Review: The Crystal Cage, by Merryn Allingham (enter to win a copy)

About the book, The Crystal Cage The Crystal Cage

Publication Date: August 4, 2014
Publisher:eHarlequin, eBook; ASIN: B00JTPU72S
Genre: Historical Romance

Captivated…or captured?

Appearances don’t always reveal the truth. Grace Latimer knows this better than most. Illusions of commitment and comfort have her trapped—until bohemian adventurer Nick Heysham charms his way into her world. Commissioned to recover a Great Exhibition architect’s missing designs, he persuades her to assist in his research. The mystery of the Crystal Palace seduces Grace, and once she discovers clues about a forbidden Victorian love affair, she’s lured into the deep secrets of the past…secrets that resemble her own.

As Grace and Nick dig into the elusive architect’s illicit, long-untold story, the ghosts of guilt and forbidden passion slip free. And history is bound to repeat itself, unless Grace finds the courage to break free and find a new definition of love…

Buy, read, and discuss the ebook of The Crystal Cage

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About the author, Merryn Allingham (in her own words) Merryn Allingham

My father was a soldier and most of my childhood was spent moving from place to place, school to school, including 03_Merryn Allinghamseveral years living in Egypt and Germany. I loved some of the schools I attended, but hated others, so it wasn’t too surprising that I left half way through the sixth form with ‘A’ Levels unfinished.

I became a secretary, as many girls did at the time, only to realise that the role of handmaiden wasn’t for me. Escape beckoned when I landed a job with an airline. I was determined to see as much of the world as possible, and working as cabin crew I met a good many interesting people and enjoyed some great experiences – riding in the foothills of the Andes, walking by the shores of Lake Victoria, flying pilgrims from Kandahar to Mecca to mention just a few.

I still love to travel and visit new places, especially those with an interesting history, but the arrival of marriage and children meant a more settled existence on the south coast of England, where I’ve lived ever since. It also gave me the opportunity to go back to ‘school’ and eventually gain a PhD from the University of Sussex. For many years I taught university literature and loved every minute of it. What could be better than spending my life reading and talking about books? Well, perhaps writing them.

I’ve always had a desire to write but there never seemed time to do more than dabble with the occasional short story. And my day job ensured that I never lost the critical voice in my head telling me that I really shouldn’t bother. But gradually the voice started growing fainter and at the same time the idea that I might actually write a whole book began to take hold. My cats – two stunning cream and lilac shorthairs – gave their approval, since it meant my spending a good deal more time at home with them!

The 19th century is my special period of literature and I grew up reading Georgette Heyer, so when I finally found the courage to try writing for myself, the books had to be Regency romances. Over the last four years, writing as Isabelle Goddard, I’ve published six novels set in the Regency period.

Since then, I’ve moved on a few years to Victorian England, and I’ve changed genre too. The Crystal Cage is my first novel under the name of Merryn Allingham. The book is a mystery/romantic suspense and tells the story of a long-lost tragedy, and the way echoes from the past can powerfully influence the life of a modern day heroine. The next few Allingham books will see yet another move timewise. I’ve been writing a suspense trilogy set in India and wartime London during the 1930s and 1940s, and hope soon to have news of publication.

Whatever period, whatever genre, creating new worlds and sharing them with readers gives me huge pleasure and I can’t think of a better job.

Connect with Merryn

Facebook | Goodreads

My Thoughts

I’m a big fan of architecture, history, and romance, so when you combine all three as marvelously as Merryn Allingham has in The Crystal Cage there’s very little chance I’ll be anything but happy. This book made me very, very happy.

First, it’s told as sort of parallel plots, a contemporary story about art promoters/historians trying to track down solid information about an architect of import, partly for the sheer satisfaction of finding the truth, but also for – let’s face it – money and notoriety. The three central figures of the contemporary plot form a triangle of sorts, with main character Grace at it’s apex, in a relationship with Oliver, whom becomes less and less pleasant as the story progresses (seriously, I would have walked out on him in chapter two), and Nick whose bohemian lifestyle belies his ability to love and commit.

