Tag: Dr Js Book Place

Guest Review: Two Sinful Secrets by Laurel McKee

Posted January 10, 2013 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Another wonderful guest review by Judith!

Every good novelist will testify that the main ingredients in a story are always the same: good characters, a workable plot, and a crisis that brings the story to its most intense point. Almost always that crisis will rest on a bed of dishonesty or secrecy. It never fails to amaze me how many people fear opening up their hearts, their histories, their deepest feelings, always recognizing that most of us have come through some turbulent times relationally and thus, we protect ourselves. Yet, keeping secrets can often be far more destructive than most people anticipate.

It is no secret that this novel involves some fairly hefty secrets—both the hero and the heroine are awash with realities about themselves that are hidden and hidden for a bunch of good reasons. There is no doubt that given the times—the pre-Napoleonic period of European history—and understanding the social norms and rules of male/female interaction, these two characters felt they had viable reasons for partitioning off their lives into the “public” section and the “private” section. No doubt we all do that as most of us are fairly cautious about letting the casual acquaintances we know to have entre into the private sectors of our inner selves. But these two characters have lots that goes waaaaaay back in family history and both find themselves mired in emotions that seemingly have no way of becoming permanent.

Lady Sophia was, for all intent and purpose, a square peg in a round hole. I was almost expecting that the reader would find out she was adopted. She was so out of sync with her family, their expectations of her, their view of how she should behave and fit into the aristocratic social circles that were so important to her parents. Yet this young lady wrecked havoc from her earliest years and all that came to a head when she eloped with a charming and persuasive military retiree who turned out to be far less of an honorable man than Sophia thought. Now she is alone, making her way as best she can, using her considerable card-playing skills to eek out a living, always hoping that in some way and at some future time she could be restored to her family’s good graces. The further I got into the novel the more I became convinced that 1) she really didn’t believe in the deepest parts of herself that such would ever become reality, and 2) she wasn’t really sure she could survive that kind of “death” to who she was.

Dominic, on the other hand, was a man who was very comfortable with himself and his family, with his chosen profession in the theater and as part owner of a gambling club. He was a man who functioned well and was more than pleased to finally find Sophia—a woman who he had met and who had claimed his attention to such an extent that for two years following their one stolen kiss he couldn’t forget her. What she didn’t know about him was that their families had long nurtured a deep antagonism toward one another based on a “legend” that was more than two hundred years old and which fueled their anger toward one another. Sophia had no idea that she had stumbled onto the one man who could cause her heart to race, her blood to heat, and who had stolen her heart before she even knew it was gone—the one man who would do anything to destroy the family she loved even though they didn’t appear to love her in return.

It’s easy to see that these two certainly didn’t have any kind of easy future together if, in fact, they had any future at all. Yet this book is about the power of attraction, the discomfort of struggling with feelings that made no sense in the face of the ancient angers between their two families. Yet it seems that the sexual chemistry was so strong, the attraction so magnetic, that Sophia and Dominic had little hope of resisting. What they were going to do in the long haul remained to be seen.

This novel is beautifully crafted and Sophia and Dominic’s story is couched in the context of an ancient diary, a journal written by the woman whose experience lay at the heart of the old animosity. The reader is aware of all the stresses, the pushes and the pulls that make up their situation, aware that they were either destined to be together or doomed to break each other’s hearts. The flow of the story was such that the reader moves seamlessly from scene to scene, with the author laying out the facets of the story with a deft hand. As with all good novels, there’s also the “bad guy” who has determined that Sophia will be his, and his determination to take her hostage to his plans and desires become more and more cruel and destructive. So all in all, there’s lots going on in this book, lots that will hold the interest and imagination of the reader captive so that most readers, like me, will be sorry the story ends.

I read a lot of books and like most of them. But once in awhile one comes along that really piques my interest beyond the others. This novel is one of those. I can’t say it’s my most favorite novel ever. But it was a truly enjoyable and satisfying reading experience, one I accomplished in one sitting. It’s one I just didn’t put down until the final page. It’s a book that deserves to be read and appreciated and I hope that those who like historical romance will come to enjoy it as much as I did.

I give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5. 

Laurel McKee


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Guest Review: Ripe for Seduction by Isobel Carr

Posted January 3, 2013 by Tracy in Reviews | 3 Comments

Please welcome, once again, my Mama aka Dr. J aka Judith as she gives us another wonderful review of a historical romance.

