Tag: Leisure Books

Throwback Thursday Guest Review: A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner

Posted December 10, 2020 by Ames in Features, Reviews | 4 Comments

Throwback Thursday Guest Review: A Lily Among Thorns by Rose LernerReviewer: Ames
A Lily Among Thorns by Rose Lerner
Publisher: Leisure Books, Self-Published
Publication Date: September 2011
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 392
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London 1815, just before Waterloo...

After her noble father disowned her, Lady Serena Ravenshaw clawed her way from streetwalker to courtesan to prosperous innkeeper. Now she’s feared and respected from one end of London to the other, by the lowest dregs of the city’s underworld and the upper echelons of the beau monde, and she’ll do anything to keep it that way.

When mild-mannered chemist Solomon Hathaway turns up in her office, asking for her help, she immediately recognizes him from one fateful night years before. She’s been watching and waiting for him for years—so she can turn the tables and put him in her debt, of course, and not because he looked like an angel and was kind to her when she needed it most.

She’s determined not to wonder what put that fresh grief in his eyes. But after a betrayal even Serena didn’t expect, she must put aside her pride and work with Solomon to stop a ring of French spies and save her beloved inn, her freedom—and England itself.

This review was originally published September 7, 2011

I read Rose Lerner’s In for a Penny last year and really enjoyed it, so I’ve been looking forward to her second book for a while now.  It was worth the wait.

A Lily Among Thorns starts with Solomon Hathaway visiting a brothel with two school chums.  He doesn’t necessarily want to be there and he can tell that the prostitute really doesn’t want to be there.  In desperation (and drunkenness) Solomon gives his lightskirt his whole quarterly allowance and races off into the night.

Five years later and Solomon has entered the Ravenshaw Arms, a hotel with a well-known proprietess.  Lady Serena, aka the Thorn, is known in underground circles as someone who can find missing things (among other skills).  Serena is also the young prostitute whom Solomon’s quarterly allowance allowed to leave her situation.  Serena recognizes Sol immediately, but he doesn’t recognize her until a little bit later.  Sol needs Serena’s talents to locate some family earrings that his sister demands she needs in order to get married and said earrings were stolen a week prior by some highwaymen.  Sol and Serena work out a deal that he’ll stay at the Ravenshaw Arms and do the bed hangings while Serena locates the earrings.  Simple, right?

Not so much, because Serena’s former partner, the Marquis du Sacreval, has returned from France and wants to take the Arms away from Serena.  This is anathema to her because the Arms is her home and something that she’s worked for and proud of.  She also rescues those from her former profession and gives them positions at her hotel.  She has quite a few people counting on her and the last thing she wants to do is hand it all over to Rene.  But he threatens her with a fake marriage license.  By now Solomon has recognized Serena and he’s vowed to help her out…but nothing is that simple and his family, her family, and a ring of French spies are only a few of the obstacles between these two characters.

There was a lot going on in A Lily Among Thorns, but it all came together very well.  I did not even delve into some of the stuff going on in this story.  It had a lot but it was definitely character driven.  And what characters!

First there’s Lady Serena.  She is actually the daughter of an aristocrat who fell for a footman and instead of allowing her father to dictate her life, she ran out.  Yeah she didn’t end up in the best of circumstances, but she took advantage of Solomon’s drunken generosity and made something of herself.  She’s a very strong character who puts up a front in order not to appear vulnerable to former clients who visit her hotel now and then.  She’s also intimidating as hell, with a fierce reputation that makes other unsavory elements quake in their boots when she lifts a sardonic brow in their direction.

Then there’s Solomon.  He is actually an earl’s nephew but who turned his back on the opportunity his rich uncle gave him and went to work for his other uncle in a tailoring shop.  He can match any shade of cloth to the color of your choice.  He is also suffering over the death of his twin, a twin who overshadowed him a bit.  Solomon is very much a non-alpha type of character.  But he has an inner strength that shines through and he has a sense of belonging that appeals to others.  He’s a man who knows what he wants and he makes sure he gets it.  He isn’t in your face about it and that sets him apart from overly-confident alpha types who ooze testosterone.  That’s not Solomon’s style.

So great characters and strong writing are two key elements for why A Lily Among Thorns works for me.  I really like the dynamic between Serena and Solomon.  She can be a bit hard and that’s something that Solomon likes about her.  Solomon also makes Serena believe in herself over the opinion of her extremely disapproving father.  There was also a surprising secondary story that I don’t want to name a romance so much because there was no concrete HEA for those characters (I refuse to spoil the surprise as to who it is) and I would definitely like to see their story wrapped up at a later date.  My only complaint about this book would be the beginning, it took a little while for me to get into what was going on.  But once the story got rolling, I was engrossed.  A Lily Among Thorns gets 4 out of 5 from me.

