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Finding Our Way Back by Marianne Rice

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Finding Our Way Back*

A Beautiful Story with Incredible Characters

This has been a day for reading books that really tug at the heartstrings. The author has created a slow burn, sweet, and sad second chance at romance that definitely delivers on all the feels. The hero and heroine had been married before when they were in their early twenties, and their marriage couldn’t survive a personal tragedy. They are changed people when they happen to meet again seven years later. He has never stopped loving her, despite another intervening failed marriage, and she is not sure she is willing to forgive the part that he played in their tragedy. The characters in this book are fantastic, and not just the hero and heroine. I loved the heroine’s circle of friends; each woman was unique and able to provide the support the heroine needed. I also absolutely adored the heroine’s relationship with the elderly man that she was taking care of. Their relationship showed her kind nature and generous heart. I thought that the author did a particularly good job with dialogue. It seems realistic in terms of the word themselves and how they reflected the relationships of the people involved in the conversations. Exceptionally well done; a beautiful story with incredible characters.

The Exile of the Glen by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Thalia, Angus & Robertson, and Bol.de

The Exile of the Glen*

Grace and Redemption

I am a big fan of this author’s work, having read her previous book in this series, “The Lady of the Glen.” I enjoyed that book a lot, as I absolutely adored the heroine’s character (and the hero wasn’t bad either!). Knowing that story, I was curious to see what this author would do with Alastair because he is actually the villain of that book (The Lady of the Glen). What the author has achieved, though, is laudable and better than I had imagined. From the very first scene, where Alastair is in the boat heading to his exile on a remote Scottish island hoping to find succor with distant family, she sets up the story as one of redemption. The first scene is so well done. We can truly get a sense of both the setting, which is so harsh, as well as Alastair’s despair over what his life has become and will be. He doesn’t fully own all that he’s done at this point, but he is starting to see the error of his ways; in doing so, the author sets up what could be a potentially good character arc.

Much of this book is watching Alastair sink lower and lower in a variety of ways, making the book more focused on an individual’s story than usually happens in a romance (more typically about both in the couple even at the start). In fact, the romance aspect doesn’t pick up until well into the book, but it makes sense within the context of the story. Grace is only offered him by a woman who is in her own way an outcast from her society. These two wounded souls find comfort and understanding in each other that they don’t find anywhere else. I found the relationship between Alastair and Elle (short for a Scottish name that’s hard to pronounce or write) to be sweet and tender as it evolved, giving them both what they needed. They both become better people through their relationship with each other–better versions of themselves–and I love that in a romance; I think love does that to people in real life, so it is a delight to see that mirrored in fiction. While this book could be read as a standalone, you would have a much better context for it if you read “The Lady of the Glen” first. Another good book by an excellent author.

A Tempting Wager by Karen Sommers and Emilee Harris

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A Tempting Wager*

Charming, Well-Written Regency

What a charmingly well-written Regency! Sometimes, it feels like it is so rare to find an author who knows how to create well-drawn, emotionally resonant, and sympathetic characters who are dealing with personal conflicts that makes sense for them and the times as well as evoke the scenes in such beautiful word pictures that a reader can immediately feel immersed in the world of the story. The couple’s meet-cute was perfect for Regency. Her carriage is mired in the mud, and even though he doesn’t want to, the hero’s gentlemanly conscience does not allow him to pass up a damsel in distress. The attraction was instant and mutual (though they both charmingly felt that they’d acted the buffoon and made a terrible impression), but the author made it feel realistic; it didn’t seem like the insta love that seems to happen too often in romances these days. The language of the text was how I like it to be in a good historical, elevated but accessible. I loved the hero’s interactions with his father; he was appropriately quite biting at times. If you like Regency, this is one you should add to your reading list.

