Playing Catch Up: Novella Edition

Continuing on with my trend of catching up on reviews, I present the novella edition!  A lot of the books/series I’ve been reading lately have had novellas attached to them, helping me increase my total reads for the year.  Even though they’re shorter in length I still believe they deserve to be counted towards my total goal.  (Some of them are really freaking good!) So, without further ado….

#70 Once Upon A Winter’s Eve (Spindle Cove #1.5) by Tessa Dare – summary from Goodreads:

Violet Winterbottom is a quiet girl. She speaks six languages, but seldom raises her voice. She endured bitter heartbreak in perfect silence. The gentlemen aren’t beating down her door.  Until the night of the Spindle Cove Christmas ball, when a mysterious stranger crashes into the ballroom and collapses at Violet’s feet. His coarse attire and near-criminal good looks would put any sensible young lady on her guard. He’s wet, chilled, bleeding, and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue.   Only Violet understands him. And she knows he’s not what he seems.  She has one night to draw forth the secrets of this dangerously handsome rogue. Is he a smuggler? A fugitive? An enemy spy? She needs answers by sunrise, but her captive would rather seduce than confess. To learn his secrets, Violet must reveal hers—and open herself to adventure, passion, and the unthinkable… Love.

The amazing thing about Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series are the heroines.  At first glance they are a mish-mosh of odd women.  They’re shy wallflowers and women interested in science; they’re the women that don’t fit into “normal” society.  Dare gives these women a safe place (Spindle Cove) to come into their own, heal from the pain of being outsiders from society, etc.  It’s her use of the unusual heroine and their creative backstories that make this series so special.  Dare’s superb writing style is also something to note here.  This novella runs at an extremely fast pace, but Violet’s story is so enchanting that you don’t mind.  I can’t tell you about the hero of the story, as it’ll ruin the surprise, but suffice it to say he’s proof that the cards life deals to us aren’t always what we expect.  But, with time and an open mind and heart, we can learn lessons from each instance and grow.

Final thoughts: Add this novella AND this series to your to-read list. (Book one is A Night to Surrender and book two is A Week To Be Wicked)

5 out of 5 Stars

Once Upon A Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare
Samhain Publishing, Ltd (2011)
eBook: 233 pages
ISBN: 9781609288822

#71 Forevermore (Jewel Trilogy #2.5) by Lauren Royal – summary from Goodreads:

England, 1667

Sensible Clarice Bradford is content in her widowhood. She has a pretty one-room cottage and a lovely little daughter, and the last thing she wants is another husband. Until one fairytale evening when she’s invited to a wedding at a castle…

Scottish gentleman Sir Cameron Leslie is smitten with the shy, English beauty at first sight. He’s fiercely drawn to the very strength and independence that make her unwilling to throw caution to the wind and bestow her heart on a younger man. Though passion flares between them, it will take everything Cameron can muster to reawaken Clarice’s long-forgotten dreams of true love…

Forevermore is part of Lauren Royal’s Jewel Trilogy.  The events take place after books one and two (Amethyst and Emerald) but before book three (Amber). Royal, as we’ve come to expect from her, gives us amazingly tortured characters that we can’t help but fall in love with.  

Clarice is a woman who was dealt difficult blows in her life.  She was married at the tender age of 15 to a man who was almost three times her age.  Not only was he much older than her, but you’re lead to believe he was physically and verbally abusive.  Years after his death Lord Cainewood (of Emerald) brings her a little girl who is need of a home.  Having always wished for children she takes the little girl in, vowing it will be the start to a happier life for herself.  It’s been a year since she adopted Mary and her life has never seemed happier.  Cameron, on the other hand, has led a sort of charmed life, living in Scotland and caring for his family’s ancestral lands.  Until seeing Clarice at his cousin’s wedding he realizes he’s never been in love (how sad!!).  Watching him try to win Clarice’s heart and squash her fears with his tenderness and kindness was joyful.  His scenes with little Mary were beautiful and made me love him even more!

Final Thoughts: If you haven’t yet added this series to your to-read pile you’re seriously missing out.

4 out of 5 Stars

Forevermore by Lauren Royal
Novelty Books (2012)
Paperback: 185 pages
ISBN: 2940014071192

#72 Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan by Mary Lydon Simonsen – summary from Goodreads:

While Jane Bennet is recuperating at Netherfield Park, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are frequently thrown into each other’s company. Despite initial resistance, the pair find that their first impressions are changing, especially after Lizzy overhears a conversation between Darcy and Charles Bingley using the language of the fan. Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan is a short story showing how two people come together through a series of comical miscues.

Those following the blog are well aware of the fact that I’m a huge fan of Simonsen’s writing.  She always comes up with new and creative ways to make us fall in love with Darcy and Elizabeth’s story.  Having read many Regency novels that employ the use of fans by ladies of respectable status, I’ve been curious about what all the motions of these fans meant.  It was really fascinating to have the “rules of the fan” interjected throughout the story as a plot device.

