Book Review: The Haunted Manor

review-cover-the haunted manorTitle: The Haunted Manor [Power and Love 1]

Author: Emilia Hartley

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Historical

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Luck has not been on Lord Michael Baird’s side. After losing yet another large sum of money, he is relieved to discover that he has been left an estate in Scotland. With the ownership of this new estate he decides he will do his best to make it profitable. Upon arrival to the town he notices how unfriendly everyone seems to be. Finally when he reaches his estate he is met with not only a less-than-pleasant manor, but also household staff who refuse to even stay in the estate overnight. They try to explain about the ghostly goings-on in the home but he ignores their warnings completely. However it isn’t long before Michael is thoroughly convinced! He learns that there is only one person who might be able to help him rid his new estate of the malevolent spirits that haunt it: Rebecca.

Rebecca is the village’s wise woman who is only too willing to help. Ignoring her growing attraction to Michael, she works hard to find out more about the spirits and how she can banish them forever using her magic. Michael is surprised to discover that the wise woman is both young and beautiful, and a desire for her grows the moment he first sets eyes on her. Realizing that nothing can happen between them, he tries to put his attraction aside, knowing that he will need to marry well if he is to set the estate to rights.

Will they be able to rid the estate of its ghosts and pursue their love for each other, or will Michael’s pursuit for money push her away for good?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This is the second book from Emilia Hartley that I’ve read in the past week, and honestly, I’m underwhelmed. I wanted to like this book—it has everything I enjoy: it’s a historical romance that deals with the paranormal. What’s not to love? Apparently… quite a bit.

Here’s the thing: In the past year I read a book that was almost identical to this one in plot. Guy takes over a dilapidated manor, finds out it’s haunted, asks the local wise woman/town witch to help him out in getting rid of the haunting…they fall in love, things are resolved… and they live happily ever after. The one big difference is the other book was written better. Judging solely on the two books I’ve read from this author, she has a tendency to rush through her narrative. The pace in The Haunted Manor was quick to the point of making the events absurd. Despite societal rules and barely knowing each other, the main couple falls in love almost instantly, and within a handful of days, are ready to change their entire lives for each other. It’s a bit much to believe.

Another problem was the characters. They were all pretty 1-dimensional. The main male lead, Lord Michael Baird, was snobbish, entitled, arrogant, and weak-willed. The entire reason he decided he couldn’t be with the woman he loved… is because he thought it beneath his station to get his hands dirty. I did not like him as a character, and I found his attitude towards the other characters condescending. His voice came off as feminine—but trying not to be. The funny thing is… other than Michael not wanting to step below his station, almost all other historical societal conventions of the time period were completely ignored.

As for the technical aspect of the book—it wasn’t bad. It was relatively clean and easy to read, although I did find a misused word, some doubled words and a few punctuation problems. It wasn’t what I’d consider egregious.

Overall, I was underwhelmed. I expected more out of this book, and I was disappointed by the rushed, lackluster manner in which it was written. I think it could have been better with a bit of polishing and some critical beta readers. In the end, I just didn’t like it.  If you like fluffy, short reads, you may enjoy this book, it just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: An Intriguing Proposition

review-book-an intriguing propositionAuthor: An Intriguing Proposition [The Defiant Hearts Series Prequel]

Title: Sydney Jane Baily

Genre: Historical, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Following her father’s untimely death, eldest daughter Elise Malloy discovers that the family home is collateral for a mysterious loan. With no record of payments made from her father’s accounts, whoever was paying the bank has now stopped, and foreclosure is imminent.

Desperate to keep the news from her grieving, funds-starved family, Elise answers the bank summons and faces Michael Bradley, an old flame who still owns her heart. When Michael extends an unseemly dinner invitation, Elise invents a nameless suitor as an excuse.

Now, to save face, she must produce him.