For me, Grace’s personal journey toward finding herself as well as the right partner was just as interesting as the historical mystery, because it was so real, and so believable. Who among us hasn’t fallen into a relationship that seems like a good idea only to become a trap as life goes on.

And then there’s the historical love affair with the architect and the object of his affections, though I would argue that he also has a triangle, one where his life’s work is one of the points. Choosing between love and art is never easy, and his story is easily as compelling as the contemporary one.

Author Allingham does an amazing job at making each story connect to the other while still retaining period-appropriate language, tone, and action. The events in the past are no less vivid than those in the present, only slightly softened, as if being viewed through a mirror.

If you want a satisfying romance with an historical twist, excellent characters, and a compelling plot, I heartily recommend The Crystal Cage.

Goes well with Braised lamb shanks and a spring salad.

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This review is part of a blog tour sponsored by Historical Fiction Virtual Book tours, which is also running a giveaway raffle (see below). For more information, including the complete list of tour stops, click the banner above, or click HERE.


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Review: The Yankee Club, by Michael Murphy

About the book, The Yankee Club The Yankee Club

Publisher: Alibi (August 12, 2014)
Pages: 280

In Michael Murphy’s action-packed Prohibition-era novel of suspense, a mystery writer returns to the bright lights and dark alleys of New York City—uncovering a criminal conspiracy of terrifying proportions.

In 1933, America is at a crossroads: Prohibition will soon be history, organized crime is rampant, and President Roosevelt promises to combat the Great Depression with a New Deal. In these uncertain times, former-Pinkerton-detective-turned-bestselling-author Jake Donovan is beckoned home to Manhattan. He has made good money as the creator of dashing gumshoe Blackie Doyle, but the price of success was Laura Wilson, the woman he left behind. Now a Broadway star, Laura is engaged to a millionaire banker—and waltzing into a dangerous trap.

Before Jake can win Laura back, he’s nearly killed—and his former partner is shot dead—after a visit to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy dive in their old Queens neighborhood. Suddenly Jake and Laura are plunged into a conspiracy that runs afoul of gangsters, sweeping from New York’s private clubs to the halls of corporate power and to the White House itself. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Cole Porter, and Babe Ruth, Jake struggles to expose an inconspicuous organization hidden in plain sight, one determined to undermine the president and change the country forever.

Buy, read, and discuss The Yankee Club

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About the author, Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy is a full time author and part time urban chicken rancher in Arizona. He lives in Arizona with his wife of forty-one years and the four children they adopted this past year. In August, Random House Alibi will publish his ninth novel, a historical mystery set in the prohibition era, The Yankee Club.

My Thoughts

I’ve been a mystery fan ever since I cracked open a reprint of one of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels in a bookstore/cafe in Ashland, OR, when I was fourteen. I’ve been a noir fan almost as long, so you can imagine how eager I was to read The Yankee Club when I was offered the opportunity.

Jake Donovan, former detective, now author of a series of novels based on his own experiences, is the perfect literary detective, hard-boiled but never hard-hearted. Laura, childhood friend turned actress, is his perfect partner in (solving crime). While either could easily have become stereotypes, author Michael Murphy gave us, instead, characters that are an homage to the genre, but are still fully-realized on their own.

As well, the collection of supporting characters are well-rounded and interesting. Gino, owner of the speakeasy The Yankee Club, reminded me very strongly of some of my own family members (who ran boarding houses and diners near the Jersey shore during the prohibition years). Similarly Frankie, Mildred (whom exists mostly off-screen, but is nevertheless incredibly real, and Miss Belle Starr are people you’d expect to meet in Murphy’s version of New York, and yet each of them has their own moment, their own surprise, that makes you realize the level of crafting that went into this story.

And the story itself is fantastic. Mystery. Intrigue. Personal jeopardy and emotional drama. All of these things abound, but none of them ever threaten to overwhelm the plot. The combination of fictional and real-life events works really well, and I especially enjoyed the real people peppered amongst Murphy’s creations.

