Review: The Dirty Book Murder: an Antiquarian Book Mystery, by Thomas Shawyer

About the book The Dirty Book Murder: an Antiquarian Book Mystery The Dirty Book Murder

Publisher: Alibi (May 6, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC

In this smart, fast-paced mystery debut, Thomas Shawver introduces a charming, unlikely hero from the rarefied world of antique books.

Book merchant Michael Bevan arrives at the Kansas City auction house hoping to uncover some hidden literary gold. Though the auction ad had mentioned erotica, Michael is amazed to find lovely Japanese Shunga scrolls and a first edition of a novel by French author Colette with an inscription by Ernest Hemingway. This one item alone could fetch a small fortune in the right market.

As Michael and fellow dealer Gareth Hughes are warming up for battle, a stranger comes out of nowhere and outbids them—to the tune of sixty grand. But Gareth is unwilling to leave the auction house empty-handed, so he steals two volumes, including the Colette novel. When Gareth is found dead the next day, Michael quickly becomes the prime suspect: Not only had the pair been tossed out of a bar mid-fistfight the night before, but there is evidence from Michael’s shop at the crime scene.

Now the attorney-turned-bookman must find out who wanted the Colette so badly that they would kill for it—and frame Michael. Desperate to stay out of police custody, Michael follows the murderer’s trail into the wealthiest echelons of the city, where power and influence meet corruption—and mystery and eroticism are perverted by pure evil. Unfortunately for Michael, one dead book dealer is only the opening chapter in a terrifying tale of high culture and lowlifes.

Buy, read, and discuss:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads

About the author, Thomas Shawyer

Thomas Shawver is a former marine officer, lawyer, and journalist with American City Business Journals. An avid rugby player and international traveler, Shawver owned Bloomsday Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Kansas City.

My Thoughts

I stayed up all night reading The Dirty Book Murder, not because I’d forgotten that I was supposed to review it, but because it was that good. It opens a bit slowly, with main character Michael Bevan going to an auction because there’s some rare Japanese erotica he might want for his used bookstore, but very quickly turns into a fast-paced neo-noire murder mystery replete with mobsters, movie stars, and an estranged daughter.

It’s also got enough literary references, references, I might add, that are relevant to the plot, to make any bibliophile want to start tracking the various times Collette, Hemingway, and others are invoked by characters in the story.

And then there’s a hint of romance, though this book is in no way a love story, unless it’s a love of reading and literature, and the preservation thereof.

Author Shawyer shares a few traits (per his bio) with his main character, but he manages to do so in a way that is very much “write what you know,” and not at all “annoying author insertion.”

This book should appeal to both those who like their mysteries a little bit cerebral, but it should also be great for those who were raised on hard-boiled detective novels, as there’s a bit a both.

Goes well with Shepherd’s pie and Irish beer.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: Return to the Beach House, by Georgia Bockoven

About the book Return to the Beach House Return to the Beach House

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (May 13, 2014)

Over the course of one year, in a charming cottage by the sea, eight people will discover love and remembrance, reconciliation and reunion, beginnings and endings in this unforgettable sequel to Georgia Bockoven’s The Beach House and Another Summer.

Alison arrives at the beach house in June to spend a month with her restless grandson before he leaves for his first year of college. More than a decade earlier, Alison lost her beloved husband, and has faced life alone ever since. Now she discovers a new life and a possible new love.

August brings together four college friends facing a milestone. During summer’s final days, they share laughter, tears, and love—revealing long-held secrets and creating new and even more powerful bonds.

World-class wildlife photographer Matthew and award-winning war photographer Lindsey arrive at the beach house in January, each harboring the very real fear that it will mark the end of their decade-long love affair. Alone in the house’s warm peace, they are forced to truly look at who they are and what they want, discovering surprising truths that will change their lives forever.

Buy, read, discuss

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Add to Goodreads

About the author, Georgia Bockoven Georgia Bockoven

Georgia Bockoven is an award-winning author who began writing fiction after a successful career as a freelance journalist and photographer. Her books have sold more than three million copies worldwide. The mother of two, she resides in Northern California with her husband, John.

My Thoughts

I’d read the original The Beach House a couple of summers ago, and I love beach novels, so when I was offered the chance to read and review the latest installment in Georgia Bockoven’s collection, I didn’t just jump at the chance, I swan dove. Or maybe cannonballed. Whatever.

