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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Exciting history comes alive in this Viking romance

Viking Medieval Romance Sage Book One
Anna Markland
Amazon Book Services (eBook)
September 2014
Historical Romance

The first book in this Viking Series takes a look at how the Vikings settled in the Sienne Valley in France around the 10th Century. Bryk Gardbruker is a farmer in Norway, growing apple trees. His wife died in childbirth and he's tired of the killing and death he's seen. When his Chieftain Hrolf declares that they are leaving for richer lands in Francia, they pack up and get into their longboats. As they make their way along the shorelines, Bryk happens upon a settlement where a convent sits, easy for the taking. He decides to plunder the settlement as peacefully as he can and there he meets a beautiful young woman, Cathryn. Though they barely speak the same language, it becomes quite clear that they are drawn to each other.

As a foundling child, Cathryn has lived her whole life in the convent, but she has yet to take any vows. She's asked to travel to another remote convent to work on some manuscripts. When the Vikings arrive to plunder spoils, she is rescued by a particularly strong and handsome man after being attacked by one of the local clerics. Instantly attracted, she begs him to take her with him and he agrees. Arriving at the Viking horde, she learns their customs of servants and thralls. She falls under the protection of Bryk as his thrall. She also meets a woman named Poppa, a Francia noblewoman who is now that concubine of the Chieftain, Hrolf.

Even though Bryk and Cathryn aren't married in the Church's eyes, Bryk takes her as his own. He's fallen in love with her and she with him. But when the King of France hears of the Vikings' arrival, he sends his armies to take care of the matter. Bryk and Hrolf fight for their lives in battle but in the end, it will be up to the fates to decide if they will be allowed to stay and live.

For fans of historical fiction with real-life events turned into romantic tales of love, this book will be perfect. Set against the exciting backdrop of France when it was still being settled by Norseman, this love story between Bryk and Cathryn will hit all the right notes of love, romance, history, and adventure. This author clearly demonstrates her skill of weaving history with a romantic spin. I loved Bryk's strength and compassion, as well as Cathryn's tenaciousness of finding and fighting for her own choices. Look for more adventures in this series.

Reviewed by Jennifer Jones
Rating: 4

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Hard Ink Novel, Book #3
Laura Kaye
ISBN # 0062267922
December 2014
Contemporary Romance

Derek DiMarzio was part of a special forces unit that was betrayed over a year ago.  He barely made it out of the ambush that took out most of his unit. There are four surviving members of his Army Special Forces unit that were blamed for the death of their teammates. They were discharged from the Army and are  now trying to figure out who was behind the ambush. The team wants answers and their current target is Manny Garza. They learned he worked with their enemies and is probably connected to the conspiracy.  When the team checks out Manny's sister Emilie's house, they find the basement full of drugs and guns, Derek is sure Manny put them there. The only problem,  Manny is proving hard to find. Getting close to Emilie is no hardship for Derek. She is beautiful, smart and very sweet. 

Emilie Garza is a psychologist working at the counseling center at King's college. Her immediate family consists of her mother and brother Manny. Emilie is concerned about her brother, his behavior is erratic and unstable. She is trying to decide if she should submit forms for an emergency psychiatric evaluation because she feels he needs to seek treatment for PTSD. At a coffee shop, Emilie meets Derek. Feeling shy, Emile's divorce was only finalized a few months ago, she is not sure she can put her trust into a man again. When Derek asked her out, it just feels right to say yes.  When her brother attacks her, it's Derek and his team that come to her rescue.

HARD TO COME BY is an outstanding contemporary romance. You never know what is coming next. One of the things I love most about the men of Hard Ink is that they are not afraid to show their emotions or how they feel about the women they love.   The team struggles to find the answers to clear their names and get  back the honor they deserve.  It's more than friendship that keeps all of them together, it's that they are a family, willing to do anything to keep each other safe.  This book is going on my keeper shelf and I'm looking forward to the next installment in this series.  

