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!

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#31 A Review of A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1) by Tessa Dare

I’m still fairly new to the world or romance novels. There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of them out there.  What can I say? Women are suckers for romance and hot men.  Throw in some Earls and Dukes and you can pretty much bet we’ll swoon all over them.  When I found out about The Spindle Cove trilogy by Tessa Dare I was intrigued because it had all the important makings of a good romance and then some.  Dare’s unique approach to the female characters is what drew me in for the first in the trilogy, A Night to Surrender.

Victor Bramwell (Bram)  is desperate to get back to his military lifestyle.  He’s suffered having to take time away from his regiment to heal his leg which was shot in battle.  With many military men hesitant to give him back his post he finds a last hope in his father’s old friend, Finch.  Finch is an old military man himself and sees fit to bestow the title of Earl of Rycliff on Bram, as well as a promise of his regiment back if he will stay in Spindle Cove for a month and establish a militia.  This is easier said than done, however, as Spindle Cove has developed a reputation as a retreat for spinsters and those women who don’t typically conform to the strict norms of society.

This “Spindle Cove” haven was begun by Finch’s daughter Susanna after a childhood illness left her too weak to be what society expected of her.  During a season she spent in London, she saw other women needing a safe retreat and began inviting them back to the cove in the hope that it would become a refuge for those who were different.  Whether they were of frail constitution or not the model of a genteel woman of the time, the women that Susanna brought to Spindle Cove were grateful for her assistance.  Although Bram decides that he will have nothing to do with Susanna and her retreat, he becomes more interested in Susanna as time passes, realizing that he needs her if he expects his militia to be a success.  Although Susanna has sworn off men in fear of what it could do to Spindle Cove’s reputation, she realizes that there is a strong attraction between herself and Bram.  Will Susanna slowly warm to the inevitable chemistry that is growing between them?  Will Bram get the militia in line and win back his regiment?

Why am I recommending that you read this book? Simply put, it is Dare’s approach to the female heroine.  In no way shape or form is Susanna your typical romance novel heroine.  She’s not a dreamer, waiting for the right man to come along and make her whole.  She’s a strong, independent, brilliant woman, who cares for the lives of the women of Spindle Cove as much as she cares for her aging father.  Spindle Cove is more than just her refuge, it’s a part of her.  When her entire back-story was revealed I stared at my Nook in shock.  Dare has her go through a multitude of unfortunate events that lead her to becoming the woman she is.  Her willingness to help everyone in the town and take all of their problems and misfortunes on her own shoulders is extremely admirable.  Bram on the other hand, is not your typical hero.  He’s got a chip on his shoulder and a lot to prove.  His military upbringing has him scared to believe anything else is possible for him, including a family.  The way that Bram and Susanna need each other is so damn romantic.

There is absolutely NO WAY you can read this book and not fall in love with Bram, Susanna, and the other residents of Spindle Cove.  This book is filled with romance, danger, and intrigue, surely leaving you on the edge of your seat for the entire read.  I do want to point out that there are mature love scenes, but my are they good ones.  Keep your eye out for the lovemaking that happens underneath a large tree in the field.  Honestly, that scene is one of the best love scenes I’ve read in a romance novel to date.  Dare does a fantastic job at setting up the story for book two in the series, A Week to Be Wicked.  (Of course I downloaded it to my nook at midnight on its release date!)  So, if you’re in the mood for a fun and intriguing romance with characters that are different from the norm, definitely check out A Night to Surrender.

5 out of 5 Stars

This is my fifteenth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge

A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
Avon Books (2011)
eBook: 312 pages
ISBN:  9780062049841

The March Round-Up

Holy crap. Where did March go? March was a JAM packed month of busy-ness for me! I am happy to report though that I had my best reading month ever! 21 books in one month! That’s ALMOST a book a day. Yippee!!  I’m not sure how I had such a hardcore book binge this month because I was stuck doing about 1,000 other things.  The 21 books brings my year-to-date total up to 49 books.  I’m almost half way to my total goal for the year!

Todd and I made more trips to NYC this month. (This is beginning to happen like every other weekend) Anyway, I was fortunate to get to meet up with two of my very good Twitter friends, Christine and Stacey, for the first time and experience Newsies on Broadway with them! I had the absolute time of my life.  The three of us have been conversing of our love for Newsies the movie for months and months and months.  When the news came out that it was hitting Broadway the three of us immediately started making plans.  Turns out Christine was flying to NY in March anyway to meet up with another friend, and decided that a trip to see Newsies was a necessary addition to her agenda!  We had fantastic seats, the play was amazing, and it couldn’t have been a better weekend (celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in NYC is also not too shabby).

Dad, Christine, and Mom

The following weekend we again traveled to NYC, this time for my sister Christine’s thesis defense.  She has worked tirelessly for the past six years and was granted her PhD with distinguished honors.  Needless to say my entire family is extremely proud of her.  She was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college, get a master’s degree, and we can now add getting a PhD to that list!!  We had a fabulous celebration for her that included beers and karaoke.  (Honestly, is there anything better?)

The day after her defense Todd and I went to go see Spiderman: Turn Off the Lights on Broadway.  We had fantastic seats right in what is called “the landing zone”.  For those unfamiliar with the show, the actors frequently fly off and on to the stage via harnesses on the ceiling to stimulate Spiderman’s “web-action flying”.  It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life.  The choreography needed to do the stunts must have taken forever to put together.  It was really impressive.

Besides all of the above I’ve kept busy with our bowling league, Relay for Life meetings, and some follow-up doctor visits for Todd. Thankfully, it seems he’s back to the state he was in prior to his accident. (Read my February Round-Up for more info)

Of everything I’ve read this month, my favorite book was A Million Suns by Beth Revis!  I cannot wait to write my review and share it with you.  A Million Suns is the second book in the Across The Universe Trilogy.  I have 11 months to go before the third and final book in the trilogy is being released.  I am slowly going mad with the wait….

I tried to keep my book selections eclectic as always, but wound up reading a ton of romance novels!  This has to do mainly with my discovery of Tessa Dare and Marie Force.  Both women wrote romance series that had me hooked.  Marie Force wrote the McCarthys of Gansett Island series, which currently has five books in it.  My review of book one, Maid For Love, is here.  Tessa Dare wrote two series that roped me in: The Wanton Dairymaid Trilogy and the Spindle Cove Series.  Coincidentally, Dare just released the second book in the Spindle Cove Series on March 27th. (yes, duh I bought/read it at midnight)  My reviews for all the books in these three series will hopefully be completed by mid April.  I owe y’all so many reviews it’s crazy.

April is lining up to be a pretty exciting month.  Adam’s got a historical fiction review coming, Todd has some more science fiction and fantasy reviews, and Charlie’s working on film reviews of The Hunger Games and John Carter.  I’ve got some exciting books to tell you about this month including The Flower Reader, The Kitchen Daughter, Across the Universe, and A Million Suns!  Author Regina Jeffers will also be guest posting this month in celebration of her new book The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, slated for an April 10th release!

Belle!

In closing I’d like to wish my beautiful kitten Belle a happy 5th birthday.  She’s been with me since my senior year in college, and I don’t know what I’d do without her cute face greeting me when I get home everyday!

I think that pretty much sums up March! As always let me know what you’ve been reading and any recommendations you’ve got for me!

Happy Reading =)