Having spent a significant chunk of my life living in San Francisco and San Jose, I feel a special kinship with Return to the Beach House. I’ve always wanted to rent one of those houses in Santa Cruz or Capitola or anywhere else along the Northern California coast for the summer, or February, or pretty much ever. If I were rich, I’d buy one, and live there full time.

But that’s about me, and not the novel.

Here’s what I love about this book: it’s a novel, but it’s also an anthology, because while everything is tied together by this wonderful house – so much so that the house itself really becomes a character, it’s also separate stories. Alison and her grandson Christopher are one story. The four “alphabet girl” friends are another.

The glimpses into the life of Julia, who owns the house, make lovely bookends, and further serve to tie everything together, and the stories are always related by theme, but if reading a traditional novel is too much for you in this 140-character world, this book will be palatable because of the way it’s crafted.

Conversely, if you’re not a fan of novellas or short stories, you needn’t worry, because there is enough continuity, enough of a through-theme, to keep everything feeling relevant and related.

Bockoven’s characters, especially the women, are vibrant, realistically portrayed people, and her sense of place is equally vivid. I could smell the salt, hear the surf, and feel the coarse, damp, Pacific coast sand under my toes.

Read this book, if you love great characters, and a story that’s light enough for summer without being at all frothy or fluffy. Read this book, if you want a summer beach read that is deeply satisfying. But definitely read this book.

Goes well with fresh fish from Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing, pasta, and San Francisco sourdough, with any local microbrew beer, or a California wine. (Fetzer “Sundial” Chardonnay is my fave.)

TLC Book Tours

This post is part of a blog tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: Danger in her Words, by Barbara Barth

About the book, Danger in Her Words Danger in her Words

Genre: Romance/Suspense

Publisher: Gilbert Street Press

Publication Date: February 19, 2014

Paperback: 238 pages

A TV sitcom pitch gone wrong turns dog-column writer Susan Meyers in a tailspin. Sex Sells was the topic of the day at the writers’ convention. Susan decided to try something new and a steamy romantic novel seemed just the answer. A widow who hadn’t dated in three years, Susan was out of practice with men and sex. She turned to an online dating site to find inspiration for her book and unleashed a predator with the words she wrote. Tucked an hour away from her friends in a small town where she kept to herself, with only her tiny dog for company, Susan felt safe from the world. Little did she know her life was about to change.

A romp of a story about writing and finding yourself in this book within a book. If you love girl-talk, farmhouses, antiques, country towns, a touch of murder, a sprinkle of suspense, and a bit of naughty fun, come join Susan as she learns about life from her character Jamie. Two widows looking for love in all the wrong places might still get it right if they live long enough.

Buy, read, discuss.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About the author, Barbara Barth Barbara Barth

Barbara Barth likes a lot of things: turquoise jewelry, surfing the ‘net, and margaritas, to name a few. Then there are the dogs. As many as her house can hold! This Georgia antique dealer and jewelry maker published a hobby newsletter for 13 years. After her husband died she recorded the year that followed in a series of essays. When she isn’t writing you can find her at the local thrift shops or pounding another nail into the wall to hang the paintings she can’t resist. She published a memoir The Unfaithful Widow and Danger in her Words is her debut novel.

Connect with Barbara

Website | Blog | Blogspot Blog | Facebook Author Page | Facebook Discussion Page | Twitter

My Thoughts

When I was offered the chance to read and review Barbara Barth’s first novel Danger in Her Words, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because someday I’m going to be hawking my own first novel, and supporting other women writers is just good karma. Also, I’d just read a bunch of heavy novels, many of which took place in the Interwar period – the span of years between World War I and World War II. I wanted something light, and fun, and if it was a little bit salacious, so much the better.

What I got was a wonderful novel that’s really two stories in one. In one story, author Susan is settling into her life in huge farmhouse in a quiet village, and starting a new career as a fiction writer, while also opening herself to the possibility of a new relationship. She’s funny, and smart, and what I love about her is that she’s not twenty. (As someone who is also a couple of decades beyond twenty, reading about protagonists who are closer to my age, even if we don’t share the same experiences, is immensely gratifying.)

I also love that she has a dog. I work in dog rescue, and have three of my own (plus a foster-dog, most of the time) so if there’s a dog in a story, I’m much more likely to find that story relevant. Daisy is an adorable addition to an already great novel.

The second story is the novel Susan is writing, about a woman named Jamie who is obviously based in part on Susan. Jamie, too, is looking for love, or at least really good sex. Preferably both.