Once Darcy and Elizabeth become “friends”, they get on a conversation about tombstone markers.  Elizabeth tells him that Mr. Bennet enjoys walking through cemeteries looking for the most unique ones.  Reading the tombstone markers (that Simonsen later told me actually exist) were really funny, and they added a quirky humor to the story.

Final thoughts: Simonsen always leaves me wanting more, and that’s exactly how I felt upon completing The Language of the Fan.  Click here for more of my reviews of Simonsen’s books!

4 out of 5 Stars

Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan by Mary Lydon Simonsen
Quail Creek Publishing (2011)
eBook: 25 pages
ISBN: 2940012938916

#73 Seven Day Loan (The Original Sinners #.5)  by Tiffany Reisz – summary from Goodreads:

A trained submissive, Eleanor will do whatever her master commands…even spend a week with a stranger. Daniel has been a recluse since his wife’s death, and Eleanor’s lover thinks spending time with her will be therapeutic–especially since Daniel is also a Dom.  Despite her defiant streak, Eleanor can’t resist giving in to Daniel’s erotic demands. But while she’ll let him have her body, she’s determined to keep a guard around her heart. Even if Daniel wants to make Eleanor his permanently….

Seven Day Loan is a prequel to Reisz’s The Siren , a prequel that I of course would read AFTER reading The Siren (oh well).  The biggest OMG” moment of The Siren is when you find out what Soren’s profession is.  His profession is discussed in Seven Day Loan hence why I suggest reading it after, making the reveal in The Siren more of a surprise.

ANYWAY – Seriously, you must read this. Daniel is heavenly.  The time he and Nora spend together is HOT and it definitely helps us get to know Nora just a bit more.  She is an enigma of a character, one that I’m anxious to keep learning about.

As expected Reisz’s writing style is exquisite and leaves the reader wanting more.  I can’t get enough of her stories and am greatly looking forward to the publication of book two in The Original Sinners series, The Angel, in September.  Reisz has a number of sequels to Seven Day Loan, as well as The Siren posted for FREE on her website.  Click here to read them!

Final thoughts: Read it. No, seriously. Read it.

5 out of 5 Stars

Seven Day Loan by Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin (2010)
eBook: 34 pages
ISBN: 9781426851599

#74 Bargain with the Devil by Enid Wilson – summary from Goodreads:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy learns of the debacle involving Elizabeth Bennet’s sister several months after he was rejected by Elizabeth, and volunteers to help find her sister, of his own accord.  But what if Miss Elizabeth had requested Mr. Darcy’s aid in just a few days after the disastrous proposal at Hunsford, and he was still very angry with her refusal? What if he decided to be ungentlemanly, and demanded a very particular reward from her in exchange for his assistance?  This steamy, funny Pride and Prejudice what-if short story explores that scenario with wit, emotion and intriguing plot twists that take this perennial favorite to another direction.

Oh man. Where are Austen’s characters that I fell so in love with? Elizabeth? Darcy? Hello? Are you out there? I ask because they were definitely not present in this novella.  For example, there was the inclusion of Elizabeth dressing up as a man to follow Darcy, who teaches her how to “scratch” herself like a man. The entire situation was odd and awkward.  Not only that, but the storyline with Caroline Bingley and black magic was off the wall.

The back and forth between first person and third person narrative made for choppy and somewhat confusing reading.  The actual writing has potential, with the help of some strong editing.  I kept wanting to break out my red pen, but that wouldn’t really help on a nook.

Final thoughts: Skip it.  Try reading Wilson’s Fire and Cross instead.

1 out of 5 Stars

Bargain With The Devil by Enid Wilson
Lulu Press (2011)
eBook: 73 pages
ISBN: 9781447530657

So, there you have it.  The second installment in my “playing catch up” posts.  I hope you enjoy reading these blurbs as much as I enjoy writing them!  Reading and reviewing these novellas has definitely expanded the variety of my reviews this year.  They are fun ways to experience a quick story that is great for those who don’t have the time for a full novel.  I definitely recommend that you add some of these to your “to read” piles at home.

As always, happy reading!

#48 A Review of Emerald (Jewel Trilogy #2) by Lauren Royal

Lauren Royal’s Jewel Trilogy is hands down one of my favorite romantic book series’ that I have read to date. (See my review of book one, Amethyst) The only other series that can come close in my eyes is Tessa Dare’s Spindle Cove series.  Both have really interesting hero/heroines that aren’t weak-minded and make the series worth continuing.  Not only that, but the plots are creative and different!  Enjoying the creativity that the Jewel Trilogy offers, I delved right into Emerald, book two of the trilogy!

