Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 12 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

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Cover Reveal: Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis

Posted February 22, 2017 by Rowena in Promotions | 0 Comments

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes the next sexy, standalone novel in the Heartbreaker Bay series…

CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE - cover

About CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE

Meet cute…

Run for the hills—temporarily. That’s Colbie Albright’s plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie’s so over it that she’s under it. She’s also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she’s pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won’t be a stranger for long.

Make merry…

Spence’s commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn’t have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot—chemistry he’s got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself… just because she’s gorgeous and a great listener…just because she “gets” Spencer immediately doesn’t mean he won’t be able to let Colbie go. Does it?

…and hope for a miracle.

Now the clock’s ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime

Pre-Order CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE in ebook or paperback, releasing 9/26/17

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo| Barnes & Noble

ADD TO YOUR GOODREADS

EXCERPT

The bathroom door opened, and even better than his fantasy, Colbie emerged from a cloud of steam, her willowy body wrapped in one of his towels, her exposed skin gleaming and dewy damp. Her hair had been piled on top of her head, but wavy strands had escaped, clinging to her neck and shoulders.

He couldn’t tear his gaze off of her. There was just something so uncalculated about her, so . . . natural and easy. She was like a beacon to him, which was both crazy and more than a little terrifying.

Clearly not seeing him against the wall, she moved with an effortless grace to the suitcase she’d left at the door. Bending low enough to give him a near heart attack, she rifled through her things, mumbling to herself that she should’ve researched more about how to be a normal person instead of how to kill someone with an everyday object.

“Do you kill a lot of people, then?” Spence asked.

“Motherforker!” she said with a startled squeak of surprise, whirling to face him, almost losing her grip on the towel.

Five days a week, Spence worked out hard in this gym. Mostly to outrun his demons, but the upside was he could run miles without losing his breath. But he lost his breath now.

And that wasn’t his body’s only reaction.

Series Love

Heartbreaker Bay graphic

And don’t miss the previous books in Jill Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay Series, SWEET LITTLE LIES, THE TROUBLE WITH MISTLETOE, ONE SNOWY NIGHT and ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, now available! Grab your copies HERE!

About the Author

Jill Shalvis - headshot

Jill Shalvis

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter SignUp

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and click on the blog button above for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

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Guest Review: So Wrong It Must Be Right by Nicole Helm

Posted February 22, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: So Wrong It Must Be Right by Nicole HelmReviewer: Tracy
So Wrong It Must Be Right by Nicole Helm
Series: Gallagher & Ivy #1
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
three-stars

It’s all fun and games until fantasy gets real . . .

At twenty-seven, Dinah Gallagher thought she’d have it all figured out. Instead, she’s having mind-blowing online sex with a man she knows nothing about and fighting for her rightful place in the family business. Part of that battle means expanding their century-old restaurant by getting the stubborn urban farmer next door to sell them his lot.

But Carter Trask is tired of being pushed around—especially by rich families like the Gallaghers. All he has left is the little farm he’s scratched out of his grandmother’s yard. At least he can blow off steam with the anonymous woman he’s been emailing for the past eight months, who makes his every sexual fantasy come alive—even if it’s only online.

When Dinah suddenly realizes that Carter’s gardens look just like some of her mystery man’s photos, she can’t resist trying to turn her dreams into reality. Against his better judgment, Carter joins in the game. But in real life, passion has a way of becoming very complicated, very quickly. And sometimes the wrong choice can turn out to be oh so right . . .

Dinah Gallagher has had one thing on her mind her entire life: be the Director of Operations at Gallagher’s Tap Room and all the other businesses that the Gallagher’s have their hands in.  Right now she’s working for her Uncle who is the DoO and he’s a complete bastard.  He wants to buys the house/farm nearby and turn it into a parking lot/farmer’s market but the owner refuses to sell.  Dinah believes that if she can get the owner to sell her grandmother, the matriarch of the Gallagher family, would make her DoO.  She heads over but Carter Trask is totally stubborn and refuses.