Both the actual novel, Danger in her Words, and the novel-within-the-novel are technically romantic suspense, and author Barth handled both the romance and the suspense well in both cases. A creepy stalker who trawls the internet for victims is incredibly plausible, but Barth never makes her novel preachy, though her characters are all self-aware, making internal observations when they engage in behavior that’s less than safe.

Similarly, the sex scenes are delicious, keeping the reader in the mood and never straying too far into silliness or too far the other direction into tab-A/slot-B clinicality. (Is that a word? It is now.)

I loved reading this book. I found the characters to be bright, realistic, and appealing, and it made me want to go live in a farmhouse (though, mine would have to be in a town where there actually is a Starbucks).

In fact, there’s only one thing I disliked about this novel, and I’m hesitant to write it, because it’s a personal thing, but I’m going to in the interest of honesty. In some of the sex scenes, the author uses the word ‘dick’ in reference to male anatomy. Now, this is a perfectly appropriate use of the word; it’s just that for me the word ‘dick’ isn’t at all sexy. When I use it, it’s a pejorative, as in Wil Wheaton’s go-to admonishment, “Don’t be a dick.” (For the record, I prefer ‘cock.’ Now you know.)

But that’s a minor thing, and, as I said, it’s my issue, and should in no way imply that Barbara Barth wrote anything other than a wonderful sexy novel that you should all go buy and read right now.

Goes well with homemade fried chicken and sweet tea from a local diner.

This review is part of a blog tour hosted by WOW – Women on Writing via their blog The Muffin. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Spotlight on The Witch’s Salvation, by Francesca Pelaccia

About the book The Witch’s Salvation The Witch's Salvation

Title: The Witch’s Salvation
Author: Francesca Pelaccia
Publisher: Francesca Pelaccia
Pages: 388
Genre: Historical Fiction/Paranormal
Format: Paperback, Kindle

A witch who demands humanity.


The immortal families who denied her of it.


Two mortals commanded to right the wrong.


That is the fate of the urban princess Anasztasia and the renegade prince Matthias, born shockingly mortal to two immortal families. If they go back in time and restore the witch’s humanity, she will grant them immortality. She will also break a 550 year-old curse that imprisons Matthias’s family in their ancestral homeland and exiles Anasztasia’s family from it.

But to make their lives their own, the heirs must return to the most dangerous day in their families’ past, Easter Sunday, 1457. This is the day Vlad III, aka Dracula, massacred nobles.


How can Anasztasia and Matthias reverse the past when their families won’t speak of their sins? How can they refuse when the witch owns their lives?

Buy, read, and discuss:

Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt from The Witch’s Salvation The Witch's Salvation


In a cave shaped by five centuries of the earth’s temper, the wind’s hand, and the sky’s will, a witch stirs from beneath the dry leaves and twigs that make up her resting place. She pushes herself through, then brushes the blanket of brittle leaves from her furrowed face and shriveled limbs. But after five centuries of sleeping and waking in a bed of earth, she does not recognize foliage from skin.

She plants her emaciated feet on rough stones and drags herself across the cave to the aged branches of her door, her steps shaky like those of an infant learning to walk. The door grinds as it opens with one silent command. The world outside her hovel is as it is inside—dark, dank, musty, the bottom layers of centuries of overgrowth and the absence of human vanity. Yet she hears everything, worms burrowing, insects feeding, foliage breathing. They have been her companions and teachers through the ages as much as they have been her nourishment.

Her bones slipping against the shell of her body, she stumbles toward the ragged stump of an ancient beech. Over five centuries ago, she snapped the sapling from its roots, nurturing its swell to remind herself of the passage of the years, the turn of the centuries, and the approach of salvation. It is as old and as dead in life as she is, but it has kept her will strong and focus sharp.

Instead of resting her frail body on it, or sipping from the water trickling over one of its gnarled roots and collecting in a hollow at its base, she climbs onto it. She crawls to the middle, appearing no bigger than a rodent on a master’s grand table. Her pupils are dull and worn away, but she finds the first ring with her fingertips and begins to count. One, two, three, four, five…It is slow and meticulous work for one taught only the basics of language and numbers by those she once served. But her voice is strong, her need to count a hunger, her focus unrelenting.

Once she had magnificent eyes. Dark, almost black, alert and alive, eager to see the world, to touch it and to know it. Her hair matched the black of her eyes. Long and thick, it shone brighter than those nobles with marigold hair. Once, she was a young woman, until the nobles of the two warring families tore her from her family, wrenched her life from her body and her soul from her flesh, turning her into what she is now. Once, she had a name, a lovely, rhythmic name. But that was robbed from her, too, and she inherited another name. Strigoaic. Witch. A witch who was once a girl. A girl who once had a life. A life now trapped in death.