The Sunshine Girl by Grace M. Jolliffe

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The Sunshine Girl*

Transported to 1970s Liverpool

What a fantastic read! The author has done an exceptional job of recreating the time and space of Liverpool in the 1970s as well as fashioning a delightful heroine to follow. After reading far too many books that have a big information dump to start, I actually quite enjoyed the slice-of-life first chapter that introduced us to the heroine. She comes across as such a typical teenage girl; having been one myself many moons ago, I could completely relate to her. Her head was a very interesting one to be in. There is definitely a lot of humor, especially of the family variety. The author has shown very clearly what it is like to be a teenager in a complex world, where you feel so adult, but you’re still underneath your parents’ thumbs. There’s a little bit of romance and intrigue thrown in here as well. All in all, a well-written, true-to-life story that pulls you right into its world, making it so that you don’t want to put it down.

Bittersweet by K. S. Thomas

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, 24 Symbols, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters)

Bittersweet*

An Amazing Tale of True Love

Oh, my gosh! What a story! I don’t want to give anything away because this story has some shocking twists and turns to it that must be experienced firsthand. This is a beautiful love story that goes so much deeper than the typical romantic novel. The love portrayed in this book is one that transcends fear, self, time, and space, the way that true love ought to be. It starts off so happy on the couple’s wedding day, but tragedy soon strikes. At critical dramatic moments, the author shifts away from the heroine current-day perspective into the hero’s flashbacks of their relationship. Not usually for long, but enough to give insight into the couple as they were before they married (and giving a moment to hold the dramatic tension). The novel is certainly an emotional one, as the heroine embarks on a perilous personal journey to bring forth her first child even though her damaged heart may not survive the process. This book is beautifully written and a real stunner. If you like heartfelt, emotional reads that focus on the strength and power of true love, this book may be for you.

Care of the Duke by Eliza Heaton

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Care of the Duke*

Romantic Novella with Good Characterization

What a sweet and lovely story! Anna is the sickly daughter of an earl. Her mother and maid coddle her to the extent that she is not even allowed out of her bedroom most of the time. However, when the book starts, the entire family is off to enjoy a hunting party in the north. Anna makes the acquaintance of the owner of the house, the Duke of Richmond, while not knowing who he is. In this moment, the duke is able to just enjoy the company of a lovely young woman without her viewing him as one of the most eligible bachelors in England. They fall into easy conversation, and during the house party, they get to know each other better.

I really enjoyed this relatively short read. Even though it is a novella, the author actually has done a good job of characterization for both Anna and the duke. In the opening scene, Anna reveals some of her inner struggles as she relates what the landscape she is traveling through looks like; this was rather cleverly done exposition that creates empathy for Anna. We meet the Duke when he is in a brooding mood as well, so we learn a bit of his backstory and the emotion behind it. These are two wounded souls who come to find comfort, compassion, and genuine caring in each other. It doesn’t seem unnatural or forced, as it often does in a novella. Their relationship was lovely to watch unfold. While the duke was understanding of her delicate nature and frailty from years of ill health, he did not coddle her like the others in her life. They both knew that she wanted more than to be treated as an invalid, and he was good at making that happen for her. I thought the end was a little strange, as what the author called an epilogue really seems more like a continuation of the story (even if it was a few months later). I would have liked to have seen a proper epilogue. I would like to think that under the excellent care of the duke’s physician, as well as being in a loving relationship, Duchess Anna would continue to regain her health. A delightful historical romance with that setup that is different from most.

The Other Blue Sky by Shari J. Ryan

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The Other Blue Sky*

An Enthusiastic 5+ Star Read

Having recently read Last Words, I was very interested in Annie’s story. I’ll admit that I started the book in an already emotional state because I just knew that her story, as told by this author, was going to blow me away. I was not wrong. The author has managed to craft yet another tale that is heartbreakingly beautiful and poignant, that will resonate with you for long after you’ve finished it. The story weaves between the modern-day where Annie is talking with her mother and Charlie, filling in the gaps of what she knows of her history, and the past starting when Annie realized that she wasn’t her parents’ biological child and going through the years as she developed as a young woman, wife, and mother. This book touches on so many themes I hardly know where to start. It is about identity, family, your place in the world, grief, forgiveness, love of several sorts, and grace. And I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I don’t know how this author can create such heartfelt and beautiful words that perfectly express such a wide range of human emotions and experience. This book, like Last Words, is simply stunning. As it does deal with the aftermath of the Holocaust, parts of it are not an easy read, but the author doesn’t dwell on this. Rather, this book—like the other one—is about the triumph of the human spirit. That sounds a little high falutin’ and cerebral, but the author makes it real with believable characters that we can immediately identify with and root for as they face the challenges in the book. I can recommend this fantastic book wholeheartedly.