Bottom line, this is a gritty detective story, a romance, and a glimpse at a period in time not too far before our own, and woven through it all is the very real poignancy that comes from facing the knowledge that going home again is never exactly what you expect, but leaving it is never entirely possible.

The best part about this book, however, is that it’s merely the first in a series.

Goes well with a juicy steak, a perfectly baked potato with sour cream and chives, and a J&G.

TLC Book Tours

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

Review: The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend, by Annabelle Costa

About the book, The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend

The Time Traveler's Boyfriend

Print Length: 250 pages

Publisher: Dev Love Press (February 2, 2014)

Claudia’s geeky boyfriend Adam has just invented a time machine.

No, really—he has. She doesn’t believe it either until Adam provides her with definitive proof that he does, in fact, have a functioning time travel device sitting in the living room of his Manhattan brownstone.

But instead of getting ready to accept the Nobel Prize, Adam has very different plans for his groundbreaking invention. He wants Claudia to use the machine to travel back in time and stop the accident that landed him in a wheelchair over a decade ago, and prevent the trajectory of events that he believes ruined his life.

When Claudia reluctantly agrees to become the first human time traveler, she knows she’s making a big gamble. If she succeeds, she could have the happy ending with commitment-phobic Adam that she’s always dreamed of. But if she fails, it could mean the end of the universe as she knows it.

Read the first chapter, then buy a copy of your own

First Chapter | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Add to Goodreads

About the Author, Annabelle Costa

Annabelle Costa

Annabelle Costa is a teacher who writes in her free time. She enjoys the wounded hero genre, involving male love interests with physical disabilities, who don’t follow the typical Hollywood perception of sexy.

My Thoughts

I don’t read a lot of “formula” romances (though I’ll cop to having had a serious Silhouette Desire addiction when I was a teenager – seriously, those things were like crack), but I’ve read enough of them to recognize that The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend is a slightly more contemporary version of a classic format. Despite that, however, or maybe even because of it, it’s an excellent read, full of fun and flirtatiousness, and the fact that it is from a publishing house that focuses on love stories featuring characters with disabilities gives it a lot more depth than it would otherwise have had.

While I found Claudia’s story to be a bit predictable, I still enjoyed taking her journey with her – a journey from slightly confused girlfriend who really wants a permanent commitment, to what is, eventually, a healthier, more mature version of herself. She’s likeable and relate-able, which is exactly what romance heroines should be.

Then there’s Adam. Geeky. Smart. Affectionate. Dead-sexy. And he happens to be in a wheelchair. What made this book more than ‘just’ a romance novel was how deftly the author, Annabelle Costa, handled Adam’s disability. She made it one facet of his character, but not necessarily a defining facet, and even used it to give him a super-sexy advantage that he would not have otherwise had. For a minute or two, I wanted to date Adam.

I liked the use of time-travel, something that is definitely not a typical romance trope. As I said, I found the plot twist a bit predictable, but it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the story.

If you want a fun, fast, read with great characters and a couple of really hot love scenes, you should definitely check out The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.

Goes well with Pad Thai and iced Thai tea.

TLC Book Tours

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

Review: At the River’s Edge by Mariah Stewart

About the book, At the River’s Edge

At the River's Edge

After taking stock of her life, Sophie Enright has decided it’s time for a break. Between a law career that’s become criminally dull and a two-timing boyfriend she’s done with once and for all, Sophie desperately needs some time to think and some space to breathe. The perfect place to do both is easygoing St. Dennis, Maryland, where Sophie can visit with her brother while she figures out her options. Once in St. Dennis, she discovers a shuttered restaurant and makes a bold move that is also a leap of faith. Sophie buys the fixer-upper in order to finally pursue her dream career.