The Strigoaic counts the rings without stopping, her voice moaning through the clearing and the dense trees around it. She stops when her fingers grasp a ring larger and more pronounced than the others. Her heart begins to thump as it did when she first discovered it, as it did in her human life. Slipping over the edge of the stump, her fingers never leaving that ring of hope, she begins to count again, but from one, to two, to three, all the way to eighteen.

She lowers her head, a drop of blood falling from her eyes.

Crawling back onto the stump, she lies on it, the pulse of the ancient tree pounding against her palms and heating her chilled skin.

The time has come. After centuries of waiting, the time has come to summon those two nobles who robbed her of her humanity. But it is not them she wants. She has already punished them. She imprisoned one noble and his family in the boundaries of the earth once known as their homeland of Wallachia, while the other noble and his family she exiled from it. Unwise about her sorcery, however, she imprisoned and exiled them for eternity to an immortal life.

That will right itself in time, too. Now she wants—no, needs—the last born of each family. She decreed them, and she will have them. Clawing her fingers through the flesh of the stump, she lets a shrill break from her lips that shakes birds and trees and mountains.

The time has come to get her name back.

About the author, Francesca Pelaccia Francesca Pelaccia

The Witch’s Salvation is Francesca Pelaccia’s debut novel and the first book of The Witch’s Trilogy.

A teacher and now at long last an author, Francesca has written in other genres but enjoys creating and writing time-travel fantasies. Francesca blogs on the craft of writing, especially as it relates to genre, and reviews books.

Currently she is working on the second book of The Witch’s Trilogy entitled The Witch’s Monastery.

Connect with Francesca:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

More Info The Witch's Salvation

This post is part of a virtual book tour. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, visit the tour page at PUMP UP YOUR BOOK.

Review: Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

About the book Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932

• Print Length: 448 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 22, 2014)

Paris in the 1920s. It is a city of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club’s loyal denizens, including the rising photographer Gabor Tsenyi, the socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol, and the caustic American writer Lionel Maine.

As the years pass, their fortunes—and the world itself—evolve. Lou falls in love and finds success as a race car driver. Gabor builds his reputation with vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover, which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant twenties give way to darker times, Lou experiences another metamorphosis that will warp her earnest desire for love and approval into something far more sinister: collaboration with the Nazis.

Told in a kaleidoscope of voices, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 evokes this incandescent city with brio, humor, and intimacy. A brilliant work of fiction and a mesmerizing read, it is Francine Prose’s finest novel yet.

Buy. Read. Discuss.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound | Add to Goodreads

About the author, Francine Prose Francine Prose

Francine Prose is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer.

The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director’s Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York City.

My Thoughts

As I was getting ready for the last day of Dallas Comic-Con on Sunday, I was listening to Weekend Edition on NPR, and this book – Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 was mentioned. Immediately, I grabbed my phone and tweeted, “Does anyone ELSE get excited when a book they’re already reading is mentioned by @NPR or @NPRbooks?” It was gratifying to learn that I am not the only one.

I had to leave the room before the show was over, so I didn’t get to hear the whole story, but that doesn’t matter. It was nice to know I was ahead of the curve on this book. At least, a little bit.

The Interwar period has been sort of haunting me lately, and Lovers… is just one of those pleasantly insistent ghosts. Told in many voices – a family historian, a young photographer, etc., it unfolds like a flower, or one of those paper “cootie catchers” we all made in childhood. There are stories within stories, and all involve rich characters, lush descriptions, and enough of the politics of the day to make you feel as if the Nazis are peering over your shoulder as you read.

I mean, seriously, Francine Prose nails it when it comes to “ominous.”

She also nails it when it comes to her vision of an underground club in Paris. What could have come off as a poor man’s La Cage aux Folles, instead, is so well described that I could smell the smoke from the cigarettes (I’m betting they were Gauloises) in their holders, and hear the soft, bubbling fizz of champagne and the gentle clinks and clicks of glassware and tableware. I could also envision the clothes, because we all know that the ambiguous cross-gender counterculture embraces the BEST couture in any age.

But it’s the story that’s important, and in telling Lou Villars’s story, Francine Prose shows us a spiral into evil, deception, and betrayal that manages to be gripping, sad, horrifying, and poignant all at once.

What would you do for love? What would you do for notoriety? For success? For money? For survival?