Dinah heads home looking forward to some online sex with the man she’s been having it with for the past 8 months.  They fool around as their alter egos D & C but something sticks in Dinah’s mind and she looks at his blog again – the way they hooked up in the first place.  She takes a look and realizes that the pictures that C has online of his farm look exactly like Carter Trask’s farm!  She heads to Carter’s and confronts him.  They are shocked but soon decide that they can have sex for real as D & C and leave Carter and Dinah separate.  That doesn’t exactly work and soon feelings are involved which muddles everything.  Can these two supposed enemies be able to work out a relationship when there’s so much against them from the start?

This book had a good premise.  Those who are supposed enemies but trying to make a relationship work.  Something always gets in the way and it did in this instance too.

Dinah and Carter dislike each other intensely but D & C are fine in the bedroom.  They tried so hard to have one or the other but of course no one can live their live their life like that.  Eventually the two parts of their lives had to come together and when they did they had to work out how what they were going to do about it.  I liked the compromise that they made and how they worked with each other to find a common ground.  I guess what I really didn’t like was Dinah.  They were good together but she made me absolutely nuts.  That woman needed a club to the head to knock some sense into her.  She lost her cousin/best friend because of her stubbornness and she still pushed forward to get what she wanted.  I couldn’t really reconcile her work self with her off-work self.  They were such polar opposites that it almost didn’t seem like the same person.  The ending of the book when we got the solution to everything wrapped up with a bow was completely rushed imho.  It was a decision made and then the end.  It definitely felt like there was something missing.

Overall I enjoyed the book but it certainly wasn’t fabulous for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5

three-stars

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Review: Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Posted February 21, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Pretty Face by Lucy ParkerReviewer: Rowena
Pretty Face by Lucy Parker
Series: London Celebrities #2
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: February 20th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 264
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Highly acclaimed, award-winning author of Act Like It Lucy Parker returns readers to the London stage with laugh-out-loud wit and plenty of drama

The play's the fling

It's not actress Lily Lamprey's fault that she's all curves and has the kind of voice that can fog up a camera lens. She wants to prove where her real talents lie—and that's not on a casting couch, thank you. When she hears esteemed director Luc Savage is renovating a legendary West End theater for a lofty new production, she knows it could be her chance—if only Luc wasn't so dictatorial, so bad-tempered and so incredibly sexy.

Luc Savage has respect, integrity and experience. He also has it bad for Lily. He'd be willing to dismiss it as a midlife crisis, but this exasperating, irresistible woman is actually a very talented actress. Unfortunately, their romance is not only raising questions about Lily's suddenly rising career, it's threatening Luc's professional reputation. The course of true love never did run smooth. But if they're not careful, it could bring down the curtain on both their careers…

This book is approximately 96,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you're looking for with an HEA/HFN. It's a promise! Find out more at CarinaPress.com/RomancePromise

Pretty Face is the second book in Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series and it was another winner in my book. I adored Luc. I loved Lily and I really, really loved their romance.

Lily Lamprey’s soap opera career is coming to an end and she’s looking forward to moving on from the homewrecking role she’s been playing for far too long. She’s young and she’s got the rest of her life and career ahead of her but not a lot of people think she’s got what it takes to really make a go of it in the theater world.

Luc Savage is renovating an old West End theater and he’s producing the first play that will debut in the new space and at first glance, Lily is not what he’s looking for in any role on the play. Her voice is all wrong for the theater and not even threats of investors pulling their funding is going to stop him from doing what he wants but that all changes when he meets with Lily and gives her a legit shot. Not only can he see her bringing life to one of the key characters in the play, but he can also seeing her being a star in the theater world.

There’s a huge age difference between the hero and heroine in this one. The hero is 40 and the heroine is 26 but that didn’t matter to me. The romance between the two of them worked well and that’s a credit to Parker’s writing style. There was so much going on and so many road blocks in between the two of these guys that something as small as the age difference just didn’t matter. I liked getting to know Lily and Luc on their own but I adored the two of them together.

They both had lives apart from each other but they were pretty drawn to each other and I liked that. Holly and I were talking just last week about how we’ve been noticing that romance novels these days have the hero and the heroine in each other’s pockets for the entire book. There doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in their lives apart from each other and we miss the couples of old, who had friends and family that were a part of their lives and their stories but that wasn’t the case here. Luc had his family and stuff going on with them whereas Lily had her best friend and family and her own stuff going on with them.

