really landed. I was especially impressed with how calm they were after they arrived. The plot twists only became more creative after that! Ms. Malins put plenty of obstacles in their paths, and that it made hard to stop reading until I knew how it would all end.

The first sentence of “A Poppet Named Dave” was as shocking as it was memorable: “River Everbleed had only been a witch for an hour when her head came off.” I giggled when I read it, and then I dove back into the story to find out what River had done to deserve such a fate. Don’t worry, though. It wasn’t gory. If anything, it reminded me of how it feels to learn any new skill and be terrible at it in the beginning. Mr. Millard captured that feeling perfectly, and I only grew more impressed with his writing style as I settled into the plot and realized what River was actually trying to learn to do with her magic lessons.

SonofaWitch! is a must-read for anyone who loves modern fantasy.

When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare


When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (376 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

If you think all prologues start the same or follow a pattern, then I think you might be pleasantly surprised by this novel. I had to read the beginning twice only because I was vastly amused and greatly entertained. It was so fresh, inventive and kind of charming that if the story continued as it started, I believed I was in for a grand read. I was right, and I loved it.

First, kudos to whoever came up with the title of When a Scot Ties the Knot because it snagged my attention immediately. I appreciate clever titles.

I also liked the author’s use of descriptions and analogy. I specifically admired her use of the ‘message in a bottle’ reference. However, the poem was a bit … well it was giggle worthy only because of who was reciting it. I can envision the audience’s reaction and it makes me smile.

What is fascinating is the conflict of the heroine. It’s daunting in its scope. It’s the very thing that caused this whole twisted, surprising journey and I think it’s perfect. No one seems to understand the severity of Maddie’s affliction and after a few stunning examples, the hero finally gets it. Logan is truly hero material.

Of course, Logan doesn’t see himself as a hero. He just does what he believes is right, is just and is for the best for the people in his care. The fact that a man who started off life with the conditions he survived to become man of honor and integrity made his happy ever after that much more sweet. I adored Logan. There is no greater testimony to his worthiness to be called hero than how he dealt with Grant. I was impressed.

Maddie was fun to read about. I liked her talent, her views on life, her goals and her dreams. I even liked the lobsters. The greatest thing about When a Scot Ties the Knot is how Maddie and Logan brought out the strengths in each other to balance their weaknesses, whether real or perceived. They were wonderful together, and that includes under the sheets, eventually.

This novel has so much to recommend it that I am not sure what else to add. I’m so glad I read it, I had fun; I enjoyed the dialogue, the interaction with all the secondary characters and the tone of the book. There were a few things that might be implausible but that was no match for the sheer perfect of the rest of the novel. If asked, I’d recommend reading When a Scot Ties the Knot in a heartbeat. It’s a romance with substance, just what I like.

The Deed by Lynsay Sands


The Deed by Lynsay Sands
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (372 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

An innocent young beauty finds herself the fulcrum of a struggle for feudal power. Along with her ample dowry, Emma finds herself promised to Amaury de Aneford, a landless knight whose able sword has preserved the King’s crown-and whose rugged good looks make her heart skip a beat.

But on the wedding day, as a rival knight gallops toward the bridal chamber, Amaury will find that making love to his naive new bride will take consummate skill. For in the conjugal bed, Emma is astonished to learn there is more to a wedding night than just a sound sleep-and more to true love than she’s ever imagined.

The premise was cute but the book blurb could not do Emma’s predicament justice. It’s the prologue that sets up a reader’s understanding of the situation and conflict but it morphs into something that any historical romance fan would recognize – the quest for land and power. It can be pursued in two ways, the right way and the criminal way, and Ms. Sands does the theme justice.

Now, in the beginning, Emma seems an innocent. In fact, she is because her father and cousin sheltered her from ‘unpleasant’ things, or subjects that made them uncomfortable when asked to explain. That left Emma ill prepared for the marriage bed to the level that the poor girl was beyond naïve. Is that even possible? To be that clueless? I would say yes – mostly because women back in the day could be completely sheltered if the men in her life ordered it. Some people’s personalities would be rebellious; others turn bitter and resentful while others take a different route. The Deed was like a mashup of Cinderella and Susan Pevensie (the older sister) in The Chronicles of Narnia. Emma is kind of sweet, biddable, a hard worker and loyal to a fault, but with a spine of iron and deadly with a bow and arrow. I think that combination worked. As a matter of fact, the heroine’s complete naïvety was part of her womanly weapons that worked like magic on her growly, loud but well-put-together new husband, Amaury .