But Sophie’s labor of love becomes a bone of contention for her new neighbor Jason Bowers. The local landscaper has big plans for growing his business—until Sophie scoops up the property he’s got his eye on. And no amount of buyout offers or badgering from him will get her to budge. It’s hardly the start of a beautiful friendship. But when they’re paired up to work on a community project, they agree to put their differences aside, and sparks begin to fly. Then Sophie’s cheating ex suddenly shows up, looking for a second chance—and threatening to make Jason a third wheel just when his hotheaded feelings about Sophie were turning decidedly warmhearted. All Sophie wants is a new life and a true love. But what are the odds of having both?

Buy a copy:

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About the author, Mariah Stewart

Mariah Stewart

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and their dogs amid the rolling hills and Amish farms of southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she gardens, reads, and enjoys country life.

My Thoughts

I was first introduced to Mariah Stewart’s series of novels The Chesapeake Diaries, when I received a box containing the first six books in the series late last year. It was cold and wet, and they were great books for that kind of weather, because they fall into a favorite category of mine: small town, beach novels.

At the River’s Edge is the most recent addition to the series, and like it’s predecessors, it takes place in the same continuity, the same version of life on the shores of Chesapeake Bay, in a small town with cute shops and colorful characters. Having lived in not one, but two, such towns (though not on the Chesapeake), I can assure you that Stewart’s depiction of those two elements, and of small town life in general, is dead-on.

This particular novel was a bit weird for me, only because the man who dumps protagonist Sophie in the beginning (well, actually she dumps him after catching him cheating on her) shares my husband’s first name. Once I got beyond that, and into the meat of the story, I was happily entranced by Sophie’s desire to restore a diner. In fact, in many ways this book could have been about me, because I grew up visiting a family diner owned by my cousins, and when it closed, I would happily have bought it, if I’d had the cash.

I was equally enamored with landscaper and love-interest Jason, and I liked the way their relationship began as one of antagonism before passion turned on both characters and things got warm and cozy between them. Was this a bit predictable? Yes. Does that mean the story isn’t enjoyable? No.

Some people might consider Stewart’s books, and others like them, to be fluff. I disagree. I think that at a time when our science fiction and fantasy are dominated by zombies and post-apocalyptic futures, it’s nice to have books that aren’t afraid of sweetness or sentimentality. Stewart writes fantastic characters in ‘normal’ lives, and she does it in a well that makes her books not merely compelling, but downright addictive. Not to mention, the vast majority of the women in her novels are smart, savvy, and own their own businesses. How empowering!

Goes well with hot pastrami on rye with a side of cole slaw and a vanilla cream soda.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour. For more information, click here.

Review: The In-Between Hour, by Barbara Claypole White

About the author, Barbara Claypole White

Barbara Claypole White

Barbara Claypole White writes and gardens in the forests of North Carolina. English born and educated, she’s married to an internationally-acclaimed academic. Their son, an award-winning poet / musician, attends college in the Midwest. His battles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have inspired her to write love stories about damaged people. The Unfinished Garden, Barbara’s debut novel, won the 2013 Golden Quill for Best First Book. The In-Between Hour is her second novel.

Connect with Barbara


My Thoughts

“Hannah sank down in front of him and eased his head onto her chest. In the distance, bottles and cans clunked into the recycling truck. Their world was imploding, and it was recycling day.”
~Barbara Claypole White, The In-Between Hour

That paragraph, from near the end of The In-Between Hour (but no spoilers, I promise), is one of the perfect human moments that made me fall in love with Barbara Claypole White’s second novel. She has these moments all through the story, and every time, they make me nod or smile, not necessarily because they’re funny, but because they come from a place of truth.

I confess I was a bit leery when I realized this was technically a Harlequin novel. Okay, it’s Harlequin/MIRA, but still…they do have a reputation for being more than a little bit, well, fluffy.

But In-Between Hour, while a romance, is anything but fluffy.