All in all, this was another fabulous read by Lucy Parker and she’s cemented her name on my radar and I will definitely be reading more from her. This was an entertaining novel about two completely different people who came together and made sense. Their love grew with passing page and I was completely on board with their feelings, their passion and their story. It’s a definite recommended read from me.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars

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Sunday Spotlight: The Secret by Julie Garwood

Posted February 19, 2017 by Casee in Features | 6 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be  raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight

I love Julie Garwood. Her books introduced me to a whole new world of romance. I didn’t know what a historical romance was until I read one of her books. I didn’t appreciate humor in historicals until I read one of her books. She remains one of my favorite authors to this day. This book holds a special place in my heart.

The Secret by Julie Garwood
Genres: Historical, Romance
Release Date: May 1, 1992
Publisher: Pocket Books

Judith Hampton was as beautiful as she was proud and loyal. Her dear Scottish friend from childhood was about to give birth, and Judith had promised to be at her side. But there was another, private reason for the journey from her bleak English home to the Highlands: to meet the father she had never known, the Laird Maclean. Nothing prepared her, however, for the sight of the Scottish barbarian who was to escort her into his land…Iain Maitland, Laird of his clan, a man more powerfully compelling than any she had ever encountered.

In a spirited clash of wills and customs, Judith reveled in the melting bliss of Iain’s searching kisses, his passionate caresses. Perplexed by her sprightly defiance, bemused by her tender nature, Iain felt his soul growing into the light and warmth of her love. Surely nothing would wrench her from the affection and trust of Iain and his clan…not even the truth about her father, a devastating secret that could shatter the boldest alliance, and the most glorious of loves!

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This book is about the romance between Judith and Iain, yes. But it’s also about a friendship between two women that nothing could break. Not time, not distance, not politics, not war. It’s about family.

Excerpt

“It will be a hard ride up the mountains, lass, and it would serve you better if you rode with one of us.”

She shook her head. The idea of being so close to the handsome man wasn’t actually displeasing, but she didn’t want him to think of her as inferior. She’d had enough of that in the past to las her a lifetime.

“I’m very fit for this journey,” she boasted. “You needn’t worry about me keeping up.”

Iain held his exasperation. “There will also be times when we’ll have to ride through hostile territory,” he patiently explained. “Our counts are trained to be quiet–”

“My horse will be just as quiet,” she interjected.

He suddenly smiled at her. “Will she be as quiet as you are?”

She immediately nodded.

He let out a sigh. “I suspected as much.”

And this…

“Go inside now, Judith, while I still have enough discipline to let you.”

“If you dislike kissing me so much, why do you continue to do so?”

She look throughly disgruntled. He laughed.

She took exception to that reaction. “You may let go of me now,” she ordered.

“I already have.”

And how can you not love this bit of arrogance?

“Don’t you dare weep,” he commanded.

“You’ve broken my heart.”

“I’ll fix it later.”


I adore this book and you will too. Why haven’t you read it?

Giveaway: We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

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About the Author

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It’s no surprise that Julie Garwood became a writer. Growing up in a large family of Irish heritage, she took to storytelling naturally. “The Irish relish getting all the details of every situation,” she explains. “Add in the fact that I was the sixth of seven children. Early in life I learned that self-expression had to be forceful, imaginative, and quick.”

Creating stories was always a passion for Julie, but she didn’t focus on making it a career until the youngest of her three children entered school. After the publications of two young adult books, she turned her interests to historical fiction. Her first novel, GENTLE WARRIOR, was published in 1985, and there has been a steady parade of bestsellers ever since. Today more than 40-million copies of her books are in print, and they are translated in dozens of languages around the world. One of her most popular novels, FOR THE ROSES, was adapted for a HALLMARK HALL OF FAME production on CBS.

Whether the setting be medieval Scotland, Regency England, frontier Montana, or modern-day Louisiana, her themes are consistent: family, loyalty, and honor. Readers claim that it’s the humor as well as poignancy of her novels that keep them coming back for more. Julie described her goals this way: “I want my readers to laugh and cry and fall in love. Basically, I want them to escape into another world for a little while and afterwards to feel as though they’ve been on a great adventure.”

Julie lives in Leawood, Kansas, and is currently working on her next novel.

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