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 asks these questions, and if the answers aren’t always happy ones, at least they are finely crafted and brutally, brilliantly honest.

Goes well with champagne, dahling…or possibly absinthe.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour hosted by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: Little Island, by Katharine Britton

About the book Little Island Little Island

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Berkley Trade (September 3, 2013)

By the water
Have fun!

These are Grace’s mother’s last words – left behind on a note. A note that Grace interprets as instructions for her memorial service. And so her far-flung clan will gather at their inn on Little Island, Maine, to honor her.

Twenty years ago, a tragedy nearly destroyed the Little family – and still defines them. Grace, her husband Gar, and their three grown children, Joy, Roger and Tamar each played a role in what transpired. But this weekend, they will discover that there is more than pain and heartbreak that binds their family together, when a few simple words lift the fog and reveal what truly matters.

Watch the book trailer HERE. Read an excerpt HERE.

Buy. Read. Discuss.

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About the author, Katharine Britton Katharine Britton

Katharine Britton has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College, and a Master’s in Education from the University of Vermont. Her screenplay, “Goodbye Don’t Mean Gone,” was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. Katharine is a member of the League of Vermont Writers, New England Independent Booksellers Association, and The New Hampshire Writer’s Project. She has taught at Institute for Lifelong Education at Dartmouth, Colby-Sawyer College, and The Writer’s Center in White River Junction.

When not at her desk, Katharine can often be found in her Norwich garden, waging a non-toxic war against the slugs, snails, deer, woodchucks, chipmunks, moles, voles, and beetles with whom she shares her yard. Katharine’s defense consists mainly of hand-wringing, after the fact.

Katharine’s first novel Her Sister’s Shadow was published in 2011 by Berkley Books (Penguin, USA). Little Island is her second novel. She is currently working on another manuscript.

Connect with Katharine

Website | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter

My Thoughts

Maybe it’s because I was practically born on the beach, and grew up with sand and salt on my skin and in my hair, but I have a special fondness for “beach books.” I don’t mean the fluffy, light reading that people bring to the beach. I mean, well, I guess you could call them “contemporary coastals” – books that take place on or near the coast, and typically include a beach house, cottage, or the like.

Little Island takes place in a coastal inn, a family-run business on the water, which, in my personal categorization system, makes it a “beach book.” But like most of the books of this type, it’s actually a gripping drama that centers on the concepts of family, love, obligation, and belonging.

Some of the novel is told in first person, mainly those chapters from Joy’s point of view. I’m not sure if this makes Joy an unreliable narrator, but it does mean that I felt more connected to Joy. It is through her eyes that I experienced the rest of the story.

The setup is classic: everyone gathers for a memorial service. The result is anything but typical, and we see a fabulous collection of relationships – Joy’s parents, aging but still active, Joy’s twin siblings who are younger than she is, but were always the ones to exclude her, Joy’s twin nieces who are less than thrilled to be in their mother’s care during the novel, and of course Joy herself, because even though she has a husband and has just sent her son off to college, her real journey is one of self.

I think that’s why I responded to this novel so strongly. I mean, author Katharine Britton has given us an amazing setting (seriously, I want to live at this inn), three-dimensional characters, and a rich story with background characters who may not show up much but are nevertheless integral to the plot, but – for me – this was about the journey Joy has – the one we women all have at one time or another in our lives – to finding herself.

I was strongly reminded by the lines Samantha speaks near the end of the Sex and the City movie: “I’ve been in a relationship with myself for fifty years and that’s the one I need to work on.”

If you’re looking for fast-paced action or kinky sex, this is not the book for you. If, however, you want an absorbing read, a character-driven story, and a level of detail that allows you to smell the salt air, you should click over to your favorite bookseller’s website, and buy Little Island right now. You won’t regret it.

Goes well with fried clams and cold beer.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour sponsored by TLC Book Tours. For more information, or the complete list of tour stops, click HERE.

Review: The Runaway Highlander by R.L. Syme

About the book, The Runaway Highlander

The Runaway Highlander

Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Series: The Highland Renegades

Anne de Cheyne has a choice. She can play the dutiful daughter and allow her mother to sell her to a greasy English sheriff, or she can take control of her own life and find her own match. After a frightening run-in with her promised husband reveals a dark secret, she makes a desperate choice. Flight.

Aedan Donne needs easy money and no-questions-asked. When Milene de Cheyne offers him enough to pay all debts, requests complete silence, and pays half up front, just for a simple recovery, he can’t believe his luck… until he meets his mark. Anne’s beauty and passion ignite something Aedan can’t ignore, even as she leaves him in the dust. Suddenly, he finds himself wanting to capture the runaway Highland lady for himself.