Few contemporary women really understand what it meant in practical terms to be “ruined.” We know about losing one’s reputation and those of us who are a bit older know that when we were growing up it was imperative that you tried your darnedest to be considered a “good girl” so that you didn’t end up being the object of endless gossip. I don’t think I hated anything more than walking down the school hallways and hearing whispers about one person or another. But as mortifying as that may have been, it was nothing compared to being an aristocratic young lady, one who had been thought in good standing and who everyone thought had “married well,” and then to find out that the upstanding, aristocratic husband was, in reality, a bigamist. To make the wounds even deeper and more deadly was the refusal of one’s own parent to allow her to return to her own home. So it was with Lady Olivia Carlow, ruined in reputation and hardly received by only those at the outer edges of polite society, all for a transgression that wasn’t even hers.

As if all this were not enough, she is now considered “fair game” by the rakes of the ton even though she was in a much more precarious position than if she had been a widow. And it was upon receiving a scandalous proposal from a known rogue that Olivia decided to fight fire with fire. As it turns out, the note had been written when the young man—a second son, at that—had been “in his cups,” and now he is called to task by Olivia herself, and to beat all, she was receiving some of the ladies who were still in favor in society. The last thing Roland Devere wanted to see happen is for anyone who knew him or his family to know the contents of his ill-advised proposition. So Olivia made a counter-offer: she wouldn’t reveal the contents of his missive if he agreed to pretend to be her fiance until the Season was over.

This historical romance is just a bit different in that it is really two stories melded together into one—Olivia’s pretend engagement and its progress over the span of the Season, and the telling of that of Olivia’s father and his entendre for Roland’s sister, a young countess who had been widowed six months earlier when her French aristocratic husband had died. Now home from the French court, she caught the eye of the Earl and their romance was off and running. The dual love affairs makes for very interesting reading and the two stories come together, all caught in the web woven by a disgruntled gentleman who stood to inherit the title from Olivia’s father should he have no other heirs. Henry Carlow appears now and then throughout the story and slowly the reader becomes aware that his plans for Olivia and her father were anything but honorable.

Written with flair and a deft storytelling talent, this historical novel reads well, moving smoothly from scene to scene, from one time frame to the next, from one context on to another. It is a complex novel with the reader wondering if Roland will “come up to scratch” with Olivia, if she will guard her heart sufficiently, and if not, then how does it all play out, especially with the machinations of Henry Carlow in the mix. There’s also the reticence of Roland’s sister Margo to really believe that Olivia’s father truly loves her or perhaps he is just “in lust.” Their affair is far more overt and plays out differently as society allowed widows indiscretions that were considered totally unforgivable for unwed maidens. In truth, Olivia’s situation was like trying to balance on the thin edge of a razor blade, and that tension is part of what keeps the story intriguing throughout.

I have always been a great fan of historical romance as that is what got me reading voraciously during my teen years. Their lure has not dimmed over the years. And as this story takes a somewhat different slant right from the beginning—one doesn’t encounter bigamists often—the reader should be primed for a story that is far different from the normal formulaic historical. I think this is a story that will delight the true lover of historical romance. 

I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.


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Guest Review: Guess What Washed Up On My Shores . . . “The Laird’s Choice” by Amanda Scott

Posted December 20, 2012 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Please welcome my mama to Tracy’s Place.  Some of you know her as Judith, some as Dr. J, some as a guest reviewer on Book Binge and some not at all.  I just know her as Ma.  However you know her, or don’t, just know she writes great reviews and will be hopefully be writing a few more for my blog in the future.  
Duty
Bound . . .
Lady
Andrena MacFarlan has been different since the day she was born. Possessing the
power to sense others’ most intimate desires, she knows her duty is to marry
the man who will take the MacFarlan name as his own and help her father regain
the chiefdom of their clan. But her unique gifts don’t prepare her for the day
when a mighty warrior suddenly enters her life. The attraction between them is
undeniable — and insatiable.

Desire Unleashed . . . Hunted
by brutal enemies, the wounded Magnus Galbraith washes up on MacFarlan land
where he is rescued by a laird’s lovely daughter. Andrena is like no one Magnus
has ever known. She has the uncanny ability to both calm and enflame him in
ways he never dreamed possible. But she has other unknown-and dangerous-powers.
Now, as Magnus seeks to avenge a brother and protect a king, the young beauty
could prove his greatest ally-or his ultimate undoing.