Instead, it’s a lovingly constructed glimpse at a man grieving for his lost child and coping with a father who is showing signs of either Alzheimer’s or dementia, and a woman who gives as much time and energy to saving animals as she does to caring for her (adult) children, one of whom is quite broken. It’s also the story of an aging father trying to save his memories of love and loss while still being a parent (because you never quite stop) and another woman, who is a friend to all but doesn’t always love herself as much as she should.

It’s a story about real hearts, all of which are slightly cracked or dented, as happens in this journey we call life, and it’s a story about how if we’re supremely lucky we can find a person – or people – whose damage doesn’t clash too much with our own.

Author White handles everything with finesse and an attention to detail that is both elegant and entrancing. Her dialogue feels real, and her characters feel like people you might encounter – funny, flawed and fabulously three-dimensional.

I like that she sets up a possible “perfect ending,” but leaves things loose enough that free will still plays a part, and I like that all of her characters have their own intelligence, even though some of them aren’t necessarily well-educated.

Most of all, though, I liked that even though this was a conventional romance in many ways, The In-Between Hour was unconventional enough to keep me interested from the first page to the last.

Goes well with coffee with a touch of egg nog instead of cream, and chocolate gingerbread with candycane frosting.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a virtual book tour. Click HERE to visit the tour page and see the list of stops.

Review: The Howling Heart by April Bostic

About the book, The Howling Heart

The Howling Heart

Paige Donovan is an ambitious college graduate who aspires to reach the top of the corporate ladder. She’s climbing fast when she’s given the promotion of a lifetime at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City. Her bright future comes to an unexpected halt after news of her father’s death. She inherits his old cabin in the Colorado Rockies, and just when she thinks her luck couldn’t get any worse, she has a car accident in the mountains and awakens in the small, remote community of Black River.

Soon, she’s engulfed in the mystical world of Varulv–wolves descended from 13th century Scandinavia and blessed by Norse gods with the ability to appear human. Paige is desperate to return home, but she never expects to fall for her rescuer, Riley Gray, a charming young werewolf from England who offers her an alternate future with his pack.

Now, she must choose between the career she’s always wanted and the love she’s always dreamed.

Buy a copy from


About the author, April Bostic

April Bostic is a New Jersey-based, Adult Romance author who enjoys unleashing her creativity and letting her imagination run wild. Her love of romance books inspired her to become not just a reader, but also a writer. In December 2008, she self-published her first novel, a contemporary romance with a supernatural twist entitled A Rose to the Fallen.

Her first short story, “Right Here, Right Now,” released in January 2012, is an erotic romance with a dash of S&M. The following year, she released two more short stories: a romantic urban fantasy inspired by the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche entitled “Eros, My Love”, and a sexy romantic comedy entitled “Love Addiction.”

After five years, she released her second novel, The Howling Heart in August 2013, a paranormal romance that delves into the mystical world of werewolves and Norse gods. To end her busiest year in publishing, April will release her fourth short story in December 2013, an 18th century paranormal romance entitled “A Dark Scandal.”

Connect with April

Goodreads: April Bostic

My Thoughts

Having spent several of my formative years in small towns in the Colorado Rockies, I had absolutely no trouble accepting that there could be a town that wasn’t easy to find, harboring a community of people who aren’t werewolves, except when they are. Actually, about the only thing that really challenged my willing suspense of disbelief in regard to The Howling Heart was that Paige could be working at Elle and getting a fat promotion so soon after college. (Kudos though, for making it Elle, I love Elle.)

But that’s a small quibble about a book that I otherwise found to be both engaging and enjoyable. As a reader, I might have questioned Paige’s choices, but when you’re young, grieving, and caught up in a combination of attraction and nostalgia, you don’t always make smart choices.

But I’m backing into this review, so let me start over:

April Bostic’s The Howling Heart gives us a new spin on werewolves. These aren’t blood-thirsty creatures out for a quick human-shaped snack, but people who live more in tune with the land, in a culture influenced by Norse mythology and shaped by the modern world. It’s an interesting juxtaposition – as the male lead/love interest Riley Gray points out – they eat spaghetti Bolognese when in human form, and take meals on the hoof when…not.