This book is available from Leisure Books. You can buy it here.


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Lightning Review: The Scarletti Curse by Christine Feehan

Posted January 12, 2011 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Genres: Paranormal Romance

Holly‘s review of The Scarletti Curse by Christine Feehan

Strange, twisted carvings and hideous gargoyles adorned the palazzo of the great Scarletti family. But a still more fearful secret lurked within its storm-tossed turrets. For every bride who entered its forbidding walls was doomed to leave in a casket.

Mystical and unfettered, Nicoletta had no terror of ancient curses and no fear of marriage…until she looked into the dark, mesmerizing eyes of Don Scarletti. She had sworn no man would command her, had thought her gift of healing set her apart, but his was the right to choose a bride from among his people. And he had chosen her.

Compelled by duty, drawn by desire, she gave her body into his keeping, and prayed the powerful, tormented don would be her heart’s destiny, and not her soul’s demise.

I don’t like this book as much as I like Lair of the Lion, but it’s still a good read. I like that Feehan really addresses maidenly modesty here. Too often in historical romance novels the heroines are perfectly comfortable to strip naked for their men – or any discomfort they feel at being naked and wanton is soon forgotten in the glory of the Big O. But that isn’t realistic – a woman’s sense of modestly, especially during historical times, isn’t so easy to overcome. Feehan really showcases the issue here, leaving the heroine with regrets, doubts and many self-recriminations for her sexual behavior. She doesn’t take it overboard, but it inserts just the touch of reality into the story.

I also like the practicality the heroine, Nicoletta, shows. She isn’t given a choice about her marriage, but she does her best to work with what she’s got. I did find myself becoming frustrated with the way the hero, Giovanni, acted, however. His “me man, you woman” routine got old early in the book, as did the way he constantly brushed her aside, ignoring her concerns and fears. He was redeemed in the end, however, because once he opened up and committed himself, he was all in.

This is a dark read, so don’t go into it expecting something light. There are also paranormal elements and things that go bump in the night..all of which make for a fascinating, if at times frustrating, tale.

4 out of 5

This book is available from Leisure Books. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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Lightening Review: Lair of the Lion by Christine Feehan

Posted January 11, 2011 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Genres: Paranormal Romance

Holly‘s review of Lair of the Lion by Christine Feehan

Impoverished aristocrat Isabella Vernaducci will defy death itself to rescue her imprisoned brother. She’ll even brave the haunted, accursed lair of the lion–the menacing palazzo of legendary, lethal Don Nicolai DeMarco. Rumor says the powerful don can command the heavens, that the beasts below do his bidding…and that he is doomed to destroy the woman he takes as his wife.

But Isabella meets a man whose growl is velvet, purring heat, whose eyes hold dark, all-consuming desire. And when the don commands her to become his bride, she goes willingly into his muscled arms, praying she’ll save his tortured soul…not sacrifice her life.

I adore this book. Feehan’s writing style is perfectly suited for gothic novels. Although I generally hate how domineering her heroes are vs how limp her heroines are, this book is a huge exception. Right from the beginning they start out on even ground. The heroine is the beauty, strong and caring, with a solid streak of honesty that makes her stand out. The hero is the tortured beast who knows he shouldn’t keep the heroine for himself but can’t seem to walk away from her.

Everything about this novel works for me. The dark and gloomy castle, the strange howling in the night, the ghosts, the beasts, the dark and stormy weather. But mostly it’s the romance I love. I love that Nicolai falls in love with Isabella in spite of his good intentions, and that Isabella brings out the best in him. They way they care for each other is fabulous, and really brings home what romance is all about. All-in-all a great read.

4.5 out of 5

This book is available from Leisure Books. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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Review: Montana Dawn by Caroline Fyffe

Posted August 26, 2010 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Montana Dawn by Caroline FyffeReviewer: Holly
Montana Dawn by Caroline Fyffe
Series: McCutcheon Family #1, Home in the Heartland #1