Jonathan Amory, Esquire, seems the perfect choice, until her long-desired relationship with Michael unexpectedly catches fire, and Jonathan makes it clear he will stop at nothing to destroy her family and lock her into a loveless marriage.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I nearly didn’t make it through this book, which is an odd thing to say about something I ended up giving 4 stars to. The beginning was slow, the main female lead came across as weak and demure, and there was something about the opening sequence that just didn’t sit well with me. Maybe it was the contradictions in the way we were first introduced to the main characters, maybe it was the fact that my pet peeve over having a character commit actions out of sequence (reaction before action) that had me all riled up. Regardless, I never put the book down.

But I didn’t.

By the time the love interest and Elise’s situation came into play, I was engrossed in the story (though I admit, I was hoping for a twist to the romance plot that sadly didn’t happen). The romance between Elise and Michael was sweet and adorable. I do wish there had been a little more sexual tension or tension at all in their relationship… I think it could have been dragged out a little more, but overall it was lovely. The only thing that really bothered me about the plot is that the one gay character also happened to be the ‘bad guy’. Yes, I do understand that at that time it was generally frowned upon, but did he have to be gay to be the bad guy? No.

Other than that, the book was pretty well written. I only ran into one typo. The book flowed well, and it was easy to sink into. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet historical romance with a tiny bit of sultry spice to it.

Book Review: Silver City Seduction

review-cover-silver city seductionTitle: Silver City Seduction

Author: Laura Fletcher

Genre: Novella, Historical, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Victoria Nolan is on the run. She hightails it out of town on the next stagecoach, changes her name and settles into Lettie’s Boarding House temporarily. Once that task has ended she needs to find a new job or leave; but she has come to appreciate Silver City.

Samuel Flynn needs a new cook for his ranch and the lovely Tori fits the role. She is not only a good cook and hard worker, but she is so appreciative of life. He is drawn to her naive ways and finds himself seeking her out more often than he should.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Silver City Seduction was a sweet, short novella by Laura Fletcher, but it was not without its problems. The book, for the most part, was well written. I only ran into one typo that made me pause. The writing was easy to follow, clean, and reasonably paced. As with most novellas, there were some time skips, but the story didn’t feel too rushed, except maybe the romance, but we’ll get to that.

I liked the story. It was sweet and interesting. What it wasn’t, was a mail order bride romance. There was no mail order bride. None. Victoria was never sent away for. She never received any sort of advertisement or letter imploring that she arrive on Samuel’s ranch. She found the job through a friend—and ladies and gentlemen, that is not what a mail order bride romance is about.

That aside, the characters were a bit flimsy. Samuel was, well, a little creepy. he was constantly staring darkly at Victoria, but then hardly ever talked to her. The three troublesome ranch hands, other than being slobs, didn’t really present themselves as troublesome (which supposedly was why they’d run off so many housekeepers before Victoria)—certainly not enough for the exasperating way her predecessor quit. Rae barely made an appearance in the book. Lester was the typical black-hat villain with psychopathic tendencies that are overly done and frankly, uninteresting in their lack of complexity. In fact, the only character with even a little depth was Victoria herself, and she was, for the most part, just a naïve, simpering girl with a penchant for making cookies.

I gave this book three stars because even though it was a fun little afternoon read, it wasn’t well developed. The plot barely existed and upon further investigation, would have fallen apart. The characters were 1-dimensional and weak. The romance sped along with the barest of mentions until suddenly they realized they loved each other out of nowhere. It just felt like there wasn’t enough time or enough effort put into this story. Will it entertain you for an hour while you’re in a waiting room somewhere? Sure. I’d recommend it if you’re just looking for a short, sweet read, but it isn’t going to be something you can truly sink into to while away a few hours.

Book Review: Devil’s Cove

review-cover-devil's coveTitle: Devil’s Cove [Tortured Souls 1]

Author: R.C. Matthews

Genre: Historical, Gothic, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Shrouded in unspeakable horror and spoken of only in whispers, the abandoned Devil’s Cove Manor lures Captain Devlin Limmerick and his unquenchable thirst for revenge to its doors. Feared as the Devil on the high seas, the pirate’s desire to avenge his past is matched only by his hunger for the powerful young medium he has coerced to aid him in his nefarious quest.