A continuation of the tale of the Chase family of England in the 1660’s, Emerald details the life of Jason Chase, the Marquess of Cainewood.  On a quest to bring Geoffrey Gothard, a noted murderer to justice.  Jason searches the countryside, battles with Gothard, who escapes, inadvertently injures an innocent man, and finally passes out due to wounds sustained in the battle.  In Scotland, Caithren Leslie has a problem.  She must marry within the year in order to claim her estate, or else it will revert to her brother Adam, who has not been present for many years.  Caithren, dressed as a man, travels to find her brother and bring him back to sign away the rights to the estate, only to run into Jason on his quest to find Gothard.  Jason soon discovers that this “lad” is actually a lassie, and he surmises that she is the famed Scottish bounty hunter Emerald MacCallum, looking for Gothard.  Although at first Caithren wants to be rid of this “commoner” (Jason does not tell her he is of noble birth), she soon realizes that she is falling for him.  Jason, too, becomes enamored with this mysterious woman, and does everything in his power to not let her get away.  Will they unite?  Will either of them be able to capture Gothard?

I enjoyed the fact that the plot was not essentially driven by events that ultimately made Jason and Caithren get together.  The sub-plots of Caithren searching for her brother and Jason searching for Gothard created depth in a genre that I haven’t typically associated depth with.  Most romances that I’ve read are uni-dimensional, while with Royal’s work we see two individuals whose feelings change over time in response to external events.

As I stated earlier, our hero/heroine combination are anything but weak-minded.  Jason is a moral paragon, constantly trying to do right by those around him and see that justice is served to those who attempt to do wrong to those he cares about.  His entire journey is started because Gothard nearly killed a little girl who lives in the village that is under his care.  A five-year-old girl who is no relation to him still is worthy enough in his eyes to risk his own life in the pursuit of justice for her.  Caithren, on the other hand, is willfully independent and refuses to be backed into a corner by her father’s will.  She will not see her beloved land fall to her irresponsible rolling stone of a brother.  She sets out on her own journey to make sure that if the land cannot be hers without marriage, it falls to her cousin, who is equally deserving of it.  Royal’s creation of all of these characters is a testament to her creative mind, and is also a testament to the fact that romance novels can have just as much depth as any other genre out there.  I highly suggest that if you’re into historical fiction you give this a try, as the history alone is a blast to read, and the dash of romance makes it that much more fun.

4 out of 5 stars

This is my twenty-third completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Emerald by Lauren Royal
Novelty Books (2012)
eBook: 792 pages
ISBN: 2940014066990

#41 A Review of Amethyst (Jewel Trilogy #1) by Lauren Royal

Delving into the romance genre is not for the faint of heart.  You can read a lot of really poorly written romances that just drag on and on and never go anywhere.  I however like to think that reading the poorly written ones allows you to clearly know a gem when you read one.  Lauren Royal’s Amethyst is just that, a gem. (Yes, pun intended!)

Amy Goldsmith (although her real name is Amethyst) is a successful jewelry maker who has quite the unfortunate personal life.  She is scheduled to marry a man whom she does not love in two short weeks.  To make things worse, he wants her to become a stay at home mom, and give up her career, which she is not ready to do.  Although she is stuck, Amy does not want to back out of the marriage for fear of embarrassing her father. She longs for true love, and she gets a glimpse of it when Colin Chase, the Earl of Greystone, enters her shop.  Although she feels that he is definitely above his notice, her life is changed when a fire devastates her shop and home and Colin comes to her rescue.  He takes her to his home to rehabilitate, and although Colin’s siblings take a liking to Amy, he remains distant and asks her to leave as soon as possible.  Amy, however, has begun to have feelings for Colin, and enjoys her time with his family.  Unfortunately for her, Colin is betrothed to another woman, who’s dowry has been spent towards the reconstruction of Colin’s castle.  Unwilling to break up this monetary agreement despite his attraction, Colin is locked in a battle of wills against Amy, who wants him no matter the cost.  Will Colin eventually reconsider and give in to is heart’s desire?

I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction novels that use true events as their backdrop, as opposed to just using a specific time period and developing a story.  In Amethyst that true event is the Great Fire of London in 1666.  As sad as the event was, it is an excellent plot device that sets the reader on a journey of self discovery with Amy and Colin that we certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of without the amazingly detailed and intricate imagination of Royal.

To me, Amy read as a nod to the modern woman.  Your first taste of her modern ideals comes when she stands up to her fiancée, Robert, and expresses her desires to continue being a jeweler.  Robert’s jealousy over her jeweling skills are what drive his desire to have her stay at home and give up her occupation.  After the fire when Amy is able to escape and meet Colin, she continues to hold onto her ideals that she can run the family jewelry business.  Even after finding herself in love with Colin she realizes a marriage between them would end any future she has with her craft.  She forces herself to make a tough decision: choose love or her craft.  Royal does an incredible job weaving this difficult journey of “staying true to self vs heart” effortlessly.  I can honestly say that Amethyst is one of the only historical romance novels that I actually truly believed in the conflict of heart that the heroine and hero go through.  Every romance novel I’ve read has a conflict drawing the heroine and hero away from each other, but it’s rare to find one that has to do with something other than conflicting social classes.  Amy’s need to continue her craft made for a much more interesting conflict.  It was refreshing, honest, and definitely a worthy addition to anyone’s “to read” pile.  Go pick up a copy!

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my nineteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

Amethyst by Lauren Royal
Novelty Books (2011)
eBook: 869 pages
ISBN: 2940013806306