Friday, March 14, 2014

Longing For Home: Hope Springs -- Sarah M. Eden

Are you looking for something special to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Give yourself a treat by reading Longing for Home and its sequel Hope Springs by Sarah M. Eden. This set of Irish Westerns from Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance series will touch your heart, and once you read the first one you will not want to wait a minute until beginning the second.

Kate Macauley was looking for a position as a housekeeper. What she got was so much more. Tossed into the middle of an explosive feud between the American farmers and the Irish immigrants in the small town of Hope Springs, Wyoming, Kate never anticipated that she would meet two men and fall in love with them both. Yet her broken heart over the family she left behind in Ireland tears at her soul and just might be enough to cause her to give both of them up, no matter how important they have come to her healing.

A story of redemption, romance, and the constant question, “How can Kate repair the animosity between her beloved Irish and the rest of the community?” Kate faces her situation head on and teaches everyone a thing or two. But blood will be shed and danger appears on her very doorstep. Book one will have you longing for more, and book two may threaten to rip your heart out, but I guarantee you will be satisfied by the choices Kate makes in the end.

Remember to keep a box of tissue handy. You’ll likely need it.

If you'd like to know more about Sarah, and about her series, watch this video:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Blackmoore -- Julianne Donaldson

At eighteen, Kate Worthington knows she should be getting serious about marriage, but her restless heart won’t let her settle down. To escape her mother’s meddlesome influence, she dreams of traveling with her spinster aunt to exotic India. But when the opportunity arises, Kate finds herself making a bargain with her mother: she will be allowed to go to India if she has secured and rejected three marriage proposals while spending a season at Blackmoore, the Delafield family’s estate. Enlisting the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield, Kate sets out to collect her proposals so she can be on her way. But Henry’s decision to help threatens to destroy both of their dreams in ways they could never imagine.

The first half of Blackmoore drew me in like a great mystery set on the moors along the lines of novels by Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, or the Bronte sisters. The intrigue of searching for a secret passageway, the dark of night with only the flicker of a candle to light Kate’s way, and the constant fear of being caught, either by the man she secretly loves—Henry—or perhaps a ghost that lingers in the abandoned wing of the estate was delicious and I could hardly read fast enough to experience more. Unfortunately, this promise was never fulfilled.  Instead, Henry gives her the clue, and they go to the secret spot, but then nothing really happens, losing the momentum of the perfect build up.    

Perhaps the main reason the novel did not completely live up to its potential was the over abundance of flashbacks, with entire chapters dedicated to rehashing earlier life events that might have been sufficiently told with a detail or two within the story. The lack of chronology became confusing and the constant darting into Kate’s memory was annoying at best. Another hundred pages of story and character development, without the use of flashbacks, would have enriched Blackmoore and brought not only the characters, but the setting itself more to life.  

Although the novel is set in Northern England in 1820, and marketed as Regency, not enough tropes of the genre are present to justify the classification. The tension was well crafted at the first proposal, but there needed to be more play with the other potential suitors, especially the young gentleman who seems to be attracted to her. Kate’s rival for Henry's affection is too perfect, and, despite the set-up, there simply is not enough tension or interaction between Henry's mother and Kate. Sylvia was completely lost from the story, although we are supposed to believe she and Kate are close friends.

But, with all of that said, I did enjoy reading Blackmoore. Perhaps I am forgiving; perhaps fell in love with the characters. The thematic use of the bird songs throughout allowed me to grow attached to Kate and Henry, as well as hope for the best outcome for Henry’s grandfather. I longed to learn more from Herr Spohr, and hoped that all would work out for young Mr, Brandon in the end. I wanted to see Kate’s mother get what she deserved, and to meet Kate’s aunt who would take her to India. I would have loved a little more than what I got, even though I also wanted less of the back story as it was provided.

I will continue to recommend Blackmoore to readers. There were enough positives to outweigh what I deemed as negatives, and it’s likely the average reader won’t care about those things anyway. The characters are entertaining, even the ones who cause Kate’s conflicts, and this novel, like Edenbrooke before it, prove that Julianne Donaldson delivers when to comes to a satisfying, clean romance.    