Blinded from youth and touched with an ability to communicate beyond the grave, Grace is both feared and revered by the uneasy town folk. Yet she is powerless against the unrest brewing within the manor walls and finds herself drawn to the Devil’s darkness. Still, she refuses to sacrifice her soul to set Devlin’s unspeakable plans in motion.

But an evil lurks within these walls, and their very souls are in jeopardy. Grace’s presence at the manor spurs inexplicable happenings, forcing Devlin to believe nothing is as dead as it seems – not even his heart. Plunged into the throes of passion and danger, they discover the only way out is to search deep within and summon the courage to believe in true love.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Devil’s Cove by R.C. Matthews was a little outside what I normally read in historical romances. I can honestly say that this is maybe the first Gothic Romance I’ve ever read—and I got quite a kick out of it. The characters were interesting and unique, the plot was wholly different than what I’m used to in a historical romance, and there was a dark edge of danger to the plot that I found fascinating.

Technically speaking, the book was well edited. I ran into a few typos, but nothing that pulled me out of the narrative. The writing flowed easily, the dialogue seemed fairly natural, and I greatly enjoyed the plot. The only real problem I had with the technical side of the book, was perhaps the language. There were definite moments when I doubted the words used and if they were appropriate to the historical theme of the book, and on the opposite side of the spectrum, there were a lot of moments when I saw true historical bits throw in, but they were done so in a way that made me stop and go “oh. the author wanted me to notice that they did research.” There was no need for it, and it was a little clunky.

That aside, I greatly enjoyed the plot and the romance. Devlin and Grace were dynamic characters and though vastly different in nature, melded well. Their backgrounds, though often painful to read, were interesting and provided genuine context to their personalities. I really enjoyed them! Josephine seemed to be a character straight out of a horror film, and as seductive and evil as she was presented, I couldn’t help but love her as well. She wasn’t a cardboard villain in a black hat—and I loved that about her. She was a real person with real motivations, and she was both dangerously evil, and sweet at the same time.

And as a side-note… I was so thrilled to see Neptune’s Ballroom included in the story because it is a fantastic site that I’ve seen and heard about in previous instances and always thought was a fascinating place! I squealed with joy when I realized where the ballroom was—almost as soon as Devlin pointed out that no one had found it. I just –knew- it was going to be where it was, and was overjoyed to be proven right. Well done!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The kind of ill-handled historical aspects of it aside, I thought it was a wonderfully colorful book full of great characters and an interesting plotline, and if you’re looking for a fast gothic romance to enjoy, I would highly recommend you pick this up!

Book Review: The Silent Songbird

review-cover-the silent songbirdTitle: The Silent Songbird [Hagenheim 7]

Author: Melanie Dickerson

Genre: Historical, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Evangeline is gifted with a heavenly voice, but she is trapped in a sinister betrothal—until she embarks on a daring escape and meets brave Westley le Wyse. Can he help her discover the freedom to sing again?

Desperate to flee a political marriage to her cousin King Richard II’s closest advisor, Lord Shiveley—a man twice her age with shadowy motives—Evangeline runs away and joins a small band of servants journeying back to Glynval, their home village.

Pretending to be mute, she gets to know Westley le Wyse, their handsome young leader, who is intrigued by the beautiful servant girl. But when the truth comes out, it may shatter any hope that love could grow between them.

More than Evangeline’s future is at stake as she finds herself entangled in a web of intrigue that threatens England’s monarchy. Should she give herself up to protect the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This was a pretty solid historical romance. Technically speaking, it was well written. I only found one typo in the entirety of the book. The story was easy to read, clear and clean, and the pace was steady throughout.