Reviewed by  Gloria Gehres
Rated   4  1/2

Silent Night

C.J. Kyle
Avon Books
ISBN:  978-0-06-207967-1
October 28, 2014
Romantic Suspense
Christmas, Tennessee is a quiet town that receives its highest influx of visitors at Christmas time. Police Chief Tucker Ambrose spent years working as a cop in Chicago. Traffic tickets and domestic disputes is the “norm” for this town and that is how Tucker wants to keep it. So, when blood is found in an alleyway, he hopes it is just a stupid prank. However, then a body is found with a bible, a crucifix and a rosary and he knows something evil has crept into his town.
Miranda Harley, a nurse, is on a mission. Her brother is currently serving time for a crime he did not commit. She is determined to prove his innocence. Unfortunately, her plan to stay “under the wire” is blown when she finds out her rented room is own by the police chief. She has tracked her suspect to Christmas, Tennessee. The problem is she has to prove it without calling attention to herself. When the murders continue, Miranda finds she has to rely on Tucker in order to put a stop to all the horror.
Not a Christmas story, but it is a riveting murder mystery!
Reviewed by
Charlene McConnell

Rating: 4

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New from Tessa Dare!

Castles Ever After Book 2
Tessa Dare
Avon Publishing
ISBN# 978-0-06-224020-0
January 2015
Historical Romance

Clio Whitmore has been waiting for her betrothed for eight years. Eight years and she's barely even seen or heard from Piers Brandon. So when she's suddenly inherited a castle of her very own, she realizes that she doesn't need a man. She'll take her castle and live happily by herself. The only problem is she needs to get the betrothal agreement rescinded and in order to do that, she needs his brother to sign some legal papers to that effect.

Rafe Brandon, prizefighter and second son, is not about to sign papers dissolving his absent brother's engagement. He knows that Piers wants Clio, something she doesn't understand or believe. How could Peirs not when he himself has always wanted her? So he decides to make the wedding arrangements himself, with the help of his "wedding planner", aka his boxing match organizer. He lavishes her with flowers, cakes and gowns, all the while singing his brother's regards for her.

Clio doesn't care how much effort Rafe puts into this farce, she is not about to marry a man who doesn't love her. And what's more, she doesn't love Piers. However, though, as the days wear on, she becomes more entranced with Rafe and after he admits his attraction to her that began a long time ago, she can't help but wonder what it would be like to be with him. With Piers' arrival soon approaching, Rafe must convince Clio to marry Piers or she must convince Rafe to sign the papers. The only drawback is the unexpected little snag called love.

Having read previous books by Ms. Dare, I was quite excited to read this scenario. I loved the idea that Rafe has secretly loved Clio from afar for years, and secretly Clio has always had a fascination with Rafe. The attraction is immediate of course, but it takes longer for the passion and heat to build up. The secondary characters are mostly fun, except for her annoying sister Daphne and her husband. The younger sister, Phoebe seems to make a good candidate for a romance of her own. The funniest characters is Rafe's tag-a-long, Bruiser, trying to be a wedding planner but has little to no idea of etiquette. It is a charming and satisfying read, even though there wasn't much of a real question of if these two would end up together, it was how. I look forward to reading about Piers at some point as well.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Jones
Rating: 4

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Laura Childs does it again!

A Cackleberry Club Mystery
Laura Childs
ISBN: 978-0-425-25559-9
December 2014

As Suzanne is getting her hair colored at Root 66, she's stunned to witness the County Services Building next door suddenly go up in flames. Concerned neighbors throng the streets and the fire department does their best. Unfortunately, their best isn't enough to save longtime civil service worker and friend, Hannah Venable. Soon enough it's discovered that an accelerant was used to fan the flames. Who was the intended victim? Unfortunately, the list of suspects is as varied as the Cackleberry Club's menu. When Suzanne finds a possible connection between the fire and the nearby Prairie Star Casino, she comes to realize that someone wants to keep a big secret. And if the ladies aren't careful, they could be gambling with their lives.