Publication Date: September 30th 2011
Genres: Fiction, Westerns
Pages: 295
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MONTANA DAWN - The McCutcheon Family Series, Book 1
2011 VCRW Laurel Wreath Winner, 2010 Maggie Finalist, 2010 Gayle Wilson Finalist , RWA Golden Heart Finalist (Western Historical Romance)
Montana Territory, 1883
When Luke McCutcheon finds Faith Brown about to give birth in her rickety wagon, his first instincts are to ride for help. Instead, he stays and delivers a beautiful baby girl. Unable to leave the pretty young widow and her little son and newborn unprotected in the Montana wilderness, he brings them along on his family's cattle drive, to the absolute delight of the other friendly cowboys.
Luke, third son of Montana's wealthy McCutcheon family, is different from his brothers. As the offspring of a Cheyenne warrior, he carries a chip on his shoulder for all to see. His flashing eyes and handsome face make Faith feel she's stepped into some long-ago tale where men cherish their women--and keep them safe. If only she could trust him! Faith is on the run, and although she's pampered and protected by Luke and his family, she just can't risk the consequences of sharing the details of her past--one that's hunting to take her back to the nightmare she's just escaped. Happy-ever-afters are for fairytales, she reminds herself sternly as her heart feels the warm pull of his. Still, she can't help but dream of a loving family, a home to call her own, a beautiful and bright...Montana Dawn
READ MORE ABOUT THIS GREAT AMERICAN WESTERN HISTORICAL ROMANCE FAMILY IN ORDER: Montana Dawn  Texas Twilight  Mail-Order Brides of the West: Evie  Mail-Order Brides of the West: Heather  Moon Over Montana Mail-Order Brides of the West: Kathryn

Montana Snowfall 
Watch for more McCutcheon Family Novels to come...

Western historical romance, Western historical romance books, western romance, western romance books, historical romance, Pioneer fiction, western fiction, historical western romance books, romance series, series, sweet western romance, frontier romance, novels, fiction, bestsellers, western novels, 

I’m not a huge fan of Westerns. I know Wendy and Sybil adore them, but the time period just isn’t one I care for. That isn’t to say I don’t love Cowboys, because hello…but the Old West has never been my cup-a. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the occasional story, however. Montana Dawn was a sweet novel and I fell right into it.

Luke McCutcheon is surprised when he finds a broken down wagon while he’s out on a cattle drive in the middle of a terrible storm. He’s even more surprised when he finds a young woman inside, about to give birth, with no one to help but a 9 year old. Though he has no experience with childbirth, he knows he has to help her. The experience forms a bond between them, one Luke wants to explore more. But Faith is hiding something from him, and he’s done with lies and deceit.

Faith is a widow and she’s running from her husband’s family. Since his death, they want her to marry her brother-in-law so they can gain ownership to her family farm, which her father willed to her when he died. If her husband was a cruel man, his brother and father are the devil incarnate. Terrified over what might happen to her children, she runs, but she knows they won’t give up until they find her and drag her back home. Which is why she can’t allow Luke close. He’s kind and considerate, and everything she ever hoped to find in a man, but it’s too risky to bring him into her life.

Luke has hangups about his heritage, because he’s a half-breed. His mother was abducted by Indians and he was the result of her being captured. He’s always felt like an outsider and stands apart from his family because of it. But that seems to be his only flaw. He’s kind and considerate, strong and protective. I really loved watching him come to care for Faith. I understood his reasons for feeling separated from the rest of his family. Especially considering how half-breeds were looked upon then. I also understood his reasons for being suspicious of Faith, and wanting her to be honest with him about her past.

In the beginning, Faith was a strong woman who was fighting for her life and those of her children. I really respected her need for independence, but as the novel progressed I felt she took it too far. With her husband’s family hot on her trail, she knows she can’t afford to stay in one place too long. Even though I understood why she felt that way, it was hard not to become frustrated by the way she constantly pushed Luke away. She would lean on him, then clam up and push him away. The back-and-forthing got old.

I also didn’t understand why Luke kept letting her get away with telling lies. He’d catch her in them, but then would back off as soon as she started getting angry at him for pushing. I think their issues could have been cleared up sooner if he’d pushed a little harder. The good news is that Luke figured out what was shadowing her on his own, and was able to help her move past it.

I really adored Luke’s family. They were a tight, close-knit group who obviously cared for one another. It was good to see such a strong family written in such a positive way.

Although I had some problems with both Luke and Faith, I still truly enjoyed this novel. It was a sweet romance, filled with strong characters and true love.