Monday, July 15, 2013

Lost Then Found (An Alison Creek novella) -- Heather Moore

Liz, Gemma, Arie, Jess, and Drew have been best friends since creating “the Five” at Aliso Creek High School. But that was over ten years ago, and each is still trying to find that perfect someone… if perfect is even possible.

Arie, at the top of her career as VP of an established real estate company, discovers that her professional success has led to a less-than-successful dating life. But she may have just met the ideal man in workaholic film producer Dustin Jacobs. When Arie discovers that Dustin’s life is more complicated than she thought, she wonders if there is room for her in it after all or if she should add him to her long list of disaster relationships. (

Another winner in the Aliso Creek novella series. I love the way Arie has a unique personality and life of her own, yet her story fits so nicely into the melody of those of her group of friends.

When Brad drops her in the opening chapter I thought maybe she would find a way to get him back, but the man she ends up with is so much better I would have been disappointed if she'd settled for Brad.

This is a story I would definitely like to see "Moore" of, and I'm hoping for an Aliso Creek novel that brings us more from the entire set of friends.

One Chance (An Alison Creek novella) -- Heather B. Moore

Valentina is the odd woman out. She was part of “the Five” when she dated Drew for a couple of years, and she remains friends with the women, but with her traveling schedule as a runway model, it’s impossible to maintain a real relationship. When Valentina attends her cousin’s wedding in LA, she runs into Cesar, who she was a school friend with in Puerto Rico. Cesar is not the young, skinny boy she remembers but a grown man who seems interested in what’s beyond her model appearance. Back in New York, Valentina can’t get him out of her mind, but she also can’t deny the fact that they’re separated by well over a thousand miles. (

I totally fell in love with Cesar from the moment he walked into the story. No reason to doubt that Valentina would do the same, especially since they had been friends long before this novella begins. So what if she lives in New York, and he lives in Puerto Rico? I understand how difficult it is to live a life where careers keep a woman and her man thousands of miles apart, but I also believe problems like that can be worked out to a satisfactory end.

As with the other novellas in this series, as a reader I'd like to go one more step, so I'm still hoping Moore will someday write a novel that pulls all of these women--"the Five"--together again, along with the new men in their lives.

Another fun addition to the Alison Creek novella series from one of my favorite authors.

Friday, July 12, 2013

There, Their, and They're: A No-Tears Guide to Grammar -- Annette Lyon

I’ve taught Jr. High School English for 34 years, and I’ve been an editor for the past 20 or more. You’d think when it comes to grammar and punctuation I should know it all. Not so!

Although I can hold my own with most conventions, there are still several that are stoppers for me—things I have to look up one more time, just to make sure. Maybe these rough spots have come about because it’s a concept I never really learned. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the same error made so many times as I’ve read writing from both students and clients that I began to doubt my own knowledge and abilities to get things right.

Whatever the cause, Annette Lyons’ THERE, THEIR, AND THEY’RE: A NO-TEARS GUIDE TO GRAMMAR has been a lifesaver for me, and this new expanded version, with over 60 new entries, is all that much better as a resource as I edit, as well as write books of my own.

I read the book cover to cover—something I never would have done with a grammar text such as Warriner—and actually enjoyed reading Lyons’ explanations and examples. But the best thing is, I learned! In every chapter there were multiple times I stopped to say “I didn’t know that,” and suddenly situations I had faced before about word choice, punctuation, or the history of why one word had gone from the usage lexicon made that proverbial light bulb in the head go off in a way that I believe will help me remember the next time I am writing or editing a manuscript with the same problem.

I previously purchased copies of the first version for my classroom reference shelves. My recommendation will extend even farther this time into the other English classrooms at my school.

English teacher or not, editor or not, professional writer or not, if you do ANY kind of writing at all, you NEED a copy of THERE, THEIR, AND THEY’RE: A NO-TEARS GUIDE TO GRAMMAR right next to your computer where you can use it. The book is worth the price alone for the final chapter, Usage Errors & Confusing Words. If only I could send a copy to everyone who uses Facebook! 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Longing For Home (A Proper Romance) -- Sarah M. Eden

Twenty-six-year-old Katie Macauley needs to convince the influential Joseph Archer to hold true to his word and keep her on his payroll as his housekeeper—despite her Irish roots. When Joseph agrees to keep Katie as his housekeeper, the feud between the Irish immigrants and frontiersmen in the 1870 Wyoming Territory erupts anew, and Katie becomes the reluctant figurehead of hope for the Irish townsfolk. As the violence escalates throughout the town, Katie must choose between the two men who have been vying for her love—though only one might be able to restore hope to her own heart. (From NetGalley)

I loved this book. I hated this book—a good sign!