SCORCHED EGGS is a fast paced addition to the Cackleberry Club series. A perfect example of how women can multi-task; running a restaurant with a side of solving crime. The characters are realistic and best friend quality. The story line will keep the reader interested and the recipes are yummy. This book has the right blend of mystery and friendship.

Reviewed by Kathy Fisher
Rating: 3

A great addition to the Coffeehouse Mystery Series!

A Coffeehouse Mystery
Cleo Coyle
ISBN: 978-0-425-27085-1
December 2014

Fairy tale fever has descended on New York City. Broadway fans are flocking to Red Riding Hood: The musical; museums are exhibiting art inspired by the Brothers Grimm; and Clare Cosi gives her coffee truck a "jack and the Beanstalk" makeover for a Central Park festival. Clare's coffee hunter ex-husband contributes a bag of African beans with alleged magical properties. With them, Clare receives a vision that helps her find a young model's body in the park's woods. The police dismiss "Sleeping Beauty" as a drug overdose, but Clare is not so sure. If she doesn't figure it out, those magic beans will leave her with an unhappy ending.

ONCE UPON A GRIND is a great addition to the Coffeehouse Mystery series. Each book is interesting and flows without a hitch. Clare is a likable character who takes the reader on a ride right beside her as she pokes and prods to figure things out. A fun read with some great recipes as bonus.

Reviewed by Kathy Fisher
Rating: 3

Great new series!!

A Nick and Nora Mystery
T.C. LoTempio
December 2014

Nora Charles doesn't believe in fate. She moved back to Cruz, California to have a quieter life. But after finding an online magazine eager for material, and a stray cat named Nick with a talent for detection, Nora's not just reporting crimes again, she is uncovering them. Nora suspects foul play in the curious death of socialite Lola Grainger, and it seems that her cat does too. Apparently, Nick the cat, used to belong to a PI who disappeared while investigating Lola Grainger's death. the coincidence is spooky, but not as spooky as the clues Nick spells out for her with Scrabble letters. Whether fate put her on this case or not, solving it will take all of Nora's wits and maybe a few of Nick's nine lives.

MEOW IF IT'S MURDER is the first in a new series and it starts with a bang! With the intricacies of moving back home, losing a parent, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, and dealing with leaving a successful live behind, Nora has all of the qualities of the girl next door with a keen insight into crime. The story line is twisted and leaves the reader baffled and intrigued at the same time. This new series is sure to capture the attention of many and keep it from book to book. The attention to detail is amazing! 

Reviewed by Kathy Fisher
Rating: 4


Fw: Fwd: Geared for the Grave---Brown (dec 14)

A Cycle Path Mystery
Duffy Brown
ISBN: 978-0-425-26894-0
December 2014

Mackinac Island is a peaceful summer resort town where everyone coats through the streets on bicycles. But after someone sends a prominent local on her final ride, it's up to one resourceful visitor to get things running again. Hoping to shift her chances of a promotion in her favor, Evie Bloomfield heads to Mackinac Island to assist her boss's father. Rudy Randolph has broken his leg and is finding running his bike shop, Rudy's Rides, is too much for him to handle alone. After Evie's arrival, wealthy resident Bunny Harrington dies in what looks like a freak bike accident. Upon closer inspection, it seems her brakes were tampered with and the prime suspect is Rudy. So if Evie hopes to stay on her boss's good side, she'll need to clear Rudy's name.

GEARED FOR THE GRAVE is the first in a new series. There are a lot of sub stories that go on through out the story line so at times it is difficult to get a real feel for the characters. If you stick with it through the halfway point, the story starts to stick together and it becomes more interesting and shows potential. The setting is interesting but could use some more descriptive detail. For a first book, it gives a lot of broad details and introduces many characters that later books could focus more clearly on.