It’s also an interesting twist on the conventional romance novel tropes. Yes, Paige is young and has a career that doesn’t quite match her age, yes, Riley is hot-hot-hot and super-sensitive, but somehow it all works to create a magical bubble, a sort of wolfy Brigadoon surrounded by aspen and pine trees instead of heather.

The element of mystery – what did Paige’s father know, and when did he know it? – only adds to the story. Romance and mystery have always been compatible, however, so this should not be at all surprising.

Author Bostic write dialogue that doesn’t sound stilted, and puts enough flavor into her foreign-born characters that they don’t sound American but also don’t sound like caricatures. It’s a tough balance for any writer, but she’s nailed it.

Likewise, the supporting characters – Paige’s father, who dies before we really know him, Riley’s sister Quinn, and their father and stepmother – are all given lovely moments to show off their dimensions.

If you enjoy a good romantic romp, with a dash of supernatural spiciness, The Howling Heart is for you.

Goes well with a hearty bowl of venison stew and crusty brown bread, and a glass of hard cider.

TLC Book Tours

This review is part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours. Click here for the list of tour stops.

Review: Secrets Clad in Light, by Kyra Gregory

Secrets Clad in Light
by Kyra Gregory

Product Description (from
London, 1888. Henry decides to abandon all social conventions and rescue his lover, Seth, from an abusive household. He has replayed the moment in his head and has always known it wouldn’t be easy. He has never thought that it would be Seth who would cut his time too short. With Seth barely breathing, Henry must make the hardest decision of his life: try to save Seth, possibly condemning him to a life of suffering, or let him pass on in peace. But the arrival of a young stranger forces Henry’s hand, doing little to ease his qualms of uncertainty as everything he thought he knew changes.

Caught between self-doubt and his own selfish desires Henry learns to fight it all, using this stranger as a light to shine on what he hopes is the right path… All the while aware that there is still so much he doesn’t yet know…

My Thoughts:
Like many mystery lovers, my introduction to Victorian England was through the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. While Kyra Gregory’s novel Secrets Clad in Light doesn’t feature any detectives at all, she’s captured an underside of London that Holmes and his Baker Street irregulars would find familiar. Add to the general mood a subterranean lair in the sewer tunnels and, later, and abandoned bakery turned into a home, and the vivid descriptions will have you (at least at times) wishing for a hot shower and a change of clothes.

But a sense of place is only part of a story, and in the other parts – character and plot – Gregory does not disappoint. Her lead character, Henry is complex and three-dimensional. You see his love for Seth, his concern for him, his concern that he is forcing a relationship, or not making the right choices. In the mysterious Mary, part healer, part helpmate, we glimpse the way women of this period were still hobbled by the conventions of society. And then there’s Seth, Henry’s love, who is injured in the first pages of this novel, and remains essentially mute through the end of the book. In other hands, such a character would fade into near-nonexistence, but Gregory uses body language and non-verbal noise to convey his thoughts and feelings, and leaves us with a man who is no less vivid as his speaking associates.

Also of note is Gregory’s choice to do a period romance about two men. While the story is, itself, chaste (especially as modern romances go), in the late 19th century, such a relationship was certainly not one that would ever be displayed openly – even if “openly” meant “to other denizens of the sewers.” Still, the book puts plot and setting above social commentary. The lovers happen to both be men, but that relationship serves the story without overpowering it.

It struck me, as I was writing interview questions (check back here on 9/25 for the answers) for the author, that the late 19th century, right at the cusp of electricity obliterating gaslight, was really the last time that people in the modern world could live “off the grid.” I have to wonder if that knowledge inspired the author at all, but whether or not it did, Secrets Clad in Light is eminently readable, and even has a compelling twist ending.

Goes well with a steaming mug of English tea (Darjeeling perhaps?) and a bowl of stew.

