Saturday, September 26, 2015

Complications Afoot: The Reluctant Duchess by Sharon Cullen

Lady Sara Emerson was jolted out of her dull provincial life by her cousin’s murder. Now that the killer seems to be targeting her, Sara seeks help from the man who was once her cousin’s fiancé, Gabriel Ferguson, Duke of Rossmoyne. With his towering frame and fiery personality, Ross cuts an intimidating figure. Living under his protection, however, has its own hazards—like the sudden urge Sara feels to take their relationship in new, exquisitely inappropriate directions.

Dazzled by the social graces of his betrothed, Ross never noticed her shy, blushing cousin. Looking at Sara now, though, he’s drawn to her lovely eyes and calm disposition. Funny how a year away from the hustle and bustle of the tonchanges a man. But Ross has no intention of allowing a woman to interfere with his plan to return overseas. He will simply capture the murderer and set sail once again. The problem is, with her beguiling lips and heavenly touch, Sara makes him never want to leave home—or his bed—again.

I think it is safe to say that I have read hundreds of historical romance novels, short stories, and novellas, and have come to feel that I cannot ever again read one that conforms to one of several formulas that seemed to be the templates all historical novel authors followed.  Most assuredly, there are some authors whose work has indeed set the bar for all who follow, but even those novels often begin to all sound or feel the same.  Such is not the case with this new novel by Sharon Cullen.  She is an author who seems to find bits and pieces to toss into the action of her stories that bring in the twists and turns, the complications and the angst that make a story come alive and stop it from being just another historical.   I am ever amazed at the creativity of some many writers and Ms Cullen is one of them.

Suffice it to say there is a heroine who is reluctant to be one, much less reluctant to become the talk of the ton by marrying one of its most distinguished members.  The Duke of Rossmoyne is known for being the erstwhile fiance of a murdered woman as well as going abroad to India as the Queen's ambassador and peace negotiator.  Returning to London is not his idea and from the moment his foot lands on English soil his life becomes something he has been trying to avoid for years and wants to be shed of as soon as possible.  

Those familiar with the latter years of Queen Victoria's reign will recognize some of the difficulties this man encounters as he is hoping to make quick work of reporting to the Queen and then hastening back to his Indian home.  It is not to be.  Her majesty was known for being a difficult woman to deal with, a troubled woman who has never let go of her grief over the death of her Prince Consort, and who then proceeded to cause almost everyone in the kingdom to take a back seat to that grief.  Thus, Ross is stuck, and in being stuck, he is also made aware of several things he had hoped to avoid.  One, the allure of his dead fiance's cousin, a woman he had previously never noticed;  and two, the danger that arises to her which then causes him to be increasingly concerned for her personal safety.

All in all, this is a wonderful read and one that will please those readers who really love a colorful, complicated, energetic historical romance.  No long drawn out monologues, just lots of interaction and a balanced amount of introspection on the part of the main characters.  Just nicely proportioned, I would say.  And most of all, for those of us who really love the English language, this book is written well, uses good vocabulary, proper tenses, and doesn't overuse adjectives, one of my personal pet peeves.  I highly recommend this novel and hope that all of you who love historical fiction will enjoy it as much as I did.  I give it a 5 out of 5 rating.

Please check out The Book Binge for more really great reviews.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Healing Power of Love, With a Little Kink Thrown In: Lumberjack Weekend by Heather Rainier

Violet Tyler’s heart was broken after discovering she was the third wheel in her big-city ménage. Relegating the idea of being loved by two or more men to fantasy material, she throws her heart and soul into her business, Violet’s Emporium.

Watching from the sidelines while they renovate her emporium, Josh and Lucas Abbott want her more every day and see the way her former lover chips away at her heart each time he pays her a visit. They’ve stretched out the renovation as long as they can and finally it’s time to claim her or let her go.

Invitations to a fantasy weekend at Hazelle House give the three of them a no-strings-attached chance to make her lumberjack ménage fantasies a reality. But when the weekend is over and the real world—and her former lover—come calling, can her ménage fantasy live in the light of day?

Yeah, I know I have been missing for nine months, but that's what happens when you just get knee deep in good books and take a hiatus from the blogging world.  But I just had to share this book as Heather Rainier remains right up at the top of my Favorite Author List and this 21st book in the Divine Creek Ranch Series is one that continues the fine writing and her particular agenda of giving readers sexy, erotic romances with some mystery thrown in from time to time, some social upheaval once in awhile (Grace Warner and her three husbands manage to stir things up from time to time), and lots of folks in this fictional town who have found deep and abiding love in threesomes and foursomes as well as the socially acceptable MF coupling.  Yet this latest book is somewhat different in that it is written around a single weekend event in which these two brothers have an opportunity to finally show their brokenhearted beauty that their regard for her is deeply loving, and to show her how their particular penchant for kink can bring energy and deep trust into a relational configuration that has only brought pain and heartache to Violet in the past.

Our heroine, like so many in real life, longs for the love of a man or men that is respectful, enduring, and one that will continue to grow and deepen over time.  This was her hope as she entered into a Menage relationship in the past, one that ended up hurting her deeply.  She learned accidentally that she was an emotional burden for one man and for her other lover just a woman he loved but not enough to give her access to his whole heart.  So now she has decided that a threesome is not going to ever be hers again.  No, not ever, uh-huh!  Yet the Abbott brothers have a different idea and this weekend gives them the opportunity to change Violet's perspective because the people involved are different.  In this case they both love her unconditionally and are prepared to take her love any way they can get it, as soon as they can get her to admit that they are important to her.

Ms Rainier continues to grow as a writer and her skills just keep on getting better and better.  That is not to say she was ever bad.  I just finished re-reading Divine Grace, the first book in this series, and believe me she hit the ground running and has just kept on giving her fans books that are winsome yet gritty, filled with unique characters that I still think are iconic as they represent so many of the people we meet in life, living out needs and wants that are common  to all of us.  I will comment that there appears to have been less connection in this book with others who have populated the other books in this series.  As this was a single weekend, that is completely understandable.  Simply an observation on my part.  It does not detract from the purpose of the book.  And as in all of her books, Ms Rainier has challenged readers to accept authentic loving relationships regardless of their configurations.  Yet, these are fictional characters, but they teach a lesson about the healing power of love, the power of allowing others to renew us and revive us, especially after experiences that hurt and have have the potential to destroy one's faith in the possibility of a loving future.  This is a book that will challenge all of us to be open to new experiences.  This short novel is powerful in many ways and will be a joy to read for Ms Rainier's fans and perhaps a fun introduction to others who may not have read all her other books in this series.  I, for one, hope she just keeps on giving us the stories that connect us with this interesting community.  

I wholeheartedly give this book a five out of five rating.

Be sure to check in at The Book Binge for more excellent reviews.