Reviewed by Kathy Fisher
Rating: 2

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

More from Lindsay McKenna

The Wyoming Series Book 9
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN
ISBN:  978-0373779031
November 2014
Contemporary Romance

With this latest in a very successful series, the very talented Lindsay McKenna delivers a book about Sky Pascal, an RN with the US Navy, and Grayson McCoy, a former Navy SEAL.  Like many of her recent books, this one deals with the immediate effects of trauma on a serviceperson, specifically Sky, and the aftermath of her capture by enemy forces in Afghanistan.  Yet, the book is also about trauma endured by Grayson as he served as a SEAL, even though he is farther along in his recovery and the PTSD is less noticeable.

These two meet at Elk Horn Ranch, a guest ranch and wildlife preserve.  Sky has been hired to work with Gray as an assistant and also as a nurse for the ranch.  Sky is fragile, having found her parents’ home intolerable after discharge and needing to work.  The ranch is focused on rehabilitating wolf cubs left without their mother.  Much of this novel tells the fascinating story of this process.  It also continues a prior story line about nefarious characters running a trucking company as a front for smuggling.

But the bigger picture is the accurate and painful portrayal of PTSD.  The debilitating effects of trauma, specifically military trauma, are realistically and honestly described.  The process of treatment and recovery are also detailed.  I suspect that some readers, looking for a simple “happily ever after” romance novel, may not like this story.  But honestly, this author is so skilled at seamlessly weaving in the process of these two people falling in love, facing past trauma, and planning a future, that this book should not be missed!  Once I started reading it I could not put it down!  This latest in a long series will not disappoint and offers excellent character development with a seamless plot and believable situations and characters.  Highly recommended!

Reviewed by:  Jeri Neal
Rating:  4 1/2 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Review of AFTER THE WAR IS OVER - Jennifer Robson

Jennifer Robson
Harper Collins Publishers
January 2015
Historical Romance

In a follow up to SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE, and after World War I is over, Charlotte Brown must return to a civilian life.  She now lives in a boardinghouse with several other women, and works as an assistant in a constituency office.  As England struggles with the aftermath of the war, Charlotte is offered a chance to write a series of columns bringing to light the injustices that are abounding in England.  The editor of the newspaper begins a small romance with her, but it isn't allowed to develop because on the heels of that, a letter arrives that will change the course of her destiny.

It is her skills in nursing during the war that's needed when she's asked to help Edward, the Earl of Cumberland.  Prior to the war, she was the governess to Lilly, the daughter of the older Earl of Cumberland, and sister to Edward.  She's loved Edward from afar all these years, and now with his injuries, he's a shell of the man he used to be.  With her heart hanging in the balance, will she be able to help Edward recover, and will she be able to return to her job knowing that she's leaving behind the man she's always loved?

For those that love a unique time period romance, this book has everything from the history of England during the years post World War I, to a romance that while unheard of between these two classes before the war, is now quite likely after the war.  There are dangerous riots, risks takers and life dramas that are touched upon between all the characters.  I enjoyed this little trip back in time, the characters seem true enough, and even though it is a follow up, it is not necessary to read the first book.

Reviewd by:  Jennifer Jones
Rating: 4

Saturday, January 10, 2015

January 2015 Reading

Welcome to January 2015 at TRRC Reading.

With minus 22 wind chill temps here in the Midwest, there is little else to do but head to the TBR piles and read. I have been spending a lot of my reading time with mystery author Julie Hyzy's White House Chef Mystery series. Getting to know white house executive chef and part-time sleuth Olivia Paras is a lot of fun and there are enough books in the series to keep this Editor occupied indoors on these very cold days.

The TRRC Reviewers have been reading as well and because late December left little time for writing and posting reviews, readers will see quite a few December 2014 as well as January 2015 book reviews posted.

You'll notice that under our new Blogging format we don't have a specific posting date. We'll just post them as we read them. You will also notice you can provide your comments and questions immediately. Feel free to do so because we enjoy hearing from you.

Until next month,

Happy Reading,