Review: Cougar of Spirit Lake

Cougar of Spirit Lake
by Linette Eller

Product Description (from

Appearing at the foot of the bed where the beautiful woman is giving birth to a daughter, the huge cougar sits quietly because he knows all that is to be and sees all that is. Yet this is only the beginning of the long trek for the mystical giant cat and the girl as she grows into womanhood.

You will be taken on a journey through love, the supernatural, mystery, intrigue and murder. Traveling from the Ohio River Valley in the 1800’s to the majestic Rocky Mountains and Spirit Lake, the mysterious lake where Winter Woman waits patiently. Winter Woman who is Legend, as is her son, the handsome, sensuous Chief, both knowing without knowing and sharing the mystic power of the Cougar of Spirit Lake.

My Thoughts
I picked this book to read because even though I’m allergic to domestic felines, I’m a strong LEO, and love anything remotely to do with big cats. I was intrigued by the paranormal romance aspect of the story, as well as the rugged landscape.

Although the opening chapter made me re-think my choice of reading material for a minute – it was awfully similar to formulaic romances for a few pages there (not that there’s anything WRONG with those novels) – but very quickly I was hooked on the story, and not at all disappointed. Eller’s female characters are strong, vital, interesting women, and the men in their lives are fully-realized, and not the cardboard cut-out types of men who populate so many romances.

And then, of course, there’s the Cougar, but I can’t elaborate about that without spoiling the story.

Trust me on this: read this book, you will love it.

Goes well with: cheese enchiladas and sweet tea.

Teaser Tuesdays: Belladonna, by Anne Bishop

On Teaser Tuesdays readers are asked to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.

My teasers are:

As she turned away from the mirror, she was drawn to the watercolor that hung on the wall next to her bed. Titled Moonlight Lover, the view was of the break in the trees near Sebastian’s cottage, where a person could stand and see the moon shining over the lake. The dark-haired woman in the painting wore a gown that was as romantic as it was impractical, and looked as substantial as moonbeams. Standing behind her, with his arms wrapped protectively around her, was the lover. His face was shadowed, teasing the imagination to find the details, but the body suggested a virile man in his prime.
~Belladonna, by Anne Bishop. Page 61.

The Rest Falls Away

by Colleen Gleason

I’m not a huge fan of the Regency period, and especially not a fan of Regency romances. All those demure teas and heaving bosoms tend to cause a lot of eye-rolling around here. When an author takes the time to visit my blog, however, and pitch her own work, without being at all arrogant, but just being another blogger, I take note. Colleen Gleason left a comment here a few weeks back, and even though the period her Gardella Vampire Hunter series is set in is not my favorite, I’m a sucker for bloodsuckers being offed by spunky heroines, so HAD to check out her work.

The Rest Falls Away introduces us to Victoria Gardella Grantworth, debutante (though a little older than the other young women coming out that year, due to family issues), and the latest to be called to the family tradition of vampire hunting. In this – being chosen rather than doing the choosing – she is not unlike the more modern Buffy, whom the author herself notes is an influence.

What follows, once Victoria takes up her stake and commits to her destiny, is not bodice ripping (a little slow unbuttoning, perhaps…) or bosom heaving, but a realistic presentation of what a female action hero would have had to deal with if living in such a time. Skirts not meant for running and fighting, pants not acceptable on the female form, sleeves meant to be frothy rather than fitted…fashion alone is a major issue, and not just in terms of where one can hide a stake.

There is, of course, requisite romance with Phillip, the Marquess of Rockley, and – as always happens when one of the characters is a hero – romance is not a reward as much as yet another thing to be balanced and protected, or pushed aside when a life must be saved.

Gleason’s characters all ring true, even those like Sebastian the owner of the vamp-friendly bar who are a bit over the top, and her plot moves at a comfortable pace. Maybe I was inspired in part by the season – I’m writing this review having just given the last of my candy to a stray trick-or-treater, after all – but not only could I not put this book down, I’m already a third of the way through the sequel.

You’ll note Ms. Gleason’s presence in my blogroll. You’d do well to include her works on your shelves.