The Highland Renegades Series

Book One: The Outcast Highlander
Book Two: The Runaway Highlander
Book Three: The Pirate Highlander — Coming Soon!

Buy the book, and start enjoying the romantic adventure of The Runaway Highlander

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | CreateSpace

About the author, R. L. Syme

R.L. Syme

R.L. Syme works at a youth theatre, teaching kids performing arts and musical performance classes/camps when she’s not writing. Otherwise, she’s putting her Seminary degree to good use writing romance novels. Let not all those systematic theology classes go to waste…

Connect with R.L. Syme

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

My Thoughts

I have a thing for men in kilts. There, I’ve admitted it. Now, I realize that Aedon Donne, the ‘hero’ of this novel does not likely wear a kilt, as he’s supposed to be working for the English king, and all, but in my head, every move is accompanied by a healthy dose of swirling tartan and well-muscled legs, and if you asked protagonist Anne de Cheyne, I’m pretty sure she’d agree with me.

I make fun, but the truth is that this book is a deliciously gritty, saucy romantic adventure of the kind that brings to mind old Eroll Flynn movies, if he’d made Highlander films instead of playing pirates all the time. Rooted in history, but not enslaved to it, this story has strong women, brave men, and a perfect balance of justice and romance.

The dialogue never seems stilted, as can happen in period pieces, and the characters never seem too contemporary, either. I haven’t read the first novel in this series, but if The Runaway Highlander is anything to go by, it must be a fantastic, satisfying read.

A little romance now and then is a good thing. When it’s written as well as R.L. Syme has written her books, it’s a truly excellent thing.

Goes well with anything but haggis. (Seriously, I wanted hearty stew and fresh brown bread when I was reading this.)

The Runaway Highlander

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Wednesday, May 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Thursday, May 15
Review at Bibliotica

Monday, May 19
Guest Post & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Tuesday, May 20
Review at A Bookish Girl (The Outcast Highlander)

Wednesday, May 21
Review at A Bookish Girl (The Runaway Highlander)

Thursday, May 22
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Girl

Friday, May 23
Guest Post at Layered Pages

Monday, May 26
Review at My Not So Vacant Bookshelf

Tuesday, May 27
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, May 29
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, May 30
Review at Lily Pond Reads
Review at From the TBR Pile

Monday, June 2
Review at The Mad Reviewer
Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Tuesday, June 3
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Wednesday, June 4
Interview at The Most Happy Reader

Thursday, June 5
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews

Friday, June 6
Review at Historical Fiction Obsession

Monday, June 9
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Wednesday, June 11
Review at Fic Central

Thursday, June 12
Review at Reviews by Molly
Interview at Books and Benches

Friday, June 13
Review & Giveaway at To Read or Not to Read

Spotlight on: Calculated, by R. S. Novelle

Calculated – PROMO Blitz
By Renee Novelle
Psycological Thriller
Date Published: August 30, 2013

 photo add-to-goodreads-button_zpsc7b3c634.png

An investigative journalist gets an unlikely tip from a mysterious informant. Dismissing it as impossible, she disregards the information and drops the story. Until the informant turns up dead, as predicted.
Plunged into the murky waters of a seedy underground prostitution ring, this psychological thriller provides twist upon dark twist in a story that would ultimately pin the church and several government officials in the largest murder cover-up the city has ever witnessed.
But is it true, or has the journalist merely been used as a pawn in a greater scheme? And how many people is she willing to sacrifice trying to figure it out?