I enjoyed the characters, especially of the main couple, though I’ll admit, at times they struck me as a bit pathetically naïve. They were almost too good, bordering on ridiculously sweet at times—and given the time period they inhabited and the recent rebellion, it seemed odd that the couple could remain so blissfully ‘good’ and untainted by the world around them. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the characters, though—I did, I just wish there’d been a little more depth to them.

Honestly, there’s not a lot I can say about this book. I don’t have any major complaints, but by the same token, I don’t have a lot I can rave about either. It was a sweet, sometimes endearing romance between two people who fell in love at first sight. They could sometimes be a little too perfect, bordering on sugary sweet, but the plot had a handful of twists and daring moments to keep it from becoming eye-roll worthy.

Overall, I liked the book, a lot. It was a fun, sweet read. If you like sweet, clean romances with Christian undertones, you’ll probably really enjoy this book.

Book Review: Samantha

review-cover-samanthaTitle: Samantha [Barrett 2]

Author: Andrea Kane

Genre: Historical, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

A spin-off from Kane’s novel My Heart’s Desire, Samantha is a spellbinding tale set in early 19th-century England about a young lady whose romantic fancies are about to come true, once she learns she can trust the man of her dreams. This bestselling author has thrilled her rapidly growing audience with Echoes in the Mist, Masque of Betrayal, Dream Castle, and other novels.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

After reading the first two books in the Barrett family saga, I can honestly say that I’m a huge fan of Andrea Kane’s writing, and more importantly, her heroines.

Samantha was a spunky, headstrong young woman who didn’t allow society (or her family) dictate how she lived her life. As one of the characters said, she is a tempest. I absolutely adored her as the main character

Likewise, the brooding hero, Remington, was a notorious rake, but also a highly devoted man who fought for his country at the expense of his reputation. Together, the two main characters pursued each other throughout the story like a passionate dance.

The story was funny, filled with endearing moments, and passionate encounters. I loved every moment of it! The writing was clear, easy to read, and lacked any obvious technical errors.

If you enjoy historical romances filled with colorful characters, you’ll be sure to love this!

Book Review: My Heart’s Desire

review-cover-my heart's desireTitle: My Heart’s Desire [Barrett 1]

Author: Andrea Kane

Genre: Historical, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Caught in the crossfire of war, they were shipwrecked on an idyllic island, where they tasted perfect passion and tenderness. But Drake dreaded the day of their rescue-when his love would discover that the virile man she adored was at the pinnacle of the aristocracy she despised.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

My Heart’s Desire by Andrea Kane, was yet another solid historical romance – although I’ll admit, it does fall a bit into the formulaic side of romance—but I’m okay with that.

Overall, the writing was nearly flawless. I did run into a typo or two, but nothing that pulled me out of the narrative or otherwise halted the flow of the story for me. The typos were minor, and easily skimmed over, and other than that, the writing was clean, clear, and flowed a nice pace.

Though there was a touch of the simpering maiden to the main female lead, Alexandria, for the most part, I found her character better described as stubborn, head-strong, and caring. She had her moments of fit, where she lost her head, but for the vast majority of the story, she  did what she thought was best. I liked her as a lead character quite a bit.

As for Drake… well… he was often arrogant, and easily as headstrong as Alex, and I understand completely why she lost her head with him at times—he could certainly be infuriating—but like Alex, he usually kept his head. He was strong, and intelligent, and had a softer side that he tried to mask, but didn’t always succeed. The romance between Alex and Drake was steamy and filled with tension, and kept the story going.

Overall, I loved the book. I liked the characters, the easy world building, the plot and it’s many conflicts… the only trouble I ran into was that although warranted in order to tie up all the little bits of the plot, the ending did seem a few chapters too long. I’d expected it to end long before it did, and that may have been a bit of a pacing issue. Regardless, I enjoyed the story, and I was entertained. If you enjoy historical romances, you are certain to enjoy this one.