The hero, Amaury, is a soldier that earned the favor of the king. He’s been a warrior all his life so his rough, abrupt and hot-headed ways are all he’s known how to be. Emma confounded him, bemused him and put him through the wringer with emotions he’d never felt before and had no idea what to do about them. His confusion resulted in some smiles and giggles along the way. The hero was cute in his cluelessness and a source of amusement to his best friend, Blake. I liked Blake. But then again, I also liked Emma’s cousin, Rolf. He’s a good egg.

The villain of the piece, because you know there’s always a villain who conspires to take what they covet using any means possible, was believable and easy to identify early on. Even knowing that did not make the reading any less enjoyable. There were some unfortunate casualties that I felt sad about. Such are the victims of intrigue – the discovery of which causes the plot to thicken, sides be taken and plans to be made. Of course, plans go awry and that made for some exciting reading too.

Once Emma was awakened to what it means to be husband and wife, well, it was funny. The scenes were well written and sprinkled about the story in the right amounts, but it was Amaury’s confused reaction that made them humorous. He thought he knew what was proper and what was not, what was expected and what was not – boy, was he wrong. Cue giggle. Emma might have been naïve, but that sure didn’t last long. She’s a smart lady.
The Deed was wholly entertaining, enough that I read it in one day. I liked Amaury’s growth from a soldier to a duke. I liked that he had good taste in friends and Ms. Sands’ writing made it quite clear. He earned the title of duke but the best part is, he earned the love of his wife. I had sympathy for him because of his beginnings and what trials he lived through. The thing of it is, a man who has nothing knows how to cherish that very thing when he finally finds the ‘something’ he’s been searching for all his life. He may stumble because it’s so new, but that’s part of the story’s charm. It’s that joy of discovery, the wonder of love and the happiness that warms a reader from The Deed’s pages that made this book worth reading and recommending to others. I totally enjoyed myself.

The Scandal of It All by Sophie Jordan


The Scandal of It All by Sophie Jordan
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (384 Pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Bluet

It takes two to make a scandal…

What kind of woman ventures into London’s most notorious pleasure club? An outsider like Graciela, the Duchess of Autenberry, snubbed time and time again by society because of her Spanish roots. Ela longs to take a lover for a single, wild night, and within the walls of Sodom there are gentlemen to suit every forbidden taste. If only she were not so drawn to the smoldering Lord Strickland…a dangerous man who sees beyond her mask, and could ruin her reputation with a mere whisper.

Lord Strickland never permitted himself to fantasize about the sultry, off-limits lady, but then he never expected to find Ela in a place so wicked, looking for what he’s more than too happy to give. She may not be to the ton’s taste, but she suits him perfectly. First, however, he must convince her to trust in this dangerous desire—and in the promise of forever unleashed by one wild, scandalous night.

Thirty-five years of exemplary living are about to go down the drain, as Graciela, the widowed Duchess Autenberry is about to be busted. After being a devoted wife to a less than deserving husband, raising and loving three children and step children, and living chastely for ten years as a widow, “Ela” has decided to take a walk on the wild side. A friend has convinced Ela that a visit to Club Sodom will let her explore her sexuality with no strings, and perhaps find the fulfillment she never reached while married.

As luck would have it, Ela is about to come face to face with her stepson, Marcus, at the club. As a frantic Ela tries to leave or hide, she falls into the arms of Colin, her stepson’s best friend, who hides her from Marcus by embracing her. This embrace is something that Colin has fantasized about for years, and he begins a pursuit of Ela to truly begin an affair. I liked Ela, while at the same time became somewhat exasperated with her. I found her to be an admirable woman, who endured a loveless, physically unfulfilling marriage to a philandering husband, while letting his children believe he was a good man and husband. She retained her outward dignity while enduring snubs for her un-English heritage. Yet, though she endured these things, she’s terrified of exploring passion with a man who’s younger than she is, fearful of society’s censure and her family’s reaction. Colin is a dream – he doesn’t see Ela as an older woman, just a woman that he desires. I love his treatment of her and his fearlessness about other’s reactions if they are found out. I was somewhat disappointed at the plot device used which ultimately brought them together, but the fabulous conclusion remedied that.

The Scandal of It All is a hot and steamy read, which deals with the taboo of an older woman and a younger man in a time when it truly was shocking. I enjoyed the hero’s persistence and devotion, and eventually the heroine’s awakening to her own self worth on the way to their happy ever after.