When she arrived at the little facility her building provided, a quick look around confirmed she was the only one there. Just as she’d hoped, and exactly how she liked it to be. Smiling in satisfaction, she flipped on the television that was perched on the wall, and turned up the music on her iPod as loud as she could handle it. The multiple distractions would help her get through the extra mile she was planning to conquer. With chilled water bottle in place, she cranked up the treadmill to a nice brisk pace.
As her breathing picked up speed and her muscles began to warm, Ana’s eye caught a red flash along the bottom of the screen. Breaking News filled the bar, and the too-chipper-for-their-own-good reporters were suddenly getting serious. Since the volume was still muted, Ana couldn’t understand exactly what was going on, only that they were showing the wide stretch of river that ran along the outskirts of the city. She wiped the first beads of sweat from her brow, and used the remote to turn the volume of the television higher while simultaneously adjusting her music.
As the reporters spoke, home-video footage of something floating in the water rolled before her eyes. The camera zoomed in, the frame ever so shaky, and it became clearly apparent that the “something” was a person – face down with long brown hair spread out like a Catholic halo. It appeared another victim had been pulled out of the water; the count was quickly tallying up. A young woman this time, and possibly one who had gone missing the night before.
Ana’s pulse skipped a few beats as they replayed the video over and over. There was something familiar about the long, lean body. Slowing the treadmill to a stop, she ripped the ear buds from her head to give the segment her entire attention.
…it appears at first glance that the victim suffered from a deep cut to the throat, and received multiple stab wounds to the chest…
The beads of accumulated sweat turned cold on Ana’s brow. She immediately reached for her phone and dialed Kylie’s number.
“What the hell, Ana?” Came her friend’s groggy voice.
“Turn your TV on. Channel four. Hurry.” Ana said, eyes transfixed to the screen in front of her. “Recognize that face?”
…It’s thought the victim may be one of the young girls recently reported missing. The screen flashed candids of three possible women. All brunettes. All tall and thin. All roughly the same age. Among them was a photo of Mara, just as Ana had expected there would be.
But the body was too bloated and disfigured to be absolutely certain, and an autopsy would be needed.
… The body will be taken in for processing where officials hope to shed more light on the case in the near future. In the mean time, they’re cautioning residents to avoid….
“Did you see that?” Ana’s voice escaped in more of a demand than a question. “Please tell me I’m seeing things.”
“Oh my god…” Kylie whispered into the receiver, confirming the dread that was building in Ana’s stomach. “Do you really think it’s her?”
“I know for a fact it is.” Ana declared, the pull in her gut getting stronger by the minute. “The autopsy will confirm it.”
“So, what does this mean exactly now?”
“That maybe I should have been listening a little closer when I was talking to Mara.” She said with regret as she swiped her forehead with the back of her hand. “And maybe I should have asked more questions. There’s a story here, I’m sure of it now.”
“What are you going to do?” Kylie’s voice was decidedly more alert now.
Ana shook her head. “I have no idea.”
Though if she were to be truthful with herself in that moment, she’d already made up her mind. Ana flipped off the television, and left the little gym to get started.
About the Author: Renee Novelle

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Formerly a freelance journalist, Novelle has found placement of her pieces in both online and print publications since 2008. Additionally, she has written multiple screenplays, and contributed her writing to many non-profit and for profit organizations. She has launched several blogs over the years, which garnered international attention.
In 2013, Novelle returned to her first love – fiction. Writing under the names Renee Novelle and R.S. Novelle, she has a publication schedule that includes Psychological Thrillers, Suspense, Paranormal Fiction, Contemporary Women’s fiction, Chick Lit, and New Adult.
Though she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Communication, summa cum laude, she considers herself a constant student of the written word. She’s an avid reader, an enthusiastic quote poster, and rarely takes “no” as a final answer. She has an unhealthy obsession for theater, dance, music and art, and strongly believes that wine is simultaneously the beginning of, and resolution to, all of life’s problems. She believes in following dreams, and that in the end, you always end up where you’re meant to be.

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Review: Fallout by Sadie Jones

About the book, Fallout


• Hardcover: 416 pages
• Publisher: Harper (April 29, 2014)

Luke Kanowski is a young playwright— intense, magnetic, and eager for life. He escapes a disastrous upbringing in the northeast and, arriving in London, meets Paul Driscoll, an aspiring producer, and the beautiful, fiery Leigh Radley, the woman Paul loves.

The three set up a radical theater company, living and working together; a romantic connection forged in candlelit rehearsal rooms during power cuts and smoky late-night parties in Chelsea’s run-down flats. The gritty rebellion of pub theater is fighting for its place against a West End dominated by racy revue shows and the giants of twentieth-century drama.

Nina Jacobs is a fragile actress, bullied by her mother and in thrall to a controlling producer. When Luke meets Nina, he recognizes a soul in danger—but how much must he risk to save her?

Everything he has fought for—loyalty, friendship, art—is drawn into the heat of their collision. As Luke ricochets between honesty and deceit, the promise of the future and his own painful past, the fallout threatens to be immense.

Read and discuss Fallout, by Sadie Jones

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About the author, Sadie Jones

Sadie Jones

Sadie Jones is the author of The Outcast, a winner of the Costa First Novel Award in Great Britain, and a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; the novel Small Wars; and the bestselling novel The Uninvited Guests. She lives in London.