The Second Fall by G. J. Ogden

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The Second Fall*

Five Years Later

This is the second book of the Planetsider series, and oh, what a ride it is! First, I have to say I absolutely loved the author’s acknowledgment at the beginning of the book where he stated that it had taken him twenty years to write the first book of this series, stating that people shouldn’t give up if they want to write a novel and believe that they can’t. I hope his readers out there take it to heart. But now, about the story itself! This story is so full of action and drama, yet it also has lovely, small moments between the characters, many of whom we know from the first book. Ethan and Maria have both changed since the last book, and I enjoyed their interactions. I thought that the writer actually handled the “romance” aspect beautifully and in a very adult way that isn’t often seen in fiction. I like how the story could broach bigger themes in a way that isn’t preachy but was rather, instead, more quietly insightful and lets readers draw their own conclusions based on what is happening in the story. The action scenes are balanced well with the scenes that are more about the characters’ relationships. The author has a natural writing style that allows the reader to enter the book’s world quickly, even though the world itself is complex. A delightful space opera; I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Just a Simple Little Holiday by Bea Kendall

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Just a Simple Little Holiday*

Short Book Packs Quite a Wallop

Holy guacamole! This is a super short and quick read, but oh, my gosh! The author has packed more into these few little pages than many pack into novels. This is a girls’ holiday/vacation that goes completely sideways. We think we know the characters as we start off, but as more and more gets revealed about the individuals, all bets are off. The book took some surprising twists and turns that one doesn’t expect in such a short book. Exceptionally well-done book, and I look forward to the official first book of this series; this is a prequel.

Two Scandals are Better Than One by Nancy Yeager

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters)

Two Scandals are Better Than One*

Steamy Victorian Suspense

Luci is concerned about her missing father and goes to a gentleman’s house party—code word for a den of iniquity—in hopes of gaining information that will help her find him. She doesn’t quite realize the dangerous world she is dipping her toe into. She is surprised to find Steady Eddie there, who has been a friend of her of the family since she was a child. She had a crush on him until she realized that he was much too dull for her to truly consider as a life mate. This is why it is such a surprise to find him at this party that is only a step above a brothel. While he doesn’t recognize her at the party, he is intrigued by her scandalous persona, and he soon finds out who she really is. Once he knows what is going on, he insists on helping her figure out what’s going on with her father so he can protect her.

I so enjoyed this romantic Victorian suspense! Early on, the author did an excellent job portraying Edward as a proper English gentleman in a very uncomfortable setting; he usually didn’t go to debauched house parties; he wanted just one night of craziness. She was even able to give him speech patterns that make him sound like a toff but not so much that it sounds like unnatural speech; I think this is a hard line to straddle, but the author did this perfectly. The hero and heroine have fantastic chemistry. He is willing to put himself in harm’s way to protect her and help her figure out the mystery. The more time they spend together, the more steamy the book becomes, but the progress of their romance seemed appropriate to their characters. I love the suspense element in this plot and enjoyed seeing what the characters had to do as they became more deeply involved in the criminal underworld. The ending was very satisfying.

Luci and Edward are a delightful couple to watch as they try to unravel all that is going on while falling more deeply for each other. This is the second book I’ve read of the Harrow Five series, and I look forward to the next installment. If you like historical romance with a bit of suspense, you will most likely enjoy this book.

Disclosure

The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

The Amazon book links on this site are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny percentage if you choose to buy a book linked from this site.

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