I was absolutely in love with the characters, and hated the fact that eventually Katie Macauley would be forced to choose between two men she found equally attractive—as did I, her reader. I found myself constantly torn between the two, wondering how Ms. Eden would work it all out in the end. Although from opposite sides of the track, or the red and green roads in this case, both Tavish O’Connor and Joseph Archer had the capability to win the heart of a young woman, who had always before thought of nothing but returning home to Ireland to make right the perceived errors of her childhood, a childhood thrust upon her by the famine and choices no child of her tender age should ever be forced to make.

The attractiveness of both Tavish and Joseph were far above just physical. Each man saw the importance of land just like Katie did, and each strove to maintain a balance of peace and harmony among neighbors, even when the masses favored only the rise to power of a single side of the argument—theirs! But best of all, they both fell in love with her, as she did with them, one experience at a time. The building of their relationships was well paced and believable. It’s no wonder Katie took so long to decide. I’m still not convinced I could have done the same, or that her decision will eventually be final at the series end.

One of the tropes of romance is the triangle in which the main character has two equally attractive options. Of course by the end a choice must be made. I love that the door to friendship and support was not also abandoned in this episode of Katie’s life and that enough story questions were answered to satisfy me as a reader, yet others left open for the sequel the author has planned. (Preview chapter inside the book.)

I've read books or seen movies galore about the plight of the Irish during this time in both their homeland and on the streets of New York, but other than the movie Far and Away, and its look at the Oklahoma land rush, I'd not thought about the difficulty the Irish had in facing discrimination in the rest if the country. Eden's choice of bringing a whole community to Hope Spring, Wyoming, was refreshing in and of itself. The addition of the shift in balance Katie causes made for a conflict worth addressing outside of the romance.

I also loved the fact that Eden chose to have Katie be a 26-year-old woman. So many times a character I envision as being older turns out to be in her late teens, especially in romance despite the fact the men she will chose from are obviously going to be older since they are established landowners and well respected among the town’s residents. Not that this couldn’t be, but more unlikely than giving them all realistic ages in the first place would be.  

My review is based in an eArc downloaded from NetGalley. It is a rough idea of what the final product will look like. (See this to understand why). Therefore the book had some problems in layout design and flaws such as word or information repetition and an instance of timeline confusion, but overall these did not detract from the text itself, and knowing the meticulous nature of the author I can rest assured these were corrected before the final version was sent to typesetting.

A side benefit for me was an introduction to the beautiful strains of Irish music. I wanted to hear the soundtrack of Katie's playing, so I turned to YouTube. There I discovered jigs and reels and lullabies, haunting melodies, some familiar for which I never knew a name, and others that were brand new to me. As a music lover this was time well spent. As a reader the experience added depth to the novel so it's an activity I would recommend to other readers as well..

Overall, I’d give the book an A+ and Highly Recommend to readers who love history, as well as a great romance. 


Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Fifth Assassin -- Brad Meltzer

From John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, there have been more than two dozen assassination attempts on the President of the United States.

Four have been successful.

But now, Beecher White--the hero of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Inner Circle--discovers a killer in Washington, D.C., who's meticulously re-creating the crimes of these four men. Historians have branded them as four lone wolves. But what if they were wrong?

Beecher is about to discover the truth: that during the course of a hundred years, all four assassins were secretly working together. What was their purpose? For whom do they really work? And why are they planning to kill the current President?

Beecher's about to find out. And most terrifyingly, he's about to come face-to-face with the fifth assassin.

Fascinating details and insight into the workings of our country, background and history of the presidential assassinations, and how easy it could be to recreate in the warped mind of someone hellbent on destruction. I haven't read the previous books in the series but this one compelled me enough to keep reading that I likely will read the others.

Especially compelling to political junkies.  

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