3.75 out of 5

The series:

Montana Dawn
Where the Wind Blows

Where the Wind BlowsMontana Dawn (Home in the Heartland)

This book is available from Leisure Books. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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Review and a Giveway: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Posted July 8, 2010 by Holly in Reviews | 52 Comments

Review and a Giveway: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer AshleyReviewer: Holly
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Mackenzies & McBrides #1
Also in this series: Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, The Duke's Perfect Wife, The Seduction Of Elliot McBride, The Untamed Mackenzie, The Untamed Mackenzie, A Mackenzie Clan Gathering, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage, A Mackenzie Clan Christmas
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 305
Add It: Goodreads
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The year is 1881. Meet the Mackenzie family--rich, powerful, dangerous, eccentric. A lady couldn't be seen with them without ruin. Rumors surround them--of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.

The youngest brother, Ian, known as the Mad Mackenzie, spent most of his young life in an asylum, and everyone agrees he is decidedly odd. He's also hard and handsome and has a penchant for Ming pottery and beautiful women.

Beth Ackerley, widow, has recently come into a fortune. She has decided that she wants no more drama in her life. She was raised in drama--an alcoholic father who drove them into the workhouse, a frail mother she had to nurse until her death, a fussy old lady she became constant companion to. No, she wants to take her money and find peace, to travel, to learn art, to sit back and fondly remember her brief but happy marriage to her late husband.

And then Ian Mackenzie decides he wants her.

This book was released to much fanfare in Blogland last year. I was in a historical slump at the time and decided not to pick it up. Especially since my reaction tends to be the opposite as everyone else’s when something is wildly popular. I’m truly sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner, however. It was a lovely story.

Ian was such a beautifully drawn hero. I made the mistake of reading Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage, the second book in this series, first. Generally it doesn’t bother me, but in this case I think it gave me some wrong impressions about certain things. Ian, for example. He’s written so differently in the second book. Or perhaps not differently, but without the benefit of seeing things from his point of view, he comes across much less…I’m not sure what word I’m looking for, “here” perhaps, or “grounded” maybe? Much less connected, I suppose. I had also formed opinions about some of the other characters that were challenged in this book.

Ian has Asperger’s, a form of autism. Since autism hadn’t been diagnosed then, he was considered insane and put into an asylum. Once his father – a right cruel bastard – died, his oldest brother, Hart, rescued him. Since then Ian has gained a reputation as being an eccentric. He may be a bit odd, but that doesn’t stop polite society from wanting to be seen with him. Especially Sir Lyndon Mather, the man widow Beth Ackerly has recently become engaged to.

Beth is ready to settle into a quiet life. Through a series of unexpected events, she is now a wealthy heiress. At first she wants to get married again, and have the same sort of comfortable life she knew with her first husband. But after Ian explains how Mather has deceived her, she decides she’d rather just travel and perhaps learn to paint, or something equally restful.

Ian warns her away from Sir Mather, who is only marrying Beth to gain control of her fortune so he can further support his perversions. But the strangest thing happens to Ian once he meets Beth face-to-face; he wants her for himself. And once Ian wants something, he stops at nothing until he has it.

Ian is such a refreshing hero. He comes off as arrogant and full of himself, but it isn’t long before we realize he’s just intense. Once he focuses on something it consumes him, leaving him unable to focus on anything else. Once that tunnel vision is focused solely on Beth, I was just as swept away as she was. I love how Ashely took the time to develop his character, showcasing his strengths and his weaknesses. He might be a bit touched in the head, but he’s also brilliant, caring and driven.

I absolutely loved that Beth cared for him almost immediately. She realizes early on that he isn’t like other men – that something truly may be wrong with him – but she doesn’t shy away from him, or look on him with pity. She also doesn’t waver in her belief in him and his basic goodness. Not once does she think him demented, or capable of truly harming someone.

There is a mystery plot woven throughout their romance and courtship, but I wasn’t as interested in that aspect as I was Ian and Beth. It isn’t that it wasn’t well done, and it did add another layer to Ian’s character, but it didn’t grab my attention the way the character development did.

The scene with Ian and Beth at the end reduced me to tears, it was so touching. The way Ian’s feelings for her seemed to blossom over the course of the story was beautifully written. I just wanted to eat him up.

The secondary characters, Ian’s brothers, their valets, Inspector Fellows and Ian’s sister-in-law Isabella especially, really added extra zing to the story. All four brothers were intriguing, and Ashely managed to add their flair to the story without detracting from the main protagonists.

There was a revelation at the end that seemed to come out of left field, especially since I read the 2nd book first and wasn’t given a hint. I’m sure the reason it was brought forward will be revealed in later books, but for now I was left scratching my head over it. Yes, I realize it explained the actions of some of the characters, but otherwise it seemed..odd.

That aside, I felt this was a beautifully told story of love, redemption and acceptance. It really touched my heart.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Mackenzies & McBrides

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