Historical novels aren’t
for everyone.  There are lots of
different kinds of history-based novels that are far less intense than those
written by Amanda Scott but I, for one, happen to like the heavy nature of her
writing.  She is an author that does lots
and lots of research and leaves no doubt in the minds of readers that she knows
this time period backward and forward. 
That being said, this particular novel is set in a time when  Scotland was being torn asunder by political
and clan rivalries, when the reign of Scotland’s king was on the brink of
coming to an end, when the characters in this story were caught in a clan and
family battle for power and position within the Clan Farlan (as it was then
called).    The Lady Andrena’s father,
the rightful Laird, was hopeful that with the marriage of his oldest daughter
he could secure the kinship and loyalty of a strong son-in-law, hopefully a
warrior, and one who would not feel threatened by taking the Clan Farlan’s
family name as his own. 
Thus the stage is set for
the romance of Andrena and Magnus, two very strong people who had learned to
survive under very difficult circumstances. 
Magnus had been taken as a prisoner of war during a clan conflict that
had caused his brother’s death—a death for which his father blamed him and had
essentially disowned him.   For two years
he survived as a galley slave until  he
found opportunity to escape during a timely storm.  He was literally “washed” into Andrena’s life
and when she brought him home—wet, bedraggled, and seeking sanctuary from those
who would again imprison him, the clan laird saw his future son-in-law standing
before him.  Curiously, Andrena predicted
that such would be her father’s response to Magnus’ appearance in their keep.  And so their relationship begins. 
This is a very involved
historical novel and I have to say that if the reader is one who likes a little
history mixed in with their romance, this is probably not the novel for
you.  This story reeks of history and
there were times I felt that the historical content overwhelmed the
romance.  Yet thinking back on that
reading experience, it was the history that made their relationship possible
and which constantly shaped the experiences in which their relationship grew
and matured.  Certainly the marriage was
consummated.  Arranged marriages and
especially those of political necessity never depended on love or romance.  Yet Magnus was a man of his time in many
respects and yet he was one who was attracted to Andrena, recognized that there
were facets of her personality that were, to say the least, mysterious.   Her willingness to fit in with her father’s
plans, to see the rightness of what needed to happen and to accept Magnus’
presence in her life as husband testify to the way she was raised and to the
fact that her father had treated her as a person of worth, not just a female
handy for breeding. 
It is a credit to this
author that she found a way to feature the relationship between these two very
different people in the midst of a historical context that was so convoluted
and mired with war and conflict.  The
characters in the story are both real and fictional, but all are merged
together in a literary tapestry that is seamless so that the reader, especially
one not really knowledgeable of this era, cannot distinguish one from the
other.  It is a novel that testifies to
the fact that even arranged marriages were successful, whether deeply loving or
just grandly respectful  didn’t matter.  In Andrena and Magnus’ case, what began as
political reality and burgeoning respect, gradually grew into a passionate love
affair that gave both these people an opportunity to be loved and cherished
beyond their expectations.
I want to comment also,
that I don’t think the publisher’s blurb is quite as accurate as I would
like.  This romance didn’t begin, to my
way of thinking, with that electric spark or thunderous awareness of deep
potential passion.  I think it started
with a quiet attraction, a set of possibilities that gave Magnus a new start and
Andrena the possible home and hearth she craved, but it was a marriage/romance
that grew quietly and steadily into a grand passion for them both.  Now don’t get me wrong.  They certainly found ways to light up the sheets
almost from the beginning.  But perhaps
this story is more about how their arranged union grew from political necessity
and physical consummation into a bond that made their marriage a true and
loving one.
Ms Scott is a prolific
writer and she just keeps on gracing her readers with some beautifully written
stories.  I, for one, am deeply
grateful.  We all know there are lots of
romance fiction writers and there are lots of levels of expertise and ability
“out there.”  It is a grand thing to
encounter novels that not only tell and really good story but which educate the
mind and memory as well as entertain the soul. 
This is one of those books.

 

I
give it a rating of 4 out of 5

Amanda Scott 
 

If you’d like to read more of Judith’s reviews you can check out her blog Dr. J’s Book Place


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Holiday Eating

Posted December 23, 2010 by Tracy in Reviews | 3 Comments

I’m over at Dr. J’s Book Place today and I’m talking about holiday eating.  
Here…have a cookie and then join me.


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