My Thoughts

As someone who has written for amateur theatrical productions, and been on stage as both an amateur and professional performer, I was intrigued by the description when the lovely folks at TLC Book Tours invited me to review Fallout.

I’m pleased to report that that the novel was every bit as interesting as I’d hoped. It presents a view of life in theater that is both romantic and gritty, hovering on the line of each. The central characters, Luke, Paul, Leigh, and Nina all feel very real, very three-dimensional, and I could easily see any or all of them existing in that heightened reality that is show business.

Because I, too, am the daughter of a strong (formidable, even) mother, I thought I would resonate most with Nina, but Nina is a fragile, broken young woman and ended up frustrating me at times. If she’d been my friend, I would have staged an intervention or two during her life.

Leigh was, in many ways, the least defined of the remaining central four, but it was her practicality and (apparently) easy attitude that really drew me in. The boys (yes, they’re adults, but they’re very much still boys), Paul and Luke, reminded me of people I actually know. Luke especially so, as I have a friend from improv and audio drama who finished his university studies two years ago, and has been attempting to write and produce plays, and is the kind of young man who is oblivious when a woman is flirting with him.

Sadie Jones gave us, in Fallout a plot that seemed predictable and yet was not. (I was half-expecting Luke to ride in on the proverbial white horse and rescue Nina forever), and it also showed a fairly realistic collection of romances, some less heady than others, some that lasted a lifetime, while others were clearly short duration affairs, but all of which made sense.

Jones also has a finely honed sense of place in this novel. I felt the rain, smelled the greasy chips, heard the footsteps on different floors. Nothing ever seemed contrived or false.

If you’re looking for a fluffy love story, Fallout is not the novel for you. If, on the other hand, you want a romantic tale based in a reality not too different from our own, with compelling, believable characters, go buy a copy right now. You won’t be sorry.

Goes well with steak and salad.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour organized by TLC Book Tours. For more information, and the complete list of tour stops, click here.

Spotlight on: Cowboy Seasons, by Kathleen Ball

Cowboy Seasons – Series Blitz
Western Romance

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Summer’s Desire
By Kathleen Ball
Published July 25, 2013
Sexy cowboy Holden O’Leary moves his brothers to a Montana ranch for a desperately needed fresh start.
Summer Fitzgerald is a person of interest in the robbery and murder of her former boss. Penniless, she is determined to be hired as the O’Learys’ new housekeeper.
Will scandals and old secrets keep Holden and Summer from trusting and loving each other or will Summer finally get her desire?
Autumn’s Hope
By Kathleen Ball
Published October 6, 2013

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Injured Army Veteran and rancher Jonas Barnes is too scarred inside and out to ever truly open his heart.
Pregnant and alone Autumn Lavin is determined to make a life for herself but soon realizes she needs the rancher’s
Can Autumn’s love wraps around Jonas and ease his doubts or will he be fated to a life alone?

Winter’s Embrace

By Kathleen Ball
Published: April 29, 2014

Ten years ago Winter’s heart was broken beyond repair by Stone McCoy. Now she is a travel agent ready to lead an Alaskan Cruise and to her surprise Stone McCoy is on her tour.  A long ago phone call shattered her trust and her self-confidence. She never planned to see Stone again.
While at college, Stone McCoy woke up, after a fraternity party, to find a girl in his bed. Weeks later she told him she’s pregnant. Calling Winter to break things off was the worst night of his life. Now he’s hoping for a second chance at happiness.
The chemistry is electrifying but old issues lead these two on a merry chase. Can they put old hurts aside and begin again? Join Rancher Stone McCoy and Winter Gavin as they try to find happiness from Alaska to Texas and finally on his Montana Ranch.
Ten years ago Rancher Stone McCoy broke Winter Gavin’s heart. Now he turns up hoping for another chance. Will one too many surprises shy Winter away?
Kathleen Ball
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Sexy Cowboys and the women that love them…Finalist in the 2012 RONE Awards. Top pick, 5 star series from the Romance Review. Kathleen Ball writes contemporary western romance with great emotion and memorable characters. Her books are award winners and have appeared on best sellers lists including Amazon’s Best Sellers List. There’s something about a cowboy.
Dawson Ranch Series— Alice’s Story, Texas Haven, Ryelee’s Cowboy
Lasso Springs Series- – Callie’s Heart, Lone Star Joy and Stetson’s Storm
Cowboy Season’s Series — Summer’s Desire, Autumn’s Hope, Winter’s Embrace

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